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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #109, 00-11-01

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing




1 Update on U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia / Status of U.S. Embassy Jakarta


2-3 U.S. and Yemeni Government Discussing Cooperation in Second Phase of USS Cole Investigation


3-5 Israeli Acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami Scheduled to Meet with Secretary Albright / Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat Due to Arrive Washington, D.C. November 2


5-6 Crash of Singapore Airline Flight 006 / Several Passengers Remain Unaccounted For / Department of State in Process of Contacting Family Members


6-7 U.S. and China Sign Memorandum of Understanding to Build New Embassies in Each Capitol


7 Ties Between Arab Countries and Iraq / International Support for Sanctions Remain Effective / Jordanian Prime Minster to Visit Iraq


7-8 Missile in Kuala Lumpur On-Going



DPB #109

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2000, 12:35 P.M.


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Ambassador Gelbard's whereabouts, please?

MR. BOUCHER: Ambassador Gelbard is returning - I am not sure exactly whether he is in the air or in the United States, but he is on his way back to the United States for a long-scheduled personal event.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, family event.

QUESTION: We have been led to believe that he will be having meetings, or at least consulting with officials in this building. Do you know who? Will he talk with the Secretary?

MR. BOUCHER: No, at this point there is nothing scheduled in terms of Washington. We may take advantage of his travel to consult with him, to talk to him about the situation in Indonesia after the family event is over, so that would be sometime next week. And if something gets scheduled, we'll tell you about it.

QUESTION: Do you know how long he might be out of Jakarta?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it's a week or so. It depends on the exact travel.

QUESTION: Okay. And any further word on the Embassy? I know today is early to ask; tomorrow is the day to make a decision.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, today is the day to make a decision, but no decision at this point. They are closed through the 2nd still, so nothing new on that.

QUESTION: Any more closures?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. I haven't done a comprehensive sweep, but I'll try to do a check. But I haven't heard of any others.

QUESTION: Richard, do you think the Yemeni Government is inhibiting the investigation into the Cole?

MR. BOUCHER: This is sort of the daily question, and I have to say we're not going to try to do a daily taking of the temperature or a scorecard or whatever we want to call it. We're not going to try to assess on every moment of the hour or the day the extent of the cooperation.

Let me go back to the basic facts. We had extensive and useful and good cooperation in the initial phases of the investigation. We are moving into new phases of the investigation. The President and others have talked to President Salih about the kind of cooperation we need in those new phases. It is more cooperation. It is extensive cooperation that we will need in the new phases of the investigation.

We are talking to the Yemeni Government, to Yemeni officials, about how to manage that cooperation, how to do it, how to organize it -- the modalities, as we like to say, of that cooperation. Those discussions continue. And when we have something to report, we'll report it to you.

QUESTION: Yesterday you said you were making progress.

MR. BOUCHER: And we're still making progress.

QUESTION: Is there anything -- any requests of the US, like access, like the US wants access?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not going to try to talk about asking this, getting that, not getting this, have this right now, maybe-in-an-hour kind of assessments. We're looking to establish the modalities of this cooperation. We're making progress in those discussions, but we haven't concluded them yet. When we do, we'll tell you about them.

QUESTION: Is the demand that US helicopters -- that they have to have permission to land now in Yemen kind of the -- part of the progress that you're talking about?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I'm not going to be able to deal with each of the -- all the different elements that are involved in this.

QUESTION: Well, it seems like the first thing that's happened since the President of Yemen called and spoke to President Clinton, and since the Secretary and Director Freeh sent their letter, the first solid step that the Yemenis have taken is actually to inhibit US actions on the ground there, with this demand for permission for helicopters to land.

Do you not see it that way?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't. That would be a wrong conclusion based on incomplete information, but I'm not allowed to give you more.

QUESTION: So this is a good thing?

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, there's a lot of things that are happening, okay? Some of them work out, some of them don't; some of them don't work initially, and we have to fix them.

I can't get into a whole list of everything we might have requested and everything that's done. You can't just operate an investigation that way, and I'm not going to try.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, is there something that needs to be fixed?

QUESTION: Well, would you like to have more cooperation than you're getting at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: We have made quite clear that, in the new phase of the investigation, we need more cooperation; we need extensive -- we need different kinds of cooperation, a different kind of access to evidence, to information, different kinds of procedures. We're working those things out. We're making progress in that regard, but we haven't concluded it at this point.

QUESTION: Is the helicopter thing something that needs to be fixed?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going into helicopters or requests for this or requests for that. We just can't -- you know, we just can't start telling you every step of the investigation what we ask for and what we may or may not get, and we'll work it out.

QUESTION: Is this the kind of thing that you're working out necessary to conclude before the new phase gets started, or would you say that we're already in the new phase that you talk about?

MR. BOUCHER: I guess I would say that we are already in the new phase and that we have moved the people around. As you know, we've moved some people offshore; we have moved a lot of people back who weren't needed there for the next phase. So we are moving in - we are in the new phase of investigation in some way.

QUESTION: Is Ben-Ami on for 4 o'clock?


QUESTION: Do you want to add anything to what you said yesterday?

MR. BOUCHER: Add a little more. I mean, we know acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami arrives in Washington today. He'll meet with Secretary Albright this afternoon at 4:00. Then I think he has meetings over at the White House with Mr. Berger. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat will arrive here tomorrow for meetings tomorrow with Secretary Albright as well. We think these meetings will provide a useful opportunity to discuss the current situation, follow up on the commitments that the parties made at Sharm el-Sheikh.

Obviously, ending the violence, restoring calm to the region, is our highest priority. In Sharm el-Sheikh, Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat agreed to concrete steps to end the violence and to ease restrictions on both movement of people and goods. It is critical that both parties move immediately to implement those commitments. Once that's been achieved, we can focus on restoring confidence in the peace process and finding a way back to the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Is she going to be asking the foreign minister to -- is she going to be urging him to mitigate the Israeli response to the -- I mean, another bunch of Palestinians, and I don't have the exact number, were killed again -- were killed today, as well as yesterday. What specifically is she going to be telling Ben-Ami that she is not going to be saying to Mr. Erakat?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, you know of our concerns about the violence. You know that we have been working very hard, trying to do everything we can to end the cycle of violence and to make it possible to get back onto a path of peace. The Secretary and the President and others have been quite clear about the need to stop the violence and the need to implement the steps of Sharm el-Sheikh.

What we will be talking to the parties about are the commitments they made at Sharm el- Sheikh and the steps that they can take to end the violence. Clearly, each side has different commitments; each side has different steps that they can take. We will be going through with each one, as appropriate, the kind of steps that they can take in carrying out their commitments from Sharm el Sheikh.

QUESTION: Is there any suggestion that there will be any meeting between the Israeli Foreign Minister and Saeb Erakat?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we have not been trying to do that. I have not heard of any efforts on their sides to do that. We would not discourage it, but we do not know.

QUESTION: So that, basically, the conversations that the Secretary will have -- she's not going to have the same conversation twice. Is there anything that you can say about what the differences are between what she is going to raise with Ben-Ami and what she is going to raise with Erakat?

MR. BOUCHER: I thought I just did.

QUESTION: Well, you said --

MR. BOUCHER: They each made commitments at Sharm el-Sheikh, but they made different commitments and have to take different steps. So we'll talk to each of them about the steps that they, in particular, can be taking at this time.

QUESTION: Which steps will that be?

MR. BOUCHER: There are obviously similarities between the discussions, but there are obviously differences as well.

QUESTION: Okay. So which steps is she going to be talking to Ben-Ami about?

MR. BOUCHER: The steps the Israelis can take.

QUESTION: Which are?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I leave it to the -- what we said at Sharm el-Sheikh.

QUESTION: Can we clarify the numbers of American casualties on the plane? From this building we've heard 22 survivors, 10 dead. But, given other reports, that leaves about -- quite a few unaccounted for, something like 15.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, what am I going to tell you? You have already answered my question for me. That is exactly what I have. Let me double-check it.

What we know is that there are -- we know of 22 confirmed American citizen survivors. Only a few of these people are injured severely, primarily due to burns. There are 10 dead, 10 bodies tentatively identified as American citizens. There are a number of passengers that remain unaccounted for, and we believe that some of these are probably Americans, but we can't give you an exact figure at this point of how many Americans there are unaccounted for.

As you know, the rescue and recovery efforts are hampered by the severe weather. The Department -- that includes both the people here and our people in Taipei -- we are in the process of contacting the families. Many have already been contacted by surviving loved ones or by the airline. We are not going to be releasing the names or identifying information on these people in the case of survivors; it's respect for the privacy. In case of deceased or the missing, it's respect for the families.

Our thoughts are clearly with the survivors for their speedy recovery; with the friends and families of those deceased, our sympathy there; and our hope for the best go for the missing.

QUESTION: Richard, why don't we know that? I mean, the airline has been publishing numbers. Why don't we take those numbers for granted? Have they not shown us a manifest?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we have manifests. We have a lot of information. What we don't know for sure is exactly who was an American and who wasn't, whether some of the people may be dual nationals, things like that. So I can't tell you for sure on the unaccounted exactly how many are American.

QUESTION: Richard, you said "our people" are looking into this. But they're not actually, in fact, our people, are they, in terms of the State Department people, right? It goes back to my question of yesterday.

MR. BOUCHER: It goes back to AIT Taipei. These are --

QUESTION: Are these people trained in consular -- I mean, are they --

MR. BOUCHER: Absolutely.

QUESTION: I'm not questioning their competence. I'm just asking, do they report to the State Department? And doesn't this -- isn't this kind of --

MR. BOUCHER: They report, through the American Institute in Taiwan, to the State Department. They are responsible to us, ultimately. We have a -- I forget if it's a contract or an agreement or an arrangement with AIT in Taiwan to carry out certain functions on our behalf. Everybody there is fully trained as a consular officer. They have had tours elsewhere as consular officers. There are people in our foreign service who are in a different status while they serve in an unofficial capacity in Taiwan.

QUESTION: A somewhat related question to that, I see that you and the Chinese have come to an agreement on a new Embassy in Beijing, as well as -- I believe it's a reciprocal agreement here for something with a Chinese Embassy in Washington.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. And I have to say, having worked in our facilities in China, many of us have been looking forward to this day for a long, long time.

QUESTION: Is this using the setback thing so the next time the Pentagon accidentally bombs a Chinese embassy someplace they won't get hit with stones or what have you?

MR. BOUCHER: The attempt to get new property, to get a new Embassy in Beijing, predates the Embassy bombing by years. For many years we have been working on this. We are very glad that Admiral Prueher and the Chinese have been able to bring these discussions to a conclusion. Obviously, people from Washington have been working very hard on this for many years. We have had rounds of negotiations and discussions.

And on Wednesday, November 1st, in Beijing, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and China, signed by the US Ambassador to China, Joseph Prueher, and PRC Assistant Foreign Minister Zhou Tianshun.

The agreement represents an important step in expanding US-China relations. It will allow us to acquire a 40,000 square-meter site in Beijing, where the Embassy will be constructed. The United States will also acquire a 30,000 square-meter site in Guangzhou, where a new US Consulate General complex will be constructed. The Chinese will acquire a 10,800 square-meter property in Washington, DC, for construction of a new Embassy as well.

QUESTION: Do you know where it is?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I know that.

QUESTION: And also, is there a Consulate General now in Guangzhou?


QUESTION: There is. So this won't affect anything in your old stomping grounds of Hong Kong, right? That Consulate General will remain?

MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Consular jurisdictions remain the same.

QUESTION: Have you heard anything yet about the fact that Iran voted today to allow their courts to impose damages on US citizens, much the way our courts have decided in the case of Terry Anderson, for example? They say it's to protect their people from our terrorist attacks.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything on that. I'll try to get you something later.

QUESTION: Thanks. Yes, I didn't tell you in advance. Sorry.

MR. BOUCHER: That's okay.

QUESTION: Is the US disheveled at all by the growing rapport between Arab countries, many of whom you consider friends, and Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: I think -- well, it depends on which question you ask. There is -- there have always been some ties between Arab countries and Iraq. There are varying levels of sympathy. I think some of the people that Iraq has invaded and attacked and bombed are not as sympathetic as others.

But I think what is important is that international support for the sanctions, we believe, remains effective. We do have different situations that arise with regard to airplanes. We have gone through that extensively.

Today we have a visit by the Jordanian Prime Minister to Iraq. As many of you may know, the barter arrangement with cut-price oil between Jordan and Iraq has been going on for some time. It's been reported and noted by the UN Security Council, and we have not objected to that arrangement. The Jordanians did tell us about this visit in advance, and we gave them our opinion, which is that high-level visits to Iraq are not advisable, have not been and remain what we think is inappropriate, given Iraq's past behavior.

QUESTION: New subject? The North Koreans emerged today from the first day of talks in KL sounding kind of optimistic. I was wondering what your read from Assistant Secretary Einhorn is on how things are going.

MR. BOUCHER: Our read is that things are going. Talks are ongoing. We don't want to try to comment every day on them. I think that our practice in the past has been to say something at the beginning and then to say something at the end but, at this point, we don't have anything in the middle.

QUESTION: That's it.

MR. BOUCHER: Thanks.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:50 P.M.)

[end of document]

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