State Department Daily Briefing, April 14


Monday  April 14, 2003

State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker conducted the department's daily press briefing April 14. Following is the State Department transcript: (begin transcript) U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2003 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman Daily Press Briefing Index IRAQ -- Safeguarding antiquities and cultural property -- Role of UNESCO -- Looting in Iraqi Cities -- Meeting with Rafeeuddin Ahmed on UN's role in Post War Iraq -- Media in Iraq -- Nasiriya Meeting -- Iraqi Interim Authority -- Future of Iraq Project -- U.S. Ambassador Margaret Tutwiler's Departure to Iraq -- Role of France/Germany/Russia in Reconstruction -- Coalition Forces in Kirkuk -- Representative Government in Iraq SYRIA -- Concerns over Terrorism/Weapons of Mass Destruction -- Concerns over Syria's border with Iraq -- Frequent Meetings with Syrian Officials -- Harboring Members of the Iraqi Regime STATE DEPARTMENT -- Secretary Powell's Call to King Mohamed VI of Morocco -- Secretary Powell's Call to Foreign Minister Palacio of Spain -- Secretary Powell's Call to Foreign Minister Papandreou of Greece UNITED NATIONS -- Humanitarian Needs in Iraq VENEZUELA -- Condemnation of the Bombing in Caracas NORTH KOREA -- Talks with New York Channel NATO -- Expansion of NATO MR. REEKER: Good afternoon. I hope everybody had a chance to have lunch before the briefing this time. It may be a good idea to start late. You all got an opportunity to hear from the Secretary this morning when he spoke with you from C Street. Further to some of his comments, we will be putting out a statement a bit later this afternoon -- I'll get you the paper copy of that -- on cooperation for the safeguarding of Iraqi antiquities and cultural property because, as the Secretary indicated, this is a serious issue. The people of the United States of America value the archeological and cultural heritage of Iraq that documents over 10,000 years of the development of civilization. Obviously, we have all seen the distressing reports that, in recent days, the national museums in Baghdad and in Mosul have been looted, as well as some other institutions and cultural sites. This kind of looting, as the Secretary indicated, causes irretrievable loss to the understanding of history and to the efforts of Iraqi and international scholars to study and gain new insight into our past. And so we would point out that objects and documents taken from the museums and sites are the property of the Iraqi nation and, under Iraqi law, they are, therefore, stolen property, whether found in Iraq or in other nations; and anyone knowingly possessing or dealing in such objects is committing a crime. Such individuals may be prosecuted under Iraqi law, and here in the United States may be prosecuted under the U.S. National Stolen Property Act. So the Iraqi people, as well as members of the coalition forces and others, are warned not to handle these artifacts; in particular, we would point out that Americans are asked not to purchase or otherwise trade in such objects, as they belong to the nation of Iraq and are stolen property. So, as the Secretary indicated, we will be working with others. The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance will help Iraqis and international experts in their efforts to restore artifacts and catalogues of antiquities that were damaged by the looters, and a senior advisor to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs, Ambassador John Limbert, is going to take the lead in this effort. So we are working through Interpol to pursue broader international law enforcement efforts to help locate and return these items to Iraq before they make it into international crime channels. And as Secretary Powell mentioned to you earlier, we have also been in touch with UNESCO, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, regarding a constructive role that they can play in safeguarding Iraqi antiquities. So we will put that out in a little more detail on paper later after the briefing. Questions on this or other subjects? QUESTION: Yeah, I have a question on this. MR. REEKER: Matt. QUESTION: But I think if it's addressed in the statement, then don't bother to answer it now. But who exactly has been in touch with UNESCO? Where is that? MR. REEKER: It just so happens that the UNESCO Executive Board is meeting this week in Paris, so our observer delegation to that meeting is there. But we have an observer to UNESCO, as you know, who works out of our embassy in Paris, so through those channels we've been in touch. QUESTION: Have you not reestablished a -- MR. REEKER: As the President announced, you will recall, last September, the United States will return to UNESCO and we are tentatively scheduled to rejoin on October 1st of this year. But we have not yet named a U.S. ambassador and we are working out the discussions of how that will -- QUESTION: Does not being a member now affect any -- affect your dealings with them? MR. REEKER: Not that I am aware of. We have an observer status, and so we go through those channels. QUESTION: All right. And then the last thing on this is did -- you said that people who take these things may be prosecuted under Iraqi law? Well, who, exactly, is enforcing that? Anyone? MR. REEKER: Well, that's something that would emerge over time, Matt, but these are crimes. The point is that anybody that is knowingly possessing or dealing with these objects is violating laws and so, okay -- QUESTION: Right. And the last thing you said was that the coalition, or one of the things you said, coalition forces are warned not to handle or touch these things? It was my understanding that, and there were witnesses, plenty of them, who saw coalition forces actually helping move some of the stuff. I mean not to steal it, obviously to protect it. MR. REEKER: To protect it. Yes, obviously in the context of doing the right thing -- QUESTION: Okay. MR. REEKER: -- in terms of handling and I don't think there is any suggestion that coalition forces have been involved in the unfortunate looting. There are those, obviously, that in the course of events in Baghdad have been involved in that and we have seen that, but it is of concern to us, so we are going to work with Iraqis and with others. Terri. QUESTION: The U.S. Government was reportedly warned that this would be a target of looting, so why, why wasn't more done to not -- to stop it from getting to this case, which is far down the road? You say things have been damaged but, from the press reports, it seems like everything's been destroyed. Why didn't the United States try to stop it? MR. REEKER: I think you would need to talk to Central Command, who has been fighting a war in Baghdad and other places. As you know, in recent days, we have made great progress in that effort, but while there are pockets of resistance, while there are still priorities in terms of the security, the whole point is, this is important to us, and that is why we are working with others and making the statements that I have just made. And I think the Pentagon has already briefed both from Central Command in Doha and from my colleague, Ms. Clarke's, briefing today to that regard. QUESTION: So the State Department role just came in when it was time to clean up? You also couldn't try to safeguard -- MR. REEKER: The State Department is not on the ground in Iraq, Terri, and has not been -- QUESTION: I understand that, Phil. MR. REEKER: Yeah. QUESTION: But you're making the statement about it today as a high concern of the State Department, so I'm just wondering why it wasn't prepared in advance. MR. REEKER: Right. We are highlighting the situation. The State Department is the one that obviously deals with UNESCO and other organizations, with Interpol, as I indicated, and the Secretary highlighted that for you this morning. Anything else on this subject? (No response.) MR. REEKER: No? George. QUESTION: Do you have anything on the visit of Kofi Annan's Special Advisor on Iraq, who is in town today? MR. REEKER: Mr. Ahmed, yes. I think we talked a little bit to some of you about that Friday afternoon. We, as you will recall, welcomed the appointment of Rafeeuddin Ahmed as the UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on Iraq last week. And, at our invitation, Mr. Ahmed is in Washington today for a series of meetings with officials from the State Department, from the U.S. Agency for International Development, from the Defense Department, and also the National Security Council, obviously, discussing then UN's role in the post-conflict period in Iraq. And, of course, this follows on from the commitments that the President has made, that Prime Minister Blair made at Hillsborough, that the United Nations will play a vital role in Iraq's reconstruction. And so this is a first opportunity to have this fairly comprehensive -- it is a full day of meetings here in Washington to just exchange thoughts and ideas, and see where we will go from here. Joel. QUESTION: Question: The communications outlets, I guess, or distribution in Iraq has been out, and, of course, they have state-run newspapers, television. Is much of what's gone on in the way of looting, can you attribute that to the -- basically, the failure to switch over to, I guess, a coalition television and radio network? Of course, the newspapers have to take a little bit of time because there is -- MR. REEKER: I am not sure if I can accept all of the premise of your questions. You might want to talk to some of those on the ground who are briefing on the exact situation in Baghdad. I do believe that the coalition forces have begun -- some days ago -- providing television and radio broadcasts within Iraq utilizing equipment they have been able to bring in, and utilizing existing Iraqi channels for that sort of thing. But I think Department of Defense or CENTCOM could give you a better idea of that. And, obviously, that will be one area for the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance to work on, and we would hope as we move ahead in days and months to come that independent media would be an important part of the redevelopment of Iraqi civil society. Eli. QUESTION: Did you have a follow-up, Joel? QUESTION: Yeah, I do have a follow-up. MR. REEKER: Yes. QUESTION: The Interior Minister of Pakistan has said that the U.S. policies are polarizing the world, and, of course, there is various opinions, I would assume, coming out of various countries. How do you characterize his statement? MR. REEKER: I am not quite sure how that follows up on media inside Iraq. QUESTION: With respect to the coalition forces in Iraq. MR. REEKER: I think, Joel, what we have seen over the last several days is a welcoming by the people of Iraq of their liberation by coalition forces, the fact that they no longer have to live in fear of Saddam Hussein. We have seen more and more stories in media all around the world about the horrible conditions under which the people of Iraq have been forced to live for more than two decades. We have seen stories from media representatives talking about the stories they were unable to tell for fear of retribution. And so I think there is an opportunity now, as well as covering the immediate situation on the ground in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, to also review and tell the story of what the people of Iraq have endured in terms of the torture, in terms of the disappearances, in terms of some of the horrific things that we have read and spoken about. And so I think the world will unite in that, and our hope would be that everybody would put their energies now toward the reconstruction of Iraq, toward supporting the Iraqi people in building a new life for themselves, rebuilding their structures, their civic structures, as well as their infrastructure, which has been neglected for so long. And they have a great opportunity to do that, and I think President Bush and Secretary Powell have made quite clear our commitment to helping with that. Now, Eli was going to go next. QUESTION: Can you say -- tell us about some of the Iraqis who have been living in Iraq who are invited to the Nasiriya meeting tomorrow? MR. REEKER: I don't think I am going to go into any great detail on that. As you know, there were Iraqis living, as you just pointed out, inside Iraq, those who have emerged as potential leaders to take part in this first of a series of meetings that the Secretary addressed again just a short time ago, as well as Iraqis representing groups from outside of Iraq who have worked very hard to see the day where Iraq would be liberated from Saddam Hussein. So this meeting which will take place in Nasiriya tomorrow will bring together liberated Iraqis from these newly freed areas of Iraq, as well as members of the Iraqi opposition, many of whom we have worked with on the Future of Iraq project, and that will happen tomorrow in Nasiriya. I think the Secretary already mentioned for you, but I will remind you, that President Bush's Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is going to lead a U.S. delegation to that meeting, and our Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Ryan Crocker, an Arabic speaker, will attend and will lead much of that discussion. QUESTION: Can I follow up, Phil? When you talk about leaders inside of Iraq, are you referring to people who were maybe sort of mid-level apparatchiks in the regime? Or are you talking about -- have you found dissidents in the prisons? Are you talking about tribal leaders? Are you talking about religious leaders? I mean can you give us any more specifics? Because, you know, as you can imagine, it's a little unclear right now what happens to all of the sort of bureaucrats in this terrible regime the U.S. has just toppled. MR. REEKER: I think what we are looking at is a broad coverage. Of course, as the Secretary has indicated, as Ambassador Boucher discussed, I think, the end of last week with you, this will not be the first of these, what some have called town hall meetings, but this will be the first of what will not be the last. There will be many of these, we would hope, around different parts of Iraq. Even in the early days as parts of Iraq were liberated, you see the emergence of local leaders, tribal leaders, community leaders, and these are the people we are trying to identify who will have interesting things to say, we believe, commentary and input into how they would view their future and to discussing their futures and ideas regarding the Iraqi interim authority, which, as you know, we want to form -- see the Iraqis form as soon as possible. So that is the kind of groups we'll be looking at. Exactly where they come from, where they are drawn, will remain to be seen as we go on with this project. But I think people do emerge, and those on the ground are able to identify people who have exhibited an interest or potential for leadership or can represent particular groups within their communities. QUESTION: But you can't answer the question about ties to the former regime? I mean, would there be some sort of -- MR. REEKER: Not specifically. I think we want to make sure that Ba'athist elements of -- whether it's ministries or other structures, cadres, are eliminated. But as we look at ministries, one of the things we'll be seeing is there may be some very skilled civil servants, others that don't have those strong links or ties to Saddam's repressive regime, who may bring something to the table. But that is part of what the Garner group will do is work and liaise with those ministries to see how they can move ahead to bring those important structures of civil society back into operation. Jonathan. QUESTION: Yeah, a follow-up on that. Firstly, can you provide us with a list of participants tomorrow? MR. REEKER: No, I can't right now and I will -- QUESTION: No, tomorrow after the meeting. MR. REEKER: I will find out. They will probably release one there, I would think. We will leave it to the people there. QUESTION: And secondly, are any of those civil society people who took part in the Future of Iraq project also taking part in the meeting in Nasiriyah tomorrow? MR. REEKER: I believe I said a few minutes ago, if I said what I have in front of me, that the liberated Iraqis will include representatives from the Future of Iraq project that are schedule to meet tomorrow. So the exact makeup of the list, as you know, I am not in a position to share at this point, but those are representatives, those being Iraqis who were outside of the country and working with us and working with others thinking about the future of Iraq. You will recall we had many, many different working groups under that project to focus on different aspects of the society so that already, over many months, they have been able to plan for this time, post-Saddam Hussein. Matt. QUESTION: Can you tell us what Ambassador Tutwiler is going to be doing in Iraq? MR. REEKER: Yes. Ambassador -- it's the U.S. Ambassador, of course, to the Kingdom of Morocco. Ambassador Margaret Tutwiler is going to depart Morocco soon and serve temporarily as a special envoy of President Bush assisting the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq. She is going to help coordinate the public communications there at that office. And I think the decision to have Ambassador Tutwiler travel there does reflect the high importance that we place on public affairs and communications efforts in post-war Iraq, kind of reflecting on Joel's question a bit earlier. Secretary Powell spoke personally to King Mohamed VI on Saturday and provided assurances to the King that Ambassador Tutwiler will return. She remains the U.S. Ambassador to Morocco and she'll return following this temporary assignment to [Iraq]. So we appreciate the Moroccan Government's understanding and concurrence with this decision and expect her to be in Iraq for several weeks. QUESTION: What, exactly, will she do? Will she be a spokesperson? MR. REEKER: I think, you know, that will remain to be seen. Precisely, she is going to help coordinate communications. As you know, she has a lot of experience in that regard and we will much appreciate that. We will be able to work with her from here, as well, and just coordinate all the interest on the ground. As you know, many of your colleagues are already there in Iraq now, in Baghdad, in other parts of Iraq, and so communications will be an important part of the work of General Garner's group as they proceed forward with their responsibilities. QUESTION: You had to get the Moroccans' permission to do this? MR. REEKER: I didn't say that. QUESTION: Well, you said, "concurrence." MR. REEKER: I think they, you know, they understand and concurred that this was a good thing to do. QUESTION: Was there some -- you guys had some concern that they would think they were being neglected or something if -- I'm not trying to be snide, I'm just trying to figure out why, you know, did the King of Morocco think, for some reason -- MR. REEKER: In diplomacy, Matt, we usually, you know, you send an envoy and the host government accepts that envoy, and then you call, and, as the Secretary did on Saturday, explained to King Mohamed that we are going to ask Ambassador Tutwiler to go temporarily to Iraq, and he concurred that that was a good idea. QUESTION: Okay. MR. REEKER: Betsy. QUESTION: On the question of Syria. There's been a lot of language the last few days -- MR. REEKER: Been a lot of questions from you and your colleagues. QUESTION: Yeah, well. MR. REEKER: So it just generates more language. QUESTION: A lot of -- what's the word to describe it? A lot of sort of puffed-up language about how concerned we are about Syria and that Syria should hand over Iraqis and that they should sort of take a lesson from what happened in Iraq. The EU, in a statement today, was asking this country to sort of lower its rhetoric on this question. And I am wondering whether the U.S. is willing to follow through on this rhetoric. I mean you seem to be threatening Syria with some sort of action. MR. REEKER: Betsy, I would point you to the Secretary's remarks. He spoke to all of you. He answered, I think, three questions on Syria and was quite clear about our concerns, as have others been. We have had some longstanding concerns about Syria that we have talked about from this podium certainly for years. In terms of active support for terrorism, we know that Syria has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since we have been listing such things. We have also had concerns about weapons of mass destruction and missile programs. That is publicly available, as you know, in what we call the 721 Report that you are all quite familiar with. So I don't think much of the language you refer to is particularly new. I think Secretary Powell made it quite clear that we are concerned that there are these issues with Syria. As Foreign Secretary Straw of the United Kingdom indicated as well, there is questions that Syria needs to ask, and some things that Syria needs to think about in terms of their future. We are entering a new stage in the region now where we won't have and don't have Saddam Hussein as a threat to the stability of the region. It's a great opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their country and have a stable country. And it's the kind of thing that Syria can also think about, in terms of how they want to deal in the region and deal internationally. So we hope that the Syrians, as well as others, would reexamine their practices, past practices, past behavior, and give some thought to that. And I think that's what the statements from U.S. officials and others have reflected. And the specific concerns we have had about the border, as Secretary Powell indicated to you, we are keeping in very close touch with the Syrians about that. They have told us that their border is closed to all but humanitarian travel. And we hope that, in fact, that's the case. As Secretary Powell indicated, it's a porous border, so we watch that closely as well. And when it comes to the question of representatives of the former Iraqi regime, senior Iraqi officials, those most directly involved in the barbarity and the viciousness of Saddam Hussein's regime, which included people involved in the development of weapons of mass destruction, we don't want to see them, and we wouldn't think the Syrians would want to see them in Syria. So, as the Secretary noted, Syria has a choice to make, and we hope they will make the right one. And that's the message that we continue to convey through our diplomacy. Elise. QUESTION: Also in Syria, Syrian officials say that while the U.S. has made these accusations about chemical weapons, Iraqis being harbored in their country, things like that, that this administration has not offered them concrete details, hard evidence, that would prove and help them substantiate the fact that they are not cooperating. MR. REEKER: I think we have a continuing dialogue with Syria and with Syrian officials. As I indicated, our ambassador, Ambassador Kattouf, meets regularly, so do others on his staff, with Syrian officials, counterparts, in Damascus. We certainly raise these issues in other conversations with Syrian officials. And it is exactly what I have reflected here, that these are the concerns we have, these are the things we would want Syria to think about, we would want them to address, specifically with the border and questions about weapons of mass destruction or questions about those from Saddam Hussein's regime who would seek refuge in their country, and really ask themselves, "Are these the type of people you want in your country?" We'll continue to have that dialogue and we'll continue to discuss with them information that we have or other things that concern us, so that we can hope the Syrians will address them. QUESTION: If I can follow up. I understand what you're saying. But what the Syrians are saying is that they say they are concerned about these allegations, and they want specific details, without getting into any intelligence matters that you might -- what that intelligence might be. Have you shared with the Syrians actual specific and detailed information that is proof of your concerns or that give you reason for these concerns that they can either substantiate or do something about? MR. REEKER: We'll continue to have our conversations with Syria through our diplomatic channels, and we're going to keep those private conversations and not try to conduct them through the press or through the public. We have made clear what our concerns are. Some of them are longstanding issues that you are all quite aware of that have been out there for many, many years. And I will just reiterate what I said. These are questions that Syria needs to address, things Syria needs to think about, as they think about their own future and how they want to relate with not only other countries in the region, but also with the rest of the international community. Next to you. Yes, ma'am. QUESTION: Why is it so important to start talking about this publicly in the last few days if you have been having these continuing private conversations for so long? MR. REEKER: You are the one that ask me the questions. So we have gone through this. You are not a regular at our briefing room. But I think the issue comes up quite frequently about Syria, about state sponsors of terrorism, about concern over weapons of mass destruction. We have a lot of public reports, including the report that I mentioned that's a CIA report that is put out twice a year. It is a report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technologies Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, to give you the full name of it; and that has consistently outlined -- every time it is released, every six months -- our concerns with respect to Syria, in terms of its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. QUESTION: If I may follow up, even though I am not a regular. It's absolutely clear that your rhetoric has ratcheted way up in the last few days. MR. REEKER: I think, you know, I have been asked this question now two or three times, so has the Secretary, so have others, and you have heard all of the answers. These are our concerns. We have continued to answer your questions as they get raised about the concerns we have and our hopes in terms of how Syria will look at them. Those are the answers, and there is an ongoing dialogue with Syria about that. They aren't new concerns, although clearly the idea of Iraqi officials, or things leaving Iraq and going to Syria, those would be newer issues. But the overall issues that we have been talking about in terms of concerns about Syria, with regard to terrorism, with regard to weapons of mass destruction, many of those are longstanding issues. And that's the kind of thing we want to see addressed. Jonathan. QUESTION: The Syrians, in response to this, have said several times in the last few days, and indeed for some years, that they would welcome full disclosure under UN auspices of all weapons of mass destruction in the region. What does the United States think of that proposal? MR. REEKER: I am not aware of those specific proposals, Jonathan, and I would have to go back -- QUESTION: Could you prepare an answer, though? Because it's quite clear that they've made that, made that proposal? MR. REEKER: I will go back and see what we said about it in the past, if it is something that has been a regular topic. Eli. QUESTION: I, too, would like to know the answer. But are you prepared at this point, given that you've been talking about specific allegations, specifically about the border, itself, and whether individuals have crossed it in both directions, and the Syrians have denied this, are you prepared at this point to say that the Syrian Government is lying? MR. REEKER: Eli, I am prepared to say what I have already said, what Secretary Powell has said, what other senior U.S. Government officials have said on the record, and I don't really have anything more to say. We -- QUESTION: Well, someone has to be lying based on what both governments have said on the record. MR. REEKER: We have made clear our concerns. These are things that can continue to be discussed through the diplomatic channels that we have, and that is what we are going to do. And I don't have anything else to add at this point. QUESTION: Phil. Can I just follow up again? MR. REEKER: Yes. QUESTION: In the view of the United States, is there, in fact, any legal impediment under international law to Syria developing chemical weapons? MR. REEKER: Jonathan, I would have to go get a legal analysis for you to determine whether there are legal impediments. It's not a question I can answer for you. I will find out what our longstanding views are. QUESTION: Do you think that you can make these accusations and make these threats without actually considering any -- the legal basis for -- MR. REEKER: I am not aware of the threats that you are talking about. I am not aware of threats having been made. I'm talking -- I'm aware of what we have said quite publicly are the things that concern us. Those are the things that we will address in our continuing discussions with Syria, as well as others within the international community. QUESTION: Okay, could you take the question on how you see the legal basis -- what the legal basis is for a complaint against Syria's -- MR. REEKER: We can have concerns about how a country behaves and what they are doing, and we can express those concerns. We have every right to do that, and we do. If they have concerns, they can express their concerns. That's what discussion and diplomacy is about, and that's what we are engaged in at this time. QUESTION: Fine. MR. REEKER: Matt. QUESTION: But can I at least -- could you at least take a question on how you see the legal position under international law of those programs? MR. REEKER: I don't know. I will look into whether it is something we have addressed before and you can go find for yourself, or whether we will have something else -- QUESTION: So, can I, just to -- QUESTION: Did the Secretary -- MR. REEKER: Yes. Can we just keep going? QUESTION: Well, okay. Well, still on Syria. MR. REEKER: Yes, Eli. QUESTION: Can you just explain how, you know, there's been a lot of talk about how you want to continue to raise these concerns and have these discussions in private. The Secretary talked about this morning. But how does that get you to a resolution of the issue if both of the sides do not agree on the truthfulness of the original accusation? I mean, I'm just, I don't understand how talking about something that people don't agree happened gets you anywhere. MR. REEKER: Well, Eli, you are not in the room -- QUESTION: No, I'm not in the room. Okay. MR. REEKER: -- when those talks take place, and you're not going to be in the room when those talks take place. QUESTION: Okay. MR. REEKER: Of that I am fairly confident. QUESTION: Okay. MR. REEKER: And so we're going to continue to have the diplomacy we have and we are not going to try to conduct it all publicly from here or from any other point around the globe. The Secretary of State has made clear, as has the President, the issues that are of concern to us, often in response to your questions, as I have done here today. We have talked to the Syrians about this on a regular basis. We have said that to you every time that we have been to Syria. Whether it was Ambassador Burns, Assistant Secretary Burns' travel, or whether it was the Secretary of State, himself, going to Syria, he has talked about the issues that we have raised. So, as the Secretary said to you this morning, it is no secret that -- to the Syrians or to anybody else that we have concerns over these kinds of developments, and that is why we discuss them. Now, Matt was going to be next. QUESTION: Can you expand at all on what the Secretary meant when he said that you guys would be considering economic and potentially diplomatic measures against Syria? MR. REEKER: No, I will just stick with exactly what the Secretary said. QUESTION: Do you know, has that consideration -- have you actually begun considering those things? MR. REEKER: I don't have anything beyond what the Secretary has said. QUESTION: Can you explain -- is Syria under any U.S. sanctions right now, other than the ones that relate to it being designated a state sponsor? MR. REEKER: I have to go back and check. QUESTION: Can someone look into that, please? MR. REEKER: Yeah. QUESTION: Phil, I know that you said that the idea of Syria harboring, potentially harboring, members of the Iraqi regime is new, but last year at this time the Secretary was actually lobbying Congress to not enact the Syria Accountability Act because of its cooperation with the administration on issues related to terrorism such as al-Qaida, the Taliban, saying that Syria's cooperation has actually saved American lives. So is that -- what has changed over the last year, in terms of your concerns on Syria? You also -- MR. REEKER: Those aren't mutually exclusive things. Syria remained designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. QUESTION: Well, you also -- you also seemed to be very happy with -- well, you also seemed to be very happy with Syria when it voted for Resolution 1441, so I guess, are there any areas of cooperation that are still ongoing with the Syrians, or are they not potential partners in cooperation right now? MR. REEKER: They are very much potential partners in cooperation, and I would direct you back to the other things. When there have been things that we have been able to work on successfully with Syria as partners; that's a good thing. It doesn't eliminate the fact that there are other things that have and continue to concern us. And that's what diplomacy is about is continuing to talk about both sides of those equations and to continue to work, in our case, with the Syrians to try to address these concerns that we have. QUESTION: Do you think -- MR. REEKER: Still on this? QUESTION: Yes. Do you think that the new Syria Accountability Act, you will this time agree with it, if it pass the Congress? MR. REEKER: I don't know. That's a hypothetical that I am just not in a position to address. QUESTION: Will you send the -- anybody like Mr. Burns or other to Syria soon or? MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any travel to announce at this time. Yes, sir. QUESTION: So the question back in the Middle East raised by the people, naïve as it may sound, is that while Syria is being now demanded to stop developing weapons of mass destruction, the Israelis do stockpile weapons of mass destruction. It's no secret. The administration is silent on that. How can you address that point? MR. REEKER: I just don't want to go down again one of these back and forth things. We have addressed the issues that we have about Syria, the concerns we have. As I said, much of this is stuff that is longstanding. And if you go back and look at the things we have said in reports, the things we have said in briefings, the things we said during travel, these are issues of concern to us and we will continue to address those with Syria. It's obviously high on our list of bilateral issues, and there are other countries that would be concerned about this, too. So the Secretary has been quite clear and the President has too, that this is an opportunity for Syria to think seriously about how it wants to relate with the region, with the United States, and with others in the international community, and where they want to direct their resources and their own aspirations for the region and for their own country. And that's what we will continue to do in terms of that regard. Yes. QUESTION: Are you not concerned about Israel's nuclear weapons? MR. REEKER: I don't have anything today for you, Jonathan, about alleged nuclear weapons -- QUESTION: You just don't want to say anything about it? Is that right? MR. REEKER: -- or anything else. QUESTION: Okay. Why are you not concerned by Israel's nuclear weapons? MR. REEKER: Jonathan, this is just not a discussion about Israel. You are asking me questions about Syria -- QUESTION: We're talking about the Middle East. MR. REEKER: And then you can -- QUESTION: Israel is a neighbor of Syria. They are enemies. Do you understand that? I mean, of course it's relevant. MR. REEKER: Jonathan, do you want to come do a briefing? QUESTION: It's relevant. I mean, do you think it's irrelevant? Okay. Do you think it's relevant to the -- MR. REEKER: Jonathan. QUESTION: -- to the case of Syria, that one of its neighbors has nuclear weapons or not? MR. REEKER: I have been asked about our discussions and concerns with Syria. That's what we have been addressing. You have turned this, you know, all the way around about something about, you know, what have we raised with Syria. And I have directed you to what the Secretary has said, what the President has said, and what we we'll continue to discuss in our relationship with Syria. That is separate from any other discussions about other countries or any other topics. That is what we will continue to look at with regard to Syria, and you can laugh and grin all you want. That's the issue here. And does anybody else have a question on the same subject, or shall we move on? QUESTION: On reconstruction. Sir. MR. REEKER: Yes. QUESTION: There has been a lot of talk about getting the -- how do you get the French and the Germans and Russians possibly involved in this? Is also -- MR. REEKER: We are talking about Iraq? QUESTION: Yes, right. MR. REEKER: Okay. You usually asked about another country. QUESTION: I know. I know. That's why you wouldn't call on me. MR. REEKER: I was a little worried, yeah. QUESTION: No, this is a question. Today, for example, The Post had an editorial saying that Bush should make a phone call to Chirac. And their leading columnist, Hoagland, said Chirac should make a phone call to Bush. What's going on -- is there going to be any pushing by the State Department on phone calls? MR. REEKER: I am not going to start commenting on every newspaper's editorials and their suggestions. QUESTION: No, but this is in the air very much. MR. REEKER: If you want to know about phone calls -- I think you mentioned the President -- I would direct you to the White House. I can tell you what phone calls the Secretary has made. I mentioned that he had talked to the King of Morocco over this weekend. He also talked to Foreign Secretary -- Foreign Minister Palacio of Spain on Saturday. And today, as he already told you, he has talked to Foreign Minister Papandreou of Greece, who also represents, of course, the European Union presidency. QUESTION: It's a looming problem. Does the State Department have any thoughts, any recommendations? MR. REEKER: What exactly is the looming problem? QUESTION: Well, what are you going to do with France, Germany, and Russia? And how do you repair relations with them, or do you repair relations with them? MR. REEKER: I think we have relations with each of those countries. France and Germany are allies. They are NATO allies. We have long histories with each of those countries. We have unique relationships with each of those countries. So I wouldn't put countries into any particular grouping just because they happen to have had a meeting of their own over the weekend. We took note of that meeting. We took note of their statements regarding the rebuilding of Iraq, their interest in the United Nations. As you know, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have talked about a vital role for the United Nations in that effort. They mentioned that in their joint-communiqué just last week. Certainly, we have been very forthcoming in talking to other countries in the international community in general about practical steps necessary to meet some of the challenges in terms of the humanitarian needs in Iraq and building a prosperous and democratic Iraq. And we hope that other countries will be as interested as we are in seeing that process through. I think the Secretary has mentioned to you, and Richard Boucher mentioned last week that at least 58 countries have already responded to us with offers of things they would like to contribute to the reconstruction process, and we will be continuing to follow up with those countries and any others that may be able to contribute. And so France, Germany, Russia, they will all, hopefully, be thinking about roles they may play, how they may contribute, because I think it's in all of our interests, including those three countries', to see Iraq emerge as a successful, stable nation within secure borders, with its territorial integrity intact, without ties to terrorist groups, without weapons of mass destruction, with a representative government on a democratic path utilizing its resources for the good of its own people, rather than deploying those resources toward the development of weapons or squandering it on the personal desires of one tyrannical dictator, his family and his inner circle. So those are the hopes we have, and we hope that others in the international community will share those as well. QUESTION: Can I ask a question that you thought I was going to ask? MR. REEKER: Okay. That means we are switching subjects for a few minutes, right? QUESTION: Yeah. You had a very optimistic statement last week about the agreement in Caracas between the government and all. And that same night, there was a terrific bomb, which flew apart the place where they were meeting. And now the democratic opposition is pulling back, and Mr. Chavez has been making all kinds of remarks that indicate he is not taking that very seriously, any accord. And, meanwhile, the Venezuelan Ambassador here proclaimed on Friday that in order to get a working referendum -- for a referendum to take place, according to their laws, the opposition would have to get all of the votes that Chavez got back in 1998 since when his popularity has plummeted, plus one. Now, are we sticking -- is the State -- is the American policy still going to stick behind this effort to bring irreconcilable groups together? MR. REEKER: Is that it? You read your ideas into the record, and now I can try to address that. QUESTION: Okay. MR. REEKER: Somewhere in there, you did talk about the attack that took place, the bombing over the weekend, and we join the Organization of American States, Secretary General Gaviria, in condemning this attack by those who seek to undermine the significant accord, the same accord that we welcomed on Friday. This accord, as you will see from the statement we put out Friday, was between the Venezuelan Government and the opposition and it charts a path to a, what they are calling, "a constitutional, democratic, peaceful and electoral solution for Venezuela," something we have talked about for many, many months during this time of crisis in that country. It's certainly what's called for in the Organization of American States Permanent Council Resolution, Resolution 833. And in terms of the bombing over the weekend, we are urging the Venezuelan authorities to fully investigate the matter and promptly bring the perpetrators for justice. We had applauded on Friday both the government's and the opposition's dialogue teams, those people that came together for this extraordinary effort to plot out a path forward so that all the Venezuelan people could peacefully and democratically build a better tomorrow for themselves. And so while we commend Secretary General Gaviria and the Organization of American States and the work of nongovernmental organizations like the Carter Center and, indeed, the United Nations Development Program, we certainly condemn the actions that took place in terms of this bombing over the weekend. Elise. QUESTION: New topic? MR. REEKER: New topic? QUESTION: North Korea? MR. REEKER: Okay. QUESTION: Can I stick and give Iraq? MR. REEKER: I thought you were sticking with Venezuela. No? Why don't we come back? Let's do North Korea. Do you have a question, Elise, or just a general -- QUESTION: Yeah. Over the weekend North Korea seemed to indicate that it might be willing to have multilateral talks, and I was just wondering what you make of this. MR. REEKER: We read the North Korean statement with interest, and we are following up through appropriate diplomatic channels. QUESTION: Have you done that yet? Has there been any follow-up? MR. REEKER: I think, I don't want to get into the details, as we haven't all along, but as you know, we have had discussions with a lot of capitals and we're continuing to do that. We are engaged in a process with a number of capitals. As we have said before, we consult very closely with South Korea, with Japan, of course, and also with China, with Russia, with Australia. There are a lot of countries that are interested in this. That is why we felt that this is a multilateral issue and so that is what we're going to continue to do. QUESTION: Have you followed up with the North Koreans is my answer -- is my question. MR. REEKER: The New York Channel, as you know, is always open. I am not aware of specific conversations and just wouldn't get into that at this point, but we are following up on what we read. QUESTION: Does this mean that you guys will be wanting to move again to another Security Council discussion? MR. REEKER: I don't know that I could give you a next step in this process at this point. We'll just have to see where we go in the next few days. QUESTION: Can you say what you thought of these comments? Did you see them as a positive signal? MR. REEKER: I will just say that we read them and we are following up. QUESTION: Sir, do you have a -- MR. REEKER: Yes? QUESTION: Me? MR. REEKER: Yes, you. QUESTION: Oh, thank you, sir. MR. REEKER: Please. Yeah. QUESTION: Japanese News, Kyodo News. (Inaudible) relating with this previous question, do you have any sense of timing when the multilateral forum will be held in the near future? MR. REEKER: No. I couldn't give you any more indication of next steps in terms of that. QUESTION: And also, what kind of a formula are you assuming to create the (inaudible) dialogue, such as six-party, or eight-party, or ten-country or -- MR. REEKER: I don't think we should get ahead of ourselves. I'm not assuming anything or making any particular formulas at this point, but we'll let you know when we have something more to give. Now, the gentleman in the back, and then his partner behind him. QUESTION: You said of previous assurance in the Northern Iraq in the Kirkuk and Mosul still ruled by the Kurdish Peshmerga and they start attacking the Turkomens and the Arabs, also, and the area, is the tension is very high -- MR. REEKER: I'm afraid that doesn't reflect what the reports that I have seen from the region. You may want to check with the Defense Department on any specifics of that, but my understanding is that coalition forces are in charge there. It's what we were talking about last week, and both in Kirkuk and Mosul. QUESTION: And also, tomorrow's meeting, the political meeting in tomorrows -- MR. REEKER: The meeting in Nasiriyah? QUESTION: Yeah. Why don't you invited the Turkomans? They are the ethnic, biggest group and other biggest group? MR. REEKER: As I indicated, I haven't given you any great details of who was invited. I talked generally about inviting a broad representation of people from different groups, groups that were outside Iraq, groups inside Iraq, and that this is the first in what we expect to be a series of meetings in different parts of the country. So, hopefully, all of those meetings will be broadly representational because as you know, one of the core elements of our vision for the future of Iraq is that it have a representative government that represents all the different ethnic groups, religious groups, tribal groups. That's going to be very important. That's a strength that Iraq should build on, just as other countries have built upon their diversity and that's what we would hope for. So don't take this meeting as any single symbol. This is a first meeting. It's an important step. It's an opportunity for now-liberated Iraqis to begin to add their voices to be heard from, to share ideas on what they think about their future and how they can move forward. And now your friend behind you. Yes. QUESTION: Do you have anything on the today's telephone communication between Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Foreign Minister of Greece Georges Papandreou? MR. REEKER: Well, as the Secretary mentioned this morning when he came out and spoke to reporters, he did speak with Foreign Minister Papandreou this morning. They talked about the issue of the safeguarding of Iraqi antiquities and cultural property. Greece, obviously, has a tremendous amount of experience in the field of antiquities and cultural property in restoring and some of those issues and identifying that. There's some expertise involved. And, of course, Foreign Minister Papandreou is also speaking on behalf of the European Union, which has an interest in this and, as you know, many of the centers for trade in antiquities, or these types of cultural property, maybe European cities and the European Union will have an interest in this. That's why we've been in touch with Interpol, that's why UNESCO will be involved in trying to make sure that anything that's been taken out of the country can be brought back, because it belongs to the Iraqi people. QUESTION: One more question, Mr. Reeker. The former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger under George Bush, Sr., administration told the BBC today, "If George Bush, Jr., decided he was going to turn the troops loose on Syria and Iran, after that, he would last in office for about 15 minutes. In fact, if President Bush were to try that now, even I would think that he ought to be impeached. You can not get away with that sort of thinking in a democracy." Any comment, or do you have anything on that? MR. REEKER: I hadn't seen the remarks, but I hadn't heard anybody make such a suggestion, either. Wait, you have another colleague here? Yes? QUESTION: Is NATO in danger of falling apart, or what is its mission? MR. REEKER: No, quite the contrary, I believe NATO is going to expand; it's going to take in new members. We introduced our own -- I don't know if we'd call is legislation, but it was to the Congress, to amend the treaty that will help us expand NATO with new members. So NATO has an important role to be played. It's a strong alliance, stronger than any alliance that I think the planet has ever seen. And we will continue to work very closely with all of our NATO allies. Thanks. (The briefing was concluded at 3:15 p.m.)


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