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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #45, 00-05-16

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


Tuesday, May 16, 2000


1	Secretary's travel to Florence next week, May 23rd to 25th
1-2	Postponement of Jesse Jackson trip / Status of Nigerian forces /
	 U.S. funding and logistics / UN mandate 
2-3	Diamond mining / Legitimate diamond-trading countries
3-4	Foday Sankoh / Interlocutor for RUF / Lome Accords / Violation of
	 Accords / Moves necessary to demonstrate an interest in peace /
	 Increased deployment of UN forces 
5-6	Congressional vote on funding for peacekeeping missions
4-5	Republican antipathy / Slashing of State Department budget / US
	 leadership in world / Secretary's speech on global leadership /
	 Rebuilding in Kosovo 
6	Arms embargo / Travel restrictions / Russian opposition
6-7	Framework agreement / importance of Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline /
	 Kazakhstan to examine commercial benefits 
8-9	Special Middle East Negotiator Dennis Ross' meetings with Chairman
	 Arafat and Prime Minister Barak 
9	Palestine / Renewal of travel warning
9,14-15	Latest attack by the FARC
9-10	Police charge eight suspects alleged to be involved in 1993
	 assassination attempt / U.S. support for Turkish counter-terrorism
	 efforts / New Turkish President sworn in 
10	Possible travel of high-level U.S. official
10	U.S. welcomes release of prominent political prisoners
11	Upcoming elections / Senator Helm's suspension of aid /
	 U.S. denounces recent violence against candidates and activists 
11	U.S. continues to work with both countries on nuclear issues and
	 reduction of tensions 
11	Sandy Berger's travels to Moscow
12	Visit of indicted Yugoslav war criminal Ojandic to Moscow / Taking
	 custody of indicted Yugoslavian war criminals 
12-13	Declining Serbian opposition to Milosevic
13-14	U.S to remind Russia of UN obligations
14	U.S. remains committed to talks
14	U.S. remains committed to resolving tensions
14	Secretary's travels to region / Jailing of opposition figure
15	Secretary's meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister / Supply of
	 U.S. humanitarian aid to Aceh peace agreement 


DPB # 45

TUESDAY, MAY 16, 2000 1:05 P.M.


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Pleasure to be here. We will put out an announcement today, the Secretary's travel to Florence next week, the 23rd to 25th, for NATO and other meetings there; leave the details for the posting and encourage you all to go. We will be taking press with us on the airplane.

Okay. With that, let me open it up to your questions.

QUESTION: By any chance, do you have anything on Jesse Jackson postponing a trip to Sierra Leone? Was he advised to by the State Department?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything like that at this point. The plans were certainly to leave today and to make the trip. Whether it's been postponed, you'd have to check with him.

QUESTION: Well, he's certainly been -- (inaudible) --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, the plans - that was the plan. Whether - I mean, I'm not - I don't do travel arrangements, so I really can't tell you exactly when he's leaving.

QUESTION: But has any advice been giving to him or to others about the situation? In fact, why don't you --

MR. BOUCHER: We're in very close touch with Reverend Jackson. We're working with him to put together the trip to make it effective. His mission, as you know, is to consult with regional governments, reinforce and express the United States support for their initiatives, and to help the United Nations secure the release of the UN hostages and resolve the crisis in Sierra Leone. He is looking to facilitate discussions in the region.

We definitely support him. He is being sent by the United States Government, by the President, and we are working with him to put the trip together. But exactly when he's leaving, I can't tell you at this moment.

QUESTION: On the same subject, can you tell us whether the State Department helped persuade Reverend Jackson to modify his - the way he planned to approach his mission in West Africa and modify also his attitude to the possible role of the RUF in Sierra Leone?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know why you would say "modify." We've been working with him to plan the mission and to make it effective. That's what's important.

QUESTION: In Abuja today, the Nigerians are saying something to the effect of that they're willing to play, but not pay, in Sierra Leone. And I'm just wondering --

MR. BOUCHER: Is that your phrase or theirs?

QUESTION: Well, I don't know. That was the headline on our story, "Nigeria Willing to Play But Not Pay."


QUESTION: So, basically, if they do send troops in, they want to get reimbursed for them. And I'm wondering if the US is ready to contribute to a --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to announce any pledges or a pledging conference or anything like that. What is important, we have people in Nigeria, teams there, that are planning, helping. We've said we'd try to provide support in terms of airlift and logistics. And exactly how to put that package together is still being worked on.


MR. BOUCHER: How are we going to fund them? I don't know. At this point, I can't say so.

QUESTION: What position are you taking now on the status of Nigerian forces which deployed in Sierra Leone? Should they be fully integrated into the UN system or would you rather that they operated under separate auspices and, therefore, had a broader mandate as they had before under ECOMOG?

MR. BOUCHER: That is one of the subjects that is still under discussion. How they go in support of the United Nations is still under discussion. We do think the UN mandate is quite adequate for the forces that are there.

QUESTION: Well, aren't we talking about -- (inaudible) -- forces that are there now?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, for the forces that do the job that they need to do in terms of seeing that the parties follow the Lome Accord, which is the goal here.

QUESTION: Both of the local papers this morning had op eds on the nefarious role of the diamond trade in Sierra Leone, and one of them said it makes no sense to broker peace in a resource-cursed country unless the resources are brought under control. The UN force in Sierra Leone was given no mandate to halt mining or even gather information about it. Its first step should have been to take over the diamond fields.

Does the US have a position on that?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think what's important is to make clear that we have been working really for some time with other countries in a variety of fora and with the diamond industry on ways to deal with smuggled diamonds that fuel conflicts not just in Sierra Leone. We do, at the same time, not want to harm the legitimate diamond trading of countries like Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Our immediate priority in Sierra Leone is to secure the release of the UN detainees, secure an end to the armed hostilities and the resumption of implementation of the Lome Peace Agreement, but we are working on the question of diamonds in a variety of fora.

QUESTION: What do you mean, "a variety of fora"?

MR. BOUCHER: I think this comes up with the United Nations, it comes up with the G-8, it comes up with the regional states, so it is a subject that is being worked on.

QUESTION: As to who should have control of the diamond mines?

MR. BOUCHER: How this can all be better controlled. I'm not saying that we're not discussing with a whole variety of people whether UN should march into a particular district or not.

QUESTION: Does the US still believe that Foday Sankoh should have - well, first of all, that he should be the legitimate interlocutor for the RUF?

MR. BOUCHER: Let's go back a little bit here. I think the impression is abroad - and frankly, the impression is in some local papers as well - that we somehow forced the world into dealing with Foday Sankoh. I think it's important to remember how the Lome Accords were put together. They were done in Lome. We helped facilitate some of the contacts and discussions, but in the end it was the government that wanted - that decided to make peace in this way with a rebel group.

And so you have a democratically elected government of Sierra Leone that wanted to make peace with a rebel group, and has done that under international auspices with some facilitation and help from the United States, as well as others, and with support from the United Nations, as well as others in doing that.

We now have one party who has clearly violated those Accords. But as we've said before, he does still have a chance and the ability to prove himself by making sure the hostages get released and getting back into line with the Accords.

QUESTION: What kind of retribution should there be?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we're talking about release of the hostages and compliance with the Accords.

QUESTION: How comfortable are you in dealing with Charles Taylor in this process? Jackson will see him. At least that's the schedule. And this is a leader who has, you know, been a warlord himself and been responsible for the deaths of a number of Americans in addition to his own countrymen.

MR. BOUCHER: He had a role in the original agreement. He has a role now. I think it's important to deal with people who can influence the situation positively and can bring about the release of the hostages and the compliance with the agreements.

QUESTION: Is the fact that the RUF is holding these hostages, is that deterring you from support of a more vigorous military campaign against the RUF, or do you seriously believe that it is possible, basically, to patch up the old status quo? A lot of people are criticizing you, saying that the old status quo is gone and you have to rethink. You don't seem to be willing to do that.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, again, let's remember the government of Sierra Leone offered the rebels, the Revolutionary United Front, an opportunity to participate politically in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country. Now, it's true they have violated the Accord and wasted that Agreement, but we think that Sankoh and his people can still demonstrate an interest in peace by releasing all the detainees, ordering an effective cease-fire, and disarming its forces.

So the question is still there that they can comply. We are certainly increasing daily the deployment of UN forces. We're up to 94-96 UN troops deployed at this point. And as you know, we have teams in Nigeria and we're talking to the others - to others in the region and in the United Nations about ways to accelerate the deployment and ensure a more effective United Nations force to ensure that people do, in fact, comply with the Agreement.

QUESTION: Given the Republican antipathy towards the cost of peacekeeping and the fact that the forces are increasing and someone's got to pay for it, what kind of consultation is going on with Congress right now to discuss whatever decisions the Administration might make in terms of contributing?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, there's a lot of consultation going on with Congress about peacekeeping and funding. As you know, they have not only slashed the regular State Department budget but seemed to have slashed the supplemental appropriations as well, including peacekeeping money in both.

And therefore it is vital to us and important to us, and therefore we're trying to work with the Congress to point out the difficulties that this causes for the United States leadership in the world and for the United States and UN ability to deal with problems like this. And in that regard, I would invite you to listen to the Secretary's speech this evening when she talks about United States global leadership and the need to pay the cost of doing that.

QUESTION: At the Olympic Committee?

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, no. Tomorrow. Sorry, tomorrow. Tomorrow. Not -- (inaudible) - time. It would be a great speech. It's a great speech, but it's maybe a little better for the global leadership people than for the leadership people.

QUESTION: She's made such speeches before. The outlook is pretty grim, isn't it, on Balkans peacekeepers? Wouldn't it cut you down to near nothing? Do you have any chance of saving that - you took a leadership - isn't there something else involved here? I mean, the peacekeepers do more than show the US flag. Don't they attempt to address the horrors of war and make life a little better for people there? Can't you get that message through? Is it a matter of money, or is it pique, or is it politics? What is it?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, there's a lot of things going on. And, again, if you look at the Secretary's speech tomorrow, she will speak on the topic and discuss some of the things that are going on in this area, But it's clear to us, particularly if you look at a situation like in the Balkans and Kosovo, without the money to fund civilian administration and institutions, we can't complete the successful deployment of US forces.

The US forces were sent there to protect people and to provide an avenue for the refugees to return. We have something like 1.25 million/1.3 million refugees have returned to their homes is Kosovo. We are seeing developments there, including start of civil administration and schools and things like that. The - what's it called? The Kosovo Transition Council, I think it's called, has had meetings, called for tolerance in the region. There are activities going on between Albanians and Serbs there.

So we have the start of the rebuilding, but we can't complete that process unless the United States is prepared to step up to the plate and continue with it. And it is only by continuing that process of rebuilding that we can secure a successful departure for US troops leaving behind peace and stability in this vital region. So it is very important that we fund these things and we'll be making that case again and again.

QUESTION: Well, going back to this issue of Sierra Leone, because it is in part based on today's vote on Kosovo, a lot of times Members of Congress have said, "If you had consulted with us more leading into the peacekeeping mission, we might be more willing to pay for it." Has H gone to specific members, whether it's Hal Rogers or whomever that makes these decisions about funding and specifically met with them and said, "What are you willing to do in terms of Sierra Leone?"

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to specify individuals because I really don't know, but I know that we have been actively working with the Hill and consulting with the Hill on this, yes.

QUESTION: On funding for Sierra Leone?

MR. BOUCHER: On funding for Sierra Leone and peacekeeping in Kosovo and all the other problems that we have right now.

QUESTION: Can we do Ethiopia now? I mean, any more Sierra Leone? The US yesterday introduced draft language, a draft resolution, at the UN that would impose an arms embargo on both Ethiopia and Eritrea and - what else - travel restrictions on Ethiopia. Officials in Ethiopia are already blasting this and saying they like a Russian resolution better. What kind of fight does it - it focuses more on diplomacy and continuing the peace process discussions.

How big a fight is this going to be for the US at the UN, and how do the US Government's chances look for a --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure how to answer a question, "How big a fight?"

QUESTION: Sufficient.

MR. BOUCHER: Sufficient, yes. Appropriate and sufficient. The United States believes that we need a strong resolution in light of the hostilities and the military operations that are underway. Member delegations at the Security Council will meet today for further consultations on a resolution to press for an immediate end to hostilities and a speedy return to peace talks. And, as you mentioned, we do believe that the resolution should contain an arms embargo. So we will be working this very hard at the United Nations today.

QUESTION: I'm sure there's been some discussion ahead of time before the resolution was introduced. Do you know how well supported it is at this time?

MR. BOUCHER: I would assume that it would be widely supported because, in the middle of hostilities, it would be appropriate to impose an arms embargo and other things. I think people are indeed concerned about the situation, but we'll be consulting in New York to work this resolution today. And how exactly it will turn out, we'll have to see.

QUESTION: A Russian official is saying that Moscow is firmly opposed to an arms embargo because it would only worsen the situation.

MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen the quote, but I can't imagine what the logic would be. I can --

QUESTION: But is that reflected in the United Nations as well - that view?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, you can ask the Russians about their views in New York or elsewhere.

QUESTION: Did you see the Caspian Oil story? I think the one official who was quoted works in this building on a floor that we're not supposed to visit.

MR. BOUCHER: He has a telephone. As those of you who traveled with us to Central Asia will remember, the Secretary discussed the issues of oil and pipelines in the Caspian; as those of you who attended the signing ceremony only a few weeks ago on the framework agreement will remember, the Secretary places quite a bit of emphasis on this area and the possibilities that are here.

I don't want to get too far into reports of what the find may be. We do need to remember there is only one well; it's still being drilled. The partners, as far as I know, have not made any announcements yet. When the Secretary was out there, she did discuss oil, not only with the government in Kazakhstan but also with US businesses that are out there looking for it. So certainly it's a matter of great interest.

We have always felt that the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline was important because to look at multiple East-West pipelines that could gain Western markets for the oil and the possibility of another large field obviously underscores the importance of that.

We expect Kazakhstan to examine the commercial benefits of the Baku-Tiblisi- Ceyhan pipeline. We've looked to all the regional oil shippers to examine the commercial attractiveness of the pipeline, including those whose oil is not in this particular field.

QUESTION: So you're very interested in seeing the Kazakhs use the pipeline once it's built for this enormous find of oil - alleged enormous find of oil?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. First of all, we're waiting to see what the find actually is, and; second of all, we're interested in multiple pipelines, and we've worked very hard in a concerted way with the people in the region on the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline and would like people to use that opportunity and to use that pipeline because it's one of the key routes.

QUESTION: Can I just make one very small point? At that signing ceremony you mentioned last week - and I had totally forgotten about this - was it two weeks ago, whenever - it was advertised as the final legal agreement for this thing to be completed. As it turns out, it was not the final legal agreement. It had to be - there was some change in it and I think the one - there was another signing ceremony afterwards with the Turks that was, in fact, the - but, anyway, I would plea for a - to be completely accurate.

QUESTION: Honestly in advertising.

QUESTION: I'm not - I'm just noting that.

MR. BOUCHER: We strive every moment of every day to be completely and absolutely accurate for you. The legal framework is in place for the pipeline. It needs to be ratified - the framework that's been signed. The next stage is for potential investors to come together in a sponsors group to discuss how the pipeline could meet their needs. And there is an oil consortium involved in the process, and decisions about the commercial operation feasibility of this will be made by the consortium.

So there are other elements, but the legal framework is in place.

QUESTION: No, no. The legal framework actually was not in place at the signing ceremony in Washington. There was another signing ceremony - all that stuff that you just said --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as of 1:31 p.m. today, it is in place. And we're happy for that.

QUESTION: On a new subject. Can you update us on Dennis Ross and his efforts?

MR. BOUCHER: Dennis is in the region. He is in Israel. He's been having meetings. He met with Chairman Arafat already and he is meeting with Prime Minister Barak today. Discussions will also be taking place between the parties.

I want to make clear it is our view that negotiations are serious and that both sides are making a real effort to reach agreement. They have also found that the situation has calmed, and both sides are working to calm the environment as well. So we're out there working the process.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about in terms of what happened in the meeting with Arafat and also in terms of, given how violent the past few days have been, what that portends for peace?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, it reminds us of the importance of peace. I mean, I guess that's sort of a non sequitur, but the fact is that what they're working on it to try to get an agreement that will end the conflict. And that's the point. So they continue to do that and we'll work with both parties, who are making a serious effort.

QUESTION: Can you say if he arrived there after attending these not- anymore-so-secret meetings in Stockholm? Did he sit in on those meetings, or what role did he play with --

MR. BOUCHER: I can say he's in Israel.

QUESTION: Yeah, but did he arrive there --

QUESTION: Has he been to Stockholm recently?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to do his travel any more than I do Jesse Jackson's.

QUESTION: Well, but that's already being reported that he came from Stockholm.

MR. BOUCHER: There's a lot of things being reported.

QUESTION: So is it accurate?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to comment on travel.

QUESTION: On the subject of Palestine --

MR. BOUCHER: Let's go to the back.

QUESTION: About the yesterday question in Iranian --

MR. BOUCHER: I guess we have to finish with the Middle East first, okay?

QUESTION: Yes, on the subject of Palestine, does there appear to the State Department to be a correlation between the times that the negotiations are - the going gets tough in the negotiations and there's quite a bit of tension there, and the times that these riots break out in the West Bank?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'd make that correlation. There may be some that some experts would study. But I think the point is to try to reach a peace agreement, and we pursue that end whether there's violence in the air or not. Any more Middle East?

QUESTION: Was this kind of violence what you were fearing when you put out that travel warning or were you more concerned about real terrorist --

MR. BOUCHER: The travel warning was put out on May 11th, one day before the previous travel warning expired on May 12th, so it was basically a renewal. But it was a recognition that there is a threat in the region and travelers need to be careful and that that threat continues.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about this latest attack by the FARC in Colombia yesterday? They placed a collar about this thick around a woman's neck and it exploded, killing her. They were asking for $7,500. Another policeman was killed who was trying to deactivate the bomb.

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't know the details and we have seen the reports and we're looking at them. Obviously, we don't agree with that kind of violence.

We had a question in the back -- (inaudible) --

QUESTION: Yesterday I asked the two Turkish well-known respected secular journalists, they killed or two bomb attack which they claim that is the true Iranian Embassy staff. They placed the bomb under this journalist's car. Do you have reaction - do you have any - on the subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we know the Turkish police have charged eight suspects who are alleged to have been involved in the - 1993 assassination, it is? We have also seen press reports that they have detained several suspects earlier this week and one of the suspects reportedly confessed that he planted the car bomb that killed Ahmet Taner Kislali and another journalist in October of '99. But I have to say the government of Turkey has refrained from public comment on any alleged Iranian involvement pending the results of its investigation, and the United States has no independent information about Iran's possible involvement in these assassinations.

We do support Turkey's counter-terrorism efforts, and we think it is important to pursue the investigation but also to ensure that all the suspects are afforded due process and treated according to international human rights norms.

QUESTION: Also, today, is the Turkish President Day and the new president is sworn in. Do you have any comments?

MR. BOUCHER: We have our congratulations. We congratulate President Sezer on his election. I probably could have come up with this by myself. No. We do congratulate him on his election. President Clinton has written to President Sezer to congratulate him on his assumption of office and to expresses interest in continued close cooperation between the United States and Turkey. The President has also written to former President Demirel to express his appreciation for his leadership and wisdom during his seven years as President of Turkey.

QUESTION: Is there any plans by a high level official to go to China between now and the time Congress votes on normal trade relations - perhaps to -

MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check. I'm not aware of anything. I mean we're into the House vote sometime next week. So I'm not aware of anything right now, but I'll check and see if there is somebody.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the release of a prominent political prisoner in Cuba?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we welcome the two releases, one of Marta Beatriz Roque and the earlier parole of Felix Bonne. But we urge the Cuban authorities to free the remaining two members of the dissident working group, as well as all the other prisoners that are being held for political reasons.

Furthermore, we join nations around the world who have called upon the Cuban government during the Ibero-American summit last November and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights session last month. These nations called on the Cuban Government to abolish the laws it uses to jail citizens like the dissident working group for peacefully expressing their opinions.

QUESTION: Does the US have an estimate of political prisoners in Cuba?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that; I don't here.

Same region?

QUESTION: Not Cuba, but different - today, the people in the Dominican Republic are voting, but across on the other side of Hispanola, there is allegedly going to be a vote on Sunday in Haiti. And I am wondering what you have to say about that, the first round of this vote which you have been calling for for some time. And, also, if you can give us an update on the aid that Senator Helms suspended to Haiti.

MR. BOUCHER: I would have to double check on the aid question. We do think that the electoral council in Haiti has made significant progress and there is time to complete the remaining tasks before the first round of elections occurs as scheduled on May 21st.

While public disturbances have declined over the last month, there has been recent violence against several candidates and activists from a range of parties. We would strongly urge the Haitian Government to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators and to ensure a secure atmosphere for elections and open political debate. We also urge all of Haiti's leaders to publicly denounce acts of violence and to encourage all citizens to demonstrate their support for democracy by turning out to vote in full force.

In this regard, we would note that former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has written to a number of officials in Washington to condemn the political violence, to reaffirm his party's intention to participate in the elections and to call for maximum international observer presence. So we expect everyone to live up to those words.

QUESTION: So you think the situation, though, is such that the election can be held on Sunday without - it can be an acceptable election?

MR. BOUCHER: It can be, but some of these things need some attention and could still get some attention before the actual vote.

QUESTION: Richard, it looks like the tension between India and Pakistan is still again building like Kargil, or more than Kargil. At this hour, we are speaking here at the UN -- (inaudible) -- Association. The Foundation of American Scientists are releasing images and photos - India, Pakistan and Israeli nuclear and ballistic missile programs. So do you have any contact with the parties to defuse the tension that doesn't go beyond Kargil, like in the past?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about the specific press conference or the specific reports you're talking to, but obviously we have been in very close touch with the parties all along and keep working with them on nuclear issues and reductions of tensions.

QUESTION: As US officials - or at least Sandy Berger, US official - heads to Moscow for sort of pre-summit talks, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Jovanovic has been there and in a joint press conference today with Ivanov has said several things, such as that opposition to Milosevic is waning in the country.

And he apparently has been asked why - or the Russians, actually, have allowed the Yugoslav Defense Minister, who is an indicted war criminal, to visit. Are these things that are going to be coming up in talks between the US and Russian officials as well - the Yugoslav topic?



MR. BOUCHER: The visit by the indicted war criminal Ojdanic we found very deeply dismaying, frankly. He met with senior Russian officials on May - I think between the 7th and the 12th. Russia, like all UN member states, has the obligation under Security Council Resolutions 827, 1244, and other resolutions to arrest war criminals who enter its territory. Russia was served with a copy of Ojdanic's indictment by the International Tribunal in May of 1999. There can be no doubt, therefore, that they knew that he was an indicted war criminal when they received him.

All UN members are required to carry out the Tribunal's arrest orders against any indictee who enters their territory, and there are no exceptions to this obligation. The press reports say that Ojdanic and his Russian interlocutors discussed implementation of Security Council Resolution 1244. In our view, the only aspect of 1244 that the Russians or anyone else should be talking about with Ojdanic is his immediate surrender for trial in The Hague.

QUESTION: Can you make a statement like that when, for instance, Jesse Helms has ridiculed the posting of a reward for the arrest of these, the top three people, Mladic, Milosevic, and Karadzic, saying, "You don't have to post a reward. All you have to do is arrest them." I mean, the US has had ample opportunity to make arrests of war criminals, too, and I don't see the Russian Government putting out statements about how you're not fulfilling your obligations. What's the problem? I mean why single out - I mean, taking - I mean, having the guy visit may be one thing, but --

MR. BOUCHER: Let me say two things, Barry. I mean, first of all there is a difference between picking somebody up in the Balkans and inviting them to come and visit and have a big ceremony. Second of all, that there - you know, there have been 94 publicly indicted war criminals by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. There have been 48 people taken into custody so far.

When the implementation forces went into Bosnia in January of '96, there was one in custody, so we have been taking people in custody. I think you are quite aware that over the last few months, there have been a number of people taken into custody by the NATO forces that are in the region, so that process will continue.

QUESTION: Anything on the declining opposition? Do we support Jovanovic's perception that opposition to Milosevic is decreasing?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we make quite clear in recently our view, and I think what's clear is that the Serbian opposition has made quite clear their view. Just the other day, there was a major opposition demonstration that brought out thousands of people. And I think we put up a statement two days ago about that. So the evidence doesn't show a decline; the evidence, rather, shows that there is more and more activity by the opposition.

QUESTION: Richard, on the Yugoslav Defense Minister --

MR. BOUCHER: Why don't we go back here for a second? The gentleman has had his hands up.

QUESTION: Did you bring this up with the Russians while this guy was in Moscow? Or is this your first public --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure when we knew, because I think the press reports we saw say he was - you know, he had come and gone. But I'm not sure if we knew along the way.

QUESTION: So you didn't know that he was there at the time?

MR. BOUCHER: We are raising this on an urgent basis, is the way I'd put it.

QUESTION: So you didn't know at the time?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I have to say we are raising this on an urgent basis, and leave it at that.

QUESTION: What does that mean, to raise it "on an urgent basis"?

MR. BOUCHER: It means we'll be talking to the Russians about him --

QUESTION: I mean he has already gone; right?

MR. BOUCHER: -- and giving them our view, as we have given it to you.

QUESTION: Okay. But, I mean, he has already gone, so what is the purpose of raising it on an urgent basis?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean the purpose is first and foremost to hear if they have any kind of explanation and; second of all, to remind them of the obligations. Should they think of having him over again, we think they should arrest him.

QUESTION: But wait a second. You just said that there was no exception, and so there obviously can't be any explanation. I mean, if you are basically accusing them of violating their UN obligations and saying that there are no exception to these obligations, all UN members must arrest them, but you are still waiting to hear their explanation? Is there anything that they can say that --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that. I think I would say, obviously, they will have something to say. But, clearly, the most important point is to remind them of their obligations.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on Cyprus, the effective delay in the new round of talks, a new timetable or a new place, or do you think a delay would affect the process?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we remain committed to the process; the United Nations remains committed to the process. As you know, the delay was for reasons of President Clerides' health. It will be up to the United Nations to tell us a new date.

QUESTION: How much interest is the US taking in solving the bloody war in Sri Lanka and also if anybody from this Department is in touch with the Sri Lanka Government? Now, the tension is really high, very high.

MR. BOUCHER: We take quite a bit of an interest. I think I spoke about that in the last day or two - I can't remember which one it was - and, obviously, we have an embassy out there that's in touch with the government every day.

QUESTION: When the Secretary was in Central Asia last month, she went to Kyrgyzstan, and the president and her came out and made a speech in which - - and the president said that - basically welcomed her visit and said that everything was wonderful. One of the things that the Secretary raised with him was the jailing of an opposition figure named Mr. - I don't remember the first name, the last name is Usenov and the president's comments led one to believe that he was taking everything she said under advisement. Well, earlier today - and I'm sorry, I just saw this before I came out - but Mr. Usenov has been sentenced to three years in hard labor, two years I guess - the good news is the two years of the sentence were suspended, but he's still got a year in hard labor and this will make him ineligible to run in the election to oppose the president. I am wondering if you have anything to say about that or could look into it?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I hadn't seen the report, so I don't think I have anything immediate to say about the particular case. Clearly, the Secretary spoke repeatedly in public and in private about the importance of allowing the political process to go forward, of not criminalizing the opposition, and of making sure that the progress that had been made in democracy was sustained. So these matters are of great concern to us and to her in particular. I am sure if this is happening again, we would be concerned again.

QUESTION: Could we maybe later get an answer on this FARC attack. I know you are not ready to answer it on this, but President Pastrana just announced in Colombia that the Colombian Government will be ready to walk away from the table of negotiations with the FARC if it is confirmed, in fact, that they did that.

MR. BOUCHER: As awful as some of these attacks are, I'm not sure that we should be in the business of commenting on every single one. We have supported President Pastrana in his attempts to make peace. We have supported President Pastrana in his attempts to bring stability to the country. But the actual steps along the way and when he's in and when he's out, that's up to him.

QUESTION: Yesterday before she met with the Indonesian Foreign Minister, the Secretary said that the US would supply humanitarian aid to help out the Aceh peace agreement. I'm wondering if during that meeting if this was narrowed down a little bit more, if we know what kind of aid, how much?

MR. BOUCHER: No. At this point, they did have discussions on what might be needed and what might be done in the next steps in the process in Aceh. As you know, we have a cease-fire and that has to be turned into an agreement, but the discussions will help us narrow down what kind of needs might be there and might be met. The initial humanitarian portion is probably relatively small, and we're looking at that. But the discussions helped us narrow down the kind of assistance that might be necessary but didn't - don't come up with a specific number or anything like that.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 P.M.) (###)

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