State Department Noon Briefing, August 26, 2003
|Tuesday August 26, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
TUESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2003
1:18 p.m. EDT
MR. REEKER: Welcome back to the State Department, everyone. I don't have any formal announcements on this summer Tuesday, so we can go straight to your questions.
Mr. Gedda, if you'd care to begin.
QUESTION: Any comment on the Israeli missile attack today?
MR. REEKER: I haven't really established all the facts of that. We have seen a number of reports, obviously, coming out of Gaza, but I don't have a clear resolution of what the facts and the details are. We will clearly be talking with our people in the region and on the ground.
As we have said for some time, the roadmap is the key to the two-state solution, to achieving the vision that we have all agreed to, that we have all signed up to as a solution to the problems in that region. And to that end, as the roadmap says, bringing about an end to the violence and the terror is what we are focused on.
That is what will make possible progress toward the two-state vision, which remains the focus of our efforts with the parties. So, clearly, we are keeping in close touch with our people on the ground there -- Ambassador Kurtzer, Acting Consul General Feltman, Ambassador Wolf, who's on the ground -- and reiterating to all sides and all parties the importance of meeting the commitments of the roadmap and the importance of performance in doing so.
QUESTION: Clearly, the position of this Administration is against targeted killings, but in light of the recent events and the suicide bombings, and the Administration was saying that it understands that Israel needs to take actions for its self-defense, have you been urging the Israelis to stop the targeted killings, or --
MR. REEKER: Our views on that, as you indicated, have been clear. Our views reflect those in the roadmap. We are engaged with the Israelis and the Palestinians, including the talks, ongoing discussions with our officials on the ground and other discussions that we have had that we have talked about, encouraging both sides to recommit themselves to a political process to allow them once again to move forward, to follow the steps laid out in the roadmap and move forward toward the President's visions of the two states living side by side in peace and security. That remains the focus of our discussions --
QUESTION: So does that mean yes?
MR. REEKER: -- with the parties. It means exactly what I said. That's what we talk to the parties about: about following the steps in the roadmap, about finding ways to bring an end to violence, an end to terror; encourage both sides to rededicate themselves, as I said earlier, to making progress on the roadmap. And the killing of innocents has got to stop. It's got to be a part of that.
QUESTION: Do you know what? This is an old question, so I'm sorry.
MR. REEKER: I'll probably give you an old answer.
QUESTION: Okay. Within the scope of Israel's right to defend itself, would you consider that targeted killings are one of those methods?
MR. REEKER: Eli, I'm going to refer you back to the old answer, which is what we have said many times. You know what we have said about targeted killings. It is in the roadmap, and I will just go back to what I just said now. Both parties have got to --
QUESTION: It says --
MR. REEKER: Both parties have got to take steps. It is what we encourage them to do, to meet the commitments that they have made, and all parties -- those in the region, those in the international communities -- to meeting the commitments that they have made to move forward on the roadmap. It is the only way forward. The killing of innocents has got to stop. We have to see an end to terror and violence, which is clearly spelled out as the first major step of the roadmap.
QUESTION: What about the killing of accused terrorists? You just keep saying the killing of innocents has to end.
MR. REEKER: Exactly.
QUESTION: Right. And --
MR. REEKER: We have said many times before that Israel has a right to defend itself. The war on terrorism is about that. But what both sides need to do is look for ways that they can get back to the dialogue, to the discussion, to be able to move forward in the roadmap, which lays out steps, which lays out commitments, on both side.
Now, a major part of that is ending terror and violence, is focusing on security, because security is the only way to make progress in the region. It is essential that the Palestinian security services take concrete steps, as we have discussed even yesterday, to confront those responsible for the terror and the violence that undermines the pursuit of peace and aspirations of the Palestinian people, as well as the Israeli people.
It is those people, the terrorists, who you mentioned, Teri, who are the enemies of the peace process, who are continuously trying to disrupt efforts on both sides to move forward on this process to give the people of the region a better chance to live securely and with prosperity.
That is what our goal is. That is what has been advanced by the President. It's what has been agreed to by both parties, by all of the leaders in the region, by the international community. And that is what we remain focused on. We have to remain focused on the overall goal.
QUESTION: It seems like the State Department's position is that you are against targeted killings by the Israelis except when it is in retaliation for major terrorist attacks --
MR. REEKER: Eli, the position that we enunciate is the position of the administration. It has been enunciated before. We have talked about it. We want to see an end to violence. We want to see an end to the killing of-- to the killing of innocents, and an end to terrorism. There has got to be an end to this terrorism and violence. It's the only way to move forward. There has got to be a focus on security, making progress through security. And the roadmap sets out the way to do that, and that is what our efforts are towards.
QUESTION: Phil, no one could ever disagree with you. I mean, what you just said is --
MR. REEKER: Thank you. Good. That's great.
QUESTION: I'm just -- I'm saying, why then say, every time this comes up, Israel has a right to defend itself, because it would leave the impression of the State Department press corps, not to mention the Middle East, that by adding that phrase, that's it's okay in this instance because Israel has to defend --
MR. REEKER: That is not what I -- what is --
QUESTION: Well, then it's --
MR. REEKER: Eli, wait. That is not what I said. You heard what I've said. You know what our position is. You know what the roadmap says. Go read the roadmap.
QUESTION: I've read the roadmap.
MR. REEKER: And that's what we are encouraging both sides to do. So read that, and write that. That is what we're saying in our private conversations, and that is what I am saying publicly.
QUESTION: To make sure I understood your answer to George's initial question, which is this latest incident in Gaza, you haven't yet determined what the facts are on the ground, and therefore you're not prepared to comment on it?
MR. REEKER: That was a statement I made some time ago.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Joel.
QUESTION: Phil, this morning the Israeli military went in and snatched two supposed militants from a hospital in Nablus. So under those --
MR. REEKER: I don't know the facts of that. I would refer you to the Israelis or to the Palestinians on that to find out about that. I just don't know the facts of that. I saw the press report, but I would refer you to the parties involved.
QUESTION: Well, actually --
MR. REEKER: Elise.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary made any calls to any other Arab leaders on this -- on the subject of Middle East violence? Or any other ones, for that matter?
MR. REEKER: Today?
MR. REEKER: No.
QUESTION: Well, since the briefing yesterday?
MR. REEKER: Since yesterday's briefing, he did speak with Spanish Foreign Minister Palacio, I think right about the time that we were having a briefing, and he spoke with the Mexican Foreign Secretary Derbez yesterday afternoon/evening. And then today he spoke with French Foreign Minister de Villepin.
QUESTION: On Mexico, can you update us --
QUESTION: Can I ask one more question?
MR. REEKER: Gene.
QUESTION: What's your reaction to the appointment of a new security chief by President Arafat?
MR. REEKER: I guess you weren't here yesterday.
QUESTION: I wasn't, but I saw it.
MR. REEKER: We went through that --
QUESTION: What's the reaction here?
MR. REEKER: We went through that at some great length yesterday, and I can reiterate what we've said. The importance is focusing on bringing an end to terror and violence. That means there has to be progress through security, and it's essential that all Palestinian security services be consolidated under the authority of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. That's what it says in the roadmap. That's what's called for. That's what the Palestinians have committed to do. And that's what must be done as soon as possible.
The Secretary has made that quite clear. As he said last week, the Palestinians have to end the violence that is illustrated by the terrorist bombings that took so many lives just a few days ago and results in this repetitive cycle, and that has got to end. The Palestinian people and the Israeli people deserve better, as the Secretary said.
And so we are pressuring all sides to meet their commitments, but certainly for the Palestinians, for the new government under Prime Minister Abbas to be able to take steps on security, to move forward, as the roadmap describes. To root out terrorist organizations that are against the peace process, he needs to have at his disposal all of the security services consolidated under his control, that is, Prime Minister Abbas, Mr. Dahlan, working to then effect and do all they can to end the terrorist violence.
QUESTION: Well, then I'd have to ask, since the roadmap was announced and implemented, or started to be implemented, those security services have not been under Dahlan entirely. What steps is the United States now taking to see that that --
MR. REEKER: Exactly what we've just been talking about. We've been saying the commitments that the Palestinians have signed up to include consolidation of security services under the new government, that is, Prime Minister Abbas, and that's what we need to see done.
If that fails to happen, if they fail to make all of the security forces available to Prime Minister Abbas and Mr. Dahlan, then the Palestinian people will be failed, once again, because this is the path to exercising the authority that they need, to taking steps on security, to bringing an end to the terrorism and violence that will move us down the roadmap toward the ultimate vision, which is a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
QUESTION: In the conversations with Secretary Derbez, can you update us if the United States has any advance in changing the language of the Mexican resolution?
MR. REEKER: The resolution at the United Nations. That was the topic of discussion between Secretary Powell and his Mexican counterpart. As you know, we have been discussing that with not only the Mexicans but also others at the Security Council, and I would reiterate that we fully appreciate the need for protection of humanitarian workers and the provision of access necessary to carry out their work.
So we continue to work closely with other countries on this. We had expressed concerns to other members of the Security Council, as we discussed yesterday, about some aspects, some of the language in the draft resolution.
Our concerns particularly now involve ensuring that the resolution accurately describes the provisions of international humanitarian law with respect to the protection of humanitarian personnel.
So it's a matter of getting the language right, and we hope to find language that will be acceptable to all. And I believe there are closed-door consultations going on still today at the Security Council in New York.
QUESTION: And let me ask you this. Do you know if Secretary Derbez told Secretary Powell that Mexico is going to support the language that are that you are saying is unacceptable?
MR. REEKER: I don't quite follow your question.
QUESTION: If Secretary Derbez told Secretary Powell that Mexico is going to go through the language that you consider unacceptable.
MR. REEKER: Well, you can ask Secretary Derbez what he said. But what they are involved in is a discussion, part of this ongoing dialogue over the language, over the resolution, to try to find solutions so that we can find language that's acceptable to everybody. And that's the whole process that's ongoing. That includes Mexico, it includes the United States, and it includes the other members of the Security Council.
QUESTION: If the language doesn't change, the United States will use his veto power?
MR. REEKER: We are trying to find a solution so that there is language acceptable to all members of the Security Council.
QUESTION: Phil, it's my understanding that what you're trying to do, right, you said that -- you had a long phrase for ensuring the principles of humanitarian law. But, basically, it's my understanding that what you're trying to do with the language, that, one, you've succeeded in getting the ICC reference removed, the Criminal Court reference removed, or you're happy with what is now in the -- what is in the resolution on that subject; but that now you want to make sure that humanitarian aid workers who may not be clearly identified as such who happen to become targets, that those are not automatic -- that those such attacks like that are not automatically considered war crimes. Is that a fair assessment?
MR. REEKER: What we need to do is exactly what I said. We need to make sure that the language, in terms of describing international humanitarian law, is, in fact, consistent with the protection of humanitarian personnel. So that involves lawyers, it involves wordsmiths, it involves a conversation, a dialogue that is going on right now at the Security Council, and I am just not in a position to try to parse for you where they are --
QUESTION: Well, can you -- I'm not asking --
MR. REEKER: -- or exactly what words are being looked at. It is a process that is ongoing. I really don't have anything more to add, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, so you can't explain, in kind of layman's terms, what exactly that means, what it means when you say you --
MR. REEKER: Once there is a final resolution and we have language that we think meets everybody's needs, then we can discuss that. And if there needs to be any parsing or describing --
QUESTION: Well, I am not asking what --
MR. REEKER: -- but I -- until I have the language, I can't really give it to you because I don't know what it is.
QUESTION: But there must be some easier way to explain what you are trying to do.
MR. REEKER: When we get there and when we find language that everybody is comfortable with and we feel explains that, then I will give it to you.
QUESTION: Okay. But just so you understand, I am not asking you for the language.
MR. REEKER: I know you are not, Matt. I know what you are asking.
QUESTION: I'm trying to figure out what you mean by saying --
MR. REEKER: I am listening to you. That is what we are working on, is trying to describe that and make sure that whatever language we can come up with reflects appropriately what international law reflects, in terms of what the needs are to actually protect international humanitarian workers.
That is the goal of it, so to make sure that the language of the resolution would actually meet the goal, attain what we are trying to do with this resolution, which is to provide protection to humanitarian workers as they go about their very important business. So that is the goal, and it is sometimes difficult to find language that meets that precisely, and that is what they are working on now.
QUESTION: Phil, could you just tell us what the American interpretation of international humanitarian law is in this regard?
MR. REEKER: We will have to get you a special briefing then, Eli, if that is what you are looking for.
QUESTION: Well, I'm not trying to be flippant here, but that's obviously a big topic. And when you say we're just trying to, like, make sure that it's consistent with, there are a number of interpretations, right?
MR. REEKER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, I would imagine.
MR. REEKER: That is the whole reason that we are having a discussion, Eli, at the Security Council. It is called a "closed-door" discussion. And were I to try to conduct that discussion from here, it wouldn't be very closed-door now, would it?
So let's let that discussion go on. We are working with the other members of the Security Council. And as soon as we have something to actually report for you further on that, we will let you know. We are trying to find language that is acceptable to everybody.
QUESTION: Can we assume, then, that since you didn't mention the International Criminal Court today, you believe that that concern has been addressed?
MR. REEKER: Again, until it is all done, it is not all done. So let's just let the process go forth. I don't want to try to tell you what they have been doing because I have not talked to the people in New York in the last few hours.
QUESTION: Do you have any explanation of why the language on the table, besides the ICC reference, is not acceptable?
MR. REEKER: No, because I am not able to tell you what language, precisely, is on the table and where things stand. As we dealt with some of the concerns --
QUESTION: Well, as presented by Mexico, I mean.
MR. REEKER: We talked a bit about that yesterday.
MR. REEKER: And I told you that. Now, as we go through this process, I can't tell you where things are at any point. So to try to parse it any further now just -- I just don't have anything more for you because I can't do it while they are having the conversation.
So when we get there, and if we have something further we can say on the final result of this discussion, then we will be happy to talk about it at the time.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. REEKER: Someone behind you was going to go first.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: My question is about Colombia.
MR. REEKER: Colombia.
QUESTION: As you maybe know, General Hector Fabio Velasco did resign as a commandant, and some reports suggested that the U.S. put pressure on Colombian Government in order to remove General Velasco because he never accepted responsibility of what happened in Santo Domingo. Do you have any reactions?
MR. REEKER: Right. I have read some of the press reports about it. I think when Under Secretary Grossman was in Colombia recently, he addressed some of these same issues.
The specific question about General Velasco and his retirement, that would be an internal Colombian decision, and you would want to talk to the Colombian Government about that.
In terms of the broader picture, we have long said that we had concerns about what happened at the Santo Domingo incident, and we have wanted to see a full and thorough investigation. We understand that there is an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Colombian prosecutor's office.
And so, as we've said for some time, we want to see a credible accounting. And the Government of Colombia has known that and they have been pursuing this investigation. So we continue to expect a full accounting of the events related to the Santo Domingo incident. But in terms of the details or how that process is carried out, that you would want to talk to the Colombian Government about.
QUESTION: But the State Department believes that General Velasco did enough in order to resign from his --
MR. REEKER: No, those are decisions, as I have just told you, for the Colombian Government, if you want to talk to the Colombians about that. What we want to see is a full investigation and an accounting for, you know, accountability for what happened in Santo Domingo. And I understand that the investigation in Colombia is still ongoing.
QUESTION: Dmitry Sidorov, Kommersant Russian Daily. What was the reason for Jack Pritchard's resignation?
MR. REEKER: We discussed that yesterday at great length.
QUESTION: Oh. I wasn't here.
MR. REEKER: I'm happy to go over it again.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Since it is summer.
Ambassador Pritchard, as I said yesterday, has had a very distinguished career in government. Besides his State Department work, he was earlier with the Defense Department and the U.S. military. He decided to join the private sector. It is a decision that I understand was in the works for some months. And he then decided that last Friday would be his final day and he made his resignation formal at that day.
He played a significant and valued role, as Secretary Powell said and I indicated yesterday. We appreciate everything that he's done. We wish him all things good in his new endeavors. But as I said, it was a decision that he had been working on, I think, for several months.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, I have another question regarding this. Does it mean that U.S. will introduce more confrontational position talking to North Korea?
MR. REEKER: No, I think you know that we're involved right now. In fact, I suppose the delegations are sleeping in Beijing. But they had a dinner reception this evening, as an introduction to the six-party talks which will begin tomorrow in Beijing.
And you are well aware of our position on those talks, what we want to see from that, that it is an important step. I think it demonstrates that the diplomacy that President Bush and Secretary Powell have pursued has been very effective, and, with the support of countries like China, who have made a significant contribution to getting us to this point, and to working with other countries, our allies, Japan and South Korea, who have serious equities involved in the threats posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and to Russia as well, who is also participating in these talks.
But this is a multilateral issue that requires a multilateral solution, and that's why we are pursuing these talks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Eli.
QUESTION: He was both the U.S. Ambassador to KEDO and the Special -- what was his title with regard to this as an envoy to North Korea?
MR. REEKER: I think he was considered -- let me see here -- Special Envoy for Negotiations with the DPRK and U.S. Representative to KEDO, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization.
QUESTION: And if I could just -- just, not to belabor --
MR. REEKER: No, never. No.
QUESTION: As the Special Envoy for Negotiations with the DPRK, it seems that Ambassador Pritchard was never really that involved in the major, sort of, meetings that the United States had with the DPRK. That would usually go to Assistant Secretary Kelly.
QUESTION: He was in Beijing.
QUESTION: He was in Beijing?
MR. REEKER: He was in Beijing.
QUESTION: He was in Beijing?
MR. REEKER: He would have been in Beijing had he not chosen to retire at this point.
QUESTION: And he would have been in Beijing had he not chosen to retire?
MR. REEKER: His name was on the list.
QUESTION: Phil, can you say just -- the Secretary did respond to Senator Kyl's letter?
MR. REEKER: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And he told Senator Kyl that the stories about Ambassador Pritchard were, what, untrue, inaccurate?
MR. REEKER: I'm not quite sure I'm -- I mean, there were issues about Ambassador Pritchard that --
QUESTION: Well, there were some -- there were some stories, rumors, as you were, that --
MR. REEKER: I think we have made quite clear in the Secretary's response to Senator Kyl, as we have from here, that these stories about Under Secretary Bolton's speech were simply not true. We reiterated what we have said from here. And certainly, these rumors and suggestions that involved Ambassador Pritchard were, similarly, not true. Some corners of the world get awfully susceptible to rumors and suggestions.
So we have had an extremely great deal of help from Ambassador Pritchard. As I said, his role was "significant and valued," and those are the words of the Secretary of State. And we would have welcomed his further contributions to U.S. efforts to deal with the North Korea issue, including his participation in the current Beijing talks, having participated in the last set of Beijing talks. But, obviously, he has made a personal decision, which we respect and understand, to move on to a new phase in his career.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about a meeting that Secretary Powell is apparently having today with Paul Bremer, the Iraq Administrator?
MR. REEKER: I can't tell you anything about a particular meeting. I know they have been in touch since Ambassador Bremer has been back in the country. They are in touch quite regularly through e-mail and telephone contact anyway. But they have been in touch, and I just don't know if they have organized a personal meeting or not.
The Secretary was on his way back today from his vacation spot in New York, and so he remains technically on holiday. But, obviously, as you have seen from the phone calls and other things that he has done over the past week or so, he is continually quite engaged on a number of topics.
QUESTION: So is he in the building today, then, Phil?
MR. REEKER: No, not that I am aware of.
Yeah, behind you. Come back to you, Teri.
QUESTION: During Beijing, how was the atmosphere? Did the U.S. and the North Korean delegations --
MR. REEKER: I wasn't there so --
QUESTION: I think there are some reports of this Mr. Kelly --
MR. REEKER: I have not gotten any particular readouts. We met bilaterally with the Chinese delegation led by the Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi. We also met bilaterally with the Russian team that was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Losyukov. And as I think we discussed yesterday, Assistant Secretary Kelly and his team met trilaterally with the South Koreans and the Japanese delegations.
So we had useful discussions in those formats, as a preparation for tomorrow's six-party talks. Today, in Beijing, concluded with this dinner that was hosted by the Chinese for all six delegations. And so I just don't have any specific readouts on it, but we look forward to going into the talks that begin, I think, at 9:00 a.m., Beijing time, Wednesday morning, which would be later this evening here in Washington.
So Teri was next.
QUESTION: On Iran, is there anything you can tell us about this report the IAEA has prepared that indicates that they did find trace elements of highly enriched uranium around and at the Natanz facility?
MR. REEKER: No, I don't think I could go into the latest IAEA report. You know they have been obviously to Iran. You will recall in, I guess, June, when the IAEA's Board of Governors issued a report, they confirmed a series of failures on the part of Iran to comply with their safeguards agreement, and the clandestine nuclear program that we have been concerned about, I think, was demonstrated to represent a serious challenge to regional stability for the entire international community, and really the global nonproliferation regime.
So we will wait and see what this final report says. But as we have said before, we think Iran needs to implement immediately the additional protocol and resolve a number of other outstanding questions about their secret nuclear activities. I think the international community itself made that quite clear that Iran can try to start to rebuilding some confidence by, you know, taking immediate and unconditional implementation of the protocol. And that is what we have certainly called upon them to do.
So we will have to wait and see what the report says. Once it's finally made public, we can probably discuss it a little bit more.
QUESTION: Well, the IAEA is saying that Iran does say now that it will start turning over more information about where it got its items and what exactly it has. How -- I don't want to give you an adverb -- how do you view such a claim by Iran?
MR. REEKER: Give me an adjective.
QUESTION: Are you skeptical?
MR. REEKER: No. I think we just need to wait and see. I have seen some reports. I don't know that I have seen formal statements from the IAEA. Their discussions, certainly, about the protocol are coming practically on the eve of the next Board of Governors meeting, which is scheduled to take place September the 8th in Vienna. And that's where the IAEA Board of Governors will consider whether to report Iran's noncompliance to the Security Council. So it is going to be crucial to see whether Iran is willing to follow through with accepting the same protocol that other non-weapons states have accepted.
QUESTION: Well, actually --
MR. REEKER: Elise.
QUESTION: It sounds as if Iran is looking to enter into negotiations on signing --
MR. REEKER: Sounds like? I mean, let's --
QUESTION: Some comments from Vienna that it appears as though Iran is looking to enter into negotiations on --
MR. REEKER: That is certainly what we have called for and that is what we would want to see, but I just don't want to get ahead of ourselves now. Let's wait and see what actually comes from this and we'll see what the IAEA report has to say.
QUESTION: Well, but, obviously, the U.S. had diplomats in Vienna. Have you heard anything about Iran looking to negotiate with the IAEA?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any more than the reports that I've seen. Probably the same wire reports and other things that you're seeing. So I think I've laid out what we've said before, which is our position on this, and now we just have to wait and see how the Iranians respond and if, indeed, they do follow through. If they are willing to accept the protocol, that would obviously be a good thing, but we'll just have to wait and see. They have clearly not been forthcoming in the past with the actual facts and details about their secret nuclear programs, and that is what has been of great concern to us and, obviously, to the international community as a whole.
Matt, and we'll come back.
QUESTION: Yeah, on Iran. Is this -- Iran was one of the topics of conversation with Under Secretary Bolton and Russian officials in Moscow yesterday and today? And I'm wondering if you have anything to say about the Russian decision to continue its nuclear cooperation with Iran, despite your concerns.
MR. REEKER: I have just seen some wire reports on that. I checked with Under Secretary Bolton's office. He did meet with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Kislyak yesterday, I guess, Monday in Moscow, to address a wide range of nonproliferation issues. As you know, that was the latest in a series of meetings he's had with Russian counterparts.
This morning, he met with the Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Rumyantsev, and the purpose of that meeting was to hold consultations in advance of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors meeting, the one I just mentioned that's taking place September 8th in Vienna and that is going to address these concerns about the Iranian nuclear program.
So Under Secretary Bolton left Russia. I don't have any additional readouts from those meetings. He is in Paris right now for consultations with French officials on Iran, as well as North Korea and the Proliferation Security Initiative.
Yes, sir, in the back, and then Adi. Lots of beeping back there.
QUESTION: On six-party talks, in the first dinner session, were there any informal direct talk with North Korean delegation?
MR. REEKER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Or can you give us some specific --
MR. REEKER: I've given you everything I know.
Let's go over to Adi and then come back to Joel.
QUESTION: In reference to the horrific terrorist attacks in India yesterday, are you aware of any American citizens who may have been killed? And, secondly, is the United States providing any sort of assistance? Is this Department providing any assistance to the Indians in their investigations into the attacks?
MR. REEKER: The simple answer is I don't know. I am not aware of any American citizens killed in those horrific attacks, which we condemned from here yesterday. You will recall that the Secretary spoke with his Indian counterpart and offered our condolences on that. The White House, the President has also issued a statement on that.
I will continue to check with our consular affairs people. I am not aware of any American citizens killed, but clearly the loss of life was quite staggering, and demonstrating, once again, how we all have to work against terrorism.
In terms of specific cooperation, I am not aware of requests. Obviously we stand ready, but it's an Indian matter. I know they are investigating the perpetrators of that act. As I said in a statement yesterday, we want to see justice brought as quickly as possible.
Joel was going to be next.
QUESTION: Yes, in Liberia, is the ongoing clashes with the rebel groups, the LURD and MODEL, making ECOWAS' peace deal more fragile?
MR. REEKER: We are concerned, deeply concerned, by the renewed violence that we've seen in Liberia in the last couple of days. Let me make quite clear that we condemn the LURD, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, who do not seem to be working towards either of those goals through the violent action that they've been involved with, and also the government militias. There have been provocations near Gbarnga, which we condemn on both sides. And also, the other movement, the MODEL, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, and some of the government fighters have been failing to maintain peace in and around Buchanan, and we are calling upon them to reinvigorate their efforts to do that.
Some of the statements that we saw over the weekend from the LURD said that its objective had not been fully achieved and they were talking about incursions into upper Nimba County. We find those completely unacceptable, in light of the signed commitment that all of these groups, including the LURD, made August 18th as part of the comprehensive peace agreement.
The MODEL group, likewise, needs to maintain effective control over their fighters, and provide for the safety and well-being of all civilians in areas where they're operating.
So 150 of the U.S. Marines on the ground have returned to their warships off the coast, which puts them in a better position to deploy elsewhere in Liberia, if necessary. There remain about 100 U.S. troops currently ashore in Monrovia. That includes the liaison teams and includes the Embassy guards. The Pentagon could give you some more details on that.
But it's something that's of concern to us. What we want to see is restoration of the security environment, something that the ECOMIL, the Economic Community of West African States, military mission has begun to do in and around Monrovia.
And, of course, we want to make sure that the humanitarian crisis can be addressed. Ships with humanitarian supplies have begun to offload critical supplies and, as I indicated, U.S. Marines have continued to support ECOMIL, in terms of a liaison office at the international airport and at the Freeport, and a quick reaction force ready to back up ECOMIL as required.
Do you have a follow-up?
QUESTION: Well, not that pertain to Liberia. There's similar rebel fighting in Ivory Coast. The French have been mostly handling that. Do you see a similar increase in groups such as ECOWAS to handle that?
MR. REEKER: I don't -- I'm afraid I don't have updates on the situation in the Ivory Coast, so I could look into that for you, Joel, if you want.
Jesus, and then Matt.
QUESTION: Just if the water debt of Mexico the U.S. was one of the other topics that Secretary Powell discussed with Derbez.
MR. REEKER: Not that I am aware of. That's something that we continuously look at, but I don't know that that came up specifically in their discussions yesterday. We are talking about the resolution in New York.
QUESTION: On another phone call the Secretary made. Presumably he spoke with Foreign Minister de Villepin this morning about two things going on with the UN, one being the -- your proposal, or your plans, or your consideration of introducing a new resolution on Iraq, and also the lifting of sanctions on Libya. Am I correct in thinking that those are two topics of conversation?
MR. REEKER: You know, I don't have full readouts. Those would strike me as good topics of conversation.
QUESTION: Can you give us any updates on the status of that -- of those --
MR. REEKER: I really can't. I think the Libya one, I can't move it any further than where we were yesterday. You will recall, it's a British resolution that we are looking at to move through the Security Council as quickly as possible. That is our goal. I just don't have any news on it today.
In terms of the other broad discussion that we continue to have with lots of other countries and Security Council leaders, and that is language or possible resolutions on Iraq, there are still no determinations at all. It has been sort of surprising to see some press reports suggesting that some sort of decision has been made in one direction or the other. We continue to talk and explore with colleagues various ideas that are out there. I think we have a ways to go on that, but there are clearly no determinations.
Already, though, I would remind you that we have very much an international involvement on the ground in Iraq. And what we are doing is talking to others about possible ways of augmenting that, of doing other things that might be done to reach our goals in Iraq, the goals reflected in the existing Security Council Resolution 1483 and 1500. So those discussions continue on. But, as I said, there really are no determinations on movement up there.
Yeah, in the back.
QUESTION: Sir, do you expect any significant change in Russian position on Iran? I mean, do you expect they will stop their nuclear aid to Iran in --
MR. REEKER: I think that is a question you really have to direct to the Russian Government.
MR. REEKER: I can't begin to speak for them. I do a bad enough job speaking for our government.
QUESTION: Yeah, I know that Deputy Foreign Minister Kislyak was here, so I hoped you know.
MR. REEKER: We certainly made clear our concerns about Iran and their nuclear programs, and we've talked about it a number of times from here. There was enough concern that the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community, more broadly, has taken a real interest and realized this.
And so I will just go back to what I said a little bit earlier about the steps we think Iran has to take. And we continue to discuss with Russia their connections with Iran on that, and we are hoping that any country that has the opportunity to make clear to Iran the importance of addressing these concerns.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Last thing, Matt, yeah.
QUESTION: Have you had time to come to any conclusions about the changing government or the changes in the Burmese leadership?
MR. REEKER: The Burmese leadership, which you asked about yesterday. We had noted the changes in the ruling junta in Burma. The question remains, of course, whether the junta will take the serious and concrete steps that are necessary to address the intolerable situation in Burma.
The international community has made quite clear that we want to see a change in direction in Rangoon, including the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners, the reopening of the offices of the National League for Democracy, and the implementation of a plan for restored democracy in Burma. And we will continue to press those points at every opportunity.
QUESTION: Okay, and the last one. Rwanda. Yesterday, you had some preliminary comments on the election. Do you have anything now that President Kagame has been officially declared the winner? Do you have anything to say?
MR. REEKER: Yeah, I think as I indicated, this was an important milestone, in terms of holding this first presidential election since the genocide in 1994. We now see that preliminary results from the August 25 presidential elections indicate a likely victory for the incumbent, Paul Kagame.
If that proves to be the case, we will welcome working with President Kagame and his government on the various issues of mutual interests that we have, regional stability in the Great Lakes region, and other things.
We are continuing to assess the conduct and the results of the elections. As I said yesterday, we were concerned about harassment of opposition representatives and intimidation of voters. And so we saw also that there appeared to be some coerced statements made by some of the opposition representatives who were detained on the eve of the elections.
Clearly, as Rwanda prepares for the next step in its political transition on September 29th, when it has its first ever legislative election since the genocide of 1994, we would look forward to the people of Rwanda's full participation in the process, and we are calling on interested parties to ensure that the elections are fair and transparent.
And so we'll continue to take a look at that, as I described yesterday. Our Embassy has been active on the ground and monitoring the election process.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)
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