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US State Department Daily Press Briefing (#13)

US State Department Daily Press Briefing (#13) Friday, January 26, 2001

Serbia Cuba Canada Qatar Venezuela Democratic Republic Of The Congo Sudan Russia India Afghanistan Mexico Peru

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, D.C. (On The Record Unless Otherwise Noted)

SERBIA (Kosovo) (pp. 1-2) Milosevic's Special Forces'Campaign to Hide Evidence of Crimes in Kosovo JAPAN (pp. 2-3) Secretary Powell's Meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Kono (pp. 3-4) Coordination with Japan and South Korea on North Korea

CUBA (pp. 4-5) Cuban Government's Continued Detention of Czech Citizens

CANADA (pp. 5) Secretary Powell's Meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister

QATAR (pp. 5-6) US View on Possible WTO Meeting in Qatar

VENEZUELA (pp. 6) Air Crash / Death of Americans

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (pp. 6-8) Update on Situation/Ambassador Swing's Meeting with Joseph Kabila

SUDAN (pp. 8) Alleged Letter from President Bush

RUSSIA (pp. 8-9) Letter from Foreign Minister Ivanov to Secretary Powell (pp. 9-10) Secretary Powell's View of US-Russian Relationship

INDIA (pp. 10-11) Update on Earthquake and US Assistance/Welfare of Americans

AFGHANISTAN (pp. 11-12) Reports of Arrest of American Citizen by Taliban

DEPARTMENT (pp. 13) Secretary Powell's Confirmation Quotes in NFL Superbowl Advertisement (pp. 14) Secretary Powell's Calls to Foreign Ministers/Upcoming Meetings

MEXICO (pp. 13-14) Secretary Powell's Upcoming Meeting with Foreign Minister of Mexico

PERU (pp. 15) Alleged US Pressure to Ensure Favorable Ruling for US Company

TRANSCRIPT: MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here, happy to take your questions.

Q: I need to tell you, this is sort of not a main issue right now, but while I think of it, NPR Minnesota Public Radio had a report last night about Serb elite units burning the bodies of atrocity victims to avoid obviously -- or to limit as best they could implication in ethnic murder.

Do you know -- I know it is basically an OSCE issue, I suppose, but does the State Department have anything on that?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, this is something that we have reported on or talked about in the past. I mean, the basic outlines of the story are true. Milosevic forces did indeed conduct a campaign to destroy the evidence of their crimes in Kosovo by burning bodies and other means. We released a report on December 9, 1999, that was called, "Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo and Accounting." That report got into the efforts of Milosevic's forces to burn bodies and destroy evidence, and I think we can get you copies of that report.

The information that we had, and continue to have, corroborates the broad outline of the campaign by Milosevic's forces to destroy evidence of their crimes, and we in fact have briefed the International War Crimes Tribunal for Yugoslavia; we briefed their investigators in May and June of 1999 on the Serb campaign to destroy evidence.

Q: Well, is there some reason that this is coming up now? This is over a year old.

MR. BOUCHER: You will have to ask the people in Minnesota Public -- or the Public Radio about that?

Q: But -- (inaudible) -- forward by --

Q: But it hasn't been updated since December 1999?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. I don't think we have done anything to make it news again. It is a fact that we know of and that we have reported on in the past. You can ask your colleagues why they thought it was news.

Q: Can we move to more contemporary affairs?

Q: No. Richard, there is a specific charge of this taking place at a specific, I believe it is a smelting factory in a specific town. Do you have anything on this incident?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it is a town of Trepca -- or Trepca, T-r-e-p-c-a. It was an area of great interest to us that we had looked at in this context, and as I said, the information we have corroborates the general outlines of this report and corroborates the facts that Milosevic's forces did attempt to destroy evidence of their crimes, including at this place.

Q: The fact that this place was specifically cremating bodies?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I would have to look at the report itself, whether we had information that detailed at this particular place. We knew that this was one of the things that they were doing in Kosovo, and we knew that this was one of the places where -- that we were concentrating on, where there was activity going on. But if we were actually able to say in our report they burned bodies at this site, I don't know.

Q: Do you know of any follow-up investigation on this particular site?

MR. BOUCHER: I assume that you would have to check with the Tribunal on that for what they might have done after we briefed them on this, and whether -- I will check and see if there is something US forces might have done at this particular site, see if we know any more.

Q: Richard, was some or any of your corroboration from eyewitnesses?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we talked about this in a report some time ago, so I don't know that we are able to go into much detail. There was a lot of it talked about in 1999, including at State Department press briefings that might have gone into more detail than I can go based on a recollection at this point. But we do know that there were massive killings and that there were attempts to burn bodies and otherwise cover up evidence at places throughout Kosovo, including activity at this site.

Q: Can you tell us about the Secretary's meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister today? What did they talk about?

MR. BOUCHER: They talked about a number of subjects. They had a meeting initially that was a half hour, 45 minutes or so and then they had a lunch that lasted more or less another hour. The discussion covered a wide range of topics, both bilateral topics and regional and global ones. It was based on I think, first, a discussion and a recognition of the extremely warm relationship we have with our Japanese allies, the fact that this relationship is based on common values. It is a relationship that continues to deepen, continues to broaden through the interaction of our two governments, as well as our peoples and our economies, that we in some ways complement each other in our activities in the world.

They talked about bilateral issues, bilateral cooperation, as well as questions like Okinawa. They talked about regional issues, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula, various relationships with Russia, China, Burma, places like that. They talked about global issues including the need to restart a WTO round and things like that. So it was a broad discussion with an ally and good friend that I think is characteristic of the kind of relationships and the kind of discussions we have in terms of the United States and Japan trying to work together on many, many things in the world.

Q: Can I have a quick follow-up? Does the Secretary intend to continue the trilateral coordination process that started with Japan and South Korea on North Korea and when can we expect to see the first such get-together?

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has stressed, and I think stressed again today in his conversations with the Japanese, the key importance to him of coordination with Japan and South Korea, and certainly they discussed North Korea quite a bit today, and the Secretary will have those discussions, I'm sure, with the South Koreans when we get together with them.

So that process of coordination is very, very important to him. As for his specific trilateral meeting, or his specific mechanism, I don't have anything in the works right now, but we will see what develops as we go forward. But the fundamental of coordination with Japan and South Korea as we go forward, as we look at North Korea policy, that is absolutely firm.

Q: On that coordination, Richard, did the Secretary tell his Japanese colleague that he intended to appoint someone to replace, to fill the Wendy Sherman -- the Special --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that was discussed.

Q: Were the Japanese at all concerned that there might not -- that that position might not --

MR. BOUCHER: Again, the issue of some specific position in the US Government, as far as I know, didn't come up.

Q: Well, I'm actually talking not about some -- really this specific position as -- it goes directly to the kind of coordination that has been going on, the three-way coordination, and also the talks that include China. And if there isn't going to be someone who is leading those efforts -- I mean, is the Secretary going to do it himself, or is it going to be done by --

MR. BOUCHER: As in so many things where you are asking about appointments and organizational questions, we will have to see. The decisions on how exactly to organize and proceed in this effort remain to be announced. But I would say absolutely clearly that the Secretary himself is committed to the process of coordination with Japan and South Korea, and that will be part of our policy as we proceed to look at the issues involved with North Korea.

Q: Can I follow up on that? Matt touched on my other point, but some aspect of that coordination at least was quadrilateral with China. Would that continue as well? Not trying to get us into the same discussion we had yesterday.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, let's not. But yes, we will continue. Certainly he looks forward to continuing talking to China about North Korea.

Q: Richard, Cuba appears to have made its case in greater detail concerning the arrest of the two Czechs, and it talks about the role of Freedom House on behalf of the two Czechs, and talks about the role of the United States in support of Freedom House, and talks about the subversive intent of these contacts by Freedom House, and also talks about the collaboration between the US to provide some Czech diplomats on behalf of subverting the Cuba over the past 10 years.

Any comment?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, since it is Cuba, and since the Cuban Government has made direct and public charges and released a variety of distorted pieces of analysis and information, I think it is only my duty to help you understand what the facts are.

So, yes, I will take the opportunity. Let me tell you some of the facts and the way things are. The Czech member of parliament, Ivan Pillip and Czech citizen Jan Bubenik, are Czech citizens. They have direct experience as dissidents in a totalitarian regime. The Cuban allegations that are in that January 23rd circular from the Foreign Ministry are ludicrous on their face. The circular contends that these two Czech visitors attempted to undermine and overthrow the Cuban state by meeting with two peaceful political activists.

Meeting with peaceful political activists and carrying a list of activist names is not considered a crime in most countries of the world. The US Government did not supply the two with any cash or equipment. Nobody from the US Government met with the two before their trip. They were not on a US Government trip; they were on a trip sponsored by a very well-respected international non-governmental organization.

The Cuban Government's continued detention of the two visitors provides graphic proof of why it is important to continue to focus international attention on human rights in Cuba, and we echo the Czech Government's call for their release.

Q: I wasn't here yesterday, so forgive me if this came up, but was this discussed with the Canadian Foreign Minister in his meeting with Secretary Powell? It seems as if this issue -- they would -- this issue as very concerning to them?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it did. In the end, there were a lot of things discussed with the Canadians yesterday. I don't think Cuba came up.

Q: Did the Cuba issue come up at all, not in the context of the Czech, but did it come up in terms of --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't remember there being any discussion of Cuba. Just obviously, it is something we are both interested in. But I don't think it came up. It may have come up only -- there was no specific discussion of Cuba. I'm trying to remember if there was sort of the green spots on the map, and the one red spot on the map, whether that was discussed. But generally, democracy in the hemisphere was certainly discussed, and we all know that Cuba is a gross exception to that trend. But, no, there was no specific discussion of this or Cuba in any detail.

Q: A bunch of union activist groups have written to the Secretary asking him to oppose this choice of Qatar to host the next -- what is it, WTO -- the WTO meeting. Is the United States going to agree -- does the United States agree with those -- their concerns that Qatar is a place where no demonstrations are allowed, and there is a lack of freedom of speech, and will the United States oppose the choice of --

MR. BOUCHER: As far as the issue of Qatar and freedom of speech, I think you can look in our human rights report, and there will be a new one out.

Q: Yes, they actually cite that in their letter, saying that --

MR. BOUCHER: That's the facts as we know them. So in terms of what we think of the situation in Qatar, it is there in the human rights report, and there will be a new one shortly.

As far as whether or not a WTO meeting is held there, I think we need to check with the WTO. I'm not aware that it is our decision.

Q: No, I know, it is not your decision. I don't think they are saying that. They would like the United States, Secretary Powell and the Trade Representative-Designate to oppose.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, at this point I haven't seen the letter, and as I said, I'm not sure if we are in a position to tell the WTO where to have its meeting.

Q: I asked about this before, and actually you handed the --

Q: (Inaudible) -- think the WTO meetings should be held in countries where people who have the right to assembly and protest?

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, that is the same question, and I will have to look and see.

Q: No, it is a general matter of principle.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to -- look, the question of where to hold the WTO meeting is fundamentally a question for the WTO to answer. To what extent the United States can influence that in the way the WTO makes the decision, I don't know; I'll have to check on it and see if it is a question that we have a chance to put our views into. And therefore, if so, then I will check and see what our views are.

Q: Can you clarify how many American victims may have been on this Venezuelan plane that crashed. I think the last report said three?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer has to be that we are aware of three American citizens who died in the crash. The next of kin have now been notified and we are providing assistance to the family members.

Our consular officers are on the site and they are providing appropriate assistance. Our Embassy in Caracas is, of course, working down there. We are in touch with our Embassy in Caracas to try and get more information. But, at this point, we are aware of three Americans who died in the crash. Obviously, we -- I can't give their names. We have been in touch with the families. We do offer our condolences to all the people who died in that crash yesterday.

Q: Richard, has the United States sent any sort of message to the new Congolese leader, since he was sworn in? And do you have any sort of read on who is in power or if he is now at the hands of other countries? I mean, how do you read this? Is he his own man or is he a puppet?

MR. BOUCHER: That's something we regularly do here, is to try to characterize leaders as being their own person or puppets -- (laughter). Once again, that is the kind of thing I think I will decline to do.

Let me tell you about where we stand with the new Government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our ambassador, Ambassador Swing, met for one hour yesterday, on Thursday, with Joseph Kabila. The meeting was cordial. It was informative. The Ambassador is engaged with a vigorous schedule of contacts with members of the government. We continue, as I have said in past days, to work with various people in the government, including their new leader, and he is their leader according to their system. So he is the guy we will meet with at the head.

Q: (Inaudible) -- on congratulations or condolences or any message from his government to ours?

MR. BOUCHER: I think there was a letter of condolences from President Bush that Ambassador Swing gave him at the meeting. We, as you know, have encouraged a dialogue inside Congo. We have encouraged carrying out the Lusaka Accords, and that is essentially what Ambassador Swing did in the meeting, in addition to presenting our condolences.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: I think the letter from the President was a letter of condolences.

Q: -- the last sentence of that letter says, "Our hopes and prayers are with you and the Congolese people at the moment when you are seeking peace for the Democratic Republic of Congo in these difficult times."

Is that an indication that you think that Kabila is -- that the US believes that Kabila the son will work towards peace?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we certainly hope so and that is what he has talked about. That's what he talked about with the Ambassador; he talked about the need for peace and we encourage them to continue that search for peace through a dialogue with people inside his country, according to the Lusaka Accords.

Q: Did the Ambassador detect any difference in the approach to the Lusaka agreements between the father and the son? The father, of course, was pretty ambivalent about the Lusaka agreements.

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I don't think we heard any specific commitment on the Lusaka agreement. So it's hard to say if anything is different or the same. What we heard was talk about the need for peace and the desire to pursue peace and our ambassador said, as we have said, that the Lusaka process was the way to do that.

Q: And what do you think about the reinforcements, troop reinforcements which have gone into Congo since the assassination by Kabila's allies. Do you think it's --

MR. BOUCHER: I think it is Angola and Zimbabwe who have had troops there for quite a while.

Q: Yes, but there have been reinforcements.

MR. BOUCHER: It is Zimbabwe and Angola who have had troops there for quite a while to maintain security. In this current situation, they have been reinforced. But we still consider, and I think the government considers, that they are there to help maintain calm and stability and security in the cities.

Q: Richard, how does the State Department define the system that the Congo has in place right now? I mean, you said he is "president as per their system," and I am just wondering how you would describe it?

MR. BOUCHER: We will describe it in our human rights report, I think. If you want a detailed analysis of the government, that is the best place to look about how their system operates, or the country notes, frankly.

Q: On this whole issue of letters coming from the White House, I realize we should probably ask there. But what is the deal with this alleged letter that the Sudanese claim that they got and have actually published. Was there a letter sent?

MR. BOUCHER: We are asking the same question. The initial reports were that our chargé was delivering a letter. He wasn't delivering a letter. What this thing is that they have published, nobody in Washington seems to think that there is any such letter.

Q: You think that they have made this up? Is that fair?

MR. BOUCHER: Either that, or we haven't tracked it down. But there is certainly no official letter to the Government of Sudan with any particular views of the US in it.

Q: Can I move on to a new subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Please.

Q: I would like to ask again if the Secretary has spoken to Foreign Minister Ivanov yet.

MR. BOUCHER: No, not at this point. He did receive a letter the other day from Foreign Minister Ivanov.

Q: Could you tell us about that?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it was two days ago. We received a letter from him. The Foreign Minister said he looked forward to getting together at an early date and the Secretary, of course, agrees that they should get together.

Q: That was Wednesday?

MR. BOUCHER: Two days ago, yes, Wednesday.

Q: Richard, just a procedural question. Is it unusual to send a letter rather than make a phone call to say "hi" the way that Barak and Arafat did earlier in the week, and you've mentioned other phone calls?

MR. BOUCHER: No, it is not unusual either way. It kind of depends what is on people's minds, how much they have to say, you know. Barak and Arafat both are in the midst of conversations they wanted us to know about, so it is more logical they would call. There is nothing unusual either way.

Q: Do you know how long the letter was?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, actually.

Q: (Inaudible) -- are you saying that's what he said or did he communicate that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure if we replied yet. But that is generally our view, yes, they agreed --

Q: I'm sorry. Did Ivanov raise the Borodin case?

MR. BOUCHER: As far as I know, it was just a greeting and an expression of, I hope we get together soon.

Q: Can I just follow one more with this? Could you just characterize the kind of relationship Secretary Powell intends to strike up with Foreign Minister Ivanov, given that such a strong theme of his predecessor's time in office? And there is an obvious question, a week has passed, there has only been this exchange of letters coming from Moscow to Washington, nothing else. It is a vague relationship. So people are kind of wondering, what does this mean?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean there are 184 countries in the world, and he is not going to strike up a relationship in the first week of his tenure --

Q: Not all of them have --

MR. BOUCHER: Maybe there are more than 184. Obviously this is going to be an important relationship. He talked about -- in his testimony he talked about the various aspects of our relationship with Russia, both our support for reform and democracy, our desire to work with them where we can, but also our concerns about some of the things that were going on there.

So it will, I'm sure, be a varied relationship. Clearly our concerns about the issue of Chechnya are the same as we have had before, and he made a point of that in his testimony as well. So in terms of his working relationship with his Russian counterpart, I would expect that a positive and productive relationship, but one that deals with all the issues of cooperation, as well as the areas where we disagree.

Q: Richard, anything to say about the US response to the earthquake in India?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We are ready to assist should they desire any kind of assistance from us. I think the White House has issued a statement by the President already, in which he said he was saddened and said we stand ready to assist as needed and desired by the governments.

The earthquake caused severe damage and loss of life in the state of Gujarat. We have seen reports that the earthquake also affected other Indian states, in Pakistan, and was felt as far away as Nepal.

At this point, we have no reports of Americans injured in the disaster. Our embassies and consulates are following up through their warden systems, following up with the American communities to try to verify the welfare of Americans. But at this point we have no reports of any injuries.

Questions about the welfare of Americans who may have been affected, if families want to call, people who know of anything that happened, there is a phone number at the State Department in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. It is 202-647-5225. The Indian Government has mobilized its rescue forces to recover the injured and assist the victims of the quake. The US Ambassador to India, Richard Celeste, has declared an emergency and is able to provide, with that declaration, an initial donation of $25,000 to the Indian Government fund. And this declaration then makes it possible for us to provide additional assistance, should the Government of India request it.

The US Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance is also standing by and ready to assist if needed. But at this point, we don't have anything from the Indians that actually requests our assistance. We know that they are out there working right away.

Q: But the money -- (inaudible) -- is part of -- every ambassador has this kind of --

MR. BOUCHER: Exactly. That is available for an immediate release by the Ambassador.

Q: Is it the same --

Q: Given the fact that he hadn't actually released it, he was just ready to -- and he was prepared to release it, is that right? This is slightly ambiguous.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, the Declaration of Emergency provides an initial donation of $25,000. So that is -- I can't tell the check has actually been delivered, but that is going forward -- that is something the Ambassador can do when he declares the state of emergency, he can go ahead and do that. He is in the process -- they are doing that right away in India. And then further assistance, based on that declaration, will come from Washington.

Q: Is that the maximum that he can do, or is this is -- if it is a slightly less extreme emergency, the donation might be less, or is it always $25,000?

MR. BOUCHER: Unfortunately 25,000 is not a lot of money. So in most serious emergencies, it is 25,000. But that is the limit. That is what the Ambassador has on hand authorization for. And that is the max.

Q: Is that every --

MR. BOUCHER: Every ambassador in the world has the authority to commit $25,000 right away in case of an emergency.

Q: Richard, do you know whether those rescue teams in Dade and somewhere in Northern Virginia -- Fairfax, thank you -- are on standby?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know their exact status. Certainly, they have been out to other places in the past. I think the Miami Dade folks were just down in El Salvador; I'm not even sure they are back. But that is the kind of assistance we have provided in the past. But at this point, we are ready to provide assistance. We have our experts geared up. Until the Indians get to us and say what they need, what they want, we won't be mobilizing any specific aspect.

Q: Was there any structural damage to any of the US facilities in the country?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of at this point. But sometimes that information comes a little later because they have to do checks.

Q: Reports have surfaced again recently that an American citizen is being held in Afghanistan and this is something we had heard about last summer, I believe. And last week, the Taliban Foreign Minister said in an interview in Islamabad that it's true.

Have we checked this out again? I know we did last year. And is there anything to tie up any loose ends?

MR. BOUCHER: This is again one of these mysteries of diplomacy in journalism that sort of crops up every now and then. We are certainly aware of these reports that the Taliban has arrested a US citizen. As you say, when they first surfaced last -- when was it --

Q: April-May.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, last year, May 9th, the Taliban replied directly by telephone to our inquiry at that time and denied the story. They also denied it publicly on June 2nd. So we raise it again, formally asking the Taliban Embassy in Islamabad last week, on I think it was Friday the 19th for an explanation of the reported remarks. At this point, we have not received a reply. But as I've said, we have checked this out in the past and they have flatly denied that there was any such person.

Q: But what can we do to check it out, other than just ask them? Can we try to trace Americans traveling? Or often, I know, members of families will call here and let you know that somebody was traveling and we can't find them?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, certainly we get a lot of calls like that and in most cases we are able to find the person and say, "call your mother," or whatever. In many of these situations, we do hear from the families. But, as I said, in this situation, we have seen the reports out there. We don't have any other information.

Q: No requests to find a family member?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: Do we attach any sort of credibility to these reports then? I mean, I know that we don't always believe the Taliban. But what reasoning could possibly be behind denying it eight months ago and then this time saying, yeah, and we've had him for eight months?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't know. That is why we are asking them to explain and to give us more information. We will see if they give us anything different this time.

Q: I've got two kind of off-beat questions, so if someone wants to go with a more serious one first --

MR. BOUCHER: Is that a change? (Laughter.) Sorry. Go ahead.

Q: Is that a change?

The first one, I would just like to know if Secretary Powell is available for singing Happy Birthday at other engagements, or if one has to be Placido Domingo in order to have that treat?

MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't aware of that. But it's not a question.

Q: Well, you have to read The Washington Post.

MR. BOUCHER: What can I say? I'm too busy reading AFP.

Q: No, no, no, Washington Post.

Q: He said he was too busy --

Q: Oh, okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Go ahead.

Q: I'm wondering if the Secretary has any comments on what he thinks of his words during his testimony being used in a full-page advertisement for the Superbowl being taken out today in the same newspaper by the National Football League.

MR. BOUCHER: I have not asked about that, but that is something I should check into and I will.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Haven't asked him, sorry.

Q: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had a press conference today and announced his first trip abroad to Germany. I was wondering if there are any plans --

MR. BOUCHER: Good for him.

Q: -- for Secretary Powell, any travel coming? And are there any plans for him to hold a news conference in the near future?

MR. BOUCHER: There will be travel, there will be news conferences. And, no, we have no plans for either to announce at this point.

Q: Colombia has a deadline for renewing -- not renewing -- the demilitarized zone. I believe it is about the middle of next week. And I just thought you might have some advice as to which way they should go.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I do have any advice on which way they should go, so I will have to leave that for the moment.

Q: If the Secretary is not announcing travel out of the country yet, how about other foreign ministers traveling here? The ministers of Mexico and Romania, I believe, are due in town next week. Will they be meeting with him?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure about Romania. I think there are a number of people coming next week to the National Prayer Breakfast, so he will either see them there or may have meetings with them. He does plan on getting together next week with the Mexican Foreign Minister, and will take --

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not -- I will tell you the date when it is firmed up and scheduled.

Q: (Inaudible) -- phone calls, letters, meetings scheduled with the European leaders that you haven't mentioned today?

MR. BOUCHER: That I haven't mentioned today, racking my brain. We have a visit coming up by Robin Cook, Foreign Minister of the UK, in February. February 6th, I think, there is a meeting planned with Yoschka Fischer, the Foreign Minister of Germany after that. So there are a probably a few more that will happen.

Q: Any Italians?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure there are going to be more meetings that I can tell you off the top of my head right now -- and we will get the word out as they are scheduled.

Q: Any contacts with the Italian Government?

MR. BOUCHER: Not specifically that I know of at this point. I'm sure there will be soon.

Q: Phone calls -- (inaudible) --

MR. BOUCHER: He has talked to Foreign Minister Downer. He talked to Kofi Anan this afternoon, and will continue to make phone calls and talk to people about issues as they arise.

Q: (Inaudible) --Kofi Anan then? Was that their first conversation since he has been sworn in?

MR. BOUCHER: Since he has been sworn in, yes. I frankly don't know if they talked before that.

Q: Was he sworn in today, or --

Q: No, I meant since Saturday.

MR. BOUCHER: Since he became Secretary of State on Saturday.

Q: Have you seen these reports that one of these Montesinos videos have him telling a judge that the US diplomats were putting pressure on him to make a certain deal with a Denver Company?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we have. And I think it is probably important to clarify that obviously we support American companies. Obviously, we work with American companies to support their interests. But we in no way support, encourage, condone any kind of bribery.

Q: It says it is a quid pro quo for peace treaty support?

MR. BOUCHER: We made efforts in Peru on behalf of Newmont Mining, and that was in complete accordance with standard US policy. We stressed our interest in ensuring a fair and transparent judicial process, in which the case will be decided on its merits. We did not at any time suggest that a ruling should be made in favor of Newmont, or that any irregular, improper action be taken on behalf of the company.

US engagement on behalf of Newmont Mining was not linked in any way to political issues, like support for a peace settlement or anything like that. It is the standard thing we do on behalf of US companies. And certainly any implication that we might have supported, condoned, suggested or otherwise promoted the idea of bribery is just wrong.

Q: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

ENDS

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Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

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Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

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Mexico: Violence And Repression Of Teachers

The member organizations of Network for Peace express our indignation over the acts of repression that the Mexican State has carried out, through the police forces... In Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, the conflict has resulted in murders of teachers and civilians as well as hundreds of wounded and dozens of people arrested. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On Britain's Pleas For Mercy

So… Boris Johnson is promising that he won't be holding a snap general election, if he's chosen as the next UK Conservative Party leader. Reportedly, he is even making that promise a feature of his leadership campaign, since a vote for Boris would therefore mean (wink wink) that his colleagues wouldn't have to risk their jobs and face the wrath of the British public until 2020. More>>

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