|Tuesday, 20 February 2018|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-10-18
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
October 18, 2001
MR. REEKER: Welcome back to the State Department, everybody, this fine Thursday afternoon. As you know, the Secretary is in Shanghai, China, where it is 12 hours later than it is here. Ambassador Boucher, of course, is accompanying him. So I am here to try to take your questions. But I would like to first welcome to our briefing room today a group of spokespersons from Croatia, representing a number of ministries and governmental organs in Croatia.
And with that I am happy to begin with our esteemed colleague from the Associated Press.
QUESTION: This may be a little bit off the wall or beyond the State Department's reach, but I thought we would try you out. There's a report from an Islamic group that an Egyptian militant named Abu Basir Amassiri has been killed by a bomb in eastern Afghanistan. Is that something the US has any knowledge of?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on that. Sorry. Anything else.
QUESTION: Sure. More, I suppose, substantive is -- the story is still breaking, but Israel apparently has responded to the murder of its cabinet minister. And also Israel is demanding that the murderers be turned over to Israel. Now, as we know the White House and State Department yesterday called on the Palestinian Authority to take action, and I suppose, prosecute and then apprehend and then try. Does the US think that they should be tried by Israeli authorities? Or is the US government satisfied with the Palestinian justice system?
MR. REEKER: First of all, as you noted and as we said yesterday, both from here and in a statement released by the White House, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must move immediately to find, arrest and bring to justice all those responsible for the act yesterday, as well as continue arrests of other known terrorists. And as we noted yesterday, words are simply not enough, the Palestinian Authority must take vigorous action now to confront and stop terrorism.
Yesterday, the Secretary and the President condemned Minister Zeevi's assassination. The White House issued a statement on that. And as I said, we discussed that from here. We stressed the urgent need for the Palestinian Authority to act against those responsible and we made quite clear the imperative of Israel exercising restraint because of the positive steps that we've seen recently by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to improve the situation. Terror must not be allowed to divert the parties from continuing steps to put an end to the violence and implement the Tenet and Mitchell plans and resume a political dialogue, as you know.
On the question you posed more specifically, I think the important thing to stress again is that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority need act now to halt decisively the activities of all of those responsible for the particular act yesterday and for other acts of terror. They need to take vigorous action and arrest those responsible.
QUESTION: But most of that was said yesterday. But Israel has now demanded that these arrests be made and that the arrested suspects be turned over to Israel for prosecution. And so what I'm really driving at here is whether the US Government would have the suspects tried in the Palestinian system? Or does it see a point to having Israel try people for the murder of an Israeli cabinet officer?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think, Barry, the important thing is that is something for the two sides to work out. The important thing again is for Chairman Arafat and the Authority to act now to arrest those responsible. That's obviously the first step there. And without getting into some legal discussion, the focus needs to be on the Palestinian Authority acting to permanently halt the activities of those responsible for terror like the assassination yesterday of the Minister. So ensuring the perpetrators of acts like these are brought to justice has always been part of the understandings between the two parties.
QUESTION: Let me ask, please, and then I'll pass, in your answer you spoke something about the US doesn't want distractions from the search for negotiations.
MR. REEKER: I don't know if that's a word I used, but take your paraphrasing --
QUESTION: -- allowed to distract or, I don't know, turn us away -- whatever it was -- divert -- you're making the point that the focus should be -- is there something -- are those mutually exclusive things? I mean is it possible, do you suppose, for a country to punish people that kill their people and at the same time proceed with peace negotiations, or is it an either/or proposition to the US Government?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I can give you a philosophical answer on that. My response, and what we said yesterday, what the President said, what Secretary Powell said from China was that terror should not be allowed to divert the parties from the continuing steps they have made. We don't want to give terrorism another victory in this battle. And so in the context of the Middle East peace process, we've seen positive steps on behalf of both of the Israeli Government and the Palestinians in recent days. We have talked about that. We have encouraged them to continue with those steps. It is important that they do that, continue to keep the violence down so that they can use the Tenet work plan structure, use the Mitchell report and its road map of recommendations to get back to peace negotiations, of course, under the rubric of the UN Security Council resolutions 242, 338 for a permanent status. That's what will change the lives of the people in the Middle East and allow them to pursue a peaceful existence.
QUESTION: Does the United States condemn the Israel incursions into Jenin?
MR. REEKER: All sides, I think, have to act in a manner to help restore trust and confidence and should avoid steps to inflame the situation and to make more difficult any measures to achieve calm.
Again, we have seen positive steps in recent days, and we don't want to let the terrorist acts that have occurred, which we have condemned, derail the opportunity for both sides to keep moving in the right direction.
QUESTION: Are you calling for Israel to withdraw its troops and tanks from wherever it has advanced into?
MR. REEKER: Again, we have called for Israel to act with restraint, not to let the terrorism that was perpetrated against their Minister to have a victory in this by derailing the positive steps that we've seen. That's exactly what the perpetrators of these acts want to see happen. And so we call on both sides to continue with the positive movement they have had. In particular, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority need to take steps to arrest those responsible for this act as well as others responsible for terrorism.
QUESTION: One follow-up. Are you concerned that this new rash of violence in the Middle East could have an impact on the campaign -- the support in the Islamic world for the campaign against terrorism?
MR. REEKER: I think the strong support for our global campaign against terrorism remains. Our coalition remains very much working together against terrorism. I think all the countries in the world have recognized, with minor exceptions, that we need to move against terrorism. This is a campaign against terrorism by the civilized world, and I think we have strong support there.
The Secretary is meeting, as you know, with a number of ministers in China. The President will have an opportunity with other foreign leaders now that he is in China as well in the rubric at the APEC Conference. We still have overwhelming support, and that includes many Middle Eastern countries, Islamic countries that are all contributing in their way towards the campaign against terrorism.
QUESTION: Do you have a comment on the sentencing today of the men held responsible for the Embassy bombings?
QUESTION: Can we stay on Israel-Palestinians?
MR. REEKER: Sure, and then we can go back. I leave that up to you guys.
QUESTION: You seem to imply that these incursions inflame the situation. Can you be a bit -- is that what you meant to say?
MR. REEKER: What I said was, Jonathan, and that is what I meant to say is that all sides, we think, should act now in a manner that helps restore trust and confidence and avoid steps that inflame the situation.
We have called for the Israelis to exercise restraint in this. We don't want to the terrorists to have a victory by derailing the positive steps that both sides have made.
QUESTION: An easy way to answer Barry's question, which you didn't take, was to say that you have no reason to believe that the Palestinian Authority was in any way responsible for this assassination and, in fact, that it took place in defiance of their orders. Is that something -- is that the conclusion that the United States has reached?
MR. REEKER: I guess I don't quite know which of the questions that were asked that would have suggested -- I don't think he did, either.
QUESTION: No, he said is it possible to --
QUESTION: To try them.
QUESTION: Is it possible to make -- is it possible to make peace with somebody who is attacking --
MR. REEKER: If you guys want to debate over what you asked. Do you want to ask me a question, Jonathan, go ahead?
MR. REEKER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, I do. No, I mean his question was is it possible to make peace with somebody who is attacking you.
QUESTION: No, that wasn't my question.
QUESTION: That was one of your many questions.
QUESTION: No, it wasn't my question. The Palestinian Authority is not -- I didn't say the Palestinian Authority is attacking Israel.
MR. REEKER: I think what we're going to do now is move to another question because she had a question that I can answer.
QUESTION: Okay, the question is this: Do you see the Palestinian Authority as being in any way responsible for this Israeli Minister yesterday?
MR. REEKER: I don't think we have made any particular investigative judgment. The PFLP has claimed responsibility for that assassination. We've talked about that in our statements. We've condemned that soundly. And we've called upon again today -- numerous times already in this briefing -- for Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to move immediately to find, arrest, and bring to justice all those responsible for this act, as well as continue to arrest other known terrorists.
And again, words in this matter are not enough, we need to see vigorous action to confront and stop terrorism.
Okay, now we can move onto your question. And just remind me what it was.
QUESTION: Reaction to the sentencing today of those responsible for the embassy bombings, or some of them, anyway?
MR. REEKER: Yes, the United States is pleased that these terrorists -- all four -- were brought to justice. We hope that the thousands of people whose loved ones were killed or injured in the bombings, including so many of our embassy employees in East Africa, will take some comfort in the court's decision. I want to stress once again that the United States will not consider the case closed until all of those responsible for these brutal attacks are brought to justice for their crimes. And for any other details you may want to contact the Justice Department on the sentences that were just handed down in the past couple of hours.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: There's going to be tomorrow a meeting in Tehran with Iranian, Uzbek, Tajik, Russian and Afghan representatives, but apparently no US representative. Do you see this meeting in Iran as in contradiction with your own efforts for the future of Afghanistan?
MR. REEKER: No, I don't see that in contradiction at all. As you know, we have long had discussions, including Iran, in the UN's Six plus Two rubric about Afghanistan -- that is the six countries that border Afghanistan, along with Russia and the United States -- discussing our concerns there, discussing our desire to see stability in the region. Certainly we've had many discussions with many countries.
Today, as you know, Ambassador Richard Haass, the Director of the State Department's Policy Planning Office, whom the Secretary has named as the coordinator of US policy towards Afghanistan is in New York meeting with the Secretary General and Mr. Brahimi, who has been reappointed as the Secretary General's Special Representative on Afghanistan. So they're having talks there today. Mr. Brahimi will be traveling to Washington tomorrow. He's going to meet with Deputy Secretary Armitage. He'll meet with officials over at the National Security Council.
So this dialogue with other countries in the international community, as well as international fora like the United Nations will continue, as well as discussions with various groups -- Afghan groups and so we'll continue to do that to pursue, as we've said, the hope that the Afghan people can form a very broad-based government to bring some semblance of order, democracy, human rights to their country, to have an Afghanistan that is peaceful and terrorist-free. That is our goal. I think that is the goal of all those in the international community.
As you know Secretary Powell was just in Pakistan and India. He discussed Afghanistan with officials from both those countries. The implications of a more peaceful and terrorist-free Afghanistan for stability in the whole region, I think, are quite obvious. That's why we have been pursuing this vigorously. We feel the Afghan people deserve a much better situation than that give to them by the Taliban for the last five years and the instability of nearly 20 years of civil war, as well as famine caused by natural causes. So we'll continue to have talks with all of those parties involved in this.
QUESTION: Has the US asked China to do what they also asked Iran to do, which would be in the event that an American plane went down in their territory that they would return the pilots or the remains or that they would give medical assistance?
MR. REEKER: Without commenting specifically what you're implying regarding Iran, I'm not aware of conversations with China. Obviously, the Secretary is in China, as is the President. So they'll have an opportunity to meet with Chinese officials. And I just wouldn't presume at this point to comment on that.
In terms of Iran, the Secretary said yesterday in a briefing with journalists traveling with him that we've been in touch with Iran through various channels. We are exchanging some ideas and information. I don't have any particular comment on diplomatic communications with Iran. But as we've said before we are determined to develop as broad a campaign as possible against international terrorism. A positive Iranian role in this effort would contribute to our goal of promoting peace and stability. And similarly a positive Chinese role will contribute, as well. And the Chinese have been very forthcoming in their statements of support for the campaign against global terrorism.
QUESTION: Yes, can you tell us what advice the United States is giving to the Afghan people in their ordeal? Should they, for example, stay at home? Should they leave their areas and go to safe areas? Should they rise up against the Taliban? Should they ignore the Taliban or what?
MR. REEKER: Are you referring to something specific in terms of messages?
QUESTION: No, but I mean, if you're bombing some people, then you should tell them --
MR. REEKER: Well, first of all, we're not bombing the Afghan people -- as you know very well. We are conducting a campaign against terrorism focused on the al-Qaida network, which has been given safe haven and refuge in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime. These are not Afghans, the al-Qaida network. They are, in fact, foreign invaders who have come in and abused the Afghan nation by conducting their terrorist activities from there.
The President was very clear in giving the Taliban authorities the opportunity to turn over bin Laden and the al-Qaida network as required under UN Security Council Resolutions. The Taliban chose otherwise. They chose to side with the terrorists. And so we are continuing our campaign against those terrorists. But I think in messages to the people of Afghanistan we have been quite clear that we have no quarrel with the Afghan people. And in fact, as I said a bit earlier, as the President has said, as the Secretary has reiterated many times, we want to see the Afghan people have a better life, a better opportunity.
We have been the largest supporters of humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people for many, many years, and I think that is the broad message that we give to the Afghan people.
QUESTION: I mean you have not answered the question at all. The answer is what practical advice are you giving to Afghan people who might be in areas where bombardment is taking place nearby? What are you telling them to do? I mean I think you have a responsibility to tell them something. What are you telling them to do?
MR. REEKER: Well, I would refer you to DOD, which has had some information campaigns involved in and specific messages going in to Afghanistan. And your colleague at the Defense Department will be able to ask that specifically there when my colleagues are briefing in about half an hour's time.
So if you are looking for the specific messages there -- however, I think some of the messages that have gotten lost include the unfair and inaccurate description of difficulties in the distribution of relief, food in Afghanistan. This has been attributed to the current military campaign, which is against the Taliban not against the people of Afghanistan.
It is important to point out, I think as I did already, that the famine there started well before the military campaign began -- based on three years of drought, based on two decades of civil war and five years of brutal Taliban rule. We have been supporting with food and humanitarian donations for many years to the people of Afghanistan. They are well aware of that.
The Taliban has recently obstructed communications between the international relief organizations and their local staff. That is the principal impediment to the expansion of food aid. Local Taliban leaders have also imposed new fees on humanitarian relief supplies at key border crossings. They have engaged in looting, stealing of trucks and other abuses. And the departure of humanitarian staff took place well before September 11th, in fact, because of the arrest, prosecution, and increased harassment of aid workers by the Taliban regime.
At the same time, I think it is important to point out again today that the international community has rapidly expanded its provision of relief recently with a shipment into Afghanistan of an additional 27,000 metric tons over the past month. International groups like the World Food Program and UNICEF and a number of international non-governmental organizations continue their provision of food aid working with local Afghan staffs. Recently a pledging conference in Geneva obtained pledges over $700 million, substantially more than target figures established by the UN. Additional food aid is already getting the Afghan people with more on its way. Another 52,000 tons of food will be supplied through the World Food Program. I think it is just important to note that the international community is taking impressive new actions to facilitate distribution despite the efforts of the Taliban to prevent them from doing so.
QUESTION: Is there any plan to try to expedite any of the US food aid given the seizure by the Taliban and the bombing of the grain --
MR. REEKER: I understand further on from what USAID Administrator Natsios discussed with you earlier this week that a new shipment of 65,000 metric tons of food aid into Afghanistan is going to be transported through more secure routes along the western and northern borders of Afghanistan with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Iran.
On those seizures of warehouses, I think you're aware that the World Food Program Executive Director, Ms. Bertini, told reporters yesterday that the Taliban had seized World Food Program warehouses in Kabul and Kandahar. I understand that this morning the World Food Program received word from its local aid workers there in Kabul that they had regained control of their warehouse in that city which is storing 5,300 tons of wheat. And the local workers are reporting that nothing has been taken from the warehouse, and the armed Taliban have left the warehouse. So once again, we will urge the Taliban to return the control of the other warehouse in Kandahar back to control of the World Food Program Afghan personnel.
So despite those seizures, the food deliveries did not stop. The World Food Program has 48,000 tons of food stored in the region, and 10,000 tons stored or on the move already into Afghanistan. So they are continuing with that.
QUESTION: Some of the aid organizations have called for a three day moratorium on bombing so they can get a real infusion of food into some of the areas where the bombing is taking place.
What is the US response? Is there any consideration of this?
MR. REEKER: Well, once again, I would first suggest you also talk to my colleagues at the Pentagon. It is not the air campaign that is preventing or inhibiting help to the Afghan people. As I just described, even with the attempts by the Taliban to obstruct a number of these efforts by the international community, food is getting into Afghanistan. And the dedication of the NGOs and the international organizations is remarkable in continuing to put this in despite the Taliban thing.
I think if you will note my colleagues in the United Kingdom noted recently that it is not true to say that if the bombing stopped, there would not be any problem in moving humanitarian supplies.
QUESTION: But if the bombing stopped, there would be one less problem moving humanitarian supplies.
QUESTION: It is my understanding that one of the problems is that it is hard for some of the aid workers to get truck drivers that will be willing to go into the area because they are afraid of some of the bombing. While you are not bombing the food or you are attempting not to, it is more of like a consequence of the bombing that it is hard to get trucks, it is hard to get people to go in, and that is why they are asking for a three-day moratorium.
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of the specifics of how they deliver this into there other than what I described to you and what Mr. Natsios talked about earlier this week, but I think it is quite clear and the people on the ground, according to many of the press reports that I have read, have also realized that our bombing and military activity is extremely targeted and focused on the Taliban, taking out their threats in terms of air defense systems, focused on the terrorists which, after all, are the target of our campaign.
As Claire Short in the United Kingdom said, as Ms. Bertini said, food and humanitarian assistance is still getting into Afghanistan. It is moving into Afghanistan in these tonnages that I just described here in spite of some of the press reports.
So, again, I think it is unfair and inaccurate to attribute difficulties on the distribution side to the military campaign against the terrorists and the Taliban who harbor them. Difficulties primarily include the obstruction by the Taliban of communication, the fact that they have started charging fees on humanitarian relief supplies at key border routes, and the fact that many of the expatriate international humanitarian aid workers were forced to leave by the Taliban long before the September 11th events, even. So we see the international community continuing with American leadership as the largest donor for Afghan relief to do a remarkable job in getting food supplies into a very difficult situation that was extraordinarily difficult long before we had to take action in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Mr. Axworthy, whom you may remember, a former Canadian foreign minister, made a speech last night and made several complaints about the campaign, specifically the use of cluster bombs and anti-personnel mines in violation of the Ottawa Treaty. And he also alleged that the Northern Alliance was receiving what he called clandestine arms shipments in violation of the Small Arms Convention. I wondered if you could answer these allegations?
MR. REEKER: I haven't seen his remarks. Those are operational issues about which I wouldn't have that information.
QUESTION: Well, they have sort of foreign policy and international law implications.
MR. REEKER: I haven't seen his remarks. I would be happy to try to take a look at them in terms of our air campaign. Again, you can go to the Pentagon, who has been briefing daily on that. I will note since you bring up a Canadian that Canada is contributing significant forces to the military campaign against terrorism. Prime Minister Chretien, on October 17th, bid farewell to a Canadian naval task group as it left Halifax to join US forces in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Canada is deploying overall a destroyer, up to five frigates and a support ship. And as you know, Canadian frigates regularly sail as part of US carrier task groups, being one of our closest allies under NATO and a good friend. Canadian air assets for the campaign have been assisting us and the Canadians have been working with us quite closely.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to add to yesterday's report -- the extensive report, cataloguing you gave us of embassy closings and/or suspicious white powders found any place or other?
MR. REEKER: We can follow up specifically on Japan. I think a number of you were following that closely. The consulate in Osaka remained closed today. We are still waiting for the tests results on the letter that was received at that consulate on October 17th. The US Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, received a suspicious letter containing an unknown substance on Thursday, that's today, October the 18th. And as we did with the incident in Osaka, we contacted Japanese police immediately. The letter was turned over to the police.
As a precautionary measure, individuals who handled the letter are taking antibiotics and undergoing tests. The Japanese police are running tests on the letter just as they were in the case in Osaka. And we're awaiting results of those. The Embassy remained open for business today and is expected to be open for business as usual tomorrow October 19th.
QUESTION: Do you happen to know how many individuals?
MR. REEKER: No.
QUESTION: And they are undergoing tests for what?
MR. REEKER: They are undergoing appropriate tests to determine if they were exposed to anything that might be hazardous.
QUESTION: Question back to the detainees in Afghanistan. Apparently the lawyer, who is coming out of Islamabad, Pakistan, has been unable to make contact. But also there were 16 Afghanis who were taken away. We have never heard much about them, working with Shelter Now. Has this government tried to make any contacts with the Taliban or other renegade groups within Afghanistan to find what has happened to those detainees, as well as --
MR. REEKER: To Afghans?
QUESTION: Afghans. Have they been executed?
MR. REEKER: I don't now. And I am happy to ask. I think our focus has been on the American citizens -- the two detained American citizens. But we've also, of course, been working closely with Germany and Australia who also have citizens detained.
In fact, the US Consul General in Islamabad has been working very closely with Mr. Ali Khan, the lawyer representing the detainees, to try to obtain updates on the detainees through the Taliban representatives in Islamabad while communications with Kabul have been very difficult. At this point I have no updates. I understand that Mr. Khan, the lawyer, last met with all of the detainees over the weekend, the past weekend -- both on Saturday and on Sunday -- before he departed Kabul.
And at that time, according to him, the detainees all appeared well. He is applying for a visa to return to Kabul to continue the detainees' case. I understand he plans to return there on Friday, that is tomorrow. In the meantime, the parents of the detainees remain in Islamabad. They are in close contact with the Embassy. Secretary Powell met with the mothers of the two Americans yesterday -- actually it was the day before yesterday -- and expressed to him support. I think you are quite aware of what the President's message has been on the subject, and that is that the Taliban needs to release all foreign nationals -- including American citizens.
So we will continue to watch for updates on that and keep in touch with the lawyer, as well as the families.
QUESTION: What does the State Department exactly do for the Afghan people to get its messages? And are there any public diplomacy efforts towards Afghanistan now?
MR. REEKER: I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. What kind of efforts?
QUESTION: Public diplomacy efforts.
MR. REEKER: Yes. As I indicated to your colleague, Mr. Wright, the Defense Department can talk to you about efforts that they undertake in terms of getting information into Afghanistan. It is a very difficult public diplomacy and information challenge in reaching people that have been extremely isolated, not only by geography but by the regime that has controlled them for a number of years now.
And so we do make efforts through international broadcasting, including the Voice of America, certainly through independent broadcasting, all of you, some of whose programs or reports may make it into Afghanistan, certainly to make it quite clear that we have no quarrel with the Afghan people, that we have been strong supporters of them. The President has talked about this repeatedly. He set aside and pledged significant funding for Afghan humanitarian relief because that is part of what the United States does in any given situation, and we were doing this long before the Taliban- supported terrorists attacked our country. So we have no quarrel with the Afghan people and will continue to help them, and we will continue efforts to try to get that message to them even though it is a difficult task given the situation there.
QUESTION: That letter in the Embassy in the Tokyo, do you know where the letter came from?
MR. REEKER: No. I have no further information on it, Barry, and I think we will probably turn it over to the Japanese police so that they can conduct the appropriate investigations.
QUESTION: Was the Sarajevo embassy closed because of this sort of an incident?
MR. REEKER: No. The Sarajevo embassy was closed, pardon me while I find the update on that. There is no update in that the Embassy in Sarajevo, as well as the branch offices, remain closed to the public today providing only emergency American citizen services.
This step was taken due to a credible security threat to the official US Government facilities and personnel in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am not led to believe that that was connected in any way to suspicious letters or packages but to other information that indicated that there was a credible security threat to our personnel and our facilities.
QUESTION: Is the United States sending a team to Pakistan in the coming days in order to carry out some assessment of economic assistance to Pakistan?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of that. If you had a particular report, maybe you know something I don't know.
QUESTION: If I do, I am not saying. (Laughter).
MR. REEKER: As a follow-up to Secretary Powell's visit, I will check into it for you if you would like.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell went on to India, and I don't think we have had a readout from this platform yet about --
MR. REEKER: Yes, we did yesterday I believe.
QUESTION: Okay. The Pakistanis are concerned about India. They have been shelling India today returning the military thing. What is your assessment of India-Pakistan relations at this point?
MR. REEKER: I think the Secretary has talked about this on the road, and I would have to refer you to his party. We have got transcripts from some of the briefings the Secretary himself has conducted, press conferences he had both in Islamabad with Pakistani President Musharraf and Mr. Vajpayee in India -- his press conference with the Foreign Minister. We will get you the transcript.
Obviously, as the Secretary has described it himself, he had very good meetings on his visit to India, since you asked specifically about that where they discussed our common interests, our growing and expanding relationship, something we have been working on, as you know, even prior to the terrorist attacks in September, our interest in transforming our bilateral relationship and, of course, confronting terrorism now with India being a crucial member of our coalition against terrorism.
He reiterated that we support India on terrorism. Obviously, Kashmir is an important issue that needs to be resolved between India and Pakistan on the basis of dialogue. We did discuss that at some length yesterday. They need to take every effort to reduce tension, avoid violence, maintain respect for human rights and pursue a dialogue there. And that is the same message that we have continued to state for many years now, in fact.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the Afghan groups and Secretary Powell spoke about a need for a broad-based government?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you talk in that regard about Mr. Haass' visits to the UN and other talks this week. Things seem to be moving very quickly in the sense that all of the groups are getting together and deciding what they want to do, and if you could speak a little bit about that.
MR. REEKER: I think I sort of covered much of that in discussing that. I noted that Ambassador Haass is in New York today, along with our Ambassador at the United Nations, Ambassador Negroponte, meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Secretary General's Special Representative, Mr. Brahimi, who was reappointed to be the UN's point person on Afghanistan. So those meetings are taking place. I don't have a readout of that today.
Tomorrow, Mr. Brahimi will be here in Washington, where he will meet with Deputy Secretary Armitage, officials at the National Security Council and others in the US Government to continue our coordination with the United Nations on this.
We also discussed earlier, in response to Jonathan's question, the international contacts we have had over a long period, obviously continuing those with particular focus on Afghanistan now. So we want to see the most broad based group of Afghans come together to form a government to try to bring stability in a post-Taliban Afghanistan that is based on peace and closed to terrorists.
QUESTION: If I could follow up on that. Some of the Afghan groups themselves have said that the United States is, if not pushing, certainly encouraging them to move quickly saying, listen, time is not on your side. You really need to get your act together. Yesterday Mr. Brahimi, in a press conference, said that's not the way to go, that there is a lot of groundwork that needs to be done and you cannot do this very quickly. In fact, the reason that he left the last time was out of frustration that these groups really could not get their act together.
So I mean it seems that Mr. Brahimi is advocating a much more careful, a much more thoughtful approach while it seems as if the United States is worried that you need to get this in as quickly as possible. Can you --
MR. REEKER: I don't know if I would accept your characterizations particularly of Mr. Brahimi's talks. He made statements yesterday. He is in talks today with Ambassador Haass. He is down here again tomorrow. And so I think it's a little premature for me to say anything while we are having meetings right now.
We have been working with everyone in the international community and particularly with the United Nations, as the President said, to work on this. There is obviously a certain sense of urgency, but it is important to do this right. We want to see as broad as possible group of Afghans work together to form a government that can bring stability to post-Taliban Afghanistan that can give the Afghan people a better future, provide for them, certainly better than the Taliban regime has been doing. With the support of the international community and humanitarian measures, as well as the promise to help with reconstruction, we think there can be a much brighter future for Afghanistan. So we will continue working in that vain and the meetings that we discussed that are going on today and will take place here in Washington tomorrow are right along with that.
QUESTION: In those discussions, has the US been able to identify an Afghan faction that would give a better life to the Afghan people than they have had so far?
MR. REEKER: As you know, we have not --
QUESTION: That may not support terrorism. But I'm talking about the well being of the Afghan people.
MR. REEKER: As you know, we have not supported any individual Afghan faction. We have encouraged them to work together to try to form a broad- based government. With the help of the international community and continued help of the international community, including the United States, that is our goal -- to see a more peaceful, stable Afghanistan that can support its people in peace and without terrorists.
QUESTION: I understand the goal, but I'm just -- the UN representative said yesterday that they didn't seem to be in sync with the US. He said the Afghans are proud people and they don't really want outsiders telling them what to do and looking after their affairs.
MR. REEKER: I don't think that is what we have tried to do. I think we tried to encourage the Afghans. The President of the United States and the Secretary of State have been quite vocal in saying this is something for the Afghan people to do. But the international community, the United Nations, countries in the region, have interests in this. They have supported the Afghan people in terms of the tremendous humanitarian work we've done, with the United States leading the way in that regard, and we will continue to do that because we have no quarrel with the people of Afghanistan. We want them to have a better life, and we want a more stable Afghanistan, which is better for the entire region and indeed for the entire world.
The lady over here had a question.
QUESTION: Actually, my question is on a different subject, so I can wait if you need me to.
MR. REEKER: We will keep doing Afghanistan. Jonathan.
QUESTION: Specifically on the question of UN peacekeeping force which Mr. Brahimi opposed. What is the US thinking on that at the moment?
MR. REEKER: I think the Secretary has addressed it a bit. I would refer you to his comments. But I will --
QUESTION: Very vaguely he did.
MR. REEKER: Okay. Can you read the comments even if they were vague? I think you can do that. We will have a better sense of --
QUESTION: I am asking you to fill --
MR. REEKER: We will have a better sense of the UN's assessment following the meetings that, again, are taking place today and tomorrow in Washington. So I do not think it would make much sense to try to characterize anything after we have had a chance to touch base with the UN in the meetings that we have already got scheduled. And we will continue to talk to them
Are we changing subjects? You go ahead, and then we'll go over to your colleague.
QUESTION: With respect to Afghanistan, the television service, Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar. It's a state-run --
MR. REEKER: I'm quite familiar with it, yes.
QUESTION: -- or state-owned television service. Have we spoken to that government and also asked other representative Arab governments --
MR. REEKER: I think we addressed some of these issue. Go ahead and finish your question.
QUESTION: I know we did this last week and the week before.
MR. REEKER: Good.
QUESTION: But are we in any way asking that they moderate any of this and maybe other broadcast services throughout the region?
MR. REEKER: I think the statement to be made is that we have not asked foreign broadcasters or governments to do anything in particular regarding - -
QUESTION: Newspaper services?
MR. REEKER: The answer applies to media. I don't have anything to add what we discussed last week and the week before. I will let you spend your afternoon chasing down those transcripts.
Okay, we are going to make the full change now -- not just the partial change.
MR. REEKER: Random.
QUESTION: Earlier this week, 14 Syrian student pilots entered the country to train at a flight school at Fort Worth, Texas. They did so legally with the sponsorship of the Syrian national airline --
MR. REEKER: Could you repeat that? They did so legally?
MR. REEKER: Thank you.
QUESTION: With the sponsorship of the Syrian national airlines. Because Syrian planes are not allowed to land on US soil, is there somehow a conflict here, or even a loophole in policy?
MR. REEKER: I am not sure why there would be. But it is something I will have to look into. I do not know anything about it. I would not want to mix pilot training with another subject. But it is something I would have to look into. And we will be happy to do that.
MR. REEKER: Okay. Now, we can make another complete change. Unless you have one to follow up on that.
QUESTION: Do you have any response to the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman's proposal that the United States reciprocate their generous decision to close down their listening post in Cuba and his proposal specifically that you close down your radar installation in Norway?
MR. REEKER: First of all, let me reiterate if anybody missed it yesterday, in terms of the statement released by the White House, that we welcome President Putin's decision to close down the Lourdes facility in Cuba. His decision is recognition that the US-Russian relationship has moved beyond the Cold War. I think Secretary Powell reiterated that in remarks he has made in Shanghai, as you know. Perhaps you didn't. Secretary Powell had dinner this evening with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. They had quite a lengthy, good discussion, I am told, by Ambassador Boucher. But I do not have any particular readouts on that. So I want to leave it for the Secretary and his party and for the President and the White House party, which is also in Shanghai and also anticipating a meeting with President Putin, to discuss anything about that.
I am sure they will have the opportunity to hear directly from Russian officials if there are matters relating to that subject and they can comment from there.
Another one, sure.
QUESTION: Not related.
MR. REEKER: Thanks.
QUESTION: A subject close to your heart.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
MR. REEKER: Everybody presumes these things, but, yes.
QUESTION: As I'm sure you have seen that the NATO and EU delegations have gone off to Macedonia?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: And can we assume that the United States fully supports this is sending much the same message to the Macedonia parliament.
MR. REEKER: I think that's a reasonably strong assumption. But lest we confuse anybody by assuming anything, I will note as you said, that the EU High Representative, Mr. Solana, and the NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, as well as the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Ralston, and the OSCE Chairman- in-Office, that would be the Romanian Foreign Minister, Mr. Geoana, are all in Skopje today along with Ambassador Pardew, whom you know has been leading US efforts there, working with Ambassador Einik and his Embassy staff.
Ambassador Pardew is expected to go to Brussels tomorrow where he will brief NATO representatives, as well. We expect the parliamentary process to implement constitutional changes foreseen in the political framework agreement to move forward early next week. And it's very important that Macedonian leaders actually show and exercise true leadership and move that process forward. We're urging party leaders and members of the parliament to do their part and the peace implementation process can come to a rapid and positive conclusion on those amendments as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Speaking of NATO in Europe.
MR. REEKER: Speaking of NATO in Europe.
QUESTION: Can you respond to media reports --
MR. REEKER: Not the dreaded media reports.
QUESTION: That the Belgians, in particular, and other European and NATO countries are not being helpful in the war against terrorism?
MR. REEKER: Well, we have seen reports in the US and European press calling into question the support for the worldwide campaign against terrorism by individual European nations. And I suppose this is sort of par for the course. But I think it's important to state categorically that support for the coalition among our European allies and trading partners has been immediate, resolute and effective. It's an unprecedented level of cooperation and assistance, which continues today. It was immediate following the September 11 tragic terrorist attacks against New York and the Pentagon.
And the United States is very grateful for the support of our friends and allies all around the world, but of course, in Europe, as well.
Many European and NATO officials have visited Washington, as you know, to support and pledge their solidarity with the campaign against global terrorism. European leaders are meeting, I understand this weekend, to press forward with their own campaign against terrorism. And I also understand that today European Justice and Home Affairs Ministry staffs are at the State Department to discuss ways more closely to coordinate with the United States in our joint efforts against terrorism. So again, in our campaign and within our global coalition we're using a variety of approaches. We're taking advantage, as the President has said, of all the tools available to us and capitalizing on our alliances in the international structures and organizations that have been created and strengthened over so many years -- NATO being a primary one of these.
I think first and foremost we have to note again in a historic move that NATO declared the September 11 attack on the United States as an attack on all 19 NATO countries, invoking for the first time Article V of the Washington Treaty, which created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Moreover, NATO has agreed to provide military support for US operations in the global campaign to combat terrorism, including the unprecedented deployment of five AWACS aircraft to assist in the defense of the United States.
Some individual NATO allies I already mentioned, Canada, have already sent units to fight side by side with ours. Others stand ready to do so if needed. The President and Secretary have continued to reiterate the thanks we have to our allies and partners. And we will continue to consult with and seek the support of those countries as we move forward in this campaign.
QUESTION: There's a little blur here between the campaign and Afghanistan and potential future campaigns. I guess I'm the only one here who had the benefit of being at a breakfast of mostly Pentagon correspondents with Bob Bell, the esteemed former NSC official who now is a NATO assistant secretary general.
He said that the NATO allies are not willing, without evidence from the Bush Administration, to support this campaign against other terrorism targets. I'm not talking about al-Qaida. He recites, as you did, all the things the allies have done, and he said even more than you have of showing their support. But if you separate the ongoing campaign which grows out of an attack that NATO discerned as equivalent to an attack on all of the allies, that's one thing. The US has, at least rhetorically -- there is no evidence of it yet -- has said that it's ready to even use the military option against terrorism elsewhere.
Mr. Bell says that the Europeans want evidence of these terrorism operations before they salute that proposition.
MR. REEKER: Obviously, without having heard myself his comments and having had the --
QUESTION: Sure, but my question really would be are we providing evidence to the NATO allies of other terrorism operations? Simply, they're in the Patterns of Global Terrorism. They are all over the place.
MR. REEKER: And as you know, we have had extensive discussions with our NATO allies and others, even prior to September 11, in counterterrorism efforts. In terms of sharing information, sharing intelligence, these are exactly the tools that the President has talked about using in the campaign on terrorism. We are using those. Many of them we were using before, and also law enforcement tools.
We have talked about from here the number of arrests that have taken place, many of them in European countries for those associated specifically with the September 11 attacks and other terrorist activity. So I mentioned I think a moment ago, as I was describing the support we have had from Europe and NATO allies, that European leaders are meeting this weekend to press forward in their own campaign against terrorism, which may include discussion of next steps and efforts. We may want to pursue in this.
Right now the President has been quite clear we are focused on al-Qaida, its network and the Taliban which has supported it -- pulling that out, uprooting it, cutting off its funding, making it impossible for them to perpetrate attacks like September 11, and then we will continue to look further until we can wipe out the terrorist threat.
QUESTION: I didn't mean arrests nor do I think he did. Six countries are actively participating in the military operation alongside the United States, and others have contributed and volunteered to do all sorts --
MR. REEKER: Like I just described.
QUESTION: Yeah, Canada, Spain, Italy --
MR. REEKER: Thank you for your validation.
QUESTION: That's right. But what they are not ready to do is to say we will participate in military operations against other terrorists.
MR. REEKER: I don't think anybody has asked them to do that, Barry, so I think you are ahead of the game.
QUESTION: Well, then, what's the evidence? I'm just asking is the US making its case against Hamas, for instance, which except for al-Qaida, has killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization?
Are we giving this evidence to NATO, or are you waiting for an attack to --
MR. REEKER: Barry, maybe I'll let you go back to the remarks I just made. Prior to September 11, since September 11, and certainly on into the future, we will continue to share information, intelligence particularly with our closest allies, with those in the NATO alliance regarding threats, security elements, and that includes terrorism and counterterrorism efforts. And we will continue to use all the tools in our toolbox that may include military action, just as the President has said, as we continue to root out this threat in terms of self-defense and in terms of regaining the security that we need to have.
QUESTION: I think I may be daydreaming while you spoke, you made a reference to some people coming to the State Department today. Could you just go over that quickly? Who is here today and what are they doing?
MR. REEKER: Your daydreaming aside, I shall repeat that European Justice and Home Affairs Ministry staffs are here at the State Department today to discuss ways to more closely coordinate with the United States our joint efforts against terrorism.
QUESTION: What level is this?
MR. REEKER: Problem with that?
QUESTION: No, no.
MR. REEKER: I would have to check and get more detail on -- just as I told the people that provided me this information -- I'm sure it's a combination of our counterterrorism people. There are a variety of people in this building and other agencies that are involved in our campaign against terrorism. I can try to get you more information on who those people are and with whom they are meeting.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Any specific question on that? One last question.
QUESTION: Can you give us some idea of the scope and the substance of Mr. Brahimi's talk with Deputy Secretary Armitage?
MR. REEKER: You must have come in late because I repeated I think now for the fourth time that Mr. Brahimi, the recently reappointed Special Representative of the Secretary General of the UN for Afghanistan, is in New York today where our Ambassador, Richard Haass, the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department is meeting with him. Tomorrow, Mr. Brahimi will be coming here to meet with Deputy Secretary Armitage and others in the US Government including over at the NSC. So I cannot give you any particular readout of talks that haven't taken place yet, but we will be happy to look into that after they occur tomorrow.
QUESTION: Thank you. [End]
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