U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #62, 97-04-25
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
Friday, April 25, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
1 Welcome to Visitors
1 Secretary Albright's Upcoming Travel to Russia and Latin
1,2 Town Meeting in Seattle
1 Secretary Albright's Speech to the Council of the Americas
1 Statements Regarding Dalai Lama and APEC Business Advisory
2 Statement on This Day in Diplomacy
2-3,20-21 Visit of Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen
3-4 Interest Section in Washington
5-7,11-12 Ratification of Chemical Weapons Convention
7-10 Decision by Russian Duma to Delay Debate on Treaty
10-11 Sanctions for Violating the Terms of the Treaty
12 Administration Efforts to Achieve Senate Ratification
7 Non-proliferation Issues
9 Consolidation of Foreign Policy Agencies
18-20 Individuals Arrested on Charges of Passport Fraud/Possible
12-13,15 Dennis Ross' Activities/Travel Plans
17-18,13-15 Delay in Resuming Negotiations
15-16 Vote on UN Resolution Regarding Har Homa Construction
21-23 President Izetbegovic's Letter on Dayton Accords
23-24 Whereabouts of Mladic/Arrest of Indicted War Criminals
24-26 Reports that Commandos Executed Surrendering Guerrillas
27-28,29,30 Plight of Rwandan Refugees
28 Reported Advance of Rebels
29 U.S. Contact with Rebels
30 Proposed Membership in ASEAN
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 1997, 1:00 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. I would like
to welcome Ms. Somlak Songsamphant. She is the Foreign Relations Chief in
the Spokesperson's Office of the Office of the Prime Minister of Thailand.
Thank you very much for coming today.
And from the Electoral Commission of Ghana, we have Public Information
Officer John Larvie and he is sponsored by the International Foundation for
Election Systems. Thank you very much for coming today. We are glad to have
you with us.
I want to let you about the Secretary's next two trips. We have closed the
list for the Moscow trip. We have had 13 people sign up and because of the
imperative of getting visas out of the Russian embassy -- not the Romanov
jewels, just the visas - we need to close the list today and hopefully get
you the visas either late today or Monday.
The Central America list is still open, the trip to Guatemala and to Mexico,
and that will be open until Monday but I will have to close it on Monday. I
just wanted to keep you apprised of things.
On Tuesday, April 29th, the State Department will hold another one of its
Town Meetings across the country, this time in Seattle, Washington. It is a
town meeting that will focus on issues such as NATO enlargement, on
security issues in east Asia and on non-proliferation and arms control. And
this is open for press coverage. That's Seattle, Washington. That will be
8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in Seattle.
On Monday, April 28th, the Secretary will be speaking here in the
Department at the Loy Henderson Auditorium to the Council of the Americas
Annual Washington meeting. She will open the conference, and the title of
the conference is "Bridging the Gap to 2005: A Business-Government Dialog."
This is an open press event. There will be no questions taken because this
is just to open the conference to the assembled delegates, but you are
cordially invited to attend at 8:30 - excuse me, 8:45 a.m.
Last night we issued a statement on the Secretary's meeting with the Dalai
Lama. We also issued a statement on the appointment of Jack Smith, the
chairman of General Motors, as one of the new representatives on the Asian
Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council. That is the APEC
Business Advisory Council, which is a very important council, a very
important part of the work of APEC.
Finally, last, since we hadn't issued a statement on This Day in Diplomacy
in a while, we decided to do it today. And it is a statement that
commemorates the 30th anniversary of the unanimous consent by the United
States Senate to a multilateral treaty banning the emplacements of weapons
of mass destruction in outer space. It's called the Outer Space Treaty. It
was a major accomplishment in 1967 of the Johnson Administration. Secretary
of State Dean Rusk* and our ambassador to the United Nations, Arthur
Goldberg both worked very hard on this and it really was a landmark
treaty. It was first proposed, in essence, by Presidents Eisenhower
and Kennedy as an idea, the idea that you would ban weapons of mass
destruction in outer space and, in the history of arms control in the post-
World War II era, a very significant date. And since we always like to
remind you of the brilliance of American diplomacy and of our diplomatic
history, I thought I would make this available to you today. And it is in
the press room.
QUESTION: It's also the 17th anniversary of the failed attempt to rescue
the hostages in Iran.
MR. BURNS: Is that right? I didn't even know that.
QUESTION: Those cases you don't mention, right?
MR. BURNS: We mention the brilliant successes of American foreign policy.
I didn't know that, and I didn't remember that.
QUESTION: Can I just on the schedule - the town meeting in Seattle, is
that - who is speaking at that?
MR. BURNS: Okay - speaking. We have - the keynote speaker will be
Ambassador Tom Graham, who is the - as you know, is the Special Representative
of the President for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament, and
he will deliver a keynote address: "Maintaining America's Strategic
Tom Fingar, who is our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence,
will be speaking on security in East Asia, and Clarence Juhl, who is the
Deputy Defense Advisor at NATO will be speaking on NATO enlargement. So
that is our lineup for Seattle.
QUESTION: Nick, regarding (inaudible) do you have any details on the
meeting with Qian Qichen, the time and the time and the subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes, Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen will be
here on Monday. He will meet with the Secretary in the afternoon. I believe
the time of the - I'm looking for support here. The time of the press
conference, I believe it is around 2:30 - 2:45. I'll get back to you with
the specific time.
MR. BURNS: Yes, here - with the opening statements and so forth. Then
they will have probably a two and a half to three-hour meeting upstairs on
the seventh floor, and then a working dinner on Monday evening.
Beyond that, I think Minister Qian will be here for a couple of more days.
He does have appointments, I believe, at the White House and the Pentagon.
We're looking forward to this very important meeting.
QUESTION: Speaking of Iran, Bill Gertz (?) has a story in today's
Washington Times about, I believe, 45 Iranian representatives working here
in Washington, and the United States doesn't have anybody in Iran. That
seems to be kind of an unusual arrangement. Do you have anything to say
MR. BURNS: Well, not quite. A, for effort. Maybe C, for content - maybe C
minus, perhaps even a D. It depends how you look at it.
QUESTION: It is accurate?
MR. BURNS: Well, content and accuracy often go hand in hand. Here is the
problem with the Bill Gertz story again. I don't know if this is a leak -
or I don't know who gave this information to him, but let me just review
the history. In 1980, the U.S. Government agreed to the establishment of an
Iranian interest section in Washington. The staff of 45 of that interest
section is the same number that was originally agreed upon when the
interest section was established.
The people working in the interest section are U.S. citizens or they are
permanent legal residents of the United States. They are not Iranian
diplomats. They are not Iranian air force officers. You know, they are
people who are really here as U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
Now, in the United States, Iranian interests are represented by the
Government of Pakistan, by the Embassy of Pakistan here in Washington, and
the interest section operates as part of that embassy.
Now, it's also important to - I think to note that the people who - the 45
people who are U.S. citizens, or legal permanent, residents do not have
diplomatic immunity. Do not. The people who are Pakistani diplomatic
officials who work, in part, on Iranian interest issues, do have diplomatic
immunity, of course, because they are Pakistani diplomats here in the
United States. And the function of the 45 people who are U.S. citizens or
permanent legal residents is to provide consular services to the very large
Iranian community - Iranian American community that we have here in
the United States. As you know, it is exceedingly large.
So I think there is probably less here than meets the eye, and that was my
initial reaction in reading the story. But when I consulted our experts,
they confirmed that.
QUESTION: Nick, do you know who pays these people? Is it the Iranian
MR. BURNS: Who pays their salaries?
MR. BURNS: I have no idea. None whatsoever.
QUESTION: So it's conceivable they are on the payroll of the Iranian
MR. BURNS: Well, you know, Sid, I'll just have to - we'll have ask the
question. John (Dinger), do you happen to know who pays the salaries of
these 45 American citizens, American citizens or permanent legal residents
of the United States of America? I don't know. We will be very glad to take
You know, we have an American interest section in Tehran, in the Swiss
Embassy. Nothing unusual about this. Nothing unusual whatsoever. A time-
honored diplomatic practice.
QUESTION: So what seems to (inaudible) the article?
MR. BURNS: The perception that there is some kind of - this is den of
spies and thieves and terrible people. These are American citizens.
QUESTION: When Dennis Ross went out to the Middle East --
QUESTION: Yeah, let's go back to the Middle East.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: One doesn't exclude the other. I mean, Americans have spied in
MR. BURNS: I prefer to think that my fellow - our fellow Americans, those
of us who are American citizens, I prefer not to question the patriotism of
American citizens who happen to work in an interest section of the Pakistan
QUESTION: Well, we would --
MR. BURNS: Without - without - adequate evidence to prove it. I mean,
that is a very, very serious charge. You are going to charge American
citizens with something like that?
QUESTION: No, no, that wasn't the point.
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to do that.
QUESTION: No, that wasn't the point. There is always a presumption of
innocence. But you seem to suggesting that because they are Americans there
is no reason to have any suspicion.
QUESTION: You accused Roger Clemens of treason not too long ago.
MR. BURNS: Well, but he was guilty of treason, Barry.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) tried.
MR. BURNS: We already confirmed that Roger Clemens is guilty.
QUESTION: And he's only working for the Toronto ball team.
MR. BURNS: And the Red Sox beat the Orioles 2 to 1 in 12 innings last
QUESTION: Well, he's not working for Iran.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Pemstein has been very silent back there because he is
smarting from the defeat that the Orioles - that the Red Sox landed on the
Orioles last night.
QUESTION: They'll never get them in Baltimore tonight.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the major success on Capitol Hill --
MR. BURNS: Yes, we did. Yes.
QUESTION: I'm sure you have something to say about that.
MR. BURNS: I'm glad to see that you noted that. It was a major success. I
think it really was one of the significant successes of the President's
second term in foreign policy because of the stakes that were involved and
because of the intense involvement of the President, the Vice President,
Secretary Albright, and Secretary Cohen, and we are very pleased the Senate
has given its advice and consent.
We now look forward to becoming part of the rule-making body for the
Chemical Weapons Convention and fully a part of the effort to implement it
worldwide, and we call upon all the great powers of the world to ratify
Unfortunately, we understood this morning that the Russian DUMA has decided
to go on vacation and they have not ratified this treaty. It is very
important that Russia now make the effort to ratify this treaty, and very
quickly. Fortunately, I think we have good faith and good will on the part
of the Russian Government and President Yeltsin and Foreign Minister
Primikov and we look to the Russian elected legislators to show similar
good faith and make sure that Russia is part of this effort. But we
think this vote last night in the Senate is a vote for American engagement
in the world, American leadership in the world, and for making sure that
chemical weapons do not present a threat to the American people or to our
friends around the world.
QUESTION: Nick, how do you feel about the proposition that this may be
the last hurrah for arms control? I'll give you reasons for that: no
landslide, took enormous lobbying, you got reluctant senators like Lott and
Warner, among others, saying they did this very reluctantly. It took a hell
of a campaign, right? The DUMA is sitting on START, the DUMA is sitting on
this, and you are killing the Arms Control Agency, which is no small
How would you deal with the notion that maybe -
MR. BURNS: I didn't think we would be put on trial this morning.
QUESTION: -- the State Department is killing the Arms Control -- the
President of the United States is killing the Arms Control Agency.
MR. BURNS: No, we are elevating -
QUESTION: For 30 years -
MR. BURNS: We're elevating it.
QUESTION: You're not elevating.
MR. BURNS: We are.
QUESTION: You're eliminating an independent -
MR. BURNS: Anyway, I'll let you finish.
QUESTION: -- an independent link to the White House, the director's job,
and you're putting it under a State Department ceiling. So the question is:
What is the future of arms control? Do you see a glorious future for arms
control led by this administration or any other one?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: How so?
MR. BURNS: I don't think this is the last hurrah by any stretch of the
imagination. First, you have - I think you see, Barry, throughout the last
35 years that the test ban treaty and the SALT treaties and the START
treaties and the non-proliferation treaties have always had their share of
controversy attached to them and there have always been divisions in this
country about whether we should go forward with each one of those. So it's
not surprising that we would have had a very tough debate about Senate
ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, number one.
Number two, we have some significant treaties ahead of us. START II, signed
by President Bush, needs to be ratified by the Russian DUMA and, fortunately,
we have the agreement of President Yeltsin that he will push for that. That
came out of the Helsinki summit meeting and we now need to see the Russian
DUMA step up to the plate on that and on the CWC. Now, we have said that if
START II can be ratified, we would be willing to engage in a further
round of discussions on follow-on reductions in the level of strategic
offensive arms between the United States and Russia. That issue was
discussed at Helsinki but, obviously, the United States needs to see the
Russia DUMA ratify START II first.
And, Barry, on your question, the opinion you've given, your belief that
somehow we're killing ACDA. I, for one, as a U.S. Government employee, have
long felt that there is needless duplication in our own Executive Branch on
foreign policy issues, not just public diplomacy but also in arms control.
We are not killing the arms control community in this government. In fact,
we are making sure that the Secretary of State is going to be the chief
arms control official of this government and that the new Undersecretary
will report to her but will also, if you read the press statements
that have been put out by the White House and State Department, will also,
of course, be double-hatted and have a negotiating role and a primacy that,
of course, has a voice in the White House. So I think the reorganization
plan is not going to diminish our interest or commitment to arms control
and security issues.
QUESTION: A quick check on how you stand with the North Koreans non-
proliferation. The same thing: Are you able to convince them to stop - have
you made any headway in persuading them not to sell or provide dangerous
technology to all sorts of regimes around the world?
MR. BURNS: We are going to have talks with the North Koreans on May 12th
and 13th, and our talks will be headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary Bob
Einhorn. It is a very important issue. We have some concerns about North
Korean behavior and compliance, and we will be raising them at those talks
in New York.
QUESTION: Nick, can we go back to the questions on the chemical
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: The DUMA today said it wanted more money to help get rid of
these weapons and pretty much made it clear that they weren't planning to
deal with it until the Fall. I mean, you call for quick action but it seems
like they're just saying forget it.
MR. BURNS: We're extremely disappointed in the decision by the DUMA to
put off debate and consideration of this treaty until the Fall. Our U.S.
Senate just spent hundreds of hours talking about this issue with the
administration, debating it on the floor of the Senate, in committees in
the Senate. Our Senate has acted responsibly and with a degree of urgency
because on April 29th, next week, this treaty goes into effect.
I would think that the Russian Government and the Russian people would also
want to be totally involved in the implementation of the treaty, and we
need Russia to be involved. And, you know, the DUMA is an elected body of
the Russian people. They are going to wait six months before they take up
one of the landmark security treaties of our time? We think it's very
important that the DUMA get to this.
We think there is absolute good faith on the part of the Russian Government.
The Russian Government has indicated it does want to go forward, and we
would hope that the Russian Government and DUMA can work out whatever
concerns that the DUMA has. We had - in our country we had 28 specific
issues that we took up with our own Senate. We answered the concerns that
our Senate brought to the debate, and with a very good result for the
QUESTION: What about the demand for more money, more international help,
to deal with the destruction issue?
MR. BURNS: Well, that's an issue that they are going to have to address
to the Russian Government itself. As you know, the United States in the
past has assisted Russia, first the Soviet Union and then Russia, in the
issue of chemical weapons destruction through the Nunn-Lugar program. There
are sufficient, we think, monies from the international community,
including the United States. I was not aware that this was a separate issue
that they were still raising. It's an issue they should raise with the
Russian Government. And if the Russian Government wants to raise it
with us, we'll certainly listen, but we do think the time has come
for the Russian DUMA to ratify it.
QUESTION: Will Secretary Albright raise this issue with Primikov when she
is in Moscow next week?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure it's going to be on the agenda. It's such an
important issue for all of us, CWC. I'm sure it will be on the agenda.
QUESTION: Given the fact that that decision yesterday was that of the
DUMA, is there anything Yeltsin and company, is there anything Yeltsin and
company can do in order to speed this up?
MR. BURNS: Well, I think we have had a similar situation here in the
United States. We were contacted by over a hundred governments in the last
couple of months - please, ratify the CWC. Understanding - I think all
those governments understood that we wanted to, but we had a constitutional
debate here, a debate brought about by our constitutional structures here.
The same is true in Russia.
We work with the Russian Government. That is our partner in Russia, and we
assume that what we say to the Russian Government, if it pertain to the
DUMA will be translated on to the DUMA; that the message will be delivered
to the DUMA, in other words.
QUESTION: Nick, on ACDA, if it's such a sensible idea to avoid duplication
in such things as arms control and have the Secretary of State be the chief
arms control negotiator, why did it take two years? And why did the State
Department have to be dragged kicking and screaming across the line to
MR. BURNS: Jim, the State Department was not dragged kicking and
screaming across the line. When Secretary Albright came in --
QUESTION: It certainly resisted fitfully for the last two years.
MR. BURNS: All I can do is point you to Secretary Albright's confirmation
hearings in January where she said she was open to consolidation, open to
talk about that in the government and with the Congress, that from January
20th on, she worked with the Congress and worked with the agency heads here
on this. And she feels it's a good result, a very positive result.
The central point here is that the structure of U.S. foreign policy was set
up for the Cold War. The Cold War is over. It is now time to get on to the
next century and to the new world. We don't need needless duplication. I
see it in my own work on public diplomacy. There is certain things that
USIA does better than the State Department. There is certain things that we
do better than USIA. We are going to combine our efforts now over the next
couple of years. The same is true of ACTA and our Bureau of Political
QUESTION: But as spokesman for the State Department, not only this
Administration, but the State Department during the past couple of years,
would you agree that the State Department did resist this consolidation?
MR. BURNS: I think it's - in my own knowledge of it - you are talking
about the period of late 1994, early 1995 -- is that it was a very
complicated affair, and it wasn't politically possible for a variety of
reasons to go forward.
Thankfully, we have surmounted some of those problems and we have a
reorganization plan that we believe is good, that will make us more
streamlined, and make the State Department more effective, and that has to
be the principal concern of the Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Nick, on the DUMA and its decision not to vote on the Chemical
Weapons Treaty, you have been saying all along that it was crucial for the
United States, both for the United States and for all these other countries
that were begging us to ratify, to be involved at the beginning. Russia is
one of the largest - has one of the largest stockpiles of chemical
weapons in the world, and clearly should have been a major player on
this issue. How much damage is it going to do to the implementation
of this treaty, to the organization of the structures that will be needed,
that Russians will not be at the table?
MR. BURNS: Well, first of all - on the first part of your question, David
- it benefits all Americans that the Senate ratified the treaty last night
because we will be on the governing board that writes the rules of
implementation. So we are better off because of the Senate's vote last
night, the Senate's leadership, bipartisan Republicans and Democrats.
Second, we have always believed that if the United States showed the way
forward for some of the countries that have signed the treaty but not
ratified it -- and there are a number of them -- that that would put more
pressure on them, give them more impetus to move quickly.
We now hope, given the very decisive result in the Senate last night, that
that message will be heard in Moscow. I don't think it needs to be heard in
the Kremlin as much as it does in the DUMA. And we hope very much that the
Russian people will now understand that the same stakes that were present
for the American people, are present for them. If Russia doesn't ratify,
Russian won't be on the rule-making body.
QUESTION: But what I'm saying is, they have only got a few days left.
They've made clear they are not going to vote on it before then. They are
already missing the boat, aren't they? How much damage is that going to
MR. BURNS: Well, it's going to do damage to Russia. But the Russian
Government - it will do damage to Russia because Russia won't be in on the
ground floor on implementation. But I think you are asking a different
question, and that is: will it impair the implementation of the treaty
overall because Russia is not involved?
The Russian Government has shown good faith. The Russian Government is the
executive arm of Russia. It will be the one that makes sure that Russia
abides by the Chemical Weapons Convention, even if it hasn't been ratified,
and we fully expect Russia to abide by the commitments in that treaty,
short of ratification. That is an important point.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) do the Russians get sanctioned automatically now by
not being a part of the treaty? Because that was the --
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe so. No, the sanctions are - the sanctions
in the treaty are included for those who violate the terms of the treaty.
But the whole argument that we have been making here is that if you don't
ratify by April 29th, you are not part of the group that actually writes
the rules, so Russia won't be part of that. We will.
QUESTION: But on the Hill, in the debate it was argued repeatedly that
there would be sanctions on U.S. chemical firms?
MR. BURNS: Well, that is a different sort of question. I thought you were
talking about violations. It is true that if you don't ratify, there is the
prospect that your private companies would face losses, job losses and
profit losses, because they would not be able to compete on an equal basis
with the companies of countries that have ratified.
Now, fortunately, the $600 million annual loss that we predicted for
American companies and American workers will now not be felt because our
companies will be on the ground floor, and they will be able to compete
effectively with companies of countries that have ratified.
QUESTION: But will there be sanctions on Russian entities?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe sanctions is the proper word.
QUESTION: Perhaps, fines.
MR. BURNS: I think it's a question of whether you are in the preferred
group or the non-preferred group. American companies will. Russian
companies will find themselves in the latter group until their government -
until their DUMA ratifies.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the United States can do or might do to mitigate
the disadvantage that Russia will find itself in the coming months? Because
it won't be part of the steering committee on --
MR. BURNS: We can urge the Russian Government to use its influence with
the DUMA to seek early ratification.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the treaty partners, the treaty parties, rather -
in other words --
MR. BURNS: The rules are quite clear. You can't sit on the governing
board if you haven't ratified.
QUESTION: Nick, we're beating this to death and we want to go on to
whether Dennis Ross is going to Middle East, as the Palestinians say.
QUESTION: Well, I've got a couple more --
QUESTION: No, no, but I do, too. So go ahead. This is an important issue
QUESTION: Well, I just wondered if --
QUESTION: Maybe we can jump this --
QUESTION: Another point is that last night the members of the - certainly
the Democrats, Biden and Daschle, were making rather strong statements
about the historical significance of the event, and saying it was the most
important single act undertaken since the end of the Cold War, the most
important single treaty. I just wonder, would you put it in some historical
MR. BURNS: Well, I think we very much agree with both what Senator Lott
and Senator Biden said. Those are the two comments that I heard publicly.
And that is, this is a landmark, historic treaty because it paves the way
for the world to rid itself of chemical weapons and to set up very
stringent rules which will penalize those who choose not to do so, penalize
the cheaters around the world. I think we know who they are: the rogue
states. And it allows the United States to join an international consensus
on one of the most important issues of our time, and to be in the position
of leadership as we begin after April 29th to implement this treaty.
Had the Senate not ratified, we would definitely have been in the same
group with Iraq and Libya, and that would have been most uncomfortable for
all of us, including the Secretary of State, who referred to this publicly
several times. So, fortunately, as the world's great power, we are in a
position of leadership thanks to a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and
Democrats, including very substantial leadership from Senator Lott,
Senator McCain, Senator Biden. Lots of people deserve credit for this
on Capitol Hill.
QUESTION: Could you just specify the Secretary's role in this, as you
would sum it up? I mean, she wasn't up there lobbying actively like Gore
was last night. Was she on the phone the last five days? Exactly how would
MR. BURNS: This was a team effort. The President and Vice President led
the effort, Secretary Albright and Secretary Cohen. Sandy Berger deserves
enormous credit for this. All that team devoted themselves to Senate
ratification. I can tell you for weeks on end now, Secretary Albright has
been taking 10 minutes between meetings to make a phone call to a senator
When we were in Annapolis a week ago Tuesday, for her speech to the
Midshipmen, she spent over an hour in the Commandant's house before dinner
making a series of phone calls to senators on this. She was repeatedly up
on Capitol Hill.
At the end of the NATO enlargement testimony with Secretary Cohen, they
talked about CWC. They disrupted their entire weekend last weekend to
prepare for and appear on jointly Meet The Press -- Secretary Cohen and
Secretary Albright. This was an all-out push by the Administration. It was
pedal to the floor, all-out effort to make sure that we did our best to
convince the Senate.
And so the Secretary was part of the leadership team that put this together,
and a lot of people deserve credit, but certainly the President, the Vice
President, Secretary Cohen, Secretary Albright, and Sandy Berger John
Holum. There are lots and lots of people. And, of course, all the senators
who voted for the treaty.
It was good to see President Bush, President Ford, Secretary Baker, General
Powell, General Scowcroft, prominent Republicans stand up publicly -
Senator Dole - and support it.
QUESTION: The Palestinians this morning were saying that Dennis Ross is
traveling to the Middle East. Do you --
MR. BURNS: He has no plans to do so at the present time. Now, since he
returned last Saturday morning, he has been working night and day with the
Israelis and the Palestinians. He has, of course, briefed Secretary
Albright many, many times during the week. She had a phone conversation
with Chairman Arafat a couple of days ago on some of the issues that we
have put forward. At the right time, when it's useful, I am sure that we'll
have trips to the Middle East by either the Secretary of State or
by Dennis Ross, but we are not in a position to announce one now.
QUESTION: What is he working on night and day, specifically?
MR. BURNS: The effort to try to bridge the very serious differences
between the Israelis and Palestinians.
QUESTION: What's - what --
MR. BURNS: Exactly. Exactly.
QUESTION: Yeah, right. To better mankind. But what is specifically --
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Barry. That, too. That, too.
QUESTION: Look, he works this night and day and he's worked --
MR. BURNS: And he's done a very good job of it.
QUESTION: -- night and day for about 14 years now.
MR. BURNS: And look what he's accomplished, Barry.
QUESTION: No, I know. He's accomplished a hell of a lot and he'll
probably get the Nobel Prize. But at this point --
MR. BURNS: Well, if you want to nominate him, we won't argue with
QUESTION: What is, what is the hang-up or hang-ups? Could you share with
the public what is keeping the Israelis and the Palestinians from resuming
MR. BURNS: That's almost a metaphysical question. That's the cosmic
QUESTION: But a simple question.
MR. BURNS: You ask me what's the hang-up after 14 years?
QUESTION: Yes, what is holding things up?
MR. BURNS: Let me tell you what Dennis Ross has contributed to working
for President Reagan --
QUESTION: Why can't the talks get going?
MR. BURNS: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute.
QUESTION: Why can't the talks get going? What is keeping the talks
MR. BURNS: No double standards here. Barry gets to make a --
QUESTION: I've changed my question.
MR. BURNS: -- launch a very provocative question.
QUESTION: What has stalled the talks? Why are the talks stalled? Over
what, at this point?
MR. BURNS: Okay. I can't answer the question without giving you 10
seconds of Dennis Ross. You ask a very provocative question which subtly
implies some kind of criticism of Dennis that he's been spinning his wheels
MR. BURNS: -- for 14 years.
QUESTION: No. Just a mystery --
MR. BURNS: No mystery.
QUESTION: -- a whole mystique that is getting to be boring, frankly.
MR. BURNS: I'm not bored.
QUESTION: What is holding up the negotiations?
MR. BURNS: I know you're not bored, either.
QUESTION: It's this mystique that is spread over Mideast Diplomacy, you
know. You aren't able to get the talks going and we would appreciate
knowing where the problem is at the moment, or problems.
MR. BURNS: First of all, Dennis Ross has done extraordinary things in 14
years and he who is serving Presidents and Secretaries of State, that group-
-Bush-Baker, Clinton-Christopher-Albright--have made more progress than any
other group of diplomats in 49 years since the Middle East conflict
started. So I need to rise to the defense of my colleagues. I think it is
very important that all of you understand that and appreciate it.
There is no mystery. There is no deep mystery about what's happening. The
Israelis and Palestinians have different views about how to proceed and
they have a series of disagreements on some of the central issues. There is
a gap between them. It needs to be closed. We are trying to help them do
that. They need to do the work, we can help. We have been successful in the
past in situations like this. We may be successful this time, but we're not
Dennis did have a notable achievement last week that most of you did not
report, and that is that he was able to turn the security talks back on.
That was useful, very, very important in trying to keep the level of
QUESTION: Given the vote that you all are, from what I understand,
planning to make at the UN today blocking criticism of Israel for the
housing development at Har Homa, do you think Dennis will need to go to the
region next week? Because this has been seen, your blocking, your voting
with Israel on this issue is seen to be disingenuous and you are taking the
side of the Israel in this particular phase of the talks.
MR. BURNS: Well, Ambassador Richardson already presented the United
States position. We already voted at the United Nations. We voted at the
United Nations -- John has been good enough to just give me this. There is
a - no, it's already been voted upon . Yeah. The resolution was passed 134
to 3. We had 11 abstentions. I can tell you who two of the countries of the
three were: Israel, the United States. I don't know who the third one
Thank you for this, John.
But I can tell you this, as Ambassador Richardson said today, we're not
aware that at anytime in the last 49 years of an instance where a General
Assembly Resolution has been the pivotal turning point in a situation like
the situation we have now. Voting for these resolutions and presenting them
is not going to forward the cause of Middle East peace, so let's be
realistic is our message. Let's really be realistic. If all these 134
countries are truly interested in closing the divisions between the
Palestinians and Israelis, well, they ought to get involved in the effort
we're involved in, and that is a serious and objective attempt to
stand between the parties and adjudicate their differences. That's
what we're doing. We are much more pragmatic and realistic country
when it comes to this thing than some of these other countries just stand
up and vote for meaningless resolutions.
QUESTION: But you're voting with Israel on an issue which this government
MR. BURNS: No. The message is in the three Har Homa votes of the last
five or six weeks, the message is peace is going to be made in Jerusalem or
Gaza at negotiating tables. General Assembly resolutions will not bring us
one millimeter closer to peace; therefore, why spin our wheels in New York
debating when we could be working out in the region?
QUESTION: You're inviting 134 countries to join in the negotiating
MR. BURNS: I'm inviting 134 countries to get serious, Roy, and to stop
posturing in New York and to start thinking seriously about how to close
divisions, how to close divisions between Israelis and Palestinians.
QUESTION: Why can't the United States in these matters vote against and
not abstain? If you're against making statements about meaningless
resolutions, a bunch of verbiage, as you say, why not just abstain? Why
vote against it? Why vote against what has been virtually the state public
position of the U.S. Government?
MR. BURNS: Because we know what's happening on the ground. We know that
the Israelis and Palestinians need to work directly together and it's not
going to happen in New York. And we are a friend of Israel as we are a
friend of the Palestinians, and we don't like to see people get ganged up
on needlessly with needless and meaningless resolutions.
QUESTION: What is the state of construction of Har Homa, by the way? I
mean, are they going ahead?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: I'm sure your observers --
MR. BURNS: I can't give you the -- you know, the state today of the
QUESTION: There were news reports a week ago that they were going to -
it's going to take them years instead of months to build the actual
MR. BURNS: You'll have to direct that to the Israeli Government. I can't
give you the assessment of that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) back to the terrorism issue. There hasn't been - as
far as I can remember, there hasn't been any major incident in some time
now. Are you able to say anything about whether Arafat is fulfilling the
appeal from the President and everybody else to have zero tolerance for
MR. BURNS: I think we have said a couple of times, Barry, in the last few
weeks that we think that some progress has been made; most importantly,
Israelis and Palestinian security forces working together. And that is one
of Dennis' achievements. And we think that the standard of zero tolerance
is a continual constant standard that must be met.
QUESTION: I just want -
QUESTION: I may have gotten the wrong idea from what you were saying, but
when Dennis Ross left and then came back over the weekend I received the
distinct impression from words uttered by you that there would be a rather
early set of ideas for building confidence on both sides. Apparently, even
that rather low bar has not been - you have not been able to jump over
that. Is that correct?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe it is. We presented the ideas. The
President and Secretary presented them to Netanyahu and the Palestinian
delegation two weeks ago when they were in Washington. Dennis went out to
follow up on those ideas. They have already been presented. The American
ideas are in the mix.
I think there was an impression on the part of a lot of you that there was
going to be a trip by either the Secretary or Dennis this week following up,
and that didn't happen because we prefer to keep the negotiations the way
they are. We are working from Washington. We have our ambassador,
Ambassador Indyk at Abington working in the field.
QUESTION: Well, let me just follow this. Is the delay then that the
Israelis and/or the Palestinians haven't come up with solid responses to
the ideas that he, Dennis Ross, brought out there?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't say there is a delay. I mean, we have continued to
talking to both of them all this week so there hasn't been a delay. Our
discussions have continued. You just haven't seen a high profile visit to
the Middle East, but that doesn't mean there isn't action behind the
scenes. I told you that Secretary Albright was on the phone this week with
Chairman Arafat discussing these issues.
QUESTION: Have they responded to the suggestions or proposals by Dennis
MR. BURNS: Both sides have responded and we continue talking about their
responses, and our responses to their responses. It's that kind of thing.
You know, it's diplomacy. We're trying to move things forward.
QUESTION: You said - and I don't think you were alone - I think that was
the administration's position that when Ross came back you would then be
able to take your next step --
MR. BURNS: Right.
QUESTION: -- to make it known what your next step is.
MR. BURNS: Consider next options.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but along - I'm sort of in the same department here
as Jim Anderson is. You are unable to take your next step, it would
MR. BURNS: No.
QUESTION: And I can only -
MR. BURNS: I don't agree with that. I really don't agree with that, just
on - just to be fair about it.
QUESTION: It didn't have to be a visit. It had to be something concrete.
And you haven't done anything concrete.
MR. BURNS: That's not true. We are discussing concrete ideas with the
Israelis and Palestinians today, yesterday, the day before. We are doing it
through Martin Indyk and Ed Abington and Dennis Ross. Dennis is here. He's
on the phone. Secretary Albright has been on the phone. We are doing it.
You just don't see a lot of glitter attached but sometimes you need to just
do things quietly.
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
QUESTION: (Inaudible). Coming from the peanut gallery.
MR. BURNS: I disagree with that. I disagree with that. Judge us at the
end of the process, not in the middle of it.
QUESTION: Nick, do you have anything on - there is a case here in
Washington, the Washington area, of a woman who was arrested for false
passport and smuggling children into this country. I am hearing one of the
children has been found. Do you have any -
MR. BURNS: I do. During the weekend of April 12th, special agents of
State Department Diplomatic Security arrested seven people on passport
fraud charges. One of those arrested, Theresa Martinez, is believed to be a
Bolivian national and there is an allegation that she may have been using
fraudulent birth certificates to obtain up to 18 U.S. passports fraudulently
in order to give those passports to illegal aliens in the Washington, D.C.,
area. There are eight other suspects in the case who remain at large.
We know that ten of the passports that were obtained fraudulently were used
to bring ten children from Latin America to the United States and nine of
these children are missing. I believe there are three girls and six boys.
One of the children, a boy, was found this morning by agents of our
Diplomatic Security Service here at the State Department in Maryland and,
fortunately, this child is safe and with a family member. But we are still
looking for the nine others. And we would like to appeal to the public
in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia that if you have any idea as to who these
kids may be and where they may be, if you would phone the State Department
at (202) 647-7277.
We are looking for leads in this case because we think these kids
essentially have been used by adults in a passport fraud scheme. Passport
fraud, as you know, is typically brought about in illegal immigration
schemes but sometimes it is connected to drug, narcotics operations, to
terrorism, to money laundering, to white collar crime. And we are working
very closely in this case with the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children and the center is using its resources to put out a
nationwide lookout for the children. Since we found one of the children in
D.C., it may be that many of the others are here still in the D.C. area and
we would like the assistance of the public in this case.
QUESTION: You say that this child was found with a family member.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: A family member of his?
MR. BURNS? Yes, yes.
QUESTION: So he was brought up here to be with a family who was
MR. BURNS: You know, part of the problem in this particular case is we
can not be sure until the people who have been arrested talk and until we
find the kids. We can't be sure of the motive in each of these cases. There
may be several different motives for having basically stolen U.S. passports
and attached them to little kids, and so it is hard to generalize at this
point about why these people did this. But I would remind you that
passport fraud is a felony. It carries a maximum penalty of ten years
in prison. Remind the people who have carried this out and any other
people who may be contemplating it.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) been asking in this particular case, that one case
where the boy has been found, the boy is found in the care of his own
MR. BURNS: That's right. That's right.
QUESTION: What happens to the kids when they are found?
MR. BURNS: I think that will have to be handled on a case-by-case basis
because they may be very different cases different legal bases. Every care
will be taken, first, to protect the children and, second, to try to
adjudicate any legal problems or criminal problems that arise from these
QUESTION: A Latin American child that was found that was brought from
Latin America and was then found with his parents here?
MR. BURNS: Essentially, yes, that's what we believe; that's the story of
these 10 kids. They were brought here illegally with fraudulent American
QUESTION: How can they be illegal if their natural parents are in the
MR. BURNS: Because not all people are in the United States legally.
QUESTION: Oh, that's true. I see.
MR. BURNS: And, again, Sid, I can't tell you specifically what the case
of each of these ten is because we don't know until we find the other
QUESTION: How did you find out about this kid? Did it come through the
Center or did it come through other means?
MR. BURNS: Well, for the time being, I think we'd rather not say too much
about who this young boy is because we want to see if there is a possibility
that there is a chance to locate the others based on this case. But we had
some information, a lead, and followed it. And it was successful in this
QUESTION: You appeal to the public for help, but you have given them
almost no information upon which to know who they are looking for to help
MR. BURNS: No. The thing about cases like this, David, is that there are
often many people who might be associated with the people who bring these
children in or associated with the family of the children who may know the
children; they know who they are. And we are appealing to those people who
may be close to the case to do the right thing, follow our laws. If these
people are American citizens, they must follow our laws. And if people
are complicit in this behavior, they face a maximum penalty of 10 years in
jail. I think that's sufficient incentive for the public to come forward.
There are two numbers, actually. (202) 647-7277. There's a Virginia number,
(703) 204-6101. Both of those numbers are State Department numbers. If you
have any leads in this case, if you would call the State Department and let
us know, we do want to find these 9 children to help protect them and to
help bring to justice those people who are ripping off the United States
Government of passports and who are breaking our laws.
QUESTION: Pictures of these children have been released. They have been
released. Local news organizations here in Washington have --
MR. BURNS: I'm aware of that. I'm aware of that. We just choose not to
say too much about this young boy because we do hope that by safeguarding
his privacy we may be able to locate the other kids.
QUESTION: Nick, I was just wondering at her meeting with Qian Qichen on
Monday, whether the Secretary will raise this Washington Post report about
a Chinese Government-sponsored plan to influence the elections.
MR. BURNS: Well, the Secretary raised that general issue back in February
when she was in Beijing. The Vice President raised that issue in Beijing
and there is an ongoing Justice Department investigation into that issue,
into the allegations that have been raised about improper, allegedly
improper Chinese behavior in the United States. So, I think that issue has
been duly raised with the Chinese Government.
QUESTION: But that doesn't answer her question. Her question was --
MR. BURNS: I thought it was a perfectly good answer.
QUESTION: No, no. Her question was will it come up in Monday's meeting.
MR. BURNS: And I said that the Secretary has raised it before. I cannot
anticipate, not having - not even having had the pre-brief for the
Secretary's meeting, which the pre-brief is held later on this afternoon, I
don't want to anticipate publicly that of the 100 or 200 issues in the U.S.-
China agenda we're going to raise a certain number. I'll be glad to go into
this on Monday. I'll be very glad to go into this on Monday, but since we
haven't had a chance to even talk to the Secretary yet about this, I
would rather just let you wait, if you would, until Monday and we'll
talk about that issue.
QUESTION: Apart from the visit, do you have anything to say about the
MR. BURNS: I have almost nothing to say. There is an ongoing investigation
by the Justice Department. This story would seem to fit into that ongoing
QUESTION: (Inaudible) were asked about the Bosnia letter to the Contact
MR. BURNS: The letter of President Izetbegovic, yes.
QUESTION: Yes. And I was just wondering, did you have answers to the
specific charges he made? I mean there were some that were very puzzling,
such as the failure to have control of their own airspace and the failure
to settle the inter-ethnic boundary line in a certain area. Are you going
to have a point-by-point rebuttal?
MR. BURNS: Well, I think what we'll do in this case, it's a serious
letter from the President Izetbegovic. We'll certainly respond to it
privately. I don't think we should do that publicly. It's a case, point-by-
point, until we are able to send a private letter back. I did respond
yesterday and, essentially, Roy, I mean we believe a lot has gone right and
a lot of things have gone wrong. And it is important to remember what's
gone right as well as what's gone wrong, because that is part of the
picture. We think that there is general movement forward in Bosnia
with some significant problems. And refugee return is probably one
of the major problems that still has not been clarified.
But we're working on all these issues. You know, we had some success in
establishing a currencty board and a currency that was engineered by the
United States, by David Lipton, the Acting Undersecretary of the Treasury,
a couple of weeks ago. We've had a lot of success on economic assistance.
We have had little success on the issue of war crimes, war criminals being
brought to the - little success - to the Hague and, frankly, not enough
success and too much disappointment for the refugees who still can't go
back to their homes. So, we are willing to be realistic about it, but some
of the portrayals of this issue have been dark, darkly negative, and we
just wanted to add some positive elements to the story because there are
QUESTION: Their assessment that this - that the current management of the
process is leading to the further disintegration of Bosnia and Herzegovina
is a pretty serious one considering that they are part of the government
and, you know, carries some weight.
MR. BURNS: Yes. And it's a very serious letter. We will be responding to
it, but we Americans tend to be pragmatic and tend to try to work on
problems and not continually raise what's going wrong. Be aware of what's
going wrong, but be determined to try to fix it.
QUESTION: You will, then, make that available when you have a response?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if we will or not. I can't promise that. We
normally do not make available correspondence between the Secretary of
State or the President and foreign leaders.
QUESTION: Could you just take the two specific points that he raises at
the beginning of the letter? At point one, the question of airspace and who
controls it and why they don't control their own airspace. And the second
is why that part of the inter-ethnic boundary line has not been resolved.
MR. BURNS: Part of the what?
QUESTION: Of the inter-ethnic boundary line in the region of Bosanski
Samac, he says has not been resolved and the authorities are not in
MR. BURNS: I'll take both questions and see what we can do.
QUESTION: You said that you Americans are pragmatic, yesterday and today.
Yesterday, Balkan Institute, Americans from Balkan Institute here from
Washington, D.C., issued their own analysis. And their analysis is even
maybe - they predict that Bosnia is going to be, for sure, again in a war
after NATO is leaving if you are not ready to undertake strong measures to
do something. So and certainly it means that Bosnians are not just
emotional about that issue.
MR. BURNS: I'm not accusing them of being emotional about the issue; I'm
simply saying that we prefer to work on problems and try to improve the
situation. I am not aware of the Balkan Institute's report. I would
respectfully submit that we know a lot about what is going on in Bosnia. We
are there diplomatically and militarily and economically. We have on-the-
ground, first-hand reports from American soldiers and diplomats. We are
aware of all the problems. We are also aware of what has gone right,
and I do think it is intellectually honest to try to present a true
picture, objective picture, of the situation which includes the successes
as well as the failures.
QUESTION: -- underline war crime tribunal and -
MR. BURNS: That's gone very poorly.
QUESTION: Ratko Mladic in Belgrade. We were talking yesterday off the
record about it. So do you have -
MR. BURNS: I was talking off the record about it?
QUESTION: No, we were talking not here.
MR. BURNS: Oh, you were talking off the record. Okay, good, because I
never talk off the record.
QUESTION: At the foreign press center.
MR. BURNS: At least, we can never talk about me talking off the record,
right? But I'm on the record.
QUESTION: Anyway, my question -
MR. BURNS: But I'm on the record and I don't know -
QUESTION: My question is Ratko Mladic was in Belgrade, the Daily
Telegraph from London reported. So what is your answer?
MR. BURNS: I can not confirm whether or not Mladic was in Belgrade. I
think the allegation is quite interesting and quite serious. If he was in
Belgrade and was sighted there, then that behooves the Serbian Government
to arrest him. The Serbian Government continues to be in fundamental non-
compliance with the war crime provisions of the Dayton accord. The Croatian
Government isn't far behind. They are also harboring indicted war
criminals. So we call on both of those governments to do the right thing.
It is still an important issue, an issue that has not seen many positive
results since the signing of the Dayton accords.
QUESTION: -- special forces Mr. Gelbard said there is nothing going on
about special forces, so do you have anything to say about it because you
were talking before about special forces maybe from the United States or
from other countries to arrest war criminals?
MR. BURNS: I can't possibly improve upon Ambassador Gelbard's statement.
I would just like to respectfully say that I would like to link myself to
Ambassador Gelbard's statement.
QUESTION: But there is -
MR. BURNS: I don't have any more to say than Ambassador Gelbard has said
QUESTION: (Inaudible) parties to decide when and whether they arrest any
of these indicted war criminals?
MR. BURNS: No, it's not. The parties have a legal written commitment to
arrest war criminals when they see them, find them, know that they are in
their country. It is not up to them. They have a commitment to do
QUESTION: (Inaudible) NATO who have forces on the ground have no
MR. BURNS: Yes, they do. NATO S-4 forces, American forces, to be specific,
have a responsibility to arrest when they encounter. Long-standing U.S.
rules for U.S. soldiers and for NATO soldiers.
QUESTION: And there are still no encounters?
MR. BURNS: I'm not willing to say that. There certainly have been no
MR. BURNS: I just can't account for, you know, 30 or 40 or 50,000
soldiers. I can't say there have been no encounters. We know there have
been some accidental encounters where people maybe after the fact realized
who the person was. I am not willing to say there haven't been any
encounters, but there have been no arrests of that natures. So all of us
need to do a better job, but governments primarily have the responsibility
to do a better job, Croatia and Serbia as well as Bosnia Herzegovina. But
Bosnia Herzegovina has largely fulfilled its commitments, as opposed
to Serbia and Croatia, and that speaks well of President Izetbegovic and to
his commitment to see that war criminals are punished. He had turned over
Muslims to the Tribunal, and he ought to be commended for that. We do have
a great respect for President Izetbegovic.
QUESTION: Nick --
QUESTION: Nick, in a different subject?
MR. BURNS: Sure, yeah.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about reports that the commandos
summarily executed guerrillas who were trying to surrender?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't because the United States was not there in the
compound the other day. We had no representatives there. We had no
eyewitnesses. We cannot possibly know what happened. That question should
be directed to the Peruvian Government.
QUESTION: Do you intend to ask the Peruvian Government about that? It
would be a rather gross violation of international law.
MR. BURNS: I think really that's a question that primarily is up to the
Peruvian Government to investigate and look into, not for the United States
to do so.
QUESTION: Would you like them to investigate it, and look into it, and
produce some answers?
MR. BURNS: I don't know all the facts. I only know what I read in the
newspapers. That doesn't necessarily mean that comprises all the facts. I
would rather have all the facts before I made such an important pronouncement.
QUESTION: But are you seeking the facts?
MR. BURNS: It's is largely the - let's just face it, it's largely the
responsibility of the country involved, Peru, its government, its military
to answer questions like that. We are an observer. We didn't have any
Americans inside. We had nothing to do with the raid. We did not give any
advice to those who carried out the raid. We didn't know about the raid
before it took place. We weren't warned before it took place.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) and most others have given President Fujimori
glowing praise for his valor and skill in the raid.
MR. BURNS: Let's not be muddled about what happened over the last several
months. The terrorists started it. They are responsible for what happened,
and they must bear - MRTA - must bear the responsibility for this great
tragedy. They started it. They held 472 people hostage for many, many, many
months. Let's not forget that.
QUESTION: But that wouldn't - in the Administration's mind, that wouldn't
condone summary executions of surrendering prisoners, would it?
MR. BURNS: If you want to speak about theory, we can speak about theory.
We do not know what happened that day. Therefore, for me to indict a
government without knowing what happened, would be irresponsible. I'm not
willing to do that.
If this issue need to be investigated, then it's a question for the
Peruvian Government, not for me to give public advice when I have
absolutely no idea what happened when the commandos rushed in. We have no
idea, right? We have press reports, but we weren't there.
QUESTION: But Sid's point was that - he said that international
humanitarian law applies in this case. Does it, in fact? In other words,
because if it does, then the United States has a interest in seeing --
MR. BURNS: Well, the issue - people always - international law - I mean,
international law is probably a rubric that covers thousands of laws. I
would have to know what law you are talking - I'm not trying to be evasive.
Just what law are you talking about? And what information do you have?
QUESTION: The Geneva Conventions and the Protocols, I think, are the
MR. BURNS: I'm not a lawyer. So I would have to take that question.
QUESTION: So could you take that question?
MR. BURNS: I would be glad to look into it and see what I can do.
QUESTION: Nick, Zaire --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that the U.S. provided listening devices to the
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Can you rule the reported assertion that the U.S. provided
listening devices to the Peruvian --
MR. BURNS: I can't comment on that, Charlie. That would be an - listening
devices are not diplomatic devices. They are intelligence devices, and I
can never comment on intelligence issues. We don't use devices to listen;
we use our ears.
QUESTION: Speaking of atrocities --
QUESTION: Excuse me --
QUESTION: What, you got another question, Charlie?
MR. BURNS: You got diplomacy, you have intelligence. I can only talk
about one thing.
QUESTION: Speaking of atrocities, Nick, hundreds have been reported dead -
about 85,000 of the -- I believe -- Rwandan refugees have been driven
deeper into the bush. And I believe the U.N., the French have come out very
strongly condemning Mr. Kabila's management. Is this Mr. Kabila's
responsibility? And is the U.S. concerned about his ability, let's say, to
govern responsibly in Zaire?
MR. BURNS: You know, this is probably one of the last questions we are
going to take before the weekend. I think, Bill, you have probably hit upon
the most important issue facing us today in this building, the State
Department, as we look at the situation around the world.
The situation in Zaire is bordering on a humanitarian catastrophe. This is
a very deeply troubling situation where up to 100,000 people have not been
allowed by the rebel alliance to be removed by the United Nations to safety,
where they can be treated medically and given proper food and water to
live. The United Nations, which is an organization that we respect,
believes that over 100 people a day have been dying because of disease,
cholera, and because of the lack of food and water and the inattention of
those who are responsible for security in Kisangani and south of Kisangani.
We have been calling - it's interesting, there is a New York Times'
editorial today saying the United States should call upon the rebel
alliance to stop this. I wish The New York Times people who write those
editorial would listen to what we have been saying for three weeks every
single day from this podium and from the White House, and that is that we
have called upon them to stop this.
The United States has not been inattentive. We have been in there swinging
and speaking about the problem, and the problem isn't fixed. The United
Nations is doing a superb job in bringing international attention to this.
Kofi Annan repudiated the rebels who have been so insensitive to the needs
of the refugees over the last couple of weeks. That was a very strong and
well-deserved comment by the Secretary General of the U.N.
All we can say is that someone has to be responsible, held responsible for
death and malnourishment and suffering of 100,000 refugees. I know that
Secretary Albright is very concerned about this. She has asked all of us in
this building to do what we can, to try to see that the United States
exerts its influence. We are exerting it privately.
We are in contact with the rebel alliance imploring them to act out of a
humanitarian sense to save 100,000 people. But yet, nothing is done. And
now, when they let the U.N. into the camps yesterday, it looks like up to
80,000 people have fled the camps, and are in a more precarious situation
than they were inside the camps.
This is a very puzzling series of events, and the rebel alliance has to
stand up to this problem if it wants to be treated seriously.
QUESTION: And the rebels, what have they responded? What has been their
response to - what can they gain from this?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak for the rebel alliance. There have been - we are
going to have to judge on them their actions and not their promises.
QUESTION: Besides issuing appeals, is there anything the United States
MR. BURNS: We can use our political influence. We can get on the phone
and talk to Kabila and the other leaders, and we have done that consistently.
We have an embassy Kinshasa officer in Goma who talks to the rebel
alliance. Our very fine negotiator Dick Bogosian, an expert in this area,
has talked to Mr. Kabila. We have been tireless in bringing this issue to
the attention of the rebel alliance and in working with the United Nations,
supporting the United Nations, and we will continue to do that.
But there is -- at the very highest levels of our government here and the
State Department there is great concern about these people. This is a
deeply, deeply troubling humanitarian concern.
QUESTION: Nick, yesterday, you said that up to 50,000 people had
disappeared from these camps. You've just upped it 30,000.
MR. BURNS: That's right. Because the latest reports in from UNHCR this
morning - these are public reports, both on television and also on the
wires, that the numbers are probably greater.
QUESTION: There are also reports that the rebel forces are close to
taking the town which I am not going to try and pronounce that's about 200
miles from Kinshasa. Can you verify that? Do you know if that's true? And
is the U.S. considering taking Americans out of Kinshasa?
MR. BURNS: I cannot verify that particular report. We continue to monitor
on a daily basis. The Secretary has asked Pat Kennedy to let her know on a
daily basis what the security situation is like in Kinshasa, and he is
Right now our embassy remains where it is. We have not decided to bring out
our employees, but we will consider that issue on a day-to-day basis. The
big political issue is that Mobutu and Kabila have not yet agreed if and
when they are going to meet. We think it would be a very good idea for them
to meet under the auspices of the United Nations and the South African
QUESTION: Now, the UNHCR people and the journalists who were allowed into
these now desolate camps heard gunfire nearby in the countryside around the
area, and they were not allowed to go in the direction of the gunfire to
find out what it was. It was machine gun fire. Do you know anything about
what that may have been? Is there the danger that there may have been
mass executions going on?
MR. BURNS: I do not know how to account for that gunfire. I simply don't
know. I don't believe we had any American government officials in the area
at the time. There are two issues: One is the treatment of the refugees,
which we are very concerned about; the other is the allegations of murder
and slaughter of people in rebel-held areas.
But that second issue is being looked into by the United Nations. It's a
very serious issue. We can't determine who is responsible. We have no way
of knowing that at this point, but it ought to be looked into, certainly.
QUESTION: Is Mr. Kabila guilty of genocide by starvation? Or by
withholding the possibility for help?
MR. BURNS: I think that is a loaded word, probably too strong a word for
the situation. He says that he wants to help the refugees. But the people
who work for him don't make it happen.
Therefore, we are going to have to assume that Mr. Kabila will make sure
that his people allow these refugees to be found, and allow them to be
transported by the United Nations to Goma or to Kigali or to wherever they
can be transported. The United States is willing to help finance this
operation. We have $3 million on the table to do it. But we cannot
emphasize enough the deep concern about these refugees and it is an issue
that the rebel alliance must pay attention to.
QUESTION: And earlier, you made reference --
MR. BURNS: I don't believe there is any serious idea for multi-national
force. I think, you know, you have a civil war in Zaire. There needs to be
a political transition, there needs to be help to the refugees. There
certainly - there is no lack of money, there is no lack of people who can
help the refugees. The UN is perfectly placed. But they need the cooperation
of the people who control Kisangani and the area around it. Charlie?
QUESTION: Nick, you made reference to U.S. diplomats in touch with the
rebel alliance. Can you tell us specifically whether Ambassador Bogosian or
your unnamed officer has spoken to Mr. Kabila in the last week? Can you put
a time frame on the last time --
MR. BURNS: I know that we have spoken to rebel leaders in the last week.
I can check on whether we've spoken to Mr. Kabila. I would assume we have.
We have had fairly regular contact with him. I would assume we have.
QUESTION: Update us on exactly when we've spoken to them.
MR. BURNS: We'll try to within the limits of what's reasonable here.
QUESTION: Have the Rwandans given permission for the planes to fly
refugees in --
MR. BURNS: Yes. Fortunately, Ms. Ogata, I believe on April 21st called
the Rwandan President, President Bizimungu, he said on April 21st, four
days ago, that Rwanda would accept the refugees. The problem is not now in
Rwanda. The problem is with the people who control affairs in Kisangani,
the rebel alliance.
QUESTION: On Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi , I think had a press conference on
the U.S. decision on sanction and I wonder the U.S. position about the
accession of Burma to ASEAN.
MR. BURNS: Yes. The United States has very strong concerns about the
proposal by ASEAN to bring in Burma. I think they want to bring Burma in
with Laos and Cambodia in a group. We have no objection to Laos and
Cambodia. We have an objection to Burma. We don't believe the ASEAN should
take this step. Burma's human rights performance is so woeful and so
irresponsible that, sure, it should not be treated as a normal country and
should not be rewarded by introduction, by membership in one of the most
prestigious and important Pan-Asian organizations with which the United
States is affiliated. So, we are trying to use our influence with
the ASEAN partners to make the point that Burma should be given a
stiff message that it is not welcome. I have no idea at this point what
action ASEAN will take.