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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 18, 2001

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, July 18, 2001

BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker

BELARUS 1 Statement on Disappearance of Political Leaders 1-3 US Assistance to Belarus and Investigation of Disappearances

RUSSIA 4 Comments on President Putin's Remarks About NATO 12 China-Russia Friendship Pact

MEXICO 4-5 Comments on New York Times Article About US-Mexican Cooperation on Narcotics Matters 5 State Department Contacts With the State of Oklahoma Concerning Scheduled Valdez Execution

MACEDONIA 5-6 Comments on Prime Minister Georgievski's Remarks about US-EU Brokered Peace Negotiations 14-15 Secretary Powell's Trip to Rome and Meetings With Foreign Ministers

INDIA 6 General Shelton's Visit to India and Discussion of Peace Negotiations With Pakistan

CHINA 7-8, 8-9 Update on Gao Zhan and Scheduled Trial 8 Chinese Remarks on Tibetan Freedom 9 Update of Li Shaomin Deportation

ISRAEL/ PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 10 Update on Recent Violence / Secretary Powell's Contact With Regional Leaders 10-11 Israeli Retaliation Against Violence 11-12 Deployment of Israeli Troops to West Bank

IRAN 13-14 Arms Shipments to Hizbollah


DPB # 102


MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, friends, colleagues, visitors, guests. Always a pleasure to have you here to have you here today at the State Department. It is Wednesday and I think we are ready to start.

I wanted to raise at the beginning the subject of Belarus, and we will put out a written statement afterwards regarding, once again, those disappeared Belarusian politicians. The United States remains greatly concerned by a series of politically motivated disappearances in Belarus and the climate of political repression imposed by the Lukashenko regime.

Four prominent individuals, all opposed to the Lukashenko regime, have disappeared since 1999. To date, Belarusian authorities have not provided any accounting of the whereabouts of these individuals. Credible reports and the publication of documents July 17 in Minsk implicate senior Lukashenko officials in these disappearances. Two prosecutors office investigators from Belarus claim that a death squad created by the Lukashenko regime was responsible for all four of the disappearances of the opposition figures.

So the United States takes these allegations very seriously and calls on the Belarusian authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the disappearances of Mr. Zakharenko, Mr. Gonchar, Mr. Krasovsky and Mr. Zavadsky and account for their whereabouts.

As I said, we will put out a full paper statement on that subject following the briefing.

Questions on that subject?

Q: Do you know if there is any US assistance to Belarus? Even, you know, under that program of proliferation and nuclear concerns and theft, and all?

MR. REEKER: I think Belarus, as you know, Barry, gave up their military weapons. I would have to check for you on that. I don't believe we have had --

Q: Because I know that the review --

MR. REEKER: Certainly not assistance programs to the Belarusian Government in terms of our normal assistance in Central and Eastern Europe. But I would double check for you on any programs we might have, or regional programs.

Q: -- under that program? That's the one I'm --

MR. REEKER: I'll check for you.

Q: Given that -- okay, maybe we don't know exactly what aid you are giving Belarus, but my understanding is that it's next to none. Given that you have so few levers to influence the leadership in Minsk, and given these quite startling comments that you have made, that seem to charge the Lukashenko regime with basically running a death squad, how do you intend to influence the Belarusian leadership? Will you try to get Russia to apply pressure?

MR. REEKER: I think we are being quite public in our remarks now. And, in fact, we have been quite open and public in our remarks for a long time, repeatedly here in Washington and in Minsk and certainly at meetings of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We have urged the Lukashenko regime to account for those missing politicians and the European Union has done the same thing.

We believe strongly that the Belarusian authorities need to account for these people in order to dispel the current climate of fear and to create an atmosphere conducive to free and fair presidential elections on September 9.

So as I mentioned in the remarks that will be in our written statement, we are very concerned about that. We are going to continue to raise it. Officials from the State Department met with four wives of those disappeared politicians -- met yesterday with them, July 17. They met with our Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Lorne Craner. The group also met with the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, Steve Pifer, and officials at the National Security Council.

These women, the wives of those disappeared, had come to Washington to condemn the lack of human rights in Belarus and to press for an independent investigation into their husbands' disappearance. Mrs. Karpenko has established the Karpenko Foundation to focus on the plight of the disappeared and other victims of political repression in Belarus. And we are going to continue to follow this. We are going to continue to press for an investigation to get to the bottom of this.

As I said and indicated, there is a lot of information that has been released, credible information, that we find to implicate senior Lukashenko regime officials in these disappearances on the basis of what the two prosecutors from Belarus have told us and what we have seen.

So we think that the best way to proceed with this is for the Belarusian regime to have an independent investigation and to account for the whereabouts of those that have disappeared.

Q: Did you use the word "death squad" in your opening remarks?

MR. REEKER: I did.

Q: Okay.

MR. REEKER: That is based on what has been claimed by two investigators from the prosecutor's office in Belarus. Those two investigators claim that a death squad was created by the Lukashenko regime and was responsible for all four of the disappearances. And we do take those allegations very seriously, and as I said, call on the Belarusian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation.

Q: Speaking of free and fair elections, President Lukashenko has responded to remarks from this building about this alleged death squad by saying that they are the work of people who are trying to discredit him before the elections. Are you not concerned that by making this statement and linking it to the elections, you appear to be endorsing opposition candidates?

MR. REEKER: As I said, I think what we have called for is an independent investigation, and authorities need to account for these people, to dispel the current climate of fear and to create an atmosphere that is conducive to free and fair presidential elections on September 9. So that is the type of work President Lukashenko should focus on.

Q: Has the US, or will the US offer specific help in the investigation, FBI people helping the Belarus authorities to investigate this?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any steps in that direction. At this point, we have called upon the Belarusian authorities to take the steps necessary to have an accounting, an investigation to account for the whereabouts and the disappearance of these politicians.

Q: They haven't turned down any offers or anything from the US?

MR. REEKER: I think one thing to note is that the Lukashenko regime reacted to a request made last November made by the procurator general, Mr. Bozhelko, at that time. He requested that he and his Russian counterpart provide equipment and personnel to conduct a sweep of an area near a cemetery in Minsk credibly said to be Zavadsky's burial site. And shortly after he made this request, Lukashenko fired him and canceled the request. So that is an indication of the type of reaction we have seen to efforts to investigate this. So it is up to the Belarusian authorities to proceed with an investigation and account for the whereabouts of these four disappeared politicians.

Q: Can I squeeze in a quick one, because some of us are going over to hear Secretary Armitage. He will speak pretty soon.

Mr. Putin made a speech. NATO was one of the points in the speech. Admit NATO to Russia, he says, or why don't you just break up NATO. Is there any administration reaction to Mr. Putin's speech?

MR. REEKER: I have not actually seen those comments yet, Barry. And I would just refer you to probably the traveling party, where the Secretary has been meeting with Foreign Minister Ivanov and, as you know, the President will soon see President Putin in Genoa where they meet for the G-8 summit.

Was there anything else on Belarus before we move on?

Q: Will this issue be brought up at the summit?

MR. REEKER: I don't believe the Belarusians are taking part in the summit.

Q: No. The wives who were here today, asking that the US Government pressure Putin who, in turn, has influence in Belarus?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. I would refer you to the White House on that. I just think we made our position very clear and it is certainly something we have talked about for some time now. In terms of the actual agenda for the summit, I would just have to refer you to the White House.

Q: There is a report today in the Times about how well the US and Mexican officials are cooperating on narcotics matters. Any comment?

MR. REEKER: I think that article reflects well the close and positive relationship certainly that has developed between President Bush and President Fox, which has stimulated a noticeable improvement in the US/Mexico bilateral relationship. I think it is important to note that President Fox's commitment to fighting corruption and reforming the criminal justice system in Mexico, demonstrated by concrete anti-drug accomplishments, has led to increased confidence between US and Mexican law enforcement agencies. And this improved cooperation has resulted then in increased drug seizures, including several multi-ton seizures of cocaine, and increased arrests of significant traffickers from all the major drug cartels.

So we are very encouraged by the positive and concrete actions taken by President Fox's administration in Mexico, to reorganize the attorney general's office, to strengthen its anti-narcotics and organized crime forces. And as I said, to date, these efforts have resulted in remarkable increased law enforcement cooperation and have allowed us to step up efforts to combat the mutual threats of drug trafficking and organized crime that are threats to both our countries. I think the article described some examples. Operation Marquis back in June, a major drug bust, was an example of unprecedented collaboration between US and Mexican law enforcement entities and the commitment that we see is certainly bolstered by the decisions by the Government of Mexico to use the extradition process to return fugitives wanted in the United States from Mexico. So there are a number of developments in there that we applaud. And, as I said, part of our overall strengthening of our bilateral relationship with Mexico.

Q: On this same issue, the special forces that received the assistance for training from the United States, the special Mexican forces, do they continue to receive training in this country? Or what kind of assistance is it?

MR. REEKER: I would have to check on that. You might want to check at the Justice Department on that. But I can certainly check with our Bureau to see what the details of that program are. But I just don't have any details on that.

Q: Can I move on to Macedonia?

MR. REEKER: Anything else on Mexico? One more before we go on.

Q: Mr. Gerardo Valdez is scheduled to die in the next few hours in Oklahoma. He didn't get any assistance from the Mexican Consulate when he was detained a few years ago. Are you familiar with this case? Or what --

MR. REEKER: I am familiar with the case. I knew that a decision from the Governor of Oklahoma was expected today, but I hadn't seen any actual decision out of there, so I'm afraid I don't have anything for you.

Q: Did the State Department have any contact with the Governor of Oklahoma?

MR. REEKER: Previously, we had passed on to the Governor of Oklahoma - - to Oklahoma authorities messages from the Mexican Government and their concern. But in terms of where we stand now, I don't have anything else for you now. We are waiting for a decision from the Governor of Oklahoma, and I just haven't seen the results of that.

Elaine, you want to talk about Macedonia?

Q: Yes, please. Prime Minister Georgievski has made some very strong comments about the US-EU efforts to mediate a peace deal there. And he has described the latest paper as a brutal attempt to impose federalism on Macedonia, and said that the masks have slipped, and Western democracies are now being revealed as supporters of Albanian terrorism.

Could you comment on that, and more specifically, respond to one of his claims, which is that Western democracies have provided logistical support to the NLA or to members of the Albanian forces?

And also, whether the peace proposal is trying to impose some kind of federalism?

MR. REEKER: I don't want to make it a practice of trying to comment on every statement that comes out from politicians in Macedonia, just as we try not to do that anywhere else in the world. But that said, I think the actions and the words that we have continued to take from here have shown greatly that we do not support armed insurgency, we do not support violence. The Executive Order which the President of the United States issued made very clear that we do not support the armed extremists in Macedonia, we do not support that type of violent activity, and we took steps to see that funding for that type of activity could not come from the United States.

In terms of the negotiations, there have been a series of drafts developed with the support of EU Special Envoy Leotard, our Special Advisor for the Balkans, Ambassador Pardew, and experts from the European Union to help bring the parties in Macedonia closer together. This is a negotiation, and I don't think anybody is tied to any particular draft. That is what negotiating is all about.

So we think intensive negotiations need to continue between President Trajkovski and the party leaders, all of the party leaders. Macedonia was a major topic of discussion between Secretary Powell and a number of his counterparts today in Rome.

As I said yesterday, the parties have made much progress in negotiations, and Leotard and Pardew are working with the parties to help them to facilitate coming to closure on an agreement, which we have said should take place rapidly. These are difficult subjects; nobody doubts that. But certainly the talks are continuing.

There is no deadline for reaching an agreement. And as I have said, we have had a series of drafts. That is what a negotiation is all about, and the current draft obviously has not met full approval from all the parties, but I think it is quite clear also that the parties have significantly narrowed their differences. And Ambassador Pardew and Special Envoy Leotard will continue with their facilitation efforts. And I would just say once again that now is the time to bring these negotiations to closure, and to come to an agreement, and that it is not worth the time to be spending with accusations that are clearly untrue.

We have made very clear that we support the territorial integrity of Macedonia. We have been a strong friend and ally of Macedonia since its independence over a decade ago. And we have tried to help as much as possible in getting the parties to pursue a peaceful negotiation to come up with a political solution to Macedonia's problems, so that all of Macedonia's people can lead a more prosperous and peaceful life and look toward their future as a country that remains, as I said, with its territorial integrity intact.

Q: South Asia, India. It has been two days now since the peace talks failed in India between India and Pakistan. And General Shelton is in India today. One, if he is getting any guidance or any message from the State Department, or if he had any conversation with Secretary Powell before he left for India? And also, any update on the peace talks? And I understand now, according to reports in Delhi, Prime Minister Vajpayee is visiting Islamabad sometime in November?

MR. REEKER: We talked about this extensively yesterday. I don't know if you were with us for that.

In terms of General Shelton's visit, that was announced some time ago by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I would refer you to them. I am not aware of specific conversations that he may or may not have had with the Secretary. They do meet on a fairly regular basis in a variety of settings.

In terms of any further update on the aftermath from the summit, I would refer you to the two parties; it wasn't our summit. We talked a bit about it yesterday and how we support continuing dialogue. We welcome the talks that took place. We think that was an important step and we think the serious and constructive atmosphere of the talks indicates that both sides are committed to resolving their differences.

It is obviously a difficult and lengthy process, but we will continue to --

Q: Have either party asked the US for any help or any future guidance or any -- if US have initiated on either side?

MR. REEKER: This was not a US-initiated process; this was a process between the parties. That is what we have always said, that there needs to be a dialogue in which they can address these issues. These are issues that have been dividing the two countries for over 50 years, so we welcomed the dialogue. It ended the two-year freeze on senior contacts between India and Pakistan. And, as you indicated, Prime Minister Vajpayee has agreed to visit Islamabad for further discussions and we think that that is also a positive step.

Q: Today, China announced it was going to put US resident Gao Zhan on trial sometime around the visit of Secretary of State Powell, I think they said later this month. Do you think that will affect the climate of Powell's visit?

MR. REEKER: We understand that Ms. Gao's US-based legal advisor has actually notified us the Chinese authorities have indicted Ms. Gao. I don't have any specifics on trial dates. We have, as you know, inquired with the Chinese Government about the timing of the trial, but we have not yet received any information on that or our request to attend that trial of a US legal permanent resident.

We again urge the Chinese Government to promptly resolve Ms. Gao's case, as well as those of other similar cases, so that the detainees may be reunited with their families. I don't really have anything else to add on that in terms of the Secretary's visit. Obviously, you know, he will be departing for Asia, scheduled to leave Washington Sunday night. That trip will include a visit to Beijing and human rights is always on our agenda in talks with the Chinese, as the Secretary has indicated. So I am sure the question of human rights will come up in our discussions and we will continue to raise issues, just as I have now, when they are of concern to us.

Q: You used the word "resolve." You urge them to promptly resolve this case. Does that mean release her?

MR. REEKER: Our goal is to see that she is able to be reunited with her family, and that is what we are calling on the Chinese to do.

Q: One more on China? There is a printing report, published reports, including in India Globe, that China has said that China will never give freedom to the Tibetans at any cost, and the Dalai Lama was here on several occasions, including just recently, met with a number of officials here, and also President Bush.

So what comments do you have about these statements that at no cost they will have any freedom or (inaudible) to Tibetans?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think, as we have always said, our concern with Tibet has to do with human rights issues, that the people in Tibet should be able to pursue their cultural heritage, and as part of our broad human rights dialogue with China, we will continue to raise issues regarding Tibet as well.

As you know, we have taken a strong interest in that, and we have meetings here in the State Department, because of our concern about the lack of certain human rights for the people in Tibet.

Q: Do you think this will be a part of discussion when President Bush visits China, or Secretary Powell?

MR. REEKER: I would refer you to the White House for President Bush's travel and agenda.

Q: Can I just follow up on Gao Zhan?


Q: Does the State Department think that Gao Zhan is innocent of these charges?

MR. REEKER: I don't think we have taken a position in that, Andrea. It is not for us to do. She has been indicted, as we understand it, by the Chinese authorities. I'm not even sure of the details of that indictment. As you know, she is not a US citizen, so we have not had the consular access that we have had when it involves US citizens.

Our urging, as we have done for several months now, is that the Chinese Government promptly resolve the case so that she may be reunited with her family.

Q: If she is just indicted under Chinese law, why does the US think she should be reunited with her family before she has served out whatever sentence the Chinese Government says she should serve?

MR. REEKER: It was indictment. We have always said that we would like her to be reunited with her family, and we call upon the Chinese to resolve it as soon as possible. I am not making any statement on the outcome of the case. What I am saying is, that that is what we would like to see happen.

Q: And if she is found guilty?

MR. REEKER: That is the most hypothetical question I have had so far today. So I think we will wait util --

Q: Why is that a hypothetical? When have the Chinese ever found somebody innocent in the first place?

MR. REEKER: Andrea, I'm not going to do a debate here on Chinese law. It's just we are not going there. We have made our statements on the case quite clear. We continue to raise it. We are waiting to hear back from the Chinese on our request to attend the trial. And we have asked about timing of the trial, and we haven't had a response on that.

Q: Can I follow up on Andrea's question? Do you think the Chinese are capable of conducting a fair trial?

MR. REEKER: They should be.

Q: No, wait, they should be, but do you think they are?

MR. REEKER: Eli, I am not going to start with a major review now of Chinese law and practice. If you want to read our Human Rights Report in terms of the Chinese judicial system, that's fine. What we want to see is resolution of this case for someone who we have taken an interest in. Not only is she a US legal permanent resident, but she is a human being, and she is entitled to basic human rights, which we hold very important, and we have raised these issues with the Chinese on a regular basis.

Q: Any news on the deportation of Li Shaomin?

MR. REEKER: No. In fact, we continue to seek information from the Chinese Government as well about Mr. Li's release following their statements. We expect it to happen soon, but we have no new information on that.

Q: The US Embassy in Yemen. A bomb exploded early this morning. Some reports of 12 people being arrested. Do you have any follow-up on that?

MR. REEKER: We have been in touch with our embassy and understand that a small explosive device detonated close to a housing compound which is near the US Embassy in Sanaa. We understand that there were no casualties, and the device does not appear to have been directed at the embassy or at US personnel.

So for further details, I would have to direct you to Yemeni authorities on that.

Q: On just the Middle East, Arab states are meeting today to discuss - - I believe it's in Cairo -- to discuss supporting the Palestinians. Has the Secretary been in touch by phone with any of the Arab leaders, other than --

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of the Secretary's phone calls today. As you know, he is in Rome. And so I would have to have you check with the party on that. Ambassador Boucher may have given some readouts to the journalists traveling with them.

In terms of the Middle East, we are in continuous touch with the parties there. The Secretary, as you know, has regular phone calls with Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Peres, with Chairman Arafat and also with other leaders in the Middle East. He was just in the Middle East recently. And our representatives in the region remain in continuous contact with Palestinian and Israeli leaders on both political and security sides. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Satterfield also remains in the region, and so we continue our efforts focused on security cooperation and efforts to bring the violence down.

Q: On the same topic, do you have any response to the -- I guess you talked a little bit about it yesterday, but the troop movements, the Israeli troop movements?

MR. REEKER: In terms of the troops, reports of troop movements, we have looked at those reports and we are trying to ascertain all the facts on that. I would just reiterate, as I believe I did yesterday, that there can be no military solution to this conflict.

In terms of the action yesterday in Bethlehem, involving the helicopters, as we have previously expressed, we have concerns about Israeli use of helicopter gun ships in populated areas where the risk of civilian casualties is high. We see that attacks such as these perpetuate the cycle of violence in which both sides are trapped. We have also made very clear that Palestinian attacks from areas under Palestinian control, such as the mortar attacks from Gilo yesterday, must come to an immediate end.

As we have said before, and the Secretary has made very clear, both sides continue to have an obligation to exert maximum effort to halt this ongoing tragedy, avoid escalation, desist from provocation and incitement, and strive to create and sustain the climate through words and deeds that allows for trust and confidence to permit them to move forward with implementation of the Mitchell Report recommendations in all their aspects.

Q: Prime Minister Sharon, I guess on Monday, sent a letter to Secretary Powell justifying some of the recent demolitions. And one of the things he said was that in Rafa, there was a network of underground tunnels used to smuggle weapons. And he referred to a bunch of others, specific reasons as to why Israelis were continuing with their policies. Do you have any response to this? Can you verify whether these --

MR. REEKER: I can't. I am not aware of the specific letter, I am not aware of the alleged contents according to what you have told me. I just don't have anything on that.

Q: Can I ask one more on this?


Q: Thank you. And the Prime Minister also said that he had yet to observe a serious attempt by the Palestinians to fulfill their obligations to prevent violence and arrest perpetrators, including members of Fattah, Tanzim and Force 17. That doesn't seem to jive with statements from Secretary Powell and what you have said and what has been said from this podium in the past. Do you take issue with what the Prime Minister said there?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of what the Prime Minister said. You are relaying to me a letter that --

Q: -- that he has yet to see any serious attempts to arrest the --

MR. REEKER: I think we talked at great length yesterday about steps that have been taken, about activities on both sides, about how we would like to see more. We need to see 100 percent effort from the parties. Both parties know that. We have not seen 100 percent effort and we are still looking for a 100 percent effort. So we are going to continue to make our call that both sides remember their obligation to exert maximum effort to halt the violence. They have got to end the cycle of violence so that they can move on. And that is what the Secretary has said, that has been his response to Prime Minister Sharon. He has said it publicly, we have said it privately. They have got to make steps on both sides to end the violence.

Q: I've got another one on the Middle East. To go back to the question of increased deployment on the West Bank, when you say that you are trying to ascertain the facts, are you saying that there is any doubt that Israel has increased its deployment there? And, if so, Prime Minister Sharon himself has said that no invasion of areas that Israel controls is planned. Does that defuse the situation somewhat in your view?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I have a particular view on that. What I indicated was that we haven't ascertained all the facts about movement of Israelis or Israeli military equipment in certain areas. We have certainly looked at those reports. We have people on the ground trying to ascertain all the facts of that.

Our reiteration, no matter what those facts turn out to be, is that there can be no military solution to the conflict and we will continue to remind the parties of that.

Q: In a round table session yesterday with foreign media, President Bush said that he looked forward to speaking with Prime Minister Chretien about water. Is that on the agenda for their one-on-one meeting in Genoa?

MR. REEKER: That would obviously be a question for the White House, because I don't speak for the President. But I did check into that, based on an earlier question that was send to us. And if you look at the transcript of that roundtable session, a Canadian journalist, in fact, asked the President, would a logical step, given the United States'great need for water, be a water pact in the context of a question about energy policy and NAFTA, and the President indicated that he would be open to any discussions should the Prime Minister want to bring it up at any time.

That is as far as I can give you in terms of the facts. That is all available in the transcript of the President's interview in that session.

Q: Yesterday, several lawmakers, including Congressman Gilman, at the Indian-American Friendship Council dinner, said that from this Russian and China friendship treaty, the two enemies are coming together now, certainly after 50 years of enmity. Will it be a threat to the security of Taiwan and also India? And Assistant Secretary Christina (inaudible) was listening to all of these congressmen, over 50 or 60 lawmakers, making all these comments.

So do you have a comment? Is it a threat?

MR. REEKER: I think we have discussed at fairly great length the Russia-China friendship pact, and our reflections on that, our commentary on that was noted, not only by this Department and other US Government spokespeople, but also by the two leaders themselves. This is not a military pact. This is not some sort of treaty or alliance. This is a friendship treaty about relations between two countries that share a lot of bilateral interests, that have a very large border together.

And as we have said before, international relations is a not a zero-sum game. We will pursue our relations with Russia, we will pursue our relations with China. The Secretary of State will be visiting Beijing shortly. The President will be meeting with President Putin at the G-8 Summit shortly. The Secretary is meeting with Foreign Minister Ivanov today.

So we have bilateral relationships with both those countries. They have their own bilateral relationships. And it is in all of our interests that we have the opportunity to pursue friendship and peaceful international relations.

Q: Getting back to Mexico, Congressman (inaudible) detained at Los Angeles, California when he was traveling to Moscow on official assignment with an official passport, and the (inaudible) to Mexico has presented a complaint at the US Embassy at Mexico.

Can you tell us something about that?

MR. REEKER: We had that question, and we had an answer to that question. I don't remember exactly what it was. Somebody was aware of the situation. It is really a question for the INS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which handles people entering the United States.

But I'm sure the Embassy will relay that issue in terms of whatever is involved here. I am happy to have the Press Office look afterwards for the information we got on it. I believe it was last week or two weeks ago when that question came up, because we checked into it. But I believe it was an INS issue.

Q: And you don't know if any US authorities are doing any investigation about this case?

MR. REEKER: Well, as I said, you might want to check with the INS. But let's double-check with the Press Office. Directly after, if you go to the Press Office, we can pull up what information we had on that, because we check into it after a previous question.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Moving to Iran, is there any --

MR. REEKER: Moving to Iran? No, thank you. Yes, okay. Changing subjects.

Q: Yes, just on the supposed missile sales to the Lebanese Hizbollah. Is there any follow-up on that? Or is there --

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything for you on that.

Q: Okay.

Q: Does the United States intend to oppose a global agreement on clamping down on firearms trafficking at the Small Arms Conference in New York?

MR. REEKER: Well, as you know, the Small Arms Conference is on in New York. It began, I believe, on the 9th of this month and continues through Friday the 20th. It is a UN-hosted conference on the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects.

We certainly recognize the seriousness of the small arms and light weapons problem and the need for international cooperation to address that problem. We had a background briefing here on the 6th of July, which we can make a transcript available if you are interested in terms of going into that conference.

Under Secretary of State Bolton gave remarks at the Conference on the 9th, and I believe Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs, Lincoln Bloomfield, is going to New York to attend the conference today and tomorrow.

We in the United States have one of the strictest regimes in the world for controlling small arms and light weapons through licensing or brokers, export controls and end-use checks, and we would like other nations to commit to undertake similar measures in the UN document. There are still several areas of concern to the US in the UN draft document coming out of the conference, and in particular, as I think we have made quite clear, we cannot accept measures which would constrain legal trade in small arms and light weapons or language which would restrict or prohibit civilian possession of small arms.

But nevertheless, there is much common ground among conference participants on ways to address the serious small arms problem, and our delegation remains in New York working hard toward a successful outcome. And we remain very hopeful of achieving this by the time the conference ends on Friday.

Q: Just to follow up, Senator Feinstein criticized the US delegation, including Assistant Secretary Bolton's statement on the small arms on behalf of the United States at the UN. Any comments on that?

MR. REEKER: No, I don't.

Q: Just to go back, on Macedonia. You said the major topic today of the talks Secretary Powell today in Rome was Macedonia. Do you know specifically what was the discussion about?

MR. REEKER: Well, he met with other foreign ministers from countries that have been involved. You know, the EU has been very involved in working with us as well in trying to help the Macedonian parties to find a political solution to the problems there. And so they have an informal meeting today in Rome.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. REEKER: An informal meeting of foreign ministers in Rome to discuss Macedonia. I don't have a readout of that meeting. I am sure that the press traveling there or in Rome have been able to get that.

But the bottom line is that our support for the intensive negotiations continues. Both the EU envoy, Mr. Leotard, and our Special Advisor, Ambassador Pardew, are in Skopje. They are still working with the parties, and we want to encourage the parties to continue in this negotiation process. It is a process that involves documents and drafts. Nothing is set in stone yet. We are still working on this, but we think this is the best way forward, because it is only a peaceful solution to move ahead in Macedonia.

Q: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:47 p.m.)

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World Headlines


UN: Visionary ‘Blue Transformation’ Strategy To Enhance Underwater Food Systems

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Ethiopia: Conflict, Drought, Dwindling Food Support, Threatens Lives Of 20 Million

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World Vision: Deeply Concerned For Thousands Affected By Afghanistan Quake
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Malaysia: UN Experts Welcome Announcement To Abolish Mandatory Death Penalty

UN human rights experts* today commended an announcement made by the Malaysian government that it will abolish the country’s mandatory death penalty and encouraged Parliament to take concrete steps to pass the agreement into law... More>>