State Department Daily Press Briefing 6/11
Mexico – Russia – Iraq – Peace Process – Middle East – Serbia – Yemen – Sudan – Peru – Jordan – Colombia – South Asia – Afghanistan – Worldwide - Indonesia - Libya
DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, November 6, 2000
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
MEXICO 1-3 Pending Execution of Mexican Citizen Miguel Angel Rangel in Texas / Failure by Local Law Enforcement Officials to Notify Consular Officer of the Arrest of a Foreign National/ Hearing Back From Texas Authorities
RUSSIA 3-4 Edmond Pope's Proceedings Have Been Suspended Today & Tomorrow for Russian National Holidays / Mr. Pope Taken to Russian Clinic / Our Consular Officers Have not had Access to Him Since October 11 / Call on Russian Government to Release Mr. Pope Immediately / Mr. Pope Denied Opportunity to Vote
IRAQ 4-6 Rule That Iraq Could Not Fly Fixed Wing Military Aircraft Over the Northern & Southern No-Fly Zones / Sanctions Not Relating to Use of Civilian Aircraft / Iraqis Ought to Notify UN About Flights / Suggestion That Sanctions Against Iraq Seem to be Unraveling / Oil-for-Food Program / Resolution 1284 / American Representative at Trade Fair / US Law Concerning US Citizen Traveling to Iraq for Business Purposes
PEACE PROCESS 6-8 Whether US Opposes Call by Yasser Arafat for an International Force to Separate the Palestinians & Israelis / Whether US Will Veto Call for Such an International Force in Security Council / Implementing Sharm el-Sheikh Agreements / White House Saying That it Never Called on the Leaders to make any Public Announcements Denouncing the Violence
MIDDLE EAST 8 Rising Anti-Americanism in Arab Countries in Middle East
SERBIA (FRY) 8-9 President Kostunica's Decision to Allow ICTY to Open Office in Belgrade / New Foreign Minister / Progress on Embassy / Release of Political Detainees / Revolt in Serbian Prison
YEMEN 9-10 Cooperation from Yemeni Officials/ Arrangements for Next Phase of Negotiations
SUDAN 10 Resettlement of Sudanese Refugees in US
PERU / JORDAN / COLOMBIA 10-12 Jordanian-Peruvian Arms Deal / Weapons in Hands of Colombian Rebels/ Charges Against Mr. Montesinos/ Peruvian Authorities Conducted Arrests
KAZAKHSTAN 12 President Nazarbayev Talking to the Taliban
SOUTH ASIA 12-13 Effect of Elections on Policy in South Asia/ Relations Between India & US
AFGHANISTAN 13-14 Possibility of U.S. Strike Against Taliban / Threat by Usama bin Laden to Continue Killing Americans if There is a Strike
WORLDWIDE 14 Travel Warnings for Americans due to Elections
INDONESIA 14-15 Whether Embassy Will Reopen / Indonesian National Police Increased Efforts to Protect our Mission in Jakarta / Plans for Ambassador Gelbard to Come for Consultations Before Going Home
LIBYA 15 Safety of Americans Going to Libya
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB # 111 MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2000, 12:35 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, here we are. Hard at work again. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: I am going to give you a chance to have an impact on the election.
MR. BOUCHER: No. Next question?
QUESTION: An execution is scheduled for Texas, I believe on Wednesday, and it has attracted some attention internationally. Some diplomats are wondering about the procedures in this country, and I was wondering if you had any comment.
MR. BOUCHER: This is the case of Miguel Angel Flores Rangel. He is a Mexican national. And on October 19th, the Mexican Embassy sent us a diplomatic note about the case. They do raise a number of points about what may or may not have occurred in terms of consular notifications. We contacted the appropriate authorities in Texas and we asked for a report on the consular notification issue.
I do think I have to say in general that we don't think that the failure of local law enforcement to notify a foreign government that one of its citizens have been arrested is sufficient cause for the sentence to be overturned. We certainly believe that the citizens of one country arrested in the other should have the opportunity to speak with their consular representatives, and you know that we have made that an issue with foreign governments when it comes to US citizens that are arrested abroad. It is one of the central tenets of the Vienna Convention.
So, we think it is entirely appropriate for the Mexican Government to raise this case with us, and we have, in fact, encouraged foreign embassies and consular officials in the US to advise us of problems with consular notification, so that we can investigate and, if we find a problem, take steps to ensure that it doesn't recur. And, in fact, we have taken a lot of steps with local jurisdictions in the United States in recent months to try to make sure that people remain aware of the obligation.
But we have not thought that our criminal justice process needs to be changed, however, because of failure by local law enforcement officials to notify a consular officer of the arrest of the foreign national or to inform the individual of his or her right to contact consular officials.
QUESTION: Did you hear back from the Texas authorities?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've heard back from Texas yet.
QUESTION: Well, they're cutting it awfully close, aren't they?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, we do think it is important that people are notified and we take a lot of steps, but we do not think it is grounds for overturning a conviction.
QUESTION: Fine. But don't you think that you should get an explanation before the guy is put to death?
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly think we should get an explanation --
QUESTION: I mean, October 19th is several weeks --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll answer your question if you want me to, but you can keep talking if you would prefer.
QUESTION: Well, answer the question, but I don't think you're doing it. Go ahead.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we do think we need to respond as soon as we can and get the information as soon as we can. But, once again, I have to say we do not think it is grounds for overturning a conviction.
QUESTION: You would like to get a response from the Texas authorities before this guy is executed?
MR. BOUCHER: We would like to get a response from Texas as soon as we can.
QUESTION: But not necessarily before he is executed?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we don't see the precise linkage to the conviction, and therefore we need a response as soon as we can --
QUESTION: Okay. Several months ago there was a very similar case in Virginia in which I believe the Secretary wrote and asked the Governor of Virginia to either stay the execution or -- it was something like that. Why was this case different?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not completely familiar with the Virginia case, so I can't really compare and contrast. I'll have to get your something on that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new on Edmond Pope?
QUESTION: Can I ask one more thing on Mexico? I'm not familiar with it, but is this an oversight? Or it's not even being characterized as an oversight?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, until we know exactly what happened, I can't characterize it one way or the other. Obviously, if there was a failure to notify, it was a failure to notify and an oversight is the explanation of why that may have happened. But until we have a report --
QUESTION: But there is an obligation to do that?
MR. BOUCHER: There is an absolute obligation to do that, a mandatory obligation that we think needs to be fulfilled. And we do take a lot of efforts to try to see that this matter -- which is local, has local jurisdictions involved in the United States -- we do try to take a lot of efforts to make sure they understand.
Okay, Pope. Our understanding is that proceedings continued briefly on November 4, which was Saturday, but that they have been suspended today and tomorrow for Russian national holidays. The trial will resume on November 8th.
We understand that Mr. Pope was taken to a Russian clinic for examination on Friday in connection with his absence from court due to back pain. Our request to review the records of that examination and to consult with the doctors who performed it are pending, remain pending, with Russian officials.
Our consular officers have not had access to Mr. Pope since October 11th. The latest Russian response is that these visits and consultations are on hold until after the three-day holiday period is over. Frankly, we believe that there is no justification for that delay, and we have made that point to the Russians. We are certainly prepared to see him any time that they will allow it.
The President, the Secretary and other senior US officials have repeatedly called on the Russian Government to ensure that Mr. Pope receives adequate medical care. The Secretary raised our concerns with Foreign Minister Ivanov most recently on last Friday, and Ambassador Collins has followed up in Moscow throughout the weekend.
So, once again, we call on the Russian Government to release Mr. Pope immediately, so that he can receive adequate medical attention, be reunited with his family, and return to the United States.
QUESTION: I understand he has been denied an opportunity to vote in the election tomorrow. Do you have anything to say on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to look at that report, because you don't necessarily -- well, let me check it out, what he might have needed to go to the Embassy for in that connection.
QUESTION: I read a report over the weekend that this clinic that he was taken to, it was a surprise kind of examination; he was taken away without notification, him or his lawyer, about where he was going, and this was kind of like -- I think they compared it to like a strip search, that it was just a complete violation of his medical rights. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think one of the problems, we don't have access to him, we don't have access to the trial, so we don't necessarily know up to the minute where he is. But on Friday, when he wasn't in court, we heard it was in connection with his illness.
But the fact is that the fact that he went to the Russian clinic did not come out, I think, until later. So, I think perhaps the best source on this are his lawyers. But I think it is important to remember that we do have this right of consular access, and we do think we need to be at the trial, and we do think we should be informed of these things.
QUESTION: On Iraq, these flights that are going on over the Northern and Southern no-fly zones, correct me if I'm wrong, but after the Gulf War, wasn't it the rule that Iraq could not fly any fixed wing military aircraft over those areas, regardless of who was on them? And aren't these flights that are going now military aircraft with civilians in them?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that is the issue, that from what I understand, that these are not -- that these are civilian aircraft. I don't know actually what aircraft they are. But the sanctions do not relate to the use of civilian aircraft, just as you said.
Let's go back to the point. The no-fly zones are there because Iraq was using military aircraft to bomb and kill Shi'a in the South and Kurds in the North, and the no-fly zones were instituted to prevent them from doing that with military airplanes, with aggressive military activities on military airplanes. So, the no-fly zones are not there because of civilian -- you know, any flights or civilian flights. The issue is to prevent the Iraqi regime from using military aircraft to repress its people or threaten their neighbors.
So, we watch this very, very closely. We watch closely any Iraqi aviation, determine whether it poses a threat to our forces, to Iraq's neighbors or to the Iraqi people. Simply for reasons of flight safety that these are dangerous areas. We think it is important that the Iraqis would notify the UN of any civilian flight schedules and routes no less than 48 hours in advance of each flight. Notification would allow sufficient time to inform the Operations Northern and Southern Watch and for the Iraqis in fact to notify their own forces, who engaged in rather indiscriminate firing in these areas when they see aircraft.
QUESTION: Richard, these are, aren't they, Russian military aircraft? And wasn't the rule after the war that it was simply no fixed wing aircraft? Wasn't that the --
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, my understanding and the understanding that I have from this is that civilian aircraft were not included. Remember, the reason for this, these are not irrational sets of sanctions; these stem from trying to achieve a particular purpose, and that purpose is to prevent Iraq from using military aircraft to threaten its own people or its neighbors.
QUESTION: If these were military planes, it would be?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly what kind of aircraft they are and whether they are easily distinguishable between aircraft that might be shooting or bombing people.
QUESTION: Richard, on the Middle East --
QUESTION: No, no, no. Can we stay on this for a second? The Iraqis say that they are not going to notify the UN about these flights, and they don't need to because they are basically regularly scheduled. Is the appearance of a timetable, of an airline timetable; is that enough warning to satisfy you?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we would prefer that they be notified to the UN.
QUESTION: Every single time?
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, you can notify the UN that it's going to be following a particular schedule every week until they -- unless they say otherwise. But the point is, the interests of safety would dictate that there be some notification and that there be information on these flights.
QUESTION: So, if the Iraqis present to the UN with -- you know, here's the schedule of flights and this is --
MR. BOUCHER: The way this ought to be done is the UN ought to be notified of the flights. I am not going to accept anything less. I think the point --
QUESTION: But does that constitute notification?
MR. BOUCHER: Does publication of a flight schedule in some magazine or info journal or whatever, on a website, constitute notification to the UN? I think we'd say no. But in the interests of safety, since that is the primary interest here, the fact that people know about the flights is a good thing, but they ought to be notified to the UN.
QUESTION: But if that timetable was presented to the UN, that would constitute notification?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to start compromising on this. They ought to notify the UN. I'm not going to start negotiating with you on how they ought to do it. The Iraqis ought to notify the UN, and that is simple enough to say.
QUESTION: Richard, on the question of UN sanctions against Iraq, they seem to be unraveling. You had a trade show in Baghdad last week and lots of people showed up. You've had one plane after another crossing into Iraqi territory. What would you say to the suggestion that the sanctions are unraveling?
MR. BOUCHER: I would continue to say that it is wrong. Granted, there are plenty of flirtations of business with Iraq and these flights going in for humanitarian or whatever reasons, that they are being conducted. But the fact is the key elements involved here, and that is first of all the Oil-for-Food program -- which continues to constitute the way that Iraq can feed its people and take care of its people if it wants to -- remains in place, continues to work. The basic sanctions regime remains in place, continues to work.
Third of all, the idea that the only way to get any kind of serious suspension of sanctions is to go through Resolution 1284 to meet the standards for inspection and monitoring, that remains in place. That continues to work and continues to have the support of the international community. So, I think you have to separate the incidental from the real, and the real is that the sanctions remain in place and remain effective.
QUESTION: UNMOVIK is no closer to getting into Iraq than they were when it was approved last December; is that right?
MR. BOUCHER: And to do that Iraq would have to accept Resolution 1284, which is the only path for them to get sanctions relief.
QUESTION: Richard, on the trade fair, there was a sole -- a lone -- American representative at this. Were you aware of that, that there was an American oil executive?
MR. BOUCHER: I personally was not, but we can check on if we knew that.
QUESTION: Following up on Matt's question, would that be a violation? Is that a violation of any US law that a US citizen would be traveling to Iraq for business purposes?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I would have to check. And I don't know that he was traveling to Iraq for business purposes. I will have to see if we know who it was and what the purpose was.
QUESTION: Does the United States oppose the call by Yasser Arafat for an international force to separate the Palestinians and the Israelis? And will the United States veto a call for such an international force in the Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made quite clear we do not think that this is the moment for more UN resolutions. We have kept the focus, and we continue to make the focus, on implementing the Sharm el-Sheikh commitments as quickly as possible. The immediate priority is to end the violence and to restore calm to the region, and we believe the best way to do that is to implement the Sharm el-Sheikh commitments.
QUESTION: Will the United States veto a proposal for such an international force?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is any UN resolution out there right now. But, once again, we have not supported any additional UN resolutions and we do think that the way to restore the calm is for both parties to implement completely the agreements at Sharm el-Sheikh, the commitments that they made there.
QUESTION: It's my understanding that there is a working draft floating around the Security Council. Has the US seen the draft? And, again, what are its --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look into seeing whether we have seen a draft or not. But I think I have stated our position. The focus is on Sharm el-Sheikh and implementing the commitments there.
QUESTION: Why are you opposed to an international force? I understand what you said that you want Sharm to be implemented, but you've been saying that for quite a while, and it hasn't happened.
MR. BOUCHER: But that doesn't detract from the fact that the steps that were agreed at Sharm el-Sheikh are the ones that we think are necessary to restore calm to the region. I think before we go looking for new ideas, it is important to implement the steps at Sharm el-Sheikh and to carry out the commitments that the parties have made already.
QUESTION: There seems to be a bit of a discrepancy, the White House saying this morning that it never -- and on Friday -- that it never called on the leaders to make any public, on-television announcements denouncing the violence and calling for an end to the violence. What is -- in terms of the Sharm agreement, wasn't there some kind of call for both leaders to publicly call for an end to the violence? And have you seen that done yet?
QUESTION: That it had to be on CNN.
QUESTION: Yeah. Did it have to be on CNN?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that any individuals or networks were specified. There was an understanding, and I would have to go back to what the President said at Sharm, and I think that's where you have to refer to; that the parties would make statements and take steps to end the violence. But the important thing is people take steps on the ground and actually do what they can to end the violence, and that remains our focus.
QUESTION: Have you seen that happen? What more needs to be done in terms of --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we're not into scorecards. And I said the most important thing is not the statements; the most important thing is what people actually do in terms of restraining the violence, restraining the people with guns, and taking steps to reduce the violence.
QUESTION: There seems to be a rising anti-Americanism in the Middle East, in the Arab countries. It seems to be spreading. And I'm just wondering, what can you say to Arabs and Muslims to assure them that you are still not entirely in the Israeli camp, as many of them say the United States is?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think the role that the United States has played is one that we continue to play, that we continue to look for peace, that we continue to look for fulfillment of legitimate interests of both the parties -- all the parties when it comes to the broader peace process -- and that we continue to support the parties in their efforts to reach agreement. The United States role in this process is based on the desire of the parties to have someone, meaning us, who can help them achieve their goals. And that remains the role of the United States, and that is what we continue to do.
QUESTION: Yugoslavia. I'm wondering if you have any kind words or other remarks to make about President Kostunica's decision to allow the ICTY to open an office in Belgrade.
And, also, two other related things. What's the progress at all on the embassy and formal diplomatic relations? And then on the appointment of this new foreign minister, what is the Secretary -- do you know what the Secretary thinks about this guy, considering he is supposed to be a human rights champion? Does she look forward to working with him for the rest of her tenure?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. On the first, the tribunal office in Belgrade, I hadn't seen that. But it sounds like good news, but we'll look for confirmation that it has been announced and look for confirmation that it is good news.
The second issue, the new foreign minister. I think, broadly, we are pleased that they have chosen a new federal government. They did this on Saturday. This puts the government in place to move forward on a whole range of issues, make progress on reintegrating Yugoslavia back into the international community. Certainly, we have met with the proposed foreign minister when he was proposed. We know him from some discussions that we've had already with him, and we do look forward to working with him at all levels here.
And the third question was one I can't remember now.
QUESTION: The embassies and --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the embassy. The process is under way. We are working on having our discussions with the new government in Yugoslavia. We are doing the walk-throughs of our property and their property. I think they have done theirs. We do ours tomorrow. So, the process is under way. I don't have a final sort of moment at which this will come to fruition, but it could be fairly soon.
QUESTION: On Friday, you said, in the very -- you expect in the very near future. Is that still very near future, or do you have a -- could it be this week, or are we talking about next week or next month?
MR. BOUCHER: The very near future kind of applies, but that is a rolling thing. It is still the very near future today. There are a number of things, discussions that are happening, walk-throughs that are happening, that need to coalesce, and we expect that to happen in the very near future. But I can't put a date on it yet.
QUESTION: And you said that US is going to the embassy tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I think we take a further look at our embassy tomorrow in Belgrade.
QUESTION: On Friday and today again, you said, "their property." Now, are you signaling a change in the US policy towards succession, or is it just a colloquial expression that you're using?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's intended to have a specific legal import, but let me get the legal language for you on succession for you. It is just a generic term; let's put it that way.
QUESTION: One of the things that the Secretary mentioned many times, when Milosevic was still in power, was the need to release political detainees, and Flora Brovina has now been released, the poet-activist. And I see there has also been a revolt in a Serbian prison, and the prisoners are comparing it to a concentration camp.
Do you have anything you'd like to say to President Kostunica on that subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Not at this stage. We certainly welcome the release last week, but on this particular event that you're talking about today, I don't have anything.
QUESTION: New subject. Yemen. Today, Yemeni officials say that, not only will they not let Americans interview suspects; they won't even relay questions from the Americans to the suspects. Are we still saying we're getting good cooperation from them?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what we have said is not what you said. What we have said is that we got good cooperation during the first phase, that we are in discussions with them on the modalities of how we will cooperate further in the future. We do need more cooperation, further cooperation in the next phases of the investigation, and that those discussions continue. And when they are concluded, I'll tell you - we will try to tell you more about what exactly is involved.
I have not seen these statements by Yemeni officials. I don't know if they are on the record or anonymous. But we remain in discussions with them, with the Yemeni Government, about how to work the arrangements for the next phase of negotiations.
QUESTION: Can you tell me how those discussions take place? Are they diplomatic, or is the Pentagon also involved? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm sure our investigating team is the most involved, and obviously they have a diplomatic aspect to it. But the important thing is to have the investigators involved in the process. On the US side, it is an interagency team that puts together what we need, and it is probably our Embassy that leads the discussion with the government itself.
QUESTION: Richard, these talks are going on in Sanaa? Or here, or both places?
MR. BOUCHER: I actually don't know if it is Sanaa or Aden. It's basically going on in the field.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea of how long -- how much longer this might take?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Because there were four more arrests today.
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we continue this process. We're trying to work out the arrangements. We would hope we would be able to conclude this quickly.
QUESTION: Richard, some Sudanese refugees are being resettled in the US, and the first phase, I believe, starts today. Do you have any details?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I'll have to check on it for you.
QUESTION: This whole Jordanian-Peruvian arms deal that apparently a lot of the weapons ended up in the hands of Colombian rebels. I know we talked about this earlier in the summer, but was there an indication that some of these arms -- was the State Department notified of this deal, and have you been satisfied with the level of cooperation -- level of information from the CIA? Some State Department officials seem to be saying no.
MR. BOUCHER: That's sort of interagency gobbledy-gook I'm not going to get into. The US Government was told --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Is that a good enough term?
QUESTION: No, that's great.
QUESTION: That's great. Lovely.
MR. BOUCHER: I move to "kerfuffle" or some other "kabuki" -- I don't know. You know, whatever this stuff in the press is.
The fact is, the US Government heard about the sale originally from the Jordanian Government. They asked us if we had any objection to what looked like a legitimate arms sale to the Government of Peru. We at that time -- the US Government went back and said, it was okay; we had no reason to believe that there was anything illegitimate about the sale.
It was subsequent information that made it clear that the Government of Peru was not the intended end user, and, therefore, the sale was not legitimate. We understand that, as soon as the Jordanian Government became aware of that problem, it acted very quickly to terminate the contract, and information regarding the sale at that time was brought to the attention of Peruvian authorities, who then conducted the arrest. So that's the way we proceeded. I think we have talked about that process in the past.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about reports that Mr. Montesinos was involved in this transfer and might have skimmed money off the top in the process?
MR. BOUCHER: We have certainly seen the allegations. It's really an issue that the judicial authorities in Peru will have to handle. We certainly welcome their decision to appoint special prosecutors to investigate various charges against Mr. Montesinos, including charges of corruption and charges of money laundering. So, we'll follow those investigations closely.
QUESTION: Can I go back to just two things? You said that the United States was involved in helping them notify the Peruvian authorities about this arms deal? Is that what you said?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it was passive voice. Information regarding the sale was brought to the attention of the Peruvian authorities.
QUESTION: By the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can tell you exactly how that was done.
QUESTION: Well, how about let's go at this way. Shortly after this, Fujimori announced the bust. He said, well, you know, if the Secretary had decided to come to Peru on her trip of Latin America, I would have told her about this in person. Can we assume, then, that she didn't need to be there to know about it; that she and this government knew about it basically already, before Fujimori made his announcement?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I have described to you that we knew originally when we thought the sale was going to Peru. Subsequently, subsequent information made it clear the Government of Peru was not the intended end user, and the sale was therefore illegitimate. As soon as the Jordanian Government became aware of the problem, it acted quickly and information regarding the sale was brought to the attention of the Peruvian authorities. The rest then took place.
So, you note the consistent use of the passive voice, which I am not able to clarify.
QUESTION: Okay, so you can't say how the Jordanians became aware. But it makes it -- it certainly implies --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not able to say who told whom exactly what at which -- which government was informing people.
QUESTION: It certainly implies that President Fujimori --
MR. BOUCHER: But certainly the fact is we know that the Peruvians were aware -- at the time when it became clear that the sale was illegitimate, the Peruvian authorities were made aware, and they then conducted the arrests that occurred in the case.
QUESTION: And the bottom line is that President Fujimori should not be taking full claim for having busted this ring up himself? He had outside help, whether it was from you or from whomever?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, they made the arrest.
QUESTION: Yeah, but he didn't --
MR. BOUCHER: And they deserve credit for that.
QUESTION: Kazakhstan. President Nazarbayev has changed his mind and, after a visit from General Musharraf, has decided to start talking to the Taliban. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: On the same area?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you think that tomorrow's election, no matter which administration comes in power, do you think the policy will change in South Asia? And, also, if the relations between India and the United States, which from the high level two visits by President Clinton to India and Indian plans to the US will have an impact, or how the relations will be in the future?
MR. BOUCHER: Those are a lot of broad questions, and I obviously can't speak on behalf of people who haven't been elected yet. But I think you'll find a remarkable consistency in our policy and a remarkable amount of national interest involved in these situations, and that we have commented in general in the past on the basic continuity of the US national interests, and I think I'll stick with that.
QUESTION: Stay on the Taliban? I have some comments by the Taliban officials over the weekend. They don't seem to be kind of satisfied with what the Pakistan and US Ambassador to Pakistan told the Taliban representative to Pakistan during their conversations, and seem to still think that the United States is going to perhaps strike against Afghanistan. Some really strong comments over the weekend against what might happen if they do.
MR. BOUCHER: So?
QUESTION: How emphatic is the US that it's not going to strike Afghanistan? They still seem to be thinking that a US strike is pending.
MR. BOUCHER: I refer you back to what I said last Friday, and I continue to stick with what I said last Friday, that we have made quite clear to them what we have made clear in public, that we intend to pursue this investigation wherever it leads and we intend to take whatever steps we consider necessary to defend our national interests.
QUESTION: So, the bottom line is basically, "So what?" Is that what you're saying? They can think whatever they want?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say, "what." I said, "So." But yes, more or less, that's a good paraphrase of what I said.
QUESTION: Let me try one more to follow, Richard, please? Usama bin Laden again has threatened the United States that if there is a strike, and also a lot of -- thousands of Afghanis are leaving from the fear Afghanistan.
MR. BOUCHER: So?
QUESTION: What reaction? I mean, they are leaving Afghanistan from the fear of that the US may strike Afghanistan, and Usama bin Laden has threatened the United States that if there is a strike then he will continue killings Americans anywhere in the world.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to make light of what is a serious issue in that there is an organization out there which is organized for the purpose of terror and which has targeted Americans throughout the world, but at this stage in regards to the specific investigation of the Cole, we don't have anything to say yet as far as who might have been responsible. But we have made quite clear we are going to pursue this investigation and we are going to take whatever steps we feel are in our national interest, and that is a very serious matter. And we intend to do exactly what we said, but at this stage it's premature to start speculating one way or another on where that might lead us.
QUESTION: Do you have new travel warning for Americans anywhere in the world due to elections, all these threats and investigation and all that?
MR. BOUCHER: There are new travel warnings just about every day. I'd have to check and see if there is anything today or Saturday.
QUESTION: Just following up on that, was today the day Jakarta was going to review its closing and decide what to do for this week?
MR. BOUCHER: And it still is.
QUESTION: It's still closed?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's still today that they're going to review -- that we, with our Embassy, are going to review the situation.
QUESTION: Today is over over there.
QUESTION: Today is tomorrow.
MR. BOUCHER: But it's not tomorrow morning yet.
The Indonesian National Police have, in fact, increased their efforts to protect our mission in Jakarta. We are pleased with that response, and that is one of the factors that we are taking into account. We are currently reviewing the security situation to determine whether to reopen to the public. We are hopeful that circumstances will allow us to resume normal operations in the near future.
We will expect or hope to have further information for you later today. At such time as a decision is made to reopen the Embassy to the public, we would send out a Warden message to the local American community.
QUESTION: Is this the same reinforcement that you announced Friday, though? They haven't again, after the weekend, reinforced again?
MR. BOUCHER: At the very least, it has continued. But we have seen an increased presence continue over the weekend, and for them to maintain a good presence at our Embassy, which we think helps with the security there.
QUESTION: Are there plans for Ambassador Gelbard, who I understand is in this country on a personal visit, to come for consultations here before going home?
MR. BOUCHER: He is in the States this week on a long-planned personal trip. He plans to stop in Washington for brief consultations before returning to Jakarta. No details on the schedule at this moment.
QUESTION: Has the United States sought and/or received any assurances from the Indonesian president that he will not carry out a request by the Foreign Affairs Commission to have your Ambassador thrown out?
MR. BOUCHER: I think he has already said that he -- he has already publicly dismissed any suggestion that the Ambassador be removed. We certainly fully agree with that decision. We regret the Foreign Affairs Commission took the action. We really do think that Indonesia and the United States have a very long and established friendship. Indonesia has been of strategic importance, and now that Indonesia is democratizing we have every reason to want to strengthen that relationship.
As we have said, we disagree on some issues and there are some issues that we are having discussions with the Indonesian Government about these days -- some of those in public, some in private. But the issues that we are raising are real ones, ones that we think need to be dealt with. But, overall, the process of democratization in Indonesia and the friendship between the United States and Indonesia remain strong and intact.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say if Ambassador Gelbard's visit to Washington will take him out of the way? I mean, it's not exactly the most direct route back to Indonesia from where he is; am I correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, he is a long way towards being here, and we thought -- you know, I think I've said before we want to take advantage of the opportunity that he is halfway or more than halfway back, that he will stop in and we'll have a chance to talk to him next -- well, this week, probably, or once it's scheduled about the situation in Indonesia.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more thing, which I don't expect you to have an answer to but maybe it can be looked into? And that is the status of what seems to be the longest review process ever on the safety of Americans going to Libya. Whatever happened with that report? I mean, that is months old now. Are you guys prepared to say now that you're going to wait till after the Lockerbie trial before something comes of that?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me check on that. Actually, it is old and I haven't checked on it for a while, so let me check on exactly where it stands.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 P.M.)