State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for August 7
Daily Press Briefing
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
August 7, 2002
1-2 Fourth Anniversary of the East Africa Bombings
2 Canadian Citizen Held
2-3 Meeting with Palestinian Delegation
3 Palestinian Authority Links to Terrorism
4 EU Trade Agreement
5 Use of Bases
6 November 17 Terrorist Organization
7-8 US Policy/WMD Evidence
8-9 Iraqi Opposition Meeting
9 Ambassador Pritchard s Meetings
9-10 Land Reform Efforts
10-11 Farm Workers
11-12 President Bush s Meeting with President Fox
12 Meeting with Officials
12 UN Mediation
MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to the State Department on this Wednesday. I would just point out that today marks the Four Year Anniversary of the bombings of the United States Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Our thoughts today are with those American, Kenyan and Tanzanian citizens who were lost in the bombings, as well as with their families. The American flag here at the Department of State and all Department of State facilities around the world is flying today at half mast in memory of those killed and injured in those attacks.
And so as we remember our colleagues that were lost in that, I am here to take your questions. I am not quite sure to whom to defer. I think Betsy Steuart is our senior correspondent.
QUESTION: Could you say why the Secretary has not been visible today to acknowledge this day and the people in this building who have lost their lives?
MR. REEKER: I think the Secretary has acknowledged it in the way that all of us have, and that is taking a moment to pause privately to think about our colleagues who were lost and the many citizens of Kenya and Tanzania who were lost in that terrorist attack by al-Qaida four years ago. All of us looked at this this morning. It is something we have talked about yesterday as well in terms of having the flag lowered. It will fly until the end of today at half mast so that we can all remember our colleagues in our own private way.
QUESTION: I am just stunned, in this war on terrorism which this nation is currently engaged in, why there was not a more --
QUESTION: Well, yeah, a more visible acknowledgment of the people who have lost their lives in service to their country.
MR. REEKER: Betsy, I would invite you and all of your journalistic colleagues and your cameras to go down to the front of the State Department, where not only are our flags flying at half mast today, but where engraved in the wall are the names of all of the United States diplomats and diplomatic personnel who have lost their lives over a period in excess of 200 years, many of them from acts of terrorism and other things at the front lines of national security, representing our country and the safety and security of Americans abroad. We have lost a number of colleagues in recent years, including those who were lost in the two embassy bombings four years ago. There is a plaque representing that. We have covered that extensively.
We have remembered them and our hearts do go out and our thoughts are with the families, including the families of those that were killed most recently, as I said yesterday, in Pakistan in a church bombing there. And so the terrorism is something we live with all the time, the entire Department, where Secretary Powell at the helm is very focused on our war on terrorism -- the coalition that we have put together with countries from around the world to fight this global scourge -- and we're determined to do that, as the President has said.
Yes, behind you.
QUESTION: Can you tell me latest about, Mohammed Jabarah, the Canadian that's being held here? Where is he being held? Why is he being held? And who is his lawyer?
MR. REEKER: I am afraid I would have to refer you to law enforcement. I don't have any information on that.
QUESTION: You have nothing? You have no file on this at all? I understand the State Department was dealing with Canada's Foreign Affairs Department on this.
MR. REEKER: I would refer you to the Justice Department, which would have any information on that available.
QUESTION: Phil, what are the Secretary's plans vis-à-vis the Palestinian delegation? Have they come together?
MR. REEKER: I think as we said yesterday, and talked about for some time, a delegation of Palestinians will be in Washington for meetings with Secretary Powell and a range of other US officials on Thursday and Friday. That is, beginning tomorrow, the Secretary expects to meet with this group tomorrow.
And the purpose of the meetings, as we have discussed, will be to have a discussion and exchange views on a wide range of issues, including Palestinian civil reform efforts, renewal of security cooperation, which is absolutely vital, and progress on political dialogue -- all of this in the framework of the President's strategy as outlined in his June 24th speech, leading toward accomplishing the vision that he outlined.
We are looking forward to further exchanges in the future as part of our efforts on this, supported by regional and international partners. We very much want to see a restoration of calm to renew hope for Palestinians and Israelis, alike. So we'll look forward to those meetings tomorrow.
QUESTION: Has the administration been involved in these contacts between Israel and the Palestinians, appear that some sort of an agreement is coming for an Israeli withdrawal?
MR. REEKER: We certainly keep in contact with a wide range of representatives from the various parties. As you pointed out, Israel is also meeting with a range of Palestinian officials, including some meetings that have been going on today. Those meetings have included the Interior Minister, Mr. Yehiyeh, who is going to be here as part of the Palestinian delegation that will meet with Secretary Powell and others beginning tomorrow.
And we believe that such direct contact is extremely important. These direct discussions are something that we have encouraged. We are encouraged by the recent discussions they have had. They are important. We want them to continue and we will certainly look forward to speaking with the Palestinian delegation ourselves and looking forward to further such discussions within the framework of the President's strategy.
QUESTION: Still on the Palestinian meetings. What do you realistically hope will be accomplished in these meetings this week? I mean, what are you hoping the Palestinians will, you know, leave --
MR. REEKER: I think as I said, this is an opportunity to have an exchange of views. We met a couple of weeks ago with a similar delegation from Israel and now we are meeting with a delegation of Palestinians. The President talked and we continue to talk about the importance of reform in the Palestinian community in terms of building institutions that can lead the Palestinians to the independent state that is part of the President's vision, as supported by the international community.
And so it is important to focus on how we keep moving along with the strategy, what the next steps would be, how we can have security cooperation, move toward progress on a political dialogue, discuss the Palestinian civil reform efforts, the steps that are being taken there. And so all of these will be topics for discussion with the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Are you expecting, you know, something concrete as a result from --
MR. REEKER: I don't think I am in a position to lay out for you concrete results. This is a process. It's a process which is part of a strategy that we have been discussing for some time, and you are quite aware of what our ultimate goals are. So it is important to have these meetings and discussions and the Secretary looks forward to this, as he said when he first announced that he would be meeting with this delegation. So we'll let the meetings take place and then discuss what the next steps will be in this continuing process.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Secretary Rumsfeld said that he believed that the Palestinian Authority had been involved directly in terrorism. Is that also the position of the State Department, and is it something that will be brought up in the meeting tomorrow?
MR. REEKER: I don't have Secretary Rumsfeld's exact transcript anywhere. We have talked numerous times about some officials of the Palestinian Authority that have been tainted by terror and we have been very clear that it is unacceptable to traffic in terror. And so we have discussed before individuals and elements with links to terrorism, but the Palestinian Authority is not -- we have not designated under our law as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. But let there be no doubt that our focus is very much on having zero tolerance for terrorism, and that has been the position and something we have talked about for some time.
QUESTION: So the fact that the Secretary is meeting these people tomorrow, should we assume that the United States does not believe they personally have links to terrorists?
MR. REEKER: I think we have been very clear about the unacceptability of trafficking with terror or having links to terrorism. What we have been looking for are leaders from the Palestinian community who can represent a new kind of leadership, who can bring about the reforms necessary, the reforms that are vital for the interests of the Palestinian people to achieve what they want and what the President has said we all want to see for them; that is, an independent state living in secure borders next to Israel, which can have the security that the Israeli people deserve.
So that is the ultimate goal. We have got to make sure there is an end to terror and violence, and move forward on the strategy that the President and the Quartet, the rest of the international community have been working on, and that is to include security measures, to include political dialogue, and importantly, reform of Palestinian civic structures, institutions, so that they can move ahead in a productive manner, which is in all of our interests.
QUESTION: I have a question concerning one of the "axis of evils." That would be Iran. And apparently, the EU is maybe working to set up some trade agreements with them at present and in the near future. How do you feel concerning that? And do you think that's appropriate?
MR. REEKER: I guess I am not aware of the specific references you're making. I think we have always been quite clear what our concerns are about Iran. The President was, in his speech, where he referenced Iran in terms of our concerns about their ongoing support for terrorism, state sponsorship of terrorism, their human rights record, their attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and so these are issues along with their opposition to the Middle East peace process that have been of concern to us.
The President also made quite clear in his statement from the White House that, you know, we would like to see a better situation for the people of Iran and what our hopes are there. So I think that's about all I have to add on that. We would certainly hope that anybody in their contacts with Iran would reinforce the need to deal with some of these issues and to act responsibly in the world.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about Prince Saud al-Faysal's interview with the AP this morning, in which he said that the Saudis had made clear to the US Government, both publicly and privately, that their lands would not be able to be used for an attack on Iraq?
MR. REEKER: I don't think there's anything particular to add. I don't think anybody has suggested an attack on Iraq. So I haven't actually read the interview, to be quite honest. I had other things to be reading.
But our views on Iraq have been discussed time and time again. Our position and our policy hasn't changes from that expressed very clearly by the President of the United States, by Secretary Powell and other senior officials. We have talked about that here -- what our concerns are in terms of Saddam Hussein and the threat he poses to his neighbors, to the region, to the whole world, and certainly to his own people in terms of development of weapons of mass destruction, which he has shown before that he is willing to use against his own people and against his neighbors, in terms of his support for terrorism.
These are issues which are of great concern to us. We have a responsibility to be concerned about that, to watch very closely. And Iraq knows what its responsibilities are vis-à-vis the UN Security Council Resolutions and the disarmament that they agreed to undertake at the end of the Gulf war over a decade ago.
QUESTION: Will the US try and talk to the Saudis and get them to reverse this decision?
MR. REEKER: I don't know what decision you are particularly talking about, or why anybody would need to take that decision. So we have an ongoing dialogue with the Saudis about issues of mutual concern. We discussed many of those yesterday. Certainly, we discuss our concerns about Iraq with the Saudis, as we do with other friends and allies throughout the world and as I did just now.
QUESTION: Okay. Just to follow up on these questions, have the views of Prince Saud been communicated directly to the State Department? Or is this the first stage?
MR. REEKER: We have a regular dialogue with Saudi Arabia about all kinds of issues in our bilateral relationship, as well as with regional issues. I haven't read this specific wire service interview that was referenced, but I am sure we'll all have a chance to do so in good time as we get through our stack of reading.
Let me go to the back, and then come back to you.
Yes, Mr. Lambros, sir.
QUESTION: Mr. Reeker, I have three related questions. First --
MR. REEKER: Three?
QUESTION: Three related (inaudible). Any update on November 17th terrorist organization?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any update. I think you could probably get a better update from your contacts in Greece.
QUESTION: No, I don't have any contacts in Greece except with the newspaper. So from the official level, do you have anything?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything more for you on that.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, according to reliable sources, the real mastermind of November 17th, Dimitris Koufodinas, once upon the time was working at the US Embassy in Athens. And not only this, but he was also one of the main factor in the Steve Lalas case. May we have any answer in order to clarify this mess?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any of that. If you want to give me the name, I can try to check back if there was somebody by that name that ever worked for the embassy in Athens, but it's nothing that I am aware of.
QUESTION: One more thing. According to some Greek reports, a large portion on the recent developments on November 17th are fabricated against the territory (inaudible) of Greece in the north party of the country, targeting, actually, the city of Thessaloniki. Since the US government, as you know, is a part on the ongoing investigation along with the Greeks and the British, may we have your comment of that type of criticism?
MR. REEKER: I haven't seen those criticisms. As we've said before, I think it's important that you refer to Greek authorities for their assessments and the charges that they have made and the progress they have made in this type of counterterrorism activity. We have been quite clear that November 17 is a terrorist group responsible for the deaths of many, including Americans, and we congratulate the Greeks on the progress they have made in rooting out that terrorist organization.
As we have been quite clear, terrorism is a threat to all of us. There is no place for it in the civilized world, and we will continue working with so many of our friends and allies as we seek to find terrorism wherever it may sprout.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Saddam Hussein has a televised address (inaudible) which I'm sure everyone will be watching carefully. What is the one thing that he must do to avoid a war with the United States?
MR. REEKER: The one thing that he must do?
MR. REEKER: I love the premise of these questions that I get. We have been very clear on what our Iraq policy was. I just repeated it for you again a few minutes ago. Saddam Hussein and his regime know quite clearly what their responsibilities are and what they need to do. Our position has not changed at all. We think Iraq, the region and the world would be far better off with a new regime in Baghdad. That is the policy of the United States Government. So if he wants to step down and take a walk, we would be quite happy with that.
QUESTION: Well, is it allowing unfettered access to UN inspections and following the UN resolution, or is it stepping down, or is it both?
MR. REEKER: You know what the US policy is. I have repeated it again just now. In terms of the UN Security Council resolutions, they are quite clear as well. There is no ambiguity in what has to be done. These are resolutions that were agreed to by Iraq. They involve disarmament, which includes unfettered access for inspectors to confirm that disarmament that was agreed to at the end of the Gulf War. So there is little space for any question as to what Iraq's obligations are.
QUESTION: What is the evidence that he is in possession of weapons of mass destruction?
MR. REEKER: We have had certain briefings on that here and at other buildings, and there is other information that I am not able to share with you at this time, but we have been quite clear --
QUESTION: But you have evidence that --
MR. REEKER: So have others in the international community, including testimony recently on Capitol Hill that outlined where things were even prior to the inspectors being ejected by Saddam Hussein's regime some years ago. So our concerns there are quite clear and quite justified and shared around the world.
QUESTION: Have you been sharing those with your allies? For example, I'm looking at comments by the Foreign Affairs Minister in Canada, and he says yesterday, "We have no evidence he is in possession of weapons of mass destruction." He's not saying he's a Saddam Hussein fan, but he's saying we'd like to see the evidence.
MR. REEKER: If Saddam Hussein has nothing to hide, then open it up, let the inspectors in, as required under the UN Security Council resolutions. That is quite clear. It's quite simple. It's quite obvious. There is no reason for obfuscating or Saddam trying to move goalposts or change the subject. It's quite clear what he needs to do. Secretary General Kofi Annan's letter recently reiterated that. And we talk regularly with friends and allies about our concerns vis-à-vis Iraq. We have a responsibility to do so and will continue doing so.
QUESTION: And sharing the evidence, I gather?
MR. REEKER: We have a regular dialogue with our friends and allies about the concerns about Iraq.
QUESTION: Including Canada?
MR. REEKER: Including Canada, one of our closest friends and allies.
QUESTION: I guess he must have missed that.
MR. REEKER: I'll let you talk about that.
QUESTION: Will Secretary Powell meet with the Iraqi opposition this week?
MR. REEKER: As you know, we are having meetings on Friday with representatives of Iraqi opposition groups. We talked a little bit about that. The meeting will take place at the State Department on August 9th. This is a meeting co-hosted by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman and the Under Secretary of Defense Mr. Feith. I don't believe the Secretary is part of those meetings.
We talked about the six different groups whose leaders are invited. And the purpose, of course, of those meetings is to discuss with them next steps in coordinating our work with Iraqi opposition. It's an important time to increase coordination and cooperation among those groups, and that is what this meeting is all about. And so we will go ahead and have that meeting on the 9th.
In response to a question that came up related to that yesterday in terms of the working groups that we have had, you will recall that earlier this year we began a project on the future of Iraq to bring together a broad gathering of Iraqi experts to discuss practical steps for planning the future of Iraq after Saddam Hussein. We had one meeting in April, a planning meeting that identified six subjects, six areas, where we established working groups to focus on issues and steps for planning the future of Iraq.
The second of these six Future of Iraq working groups did meet yesterday and they are meeting again today here at the State Department to discuss, in this case, the issue of public finance and accounts. This is a working group that is focusing on establishing transparent and accountable state economic structures in a post-Saddam era, recovering assets hidden or stolen by the Iraqi regime, and planning an economic and financial framework for Iraq, looking at the inevitable day after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
So this is all part of our work with these groups in terms of what we call the working groups, or the Future of Iraq Project. One of your colleagues had asked about that yesterday so I checked into it, and indeed those meetings are going on today, as they were yesterday.
Anything else? Yes, Mr. Gollust.
QUESTION: -- Jack Pritchard's visit to North Korea, was able talk to North Korea officials but he did have some concerns to express about North Korea's record on --
MR. REEKER: I think you saw his meetings there. Let me just -- his comments were televised. The KEDO ceremony that we talked about yesterday in which Ambassador Pritchard attended highlighted both the tangible progress made in construction and the importance to the reactor project's ultimate success of North Korea beginning cooperation now with the International Atomic Energy Agency to come into compliance with its nuclear safeguard obligations.
So this was a tangible demonstration that we are moving forward to meet our obligations under the Agreed Framework, and as Ambassador Pritchard indicated in his remarks, it is time for the North Koreans to begin meaningful cooperation with the IAEA to come into compliance with the nuclear safeguard standards and meet their obligations.
QUESTION: Have you been in contact with the North Korean officials at all?
MR. REEKER: There were no other meetings planned. I haven't had a complete readout from Ambassador Pritchard. But as I told you yesterday, his schedule was to attend this function and return.
QUESTION: Where did he go afterward?
MR. REEKER: I don't know.
QUESTION: A question about Zimbabwe. The Mugabe ultimatum is for white farmers to either flee or be expelled at midnight tonight, which I gather was their time. Do you have any comments concerning that?
MR. REEKER: I know we've talked about that many times before. Our views on, you know, reasonable land reform efforts, which these steps certainly do not reflect -- we've been quite clear in our concerns about the plight of democracy in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe has taken a country that should be prospering, that should be benefiting from its natural resources, including the resources of its own people, and instead has been plunged into economic chaos and ruin by Mugabe's corrupt regime and his dismissal of standard democratic norms. We have been very concerned, of course, about the problems with food. Up to 6 million people, half of Zimbabwe's population, are at risk due to the food shortages in that country, even though the country should be a bread basket.
And with the severe drought, which has undoubtedly been a factor, certainly the policies and actions of Mugabe's government have exacerbated the situation. Shortfalls in agricultural production in Zimbabwe due to, in large part, the government-sponsored, chaotic and often violent seizures of commercial farms and failed economic policies are having a direct impact on food availability and prices, not just in Zimbabwe but throughout the region.
And so this has been something of great concern to us. We have been working through the US Agency for International Development with international organizations to help get food relief to these areas in Zimbabwe and surrounding countries that are experiencing this. And certainly, it's time once again to tell Mugabe that he needs to reexamine these policies in terms of land seizures and go back to the road to democratic norms that Zimbabwe should be on.
QUESTION: Hi, Phil.
MR. REEKER: Hi.
QUESTION: This is in regards to Mexico and just to change the topic a little bit. And just to give you a little background, in 19 -- during the 1940s --
MR. REEKER: That's a lot of background.
QUESTION: Exactly. Almost more than 50 years ago, more than 400,000 Mexican workers came to America to support -- to work in different farms. This is right after an agreement was signed between the United States and Mexico.
Ten percent of their salary was withdrawn out of their paycheck with the condition of returning the money once they go back to Mexico. What happened is that they went back, but the money was -- they never got the money. According to some US officials, the money was forwarded to Wells Fargo, but the Mexican Government said that they never got anything. The farmers say that they never got anything. There's several -- there's a couple suits in progress in California --
MR. REEKER: I'm afraid I don't see a State Department connection to that, but --
QUESTION: But is this an issue that had been raised in any particular moment with the Mexican Government?
MR. REEKER: Not that I'm --
QUESTION: So this is such an old issue?
MR. REEKER: Not that I'm aware of. I'm learning about it from you. I would be happy to check into it. It does not sound like a State Department issue. And I would have to think for a little while about where to try to refer you, but maybe the Press Office could help you look into that.
QUESTION: Well, the -- Mr. Bustamante, who is the Vice Governor of California, is in Mexico right now trying to resolve this issue and to take some measures.
MR. REEKER: Who?
QUESTION: Bustamante, Mr. Bustamante, if I'm not mistaken. He's the -- Cruz Bustamante. He's the Vice Governor of California. And he is right now talking with Mexican officials to try to resolve this issue.
MR. REEKER: Then I would suggest you try California officials and see.
QUESTION: I did. They told me that I should talk to you. (Laughter.)
MR. REEKER: Then maybe we have to have a talk with --
QUESTION: Because it's a bilateral issue and since agreement was signed between both --
MR. REEKER: Why don't we stop? Why don't we stop?
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
MR. REEKER: Clearly, I have no information on the subject. I'm fascinated to hear the history of this, try to look into it. I haven't heard anything yet that indicates a State Department connection with this, but certainly if it involves government-to-government contacts with Mexico, we may be able to direct you to the right place to find out where people are looking into that. So we'll have to look into it afterwards.
QUESTION: And just a follow-up. President Bush and President Fox are going to meet soon in Texas, by the end of the month, and is there any chance that this issue could be raised, at least?
MR. REEKER: You'd have to ask the White House about that.
QUESTION: Yeah, but, Phil, I mean, this is the US Government, right?
MR. REEKER: No, I don't speak for the White House. As anybody that comes here knows, I don't speak for the President. I'm afraid I can't fill you in on his meetings. Check with the White House and they can tell you when he is scheduled to meet with his Mexican friend and colleague, and perhaps what the agenda would be on that.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much.
MR. REEKER: Thanks. Steve.
QUESTION: Taiwan. I know that you often say that you have meetings from time to time with Taiwanese officials who are in the United States without specifying where they are, but is the Department aware of the trip today to Washington by Tsai Ying-wen, the --
MR. REEKER: I answered that question yesterday and I said you would need to talk to Taiwan authorities for information on travel of Ms. Tsai, and that as we've said and as our policy is, we do from time to time have discussions in accordance with our set policies, but that we don't discuss the details of them.
QUESTION: Hypothetically -- I know you don't answer hypotheticals, either. Would a trip to Washington be under the conditions of a transit visa or transit stop, which a Taiwanese official might make in the United States?
MR. REEKER: We talked about a transit that was taking place, or at least I did talk just on the Premier transiting, which is always provided for in terms of the safety, comfort and convenience of the transitor, keeping in mind, of course, the dignity of the traveler.
In terms of the meetings that we have from time to time with Taiwan officials, I think that falls under a separate category. I just don't have any details to share with you on those types of meetings.
Yes, sir. Please, from the back.
QUESTION: And as you know, Mr. Reeker, the Cyprus issue is again in another deadlock. Now President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Raul Denktash have accepted invitation to go to Paris, France to meet separately the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the French President Chirac. Do you have any role in this new process?
MR. REEKER: You know our role has always been to support the UN process. That is what we continue to support and I don't have any specific updates for you.
QUESTION: For this, for this development on France?
MR. REEKER: I wasn't aware of the specific development there, but we support the UN process and we hope that all parties there can keep at it and make progress in resolving this long-standing situation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Anything else? Great, thanks. Bye.
Released on August 7, 2002