U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Daily Press Briefings > 2003 > Press Briefing Transcripts > February
Daily Press Briefing
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 24, 2003

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT

1 Update on Secretary Powells Trip to Asia
1 Deadline for Foreign Service Exam Registration
3 Request for Read-out of Asst. Sec. Kansteiners Trip to Africa
14 Non-U.S. Journalists Covering the State Department

IVORY COAST

1 Statement to be Released After the Briefing on Increased Violence

IRAQ/UNITED NATIONS

1 Update on Resolution and Consultations
2-3 Secretary Powells Diplomatic Efforts with Security Council Members
4 Amb. Negroponte is the Lead Regarding the New Resolution
7 U.S. Officials at Iraqi Opposition Meeting / Future of Iraq
7-8 France Canvassing Security Council Members for more Inspections
15-16 Anti-War Protest and the Affect on U.S. Foreign Policy
16 Humanitarian Assistance Preparation

MEXICO

3 Travel Under Secretary Grossman and Assistant Secretary Holmes

GREECE

4 Meeting with Retired General Anthony Zinni

TURKEY

4-5 Cabinet Approval of the use of Bases by U.S. Troops
4 Kurdish Reaction to Turkish Military Presence in N. Iraq

RUSSIA/IRAQ

5 Issue of Unfettered Inspections

GERMANY

6-7 Deputy Sec. Armitages Meeting with Opposition Leader

COLOMBIA

8-11 Search and Rescue Operations and Federal Law

OAS/VENZUELA

11 Friends of Venezuela Meeting Update
11-12 Peaceful Resolution to Current State of Affairs

EUROPEAN UNION

12-13 Ministerial Meeting Planned for this Week
12 Meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Papandreou

CYPRUS

12 Support for U.N. Sec. General Annans Plan for Peace

WAR CRIMES

13 Serbian Nationalist Who has Turned Himself into the Hague Tribunal

EGYPT

13-14 Efforts to Combat Terrorism

ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN

14-15 Humanitarian Efforts and Civilian Causalities

CHINA/N. KOREA

16-17 Direct Talks Regarding Negotiations with N. Korea


TRANSCRIPT:

MR. REEKER: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen and viewers at home. Welcome back to the State Department on this fine Monday. As you know, Secretary Powell is accompanied by Ambassador Boucher on their trip to Asia. They should, hopefully, be catching some sleep in Seoul, South Korea, as we speak, and attending the inauguration tomorrow morning, that is, Tuesday morning Seoul time, of South Korean President -- the new South Korean President, President Roh.

A couple of quick announcements. The Foreign Service Exam, which we like to remind you about, will be offered on April the 12th this year. I think we have mentioned this before and I just wanted to point out that the deadline for registering for the Foreign Service Exam is March the 15th. So a couple more weeks for those taking it domestically. If you are taking it overseas, the deadline for registering is March the 5th. And I would refer you, of course, to our website, www.careers.state.gov for more information on the Foreign Service Exam.

We will put out a statement following the briefing on Cote D'Ivoire and some concerns we have there about murders and disappearances.

And other than that, I guess we can turn to questions. I will be happy to start with Mr. Schweid.

QUESTION: Could you lay out for us the steps that the administration will take to shepherd this resolution that's going to be presented at 3:30 today, or thereabouts?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think what we will do first, Barry, is, indeed, turn to the United Nations in New York in terms of the resolution that, as you know, as the President had indicated earlier today and over the weekend, that will be tabled at the United Nations this afternoon. The British have called for Security Council consultations at 3:30.

We are continuing to actively consult with partners on the UN Security Council. I can't be specific on the language at this point. As the President said on Saturday and it has been reiterated, a new resolution, I think, will set out in clear and simple terms that Iraq is not complying with Resolution 1441.

And as for that new draft, I think we will let the other UN Security Council members review it first and then we will continue to work with the Security Council and discuss it in coming days.
QUESTION: Well, you -- well, two things on how you approach this. Is the Secretary, as he has done three times already, planning or thinking of going to New York to try to push it through?

MR. REEKER: I couldn't tell you, Barry, what the Secretary's thoughts on that are at this point. As I just mentioned, he is still in Korea, due back late tomorrow night, and then we will have to see where things stand. I don't have any schedule for him at this point.

QUESTION: And I'm just trying to get a notion of, is it -- besides the consultations, which can go on privately, is there some period of debate that the administration has in mind before trying to get a vote?

MR. REEKER: I don't think I have any particular timetables to share with you, other than what we have discussed in the past. We are consulting with our Council partners. I think the resolution that will be tabled this afternoon will stand on its own merits. And we will continue those discussions.

Obviously, the Secretary is having discussions on the subject of [Iraq] with his counterparts and others that he is meeting with on his trip in Asia. That includes China, where he just left, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and of course he has continued to have regular phone conversations with a number of international leaders: Foreign Secretary Straw yesterday from the road, from Asia; he spoke with Foreign Minister de Villepin of France, Foreign Minister Fischer of Germany, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov, Spanish Foreign Minister Palacios, and the Syrian Foreign Minister al-Shara.

So he has been keeping busy, in touch with Security Council partners on this matter.

QUESTION: When were those?

MR. REEKER: Those were Sunday.

QUESTION: All of those, and Straw only -- all of those were yesterday, then?

QUESTION: No, all yesterday.

MR. REEKER: The phone calls I mentioned were yesterday. I also mentioned Straw today. I couldn't give you any more details from the traveling party.

QUESTION: He accidentally said Straw yesterday.

MR. REEKER: Straw, yesterday, as well, Barry.

QUESTION: Oh, two Straws. (Laughter.)

MR. REEKER: You might check with your colleagues in the traveling party if you want to get the specific timetable. Sometimes it is difficult to track these, depending when the -- what time zone we are talking about when the call actually took place. So those will continue, obviously, those discussions with UK and with Spain, who has been an absolutely outstanding partner in this process; and the President, of course, meeting with the president of Spain, President Aznar, down in Crawford over the weekend.

Terri.

QUESTION: There seems to be some confusion in reports about whether Marc Grossman recently traveled to Mexico or not.

MR. REEKER: Marc Grossman did not travel to Mexico. I can tell you that. I had that somewhere. Where did I have that? I saw that. Thank you.

QUESTION: Is (inaudible) going to travel to (inaudible)?

MR. REEKER: Under Secretary Grossman -- and neither did Assistant Secretary Holmes, to answer your next question -- have not traveled to Mexico as was reported in some obviously erroneous press reports. I don't think I have anything specific on Under Secretary Grossman's travel. I can keep trying to check it. A lot of officials are traveling now.

QUESTION: Is anybody going to Mexico, then?

MR. REEKER: I couldn't tell you at this point, but I would welcome a trip to Mexico, myself, but I don't have any official travel to Mexico. I know we have been in fairly regular touch with our Mexican colleagues as well, but I just don't have specifics for you on that.

Is there something? A follow-up, Terri?

QUESTION: Can you also wrap up Kansteiner's --

MR. REEKER: All I can tell you is that Assistant Secretary Kansteiner is back. I saw him this morning, so he is back and I am back. And so while some people are going, some people are back.

QUESTION: Any readout on his meetings?

MR. REEKER: I don't -- I don't have any details on that. I am happy to try to ask. All I know is that he is back.

Jonathan was going to be next and then we will bounce around.

QUESTION: Yeah, a couple of questions on the resolution. Can you explain to us why it was decided not to strengthen the language on serious consequences in this resolution and --

MR. REEKER: I don't think I am going to try to discuss language at all until people have actually seen the language. So to discuss what language is or isn't before it is even introduced, I think we need to wait until after the resolution draft is introduced at 3:30 or thereabouts this afternoon, and I suspect Ambassador Negroponte will be speaking to it and taking some questions after that.

QUESTION: Okay, let me put it another way, then. In general, regardless of the particular language, how exactly do you see -- what exactly do you see the purpose of this resolution to be?

MR. REEKER: I think we will discuss it once we introduce the resolution. The President has addressed that we would welcome a new second resolution. 1441 states that Iraq is in material breach of its obligations. It states that failure to disclose or cooperate would constitute a further material breach and it notes that serious consequences would follow from Iraq's continued violation of its disarmament obligations. All of that is in 1441.

And as for the new draft, as I said, we are going to let the other Security Council members look at it first and then we will discuss it afterwards.

QUESTION: And another one. I know you're not prepared to speak about the Secretary's travel, but have you heard of any proposals for a date for a ministerial meeting of any kind of the Security Council members?

MR. REEKER: I have not, but again, I would let the Secretary get back from this particular trip and we will see what they --

QUESTION: On Iraq.

MR. REEKER: On Iraq, and then we'll come back to this Iraq.

QUESTION: It was reported in Greece that General Zinni and two active Iraqi generals had a meeting in Athens for the Iraqi war. Are you familiar about this development?

MR. REEKER: I am not, no.

QUESTION: Anything for the Turkish deal --

MR. REEKER: I would just point out that General Zinni is a retired general. I don't know what his travel plans may be.

QUESTION: And anything on the Turkish deal for the war in Iraq between USA and Turkey?

MR. REEKER: Generally, I think let me just say that we welcome Turkey's decision, the decision by the Government of Turkey, the cabinet, today to submit to the parliament of Turkey our request for troop deployments in the event that a military action against Iraq is necessary. Details of that, I think, are still being discussed.

As you know, Turkey is a key strategic ally and partner. We share a very long history of friendship and close cooperation. We very much respect Turkey's democratic process, and that is what we are seeing here is a democratic process. And as President Bush has stressed, we understand that these are very difficult decisions for Turkey, a frontline state who obviously understands the threats that Iraq's Saddam Hussein and his regime pose.

So we are working with Turkey and the assistance package that we have discussed with Turkey is designed to address many of those concerns.

QUESTION: Do you have any consideration there, reaction from the Kurdish side, which disagrees for the Turkish military presence in the area?

MR. REEKER: I think I will wait till we have the final decisions made to discuss the details of it. I think we have been quite clear on what our goals would be for a future Iraq in terms of territorial integrity and other issues that come up into that.

Sir. You. Did I cover it okay?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. REEKER: Okay. One, two, three, down in one fell swoop. And Jonathan as well. So Joel, and then we'll come up here.

QUESTION: Russian envoy Yevgeny Primakov has received a promise from Saddam Hussein saying that international inspectors won't be hindered or harassed, and yet the Iraqi General Hossam Mohamed Amin just gave a press conference in Baghdad and said that they are withholding their decision to order the destruction of their missile program and he says that they are trying to solve this.

And yet, the Arab League is going to go to Sharm el Sheikh to conduct a summit meeting. Are they forcefully trying to work to solve this situation? What would you tell the Arab League that want to then conduct their summit?

MR. REEKER: You have tossed out a number of news items there, many of which I am not aware of. You've got to share some of your sources with me.

I think we have been very clear, as have the inspectors, that Iraq and Saddam Hussein have not fully complied. You will recall what Dr. Blix, the head of the UN Inspection Mission, said when he reported to the Security Council that it does not appear that Iraq has understood the requirement for them to disarm and comply.

When it comes to the missiles, the UN Security Council has ordered Iraq to destroy those particular missiles, the al-Samoud missiles. Whether they end up destroying them or not, I think Iraq has not complied with Resolution 1441. Those prohibited missiles, the al-Samoud missiles, should never have existed in the first place. And that is a message that should have been clear to Saddam Hussein since 1991, and all of the various UN Security Council resolutions since that time that have made quite clear that he is in violation and material breach of his requirements, the requirements that Iraq agreed to after the Gulf War.

Specifically, those missiles violate Resolution 687 and the restrictions imposed by the previous inspection regime. And obviously, even the destruction of those missiles would not eliminate all the capabilities that have been contributed to the al-Samoud system. The test stand that Dr. Blix noted that could be used for testing proscribed missile engines. It doesn't include the al-Fatah missiles that have been tested beyond the UN mandated range limit. And as the President pointed out, these missiles are just the tip of the iceberg of dangerous weapons that Saddam Hussein continues to possess and not disarm, in violation of his international obligations.

So the inspectors have been very clear, I think, and that is the message that we would expect anybody carrying a message to Saddam or any other official in Baghdad. A message we would expect them to make clear is that they have failed to provide any new, credible evidence to address these longstanding disarmament concerns.

As we have said before, where is the stock of anthrax? Where is the botulinum? Where is the mustard gas, the tens of thousands of chemical weapons-capable munitions and the thousands of chemical weapon-filled munitions and the other issues that Secretary Powell brought to the fore in his presentation at the UN Security Council?

So genuine disarmament under Resolution 1441 cannot be achieved unless Iraq makes a strategic decision to disarm. And the Security Council will continue to look at this matter in terms of enforcing Resolution 1441.

Barry.

QUESTION: Phil, the German opposition leader, who's seeing Mr. Armitage today, I think it was this morning unless I'm mistaken --

MR. REEKER: It's this afternoon.

QUESTION: Oh, it's this afternoon.

MR. REEKER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, you probably know what it's about at this point anyhow.

MR. REEKER: Deputy Secretary Armitage is going to meet with German Bundestag Minority Leader Angela Merkel this afternoon. They will discuss bilateral relations, transatlantic security issues, including Iraq. It is part of the normal process by which we meet with opposition leaders from major European parliaments and from other countries, part of our standard diplomacy.

Jonathan.

QUESTION: Is the State Department sending somebody to the Iraqi opposition meeting in Arbil which opens, maybe, tomorrow?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. Do I know? I will have to check on that one, Jonathan.

QUESTION: No? Mr. Pearce, perhaps?

MR. REEKER: I will have to check on that one. I just don't know.

QUESTION: And secondly, what do you -- what is your response to this barrage of criticism you've been receiving from the Iraqi opposition on your plans for a post-Saddam Iraq? They have the impression that your plan is to merely remove the top few layers of Ba'athists and leave the rest in place.

MR. REEKER: I think we have discussed at some length the various things we have been doing with Iraqi opposition of all sorts in terms of the Future of Iraq Project, and it goes far deeper than that. I am not aware of all of the criticisms that you suggest. I think there is an ongoing discussion about this, but there are a lot of people in the United States Government and the international community certainly seized with looking at the future of Iraq, and have been for some time because clearly, however this turns out, we have made quite clear that we would like to avoid a military conflict.

But, clearly, there is a future for Iraq after Saddam Hussein; a future for the Iraqi people to benefit from what we would hope to see as a country that would strive for democracy, would be rid of weapons of mass destruction, would not threaten its neighbors or the region or the world. And that is certainly what we will keep in very close contact with the Iraqi opposition about and how we can forge that, work toward those goals, in a future Iraq.

Steve.

QUESTION: As you prepare to table the resolution this afternoon, the French are reportedly canvassing the same Security Council members on a plan to increase inspections or expand inspections. Is this something that the Secretary talked to Mr. de Villepin about the other day?

MR. REEKER: On the specifics of the Secretary's conversations, I would just let you talk to the traveling party and find out anything that they may have on that. I think your colleague is traveling with them. I have seen the same reports, probably, that you have so I can't comment on any reported plans. I am not aware of anything specific, but there are reports of proposed plans.

I think as I indicated earlier, and the President has said and Secretary Powell has certainly made quite clear, Resolution 1441 already sets out very clear tests for Iraqi compliance and gave -- gives -- Iraq a final opportunity to comply. And that resolution was passed unanimously, you will recall, 15-0, by the UN Security Council.

So I think that, again, is the basis of it right here. The Security Council said this is a final chance for Iraq to do that. We have heard now a number of reports from the inspectors. We have seen the reaction of the Iraqis and the fact that they have not disarmed. They have not taken the opportunity of the final chance that Resolution 1441 provides them.

Elise.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Great. Colombia. I was wondering if there was anything new on the search-and-rescue operations or anything on the whereabouts of --

MR. REEKER: I think what I see new, of course, is over the weekend. As you are aware, the FARC, the terrorist organization in Colombia, admitted over the weekend that they are holding the American crew members of that plane. The FARC is responsible for the American crew members' safety, health and well-being.

And I guess all I can really say is that the Government of Colombia, assisted by the United States, is continuing to use all available resources to conduct search-and-rescue operations. And as I think we have indicated before, out of concern for the safety of the crew members and those involved in the continuing operations to rescue them, we really can't comment any further at this time.

QUESTION: Phil, can I follow up on that?

MR. REEKER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: But at least there were reports that extra special forces were sent to Colombia or has been sent or will be sent to Colombia, and as a matter of fact, the President actually told Congress on Thursday or Friday that the cap that limited the troops in Colombia at 400 has been broken so he needed to use a waiver to do so. And the waiver states that it's because they're going to participate specifically in rescue and search missions.

MR. REEKER: Let's go over that because I think, again, it's a case where there have been some erroneous press reports, perhaps just on the basis of misunderstanding.

The report that we have sent 150 additional troops to support the search-and-rescue operation is erroneous, is wrong. And I think you can talk to the Pentagon and see if they have any more details at this point to share, but that report was wrong. I believe they said these are not special forces troops, but I will let them speak to that.

In terms of the issue of the cap, the emergency supplemental legislation, specifically in Section 3204(d), authorizes the President to deploy military personnel to carry out search-and-rescue operations for military personnel or other U.S. citizens without regard to the personnel cap, which is the basis of the limitations, the cap on the number of personnel, American personnel, in Colombia. So this provision makes clear that the personnel ceiling would not apply to search-and-rescue operations.

The main increase of U.S. troops in Colombia was not a response to this incident. There were pre-planned deployments of U.S. military trainers which began earlier this year as part of the ongoing effort to train the Colombian military and national police forces in counterterrorism and infrastructure security under the basic plan to support Colombia in those areas. So this training is part of the continuing assistance program.

And the plane incident that we are talking about here, which resulted in the death, as you know, the murder of an American as well as then the holding of these others, that began as those training deployments were taking place and so then generated some of the confusion, I think, about what are essentially two very different things.

QUESTION: But it's also clear that, I mean, the only reason why the waiver is being used is because the troops, at least the ones that exceed that number, they are for the --

MR. REEKER: No, you missed the point. Let's try it one more time.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. REEKER: Search and rescue, under the law, Section 3204(d), any personnel deployed as part of a search-and-rescue operation are deployed without regard to the cap. They are not part of the cap.

What the President was reporting on to Congress was increases beyond that, as he is required to report, for preplanned, previously arranged deployments to support the training that had begun earlier this year.

So this incident with the airplane and the requirement for search-and-rescue personnel occurred as that previously planned deployment was going on. That is what the President reported on. Any deployments involving the search and rescue are separate and unrelated to the reporting that the President did to Congress.

QUESTION: Then the waiver -- I mean, the waiver applies specifically to situations where you can go over that 400 when a situation arises like this one? I mean, that's the reason to --

MR. REEKER: Right. But he didn't -- we are saying the same thing, but he didn't need to do that for -- the law is clear. Read Section 3204(d).

QUESTION: I have.

QUESTION: Was there a waiver used, though?

MR. REEKER: Iím not aware that there was a need for a waiver to be --

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: Yeah, the waiver was used. I mean, the exception was --

MR. REEKER: That had to do with the preplanned deployments of the trainers, which is a separate category of people.

QUESTION: Yeah, but there I go again, the only reason to use the waiver was --

MR. REEKER: Then there we are, because I can't explain it any better to you, and I am happy to try all over again and see.

QUESTION: Is it possible that these special forces --

MR. REEKER: First of all, let me stop you right there. I told you my understanding is these are not special forces. You need to talk to the Pentagon if you want to get any more details on that. But we can't perpetuate the erroneous press reports that are out there and confusing everybody.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, let me rephrase my question. Is it possible that this military that was deployed in Colombia for training the police and the army in Colombia could be used for any special mission, like a search-and-rescue operation?

MR. REEKER: That is something you would have to ask the Pentagon. I just don't know.

Yes, Terri.

QUESTION: Was the waiver needed for this preplanned deployment? Are you saying there was no waiver needed or requested for any of these missions? Not the preplanned mission, and obviously not the search-and-rescue mission where it's not needed. Do you know whether a waiver was used for the preplanned deployment?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any other information on it, so I think what I have told you is as far as I know. There was a program in place to send additional trainers, the U.S. military, that was going on. And the Pentagon can tell you anything more about additional troops sent for search and rescue tied to this incident. But that is as much as I have. This really is a Pentagon matter that they would need to address.

QUESTION: Venezuela?

MR. REEKER: Sure, we will go next door and then we ill go around, back to Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Venezuela. Did you know of any plans for the Friends of the OAS Secretary General to meet again on Venezuela, and are you pressing for any such meeting?

MR. REEKER: I don't know of anything on a specific meeting. I think the Friends group are in regular contact and working, obviously, with Secretary General Gaviria. They are, after all, named the Friends of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States. That is, these diplomatic representatives in our case, Acting Assistant Secretary Curt Struble, Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, who has been working with his colleagues from some other Latin American countries, from Iberian countries, to support the efforts of the Secretary General to help the Venezuelans find a solution, a peaceful solution, a constitutional and electoral solution to the situation there.

We continue to encourage the Government of Venezuela and the opposition to honor the nonviolence pledge that they signed, I believe last week, the 18th, I think it was, 18th of February. I would point out that the first point of that agreement from the 18th, that accord specifically emphasizes the need to curb confrontational rhetoric and moderate the tone, style and content of language.

So we are concerned, I think given the current situation of the last few days, that heightened political rhetoric has contributed unnecessarily to some of the recent violence in Caracas. We would note that according to Venezuela's constitution, the judiciary, not the president, decides what charges to bring in criminal cases and inflammatory statements such as those attributed to President Chavez are not helpful in advancing the dialogue between the Government of Venezuela and the opposition and the bringing, of course, of a peaceful resolution to the current state of affairs.

QUESTION: Well, when you say attributed to President Chavez, are you -- does that mean you're not -- you don't know whether he really made them or?

MR. REEKER: I think that would be it. We have seen the reports of the statements that have then led to some of this rhetoric back and forth and we don't think that is particularly helpful.

QUESTION: Well, is the United States pleased, though, that the strike appears to be losing its momentum and that oil exports are on the increase?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. I have not looked into that nor could I, you know, categorize anything in that way. What we have been concerned about and remain concerned about is the rhetoric, the government's rhetoric and some of the actions that have been undermining the dialogue process.

We certainly reiterate that the Venezuelan authorities must respect Mr. Fernandez' and Mr. Ortega's rights as guaranteed by the constitution and we are still strongly urging the parties on both sides to continue to pursue the dialogue as facilitated by the OAS Secretary General and supported very much by the Friends of the Secretary General group to find a constitutional, democratic, peaceful and electoral solution to this crisis.

QUESTION: But in general, is there a feeling that the crisis is less severe than it was --

MR. REEKER: I don't think I want to categorize our feeling. We are still very concerned about the situation there and are continuing our efforts as part of the Friends group to support the Organization of American States and the Secretary General's efforts in this regard, as called for in the OAS Permanent Council Resolution Number 833.

Now, we will go to Mr. Lambros and then we will hop to the other side.

QUESTION: Anything on the upcoming meeting between Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Greek Foreign Minister Georges Papandreou sometime this week?

MR. REEKER: The European ministerial, the U.S.-EU ministerial, I don't have the details of that yet. We will put out something, a notice to the press -- this afternoon? -- this afternoon that should provide those details. We will be in touch with the Secretary's party to make sure we can confirm the schedule of those meetings.

But, obviously, Foreign Minister Papandreou coming in his capacity as -- with Greece acting in the presidency of the European Union, and we will look forward to providing you the details of that and the meetings themselves later this week.

QUESTION: Anything on Cyprus since we have new developments and the Secretary didn't actually ask to extend the solution for another week?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything really new to say. I think, as you know, we have long supported the Secretary General and the United Nations' efforts to achieve a Cyprus settlement. We had welcomed the decision by Greece and Turkey to meet in Ankara with UN participation and to discuss that, and you know the target date had been the end of this week. We will continue to support the Secretary General in his efforts.

Obviously, as soon as possible would be the best thing for the parties. We still think there is a historic opportunity to solve this longstanding issue and we have been urging at the highest levels the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots, Turkey and Greece to show flexibility and determination to really seize this opportunity and we think it can occur on the basis of the UN comprehensive settlement proposal.

Sir. Yes, you. My friend from the Voice of America.

QUESTION: Phil, a Serbian nationalist leader has turned himself into the Hague Tribunal --

MR. REEKER: Mr. Seselj.

QUESTION: Yes, and, but at the same time he says his aim is to -- basically to frustrate the tribunal and also urging his followers to oppose the similar action on Mladic and Karadzic.

MR. REEKER: Well, certainly Vojislav Seselj's decision to surrender and face the charges against him was the right decision. We would encourage all other persons indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to follow this example, and that includes Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and the two remaining indictees from the so called "Vukovar Three" group. We strongly support the tribunal, as you know, and its work to establish accountability and promote regional reconciliation.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. REEKER: Hold on. We've got a couple more in the back and then the gentleman here. Sorry, Charlie.

Thank you.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Northern Iraq Kurdish leader, they use some kind of threat --

MR. REEKER: We did this.

QUESTION: We did? Okay.

MR. REEKER: That was easy. Thanks, Barry. Jonathan, quick, and then the gentleman Ė

QUESTION: The Egyptian parliament has extended the emergency law. It looks rather similar to some domestic measures in the United States. I wondered if you had any comment on it.

MR. REEKER: Less editorial comment than you have, but we certainly understand and appreciate the Egyptian Government's commitment to combat terrorism and maintain stability. We have had serious concerns that we have often raised with the Government of Egypt concerning the manner in which that law has been applied. For example, we have expressed our concern regarding the practices of referral to the emergency courts of cases that do not appear to be linked to national security, and referral of civilians to military tribunal for nonviolent offenses and the indefinite renewal of administrative detention.

So we would, as we have in the past, urge the Egyptian Government to take these concerns into consideration as they apply that emergency law.

QUESTION: This probably will be asked internally as well as now, but while I think of it, is there some new requirement for citizenship to obtain a press pass to cover the State Department that you are aware of?

MR. REEKER: No, none whatsoever. I think, as you know -- no, I need to follow that up.

QUESTION: No, but I mean non-U.S. citizens can cover the State Department, can't they?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think a number of your colleagues sitting in this very room -- we could take a show of hands. Jonathan, anybody else a non-U.S. citizen?

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MR. REEKER: I am just proving for the folks at home, Barry, before we get onto an issue here.

QUESTION: Well, I'm not asking out of a vacuum. As you're driving to the State Department now, somebody runs something under your car, four people look at your pass, dogs just strain at the leash, happy to do any investigating, so I wondered if we're tightening up --

MR. REEKER: They smell your lunch, Barry. No.

QUESTION: I mean, I don't know.

MR. REEKER: We are very concerned about security at the State Department building. I think we have every right and expectation to be. It is part of the reality of today's world. But we still go to enormous lengths to admit you and your colleagues not only to the building, but to have workspace here so that you can cover this wonderful session like we are having now.

Quickly, we had a couple more -- the gentlemen here and then, I'm sorry, we keep -- but we will come back to you. Please.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment about the Israel military action in the Gaza Strip?

MR. REEKER: Let's see what the latest -- I think, generally, it is important to remind everyone that progress towards the President's vision -- that is, two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security -- progress in that regard is simply impossible while violence and terrorist attacks continue.

We do remain seriously concerned about civilian casualties that continue to result from Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza. As we have said before, we recognize Israel's right to self-defense. There can be no excuse for violence and terrorist attacks like those the Israeli people have been forced to endure.

But we also urge the Israeli Government to facilitate the movement of humanitarian personnel and supplies and to provide medical attention to those in serious need as expeditiously as possible.

We do remain in close communication with Palestinian leaders and with Israeli leaders to calm the situation and try to prevent further bloodshed. We are pressing the Palestinians to do all they can to end immediately the terror and violence and to work to restore the active security contacts and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism and violence, and we continue to make our views known to the Israelis as well.

Sir.

QUESTION: If I may, I would like to hear your overall or summarized analysis on why a lot of people in the world oppose the war against Iraq. Why they are not convinced that the use of force is justified, despite the fact that you have made so much effort, including the presentation of Secretary Powell at the Security Council of the evidence of Iraqi noncompliance. What can you do about this? What are you going to do to convince them? Or are you going to convince the people in the world at all?

MR. REEKER: Well, that is a question I canít answer. What I can say is, first of all, and I have just recently been on the west coast of this country talking about these issues with a number of groups and college classes. Lest anybody have the mistaken impression that because there are those opposed to war, that somehow there is a group that is pro-war, I think that is a very wrong impression. I don't know of anybody in the United States Government or anywhere that is so-called pro-war. And I think if you look at Secretary Powell's most recent statements from Beijing -- he held a press conference there -- he talked very much about how war is a last resort, how war is a very difficult thing, and resorting to military force should always be the last result.

And that is why we have worked this with the international community, why we continue to work this at the Security Council in New York because President Bush as well as Secretary Powell believe that's where it belongs. The Security Council, under the United Nations Charter, but also under its own resolutions, including the most recent 1441 and whatever is introduced this afternoon has an obligation to enforce those resolutions which call for Iraq to disarm, which call for the threat from Saddam Hussein to be taken away from his own people, from the people of the region and from all of us who have to face this threat from these extremely dangerous weapons. And so the view is very much that inaction or the failure to follow through on this diplomatic track and to consider the consequences for Iraq which are called for in the Security Council resolutions -- failure to do that will leave this threat out there and that's a threat that we cannot simply sit back and ignore.

And so Secretary Powell has been very clear in all of his statements, as has the President, that war is a final step. It is a step no one takes lightly. And it is only necessary when there are no other means. And that is what we continue to share with friends and allies. And I think if you look throughout history, we have all seen that that is, sadly, often the case when you are dealing with a tyrant like Saddam Hussein, who is ignoring every opportunity he has to solve this matter peacefully and to actually do something for the betterment of his own people, as well as for the security of the region and of the world. So we will continue to work it that way.

QUESTION: Can I have one last one?

MR. REEKER: Yes, Jonathan.

QUESTION: It's a very quick one. I don't think you'll have an answer. There are rumors that the U.S. Government, possibly AID, is negotiating or has agreed contracts with commercial companies to buy commodities for use for humanitarian relief in Iraq. Do you know anything about that?

MR. REEKER: Why don't I refer you to the briefing that's going on over at the White House this afternoon at 3:30 in room 450. It is actually in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and I believe there will be a number of journalists covering that briefing where they are going to talk about humanitarian assistance preparations for Iraq in the event that military action does become necessary.

There's a last question from your colleague, Joel.

QUESTION: Since the Secretary's meeting with Chinese leaders in Beijing, it appears that they have rejected the U.S. appeal with respect to North Korea. And the Chinese also seem to be not necessarily helpful on a Iraq resolution in the United Nations. The Chinese appear to be pushing the United States to talk directly to North Korea and I know that Secretary Powell says that you don't want to at this time. But if you would, what will you be telling the North Koreans?

MR. REEKER: Joel, I think I will refer you to what the Secretary actually said. I find it a little hard to add further to what he said just a few hours ago in his press conference in Beijing, noting that in Beijing, hopefully, most people, even reporters, are catching a little bit of sleep.

This is not simply a problem between the United States and the DPRK. It is a serious concern for the entire international community. That is what the Secretary has said repeatedly and he has said, I think, in fact, that he believes that the Chinese are anxious to play as helpful a role as they can.

As we know, China has a long, deep historical relationship with North Korea. They understand North Korea and its leaders. And the Secretary indicated China prefers to play its role quietly and that is a role that they had been playing. So he has discussed that, clearly, with the Chinese as well as in Tokyo, where he met in Japan, and it will be a topic for his discussion certainly tomorrow in Seoul, which, in fact, will be later today.

Final thing?

QUESTION: Would you, then, say that these press reports coming from Beijing following these talks are erroneous or wrong?

MR. REEKER: Joel, I just don't know. I haven't read them and I will point you again to what the Secretary himself has said.


  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.