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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #55, 00-06-07

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


U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


Wednesday, June 7, 2000

Briefer: Philip Reeker

1	Terrorist Bombing in Sri Lanka
1	War Crimes by ICTY
2	Commission on Counter-Terrorism
3	Resumption of Nonproliferation Talks
3	US stance on Kashmir situation
4-5	Nuclear Programs
5	Asylum Status of Cuban Doctors
5-6	Joint Statement


DPB #55

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7, 2000, 1:55 P.M.


MR. REEKER: Good afternoon. Welcome back to the State Department, everybody. Iíd like to begin today with a statement on the terrorist bombing that took place in Sri Lanka. The United States strongly condemns todayís barbarous terrorist bombing in Sri Lanka that cost the life of Minister For Industrial Development C. V. Gooneratne and at least 20 other people. At least 60 people were injured including the ministerís wife, who was critically hurt.

No one has claimed responsibility, but this terrorist method has been used frequently in the past by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. We extend our condolences to the relatives of the victims and hope for a speedy recovery for those who were injured.

The US strongly supports the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and a political solution to the conflict that would provide dignity and security for all Sri Lankans, but again we strongly condemn todayís barbarous terrorism there. And weíll have that as a written statement for you later.

With that, Iíll go to Mr. Geddaís question.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on Amnesty International and itís contention that NATO bombing over Yugoslavia last summer, in which 16 people died, constitutes a war crime?

MR. REEKER: I think we covered this really fairly fully after the statements of the International Criminal Tribunal Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte on Friday at the Security Council of the United Nations in New York.

As we said in the past, there is no basis for the Yugslav War Crimes Tribunal to launch an investigation into NATO actions during the Kosovo conflict. Madame Del Ponteís statements on Friday showed that that was the conclusion of the tribunal as well. Attention now should be focused exclusively, as we said it should be, on many serious violations of international humanitarian law that were caused by Milosevicís forces in Kosovo and that took place in Bosnia and Croatia from 1991 to 1995.

The tribunal already gave these allegations more attention than they deserved and I think our words and response stand for themselves.

QUESTION: Yesterday, in New Mexico, there was, Iím not sure if this is something you would refer to the Pentagon, but there was a successful test of an experimental laser anti-missile system designed to destroy Katyusha rockets. Itís a joint US-Israeli project.

How is this system going to contribute to the Middle East Peace Process?

MR. REEKER: Iím unaware of that system, and you may want to try over at the Pentagon for details on that. I donít have anything for you there.

QUESTION: But just in a general way, could you say that Ė

MR. REEKER: I couldnít. Iím unaware of the details of military systems. Itís not something I usually practice back here.

QUESTION: In the last three days Greece Ė the Greeks, and the Greek government are under an unusual attack by the exalted director of Kissinger and Associates, Incorporated, Ambassador Paul Bremen, regarding terrorism. Could you please clarify for the record how many US federal agencies including law enforcement, FBI, and even CIA are cooperating with the Simitis Government in Athens, right now against international terrorism?

MR. REEKER: Iíve addressed the subject that came up in the report of the Commission on Counter-Terrorism at great length earlier this week, and I refer you back to those statements. We can provide you the transcripts if thatís helpful.

We made specific Ė our views on working with the Greeks to improve the situation regarding terrorism, working together there, and Iím not about to get into specifics of our people that work with Greeks in Athens and here, to deal with those things.

QUESTION: How do you comment on Senator Sarbanesí statement yesterday that it is my understanding that the US and Greece have been working together on the counter-terrorism effort and that has been ongoing over a considerable period of time?

MR. REEKER: I think thatís exactly the type of statements that I used earlier during the week, that we work very closely with the Greeks. Ambassador Burns has a very close working relationship with the appropriate ministers in the Greek Government and we are going to continue working to address the terrorist issue there.

QUESTION: The last question, I was told that Kissinger and Associates, Incorporated, hired by the Department of State in order to prepare, via the

service of Ambassador Bremen, some kind of pattern or format for Greece to combat terrorism. Could you please comment?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of that at all.

QUESTION: Could you please take my question?

MR. REEKER: I would be happy to look into it for you.

QUESTION: There is a report coming out today that, in regard to the US- North Korea talks that concluded in Rome, that the US would proceed with partially lifting sanctions against North Korea while North Korea would reaffirm its commitment to not testing missiles. Can you confirm that?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything further on the talks in Rome than what we reported at the end of last week. The Rome talks were a preparatory round to have a further set of missile talks. The President had talked earlier about the possibility of lifting certain sanctions vis-a- vis North Korea but I would have to check into the details of that. I would be happy to get back to you after the briefing.

QUESTION: There is a report today in the <I>Janeís Intelligence Digest</I> saying that the United States has started a secret diplomatic mediation between India and Pakistan to settle the dispute in Kashmir. Do you have anything on that?

MR. REEKER: I saw those reports and, no, we are not and have not done any such thing. Our approach on Kashmir has not changed. We continue to urge restraint and dialogue and do what we can, certainly, to encourage the parties to resolve their differences. But we do not see ourselves as mediators.

I think the President said it best when he noted there is no military solution for Kashmir and he said that we believe there should be a process by which legitimate grievances of the Kashmiris can be addressed.

QUESTION: Just in connection with that, there are a couple of names that have been linked to the United States as possible mediators or at least people working on behalf of the United States in this regard. One is Mansoor Ijaz, the other is Farook Kathwari. I wonder if you had a chance to see whether either of these gentlemen were Ė

MR. REEKER: I saw those reports and those gentlemen would be acting on their own personal behalf. As I said, the United States has not changed our approach to Kashmir. We do not see ourselves as mediators.

QUESTION: Are you aware of either of them acting in some kind of mediation regard, even independently?

MR. REEKER: I am not. I think I gave you our position from the US Governmentís point of view. What weíve called for in the Kashmir situation is restraint, respect for the Line Of Control, renewal of dialogue, to reject violence and reduce tension and resolve this peacefully.

QUESTION: Also, to follow up on that, is the US in any way involved in discussions which may be taking place directly between the Indians and the Pakistanis?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of that. I think we have talked about a number of high-level visitors. We have a regular dialogue with both governments. But, as I said, we donít see ourselves as mediators.

QUESTION: Okay, you donít see yourselves that way, but do you think perhaps it could be interpreted that way by others? I mean, thatís the US interpretation of it.

MR. REEKER: If there are reports of that, thatís some reporters do that. We are not mediating this conflict. We have said very clearly what our position is on it. We urge restraint and dialogue but thatís for the two countries to do.

QUESTION: During Pickeringís trip to the region, was he asked by either country to take a message back to the United States that either side would be amiable to having the US be mediators?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any such thing, no.

QUESTION: India-Pakistan related. There are reports that the Administration has done a revised assessment of the relative strengths of the Pakistani and Indian nuclear programs and that they have found that Pakistan has in fact a more advanced system than previously thought and therefore more powerful and possibly with more weapons than the Indian program. Do you have any comment on this, please?

MR. REEKER: Iíve seen those reports and obviously those reports go directly to questions of intelligence matters and I am not in a position to comment or discuss that. But let me say this is not a question of a numbers game. The right number is zero on both sides. Exactly how many nuclear missiles each side could assemble and deploy if it chose to do so is not as important as avoiding an arms race. Engaging in a numbers game would only make matters even worse and inflame tensions which already create a very dangerous situation.

I think the 1998 tests showed that both India and Pakistan obviously have capability to field nuclear weapons. This fact is sufficient to prompt a great concern in the international community and here in the United States.

Our view, as weíve stated on numerous occasions, has been to work hard with both sides to urge restraint and exercising of restraint in nuclear weapons and development and to resume a dialogue to resolve tensions. We would like to bring both India and Pakistan into the global nonproliferation mainstream and thatís a message that the President delivered very strongly when he visited both countries.

QUESTION: Do you know if Mr. Pickering also carried a message on this?

MR. REEKER: I think thatís a message thatís regularly delivered to both India and Pakistan and our views on that are quite well known and weíll continue to share those. We hope to persuade India and Pakistan that they will be more secure without nuclear weapons and for now our emphasis is to urge maximum restraint and steps towards renewed dialogue between the two countries.

QUESTION: Do you have a view on the kidnapping of two would-be Cuban defectors in Zimbabwe?

MR. REEKER: I saw those stories and did look into it. According to the press reports that we looked into, the Zimbabwean Government tried to return applicants for asylum to their home country by force without hearing their asylum claim. The attempt failed and the two doctors now are reported to be in detention.

If this is true, this directly contravenes the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951 and the 1967 Protocols which Zimbabwe signed. So we are urging the Government of Zimbabwe to hear the asylum claims of these doctors or allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to do so. In either case, the Government of Zimbabwe should allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees access to the asylum seekers.

QUESTION: New subject. Well, actually, itís going back to something. I just wondered, since we haven't had a full readout of Mr. Pickeringís visit with Taliban officials in Islamabad, whether you had a fuller readout now that you can share with us?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything further to add to that. The points that we stress regarding compliance with UN Security Council resolutions vis-a-vis turning over Usama bin Laden to face justice and the issues that we continue to have with them on a number of matters.

QUESTION: Is there anything Ė do you have an assessment at the moment of how well the sanctions which are in place at the UN against Taliban are working?

MR. REEKER: I think the other direction I would point you is the statement that I released on May 30<SUP>th</SUP>, which was in fact a joint statement that had been issued in Moscow following Assistant Secretary Inderfurthís meetings there on Afghanistan and South Asia. And at that point and in that statement, we noted that the Russians and the United States agreed that if Kandahar continued to ignore world opinion, this could lead to consideration in the United Nations Security Council of further actions.

QUESTION: Where did Kandahar come from?

MR. REEKER: That was part of the statement that Iím reading from in terms of the assistant secretary that was in Moscow working that. I refer you back to that full statement in terms of dealing with the Afghan situation.

QUESTION: And if Kandahar refers to what?

MR. REEKER: Thatís a reference to the discussions that our assistant secretary had Ė

QUESTION: The venue?

MR. REEKER: Right.

QUESTION: Is there any comment on the latest Amnesty International report on Ė to the effect that NATO had Ė

MR. REEKER: I think you must have come in late because I already answered that question.

QUESTION: Oh, you did?

MR. REEKER: Yes, it was the first question, I believe, of the briefing. Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:10 p.m.)

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