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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing February 15, 2002

Daily Press Briefing Index Friday, February 15, 2002 1:10 p.m. EST

BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman

AFGHANISTAN 1,2 Death of Tourism Minister Abdul Rahman 2 Whereabouts of Amb. Crocker

DEPARTMENT 2-6 Secretary Powell on MTV / Comments on Condom Use

IRAQ/AUSTRIA 6-9 Travel by Joerg Haider to Iraq and UN Sanctions 7-9 Visit by Austrian Vice Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer

IRAQ 9 Restrictions on travel by U.S. Citizens to Iraq

CHINA 10-11 Detention of Foreign Citizens After Demonstrations

FRANCE 11-12 French Ambassador visits Deputy Secretary Armitage


EGYPT 12-13 Visit of CIA Director

ZIMBABWE 13 U.S. concern over situation

PAKISTAN 14 Kidnapping of Daniel Pearl

CANADA 14-15 Canadian Prime Minister's comments on the Ice Skating Controversy


DPB #20


1:22 p.m. EST

MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, everybody. Sorry that I am running a little bit late. Today, it is Friday. Let me in advance wish you all a good weekend. As you know, Secretary Powell will be departing with the President tomorrow for the trip to Asia -- Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing. I think you have all seen the briefing given by Dr. Rice about that trip yesterday. I will be accompanying the Secretary on that, and I look forward to seeing you when we return.

No other announcements. Wait, let me do point out that we are pleased to welcome to our briefing room today five ambassadors for a week from Austria, winners of an essay competition coordinated by the Embassy of Austria here in Washington, who are here observing the various practices of Washington. So we are very pleased to welcome you young people to our briefing today.

So keep it clean. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: All right, let's start with Afghanistan.

MR. REEKER: Please. Afghanistan.

QUESTION: What do you want to start in? Let's go with Afghanistan. The interim president of the truly interim government it now appears says there's been a conspiracy behind the assassination of an aviation minister. And in fact the reports are that they've run off to Saudi Arabia. What does the US have on this situation, please, and how ominous is it really?

MR. REEKER: First of all, let me make very clear that we are very saddened by the death of Air Transport and Tourism Minister Abdul Rahman in Kabul yesterday, and I did see the Chairman, Chairman Karzai's remarks. As he indicated, Barry, in his remarks, this investigation is ongoing. I don't have anything further to add on that now. We will continue to keep in touch with the Afghan Interim Authority obviously on this, but I just don't have anything to add to that right now.

QUESTION: Well, he said we are asking -- here's a quote -- "We are asking the Saudis to arrest them and bring them back. We will try them, we will put them behind bars." He seems to have some certitude about what's gone on.

MR. REEKER: And I already indicated, Barry, I don't have anything to add to that. I don't have any further information to that. I saw his remarks. We certainly will be in touch with our Embassy in Kabul, which is in touch with the Interim Authority and Mr. Karzai, and let you know if there is anything we can add to that.

QUESTION: Well, I thought perhaps you might want to say that if such folks got to Saudi Arabia, you would support the interim government, which you support in that if there are people who killed a minister, the Saudis ought to turn them over. Would that be right?

MR. REEKER: Barry, I don't have any additional facts on the matter at this point. We've seen Chairman Karzai's information. I don't have facts on that. We are checking with our Embassy in Kabul, and we will follow up on that situation and add anything if there is anything we can add. The Chairman obviously made clear that they are investigating this matter.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MR. REEKER: We are not moving on.

QUESTION: One follow-up. As a technical matter, is Ambassador Crocker in Kabul?

MR. REEKER: To the best of my knowledge, yes.

QUESTION: In light of this killing and the violence of the soccer game in Kabul, does the United States think that the ISAF should be expanded to a much greater extent than it was originally planned?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I would want to tie in the killing -- the death of this minister last night -- with the soccer match, where I understand there was some unfortunate violence at a soccer match. That kind of thing we have seen in many places in the world, but obviously regrettable. And in terms of anything further on the security there, I think you know where we stand. We have been supporting the International Security Force for Afghanistan through the UN, and I just don't have anything further to add on that at this point. I don't think there is a particular parallel there, Jonathan.

QUESTION: Yes, can I move on? And I apologize in advance for not being able to keep this clean, but the White House seems to have set the tone for the day. Your colleague over there just said that when it comes to abstinence, Secretary Powell takes a backseat to no one. (Laughter.) Is that this Department's --

MR. REEKER: I spoke to my colleague at the White House, and I understand that Mrs. Powell is holding for him on the other line -- so, no. Look, clearly, I think what Mr. Fleischer was indicating is what we have certainly said, and what you all know the Secretary believes in terms of his views on abstinence. He and Mrs. Powell have been very strong supporters of an organization called Best Friends. Mrs. Powell was a founder of that organization. They have been strong benefactors of that organization, which encourages abstinence; its focus is encouraging abstinence in young people. And so the Secretary has been very clear in his support of that.

Yesterday, he had the opportunity in a really unprecedented way to speak to a group of youth, have a dialogue with youth from around the world in some 375 million households to discuss issues that were of interest to these people, real people with real problems, with real issues. And the name of the program was "Be Heard" and the Secretary answered their questions, let them express their views, and expressed his views, which very much reflect the views of the administration on these matters. I think it was a terrific opportunity for the Secretary, and there was widespread support around the world for that.

QUESTION: Certainly some of the people who heard "Be Heard" were not very pleased with it. Are they just -- their criticism is just misplaced, you are saying?

MR. REEKER: Clearly, as I think Ambassador Boucher said yesterday, any attempts to find differences or focus on what is clearly not fully understood is misplaced, and it diverts attention from the real issues here. As I said, abstinence is an important part of health education for young people. Secretary Powell believes that. The President believes that. The American Government believes that. That is an important part of our policy.

For those that are sexually active, however, and there are those who are sexually active, as the Secretary said, our dialogue encourages use of condoms as part of the solution to the HIV/AIDS crisis, which is a serious crisis affecting and potentially affecting millions of people all over the globe.

Our overall policy of encouraging education, which includes a focus on abstinence as well as other forms of prevention, is reflected in the President's budget; it is reflected in our international aid programs. Secretary Powell, as you know, works very closely with Secretary of Health and Human Services Thompson on these issues in the Interagency AIDS Council, and will continue to do that.

So we share the same approach and --

QUESTION: Can I just get one more in, and then I will stop? What was the Secretary's reaction to the outcry? Do you know? I mean, surely he can't have been surprised because, I mean, these kind of responses from certain quarters are generally to be expected when one makes remarks such as those.

MR. REEKER: I talked about it with the Secretary this morning. He was extremely pleased with his opportunity to do that program with so many youth from around the world, to take their questions. If you look at the context, again at the question, the question in question was not a question about should I or shouldn't I. It was a real question about condoms, about their role in prevention, and he stands by that.

QUESTION: But he didn't have any specific reaction to the comments of some conservative commentators?

MR. REEKER: Nothing I need to share with you here.

QUESTION: Has he been contacted by anyone whose views differ from those stated by the Secretary?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. I could check. I know he has been contacted by people who have supported and strongly praised his views on the entire program -- again, looking at that whole program in context and what a terrific opportunity it was to talk about issues with real people, with youth who have concerns and real problems of their own.

QUESTION: But is this reflected in US family planning programs overseas? HIV aside, I thought Republican administrations generally aren't too inclined to advise poor people and indigent population problems with birth control.

MR. REEKER: If you look at the President's --

QUESTION: Because it's un-Godly or something.

MR. REEKER: If you look at the President's budget and our foreign programs, as well as our overall prevention message, it promotes responsible sexual behavior. That includes a strong message in terms of education about abstinence. There is no better way to prevent the spread of this disease, to eliminate or decrease the threat of getting HIV/AIDS, than abstinence. But also looking at other methods of prevention in terms of this absolutely vital effort that we have undertaken globally, condom use, condom distribution, is part of that. And we'll continue to combine those things in terms of educating the people of the world because this is so vital to their future and to our future. It is a question of national security and stability.

QUESTION: It seems just the two things would -- it seems to be almost a contradictory position. If you are on a television show with a lot of teenagers who ask about condoms, and you said that you think it's a good thing to ward off against disease, and then you say that you are in favor of abstinence, I am just saying, could you help sort of square the circle? Because based on the remarks that he said --

MR. REEKER: If you had listened to what I said earlier about looking at what the question was -- I don't know if you were there, if you had had a chance to watch the program or read the transcript. If you look at the question, it wasn't a question about shouldn't I or should I have sex. It was a question specifically about condoms.

The Secretary has been very clear in the broader question about stressing that abstinence is an important aspect of this in educating youth here in this country, abroad, about the realities of this, and not pulling any punches. Abstinence plays a part there. It is absolutely important. But for those that are sexually active, as the Secretary said, our dialogue encourages the use of condoms because it is a matter of life and death. It is part of the solution, we feel, to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

QUESTION: Can I ask one related to the show last night? You saw it?

MR. REEKER: I did, yes.

QUESTION: Do you, or does anyone else in this building have any reaction to the introduction that the MTV people gave the Secretary? They described him as the lone moderating voice in a hard-line hawkish administration, and then said at one point that he was now the person in Washington who is telling the armchair generals to wait on Iraq.

MR. REEKER: I am just looking at that here in the transcript.

QUESTION: Right. That is pretty accurate, isn't it, what I just said?

MR. REEKER: Pretty close. I will let others look at the transcript themselves. Let me point out, first of all, that MTV and the program are independent journalists who are free to express their opinions, just as all of you do on a regular basis. I think we've been very clear about the Secretary's role, his views, his working with the administration. We are all on the same message here. And it was brought ever more clear this week and last week when the Secretary was testifying on Capitol Hill. So I don't think there is any particular question of that.

I won't try to parse and spar with --

QUESTION: No, I'm not asking you to -- I'm just wondering if -- what you thought of it, if anything. You don't?

MR. REEKER: I don't think that is true at all, suggesting that Secretary Powell is a "lone voice for international cooperation." I would refer you to the President of the United States, whose own transcript, if I may do so, suggested just this week, when he was meeting with President Musharraf, that "I look forward to working with the world." So --

QUESTION: So it seems to me that you have been prepared for this question.

MR. REEKER: Actually, I wasn't.


MR. REEKER: I am just fast on my feet.

QUESTION: Well, exactly.

MR. REEKER: Thank you.

QUESTION: But you don't have any plans to talk to MTV about this? They are rebroadcasting it over and over again, and if you don't think that that introduction is accurate, have you -- are you planning to suggest that maybe they say --

MR. REEKER: I think we have made our views quite clear, as we do every day here with you, and you still write things that you believe in.

QUESTION: No, no. To MTV specifically, not through us or through anyone else.

MR. REEKER: I think we have had a discourse with MTV in the preparations for this program that made our views quite clear.

QUESTION: You don't have a problem with this (inaudible) around the world for the next two weeks --

MR. REEKER: I disagree with some of those statements, just as I disagree with some of the statements that appear in certain other press reports. And there isn't a whole lot we can do about that, because we believe more strongly in the independence of media, the opportunity to make our views clearly known. And I think the Secretary avails himself of that opportunity quite deliberately, quite eloquently in 90 minutes, and will reach some half a billion people around the world.

QUESTION: But the State Department is also -- this State Department especially is very well known for its careful preparations for public events, and all sorts of events. Was he aware, or were people in the building aware that this is the way he would be introduced?


QUESTION: And no one raised an objection?

MR. REEKER: Yes. Some didn't agree with it.


QUESTION: Can we move on to Mr. Haider?

MR. REEKER: Is there anything else on this broader issue of the MTV program or HIV?

QUESTION: Haider, also.

MR. REEKER: Haider, okay.

QUESTION: Okay. A couple of questions on Haider. First of all, can you elaborate perhaps on what your colleague meant yesterday when he said that the United States expected the Austrian Government to submit a report to the UN Sanctions Committee on this? The Austrians say they haven't received any such requests, and they see absolutely no basis for any such request.

MR. REEKER: I read your story on that. That was one of the things I did in the time I was being late coming out here. So I was able to anticipate that question. If you look back at what Ambassador Boucher said yesterday in response to your questions on this subject, he was simply saying -- if I can sort of paraphrase -- is this is matter for Austria and the UN Sanctions Committee, if there is such an issue. It is something that we would expect and trust that they would follow up if there is need be. I don't know that there is a need to be. I would refer you to the Sanctions Committee if they have any questions about it. We have made our views of the trip quite well known. I don't know, and I think Richard made that clear, that the Sanctions Committee would find out facts, or the Austrians would find out facts and report the facts if necessary, if they had an opinion on that, to the Sanctions Committee. I don't know that there is a need for that. You can check with the Sanctions Committee.

QUESTION: Okay, and do you have anything new to say about possible ways in which this visit might have violated the UN sanctions?

MR. REEKER: You would want to ask the UN Sanctions Committee that question. I don't --

QUESTION: Today, there was -- here in the State Department there was a meeting between Richard Armitage and Austrian Vice Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer. Could you inform us about the meeting, and did Mr. Armitage raise the question of Haider's visit to Iraq?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I can inform you. And, yes, he raised the question. Let me tell you a little bit about that meeting which took place this morning. Dr. Susanne Riess-Passer was here, the Deputy -- or the Vice Chancellor of Austria, and met with our Deputy Secretary of State. They discussed a number of regional issues, including enlargement of the European Union, bilateral trade matters, and the Deputy Secretary expressed our support, the United States -- pardon me, the United States' appreciation for Austria's support in international efforts to combat terrorism, and congratulated the Vice Chancellor on the performance of Austrian athletes at the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

In terms of Mr. Haider's visit to Baghdad, the Deputy Secretary reiterated our views, which you have heard from here before. We have expressed them previously to the Austrian Government. We believe the visit was counter-productive, inappropriate, and we've discussed fully with the Austrians our concerns about his trip to Iraq, including the circumstances of his travel there. So I think we have made our point quite clear.

QUESTION: Two questions. Did he specifically ask for any kind of report to the UN? And I have a follow-up just about the --

MR. REEKER: The answer is, no, not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Okay. And Vice Chancellor Reiss-Passer is the head of the Freedom Party, which has been criticized in the past for being ultra- nationalist, anti-immigrant, and has come under a lot of -- I mean, I'm just curious, did any of those issues come up in the meeting, and do you think it's appropriate that a senior State Department official be meeting with someone from that party?

MR. REEKER: I think she is the Vice Chancellor of Austria. It's absolutely appropriate that the Deputy Secretary of State meet with her in the capacity that he did, that I just described. I think I have already given you the readout of the issues they discussed in terms of Mr. Haider. We have clearly made our views known about the trip to Baghdad. In the past, I think we have made our views also known about some of that gentleman's statements and commentary. So I don't think there is much to add there. This was a meeting, a bilateral meeting between the United States and Austria, with appropriate officials at the appropriate level.

QUESTION: I have an Iraq-related question.

MR. REEKER: Sorry. We'll stick with Austria.

QUESTION: It sounds to me, Phil, as though you guys are backing down somewhat on your wanting Austria to tell the UN what the circumstances of it is --

MR. REEKER: You know, I look back and this -- and I discussed it with Richard --

QUESTION: It was my question to Richard.

MR. REEKER: Right. And I think he was responding to your question. The real question would be: Does the UN Sanctions Committee regarding Iraq have any questions? Do they have any issues with his visit? And those they would need to obviously get the answers from Austria.

What Richard was saying is we would expect Austria to look into this, which I believe they have done, and if there were a need to report anything to the Sanctions Committee, they would do so. So it is really an issue for those two. We have made clear our views of the visit, and I can just go back to let you know anything that --

QUESTION: But my question is: Does the United States think that Austria needs to submit a report to the UN committee?

MR. REEKER: No, I don't think we ever indicated that. I think we said they needed to --

QUESTION: When Richard came up here yesterday and said we would expect the Austrian Government to, and we want them to, and we don't take any -- we don't have any opinion about whether this violated the sanctions until we see the Austrian report to the Olympic Committee (sic), that sounds --

MR. REEKER: No, in fact, that is not what he said, Matt. He said would follow up and report findings to the UN Sanctions Committee. I don't know that there are any findings that need to be reported to the UN Sanctions Committee. That is why I directed you to ask them if there was such a thing.

QUESTION: You can't have findings until you do the report, right? So obviously there are no findings right now.

MR. REEKER: Again, they need to determine if there is anything they need to report to the UN Sanctions Committee. One would expect them to do that.

QUESTION: If there is something that they need to --

MR. REEKER: That's right. I told you -- I referred you to the Sanctions Committee, if they have any questions that they raised about it.

Enough on that?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, doesn't the Sanctions Committee prohibit people from bringing things into Iraq that don't go through a specific inspection?

MR. REEKER: That's why I said, and as Richard said -- and we can just go back and do it all over again, Eli -- if there were such issues, they would need to look at that. I am not going to try to do the analysis that the Sanctions Committee would do.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, one more really briefly. The Vice Chancellor told us outside that she believed that you guys were totally convinced that the Austrian Government, and indeed the Freedom Party, did not support the regime in Iraq or Saddam Hussein generally. Is that correct? Are you guys convinced that the --

MR. REEKER: I don't think we have suggested that the Austrian Government supports the regime in Iraq.

QUESTION: She brought it up. That's true?

MR. REEKER: I'll leave that to her.

QUESTION: What about the Freedom Party?

MR. REEKER: I don't know about the Freedom Party. It is not something that I have looked into. We met with the Vice Chancellor of Austria in her capacity as that.

QUESTION: I have two questions about China.

MR. REEKER: Sorry, we have an Iraq question that probably ties into Austria somehow.

QUESTION: Well, actually it ties into Iraq. US passport holders are not allowed to travel to Iraq. That is due to expire in February --

MR. REEKER: There is a restriction on the use of a US passport for travel to, in, or through Iraq. And Secretary Powell, on Wednesday, the 13th of February, renewed that restriction. Most US citizens seeking to travel to Iraq using their US passport have to obtain prior validation of their passports from the State Department. Imposition or renewal of passport use restriction is based on a finding by the Secretary that there is imminent danger to the public health and/or physical safety of US travelers. That restriction has been in effect continuously since February of 1991.

QUESTION: And it will be renewed for?

MR. REEKER: A one-year renewal, which he signed on February the 13th. I think it was printed in the --

QUESTION: The Register?

MR. REEKER: Anyway, he signed the one-year renewal on February the 13th.

QUESTION: And that has been in force since 1990?

MR. REEKER: 1991 was the date I just gave you. February 1991.

QUESTION: Well, it's a good thing I didn't go to Iraq yesterday without knowing.

MR. REEKER: It is a good thing, Matt.

QUESTION: China. The expulsion of the Europeans, Americans, et cetera, related to the protest. By the way, the Chinese --

MR. REEKER: When we last left it yesterday, of course, we were waiting for information from the Chinese Government. The Chinese Government notified our Embassy in Beijing this morning, that is February 15th, that it had confirmed 33 US citizens were among those detained on February 14th after engaging in a demonstration in Tiananmen Square.

According to the Chinese Government, all 33 were deported from China on February 15th, that is today. So we didn't have a specific list of those who were deported, but we are continuing our efforts to obtain information about the individuals and their treatment.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) what they did to them?

MR. REEKER: We will continue to try to obtain information about the individuals and their treatment.

QUESTION: Where were they deported to?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I have that kind of detail. That is the type of information we are trying to obtain.

QUESTION: So you don't have anyone who is a -- any US citizens who may be missing?

MR. REEKER: At this point, no. According to the Chinese, there are six other detainees among those who were detained yesterday after this protest who have refused to disclose their nationalities, and the Chinese requested that our Embassy send an official to meet with these individuals to try to determine if any of them are US citizens. And I have -- we'll have to let you know if that is going forward.

QUESTION: Is there some reason to think that they are, do you know?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any reason to think that they are. They just asked because these individuals have not indicated their nationality, their citizenship. We'll try to look into that.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, I'm just reading into this. It sounds like the British know where the Britons went, and the Germans know where the Germans were sent, but the US Embassy spokesman there in Beijing declined to say where the Americans were headed when they were put on this plane. Did you say you don't know where they --

MR. REEKER: That is the kind of information we are trying to pull all together and obtain. There would also be a question of the Privacy Act in terms of individuals who haven't given any waiver of that in terms of disclosing information about them.

QUESTION: So yesterday you all had asked --

MR. REEKER: That is right.

QUESTION: -- if there were Americans among those that were arrested? And the Chinese gave you no response? And the response was today to tell you that they had been kicked out?

MR. REEKER: Well, some of these things have to do with time, Betsy, in terms of --

QUESTION: Well, two days ago. Two days ago when these people were arrested. If they were arrested on the 14th.

MR. REEKER: Right, which was --

QUESTION: I'm sorry, that was yesterday.

MR. REEKER: Yes. Anyway --

QUESTION: I'm thinking Chinese time.

MR. REEKER: We made representations to the Chinese Government at different locations bureaucratically about consular access to detainees, should there be Americans there. They notified us today that in fact there were 33 US citizens they confirmed, and that they were all deported from China today.

QUESTION: New subject? It is my understanding -- and please tell me if I am completely wrong -- but it is my understanding that Assistant Secretary Jones called in the French Ambassador today to express US displeasure with recent comments by Foreign Minister Vedrine. Is that correct?

MR. REEKER: I would have to check on that. I don't know that specifically. I am happy to ask if the French Ambassador was here. We often have many things to discuss with our colleagues like the French.

QUESTION: No, this was specifically about that.

MR. REEKER: I would have to ask, Matt. I think we have made quite clear -- the Secretary has himself in interviews and testimony our views on some of those comments. The view that the United States is not consulting with its European allies and partners could not be further from the truth. Secretary Powell is in frequent contact with European leaders, foreign ministers, including his French colleagues. Likewise, President Bush spends enormous amounts of his time in direct consultation with our European partners by phone and in person, and of course is departing tomorrow for a trip of consultation with Asian allies and others in that part of the world.

QUESTION: Phil, do you have any comment on the increasingly worsening situation in the Middle East in the last 24 hours? And specifically has the Secretary spoken with Chairman Arafat lately, or Prime Minister Sharon?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any telephone calls to update. I would be happy to check this afternoon and have someone come over if there were anything, but I am not aware of any of those. We remain troubled by the continuing violence in the region. As you know, we have made clear that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have to take strong, resolute, irreversible action right now to halt the violence and terror, take immediate steps to ensure there are no further arms smuggling attempts. And Palestinian security performance remains the essential first step to an improvement in the security situation.

And then as they deal with security problems daily, both sides need to remain focused on the overriding objective of reducing violence to a point where we can return to a process that will consolidate a real cease-fire and lay the groundwork for future negotiations. The Secretary has made quite clear that we think everyone should keep in mind the importance of substantive, ongoing security cooperation as a means of advancing the process. And the President made clear last week with his -- in his meeting with Prime Minister Sharon that we also want to find ways to respond to the urgent economic needs of the Palestinian people.

So we will not give up hope. While we continue to be troubled by this violence, we are going to continue working with both sides in as balanced a way as we can. And I will remind you that the President and the Secretary have both made clear our vision for the region, and that vision is still one we hold.

QUESTION: So could you say how you are working with both sides these days, if there were no phone calls seems to be made?

MR. REEKER: Oh, we continue to have contacts through our diplomats on the ground regularly and others. I am just telling you that I didn't have any recent phone calls to update you on from the Secretary of State. But that doesn't mean that there aren't the regular contacts that we have always had with both sides.

QUESTION: Speaking of others, can you say anything about the CIA Director's trip to Egypt?

MR. REEKER: I would refer you to the CIA for that. I think they announced some time ago that he was making a regional trip, and was going to a number of countries there.

QUESTION: Two other questions about China.

MR. REEKER: China, okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments about the report this morning of President Jiang's strong suspicions that Li Peng was behind the bugging of the presidential jet?

MR. REEKER: I don't. That report would involve alleged intelligence information. Of course we wouldn't discuss that or a Chinese domestic situation.

QUESTION: And the second question. Can you give any more details about the upcoming visit of Vice President Hu Jintao to Washington, which is touted for April?

MR. REEKER: No, I can't. But I would be happy to look into that one. It is not one that I was immediately aware of. But I think April is kind of a long way off in our galaxy, and we will deal with the President and the Secretary's visit to China next week first.

QUESTION: What galaxy? (Laughter.)

MR. REEKER: Not always yours.

QUESTION: It has been a while since we have discussed Zimbabwe here, and there have been some developments recently with the European Union election monitoring delegation having some trouble. What do you think about the way they have been treated?

MR. REEKER: From the reports I have seen, I would say it is not good treatment. I don't have all the facts. I have only seen those reports. So obviously we would be looking into those.

I think we have made quite clear our concerns with the situation in Zimbabwe. We have had high-level US officials that have visited there and expressed those concerns. Assistant Secretary Kansteiner from the African Affairs Bureau. Our Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has also been there to discuss our concerns with the severe diminishing of democracy in Zimbabwe and how we have seen that the Government of Zimbabwe is taking their country down a road of economic and political wrack and ruin.

We have expressed our concerns at many levels. The Secretary has been quite clear about that. And so, as he also indicated, we have developed a plan focusing on individuals responsible for benefiting from policies that undermine democratic institutions in Zimbabwe in terms of travel sanctions that are in the process of being imposed.

So I don't have anything to add on that at this point, but that is something that is in the process and we are looking at.

QUESTION: Did you just say the President had said something about this?


QUESTION: I don't know.

QUESTION: You seem to -- did you say something about regime change in Zimbabwe or something? (Laughter.)

MR. REEKER: Nice try. That's a different galaxy.

QUESTION: Did you say that President Bush had said something about Zimbabwe? Is that in what you just said?

MR. REEKER: I thought I said the Secretary did. That is what I meant to say. I usually speak for him.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Daniel Pearl?

MR. REEKER: There is nothing further to report on Daniel Pearl. I think the primary concern, of course, remains the safe and rapid release of Mr. Pearl. We are fully engaged in trying to achieve that goal. You heard President Musharraf's comments that Pakistani officials are dedicated to a safe and rapid resolution of the case.

Regarding the various claims that we have heard, the investigation is not going to be distracted by those reports, and we would hope that those reports turn out to be unfounded. And we are continuing to be in close contact with Mr. Pearl's family, with the Wall Street Journal, his employers, and with Pakistani officials to try to bring about, hopefully, a happy resolution to this case.

QUESTION: Another one. The real reason why you were late, of course, was that you were watching the press conference in Salt Lake City.

MR. REEKER: Actually, he is on to me. How did you know?

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the decision to award the gold to the Canadians?

MR. REEKER: I wouldn't. I think the United States congratulates all the athletes who do such a tremendous job, including our own, but it is not a matter that we get involved in in terms of --

QUESTION: Well, the Canadian Foreign Minister yesterday outside said he was so upset when he watched it on TV that he said if he had been in the audience he would have thrown something. Do you approve of using threats of violence?

MR. REEKER: I didn't hear that comment. I will have to go back to his transcript.

QUESTION: Well, he did say that. What do you make of that?

MR. REEKER: I wouldn't try to --

QUESTION: Do you understand that level of indignation?

MR. REEKER: I wouldn't try that, Matt. Thanks very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m. EST)


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Gordon Campbell: Is This Guy The World’s Most Dangerous Thirtysomething?

Saudi Arabia has long been regarded as a pillar of stability in the Middle East, and is the essential caterer to the West’s fossil fuel needs. It is also the country that gave us Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda, and 15 of the 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks... More>>


Non-Binding Postal Vote: Australia Says Yes To Same Sex Marriage

Binoy Kampmark: Out of 150 federal seats, 133 registered affirmative totals in returning their response to the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”. More>>


Bonn Climate Change Conference: Protecting Health In Small Island States

The vision is that, by 2030, all Small Island Developing States will have health systems that are resilient to climate change and countries around the world will be reducing their carbon emissions both to protect the most vulnerable from climate risks and deliver large health benefits in carbon-emitting countries. More>>


Camp Shut Down: Refugees Must Be Rescued From Manus

On 31st October 2017, the detention centre on Manus Island in which the Australian Government has been holding more than 700 refugees was closed, leaving those living there in a desperate situation. More>>



Rohingya Muslims Massacred: Restrictions On Aid Put 1000s At Risk

Amnesty: The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign. More>>


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