U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #59, 97-04-21
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Monday, April 21, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
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"
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
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
10-14 Status of Romanov Jewels
16 Khobar Barracks Investigation
16-17 Report of Alleged State Dept. White Paper on Iran
17 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act
19-20 U.S. Congratulates India on Selection of PM Gujral
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
21-22 UN/Diplomatic Parking
23-24 Arrest of Colombian Drug Trafficker Justo Pastor Perafan
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.)
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.
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.
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
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 --
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?
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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
(The briefing concluded at 2:16p.m.)