State Dept. Daily Press Briefing - April 7, 2003
Daily Press Briefing
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
April 7, 2003
1 Secretary Powell’s Travel
to Northern Ireland
1 Meeting with Secretary Straw
4-5 Meeting of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair
1-2 Military firing on Russian diplomatic
convoy in Baghdad
1-2 U.S. Central Command Investigation
1, 5 Dr. Rice travel to Moscow
1- 3 Secretary Powell’s talk with Foreign Minister Ivanov
2 CENTCOM Reaction
4 Talks with Secretary Kofi
4 Azores Statement
11 Oil for Food Resolution
3-4 INC Deployment of military
forces in Nasiriyah / Liberty TV
4-5 Future interim Iraqi authority
3, 5, 8 Iraqi Leader Ahmed Chalabi
5-7 Office of Humanitarian and Reconstruction under Mr. Garner
6-7 State Department Personnel in Kuwait
7 Mr. Khalilzad contacts with Iraqi-Kurdish groups
7 Iraqi Oil
8 Plans for a state-controlled press
8 Other Nationals fighting for Saddam Hussein
8 Iraqi Border Traffic
9 Countries with Diplomatic Ties to Iraq
9 Expulsion of Iraqi Intelligence Personnel
13-14 Supplemental Budget
Council Meeting on April 9 / Security Council and IAEA
12 Withdrawal from NPT
13 Multilateral Framework /Talks with New York Channel
Washington Post Article linking Al Qaida with organized
11 Mexico’s Presidency on UN Security Council / Iraq Discussions
9-10 Al Qaida in Canada
10-11 Court Trial of Dissidents / Oswaldo Paya’s Varela Project
14 Status of new
government / Transitional Constitution
14-15 Investigation of civilian attacks / United Nations Report
15 Resolution from Human Rights Commission
MR. REEKER: Welcome back to the State Department. I think we are ready to begin. Secretary Powell, as you know, is traveling with the President. They should be arriving in Belfast, Northern Ireland, shortly I believe, and are expected home to Washington tomorrow; that is Tuesday evening.
I don't have any other formal announcements, so I would be happy to start the questions with Mr. Schweid.
QUESTION: Thank you. Has there been any contact with the Russian Government over reports disputed, confused, that the U.S. fired on a Russian diplomatic convoy leaving Baghdad for Syria?
MR. REEKER: There, indeed, has been considerable contact with the Russian Government. In fact, we were in contact with Russian authorities over the past several days before this incident to discuss the withdrawal of their personnel from Baghdad, and we provided our military with detailed information about the vehicles and the personnel involved, as well as the route that they planned to follow, so we've had numerous conversations.
As you're aware, it was reported for you yesterday, U.S. Central Command is investigating the incident that occurred yesterday, in which a group of Russian diplomats, and others traveling with them, came under fire while leaving Baghdad for Syria. We do understand that that convoy has now arrived in Syria. We don't know what happened or whose forces were involved, and Central Command is trying to establish those facts, and so we've been in contact with Russian authorities at many levels. Ambassador Vershbow, as you know, met with Foreign Minister Ivanov. Dr. Rice, of course, has been in Moscow on a trip.
Secretary Powell spoke with Foreign Minister Ivanov on Sunday. Let me reiterate that if U.S. Forces were involved in any way, there was certainly no intention to cause harm to Russian personnel, and so we will continue to follow that up.
QUESTION: You've said that you've been in contact for several days. Were they supposed to leave earlier than they did?
MR. REEKER: Oh, you would have to ask the Russians that. We were in contact with them about their plans to leave and passing along the messages to Central Command, giving them, the military, details of their plans.
QUESTION: Was there any particular route suggested to them that would be safer? One road may be safer than another?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. You would need to talk to Central Command.
QUESTION: Phil, are you going to refer all, any other questions to Central Command, because I won't ask.
MR. REEKER: Try me.
QUESTION: Okay, I'll try. It's my understanding that you guys had some indication that at the last minute the Russian convoy took a different route than the one that they had agreed with you and that there is some concern that -- well, and this may explain the initial CENTCOM reaction, which was, there were no U.S. forces in the area where they thought the convoy was going to be.
Is it your understanding that the Russians followed the same route that they had given you and that you had passed on?
MR. REEKER: At this point, I don't have any detailed understandings of that. I think that is part of what is being looked at, the facts that we are trying to establish, and that would be something for Central Command to answer for you once they are able to establish those facts.
QUESTION: Phil, in those contacts, you didn't quite say it but you kind of implied it, were you advising them that it would be good for them to leave? Was that the essence of it?
MR. REEKER: No, I am not aware of that. I think that is a decision for the Russians to make. They had been in contact with us about that. I don't have -- you know, we don't make that type of advisement. But clearly, it was a decision they made and had been in contact with us to discuss the withdrawal that they were planning.
QUESTION: When Secretary Powell called Foreign Minister Ivanov, what was the content of his call, if he didn't know at that point that the U.S. was responsible for the shooting?
MR. REEKER: Well, he -- we still don't know that. And he talked to him, actually, twice. He talked to him on Saturday long before this incident, and he talked to him also on Sunday and reiterated, as I have now, that that's something we will be looking into, and certainly that if U.S. forces were involved in any way, there was no intention at all to cause harm to Russian personnel. So it is something that does need to be looked into and I think the Russian Foreign Ministry has echoed the same sentiments from Moscow.
QUESTION: The Russian Foreign Ministry says it's clear that it was the U.S.
MR. REEKER: No, that is not the same quotes that I have seen from the Russian Foreign Ministry. I think you need to check some of your sources on that.
QUESTION: It's what he said when he arrived in Syria.
MR. REEKER: Sorry?
QUESTION: It's what he said when he arrived in Syria.
MR. REEKER: That is the Russian Ambassador to Iraq. I am referring to the Russian Foreign Ministry and their official statements on the subject.
QUESTION: Different subject? I just wanted to get -- is it correct, from your understanding, that the Secretary in Belfast is going to be having a separate meeting or meetings with Foreign Secretary Straw apart from the President's schedule?
MR. REEKER: You know I don't know that. It would be quite likely, I would think, to have a meeting with his counterpart. He certainly already spoke to Foreign Secretary Straw this morning, I believe, from the President's aircraft, from Air Force One, on their way to Belfast. He spoke to him last Friday, as you know, speaks to him quite regularly, and I wouldn't rule it out but I don't have an exact schedule for the Secretary over the next two days while he is joining the President.
Jonathan, then go back to Barry.
QUESTION: Can we go on to Iraq, back to Iraq? The INC, as you know, has deployed forces in Nasiriyah and Ahmed Chalabi is strong there. Was this something that was done in coordination with the State Department? Were you advised in advance of this plan?
MR. REEKER: I don't know, and I think those are all subjects in terms of deployment in Iraq that you would want to talk to the Pentagon about. I would be happy to check into that. We tend to keep in pretty close contact with them.
QUESTION: Well, could you explain to us how this fits in with your plans for a future interim Iraqi authority?
MR. REEKER: I don't see how it has any connection to it whatsoever, so I would just refer you to DOD for any comment about troops in the ground.
QUESTION: The Secretary said Friday that he would be talking to Annan again, Friday afternoon, maybe Saturday or over the weekend. Could you bring us up to date on those contacts?
MR. REEKER: The Secretary did speak with Secretary General Annan on Friday. I don't know if that was before or after. And then he did speak with him on Saturday, I believe, twice, as he indicated. So they have been keeping in very close touch.
QUESTION: Can I -- I wanted to go back to the INC, but Jonathan asked something about Kofi Annan. Do you want to --
MR. REEKER: Jonathan.
QUESTION: Well, what did they talk about?
MR. REEKER: I don't have full readouts of his calls. They have certainly been talking about Iraq and discussing possible roles for the United Nations. As you know, we have said, beginning with the Azores statement that the President and Prime Minister Blair made that we wanted to see a role for the United Nations in Iraq.
In that regard, we welcome the appointment this afternoon of the Special Advisor for Iraq that the Secretary General has announced, and certainly that will be a subject, as you know, when the President meets with Prime Minister Blair in Belfast later today and tomorrow. They will be looking at the future of Iraq as well as the peace process in Northern Ireland and the peace process for the Middle East.
QUESTION: On the INC, the Deputy Secretary was reported last week to have notified Senator Brownback about that the Department was going to release or had released the $4 million out of the $7 million for the Liberty TV, I believe. Do you have anything on that?
MR. REEKER: I did last week. Let me see if I can find it here. Actually, what I have here is from last Wednesday, so I will have to go back and get stuff that should have been in my book.
QUESTION: Can you just tell us, if you can, there has been some level of reluctance in this building to see Mr. Chalabi as head of an Iraqi Government, which is not the case at the Pentagon and some other government agencies in this --
MR. REEKER: According to you, yeah.
QUESTION: According to many press reports that I have seen, including --
MR. REEKER: Press reports -- you, collectively.
QUESTION: But is there -- are you saying this is not true? And if you can just elaborate --
MR. REEKER: I don't think I can elaborate on what the President of the United States has said and what the Secretary has said; and the Deputy Secretary just this morning in his television interviews, that our view of an Iraqi interim authority is something that is run and chosen by Iraqis; that it should be representative of all the groups in Iraq; it should include members of the exile community who have worked very hard over a number of decades for the liberation of Iraq, for the freedom of the Iraqi people. It should also include people inside Iraq. And it's a little premature to be speculating as to exactly how that's going to play out because obviously we have to see what the situation on the ground is going to be, and as we pointed out there, clearly the final days of Saddam Hussein's murderous regime and we will be working with Iraqis both inside and outside. That's something obviously that the President and Secretary Powell will be discussing with Prime Minister Blair and Foreign Secretary Straw in Belfast.
QUESTION: Well, I think one of the things being suggested is that this would be very temporary until there would be this council formed, perhaps with Chalabi at the head, in between the time when we're now, the U.S. is now fighting and the Iraqi people can hold an election or participate in --
MR. REEKER: No, I think if you look at the briefing that Dr. Rice did on Friday about this, she talked about the Iraq interim authority, our plans for that, and tried to get up and running as quickly as possible, but that will be of Iraqis, by Iraqis, for Iraqis; the idea to be to transition to that, the interim authority as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, of course, we will be working to fulfill all our responsibilities in terms of security and seeing that the humanitarian needs and the beginning of reconstruction are fulfilled and that's why we have the group under Mr. Garner who will be working there with others in the coalition, with international organizations --
QUESTION: And as quickly as possible, in the State Department's view, could that be this week?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I could speculate at this point. Certainly we have to see what happens on the ground. That is clearly the driving force as all the senior officials have been indicating over the last several days.
QUESTION: I was away last week so I'm a bit out of touch, but what happened to those State Department personnel who were waiting in Kuwait and expecting at some stage to go into Iraq to --
MR. REEKER: I think you're talking about the State Department and other personnel from other agencies, including Mr. Garner. They are still in Kuwait. There has not been any decision to move into Iraq at this point.
QUESTION: -- and you may have commented on this last week and I don't know that you were still awaiting approval of these appointments by some other --
MR. REEKER: No, I think you're confusing it with some issues about other individuals still in Washington and at which point who will be needed for what roles. This is all about the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, which as you know, is based in the Department of Defense but it's composed of representatives from a number of agencies and departments in the government and exactly who is going to be needed for exactly what task remains to be determined.
Obviously we have to see what the situation is on the ground and so there are a number of people already in Kuwait awaiting movement into Baghdad at the appropriate time and there will be others coming from Washington.
QUESTION: Okay, but those ones who are in Kuwait, have they been cleared, in principle, by the -- by Gen Garner to work with him? Is he --
MR. REEKER: That's why they are working with him in Kuwait.
QUESTION: They are already working with him, so there's no problem there as far as you know, so the problem is what, exactly? Just a few people in Washington, or what?
MR. REEKER: I don't know what problem you're talking about.
QUESTION: Well, okay. Uncertainty.
MR. REEKER: The uncertainty is the situation on the ground. As this regime comes to an end, we will have to see what the situation is on the ground and make determinations about when we can take next steps. Right now we're fighting a war and we need to complete that. We have every confidence that that is being carried out as swiftly as possible, but as correctly as possible, and we will leave that to the briefers at the Pentagon to discuss with you.
Once we're at the appropriate point to then be discussing in any detail the next steps, then this team of civilians will help with humanitarian and the beginnings of reconstruction efforts, that is why it is called the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance -- then we can get into that at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: I'm just curious, Phil. I've noticed that you've mentioned Garner several times and you've called him Mr. Garner. Is that intentional, not calling him general? Or is that just the way you happen to choose to say it?
MR. REEKER: I guess it's the way I happen to choose to say it. I do believe he is a retired general and so if you want to call him General Garner you can call him General Garner.
QUESTION: -- there's some concern out there that this is a military operation and so by using the term Mister, you're not trying to downplay his military background are you? You're just saying --
MR. REEKER: I love the way you interpret these things, but I believe he is --
QUESTION: Well, this is the way the State Department --
MR. REEKER: I believe he is a Mister. He is also a General. He is a retired General who has a tremendous amount of experience working, particularly, in northern Iraq where you've seen how a local administration was rapidly established after the end of the Gulf War a decade or so ago.
QUESTION: As I understand it, you want to keep the Iraqi-Kurdish militias away from the oil fields, Mosul and Tikrit and those areas. Are you convinced that the Iraqi-Kurds are on board?
MR. REEKER: I think we've been working closely with Iraqi-Kurdish groups as we have with so many other groups inside and outside of Iraq, looking at the future of Iraq. Mr. Khalilzad, the President's special envoy, has certainly had regular contacts, as have others with Iraqi-Kurdish groups and work with them quite well for any questions in terms of the on the ground movements and steps, I would refer you to the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Well, in understanding you position that no one faction or ethnic group should control that oil and it should be available to all the Iraqi people, right?
MR. REEKER: Right. I think that's something that's going to be determined by the Iraqi people. The oil in Iraq from different parts of Iraq will be something that has to be determined by the Iraqi people. It belongs to them, to all of them as a nation, and will be a very valuable resource for them in reconstruction and claiming back something that Saddam Hussein has misused and misdirected for over two decades.
QUESTION: Phil, I knew you spoke about this briefly with the airlift of Dr. Chalabi to Nasiriyah, but was the State Department or Secretary Powell informed that this was going to be happening?
MR. REEKER: That is a question that I already had, and I said I would have to double-check. I didn't ask anyone specifically.
QUESTION: Phil, with this overthrow of Baghdad and the second largest city, Basra, when will -- what are the plans for state-controlled press, meaning newspaper, television, radio? Will that be phased out? And how will that -- is it an internal Iraqi type of just changeover to non-regime type facilities?
MR. REEKER: I think you are a little ahead of the curve again here. We are still fighting a war, Joel, and while we leave it to the Pentagon to describe the situation on the ground, that is what we will be watching and when we can make those determinations. I mean, clearly in the dying gasps of this regime there is a lot of hot air still coming from the Minister of Information in terms of just sort of bizarre attempts to deny reality on the ground around Baghdad, but it will be an opportunity once the regime is gone for the new Iraq to have a media that is responsible to its citizens that provides them with true information, provides them with facts and opportunities to know about the outside world, and certainly to understand better, as well, what the government, the regime of Saddam Hussein, has perpetrated against them for many years. So we will get into that. It will clearly be one of the areas that the new interim authority will want to deal with, I would imagine, quite quickly.
QUESTION: Is this the place to ask if state-owned -- does the State Department have account of the various countries whose citizens are fighting on behalf of Saddam Hussein and what the U.S. may have said about it to those countries?
MR. REEKER: I don't, Barry. I would have to refer you to the Pentagon.
QUESTION: There hasn't been any diplomatic traffic you can tell us about? Syria, Algeria, Jordan, I believe?
MR. REEKER: I think we have made quite clear publicly, certainly to Syria, about anything crossing their border -- that would include human traffic for that -- that it is not a very practical matter to be heading to fight for a dying regime which will be gone in the very near future.
Eli was going to follow up.
QUESTION: Speaking of a dying regime, do you have an update on how many countries still have diplomatic ties with the old guys?
MR. REEKER: I don't. You would have to ask each of those countries.
QUESTION: Can you make any comment? Have you seen, as the progress on the ground has increased in Baghdad, countries more wiling to expel the ambassadors?
MR. REEKER: I don't know, Eli. I know that a number of countries have continued to expel Iraqi Intelligence Service personnel, which was in keeping with what we discussed some weeks ago, and we pointed out to many countries that these Intelligence Service personnel around the world, often under diplomatic cover, were a threat to U.S. personnel and U.S. facilities, and frankly, I am sure, to others' personnel and facilities as well.
And so we have seen a number of expulsions in that regard and we have seen certainly some countries who have suspended operations of Iraqi ministries, but I would have to refer you to each individual country to describe for you exactly what steps they have taken and how they would characterize it.
Yes, I think we are going to change the subject, if that is okay.
QUESTION: Can we?
MR. REEKER: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. There is an article in The Washington Times today that it's quoting --
MR. REEKER: Was it written by your colleague? No?
QUESTION: It's quoting U.S. intelligence and it's linking -- there are, according to U.S. intelligence, there are al-Qaida people in Mexico trying to, using the organized crime, like drug dealers, just the organized crime, to come to the United States. Do you have any information on that?
MR. REEKER: I don't. I am not familiar with the article specifically, and if it involves intelligence information, as you know, I wouldn't be in a position to speculate or discuss it.
QUESTION: But after 9/11, we heard that -- the Canadian Government denied this before, I mean some time ago -- but we heard right after 9/11 that some of the al-Qaida members came through Canada and then they denied that. And then there were rumors that there were presence of al-Qaida in Mexico. There is nothing? I mean, when you guys have security talks between both governments --
MR. REEKER: We certainly have worked very closely with our two closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, on counterterrorism. In terms of our borders, you would want to talk to the Department of Homeland Security for any specifics --
QUESTION: I have, but they don't have any press officer available.
MR. REEKER: Well, I will find you a phone number. Okay?
QUESTION: A bit east of Mexico?
MR. REEKER: East.
QUESTION: Yeah. This morning, the courts in Cuba, for which you have such high regard as evidenced by your statement last week --
MR. REEKER: Glad you read it.
QUESTION: Yes, indeed. The courts, I guess they handed down the first couple of sentences in the trial of the dissidents. Do you have anything to say about those?
MR. REEKER: Well, as you rightly noted, we did put out a statement last Thursday, I believe, when the Castro regime began these show trials of members of Cuban civil society, and those show trials continue.
There are media reports that we have seen that sentences of 15 to 25 years were handed down for the first group of Cuban dissidents. There is also a very troubling report that we have seen that the regime prosecuted requests that a death sentence for Jose Daniel Ferrer, a provincial organizer of Oswaldo Paya's Varela Project. And Mr. Paya, as we have seen in a statement, referred to the possible death sentence for Mr. Ferrer as a horrible act against a peaceful man.
Presumably, this sentence and other sentences will be confirmed shortly, as the regime has seemed very intent on quickly concluding these sham proceedings. As we indicated in the statement last week, the Castro government is persecuting journalists for acting like journalists, they are persecuting economists for acting like economists, and peaceful activists for seeking a solution to Cuba's growing political and economic crisis.
The regime's action, we believe, are an appalling act of intimidation against those who seek freedom and democratic change in Cuba, and the international community is united in its condemnation of this most egregious act of political repression in decades where, once again, Cuba is isolating itself, certainly from the rest of this hemisphere.
We call on the Cuban Government to release these prisoners of conscious and end the human rights abuses and to permit the exercise of fundamental freedoms.
QUESTION: On Mexico, one more. Sorry. Last week, Mexico took the presidency of the Security Council, the United Nations Security Council. Has the Secretary spoken with Prime Minister -- with -- I'm sorry --
MR. REEKER: The Foreign Secretary?
QUESTION: -- Derbez on this matter? Any issue to be raised in the context of the Security Council related to Iraq?
MR. REEKER: I will double-check. Certainly, you are absolutely correct that as of April 1st Mexico now holds the presidency of the Security Council. I only wrote down the Secretary's calls since Friday, so I can check and see. Clearly, we congratulate Mexico on stepping into this important role. It is an important role, as with have seen discussions with the Security Council be first and foremost in many people's minds in recent weeks and months.
And clearly, as we have said, the Security Council is going to have some other important tasks ahead of it vis-à-vis Iraq, but other subjects as well. So we will be in close touch with our Mexican colleagues, both in New York and I am sure, minister-to-minister, but I just don't have a specific rundown at this point.
QUESTION: Has the United States requested a meeting on Iraq to Mexico to, you know, to schedule any particular date for any discussions on Iraq?
MR. REEKER: Not that I am aware of. You will recall that we passed the -- or the Security Council passed unanimously the Oil-for-Food resolution that restructured and continued that program, but that was some time back. I am not aware of any new developments in New York at this point.
QUESTION: What about the -- sorry, just to stay on the Security Council -- two days from now there will be a meeting to talk about North Korea. Do you have anything?
MR. REEKER: Well, you are absolutely correct. I think, as we have talked about before, it was the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors that in February advised the Security Council formally of North Korea's further noncompliance with North Korea's IAEA Safeguards Agreement. The Security Council is going to review the IAEA report and North Korea's actions on April 9th, that is, in a couple of days, as you noted, Matt. It is the Council's responsibilities, obviously, to consider matters involving things like this that affect international security.
We expect that prior to that over the next couple of days all members of the Security Council, plus others directly involved or directly concerned in this case, like Japan, for instance, and South Korea, will discuss the plans for the April 9th meeting. Obviously, those discussions will be going on in capitals and in New York.
QUESTION: Is it correct that you and others, but obviously I'm asking for the U.S. point of view, believe that the North Korean withdrawal from the NPT would take effect on the 10th?
MR. REEKER: I would have to check on that and see. I haven't kept my calendar counting, but I will look into that for you.
QUESTION: But it is correct that when they said that they had withdrawn and claimed that it was -- that they had withdrawn because of the -- well, whatever they did ten years ago, you don't --
MR. REEKER: I have to go back and
check on how the calendar was counted and the days on that.
QUESTION: Phil --
QUESTION: This isn't the same subject, is it?
QUESTION: It's not on the same subject. Sorry.
QUESTION: I have one on the same subject.
MR. REEKER: And our friend back here had something, too.
QUESTION: Can you tell what outcome you're looking for from this meeting on Wednesday?
MR. REEKER: No, I can't. While we discuss with other colleagues on the Security Council plans for that meeting, along with others that clearly have an interest in this, as you know, we have repeatedly stated that our policy is to seek a diplomatic end to North Korea's nuclear arms program through a multilateral framework. And so this discussion may be one part of that.
QUESTION: Phil, over the weekend, North Korea issued a statement rejecting in advance anything that would come out of the Security Council meeting and said the U.S. war in Iraq is what they quote evidence of a U.S. plot to force North Korea to disarm. Do you have any response to this?
MR. REEKER: I don't understand the parallel between Iraq and North Korea, and I just have not made it a habit of trying to respond to --
QUESTION: -- the "axis of evil"?
MR. REEKER: Eli, do you want to come brief? I mean, I would be happy to have you come on up.
QUESTION: Well, no, it's basically what they're saying is that you are forcing -- that the U.S. is forcing Iraq to disarm, so this is evidence that you're soon going to use force to get North Korea to disarm, and also rejected any even implication that there might be multilateral talks.
MR. REEKER: Well, I think I gave you, once again, our position, our policy. It is the same policy that has been stated for a long time -- that we seek a diplomatic end to North Korea's nuclear arms program through a multilateral framework. And that is what we have discussed with a number of other countries, those in the region like Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, Australia, as well as the European Union, and certainly we will be discussing with Security Council members, our partners on the Security Council, since this is the subject of a Security Council meeting that is being held on the 9th of April.
QUESTION: Well, what about the idea that North Korea is saying that because of the war in Iraq, it has only taught them the lesson that they will to beef up their forces and have such a deterrent that there's no way that any of them will force them to disarm?
MR. REEKER: Can I say one more time that our longstanding policy has been to find a diplomatic, peaceful solution to end North Korea's nuclear arms program through a multilateral framework? And that is what we will continue to pursue.
QUESTION: Well, this might be a little old business already, but there were some talks with the North Koreans in the New York channel in recent days?
MR. REEKER: We have talks with North Koreans in the New York channel, you know, all the time. The New York channel has always remained open without interruption. It is used by both sides to convey messages. These aren't negotiations. This is the way we talk to the North Korean Government is through what we call the New York channel. And certainly, we have relayed the same type of message that I have reiterated again here publicly, but we say it privately as well, that we are prepared to engage in multilateral talks on ending North Korea's nuclear arms program, and so we continue to stress that message.
QUESTION: But was there something in the last couple of days or last few days?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. As I said, it is a fairly regular, continuous thing. I don't try to break down every time there is a conversation through that channel.
QUESTION: Phil, the supplemental budget for the Iraq war that is going to conference right now, there were some allegations that were leveled in the press over the weekend that the State Department had lobbied the appropriators to make sure that the reconstruction money went to the State Department and USAID.
MR. REEKER: I didn't see those over the weekend, but I will recall an allegation or something that was written in a newspaper article last week that was retracted by that newspaper in a correction, and we will be happy to provide you the correction where they, in fact, noted that the suggestion that senior officials had made phone calls on that subject were wrong, that no such phone calls were made.
MR. REEKER: And I would just refer you to the statements by Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage in testimony as well as in comments to the press that the State Department supports very much the President's position on this, and that is what we have made quite clear to Congress as well.
QUESTION: So I just want to make sure. The State Department is supporting the position that the White House has taken, which I understand to be that the reconstruction money should go to the Pentagon?
MR. REEKER: We support the President's position -- Deputy Secretary Armitage said it again this morning in one of his interviews -- be happy to get you his verbatim statement, as well, and point you again to the correction to an erroneous article made by one of your colleagues.
QUESTION: New subject. Dr. Congo, one bad thing, one potentially good thing.
MR. REEKER: Dr. Congo?
QUESTION: The Democratic Republic of Congo, D-R, Congo.
MR. REEKER: Oh. I think it's known as the DRO Congo, or the DROC.
QUESTION: Whatever. Anyway, you have -- we have one good thing in that the new constitution Kabila being sworn in, and then the massacre. I'm wondering if you have anything on either of those.
MR. REEKER: Well, we do understand that President Joseph Kabila promulgated the transitional constitution on April the 4th and announced plans to take the oath of office as president of the new transitional government on April the 7th. We have certainly been urging the government to establish as quickly as possible the committee to follow up -- that was called for in the Sun City agreement that we talked about in a statement last week.
In terms of the other disturbing reports that we have seen, I think you are referring to the United Nations report from the Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the MONUC, reporting yesterday that a massacre may have taken place April 3rd in the town of Drodro in the northeastern Ituri area. And local groups have reported that 1,000 Congolese civilians may have been killed
The United Nations, along with representatives of the Congolese Hema community and Ugandan military officials, are conducting an investigation. There is not yet confirmation as to who initiated the attack. I think as you know, having followed this quite consistently, we have consistently and regularly decried the grave humanitarian tragedy caused by the ongoing violence, particularly in the Ituri region of Congo, and we condemn deliberate killing of civilians and call on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and implement the Ituri Pacification Committee, which is a regional commission to oversee resolution of the conflict in northeastern Congo.
Uganda, as the party responsible for security in that region, must ensure that no human rights violations or atrocities are committed there, and that reports of any and all such activity are investigated immediately. And we would remind leaders and commanders of all parties that they are responsible for ensuring that those under their command comply with international humanitarian law and have an obligation to hold accountable anyone under their authority who commits atrocities. So we will be following that very closely.
Did you have one?
QUESTION: I have one.
MR. REEKER: You have one more? Sorry.
QUESTION: Have you guys made a decision yet, a final decision, on whether to go -- whether to sponsor an anti -- or a resolution on China in the Human Rights Commission? You are running out of time.
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new on that. I would be happy to call my friends in Geneva.
Released on April 7, 2003