State Department Daily Briefing, August 28
|Thursday August 28, 2003
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
MR. REEKER: Well, good afternoon and welcome to the State Department. I don't have any formal announcements other than to note that today is my last briefing in this capacity. I will try to contain my enthusiasm at least for the time necessary to answer your questions.
I would like to welcome to our briefing today my lovely wife, Solveig, and my brother-in-law Leif Johnson, and wish Solveig an early Happy First Anniversary, so -- glad you could be here and glad we can celebrate in relative peace since I will not be briefing on our anniversary.
With that, why don't we refer to Mr. Schweid who can do the honors.
QUESTION: Well, Phil, I don't know about relative peace, but this is the last chance, really, to catch up on a lot of issues, and I wondered if you could tell us for the record if the Secretary has any plans to go to Mongolia?
QUESTION: Secretary Albright went to Mongolia and -- I think she may have been the first Secretary of State -- and if you have the time, could you outline our policy on Tajikistan while --
MR. REEKER: Tajikistan and Mongolia.
MR. REEKER: Barry, I think those are subjects that we can get you special briefings on and I would be happy to set that up for your Friday before Labor Day, or even Labor Day if you would like. Certainly --
QUESTION: If we say we're regional reporters.
MR. REEKER: -- I don't have any travel to announce for the Secretary at this time. The Secretary has remained, as you know, during his vacation time quite busy and active on the telephone and talking to colleagues here.
Since you bring it up, I will mention, since you are likely to ask, an updating on phone calls. Since we spoke yesterday, the Secretary has spoken with Foreign Secretary Straw of Great Britain and with the Italian Foreign Minister, Mr. Frattini today.
QUESTION: Was Iraq on the agenda?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) calls haven't changed?
MR. REEKER: (Laughter.) Our policy on phone calls has not changed, nor has our policy on Tajikistan.
QUESTION: Well, Italian Foreign Ministers keep changing, but nonetheless, was Iraq on the -- among the --
MR. REEKER: You know, I don't have full readouts on them, but obviously, talking about Iraq and ideas in terms of next steps there -- part of the discussions we have been having with a lot of Security Council colleagues and others -- is something he regularly discusses with his counterparts and his colleagues.
MR. REEKER: Eli.
QUESTION: It's sort of related to this. In the UN resolution, I don't know if you can say anything about it, but the Iraqi Interim Authority is soon to announce the naming of certain ministers and ministries --
MR. REEKER: The Iraqi Governing Council?
QUESTION: The Government, the Governing Council, the Iraqis -- and how would that in any way affect, I mean, can you get into anything about that with -- is that like, a move to give them more responsibility? Is that a move -- or is it just going to be ministries, like, that advise the CPA?
MR. REEKER: I am not sure, exactly, what steps the Iraqi Governing Council may be preparing to take. We have been encouraging them, obviously, as the UN Security Council Resolution 1500 did, recognizing and encouraging them because, after all, our goal here is to have Iraqis take over control of Iraq, since it has been liberated from Saddam Hussein and his three decades of misrule and tyranny.
We want Iraqis to have a new beginning, a new opportunity. And the Governing Council is playing an important role in that process. They, indeed, have a number of ministries, obviously, operating and working. The Coalition Provisional Authority is assisting in that regard, and so more and more I think you will see Iraqis taking over roles and responsibilities, obviously to the point where they have a new government.
That is what we have talked about all along -- a new government -- at which point we will leave Iraq and have normal relations with what we would hope would be a country in good standing in the international community whose people can live in freedom, and hopefully prosperity, without the fear and horrific conditions they experienced over the past three decades.
QUESTION: I mean, I know it's -- maybe it's a question best directed to the CPA. But if they name, say, a minister of water, would that person have the say over the water in Iraq, or would they still have to consult with the advisor of water issues to Ambassador Bremer?
MR. REEKER: Well, they have a number of ministers in the Governing Council -- a lot of them. But those are questions you really want to talk to the CPA about. That is who has been dealing with those things.
QUESTION: Just changing subjects -- and we can go back to Iraq -- but to get to the news of the day, I guess. What can you tell us about the talks in Beijing?
MR. REEKER: The six delegations who are meeting in Beijing again today met in plenary session for about four hours today. I think that began about 10:30 this morning Beijing time.
The participants reviewed the presentations from the previous day. I would note that the United States' delegation met with the South Korean and Japanese delegations briefly before the plenary session, and the United States and Russia met briefly following the plenary session. And as with yesterday, and as I have indicated to all of you anticipating this, I don't have further details to offer regarding the substance of our discussions.
As you know, we are there to focus on the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of the nuclear weapons program in North Korea, for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which everybody agrees is in everybody's interests, and obviously would lead to lessening of tensions, and greater peace on the entire Korean Peninsula.
QUESTION: And what is the status of the talks right now?
MR. REEKER: I think right now -- I hope -- everybody is getting some sleep. These delegations expect to meet again tomorrow, and I don't have any particular decisions on a next round or any particular next steps, but we do expect them to meet again tomorrow; and obviously, we would endeavor to get you some sort of readout in the course of tomorrow.
There were no informal U.S.-DPRK meetings at today's session. We talked a bit about the informal meetings we had yesterday.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, recognizing that you don't want to get into the substance and will not, most likely, get into the substance, there was just a procedural kind of thing. It was noticed in Beijing that Assistant Secretary Kelly left the talks before many of the others did. Do you know what that --
MR. REEKER: I saw some press reports to that, and I am told those press reports are inaccurate. Mr. Kelly, Assistant Secretary James Kelly, did not depart early. He attended the entire plenary session and had the bilateral meetings afterwards with the Russians that I described to you a minute ago.
QUESTION: I know this is dead in the water, but just to be very specific, are you saying that you can't in any way tell us whether it's so that there was an announcement from North Korea that it was -- it planned to declare its nuclear programs and also plans to test them?
MR. REEKER: No, I am not going to discuss substance of the talks at all. I think our views, obviously, as I just said a minute ago in terms of nuclear weapons are that there needs to be a complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of the North Korean nuclear weapons program.
QUESTION: I guess testing wouldn't fall under that category?
MR. REEKER: Well, we don't think they should have nuclear weapons, so obviously, we don't think they should be testing them. I guess they kind of go hand-in-hand.
QUESTION: I was joking.
MR. REEKER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Phil, first of all, thank you for everything. Personally, you have been great friend and help always.
MR. REEKER: It has been a pleasure.
QUESTION: I wish you all the best.
MR. REEKER: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: And I have couple of questions on South Asia, please, on -- if you --
QUESTION: On North Korea, please?
MR. REEKER: Maybe we should finish North Korea, and I won't answer their questions either, and then we can get back to you.
QUESTION: And then you can repeat that part about the --
MR. REEKER: Yes, let's do that again. We'll cut to the videotape.
MR. REEKER: Did you have something more to follow up on North Korea?
QUESTION: Yes. I'm not sure if maybe there's a different way of asking, but can you confirm --
QUESTION: -- can you confirm the North Koreans -- the report that North Koreans have said they will demonstrate that there is a nuclear program or maybe did they mention the word "weapon?"
MR. REEKER: That doesn't sound any different from Teri's question. So it's -- you don't even get points for trying a different way of asking.
I am not going to be discussing any details of the substance of the discussions.
QUESTION: But you said everybody agrees that -- to denuclearize the Peninsula -- does everybody include North Korea?
MR. REEKER: Well, that is what we are focused on, is getting North Korea to agree to that, too. As you know, we have had talks with all of the other countries leading up to these six-party talks, and there is strong agreement that there needs to be a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. That is what will contribute to peace and stability on the full Korean Peninsula. And that is why we need to see a complete, a verifiable and irreversible end to the North Korean nuclear program.
Now, more on North Korea?
Elise is going to try it a different way. Okay.
QUESTION: Without talking about the actual substance, can you characterize whether you're making progress at the talks?
MR. REEKER: I still don't have any adjectives, and I was going to give up on nouns and verbs today, too, but --
QUESTION: Would you say the talks are about to break down, Philip?
MR. REEKER: No. As I said to you -- maybe you weren't listening -- the delegations expected to meet again tomorrow.
QUESTION: Okay, it might be related to the substance, but there's a report coming from Tokyo which says North Korea delegation implied to prepare for another -- prepare for nuclear test.
MR. REEKER: I think that is what your colleague over here asked, and your colleague up here asked, too.
QUESTION: Or some other provocative or other something else --
MR. REEKER: And I will refer you to my -- I will just stick with the answer I have already given since I have answered the question three times now, I think, so still on this?
QUESTION: How likely do you think it will be that you'll have another round of talks the next couple of months or so?
MR. REEKER: I just don't know. We had said, as I think a senior State Department official said to you about a week ago last Friday, when you were briefed in preparation for those talks, that we would look to that as a next step, another round in these talks. But I, at this point, there are no decisions in that. These talks aren't over since the delegations expect to meet again tomorrow. So we will just have to see where we go from there.
QUESTION: Can you confirm Mr. Kelly raised the questions of the abduction issues and the North Koreans counterfeiting of the U.S. dollars?
MR. REEKER: Once again, I am not going to discuss the substance of our talk, what was raised, what wasn't.
I talked about our position going into these talks. It is clearly what we have talked about directly to the parties in the plenary sessions, and you were certainly briefed on our views on a variety of subjects that we expected to be raised.
We support the Japanese position in terms of the abductions and the questions surrounding that, but I am not able to go into what was raised or any other points about the substance of the talks in Beijing today.
There was one -- okay, go ahead. Yes.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. REEKER: No, wait. Joel, I was going to ask -- I actually pointed to Tony; and I apologize I didn't return your call.
QUESTION: Oh, that's fine. No worries. Since it's your last day. you can do whatever you want. Can we expect a joint statement tomorrow?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. There are no decisions on whether there will be any documents released or not. I think we will just let the delegations meet again tomorrow, and then we will see where we are at that point.
QUESTION: Phil, I'm sorry. I had to leave. Maybe you addressed this already. Could you talk a little bit about the substance of the meetings? (Laughter.) And if not, could -- will you be making available Assistant Secretary Kelly's notes when he gets back?
MR. REEKER: I will do my best. Since it is my last briefing, we will see what we can do about that. I am going to miss you, Matt.
QUESTION: We get paid by the question.
MR. REEKER: I mean, as they say, you know, half the point in life is not just showing up, but it is asking a question, so.
Sir -- was going to be next.
Were we done with North Korea, Northeast Asia?
QUESTION: Any possibility for the U.S. and North Korea to meet again tomorrow?
MR. REEKER: Well, like I said, the delegations expect to meet again tomorrow. And whether there is any informal talks in that context, I couldn't predict.
QUESTION: But you're not ruling it out.
MR. REEKER: Thank you, Elise. I am not ruling it out, no.
QUESTION: Or in.
MR. REEKER: Or in, no.
QUESTION: How about hypotheticals? Can you answer hypotheticals?
MR. REEKER: I am making no predictions or dealing with hypothetical statements today. All right. We are going to shift to South Asia and our fine colleague here. Please, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Okay, Phil.
QUESTION: He wants you to start at the beginning again.
MR. REEKER: Say all those nice things about me, and --
QUESTION: Okay. Again, congratulations.
MR. REEKER: Now, let's move along.
MR. REEKER: We have got champagne to drink.
QUESTION: Phil, the question is that a Pakistan-based group has been blamed by India today for the Bombay bombings and they have done before also. And this is now; again, three nations are under attack by the suicide bombers, the same, based in Pakistan, U.S., Israel and India.
So what do you think Secretary of State now has to tell to his friend, General Musharraf in Pakistan, which has been told many times to stop?
MR. REEKER: Well, first of all, Goyal, I have not seen any determinations from the Indian Government in terms of the investigation in those tragic bombings in Mumbai, which we condemned; the White House similarly condemned. It is part of the war on terrorism that we are all working together to fight, including Pakistan.
And we have talked many times about the support that we have had from Pakistan, from President Musharraf, and we all have to keep doing more all around the world. And that is what we are endeavoring to do.
We are in close touch with our Indian colleagues. We are in close touch with our Pakistani colleagues. We are in close touch with so many governments around the world to cooperate on fighting terror and using all of the different tools at our disposal to do that.
QUESTION: Another report, as far as nuclear program of Iran is concerned, once again, after North Korea now, or North Korea was also helped by Pakistan. Now reports are saying that Pakistan is behind Iran's nuclear program.
MR. REEKER: We talked a bit yesterday about the IAEA report on Iran, and I don't have anything further to add on that. In terms of these questions you are raising, I don't have anything for you on that. Those seem to be questions you would want to point to the governments involved.
QUESTION: Finally, London-based Guardian newspaper is saying that President Bush and General Musharraf made some kind of deal not to capture Usama bin Laden and --
MR. REEKER: That is absurd, so I am not even going to entertain it.
QUESTION: Phil, on India-Pakistan, do you have anything on the breakdown in talks between the two countries on restoring air links, or is that something that you just really --
MR. REEKER: I don't think I was even aware of that. Sorry.
QUESTION: Could you give us an update on the meeting of the Quartet, when, if there has been decided to have another meeting, and anything else that you would be willing to tell me about the conversation between the Secretary and Frattini? And I'd also like to add that, what my colleague said, we will miss you, I think especially the foreign press. You were particularly sensitive to our sensibilities.
MR. REEKER: Thank you, Margery. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: And we do appreciate it.
MR. REEKER: I do appreciate it. And I will miss you.
I don't have anything, however, to -- (Laughter) -- make me feel terrible. I have not gotten any particular readouts on that call. As you know, the Secretary talks to his colleagues like Foreign Minister Frattini on a fairly regular basis, and they talk about a variety of issues. I will see if I can get you anything more specific on that call. I don't have anything on Quartet meetings, potential or otherwise.
QUESTION: But the date has been set, and everything.
MR. REEKER: Somebody raised it yesterday.
QUESTION: Yeah, I know.
MR. REEKER: And I have no information on it. So I will continue to look into it and see if I can find something out. Sometimes --
QUESTION: Are you working until the end of the day, or do you stop when you walk out of here?
MR. REEKER: I will be here tomorrow, but we won't be briefing, so --
Eli, go ahead.
QUESTION: Phil, does the State Department have any concerns right now that Abu Mazen may, in fact, resign? I mean, can you say anything about this? There's been some speculation, I know, in Hebrew, Arabic press, about his political situation right now.
MR. REEKER: I haven't looked at any particular reports. And as you know, I try not to deal much in speculation.
But let's talk a little bit about the Middle East. We discussed it yesterday, like we discuss it most days. We face serious challenges as we try to push forward with progress in the peace process. And as we have said, extensively yesterday, but certainly for many months now, there are commitments in the roadmap, and commitments made to the President by both sides; more importantly made to their own people.
And those commitments need to be fully implemented. We have to be clear that both sides need to do more to advance the process. But the main problem remains terror and violence and the fact that there are still those who fail to understand that there will never be a viable Palestinian state built on terror.
Extremists have impeded negotiations and complicated efforts and it is in the interest of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people that these acts of terror and violence come to an end.
We have been assured by Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas that they remain fully committed the President's vision of peace, and to the roadmap; and we remain engaged intensively with them both, bringing about an end to terror, violence and the death of innocent people, and making possible progress toward the President's two-state vision remains the focus of our efforts with the parties.
And as I said already, the roadmap has commitments for both sides. And our message consistently calls upon Israelis and Palestinians to rededicate themselves to those objectives and carry out concrete steps on the ground.
So we will continue to work with those who are committed to pursuing the President's vision, what he laid out in June of last year, 2002. We are working with regional leaders, with international leaders, Secretary Powell, National Security Advisor Rice here in Washington, on the ground are Ambassador Kurtzer, Acting Consul General Mr. Feltman; Ambassador Wolf, you know, is there, in the region meeting with officials from both sides and encouraging them to remain engaged. And so the real issue, again, is confronting terror and violence, and that needs to be the focus of the Palestinian Authority's leadership.
QUESTION: Any elaboration at all about this discussion started by Deputy Secretary Armitage regarding multinational force in Iraq and under an American command? Any more elaboration on where the process goes from here or what sort of plan the U.S. is looking at?
MR. REEKER: Well, first of all, I don't think it is a discussion that was initiated by Deputy Secretary Armitage. It is a discussion that has been going on for some time, as he indicated. I think a number of you have looked at his comments in response to some questions from some of your colleagues in an interview. Secretary Powell, himself, said last week, after his meeting with Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, in New York, that we would be working with the Secretary General's staff, with our Security Council colleagues to see what steps might be taken to further encourage other United Nations member states to contribute to Iraq's rebuilding.
Remember there are already a number of states involved in the process, many of them with troops on the ground supporting the efforts there at stabilization and security. We are looking at language that may offer additional encouragement to countries. The Secretary has talked about that for some time. And they could possibly give more explicit encouragement to countries to contribute to stabilization efforts if countries need that.
Remember that Resolution 1483, we think, gives significant authority and scope for countries to contribute to Iraq's rebuilding. It is right up front in that resolution, and along with Resolution 1500, really provides for a vital United Nations role in the process. So we keep looking at ideas, exploring some of these ideas that are out there, exploring language.
But, as the Deputy Secretary noted yesterday -- actually the interview was two days ago -- we have got a long way to go. And there is really not a whole lot I can add to that. No determinations have been made. No decisions have been made. The exploration, the discussion, the dialogue in this process continues.
The important thing is that we are committed to our goals for Iraq, and that is to see a stable, and hopefully, prosperous country emerge. And we are talking to others in the international community about how we can best continue going about that.
QUESTION: On Iraq and reconstruction, can you say anything about these reports about Bechtel -- about more money being steered their way for the power generation?
MR. REEKER: I saw one particular report about it. And just to bring those up-to-date, because I couldn't remember all the details myself, the U.S. Agency for International Development, you will recall, awarded a contract to Bechtel for infrastructure development back on April 17th. And the top limit of that contract was $680 million, all of which has now been obligated.
The largest portions of that funding have gone to electricity, water and sanitation restoration, and rehabilitation and repair projects of the Iraqi infrastructure that was so wanting after years of neglect. There are discussions obviously on the need, if there is a need, to raise that cap, since they have met that cap now. And there are discussions ongoing, but there are no formal requests to raise the cap made to USAID thus far.
And, obviously, it would be subject to a number of issues like availability of funds remaining from the initial supplemental budget appropriation. And, you know, we just have to look and see where that was. So we continue to look at these things. Again, as the President said in his speech a couple of days ago, we are determined to meet our commitments and make sure that we have the resources to do so, and to discuss with Congress that that very issue, as necessary. So I think it is just a little premature at this point to figure --
QUESTION: Are you aware of any move to go over that cap outside of the AID?
MR. REEKER: No, I am not aware of any move to do that.
QUESTION: One of the reports said that Ambassador Bremer had signed off on --
MR. REEKER: I haven't -- I mean, in terms of, you know, discussing with Ambassador Bremer his needs, that is exactly what we do in looking at this overall picture, as the President himself indicated. And then we need to have a discussion with Congress about funding and making sure that we have the appropriate resources for it. There are going to be, obviously, extensive discussions with Congressional authorities on this. There's also a donors conference that is scheduled for October, I believe, in Madrid, which will also be a factor in terms of what resources are going to be necessary.
So at this point, I think that is about as far as I can go with it. Obviously, on the ground there are evolving needs as the calendar moves on and as the situation itself evolves, and we have to decide what is necessary to meet those needs.
As we have invested some in the infrastructure, we have also had cases of economic sabotage and systematic looting that has taken place in some of those projects. All of this goes into the mix of our discussions, but at this point, there is no formal request to raise the cap, and there is a process that has to be gone through before we can do that.
QUESTION: Is the State Department involved in the Administration's assessment of the quality of information it got from Iraqi defectors before the war, during the war, or --
MR. REEKER: I saw a report on that. I don't know anything about it. It referred to intelligence community people and I don't -- not aware of what it is talking about, frankly.
QUESTION: So the Department is not involved as far as you know?
MR. REEKER: I don't discuss intelligence matters, as a rule. But I am not aware of even what the report is talking about.
QUESTION: Yes, two quick questions. Has Paul Bremer actually met face-to-face, or did I miss something?
MR. REEKER: You missed something.
QUESTION: I missed something. Sorry about that.
MR. REEKER: Ambassador Bremer met with the Secretary day before yesterday.
QUESTION: Day before yesterday, okay. Secondly, you told us what the Palestinians should focus on. Can you give us an idea of what the Department of State is telling the Israeli Government that the Sharon government should focus on in order to get the peace plan back on the road?
MR. REEKER: What the Administration, what the U.S. Government is telling the Israeli Government, is exactly what I described. I talked about responsibilities, commitments on both sides. They are laid out in the roadmap. Those commitments were made by both sides, and both sides need to look at that and figure out what they can do to make good on those commitments, commitments they have made to us, to the whole world, and most importantly, to their own people, and that is the Israelis and Palestinians. And I think I was very clear on that, that there are commitments on both sides.
QUESTION: Can I just -- I think it is a matter of which goes first. The Palestine security officials that are saying, hey, Israel has to move to stop the assassinations, to stop the demolitions, to open up, and then they will be able to effectively -- I mean there is only one jail left in all of Palestine, and that is the one in Jericho, which can't be reached.
MR. REEKER: Gene, it is very clear, as I said, that we have got to stop the terror and the violence. And the organizations who are enemies of this process no doubt have got to be stopped, have got to be prevented from impeding, from complicating the efforts, which they are very determined to do.
So every effort has to be made to pull out, root and branch, the capability of terrorists and their organizations to commit these acts. That has been the main problem, that is, terror. And, as I said, though, both sides need to do more to advance the process.
And so I will say it once again that there are some who still fail to understand that there will never be a viable Palestinian state based on terror. The President has been quite clear in his vision of a viable, independent Palestinian state called Palestine, living in peace and security next to Israel. But that cannot be based on terror and wanton killing of innocent people.
QUESTION: But you don't reject assassinations?
MR. REEKER: Our policy on targeted killings is quite well known, Gene. It hasn't changed. I am not going to reiterate the whole thing today. Go back and read the transcripts over many days. We have been very clear about what is in the roadmap. That is what we have told the two sides they need to focus on and find ways to move ahead. We have got to end --
QUESTION: You have told Israel that she should stop the assassinations?
MR. REEKER: We have got to end the terror, the violence and the killing of innocent people.
Since Eli is related directly to this, and then we will come over here to Joel.
QUESTION: Within the last three hours --
MR. REEKER: I guess we are going to go to Joel first. Okay. We will go to Joel first.
QUESTION: Within the last three hours, Israeli Ambassador Ayalon has addressed a town hall meeting up at U.S. Congress for Congressional staffers and the press.
MR. REEKER: I wasn't there.
QUESTION: Okay. In that meeting, he did thank the President for his speeches and support, and did reiterate in the last day or a (inaudible) rocket was just fired at Ashqelon and also missed a power plant nearby. And he is saying that the great charade has to end.
Is there anything more that the State Department can do to ask other governments, the Egyptians and Jordanians, of course, have diplomatic ambitions --
MR. REEKER: Joel, you know, I am going to miss you giving me little briefings on what everybody all over the world said. I really am, because it is very helpful. I read a lot, and I hear a lot from people, and your input is very useful. But I think I have covered that. I have told you what not just the State Department, what the United States Government is doing in terms of our efforts to make everyone live up to their commitments. And that includes people in the region. Absolutely.
They have all committed, as part of the roadmap process, to doing all they can to make sure that we stop terror, to make sure that we can end funding, end the ability, the capability of these groups to perpetrate these acts, which are intentionally designed to disrupt the roadmap process, to prevent there from being a peace, and to ruin the dreams and aspirations of the Palestinian people and terrorize the Israelis, and it is unacceptable.
We all have to do our part and do everything we can to make this process work. So we are continuing to work with all those who are committed to it, and that includes regional and international leaders. This is something that is of great interest to the entire international community to see progress made in this very difficult situation. And so that is the gist of much of our diplomacy.
Now this is Eli's. Back to Eli.
QUESTION: This is very brief. It's on the roadmap. My understanding of the roadmap, after re-reading it, is that it references the Tenet Agreement prior. And the Tenet Agreement talks about targeted killings in the context of a ceasefire.
Does the State Department believe that the Israelis are still obligated under the Tenet agreement and the roadmap, which, and so forth, and so on, to refrain from these targeted killings, even though both sides now have said that there is no ceasefire?
MR. REEKER: What we have always said, Eli, is that Israel has a right to defend itself.
QUESTION: We know this.
MR. REEKER: Let's recall what happened in Jerusalem.
QUESTION: Well this is, no, it's just about the roadmap. It's just the roadmap.
MR. REEKER: Eli.
MR. REEKER: Let me answer your question, okay? I am going to miss your interruptions -- not.
MR. REEKER: All right. We have always said that Israel has a right to defend itself.
MR. REEKER: And as I was reminding you, you can think back to what happened on the Jerusalem bus just some days ago. But we have also pointed out to the parties, including Israel, that they need to keep in mind the consequences of actions they take, and they need to take into account what effect those actions -- the effect of those actions on the peace process -- bringing about an end to terror, to violence, to the death of innocent people, and making progress is the essence of the roadmap and the essence of the President's two-state vision, and that is our focus with the parties.
The roadmap contains these commitments. I will let you read them. You have. Others can read them. Everybody has got to make a concerted effort to follow those commitments, to meet those commitments and to move forward.
QUESTION: But --
MR. REEKER: Eli, we are just not going to go anymore.
QUESTION: Can you just say whether you think that the -- you can't speak to whether there is -- the roadmap has a blanket --
MR. REEKER: Eli, I am not going to do the --
QUESTION: -- or on all targeted killings, or the spirit of the essence, or is it just in the context of the ceasefire? I mean, it is a fair question.
MR. REEKER: I have answered your question.
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything more to add to your parsing of it.
QUESTION: A new subject?
MR. REEKER: Anything else?
QUESTION: Please. QUESTION: No, no, no.
MR. REEKER: You have got a lot more behind you, Charlie, sorry.
QUESTION: Earlier this month -- do you guys have any comment or any reaction to this lawsuit that's been filed naming the Secretary and Attorney General Ashcroft, filed by some Tamil sympathizers out in federal court in LA on August 5th?
MR. REEKER: I haven't seen it, so I am not aware of it. Maybe it is something I missed, but I would refer you to the Justice Department. If it is filed in American court, the Justice Department would be handling that, so --
QUESTION: Well, it named Secretary Powell so, and it has to do with terrorism designation for the Tamil Tigers. Similar, you had things to say when other groups such as the Iranian -- the Iranian opposition filed similar suits. You don't have -- you don't know anything?
MR. REEKER: Don't have anything on it. Don't know about the case. Happy to look into it and let someone else answer it for you next week.
Let's go to the back and take one. Yes.
QUESTION: Can you confirm the upcoming meeting between the Secretary and Dalai Lama? And also, the Chinese Government has opposed this any meeting between administration officials and Dalai Lama. Are you going to go ahead anyways?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any details on schedules at all. The Dalai Lama, who is a Nobel Laureate and revered religious leader, will be in Washington, I understand, for events surrounding the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks -- so in the next couple of weeks. Like I said, I don't have any details to give you on his schedule at this time. When he visited I think, most recently, in 2001, the Dalai Lama did meet both with the President and Secretary Powell, and obviously on this trip he will meet with appropriate U.S. officials in his capacity as a religious leader.
I think I would just add that we have certainly been encouraged by the two visits of the Dalai Lama's special envoys to China over the past year and we hope that that process can lead to substantive dialogue and resolution of longstanding areas of difference. We certainly encourage that.
Well, go ahead and -- one and then forward.
QUESTION: Me? Okay. Thank you, Mr. Reeker. In your statement yesterday, you let know that the U.S. Administration joins the new designation of the National Electoral Council in Venezuela. Now, a key figure of the President Chavez government is here in Washington to have a meeting today with some officials of the State Department. The topic of the conversation will be the electoral process in Venezuela? Do you have any details on that?
MR. REEKER: I don't know anything about anybody visiting so I will have to check into that. I'm afraid if that is the case, that bureau didn't let me know. So, I'm glad you read my statement yesterday.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: And we do welcome the Supreme Court's appointment of the new Electoral Council, or Commission, but I will have to check into any visiting officials.
QUESTION: Do you have anything further to say about Schroeder's proposal to expand the German presence in Afghanistan to north Kabul? And would you mind restating what the U.S. policy is on expanding NATO force outside of Kabul?
MR. REEKER: You know the U.S. and I think the rest of the international community recognize the importance of improving security through Afghanistan. That is something that we are constantly reviewing.
To get to your specific question, contrary to some of the media reports that I have seen, we do not oppose the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force. Any expansion of the Force, obviously, or of its authority, would require revision of its mandate by the UN Security Council.
And NATO, as the lead of the International Security Assistance Force would have to agree to that change. We strongly have supported NATO's leadership of the force. That has reflected NATO's growing contributions to global security outside of its traditional area of operations; and we are working closely with the Alliance and members of the Alliance -- that would include Germany, obviously -- with the Force itself and our coalition partners and with the Afghan Government, to develop an approach that best meets the needs of the security situation in Afghanistan.
So we will just have to see through these discussions with all the various parties and groups I mentioned, what appears to be the best course of action.
The mandate for the International Security Force will come up for renewal in December. And obviously, even before that time, the Security Council has the option of altering such a mandate before its expiration, but we will just have to see. So I don't have any particular, you know, announcements or news at this point. But contrary to some of the reports you have seen, we don't oppose expansion of ISAF, it is just something that needs to be looked at and determined what is the best course of action.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. REEKER: On Afghanistan? Sure.
QUESTION: Phil, it seems to me that Afghanistan is back now what it was two years ago because Talibans are back now and holding a number of cities, according to the reports. And now, according to ABC radio last night, they are coming from Pakistan, based on Pakistani now a haven for terrorists and including Al-Qaidas and Talibans. So where do Afghanistan future stands now after, because it was the main focus as far as terrorism was concerned for the war against terrorism?
MR. REEKER: Well, it is a major focus of ours in terms of reconstruction, in terms of security, in terms of continuing the great progress that there has been in Afghanistan. And I am afraid I have to just say you are wrong to suggest that things are -- in Afghanistan -- are like they were two years ago. That is simply wrong, and I think the people you should ask are the Afghan people who don't live under the persecutions of the Taliban regime, who are concerned about security, and so are we; and that is something we're working on -- working on with NATO, with others in the international community, to continue to do that.
But while we continue to try to improve security, the Afghan people have freedom, and they have opportunity. They have freedom to think, freedom to act, freedom to go to school, even if they are women. They have health care. They have more opportunities in the economic sector. There is construction going on, and there is improving security in many parts of the country.
So we keep working on it. We stick with our commitments. We aren't turned back or turned away by negative reports or by some setbacks. What we have to do is keep working on this with the Afghan people, with the Afghan Government, which continues to work according to the Bonn Agreement on a process toward a permanent government there. And we are going to support them in that effort.
QUESTION: But Phil, many schools have been destroyed by the recent Taliban attacks in Afghanistan and --
MR. REEKER: -- I don't know the statistics or things you are citing. There are unfortunate incidents like there are all over the world. Terrorism is still a problem, but the situation for the people of Afghanistan is inarguably much better than it was previously under that regime, and we are going to continue to work with the Afghan people, themselves, to make sure it is better so that they have stability, peace, security and prosperity.
QUESTION: Different region. Can you confirm that the U.S. Government has either gotten copies or at least seen videotape showing that these three U.S. contractors who disappeared in Colombia are actually alive?
I believe Cofer Black has been quoted on this already.
MR. REEKER: Different region.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. I said different region.
MR. REEKER: Oh, okay. I thought you said same region.
QUESTION: No, I said different region.
MR. REEKER: I thought it was a late in life geography lesson -- okay, different region. Okay, going back to Colombia, the same region that --
QUESTION: Right. That's when I started raising my hand --
MR. REEKER: -- your colleague talked about before.
I had seen the reports of this. We are aware of this videotape that shows three American contract workers. These were the Americans that were kidnapped by the FARC terrorists back in February.
We know that some of the families of the three men have been shown the videotape. We have been working with the Government of Colombia to obtain the safe release of the American hostages without making concessions to the terrorists holding them.
The Department of State is working with the FBI on the matter and as I said, coordinating with the Colombian Government. We obviously hold the terrorists responsible for the safety and well-being of the hostages. And I just can't get into any specifics in terms of the origin of the videotape. And I just would not want to speculate about next steps, but obviously we feel that they should be released.
QUESTION: No assessment on the legitimacy of the tape? What about that?
MR. REEKER: I can't give you any assessment like that at this point.
Yes. Same region this time.
QUESTION: Phil, first, I want to thank you for many years of help and we're going to miss you a lot.
MR. REEKER: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Argentina: President Kirchner has lifted, or is working on lifting the amnesty against the -- or, the amnesty favoring the military who were involved in the dirty war and tortures, disappearances. Does the State Department's Bureau of Human Rights have anything on that and are we --
MR. REEKER: I would have to look into it. If there is something new or there actually is a new development, we would have to get back to you on that. I don't have anything new on that at this point.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the case of Charles Lee, who is a U.S. citizen jailed in China?
MR. REEKER: I do not have any updates at this point. I am happy to keep asking. I don't think I have anything new since the last time we talked about it.
QUESTION: Are you aware that the U.S. Consul and a Shanghai official -- are they about to pay consular visit to the prison in Beijing?
MR. REEKER: I would have to check in. I can ask for an update and see what the status of that is, but I don't have anything new for you today.
QUESTION: Phil, can you tell us what role the State Department had, if any, in defusing this nascent diplomatic crisis over a practical joke played on the President's chef by a French television or newspaper while he was in Paris?
MR. REEKER: Matt, I don't have any idea what you are talking about.
QUESTION: Tell him. Do tell.
QUESTION: Okay. I'll send you the story.
MR. REEKER: Okay.
QUESTION: I understand that there were some diplomats in Paris involved. They haven't told you about it?
MR. REEKER: Haven't told me about it. There is a big world out there and a lot of people who try to tell me a lot of things.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Iran for a minute?
MR. REEKER: Back to Iran. Okay.
QUESTION: Iran. (Inaudible) was apparently saying that he acknowledged that they had found traces of enriched -- traces of enriched uranium had been found, but he blamed contaminated imports. Is that a satisfactory explanation to you?
MR. REEKER: I did not see his particular remarks, and I think what I said yesterday about the IAEA report was we are going to read the IAEA report, we are going to study it, we are going to discuss it, we are going to meet with the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna September 8th through 12th, so in a couple of weeks' time, and I am just not going to discuss details of the report at this point.
I think we have made quite clear, and I will refer you back to what I said yesterday, once again, what we thing Iran needs to do, and that is take immediate action to sign up to the additional protocol and that is still very much our position on this.
QUESTION: With what's gone on now in Liberia, are you at all content with what ECOWAS is doing, and are they capable of settling these battles between LURD and MODEL?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I really have more of an update from what we discussed earlier this week. We had been concerned about the renewed violence in Liberia and we had called on all of the parties to live up to their obligations and cease provocative actions and comply with the terms of the peace agreement. So that is still what we are focused on there, and I just don't have anything to add, particularly.
I think the ECOMIL, that is, the military deployment under the Economic Community of West African States Organization is doing a very good job. They have an important role to play and all of the parties need to cooperate fully with them in establishing the Joint Monitoring Committee that was called for under the peace agreement. So we will continue to be in touch with the parties, with other regional players, and also with Jacques Klein who is the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Liberia to see that the peace is implemented, and we are very active trying to make sure that this humanitarian material can get in now that the port is secure and distribution can take place to relieve the humanitarian situation, which has really been so dire.
QUESTION: Yes, Phil. I'm just wondering, can you talk a little bit about the evolution of U.S. foreign policy toward Europe since the Cold War with specific references to Southeast Europe, and particularly the Balkans?
MR. REEKER: Well, Matt, we would be here all day. But certainly that has been something that I have been quite interested in and I think we have seen a lot of that. It is something I hope I will have a chance to talk about a bit in the next few months as I travel around a bit in this country and abroad talking about U.S. foreign policy and some of the things you guys failed to write about -- some of the great successes, some of the progress we have seen, some of the transformations we have seen, certainly since the end of the Cold War, the different dynamics that exist in the world today, but what we are all working towards. And in Europe, the transformation of Europe itself -- countries that have prospered under the freedom that they got with the end of the Cold War, the end of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union, and they have had a chance to have an entire new generation.
And so there are some good stories there and we will be happy to talk about it a bit more.
Are there any other real questions?
QUESTION: One more quick one. What role U.S. is playing, as far as peace is concerned in Nepal and Sri Lanka?
MR. REEKER: Certainly, we have talked about our role in Sri Lanka. I don't have anything new to add for you there. And we did discuss Nepal, I believe, yesterday when I deplored the end of the ceasefire, since the Maoist rebels announced that they were going to end the seven-month-long ceasefire. We continue to believe strongly that this conflict in Nepal has to be settled through peaceful and diplomatic means.
QUESTION: I just have one more. Could you remind us again what the U.S. policy is on targeted killings?
MR. REEKER: No, but wait. And wait, wait, wait. Sit down, Elise. No.
No, what I can do is I just do want to take an opportunity to thank you all for putting up with me, as much as I have put up with you, for four years.
I want to thank Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage for their continuous support. And I would also like to thank former Secretary of State Albright, since I served in this capacity under her, as well. And, of course, I want to thank Ambassador Richard Boucher, who asked me to do this job and to be his deputy, and it has been a real honor to do so.
Certainly, we have to remember our friends in the Press Office, who make all of this happen. I don't come up here with this knowledge in my head. They put it together for me and help me do a mind-meld. So particularly, Julie Reside and Nancy Beck, and their whole team: Sheila Goode, who brings me my water and my glass every day, and colleagues throughout the Public Affairs Bureau, and really throughout this whole building who contribute to this process because our goal is to be as transparent as possible, to extract what information we can from this building and try to present it to you, to give you some context and pass that on to the American people.
So I want to thank all of my Department of State colleagues from around the world, frankly, for support over the last four years, as I have been involved in this work, and certainly in the last 11 years, where I have been in the Foreign Service.
I will continue to be in the Foreign Service and go on to some new things. The State Department really is made up of a remarkable group of thousands of diverse individuals who dedicate themselves to a better world I think, to implementation of American foreign policy, and to promoting our security, our prosperity and our values around the world. It is really quite an honor to be a part of that and quite an honor to speak on behalf of the Secretary of State and the entire State Department.
So thank you, again, for allowing me to do that. And I wish you all a very happy weekend, and the best in the future. Take care.
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