State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for June 17th
Daily Press Briefing for June 17 -- Transcript
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
June 17, 2003
1 Secretary Powell s Arrival to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
1-2 Ceasefire/President Taylor Committed to Leaving Office
1-2 Changes in Government/Hope for Democracy
2 Human Rights Violations Accountability
2-4 Consulate in Jeddah Providing Refuge to American Citizens
4-5 Freedom of Travel Disputes Involving US Citizens in Saudi Arabia
5-6 Police Operation Against the People s Mujahedeen
6-7 Under Secretary Marc Grossman s Meeting with Turkish Under Secretary Ziyal
6-7 US/Turkish Relations and NATO Alliance
7 Support to Good Offices Program and the Secretary General
7-8 Increase in Counter-Narcotics Funding
8 Counter-Narcotics Efforts
9 Ambassador Wolf s Meetings/Roadmap
9-10 Arafat s Continued Presence
10-11 Declaration about Luxembourg/Circumstances for Going to War
11-12 KCNA News Agency and Sovereignty Concerns/Nuclear Weapons
17 Nuclear Talks/ASEAN Regional Forum
12-13 Terrorism Reemerging
13-16 Student Demonstrations/Iran s Democratic Characteristics
15-16 US Supports Democracy in Iran
MR. REEKER: Welcome to the State Department, everybody, on this fine Tuesday afternoon. Secretary Powell, as you are aware, has arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he will be participating tomorrow, that is Wednesday in Cambodia, in the ASEAN Regional Forum and other meetings. Ambassador Boucher and our regular team, including many of your journalist colleagues, are with them, and we wish them a good night's rest there in Phnom Penh.
I don't have other announcements, but I am certainly happy to take your questions. Mr. Schweid.
QUESTION: Philip, the president of Liberia has committed to leaving office. Does the State Department have any observations?
MR. REEKER: Yes. Let me say, first of all, on Liberia that we applaud the ceasefire that was signed today between the Liberian government and the rebel groups, and we further applaud the goal of concluding an agreement within 30 days on an interim government that will not include the current president, Mr. Taylor.
We congratulate the Nigerian General Abubakar, as the chief facilitator for the International Contact Group on Liberia. The U.S. delegation that participated in the talks as an observer in Accra, Ghana has played a key role, and we are going to continue to support that, continue to do so.
The Economic Community of West African States, known as ECOWAS, now will dispatch a joint verification team and a joint monitoring committee to monitor the peace agreement and build trust between the armed parties and prepare for any eventual international stabilization force.
QUESTION: Is there any handle on the outlook, the kind of government that you think will evolve, whether it will be, you know, a democratic government, perhaps?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think at this point, Barry, the negotiations are continuing on a comprehensive package to bring about a profound change, a positive change, in terms of how Liberia is governed. And we are encouraging all of the parties in this process to conclude promptly an agreement that will bring true democracy, good governance and prosperity to Liberia, whose people have long suffered under the government, certainly, that they have had now.
Our embassy reports that, right now, Monrovia is quiet. Government troops had recaptured most of Monrovia's suburbs, and the fighting that we were talking about over recent days has appeared to subside. But, obviously, our hope and goal would be to see a government there based on democratic principles that, as I said, can provide a much better life for the people of Liberia. Jonathan.
QUESTION: Do you think that Charles Taylor, once he leaves office, should surrender himself to the tribunal in Sierra Leone?
MR. REEKER: Well, as you know, as we discussed last week, we recognized the work of the special court and we have indicated that those responsible for atrocities in Sierra Leone must be held accountable; and that remains our position.
QUESTION: That doesn't really answer the question, though. What about Charles Taylor, himself?
MR. REEKER: The specifics of that I just couldn't get into. I would refer you to the tribunal in terms of what they put out a week or so ago in terms of an indictment on the specifics of that. But our goal to see those responsible for those atrocities held accountable remains U.S. policy.
Anything else on this, Liberia?
QUESTION: No, different subject.
MR. REEKER: Different. Please, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Several women and their children have sought refuge in the U.S. Consulate in --
MR. REEKER: Several?
QUESTION: Was it the consulate or the embassy? The consulate. And I'm wondering if you have any information about these women and their status.
MR. REEKER: Let's see what I can tell you about that, given the -- of course, the Privacy Act, which limits what we can say about American citizens because of their privacy. Without the waiver of that right, I am fairly limited in that.
As you know, protection of U.S. citizens interests abroad is among the highest priorities of the State Department. Our consular and diplomatic posts may provide temporary protection within their facilities to American citizens who are in danger of serious harm until appropriate arrangements for their safety are in place. The U.S Consul General in Jeddah is currently providing refuge to one American citizen woman and her children.
There had been another American citizen woman who had taken refuge in the consulate with her children. She departed today of her own accord. We are going to be continuing to monitor their well-being and provide all possible assistance to her.
And, as I mentioned, we don't have Privacy Act waivers in either of these situations. So I am rather constrained in any more details I could provide.
QUESTION: So the woman who has left seems to have gone back to the situation she was in? She has not left the country, though?
MR. REEKER: I am just not in a position to describe any more about that American citizen without a waiver of her Privacy Act rights.
MR. REEKER: I'm sorry. We have another question here.
QUESTION: So you said that they may provide refuge when an American citizen is in danger of harm. Have you determined that this woman and her children were in danger, or do you just take them at their word?
MR. REEKER: Certainly, in looking at the situation, that was a determination that was made that they could stay in the consulate in terms of providing temporary protection within that facility for the American citizen in question. Refuge in an embassy or consulate, in any facility like that, cannot be granted solely to prevent enforcement of a host country's laws, so we have to look at the situation, and clearly we're in touch with other officials, officials in that country.
We have, as you know, been vigorously pursuing efforts to resolve these disputes regarding freedom of travel, these disputes in Saudi Arabia that involve American citizens, and we are going to continue pressing those issues and our efforts to afford the necessary protection to American citizens who are in need overseas.
QUESTION: Well, if the Saudi Government, on their current little PR campaign, says that, you know, citizens are free, they have rights, you know, they are a friend, but in this case, women and children are not being allowed free passage out of that country if they choose to go, and they're American citizens.
MR. REEKER: As you will see from our Consular Information Sheet, and I think you are quite familiar with it, that we note that in Saudi Arabia, while we can intercede with the Saudi Government to request exit permission for an adult American woman, maybe the wife or daughter of a Saudi citizen, it may not be possible to obtain permission for the departure of minor children without the father's agreement. And that is why we are engaged with the Saudi Government in efforts to resolve these disputes that arise in Saudi Arabia.
But as I indicated, you should see that our Consular Information Sheet -- and I am not familiar with what the Saudis themselves put out -- as we have updated it most recently, clearly states that Saudi law governing family disputes may be a problematic issue for some people in that situation.
QUESTION: Yeah, a couple of points on that. The American woman who left of her own accord, how -- can you tell us how long she'd been there, because there were --
MR. REEKER: No, I can't. I don't have the details of that information.
QUESTION: Can you at least tell me if she was the first one or the second one, because there's a big difference between the first --
MR. REEKER: I believe it was the first woman, but I just don't have a timeline of things.
QUESTION: And secondly, to follow up on Terri's question, is your position now that any American woman who turns up at the embassy saying she wants to leave the country automatically has the right of refuge on the grounds that if you turn her away, she might be in danger purely by having tried to take refuge?
MR. REEKER: I think you have to look at every case individually, and that is what we do.
QUESTION: Can you speak to, substantively, what efforts are being made to ensure freedom of travel for American citizens, including minor children, out of Saudi Arabia? And is it the position that all American citizens, regardless of minor status or adult status, should have the freedom to leave Saudi Arabia at any time?
MR. REEKER: As I already indicated, there are ongoing discussions, which I think you are aware of because you have come and asked about them before, to resolve these freedom of travel disputes that involve U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia. Often, each one is an individual case. There is no particular cookie-cutter approach, perhaps, and we do continue to press those. I can't go into any specific details, as that's an ongoing effort. And at the same time, we want to afford the necessary protection to American citizens who are in need.
As the Consular Information Sheet provides, there are various issues that arise in terms of dual nationality and other situations, and that is what we have to look at and keep working on in terms of facilitating and resolving these travel issues that arise because of laws in that country.
QUESTION: But, I guess -- who is handling the negotiations in this case and what is it -- and how would you define or characterize the status of the negotiations?
MR. REEKER: Continuing. Vigorous. It's an engagement that is ongoing that we have discussed here in the past --
QUESTION: Right --
MR. REEKER: -- and it is continuing. Our embassy clearly is involved. Our embassy and our consulates there, our Bureau of Consular Affairs is here. The Bureau of Near East Affairs, obviously, is involved, as well.
QUESTION: But it seems like this is, if I'm not mistaken, these are ongoing since last summer, at least. Are we near an end game in these negotiations? Is there any end in sight?
MR. REEKER: I couldn't try to characterize it. What we are doing is focusing on trying to resolve the issues, trying to resolve this, these -- what we call "freedom of travel" disputes that involve U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia. And we are going to keep up that effort and, at the same time as these individual cases come along, do what we can to afford protection to American citizens abroad.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. REEKER: Anything else on this?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments about the police operation in France against the People's Mujahedeen?
MR. REEKER: I have seen the press reporting on it. As you suggested, the group that is being reported on is a terrorist group, as designated under United States law. I don't have details on that. I would let the French authorities, obviously, speak for themselves. We certainly applaud efforts around the world to take these actions against terrorist groups.
And you know we have discussed here many, many times all of the different tools that are available. Law enforcement cooperation and law enforcement action is clearly one of those, just as the financial actions that we have all taken, some of it under United Nations resolutions, in terms of seizing assets, cutting off flows of money to terrorist groups to prevent them from perpetrating their ways. And so these are indeed welcome actions all around the world.
QUESTION: So you're planning to recommend that the Justice Department take similar action against the office next to the White House?
MR. REEKER: As you know quite well, Jonathan, that particular issue is a question you have to send to the Justice Department.
QUESTION: Well, you said you applaud this kind of action against terrorist organizations.
MR. REEKER: Jonathan, this is the Department of State. We deal with issues abroad. The Department of Justice will be happy to entertain your questions regarding domestic issues in the United States.
QUESTION: No, I said, would you be recommending that they take such action?
MR. REEKER: It is not my place to do so. I'll you refer you to the Department of Justice, if you have questions for them.
MR. REEKER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. REEKER: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have anything about yesterday's Turkish Under Secretary, Mr. Ziyal's meetings? Mr. Grossman said yesterday Turkey and the United States would remain as a strategic ally. So my question is, what is the strategic partnership concept? What does it mean to the United States?
MR. REEKER: Well, as you indicated, the focus of your question was the visit of Mr. Ziyal, Ugur Ziyal, the Under Secretary of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who was here yesterday, remains in Washington, I believe, today, and has a further schedule. He met yesterday with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, and they covered a full range of issues, I am told, including Turkey's EU candidacy, the Cyprus issue, Armenia, Iraq, counterterrorism, certainly the Middle East and the peace process, and Turkey's economic reform program. Those are all areas, as you know, that we are working closely with Turkey on and sharing views and ideas.
Turkey is a strategic ally of the United States. Our relations with Turkey, U.S.-Turkish relations, I think, are strong, broad. We have a long, deep history together, and we have a lot of work to do in the future. So this visit by an Under Secretary was part of that regular consultation that occurs between our two countries. Clearly, we are both members of the NATO Alliance, and will continue to work in that direction with the Alliance expanding. We have got a lot of shared interests, and certainly value Turkey's friendship. And our strategic partnership is one that will endure.
QUESTION: There was some confusion yesterday about the status of technical talks on the money for Turkey in the supplemental, the one billion or whatever. Do you know when such technical talks are likely to begin?
MR. REEKER: I don't know that I have that kind of detail. I know that we anticipate going forward with the funds provided by Congress in the supplemental package, about a billion dollars, I believe. But in terms of technical talks, I don't have any details on that. Clearly, too technical.
QUESTION: You mentioned Cyprus. Did Mr. Grossman try to persuade, or if he did, did he succeed in persuading Turkey to use its influence to reopen negotiations based on the Annan plan that the Turkish Cypriots broke off, I think in April?
MR. REEKER: I don't know that I have that kind of specificity from their talks. Our view on it is well known. We have covered it here before. And we would say privately the same thing that we say publicly about that: We support the Good Offices program and the Secretary General to pursue peace and a resolution to the Cyprus problem, and we will hope that all the parties will make the greatest effort possible to see that through.
Let's pop back here, and then we'll come back -- unless it was on Turkey.
QUESTION: No, not on Turkey.
MR. REEKER: Ma'am.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject?
MR. REEKER: Of course.
QUESTION: It's on Mexico. I understand that the counter-narcotics funding for Mexico for the year 2004 will triple this time. Could you -- do you have any information on that or can you give us your thoughts?
MR. REEKER: I had a look at the budget numbers. The foreign affairs budget for fiscal 2004 includes a request for $37 million in law enforcement related aid to Mexico. And to put that in perspective, in 2001 and 2002 the budget was $12 million each of those years. Last year, in 2002, it was supplemented by a $25 million emergency supplemental for border security, so there was already an increase in that amount.
This, obviously, reflects the success, I think, the ongoing success, of our cooperation with Mexico on counter-narcotics, anti-narcotics law enforcement issues, which are clearly of our mutual interest. And where we are increasing the support are in initiatives that have shown to be successful, Mexican initiatives.
So, obviously, it remains a request, a budget request, but that is something we think is important and it's directed -- these programs with Mexico are directed toward training and the acquisition of additional equipment and supplies and other support for Mexican law enforcement, obviously focused on Mexico's northern border region with the United States.
QUESTION: Did the Mexican Government make this request? And also, if you can talk a little bit on Colombia about the same thing.
MR. REEKER: The request is our request to the Congress of the United States for this budget authority, for funding of this.
QUESTION: Did the Mexicans ask you?
MR. REEKER: I direct you to the Mexican to describe their discussions, their views and that kind of thing. This is money that we have determined is important for our interests as well as those of Mexico working together on these efforts.
On Colombia, I am not sure what you are looking for. Is there a specific question?
QUESTION: You increased the budget for the counter-narcotics efforts of the Colombian Government as well in the fiscal year of 2004?
MR. REEKER: I would, again, just refer you to the budget request. I don't have in front of me the numbers for Colombia. Clearly, Mexico and Colombia are two different countries with different circumstances, and we have money for programs with Mexico that complement Mexico's programs, we have a complete initiative under Plan Colombia where we've been working with the Government of Colombia on counter-narcotics and counterterrorism in that country. So trying to compare apples and oranges is probably not the best thing just because they are two countries in this hemisphere.
QUESTION: Thank you, Phil.
MR. REEKER: Terri.
QUESTION: Middle East. Wires are saying Secretary Powell will now be heading to Israel at the end of the week. Can you confirm that?
MR. REEKER: No. I don't have anything new on that from what you heard yesterday. The Secretary had made clear that he had some flexibility in his schedule, but at this point, I would have to refer you to the traveling party. I just had a readout from the Secretary's briefing on the aircraft and I am not aware that any additional travel was --
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Ambassador Wolf's meetings?
MR. REEKER: Let's just double-check what kind of update we have. As you know, the Special Envoy, Ambassador John Wolf, and his team are in Jerusalem. They have been consulting with both sides to facilitate implementation of the commitments that were made to President Bush at Sharm el-Sheikh and at Aqaba.
They have met with Israelis and with Palestinians. That includes meetings with Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon. And so, you know, as the President described for you a couple days ago, the U.S. is in close touch with the Palestinian Authority, the government of Prime Minister Abbas, the Government of Israel, and the message is very clear. What we are saying and what we hear from them is that Prime Minister Abbas wants peace, Prime Minister Sharon wants peace, we want peace, the European Union has made quite clear they want peace, Arab governments want to see peace. It's organizations like Hamas, the terrorists like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who reject peace and continuously try to disrupt the peace process.
And so we are looking, as we said before, to everybody to make this effort and together, with everybody taking their responsibilities and making this effort, is the best way forward; trying to take the steps outlined in the roadmap that everybody has agreed is the path to achieving the vision for peace in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Will Assistant Secretary Wolf be holding any trilateral meetings with Israelis and Palestinians on any level?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I don't have a sort of forward-looking schedule for him. I just don't know. He will continue to do whatever --
QUESTION: Is he intending to do that, or he'll see how it goes and then decide?
MR. REEKER: I wouldn't want to predict exactly what he is doing. What he is doing is facilitating implementation of their commitments. And so he will continue to have those meetings with lots of people.
QUESTION: Where does Yasser Arafat fit into all of this as far as getting rid of him? Is that something there's a renewed focus on? Or is that something that --
MR. REEKER: I don't think our views on him have changed at all. We are working with Prime Minister Abbas who is the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, who has a cabinet, who is showing leadership for his people -- something that I think was long missing. And so that is where our focus is directed.
QUESTION: Well, when I was over there about two weeks ago, just talking to a number of the people inside the Israeli Government, they privately said that as long as Arafat is there, Abbas is not really going to have the power necessary to deliver on agreed upon goals. Do you think that that is the case? Or do you think that you can still achieve the goals, even with Arafat still in place?
MR. REEKER: I would refer you to everything that the President of the United States said as well as what Secretary Powell has said when they had their meetings on the Red Sea, both in Sharm el-Sheikh and in Aqaba, and what we have said since. We are focused on working with leaders on both sides of this issue as well as with those in the region, leaders in other Arab countries who have a responsibility to support Prime Minister Abbas, support this way forward, to fight terror, to make sure that everything is done to cut off funding or support for Hamas or other terrorist groups. And, of course, there are responsibilities on the parts of other partners, in the Quartet, for instance -- European Union, Russia, the United Nations -- in helping to keep this process moving.
And so that is very much what we are focused on: supporting Prime Minister Abbas, supporting him against Hamas and the other terrorist groups who are trying, indeed, to undercut Prime Minister Abbas and undercut the Palestinian people. Their actions, these terrorist actions, have done nothing but harm the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for an independent, secure state. And it is Hamas that is an obstacle to peace in the region along with Palestinian Islamic Jihad or al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade or other groups like that that continue to pursue terrorism, which leads to death and destruction. And that is something that we condemn and are working with everybody else to help the Palestinians pursue the steps outlined in the roadmap.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have any view on the European declaration -- European Union declaration about Luxembourg -- you know, about circumstances for going to war?
MR. REEKER: I don't know that I have been able to see it or fully review it, but I did see reports over that. I think some of that Richard talked a bit about yesterday --
QUESTION: Oh, did he?
MR. REEKER: -- in terms of a strategy, a security strategy that members of the European Union have been looking at, just as we do that. And, as Richard suggested yesterday, it is important to look at the full document and not focus in on one or two particular sentences or phrases, which is often the case.
Certainly, in our instance, you know, we look at working with friends and allies, building up alliances, focusing on economic development. All of these are part and parcel of our overall strategy to preserve our security, and working with friends and allies is very key. So I can't address directly the European document until, perhaps, we have had a chance to look at it more.
QUESTION: On North Korea?
MR. REEKER: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: KCNA, North Korea's KCNA News Agency, had said that if North Korea feels like Washington's infringing their sovereignty, they're going to react with an immediate retaliation. Does the State Department have anything to say on that comment?
MR. REEKER: I saw this latest round of bellicose rhetoric. I think as we have said before, threats from North Korea do not contribute to resolving the legitimate concerns of the international community about North Korea's actions. North Korea has put itself in the position it is in now by taking a variety of actions with regard to nuclear weapons program.
And we seek a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the situation that North Korea has created through the pursuit of nuclear weapons. That is the same position that we have had, and the international community, I think, stands very firm in support of a nuclear weapons free Korean Peninsula, and, of course, a peaceful and diplomatic solution to achieve it.
As President Bush has described, this will clearly be a subject that Secretary Powell will have an opportunity to discuss with others in the region, since he is now going to be meeting with Asian and other foreign ministers around the ASEAN Regional Forum meetings in Phnom Penh.
Certainly, as you know, we have been working closely with Japan and South Korea. We had our Trilateral Coordination Group meeting last week, I would refer you to the statement from that meeting, where we agreed on coordination and agreed that we are concerned about North Korea's programs and also their illegal activities that are carried out by North Korean entities like drug running, counterfeiting.
So we have certainly continued to discuss means of cooperating with South Korea, with Japan, and kept in very close touch with other countries like China, Russia, Australia, and the Secretary will have an opportunity to do that in his meetings tomorrow.
Yes. On this -- is this?
QUESTION: North Korea.
MR. REEKER: North Korea.
QUESTION: Newt Gingrich today had a roundtable with some journalists. He was discussing his upcoming piece, which I'm sure will cause no controversy at all.
One of the things he said was that it seemed "clear" -- I believe was the exact word -- that the State Department in a March 31st meeting, when it found out from North Korea that it was reprocessing plutonium -- was a statement they had made for the first time -- that that information was not shared with anyone else inside the administration, outside of the State Department.
And I went back and checked because I had asked Richard this a few weeks ago. It actually had not been brought up at all in the course of daily press briefings. And the only time it was brought up was that following Monday, which I believe was April 25th, where somebody asked Secretary Powell about that. He responded that it was nonsense, the allegations, but then he only said that the information had been shared within the administration. He didn't specify where in the administration that it had been shared, or if it had been shared with anyone outside of the State Department.
Do you have any direct refutation to what --
MR. REEKER: I'll stick with what the Secretary said. All of the appropriate people that needed to know within the administration were kept well informed.
QUESTION: Does that include outside of the State Department?
MR. REEKER: I am quite certain, yes.
QUESTION: And can you say which people outside of the State Department?
MR. REEKER: No.
QUESTION: And any agencies, in particular, that did hear?
MR. REEKER: I am not going to share that with you, and I am not going to try to address commentary about some press roundtable that I didn't attend. And I think we have made our views on that general subject and comments by that individual quite clear.
QUESTION: On Peru, Phil?
MR. REEKER: Peru.
QUESTION: It seems like the terrorism is reemerging, reemerging in the country, and there is great fear that this is happening, that the Government of Toledo have requested any sort of assistance to the United States Government, intelligence?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of anything specifically new. I think we have all made quite clear and we are all sadly too aware that terrorism is the great challenge of our time, and that is not isolated to one particular part of the world, but, in fact, is a global phenomenon. Peru and the Peruvian people have experienced this, sadly, for many, many years. These things have ups and downs, and certainly as we are with so many countries around the world, we are in touch with Peru. And where we can help and share information, work together on stopping terrorist financing, share intelligence, law enforcement actions, we do that. So I don't have anything new in particular on Peru, but we condemn terrorism wherever it takes place, and that certainly would include in Peru, where the people have suffered far too long and don't deserve to be subjected to more of the kind of terrorism that they have suffered for so many years.
QUESTION: Phil, I'm sorry.
MR. REEKER: Yes, Barry.
QUESTION: I had heard the same thing today, but not from anybody in the government -- a Peruvian I know, as a matter of fact, who is in touch with his country. I wish I had time -- I wish I had remembered to look up the terrorism report, but I vaguely remember some celebratory words that the Sendero Luminoso had been pretty much extinguished, and he says they're back and kicking in Peru and it's a big problem.
Could I ask you if the State Department -- not off the top of your head, but if the State Department is aware of any noticeable resurgence of this Maoist group? They're quite --
MR. REEKER: Again, these are usually, Barry, the things that are hard to quantify at a given point. It is why our annual report and review called, quite rightly, the Patterns of Global Terrorism, is a relatively accurate assessment by our people.
QUESTION: Yeah, it's once a year, you know.
MR. REEKER: I am happy to check and see if they are ready to make some different or new assessment based on recent developments, but I think we try to look at these things in terms of patterns and work closely with host governments in assessing the terror situation in any particular country.
QUESTION: Yeah, the student protests seem to have subsided somewhat, despite your encouragement. Are you at all disappointed, and are you urging them to resume and keep it up?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything to add on what Richard covered so well yesterday in terms of the situation there. We have always said that Iranians, including Iranian students, but all Iranians, have a right to determine their own destiny, and we have supported their aspirations to live in freedom and we have expressed our hope that the voice of the Iranian people and their call for democracy and rule of law will be heard and help to transform Iran into a force for stability in the region. So that has been the extent of our role, our encouragement, as you suggest, and that continues to be the overall policy we have pursued. The demonstrations that you saw in Iran are a response to Iranian policies. It is the people of Iran speaking out, expressing themselves, and we always encourage the peaceful expression as a right to all human beings, but a right of these people to pursue, you know, freedom in their own country.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that. Well, it seems that with the President's and Secretary Powell's statements again supporting the protestors to, as you say, have the right to determine their own destiny; that seems incongruous because implicit in that is that they don't now have the right to determine their own destiny. That seems incongruous with Deputy Secretary Armitage's statement earlier this year that Iran is a democracy.
So is that no longer the prevailing belief that Iran is, in fact, a democracy?
MR. REEKER: Now and again, what you often lack is context. If you look at the whole discussion and the question that was asked of the Deputy Secretary and how he was looking at that as a particular situation as compared to another situation, which is always dangerous -- you guys often like to sort of lump everything into categories -- every situation is different and unique. Iran has elements of democracy in terms of election, and that is what you are seeing often as clashes when people expressing their views want to have more democracy.
Iran also has a theocracy, elements of theocracy where they don't have the freedoms that they deserve. And we have long talked about our concerns over the human rights situation in Iran, as well as the other situations, the other things that concern us in terms of pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and support for terrorism.
So we viewed with concern, for instance, arrests of protestors that were taken into custody during the recent protests, taken into detention simply for voicing their political views. And we applaud the Iranian people for trying to exercise a right, indeed, a right that everybody should be guaranteed, and that is calling attention to the destructive policies of the Iranian Government.
So there is no absolutism in these things. It is looking at a situation, supporting what we have always supported, and that is freedom for the Iranian people, just as I described.
QUESTION: Right. But it seems as if you're putting context in there that wasn't there, having read the -- unless the L.A. Times got the quote wrong, that the quote, in fact, was not that Iran has elements of democracy, as you suggest, but that it was, in fact, a democracy.
MR. REEKER: No. Again, you have to look at -- we will get you the transcript and you can look at all of the commentary.
QUESTION: And having read that and having polled the Press Office after that to find out if --
MR. REEKER: Do you have a point?
QUESTION: Yeah, the point is, is that still the statement? Is Iran declared a democracy or is it elements of democracy? How do you define the Government of Iran?
MR. REEKER: I think I just addressed that, and I will let political analysts all over the world and amateurs in this room do it as well. Our views of Iran and our concerns about Iran and our hopes for the Iranian people have been well expressed by the President of the United States, by the Secretary of State, by the Deputy Secretary of State, and hopefully, without the same eloquence, by myself and my colleagues from this podium. Our views are clear --
QUESTION: That's democracy, not freedom.
MR. REEKER: That's where it is. There are a lot of elements to look at, and I would suggest that you look at the broad picture. We are going to continue trying to look at the situation of the Iranian people and continue to encourage them and hope that the regime will, first of all, protect the rights of individuals, release those that have been held, and listen to what the people in Iran are saying.
QUESTION: If I could wrap up?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Yesterday, I believe the spokesman said -- took no position, the government takes no position on legislation. He was asked about Senate legislation. I then became aware of House legislation proposed by Congressman Sherman and 12 co-sponsors. He would propose -- which proposes various measures be taken by the U.S. Government to pressure the Government of Iran, discouraging World Bank and other contacts with Iran, a flat ban on imports from Iran.
Is the State Department considering -- if you have no position on legislation, does the State Department have a position on various recommendations, provisions of proposed legislation?
MR. REEKER: I think that is what we will be looking at in terms of this legislation as it works its way through. I am not, again, in a position to give you a full, detailed analysis or an administration position on any particular piece of legislation. Certainly, if you look at some of the legislation, or drafts that I have seen, we would agree with the expressions in these bills of U.S. policy to support transparent, full democracy in Iran and to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for a free, democratic society, just as I have described.
So we will continue to look at those things, continue to keep in touch with members of Congress who have expressed an interest in this, and look to where we can also expand regional initiatives like the Middle East Partnership Initiative to try to help the Iranian people as well.
QUESTION: Yes, looking at what you've said over the last couple of days about the demonstrations in Iran, I noticed that you came to the conclusion that the demonstrators object to the same policies that you object to, namely the government's policy on Middle East peace and --
MR. REEKER: No, I don't know that I have said that, Jonathan. I'll let --
QUESTION: -- on weapons of mass destruction and so on.
MR. REEKER: I am not quite sure where you are drawing that. I speak on what our position is and --
QUESTION: No, this was in something last Friday, I think you'll find that this was stated. Or you disputed that.
MR. REEKER: What is your question, Jonathan.
QUESTION: My question is: What is your basis for this belief? What makes you think that the demonstra -- there's nothing -- as far as I know, they haven't said anything public along those lines. What is the basis for your assertion that they agree with you on these?
MR. REEKER: I guess I wasn't a part of this so I'll just have to go back and --
QUESTION: I think last week, if you look on last Friday, you'll find that --
MR. REEKER: I wasn't here. I think if you look at what we have said about hoping to see Iran become a model for stability in the region, which I do think is something that would be shared as an aspiration by many people in Iran, that ending support for terrorism, stopping opposition or undermining of a Middle East peace process are all things that would contribute to greater stability for the whole region and for all the people of the region, and, indeed, for more stability all around the world. I think those are often shared beliefs. The squandering of resources on development of weapons of mass destruction or nuclear programs may be something else that is of concern to Iranian citizens. I will let them speak to that directly.
Our concern in terms of the weapons of mass destruction program, our concern in terms of the support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, our concern about the undermining of Middle East peace efforts or interfering in other parts of the region -- those are concerns that we state with regularity and have been our concerns for some time, as well as our concerns for the human rights record of the regime in Iran.
QUESTION: You are saying now that you think that the demonstrators necessarily agree with you on.
MR. REEKER: I am just not sure of the context. I am happy to go back and look at the context of your thing, and if you have a specific question I can try and do that.
Yes, sir. Sorry.
QUESTION: I just to make sure, ask you if you have new about the possible nuclear talks on North Korea. A South Korean officer said that Beijing would welcome like five-way talks including Japan, North Korea, South Korea, U.S.
MR. REEKER: That has certainly been our position. I don't have anything to move it along or to announce talks. I did suggest, as the Secretary himself has, that he will have North Korea on his agenda for his various meetings, both the larger meetings and individual meetings that he'll have in Phnom Penh at or around the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum and the post-ministerial conference he is attending right now. [End]
Released on June 17, 2003