State Department Briefing, August 4, 2003
|Monday August 4, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Philip Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
MONDAY, AUGUST 4, 2003
1:20 p.m. EDT
MR. REEKER: Welcome to the State Department, and a particular welcome to our guests, some of the interns who have been serving with us this summer here at the State Department. We are very pleased you could join us for the briefing this afternoon.
I do have a couple of statements that I would like to discuss. We can also discuss Liberia, but let me begin with a statement that we will be putting out in paper in the name of Secretary of State Powell regarding the death of the United States Ambassador to Peru, John Dawson.
The Secretary has asked us to say: "It is with great sadness that I announce the death of U.S. Ambassador to Peru John R. Dawson, who passed away in New York on August the 1st.
Ambassador Dawson was very popular with his State Department colleagues and will be remembered both for the dedication and the collegiality he brought to all of the posts in which he served.
Ambassador Dawson's distinguished career with the State Department began in 1975. Prior to being named Ambassador to Peru, he served as the Director of the Office of Mexican Affairs. Ambassador Dawson received many awards and commendations for his work in El Salvador, in Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil and Argentina, at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and here in Washington in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
He received the Herbert Salzman Award for Excellence in International Economic Performance and a Presidential Meritorious Service award.
We would like to extend our deepest condolences to Ambassador Dawson's wife, Susana, and to his family."
QUESTION: He was the current U.S. --
MR. REEKER: He was the current U.S. Ambassador to Peru.
QUESTION: And how long had he been --
MR. REEKER: I'd have to double-check his bio, Matt.
I believe you saw the statement I put out earlier regarding this baseless story in The Washington Post today. I don't know if there are any questions on that, but as you would have read regarding the story in today's Washington Post about Secretary of State Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage, let me note that there were no conversation between the Deputy Secretary and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice concerning any plans for "stepping down."
There is no basis for the story, as I said. And as Secretary Powell has always said, he and the Deputy Secretary of State will serve at the pleasure of the President and will continue to do so. So welcome to Washington in August where some of these goofy stories tend to hit the front pages. But there is no basis to that story.
I think, as the White House has already told the correspondents down in Crawford, in fact, the Secretary and Deputy Secretary will be traveling to Crawford tomorrow to meet with the President, having some meals and meetings to discuss various foreign policy issues with the President down there. I think a similar thing took place last summer. And so we continue hard at work here in the State Department.
QUESTION: I just want to ask you -- oh, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: No. I am just going to ask you, August and goofiness aside, do you have any reason to think the story was maliciously planted? In other words, that whoever provided the story had some motive?
MR. REEKER: I wouldn't suggest any particular intents. This type of thing tends to happen in Washington, D.C. in August. I suspect the sources may be, you know, the same guys who were sources for stories about former Secretary Baker going to Iraq. We saw those in recent weeks as well. So these things get out there. It's part of the game in Washington, but certainly no basis for that story today. And as the Secretary has reiterated many times, he serves at the pleasure of the President and will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Phil, but when you say there is no basis for this story, you are talking about the conversation that the Deputy Secretary was - suppose -- allegedly had with the National Security Advisor, correct?
MR. REEKER: That was what was cited in this particular article on the front page of The Washington Post. They cited a conversation, which in fact, the two alleged participants have both denied took place. So there was no such conversation. There was no discussion about any kind of stepping down. There is simply no basis for the story.
QUESTION: What -- based on that alleged conversation?
MR. REEKER: There is no basis for the story because as the Secretary has said many times to many of you, personally, he serves at the pleasure of the President and will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Phil, can you state --
QUESTION: So, Phil, as you understand it, if it was the pleasure of the President that Secretary Powell serve a second term, were there one, you believe that he would continue?
MR. REEKER: We would leave that for the President and the Secretary to discuss.
QUESTION: Phil, can you be categorical about it? Regardless of this particular alleged conversation, to your knowledge or have there been any conversations or indications from the Secretary or the Deputy Secretary that they would intend to leave at the end of four years?
MR. REEKER: The Secretary has said to me what he said to all of you, and that is he serves at the pleasure of the President and will continue to do so.
QUESTION: But regardless of that, do you know of any conversations? Can you be categorical, saying no, there were none?
MR. REEKER: The conversation that was described in this article certainly did not take place. I can't check on every rumor or alleged conversation that goes on over the dinner tables and cocktail chatter in this town. What I can tell you is what the Secretary himself has stated, has said to me, personally, has said to many of you, personally, and has said, in fact, every time he has been asked this question. So the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary are focused very much on the work they are doing for the President, for the Administration and for the American people as the leaders of our foreign policy under the President's authority and at his pleasure.
QUESTION: And do you know when the trip to Crawford was scheduled?
MR. REEKER: I believe it has been in the works for about two weeks, when they began planning things. I think other cabinet secretaries are also traveling to Crawford, but the White House could give you details on that kind of thing.
QUESTION: Can you - while we're on that, quickly, could you single out any particular policy -- assuming Korea, Middle East - do you know what's on the top of the list?
MR. REEKER: I think they will have a run down on what are obviously key issues ahead. I don't have a list to give you at this point, but clearly it is an opportunity for the President, who as you know, is working all the time regardless of where he is, it gives him an opportunity in Crawford to spend a little time with Secretary Powell, Deputy Secretary Armitage, just to review a number of key foreign policy issues that are out there.
QUESTION: Are you fully confident that both Mr. Armitage and Mr. Powell would be in their respective positions on Inauguration Day?
MR. REEKER: I think what I can tell you is exactly what I have told you. They serve at the pleasure of the President, so I would not try to suggest anything else.
QUESTION: All right. Well, just one last attempt at making it clear -- has Powell communicated to you that as of today he hasn't formed any intent, yet, to leave at the end of this term?
MR. REEKER: I have told you what the Secretary has said on the matter. He said it to me. Many of you were familiar with it before from things he has said in interviews or to you directly in terms of opportunities when we have been traveling. I just can't add anything more to it other than to say that today's story, which seems to have been the source for this little summer squall, is baseless. And so we will continue to focus on the work at hand and let the rumor and gossip mills stay where they belong.
QUESTION: With respect to this, aside from possibly being malicious, was it an underhanded way of perhaps saying that various groups within the State Department should be changed irrespective of what's going on and there might be policy changes? Is there, somehow the White House is unhappy with different aspects?
MR. REEKER: Joel, I think again, this is very typical of stories that crop up in this city's newspapers, particularly in August. This time of year people go on vacation and that kind of gossip comes around. These kinds of stories aren't particularly new. A number of you in your discussions with me today have cited for me the recent times when this same type of thing has come up, and as the Secretary said, you know, usually these ridiculous stories have him leaving tomorrow. So I think we can put this in the category with the other such stories that have been out there.
They are just baseless speculation, gossip and rumor, and we are going to focus instead on the work at hand.
QUESTION: Could I ask you something else?
MR. REEKER: Sure, Barry. Something else, please.
QUESTION: All right. Mr. Bolton has been denounced by Pyongyang in kind of strong language. Without necessarily responding to the language, can you respond to the proposition that he would be excluded from negotiations?
MR. REEKER: Well, as you know, we are in close touch with the other participants that will be part of this six-way, six-party talks that will be held soon. I don't have any more specific descriptions at this point or details, so we have been in touch with the other parties, including the Chinese, of course, with our South Korean and Japanese allies, and with Russia. And we look forward to holding the six-party talks.
The President and the Secretary of State will choose the U.S. delegation, and I just can't announce for you any details on who will attend those talks or exactly when and where they will take place.
QUESTION: Well, now, how about Barry -- how about responding directly to the language that was used by the North Koreans and, you know, kind of going through what you think about this name-calling match which Mr. Bolton, himself, seems to have begin himself?
MR. REEKER: Oh. Was that the --?
QUESTION: Yeah. Can you tell us --
MR. REEKER: Kind of left us hanging there.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what you think? Can you tell us?
MR. REEKER: No. I think as Barry, perhaps, suggested, we will take his sage advice from his many years here. We are not going to dignify North Korean comments about our Under Secretary of State. Under Secretary Bolton delivered a speech, which you are all aware of and you have seen and is available, but I don't think we need to go beyond that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, Phil, is it the, you know, is it normal, would you call it normal diplomatic practice to make a speech as inflammatory as Mr. Bolton did, describing the country as a "hellish nightmare" and --
MR. REEKER: I think the Under Secretary's speech speaks for itself, and I will just leave it there at that. I don't have a copy in front of me. It was a speech that reflected, I think, some obvious truths and let's just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Phil, are you at all, then, open to or ready to entertain the possibility that another country will tell you not to include a certain official in any talks you might have with them?
MR. REEKER: What are you talking about?
QUESTION: I'm just surprised that you're not rejecting this out of hand and saying that they are not going to tell us, you know, whom we'll --
MR. REEKER: I think I answered the question when it came in a slightly different way earlier. The Secretary of State and the President will decide who will represent the United States and who will be part of the U.S. delegation at these talks. I would never presume, at this stage, to make any sort of decisions or suggestions on their behalf. I think they will make those decisions. And, clearly, we will let you know in due course.
QUESTION: Just going back to - can I just go back to the language on it for one second? So you mean to say that you are now going to retake the diplomat high road by not responding to the North Koreans?
MR. REEKER: I always take the diplomatic high road, exactly where I have been.
QUESTION: No, the United States in general --
MR. REEKER: I just don't --
QUESTION: -- post-Seoul speech?
MR. REEKER: I am not going to dignify the comments that were made about our Under Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Phil --
MR. REEKER: Somebody -- Tammy was going to -- are you still on --
QUESTION: I have a question on Liberia.
QUESTION: I am still on the other one.
MR. REEKER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Nevertheless, it seems that Mr. Bolton, at the same time that the U.S. was attempting with the help of China to try and establish some rapport with North Korea to get this six-party meeting going, he was making a lot of statements which seems to be very antagonistic.
Now, they may be on the face value true, but was he singing from the same song sheet, or does he have, you know, kind of his own agenda that he's playing here? It doesn't seem to me to jibe with the overall attempts that the State Department is making.
MR. REEKER: Under Secretary Bolton is part of the President's Administration. He is part of the Secretary's Department and his remarks are coordinated as such. And there is just nothing more to add.
QUESTION: So his remarks were coordinated, they were cleared before he gave them, then?
MR. REEKER: Yes, sure.
Tammy, are we staying on North Korea, or are we going to --
QUESTION: Yes, stay on North Korea.
MR. REEKER: All right, keep going with North Korea.
QUESTION: Different from her.
MR. REEKER: Okay.
QUESTION: Nothing to do with Mr. Bolton. Yesterday, Korea announced that they want to hold a six-party in Beijing formally. Can you confirm that? That is my first question.
MR. REEKER: I don't have details to confirm at this point on location or dates or participants in --
QUESTION: No? Even China admitted that they are going to host a six-party yesterday.
MR. REEKER: I am very happy to see that. I don't have those kinds of details. I think we had indicated before that that was certainly a possibility, but I just am not in a position to give you all the details of the talks at this point.
QUESTION: Phil, do you know if it has gotten to the point where dates, specific dates, have been proposed and are being considered in various capitals?
MR. REEKER: I believe that is the case where they are looking at dates, but I just don't have anything to report on.
QUESTION: And you as well -- I mean, the same, at the same time as --
MR. REEKER: Right, no, I think we are clearly looking at that, and we do look forward to holding these six-party talks, as I indicated earlier, look forward to holding them soon.
Okay. I think we're switching to Liberia.
QUESTION: Thank you. What is your understanding or the Department's understanding of Charles Taylor? Will he just step down from power on the 11th and not leave the country? Where do things stand and what is the role of the U.S in -- is the U.S. actually talking directly to Taylor or through interlocutors?
MR. REEKER: Let me start out with some broad remarks, a statement, if you will, about Liberia because, as you know, there have been significant developments there over the weekend and in the past 24 hours.
The United States welcomes today the arrival in Monrovia of Nigerian soldiers who form the first element of an ECOWAS-led multinational force. The goal of this force is to help restore and maintain security in Liberia so that essential humanitarian services and assistance can be provided to the people of Liberia.
These developments are a clear sign that the international community is committed to bringing relief to the people of Liberia, and to helping them resolve the many problems they face. Liberians are not alone in this time of extreme distress. The United States, as you know, is working very closely with ECOWAS, with the Economic Community of West African States, to ensure the success of this mission including provision of logistical and financial assistance.
We certainly want to applaud the decision taken last Friday, August 1st, by the United Nations Security Council when they passed UN Security Council Resolution 1497 to authorize this multinational effort and to plan for establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping force that will take over from the multinational force in a few months.
For humanitarian assistance to arrive quickly, we would remind all combatants, especially the military forces of the Government of Liberia, and the LURD and the MODEL rebel groups that they must stop fighting and restore and respect the ceasefire. Liberians should cooperate with international peacekeepers and humanitarian relief workers.
In terms of President Charles Taylor, we note that President Taylor said publicly on August 2nd that he will step down from his office on August 11th. The resignation and departure from Liberia of President Charles Taylor is essential to restoring peace in Liberia.
QUESTION: So if he doesn't leave?
MR. REEKER: Well, we believe -- he said he is going to leave, and that's what we want to see happen.
QUESTION: But I thought there was a distinction between whether he would step down and leave the country, or simply step down.
MR. REEKER: I have seen a variety of reports from his people. But our view is that he needs to do what he said he would do is step down and leave the country. He must fulfill his commitment to step down and to leave Liberia.
QUESTION: And is the U.S. talking with him directly? Is the Ambassador in touch with President Taylor? How is that working?
MR. REEKER: I don't know if there have been direct conversations with President Taylor or through his government and our embassy on the ground. Frankly, I don't know, but we have certainly been keeping in touch with all of the parties. We are in contact with the parties to the dispute whose representatives are based in Accra, in Ghana, and in Monrovia, and we continue to press them to reach an agreement and the ceasefire, the things that I mentioned, to allow for the timely introduction of the full ECOWAS force into Monrovia and allow the humanitarian assistance to begin addressing the very pressing needs of the Liberian people.
Teri, and then we'll come back to Matt. Yes.
QUESTION: We have discussed before whether he should still have to stand trial for war crimes indictments. But now one of the things that he said is that he would step down if the indictments are removed.
MR. REEKER: Again, I have seen a variety of things coming out of people purported to be speaking for him. As I said, we believe that Charles Taylor must fulfill his commitment to step down and to depart the country. Once he departs, as we have said in the past, he will have to address and answer the indictment against him.
QUESTION: So that means that you reject the idea that those would be removed before he has to leave?
MR. REEKER: I think once he steps down he will have to address that and answer that. As Ambassador Boucher has told you a number of times, that is something he needs to discuss and deal with with the court, with a special court in Sierra Leone.
QUESTION: But I am talking about a potential different -- potentially different chronology. You would not -- the United States would not agree that he -- that any indictments could be removed before he steps down, if we are not talking about after he steps down.
MR. REEKER: It is not a question for us to agree to. That is something for the court. We are not asking for the indictment to be rescinded. What we are saying is he needs to step down. He needs to leave the country. And, as we have said before, the indictment is something he is going to have to address and answer.
QUESTION: I have one on that. You don't particularly care where he goes, do you? Obviously, Nigeria has made the offer, and that looks like where he is going to go, but that -- you don't care where?
MR. REEKER: That offer has been publicly discussed by the Nigerians. I don't think --
QUESTION: Yes. Does the United States have a position at all?
MR. REEKER: We think he needs to leave the country and --
QUESTION: To go anywhere?
MR. REEKER: -- not be a part of -- I don't know that to go anywhere is the answer, but he needs to --
QUESTION: Or perhaps you would like to see him go straight to Sierra Leone?
MR. REEKER: No. I think we will just leave it where it is.
QUESTION: All right. And, secondly, Ambassador Blaney said this morning that he understood that the LURD had agreed to your guys' plan, the withdrawal to beyond the Poe River. Is that still your understanding, realizing that things change very quickly there?
MR. REEKER: Exactly, so I wouldn't want to try to, you know, parse it. That is what we had asked for, that is what we had said needed to happen, that made the best sense. The overall goal that we have is what I have stated already, and that is that all of the participants cease this type of warfare, frankly, that is going on, cease the violence, stop fighting, restore and respect the ceasefire so that the ECOWAS force can move in and, very importantly, so that the humanitarian efforts can begin to take hold and help the Liberian people.
QUESTION: In terms of the U.S. assistance, the $10 million that was provided to the private contractor, did they -- did those private -- did that private company provide any support for this initial force of 300-or-so Nigerian troops?
MR. REEKER: No, I think if you look at the question we posted after the briefing on -- I believe on Thursday afternoon -- during the first two weeks, what's envisioned, the first part of this, the United Nations is providing logistic support for the vanguard force such as what moved in today.
After the first two weeks, our contractors, the Pacific Architects and Engineering -- or Engineers, PAE, they will begin to be phased in to provide the broad range of logistical support for the whole ECOWAS presence.
Yes. More on?
QUESTION: Another Liberia.
MR. REEKER: Liberia, yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Is there concern, once President Taylor is out of the picture, is there a viable alternative to Taylor that the U.S. sees? Is there concern about a power vacuum?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think what we want to see, first of all, is a peaceful transfer of power. That's what has been discussed in Accra, in Ghana, with representatives of all of the parties. And there was a plan put forward for that transition some time ago. That also included the ceasefire. That's what we want to see happen. And those talks continue there, even, I believe, today.
So we will continue to, you know, monitor that very closely and be a part of that, as the neighboring countries also have been, in terms of having a great interest in seeing that all parties will live up to the plan they come up to for appropriate power-sharing agreements under -- and a peaceful transition of power in Liberia.
QUESTION: So there is really nothing viable yet? It's still a process?
MR. REEKER: I don't want to try to characterize levels of viability. I think they had a plan. That plan included a ceasefire. We talked about it some time ago. But it takes all of the parties' willingness to participate and to respect the ceasefire. And that is what we will continue to focus on in our discussions, both in Accra, in Monrovia, and any other cities in the region where we're able to discuss with representatives of the various political groups involved the next steps in a political situation.
Anything else on Liberia?
QUESTION: Question. As Charles Taylor leaves anyway, did ECOWAS in any way talk about the remnants of his particular government, those people that are not --
MR. REEKER: I think that falls under your colleague's question in terms of the transition of --
QUESTION: Right, but for judicial type trials or anything beyond what's --
MR. REEKER: Well, if you are looking at the special court in Sierra Leone, I suggest you talk to the special court in Sierra Leone on any other indictments that they may be issuing or planning to issue. That would be something for the court to determine.
Okay. I think we are going to change and Matt has the floor.
QUESTION: Middle East.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Burns, what's his status in terms of in Washington or not and have you guys made up your mind on what you think about the law the Israeli Knesset passed last week about the marriage and citizenship?
MR. REEKER: Okay. I'm glad you brought that up because I almost would have forgotten to tell you that the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Bill Burns is going to depart Washington tomorrow; that is Tuesday. He is going to travel to Moscow for meetings with Russian officials regarding coordination of our efforts on the Middle East. You will recall that Russia is a member of the Quartet that has worked so much on the roadmap plan.
They will also discuss support for reconstruction in Iraq and the Iraqi Governing Council, which is working very assiduously with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad and around Iraq.
Obviously they will be talking about pursuit of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace as well as joint efforts to counter terrorism and promote regional stability and prosperity, the goals that we have in the region.
Following his visit to Moscow -
MR. REEKER: I don't have a specific timetable on when he would then move on from Moscow, but he will then visit Baghdad for discussions with the Coalition Provisional Authority and Ambassador Bremer. He will talk with officials there regarding the reconstruction efforts, and after several days of consultations in Baghdad he will travel on to Cairo, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for meetings with Egyptians, Israelis and Palestinian officials. So that is the somewhat extended forecast for Assistant Secretary Burns' travel.
Now, you had a question -- the Israeli legislation --
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Can you tell us when he is expected back? Do you have the date of return?
MR. REEKER: I don't. No.
MR. REEKER: Regarding the new Israeli "Law on Citizenship and Entry Into Israel," as I believe its title is, it is a one-year measure that applies only to non-Israeli residents of the West Bank and Gaza, the vast majority of whom are Palestinian. In this regard, the new law singles out one group for different treatment than others.
An Israeli nongovernmental organization, Adalah, has filed a high court of justice petition in Israel, which is set for a hearing, I believe, in early September, claiming that the new law is discriminatory. So at this point, we would feel it is premature to comment on this legislation and allow the Israeli process to go forward.
QUESTION: Well, surely you can say if you agree that it singles out - you said that it singles out one group, right?
MR. REEKER: I just did. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, doesn't that, ergo, mean that you think it is discriminatory?
MR. REEKER: That is a view that we have taken -- let's let this specific petition, which claims, specifically that, in a legal basis, is discriminatory, go forward, and let the Israeli system handle it. I think I have told you exactly what we view --
QUESTION: Well, in the diplomatic lexicon of the United States, does a law that singles out one group of people, is that discriminatory?
MR. REEKER: That would sound like it, Matt, but we are not doing a legal analysis of it --
QUESTION: Why can't you say that, then?
MR. REEKER: -- because the Israeli system is doing one.
QUESTION: Well, I'm not asking you for a reason, I'm asking for your opinion.
MR. REEKER: I think I have told you what I can tell you and what we have seen in terms of what we know about it now, but there is clearly an ongoing process in terms of Israeli legal constitutional procedures, and we will let that take its course.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: I thought I heard you endorse the word discriminatory a second ago. You didn't mean to do that?
MR. REEKER: What did I say that endorsed that?
QUESTION: I think when Matt asked whether it was discriminatory, you replied in an affirmative way. I would have to check the transcript.
MR. REEKER: No, I said what -- that is what has been claimed by an Israeli nongovernmental organization. They filed a high court of justice petition in Israel in a legal process that is part of their legal system, and they have a hearing set for early September.
They have claimed that the new law is discriminatory, and so we are going to let that process go without trying to insert ourselves into that Israeli legal thing. But I did state that our view, in terms of taking a preliminary look at this, would suggest that in this regard, the fact that it applies only to a certain segment of the population, the vast majority of whom are Palestinians, that the new law singles out one group for different treatment than others.
QUESTION: I just don't understand why you can't, then, say that it's discriminatory.
MR. REEKER: Matt, there is a legal process in Israel and we are going to let the Israeli legal process take its course without us trying to intervene or be seen as pointing one way or the other. I think you can surmise from what I have said the general views that one has taken, but there is a process ongoing, and we are going to let that take its course, and consider it somewhat premature to comment on legislation that hasn't taken effect and is, in fact, subject to a hearing -- a judicial review, if you will -- next month.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Burns' trip for just one second?
MR. REEKER: Sure.
QUESTION: Is the order in which you gave these stops presumed to be the order in which he will actually make --
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I don't know that I can tell you that or not. He will travel, visit Baghdad, travel on to -- I'm not told whether that is specific or not, and as you know, sometimes we have tried not to be too specific about flight plans or travel schedules just for security reasons. And of course, as this is days away, everything is always a bit subject to change.
Is this on this? Yes. Teri.
QUESTION: Has the State Department drawn up a proposal awaiting White House approval that loan guarantees for Israel may be cut in the same proportion of their spending or in the same amount, in fact, of their spending on the security fence, so-called security fence?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I mean, I know our views on separation and the fence have been discussed at great length and are well known. In terms of that type of internal discussion within the government, I couldn't tell you.
QUESTION: Well, do you know if the State Department feels that loan guarantees should be cut if Israel is spending this certain amount of money on a fence?
MR. REEKER: If there is something on that, it will be an Administration decision, and that's what we could announce in due course. I just don't have anything for you on that today.
QUESTION: And you can't say what the State Department is recommending on that to the White House?
MR. REEKER: No.
QUESTION: There's a lengthy story in The L.A. Times today about Iran and it says, among other things, that Iran appears to be in the late stages of building a nuclear bomb; and that it sought and obtained help from scientists in Russia, China, North Korea and Pakistan to do that. Do you have any particular comment on those two things, whether it's in the late stages of building a bomb and whether it got help from those, from citizens of those countries?
MR. REEKER: I did see the --
QUESTION: And not just that we're glad that The L.A. Times has independently reached the same conclusion that you guys have for years. So please don't say that.
QUESTION: The Times said late stages. They haven't said late stages.
MR. REEKER: I won't say that because Matt's already said it for me, but I'll let people read the views of the Agence France-Presse and thank you for that.
I have seen, as I'm sure have many of my colleagues, the lengthy article that you referred to. I can't really make any specific comments regarding what are clearly intelligence-related or intelligence-based claims in the article, but as we have said before, we have long believed that Iran is pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program under a cover of a supposedly peaceful, civil nuclear energy program. And we have discussed this many times from here, and in other fora, and with other governments.
Iran's clandestine nuclear program represents, we believe, a serious challenge to regional stability and frankly, to the entire international community and to the global nonproliferation regime. We have been committed to using all available tools to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. I think President Bush has made quite clear that the international community cannot allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.
So we have been supporting fully the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate rigorously Iran's nuclear activities. The IAEA has already uncovered proof of Iran's failure to comply with its safeguards agreement, including carrying out undeclared nuclear activities with undeclared nuclear materials in undeclared nuclear facilities. And we expect that the IAEA and Secretary General, or Director General of that Organization, Dr. ElBaradei, will provide a second report with further results from their investigation, I believe, later this month and it is going to be taken up by the Board of Governors of the IAEA in September. So we will keep working with other members of the Board of the IAEA and others in the international community to make sure we can take effective and appropriate action.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on the particular points of Iran allegedly being in the late stages of building a bomb and having received help from these citizens of these countries?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I can go into, again, anything that it would purport to alleged intelligence information. But, clearly, our concerns are there, and they are concerns shared by many in the international community. And this investigation by the IAEA is going to continue, and it is something we are very much focused on.
Still on Iran?
Let's let Nicholas go first.
QUESTION: Phil, Iran has said today that they are not going to hand over any al-Qaida members they might have in their custody to the United States because they have no extradition treaty with the United States.
Given the fact that you have actually no diplomatic relations with Iran, are you working on any kind of mechanism to facilitate that in the near future, or anything at all that would lead to that result?
MR. REEKER: I think, as we have talked about for some time, and have been concerned about the presence of al-Qaida members in Iran, we have called upon Iran to turn over al-Qaida people that they have said themselves they have under arrest to countries that would seek them particularly, and I think there are a number of countries in the region that would be interested in receiving these people.
We believe that, as you know, some elements inside the Iranian regime have helped al-Qaida terrorists transit or find safe haven inside Iran and that al-Qaida terrorists inside Iran played a part in planning the May 12th bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
And so this is a question under international responsibility in terms of the United Nations Security Council Resolution. Resolution 1373 calls upon all UN members to deny safe haven to those who plan, support or commit terrorist acts and to affirmatively take steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts by providing early warning to other states through exchange of information. And so that is something we would like to see the Iranians do. And I think there are a number of countries who would be interested in receiving some of these people and Iran should think about that.
QUESTION: Can you name some of those?
MR. REEKER: No, we'll let each country speak for itself.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. actually even made a request that would -- to Iran -- that they would turn over these al-Qaida members to the U.S.? As I understand it, it has only been to these other countries. So Iran saying they wouldn't turn them over to the U.S. is really a moot point if you haven't asked them to turn --
MR. REEKER: I'll let the Iranians speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Well, speaking for the U.S., have we asked for that?
MR. REEKER: We have made our concerns very clear to Iran that they should be turned over. We don't have, as you've indicated, formal diplomatic relations with Iran, but certainly through a variety of channels we have made our concerns known. And I think there are a number of other countries, as I said, that have an interest in receiving, at least the information, and al-Qaida people that Iran should turn over. And I'll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Have you asked them to turn them over to the United States?
MR. REEKER: I'll just leave it at that for now. We have had conversations so that the Iranians are very aware of our concerns about al-Qaida and the threat that it poses, frankly, to the whole region. And certainly, given the UN Security Council resolutions and the responsibilities that all nations have under those resolutions, Iran should act responsibly and take action.
QUESTION: So would you expect if any of those other countries agree to do it, and Iran agrees to turn these people over to them, you would expect then these countries will hand those people over to the United States?
MR. REEKER: I don't know that I have suggested that. We have ongoing relationships with many, many countries in terms of intelligence sharing, in terms of law enforcement action. There are countries that may have specific legal actions pointed at some of these individuals but we leave that for other countries to discuss, but certainly we would continue our ongoing cooperation in the war on terror, citing the UN resolutions that I just did, in our interest in making this a top priority of rooting out al-Qaida and preventing them from continuing their actions against the United States, our friends and allies, and many, many other countries around the world.
QUESTION: Phil, the parliament in Azerbaijan has approved the president's nomination of his son to become, essentially, the second in line. The opposition there is suggesting that this is basically an attempt to rig the upcoming election. Any reflection on that?
MR. REEKER: I think, as you indicated, the appointment of Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the son of the President of Azerbaijan, it is fully consistent with the Azerbaijani constitution, which, according to Article 118 of that constitution, the prime minister is appointed by the president with the consent of the Milli Majlis, or the parliament, in Azerbaijan. And at today's special parliamentary session, speaker of the parliament read a letter from President Aliyev requesting parliament's approval of the appointment and the members of parliament, the Majlis, duly gave their approval.
So we would look forward to working with Prime Minister Aliyev as he assumes his new duties on a broad range of issues that comprise U.S.-Azerbaijani bilateral ties. And we hope and expect that he will work for economic and democratic reform, including creating an atmosphere for an improved election process this fall.
QUESTION: But he was -- he was basically put in this position under constitutional amendments a year ago that were criticized by the United States and the opposition is very -- believes it was excluded from this decision.
MR. REEKER: As I indicated to you, the information that I have says that this process went through a constitutional process according to Article 118 of the Azerbaijani constitution. And, certainly, as I say, we would look and hope that the new prime minister would work for reform in Azerbaijan, furtherance of democracy including improved election processes for this fall's elections.
QUESTION: Due to its constitutional acceptance, you don't regard this as blatant nepotism?
MR. REEKER: No, I think I'll stick with what I said.
QUESTION: In other words, Phil, what you're trying to say is that the State Department doesn't have an opinion on father -- a son succeeding fathers in office?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Is that right?
MR. REEKER: I don't understand your question.
QUESTION: You're suggesting that the State Department doesn't have an opinion on sons succeeding fathers in office.
MR. REEKER: What we looked at is the constitutionality.
QUESTION: Okay. So, presumably, the North Korean example you don't have a problem with either then, right?
MR. REEKER: Matt, that's apples and oranges. I haven't examined the North Korean constitution or the question of the succession.
QUESTION: You have a president who says he loathes --
MR. REEKER: What we have is the appointment of a prime minister, not the president.
MR. REEKER: That was done through a constitutional process. He does happen to be the son of the president. Fact.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Also, there is a lot of news about President Aliyev's dying. So do you have a reaction about that?
MR. REEKER: I would address questions about President Aliyev's health to authorities in Azerbaijan, to their government. That's the place to answer that. We certainly wish him all good health.
Yes, Joel. Same subject?
QUESTION: No, a different subject, please.
MR. REEKER: Okay.
QUESTION: I have a question about the Palestinian Authority. They are -- they have cried foul and want a release of all 6,000 prisoners that are being held by Israeli military in jail. And, meanwhile, Chairman Arafat is about to release and transfer 20 men from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade to either Gaza or to Jericho. They have been held in sanctuary by PA right there in Ramallah. Do you think that's ethical, what Chairman Arafat's doing?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any details about what you're suggesting, to be quite honest. Prisoner releases is a subject we have discussed. In fact, it was a subject discussed by the President when he met with Prime Minister Sharon. Prime Minister Sharon announced last week, July 29th, when he met with President Bush that Israel will release over 400 prisoners. We had earlier welcomed some earlier releases. We expect the Israeli Government to keep its commitment to President Bush and we continue to be in close consultation with the Israeli Government on this issue of prisoner releases.
QUESTION: Any progress on Turkey, on the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq?
MR. REEKER: I think that would be a question you could ask Turkish authorities. I don't have anything for you.
QUESTION: You're not having any talks with the Turkish Government in that respect?
MR. REEKER: I suspect it is a subject we continue to talk to Turkey about, and what Turkey may be able to do in that regard. It is something we have taken seriously, I think Turkey has taken quite seriously as well, but I don't have anything to announce on Turkey's behalf.
QUESTION: And, secondly, you know, U.S. Administration was waiting for the conclusion of IMF talks. Now that the talks are over, they -- the IMF approved the Letter of Intent. And concerning this $1 billion in supplements, do you foresee any speed-up of the agreement between Turkey and the U.S.?
MR. REEKER: It is a subject of ongoing discussion and I wouldn't want to try to characterize it as any, with any particular pace. It is something we will continue to talk about but I don't have any announcements for you at this point.
QUESTION: There are news rumors that members of the Kurdish parliament-in-exile meeting with American authorities in Iraq. Are there any such meetings?
MR. REEKER: Don't know anything about it. I'd be happy to look, but you might want to talk to others. I am not aware of this story.
QUESTION: Anything on that investigation into the July 4th incident that you can tell us of?
MR. REEKER: No, we put out a statement on it and declared that we'd moved beyond that, I think.
QUESTION: Right, that - about ten days ago, yeah.
MR. REEKER: Yes. That was the end of it.
QUESTION: Phil, anything you have to say about the trial of American in China on espionage charges, Mr. Yang Jianli?
MR. REEKER: One slight correction to your suggestion. It's not an American citizen. There is a legal permanent resident, Mr. Yang Jianli.
QUESTION: Did I say citizen?
MR. REEKER: You said of an American.
QUESTION: Permanent resident. I don't think I said citizen. But anyway, yes.
MR. REEKER: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on that?
MR. REEKER: Yes, I do because it's something we have been concerned about. Dr. Yang Jianli was tried today in Beijing on charges of spying and illegally entering the country, that is China. The trial adjourned after two and a half hours. Under Chinese law a verdict is required within one month. Dr. Yang's lawyer was allowed to represent him at the closed trial, but because the Chinese said that state secrets were involved, Dr. Yang's family members were not allowed to attend.
As I indicated, we have been concerned over this case, over the lengthy pre-trial detention and some other procedural irregularities in the case. He has been detained since April of last year and was only recently allowed to see a lawyer. So some of the concerns over this and other issues led the United Nations to find that Dr. Yang has been arbitrarily detained.
We have raised the case repeatedly with senior Chinese officials, and we urged that Dr. Yang be released and allowed to return to his family here in the United States. The U.S. Embassy had asked permission to send a representative to the trial, but that permission was not granted. As we already touched upon, Dr. Yang is not a United States citizen and therefore, we don't have guaranteed consular access. But we have been keeping in very regular contact with his family.
QUESTION: I have got one more trial question.
MR. REEKER: Sure.
QUESTION: And that is the expulsion of this -- I think this person is an American journalist.
MR. REEKER: There you go. You're talking about from Indonesia.
QUESTION: From Indonesia, yes.
MR. REEKER: U.S. citizen, William Nessen was sentenced over the weekend, I believe, on Saturday by a court in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, to one month and ten days' jail time for immigration violations. There was a U.S. consular officer from our Embassy in Jakarta present at the sentencing.
At the time of sentencing, Mr. Nessen had already served one month and nine days in jail and he was released from jail on August the 3rd. He was deported by Indonesian authorities and boarded a flight to Singapore on August the 4th. That would be today. And, as I indicated, not only at the sentencing, but a U.S. consular official was at the trial and provided consular assistance to him during the course of his detainment.
QUESTION: Do you have in there if any of your embassy staff was with him on the plane, or escorted him to the plane?
MR. REEKER: I don't. I know he boarded a flight out to Singapore. Certainly, we're pleased he has been released.
QUESTION: Are we going to be offering any assistance to firefighters in British Columbia? And/or are we asking Canadians to help at Crater Lake Park, which hugs the Canadian border with forest fires.
MR. REEKER: Actually, Crater Lake Park doesn't hug the Canadian border. Crater Lake Park is in southern Oregon, south central Oregon, close to the California border, so a ways away from California, just to make everybody aware of their American geography and an absolutely fabulous national park.
On that subject, I don't know. I am not aware of requests from the Canadian Government in that regard. I do believe in the past there has been mutual assistance, and from other countries as well. I know Australian firefighters have sometimes come here, as we have sent firefighters there.
I think these things are usually done through direct channels between firefighting authorities, and I'd point you in that direction for any particular comment on that.
One more. Here.
QUESTION: On Iraq, the UN representative, Mr. De Mello, is in Ankara and during a press conference, he said, you know, they are working on another possible UN resolution, additional to the 1483, for the countries who are requesting a UN mandate for sending troops. Do you have anything on that?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I can give you anything new from what we have said many times before. The Secretary has addressed that. We believe that 1483 certainly provides broad opportunity for countries to contribute. 30 countries have confirmed their willingness to participate in stabilization operations under the existing Security Council resolution.
Discussions with a number of other countries are continuing. And, as you know, the President, President Bush, has urged nations to contribute towards fulfilling the vision of Resolution 1483, and that is a free and secure Iraq in keeping with what we are trying to do there and working closely with the Iraq Governing Council.
So there are no specific proposals on the table with regard to another resolution. The idea has been mentioned by some individuals and some nations, and Security Council members have discussed it. We still have to see where that discussion leads. There was some discussion about a presidential statement last week, as well. So that's an ongoing discussion and I just don't have anything really new on that today.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Thanks.
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