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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-04-27

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


Charles F. Hunter, Acting Spokesman

Washington, DC

April 27, 2001



1 Annual Patterns of Global Terrorism Report

1 Killing of International Red Cross Workers in Democratic Republic of Congo


1-2 Trial of American Mr. Tobin


2 No-Confidence Vote Against Prime Minister Yushchenko


2 Visa Request for Taiwanese President Chen

2-3 Visa Transit Issues for Taiwan Authorities


3 Secretary Powell’s Interest to Travel to Asia


3 New Ministry Officials


3-4 Efforts for Return of EP-3 Aircraft


4 US Weaponry Assistance to Israel

4 Visit of Foreign Minister Peres to US

4 Contact with Omri Sharon and Others

4-5 Mitchell Commission

5 Security Meetings


5 Interagency Investigative Team re Downing of Missionary Plane


5-6 Arrests of Potential Demonstrators


6 Nomination of Christina Rocha as Assistant Secretary


6 Demonstrations in Addis Ababa


MR. HUNTER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department Briefing Room. Let me start by apologizing for keeping you waiting. As you know, I am out here today because Philip Reeker, who normally would be standing here, has had an eye problem, and I would ask that you keep him in your thoughts so that when Monday rolls around he can be back briefing as usual. He has gone to see a doctor for right now.

Let me start by noting that we are putting out a notice to the press regarding the release of the Annual Patterns of Global Terrorism Report, which will take place on Monday at 3:40 in the briefing room here. You will be able to get embargoed copies of the report starting at noon on Monday. And those will be embargoed until the conclusion of the briefing, which the Secretary of State will begin, followed by Edmund Hull, the Acting Coordinator for Counter Terrorism.

I would also note that we will be putting out a statement on the killing of International Red Cross workers in the Congo yesterday, noting that we are shocked and saddened by the deaths of these six staffers. The vehicles that they were traveling in were attached by unknown assailants, and we express our sympathies to the families of the deceased, and are gravely concerned about the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and call on all parties to respect international humanitarian law, abide by the Lusaka Agreement and seek an end to the conflict.

And with that, I will be glad to do my best to answer your questions.

Q: Is there any comment on the sentence in the Tobin trial in Russia?

MR. HUNTER: We have seen the reports that Mr. Tobin has been given a sentence today of 37 months in prison. We understand that Mr. Tobin and his attorney have the option to file an appeal in the next seven days. A representative from the US Embassy in Moscow attended the trial, and a consular officer will continue to visit him in prison. At this point, in the absence of a Privacy Waiver, I don't have any further details that I can provide to you.

Q: Anything on whether the trial has met international standards?

MR. HUNTER: Well, in effect, since the proceedings aren't completely over, given that the attorney and Mr. Tobin have the option to appeal, we will refrain from commenting at this time, but hope that he will continue to be afforded all due process.

Q: On Ukraine, do you have anything judgmental to say about the latest events in Ukraine? There was some language prepared but it was not particularly revealing. I see that the European Union has said it is seriously concerned. Do you share their concerns that the removal of Mr. Yushchenko?

MR. HUNTER: Well, we have enjoyed good working relations with the Yushchenko Government and we look forward to similar close cooperation with Ukraine's new government once it's appointed. We would note the significant progress Ukraine has made in the year 2000, based upon cooperation among the president, the parliament and the prime minister, and we hope that similar constructive relations will soon be in place with the new government.

I would point out that we continue to support an independent, democratic and market-oriented Ukraine committed to the rule of law and integrated in the Euro-Atlantic community. And its success in pursuing that goal will depend in large part on the steps that Ukraine is willing to undertake in moving toward meaningful reform.

Q: Do you have anything extra to say? Your remarks don't seem to include any expression of concern at the way things are developing and how much -- how optimistic are you that it will be possible to cooperate, for the various branches of government to cooperate under these --

MR. HUNTER: I think we need to see what new government is formed and proceed once that's determined. We do hope that whatever government does emerge will be one that we can continue to work cooperatively with as we have with Mr. Yushchenko and his government.

Q: Can you confirm that the State Department is going to grant the President of Taiwan this visa for a brief stop?

MR. HUNTER: I don't really have much for you on the granting of visas but if you will give me just a sec, I will get to that place in this book.

Taiwan's presidential office has announced President Chen's plans to travel to Latin America in May. The criteria we use for considering all requests for transits by senior Taiwan leaders are for the safety, comfort and convenience of the traveler. And, at this point, I am afraid I have nothing further for you on that particular issue.

Q: On a related subject, what is the Administration's policy on contacts between visiting Taiwanese -- not visiting Taiwanese -- Taiwanese leaders in transit and members of Congress?

MR. HUNTER: I am afraid I don't have anything for you on that point. I will be glad to look into what we might be able to say.

Q: Okay. But, I mean, there was a policy, which was to discourage -- was to issue visas on condition that leaders in transit did not make contact with members of Congress. Can you confirm that that remains the policy?

MR. HUNTER: Jonathan, I'm just not in a position, without further information to be able to address that point right now. I would be happy to get back to you.

Q: The Japanese press today is mentioning the possibility for Secretary Powell to travel to Asia in June, to Japan and Korea. Do you have any confirmation of his --

MR. HUNTER: I don't have any information for you right at this point. Secretary Powell would like to visit Asia at an early stage, but there are no dates for such travel at this time.

Q: A related matter? Do you have any words of welcome for the new Japanese Prime Minister, who does appear to be Japanese Prime Minister now?

MR. HUNTER: Well, I think Philip had some words of welcome several days back.

Q: On that issue, they I guess nominated the new Foreign Minister. The Japanese Foreign Minister has mentioned that she wants to do a review of US troops in Japan. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. HUNTER: That would be largely a Pentagon matter, so at this point I don't have anything for you.

Q: Anything new on talks with China about either the Maritime Commission meeting, or other issues relating to the plane?

MR. HUNTER: I don't have anything new for you on either subject.

Q: In terms of agreement?

MR. HUNTER: Sorry?

Q: Have you handed over the --

MR. HUNTER: The terms of reference have been passed, I believe. Let me verify that.

Our contacts in diplomatic channels regarding the return of our EP-3 aircraft continue. The terms of reference for convening a special meeting under the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement were delivered today, that is Friday, in Beijing by our embassy. But for further details on that, I would refer you to the Department of Defense.

Q: Can you -- you can't talk about the terms of reference?

MR. HUNTER: I don't have any details on the terms of reference and would refer you to the Pentagon.

Q: There's a 6,000-member national lawyers guild that just issued a rather devastating report concerning the use of US weaponry in Israel by Israel, and it says that clearly there have been violations of both international law and the Arms Control Act of '76, and the Foreign Aid Act of 1961, and it specifically calls for the United States Government to take action under its responsibility under these acts and cut off aid and assistance to Israel.

Is there any comment on that, or could you take that question and maybe get back to us?

MR. HUNTER: Well, as you say, those are fairly specific citations that you are making, and without much of a background in international law, I don't have much for you on that. We will look into if there is anything that we can say. But not having seen this particular statement, I am not in a position to give you anything.

Q: Can I ask one other question? Is Shimon Peres scheduled at all for next week?

MR. HUNTER: Yes, the Foreign Minister will be coming to the Department to meet with Secretary Powell on Wednesday, May 2nd. We will go over the full week ahead following the briefing.

Q: And one final question on visitors. Sharon's son is in the news on the Middle East peace process. Has any American embassy official met with Sharon's son?

MR. HUNTER: I don't have any specific information. I would imagine that we are in contact with a variety of -- I know that we are in contact with a variety of people at a variety of different levels and capacities in pursuit of our shared objective of Middle East peace. I will be happy to look into whether we have had specific contact with Omri Sharon.

Q: Can you say anything about the Mitchell Commission meeting today in New York?

MR. HUNTER: No, I don't have anything for you on the Mitchell Commission. Of course, Meridian Center is locally responsible for information about them, and so I would suggest that you contact them, and I know we have provided that phone number in the past.

Q: There was another security meeting between Israelis and Palestinians, I believe. Do you have anything on that?

MR. HUNTER: The Israelis and Palestinians are continuing their security discussions. We will continue to assist the parties in their efforts. It is essential, of course, that the parties be able to discuss issues like security directly.

And as to the question that Eli raised regarding the CIA's role, I would refer you back to comments that were reported earlier this week.

Q: That was a meeting on Friday, today? You don't have anything?

MR. HUNTER: As I say, the Israelis and Palestinians are continuing their discussions.

Q: Today?

MR. HUNTER: They are continuing their discussions.

Q: Anything new on a delegation to Peru?

MR. HUNTER: Yes, as I think some of you have heard from Philip before he left, we would expect to see the departure in the coming days of an interagency delegation or interagency team to begin a joint investigation of the April 20th shoot down of a missionary plane. I would note that, as you are aware, this tragic accident has resulted in the deaths of two American citizens, Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter, Charity, and in the wounding of Kevin Donaldson, the pilot. We would expect this team to be departing in the coming days and it will be led by Rand Beers, the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the State Department. But I don't have further details that I can provide for you at this point about the composition or the itinerary of that team.

Q: Or what day they might be leaving?

MR. HUNTER: It will be in the coming days, but I don't have for you yet the specific day that they will be departing.

Q: Another issue? So far in Pakistan, close to 1,500 people in the pro- democracy movement have been arrested, and the military ruler said that he would not hesitate in arresting thousands. Now, this is the second time because, in last month also, he arrested hundreds of them for the same reason. So do you have any comments?

MR. HUNTER: Yes, we understand that the hundreds of members of the Pakistan People's Party, the Pakistan Moslem League and other groups were arrested between April 25th and 27th in Pakistan's southern province of Sindh, in advance of a planned rally in Karachi on May 1st by the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy.

We are disappointed that the Government of Pakistan has taken this step, which was similar to actions, as you pointed out, taken in Lahore last month. The government's preemptive arrests of potential demonstrators without appropriate justification call into question its commitment to protect civil liberties, such as the freedom of assembly, which is a key component of good democratic governance.

And democracy, I would hasten to add, is more than holding elections; it is also respecting democratic principles and human rights, including the right to assembly and to freedom of expression without fear of government reprisal. So we continue to state publicly and privately our view that Pakistan should return rapidly to a democratic civilian government and, in the interim, internationally recognized rights should be respected.

Q: Copy?

MR. HUNTER: Pardon me?

Q: Can we get a copy of the statement?

MR. HUNTER: That's what I am able to provide. We are not putting that out as a statement, but you have there what our views are on this particular subject.

Q: And in the same connection, same area, do you have any comment on Ms. Christina Rocha's appointment by President Bush as the Assistant Secretary for South Asia? Wasn't it a recommendation from the Secretary or from the Senator Brown where she works now?

MR. HUNTER: Brownback. Yes, I don't have anything for you on that nomination. The President is continuing to assemble a strong team to implement his foreign policy and we look forward to her confirmation hearing.

Q: On a similar theme, have you prepared anything yet on the arrest of students and the suppression of student unrest in Ethiopia?

MR. HUNTER: In Ethiopia. We have posted a taken question on Tuesday or Wednesday, I believe, about the demonstrations in Ethiopia. Or maybe it was last night. Anyhow, this week I know that we have posted a taken question on the situation in Ethiopia, noting our concerns with these arrests, and we would refer you to that.

Q: Thank you.

MR. HUNTER: Thank you. [End]

Released on April 27, 2001

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