State Department Daily Briefing – 30/10
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, October 30, 2000
Serbia - Indonesia - Cuba - Venezeula - Yemen - Middle East Peace Process - Ivory Coast - Russia - Iran - Iraq - Spain - North Korea
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
1-2 Municipal Elections Held on October 28 / Results
1-2 Next Steps in Kosovo / Final Status Issue
2,4-6 US-Indonesian Relations
3-4,6-7 Threat to Embassy in Jakarta / Status of Embassy / Travel Advice
CUBA / VENEZUELA
7 Castro's Visit to Venezuela
8 Reported Request for US Assistance to Compensate for Loss of Port Revenue
8-9 Status of USS Cole Investigation/Yemeni Cooperation with Investigation
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
9-12 Status of Implementation of Sharm el-Sheikh Agreements
9,11 Acting Israeli Foreign Minister Ben-Ami Visit to Washington This Week
10 Prospects for Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat Coming To Washington
12-13 US Engagement / Role in the Peace Process
13 Situation in Abidjan and in Country
13-14 Ordered Departure for US Embassy Non-Emergency Positions/Travel Warning Issued
14,17 Prospects for Elections / US View of Working with Governing Authorities
17 Discovery of Mass Grave On Outskirts of Abidjan
RUSSIA / IRAN
14 Congressional Request for Gore-Chernomyrdin Documents
15 US-Russian Cooperation in Space Mission
15-16 Update on Edmond Pope Case
16 Next Round of US-DPRK Missile Talks in Kuala Lumpur, 11/1-11/3
16-17 Prospects for President Clinton to Travel to North Korea
q17 Resumption of Iraqi Domestic Flights / Possible Violation of No-Fly Zones
18 Congressional Letter Regarding Effectiveness of Iraqi Sanctions
19 Airflights to Baghdad / UN Sanctions Committee Approval
18-20 Presidential Election in Kyrgyzstan
20 Spanish Supreme Court Judge Killed in Car Bomb Explosion
20-21 President Fujimori's Decision to Replace Military High Command
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #107 MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2000, 12:50 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be here, a pleasure to see all of our friends who went with us on the trip come back.
QUESTION: You were here Friday, weren't you?
MR. BOUCHER: I was here Friday, looking for you -- or looking for them. Anyway, off the top, I would like to say something about the elections in Kosovo and then I would be glad to take your questions.
First of all, we congratulate the people of Kosovo for successfully holding municipal elections on October 28th. This is a key step towards implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1244. All indications are that the elections were free and fair, that they were conducted peacefully without intimidation or violence. The vote truly represents the will for democracy of Kosovo citizens, who deserve praise for turning out in such massive numbers to vote. We are pleased that the Council of Europe election observer mission indicated that the elections were carried out in full accordance with international standards of democracy.
The international community must move forward with the next phase of Security Council Resolution 1244, which is to establish Kosovo-wide institutions and move forward toward general elections for those. So we're happy to see that. It fits with the path of democracy that is being followed throughout the Balkans, and we are happy to see that Kosovo too has held an election that is recognized as free and fair by international observers.
QUESTION: Would you care to get a little deeper into it, if the State Department cares to?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: It's being portrayed as a victory for moderation. I would ask you two questions, if the State Department wants to get into Kosovo's politics that deeply.
Does it seem that moderates have won? And, secondly, which I think you might easily be able to respond to, how do you think Belgrade and the new leadership there should respond to these returns so far as their stand on Kosovo as autonomous, but this, but that? You know what I'm trying to --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me handle both sides of it. First of all, as far as who won the election, it's too early to say. The final results aren't out, and certainly we're not going to go getting ourselves involved in who should win or who shouldn't win. The results will come out, I think, in the next few days.
Second of all, as far as the response in Belgrade, I think I would just say generally that we would hope and expect that people in the region would welcome the furtherance of the cause of democracy in the region, and that it's important as we move forward with Resolution 1244, which is the basis for handling the Kosovo issue, that that be carried out thoroughly, but also in as democratic a manner as possible. Resolution 1244 is the basis for international policy on Kosovo. It means that Kosovo should first develop democratic institutions in the interim period, before the determination of final status.
The elections that were just held are a major step along the way towards meaningful self-administration in Kosovo. That's called for under Resolution 1244. Kosovars obviously have a voice in the question of final status, consistent with the UN resolution as well.
So as we proceed down this road, we would hope the international community as a whole would welcome the establishment of democratic institutions, the holding of democratic elections, and support the carrying out of 1244.
QUESTION: There were reports that President Kostunica did not recognize the elections because he said that a large part of the Serbian population in Kosovo wasn't able to vote. Do you have an opinion on that characterization?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see his exact comments, but as far as the Serbs go, all indications, first of all, are that the elections were held in a free and fair manner. Second of all, Kosovar Serbs did have the chance to register for the election. Frankly, we regret that most of them chose not to do so.
But we would note that representatives of the Kosovar Serbs have agreed to, first of all, respect the election results and, second of all, to accept appointments to municipal bodies. So we hope to see more progress in this regard in terms of having the new institutions that are established be able to work with all the communities in Kosovo.
QUESTION: One more on Kosovo.
MR. BOUCHER: One more.
QUESTION: Are you still not calling for independence for Kosovo?
MR. BOUCHER: We have consistently supported Resolution 1244, and Resolution 1244 says determination on final status should be made after meaningful self-administration is established in a democratic manner in Kosovo.
QUESTION: I'd like to change the subject and ask you if you can enlighten us as to what in the world is going on down in Indonesia. Earlier this year, the Secretary made it a point of calling Indonesia one of the four chief goals for democratization in terms of US foreign policy, and now it seems you guys barely have diplomatic relations down there. You have an Ambassador who is basically involved in a screaming match with a lot of members of the Indonesian parliament and mobs running around telling Americans they want to -- telling Americans to get out.
So, one, are you telling anyone to leave or take extra precautions? Two, is there any thought of Gelbard coming back to the States anytime soon? And, you know, is this in general the way you want to be having a dialogue with one of your four top foreign policy priorities?
QUESTION: Can we do each of those separately, and start with are you telling people to leave?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll tell to remember the ones that I want to answer, and then you can follow up on the others.
The first thing: What is going on in Indonesia? There are a number of different things going on in Indonesia, and I think we have to deal with each of these situations on its own. Your overall characterization, obviously, I don't accept.
The first thing is that, in regard to our Embassy itself, there is credible information -- there was credible information as of last week -- of a threat to our Embassy compound. Ambassador Gelbard and his team decided on October 24th that they would suspend the Embassy's public services through October 27th. That reflects our desire to reduce the risk to members of the public who might be visiting the Embassy.
Based on an October 27th review of that threat information, then, the Embassy -- Ambassador Gelbard and his team -- decided to remain closed for public services on October 30th and 31st. Warden messages were released last Monday and Friday last week, telling the American community about this and telling them that the public services would be closed. That essentially means visa lines, visa services, and some of the other sort of open public events. The Embassy can make arrangements to see American citizens who call in who need American citizen services, so that's something they have managed to take care of even when they're closed in terms of the public services.
So that's one thing. There is credible information -- there was credible information -- of a threat to our Embassy compound, and we felt it important to close the compound to public services so that we could operate there but not in a manner there where the public might be needlessly endangered.
Second of all, there were the reports in -- where the place called -- Solo, I think -- of groups looking for Americans in hotels. We have seen the press reports on those. We don't have full reports yet ourselves. We are quite concerned about the situation, and we do expect to revise our advice to Americans who might be traveling in that area. Whether it's broader than that, I don't know. They are still looking at exactly what kind of advice they need to provide.
Third of all, in terms of US-Indonesian relations and the progress that has -- the manifest and demonstrable progress that's been made in terms of democracy and establishing new governance there over the last year, this remains very, very important to us. It is a subject that we will continue to work on. It is a subject that we continue to work with the Indonesian Government on. We have long-established, friendly relationships with the Government of Indonesia. It has always been of strategic importance to the United States, and now that they are democratizing we have every reason to want to strengthen that relationship.
It is natural that in this process, particularly with the turmoil going on, that there are disagreements. We do occasionally disagree with some of our best friends and allies, but that doesn't detract from the strength and the importance of these relationships to us.
QUESTION: So is there any doubt of Gelbard coming back?
MR. BOUCHER: That's not -- I haven't heard anything about that. I don't have anything like that.
QUESTION: Does the State Department agree with the manner with which Ambassador Gelbard has very publicly disagreed with Indonesian officials? Is this something that he was given guidance from the State Department? Because previous Ambassadors have had a much more sort of low key approach there.
MR. BOUCHER: The issues that our Ambassador is raising, the issues that he has consistently raised since he got there -- the issues of reform, of open economy, of need for anti-corruption steps, and, in fact, the responsibility of the host country to protect diplomats and foreign visitors and tourists -- these are all things that are very important to us. They represent US policy in Indonesia, and he has been raising them on our behalf. So I don't have any -- we stand with him on that.
QUESTION: The reports of ill will precede the terrorism threat, or the Embassy half-closing or something. I mean, as Gelbard --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't link one to the other.
QUESTION: No, I know, but you picked up on Matt's question as -- you sort of suggested all the trouble began --
MR. BOUCHER: He had a dozen questions. I tried to answer them, but I didn't try to say that people criticizing the Ambassador or the Embassy started only last week. No, this is --
QUESTION: Well, but as the Embassy attempts to -- makes these suggestions, how are they being received? Are they resented by the authorities in Indonesia?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's something you have to ask them. They have been quite vocal in some of their remarks, as well. I think the --
QUESTION: Well, but does the Ambassador report back, "I'm trying, but, gee, they don't like it"?
MR. BOUCHER: No, the Ambassador reports back. I mean, we have certain things that are important to us in Indonesia: democracy, reform, anti-corruption. These are the issues our Ambassador has been raising for us; these are the issues that are important to US policy. In addition, on the security side, the responsibility of host governments to protect our people and to protect visiting Americans is also important to us. So these are the issues that he has been raising. These are the issues that we raise as a matter of policy.
QUESTION: Richard, I wasn't asking what the Department's opinion was about the issues that Ambassador Gelbard was raising, but rather the manner with which he was raising them. Does the State Department feel that the very public criticisms that Ambassador Gelbard has put forward of the Indonesian Government was appropriate?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Richard, it doesn't seem like you're wanting to criticize the Indonesians for the threats against the Ambassador and Americans. Are you not going to -- don't you feel like you should warn the Indonesians that they need to respect diplomats and diplomatic property? Why are you not telling the Indonesians that you'll hold them accountable for threats and that sort of thing?
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't I just say that it's the responsibility of host governments to provide protection to our diplomatic missions, to our diplomats, to our tourists and to other people who are there, and not to exacerbate the problems?
QUESTION: I must have missed it.
QUESTION: Can I move on to a new subject?
QUESTION: No, no, wait a minute. I have one more on this. I mean, do you regret the fact that the dialogue between the United States and Indonesia has gone -- has taken such a -- has gone on such a low road now, considering that it is one of these four priorities? That's the part of my question you never answered before.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, I'll answer the portions I want to answer. But let me try to deal with this one now. I think, first of all, naturally, peace, harmony and public solidarity is always nice. We often have disagreements with governments; we often have disagreements with governments in public, even where we have profound similarities of interests.
I think, first of all, we think the relationship that we have built with Indonesia -- we think the progress that Indonesia has made in the last few years on democracy and many other areas, is extraordinarily important. We have, as you know, regular consultations with the Indonesian leadership, and those will continue. We are building a very strong relationship with Indonesia.
Naturally, yes, we do regret that we have public disagreements, but we recognize that those happen sometimes, even between friends.
QUESTION: For most Americans who don't pay attention to this on a daily basis, can you try and explain why Indonesia, in the State Department's assessment, is now such a difficult place for Americans, and why, given all the tensions in the Middle East, the one Embassy that is closed right now because of security concerns is Indonesia?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, a difficult place for Americans is kind of a very broad thing. In terms of specific travel advice, we're going to revise our travel advice and we'll have more detailed advice for travelers, I hope, during the course of the day.
Indonesia is an important place for Americans. Indonesia offers opportunity for Americans. We have generally supported the progress that has been made. I wouldn't describe it as a difficult place for Americans. I would describe it as a place where we have some disagreements and a lot of very broad and significant areas of agreement with the government.
The fact that this is a democratic nation, that this is a large, if not the largest, Moslem nation, these make it important. Its strategic importance, its importance as democracy, its importance as a society to us has been something that we have consistently stressed and that we have tried to work with. At this juncture, yes, we do have some disagreements. We also have had fundamental similarity of interests and desire to support their path of democracy and reform.
QUESTION: If I could, Richard, on the Embassy closures, though. It is up to the individual embassies to decide whether they close or open, but by closing the Embassy there and not having Embassies closed in the Middle East, are you suggesting that it's more dangerous for Americans to visit the Indonesian Embassy than to visit, say, Israel?
MR. BOUCHER: It depends on the day you ask. I think a week ago Friday, the Embassy was open in Indonesia but they were closed in the Middle East. So it depends. Different days, different places, things. If we get something -- here we have a situation where we have a specific and credible threat that has to do with this particular Embassy compound. We thought it was necessary to take the steps that we have taken in terms of closure.
That is a specific situation, not one that is related to the Worldwide Cautions and Advisories and concern that we have where we have pretty much got everybody on a higher state of vigilance. But the decision to close in one particular place is still -- is decided by the Ambassadors locally, unless there is a kind of blanket instruction that we have issued in the past.
QUESTION: Is it closed indefinitely, or did you say just through Tuesday?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's closed Monday, Tuesday, and then they'll obviously have to decide. But, at present, the plan is to open back up on Wednesday.
QUESTION: Okay. Fidel Castro is finishing his triumphal five-day tour of Venezuela today as a guest of President Chavez, and together they have called for a military force of Latin American nations as a counterweight to US power in the hemisphere. At the same time, Foreign Minister Rangel has said he wants -- they want the most excellent relations with the United States. His chief political opponent, who ran against him in the presidential vote --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, Castro's chief political opponent?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, he doesn't have any, does he?
QUESTION: No, no. Chavez, Chavez. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Chavez' chief political opponent, Commander Arias, has declared that the two commandantes are directed -- are trying to oust the US from its political and economic position in Venezuela. And polls show that a lot of Venezuelans agree with this point of view.
Now, what is the US reaction to all of this? And specifically -- let me add this -- does the State Department consider that Venezuela is less threatening to democracy and to US interests in the region than that of Peru, in the case of Peru, where it has been giving so much attention?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a loaded question. I'll leave you to your own analysis of the whole situation between Castro and Chavez. I think we have expressed ourselves many times on the subject of Fidel Castro and our concerns. We have expressed ourselves fairly frequently on the situation in Venezuela, as well. Obviously, democracy in Venezuela is no less important to us and to people in the hemisphere than democracy anywhere else, and we have talked about that in the past.
But I really don't have a broad analysis for you at this point. I'll check and see whether anybody wants to deliver themselves of such an analysis, but I think we leave it to you all to analyze the sequence of events and the developments there.
QUESTION: Isn't it a little odd that nothing is being said about this by the US Government?
MR. BOUCHER: They seem to be saying it on their own, and you guys seem to be able to pick up all the signs on your own. I'll see if there is anything we particularly want to say on it, but I think we've said enough in the past, frankly.
QUESTION: There were reports that Yemen is indicating that it may want to seek reparations for loss of use at the Port of Aden there. Is that true, and is this something that the United States would consider?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't have an answer because, at this point, the Yemeni Government has not made any formal request of either financial compensation or assistance to offset any loss of revenue at the Port of Aden. Throughout this investigation, we and the Yemeni authorities have focused on minimizing disruption to people who need to use the port, to port activities as much as possible, consistent with the need to conduct the investigation. So we have tried to minimize any disruption, but we don't have any requests for compensation at this stage.
QUESTION: Have you seen the press reports on the Yemeni willingness to cooperate with the investigation today?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how up to date you are from the White House side, but let me tell you what we know. President Clinton wrote to Yemeni President Salih last week, thanking him for the cooperation we have received during the initial phase of the investigation and encouraging this cooperation to continue as we enter a new phase. You will remember that was the substance of the statement that we issued Friday on behalf of Secretary Albright and FBI Director Freeh.
President Salih called President Clinton on Saturday, basically in response to our President's letter to him. President Salih called to assure our President that Yemen would continue to cooperate fully. We have made clear that in the next phase of the investigation we will need to have access to suspects and other more detailed and further cooperation.
I think an investigation of this size and complexity has never before been seen in Yemen. We are discussing with the Yemeni Government how best to achieve the common objective of identifying the perpetrators of the terrorist act and bringing them to justice. We have made clear to the Yemeni authorities -- and will continue to make clear to them -- the importance that we attach to carrying out a thorough investigation. President Salih assured President Clinton that Yemen would continue to cooperate fully, and we are now in detailed discussions with the Yemeni Government of the modalities of that cooperation.
QUESTION: You said that the Yemeni Government, or President Salih, said that Yemen will continue to cooperate fully, but kind of officials were indicating last week -- and I know we spoke about this on Friday -- that the real cooperation would be -- a test of the cooperation, full cooperation, would be whether they have access to these suspects. So, I mean, his definition of continuing to cooperate fully doesn't seem to be in line with what you seem --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, you're trying to -- we made clear last week that complete further cooperation would be required and would include access to the suspects. We have made that clear to you, made that clear to the Yemeni Government. Subsequent to that, we got a phone call from the president of Yemen saying that he intended to cooperate fully with the investigation, and he talked to the President about what that would involve. So we are still working out the details and modalities, but I would take it as a good sign that after we made clear what we needed, the guy called us and said we're going to continue to cooperate fully; we want to work with you on this one.
QUESTION: But if he says continue to cooperate fully, and you're still working out the details, I take it he didn't say whether you would have access to witnesses.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I didn't get that detailed a readout of the President's conversation. But we do take it as a positive sign the fact that he called over the weekend to say that he did want to continue to cooperate fully and that we have -- in this process we have also made quite clear to the Yemenis what we need in terms of the investigation.
QUESTION: Richard, it was announced today, at least on NPR, that the Israelis are planning to take more or stronger offensive actions to take out the gunmen that are mixed with the Palestinian population. It sounds like a dangerous escalation. What does the State Department say about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what I have to say is that I'm not going to try to characterize specific steps as we go through this. There have been statements on both sides. There have been steps taken on both sides. What is important to us is that the commitments made at Sharm el Sheikh be implemented. That remains the overriding requirement, we think, to restore peace, to restore calm, and that once we do restore calm we can start talking; we can talk about how to get back to the peace process.
Now, the Acting Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami is coming to Washington this week. He'll have meetings with the Secretary on Wednesday. We continue to discuss with both parties the meetings or the efficacy of meetings we could have at various levels, both here and in the region but, on our side, there are no plans for travel at this point. So we'll have this conversation on Wednesday with the Acting Israeli Foreign Minister.
We continue to say, and as I've said today, that the key at this point is to get the parties to carry out their commitments. The Secretary made clear this morning we want to see them disengage, we want to see them lessen the violence, and that they will do everything they can to get the peace process back on track.
QUESTION: So you can not comment on this specific policy shift?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I've ever tried to comment on specific security steps that the parties have been taking.
QUESTION: Barak seems to have at least an interim lease on political life. Does the State Department think that's terrific?
MR. BOUCHER: We've never commented on Israeli politics, either.
QUESTION: Only Kosovo politics?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't commented on Kosovo politics. If somebody has an election that goes sort of beyond politics to democracy --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- fundamentally fair? No, it's --
MR. BOUCHER: Come on, Barry. I declined to comment on winning candidates in the Kosovo election.
QUESTION: I just wondered if you -- if State wanted to say whether it makes it a little more manageable to persist -- to pursue your policy.
MR. BOUCHER: We're not in a position to talk about that. That's internal to the Israeli political system and they'll have to decide how they proceed.
QUESTION: There are some indications that Barak and Arafat may come the following week, around the 9th or so, for separate meetings. Is there anything of that nature on your screen there? And is the Ben-Ami -- one agenda of his visit going to be to perhaps work out details of a subsequent Barak visit?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything further to that particular meeting. We are also obviously in touch with Palestinians to talk to them in various ways, so what develops on that front I don't know. But I think we made clear last week after the President talked to both sides that he was prepared to invite them to Washington separately at some point once calm had been restored in order to discuss how to get back to the peace process. So whether that materializes at any given point is speculation. I can't say exactly when, but that offer is kind of generally out there.
QUESTION: What, specifically, commitments have not been kept from Sharm el Sheikh, and is it a failure to keep commitments or has it been a failure of the publics at large or military units to abide by commitments made verbally at Sharm el Sheikh?
MR. BOUCHER: You know, I think once again these are questions we haven't answered, and I'm not going to start today trying to give a scorecard on everybody in terms --
QUESTION: Richard, you said that there might come a -- there was going to be a point when you would. Why hasn't that point been reached yet? I remember you directly saying --
MR. BOUCHER: I remember directly saying that. It just hasn't.
QUESTION: Why not?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to give a scorecard on why we don't have a scorecard. It takes 150 points to get to give a scorecard, and we're only at 76 right now. I don't know. I can't do that every day.
The point is that, at this stage, the parties -- we look to the parties to carry out fully their commitments. We look to the parties to do everything they can to return the situation to one of calm and to end the violence.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject, please?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll do this for a while. I'll get back to you.
QUESTION: Is the State Department aware of a group calling itself the Saladdin Brigades who claimed responsibility for a killing -- I'm not sure what day it was? They claimed responsibility today, anyway, and it is apparently a previously unheard of group.
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't see the report. I'll have to check and see if our guys know anything about it.
QUESTION: Just back on this issue of not commenting on the Israelis when they're launching this new offensive, I mean, that really goes in a whole new direction, and they said they're moving in special forces into areas. It sounds like they're going to start methodically trying to take out areas and groups that they see as dangerous to Israeli soldiers. So only limiting it by saying that we expect them to hold to the agreements made at Sharm el Sheikh, can they launch an offensive and still hold to the agreements made at Sharm el Sheikh?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not -- I've seen some press reports this morning. I don't even know if we have a full readout from the Israelis about what they intend to do and how they intend to manage the situation. But I do know that throughout this process we have avoided comment on specific security steps. We have stressed the importance of carrying out the commitments made at Sharm el Sheikh, and that remains critical to us, in our view, at this point.
QUESTION: Will the President be meeting with Ben-Ami?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a question you'll have to ask at the White House. I don't have anything like that at this point.
QUESTION: Does the peace process at this point -- does it continue to be as high a priority as it was even two weeks ago? Is everyone still as engaged as they were?
MR. BOUCHER: The President and the Secretary are doing everything they can to get back to the peace process.
QUESTION: Is there going to be, or has there already begun, a reassessment of US policy in the peace process since we have indications that high-ranking Israeli officials say that the US role has changed dramatically and there seems to be some of the same feeling on the Palestinian side?
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't you ask that question on Friday? Didn't I answer that question on Friday? If today is a variation, you'll have to enlighten me a little more, but I think that's a question we've tried to answer --
QUESTION: We're waiting --
MR. BOUCHER: And the answer today is the same as the one on Friday.
QUESTION: We're waiting for the elections, apparently, here in the United States now. We're waiting for Barak. But during this period, can you confirm that there really is a reassessment going on within the Department of State?
MR. BOUCHER: No. The fact is -- we've said this many times -- first of all, we play a role that the parties want us to play; second of all, every indication from the parties is that they want us to continue to play that role. And I think you have heard that from their mouths in recent days, as much as you've heard it from ours.
Third of all, we think it is very important for UN interests, for United States interests, that we continue to have a role and play a role in Middle East peace. So the President and Secretary continue to work on this. You've seen what they have done. You've seen what they continue to do. And until the parties tell us they don't want us anymore or they're not prepared to pursue peace, I think the essential fundamentals of our role will not change.
Obviously, we recognize that it is hard to make peace with all the violence going on, and obviously we recognize that getting back to the peace process is more difficult the longer and deeper and more emotional the violence that takes place.
QUESTION: Have the Palestinians told you that they do indeed want you to continue to play the role that Clinton views as honest broker? And if they do, why aren't they sending anyone to come talk in the week that Ben-Ami is coming?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. And I didn't say that.
QUESTION: Yes, they have told you in the recent weeks that they want you to continue?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, if you look back at what we said after the President's phone calls last week, it was quite clear they wanted us to continue to play a role. And, no, I haven't said that they're not sending anybody to Washington.
QUESTION: What I'm reaching for in a very clumsy way is: Is there a basic shock to the whole peace process as a result of these events of the last two weeks, and is the Department simply hunkering down or is it actually considering a lot of new possibilities for Land-for-Peace, of sharing Jerusalem and so on?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, as with most questions where I'm offered a choice, I'll take neither of the above. We certainly think that the violence makes the pursuit of peace more difficult at the present time and means that we have to build a path back to the peace process. But we remain fully committed to doing that, and it retains its important that it's always had to us, and we remain --
QUESTION: Is it ever going -- I'm sorry -- is it every going to be the same peace process? That's what I'd like to -- I mean, do you really expect to get back to the same peace process?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not just picking up where we left off. We've talked about getting back to the peace process. How the parties want to do that, how we and the parties agree that can be done, is the subject of discussions that we intended to have, that we forecast at Sharm el Sheikh, of discussions that we hope to have, of discussions that the President might have with leaders should that eventuality materialize.
So how to get back to the peace process is clearly an issue on our agenda, but an issue that is not yet decided because, first and foremost, we have to implement the critical commitments that were made at Sharm el Sheikh and restore calm.
QUESTION: Okay. I'm not sure that you're ready to comment on the Ivory Coast situation. Since the situation seems to be calm in the Ivory Coast, is the US intending to support a new government?
And, secondly, just to try to understand if the Embassy -- the US Embassy in Ivory Coast will be reopened soon. I don't know if it has opened.
And, third, the discovery of the mass grave in Abidjan. Is the US intending to say something about that through the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let me see how much of this we can deal with. As you say, the situation in Abidjan and in most parts of the country is calm. Life has largely returned to normal. Most businesses, restaurants and schools have reopened. Traffic in Abidjan is normal. The airport is open for normal business. Still don't know the whereabouts of General Guei.
And on our Embassy, we have changed the advisory slightly. We still recommend that American citizens defer all travel to the Cote d'Ivoire due to the unstable security situation throughout the country, but we have moved to what we call authorized departure. We have authorized the departure of family members of US Government personnel and personnel in non-emergency positions from Cote d'Ivoire.
US citizens in Cote d'Ivoire, we recommend, should establish and maintain contact with the Embassy and consider their own personal security situations in determining whether to remain in the country. As always, US citizens should be aware of their surroundings and use common sense to avoid locations that could be dangerous.
The Embassy in Abidjan is open today, October 30th, and we're obviously continuing to assess the situation based on our understanding of events. With the improvement of the security situation, the restoration of commercial air service, we move from ordered to authorized departure for our own personnel.
In terms of the government, we are intending -- we will work with the authorities, with the governing authorities in Cote d'Ivoire, just as we have done with predecessors. We do want to see the restoration of democracy in Cote d'Ivoire as soon as possible. We would urge all parties to cooperate toward that end so that the voice of disenfranchised Ivorians can be heard.
QUESTION: Does that mean you want to see another election?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, we see the October 22nd election as failed and fundamentally flawed from the outset due to the exclusion of major opposition parties' candidates and the other machinations that led up to the elections; nonetheless, Laurent Gbagbo was inaugurated on October 26th as President of Cote d'Ivoire.
So, first and foremost, we believe the parliamentary elections should take place as scheduled on December 10th. These have long been part of the electoral calendar, and if those are free and fair we think that will be an important step towards creating the necessary conditions for free, fair and inclusive presidential elections in which the voices of all different -- all Ivorians can be heard.
QUESTION: So the answer is yes?
MR. BOUCHER: So the answer is yes.
QUESTION: You want to see another election?
MR. BOUCHER: We want to see -- because this election was flawed, we need -- we will obviously work with the government that has taken over, that was inaugurated, but we believe that there should be, first, the parliamentary elections that were planned and, second of all, free, fair and inclusive presidential elections as well.
QUESTION: May I ask a question, please, on about another subject -- I'm from Russian television -- about Gore-Chernomyrdin. There was information that today a portion of documents are supposed to be handed from State Department to Senate. Is it true?
And as a continuation of my question, there is a very positive example of the activity of this commission: cooperation in space. Tomorrow morning, an American astronaut is supposed to be also take off from Russia to space. Does it attract any interest as well as the negative questions?
MR. BOUCHER: I hope it would attract interest as well as the negative questions, but let me tell you about both things.
On the question of documents, we received a number of requests to turn over documents that are related to confidential understandings with Russia concerning proliferation issues and arm sales to Iran. We have had a series of exchanges, both oral and written, with Congress regarding the scope of the information required, and also reiterating the Administration's policy and diplomacy on these issues.
We have to be exceedingly careful in our view as we proceed. We do have an obligation to sustain a policy that has improved the national security of the United States over the last six years by limiting the number and quality of weapons that have gone to Iran. It's a policy that involves sensitive diplomatic negotiations and contacts.
So we are trying to meet the congressional request in a manner that doesn't simultaneously destroy our policy, which would not be in our national interest. We have offered to provide the Senate leadership with access to key documents at their convenience. And that is the way we have made the offer.
QUESTION: So they've backed off the subpoena threat? I mean, this is now taking place in --
MR. BOUCHER: That's a question you have to ask them. We have been in contact with them regarding the scope and the type of access that we would provide. We have offered to provide the leadership of the Senate with access to the key documents at their convenience, and we'll see how that materializes.
QUESTION: Does Secretary Albright view the committee actions as any way political, in any way driven by politics?
MR. BOUCHER: Secretary Albright, as you know, always tries to stay out of politics these days. So even that question would not be one we would want to answer.
QUESTION: On Russia still, can you give us an update on Ed Pope? His wife just came back. They're quite disturbed at the proceedings.
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, unfortunately we are too. There's not a lot new that we have to say, that we can say about the situation of Edmund Pope, because we haven't had further access.
First of all, the trial continues today with a judge rejecting a defense motion to consider Mr. Pope's health. As you know, we have stated publicly our deep concern about the decline in his health since he was first incarcerated seven months ago. The Russians -- based on examinations by prison doctors, the Russian Government and the court have asserted that his condition is satisfactory, but without independent analysis by specialists or a doctor, we are really not in any position to accept those assertions.
Our consular officers have not had access to Mr. Pope since the trial began, despite our repeated requests to gain that kind of access. As we have said before, we think this case has dragged on for far too long, especially in light of Mr. Pope's medical condition. We think it's time for him to be released and for him to be returned home.
QUESTION: His wife said today that she now assumes he will be found guilty by this court, and that her only hope left is some kind of political solution between the two governments. Does the State Department see any type of political solution?
MR. BOUCHER: As we have said all along, I think, we think it is time for him to be released right away and returned home. I think that's where I have to leave it. I think that's what they ought to do.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more on North Korea, particularly the Einhorn consultations? When will they start, and so forth?
MR. BOUCHER: The missile talks with the North Koreans will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They will last from November 1st to November 3rd. Assistant Secretary Einhorn will be leading our delegation.
Do we have anything more? Well, I think you know the Secretary and the President and his key advisors were meeting this morning on the subject of North Korea, so they are holding those discussions today.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the Ivory Coast for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's finish with North Korea and then go back to the Ivory Coast, I guess.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Secretary is prepared -- or during the meeting now is making any kind of recommendation about a visit by the President?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure the Secretary and the President will discuss the possible visit of the President. I wouldn't expect that to be decided at this meeting. And as far as whether she makes a recommendation and what recommendation she makes, that's between her and the President and not for us to discuss here.
QUESTION: Do you have any better idea -- does the Department have any better idea how long that the KL talks are going to last?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, from the 1st to the 3rd.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. Did you say that already?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: One more on Ivory Coast. You said that you thought the elections last week were failed and that you want to see new ones, which I don't know if you've answered this question but it raises in my mind: Do you recognize Laurent Gbagbo as president? How would you -- how do you classify him under this situation?
MR. BOUCHER: We recognize countries, not governments, as a matter of legal practice, so it just comes down to whether you work with a government in place. And we have said quite clearly we will work with the government authorities in Cote d'Ivoire.
QUESTION: Do you call for an international investigation about the mass grave discovery?
MR. BOUCHER: The massacre. First of all, I think it's appalling, the reports that we have seen. There are at least 50 bodies found at the site of a mass killing on the outskirts of Abidjan. We have seen the press reports that say that those killed were supporters of the opposition leader, Alassane Quattara but, frankly, we don't know the identities of the killed or the killers and so we have to rely on the Ivorian authorities for that.
We do applaud the Ivorian authorities' agreement to allow an international investigation of the tragedy. We welcome the commitment of Mr. Gbagbo to find the perpetrators of the massacre and to bring them to justice.
QUESTION: If I could get to Iraq. There are reports today that Baghdad has reopened, I guess, flights to the no-fly zone areas, and I was wondering if there was any comment on this internally -- these flights?
MR. BOUCHER: Internal flights?
QUESTION: Commercial flights to areas that fall in the southern-northern no-fly zone.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll check on that, but you might actually check with the Pentagon since they are more involved in the enforcement of the no-fly zones. But I'll check and see if we have anything to say on that.
QUESTION: If I could follow up, there was a letter that was sent on Friday from Senator Helms and Representative Gilman asking exactly what the State Department was doing about what they say is the collapsing sanctions regime. Do you have any response to that at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of that particular letter, but I do want to say that we think the sanctions continue to be effective. While we have these disagreements over flights with some of the other countries involved, we do know that many, many of the flights that have taken place recently have been submitted to the Sanctions Committee and approved by the Sanctions Committee and that, overall, the sanctions, we think, remain effective and continue to be applied by everyone.
Even the governments with whom we have disagreements over specifics of particular flights recognize that the only way for Iraq to get out of the box is by implementing Security Council Resolution 1284. That has been the view we have expressed; that has been the view we have heard from them; and that remains the view we continue to hear from them.
QUESTION: Are you currently working in the United Nations Sanctions Committee to try to change the rules regarding those flights so that there would be less confusion in the future?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I'd go quite that far. Certainly, these flights do get discussed in the Sanctions Committee, and the different views on them get raised. We have had flights from Russia, Ukraine, Switzerland, Bahrain, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Yemen that were all submitted and approved by the Sanctions Committee. There were Sudanese, Egyptian and Syrian flights that didn't have the approval, and a few others before that. So there are still a lot of people complying regarding flights.
But I think the overall characterization that we can make is that sanctions remain effective. There is strong support for controls that limit Iraq's ability to threaten other countries in the region to develop weapons of mass destruction or harm its own people. The UN controls all but a very small amount of Iraq's oil exports, and recent flights don't change that fact.
QUESTION: But do you have any response to the fact that on many of these flights government officials and business executives are also accompanying the humanitarian aid? I mean, is that maybe not violating the letter but possibly the spirit of the sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I'll tell you that many of the flights were submitted and approved to the Sanctions Committee, and that I think the long list of countries who are doing that reflects the fact that there is still support, even for that particular aspect where we recognize there is some disagreement. But, at the same time, the overall support for the sanctions, the overall support for Resolution 1284, is not diminished, and people continue to make clear that is the path for Iraq if it wants to get any sanctions suspension or relief.
QUESTION: Back in March, I think it was, when the Secretary was in Central Asia, she went to Kyrgyzstan and got a whole long litany of promises from the president there about how wonderful his elections would be, and now these things appear to have collapsed. I'm wondering if you guys are disappointed at all in the fact that President Akayev has not followed through on any of his promises.
MR. BOUCHER: The election was yesterday. As you know, I think the central election commission says that President Akayev received 74.4 percent of the vote. Nonetheless, the Office of Security Cooperation in Europe, their Office of Democracy, Institutions and Human Rights, had an observer mission there. Their preliminary assessment is that the Kyrgyz election is -- that it, "failed to comply with OSCE commitments for democratic elections." We support those findings.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. BOUCHER: The National Democratic Institute is there as well, and we look forward to seeing their report as well.
QUESTION: But particularly in regards to basically the personal pledges that President Akayev made to Secretary Albright --
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look back at exactly what pledges he gave us. I mean, certainly --
QUESTION: Well, one of them said his opponent would be allowed to run, and the guy wasn't allowed to run. It's very much like the Ivory Coast. Why are you just saying you support the OSCE? Why are you not saying anything yourself?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, this is the day after the election. The OSCE assessment is preliminary. We haven't yet seen the assessment of the National Democratic Institute people who are there. We certainly look forward to seeing their report as well. The day after the election we have a preliminary assessment, which we certainly agree with, but, in order to say more, we'll have to know more.
QUESTION: You want to basically hold off on --
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we saw what led up to the election. I think the OSCE noted smooth balloting, transparency in vote tabulation, things like that, on the day of the election, but we also know what led up to it: 14 candidates excluded on various pretexts, the remainder prevented from competing on a free and fair basis, media coverage severely biased in favor of the president, the government put heavy pressure on the independent media not to report on the opposition. There were government promises of access to the polling places, but non-partisan independent monitors weren't allowed to observe the election. During the vote count there were plenty of reports of ballot-stuffing, multiple voting by individuals and such things.
So we do expect to see the reports. We will look at those when they come in. Certainly, getting beyond the personal and the specific commitments that might have been made to the Secretary -- and I'll look those up to see -- certainly it's a disappointment that Kyrgyzstan has failed to carry out a fully free and fair election here.
QUESTION: This morning, the terrorist group ETA in Spain has killed in a car bombing attack a judge. I wanted to know if you have any reaction on that.
And the other question is your assessment of all the military uprising in Peru of this weekend.
MR. BOUCHER: Two questions. Let me give you a statement on the car bombing that we'll have after the briefing. We obviously condemn and denounce those responsible for it. It's a cowardly and brutal attack that follows a pattern of ETA terrorist attacks in Spain, and we certainly support the Spanish Government's effort to bring perpetrators to justice.
So we extend our sympathies and we support the Government of Spain in trying to deal with the situation there. We'll have a more complete statement available for you after the briefing.
As far as the steps being taken in Peru, I think, first, it's worth noting that President Fujimori continues to demonstrate that he is in charge in Peru. His action over the weekend to replace the commanders of the Peruvian army, navy and air force were stated in terms of the need to make changes for the good of the country. And I think there is no indication at that time that the military high command intended to take action against the president, but these actions underscore the constitutional order and civilian rule that needs to be maintained -- that will be maintained during this time of political crisis.
This change of command follows last week's reassignment and brief detention of senior and mid-level officers supportive of ex-intelligence advisor Montesinos. He remains at large in Peru. Military and police units continue their search for Mr. Montesinos, and President Fujimori has stated that he will be turned over to judicial authorities once he is located.
There was a protest over the weekend by a single military unit in southern Peru. That appears to have been an isolated incident involving a disgruntled army colonel. Not only did his calls for nationwide action in support of his uprising fall flat, but the army itself condemned his insubordination and sent units to arrest him and his followers.
Certainly, we continue to believe that the electoral process which returned President Fujimori to office was deeply flawed, but President Fujimori has taken several positive steps over the past week towards -- past weeks towards restoring democracy. They have set new elections for April 8th of 2001. They have said a new president will be inaugurated in July. Mr. Montesinos has been fired. The National Intelligence Service is being deactivated under civilian oversight. Military high command has been replaced. Mr. Montesinos' influence in the military has been greatly reduced. And the OAS-sponsored talks on democratic reform are yielding agreements between the government and the political opposition on electoral and judicial reforms.
So there is still a lot going on in Peru, but there is a lot, we think, that represents progress towards restoring democracy.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 P.M.)