State Department Briefing - Monday, August 21
Chechnya – Russia – Congo – South Korea – Iran – Israel – China/Tibet – Brazil – Human Rights – Colombia – Mexico – Ecuador – Pakistan – Middle East Peace - Afghanistan
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING INDEX Monday, August 21, 2000
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
1 Elections Held on August 20th In Chechnya to Choose New Duma Deputy
1-2 Validity of Elections Held in Chechnya 2 Nuclear Submarine Disaster's Effect on US-Russian Relations
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
2-4 Two American Citizens Declared Persona Non Grata in Congo
4-5 Military Exercises 5 Progress in Korean Reconciliation
5-6 Request for US Cooperation in Finding Two Downed Helicopter Pilots in the Gulf
6 Discovery of US Army Officer Who Was Missing in Israel/Israeli Headlines Claiming that US Army Officer Who Was Missing is Spy
6-7,10 Exclusion of Dalai Lama From UN Summit of Religious Leaders/ Dialogue Between the Secretary and Senator Helms
7 Brazil's Rejection of Participation in Plan Colombia
7-9 Secretary's Recommendation to President on Human Rights Waivers
8-9 Informing Colombia of Human Rights Recommendation
9 Results of Elections in Chiapas State of Mexico
9 Financial Assistance to Ecuador for Refugees
10-11 Demonstration at Pakistan Embassy by Christians/General Musharaff
10 Handing Over Usama Bin Laden to United States/Use of Ariana Airlines to Evacuate Children to Germany
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
11-12 Palestinian Statement Regarding No Compromise on Jerusalem / Dennis Ross Trip to Middle East / Millenium Summit Meetings
12-13 Secretary Albright's Success in Getting More Disclosure About Events in Chile 13-14 Attendance at Religious Conference in New York
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #84 MONDAY, AUGUST 21, 2000, 12:45 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be back here with you.
If I can off the top just mention - we have a statement in more detail, but we are talking a little bit about the elections that were held in Chechnya over the weekend on August 20th by the Russian government to choose a new deputy for Chechnya. The final results are not yet available. But at this point, I would say, it is going to be difficult to make any kind of judgment on the conduct of this election under the conditions that are prevailing in Chechnya. Voting took place without international observers present and amid a continuing conflict.
The United States believes that elections in Chechnya can help bring about reconciliation and the strengthening of democratic institutions. However, to allow the broadest possible participation, it would be far better for elections to take place following a political settlement.
With that brief statement - there will be more in writing - I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: On the Russian nuclear submarine disaster -
QUESTION: So, you don't want to come out against elections, but these elections - the circumstances would make this election invalid? I mean, are you going as far as to say -
MR. BOUCHER: You can not make any judgments because there were not international observers present. It is very difficult to make any judgments on elections that are held under the conditions that prevail at present in Chechnya.
What we would like to see is a political settlement and to have elections after that that could be judged - that could be respected by the international community.
QUESTION: What does that mean in terms of the status of whoever wins the election?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we actually decide the status of whoever wins the election.
QUESTION: Well, you can decide whether you want to think whether he or she is official.
MR. BOUCHER: We don't necessarily deal with the person that will be elected. This will be a deputy from Chechnya in the Duma and the Duma will have to decide. But I think we did want to take the opportunity to point out that, without observers, under the current conditions, you can not make a judgment on the comment of the elections. Furthermore, what we would like to see is elections there held after a political settlement.
QUESTION: The Russian submarine disaster and the way the Russian government handled the rescue operation, does the State Department have any opinion - I'm sure you're sad to see these sailors perish. But has the State Department got any reflections on how the Russian government handled the matter and will it have any effect on US-Russian relations?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any reflections or conclusions on US-Russian relations at this point. We have tried to work with the Russians through NATO allies and, as you know, NATO allies have been out there helping them.
It is a very deep tragedy; a terrible situation, particularly for the families of those involved. But, beyond that, I don't think we need to have any further comment at this stage.
QUESTION: On Friday, the Department announced or made clear that two American Embassy employees were kicked out of or ordered out of Congo. The last I heard was you were trying to sort it out short of that. And I wanted to see where things stood.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, Ambassador Swing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo met with President Kabila on August 19th. He protested the Congolese government's expulsion of two members of the American embassy from Kinshasa. The two diplomats have now left Kinshasa. They have returned to the United States. We are considering an appropriate and commensurate response to the Congolese government's unjustified actions and we will announce these measures shortly.
QUESTION: Are we going to expel somebody?
MR. BOUCHER: We will take an appropriate and commensurate response. And when we decide what to do, we will tell you.
QUESTION: Did the - Kabila say what these two had done specifically that warranted their expulsion?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that he did. We certainly do not think that there are any grounds for their expulsion.
QUESTION: Are we looking at maybe today it might be announced? Or you just don't know?
MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know. Maybe today; maybe soon.
QUESTION: Do you know how many accredited diplomats the Democratic Republic of Congo has in Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure, but I think diplomatic lists are available publicly, so you can check that.
QUESTION: Can you say at least whether these two diplomats - one of them is supposed to have made some comments at a dinner. Was that person in fact at this dinner?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. But, frankly, whether somebody attended a dinner or not should not be material evidence. If the question is whether they have done anything that would warrant their expulsion, we absolutely think no.
QUESTION: So, they did not make the comments that were attributed to them?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we do not think there is any justification for these actions. I am not going to get into a little play by play that seems to indicate whether there might have been a comment or not. But I just do not have that information; I am not going to deal with any specifics.
The point is, we have looked at the whole situation. We don't think there is any justification and we will take appropriate action.
QUESTION: In general, then, you don't think the comments made by any US diplomat anywhere privately in a private conversation are grounds for expulsion?
MR. BOUCHER: You want me to establish a new doctrine? A corollary to the Vienna Convention? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, you seem to be saying -
MR. BOUCHER: Let's not try to make sweeping statements here. Our diplomats there, a public affairs officer and a political officer, have been ordered out. They have left. We don't see any grounds or any justification for this.
To start parsing whether somebody went to a dinner and said something, didn't say something, might have said something like it, I just don't know and, frankly, I don't think it's material. The fact is, we don't think it's justified and we're going to take appropriate action in response.
QUESTION: But the Congolese, what they're saying, that the two were involved in talking about alleged attempts to overthrow Kabila. Are you saying that they didn't say that or you don't know that they said it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, personally, and I don't think it's worth our while to try to go into what might or might not have been said at a dinner.
QUESTION: I don't understand why it's not worth your while. If you say there was no reason for them to be expelled, why won't you say - why won't you be more specific? Did they or did they not say these things? And if they did, is it you just don't think that those remarks are grounds for expulsion?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's the thing. If we get into - no. The fact is, whether or not they said things, whether or not these are grounds for expulsion is something we've already looked at. We've determined that we don't think there is any justification for their expulsion.
QUESTION: Let's not belabor this. You cannot deny, though, that they made these statements?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I can say that some of the allegations made against them are false and outrageous but I can't deal with any specific points.
QUESTION: Korea? There are simulated exercises, but they're exercises that the US conducts with South Korea and they've been scaled down. The North Koreans are saying they should be called off or else it could affect reconciliation between the two Koreas. Does the US have an opinion and would you cover whether such activities 50 years after the Korean War, in light of what's going on between the two Koreas, still makes sense?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: They still make sense?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Nothing ever ends, right? Korean Conflict -
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't know, let's deal with the specific and go to the general. Ulchi Focus Lens is an exercise. It is routine. It is a regularly scheduled exercise. It is designed to evaluate combined and joint coordination, our procedures, plans and systems to conduct a contingency operation by the US and South Korean forces. The Pentagon obviously can give you more details on the actual exercise. It is not a provocative exercise. We would note that the North Koreans have also been conducting military exercises this summer.
And while we welcome the growing dialogue between North and South Korea and the improved atmosphere for cooperation, we do hope that this will lead to a reduction in tensions. But at the moment, there is no significant change in the military situation on the Peninsula. Our forces remain there in cooperation with our South Korean allies. They tell us they want us to stay and we continue to work there in cooperation with them.
QUESTION: And I take it the US doesn't feel it should have any impact on the progress in Korean reconciliation?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we do not. As I said, we have seen this progress. This is not a provocative exercise. North Koreans have held military exercises as well and that hasn't impeded the progress. So we would hope to see the progress continue and lead to the kind of reductions in tension that we're all working for.
QUESTION: Can you say that the South Koreans are as enthusiastic about these exercises as they once were, as the US still is?
MR. BOUCHER: This is something we do in cooperation with the South Koreans. We do them together, to exercise our joint capability. So, I don't think there is any distance between us on this.
QUESTION: Has there been any talk on the South Korean part about maybe even further scaling them down or ending them?
MR. BOUCHER: These things are decided, their nature, their scope, the conduct of the exercise, it is decided jointly. We are doing what we and the South Koreans believe is appropriate.
QUESTION: President Khatami has made some interesting comments about how he was against this clamp-down on the press but didn't really do much about it. Do you find these comments intriguing or just kind of a statement of the obvious?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not found the comments yet, so I do not have any comment on them. But I will look for them.
QUESTION: Also on Iran? The Iranian radio reported today that Iran's foreign minister has asked for US cooperation in finding two downed helicopter pilots in the Gulf. What is our response at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: Reported today?
MR. BOUCHER: On Tuesday of last week, August 15th, there was an Iranian supply helicopter that crashed in the Gulf. Is this the one you are talking about? I assume it is the same thing?
MR. BOUCHER: We did have ships of the Multinational Maritime Interception Force - a US aircraft carrier, the George Washington, Canadian frigate HMCS Calgary, and the guided missile destroyer, USS Barry. They participated in a search for the five Iranian crewmembers. The US and Canadian vessels coordinated rescue efforts with surface and air units.
Three of the Iranian crewmembers were rescued by boats from a nearby oil rig. We understand two other crewmembers are still missing. So, for details on the status of the search and rescue, I would refer you to the Pentagon. But the three that were picked up already were picked up by commercial people from a nearby oil rig. Our people had participated in the search and rescue.
QUESTION: Why would the Iranians be asking for US cooperation -
MR. BOUCHER: I guess because there are still two people missing. Whether the search and rescue continues or not, you can check with the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Did the request for aid come directly from the Iranians to the US or did it come to the Canadians and then the Canadians came to the US?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Simple answer. I will check and see if we want to say. But I will check.
QUESTION: On the US Army officer who was missing in Israel and now found, there have been some comments out of our Embassy in Tel Aviv. I just wanted to know what you have, if you have something to update us on this information.
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we have seen the wire stories that he's been found but we don't have confirmation from the Embassy yet.
QUESTION: And you don't have any comment to make on headlines in Israel, for example, that he's a spy? Do you have anything else on it at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the simple answer is going to be, "no." But let me see if there is anything we want to say.
QUESTION: Given his access to highly secret documents and all?
MR. BOUCHER: There has been a lot of confusion about a lot of reports concerning this. His actions in particular are still under investigation so we really can't comment at this point.
QUESTION: Last week, Senator Helms sent a letter to Richard Holbrooke, exclaiming his outrage over the fact that the Dalai Lama will be excluded from the United Nations summit of religious leaders. Has there been any dialogue between the Secretary and Senator Helms on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that she has talked to him on this subject. We certainly made our views quite clear more than a week ago, about ten days ago, that we do think the Dalai Lama is an important religious leader who has something to contribute to this conference and we would have liked to have seen him there. We would like to see him there - I'm not exactly sure about the timing of the conference - and we do not think the organizers should have excluded him, because of perceived objections by a particular country.
QUESTION: There is a delegation of religious leaders coming through sponsored by - to Washington sponsored by the Chinese embassy. Are there any outlets for talking to them about why they're not part of the - the Dalai Lama is not part of the delegation?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at what I know, at least, about this situation, it was the organizers that perceived some kind of pressure or assumed some kind of pressure and did not put out the invitation to the full conference. I think that is not the right decision, frankly.
We do, obviously, when we talk to Chinese religious delegations--and I'm not aware of any particular one--but we always raise with the Chinese the status of Tibet and fulfillment of religious obligations in Tibet and things like that.
QUESTION: Last week, the Government of Brazil rejected the idea of participation in the Plan Colombia, to help the United States combat narco-traffickers there. Brazil is one of the leaders of Latin America and there is also reaction from other countries, saying that they don't want to participate, too, in helping in Plan Colombia.
How do you plan to convince these Latin American countries of the urgency of the situation in Colombia?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if we had to, we would. But I think if you look carefully at what happened during the Secretary's visit last week and the things that were said, you will find first of all that the Brazilian government is not opposed to Plan Colombia. Second of all, you will find that there is support in the region for taking action against drugs in the region and particularly in Colombia. That was a major topic of her trip and we would be glad to get you a ton-and-a-half of information on it.
QUESTION: The Secretary is supposed to soon make her recommendation to the President on the human rights waivers. Do you know when she is going to do that?
MR. BOUCHER: The Department's recommendation has been made and now the President will obviously consider that and make the decision. I don't have anything to announce and we have to refrain from comment until he has done that.
QUESTION: Can you say when was it delivered? Today? Yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was actually done by the Acting Secretary last week. So that has been done.
QUESTION: But you don't have a day?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have a day.
QUESTION: Who was the Acting Secretary?
MR. BOUCHER: Frank Loy, Under Secretary Loy.
QUESTION: You say you can't tell us what the recommendation is. So we have to wait? We have to wait for the White House to decide?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you say whether last week - was it done before this massacre of children or after?
MR. BOUCHER: That is something that I would have to check on. I don't remember the exact timing of either event, frankly.
QUESTION: Do you know how many meetings you had with the human rights groups before you came to your decision on whether to certify or not?
MR. BOUCHER: I talked to at least about two or three. Again, I will have to check on that as well. There were additional ones last week. So, the record has been clear.
QUESTION: Have you informed them of your decision?
MR. BOUCHER: It is not our decision; it is our recommendation and then the President makes the decision. So, I am sure when the President makes the decision, the people will be informed.
QUESTION: So you don't necessarily tell the people, tell the Colombians, what your recommendation is?
QUESTION: Or the human rights groups?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, he was asking about human rights people.
QUESTION: I'm asking about the Colombians.
MR. BOUCHER: Our recommendation goes to the President and he has to have a chance to look over the recommendations and decide. We don't start broadcasting our internal recommendations.
QUESTION: Given that you've received political support, pledges of political support, would you be at any point looking for any kind of more tangible support from some of the countries the Secretary visited last week?
MR. BOUCHER: I know there are a great number of countries, ourselves, the Europeans, others, who are contributing and supporting this. I don't know that others have been asked, but I will try to check for you and see if there are.
QUESTION: In the future, could you say whether you would want more tangible -
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure we would welcome any contributions. We think this is an important thing. It is important for the United States. It is important for the countries in the region. We would welcome any contributions. But that's not to say the same thing as we've been out soliciting and getting turned down or anything like that.
QUESTION: Right, I understand.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the results of the elections in Chiapas State of Mexico, and if the Secretary plans to discuss the issue - not the elections but the Chiapas issue - with the President Elect of Mexico this Thursday?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment on the elections there. She will meet with President Elect Fox on Thursday. I suppose the issue may well arise. They will have a chance to talk about a great number of things, but we will have to see what happens.
QUESTION: I just want to ask, last week in Ecuador, the Secretary said that the United States would consider expanding or offering more money to the Ecuadorians for refugees --15 million now, I believe, allotted--and also said that the US would be considering funding for their development zone in the north to kind of build up the infrastructure there.
Has there been any - I realize she just said it on Friday and it's too early to say anything, but -
MR. BOUCHER: Thanks for the question and thanks for the answer.
MR. BOUCHER: The State Department confirmed that she only said it on Friday and it is too early to expect a complete answer or announcement. But we do intend to do what she said and we will announce it as soon as it's ready.
QUESTION: Richard, going back to the Dalai Lama, you said that he is an important spiritual or religious leader. How much pressure or interest is the United States taking or putting on the Chinese or on the UN that he should be part of the UN religious leaders' delegation next week?
MR. BOUCHER: It is not our conference; it was organized privately by a non-profit, nongovernmental organization. I can't remember the name exactly right now. It was being held in part in UN facilities. And for that reason, there was this perception or assumption that a particular country would not want the Dalai Lama to be there and he was invited only to activities that were outside of the United Nations facility.
We don't think that's the right conclusion. We think he deserved to be there as a full participant. But, again, we are not organizing this. We have made quite clear what our views are.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the demonstration at the Pakistan Embassy by a large number of Christians against attacks on Christians in Pakistan and also burning of churches in Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any comment on that.
QUESTION: And, again, the Taliban government are saying that we will not hand over Usama bin Laden to the United States and at the same time use of Ariana Airlines to evacuate children to Germany. Don't you think this is - the Resolution 1267, which you said in a report, also doesn't allow that Ariana Airlines should be flown to Germany or other countries - that's against the UN resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: That is something I would have to check on. We've done a statement already on it. Okay, we did a statement last week.
QUESTION: But don't you think really that by allowing Ariana Airlines, you are giving up or bowing down to the terrorists?
MR. REEKER: The statement answered that question.
QUESTION: But that doesn't answer really that you are giving up to the Taliban government -
MR. BOUCHER: It's nice to come back from vacation. Everybody's being so helpful to me. (Laughter.)
Look, we've issued a statement on it, we've given your views on it. I think the statement answers the questions as best we can, so we'll stick with that.
QUESTION: Okay, finally, one more. If you have any comments on General Musharaff of Pakistan has said that Pakistan will continue to support terrorists or militants against India in Kashmir.
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen the statement. I think our policy is quite clear.
QUESTION: The Palestine cabinet, I guess it's called, of the de facto or would-be Palestine government or Palestinian government, says there is no room for a compromise on the issues, that they're sticking to their position. So what do you think of that, if it's not just a public statement? Is it a real position, do you know, via Dennis Ross? And can Dennis Ross now go on vacation and be one of the Beach Boys perhaps? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Such as it is, Dennis is now on vacation. But he is continuing his meetings in the region. He has met with Prime Minister Barak, he has met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Moussa over the weekend, he will meet with Chairman Arafat later today. He has also met with the negotiators from both sides and he will continue these meetings throughout the trip, the vacation trip, the trip that he's on.
QUESTION: Where did he see Mr. Moussa? Which vacation spot, Cairo or Alexandria?
MR. BOUCHER: I think he went to Alexandria to meet with Foreign Minister Moussa.
Clearly, there has been progress at Camp David on the core issues. The Israelis and Palestinians have resumed their discussions. We are ready to support this in any way possible, as the President said, but only when the parties are ready to make the tough decisions can we bring them together. So if the parties are ready to make the tough decisions, we're ready to bring them together.
QUESTION: It seems clear the President is going to see Barak and Arafat in New York. But I don't think an American official has said that; I think it was over the weekend or Friday - I wasn't here Friday. Can you confirm? Or will Albright see them? What is your contact at the Millennium Summit with these millennium leaders?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we will meet with a great variety of leaders. For the President's schedule, you have to get that from the White House. For the Secretary's schedule, we haven't announced it yet.
QUESTION: That covers everybody I asked about, I guess.
MR. BOUCHER: That covers everybody.
QUESTION: Do you know when Dennis is actually going to begin the relaxing, leisure portion of his trip?
MR. BOUCHER: I am never sure he will get any pure leisure out of this vacation. It seems to be a combination; he will have meetings along the way. He will also have activities and leisure activities with his family.
QUESTION: Where is he going to see Arafat, by the way? I'm sure it will come from there, but in Ramalla or in Gaza or where?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure, actually. I can check.
QUESTION: If he's meeting with all these officials, why are you guys calling it a vacation?
MR. BOUCHER: Because that's the way it was planned and his family is out there with him and they're trying to have a little vacation in the middle of all of this.
QUESTION: Several months ago, the New York Times had an editorial praising Secretary Albright for the State Department's forthrightness on the activities in Chile in 1973 and they added - Jamie Rubin was very surprised at this - at the positiveness of the praise for the Secretary. He said the editorials don't generally do this. But they said they hope that Secretary Albright would exert her influence to get the CIA to be more forthcoming and there has been some concern expressed at the documents that are being withheld.
Do you know whether Secretary Albright is having any success in getting more disclosure about the events in Chile?
MR. BOUCHER: The documents in question are voluminous and we are still on track to meeting our September 14 deadline timetable for releasing the documents. The Secretary has been dealing with this. She talked about it quite a bit during her trip last week to Latin America. She also spoke with Director for Central Intelligence, George Tenet, this morning. They're working together on this project to try to get the maximum possible release of documents consistent with the need to protect sources and methods.
So that is where we stand. We're working on it. We will meet the deadline and we will release as many documents as we can.
QUESTION: On this subject, do you have a time frame for this final vetting or edit process between the CIA and the State Department regarding these classified documents? Tenet said it was going on I guess last week when he wrote a letter to Congress. Is that process done?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have an exact time frame on that. There is an interagency process that is coordinated by the National Security Council. We are working within that framework to try to secure, as I said, the maximum possible number of documents for release.
QUESTION: Is it going on right now?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check on exactly the schedule of meetings and things like that. But the time table is to have everything ready and be able to release it in mid-September.
QUESTION: Richard, the phone call this morning, can you elaborate a little bit on that? Was she asking him, saying, listen, you know, it's really important, could you re-look at the stuff you are planning on withholding?
MR. BOUCHER: I would not describe it that way. It's something they have talked about in the past. They have kept in touch on the issue. She just came back from her trip to Latin America, where the issue was raised, and where she discussed it. So it was getting back in touch and continuing to work together on this process.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say that she raised with him the concerns about this that she heard from the officials that she met with in Santiago?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can characterize it any more than I have.
QUESTION: Can you say how long it was?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: The figure of 11,000 documents has been floated around for release in September. Are those State Department documents or are they from all agencies? And, if so, what proportion of those are, in fact, CIA documents?
MR. BOUCHER: That will depend on many of the final decisions on which documents.
QUESTION: But you already have a rough number, so you obviously have an idea.
MR. BOUCHER: Estimated number. But what proportion is what, we'll have to see when the decisions on release are made.
QUESTION: So you mean, if the CIA withholds them, you will offer some other State Department ones in exchange or what? (Laughter.) You've given a number, so you obviously have an idea what quantity would be available?
MR. BOUCHER: We have an idea. We have an estimate of the total number of documents. To start breaking it down into percentages will depend on a lot of decisions that are yet to be made.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary or anybody from the State Department going to attend the convention in New York, the religious convention, conference?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on that; I don't know.
(The briefing concluded at 1:15 p.m.)