State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 30, 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, July 30, 2001
BRIEFER: Charles F. Hunter, Acting Spokesman
STATEMENT 1 Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund
COLOMBIA 1-3 Coca Spraying and Plan Colombia
RUSSIA 3-4 Missile Defense/ NSA Director Rice Talks
MACEDONIA 4-6 Situation Update/ Cease-Fire Talks 10 Travel Warning
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 6-7 Situation Update
PAKISTAN 7-8 A/S Rocca's Trip/ Meeting with Taliban Representative
CHINA 8-10 Secretary Powell's Meeting / Press Conference Transcripts
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 108
MONDAY, JULY 30, 2001, 1:10 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. HUNTER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to the State Department Briefing Room after what I hope was a good weekend for all of you.
I would like to begin with a short statement on assistance to refugees. This past Thursday, July 26th, President Bush used his emergency authority to authorize the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration the use of an additional $27 million from his Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to respond to unexpected and urgent humanitarian emergencies in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Eritrea and Afghanistan.
From that amount, $12 million will be used to meet emergency needs of refugees and host communities affected by the conflict in southern Guinea. We expect to use $3.5 million to enable the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and nongovernmental organizations working with the High Commissioner to meet unexpected and urgent needs associated with the repatriation and reintegration of Eritrean refugees from Sudan to Eritrea. Another $6.5 million will help address the needs of displaced Afghans in the South Asian region, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. And the balance of the fund, $5 million, will be on reserve on a contingency basis in order to allow for immediate US response to unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs.
The United States continues to believe that the protection and care of refugees, displaced persons, conflict victims and other persons at risk, and the pursuit of permanent solutions for humanitarian crises are a shared international responsibility and we call on other donors to be generous in supporting the programs of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. And we will make the full text of that statement available to you following the briefing.
And, with that, I would be happy to take your questions, starting with Reuters, the senior agency present.
QUESTION: Yes. Do you have any comment on the Colombian court decision to suspend spraying of coca plantations in Colombia and what affect will this have on the US-backed program?
MR. HUNTER: We understand that aerial spraying has been temporarily suspended while Colombian legal experts examine the legal basis of the injunction. The Colombian National Police wish to be sure that they act in accordance with the law and with legal requirements, and they expect to resume spraying as soon as legal experts clarify that injunction.
As you know, aerial spraying is a key component of our counter- narcotics efforts under Plan Colombia, in conjunction with increased alternative developments and interdiction activities in the region. The Colombian National Police were spraying major illicit drug cultivations all over the country. Since this past December, they have sprayed approximately 50,000 hectares or about 120,000 acres of coca.
Now, I should point out that there have been some allegations recently in the press that the herbicide being used in that spraying, glyphosate, has resulted in health side effects to the exposed populations. But I would like to point out that aerial spraying of illicit drug crops has been carried out on a continuing basis in various departments of Colombia for more than 10 years without any apparent ill effects on the health of the population in these areas. This particular herbicide is one of the least harmful available on the world market. It is used throughout the United States and in over 100 other countries, and has been rigorously tested for safety with respect to animals and humans. And the exhaustive body of scientific literature shows that it is not a health risk.
That said, we nonetheless feel compelled to probe assertions that it is making people sick in Colombia, and so our embassy, with assistance from the regional Environmental Protection Agency representative, is sponsoring a study on the issue. In addition to that, an embassy- contracted physician, who is Colombia's leading toxicologist, has completed an evaluation and treatment of several hundred individuals in Putumayo, and that was on June 20th that he completed those processes. His report, however, is not yet complete on the results of those examinations.
But the same physician has completed a similar study in the Narino Department in May, considering the same type of health problems as have been alleged in Putumayo, and he found that the cases that he reviewed were inconsistent with glyphosate exposure, and that in fact many of the cases had been reported well before any aerial spraying was conducted in the area.
So we feel, in short, that this shows once again that this herbicide is safe, and that its use is appropriate with regard to the spraying. The police are taking the appropriate steps based on the court decision, but spraying obviously is an important component in the fight against coca in the region.
QUESTION: Can I just have a quick follow-up on that?
MR. HUNTER: Please.
QUESTION: I think you said -- I just wanted to double check -- that the spraying was suspended; the police had suspended the spraying.
MR. HUNTER: That is our understanding.
QUESTION: Have they told you that --?
MR. HUNTER: It is our understanding that spraying has been suspended temporarily.
QUESTION: It's your understanding?
MR. HUNTER: That is correct.
QUESTION: And it is also your understanding that they have committed themselves to suspend spraying until another court or until this court issues a ruling to -- otherwise?
MR. HUNTER: The police are seeking clarifications of that injunction, exactly what it will mean for the program, we will leave it to them to pursue those clarifications and to take steps as appropriate.
QUESTION: Can you say -- you didn't answer the question of what affect this would have if it were prolonged. Is this a serious setback for the US-backed eradication program?
MR. HUNTER: It is a decision that has just come down. We will leave it for the future to see how long that suspension may go on. As I did indicate, spraying is a key component of our counter-narcotics effort.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? In addition to the suspending of spraying, you also have a suspension of the aerial interdiction program. So can you say in total, I mean, there are several aspects of the program that are suspended now. Are you concerned that there might be an increase in growth in trafficking?
MR. HUNTER: I am not prepared at this point to give an overall assessment of what impact various steps that have been taken in recent months may have had on the program which nonetheless, I think, everyone has agreement on -- is in agreement on the importance of regarding the Andean Regional Initiative and Plan Colombia.
QUESTION: Forgive me if this has been covered; I've been away for a while. What is the latest on the aerial interdiction? Is the report - - there was a report under preparation. Is that --?
MR. HUNTER: The report is still under preparation. We expect it to be ready for release in the very near future but I don't have a date for you.
QUESTION: I was going to ask you -- I've been away, same caveat. I've been away.
I understand the Russians are suggesting these arms talks, mix of offense/defense, should be broadened to include those so-called states, rogue states, the US claims are the cause of the concern and requiring a missile defense, North Korea, Iran. Is there a US position on broadening the talks that you know of?
MR. HUNTER: I don't have anything to announce for you today. As you know, the National Security Advisor, Dr. Rice, had conversations on that topic with the Russians this past week, which she has given some readouts of, including over the weekend on television. I would refer you to her comments.
QUESTION: On Macedonia, can you talk about the latest, where you stand on talks, and the security situation as far as Americans are concerned?
MR. HUNTER: Sure. With regard to the general situation in the country, we strongly condemn a pattern of deliberate cease-fire violations by ethnic Albanian armed groups in Macedonia. In blatant violation of the agreement they have signed, the extremists have maintained their presence in some of the villages in the Tetovo area. We have had reports of violence and intimidation perpetrated by the extremists against ethnic Macedonian civilians, including the burning of their homes.
We have also seen reports of an attack on the interior minister's motorcade on July 29th. Fortunately, no one was injured in that episode. But the extremists have also planted land mines in civilian areas and on public roads, and a land mine on the road between Lesok and Zilce killed two Macedonian civilians on July 29th. These are blatant violations of the cease-fire agreement and they are unacceptable. They are endangering the lives of civilians and preventing residents from returning to their homes, and such violations undermine the efforts of elected representatives to achieve a political solution, which all sides have said they support.
So we expect the ethnic Albanian armed groups to come into full compliance with the terms of the cease-fire agreement. We call on all sides to respect the agreement they signed, and to exercise restraint.
The political talks did continue today in Ohrid, and while difficult issues remain, the Macedonian Government and party leaders have made significant progress over the last few weeks toward bridging the remaining differences between them.
So all parties need to press forward with negotiations and reach an agreement that addresses the concerns of all sides, that respects the rights of all the people of Macedonia, and that preserves Macedonia's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
With regard to the security situation and the ordered departure, let me begin by saying that we remain committed to supporting the Macedonian Government in its efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement, and we continue to support negotiations toward that end. Our priority concern, of course, must be for the safety of American citizens. As you know, the departure of non-emergency personnel and dependents from our embassy in Skopje has been authorized since last month, since June 26th, and since that time, the contingent of employees has departed Macedonia.
Last week, on July 27th, we ordered all non-emergency personnel and all dependents to leave, and further reductions will be considered as the situation warrants.
That said, of course, the personnel supporting the political negotiations and humanitarian operations will stay in Macedonia to continue their critical work, and the embassy continues to keep the American community informed about the latest developments, including the decision to go to ordered departure.
We are assisting those Americans who want to leave. For now, some commercial airlines are continuing limited flights into and out of Skopje, and private American citizens who wish to depart Macedonia should avail themselves of these flights while they continue to operate.
As I say, a contingent of embassy personnel have left, both since the time departure was authorized and since it was ordered. But for security reasons, of course, I am not going to get into specific numbers.
QUESTION: Would you say that the embassy -- the embassy is open, correct?
MR. HUNTER: The embassy continues to provide emergency services. Obviously, because of limited personnel, they are in a position only to provide emergency services.
QUESTION: Chuck, you seem to be pretty down on the NLA today. Do you also support the decision of Macedonian prosecutors to issue arrest warrants, or to seek arrest warrants for 11 ethnic Albanian guerrilla leaders?
MR. HUNTER: Well, we understand that the Ministry of Interior is considering charging these individuals with war crimes, as defined as a domestic matter by the Macedonian Criminal Code. At this point, we are not familiar enough with the Macedonian Criminal Code to be in a position to evaluate such potential charges. But our position on the so-called NLA is well known and certainly has not changed.
Are we done on Macedonia? Okay.
QUESTION: New subject? Do you have any comment on Iran and Turkey, the natural gas trade? You know, Turkey and Iran have already agreed on that pipeline will start on 1st of September.
MR. HUNTER: I don't have anything particularly new on that subject. As you know, we follow developments in the oil production in the Caspian region very closely. But I don't have any particular comment regarding Iran and Turkey.
QUESTION: Can you take that question?
MR. HUNTER: I can look into whether there is anything new.
QUESTION: It was reported today that in Durres, a port of Albania, unidentified ship transferred Stinger missiles to the Albanian terrorists in Tetovo. Do you have anything on that?
MR. HUNTER: I am afraid I haven't seen that particular report, but obviously we would like all parties to desist from actions that might contribute to the climate of violence, which does nothing to advance the political solution which, as you know, is the only one that will solve this problem.
QUESTION: And why the alliance is using also the port of Thessaloniki to arm the Albanian extremists against the --
MR. HUNTER: Mr. Lambros, I don't have anything for you on that particular report.
QUESTION: President Bush, Secretary Powell and NATO secretary called the Albanian terrorists many, many times. I was wondering why did the Department of State call them "extremists"? May we have an explanation why the difference?
MR. HUNTER: I am not going to get into parsing remarks or choices of vocabulary. I think we have made our views clear on the extremists for some time and have nothing to add to what you have heard others say.
QUESTION: New subject, the Middle East?
MR. HUNTER: Okay.
QUESTION: Just give us an update on US efforts, what's going on, security talks. And have there been any calls by Secretary Powell or anybody in this building on a senior level to the leadership?
MR. HUNTER: I don't have any rundown of the Secretary's calls. But senior officials here and in the region are in continuous contact with the parties in an effort to reduce the violence and move as quickly as possible into the next phase of the Mitchell Committee process.
We are heavily engaged with the parties and will remain so in an effort to assist them in moving the Mitchell process forward as expeditiously as possible. We continue to see a loss of life on both sides and we urge both sides to do what they can to stop this needless bloodshed. We remind both parties that they have an obligation to exert maximum efforts to halt this ongoing tragedy, to avoid escalation and desist from provocation and incitement and, above all, to strive to create and sustain an environment of trust and confidence to permit them to move forward with implementing Mitchell in all its aspects.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on two Israeli police officers that were shot this morning?
MR. HUNTER: I have seen those reports but don't have anything beyond the facts as I have seen them reported in the press.
QUESTION: You probably can't say, but does the United States have any special information about the six Palestinians who were killed? Do you have any -- what do you believe was behind this?
MR. HUNTER: At this point, the exact details of that particular incident in Gaza aren't clear, so I am not going to comment further than to reiterate that both sides should exercise maximum restraint and work toward creating a climate that will permit them to move forward with Mitchell implementation.
More on the Middle East or different subjects? New subject.
QUESTION: Any comments on the result in yesterday's upper house elections in Japan?
MR. HUNTER: No. I don't have particular comments on the Japanese political situation.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Rocca's trip to Pakistan. Is she expected to meet with the -- is it the foreign minister of the Taliban, or any ambassador, sorry?
MR. HUNTER: Let me give some general information on Assistant Secretary Christine Rocca from our Bureau of South Asian Affairs. As you may know, she is on a two-week trip to India, Nepal and Pakistan, meeting with senior officials in the host governments, as well as with business organizations and consulting, of course, with colleagues in our embassies and consulates.
She arrived in Pakistan yesterday and will have discussions on a wide range of issues until she leaves the country on August 3rd, this coming Friday. She is scheduled to meet with President Musharraf, with the Finance Minister, the Interior Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Foreign Secretary and other officials and political leaders. I understand as well that she is scheduled to meet the Taliban's chief representative in Pakistan on Thursday.
As you know, we meet regularly with Taliban representatives, as well as representatives of all Afghan factions. Several weeks ago, here in Washington, Ms. Rocca met with the Northern Alliance Foreign Minister, so there is nothing particularly unusual with her contact with Mr. Zaief, when that happens. But I don't have anything further for you. Obviously we will have to let that meeting happen first.
QUESTION: Is this the first time that a senior Administration official, from this Administration, is meeting with a Taliban representative?
MR. HUNTER: It certainly will be her first meeting with a Taliban representative, to the best of my knowledge. I would have to check on whether anyone of a similar level might have met with someone.
QUESTION: After the visit of the Secretary to China, is China now treated as a friend or as a strategic competitor?
MR. HUNTER: Well, I think the Secretary addressed that point on several occasions, so I would refer you to remarks that he made during his trip, pointing out that we are interested in friendly relations with China. We are making several transcripts available for you if you haven't yet seen those.
That said, I would point out that with regard to the message that the Secretary taped for the Chinese people, unfortunately not all of it was broadcast on Saturday as had been promised, and we consider that decision unwise. Secretary Powell gave a taped interview with the Chinese Central TV program, "The World," on Saturday for later broadcast, and our embassy had a clear explicit agreement with CCTV that the interview would be carried in its entirety. When it was broadcast, however, the program deleted language that mentioned the Taiwan Relations Act and that mentioned human rights.
We will be making the full text of that transcript available to you today. We have strongly protested that deletion in Beijing, and we will do so today in Washington. We know that the Chinese authorities' views on Taiwan and human rights differ from ours, but we believe the Chinese people are mature and sophisticated enough to hear both their own government's views and those of others who may disagree. We will continue to convey to the Chinese Government and the Chinese people our clear and unedited views of all the issues that arise in US-Chinese relations.
So the decision not to broadcast the full message that the Secretary taped was counterproductive. It is, however, something that we will work through, as we have other irritants in the relationship as we pursue the friendly relations that we are interested in in the big picture.
QUESTION: Did the Chinese offer an explanation?
MR. HUNTER: I don't believe we have heard something, but I would refer you to them for their characterization of why they took the steps they did.
QUESTION: But you have no -- there's no question in your mind that it was the reference to those two subjects that caused the --
MR. HUNTER: We will make available to you the full transcript.
QUESTION: No, I mean, it isn't because they had to get in a McDonald's commercial, or anything.
QUESTION: We've already seen the transcript.
QUESTION: Yes, we have the transcript.
QUESTION: Does it (inaudible), but does it mark the deleted sections?
MR. HUNTER: It doesn't mark it, but the -- a substantial section dealing with the Taiwan Relations Act and human rights was not included in the broadcast ultimately.
QUESTION: Could someone identify the -- so we know what it is that wasn't broadcast, if someone could.
MR. HUNTER: Check with the Press Office, and we can do that for you.
QUESTION: Okay. And on the same thing, you said you had a clear agreement. Who exactly was your -- did the embassy have -- did the embassy have an agreement?
MR. HUNTER: The embassy had an agreement --
QUESTION: With who exactly? With the television people?
MR. HUNTER: With the Chinese television people, and of course, it's a state television station, so we believe that they speak with the full faith and credit of the Chinese Government.
QUESTION: During the discussions on that, the preliminary discussions, did they at any stage request that certain subjects not be broached?
MR. HUNTER: Well, again, we had a clear and explicit agreement with them, as we sometimes do with you and your colleagues here, to air something in its entirety, without edits. And that agreement was explicit. They chose to renege on that agreement, and we think that was a counterproductive choice.
QUESTION: You could say in response to what I'm going to ask that it is up to the press to make its own judgments or its own analyses, but sitting on a beach last week and reading these reports, it sounded like, these glowing reports about China no longer as self-conscious about having its human rights violations pointed out, that they don't consider this meddling anymore, and are these pictures -- you know, all of the above.
Doesn't this reflect some backtracking on that? Doesn't it reflect the traditional sensitivity of the Chinese to what they consider their own domestic affairs?
MR. HUNTER: Well, as far as how the Chinese want to view it, of course that is something for them to characterize. Secretary Powell did raise the subject of human rights, pointing out that we are interested in systemic reform that will enable the Chinese to deal with individual cases in line with international standards that we hope and expect all countries would respect. We certainly do anticipate that human rights will remain part of our dialogue with China, but the conversations that the Secretary had were a useful prelude to President Bush's visit there later this year.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. HUNTER: One more for Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: I would like to know, is the Travel Advisory that you issued July 26th for former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia still in effect?
MR. HUNTER: We issued a Travel Warning for Macedonia that included mention of the ordered departure of embassy personnel. That remains in effect.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:34 p.m.)