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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #65, 00-06-26

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, June 26, 2000


1	Kathie Scarrah, New Director of the Office of Regional Media
1, 5	Vice President Gore Meeting with Officials of the Iraqi National
	 Congress--Senior State Department Official Background Briefing 
1	Election Results
1	US Commends Strong Democratic Participation
1	Nothing New on Cuban Doctors
2	Vice President Gore Meeting with Armenian President Kocharian
2-3	Maluku Province Violence
3	Declaration of Civil Emergency
3	Secretary's Statement on Democracy
3	Human Rights Report
4	Election Results
4	Impact of Elections on G-8 Summit
5	Special Envoy Harry Johnson's Travel to Khartoum
5	UN Sanctions
6	US Position on Sales of Food and Medicine
6	Nothing New on US-North Korea Talks.
6	Preparatory Talks in Rome were on May 31
6	Amb. Dennis Ross remains in the Middle East
6, 9	Amb. Ross' Meetings with Israeli and Palestinian Leaders and
6	Secretary Albright's Travel
7	President Khatami's Remarks on the UN
8	Reconstruction Aid
9	De-mining Aid


DPB #65


MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, and welcome back on this fine Monday to the arctic conditions of the State Department briefing room. I'd like to start off today by welcoming to the Bureau of Public Affairs our new Director of the Office of Regional Media Outreach, Kathie Scarrah, who is joining us today. Kathie came from Senator Lieberman's office, where she was Director of Broadcast Communications for 11 years, and we are extremely pleased to have her on board our public affairs team. And I'm sure many of you will work with her in the coming weeks and months in terms of media outreach and interview requests.

Just to remind people of the notice we posted on Friday that the Vice President, Vice President Gore, will meet with officials of the Iraqi National Congress at the Department of State today. The meeting is going to take place from 4:30 to 5:00 p.m., and following that meeting a Senior State Department Official will hold a background briefing for the press at 5:00 p.m. here in the State Department briefing room.

And with that, Mr. Gedda, we'll turn to your questions.

QUESTION: Any comment on the Zimbabwean election? The international observer team says the elections could hardly be described as free and fair.

MR. REEKER: Yes, I've seen a number of comments that have come out. We've seen the various reports of high voter turnout, in the neighborhood, I believe, of around 60 percent of registered voters. We've also seen reports that the election was relatively peaceful with relatively few incidents of intimidation or violence reported.

We do commend the Zimbabwean people for their strong democratic participation in these elections, and we call on the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure a very transparent vote count, which is taking place now. I'm going to refrain from commenting further on the elections until the results are announced but, as we noted Friday, we feel that election monitors and our Embassy in Harare dispatched several teams of observers throughout Zimbabwe over the weekend with those elections.

QUESTION: Same general area. Anything new on the Cuban doctors?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new on that. I haven't seen if they have been turned over to UNHCR control yet. But we'll be happy to try to check into that if you can't get an answer from UNHCR.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how - what your monitors reported back from the elections in Zimbabwe? Did they get the access that they required or requested?

MR. REEKER: I believe that the accesses, as we discussed a bit Friday, was given. The monitoring teams went out throughout Zimbabwe over the weekend. As I noted, our reports as well as the press reports suggested there was a very high voter turnout, which is a positive thing, and that the election was relatively peaceful with few incidents of intimidation or violence being reported.

QUESTION: So there weren't any incidents of the monitors being prevented from entering polling stations or

MR. REEKER: None that I've seen, no. Other questions.

QUESTION: You said something about this morning - I guess I missed the beginning, the opening - is the Vice President also seeing the Armenian president?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I believe that Vice President Gore, after meeting with the Iraqi group, will meet here at the State Department around 5:30 p.m. with Armenian President Kocharian.

QUESTION: And the coverage?

MR. REEKER: We will have to check on coverage. He is going to host a dinner for the president this evening here at the State Department, and so for further information you'd want to check with the Vice President's office on that.

QUESTION: Why is Mr. Gore coming over here? Is he Acting Secretary of State?

MR. REEKER: No. I think it's often the case that the Vice President hosts foreign leaders here at the State Department. I know often when there are state visits the Vice President's role is done here, usually using the eighth floor.

QUESTION: On Indonesia, do you have anything on Indonesia declaring today, or yesterday, a state of emergency in the Maluku Islands?

MR. REEKER: I did see those reports indicating that the government had declared a civil emergency in the Malukus. We haven't gotten confirmation of those reports from our Embassy, but other reports from the Embassy and from the press indicate that at least 50 people have died and as many as 200 have been injured during the lastest clashes in Ambon, the capital of the Maluku province.

We are deeply concerned, as we've indicated before, by the intensifying cycle of violence and retaliation between Christian and Muslim communities in the Maluku provinces. We are especially troubled by the fact that security forces have proven either unwilling or unable to stop the violence. And we have been urging the Government of Indonesia to take immediate and effective measures to prevent further bloodshed.

In particular, I want to note that the government should prevent organized groups from initiating attacks and stop extremists from outside areas from inflaming the situation and engaging in violence. So we had welcomed President Wahid's declaration of a ban on travel by outsiders to the Malukus, and we hope that the government is able to take immediate measures to enforce the ban.

And as I indicated, we've seen the reports that they had declared a civil emergency, so we're calling on all parties to show restraint and refrain from violence there.

QUESTION: It's not time, as far as the United States is concerned, to urge the UN or any regional groups to take any military action in the Malukus?

MR. REEKER: I think as I indicated, we're urging the government, and we've been doing so for some time, to take immediate measures. We've seen these reports that the Indonesian Government has declared a civil emergency in the Malukus and we welcome President Wahid's steps last week to try to tone down the violence there. And we are urging all parties to that to show restraint, to cease the violence, which doesn't lead to any sort of solution in the Malukus.

QUESTION: Do you think, Phil, that it's a matter of unable or unwilling? Which is the side that the United States would come down on with regard to the armed forces of Indonesia?

MR. REEKER: I think I indicated that we were troubled by the fact that some security forces have proven unable or unwilling. I'm not making a particular judgment on which it is. I'm unable to do that. But there's a problem there, and we're calling on the government to do everything they can to cease the violence, to make sure that violence stops there. And, of course, the parties who are responsible for the violence need to stop and need to seek other ways of dealing with their problems.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary declared today in Warsaw, Poland, that "We can not secure our future without democracy." How this apply in the case of Greece, since US individuals in the most recent days are undermining the political institutions and the democracy of Greece in the name of terrorism?

MR. REEKER: I take great umbrage at your statement. I disagree with that completely. As far as the Secretary's statement on democracy at the conference, the transcript is readily available. In terms of views of democracy in Greece, I would refer you to our human rights report if you're interested, and I have nothing further for you.

QUESTION: A well-known British author in Germany, Christopher Heitzen, in his editorial of the last issue of the national magazine criticizes as hysterical the recent campaign against Greece in the name of terrorism and pointed out, "So -- (inaudible) - could be right in implying that November 17 is a cover operation rather than a revolutionary movement. One does not wish to license paranoid thinking or the conspiratorial mentality, but now that -- (inaudible) - has forced us to ask the question he ought in all fairness to -- (inaudible) - is answer it, too."

Any comment?


QUESTION: What is your comment about Japanese election?

MR. REEKER: Sure. I think some of you called over the weekend and talked to one of our spokespeople. All I can say is we look forward very much to continuing our close work with the Japanese Government for a successful G-8 summit and on the many other challenges of the 21st century that we deal with together. We have excellent cooperation with the Japanese Government on a range of bilateral issues, a very positive relationship in terms of our bilateral economic, political and security issues, as well as a range of third country issues such as Indonesia and North Korea. And we congratulate all the successful candidates in the Japanese election.

QUESTION: The trade minister lost his post in the elections. Will that make it harder or easier to complete some negotiations before the summit, like the NTT?

MR. REEKER: Well, it would be inappropriate for me to discuss or speculate on the Japanese democratic process or any individual results of those elections. I think, as I indicated, we look forward to continuing our very strong relations with Japan and with the Japanese Government and expect a successful G-8 summit, as well as continuing successful work on a number of other issues.

QUESTION: A couple of things. The Russians have detained a Lithuanian. They say he's been spying for the United States. Is this true?

MR. REEKER: I saw the story, and I have nothing for you on that. As you know, we never comment on alleged intelligence matters.

QUESTION: Another one. There's been a lot of speculation about a possible new approach to the Western Sahara, and former Secretary Baker has been working on this. How does the United States feel about this? Are you deeply committed to the UN referendum idea, or are you open to other ideas?

MR. REEKER: I know that we've been strongly supportive of the UN process, and as you noted, former Secretary of State Baker is a UN Envoy for Western Sahara. I don't have any particulars for you. I'd be happy to check into that and see if we had taken any specific positions other than supporting the UN process in that.

QUESTION: There are reports that the United States has contacted Sudan over the weekend and at least Khartoum is speculating that this may be more - another facet of the warming relations with states of concern. Do you have any comment on that and whether there is any movement on the US position on sanctions?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything specific on contacts over the weekend. I think we've had contacts. Harry Johnson was there recently on his second trip, traveled to Khartoum from June 12th through 14th, and had consultations later in Kenya and other places. He was there, as we've discussed before, to strengthen the Sudan peace process, to press for human rights improvements and to urge increased access for humanitarian supplies.

In terms of the sanctions position, we do not support the lifting of sanctions until the Government of Sudan takes concrete, verifiable steps to end its support for terrorist groups. This is a direct reflection of the UN Security Council Resolution 1044, 1054 and 1070, which set specific requirements which Sudan has not fulfilled.

The sanctions were imposed, as you know, in January of 1996 as a result of the Sudanese Government's continuing support for terrorism. The resolutions called on Sudan to take action to extradite to Ethiopia three suspects in the 1995 attack on the Egyptian president, which took place in Addis Ababa, and to stop assisting, supporting and facilitating terrorist activities.

Sudan has not turned over or accounted for the suspects in the attack on President Mubarak, and we have not yet seen evidence that it has taken convincing steps to end its support for terrorist groups.

QUESTION: The Vice President with the meeting, the Iraqi opposition this afternoon.


QUESTION: What is the purpose of this meeting?

MR. REEKER: Well, a senior delegation of the Iraqi National Congress arrived over the weekend and they're going to meet the Vice President this evening, late this afternoon, here at the State Department, as I indicated. They're also going to meet Acting Secretary of State Pickering tomorrow afternoon.

I think the best thing is to be here for the background briefing today at 5:00, and you can get a lot of details on their visit.

QUESTION: On Cuba, the legislation to allow unrestricted sales of food and medicine to Cuba is coming to a head, perhaps this evening. And I just wonder whether the Administration has taken a position on that.

MR. REEKER: Well, I think the bottom line is we have to await the amendment's final language to determine how it might be used within the broader context that we've talked about previously. I don't have a specific position for you on that.

QUESTION: Do you have an announcement on the US-North Korea missile talks?

MR. REEKER: No, I don't have an announcement yet. We still expect that to take place soon - the announcement. You'll recall that May 31st was when we had the preparatory round of talks in Rome, and at that time we said we would continue working on coming up with a date, and we'll have an appropriate announcement at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: Questions on where two people are. Is Dennis back yet?

MR. REEKER: No, Dennis remains in the Middle East preparing for the Secretary's arrival there tomorrow evening. And?


MR. REEKER: Strobe Talbott, I believe, is on vacation.

QUESTION: On Dennis Ross, can you tell us whether he is reporting that the parties are closer to reaching a stage at which a summit might be possible?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I'm going to be able to sort of categorize as much as I'm sure you would like. As I indicated, he is continuing his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and negotiators. He met with Chairman Arafat today. He will continue this intensive round of negotiations in preparation for the Secretary's arrival tomorrow, and he is going to remain in the region through the Secretary's visit.

As we've discussed for some time now, one of the objectives of the Secretary's visit will be to determine if we have a basis, if we've reached the point where there is a basis to have a summit, or if more work is necessary. And so that's where we'll proceed tomorrow.

QUESTION: Did you say that he would stay in the region after the visit, or just until the visit?

MR. REEKER: I don't know his plans through the visit. The Secretary, as you know, will be there until Thursday and we'll just have to see what his plans are after that.

QUESTION: Any response to the report that came out, I believe by the AP over the weekend, saying that Americans abroad are constantly the subject of attempts to gather intelligence, and it listed some of the cases?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I saw that specific AP report.

QUESTION: I think it was carried in The Washington Post as well. It was.

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything specific for you on that. I thought you might have been indicating the public announcement we made on Jordan and the Embassy in Amman, but you were talking about intelligence, not


MR. REEKER: Sorry.

QUESTION: It was reported today in Washington Times that Turkish Cypriot demands for autonomy and recognition of the UDI are seriously damaging the planned talks July 5th in Geneva. Any comment?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything particular except that we understand that Secretary General Annan and his special advisor will reconvene the talks on July 5th in Geneva. There was a mandate of the peacekeeping force, the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, which was renewed June 15th for another six months. That's independent of those talks. The UN is going to determine the specific modalities of the talks that take place, but we expect the Secretary General to convene those talks July 5th.

QUESTION: Can you answer my pending question why Secretary of State has decided to replace your overqualified Ambassador to Greece, Mr. Nicholas Burns, with Ambassador Tom Miller in the end of this year?

MR. REEKER: I told you, I think last week, that I had no indication of that; I had never heard of such a thing.

QUESTION: What about in the other question on the contacts between the so- called -- (inaudible) - Mr. Konstantin Mitsotakis and the State Department regarding terrorism in Greece?

MR. REEKER: You indicated a question about Ambassador Sheehan meeting with somebody, and we checked. He has not met with any past or present Greek officials recently.

QUESTION: Do you know when the Department of State defined November 17 as a foreign terrorist organization?

MR. REEKER: I would refer you to the report, the annual report on terrorism.

QUESTION: But there is no "when." That's why I'm asking.

MR. REEKER: If you don't find that under the terrorist organization section, we can check into that at what date it was originally designated such.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Iranian Government or authority's closure of a reformist newspaper?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I read about that, read the report. I think all I can say is that our policy toward Iran hasn't changed. Let me make sure I read you the right thing. We always say that, so

QUESTION: Of course, that was in response to Khatami's comments?

MR. REEKER: Right.

QUESTION: Well, you might as well give us that while you're at it.

MR. REEKER: I definitely had something about this paper. Well, let me tell you broadly, our policies haven't changed and we have offered, as you know, to engage in an official dialogue with Iran in order to address the serious issues which divide us, including Iran's support for opponents of the Middle East peace process, terrorism, and Iran's continuing efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. I think Secretary Albright outlined this extremely well March 17th in the speech that she made here in Washington.

We have no illusions that decades of mistrust between our two countries can be wiped out overnight. We are very prepared to be patient and we're urging all nations, including Iran, to support the Middle East peace process, the goal of which, as you know, is a just and comprehensive, durable peace in the Middle East.

QUESTION: So you weren't disappointed by Mr. - President Khatami's remarks? You're prepared to be patient?

MR. REEKER: I think our position stands. We're prepared to be patient, yes.

QUESTION: On the same subject, the, I guess, Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Victims of Terrorism legislation, which has serious implication for policy on Iran. I wasn't here. You may have commented then. If you didn't and have the guidance still there, could you?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I had anything on that legislation or resolution, but I'd be happy to check into that.

QUESTION: There is some allegation in the Lebanese papers that United States is preventing Lebanon from having international help to reconstruct in the south.


QUESTION: There is any changing of the US position in that? Is it true that United States is preventing international help?

MR. REEKER: No. In terms of our reconstruction aid for Lebanon, we are in the process ourselves of assessing the needs for Lebanon, including in the south. And at an appropriate time, we're going to consult with Congress, as we normally do, on how best to address those needs. I think, as you know, we very much want to see peace and prosperity returned to Lebanon and we will want to be involved in international efforts to support Lebanon's reconstruction ties.

We need to take into account, of course, Lebanon's ability to meet its responsibilities under the UN Security Council resolution; that is, the Government's responsibility to create a climate of security and stability throughout Lebanon, including in the south. Specifically, the Government of Lebanon needs to reassert authority over all of Lebanon, and that will be a very important consideration for the effective implementation of a donor effort.

We presently have an assistance program for Lebanon that supports $12 to $15 million annually in de-mining, economic assistance and other smaller programs to support civilian control of the military. At this time, we don't have a formal proposal to do more, but we're going to continue to assess the needs and requirements there.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Reeker. Mr. Arafat has spoken in terms of Palestine belonging to the Palestinians and to, any time now, initiate a statehood declaration. And I take it that the US would very much like to see this not happen and that the negotiations would go on without this particular declaration. Is that correct?

MR. REEKER: I haven't seen any particular news there. I think I ran through where we stand right now. Dennis Ross is in the Middle East. He is continuing his meetings with Palestinians and Israelis. The Secretary will arrive there tomorrow. She is going to make a determination whether we're at the point where a summit would be helpful or whether we need to continue working to get to that point.

Our goal, of course, is a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, as I've indicated already. The President has made it very clear that he is prepared to host a summit when the appropriate basis exists, and I think we need to see what happens over the next couple of days and where we go from there.

QUESTION: I take it a declaration of statehood by Palestine would not be helpful?

MR. REEKER: We're going to continue in this process and see what the determination the Secretary is able to make after her visit, and we'll continue that process trying to seek a comprehensive peace for everyone in the Middle East.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the group of Algerian journalists who were brave enough to visit Israel and who have been bitterly criticized at home for going there?

MR. REEKER: I don't, unfortunately. No, I hadn't even seen that report.

QUESTION: Since I could not find an answer about religious ID in DOS report that you referred me the other day, I am wondering, do you consider Mr. Simitis' refusal towards Bishop Christodoulos as an act of religious discrimination and even human rights violation according to your own standard and criteria set out by those reports?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to say on that. We just don't have a position on that.

QUESTION: But that is your criteria.

MR. REEKER: We don't have a position on that.

QUESTION: You don't.

MR. REEKER: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 P.M.)

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