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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #64, 00-06-22

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>


661

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Thursday, June 22, 2000

Briefer: Philip Reeker

ANNOUNCEMENT
1	Delegations Representing the United States, the Republic of Korea
	 and Japan will meet for Trilateral Consultations in Honolulu, June
	 29 through 30. 
NORTH KOREA
1-2	North and South Korea Summit / Renewed Missile Talks / Improving
	 Relations Between U.S. and North Korea 
JORDAN
2-4	Public Announcement on Terrorist Targeting the U.S. Embassy in
	 Amman / American Citizens Traveling or Residing in Jordan are
	 Urged to Exercise Prudence and Review their Security Practices 
CHINA
4-8	Xinhua News Agency to Purchase Real Estate in Close Proximity to
	 the Pentagon 
BRAZIL
8	Former General Oviedo Arrested by Brazilian Authorities
SLOVAKIA
8	U.S. Position on Slovakia's Entry into the Organization for
	 Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 
ZIMBABWE
9-10	Deadline for Accreditation of Election Observers / U.S. Delegation
CONGO	
10	Closure of Former President Masire's Kinshasa Office
GERMANY
10-11	U.S. Concerns by Decision of Youth Services Office in Konstanz /
	 Cooke Child Abduction Case / Travel of Assistant Secretary Mary
	 Ryan to Germany 
NIGERIA
11	Implementation of Sharia Law
WESTERN SAHARA
12	Support of UN Efforts
DEPARTMENT
12	Secretary of State Travel
14	Foreign Spending Bill

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #64

THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 2000, 2:10 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. REEKER: Good afternoon. Apologies for the delay. But on this, the longest day of the year, I believe, we wanted to stretch it out just as long as we could.

I'd like to start out by noting that Brenda Greenberg joined the Office of Press Relations this week as a press officer. She comes to us from within the State Department, from the Office of Information Programs and Services, where she was a computer specialist. And I can say I personally and the entire Bureau are delighted to have Brenda with us and she looks very much forward to working with all of you as we continue to try to meet your needs.

I would also like to welcome today Mr. Bernardo Abad, who is regional director of SI TV in Guyaquil, Ecuador, who is with us today on one of our international visitor programs.

I do have one announcement and then we can go to your questions. I am pleased to announce today that delegations representing the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan will meet for trilateral consultations in Honolulu, June 29th through 30th. Delegations of the three countries led respectively by Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Counselor of the State Department; Jang Jai-ryong, Republic of Korea Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs; and Yukio Takeuchi, Japanese Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Policy, will discuss a range of issues in our ongoing coordination of policy toward the DPRK.

This June trilateral meeting is part of the continuing process of close and cooperative consultations among the three countries formalized in Hawaii last April 1999 and known as the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group or TCOG.

If there are any questions on that, we can talk about that or go to your other questions.

QUESTION: I don't know if you've been monitoring it but the North Korean press has seemed to have adopted its old tone of hostility toward the United States. Do you think this sort of reflects or do you give it any significance?

MR. REEKER: I've seen some of those reports. I think we've talked a lot recently about the historic North-South summit that took place and the opportunities we see for moving ahead with the dialogue with North Korea. That's what we're focusing on.

As you know, the Secretary has been in China today. Korean Peninsula issues, I know, were part of the discussions there. This trilateral discussion will take place at the end of the month in Hawaii and, as you also know, we discussed at the end of last month that we had a preparatory discussion for renewed missile talks with the DPRK and we expect to announce something along those lines shortly.

So I think, you know, we've had a lot of discussion on US-North Korea recently and we're going to continue along the lines we've discussed previously.

QUESTION: So you don't take the tone of their recent press articles seriously?

MR. REEKER: No, I think we've seen a number of steps recently which are significant and which are part of a broader process aimed at improving relations between the two countries. I'm not going to make it a practice of commenting on every press report or statement out there. But we've had a number of steps recently that I think point us in a positive direction. And, obviously, the Secretary and her party will be addressing these issues more out in the region tonight and tomorrow when they're in Korea - South Korea, that is.

QUESTION: Different subject. Is there anything you can add about the warning in Jordan to Americans?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I can add a lot. But I will note that we posted a public announcement today. The US Government has information concerning terrorist targeting of the United States Embassy in Amman, Jordan. While the United States has full confidence in the Government of Jordan's demonstrated ability and willingness to address security threats, the full dimensions of this threat are not known at this time. And while current information indicates that the US Embassy is targeted, we cannot rule out the possibility that terrorists may also plan to target other venues in Jordan. So in keeping with our public announcement, we are urging American citizens traveling or residing in Jordan to exercise prudence and review their security practices and to remain alert to changing situations.

QUESTION: Can you say whether this came into the US Embassy or whether it came to Jordanian officials, this threat?

MR. REEKER: As is our usual practice, Betsy, I am not able to get into details about the nature of the threat or other details, except to say that we are taking the threat very seriously. In light of what happened in December, I think you'll recall, we do take all these threats seriously. But it is our practice not to talk about the specifics of the threat information. We're responding appropriately, we're working very closely with Jordanian authorities. We're taking appropriate and necessary steps and we released this announcement based on our standard practice.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that, Phil. Can you say if the US Embassy remained open for business today? Have there been any standing down or sending staff home or anything like that?

MR. REEKER: I believe the Embassy was open standard hours and there haven't been any staff sent home, in answer to your question.

QUESTION: Is this threat linked to the events of December?

MR. REEKER: As I said, it is not our practice to comment publicly on the nature of these threats. I am not going to get into any details. I think the statement itself noted that the full dimensions of this threat are not known at this time. But it is a threat we take seriously. I will reiterate again, we are responding appropriately and part of our response is to release an announcement like that based on our standard practice and noting that the safety and security of American citizens is above all our primary concern.

QUESTION: That being the case, the Jordanian Government says that the US Government notified them last week that they planned to put out this statement. It's now Thursday of this week. It seems like a significant delay if you're trying to make sure you're protecting the safety of Americans, many of whom go and visit the Embassy and others who work there.

MR. REEKER: I think we take this process extremely seriously. We examine threats and make a determination on when a statement needs to be issued. This public statement was issued simultaneously from the Embassy in Amman and here in Washington. It is standard practice, to make what information we can available to the public so that they can make their own decisions, take their own precautions. And, as I said, we are coordinating very closely with Jordanian authorities.

QUESTION: But given that you must have made some sort of assessment before informing the Jordanian Government, it still seems like an awfully long period of time to go between the US Government having this information, taking it seriously enough to notify the Jordanian Government and then notifying the American citizens who may be at risk.

MR. REEKER: As I indicated, Rebecca, we are not going to discuss the details. It is our practice not to discuss the details of the nature of this threat. What I can tell you is we take it very seriously, we follow strict processes, we work closely with the Jordanians and make determinations to put out the information as necessary to the Embassy community at the same time as we issue a public statement, and we did that, put out this announcement today in Jordan and here in Washington.

QUESTION: Is it accurate for the Jordanian Government to say that they were notified

MR. REEKER: I am not going to make any comments on the details of our discussions with the Jordanians.

QUESTION: Somebody in the building earlier today noted that this statement is much more sharply worded and precise than others regarding threats, saying that the US Embassy is - has been targeted. Or it's present tense language. Does this represent to you a bigger threat than you've seen in the past when other statements have been issued?

MR. REEKER: Again, I am just not going to discuss specifics of the threat information or the nature of that threat. The phrase which I read to you which is in the public statement notes targeting the US Embassy. That is language that I believe is new in the sense that it wasn't used before. You'll recall we had a similar situation in December. If you'll note the consular information sheet for Jordan, it makes reference to the December situation. And so this statement very much stands for itself.

Other questions on this, or will we move on?

QUESTION: Has the Chinese Embassy or the Xinhua News Agency broken the law by failing to inform the State Department of their purchase of this building in - near the Pentagon?

MR. REEKER: Further to what we discussed, some of us, yesterday afternoon, we are in touch with the Chinese Embassy here in Washington regarding the matter of this building. The Xinhua News Agency should have requested prior authorization from the Department of State to purchase an apartment building near the Pentagon. We have informed them that they must make such a request and the State Department will have 60 days in which to authorize or deny such a request when it's made.

It's the Office of Foreign Missions here in the Department that handles these issues. And, as I think some of you may not have gotten the information yesterday, the Embassy of the People's Republic of China is required under the Foreign Missions Act to obtain prior authorization from the State Department for any purchases or sales of real property of the Xinhua News Agency. And the Embassy of the People's Republic of China was notified of this in 1985. So the restriction remains in place today. Xinhua is aware of that and we had no record of them providing notification of its plan to purchase this Virginia property.

So, as I noted, we are in contact with the Chinese Embassy on this issue to ensure that all the appropriate interests and steps are addressed.

QUESTION: A congressman has already very quickly announced that he will sponsor an amendment that would require the State Department to block this sale, an amendment to the Appropriations Bill. Does that mean that at this point you don't have the power to block this sale? I mean, if you deny the authorization, then they can't go through with it, right? So

MR. REEKER: I think as I noted, we are in touch with the Embassy on this issue. They should have requested prior authorization from the Department if they are going to purchase an apartment building in Virginia. We've informed them that they need to make such a request and then there's a 60- day period in which to authorize or deny that request. So we need to let the steps go forward and get a response. We are in touch with the Embassy on that and I just don't have any further details at this point.

QUESTION: Do you know if they have, since 1985, since they were notified of this requirement, have they purchased other properties that - for which they did follow this process?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. I would have to look into that and I am happy to check with the Office of Foreign Missions on that.

QUESTION: I think it might be interesting to know for the record what it is that they usually do.

MR. REEKER: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you say why this provision applies to the Chinese news agency and I presume not to other news agencies, as far as one is aware? Is it because you see it as more closely tied to the Chinese Government than other news organizations?

MR. REEKER: The Xinhua News Agency is considered tied to the government of the People's Republic of China and therefore is under the relevant provisions of this act, in terms of the restriction. They are very aware of that. The Embassy is aware of that and that's what we're discussing with them.

QUESTION: Does it apply to other news agencies, like AFP, for example, which is also closely

QUESTION: Reuters? (Laughter.)

MR. REEKER: If you would like to submit, Jonathan, your apartment purchase requests, I will be happy to advise you on the investment potential.

QUESTION: Does this apply to Tass, as a follow-up?

QUESTION: There's a good follow-up. Does it apply to Tass?

MR. REEKER: I will have to look into the details of the act and get the office to go into all the things

QUESTION: Is the Voice of America similarly required to get permission from the Chinese government to buy property in Beijing?

MR. REEKER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Could you find that out?

MR. REEKER: I'd be happy to ask.

QUESTION: I have another question. Did Mrs. Albright bring this up in the talks with the Chinese?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. We'd have to check with the party there. I don't have a readout of it.

QUESTION: Do you feel that you have the legal power to deny them to buy this building?

MR. REEKER: I think I explained to you that the authorization is required. They know that. We're discussing that and they need to ask

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with the Pentagon regarding this?

MR. REEKER: I don't know what discussions with the Pentagon have specifically gone on. It's the Office of Foreign Missions that is responsible for this act.

QUESTION: Is the Pentagon concerned about the security risk?

MR. REEKER: I would ask you to address those questions to the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Phil, are they breaking the law - (inaudible)?

MR. REEKER: What I can tell you is that the Xinhua News Agency should have requested prior authorization from the Department of State to purchase an apartment building. That's a fact. We've informed them that such a request needs to be made and there are talks with the Chinese Embassy. We will have to see what develops from there. I'm not in a position to make any broad judgments.

QUESTION: This goes to all these things that you may not have all the answers to, but if you could check on those. Saying they should have requested, is it a legal requirement? Do you have any - are you empowered legally to break the contract since they've already gotten ahead of themselves, according to what you require them to do? Can you only make diplomatic objections? Can you help us sort all of that out?

MR. REEKER: Okay, I can give you what I know based on the amount of time I've had to check on this and to talk to people in the Department that do know about this. If necessary, we can try to get someone more expert on this thing.

The embassy of the People's Republic of China is required under the Foreign Missions Act to obtain prior authorization from the State Department for any purchases or sales of real property of the Xinhua News Agency. And the Embassy was notified of this, as I said, in 1985. Xinhua is aware of it. That restriction remains in place today and we had no record of them providing notification of their plan to purchase this so we are in touch with the Embassy, as I noted. They should have requested the authorization and they have been informed and reminded that they must make such a request. And at that point, when made, we will have 60 days in which to authorize or deny such a request.

QUESTION: But that implies it would have to be done before they purchased it. And it appears that that's already been done. So I think that this may build on Rebecca's question. Can you confirm that the sale is now blocked or stopped in the process of while you're waiting to see what they are going to do? They have purchased it.

MR. REEKER: I can't confirm that and I'll have to try to look into these details for you later.

QUESTION: The status of the property

MR. REEKER: In order for them to take this step, they must make the request and have a determination made by the Department of State, whether it's authorized or denied. And none of that has happened.

QUESTION: But they were allowed to purchase it?

MR. REEKER: They did not make the request of the Department of State. We did not know of this. We had not gotten any notification of their plan or intent to purchase this property. They need to make that request and then it will be reviewed. In terms of details of where it stands now, I can try to check and see what information we have on it or what the parties can provide.

QUESTION: Phil, did you learn of this purchase only through the media?

MR. REEKER: I am not sure of that. I know that I saw the stories in the media and, in response to your questions, I checked into it. I don't have any details about what others in the Department or the US Government were

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that any of the personnel working at Xinhua are, in fact, working for Chinese intelligence, as some reports have suggested?

MR. REEKER: As you know extremely well, we don't comment on intelligence or counter-intelligence issues from this podium.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - 1985 authorization specifically mentioned Xinhua?

MR. REEKER: Again, I would have to check. And I think we are going far beyond - hopefully, you've realized the extent of my research into the authorization and the appropriate bills there. I can check and get you the legislative history and get you a copy of the bill, but we will have to do that after this briefing.

Anything further on the Xinhua property?

QUESTION: A very little thing.

MR. REEKER: Yes.

QUESTION: Does the Foreign Missions Act require you, when you are considering whether to give them approval or not, to consider anything besides security issues?

MR. REEKER: Again, I would have to look into the Foreign Missions Act and we will be happy to try to get you more details on that act.

QUESTION: Speaking of talking with the Chinese about this, do they admit that they should have done this or do they contest your

MR. REEKER: I'm not aware of the position of the Chinese Embassy. I will let them speak for themselves. We have raised it with them and made them extremely aware, reminded them of their obligation under that.

QUESTION: Phil, General Lino Cesar Oviedo, is right now under arrest in Brazil on charges of drug trafficking and arms trafficking. He is the, of course, sought by Paraguay on the assassination of the vice president as well as his participation in a coup d'etat. The charge d'affaires in Paraguay, Stephen McFarland, has said that the United States has credible information that Lino Oviedo is tied to drug trafficking and do you have any response on that, please?

MR. REEKER: As you noted, former General Oviedo is widely believed in Paraguay to have been linked to narcotics smuggling while he was an active duty officer. Our charge in Asuncion was referring to these allegations which you just mentioned. Ovideo was arrested by Brazilian authorities, as you noted, on document and firearms charges, I believe June 11th. And he's now, as in understand it, in Brasilia where the Brazilian Government is awaiting a formal extradition request from Paraguay.

QUESTION: Is there an extradition request being entertained at all by the United States?

MR. REEKER: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: This may be something you have to take, but

MR. REEKER: I take a lot, let me tell you. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can you update us on the US position on Slovakia's entry into the OECD? I ask because apparently there's an effort under way by the French to block it in exchange for something from Washington.

MR. REEKER: I can tell you that the United States strongly supports Slovakia's accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. We believe that it will help foster and consolidate the economic reform process in Slovakia and we've gone on record in the OECD Council favoring issuance of an invitation to Slovakia to join the organization later this month. The Administration has assured the Slovak Government of US support for Slovakia's entry.

QUESTION: Zimbabwe. I think today is what was the deadline for accreditation of observers and I also see that a member of the opposition has been beaten to death. Do you have anything to add today on events in Zimbabwe?

MR. REEKER: Sure. No one had anything further on Slovakia, did they?

As you noted, today is the deadline for accreditation of election observers. The United States is seeking to accredit an official delegation and we have an outstanding request with the Government of Zimbabwe for accreditation of a US delegation further to what I discussed yesterday.

We are urging the Government of Zimbabwe to grant all international observers who have applied for accreditation today to meet the deadline to grant them their accreditation. I think as I noted yesterday, it's highly unusual for diplomats in a country to be refused electoral accreditation by a host government. We don't recall any recent elections in which a government has taken this position and we are very disappointed that the Government of Zimbabwe has decided to take this position, which will undermine the credibility of their election.

Just to clarify some of your questions yesterday, it is our understanding that all diplomats resident in Zimbabwe have been refused accreditation, not just US diplomats. We have deplored the Zimbabwean Government's earlier refusal to accredit election observer delegations. Our delegation was to include members of the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, as well as Embassy personnel. And, as I noted, we are continuing to request accreditation of an official observer delegation. These limitations on access for observers will detract from the credibility and really tarnish Zimbabwe's reputation.

Our diplomats will, of course, monitor other aspects of the election process this weekend as best they can but, without the accreditation, they cannot observe the actual polling and the vote counting processes. So pursuant to the second part of your question, we have repeatedly stated our concern about the violent election climate in Zimbabwe and the denial of accreditation to international observers ties right into that.

We can't prejudge election results. But, as much as we can, we will be monitoring the process there. I note that there was some strong rhetoric recently from Zimbabwe which seemed to encourage violence.

We deplore the use of such rhetoric encouraging violence, no matter which party is responsible, and we strongly urge the leaders of all the parties in Zimbabwe to refrain from violent rhetoric. We urge them to restrain their supporters from violent actions that will undermine a secure voting environment. We really believe it's very important to the democratic process that all Zimbabweans feel safe when they exercise their democratic rights this weekend. And it's the Government and the President of Zimbabwe who have special obligations as the leaders of the country to ensure that they contribute to a secure and transparent atmosphere for these elections.

So we're calling upon them to fulfill those responsibilities, actively discourage violence, intimidation or other efforts to disrupt the elections.

QUESTION: When you say you are seeking to accredit an official delegation, you just mean of diplomats who are based in Harare or is it a wider delegation with people from outside?

MR. REEKER: We have an outstanding request now with the government for accreditation of a US delegation that includes US officials from the Embassy in Harare and others. And that remains at this hour an outstanding request. We are urging the government to grant our request and, frankly, again to grant all international observers the accreditation they need to monitor these elections in accordance with general international standards.

Any more on Zimbabwe? Sticking with Africa?

QUESTION: This may be better directed at Mary Ellen Glynn but what is the US saying regarding Kabila's pronouncements that he won't allow UN mediators? And is Holbrooke in touch with him or what is

MR. REEKER: You may need to talk to USUN to get some of those specifics. The closure of former President Masire's Kinshasa office, banning him from the Congo, these are clear violations of the Lusaka Agreement and are, frankly, unacceptable. These actions undermine the prospects for regional peace and development and the United States is reiterating our firm support for Masire, the national dialogue and the Lusaka process.

We again call upon the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to permit immediate reopening of the facilitators' office in Kinshasa and to cooperate fully in the facilitation effort.

QUESTION: The Cooke case in Germany, child custody case, the grandmother received a letter stating that because there had been press coverage of their case, that they were going to severely restrict her access to her grandchildren. What has the US done, what can the US do, what has happened to this commission?

MR. REEKER: We are quite concerned by the decision of the Youth Services Office in Konstanz to restrict the amount of time that Mrs. Cooke can spend with her grandchildren and the requirement that she meet with them only in the offices of the social service agency.

Frankly, we feel that such action is completely inappropriate. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Mary Ryan, will be traveling to Germany in the coming days and she intends to raise this issues specifically with German Government officials at all levels, in terms of the binational commission proposed by Chancellor Schroeder when President Clinton was recently in Germany.

These are issues that remain under discussion in terms of next-ups with that and, clearly, these are issues that Ambassador Mary Ryan will explore with her German counterparts in terms of how Chancellor Schroeder's commitment to address these issues can best be implemented.

QUESTION: There is no agreement yet on makeup of the commission, when it will meet?

MR. REEKER: Those are the issues that are under discussion and issues that Assistant Secretary Ryan will raise when she's in Germany.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that this decision is an executive decision rather than a judicial decision and therefore subject to intervention by the German Government?

MR. REEKER: The specific decision I guess you're referring to and to which I was referring, the decision by the Youth Services Office in Konstanz restricting the visit of the grandmother with the grandchildren was made by the Youth Services Office. And that is what we find completely inappropriate and so we will be raising that.

In terms of the details of the German system, I just don't know exactly how that is set up. But obviously, as I indicated, Mary Ryan is going to be raising this at all levels when she's in Germany.

QUESTION: Is she going specifically for this case or is

MR. REEKER: She is traveling in Germany in the coming days and obviously this will now be something she raises specifically. But the broader issues that were put forward by Chancellor Schroeder in his commitment to address the issue of international parental child abduction are topics which she is going to discuss with officials in Germany.

I don't have specific dates.

QUESTION: Do you have an explanation about what may have happened in Ivory Coast today? There was some degree of confusion.

MR. REEKER: I don't. I saw those wire reports and I asked if we could check with our Embassy. I might be able to get back with you this afternoon but I didn't have anything before coming out here.

QUESTION: I asked a couple of days ago and didn't have time to follow it up. The imposition of Sharia law in Kano, Nigeria, it hasn't been put through? The Africa Bureau should have

MR. REEKER: I will have to check with the Africa Bureau on that. I just haven't had a chance to check into that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - interesting because the Secretary went there and saw it as a model of coexistence and so on and I wanted to know whether you were at all disappointed that this

MR. REEKER: Let me check into the specifics of that.

QUESTION: - possibly divisive law had been passed.

MR. REEKER: I'll get back to you.

QUESTION: During his state visit here in Washington, during this last two days, the King of Morocco raised more than once the question of Western Sahara, both with President Clinton and then with Secretary Albright. And last Tuesday, a spokesman for the White House said that the US Government is still supporting the UN efforts. But he didn't say that - I mean, what is it supporting? The implementation of the UN settlement plan or any other alternative? Can you be more specific on the

MR. REEKER: I know, similar to the answer you got at the White House, that we very much support the UN effort to find a resolution to the question of Western Sahara. In terms of the specifics of that UN effort, I don't have those here. We could look into that or refer you to the UN. But we very much are supporting their efforts in this and that was the message that we conveyed to the King when he was here.

QUESTION: Do we have any information on her Middle East trip yet? Do we have dates set or anything?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything for you. As you know, she's going to the Middle East after Poland. That would indicate she'll be there after Tuesday of next week but I don't have anything more specific at this point.

QUESTION: Would we assume she leaves Poland Tuesday night? Do we know any

MR. REEKER: I don't want to make any assumptions at this point. I think that's quite possible but I just don't have specific schedules yet.

QUESTION: Any answer to my pending question, US position on the religious I.D. cards?

MR. REEKER: No, I don't have an answer to that yet. I sent out to all the appropriate people. I would suggest that you refer to our report on international religious freedom. We can help you access a copy of that. And I believe there is some discussion in there. But I haven't had a chance to look at it more closely.

QUESTION: It was reported in Greece today that the Madame Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright somehow has come to the conclusion to replace your ambassador in Athens, Mr. Nicholas Burns, with your ambassador in Sarajevo, Mr. Tom Miller, at the end of this year. Any comment?

MR. REEKER: I have not even seen such a report.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Poland just for a minute on a scheduling question?

MR. REEKER: Poland, yes.

QUESTION: Apparently Senator Helms had suggested that Secretary Albright have a meeting with some members of the Belarusan opposition while she's in Poland. Do you know if that's on tap?

MR. REEKER: I am unaware of that. But, obviously, she will be in Poland beginning Sunday - actually Saturday night - to have bilateral meetings with the Poles and to attend, as you know, the Community of Democracies ministerial meeting there.

QUESTION: Your former employee at your Embassy in Athens, Mr. Wayne Merry, most recently, via articles in big American newspapers, is attacking the political institution of Greece and, particularly, the ruling party under Prime Minister Kostis Simitis in the name of terrorism. May we assume that this type of attitude reflects the general mentality of most or some members of the US Diplomatic Corps vis-a-vis to Greece, those who are in and out of the service?

MR. REEKER: No, you may not make that assumption.

QUESTION: Could you please comment about this attitude of this specific individual?

MR. REEKER: Well, the United States is a free country and we pride our free press and the opportunity for people to express their private opinions through articles, letters. And so I don't have any comment on what a gentleman may have written regarding his opinion of a situation.

QUESTION: I totally respect the freedom of the press and the opinion. But my question is, as far as the attack against the political institution of Greece itself ad nominum in the most recent days?

MR. REEKER: I think we've made our views very clear on the terrorism issue. We've discussed it at tremendous length and I can refer you back to the transcripts of briefings where both I and Mr. Boucher have discussed it and where the Secretary has made comments as well.

QUESTION: One more question. It was said here in town that the former King of Greece, Mr. Constantin Glyxburg, the other day was in touch with your Division of Counter-Terrorism and coordinator, Ambassador Michael Sheehan. Do you know what it is all about, this contact?

MR. REEKER: I don't. I'm unaware of that report.

QUESTION: Can you check for me?

MR. REEKER: I can try to look into it, sure. If you would provide us with the appropriate spellings of those names after the briefing.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the foreign spending bill? I'm particularly interested. It looks like the Colombia money is coming through but anything to say about the overall cut in foreign aid and this provision on conditioning aid to Moscow on issues in Chechnya?

MR. REEKER: I don't have a lot of specifics on that. The President addressed broadly earlier today - he took a question on that and complimented the Senate on the bipartisan vote which had taken place, expressing his gratitude for that. I think the President also said he was encouraged that we could get the differences between the Senate proposal and House Proposal worked out. And certainly we are hoping they will be able to act on all of our emergency funding.

We are pleased that the Senate bill - Senate action on the bill will allow funding for Plan Colombia to finally move forward. And, as I indicated, we hope that this and other emergency funding, for peacekeeping, for Kosovo, Southern Africa, may now be able to move forward separately. But I don't have any further details on that. I understand there is a vote scheduled for this afternoon.

QUESTION: I just - I thought it was your position that it wouldn't be a good idea to condition aid to Moscow on the humanitarian situation in Chechnya?

MR. REEKER: I think that has generally been our position. I am just not familiar with the specifics of this bill. I would be happy to check with folks on that. I hadn't seen that specific provision, so before I could comment on it we need to look into that.

QUESTION: There has been some talk that there are people encouraging the President to veto the bill because of the significantly lower spending for foreign operations. Is the State Department taking that position?

MR. REEKER: I know that the bill's funding level is approximately 13.4 billion, which is more than 11 percent below the President's request of, I believe, $15.1 billion. That is wholly inadequate to advance America's national security and other interests overseas.

I noted our pleasure that the Senate action on the bill will allow funding for Plan Colombia to move forward. So we are hoping that a conference on our supplemental funding needs can be held early and we are waiting to see what the action on the Hill may be this afternoon.

QUESTION: I was told by a Senate staffer handling the bill that they actually may move Colombia to the military construction spending bill and I'm just wondering if that may be because of the threat of a veto

MR. REEKER: I'm just not aware of the details. Things are going on Capitol Hill now as we speak. And I just haven't been able to monitor step by step on that. But I think the President's made some comments on it. The White House may have more to say and you may have more later.

QUESTION: Could you just find out if State Department is supporting a veto?

MR. REEKER: I'll have to, yes, see what the final bills are and what there is. We can't get ahead of ourselves. We have to actually have a bill to veto before we veto it.

QUESTION: I have one on NMD. Over the last few days - weeks and days, there's been a sort of growing expression of views that perhaps the Administration was rather hasty in its judgment of the Russian proposal for missile defense. Have you - is anybody in the building having second thoughts about whether perhaps they prejudged it and should keep an open mind on that?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to add on the Russian proposal or the NMD issue beyond what we've already discussed. You know where we stand in terms of the decision that the President will make, based on four criteria. He will make the appropriate decision at the appropriate time. And I really don't have anything further to add to that.

QUESTION: I'd like to go back to North Korea. Why will the next talks, trilateral talks be held in Hawaii? Even though, originally, it was supposed to be held in Seoul.

MR. REEKER: I was unaware of any original plan to hold them anywhere. I think I was able to announce, and I believe we're all announcing at the same time, that these talks will be held in Honolulu.

As you know, the TCOG, or the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group, is the term for the continuing process that takes place in terms of close and cooperative consultations among the three countries. And that was formalized in Hawaii, as I said, in April of last year. So, I think, given the geography, the distances for travel and the fact, perhaps, that Hawaii isn't a bad place to meet for two days, all contribute to that and I think we'll have a very productive trilateral meeting there, the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan.

QUESTION: But the schedule for next missile talks -

MR. REEKER: I don't have any announcement on that yet. I do think we expect to have something on that soon. You'll recall that on May 31st, we had a preparatory round of talks in Rome on that and we do expect to have missile talks take place. But I just don't have any date for you yet.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:50 p.m.)


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