State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 8, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index
Friday, June 8, 2001
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman SUDAN 1 Statement on Bombings
NORTH KOREA 2 North Korean Response to Policy Review 2 Possible Meeting with North Koreans in New York
CHINA/TAIWAN 2 US-Taiwan Defense
ISRAEL-PA 3-4 Ceasefire / Implementation of Mitchell Commission Report 3 Mr. Tenet's Activities in the Middle East 3 Ambassador William Burns' Whereabouts 4-5 Coordination with the European Union and United Nations
AFGHANISTAN 3 Pakistani Request for Russian Recognition of the Taliban 9 Taliban Funding / Food Deliveries
GUUAM 5 Georgian, Ukrainian, Uzbekistani, Armenian, Moldavian Summit
IRAN 6 Election 6-7 Iran/Libya Sanctions
RUSSIA 7 Tobin Update 7-8 Student Travel Warnings
MEXICO 8 US-Mexico Migration Dialogue
CROATIA 10 Secretary Powell's Meeting with Croatian Minister / Regional
RWANDA 10 Tribunal Verdicts 10 Belgian Trial of Rwandan Genocide
ARGENTINA 11 Arrest of Former President / Arms Shipments to Croatia
COLOMBIA 11 US Support for Narcotics Trafficking and Regional Stability
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing
DPB # 80
Friday, June 8, 2001 12:45 P.M. (On The Record Unless Otherwise Noted)
MR. BOUCHER: It's getting harder to draw a crowd on a Friday. Maybe we're going to have to declare it summertime soon.
Let me start off today, if I can, with a statement on the bombings that have occurred in Sudan. We have had reports -- we are very concerned about a series of reports that we have received that the Government of Sudan has launched aerial strikes against civilian targets in the south of the country in recent days, breaking Khartoum's pledge to end the bombings of civilian targets that they announced on May 25th.
According to these reports, on June 6th government bombs killed four Sudanese civilians in a bombing which took place while the World Food Program was making a food drop in Bahr al-Ghazal State. Two other towns in Bahr al-Ghazal, Marial Bai and Mapel, were bombed again in the last few days. Mapel's airport was critical to addressing the humanitarian crisis in the region because it's used as a staging area by Operation Lifeline Sudan, the primary international relief mechanism.
Attacks on civilian areas, and particularly on food for civilians, are an outrage and they threaten the welfare of many, many, innocent people. If confirmed, these reports will raise serious questions about the assurances that we have heard from the Government of Sudan.
Secretary Powell has repeatedly emphasized the important of the Government of Sudan's pledge not to bomb civilians and emphasized that this is critical, that the bombing halt is critical to moving forward. So we have asked the Government of Sudan for a full explanation, and we look forward to hearing from them on that.
With that statement, I would be glad to take any questions you have.
QUESTION: I have something on Sudan. I don't think you raised it. What is the status of the envoy?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new to say on special envoys.
QUESTION: Does that mean that Mr. Crocker has not yet gotten assurances that he reportedly is seeking from --
MR. BOUCHER: I know there are all kinds of things in the newspapers, but we haven't talked about any individuals. I don't think any individuals have, in fact, talked about their own thoughts on the matter. At this point, we have nothing to announce. I still expect it will come soon.
QUESTION: Richard, have you heard from the North Koreans?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, no. We are not aware of any reaction, any public reaction, from the North Koreans at this point. I would obviously refer you to the North Korean Government if you want to ask them about their views.
We have been in touch with them at the working level in the New York channel to convey information, the basic information about the conclusion of our policy review. We expect to have further contacts in the coming days to follow through on the President's decisions, but nothing is scheduled yet.
QUESTION: Is somebody going to be flying up to New York to talk with them? And if so, who?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing is scheduled yet, so where, when, who and how, I can't tell you. But the assumption is that the senior people in our bureau who deal with North Korea would go up and meet with people in New York as the initial contact on these issues.
QUESTION: I know you've briefed obviously the South Koreans. Have you briefed the Japanese and the Chinese about where you stand since the last consultation?
MR. BOUCHER: We had meetings. We talk obviously to the Japanese and the South Koreans in advance in many times, many ways. We had meetings yesterday with the Japanese Embassy people here in Washington to brief them more thoroughly on the conclusions of the policy review.
QUESTION: Is there any plans to have a special meeting with China on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on China.
QUESTION: Yesterday you said that you had met with the Japanese.
MR. BOUCHER: I know. I just said it again.
QUESTION: But is it the same meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: Same meeting, mentioned twice. If you ask me tomorrow, I'll mention the same meeting again.
QUESTION: Richard, a CATO Institute study said that it is not in the interest of the United States to defend Taiwan, it's too far, and if the US does, there will be humiliation and defeat.
Do you have any comments on that story?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: And another one in that area.
MR. BOUCHER: Our policy has been well stated and is well known. I am not going to change it today for a CATO Institute study.
QUESTION: Another question in that area. Pakistan General Musharaff -- he has asked Russia, Russian President Putin, to recognize the Taliban. If such a request also have come to the United States, or any comments on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No comments on that, no.
QUESTION: The Middle East? Could you give us anything you have on the security meeting which Tenet mediated between the Palestinians and the Israelis?
QUESTION: And Ambassador Burns.
MR. BOUCHER: No, Ambassador Burns wasn't there.
QUESTION: No, but he is --
MR. BOUCHER: I know. The Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet is conducting a series of meetings with the Israelis and Palestinians involving, as the President said, serious discussion at the security level about how to make sure the cease-fire continues.
He is meeting with Israelis and Palestinians this evening, a meeting you are aware of, a trilateral meeting this evening in Ramallah. Our goal is to attempt to foster an environment in which we can proceed with discussions regarding the timeline for implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report in all its aspects. So that is what Tenet is up to.
Assistant Secretary of State William Burns is now engaged in discussions with the Israelis and the Palestinians regarding the timeline for implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations in all their aspects. He has met with Foreign Minister Peres and with Chairman Arafat in Ramallah, Foreign Minister Peres in Jerusalem and Chairman Arafat in Ramallah. He will meet with Prime Minister Sharon tomorrow after the Sabbath is over.
QUESTION: Are you sure that meeting was in Jerusalem? Wasn't it in Tel Aviv, with Peres?
MR. BOUCHER: It's Phil's handwriting, so I will have to double-check.
MR. REEKER: It's not my handwriting.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, it's not Phil's handwriting. I'll have to double- check.
MR. HUNTER: It's mine, and that's what (inaudible) told me.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Well, it's not that big a deal.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll double-check just to make sure. If it was somewhere else, we will footnote the briefing transcript.
QUESTION: Changing the subject once again, a newly created --
MR. BOUCHER: Hang on. We're going to stay on the Middle East for a little bit, and then we'll come back to you.
QUESTION: So the Secretary General is going to the Middle East. It was just announced. And in making the announcement, your counterpart up there said that he was going because there is a chance for political movement, but the two parties can't do it alone.
For some time now, from this podium and people in Washington have been saying that only the two parties themselves can do it. Do you agree with this kind of -- with this statement?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the full context of the remarks. I haven't actually read that transcript of what my counterpart may have said. Obviously we are not -- we continue to believe the parties have to deal with each other, they have to find ways of dealing with each other, and we also know that there are people like us who can assist them in doing that, who can facilitate their discussions, who can work with them in order to make it easier for them to work with each other. And in the end, we all recognize the goal has to be for the parties to reach agreement and to be able to deal with each other. And that is what we are directing our efforts at.
We have coordinated, as you know, very closely with the European Union, with the United Nations, with others who may be traveling out there. The Secretary did talk to the Secretary General Annan this morning about the Middle East, about the Secretary General's travel out there. He also talked to EU High Representative Solana again this morning. So we have been working very closely with others who are interested in the situation. But I think we recognize, and everybody recognizes, the goal is for the parties to deal with each other. We think the Mitchell Committee's recommendations is a way for them to do that and to achieve what they both seek.
QUESTION: When Secretary General Annan went to Iraq a few years ago to meet with Saddam Hussein, he went with the full kind of bargaining authority of the Security Council and came back with this Memorandum of Understanding on certain things that the United States -- you know, this was finesse, but the United States didn't find so favorable.
Have you instructed him that he shouldn't be making any -- forging any deals between the Israelis and the Palestinians at this stage?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't instruct the Secretary General of the United Nations.
QUESTION: Well, he works for the Security Council and the United States is --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the Security Council has instructed him, either. We are in close touch with people. I think if you look at what people are doing and saying and trying to help accomplish, everybody is working in the same direction, and that is for acceptance and implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report in all its aspects. I don't think there is any divergence on that, and the international community has been quite clear on that. We have seen statements from the Secretary General and many others that agree that that's what we should all be doing, and that's what we are doing.
QUESTION: I haven't had a chance to introduce myself. I represent Georgia Information Agency. My name is Nugzar Ruhadze. A newly created grouping of countries named GUUAM -- that's Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia and Moldova -- just finalized its first annual summit. I've got questions here.
Is the United States of America prepared to give a serious consideration any time soon to the activity of GUUAM? And what are America's expectations concerning GUUAM, and how could you comment on its first annual meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has been quite aware of this grouping, and we've been working with them all along, as you know. We worked with them when they only had one "U." (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You've been working to help them with their acronym?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. No, but I forget. It was, I think, Uzbekistan that joined after the beginning.
But as you know, Secretary Albright met with this group on numerous occasions. We have been in touch with all their members. Secretary Powell -- I'm not sure if -- I don't think he has had occasion to meet with the group as a whole yet. I can double-check on that some. But certainly he has met with a number of the countries involved, a number of the members.
Every time he has a discussion with a foreign minister from one of these countries, part of the discussion is our support for their regional cooperation and the efforts that they are making together to foster cooperation, to deal with regional issues of infrastructure, of trade, of peace and stability. And we think those are positive things. Secretary Powell has made quite clear that he thinks this is a positive development, and he has encouraged them to keep moving forward.
QUESTION: What does the State Department think of the opinion issued today in the US Court of Appeals in the case of the National Council of Resistance of Iran? And what effect will this have on your whole designation process?
MR. BOUCHER: Interesting question. I'll have to find out.
QUESTION: You haven't been told? Oh, something went wrong, then.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, I wasn't reading the Reuters wire this morning and so I wasn't aware of the decision.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, nice of them to pass on the word to me that there were people interested in the topic. I'll check on it.
QUESTION: Anything you want to say about the election -- in Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: Any particular election? President Bush congratulated Prime Minister Blair.
QUESTION: I just said in Iran.
MR. BOUCHER: In Iran? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Maybe you didn't hear that, but I said election in Iran.
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, we don't comment or think the issue is who gets elected, but whether the wishes of the Iranian people are respected and whether real change is allowed to take place based on their wishes.
The turnout in large number seems to indicate that there is a great desire for freedom, for openness, for the rule of law, for the better lives for the Iranian people and their children. It is our hope that those voices will be heard and that the wishes of the voters will be respected.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the fact that 90 percent or so of the people who wanted to be candidates were not permitted to certify their candidacy?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I think we are going to stick to commenting on the turnout and leave it at that. We have had comments in the past about the system there, and I think if you look in our Human Rights Report you'll find some comments about it there.
QUESTION: A follow-up? Any possibility of easing sanctions against the regime?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate on things like that. At this point, we're still concerned about the activities and the policies of Iran in a number of areas.
QUESTION: Well, does the Department have a position on the efforts on the Hill to extend ILSA for five years?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been in contact with the Hill. We've had consultations with Members of Congress about the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. It is an important issue that is coming up, and we have been talking about it with people on the Hill. At this point, I don't think I can go beyond that.
QUESTION: Can you say whether you are seeking a shorter extension?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't say anything in particular at this point because we're still talking with members of Congress about comparing views with them on how we should proceed.
QUESTION: Are you actively campaigning against this extension at all?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're still talking to people, and I'll leave it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: You're a bit late.
MR. BOUCHER: No, we're not a bit late.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to Senator Schumer?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a list of people we've spoken to. We've been in contact with a number of people and their staffs on the Hill. We know who is interested in the subject. We obviously consider this to be an important issue that involves a lot of our relationships in the world, and we are talking to various people on the Hill about how we can handle this.
QUESTION: On Russia, I forgot yesterday to ask, but do you have any reaction to the reduction in Jack Tobin's sentence on drug possession? And as a follow-up to that, is there any --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was a reduction of his sentence based on the dropping of the distribution charge, actually.
QUESTION: From 37 to one year. And also, is there any thought being given to extending extra warnings perhaps to exchange students that they need to be more careful in their deportment and reinforcing the rules about countries' sovereign laws?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, we are pleased to see the decision by the court to drop that charge of distribution and to reduce his sentence accordingly. As far as advice to students and exchange students, I think the general advice applies here that applies around the world: It is important to respect the laws of the country you are in. And as far as Mr. Tobin's particular situation, I think we would hope that that could be resolved, but it is up to his lawyers and others to decide what to do next.
QUESTION: Richard, when some businessmen were having trouble, though, the State Department adjusted the consular warning to specifically warn businessmen that the government may not be able to protect them in deals. There is no thought being given to mentioning students in particular?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any review currently under way, but obviously if we thought there were appropriate conclusions and advice that we could pass on to other, we would do so. We haven't done that at this point.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the meeting of Mexico and the US on immigration that is taking place here at the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I think there were a couple of meetings this week. One was a San Antonio meeting that was headed largely by the Border Patrol and the people from the Department of Justice to talk about border safety.
Here in the State Department, today we have the second high-level meeting on migration that follows on the announcement by President Bush and President Fox that we would form this high-level working group on migration. They announced that in February. We are having our second meeting now. The first meeting was in April, April 4th. At that time, it was chaired by Secretary Powell and Attorney General Ashcroft for the United States, and the Foreign Minister Castaneda and the Government Minister Santiago Creel for Mexico.
Secretary Powell at that meeting designated Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs Mary Ryan to represent the State Department at today's meeting. So this is a follow-up. Mary Ryan, our Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, heads an interagency team. It includes high-level people from the Department of Justice. And they are working with their Mexican counterparts to continue our bilateral dialogue with Mexico on all the issues involving migration, to advance discussions of proposals that were made at the April 4th meeting.
QUESTION: Do you have any of the numbers there of guest workers and the like?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Questions of guest worker visas obviously would -- eventually would require Congressional action as well. So you don't want to get too far ahead on that topic.
QUESTION: I asked you two days ago about the request of Mr. Toledo to the United States to declassify documents. You took the question. You have the answer?
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't we get you the answer on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I thought we posted the answer on that.
QUESTION: They handed it out.
QUESTION: Oh, they handed it out?
MR. REEKER: It was distributed.
MR. BOUCHER: I think you will find it on the bulletin board.
MR. REEKER: Or the website.
MR. BOUCHER: But anyway -- or the website. But if we didn't, I'll make sure it's there by the time we finish the briefing so you'll think it was there all along. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Going back to the Taliban, now it seems that they are out of cash, and dozens of bakeries and other businesses are run by the UN workers. Now they are out, and the Taliban is asking Usama bin Laden to run the $500,000 business to take over all those bakeries and pay to the Taliban government.
Do you have any comments on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen the latest wrinkle that you are talking about, so I don't know I have a comment on the new sources of funding. I suppose we would rather he spend his money on bread for the Afghan people than on planning his other terrorist activities. So I don't think there is too much more to say on that.
We have been very concerned about the situation regarding food deliveries in Afghanistan. We would urge him to stop terrorism and start feeding people in Afghanistan; that that pretty much is a simple policy choice right there.
But to get serious on this, we have been very concerned about the situation in Afghanistan with regard to food deliveries. As you know, the United States provides a lot of food; we provide a lot of support for the delivery system and to make sure it works there; and we have been very concerned about the steps the Taliban appears to have been taking to make it more difficult to supply food to people.
QUESTION: Then are we going to bring him to justice in the New York court?
MR. BOUCHER: The UN is working on it, we are working on it, and others are as well.
QUESTION: Okay, I just want to make sure that you weren't saying that you are now advocating a humanitarian role for bin Laden by distributing food, and you still want him tried for --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we still want him tried. He needs to face justice. But if there is a matter of how he allocates his resources, I think it is simple to say it is better to spend it on bread. But he can put his money into bread and then face trial, is what we would like to say.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Secretary's meeting with the Croatian Minister this morning?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a good, and I think broad, discussion of the situation in the region. They talked a lot about Macedonia. The Secretary welcomed the developments in terms of the relationship between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia and the new government in Belgrade.
These regional discussions also included -- let me make sure I have my little list of topics here. They talked about cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, and the Secretary welcomed the steps that Croatia had taken in that regard to cooperate with the Tribunal, emphasized the importance of continued cooperation for Croatia and for others in the region.
They also talked about the importance of the return of refugees to their homes in Croatia. The Secretary got an update from the Foreign Minister on steps the government was taking to encourage the return of refugees, and they talked about additional steps that the government can take to fully address the refugee situation.
Finally, I would note they talked about Croatia's goals in drawing closer to Euro-Atlantic institutions: their association agreement with the European Union, their intensified dialogue with NATO, and the importance of proceeding down the path of reforms and changes that are necessary to bring themselves closer to those institutions.
And that also led to the question of economic issues. The Croatian Foreign Minister saying quite clearly that they see the development of democracy, the development of the rule of law, as important economic steps. They want to be a stable and democratic country that people want to invest in and want to visit in. And the Secretary expressed full support for that attitude and that idea.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the two verdicts yesterday, one in Arusha and one in Belgium having to do with Rwanda? It was acquittal and --
MR. BOUCHER: The acquittal in Arusha -- this is the first defendant who has been acquitted of all charges by the Rwandan Tribunal. To this date, the tribunal has handed down eight convictions for people involved in the killings. There are several other defendants now on trial, and other cases are currently being prepared against suspects in detention. We don't have any comments on the particular verdict. We support the work of the tribunal. We support their decisions in reaching justice.
QUESTION: How about the other one involving the nuns and --
MR. BOUCHER: The situation in Belgium, it's not related to the International Tribunal. It is a Belgian domestic and internal judicial process. So we will have to leave that one for the Belgian authorities.
QUESTION: Do you have anything, any comments, about the arrest of the former president of Argentina?
MR. BOUCHER: I said something on Monday, I think. On Monday, I made clear that the United States has not encouraged -- did not encourage -- any arms shipments from Argentina to Croatia, and that the matter was in the hands of Argentine judicial authorities at this point.
QUESTION: But the US Government was aware of the sales of arms from Argentina to Ecuador during that time? I remember it was very close relationship between --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I realize that. All these matters are now in the hands of the Argentine judiciary, and I don't really want to get into them from here.
QUESTION: But the US was aware? I'm not asking about this --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, all these matters are in the hands of the Argentine judiciary, and I don't want to get into them from here.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I need to change the subject. I want to talk about Colombia. The Rand Corporation relates a report about Plan Colombia. They say that the US has to support or to create a multilateral force to end the Colombian conflict. And they say too that the USA could not consider that the Colombia problem is just narco-traffic, and they say that the USA has to consider that Colombian conflict is with guerilla, too.
Have you seen the report, or has the USA Government considered that intervening in Colombia could be possible in the future?
MR. BOUCHER: First, on the report itself, I personally am not aware of the report. I assume that our experts in this building have looked at it and are knowledgeable about it. But on the policy, at least the way you are conveying some of the attitudes, I would say that first and foremost, our support for Plan Colombia is support for a multifaceted plan that deals not only with narco-trafficking but the guerilla connection, as well as the social and the economic dimension of it. And we have tried to be supportive of the Colombian Government's plan, which is Plan Colombia, in order to let them address this and all its aspects.
And second of all, we have also worked with other people in the region to make sure it is addressed as a regional problem. So this Administration has put some $800 million of next year's money into the Andean Regional Initiative to address it not only in its various aspects in Colombia, but also in other parts of the region.
QUESTION: But you are not interested to intervene in the remaining --
MR. BOUCHER: We are supporting a Colombian Government plan to address its problems. That is what our interest is.
QUESTION: No multilateral forces?
MR. BOUCHER: I have never heard any discussion of the US Government of sending a multilateral force there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)