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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-04-30

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

Phillip T. Reeker, Acting Spokesman

Washington, DC

April 30, 2001

INDEX:

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1 Patterns of Global Terrorism Briefing

IRAQ

1-2 Radiological Weapons Test and United Nations Weapons Inspections

2 Consultations on Iraq Sanctions Policy

MIDDLE EAST REGION

2 Travel of Assistant Secretary Edward Walker

NORTH KOREA

3 European Union Delegation Travel to North Korea

CHINA

4 Delegation to Inspect EP-3 Aircraft

4 Military Maritime Coordination Commission Terms of Reference

5 Update of American Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents Detained in China

MACEDONIA

6 Attack on Security Forces by Ethnic Albanian Extremists

6, 8-9 Political Situation Update

6-7 Visit of President Trajkovski

YEMEN

9 Airport Security Upgrades

ISRAEL

9-10 Discussion of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres Visit / Final Status Talks

UGANDA

11 Uganda Honoring Lusaka Accords

11 Withdrawal of Troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo

PERU

11-12 Update Interagency Investigative Team - Downing of Missionary Plane

12 Status of Interdiction Flights

AFGHANISTAN

12 Aid Workers Report on Political and Humanitarian Situation

BOLIVIA

13 Investigation of United Nations Aid Worker Poirier Whereabouts

TAIWAN

13 Taiwanese President Chen Visa Transit Issues


TRANSCRIPT_:

MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome back to the State Department. The only announcement I have is to remind you that this afternoon Secretary of State Powell will make an on-the-record statement to kick off the rollout of this year's "Patterns of Global Terrorism" Report. I think you have all received your embargoed copies of the report in preparation for the Secretary's statement and the briefing we will have after that with Mr. Edmund Hull, the Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism. So that will take place at 3:40. Please be prompt. The Secretary always is.

With that statement, or reminder, I am happy to take your questions. We can start with the Associated Press, Mr. Gedda.

Q: Did you see the story about the UN official coming up with information concerning Iraq and their supposed nuclear radiation capability?

MR. REEKER: That was the story that appeared in one of our nation's leading newspapers on the weekend, I believe. I did read that, regarding an alleged 1987 radiological bomb test. I think we have discussed from here before that we know that Iraq actively pursued weapons of mass destruction, including radiological weapons, and that has been a great concern of ours obviously for many years.

We agree with the article's assessment that Iraq never successfully developed a radiological device. UN inspections largely destroyed Iraq's nuclear infrastructure intended to support a weapons program. But, as we have also discussed, Iraq continued efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and that is our primary reason that we insist on strong controls to prevent Iraq from acquiring items of concern that would aid them in that goal. We are continuing our efforts to ensure such controls are in place while preventing Saddam from using the sanctions regime as a weapon against his own people.

I think it goes without saying and follows on from that New York Times article that if Iraq wants to make clear that its weapons of mass destruction activity has ceased, it needs to let UN inspections resume in Iraq and to cooperate fully with those inspections and with the international community.

Q: On that same subject, Phil, we were told by the Secretary back in February that the Administration was working on a new sanctions regime that would tighten sanctions on certain items and relax them on civilian goods. We haven't heard anything about that. We were told it was supposed to be ready for the Arab League summit in March.

Where does this stand?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think some of you got your timings a little bit misconstrued in terms of the process of that. It is something that is still being reviewed, and in fact we have talked about that on and off. It is an ongoing process. I will note, since some of you had asked about it last week, that just over the weekend Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs David Welch and Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Affairs Robert Einhorn were in Geneva where they consulted with Russian officials Saturday on rebuilding the international consensus on how to bring Iraq into compliance with UN Security Council resolutions.

So this is part of the process of consultations that the Secretary of State talked about, and that will continue. Earlier in April, the 17th and 18th, the same two Assistant Secretaries, Welch and Einhorn, had policy discussions on Iraq issues with the French and British in, obviously, Paris and London. So as Secretary Powell has said, there is broad international support on the need for controls to prevent Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction like those discussed in the article yesterday, or being able to revitalize its military commitments which threaten its neighbors in the region as well as our forces. But at the same time allowing civilian goods to reach the Iraqi people.

And so that is the same process we are undergoing. There is still consultation under way, and I just don't have any new things to announce in that vein at this point.

Q: On the same subject, can you tell us what Assistant Secretary Walker came back with from his trip to Syria, Jordan and Turkey? I don't believe --

MR. REEKER: I think we had readouts on that after he came back. Certainly a number of people have discussed it. I would be happy to go back and have a look. We can look into it for you, Jonathan. He visited some of those frontline states again in this process of consultation that we discussed, but I would be happy to go back to that. I know we had stuff on it and discussed it with --

Q: You don't have it with you?

MR. REEKER: I don't. And we had discussed it with a number of your colleagues.

Q: Two quick questions on this. How would you characterize the consultations so far, particularly with the Russians? And at this point, is a timeline being talked about to coincide with the renewal of the UN Oil-for-Food program at the end of June?

MR. REEKER: That is an obvious date that does need to be looked at because, as you just said, that program comes up for renewal at that time. So we'll be looking at it with that. I don't have any particular timelines to discuss at this point, but obviously, as I said, it is an ongoing process. Consultation is ongoing. And I would describe it not only as ongoing, but as useful and in keeping with the plan outlined by the Secretary, as your colleague noted, earlier this year.

Q: But, I mean, would you go so far as to just simply describe what the Russian reaction at this point has been?

MR. REEKER: No, I would let the Russians speak for their own reactions. I think it has been very useful to have that type of conversation. And as I said, there is broad international consensus on the need for controls to prevent the Iraqi threat from reemerging.

Q: If I can follow up. In those conversations over the weekend, have we brought up the issue of potentially resuming commercial, regular commercial flights between Baghdad and Moscow?

MR. REEKER: I don't know.

Q: Members of the EU are taking a delegation to North Korea this week, I believe, to encourage them to keep going on a dialogue with the United States, saying that a lot of Europeans are saying -- and the North Koreans as well are saying -- that Pyongyang was offended by the US kind of walking back from its desire for missile talks with the United States.

Does the United States think that this trip, it would be helpful? Are you encouraging the Europeans, and have there have been consultations on this?

MR. REEKER: I think this is in the vein of the other trips and contacts between Pyongyang and European capitals that we have discussed several times from here. I don't have anything specific on that meeting. Generally, we felt it was very important for the international community to be able to make known to Pyongyang the concerns we have, which we think apply to all of us in the international community, particularly about missile issues and proliferation issues.

So in that vein, our review of Korea policy continues. I don't have anything new to offer today. I am sure we will continue to have an active dialogue with our European allies and friends in terms of their views and what they learn from trips such as that one you described.

Q: On China, can you tell us about --

Q: One more on North Korea? Any indication when the policy review may --

MR. REEKER: No, I don't have any dates for you, Barbara.

Q: On China, can you tell us anything about the group of American experts heading over to check out the plane? And does the State Department have any position on journalists, foreign journalists, not being allowed to be present, not allowed to cover this event?

MR. REEKER: I really think you need to direct that to the Defense Department, which would largely be involved with that. I think Vice President Cheney spoke at length broadly about this yesterday in a television appearance, the fact that we view this as an encouraging sign that the Chinese are willing to proceed on return of our aircraft. We are still working out specifics of the visit, if you want to call it that, our opportunity to access the aircraft. So while we work those out --

Q: -- diplomatically?

MR. REEKER: Through diplomatic channels, yes.

Q: So the State Department is responsible for that?

MR. REEKER: Sure, exactly. With --

Q: Can you talk about that?

MR. REEKER: I don't know what it is more that you want me to say.

Q: What details are left to be worked out about this visit?

MR. REEKER: Some of the details in terms of timing and where, and I just don't have anything further to add at this point. For the details of the visit, since it will be a DOD team, talk to them about it.

Q: Okay, but have we had any meetings? Has Prueher been to the Chinese Foreign Ministry today?

MR. REEKER: Regularly.

Q: Today?

MR. REEKER: I believe I did see him returning to the Embassy and talking on television, echoing some of the things Vice President Cheney said today. Given the time difference, I suppose that was today, Monday, in Beijing.

Since the April 18th meeting, we have continued to have diplomatic discussions through diplomatic channels on proceeding with our concerns about the aircraft and return of it.

Q: Was this in any way in response to the terms of reference that US diplomats delivered on Friday?

MR. REEKER: No, let's not confuse the terms of reference, which is --

Q: Okay. Can you maybe --

MR. REEKER: The terms of reference, which I believe Mr. Hunter mentioned to you, were for the next meeting of the Military Maritime Coordination Commission working group. Acronyms. And we have delivered those terms of reference. I am not aware of any further steps on that.

That was a separate process for continuing the discussions on the incident with our plane and how we can prevent such things from happening again. The process of reviewing and moving forward on return of our aircraft have been conducted through normal diplomatic channels since, so let's not confuse those two things.

Q: Can you tell us what the terms of reference are at this point?

MR. REEKER: No, I don't have any details to go into on that. We need to hear back from the Chinese and see how we move forward on scheduling a meeting after the last MMCA meeting was postponed.

Q: I understand that some of the Americans who are being held by the Chinese were visited today by US officials?

MR. REEKER: Yes, let me give you an update on where we are with that. Let me get the right number here. On April 26th, in fact, we raised the cases of the two American citizens who are being detained in China, as well as the cases of the two US legal permanent residents. So that would be Li Shaomin and Wu Jianmin, the American citizens; and Gao Zhan and Tan Guangguang, the two legal permanent residents.

In terms of the visit you talked about, our Embassy, our Beijing Embassy consular officer met with American citizen Li Shaomin today, April 30th. We can report that Mr. Li's health is generally good. This was our third consular visit with him since his February 25th detention, the last one being on April the 2nd, and we will continue to seek more consular visits with Mr. Li and continue to press the Chinese Government about his case.

Q: Well, did you take anything to him from family members here or, you know, magazines or --

MR. REEKER: I don't have any more details on the consular visit than what I've just offered you.

Q: Have we asked for any other kind of proof that the ones that we haven't yet seen are alive? The Red Cross was denied a visit to Gao Zhan, for example. Have we been asking for some other kind of proof that they are --

MR. REEKER: I don't know exactly what we have been asking for in terms of those cases that are ones that we take up on a human rights basis, on a humanitarian basis. Our concerns have been discussed for some time from this podium, and we have been raising that regularly, as you know. So in terms of exactly what response we get from the Chinese, I don't have a readout. All we know is that they are still being detained, and we would like to see them released.

Q: New subject? Back to your favorite country, Macedonia.

MR. REEKER: You'll get me in trouble.

Q: Does the attack on security forces over the weekend and the NLA's claim of responsibility for it have an impact on what kinds of messages you'll be hoping to see from President Trajkovski when he comes to visit tomorrow?

MR. REEKER: Well, I will just point out for those of you that may have missed it over the weekend, we did issue a statement on Saturday soundly condemning the attack on Macedonian security forces by armed ethnic Albanian extremists, and that statement obviously still stands. This was an ambush by extremists that resulted in the death of eight Macedonian soldiers. We want to extend our condolences to the families of those eight who were killed and to the entire country of Macedonia. They have an official day of mourning today. And again, on behalf of the State Department and the United States, we would like to pass along our condolences on that.

We noted or have discussed that there has been a strong condemnation of that barbarous attack by the Macedonian Albanian political leader, Arben Xafheri. We have encouraged other ethnic Albanian leaders to condemn this extremist violence as well. We fully support the statement from the NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson pledging to increase still further the KFOR patrols along the Kosovo-Macedonian border.

As you know, we very much support the necessary steps Macedonia is taking to prevent armed extremists from disrupting interethnic cooperation and dialogue which has been taking place in Macedonia over the last few weeks. I think it should be said that such violence and terrorist activity greatly harms the interests of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and throughout the region, and those that are perpetuating this type of violence should realize that.

So in regards to President Trajkovski's visit, we really look forward to welcoming him here. He will be seeing Secretary Powell tomorrow. He is arriving in Washington this evening and, as you know, on Wednesday President Trajkovski will meet with President Bush at the White House. It will give us a chance to review with President Trajkovski the steps that are being taken, the dialogue that is being taken, using political institutions in Macedonia to address grievances and concerns, and to make clear continued US support for Macedonia and for the political dialogue to continue.

Q: Do you have any evaluations on that dialogue? You've been pushing that for over a month.

MR. REEKER: Yeah, I think it's been effective in the sense that it has shown that there are processes through which these grievances can be addressed. As I believe I said last week in response to one of your questions, every country in Europe faces challenges in terms of minority concerns, in terms of ethnic groups. We in the United States face those challenges, and we address them through dialogue. We utilize the institutions of civic society which we have created to deal with these things. And that is what Macedonia is doing. For a decade now, as an independent country, Macedonia has in many ways been a model for how you can be a multi-ethnic country.

That is not to say that there aren't problems there. Just as we and other countries face these problems, so does Macedonia. The point to make is that the way to address this is through this political dialogue, and I think what we have seen is that they have taken that seriously. President Trajkovski has been dedicated to that. He was elected president through a democratic process. He had strong votes from the ethnic Albanian community, as well as other ethnic groups. And so he has shown real leadership in this, working with politicians, civic groups, across the spectrum, both ethnically and politically, and we are going to discuss with him this week continuing that process and what we can continue to do to help.

Q: What concessions are you looking for from President Trajkovski, and do you think it will make it harder for him to make concessions, given this attack? And does the fact that the NLA is saying they acted in self-defense when they killed these security forces change your assessment of the situation?

MR. REEKER: It is not for us to look for concessions from President Trajkovski. It is for the Macedonians to work out the issues that they need to work out to have a peaceful resolution of concerns and grievances. The violence that is perpetuated by these armed extremist groups doesn't perpetuate that at all. It makes the process more difficult; it inflames passions; it makes the situation for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and throughout the region more difficult, as they pursue that.

So as you know very well, we have been very supportive of Macedonia taking the necessary steps to prevent the armed extremists from disrupting inter- ethnic cooperation and the process of political dialogue which is under way there. And again, we think that those armed things, those terrorist acts which have occurred, a tragedy which occurred again this weekend resulting in the loss of life, simply makes the situation more difficult and does little to feed progress. And it makes the interests of ethnic Albanians throughout the region more difficult to look at in a serious light.

Q: Can I follow up on that? What about the fact that they say -- as Elaine asked --what about the fact that they say that they are acting in self-defense? A couple of -- like about a month ago, you were urging the Macedonians to use measured --

MR. REEKER: There is no place in Macedonia for armed Albanian extremists perpetuating this kind of terrorist attack, and we have been very firm about that. You will see when you discuss, or if you have reviewed already the "Patterns of Global Terrorism" Report that discusses in Southeast Europe groups of ethnic Albanians who have conducted armed attacks against government forces in southern Serbia and Macedonia since 1999. We have been quite resolute from here that that violence is counter-productive and simply not the way to go.

And so we will continue to support the Macedonians in following the right way to go, and that is having a political dialogue to deal with these issues and move on so that all the Macedonian people -- ethnic Albanian, ethnic Macedonian, ethnic Turk and other groups there -- can live in peaceful existence with opportunities to pursue prosperity and harmony there.

Q: Would you say, though, that about a month ago, or a month and a half, you were praising the Macedonians for their restrained and measured response? Would you say that they still are using that same measured response?

MR. REEKER: Yes, I think we have seen, as I said, they have had to take necessary steps to prevent -- try to prevent -- disruption of the inter- ethnic dialogue, and we continue to support them in that. In this case you had an ambush over the weekend, an ambush that resulted in the death of eight Macedonians. And we have offered our sympathy on that. These were Macedonian security personnel, and we condemn in the strongest terms that type of activity. And as I said, leaders of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia have also condemned that in strong terms.

Q: Can I just follow up on that?

MR. REEKER: Sorry, Terri. Keep going.

Q: You keep calling them armed extremist groups. I mean, are you going to -- does it matter that you don't, you're not calling them terrorists at this point?

MR. REEKER: I think you know very well, and we can review with you again at this afternoon's briefing, the process of determining a designation under our law of terrorists. I did note, and the Secretary has noted on a number of occasions, that this type of terrorist activity carried out by these groups is something that we condemn in the strongest possible terms.

Q: I'm sorry, I have to follow up my original question and then get back to -- a chance to go back to --

MR. REEKER: Sorry, I probably didn't answer it.

Q: Probably not. No, it's about -- I'm not asking you to call on him to make concessions. I know it's not for you to do that. But given that Secretary Powell talked, has often referred to the need for the Macedonian Government to pay attention to the problems of the ethnic Albanian minority, are you expecting that President Trajkovski will outline any new concessions he is planning to make while he is here?

MR. REEKER: I don't want to outline expectations for his visit. We look very much forward to his visit, to hearing what he has to say. We are very pleased the visit can go forward given the tragic situation that unfolded over the weekend, the day of mourning they are having in Macedonia today, and we are pleased that the President was able to make his trip and arrive in Washington tonight. And obviously tomorrow after the Secretary has met with him, we will have a chance to discuss a little further what he had to say, and I am sure he will have an opportunity to speak with you directly as well.

Q: Terrorists. Over the weekend, it was reported that the US is sending a team of experts to Yemen to upgrade security procedures there, particularly in the airport after the plane Ambassador Bodine was on got --

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on that specific. I saw those reports. I tried to find out what that was about. You may want to check with the FAA, which often has teams that work on airport security issues around the world. I know we have done that in numerous places in the past. I will continue to try to look afterwards. I just hadn't heard specifically from the bureau.

Q: Do you have anything on Germany's plans to make the European Commission into a proper government?

MR. REEKER: Run that by me one more time?

Q: To turn the European Commission into a fully fledged government? Do you have any comments on it?

MR. REEKER: I am not even aware of that.

Q: New subject? Can you talk about what you hope to accomplish in the meetings tomorrow with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres?

MR. REEKER: I think in terms of what we hope to accomplish, I don't know how much detail I am going to be able to go into.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. REEKER: Yes, that's what threw me off.

Q: (Inaudible) tomorrow's White House (inaudible).

MR. REEKER: Anyway, I'll let you get your schedule --

Q: I've got to write a story.

MR. REEKER: I'll let you get your schedule worked out, and then we'll let you have plenty of time this afternoon to write your story.

Let me make a few points. Secretary Powell spoke over the weekend with Chairman Arafat and with Prime Minister Sharon to discuss the current situation. The Secretary expressed concern about the heightened level of violence over the weekend, and again encouraged the parties to continue their security contacts in an effort to halt the violence and restore trust and confidence between them.

As President Bush and Secretary Powell have both said, our efforts right now are on stopping the violence. We remain engaged in the search for Middle East peace on a number of different levels. Obviously the talks that will take place with Foreign Minister Peres this week will be another step in that direction, continuing those discussions at, obviously, a high level. He will be in Washington later this week. I believe he is in New York today. And the meeting with Secretary Powell is confirmed for Wednesday, May the 2nd. And I believe he sees the President on Thursday, May the 3rd, but you might want to check with the White House to confirm that.

So we're looking forward to receiving Foreign Minister Peres and having the opportunity to discuss, of course, our bilateral relationship as well as the current situation in the region.

Q: Can I just follow up? Does the State Department have an official view on a timeline for resuming final status talks?

MR. REEKER: I think right now, as we have been saying, our efforts are at stopping the violence, and that is what Secretary Powell has talked about; it is what he spoke to both leaders over the weekend about, the current situation and the concern that heightened violence doesn't work in that direction, and continues to encourage the parties to have their security contacts and try to restore trust and confidence between them. So in terms of timelines, that is something the parties are going to have to work out because obviously it is up for them to come to this. But our goal remains what we have said for many weeks now.

Q: At this point, would the State Department hope that there could be an agreement on the violence at this point, and then deal with some of the knottier questions of final status later?

MR. REEKER: I am not going to get into a timeline approach. That isn't what we have been doing. We have been encouraging them to try to end the cycle of violence, and that is exactly what we continue to encourage this week.

Q: New subject?

MR. REEKER: New subject. Anybody else on the Middle East before we move? Fine.

Q: Uganda opted this weekend to withdraw from the Lusaka Accords, along with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Does the State Department have any reaction to that?

MR. REEKER: Well, let me say that we welcomed the statements President Museveni of Uganda made on April 29th, yesterday, that he intends to recommend to his government that they withdraw virtually all of the Ugandan troops from Democratic Republic of the Congo because, as you know, departure of foreign troops is an important element in the Lusaka peace process.

However, as you note, we are concerned about another statement made by President Museveni also yesterday that he intends to recommend to his government that Uganda pull out of the Lusaka peace process. As those of you that have followed this subject know, we believe that the Lusaka Agreement remains the best hope for achieving a just and stable peace in the region. The participation of Uganda in the Lusaka process is important for the ultimate success of the process, and we really believe that all parties should focus on implementing the disengagement plans and preparing for the start of the inter-Congolese national dialogue. And so we will continue to convey that message to Uganda.

Q: Do you have any observations on the report by the International Rescue Committee suggesting that the death toll may have reached 3 million in the Congo?

MR. REEKER: I read the news reporting on that. I don't believe that the International Rescue Committee has actually released that report to the public, and we haven't yet received a copy of the report. But certainly the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has taken a devastating toll on the country's population, in both government-controlled areas and rebel-controlled areas. And we are gravely concerned about the plight of refugees, which number up to a third of a million, as well as an estimated two million internally displaced persons. And millions and millions of others were affected by this war.

We certainly appreciate the efforts of groups like the International Rescue Committee to document the enormous toll this conflict has taken on the Congolese people. And as I said, we are just not in a position at this point to comment on the veracity of numbers reported in the study. There were also numbers reported in their previous mortality study about a year ago.

I would like to point out that in the last year we have significantly increased United States assistance efforts in the Congo, and we are currently providing, or planning to provide, this fiscal year some $70 million in assistance programs focusing on emergency health, water, food and agriculture.

Q: Do you have any update for us on the activities of Rand Beers and the investigation team in Peru?

MR. REEKER: No, I am not going to have much in terms of details of that team's activities in Peru. As you know, a senior-level interagency team departed yesterday for Peru, arrived in Lima last night. That team is led by Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Rand Beers. He is accompanied by representatives from the Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, and the US Interdiction Coordinators Office.

So it is Assistant Secretary Beers plus five, a total of six, I believe on that team. And they are conducting a joint investigation with Peruvian authorities over the April 20th shootdown of the missionary plane which resulted in the tragic loss of life of an American citizen Veronica Bowers, as well as her infant daughter Charity, and the wounding of the pilot of that plane, Kevin Donaldson.

We anticipate continued full support in cooperation of the Peruvian Government in this investigation. In terms of your question on duration, the team's visit will be determined by how the investigation is proceeding and what they are doing. I wouldn't want to speculate how long that might be there. We will try to keep you posted. Peru is their only stop. As I said, they arrived in Lima last night. I would expect that during the course of this, they would travel up to Iquitos. And we expect to learn what went wrong and what might be changed.

Obviously I can't speculate on specific outcomes or recommendations, nor when the assistance to the aerial interception program could continue. But we are going to continue to follow this and find out all we can about the tragic accident.

Q: Do you have anything on the humanitarian aid workers, US workers, who went to Afghanistan?

MR. REEKER: Just a little bit. I can't remember if we talked about that much after they got back. I know we did talk about the fact that a joint USAID and State Department humanitarian assessment team spent nine days in western and northern Afghanistan earlier this month, in April. I don't have a lot of details on that, but I know that the team has come back and is completing their reports to the Secretary and others in terms of the deteriorating situation in terms of the humanitarian situation and food supplies in Afghanistan.

As you know, the region has suffered a tremendous drought, as well as the civil war that has caused so much trouble there over so many years now. So I don't have anything specific to give you. We were looking into trying to have some kind of a briefing for you. I just don't know if the teams are finished the work they needed to do back here. But we will continue to follow that up.

But it is a humanitarian crisis in the making, and something that our people from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, as well as the US Agency for International Development, are trying to follow very closely, working with other international aid and humanitarian organizations.

Q: I know that you all made a statement last Wednesday about Walter Poirier, the Peace Corps volunteer missing in Bolivia, and his parents were on national television this morning renewing pleas for further State Department assistance in this matter. I'm wondering if there has been any progress.

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to add since we discussed it. I believe it was on Wednesday. We are very concerned about Mr. Poirier and we are very engaged in the continuing efforts to locate him. We certainly share with his parents the desire to find out what happened to their son. Our Embassy in La Paz is working on this. We are trying to work very closely with Bolivian Government authorities, and we have been doing so since Mr. Poirier was reported missing on March the 5th.

As I noted, Bolivian Government and law enforcement authorities have dedicated extensive resources and manpower to the search. The FBI has sent a team of Spanish-speaking agents to Bolivia. They have been there for the past couple of weeks working with the Bolivian police on the investigation. I think Wednesday I mentioned how grateful we were to Bolivian media for carrying his photograph consistently over the past two months to try to help see if anybody can come forward with information about his whereabouts.

Thus far, we have no indication, I am told, of kidnapping. An investigation is ongoing, and obviously the Embassy and the teams down there will continue to work on this as much as possible. The Peace Corps sent their own investigator to Bolivia, and the local Peace Corps staff have been extensively involved in the search for him. So we are going to continue on this until we can get some more information. As I said, no ransom demands have been received at this date, and the Bolivian authorities and the FBI both tell us that there is no indication of a kidnapping.

I don't think one can begin to understand the frustration and emotional stress that the parents must be going through and what kind of situation this is for a family. And we do understand their need for an answer, and we want an answer as well. So we are going to continue to do what we can to get answers, and hopefully locate Mr. Poirier.

Q: Do you have any updates on the transit of the Taiwan President?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any update for you on that, no.

Q: So you considered to allow him to meet with the congressman?

MR. REEKER: I thought I just said I don't have any update on any potential transit of any Taiwan leader.

Thanks. [End]

Released on April 30, 2001


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