State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 6, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, June 6, 2001
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 1 Director Tenet's Visit to the Middle East 1-2 Assessment of the Current Cease-fire / Current Violence 3,5,6 Detained Palestinian-Americans 3-6 Discussions on Israeli Settlements / Implementation of Mitchell Commission Report
MACEDONIA 6,7 Declaration of War / Update on Violence 7,8,9 Political Situation / Comparison to Serbia 9 Ambassador Walker's Article
PERU 9 Request for US Documents on Mr. Vladimiro Montesinos
RUSSIA 9 New Nuclear and Radioactive Waste Dump 9-10 US Responsibility Over Nuclear Materials
CUBA 10 Death of Mr. George Zirwas
NORTH KOREA 10 Abrogation of Ban on Missile Testing 11 Fuel Shipments
SOUTH KOREA 10-11 Meeting Scheduled for Tomorrow Foreign Minister / Review of Korea Policy
TURKEY 12 Cabinet Shuffle / Corruption 13 Affects of Iraqi Cessation of Oil Production
MEXICO 12 Bomb Threat / Terrorist Groups
NEPAL 12,13 Arrest of Journalists in Nepal / Travel Advisory
LEBANON 13-14 Arrest of Lebanese American Journalist
PHILIPINES 14 Update on Lost US Soldier
CHINA / TAIWAN 14-15 President Chen's Participation in APEC Leaders' Meeting 15 EP-3 Update
AFGHANISTAN 15,16 Taliban / Terrorism 16 US Assistance / World Food Program
ESTONIA 17 Visit of Foreign Minister Ilves / Progress on NATO Membership
JAPAN 18 Consultations on Missile Defense / Possible Visit by Japanese Foreign Minister
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 78
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6, 2001 12:45 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any announcements or statements and would be glad to take your questions. If there aren't any, I'll be glad to leave. (Laughter.)
Q: Since Barry is not here, Middle East. What can you tell us about, if anything, about Director Tenet's mission so far in Egypt?
MR. BOUCHER: Director Tenet stopped in Cairo early this morning for consultations with Egyptian officials. He is now in Amman, Jordan, for discussions with Jordanian officials and with Ambassador Burns. He will soon depart for a series of meetings with the Israelis and the Palestinians. The goal, as the President said yesterday, is to start serious discussion at the security level about how to make sure the cease-fire continues.
Q: Do you have any idea when -- the timings, what day he is going to be meeting the Palestinians and the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have that information. We have avoided giving advance scheduling information in this situation.
Q: Well, how long is he going to be in Amman?
MR. BOUCHER: Until he departs. He will be there for a little while and then he will depart soon. I'm not going to do dates and --
Q: Well, do you know? I mean, is he leaving now?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going into whereabouts.
Q: All right, well, how about this. Is there any -- is there any indication that there might be a three-way meeting at some point in --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, he will get on the ground. He will meet with the security officials and responsible authorities from the sides and then we'll see how the meetings evolve. But I am not going to try to predict things in advance on travel or specific events.
Q: What's your current assessment of the state of the cease-fire and level of violence?
MR. BOUCHER: Overall, as you know, we've seen a lower level of violence for the last 72 hours or so. We certainly hope the situation will continue to move in the right direction and that incidents like the terrible rock-throwing incident that has left a six-month-old Israeli child critically injured will come, in fact, to a complete end. This is a very sad incident and we certainly wish the baby a very rapid recovery.
We certainly hope that the Palestinian people will heed the call of Chairman Arafat to end the violence and to cease acts such as this brutal incident, which don't serve the interests of the Palestinian people. We think it is important to see sustained actions, including actions by the Palestinians, like the arrest of those involved in terrorist activity or those planning terrorist acts. We also have been encouraging Prime Minister Sharon to continue his restraint and give the Palestinians time to act to do what they have committed to do.
And, as you know, we are involved with the parties in the situation to try to see that they take the steps that are necessary to make this cease-fire endure.
Q: I think Matt ought to go first.
MR. BOUCHER: He already did.
Q: I had three already, Barry.
Q: Do you have any response to the -- any comment on the response to the stone-throwing incident? Or the rampage, the buildings burnt down --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have a response to that. I think it is something that we have made clear all along, that continued efforts are necessary to prevent the violence from flaring up again. Continued steps are necessary to make the cease-fire endure, and that is where our focus is.
Q: Your statement was quite straightforward, but I wondered through the months of -- or the years, in fact -- how the State Department feels about demonstrations of teenagers who throw rocks. I mean, that's not quite like blowing up 20 people at a disco. But on the one hand, the State Department supports the right to demonstrate.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, nowhere in the world do we support he right to throw rocks.
Q: I understand that. But do you include -- is there no question that you put rock-throwing against even Israeli troops in the same category as other violent acts, that they should cease?
MR. BOUCHER: We have never tried to draw lines between violent acts. In this situation, as in almost any other situation around the world, the freedom of expression and freedom of protest is not the same as saying that people should have free rein to engage in violence. And we all know how volatile these situations are, and we have all worked for steps to calm the situation, all worked for a resolution of the underlying problems, so that these kinds of actions don't occur.
Q: I asked not only because of the poor kid who apparently was reduced to helplessness, but with Arafat taking the pledge on violent actions, I wouldn't be surprised if, instead of a total suspension, we will have a return to rock-throwing form of intifada. I just wanted to get the statement on the record, when that becomes the cutting edge of Palestinian action, rather than suicide bombers.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you can go ahead and make whatever speculation or predictions that you want to, Barry. Our goal is to end the violence, is to resolve the underlying causes of the volatility so that people can return to normal lives. Normal lives don't include rock-throwing or being hit by rocks.
Q: Do you have something on -- I think it's at least 100 Palestinian- Americans being denied exit visas from Israel?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a situation that has to do with the travel restrictions, and there are at least 100 American citizens that have been denied exit from Israel and from the West Bank and Gaza. We find this unacceptable. We have raised the issue with the Israeli Government and we are working to find a quick resolution. We continue to work on this issue on behalf of these American citizens. Ambassador Indyk has been in touch with the Minister of Defense in Israel and received assurances today that Israel is addressing the issue.
Q: Can I follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
Q: Are you familiar with the -- they were turned away from the airport. Do you know the specifics of how they were denied their --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have details for you. We are certainly in touch with these people and quite aware of many of the cases, but I'm not going to be the wire service. I ca not try to collect and pass on all the details.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the state of play on proposals for a settlement freeze. Israelis have been telling us they have put forward now a series of proposals in the meeting with William Burns, I believe, on the weekend -- or a meeting that William Burns attended on the weekend. Can you confirm that and give us an indication what these proposals are?
MR. BOUCHER: You want me to say that the Israelis put forward something and tell you what they put forward?
Q: Is it true that the Israelis have presented to the United States a series of proposals?
MR. BOUCHER: I would suggest that you could ask that question of an Israeli spokesman. I realize that there are some reports out there that say the United States and Israel have reached some kind of understanding or agreement on a settlement freeze. That's not the case. We have not reached any agreement with the Israelis on settlement activities. We continue to see settlement activity as provocative and it risks inflaming already volatile situations in the region and therefore we continue to see it as one of the issues -- an issue that definitely needs to be addressed as part of the efforts to build confidence between the parties.
Q: But you're working on it, aren't you?
MR. BOUCHER: It's an issue that does need to be addressed.
Q: Have the Israelis presented some new proposals in the last couple of days?
MR. BOUCHER: That's for you to ask the Israelis. I can't go into their positions.
Q: Can I ask it from an American standpoint so maybe we can have a better chance of an answer?
MR. BOUCHER: You're going to ask if we've received any of these proposals?
Q: No, I'm not going to ask you to speak for the Israeli Government. I think you ask the Israeli Government that. But you can ask the American Government if they are at work, even though you don't have a deal sealed. I'm sure you are. But are you at work with the Israelis on an acceptable settlement freeze?
MR. BOUCHER: We have discussed the issue of settlements with the Israelis on several occasions over time. This has been part of the Secretary's discussions, part of Ambassador Burns' discussions, part of the discussions that Ambassador Indyk and Consular General Schlicher have had with the parties in the region. It's obviously an important issue. It is one of the issues addressed in the Mitchell Committee's recommendations, and we are looking for implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations in all their aspects.
So, certainly, the issue of settlements is an important issue that needs to be dealt with. We've made that clear. We're discussing it. I don't want, however, to mislead you in terms of dealing with this issue that, first and foremost in the Mitchell Committee recommendations, is the unconditional cessation of violence. And I think you've seen from what we're doing, from sending Director Tenet out there, that that remains a key focus of our efforts at this point.
Q: You used an interesting expression, which we had heard often here - -
MR. BOUCHER: It probably wasn't intentional.
Q: Which is "underlying causes." I wondered what, in your view, the underlying causes are. Is it accepting that --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not going to try to give a big list of underlying causes.
Q: No, but -- a short list will do, but I would be interested to hear how you --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you can read the Mitchell Committee Report. I guess that is where I would start if I were you.
Q: Okay. And another one. On the U.S. citizens who have been detained, could you explain perhaps the procedures. I understand that they had to -- that the Israelis gave them instructions to obtain Palestinian papers, and is that still the case? You were working on that some months ago. And what exactly is the procedural problem with them leaving?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, the Israelis would have to explain their procedural problems. I think the Israelis, with the restrictions on movement, are not allowing people who they consider Palestinians to move between these various places. So we have Americans who might be considered Palestinians who are not being allowed to move. It is basically Palestinian-Americans who are caught by the same instructions.
Q: This does not apply to the people who turned to Ben Gurion Airport, and therefore were not in --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you have to ask the Israelis to explain their procedures and their actions in that regard. We don't think that preventing Americans citizens from getting to the airport and flying home is acceptable. We continue to work on this. We continue to press the Israelis to find a solution.
Q: Richard, on that point, you said that Ambassador Indyk had received assurances today that the government was -- I think you used the word "addressing it." Does that mean that you have been led to understand that they will be allowed to leave in the near future, or that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can go that far, that they are addressing the issue, and we will see what kind of response and solution they come up with.
Q: But what kind of resolution is acceptable then? I mean, is there some midway point between letting them leave and keeping them there that the U.S. Government would find acceptable?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, obviously we are looking for these people to have the opportunity to get to the airport and come home.
Q: Can I follow up on that?
Q: What are you trying to say, that the Mitchell Commission Report is the sole template, really, for US efforts to move this situation forward? Or is it part of the overall effort, just one element? I mean, are you coming in every day and saying like, this is what the Mitchell Commission says, and this is really what we should be looking at, or is it just part of a broader move by the U.S.?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure that is an easy question to answer. The sole template is kind of -- it sounds like it is the be-all and end-all of everything, and obviously there's a lot of things going on in the Middle East that we are quite aware of.
The effort that we have had under way to first of all reduce, calm the violence, get back to a situation of normal life for Israelis and Palestinians and then get back to a track of negotiation, has been, I think, the guiding principle for this Administration since we started, since the Israeli election in particular.
So we have tried to follow that path, we have directed our efforts at that, and we have looked for opportunities to make that happen. The focus on the Mitchell Committee Report is because it provides a series of recommendations which we look to see implemented, as we say, in all their aspects. And thus it provides the mechanism, the vehicle that we think the parties can agree upon to see -- to actually move forward the course that we were looking for.
Q: I mean, I ask because you have said in the past that it does seem to cover the bases very well. It covers all the areas really that you would hope to make progress on. So I am really trying to see whether or not there is anything else that needs to be done as well, or really whether the Mitchell Commission does sort of cover all the bases, and that is all you need to really focus on.
MR. BOUCHER: The Mitchell Committee Report leads, if it is followed carefully, if the parties adopt its recommendations and follow it, can lead to a cessation of violence, restore -- restoration of trust and confidence, a beginning path to negotiations. Obviously then the whole aspect of negotiations, what gets negotiated, what are the final status issues, how do they get taken up, where do they go from there -- there is a much larger picture in the Middle East than the Mitchell Committee recommendations, but that is where the focus is right now, because that provides a path.
The Secretary has talked before about people being in a hallway with a bunch of doors, and you have to pick up the key and open the door. Well, you might consider the Mitchell Committee recommendations the keys that open the doors.
Q: On the detained Palestinian-Americans, are there any plans right now to revise the Consular Information Sheet or Travel Warnings for Israel?
MR. BOUCHER: That is a good question. I will have to double-check on that. I would have to look at our sheet and see if it covers some of these things already.
Q: Have you seen the reports for Macedonia? The president wants to ask parliament for a declaration of war in response to the latest casualties suffered by the Macedonian forces.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me say a couple things, and starting with the terrible ambush, the attack by extremists on late Tuesday. We strongly condemn this attack and these killings. We certainly express our sympathies to the soldiers that were tragically killed. It is a reprehensible act of violence. We understand the insurgents attacked an ambulance, that it arrived to provide medical attention to the wounded soldiers.
These actions by armed extremists must stop now. Ethnic Albanian extremism is harming greatly the interests of Macedonia and of all people in Macedonia, including the Albanians and people throughout the region.
Even in these most difficult moments, we think Macedonia's legitimately elected government and party leaders should press forward on the path that they have chosen, which we see as the correct path, and that is the path of inter-ethnic dialogue, to address the concerns of all citizens of Macedonia together with a continuation of their measured response to extremist provocations.
During his visit to Macedonia yesterday, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld repeated our strong U.S. support for Macedonia, and for the National Unity Government. Secretary Rumsfeld joined regional defense ministers today in Thessaloniki in condemning the extremist violence.
So we believe a continuation of the path that has been chosen is the way to go forward and the way to move forward with this. We don't see that a declaration of a state of war would serve to advance this kind of political reconciliation, political solution. We reiterate once again the importance of the measured response that the government has taken, showing maximum concern for the safety of civilians, and pressing forward with this dialogue.
Q: The declaration of war is against insurgents who were never included in this ethnic dialogue. I mean, are these two things mutually exclusive? Can they prosecute a war against a radical element of Albanians while continuing a reconciliation dialogue with more mainstream and moderate Albanians in the country?
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly the armed actions that they've taken are not incompatible with the political dialogue. We think they have chosen a correct path and they have been following the right mix, the right balance, between dealing militarily with the extremism and the reprehensible acts of violence that we've seen and dealing politically with the legitimate concerns of the Albanian community. So there is no inherent contradiction between the military action and the political dialogue.
I guess the question would be, does the declaration of a state of war advance that process or not. We don't see that it particularly does.
Q: What do you think of the comments by your former colleague Mr. Walker in The Washington Post and to various reporters, saying that it's probably shortsighted to ignore the NLA as an element in the -- in getting a political settlement in Macedonia?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess it's been a while since Mr. Walker was one of our former colleagues, or since he was one of our colleagues -- yes, that doesn't make sense at all. Anyway, he is a former colleague.
The situation, in our view, has been quite clear all along. The needs, concerns, interests of the Albanian community need to be accommodated to the political process. I think we agree on that. We do not see a place in that process for armed extremists: people that are holding civilian hostages; people that are attacking ambulances; people that are seeking to disrupt the peaceful, normal life of the Albanian community in Macedonia. We have never seen a role for them in the political negotiations and don't see one now. They seem to prove every day that they are not interested in addressing real concerns and needs of the Albanian community.
So the issue of addressing the needs and concerns of the Albanian community is important. But in Macedonia, there are legitimate avenues. There are legitimate representatives. There are legitimate opportunities to address those concerns and especially this latest step of forming a National Unity Government provides the appropriate mechanism of doing that and we have encouraged the government to work together and to use this opportunity to address any legitimate needs of the Albanian community.
Q: Richard, can you speak to how this is different than the situation in southern Serbia where armed extremists were encouraged to begin a dialogue with the Serbs?
MR. BOUCHER: The situation is politically different and militarily different as well. In Macedonia, you had an inclusive government that already included Albanian leadership, that already had avenues for Albanians to express their political needs and their political concerns. And we encourage people in the Albanian community to take advantage of that and we encourage people in the government to provide legitimate satisfaction to those grievances.
Given the history of Serbia and the Yugoslav Government under Macedonia, there were people with Albanian interests and concerns who were outside that system and who needed to be brought in.
Q: Since we're doing comparisons --
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe I never should have started. (Laughter.)
Q: How does it differ from Northern Ireland where --
Q: Or Chechnya?
Q: -- where there were always legitimate avenues and yet the United States was very much in favor of dialogue with the IRA?
MR. BOUCHER: We are not going to try to compare every, to contrast every situation in the world. I think exam season is open, it's time for graduation. Let's --
Q: You let one in.
MR. BOUCHER: I know, I let one in, but that's enough. One a day. One comparison a day -- that's a new rule. (Laughter.)
Q: This proposition has some serious support. Ambassador Walker's piece the other day in the Post --
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, there is one fact, I think, that is repeated in some of the press articles and repeated, I think, by Ambassador Walker, at least in some of the articles about him that are, as far as we understand, just plain not true. And that's that Ambassador Froelich did not negotiate with the NLA and did not endorse any document that others might have signed with it. And somehow the whole edifice of criticism seems to be based somewhat on that fact.
Q: Peru? The President Elect of Peru a few weeks ago officially requested the documents about Mr. Vladimiro Montesinos and the help of the United States Government in search of that person. My question is if you know if the United States Government has already started an investigation on Mr. Montesinos or the program to declassify documents about him?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I would have to check and see if there is anything we can do in that regard.
Q: Can you take the question, please?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll look at it.
Q: Richard, the Russian Duma has passed legislation to create a large nuclear and radioactive waste dump in Russia, which would require importing material from most of the rest of the world, primarily material under the control of the United States. What is the view of the U.S. Government to this plan?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll try to find out. It may be an Energy Department thing, but I'll see what we've got.
Q: Actually, I don't think it is because it's --
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe it isn't.
Q: Just to add on to when you take this question, some environmental groups, including Greenpeace, have asked the President -- i.e., Bush -- to veto -- the U.S. President, is what I meant, not the president of --
MR. BOUCHER: Some of us have been on vacation. We don't remember who the President was. And it's nice of you to remind us. (Laughter.)
Q: -- to veto this, because apparently the U.S. does have veto power over what happens to waste, especially from South Korea and Taiwan. So if you could just add that into the taken question and find out what your response, what the Government's response is on that.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we have a continuing responsibility over nuclear materials that were originally, I think, shipped, produced or otherwise involved with the United States.
Q: New subject? Can you add anything, I think you said you were going to look into circumstances surrounding the death of a priest in Cuba, Zirwas. There are new details coming out that he may have been involved in trafficking and that kind of thing, Internet.
MR. BOUCHER: I will limit myself to the status of the investigation and our work with the families on the repatriation of the remains. I am not going to get into speculation about his activities or any reasons for what appears to be a murder. Here is what I can tell you.
The Cuban authorities are continuing their investigation of the death of Mr. George Zirwas. We are trying to confirm some reports that we have seen in the press that some suspects might have been arrested. We don't have confirmation of that yet. The U.S. Interest Section in Havana is providing whatever assistance may be appropriate to help the Cuban police learn of the circumstances of his death. And our Interest Section and our Office of Overseas Citizen Services here in the State Department are working with the family on the repatriation of the remains.
Q: Has the Secretary of State been working on his recommendation to the President for the suspension of Chapter 3 of the Helms-Burton law? It has to be done these next few days.
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure we're working on it. I don't really have an update for you, though. I'll have to check.
Q: Also, there is a Cuba trademark conference starting tomorrow or being held tomorrow and I understand visa applications by several Cubans who have been invited to attend were turned down. I wonder if you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to look into this. I don't have anything right now on that. I will have to check into the circumstances.
Q: Given that this week, there were rumblings from Pyongyang regarding their ban on missile testing, it now has come out that they are considering, I guess -- unilaterally taking actions that I guess would violate the Joint Framework Agreement from 1994, citing their acute energy needs.
Can you say anything from your podium to reassure the North Koreans that we are going to talk to them or anything?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new to say on Korea today. We have a meeting tomorrow with the South Korean Foreign Minister. As you know, one of the hallmarks of our policy, even as it has been under review, has been to emphasize the close coordination with Japan and South Korea. The meeting tomorrow will provide us with another opportunity to discuss the situation on the Peninsula and future policies with the South Korean -- with our South Korean ally. As you know, we have always very strongly supported the efforts South Korea is making as well, in terms of the meetings that Kim Dae-jung has had and the program that he has put in place. So we will be discussing both those things tomorrow.
Q: The U.S. review -- might it end tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have something to say tomorrow to the South Korean Foreign Minister.
Q: I'm sorry. You'll have something to say about the review?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have something to say to him about policy. Who knows?
Q: Does that mean that the days of -- you know, the last time there was a senior South Korean official in town, the president -- that would be not Bush, but the other president, of South Korea -- you know, there was a bit of a hiccup between here and the White House on what the policy was.
Can we assume then that the review -- as you say, you will have something to tell the Foreign Minister tomorrow. Are those -- has everything been smoothed out now? Can we assume that?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't see a problem to begin with. The review that we have had under way of Korea policy is, let me say, virtually complete at this point and the interagency groups have been meeting and have discussed Korea policy and all its aspects.
As I said again, one of the hallmarks of the policy has been close coordination with South Korea and Japan, as well as support for South Korea's efforts. And we will be in a position to discuss all those issues with the South Korean Foreign Minister tomorrow.
Q: Do you have to think on your feet -- are you up to date on the fuel shipments to North Korea, do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: Up to date on fuel shipments? It's not one of those obscure things that's hidden somewhere in the book, is it?
No, I don't know. I will have to check.
Q: Just one more on North Korea. I realize that you are saying at this point it is virtually complete. Is it going to stay within the parameters of the Perry process? Can you say that?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to say anything more about it today.
Q: In Turkey, the -- made a cabinet shuffle yesterday, and the US in the past was very supportive and emphasized the fight against the corruption in Turkey. And one of the victims of this cabinet reshuffle is the interior minister, which was -- everybody named he is a hero of the fighting with the corruption. Do you have any reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't think we have ever had a reaction on anybody's cabinet shuffles, so I'm not going to start today.
Q: On Mexico? Recently, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico received a bomb threat. The Mexican Special Forces reacted immediately to the phone call, the security people at the embassy.
Do you know anything about this? Do you know anything more? I mean, they --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information today on that. I will check into it. Many of these things are handled locally, and then obviously reported to us in Washington. But I don't have any particular information for you.
Q: And just a follow-up, what do we know about the presence of terrorist groups in Mexico? We know that there are some elements of ETA normally go to Mexico -- ETA, the Spanish group. What do we know? Any fears in a situation like this, where --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think you know more than I do, first of all. Look at our Patterns of Global Terrorism Report. I think whatever information we can make available is probably covered in there.
Q: Did you receive a call about the bomb threat in the embassy or no?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I will have to check. If the embassy has made available information, we might have it here. I will check into it.
Q: Do you have anything to say about the arrest of three journalists in Nepal, and they are being charged with treason for coverage of the massacre on Friday night?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we just heard about that so, no, I don't have anything about that. I understand the situation out there is calmer now. We are still advising Americans to stay in their homes. There has been an announcement of an investigation, which we welcome. But no, I don't have anything particular on the journalists. I will have to look into that. We just heard about it.
Q: I'm going to have to try this against the Lebanese journalist --
Q: Can I follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a groundswell of interest in Nepal.
Q: You have issued a terrorist warning on Nepal, and also if the violence is continuing and there is a new king, if the U.S. has sent any congratulatory message to the new king?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we have at this stage. I will have to check into it and see. I'm not sure. Those things don't always happen instantly in these situations.
We have made available advice to the American community. The embassy has put out a Warden Message, it would be today -- 6:30 today they put out a message to the American community that advised them to respect the curfew that has been put in place this evening from 8:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. Thursday morning saying that people should be off the streets, informing them that the embassy is going to remain closed to the public Thursday and Friday.
So we continue to provide ongoing advice for American citizens, and we are in close touch with American citizens. We are not aware of any harm that has come to Americans at this point.
Q: The Iraqis, the last couple of days, they stopped the oil production, and the Turkish Prime Minister, he complained about -- to visiting Defense Minister Rumsfeld. He said that whenever you want to change the Iraqi policy against the Saddam regime, you have to ask for us before, because Turkey is affected in this situation.
Do you have any reaction on this subject?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know where you are getting your information. I haven't seen those reports, frankly. We have been very closely coordinating with working with Turkey all along on Iraq, as you know, as this new policy was developed. We were in very close consultations with the Turkish Government at the expert level and at more senior levels. The Secretary of State has discussed with Foreign Minister Cem a number of times. We look forward to going forward in this endeavor with other members of the Security Council, other countries in the region, especially the frontline states.
It has been important to us to see that, for example, the OPEC countries have made clear that were there to be a cutoff that harmed the economies in some of the countries of the region, that they would be able to provide sufficient oil to make up for any loss. So we think that there is active working coordination with Turkey, as well as other governments on these issues.
Q: Richard, could you -- on Lebanon --
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to do Lebanon.
Q: Then I have one more.
MR. BOUCHER: Lebanese American -- Ms. Raghida Dergham was indicted March 22nd by a Lebanese military court. For details of the indictment, you have to get that from the Lebanese Government. Our understanding is the court action was taken because of various articles that she has written, as well as her appearance at a Washington Institute conference, alongside an Israeli citizen in May of last year.
Needless to say, the case raises very serious concerns for us about freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of association. Lebanon is a party to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and we believe Lebanon has an obligation to uphold those rights. So we call upon the Government of Lebanon to drop these charges against Ms. Dergham.
Q: Anything on the Navy guy missing in the Philippines?
MR. BOUCHER: He has been located. He is safe, and at this point I don't have any more details than that.
Q: He just got lost? Do you know?
Q: Do you know when?
MR. BOUCHER: Just in the last hours.
Q: Something that came up yesterday, and you didn't have an answer. Have you done your homework on APEC -- on Taiwanese policy --
MR. BOUCHER: If it's any compare and contrast, exam time --
Q: -- and APEC meetings, and what the US position is on whether President Chen should be allowed to attend in October?
MR. BOUCHER: The position, I think, that I referred to is the fact that there have been arrangements that have worked in the past with regard to these meetings, that APEC has been a very important location for participation by Taiwan as an economy, along with the other economies of APEC, including China and Hong Kong. It has been an extremely useful venue for all APEC economies to exchange views.
The issue of Taiwan's representation has been worked out successfully for past ministerial and summit meetings, and we would look forward, as in the past, to Taiwan's participation in this year's meetings at appropriately senior levels.
Q: Does this (inaudible)? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: In the past, the senior leaders who have represented the economy of Taiwan have been either eminent private sector representatives or senior economic leaders from Taiwan.
MR. BOUCHER: That is an arrangement that has worked, and we hope it can continue to work so that Taiwan is represented at a senior level.
Q: But you don't think that it would be appropriate for any -- for President Chen to attend?
MR. BOUCHER: We think it would be appropriate for Taiwan to be represented at senior levels by a senior economic level, as they have in the past.
Q: But there is no thought to changing the name that Taiwan appears -- as Chinese Taipei when they appear at these meetings -- well, it's --
MR. BOUCHER: APEC is an economic organization where economies participate. It has been a very successful formula that has led to good and productive work in the past. We look for that continuation, and in that process, Taiwan is represented at an appropriately high level by senior economic leaders.
Q: I'm talking about the symbolism in the name of the -- in the name which they appear, under which they have -- they complained about it before, as you well know, in one of your previous incarnations, you know, "Chinese Taipei" is not exactly the same thing as the economy of Taiwan.
So is there any thought, or is there any support being given in this building or in this town to them appearing as Taiwan and not as Chinese Taipei?
MR. BOUCHER: We support the continuation of Taiwan's participation in APEC as it has worked in the past.
Q: Richard, just to follow on China, after the EP-3 comes back in the U.S., do you think business with China -- between China and the United States -- will be usual, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to try to characterize things one way or the other. We are working on the return of the aircraft. We have reached understandings with the Chinese about how to carry that out. Our people are headed down to Hainan Island to do the planning, and we will have other people going in to make it -- to actually return the aircraft. But at this point, I think you are getting ahead of ourselves for predicting the future there.
Q: On Afghanistan, if you don't mind. According to the reports, if you have any comments, the Taliban are now asking help from the rich and dangerous terrorists, and that is what they are rushing towards now, rather than changing their policy and denouncing terrorism and working for the unity of Afghanistan. So what do you --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what exactly you are referring to. Obviously, the United Nations Security Council has taken positions on Usama bin Laden and the presence of terrorists in Afghanistan, and we continue to adhere to those positions and want to see an end to their support for terrorism and destabilization in the region.
Q: Do you have any reaction on the Arab countries' ministers meeting in Baghdad?
MR. BOUCHER: In where?
Q: In Baghdad.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything.
Q: Back to Afghanistan. The Security Council is debating a proposal that would help them better track terrorists inside Afghanistan and better enforce the sanctions against them.
Do you have anything on that? No?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
Q: How about the ICRC asking for more aid to help Afghanistan? I know that we are already the number one donor, and we know how much we have given, but are we giving any consideration to responding directly to this appeal?
MR. BOUCHER: Where are we on this? The -- did you say the ICRC? -- we do this through the World Food Program. I think I was asked the other day whether there were regional restrictions, and in fact, we have -- we cooperate with the World Food Program on a country-wide program that covers both the Northern Alliance and the Taliban-controlled areas. It is country-wide.
Requests are ongoing. They maintain an ongoing appeal for the Afghanistan program. The United States is continuing to respond to that appeal. The Department of Agriculture signed an agreement for a contribution of 65,000 metric tons of wheat to the World Food Program on May 23rd. That is barely two weeks ago.
In addition, we are working on an additional contribution of $5 million for complementary commodities to the World Food Program. To date, in fiscal year 2001, we have contributed 197,790 metric tons of food to the World Food Program, with an additional $5 million under negotiations. So our support is ongoing.
Q: Does that mean -- or you don't know whether we do give any separately to ICRC?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. The program that I think we fund most prominently is the World Food Program efforts, and how they -- they may be working with the ICRC. I would have to check on that.
Q: Has the Secretary called on the new Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, Mr. Biden?
MR. BOUCHER: He talked to both Senator Helms and Senator Biden yesterday about issues, but also looking forward to working with them both, as we have in the past.
Q: On that, has any progress been made on getting the Secretary an office on the Hill? Remember he asked for that --
MR. BOUCHER: Getting the State Department an office on the Hill?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have been allocated any space yet. So I think we are still working on that one.
Q: Can you give us an extremely brief readout of the meeting with the Estonian Foreign Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a good meeting. We have a very strong --
Q: Not that brief.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Yes, it was a very good meeting. We have a very strong relationship. They obviously discussed the issue of NATO enlargement, as well as the progress that Estonia is making economically and with regard to its interest in the European Union.
MR. BOUCHER: They are one of the aspirants.
Q: And so far so good?
MR. BOUCHER: They told us about progress they are making on the action plan, the Membership Action Plan, which is NATO's formula for preparing for entry. Once again, the Secretary stated very clearly, no country has a veto over future NATO membership, and that the decisions could be made by NATO in Prague next year, 2002.
Q: Right. But what was the Secretary's response to their description of the progress they are making on the action plan? Was it generally favorable? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say it is an assessment. I think he welcomed the briefing, he welcomed the commitment, he welcomed the kind of actions that they are taking. But there is no assessment or evaluation of individual countries at this point.
Q: A couple of the North Korean people, and they are going to come to the United States. What is the immigration study of North Koreans?
MR. BOUCHER: A couple of North Korean people illegally came to the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I mean, the Immigration Service handles people who come here. Some of them arrive legally, some of them arrive and apply for asylum, and some of them arrive illegally and are deported. We can't go into anybody's particular case.
Q: A question on (inaudible) again. Yesterday, the Japanese Ambassador to the US Yanai told reporters, "The US wonders what is unfolding in Japan." And he also expressed concern about this issue.
What is your reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I would stick with what I have been saying. I am not going to try to paraphrase my own remarks. I think we have made quite clear that we have been consulting very closely with Japan on missile defense, as we do on a whole host of other issues that involve both of our countries as two important allies. We expect to continue this work. We will be looking at the possibility of the Japanese Foreign Minister visiting. I am not clear at all whether that can be scheduled, but we are looking at that possibility. And so we continue to have a strong relationship with Japan. We will continue to work with Japan in many, many areas.
Q: What are the State Department actions regarding the 40 Americans that were kicked off a plane in Ben Gurion Airport with a valid --
MR. BOUCHER: We did 10 minutes of that 20 minutes ago.
Q: I'm sorry. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)