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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #57, 00-06-13

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


690

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Briefer: PHILIP REEKER_

ANNOUNCEMENTS
1	Azerbaijan and the Passing of the New Law on Central Election
	 Commission 
1-2	Democratic Municipal elections in Montenegro -- OSCE Observers
SERBIA
2-3	Democratic Forces in Montenegro
AZERBAIJAN
2	Central Election
RUSSIA
3-4	Chairman of Media Most Arrested
10	Secretary Cohen's Travel
NORTH KOREA
4-5, 10-12	North-South Korea Summit Meeting
ISRAEL
5-8	US involvement in Israeli-Palestinian Talks
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
7	US Secretary of State Meeting with Chairman Arafat
SYRIA
9	US Secretary of State Meeting with Dr. Asad
PAKISTAN
12-13	Foreign Minister Meeting with Deputy Secretary Talbott
DEPARTMENT
13	Ambassadorial Nominations / Security Issues at the State Department
GREECE
14	EU Wide Anti-Terror Cooperation
COUNTER-TERRORISM CONFERENCE
15-16	Representatives of the Conference
SOLOMAN ISLANDS
17	Status of the capital, Honiara
18	Evacuation of American Citizens
ZIMBABWE
18	Elections
18-19	Asylum Status of Cuban Doctors

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB # 57

TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 2000 1:40 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. REEKER: Good afternoon. I think the last participant in the briefing room was a tad shorter than I. Welcome back to the State Department. As you know, Mr. Boucher remains traveling with the Secretary's party. The last heard from, they had stopped in Rome for refueling on their way back from Damascus.

I have a couple of statements that we'll be posting this afternoon: one on Azerbaijan and the passing of a new law on the Central Election Commission in that country, and also a statement on the democratic local elections in Montenegro.

The United States welcomes the peaceful and democratic municipal elections that took place June 11th in the Montenegrin cities of Podgorica and Herceg Novi. These elections mark an important step forward in the development of democracy in Montenegro, as well as in Yugoslavia. The successful conduct of these elections renews our hope that all of Yugoslavia will soon enjoy the freedom and protection of basic human rights already enjoyed by the people of Montenegro.

We fully support the preliminary findings issued June 12th by the OSCE, which closely monitored the campaign and the balloting. Elections were free and fair and conducted in a peaceful atmosphere. We commend the Montenegrin Government for its cooperation with OSCE observers and its tolerance towards political opponents, a position which contrasts sharply with the attitude and behavior of the government in Belgrade.

By turning out in such large numbers, Montenegrin voters sent a clear message that democracy is the best way for a society to make decisions and to resolve differences. The June 11 elections provide clear evidence that the Montenegrin people are ready to work for a better life in the 21st century. And I might add, it's time for the people of Serbia to join them in a democratic future.

We'll post a full --

QUESTION: Can I ask a question about that?

MR. REEKER: Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: Are you at all disappointed that pro-Milosevic people won in the one municipality? And I realize that you're probably going to say no but, I mean, you have taken positions on other elections, notably in Peru and also in Austria, where the outcomes were not particularly pleasing to you.

MR. REEKER: We are, as I noted in the statement, pleased that the elections were peaceful and that so many eligible voters took part in both cities. We're calling on the new local governments in both of those cities to dedicate themselves to supporting efforts to advance democratic and economic reform. I think the important point is that the victor in these elections in the people of Montenegro, who have exercised the right to choose freely their own leaders and demonstrated a confidence in and support for the democratic process.

QUESTION: Does that mean you would be willing work with the pro-Milosevic folks that won?

MR. REEKER: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Does that mean you would be willing to work with the pro- Milosevic people that won in that election? I think there's been a lot of support given - USAID and it's kind of NDI - you know democracy-building type stuff.

MR. REEKER: Right. I think, again, the Montenegrin Government's cooperation with the OSCE observers and the elections in both of these towns contrasted sharply with attitudes that we've seen on the part of the government in Belgrade. The voters sent a clear message. We will continue to work with local governments. I think my statement pretty much stands for itself in terms of the people in Montenegro having had the opportunity to express themselves in free and fair elections. And we will continue to support democracy in Montenegro.

QUESTION: And in other parts of the world you're in favor of free and fair elections?

MR. REEKER: That's right.

QUESTION: In every region in the world; the Middle East, for instance? The Middle East, too?

MR. REEKER: Are we done with Montenegro?

QUESTION: In shorthand, can we say that just because pro-Milosevic - the fact that pro-Milosevic people won in this - in one town in Montenegro does not disqualify those towns from US support in terms of --

MR. REEKER: No, I think we continue to work with democratic forces in Montenegro and to support Montenegrin --

QUESTION: The policy in Serbia, you were trying to distinguish between towns and cities that seem to be democratically oriented and those that weren't, and you were selectively applying assistance. That policy doesn't prevail in Montenegro?

MR. REEKER: We've tried to support democratic forces in Serbia, as well. And we think that Montenegro is a fine model --

QUESTION: No, city by city?

MR. REEKER: -- for their effort. I don't think I'm going to get into your characterizations of the particular groups elected in these countries. What's important is that the Montenegrin people have had the opportunity and demonstrated their desire to see democracy move ahead by making their choices known and turning out in large numbers to support these free and fair elections.

QUESTION: The Administration is - well, not on that. Do you have another statement that you were going to say?

MR. REEKER: No, the one on Azerbaijan I'll just release afterwards.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. Well, the arrest of the newspaper executive Gusinskiy, does this reflect a crackdown on the press? Does it reflect the president's anti-corruption policy? Maybe a little of each? Or is it too early to say what it is?

MR. REEKER: We did just see quite recently before I came out here the press reports about that arrest and we are concerned by those press reports. Our Embassy, in fact, has confirmed that Mr. Gusinskiy, the chairman of Media Most, was arrested today. And we are following up with Russian authorities and with Media Most officials to try to get more details and information that. We had talked about, some time ago, federal security service and tax police having raided the offices of Mr. Gusinskiy and the media group on May 12th, I believe.

In light of the subsequent court ruling from that date, which called into question the legality of some aspects of that raid, this new action against Mr. Gusinskiy will obviously draw the closet of scrutiny. As you know, and as we've talked about before, Mr. Gusinskiy is a prominent supporter of press freedom as owner of the leading independent media conglomerate in Russia. I think there have been a series of events now, including today's events in Russia, which have drawn international attention to the issue of press freedom, and for this reason President Clinton and Secretary Albright emphasized the importance of the issue of press freedom in public statements last week in Moscow.

QUESTION: Is it credible that Mr. Putin - Mr. Putin's statement that he knew nothing about this? Can you make a move against somebody like him without Putin knowing?

MR. REEKER: I think we'll have to look into the details on that, Barry. As I said, our Embassy is trying to follow up. They were able to confirm the arrest but will be following up with more details and watching that case closely.

QUESTION: When you say that this will obviously draw the closest of scrutiny, you're talking about scrutiny from the US as well as others?

MR. REEKER: I think all of us have watched, as I indicated, developments in Russia that have brought to question and drawn attention on the issue of press freedom there.

QUESTION: So, yes, this is something that is going to draw the closest of scrutiny from the US?

MR. REEKER: As I said, we'll be trying to follow up and get the details on that. I think we talked about the earlier actions about a month ago and we'll continue to follow that.

QUESTION: The summit meeting between North and South Korea is still going on now in Pyongyang, and yesterday Chairman Kim Chong-il showed up at the opportunity to meet President Kim Dae Jung. Any comment is ready for that?

MR. REEKER: We warmly welcome this historic meeting between the leaders of South and North Korea. The personal reception of President Kim to Pyongyang by Kim Chong-il is a hopeful sign. While the outcome of course can not be predicted with certainty, to echo the words of President Kim on his departure from Seoul, we are hopeful that this summit will represent the beginning of a process which will lead to a fundamental reduction of tension in the Korean Peninsula.

A direct and continuing dialogue between the South and the North is central to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. As we've said many times before, we strongly hope this historic meeting can be the first of many. President Kim's vision of engagement, I think, has been instrumental in preparing the ground for this summit meeting; and his support of a US-North Korea dialogue, a Japan-North Korea dialogue, and dialogue between Pyongyang and other nations, in fact, opened the door for this important step which we're witnessing now.

QUESTION: What would you like to see come out of this? Are we going to see unification, one country perhaps?

MR. REEKER: I think we want to watch this summit go forward.

QUESTION: The process --

MR. REEKER: It's a very important step. It's truly a historic step. The pictures we've all seen yesterday and today definitely qualify as historic. I think we're going to reserve any comment. We'd like to see a continued dialogue and, as I indicated, this is an important step in a process of dialogue, which is the best way to move forward and maintain peace and stability on the Peninsula.

QUESTION: Were you be at all surprised at the, you know, enthusiasm of the welcome that President Kim received?

MR. REEKER: Well, it was a very warm welcome, and we welcome that welcome.

(Laughter.)

MR. REEKER: I think all of us have been very --

QUESTION: Was the US expecting anything like this?

MR. REEKER: I don't think it was up for us to make expectations. As we've said, we can't predict outcomes. We welcome the announcement of this summit and certainly are watching closely along with the rest of the world as this goes forward.

QUESTION: Was Wendy Sherman smiling.

MR. REEKER: You would have to check with her office on that. She was smiling when I saw her this morning.

Anything more on Korea?

QUESTION: The Israeli-Palestinian talks. Can you tell us whether - we heard this morning that Mr. Miller was meeting them separately. Has he gotten them together yet? And can you perhaps finally explain to us why they are split between Andrews and Bolling and who's doing what where?

MR. REEKER: I know that's been just driving you crazy, Jonathan.

QUESTION: Everybody keeps calling. All over the country they want to know why they split.

MR. REEKER: That's right, calling in. Look, I'm not going to have a lot of details. I indicated that before. It should come as no surprise to any of you who have followed this process and how these talks and negotiations have been conducted in the past.

As you indicated, Deputy Special Middle East Coordinator Aaron Miller has met separately with the Israelis and the Palestinians. They will have a three-way meeting this afternoon at Bolling Air Force Base. I'm just really not going to get into any further details on it other than to say that the two sides will be engaged throughout the week in serious and intensive discussions. They are going to involve a variety of different types of meetings and at the two different locations that we've mentioned. There will be separate meetings between the US and each of the parties; there will be meetings between the parties at which we're not present; and there will be three-way meetings where all of us are there.

Pursuant to your question about the two locations, that was determined to be the best way to proceed. At Andrews, we expect that the parties will be discussing permanent status issues only, and at Bolling they'll be discussing different issues related to permanent status as well as various interim issues.

QUESTION: The Secretary, she's coming home --

QUESTION: At Bolling they'll be discussing issues related to permanent status plus interim?

MR. REEKER: Let's run that one again. We'll go to the videotape. At Andrews, the parties will be discussing permanent status issues only. At Bolling Air Force Base, they'll be discussing different issues related to permanent status, as well as some interim issues.

QUESTION: Can we stay with the logistics just for a second?

MR. REEKER: Okay.

QUESTION: One, does this mean that this afternoon's meeting is going to follow that line because it's at Bolling? Or is this kind of like a preliminary get-together?

MR. REEKER: I don't have a specific readout on this. This will be the first time we'll get them all together. This is the first full day, obviously. But then we expect the talks to follow the sort of break-down in terms of the two sites along what I just read.

QUESTION: So we shouldn't necessarily assume that because the meeting this afternoon is at Bolling, they're going to be discussing what you said was the topic?

MR. REEKER: I don't think you should necessarily assume that as the first time when we're having a three-way meeting.

QUESTION: This is all at Bolling, including the Andrews side at Bolling?

MR. REEKER: Yes, that's my understanding is that there will be a three- way meeting at Bolling today with the delegations and --

QUESTION: Are the delegations effectively split in two? Or an Andrews team and a Bolling team?

MR. REEKER: I'm just not going to get into who, what, where - teams. We've given you a broad outline of how the talks are going to proceed. And we're going to let them proceed so that we can move this process forward.

QUESTION: A where question? Do you -

MR. REEKER: A where question?

QUESTION: Yeah. Where were Aaron Miller's meetings this morning? Can you say that? Or do you know? I mean, were they at one or the other or both?

MR. REEKER: Adam - I don't think I discovered that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. REEKER: Yes, we're just not going to - I think I've sort of exhausted what I can give you on that. Did you have something else?

QUESTION: Just wondering if the Secretary is going to jump into the situation when she comes home.

MR. REEKER: Obviously, the Secretary is on her way home from Syria. She's following the negotiations closely. I was speaking to Mr. Boucher about that progress just a few moments before coming in here. I wouldn't rule out her meeting with the negotiators at some point as the week goes on. But I don't have anything further, obviously, until she comes back from Syria and we look at schedules and look at how things are proceeding.

QUESTION: What about Arafat? Does she see him before he calls at the White House Thursday?

MR. REEKER: My understanding is that schedules are still being worked out. But as you know, Chairman Arafat is expected here in Washington, arriving tomorrow. I believe the Secretary will see him Thursday, but I'm just not sure on the timing of that meeting and vis-a-vis the White House meeting with the President, which is scheduled.

QUESTION: So she may just join in with the President at the White House?

MR. REEKER: I expect her to have a separate meeting with Chairman Arafat, but I don't have any particular schedules at this point. But that would all be on Thursday. More on this? Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: The Israeli radio reported yesterday - referring to security and diplomatic sources - saying that Palestinians are not interested in reading a final status framework agreement. And they also said they want the territories first, and only afterwards will they decide if they want a framework agreement.

Would you like to comment on that? Are they coming here - the Palestinians - you know, with no intention of reaching a final framework agreement?

MR. REEKER: No, I would not like to comment on that. I'm not going to comment on reports, and don't expect comments on those reports. Don't expect readouts or briefings on these talks. We're going to let these talks proceed as we've let other talks go on. Both sides have come to deal with these very important, very difficult issues. They both are dedicated to working hard in this process this week, and we're just going to let that process move forward.

QUESTION: Does the US want Israel to pull back this month, irrespective of what happens in the final status talks?

MR. REEKER: I'm not going to get into any more details on what we want. What we want is to see the two parties work together to move towards a final status agreement. That's been our goal all along, Barry, as you know.

QUESTION: The final status. Now, do you want to work together to work out this interim pull-back?

MR. REEKER: I think we've talked about what's going to go on. There's going to be discussion on final status issues and there will be discussion on interim issues. That's where we'll leave it.

QUESTION: That's not the issue. The issue is your policy. There's a distinction between the two sides. There's a promise by the Israelis to pull back again this month. The Israelis are trying to put it all in one package. The Palestinians want to keep it separate and get that pull-back underway.

Now, does the US, which I suppose is calling audibles; is that what it is? When the US says, 3-7-12, hike, do they say, pull back on the West Bank? Or do they say it's up to you?

MR. REEKER: You've lost me, Barry.

QUESTION: Well, you can't -

MR. REEKER: This is up to the parties. This is a negotiation with the parties and --

QUESTION: I'm told you guys took the position that you're going to be aggressively involved in the - once the US took - announced that its going to call the audibles, that it's going to be an active participant, I think you lose some of your immunity and your license to keep saying it's up to the parties. Apparently, it's also up to the US if the US is deeply into this -

MR. REEKER: Look, the two sides have asked the United States to participate in the talks.

QUESTION: Right. I didn't say you were pushing your way in.

MR. REEKER: And we will do so as appropriate. As I mentioned, the Deputy Special Middle East Coordinator, Aaron Miller, is involved from the US side. Dennis Ross will be back when he returns with the Secretary's party this evening. They're together with officials from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and they will work in response to requests to move the process forward.

As the Secretary told you yesterday, we're going to do everything we can to assist the parties as they make the hard decisions necessary for peace. But I'm not going to get into specifics and the steps taken for that. It doesn't help the process to do so. And we're going to let these talks move forward this week and move ahead with the process.

QUESTION: Let me try to just make absolutely clear what it is I'm asking.

MR. REEKER: I understand your question, Barry, and I'm not going to have anything for you on it.

QUESTION: That's all right. Can I just say it one more time because I didn't put it very well. The US takes a public position they would like to see an overall agreement; they would like to see a framework agreement. I'm asking if the US also has a public position on whether they want to see Israel carry out a pull-back this month. If you have no position on it, fine.

MR. REEKER: I have nothing further to give you, Barry.

QUESTION: Fine. You're silent on the subject.

QUESTION: In your conversations with Ambassador Boucher, were you able to get any more of a readout with the Secretary's meeting with Dr. Assad?

MR. REEKER: I can really refer you to the party who, as you know, have a number of your colleagues traveling with them. The Secretary had some comments this morning I think you were all aware of. After that --

QUESTION: So let me ask you about one of the things she said in those comments, which was that she was able to then have a one-on-one meeting with Dr. Assad -

MR. REEKER: A short meeting, yes.

QUESTION: -- in which they were able to discuss her hopes that he will continue in the negotiations. Anything to elaborate on that? Did he make any kind of commitment?

MR. REEKER: I have nothing further to elaborate on what the Secretary already said in terms of those meetings. She said we want to wait and see what the constitutional process and the Syrian people decide there. And what she noted - and I'll note again here - is that as his funeral is wrapping up, the process there seems to be proceeding in a peaceful and orderly way.

Yes. Is it still on Syrian, the Middle East, broadly?

QUESTION: No, I would like to move over to Moscow.

MR. REEKER: Move back to Moscow. Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Back to Moscow, yes. Mr. Reeker, is the State Department represented in the talks between Mr. Cohen and Mr. Sergeyev? And do you have any details at all about the status of the talks?

MR. REEKER: My understanding is that Secretary Cohen has already left Moscow on his way to his next stop. I'm not sure of the exact make-up of his delegation, but I would refer you over to the Pentagon for details on his travel.

QUESTION: On Cyprus - anything on the upcoming Cyprus talk in Geneva July 5th? And may we have your assessment at this stage?

MR. REEKER: I have nothing for you on that.

QUESTION: It is premature to talk about the post-summit meeting. But there is already some reports that a hot line is agreed to be connected between the two presidents. And Kim Dae Jung was received personally at the airport by Kim Chong-il.

MR. REEKER: We discussed that.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is it - I mean, whenever there is an event, there is certainly expectation: better than expected, worse than expected. What is your response to this kind of --

MR. REEKER: I'll just refer you to what I already said, that we very much welcome the historic meeting and that the personal reception at the airport was, in fact, a very hopeful sign. We can't predict outcomes. That summit meeting is still ongoing through tomorrow, but we're very hopeful that the summit will represent a beginning of a process which will lead to a fundamental reduction of tension on the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: Reviewing more about North Korea and South Korea summit meeting, sir, were you surprised that on the television last night show up suddenly Chong-il Kim in airport and they go in together one car -- (inaudible) -- from Chong-il Kim accepted President Kim?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I'm going to have a lot more to tell you. The summit meeting is ongoing. I've told you very much our reaction to it.

QUESTION: Would you -- (inaudible) - changed North Korea than before? Do you have idea of that?

MR. REEKER: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Any changed big North Korea?

MR. REEKER: I don't understand your question. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Extended change.

QUESTION: Any changeover in North Korea than before?

MR. REEKER: I think what I've said will stand, that we watch this summit very closely; it's a historic occasion and we find it a very hopeful occasion that there will be a beginning - that this is the beginning of a process that will lead to a fundamental reduction of tension in the Korean Peninsula and that this historic meeting can be the first of many.

One more on Korea.

QUESTION: In my understanding, the US Government is deeply concerned over the North Korea nuclear and missile programs. To what extent do you expect it could be discussed on the table?

MR. REEKER: I have nothing to add to that. This is a summit meeting between the leaders of North Korea and South Korea, and we need to let that summit continue, as it will for the next two days. And those would be questions you'd want to ask those two leaders.

QUESTION: Is South Korea concerned about North Korea's nuclear program?

MR. REEKER: That's a question you'd want to ask the South Koreans.

QUESTION: I mean, we don't know that? We don't know if the concern is only US or is it supposed to be Japan?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new to add for you.

QUESTION: That's a threshold question.

MR. REEKER: I have nothing new to add for you on concerns about that. I don't think there's anything new to discuss there. What I'm saying on the summit is I'm not going to have anything more to talk about on the details on South and North Korea relations until that process finishes.

QUESTION: I'm just trying to determine if the US has asked South Korea, which is said to be similarly concerned by the program, to see if you could make some headway on that in the summit.

MR. REEKER: I think we continue to talk regularly with our South Korean allies. Right now, we're letting the summit, the historic summit between the North and South, go forward. It's a step we very much welcome and we're very hopeful about it.

QUESTION: The Pakistani Foreign Minister is expected in Washington this week to meet with Strobe Talbott on Thursday, I believe. Can you give us more details on that? I believe these are the first talks covering nuclear and security issues.

MR. REEKER: The Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar will meet with Deputy Secretary Talbott in Washington on Thursday, July 15th, as you noted. This visit arises from an agreement during the - I'm sorry, June 15th. Thank you, Trudy. This Thursday.

It arises from an agreement during President Clinton's visit to Pakistan in March that the United States and Pakistan should renew their dialogue on security and nonproliferation. So in that sense, the Deputy Secretary will meet with the Pakistani Foreign Minister on Thursday.

He last met - that is, Deputy Secretary Talbott last met with a senior Pakistani official to discuss these issues in February of 1999. Of course, it remains the subject of great importance and interest to the United States. I understand that Mr. Sattar will also meet with Under Secretary Pickering to discuss other important issues, the restoration of democracy in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir, continuing those talks.

QUESTION: Well, just that Talbott met with him last, but isn't that the last time any US officials met on these issues?

MR. REEKER: As you know, Under Secretary Pickering was recently traveling and discussed these issues in Islamabad on a number of issues.

QUESTION: This is specifically limited to nuclear issues, isn't it?

MR. REEKER: The Deputy Secretary is meeting with the Pakistani Foreign Minister in a visit that arises from an agreement made during the President's visit to Pakistan. That was in March. And at that time, we agreed that the United States and Pakistan should renew a dialogue on security and nonproliferation. So following up on the last meeting which was in February of last year, the Deputy Secretary will meet and discuss these issues which are, as I noted, of great importance to us, and Under Secretary Pickering will continue the dialogue that he has been having on these issues.

QUESTION: Does that mean that these kind of talks were suspended? I don't want to say formally suspended, but there hasn't been one since February '99, before the coup in Pakistan?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything particular to give you on the stages of those talks. The last time the Deputy Secretary met with a senior Pakistani official to discuss these issues was in February of last year.

QUESTION: Over a year ago?

MR. REEKER: Yes.

QUESTION: Before the --

MR. REEKER: As you know, there have been other discussions that have gone on, including the President's visit to Pakistan in March.

QUESTION: A little more than a year after.

QUESTION: Well, given the rank of Mr. Abdus Sattar, why is the Secretary not planning to see him?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything for you on scheduling or that. The Deputy Secretary is going to meet with him. That was the plan, and that's exactly what they're going to do.

QUESTION: What is the message that David Carpenter is taking to Congress in terms of their complaints that if you really are trying to send a strong signal that security is taken seriously in this building that you shouldn't be nominating people to be chiefs of mission that have so many security violations? And is there any consideration being given to pulling some of those nominees who have the longest list of grievances or have the most serious?

MR. REEKER: I'm not aware of the details on any of those nominations. And as we discussed a week ago - exactly last Tuesday - I can't get into specifics of personnel issues, personnel files that fall under Privacy Act considerations --

QUESTION: Since those discussions, the Secretary has had conversations with members of Congress about this. And now David Carpenter has been summoned to come to the Hill and discuss this, so -

MR. REEKER: I think the Secretary has reiterated what she told all of us - and all of you included - that she's firmly committed to supporting the highest standards of security awareness and practices in the Department, both here in Washington and at our various facilities in other locations, our embassies aboard.

As I talked about last week generally, prior to recommending career officers for chief of mission appointments - that would be ambassador appointments - the Department reviews a range of factors in a rigorous review to determine candidates' suitability. That includes checks with the Office of Security through the personnel system, the Inspector General, the legal advisor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Office. And there is a vigorous field review that takes places in terms of screening and doing a security investigation, as well as a financial disclosure investigation that goes through.

I think we noted last week that the majority of security incidents received by some career nominees - I can't be specific, I don't even have specific information - were incurred often many years ago throughout lengthy careers that may be decades long. Officers receive counseling. They receive security warnings as part of the system, which is very much designed to underscore the importance of security and to make sure that classified information is protected abroad so that there is a series of steps to double-check those things.

As you know we're undertaking review of security and the number of measures to enhance security - both here in Washington and at our posts abroad. And I think you'll also recall - and I mentioned last week - that when the Secretary talked about security she specifically directed the incoming director general of the Foreign Service to weigh security factors in all personnel decisions, including nominations and promotions. And those factors are weighed.

QUESTION: Could we then - given that the State Department is so satisfied with the process that they went through in selecting these nominees - is the State Department going to stand by these nominees and refuse to pull the names of any of the nominees in the face of the congressional -

MR. REEKER: At this point I don't have any details on the process or where things stand vis-a-vis these nominees. We nominate, and constitutionally the Senate must provide advice and consent to those nominations. The White House, in fact -- the President makes these nominations - obviously working very closely with the State Department in the process. So I just don't have any further details on those reports for you.

Can we go to the back - or is this a follow-up? Yes.

QUESTION: Second subject - Mehmet Agca who attempted to assassinate the Pope is forgiven by the Pope and is expected to be extradited to Turkey today.

MR. REEKER: I saw that report.

QUESTION: Would you like to comment on that?

MR. REEKER: No. That's an Italian matter.

QUESTION: I have a question on counter-terrorism. A report out of Athens yesterday said the Greek Government had prepared an initiative to sign - well, one to sign with the European Union and one with the United States. Can you give me any details on that? And where the process is in terms of whether the US is looking to this initiative and what it expects to get out of it? And at the same time, could you give any details that might be available from the counter-terrorism conference that's being held here today? As I understand, there's going to be no press availability on it.

MR. REEKER: Right. On the Greek situation, which we have discussed at a considerable length over the last few days, we fully support any international cooperation that leads to the arrest and punishment of terrorists. I don't have any details on that.

QUESTION: About this new initiative?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any specifics on that new initiative. I did see the press reports this morning about that, but I'm afraid I don't have any details. I would refer you to the Greeks for details on their initiative on that. But certainly, we welcome and support any cooperation that leads to arrests and punishment of terrorists.

QUESTION: They're looking for a US signature on it, though. Are we prepared to sign it?

MR. REEKER: I think it's a little premature about something that was announced and discussed in today's papers to make any particular comments other than to say we fully support international cooperation that leads to arrests and punishment of terrorists.

And on your other --

QUESTION: Can I follow up on the first question, very quickly?

MR. REEKER: Yes.

QUESTION: So we haven't received a copy of the initiative?

MR. REEKER: I don't believe I said that at all. I think we may have. I don't have any details of it for you. I said I saw the reports that there had been such an initiative. I don't have a readout from Embassy Athens on what they've received or not. What I was able to give you was a broad answer in line with that we've talked about over the last few days is that we fully support international cooperation that leads to the arrest and punishment of terrorists. I just don't have any details on initiatives. I would refer you to the Greek Government to get those details. And perhaps I'll have something for you later in the week.

And your other question was regarding the counter-terrorism conference that is being held --

QUESTION: And at unknown --

MR. REEKER: -- at an unknown location in Washington. Thank you, Matt Lee.

Just to follow up, I think we discussed this or I discussed it with some of you earlier, this is a conference that the Secretary discussed and invited countries to send representatives to during her recent trip to Central Asia. So we have senior officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, as well as Egypt, Spain, the Russian Federation, our own representatives from the United States participating. And there are representatives from Turkey, the United Kingdom and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe there as observers.

The conference began today. I don't have any particular details on that. You're correct. There will not be press briefings or readouts specific on that conference. But as you know, counter-terrorism is something we take very seriously and have offered - and these countries have accepted our offer to work with them closely on those issues.

QUESTION: Is this something the State Department has organized? Put together?

MR. REEKER: That's right.

QUESTION: No availability to the press at all?

MR. REEKER: No, these issues are ones that involve people to deal with security matters and it wasn't deemed --

QUESTION: Are they talking nitty-gritty? Are there any real sort of hard facts?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any specifics for you on what it's --

QUESTION: Security information -

MR. REEKER: Exactly. This is all part our trying to work together with these countries. It was a major topic of discussion when the Secretary visited countries in Central Asia recently. And it's something that we continue to follow up on.

QUESTION: Sorry - can you read that list of countries again slowly?

MR. REEKER: Sure, one more time for the record. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Spain, the Russian Federation and the United States are the participating countries. And there are also representatives from Turkey, the United Kingdom and the OSCE observing.

QUESTION: What's the difference between observing and participating?

QUESTION: Observers meet at Bolling - the other meet at Andrews.

MR. REEKER: That's right. Thank you, Charlie.

QUESTION: Does Turkey participate as part of its own group? Or the OSCE group?

MR. REEKER: That's right.

QUESTION: In other words, they observe part of the time and participate part of the time?

MR. REEKER: No, Turkey is an observer. The OSCE is an observer. The United Kingdom is an observer. That's the status that they chose to have in terms of these talks. Egypt and Spain are making presentations on their political strategies for countering terrorism. And Russia is working with the United States co-presenting issues on counter-terrorism diplomacy in the context of the United Nations and the G-8.

QUESTION: But they do -- (inaudible) -- just pass papers along. They speak; it's a verbal meeting?

MR. REEKER: I believe there is some verbal exchange going on there, yes. Yes.

QUESTION: You may not have anything on this. I see that the Government of the Solomon Islands has asked for foreign forces to intervene. Have you received any such requests and what do you think about it?

MR. REEKER: Let me just run through the latest that we have on the Solomon Islands. The armed militants Malaita Eagle Force continue to control the streets of the capital, Honiara. But we understand it remains calm there. There had been some intensive gun battles last week east of the international airport. And those, I understand, have ceased. The militants do continue to control a commandeered Solomon Islands police patrol boat that was used last week to bombard coastal positions.

But diplomats in Honiara report that the militant force for Malaita has signed a cease-fire with the Guadalcanal militants, who were the two main parties. And this calls for hostilities to be suspended for 14 days while parliament seeks a constitutional resolution to the crisis. I understand parliament is scheduled to convene on June 15th and we will follow those developments.

International telecommunications seem to be restored. The airport remains closed, however. Australian and New Zealand military aircraft continue to conduct evacuation flights from that airport. To date, 91 American citizens have been evacuated to Australia or New Zealand. And our Consulates General in Sydney and Auckland have sent officers to assist Americans on their arrival in those countries.

I would like to take the opportunity on behalf of the United States Government to express our deepest thanks to the Governments of Australia and New Zealand for assisting American citizens during those evacuations. As I understand it, Australian and New Zealand ships have arrived in Honiara to take on additional evacuees if necessary. I believe approximately 15 Americans remain in the capital and many of those are long time residents. So to answer your question, specifically I don't have information on requests for foreign intervention there.

We have been working, as I indicated, very closely with the Australians and the New Zealanders in helping evacuate citizens who wish to leave. I think it goes without saying - we've said it before - that we strongly oppose the overthrow of democratically elected governments by force. And we are really calling for the laying down of arms and a resumption of normal constitutional government there. I know there's a cease-fire that is reportedly in place. But there should be a laying down of arms and a cessation of that. And we just will remain in close contact and consultation with governments in the region.

QUESTION: I have two brief questions on Zimbabwe. The first one is, is there anything new on the doctors - Cuban doctors? Have they left Harare for - I think they were supposed to go to Nairobi?

And then the second question is, I notice that the US Ambassador there joined five or six other ambassadors in making quite a strong protest to the deputy foreign minister about the elections. But I'm wondering - and I questioned last week - about the UN decision not to coordinate, whether the US has made a decision on what its participation in terms of observers is going to be in the election?

MR. REEKER: Let me answer your second question, first, regarding the elections there. We did talk about this a bit last week. As you know, the United States has called on the Government of Zimbabwe to enhance prospects for credible elections by ending the campaign of intimidation and violence perpetrated by supporters of the ruling party against the government, allowing the opposition access to broadcast airwaves and assuring all voters of the secrecy of the ballot. Those are some fundamentals of democratic elections we would like to see there.

We are funding international observers from the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. And I would also note that I would expect embassy observers - embassy officials to be observing the elections that are scheduled to take place June 24 and 25.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- didn't affect what the US participation -

MR. REEKER: No, our plan is go ahead with that. And we're funding over 10, 000 domestic and African observers there, helping with audits of voters rolls, assisting human rights organizations that are monitoring any violence that should break out, and programs of voter education and training poll officials from all political parties there.

We were expecting to provide about $300,000 to fund international election monitoring in Zimbabwe -- $300,000.

QUESTION: Do you take a position --

QUESTION: I'm sorry, did you say something?

MR. REEKER: $300,000.

QUESTION: And then after that? I thought I heard something else, but may not.

MR. REEKER: To fund international monitoring of the elections in Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: On that subject, do you take a position on this $100 fee that the government has imposed on each observer, which appears to be either a revenue-raising scheme or a disincentive for people to come and monitor the elections?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything specific on that, but I'll certainly check into that for you.

QUESTION: The doctors?

MR. REEKER: In terms of the doctors, we have been calling on the Government of Zimbabwe to adhere to the Geneva convention and immediately release the Cuban doctors to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I don't have an answer to that from the Government of Zimbabwe. It does appear that the ongoing detention, when last I was able to check, appears to be against international law.

So I have nothing further in terms of details there, except that we have called on the Government of Zimbabwe and we'll continue to make our views known there on this position to adhere to the Geneva Convention to which they are a signer.

QUESTION: Have you had an explanation from them why they remain in detention when the United States has agreed to take them? It doesn't seem to make much sense.

MR. REEKER: I don't have any specifics for you. As a matter of our policy, our focus is on release of the Cubans to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and not on specific resettlement possibilities. And we have called upon them to release them to the High Commissioner for Refugees. I don't believe we've gotten an answer or a satisfactory response from the Government of Zimbabwe since this illegal detention appears to be ongoing.

QUESTION: Is it the plan, if and when they are released, for them to go Nairobi for this process?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any details on their onward movement of specifics of their possible resettlement. As you know, the policy based on international law is that the two Cubans in this case should be released to the UN Commissioner for Refugees, and then steps will follow according - on resettlement.

Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:30 P.M.)

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