State Department Briefing


Monday  June 23, 2003

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman Washington, DC June 23, 2003 1:40 p.m. EDT INDEX: ANNOUNCEMENTS Secretary Powell back to Washington, DC from trip to Jordan Supporting Human Rights and Democracy Report Publication IRAQ Syria Border Incident BELGIUM Changes in War Crimes Law SAUDI ARABIA Sara Saga, American Citizen at the Consulate in Jeddah IRAN Arrest of al-Qaida members TAIWAN Meetings Between AIT Director Doug Paal and President Chen Shui-bian on Taiwan s Democratic Development 6-7 Independence Issues RUSSIA Government Closed Independent TV Station, TV-S GREECE Seizure of a Ship Carrying Explosives/Cut Financing for Terrorist Groups TAJIKISTAN Referendum to Allow President Rahmonov Extra Terms in Office TURKEY U.S./Turkish Relations and NATO KENYA Deputy Secretary Armitage s Meeting with National Security Minister Murungaru/Update on Embassy ISRAEL Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with Major General Ze evi, Israel s Defense Force Military Intelligence Chief/Roadmap Update PAKISTAN President Musharraf to Meet with President Bush at Camp David NORTH KOREA UN Security Council s Concerns Over Nuclear Weapons Program Multilateral Talks about Nuclear Weapons PERU Peruvian Cabinet Turmoil MR. REEKER: Welcome back to the State Department on this Monday, the 23rd of June. Secretary Powell is en route back to Washington after his trip, most recently in Jordan, and he will be back this evening sometime. I would like to remind you of a notice we put out earlier this morning that tomorrow there will be a special briefing here at the State Department to release the new annual publication, that is, the Supporting Human Rights and Democracy Report on the U.S. record for 2002 to 2003 that will go on to some of the initiatives and programs we have had in terms of highlighting abuses from our Human Rights Report, but now publicizing the actions and programs that the United States undertakes to end those abuses. So that briefing will take place here at 10 o'clock.# Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will deliver the introductory remarks and Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Lorne Craner will be here to talk a bit about the report and take your questions. Okay. With that, shall we begin with any questions you may have right now? The Associated Press, please. QUESTION: There was an incident on the border between Iraq and Syria in which some Syrian border guards were injured, and they are now working on getting them repatriated. Is the Embassy in Damascus involved in that at all? MR. REEKER: I am afraid I have to refer you to CENTCOM or the Defense Department on that situation. I don't have any particular details on that, so you may want to talk to them or, in fact, to Syrian authorities for any questions or issues on that. Yes, sir. QUESTION: Charles (inaudible) Belgian TV. MR. REEKER: Hi. QUESTION: The Belgian Government announced some changes in the controversial war crimes law. Is the U.S. Government satisfied with these changes? MR. REEKER: Well, we have seen the reports on that. I think our views on that particular issue and that universal competence law are well known. As we have said in the past, it is up to the Belgian authorities, to the Belgian Government, to fix the problem. I think there is an acknowledgement that there is a problem, and we will leave that to them. I have seen the reports of some draft new legislation, but that is something that the Belgian authorities will have to deal with. QUESTION: They say it will only apply to either people living in Belgium or Belgian citizens, and no longer for foreigners coming in and just start some lawsuit against the President or General Tommy Franks. MR. REEKER: I have read press reports about this as a proposal or as a new draft, but I don't have any further details on that. Our views and concerns about the law are well known, and we will leave it to the Belgian Government to deal with the situation and fix what is clearly a problem. QUESTION: But, I mean, Foreign Secretary Michel has announced these changes. It's not just press reports. It's Mr. Michel announcing changes, the way I just described. And there's no official reaction so far? MR. REEKER: Well, I don't know that the changes are as announced in terms of what is planned or what may be proposed. There is, I believe, a legal process they will have to go through to do that. But we will leave that to the Belgian Government to deal with. Betsy. QUESTION: Do you have anything on the woman, American, and her children who are in the consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? MR. REEKER: In Jeddah, Ms. Saga, Sara Saga, remains at the Consulate General in Jeddah, at least the last time I was able to check. We have, of course, made quite clear to her that she is free to remain there as long as she should determine. She did meet with her Saudi husband over the weekend at the U.S. Consulate there. They had some face-to-face as well as telephonic discussions that the consulate helped facilitate along with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Obviously, those are private discussions and I won't try to characterize her discussions between Ms. Saga and her husband. She will obviously make her own decisions on what she plans to do. I think, as I made clear on Friday, she is free to leave Saudi Arabia, as she should decide, and our consulate has made quite clear she is also free to stay there. Terri. QUESTION: Can you talk about how she's being supported financially while she's there? MR. REEKER: I don't know if I have any great details. In terms of financial support, I don't know what financial support she particularly needs or would have. During their stay at the consulate, Ms. Saga and her children have been provided with a private room. They have received meals from the consulate cafeteria at no charge. In addition, they have ordered food from outside the consulate and consular officials have offered to do grocery shopping for them. Those additional costs for outside food are being covered by funds supplied by Ms. Saga's family. At no time has she or her children been denied any food for lack of money. I think that is about as much detail as I have on that. I know she has done a number of press interviews on the telephone and may have addressed those circumstances in her own words, too. QUESTION: Phil, you said her Saudi husband visited at the weekend. Can you be more precise than that? Was it just one meeting they had? MR. REEKER: I know they had a face-to-face meeting and I know they had telephonic discussions. I don't have any further details than that. Christophe. QUESTION: The Iranian Government has announced that they have arrested al-Qaida people and identified many of them. Do you have any confirmation or comments about that? MR. REEKER: I don't think I have a lot more detail on that than we have had in the past. As we have said before a number of times, we believe that senior al-Qaida leaders are in Iran, and we have called on Iran to turn those people over. Certainly, if the press reports that we have seen are accurate, such a move by the Iranians could be a positive step. The next critical step, we think, is that Iran turn over those it claims to have in custody to third countries, as well as to apprehend any other al-Qaida members inside Iran. And we have said before that we expect Iran to abide by requirements of the UN Security Council resolution, that is 1373, the resolution that calls on Iran and all other countries to deny safe haven to those who plan or support or commit terrorist acts, and to affirmatively take steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts by providing warning to other states through exchange of information, part of the overall broad war on terrorism that we have all undertaken to fight this problem. Yes, ma'am. Oh -- QUESTION: Still on al-Qaida? MR. REEKER: Still on al-Qaida. We'll get back to you. QUESTION: Another country. There were five suspected al-Qaida people arrested in Malawi, and their attorney says they are going to be turned over to U.S. custody. Do you have anything on that? MR. REEKER: I saw press reports on that, and I don't have anything on that for you. QUESTION: Okay. QUESTION: We understand that AIT Director Doug Paal had a meeting with President Chen Shui-bian in Taipei last week and he told the President that the U.S. is opposed to all forms of referendum in Taiwan. Is this an accurate representation of U.S. policy? Can you clarify the U.S. position on this matter? MR. REEKER: I don't know exactly what meetings he may have had. That's a fairly standard thing through AIT in Taiwan that conducts our unofficial relations with Taiwan. We certainly, as we have said in the past, appreciate and support Taiwan's democratic development. And Taiwan's democracy is one of the reasons for the ties between the people of the United States and the people on Taiwan being close and will continue to flourish in the future. We have continued to urge Taiwan on a regular basis, as well as the People's Republic of China, to refrain from actions or statements that increase tension across the straits or make dialogue more difficult to achieve. Obviously, those are decisions that both countries# have to take, but that has certainly been our position for some time. Yes. QUESTION: Phil, do you have any reflections on the shutting down of the independent TV station in Russia? Additionally, there are some moves afoot in the Duma to give the authorities more control over the media in general. MR. REEKER: We have shared concerns in the past, and again with advocates of free and independent media, over the closure of TVS. The Russian Government has closed that station. There have been indications for some time of political pressure against Russia's independent media. You will recall that we had talked previously about the state takeover of NTV back in 2001, the closure of TV6 in 2002. We do very much continue to believe that the development and protection of an independent media are essential for Russia's continuing political and economic development. Freedom of the press, I think, is ill-served by the closure of TVS. And I will remind you of the Moscow document that was agreed to by states participating in the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which says that independent media are essential to a free and open society, and accountable systems of government are particularly important in safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms. So that is still the position that we strongly uphold. The role of an independent media, as all of you are here to attest, is important in a democracy and for that development. The Press Ministry in Russia has cited financial and other administrative reasons for the closure. The fact that this TV station, TVS, aired some of Russia's most outspoken voices, and those previous actions that I cited -- the earlier closures of NTV and TV6 -- do lend this closure the appearance of possible political motivation. Joel. QUESTION: Phil, this morning or yesterday there was a seizure on the Mediterranean of, ostensibly, a Greek freighter with arms shipments destined to Sudan or somewhere else in Africa. And for weeks you've been talking about various governments with their instability. You pointed out, for instance, Zimbabwe and also in other sections of Africa. I know you're looking for greater democracy within elections and such, but -- MR. REEKER: You've bounced from reports of a seizure of something in the Mediterranean to unstable governments in Africa and support for greater democracy. There's a lot of interesting themes there. Do you have a specific question, or I can address that generally? QUESTION: The question is you've tried to curtail the investment monies and the groups behind this. Is there -- I know you necessarily can't specifically talk about it because our military may be doing this, but are we getting active -- MR. REEKER: Wait, Joel. You're gone in about eight different directions. First of all, you mentioned reports of a ship that was seized in the Mediterranean. It involved Greek authorities. I have no information on that. We are aware of a seizure. Let me say that much. QUESTION: In general, are we getting cooperation? MR. REEKER: We are aware of a seizure of a vessel today in Greek territorial waters carrying 680 tons of explosives. And for any questions on that, the seizure or its cargo, you would really have to talk to Greek authorities on that. In terms of the overall efforts to cut financing for terrorist groups or to prevent this type of activity that you refer to -- not that I can draw a connection to this seizure by the Greek authorities because I can't make that connection -- that is a continuing process. There is a UN resolution that calls on all countries to work together to seize assets of terrorist organizations and individuals tied to terrorism. There are processes underway to cut financing. We have been working with many other countries to make sure that funds that people often think are going to charitable organizations are not somehow diverted to terrorist organizations. That is an ongoing process and we have talked about the millions and millions of dollars that have been seized and the cash flows that have been blocked through that cooperation around the world. And so it is not going to end immediately. It is an ongoing process and I think we have to be continuously vigilant with that process, but certainly we have seen some progress in it, but there is clearly a long way to go, as well. Yes, sir. Top that one. QUESTION: In Tajikistan there was a referendum over the weekend, extraordinarily high turnout figures and the -- also, it was approved by a high rate that would seem to allow the president to remain in office for a couple more terms. MR. REEKER: Yes. The United States is concerned by the apparent outcome of this constitutional referendum on the weekend in Tajikistan. Under that referendum, the President Emomali Rahmonov, would, in theory, be allowed to run for president again in 2006 and serve two more seven-year terms until 2020. We have repeatedly stated, and certainly our Embassy has been clear on this in Tajikistan, that a constitutional referendum in that country should meet international standards for transparency. And, unfortunately, this exercise that was held over the weekend did not meet those standards and we are urging the Tajik Government to test its leadership and its policies through regularly scheduled, free and fair elections. So that is a situation we will continue to watch, but this exercise, this referendum over the weekend, did cause us concern. Yes, ma'am. QUESTION: On a referendum, too. MR. REEKER: Okay. QUESTION: So, would U.S. be opposed to Taiwan's referendum on, like, non-independence issues? And also, Taiwan's Foreign Minister Eugene Chien has confirmed that U.S. has expressed very serious concerns over the referendum issue, and do you consider it appropriate for U.S. to express such concern over a domestic issue in Taiwan? MR. REEKER: Well, President Chen, himself, said in his inaugural speech in May of 2000, May 20th of 2000, I think, that he would not promote a referendum to change the status quo in regards to the question of independence or unification. We appreciate that pledge by President Chen and we take it very seriously. And so, along with what I said earlier to your first question, we have consistently urged both countries#, both Taiwan and the PRC, not to change any position on our One China policy, but for PRC and Taiwan to work to achieve dialogue. That is the goal, and we believe those efforts should continue and we welcome steps that foster dialogue and reduce tensions and emphasize a peaceful resolution and promote mutual understanding. And so let me, once again, say that we do not support Taiwan independence. We have a One China policy based on the three communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. And we urge both sides to refrain from taking any actions or making statements that increase tensions or make dialogue more difficult to achieve. QUESTION: What about referendum on, like, non-political issues? Like, public policy issues? MR. REEKER: Well, I think our position is what I described. Those are clearly decisions on each of those types of things that Taiwan authority have to take themselves, but our position, in terms of refraining from actions or statements that increase tensions or make it more difficult to pursue dialogue are things that we don't think either side on the Taiwan Straits should pursue. Far in the back, yes. And then Terri. QUESTION: The question is on Turkey. As you know, Secretary Powell met his counterpart Abdullah Gul in Jordan and Turkish Foreign Minister has been invited to Washington, and he said he might be visiting some time next month. Can you give us kind of some sense of this new understanding reached between the two countries after all of these disappointments and setbacks during the war? And, secondly, Turkish parliament passed another reform package to get the country in line with the EU requirements. And can you elaborate how do you see this -- MR. REEKER: I can't. I don't have anything on Turkish steps. QUESTION: You don't, okay. MR. REEKER: That would be internal matter. We certainly supported economic reforms for Turkey because we think it's in their best interest and the best interests of the region. And you know our views on Turkey's desire to join the European Union. I don't have any particular new news to impart in terms of upcoming visits. We have a regular exchange of visits and regular meetings between Secretary Powell and his Turkish counterpart, and certainly at other levels. We are a close friend and ally with Turkey. We have a long history of a lot of issues that we work on together, from economic and trade to political. We work on Iraq and other regional issues. As NATO allies, we have a lot of issues in common. The expansion of NATO is important. So that is an ongoing dialogue, and we deal with all of those things, even as we have rough patches in any relationship, as we have talked about in the past. So we will look forward to continuing this strong relationship with Turkey. Terri is going to be next. QUESTION: It isn't exactly a front page issue yet, but at the United Nations they are planning for a renovation in which they are asking the United States to help finance a large -- a large loan, asking for the U.S. to perhaps pay more in a no-interest or very low-interest loan than other countries. Do you have a reaction on that yet? MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on that for you. I have to check into it. QUESTION: Have you heard anything about it yet? MR. REEKER: I know there are discussions at the United Nations on their need to renovate or do some construction for their facilities. But, in terms of details of that, I just don't have anything, but be happy to try to check into it for you. Let's see. Betsy, and then we'll go to the gentleman. QUESTION: Do you have anything on Armitage's meeting today with the Kenyan Minister? MR. REEKER: With the? QUESTION: Kenyan. MR. REEKER: Oh, Kenyan. Yes. Not really any details of that. As you would have seen from our schedule, I think Deputy Secretary Armitage is meeting this afternoon with the Kenyan Minister of State for National Security, Christopher Murungaru. They are having consultations on anti-terrorism and security cooperation, as you might expect. Just to update you on our facility, our Embassy in Kenya, Nairobi, as we talked about last week, it was closed to review its security posture in light of credible threat information, and it remains closed today. We expect the Embassy to remain closed tomorrow, Tuesday, the 24th. We, at this point, are looking to reopen on Wednesday, but constantly are reviewing our security, as we do at every post around the world, and will take appropriate action when it's warranted. QUESTION: Do you feel that the Kenyans have responded to your satisfaction, in light of this crisis with the Embassy? MR. REEKER: Yes, I think we have worked very closely with the Kenyan authorities. And it is the kind of thing that the Deputy Secretary will be able to review, and the message he would be able to give to the Minister of State for National Security from Kenya when they meet. As you know, this has been a longstanding problem. We have a history, certainly, after what happened to our Embassy there in 1998, and have been working closely with Kenyan authorities, as well as others in the region, and, more broadly, international to share intelligence, to share the information and law enforcement expertise to try to get to the bottom of these threats, identify these threats; the financial things we talked about earlier, in terms of trying to wrap up terrorist operations, but taking strong steps not only to protect our facilities and our personnel, but to prevent these kinds of threats from emerging again in the future. We continue that bilateral as well as multilateral work. Jonathan. QUESTION: And Mr. Armitage also met the Israeli military intelligence chief. Can you give us a readout on that? MR. REEKER: I don't know that I have any particular details from the meeting. Deputy Secretary Armitage did meet this morning with Major General Aharon Ze'evi, the Israeli Defense Force Military Intelligence Chief. They discussed our bilateral relationship with Israel and our efforts to advance the roadmap and a definitive end to violence and terror in the region. This, of course, follows on to the Secretary's recent trip in the region. It is part of the ongoing dialogue we have with both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to assist them in meeting the difficult challenges ahead. This is certainly a high priority for the United States, as the President demonstrated through his travel to Aqaba, the important meetings there that were followed up by Secretary Powell's trips and meetings over the last few days. And the Deputy Secretary's meetings today are along in that vein, and we are pleased that the Israelis and Palestinians are convening a security meeting in Erez today, led by Major General Amos Gil ad on the Israeli side, and the Palestinian Interior Security Minister Mohamed Dahlan. And we are going to continue to support those efforts to help advance the roadmap and achieve what I had referred to before as a definitive end to violence and terror. So the parties may be able to give you further comments on those specific meetings. You know that we have facilitated, through Ambassador Wolf and his team who are there in the region, facilitated meetings as appropriate. But I would certainly underscore that this effort today significantly is led by the parties themselves and we will continue to look for progress in that regard. QUESTION: Did you receive anything on your position on a ceasefire today? MR. REEKER: I don't think I have any particular news on that to add to what Secretary Powell said from the region before he left this morning. Sir. QUESTION: Another question about this war crimes law in Belgium. You said you cannot comment on possible changes in the law. It's a matter of the future, also a matter of the past, because there are cases pending against, for example, President Bush and General Tommy Franks. Would any solution -- let me phrase differently. Is it necessary to have these pending cases repealed in order to come up with a solution between the U.S. -- this case between U.S. and Belgium? MR. REEKER: I think we have made quite clear to Belgium and Belgian authorities, and publicly, the problems that we see from this, and that our views on the issue, broadly, are well known. It is somebody that Belgium, Belgium's Government has to fix. It is up to them to do that, and how they do that we have to leave to them. So I am not going to try to kibitz from here. We have made our views clear and we will let Belgian authorities take their responsibilities and solve the problem. Joel, and then the gentleman here. QUESTION: In Srinagar, there have been three attacks by so-called rebels in four days and two grenade attacks Friday -- 16 people and others, 40 wounded. General Musharraf is here in Washington this coming week. Do you expect that talks will center both on the Kashmir problem and also on getting some of the infrastructure in to deal with remnants of the Taliban that may have come from -- also from Afghanistan into -- along the border areas? MR. REEKER: I think, as you hinted in your question, President Musharraf of Pakistan is here. He will be meeting at Camp David with President Bush tomorrow, and Secretary Powell will be joining them for that meeting. And they will be able to discuss a whole range of issues. The war on terrorism, of course, and our cooperation with Pakistan, which has been very good and very important, will be high on the agenda of that as well as a variety of other bilateral issues on that. So I can't give you any more detail on their particular schedule or agenda. The White House may be able to provide you more of that and obviously give you readouts. I am sure there will be a joint press availability with the two presidents during the course of their meetings. I think I will just save it for that and let us get to that news before we talk about it. Okay? Sir. QUESTION: Yes. Can you clarify one thing? Last Friday you talked about a possible presidential statement the U.S. is working on with the other permanent members -- MR. REEKER: Are we talking about North Korea at the United Nations? QUESTION: Yes. Is that -- the presidential statement representing the five countries or representing the United States issues? MR. REEKER: No. Let's go back over what that is. We have looked for the UN Security Council to take steps to demonstrate the international community's concern with the nuclear weapons program that is being pursued by North Korea. We have talked about this for some time, since the IAEA referred the matter to the Security Council -- I believe, in February, was it? One of the things, one of the possible ways forward we have looked at, is a presidential statement. That is a format that where the UN Security Council, through its presidency -- as you know, has a rotating presidency -- can make a statement that expresses the views of the Security Council on behalf of the international community. We have circulated with the permanent five members and shared with other members of the United Nations, other concerned countries like Japan and South Korea, a possible draft of a text of a possible statement. There is nothing formal in that sense yet, but we have had discussions with a variety of countries on that. And I don't have anything new to add at this point, but that is how that process would work and that is what we shared, as we talked about last week, with the four other permanent members of the Security Council, as well as some other countries. And we will just see where that goes in the future. Our concern remains that we need to have denuclearized Korean Peninsula and that North Korea should get itself out of the problem it put itself into by verifiably dismantling its nuclear weapons program. Yes, ma'am. QUESTION: Do you have any specific schedule for five-party talks of North Korea nuclear stuff? MR. REEKER: No. I don't have anything new on North Korea or potential talks. We continue to see this as a multilateral issue, that is, the President and Secretary Powell have made clear we want to resolve through a peaceful, diplomatic process. As you recall, we had three-way talks with North Korea and China held in Beijing and we have always been quite clear that we would want to see South Korea and Japan join such a multilateral format because this is a multilateral problem. It is a problem that affects South Korea obviously, Japan obviously, as well as China and other countries like Russia, Australia. Countries all around the world have an interest in this, and that ties in closely to why the international community, through the IAEA or even the Security Council, have been looking at this and trying to find a way forward to define the diplomatic resolution to this problem. Joel. QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the resignation of the Peruvian cabinet early and all the turmoil that's occurred -- been occurring there over the last few months? MR. REEKER: I don't. I think that is really an internal political matter for Peru. Certainly we, through our embassy in Lima, through our Organization of American States contacts, keep in touch with what is happening in any country in the hemisphere, and we will let Peruvians speak to their domestic issues at this point. Anything else? Great. Thanks very much. (The briefing was concluded at 2:15 p.m.) Footnotes: -- The special briefing is scheduled to take place at 10:15 a.m. -- The reference should be to both sides -- The reference should be to both sides


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