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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #125, 00-12-07

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>


1512

U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing

INDEX Thursday, December 7, 2000 Briefer: PHILIP REEKER, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1 Secretary of State's Travel to Hungary to Discuss Regional Concerns, the Upcoming NATO Ministerial Meetings in Brussels, and Bilateral Issues with Hungarian Officials

NATO

1 U.S. Position on NATO Expansion

SUDAN

1-2 U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Khartoum Informed by Sudanese Foreign Ministry that a U.S. Diplomat Assigned to the Embassy in Khartoum has been Declared Persona Non Grata and Must Depart Sudan Within 72 Hours

DEPARTMENT

2-7 Security Assigned to Secretary Albright Upon Her Departure from Office / Security Protection Based on Threat Assessments

IRAN

7-8 U.S. - Iranian Relations / U.S. Remains Concern About Iranian Pursuits on Weapons of Mass Destruction, Support for Terrorism, Opposition to Middle East Peace Process, and Human Rights Record

RUSSIA

8-9 Conviction of American Citizen Edmond Pope on Espionage / U.S. Calls on Russian Government for Release of Mr. Pope and Return to His Family, and Appropriate Health Care

ALGERIA

10 Terrorist Suspect Dahoumane Extradition

YEMEN

10-11 Trial of Suspects Involved in the USS COLE Bombing

AFGHANISTAN

11 UN Resolution Imposing Further Sanctions on Taliban

RUSSIA

12 Meetings of Experts Have Concluded

MIDDLE EAST

13 Travel Warning and Public Announcements for U.S. Citizen Travel Still in Place

GREECE

13 Annual Report on Terrorism

VENEZUELA

13-14 Remarks on Venezuelan Government Support for Radicals in Ecuador and Bolivia / U.S. Welcomes Reports that Venezuela Government States Reports are Not Correct

COLOMBIA

15 Government of Colombia has Agreed to Extend the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - FARC - Demilitarized Zone Until January 31, 2001


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #125

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2000, 1:30 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. REEKER: Welcome back, everyone, to the State Department briefing room, and apologies for the delay this afternoon. It is Thursday. Let me just begin by calling your attention to the statement we released earlier this morning regarding the Secretary of State's travel to Hungary. As you know, Secretary Albright is currently in Africa. She arrived just a few hours ago in Cape Town, South Africa, and we have discussed her Africa itinerary.

Following that, she will be traveling to Europe and visiting Budapest, arriving December 12th. She will be there December 13th, where she will meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi; planning to discuss regional concerns, the upcoming NATO ministerial meetings which will be later next week in Brussels, and bilateral issues with those Hungarian officials. So we can look forward to that.

With that, I will be happy to turn to the questions.

QUESTION: While you're on NATO -- I just came from Carnegie -- several of our friends are still there. One of their recommendations is that there be a delay till at least 2005 considering a new membership -- new members for NATO, and they are talking specifically of the Baltic states. Does the US have a position, a week or so before the NATO meeting, on whether NATO should be further expanded?

MR. REEKER: Well, we have always said that NATO has an open door in terms of potential expansion, but I wouldn't want to make any broad characterizations at this point, Barry. Obviously, as I said, the Secretary will be at NATO late next week for the ministerial meetings there; the Secretary of Defense also has meetings this week at NATO; and we'll just refer to those discussions for any news or development in terms of positions on expansion or specific time tables.

QUESTION: There are reports out of Sudan that a US diplomat was found with seven opposition leaders plotting some kind of an armed uprising. Is there any truth to that, or what details do you have?

MR. REEKER: Well, let me talk about what has happened in Sudan. Our charge d'affaires in Khartoum was informed today by the Sudanese Foreign Ministry that a US diplomat assigned to the Embassy in Khartoum, the Embassy office there, was declared persona non grata and must leave Sudan within 72 hours.

According to the Sudanese Government, this action was taken because the diplomat had engaged in "inappropriate activities" by meeting in Khartoum with members of opposition National Democratic Alliance on December the 6th, yesterday.

We utterly reject the assertion that our diplomat did anything improper or inappropriate. The Sudanese Government never informed us of any restrictions on the ability of our diplomatic personnel to meet with anyone in Sudan. The articles in the Khartoum press suggesting that the meeting was somehow subversive are absolutely absurd and without foundation. The meeting between our diplomat and opposition National Democratic Alliance members involved nothing more than a discussion of the general political situation in Sudan. That is what diplomats do; we meet with people from all walks of life in countries where we are represented to discuss the political situation, to discuss developments in those countries.

This incident, coming just a few days before the Sudanese presidential elections, directly contradicts Sudanese Government claims that Sudan intends to respect basic political freedoms. And the US Government is reviewing appropriate responses to this unwarranted action.

QUESTION: Do they have any diplomats here?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I understand the Sudanese Embassy in Washington has an Ambassador and a small additional presence. I would refer you to their Embassy to get the specific status of who is where.

QUESTION: So will there be any reprisal?

MR. REEKER: Well, as I just said, Barry, we are reviewing appropriate responses for what we see as a completely unwarranted action against our diplomat in Sudan.

QUESTION: Could I ask you about a piece in the Post this morning that Secretary Albright apparently has a need for around-the-clock security for six months -- I suppose government-paid security for six months after she leaves office, that Dave Carpenter has suggested that, you know, this should -- I think it would be unprecedented, but apparently he thinks there is a need for it.

Could you get into that a little bit?

MR. REEKER: Well, let's talk about that situation and that article that appeared in the gossip column of today's Washington Post. It is certainly not a frivolous matter by any means. We are talking about security here. I think Assistant Secretary Carpenter was quoted fairly extensively for that piece, but let's review what he was talking about.

The Department of State has recognized that the protection of outgoing Secretaries for a period of time not to exceed 180 days, as well as anybody named as a designee, a nominee, to the Office of Secretary of State, is both a prudent and a reasonable action. And so subsequently, Congress was requested to enact legislation authorizing such protection, and there is language to that effect in the pending Commerce-Justice-State bill on Capitol Hill.

Let me point out, which I don't think was at all clear in the item in the gossip column, that this was not done at the request of Secretary Albright. This is a proactive measure taken by the Department of State, obviously with the Diplomatic Security Bureau in the lead. It is not intended for any particular Secretary of State or nominee, but rather for a category of officials current and future. It very much mirrors Secret Service language to protect former Vice Presidents that was adopted in 1993. We do work closely with the Secret Service, who supported the concept of extending the authority to review and be able to provide security for an outgoing Secretary for up to 180 days.

I think we all need to focus on the facts of the world we live in, and we certainly talk about a great deal from this podium and in a lot of your reporting the terrorist threats that we often face. We have had Embassy bombings. This decision to protect is based on a variety of variables obviously, but foremost among them is threat assessment, often based on intelligence. It's an intelligence-driven process, and that often indicates that we need to be able to provide assessments and provide security for a longer period of time. We need to be able to make evaluations as to what security may be required to protect former Secretaries of State or, as I indicated and if the language calls for, nominees, prospective people for that job.

And so I really think it is the responsibility of Diplomatic Security, as well as the responsibility of the American people, to provide security for these officials, and that is the language we requested: "for a period not to exceed 180 days." I think Secretary Albright has been a very high-profile leader around the world in the foreign policy arena, and our role in the world and US foreign policy will continue to require Secretaries of State to assume similar positions.

So the vulnerability and the threats don't end automatically upon leaving office, and that is why we think it is very important to have the ability to respond, to evaluate, and to provide necessary security for that additional period.

QUESTION: But it is in a pending -- I mean, there's nothing new here? This has already been given to Congress?

MR. REEKER: That's right. The language is in a bill that is currently on Capitol Hill.

QUESTION: Do you happen to know when the Administration or the State Department first got started --

MR. REEKER: When that bill was submitted? I don't, Barry. I would have to check back. I think, as I said, this is language that mirrors steps that the Secret Service took in 1993 in terms of providing protection and security and the ability to make evaluations of threats and the need for protection for former Vice Presidents, and so we see that as very important.

I would also point out that there is no additional cost involved with this. Any additional costs in providing extended evaluation and protection would be absorbed in the Diplomatic Security budget.

QUESTION: Is this 24-hour, around-the-clock?

MR. REEKER: I can't comment specifically on what security would be provided or would be necessary. What this language does is extends the ability from a current short period for Diplomatic Security to evaluate what threats there may be and what security is necessary. Specifically what that would be, obviously I am not able to predict or conjecture.

QUESTION: You touched on high profile and all. Have there been any special threats, any special alarm? And secondly, of course, would you want us to understand that Mr. Carpenter proposed this without discussing it with the Secretary of State?

MR. REEKER: I certainly would not want to lead you to that view. The Secretary reviews extremely closely any legislation that is proposed and goes up to the Hill. So I couldn't give you a readout on precisely when it was discussed or the particulars of that. I did point out that this was not done -- as I think was implied by some suggestions -- at the Secretary's request. This was done in a proactive manner, looking at the needs that our security experts felt they had.

The first part of your questions -- threats? I think it is fairly obvious that someone in a position like the Secretary of State of the United States does get threats. I am not in a position to talk about specific threats, other than to say that that is often a process in terms of evaluating those. It is driven by intelligence, something that we can't discuss here, but it is based on a variety of variables in terms of meeting the responsibilities we have to provide security for our highest ranking diplomat.

QUESTION: Phil, could you please explain a little bit about the cost? You said that it's not going to be any additional cost, but in this bill is there not a figure?

MR. REEKER: No.

QUESTION: In this legislation there is no figure attached to it?

MR. REEKER: The Department is not requesting any additional funding for this protection.

QUESTION: It's coming out of the Department's budget?

MR. REEKER: Exactly. As I understand it, it comes out --

QUESTION: How much is --

MR. REEKER: Because you can't characterize specifically what the protection will involve, one can't characterize a budget. The Diplomatic Security Bureau has a budget so that they can meet their responsibilities. What the language in the bill calls for is extending the period up to 180 days, a period of time not to extend beyond 180 days, in their ability to provide the necessary security.

So they will have a continuous evaluation of what security threats there may be, what types of security protection the Secretary -- and at that point former Secretary -- would still need, as well, as I said, any nominees who are not yet sworn in.

QUESTION: A couple of follow-ups. One, if DS has no idea how much this is going to cost, how do they know that they have enough money in their budget to cover it?

And, secondly, I seem to remember DS requesting additional funding because they didn't have enough money to beef up the security at various Embassies and Consulates around the world. So explain that.

MR. REEKER: I think you will find in the Commerce-Justice-State bill that budget requests had been made to meet the needs of the Department. We have talked at great length about how difficult and how tight budgets are to meet our needs in terms of conducting our foreign policy, and that obviously includes security. When I spoke to Assistant Security Carpenter about this issue, he discussed the fact that they will be able to meet their needs with the budgets that have been requested.

So they are not asking for any additional money for this. What they need is the authority, under the law, to be able to provide as necessary and make the evaluations necessary to provide the appropriate security. So it is not a question at this point of being able to give a dollar and cents figure to it; they provide security that they need to responsibly. That is what the budget has called for. And I can get you figures in terms of our budget requests this year.

QUESTION: You are saying that Assistant Secretary Carpenter did not give various packages -- if we had six agents, if we had eight agents, if we went 12 hours, if we went 24 hours? He didn't break it down at all for the Congress?

MR. REEKER: Not to my knowledge. I would be happy -- and it is certainly public if you want to explore the bill, which obviously none of you had, because the language has been in there since it was submitted.

QUESTION: Is there normally a time after someone stops being Secretary of State when the State Department provides protection for them?

MR. REEKER: Under current law and current authorization, there is a shorter period in which the Diplomatic Security Services is authorized to provide protection.

QUESTION: Do you know what that period of time is?

MR. REEKER: I believe that is up to 30 days. But obviously it depends on the assessments that are made.

QUESTION: Now, can someone refuse this protection? Could the Secretary say, no, I don't --

MR. REEKER: Sure, I think the protection is obviously at the discretion of the individual involved. What, again, this does is authorizes Diplomatic Security for a period now, as we are proposing, not to exceed 180 days to make those evaluations in terms of what security may be. We think it is prudent; it is forward-thinking to have that extra time, given the circumstances in the world and the profile that our former Secretaries have.

QUESTION: So if -- when the new President -- when we know who the new President is, and that person appoints their Secretary of State, that person will automatically and immediately have security?

MR. REEKER: This new language does call for that, to make nominees or appointees as well eligible, because obviously there is a period there between nomination to the post of Secretary of State and confirmation that wasn't covered by the current Diplomatic Security Service regulations and authority.

QUESTION: Do you expect this bill to pass, and do you expect this -- have you been led to believe that this provision would be accepted by the Congress?

MR. REEKER: I don't have a particular readout. That is for your congressional correspondents in terms of when these bills -- the Commerce-Justice-State bill will be taken up on Congress. Obviously it is something we follow closely in terms of this particular part of the bill. And the language -- I don't understand that there is anything controversial in it.

QUESTION: Excuse me. The request doesn't provide any parameters? I mean, we're familiar with, let's say 18-car motorcades when the Secretary of State travels. You're not suggesting that dimension of protection, are you?

MR. REEKER: I don't believe that a former Secretary of State would require the same protection as a Secretary of State. What I am saying is that is an evaluation that needs to be made by the security experts, just as they do for former Presidents, obviously with their own authority for that, for former Vice Presidents. They would need to make assessments based on intelligence, based on other factors of what is required to responsibly provide for the security of our former Secretaries of State. And that is what we intend to do.

QUESTION: How much is the consideration of the perceived threat from Usama Bin Laden and his crowd? To what degree does that work into this equation?

MR. REEKER: I just can't get into perceived or specific threats in terms of this. Obviously those are threats. There are threats out there. We have seen terrorism at work. I think everybody understands the need to protect our leaders, particularly those that are most visible. And that threat doesn't disappear after people leave office.

Secretary Albright, for instance, has been very high profile around the world. Her face is known. She is a known figure. American foreign policy can be controversial; there are threats; there are a variety of variables that require us to provide security for the Secretary of State. And what we need to be able to do to be prudent and reasonable and to meet our responsibilities is to extend that period so that the evaluations can be made, whatever the threat may be. And the experts do that, and they will provide then the necessary security to counter those threats.

QUESTION: Phil, since you are aware of the language and the law for the Vice President, are you aware of whether or not the Secretary of Defense or the Director of the CIA is covered by similar language?

MR. REEKER: I'm not aware of that, Charlie. I'm sorry. I would have to refer you to those respective offices and agencies.

Anything more on this? Yes, George.

QUESTION: The Deputy Oil Minister from Iran says he expects progress in US-Iranian relations for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with business interests of American oil companies. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. REEKER: I did see some comments -- both today, I think, and yesterday -- from others on that subject. I certainly can't try to predict the future from where I stand, nor would I want to. What I can tell you -- and I don't think there is anything new in this for you -- is that we remain very concerned about a number of Iranian policies. That includes Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile delivery systems; Iran's support for terrorism, including for groups that oppose the Middle East peace process with violence; and also Iran's human rights record.

So obviously, as we have said before, Iran must address these concerns, and the US sanctions regime that is in place with respect to Iran remains in place. So I really can't engage in any speculation about what the future is going to bring. Secretary Albright, I think, outlined our policy towards Iran clearly last March in her speech, March 17th. I just don't think there is anything additional to add.

QUESTION: Phil, you didn't mention the fact that she's reaching out to the Iranians? That was a major part of her March 17th speech.

MR. REEKER: Precisely. And I would refer you back to that speech. We have called for a dialogue with Iran with no preconditions in which we could address -- both sides address these concerns that we have. I just outlined for you the major categories of our concerns regarding Iran, and we have called for that dialogue and we continue to call for that.

QUESTION: But the mantra has changed somewhat, though. You said weapons of mass destruction, support for terrorism. And usually you say efforts to undermine the Middle East peace process, and you didn't include that one.

MR. REEKER: Well, I think -- not to change any mantras -- to the support for terrorism, including for groups opposing the Middle East peace process with violence. That has always been our position.

QUESTION: So you linked the two together?

MR. REEKER: I'm not trying to indicate anything. I think we have basically four things there: weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, not supporting Middle East peace, and human rights.

QUESTION: On Mr. Pope, the head of the presidential commission -- I think it's called -- says that they would look favorably on a pardon. Do you have a reaction to this?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I have certainly seen those press reports that the head of the clemency commission -- I believe his name is Anatoly Pristavkin -- said that the commission will recommend that President Putin pardon Mr. Pope.

I think Ambassador Boucher and others -- my colleagues at the National Security Council -- made very clear yesterday our concern about this in terms of the verdict and sentence that were handed down -- unjustifiable, flat-out wrong. We have said that in the past. We will continue to say that we see no evidence that Mr. Pope violated any Russian laws, and we are very concerned that his health has deteriorated sharply over the past nine months that he has been in prison. We observed that again on Tuesday when we had our consular visit.

So I think, as we have said -- from here, from many places, and in high-level meetings with the Russians -- we are making very clear that they should release Mr. Pope. Yesterday, Secretary Albright spoke with Foreign Minister Ivanov yesterday afternoon before she departed on her trip; raised again our concerns about this verdict, about this sentence, our concerns about his deteriorating health, and our feeling that he should be released and allowed to return home to his family and proper health care.

So I think the Russian Government understands the importance we attach to this situation. We have raised this at the highest levels and will continue to do that and continue to call for his immediate release.

QUESTION: But they haven't notified you? You're still referring to reports? The US hasn't been told officially we're looking at it --

MR. REEKER: Well, again, I believe that the commission there, the head of that clemency commission, made a statement, and that our Ambassador, Ambassador Collins, has been very engaged. Our whole Embassy in Moscow has been very engaged in continuing to press our points and our positions with the Russians. And so I think they are very aware of how we feel on this, and we will be watching for the next steps.

QUESTION: Just for the record, Congressman Weldon yesterday issued a bitter statement. There were several statements of concern, disappointment, restraint, et cetera. But Mr. Weldon apparently decided to attack Collins -- I think everybody else who has had anything to do with the case -- suggesting that the US hadn't tried hard enough to get the Russians to pull back on this.

MR. REEKER: Well, again -- and I think you also know that Congressman Peterson has been in Moscow. He was there; he appeared on a number of television news programs. He had not visited Mr. Pope himself.

Again, Barry, we have raised this at the very highest levels. The President has raised this directly with President Putin; the Secretary obviously has raised it with Foreign Minister Ivanov; Ambassador Collins and his team at Embassy Moscow have been very seized with this. It is an issue of great concern to us. As Ambassador Boucher said yesterday, the whole issue casts a shadow over US-Russian relations.

We have made very clear -- Ambassador Collins, the Secretary, the President -- to Russian authorities that Mr. Pope's health is quite fragile. We want to see him released on humanitarian grounds at the earliest opportunity, and we have worked very actively. And we have appreciated the support of people on Capitol Hill, of Members of Congress, in pushing this. We all want the same outcome: We want to see Mr. Pope released, returned to his family and able to get the medical care that he needs.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary asked specifically for a pardon, asked that a pardon be looked on favorably, as they said? Or is she still talking about other options, simply that he be released?

MR. REEKER: Our call to the Russian Government is that they take action to see that he is released and able to return to the United States to his family and to appropriate health care.

QUESTION: That's understandable, considering his plight, but wouldn't the United States very much want these charges -- the conviction overturned?

MR. REEKER: I think we have said all along that we see no evidence that he has violated any Russian laws. In fact, the inability of his lawyers to introduce evidence at the trial makes the verdict, frankly, hardly surprising. I think we have made our position very clear on that.

What we are most concerned with is Mr. Pope and with his health and with the need for him to be released so that he can return to the United States, to his family, and get health care.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. REEKER: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you confirm reports that an Algerian by the name -- I think it's Dahoumane -- was arrested in Algeria a couple of months back, somebody who is linked to last year's plots -- what the US says were plots to attack some sites in the US?

MR. REEKER: I have seen a number of press reports, and I think you are referring to Abdelmajid Dahoumane. As you know, he is the subject of a US indictment in connection with a planned terrorist attack in the United States last December. In fact, his picture appears on our Rewards for Justice poster, which I think you can find a copy of in the Press Office.

This is an ongoing criminal matter, and I am not able to answer any questions about it. I would refer you to the US Justice Department, who may be able to look into it for you.

QUESTION: In other words, the call is still out there for information leading to his arrest?

MR. REEKER: Our poster is still up. I just don't have any information that I could share with you about it.

QUESTION: On Yemen, Janet Reno said this morning that the State Department is taking the lead on making arrangements for whether and how the US would be involved in the trial next month of at least three, possibly six, suspects. Can you tell us whether --

MR. REEKER: Well, I haven't seen any particular comments from the Attorney General. I think Ambassador Boucher addressed yesterday some of the reports we had seen. And as he said, the investigation into the USS COLE attack is proceeding well, and Yemeni and US investigators, including FBI investigators, are working together on all aspects of the case.

I know what we are aware of is that Yemen intends to bring charges against a number of suspects currently in custody, and we certainly fully support Yemen's right and intention to do so. But I can't confirm any trial dates or I'm not aware of the setting of any dates for trials.

QUESTION: What about any of the involvement of the US in -- now that the MOU is signed and cooperation is more well-structured --

MR. REEKER: Well, as you indicate, Terri -- and we talked about, I guess last week, that we had signed an agreement outlining the modalities of our continued cooperation in the next phases of the investigation. Because we think this is such an important investigation, and we are seeing this through the end, working very closely with our Yemeni counterparts, we haven't been in a position to go into details of those arrangements because it is an ongoing investigation.

So I don't really have anything to add to that, except to say that we are very pleased with the progress that we have had. And we are working together with the Yemenis on all aspects of the case, and we think it is proceeding very well.

QUESTION: What about the possibility of extradition of suspects?

MR. REEKER: Again, I just think it may be premature to get into that, George, right now. As I said, we are aware that Yemen intends to bring some charges, but I don't have anything to confirm trial dates or some of the stories that I have seen in the press that indicates something more at this point. But we will try to keep you posted as much as we can in terms of an investigation that is still ongoing.

QUESTION: Is extradition a possibility? It seems to me I read that there is no extradition agreement? Is that --

MR. REEKER: That is something I would have to check for you. I'm sorry, I don't have that.

QUESTION: In Morocco, it looks like the situation is escalating after the ban of three weekly newspapers, and Moroccan television has reported today the possibility of political crisis among the coalition members of the government. Was there an official reaction at the State Department?

MR. REEKER: I'm sorry, it's not a subject that I am aware of at this point. I will have to look into it for you, but I would be happy to check on that to see if we have anything on it. We can check with our Embassy.

QUESTION: This UN resolution on the Taliban, the arms embargo, what do you see as the chances that this is going to, in fact, go through? How effective realistically will it be? I mean, the other resolutions haven't really done what you wanted them to do. And the third thing on this is, doesn't it in effect actually end up hurting Pakistan, because that's where the arms sort of go through?

MR. REEKER: Well, let's talk about a couple of things. First of all, the resolution imposing further sanctions on the Taliban has been introduced at the Security Council, I believe about 1 o'clock this afternoon. And not to not answer your question, but there is the briefing that the US mission to the United Nation is conducting, I believe, at 2:00, so they may be speaking now. I believe our Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, Ambassador Michael Sheehan, was going to be part of that briefing. So you may want to check with your colleagues up in New York because I think they were expecting a fairly big turnout for that.

The bottom line of this whole situation is that the Taliban have refused to comply with the Security Council Resolution, Resolution 1267, which was unanimously passed last October in 1999, calling upon the Taliban to turn over Usama bin Laden to a country where he could be brought to justice. The United States has worked very closely with Russia and other members of the Security Council, consulting frequently on what else could be done to gain Taliban compliance, since more than a year has passed and they have not complied with that.

So we expect, now that this resolution has been introduced, that the Security Council will once again support these very carefully targeted measures designed to address the continuing terrorist threat posed by the Taliban. And I highlight the fact that the sanctions that are part of these UN Security Council resolutions are carefully constructed not to harm the Afghan people. For example, the flight ban on Ariana Airlines allows exemptions for humanitarian and religious purposes, and ordinary trade continues via overland routes. And we are going to continue working with other Security Council members to ensure that any of the new measures adopted under a new resolution would not harm ordinary Afghans.

I would also note in that line that the international community provides massive humanitarian assistance and relief to the people of Afghanistan, and the United States is the largest donor in that effort, contributing about $113 million so far this year. There was just a meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, where Assistant Secretary Inderfurth participated in coordinating talks on assistance to Afghanistan.

Now, the resolution that is currently in effect, as we said, came about because of the Taliban's harboring of Usama bin Laden and their general support for terrorism. So it is the Taliban who are giving shelter to bin Laden, and we think that this new resolution will also focus obviously on that aspect of it and will include details in terms of restricting arms flow to the Taliban, who continue to harbor this terrorist and continue to support terrorism themselves.

But for any more detail into what the resolution has in it specifically, I don't have a copy with me here. I will refer you to that briefing that is taking place up in New York. And then if we still need more, if there is interest down here in Washington, we can try to get some officials later tomorrow to look at it more closely.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout on the talks in Moscow, the arms talks? The Russians are calling the concept of sanctions as unacceptable and says the US should stay out of internal Russian affairs?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I have seen a number of reports coming out of that. What I can tell you is that the meetings of experts have concluded. The teams had full, frank and comprehensive discussions regarding conventional arms sales, including sales to Iran. Because they will be reporting the results of the discussions to their respective ministers -- and that hasn't taken place yet obviously -- I am just not in a position to go into any great detail of the meetings. I just haven't had the readouts.

We are going to continue discussions with the Russians on the issue and range of arms transfers, including those to Iran. It is obviously something that we watch very closely.

QUESTION: You mean a series of talks like this? I mean, they're setting up another meeting, or --

MR. REEKER: I just don't have any readout on what the next steps might be. I know these talks are over. These are the expert-level talks that were agreed to by Secretary Albright and Foreign Minister Ivanov when they met in Vienna back on November 26th to address the mutual concerns on this issue.

QUESTION: Are you leading us to believe there is going to be a robust readout when these folks brief back here?

MR. REEKER: I wouldn't necessarily count on that, George.

QUESTION: I didn't think so.

MR. REEKER: But at this point I can't even give you a timid readout, other than to say that I was told that the teams had full, frank and comprehensive discussions. So for the robustness of it, we may have to just wait and see.

QUESTION: So both sides agree to keep talking about it? I mean, you at least know that?

MR. REEKER: We certainly expect to continue discussions with the Russians. As you know, we have a very broad and complex relationship with the Russians, and this is one of the areas. And I just don't have more details at this point.

QUESTION: The travel warning and the security advisory over several US missions in the Middle East -- is it still on, the travel warning?

MR. REEKER: Yes, the travel warnings and the Public Announcements that are in place are still on. They usually have expiration dates, or when they are changed, updated or removed, then a new one is released to note that.

QUESTION: And also a Greek terrorist threat to US interests and the facility. Do you think the Greeks take the proper precautions to protect the US facility?

MR. REEKER: I would just refer you to our Annual Report on Terrorism. I don't have any specific --

QUESTION: You don't know -- you don't have anything new?

MR. REEKER: No. That report is really the most comprehensive view of our picture globally of terrorist threats.

QUESTION: President Chavez of Venezuela says there is an effort being led by world power centers, or words to that effect, link him to anti-democratic elements in neighboring countries -- Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador. Do you have any comment on those?

MR. REEKER: We talked a little about this yesterday. I think Ambassador Boucher addressed it in light of some press reports, and I thought addressed it fairly plainly. But I understand that some of the Latin American press perhaps took even Ambassador Boucher's comments completely out of context.

Some remarks were quoted in an American newspaper, I believe yesterday. Those remarks were made informally in response to questions about reports that are out there, that all of you have probably seen or are aware of, regarding this issue. And what our official said, as Ambassador Boucher noted, was that the remarks were referring to reports from third parties, not reports from the United States Government.

What we said at the time -- and I will repeat it again today -- is that we have seen those reports and are looking into them. We cannot confirm them. They aren't our reports. They were issues, as the official indicated, that would be of concern to us, but we certainly couldn't confirm them.

Let me say today that we very much welcome the statements from Venezuelan Government officials that these reports were not correct. And I will reiterate also what Ambassador Boucher said yesterday, and that is that we believe that the types of issues described in these reports are best dealt with, best handled, bilaterally between the two countries involved, and we certainly would encourage bilateral consultations in this case.

But I hope the people are able to listen to what I just said and understand fully that when an official responds to a question about reports that we may all be familiar with, and simply says we're familiar with them, the reports themselves may be of concern to us. That doesn't mean that they are our reports, because in this case they are not US Government reports. They are third-party reports, and it does not mean that we are confirming them. It simply means exactly what was said, that we look into these things like we do all the time. Often you are the people that ask us to look into these things.

Again, the Venezuelan Government has said that the reports are not correct, and we are very pleased to hear that from them and believe that such issues as described in those reports should be handled bilaterally and we would certainly encourage them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. REEKER: Thanks. Oh, I'm sorry. Let's just not jump the -- yes?

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction about President Pastrana's decision to go on with the peace talks with FARC? He made the decision last night.

MR. REEKER: Is this the extension of your question from yesterday?

QUESTION: Yes, but -- no, no, no.

MR. REEKER: About the demilitarized zone?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. REEKER: We checked into that, and we do understand that the Government of Colombia has agreed to extend the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- that is, the FARC -- demilitarized zone, or despeje until January 31st , 2001. Obviously we think that the Government of Colombia must be free to make its own decision on what will yield progress in the peace process, and we welcome developments that help Colombia move towards peace and national reconciliation.

QUESTION: Even if it is confirmed that the FARC are having kidnapping and all kinds of things in the area -- the despeje area?

MR. REEKER: Again, we think that the Government of Colombia needs to make its own decisions, and that is what they do in terms of steps that they think will yield progress in the peace process. And any developments that help Colombia move toward that, we very much welcome.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. REEKER: Okay.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 P.M.)

[end of document]

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