State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for February 25
Daily Press Briefing Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman Washington, DC February 25, 2003
DEPARTMENT 1 Return of Traveling Party 1 Welcoming Visitors from Georgian Republic 1 Welcoming Visitor from New York Foreign Press Center 3 Secretary Powell s Contact with Foreign Minister Gul
COLOMBIA 1-2 Demand that FARC Rebels Release Americans Immediately/ Number of Military Personnel in Colombia
TURKEY/IRAQ 3 Status of Assistance Agreement/ Troop Deployment 4-7 Turkish Presence in Northern Iraq/Concerns of Iraqi Kurds
FRANCE/GERMANY/IRAQ 7 Humanitarian Assistance in the Case of Military Action
TURKEY/JORDAN/ISRAEL 8 Supplemental Assistance
RUSSIA 8 Under Secretary Bolton s Trip to Moscow
BAHRAIN/IRAQ 8-9 Calls on United States to Investigate Missing Bahrainis
IRAQ 9-10 Dr. Blix s Statement about Documents Received/ Draft Resolution 10-11 Working with Opposition Groups/ Future Government of Iraq 11 Cooperation with Weapons Inspectors/ Report by Dr. Blix 12-13 Need for Full Disarmament/ Exile of Saddam Hussein/ War Crimes 13-14 Security Council Meeting
IRAN/IRAQ 12 Iran s Supreme Leader Khameni s Remarks on U.S. Military in Ira
q VENEZUELA 14-15 Explosions at Spanish and Colombian Diplomatic Missions 14-15 Friends of Secretary General of the Organization of American States
CYPRUS/GREECE/TURKEY 15-16 Secretary General s Meetings in Ankara, Athens, and Nicosia
MR. REEKER: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the State Department on this Tuesday afternoon. I apologize for the delay. I can report to you that the Secretary's aircraft, with his traveling party aboard, has just departed from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska where they were refueling and are now on their way back to Andrews Air Force Base. They will arrive there later this evening, Washington time. This, of course, following the Secretary's trip to Asia, his final stop yesterday and today in Seoul, South Korea.
Before we begin with your questions, I do want to welcome to our briefing room today a group of government spokespeople from the Georgian Republic in the Caucasus who are here as part of our International Visitors Program through our Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. They are learning about the importance of transparency and communications and that's what we do right here. Don't mind the cynical State Department press corps, but welcome to our briefing.
And I would also like to welcome my friend and colleague, JoDell Shields, our Press Officer from our New York Foreign Press Center, who works tremendously to support many of your colleagues, the foreign press representatives based in New York, and so we are pleased to have her down to the home base for a short time. That is all I have in terms of announcements. I know that the Secretary will be back tonight, in the office tomorrow and we can turn to Mr. Schweid and start with his question.
QUESTION: On Colombia, we have, so there's need to have it again, the U.S. response to the statement that Americans are prisoners of war. But since the U.S. said no negotiations and you're responsible for their safety, et cetera, has there been any response from the FARC rebels?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any new developments in that regard, Barry. We continue to demand that the FARC rebels release the Americans immediately and unharmed. The FARC is responsible for the American crewmembers' safety, health and well-being, these being crewmembers of an aircraft that went down last week in Colombia.
The Government of Colombia, as you know, assisted by the United States, is continuing to use all available resources to conduct search-and-rescue operations and that's what we will continue to do.
QUESTION: Well, on the same subject -- I'm still a little confused about the taken question, the answer to the taken question that you -- was put out yesterday. It seems to suggest that, in fact, the 150 troops sent to Colombia recently were, in fact, for a search-and-rescue operation.
MR. REEKER: No. I think, again, if you go back to what I said yesterday, the 150 number was erroneous and mistaken. There were not 150 troops. That was an erroneous press report. The number was far lower than that. They were not special operations troops, which was also confused or an erroneous report. You would have to talk to the Pentagon for the specifics on that.
I think to clarify once again, as we tried to in what we posted, we have no intention of exceeding the cap of 400 on those trainers that are involved in supporting Plan Colombia. The number of U.S. military personnel in country who are engaged in the Plan Colombia support does not exceed the cap of 400 that was established under the legislation. What we did brief Congress about last week informally, was that a limited number of military personnel were going to go to Colombia to support the search-and-rescue operations, what we just discussed here, where we're supporting the Colombians in the search-and-rescue operations for these American crewmembers, exactly.
QUESTION: That's quite different from what you said yesterday at the briefing.
MR. REEKER: It's not at all.
QUESTION: Well, okay.
MR. REEKER: We can go get the transcript out, Jonathan, and look back at it.
QUESTION: You said that they were going there on a pre-planned training --
MR. REEKER: No, no. That was the increase in trainers. See, there was confusion. The reason there was confusion, and you've got these differences of reports was that there were, under the legislation, and under the additional trainers going down to support Plan Colombia projects -- under that legislation for counterterrorism training, for infrastructure defense purposes and the training involved with that, there were, an additional number of trainers going down.
That deployment, which was pre-planned, occurred at about the same time that then some additional personnel, quite separate, also had to travel to Colombia, that is, the search-and-rescue personnel. So the cap of 400 trainers is not being exceeded. There is no plan to exceed that cap. That's what we continually keep Congress apprised of.
We also informally told Congress about the search-and-rescue personnel that would be going down, and as we discussed yesterday in the taken question that we posted indicated, no formal notification or waiver is required because the legislation makes quite clear that emergency personnel like the search-and-rescue personnel don't fall under that category.
Is that clear now?
MR. REEKER: Okay. Sir.
QUESTION: Yes, about Turkey. This morning the Turkish Government, they applied for the parliament and the size of the American soldiers is now, we know, 62,000 and 250 airplane and 65 helicopters.
MR. REEKER: I'm glad you know that, because I don't have that information.
QUESTION: This is a public record right now.
MR. REEKER: Great.
QUESTION: And what is the financial size of this agreement?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any of that information. The last update I got was we were still discussing with the Turks some of the details of that agreement. I know Secretary Powell spoke with Foreign Minister Gul from his aircraft before he landed in Alaska a short time ago. I don't have any details of that, but he is in quite regular touch with his Turkish counterpart. So the details of that I will still have to check into.
As we said yesterday, we certainly welcome the Turkish Government's decision to submit to the Turkish parliament our requests for troop deployment to be prepared in the event of a military action against Iraq. As you know, the President has taken no such decision at this point, but we certainly respect the Turkish democratic process that is involved in the discussions and the referral by the government to parliament, and now we look forward to the parliament's action on that. The assistance package that we have been discussing with Turkey is obviously designed to address many of the economic concerns, quite legitimate, that Turkey has.
QUESTION: We heard that the Turkish Government insists they don't want to connect the financial part of the this package with the IMF --
MR. REEKER: I am afraid I just don't have any of those details for you. I will be happy to try to see once I have the information and once it is completed, but I didn't have the kind of detail that you seem to have already.
QUESTION: On the same subject, what is your answer to accusations that you are buying allies to help you -- for the war in Iraq?
MR. REEKER: I think others have discussed that subject and it is simply not true. Turkey is a longstanding ally that has some serious concerns because of some of the difficulties, the threats posed by Iraq, and because of the potential for military action should Saddam Hussein not comply, not disarm, as the Security Council has called for him to do. We want to work with Turkey, as others do in the international community, to help this longstanding friend and ally. I mean, our long history with Turkey I think underscores the fact that we are friends, we are allies, we have a history of close cooperation. So that is what friends and allies do. We work on these things. We certainly understand the democratic process in Turkey that is involved to discuss all of these details. They are difficult decisions, they are important decisions, and that is why we have worked so assiduously to help Turkey.
QUESTION: The agreement is final now or --
MR. REEKER: That's what I don't know. Your colleague is telling me he has information of that. The last information I was able to get before coming out was that we still had some details being worked on. There wasn't really anything new from what I said yesterday, but obviously we will watch and see and look forward to the Turkish parliament taking up the matter.
QUESTION: Same subject?
MR. REEKER: Same subject. Jonathan. Sure.
QUESTION: What does this agreement say about the Turkish presence in Northern Iraq? And what is your answer to the Iraqi Kurds who are extremely alarmed at what looked to them like a development against their own interests.
MR. REEKER: I don't have the details of the agreement. That's what I indicated to your colleague. I will need to wait until we actually have the final information on that. Then I would be happy to see what we can share on that.
I think that we have been very clear in terms of Iraq and the future of Iraq, should there be a military action that becomes necessary. Our discussions have been focused on our support for the vision of a future government in Iraq that is democratic, that is multiethnic, that is based on the rule of law, but certainly that preserves Iraq's sovereign territorial integrity; an Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, that is disarmed of all weapons of mass destruction, that forswears development or procurement of any future weapons of mass destruction and abides by all the relevant UN resolutions.
And obviously, we want the future government to be as inclusive as possible of all Iraqis. And that is why we've been working with Iraqi opposition both inside and out, and we continue to do so. So the details of any agreement with Turkey in terms of steps forward, I just don't have at this point, but once there is a final agreement, we will do that.
QUESTION: Okay. If I can just follow up on that. I think we do at least know enough about it to say that the agreement does provide for a Turkish military presence in parts of northern Iraq. What is your explanation? Why --
MR. REEKER: I just don't have those details of an agreement, Jonathan. You may know that, but I don't, and I will wait until we are done and prepared to then discuss it once we have completely finished working on this with Turkey in the consultations that we are having. And then I will endeavor to get you what we can.
QUESTION: Phil, Will the stationing of Turkish troops in northern Iraq be inconsistent with maintaining Turkey's territorial integrity? I'm not sure what territorial --
MR. REEKER: Maintaining Turkey's territorial integrity is --
QUESTION: I mean Iraq's -- I'm not sure what territorial integrity means, because effectively, for whatever reasons, good or bad, the no-fly zones have pretty much eliminated the central government's control of a part of Iraq already and sending in Turkish troops, how does is that consistent --
MR. REEKER: I think, Barry, you are quite aware of what territorial integrity means. I think everybody is quite aware of the map of, of Turkish --
QUESTION: I think a country -- excuse me, you said I am, so if I am, can I say what I think it means? I think it means a central government is in charge of all -- of the entire country up to its border. That, to me, means territorial integrity.
MR. REEKER: If you would like to review --
QUESTION: It's not divided into other parts.
MR. REEKER: If you would like to review the purpose of the no-fly zones, which are there to protect the --
QUESTION: I'm not questioning the purpose, I'm saying the effect of it.
MR. REEKER: I just talked, Barry, about our view of the future of Iraq.
MR. REEKER: And what we want for that. And we have been quite clear from the very beginning, consistent with UN Security Council resolutions, including the draft resolution that was tabled yesterday about the territorial integrity of Iraq. And a future Iraq should have a government that is able to exercise full sovereignty over the territory of that country --
MR. REEKER: -- which will remain the same as the territory it is, but a government that does not have to, that does not threaten its own people, and where we don't have to have no-fly zones to protect -- whether it's Kurds in the north or Shi'a in the south -- from the brutality of a ruthless dictator like Saddam Hussein. And that is why our work with Iraqi opposition, our work in the Future of Iraq project is focused on a future government that is democratic, that is multiethnic, that doesn't threaten its own people, but certainly that has that.
QUESTION: But, I'd like to stay focused if we can, on -- not on Iraq's behavior or misbehavior -- I'd like to stay focused on foreign troops on a country's soil. Is the State Department then saying that the U.S. would support the authority of a successor government in Baghdad to order Turkish troops to leave when it felt they should go home?
MR. REEKER: I think, Barry, we have talked about --
QUESTION: Something Nicosia hasn't be able to do since 1974?
MR. REEKER: I think, Barry, we have talked about the process that would take place. What we would like to see, the responsibility, should it come to military action, should it come to the necessity of using force to disarm Saddam Hussein, that we would like to see any presence of American or foreign troops to be as brief as possible.
But there are responsibilities that come with that. Secretary Powell has discussed this and I would refer you back to his discussions of it. He has a long career of experience in these areas. There are responsibilities to see that there is security after the defeat of a government in Baghdad, to see that the people are provided for as we then transition to local authority, which is obviously the goal. I have outlined again, previously, our goal that we have been focused on in the future of Iraq, and that would be to have Iraq run by Iraqis, responsible Iraqis who can provide for their people, who can make use of the tremendous resources that Iraq has to develop their infrastructure, to develop systems that care and provide for the people of Iraq. That is the goal.
And if you look at what has happened in Afghanistan or any other example in history, what we try to do is see that we transition to a local government, obviously, as quickly as possible, and then that government can make decisions in the transition period. Obviously, there will be a role for military and other international groups to play a role in Iraq until such time as they can take over, and we saw that in Afghanistan where a local process, through the Loya Jirga, produced an interim government and we are slowly moving as they work on a constitution to a more permanent government of Afghanistan by Afghans.
QUESTION: Phil, you probably won't be able to have an answer, but I think that, getting back to Jonathan's question, the concern of the Kurds is not what a post-Saddam government may look like in Iraq, but rather in the period of the war that the Turks will be going after groups that have established enclaves in Northern Iraq that they consider -- or, well, that are terrorists groups against the Turks --
MR. REEKER: If you look back at --
QUESTION: -- and if you could later provide us with anything you can about the rules of engagement that may have been negotiated, whether U.S. personnel will be embedded with these Turkish squads, and what kinds of guarantees or what kinds of things you can tell the Kurds, who seem rightfully concerned.
MR. REEKER: I would point you first to a briefing that Ambassador Boucher gave, I believe, last week where he addressed somewhat this thing.
QUESTION: He did somewhat, but --
MR. REEKER: I wasn't here. I didn't know who asked it. But since it was you, you obviously have the answer that he provided. Any more details in terms of agreements and such, that is the kind of thing, once we actually have agreements and move forward, then I will see what I can do to talk about that.
QUESTION: Okay, but we just put it on the table, Phil, just because it seems --
MR. REEKER: Yeah, I think you did yesterday and the day before, and I told you when we actually have an agreement and something where I can discuss it -- I can't discuss something that I haven't even seen yet.
MR. REEKER: Joel.
QUESTION: Phil, with respect to both France and Germany, France less so, they don't want to partake in a military action against Iraq, but have you been talking to them about offering monetary as well as humanitarian assistance after Saddam's government and regime are gone in Baghdad?
MR. REEKER: I think we have had briefing yesterday at the White House and there is another briefing today here that will focus more on our plans and preparations for humanitarian assistance in the case of military action.
There is extensive planning that has gone on, as you know. The President made available some funding for that and we will continue looking at that. I think that will obviously be an international effort involving not just the United States but other countries as well as international organizations. So I would point you to what has been discussed in those briefings. I think it is a topic for discussion in international fora.
QUESTION: But have either of those governments said that they will --
MR. REEKER: I think you would want to ask those governments. I can't speak for the French, nor for the Germans. Teri.
QUESTION: Can you give us a readout on John Bolton's meetings?
QUESTION: Can we stay on this for a minute?
QUESTION: There is a cluster of three countries, I believe -- Turkey, Jordan and Israel -- that were being considered for special supplemental, whatever, assistance in light of the Iraq -- possibility of war. Obviously, Turkey is --
MR. REEKER: We have been discussing.
QUESTION: -- the troops would be there. But how far along -- and the Secretary was asked this a couple of weeks ago on the Hill, they said, you know, we're plugging along on it, how far along is the Administration on deciding on packages for those two other countries?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new on those, Barry, so, I would be happy to keep looking into that and let you know when I know something.
Teri had something.
QUESTION: Bolton's trip to Moscow?
MR. REEKER: Bolton's trip to Moscow.
QUESTION: I'm also wondering if you can provide a transcript of the news conference --
MR. REEKER: He did a news conference, which I don't have a transcript of yet. I don't know if we'll -- let me just try to -- I had a couple of points for Mr. Bolton, but as you know, he has been in Moscow, he's had meetings with Mamedov whom he often meets with in Russia, and discussed a wide variety of topics, including Iraq. I know in his press conference, he made quite clear, he reiterated again that, as you know, the President has not made a decision, but we are working to show unanimity in the Security Council and to have the Security Council live up to its responsibility to deal with the threat that Saddam Hussein poses. But I don't have any specific details from John Bolton's meetings there, but I'm sure your wire sources and others we will provide you something when we can. We will see what we can get from Embassy Moscow.
QUESTION: Do you have any information regarding Bahrain? They are expecting a big demonstration on Thursday by the opposition regarding some eight people who are missing since the invasion by Iraq of Kuwait?
MR. REEKER: Well, certainly as you know since 1991, since the end of the Gulf War, the United States has worked together with partners in the coalition that successfully expelled Saddam Hussein from Kuwait with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, and we have been trying to elicit from the Iraqi government information, definitive information, regarding the welfare and whereabouts of the missing who come from more than ten countries, including Bahrain and from the United States. Let me remind you of the status of Commander Speicher from the United States Navy.
Our efforts certainly continue through the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent and Iraq. We have this Tripartite Commission but we do remain, I think, understandably skeptical about Iraq's commitment to resolving this humanitarian issue, given both their record of flouting their international obligations and their failure to provide new information on the fate of the missing, as they are required to do under Security Council Resolution 687.
So we certainly support any serious effort to resolve the humanitarian cases. We welcome the attention paid to this issue by the Bahraini human rights activists and political groups. And we would expect that Iraq would want to engage constructively rather than continuing to exploit these cases, these tragic cases for their own callous purposes. So we will continue to watch that.
QUESTION: Phil, on Iraq again. I'm sure you saw Dr. Blix's statement about the documents that he's received in the last 24 hours. Do you see a hopeful sign here that maybe --
MR. REEKER: Well, I think, as others have indicated at the White House, we had predicted that there would be these somewhat cynical dribs and drabs by Saddam Hussein, as is typical of the pattern that he has followed over, for over a decade now. I will just remind you that they have insisted, insisted that they have given everything in terms of documentation in the 12,000 pages that they provided as their declaration as required under Security Council Resolution 1441. And now, surprise, surprise, they have more documents to see. So, you know, that is, I think, kind of what we expected.
What we have not seen is active disarmament by Iraq. We have not seen a compliance with the requirements of the Security Council resolution. And as you know, on March 1st, which is coming up soon, Dr. Blix is scheduled to submit a written status report. It is the quarterly report on the inspections that he leads. I believe he is tentatively scheduled to brief the Council on March 7th or thereabouts.
So as you have seen from the resolution that we joined with Great Britain and Spain in tabling yesterday the draft. We are beginning a process of intensive consultations with Security Council partners. And that draft resolution does restate the obvious, that Saddam Hussein has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to him by 1441.
QUESTION: On the resolution, since it was placed before the Council yesterday, what kind of response, what kinds of signs have you seen from fellow members? Is there anything that has happened since then which has bolstered your hopes of getting that kind of unity in the Council which you spoke about earlier?
MR. REEKER: I think, again, I will try to let other countries speak for themselves. After it was tabled yesterday, we would obviously give countries an opportunity to review it. I believe that the Security Council is holding a closed meeting on Thursday to discuss the draft resolution that was formally introduced yesterday. We have been and are continuing to consult actively in New York and with our Security Council partners and with other friends and allies in these final deliberations.
The Secretary, as you can tell from his press conference discussions, discussed this in each of his stops in Asia, not only with his counterparts and officials from those three countries that he visited -- Japan, China and South Korea -- but also with other officials like Australian Foreign Minister Downer, whom he met with in Seoul, and he has certainly been on the phone. I have indicated a number of the phones calls that he has had.
And we have other officials who have taken the opportunities of their travel, their meetings, their conversations, in Washington, in New York and other capitals to continue to make clear our view that the Security Council has a responsibility to the United Nations, to fulfilling its role, to seeing that the Resolution 1441 is fulfilled and remind everyone that the Security Council voted 15-0, 15-0 in support of Resolution 1441 just a few months ago.
And if you look back at a lot of the press reporting that preceded that vote, I think you saw similar responses and reflections in terms of the things we are seeing now. So I wouldn't call the score none too soon. We will continue to have those consultations and then we will see where we go.
QUESTION: Is it unusual to introduce a resolution in the Council without having some idea of the score before you do it? Presumably, you don't have an idea of the score at the moment.
MR. REEKER: I see lots of score tallying on the various television shows that I have the good fortune to watch, and then the various other press accounts I read. I think we go into these things mindful of what is at stake. There are real security threats, as previous resolutions have made quite clear, posed by Saddam Hussein and his flouting of the will of the international community, his refusal to take this opportunity to disarm peacefully. That is certainly what the President indicated again today. He would very much like to see. There is still a chance for Saddam Hussein to actively participate and see that he is disarmed, to let Dr. Blix and his inspectors then play the role that the resolution called for them to do.
But I think it is also important that the Council live up to its own resolution, the resolution it passed unanimously, and reaffirm the willingness to enforce its own resolution. The Council has a responsibility and must respond to Saddam Hussein's failure to disarm.
QUESTION: Yes, post-Saddam in Iraq. For Saudis wants to disarm Shia -- Iraqi Shias and the Turkey and the Iran also wants the disarms Iraqi Kurds in this whole country. They want federal army only carry the -- defense the country, not the ethnic groups, armed ethnic groups. Are you agree with these two countries on this subject?
MR. REEKER: I don't know exactly what -- I am happy to listen to your description of what these two countries purportedly describe --
QUESTION: They are insisting. I know that.
MR. REEKER: Well, I don't know that and I will let those countries speak for themselves. I told you what the United States position is. What we have been focused on as we work with opposition groups both outside and inside Iraq, and how we are trying to advance our discussions regarding the future government of Iraq in a democratic, multiethnic country without weapons of mass destruction that is living peacefully with its neighbors within the region and within the international community as a full member of the United Nations, and obviously one that is as inclusive as possible, as I said.
And so that type of detail, I think, is something I would have to leave for the continuing discussion, but I would outline for you once again what the United States' philosophy and goals are in working with the Iraqis on this. Iraq is for the Iraqi people and that is very much underlining the President's view and what we have been working towards.
QUESTION: Cynical or not, I wonder if the State Department has concluded that Iraq is cooperating to any extent with the weapons inspectors. When last heard from on the subject, the Secretary said that the only progress was in process, not in cooperation. Cynical, of course, could mean they are trying to divide the allies. But are they giving at all, in the State Department view? Even though you don't trust them, are they giving at all?
MR. REEKER: I think I would stick with what we have said before and what we have seen in these dribs and drabs that purport to be cooperation that are, in fact, procedural, that are not substantive. Where are the missiles? Where are the warheads? Where is the anthrax? You know the questions that we continue to pose that Iraq has refused to answer. Where are the scientists who should be coming forward actively, who the government should be encouraging immediately to come and have completely independent interviews with the inspectors? Those are the simple questions and we haven't seen Saddam Hussein having any sense of a strategic change in terms of deciding that he is going to cooperate and disarm.
QUESTION: So the heart of what you are saying, as far as I am concerned, it is still procedural; it's not cooperation.
MR. REEKER: I think that is what we have seen. I also indicated that Dr. Blix will make a report which we will want to see on the 1st of March.
QUESTION: Sure. I mean up to now. Up to now, it's procedural; it's not cooperation. What they've done is -- whatever forward motion there has been has been process.
MR. REEKER: I think we have provided you enough of a view of what we have seen in terms of Iraq. I don't really have anything to add to it.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, and clubbing Iraq is not really the answer. We understand your view of Iraq, the State Department view. We just want -- and we understand the contention that tens of thousands of weapons are stored away. But if they disclose a certain extent, are you unwilling to call that a limited but unsatisfactory measure of cooperation?
MR. REEKER: No, Barry, go back to 1441 and go back to what the President of the United States just said this morning: full disarmament, period.
QUESTION: I know what you want. I'm asking if you're getting anything, if there's just a teeny, teeny, teeny bit, for whatever cynical reasons they have, of cooperation? Or you want to keep saying they're not cooperating?
MR. REEKER: Barry, we are not dealing with teeny, teeny bits. We are dealing with the question of whether or not Iraq is disarming. And they are not.
QUESTION: Can you comment on recent statements from Iran's Supreme Leader Khameni regarding the presence of U.S. military in their neighbor, Iraq, especially in light of what I understand to be recent agreements between Iran and the United States, least in a border area? Are you at all troubled that he is saying that --
MR. REEKER: I haven't seen the statements, Eli, so sorry.
QUESTION: A question. President Bush is saying that Saddam Hussein has, perhaps, one last chance for exile. Certainly, you don't want him going to North Korea or other rogue nations, but is there any specific package, meaning go elsewhere, maybe up to --
MR. REEKER: Again, as we have said in the past, I am not aware of any such thing. We would be happy to see him gone.
QUESTION: But are there any specific subsets as to what --
MR. REEKER: We have dealt with that before, Joel, and I will send you back to that. I don't have subsets or anything else.
QUESTION: Phil, could I try something else?
MR. REEKER: Yes, Barry.
QUESTION: I don't know how much the State Department knew in advance about what the President would say today, so maybe the question is premature. But he made a great point at the end of his statement about his determination to see Iraqi leaders submitted to war crimes prosecution. And I wondered if -- because we can't ask him -- if there's any --
MR. REEKER: Well, your colleagues can.
QUESTION: Well, I don't even know if there was a Q and A, I assume there was, but is there any machinery, have you changed your mind, this Administration, about an international court, a war crimes court? Is there any procedure? Would it be a firing squad, ad hoc? No, no, what procedure is there or is it just rhetoric?
MR. REEKER: Barry, I will refer you back to the White House if it was something the President said.
QUESTION: But you don't know of any mechanism for war crimes being, you know, brainstormed in the building?
MR. REEKER: It is not something I looked into today.
QUESTION: No, I know, because you didn't have much of a chance to --
MR. REEKER: If you would like me to --
QUESTION: Would you check?
MR. REEKER: I would be happy to ask about it. But if it is something that the President was discussing, I would refer you back to the White House.
QUESTION: Phil, that meeting on March the 7th, is it your understanding that will be a ministerial meeting?
MR. REEKER: March the 7th. Oh, we're back to the Security Council.
QUESTION: Yes. Is it your understanding it will be ministerial?
MR. REEKER: I don't know and I --
QUESTION: -- and next, would Secretary Powell attend?
MR. REEKER: It's a little early for me to say, Jonathan. I'll keep asking. I just, I don't know, is the simple answer.
QUESTION: I'll just have to keep asking therefore until you make up your minds.
MR. REEKER: Right. I don't know and that's the simple answer.
Now that Barry is gone, I guess we have some other questions.
QUESTION: Me? On Venezuela.
QUESTION: Oh, Venezuela. Okay.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction on that what happened earlier --
MR. REEKER: It's okay, Barry. You can go. It's okay.
QUESTION: No, no. (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
MR. REEKER: Sorry. Pardon me. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. On Venezuela. Do you have any reaction on that what happened early this morning, the two explosions at the Consular Office of Spain and Colombia? And there is anything new to announce concerning the meeting of Group of Friends of Gaviria? A next meeting?
MR. REEKER: First of all, let me say that we strongly condemn today's bombings, and of course the use of any form of violence. We note that those bombs follow some sharp verbal attacks by President Chavez on the international community as well as individual Venezuelans and institutions that I talked a bit about yesterday.
Again, we call on the Government of Venezuela to proceed with an expeditious and thorough investigation into this violence, into these bombings, and to hold responsible, or to hold accountable, those parties responsible for this. The bombings are the latest in a series of recent events that highlight the need to make rapid and genuine progress in the dialogue process in Venezuela, and it underscores the need to honor the nonviolence pledge that both sides signed on February the 18th.
We have consistently underscored the importance of a dialogue to achieve a peaceful, democratic and electoral solution to Venezuela's protracted crisis. The February 18th nonviolence pledge was an important step forward in helping to create a climate conducive to such a solution, conducive to a positive dialogue. But I think it's regrettable that recent events like the unsolved killing of members of Venezuela's armed forces and police, the recent arrests and the threat of arrests of opposition activists, and now today's bombings, stand in sharp contrast to the commitments that were undertaken by both sides in that agreement.
The pledge from February 18th specifically emphasized the need to curb confrontational rhetoric and moderate the tone, style and content of language, and to reject any manifestations of violence or intolerance. And that's what both sides agreed to. And it called for the establishment of a truth commission as well, which is certainly a move the United States supports.
QUESTION: And on the next meeting of the, maybe, of the Group of Friends of Gaviria, can we announce anything that could be in the next days?
MR. REEKER: As I told you yesterday, the Group of Friends of the Secretary General of the OAS is in regular contact and touch. When they would have a formal meeting in one particular city, whether here in Washington at the OAS or in some other capacity, I don't know. You might check with the OAS on that. I'm not aware of anything particularly scheduled, but certainly their efforts in supporting the Secretary General and fostering this dialogue that we believe is so vital to reconciliation in Venezuela, those efforts continue unabated.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Jonathan.
QUESTION: Phil, were you suggesting that President Chavez's inflammatory rhetoric, as you put it yesterday, was a possible, possibly incited somebody to carry out these bombings?
MR. REEKER: No, I think what I said, and I'll just stand by what I said, is that we discussed already yesterday the sharp verbal attacks by President Chavez that we felt were not in keeping with what was agreed to in the nonviolence pacts that they signed, that both sides pledged and signed up to February 18th in terms of, you know, obviously not curbing the sort of confrontational rhetoric and obviously not moderating the tone and style and content of language.
Following that, we see, today, more violence. We see these bombings. And this is the latest in a series of recent events involving violence and that we believe highlight the need to follow what both sides have signed up to in terms of the agreement, the nonviolence pact, and to move forward.
QUESTION: Yeah, but do you see a cause or link between these two things? I mean, you're saying following, following, following --
MR. REEKER: I think those are just facts, and I'll stand by what I've said.
Now we have one more. Yeah. Please.
QUESTION: President Bush called the Prime Minister of Greece in Cyprus. He called the Secretary General of the United Nations in Paris for Cyprus. Mr. Weston is calling from capital to capital. The Secretary General was in Ankara, today he is in Athens, tomorrow he is in Nicosia. What do you expect from his meetings in Ankara, Athens, and Nicosia?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think I'll stick with what I said yesterday on that subject, that he is our Special Cyprus Coordinator. He's been very active in helping to support the Secretary General's efforts, and that's what the United States supports and has for many years. Again, we think there's a historic opportunity to find a solution to this longstanding problem in Cyprus, and we're urging the Turkish Cypriots, the Greek Cypriots, Greece, and Turkey to take this opportunity to work as hard as possible, as we are, to find a way to that solution that I think stands before us all, and that's what we'll continue to encourage.
One last thing from our other friend from -- yes.
QUESTION: Change subject. Due to the point that we have new Turkish unusual demands for the security, which means the whole issue deadlock, despite the fact that the date is approaching to reach a solution or something like that. Do you mediate all involved parties to this effect in order to avoid the distraction of Cyprus instead of a solution?
MR. REEKER: I don't know if I follow or understand your question. I think my previous answer answers it. That's all I have to say. And that's our position. We support the UN efforts and we hope --
QUESTION: No, there is a deadlock, a deadlock.
MR. REEKER: We support the UN efforts and we hope that all parties can work together to overcome any deadlocks and take advantage of this historic opportunity.
Released on February 25, 2003