|Friday, 24 January 2020|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #114, 00-11-13
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
Monday, November 13, 2000
Briefer: PHILIP REEKER, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN
BRUNEI 1,10 Secretary Albright has departed en route to Brunei /Ambassador Boucher is accompanying the party RUSSIA 1-2 Comments out of Moscow Suggesting New Flexibility on NMD / US Shares Russian Interest In Lower Levels of Strategic Nuclear Arms 10-11 Arrest Warrant of Vladimir Gusinskiy GERMANY / MEXICO 2-4 Violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Notification / LaGrand Brothers Case / Steps Taken to Improve US Compliance with the Consular Notification and Access Requirements of the Convention and Other Bilateral Treaties CHILE 4-6 Final Release of Documents Under Chile Declassification Project / White House Acknowledgment That US Decisions in the '70's had Deleterious Effect on Stability SAUDI ARABIA / IRAN 6 Saudi Arabia Supporting Iran in Calling on Muslim Countries to end Ties With Israel PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 6-7 Yasser Arafat Proclaiming Continuation of Jihad Against Israel MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 6-8 Implementing Sharm Commitments/ Ending the Violence/Returning to Political Process / Whether US is Undertaking Efforts to Arrange for Summit / Plans to Travel to the Region ISRAEL 7 Funeral of Leah Rabin RUSSIA / IRAQ 8-9 Foreign Minister Ivanov's Trip to Iraq / Opportunity for Russia to Urge Iraqi Compliance With UN Security Council Resolutions IRAQ 9-10 Whether Sanctions Regime has Deteriorated/ Whether US has Evidence That Iraq is Engaged in Guerrilla Campaigns Against Israel OAS 10 Arrangements on Hemispheric Security / US Position on Discussions YEMEN 11-13 Cole Investigation/ Memo of Understanding / Cooperation of Yemeni Government / Disagreements Within US Team / Usama bin Laden Statement KUWAIT 13 Arrest of Four Kuwaitis Suspected of Planning Attacks SECURITY 13 Embassy Closures TURKEY / CYPRUS 14 Turkey and Cyprus Waiting to be EU Members U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 14-15 Effect of US Electoral Process on Foreign Relations INDONESIA 15 Meetings With Ambassador Gelbard APEC 15 US Trade Representative Barshefsky's Bilateral With Malaysian Delegation KASHMIR 16 Whether Secretary Albright Plans to Visit Kashmir
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2000, 1:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Welcome back, everybody. I hope you had a nice, long weekend. I certainly did. As you know, the Secretary has departed with the President en route to Brunei. Ambassador Boucher is accompanying the party. And so I am here to take your questions, and I'll be happy to defer to our lady of Reuters or whomever would like to begin.
QUESTION: Thank you. I wondered if you had any response to the comments out of Moscow by General Yakovlev suggesting a new flexibility on NMD.
MR. REEKER: Yes, I did see some of those comments today and raised that with some of my colleagues in the building. We read with interest, in fact, President Putin's statement, I guess which was released today in Moscow.
Certainly we share Russia's interest in lower levels of strategic nuclear arms, and we want to proceed in a manner that allows us to address new threats, something we have discussed for some time. As you know, we have been working together with the Russians, and so far we have developed in just recent months a series of initiatives, including the Joint Statement on Principles of Strategic Stability, which was agreed upon and signed June 4th of this year in Moscow, and the Joint Statement on Cooperation and Strategic Stability from July 21st out of Okinawa when the two presidents met, as well as a joint statement and implementation plan referred to as the Strategic Stability Cooperation Initiative from September 6th in New York.
So all of those things go into our review of these issues, and we certainly welcome the continued engagement of the Russians on this. It is a subject we will continue to work on with them.
QUESTION: If I may follow up, I understood it was actually comments by General Yakovlev. Were we talking about two different things, then?
MR. REEKER: As I understood it, what we reviewed was a statement that was actually released by President Putin today, the 13th, which largely restated the Russian position on strategic nuclear arms reductions.
QUESTION: So you're not aware of any comments by General Yakovlev suggesting new flexibility?
MR. REEKER: Those specific comments I hadn't seen. We had seen President Putin's statement and reviewed that.
QUESTION: Well, President Putin's statement does say that the Russians are willing to discuss modifications to the ABM, which seems to be a slight shift from where they were before, saying that this was basically inviolate. And now they're saying that, well, the Treaty itself has provisions built in to review it.
Are you familiar with that part of it?
MR. REEKER: At this point, I don't have anything more specific than what I gave you now in terms of our review of their statement which was released today. As I think I indicated, we certainly share the Russian interest in lower levels of strategic nuclear arms. That is something we have worked on for quite some time now, and we want to proceed in a manner that will also allow us to address new threats. I think that has been fundamental to our policy on this.
QUESTION: The numbers that you are talking about, though, are still based on the Yeltsin-Clinton Helsinki general understandings, right?
MR. REEKER: Yes, they were general understandings of numbers. And as I outlined, there were a series of statements and initiatives that have come out in the last five months or so as part of our process, and obviously we will continue working on that. I just don't have anything more concrete or specific to say in response to those comments from Moscow today. Obviously it is something we will continue to look at as the process goes on.
QUESTION: Let me ask you a policy question. Are you saying the Clinton Administration is ready to negotiate further cutbacks in strategic weapons?
MR. REEKER: I just don't have --
QUESTION: Because I thought the policy was we're not -- the US will not negotiate further --
MR. REEKER: Barry, I was asked about these comments -- have we seen them, what was our response to them -- and that is what I am able to provide you on a cursory review today. But I don't have anything to add for you to anything previously we have said about this.
QUESTION: Well, if I understand what you have said, summarizing it, you share their interest, but the State Department will not say whether the US policy is to proceed with further nuclear weapons cutback negotiations?
MR. REEKER: I just don't have anything further to add for you to what we have said in the past about our policy on that.
QUESTION: You guys kind of took it on the chin in The Hague today with the Germans coming out and saying that these violations -- consistent violations of the Vienna Convention on consular notification and especially in death penalty cases. I realize that you are going to make your own argument to the court tomorrow, and all of that, but just in general, you have been accused of this before, and just most recently by Mexico.
What is your response to this kind of --
MR. REEKER: Well, your realization is absolutely correct that the Germans presented today an oral brief in The Hague, and it is an ongoing case obviously so I can't get into a lot of details. Our brief, which is known, I understand, as a memorial when presented at the International Court, was submitted in March and is not yet public. We are going to present our argument to the court tomorrow.
But, generally, and following up on some of the comments that Ambassador Boucher made last week in the discussion of the Mexican case, we have acknowledged -- the United States has acknowledged to the German Government that Arizona authorities did not comply with the Vienna Convention requirement that they tell the two LaGrand brothers, who were German citizens, that they could have German consular officials notified of their detention. And this is the only aspect in which the Convention was violated.
We have said, and obviously we will continue to make the point that we are very much persuaded that the failure to ask the LaGrand brothers this question did not affect the outcome of the case, but we have taken significant steps nationwide over a period of many months to improve US compliance with the consular notification and access requirements of the Convention and other bilateral treaties that we have obviously with individual countries on consular matters.
Those efforts are very much ongoing and are targeted at federal, state, but also local law enforcement and judicial officials. We have expanded consular notification and outreach programs to provide more information and training to law enforcement and criminal justice personnel throughout the United States. The Bureau of Consular Affairs has developed a booklet, a pocket card, materials to provide these jurisdictions, and we distribute these to law enforcement personnel and establish a lot of direct links and direct training programs to help make law enforcement personnel around the country more aware of their requirements under this, obviously. And that is what we will continue to do. But in terms of the specifics of the case, obviously it will continue tomorrow.
QUESTION: Would we be correct in thinking, though, that the general outline of what you just said will be what is presented tomorrow?
MR. REEKER: Yes, I think it is very much along the lines that we have said. I just don't have anything to add at this point.
QUESTION: In the case, Germany was saying that not only in the matter of this specific case but also citing other instances of other cases -- I think 11 to be exact, in violation of the Convention -- that foreigners in the United States run the risk of being imprisoned or even executed without help from home in the United States.
Are you refuting that?
MR. REEKER: Well, again, I saw that as part of their statement. I saw the reports on that, and we will make our statement tomorrow. And since it is an ongoing case, I really can't get into it too much.
Germany has stated that the case at hand is about consular notification, not about the death penalty, and that is what we are trying to address here also. As we have said to the Germans in this case, an acknowledgement that the Arizona authorities, the law enforcement authorities in the State of Arizona, did not comply with the Vienna Convention requirement. But we are very much persuaded that the failure to ask these two brothers if they wanted to have German consular officials notified of their detention, which was the one aspect of the Convention that was violated, that failure did not affect the outcome of the case at hand.
QUESTION: Can we stay on admissions, since you have acknowledged that the rule was not followed there? The White House this morning, when announcing the release of these documents on Chile, has acknowledged that US policy, US decisions that were taken back in the '70s, had a deleterious effect on stability.
And I am wondering if the State Department has anything to add to the pretty brief White House statement on the release of these documents.
MR. REEKER: Well, in fact, just to note, as has been the practice in releasing the documents under the Chile declassification project, we will also release the same statement right after the briefing. I think they should have it ready. This is the final release of documents under that initiative released by the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Archives, and the National Security Council, of course, on events in Chile from 1968 to 1991.
As you know, the Administration has consistently supported efforts to clarify facts surrounding human rights abuses and other acts of political violence by releasing information from US Government files, as appropriate. We have done this in several other cases as well. And certainly in response to expressions of strong public and congressional interest in the human rights records of the Pinochet regime in Chile, the President asked relevant agencies to review and release, as appropriate, documents that could shed light on human rights abuses during and prior to the Pinochet era.
So we thought it was important at the conclusion of this project to acknowledge the US Government's role in these events, where it is apparent in the documents, as well as recognize and support the courage of the Chilean people in confronting these difficult issues.
There are 23,000 documents that have been released, as you know. You can access them via the Internet. And those are something that will take people time to review and can go through. But we have declassified and released as much information as possible consistent with our laws, and the statement I think reflects, as I said, our desire to acknowledge US Government role in events there, as well as recognize the courage of the Chilean people in confronting some of these issues from their past.
QUESTION: So what exactly what the US role?
MR. REEKER: I think you will have to go through the documents to review that. I don't have for you a summary or a review.
QUESTION: No, no, no. But I'm not looking for that. I'm just wanting to know if you're going to say the same thing as the White House did --
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: -- that this, in fact, did happen. But you don't want to read that for the record?
MR. REEKER: Well, you can get it for the record when it comes out. I think as I indicated, one of the goals of the project was to put original documents before the public, before the media, so that the public can judge for itself the extent or any extent to which US actions may have undercut the cause of democracy and human rights in Chile. And I think the statement reflects that, and now it will be up to the public as well as any researchers or media that want to study these documents to make their own analysis and come up with their own statements on that. It's a good project for --
QUESTION: Can you tell us, since obviously the State Department has gone through thousands and tens of thousands of documents and you've released 12,000, how many documents have not been released?
MR. REEKER: Let me see if I've got these numbers. I don't know if I have specifics. There are 23,000 released, actually.
MR. REEKER: Yes. In terms of our part, as I understand it, there are 850 State Department documents that have not been released. Of these, about 400 were denied for statutory visa-related reasons. Usually that has to do with Privacy Act considerations about visa applications. And then others, some 350, were not released to protect equities related to the Justice Department's ongoing investigation of the Letelier assassination case. And so obviously some of those documents they were unable to release because of that.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, because I couldn't catch the legal jargon there. The last 300 were not released because of what?
MR. REEKER: Because of equities, as I am told. Protecting equities related to the Justice Department's investigation of the Letelier case.
QUESTION: We know at least 450 --
MR. REEKER: I just don't have exact breakdowns. There were some -- 850 -- that hadn't been released. State Department documents.
QUESTION: What were the equities?
MR. REEKER: It is one of those things I would let the lawyers describe to you, but there is an ongoing case and so some of those documents may have to do with their investigation into that case, and by releasing them it could jeopardize the equities in the case.
MR. REEKER: Interests of the case.
QUESTION: On the Islamic Conference. Saudi Arabia, long described as a moderate, supported Iran -- in fact joined with Iran -- in calling on Muslim countries with ties with Israel to end them. Has the US said anything to its good friends in Saudi Arabia?
MR. REEKER: Well, I have seen a number of reports and heard a number of reports on various comments that have come out of Doha where the Islamic Conference has been taking place. I am just not in a position to comment on specific reports of comments that people may or may not have seen or been able to look at at this point.
But as you know, Barry, we have repeatedly called upon both parties and all the regional leaders involved to avoid words and actions which escalate confrontation or fuel tensions in the region. We certainly have said that repeatedly. Our focus continues to be on practical steps that can change the situation on the ground, end the violence, restore calm and move forward towards peace. And so we would, as we have in the past, encourage regional leaders to do what they can also to encourage these steps and not to do anything which would help contribute to the continuing cycle of confrontation there.
QUESTION: And the Palestinian Yasser Arafat proclaimed a continuation of the Jihad against Israel. Does the US have any comment on that?
MR. REEKER: Again, as Ambassador Boucher has indicated, I just am not able to go into a minute-by-minute, play-by-play reaction to this. I don't have a lot to add to I think what was briefed to you following meetings after Prime Minister Barak was here yesterday. We will continue to work with both sides to implement the Sharm commitments -- ending the violence, returning to the political process. Obviously it is up to the parties themselves to make peace. We can do all we can but, in the end, it is going to be up to the parties themselves.
In terms of Chairman Arafat, you will recall that he met with President Clinton and Secretary Albright on Thursday afternoon. They had a full discussion of the current situation, discussed how to end the violence, get back to the political process. The Secretary met again, as you know, with Chairman Arafat at his hotel later on Thursday, and at that time Chairman Arafat assured the President of his continued commitment to reaching a negotiated settlement.
QUESTION: They discussed ending the violence. Arafat is committed to reaching a negotiated settlement. That leaves something out. Is our Arafat committed to ending the violence? And is it expressed in his calling for a Jihad yesterday in Doha?
MR. REEKER: Again, Barry, I am just not going to get into the back-and-forth of whatever it was that was expressed on one thing.
QUESTION: It's not back-and-forth. The man called for a Jihad. I'm not asking for a play-by-play, minute-by-minute. I'm not asking for a laundry list, I'm not asking you for a blow-by-blow. All the clichés out the window, all the devices used to duck a straight answer don't apply. He made a statement. Does the State Department have anything to say about the statement?
MR. REEKER: I don't even have any specifics on that statement for you, Barry. We are going to continue to work with both sides and work to implement -- to help encourage implementation of the Sharm el Sheikh agreements, what the parties agreed to to end the violence and try to return to the political process.
QUESTION: Is the United States currently undertaking any efforts to arrange for a three-way summit?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any.
QUESTION: Are there any plans for anybody in the Administration to travel to the region to continue the efforts as you have described them? And in that connection, might that be along with any US officials traveling to the funeral later this week?
MR. REEKER: I do expect US officials obviously to travel for the funeral of Leah Rabin. I refer you to the Secretary's statement made yesterday about that tragic death, but I don't have anything to announce in terms of who those officials would be. That would come from the White House, and I would expect that sometime this afternoon there would be something on that, who will be traveling in that capacity.
QUESTION: Are any of those officials staying for talks after the funeral?
MR. REEKER: Not that I am aware of, but obviously once we have an idea of who is going, the potential for some sort of conversation there, but I don't believe we are looking at that as the focus of travel. Obviously the focus is to attend the funeral services.
QUESTION: Can I get back to this -- Elaine's question about the summit? Yasser Arafat said on Thursday, I believe, that that's why he had come to the United States, was to talk with the President about whether a three-way summit could be reached. So there are no -- there's been no discussions about a three-way summit?
MR. REEKER: I don't know what was discussed and briefed to you following the meetings Thursday or the meetings Sunday, but I am not aware of any plans for a three-way summit. That just isn't something that has come across --
QUESTION: The briefer said last night there was no discussion at Barak's meeting with the President of a summit.
MR. REEKER: Precisely. Anything else?
QUESTION: How do you feel about Mr. Ivanov landing in Baghdad for friendly talks with Iraq?
MR. REEKER: Well, I don't know if I would characterize them in any particular way. Russia is a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process, as you know, and I understand that Foreign Minister Ivanov is traveling in the region as part of that effort. In terms of engagement with Iraq, regardless of the color of carpets, it certainly gives Russia a good opportunity to urge Iraqi compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and again underscore the Security Council and the United Nations position when it comes to that.
QUESTION: You say you would welcome the visit, then? You think it's a good --
MR. REEKER: I think, as I said, we welcome Russia's engagement with Iraq in urging their compliance with UN Security Council resolutions.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication that that's what's happening?
MR. REEKER: I am afraid I am not there, nor is anybody from our government, so --
QUESTION: So, but are you saying that you would like to see the Russians urge the Iraqis to comply, and that's what -- is that what you would like to see come out of this visit?
MR. REEKER: Well, this visit certainly gives them the opportunity to do that.
QUESTION: Yes, but would you like to see that? And that would be a good thing, if he did?
MR. REEKER: That is a good thing. They are a member of the UN Security Council, a Permanent Member, as are we. There are Security Council resolutions in place that call for certain actions to be taken by Iraqis --
QUESTION: But if you had your druthers, Foreign Minister Ivanov would be landing in Baghdad to talk to the Iraqi leadership.
MR. REEKER: I don't think I could say it any clearer, Matt. I don't make his travel plans. What I am suggesting is --
QUESTION: I know. But would you like to see them use this, take the opportunity of this visit to press them to --
MR. REEKER: Exactly. In urging Iraq to comply with UN Security Council resolutions.
QUESTION: Some of us who were late came from a session with the Israeli Deputy Defense Minister, who, in describing the various woes that Israel perceives in the region, includes Iraq and says that the sanctions regime has disintegrated. The State Department has not agreed with that until now. Is there any new account of -- and of course the monitoring regime has disintegrated too, he says. Is there any -- do you have any quarrel -- does the State Department have any quarrel with --
MR. REEKER: Well, obviously, Barry, I wasn't even able to be with you to hear those new comments, so it is a little difficult to provide any state of things.
QUESTION: No, but what is the state of those two things?
MR. REEKER: But taking your word for it and just referring back to what has been said repeatedly from here, and certainly Ambassador Boucher addressed it last week, sanctions remain effective. Recent flights to Baghdad don't change that. There is strong international support for controls that limit Iraq's ability to threaten other countries in the region, to reconstitute their programs, to develop weapons of mass destruction and harm its own people, things we have been through time and time again.
As you know, the UN controls all but a very small amount of Iraq's oil revenues, the Oil-for-Food program, which gives the Iraqi Government the opportunity to provide for its people. All members of the UN Security Council have called upon Iraq to implement Resolution 1284, which maintains the sanctions, while providing Iraq with a clear and attainable path to achieve the suspension of sanctions. That is very clear, and we just addressed -- that includes Russia.
Again, 1284 provides the path for what Iraq needs to do to have sanctions suspended. There is regular discussion at the UN, on the Sanctions Committee, on procedures to implement the sanctions regime, but the sanctions overall remain very effective in meeting the goals that we have, and that is to prevent Iraq from threatening its neighbors, from reconstituting its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, and indeed from threatening its own people.
QUESTION: He says one consequence of this is Iraq is emboldened now to support -- to get involved, to back, to sponsor -- the guerrilla attacks, or, you know, these actions that are cropping up all over the -- against Israel and various -- from Southern Lebanon and elsewhere. Does the State Department -- you weren't there, obviously. I'm not asking you to comment so much on what he said, but does the US have any evidence that Iraq is newly engaged in guerilla campaigns against Israel?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything particular to share with you.
QUESTION: There is a meeting over at the OAS today about the arrangements on hemispheric security, and a recent Venezuelan note to other Latin American governments urging that the Rio Hemisphere Defense Treaty be junked in favor of a new arrangement among Latin American states to counterweight the military might of the US. Are you aware of that note, and any comment on it?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of that note. I would be happy to look into it for you and see into it. I think we work very well in our hemisphere. Certainly the OAS is a fine example of hemispheric cooperation which has been very active in promoting democracy in the region, something we have seen make tremendous strides in the past decade. And we are very much active in that process, working with them, working with our neighbors. So I don't think threats are the things we look at. We look at cooperating, promoting prosperity and democracy throughout the hemisphere. But I would be happy to check into the specifics of any note we may have received.
QUESTION: What is the US position on these discussions going on over there at 17th Street?
MR. REEKER: That is what I would have to find for you. I was not even aware of those discussions going on.
QUESTION: Because those don't deal specifically with this. This is a general reappraisal or evaluation of defense hemispheric defense?
MR. REEKER: Like I said, it is just a topic I am not aware even familiar with at this point, so we will be happy to look into it. And probably our representatives at the OAS may be involved in that discussion or -- but I would be happy to check into it for you.
QUESTION: You may have at the beginning dealt with this but, if you haven't, the Secretary's plans remain Brunei and back? No change to that?
MR. REEKER: Yes. My understanding at this point is that is correct.
QUESTION: Vladimir Gusinskiy, the Russian media magnate, has been -- has had -- his arrest has been ordered. I wondered if you had anything to say about that, given that Mr. Berezovskiy is also due to appear in court, and whether this is a reflection of Russia trying to clamp down on certain individuals having lots of control or whether it's a reflection of a crackdown on the media.
MR. REEKER: I had seen the reports, and we checked on that. The Russian general prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Gusinskiy on, I believe, embezzlement charges. As you know, Vladimir Gusinskiy is the publisher of Russia's leading independent news organization. We have said consistently that Gusinskiy and anyone else accused of a crime must be afforded due process and given the fullest protection available under the Russian constitution and laws. So we would certainly still call for that.
I think Secretary Albright has summed it up the best, as she has noted several times, that the future of independent media in Russia has certainly emerged as a test of President Putin's attitude towards democracy, and that is one of those things that we will obviously watch carefully.
QUESTION: So is this a test of an independency?
MR. REEKER: Well, that is, I think, what we --
QUESTION: She is cautioning against that?
MR. REEKER: We can't make a determination specifically on this. All I can tell you is the facts that we have seen, is that an arrest warrant for Mr. Gusinskiy was issued. Mr. Gusinskiy, as anyone who has been accused of a crime, should be afforded full due process under Russian law, under the constitution in Russia, but I just did want to note again that we certainly see the future of independent media, should it be tied to that, as a major test of democracy in Russia.
QUESTION: If I may follow up on that, what do you think the chances are that he will get a fair trial? I mean, by coincidence I understand his lawyer is also the gentleman who is representing Ed Pope, and we all know what you think about his trial.
MR. REEKER: Again, all I can do from here is to say that we would expect and hope to see due process, and that anyone, Mr. Gusinskiy included, given the fullest protection available under Russian law.
QUESTION: On a new subject? On the Cole investigation, how close is the memorandum of understanding between the two countries for the remainder of the investigation? How close are we to that agreement, and would you still characterize the cooperation of the Yemeni Government as good?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I can specifically give you a better characterization of close or where. We continue to work closely with the government of Yemen, and their cooperation has been good. I think we have discussed that at length. Richard talked about that. We are pleased that they have been forthcoming in sharing information and closely coordinating with our investigation. We continue to work on improving several remaining areas of cooperation, and we hope to resolve that soon. But I just don't have anything more specific for you.
Obviously we, the Department of State, our Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, the Justice Department, the FBI, continue to work very closely together on the investigation into the bombing of the USS Cole, which took place on October 12th. We all have the same primary goal, which is seeing that those responsible are brought to justice. And that is what we are focused on.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? There were some reports over the weekend that the Ambassador in Yemen, while unsatisfied with the level of cooperation from the Yemeni Government, obviously the FBI is very concerned that we are not able to interview the witnesses, that the State Department is urging to just basically take what we can get in terms of cooperation in the fear that we will upset the Yemeni Government for any type of help.
QUESTION: I read the same reports, as I am sure everybody did, and I just don't have any specific comments on our interagency process, other than to say that we and the FBI and every other part of our team that is involved in this -- and the Yemenis -- our objective is to bring the perpetrators to justice, and that is what the investigation is about. That is what our interagency process is about. And working on an investigation, as I said, some of the modalities of cooperation we are still working on. I don't have anything new to tell you since what Ambassador Boucher discussed last week, but we do hope to resolve some of those things soon.
QUESTION: Well, could you expand on the areas where you are continuing to improve on the level of cooperation?
MR. REEKER: I can't.
QUESTION: Getting back to just the US side of it, is it unreasonable for one to make the assumption that there have been some disagreements within the US team as this interagency probe goes forward?
MR. REEKER: I just don't have an ability to read out what happens in the dynamics of the team, other than that overall, the team -- let me finish -- that we, the FBI, the interagency process as a whole, all of the components of that, have the same objective, and that is bringing the perpetrators to justice. We each bring different specializations and skills to that. That is what an interagency process is all about, and we are working very closely on that and obviously working closely with the Yemenis.
And right now, as I said, we are pleased that they have been forthcoming in sharing information and closely coordinating with the investigation, and we are going to continue to work on improving some of the areas where we need to work out some additional modalities. We hope to resolve those soon, and we will keep on this.
QUESTION: But you are talking about the US and the Yemenis. What I am talking about is the State Department and the FBI and the --
MR. REEKER: I think that was included in the first part of my statement, Matt, that we work extremely closely with the FBI, the Justice Department, the Department here.
QUESTION: But surely you are not trying to say that you guys go through this without every disagreeing on anything?
MR. REEKER: I can't speak for the people participating in the team that is part of the investigation. It is an interagency process. A lot of specialization is required. Each agency brings specific things to that process and work very closely together -- all of them with the very same goal, and that is to conclude this investigation, to bring the perpetrators to justice. And that is exactly where we stand now.
QUESTION: On this same thing, on this report that bin Laden says he has nothing to do with it, can you say anything about that?
MR. REEKER: I just don't have any particular comment on any of those issues of the attack. Obviously that is what the investigation is all about, and we need to let the investigation continue.
QUESTION: What is holding up the memorandum of understanding between the two countries? For the past several weeks, you have been saying that they are very close, very close. So what is it?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any specifics from the -- the details to describe that, other than to say that we are pleased that the Yemenis have been forthcoming in sharing information, in closely coordinating with us. Their cooperation has been good, and we are continuing on working to improve some remaining areas of cooperation, but I just can't get into any specific details.
QUESTION: On Thursday, the arrest of four Kuwaitis had just happened and Richard didn't have anything, but it was later found out that they were planning to attack US military installations. Do you have any follow-up on that?
MR. REEKER: Again, Richard mentioned that that had come out just as he was briefing. I don't want to comment specifically on the investigation into the alleged activities, but we certainly are aware of the arrest of individuals -- three, as I understand it -- three Kuwaitis, two in Kuwait and one Qatar -- suspected of planning certain attacks. We are in touch with authorities in both of these countries and, as you know, there had been threats of possible terrorist attacks against US targets in the region. We reflected that in the various public announcements that we had issued over the past month or so.
But I don't have anything that I want to go into specifically on those since it is under investigation, other than to say that we have received excellent cooperation from both Kuwait and Qatar on security matters.
QUESTION: Are all our embassies up and running? No closures at this point?
MR. REEKER: To my knowledge, I don't believe there is anything closed unless somebody has a holiday in the region.
QUESTION: What is the US reaction about relates your decision on some countries like Turkey and Cyprus waiting to be EU members?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have a reaction on that. I mean, obviously it is an issue for the EU and those countries to consider. I just don't have anything specific to say. We have encouraged the European Union to work together with countries who have expressed their interest in becoming members of the EU or improving their relations with the European Union, but I just don't have anything to say on that. It is a matter for them.
QUESTION: Mr. Reeker, I may have missed something, but the foreign press has been kidding a lot about the US, but now there is increasing preoccupation with the crisis of the presidential succession. Do you have any comment on how this is affecting US foreign relations?
MR. REEKER: I think our process is moving alone fine. I don't think I would characterize it as a crisis. I don't think it is affecting our foreign relations. As you know, we still very much have a government in place. Our President is on the way to the APEC meeting in Brunei, accompanied by the Secretary of State. They are very involved in our foreign relations, and we expect obviously the constitutional process to continue and we will have a new President January 20th.
So from the State Department's point of view, we all watch the developments in this domestic issue like everybody else does, and wait for the outcome. But I think we see our democracy in action according to our constitutional processes and the various laws of states regarding electoral processes.
QUESTION: I was just going to ask it in a different way. Have the embassies reported back any particular concern or any particular expressions of foreign governments? Not all of them may be as sophisticated as the State Department is. Are there any qualms out there, any worries that the US --
MR. REEKER: Not that I am aware of. I believe Ambassador Boucher commented on a couple of quotes that were raised last week from certain foreign countries, and obviously those comments stand. But I just don't have anything else.
It is certainly an opportunity for many in the world to follow our electoral process to understand more about it. It is something we, who are in the foreign service and have worked abroad, have spent a lot of time explaining. And I know that the electoral college process, for instance, is something that was always of great interest to foreign audiences when I have been working abroad, and now they are able to see that process certainly in action.
QUESTION: So you wouldn't suggest we go through this exercise every four years as an educational process?
MR. REEKER: I wouldn't suggest that at all.
QUESTION: With the preoccupation of all these countries and all the media in all those countries about what is going on, they're calling this American democracy in crisis, isn't there a concern that the United States position right now is a little bit weakened around the world?
MR. REEKER: I don't believe so. I think our position is the same position it was last week, and we continue to follow our diplomatic relations closely. The conduct of foreign policy remains important to the Administration, as it will to the next administration, and that is what we will continue to do. So our embassies are open for business. We are pursuing American interests in terms of security and prosperity and promoting American values abroad, and that is what we will continue to do.
QUESTION: On that, what kind of message did Ambassador Gelbard leave this building with last month as he was heading back to Indonesia?
MR. REEKER: Well, as I believe you discussed last week when I wasn't here, Ambassador Gelbard, who was in the United States, did come to Washington, as he normally does, and he met with officials in the Department and I believe at some other agencies. He met obviously in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. He met with Under Secretary Pickering and he met with Secretary Albright. Now he is en route back to Jakarta. I don't believe he has arrived there yet, but I don't have any specific readouts of his meetings. I am sure he was discussing the state of affairs and our relations with Indonesia which, as you know, is a country of great interest to the Secretary, one of the four democracies we have talked about focusing on. So it was good to have the opportunity for Ambassador Gelbard to report back while he was here.
QUESTION: And if we can just shift very briefly a little bit north, there were reports over the weekend that Charlene Barshefsky and the Malaysian representative at the APEC meeting got into a bit of a spat, an undiplomatic yelling match, it was described as. I am wondering if you have anything you would like to say.
MR. REEKER: Well, I can't make any particular characterizations. I checked on that and can confirm that US Trade Representative Barshefsky did have a bilateral meeting with the Malaysian delegation, and I was told that that meeting was cordial. In addition, I understand that the entire ministerial wrapped up in a very amicable and productive fashion, is how it was described to me. And so preparations for the leaders meeting, which as you know President Clinton is attending, are progressing without any significant difficulties.
QUESTION: So the bilat with the Malaysians was cordial. What about where this is supposed to have happened, where this argument is supposed to have arisen?
MR. REEKER: I just don't have anything more than that. I checked into her meetings there. They confirmed that she did have a bilateral with the Malaysian delegation, and that meeting was described as cordial.
QUESTION: Apologies if this has come up before, but can you confirm or deny whether Secretary Albright has any plans to visit Kashmir on an official or personal visit before she leaves?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any plans. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 P.M.)