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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for August 12

Daily Press Briefing for August 12

Daily Press Briefing
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 12, 2002

INDEX:

STATEMENT
1 U.S. Contribution to United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees

IRAQ
1-2 United Nations Inspections
5 Iraqi National Congress

DEPARTMENT
2-3 Under Secretary Grossman s Meeting with Iraqi Opposition
Leaders
8 Secretary Powell s Meeting with North Korean Foreign
Minister Paek
9,11 Secretary Powell s Meeting with the Palestinian Delegation

IRAN
4 Rendering of Al-Qaida Suspects to Saudi Arabia

ISRAEL
5 Deputy Foreign Minister Melchior Denied Boarding on
Airline

CHINA
5-6 Trial of Falun Gong Members

WAR CRIMES
6-7 Article 98 Agreements

ZIMBABWE
8 Food Assistance
8 Eviction of Commercial Farmers

NORTH KOREA/SOUTH KOREA
8 Inter-Korean Dialogue

RUSSIA
10 Visa Renewal for Peace Corps Volunteers

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
11 President Bush s April 4th Speech
12 Humanitarian Assistance

VENEZUELA
13 Deliberations by Venezuelan Supreme Court

TRANSCRIPT:

MR. REEKER: Well, I hope everybody had a nice weekend. Welcome back to the State Department this Monday, the 12th of August. I do have one statement, and we'll put it out in paper form following the briefing; that is, noting that the United States is contributing an additional $16.9 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We are pleased to announce that this additional contribution brings the United States contribution for fiscal year 2002 to over $255 million.

These additional funds will support the refugee agency's operations in Africa, Afghanistan and other parts of the world. Nearly 5 million of this is being provided in support of UNHCR's activities on behalf of refugee children and refugee women, and other funds will support environmental activities and UNHCR's HIV/AIDS prevention programs. So we'll put that out on paper with a few more details after the briefing.

With that aside, I guess we could call on our Reuters representative if she would like to ask the first question, or she can defer to one of her colleagues.

QUESTION: No, I'll defer to myself. (Laughter.)

MR. REEKER: Okay.

QUESTION: I wondered if you had anything to say in response to what the Iraq Information Minister has been saying about the zero need for arms inspectors, since they've already been inspected.

MR. REEKER: I don't see any particular news in that. I think we have been quite clear that Iraq continues to refuse to give a straightforward answer to the UN Security Council, and the UN Monitoring, Inspection and Verification Commission. They know what they need to do. They need to comply with UN resolutions. And as we've said many times before, the issue is not inspections per se, but verified disarmament. Iraq needs to disarm. It's what Saddam Hussein and his regime agreed to do at the end of the Gulf War. Those agreements were codified in UN Security Council resolutions. We need to make sure that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction or long-range ballistic missiles. That's what's required by the UN Security Council resolutions, and that's what we expect to see done.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the fact that he has made these remarks at a time when there is so much debate in this country about their activities there?

MR. REEKER: I think my comment was, again, that they refuse to face up to their obligations and continue to obfuscate and look for ways to move the goalposts when it's a simple situation. He understands exactly what needs to be done; that is, comply fully with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and disarm.

Sir.

QUESTION: Phil, how do you see the Secretary of State had, well, officials, and then the Secretary joined them for a few minutes -- the meeting with the opposition leaders, the Iraqi opposition leaders. How do you see the unity amongst this group of people? And do you see a promise in them being able to lead in Iraq after the Saddam regime is gone?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think we put out a statement on Friday following the meetings with the group of Iraqi opposition leaders and their representatives. There was a productive discussion, focusing on coordination of the United States Government's work with Iraqi opposition and enhancing cooperation among Iraqi opposition groups. The meeting addressed the prospects of holding a larger, broad-based political conference of the Iraqi opposition in the next few months.

I believe that the group is still in town. They've been having additional meetings in Washington. It was a significant meeting, I think, in fostering increased coordination and cooperation among Iraqi opposition groups. And what we did was offered a venue for these groups to present their goals, their concerns and their issues to the US Government, and to one another. And we also reached broad agreement among the leaders to go forward with planning a larger, broad-based political conference in the next few months, as I mentioned.

QUESTION: So would you say you're positive about the results of these meetings on -- because in the past there was kind of fear that they're not united, that they do not agree with each other on some of the issues. Do you see that that has --

MR. REEKER: I think the group and their representatives spoke for themselves following the meetings and other meetings they've had around town. There were leaders or senior representatives of the six groups that we invited; that were invited by Under Secretary Grossman from our building and Under Secretary of Defense Feith. They attended this meeting and participated actively in a spirit of cooperation, and we think that was a significant and important opportunity. And as I said, we look forward to an even broader based political conference of the Iraqi opposition in the near future.

Terri.

QUESTION: Is that the conference that you're talking about? They announced when they went outside that they would be holding their own conference without support from the United States. As far as you know, you guys aren't talking about the same conference; is that right?

MR. REEKER: I think this would be an Iraqi conference --

QUESTION: A different --

MR. REEKER: -- and anything we can do to help and support that would be what we would look forward to. I think that was what was discussed.

QUESTION: Okay. So the State Department is going to convene one of these conferences, like we talked about --

MR. REEKER: No, that isn't what I said. I said what we would do is look for having a big conference. Exactly who convenes what, when, where, you know, I couldn't tell you exactly at this point. But clearly it's an opportunity for -- as the Iraqi representatives themselves, the various opposition groups said, and we very much said, we look forward to working with them to help plan such a conference because we think that would be a good next step.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you plan to invite any other Iraqi opposition parties to Washington in a continuing effort to bring other opposition groups into this discussion?

MR. REEKER: I couldn't predict beyond what we're talking about in terms of this broader political conference, where we'll have an opportunity to do just that, have a broader group within the next few months, although I don't have any details, as I indicated. We've also had a series of meetings, as you know, in terms of the future of Iraq, a series of working group meetings, and those will continue as well that have brought in a variety of opposition leaders and experts to talk on a set of topics. And so those working groups are continuing to go on, but I don't have a particular schedule for you.

QUESTION: And Secretary Powell has never attended those; is that correct?

MR. REEKER: Working group meetings? Not that I'm aware of. That would be working group meetings.

QUESTION: I understand. But my question was: Do you expect to have any other meetings of this level with other opposition parties where Secretary Powell may drop in?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any other meetings to announce at this point, Terri, but if we do I'll let you know.

Christophe.

QUESTION: Yes. On Iran, (inaudible) Foreign Minister said -- I believe it was yesterday -- that the Iranians expelled 16 al-Qaida members from Iraq to Saudi Arabia, and he added that the Saudis would pass you on the information that they would get from these 16 al-Qaida people. Can you confirm this?

MR. REEKER: Well, as you know, we have long encouraged cooperation in the international campaign against terrorism. It is our understanding that Iran has rendered 16 al-Qaida suspects to Saudi authorities. I would just refer you to Saudi officials and/or Iranian authorities for comments or specifics on this handover.

I think as we have said many times in the past, we have been very pleased with the level of Saudi cooperation in the international campaign against terrorism. When it has been in our interest to do so, we have not hesitated to also engage the Iranian Government on such issues as the international efforts to bring al-Qaida terrorists to justice and to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, as well as areas like counter-narcotics and refugee relief. So we're continuing to cooperate with Iran in these mutual interests, but for details on that I'd just refer you to either of those governments.

QUESTION: Do you expect the Saudis to give you the information that they could get from these people?

MR. REEKER: Again, as we have said many times, US-Saudi counterterrorism cooperation has been very solid, and we have every expectation to believe that that will continue. In terms of specific questions on access to suspects, I would have to refer you to law enforcement officials at the --

QUESTION: Do you believe there still are al-Qaida people hiding in Iran, protected by the Iranian authorities?

MR. REEKER: I think I'm not in a position to provide you any more specific information. What I've said is we have sought, when we have interest in doing that, in engaging the Iranian Government on this issue. And clearly we have been quite clear in the need for everybody to contribute to the efforts to fight al-Qaida and international terrorism. One of the key tools in the war on terror is indeed law enforcement cooperation, as well as information and intelligence sharing, and that has been an important aspect in this effort.

Yes, Elaine.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up briefly on that? Do you have anything to say, though, specifically about the fact that the Iranians have done this? I mean, do you see this as an indication that they are trying to be more cooperative?

MR. REEKER: Again, I can just repeat what I said. We have, when it has been in our interest to do so, not hesitated to engage the Iranian Government on these issues. We think any cooperation in that regard is a positive thing. So I think the President has been quite clear in his statement from July the 12th in terms of our views about Iran and has said that if Iran moves toward freedom and tolerance they'll have no better friend than the United States. And so we continue to stand by that but look for everybody to cooperate in the war against terrorism in terms of this law enforcement and information sharing that goes on.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. REEKER: Okay. No?

QUESTION: No, I'm sorry.

MR. REEKER: Betsy.

QUESTION: When the INC was here, did you all have a chance to talk to them about the money that has been offered to them? Was there any movement on that?

MR. REEKER: I don't believe that was a specific subject. All I can tell you is that the $8 million cooperative agreement that we notified to Congress on May 23rd, that is our intent to offer the Iraqi National Congress a new cooperative agreement for another $8 million for June to December of this year. That is out there. We are still awaiting formal response from the Iraqi National Congress to that offer. So I don't have any further news on that now.

Yes, back here.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister who was refused access to a flight in Cincinnati because the pilot reportedly thought he was a security risk. He was escorted by State Department officials and --

MR. REEKER: That's where you're wrong. Let me just start right there. I know a number of press reports have suggested that, to the best of my knowledge, checking throughout this building, no one from the State Department was accompanying this individual. But we do understand, as you said, that an incident occurred on Friday in which the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister was denied boarding on a commercial flight from Cincinnati to Toronto. We understand that the Minister was later allowed to board a subsequent flight. We certainly regret any inconvenience to him, but I would have to refer you to the Israeli Embassy for more details on the incident. We have not heard formally on this action from the Israelis.

QUESTION: You've not heard from the Israelis?

MR. REEKER: No.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR. REEKER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: The issue of Falun Gong becomes and more international with the pressure from Beijing. And now the Hong Kong police, under the pressure of Beijing Liaison Office, are going to put 16 Falun Gong practitioners on trial. And more recently, Cambodian Government deported two Falun Gong practitioners to China for not having UN authority certificates. And also in New Zealand and Iceland, the government also feel the pressure from Beijing.

So my question is the US Government also got pressure from Beijing, or what do you think about that?

MR. REEKER: I'm not exactly quite sure what your question is asking. We have been very clear about our concerns in terms of human rights and the opportunity to practice free speech and freedom of religion and freedom to practice one's beliefs. That hasn't changed. We have written about this in our Human Rights Report.

In terms of those specific instances you raise, I'm not sure that I have particular information on those. It's something I would have to check into.

QUESTION: Hi. A question about the conversations that I understand the State Department has been having with foreign governments about military aid and linking that to the International Criminal Court. Do you have any details for us about what countries the US has been talking to and how those conversations are progressing?

MR. REEKER: This is regarding the discussions we have been pursuing with many, many countries regarding so-called Article 98 agreements. And as we have discussed for some weeks now, we have asked our embassies to approach host governments about negotiating such agreements with the United States, and similarly over the last couple of weeks we have invited representatives of embassies here in Washington into the Department, usually in groups, to be briefed again on our views about that.

As you will recall, the Article 98 agreements are consistent with the Rome statute; that is, the statute that created the International Criminal Court. And what we have been looking to do is work with countries to negotiate these Article 98 agreements.

The United States is committed to effective action against war crimes and crimes against humanity. We very much respect states that have acceded to their own statute, creating the International Criminal Court. We respect their sovereign decision to do so. But we hope they'll respect our decision not to accede to that statute, and we hope they'll respect our decision to avail ourselves of the procedure made available by the statute to prevent our nationals from falling into the potentially highly politicized jurisdiction of that Court.

And so that is what we have been pursuing with many countries around the world, and that's the nature of the discussions here in Washington, as well as through our embassies overseas.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what level those talks are happening at?

MR. REEKER: A variety of levels -- staff directors. There are also teams that will visit countries overseas. So it's involved most countries throughout the course of our normal diplomatic business.

Teri.

QUESTION: She asked about -- I hadn't heard this -- about financial aid to those countries being linked to their decision on this.

MR. REEKER: It's not financial aid. It has to do with military assistance under the American Servicemembers' Protection Act, which is a law passed by Congress. That hasn't actually been part of the talking points per se. We have been focused, as you know through our discussions here, we've been focused on the Article 98 agreements for some time.

QUESTION: Right, but is the military assistance linked to their decision on whether to support us on that alone?

MR. REEKER: There is. If you look at the American Servicemembers' Protection Act, there is a section that prohibits military assistance to a variety of countries-- let me just find the exact citation here to give you.

Certain restrictions in the American Servicemembers' Protection Act on the provision of US military assistance to countries that are party to the Rome statute of the ICC. They go into effect July 1st, 2003. These restrictions do not apply to assistance to NATO-member countries or major non-NATO allies or others, and it also provides the President with the authority to waive these restrictions where a country has signed an Article 98 agreement, and also in other cases where it's in the national interest.

So the Act does not prevent the United States from providing military assistance to any country when the President determines that such assistance is important to the national interest. But our concerns about the ICC are well known, as I indicated, and we are going to continue working with other countries on these Article 98 agreements.

QUESTION: One more follow-up on that. Can you confirm this linking of military aid with support for the Criminal Court, that that is an official policy that the State Department is pursuing, not an idea that you're exploring with --

MR. REEKER: Well, that's a law. I can give you the page, if you want to look it up. It's a law passed by the Congress, signed by the President. But our pursuit of Article 98 agreements is very much focused on our concern about the ICC.

And you'll recall that many of our friends and allies recommended the Article 98 provision as the path to take to address our concerns. You'll recall we had a discussion about this issue at the UN Security Council some weeks ago, and in addition to the Security Council resolution that was passed there, we said that we would then look to Article 98 to provide us the avenue through which to negotiate these bilateral agreements with countries, not affecting their decisions to be part of the ICC, but respecting our decision not to be a part of that.

Joel.

QUESTION: A question more on Africa. Specifically, we've been talking about Zimbabwe, where the Mugabe government has taken over following those questionable elections. But moreover, for the continent, they've gone through a drought, and there's complaints that some of the food aid is not getting to where it needs to go. Is there anything that the USAID groups and some of the nonprofits can do to get that to the urban -- or rather, rural areas to help some of the populations that are in disarray right now?

MR. REEKER: We are helping the people of that region with what is a serious situation because of the drought, but also in Zimbabwe's case because of the political steps that the Mugabe government has taken that have affected severely food production. Our assistance program has been very active. USAID has been working on this, and a US shipment of food assistance arrived at the Port of Durban July 28th that includes 20,000 metric tons. And so we are working obviously with governments, but also with the NGO community and the World Food Program to get this food distributed to those that need it in that region.

I would just point out the statement that I released on Friday in response to the steps, further steps, that the Mugabe government has taken in terms of trying to evict commercial farmers from their farms and homesteads, and how these actions, as well as the assault on political opponents, assault on the independent media, these have all destroyed Zimbabwe's economy, undermined the democratic institutions in that country, and accelerated the onset of this severe food shortage that we're facing there.

So we're working through our aid programs, and as I said, with World Food Program and others, to address that. But I would stress once again that at a time when 6 million Zimbabweans are without adequate food supplies, that the Government of Zimbabwe attempts to evict commercial farmers and thousands of farm workers is extremely reckless, and in fact, reprehensible.

Yes, Elaine.

QUESTION: Do you have any observations on the inter-Korean talks that have started?

MR. REEKER: Let me just find if I have anything more recent on this North-South dialogue. We think North-South dialogue is a positive development and we certainly hope that it indicates a new attitude on the part of North Korea. Inter-Korean dialogue is the key to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

And as you'll recall, Secretary Powell indicated during his trip to Asia that there had been some positive developments in terms of the statements coming from North Korea. He met briefly with the North Korean Foreign Minister in Brunei, and he is discussing that conversation and other recent North Korean actions with senior officials back here in Washington in order to decide on next steps. But certainly the North-South dialogue is a positive step.

Gene.

QUESTION: Yes. Can you describe, or do you have guidance on describing, the results of the visit of the Palestinian delegation here in the past few days?

MR. REEKER: I think the Secretary himself talked a bit about that when he came down with that group on Thursday after the meeting he participated in. We had a good meeting with the Palestinian delegation that visited Washington last week. As I said, they met with Secretary Powell and senior officials here in the Department on Thursday. There was constructive discussion of security cooperation, as well as economic and civil reform. We also discussed US assistance to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. That delegation continued with other meetings in Washington Friday and Saturday.

And so along with those meetings, we have continued to discuss with a number of regional leaders efforts to restore active security cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. We hope that significant progress can be made in days ahead and we'll look forward to another meeting of the International Task Force on Reform later this month as a step that can assist the Palestinians in their efforts to achieve civil reform. I believe that meeting will take place in Paris around the 22nd of this month, but I would have to check the exact date for you. You will recall that that group, the International Task Force, consists of representatives from the Quartet -- that is, the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States -- as well as other members of the donor community, representatives from a variety of countries that have participated in that Task Force. That will take place later this month.

QUESTION: Do you have a list of that International Task Force, the nations that are on it?

MR. REEKER: I'm sure we can dig one up for you.

Betsy.

QUESTION: Phil, do you have anything more on security? They met with George Tenet on Saturday and the Secretary said that he hoped that there would be a plan that would come out of the meeting, or steps that could be taken soon.

MR. REEKER: As the Secretary himself did say last week, we hope to see some specific actions regarding security, things going forward in the coming days. I don't have any more details at this time in terms of any references to CIA meetings. I'm afraid I would have to direct you out there and see what answers they would or would not give you.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: The Russian Government has been refusing to renew visas of Peace Corps volunteers, and apparently this puts the entire program in Russia in jeopardy. And I was wondering, is this something that the government, the US Government, has been talking to the Peace Corps -- talking to the Russians about -- excuse me?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I think some of the reports you may have seen as well talked about the fact that since 1992, when we signed a country agreement between the US and Russian governments, I'm told that 711 Peace Corps volunteers have worked in more than 50 communities throughout Russia in the fields of English language education, business education and small business development, much as Peace Corps volunteers have done in other countries in transition in Eastern Europe and Central Europe, for that matter.

For the past year, the Peace Corps has experienced some significant problems with visa delay, denial, or even cancellation for some of the currently serving volunteers. And so 30 of these 64 volunteers currently in Russia have not been issued a second-year visa. Usually Peace Corps volunteers sign up for a two-year stint. And so the Peace Corps has decided to bring back those 30 affected volunteers to the United States. In addition, they're going to look to reassign 62 trainees who had been scheduled to arrive in Russia in September to other Peace Corps countries, and the 34 that are there that have visas will remain to see out their tours there.

Peace Corps volunteers obviously are a resource that we can offer. They have been very valuable in many countries in Eastern Europe, as I said. If they're not needed in Russia, then we can certainly redirect that resource elsewhere, where our volunteers may be more effective in doing that. So we'll continue to watch the situation and see if there are needs there, but redirect our resources where they can better be put to use.

QUESTION: Well, the Russian complaint apparently was that these people were not qualified to be doing what they're doing; is that it?

MR. REEKER: I think what I've seen certainly is that our Peace Corps volunteers are very well qualified in the fields to which they're assigned, and they are a resource that has been put to use in many countries, as I said, in the region, facing a similar economic transition that Russia has had to go through in the past decade. But obviously if they're not needed in that capacity in Russia, we can reevaluate where we may better deploy that resource, which as you know, is an important thing that we have offered now for many years, and I think quite effectively, to countries around the world.

QUESTION: Can I just go back a second to the visit of the Palestinian officials? There seems to be some confusion about how those meetings square with the President's injunction against dealing with Yasser Arafat, since some members of that delegation are very close representatives of or officials who work very close with him. And I was just wondering -- Arafat himself has said he was pleased with the results of the meetings. I was wondering where the ban on working with Arafat starts and stops.

MR. REEKER: The focus is really on working with people who can make a difference, who can be effective leaders, spokespeople, for the Palestinian community. As you know, Israel is also meeting with a wide range of Palestinian officials, including Interior Minister Yehiyeh, who was here with the Palestinian delegation. And so we feel we had positive meetings last week with this group on what we're focused on, as exactly what the President talked about in his June 24 speech; that is, real reform in the Palestinian Authority, making crucial reforms necessary in terms of economic and other civic institutions. These are the reforms that are going to be necessary to achieve the vision that the President has talked about, that the international community has supported; that is, of an independent Palestinian state living next to Israel in secure borders.

So security is very important in this process. We have got to continue moving forward on that, as the Secretary said and your colleagues cited a few moments ago. We hope to see some positive developments in security cooperation in coming days, and we will continue to have a broad range of contacts within the Palestinian community at a variety of levels to move forward the President's strategy as outlined in the June 24 speech, in cooperation with others in the international community who are doing the same.

QUESTION: So that means anyone, any officials interested in that topic, no matter how close they may be to Yasser Arafat --

MR. REEKER: What we're looking for is people who can make a difference, and I think we talked about that at some length last week when this delegation came to Washington. You know, the President was very clear in his speech that the Palestinian people should choose new leadership through democratic, open, free and fair elections, and at the same time we'll continue meeting with, talking to, a wide range of Palestinians in their community, people who we think can make a real difference, because there has to be a dedication towards moving this process forward in order for there to be progress.

And so we'll continue to do our part. The President's speech, and also his April 4th speech, talked about responsibility and the responsibilities on all sides to not be tainted by terror and corruption, to focus on what needs to happen in terms of concrete steps that can be taken for reform, concrete steps on security, as well as efforts we all want to undertake to alleviate the humanitarian situation that the Palestinian people find themselves in.

Gene.

QUESTION: Emergency assistance from the UN. Can you give us any insight as to what the United States is going to do if they come back with a report calling for very substantial amounts of money to --

MR. REEKER: I'm not exactly sure what you're referring to.

QUESTION: Well, Kofi Annan was reported to have been --

MR. REEKER: Are we talking a particular geographic region? I mean, give me a little more clue here.

QUESTION: Palestine.

MR. REEKER: Oh, okay. You sort of said, "Emergency assistance from the UN," and I wasn't sure.

QUESTION: Is there any other subject? Look, I'm referring to two things. One, the appointment by Kofi Annan of a three-person team --

MR. REEKER: Including Katherine Bertini, who is traveling, and the Secretary noted that. He had spoken, I think last week, last Thursday, with Secretary General Kofi Annan.

QUESTION: Is the United States prepared to offer substantial support to any special programs that the UN comes back with?

MR. REEKER: We look forward certainly to hearing her report and the report of that team. We have been doing our own significant humanitarian assistance through the United Nations, through the appropriate international organizations and nongovernmental organizations. And we will continue to look at that and look at the needs there.

I couldn't comment on a report that hasn't been completed yet, but we'll look forward to seeing them.

QUESTION: Fair enough. How much money has the United States invested in Palestinian areas in the past year? Do you have any --

MR. REEKER: I'd have to get you figures, Gene. We have talked about them a number of times from here; I just didn't bring figures with me today.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally, since this is a slow day, it was said by Saeb Erekat that 6,900 policemen were still in Israeli jails and that there were no police stations left that were intact. Is the United States going to rebuild, not just the police stations, but also rebuild the police force?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I can give you much more, Gene, on what we've said about having some positive discussions, looking for some developments on the security side soon. I'll refer you again to what the Secretary said. But I just can't give you any further details at this point. That is something we will continue to discuss and continue to look for.

We want to see an end to all the violence and terror, and a resumption of political dialogue to resolve the differences between Israelis and Palestinians. That's what the President's strategy has focused on, and we're trying to pursue that on all the different tracks. And the meetings that we had last week I think reflected that, and we'll continue working in that direction.

Did you have one?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. REEKER: Okay. You've got to wave your hand real high with this crowd.

QUESTION: Okay. Yes, on Venezuela, President Chavez fix a guideline when he threatened8s some judge of the Venezuelan supreme court, a contentious one that's waiting for sentence concerning the military scope participated on the events on April the 11th. Venezuela Foreign Minister will be -- have a meeting with Mr. Armitage here in town. This subject will be include in the agenda in the frame of the effort to support democracy, rules of law in Venezuela, and so on?

MR. REEKER: I don't know if I could give you any specifics on any meetings at this point. I'll check the schedule and try to find out. I don't have any meetings to announce for Deputy Secretary Armitage.

As you indicated, though, Venezuela's supreme court is deliberating on the question of whether to charge with rebellion four senior military officers. We wouldn't have any comment on those judicial proceedings. They're ongoing. We certainly think that violent demonstrations to intimidate the court are unacceptable. It's important that there be an independent court system. It's essential to the vitality of Venezuela's decommissioning.

We certainly would call upon all Venezuelans to respect the court's ultimate decision in this matter, whatever it is. So we'll continue to watch developments there, but be quite clear that there should be a respect for the courts and respect for the constitutional order in Venezuela.

Now I think we're done. Thanks.

[End]


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