|Saturday, 21 January 2017|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-10-22
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
October 22, 2001
MR. REEKER: Sorry for the delay, everyone. Welcome back to the State Department. Secretary Powell returned from Shanghai early this morning, Washington time, quite early in fact, or quite late last night, depending on how you want to look at it. The Secretary is in the office today pursuing his schedule. But I am here to try to take your questions and talk about the news of the day.
There were a couple of things I wanted to raise off the top. Several of you had expressed interest in following up on the Foreign Service exam, which we talked about some time prior to the test, which was offered on the 29th of September. And while we are focusing on the difficult issues that are confronting our country since September 11th, I think it is a tribute to the American people and the vital role of this Department that 12,807 people took the Foreign Service written exam on Saturday, September 29th. That, of course, is the first step toward a career in the Foreign Service, and this is the highest number of people taking the exam since 1988, and a 63 percent increase over last year.
Significantly, I would also like to note that minority participation increased from 23 percent last year to 31 percent this year. The number of African American test takers was the highest in the history of the Foreign Service, increasing 116 percent over last year. And Hispanic American test takers were also the highest in the history of the Foreign Service, doubling in number from last year. Asian American test takers increased 47 percent; Native American test takers doubled.
So we saw quite a strong result, I think, and we have had a great morale boost just seeing these results, and the increased media attention that all of you here helped to provide, I think, along with Secretary of State Powell and the very positive message he has delivered about the role of the Foreign Service, the role of the State Department in, obviously, American foreign policy, the importance of diplomacy and representing our country abroad, dealing with issues like those that we have been dealing with since September 11th, along with the fact that we have put more money and commitment behind our recruitment and outreach. So we are very pleased with those results.
I would also like to make a statement, which we will put out in written form following the briefing, on the voluntary surrender of Pavle Strugar. The United States welcomes the voluntary surrender and transfer of retired General Pavle Strugar to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to face prosecution. We commend the government of Montenegro for its cooperation in this matter. Voluntary surrenders and transfers of indicted persons help the region achieve peace and justice. And this is the first voluntary surrender of a Yugoslav citizen.
It is an encouraging sign, certainly, that the people of Montenegro are moving towards a stable and peaceful future by addressing the crimes of the past. And we call upon all remaining fugitives to follow General Strugar's example of publicly recognizing the personal honor and dignity of voluntary surrender to the Tribunal to face the charges against him in, as he put it, a fair trial.
In particular, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic should immediately surrender to the appropriate authorities.
So, with those subjects, I'm happy to turn it over to the Agence France Presse, who holds the seat of honor as the wire service in residence today.
QUESTION: Thank you. The Russian President Vladimir Putin was today in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where he ruled out any Taliban participation in future government in Afghanistan. He also strongly supported the Northern Alliance and former President Rabbani. Do you think his statement and the Russian efforts in this region are being in contradiction with your own approach to the Afghan problem?
MR. REEKER: No, not at all. And I think if you were listening closely to not only the Secretary and his comments from Shanghai, but certainly to President Bush and his remarks with President Putin, when they spoke following their meeting, they confirmed their solidarity in fighting terrorism. Certainly, the discussion included these topics. The Secretary addressed this in some of his television interviews yesterday.
As you know, we favor no Afghan faction, and I think peace and stability can only be established for Afghanistan through the formation of a broad- based government representing the broad mix of ethnicities and geographic distribution that characterizes Afghanistan. And as the Secretary said in his interview yesterday, in such a government, we need to represent the whole spectrum. And he noted quite clearly that there will be no place in a new Afghan government for the current leaders of the Taliban regime.
So again, we also join with others in the international community in supporting a central role for the United Nations, and we welcome the Secretary General's reappointment of Lakdhar Brahimi as his Special Representative for Afghanistan. As you know, we had meetings first in New York, and then in Washington late last week with Mr. Brahimi on that very important subject.
QUESTION: In Shanghai, President Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin talked about -- they spoke generally about increasing cooperation in areas like trade and economics. Do we know -- or could you tell us, are there new meetings that will take place, or is there increased sort of shuttling back and forth between the US and China as a result of the Shanghai meetings?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think there was a real building on discussions that the two presidents had had earlier this year in fashioning the new Russian- American relationship. And the talks, as they were certainly described to me, were very productive and advanced our agenda. These are the talks that took place in Shanghai.
There were really, I think, three areas to focus on: the solidarity in fighting terrorism, the discussion in-depth of the new strategic framework, and of course then that leads into the next set -- to answer your question more specifically -- the next set of talks that they expect to carry out in terms of dialogue here in Washington and in Crawford, Texas next month. So I would really refer you to the White House for more details on that. But the President is looking forward to that.
Most importantly, though, it is quite clear, as we have discussed, that the US and Russia are no longer enemies. We are working on a new strategic framework together, and we think that will allow us to promote our relations with Russia and work together to deter and defend against the new threats that we have seen.
QUESTION: My question is about China, though, I'm sorry.
MR. REEKER: About China?
QUESTION: Yes. Zemin and Bush talked about -- generally about trade and economics.
MR. REEKER: Those two presidents? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: That's all right. That's good stuff on Russia, though.
MR. REEKER: We were focusing on -- yes, take that for what it's worth. That will take care of one of the future questions. We have got a lot of presidents that we have been working with over the last few days.
I think, similarly, the main focus that you heard from Shanghai in the meeting between President Jiang Zemin and the United States President, George W. Bush, the main focus was counter-terrorism. The Chinese President assured our President that China stood with the US and the international coalition in the response to the September 11th attacks.
The two presidents did discuss economic issues, including our support for China's accession to the WTO, the World Trade Organization, as well as other issues in our bilateral agenda: nonproliferation, religious freedom, human rights issues, missile defense, regional issues of interest, such as our shared desire to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula. And we can certainly assist you in getting full texts of the transcripts of their joint press conference and readouts that were given in Shanghai.
QUESTION: Just before the APEC talks got going, President Bush called on North Korea to resume a dialogue with the US. Do you see any signs that that is likely to happen anytime soon?
MR. REEKER: Well, certainly, it is something we have been discussing for some time, and I would refer to what the President said last Friday following his meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, when they discussed the importance of pursuing that dialogue. And we reaffirmed, as President Bush said, our support for President Kim's Sunshine Policy. We have appreciated his leadership in this very important issue, and as the President said, after we had reviewed our policy on North Korea, we have offered the North Koreans the chance to meet with US representatives. We look forward to hearing a positive response from him. We wish to begin this dialogue with the Government of Kim Jong Il in North Korea.
So far, we have not had a positive response to that. And we would hope, again as the President said, that he would accept not only our invitation, but seize the opportunity to bring more peace and stability to the Korean Peninsula. There is an opportunity there to lead, and it is a moment in history that we can grasp and move forward on that.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the Taliban? Taliban error?
MR. REEKER: Let's finish -- we'll do a big global circle here.
QUESTION: The Secretary said they are going to work on the ABM Treaty between US and Russia before President Putin comes to the US. Has there been anything between the US and China on this same subject?
MR. REEKER: I think, as I indicated, in the broad dialogue that the two presidents had, President Jiang Zemin and our President in Shanghai, they discussed a full range of issues. I don't have any more details to go into here, but I am sure the White House can review with you some of those things.
Obviously, the ABM Treaty is an issue between the United States and Russia. It is our treaty and that is something we will continue discussing. As you know, we have said for quite some time, that treaty, which is over 30 years old, is outmoded for the realities of today's world. And so it has been a topic of discussion with our Russian friends. And we will continue those discussions when the presidents meet again in Washington and Crawford next month.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the trial today of a Chinese American citizen, Fong Fuming? His trial ended today but with no verdict.
MR. REEKER: Yes. As you indicate, Mr. Fong's trial took place today, October 22nd. I understand it lasted about seven hours. There was a US Embassy consular officer in attendance in accordance with our US-China bilateral consular agreement and the Vienna convention.
The court has announced that there will be an additional hearing to consider further evidence in the case, but they did not announce a date and a time for that additional hearing.
Our consular officer reported that Mr. Fong appeared healthy at the trial. And that is really all I have to offer for you at this point.
QUESTION: Are you disappointed that there was no verdict today?
MR. REEKER: Mr. Fong has asked that we not discuss the substance of his case in any further detail. So, in continuing with his wishes, I will leave it at that. Those are the facts. Our consular officer was there and, as I said, we don't have an indication yet from the Chinese as to when they would move on.
QUESTION: On the discussions with United Nations about the post-Taliban era, as you said, a broad-based representative government, how the discussions were about the King of Afghanistan who lives in Rome? What is the position of the United States about that?
MR. REEKER: Our position has been that the future government of Afghanistan should be as broad-based as possible. As you know, we have reached out and talked to numerous groups of Afghans representing diverse geographic regions, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds and the Afghan Diaspora. We have done that for many years. That includes the former King. And we think he, as well as all the other groups, can play a positive role in doing that. So we will continue to have those discussions. I don't have any more details. But I think we were very much in sync with the United Nations Representative when we met last week and will continue, since that was obviously a first round of discussions, an opportunity to compare notes. We will continue those discussions, I'm sure, in New York and here. Our Ambassador Richard Haass, Director of the Office of Policy Planning, as you know, is coordinating US Government efforts in that direction in terms of our policy on Afghanistan.
QUESTION: So you don't see any conflict, because the King comes from the Pashtun ethnic group, as the Taliban government?
MR. REEKER: Once again, I don't know if I can say it any more clearly, we don't support any individual or single group. We support as broad-based a future government as can be brought together for Afghanistan, a successful government with a focus on human rights, on actually governing, serving the people, unlike the regime that they have had for five years, is what we would like to see there. And, obviously, a regime that not only tries to bring stability to the country, but also a regime that is dedicated to having a terrorist-free Afghanistan is, I think, what everybody in the international community hopes for.
QUESTION: Phil, can I change the subject to Latin America?
MR. REEKER: Sure.
QUESTION: I have two questions in two different countries. First, in Mexico, this weekend was killed one of the lawyers defending human rights, and I wonder if you have any reaction to that, any comment?
MR. REEKER: Let me just say on that that the United States of America utterly condemns the brutal murder on October 19th of Mexican human rights activist Digna Ochoa. Ms. Ochoa was known and lauded the world over for her dedication, a dedication which often entailed considerable personal risk, to advancing human rights for all Mexicans. So again, we utterly condemn what was a deplorable assassination there. We are not going to contribute to speculation as to the perpetrators of this crime, but we expect certainly that the Government of Mexico will fully investigate the murder and prosecute those found responsible.
QUESTION: And on Colombia, Phil, there have been new developments inside the Government of Colombia in terms of the negotiations with the FARC, and also actions to combat the acts -- the killing of people, civilians by this terrorist group.
They present a new set of measures, for the first time recognizing -- the Government of Colombia -- the FARC as a terrorist group. Have you guys been looking at these measures introduced?
MR. REEKER: Certainly we have recognized the FARC as a terrorist group for some time, as you know, from regularly reading and referring to our annual Patterns of Global Terrorism Report. In addition to the FARC, the ELN and this year, since September 10th, the AUC organizations in Colombia, have all been designated under our law as foreign terrorist organizations.
I am not aware of the specifics of the Colombian developments. I would be happy to check into that and see if we had anything to add. But as you know, we have been very supportive of President Pastrana and his Plan Colombia, his strong counter-narcotics program. We have talked about, our Patterns of Global Terrorism has talked about, the links between these terrorist organizations with narcotics trafficking as well. So those are issues that remain of great concern to us.
QUESTION: Phil, on the Mid-East, Israeli Foreign Minister Peres has spoken today, and I guess yesterday as well, about the idea of the Palestinians having "a position" in Jerusalem, that that could be part of a formula for a solution. I wonder if you could comment on that specific aspect of his comments.
And also, just to complete the question, whether you could give us sort of a rundown of the Foreign Minister's schedule tomorrow, and on the US goals for this latest round of Mid-East diplomacy?
MR. REEKER: Well, for a specific rundown of the Foreign Minister's schedule, I would refer you to the Embassy of Israel. The Foreign Minister will be here to meet with Secretary Powell tomorrow afternoon.
In answer to your first question, before I forget it, as we have always said, issues of Jerusalem are, we believe, final status issues that should be addressed in dialogue in negotiations between the parties. That is what we have called for for so long, of course, under the basis of the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
In that vein, knowing that that is the goal that we have long advocated -- that is, getting into the Mitchell Committee recommendations, moving back towards a dialogue where they can negotiate final status issues for a lasting peace in the region -- we are very concerned at the escalation of violence and the deterioration in conditions on the ground over the past several days.
We have made those concerns very clear in conversations over the weekend. Secretary Powell spoke with Prime Minister Sharon and with Chairman Arafat. He spoke with them from Shanghai before he departed to return to Washington. Those calls have been followed up by Ambassador Kurtzer, who has met with Israeli officials today, and our Consul General Schlicher, who met with Chairman Arafat this morning. They both met separately, and also with other representatives of the international community in those meetings.
As you indicated, Foreign Minister Peres is in Washington. He will meet with Secretary Powell tomorrow afternoon. We have made very clear to Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority that they must act immediately to arrest all those responsible for the assassination of Minister Zeevi last week, as well as moving decisively against those planning and conducting other acts of terror.
In this regard, the Palestinian Authority's decree outlawing such activities is a positive step. But, as we have said many times in the past, actions are required, not just words. Those who operate against the authority of Chairman Arafat and efforts to achieve a cease-fire, act against the interests and aspirations of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian Authority, again, must do all in its power to halt violence and terror and bring to justice the terrorists whose actions are betraying Palestinian interests.
We have also made quite clear to Israel that Israel must act now in a manner that helps restore calm. Israeli incursions into Palestinian- controlled areas have contributed to a significant escalation and tension and violence, as I noted earlier. The Government of Israel has told us that it does not intend to remain in those areas. Israeli defense forces should be withdrawn immediately from all Palestinian-controlled areas and no further such incursions should be made.
We deeply regret and deplore Israeli defense force actions that have killed numerous Palestinian civilians over the weekend. The deaths of those innocent civilians under the circumstances reported in recent days are unacceptable, and we call upon Israel to ensure that its armed forces exercise greater discipline and restraint.
As we've said in the past, both sides have to step back and consider where their actions are leading. Failure on the part of the Palestinian Authority to confront terror in a decisive manner is absolutely unacceptable. Retaliatory actions by Israel cannot produce lasting security, which is the goal we have so long advocated.
So we call upon both sides to do all they can to halt this continuing dangerous situation marked by violence and provocation and act in a manner that allows progress on implementing the Mitchell Report and restoration of direct dialogue between the parties, as I said, on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
QUESTION: As a follow-up, there have been a number of reports indicating that the United States was prepared to advance a plan that included final status proposals, such as a Palestinian position in Jerusalem. Was that an idea that was advanced and then shelved for some reason?
MR. REEKER: I think Ambassador Boucher was quite clear in earlier briefings, if I can quote him. We have no plan. What we want to do, as we have been doing, is encourage both sides to make maximum efforts to get the violence down, stop the cycle of provocation and violence, get into the Mitchell Committee recommendations, which, as you know, provide the roadmap, the framework for moving ahead so we can get back to a position where the two sides can pursue dialogue, can pursue negotiation toward a final status agreement. That's where those issues can be raised. But right now, we're very concerned about what has happened on the ground and we are urging both sides to take the steps that I just outlined.
MR. REEKER: Is there anything else on the Middle East first? Can I just see if we want to follow that up first.
QUESTION: It seems today there has been a decision to hold the WTO meeting in Qatar. And I am wondering two things. One, what role do you guys play in ensuring security there? And how large will your delegation be?
MR. REEKER: WTO is a bit of a jump from the Middle East, but that's okay. I will note, as I think you were indicating, that Mike Moore, the Director General of the World Trade Organization, announced today that the World Trade Organization Ministerial would go ahead in Doha, Qatar, as scheduled November 9th through 13th. And I think Qatar deserves to be applauded for its truly excellent preparations for the ministerial. The United States certainly looks forward to a successful meeting that we hope will result in the launching of a new trade round, something the President has indicated is vitally important as we focus on economic reforms and developments, moving ahead in that.
I think for any further detail or information on our delegation, you would have to talk to the US Trade Representative's office, since they have the lead on that. But certainly there is likely to be State Department participation in that delegation.
QUESTION: Broadly connected to the Middle East. Do we have any, or does the administration have any indication or reason to believe that there is any Iraqi connection to the anthrax incidents here domestically?
MR. REEKER: I think that is something that the Secretary and others have addressed. We have no illusions about Saddam Hussein, and his record of threats and assaults upon his own people, as well as neighboring countries, is very well known, as are his attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction. We don't put anything past Saddam Hussein, but I don't believe that there is any clear linkage at this point. I would have to refer you to investigating authorities in the health field or at the Justice Department for anything specific.
But the Secretary has said previously that the extent of any linkages based on some of the reports we have seen is not clear. But he has underscored the fact that we have no illusions about Saddam Hussein.
Our focus, of course, in the campaign against global terrorism right now is on the al-Qaida terrorist network hiding in Afghanistan, where they have been given cover by the Taliban regime which, of course, has decided to side with the terrorists and now are paying that price as well.
QUESTION: As a follow-up, there have been a number of reports of suspicious packages and letters being delivered to embassies around the world. Have any of those turned up positive for anthrax?
MR. REEKER: You are correct that a number of embassies and consulates have received letters with suspicious powders, just as we have seen domestically as well, and certainly in other countries. Just judging by the press reports, this is not an isolated phenomenon.
I am not going to get into the specifics of which embassies or consulates have or have not received suspicious letters or packages, other than to say that all posts have responded properly and they are taking the necessary precautions. They are continually reviewing their security postures, taking additional steps if necessary. Last week, we discussed a bit about our review with employees in terms of mail handling and the appropriate steps to take, similar to those that we are discussing domestically.
Support from host governments overall has been outstanding, in cases where our embassies have had suspicious packages. And in most cases, I think, those are turned over to local authorities for testing. I am not aware of all the reviews of those tests at this point, but when last I checked, there was no confirmation of any hazardous substance. So there are a lot of reports out there and we are following up and checking on all of those.
Anything further on that subject?
QUESTION: I've got a Middle East question, before you go to Colombia. Foreign Minister Peres's remarks have really been markedly different from the statements coming out of Israel in the past several days. Obviously, we all understand Peres and Sharon have different political views. But I wonder if the State Department perceives a shift in the tone from the Israeli Government, compared to last week when things really were at a high boil, what with the assassination and so forth?
MR. REEKER: I would leave the Israeli Government to describe or give tone to their statements. I think we really have to leave that up to them and I will let you do your own analysis. Foreign Minister Peres is seeing Secretary Powell tomorrow. They will be meeting in the afternoon to discuss the broad spectrum of bilateral and regional issues between us. And, obviously, the Secretary plans to discuss implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations and our ongoing efforts to encourage the two sides to reduce the violence, as I said earlier.
I think we have stated our positions clearly, both publicly and in private discussions with the Israelis, and we are going to continue to make our views known in our discussions with both sides in that conflict, as we hope to see progress that can get them on the right path to resolving their differences, to a lasting peace so that all the people in the region can live more secure, more prosperous, better lives.
QUESTION: You said a few minutes ago that all responsible for last week's assassination of the tourism minister in Israel should be arrested. Foreign Minister Peres, last night and this morning, went further and said they should be jailed and even demanded that they be handed over. Do you think those demands are justified?
MR. REEKER: I think we addressed that subject last week. Again, our call is for Chairman Arafat, the Palestinian Authority, to take immediate action to arrest those responsible and move decisively, frankly, against all those planning or conducting terrorism. And there are security structures in place, through the Tenet work plan and other ways that the two sides can discuss those issues.
QUESTION: To follow up on Jesus' question, I would like to know your impression about the Colombian Government today is going to present a strong bill -- anti-terrorism bill. It contains heavy penalties to combat terrorists. It is important, a statement from Colombian Government against terrorism campaign?
MR. REEKER: Not having actually seen the bill or knowing what the Colombian Government is going to do, I can't really comment on it. But certainly our stand against terrorism has been quite clear for a long, long time. But particularly since September the 11th, when we have seen the tragic results of what these terrorists can do to our country. This is a global threat. We are working with a worldwide coalition of the civilized world to stamp out terrorism, focusing right now on al-Qaida, using all the tools available to us, that is financial and economic steps we can take, diplomacy, where we are working with countries all over the world and keeping in a close dialogue on counter-terrorism issues with many countries.
We are using law enforcement cooperation. You have seen reports of arrests, you have seen countries passing laws or introducing legislation to tighten up on terrorists, to take away their ability to take advantage of open societies, to take advantage of the global financial network. These are the steps we have to take, not to jeopardize our values and what is important in our lives, but to disallow the terrorists from using those aspects of our society, of the 21st century, to use those against us for their own twisted means and aims.
So we will continue working with countries in our coalition. Different countries will be called on to do different things at different times. But we certainly applaud all steps taken in this direction and, like I say, I can't comment specifically on the Colombian steps but I know we will continue to have a strong dialogue with our friends in Colombia.
QUESTION: I have one other question, I'm sorry. Colombian army found a secret document which belonged to the AUC. That document contained a list of names. These are men who are supporting AUC. Actually, the document shows that people supporting paramilitaries have been sending checks from USA, US banks. So is the USA helping Colombian authorities in this investigation?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of that specific document or that specific thing. I am aware that, on September the 10th, we formally designated the AUC as a terrorist organization under our law. So it now appears on the list and we spoke about that at some length on September the 10th. So that joins the other two organizations that had been previously designated and have since been re-designated as foreign terrorist organizations in Colombia.
I know that we have a counter-terrorism dialogue in terms of part of our relationship with Colombia. I don't have anything specific for you on that. I wasn't even aware of those reports. But just the other day, I issued a statement condemning a terrorist action taken by the AUC in terms of murdering a number of civilians, innocent civilians, and we condemned that most roundly.
QUESTION: Have you been following the people who are supporting paramilitaries from USA banks in the United States?
MR. REEKER: I think I just indicated that I don't have any information on the reports you are talking about.
QUESTION: I wonder if you could react to statements by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness today calling on -- who say that they have called on the IRA leadership to make a gesture on decommissioning?
MR. REEKER: I did see reports of those statements just before I was coming out. I am afraid it was cutting the edge too closely. I've got to let my folks look at the facts, look at the reports, examine those, and we will try to get you something this afternoon. So if you want to keep in touch with the Press Office, we will get some reaction on that. But they need to have a look at that. I'm sorry, the timing doesn't do well for some people's deadlines, I know.
QUESTION: What details can you provide about the letter the Administration has sent EU officials listing several dozen areas where United States wants more cooperation from the EU?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have any specifics on the letter. As you know, we have an intensive dialogue. One major aspect of our campaign against terrorism is a diplomatic dialogue that discusses a number of these things, ideas, back and forth, certainly with our European friends and allies. That has been important.
I think the European Council indicated on Friday that, again, when meeting in Ghent, they stated their unequivocal support for the actions taken in the global campaign against terrorism. The EU has taken unprecedented steps to improve their capacity to fight terrorism on many levels and they are working extremely closely with us. And that will be the context in terms of our information sharing, two-way information sharing on ideas and next steps forward to, as I said, root out, choke off the ability of these organizations to operate.
So we are very grateful for the immediate, resolute and effective support for the coalition among our European friends. I think a number of our allies have taken impressive steps to track down terrorist activity within their individual borders, and these actions have been really crucial to the coalition's pursuit of al-Qaida in particular and our endeavors to rip out all terrorism with a global reach.
As the President has said and Secretary Powell has echoed, this is going to be a long-term, multi-faceted global campaign to combat terror. And we will continue to work very closely with our European allies, but with all those in the coalition, as they have different roles and efforts they can undertake to help in this.
QUESTION: Could I go back to Afghanistan?
MR. REEKER: Please. I'll get you a ticket -- (laughter).
QUESTION: The ban on the growth of the opium poppy is reportedly unraveling. How serious is that? And would you do something about that in the possible post-Taliban period?
MR. REEKER: I think you are indicating the reports that we have also seen from UN drug control officers in Pakistan that they have reportedly detected signs that Afghan farmers in Taliban areas have begun planting opium poppy again. We have not seen reports that the Taliban has officially lifted the ban on growing of opium poppy, but the resumption of poppy cultivation suggests that the Taliban is not enforcing the ban that they had declared. And we think that the resumption of such cultivation would be unfortunate and again would further distance the Taliban from the international community and would highlight once again the cynicism of their approach in their regime in Afghanistan.
So we will continue to monitor that situation closely, working obviously with the UN and others in the international narcotics eradication and control efforts. And we continue to be quite concerned about other aspects of the drug trade there, beyond just poppy cultivation, and that is heroin production and certainly trading and trafficking in heroin and processed poppy products.
There have been large seizures of opiates originating in Afghanistan, and that continues to take place in Pakistan and other neighboring countries, indicating that in spite of their ban on poppy growth, drug traffickers are able to draw on stockpiles of opium that were produced in Afghanistan under the Taliban over the last several years. And we know that the Taliban has derived revenue from the drug trade in the past and have no evidence indicating that that practice has stopped. So it is something that concerns us that we will follow quite closely as part of our campaign.
QUESTION: Will you take any specific measure in the future?
MR. REEKER: Again, I don't think I can discuss specific measures that we have taken or will take. It is something that, as you know, we have been very involved in. Prior to September the 11th, the US Government was preparing to provide over $2 million in assistance to the UN and nongovernmental organizations for former poppy farmers affected by the drought in Afghanistan and unable to pursue alternative crops. And these projects are on hold in light of recent events.
We have been working and cooperating regionally with the United Nations and with Afghanistan's neighbors there in the region to build capabilities regionally and nationally to counter the Afghan drug trade that takes place under the Taliban. We have been very active, as you know, in the UN- sanctioned Six Plus Two working group on drugs, and that is the six countries neighboring Afghanistan, as well as the United States and Russia, in efforts to launch a regional counter-narcotics initiative. So we will continue with those efforts, because it is something that concerns us, and it is a way that the Taliban has found funding for their regime which, of course, supports the al-Qaida network.
QUESTION: This morning, I spoke to former Congressman Dan Glickman who is now working, I guess, with NGOs to stamp out what has been a surge in the last several years of a lack of fine stringency for US patents and trade, stamping out so-called sweatshops in the apparel lines as well as, if you would, counterfeit watches, software, video and that style of export. And we have been mentioning the Middle East, we have been mentioning India, Pakistan. But some of these countries they are bearing down on or talking with are Indonesia, to some degree the Philippines and other small areas, Malaysia, where some of this does go on.
One of the concerns is China. Was something on that order brought up in these talks this past week at the APEC meeting?
MR. REEKER: I would have to check and see if that specific thing you are mentioning was. It is an area that is of interest to us. It is an aspect of contemporary diplomacy in terms of intellectual property protection, an issue that is dealt with under trade. That is why we think the World Trade Organization is an important organization and we are glad to see the meeting in Doha going ahead and the opportunity to advance a new round of trade negotiations.
Why don't we try to hook you up with somebody in our Economic and Business Affairs Bureau, who might be able to talk to you more specifically about those things, and we can check and see if that came into the agenda specifically at APEC in Shanghai.
I did want to note, because some had asked earlier and we didn't have all the information updated for today, about the humanitarian effort in Afghanistan. We will be putting out a paper statement later this afternoon noting that the US has contributed another $10 million to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. We are announcing that again in response to UNHCR's current emergency needs to assist Afghan refugees who are fleeing to neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan, in this case. And with this latest contribution, we have given $14 million to the UN Commissioner for Refugees to assist the people of Afghanistan over the coming winter. This, of course, is in addition to all the other assistance that we have been discussing, part of the $320 million initiative the President has announced to support the people of Afghanistan. It complements the assistance provided by USAID and the Department of Agriculture in terms of the food shipments going there, and that remains a major priority of ours.
With the sudden increase in the number of Afghan refugees at the Chaman border with Pakistan, the World Food Program is moving enough food to the area to feed the new arrivals. Today -- and these are the figures I was able to get just now -- 80 metric tons of wheat flour, 4 metric tons of oil, and 8 metric tons of beans are on their way to Chaman. Four hundred and seventy-five metric tons of wheat are already pre-positioned there for further refugee arrivals. And yesterday and today, 38 metric tons of high- energy biscuits have been moved from Quetta, Pakistan, to the border. And I would just note that 300 grams of those biscuits are enough to feed one person for one day. So 38 metric tons, you guys can do the math, with 300 grams -- it's a great metric system test for all of us.
Distribution of food inside Afghanistan is continuing, despite increasingly difficult conditions, including looting reported to be taking place, perpetrated by the Taliban. Today, I am told World Food Program staff have distributed 500 metric tons of food to internally displaced persons in Kabul Province through the Canadian Relief Fund. And that's about enough food, I am told, for 10,000 households for one month.
And so we continue to pursue those initiatives because, as the President and Secretary Powell have made quite clear, we have no quarrel with the Afghan people. Their hardship was coming to a head long before the tragic incidents when we were attacked on September 11th. They have suffered through 22 years of civil war, they have suffered through five years of the Taliban rule and, of course, three years of severe drought and are facing a major famine. They certainly were facing that before September the 11th. And the United States has supplied more than 80 percent of all food shipments sent to vulnerable Afghans through the UN World Food Program and will continue to be the leading food donor for Afghanistan.
Anything else? Thanks. [End]
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