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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 23, 2001

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Thursday, August 23, 2001

BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman

DEPARTMENT 1-2 Foreign Service Exam and Recruitment Efforts 2-6 Media Note on Overseas HIV Testing Policy 13-14 Process to Release Foreign Relations Volume on Greece

ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 6-12, 23 Peace Process and Ceasefire / Participation of Germany and International Community / Mitchell Report Recommendations / Remarks of Israeli Deputy Minister of Internal Security

MACEDONIA 12-13 NATO Deployment for Operation Essential Harvest

COLOMBIA 14-15 FARC Activities / Under Secretary Grossman's Travel to Colombia

CHINA 15-19,21-22 Expert Missile Talks / Nonproliferation / Arms Sales to Taiwan

YUGOSLAVIA 19 Recall of Ambassador

AFRICA 19-20 US Support for Democracy in Region

TANZANIA 20-21 Prime Minister Sumaye Visit to US

IRAQ 21 UN Oil-For-Food Program

RACE 22 World Conference Against Racism

AFGHANISTAN 22-23 Update on Consular Access to Detained Aid Workers


DPB # 122


MR. REEKER: Welcome back, everybody, this fine Thursday to the State Department. I'm pleased to have you here in our briefing room. As for me, I can confirm that I did not win the Power Ball last night, so I am back today to take your questions. Had I won, I will only let you speculate as to whether I would have come to join you or not.

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QUESTION: We know you would.

QUESTION: Your dedication.

MR. REEKER: Thank you, Matt. A couple of things I would like to talk about off the top. First of all, we spoke last week about the Foreign Service exam, which is upcoming, September 29th, and our encouragement in having people sign up to take that exam, part of our recruitment efforts.

I did just want to note that for the week ending August 17th of this year, the total registration for the Foreign Service written exam is now at 15,261 people. So with two weeks remaining to register, registration is already higher than at any point in the past 10 years, and already exceeds last year's total of 12,594 by 2,667. We also do math here at the State Department.

QUESTION: I think it's because of your speech.

MR. REEKER: I think it is definitely because of my speech, and the fine stories you all wrote about that. But we use this opportunity again to note that we have seen an immediate impact from our advertising and Internet World Wide Web campaigns. Last week alone, after my discussion of the subject here, nearly 3,000 people registered for the exam. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So you're taking personal credit for it?

MR. REEKER: I also would note that registration by minorities has significantly increased, an increase of already 25 percent over last year. So we are really very, very pleased about that. African American registration has increased 64 percent already.

Again the deadline for registering is August the 29th for the exam, which is taking place September the 29th. For the mid-level entry program that has also been discussed, the deadline is the 4th of September.

QUESTION: I don't want to put a damper on that, but did you just say - - this is a pretty tough exam, isn't it? What's the percentage rate of people that actually pass?

MR. REEKER: I passed. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do you know what that is, or is that something that ETS does?

MR. REEKER: I think it is definitely a difficult exam. The requirements to become a Foreign Service Officer are obviously fairly rigorous, but that doesn't stop people from taking it, and so we still encourage all those that are interested in the real broad myriad of careers available through the Foreign Service here at the State Department to spend that Saturday doing that and take a little time to register for it now.

I also wanted to point out that we will be releasing a Media Note noting that the State Department has revised its HIV testing policy at overseas posts. You may recall that we discussed the fact that we were reviewing this policy. The new provisions, which will affect approximately 39,000 of our Foreign National employees, as well as locally hired US citizens who work at US missions around the world, will bring our overseas hiring and workplace practices into line with global US efforts to fight the AIDS pandemic.

With the new policy, we are setting an example consistent with the message the United States has had on nondiscrimination. It is a message we have delivered to host countries and private industry and, at the same time, it gives priority to education and prevention efforts in promoting and maintaining employee health. So we have a little Media Note with some details on that.

QUESTION: Can you say what the old policy was and what the changes were?

MR. REEKER: I think it was May 30th where I talked about it. The policy had been that there was no requirement for pre-employment testing of locally hired employees; however, chiefs of mission at each mission had the responsibility to establish a local policy in concurrence with local laws governing hiring of individuals who may test HIV-positive. And as I said, at that time we were reviewing the policy worldwide.

This came up around the time Secretary Powell was traveling in Africa in some of those countries and regions in Africa that are being so devastated by HIV/AIDS. We were reviewing that with an end towards ending any pre-employment testing, and that is what we have done, and that is what has been announced in this Note, which we will put out afterwards.

QUESTION: So no more pre-employment testing?

MR. REEKER: Right.

QUESTION: Do you know how many posts or how widespread the practice was of refusing to employ people who tested positive in this pre- employment test?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I ever had numbers on that. Let me see. Yes, those posts that had previously denied employment based on some of the local employment laws included about 20 of our missions.

QUESTION: Do you know where they tended to be? Were these largely African posts?

MR. REEKER: I think there were a number of them in Africa. I don't have an exact breakdown of those.

But we have a sort of phased approach to implementation of this policy. We are actively engaged now with those posts -- about 20 -- that had previously denied employment to HIV-positive candidates. They are working also to renegotiate their health insurance plans, which will be important.

And we are conducting a pilot HIV education and prevention program at two missions in South Africa. Those missions obviously have been markedly affected by the HIV pandemic, and we are going to expand that program globally during the next fiscal year. We will be expanding medical coverage at all high HIV-prevalent missions, providing coverage worldwide by Fiscal Year 2004.

And just as I said, for the last year, we have been actively reviewing the existing policy, and Secretary Powell personally faced numerous examples of the tragedy of HIV/AIDS when he was traveling in Africa. And as employers and colleagues, we are very concerned about the well- being of our local employees around the world, and that is why we have taken this step, in line with decisions made by senior management and coordinated with the other foreign affairs agencies.

QUESTION: Not to belabor the subject, but can you tell us, for those people who do take the Foreign Service exam and pass, and then pass the oral exam after that, and go into the Foreign Service, what is the policy for them?

MR. REEKER: The policy change does not apply to members of the Foreign Service for whom pre-employment HIV testing still applies -- I think Ambassador Boucher went into some detail on the 31st of May about that -- because the condition for employment in the Foreign Service is worldwide availability, and because adequate HIV medical care is not universally available worldwide, those testing positive are not offered employment in the Foreign Service.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea what effect this has on your costs, your medical insurance costs? I mean, is it significant? I mean, this was one of the major factors in that policy --

MR. REEKER: I think, as we said at the time, when we discussed this on the 30th of May, the policy involves short and long-term costs. That is not just in terms of expanded medical coverage, but in terms of absenteeism, in terms of HIV education and prevention. And so we are following this phased approach that I outlined, and I think the media note, which you can get on paper afterwards, will give you some more. I would be happy to go into other questions you may have on that new approach.

QUESTION: But wait, do you have an answer to the question? About cost estimates?

MR. REEKER: I don't have a specific cost estimate, George, no.

QUESTION: With the rationale for testing local hires and foreigners at our embassies, that they were afraid that that would be a health care cost for them -- for the US Embassy or for the State Department, and is now one of the rationale for dropping it that you don't have to cover their treatment, whether or not it's available in the country in which they are serving in?

MR. REEKER: I am not sure if I follow the last part of --

QUESTION: What was the rationale for testing in the first place?

MR. REEKER: As I said, there was no pre-employment testing requirement. It was up to each chief of mission to establish a local policy, very much in line with local laws, in terms of employment policy. What we wanted to do was review worldwide so that we could have a single policy, and that is what we have done now for this.

QUESTION: But where they did test, do you know why they tested?

MR. REEKER: I couldn't say. Each chief of mission had to make that determination. And so I can't break down every single one of those. There seem to be about 20 missions worldwide that were engaged in pre- employment HIV testing. And so in this phased approach, we are we are going to work with them to now implement the new policy.

Anything else on that?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) countries, or actual -- there could be like a consulate, a mission and an embassy in --

MR. REEKER: Posts indicate an individual post. A mission may include an embassy and a number of --

QUESTION: Is there a medical exam?


MR. REEKER: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Can somebody be refused a job because he has tuberculosis or some other disease, hepatitis?

MR. REEKER: I would have to check into that, Barry, and to other things. This was about HIV pre-employment screening.

QUESTION: Yes, but I wondered why you've made this politically secure from being denied a job. Why this disease?

MR. REEKER: I would be happy to check, Barry, on the other details. What I was trying to do was outline for you a new policy. It was something you were all quite interested in when we brought it up about two months ago. If you have questions on other subjects related to that, we would be happy to look into those as well.

QUESTION: If someone can get back to us today and just tell us if illness can be a cause for denying employment.

MR. REEKER: Barry, why don't I let you get the Media Note that we are releasing that I have announced, and look through that. And then it actually says right in there who you can contact for additional information.

QUESTION: Okay, just to make sure I got it right, you said in answer to my question -- you meant that it would, in fact, be wrong to say posts in 20 countries. It's 20 posts?

MR. REEKER: I was given approximately 20 missions. We will have to check if you want to be particularly precise. It is not an enormously large number compared to the number of posts we maintain overseas, but there are those posts, and obviously those are the ones that will be affected by the policy.

QUESTION: I just want to get this clear. There are 20 which denied employment on the basis of the test, but there are other posts which did the test but did not necessarily deny the employment?

MR. REEKER: No. Why don't we go back and double-check these numbers, since you want to be precise, and why don't we let you read the thing we're putting out on paper first. And then, when you still have questions, we will clear those all up because I don't think I can offer you anything more from here at this point.

Other subjects? Barry.

QUESTION: The US interest in security talks -- is it now Germany that is the lead, I guess, on setting up talks? Or is the US trying also and, if so, are there any security talks a prospect?

MR. REEKER: I take it you are talking about the Middle East, but you didn't indicate that, so I will just make sure for the viewers at home that they know what we are talking about.

Again, in terms of Germany, we have talked before about support for Germany, a close friend and ally, their role in this, as well as other member-states of the European Union, as well as Norway, as well as Russia. I don't have any confirmation of any particular meetings. I have seen press reports suggesting some meetings, but I would want to refer you to the parties involved on those.

We support direct contacts between the parties. We have been facilitating a security talk structure, as you know, under the Tenet work plan, and we will continue to support both sides in these efforts as much as possible.

QUESTION: That's pretty much what I am trying to get at. With the Germans stepping forward, will the US sort of recede for a while? Because maybe you don't want duplication or whatever. Or is the US still busy trying to get Palestinians and Israelis together to talk about security?

MR. REEKER: I think we remain deeply engaged in the process, doing what we did. Your discussion of Germany obviously has to do with the fact that Foreign Minister Fischer has been traveling in the region, as he has done before. And we have talked about that before and how that is helpful, how we work together, as I indicated, with allies and friends in Europe and the region to work on this.

So all of us are interested in seeing the violence come down; that is, having movement on the security track to end the violence so that the parties can then move into the Mitchell Committee recommendation implementation, which we have been talking about for so long and which everyone agrees -- the Germans, the Israelis, the Palestinians, and certainly we do -- is the road forward.

QUESTION: Mr. Arafat is in China today trying to convince President Jiang to have China be involved in --

QUESTION: Can we stay on the Middle East?

MR. REEKER: He is on the Middle East. I think if we just let people finish their sentences, we would do well there.

QUESTION: -- trying to convince China to get involved in the peace process. Does the United States have any particular comment on any potential China involvement?

MR. REEKER: I am not really aware of the specifics of his travel, but we would certainly hope that everybody in the international community would encourage the two sides to work together to get the violence down. The message is clear. The structures for moving forward are clear in terms of a security implementation track with the Tenet work plan, and of course the Mitchell Committee Report, which has been embraced internationally as the way forward. So we would hope that the same message is delivered to both parties, wherever their leaders may be traveling.

QUESTION: So getting back to the meeting that has allegedly been arranged, former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami described this meeting as "mythologic." I am wondering if the State Department would agree with that characterization.

MR. REEKER: No, I simply said if you want confirmation of such a meeting, which has been written about in the press but I don't have any information about, you would want to talk to the parties involved and get their responses on that.

QUESTION: Wait a second, please, if I may.

MR. REEKER: Yes, Barry.

QUESTION: The Secretary of State, even on vacation, called Mr. Fischer and they talked about this when those first reports came about. Now we know Mr. Arafat has, on occasion, taken people by surprise and made public the proposals -- Mr. Fischer seemed surprised with the Germans interested in furthering peace, said sure, we'd do it if you want. The Israelis said, I don't know, we'll think about it.

MR. REEKER: Question?

QUESTION: Yes, the question is, explaining why, I need to ask -- or have a basis for asking the US, which isn't exactly a disinterested party, what does the US know about this process? Is it a live process? Is it a process the US will be involved in as well?

I don't mean generically; this notion of Berlin as the venue for security talks. The truce talks.

MR. REEKER: It is a notion that I read about in the press. I think it is tied in with the fact that Foreign Minister Fischer has been in the region, has been talking with both parties. Any specifics on a process or a notion involving that, you would need to talk to those parties about. In the bigger picture, we support the direct contacts between the parties. We remain very engaged, both through telephone calls, through our people on the ground, through senior officials, continuous engagement in this, trying to find the bridges to help the parties cross the divides that have existed for so many years. And we will remain engaged in that.

This is a process that has no exclusivity; it is about everybody trying to move forward on what the whole international community has embraced as the path forward -- that is, the Mitchell Committee recommendations. And in order to do that, as we have discussed, they need to work together on the security side to get the violence down.

QUESTION: Has the United States -- I'm sure you have seen the proposals for what they call a "rolling cease-fire" starting in one area and then extending to other adjacent areas -- have you discussed this with the parties? And do you think this is a possible way into getting the violence down?

MR. REEKER: Anything in terms of the specific proposals that we have seen reports on in various media, you would want to -- in the case of the one you are discussing, we would want to refer you to the Israeli Government for comment regarding plans or proposals it is considering. I think my message and answer would be the same, is that we remain deeply engaged in the process, trying to help the parties find the bridges that they need to cross the deep divide they have. We work with both sides. We try to lend our good offices. We talk to leaders in the international community, as well as the leaders in the two -- the Israelis and the Palestinians.

We try to find ways we can restore a sense of trust and confidence between the two sides in the hope of finding a lasting, permanent solution. And so whatever the two sides can do to find those ways back, we in the international community have provided structures and ideas and ways to move forward, and everyone has agreed that those are the ways to move forward. Now it is a matter of exerting the maximum effort necessary to implement those ways so that they can make progress on this.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on remarks by Deputy Security Minister -- Public Security Minister Gideon Esra on suicide bombers?

MR. REEKER: Yes. I think we have seen reports of remarks, and if reports of those remarks are accurate, particularly those involving threatening the families of suicide bombers, we find those offensive and reprehensible, especially coming from a senior government official.

Our condemnation of suicide bombers has been very clear. We have said, and continue to say, that the Palestinians need to do everything possible to stop the violence, to preempt attacks by suicide bombers and arrest those responsible for the violence. And those are essential actions, without which the efforts will be impossible to continue to move forward into the Mitchell Committee implementation.

But remarks such as the ones that are reported, especially if coming from a senior government official, we do find offensive, reprehensible, as I said. We are confident that the Israeli Government would never condone such a strategy. And of course, as I just indicated, we have consistently called on both sides to refrain from incitement and would expect that the Israeli Government would take immediate steps to distance themselves from the remarks, such as these that were reported.

QUESTION: Well, you have said "reported" three times. Has the US -- we have asked about other reports, like the rolling cease-fire and all, and you tell us, go to the parties; you don't want to comment on the reports. Here is a report of a man saying something. So the question --

MR. REEKER: And I just commented on it.

QUESTION: And you are walloping it out of the stadium. Has the US Government tried to verify whether he said this? Has the US Government tried to verify if his reported remarks represent Israeli policy?

MR. REEKER: I don't know, Barry, but as I said, we are confident that the Israeli Government would never condone such a strategy, and our position on such remarks I have just outlined. And what we have called for consistently is that both sides refrain from incitement. Remarks like those would certainly constitute incitement, and we would expect that the Israeli Government would take immediate steps to distance themselves from remarks such as these.

QUESTION: You are -- the State Department is taking a position on remarks that the State Department can't verify were actually said. That's not a question; that is my surmise, because you have called them -- that is not your fault; it's the State Department -- has called these "reported" remarks, and you have gone to town on them. And there was a reported remark by John Bolton that turned out to be 100 percent incorrect.

MR. REEKER: Right. That is why I referred to it as "reported."

QUESTION: So why doesn't the NEA try to find out if he actually said that, and if it is Israeli policy?

MR. REEKER: Barry, could you just stop for a moment, please? I think I have responded to the question as asked, what would be our response to these remarks as reported. It has been very clear what we would think about such remarks. Okay? I think what I said really stands on its own. I don't think there is anything else to add to that.

QUESTION: I'm just saying. The State Department is picking and choosing which reports it feels it should make statements on, and which it says, go find out --

MR. REEKER: Barry, I did make statements on each of them. In terms of --

QUESTION: Well, a rolling cease-fire is awfully important too to take a position on, and I asked your position.

MR. REEKER: And I told you that if you want specifics on anybody's plan, you should talk to them. In terms of any ideas that the two sides can come up with and work together to help get the violence down, to use the Tenet process or whatever they can do to make progress on the security track, and then move into Mitchell Recommendation implementation is what we are for.

QUESTION: The questioner didn't ask, please, about what are the details of this plan. The question was: Does the State Department see merit in a rolling cease-fire? And your answer was: Ask them about it.

MR. REEKER: We see merit in whatever processes the two parties can agree on to use to further security development to get the violence down.

QUESTION: I was going to ask about these remarks too.

MR. REEKER: Sorry, Terri. Somebody stole your thunder.

QUESTION: No, that's okay. I'll just narrow it down a little bit more.

He apparently made these remarks on Sunday -- or, anyway, several days ago. Is there a reason why we don't know? We are in very good contact with Israel. Do you know that we have asked, and do they just not want to answer, or you just don't have anything for us?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything else for you. I think I have made a very plain statement in terms of our reaction to the remarks that are reported. We have seen the same press reports. No one has asked me about it until this time, and so now that you have asked me about it, whoever brought it up first, I am telling you what we would think about remarks like those.

We have said that both sides should avoid and refrain from incitement. Obviously, it has incited some of you particularly, and we find those remarks would constitute incitement. They don't help the process.

We would expect and are confident that the Israeli Government would never condone such a strategy as outlined in those remarks.

QUESTION: Are you looking into whether they did say these things?

MR. REEKER: I don't know exactly what we are pursuing in terms of that. What we are doing is making quite clear our position on it because I think looking into the precise timeline of who said what when is not going to change any situation. What is going to be clear is what our position is on that, and that is what I am here to explain to you.

QUESTION: Other than making this -- we often ask this question and I know it's annoying, but other than making this statement here, have you expressed this view to the Israeli Government through your own channels?

MR. REEKER: I could go back and check. I am quite sure we have because, as I tell you often, the messages that we bring to you here publicly are quite the ones we are taking privately as well in discussions with leaders on all sides. The Secretary himself has told you that in terms of a number of his phone conversations. The message that I delivered was the same one we have said publicly about what we want to see happen and what we think has to happen to have movement in a positive direction in the situation in the Middle East.


QUESTION: Has the Secretary talked to Fischer since his phone call several days ago?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of another phone call. I was not able to check on any calls the Secretary might have made today. As of yesterday, however, there was not another one. I will double-check on phone calls for you, though. Hold on a second and I will see what I've got here.

Two days ago when I came out here and said that the Secretary was, as I spoke then at one o'clock, speaking with Foreign Minister Fischer, I believe was the last time. But I will have to double-check on any calls today.

QUESTION: A question with respect to the Middle East. The problems of getting both these plans -- first the Mitchell plan, next the Tenet cease-fire plan or strategies -- were they fixed in stone, or are each of these plans looking at day-to-day type results, meaning either terrorists and/or the resultant Israeli striking of Hamas and Hezbollah?

MR. REEKER: I am not quite sure I am understanding your thought process.

QUESTION: In other words, were the plans fixed in stone as to what is actually occurring, both on the ground and the attitudes of both the PLO and the Israelis?

MR. REEKER: Why don't we try to address that. I don't think anything is fixed in stone. You may have missed our discussion of the developments as we helped to bring forth what is known as the Tenet work plan, which is a process, a structure by which the two parties can try to use security talks that we offered to facilitate to work together to bring the violence down. That is a process and Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet went to the region and worked on that. So the international community, in this case led by the United States, has helped to provide a structure for the two parties to make progress on the security side.

The Mitchell Committee Report is quite clear. We can get you a copy of it. It is available on the worldwide web. In terms of what it outlines, it was a committee that was called after the Sharm el-Sheikh talks to examine the situation and to provide recommendations on a way forward. And that is what they did, and those recommendations and the whole report was embraced by both sides -- the Israelis and the Palestinians -- as well as the rest of the international community as what we see as the best way forward, providing the sides a structure, a road map to use to make progress on this and get back on the path to peace.

QUESTION: I guess what I was saying is that it's like Chairman Arafat is now in India, or going to China, and he is trying to get certain countries to back his particular thoughts and actions. And we, of course, have our own thoughts --

MR. REEKER: Do you have a question?

QUESTION: Yes. The question is: Prior to those talks --

MR. REEKER: Which talks would those be?

QUESTION: Meaning the talks, maybe in Berlin or elsewhere, were specifics given to both sides of what they could and should be doing, and obviously maybe both sides are ignoring?

MR. REEKER: I don't think we are going to get any further on this. I just explained to you that there is a Tenet work plan which gives them a structure on the security side, and there is the Mitchell Committee Report which lays out a road map for moving forward in a variety of steps -- and we will provide that for you if you want -- to make progress in this issue.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yesterday you welcomed the NATO mission in Skopje; however, how do you comment on the reservation expressed by the American press today?

MR. REEKER: I don't know if --

QUESTION: How do you comment on the reservation expressed by the American press; otherwise, do you have any reservation as the US Government for this mission?

MR. REEKER: No. I think I will refer you to my statement of yesterday -- maybe you missed that yesterday -- in which we welcomed the decision by NATO's 19 member countries, including the United States, to move forward with the deployment of Operation Essential Harvest of deploying Task Force Harvest to carry out Operation Essential Harvest. Their decision that the preconditions for that had been met, we welcomed that and noted again that the NATO mission will assist with the voluntary disarmament of the insurgents, a mission which NATO is hopeful can be completed in 30 days if the parties cooperate.

We have seen today that the first contingent of the main NATO forces for Operation Essential Harvest arrived in Macedonia. As you know, there had been a pre-deployment of some headquarters elements. I believe NATO intends to complete the deployment of forces and begin the process of voluntary disarmament of the insurgents as soon as possible. The insurgents have pledged to turn in their weapons, and we fully expect them to do so. We also expect Macedonia's political leaders to pursue rapid implementation of the framework agreement.

The NATO deployment, like US and EU support for reaching the framework agreement, demonstrates, I think, that the international community supports the efforts of Macedonia's leaders -- their democratically elected, legitimate leaders -- and supports those efforts to achieve peace and a solid multiethnic civil society, which is obviously the only way forward for Macedonia. It is now up to those leaders and all the people of Macedonia to take the necessary steps forward to help build that society.

QUESTION: This will be an indication on the ministerial level in the recent days for the crisis in Skopje between Department of State and the present Bulgarian Government under Prime Minister Simeon -- any communication? In other words, the Secretary of State did --

MR. REEKER: No, I have talked to you about the Secretary's phone calls and I am not aware of any phone calls between the Secretary and the new Prime Minister of Bulgaria.

QUESTION: And one for Greece?

MR. REEKER: One for Greece. One for the road.

QUESTION: Okay. It is true that the CIA and Department of State have a dispute about the volume of the classified secret documents pertaining to Greece from 1964 to 1968, which has been printed by the Government Printing office, and you recall after the dispute, as it was reported the other day by The Washington Post.

MR. REEKER: I hate to suggest this, Mr. Lambros, but you really should come every day, because we talked about this just a couple of days ago. But I would be happy to tell you what I told the assorted visitors that day; that is, there is a process, an interagency process for reviewing these volumes from the Foreign Relations of the United States series. That process is still ongoing. I don't have any specific timetable or date for you. It is a process that involves a number of agencies in the US Government. And we will continue doing that and make sure you have access to one of the first copies.

QUESTION: But, you see though, the volume finally will be released?

MR. REEKER: I can't give you any more information because the process is still ongoing.


QUESTION: Any comment on The Times story this morning about the concerns that the US has about the so-called despeje in Colombia that - -

MR. REEKER: Which Times would that be?

QUESTION: The New York Times.

MR. REEKER: I didn't want to give undue notice to any particular Times. Without regard to every specific article on the subject, I think it is very much our view that President Pastrana has made unprecedented efforts to advance the peace process in Colombia. And I think you know that we support those efforts.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- the so-called FARC -- have not made reciprocal efforts to further peace and are misusing the demilitarized zone to abuse prisoners, hold kidnap victims, engage in narcotics trafficking and, for example, reportedly receive training from the Irish Republican Army.

Such activities are not consistent with the peace process, that very process that President Pastrana has worked so hard to advance. I think that basically sums up our position on that situation. We have talked before, I think, about the concentration camp conditions that prisoners of the FARC have described. Their mistreatment is at odds, we think, with some of the staged media shows that the FARC has put on.

The Bush Administration has a clear policy toward Colombia, and that is to support democracy, combat narcotics trafficking and support social and economic development. And both President Bush and Secretary Powell have expressed their support for Plan Colombia and the Administration's proposed Andean Regional Initiative, and we continue to hold that view.

QUESTION: You seem to think these despeje are a pretty bad idea. Would you advise the Colombian Government to reconsider allowing the FARC to control such large areas?

MR. REEKER: I think that is something that the Colombians are going to have to look at. I don't have any specific advice to offer them. We have been supportive of President Pastrana's efforts. You are quite familiar with our policy, I think, as I summarized just now. So I don't have anything additional to offer to them in terms of the specifics and how they approach the peace process. We think that President Pastrana has made, as I said, unprecedented efforts to advance that process.

QUESTION: Well, Phil, the way you describe the policy is -- so we support peace, love and understanding? So what. I mean, there have got to be specific ways to get there, and I guess the point -- the point of The Times story, the point of George's question and the point of Jonathan's question, that you have now avoided -- which you are avoiding --

MR. REEKER: So let me try to avoid your question. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I just don't understand why you can't say whether you -- your policy of supporting peace and democracy in Colombia is great, but I hope it is a little more specific than that.

MR. REEKER: Well, I think we have had lengthy briefings here, Matt, on Plan Colombia and on the Andean Regional Initiative.

QUESTION: So specifically, what do you think about these demilitarized zones?

MR. REEKER: I will go back, and I will try to look through those things and see if we addressed that issue specifically. I don't have anything to add to you now.

QUESTION: No, but the point of the story was that in the past weeks, or recently, the US may have decided that it doesn't think they are such a good idea. So pointing us back to something that was said in February --

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new to suggest along those lines at all, regardless of anybody's story.

QUESTION: Can we assume that Marc Grossman and company is going to raise this with President Pastrana next week?

MR. REEKER: I think, as I said yesterday, Under Secretary Grossman and his interagency delegation will travel to Colombia August 29th through 31st. They are going to meet with President Pastrana and other officials. They are going to underscore our continuing US support for Colombia. Will they discuss aspects of that? I am sure they will discuss a broad array of things in terms of our specific support, in terms of our interest in seeing democracy furthered and seeing the peace process furthered. I just don't have any specifics to give you now that those talks have not even begun. And I don't have any other details of the travel.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout from Mr. van Diepen's talks in Beijing?

MR. REEKER: Just a little bit. Mixing regions here. As you know, the United States and China held experts talks yesterday -- well, I guess actually today, kind of like yesterday -- today our time, or today their time, in Beijing, August 23rd, Thursday to discuss missile nonproliferation issues, including implementation of the November 2000 missile nonproliferation arrangement. And as you said, George, those were led by Vann van Diepen, our Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Nonproliferation Bureau, leading the US side of the talks.

The talks provided a useful occasion to exchange views. I would characterize them, as they were characterized to me, as being detailed and a candid review of missile nonproliferation and export control issues, including that November 2000 agreement.

We will need to do additional work to clarify China's willingness to implement fully the terms of the November 2000 missile agreement. And so that will continue to be a topic in our bilateral dialogue. As you know, nonproliferation overall is a key element in US-China relations, and we are going to continue to raise that at all levels in the course of our exchanges.

We are following this closely. As the Secretary said, we have been following this closely since November and discussing the issue with them. I think the results have been mixed. It is very clear that we expect China to live up to its nonproliferation commitments, and we will continue to press them to adhere to the policies and practices consistent with their national standards.

QUESTION: Phil, if you have to talk to them more about it, are you saying that they are not living up to the agreement satisfactorily?

MR. REEKER: No, I don't think that is what I am indicating, Barry, directly. I think, if you had been listening to what I just said, we have been following this closely. We discussed the issues with them, and as the Secretary said, the results are mixed.

We feel that we need to do additional work to clarify their willingness of this, to implement fully the agreement, and that is what we will continue to do. So it will continue to be part of our bilateral dialogue with them. I am just saying we have a candid, detailed review now, and we feel we still need to do more.

QUESTION: Yes, I know. I heard all of that, and thank you for saying it again. So my question still is: When you say we need to do these things, do you need to do it because China hasn't -- for instance, there was a report of aiding Pakistan recently, which I don't even know if it was discussed there.

Is the need based on, there is something opaque about the agreement that can't be comprehended by normal human beings, or is the need based on the fact that the Chinese are flouting the agreement?

MR. REEKER: Our need is that we have not yet been fully satisfied in our discussions about that. We need to have more discussions on the subject. We discuss a full range of issues related to implementation of the November 2000 agreement. We need additional work to clarify their willingness to implement it fully, the full terms of that.

And so rather than address some of the things you suggested in terms of things based on alleged leaks of intelligence information, I will just say that we discuss a full range of things, we intend to continue to have discussions. It will continue to be an important part of our bilateral dialogue with China.

QUESTION: Our understanding from Beijing was that Mr. van Diepen would have more talks on Friday. You seem to be giving the impression that's not the case.

MR. REEKER: Actually, my understanding was, no, I believe he is done with his round of talks.

QUESTION: In shorthand, you are questioning the Chinese commitment to the November agreement, correct?

MR. REEKER: I think what I am saying is that we need to clarify their willingness, Matt. You have to write your own words. I will say the words that I choose to say, and you make your own determination of how you want to write it.

QUESTION: On another proliferation issue, if someone wants to stay on this.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about Mr. Bolton who, after clarifying his comments to the radio station yesterday, now apparently is going to have a meeting with Foreign Minister Ivanov?

MR. REEKER: Actually, I don't have any confirmation of that. I know he remains in Moscow. I believe he was planning to have some personal time there, and I don't have any details of any further meetings he might have through the end of the week.

QUESTION: Okay. But, I mean, as of yesterday, you were able to say the formal talks are over, and we don't know if you're sure any more?

MR. REEKER: His talks are with Mamedov; I don't have anything else on his schedule. I know he is remaining in Moscow at this point, and whether there would be any other meetings or talks we will just have to wait and see.

Let's just go to someone else for a moment.

QUESTION: You said they needed to get a clarification for the willingness. Did they get one for the talks?

MR. REEKER: If I had said they need to get one, that meant they didn't get one.

QUESTION: They still need to get one?

MR. REEKER: Exactly. We found this set of talks a useful occasion to exchange views. We had a detailed and candid review of missile proliferation and export control issues. We will need to do additional work to clarify their willingness to implement fully the terms of the November 2000 agreement.

QUESTION: Phil, just again to re-rack and check the transcript, but to save me a minute here, did you say anything as to whether China made any statement of its commitment? Did it restate a commitment? Did you speak of that just now in this briefing?

MR. REEKER: I think we are all aware of China's commitment that we talked about in 2000. The Secretary has said that since November we have followed that closely. We have been discussing the issue with the Chinese, and the results have been mixed. Our expectation is what I can talk about is that China will live up to its commitments, and we will continue to press them to adhere to that agreement.

QUESTION: I'm asking if you made some statements to --

MR. REEKER: I don't have any further readouts of that. You might want to ask the Chinese to make their own statements to that effect.

QUESTION: Before they went, they said if necessary they will continue on a second day. But if they didn't get any clarification, why didn't they keep talking?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. Their meeting is done, to my understanding, and I suspect the team will be coming back.

QUESTION: Okay, another thing. Does the US have the same arms control standard as the Chinese have? I mean --

MR. REEKER: I don't think I understand your question. Sorry.

QUESTION: Okay, another thing. Will the US make any compromise; say if China stops exporting some kind of technology, will that affect, say, the US weapons sales to Taiwan or the US weapons exports to --

MR. REEKER: I think -- do you guys want to --

QUESTION: No, no, we're just trying to save you time by clarifying (inaudible).

MR. REEKER: Great. It is extraordinarily distracting to try to listen to someone's question when there is a major conversation going on in the front row.

I think you are talking about very separate issues. I don't think I am quite certain what it is you are asking. What the focus of these talks were was the full range of issues related to implementation of that November 2000 agreement. That is what we discussed. That is what we need to discuss more. That is what we will continue to discuss more because nonproliferation is a major part, a key part, of our bilateral dialogue with China.

QUESTION: Yes, because China used to -- I mean would probably say the US weapons exports is another form of proliferation if you --

MR. REEKER: I think you don't want to mix arms sales and nonproliferation issues. There are differences here, and I would be happy to try to explain to you afterwards.

Our policy on arms sales to Taiwan is well established and not about to change. Our policy on nonproliferation and the fact that it is a part of our dialogue with China will continue to be a priority for us as we pursue that.

QUESTION: With respect to your answer to proliferation, I don't understand. I mean, arms sales are a form of proliferation.

MR. REEKER: Jonathan, conventional arms versus proliferation of missile technology and other things are separate subjects, and you know that perfectly well.

QUESTION: Does the State Department have anything on Yugoslavia withdrawing or recalling its Ambassador?

MR. REEKER: I think that would obviously be a domestic issue for Yugoslavia. The status of their Ambassador in the United States is an internal matter, so I would have to refer you to the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry or their embassy for any comment on that.

QUESTION: But has he said goodbye or anything that is normally done?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any contacts that may have happened between the Yugoslav Ambassador.

QUESTION: There seems to be something in the air over Southern Africa this morning. I mean, you had two leaders, the president of Zambia whose government you criticized yesterday, has decided not to illegally -- well, unconstitutionally -- run for a third term in office this morning, and the president of Angola has also decided not to run again.

I am wondering if you have anything to say about either of those two things, and also if you wouldn't mind seeing this little cloud of whatever it is move further east toward the Indian Ocean, perhaps over their neighbor Zimbabwe, if you think that Mr. Mugabe might want to follow suit?

MR. REEKER: Boy, is that a convoluted question.

QUESTION: It's not too complicated for you?

MR. REEKER: No, I think I've got it. You're just using a lot of metaphors. I don't have anything particular on those developments. I think I saw wire stories on them. Those are domestic developments.

I think what we want to see is democracy. I would be happy to check, though, if the Bureau has anything particular to reflect upon those two decisions. I just don't have anything at this point to add.

I think the Secretary has made quite clear his views when he was in Africa, and I think you were with him, in terms of what we would like to see for Africa, what we would like to see for Zimbabwe. We have talked a lot about the responsibility that the Government of Zimbabwe bears for the continuing violence and intimidation there, the economic disruption associated with their land seizures policy, and how things have gotten worse in Zimbabwe in terms of economic crisis and the potential for food shortages, as well as the panoply of human rights abuses and violations we have talked about in Zimbabwe.

And the Secretary made quite clear our views that it was time for Zimbabwe to be back on the democratic track, to focus on its future, the future of its people. And that should be what should be important to them or their leaders.

QUESTION: Right. I'm just a little surprised you don't have anything about Zambia, because you had been critical of President Chiluba's intention to violate the constitution and run for a third term in office, just as you have been with --

MR. REEKER: I think I can say quite safely, Matt, that we then welcome that because we have said that they should not violate their constitution. What I am telling you is in terms of anything further or specific on that, I just don't have a particular reaction. As you know, we try to look to our embassies to provide us readouts of facts, of the context in which events have occurred, before we would present you something from here. So I don't have anything further to add on that.

Certainly, as we called for, we want to see constitutions upheld, and in this case it looks like that is what is going on there, so it would be a positive development. But we will be happy to look and consult with our Embassy.

QUESTION: Are we finished on Africa?

QUESTION: No, no, wait. Do you know anything about a visit here very soon by the Tanzanian Prime Minister?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I have a little bit on that. I understand that Prime Minister Frederick T. Sumaye of Tanzania is going to visit the United States from August 24th through September 4th on a private visit. I believe he is scheduled to stop in Ohio, Missouri, Texas and Washington, D.C. You may want to consult with the Tanzanian Embassy on his focus, but we believe he is promoting tourism, encouraging investment and meeting with a number of --

QUESTION: I'm sorry. The reason why I was asking you was because I wanted to know if he was going to be seeing anyone at the State Department.

MR. REEKER: If you would let me finish, I could get to that. The Prime Minister will conclude his US visit in Washington, D.C., and he is going to meet with Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner on September 4th, where they will discuss issues of mutual interest, probably regional issues and bilateral issues between Tanzania and the United States.

QUESTION: That's his only meeting?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. As we get closer to that date, we can check and see if there are other meetings.

QUESTION: That's the Prime Minister?

MR. REEKER: It was the Prime Minister, yes.

QUESTION: You had a statement yesterday, or you issued briefly a statement concerning Iraq and the change in policy and for parameters, I believe going to a 15-day period now.

MR. REEKER: That's a UN issue in terms of pricing of oil under the Oil-for-Food program. That's a UN issue that is still being discussed at the UN.

QUESTION: Right, exactly. But the question I had on that is that the Russians seem to be disagreeing with the United States and siding more with Iraq. Is there anything that --

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of a particular Russian position on that issue about the oil pricing. I think it is something being discussed in the Sanctions Committee, or the committee that focuses on that issue, and those discussions are ongoing. I am not about to speak on behalf of any other country and their views on that. We will continue to pursue that and work that with others. We talked about a possible compromise yesterday, and we will just have to let that talk continue.

QUESTION: I would like to make another try on this nonproliferation of missile technology and arms sales to Taiwan. You are saying arms sales to Taiwan is an established policy; whereas, missile technology proliferation is something else.

Are you saying that there is no linkage between the two? Because for quite a while, China has been trying to get the US to stop arms sales to Taiwan in exchange for its agreement to --

MR. REEKER: Our arms sales that take place under the Taiwan Relations Act, that you are well aware of, will continue. Our dialogue with China on nonproliferation issues will continue. We will pursue those two aspects of US foreign policy, and I don't have anything further to add at this point.

QUESTION: No linkage?

QUESTION: Well, some other people said the F-16, I guess, the jet that you sell to Taiwan, can also carry some nuclear warhead or, if not, biological weapons or some of the very advanced things that a missile can carry.

MR. REEKER: Do you have a question?

QUESTION: I mean, so that's not any form of proliferation of weapon of destruction?

MR. REEKER: I am not addressing suggested sales. For any specifics about weapons systems, I would have to send you to the Pentagon.

I am not quite sure how we gone down this road. We have talked about a set of talks that took place in Beijing that are over. More talks will continue. And I was quite clear of the fact that we want to have further clarification on some issues regarding a specific agreement from November of last year that China made quite clear. And that is what we are going to do. There is just nothing else to add on that now.


MR. REEKER: No decision to announce for you on that.

QUESTION: Another quick one? The Taliban and ICRC?

MR. REEKER: There we go, and then I do have something --

QUESTION: Do you welcome the --

MR. REEKER: I do have something to add for Mr. Schweid, since one of my colleagues was watching and was able to provide me some additional information.

Let's see here. Do you have a specific question? We still haven't had access to the --

QUESTION: Are you pleased that they have appeared to agree to let the ICRC visit the detainees?

MR. REEKER: As I said, we welcome any initiative which gives us continued information about the condition and health of the foreign aid workers. So in that line, reports that the Taliban will allow ICRC workers to visit the eight foreign aid workers being detained in Afghanistan, we do welcome.

This, of course, is not a substitute for full consular access, and we have called upon the Taliban to permit our consular officers to meet with our citizens in detention. It is an accepted and appropriate practice for states to request and permit such visits. That is what we have done, along with our friends, the Germans, the Australians. We will continue to press for that.

In Islamabad we are in contact with the families of American detainees there, and we will continue to work with them as well.

QUESTION: I take it you haven't been told directly by either the Taliban people in Pakistan or by the ICRC that the Taliban have agreed to this?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of anything direct, but we understand there are reports of that. We welcome the reports and we would welcome that access, but it doesn't substitute for full consular access, which is what we are still pushing for.

QUESTION: I believe Mr. Donahue and two others went again today to the --

MR. REEKER: I didn't have a specific point on that. I know we continue to request visas. We have had a standing request for new visas since the consular officers returned from Kabul. And they also continue to press the Taliban for information about the health and condition of the detainees, as well as the consular access, which is our overriding goal.

QUESTION: Can we call it a day?

MR. REEKER: I would love to. Nick has one more. Do you want to make that the last one? No, then I have to finish something else because I have to respond to Barry.

QUESTION: Have you seen reports that Russia is launching production of a modern hypersonic cruise missile, so-called I think X-22-M?

MR. REEKER: I haven't seen reports to that effect.

Further to what Barry was asking specifically regarding the comments that have been reported, or reports of those comments which you had all discussed, I am told by my colleagues that we have confirmed the reports of these comments. They were made by the Deputy Internal Security Minister Gideon Esra on a Sunday TV program -- I think Barry indicated that -- run on state-run Israeli TV. They were repeated in an article in the Haaretz newspaper on August 21st.

We have raised the issue with Israelis both here in Washington and in Israel.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:15 p.m.)


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