U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing
February 4, 1997 Briefer: Nicholas Burns
14-15, 17-19 Senator Helms Proposals re: UN Reform/Consolidation of Foreign Affairs Agencies/CWC
IRAQ 10-12 Compliance w/Internat'l. Commitments 12 Food Deliveries
RUSSIA 12-13 Gore-Chernomyrdin Mtgs. in Washington
NORTH KOREA 14 Future Mtgs. w/US 25 Negotiations w/Cargill
QUESTION: Can I change the subject to Iraq. There's a story in the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemaine Zeitung that the United States is contemplating new action against Iraq because of it's failure to comply on missiles.
MR. BURNS: We've seen some of the press reports that you have seen. Let me just make two brief points. First, the Iraqis lied to the United Nations for five years about their development of advanced missile technology and of chemical and biological weapons. They now say they're telling the truth. We'll see.
We're going to watch the Iraqis closely, relying upon Ambassador Ekeus and the United Nations inspection team to watch them. But we will want to make sure that Iraq complies with its international commitments and with the United Nations.
QUESTION: Could you be a little more specific, as you've just touched on this. There's a long history. What I'd like you to try to address, if you could, is the inquiry based on a continuing uncertainty whether Iraq can be trusted, and you have a long history that would lead you to some uncertainty; or is there new, hard evidence from Mr. Ekeus, who spoke here in Washington before lots of reporters and think tankers last week? Is there something new and concrete, or is it the continuing uncertainty? They don't really expose all their plans? They have a cheat-and-retreat -- as a previous Administration used to say - policy? Have you come upon - or has he and his group come upon any hard evidence of violations that bear exploring now?
MR. BURNS: There's continuing interest in watching the Iraqis like hawks. No, we do not trust the Iraqis. We would be na´ve to trust the Iraqis. But, as President Reagan used to say, you've got trust and you've got verification, and we intend to verify to the United Nations that the Iraqis are indeed complying with their international commitments. The Iraqis don't have a right to be a normal country and develop normal weaponry because of their violations of international rules in invading Kuwait nearly seven years ago. So we will watch them, and they have to understand that we'll continue to watch them very closely.
QUESTION: You're not saying there's new evidence. You're saying that we have a good track record - we have a track record to go on, and it causes us to keep a careful watch.
MR. BURNS: We have continued interest, and we'll have continued vigilance in watching them.
QUESTION: Well, they didn't say in the reports there's new material available. You're not verifying.
MR. BURNS: I can't. I'm not in a position to do that, Barry.
QUESTION: You didn't answer Patrick's - the second half of Patrick's question, which some of us (inaudible) from the story, that as a result the United States is contemplating further military action against Iraq.
MR. BURNS: I can't remember a time when the United States tried to flag a military action for any rogue state around the world. Listen, there's no change in our policy here, and there's no heightened interest - there's no heightened concern in Washington. There's continuing vigilance in Washington on this issue, but I simply can't comment on any prospect of the use of military force. We never do.
QUESTION: We gave them a date of invasion. We gave Haiti a date. So it has been done. Not usually.
MR. BURNS: I didn't do that, Barry, no. I don't believe so.
QUESTION: But the Administration worked -
MR. BURNS: I don't remember people doing that.
QUESTION: 15th of January -
MR. BURNS: Barry -
QUESTION: War's over. You get out of Kuwait or we move in, period.
MR. BURNS: You know, we have under - in 19 -
QUESTION: Sometimes you talk real -
MR. BURNS: In 1994 and in 1996, we did undertake certain military actions to counter the Iraqis, and we didn't flag that action for them. But I don't want to raise any undue concerns here. We have an ongoing level of interest regarding the Iraqis, which is a dishonest government. But I'm not trying to flag anything new. And in answer to Barry's question, I'm not in a position to confirm any of these stories about new contradictions in Iraqi performance.
QUESTION: You're not flagging anything new, but does the United States regard as one of its options in the event of Iraqi violations of these various undertakings the use of military force to eliminate whatever violations or -
MR. BURNS: The United States always reserves the right to use its military force to defend its national interests anywhere in the world - anywhere in the world - but I see no reason to heighten your concern in any way pertaining to the situation in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Nick, vaguely the same subject. Has Iraq started receiving yet its shipments of food and humanitarian supplies?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to check on that. U.N. Resolution 986, of course, is underway - the implementation is underway, and I assume some of those food deliveries are underway. But let me check and get back to you tomorrow on that
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Baker - I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Gore-Chernomyrdin. Still on track, and what focus is the United States going to try to direct these meetings toward?
MR. BURNS: The Gore-Chernomyrdin meetings are very much on track. They'll be held here between the 5th and 7th, Wednesday through Friday. The Vice President and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin have an excellent working relationship. The purpose of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission is to focus the two governments in eight working groups, each led by a minister on the respective sides, on moving forward with technological cooperation, scientific cooperation, cooperation in space, cooperation between our two militaries, and on political and foreign policy issues.
This is, I think, one of the more important meetings that we've had. This idea was germinated at the Vancouver Summit in April 1993. Since then, there have been a variety of meetings. But I think this meeting will be the broadest meeting in terms of its scope but also the most important. We'll certainly be interested in discussing a lot of the major political issues concerning European security, and I might add we continue to believe that NATO enlargement is good for NATO and it's the right way, coupled with the NATO-Russia charter and the reform of NATO to provide for security in Europe in the next century. So we'll be talking about all these issues with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.
QUESTION: Speaking of meetings, when do you expect to see the North Koreans?
MR. BURNS: We'd like to see the North Koreans. We had two meetings scheduled. Now both of those meetings have been postponed. The North Koreans have very important grain negotiations underway, and they prefer to consummate those negotiations before they get on to the meetings with us and the South Koreans in New York. So we're not going to give out any dates for future meetings until we know that the North Koreans actually intend to attend the meetings.
We'll continue talking to them in New York, as we do roughly once per week, and we hope that they'll agree that they ought to come to the briefing, because we ought to move forward with the issue of a peace treaty for the Korean peninsula.
QUESTION: Nick, another question on Secretary Albright. When she went up to Capitol Hill and talked about the Chemical Weapons thing, did she get as discouraging as The Washington Post makes it seem?
MR. BURNS: Let me just say a few words about that. You saw the statement by Senator Helms yesterday, as reported in The Washington Post this morning.
QUESTION: Last week?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Did she learn that last week from him?
MR. BURNS: No, she didn't. She has had a number of discussions on this, but the letter, I think, she learned about the first time about some of the proposals made by Senator Helms. Secretary Albright understands Senator Helms' views concerning reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies and his views on United Nations reform.
She shares the view that both are important issues, and she strongly desires to pursue a bipartisan approach in addressing each of these issues. Secretary Albright strongly disagrees that these issues should be linked to Senate advice and consent to ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Each is an important issue - U.N. reform and consolidation of the foreign affairs agencies - that should be addressed on their own and on their own merits.
She wrote last week in her op-ed in The New York Times a couple of days after being sworn in that the American people deserve a healthy public debate on the Chemical Weapons Convention, in which American interests are weighed and a final vote is taken.
I would just note this. The Chemical Weapons Treaty has enjoyed bipartisan support for a number of years. It was negotiated by the Reagan and Bush Administrations. In fact, it was President Bush that gave the CWC its impetus. Secretary of State Baker negotiated it, and Secretary of State Eagleburger signed it in Paris in mid-January of 1993. The United States negotiated the agreement with the full participation of the private sector of the U.S. chemical industries in the United States, and the chemical industry supports ratification of the CWC.
It's also supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and by all agencies of the Executive Branch. So I know that General Normal Schwarzkopf spoke out about it this last week. Let me just read you what he said.
He said, "We don't need chemical weapons to fight our future wars, and frankly by not ratifying that treaty, we align ourselves with nations like Libya and North Korea, and I'd just as soon not be associated with those thugs on this particular issue."
That was General Schwarzkopf speaking very frankly about why we need to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. Let me tell you what's at stake here. If the United States Senate does not ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention by April 29th, then the United States will not be able to participate in the critical decisions concerning the implementation of the CWC, including how it's going to be monitored and how it's going to be enforced - how the treaty obligations are going to be enforced. We won't have a say in that whatsoever.
A Senate delay on this means that the United States essentially will be left out in the cold and will have no voice whatsoever in the future international adjudication of that issue. That gets to our credibility, and that affects negatively our leadership on a whole range of arms and proliferation issues. So we think we ought to move forward very quickly and encourage the Senate to ratify it.
You'll see Secretary Albright continue to speak out about this, including, I believe, in her speech in Houston, Texas, on Friday. On that, let me just mention about Houston. We have several reporters who want to go along with us, and they're more than welcome. I'm going to have to close that list at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon, so that we can make sure that we make proper arrangements for all of you coming to Houston to see the meeting with Foreign Minister Gurria, the Secretary's speech and to hear about her meeting with President Bush on Saturday morning in Houston.
QUESTION: Chemical weapons for one second.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Since there are problems with Congress, I missed in your description of what she's planning to do, exactly how her future contacts will go with Congress on this.
MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright's been up to the Hill a couple of times since being sworn in to talk about Chemical Weapons Convention. You've heard the President talk about it. You'll continue to hear this is a major priority for this Administration - early ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Certainly, we hope before April 29th.
QUESTION: Follow-up. Is she going to see Senator Helms? Is she indeed in touch with him, or is -
MR. BURNS: She's been in touch with Senator Helms. A member of her staff was in touch with Senator Helms yesterday. She intends to be in touch with Senator Helms in the coming days on this.
QUESTION: Is the State Department planning any moves in terms of U.N. reform or the other area - I'm sorry -
MR. BURNS: Consolidation.
QUESTION: Right, consolidation - as a way to sort of appease Helms on this?
MR. BURNS: Let me just be clear. Secretary Albright has great respect for Senator Helms. She wishes to work with him in a bipartisan spirit across the board. On U.N. reform, she's already had a discussion with him and other Senators, and you'll note that the emphasis that the President and Secretary Albright put on this one. Secretary General Kofi Anan was here last week, and the Secretary General has announced that he is moving forward on U.N. reform. We applaud that. We want to see him drive through to success on that.
On consolidation of the foreign affairs agencies, which is an issue that's been around a long time, Secretary Albright said that she has an open mind. She's going to think about this. She's already met with - in fact, she visited each of the agencies: USIA, AID and ACDA - and she'll certainly continue talking to the Senate about this.
Those two issues, we believe, ought to stand by themselves. We don't believe that it's proper to link them to the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Both of those issues are going to play out over the next year or perhaps the next several years. They are longer-term objectives that will not be fully thought through and resolved in the next two months.
The Chemical Weapons Convention must be ratified by April 29th; and, if we don't ratify it by then, if the Senate doesn't, the United States will be out in the cold and other countries will be standing alongside Libya and North Korea, which is not a very good group to be in, by the way, internationally, and other countries will be making the rules that we will have to live under. That's not a good position for the world leader to be in.
QUESTION: Nick, back into it again, do you restrict your comments about linkage to this particular important convention? Are you prepared to broaden it and suggest that the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee is out of bounds by trying to use any of the Administration's foreign policy agenda as leverage to force Ms. Albright and the State Department to come to a decision on, for
instance, whether there's a need for an independent U.S. Aid agency?
MR. BURNS: I have chosen my words very carefully. The fact is, we wish to work with Senator Helms cooperatively. He has a right to make proposals. He is the one who has linked these three issues together. We choose not to link them. We don't think it's wise to link them for the reasons that I stated. We need to move very quickly to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any scenario on the issue of consolidation which he says he has an open mind on and which Warren Christopher had more than an open mind on when he testified. He thought it was a pretty good idea but that thought sort of disintegrated in the bureaucracy after a few weeks.
MR. BURNS: Many years ago; two years ago.
QUESTION: Only four years ago. He had more than open mind. He thought it sounded pretty interesting. ACDA was alarmed, reasonably enough - it would disappear - and the idea went away. How is this going to be played out? Will she come forward at some point and present a reorganization plan? Or will she say, "I thought about it; it doesn't make sense to me to change things?"
MR. BURNS: She has not made up her mind on this. She has an open mind. There are no concrete plans that I know of that would take us down the road very far right now. That's a big issue. That's a very big issue: Consolidation. It will have an impact on our foreign policy, on the way we conduct it, on thousands of people in the Foreign Affairs Agencies. So we need to figure out what's rational and what's right. She has an open mind. She'll look into it.
But here's the major point that I think you're making, implicitly, if I
can say that, and that is, that's a longer-term issue. CWC is a
short-term issue. Therefore, let's delink and let's go forward on the
Chemical Weapons Convention.