Monday, November 21, 2005


MODERATOR: Afternoon, everyone. Welcome to briefing two on the day.

As you know, we have Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns here with us. He'll be talking to you today about the ongoing activities commemorating the 10th anniversary of signing the Dayton accords. It's a very significant moment for that country and for the region as a whole.

Mr. Undersecretary.

MR. BURNS: Thank you.

Good afternoon. As you know, Secretary Rice will be hosting the Bosnian tri-presidency tomorrow, the three presidents of Bosnia- Hercegovina, as well as the political party leaders. She will start tomorrow morning with a ceremony in the C Street lobby to honor our three colleagues who were killed on Mount Igman on August 19th, 1995: Bob Frasure, Nelson Drew and Joe Kruzel. And their wives and children will be there for that ceremony.

And then she will also sign several agreements with the Bosnian leadership. She will have a meeting with them about their efforts to proceed with constitutional reform.

And then she's hosting a major lunch for the entire Bosnian delegation that's come here, which is quite large; the Bosnian- American community; members of Congress; members of the Clinton team that put this agreement together.

And the objective of these two days is to both look forward -- look back -- excuse me -- at what was accomplished at the Dayton accords 10 years ago today, but also look forward to see how this country can be -- can modernize its constitution and take its place in NATO and the EU in the future.

In addition to those activities that Secretary Rice will participate in, tomorrow morning we're also convening a conference of religious leaders from the region, under the chairmanship of Rabbi Arthur Schneier of New York.

He is someone who has, along with Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, the Diocese of Washington, has been involved for a decade in working with religious leaders to try to promote tolerance and inter-religious communication in the Balkans. Cardinal McCarrick, unfortunately, could not make this meeting. He's out of the country, but he very much supports this initiative, and we're very pleased that Rabbi Schneier will be here to lead this discussion of the Balkan religious leaders tomorrow.

Today, there was a conference at the U.S. Institute of Peace to mark the 10th anniversary. I think we've put the remarks on the website, so I won't belabor them, but I made some remarks on behalf of the United States government about the significance of Dayton and the significance of looking towards the future, and many other people, Paddy Ashdown -- Lord Ashdown, the high representative, the three leaders themselves and others spoke, so I think you've got all that on the record. I won't go into that.

I would just say this. In addition to our hope to use the 10th anniversary of Dayton to promote further reconciliation and further progress in Bosnia-Hercegovina, this week also represents the beginning of the final status talks in Dayton. President Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president, arrived in Pristina today to begin the first round of talks with the Kosovar leadership. He'll be talking to the Serb leadership in Belgrade as well.

And these two initiatives are designed, we think, to make 2006 a year of decision on both of these questions: on Kosovo, to produce a final outcome for the future of the country; on Bosnia- Hercegovina, to modernize the institutions of the state, so that on the 10th anniversary of Dayton, they can decide to modernize Dayton.

And I think at the meeting tomorrow with Secretary Rice, I'm confident that the political party leaders will agree that this process of constitutional reform is important, and they will say they are dedicated to it.

I just hosted a lunch for the leaders. We were at a long lunch where we worked through all these issues, and we're not there yet. We don't have an agreement yet. They're still consulting with some of the other Bosnian leaders who did not make the trip from Bosnia itself, but I'm confident that they are all heading in that direction. But the final discussions will be held with Secretary Rice tomorrow, and she will be the one hopefully to make this agreement with them. So I wanted to mention those two issues to you. I'll be happy to take your questions.

Q Are you just looking for an agreement that says -- that dedicates the constitutional reform, which is a rather vague concept, or are you looking for a commitment to scrapping the tri-presidency and then having a goal of an institution with just one president?

MR. BURNS: Actually, the concept of constitutional reform is quite specific; it's not vague. And when I was in Sarajevo six weeks ago, they had just completed defense reform -- the process of taking the two armies, two defense ministers, two chiefs of staff, forming one military. They had just agreed on a partial reform of the police services. And when I proposed six weeks ago that they ought to agree to constitutional reform, that was considered a rather radical notion because constitutional reform implies that the Dayton Accords are not immutable.

It implies, specifically to the Bosnian Serbs, that there has to be a process of strengthening the state and not just the entities that, of course, received most of the power at the Dayton negotiations. And it assumes -- constitutional reform -- that there will be a narrowing from three presidents to one. And it assumes the development of a strong prime minister. And it assumes the development of a strong speaker of the parliament and strong parliament. So it's very specific in that sense.

What we hope they'll agree to tomorrow is, as political party leaders in the country, that they will dedicate themselves to this process of constitutional reform; that they will pursue that over the coming months in advance of the 2006 elections. We would hope that that's what they would propose -- commit themselves to tomorrow.

I don't think you'll find specific language in the agreement about the elements -- the type of presidency, the type of prime ministership, the type of parliament -- because that has to be worked out subsequent to any agreement tomorrow; that would have to be worked out in the parliament of Bosnia-Hercegovina, we hope, over the next few months. But when they say they're agreeing to constitutional reform and to agree on the elements of it in the next few months, that is a very specific process, it's not vague at all.

I just wanted to make that note.

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