State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 22, 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, August 22, 2001
BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
MACEDONIA 1-4 Destruction of Orthodox Monastery/ Task Force Essential Harvest / NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson's Recommendation/ Peace Deal
RUSSIA 4-7 Undersecretary Bolton's Statements on the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty
IRAQ 7-9 Current Status of Controls and the Oil-For-Food Program
IRAN 9-10 Conditions for US-Iran Dialogue
COLOMBIA 11-13 Situation Update of IRA Operatives Arrested / Collaboration with FARC / Designation of IRA as a Terrorist Organization
PERU 14-15 Undersecretary Grossman Travel / Resumption of Drug Interdiction Flights
CHINA 15-16 Expert Missile Talks / Nonproliferation
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 16-17 Possible Peace Negotiations in Germany
ARGENTINA 17-19 Current Economic Crisis and IMF Aid
AFGHANISTAN 19 Update on Consular Access to Detainees
ZAMBIA 19-20 Arrest of Journalists
CANADA 20-21 Trade Negotiations / Lumber Quotas
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 121 WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2001 12:45 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Welcome back, everyone, to the State Department on this Wednesday afternoon.
I would like to start out today in terms of talking about Macedonia and the NATO deployment there. The United States welcomes the determination by NATO's 19 member countries that the preconditions for Operation Essential Harvest have been met, and that the deployment of NATO forces will begin in Macedonia.
The NATO mission will assist with the voluntary disarmament of insurgents, a mission NATO is hopeful can be completed in 30 days if the parties cooperate, as they have pledged to do. We look to the insurgents to cooperate with NATO and to fully comply with all their commitments, including to voluntarily disarm, to respect the cease- fire, and to disband.
Macedonia now has a real opportunity, through the framework agreement reached August 13th, and through the NATO weapons collection mission, to avoid a catastrophic civil war. The international community has shown its support again through the NATO deployment. The leaders and people of Macedonia must now fulfill the promise of peace by rapid implementation of the framework agreement. The international community will continue to support these efforts, but the future of Macedonia will be determined by the actions of its people and its leaders in the days and weeks ahead.
With that, I am happy to take questions on that, or other subjects.
QUESTION: On that, the reporting from the region suggests -- it's my word, but I think it's a fair word -- a negligible role for the US in the military operation. The US seems to be pulling back, receding, as the Bush Administration said it would, in various areas of the world. Don't you lose some moral authority by the US of being virtually non- existent in this peacekeeping operation?
MR. REEKER: Barry, goodness.
QUESTION: I mean, what they're doing. I think they are providing wiring or something.
MR. REEKER: I think we have provided almost daily references to what we were anticipating in terms of the potential NATO deployment, which is now going forward. As we have said before, the US will contribute to the NATO mission with intelligence, medical, other logistic support. We have not yet determined a specific number of troops, so I would refer you to the Pentagon for any details there. And as you know, the US will draw largely from forces already deployed in Kosovo and indeed in Macedonia in support of KFOR, and of course US-KFOR will remain active in interdicting insurgent supply lines in Kosovo. So the Pentagon may be able to give you more details there.
But we have talked, I think, a number of times about the role we can play here. We have been active in Macedonia. We have had a presence there for pretty much a decade now, and so we can offer to this mission some expertise, and that is what we intend to do. We remain very engaged, obviously, with our NATO allies, with others in the international community, in supporting the Macedonian efforts to move forward to find this peaceful path that they have developed through the political agreement to resolve their differences and make progress in making a more prosperous, and indeed peaceful, country for all Macedonian citizens.
QUESTION: I understand. I won't belabor it, but it seems to be a turning point in Europeans taking primary responsibility for dealing with European problems. It is something that people have been talking about for a long time, but the US seems to be backing off.
MR. REEKER: Barry, I don't think there is anything particularly new here to talk about today. We have been talking about our role in Macedonia, our work supporting the Macedonian Government, along with our European allies, in facilitating and assisting them in developing the political agreement that the democratically elected leaders of Macedonia have promulgated.
We encourage them now to move forward, focus on making the changes -- constitutional changes necessary -- that are envisioned in that agreement. This is for the Macedonians to do, and we will continue to support them as they do that, and we will continue to support the NATO mission in the ways that I have outlined.
QUESTION: You were saying last week that a few hundred Americans would be involved in that. Are you declining to repeat that? Maybe you will.
And the second part of the question is you say you are hopeful that the mission can be completed in 30 days. Suppose it's not.
MR. REEKER: First of all, on the numbers, I said talk to the Pentagon about that specifically. I believe we were looking at a couple of hundred troops involved there. But as I said, I don't have a specific -- I don't think we have yet determined a specific number of troops, but the Pentagon will be the place to refer to on that.
As I did say in the opening statement, NATO is hopeful the mission can be completed in 30 days if the parties cooperate. The international community will continue to monitor the collection efforts but, as I said, the future of Macedonia will be determined by the actions of its people, all of its people and its leaders, in the days and weeks ahead. Obviously, General Ralston, the NATO Supreme Commander in Europe, is going to evaluate the mission, report on its progress.
So right now we are welcoming this decision by NATO, by the 19 member countries in consensus to begin deployment in Macedonia in this mission to assist in the voluntary disarmament of the insurgents.
QUESTION: Is there an anticipated withdrawal after 30 days?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I want to pre-anticipate what happens in 30 days. You can talk to NATO about the specifics of that. Right now we are looking at deploying the force. As I said, we are hopeful the mission can be completed in 30 days if the parties cooperate. The success of the disarmament process depends on the immediate and continuing cooperation of the parties and, as I said, we will continue to monitor that, obviously, very closely.
QUESTION: May I change the subject?
MR. REEKER: Anything else on Macedonia? We have one in the back.
QUESTION: Any comment on yesterday's destruction of the 15th-century Orthodox church in Skopje by the Albanian extremists?
MR. REEKER: I did comment on that yesterday. I expressed our condemnation for the actions. I said that those that perpetrated that destruction should be ashamed of themselves.
I will just share with you a message I had from a personal acquaintance who lives in Tetevo, in Macedonia, who talked about the destruction of this church, one of the most beautiful monasteries in Macedonia. It is a place I personally have visited. It is a place where people used to go to pray for health and, as he said, was one of the most favorite places for picnics and to relax.
There was a historical monument protected by the Law for Cultural Heritage in Macedonia. So again, that destruction is despicable. There is no place for that in Macedonia or any place in the world, and it is time for the all the Macedonian people of all ethnicities to look forward and realize that that type of destruction isn't what anybody wants, and they should move forward.
They have a framework agreement now to make real positive progress and work towards a future that I think they can be proud of as a part of Europe, working closely with the United States and our European allies, others in the international community that really want to see Macedonia succeed. It is up to the people of Macedonia to make that happen.
And so these types of despicable things should not occur and should just remind us all that it is important to focus on the path ahead, and not this kind of destruction.
QUESTION: There is a widespread perception that Mr. Bolton in Moscow said that if there was no alternative agreement by November, then the United States would feel compelled to tell the Russians that they were withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.
MR. REEKER: Under Secretary Bolton did not say this. Widespread perceptions may be based on erroneous press stories. There is no deadline, as we have said before. And as Under Secretary Bolton clearly stated in the radio interview that he did in Moscow -- and we can certainly provide you the transcript -- if you actually read the transcript of that, you will see in his interview with the Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy that Under Secretary Bolton was discussing the fact that our two presidents, the Russian president and President Bush, expect to meet in November. They will also meet in October in Shanghai for the APEC Summit.
In fact, Under Secretary Bolton said we don't consider it an artificial deadline, when he was asked about November, and he said we are going to try to make as much progress as we can, and we will see what happens. The real issue, he reiterated, is the deepening of the political and economic conversations between the two governments, and that alone would be substantial progress.
So that is what we are focusing on. As we just noted, the two presidents will meet in November. They will also have met in October, in addition, to Under Secretary Bolton's discussions that he has had in Moscow this week. I think we have said before that Secretary Powell will meet with Foreign Minister Ivanov in September. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was in Moscow last week, and expects to meet also in September again with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov. And we hope to make progress with the Russians in these and other discussions.
I think in his consultations in Moscow, Under Secretary Bolton and his delegation provided facts and briefings on US plans on missile defense and strategic offensive nuclear forces for their Russian counterparts, and as part of the strategic talks, we also had a constructive discussion on nonproliferation.
As you know, we wish to find ways to jointly, with the Russians, move beyond the ABM Treaty, which we believe is a relic of a bygone age. We are simultaneously moving ahead with our missile defense program, which will of course bump up against the ABM Treaty, in some months, not years, as we have said. But we have set no deadline for withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, and Under Secretary Bolton's comments, if read correctly, make that quite clear.
QUESTION: Phil, as you just noted, that you are moving ahead with the missile defense plan, and it is going to bump up into the treaty, as in a matter of months, not years, it is correct that if you want to withdraw unilaterally from the treaty, you have to give the Russians six months notice, correct?
MR. REEKER: I believe that is what the treaty stipulates, right.
QUESTION: And it's also -- and it is my understanding -- well, at least, the Pentagon said the other day that, in fact, in April they want to begin the real, the definitive construction on this island in Alaska, which would be a violation of the treaty if the treaty was still existent. And November happens to be six months before April.
So is it not too much of an inference for people to make when they see that this kind of convergence of events, and coupled with Mr. Bolton's comments, for people to assume that you have said to the Russians, well, look, maybe this isn't a hard-fast deadline, but this is when --
MR. REEKER: No, in fact, I think it is too much of an inference, because as I have told you right now, there is no deadline, as Under Secretary Bolton said yesterday. There is no deadline.
QUESTION: Has there been a suggestion that, should progress not be made, the US is prepared to declare that it will abandon the treaty in November? Not a deadline, but just --
MR. REEKER: No, I think we have said there is no time -- while we continue to talk with the Russians, we have not set a time when this would happen. We have talked about the limitations that the ABM Treaty places on missile defense planning. We feel it is time to move beyond that. We are trying to work with the Russians to do that. If you read Under Secretary Bolton's transcript in its entirety, he also talks about the fact that we are not going to violate the treaty; we are trying to work with the Russians to find mutual ways of moving beyond the limitations that the treaty has, and that's what our consultations at all these different levels are all about.
QUESTION: But if you were going to go ahead -- if the Pentagon was going to go ahead and start this construction in April, you do agree that you would have to notify the Russians six months in advance --
MR. REEKER: I have to let the Pentagon speak for its plans in terms of anything in April.
QUESTION: Well, Phil, I don't think the Pentagon actually goes over there and says, we're going to abandon this; it's the State Department that is --
MR. REEKER: Right, and I don't have, Matt -- I don't have anything that definitively describes specifics in terms of plans, paper or otherwise, in defining at what point we would bump up against the ABM Treaty. We are not there yet. That is why we are talking to the Russians. That is why we intend to continue talking to the Russians.
QUESTION: Phil, "bump up against" has been used frequently. Does that mean the US will violate the treaty without withdrawing from it?
MR. REEKER: I think I just said, Barry, that we will not violate the treaty. Under Secretary Bolton said -- and again, you really should look at his transcript -- that we won't do that. We are working with the Russians. If we need to withdraw from the treaty, that's another matter. We are working with the Russians to try to mutually find steps we can take to relieve ourselves from the limitations created by this 30-year-old treaty.
QUESTION: I thought what you were doing, and you did it quite well, is to --
MR. REEKER: Thank you, Barry. I believe that was a compliment.
QUESTION: -- make it clear that Bolton did not say we've set a deadline for abandoning the treaty. I also know that there is a process for abandoning the treaty set out in the treaty, and it requires six months notification.
MR. REEKER: I think Matt mentioned that, and we acknowledge that.
QUESTION: He's right. But there remains the question, if the Administration, as it said many times, intends within months, not years, to "bump up against" the treaty, that raises the possibility that this Administration will violate an agreement, will violate a treaty without withdrawing from it.
MR. REEKER: Barry, I have just told you we won't do that. We are working now to find ways to make changes, mutually agreed-upon changes, with the Russians about the ABM Treaty. We have the option to withdraw from the treaty, as you just indicated. Those are facts. They are not mutually exclusive facts. That is why we are having a continuing series of very high-level, very senior discussions -- a dialogue that the two presidents agreed would take place. And the two presidents themselves will meet in October, in November, to review these things.
So I don't think there is anything mutually exclusive here. It is a process that needs to continue. The point is, due to some erroneous reporting, above-the-fold headlines that were wrong, Under Secretary Bolton did not say that there was any deadline, official or unofficial. He said there is no deadline. And so there really isn't any news on this subject today.
QUESTION: I might add that amending the treaty was ruled out by the Administration months ago. I guess, unless the Administration is going to put blinders on and ask the Russians to don the same blinders, the treaty is going to be violated. The treaty clearly prohibits what the Administration is on a course to do.
MR. REEKER: Barry, you are arguing against yourself, because you just said that we are allowed to withdraw from the treaty if we so desire.
QUESTION: But to do the kind of things that the US plans to do in months, you have to give six months notice. You're not giving six months notice, but you're going to bump up against the treaty in months. Maybe it means seven months.
MR. REEKER: Barry?
MR. REEKER: We are far away from dates that have been discussed at the Pentagon. There are no fast and firm decisions. There are no deadlines in this. We are continuing a dialogue.
QUESTION: Phil, what are the consequences if you don't reach an agreement with the Russians on alternatives by the summit, or during the summit for that matter? I mean, is the summit, in some sense, a lost opportunity to get some agreement here?
MR. REEKER: No, I think this is something we are going to continue a dialogue about. The dialogue takes place with senior officials from this Department, Secretary Powell included; Under Secretary Bolton, who has just finished talks in Moscow; the Pentagon, as we discussed. They continue that dialogue because we are working very clearly -- we are being very transparent with the Russians about what our plans are, what we are looking at, what the budget implications are. And so that will just continue.
QUESTION: So would the United States be happy to continue consultations with the Russians after the summit, even after the summit is over?
MR. REEKER: I think one just has to wait and see as we go. Let's let things happen one step at a time here.
QUESTION: You mentioned in there that Under Secretary Bolton's talks are finished in Moscow? I understood he was staying a couple more days. Are there no more talks?
MR. REEKER: I believe he may be staying on in Moscow for a couple more days. I believe his formal talks are over.
QUESTION: Could you comment on the reports in The Post today about the 6-11* Committee at the UN with regard to the Iraqi oil surcharges? There was a split, supposedly, between the British and US, the British having proposed a 10-day review, et cetera.
MR. REEKER: That would be The Washington Post, right?
QUESTION: Yes. I apologize. This town's Post.
MR. REEKER: There are several "posts" out there, including all of our overseas posts, so I want to make sure everybody is aware of what we are talking about.
I think, as you know, the United States has been concerned for some time about persistent reports that Iraq is demanding that buyers of its oil under the UN's Oil-for-Food program make cash payments directly to Iraq. There have been a number of reports that the regime has tried to do that.
Such payments outside of the UN-controlled Oil-for-Food sales system are a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The funds can be used by Iraq to develop its military capability; that is why we have felt it necessary to control those funds and set up the Oil-for-Food program and the UN-controlled oil sales system.
UN member-states have a responsibility to ensure that their companies are operating in accordance with the Security Council resolutions. And the United States, for example, wrote to a number of major oil companies involved in the purchase of Iraqi crude oil on the world market, warning them to be sure their purchases are not tainted by payment of a surcharge that Iraq has reportedly demanded.
We want to be sure that the approach that the committee takes, in terms of reviewing this, does not cause undue complications for the oil companies involved, who operate properly within the UN system. So we are working closely with the British in particular on next steps. There are several different approaches presently being discussed in the committee, and we certainly share a consensus view that we need to limit the ability of Iraq to garner any revenues outside the system.
So we are just going to continue talking about that and trying to find the most sensible step forward in terms of how to deal with that.
QUESTION: Can you comment on what any of those sensible steps forward might involve?
MR. REEKER: Well, obviously, we want the Oil-for-Food program to work as smoothly as possible to provide the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. I think, in terms of the period between price adjustments for the oil, which is the issue here being discussed in the committee, a compromise period, say of 15 days, could achieve both of the objectives that we have; that is, limiting the ability of Saddam Hussein's regime to garner revenues outside the system, while also making the Oil-for- Food program work as smoothly as possible and assuring that contracting continues.
Currently, as you know, that pricing adjustment takes place every 30 days, and that is what the committee is examining, what changes might be made to that so that we can fulfill both of our goals in this situation.
QUESTION: Any idea for other members of the 6-11* committee's response to this 15-day --
MR. REEKER: Just let them speak for themselves while we continue to have those talks, working closely with the British and others.
QUESTION: Have you proposed this 15-day period proposal?
MR. REEKER: I believe we are talking in the committee about a number of proposals. In terms of anything formerly proposed, I don't know exactly the way that committee has been operating.
QUESTION: This is the one you favor? This is your recommendation, so to speak?
MR. REEKER: We are suggesting that a compromise period of 15 days could fulfill the needs that we see, achieve the objectives that we have set forth.
QUESTION: Another minor point. You spoke about writing to a number of companies. I seem to remember that you did that many, many months ago. Has it been done again?
MR. REEKER: It was in April, I believe, when Under Secretary Larson wrote to companies. I think we talked about it at the time.
QUESTION: Yes, but it hasn't been done again since then?
MR. REEKER: Not that I am aware of, no.
QUESTION: Phil, did the committee discuss that today, the 15 days?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. You would need to talk to the UN.
QUESTION: Next door to Iran, the parliament has approved of the cabinet choices of the president, who a while ago used to be described here as a moderate. Do you have any -- does the State Department have any observations whether Iran is headed down a course of moderation? And will you be talking to them anytime soon?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have any particular observations to make. Obviously that is a decision for the people and leaders of Iran. I think Secretary Powell has said that we will have a dialogue with Iran when it makes sense to have a dialogue with Iran. And before that to happen, Iran needs to address the areas of concern that we have outlined so many times; that is, their support for terrorism, their opposition to Middle East peace, and their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Those are the three areas that we --
QUESTION: The Clinton Administration policy was, we'll talk to them, and that has to be on the agenda. This Administration's policy is, a prerequisite to talking is that they address these things?
MR. REEKER: The Secretary said that we will have a dialogue when it makes sense. At this point, I don't think any determination on making sense has been made.
What I am outlining for you are the areas where we think Iran needs to address our concerns. That hasn't changed.
QUESTION: What you said earlier was a complete change in policy.
MR. REEKER: Jonathan, please.
QUESTION: It was. You have said previously that you offered an unconditional dialogue with Iran, and you wanted to put these things on the agenda. You said, first they have to address these issues before the dialogue.
MR. REEKER: I think those are the things that need to be addressed. The Secretary has said, has spoken to this --
QUESTION: In the dialogue, or before the dialogue?
MR. REEKER: -- that we will have a dialogue with Iran when it makes sense. I am not announcing anything particularly new. I am not announcing any change of policy. I am simply saying, no one has determined that a dialogue at this time makes sense. And those are the areas that we will discuss.
QUESTION: So you are saying, it doesn't have to be before the dialogue? It could be in the dialogue?
MR. REEKER: I think at this point it is premature to talk about a dialogue, because we will look to that. And reminding you of what the Secretary said, we are prepared to have a dialogue with Iran when it makes sense. At this point, I don't think we have made any sort of determination of that nature. I am reminding you also of the issues which are of concern to us with Iran. Those issues haven't changed at all.
QUESTION: "When it makes sense" seems to be rather different from "unconditional offer of dialogue." If the Iranians came to you tomorrow and said, we want to talk, are you going to say, well, it doesn't make sense yet? Or are you going to say --
MR. REEKER: I would have to look into it for you. If that is a question you want to ask, I will look into it for you. (
QUESTION: Yes, it is a question, yes.
QUESTION: The Colombians have formally charged these --
MR. REEKER: Do we want to have a conversation up here, or do we want to go to Matt's question?
QUESTION: The Colombians have formally charged these three IRA suspects. I'm wondering if you have moved on in your -- not moved on; I mean, have you come to any conclusions about the information you are getting from the Colombians?
And also, I understand there is going to be a rather large delegation of officials and others going down to Colombia soon.
MR. REEKER: Let's talk first about the IRA development. We are following closely the developments in the cases of the three individuals who have been arrested and now charged, as you pointed out, Matt, in Colombia. As I think I have said before, no one should be in any doubt that the United States would be greatly concerned about any assistance, information-sharing, training or collaboration with the FARC, which is a terrorist organization, so designated under our law. It is a major contributor to the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States, and an organization which has kidnapped and murdered US citizens.
We have been in touch with Sein Fein on this subject. We will continue to monitor the situation closely. But I think all I can reiterate is that no one should have any doubts about the seriousness with which we would take collaboration with the FARC by any individual or organization.
QUESTION: You were waiting obviously for this --
MR. REEKER: Obviously we need to have more information, and we will continue to try to monitor that closely. And you had something?
QUESTION: Another one on the IRA.
MR. REEKER: Just remind me then, afterwards, what it was.
QUESTION: Have you been able to assess reports that these guys were in Colombia to test a vapor bomb?
MR. REEKER: No, I haven't been able to assess those reports because, as I said, we are just following the developments there, and we will have to get all the information, establish facts, and make those assessments. But I don't have anything else to report to you on that matter.
QUESTION: Okay, does the fact that the Colombians have charged these guys make you more concerned than you were when they nearly arrested them?
MR. REEKER: Our concern is exactly the same. Our concern about anybody collaborating, whether an individual or an organization, with the FARC is the same concern it always has been. The situation at hand is one where we have to have facts established, and that is why we will continue to monitor it.
QUESTION: Would you be concerned merely at the fact of contacts, or are you looking for evidence of substantial sort of cooperation and assistance and exchange of weaponry, or that kind of thing? I mean, is it the fact that they --
MR. REEKER: I don't think I want to parse it now, when we don't even have all the facts. No one should be in doubt about the seriousness with which we take such charges and any collaboration with the FARC by any individual or organization is of utmost concern to us.
QUESTION: But that has yet to be proved, but just simple contact, though, them going there to see what's going on would not necessarily - -
MR. REEKER: We would be concerned about that too, Matt. Yes, we would.
QUESTION: You would. And that concern would extend to the same level that your concern about collaboration and --
MR. REEKER: Obviously not, but I think we are going down a sort of road that leads nowhere because we don't have any facts on which to base anything. Our concerns about contact and collaboration, which is obviously what is implied by the arrests and the charges, is exactly what I said. This is a terrorist organization. It is designated as such, and there is quite an explanation as to why in our Patterns of Global Terrorism Report. It is an organization that has been responsible for the deaths of American citizens and for contributing to the flow of illegal narcotics into our country. That is why we take it as a concern.
QUESTION: Right, but it is also an organization that has, on occasions, been also spoken to. There has also been contact between this government and that organization under certain circumstances in the past. So I am a bit unclear -- I just want to make sure that you are saying that just simple contact between Sein Fein --
MR. REEKER: Matt, I just can't parse it any more because we don't know what this involves. We have to establish facts, and you are really trying to back into a corner where we can't be until we have that. So let's wait and see what more information comes out. We have expressed quite clearly the concerns we would have, the concerns we do have, because there are these reports, there are arrests and charges that have been made.
So we are going to continue to monitor that, and I don't think there is really anything more we can add to it at this point.
QUESTION: And the second part of the question about the high-level visits?
MR. REEKER: High-level visit, right. Sorry.
QUESTION: Before we go back to that, can you answer my question about the right-wing paramilitaries?
MR. REEKER: I don't know what you're talking about. What about them?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, you're saying that there should be no collaboration with FARC. How about with the right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia?
MR. REEKER: I don't understand what that has to do with the IRA charges and arrests.
QUESTION: I'm just asking.
MR. REEKER: You know, collaboration with a terrorist group so designated under our law is of great concern to us. That is what we are monitoring in this situation. That is what the charges are. That is what the arrests were made in connection to, and that is what we will continue to monitor.
QUESTION: Phil, is it fair to assume, just getting back to the first part of the question, that if, in fact, the Colombian Government, the Colombian judicial system, finds these three individuals guilty, that the State Department would put under active consideration re- designating the IRA as a Foreign Terrorist Organization?
MR. REEKER: I think you are too many steps ahead of the game, Andrea. I think we have to establish facts on our own. We will make our own analyses based on what we learn. That is why we will monitor the situation.
QUESTION: The mission to Colombia?
MR. REEKER: Now, the mission to Colombia. Are we sure that we're ready for that?
QUESTION: Yes, yes.
MR. REEKER: Okay. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman will visit Mexico first, August 27th through 28th, and then lead an interagency delegation to Colombia August 29th through 31st. So that is coming up next week.
In Mexico, Under Secretary Grossman will meet with Mexican officials to discuss the final preparations for President Fox's state visit to the United States, to Washington, the following week.
And in Colombia, delegation members will meet with President Pastrana and Government of Colombia officials in order to underscore continuing US support for Colombia. I think that is all I have.
QUESTION: You don't have the members of the delegations? It will be, what, 15 people or so?
MR. REEKER: I don't have specific names for you.
QUESTION: Are there any big ones?
MR. REEKER: If you would let me get there. I believe the delegation will include representatives, obviously, from the State Department, with Under Secretary Grossman leading it; from the National Security Council, from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the US Agency for International Development, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense. I think all the usual suspects.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the remarks yesterday of Peter Rodman, who was an Assistant Secretary of Defense? He talked about Colombia, and one of his quotes was, "I think we, as a country, are not quite sure where we're heading."
MR. REEKER: I am not familiar with the remarks themselves. I have seen some press reports regarding them. I think the important thing that I can say is that the Bush Administration has a clear policy toward Colombia, which is to support democracy, combat narcotics trafficking, and support social and economic development.
Both the President, President Bush, and Secretary of State Powell have expressed their support publicly for Plan Colombia and for the Administration's proposed Andean Regional Initiative. As with all policies, it is under constant review to ensure the policy is accomplishing its objectives. And so in terms of any more details or clarification of comments, I would just refer you to the people to whom they were attributed.
QUESTION: If I could jump in for just one second, are they going to Mexico City and Bogotá, or are they going to someplace else in each country?
MR. REEKER: Let me see if I was given such detail. I don't have that, Matt, and I am happy to ask if we have a more specific itinerary.
QUESTION: A closely related question?
MR. REEKER: Please.
QUESTION: The new Peruvian Foreign Minister Diego Garcia Sayan said yesterday he was very keen to find out when and how the aerial interdiction program would resume. What answer can you give him?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think as you know, we have been reviewing the air interdiction program for some time now. Ambassador Morris Busby, retired, has completed his review and has submitted his findings to the National Security Advisor. It is a classified report, obviously, and his recommendations are going to be assessed through our standard interagency process, and then a decision will be made on whether the resume the air interdiction program and, if so, under what circumstances. So we will continue to try to complete the process. I don't have a specific time frame. Obviously, it is something we want to be --
QUESTION: Is this a matter of some urgency?
MR. REEKER: Obviously, we want to ensure a thorough and thoughtful review of the process, but I can't give you any specific timetable at this point.
QUESTION: In the meantime, the Peruvian Air Force say the skies over the Northern jungle have been inundated with traffickers. Is that a view that -- is that something you can confirm?
MR. REEKER: I don't have an assessment to share with you of that, no.
QUESTION: Phil, you just mentioned something I wanted to get into, classified documents. Is this Department going to take the same position it did under the last administration opposing efforts on the Hill to impose a "Official Secrets Act" that would make it a crime for federal employees to leak any classified documents?
MR. REEKER: I would have to check into that. I don't know what the Administration position is. You may want to check with the White House.
QUESTION: No, no, no. I want to know what the State Department's is.
MR. REEKER: We take Administration positions on legislation, and so I will be happy to check with the White House if I can. But our position would be the Administration's position on any proposed legislation of that nature.
QUESTION: Can you address some of the differences regarding tomorrow's -- I mean the missile technology talks in China that's going to happen maybe tonight, our time?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I really have anything to add to what I said yesterday about those talks. In fact, I think that's right. We're holding missile experts talks tomorrow, Thursday, in Beijing, to discuss missile nonproliferation issues, including implementation of the November 2000 missile nonproliferation arrangement.
The Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Vann van Diepen is leading that interagency team, with folks from the State Department, our Bureau of Nonproliferation, our Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, as well as officials from the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So I just really don't have anything further to add on that.
QUESTION: Well, China -- the government and the alleged company -- both denied the allegation or whatever. Are there different interpretations regarding the agreement? Why there is such a big difference between what China is saying and what the US is saying?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any different interpretation of the agreement. I am not sure what you are referring to. These talks aren't surrounding any specific allegation. These are on the subject of missile nonproliferation, including the implementation of the November 2000 agreement. And we talked about that, again recapped what that is about. We recapped that yesterday.
QUESTION: Okay, just one more. Are there other meetings like this before the President's trip that the State Department is going to arrange to sort of clear up the way for the visit?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any other particular meeting. We have continuous discussion with China on so many issues. As you know, our two countries have lots and lots of issues that we work on together, things that we discuss, from nonproliferation to human rights to other things. It is a continuous dialogue both in Washington and in Beijing. But I am not aware of any other specific meetings. If there is something specific you wanted to ask about, I can check into it.
QUESTION: Yes. Is any other State Department official is going to China?
MR. REEKER: At this time, I am not aware of anything.
QUESTION: Phil, have you guys been enlightened any more about what Foreign Minister Fischer managed to get arranged -- apparently get arranged -- yesterday? And has there been any senior-level people here in this building, or perhaps on vacation, who are speaking with anyone, with either the Europeans or with the UN or --
MR. REEKER: As we talked about yesterday, Secretary Powell spoke with Foreign Minister Fischer right about the time we were going through this exercise yesterday. As we have said many times before, we support direct contacts between the parties. We will support both sides in these efforts as much as possible. The facilitation we have been carrying out is something we talk about often.
I am not aware of anything that has been scheduled, but we would certainly be supportive, as I just said, of direct contacts between the parties. Foreign Minister Fischer, and the Germans in general, are trusted friends and close NATO allies of ours. We welcome their constructive efforts with the parties as we have welcomed the efforts of others in the international community and other co-sponsors of the peace process -- the Russians of course, Norway, those countries in the region that have played a valuable role.
QUESTION: When you say you are not aware of anything scheduled, you have been told, however, by the three parties -- the Palestinians, the Israelis and the Germans -- that such a meeting is going to happen?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any particular meeting that is scheduled.
QUESTION: But you have not been told that they intend to meet?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any meeting that has been scheduled, and I would refer you to the Israelis or the Palestinians to speak for themselves in terms of any meetings that they are able to schedule together. As I said, we support direct contacts with them and we will do as much as we can to support those efforts.
QUESTION: How about, is it your understanding that Foreign Minister Fischer did, indeed, get the agreement of both the Israelis and the Palestinians for a meeting sometime in -- for a meeting between Chairman Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres?
MR. REEKER: I have not seen anything to that effect, no.
QUESTION: I suppose if you haven't heard that, you wouldn't know whether they have been in touch, say, to ask your opinion about whether you would send somebody along to such a meeting?
MR. REEKER: I think we are just way ahead of things here. We will do whatever we can to facilitate whatever the two parties can do in terms of direct contacts between the parties. At this point, I am not aware of anything that is scheduled on that matter, but obviously we continue to be in close touch, deeply engaged in the process, and working with others in the international community to try to find bridges to cross the divides that have for so long divided the Israelis and the Palestinians.
QUESTION: There was a report that the seven-day cooling-off period has been abandoned by Prime Minister Sharon under US pressure. Could you comment on that?
MR. REEKER: No, I would refer you to Prime Minister Sharon. I don't even know what report you are referring to. Our goal remains getting the violence down, using the Tenet work plan and whatever other security steps the two parties can take to reduce the violence, end the cycle of violence, and move into implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report.
QUESTION: Has that seven-day thing been an impediment to getting talks under way?
MR. REEKER: They need to get the violence down. We have talked about this last week. That hasn't happened. We haven't seen the maximum efforts that are necessary to make that happen. And we continue to call, as we have in days before, for the Palestinians to make those efforts. The same calls for restraint on the Israeli side in terms of their actions. And so I don't have anything particularly new to add on that.
QUESTION: Phil, I would like to ask you about something that happened after we went through this exercise yesterday and get your reaction to the proposal by the Director of the IMF to extend an $8 billion credit line to Argentina.
MR. REEKER: Are we done with the Middle East? Sorry, Andrea, I just want to make sure. Okay. Please, go ahead and then we will come straight back to Andrea and I'll be ready. I'll put my finger on the page.
QUESTION: Just very quickly, there were some reports out of Cairo that said the US is considering a summit between Mubarak, Abdallah from Jordan, and Arafat sometime, I don't know. Is there any --
MR. REEKER: I haven't seen that report, and unless you can give me something a little more firm, I can't even really check on it.
QUESTION: It was just on the Middle East wire services.
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on that. I am happy to look into it for you, if there anything that may have come up.
Is that it on the Middle East?
QUESTION: I don't know. Is Durbin the Middle East? Any decision on Durbin?
MR. REEKER: I don't think that's the Middle East, even in British geography terms. No, I have no announcements for you on our decisions there. Sorry.
Andrea, we welcome the agreement between Argentina and the International Monetary Fund. Our support for new assistance to Argentina from the International Monetary Fund demonstrates the strong US commitment to Latin America. We are willing to assist when countries like Argentina take tough action to help themselves, as Argentina has done with its zero deficit law.
It is imperative, though, that Argentina implement the zero deficit plan and additional economic reforms going forward. We remain committed to helping Argentina achieve sustainable economic growth, and the Treasury Department will continue to work with the International Monetary Fund to that end.
US Trade Representative Zoellick has expressed interest in pursing the "4+1" trade discussions with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and the United States. That would supplement our ongoing efforts to liberalize trade globally and regionally. The need for growth in Argentina and elsewhere in the region underscores, we believe, the value of achieving a Free Trade Area of the Americas.
QUESTION: Just to follow, usually negotiations of this nature don't last this long. Is this a signal that the US is going to request more fiscal responsibility from countries in order to allow the IMF to bail them out?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think as I indicated, the new agreement includes specific measures to buttress Argentina's implementation of its zero deficit plan, and that is very important. I also said we are pursuing trade liberalization to help stimulate growth in Argentina. And so the package is an interim step as Argentina and the IMF continue to work toward a sustainable debt profile for Argentina.
I think the Treasury Department has put out some stuff on this specific arrangement, and you might want to check with them. But we do think this agreement is an important step as we continue to work towards sustainable long-term growth there.
QUESTION: Would you describe this as a change in US policy?
MR. REEKER: As a change in US policy? I don't think so. We look at Argentina, its situation; we want to support Argentina, we want to support Latin America and the region. And I think I have just outlined for you why we welcome this agreement with the International Monetary Fund, why we continue to urge Argentina to implement the steps they have taken that are so important, and the types of things we will do that do reflect our policy. You have heard the President and the Secretary and other senior officials of the Administration speak many times about our belief in the importance of free trade, particularly in the Free Trade Area of the Americas. We want to achieve that and we want to continue working to that end. We are going to continue working with Argentina and continue working with international institutions like the IMF.
QUESTION: Has there been any movement on the situation in Kabul?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything new in Kabul, except to confirm that this morning, Wednesday morning, the consular officials visited the Taliban representatives in Islamabad, again formally to request visas to return to Afghanistan. We continue to press for information about the health and condition of the detainees, but most importantly to press for consular access, which is our goal. Obviously, we are still working very closely and consulting with the German and Australian embassies in Islamabad and we remain in contact with the families of those Americans who are being detained.
QUESTION: Just a quick one. Do you have anything on the two Zambian journalists who have been arrested and charged with --
MR. REEKER: We have checked with our embassy and seen, as we understand it, that on Sunday -- that would be August 20th -- the Government of Zambia issued arrest warrants against an editor, a reporter, as well as two opposition politicians. At the same time, the Government of Zambia shut down Radio Phoenix, which is Zambia's largest and oldest independent radio station, allegedly for its failure to renew a license for a piece of equipment used in broadcasting.
And so this is of concern to us. We support the democratic process in Zambia and Zambia's democratic institutions. These actions by the government are deeply concerning. Free speech and free press are essential parts of democracy, and with elections due to take place in the last quarter of this year, it is critical that the Government of Zambia respect the independence of the media and safeguard the legitimate freedoms of political parties and all other elements of civil society.
So we take this opportunity to call upon the Government of Zambia to demonstrate its commitment to these principles and reconsider the actions it has taken against the individuals I mentioned and against Radio Phoenix.
QUESTION: Different subject, a little closer to home. There appear to be two outstanding issues with the Canadian Government. One is on the Screen Actors Guild with what they call illegal Canadian film policies, and they are calling for a federal investigation.
MR. REEKER: It sounds like a matter for the Justice Department.
QUESTION: Okay. And the second is that the Canadian Government has been shipping softwood into major concerns such as Home Depot, and that chain of construction stores has garnered -- and other stores here in the United States that prefer the Canadian softwood, and they are gaining 39 percent of the market.
Are these disputes being taken care of? Is this a WTO problem or is this going to --
MR. REEKER: I seem to recall having read something about this issue, and my trusty sidekick is going to provide me the information that I recently read on that.
In general, and to put your question in context, our economic relationship with Canada is vital and strong. Softwood lumber represents only 7 billion out of $450 billion in total trade between our two countries. The United States supports open markets for fairly traded goods. Our trade laws, like those of other countries, play an important role in offering a rules-based response to unfairly traded imports.
We are interested in a long-term solution to this trade issue in terms of subsidies on Canadian lumber, but I think for any more details on that you need to talk to the Department of Commerce. Obviously, our Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, and I am sure the Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, keep in touch on this, but really the Commerce Department has the lead in these issues, and the International Trade Administration will probably be able to help you on that.
QUESTION: When you say it could be two outstanding issues and they have been -- the softwood lumber problem has been going on unresolved for a five-year period, and the other is the entire Western Canadian province of British Columbia, with Vancouver being a central film- producing location, has been at friction with Hollywood.
MR. REEKER: Well, as I said, if there is something in terms of a law enforcement issue, the Justice Department would deal with that. We have a very vigorous, rigorous and important relationship with Canada, with whom we share the largest -- I believe the largest land border of any two countries in the world. I think we have a longstanding history of working together on a number of issues. There are always little items that we need to resolve, but we have great structures, our diplomacy and our work agency-to-agency that is there to resolve these things.
So those aren't specifically issues that I can address from there, but other agencies in our government may be able to help you with that.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 P.M.)
(* The Spokesman subsequently clarified that our offer of dialogue with Iran still stands as long as the dialogue is transparent, with no preconditions, and includes the issues of concern outlined above by the Spokesman.)