State Department Daily Press Briefing - August 22
Middle East Peace – Peru – Colombia – Western Hemisphere – Cuba – Azerbaijan – Turkey – Iraq – Iran – Israel – Russia - Sudan
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Tuesday, August 22, 2000
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
1 Secretary Albright's Calls to Syrian, Egyptian and French Foreign Ministers 1-4 Status of Israeli-Palestinian Track / Israeli-Syrian Track 1 Dennis Ross Meetings in the Region
PERU / COLOMBIA
4-6 Arrest by Peruvian Authorities of Alleged Arms Traffickers to Guerillas in Colombia 13-14 Comments by Colombian Foreign Minister Regarding Arms Trafficking from Jordan To South America
4 President Fujimori's Criticism of Secretary Albright Not Traveling to Peru
5 Democracy in the Region / OAS Missions
7-9 Status of Human Rights Certification
9 Reported Requests for Political Asylum by Cuban Journalists 9 Reported Arrest of American Citizen in Cuba
9 Death of Former President Albufaz Elcibey
TURKEY / IRA
q9 Cross-Border Activity
q10 Secretary Albright's Meeting with Hans Blix, Head of UN Verification and Inspection 10-11 Status of UN Inspections / Iraqi Compliance with Resolution / Use of Force
11-12 President Khatami's Comments on Press Freedom
12 Under Secretary Holum's Comments on NMD Decision-Making
13 Reported Request by UN Special Rapporteur to Secretary Albright re Stay of Execution
13 Temporary Protective Status for Liberians in US
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
14 Expulsion by the US of Two Congolese Diplomats
14-15 Lockerbie Pan Am 103 Trial / Witnesses / Prosecution Request for CIA Documents
15-16 Killing of Palestinian-American in West Bank 16 Lieutenant Colonel Mattysse Case
LIBYA / PHILIPPINES
16-17 Reported US Offer to Assist with Philippines Hostage Crisis / Libyan Role in Hostage Crisis
17 Update on Edmond Pope Case
17 Prospects for Improved US-Sudan Relations
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #85 TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2000, 1:15 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: I wonder if you could tell us about the Secretary's call to the Syrian foreign minister. Indeed, if she did, according to officials out in Damascus, she didn't convince them that there was a way to get back to the peace table. But what can you tell us about her telephone diplomacy, please?
MR. BOUCHER: In recent days, she has continued her conversations with a number of foreign ministers about the Middle East Peace Process and other things. She has talked to Foreign Minister Vedrine of France a couple of times in the last week or so, she talked to him again yesterday. She has talked to Egyptian Foreign Minister Moussa yesterday and she talked to Syrian Foreign Minister Shara yesterday.
These are, with variations, generally discussions of the Middle East Peace Process, the accomplishments of Camp David and ways to move the process forward, similar to many of the other discussions that are going on in the region.
QUESTION: When the Secretary gets involved, even if she is not on the ground there, you would think it, you know, brings it to a certain level of significance. After all, Dennis Ross has talked - and he's a senior official - to very many of these same people. So did she make a straight-out pitch to Syria to reopen talks and did the Syrians say, as they've been saying for longer than you and I have been around, that they want everything that they asked for and that's that?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me deal with two parts of the question. First of all, the Secretary has been involved all along. We have been sort of consistently involved at various levels ever since Camp David. I think if you look back at what we have said and the record, she has had sort of a continuing process, continuing pattern of discussions with her counterpart foreign ministers and, as you have noted, sent Dennis Ross a little early on his vacation trip so that he could have some meetings out there. And Dennis has been in contact with the negotiators and will remain in contact with them despite his being on vacation.
In terms of our conversations with the Syrians, without trying to characterize or go into the details about a particular conversation, she has stayed actively engaged with regional leaders. We believe that both the Syrians and the Israelis want to reach an agreement. Recent statements by the Israeli and Syrian governments conveyed a continued interest in reaching an agreement that can lead to a just and lasting peace. We too want to see the resumption of negotiations between Israel and Syria. But at this point, I would characterize the situation the way we have before. The door remains open for moving forward on this track.
QUESTION: Well, the Administration is quite clear, certainly after Camp David, there isn't a basis for an agreement. Is there a basis? I mean, the will aside or desires aside - everybody would like an agreement if they got everything they want. Is there a basis? Are the differences such that there is no basis at this stage for an agreement with Syria, between Israel and Syria?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't frankly remember that we've characterized it exactly that way or another at one point or another. I think the way to characterize it now is we know the parties' interest. The Secretary, going back to her meetings with the new Syrian leader in Damascus has said that we are willing to engage and help them as appropriate at the appropriate time. The door has remained open to progress along this track, but at this point we don't have anything specific to report on restarting.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up to that. Are you switching tracks here, because the Palestinian track has rather stopped in the middle of the desert, and -
MR. BOUCHER: No. I would certainly not describe it that way. We have described, during the lead-up in the Camp David process, the intense focus on the Israeli-Palestinian track. I think if you look at what people are doing these days in terms of the meetings going on in the region, King Abdullah's visit, the efforts of President Mubarak, the efforts of regional leaders to be helpful - which we certainly welcome - the efforts that we're making in terms of sticking with the negotiators, Dennis Ross' meetings, the Secretary's phone calls, you'll see that the more intense activity is on the Israeli-Palestinian track at this point.
QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up to that point? Was this discussed, the Syrian track, with Vedrine? Do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know, frankly.
QUESTION: He has a lot of influence in Syria.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. It may have been, but I think they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian issues, and also the Balkan situations.
QUESTION: Following up on this, do you think that Bashar may be more willing than his father to negotiate at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be purely speculative on my part to say that.
QUESTION: Can you base it on the recent conversations with -
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't try to characterize him. He can characterize himself.
QUESTION: At what point does the Secretary think Bashar will have the - you know, be entrenched enough in his new role to be able to negotiate with the support of the rest of the Syrian people and the government?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a very speculative question as well. All I can say is, at the appropriate time. You know, he has said he wants to continue with the decisions his father made, the decisions his father made to pursue peace, and we have certainly welcomed that. The Secretary welcomed that when she met with him. We have stayed in touch with the Syrians. She has stayed with Foreign Minister Shara and we will continue to stay in touch with the Syrians. But at what point they and the Israelis and the substance and the parties are both ready to resume, we will just have to see.
QUESTION: I assume the Secretary initiated this telephone conversation and, if so, was her main intent to explore the possibility of resuming the Syrian-Israeli talks, or does she perhaps want Syrian help in promoting the Israeli-Palestinian talks? Or is there -
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to characterize the conversation in too much detail, because I don't want to get into the habit of that. She initiated the conversation, like other conversations she has had in recent weeks, to talk to one of the significant leaders of the region about the peace process as a whole. Clearly, the Israeli-Palestinian track and the events at Camp David were important. Syria was clearly one of the places that our Assistant Secretary visited on his trip, so we have had other conversations with them about Camp David, so we are continuing those discussions about Camp David and the overall peace process. But when you are talking to Syria, you also talk about the Israeli-Syrian track.
QUESTION: One other question of mine. The Barak bombshell yesterday, was that discussed with the United States at any time before he decided to ask for sweeping changes, which obviously are going to affect the peace process, and obviously are going to be very difficult for him to carry out?
MR. BOUCHER: Define "bombshell."
QUESTION: Sorry. The story this morning that he is looking for a constitution that will bring equality between Jews and non-Jews, he's looking for cutting back on the religious.
MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware that that was discussed with us, nor would it have been discussed. That seems to me an internal matter.
QUESTION: But it does have an impact on the peace process, very deep.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate on things like that. That is something of their own political system and situation that they will work out on their own, I am sure.
QUESTION: Different subject. Peru and Colombia. Do you have any reaction to the Peruvian government intercepting or having the proof of arms trafficking in Colombia for the FARC guerrillas?
MR. BOUCHER: The arrest by Peruvian authorities of alleged arms traffickers to the guerillas in Colombia is a positive sign of regional action to counter the spill-over effects of the Colombian conflict. Increasingly, the countries in the region recognize that the crisis in Colombia represents a hemispheric problem in which they have a direct and immediate stake. I think those of you who followed the Secretary's trip last week and her discussions of Colombia and the hemispheric problem of drugs will recognize that as well.
>From the outset, the United States has recognized the threat to regional stability that is created by the Colombian conflict. The 1.3 billion aid package that supports Plan Colombia includes regional assistance for Colombia's neighbors, including Peru. The package, as approved by the Congress and signed by the President, provides $180 million in regional assistance, including $32 million for Peru.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any reaction to what President Fujimori says, criticizing the Secretary of State directly because she avoided a visit Peru during her trip to South America?
MR. BOUCHER: I just note there are a lot of countries in South America she did not go to on this trip. We have explained why she went to the ones she went to, the importance of doing that. I think if we have to explain every time she takes a trip why she didn't go anywhere else, that is impossible.
QUESTION: Do you consider Fujimori as an ally in South America in the war against narco-traffickers?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to use new words on that. We want to work with them, we want to work with the Government of Peru to pursue the drug problem. We have done that all along, we are going to continue to do that.
QUESTION: Richard, President Fujimori has kind of cast himself in the role, after announcing these arrests, has cast himself in the role of the champion of democracy and now he's making Colombia safe for democracy. Would you like to see any of that effort, given your past statements, turned internally, making his own country safe for democracy?
MR. BOUCHER: What a great opportunity you're offering me here. But let me simply say first of all there is a hemispheric problem with drugs, there is a regional problem created by the fighting in Colombia. We want to work on these problems with the countries of the region, countries of the hemisphere. We are going to continue to do that in the way we have.
As far as Peruvian democracy, this is something we have been quite clear about and the need is for Peru to cooperate with the OAS and to move forward on the program that they have been discussing.
QUESTION: In other words, action like this is not going to convince you that President Fujimori is a true democrat, committed to those ideals? He's going to have to follow the OAS?
MR. BOUCHER: This is a different kettle of fish.
QUESTION: Well, he is not saying that. He is trying -
QUESTION: Richard, it's been a while since I heard a State Department official, State spokesman say that Cuba is the only country in Latin America that is not democratic. Is that still the case? And it was said with a lot of satisfaction, that it was partly a result of some vigorous US diplomacy that only Cuba in Latin America was not democratic.
MR. BOUCHER: I would say Cuba continues to stand out in this hemisphere as the undemocratic exception to the standards of the hemisphere.
QUESTION: Very smooth but is there anybody moving into the runner up position that you've noticed lately? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, we have been quite clear both in the general terms of democracy in the hemisphere in terms of the OAS and its views and our support for the OAS and its efforts to improve democracy in the hemisphere. We have been very supportive of that and we have been very supportive and worked closely with the OAS when the OAS had concerns about Peru or Haiti. We supported the OAS missions in trying to make the institutional improvements that would allow full democracy to flourish in places that have had setbacks.
QUESTION: But I recall very well that President Clinton, weeks before the elections in Peru, considered Fujimori as an ally against narco-traffickers - ally of the United States. And now you react to make a collective decision it seems -
MR. BOUCHER: I just personally do not remember that word being used. I don't want to try to re-characterize it in some way or accept your words for mine. The fact is, it is important to us to cooperate against drugs; it is important to us to cooperate against violence in the region. We recognize there is a problem in the region; we put our money behind it as well as our words and our efforts, and we will continue to do that. We are not here just to use words. We're trying to do something about the problem.
QUESTION: Since the Peruvian runoff election in late May, I think there have been two OAS missions to Peru. And beyond that, Fujimori said nothing in his inaugural address about -
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, and I think we pointed that out.
QUESTION: All right. Can you bring us up to date on how these OAS missions have done?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to get you something on that. I'll have to look at it.
QUESTION: Didn't the National Reconciliation Talks, under the auspices of the OAS, start yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check on that. I just don't know.
QUESTION: Can we just stay directly on Peru? I just want to make sure I have this straight.
Fujimori casting himself as the role of the champion of democracy in Colombia, or helping to save democracy in Colombia, is not going to alleviate any of your concerns about what's going on in his own country?
MR. BOUCHER: Our concerns about the state of democracy in Peru remain. I'll get you an update on where we stand in working on those through the OAS.
QUESTION: Can you just say something that says that the United States does not see a link -
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want to write it? I mean, you know -
QUESTION: No. I'm just looking for a straight answer.
MR. BOUCHER: I said these are different things. I said, that's a different thing. Democracy and drugs and violence are different things. Working on one doesn't alleviate the need to work on another. Is that clear enough?
QUESTION: Thank you. Yes.
MR. BOUCHER: Anything else you'd like me to add that's a different thing? There's a lot of different things, too.
QUESTION: On Colombia, about 10 days ago, a State Department official was telling us that the Colombian government was about to carry out three steps on military justice. You sent your recommendation on certification, human rights certification, yesterday. Can you tell us whether they have in fact carried out these steps yet? Because this was an important component to the -
MR. BOUCHER: We will discuss that in the context of the certification decision when it is made.
QUESTION: Well isn't it Friday? Isn't the President supposed to make his decision like today or tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: He will make his decision when it is time to make his decision, and we will tell you about it as soon as we can after he makes his decision. Last week, I think, I heard there might have been a State Department official who described some of the issues under consideration in the certification decision. There are clearly criteria in the law that we have to analyze. Yesterday I said, or was it the day before, that the Department had made its recommendation to the White House. And the President will make his decision, and we willtell you about it as soon as it is made.
QUESTION: And these are more than just ideas. These were concrete proposals which you were confident that the Colombians were going to carry out in order to meet the certification standard. Did they do them?
MR. BOUCHER: I have never laid out a series of steps myself, and I am not here trying to give you a checklist so that you can predict the President's decision. When the President makes his decision, we'll give you the basis for this, and we'll tell you what they have done. If you want to know other things that may or may not be going on in Colombia, you can certainly ask the Colombian government about those.
QUESTION: Well, this Senior State Department official 10 days ago said that there was a fairly strong expectation that the money would be spent, that they were going to try to get this money to be spent in the first allotments. So doesn't that kind of logically say that the Secretary and the President would certify -
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to stand here every day and deal with comments of senior State Department officials. I cannot stand here and turn things from one color to another.
QUESTION: But he basically said - he didn't say it in so many words, but he basically said that, you know, these - he laid out all these criteria, and he said, well, there's the expectation that we're going to either have to waive them or certify them, because we want to spend the money.
MR. BOUCHER: And the President will make his decision to either waive them or certify them, and when they are decided, we'll tell you what he has decided, and why. That is all I said. That's what I said yesterday.
QUESTION: Can you just clarify what day the recommendation was made?
QUESTION: Yes, you didn't know yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't know yesterday. Let's see if I know today. Why don't I know today?
No, I'm afraid I don't know today. I didn't get the answer on that. The question, I think, that came up was whether we knew about the massacre of the children before the recommendation went over and I think the answer is, yes, we did know. But I would have to point out that the recommendation has to be based on the totality of the issues and not on a single event.
QUESTION: The Human Rights Watch and various other groups have already said that they're still convinced that Colombia did not meet the requirements on human rights. How much weight are you giving to their opinion on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I am being asked to get in the President's mind and explain how he is making a decision. My job is to wait until the President makes a decision and explain it to you afterwards. I'm afraid I have to do that.
QUESTION: We'll grill you afterwards.
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. How much weight did we give to the human rights groups? And I'll say, I don't know, the President made the decision.
QUESTION: Can you say how much weight the State Department gave to the human rights community when you made your recommendations?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not getting into our recommendations.
QUESTION: I'm not asking you to say what the recommendation is. Presumably, you gave it some weight?
MR. BOUCHER: How much weight we gave? We gave it the appropriate and well-considered weight that it truly deserved.
QUESTION: When did you formally consult with them?
MR. BOUCHER: We've described those meetings on an ongoing basis throughout the month of August. I think we have reported several meetings and I will leave you to the record to count them.
QUESTION: Is the State Department aware of requests of political asylum by radio journalists from Cuba?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a double-edged question. I am not aware of that personally but if the State Department were aware of it, we wouldn't comment on it. So I can't help you on that. We don't do asylum cases.
QUESTION: Something you can comment on concerning Cuba. I think an American was detained about a week ago in Cuba. Do you have anything on that arrest?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid we haven't. We'll have to look into that.
QUESTION: Former Azerbaijan president actually died today in Ankara. Could you say anything about democratic process in Azerbaijan?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm aware of that. I think we will get you a statement later on that. We are preparing something that we will put out.
QUESTION: While we're at it, do you have anything on the - not that it's unprecedented - but the new strains between Iraq and Turkey? There are all sorts of rumblings that Iraq is going to hit back at Turkey for doing its usual raids against terrorists, terrorist groups?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me first of all make clear what our policy is on the issues with Turkey and the north. In general, we support Turkey's right to defend itself against terrorism, as long as the cross-border activities are limited in scope and duration and they scrupulously observe the rights of civilians in the area. As far as Iraq, I had not seen any rumblings.
Clearly one of the issues on the international agenda for the past 10 years has been to make sure Iraq is not in a position to threaten their neighbors. We have been carrying out that process. We have been supporting the inspection regime. The Secretary as a matter of fact met this morning with Hans Blix, the head of the UN verification and inspection group and expressed our strong support for his activities as he prepares to be able to do that. So it is very important to us, remains important to us, that Iraq not be in a position to threaten its neighbors.
QUESTION: Yesterday I asked if you had seen President Khatami's interview -
QUESTION: How would you rate the chances of getting these UN inspectors into Iraq? Do you think there is any possibility at all? Have you completely discounted it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, we do not rate the chances. The UN in Resolution 1284 has laid down a process, a process by which the sanctions could be suspended. The standards for the sanctions lift has not changed. The mandate for inspections has not changed. The need to prevent Iraq from being in a position to threaten its neighbors has not changed. But 1284 does outline an entire process by which Iraq, you might say, could get out of the box. The key to open the box is to follow the resolution.
So, it is not for us to rate the chances. If Iraq wants to get out of the box, they are going to have to comply with the resolution. But if Iraq does not cooperate fully with the UN verification and inspection process, the benefits of suspension won't be available to Iraq. So the first step, first and foremost, is for them to accept.
QUESTION: Let me put it this way. If the inspectors are ready and the Iraqis continue to refuse to let them enter the country, does that prompt any action on your behalf or do you just let things continue as they are at present? Is it business as usual, in other words?
MR. BOUCHER: The new organization has been established. We talked to the head of it, Hans Blix, this morning. He described to us the status of many of the things he was doing in terms of training and recruitment. They have done a lot of training. They are close to completing the recruitment of core staff. They're accountable to the Security Council. They will report their progress to the Council this September. So we will find out exactly where they stand in terms of readiness when they report to the UN Security Council.
There are no specific timetables to begin the inspections. It is up to Iraq to comply and accept. If he complies and accepts, then the procedures and resolution can be followed. If he does not comply and does not accept, then the inspectors will remain ready. He will remain in noncompliance and the sanctions will remain and continue.
QUESTION: So nothing happens ?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what happens.
QUESTION: Several diplomats have said that Iraq has been very effective at kind of chipping away at various members of the Security Council in terms of kind of watering down the resolution and kind of creating this creative ambiguity where it's not really clear what they have to do in order to get the sanctions suspended. Do you see a point where -
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's the case. I guess what I would say is it is quite clear what he has to do in order to get the sanctions suspended and that is to comply fully with the requirements of the resolution, to accept the resolution, and do that. The UN Monitoring, Inspection and Verification Commission is not designed to negotiate or sell Resolution 1284 to the Iraqis. It is designed to implement the Security Council's Resolution 1284 and the procedures therein.
Mr. Blix, for example, has said he does not intend to go to Baghdad before Iraq accepts Resolution 1284 and we are certainly very supportive of that. So the issue remains as I said. Iraq needs to accept the resolution and follow its procedures. If they do not, when the inspectors are ready to inspect, they will remain ready to inspect, the resolution will remain in place and the sanctions will continue.
QUESTION: Richard, it seems like you're almost deliberately not mentioning possible use of force as an option if Iraq doesn't comply. Is that deliberate or is it still an option and how have things changed from where they were perhaps 20 months ago?
QUESTION: Didn't the United States give the Security Council kind of a promise that they would not use force in order to create this Resolution 1284, which had more of a specific kind of a set lifting of the sanctions in return for the inspections?
MR. BOUCHER: I have just made clear again in the same way we always have in the past the fact that we are prepared to use force under certain circumstances. I have also made clear - you might say separately and differently - that Resolution 1284 needs to be accepted and if it's not accepted sanctions will continue and there will be no possibility of Iraq using the key of 1284 to get out of this box.
It is clear that 1284 stands on its own but it is also clear that if Iraq takes action to reconstitute the threats that it has had in the past to its neighbors, to its region and to its own people, that we're prepared to take action as we have in the past.
QUESTION: Have you had a chance to see what President Khatami had to say, and do you find it all interesting? Or is it just kind of restating the obvious of the situation over there?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I don't have any specific comment on the specific statements that he made. Certainly, when we look at the elections that were held in Iran, it demonstrated that the Iranian people overwhelmingly desire greater political liberty. Freedom of the press is obviously an essential element of that.
We have matched the possibilities of progress along that line with some steps that we've taken to reach out to the Iranian people. We have also tried to match the positive tone of some of the Iranian leaders, offered to have a dialogue with the Iranian government as well over issues of concern to our side.
At the same time, we continue to have our concerns about weapons of mass destruction, support for terrorism, opposition to the Middle East peace process, and the poor human rights record, including these restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
So I think we're comfortable with our policy where we are, but we don't expect historical differences between Iran and the United States to change overnight. The Secretary made that quite clear in her speech this spring. We're prepared to be patient.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Could we go to the issue we spoke about a little bit on background this morning on John Holum's comments on NMD and the decision-making schedule? What -
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I refuse to be cognizant of things that officials might have said on background.
QUESTION: They were just previewing what you would have today.
MR. BOUCHER: Did they do a good job?
QUESTION: They did a fine job.
QUESTION: Well, we don't know yet, because you haven't -
MR. BOUCHER: I know. I don't have a full transcript of John Holum's remarks. He is quoted in different stories in different ways. He said in one story, he doesn't know exactly when the President is going to make his decision, whether it is days or weeks away. Let's make clear where we stand on this then.
The President has said he expects to make the decision in the next few weeks. We've described to you from here, from the White House, from the Defense Department the process under way whereby the President would receive a - what's it called - Deployment Readiness Report - is that what that acronym stands for? - receive a report from the Pentagon on deployments. The President will also receive advice of his key advisors, and make a decision at an appropriate time. As with other presidential decisions, I cannot predict exactly when that would happen, but we have described the kind of process we're going through to you as we go forward.
QUESTION: And this was just likely perhaps a misquote, or -
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the full transcript, so I don't know how the quote was taken, should I say.
QUESTION: Change of subject? I doubt you'll have anything to say on this, but UN Special Rapporteur Paran Kumaraswami has written to the Secretary, asking her to stay the execution of a guy in Georgia who's going to be executed. Do you know whether she's replied to this appeal, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I have not heard about it. I'll try to check for you and see if we have anything to say.
QUESTION: Apparently there were a number of Liberians here are under temporary protective status, and there are some suggestions that that status may end, and that these people will have to go back home. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware of that. I would have to check on it. I am not sure if it is us or the immigration service that would have to handle it, though. Okay.
QUESTION: Can I go back earlier with Colombia?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's bounce around.
QUESTION: Well, the Foreign Minister of Colombia announced today that the government of President Pastrana was aware of the arms trafficking from Jordan to South America. My question is, the US government was, in any case, aware of this arms trafficking? You spoke with the Pastrana government about it before Fujimori took the scene and said, we are the champions?
MR. BOUCHER: Some of you may remember better than me, but it strikes me that this came up a month or two ago, didn't it? Reports of things like this. Someone better informed than I am and with a better memory than I am asked about this a month or so ago. Certainly we were made aware of it by our friends in the press corps, who asked us the question. But at the same time, these are issues we do follow, but clearly the governments in the region have a special interest.
QUESTION: Is the US government aware of any involvement by Peruvian security forces in the trafficking?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, I guess is the only good answer to that. I don't know and I am not sure I can get you an answer, but I will see.
QUESTION: Could you get me an answer specifically -
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe. I will give you a definite maybe on that one.
QUESTION: - the story goes that we, in the Peruvian press, were aware like a month ago, that there was some arms trafficking and things pointed to the security - to the intelligence service in Peru being the traffickers. They are the ones who are championing now, saying that they have stopped this. Can you answer -
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if we have any information, but I am really not sure I can get anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Is there any follow-up to the PNG-ing of the two Congolese diplomats? Are they going to go peacefully, or are they causing some - a big stink?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, they have not left yet. They have until Wednesday evening to depart the United States. For our part, we regard the matter as closed with their departure.
QUESTION: And you haven't heard anything from Kinshasa? I noticed that in the statement yesterday you said we hoped that they wouldn't take any precipitous action to further damage relations. They haven't taken any precipitous action to -?
MR. BOUCHER: They have not announced any further expulsions of our diplomats.
QUESTION: What was the criteria that you used to pick the two diplomats? I think one of them is named Wawa, and the other I'm not remembering?
MR. BOUCHER: One is the Minister Counselor, one is the political counselor. They expelled two of our diplomats; one was a political counselor, one was a public affairs officer. So we picked what we thought were appropriate and commensurate targets for response.
QUESTION: Another subject. The Lockerbie trial. A couple of weeks back, you said you were worried that the Libyans might try to intimidate one ill star witness, or the prosecution's star witness, Mr. Kiyaka. Are you confident that Mr. Kiyaka will appear this week, and are you aware whether he was subject to any Libyan pressure?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as whether he will appear this week, I really have to leave that to the people involved in the trial. I think I would just reiterate that we do not have information that Libya is not cooperating or intimidating witnesses. At the same time, we would make clear, as we have in the past, the need for full cooperation, and the fact that full cooperation includes not interfering with the trial or with the witnesses in any way.
QUESTION: Is this guy, is he actually in the witness protection program?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not able to speak to you about this guy, so I am afraid I cannot do that.
QUESTION: Not able to speak about this witness?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. When a witness appears in the court, that will be the time for them to talk about it there. I mean, that is the details of the trial.
QUESTION: On the same subject -
QUESTION: But it is a US witness protection program that he's in, right?
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, I am not able to say if he's wearing a blue hat or not, because I'm not allowed to use the word "he" in a sentence. It's not for me to discuss witnesses in the Lockerbie trial.
QUESTION: Okay. The prosecution of the trial said today they needed the CIA to release some additional information to tighten their case. Is the State Department acting as a conduit in this? Are you -
MR. BOUCHER: I think we do have people out at the trial, and certainly when - I'm not aware of whether we've gotten a specific request. We've seen the report clearly, but I just made clear that we do cooperate with the judges, with the trial. We do try to respond as fully as possible at any requests they might give us, and I am sure we try to do that in this case.
QUESTION: Will this be another case where you have to urge the CIA to release this information?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have a very good record of cooperation with a trial, and we will continue that record without any problems.
QUESTION: The Secretary hasn't spoken to Director Tenet again, has she? On perhaps a subject other than Peru?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on that. On the Chilean document question? I'll have to check on that.
QUESTION: Have we protested at all the killing, or investigated the killing of the American citizen who was a retiree - a Social Security retiree - killed on the roof of his house by Israeli troops two days ago? You remember the story -
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I do remember the story.
QUESTION: Have we got anyone out there asking questions about this?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll get you something on that. That is certainly a tragic situation. Our understanding was that he thought they were burglars and he shot at them and they shot back.
QUESTION: The second question is about Lieutenant Colonel Mattysse - have we asked for his extradition, or have any action on that at all? This AWOL officer, which the Israeli police now have picked up?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, he is on his way back. As we speak, he is on his way back to the United States. He has agreed - Lieutenant Colonel Mattysse has agreed voluntarily to return to the United States. He will be processed and restored to his active duty status at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Given the nature of charges and the ongoing investigation, there is not much more we can say about that. Questions about the case will need to be directed to the Department of the Army. We do want to express our thanks to the government of Israel for their cooperation throughout the issue.
QUESTION: The Philippines - a group called Abu Sayaf - I'm not sure if that's the right pronunciation - has kidnapped 12 Westerners, and the -
QUESTION: Six months ago.
MR. BOUCHER: This has been going on for a couple of months, yes.
QUESTION: I know, I was getting to the topic - I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, okay. He is getting to the actuality -
QUESTION: Tom Skipper, the Ambassador, said he was committed to helping in any way possible. Anything on this? The Ambassador, he said this. My desk sends me these stories.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, tell your desk we don't have an ambassador in the Philippines right now, because the former ambassador returned and the new one hasn't gone out.
QUESTION: What about the Charge d'Affaires?
MR. BOUCHER: The Charge? I will get an update to see if we can describe how we may or may not be helping.
QUESTION: On the same subject, what do you think about the Libyans paying, essentially, ransom money?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't think payment of ransom for hostages is appropriate. We are against it, and we always been.
QUESTION: No matter who pays it, and who's -
MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't matter. We don't think it's good practice.
QUESTION: And would you like to specifically criticize the Libyan government for offering ransom in this case? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I will criticize generically anybody who offers ransom in whatever case. It applies in this case, but others as well.
QUESTION: Do you have anything -
QUESTION: It doesn't endear them to you in any way?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it doesn't. This is a non-endearing action by the Libyan government.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new on Mr. Pope and his condition.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I think we gave you the last update on the visit we made last Friday, I think it was.
QUESTION: What do you make of these comments by the Sudanese government in the last couple of days on wanting to renew - I don't know if you went over this already - but to renew the dialogue with the United States and improve ties.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have contacts. We have discussions with the Sudanese government. As you know, we have diplomats that regularly go in and out. We have a high-level envoy who has gone in and met with people in Sudan. We have had people there to deal with the issues of terrorism.
What we need to see is that Sudan is ready to deal with the issues, the issues of violence, the issues of union rights, the issues of terrorism that we have spoken about in the past. And I am afraid we have not seen that.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any problem in this building distinguishing between the President of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings, and Hank Aaron, the baseball player, or is that a problem that's strictly confined to the Washington Post? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: No. Next question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)