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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #112, 99-08-26

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


1498

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Thursday, August 26, 1999

Briefer: James B. Foley

INDONESIA
1-3	East Timor UN-Administered Vote on Future Status/ US Concern About
	 Security Situation 
3	Indonesian Government's Reported Decision to Release Gusmao

CHINA 3-6,7-8 Status/Medical Condition/Whereabouts of American Citizen Meston 6-7 US Position on Dam Project World Bank Loan

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 8-10 Secretary Albright's Meeting with Palestinian Officials 10,11-12 Reported Signing Ceremony Scheduled in Alexandria Next Week

DEPARTMENT 12 Secretary Albright's Schedule

RUSSIA 12-14 Reported Money Laundering Through New York Banks By Russian Organized Crime Figures

VENEZUELA 14-15,20-21 Resignation of Chief of Supreme Court

ISRAEL 16-20 Three Palestinian-Americans Claims of Torture During Israeli Detention

TURKEY 21 Estimated Costs of Earthquake Damage in Turkey 21-22 US Relief Efforts/Assistance

KYRGYZSTAN 22 General Situation Update/Status of Hostages

CROATIA 22-23 ICTY Report to UN Security Council on Non-Compliance With Tribunal

HAITI 23-25 US Troop Presence in Haiti

IRAQ 25-26 Congressional Staffers Plans to Go to Iraq


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #112

THURSDAY, AUGUST 26, 1999, 1:20 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. FOLEY: Welcome to the State Department. Thank God it's Thursday. I have one announcement to make. On Monday, August 30, the people of East Timor will participate in a UN-administered vote to determine their future status. The international community has come together in support of this process, which is the fruit of negotiations between the United Nations, Indonesia and Portugal. The UN has faithfully and professionally carried out is mandate in East Timor, and over 400,000 East Timorese have registered to cast ballots in Monday's vote.

While we expect the vote to be held as scheduled, we know that recent unrest raises questions as to the ability of the people to vote in an environment that is fair and free of intimidation and is peaceful.

The United States is deeply concerned by these changes in the security situation. After the successful registration drive, there have been several clear incidents of violence and physical intimidation by groups that oppose the prospect of independence for East Timor, including against UNAMET personnel and American international observers. That pro-integration militia group remains free to act in such a manner that puts in doubt the government of Indonesia's stated willingness to maintain the conditions for a successful vote.

Furthermore, there have been statements predicting violence and chaos, some attributed to Indonesian government officials, which can only be described as irresponsible. These also constitute a serious form of intimidation and are extremely troubling.

Indonesia has a clear responsibility to provide security and maintain order in East Timor, not only in the coming days but throughout an orderly transition to East Timor's new status regardless of the result of Monday's vote - whether it be for autonomy within Indonesia or independence.

We have communicated our concern at the highest level directly, repeatedly and recently. Despite the assurances we have received, violence and intimidation continue to pose a risk to the success of the UN-administered vote. Urgent remedial attention and action is required. Indonesia must create an environment free of intimidation in which to hold the vote and, furthermore, reassure all parties that it will accept and uphold the decision of the people of East Timor.

I would go to Barry, but he's notable by his absence.

QUESTION: In light of that statement and the UN Secretary General's statement from earlier this morning, demanding that Jakarta restore order in Timor after this recent incident where five people were killed, is the State Department now regretting its earlier stance that UN peacekeepers were not necessary for this and regretting the fact that you trusted the Indonesian Government when it said that it would preserve the order?

MR. FOLEY: No. I think it's important to underline the fact that the Indonesian Government itself has placed its credibility on the line here. The fact of the matter is the vote has not yet taken place. There is still every opportunity for the Indonesian Government to demonstrate that it will live up to its commitments to ensure a free and fair vote - free of intimidation and violence. That vote has not taken place yet.

The fact of the matter is that the Indonesian Government, I think, earned a considerable degree of good will and respect around the world when it engaged in negotiations through the UN with Portugal and agreed to allow a free vote to take place to determine once and for all the future status of East Timor. That was a major step forward, and now it remains to be completed through the conduct of a successful and peaceful vote; and just as importantly, as I indicated in my statement, through a post-vote period of transition to whatever the voters of East Timor decide, which itself is peaceful and stable.

So you should interpret my statement here and the indications of our diplomatic contacts with the Indonesian Government as evidence of our concern that the Indonesian authorities indeed ensure that the vote take place peacefully. We are obviously very vigilant and very concerned about the violence that even continued today in East Timor.

At the same time, as I said, we do expect that the vote is going to be held as scheduled; although Secretary General Annan will be making that decision I believe by tomorrow. So this message is to serve as a very serious indication to the Indonesian authorities of our concern that they take their responsibility seriously and that they ensure that the vote is free and fair.

QUESTION: How much of that good will that they earned before is still left?

MR. FOLEY: I think the answer to that question is not possible to deliver today. We'll be in a better position to deliver it when we see, first of all, how the vote goes; and when we see, second of all, how the aftermath of the vote plays out in terms of the days, the weeks and the months following the vote how stable and peaceful the transition is to whatever status is decided by the voters of East Timor.

QUESTION: You just spoke about communicating your concerns at the highest level recently. Can you be more specific about that?

MR. FOLEY: No, I cannot. We have, as I said, we have been in multiple contact at different levels of the Indonesian Government but I'm not prepared to speak publicly about who's been speaking to whom.

QUESTION: You can't say whether the Secretary has spoken to -- (inaudible) --

MR. FOLEY: No, I don't have that information.

QUESTION: Does the State Department have any reaction to Habibie's decision to release Guzmal in the second week of September?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, we would welcome such a development. I don't have a confirmation of that report, but if it's true it's positive and we would like to see that happen.

QUESTION: On the subject, Jim --

MR. FOLEY: Welcome, Barry.

QUESTION: The United Nations, I understand, is responsible for law and order in East Timor as this whole election --

MR. FOLEY: No, that is the responsibility of the Indonesian Government. The United Nations is present there. In fact, I'm glad you mentioned that because the Security Council tomorrow is meeting to decide upon an increase of civil, police, and military observers there. The presence of UN civil police and military observers is to increase the ability of the international community to verify the preparations for the conduct of and the aftermath of the vote. It's also intended to increase confidence on the island that security conditions will prevail. But the responsibility, as Matt's first question implied, the responsibility for maintaining law and order in East Timor is very much the responsibility of the Indonesian authorities.

QUESTION: You said in your announcement that those who would destabilize the peace in East Timor have to do with the government of Indonesia. Is that what you said?

MR. FOLEY: No, what I said is that the Indonesian authorities have insufficiently acted against those groups that are fomenting violence and creating a climate of fear on an ongoing basis in East Timor.

QUESTION: So the Indonesian Government is not fomenting violence?

MR. FOLEY: We're looking for the Indonesian Government to assume their responsibilities and to ensure that these groups are not able any longer to conduct such activities.

QUESTION: New subject? Anything to say about the release of the American in China?

MR. FOLEY: Yes. I won't be in a position to answer all of your questions on that subject but I can confirm the basic thrust.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: That's kind of what I was hinting at, Jonathan, about what I can't say, and I'll tell you why. Because Mr. Meston and his wife have requested that no additional information -- additional to what I am about to give you -- be provided about their initial destination or other or onward plans, and we are respecting that request.

In point of fact, we have been told that they are not giving us a Privacy Act waiver to cover where they are now and where they may be headed and what their plans are.

QUESTION: Well, the cat is kind of already out of the bag on that, and I believe it was the embassy in Beijing which released that information.

MR. FOLEY: I have no knowledge that anyone officially has given any such information, but certainly I am not in any position to.

What I can say is that the US Government is extremely pleased that the Chinese Government has permitted Mr. Meston to depart Xining and seek advanced care elsewhere.

QUESTION: Out of country?

MR. FOLEY: Again, I can't talk about where they've gone.

QUESTION: That's it?

MR. FOLEY: That's it.

QUESTION: I thought -- (inaudible) - but that's it.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Jim, do you know whether they've dismissed the charges?

MR. FOLEY: My understanding is that the investigation was resolved immediately prior to Mr. Meston's departure from the hospital in Xining. The Qinghai province's state security bureau required Mr. Meston's confession of wrongdoing, apology and departure within 24 hours. He was also advised that he must remain outside of China for five years.

QUESTION: Well, if he remains outside of China for - let's see if I can - one and a half and one and a half, that sort of suggests that he's left China.

(Laughter.)

MR. FOLEY: You can add and subtract and multiply all you want, Barry; legitimately so, but --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - rocket scientist. I know you're under strictures.

QUESTION: Didn't you say he left China?

MR. FOLEY: I said he left Xining.

QUESTION: Oh, I see.

QUESTION: They required his - can you say that again? They required his admission?

MR. FOLEY: Confession of wrongdoing, apology and departure.

QUESTION: What did he do wrong?

MR. FOLEY: We understand from the Chinese that Mr. Meston admitted to being in a restricted area. That's the extent of my knowledge.

QUESTION: The Privacy Act doesn't, I don't think, cover what the US thinks about how Chinese authorities treat American citizens. Unless you want to wait a while to say something, which is understandable, what is this? I mean, your main concern was that he get the treatment he needs and get where he has to go and get the case resolved. But I mean, does an American citizen have to pay a price of confessing to things they may not have done?

MR. FOLEY: Well, that's not established, Barry.

QUESTION: It's not established that he did or didn't, but --

MR. FOLEY: I believe in the case of the --

QUESTION: It sounds like the Soviet Union in the old days: you sign a confession and they throw you out of the country.

MR. FOLEY: Barry, I pointed out a few days ago a number of things, and they remain true today. Number one, we're not commenting about the specific circumstances of his detention and the circumstances that led to his being injured; mostly because we do not have that information because we have not discussed that in any kind of detail with Mr. Meston, primarily because we and he and his wife believe that what has to be first addressed is his medical condition. We will have time for that later.

But I've also said that we understand that China, as any other country around the world, has a right to decide who enters their country, has a right to enforce their laws. In the case of the Australian, he has said publicly that he acknowledged that he had violated certain restrictions. Whether that is - constitutes a violation of law or not, I can't say - it's really a Chinese matter. What we were concerned with was his ability to depart Xining and received specialized spinal treatment, first of all; and secondly, that his case be resolved and he be allowed to leave the country. That has happened and we're satisfied with that.

In terms of the circumstances of his detention, we'll be in a position to address that down the road.

QUESTION: So you're not endorsing the way the Chinese have handled the detention - the interrogation, of which Mr. Lafitte said was abusive; the mysterious circumstances of Mr. Meston's fall and his horrible injury; or the confession they required him to sign, an apology and promise not to come back for five years? You're not somehow endorsing that whole procedure, are you?

MR. FOLEY: Well you cover a lot of ground there. In terms of his fall, what we've stated is that the doctors believe that his injuries occurred in a manner consistent with the way the Chinese authorities described the incident to us. On the matter of what preceded his apparent jumping and injuring himself, we've been silent because we don't have that information and we will explore that information with Mr. Meston at the appropriate time. So we're not speaking about something we don't know about.

In terms of the confession of apparent violation of restrictions, I don't think we take a position on that. We will know more down the road when we have a chance to speak to Mr. Meston as to the nature of what he did in China; whether indeed he did violate local laws or not, or whether those laws were unfair or not. It's impossible to speculate on those matters at this point.

QUESTION: Have you been led to understand that at some point in the future there will be a Privacy Act waiver but not right now?

MR. FOLEY: I couldn't speculate on that either.

QUESTION: So you don't have any information?

MR. FOLEY: No, no.

QUESTION: On the dam project itself -- the US is still - what is the US --

MR. FOLEY: D-A-M you mean?

QUESTION: Not that damn project, but the dam project.

(Laughter.)

What is the current - I know you all attempted to oppose it at the World Bank. How do you feel about it now?

MR. FOLEY: Well, it's true; we did oppose the loan when it was presented to the World Bank board on June 22. Throughout the process we clearly stated our concerns regarding the bank's failure to provide adequate documentation about the consequences of the resettlement plan and the project's environmental impact. At the time of the vote, we welcomed the assurances of the Chinese Government that access to the project areas would be facilitated. We'll continue to press the Chinese and the World Bank regarding the need for access to the project areas.

My understanding is that also the World Bank created an inspection panel, which we would expect would recommend the creation of an inspection team to examine whether the project violates bank rules on resettlement environmental classification. That is certainly our view and we will press that within World Bank councils.

I have another point to make that I've forgotten to make in the last few days which is of some, I think, concern to the Meston family. If you can bear with me a second, I endeavor to find that. A fund has been established at an NGO called the Bank Information Center to help cover the medical expenses of Mr. Meston. He did not have health insurance, apparently. I'm reading from a press release from the Bank Information Center. It's expected, of course, that he's going to require extensive and intensive medical care for his recovery.

I'm going to make this announcement from the Bank Information Center available in the Press Office. Let me see if there's something I can indicate here; no. It's the Bank Information Center at - I do this on behalf of the family - is at 733 15th Street, Northwest, Suite 1126, Washington, D.C., 20005.

My understanding is the Bank Information Center - I quote - "is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization that provides information and strategic support to NGOs and social movements throughout the world on the projects, policies and practices of the World Bank and the other multilateral development banks."

QUESTION: Let me get this straight. They want us to publicize this NGO, this fund and they won't release any information about the extent of his injuries or anything like that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I believe the request comes from the Bank Information Center.

QUESTION: Well, you said --

MR. FOLEY: I perhaps misspoke in referring to the family itself, which is concentrating on his immediate status and treatment. But the friends of the family, at least in the form of this NGO, are aware of the fact that he does not have health insurance. Given the nature of his spinal injuries, the cost could be enormous.

QUESTION: Right, but perhaps the State Department might tell them that people would probably be a little more willing to donate money to such a fund if they had an idea of exactly how bad and exactly what his injuries were.

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, I don't think that every citizen who might be interested in contributing to this fund necessarily shares the professional concerns of the journalists in this room.

QUESTION: No, no, no; that's not what I'm suggesting.

MR. FOLEY: The fact is if they want their privacy respected at the moment for several days, however long they want, I think in the circumstances we ought to respect that.

QUESTION: Jim, is that the NGO that sent him over there to do this?

MR. FOLEY: I don't believe so, but I would have to check on that.

QUESTION: It sounds like that's exactly what he was doing.

QUESTION: Jim, Mr. Meston is, as you say, you can not reveal his whereabouts. But he is in the hospital someplace in the West or someplace where the - okay -

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Someplace in the world.

QUESTION: He's somewhere in the world in a good hospital; can you say that much? True or false, is Mr. Meston in a good hospital somewhere outside of China; is that true?

MR. FOLEY: I can only repeat for you, Bill, the precise words I used, if I can find those eloquent words. The Chinese Government has permitted Mr. Meston to depart Xining and seek advanced care elsewhere.

QUESTION: We were given to understand that the Secretary would be meeting a couple of Palestinians today.

MR. FOLEY: Right.

QUESTION: That apparently did not happen?

MR. FOLEY: That's true.

QUESTION: What's up?

MR. FOLEY: What's up?

QUESTION: The Privacy Act.

(Laughter.)

MR. FOLEY: We can dispense with the briefing, Barry, if you want to make that the rule. The Secretary is scheduled to meet with PLO Executive Chairman Abu Mazen tomorrow morning at her residence. The latest information we have is that Saeb Erakat will also participate in that meeting. As you know, there has been back-and-forth over the last few days as to when the meeting would take place, would Mr. Erakat be departing the Middle East in order to attend the meeting with the Secretary because he is involved in negotiations with Israelis; and those are continuing today, is my understanding. So this question of his travel has been subject to different reporting over the last few days. But our latest information is not time-dated but is that he will depart the Middle East tonight and be present at the meeting tomorrow.

QUESTION: Does this mean that things are --

MR. FOLEY: Well, we've seen reports that there has been progress in the talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Those discussions are serious and are continuing. They have not reached agreement yet, so I think it is premature to draw conclusions. So we are encouraged by the fact that they are meeting and they seem, at least according to some reports, to be making progress.

QUESTION: Let me ask you a couple of logistical questions. First of all, when? Secondly, will reporters have a chance to get a few words from these worthies? Third, it's quite exceptional for the Secretary to open her home to visitors. I only know of one instance and that was the Prime Minister of Israel. I know Secretary Schulz did this frequently and his wife made blueberry muffins or something. It was a hospitality gesture - she's a lovely lady - it was a hospitality gesture. So could you answer logistics? And tell me, is there some intention to put this visit on some special plateau by having them to the house instead of having them to the office, as presumably you would have the Prime Minister of Germany, for instance?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not going to denigrate the visit. Secretary Albright

QUESTION: I'm not going to ask you to denigrate the visit.

MR. FOLEY: Look, let me answer the question. Secretary Albright looks forward to receiving the two Palestinian officials. It's going to be a useful meeting in advance of her trip to the Middle East. But neither would I exaggerate the importance of the meeting. This is a chance for her to take stock of the current status of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on Wye implementation but also to look forward a bit to where the parties will go when they engage in permanent status negotiations. But nevertheless, it's a stock-taking meeting. I will have to check for you in terms of why the residence was chosen.

As I indicated after the briefing yesterday, the Secretary has been working out of her residence in the last days. She was in the office a bit yesterday; not on previous days; not today. So it may be simply a function of she's working there.

QUESTION: Well, today the -- (inaudible) - gate was unlocked so I assumed she was on the job here.

MR. FOLEY: It may be that - no. It may be a function of the fact that she's working out of her residence.

QUESTION: All right - that's her business. But how about coverage?

MR. FOLEY: In terms of press coverage, you mentioned worthies, referring to my boss, the Secretary of State, if that's what you - I doubt that there's going to be a press interaction involving her. She's going to be, obviously, interacting with those of you traveling on the trip next week. In terms of press availability for the two Palestinian guests, you'd have to ask their representatives here.

QUESTION: If somebody went out to the residence with a hard pass, a soft pass or an in-between pass would they like a camera presumably want to record this event --

MR. FOLEY: You don't have anyone in mind, Barry, do you?

QUESTION: What would they run into; would they be welcomed?

MR. FOLEY: I think if you address the Press Office this afternoon, we'll be - also you had another question in terms of when the meeting was - we'll be able to answer some of those questions.

QUESTION: You don't know morning, afternoon?

MR. FOLEY: We'll get that for you this afternoon.

QUESTION: What provisional arrangements is the State Department making for a signing ceremony in Alexandria?

MR. FOLEY: Thank you, Charlie - good thing you're back. I said tomorrow morning, but I don't have the exact time.

QUESTION: You're not sure if it's morning?

MR. FOLEY: I said I don't have the exact time.

QUESTION: But in the morning?

MR. FOLEY: Yes. You know, we are really in the weeds in this latter part of August.

QUESTION: No, I thought you said morning; in fact, I thought you said breakfast but maybe I heard you wrong.

QUESTION: Jim, is the State Department making --

MR. FOLEY: This is not the dam question, mind you.

QUESTION: Are you making any provisional arrangements for a signing ceremony in Alexandria?

MR. FOLEY: That's D-A-M for the transcribers. What's that?

QUESTION: What provisional arrangements are you making for a signing ceremony in Alexandria next week?

MR. FOLEY: We've seen reports about a signing ceremony in the press. I'm not aware that any invitations for a signing ceremony have been issued. Certainly, to our knowledge at this time, there's been nothing scheduled in that regard.

QUESTION: Does that mean there's no possibility of it?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think the important point is that at the current time, the Israelis and the Palestinians are negotiating. We want to see them negotiate and we hope they will reach agreement. So that's really the priority. I think the question of a signing ceremony is of decidedly secondary importance at this point.

QUESTION: I don't understand. What more do they need to sign? I mean, they signed an original deal; they signed a deal to back up that deal; they signed a deal last October to reinforce that deal. What else do they need to sign?

MR. FOLEY: That's a good question, but I'm not going to get into --

QUESTION: I mean, does the State Department think there's something else that needs to be signed?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not going to get into the status and the details of negotiations that the Israelis and Palestinians are currently having between themselves. But it's about Wye implementation.

QUESTION: Is it the State Department's view - legal office or otherwise - or Dennis Ross' office that any changes in the Wye agreement have to be authenticated by some type of ceremonial signing?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to take that question.

QUESTION: Because that might be the reason.

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to take that question. I think that what we're interested in is not formalities, and I don't think it's a legal question as such. You're right that the Israelis and Palestinians signed the Wye accord at Wye River. They are currently discussing with each other how to implement that. Whether that agreement, if there is agreement that comes out of that, involves changes and requires another signing ceremony I'll have to look into that.

As I said a minute ago, it's really of secondary importance.

QUESTION: I don't want to pry into the Secretary's personal business, but since you raised it on the record here, why has she been working from her house so frequently these days?

MR. FOLEY: That is an absurd question. This is a Secretary of State who has worked harder than anybody than I have ever seen in my 16-year career, whether it's in Washington or traveling all around the world. If, at the end of August, she wants to work for a few days out of her residence, I really resent the question.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - the question --

MR. FOLEY: No, let's go back to the transcript. You asked it as if there's something sinister or untoward about the fact that she's working out of her residence. I think if you tallied the number of actual days off that she's had in the course of her tenure as Secretary of State, you'd be astonished at how little free time she's had.

QUESTION: Believe me, I'm not impugning her work ethics.

MR. FOLEY: What's your question? What's your question?

QUESTION: The question is exactly as stated, without any analysis or anything else. Is she taking a little time off; is she choosing to work from home? What is the reason -- because it is unusual for the Secretary of State to work out of their house.

MR. FOLEY: I think that you would probably find that other Secretary of States have left the Department and gone on vacation quite a bit. Secretary Albright has taken, I think, little vacation, at least in the time that I've been here, in the last two years. She's not on vacation now; she's working out of the house. That's what she's doing.

QUESTION: New subject. Jim, USA Today reports that Russian organized crime figures may have laundered as much as $15 billion through two New York banks and that Russian President Yeltsin's own daughter and four of his former aides are under investigation. A couple of questions, but first can you confirm this report?

MR. FOLEY: No.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about this report?

MR. FOLEY: Very little, because it is an ongoing investigation. I did read the article, though. The battle against money laundering is a top priority for the US Government. We are, of course, concerned about any reports of money laundering and the State Department will do what it can to assist the agencies that are investigating this case.

As you know, it is, as I said, our policy not to comment on ongoing investigations. I would refer you to the Justice Department or the Office of the US Attorney in the Southern District of New York to see whether they are willing to comment on their work. But in terms of the allegations that I read in that article about top Russian officials, if they were shown to be true it would be of great concern, those allegations. The investigation, again, however, is ongoing. I can't comment on it.

QUESTION: Jim, I just want to follow a little bit, if I could. Just if you could, apparently, allegedly, as much as $10 billion in IMF loans may have been involved as well as other bilateral loans and World Bank loans -- sort of connected, obviously, to the story we had with the Bosnian bank. I mean, concerns of the implications of international assistance that may have been laundered through criminal activities?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't see any connection. But these are serious allegations involving IMF loans that need to be investigated. We continue to believe that the IMF has played an important role, a vital role, in the Russian economic reform program. As a condition of the current IMF program, the Central Bank of Russia has instituted reforms to prevent any misuse of reserves in the future and has safeguards insuring that IMF financing will be used for that purpose.

But certainly the investigators have to look wherever the evidence leads, and I would assume that the IMF is cooperating in that investigation.

QUESTION: Are the Russians cooperating?

MR. FOLEY: You would have to ask the Justice Department.

QUESTION: A few days ago when you talked about the pernicious effect that an incorrect - what you called an incorrect report in The New York Times would have on just sort of the public's understanding of the role of foreign aid and foreign policy and how vital it is, are you at all concerned about with all these reports, true or not, about foreign aid or international monetary credits possibly being manipulated by Russian mobsters? Are you concerned about the effect this would have on the public's understanding or support for these sort of programs?

MR. FOLEY: There is a complete distinction between a report that's not true and a report that's being investigated. The original report - or the misreporting of the claim or of the newspaper article to the point where millions of Americans were led -- through television and newspapers editorials and wire service reports and all kinds of reporting following on the original story - that up to $1 billion dollars of foreign assistance, including US assistance, had been stolen in Bosnia were all utterly untrue and very pernicious in their effects because the story was untrue.

In this case, there is an investigation in the southern district of New York of this possible money laundering involving Russian moneys in this bank. We're just going to have to see where that investigation leads. We have a lot of confidence in the IMF. I believe that, of course, US contributions to the IMF are not lost to the American taxpayer. It's the nature of this international bank that's it's a lending institution in that moneys that are loaned or transferred to the bank remain available to the lending governments. I'm not an expert on international finance, but these are not moneys that are lost to the American taxpayer.

QUESTION: I think we may be done with that. But there's been a resignation in Venezuela - (inaudible). Do you have something on that?

MR. FOLEY: I do. We are - there was something on resignation yesterday - I'm referring to the overall legislative emergency that seems to be taking place in Venezuela. We are deeply concerned about the constituent assembly's decree yesterday as it attempts to limit the authority and competence of congress. I think the story you're referring to yesterday had to do with in-roads vis-a-vis the independent judiciary in Venezuela.

QUESTION: Which produced a resignation.

MR. FOLEY: Yes, which produced the resignation of the Chief of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Sosas announced a resignation over disagreement with the majority opinion of the court. We regret that she has chosen to leave public service where she is a person of great ability and integrity and has been a true leader in Venezuela's efforts to reform the judicial system. But our understanding is that in a normal deliberative action, the court voted eight-to-four to participate in a committee proposed by the national constituent assembly to study questions of judicial reform. In effect this decision overturns a previous decision removing the power of the constituent assembly.

I think our concern, though, is focused today, as I said, on the constituent assembly's decree yesterday, as attempts to limit the authority and competence of the existing congress, in other words. We urge all parties to come to an agreement about how to exercise power during the tenure of the national constituent assembly in a way that preserves the separation of powers between the branches of government. We are concerned that recent actions by the constituent assembly will affect the strong tradition of democracy in Venezuela. We believe that it is crucial that fundamental principles of democracy be preserved.

As we look to the future, as the constituent assembly, which has been legally constituted, as it were, to this point, but as that body begins to deliberate and determine the future constitution of Colombia, we believe that it is crucial that fundamental principles of democracy be preserved, including the responsibility of the majority to safeguard the rights of the minority as a general proposition; and as a more particular proposition, that the checks and balances among independent branches of government, which are the hallmark of a democratic society, are preserved.

QUESTION: You're deeply concerned about the situation in Venezuela. Are you also worried or in contact with the government of President Chavez? He's happy with the building of the constitutional assembly; he's not against it, he's in favor of it. Are you worried by the actions of the president, in terms of how this constitutional assembly is dealing with the congress?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not in a position to talk about our private exchanges, especially at that level of leadership. But certainly what I'm saying today is a public expression of concern on the part of the United States Government.

I pointed out a minute ago that we understand that the processes which have occurred to this point, in terms of establishing a constituent assembly which is going to write a new constitution, had been legal - point number one. Number two, the United States has no wish to attempt to micromanage political developments in Colombia or to interfere in properly domestic deliberations. But we merely wish to underline the fact that however the constituent assembly works, it is vital for the people of Venezuela and for the people of the hemisphere as a whole that the institutions which emerge from the deliberations of the assembly be viable institutions which maintain the essence of democracy, which is - I'm sorry, I was referring to Venezuela and I apologize for that - the essences, the checks and balances between different institutions in Venezuela.

QUESTION: But something major has happened. When you say - it's a caveat, isn't it? You don't want to micromanage events, but the action that was taken is something the US has concern about no?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, I expressed our deep concern.

QUESTION: Okay, and did the US tell Caracas, the government, before and/or since; or is this the --

MR. FOLEY: I am not in a position to describe out --

QUESTION: I'm not asking what you told them, but were they aware of the US' view of what monkeying with the legislative system entails and the US --

MR. FOLEY: I'm not in a position to talk about our private diplomatic exchanges but this is a very clear message, I think, on the part of the US Government.

QUESTION: Could I change the subject back to Israel?

MR. FOLEY: Let me just correct. I was told that I said Colombia several times; I meant Venezuela.

QUESTION: Back to Israel. This morning a group called Partners for Peace held a news conference with three Arab-Americans who claim to have been tortured in Israeli interrogation business. One of their principal complaints, though, was that, one, they were denied consular access even though they are US citizens traveling on American passports; and, two, even though there was access, it was ineffective in the sense that there was no action taken by the government at the country level or at the State Department level in terms of the protest or some meaningful communication. Do you have any response?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, I do. First of all, to say that I am -- at least today -- very limited in what I can say about any particular cases because we have Privacy Act considerations. We don't have the necessary Privacy Act waiver to talk about particular cases.

Secondly, we are going to be meeting with the three Palestinian-Americans, who apparently appeared today in that press conference. We have a scheduled meeting with them tomorrow and we hope to learn more about their cases. Some of the things, I'm told, which they said today were new to us, that they hadn't told us previously. But, in any event, we hope that when we meet with them that we will be able to get written affidavits which we have asked of at least some of them previously to enable us to demarche the Israeli Government about any particular problems or abuses they claim, and lacking which we have been unable to pursue the case with the Israelis as we have told them.

Secondly, in addition to the written affidavits, we hope that we can get the necessary Privacy Act waivers so that we can talk, if they are willing, more publicly about their particular cases, which I am unable to do today. If we have that ability then we will find a way to brief you in detail.

QUESTION: What part of the State Department meets with them?

MR. FOLEY: Our consular officers are going to meet with them.

QUESTION: They did produce written affidavits this morning at their news conference. But you haven't seen those yet?

MR. FOLEY: Haven't seen what?

QUESTION: Those written affidavits, which they produced at the news conference.

MR. FOLEY: No, we haven't. We're meeting with them tomorrow in order to do that.

QUESTION: You've asked for them before?

MR. FOLEY: Oh, yes, yes. Let me make a few additional statements and then I will take whatever questions I can answer, having explained that I am limited in terms of being able to describe any particular cases. But I can assure you that the protection and the well-being of American citizens abroad is the highest priority of the Department of State. We take very seriously any allegation by an American citizen that he or she was abused or otherwise mistreated while in the custody of another country. We do not discriminate on the basis of either the nature of the charges or the ethnic background of American citizens who are detained overseas. We encounter the phenomenon of Americans being arrested on a daily basis all over the world. Unfortunately, this is a phenomenon which occurs in many, many cases in countries all around the world. We take our responsibilities very seriously to protect American citizens wherever they may be; whoever they are; wherever this can occur.

Let me tell you that our human rights report and our consular information sheet for Israel note the difficulties that may be faced by US citizens arrested or detained by Israeli authorities. The consular information sheet in particular states that, "US citizens arrested in the West Bank or Gaza may be prevented from communicating with lawyers, family members, or consular officers for lengthy periods." It goes on to say that consular access to persons arrested in Gaza or the West Bank or arrested for security offenses is frequently delayed and that, "US citizens arrested for security offenses may be subject to mistreatment during the interrogation period of their cases." The consular officers are always prepared -- at the request of the individual during his or her incarceration or afterwards - to protest abuse or other violations of legal or human rights at the request of the individual during his or her incarceration period.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: Yes. Consular officers --

QUESTION: The consular information sheet says this. But what has the State Department done to persuade the Israelis to change these practices of denying access to family members -

MR. FOLEY: I will continue my answer. Consular officers continue to assist Americans detained in Israel; to make regular prison visits; and to ensure they have legal representatives and are aware of the judicial process.

As I said, I'm limited because of the lack of a Privacy Act waiver - a thorough-going one -- comment about this specific case. But our consular officers did visit all three of these individuals when they were in prison in Israel and provided lists of attorneys and, where requested - I'm speaking in general terms - we protest allegations of mistreatment to local authorities.

Two of the individuals complained of mistreatment during the time of their incarceration. We demarched the Israeli Government on behalf of one individual, and the other one requested that we wait until he was released. We're still awaiting the affidavit from that individual to go forward with the protest.

As I said, our representatives from Consular Affairs will be meeting with them tomorrow and we hope to hear firsthand from them accounts of their allegations to receive the affidavits we need to go forward with filing any complaints they may have concerning inappropriate treatment by Israeli authorities. Again, we demarched the Israeli Government in one case at that person's request, and the second requested that we not raise it with the authorities while he was incarcerated. The third one did not raise any claims of mistreatment during our interview.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- on that demarche? I understand it was a request for information which was never answered; is that correct?

MR. FOLEY: I can't give you any more details about specific cases. I've just given you a general description of the three.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- information sheet. Doesn't the wording of that document which has been out, I guess, for a couple of years suggest a pattern of behavior on the part of the Israeli authorities involving US citizens overseas? And did the State Department ever approach the Israeli Government about that apparent pattern of behavior in which consular access was denied?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, we have raised our concerns with the Israeli authorities and we have stated this publicly as well. I think one way of looking at the problem is that - and this happens to Americans in other countries - Americans who are maybe ethnically originating from a given country and go back to that country, even though they are American citizens they are not necessarily identified, at least initially, upon arrest or detention by the local authorities as Americans; they are simply treated as locals. We don't often know that an American or a Palestinian American has been arrested until that fact is brought to our attention either by the Israeli authorities, by non-governmental organizations or family members.

But what I can tell you - and, of course, we ,through the consular information sheet, provide this ongoing warning to Americans traveling there that they might be subject to these kinds of factors. Therefore, as soon as we learn that an American has been detained then, of course, we immediately go and visit them and try to provide whatever help - as I said, judicial, legal - we can. But in terms of being able to demarche or protest the relevant authorities about allegations of mistreatment, we require a written affidavit from them. In the cases that I can't get into, as I said, we weren't able to do that, at least in one case.

QUESTION: Does Israel have a legal obligation to inform the US consular authorities of the arrest or detention of an American?

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: In your view, have they fulfilled this legal requirement?

MR. FOLEY: I would have to check the record in terms of the pattern of the timing.

QUESTION: Is there - some of these people --

MR. FOLEY: I believe it's 48 hours under the Vienna Convention that a consular authority is supposed to be notified when a national has been arrested.

QUESTION: Jim, but you can't confirm that they actually fulfilled this requirement?

MR. FOLEY: No, I would have to check that. As I said, maybe we will be in a better position to talk about the details of these cases following the meetings tomorrow or next week.

QUESTION: Forget about the details of any specific case at all, but you mentioned before you do not discriminate on ethnic background or on the charges. But how about - my impression of this whole thing was that - how about discriminating in terms of how you approach these cases by what country they are detained in; i.e., Israel which is an ally opposed to, say, China in another case which we were talking about much earlier before which, okay, we don't want to say it's not an ally but they are certainly more differences of opinion between the US and between Washington and Beijing than there are between Washington and Tel Aviv on a whole variety of things.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- Tel Aviv.

QUESTION: I mean Jerusalem - well, whatever.

QUESTION: Whatever you mean. You don't want to take a position, do you?

QUESTION: You know what I'm getting at here, right? Is there a difference in the way the US approaches foreign governments on behalf of detained Americans depending on what type of government that country has or what - that's enough.

MR. FOLEY: No. We have an obligation to American citizens. If an American citizen is in difficulty or trouble regardless of where he or she is, we have an obligation to assist them when it is brought to our attention, when we know about it, regardless of where they are, whether it's in France or Israel or Canada or Mexico or China. I read that article and we have to decide in any given circumstance what the best way of helping an American citizen in difficulty is. It may call for quiet diplomacy; it may call for public diplomacy; it really depends on the circumstances. But the public attention given to a particular case is often not originated with us. I think in the case we've been dealing with in the last week -- the American who was injured and detained in China -- that we have been facing a plethora of questions every day and responding. We may, in other circumstances, have wished to pursue this diplomatically. But in any event, it has ended successfully in the fact that he has departed the hospital.

QUESTION: So you reject that idea that there's a double standard?

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: But Jim, do you think in the case of Americans detained in Israel, that publicity could possibly hurt their cause?

MR. FOLEY: I think that every case has to be judged on its merits, not just every country - as I was starting to do with Matt - but every particular case, in terms of how best to handle the interests of the American citizen involved.

QUESTION: I'm a little lost here. Are you saying - you read us the book on your position. Are you saying these people were mistreated and you don't have the details, or are you saying you really don't know about these people and you're going to find out tomorrow or later on?

MR. FOLEY: What I said, without getting into the names and the particulars - which I can't do - is that of the three, we visited with all three. One did not complain of mistreatment; two complained of mistreatment and of those two, one requested that we demarche the Israeli authorities and we did. The third one requested that we not do it while he was still in custody.

QUESTION: And you went from there to catalogue at length how Israel mistreats people.

MR. FOLEY: I didn't say that as a general proposition. What we have to do vis-a-vis Americans, our obligation, in the consular information sheet is to describe conditions they're going to encounter as they travel in foreign countries, be it a question of crime or, in this case, of the fact that US citizens arrested in the West Bank and Gaza may be subject to certain conditions and treatment. It's an obligation --

QUESTION: I'm just wondering why you took it off the shelf and read it to us today, when you don't have the facts in these cases, or if you concluded that there's been mistreatment here. Then I would understand it.

MR. FOLEY: No, that was not in reference to the particular cases.

QUESTION: No, you were asked about China and about somebody - without going through the whole case - but you didn't volunteer China's human rights record to us. I'm saying I don't know why there's gratuitous reference to the - this gratuitous reading of a consular sheet on Israel unless you knew it applied in these cases.

MR. FOLEY: Because if the burden of the question was that we don't care about Americans who are traveling in the West Bank and Gaza. The fact is we have concerns about the treatment they could encounter, and we try to warn them about it.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Venezuela for a moment?

MR. FOLEY: Are we into the second hour yet? It's still early in the briefing.

QUESTION: Taken the fact that in the past there has been corruption problems with members of the congress of Venezuela, even the president of Venezuela, do you agree with President Chavez of the necessity to change the constitution of Venezuela?

MR. FOLEY: As I said, this is not for the United States to prescribe or micromanage the political decisions of political actors in Venezuela. As a general proposition, though, we believe others in the hemisphere are always going to be willing to speak out on behalf of the principle of democratic government being preserved not only in its forms, but in its substance and in its particulars.

QUESTION: Two days ago you mentioned that you are trying to avoid some negative effects in Mexico with the new bill that is being worked in Congress. What kind of negative effects are you talking about?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have anything more for you today, and you'd have to ask the Mexican authorities if they have those concerns.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on that? Taking the fact that now American companies are involved in narco-trafficking, in your dealing with Congress to work on this bill are you taking any notes or telling them to include American companies?

MR. FOLEY: I don't understand your question.

QUESTION: Well, the President of the United States has the authority to impose sanctions on foreign companies that are involved in narco-trafficking. Now American Airlines has been involved in narco-trafficking.

MR. FOLEY: I understand what you're saying. I'd have to take the question to see whether the IEEPA law has any applicability vis-a-vis domestic Americans or companies. I don't know the answer; I'm not a lawyer.

QUESTION: There was a report out of the US Embassy in Ankara that estimates the damage to Turkey from the earthquake at between $4 billion and $7 billion. First of all, is that true? It also says that Washington --

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that we've made an estimate ourselves of the damage.

QUESTION: So you don't have an estimate?

MR. FOLEY: Not that I know of.

QUESTION: And it also says Washington will provide backing for loans to Turkey.

MR. FOLEY: Well, I indicated a couple days ago that there are sort of two stages in which we've addressed the whole crisis caused by the earthquake. One has been in the area of the media through humanitarian efforts, which have been quite considerable on the part of the United States. But the other is our effort that we've begun now to look ahead in terms of the medium and longer-term impact that the earthquake will cause on Turkey's people and economy and how we can help. But I'm not in any position to talk about particulars about possible initiatives. We haven't decided; we're just thinking sort of notionally at this point.

QUESTION: In Kyrgyzstan, the fighting has increased there and the four Japanese, as well others, remain captive. Could you give us an update and any information you have from the region?

MR. FOLEY: I can give you a general update about the situation, not about the status of the hostages, whom we hope will be released immediately.

We understand from media reports this week that several hundred armed guerrillas have crossed the border into southwest Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan. They were apparently responding to Kyrgyz Government attacks on a small group of ethnic Uzbek fighters who had taken hostages in the area on August 12.

This large and apparently coordinated armed band has reportedly taken control of four or five border communities in Kyrgyzstan as well as the mountain passes and roads leading into them. In addition, the group appears on more than one occasion to have taken hostages, which may now number up to 100. We strongly condemn this armed incursion. Such acts of terrorism are a threat not only to the territorial integrity of the Kyyrgys Republic but to the stability of the entire Central Asian region, and we use the governments of Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to do their utmost to resolve the situation peacefully and with as much restraint as possible.

QUESTION: On Montenegro, do you have a moment on that? Just a newspaper - I don't know what to call it - statement or finding, they think the United States has now come to the point where it supports independence for Montenegro. I wonder if our policy had changed.

MR. FOLEY: It's not true. No, no change in our policy.

QUESTION: There was a letter from the president of the ICTY to the Security Council regarding alleged noncompliance of Croatian non-cooperation with the court. Do you have any comment on that that the State Department will share?

MR. FOLEY: Well, yes, I do. We, the United States, share very much the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia's frustration with the government of Croatia which has refused to cooperate with the ICTY as required under international law. Specifically, the tribunal's president said Croatian authorities have thus far refused to transfer to the ICTY's custody Mladen Naletelic, also known as Tuta, despite the fact that he is in Croatian custody awaiting sentencing. In addition, Croatia has refused to accept the ICTY's jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed during and in the aftermath of Operation Storm and Operation Flash and its subsequent refusal to provide prosecutor with information in relation to these operations.

We have made it clear to the government of Croatia at the highest levels that we expect it to fully cooperate with the ICTY and that failure to turn over Tuta will have the gravest possible consequences. We are not convinced by attempts to justify Croatian inaction on grounds that Tuta is in poor health. Claims of poor health were also made with regard to Szlatko Aleksovsky*. He was transferred to The Hague in April '97, tried, convicted and released after serving his sentence.

QUESTION: In Kosovo can you comment on reports or does the US have a view of whether the UN is doing the job the US would like to see it do of maintaining a multi-ethnic society there, or do you think there --

MR. FOLEY: Could you be a little more specific? That is a very general question, Charlie. We support the UN in Kosovo. We think they're doing a good job.

QUESTION: No, I know, but do you think the UN is doing the job you would like to see done in maintaining a multi-ethnic society; or do you think things are breaking apart and they're not going to be able to maintain a multi-ethnic society?

MR. FOLEY: We think the UN is doing a good job in striving to maintain an multi-ethnic society in Kosovo.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- decision to withdraw final troops? With the political situation somewhat tenuous there, I am wondering what kind of message this sends to those who are interested in destabilizing that government.

MR. FOLEY: I think there was some misunderstanding in the press report, at least in terms of the implications of the report that was in one of the newspapers today.

The US military is not withdrawing from Haiti. I'm not saying the report was wrong, but I've talked about the implications though - the report. The US military is not withdrawing from Haiti. We are enhancing our military engagement with Haiti to provide a stronger presence through better assistance and training throughout the island and beyond the capital.

The US troop presence in Haiti has served as a visible manifestation of our support for Haiti's democracy and the training exercises for US military engineers have contributed to Haiti's neediest and benefited the US national interest. President Clinton has long been committed to reducing and eventually withdrawing the troops under their current configuration in Haiti.

Following a careful review of our overall assistance effort in Haiti, and in order to ensure our continuing efforts better meet the needs of the Haitian people, we are reformulating our current military configuration by replacing it with rotational assistance teams. We believe that will - I believe will transition in, I think, sometime at the end of this year or next year; I don't have the specific date. But the fact is that we will move the focus of our assistance now to outlying regions of Haiti where assistance is now needed most and ensure our military assistance teams are more mobile and more responsive to the current needs of the greater Haitian population, including in repairing and building roads and working on medical assistance and treatment.

In other words, the US military presence is not going to cease in Haiti. The permanent stationing will transition to rotational approach in which, I think, you will virtually all of the time have some US military present in Haiti next year.

QUESTION: That's exactly what she said - the US is ending its permanent military presence and will rotate people in from time to time and deal with problems. The inference is that the US flag will be lowered a little bit so far as -

MR. FOLEY: We'll remain. I do believe there was an implication that we won't still have the flag in Haiti; and the fact is that we will.

QUESTION: Is this Pentagon wording that you're using here? How is the withdrawal of troops an enhancement? That doesn't make sense.

MR. FOLEY: Because, as I indicated, we are moving to a rotational approach and the rotational approach itself is going to be addressing more outlying areas in Haiti that have been neglected.

QUESTION: I think what I was trying to get on my question was the idea of what message does this send now? We are spending a lot of money in other parts of the world committed to keeping or establishing a democratic system there and we're now doing this enhancement or reformulation. What kind of message is there there in terms of what -

MR. FOLEY: The message is that we remain committed to assisting Haiti stabilize itself politically, economically and that we remain present in Haiti and committed to the policy.

QUESTION: Is this a military decision or is it a reflect - maybe it can be both - or does it reflect some change in the situation in Haiti; that it's perhaps more stable and can be treated differently from the way it has been?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to check with the White House. I would assume this position of troops of this order would have been approved at the White House.

QUESTION: Did the State Department have anything to do with - yes, it did?

MR. FOLEY: Yes. Yes, we are consulted obviously.

QUESTION: You were involved in this decision?

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Jim, another subject or more Haiti?

MR. FOLEY: We all have a view we want to continue. We've been at it an hour now. Jonathon, really - I - how many would like to have a second hour? No, I'll stay.

QUESTION: I'd like to make a motion that we quit.

MR. FOLEY: All right, we'll keep going.

QUESTION: Do you remember those congressional staffers who were going to Iraq? Well, they've now decided that they are going. Do you take a position on that? Do you think they're foolish or anything? And can you - I know it came up last week, but there's still a lot of confusion about the legal position on this. Is it legal for them to go to Iraq without validated passports?

MR. FOLEY: The law covers use of the US passport. If you are going to use your passport, it has to be validated. To go back to your first question, do we think it's a good idea for Americans to go to Iraq? No, we don't. We think it's unsafe; we have felt that way since 1991. The law anticipates there are several categories of exceptions, including journalists, whose passports we do validate to go there. But we don't think it's a good idea or a safe thing for Americans to go to Iraq and we normally don't validate their passports to do so. But the law speaks to the issue of traveling with or without a validation in a US passport; it doesn't speak to the issue of whether Americans manage to travel to Iraq without using a non-validated passport.

QUESTION: What does the use of a passport entail? I mean, if you show it to an Iraqi are you using it? I don't know; it's very confusing, the whole thing.

MR. FOLEY: The restriction is on the use of the US passport for travel into or through Iraq. There is no restriction on an individual's right to travel abroad.

QUESTION: Does showing a passport to an Iraqi border official constitute use of a passport -- showing it to someone?

MR. FOLEY: You can't travel to Iraq and use your passport. I think if it's validated by an Iraqi immigration official that would come to the attention of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which would have an issue when you arrived back in the United States.

QUESTION: But if he puts the stamp in your passport, then has it been used?

MR. FOLEY: You would have to ask the - we went through this last week and I refer you to the Justice Department and the INS on that.

QUESTION: Briefly, because I know you are running out of time, can you -- you keep saying it's unsafe, it's unsafe. Can you spell out what is the danger? Where does it come from; what is the source of this unsafety?

MR. FOLEY: I will refer you to my transcript from the other day because --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: No, I spoke to that at length.

QUESTION: Are we taking the day off tomorrow? I thought you might smile at that.

MR. FOLEY: Is that it? Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:25 P.M.)


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