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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #72, 00-07-26

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


Wednesday, July 26, 2000


1-2	Continued Detention of Dr. Saad Ibrahim
2	Sentencing of Independent Journalist to Jail Term
2-3	Secretary Albright's Travel to Bangkok /ASEAN Meetings
7	Prospects for Secretary Albright Meeting North Korean Foreign Minister
3	Russian President Putin Meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Aziz
3-5	Fujimori Inauguration on July 28 / US Representation
5	Talks on International Parental Child Abduction
5-6	Reported Breakdown of Talks Between Government and Rebels in Geneva
6,7	Next Steps in the Israeli-Palestinian Talks
6-7	Spokesman Boucher's Nomination Hearing for Public Affairs Assistant
7-8	Planned Protest March in Havana
8	Situation in Maluku Provinces


DPB #72

WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2000, 1:30 P.M.


MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to the State Department. It looks like everybody must be out playing in the nice weather. Ah, here they all come. Welcome back. It's good to have everybody back down here after your sojourn to Thurmont, Maryland.

I just wanted to start out by pointing out that Dr. Saad Ibrahim continues to be held in Turah Prison without formal charges filed against him in Egypt. He has been detained now for nearly 30 days, and four of his colleagues from the Ibn Khaldun Center also remain in detention without formal charges.

We have raised our grave concerns at the continued detention without charges. We've raised these concerns at every level of the Egyptian Government, and since Dr. Ibrahim is an American citizen our consular officers continue to monitor his treatment and condition. And I just wanted to point out that tomorrow will expire the 15-day period; and it is an opportunity to release Dr. Ibrahim, and we hope that the Egyptian Government will take this opportunity of the expiry of the extension of his original detention to release him so that he can return to his family.

We expect those countries that have endorsed the Community of Democracies Initiative to live up to the principles to which they have committed themselves; that is, the Warsaw Declaration that was signed not that long ago. So we'll be watching that case closely.

I have no other announcements.

QUESTION: On that, has the Secretary taken that up with President Mubarak during any conversations in the last week or so?

MR. REEKER: I'm not aware of that, but we have been raising this through the appropriate channels at the highest levels of the Egyptian Government.

QUESTION: Could you just explain what those channels would be, then?

MR. REEKER: I can't get into the details.

QUESTION: What is "the highest levels of the government" if it's not the president?

MR. REEKER: I think "the highest levels of the government" are fairly clear. There are all kinds of levels that are direct channels from our ambassador, and here in Washington also where we raised that with the Egyptians. I just can't give you any specific readouts on the Secretary's conversations with anybody. I don't have that information.

QUESTION: How is he being treated?

MR. REEKER: Our consular officers have continued to visit him, as I indicated, and monitor his treatment and condition. And I don't have anything specific on that. Our goal and hope is that the opportunity of the expiring of this 15-day period will give the government an opportunity to release him so he can be returned to his family.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Yugoslav journalist who was sentenced to prison for writing stories that the Belgrade didn't like?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any specifics. I just saw the wire story on that regarding the sentencing of - actually the judge sentencing independent journalist Filipovic, who was a correspondent for the Independent Belgrade Daily Danas to a jail term. This is, of course, in keeping with the Milosevic regime's typical attitude to try to muzzle Serbia's independent media by seizing or shutting down facilities, by expelling foreign journalists, and threatening or even beating those brave enough to report the truth amongst their own journalist core. It's typical of the Milosevic regime's abandonment of constitutional principles.

As we know, their special police have raided NGOs, have raided independent newspapers and other media outlets. False and trumped-up charges have been brought against political opponents as well as journalists. This kind of intimidation is what is clearly reflected by the Milosevic regime, and I think Yugoslavs themselves can simply reflect on where he has taken their country and what they held as important parts of their constitutional regime, including independent journalism, have been decimated by the rancid Milosevic regime.

Other than that, I don't have specifics beyond what we've seen in the press reports of that charge.

QUESTION: Could you tell me a little bit about Secretary Albright's agenda in Bangkok: what she hopes to achieve, what her goals are?

MR. REEKER: Well, as you know, Secretary Albright is on her way to Bangkok. I spoke with Mr. Boucher, who is with the party. They have landed in Hawaii where they have a layover for crew rest and refueling, and then they will continue on to arrive in Bangkok early Friday morning local time.

I don't have specifics on the details of that trip and the plans there. Those are being worked out even as we speak and they will be announcing those from the traveling party. As I get things this afternoon, we should be able to put those out for you.

Obviously, the Secretary will be attending the ASEAN regional forum which meets every year and is something the Secretary has participated in every year as Secretary. This is a chance for the United States, as a dialogue partner with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to meet in this post-ministerial conference, as its known, to discuss a variety of issues -- economic issues, political and security issues, issues of mutual concern and global issues -- in a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings. And I just don't have a specific readout for you of this.

QUESTION: Why do they call it a post-ministerial meeting?

MR. REEKER: Well, the ASEAN organization, the Association for Southeast Asian Nations, which includes I believe ten members, meets every year in their own ministerial, and then they have a series of ten dialogue partners which meet at the post-ministerial meeting, the so-called ASEAN regional forum.

QUESTION: Vladimir Putin is meeting with Tareq Aziz today. Do you have any reaction? And are you in any way concerned that Mr. Putin might be pursuing a strategy of cultivating "states of concern"?

MR. REEKER: In fact, I've seen some of the reports that have come out from that meeting. We have made clear, I think in the past, and continue to do so, our view that we don't believe UN Security Council members, or anyone for that matter, should be receiving senior Iraqi Government officials.

We've also made it clear that Iraq should be reminded of its obligations to fully comply with UN Security Council resolutions and, in fact, I believe we expect very much that the Russian Government will make clear that in any contacts they're having with Iraqi officials that the roots of the current confrontation with Iraq and the sanctions and the UN Security Council resolutions there are in Baghdad's nine-year-long refusal to meet its UN obligations and in, more recently, its challenges to the no-fly zones. So we're looking to Moscow to press Iraq to comply fully with its obligations under the relevant Security Council resolutions, and I think if you refer to the wire reports I've seen coming after that meeting, that in fact is what President Putin has done.

QUESTION: Was there any contact between the Russian Government and the State Department about their intentions, whether they were in fact going to do this?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any information specifically on that. I can check into that for you. I know that Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott was expecting to meet with Foreign Minister Ivanov in Bangkok today, and obviously we have a continuous dialogue with the Russians on all kinds of matters. I think we've made our point fairly clear -- if not from this podium in the last two weeks since we haven't been briefing here, but in other discussions -- on how we feel about that. And in looking at the wire reports that are just coming out now from President Putin's meeting with Tareq Aziz, it appears that President Putin in fact made the points to him that we've been saying about compliance with Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: Peru? There is in progress perhaps the largest protest, they're saying, in 25 years against Fujimori's reelection, and including arrest of demonstrators and apparent crackdown on the press. Are we saying anything about this in line with our waiting to see what the OAS does about Fujimori?

MR. REEKER: In general, let me first say that we're urging all parties in the political process in Peru to cooperate towards the national dialogue we've been discussing and agreement of an effective agenda for democratic reform. As you know, Fujimori is going to have an inauguration on the 28th. That would be Friday, I believe. The United States Government has decided against sending any representation from Washington to attend that ceremony in Lima. The US Ambassador to Peru, John Hamilton, who is resident of course in Lima, will attend that.

As you know, we fully support the conclusions of the OAS electoral observation mission that the electoral process that we discussed at length some time back was not free and fair, failed to meet internationally recognized standards. We're going to work with the Fujimori Government as long as it meets its commitment to the OAS to reform democracy and strengthen democracy. The OAS outlined a number of recommendations for strengthening democracy, including a reform of the judicial system and the electoral system and a number of measures to enhance protection of human rights, freedom of expression, and steps that he will take to ensure civilian control of the intelligence services and the military.

The Government of Peru endorsed the recent Warsaw Declaration which we talked about earlier in terms of affirming a full commitment to free and fair elections as a basis of authority and legitimacy of government, and that's the direction we want to see things go there.

QUESTION: We are considering it a protest both that no one is coming from Washington but our Ambassador is attending? Or are we not making a statement that we don't want to attend?

MR. REEKER: Our Ambassador will be attending, our Ambassador who is resident in Lima, and that will be one of the lowest-profile representations at the inauguration. Most other governments in the hemisphere will be sending people from their capitals.

QUESTION: I see a report here that says most Latin American presidents at least are not going.

MR. REEKER: You'd have to ask those countries specifically. We don't coordinate their presence, but we are not sending - we made a decision not to send anyone from our capital.

QUESTION: Do you feel that's a strong enough statement? Do you feel that that is a strong statement against his --

MR. REEKER: I think that's the decision we decided was the correct decision to make. If we have an Ambassador, a resident in Lima who is following very closely the developments there in terms of holding the Fujimori regime to the commitments they made to the OAS in terms of the direction we want to see things go there, the reforms that need to take place, and that's what we're going to be watching very closely and reviewing all aspects of our relationship with Peru in terms of responding appropriately if those commitments are not held to.

QUESTION: I just want to follow up, though. But by sending the Ambassador, by sending anybody, isn't that kind of a message that we're here to support you during your inauguration?

MR. REEKER: I think what I just said was that we had a number of concerns about this. We've followed a process with the OAS, but we're going to work - -

QUESTION: Is the OAS sending a delegation?

MR. REEKER: You'd have to check with them. I don't know specifically. The OAS members I know are expected to send various delegations at various levels, and I just don't have a readout of those specifics.

But what I'm saying is we have said that we will work with the Fujimori Government as long as it meets it commitment to that OAS reform plan and strengthening of democracy that's been outlined and which they have committed themselves to doing. So our Ambassador attending was deemed the appropriate level to do that, and we are not sending a delegation from Washington which would have been sort of the more standard traditional approach to a presidential inauguration.

QUESTION: But if we're working with them as long as they conform to the OAS guidelines, is sending the Ambassador an endorsement that they are complying?

MR. REEKER: That's exactly what the Ambassador will be watching. This is a process that we want to see fulfilled in the coming weeks and months. It's not a yes-or-no situation. The OAS mission went there. They came back with some very strong language and reports which outlined a series of things that we think - recommendations for reform and strengthening of democracy. That's what we want to see happen because our goal is to see democracy strengthened in Peru so that we don't have the type of problems that we saw in terms of the electoral process that we recently discussed.

QUESTION: Do you have any details of the meeting of the German American expert group on child abduction which met for two days this week?

MR. REEKER: I don't have those details, and I know that was taking place and I spoke with our Bureau of Consular Affairs and they were going to try to get me a readout of those meetings. So if you'd like to check back we may have something later today, or certainly tomorrow I can be prepared to talk about them.

QUESTION: The peace talks failed in Geneva between representatives of the second largest rebel group of Colombia, the ELN, and Colombian negotiators. I was wondering what effect you see this is going to have on the region.

MR. REEKER: I've seen those reports of that. I had understood that the representatives from the Government of Colombia were meeting in Geneva with representatives of the National Liberation Army, the ELN, as well as some civil society NGOs, to pursue a round of peace talks. We have welcomed the developments in Colombia that helped them move toward peace and national reconciliation and we, as you know, remain a staunch supporter of President Pastrana in Colombia and his personal commitment to end the 40 years of internal conflict in Colombia.

Obviously, peace talks require compromise from both sides in negotiations and, as we've done before, we'll continue to call upon all combatants to move to humanize the conflict immediately and abandon attacks in areas where civilians may be killed or injured, and certainly to cease the practice of kidnapping and recruiting child soldiers, which is another topic we've discussed at length from here.

QUESTION: Sorry I'm late, and if this is repetitive please tell me. Have you gotten into the peace talks, the so-called collapse yesterday?

MR. REEKER: I won't be getting into that, Bill, because I think the President, the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor Mr. Berger, a senior official giving a background briefing from this podium yesterday, all have covered everything there is to say at this point about that. So I don't think I have anything to add to their comments.

QUESTION: We understand perhaps that the peace process is in another hiatus and that there will be a follow-up soon, according to announcements. Could we look at it that way, as another pause?

MR. REEKER: I think if you again reflect on what the President said yesterday, he talked about the leaders going back to the region - that's what's what they've done, they've just arrived there within the last few hours - to reflect and review the accomplishments that were made at Camp David. We're going to continue to help. We have a trilateral statement that was released yesterday that makes various points, and I would just refer you to those documents and to the briefings that I mentioned already. We'd be happy to provide you with transcripts.

QUESTION: Well, my question simply reflects what was said yesterday. Thank you.

MR. REEKER: Anything else?

QUESTION: Just to point out that Richard Boucher made it through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning - (applause) - concerning his appointment as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. The vote was 9 to 8. A lot of the negative votes came from senators who thought he was too forthcoming at Thurmont.


MR. REEKER: We'll be sure to relay that on to Honolulu, George.

QUESTION: Yes, I am kidding, but the first part is serious. The first part is serious; he did make it through.

MR. REEKER: Thank you for that news. We will pass that on to Richard.

QUESTION: Do you mean the Senate?

MR. REEKER: That was the Foreign Relations Committee, and now we'll wait for the appropriate next step.

QUESTION: Can you tell if there are any plans being discussed for a meeting between Secretary Albright and the North Korean Foreign Minister?

MR. REEKER: Yes. As we announced yesterday, we have agreed to hold a meeting between the Secretary and the North Korean Foreign Minister while in Bangkok, while they're both in Bangkok for the ASEAN regional forum. We're in touch with them regarding a time and a place for such a meeting, and I just don't have the details yet. I would expect the traveling party to release that any time now. They were waiting for confirmation. And so if you check back with the Press Office later this afternoon we ought to have that, or your colleagues who are traveling with the Secretary may file that from Honolulu.

QUESTION: I was just going to say that a lot of people are not traveling. If the Press Office could help us just so that we can alert our desks, that would be very helpful.

MR. REEKER: Sure. I mean, as soon as we have it from Honolulu, we'll bring it over and get that out.

QUESTION: How long is the layover?

MR. REEKER: It was enough hours to make me jealous that I'm here with you all, but here I will remain. Thank you. Oh, excuse me, sorry.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on the previous one, the Mideast. Do we have a timetable yet as of who is going to the - which US official would be going and when and all that?

MR. REEKER: I have nothing to announce. As I said, the leaders have just returned to their appropriate homes and we will be waiting and reflecting upon the statements of the President and the Secretary.

QUESTION: I also wanted to ask about Cuba. Today there was a big march in Havana, up to a million people, at least that's what the Cubans are saying. It was led by Fidel Castro and a lot of the top Cuban leadership, a big protest in front of the US Interests Section there in Havana.

Do these protests have any effect on US policy towards Cuba, and do you read anything important into the fact that it was led by Fidel?

MR. REEKER: I think all of you that have covered this, and certainly all of us that have followed this over the years, will know that the Cuban Government has staged innumerous protests outside the US Interests Section in Havana. Certainly in the past several months there have been many. This one follows the same pattern. We certainly look forward to the day when such staged events are really a thing of the past and when Cuban citizens can freely employ peaceful protests for any cause that they choose.

QUESTION: One more if you don't mind, the Maluku. In Indonesia there were reports, last week at least, that Indonesian soldiers had taken the side of the Muslims and that the police had taken the side of the Christians. And it sounds more and more like some kind of UN action is needed, and there is such a movement afoot.

Where does the US stand on that?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any further news for you than we did last time you raised this question, Bill, in terms of developments in the Malukus. We've been very clear that that violence needs to stop and parties need to deal with issues through non-violent means. It's not going to accomplish anything. And we've called on the Indonesian Government to exercise its control. They've taken some steps to do that.

But I don't have a specific update for you. But they need to prevent the violence from ongoing and stepping up and deal with this process, deal with these problems in a peaceful way.

QUESTION: Is the US Department of State, the US Government, aware that the military has taken one side, the police another side, and they're shooting it out?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything specific for you on that in terms of details on that. Our Embassy in Jarkarta monitors the situation extremely closely, and I'll be happy to look into anything further we have on developments there for you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 P.M.)

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