US State Dept Daily Briefing 29th Jan, 2001
US State Dept Daily Briefing 29th Jan, 2001
Briefing (# 14) Monday, January 29, 2001
Democratic Republic Of The Congo India Mexico Iraq Middle East Chile Chechnya Serbia (Fry) European Union Yemen Israel
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, D.C. (On The Record Unless Otherwise Noted)
Democratic Republic Of The Congo (pp. 1) President Joseph Kabila Visit to US / National Prayer Breakfast (pp. 4-5, 10) Comments on Ceasefire and the Lusaka Accords
India (pp. 2-4) Situation Update and Status of US Assistance Efforts
Mexico (pp. 5-6) Comments on Secretary Powell's Meetings with Foreign Minister Castaneda (pp. 6) Comments on Drug Certification Process
Department (pp. 6-7) Reactions to the Carlucci Report
Iraq (pp. 7-8) Comment on Reports of Reconstruction of Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs (pp. 8) Creation of Free Trade Area with Syria and the Oil for Food Program
Middle East (pp. 8) Update on Situation / Comments on Taba Peace Process
Chile (Pp. 9-10) Comments Regarding The Pinochet Indictment
Chechnya (Pp. 10) Update On American Citizen Abducted In Chechnya
Serbia (Fry) (Pp. 10-11) Update On Earthquake And Us Assistance/Welfare Of Americans
European Union (Pp. 11) Eu Funding For The Mexico City Plan
Yemen (pp. 11-12) Comments on US Presence at the Trial of Yemeni Hijacker
Israel (pp. 12) Comments on Arrest of American Citizen in Gaza
TRANSCRIPT: MR. BOUCHER: Good morning, good afternoon. That's the traditional greeting
here: good morning, good afternoon. Somewhere in the world it's still noon. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. Good to see you. I will make a
short statement and then I'll be glad to take your questions.
There will be a visit by the South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Lee Joung-binn, on February 6 to 8. Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet with Foreign Minister Lee on Wednesday, February 7th. They will discuss a range of important issues, including the unprecedented opportunities for reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.
We look forward to building a close and productive working relationship with
Foreign Minister Lee and to further deepening our vital security and economic partnership. This partnership has worked to promote peace, prosperity and democracy in north Asia for over five decades.
And with that statement, I would be glad to take your questions on this or other topics.
Q: The Embassy in Kinshasa. Have non-essential personnel been evacuated?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Some 25 people have left our Embassy in Kinshasa under the authorized departure. The people who departed were dependents and non- emergency personnel.
Q: And how is the situation? Will Mr. Powell be seeing Kabila, the new -- Joseph Kabila when he comes here this week?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we understand from Ambassador Swing that Joseph Kabila is going to make a 48-hour visit to Washington to attend the National Prayer Breakfast and to go to New York to meet with UN officials on February 1 and 2. President Kabila will have meetings with Administration officials, but we haven't settled yet on exactly who and when, so I'm not sure if it will be the Secretary or somebody else. It depends on schedule.
Q: First of all, I'm not too familiar with the Prayer Breakfast to begin with, and this is a new Administration. Would Secretary Powell be going to that, or normally does he go to those?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to double-check and see. Some Secretaries have and some haven't. It's at least an annual event and draws a lot of people from overseas to Washington for the event, so it's a fairly well-known Washington
institution. But if the Secretary is going or not, I don't know. He may go. We'll see for sure.
Q: The President of Rwanda is also going to be here this week. Is he coming for the National Prayer Breakfast? And if so, is he going to see anybody while he is here?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I think there are a number of people who are going
to be in town for the National Prayer Breakfast. I don't know specifically who the Secretary will be meeting with and who others may have meetings with, but I will try to get you that information later in the week.
Q: I'm sorry -- I had to walk out -- but do you -- what were the dates for Kabila's visit, or did you not have that?
MR. BOUCHER: He is in Washington for the Prayer Breakfast, and then in New York to meet with UN officials from February 1 to 2. I think that actually probably means --
Q: So he is in Washington or in New York?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, that is what I have to double-check. I think the way it is written, and my recollection of the Prayer Breakfast, is the -- let me double- check on that, where the 48 hours stand, I think.
Q: Is this a trip -- does it -- obviously he was not invited by the State Department, but is coming on an invitation of someone else. But is this something that that the Department encouraged?
MR. BOUCHER: I think a great many of foreign leaders have received invitations to the National Prayer Breakfast. We certainly encourage them all to come. I don't think in this particular instance that we encouraged it. I think Ambassador Swing was told by President Kabila that he was coming.
Q: US aid to India, because of the quake?
MR. BOUCHER: First and foremost, let me tell you that the Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance produces excellent rundowns of the situation and the assistance, and they did one yesterday that is available, and I think they will do another one at 3 o'clock this afternoon. So we will make sure that that is available to you from here as well.
Let me go through what we know about the situation in India and the kind of assistance that we are providing. The most recent official death count for the Gujarat earthquake is 6,072 people, with 14,512 reported injured. Our consulate in Mumbai reports that estimates of casualties have now reached 20,000 dead and 50,000 injured. They could go higher. Aftershocks are continuing, and some of these aftershocks have caused further damage. So there is a terrible human toll and human tragedy involved here.
We know of two American citizens, a mother and a daughter, who have been confirmed dead. So far, those are the only known American casualties. We have sent our condolences to this family, and of course we extend our condolences to all the families, victims of this horrible tragedy.
US consulate officials and Indian staff are on the scene gathering information on the welfare of Americans and of any others who might be affected. Prime Minister Vajpayee and other senior government officials have also visited the affected area.
Medical rescue and at least 5,000 military personnel have come in to
Gujarat State from other parts of India to assist the local authorities. Relief supplies and funds are flowing in from around India and from foreign donors. The US Agency for International Development is prepared to provide $5 million in emergency humanitarian assistance. There is an airlift of commodities to meet the immediate needs of 8,000 people that is expected to arrive in New Delhi soon and will then be sent on to Gujarat State. There are US food commodities that were already in India that are being provided to this area that totals 100,000 daily rations, and $75,000 of additional money has been added to the $25,000 that the Ambassador contributed to the Prime Minister's national relief fund.
An eight-member team from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has been sent to India. The team leader arrived in Gujarat yesterday, and the remainder of the people are to arrive in India today. There are other US personnel from our missions in India who will travel to the disaster area soon, and we continue to coordinate closely with the Indian officials to assure that assistance is most effectively provided to the victims.
The United States has been involved with India on an ongoing basis for disaster relief preparations. Since 1998, for example, we have worked with them on a program to enhance emergency response in which the Miami-Dade Fire
and Rescue Department, using funding from the Agency for International Development, promoted, developed and strengthened the search-and-rescue training capabilities of India in this area. So we're seeing some of that training and assistance pay off.
Many other countries and international organizations have responded rapidly to help India cope with this disaster. That includes dog-sniffer teams from the United Kingdom and Switzerland that are already on the scene.
So there you have it. We are doing quite a bit. The dollar amount of US assistance at this point is approaching $1 million but, as I said, we are
prepared to provide as much as $5 million worth of assistance in this tragedy. And we are coordinating very closely with the Indian Government, the officials there, to see what they need, what we can help with, and to get our assistance in there as soon as we can.
Q: Can I go back to Congo for a second?
Q: Can I -- do you have a number of Americans that may be in that region?
MR. BOUCHER: That may be in that region? I don't have that at this point.
I'll see if we're able to do that.
Q: Richard, the mother and daughter lived there for a long time? Were they visiting? Can you tell us anything more about that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. We don't have Privacy Act waivers. I don't think I can go into any further detail than that.
Q: Had they lived there a long time or were visiting?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if I can say that. They were in Gujarat, but I'm not
sure exactly where.
Q: Richard, we had a report that Christian missionaries who were -- missionary Christians who were trying to help out in the disaster have been pushed aside by the Hindu nationalists from the RSS who have taken over the rescue operation, the relief operation, in Gujarat.
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard anything like that. I'll have to look into it.
Q: Richard, just to clarify, no American rescue teams have been asked to come over; is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: You mean the dog and the search teams, the search-and-rescue teams? No, not at this point. We're providing other kinds of assistance. And I think basically people that were closer and could get there faster have gone in.
Q: Tomorrow, Secretary Powell is going to meet with the Foreign Minister of Mexico.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's do that after -- Nick had the first shot at changing the
subject, so we'll do that second.
Q: I didn't get a chance to ask you. When Kabila visits, is this going to be an opportunity for him to meet with senior officials to further press the
issue of a ceasefire, or is this not the time for that? Or are you going to
take advantage of his visit to do just that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we will have meetings with US Administration officials.
We have not finalized the arrangements so I can't give you precisely who and
when, but certainly any US officials who have been meeting with him, whether
it's Ambassador Swing in Kinshasa or anybody he might meet in Washington, would want to make clear our fundamental view, and that is that the key to reconciliation and peace in this region is full implementation of the Lusaka
Accords. And so that's the fundamental point we'll be making.
Q: Do you have some comments about it?
MR. BOUCHER: About the meeting with Foreign Minister Castaneda?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Secretary Powell will meet tomorrow with Foreign Minister Castaneda in the afternoon in order to prepare President Bush's announced February 16th visit to Mexico. Certainly the President's early trip to Mexico is an indication of the authentic partnership that exists between our two countries. The Secretaries will be going over the agenda for the trip and review many of the issues that make up this extremely deep and complex relationship.
In working on some of the details of the visit, Secretary Powell looks forward to establishing a good working relationship with Foreign Secretary Castaneda, and the two would expect to meet frequently as time goes on.
Q: Just a follow-up on that. Do you think the discussions are going to see the legal actions against the ranchers in Arizona for the Mexican immigrants
who were attacked by them?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what subjects will come up in specific terms, so I think I will just leave it for the meeting for that to happen.
Q: Do you have any comments about the decision of the judge on Mr. Pinochet today regarding his arrest and --
MR. BOUCHER: No. The answer is no. We haven't had comments in the past, and I am not going to start today.
Q: The Carlucci report --
Q: Wait, can we go back to Mexico for just a second? Does the Secretary plan to bring up his ideas about the drug certification policy at this meeting? Or was this -- were there going to be a preparing --
MR. BOUCHER: It is going to be a visit to talk about the subjects and the preparations for the President's trip to Mexico. How broad the discussion will go, how much time they will have to discuss some of these issues, I don't know yet. We will see. There are, as we know, a great many issues to be discussed. They will want to concentrate on preparing for the President's trip, but I think obviously there are subjects that are of interest to both sides that may come up as well. But at this point, I don't think we can predict exactly which ones will get covered in this initial meeting.
Q: Is this going to take the same format as his earlier schedule of a working lunch and then --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think it is an afternoon meeting. I don't think they are meeting at lunchtime.
Q: On the issue of drug certification, can you kind of fill us in on where that process is? In March, the President will have to make, I guess, a determination.
MR. BOUCHER: The process stands in preparation so that we can have the recommendations to the President for issuance in March. I forget if it is the 1st or the 31st, but it is basically, the process is under way.
Q: If I can follow up, when would a recommendation on, I guess, the major drug producers or anything like that -- when would Powell have to make that recommendation to the President?
MR. BOUCHER: In time for the President to announce it in time for public release.
Q: Do you have any reaction to the Carlucci Report? We've mentioned it
before, but they are publicizing it today. They call the Department "mismanaged, dilapidated, insecure, seriously disrepaired."
Can you tell me what your reaction to it is, what the Departments' reaction to it is so far, and what the next step will be with regard to the recommendations?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think first and foremost we don't consider all this accusatory in the way that we have been talking about the need for funding and resources, especially for security, for technology, for adequate personnel so that we can have time for training. And we have recognized the need for reform of many things in this building itself and started to look at issues of hiring, of retention, and there have been a number of studies on this.
I don't have a detailed reaction to the report for you. I would note
that Secretary Powell met with Mr. Carlucci last week, among his first days on the job. I think it was Tuesday, but I would have to double-check. And the
Secretary himself, in his testimony, talked about the need to look at these studies, to look at the recommendations of this report and others, and to begin making the decisions that are necessary to change things, to reform, to fix things, to move forward. And then he also talked about the need to get the funding from our Congress and from the budget process to make sure that we had adequate support for a leadership role by the United States in foreign affairs.
So I think generally on the Carlucci Report, I would say we welcome the report. We welcome its ideas, and we look forward to seeing how they can be implemented in terms of actually getting the sustained support for foreign affairs that we all think we need.
Q: If I can follow up on that, what makes this different from other reports of the same type? There have been, as you say, reports like this in the past. The task force itself says this is a little bit more practical; it lays out some steps that could be taken by the President and the Secretary.
Do you see it as any different than the others that you have seen? And why,
if there have been studies like this, hasn't the reform been enacted?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't want to sort of start picking and choosing among
reports. There have been a number of studies. Some of them cover different
aspects; some of them make different kinds of recommendations. What is clear is the Secretary's determination to take these reports, take the valuable work that has been done, and the good ideas inside and outside the building, and begin implementing them as soon as he can.
A number of thing have been done over previous years, but I think the Secretary's determination to take steps as soon as possible, to fix things and to get the resources we need, was made quite clear in his testimony.
Q: There has been a report that an Iraqi defector reported that Saddam Hussein has actually built two working atomic bombs, and that he has reconstructed in the last two years a lot of the factories that are working on nuclear weapons production. This report came out in The London Daily Telegraph on Saturday. I'm just wondering whether you are aware of this defector and whether you have asked to meet with him, whether you have met with him, whether you can comment on this report?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't comment on that report, although it strikes me as similar to things that have appeared in the past. On the issue of rebuilding factories, that was a Pentagon report that was released in January that you can find on their website, their report on nonproliferation.
Q: So you won't -- you can't say whether or not you have interrogated this person or have asked to interrogate this person?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
Q: To meet this person? You can't say that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we can't say that about anybody.
Q: Why? Because of intelligence matters, or --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't ever comment on things that report to be from intelligence.
Q: (Inaudible) -- think you don't want to. Can I switch the subject to the Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: I had another question on that. Eli, go ahead.
Q: On Iraq. It was all on Iraq in general. Do you have any comment today on the meeting to create potentially a free trade area between Syria and Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I have just seen those reports. We will look into them. Everybody knows there are clear restrictions on certain economic activities with Iraq, and then there are clear areas, like food and medicine, where there is no restriction. So one would want to look into it and see if it causes difficulty in that regard. We will look at it.
Q: Has Syria responded to your kind offer on the pipeline?
MR. BOUCHER: Not aware of anything new on the pipeline at this point.
Q: Well, this means that they haven't responded, and they've had a week at least. Remember, if it is used for Food-for-Peace, or whatever it's called.
MR. BOUCHER: Oil-for-Food.
Q: Food-for-Peace. Oil-for-Peace. Food-for-Peace.
MR. BOUCHER: Oil-for-Food.
Q: Oil-for-Food. Oh, God. And have something for Saddam Hussein on the side. But the US made a public as well as a diplomatic overture to Syria. At that point, you couldn't confirm that the pipeline is actually operating, although the L.A. Times grandly reported in great detail that it is up and running.
No response from them, and no confirmation yet that Iraq is getting its oil out illegally?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new on the subject.
Q: What do you make up of Prime Minister Barak's decision to stop the peace process until the Israeli elections, and also what do you make of Chairman Arafat's comments in Davos that Israeli is guilty of fascist military aggression?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. On the issue of the talks, I mean, we are glad to see that they have reported progress made in their talks, that there was progress between the parties at Taba. We would look forward to resumption of these important discussions, these discussions that they have said were productive. Certainly we have always maintained that negotiations between the parties are the only way to resolve differences and to achieve lasting peace.
In that context, I would say that we are quite aware of the frustration on both sides and the outrage at the continuing violence. The conditions on the ground are indeed bad for both sides. Nonetheless, statements such as those
made by Chairman Arafat really have no place in this process.
Q: In the past, the State Department under the Clinton Administration used to have an opinion regarding the Pinochet trial development in Chile. This State Department doesn't have any opinion about today's indictment of Pinochet?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have said much in the past, at least I don't remember having said anything, but I will look and see if we want to take a new launch in that regard. But we have said nothing here, as far as I remember.
Q: But why? Is because Mr. Pinochet -- I remember the State Department
always has something to say when somebody is arrested or doing something against human rights. And in this case, you are only saying, no, no. Why? I mean, what is the difference? Pinochet or other guys?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think it is any different from so many cases around the world, where we let the judicial systems handle this matter, and that is
the way we have treated this one.
Q: On that, can you -- (inaudible) -- Chile in general?
Q: At the last time -- (inaudible) -- ask you in your current statement. I am asking now if this is a new -- a Bush way to take the case?
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if we have anything new that we want to say today. I will check and see, check with some of my experts, see if there is a desire to go beyond what we have said before, but certainly don't have anything right now.
Q: All of the documents that were to be declassified actually have been
now, right -- declassified or released? Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: My only problem is the word "all." Was it --
Q: Well, I mean, the last tranche.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, the tranche is -- the major tranche is the thousands and thousands of documents were indeed released. Whether there were some withheld, I don't know. A few.
Q: No, no, no. The ones that were going to be released have all been released now?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
Q: Do you have any confirmation on reports that the Russians have made contacts with the captors of Kenny Gluck in Chechnya?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. We continue to be in touch with the Russians on the matter. We continue obviously to be very interested in the welfare of Mr. Gluck, but I don't have any new confirmation.
Q: But there has been any contact --
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen the stories. Yes, we have seen the stories, we have heard the stories. But at this point, really no definitive information.
Q: How about on another matter of hostages? New information allegedly coming out about Jeffrey Schilling in the Philippines. Have you been following that?
MR. BOUCHER: We follow that closely. I don't have anything new here. I will check and see if we do in the Bureau.
Q: On the Kabila visit, I don't know if you were asked this, but if you
weren't, does the US have a view as to the prospects of a ceasefire? Or, you know, there is a European envoy saying hopeful things, and then there are other observers saying very pessimistic things about the country possibly falling apart and the instability spreading.
What is the State Department's feel for the situation now? And you know what I mean by the ceasefire process --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I don't know that I can give you a rating of chances on this, or that we particularly want to express hope or optimism or pessimism in that regard. I would say that what remains important to us is that they maintain a commitment to the Lusaka Accords and that we begin to see the implementation of those Accords. As I said earlier, we believe that that is
the best route to peace and reconciliation for the Congo.
Q: Over the weekend the Yugoslav Foreign Minister sent a letter to Secretary Powell suggesting an emergency UN Security Council meeting to stop
the violence. Has there been any reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm actually not sure that we have seen the letter, but I understand the Council is going to meet on the subject, and we certainly welcome the Security Council further discussing the situation. The Council has discussed the issue before of what is going on in the Presevo Valley. We have strongly condemned, and the Council has strongly condemned, the violent
actions by ethnic Albanian extremist groups in the region.
As you know, the international community is very involved in reducing tensions in this area. The NATO-led Kosovo force has intensified patrols and surveillance along the Kosovo-Serbia border and is helping to constrict the flow of support from ethnic Albanian militants into counterparts in the buffer zone.
Q: And also, in that same region, I understand that President Djukanovic is coming also for this Prayer Breakfast. Do you know, does he have plans to meet with anyone in this building?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we would expect to meet with him, but I can't give you an exactly who and when yet.
Q: Will that be -- that will be this week?
MR. BOUCHER: Assume so, yes.
Q: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
Q: The European Union has suggested that it would be willing to provide
funding to those organizations which will be disqualified under the reintroduction of the Mexico City wording last week. I was wondering if the
United States has a view of whether it's appropriate for its closest ally to
be apparently rubbing out the very first foreign policy decision of President Bush.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I would describe it that way, but I'll look in to
see what the facts might be.
Q: Can I follow up on that, then, and ask how much work that decision has created for people in this building? Has there been much diplomatic dispatch? Have people been coming in and asking what the decision means? What's been going on?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how many times we've been called upon to explain it to various governments, but certainly we have to get organized to carry out the funding and carry out the restrictions, contact the organizations, so there's a fair amount to do in order to implement the policy.
Q: I realize you don't want me to get into this -- I was just wondering -- because it's an internal judicial matter. But the hijacker of the Yemeni plane has gone on trial now. The prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Is there any kind of US presence at the trial?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check on that. I'm not aware of it.
Q: There is a report that an American citizen was arrested by the Israelis when he landed in Gaza, and is being held without any information about what
he's being held for. Do you have any information about this case?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not aware of it. I'll have to check on that one, too.
Q: Okay, thank.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 P.M.)
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