U.S. State Dept. Daily Press Briefing - 7 July
Middle East – Haiti – Rwanda – China/Pakistan – China – Tunisia – Mexico – Ethiopia/Eritrea – Colombia – Peru – Fiji – Human Rights - Cuba
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING INDEX
Friday, July 7, 2000
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 1,3-6, 9 Press Media FacilityEstablished at Thurmont Elementary School for Camp David Talks / Infantry Drills by Palestinian Police / Pre-SummitTalks / Secretary's Phone Calls to Middle East Leaders
HAITI 1-3 Differences Between US & Haiti on Question of Runoff / Economic Sanctions
RWANDA 6-7 OAU Report on Rwanda Genocide / Call for Reparations
CHINA / PAKISTAN 8 Chinese Nuclear Cooperation with Pakistan
CHINA 8 Senior Advisor Holum Meeting with the Chinese / Criticism of US Missile Defense System 9 Senate PNTR Vote
TUNISIA 10-11 Visit of Tunisian President Ben Ali
MEXICO 11 President-Elect Fox's Proposal on Increased US Visas for Mexicans
ETHIOPIA / ERITREA 11-13 Conclusion of Washington Talks
COLOMBIA 13-14 European Union Willingness to Help Fight Drugs / Military Construction Bill / European Delegation Meeting with FARC / Reports of Venezuelan Government Support of FARC / Cocaine Consumption
PERU 14-15 OAS Mission
FIJI 15 Hostage Update / Talks with Fijian Diplomats
HUMAN RIGHTS 16 Human Rights Watch Report on Land Mines
CUBA 16 Helms-Burton Waiver Decision
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #71 FRIDAY, JULY 7, 2000, 12:55 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Off the top, I just want to tell you we will have an announcement, a notice on media facilities for the events at Camp David. The highlights are that the press media working facility will be established at the Thurmont Elementary School at 805 East Main Street in Thurmont, Maryland, beginning on Monday, July 10th, at 7:00 o'clock. This facility will be available 24 hours a day. That's where we'll do briefings. And then there is plenty of information in the notice about telephones and credentials, workspace, parking and directions. I think electricity is in there somewhere. No currency exchange.
QUESTION: Will there be elementary school desks for us to work at? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we're deciding who gets kindergarten and who gets fifth grade, too. So be nice to us.
QUESTION: Can I vote for the pre-K?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I actually think we may even have new furniture for you.
QUESTION: How about air conditioning?
QUESTION: It's expected the repairs will be completed by the 19th.
MR. BOUCHER: You know, it's not mentioned in here. We'll double check on air conditioning. It's nice up there, though. It's a place where people go for better air.
All right, with that, I'll be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the differences the US has with Haiti on the question of whether or not a runoff should be held on Sunday?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Let me say that the second round that doesn't include runoffs for the senate races, which is where many of our serious concerns are, is in fact inadequate and incomplete to address the issues that are before us. The failure of the Haitian Government and the electoral authorities to use the proper method in determining winners in the senate election certainly calls into question the credibility of the entire Haitian election process.
Haitian law requires candidates to win 50 percent plus one of eligible votes or to face a runoff. The flawed method used by the Haitian authorities give premature victory to many senate candidates in the first round. This flawed method has drawn appropriate criticism from across Haitian civil and political society, from the Organization of American States, from the UN Secretary General, the European Union, national governments, and the President of Haiti's own provisional election council.
The UN Security Council discussed the issue yesterday and the Council president issued a statement calling on the Haitian authorities to adhere to their own electoral law. We strongly commend the Caribbean community, which has taken the lead role in pressing the Haitian Government and the electoral officials to resolve the situations. We would say it's not too late for Haitian authorities to bring the system in line with Haitian law and international standards, to enjoy the full support of those who have fought so long and hard for democracy in Haiti and to avoid a painful division from its friends at home and abroad.
QUESTION: It's not too late? It's two days away? What are they going to do?
MR. BOUCHER: The issue of the senate race still needs to be addressed. The fact that this runoff doesn't address that means that this runoff itself is incomplete and inadequate. But it's not too late to issue the fundamental issue of contention, which is the issue of the senate races.
QUESTION: Does that mean that the US might support a second - second runoff just for those senate races?
MR. BOUCHER: We think that there should have been a runoff for the senate seats and we think that's still the situation.
QUESTION: So there's still - in other words -
MR. BOUCHER: I am trying not to specify a particular course. Obviously, we thought there should have been a runoff for those senate seats, that the method used to certify them was wrong and that there should still be a runoff that includes the senate seats.
QUESTION: There will be a runoff but for seats other than senate seats?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, our understanding is the weekend one is for the other house, the other part of the Assembly.
QUESTION: Richard, taking the fact that Haiti doesn't have the same economy like Peru, is the United States planning to threaten Haitian authorities with economic sanctions, like you did in Peru, if they don't make the second runoff?
MR. BOUCHER: The flaws in the electoral process in Haiti are being addressed by the international community and by the people in the Organization of American States, the United Nations, the Caribbean community has taken a lead role. So, yes, we are concerned about democracy and flawed elections in the hemisphere and we address each one and we are addressing this one in that manner.
QUESTION: But you are not considering sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not saying one way or the other. I am saying that what we are doing is we are addressing it in this manner with the OAS and the other people in the region.
QUESTION: The Haaretz newspaper in Israel is reporting that the Palestinian authority police is conducting battalion sized infantry drills with heavier weapons such as machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, et cetera. Do you know anything about this and, if so, how do you think this would affect the peace process?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer to the first part is, no, I don't know anything about this. I am sure somebody in this building might. And second of all, I won't speculate on how it might affect the peace process. I will look and see if there is anything to say on that but I'm not sure there is.
QUESTION: You will take the question? Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: I will look at it and see if we have anything we want to say.
QUESTION: Did I miss this already, Richard? Did you say the location had been determined for the pre-summit talks?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't.
QUESTION: Has the location been determined for the pre-summit talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to say.
QUESTION: Do we know -
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - where they're going to meet two days away? Or is it kind of like the Haiti election, there's still time to fix this - (laughter).
MR. BOUCHER: No, frankly, I don't know precisely at this moment if they've determined a location but, in any case, we're not going to talk about it.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - the location or does the US host determine the location?
MR. BOUCHER: We would determine the -
QUESTION: Are we the host of these talks as well?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we would determine the location.
QUESTION: Because when you said "they," I wondered who you were referring to.
MR. BOUCHER: My friends upstairs.
QUESTION: Oh, I thought you meant other countries.
Do you now know what day Secretary Albright will get involved and to what extent?
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I think I described yesterday that she would be full-time actively involved.
QUESTION: Excuse me, the pre-talks.
MR. BOUCHER: The pre - when she will meet with the negotiators, the senior negotiators?
QUESTION: Yeah, that's what I think we're focused on.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have a precise timing on that. The negotiators will arrive over the weekend and the Secretary will talk to them, will be meeting with them, but I don't have precise times or locations for that.
QUESTION: Do you have a day, whether it will be Sunday or Monday?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have that for you yet.
QUESTION: How about a day for the pre-summit talks to begin?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't have that for you yet.
QUESTION: I mean, is it because it hasn't been decided yet or Dennis has decided that this has got to be a state secret? Because I mean, I don't see why it's endangering anything to say where they are and when they are?
MR. BOUCHER: There are going to be a number of discussions but, at this point, we're just not in a position to give you the details of when and where and how. I'll try to do that when we can but not all these things are decided at this point. The arrangements are still being made and we just don't have the information for you at this point.
QUESTION: The weekend begins in about six hours and I don't suppose you're planning a Saturday noontime briefing. So how will you disseminate to the reporters that care and are responsible for covering these events the weekend talks before the weekend is over?
MR. BOUCHER: We have duty officers that are available on Saturday if we have information. And if we have stuff that we can put out, we'll put it out. We'll get it out to you and your organizations by fax or some other method.
QUESTION: Do you think you'll say where the talks are held before they're held?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure, frankly.
QUESTION: And again, my next question, what's the rationale for being so secret?
MR. BOUCHER: The rationale is that we're entering a period of very intense negotiations leading to the talks between the leaders at Camp David. We are dealing with very difficult issues that are going to require a lot of effort to resolve. We want to make that effort, we want the parties to make that effort. And we think we can best make that effort outside the glare of publicity and without having to debate in public who's doing what and what they're talking about and how they're treating the issues.
QUESTION: Will these talks, the preliminary talks, be open to the press? Will they be cloistered? Do you yet know?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we've ever opened up these talks to the press and I don't think now is the time to start.
QUESTION: Could you try and flesh out a little bit more or characterize the nature of these talks. You said yesterday they wouldn't be agenda setting but they will be addressing permanent status issues. Will they be addressing interim issues as well?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, no, I can't flesh out in more detail exactly which issues we'll take up in which groups and which locations. The intention is to get senior negotiators here in advance of the leaders, so that they can use their discussions to focus on the topics, all the issues that the leaders will have to deal with.
As we've said before, we look to the leaders to focus on the core issues involved in permanent status and to try to resolve those as comprehensively as possible.
MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me?
QUESTION: These issues, the difficult issues to be negotiated, what is it?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try off the top of my head a list. I think we all know what the issues are and we've talked about them in the past.
QUESTION: Is there a chance the leaders' arrival is being delayed?
MR. BOUCHER: The talks at Camp David, President Clinton, Prime Minister Barak, Chairman Arafat, those talks will begin July 11, Tuesday, at Camp David. That's the expectation.
QUESTION: Do you have a time?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not yet.
QUESTION: New subject? So far as the President's participation, one of his spokespeople this morning said he'll be in and out depending on how - now we're talking about, of course, the real talks up at Camp David - you know, that there will be times when he's there and times when he's not there, an incredibly illogical position.
Will the Secretary similarly, you know, roll with the rhythm of the negotiations or is she going to be permanently ensconced, at least for the first several days, up at Camp David?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I said yesterday and I've said again today, we expect her to be there full time actively working that process, actively participating.
QUESTION: She'll be at Camp David, unlike the President who will come and go as circumstances warrant?
MR. BOUCHER: That's our understanding.
QUESTION: A few weeks ago, you were using the term "end of conflict agreement," that the United States wants that to come out of Camp David. But I haven't heard that lately. And I may have perceived things wrong, but it seems like you have backed off of that position. Is that perception correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we try to describe as best we can the approach we take to this summit, resolving the fundamental issues and end of conflict are almost the same thing. To reach agreement on the core issues involved, to resolve these issues in a fundamental manner is the goal there. To us, that constitutes the framework, the understandings, the resolution that are necessary to end the conflict.
QUESTION: The OAU put out a report today up at the UN criticizing the United States among others about the genocide in Rwanda. The former Canadian ambassador there singled out Madeleine Albright, saying he doesn't know - he doesn't understand how she, meaning Albright, can live with it, meaning Albright was the US rep at the UN and criticized the US role at the Security Council as undercutting efforts to strengthen the peacekeeping force there. I wanted to know what your thoughts of that criticism was of her and of the US.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me say first of all that the Secretary's personal role and personal feelings - she's talked about this a number of times and has talked about the difficulty at the time that she felt of being the US representative at the UN and her feeling that we should have done more. And, in fact, I think the President himself has been quite clear in saying, during his trip to Rwanda in 1998, he said the international community together with the nations in Africa must bear its share of responsibility for the tragedy. We did not act quickly enough after the killings began and we did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name, genocide. President Clinton pointed out we cannot change the past but we can and most do everything in our power to help build the future.
So I think we've been quite open about our views in retrospect on the situation there. Both the Secretary and the President. We have seen the media reports concerning this particular report but we don't have a copy yet. But I do want to say that we've been very supportive of the eminent persons group and its mission from the beginning. The US advocated its creation and held lengthy consultations with its officials. We do believe it's very important that the international community seek to learn the lessons from the events of Rwanda in 1994.
QUESTION: There was also a call for reparations. Would you support that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything that addresses that. I do think that we have been very active in supporting the aid effort that's under way. We've provided over $100 million of assistance to displaced and refugee populations in the first year of the crisis. In 1994, we did more. I guess I don't have a particular total figure but we've been very active in support of aid efforts in the region.
The other thing, I think, to address is the President's statement that he said we need to learn the lessons, we need to do everything we can in our power to help build the future. We have taken several steps to address the threat of resurgent genocide in the region and, more generally, improve the ability of the international community to deal with the issue of genocide, should we again have to face that task.
During his trip to Africa, the President announced two initiatives for the Great Lakes region, the Justice Initiative and the International Coalition Against Genocide for the Great Lakes region. Through this initiative, we're trying to counter the culture of impunity that's spawned so much of the violence and we're trying to rebuild the rule of law in the region. The International Coalition is still in the formation process but that's an attempt to bring together the states of the region to work systematically to prevent counter-genocide. And we, as you know, have created a position here in this building, the President and the Secretary have, of Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues.
Ambassador David Scheffers heads that office and he has focused much of his work on Rwanda. The work that he does, including the work of the Interagency Group on Atrocities, is to detect early signs of possible genocide, other serious violations of human law and to make recommendations to policymakers about how to prevent them. So we are trying to learn the lessons and we are trying to prevent this kind of thing from occurring in the future.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary, in the past several times he has spoken from this podium against the arms race in South Asia, especially between India and Pakistan. Now, this week, Britain lifted arms embargo against Pakistan. And, number two, China is also, according to the report in The Washington Post, The New York Times and other reports, helping in nuclear and missile tests again, still helping Pakistan.
Do you think this building favors sanctions against China? That's what the Congressman Frank is calling on the Administration?
MR. BOUCHER: We have a delegation in China right now talking to the Chinese about issues of arms control, proliferation and other security issues. These topics are under discussion. We've expressed our concerns previously about Chinese cooperation with other countries, including Pakistan. And those issues are all under discussion at this point now.
QUESTION: Do you favor any sanctions because of the - they have broken the rules of the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: We have applied our law in the past and we fully intend to continue to apply the law where it's applicable. But without - I am not able to discuss any particular case in terms of what we know and whether the legal standards are met. But certainly whenever the legal standards are met, we intend to apply our law.
QUESTION: On that subject, have you - has the Department heard back from Mr. Holum, Mr. Einhorn and the rest of the delegation that met today with the Chinese?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been in touch with them but all I can really tell you at this point is he has completed his first day of talks with Chinese officials. The Chinese side was headed by Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya. And that he is going to be holding a press conference in Beijing tomorrow afternoon, 3:00 o'clock Beijing time, to provide information to you all on his discussions.
QUESTION: And further, does the State Department have a response to the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mr. Sun, who is saying that America's National Missile Defense efforts goes against the trend of the times and that other - the TMD especially, represents a grave violation of China's sovereignty and territorial integrity if it is shared with Taiwan? Does the US have a response to, once again, the criticisms about missile interception or missile defense?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the key to the answer is in the question, the "once again." This is a repeat of China's position on missile defenses including theater missile defenses with respect to Taiwan. I will repeat what we've said previously, that we made no decisions on the deployment of missile defense systems other than for the protection of US forces. Our interest is in preserving peace and stability in the region and any future decisions would be made on that basis. Theater missile defense is still under development and it is premature to talk about a decision now. We believe and continue to believe a dialogue across the Taiwan Straits is the best way to work towards peaceful resolution of the differences and we urge both sides to be flexible and creative in making that dialogue possible.
QUESTION: Can we stay in the region? I don't know, perhaps the Pentagon is a better place to ask this question, but do you have anything to say about what's going on in Okinawa right now?
MR. BOUCHER: You mean with the crime? No, I don't. I think we've made very clear, both from our people out there and spokesmen here that we very much regret the incident and believe the crimes need to be punished.
QUESTION: The Japanese Ambassador this morning said that he thought the time was - the issue of the summit - and I know that you're going to refer me to the White House, but I have to ask it anyway - he thought that the summit in Okinawa would be a great time for the President to say something to the Okinawan people about what's been going on there. Does the State Department agree with that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a decision that will have to be made at the White House. But let me see if there's more that we would like to say at this stage.
QUESTION: I think the Senate vote on PNTR is the 12th, next week, at least they're going to try to. So has the Secretary been making any phone calls to try to assure its passage in the Senate in the same way that she was active on the House vote?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And is she confident of its passage?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we look forward to a vote in the Senate. I hadn't actually heard that a date had been set. But certainly, we are looking for a vote similar to the one in the House but we think it's important to work actively and carefully with members of the Senate so that they understand all our positions and the Secretary has been making phone calls, as she did with House members, to discuss the issues involved with various members of the Senate.
QUESTION: Do you care to share an example of her activity?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm going to give her - no.
QUESTION: On the area of the Secretary's phone calls but back to the Middle East, has she talked to any Israeli or Palestinian leaders in the last 24 hours? If so, can you tell us which ones?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of in the last 24 hours. I think I talked yesterday about some of her phone calls to leaders of the region. She, as you know, met with the Tunisian Foreign Minister yesterday morning. She had a phone call with King Mohamed of Morocco yesterday. And she has also talked on the phone with leaders of Arab-American groups and leaders of major Jewish organizations as well, separately, and I think finds that the atmosphere, both from the regional leaders and from the American groups is very supportive, welcome the fact that we are making this effort at this time, that we're looking to try to resolve these issues with the parties. And so she's been - tried to be in touch with various groups that are interested or other governments.
QUESTION: Same subject. Has she also been discussing with foreign leaders the financial package that would be part of any settlement in the summit talks and what sort of reaction is she getting?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's too early to start talking about anything like that. Obviously, we do recognize that in the past, when there have been developments in the region, we have been prepared to support that. But at some point that something like that would emerge, we would obviously be consulting with our Congress. But not at this stage.
QUESTION: This is a foreign package also. I mean, it's not just going to be Congress. She'll be presumably dealing with regional leaders, oil producing countries, Europe, so forth.
MR. BOUCHER: I guess what we'd say is we are sure the time will come. But at this point, that's not a primary topic of her discussions.
QUESTION: With the visit of the Tunisian President Ben Ali, which is due on the 13th of this month has been postponed, when the visit will take place? Especially when you said the Secretary of State met with the Tunisian Foreign Minister today.
MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: The announcement of a new date would have to come from the White House. The White House issued a statement yesterday after the President's conversation with President Ben Ali and the visit is postponed to a later date but we don't have a new date for you yet.
The Secretary's talks with the Foreign Minister, I have to say, were very positive. They understood clearly the need to move on the Middle East Peace Process and are very supportive of that. They've had a special role - Tunisia has had a special role all along, vis-a-vis the Palestinian side and it's where we started out discussions with them. So they've been very supportive of the peace process all along and remain very supportive.
MR. BOUCHER: I just can't play with dates. I'm sorry about that.
QUESTION: Was there any readout on the Tunisian visit, then?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what I just gave you.
QUESTION: On Mexico, I know you say you were waiting for details, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the President Elect of Mexico will ask the United States for 250,000 visas for Mexicans every year. Since the Secretary has been talking to him and probably (inaudible) too, do you have any reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't seen the proposal itself. We haven't seen the proposal that Mr. Fox would intend to make. So we're not in a position to comment on any particular proposal we haven't seen just based on the press reports.
There are a couple general observations I can give you and tell you a little bit more about US visa law and how it works. First, we agree with the public comments, the observations he's made that economic in development in Mexico is a long-range solution to the migration problem. We look forward to working with him on the migration issue which is very important to both of us. I have to note, though, the State Department doesn't determine somehow unilaterally the number of immigrant visas that could be issued to Mexicans or citizens of other countries.
The annual cap worldwide is calculated in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act and no one country can receive more than 7 percent of the worldwide total. Last fiscal year, the per country limit was 27,083 visas for one country and Mexicans received all 27,083 visas that they were allowed.
There are limited exceptions to this 7 percent rule for certain spouses and children of legal permanent residents and last year Mexican citizens falling into this group received more than 50,000 visas. So the total number of visas issued to Mexican citizens last fiscal year - let's see, the total number of numerically limited immigrant visas issued to Mexican citizens last fiscal year was more than 75,000. That's more than citizens of any other country. Any special provisions going beyond these normal rules and calculations would require congressional action.
QUESTION: I understand the Ethiopia-Eritrean talks have ended. Is that the case? And what's the next step? What have they accomplished?
MR. BOUCHER: The talks that began on Monday adjourned on Thursday, July 6. As you know, they were moderated by our deputy legal advisor with the participation of OAU and UN representatives. We think the talks clarified both sides' positions and priorities regarding these compensation boundary issues and that they helped to facilitate the OAU's efforts as it works for comprehensive peace agreement. The talks remained constructive throughout and our senior people including National Security Advisor - former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake were following the talks closely. But the discussions, as we said, were technical experts.
These were a step forward in the OAU's peace process for the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict. The OAU was represented in the discussions by their technical specialist.
The talks were largely held on a proximity basis but the delegations did meet together occasionally. The OAU process will continue. We will be consulting with the OAU on next steps. Assistant Secretary Rice will represent the US Government at the OAU summit in Lome next week, July 10 to 12, and she and others out there will discuss the peace process with the OAU and the Ethiopian and Eritrean leadership.
QUESTION: Why did they break up the talks?
MR. BOUCHER: They adjourned having accomplished what they could, and now they go on to the OAU summit, more discussions with the OAU.
QUESTION: Maybe I missed it. What exactly was it that they accomplished?
MR. BOUCHER: They clarified the issues and they, we think, contributed to the effort to get a comprehensive pace settlement.
QUESTION: In other words, they didn't accomplish anything?
MR. BOUCHER: That's not what I said, no.
QUESTION: That's exactly what - come on. I mean, how - you can't just -
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not coming here to claim there was some specific agreement or outcome or piece of paper to give you. But that's not to say that these people didn't do anything useful; I'm saying they did something useful.
QUESTION: Right, but if you say they clarified the issues, I mean, the issues were border, the boundaries and compensation.
MR. BOUCHER: And compensation issues.
QUESTION: So how were these issues clarified?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure we're going to give you an exact rundown of people's positions on these things. Just the fact of getting people together, understanding clearly where the positions are, that's one of the things involved in making a peace agreement. We think that they, by doing that, they took a step forward here and that we've started a process that's going to have to continue over time with technical experts and is going to have to continue within the context of the overall peace agreement.
So we thought these talks were useful. That's all I'm saying.
QUESTION: Are they any closer on reaching an agreement on what compensation should be than they were?
MR. BOUCHER: You mean, do we have a ballpark number or something like that? I don't know that I can -
QUESTION: Are their positions closer on that issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if I can lay claim to that in subsequent questions.
QUESTION: You said that it was not all proximity talks, that there were - they did meet face to face. Was it in a social context or a business context, okay?
MR. BOUCHER: They met face to face in a business context once or twice during these discussions.
QUESTION: In this building they met face to face or was it outside someplace?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, in this building.
QUESTION: Richard, we were told that they were moved to the State Department to take advantage of State legal expertise on the border issue. Now they're going to Lome. So why are they moving there when they had the expertise here?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not saying that these particular people or this set of talks is moving to Lome. I'm saying that they came here, they had useful discussions, they clarified the issues. We think we accomplished some work here that helps facilitate the overall comprehensive process. And that discussion of that comprehensive process will continue at the OAU summit by the people who are represented there.
QUESTION: So there is no definitive date for them to have a third round of talks?
MR. BOUCHER: Of technical talks, not at this stage. I don't have one at this stage.
QUESTION: The European Union has said today that it is ready to help Colombia in the fight against drugs, as United States are doing now with the Military Construction Bill. What is the State Department opinion about that?
And, second, Mr. Peter Romero said today in Madrid the Military Construction Bill is not a war plan. And the US government is really concerned about the social part in the plan. Can we understand that words as a possibility of any modification of the text in the future?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, I didn't see Pete Romero's remarks but I think it's an accurate description of the plan as it stands. So I'm not - I don't think he's asking for a re-write. The conference in Madrid is going on. We think it's a very good beginning, it's gone very well. It's jointly sponsored by the Government of Spain and the Inter-American Development Bank. We don't have a detailed readout yet of the conference but we understand the Government of Spain pledged $100 million in support of Colombia. We are certainly delighted with that and with the fact that the European countries who have such a stake as well in stemming the flow of illegal drugs and promoting peace in Colombia have, in fact, responded positively. We're especially grateful to Spain for facilitating the conference and for the pledge of $100 million. We look forward to working with our European allies in a joint effort to combat the multiple threats that are facing Colombia. We view the conference as a key step in organizing broader support for President Pastrana and the Colombian people.
The conference continues today. Undersecretary Picking and Assistant Secretary Romero are leading the US delegation.
QUESTION: A European delegation just sent a team of diplomats to meet with the FARC recently. It just seems that the Europeans are - and the FARC also traveled to Europe to meet with European diplomats. How does the State Department feel this route is working, as far as reaching out in that way, rather than assisting the Colombian government in Plan Colombia?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to see if we have any particular comment to make on those meetings. We're certainly aware of those meetings. We've discussed them with the Europeans and the Colombian Government as well in the past. But I think that, in terms of the news today and the developments, the fact that the Europeans are coming forward in this way to support Plan Colombia and the Colombian Government's efforts is very important. We certainly think that deserves a warm welcome.
QUESTION: Richard, the State Department and the US Government have confirmed the reports that the Government of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, are supporting the rebels in Colombia, especially the FARC.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know we've ever had a comment on that. I'll see.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - that cocaine consumption in Europe is up 100 percent from last year, up to 200 tons a year. And most, I think, all of that is coming from Colombia. Do you have any comment on that disturbing statistic?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the statistic. It may, in fact, come from our people. But I'm sure the Office of National Drug Policy and the people in this building who work on anti-narcotics efforts are quite aware of these trends. The point I think I made in the statement is that Europeans have a very, very strong interest in stemming the flow of illegal drugs and promoting peace in Colombia. And we are glad to see that they are responding at the conference and coming forward with the money that's necessary for the Colombian government to effectively curtail the production.
QUESTION: A few more questions on Latin America. On Peru, do you have any reaction to the decision of President Fujimori to reject the OAS decision that he has to fire one of his senior assistants?
MR. BOUCHER: The recommendation - let me get this exactly. Well, if I don't find it, I'm going to wing it. Something's misfiled in the book; who knows where it will show up. Let me - there it is. Okay, I found it.
The recommendation from the OAS mission was to reform the security services. There were a lot of allegations about the role of the security forces and the intelligence services. We, in fact, have expressed our concerns about the roles that these services have played. We've expressed them in our Human Rights Report and elsewhere.
We fully support the OAS mission's recommendations to reform these services and we continue to urge the Government of Peru and all parties to the dialogue to quickly act to address this issue. So we will leave it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: And you're still considering the sanctions against Peru? I mean, Fujimori is going to assume the presidency for the third time in a few days and nothing happened. After the beginning of the elections, you were saying we are going to study the issue of sanctions and everything. And he's in power.
MR. BOUCHER: We are fully supporting the OAS mission. We are fully supporting the OAS mission's recommendations. We are strongly urging the Peruvian Government to implement those recommendations. And we are not precluding future action.
QUESTION: On Fiji, the world is still really watching the Prime Minister and his cabinet still being held hostage. And do you have any comments now, any update, when they are going to get out and what is the future of Fiji?
MR. BOUCHER: Big questions. We are watching the situation there closely. We continue to monitor the situation. We understand that nearly half of the hostage takers have left the parliamentary compound in advance of the deadline that was set by the military but that over 100 armed men still hold the hostages captive. We continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages.
The military, the chief of the defense force in Fiji has announced that he has appointed an interim civilian government with a banker as the interim prime minister. The commodore said he would remain acting head of state until the hostages are released. The interim government, we note, has been appointed without input from the hostage takers but there are - we also note that it doesn't include any Indo-Fijians in this interim government. We would continue to call for a return to constitutional government and respect for the rights of all Fiji islanders.
QUESTION: Has this building had any visitors from the Fijian Embassy or the charge d'affaires or in New York the Fijian Ambassador? Have you had direct talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I assume that we've been in touch with people in this country but I'm not really sure. I'll try to check and see if we have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything, any reaction yet to the Human Rights Watch report on land mines?
MR. BOUCHER: On land mines, no, I don't have any reaction yet.
QUESTION: Do you have the answer for the Helms-Burton question?
MR. BOUCHER: For the Helms-Burton question, I'm told we haven't gotten to the deadline yet. The 16th? There we go, the 17th.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - the Middle East, I suppose?
MR. BOUCHER: No. The answer is, no. What's the question?
I think you asked if we had made a decision yet about the Helms-Burton waiver or issued anything? No. Once the Secretary addresses the issue, her recommendation is forwarded to the President for final decision. So that's the process by which it will happen.
(The briefing concluded at 1:35 p.m.)