Daily Press Briefing for August 14 — Transcript
Daily Press BriefingPhillip T. Reeker, Deputy SpokesmanWashington, DCAugust 14, 2001INDEX:
1 Statement on Peace Process
1-2 Irish Republican Armys Revocation of Arms Offer
2-5 Senior Egyptian Delegation to the US
3 Egyptian Role in Middle East Peace Process
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
4-5 Deputy Assistant Secretary Satterfields Visit With Chairman Arafat
5-9 Update on Violence / Peace Talks
11-12 American Citizens Detained at Protests Outside the Orient House
8 Websites of Foreign Terrorists
9-12 Consular Access to Detained Americans
10 Status of American Defendants Jailed after G-8 Protests
12-14 Update on the Peace Process / Possible NATO Role
14 President Musharrafs Elections Announcement
15 Allied Strike on Iraqi Military Site
16 Recent Vote on Anti-Corruption Legislation
16-17 Economic Crisis and Request for an Emergency Loan
17-18 Iranian Intrusion into Azeri Airspace
18 US Expert Missile Talks Delegations Upcoming Trip to China TRANSCRIPT:
MR. REEKER: Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for the delay. It is, as always, a pleasure to be back with you here at the State Department today.
I would just like to begin, first, by welcoming a group of Armenian journalists, who are here visiting us today on an international — Georgian, I’m sorry. Failure by my staff to change from the group of Armenian journalists that we had recently.
Anyway, we are all very pleased to welcome you to our briefing today. I think it is a great opportunity to see some of the world’s finer journalists in operation. (Laughter.)
I would also like to welcome Mr. Stephen Mintus, who is a high school social studies teacher who has been teaching a US foreign policy course for 26 years at the Normal Community West High School in Normal, Illinois, and it is a real pleasure to have you here with us, and he is going to bring his experience back to his community and to his students. And you know that is something that Secretary Powell has talked about as being a very important goal for the State Department in making sure Americans understand the role of the State Department and what we do on their behalf.
We also have an intern from the Atlantic Council, Ms. Anya Vodopyanov, a student from Stanford University, with us today. So welcome to all of those visitors.
I do have one short statement I would like to begin with, and that regards the peace process in Northern Ireland. The United States deeply regrets the Irish Republican Army’s announcement today withdrawing its proposals for weapons decommissioning. The IRA’s August 8th proposal to the de Chastelain Commission had represented a significant step forward. We urge the IRA to reconsider its decision and to maintain its contacts with the de Chastelain Commission. Putting arms beyond use is an integral part of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in all its aspects, and the basis of the August 1st Anglo-Irish package.
So we will release that statement also in written form after the briefing. I am happy to take questions on that or other subjects.
QUESTION: Yes, apart from issuing statements, do you plan any kind of — any other diplomatic demarche on (inaudible)?
MR. REEKER: Well, the US remains in continual contact with all the parties and the two governments involved here. I don’t have any specifics to share with you, but as you know, we have maintained our contacts and our views that I made clear just now. So I think that is the extent of it for right now.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the Egyptian delegation that is due here?
MR. REEKER: Sure, the Egyptian delegation about which I did not have information yesterday, and of course was able to check into that to make very clear that, I think, as you know, first of all, President Bush and President Mubarak had agreed that high-level consultations between our two governments would be useful. In that vein, Mr. Osama El-Baz, the national security advisor to President Mubarak, is visiting Washington this week for meetings with senior administration officials. I do not yet have any details of the meetings or times, but I expect to have something soon. So if you are particularly focused on that, keep in touch with the Press Office and as soon as we have details, we can share those with you.
Obviously, the meetings will cover a broad range of bilateral and regional issues between the United States and Egypt, including the current situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I think you know that we have long valued Egypt’s critical role with those parties and we welcome this opportunity to consult with our Egyptian friends on the situation. So stay tuned.
QUESTION: We held an interview with him just within the last hour and he made some comments to us. He said that the situation cannot — in the area cannot withstand more of the same. He also said that American interest is threatened in the area by the events that are taking place. He also said the American Government must move, implying that you are not doing enough. Do you agree with these comments?
MR. REEKER: Well, I’m not going to try to respond to an interview I haven’t seen in any detail which took place in less than an hour with a gentleman who is going to be having meetings with senior officials from this administration in the coming days. But if you would like to talk about the situation in the Middle East, I think you are quite aware of our position and I think you know what we have said every day from this podium, in terms of our engagement. Senior officials here and in the region are in continuing contact with the parties. As you know, Deputy Assistant Secretary Satterfield has met with both Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat within the last day or so. We continue to encourage them to reduce the violence, facilitate the implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations as quickly as possible. These are the recommendations which remain the only path to safe and normal life for Israelis and Palestinians, and a return to negotiations towards a peaceful settlement.
So they have — the parties have before them a roadmap, they have a structure in place, and they both need to maintain their efforts. We need to see a 100 percent effort in pursuing that and an end to the violence.
QUESTION: Leaving his comments aside, do you feel your interest in the area is threatened by the events that are taking place? And also, do you feel you are doing everything that you can do to contain the situation?
MR. REEKER: I think we have made quite clear that we do have interests in the region. That’s why we have been engaged there for so many years, for decades, and why we will continue to remain engaged there, and why this is an important issue for us. It is why you come here every day and talk to us about it. But we have made our views very clear, that the parties need to take action. They have a roadmap, they have structures that they can use to pursue steps to get back to the peace table and pursue negotiations. We have made that very clear. They have got to take these actions. Both sides have to recognize, as we have said before, that down this path of escalation and retaliation lies disaster and certainly more despair for their peoples.
So in this time of heightened tensions, we once again urge both sides to do all they can to reduce the violence and promote an atmosphere of calm.
QUESTION: Can you just talk about the latest Israeli incursion last — yesterday evening, and —
QUESTION: Can we stay on Egypt for a second?
MR. REEKER: All right, let’s do it this way. We will stay on Egypt for a second, and then we will take Elise’s question. Please, Eli.
QUESTION: The Egyptians have long proposed, along with the Jordanians, a more robust sort of peace plan that would involve starting political negotiations without a kind of period of quiet or calm. Is this something that will be discussed in meetings with top officials, and is this something that maybe the US would consider at this point?
MR. REEKER: I don’t know exactly what will be discussed, other than that which I described for you a moment ago, that a broad range certainly of bilateral issues, but definitely the regional issue. And as I said, we have appreciated and long supported the Egyptian role and the contribution that they can play, as well as the Jordanians, as you pointed out. So I think we need to let these meetings take place, see what we discuss.
The two sides have before them the Tenet work plan on security, which they can use, a structure they can use to pursue the security talks, which are so vital for creating and maintaining an atmosphere conducive to moving forward then into the Mitchell Plan recommendations, which you all are familiar with.
More on Egypt, or are we going to move —
QUESTION: Do you have any word from the Arab states on any other visits by other officials from Arab states, other than Egypt?
MR. REEKER: Not that I am aware of.
QUESTION: Was this a surprise —
MR. REEKER: Was there something specific?
QUESTION: Was this a surprise visit from them — I mean, relatively?
MR. REEKER: I don’t believe so. I mean, I’m sorry I didn’t have information for you on it yesterday, but I think it had only just been announced at that point. As I said, at the beginning, President Bush and President Mubarak, who have spoken, as you know, agree that it is useful to have these kinds of talks. So we are looking forward to this opportunity now to have —
QUESTION: Is there any further contact with any other Arab states involving any —
MR. REEKER: We have a lot of contact with Arab states, whether through our embassies or through direct phone calls. I don’t have anything specific to share at this point.
QUESTION: On that, maybe — I don’t remember his title, Satterfield —
MR. REEKER: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Deputy Assistant Secretary — is he expected to go to Jordan and in Egypt this week as well?
MR. REEKER: I don’t have any further — right now he remains in Israel, I believe. As I noted, he met with Prime Minister Sharon, he met with Chairman Arafat. I don’t have a further readout on his next steps. I would be happy to keep checking on that for you with the Bureau.
QUESTION: Phil, did the presidents talk about this particular delegation coming here? You said they agreed that high-level consultations would be useful —
MR. REEKER: I would have to refer you to the White House for that. I think this is within the framework of that discussion.
QUESTION: From our — but not about — was there a conversation this week saying, oh, yeah, send your guys here, or —
MR. REEKER: I don’t know. You would need to check with the White House on the President’s calls.
QUESTION: You just said that they agreed that these consultations would be useful. I mean —
MR. REEKER: President Bush and President Mubarak have spoken and talked about the fact that it is useful to have our senior officials meet. I think this visit is certainly within the context of that. The specifics of what President Bush may or may not have discussed specifically at any specific time with President Mubarak is something you need to ask at the White House.
MR. REEKER: Right. Specifically take that question to the White House. Is this more, Teri, or do you want to go onto —
QUESTION: Do you have any readout on his meeting yesterday with Yasser Arafat, and any — I know you said you didn’t have any information on his travels, but do you know of any other meetings he has scheduled there in Israel?
MR. REEKER: I don’t. I don’t have anything further on Satterfield. Certainly, the points, as I indicated, that he has been raising, both in his meetings with Prime Minister Sharon and with Chairman Arafat, are continuing to encourage them to reduce the violence, to make a bigger effort, as the President indicated yesterday, to take the steps necessary to make a 100 percent effort to reduce the violence, because that is what is so crucial to this.
QUESTION: They haven’t made any headway?
MR. REEKER: I think the proof will be in what we see on the ground, and we will be watching that very closely. And, as I said, I just don’t have a readout of his schedule but will be happy to try to keep monitoring his next steps. I am sure he is having additional meetings with other levels of officials, coordinating obviously through our embassy and our consulate out there.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the last 24 hours’ events —
MR. REEKER: As the President emphasized yesterday — I think you saw his statements from Texas — that all sides must exercise restraint. You know that we have condemned the acts of terrorism such as those that occurred recently in Jerusalem. Nothing is gained through such cowardly acts as deliberate murder. The Israeli incursions into Palestinian controlled areas are provocative and undermine the efforts of the parties and the international community to defuse the situation and stop the violence. And, once again, as I have already indicated today, both sides need to recognize that down this path of escalation and retaliation only lies disaster. And so we are continuing to urge both sides to exercise restraint, reduce the violence, promote an atmosphere of calm. There is no military solution to this conflict, and we will continue to make that message quite clear.
QUESTION: On the recent incursions last night, can you say whether, A, you think that the Israelis had taken those actions in order to promote or out of reason for internal security? Can you say whether or not they have decreased the stability in the region? And can you say whether or not you believe that they are defensive in nature?
MR. REEKER: A, you need to ask the Israelis why they took those actions. I am not going to try to —
QUESTION: I think it is relevant to what the State Department thinks of its internal security, given the restraints of the Arms Export Control Act.
MR. REEKER: I have made clear to you our view, Eli, that these incursions into Palestinian controlled areas are provocative and undermine the efforts of the parties and the international community to defuse the situation and stop the violence. I am not aware of any determinations under the Arms Export Control Act.
QUESTION: I am not asking for determinations, but you have said they are provocative. You know, you have said that — you’ve gone very close to this. I just wanted to find out, do you think that the Israelis need to take those steps in terms of internal security?
MR. REEKER: That is a decision for the Israelis. My point is that we feel that those steps, the incursions that were made were provocative and undermined the efforts. And what we have done is called on both sides to make maximum efforts to reduce the violence and create an atmosphere of calm so that they can move ahead.
QUESTION: Even if they were — even if you do call them provocative, do you think that they were necessary?
MR. REEKER: That is not a judgment I am going to make from here.
QUESTION: The Israeli position was before that there will be no more talks until the violence is stopped. The American position was similar, no involvement in a grand scale until the violence is reduced or stopped.
Now the Israelis are talking — Shimon Peres is talking to the Palestinians and he is not even excluding talking to Yasser Arafat. Are you going to take your cue from the Israelis and change your position?
MR. REEKER: We don’t take our cues from anybody other than the President of the United States and the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who have made our views quite clear. You heard the President yesterday. I have reflected the same message that the Secretary has delivered many times before. It is up to both sides, it is up to both the Israelis and the Palestinians to make that effort.
QUESTION: Well, they are talking now —
MR. REEKER: We think that’s excellent. We talked yesterday a great deal — you may not have been here — about pursuing a security dialogue, which we facilitate. We stand ready to help however we can to facilitate that security dialogue. Director of Central Intelligence Tenet was in the region, as you know. He helped them develop a work plan to pursue the security dialogue, which is absolutely important in helping to create the atmosphere conducive for then cutting the violence, bringing calm to the region so that they can move into the steps necessary, as recommended by the Mitchell Commission.
QUESTION: Can you say if the Secretary has had any phone calls to the region or received any from the region today?
MR. REEKER: Not that I am aware of, but I wasn’t able to check just before I came out, so I will be happy to keep looking into that.
QUESTION: And reports from the White House yesterday that he had spoken to leaders in the region yesterday —
MR. REEKER: No, I think if you read the President’s transcript closely, he referred to the fact that the Secretary had spoken with leaders in the region as of yesterday. As I told you then, he had spoken to them on Friday. So do check your transcript closely.
QUESTION: You said you think that’s excellent that they’re talking. If it’s excellent now, why was it not excellent before they agreed to talk? I mean, why would it not have been an excellent idea for them to talk a week ago or two weeks ago?
MR. REEKER: I don’t think we have ever said talking wasn’t a good idea, or indeed an excellent idea.
QUESTION: Yes, you did. You said that talks couldn’t begin until the violence was reduced.
MR. REEKER: I think we need to talk about talking versus talks, Jonathan, and I am not going to play another day of word games with you. You know what our view is. I made it quite clear today, I made it quite clear yesterday. Foreign Minister Peres wants to pursue talks and that can help the process. We have talked about the security talks and that helps the process, were they to facilitate that. And we will continue to encourage that.
It is up to the parties to take these steps to reduce the violence. Until the violence is down, there cannot be a movement into the Mitchell Committee steps. As the Mitchell Committee recommendations state, you need to end the violence and then move into these steps. It is a roadmap back to a process where they can pursue peace.
QUESTION: Shimon Peres did say that not engaging in talks is giving every gunman a veto right —
MR. REEKER: I think that came up yesterday, yes.
QUESTION: Okay, fine. But are you going to up the ante now? Are you going to increase the efforts, since they are talking? I mean, my question is, are you going to make like what Dr. El-Baz said, America must move?
MR. REEKER: This isn’t a poker game and we are not upping antes. This is simply our position, which we made very clear, our availability to help and facilitate in this process, and the steps that both sides must take, the calm that must be reached so that they can move ahead into Mitchell, which is what both sides have said they want to do, and that is what we will continue to look for.
QUESTION: I have a question about a Wall Street Journal article that appeared yesterday. And that is it claims that Islamic Jihad and Hamas and some of the other foreign terrorist organizations have Websites based in the United States. And I wanted to know if the State Department has ever looked into this and whether this is a violation of the law which prevents them from having any sort of base in the US and raising money in the US?
MR. REEKER: I looked at that article and it is a very interesting question. I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t think it is something that is addressed in Patterns of Global Terrorism. I haven’t checked to see if the Website even appears there. You may want to check at the Justice Department, because they make a lot of those determinations under the law, in terms of implementing that law domestically.
But it is a good question. We will check on it. Obviously with the lawyers it is an interesting question based on new technology, in terms of the Web.
QUESTION: But doesn’t the State Department usually pass the word to these organizations, like we did with the Afghans, telling them to close their office in New York? Wouldn’t the State Department have had to give the word to some of these organizations to shut this operation down?
MR. REEKER: Well, in terms of Websites, it is an interesting question. As you are probably aware, the World Wide Web operates in such that the location of where that Website is controlled or created may not be in the United States. So as I tried to indicate, it is something we will look into, and I think it is an excellent question. It is an interesting question that is posed by the article and by you, and we will look into it as something that obviously lawyers and others will have to deal with.
It may be something that has already been looked into, but I don’t know at this point.
QUESTION: Just one very quick one about the talks and violence. Would the State Department agree with Sharon — the Egypt, Jordan, and Arafat — that there is a potential that at least the talks could lead to a decrease in violence?
MR. REEKER: The two sides need to take steps to reduce the violence. What they can do to do that is up to them. We believe they can do more on both sides, and reducing the violence is the first priority goal so that they can move into implementation of Mitchell in all its aspects.
Okay, now we’re moving on with Matt to a different part of the world.
QUESTION: Afghanistan. Yes. So your hope or presumption, or whatever you want to call it, from yesterday that your envoy would — or your consular official would be able to see the detainees in Afghanistan did not — it didn’t happen. I’m wondering if you have anything to say about what the Taliban did or said to them.
MR. REEKER: Right, the US Consul General from Islamabad — his name is David Donahue — as well as consular officials from Germany and Australia, met with Taliban officials in Kabul today, that’s August 14th, and requested access to eight detained foreign workers. As we discussed yesterday, the main purpose of the US official and his visit was to gain access to our citizens.
To this point, the diplomats have not yet been allowed to meet with the detainees. While the Taliban continue to assure our officials — our official and the officials from the other countries I mentioned — that the detainees are in good health, these assurances are not the equivalent of full consular access, which is what we seek.
So our Consul General, Mr. Donahue, will remain in Kabul, and we are going to continue to press the Taliban for access to the detainees, who continue to be our main concern. We want to be able to meet with them to ensure they are not being mistreated, and indeed that they are being treated fairly. And that is what he will continue to pursue.
QUESTION: I have a few follow-ups to that. One, the Taliban says that they will not be allowed access until after their — that is their, the Taliban’s investigation. Is that acceptable to the United States?
MR. REEKER: We want access now and immediately. There is an obligation, and we want to see our citizens. That is why he has traveled there, and as I said yesterday, that was the goal of his travel.
QUESTION: Okay, and can you explain why Mr. Donahue and — well, I guess you can only speak for Mr. Donahue — but turned down the presumably generous offer of the Taliban to stay as their guests in the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, and instead stay at a UN guest house?
MR. REEKER: I don’t know.
QUESTION: You don’t know?
MR. REEKER: I’ll leave that up to our official —
QUESTION: So you’re saying there is an obligation. Could you elaborate on the basis for this obligation?
MR. REEKER: I think you know it is accepted and appropriate practice for states such as the United States to request, and for those holding detained people, to permit consular visits. That has been our goal and continues to be our goal. As you know, that is the overriding interest we have in this matter, is the safety and well-being of American citizens, in this case two American citizens who are being held by the Taliban.
QUESTION: Yes, but the difference in this case, of course, is that the Taliban are not a state, and you don’t consider them a state, and —
MR. REEKER: They are detaining our Americans, and we want access to the American citizens that are being detained by the Taliban.
QUESTION: On the detained Americans, can you give us any details on the release of the American woman in Italy?
And also, this goes back to the Middle East a little bit, but a trial is apparently being set for a man named Clarno, whose family charged that he has been injured by Israelis when he was detained outside Orient House?
MR. REEKER: Two different issues there, but we will start with Italy.
QUESTION: Detained Americans was the headline.
MR. REEKER: I see. Okay.
The four American citizens currently detained in Genoa were arrested, as you know, as a part of a larger group of 25 people. And our consular officers have been working very closely with each of the American detainees and their families. We had consular visits most recently last week.
We have seen the reports that the court has released Ms. Susanna Thomas and we are, of course, pleased that she will be allowed to return to her family. I think that was fairly new news as I was coming out here, so I don’t have a lot of details on that.
We do hope that the authorities will also act quickly to similarly resolve the cases of the other three Americans in custody in Genoa. Each of the four Americans has been represented by legal counsel at the hearing, which I believe is still under way today. It may have finished by now; I just haven’t had a chance to check. The defense attorneys are asking the court for the release of all the defendants pending trial, and we are going to continue closely monitoring the cases of the other three Americans as they go through the legal process, because of course all four Americans and their situations are of concern to us.
MR. REEKER: Oh, right. I’m sorry. We had some information on that, I thought, and I just don’t know where it might have been included. Okay. Pardon me for this little delay here.
A group of protesters, which included five US citizens, was arrested by Israeli police on Saturday, August 11th. Only two of the Americans, Sofia Ahmad and Andrew Clarno, were detained over the weekend. They were both charged with participating in an illegal gathering and assaulting a police officer. Consular officers met with both of them yesterday before their initial hearings. Both were released on bail last night and further hearings have yet to be scheduled.
Our consular officers reported that both appeared in good health and good spirits and the US embassy and those consular officers remain in contact with them and with their families.
QUESTION: His family says that he was quite badly beaten (inaudible) in his arrest. Do we have any evidence of that?
MR. REEKER: The US Government, of course, takes very seriously such allegations of abuse and mistreatment of detained American citizens, and the embassy is looking into the matter. We will raise it with Israeli authorities. The report we had from our consular officers was that both Mr. Clarno and Ms. Ahmad appeared in good health and good spirits, so we are keeping in touch with them and we will pursue that matter, too.
More on this subject?
QUESTION: Back to Afghanistan just quickly?
MR. REEKER: Back to Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Yes, just quickly. How, exactly, are you pressing the Taliban? Obviously, the US has no relations diplomatic with the Taliban, so it may not be able to use the —
MR. REEKER: I think Mr. Donahue has made quite clear the reason for his traveling to Kabul, the reason for his remaining in Kabul. We have made it certainly clear from here. And while I can’t guarantee that the Taliban are reading your news reports, they should certainly have no doubt about our focus and goal in this situation.
I think we also made it quite clear when we applied for the visa through our embassy in Islamabad the reason for going there and our determination to have access to our citizens, the two citizens who they are detaining.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Clarno just for a second?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: If the consular officers met with both of them — or met with Clarno — and there were allegations that he was beaten, his family is saying that he was beaten, why is the US Government still looking into it? Are you — I mean, either they saw bruises — I mean, did he say, “I was beaten”? I mean, I’m just kind of confused as to why it’s still an open question.
MR. REEKER: Eli, if somebody makes allegations and suggests something, we continue to look into that. We take that seriously. We had a meeting, as I indicated, with both individuals before their initial hearings. They were released on bail. Our consular officers reported that they appeared to be in good health and good spirits.
Yet if allegations are being made, we want to pursue that. And, as I said, we are going to continue looking into it and we will raise it with Israeli authorities. I can’t suggest anything further than that at this point.
QUESTION: Well, wouldn’t Clarno’s body be like the evidence?
MR. REEKER: I think you need to ask him that question. I tried to relate to you the facts of what our consular officers reported and our understanding also that there are allegations of this. I think, if you think about it a little more deeply, there could be allegations of abuse that perhaps were not apparent initially. That’s why we want to look into this, because we take those allegations seriously.
QUESTION: Did Clarno say he was abused?
MR. REEKER: I don’t have anything further to tell you. I think you could ask him that yourself. I believe he has been open to talking to the press.
QUESTION: Any progress to report on Macedonia today? And can you shed any light on possible NATO troop ships and US participation?
MR. REEKER: As you know, yesterday we welcomed the August 13th political settlement signed by President Trajkovski and the four coalition party leaders as a first step toward peace and reconciliation in Macedonia. We had a statement for you, as did the White House.
This agreement, as we have discussed before, provides a progressive framework for ensuring the rights of all citizens in Macedonia and a peaceful political solution to the problems there. Obviously, much work remains. As we said so many times, we will continue to support Macedonia as it moves forward with the difficult but crucial task of implementing the framework agreement. We are looking for the Macedonian Parliament to enact the constitutional reforms and the legislation set out in the framework document as soon as possible. Violence, as we have said, must come to an end and all sides must fully observe the cease-fire.
As I indicated yesterday, there is no justification for violence for supposed political ends. So I think, once again, the agreement provides a progressive framework that will ensure the rights of all the citizens of Macedonia and now is the time for them to focus on that, not just the political leaders but all the people of Macedonia, to think about this and move forward on it, as well as observing the cease-fire, which is necessary for moving ahead with the NATO role.
I think we can talk a little bit about the NATO role. But first I would want to emphasize that Macedonia’s political leaders and the elected representatives of all the people in the parliament must implement these provisions in the agreement. And, as I said, we expect them to begin doing that soon, and we will continue supporting them in that task. I also mentioned yesterday and I would reiterate again that we believe the government should open the way to reconciliation by offering an amnesty and we are looking to the Macedonian Government to work out the details of that.
The North Atlantic Council met yesterday to review developments and discuss preparations to assist with the voluntary disarmament of ethnic Albanian insurgents. Operation Essential Harvest, which is the name assigned to this NATO operation, will not commence, as you know, until NATO preconditions are met. But once preconditions are met, I think NATO is prepared to deploy rapidly and will offer an opportunity again to help with the facilitation of the framework agreement by collecting the arms. And I think, as you know, we have said before the US is prepared to participate by providing command and control, communications, medical and logistics support, which will be drawn largely from forces already deployed in Kosovo and in Macedonia in support of KFOR.
As you know, we have had a military presence in Macedonia for a number of years, and so we have a particular experience and expertise there, where we can help support Essential Harvest. We haven’t determined exactly yet how many US personnel will be involved, but the number is expected to be in a few hundred. And, of course, US forces in KFOR will remain actively involved in interdicting insurgent supply lines in Kosovo. That has been an important and difficult task that NATO has worked on since the beginning of this conflict, to try to stop that arms smuggling and other actions on the border there.
QUESTION: The chairman of the parliament in Macedonia said today that they will not ratify yesterday’s agreement until one-third of the arms has been collected by NATO troops. Will NATO move at all before they ratify it?
MR. REEKER: I think you will have to direct some of those questions to NATO, where the NAC will make those decisions. As you know, NATO operates on consensus. It is an organization — a collective security organization — that makes its decisions by consensus. Progress has been made in meeting the NATO conditions. The signing yesterday was an important step in that direction. But the allies will need to make a collective decision in the form of the North Atlantic Council that all conditions for deployment have been made.
I just can’t say when that determination will be made, but we are monitoring the situation very closely and NATO is prepared to deploy quite rapidly once the Council has authorized deployment.
QUESTION: Can we move to Pakistan?
MR. REEKER: Anything else on Macedonia? Then I would be happy to move to Pakistan.
QUESTION: What do you think about the date that President Musharraf has announced for elections in Pakistan? Does it count as an early return to democracy?
MR. REEKER: We are very pleased that Pakistan President Musharraf confirmed his commitment to hold provincial and national elections within the Pakistan supreme court’s three-year deadline. That is, by October next year, October 2002. We welcome this step toward genuine democracy and civilian government.
As you know, we have said many times that restoration of democratic civilian rule is critical to Pakistan’s political and economic development and, in addition, as we discussed a bit yesterday, US sanctions triggered by the military coup in October of 1999 cannot be lifted until our President determines that a democratically-elected government has taken office.
So I think at this point, President Musharraf’s speech did not provide more details about his proposals to restore democracy, including whether provincial and parliamentary elections would be party-based, which had not been permitted during the recent local elections, and what would be the role of the president and the national security council. So we look forward very much to additional information that will clarify some of those issues and we hope that that will soon become available.
QUESTION: So you’re not at all concerned given the recent history of statements out of Pakistani officials that seemed to then — that are then contradicted hours later, that this is going to happen again?
MR. REEKER: I think my remarks pretty much stand for themselves.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject again?
MR. REEKER: Can we go to one of your colleagues?
QUESTION: In less than a week, for the second time, you have bombarded the south of Iraq military facilities or other facilities. Do you have any comment to make on this?
MR. REEKER: I don’t. I think that is in keeping with our enforcing the no-fly zones with which you are quite familiar. For any details, for operational details, you may want to check with the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new on North Korea? Was there any official response (inaudible)?
MR. REEKER: Anything new on North Korea?
QUESTION: Yes, are the New York meetings still going on? What is the prospect of the US —
MR. REEKER: As you know, we have had contacts with the North Koreans through the New York channel. I don’t have any new specific contacts to relate. There has been news reporting about North Korea. Perhaps that is why you ask.
I guess the President said — as President Bush said back in June, in his June 6 statement, we encourage progress toward North-South reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula that will lead to peace. Inter-Korean dialogue is absolutely essential to establishing a lasting peace, and we would welcome early resumption of high-level North-South talks. And we certainly continue to support very strongly President Kim’s policy of engagement with North Korea.
As we have said repeatedly, the United States is prepared to undertake serious discussions with the North Koreans at any place, at any time, and without preconditions. The North Koreans have not yet responded positively to our proposal, and we have a full range of issues we would like to discuss with the North Koreans and they undoubtedly have issues they want to raise with us. So the only way to air these issues and pursue them is to have a discussion. So we do look forward to hearing a positive response from the North Koreans.
As in the past — I think I mentioned yesterday — our position on this is closely coordinated with our allies, South Korea and Japan, and we will continue to discuss that with them too.
QUESTION: In the past, the State Department has made several limited — well, not changed policy, but you have discussed in the past, despite your general unwillingness not to talk about political asylum requests, you have discussed them when the person who has requested the asylum has gone public and said that they are seeking political asylum.
In that vein, I am wondering if you have anything to say about the speaker of the Ethiopian —
MR. REEKER: I don’t. I don’t have anything on that. I have seen the same press reports I am sure you have, and I just don’t have any information on it.
QUESTION: The United States was very keen on the Kenyan Parliament passing the anti-corruption legislation. They failed to do so today, despite President Moi’s apparently sincere efforts.
Do you have anything to say on that?
MR. REEKER: I have seen the reports that that vote took place and that the bill to revive the anti-corruption body did not pass; it was rejected by the parliament. I just don’t have a readout yet from our embassy on details of that. So I don’t really have anything further to say.
I think you all know that anti-corruption has been an important issue for us. We have worked very hard with other countries, international organizations, to try to develop worldwide steps to get rid of corruption, which is certainly an impediment to economic development. And we think it is important to pursue this. That is why we issued the statement that Ambassador Boucher put out last week, urging Kenya to support the anti-corruption legislation, because we think it is crucial to promoting economic growth and prosperity for all Kenyans. But I will be happy to check on that. We will follow up with our embassy and see what they have to say.
QUESTION: One more?
QUESTION: I have one more, as well.
MR. REEKER: I think some of your colleagues do as well.
QUESTION: The Argentine Ambassador contacted this Department late yesterday urging US support for an emergency loan from the IMF. I was wondering if you could tell me what he might have been told and whether we might do that?
MR. REEKER: As we have said before, Argentina is a friend and an ally, and we very much want them to succeed. We commend Argentina’s resolve in making the difficult but necessary adjustments to their economy that will help to restore growth. I think you heard President Bush say yesterday that we are watching the situation in Argentina very closely and we urge Argentina to implement their reforms.
In completing the schedule of meetings that he had here in Washington, Mr. Marx, the Argentine Finance Secretary, had a meeting today with State Department officials. He met earlier in his visit with officials at other US Government agencies, including the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the National Security Council.
In terms of the specific discussion about the IMF and additional assistance there, I would refer you to the Treasury Department and the IMF itself for any specific comment on that.
QUESTION: Is there a general expression of support for some IMF aid?
MR. REEKER: I think I gave you our general expression of support for Argentina and commending their resolve and urging them to implement their reforms. We have had this series of meetings. But in terms of anything specific on the IMF, you would want to talk to the IMF or the Treasury Department, which handles our direct relations with the IMF.
QUESTION: Can you tell us who Mr. Marx met with here today?
MR. REEKER: I believe he met with Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Tony Wayne and somebody from the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
QUESTION: I still have one. I don’t think you’ll have anything on this, so it will be quick. What is Under Secretary Grossman doing in the commercial dispute between Motorola and the Turkish company Telsim? He is reported to have intervened on behalf of Motorola.
MR. REEKER: I will have to check into that. Thank you for alerting us earlier; I just didn’t have time to get it.
QUESTION: I did alert you.
MR. REEKER: That’s what I just said, Jonathan. Thank you for alerting us earlier. I did not have time to check into that.
Now, some of your colleagues have questions.
QUESTION: Any comments on the latest developments in the Caspian region, and in particular tension between Azerbaijan and Iran? Were you able to check any reports coming from the region in the past days?
MR. REEKER: We have been able to confirm some of these reports that, since the end of July, Iranian aircraft have violated Azerbaijan’s airspace. Such actions are provocative and, further, they are counterproductive to efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution of Caspian boundary disputes. And, as we have repeatedly stated, the United States supports negotiation among the littoral states of the Caspian Sea to settle the question of boundaries.
So we strongly support the ongoing free market economic development of the region and commercially viable development of the energy resources in the Caspian Sea, utilizing the international investment that has shown an interest in that and the existing production sharing agreements. So we firmly support Azerbaijan and all other countries which choose negotiation, not confrontation as a path to those goals.
QUESTION: Did you say in that how you were able to confirm that Iranian airspace — Iranian aircraft had violated —
MR. REEKER: I don’t believe I did.
QUESTION: Well, would you like to elaborate on that?
MR. REEKER: No.
QUESTION: Are you just taking the Azeris’ word for it?
MR. REEKER: No. That is why we checked into it and were able to confirm.
QUESTION: That is what you would call, you independently confirmed that this had happened?
MR. REEKER: We have been able to confirm some of these reports.
QUESTION: You announced yesterday about the interagency non-proliferation team that is going to visit China. On that, is it going to follow in line with — I know Senator Biden was there last week. Is it going — he listed a few countries that China made sales of — missile sales to. Is the interagency team going to follow his path in as far as the countries that he addressed China as making missile transactions with?
MR. REEKER: I don’t think I could say that at this point. I think we talked a bit about Senator Biden’s trip, and certainly yesterday I think I gave you all I could at this point on the interagency team that will be going.
QUESTION: There is nothing specifically? They are not eyeing a set group of countries? It’s going to be —
MR. REEKER: I think I said yesterday I didn’t have any more specifics on their visit, which doesn’t take place for a little while yet. We will see if we have anything more, but I think we may go ahead and have our meetings with the Chinese first, let that delegation get out there, do their job, and then we will see what we can say about it after that?
QUESTION: Thank you.