|Friday, 24 January 2020|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #110, 00-11-03
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2000
Briefer: RICHARD BOUCHER, SPOKESMAN
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2000, 12:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here on a Friday. I guess I don't have any announcements or statements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the missile talks in Malaysia beyond what was said in the statement issued by Mr. Einhorn?
MR. BOUCHER: Beyond?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Basically, for those of you who don't have it, we will get you a copy of the statement that Mr. Einhorn issued in Malaysia. The goal of these talks was to clarify positions. I will repeat again, as I think we have said in the past, we were not out there to reach an agreement, and therefore one shouldn't be surprised that we didn't. We were out there to clarify areas. We had detailed, constructive and very substantive discussions with the North Korean delegation. We think we did, in fact, further clarify the positions, continue to expand areas of understanding and common ground in these talks about missiles. But there are other issues that still need to be discussed, and we will also be looking at the whole situation when the delegation returns to Washington, which I guess is over the weekend.
QUESTION: Would you characterize these talks as a success?
MR. BOUCHER: They achieved their goal, which was to clarify the situation and to get further information from the North Koreans, and they managed to do that.
QUESTION: Well, is the American understanding of the North Korean position basically the same, now that the talks were over, as it was going into the talks?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, but in more detail and with more substance attached to it. I mean, that was the goal and that has been the goal. I think you have heard from the Secretary several times, including yesterday, that we are proceeding along this path of trying to deal in a very serious way with missile threat on the Peninsula. We are proceeding in the overall relationship and on this specific path in a very systematic way, very methodical way, a way of testing and examining the propositions that are made, and that's the context in which I would put these talks.
QUESTION: Yesterday, during her speech, she said that the Administration was not in any hurry. And so did anything this week lend itself to believe that now might not be the time, that enough progress on this issue hasn't been made for a Presidential visit?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, there was never a timetable, as far as I understand. And, second of all, the Secretary said all along that substance has driven this policy. We are proceeding in a systematic way. She said if we have the opportunity to move forward, we should take it. So that is what we have been saying all along; nothing is changed in terms of timetables because there never was one. Nothing is changed in terms of progress because we continue to make the progress that we want in a systematic, step-by-step way. That's how we intended to proceed. That's how we are proceeding.
QUESTION: I'm a little confused. You said that the Presidential visit depended to some extent on the outcome of the Kuala Lumpur talks, and you also say that the purpose of the talks is not to reach an agreement. So could you explain exactly how the two are related, the visit and the talks?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we went through this the other day, I think. And you gave me the out when you asked the question "to some extent." I said that's about as far as I can go because I don't want to say that the one depends totally on the other. The President's visit will depend on an assessment that the President will make based on the understanding we have of the proposals as to whether significant progress can be made in reducing the threats that we need to reduce.
QUESTION: You said that the talks achieved their objective, so we can assume from that that that brings the possibility of a Presidential visit closer, since they achieved their objective and since --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I would make that assumption because the goal of the talks was to clarify, was to achieve a more detailed understanding of the ideas that were, you might say, floated during Vice Marshall Jo's visit in Washington, discussed during the Secretary's visit to Pyongyang, and now discussed in somewhat more detail in Kuala Lumpur.
Having understood those ideas, and we may have further discussions to discuss some of the other aspects of these things, we may be closer to a position where we can decide on the next steps, but that doesn't make it more likely one way or the other.
QUESTION: Is there any further talks scheduled at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of, no.
QUESTION: Are you any closer as a result of these talks to understanding whether the North Koreans are interested in launching satellites from outside their own territory or from within their own territory?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the proposition -- as stated in the past and as stated to us in North Korea -- was always launch services, which means somebody else's rockets, which means not in North Korea. So I think our understanding of the proposition has always been that we would have a significant restraint on the indigenous programs in North Korea and the exports, and that the launch services would be provided outside of their territory.
QUESTION: You said that was your understanding. Have you actually confirmed that?
MR. BOUCHER: That's been the understanding all along of the idea ever since it was raised with Putin.
QUESTION: New subject? Can you give us a readout on her meeting with Saeb Erakat?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary, as you know, met this morning with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. They discussed the current situation and the follow-up to the commitments made at Sharm el-Sheikh. As you know, she met on Wednesday with the Israeli Foreign Minister. This was a similar meeting. They talked about both the importance of carrying out the understandings that were reached in Sharm el-Sheikh, and they talked about how to build a bridge back to the peace process, to further create the environment for the peace process to go forward.
QUESTION: And can you say if progress was made?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what I can say is what has always mattered to us is progress on the ground. What we have been looking for is an end to the violence. The Secretary has said this repeatedly; the President has said this repeatedly; that we are looking to an end to the violence, breaking the cycle of violence so that people don't suffer and so that the violence ceases. And so, really, these meetings are ways of discussing how to achieve that through implementation of the steps at Sharm el-Sheikh. But what matters in terms of progress or lack thereof is what happens on the ground.
QUESTION: Were you satisfied with Arafat's statements yesterday on ending the violence?
MR. BOUCHER: I think rather than characterizing somebody's statement or somebody else's steps, what is important to us -- and it was an important sign to us that the parties themselves reached an understanding about the need to go forward. They made -- shall we say they agreed with each other on the steps needed to go forward. And based on some of the reporting that we have seen in the press and elsewhere, they do agree that parties are taking steps or making efforts in this regard.
But clearly the final analysis, as I just said, is what happens on the ground, is ending the violence and stopping the cycle of violence so that we can build the bridge back to the peace process.
QUESTION: Richard, why is the Secretary, in Mr. Erakat's words, "not enthusiastic" about the proposal to send an international protection force to the occupied territories?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't know that Mr. Erakat had said that, but I think our view --
QUESTION: Did you listen to the tape?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Really. I was told specifically that you had listened to a tape of what he had said.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I was given a tape of what he had said, but I'm sure I'll look forward to listening to it this afternoon.
QUESTION: Well, perhaps you might like to --
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let me talk about the proposition. I think you have known there are various proposals out there for UN action in one way or another. The United States has consistently had reservations or been opposed to these proposals, and this is another one where we think that the steps that were agreed, the commitments that have been made, need to be implemented, need to be implemented thoroughly and quickly, and that is the best way to bring an end to the violence, not to go back to New York. This is going to be solved in the region, and not outside, because that is where the parties who have the ability to take steps can take the steps.
QUESTION: You think the UN has no role in this then? I mean, is this something that an international --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, clearly we have been talking to Kofi Annan; we have been talking to other Security Council members. Some of them were at Sharm el-Sheikh. So clearly there is a role for other parties, but the final analysis is that what matters is what happens on the ground; the parties are able to take the steps on the ground to end the cycle of violence.
QUESTION: Saeb Erakat said that Yasser Arafat --
MR. BOUCHER: I should have listened to the tape, huh?
QUESTION: -- is coming to Washington soon. Is there a plan now to bring he and Barak here independently or jointly in the next few days?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, the President has raised the possibility of separate meetings with the leaders. Secretary Albright said yesterday that they would be expected to come to Washington at some point, but I don't have anything to announce for you.
QUESTION: So you don't know that Arafat is coming?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say I didn't know. I said I don't have anything to announce.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary ask Mr. Erakat to relay to Mr. Arafat the message that the US would like to see him do more in terms of calling for an end to the violence?
MR. BOUCHER: Our message, as I have given it to you today, as we have given it to you two days ago, is that both parties need to take the steps that they agreed to. They need to implement the steps --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) happy with what they have done or not? I mean, do you think more needs to be done?
MR. BOUCHER: As long as --
QUESTION: Yesterday, the Secretary said -- she was very clear, and she singled out Arafat and said, we think that he needs to do -- that he needs to condemn the violence.
MR. BOUCHER: As long as the violence continues, we think people need to do more, and that includes Mr. Arafat.
QUESTION: All right. So not enough has been done?
MR. BOUCHER: The point here, Matt, is not to castigate; the point is to describe what needs to be done and what we think still needs to be done. And we have been quite clear that both sides need to continue to take the steps; they need to implement the understandings thoroughly; they need to implement them quickly in order to end the cycle of violence.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Azerbaijan holds legislative elections on Sunday. Can you give us some advance comment? And, also, I understand Ambassador Sestanovich has been in the Caucasus this week. Can you update us on his activities?
MR. BOUCHER: Those are both things that I'll have to check on. I don't have anything for you at this point.
QUESTION: Could you talk about the Pakistani -- US Ambassador to Pakistan's meeting with the Taliban representative in Pakistan yesterday, and what was discussed about reports that the US was going to strike Afghanistan over bin Laden's presence in the country?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. The meeting was not in that particular context. Let me describe the context of the meeting and the reasons for the meeting.
This was November 2nd in Pakistan. Our Ambassador to Pakistan, Bill Milam, met with Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salim Zayif, at the request of Ambassador Zayif. The two sides discussed developments in Afghanistan and the region, and the continuing international demand that Usama bin Laden be expelled from Afghanistan to a place where he can be brought to justice.
US officials, as you know, hold regular meetings with representatives of the Taliban and other Afghan factions and groups. We don't favor any particular Afghan faction. We are working, along with the UN and other countries, to help the Afghans establish a broad-based government that would achieve international recognition. And, in fact, today there are also some "6+2" meetings going on in New York that Ambassador Pickering is attending. You will remember the Secretary, when she was there in September, participated in a "6+2" meeting at the ministerial level. There are further meetings going on demonstrating the concern and the interest of the international community in seeing the situation there resolved.
On the subject that you ask about, during the course of the meeting, Ambassador Milam made clear to the Taliban representative the US position, as we have stated it in public; that the investigation continues into the attack on the Cole; the perpetrators at this point have not been identified, but the United States will do what it has to do in order to protect American lives and our national interests around the world.
QUESTION: Is this the first meeting with the Taliban representative since that "6+2" meeting in New York in September?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm pretty sure it is not, but I don't have the whole list.
QUESTION: Has the Taliban -- Secretary Albright and some of the other Ambassadors made some kind of harsh remarks about the Taliban at the time. Was that brought up, and was it --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if that came up. I mean, it's not -- the harsh remarks that we have made about the Taliban are not limited to that particular moment in time. I think we have been fairly consistently harsh on the Taliban and many of the things they are doing, including the issues of human rights and their treatment of women and girls.
QUESTION: Which is exactly why I'm not sure why -- how you can say that you don't favor any one faction in Afghanistan over another. You certainly haven't been that critical of what used to be the Northern Alliance or anything like that. Why are the Taliban -- are you trying to be an honest broker in Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we're not. I think the point is that we are not trying to choose a particular faction as the government of Afghanistan. The point is that we have discussed issues and concerns with the Taliban. Because we have issues and concern about the Taliban, we are not in some way selecting them as the government of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Did Ambassador Zayif bring up Taliban fears that there might be a US attack on Afghanistan, as there was in 1998? And what did Ambassador Milam tell him?
MR. BOUCHER: The question of did he bring up fears, the answer is I don't know. And that is something I guess you would have to check with them. What Ambassador Milam said on the subject of attacks was exactly what I just read you. It is consistent -- it is exactly the same as the public position that we have expressed to you before.
QUESTION: I have another Erakat question. I'm sorry. This morning at the airport, some journalists asked Mr. Erakat how much control Arafat has over the different elements in the region, which is something he gets asked quite a lot, or the Palestinian side gets asked, and specifically with regard to the bombing yesterday. And Mr. Erakat's reply was that Arafat is in control of the Palestinian people, which of course wasn't very clear.
And yesterday, when Secretary Albright said he can and should do more, was this something that came up specifically between them this morning: how much control he does have over the very militant factions? I mean, I know this is a recurring theme.
MR. BOUCHER: It is a recurring theme. I don't know if it was discussed today. But I think the point that I have made before, the point that I made in response to the other questions, is obviously, as long as the violence continues, people in positions of authority, the leaders, need to do more; they need to continue taking these steps; they need to fully implement the understandings thoroughly and quickly.
So it is not a question of it is out of my hands or I don't have control; there are always things that people need to do, and we think those things need to be implemented thoroughly and quickly.
QUESTION: So you believe that Mr. Arafat can do more, even over the Hamas faction, the actions of the Hamas?
MR. BOUCHER: We think that there are a number of steps that both sides need to take, including steps that Mr. Arafat needs to take.
QUESTION: A new subject, Venezuela. Could you elaborate on the concerns, which the Secretary referred to yesterday in reference to President Chavez? And how does the United States view the Venezuelan claim, which appears to be new, that the Gulf of Venezuela is wholly within their territorial waters?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware of the new claim. I will check and see if there is a position on that.
On the subject of President Chavez, we have expressed ourselves many times past. I don't see that it has to be the occasion for a new summary of it, but I'm glad to get you everything we've said before in case you want to know our views.
QUESTION: You don't have a Venezuela concern section in your briefing papers?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't carry around with me daily concerns or evaluation of presidents around the world and what they're up to in the last few days.
QUESTION: Can we talk -- a new subject? Secretary Albright's letter to President Kostunica about a possible visit there and what his -- is any trip planned in the near future?
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let's start with the question. Secretary Albright's letter to President Kostunica, period. Visits were not mentioned in her letter. We told you at the time the letter was a letter of congratulations to President Kostunica, looking forward to the establishment of normal relations with a democratic Yugoslavia.
QUESTION: Was this the letter (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, the letter that we sent at the time of his election -- or inauguration, actually. I'm not sure of the precise timing.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: So why is this coming up today?
MR. BOUCHER: Because there is a report in the press that describes this as a letter that asked about visits, and she didn't.
We are in this process of establishing normal contacts with this government. They are in the process of forming a government. That remains, I think, President Kostunica's highest priority. It is still being consolidated. But we told you about the visits of Jim O'Brien and Ambassador Montgomery. That was about the 12th of October. They delivered letters. I guess that is when the Secretary's letter was delivered. There was also one from the President.
We have kept in touch with President Kostunica since then. We have now talked to his, I guess, proposed foreign minister, so we have channels for discussion. We are establishing a normal set of contacts with this government.
QUESTION: What is the status of the quasi-embassy?
MR. BOUCHER: We are discussing the technical issues involved in diplomatic relations at this point. He is forming a government. On our side --
QUESTION: No, no. I'm not talking about --
MR. BOUCHER: The quasi-embassy, meaning his embassy and our embassy.
QUESTION: The actual, physical --
MR. BOUCHER: The facts. We are working out the arrangements for funding, staffing, security and building space in Belgrade. We've got to look at the property in a fairly thorough way, but that is being done. They are looking at their property here. That is being done late this week, early next week. We are making progress. We think we will be in a position to establish the formal diplomatic relationship in the very near future but, as I said, we have established normal contacts already.
QUESTION: Some reports say by next week. Is that too optimistic?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a precise prediction, but we think in the near future we should be there. We have got to look at the properties, and then the actual establishment is an exchange of letters between the presidents.
QUESTION: What is the connection between establishing relations and having properties? I mean, you can have relations before you have properties. Why are you holding this -- why are you linking the two at all?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I guess it is normally done in connection with having an ambassador there who gets accredited. And when you have an ambassador there, then you want to have a place for him to work, et cetera, et cetera. So we are looking at the properties to see if we can do the whole thing.
QUESTION: The US team that's in Belgrade is still -- is not working out of where the embassy was? They're still on the other site?
MR. BOUCHER: I think so. I will have to double-check that that is still true because I think we are just doing walk-throughs of the properties at this point. We haven't moved in.
QUESTION: Kostunica, yesterday in an interview with CNN, said -- I think for the first time he acknowledged that there were some atrocities committed by Serbs in Kosovo. Do you see this as a good sign that he is coming around to some of the Western positions, and maybe there could be some progress potentially on the war crimes issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can comment on specific statements day by day, but we do think that the importance of the rule of law is paramount, the importance of the rule of the law of the new government is paramount, and that as they seek to integrate themselves in the European space and the international relationships, that these issues of the rule of law will continue to be very important.
QUESTION: The South Korean Foreign Minister has apparently made some off-color remarks about the Secretary's appearance. In the interest of decorum, I won't repeat them here. You have been apprised of them, and I wonder if you have any comment.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Did Secretary Albright call former Turkish president Demirel and talk about the peace process? If the answer is yes, what kind of help did she ask from him?
MR. BOUCHER: She has been in touch with a lot of people in recent days about the peace process. She talked to former President Demirel -- I think it was two or three days ago, but I don't think I have any further characterization of the conversation for you.
QUESTION: Richard, did she discuss with him the possibility that he might take part in the fact-finding commission?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any further characterization of the discussion, but I would say that we are working on the fact-finding commission. It is something we said we would work on, and she is working on it. We are working on it at different levels as well.
QUESTION: In the same vein, can you tell us who else she has called on similar calls in the last few days?
MR. BOUCHER: I think in all her phone calls in the last few days, she has had occasion to discuss developments in the Middle East. Obviously these are very much on people's minds. She talked to Secretary General Annan several times yesterday; she talked to Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami several times yesterday. She has -- now I can't remember the whole list. She talked to Foreign Minister Ivanov several times in the past few days, and was going to be talking to him again as I came down here to brief, about the Middle East, but also about the case of Edmond Pope, which remains a main concern of ours.
So she has had any number of conversations in the last few days with foreign ministers. And she talked to Solana, the High Representative for the EU. And I left my list at home. That's why I'm pulling it slowly out of my brain.
QUESTION: Maybe you can tell us who she hasn't spoken to. (Laughter).
MR. BOUCHER: She hasn't spoken to you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, that's not true, actually. She did talk to me.
MR. BOUCHER: For a few days.
QUESTION: Did she speak to former President Nelson Mandela?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of .
QUESTION: Richard, can you give us an update on Pope while you're there?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Bad news, trial indefinitely postponed. What happens now?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm not sure -- that's not the same news I had. What I had is that Edmond Pope is ill again today, which is indeed bad news, but that somehow their proceedings of the case are continuing in his absence, or have continued in his absence. I guess it is night in Moscow now.
But his inability to participate in this trial is another indication, another clear indication, of the declining health. Our consular officers have yet to be granted access to him. We have been unable to make any independent assessment of conditions. We have seen reports that he was examined by Russian oncologists, who somehow concluded that Pope was healthy enough to participate in future proceedings. But it is clear he wasn't able to participate in the proceedings today.
We haven't had access to their findings. His inability to participate in the trial, prospects of further delays in the trial due to health, underscore the urgent need for Mr. Pope to get proper medical attention. He needs to have a MRI exam to confirm the cause of his back and joint problems.
We have made this point at the highest levels of our government. We have repeatedly called upon Russian authorities to ensure Mr. Pope receives adequate medical care, and we again call on the Russian Government to release Mr. Pope immediately so that he can be reunited with his family.
QUESTION: It sounds like -- it appears to me -- what is the Secretary prepared to say, if you've been repeating this over and over for months and months? What is she going to say to him now: "We're still concerned"?
MR. BOUCHER: I think she has been addressing the issue in some detail. She has been pressing the case that his medical condition needs to be attended to. She has been pressing the issue that there is -- we have seen no evidence that would indicate he is guilty of anything, and we think he should be released. So we will continue to press the case. She will continue to do it.
I think today Deputy Secretary Talbott also had a discussion with the Russian Ambassador, where he raised this issue once more. Ambassador Pickering is seeing the Russian Ambassador in New York; he is raising it up there. Our Ambassador in Moscow is obviously raising it as well. So we are very, I think, consistent and persistent on this, trying to push as hard as we can to make clear that Mr. Pope needs the medical attention and he deserves to be released.
QUESTION: President Putin himself has said that the court -- the case has to run its course. Is one of the possibilities that's being raised in these various conversations the idea that he may be allowed to leave or even expelled after the trial is completed?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can speculate on possibilities. The Russians may be willing to do that, but I don't think it is for us to do that. I think our view is the one that I have just stated here: that there shouldn't be any waiting, there should be medical attention, and he should be released immediately.
QUESTION: Richard, you all, I think about a month ago, released a warning to other American business people that may be going to Russia to deal in this area of technology. Are you aware of any people not going because of your warning? Has this had any -- has your warning had an effect on business people going to Moscow, do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a good question. It is pretty hard to measure people who don't go because we don't necessarily hear about them. I guess I can try to check with the Embassy in Moscow, if they have seen any decline in the traffic of -- or greater concerns among businessmen that are interested in hi-tech cooperation with the Russians. I will see if we can get you anything, but it is kind of hard to measure the exact effect of people who decide -- who think about it and don't go. They usually don't end up telling anybody.
QUESTION: So, basically, what you're saying is that for the last -- since April, since Pope was arrested -- that this Government has been pressing the executive branch of the Russian Government to intervene in a trial that they -- in a trial in a court that they claim is independent?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been pressing them on any number of points. First of all, we've been pressing --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the case of --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's stop. Let me answer the question, okay?
First of all, we have been pressing them on consular access, which is clearly a matter for the executive branch of a government. We have been pressing them on medical access, which is clearly a matter for the executive branch of the government. We have been pressing them on medical attention and reports, which is clearly an aspect for the government. So there is any number of these issues that we have been pressing on where it is the responsibility and within the power of the Russian executive authorities to give us what we want.
We have also said very clearly again and again, whether it is their power or a judicial power, that we don't see any evidence and we think he ought to be released. How exactly their system works in that regard, I don't know, but we have made quite clear our view.
QUESTION: Richard, several congressmen -- and there was some legislation that was passed around calling on President Clinton to use punitive measures against the Russian Government if they would not -- if not release Edmond Pope, but provide the consular access and medical attention he needs. Is that being considered at all, and at what point do you think that that might be introduced?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have anything on that. I think we have expressed our opinion of the legislation before, but I don't have anything new to say on that.
QUESTION: What is your opinion of the legislation?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to pull it out of my brain, which would mean it will be imprecise, but basically we have said that we thought we had great sympathy with the goals of the legislation; we agreed with them; but that there were other things that we were doing in the relationship that were important to the United States, and we didn't think we should sacrifice those.
QUESTION: New subject? This is an internal security case, and I don't know if you know anything about it right now or you need to check on it, but apparently you have a fairly high-ranking foreign service officer who, while he was serving in Qatar, had security violations on his record, including losing like 65 classified documents, and he now has been re-posted to Yemen.
Do you know anything about this case?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't. I'm afraid I don't know anything about the case, and I suspect that under both security and privacy rules, we wouldn't be able to talk about it.
QUESTION: Earlier this week, you were going to get us more information on Abdulrahman Alamoudi. Did you get anything on him, his status in the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's see. What did we come up with? I think I was asked how much do we pay him. I think the leftover questions were sort of how do we evaluate the participation, including his possible future participation in any of our programs. Speakers and specialists are requested by our missions abroad, either in terms of the name, an individual that they know who can address particular subjects, or they will just tell us, "Get us a speaker on the Constitution, or get us a speaker on economic freedom." And so our staff will process them in that way.
For recruitments of speakers, we work with professional organizations, colleagues, recognized experts and former speakers to find individuals with appropriate professional and language expertise who can participate in the program. The requests are reviewed at various levels within the US mission abroad and in Washington by the appropriate offices.
In both those instances, whether it is a specific name or a topic, we do consider the professional qualifications, the abilities as communicators, their capacity to serve as honest brokers of ideas that concern the United States. Clearly these evaluations need to take into account public statements and writings in terms of their ability to accomplish program objectives and to advance US interests abroad, and so any repeat requests for this speaker would have to be considered in light of those recent comments.
QUESTION: Have you established that he made those comments?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure we actually have. But obviously, if we were to consider sending him out again, we would look at the reports and any comments that we had.
QUESTION: Well, this is not a job you can be fired from, as it were; it's a job that you're asked in some --
MR. BOUCHER: You are asked to do it, you do it, and then we may or may not ask you again, depending on how well you do, and how --
QUESTION: It's not like you're on retainer or something and you cancel anything?
MR. BOUCHER: No. And you're paid -- I guess I don't have that piece of paper with me -- I think it's $100 or $100 a day, $200 a day plus your per diem and expenses when you do these things.
QUESTION: But it would seem there would be no cross-referencing, then, within the Administration because political donations he made were returned a while ago, and yet he was still on a very recent speaking mission. So why would that information --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the issue -- the issue that has arisen here is not so much the -- I mean, the political donations, that's something else for the campaigns to deal with. But the issue that has arisen is the particular views that he is said to have expressed.
QUESTION: But that's why they gave the money back?
MR. BOUCHER: In evaluating this person or any person as a potential speaker, we would look at the views that they had expressed and decide whether, in light of those views, we felt the person could be an honest discussant of the situation in the United States and, to the extent necessary, US policy.
QUESTION: But it would be fair to say that even in late October, after these things had happened, he was still considered a honest broker by the US, despite his ties to Hamas?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not quite sure it would be fair to say that. It might be fair to say that --
QUESTION: It happened, but --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure when the comments were reportedly made, or if we were aware of them, but certainly that now we're aware of them, that will enter into the evaluation of any future potential as a speaker.
QUESTION: All right. Thanks.
QUESTION: Richard, has a date been set yet for Ambassador Gelbard's meetings (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we were talking about late next week, but I'm not sure if it's set. I'll check.
QUESTION: But he is now in the States, yes? He has arrived?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, on personal business.
QUESTION: Has there been any reaction to your travel warning from Indonesians?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I have anything formal. I know there has been some commentary out there, but I'm not sure there has been anything formal.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the extent --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let's see. Where are we? Okay, I don't really have anything in terms of formal reaction to the issue of our Travel Warning. Certainly that is our best advice to American citizens, and we do know that around the world, sometimes when we issue that advice, there is criticism locally because of potential for economic harm or other things. But we do feel we have a very strong obligation to American citizens to give them the best advice we can in situations that are potentially dangerous, such as we have seen.
In terms of closures, as you know, Ambassador Gelbard and team decided to close the public services of the Embassy on October 24th. They reviewed that on November 2nd. They have decided to remain closed for public services through November 6th, which would be next Monday. We also understand, however, that the Indonesian authorities have stepped up their efforts to protect our mission. We are constantly reviewing the security situation. We are hopeful that circumstances will allow normal public operations to resume.
We released a Warden message on November 2nd to the local American community to advise them that the Embassy's public services would continue to be closed and, as you know, we have made clear to the American community there and to other Americans that we can arrange for services for American citizens who need it even though we're generally closed to the public.
QUESTION: Can you say whether the lack of -- or well, that the Embassy continued to be closed because of the lack of help from the Indonesian Government in guarding the facility?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would describe it precisely that way. There was credible information of a threat to the Embassy compound, and we felt that the best way to deal with that was to close down our public operations. So that is the reason for the closure. And the continuation of that kind of threat is the reason for the continuation of the closure. Now, obviously it is welcome to see that we have stepped up efforts to protect our mission. And if the threat recedes, then that becomes a factor in considering whether we can go back to normal operations.
QUESTION: Do you have a figure of the number of Americans who are living there that are registered with Embassy?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure. I don't think I do today. We'll try to get that for you.
QUESTION: Have there been threats made, repeated threats?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I would describe these as a continuation of the situation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 P.M.)
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