U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 112
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2000 1:10 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm not here to make news, but I'm happy to take your
questions. We will have a statement after the briefing. We'll have a
statement for you on the Secretary's meeting with the Austrian Foreign
QUESTION: You have Barak Sunday and you have Arafat --
QUESTION: You'll have it in statement form or --
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have a statement to release.
QUESTION: Is it ready yet?
MR. BOUCHER: It should be pretty soon. I think it's in the final --
QUESTION: Is she having any separate meetings with either of our
MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid the answer at this stage is I don't know. But I
will check on it for you.
QUESTION: What was the question?
MR. BOUCHER: Is she having any separate meetings with any of the visitors
like Arafat and Barak, and the answer to that is I don't know.
QUESTION: You don't know?
MR. BOUCHER: But I will check.
MR. BOUCHER: Off to a rolling start here.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Iraqi-Egyptian decision to turn
their interest sections into embassies? Do you think it's a bad idea,
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I've seen that, so I don't think I do. I think
generally you know what our position has been on relations with Iraq.
QUESTION: Which is?
MR. BOUCHER: Which I'll get for you.
QUESTION: But you don't have anything new about it?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: So does that mean that the US is unaware of this? I know that
my colleague over here is just finding out about it today, but we actually
knew about it yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I congratulate you, and I assume that I'm in the same
boat as your colleague because some of my colleagues are smarter than me
and more aware of these things than I am as well.
QUESTION: I'm surprised -- (inaudible) -- yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's nice, but I don't think I was asked about
it. And I'll check on it now for you since I have been asked.
QUESTION: Okay. To go back to Mr. Arafat, do you have anything new to say
on the idea of an international protection force which he continues to
float as a proposal despite discouraging noises both from here and from
Jerusalem, or wherever the Israeli Government is these days?
MR. BOUCHER: If the question is do I have anything new to say, the answer
is no. We have made quite clear it's not time for new UN resolutions. The
focus remains to implement Sharm. Progress has always been based on finding
areas of agreement between the parties. The best means to move forward is
to do what they have already agreed to.
QUESTION: There has been think tankers trying to figure out what's
next. It seemed to be -- it seemed to be that several of them seemed to be
thinking that maybe considering everything, especially the violence, that
it's time to -- almost inevitable that you back off and get into
step-by-step diplomacy instead of going for a final settlement. Is it still
the US's intention or hope that something can be done in a comprehensive
MR. BOUCHER: It's still the US's intention to work with the parties to
help them try to achieve what they are in a position to achieve, what they
want to achieve. Obviously we think that, first, attention needs to be paid
to implementing the commitments at Sharm el-Sheikh, to reducing the
violence, restoring the calm. And then as long as the parties tell us that
they want to find a way back to the peace process, our intention is to work
with them to find a way back to the peace process. But in this, throughout,
we have been working with the parties to help them try to come to agreement
on the things that they are trying to achieve.
QUESTION: This is kind of an offbeat question.
MR. BOUCHER: That would be unusual.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Considering that you are the first point of contact
for foreign governments in the States, and your embassies abroad are often
-- are as well, I'm just wondering if you're aware of any, you know,
increased inquiries from your foreign countries wondering why the most
powerful country in the world, with the most advanced computers, is unable
to tell who its next President is more than 24 hours after the election has
MR. BOUCHER: You mean, whether people in countries where this
takes days and weeks are asking us that question?
QUESTION: Well, no, I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen a whole lot of -- any cable traffic, e-mails
or whatever that might have been to that effect. I'm sure the way the world
is wired these days they are probably reading in wire services and watching
CNN and following things around the world -- and Fox -- and following
things around the world exactly the way that many of us in the United
States are. But I think our democracy is something we are very proud of,
and I don't think there is any need to apologize for it or explain it.
QUESTION: No, no. I'm not asking -- I'm not suggesting you need to
apologize for it. I'm just wondering if people have been asking the
question to you or to this building or to your branch offices.
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I have seen. And, frankly, based on my experience
abroad when these things come up in conversations with Embassy people or
other Americans, they are not the kinds of things that get reported back
here unless there is some special angst being shown. But inquiries,
commentary, chats, discussions, those kinds of things, they're not normally
the subject that would affect our relationships.
QUESTION: Do you have any figures at all on the amount of US personnel
overseas -- US State Department personnel overseas, or any type of absentee
ballot information as far as State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I mean, nothing that -- we have numbers, but they are
not very good numbers and they don't give you a good indication of a way of
figuring out absentee ballots. There's probably something over four million
Americans abroad. There is something like 6,000 to 7,000 Foreign Service
people, Americans associated with our missions. But in both those numbers,
I can't tell you how many are minors and how many are adults, how many
might be registered, not registered, and certainly I can't tell you how
many might be registered in some particular southern state. So those are
sort of grosso modo, the kind of numbers that we have, but not enough to
give you an indication of how many absentee ballots there might be spread
throughout al! l the different jurisdictions.
QUESTION: Excuse me, I'm sorry. Did the Secretary of State vote in
D.C. or in Virginia, I am wondering, having homes in both jurisdictions? I
was just wondering.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to ask her.
QUESTION: Since the presidency is at stake, do you have any reaction
somehow from the overseas posts or embassies, US embassies around the
world, and also any from foreign leaders about this holdout? Any reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: Déjà vu all over again. That is what he just asked, and I
said not really, not that it would be likely to be -- _
QUESTION_: From foreign leaders?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen any reports to that effect. And most of our
conversations that might come up with us, just like any other American
overseas, is probably not something that would be reported as being somehow
involved in our relationship.
QUESTION: Any immediate effect on the foreign policy because of this?
MR. BOUCHER: No. The President is the President -- today, yesterday, and
tomorrow, all the way through January 21st. He and his foreign policy team,
including the Secretary of State, intend to continue their authorities and
to continue working as hard as they have on all these issues right through
the end! .
QUESTION: Have you seen the reports that Sudanese rebels have captured
the town of Kassala, and can you confirm it independently at all?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see. I'm not we can confirm exactly. We know there is
fighting on the eastern fronts. What we have seen is the reports that the
National Democratic Alliance, the Sudanese opposition umbrella group, may
have captured Kassala. The eastern front has been active in recent
weeks. Fighting has taken place around areas neighboring Kassala. The
taking of Kassala would be a significant development. It is important
because of its proximity to Port Sudan, the oil pipeline and Khartoum, the
capital. But the latest fighting increase, to us, underscores the need to
pursue a negotiated settlement to the civil war.
QUESTION: Have you had any contact with the NDA -- (inaudible) --?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: On Arafat, can you give us any more details on his schedule
tomorrow, or did you do this before I came in?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we did this before you came in. No, I can't give you
any more details. But, yes, I will check on it.
QUESTION: Do we have him coming back here for a meeting with the
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, that question was asked before. No, I don't know the
answer. And, yes, I will check on it.
QUESTION: On the Arafat visit, this is technically in response to an
invitation that went out two weeks ago now, or ten days ago. Can you tell
us what the purpose of the invitation is, or has it changed since it was
made? How do you see the -- why have you invited him here?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have been remarkably consistent in terms of
describing the purpose. Chairman Arafat will meet with the President and
Secretary on Thursday. Prime Minister Barak will come on Sunday. Ending the
violence, restoring calm to the region, is our immediate priority. Our goal
in these meetings is to review implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh
commitments and to find ways to move forward. As we have said before, it is
up to the leaders to make the hard decisions and take the necessary steps
that will make peace possible in the end.
QUESTION: Okay. So some press reports, which I won't go into details of,
have said your expectations for the meeting are very low. Is that a fair
assessment of the way you feel?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think at any of these meetings we have tried to set
expectations as being high, low or in the middle. The fact is there is work
to be done. There are important issues at stake for the leaders themselves
and for the future of the region, and we think these meetings need to
address those important issues.
QUESTION: It was my understanding that this meeting was not really going
to focus on the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement and implementing an end to the
violence, but more on looking past a time where the violence was going to
be over and they could look ahead to negotiations. Do you have anything on
MR. BOUCHER: That is not what I said. And I don't know why you would have
that understanding, but what I have said is there are a number of things
that need to be looked at. Ending the violence, restoring calm, is the
immediate priority. The goal is also to review implementation of Sharm
el-Sheikh and find ways to move forward.
QUESTION: Saeb Erakat has said that one of the problems that sparked the
violence was the non-implementation of the Wye River Agreement and the
withdrawals. Is that going to be taken up at these meetings this week, do
you think? And, if not, is Mitchell going to be meeting with Arafat and
Barak before he goes out there?
MR. BOUCHER: The fact-finding committee has just been established. We
really don't have anything at this stage on how they intend to proceed, how
long they will take, how they are going to start their meetings, so I can't
really answer questions for them. We obviously were instrumental in helping
them get established and selected and figuring out whom it is, but now that
they are decided, they will decide their own course of work. The questions
of Wye River and interim issues fall in the same basket. Any of you can
say, you know, are they going to talk about this, are they going to talk
about that, it was my understanding they might do this, it was my
understanding they might do that. I'm not going to deal with thousands of
possibilities. I am going to tell you what they are going to talk about,
what we want to talk about with them. And that is the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth from me.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Regarding the meeting with Arafat, will he have staff with him
and will Ross be sitting in, et cetera? Do you have any idea?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I assume Dennis Ross will be sitting in. He
has been in most of them, but not all of them. There have been some that
have been one-on-one with the President. There have been some that have
been small groups and larger. I'm not sure that's decided at this point.
QUESTION: Given the fact that the election has taken place and a new
President will be taking over in just a few months, how much do you think
the parties themselves will take what the current President of the United
States is going to say, and do you think that they will kind of be biding
their time until the next President takes over?
MR. BOUCHER: You can ask that question of the parties. They have never
been shy about making their views known. I think, for our part, we are
prepared to do what we can, prepared to do everything we can. The
President, the Secretary, Dennis Ross, and others have an enormous amount
that they have personally contributed to this process. They have a deep
understanding of the issues. They are willing and able to continue
contributing as long as they are in office. So I think, once again, I
return to the fundamental proposition, and that is we play this role in the
process and have played this role in the process because that is what the
parties have wanted us to do, and we will continue to do that as long as we
can be helpful, as long as they want us to do this, because it is in our
interest to do so.
QUESTION: I'll try to get election in here one more time. Ahead of the
election, some of the missions abroad downscaled their plans for election
night parties -- Bahrain canceled it -- especially in the Middle East. Can
you tell us whether everything went smoothly, whether there were any
demonstrations connected to our elections, and also throw in there about
the Jakarta --
QUESTION: You mean Gore supporters outside?
QUESTION: They were worried about it, Matt. And also the Jakarta Embassy
has been reopened, and if you could tell us about that.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything more broadly. I'll have to check if
there were any incidents or events at election parties. I had not heard of
any but, as we have established before, I don't have perfect knowledge of
everyt! hing going on. The Embassy in Jakarta reopened on Tuesday for
public services. We have obviously informed Americans in Indonesia. This
decision by the Embassy, as you know, was made by the Embassy's leadership
group, the Emergency Action Committee. The Department concurs, based on the
situation out there, including the additional support that we've got from
the Indonesian Government.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject again? Is there anything new on the
Yugoslavia diplomatic relations angle?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess the news is that we have established that our
Embassy is not going to be useable for a couple months. But we continue to
proceed with the procedures that are involved in reestablishing relations,
and that should be done soon.
QUESTION: What's wrong --?
MR. BOUCHER: And somehow I can't find my guidance, or I can tell you more
QUESTION: Is it that it's crumbling, or has it been -- it's basically out
of use, or is it something else, like it's been plastered with posters and
MR. BOUCHER: No. Water damage, out of use, that sort of thing. Our
inspections at the former Embassy building are part of the preliminary
steps we are taking with a view to establishment of diplomatic
relations. The old chancery is not currently in a physical condition to
serve as a working office. We expect it will be several months before the
building can serve as a fully functioning Embassy again. We do continue to
rotate diplomats in and out of our Embassy in Budapest, to work in
Belgrade. And we expect to formally establish relations very soon, but we
can't say precisely when. It is accomplished, as we have said, by an
exchange of letters between the two presidents.
QUESTION: You said last week or something -- was it last week or early --
it must have been last week -- that there was some kind of connection
between the actual building and establishing relations. Is that not the
case? I mean, you're not going to have to wait until --
MR. BOUCHER: We are not going to have to wait until the Embassy is put
into service. No, the connection is these are the preliminary things you
do. Clearly, if you can do it -- if you can reopen the old Embassy and
establish relations in one fell swoop, that's nice, but generally I think
they're not necessarily related. And now that we know it will take a couple
months on the Embassy, we'll probably go ahead with the establishment of
relations soon without it.
QUESTION: Where are they going to stay in the meantime?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't specified locations, but they have found places
to work in Belgrade.
QUESTION: But there's no thought of getting a new property? You're going
to use the old one?
MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is we're going to fix it up.
QUESTION: And theirs here? Or did they complain? Was there anything --?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I know the exact physical status of their
Embassy here. No, I don't.
QUESTION: And I'll finish mine with just wondering if you managed, which
I don't expect you did, to get anything -- to pry anything on this Libya
report out? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: You did? Has there been a recommendation?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let's not expect too much. "Anything" and a
recommendation are obviously different standards. Then there's the issue of
finding it. The issue is still under review. I am not going to comment on
exactly where it stands in the bureaucratic process. It involves a number
of considerations, including the trip report. We're going to make a
decision when we think it's time. That said, we do have a Public Warning in
place that indicates the continuing possibility of hostility towards
American citizens among some segments of the population and some elements
of Libyan Government. So that's worth noting as well in this context.
QUESTION: Are you saying the report is complete, but the decision is
under review, or the report is still under review?
MR. BOUCHER: I said the issue is under review, and I'm not going to
comment on exactly what papers might be in the bureaucratic process.
QUESTION: Well, does the bureaucratic process normally take this long? I mean, this was a less-than-36-hour trip, as I remember. These guys who went there!
cannot have seen so much stuff that they've been unable to put it down in
writing in the, what, nine months that it's been since they went
there. What's the deal?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me -- okay.
QUESTION: Is there any intention to make a decision on this in the near future, or is it just sitting on a shelf somewhere?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. First of all, I said the decision involves more than
the trip. Obviously, people can write up their trip fairly soon after going
there. Second of all, I pointed out that we at present continue to have a
warning to Americans that says that there are hostile possibilities,
hostile elements in Libya and the population, and even some elements in the
government. That's a factor that has to be considered. This decision is not
just one trip report; this is a broader decision about the use of American
passports and the safety of American citizens. It's not made because a
piece of paper is ready or there's a box to check; it's made because we
have re! ached a conclusion, a final conclusion about the status and the
safety of Americans there. When we decide that the facts are such that we
are ready to reach that conclusion, I'm sure we'll do that.
QUESTION: Well, if you remember, my earlier question was not a subtext of
it, which is kind of - what I'm trying to get to.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the front text to it was Lockerbie, and I'm not saying
QUESTION: Well, exactly. But, I mean, you say that there's a lot of other
things. Is Lockerbie one of the things that go into this consideration?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say this is a decision about the use of American
passports and the safety of Americans, and those are the factors that need
to be considered.
QUESTION: And it has nothing whatsoever to do with the results of the
trial in Camp Zeist?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, the way you asked it was, "Are you waiting for the
end of the trial?" No.
QUESTION: I'd like to follow up on that.
QUESTION: Yes. Me, too.
QUESTION: On Libya, the Libyans sort of wanted for some time to have a
seminar here in the United States or elsewhere -- they had one in Malta a
year ago -- with a meeting with a dialogue group from the United States,
including some ex-Ambassadors and other people. Would you approve any visas
for Libyan students -- I'm sorry -- Libyan professors, or say graduates of
American universities who are presently in the educational area of the
Libyan economy to come and to participate in seminars? What would be the
reaction of the Department to this?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what we call a hypothetical, and I can't do that for
you. It depends an awful lot on individual circumstances, an awful lot of
QUESTION: Well, let me put it another way. Has the Department --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We had a question from Betsy, still.
MR. BOUCHER: No, we had a Betsy question.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- turn down such a request in the past six months?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Will the United States be tougher as the Secretary --
MR. BOUCHER: Can I answer Betsy's question?
QUESTION: Well, what was her question?
QUESTION: I didn't hear her question.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I did. So I'll answer her question, and then you can guess at what it was.
QUESTION: It's not a -- (inaudible) --
MR. BOUCHER: We got from the Russians the results of medical exams of
Edmond Pope, including the MRI and the blood work. They were shared with
the physician who is assigned to our Embassy in Moscow. The Russian
physicians have told our doctor that their assessment shows no evidence of
cancer, only back problems. But I want to point out we have not fully
reviewed the test results ourselves, and so we can't comment on our own
evaluation. On the other hand, the trial has resumed today. Our consular
officers have continued to be denied access to Mr. Pope and to the
proceedings. We continue to insist on the need for Russia to comply with
treaty obligations for consular access. We note we have not had direct
contact with Mr. Pope since October 11th. Over the last few days, we have
continued to press at the highest levels of the Russian Gove rnment
regarding our concerns about Mr. Pope's health and our inability to see him
or have access to his trial. Once again, we state our belief he should be
released immediately to be reunited with his family and to receive proper
QUESTION: When you say there were --
QUESTION: There are wire stories that his accuser has recanted his
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen that, and we have no way of verifying that
because we are not allowed access into the trial.
QUESTION: But are you talking to his lawyers?
MR. BOUCHER: I assume that we are in touch. I just don't know that it's
for us to talk about it anyway, but I don't have that information myself.
QUESTION: Did you find out any more about the circumstances of this
medical examination, whether it was voluntary or was imposed on him in some
way? We've got the reports, but the --
MR. BOUCHER: I remember the reports. I don't know. I'll have to check on
that and see.
QUESTION: So what credence are you giving to them, exactly?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have had medical tests, the data from medical
tests, shared with us, and our doctor, I'm sure, will go over it.
QUESTION: Can you say when that was shared with you?
MR. BOUCHER: The MRI results were today, Wednesday, in Moscow. I'm not
sure if that's when the other stuff was -- when the other results were
QUESTION: Is it your understanding that all of these results were from
the exam on Friday?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that. I don't know for sure.
QUESTION: So it could be stuff from before as well?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, or it could be subsequent.
QUESTION: Oh. But you're not aware, though, that he was -- that there was
any examination of him after Friday?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure that there was. We were told that he
was taken for medical exams on Friday. As Jonathan points out, there was
some different reporting about the circumstances of that. I will try to
check and see if we know ! whether the results that were shared with us
were indeed only from Friday and, second of all, whether we have found out
at this point the circumstances of his going for those tests.
QUESTION: The reason I was asking, I mean, they're not showing you stuff
that they might have done like five months ago or something like that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about that, but I assume that our physicians
might be able to tell that.
QUESTION: And do you know whether you'll have any access to the doctors
who carried out this examination so that you can --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, they were shared by Russian physicians with our
QUESTION: Okay. So they sat down together and went over them?
MR. BOUCHER: And that's when they shared the results. I assume we'll be
able to get back through the same channel if we have more questions or
QUESTION: So this is a welcome development, but still not even close to
what you want?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's good that we have
acce! ss at least to data about his health, but I think our insistence,
first of all, on having consular access, second of all, having our doctors
see him, and third of all, our insistence that he be released and returned
QUESTION: The statement on the Secretary going to Brunei speaks of her
having her own meetings there with foreign ministers. Do you happen to know
at this point whom she'll be talking to? Was it an assumption that, you
know, the opportunity will be there?
MR. BOUCHER: We're in the process -- I mean, the APEC 21 foreign
ministers -- 20 foreign ministers expected to be there, and she'll have a
number of meetings. We're in the process of setting those up, but I don't
have a full list yet. Partly it depends on where -- which meetings she goes
to with the President. And sometimes presidents and foreign ministers meet
each other together, and foreign ministers don't need a separate
meeting. There are all kinds of permutations, so it's still being set up.!
QUESTION: How many foreign ministers are expected, would you say? About 20?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, normally there would be 20 there. I haven't counted.
QUESTION: Normally there would be 21. Isn't that what you said?
MR. BOUCHER: I said 20.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 P.M.)