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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #93, 00-09-28

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>


685

U.S. Department of State

Press Briefing

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2000 Briefer: PHILIP REEKER, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN

PERU
1-5	President Fujimori's Visit to Washington / Meetings with OAS /
	 Reports of Coup Plot / Prosecution of Mr. Montesinos/
	 Mr. Montesinos' Application For Asylum in Panama 
SERBIA
5-12	If President Milosevic Can Escape War Crimes Charge / Election
	 Results / U S Officials Contact With Dr. Kostunica / Russian
	 Position Regarding Call For President Milosevic To Back Down /
	 Foreign Minister Vedrine's Call For Lifting of Sanctions / U S
	 Support of Opposition  
RUSSIA
11	Secretary Albright's Contact With Foreign Minister Ivanov
PAKISTAN
12-13	Raid on Newspaper Office / Harassment By Government
PEACE TALKS
13-15	Meetings of Israeli and Palestinian Negotiators in Washington Area
	 / Legislation Regarding Unilateral Declaration on Palestinian Side
ISRAEL
15-16	Prime Minister Barak's Interview With Jerusalem Post / Visit of
	 Mr. Sharon 
AFGHANISTAN
16-18	Visit of Deputy Foreign Minister / Meeting With Undersecretary
	 Pickering / Taliban Proposal to Bring in Islamic Jurists to
	 Investigate Whether They Should Extradite Usama bin Laden / U S
	 Position on Taliban Seat At United Nations 
ITALY
19	Italy's Decision to Transfer Sylvia Baraldini to Hospital
IRAN
19	Visit of President Khatami to Cuba
UZBEKISTAN
20	Designation of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan As Foreign Terrorist
	 Organization 
INDONESIA
21	Decision By Indonesian Court Not To Throw Out Trial of Ex-President
	 Suharto 
IVORY COAST
21-22	Exclusion of Opponent from Election

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #93

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2000, 1:40 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. REEKER: Welcome back to the State Department on this lovely Thursday. I apologize for the delay; I was actually trying to get some of the information I think you are going to be asking, and perhaps not all that successfully.

So I have no announcements today, and with that we will go to questions of the Agence France Presse. Sorry, Reuters. You missed. We're letting Matt start. Please begin.

QUESTION: Has there been a decision yet made on who President Fujimori is going to be seeing, and what will they be discussing?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think, as many of you have seen in the press reports, President Fujimori is in Washington today and tomorrow morning. He is at least scheduled to arrive in Washington today. I don't have an update on whether he has actually arrived, or his exact timetable.

We understand he has a meeting with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Mr. Gaviria, to discuss the OAS-sponsored talks on democratic reform, the dialogue that has been going on, as you know, in Peru, and President Fujimori's plans for calling new national elections. And we expect to arrange meetings with senior US Government officials to discuss those very same issues; unfortunately, at this point, I don't have a schedule for you. That is one of the things I was hoping to get before I came out and delayed doing that. But I am unable to do that, so we will keep looking at that this afternoon to get a --

QUESTION: He is apparently spending the night here. Do you have any idea - are they trying to be arranged for today or tomorrow, or do you know?

MR. REEKER: At this point, I still don't know. Obviously, the day is ticking by as we speak, and I don't have a schedule yet, so we would be looking at something either later or tomorrow. We will, of course, when we do meet with President Fujimori, emphasize our support for a peaceful democratic and constitutional transition of power, and for the continuation of that OAS dialogue that has been going on and which we have very much supported.

QUESTION: Some people have speculated, or it is their understanding, that one of the reasons that he is coming in to town is to say that he does recognize that there needs to be a transition and wants this OAS dialogue, but that he is unsatisfied with the dialogue and the forum thus far because it seems to be more of a mouthpiece for the opposition to be making political statements and not an effective kind of transition for change in democracy. Has he brought the subject up with --

MR. REEKER: Well, obviously we haven't had any talks at this point with President Fujimori, as I indicated. I can't predict what he wishes to raise, although our understanding is that he is coming to discuss the OAS- sponsored talks. He is meeting with the OAS Secretary General, and then, as I said, we hope to schedule meetings with senior US officials. And those are certainly subjects we will be discussing.

We have very much supported the OAS process in terms of Peru and what we would like to see as a transition through peaceful democratic processes. A transition in power and the OAS dialogue is very much a part of that. As you know, they have outlined a number of steps that should be taken to make this a more democratic process, and that is certainly what we will be looking at.

QUESTION: Why hasn't it been decided who would meet with him? And it is an issue of schedules, or is it an issue of what level that the US wants to be represented in the meeting?

MR. REEKER: I really can't tell you at this point. As I indicated, I waited, hoping that we would get answers, since I knew this was a topic of great interest, and they just didn't have it already. Schedules are difficult to coordinate, as you know. President Fujimori en route, obviously trying to work with the Peruvian Embassy, and with the schedules of our various officials who would have meetings with him. But I just don't have anything to announce yet. But I will certainly try to do that as soon as we can.

QUESTION: Can I just - one more follow-up? Would it be fair to categorize this last-minute kind of request for a meeting as kind of sudden? Did you shock US officials? Is it - you know, is that part of the problem with the scheduling because it's so last minute?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think clearly this is something that has come up rather quickly. It wasn't something we were anticipating as we put together schedules for the week or even for the days ahead. We can accommodate that, and that's what we're trying to do. So I would hesitate to characterize it in any other way other than to say that we are aware that President Fujimori is coming to Washington; the meetings with the OAS are obviously important; OAS headquarters in here in Washington; and the meetings with US officials will also be important and we want to get those organized as quickly as we can. I just can't put a finger on it now.

QUESTION: Did he, like, stress the urgency of such a meeting?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any particular readout on anything he stressed. Obviously he made a determination he wanted to come to Washington, felt it was important. We have felt that the OAS dialogue and that process was very important, so we're trying to accommodate that in a schedule.

QUESTION: Could you just clarify who, in fact, requested a meeting between President Fujimori and US officials? Was this something that you initiated or did he actually --

MR. REEKER: My understanding is this was a request from the Peruvians, from President Fujimori, who is coming to Washington and is expected to be in Washington today and tomorrow for the OAS meeting that he has set up obviously through that channel, and has requested through their embassy here and through our embassy in Lima meetings with senior US Government officials. And that is what we are trying to accommodate at this point.

QUESTION: On that same theme - and I understand you don't know exactly who will be seeing President Fujimori, but is it under consideration that Secretary Albright will see him, or is that not even under consideration?

MR. REEKER: At this point I really can't say. I just haven't seen - obviously the Secretary has a busy schedule, as always. I just haven't gotten any particular readout on which officials would or will meet with President Fujimori or where the schedule stands. And I do promise to try to get you that as soon as we do have it.

QUESTION: Does the US take seriously reports of a coup plot?

MR. REEKER: I think in terms of the rumors I've seen and certain press reports on that, let me just point out that the Peruvian armed forces issued a statement last night, once again denying outright rumors of army- led efforts to organize a coup. And I think that statement very much reaffirms the support previously voiced by the military in Peru for maintaining constitutional order, and we certainly expect that constitutional order will be honored and preserved.

QUESTION: On a related matter - on Mr. Montesinos, who is in Panama - there have been various indications that, for example, the ombudsman, the Peruvian ombudsman, seemed to think it would be a good idea to prosecute him. Can you clarify your position on asylum and immunity? Presumably, if he did face prosecution he would have to return to Peru at some stage. Do you think he would be - do you want him to stay in Panama for a certain period of time and then perhaps to face prosecution?

MR. REEKER: First of all, I don't have any update on the particular status of Mr. Montesinos. We understand that the Government of Panama is still reviewing his application for asylum. As we have stated previously, the United States, along with the Organization of American States and our other partners in the hemisphere, supported the decision by Panama to receive Mr. Montesinos in order to resolve some of the political tensions in Peru.

The issue of political asylum which you raise is one which the Government of Panama must determine. And I think in terms of the broader question that you raise, it's important to note that at no time in this process has the United States sought immunity for Mr. Montesinos for prosecution from alleged crimes.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, let's just follow up on that. You think it's a good idea that he's in Panama now, but if he is to be prosecuted he could presumably be extradited quite quickly - I mean, in theory. But, I mean, do you want him to stay there for a certain period of time to keep him out of the way while you sort Peru out?

MR. REEKER: Again, I think those are "if" questions that we're just not looking at. As I said, we have never sought any immunity for him for prosecution from alleged crimes. That is something that the Peruvians have to take - have a process on. It's a Peruvian question. The question in Panama for Mr. Montesinos, in terms of his request for asylum there, is one that is being considered by the Panamanian Government, and it's clearly premature to judge any decisions on that since none have been announced.

QUESTION: But, ostensibly, you expressed your support for Mr. Montesinos going to Panama to the Panamanians before they actually told him that he could come, correct?

MR. REEKER: That's right. We discussed, I think, in some fair length --

QUESTION: So do you not have a position now, before - as the Panamanians consider granting him asylum or not, are you not telling the Panamanians what you think about the idea of asylum?

QUESTION: Even if it is for them to decide, you can have an opinion, I would think.

MR. REEKER: I will stand by what I have said, that it is for them to decide. It is a decision they must make. In terms of what we discussed, as I think Ambassador Boucher outlined here earlier in the week, we supported the OAS call to Panama to allow this, that they receive Mr. Montesinos. We made calls, along with other Latin leaders, including some heads of state, heads of government from other countries in the hemisphere, for doing this. We certainly supported, then, Panama's decision to do that because it does help resolve some of the political tensions in Peru. But the issue of asylum is one that the Government of Panama must determine.

QUESTION: So you are not making any phone calls on the asylum issue?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any particular readout on any particular phone calls since them. As I said, I don't have anything new on the status or any update on Mr. Montesinos' status, except that we understand he is in Panama and that the Government of Panama is still reviewing his request.

QUESTION: Is the United States Government considering calling the Member of Congress that charged the military of this plot, calling him to the OAS to testify and to tell you from firsthand about what he was told?

And my second question is, I would like to know if he or his family requested any political asylum to warranty his safety in the United States. Do you have any information on that?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any information on that. And in answer to your first question, a request to testify before the OAS would be an issue for the OAS to discuss. So in terms of the reports that we have seen, the rumors of coups, all I can point you to is the facts that we do have, and that would be the statement issued last night by the Peruvian military denying outright those rumors.

QUESTION: But this Congressman is saying that he has proof that these rumors could become reality in 20 days. Is the United States Government thinking and probably calling this person in order to get all this --

MR. REEKER: I have no indication of that. I mean, what I can report to you in terms of our looking at these rumors is exactly what came out from the military last night. You have a statement. It's, I think, the second one that --

QUESTION: What makes you think that they will honor their word?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think the statement reaffirms what they have said before, in terms of their previously voiced stand, that the military is very much for maintaining constitutional order. And that is very much what we expect them to do.

QUESTION: A new subject?

MR. REEKER: Are we done with Peru? Yes.

QUESTION: There is talk that some Western official's envoys are suggesting to President Milosevic that if he decides to give up power and not force a second round, he may be able to find a graceful exit, implying that he may somehow escape a war crimes charge. Is there any change in your view on that? Are you looking to see him leave?

MR. REEKER: Absolutely not. I think we have said it repeatedly. We have said it in all kinds of fora. Milosevic belongs in The Hague, where he should stand trial for his crimes. It is the responsibility of all states where indictees of the UN-mandated international tribunals are present to hand over those indictees. There is no discussion of a deal, and I can't be much more categorical than that.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the seeming intent, this test of wills now, between Milosevic to press ahead with a second round, and what we saw last night in Belgrade?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think what I can reiterate is what the President has said earlier, what Secretary Albright has said when she was up on the Hill earlier this week: The people have spoken in Yugoslavia, and we have seen the people continue to speak in Belgrade. The opposition has shown the actual records of this election, and Mr. Kostunica beat Milosevic. It is time for Milosevic to step aside. Those are the facts.

There is not an issue of a runoff. There is no basis for that. It is an issue of who won, and Dr. Kostunica won this election. The opposition has put forward documentation in a very transparent and methodical, legal way, giving the current regime every opportunity to step aside.

QUESTION: On Dr. Kostunica, has there been any contact with US officials talking with him about his public position that he would not extradite Milosevic for the war crimes tribunal?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any particular conversations directly with Dr. Kostunica at this point.

QUESTION: Or with anyone in the opposition at this point?

MR. REEKER: Our point is extremely clear. I think I have reiterated right here again, in terms of where Milosevic belongs, and that is in the Hague.

QUESTION: And the United States encouraged the Montenegrin leadership not to boycott the elections. Have you communicated any position to the opposition now about what they should do on the runoff, or are you leaving it to European allies and the opposition to decide themselves?

MR. REEKER: Look, there is no basis for a runoff. This question of a second round is not an issue. The issue was who won. And the opposition has presented, as I said, documentation in a very transparent manner, very methodically, very legally, that shows that Dr. Kostunica has won. The facts show that the people of Yugoslavia, and of Serbia in particular, have spoken, and that Dr. Kostunica won a clear majority. And as I said, President Clinton stated yesterday the federal election commission in Yugoslavia has absolutely no credibility. I think, in fact, their deputy director has already resigned, stepped aside, and it is time for Milosevic to step aside as well.

QUESTION: But the problem is that the runoff is an issue. You can't just say it's not. It is an issue because Milosevic is making it an issue. So I realize that you think that it shouldn't be an issue and that there shouldn't be any question about it, but that is a perfect situation for you guys and it's not happening that way.

MR. REEKER: The federal election commission, as I said, has absolutely no credibility. And the opposition, which has presented all of the evidence of their resounding victory in the first round, has challenged that commission to put up similar results.

QUESTION: I understood that, but --

MR. REEKER: The hesitation of that, I think, seems to show that the regime realizes that they have lost.

QUESTION: Right. But if Milosevic goes ahead and there is a second round, a runoff, would you encourage the opposition not to participate?

MR. REEKER: That is a huge "if" and I am not going to get into the "if" questions because there is no issue here. There is no need for a second round.

QUESTION: But we are not talking about it because it doesn't exist; we're talking about it because it is out there. I mean, it is being made an issue. I mean, you can't just ignore it; it's not going to go away.

MR. REEKER: Our position is what I have just described: the people of Serbia have spoken; the opposition has the records; they presented them with that; Kostunica won this election outright; it is time for Milosevic to go.

QUESTION: How do you feel about the Russians not supporting the call for Milosevic to back down?

MR. REEKER: In fact, I think the Russians have earlier been with us in terms of the Contact Group statement and said that they look forward to welcoming democratic Serbia back into the international community. You know, the Russians have always been strong supporters of the Serbian people, and I think that's the fundamental thing here. They still are. And we're strong supporters of the Serbian people, and the Serbian people have spoken. It's time for Milosevic to go. We have seen the similar calls from the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church; in fact, the entire synod, in calling for him to leave.

QUESTION: So you don't read anything into an Ivanov quote as Russia will not exert pressure on anyone in Yugoslavia?

MR. REEKER: I think Russia has had a very straightforward position. They joined in the Contact Group statement, as you'll recall, in looking forward to welcoming a democratic Yugoslavia. That's what we're talking about. There has been a democratic process here. There is transparent and clear evidence of the results of that process, and it's time for Milosevic to go.

The Secretary has spoken with Foreign Minister Ivanov yesterday, the day before. She is in regular touch with him, and we will continue to do that.

QUESTION: Well, if Milosevic has - since Milosevic has called the election, by the opposition not agreeing to kind of take part in the election, doesn't that give him kind of ammunition to say that he's not, you know, part of the process - a democratic process? And if the opposition did win by such a majority, then they'd obviously win again in a second runoff, so what's the problem with a second?

MR. REEKER: Because there is no issue of a second runoff. The evidence is clear. Milosevic can say what he wants. This federal election commission, which has absolutely no credibility at all given the fraud that took place, has no standing. It's very clear that the opposition has challenged the federal election commission then to show their evidence.

QUESTION: But aren't you concerned that by the opposition not taking part in this runoff that Milosevic has called, that that's going to give him ammunition to --

MR. REEKER: I think, again, you're assuming a runoff or a second round that is not an issue because there is no basis for it.

QUESTION: Well, there's an issue because it's going to take place. I mean, whether they take part in it --

MR. REEKER: You're saying that. So I think what we have to do is look at what the facts are and - again, look at what the facts are. The opposition has called upon the federal election commission to show their evidence, their basis for the statements that they have made, which certainly lack credibility compared to the transparent, extremely methodical, evidence that the opposition has put forward. And that's where we stand.

QUESTION: So what's going to happen then? I mean, you say that there isn't going to be a second round, so obviously you know what's going to take place. What is the scenario? How is it going to play out?

MR. REEKER: I have never suggested, Jonathan, that I know what is going to take place. What I am looking at are the facts. And what I am telling you, as we see it, is that the opposition has put forward this documentation. It's very clear that Mr. Kostunica won outright in this round in a very legal way. They have presented it very methodically, very clearly. They have challenged the regime authorities to present any other evidence that they may have to put up similar results, but the authorities have absolutely no credibility. So it's very much time for Milosevic to step aside.

QUESTION: Does this mean that the United States Government is in agreement with Mr. Kostunica that there should not be a second round of election?

(Laughter.)

MR. REEKER: I think we've gone about as far with this as we can, so why don't we move on, if someone else has a question that --

QUESTION: I do. Can you tell us what your view is of, then, Foreign Minister Vedrine's statement already that he is calling for sanctions to be lifted? Britain has said that it's too soon. What does the United States think?

MR. REEKER: I think we've been very clear in our position on the lifting of sanctions; that once a democratic transition has taken place in Yugoslavia, in Serbia, that then we will take steps to lift sanctions. As we have discussed, there are steps that have to be taken. Once a transition has taken place, then we would look into those steps.

QUESTION: A follow-up, then. What is your specific reaction to Foreign Minister Vedrine's call for sanctions to be lifted?

MR. REEKER: We have been very supportive of our European allies. We have been working very closely with them, keeping in regular touch with them. I think earlier we noted - and, in fact, put out a statement responding to their discussion and their statements on sanctions, noting at that time that with a democratic transition we, too, would take the steps necessary to lift our sanctions.

QUESTION: You'll be pleased to know I don't have any questions about a runoff. You may not be pleased to know I do have a question about the deal.

MR. REEKER: The --

QUESTION: A deal. Whether a deal is --

MR. REEKER: No deal.

QUESTION: You say, "No deal." And I want to clarify, are you saying the US is not - doesn't want to be, won't be - part of a deal to relieve Milosevic of any responsibility for his crimes? Or are you saying there are no discussions that the US is aware of by anyone - the European allies, the Russians, anyone - that there is a deal?

MR. REEKER: I am aware of no discussions of a deal. Our position is extremely clear and firm on that. We have repeatedly said that Mr. Milosevic belongs in The Hague. It's time for him to step aside, and that's where he belongs.

QUESTION: A deal involves getting something for doing something, so you've convinced us that - me, at least - that as far as the US is concerned, Milosevic can't get off the indictment as part of a deal. Is the US aware of efforts - and does it support efforts - for Milosevic to get out of there and clear the way for a successor, without us necessarily asking you what does he get for it?

MR. REEKER: I mean, I've said about a dozen times now it's time for him to step aside. Is that what you were --

QUESTION: No, step aside doesn't mean he leaves the country.

MR. REEKER: We think he belongs in The Hague.

QUESTION: Well, that's true. Good point.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: But the point is, there is a question whether ways are being discussed to get him out of Serbia.

MR. REEKER: I'm not aware of any such discussions.

QUESTION: That's what I meant.

QUESTION: You talk about the transition. Can you be a little bit more specific? At what point does the - or has it been decided yet at what point you can say that the transition has occurred? Is it Milosevic out, or is it Kostunica sworn in as --

MR. REEKER: I can't - I'd be happy to see if we have looked beyond - at that point, again, we're looking at developments. What we've seen very much is the will of the people having been expressed very clearly - time for Milosevic to go. We have said when a transition takes place. We will have follow that --

QUESTION: But wait. Just on the - is it possible that even if - well, even when, as you seem to think it's going to happen - it's inevitable that Kostunica is sworn is as president, that Milosevic's cronies will still have enough control so that you might not be able to make the decision that a democratic transition has occurred.

MR. REEKER: That's an awfully complex hypothetical, and I just can't address that. I think we've seen an overwhelming opposition victory in the first round of the elections that were held on Sunday, and they have presented that factually. Everyone knows it. The people of Belgrade and the rest of Serbia and Yugoslavia have spoken. It's time for Milosevic and his cronies to step aside, for the regime to change, so that the Serbian people can rejoin Europe where they belong, once again become a normal European country and work on returning themselves to the status they once enjoyed within the international community.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up to that. Can you define exactly "democratic transition" in terms of the US position on sanctions?

MR. REEKER: Oh, goodness. Why don't we get you another one of our special briefings to go through that. I mean, I think I really laid out exactly what we have to say today, so I just don't think rehashing it over and over - I don't really have a lot more to say because it's fairly clear where we stand now. Let's see if we can move on.

QUESTION: You did speak about coordination with Europeans and agreeing with them and everything, but it does seem that there is a gap here, a coordination gap, between you and the Europeans on the sanctions.

MR. REEKER: Are you trying to bridge those gaps?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, has the Secretary spoken to any of the European foreign ministers today?

MR. REEKER: I don't have a readout on the Secretary's phone calls today or yesterday specifically. I knew she spoke to Foreign Minister Ivanov.

QUESTION: Can you explain this gap given the level of coordination that one would expect?

MR. REEKER: I wouldn't particularly describe a gap. I think that makes a lovely headline for your story, but in fact we've been working very closely with the Europeans on this. I mean, we had a Contact Group statement just a couple of weeks ago that set out very clearly how united we were in our position and our support for the opposition there. And now we have seen that the Serbian people have spoken and they have expressed their will to return to Europe, to have a democratic change that's been long in coming. And that's what we look forward to.

QUESTION: Still on this. So what I hear is that you're just saying, you know, the people have spoken and - are you just saying that it's a matter of time before Kostunica is sworn in, or have you had any contingency plans for the very real possibility that Milosevic is not going to step aside, he's not going to - even if the opposition were to take part in a runoff, that he's just not gong to step aside? So what is the US prepared to do if the will of the people does not come through?

MR. REEKER: Look, we've said Milosevic is the problem of the people of Serbia, of Yugoslavia, and they have spoken, and it's very clear that he needs to go. And the opposition has made very clear that they are taking steps in a very factual, transparent way to give every opportunity for the regime to simply step aside, as they should do, and that's what we're waiting for. So these what-ifs, one could come up with a thousand of them and we could spend all afternoon doing that. I'll let you do your what-if analyses. Our position is simply very clear: It's time for him to go.

QUESTION: Yeah, but it seems more like a what-if he were step aside. That doesn't really seem like a real possibility at this point.

MR. REEKER: I think it seems like a very real possibility because we have seen the people of Serbia speak.

QUESTION: But 13 years of rule has shown that he really doesn't care --

MR. REEKER: And that just highlights that his time is well due and he'll move on. You know, you can write your what-ifs and do your analysis. That's what journalists are paid for. We'll leave that to you. You have asked me what the United States position is on this. I think we have made it very clear.

QUESTION: I asked what the US was prepared to do should he not step aside.

MR. REEKER: I think that's just such a hypothetical question. We've made very clear what we're doing. Our position on Milosevic has been very clear. Our position in supporting the opposition has also been very clear.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - support the opposition and they have expressed - the will of the people has been expressed. Would you continue to support these sort of rallies that we've seen? Would you encourage the Serbian people to turn out the way they have?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think, again, these are questions for the Serbian people. These are questions that need to take place with the Serbian people. The opposition has once again presented very factually the evidence that shows an overwhelming victory for them. The Serbian people expressed that will. They have been expressing it, certainly in Belgrade and in their views. And so it's very clear. All the evidence shows that this was a sweeping victory for the opposition. And the opposition has also been very careful in setting up methodical and legal steps towards a peaceful transition, and we certainly are in support of that. And they are giving the regime every opportunity to step aside.

QUESTION: This extensive coordination on your part, I mean, you're not --

QUESTION: You're saying -- (inaudible) --

MR. REEKER: I don't know where else we're going to go on this. Is there anything else on this?

QUESTION: One more. You knocked down these talks about a deal. There are also rumors swirling around for the last few days, including this morning which you're aware of, that Milosevic in fact has left.

MR. REEKER: Right. I'm not aware of any information on that. I've seen the same rumors that you have. In fact, you guys were kind enough to apprise me of those rumors, so I appreciate that.

Can we move on to a new subject?

QUESTION: Pakistan. Have you --

MR. REEKER: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: It's about Pakistan. I wonder whether you have heard at all of a raid carried out on Pakistan's Karachi's newspaper Dawn by Pakistan army men and some military engineers. This was yesterday.

MR. REEKER: In fact, I am aware of reports - I looked it up on the Internet - that Pakistani officials entered the offices of the newspaper Dawn, which is a major Pakistani newspaper, to carry out what was described as an unannounced electrical inspection. And the newspaper asserts that this is harassment by the government. Other than that, we really have few details of the incident, and I am certainly not in a position to make any specific comments on that. Generally, though, it is our belief that freedom of the press is a vital component of a free society and strong democratic institutions in any country. And we will certainly continue to feel that way about Pakistan as well.

QUESTION: It even bothers you that it is harassment by the government?

MR. REEKER: As I said, I don't have enough facts to make any specific comments on that.

QUESTION: Can you give us an update in as great -- or as great detail as you can, which I'm sure will not be very much - on where the peace talks stand at the moment?

MR. REEKER: Is that a snide remark about the information we've provided? Peace talks. And that would be the Middle East peace talks. As you know, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and US officials have met - have been meeting this week in the Washington area. Those meetings will end today. I don't have an exact time; I believe sometime later this afternoon.

Our Special Middle East Coordinator, Ambassador Dennis Ross, and other State Department officials have been involved for the US. I can report that Israeli and Palestinian participants met directly, and we also had meetings with each of those groups individually.

QUESTION: Was that directly alone or with US officials?

MR. REEKER: I would have to check that specifically, and I can get back to you. To be absolutely precise, I don't have any specific information on the meeting. But the question that I anticipated was, had they met together, and indeed they had.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)?

MR. REEKER: I don't have a date for you.

QUESTION: If I could just sort of follow up on this. The House, yesterday, passed the - well, it's sort of --

QUESTION: Can we stay on this? There was talk yesterday that the Secretary was going to be in touch with the two sides. Has she done that yet?

MR. REEKER: She did not meet with them.

QUESTION: No, I know that.

MR. REEKER: But in terms of talks, I don't know. I will have to check. As you know, she was in New York yesterday afternoon, and I just don't have a readout of anything on that. Certainly Ambassador Ross was very much involved, along with other people from the Middle East team.

QUESTION: On the - related - the House yesterday passed, I guess, legislation regarding a unilateral declaration on the Palestinian side. Does that help or harm the process at this point? I mean, what is the State Department's take?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think it is well known to all of you that President Clinton has made very clear to the Palestinians our opposition to any unilateral declaration of statehood, and the consequences of such a declaration. And I think the Palestinians understand that negotiations are the only way to produce an enduring solution, as we have seen talks that have gone on indeed this week.

I could point out, too, that Prime Minister Barak met Monday with Chairman Arafat, and they both reiterated their commitment to the peace process and to reaching a negotiated settlement. So they have had these talks this week.

In terms of the legislation you referred to, I think it is very imperative that we seek to support the parties, as we have done, and do not take steps to hamper their efforts or place obstacles in their way. I think the Secretary, the President, have all made very clear that we have a major opportunity to bring a final and enduring peace to the Middle East, and legislation at this time complicates the very process that we seek to conclude and makes it more difficult to reach a just and lasting peace.

QUESTION: Especially if the legislation totally reflects Administration policy. Doesn't the legislation put some pressure on Arafat to make the compromises you're looking for?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think I would just go back to what I already said, that --

QUESTION: It's not Congress's business?

MR. REEKER: -- that the President has made very clear our opposition to that, and the Palestinians understand the negotiations under way to produce an enduring solution. So while we try to take steps to help the parties and not hamper their efforts, we think that legislation just complicates the process. And, at this time, we are focused on seeking to conclude an enduring peace, and we don't want to add anything that makes that more difficult.

QUESTION: Can you say how it complicates the process? I don't want to be picky, but --

MR. REEKER: Again, I think to add other factors into it, to place obstacles in their way, to divert attention from the issues at hand, the difficult decisions that need to be made, is not something that helps the process. So as the parties address the most difficult decisions in these negotiations, it is critical that we refrain from any steps that could hinder their efforts.

QUESTION: You don't have to answer this question, but you might.

MR. REEKER: You're going to try anyway.

QUESTION: No, I understand that you will. On the bridging proposals, during Mr. Ross' contacts with the two delegations, did he present any bridging proposals whatsoever?

MR. REEKER: No.

QUESTION: No?

MR. REEKER: No. We haven't made any decisions with respect to bridging proposals. This depends really on whether we think there is going to be a chance to bridge gaps through such proposals, and so, to this point, no decisions have been made.

Was that enough of an answer?

QUESTION: On the face of this question, it's going to sound absurd, but let me try it anyhow. Did they discuss the issues in these talks?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any specifics to give you on what the talks were --

QUESTION: I ask, because Arafat and Barak met --

MR. REEKER: Yes. Monday.

QUESTION: -- and had a nice, long meeting going into the next morning, and both sides said they didn't discuss the issues. So I think it is germane whether this venue took up the issues or not.

MR. REEKER: I just don't have a readout on what was discussed. The meetings took place. They, as you know, went on this week. They are ending today, and we certainly expect the parties to have additional discussions.

QUESTION: On the Temple Mount incident yesterday, and on Prime Minister Barak's interview with The Jerusalem Post in which he made reference to a Palestinian capital, and called it Al Qods, without defining it --

MR. REEKER: In terms of that interview, I haven't seen that, and so I really can't comment on the specifics of that.

In terms of the first part of your questions, obviously, as everyone is aware, this is a very sensitive and holy place, that all sides need to respect that fact. And in view of the sensitivity of the site, everyone needs to exercise careful judgment on actions that are taken there. So any action with respect to such a sensitive site needs to be carefully weighed in order to avoid tensions.

QUESTION: Do you think that Mr. Sharon's visit was provocative?

MR. REEKER: Well, let me just repeat what I just said, that everyone needs to exercise judgment on actions there, and any action with respect to those sites - such sensitive sites - need to be carefully weighed in order to avoid tensions. And that is what we are trying to avoid.

QUESTION: New subject. The Deputy Foreign Minister of the Taliban is in town. I am wondering who, if anyone, he is going to see here in the Department. And I'm also wondering if you can comment --

QUESTION: -- why it's not on the schedule?

QUESTION: -- comment on these rather unusual allegations made yesterday by Congressman Rohrabacher about the US supporting - covertly supporting the Taliban and drawing some kind of link between Inderfurth's visits to Pakistan and immediately - the link between his visits and, upon his departure, Rohrabacher said there was an unusual - there always seemed to be a Taliban offensive against the Northern Alliance?

MR. REEKER: I'm afraid I just don't - I think I saw one press report of those comments, and I guess that was following the Secretary's testimony. I wasn't here for that, so I don't think I can really give you anything on that.

On the meetings - and nothing was on the schedule because it did not involve the Secretary or the Deputy Secretary. Two Afghan delegations were scheduled to meet today with Under Secretary of State Pickering and other State Department officials to discuss developments in Afghanistan. Abdurahman Zahid, the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Taliban, was to meet Under Secretary Pickering at 11 o'clock this morning. And as of the time I came out here, for unknown reasons, the Taliban delegation did not arrive at the appointed time. And I have no further information on their whereabouts or their scheduling.

QUESTION: They're out with Rohrabacher.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Is Inderfurth in the building?

MR. REEKER: Yes, Inderfurth is in the building.

Abdullah Abdulla, the Foreign Minister of the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, will meet with Under Secretary Pickering at 5:00 p.m. this afternoon.

QUESTION: The Alliance? Is that -

MR. REEKER: What used to be known as the Northern Alliance. I think they formally changed their name to the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan. So, at 5:00 p.m., Under Secretary Pickering will meet with Abdullah Abdullah. Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs Karl Inderfurth will also be in that meeting. He was scheduled to meet with the earlier delegation as well. And Foreign Minister Abdullah is expected to talk to officials from the Office of Counter-Terrorism as well.

QUESTION: Is it your - or is it Pickering's office's conclusion that these guys are not going to show up at all?

MR. REEKER: We just didn't have any further information. They were expecting them at 11:00.

QUESTION: They made no call to reschedule?

MR. REEKER: It was another one of those issues that I delayed coming out here to try to get you answers on, and we had no further information. I might point out - and perhaps it helps you with an earlier question you had - that the issues that we were prepared to raise with the Taliban representative, which is the same type of thing we discuss every time we meet them, are: the continuing international demand that Usama bin Laden be expelled from Afghanistan to a place where he can be brought to justice; the need for the Taliban to end its abuse of the human rights of the Afghans, particularly women and girls; and, also, to stop the production of narcotics in the areas that the Taliban occupies. And Under Secretary Pickering certainly would have urged the Taliban to work with other Afghans in that country to end the fighting and begin a peace process that could lead to a sort of broad-based representative government.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed they didn't show up?

MR. REEKER: Well, I want to wait and see what the outcome of the day is, and if we have any --

QUESTION: So Pickering's office is amenable to rescheduling this meeting? It wasn't a one-time-only deal?

MR. REEKER: Well, I have to say that Under Secretary Pickering is an extremely busy person, as all of you know. I don't know what the scheduling opportunities will be. That meeting was missed. We don't know why as of the time I came out here. We didn't have an explanation or whereabouts of the delegation. But if you want to check back at the end of the day, we can certainly check with you.

QUESTION: Do we have a position - maybe it's covering old ground - on the Taliban's proposal to bring in Islamic jurists from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and other countries, to investigate whether they should extradite bin Laden?

MR. REEKER: I think it is something we have discussed in the past. Our view is perfectly clear, and it is the view of the United Nations. Security Council resolutions call for Mr. bin Laden to be expelled from where he is and turned over to a country where he can face justice.

Still on the Taliban?

QUESTION: Speaking of the United Nations, was Pickering - or will he, at a subsequent scheduled meeting, give a US position on a Taliban seat at the United Nations?

MR. REEKER: I think the Secretary was very clear in New York in terms of stating quite outright that we will oppose giving the UN seat for Afghanistan to the Taliban. We do not favor any Afghan faction. We are working, along with the United Nations, in fact, and with other concerned countries, to help the Afghans establish a broad-based government that would receive international recognition. And so I don't think any more needed to be said.

QUESTION: I have a question on another subject, and it is a rather circumscribed subject, so if anybody in the room is interested in more background on it, I'd be glad top provide it. If not, I'm just going to ask you, is there any reaction to Italy's decision to transfer Sylvia Baraldini from the jail to a hospital? And is there any reaction to appeals from Italy and appeals from her American attorneys for her to be released?

MR. REEKER: I hadn't even seen those reports. I apologize. So I would be happy to check into it afterwards or you may just want to just contact our European Bureau directly. But we can look into it afterwards.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Iran and Cuba. Do you have any reaction to the upcoming visit of the Iranian President Khatami to Cuba? I believe it is tomorrow, and he is expected to be welcomed in Havana with full honors from Cuban President Fidel Castro.

MR. REEKER: I don't have any particular reaction to that. I'm sorry. I would be happy to look into it and see if we do, but I'm not certain that we would.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the referendum on the Euro in Denmark, which is currently neck-and-neck yes and no?

MR. REEKER: Well, nothing other than to say that that is an issue for the Danish voters to decide. And we will read about it in the paper.

QUESTION: You're not concerned about what the impact might be on the Euro, which is kind of important for the United States?

MR. REEKER: I think at this point it is an issue that needs to be decided by the Danish voters. They have clearly had ample opportunity to receive free and open information and make their decision, and I am not going to weigh in with any US position on that.

QUESTION: Has Mike Sheehan come back from India yet to participate in the North Korea talks? And I'm wondering also if you would just let us know if those have begun. They were supposed to begin yesterday.

MR. REEKER: Yes. North Korean talks, our comprehensive talks with North Korea in New York, are proceeding in a positive manner and a good atmosphere. We have been discussing the full range of issues of common concern. I think, as you know, in terms of other talks, we don't get into details of the discussions while they are still in progress, which they very much are. They are going to continue tomorrow. There is no fixed date for ending these talks.

And to, unfortunately, not answer fully your question about Ambassador Sheehan, I'm not sure. I know that he was expected in New York for those talks. Terrorism is one of the issues, obviously, that they will be discussing. That was to be in a sequential manner. I will have to check on his whereabouts, if he has returned yet from India or is he en route.

QUESTION: The Chinese Government News Agency has been saying that the United States in joining Galun Fong (sic), Tibet, Free Tibet groups and other anti-Chinese Government groups to topple the Communist Party in China. This, I think, is a very serious accusation the Chinese have made, especially since our human rights report. Have you any response?

MR. REEKER: Well, I stand very much by our human rights report. As you know, we have a vigorous process of reviewing human rights in every country around the globe, and we report that faithfully, annually. We discuss those issues in great detail here. I don't think I have anything particular to add. I'm not familiar with the specific remarks of the Chinese Government to which you are referring, but I will note that we have a complex relationship with China, and we engage them on a variety of levels, including human rights, which we talk about often.

QUESTION: So the US Government, as far as you know, is not plotting against the Communist Party in China at all?

MR. REEKER: No.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: I think the designation of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan must now have gone through its procedural process on the Hill, and I was wondering whether you have identified any individuals who will consequently lose their visas or any assets which will be frozen?

MR. REEKER: Let me tell you what I can on that subject. On September 25th, a number of you may have noticed that the United States published in the Federal Register the formal designation of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan as a foreign terrorist organization under US law. It shouldn't come as any surprise to most of you who have followed this that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a deadly terrorist group. It has threatened the security of Uzbekistan and the region. Its publicly stated goal is the forcible overthrow of Uzbekistan's current government. And we believe that this Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was involved in explosions in Tashkent that killed 16 people, as well as a bus hijacking in 1999 in which two passengers and several police were killed. Also, in 1999, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan took a group of Japanese geologists hostage. And just last month, the group kidnapped four US citizens, who I believe were mountain climbers, and held them hostage. Fortunately, as you will recall, the four were able to escape.

So the Department has had this group under review for some time and has determined that it meets the criteria to be designated as a foreign terrorist organization. The law authorizes the Secretary of State to make these designations, which are reviewed every two years - at least every two years - once they are made. And of course the Secretary may add or delete organizations at any time.

And in terms of your specifics, I really don't have anything. There are legal consequences which may be of interest. It will be unlawful for a person in the United States, or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, to provide funds or other material support to a foreign terrorist organization. And, as you indicated, representatives and certain members of designated foreign terrorist organizations - if they are aliens - can be denied visas or excluded from the United States. In terms of specific names that would fall under that category, I just don't have anything for you at this point.

QUESTION: Not specific names, but just any consequences from this move at all?

MR. REEKER: Well, I just outlined two of the consequences --

QUESTION: Have you worked out what they will be yet?

MR. REEKER: Well, those are the things - once it is designated - what we will have to look at. I don't have anything to tell you now. As well, the third consequence is that US financial institutions must block funds of designated foreign terrorist organizations and their agents, and report the blockage to the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Department of Treasury.

QUESTION: You guys have been a great, great promoter of rule of law, and have the need for no impunity. And I'm wondering, in that light, if you have anything to say about the decision by the Indonesian court not to throw out the trial of the President Suharto, ex-President Suharto.

MR. REEKER: Yes, rule of law is, of course, something we take extremely seriously. But I would add that it is very much up to the Indonesian people and to their government to decide how to pursue specific corruption investigations and prosecutions through their legal system. As you indicate, a key issue facing Indonesia is economic recovery - that is what this has been about - and building foundations necessary for long-term economic growth. Fighting corruption, as we have discussed here often, is a critical component in creating an environment for growth to take place. So we strongly support the rule of law in Indonesia, and we urge demonstrators protesting the court's decision to observe and support the principle of the rule of law by refraining from violence.

QUESTION: So you don't necessarily think that it is a bad thing? You're not concerned that throwing this case out might have a deleterious effect on reform?

MR. REEKER: Well, again, we think fighting corruption is very important, and we think the rule of law is important, and we think that needs to be followed. But obviously those are decisions that the government and the Indonesian people need to make in terms of how to pursue specific --

QUESTION: So you have no position, then, on the decision of the judges?

MR. REEKER: Right. That's a domestic issue for the Indonesians.

QUESTION: And then just the last thing, I'm wondering if you care to - or can - put on the record some comments that were being made yesterday by some officials in this building about the situation in the Ivory Coast, with the alleged forged birth - marriage certificate?

MR. REEKER: Is that where I saw those from - anonymous State Department officials? In terms of the reports of falsified marriage certificates, I believe, for Mr. Ouattara, which would be designed, of course, to disqualify him from being a candidate in elections in Cote d'Ivoire, we have seen the news reports to that effect. And we are gravely concerned, but frankly not surprised, that the Government of Cote d'Ivoire is using a falsified document as a pretext for excluding an opponent from the election.

And I will just take this opportunity to reiterate that the United States calls for an electoral process in Cote d'Ivoire in which the people of Cote d'Ivoire may freely choose the candidates of their choice in inclusive, free and fair and transparent elections. We believe, as we have said before, it is entirely inappropriate and ill-advised for General Guei to stand as a candidate in the presidential election, as he came to power and remains in power as a result of a military coup, and thus he is in a position to manipulate the outcome of the elections. And moreover, recent actions, such as the one we have been discussing, suggest that that is indeed his intent.

QUESTION: I had posed some detailed questions on this yesterday. I didn't get any answers. Have you actually checked out the authenticity of this document independently of press reports?

MR. REEKER: I don't know that we have done that, that the Department of State has done that. I think it was fairly clear from some of the press reports that this was apparently a marriage certificate, I believe from the state of Pennsylvania --

QUESTION: Pennsylvania, yes.

MR. REEKER: -- which would obviously be a matter for local authorities to determine definitively. But I think there was some fine journalistic reporting done on that which indicated that this had been falsified. And as we said, it wasn't actually surprising to us that the government was using a falsified document as a pretext to try to keep Mr. Ouattara from being a candidate.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:40 P.M.)


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