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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 14, 2001


Daily Press Briefing Index Thursday, June 14, 2001

BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman

STATEMENT 1 Visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Tanaka

MEXICO 1-2 Arrest of Mexican Drug Kingpin Alcides Ramon Magana

MIDDLE EAST 2-5 Implementation of Work Plan Agreement / Assistant Secretary Burn's Travel / Mitchell Recommendations / George Tenet Whereabouts / U.S. Position on International Observers / Secretary Powell Contacts / Yassar Arafat Travel / Ambassador Indyk's Role

SYRIA/LEBANON 5 Redeployment of Syrian Troops Outside Beirut

IRAQ 5-10 US Funding for Iraqi National Congress / OIG Audit

ZIMBABWE 10-11 Restrictions on Foreign Journalists

AFGHANISTAN 11 World Food Program

EAST TIMOR 11-12 Displaced Persons

CHINA 12 Political Asylum for Zhang Hongbao

MACEDONIA 12-16 EU Diplomatic Initiatives / Lord Robertson / Mr. Solona / DAS James Swigert / President Trajkovski's Peace Plan / U.S. View of Rebels / U.S. View of NATO Peacekeeping Role / Donors Conference

RUSSIA 16 John Tobin

COLOMBIA 17-18 Environmental Impact of Coca Spraying / Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with the Colombian Foreign Minister / Colombians on Death Row in the US /

SUDAN 18-20 State Department Position on the Sudan Peace Act / US Contacts with Sudanese Opposition and Sudanese Government ALGERIA 19-20 Situation Update on Violence

YEMEN 20-21 Status of Embassy Operations

NORTH KOREA 20-21 Bilateral Talks

PHILIPPINES 21 Situation Update on Hostages

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB # 84

THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2001 1:35 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome back to the State Department. I do have a couple of things I would like to talk about. First, we will have written statements.

First of all, many of you have been very interested and we are pleased to announce the visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Tanaka. Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka will visit the United States June 16-18. She will have a bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Powell at the Department of State on Monday, June 18. This will be Minister Tanaka's first official visit to the United States as Foreign Minister and her first meeting with Secretary of State Powell.

So we will put out that written statement, and the Press Office will be able to get you information on how we will deal with coverage of that on Monday.

I believe there is some trouble with the sound system. I'm getting indications from the back that there is no sound. Any sound?

Q: It's low.

MR. REEKER: It's low? This is the guy you want to be waving at. I hope folks were able to get that, but we will put out the written version of that, too.

I would also like to note that we did put out last night a response to the question that we got during yesterday's briefing. I just didn't have information on the arrest of Mexican drug kingpin Alcides Ramon Magana. The United States wants to commend highly the Government of Mexico for its arrest on June 12 of Mr. Magana, known as "El Metro," widely believed to be a key figure in the notorious Juarez-based drug trafficking organization of the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

He was arrested in the city of Villahermosa, Mexico, and charged with drug, weapons, and other charges related to his suspected role as director of the southeastern operation of the Juarez-based group. Authorities have linked him to the former government of Quintana Roo state, Mario Villanueva, who was arrested, as you will recall, in May.

We just wanted to point out that the Government of Mexico has a made a number of important arrests in recent months that demonstrate the Fox administration's commitment to combating the international drug trade and to effective international cooperation. We likewise welcome the extradition of international drug trafficker Rafael Camarena Macias to the US, also on June 12.

So with that, I would be happy to cut to your questions. Q: Yesterday you were saying 48 hours or thereabouts could be critical for the peace process for the cease-fire follow-up. Can you follow up and tell us how it is going?

MR. REEKER: As I said, 48 hours, we think is critical. We are obviously still within that period. We have seen some evidence that the parties are going ahead with the aspects of the work plan, and I think right now I am going to refrain from any particular comment or judgment. Some measures take longer than others, so I am not going to comment on specifics. And I don't think anybody should draw any particular conclusions on an hour-by-hour basis. We have people on the ground obviously, waiting to report, and of course this is very much a work in progress.

Q: So has Assistant Secretary Burns returned, then?

MR. REEKER: In fact, Assistant Secretary Burns was in Brussels, as you know, with the Secretary and therefore the Secretary's meeting with Foreign Minister Peres. I believe he is going to come back to Washington. I think he probably heard your comments, Matt, worrying that he wasn't here in Washington, so he has decided to come back to Washington, I think today, from Brussels. So we expect him actually here in his office tomorrow.

On the ground in the region of course is Ambassador Indyk, Consul General Schlicher in Jerusalem, and they are with their teams monitoring developments on the ground and in close contact with Assistant Secretary Burns and with the Department and with the Secretary.

Q: So who is going to put in place the political aspects of the Mitchell recommendations?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think we will keep working with the parties through our people on the ground on developing the timeline for full implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report recommendations in all their aspects.

Q: Does Mr. Burns intend to go back soon?

MR. REEKER: I just don't have a readout on his future travel plans. All I got was an update from Brussels that he decided he would come back to Washington, and then he will look at his travel. We will do that one step at a time, as well.

Since we are talking about travel, just to confirm that Director of Central Intelligence Tenet departed the region, as we said yesterday, and returned to Washington last night. And I understand he is back at his desk today.

Q: What is the US position on international observers or somebody sort of to judge that both sides are implementing their agreement at this point?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything particular to say on that. What we are doing right now is looking in the initial phases for mutual steps on the ground to fulfill the immediate requirements of the work plan. As I said, we are not even through the first 48 hours so we are watching that closely, and I don't want to try to draw any particular judgments or make comments on steps at this point.

Q: Can I follow up? Would this be something that might be brought up in political conversations or the political discussions in terms of implementing the timeline?

MR. REEKER: I don't know.

Q: I understand that Secretary Powell made a number of phone calls yesterday to, I think, Chairman Arafat and the Prime Minister. Could you give us sort of a readout of those phone calls?

MR. REEKER: Sure. I have been on the phone with Ambassador Boucher, who of course is with the Secretary in Goteborg, Sweden, accompanying the President. The Secretary yesterday spoke with Kofi Annan, who you know is in the region. He spoke with Prime Minister Sharon twice, Chairman Arafat, President Mubarak of Egypt, and Foreign Minister Ivanov of the Russian Federation. That was yesterday. And I didn't have any update on any calls today. I know he has been participating obviously with the President in the US-EU summit activities there in Goteborg.

Q: Do you have any readout of those calls with Secretary Powell?

MR. REEKER: No, I don't.

Q: Was this sort of a follow-on to his meeting with the Foreign Minister?

MR. REEKER: He, as you know, has had regular contact with all of those individuals, as well as others, on the Middle East, being particularly engaged on this subject. He did meet with Foreign Minister Peres yesterday in Brussels for about 45 minutes, as I understand it, yesterday evening. I am told that Foreign Minister Peres began by offering his congratulations to the US and our team for the efforts made to achieve the work plan. And you have heard us talk about how pleased we are with that.

The Secretary, of course, emphasized the fact that the parties shouldn't lose the opportunity presented by this important agreement and said we needed a 100 percent effort from both parties. He echoed those sentiments, I know, in his phone calls as well to Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon, stressing again, as I just mentioned, the critical importance of action on the ground to achieve a cessation of violence and the return to normal life for people.

Then they spent much of their meeting discussing implementation of the Mitchell Report, the confidence-building measures that are called for under that report, and the eventual return to negotiations. As we discussed yesterday, the Secretary also discussed with the Prime Minister and agreed to work with the Foreign Minister and agreed to work together with the Europeans, with Russia, with Egypt, Jordan and others, in the international community to implement Mitchell recommendations in all their aspects.

Q: Is he going to have a similar meeting with Nabil Sha'ath? Is Secretary Powell going to have a similar meeting with Nabil Sha'ath when he is town next week?

MR. REEKER: I hadn't heard that, but we will have to wait for the Secretary to get back and look at his schedule next week.

Q: Are you aware of Yasser Arafat having been invited to Washington? Is he coming to Washington as a result of all this?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any particular travel plans of Mr. Arafat.

Q: Phil, in the work plan that Tenet got the two sides to agree to, it says that there will be weekly meetings, senior level security meetings. And after the one yesterday that Tenet was at, it says they will reconvene at least once a week with mandatory participation by designated senior officials.

I am just wondering if you can say, is Director Tenet the designated senior official for the US?

MR. REEKER: I am not going to comment on specifics of the plan, even though I know everybody has been reading versions from the Internet. I am just not going to comment on those.

Q: Okay. Well, is Director Tenet going to go back to the region to participate in security --

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to announce on Director Tenet's travel plans. We will keep you posted if he develops any.

Q: So who is going to represent the United States at the weekly meeting?

MR. REEKER: I am not going to get into the specifics on the plan or weekly meetings.

Q: Phil, it's fantasy to think that no one knows what is in the plan. I mean --

MR. REEKER: I am not suggesting that, Matt. I have watched you read it. I have read it myself. I just have nothing to add for you at this point. You can continue with your own fantasies as much as you want.

Q: But that is the least innocuous of anything that is in here, and you can't say anything about it?

MR. REEKER: I am glad that is your analysis. I am not going to make comments on the plan or specifics of it at this point, as I said. We'll let you two debate that topic there, and we'll go on to Eli.

Q: This is going to be a strange question but --

MR. REEKER: A strange question?

Q: Is Ambassador Indyk now leading -- sort of the top guy leading US diplomacy now in the region now that Burns is coming back? And if so - - well, let me ask you, first, that.

MR. REEKER: Ambassador Indyk is the United States Ambassador to Israel. He has been a key figure in terms of this process. He is in Tel Aviv. Our Consul General is in Jerusalem. They continue to monitor developments on the ground, remain in close contact with Assistant Secretary Burns, whose most immediate travel I have tried to describe to you. We need to take Assistant Secretary Burns' travel one step at a time. I can't look into the future and describe what he might do in another day or two days hence. So we will keep working this. There are telephones, there are sophisticated methods of communication, and we will certainly be reading your wire.

Q: And as a follow-up, I mean, is he -- he had his security clearance at one point temporarily taken away, and I guess he has now gotten it back. What is happening --

MR. REEKER: That was quite a while ago.

Q: Is that resolved, though, at this point now that --

MR. REEKER: I would have to check into that. He has had a critical role for a long time now.

Q: Just moving a little bit north of there, do you have anything to say about the redeployment of Syrian troops outside of Beirut, or is this something that you don't want to talk about? Have you noticed it?

MR. REEKER: We have seen several limited redeployments in the past year and I am told we are obviously going to continue following developments in Lebanon closely. So I don't have anything particular to add on that.

Q: Can we go east to Iraq? Can you tell us about this $6 million that you're asking for for the INC? The other day we were told that --

MR. REEKER: I don't know if it is a question of asking for $6 million. It is about notification of an additional $6 million under the money that is already there.

As you know and as we have discussed numerous times, we continue to cooperate closely with the House of Representatives and the Senate in our joint efforts to support the Iraqi National Congress and other elements of the Iraqi opposition to strengthen their efforts to represent the true voice of the Iraqi people. So as part of this close cooperation, the Department is sending to Congress a notification that we will allocate additional funds in support of the Iraqi National Congress. As you noted, the notification is for up to $6 million. And what it is technically is a notification to Congress of an intent to obligate money for interim funding while we continue discussions with Iraqi National Congress on their programs and activities.

I think as you know, the INC has previously received grants totaling close to $4.3 million using these funds in organizational capacity building, media and public diplomacy activities, gathering of information on war crimes, et cetera.

Q: Will this money be disbursed before the audit is complete?

MR. REEKER: We anticipate that the new money will be used to continue the programs already ongoing under the current grant agreement -- overhead, costs for offices, staff, media operations, things like that.

I guess what you are referring to is the Office of Inspector General's audit of grants and contracts. And as Ambassador Boucher said a couple of days ago, this is very much a routine audit. This is the kind of thing that goes on. It is therefore routine that a grantee, like the Iraqi National Congress, would continue to receive funding and support while the audit is being performed because, as we said, the goal of the audit and the expectation of the audit is to provide us then with recommendations on how to improve the Iraqi National Congress's management of its programs and accounts, and anticipate that that will actually enhance more their ability to --

Q: You haven't answered the question, though. The question was will this money be disbursed to the INC before the audit is complete. You seem to be saying -- want to say yes, but you didn't --

MR. REEKER: Well, I can't tell you when the audit is going to be complete, first of all. That is up to the Inspector General, and the Inspector General --

Q: I mean, is the audit in any way an obstacle to the disbursement of the --

MR. REEKER: No. There we go. We answered your question. No. I thought that was pretty clear, Jonathan.

Q: So this is simply the money that when -- that was explained to us to help them keep going while the audit is being done and while the other money, or other additional money, is suspended?

MR. REEKER: Right. As you know, there is a pot of money and it gets drawn upon, and we notify Congress when we intend to obligate the money, thereby drawing upon that money.

Q: Where does this pot of money come from?

Q: Under the rainbow.

(Laughter.)

Q: No, but how much was approved when -- excuse my ignorance.

MR. REEKER: We would have to go back. We have been over this so many times here, Jonathan.

Q: No, we haven't.

MR. REEKER: Yes, we have. We have discussed the Iraq Liberation Act and the funds that were --

Q: You mean this is part of the 1997 milieu, then, or the '98 milieu?

Q: Yes, it is.

Q: It's not. It's not.

MR. REEKER: I will have to go and check on that for you.

Q: Isn't it true that this money is not for use inside Iraq?

MR. REEKER: I would have to check. This money, the 6 million we're talking about, I think is a continuation of the programs that they have had under their current grant agreement -- overhead costs, as I said, offices, staff, media operations.

Q: So then, as it stands now, the INC is not allowed to spend any of this money inside the country; is that correct?

MR. REEKER: I know that some funds have been used for gathering information on regime war crimes and human rights abuses and engaging in diplomatic contacts with regional governments and international organizations. So I would have to go back to the original grant and get you the details on what that specifies.

Q: I just want to make sure I am absolutely clear on this. When the audit began, in general, money to the INC -- funding for them -- was suspended, right, pending the completion of the audit? And at the same time, I remember Richard -- I think it was Richard -- saying that you were looking into ways to help them keep the ship afloat while that was going on.

I just want to make sure, this money that you're talking about now is that money that he was --

MR. REEKER: This will help them do that.

Q: That he was talking about before?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I don't think he was talking about specific money. With that said, we were looking at ways --

Q: This is a way?

MR. REEKER: This will do that. In terms of using the audit for how they can improve their management of programs, their accounting procedures, that should be very useful in then looking ahead even further in what we will do in terms of cooperation with them.

Q: So this money is not necessarily going to go for new programs such as transmitting programs into Iraq via satellite or humanitarian aid efforts or that sort of thing, or is this just going to go for paying salaries and phone bills and --

MR. REEKER: As I understand it, this money will go to continue programs already ongoing under the current grant agreement. And funds under that grant agreement have been used for a variety of activities, like organizational capacity building, public diplomacy activities, media activities, gathering information, that type of thing.

Q: You said audit was sort of regular or routine. Was it because -- was it envisioned from the beginning of the program, or was it initiated because there was like some fraud or mishandling of money?

MR. REEKER: Well, the Office of the Inspector General does reviews on a very regular basis on contracts and grants that are awarded by the Department. It is a very regular and normal thing. "Routine" is the word that we have used.

Having worked in the field where our posts may oversee these grants, I am quite familiar with those types of audits, to look at the grant and make sure that proper practices are being observed and to make recommendations where things could be improved, because we are always looking to make the programs better.

So while those go on, it is very routine for the program to go on, for that grant to continue in its activity so the grantee, in this case the Iraqi National Congress, to continue receiving funding and support while the audit is being conducted.

Q: So there was no wrongdoing by them that --

MR. REEKER: No one has suggested wrongdoing. It is simply a review of implementation of this grant, and it includes all kinds of things like accounting practices, bookkeeping, et cetera.

Q: Can I follow up on that? Isn't this the second audit? I mean, wasn't there a -- like this routine audit happened and some irregularities were found, which kicked it over to the Inspector General's Office, which primarily investigates abuse and fraud and waste and things like that?

MR. REEKER: I would have to go back and check. That is not correct. The Inspector General's Office is not charged with primarily investigating abuse and fraud.

Q: Well, that is what is says on the website.

MR. REEKER: They do investigations to look for such things. There is no suggestion by having an audit or an inspection by the OIG, the Office of the Inspector General, that such things have taken place. They inspect operations, bureaus, embassies, consulates, offices within the Department. That is why we have an Office of the Inspector General.

But to characterize it as you did that that indicated suspicion or anything like that, that would not be correct.

Q: Weren't there some irregularities found in the first audit, which then demanded that the Inspector General take a second audit? I guess that's my question.

MR. REEKER: That I am not sure of. I would have to go back and check what the genesis was. I would be happy to look into it.

Q: If I could also add, if there is any way to -- I recognize you don't know this now, but just to give us a sense as to how many audits the IG does and --

MR. REEKER: They put out a report every year, I think, that lists --

Q: With all of their -- and how long? Like what the average length of an audit would be?

MR. REEKER: That might be extremely different because they run so many different types of audits -- small grants, giant things.

Q: I mean of this nature, of a similar size grant, how long do these types of audits take, just to kind of get a sense as to how long the money --

MR. REEKER: I'll see if they want to do that. They don't comment on their things, and I don't think they will want to give you things to try to compare and contrast audits because then you will inevitably try to create some impression out of timing which may have no relevance to the actual situation. So we'll look into it.

Q: Will this be public when it's over?

MR. REEKER: Generally, I don't know that OIG reports are made public. Aspects of them may be. I'll look into that. I can't recall, Chuck, if when we talked about it before -- I would have to go back and look. I know there is usually an unclassified inspection report of certain inspections. I just have to check in with the OIG's office and see what they can tell me on that.

Q: Isn't an audit, by definition, done to see if there are any irregularities?

MR. REEKER: Yes.

Q: Because you are unsure of their management practices?

MR. REEKER: I think then you would have to say they were unsure of all management practices. Audits are done as a positive -- in a proactive, positive approach.

Q: You're giving them another $6 million when you're not sure whether they're managing it correctly.

MR. REEKER: Matt, when what you are trying to do is look for ways to make a grant even more effective and accounts, you don't just halt everything in the world. There is no indication that there is a problem here. What this is is a routine audit. While that audit is ongoing, obviously it would be routine that a grantee would continue to receive the funding and support. And they will perform the audit, and we hope that that will provide us with recommendations. That is what the results of an audit usually are: here are some recommendations on how to improve their management, programs of accounts, how we can then work more effectively together.

Q: So you give them 6 million to waste on however you --

MR. REEKER: That is an entirely irresponsible comment, Matt. There is no suggestion of that whatsoever. And to suggest that, I totally take --

Q: I was led to believe earlier -- was it Monday -- that funding to the INC had been suspended pending the end of the audit.

MR. REEKER: In terms of taking on new grants, Matt. In terms of taking on new projects. And what we will do in the future with the INC, we will obviously wait until we move ahead and have a better vision. In fact, the audit should help us with that because we can make recommendations from that on how we can use the money better. There is no suggestion that the grant, the existing grant, would stop.

Enough on that? No, George has another one.

Q: Do you have something on the new restrictions that the Government of Zimbabwe has imposed on foreign journalists?

MR. REEKER: Are you sure we want to leave Iraq? We're going to. A new question here on the Government of Zimbabwe.

We have seen those, and I would just note the Government of Zimbabwe announced yesterday that new accreditation rules for foreign journalists, clearly aimed at limiting the access of the international media to Zimbabwe, have been put into place. Specifically, I believe journalists have to seek accreditation at least one month in advance before traveling to Zimbabwe, whereas previously journalists were able to apply for accreditation upon arrival in the country.

I think in light of other government actions against the media, including expulsion of foreign journalists earlier this year, which we talked about, and continuing statements by the government against the independent media, it appears that the Government of Zimbabwe wants very much to limit media reporting on what goes on inside Zimbabwe. We find this new development particularly troubling in view of the presidential election slated to occur in the first quarter of next year, 2002.

So our message to the Government of Zimbabwe is very clear: violence and intimidation must end. We have repeatedly condemned the Zimbabwean Government's attacks on the independent media, as well as attacks on the judiciary, the opposition, and the opposition supporters. So we call on the Government of Zimbabwe to return to the rule of law and respect the rights of its citizens.

Q: Do you have any comment on the World Food Program deciding to stop distribution of bread in Afghanistan because of the laws which forbid women from working? That is where all our money goes, I believe.

MR. REEKER: I know we have discussed that a bit previously. I wasn't aware that the final decision had been taken on that, so I will have to check into that and see if we have details and updates on that.

Q: Did you get an answer to the question I had about East Timor yesterday?

MR. REEKER: I did, in fact. I was able to check in with our people in the East Asian Affairs Bureau. I guess what you were referring to was about a week ago, June 6 and 7, displaced persons remaining in West Timor were asked by Indonesian Government authorities --

Q: I thought it was just made official the other day. It was just certified.

MR. REEKER: Thank you. Okay.

Q: Well, you made it sound as if I'm asking a question about something that happened a week ago.

MR. REEKER: Well, if you let me finish the sentence, Matt, then maybe we could get somewhere.

Displaced persons remaining in West Timor were asked by the Indonesia Government authorities to indicate whether they wished to return to East Timor or resettle in Indonesia. Among these persons are former civil servants of the Indonesian administration in East Timor and those associated with Indonesian security forces and East Timorese.

As we understand it, a total of ten countries sent a representative to observe the process, as did the UN transitional administration in East Timor and the UN International Organization for Migration. This number had a very limited ability obviously to effectively monitor the process.

There were reports of some intimidation and confusion in connection with the process, and questions have been raised about the validity of the results. I think for us, we believe it is crucial that the Indonesian Government and relevant international organizations work to facilitate an accelerated and secure repatriation of those who choose to return to East Timor. We look to the Government of Indonesia, then, to assist those remaining in Indonesia to find new homes as quickly as possible.

Q: But you guys yourselves don't have any comment on whether the result of the process was legitimate or not?

MR. REEKER: Well, I said there were reports of some intimidation. There seemed to be some confusion about the process. All the process was simply some figures to look at, and I suggested to you the various people that were taking part in that process.

The bottom line is that it is very important that the Indonesian authorities work together with the international organizations to facilitate the ability of those that want to be repatriated to East Timor, the ability of them to do so. For those who choose to remain, then Indonesia has an obligation to assist them in finding new homes as quickly as possible. But obviously the choices will be for the individuals to make.

Q: Can you say anything about the case of Mr. Zhang, of the Zhong Gong? Excuse my Chinese accent.

MR. REEKER: Maybe Matt would like to help you, or Andrea speaks Chinese.

Q: Who is reported to have obtained political asylum from the United States.

MR. REEKER: Saw the reports. And as you know, we don't discuss cases of political asylum.

Q: Sometimes you do.

MR. REEKER: Not this time.

Q: Two questions on two separate issues. Do you have anything new today on Macedonia?

MR. REEKER: Let's talk a little bit about Macedonia. I know you have been following what the President has been saying, and I will leave that obviously for your colleagues traveling with him to cover.

We strongly support the efforts of Lord Robertson and the EU High Representative Mr. Solana who were in Skopje today, along with our Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Swigert. He is back in Skopje, having been in Brussels for the meeting between Lord Robertson and Mr. Solana and Secretary Powell yesterday in Brussels. Swigert is also very much a part of these talks with Macedonian Government and party officials.

So we are very much unified, as the President indicated, with our allies in NATO and with the European Union in our support for the Macedonian Government in their efforts to find a political solution to the problems in Macedonia, as well as being very unified in our stance against extremist violence.

We have unified support for the comprehensive plan put forward by President Trajkovski. The president's plan calls for disarmament and withdrawal of the extremists. We think that is very important. I would note that the Macedonian Government has agreed to an extension of the period of military restraint while the political dialogue is ongoing, and we welcome this very positive step even though there is ongoing extremist violence and provocations. We certainly call upon the extremists, as we have, to stop the violence and to respect the restraint of the government and an end to all violence.

I would also note that the party leaders began today in Ohrid, Macedonia, an extended session of the interethnic dialogue that they are pursuing. We strongly encourage concrete results from that dialogue to produce a package of agreed political reforms. Mr. Swigert is in Ohrid. Not a formal part of the dialogue, but there to help support, offer ideas as necessary.

As I have said, there is no justification for the extremist violent actions which have continued in spite of their own pledges of a cease- fire. They have got to get with the plan, which is a very sensible plan put forward by President Trajkovski, the democratically elected president of Macedonia, who had multiethnic support, strong multiethnic support in his election as president.

Ostensible political demands of the rebel groups are being addressed through a political process, and there is active engagement from the international community. I also note that the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers, just departed Skopje today. He had a visit down there, and I believe released a statement also reflecting our strong support for Macedonia's leaders and Macedonian democracy.

Q: In urging the Macedonian Government to move ahead with political reform, would you choose to use any kind of a time frame -- like urgently, immediately, as soon as possible? Is there any kind of a deadline out there? I mean, obviously they are discussing it.

MR. REEKER: We don't set deadlines. It is clearly something that is a very important thing. It is not for us to set deadlines. But I think all the people in Macedonia need to -- are strongly in support of moving quickly, that there needs to be action on this. We have seen these extremist provocations and violence, we have seen deaths of innocent people, we have seen civilians displaced from their homes, we have seen others held against their will, we have seen the inability of international organizations like the Red Cross to deliver aid and assistance. That has got to end. Macedonia has a tradition now of being a democracy with well-functioning institutions that can address these types of issues.

And I think going to Ohrid, meeting in intensive session to have this interethnic dialogue, is very important, and they need to come up with a package of agreed political reforms to move ahead on. Changes don't take place overnight. It takes time to work these things through a democracy, but we need to see that there are some positive steps that can be taken to address these issues.

Q: When you say that the political demands of the rebel groups are being addressed through a political process, are you saying essentially that the moderate Albanians who are engaged in this process are doing the biddings of the radical groups?

MR. REEKER: No, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is the armed extremist groups have suggested that they have political demands, and as part of their statements they have made these ostensible political demands. That is what is already being addressed. You don't need to have arms and be shooting at people and disrupting the life of the nation to address these political issues, what are essentially political issues.

And at the same time they issue these political demands, they also call for a cease-fire which they themselves continue to violate. So there is no justification for extremist violent actions which have continued, as I said, despite their pledges. They need to look carefully at the Trajkovski plan; disarm; withdraw from places, particularly beginning with towns like Aracinovo which they occupied recently near Skopje; and allow, as the Trajkovski plan calls for, a reintegration of people into society so that they can use the existing political structures, the institutions of Macedonian democracy, to pursue these issues.

Q: But the US position is still the same, that these armed rebel groups have no place at any kind of dialogue?

MR. REEKER: That's right. Armed rebel groups have no place at the table. What is going on in Ohrid is an unarmed dialogue between legitimate political representatives.

Q: Lots of calls from all sides, including the ruthless thugs of the NLA and the Government of Macedonia, for a NATO role in some kind of peacekeeping force, and it's very possible that in these Ohrid talks this will play a part.

What position does the United States take on this proposal?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think President Bush addressed this yesterday, and he said --

Q: I believe just about everybody in the world, apart from you, is in favor of it.

MR. REEKER: President Bush addressed this yesterday, and we support NATO playing a more visible and active role in helping the Government of Macedonia to counter the insurgency. The US and the EU and NATO have greatly intensified our relationship in Macedonia. As I said, we are supporting President Trajkovski's plan. NATO is considering how best to support the implementation of Trajkovski's plan. We have discussed how KFOR has been tightening its controls on the border, and together with NATO and with the EU, we are working closely with the Macedonian Government.

Our focus is on achieving a political settlement. That is what they're looking at as the Macedonian leaders meet in Ohrid, not on deploying international forces at this time. Obviously we look forward to discussing with Lord Robertson what NATO can do, what more NATO can do, to support resolution of the crisis.

Q: Well, I was talking about NATO deployments under -- as part of a political --

MR. REEKER: Well, it's a little premature because there is no political agreement now, Jonathan.

Q: Can I stay in the region? Does Swigert's portfolio include all the Balkans?

MR. REEKER: Deputy Assistant Secretary Swigert is the Deputy Assistant Secretary within the Bureau of European Affairs who has focused on the Balkans.

Q: Does he or anyone else -- senior official from that bureau -- plan to go to Belgrade any time soon to explain to them that you still don't think they made enough progress in cooperating with the tribunal, considering the vote on Monday against the funding at the IMF and then -- isn't that donors conference supposed to be soon?

Q: The 29th.

MR. REEKER: I would hazard to say, Matt, that our Ambassador is Belgrade is quite capable of delivering that message. And we have --

Q: Well, yes, but sometimes if you want to emphasize something, you send someone out from D.C.

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any plans at this point for anybody to travel to Belgrade.

Q: Do you know if Swigert is coming back to the States after --

MR. REEKER: I don't have a readout on Swigert's travel plans at this point. He is in Macedonia. I expect him to come back to Washington at some point.

Q: The donors conference. Has a decision been made on whether you are going to attend?

MR. REEKER: No. As you note, so that those of you not familiar with Matt's ramblings, the US has always maintained that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has to meet its obligations toward full cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal for Yugoslavia, and it is Yugoslavia's responsibility to ensure that its domestic laws allow for this obligation. So there are many aspects to cooperation, and Yugoslav authorites are aware of the tribunal's authorities. We are in close touch with the Yugoslavs on these issues, and we would certainly welcome any steps that they take to meet their international obligations.

Q: On Russia, do you have any update on Jack Tobin's attempts to (inaudible)?

MR. REEKER: Well, as you will recall, the appeals court judge in Veronezh, Russia, on June 7, dismissed the charge of possession of an illegal substance with intent to distribute. That had been one of the more serious charges with which he had been charged. His sentence was reduced accordingly to one year, less time served.

We said at the time of course that we are pleased with this result, which we believe reflected positively on the Russian judicial system. We would expect that Mr. Tobin and his attorney are exploring all available options in the wake of the appeals ruling, and we are waiting to see what next steps may be --

Q: The amnesty was expected to be given around June 12 or around this week.

MR. REEKER: We had heard those same rumors that there was some national amnesty planned in Russia on their national day, I think is what prompted the rumor of the 12th. The Russian Government, to our knowledge, has made no such announcement. So any questions about what they may plan to do in terms of amnesties or other actions should be directed to the Russians.

Q: Does the Administration believe that Mr. Tobin got a fair trial?

MR. REEKER: I think we have seen a process that was run according to Russian law. We have seen a reduction of his sentence based on the appeal and the dismissal of the charges. So while the continuing action in that case is continuing, if that makes any sense, I don't want to particularly comment or make any particular judgments about it.

However, I think that the appeals process and the dismissal of that charge did reflect positively on the Russian judicial system.

Q: Why is it that you don't want to comment on this now when, during the Ed Pope case, you all were quite vocal about what you thought about the Russian Government's verdict?

MR. REEKER: Because I have chosen not to.

Q: Phil, a few weeks ago, the Minister of the Environment in Colombia authored a resolution that takes the anti-narcotics police to task for not providing enough or sufficient information on the environmental impact of spraying in Colombia. And in an interview on Friday, the Environment Minister told us that theoretically any Colombian armed with the resolution could take the anti-narcotics police to court in an effort to try to halt the spraying.

In light of the resolution and the ongoing protest in Tibu over spraying, I am wondering, is the United States concerned at all about the future of spraying in Colombia?

MR. REEKER: That sounds like really a question that involves a lot of details of domestic Colombian issues, and I think you would be best directed to continue focusing there. I don't have anything for you particularly on that. I think we have addressed the issue of spraying in the past.

You or somebody asked yesterday -- and apologies if --

Q: It was last Friday, and you were supposed to have something for me this week.

MR. REEKER: Do we have anything, Chuck? No, I think we will have to continue looking at the bureau. I don't think it is something we would necessarily have a particular comment on. As I said, it sounds very much like an issue of domestic interest in Colombia.

Somebody asked -- and I apologize if it wasn't you -- but somebody yesterday asked for a readout on the Deputy Secretary's meeting yesterday with -- pardon me, two days ago, on the 12th of June -- with the Colombian Foreign Minister, and I did check into that.

Deputy Secretary Armitage did meet with Colombia Foreign Minister Fernandez Desoto on June 12. They had a constructive and upbeat meeting and discussed issues like the state of the Colombian peace process, recent Government of Colombia successes against paramilitaries, international support for Colombia, renewal of the Andean Trade Preferences Act, progress on Plan Colombia implementation, and Andean regional issues.

Q: Just as a follow-up, the United States doesn't have an interest in spraying in Colombia? It's a domestic issue?

MR. REEKER: We certainly do in the context of our counter-narcotics programs that we cooperate on with Colombia, and I would be happy to continue checking into that. I don't have anything for you on that, and I think you really need to address the question to the bureau and we'll try to get you answers if there is something we want to say about it.

Q: Excuse me, it's about the same thing.

MR. REEKER: Okay, let's stick with that and then we'll come back to Eli.

Q: I'm sorry.

MR. REEKER: No, go ahead, please.

Q: Yes. I just want to know if in that meeting you are going to plan to examine the cases of Colombians on death row in the United States. I knew that our Minister Foreign spoke with the Secretary about that.

MR. REEKER: I do understand that they spoke about specific cases of Colombian nationals convicted in US courts, but I don't have anything to say on specific individual cases.

Q: Yesterday the House passed by an overwhelming margin the Sudan Peace Act, which would require foreign companies that do business with the government in Khartoum to disclose that through the SEC. Does the State Department have a position on this? Does the Administration have a position on this?

MR. REEKER: Well, you know we have discussed Sudan quite a lot in recent weeks and months. The Secretary of State himself has had a lot to say about it. And you know that we consider the Sudan Peace Act an important piece of legislation that addresses what the Secretary has called perhaps the greatest human tragedy in the world today.

What we see happening in Sudan in terms of bombing of innocent civilians by government aircraft, Khartoum's tolerance for slave raiding, the denial of religious freedom, the uprooting of thousands of civilians by continued military actions on both sides -- these all shock all persons of conscience, and therefore we share the outrage that is expressed in the Sudan Peace Act and join in the call for the peaceful end to the conflict. We support very generally the aims of H.R. 2052, which is the Sudan Peace Act. As you know, we currently have some sanctions in place which prohibit US companies from participating in development in the Sudanese oil sector since November of '97.

In reference to your specific mention of the disclosure requirements that are under there, I believe some of those disclosure requirements would undermine the independence and prerogative of the Securities and Exchange Commission to determine the nature and definition of information that is material to the investor. So you might want to check with the SEC to see if they have something on that.

Q: Just to clarify, you generally support the Sudan Peace Act but this disclosure requirement for companies --

MR. REEKER: There may be some amendments to it that we are troubled by, and we need to look at those amendments.

Q: I mean, I don't want to belabor it --

MR. REEKER: I'm sure you don't, Eli. No, I'm sure you don't.

Q: The tolerance for slave raiding and all this over stuff -- I mean, the government is enriched in some ways, right, or at least its oil sector is enriched by foreign companies.

MR. REEKER: As you know, Eli, we currently have sanctions which prohibit US companies from participating in development in the Sudanese oil sector. Those have been in place since '97, as I told you.

Q: You talked to Sudanese Al-Uma party leader, Sadiq Al-Mahdi, who is here in Washington. And there are reports that you have paid $3 million for (inaudible) some other opposition factor in Sudan. Are you talking to the Sudanese Government as well, especially there is a sort of, you know, the United States recognize Sudan as the legitimate government, they have an embassy here. Are you talking to the government?

MR. REEKER: We do talk to the Sudanese Government. Yes, we do talk to the Sudanese Government. We have an embassy in Khartoum. They have an embassy here. We have made very clear to Sudan our positions in terms of the things I just described and the great concern we have about the human tragedy that is taking place in Sudan, which as the Secretary described, is perhaps the greatest human tragedy in the world today.

Q: Did they clarify their position that there is no slavery in Sudan, that slavery is not an institutionalized --

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to add for you. I'll let you get their positions from them.

Q: Going back to the law, do you know, did the SEC come to you or come to the legal department to say that this provision might be -- might infringe on their --

MR. REEKER: No, I would let you ask the SEC about that more specifically. I just noted that people have noted that that has been of concern. I don't think that is any particular news. I think that has been discussed.

Q: Well, it's news to me. I mean, this was an objection raised by the State Department?

MR. REEKER: I'm not suggesting that necessarily. I am suggesting that that is an item of concern that needs to be looked at. And I'll be happy to look back if we have specific things, additional things to say about it.

Q: Another country?

MR. REEKER: Another country.

Q: Another country we never talk about -- Algeria.

Q: More on Sudan.

MR. REEKER: They are relatively close, so we will finish Sudan and then we'll go to Algeria.

Q: I want to clarify. Did the United States pay $3 million for Al- Mahdi? --

MR. REEKER: I don't even know what you are talking about. So if you can talk to Chuck afterwards so we can get the specific question, we can try to ask and find out. It is just not something I had ever heard about or that I am aware of. So please make sure you stay, though, and ask because people sometimes ask these questions and disappear, and we don't know what to check into.

We were going back to Jonathan. Algeria.

Q: Yes. You never tell us anything about Algeria because we never ask, but I thought it was probably time. There is more trouble today, several people killed in demonstrations in Algiers in connection with political rights.

MR. REEKER: Because you never ask, I didn't check. So I will have to go and check into it.

Q: I thought -- I was told that you had something to say on the subject. Obviously there has been a miscommunication somewhere along the line.

MR. REEKER: I suppose you could have mentioned it to me in one of the times we have spoken today.

Q: Is the situation in Yemen still the same -- no changes with the Embassy?

MR. REEKER: Right, no changes in Yemen. It is a weekend in Yemen. As you know, Thursday, Friday is their weekend, and they will explore whether to reopen on Saturday.

Q: And I couldn't help but noticing the description of Deputy Secretary Armitage's meeting with the Colombian Foreign Minister as constructive and upbeat, and comparing that with the words last night with the North Korean meeting, which were, I believe, businesslike and useful.

MR. REEKER: Your point?

Q: My point is, do you have anything more to say -- to add to that rather meager description of the North Korean meeting?

MR. REEKER: Meek and meager is how I feel right now. I don't really have anything to add to I think what we tried to get to all of you yesterday. As you know, Special Envoy Jack Pritchard was in New York yesterday, where he met with North Korea's Permanent Representative at the United Nations to make arrangements for bilateral talks. The meeting was, as you said, Matt, businesslike and useful as a beginning to the dialogue process.

Mr. Pritchard came back last night to Washington, and we do expect our discussions to continue, but I don't have any further details at this point. The meeting lasted somewhere around a little over two hours, I believe.

Q: And the Philippines. Any update on the Philippines?

MR. REEKER: There really is nothing additional to add at this point. We still have no confirmation that the reported murder of Mr. Sobero took place. We continue to work intensively with the Government of the Philippines in their ongoing investigation to ascertain the facts vis- à-vis this reported death.

Again, let me just repeat that we hold the Abu Sayyaf group responsible for the safety and welfare of all the people it is holding, including American citizens, and we again call for the safe, immediate and unconditional release of all these innocent people who are being held by this group.

Q: How do you feel about reports that the government has now decided not to try to negotiate with the rebels any more? They say that they are done talking.

MR. REEKER: There are lots and lots and reports out there, but let me just say, as I think we have made fairly clear, the Government of the Philippines has the lead in trying to secure the safe release of those being held. We are not going to second-guess them, and we remain in close touch with the Philippine Government on this matter.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 P.M.)

************************************************************ See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/ for all daily press briefings ************************************************************ To change your subscription, go to http://www.state.gov/www/listservs_cms.html Date sent: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 08:05:25 -0400 Send reply to: statelists@STATE.GOV From: PA List Manager Subject: June 14, 2001 Daily Press Briefing To: DOSBRIEF@LISTS.STATE.GOV

Daily Press Briefing Index Thursday, June 14, 2001

BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman

STATEMENT 1 Visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Tanaka

MEXICO 1-2 Arrest of Mexican Drug Kingpin Alcides Ramon Magana

MIDDLE EAST 2-5 Implementation of Work Plan Agreement / Assistant Secretary Burn's Travel / Mitchell Recommendations / George Tenet Whereabouts / U.S. Position on International Observers / Secretary Powell Contacts / Yassar Arafat Travel / Ambassador Indyk's Role

SYRIA/LEBANON 5 Redeployment of Syrian Troops Outside Beirut

IRAQ 5-10 US Funding for Iraqi National Congress / OIG Audit

ZIMBABWE 10-11 Restrictions on Foreign Journalists

AFGHANISTAN 11 World Food Program

EAST TIMOR 11-12 Displaced Persons

CHINA 12 Political Asylum for Zhang Hongbao

MACEDONIA 12-16 EU Diplomatic Initiatives / Lord Robertson / Mr. Solona / DAS James Swigert / President Trajkovski's Peace Plan / U.S. View of Rebels / U.S. View of NATO Peacekeeping Role / Donors Conference

RUSSIA 16 John Tobin

COLOMBIA 17-18 Environmental Impact of Coca Spraying / Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with the Colombian Foreign Minister / Colombians on Death Row in the US /

SUDAN 18-20 State Department Position on the Sudan Peace Act / US Contacts with Sudanese Opposition and Sudanese Government ALGERIA 19-20 Situation Update on Violence

YEMEN 20-21 Status of Embassy Operations

NORTH KOREA 20-21 Bilateral Talks

PHILIPPINES 21 Situation Update on Hostages

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB # 84

THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2001 1:35 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome back to the State Department. I do have a couple of things I would like to talk about. First, we will have written statements.

First of all, many of you have been very interested and we are pleased to announce the visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Tanaka. Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka will visit the United States June 16-18. She will have a bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Powell at the Department of State on Monday, June 18. This will be Minister Tanaka's first official visit to the United States as Foreign Minister and her first meeting with Secretary of State Powell.

So we will put out that written statement, and the Press Office will be able to get you information on how we will deal with coverage of that on Monday.

I believe there is some trouble with the sound system. I'm getting indications from the back that there is no sound. Any sound?

Q: It's low.

MR. REEKER: It's low? This is the guy you want to be waving at. I hope folks were able to get that, but we will put out the written version of that, too.

I would also like to note that we did put out last night a response to the question that we got during yesterday's briefing. I just didn't have information on the arrest of Mexican drug kingpin Alcides Ramon Magana. The United States wants to commend highly the Government of Mexico for its arrest on June 12 of Mr. Magana, known as "El Metro," widely believed to be a key figure in the notorious Juarez-based drug trafficking organization of the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

He was arrested in the city of Villahermosa, Mexico, and charged with drug, weapons, and other charges related to his suspected role as director of the southeastern operation of the Juarez-based group. Authorities have linked him to the former government of Quintana Roo state, Mario Villanueva, who was arrested, as you will recall, in May.

We just wanted to point out that the Government of Mexico has a made a number of important arrests in recent months that demonstrate the Fox administration's commitment to combating the international drug trade and to effective international cooperation. We likewise welcome the extradition of international drug trafficker Rafael Camarena Macias to the US, also on June 12.

So with that, I would be happy to cut to your questions. Q: Yesterday you were saying 48 hours or thereabouts could be critical for the peace process for the cease-fire follow-up. Can you follow up and tell us how it is going?

MR. REEKER: As I said, 48 hours, we think is critical. We are obviously still within that period. We have seen some evidence that the parties are going ahead with the aspects of the work plan, and I think right now I am going to refrain from any particular comment or judgment. Some measures take longer than others, so I am not going to comment on specifics. And I don't think anybody should draw any particular conclusions on an hour-by-hour basis. We have people on the ground obviously, waiting to report, and of course this is very much a work in progress.

Q: So has Assistant Secretary Burns returned, then?

MR. REEKER: In fact, Assistant Secretary Burns was in Brussels, as you know, with the Secretary and therefore the Secretary's meeting with Foreign Minister Peres. I believe he is going to come back to Washington. I think he probably heard your comments, Matt, worrying that he wasn't here in Washington, so he has decided to come back to Washington, I think today, from Brussels. So we expect him actually here in his office tomorrow.

On the ground in the region of course is Ambassador Indyk, Consul General Schlicher in Jerusalem, and they are with their teams monitoring developments on the ground and in close contact with Assistant Secretary Burns and with the Department and with the Secretary.

Q: So who is going to put in place the political aspects of the Mitchell recommendations?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think we will keep working with the parties through our people on the ground on developing the timeline for full implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report recommendations in all their aspects.

Q: Does Mr. Burns intend to go back soon?

MR. REEKER: I just don't have a readout on his future travel plans. All I got was an update from Brussels that he decided he would come back to Washington, and then he will look at his travel. We will do that one step at a time, as well.

Since we are talking about travel, just to confirm that Director of Central Intelligence Tenet departed the region, as we said yesterday, and returned to Washington last night. And I understand he is back at his desk today.

Q: What is the US position on international observers or somebody sort of to judge that both sides are implementing their agreement at this point?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything particular to say on that. What we are doing right now is looking in the initial phases for mutual steps on the ground to fulfill the immediate requirements of the work plan. As I said, we are not even through the first 48 hours so we are watching that closely, and I don't want to try to draw any particular judgments or make comments on steps at this point.

Q: Can I follow up? Would this be something that might be brought up in political conversations or the political discussions in terms of implementing the timeline?

MR. REEKER: I don't know.

Q: I understand that Secretary Powell made a number of phone calls yesterday to, I think, Chairman Arafat and the Prime Minister. Could you give us sort of a readout of those phone calls?

MR. REEKER: Sure. I have been on the phone with Ambassador Boucher, who of course is with the Secretary in Goteborg, Sweden, accompanying the President. The Secretary yesterday spoke with Kofi Annan, who you know is in the region. He spoke with Prime Minister Sharon twice, Chairman Arafat, President Mubarak of Egypt, and Foreign Minister Ivanov of the Russian Federation. That was yesterday. And I didn't have any update on any calls today. I know he has been participating obviously with the President in the US-EU summit activities there in Goteborg.

Q: Do you have any readout of those calls with Secretary Powell?

MR. REEKER: No, I don't.

Q: Was this sort of a follow-on to his meeting with the Foreign Minister?

MR. REEKER: He, as you know, has had regular contact with all of those individuals, as well as others, on the Middle East, being particularly engaged on this subject. He did meet with Foreign Minister Peres yesterday in Brussels for about 45 minutes, as I understand it, yesterday evening. I am told that Foreign Minister Peres began by offering his congratulations to the US and our team for the efforts made to achieve the work plan. And you have heard us talk about how pleased we are with that.

The Secretary, of course, emphasized the fact that the parties shouldn't lose the opportunity presented by this important agreement and said we needed a 100 percent effort from both parties. He echoed those sentiments, I know, in his phone calls as well to Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon, stressing again, as I just mentioned, the critical importance of action on the ground to achieve a cessation of violence and the return to normal life for people.

Then they spent much of their meeting discussing implementation of the Mitchell Report, the confidence-building measures that are called for under that report, and the eventual return to negotiations. As we discussed yesterday, the Secretary also discussed with the Prime Minister and agreed to work with the Foreign Minister and agreed to work together with the Europeans, with Russia, with Egypt, Jordan and others, in the international community to implement Mitchell recommendations in all their aspects.

Q: Is he going to have a similar meeting with Nabil Sha'ath? Is Secretary Powell going to have a similar meeting with Nabil Sha'ath when he is town next week?

MR. REEKER: I hadn't heard that, but we will have to wait for the Secretary to get back and look at his schedule next week.

Q: Are you aware of Yasser Arafat having been invited to Washington? Is he coming to Washington as a result of all this?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any particular travel plans of Mr. Arafat.

Q: Phil, in the work plan that Tenet got the two sides to agree to, it says that there will be weekly meetings, senior level security meetings. And after the one yesterday that Tenet was at, it says they will reconvene at least once a week with mandatory participation by designated senior officials.

I am just wondering if you can say, is Director Tenet the designated senior official for the US?

MR. REEKER: I am not going to comment on specifics of the plan, even though I know everybody has been reading versions from the Internet. I am just not going to comment on those.

Q: Okay. Well, is Director Tenet going to go back to the region to participate in security --

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to announce on Director Tenet's travel plans. We will keep you posted if he develops any.

Q: So who is going to represent the United States at the weekly meeting?

MR. REEKER: I am not going to get into the specifics on the plan or weekly meetings.

Q: Phil, it's fantasy to think that no one knows what is in the plan. I mean --

MR. REEKER: I am not suggesting that, Matt. I have watched you read it. I have read it myself. I just have nothing to add for you at this point. You can continue with your own fantasies as much as you want.

Q: But that is the least innocuous of anything that is in here, and you can't say anything about it?

MR. REEKER: I am glad that is your analysis. I am not going to make comments on the plan or specifics of it at this point, as I said. We'll let you two debate that topic there, and we'll go on to Eli.

Q: This is going to be a strange question but --

MR. REEKER: A strange question?

Q: Is Ambassador Indyk now leading -- sort of the top guy leading US diplomacy now in the region now that Burns is coming back? And if so - - well, let me ask you, first, that.

MR. REEKER: Ambassador Indyk is the United States Ambassador to Israel. He has been a key figure in terms of this process. He is in Tel Aviv. Our Consul General is in Jerusalem. They continue to monitor developments on the ground, remain in close contact with Assistant Secretary Burns, whose most immediate travel I have tried to describe to you. We need to take Assistant Secretary Burns' travel one step at a time. I can't look into the future and describe what he might do in another day or two days hence. So we will keep working this. There are telephones, there are sophisticated methods of communication, and we will certainly be reading your wire.

Q: And as a follow-up, I mean, is he -- he had his security clearance at one point temporarily taken away, and I guess he has now gotten it back. What is happening --

MR. REEKER: That was quite a while ago.

Q: Is that resolved, though, at this point now that --

MR. REEKER: I would have to check into that. He has had a critical role for a long time now.

Q: Just moving a little bit north of there, do you have anything to say about the redeployment of Syrian troops outside of Beirut, or is this something that you don't want to talk about? Have you noticed it?

MR. REEKER: We have seen several limited redeployments in the past year and I am told we are obviously going to continue following developments in Lebanon closely. So I don't have anything particular to add on that.

Q: Can we go east to Iraq? Can you tell us about this $6 million that you're asking for for the INC? The other day we were told that --

MR. REEKER: I don't know if it is a question of asking for $6 million. It is about notification of an additional $6 million under the money that is already there.

As you know and as we have discussed numerous times, we continue to cooperate closely with the House of Representatives and the Senate in our joint efforts to support the Iraqi National Congress and other elements of the Iraqi opposition to strengthen their efforts to represent the true voice of the Iraqi people. So as part of this close cooperation, the Department is sending to Congress a notification that we will allocate additional funds in support of the Iraqi National Congress. As you noted, the notification is for up to $6 million. And what it is technically is a notification to Congress of an intent to obligate money for interim funding while we continue discussions with Iraqi National Congress on their programs and activities.

I think as you know, the INC has previously received grants totaling close to $4.3 million using these funds in organizational capacity building, media and public diplomacy activities, gathering of information on war crimes, et cetera.

Q: Will this money be disbursed before the audit is complete?

MR. REEKER: We anticipate that the new money will be used to continue the programs already ongoing under the current grant agreement -- overhead, costs for offices, staff, media operations, things like that.

I guess what you are referring to is the Office of Inspector General's audit of grants and contracts. And as Ambassador Boucher said a couple of days ago, this is very much a routine audit. This is the kind of thing that goes on. It is therefore routine that a grantee, like the Iraqi National Congress, would continue to receive funding and support while the audit is being performed because, as we said, the goal of the audit and the expectation of the audit is to provide us then with recommendations on how to improve the Iraqi National Congress's management of its programs and accounts, and anticipate that that will actually enhance more their ability to --

Q: You haven't answered the question, though. The question was will this money be disbursed to the INC before the audit is complete. You seem to be saying -- want to say yes, but you didn't --

MR. REEKER: Well, I can't tell you when the audit is going to be complete, first of all. That is up to the Inspector General, and the Inspector General --

Q: I mean, is the audit in any way an obstacle to the disbursement of the --

MR. REEKER: No. There we go. We answered your question. No. I thought that was pretty clear, Jonathan.

Q: So this is simply the money that when -- that was explained to us to help them keep going while the audit is being done and while the other money, or other additional money, is suspended?

MR. REEKER: Right. As you know, there is a pot of money and it gets drawn upon, and we notify Congress when we intend to obligate the money, thereby drawing upon that money.

Q: Where does this pot of money come from?

Q: Under the rainbow.

(Laughter.)

Q: No, but how much was approved when -- excuse my ignorance.

MR. REEKER: We would have to go back. We have been over this so many times here, Jonathan.

Q: No, we haven't.

MR. REEKER: Yes, we have. We have discussed the Iraq Liberation Act and the funds that were --

Q: You mean this is part of the 1997 milieu, then, or the '98 milieu?

Q: Yes, it is.

Q: It's not. It's not.

MR. REEKER: I will have to go and check on that for you.

Q: Isn't it true that this money is not for use inside Iraq?

MR. REEKER: I would have to check. This money, the 6 million we're talking about, I think is a continuation of the programs that they have had under their current grant agreement -- overhead costs, as I said, offices, staff, media operations.

Q: So then, as it stands now, the INC is not allowed to spend any of this money inside the country; is that correct?

MR. REEKER: I know that some funds have been used for gathering information on regime war crimes and human rights abuses and engaging in diplomatic contacts with regional governments and international organizations. So I would have to go back to the original grant and get you the details on what that specifies.

Q: I just want to make sure I am absolutely clear on this. When the audit began, in general, money to the INC -- funding for them -- was suspended, right, pending the completion of the audit? And at the same time, I remember Richard -- I think it was Richard -- saying that you were looking into ways to help them keep the ship afloat while that was going on.

I just want to make sure, this money that you're talking about now is that money that he was --

MR. REEKER: This will help them do that.

Q: That he was talking about before?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I don't think he was talking about specific money. With that said, we were looking at ways --

Q: This is a way?

MR. REEKER: This will do that. In terms of using the audit for how they can improve their management of programs, their accounting procedures, that should be very useful in then looking ahead even further in what we will do in terms of cooperation with them.

Q: So this money is not necessarily going to go for new programs such as transmitting programs into Iraq via satellite or humanitarian aid efforts or that sort of thing, or is this just going to go for paying salaries and phone bills and --

MR. REEKER: As I understand it, this money will go to continue programs already ongoing under the current grant agreement. And funds under that grant agreement have been used for a variety of activities, like organizational capacity building, public diplomacy activities, media activities, gathering information, that type of thing.

Q: You said audit was sort of regular or routine. Was it because -- was it envisioned from the beginning of the program, or was it initiated because there was like some fraud or mishandling of money?

MR. REEKER: Well, the Office of the Inspector General does reviews on a very regular basis on contracts and grants that are awarded by the Department. It is a very regular and normal thing. "Routine" is the word that we have used.

Having worked in the field where our posts may oversee these grants, I am quite familiar with those types of audits, to look at the grant and make sure that proper practices are being observed and to make recommendations where things could be improved, because we are always looking to make the programs better.

So while those go on, it is very routine for the program to go on, for that grant to continue in its activity so the grantee, in this case the Iraqi National Congress, to continue receiving funding and support while the audit is being conducted.

Q: So there was no wrongdoing by them that --

MR. REEKER: No one has suggested wrongdoing. It is simply a review of implementation of this grant, and it includes all kinds of things like accounting practices, bookkeeping, et cetera.

Q: Can I follow up on that? Isn't this the second audit? I mean, wasn't there a -- like this routine audit happened and some irregularities were found, which kicked it over to the Inspector General's Office, which primarily investigates abuse and fraud and waste and things like that?

MR. REEKER: I would have to go back and check. That is not correct. The Inspector General's Office is not charged with primarily investigating abuse and fraud.

Q: Well, that is what is says on the website.

MR. REEKER: They do investigations to look for such things. There is no suggestion by having an audit or an inspection by the OIG, the Office of the Inspector General, that such things have taken place. They inspect operations, bureaus, embassies, consulates, offices within the Department. That is why we have an Office of the Inspector General.

But to characterize it as you did that that indicated suspicion or anything like that, that would not be correct.

Q: Weren't there some irregularities found in the first audit, which then demanded that the Inspector General take a second audit? I guess that's my question.

MR. REEKER: That I am not sure of. I would have to go back and check what the genesis was. I would be happy to look into it.

Q: If I could also add, if there is any way to -- I recognize you don't know this now, but just to give us a sense as to how many audits the IG does and --

MR. REEKER: They put out a report every year, I think, that lists --

Q: With all of their -- and how long? Like what the average length of an audit would be?

MR. REEKER: That might be extremely different because they run so many different types of audits -- small grants, giant things.

Q: I mean of this nature, of a similar size grant, how long do these types of audits take, just to kind of get a sense as to how long the money --

MR. REEKER: I'll see if they want to do that. They don't comment on their things, and I don't think they will want to give you things to try to compare and contrast audits because then you will inevitably try to create some impression out of timing which may have no relevance to the actual situation. So we'll look into it.

Q: Will this be public when it's over?

MR. REEKER: Generally, I don't know that OIG reports are made public. Aspects of them may be. I'll look into that. I can't recall, Chuck, if when we talked about it before -- I would have to go back and look. I know there is usually an unclassified inspection report of certain inspections. I just have to check in with the OIG's office and see what they can tell me on that.

Q: Isn't an audit, by definition, done to see if there are any irregularities?

MR. REEKER: Yes.

Q: Because you are unsure of their management practices?

MR. REEKER: I think then you would have to say they were unsure of all management practices. Audits are done as a positive -- in a proactive, positive approach.

Q: You're giving them another $6 million when you're not sure whether they're managing it correctly.

MR. REEKER: Matt, when what you are trying to do is look for ways to make a grant even more effective and accounts, you don't just halt everything in the world. There is no indication that there is a problem here. What this is is a routine audit. While that audit is ongoing, obviously it would be routine that a grantee would continue to receive the funding and support. And they will perform the audit, and we hope that that will provide us with recommendations. That is what the results of an audit usually are: here are some recommendations on how to improve their management, programs of accounts, how we can then work more effectively together.

Q: So you give them 6 million to waste on however you --

MR. REEKER: That is an entirely irresponsible comment, Matt. There is no suggestion of that whatsoever. And to suggest that, I totally take --

Q: I was led to believe earlier -- was it Monday -- that funding to the INC had been suspended pending the end of the audit.

MR. REEKER: In terms of taking on new grants, Matt. In terms of taking on new projects. And what we will do in the future with the INC, we will obviously wait until we move ahead and have a better vision. In fact, the audit should help us with that because we can make recommendations from that on how we can use the money better. There is no suggestion that the grant, the existing grant, would stop.

Enough on that? No, George has another one.

Q: Do you have something on the new restrictions that the Government of Zimbabwe has imposed on foreign journalists?

MR. REEKER: Are you sure we want to leave Iraq? We're going to. A new question here on the Government of Zimbabwe.

We have seen those, and I would just note the Government of Zimbabwe announced yesterday that new accreditation rules for foreign journalists, clearly aimed at limiting the access of the international media to Zimbabwe, have been put into place. Specifically, I believe journalists have to seek accreditation at least one month in advance before traveling to Zimbabwe, whereas previously journalists were able to apply for accreditation upon arrival in the country.

I think in light of other government actions against the media, including expulsion of foreign journalists earlier this year, which we talked about, and continuing statements by the government against the independent media, it appears that the Government of Zimbabwe wants very much to limit media reporting on what goes on inside Zimbabwe. We find this new development particularly troubling in view of the presidential election slated to occur in the first quarter of next year, 2002.

So our message to the Government of Zimbabwe is very clear: violence and intimidation must end. We have repeatedly condemned the Zimbabwean Government's attacks on the independent media, as well as attacks on the judiciary, the opposition, and the opposition supporters. So we call on the Government of Zimbabwe to return to the rule of law and respect the rights of its citizens.

Q: Do you have any comment on the World Food Program deciding to stop distribution of bread in Afghanistan because of the laws which forbid women from working? That is where all our money goes, I believe.

MR. REEKER: I know we have discussed that a bit previously. I wasn't aware that the final decision had been taken on that, so I will have to check into that and see if we have details and updates on that.

Q: Did you get an answer to the question I had about East Timor yesterday?

MR. REEKER: I did, in fact. I was able to check in with our people in the East Asian Affairs Bureau. I guess what you were referring to was about a week ago, June 6 and 7, displaced persons remaining in West Timor were asked by Indonesian Government authorities --

Q: I thought it was just made official the other day. It was just certified.

MR. REEKER: Thank you. Okay.

Q: Well, you made it sound as if I'm asking a question about something that happened a week ago.

MR. REEKER: Well, if you let me finish the sentence, Matt, then maybe we could get somewhere.

Displaced persons remaining in West Timor were asked by the Indonesia Government authorities to indicate whether they wished to return to East Timor or resettle in Indonesia. Among these persons are former civil servants of the Indonesian administration in East Timor and those associated with Indonesian security forces and East Timorese.

As we understand it, a total of ten countries sent a representative to observe the process, as did the UN transitional administration in East Timor and the UN International Organization for Migration. This number had a very limited ability obviously to effectively monitor the process.

There were reports of some intimidation and confusion in connection with the process, and questions have been raised about the validity of the results. I think for us, we believe it is crucial that the Indonesian Government and relevant international organizations work to facilitate an accelerated and secure repatriation of those who choose to return to East Timor. We look to the Government of Indonesia, then, to assist those remaining in Indonesia to find new homes as quickly as possible.

Q: But you guys yourselves don't have any comment on whether the result of the process was legitimate or not?

MR. REEKER: Well, I said there were reports of some intimidation. There seemed to be some confusion about the process. All the process was simply some figures to look at, and I suggested to you the various people that were taking part in that process.

The bottom line is that it is very important that the Indonesian authorities work together with the international organizations to facilitate the ability of those that want to be repatriated to East Timor, the ability of them to do so. For those who choose to remain, then Indonesia has an obligation to assist them in finding new homes as quickly as possible. But obviously the choices will be for the individuals to make.

Q: Can you say anything about the case of Mr. Zhang, of the Zhong Gong? Excuse my Chinese accent.

MR. REEKER: Maybe Matt would like to help you, or Andrea speaks Chinese.

Q: Who is reported to have obtained political asylum from the United States.

MR. REEKER: Saw the reports. And as you know, we don't discuss cases of political asylum.

Q: Sometimes you do.

MR. REEKER: Not this time.

Q: Two questions on two separate issues. Do you have anything new today on Macedonia?

MR. REEKER: Let's talk a little bit about Macedonia. I know you have been following what the President has been saying, and I will leave that obviously for your colleagues traveling with him to cover.

We strongly support the efforts of Lord Robertson and the EU High Representative Mr. Solana who were in Skopje today, along with our Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Swigert. He is back in Skopje, having been in Brussels for the meeting between Lord Robertson and Mr. Solana and Secretary Powell yesterday in Brussels. Swigert is also very much a part of these talks with Macedonian Government and party officials.

So we are very much unified, as the President indicated, with our allies in NATO and with the European Union in our support for the Macedonian Government in their efforts to find a political solution to the problems in Macedonia, as well as being very unified in our stance against extremist violence.

We have unified support for the comprehensive plan put forward by President Trajkovski. The president's plan calls for disarmament and withdrawal of the extremists. We think that is very important. I would note that the Macedonian Government has agreed to an extension of the period of military restraint while the political dialogue is ongoing, and we welcome this very positive step even though there is ongoing extremist violence and provocations. We certainly call upon the extremists, as we have, to stop the violence and to respect the restraint of the government and an end to all violence.

I would also note that the party leaders began today in Ohrid, Macedonia, an extended session of the interethnic dialogue that they are pursuing. We strongly encourage concrete results from that dialogue to produce a package of agreed political reforms. Mr. Swigert is in Ohrid. Not a formal part of the dialogue, but there to help support, offer ideas as necessary.

As I have said, there is no justification for the extremist violent actions which have continued in spite of their own pledges of a cease- fire. They have got to get with the plan, which is a very sensible plan put forward by President Trajkovski, the democratically elected president of Macedonia, who had multiethnic support, strong multiethnic support in his election as president.

Ostensible political demands of the rebel groups are being addressed through a political process, and there is active engagement from the international community. I also note that the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers, just departed Skopje today. He had a visit down there, and I believe released a statement also reflecting our strong support for Macedonia's leaders and Macedonian democracy.

Q: In urging the Macedonian Government to move ahead with political reform, would you choose to use any kind of a time frame -- like urgently, immediately, as soon as possible? Is there any kind of a deadline out there? I mean, obviously they are discussing it.

MR. REEKER: We don't set deadlines. It is clearly something that is a very important thing. It is not for us to set deadlines. But I think all the people in Macedonia need to -- are strongly in support of moving quickly, that there needs to be action on this. We have seen these extremist provocations and violence, we have seen deaths of innocent people, we have seen civilians displaced from their homes, we have seen others held against their will, we have seen the inability of international organizations like the Red Cross to deliver aid and assistance. That has got to end. Macedonia has a tradition now of being a democracy with well-functioning institutions that can address these types of issues.

And I think going to Ohrid, meeting in intensive session to have this interethnic dialogue, is very important, and they need to come up with a package of agreed political reforms to move ahead on. Changes don't take place overnight. It takes time to work these things through a democracy, but we need to see that there are some positive steps that can be taken to address these issues.

Q: When you say that the political demands of the rebel groups are being addressed through a political process, are you saying essentially that the moderate Albanians who are engaged in this process are doing the biddings of the radical groups?

MR. REEKER: No, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is the armed extremist groups have suggested that they have political demands, and as part of their statements they have made these ostensible political demands. That is what is already being addressed. You don't need to have arms and be shooting at people and disrupting the life of the nation to address these political issues, what are essentially political issues.

And at the same time they issue these political demands, they also call for a cease-fire which they themselves continue to violate. So there is no justification for extremist violent actions which have continued, as I said, despite their pledges. They need to look carefully at the Trajkovski plan; disarm; withdraw from places, particularly beginning with towns like Aracinovo which they occupied recently near Skopje; and allow, as the Trajkovski plan calls for, a reintegration of people into society so that they can use the existing political structures, the institutions of Macedonian democracy, to pursue these issues.

Q: But the US position is still the same, that these armed rebel groups have no place at any kind of dialogue?

MR. REEKER: That's right. Armed rebel groups have no place at the table. What is going on in Ohrid is an unarmed dialogue between legitimate political representatives.

Q: Lots of calls from all sides, including the ruthless thugs of the NLA and the Government of Macedonia, for a NATO role in some kind of peacekeeping force, and it's very possible that in these Ohrid talks this will play a part.

What position does the United States take on this proposal?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think President Bush addressed this yesterday, and he said --

Q: I believe just about everybody in the world, apart from you, is in favor of it.

MR. REEKER: President Bush addressed this yesterday, and we support NATO playing a more visible and active role in helping the Government of Macedonia to counter the insurgency. The US and the EU and NATO have greatly intensified our relationship in Macedonia. As I said, we are supporting President Trajkovski's plan. NATO is considering how best to support the implementation of Trajkovski's plan. We have discussed how KFOR has been tightening its controls on the border, and together with NATO and with the EU, we are working closely with the Macedonian Government.

Our focus is on achieving a political settlement. That is what they're looking at as the Macedonian leaders meet in Ohrid, not on deploying international forces at this time. Obviously we look forward to discussing with Lord Robertson what NATO can do, what more NATO can do, to support resolution of the crisis.

Q: Well, I was talking about NATO deployments under -- as part of a political --

MR. REEKER: Well, it's a little premature because there is no political agreement now, Jonathan.

Q: Can I stay in the region? Does Swigert's portfolio include all the Balkans?

MR. REEKER: Deputy Assistant Secretary Swigert is the Deputy Assistant Secretary within the Bureau of European Affairs who has focused on the Balkans.

Q: Does he or anyone else -- senior official from that bureau -- plan to go to Belgrade any time soon to explain to them that you still don't think they made enough progress in cooperating with the tribunal, considering the vote on Monday against the funding at the IMF and then -- isn't that donors conference supposed to be soon?

Q: The 29th.

MR. REEKER: I would hazard to say, Matt, that our Ambassador is Belgrade is quite capable of delivering that message. And we have --

Q: Well, yes, but sometimes if you want to emphasize something, you send someone out from D.C.

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any plans at this point for anybody to travel to Belgrade.

Q: Do you know if Swigert is coming back to the States after --

MR. REEKER: I don't have a readout on Swigert's travel plans at this point. He is in Macedonia. I expect him to come back to Washington at some point.

Q: The donors conference. Has a decision been made on whether you are going to attend?

MR. REEKER: No. As you note, so that those of you not familiar with Matt's ramblings, the US has always maintained that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has to meet its obligations toward full cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal for Yugoslavia, and it is Yugoslavia's responsibility to ensure that its domestic laws allow for this obligation. So there are many aspects to cooperation, and Yugoslav authorites are aware of the tribunal's authorities. We are in close touch with the Yugoslavs on these issues, and we would certainly welcome any steps that they take to meet their international obligations.

Q: On Russia, do you have any update on Jack Tobin's attempts to (inaudible)?

MR. REEKER: Well, as you will recall, the appeals court judge in Veronezh, Russia, on June 7, dismissed the charge of possession of an illegal substance with intent to distribute. That had been one of the more serious charges with which he had been charged. His sentence was reduced accordingly to one year, less time served.

We said at the time of course that we are pleased with this result, which we believe reflected positively on the Russian judicial system. We would expect that Mr. Tobin and his attorney are exploring all available options in the wake of the appeals ruling, and we are waiting to see what next steps may be --

Q: The amnesty was expected to be given around June 12 or around this week.

MR. REEKER: We had heard those same rumors that there was some national amnesty planned in Russia on their national day, I think is what prompted the rumor of the 12th. The Russian Government, to our knowledge, has made no such announcement. So any questions about what they may plan to do in terms of amnesties or other actions should be directed to the Russians.

Q: Does the Administration believe that Mr. Tobin got a fair trial?

MR. REEKER: I think we have seen a process that was run according to Russian law. We have seen a reduction of his sentence based on the appeal and the dismissal of the charges. So while the continuing action in that case is continuing, if that makes any sense, I don't want to particularly comment or make any particular judgments about it.

However, I think that the appeals process and the dismissal of that charge did reflect positively on the Russian judicial system.

Q: Why is it that you don't want to comment on this now when, during the Ed Pope case, you all were quite vocal about what you thought about the Russian Government's verdict?

MR. REEKER: Because I have chosen not to.

Q: Phil, a few weeks ago, the Minister of the Environment in Colombia authored a resolution that takes the anti-narcotics police to task for not providing enough or sufficient information on the environmental impact of spraying in Colombia. And in an interview on Friday, the Environment Minister told us that theoretically any Colombian armed with the resolution could take the anti-narcotics police to court in an effort to try to halt the spraying.

In light of the resolution and the ongoing protest in Tibu over spraying, I am wondering, is the United States concerned at all about the future of spraying in Colombia?

MR. REEKER: That sounds like really a question that involves a lot of details of domestic Colombian issues, and I think you would be best directed to continue focusing there. I don't have anything for you particularly on that. I think we have addressed the issue of spraying in the past.

You or somebody asked yesterday -- and apologies if --

Q: It was last Friday, and you were supposed to have something for me this week.

MR. REEKER: Do we have anything, Chuck? No, I think we will have to continue looking at the bureau. I don't think it is something we would necessarily have a particular comment on. As I said, it sounds very much like an issue of domestic interest in Colombia.

Somebody asked -- and I apologize if it wasn't you -- but somebody yesterday asked for a readout on the Deputy Secretary's meeting yesterday with -- pardon me, two days ago, on the 12th of June -- with the Colombian Foreign Minister, and I did check into that.

Deputy Secretary Armitage did meet with Colombia Foreign Minister Fernandez Desoto on June 12. They had a constructive and upbeat meeting and discussed issues like the state of the Colombian peace process, recent Government of Colombia successes against paramilitaries, international support for Colombia, renewal of the Andean Trade Preferences Act, progress on Plan Colombia implementation, and Andean regional issues.

Q: Just as a follow-up, the United States doesn't have an interest in spraying in Colombia? It's a domestic issue?

MR. REEKER: We certainly do in the context of our counter-narcotics programs that we cooperate on with Colombia, and I would be happy to continue checking into that. I don't have anything for you on that, and I think you really need to address the question to the bureau and we'll try to get you answers if there is something we want to say about it.

Q: Excuse me, it's about the same thing.

MR. REEKER: Okay, let's stick with that and then we'll come back to Eli.

Q: I'm sorry.

MR. REEKER: No, go ahead, please.

Q: Yes. I just want to know if in that meeting you are going to plan to examine the cases of Colombians on death row in the United States. I knew that our Minister Foreign spoke with the Secretary about that.

MR. REEKER: I do understand that they spoke about specific cases of Colombian nationals convicted in US courts, but I don't have anything to say on specific individual cases.

Q: Yesterday the House passed by an overwhelming margin the Sudan Peace Act, which would require foreign companies that do business with the government in Khartoum to disclose that through the SEC. Does the State Department have a position on this? Does the Administration have a position on this?

MR. REEKER: Well, you know we have discussed Sudan quite a lot in recent weeks and months. The Secretary of State himself has had a lot to say about it. And you know that we consider the Sudan Peace Act an important piece of legislation that addresses what the Secretary has called perhaps the greatest human tragedy in the world today.

What we see happening in Sudan in terms of bombing of innocent civilians by government aircraft, Khartoum's tolerance for slave raiding, the denial of religious freedom, the uprooting of thousands of civilians by continued military actions on both sides -- these all shock all persons of conscience, and therefore we share the outrage that is expressed in the Sudan Peace Act and join in the call for the peaceful end to the conflict. We support very generally the aims of H.R. 2052, which is the Sudan Peace Act. As you know, we currently have some sanctions in place which prohibit US companies from participating in development in the Sudanese oil sector since November of '97.

In reference to your specific mention of the disclosure requirements that are under there, I believe some of those disclosure requirements would undermine the independence and prerogative of the Securities and Exchange Commission to determine the nature and definition of information that is material to the investor. So you might want to check with the SEC to see if they have something on that.

Q: Just to clarify, you generally support the Sudan Peace Act but this disclosure requirement for companies --

MR. REEKER: There may be some amendments to it that we are troubled by, and we need to look at those amendments.

Q: I mean, I don't want to belabor it --

MR. REEKER: I'm sure you don't, Eli. No, I'm sure you don't.

Q: The tolerance for slave raiding and all this over stuff -- I mean, the government is enriched in some ways, right, or at least its oil sector is enriched by foreign companies.

MR. REEKER: As you know, Eli, we currently have sanctions which prohibit US companies from participating in development in the Sudanese oil sector. Those have been in place since '97, as I told you.

Q: You talked to Sudanese Al-Uma party leader, Sadiq Al-Mahdi, who is here in Washington. And there are reports that you have paid $3 million for (inaudible) some other opposition factor in Sudan. Are you talking to the Sudanese Government as well, especially there is a sort of, you know, the United States recognize Sudan as the legitimate government, they have an embassy here. Are you talking to the government?

MR. REEKER: We do talk to the Sudanese Government. Yes, we do talk to the Sudanese Government. We have an embassy in Khartoum. They have an embassy here. We have made very clear to Sudan our positions in terms of the things I just described and the great concern we have about the human tragedy that is taking place in Sudan, which as the Secretary described, is perhaps the greatest human tragedy in the world today.

Q: Did they clarify their position that there is no slavery in Sudan, that slavery is not an institutionalized --

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to add for you. I'll let you get their positions from them.

Q: Going back to the law, do you know, did the SEC come to you or come to the legal department to say that this provision might be -- might infringe on their --

MR. REEKER: No, I would let you ask the SEC about that more specifically. I just noted that people have noted that that has been of concern. I don't think that is any particular news. I think that has been discussed.

Q: Well, it's news to me. I mean, this was an objection raised by the State Department?

MR. REEKER: I'm not suggesting that necessarily. I am suggesting that that is an item of concern that needs to be looked at. And I'll be happy to look back if we have specific things, additional things to say about it.

Q: Another country?

MR. REEKER: Another country.

Q: Another country we never talk about -- Algeria.

Q: More on Sudan.

MR. REEKER: They are relatively close, so we will finish Sudan and then we'll go to Algeria.

Q: I want to clarify. Did the United States pay $3 million for Al- Mahdi? --

MR. REEKER: I don't even know what you are talking about. So if you can talk to Chuck afterwards so we can get the specific question, we can try to ask and find out. It is just not something I had ever heard about or that I am aware of. So please make sure you stay, though, and ask because people sometimes ask these questions and disappear, and we don't know what to check into.

We were going back to Jonathan. Algeria.

Q: Yes. You never tell us anything about Algeria because we never ask, but I thought it was probably time. There is more trouble today, several people killed in demonstrations in Algiers in connection with political rights.

MR. REEKER: Because you never ask, I didn't check. So I will have to go and check into it.

Q: I thought -- I was told that you had something to say on the subject. Obviously there has been a miscommunication somewhere along the line.

MR. REEKER: I suppose you could have mentioned it to me in one of the times we have spoken today.

Q: Is the situation in Yemen still the same -- no changes with the Embassy?

MR. REEKER: Right, no changes in Yemen. It is a weekend in Yemen. As you know, Thursday, Friday is their weekend, and they will explore whether to reopen on Saturday.

Q: And I couldn't help but noticing the description of Deputy Secretary Armitage's meeting with the Colombian Foreign Minister as constructive and upbeat, and comparing that with the words last night with the North Korean meeting, which were, I believe, businesslike and useful.

MR. REEKER: Your point?

Q: My point is, do you have anything more to say -- to add to that rather meager description of the North Korean meeting?

MR. REEKER: Meek and meager is how I feel right now. I don't really have anything to add to I think what we tried to get to all of you yesterday. As you know, Special Envoy Jack Pritchard was in New York yesterday, where he met with North Korea's Permanent Representative at the United Nations to make arrangements for bilateral talks. The meeting was, as you said, Matt, businesslike and useful as a beginning to the dialogue process.

Mr. Pritchard came back last night to Washington, and we do expect our discussions to continue, but I don't have any further details at this point. The meeting lasted somewhere around a little over two hours, I believe.

Q: And the Philippines. Any update on the Philippines?

MR. REEKER: There really is nothing additional to add at this point. We still have no confirmation that the reported murder of Mr. Sobero took place. We continue to work intensively with the Government of the Philippines in their ongoing investigation to ascertain the facts vis- à-vis this reported death.

Again, let me just repeat that we hold the Abu Sayyaf group responsible for the safety and welfare of all the people it is holding, including American citizens, and we again call for the safe, immediate and unconditional release of all these innocent people who are being held by this group.

Q: How do you feel about reports that the government has now decided not to try to negotiate with the rebels any more? They say that they are done talking.

MR. REEKER: There are lots and lots and reports out there, but let me just say, as I think we have made fairly clear, the Government of the Philippines has the lead in trying to secure the safe release of those being held. We are not going to second-guess them, and we remain in close touch with the Philippine Government on this matter.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 P.M.)


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