|Saturday, 6 February 2016|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-10-16
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
October 16, 2001
MR. REEKER: I don't have any further announcements, so Mr. Schweid, we will defer to you as usual.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on whatever communication may be going on between the United States and Iran? You know, for the longest time, there's been sort of a beneath-the-surface campaign in this city to convince people that Iran is headed toward moderation. The war in Afghanistan has reinforced those instincts. People are looking for something nice to say about Iran.
But there are reports that the US has some assurances from Iran, and is giving Iran some assurances. Is there any exceptional correspondence communication with Iran, beyond what you have with 170, 180 countries, telling them essentially we want their help in the campaign against terrorism?
MR. REEKER: We have obviously made those broad statements to all countries in the world. You have heard the President, you have heard the Secretary of State. I am not going to discuss any particular diplomatic messages. I think, as we have said before, we appreciated some of the relatively positive statements that have come from the Iranian leadership in the wake of September 11th, particularly condemning the terrorist acts against the United States on September 11th.
We are determined, as we have said, to develop as broad a campaign against international terrorism as possible, and a positive Iranian role in this effort would obviously contribute to our goal of promoting peace and stability and increasing our security.
That said, and I think we have made the point quite clear on many occasions, the US and Iran continue to have serious and longstanding policy differences with each other. We have had limited contact with the Iranian Government through established multilateral channels of communication. You are aware of the Six Plus Two format with the countries neighboring Afghanistan, as well as the United States and Russia.
I would like to stress that our policy toward Iran has not changed. The President has said we will be looking for indications that countries do want to change. But, as you know, we have had longstanding concerns about Iran and its state sponsorship of terrorism, its attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and their opposition to the Middle East peace process.
QUESTION: There's an article that sort of prompts me -- it almost suggests that the test of whether the United States' attitude toward Iran is changing is to ask -- because apparently the writers of this article say the US no longer is prepared to say that Iran supports Hezbollah. Does Iran support Hezbollah?
MR. REEKER: Everything that we have said in our Patterns of Global Terrorism is exactly as that stands. What the President has said, what the Secretary has said, what we have said from here many times is that countries have an opportunity to change.
MR. REEKER: Obviously, our designation of countries as state sponsors of terrorism, the development of the list that we maintain of those countries we consider state sponsors of terrorism, the goal of that is to get those countries off that list, and countries have an opportunity to do that. So we will be watching all countries, and their attitudes toward terrorism very closely.
But in terms of Iran, I have no policy changes to announce. Eli wants to follow up.
QUESTION: Last week I asked about meetings that we had had with the Pakistanis and the Iranians regarding the absorption of refugees from Afghanistan. Can you give us any kind of update on that? Have they been cooperative in this regard?
MR. REEKER: I don't know that I have anything particular on that. I can check.
QUESTION: The Iranians.
MR. REEKER: Obviously, our folks from our Population, Refugees and Migration Bureau continue to be in close contact with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. They have been monitoring. According to the UN Agency, there are at least 2,000 Afghans per day, mainly women and children, crossing the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan. I don't have anything particular on Iran.
I think we have had strong support in terms of the refugee movement from Iran, but I would refer you to the UNHCR to discuss that with you.
QUESTION: If I could follow up. Mr. Natsios, about 10 days ago, said in our briefing, originally about the aid to Afghanistan, said that he expected somewhere around half a million refugees from Afghanistan to go to Iran. Have we at all talked to them? I mean, can you say -- I mean, maybe take it as a question -- but have we asked -- I mean, have we talked to them about that directly? And when --
MR. REEKER: I believe that is conducted through the UNHCR, which is in charge of that.
QUESTION: So through the UN, we have had these contacts with the Iranians about these --
MR. REEKER: I am not even aware of specific contacts on that. The contacts with the Iranians I have talked about in terms of the Afghanistan question through the UN Six Plus Two rubric. In terms of their cooperation on humanitarian efforts, that really is a question for the UNHCR, where we are all coordinating this.
QUESTION: Still on Iran. There are several reports in the press today suggesting that the State Department, along with the Justice Department, is trying to (inaudible) a judgment against Iran in the case involving the former hostages, American hostages of the American Embassy in Tehran.
MR. REEKER: Right. I think it is important to understand exactly what those stories are referring to, and what the role of the State Department or indeed the US Government at all in that is. First of all, as we have for more than 20 years, we condemn the seizure of the hostages -- those were colleagues of ours here in the State Department, US diplomats and others -- their holding, their mistreatment for 444 days.
But the United States is obligated to take steps to have the case -- this particular case, the Roeder case -- dismissed by a binding international agreement and US laws to implement that agreement. I think you are all aware of the Algiers Accords, which was the international agreement concluded between the United States and Iran in 1981 to bring the Embassy hostage crisis to an end.
The case was filed by certain US hostages who were seized and detained at our Embassy in Iran from 1979 to 1981. And to obtain the hostages' release in 1981, the United States agreed to bar the prosecution of any pending or future claims against the Government of Iran by these individuals arising out of their seizure and captivity. And that was implemented by an Executive Order and relevant Treasury Department regulations issued pursuant to that order.
The Executive Order directs the Attorney General -- that is, the Justice Department -- to take all appropriate action to notify the courts of the US obligation to bar the prosecution of these suits. So we are simply complying with US law with our obligations under an international agreement.
As I said, we continue to condemn the illegal seizure of the hostages and their subsequent mistreatment in the strongest possible terms. And I just outlined to Barry's question and the follow-ups that there is absolutely nothing to announce in terms of changes in our Iran policy.
We only recently became aware of the suit when the State Department was reviewing certain legislative proposals that actually referred to the suit by its docket number, and we were able to then go and check on this suit.
Contrary to some of the suggestions in some of the articles I read, this has absolutely no connection to the war on terrorism. And it was after reviewing the court papers for the case that we realized that the suit was brought by the 1979 hostages, and realized therefore that the United States Government was obligated to take action to comply with the international agreement under the Algiers Accords.
So this isn't something new, which was also suggested in some of the press articles. In 1981, we took similar steps with other cases when they were brought, and the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed those cases also in 1981.
And I would also point out that Congress enacted special legislation in 1980, the Hostage Relief Act of 1980, to provide compensation to these hostages, and all of the plaintiffs in this case who were hostages were eligible to receive such compensation.
QUESTION: Could you fill us in, please, on Mr. Haass' initial contacts with the various Afghan groups? And specifically, can you tell us whether US officials have been in touch with those in the northwest of Iran (inaudible) and other groups, which have contacts with the Iranians? We haven't heard anything about that at all, but we assume that there has been something.
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any particular contacts. I think we put out yesterday, after someone had asked me a general statement about some of the groups that we have had contacts with as we continue to pursue contacts with --
MR. REEKER: Well, your colleagues. A variety of groups. So I don't have anything specific on that.
On Ambassador Haass who, as you know, the Secretary has named as his personal representative in examining alternatives for Afghanistan's future governance, he is going to work closely in a coordinating capacity here in the State Department, and with other US Government officials, to help coordinate our policy on matters pertaining to diplomatic and economic and humanitarian issues affecting Afghanistan's future.
He will discuss matters pertaining to Afghanistan's future with UN officials and representatives of other governments and organizations. He has not yet met with UN officials in this matter. I think he is likely to do so perhaps later in the week, but no meetings have taken place in his new capacity. So obviously he will continue to carry out his duties as the Director of Policy Planning as he also coordinates through that office the Afghanistan policy.
QUESTION: This might be an awkward moment for the Government to respond to this, but do you -- the State Department has said many, many times that the Taliban is not representative of the Afghan people. What is the view of the Northern Alliance? Is that a more democratic, reliable --
MR. REEKER: I think the Northern Alliance, Barry, is one other group of people in Afghanistan. We have obviously had contacts with them, as well as with others. We have talked about that. What we seek for Afghanistan, and what we talked about, is a broad-based government. It is what the people of Afghanistan need to choose. We would like to see any future government there be as broad as possible, representing geographic as well as ethnic diversity, which characterizes the country of Afghanistan. Obviously, we would like to see that government take into consideration human rights and other issues. We discussed that yesterday. So I don't have any particular characterizations about any particular faction or group. That is why we have not supported any individual group. What we have supported is all of these groups with an interest in Afghanistan, representing the Afghan people and coming together and trying to develop the most broad-based possible government for a future Afghanistan, doing more for the people there.
QUESTION: On the public diplomacy aspects, you said that there might be something today on what the United States is doing with the Ad Council?
MR. REEKER: I promised you yesterday I would look into it further. As you know, we have been discussing the subject of information, public diplomacy. What we do here every day, of course, is an aspect of that in trying to answer your questions to help you disseminate to the people not only in this country but around the world what US policy is and to review the facts.
We have been weighing a lot of options, as we develop formal communications platforms. We are moving very carefully in this. One thing that has been discussed is meeting with the Ad Council. We are going to try to pursue that.
The Ad Council, for those of you not aware of it, was founded in 1942 as the War Advertising Council, a private, nonprofit organization which worked on World War II-related efforts and after the war, I understand that the President asked the Advertising Council to continue as a peacetime public service organization to help highlight and talk about some of the more pressing social issues of the day.
So I refer you to the Ad Council themselves to talk more about that. But the President, I think, has been quite clear in reiterating his support for public/private partnerships, and we are looking at multiple avenues of communication for disseminating information to the American public and to the public abroad to help with that. And Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy Charlotte Beers spoke, along with Assistant Secretary Boucher, on Capitol Hill, noting that we will choose any channel of distribution, any format, to help get the job done. So we are looking at a number of possibilities. I don't have anything specific to announce there.
As I indicated yesterday, we have a tremendous number of ongoing public diplomacy programs operated by our office of International Information Programs and the Education and Cultural Affairs Bureau. That includes exchange programs, the visitors programs that bring foreign leaders and others to this country. On specified programs, we have web sites that bring information to those abroad in a number of languages, including Arabic. And so we will continue to do that, as well as our outreach through the media both from here in Washington and through our embassies abroad.
QUESTION: The appointment of Charlotte Beers, I mean, as far as I know, this is the first time a former advertising executive has been placed in a role like this. Could you speak to how this might have an effect on how the United States sells its message abroad?
MR. REEKER: I think it is exactly what you said. Secretary Powell and the President have brought into the position as Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy someone with vast experience in the area of communication, someone who has got experience with corporations who have operated worldwide. It has been a concern, I think, of Secretary Powell since before his nomination, the importance of communicating, not just with the American public but also with publics overseas. And I think we have all seen, through much of your reporting, the difficulties in communicating messages, the misunderstandings that exist abroad about what the United States is, what the United States stands for, what our policies are about.
And so the Secretary has been actively promoting enhanced funding and recruitment for public diplomacy programs. And I think his recruitment and the President's nomination and the Senate's support for confirmation of Under Secretary Beers underscores that we have brought into the Administration one of the nation's most effective communicators and executives and it is indicative of the importance we place on public diplomacy.
So we will continue working in this very difficult field and getting our message out. The idea of the true values of American society, of our policies, and much of this had already begun before September the 11th. But as we are galvanized in our campaign against global terrorism, an important element of that is going to be information and getting facts to the people of the world.
QUESTION: You said -- could you explain what sort of overseas -- you said she had experience with overseas corporations or worldwide corporations. Which corporations did she work with?
MR. REEKER: I would have to get you the biography. Under Secretary Beers was the chief executive of two major firms, global communications firms that deal around the world with clients.
QUESTION: And both Representative Lantos at that hearing last week and also Prime Minister Tony Blair have said that the United States and the West is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. Do you feel that those are accurate statements?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think the fact is there is a battle for hearts and minds. There is a lot of disinformation out there. There is a lot of misunderstanding. The difficulties we face in getting our message out are quite clear and, as I said, well before the September 11th attacks, we had begun looking at a multi-year plan on how to expand our radio broadcasting, expand publications and educational and cultural exchanges around the world, particularly with the Muslim world and other parts of the world where there seems to be so much misunderstanding about the United States. And that is why Secretary Powell and the President looked to someone with the experience that Under Secretary Beers brings to the job and our entire group of public diplomacy professionals who are an integral part of the State Department working on these programs both here in Washington and overseas.
QUESTION: Just a little follow-up. One of the things I am hearing from Arab diplomats, for example, is that the US support for Israel is one of the issues that alienates the Arab world. Do you accept that that's true? I mean, I am not talking about support for its existence, but support, let's say, for a policy in settlements or --
MR. REEKER: I will let Arab diplomats, obviously, speak for themselves. Our goal is to make known the facts about our policy, to make understood what we stand for and, in terms of Israel, our support for our ally Israel is well known and well understood. But most importantly, it needs to be understood, our role in the Middle East peace process and that we have promoted a process there in a real leadership position.
From the very beginning, we were a co-sponsor with others in the international community of the Madrid Summit, of the Oslo Peace Process. We have worked throughout several administrations to help as much as we can to bring both sides together. And we discuss on a daily basis here the steps both sides need to take. In the current situation, we have supported -- as have both sides and the rest of the international community -- the report and the recommendations outlined by Senator Mitchell in a way to move forward so that the two parties can return to negotiations, because the only way forward is to have a final status agreement on the basis of the UN Resolutions 242 and 338, and to have negotiations in that context. And that is what we have called for.
We have supported parties on both sides with the help of others in the international community, with the Russians, with the European Union, individual countries from Europe and certainly countries in the region like Egypt, Jordan and others.
QUESTION: Not to be nit picky, but to follow up on that?
MR. REEKER: Not to be nit picky, okay.
QUESTION: To follow up on that, what do you say, though, when Arab diplomats raise the point that this building has not taken any steps since the beginning of the Intifada to cut or to turn down the spigot at all of US arms supplies to Israel, which they clearly see on Al Jazeera every day as being used against Palestinian civilians, in their minds. That is the perception out there. So how do you respond in that respect that, yes, you have supported all of these diplomatic initiatives but you have not really - - to use the expression -- put the money where your mouth is?
MR. REEKER: Well, I would suggest, Eli, that through our assistance to many in the region, we have supported the peace efforts there tremendously. What I can tell you is what we say here every day. You know quite well our views on the Middle East peace process, how both sides need to take the steps necessary. In recent days, we welcomed the ongoing positive steps taken by the Israeli Government and by the Palestinians in continuing efforts on the Palestinian Authority's side to confront violence and terror. Those are extremely important and have to continue, as well as the Israeli Government's steps, as I indicated yesterday, including withdrawal of their forces from Hebron, the easing of closures and checkpoints.
And so we will continue to support our allies, but to support the peace process and what we have stood for. The President has made that quite clear. The Secretary has made that quite clear. It is a process we have supported for many, many years and we have really been the best friend to the peace process and will continue to be. That is why we have invested time in it, that is why the Secretary continues on a virtually daily basis to follow developments there, to continue to press both sides to take the steps they need so that they can get back to the negotiating table to work on a settlement that will provide final status arrangements under the UN resolutions that both sides, that the entire international community, have embraced as the roadmap and the outline for peace.
QUESTION: You were unusually frank about the battle for hearts and minds. We haven't heard it quite so clearly before.
MR. REEKER: I think it was somebody else that suggested it.
QUESTION: You said the difficulties we have getting our message across are quite clear. What are they? They're not clear to me, so perhaps you can clarify.
MR. REEKER: Well, I think one needs to reach audiences who don't necessarily listen to our briefings every day, who aren't able necessarily to read the fine, clear reporting that you do on a regular basis to enunciate what the facts are about US policy.
Obviously, if you just look at reporting from the region, look at understandings that seem to be expressed, there is a lot of misunderstanding about what the United States is and what the United States stands for. And the President has talked about what this country is based upon, that we are based upon freedom, opportunity for all; we are a multicultural, multireligious society, and that is clearly a message that is not always well absorbed in those countries.
So we need to look at ways, in the context of the 21st century, of how we can get our viewpoints across. And it is not necessarily even about viewpoints. It is about understanding the facts about our society, about the facts that this country includes Muslims, who contribute greatly to our country. The President has talked about that. He has visited mosques in this country. It is one of the fastest-growing religions here.
And one of the most disturbing things I hear are reports from some that suggest in other parts of the world that America is a godless country. That is simply not the case, as you all know. Those of you that live here, work here, and understand what America is about, there is clearly a misunderstanding on the part of many people, who may be frustrated in their own surroundings, about what the United States stands for.
And so one of the aspects in our campaign against terrorism, but in our foreign policy more broadly, is to pursue information and information sharing so that we can get our message out as best as possible. And it is a challenge to do that in any environment, and that is what we are taking on in our public diplomacy efforts.
QUESTION: This all stems from what you say as there is a misunderstanding of what America is about, but are you prepared for the possibility that people do understand what America is about, and just don't like it? (Laughter.) No, I don't mean that to be funny. I mean, we, the American people and the American Government, think that the values that they live by are right and proper and good. But, as we know, that other people have different values and different morals and different ideological differences, and they just might not like what American stands for. And what do you do with your public diplomacy when you put forward the American message and they're like, well, we got your message and we just don't agree?
MR. REEKER: I think it is quite clear, from what we are seeing, that they don't get the message. What I just talked about were some of the clear and obvious misperceptions. There is room for disagreement in the world. There is room for different views and different approaches; that is what this country is based upon. It is based upon having absorbed people from all around the world that have looked to America for the freedom that this country stands for, for the tolerance and the multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious environment in which we live and in which we prosper. And it is what has helped us to prosper, because we have had opportunities under a democracy to do that.
And so I think clearly what we have seen in many cases are pure misunderstandings of the ability of others to shape people's views, and we are simply seeking to make known clearly what this country stands for, what our policies are about, and that is a challenge we will continue to accept and continue to work on.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MR. REEKER: Sure.
QUESTION: To rephrase it slightly. Are you prepared for the possibility that they actually like the United States, but they don't like what you do, which seems to be the message that comes from the other side in this propaganda war? I mean, they seem to have objections to particular actions by the United States, not to --
MR. REEKER: I think what we do every day in terms of our little repartee that we carry on is to explain what we do, why, what our policies are about, and hope to make sure people understand what the facts are in relation to those policies, and why we are carrying them out. That is why I come and answer your questions.
QUESTION: Well, one of the complaints they have is our policy on Iraq. Where do we stand on the next stage in sanctions against Iraq, which does in fact -- is in fact approaching --
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything new to report on that.
QUESTION: It is approaching in November, early November at some point.
MR. REEKER: And in answer to that question, I don't think I have anything new to report. I am happy to check and see on that. You know what our position has been on that and steps we would like to take, steps the Secretary has spearheaded in strengthening controls on the regime of Saddam Hussein, for the very reasons that we have outlined so many times -- that is, to prevent his regime from threatening its neighbors, from threatening his own people, which we have seen. And at the same time, taking every effort we can to provide for the Iraqi people.
Unfortunately, we give these efforts maximum strength, and the Iraqi regime prevents their own people from getting the foods, the medicine, that should be made available to them. So we will continue to work that at the UN through the Security Council. You are correct, in the coming months -- weeks and months -- we need to be revisiting that again. And I will be happy to try to check in on the specifics of that.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. REEKER: We seemed to cover about half a dozen topics in a broad swathe of discussion.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell yesterday -- and I know this was the traveling party -- said that there was a desire to accommodate the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Two things. Apparently, the Indians are concerned about this, and I have heard that people see this as a sort of new formulation of policy. And I just -- have you long expressed a desire to accommodate the aspirations of the Kashmiri people? Has the State Department --
MR. REEKER: Yes, I think I said yesterday, if you check back on the transcript then, and it is exactly in line with what the Secretary said today, of course, that we have said about Kashmir that there has got to be a peaceful dialogue. And we have encouraged both India and Pakistan to help pursue dialogue. We have said that restraint on all sides will facilitate prospects for that dialogue to produce positive results.
And the Secretary was in Pakistan yesterday and he is in India today. He is going to engage the Indians just as he did the Pakistanis in Islamabad in a wide-ranging discussion of bilateral relations, cooperation in the common war against terrorism, the future of Afghanistan. But this is not about Kashmir mediation, as I said, as the Secretary indicated. But, as we have said all along, we encourage the two sides to have this and take into account the views of the people in Kashmir.
QUESTION: If I could follow up, not to over-simplify, but I believe the Kashmiri people aspire to have an independent Muslim state. In no way was the Secretary or State Department endorsing that idea?
MR. REEKER: No, and I am not endorsing your concept of the belief of the people of Kashmir. So I think we will continue to have the same policy on Kashmir that we have had for so many years, and that is that the two sides need to resolve this peacefully, and that the way to do that is through dialogue. And it is important for all sides to reduce the violence and to try to pursue a dialogue.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? Can you say what the United States Government envisions as a resolution to the conflict, just as you've said that you envision, let's say, a Palestinian state?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything to add on that, particularly while Secretary Powell is there speaking to people in the region. So we will leave that to him.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, "aspirations" seems to imply that you are recognizing that they are unhappy with their present status.
MR. REEKER: I think you are over-implying something based on a transcript from the Secretary’s press conference. And I think I will let him speak for himself. It is quite clear. It represents what our policy has been. I don't really have anything to add and I'm not going to try to parse that.
QUESTION: Can I take one more crack at the apple?
MR. REEKER: Crack at the apple?
QUESTION: There is a perception among, at least the people I've talked to today, that this could be perceived --
MR. REEKER: That's good, Eli. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- all right, it could be perceived, coming so close to the events in Srinigar, as rewarding violent terrorist behavior, because a statement like this is --
MR. REEKER: I don't know what could possibly be perceived from that statement to reward Srinigar. We made clear statements, the Secretary of State himself did, about denouncing the behavior of those that would perpetrate terrorist attacks like those that occurred in Srinigar. We have been very clear on that. I will get you the transcripts. We can cut to the videotapes from previous briefings, Eli, if you like. I suggest you continue to put in context everything that we have said and continue to see the reports of what the Secretary says while he visits Pakistan and India.
QUESTION: Some experts have said that this anthrax that was found in the office of Senator Daschle could have been of a grade that indicates it was from a state, that this was from a --
MR. REEKER: Texas? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, a foreign entity. Is there a concern that some of the -- we talked last week about anthrax being found in Kazakhstan, that some of the former Soviet states, their biological weapons capability is not entirely secure, and that some of this is making its way to the black market to the United States?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. It is something I would have to check into and ask the appropriate people. I know we did talk yesterday about a Defense Department team that had been in Kazakhstan working closely with Kazak officials on that type of thing within the rubric of bioweapons control. I just don't have any specific information on it, but I am happy to look into it for you. And it is a fairly general question, so you might try to see if you have something particularly specific you want to ask. But I will look into it.
QUESTION: Okay, I have one more. On Sudan -- oh, go ahead.
MR. REEKER: Anthrax?
QUESTION: Were you able to identify the two cases of white powder, which were found in the building?
MR. REEKER: I am not -- I don't have any further information on it. You might want to check with the FBI's hazardous materials folks, who took that to carry out the final identification. But, as you know, they were determined to be nonhazardous white powders.
QUESTION: On Sudan, Secretary Powell initially, and now last week Secretary Armitage, said that the Sudanese have been very helpful in arresting and handing over suspects believed to be linked to Usama bin Laden and perhaps to this terrorist attack. Were they handed over to the United States, these suspects? Where are they and who are they?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of anything about handovers. You would have to talk to law enforcement officials who were conducting investigations on that part. I don't have anything for you.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that Secretary Powell is going to China after his visit in India?
MR. REEKER: Yes, I can confirm that, as it was announced in the travel announcement. He will be leaving India to go to Shanghai to attend the APEC Summit, where he will be joining the President of the United States, who is also going to Shanghai.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) said at the OAS that the counter-terrorist policy in Latin America is the same as everywhere, including where appropriate the use of force. And of course, people in Colombia jumped to the conclusion that the United States was ready to use its military forces in Colombia. Can you clarify that position a little bit, please?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything particular on that. We have identified in our own process, as you know, organizations that we have designated as foreign terrorist organizations. We had designated an additional one in Colombia, the AUC, on September the 10th, in fact, just one day prior to the attacks carried out upon New York and the Pentagon. And so we have been quite clear in that process over many, many years, our views on terrorism. And I think the President has talked about this being a campaign against terrorism with a global reach. Right now, we are focused on al-Qaida and the Taliban regime, which has given al-Qaida safe harbor, has refused to turn over the lieutenants of that organization. And that is why we are perpetrating, with so many different tools at our disposal, our campaign there.
So I don't have anything to suggest anything else, other than to say we have been quite explicit in our designations of organizations like the FARC, the ELN and now the AUC in Colombia, which are clearly terrorist organizations and have perpetrated terrorist acts. In fact, just yesterday I put out a statement condemning an act perpetrated by the AUC last week that resulted in the death of, I believe, 24 civilians.
QUESTION: So the possibility of using force in this instance in Colombia is not discarded at all?
MR. REEKER: Whose force? I guess I am just not following your premise here.
QUESTION: US. The US military force against these terrorist organizations in Colombia.
MR. REEKER: I have not heard anything at all to that effect. So I think I don't believe that is something that has been discussed at all. But certainly our support for anti-terrorist efforts around the world is something that we have talked about long before September 11th. And I would just refer you to our Patterns of Global Terrorism Report where, in the case of Colombia, we specifically refer to those organizations that I just mentioned.
QUESTION: Just for the record, does the State Department have anything official to say about the now-you-see-him-now-you-don't foreign minister of Taliban? (Laughter.)
MR. REEKER: I like that, Barry.
QUESTION: One of the great vanishing acts. Except he seems -- he is reported talking to lots of Pakistanis but nobody can find him. It's all very mysterious.
MR. REEKER: I was going to try to come up with something as witty myself. But I don't. In fact, certain newspaper reports aside -- and I think Secretary Powell made this quite clear in his own press conference, we do not know where this reputed Foreign Minister Mutawakel is. I have seen the numerous reports that he is in Pakistan but, other than these reports, we have no indication that he is there. We have had no contacts with him, nor received any messages from him.
I think, again, the Secretary stated that quite clearly in his press conference earlier from Islamabad. I think statements that were purported to be tied to that gentleman in terms of calling for deals on bin Laden carry no weight. The Taliban know what they have to do: Deliver bin Laden to justice, dismantle the terrorist networks in the territory they control, just as the President has said.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) airwave war questions. We have had experience with this, with Radio Free Europe and Radio Marti. Why is this so difficult now, with this war and this situation?
MR. REEKER: These are always difficult questions, and the specific media that you are citing, they have continued to play a role or did during the period in which they were focused on trying to take the American story to the people all over the world, to help people understand what the United States is about and what our policies are and why.
So it is a similar struggle that we have faced in the past, you are exactly right. In the 21st century, in our world of global communications, of 24- hour news, of electronic information, of the Internet, it has become a far more challenging role. But one that has far more opportunities and it is a question of determining the appropriate communications methods to use, and that is what we look at in our public diplomacy efforts.
So radio is very much an important one. We are working closely with the Voice of America and other US Government broadcasting to get our message out there. And we will continue to do that and continue to do things like this little gathering where we take your questions and speak to the world and answer your questions but make our points as well.
QUESTION: To follow up (inaudible) her question about -- about maybe the Muslim world looking at us and maybe not liking the message that they see. In getting our message out to the Muslim world, do we have an understanding of the Muslim world or a sufficient enough understanding of the Muslim world to convey our message?
MR. REEKER: I think it is very important and we, as a nation, have many Muslims, Americans of the Muslim faith. President Bush has talked extensively about Islam being a religion of peace. It is not the religion that certain individuals, like the terrorists, the murderers, have perverted for their own twisted, secular aims. It is a religion of peace and those that understand it -- many American scholars, clerics -- have joined with those in other countries, in Egypt and in Saudi Arabia, condemning terrorism, noting that the actions that have been taken in the name of religion are, in fact, against all that Islam and other religions stand for.
So I think it is important that we understand the context in which this religion and what it stands for has been perverted and twisted for the murderous aims of a few. And one of our goals is to prevent that from happening in the future.
QUESTION: Can you comment on the discrepancy in perception? There are those who say that the Taliban control bin Laden and the others who say bin Laden owns the Taliban. What is the perception of --
MR. REEKER: We usually leave perceptions up to you who do your analysis and those that are free to have their own perceptions.
I think it is very clear, the President has made quite clear that the al- Qaida network is responsible for murder, for unspeakable acts of terror. And those that harbor them and support them, in this case the Taliban, will face the same fate. The Taliban has had a choice. We made that choice quite clear for some time now. The United Nations Security Council, the full international community has said for over two years under Security Council resolutions that the Taliban must turn over bin Laden to face justice because of his past crimes.
They have refused to do that and were sanctioned and censured with additional Security Council resolutions. And now we have been quite clear for a number of weeks, since the President spoke, he issued his demands to the Taliban. They have an option. They have chosen the wrong option, and now they will suffer the same fate as the terrorists.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Thanks. (The briefing concluded at 2:15 p.m.)[End]
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