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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-03-29

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>


DAILY BRIEFING

Richard Boucher, Spokesman

Washington, DC

March 29, 2001

INDEX:

STATEMENTS

1,11-12 IBM Lawsuit and Opening of Holocaust-era Corporate Archives

1 Fiji: Trial of George Speight and Accomplices Will Proceed

MIDDLE EAST

1-5 Secretary Powell's Call to Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat

1,4,5 Israeli Air Strikes Against Palestinian Targets in Gaza and the West Bank

5-6 US Role in Peace Negotiations

6 Secretary Powell's Contacts with Israeli Government

6-7 Bilateral Security Cooperation Between Parties

CYPRUS

7 Special Cyprus Coordinator Position

YUGOSLAVIA (SERBIA)

8 Status of US Aid Certification Decision

CHINA

9-10 Update on Gao Zhan Case

FRANCE

10 Reported Arrest of US Citizen Suspected in Killing of Doctor

DEPARTMENT

11 Reported Criticism of US Foreign Policy by Allies

JAPAN

12 Former POWs' Claims Against Japanese Companies Seeking Compensation

For Forced Labor During World War II

COLOMBIA

12 Reported Visa Requirements for Colombian Nationals Transiting the US to Third Countries


TRANSCRIPT_:

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are putting out two statements today. One is on the IBM law suit, and I think you've seen that already, on the motions to dismiss and the opening of the archives. The second is we'll be putting out a statement shortly to tell Mr. George Speight and his accomplices that they should not plan on traveling to the United States in the future. And you'll get the details of that -- that's Fiji -- later.

And now I'd be glad to take your questions. And the answer to your first question is --

QUESTION: He made the phone call?

MR. BOUCHER: -- yes.

QUESTION: I realize that everyone wants to talk about the Middle East, but on the Speight thing?

MR. BOUCHER: Happy to.

QUESTION: Or we can do it later. I don't care. What do you mean, they shouldn't plan on traveling to the US anytime soon? Are you going to kill them if they show up, or something?

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: Secretary of State Powell has reviewed the conduct of Mr. Speight and those involved in a hostage taking in Fiji. These people should understand that they can no longer travel freely to the United States. Those who are not already ineligible for a US visa under our terrorist exclusion because of their role in the hostage taking should expect their visa applications to be carefully reviewed with a presumption of denial under the Secretary's foreign policy authority.

QUESTION: Okay. That's the semi-mythical visa blacklist that the US has? This means that they're -- I know it doesn't exist, but it's the equivalent of that?

MR. BOUCHER: That's right.

QUESTION: Okay, he made the phone call.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: And the Chairman said?

MR. BOUCHER: I think --

QUESTION: No, anything you can tell us about the phone call.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let me tell you what I can. The Secretary, as the President asked him to, as the President said he would, the Secretary of State called Chairman Arafat mid-morning our time, shortly after the press conference, I believe it was. The basic message was the one the President expressed so eloquently himself: stop the violence. The Secretary made quite clear that was our goal, that was our view, that there were things that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority needed to do to stop the violence. And that was the tenor of the phone call.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about what the Chairman said?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't, really. I haven't actually had a chance to talk to the Secretary since the phone call occurred.

QUESTION: But you will be releasing a full transcript of the conversation, won't you?

MR. BOUCHER: As much as we normally do.

QUESTION: The understandable language.

MR. BOUCHER: As much as we normally do.

QUESTION: Richard, among the things that the Secretary might have asked him to do, was putting a call out in Arabic to his people to stop the violence one of them?

MR. BOUCHER: As the President said this morning, there are a number of things we think the Palestinian Authority should be doing, and one of those is to make the very clear call, a very clear statement, in public and in Arabic. This was discussed before. The Secretary discussed it when he was in Ramallah. The Secretary and the President have both talked about it before. So, yes, that is one of the things we think the Palestinian Authority should do, together with arresting terrorists, preempting attacks that they might be able to find out about, and following up to bring perpetrators to justice.

So all these things need to be done, and we are quite clear on that. Which ones specifically the Secretary raised in the phone call, I'm afraid I can't specify because I haven't had a chance to go through it with him.

QUESTION: An aide to Chairman Arafat, Abdel Rahim, is saying that the United States gave the Foreign Minister the green light for the attacks on the Palestinian headquarters. Do you have any response to that?

MR. BOUCHER: That's wrong. It's just plain wrong. We didn't know about it until the attacks had started. Foreign Minister Peres called, I believe, after the attacks had occurred just to tell us what was going on.

QUESTION: Richard, the message that you said that the President had expressed quite eloquently -- stop the violence -- that is the exact message that Secretary Powell gave to Chairman Arafat, yes?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Because that would imply that the United States believes that Arafat has kind of an on-off switch that he can turn. Is that what you are trying to get at here?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that our view on that has changed, that essentially everybody needs to take steps to stop the violence. Chairman Arafat, the Palestinian Authority, need to take these steps. We see things that they need to do that have not been done. We see commitments that have been made that have not been carried out, and therefore it is incumbent upon them to take these steps.

Were they to take these steps and then there was a diminution but not a complete halt of this and that and the other, that would be a different situation. But that is not the situation we are in now. We are in the situation now where, as the President said, we urge Chairman Arafat to stop the violence and call on those over whom he has got influence to stop the violence. We want to see that done, and we believe that can have an effect on the situation.

QUESTION: But you do see a difference between saying stop the violence directly to Arafat and expecting a response, and saying we want you to take steps that could lead to a reduction of the violence?

MR. BOUCHER: As the President said, he can take steps, he can stop the violence, he can exercise influence over people who carry out violence. And we want to see him do that.

QUESTION: Hamas says that it is responsible for some of these attacks. I notice you say, "over those whom he has influence." You're not -- are you suggesting that he has influence beyond the -- you know, his operation, his operators, the Palestinian Authority and the PLO? Does he have influence over Hamas?

MR. BOUCHER: Obviously he is a major figure in the region. He is a major figure for Palestinians everywhere. He is a major figure who is listened to, particularly when he speaks directly to people in the region. I'm not asserting that he has some authority over Hamas, but as with any group that wants to carry out violence, the Palestinian Authority has a need and an obligation for their own sake, as well as for the sake of peace in the region, to arrest people who might be carrying out violence and to make sure that people are brought to justice who do.

QUESTION: I know that this Department has urged to avoid the cycle of action and reaction, but given that most of the comments have been directed towards Arafat, is the US indicating that perhaps this attack on Palestinian facilities yesterday was necessary or justified?

MR. BOUCHER: We have said that we believe Israel has a right to provide for its own security and to protect itself. We have said at the same time that they should exercise restraint. The President said that again this morning, said the Government of Israel should exercise restraint while taking steps to restore normalcy. That was last night's statement, but in any case it was similar to what we said this morning.

So there are things that Israel needs to do. There are things the Palestinian Authority needs to do. We think that each of these parties should be doing things, should be carrying out steps, because the violence is a plague for both of them, is a problem that they both need to resolve. And they both need to take the appropriate steps.

Very clearly the message to Chairman Arafat is that there are things that we want to see him do that he hasn't done. Very clearly the message to the Israelis is that they need to exercise restraint.

Is this a change of subject?

QUESTION: No. In this conversation that was had with Chairman Arafat, was there any discussion of if these things aren't followed, will there be consequences? Has there been a follow-up that as we've made these suggestions that these things need to be done, if they're not done, is the United States ready to make some sort of consequence if it is not?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to say exactly in the conversation how questions like that might have been handled. I just haven't had a chance to get a readout from the Secretary yet, so I'm afraid I can't do that for you.

I think the United States has had a very clear, a very consistent view, and we have continued to urge the parties to do things, but acknowledge that, in the end, the parties have to do these things; the parties have to make the decisions; the parties have to bring peace and seek peace in their region because they're the ones who suffer from violence. So that will continue to be what we urge, what we work for, and what we try to achieve.

The President made quite clear this morning, I think, that our view was that there couldn't be a meaningful progress on peace without an end to the violence, and that's what we're working towards.

QUESTION: But my follow-up would be, if the President has urged the Chairman to do these things and he does not follow through, what is the United States then prepared to do?

MR. BOUCHER: To continue working towards the goal that we've set for ourselves, which is to get a stop to the violence and meaningful progress on peace. There is no alternative. It's very much in our interest to be involved. It's very much in our interest to seek peace. And we'll continue to work for that.

QUESTION: Can I ask -- you've talked in the past about the difficulty that Prime Minister Sharon has in taking steps with all the violence going on, or at least you've talked about the difficulty he has expressed he has. Do you think then that the attack on the Palestinian facilities yesterday increases the difficulty that Chairman Arafat has in taking the steps you would like him to take?

MR. BOUCHER: Clearly for both sides they need to address their own concerns, but they need to seek to address the concerns of others. That's kind of a vague answer, but this situation benefits neither side. Neither the Palestinians prosper in this situation, nor the Israelis. Nobody is confident in their own life, nobody is confident in pursuing discussions in this atmosphere, so it's in both their interests. It's in each of their separate interests, you can say, to pursue this.

And therefore, whatever the difficulties, we continue to urge them to take the steps that are necessary to calm the situation and return to a path of peace. The President made that quite clear. He said, "Prime Minister Sharon assured me that his government wants to move in this direction, and I urge Israel to do so." But we've made quite clear that we think both parties, each of the parties, needs to take these steps in order to gain the benefits of a calmer situation, of relaxed economic pressures, of tax revenues, of whatever else they need in this situation. And nobody gains from this violence.

QUESTION: Richard, this Administration came into office two months ago saying it wanted to kind of stand back from the Middle East in terms of how -- vis--vis the previous administration. Yet, in the last three days, there have been a kind of convergence of events -- the Arab League Summit, the UN vote, the suicide bombings and the Israeli response to that -- which have led to the release yesterday of the taken question, some confusion as to whether the White House was going to even say anything about it. They did, and now the President this morning putting basically what he said last night -- saying it in person in front of cameras.

Have these events increased the urgency with which the United States sees the need for its -- a return or an increase in its own role in the region?

MR. BOUCHER: I think to some extent there is a popular mischaracterization of what this Administration said when it came in. The Administration, as I believe the record shows, has said all along it will be involved in the Middle East, that we have interests there, that we will be engaged, we will be involved. We may be involved in a different way because we are at a different stage and at a different moment in what is going on. Remember, the US change of administration coincided with the Israeli election and the change of government in Israel as well, and the lack of success in the Taba discussion. So at this point, at this stage, we have made clear the US wants to be involved, but perhaps in a different way or at a different moment in the process that we have had in the past.

That being said, I think the general statement can be made that we see igniting a new cycle of violence, a new round of provocation, reaction, counter-reaction, and we are concerned that this not be allowed to spill out of control. And we believe very firmly that it takes action by the parties to prevent it from being allowed to spill out of control, and that is why we think it is important to speak out, speak out clearly and forcefully, and to work very closely with the parties, as well as others in the region, so that people do take the steps necessary to stop this from spinning out of control.

QUESTION: Has the US got a better idea, perhaps in Mr. Peres' call to the Secretary yesterday, whether Sharon is disposed currently to ease the curbs on the Palestinians? He has done some. He has also said how difficult it is to do while Israel is under attack.

Do you have anything from them to suggest them going in any direction or status quo, whatever?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm trying to remember exactly when people spoke to each other. But as you know, the Secretary has talked to Prime Minister Sharon I think twice this week, once on Monday, once on Tuesday. He has talked to Foreign Minister Peres now twice, once on Tuesday, once on Wednesday, if I have my days right.

So we have been actively discussing with the Israeli Government these issues, and I think what the President said he heard from Prime Minister Sharon last week -- last week Prime Minister Sharon assured the President that his government wants to move in that direction. We have heard that again and again from the government of Prime Minister Sharon, that they do recognize the need to ease the pressure, to restore economic activity, to restore normal daily life for Palestinians and economic opportunity for Palestinians. And that certainly has been, to us, one of the keys to the situation and so we have continued to urge them to do that.

QUESTION: And they haven't indicated they are going to go into reverse on that?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Richard, it's been reported -- I'm not quite sure frankly whether it's been announced or not -- but it's certainly been reported that the Administration has reduced or eliminated the CIA's role in the security situation between the two sides. (A) is that true, and (B) what is taking the place of that, if anything, in terms of what the US is trying to do?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we dealt with that a week or so ago.

QUESTION: Well, sorry if I missed it but --

MR. BOUCHER: The United States has consistently urged bilateral security cooperation. We think it's important for the parties to take hold of these problems, to deal with each other, to satisfy each other's concerns, to take reciprocal steps with each other, and to move forward in direct contact to resolve these security issues. And so our approach in recent months has been to urge them to restart bilateral security cooperation. Bilateral means the two parties and not with us, because we think that's the most effective mechanism for them to address each other's concerns and actually see each other meeting the commitments that they've made.

QUESTION: Can we switch? Looking to the Turkish Foreign Minister's visit with the Secretary -- tomorrow, is it?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: And I don't know if the Cyprus President or --

QUESTION: Foreign Minister.

QUESTION: -- Foreign Minister is coming here a week later. Is there anything apt to happen on this intractable Cyprus problem? Will he try to move Turkey to move Denktash? And while we're at it, is that Special Coordinator -- or whatever he is -- post gone -- Mr. Moses, Ambassador Moses held it? Has that disappeared with -- did he leave the building with Dennis Ross, arm in arm?

MR. BOUCHER: Can I give you the two-sentence answer to the three- paragraph answer on the same question I gave yesterday?

QUESTION: But it will play big in Nicosia, even if it's only two sentences.

MR. BOUCHER: I assume that my answer of yesterday has already played big in Nicosia.

QUESTION: Oh, did you -- I'm sorry, were you asked yesterday? I forgive you.

MR. BOUCHER: Somebody was going off to check the wires --

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Blasting the Palestinian strongholds was sort of a priority.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we do always discuss Cyprus. We will discuss Cyprus, and we'll discuss it tomorrow. We continue to support the UN process.

The post of Special Presidential Emissary is no longer around. The post of Special Cyprus Coordinator is still there. Mr. Moses was Presidential Emissary. Tom Weston was the Special Cyprus Coordinator, and I haven't checked on his whereabouts.

QUESTION: So he may be wandering in the building corridors?

MR. BOUCHER: No, he's -- I don't know his exact assignment status, but the Special Cyprus Coordinator continues to exist and will continue to exist. And I just haven't seen Tom Weston recently, but I'll check on it.

QUESTION: Can I move on to another subject, Yugoslavia? I know you did talk about this yesterday, but since then The New York Times has reported that the State Department has apparently already decided to certify Serbia. Is that correct?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, they are joining their counterparts in other newspapers in having stories that aren't true on page one.

QUESTION: Which other newspaper stories?

MR. BOUCHER: The one that did it the day before.

The situation with regard to certification and Serbia and Yugoslavia is that no decision has been made. We are in the process of our internal discussions of the matter. The law requires us to look at three areas: cooperation with the Tribunal, ending support for the Republika Srpska in Bosnia, and respect for minority rights and the rule of law. Those areas are being looked at and we have not reached any decision on certification.

QUESTION: Can you give us any more detail about the decision-making process? Can you tell us exactly what the implications are for the different kinds of funding to Serbia from the certification?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, can I read you a page and a half from the law?

QUESTION: Please don't. Tell us the bit that you think are most important.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, I'll tell you the good parts. Let's start with the implications, then we'll go to the process. The law is quite clear. After March 31st, and if we don't certify, then the remainder of our bilateral assistance would be suspended. That is approximately $50 million of the $100 million that was allocated and is covered by this law. It is possible that a decision to certify could be made after March 31st.

QUESTION: Wait a second. That doesn't mean that you might just postpone it until -- you have to do something by Saturday, right, whether it's yes or no?

MR. BOUCHER: We intend to do something by March 31st, whether it's yes or no. But, actually, the way the law is written is that if we don't certify by March 31st, then we can't disburse; we can't obligate new monies. And the Secretary of the Treasury should instruct the executive directors to the international financial institutions not to support loans and assistance to the Government of Yugoslavia. So if we don't do this by the 31st, then we have to suspend the money and we have to not support the loans in the international banks.

If they were subsequently certified, then the assistance and the support for the loans would resume. So it is a suspension as of March 31st until such a time as we might certify.

Now, there is every intention, the Secretary has the intention of looking at this and making a determination at this juncture one way or the other whether he can certify at this point. So I would expect him to do that before March 31st, or before the end of the weekend.

QUESTION: Richard, is there a minimum time -- like if you were to -- if you say that it were to go into suspension, is there a minimum time or, you know, in a week the suspension could be lifted?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I am aware of. At any time after certification is made, we would be able to do the obligations. I think it is just anytime we certify, we can go ahead. But as I said, the Secretary has every intention of addressing this.

QUESTION: Does Congress have the authority -- is that clear -- to tell the Administration how to vote in the IMF and World Bank?

MR. BOUCHER: That sounds like a matter of constitutional law that I am not familiar with. I better not jump into that one.

QUESTION: China. Do we have any reaction to China saying that the US needs to stay out of the case of Gao Zhan, and that the possible granting of citizenship is useless because she has got a Chinese passport?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular view on that legislation. I would say, nor of any potential Chinese reaction or not. I would say our interest in this case, our interest in this situation, is she is a permanent resident of the United States. But our interest is especially in human rights matters. We believe that there should be freedom of expression, and we believe that China has agreed to universal standards of human rights, and that our interest in this case relates to the fact that we think this woman is not being treated in accordance with those standards.

QUESTION: But, Richard, tomorrow her husband is going to be made a US citizen, and next week the Senate hopes to make her a US citizen. How does this change what the State Department, the leverage the State Department has on China now with a citizen versus a resident?

MR. BOUCHER: That depends on probably a fairly detailed look at the consular treaties and things like that, whether we would have authority at this point. But I think it doesn't change our interest in the case. Our interest is very strong because it is a human rights matter to us.

QUESTION: Have you not been informed that they were planning to make them citizens?

MR. BOUCHER: We are certainly aware of the legislation. We just haven't taken a position on it at this point.

QUESTION: You don't think it will help?

MR. BOUCHER: We haven't taken a position on it one way or the other at this point.

QUESTION: Richard, can you tell us what the French authorities have told the Department about the arrest of Mr. Kopp, the man accused of killing the abortion doctor? He was arrested in France today, and I presume because he is a US citizen that the Department was notified.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. This is what was happening on TV as I walked in here? Sorry, we'll have to check.

QUESTION: Can I go back to China? Can you give us any update you have on her? Do you have any?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any real update. We raised the case yesterday with the Chinese again in Washington, as well as in Beijing. We have stressed the importance of this matter, we have stressed the human rights considerations, and we have stressed that we think the Government of China should release her immediately so that she can be reunited with her family in the United States.

QUESTION: Did the Ambassador go in in Beijing?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what level. I think it was probably our Consul General from the -- well, he raised the access issues. I will double-check and see who it was at what level in Beijing.

QUESTION: Are we asking for a consular visit with just her as a resident?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have the right to a consular visit.

QUESTION: I know we don't have the right. Are we asking to see her and see that she is okay. She has a heart condition.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we can do that, but I will check.

QUESTION: I'm on my Ed Pope roll again.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll remember that.

QUESTION: Another subject. There have been a lot of comments in the press by some foreign ministers and leaders of key US allies -- Japan, Sweden -- kind of criticizing the Administration's foreign policy on the Kyoto Protocol, and also on North Korea.

Do you think that the Administration is being -- that these allies are misrepresenting the US intentions, and do you feel that the US is kind of under attack by its allies at this point for not really articulating where it wants to go on foreign policy in some of these areas yet?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, there have --

MR. BOUCHER: Is there more to say than that? I mean, there has been praise for our Iraq policy, there has been praise for what we have done at NATO, there has been praise for the way we have worked with them in the Balkans, there has been praise for what we have done in terms of our approach to missile defense. There has been enormous cooperation with our allies, including the European Union, in the question of Macedonia, where we are working together. We are supporting things together. There has been considerable coordination with regard to the Middle East, with the Palestinian Authority, support for the Palestinian Authority and their budgetary troubles.

We have seen an enormous amount of cooperation with allies in this Administration. I don't expect that we are all going to agree on everything all the time. Some of these policies are under review, and people are telling us what they think and what we ought to do.

But I think it is not appropriate to start drawing conclusions based on two elements of criticism when you have a whole picture that involves intensive and detailed work with our allies that is going forward.

QUESTION: On Holocaust reparations, the World Jewish Congress met Chancellor Schroeder ahead of his meeting with President Bush and Secretary Powell today, and they said that they were hoping the United States would have something to say about the court case which is going on in Brooklyn, and with the judge who has refused to dismiss law suits against our own banks which are holding up payments.

Does the Administration have a view of that situation, and would you like to see more of these cases being wrapped up quickly?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I have to check. We have had a very consistent position in these court cases that we felt that the way to handle the claims was through the agreement, through the foundation that was established, that this was going to be a good way to handle them. We have welcomed the developments in the IBM case, and I will have to check on these other cases and see where they stand.

QUESTION: On the IBM case, Richard, is it just a happy coincidence that you are able to put this out today, on the day that Chancellor Schroeder begins his visit, or was this designed to do that?

And the other thing is, how did -- you say you have been informed that the lawyers were going to file motions to dismiss. Was there any contact between those lawyers and the State Department where the State Department said, look, we are not going to write the letter that we were writing in other cases because we don't think this is particularly the same, but it would really be helpful if you guys dropped it?

MR. BOUCHER: You are writing a whole script that I have no idea if it is true or not. The fact that we were informed -- we are in touch with the IBM attorneys. They know our position. We have written letters in other cases.

QUESTION: Right. But you did not in this case, correct?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we did in this case or not.

QUESTION: Yesterday I asked a question about the former American POWs in Japanese companies, and you said you would get back to me on an answer on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you a definitive answer at this point on the specific piece of legislation. I would note two things, though. One is we are quite aware and sympathize with those who suffered during the war. There was enormous hardship and tragedy for many of the American soldiers involved, and we sympathize greatly with the plight that they suffered.

But at the same time, the 1951 treaty explicitly waived those claims, and the Senate ratified that treaty -- 66, I think, votes in favor. And therefore the Senate noted at the time that that settled the claims.

So we have to take those things into account. I don't have a final position on the legislation at this point, but I think both those are quite important considerations as we look at this.

QUESTION: Going back to the visas again, can you just tell us why the Department is now requiring Colombian nationals who are transiting through the United States to third countries to get US visas?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll check on it.

[end]

Released on March 29, 2001


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