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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #44, 00-05-15

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


Monday, May 15, 2000

Briefer: Richard Boucher

1	Second U.S. Visit to Kumchang-ni on May 23rd
1	U.S. Delegation to Visit Kumchang-ni to Reconfirm Assessment and
	 Conclusions about the Site 
2	Palestinian Demonstrations / U.S. Concerned About Violence and
	 Regrets Loss of Life / People of Israel Clearly Want Peace /
	 Yasser Arafat is Prepared to Pursue Peace / Framework Agreement
	 Deadline / Possible Secretary of State Travel to Middle East 
4	Special Middle East Negotiator Dennis Ross' Travel to Israel
5	U.S. to Continue to Meet with Israeli's and Palestinians in Order
	 to Move Peace Process Forward 
3	Israeli Withdrawal
5	Security Considerations
CHINA (Taiwan)
7-8,13	U.S. Long Standing Policy Based on One China, Peaceful Resolution
	 of Differences, Support for Cross-Strait Dialogue / U.S. Not
	 Seeking to Mediate 
8	State Department Travel Warning to Eritrea/ Authorized Departure of
	 Embassy Personnel n Non-Emergency Positions / Famine Relief 
8	Americans Warned Against Travel to Ethiopia
9	U.S. Supports Peace Talks Under Auspices of Organization for
	 African Unity Peace Plan 
9	U.S. Supports Free and Fair Elections
10,14	Special Envoy Jesse Jackson to Reenforce Regional Efforts to Secure
	 the Immediate Release of UN Hostages; to Restore the Cease Fire
	 and to Return to Implementation of a Credible Peace Process Under
	 the Lome Accords
11	Reverend Jackson to Visit Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali and
	 Nigeria from May 17 - 22 
SERBIA (Kosovo)
11	Military Appropriations Bill
11	Elian Gonzalez / Grandparents' Visas Remain Under Review
13	Under Secretary Pickering Travel to Colombia / Implementation of
	 Plan Colombia, Human Rights, Judicial Reform, Alternative
	 Development and Poppy and Coca Eradication and the Peace Process 
13-14	Russian Media Minister Comments


DPB #44

MONDAY, MAY 15, 2000, 12:35 P.M.


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I realize I'm a little bit late, but let's see if we can all answer our questions and go see the Secretary and the Indonesian Foreign Minister, if we want to talk about that.

The only thing I'll mention is that we are going to have a second visit in Korea to Kumchang-ni, the underground construction site that we visited last May. The second US visit to the site will begin on May 23rd. The purpose of the second visit is to follow up and confirm the work of the first visit.

With that, I'll take your questions about this or anything else.

QUESTION: Can I ask about that?


QUESTION: When they went a year ago -- I'm talking about the inspectors -- I know you don't like that word, but let's call them, for our purposes, inspectors -- they didn't find anything. Have you learned anything over the past year to suggest that this situation has changed at all?

MR. BOUCHER: I think this visit is being held as a follow-up to reconfirm those findings. So I would just say that last year we did find there was nothing that leads to the conclusion that there was a violation of the Agreed Framework.. That's still our understanding but we want to make sure that we can follow up and reconfirm that assessment.

QUESTION: The disorders in Israel. There are several things but, first, the routine question. Any Americans hurt? Any American property damaged, that you know of?

MR. BOUCHER: The disorders in the West Bank, right?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) yes.

MR. BOUCHER: No, not that we're aware of, I guess I'd have to say at this point. I don't have any information on that.

QUESTION: They seem to be rather large scale. Does this say anything to the US about an impact on the negotiations you're supervising, and does it say anything about -- because it seems to be coincident with Israel's independence, does it suggest anything about the Palestinians being unwilling to accept Israel, even after all your hard work?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, we are concerned about the violence, and particularly regret the loss of life, but the parties themselves are committed to a serious effort at the negotiating table. We're talking to both sides about the importance of doing everything they can to create the right environment for negotiations, but it's clear the people of Israel want peace. There's a strong basis of support to pursue the peace. Prime Minister Barak has made clear that there is a historic opportunity now, and it's clear that he's prepared to make the tough decisions.

Similarly, Yasser Arafat has obviously faced some difficulties, but it's our view that he is also prepared to pursue peace and take the historic decisions necessary to end the conflict.

So you have the leadership on both sides clearly committed to this, and we look to them to build the peace and change the environment.

QUESTION: Are these events saying anything to the State Department and their optimism about Arafat's ability or willingness to control Palestinian disorders?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, there is obviously difficulties in doing that, but the commitment to peace we think is clear and that they're making a serious effort. And we need to pursue the peace and not be swayed or deterred by violence.

QUESTION: The deadlines passed this weekend - the 13th?

MR. BOUCHER: One of the non-deadlines.

QUESTION: Yeah, well, tell me what is the significance of that?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, this was not seen as a deadline. You know, there was a desire to get a framework agreement by May 13th, but clearly it was not a hard and fast deadline, and certainly not a moment to stop negotiating because a date passes. So the interest that we have is in continuing to work with the parties and to make -- in their serious effort to try to get the peace and we will continue to do that.

QUESTION: What is the deadline, goal, whatever now? And what are the Secretary's travel plans?

MR. BOUCHER: The deadline, goal, whatever now is to get a final status agreement by September 13th. And along the way to that, there were certain ideas and dates and prospects of doing things, certain things by certain dates. But in the end, the point is to get to that final status agreement.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary planning any personal engagement in this issue?

MR. BOUCHER: Still, as we've reported before, she's considering the possibility of a trip out there, probably will make a trip, but there's no date set.

QUESTION: Yes, does the United States take a position on the Lebanese claim to the Shebaa farms?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I have to say that's an issue that's under -- has to be under discussion by the parties. Let me double check and see if there's anything additional to say on that. I'm not going to take a position on the particular farms.

QUESTION: What are we talking about?

MR. BOUCHER: Is that it?

QUESTION: I don't know. I'm just a little surprised because it's been quite an issue in the last few days.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it has. Let me double check and get you something more definitive. But it may be a definitive, no, I don't have anything to say on that.

QUESTION: Let's do another territorial question. The Israelis apparently have decided to yield these three villages near Jerusalem. Does that please the State Department, which seems to want Israel to give up territory? And do you think it's sufficient to deal with the Jerusalem issue, which you probably don't think it is?

MR. BOUCHER: As you know, Barry, Jerusalem is a final status issue and that's an issue to be handled in the negotiations. As for this particular step, we of course welcome it as part of the implementation, the understandings and the agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I think Prime Minister Barak has also described it as a downpayment on the third tranche, the third set of redeployments. So that's welcome in that regard.

QUESTION: When you speak favorably of Barak and our decisions, have you -- has the State Department said anything about the way he's addressing these pieces of land now being more inclined to surrender contiguous pieces, parcels of land, and more resembling an entity than was originally the case?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to make broad characterizations of individual leaders.

QUESTION: Not him, his --

MR. BOUCHER: No, his government. But, I mean, obviously, we welcome steps to implement agreements, we welcome the serious efforts that he's putting forward and the serious effort that is being put forward on both sides.

QUESTION: Does the United States have a position on the fate of the SLA and their families in the face of the Israeli withdrawal?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't - I think that's the kind of detail we really can't get into at this stage. We support the idea of withdrawal consistent with United Nations resolutions. We think all parties should work with the United Nations.

QUESTION: I want to follow on that. You're doing more than that. I mean, you're offering all sorts of tangible and intangible assistance and you could say it's hypothetical because they haven't withdrawn yet. But these people who have helped to maintain the security zone for Israel inside Lebanon are being threatened with treason trials, and whether or not there would be a trial. Is there anything that the US Government thinks ought to be done by outsiders to protect these people?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- Barry, I'm afraid at this point I'm not able to get into specific aspects of the Israeli withdrawal. The point is that Israel has announced this, has agreed to do this consistent with the UN resolutions. We've urged the United Nations and others to work closely -- well, the Israelis to work closely with the United Nations, and others to do so as well.

QUESTION: Has she the phones on this latest burst of the disorder -- the Secretary - that you know of?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to double check that, if I can. I know she has been in touch with our Middle East negotiators, obviously.

QUESTION: Excuse me, I mean, it's so hard to keep track of the Dennis Ross peace bandwagon. Is he back there now?

MR. BOUCHER: The Dennis Ross report.

QUESTION: It's a separate section.

MR. BOUCHER: Dennis left Washington yesterday and arrives in Israel today, Special Middle East negotiator. He'll be meeting there with Israeli and Palestinian officials and returning to Washington at the end of the week.

QUESTION: It appears that both Beijing and the new government in Taipei would like to US to play --

QUESTION: Is this on the Middle East still?

MR. BOUCHER: Let's finish with --okay, we'll finish with the Middle East and come back.

QUESTION: Several news services are quoting the chief Palestinian negotiator as quitting because of the secret back channel going on in Stockholm, which is undermining him. What can you say about that?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've seen these reports. We do have a great deal of respect for Yasser Abd Rabbo, and we hope that he'll continue to be part of the negotiations.

QUESTION: Well, leave Stockholm out if that is a problem for you. There has never been any reluctance that I know of to use every effort, every channel, every means at your disposal, to get something done that you think is worth doing. Are you willing to exclude or confirm that other channels are being used to try to get this problem resolved?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not willing to exclude or confirm, but I would say that over the last several years we have been involved in helping the Israelis and Palestinians work through a variety of interim and permanent status issues. We've been involved in a variety of ways in helping the parties do that, and we'll continue to meet with both sides in order to move the process forward.

QUESTION: Have you heard anything new from the FBI on the allegations of the other day at the House hearing?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Now, we had another other question.

QUESTION: Just to clarify though, then, is there no evidence then that there have been any reporters using press credentials who the FBI would classify as intelligence agents?

MR. BOUCHER: I made quite clear on Friday we have no information to that effect, and the FBI has told us if they did have it they would have told us.

QUESTION: So your request for a fuller clarification from the FBI that I imagine were made after our request for you to do so haven't been answered yet, or they were never made in the first place?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have an answer at this point, Matt.

QUESTION: Was there a request made by the Department to the FBI to try and clear up the --

MR. BOUCHER: I said on Friday that we had asked already.

QUESTION: And there hasn't been a response?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any new information from them, no.

Okay, we did have a question back here on another topic.

QUESTION: On the same subject.


QUESTION: I have a point of information and a point of clarification. The other day, you said, you know, the press members that confined to the first floor and second floor, not beyond. My question is there is a library on the third floor. Is that also off limits as far as the press is concerned?

MR. BOUCHER: As far as I know, you would have to be escorted to go up there, yes.

QUESTION: To go up to the library?



QUESTION: (Inaudible) - associate yourself formally, or did the Secretary, with the remarks of Mr. Carpenter that he would like to have the press not in the building, left to his own preferences?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's necessary, Roy. I think we have some quite clear statements by the Secretary of State herself that she sees a value to having the press in the building and that there is no question about that. She has made that quite clear. Obviously, she will weigh any recommendations for better security with her strong desire to achieve a professional level of security here on behalf of everyone and find a way to do that in a manner that's consistent with the need to work with the press as well as others.

QUESTION: Does Mr. Carpenter's statement have any validity, then? I mean, he made it before the House Oversight Committee, which is not a minor body of the Congress, and he seemed to be expressing his own preference. I mean, I just want to know if that's just his personal opinion and whether a top State Department official goes to the Hill and gives a personal opinion about something that relates to the functioning of the building.

MR. BOUCHER: Roy, I don't want to blow one particular remark out of proportion. The fact is, you have heard on this subject from the Secretary of State herself. Her job is to balance all the different considerations that we have in this building, and I'm sure she'll continue to do that.

QUESTION: She said she didn't believe that anybody should "go crazy" over this issue. So that's the one remark I can associate of hers with Mr. Carpenter. Is that what you want us to do?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't do that. I would rather look at what she said about the need to work with foreigners, including the foreign press, in this building, as well as her desire to achieve a professional level of security.

Okay, we had a China-Taiwan question?

QUESTION: Yes, I was referring to The Washington Post article on Saturday, which said that both Beijing and the incoming government of Taiwan would like the US to play a more active role in helping to improve relations across the Taiwan Strait. I would like your comments, please.

MR. BOUCHER: I think it is important to make clear, as we have before, that these are matters for people on both sides of the Strait to resolve. Our longstanding policy has been based on three pillars, one China, peaceful resolution of differences, and a support for cross-Strait dialogue. We believe that cross-Strait dialogue is the best way to resolve these differences peacefully. The United States Government is not mediating and does not seek to mediate between the two sides. That's a longstanding policy. We do believe that each side should pay close attention to what the other is saying and think creatively about how to rebuild cross-Strait dialogue.

QUESTION: The US is not mediating, it does not seek to mediate. Has any such recommendation come from either side that the US become more involved than it is?

MR. BOUCHER: We have not been asked to mediate.

QUESTION: Are you saying, sir, that that Post article aside, you have not heard from either side that you should perhaps play a more active role?

MR. BOUCHER: We have -- no, that's right.

QUESTION: Isn't it a good idea though?

MR. BOUCHER: Isn't it a good idea? I think we've said what we think is a good idea, which is a peaceful dialogue across the straits.

QUESTION: Same subject. I didn't quite hear George Gedda's question. If he has asked the question, forgive me.

I just want to know, because according to the Post story, China asked the US to perform the role of mediator. So did Taiwan. Is that true? Or you --

MR. BOUCHER: We don't consider that we've been asked to mediate here and we don't seek that status.

QUESTION: What is the US role anyway? Because you mentioned the three pillars. One of the pillars is to encourage cross-Strait dialogue. When you say you encourage, you obviously play some kind of role. Is that the role of a facilitator, as opposed to a mediator?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to characterize any particular US role, because we obviously have been in very close touch, remain in close touch with people on both sides of the straits. And our consistent position has been and will continue to be that we urge them to think creatively about how to establish a peaceful dialogue and to resolve their differences peacefully that way.

QUESTION: Is the US involved or not involved in that context?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to give you something that you're going to start characterizing us. We've made clear our view and make clear our view all the time to both sides. We talk about these issues. We have a clear and consistent view.

QUESTION: Can you expand, perhaps, on your motives for not wishing to mediate when both sides apparently would be happy for you to do so? It is slightly unusual. The United States is usually very keen -- usually you say, we won't mediate until they ask us to. And then now they have asked you to and you aren't willing to mediate. What's the thinking behind it exactly? You just don't -- you just want to keep out of it; it's too much trouble?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it's always been our view that these issues are best solved by a cross-Strait dialogue between the two sides.

QUESTION: New subject? Africa, specifically the Horn. I noticed that over the weekend you put out this ravel warning for Eritrea, a similar one for Ethiopia, but the Eritrean one goes a little bit further in saying that the State Department has authorized departure of Embassy personnel in non- emergency positions. I'm wondering if you can say how many have taken advantage of this, if you can; if such a facility is going to be made available for those members in Ethiopia as well, considering the violent demonstrations going on outside the Embassy there; and if, in Eritrea, if anyone has taken advantage of this or will take advantage of it in Ethiopia, if that's going to have any effect on the famine relief program. Are these AID people who might be leaving?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let me double check on the Ethiopia things. These announcements are done in regard to the particular situation in the particular country, geography, proximity to the front. A lot of things like that come into play, so it may not have been necessary to do that. We have certainly warned against travel to Eritrea and suggested that Americans consider deferring travel to Ethiopia.

I don't have numbers yet on people who might have left. Our Embassies are in touch with the American community through Embassy warden systems and informal town meeting gatherings. But I don't have any numbers yet.

As far as the status of famine relief, we're obviously going to continue our efforts to try to bring relief to those who might be victims of famine. We've already pledged a considerable amount of food and we'll continue that effort. I'm not aware that these particular withdrawals would impede that, but obviously it's all made more difficult by the outbreak of fighting.

QUESTION: Any mediation activity on that front?

MR. BOUCHER: Our - no. Our --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Holbrooke was doing it the other day.

MR. BOUCHER: This gets into sort of how do you characterize what. We're not mediating this; we're trying to get the parties to follow and Organization for African Unity peace plan. That was the effort that we have supported, that we supported in the talks that we participated in in Algiers. That's the effort that was made by the UN Security Council members when they went out here. The point is try to end the fighting and immediately resume talks without preconditions under the auspices of the Organization for African Unity.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify something on Ethiopia. You said, as far as you know, the Ethiopia announcement is the same as it was on the 12th; there hasn't been any additions?

MR. BOUCHER: On the 12th. We have not done a -- no, we have not done another one over the weekend.

QUESTION: On the same subject, Richard, or related. You may not have the numbers yet about anyone who's come out. Do you have numbers in general, or could you get them, on how many Americans you believe are in each country?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that.

QUESTION: Official and nonofficial?


QUESTION: It was reported that Nelson Mandela in a speech in South Africa late last week urged Zimbabweans to take up arms against tyranny and it was clear that he was talking about Mugabe. Does the United States have any position on Mr. Mandela's thoughts as he expressed them then?

MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen that and you are referring to reported comments possibly made and I don't think I should venture a guess at this point.

QUESTION: How about on the election, the upcoming election in Zimbabwe. Is there anything - does the US have any new concerns considering these reports that are coming out about (inaudible) into Mugabe's party?

MR. BOUCHER: We have certainly felt that it's important that the elections be free and fair. We have supported legal and transparent land reform but we also said we can fund election monitors to ensure that Zimbabwe's political -- the Zimbabweans' political aspirations are met. So we do want to make sure those elections are free and fair.

QUESTION: So land reform is still suspended but there will be - the US is going to pay for (inaudible), those types of people?

MR. BOUCHER: We're willing to do that. I'm not exactly sure who it is. I'll have to see.

QUESTION: Could I ask whether you have a comment to what Kofi Annan told the New York Times on I guess it was Friday and it appeared in Saturday's paper? He's complaining that the US is too reticent, that they charge too much for their -- the flights that are offered, three times the rates commercial airlines charge, and so forth?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to get into the charges exactly. I mean, you can check with the Pentagon on exactly how those costs are determined. But, you know, obviously the military is not the low-cost carrier in these kinds of situations.

I think more generally I would have to say that we do work very closely with the Secretary General. We participate as appropriate in a great variety of peacekeeping and UN situations. We give serious consideration to any requests that we get. We also obviously consult with our Congress, we consult with other regional parties who are involved in these situations. And, as you know, there is a general tendency to look for regional solutions to these conflicts and to regional mechanisms for peacekeeping or peacemaking as appropriate.

We do think the UN needs to have a mandate and forces appropriate to the job and we have worked and will continue to work with the UN as we are doing in the Sierra Leone situation to try to make sure that they can be effective.

QUESTION: Some of us spoke to Special Envoy Jesse Jackson last Friday, who said some slightly unconventional things about how he saw the situation, including his view that essentially the important thing was to get Foday Sankoh back into the political process and get him sitting at a table. Well, Charles Taylor, as well. Yes.

I wondered whether -- and that he had a positive role to play in the future of Sierra Leone. I wondered how does the State Department feel about the future of Foday Sankoh? Do you think he has a positive role to play after all these events?

MR. BOUCHER: I guess what we would have to say is he has a chance to play a positive role, to demonstrate some sincerity by releasing the UN detainees, by ordering a cease fire, by reopening the channels of communication to discuss a genuine, credible peace process for Sierra Leone. We've made quite clear that what we are looking for and what Reverend Jackson will do during his trip is to reinforce regional efforts to secure the immediate release of UN hostages that are held by the rebels, to restore the cease fire and to return to implementation of a credible peace process under the Lome Accords.

Reverend Jackson, by the way, will be visiting Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali and Nigeria from May 17 to May 22nd.

QUESTION: There are, right now, US and British military people in Nigeria talking to the Nigerians about possible intervention. Do you have anything to report from them?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that. We've said before we had military planners and logistics people down there to discuss the possibilities of Nigeria helping to support the UN effort.

QUESTION: But thus far, there has not been a -- the Nigerians haven't actually made the --

MR. BOUCHER: I have no news on that, no.

QUESTION: Has anybody decided whether the Nigerians would go there under the UN umbrella, fully integrated into UNAMSIL or it hasn't --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything that precise to tell you at this point on Nigeria.

I think we had a question --

QUESTION: This is a new subject, so if anyone else -


QUESTION: On the provision of the Military Appropriations Bill to be voted on tomorrow demanding the pullout of the US peacekeepers in Kosovo, how hard is the Administration lobbying to defeat that provision and is there going to be an Administration veto if the provision is attached?

MR. BOUCHER: You're sort of asking questions about legislative strategy and vetoes that belong at the White House. I do want to say that we are seriously concerned about this. We are seriously in need of the money for civilian reconstruction. That's why we had a request for a supplemental appropriation and we are seriously concerned we are not getting the money because the civilian construction elements and rebuilding the administration and civil administration in Kosovo remains the exit strategy for US forces.

QUESTION: Do we have any guidance on Elian Gonzalez's pediatrician?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly what you want to know about Elian Gonzalez's pediatrician. But I think the issue of the people extending their stays in the United States once they are already here and how they are informed of their ability to extend their stay is in the hands of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

QUESTION: Was there any concern that she should not remain here because she is not licensed to practice in the United States?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, whether she can remain here or not is a decision in the hands of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It has been true all along, since she arrived, that foreign physicians who are not licensed here are not allowed to practice medicine or dispense prescription drugs in the United States. I think that has been made quite clear.

QUESTION: Apparently she accused the State Department of confiscating her medicines. Is that what you're referring to when you said "not authorized to"--

MR. BOUCHER: Well, the rules are clear that a foreign doctor can't practice medicine in the United States or dispense prescription drugs in the United States. The actual, you know, "what do you have with you" questions belong in Customs. They are the ones that handle those issues.

QUESTION: Is there any truth to this -- as far as you know --

MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to ask Customs Service about that.

QUESTION: She said this morning at Reagan National Airport that the State Department had given her a two-month visa and that when she arrived on US soil the two months went down to two weeks. Do you have anything on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, once again, as we have many times in the past had to point out the distinction between getting a visa for whatever period, which allows you to appear at the port of entry and apply for admission. But the actual admission and the length of stay are determined by the Immigration Service at the time of entry. So, I mean, if you have an indefinite visa, it doesn't mean you get indefinite right to remain in the United States; it just means that at any time in the next -- well, now it's 10 years -- you can show up and ask for entry. You won't be allowed to stay for 10 years every time. So there is a difference between the visa and the period of entry and the Immigration Service decides that, as well as on any renewals of that.

So she came, I believe, with the playmates and their guardians and was given two weeks like the others in the party at that time.

QUESTION: The same subject. Any movement on visas for the three sets of grandparents and any update on the Cuban Interests Section brawl?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Those visas remain under review and I don't think we've seen anything from the DC Police yet.

QUESTION: Those grandmothers aren't getting any younger, Richard. (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: We had a question back here.

QUESTION: Different subject. Turkish Prime Minister and the Interior Minister today, they announced - they had a joint press conference. They announced that a well-known to Turkish secular and respectful journalist's murder case, the Iranian Embassy staff based in Ankara, they involved, they put personally the bomb under the journalist's car.

In the past, the US very sensitive to condemn the Iranian terrorism export to all of the area and this time you are very so quiet and this country also in the terrorism supporting country list. Do you have any reaction on the subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Give us a chance. I mean, you just told us that this press conference occurred recently. I don't know exactly when. But we've just heard about this. We will look into it and get something for you.

QUESTION: Let me come back to Taiwan. The same Post article indicated that the AIT Director in Taiwan, has tried to exert influence in the writing of the President-elect Chen's inaugural speech. Would you confirm or deny that or provide some clarification?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I am not going to talk about -- I'm not going to talk about that. We have meetings with a lot of people a lot of times and we don't get into every single one and try to talk about it.

QUESTION: Have you been given any talking points on his speech?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to characterize it one way or the other.

QUESTION: Do you have any readout on Mr. Pickering's trip to Colombia the end of last week? We didn't seem to see much on it. Perhaps you might have something.

MR. BOUCHER: It was a productive visit. No, we can tell you a little bit more than that, obviously. It was an important trip for us and it was productive. They discussed the details of implementation of Plan Colombia. They identified gaps where additional coordination is needed. The focus was, in fact, on extending Plan Colombia into southern Colombia. They had extensive discussions about human rights, judicial reform, alternative development and poppy and coca eradication and the peace process. Pickering also promised that we will work with Congress to seek early funding of the aid package for Colombia.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the Russian Media Minister now saying that Radio Liberty should have its license pulled because its broadcasts are hostile to the state, just a few days after they raided Media Most?

MR. BOUCHER: That's very interesting. We'll look into it.

QUESTION: I just have one follow-up on Sierra Leone, very quick. Haven't heard much over the weekend about the hostages, about the -- well, the missing UN troops. Does the US have any knowledge that these troops are hostages and that they're alive and well? Or what more can you say?

MR. BOUCHER: I think there actually was quite a bit over the weekend about releases, about some of these people that were released. And I don't think we have any particular information on their welfare and whereabouts. But certainly we know from the United Nations that a large number of people are being held still. We welcome the releases and we hope the others get out as well.

QUESTION: Is the US working with the United Nations to that end?

MR. BOUCHER: We're talking to everybody about the situation, yes.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

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