State Dept. Daily Press Briefing – Oct 18th
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing – Oct 18th
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, October 18, 2000
Briefer: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
ANNOUNCEMENTS 1 Welcome to Fellows from the World Press Institute Attending Briefing 1 Unveiling Ceremony for "Soaring American Eagle" Sculpture on Friday, October 20 1 Secretary Albright's Travel to Palm Beach, Florida to Address the Women & Company / Fortune Executive Dinner, Thursday, October 19
NORTH KOREA 1-2 Planning and Schedule for Secretary Albright's Travel to North Korea
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 2-3 Outcome of Sharm el-Sheikh Summit / Next Steps 3,13 Secretary Albright's Travel to Saudi Arabia / Meetings 3-4 Ambassador Ross Whereabouts 13-14 Secretary Albright's Meeting with Syrian President
TERRORISM 4-6,13 Public Announcement on Possible Planning for Terrorist Actions in The Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey
DEPARTMENT 6-12 Memorandum Regarding Voice of America Editorial
YEMEN 12-13 Investigation into USS Cole Explosion
BANGLADESH 14-15 Prime Minister of Bangladesh Visit to Washington / Meetings
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #101 WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2000, 1:45 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Welcome back, everybody, to the State Department briefing room after a couple of days hiatus while the Secretary and Ambassador Boucher have been traveling. Sorry for the delay.
I would like to just begin today by welcoming a group of Fellows from the World Press Institute who have joined us for the briefing today. They are affiliated with Macalester College. They come to us from around the world, and we are very pleased to have them with us.
There are just a couple of announcements. I think they have both been put out by the Press Office, but I'll just highlight them.
First of all, to note that on October 20th -- that would be Friday -- there will be the formal ceremony to unveil the "Soaring American Eagle" sculpture, which many of you may have seen as it is being installed in the North Courtyard of the Harry S. Truman Building, that is, the Department of State Main Building here. That event is open for press coverage. You can get details from the Office of Press Relations.
And I will also note that we have announced that the Secretary of State will be addressing the Women & Company / Fortune Executive Dinner Thursday -- that's tomorrow night -- in Palm Beach, Florida, at The Breakers Hotel there. And if anyone is interested in details of that or covering that event, there is information available in the Press Office.
With that, I would be happy to go to the questions, beginning with Mr. Gedda.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on North Korea and the talks there with US officials?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything more specific to add in terms of when the Secretary's trip may take place. With the Secretary en route right now from Saudi Arabia, expected to land in Shannon, Ireland, for refueling in about an hour, and returning to Washington this evening, we may then get some more information this evening and be able to work with you on that.
But I just don't have anything in addition to what we talked about -- a few of us earlier in the week -- that there is an advance team that has traveled to Pyongyang in order to prepare for the Secretary's planned visit there. It is a group of American officials that arrived on Tuesday, crossing the Demilitarized Zone from South Korea into North Korea.
And we are very pleased, I must add, with North Korea's cooperation in facilitating this travel. That team is being led by our Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Thomas Hubbard. And, as I said, we just don't have any firm announcement yet on travel times.
QUESTION: All right. You don't have the date, but in light of the intense press interest, did the North Koreans say anything to the American team about how many Americans --
MR. REEKER: I don't have those readouts yet, George. I know we are working with them on everybody from press logistics, communications obviously, to make this visit run smoothly. Obviously that includes our usual practice of working on press in terms of covering the visit and traveling with us, as necessary. So we will just get you that as soon as we do have it.
MR. REEKER: Anything else on North Korea?
QUESTION: So the Secretary's trip to Pyongyang, the United States is going to have a trilateral meeting with Japan and Korea?
MR. REEKER: Again, I don't have anything to announce in terms of the specifics of the travel. As you know, we have kept in very close touch with our allies, Japan and the Republic of Korea, throughout this process. The so-called TCOG arrangement where we get together for trilateral meetings is something we have discussed often from here, and obviously we will continue to be in very close touch with both Japan and the Republic of Korea as we prepare for this visit, and certainly after the visit. I just don't have anything specific to give you in terms of next planned meetings.
QUESTION: Phil, do you know if you're going to be able to take a press charter in addition to a plane, or --
MR. REEKER: I have no information on that. In terms of the logistics and stuff, we can try to discuss it a little bit afterwards, but there is a team there working on that with the North Koreans, and obviously a lot of the key people who work on arranging this stuff are traveling with the Secretary now. So we will have to wait until we get some more details on that.
QUESTION: Yes, on the Middle East. Are we finished on North Korea?
MR. REEKER: Yes. Anything else? Middle East.
QUESTION: It looks like Sharm el-Sheikh summit didn't have a great effect on stopping the violence. Can you tell us what diplomatic moves you are planning next to hold the leaders to the agreements they made in Sharm el-Sheikh?
MR. REEKER: I have seen a number of press reports, some of them from your agency, and some of them from others, indicating a variety of situations in the Middle East. I think there were some indicating that violence was diminishing in the West Bank.
I think what I should go back to is obviously what the President said yesterday at Sharm el-Sheikh, that the parties had agreed to three basic objectives and the steps to realize them. First, both sides have agreed to issue public statements unequivocally calling for an end to the violence, and to take concrete steps to end the confrontations. That objective must be to return the situation to that which existed prior to the current crisis.
Second, the United States is going to be developing with the parties, and in consultation with the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, a committee of fact-finding on the events of the recent crisis and how to prevent their recurrence.
And, third, the President noted that there must be a pathway back to negotiations and a resumption of efforts to reach a permanent status agreement based on the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and subsequent understandings. Towards this end, as we discussed yesterday, as officials discussed in Sharm el-Sheikh, the leaders have agreed that the United States will consult with the parties within the next few weeks about how to move forward.
I think the President underscored it best by noting that we made important commitments at Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday against this very tragic backdrop, the crisis and the violence in the region. We certainly have no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead, but if we are going to rebuild confidence and trust, we all have to do our part, avoid recrimination, and work on moving forward.
I think, to follow on from that, in the last 24 hours, since those statements, as you know, Secretary Albright has been traveling to Saudi Arabia -- we can talk about that in more detail, if you wish -- but both sides have issued statements that call for an end to the violence. As I understand it, Israel has agreed to open the Gaza airport, to lift the internal closure in the West Bank, and to open international passages. So, as I say, we have no illusions but those are steps in the right direction in the spirit of the agreement at Sharm yesterday.
And, also, I think what is very important about Sharm el-Sheikh was that, despite the anger and the frustration that's very clear about what is happening on the ground, there was recognition from both sides that a negotiated solution is the only way to end this confrontation. And both sides seemed to recognize that a negotiated solution, however difficult it may be to achieve, is immensely preferable to the continued violence. So we continue to have hope because the leaders themselves have shown that they, in fact, have hope.
QUESTION: Can you tell us whether any -- Mr. Ross or anyone else has stayed in the region to follow up on this?
MR. REEKER: I believe Ambassador Ross is returning to Washington.
QUESTION: And Mr. Miller?
MR. REEKER: And Mr. Miller accompanying him, yes.
QUESTION: Are we finished on the Mideast, the Israeli-Palestinian issue? Can we talk about --
MR. REEKER: That's up to you guys.
QUESTION: Can we talk about the travel advisory? And what indications do you have that terrorist attacks are being planned on the United States?
MR. REEKER: You will all have noted that, first of all, in the context of the Public Announcement we issued last week on the 12th, which was a Worldwide Caution noting that the Department of State is extremely concerned about the possibility for violent actions against United States citizens and interests throughout the world, today we have issued another Public Announcement highlighting the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey, noting that we have received indications of the possible planning for terrorist actions in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey.
The information we have, however, is non-specific as to timing, type of attack, or any exact location. And obviously I'm unable to provide any additional details on that, but we did want to highlight that region based on additional information that we have.
QUESTION: Some officials outside of this building were saying that there had been specific threats in Turkey. Can you just say a little --
MR. REEKER: What I can tell you is that we have received indication about possible planning for terrorist actions in those three regions that we highlighted today. As you know, as I mentioned and reminded you, there is a Worldwide Caution out there. We have highlighted those three regions, including Turkey, as you mentioned, because of indications of possible planning.
However, the information that we have is non-specific as to timing, type of attack, or any exact location. The specificity would refer to those regions described in this, but I'm not able to provide additional details and there was no further specificity. Obviously I'm not in a position to discuss intelligence, as you know.
QUESTION: The missions stay closed or open -- the US missions?
MR. REEKER: The missions that closed over last weekend all reopened, and I'm not aware of any closures at this point. But we continue to try to monitor that for you whenever we get news of one.
QUESTION: You raise this information, the receipt of this information. Can you tell us how exactly you would describe this information in the sense of obviously you see lots of information. What is it about this information which persuades you that we have to take it seriously, or that you have to take it seriously?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think obviously, Jonathan, there is a judgment that is made. As you said, we do receive lots of information. We had information that led us last week to issue the Worldwide Caution and to advice Americans of that, to remind people that they should consider some of these factors when making their travel plans or in planning their day-to-day activities if they are traveling or residing abroad.
As you indicated, we receive lots of information through a variety of sources, which obviously I can't go into any detail on, but that information is obviously analyzed and reviewed, and judgments are made as to when it is of a nature and significant to augment or supplement any other Public Announcements that we have made. So that is what has happened today: We have received indication of possible planning for terrorist actions in those three areas noted. As I said, that information is non-specific in terms of timing or the type of attack, or the exact location, but a judgment was made that it was important to supplement our Worldwide Caution, noting this caution, and that is what we have released today.
QUESTION: In that part of the world, only Pakistan was the one where you closed your missions. Do you have any idea why you took that action? Were there any specific --
MR. REEKER: We covered this extensively last week when we discussed that, and I would be happy to refer you back to that. All those missions are reopened. There were four missions in Pakistan, in the South Asia region, that was in light of the Worldwide Caution that we put out on the 12th, which I have been discussing here. I think the decision to instruct those posts to close was based on a variety of factors. There were a number of posts. All the posts in the Near East region closed. There were a number of posts in Africa and these posts in South Asia.
QUESTION: Did you share this information with Turkish officials?
MR. REEKER: I'm not familiar with what direct contacts we would have had with Turkish officials. Obviously we have issued this as a Public Announcement, and so I would be happy to try to check for you exactly what point --
QUESTION: And also --
MR. REEKER: But we have a regular dialogue obviously with Turkish officials, both here in Washington and in Ankara and at our Consulate in Istanbul.
QUESTION: Also, this threat coming from the extreme religious groups, which they are active, very active in Turkey right now?
MR. REEKER: I just don't have any further details for you on the specifics. I am just not able to go into that, other than to note what we have already noted as outlined in the Public Announcement.
QUESTION: This is tangential. Do you have a specific on that?
QUESTION: No, it's terrorism-related.
QUESTION: Well, I'll go ahead and do mine. Can you go through with -- go through the State Department's version of this leaked memo on VOA's editorial?
MR. REEKER: Leaked memo. The VOA, yes.
QUESTION: Yes, and I have some questions on it.
MR. REEKER: I trust by now you have all seen and received, read copies of Ambassador Boucher's statement which was put out about this matter last night.
There was a memorandum that was sent to the Voice of America in what is a sort of standard procedure or process that was wrong. As the statement we released last night stated, this was completely wrong. There was text in this memo that in no way reflected the views of the Department or US policy. It had not been vetted or approved through appropriate channels in this building and, in fact, the Voice of America editorial, to which this is all referring, was cleared by the Department of State. You would have to check with VOA on what they planned to do with that text and that editorial at that time.
Maybe it would be helpful to go over a little bit the process, because a lot of people that I have talked to earlier were not clear on the relationship with VOA and what this was about.
The Voice of America, as you all know, broadcasts in English and 52 other languages overseas. It is the international broadcasting service of the United States Government. And under its charter, the Voice of America is required to broadcast accurate, objective and comprehensive reporting with the highest standards of journalistic excellence. I think everybody would agree that that is very much what Voice of America has, and that they have a reputation well earned for reliability and credibility around the world, and that's for nearly 60 years now.
The charter of the Voice of America also requires VOA to present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and so they do this through editorials. Those editorials, which are labeled at the top and the bottom of the segment when they are broadcast, are described very distinctly as editorials reflecting, expressing, the policies of the United States Government.
Because of that, because one of VOA's roles is to distinctly express policies of the United States Government, an interagency deputies committee, as we call it, decided in 1991that all of those editorials should be cleared by the State Department to make sure that indeed they were reflecting US policy, which was their goal. So I believe it began in July of '91, and the interagency coordinating committee sort of reviewed the procedure for implementing that in the following months. And it was determined that this was very much in keeping within VOA's charter and the need to explain US Government policy. That same process has remained in place ever since then, so for about nine years now. Currently, the Department reviews approximately eight to ten VOA editorials in any given week -- reviews, or clears, as we say in bureaucratic lingo.
Generally, I am told -- and it's hard to come up with specific numbers -- determinations are made not to clear one to two of those in an average week. And they may be sent back and rewritten, or VOA can submit something else, or simply not use. But if they don't reflect what we consider an expression of US policy, obviously we will not clear that.
QUESTION: And how is that indication made to VOA? Is that generally done by a memo?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: And this specific memo, if it wasn't cleared, how did it get on official State Department stationery with people's phone numbers?
MR. REEKER: Right, I was just getting to that. VOA sends the proposed editorials by fax to the State Department's Executive Secretariat, which is the body, the organizational structure, which processes paper like this. And then the Executive Secretariat seeks views of the appropriate offices and bureaus within the Department in order to go through the clearance process, which a lot of you are very familiar with, and then conveys that back to the Voice of America. The same Executive Secretariat conveys messages to other US Government entities, whether it is the National Security Council or the Department of Defense. That's the process by which paper is moved and official things are moved back and forth.
This process obviously, in this case, had a glitch. There was wrong information put into text, into a memo which was sent then to the Executive Secretariat and transmitted to the Voice of America without, as Ambassador Boucher's statement says, without being vetted or approved through the appropriate channel. And that went to Voice of America and obviously, as we have said, was wrong and does not reflect US Government policy in any way.
So once we became aware of this error, we in fact went back and checked. And the editorial in question was cleared and VOA was notified of that yesterday.
QUESTION: Late last night, after this already came out?
MR. REEKER: Right, once we became aware of this, when it "came out," as you describe it, and went back to look at it. I even looked at the editorial and it is perfectly -- a perfect reflection of US policy. It was an editorial discussing terrorism, and particularly in the wake of the tragedy surrounding the USS Cole. And so VOA was notified that, indeed, that editorial is fully cleared. You would have to check with VOA on what their plan is for the editorial and use of that text on that. And obviously we put out the statement to very clearly note that that memo that was sent out and then was leaked was clearly wrong and does not reflect US policy.
QUESTION: It says on the bottom of the memo that the Secretariat and a counter-terrorism staff concurred with that assessment and that if there are any questions to call the NEA Bureau, which indicates that the NEA Bureau had at least been apprised of that assessment.
MR. REEKER: Well, again, as you know very well, Elise, "bureau" is a broad description of a segment of the Department of State, and there are a lot of people that work in bureaus. I think as we noted in the statement released last night, this was not vetted or approved through the appropriate channels, to the appropriate level, to the policy-making people that could determine that for reflecting US policy. And that is where the error occurred. And in this age of e-mail, I think particularly, and text can be moved so quickly, this appears to then have gotten to the Executive Secretariat which then, following the standard procedure that has been pursued over the last nine years, forwarded that to the Voice of America.
And I should point out that what was released in terms of this memo did include names and phone numbers, and that the names on there are not people that were at all involved in drafting or suggesting the text whatsoever. They were from the Executive Secretariat, who serve in an administrative capacity, simply to make this paper flow take place. So, unfortunately, the person identified in this memo that was distributed very widely has been subjected to, I think, some extraordinarily unfortunate and unfair phone calls and letters.
I just want to point out very clearly to everybody that this mistake, this wrong information -- which we're very straightforward about this -- simply is wrong and does not reflect US policy or the thinking of the Secretary, the Department or the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. It should not at all be identified with the person on the memo. That's an administrative function to simply pass the information on.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MR. REEKER: Sure.
QUESTION: So, basically, you're saying that that was the view of a particular State Department employee, or a group of State Department employees --
MR. REEKER: I'm not at all suggesting that that was even anybody's view. I'm suggesting that that was information and language that was put out there in the process that somebody wanted to suggest could be a view of people that may or may not hear an editorial, simply in a process of looking at this editorial and saying, "What might people think of this?" There is a long process there.
What obviously was missed was the appropriate level of vetting which would say, yeah, okay, you're making some comments about what may be views held by someone around the world or an interpretation; these are not US views; these do not reflect US policy. And that is what was missed. This went into that memo and was transmitted through this administrative process, and unfortunately led to this misunderstanding.
But, once again, the memo that people have seen was wrong. It does not reflect US policy. It does not reflect the views of the Secretary, of the Department, or of the Bureau of Near East Affairs. I have discussed this with officials at the highest level of the Bureau and throughout the Department. It was not vetted, it was not done through the appropriate channels, and it was wrong.
QUESTION: Well, did security and counter-terrorism say they had never seen that draft, entirely disavowing it, even though they were quoted as concurring?
MR. REEKER: Again, this had not been cleared through the proper level of either bureau. Someone concurring with someone's pointing out a possible factor in looking at text does not designate any concurrence in terms of US policy or the views of the Department, of any bureau, because absolutely what is contained in that memo is completely wrong and doesn't at all reflect, I think as you all know, our views, our official positions, our policies.
QUESTION: Well, how long does it usually take to get one of these editorials cleared? Because if they gave this to you on Monday, and as of at least 7 o'clock last night it had not been cleared, how many days do these editorials usually sit in the State Department?
MR. REEKER: Once again, let me just correct you on that. What had happened was someone had sent what the administrative body thought was a non-clearance -- the memo in question -- and, in fact, that is dated Monday. I can't tell you exactly when the text came over from VOA. That's something I could check into. I think it depends obviously on what's going on -- weekends, when people are working.
As soon as it was looked at by the appropriate people at the right level, of course this is cleared, and that clearance was then sent out last night.
QUESTION: But why wasn't that approval sent, if these people underneath were doing something and they sent this renegade memo? The other people hadn't sent approval --
MR. REEKER: Because -- again, I want to not get into "renegade memos." I want to talk about text that was wrong, a memo that was wrong.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, the people who sent the wrong text hadn't been contradicted by the right people.
MR. REEKER: Right -- this -- yes, exactly. This moved through the process and was sent out so that the clearing, the approving stopped, because it was checked off as having been sent as uncleared. So the administrative --
QUESTION: It says on the top of the memo, "Uncleared." It says the State Department does not clear --
MR. REEKER: Exactly. That is exactly the problem. So that then stopped the process so that those then that were looking at it to review that at the appropriate level, and determining that indeed the text that VOA had sent us was an absolutely fine reflection of US policy, were not then -- it didn't move any further. And once we became aware of this memo and people said, wait a minute, this is totally wrong, and went back to look at it, then they got the text back and said, this is cleared, we've cleared it, but we also felt we needed to put out obviously the statement. And I was in touch with Ambassador Boucher in Saudi Arabia last night, and he put out that statement to note how wrong that was and how it does not reflect the views of the State Department or the bureau.
QUESTION: Do you know who wrote it?
MR. REEKER: I don't think that needs to be an issue that we need to get into.
QUESTION: Have you identified the person who wrote the language?
MR. REEKER: I am sure that someone could identify the person that wrote the language in terms of transcribing thoughts.
QUESTION: No, no. Having the idea.
MR. REEKER: In terms of having ideas, I think we all have ideas, and when one is brainstorming to present lots of different thoughts and possibilities on subjects -- this is not a question of pointing to somebody. What this is a question of is: What is US policy, what is a reflection of US policy? And this memo clearly is not.
QUESTION: Okay, but another question that arises is, I assume that when these answers are sent to VOA, there is a final policy-vetting stage to ensure that the message is an accurate reflection of your policies. Who does that, and why didn't they do it in this case?
MR. REEKER: It --
QUESTION: You're presenting the person mentioned here as being somebody whose task is not to do that.
MR. REEKER: Again, let's try to explain it one more time. The person whose task was not got this -- got into the channel so that it was transmitted, which then stopped the process so it never got to the appropriate level.
QUESTION: Yes, but before this person that she sends the answer, does she not -- or he -- clear it with somebody above them who takes -- who says, yes, send it?
MR. REEKER: There has been a standard procedure that is included -- the person from the Executive Secretariat sending the response that he or she receives by an e-mail or a phone call, and then prepares, formats this memo for sending to VOA.
QUESTION: So this is a formal process?
MR. REEKER: And obviously there was an error in terms of misunderstanding, somebody thinking that, oh, this has been sent and hasn't been cleared. The Executive Secretariat, which forwards this on in the administrative manner, doesn't make a call as to the content of it, and so clearly it never made it to the policy-making people, the appropriate level of attention. And that's something that we want to ensure. After nine years, we have had this incident now, this mistake. We want to go back and look at that and, if necessary, tighten up that process if we need to to make sure that the right people see these things and that they're vetted appropriately.
QUESTION: What is mystifying is that someone could have written something so at odds with official policy.
MR. REEKER: I think often, just as you and I or many of us discuss things, in terms of tossing out alternative views that don't reflect personal views, but that reflect the devil's advocate position perhaps, I think that kind of discussion goes on all the time.
QUESTION: These people are not into devil's advocate's positions.
MR. REEKER: George, I think -- you said it yourself right now -- that this is completely at odds and entirely contradictory to what our views are and what our policy is. Those are policies, I think, that are very well known. If you see or hear the VOA editorial, you will see that it reflects very much in its discussion of terrorism and the tragedy of the USS Cole, that it very much reflects what the Secretary has said last week and more recently, and certainly the other views that we have expressed from here.
QUESTION: On the same subject. Would you call it as an honest mistake, and are you going to hold anybody accountable for this, or anybody -- any action?
MR. REEKER: I don't want to characterize anything as honest. I don't believe there was any ill will here, and certainly, as I said, it is something we are going to review. We have already reviewed, in order for me to come out here, the process. It's not something that I was intimately familiar with until last night and this morning when I checked into this. We reviewed that. We want to make sure that it is followed so that we don't have systemic errors that can occur like that again and create these misunderstandings and the need to then discuss it.
We, as a Department, are dealing with that and will review that. And I think, as I said, with about ten editorials a week over the last nine or ten years, the process has worked well, but obviously we need to make sure that we can avoid something like this happening again.
Nick, our friend from VOA.
QUESTION: New subject.
MR. REEKER: A new subject? (Laughter.) Was there anything else on this? Did you want to -- okay, please, let's move on.
QUESTION: Ambassador Bodine was telling reporters last night that there has been some significant developments in the Cole investigation. Do you know what they are? Can you shed light on that?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I can add much. I mean, I have seen transcripts. I have seen Ambassador Bodine, our Ambassador in Yemen, on some of the television shows discussing this. As my colleague, Admiral Quigley at the Pentagon said yesterday, we're not going to comment specifically on aspects of the criminal investigation while it is under way, and I'm not going to speculate certainly on the big question of who may have been responsible for the explosion. That is obviously what the investigation wants to pinpoint.
I can say -- and I think this reflects, or is reflected very much by what Ambassador Bodine has said -- that the investigation into the explosion of the USS Cole is proceeding very well, with continued good full cooperation by the Government of Yemen. The interagency team that was dispatched to Yemen last Thursday when this event took place remains on the ground -- or, in fact, on ships in some cases -- in Aden. It includes investigators and medical technicians, communications experts, and certainly a robust force protection element.
I think we may have talked a little bit at the end of the week about the Foreign Emergency Support Team, or FEST, which is the State-led interagency group of experts that can be deployed rapidly -- in this case was deployed rapidly to Yemen -- to assist US and host nation authorities in a wide range of specialized skills not normally available on the scene, and particularly in the aftermath of a possible terrorist incident.
So we have been working very closely with the Yemenis, have appreciated that coordination and the support that they have been providing us. Obviously, as other departments have noted, senior officials are being kept apprised of this, and so I'm just not in a position to go into any more details of the investigation.
QUESTION: Well, can you at least say whether you got some solid leads yet, or are you still at square one?
MR. REEKER: Again, I think I have to say that the investigation has moved forward very quickly. This is less than a week since this tragic incident occurred. But I'm just not going to be able to get into day-by-day readouts of this. It wouldn't be appropriate or prudent. It is an ongoing criminal investigation. The FBI obviously will have the lead of that criminal investigation, and we will certainly be paying close attention and watching for what information does emerge when it is determined that that information is appropriate to provide publicly.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary discuss the investigation? Apparently there has been some -- I know you don't want to go into the investigation, but there has been some claims that some of the people that could be responsible are of Saudi descent. And has the Secretary talked about the investigation during her meetings in Saudi Arabia?
MR. REEKER: I'm just -- I am not aware. She did, as we discussed, have meetings in Saudi Arabia. I just don't have anything beyond some of the press reports I have seen suggesting these things. I have no details on that.
In terms of the Secretary's meetings in Saudi Arabia, she arrived there yesterday and met with King Fahd, coming directly from Sharm el-Sheikh. Later then in the evening, she had meetings with the Saudi Crown Prince and the Foreign Minister. And then this morning, she met with Syrian President Bashar Asad for about two hours and 15 minutes, I am told, before she and her party departed to return to Washington.
QUESTION: I guess this is back to the whole issue of the travel warning. Are these specific threats or -- there hasn't been any specific threat, but the threats of this nature, have any of them made you think that it might be the same group or groups responsible for the --
MR. REEKER: I just don't have any more information than what I have gone through now. I just am not in a position to discuss that any more. I can't discuss the investigation, and I can't provide any additional details on the Worldwide Caution or the specific Public Announcement that we released today.
QUESTION: But certainly there is a correlation between a terrorist attack on a US ship last week and now that the US is receiving a lot more threats in the region.
MR. REEKER: Well, I think if you look back at the Worldwide Caution from October 12th, it specifically mentions several American citizens. We now know that to be 17 were killed, and many more injured in an incident involving a US Navy ship in port in Aden, Yemen. And so that, in and of itself, was included in the language of the Worldwide Caution issued last week.
QUESTION: Thank you. On the subject of Bashar Asad, apparently no commitment to Madeleine Albright was made to --
MR. REEKER: Bill, let me just cut you off there. I am not going to be able to comment on the meeting. The Secretary's party is traveling, and they will be able to do that either with the press traveling on the plane -- I'm sure there has been readouts.
QUESTION: You have no reaction, then --
MR. REEKER: All I can tell you is that the Secretary met with President Asad of Syria, who was also in Saudi Arabia. She used that opportunity to meet with him to discuss issues in the region, obviously, and the Sharm el-Sheikh summit that had just taken place. But I have no readout on the meeting and nothing specific on it.
QUESTION: Nothing positive that you have to report from that meeting?
MR. REEKER: I will not have my statements characterized. I don't have anything for you on that meeting because obviously it took place just before the Secretary and her party boarded the plane to come back to Washington.
QUESTION: Let me ask you on another --
MR. REEKER: Let's move on, and we'll come back to you.
QUESTION: On Bangladesh.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: The Minister of Bangladesh was here in the building yesterday and met with Mr. Talbott.
MR. REEKER: That's right. She had lunch with Acting Secretary of State Talbott, yes.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. What did they discuss, number one? And, number two, she is asking the United States Government that the US should make all the Bangladeshis - illegal Bangladeshis, illegal in this country, number one; number two, she is also asking that the killers of her father and the founder of Bangladesh, three major retired military officers here in the US should be deported to Bangladesh to face trial and justice for the Bangladesh people.
MR. REEKER: Well, what I can tell you generally is that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is now on the third day of a four-day visit to Washington. She was invited, as you know, by President Clinton when he visited Bangladesh last March. She is scheduled, indeed, to meet with President Clinton tomorrow. The meeting had originally been scheduled for today but, by mutual agreement, that meeting was moved because, as you know, the President was attending the Memorial Service for the victims of the attack on the USS Cole down in Norfolk.
As you noted, Prime Minister Hasina had a working lunch yesterday with Acting Secretary of State Talbott here in the Department, and she had meetings at the Pentagon, I understand, yesterday afternoon. I believe she also has met or is scheduled to meet with Secretary of Energy Richardson, Attorney General Reno, and certainly, quite possibly, other US officials.
I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to characterize for you the specifics of the discussions at the working lunch, other than to say that they covered a range of bilateral, regional and international issues, including cooperation on peacekeeping. The Bangladeshis have been very supportive of UN peacekeeping efforts, strengthening of democracy, investment and trade issues.
QUESTION: How about -- was the meeting -- the Bangladeshis illegal in this --
MR. REEKER: I don't have any information on those discussions.
QUESTION: And do you have anything on those three -- the alleged killers of her father in the US?
MR. REEKER: No, I'm afraid I don't.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 p.m.)