State Department Daily Briefing, April 16

 

Wednesday  April 16, 2003

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2003 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman IRAQ -- Iraqi Reaction Toward Meeting in Nasiriya -- Status of Subsequent Meetings -- Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution Boycott -- Participation of Ambassador Khalilzad and Ambassador Crocker -- OPEC Meeting in Vienna and Iraqi Representation -- Italy's Request for Extradition of Abu Abbas -- Expulsion of Iraqi Intelligence Service Operatives -- Assistance from 58 Nations in Iraqi Stabilization -- Status of Abu Abbas Capture and Jurisdiction -- Klinghoffer Case -- Development of Broadcast Capabilities in Iraq -- Status of Iraqi Antiquities and Artifacts ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS -- 1995 Interim Agreement and Palestinian Authority NORTH KOREA -- Status of Upcoming Multilateral Meeting in Beijing/US Multilateral Policy -- North Korea's Nuclear Arms Program/ Dismantling -- Assistant Secretary James Kelly's Travel to Region -- Consultations with China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea CHINA -- World Health Organization and SARS Cases -- Representatives of Iraqi Intelligence Service GREECE -- European Union Summit Meeting in Athens SYRIA -- Shutdown of Iraqi Pipeline -- UN Resolution for a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone -- Senator Bob Graham's Comment on Syria TURKEY -- NATO Removal of Civilian Planes DEPARTMENT -- Newspaper Article on Declassified Documents MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to the State Department. I have no formal statements or announcements, so I would be happy to take your questions, and we'll begin with Mr. Schweid. QUESTION: Phil, that first meeting yesterday of Iraqis in Ur, some accounts, not all accounts were similar, but some accounts emphasized grumbling, they were almost grumbling accounts that some people, some groups were left out, it wasn't he really a broadly representative group. Is that a justified complaint, and if it is or if it isn't, as you look ahead to the follow-on meetings, will there be more or wider representation because there's some in the Iraqi groups, of course. MR. REEKER: I think you heard yesterday, Barry, Secretary Powell discussed the meeting that took place in Ur, near Nasiriyah, at the famous Zigurrat of Ur, where a broad variety of Iraqi representatives came together. Really, they represented every part of Iraq: geographically, in terms of faith, religion, ethnicity. There were liberated Iraqis who were members of the Iraqi opposition, representatives from Iraqi exile groups who had worked with us, many of them in the Future of Iraq project. They came together to have this truly historic meeting, discuss the visions that they have for their own future and how best to chart a course toward a democratic representative government. I think you heard the Secretary mention that the President's special envoy, Ambassador Khalilzad, accompanied by our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ryan Crocker as well as other State Department officials joined other coalition representatives. There were representatives from the United Kingdom, from Australia, Spain, the Czech Republic, I believe, numerous countries. General Garner, retired General Garner, who's working on what we call the Garner group was there as well and spoke, but the meeting really included discussion by the Iraqis, speeches, discussions regarding the importance of establishing rule of law in Iraq, respect for ethnic and religious diversity, which these groups represented, and certainly the need for a grassroots building of civil society. After all, for more than two decades, the civil society in Iraq has been completely decimated by the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein. And now that that dictatorship has ended, this is the beginning of efforts by Iraqis to come together and forge a better future. You may have noted, Barry, that at the end of the session, the Iraqi participants voted and approved a final statement, and you must have copies of that, but they first of all called for another meeting, so that does answer part of your question that there will be another meeting. We always said we expected this to be the first of a series of "town hall" meetings, to put it in an American vernacular, this meeting to be held, I believe, in about 10 days will discuss developing procedures for choosing the Iraqi interim authority, which we've always seen as an important step in terms of handing power back to the Iraqi people. I would also note that the group gathered in Ur, in their statement, thanked the coalition for liberating them, noted the importance, again, that the new government be democratic, that it not be based on any, as they put it, communal identity, but organized in some sort of federal system, but rather, developed by countrywide consultations. And that's what's going on, so future meetings we could expect to be in different towns, different parts of the country. And they also discussed the role of women and the role of religion in civil society and underscored that the rulers should be chosen by the people themselves and not from outside, and also discussed the importance of Iraqis taking steps to address concerns like security. So once again, all major ethnic groups were represented. There were several prominent Iraqi women in the group, something we think is very important, underscoring a critical importance for a voice for Iraqi women in this process and in the future government. There were Shia groups represented at the conference; there have been some press reports suggesting that. There were several prominent Shia clerics at the conference who spoke eloquently. I noted that one called for separation of mosque and state. Others reaffirmed the importance of rule of law. So this was a very important first step for the people of Iraq who were so recently liberated in moving forward to determining their own future. QUESTION: All that understood, when the next meeting comes about, do you think there will be an even wider representation? There was a boycott of sorts by some people who -- and there were objections to the general and suggestions -- MR. REEKER: I believe there was a group, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq that was invited, but chose not to attend the conference. That's a Shia group. As I just pointed out, there were other Shia groups and other Shia clerics in attendance. So there was a very broad representation, and we would expect that broad representation to continue as these meetings progress in other parts around the country. And that reflects our expectation for the Iraqi interim authority and an eventual government of Iraq; that it be broadly representational that Iraq's -- and Iraqis build on their diversity, and use that as a strength. And, in fact, that's what we were seeing yesterday in some very moving and historic discussions and talks that were held there in Ur. Tony. QUESTION: Can we do a North Korea? QUESTION: No. MR. REEKER: We have got more on this. QUESTION: Just a quick question if you can answer this. Where will the next meeting be? MR. REEKER: Don't know. QUESTION: Okay. Why is there a 10-day delay, and what will happen? What will the United States be doing in the meantime? MR. REEKER: Why wouldn't there be a 10-day delay? And if they're going to have a meeting some place else, they'll schedule it. That's what the Iraqis said. They indicated at a place to be chosen in the future. QUESTION: What will Mr. Khalilzad and Ryan Crocker be doing in the meantime to try and make the next meeting more productive? MR. REEKER: That presupposed that this meeting wasn't productive, Jonathan. And I don't suggest that, but -- A PARTICIPANT: Even more productive. MR. REEKER: -- even more productive in this process. I couldn't give you an exact itinerary, or a schedule for either Ambassador Khalilzad or Ambassador Crocker. They'll be working with the various groups continuing to have meetings, helping where they can to organize this process, obviously, keeping in close touch with Central Command, with coalition forces, as well as with Mr. Garner's group, as they begin to set up their process. QUESTION: Okay. And another. There is OPEC meeting on the 23rd, I believe. Since the United States effectively controls Iraq at the moment, will you be nominating anybody to represent Iraq? Do you know who will? Will Iraq be able to take part in this meeting or what? MR. REEKER: I don't know. I would have to check. Anything else on Iraq? Iraq? QUESTION: Syria? MR. REEKER: Not Syria. Iraq? Marjorie -- Iraq. QUESTION: NATO (inaudible) suggestion -- MR. REEKER: No, no, no, sir, excuse me. Marjorie was the name I called on. She has a question on Iraq. Thank you. We'll get back to you. QUESTION: I would like to ask you if you have any information about exactly what tasks will be assigned to the Italian contingent which was approved by the Italian parliament yesterday? To send to Iraq, it would be between 2,500 and 3,000. And I have a question about if you have a reaction to Italy's request for Abu Abbas' extradition? MR. REEKER: Okay, why don't we start with the two very separate questions. The first question ties in to something we have discussed for some time, and that is that we have sought and continue to seek assistance from a variety of governments, various governments in the coalition, others who have expressed interest in supporting the efforts at bringing stability to Iraq, supporting that stabilization. You noted that yesterday the Italian parliament voted to assist in that stabilization and assisting the Iraqi people. We certainly welcome each of the commitments made by every country participating but, as we have done in the past, in Afghanistan or in the war on terrorism, we will leave it for those governments to describe in their own words what they will be contributing, what they want to do, and their purposes. But as we said last week, I think about 58 countries had so far responded. We've been in touch with -- positively -- we've been in touch with 65 or more countries about this. There is a lot of interest and each country obviously has its own process for determining what they can contribute and how best. And that's going to be an ongoing process, but we certainly welcome that. I think it demonstrates the support all around the international community for helping the Iraqi people to realize the better future that awaits them. Now, on your second question about the capture of Abu Abbas, why don't we take care of that, because I know some others were interested? You all would have heard that yesterday United States Central Command confirmed that coalition special operations forces captured Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas in southern Baghdad. The capture of this notorious terrorist responsible for the brutal murder of an American citizen is a major victory in the global war against terrorism and provides further evidence of the Saddam regime's connection to international terrorism. We are currently looking at a variety of options to ensure he is brought to justice. As you noted, Marjorie, the Italian Government has issued a statement expressing their continued interest in this case in connection with the hijacking of the Achille Lauro. The United States believes that all terrorists should be brought to justice for their crimes, so obviously this will be a matter of discussion with the Government of Italy as we review together options. And we are already having discussions with the Government of Italy on that. QUESTION: And a follow-up question? MR. REEKER: Betsy. QUESTION: The Palestinians are saying that because of the Oslo Accords, because of something in the Oslo Accords, he should not be held. Can you all say whether that's an impediment? MR. REEKER: I heard some reference to the interim agreement from 1995, and I would just point out that the 1995 interim agreement concerns arrangements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority for the detention and prosecution of certain persons. So the United States is not a party to that or any amnesty arrangements regarding Abu Abbas. Terri. QUESTION: I have a question back on -- QUESTION: Phil -- MR. REEKER: Let Terri go, and then we'll -- QUESTION: Oh. On the question of countries who have responded to -- MR. REEKER: Oh, can we finish up Abu Abbas? And then we can come back. QUESTION: Oh, sure. MR. REEKER: Yeah, Jonathan. QUESTION: Was the United States aware that Abu Abbas was in Baghdad? MR. REEKER: I know that I have seen reports suggesting that, perhaps, even in your good wire service many times. I don't know exactly -- QUESTION: I mean has he not been interviewed many times in Baghdad over the last 10 years or so? MR. REEKER: As I said, I have seen press reports quite often about that presence. QUESTION: Yeah. So in what sense is it further evidence of anything? In fact -- MR. REEKER: I don't follow you. QUESTION: Well, I mean, what's new about the fact that he is in Baghdad, since he has been interviewed in Baghdad? What's new about it? MR. REEKER: I didn't suggest there was anything new about it. QUESTION: You said it was further evidence. MR. REEKER: I don't quite understand your point. QUESTION: Well -- MR. REEKER: Was he or was he not there? He was just captured there. That is indeed further evidence that Saddam Hussein had these links to international terrorism. There is no doubt that he was there; that's where he was captured. I don't quite understand your question. QUESTION: Yeah, but we knew he was there already. MR. REEKER: Good for you. Now Terri had some real questions. Yes. QUESTION: With these -- a real question? Okay, yeah, I would hope so. MR. REEKER: I fully expect it to be. QUESTION: Okay. You say that 58 countries have responded to volunteer to the U.S. -- MR. REEKER: That was the last number that I saw. QUESTION: Right, it's not about the number. MR. REEKER: You know, these things are a little bit fluctuating. QUESTION: But is one of the first things you're suggesting they could do to help is to follow through on your earlier requests to turn out the Iraqi diplomats, the high-ranking diplomats? MR. REEKER: I think that's sort of a separate category. That's not the stabilization thing. Certainly, we had made that request in terms of the Iraqi Intelligence Service operatives who were based in many countries. QUESTION: Right. (Inaudible), specifying that they will not -- they will not follow that request, but they will follow other things? I mean, when you -- this is obviously tied up in U.S. -- U.S. attempts to get the new government into force in Iraq. And that's part of -- MR. REEKER: Two very separate issues. QUESTION: You don't think that's part of stabilization? MR. REEKER: It could be, but that's not what I was addressing when I was talking about countries we have approached on specific things they may offer in terms of this stabilization. QUESTION: (Inaudible). I am furthering the question. I understand you didn't say that. I am asking whether that's part of it. MR. REEKER: Well, I think we had approached many countries about expelling Iraqi Intelligence Service operatives because we felt that those individuals posed a threat to U.S. personnel and U.S. facilities. That's still an issue. As you know, many, many countries did expel those people. Now some of those individuals, if they got back to Iraq, or have ended up in other countries would be issues. QUESTION: I am asking if you are not also pursuing what these 58 countries who are expressing an interest in being involved now, if you are not saying this is still important to us, why don't you do that? MR. REEKER: Oh, so you're asking how do those lists overlap in terms of the 58 countries? Is there an intersection between them? And, indeed, there may be. QUESTION: Well and, in turn, is the U.S. saying this is how -- this is one thing you could do to help, you know, as we -- as we move toward a new government in Iraq? MR. REEKER: We have done that. Many countries have expelled Iraqi Intelligence Service officials; and then were also looking at that. So in terms of those lists overlapping, I guess it's sort of a natural. But I think they are looked at in very distinct things: there are resources we're looking for; offers we'd like to take up in terms of what can contribute to that; the issue of Iraqi Intelligence Service operatives and the threats they may pose, in terms of terrorists connections, or threats to U.S. personnel, or others personnel or facilities is still -- still an issue, and something we would obviously continue to monitor, and certainly have conversations with many other countries about the whereabouts and movements of these things, as part of our global war on terrorism, quite frankly. Charlie. QUESTION: I want to go back to Abu Abbas for a minute. QUESTION: Could we stay on Iraq? QUESTION: Sure, sure, sure, sure. MR. REEKER: Sure. QUESTION: Abu Abbas is Iraq. MR. REEKER: A rock of strength. Go. QUESTION: On the next meeting, are you going to have an entirely new guest list, or is this going to -- are you going to have a couple of staples that are going to be moving around the countries to move -- MR. REEKER: I don't know. I think there would be some that obviously we would have an interest, groups that would be represented that will continue to be represented, individuals, maybe so. I just, at this point, I don't have guest lists to share with you or look at specific names. QUESTION: I'm not (inaudible) into the guest list, per se. But is the goal of these guest lists to share with you or look at specific names? QUESTION: How about not getting into the guest list per se, but is the goal of these meetings to bring on the widest cross-section of Iraqis throughout the country as possible, or is it an effort to have a couple of leaders that you've designated? MR. REEKER: We have designated no leaders. QUESTION: Well, that you -- that -- not that you've designated, then. That you see as potential leaders, to introduce them to the Iraqi population? Or is it to meet as many Iraqis as possible and see who can -- MR. REEKER: I think the goal of these talks, like the talks that were held yesterday, is to allow the Iraqis to express themselves and, through that process as they hear different voices from different individuals, from different groups, from Iraqis who have been outside the country working toward this day, toward the future of Iraq, Iraqis inside the country who have oppressed and repressed by the brutal dictatorship, where they can come together, where they can express their hopes, their views, where leaders can emerge, where they can begin to talk about their visions for the Iraqi interim authority. We have expressed quite clearly what we hope that authority to represent in terms of being representative, in terms of being diverse, in terms of being democratic, in terms of moving towards an Iraq that is at peace with itself, has territorial integrity, does not have weapons of mass destruction, does not have links to terrorist groups. And so the series of town hall meetings, if you will, will focus on having people get together, have these discussions, and begin moving towards a process, as they said in their own statement yesterday, on how to select this Iraqi interim authority. So I don't want to prejudge exactly how that's going to progress. We'll wait for the next meeting and then just see where we are in this process. But it's an important process. QUESTION: Phil, could we have the guest list? Is there any reason why not? It doesn't seem to have been released in Nasiriya yesterday. MR. REEKER: I can check into that. I think some people would prefer to keep it private. I don't know if we have plans to release it or not. Charlie. QUESTION: I want to go back to Abu Abbas. You mentioned that you were looking into a variety of options. Could you be any more specific? And I would like to ask specifically, is this now a law enforcement question or are there diplomatic and political ramifications as well? MR. REEKER: I think the Justice Department is clearly involved. There was a murder of an American, as you are aware. The Italians, as you have noted, in their own statements, and clearly from history, we realize the Government of Italy has a serious interest in this case. So that's the subject for discussions, discussions among diplomats, clearly, but among law enforcement agencies between their countries into looking at that. I just, at this point, can't get into any details about that other than to say that we do believe that he, as with all terrorists, should be brought to justice, and we are looking at a variety of options. But there are, clearly, law enforcement matters here and the Department of Justice is part of this. Yes, Barry. QUESTION: Could we separate Klinghoffer, who was an American citizen? Years ago, the Justice Department but except for the Klinghoffer case they had no, you know, particular claim on Abu Abbas. I'm trying to understand what the State Department is saying. Are they saying whether trying to prosecute this guy for the murder of an American citizen is something that is subject to discussion between Italy and the United States, or are you talking about, perhaps, other crimes, and the hijacking in particular? MR. REEKER: I think if you want to talk about the prosecution for the murder of an American, you have to talk to the Justice Department, Barry. If you want to talk about the Italians' interests, you need to talk to the Italians. And what we're doing is having all of these discussions -- there are obviously matters for lawyers, there are a variety of options here on how this happens. I just can't get into the details of that right now. QUESTION: All right, I will just try one more time and maybe I'm not being clear. Is there a question on whether the U.S. has jurisdiction over him in the Klinghoffer murder? MR. REEKER: You'd want to talk to the Justice Department, Barry. QUESTION: Okay. MR. REEKER: Anything else on this matter? Yes, ma'am, then. QUESTION: The United States has draft a warrant to address Abu Abbas several years ago -- MR. REEKER: You'd want to talk to the Justice Department for any questions about warrants. QUESTION: But what happened now? I mean, why is it changed? MR. REEKER: You'd want to talk to the Justice Department about any questions regarding warrants. I don't know and I don't deal with them, so I have to send you over to the Justice Department. QUESTION: Is this arrest a part of your war on terrorism? MR. REEKER: Certainly, he is a terrorist. Okay? There is very little doubt about that and the way we've viewed things that he's done. And so it is part of the war on terrorism to apprehend people like this. We want to see them brought to justice. In terms of the legal specifics, of warrants or other questions, you really do have to talk to the Justice Department. QUESTION: Well, the Palestinian Authority has demanded his release, so your response would be? MR. REEKER: I think I answered that question earlier. QUESTION: Oh, okay. Sorry. QUESTION: Still on him. But can you say anything about Syria turning him away from the border? MR. REEKER: No, I can't at this point. QUESTION: Because you don't know, or you're not at liberty to say? MR. REEKER: I'm not going to discuss anything about his capture at this time. Thanks. QUESTION: Phil, with -- we've been -- I've been asking questions concerning broadcasting within Iraq, and Westwood One, which is a Los Angeles-based broadcaster, is apparently going in and are going to start delivering 12 hours of programming, some to include American news programs. MR. REEKER: Maybe they can carry our briefings. QUESTION: Right. And they also -- there may be plans to set up a either temporary or permanent broadcasting entity much like Al-Jazeera or MBC. To what degree is the State Department working in those plans? MR. REEKER: We'll certainly look at that and be involved in that. It's going to be an important part of the development of civil society in Iraq. Media plays an important role. I believe the coalition forces are already trying to bring in -- I know they've brought in some equipment to restore broadcast capabilities on Iraqi television and radio. It's an important way of communicating with the population. It's important, I think, toward the humanitarian efforts to advise people on where they can go for certain needs and that type of thing. And that will be something that I would think the Garner Group may become involved with during the transition, and clearly it's something that's part of the assistance and reconstruction program, both during stabilization and in the future it will be important, I think, helping Iraq develop a cadre, if you will, of journalists, for instance, who have not been allowed to practice responsible and independent journalism under Saddam Hussein. That will be an important area and the United States and other countries have often helped in programs in countries in transition. So that's something we'll watch for. Did you need to follow up, or -- QUESTION: No follow-up. Will there be any stipulations in the rehire of any of the state-run broadcasting people? MR. REEKER: Joel, at this point, I think that's just too far ahead. I really couldn't try to address that. I just simply don't know and I don't think we've dealt with those kinds of details yet at this point. Jonathan. QUESTION: Yeah, a follow-up to earlier questions on the basis of new information. And I see that OPEC has invited the six of spades Oil Minister Amer Muhammad Rashid to attend their meeting in Vienna next week. Does that -- do you have a -- do you think that's a good idea? MR. REEKER: I don't know anything about it, Jonathan, so -- QUESTION: What would you do if he turned up in Vienna at -- MR. REEKER: Jonathan, I don't know anything about it. So it's a nice try, but I don't know anything about it. (Laughter.) Maybe a game of cards is what you need to go pursue. QUESTION: Well, can we agree to move on to the real news of the day? QUESTION: Yeah, let's do. MR. REEKER: It's up to you guys. QUESTION: What kind of details can you give us about the talks next week in Beijing on North Korea, if any? And I had something else, but basically you're going to have to start with that. MR. REEKER: With respect to North Korea, I would just, first of all, point you back to the comments the Secretary did make in this briefing yesterday in that, as you will well remember, we've made it clear from the very beginning of the situation with North Korea and our concerns about their nuclear weapons program that we believe this was a problem not just between the North Koreans and the United States, but a problem between the North Koreans, the United States and North Korea's neighbors, as well. We wanted to approach this in a multilateral way, and you know quite well the history of our discussions with Japan, with South Korea, with China, with Russia, and with other countries about this. At our urging, the Chinese, at senior levels, have pressed the North Koreans to agree to multilateral talks, and I think you are quite aware that the South Koreans and the Japanese had, as well. And China proposed talks with its full participation, with the full participation of China, along with the United States, to the North Koreans. And we consulted with our South Korean and Japanese allies at very top levels. They supported these talks with China and with North Korea to get this process of talks started. And I think you've seen public statements from Seoul and from Tokyo in that regard. So as a preliminary step in this process, the United States, China and North Korea will meet, possibly as soon as next week. I don't have an exact date to announce for you now. The talks will be hosted by China in Beijing, and China will be a full participant in them. Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs James Kelly will lead an interagency delegation from the United States at those talks. I think you are quite aware that China and the United States both agree and both are firmly of the policy that the Korean Peninsula must be free of nuclear arms, as do all of North Korea's neighbors. We certainly all agree that we'd continue to press for Japanese and South Korean early inclusion in the talks. That would be one of our priorities. Certainly, I'd like to add that we appreciate the efforts of China, as well as South Korea and Japan, to realize these multilateral talks, and we're going to keep in very close contact with those governments before, during and after those talks. QUESTION: Now, I'm not going to argue because I know that the case can be made that three is, in fact, multilateral, but it's about the -- it's the lowest possible combination for multilateral talks, correct? Do you not -- are you not concerned that the North Koreans may take this as, you know, backing down from your insistence that all the neighbors be included, as the Secretary said yesterday, and as you've been saying for months now? MR. REEKER: Well, we are looking for the early inclusion of Japan and South Korea in the talks. As the Secretary said yesterday, there's one thing that's absolutely clear, and that's that at whatever level the talks start and with whatever attendance in the beginning, it has to ultimately encompass the views and thoughts of all the neighbors in the region. And so after consulting with both Seoul and Tokyo, who supported this to get the process of talks started, we agreed with the Chinese offer to do this. And so we think that, obviously, the early inclusion of the Republic of Korea and Japan will be essential to reach substantive results that we are seeking. So this will be a beginning. And as I said, we'll look to that, perhaps, as early as next week to start those talks. Elise, and then George. QUESTION: The administration has kind of, you know, stayed firm to the policy of having these multilateral talks and, you know, talking tough with North Korea about solving this in a diplomatic way, rather than North Korea start reprocessing its fuel rods and everything, which it seems to have put on the shelf for at least the time being. Do you see this as a vindication of U.S. moves towards diplomacy and tough talk, rather than military action? MR. REEKER: Again, I would just point you to what the Secretary said yesterday, what our goals have been. It's been repeated over and over again by the President and the Secretary that we have felt that there's a diplomatic solution to this. This is clearly a multilateral issue. This is not simply a bilateral issue. While there are those that have suggested that the U.S. should act simply unilaterally or have a bilateral approach to this, it's a multilateral issue. And clearly, the views and the concerns of North Korea's neighbors are of utmost importance, as are ours, and so that's why we have pursued our discussion and diplomacy with China, with South Korea, with Japan, with Russia, with Australia, with other countries with whom we've kept in very close touch, because they have an interest in this. The Secretary noted, as he did yesterday, that there was a statement last week by the South, by the North Koreans suggesting that they were not going to stick to any particular format. And we have said that we were pursuing ways of moving forward on a multilateral basis, and that's now what we're going to do. And we'll do this with China, and this is a first step. QUESTION: Right, but you've got -- you did get North Korea to the table in a more multilateral format than -- certainly they wanted it just a bilateral one. So do you see this as a vindication of your idea for the multilateral talks? MR. REEKER: Well, I think our policy has always been the right policy. And we have explained why and have pursued that, and now we are going to move forward to this. We don't anticipate immediate breakthroughs, but we're looking for progress. And we will look forward to this beginning, as I said, as early as next week. George. QUESTION: You used to talk about immediate and verifiable dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Is that still part of the lexicon, because I haven't heard it lately. MR. REEKER: Well, the North Korean nuclear arms program is of interest, as you know, to the entire international community and that is what we'll be pursuing. One of the issues is how, as we've said, discussing with North Korea and with the Chinese, and how North Korea can go about verifiably and permanently dismantling its nuclear weapons capability. So that is an issue for discussion, obviously, and what we will do is keep in very close touch in this process with South Korea and Japan as well, and other countries as well. In that regard, Secretary Powell spoke yesterday with Japanese Foreign Minister Kawaguchi. He spoke with the South Korean Foreign Minister Yun; he spoke this morning with Foreign Minister Ivanov of Russia, so continuing his regular conversations with those counterparts in terms of our discussions about North Korea. QUESTION: Did he speak with the Chinese? MR. REEKER: The last time he spoke with the Chinese Foreign Minister, I'd have to go back and check. We talked about it at the time. QUESTION: I realize that because you don't have exact dates yet and everything, but would you expect Assistant Secretary Kelly to also make stops, the usual other stops in -- MR. REEKER: Obviously, as you indicated, Matt, since we don't have exact dates, I can't get into specific itineraries. But I very much expect, as we have, that we will continue to have very close consultation with South Korea and Japan. And in the past, indeed, Assistant Secretary Kelly has visited those capitals on a fairly regularly basis. So we'll keep you posted when we have a more concrete schedule. QUESTION: Is there any consideration being given to a full, a proper TCOG meeting before the -- MR. REEKER: I'd have to check into that. QUESTION: There were rumors of one as early as this week. MR. REEKER: I'd have to check into it. I don't have a schedule, nor am I aware that anything specific is scheduled. But clearly, as we get into pinning down a date for this meeting in Beijing with the Chinese and the North Koreans, then we'll be able to look at other scheduling issues. Nick. QUESTION: It seems that no one has any great expectations for that meeting, but what would the objectives be, as far as you are concerned, as modest as they may be -- anything more specific about what that will achieve? MR. REEKER: Our aim, as I think we have said, as I indicated just now, is the verifiable and irreversible end of the North Korean nuclear arms program. China, a full partner in these talks which will take place, has also made quite clear, if you go back to the Crawford meeting where President Jiang Zemin spoke with President Bush and made quite clear that China's policy and goal was a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula. So, as we have consistently said, that is one of our key goals, and that will be something we will want to discuss. The aim of these talks is to discuss issues of concern on both sides, clearly. On all sides, we will want to bring this up. But the Chinese have reflected the same concerns we have about the North Korean nuclear weapons program; so have South Korea, Japan, Russia and other countries. And so that continues to be our goal. But as I said, at this point, we need to pin down the details of these talks and we'll see where we go in this first step, which, as I said, we expect to be just that, a first step; and then we would move -- move and press for Japanese and South Korean inclusion, as well. QUESTION: Can I ask one on the venue? Since this is going to be held in Beijing, the World Health Organization today said that China has grossly underestimated or underreported the number of cases of SARS in Beijing. Are you confident that your delegation -- A PARTICIPANT: They based it on a North Korean -- QUESTION: Yeah, this is a North Korean -- MR. REEKER: It is. QUESTION: That your delegation and any American journalists or others who may go would be safe? MR. REEKER: I am sure any travel arrangements we make will take into account any concerns like that, so we'll deal with that. Did Mark have a question? QUESTION: You say that the topics will be issues of concern to both sides. So is it clear that North Korea's Nuclear Program is not going to be the only subject that is discussed at these talks? MR. REEKER: At these particular talks I can't give you a specific agenda, Mark. I am just not at that point where I can describe for you exactly. This is a first step. But what we have said all along, and what others had reflected in our goal for multilateral talks, is to discuss with North Korea how they can bring about a verifiable and irreversible end to their nuclear weapons program. So, clearly, that is an issue up there. We have other issues that we have said in the past that we would like to address. And so we would expect that too. And I am sure the North Koreans have issues they want to bring to the table, and the Chinese will as well. QUESTION: Can I follow up please? Is the broad agenda on the table for these talks? MR. REEKER: The broad agenda? QUESTION: The array of issues. A PARTICIPANT: Bold. MR. REEKER: The bold approach? QUESTION: The bold approach. MR. REEKER: As you know, we have said -- the President has said, Secretary Powell has said that if North Korea fully addresses the concerns of the international community by eliminating its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible manner, we would consider pursuing our bold initiative, bold approach. We can call it a few things. But that is in which we would be prepared to take political and economic steps that would substantially improve the lives of North Korea's people, which we think should be important to the North Koreans. But that's providing that North Korea also addresses our longstanding concerns, which we have talked about in the past, so that continues to be our policy. What we have sought is this multilateral discussion, this forum in which to have a multilateral discussion about how North Korea can -- can take the right steps in terms of verifiable dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program. QUESTION: And one more follow up please. Are there any signs now that North Korea has begun reprocessing? MR. REEKER: I don't have any news on those, and anything further than what's been said in the past. QUESTION: Is it clear that that cannot happen as long as the talks are underway? MR. REEKER: I think clearly that is something that we have said would be of serious concern to us. The goal of the talks is what I have described, and that's what we will seek to pursue. We have seen the North Korean statement from last Friday or Saturday about their interest in pursuing this and their agreement to the Chinese offer to have these multilateral talks in Beijing. And that's what we are going to pursue for now. QUESTION: One more? MR. REEKER: Yeah. QUESTION: You said the goal of the talks is to talk about how North Korea can take steps to end its nuclear program. So if the goal of the talks is only about how North Korea can take steps, how can the agenda be of issue? MR. REEKER: That would be our goal, Elise. I am talking about our goal. Obviously, as I indicated, I think, two, or three, or four times, the North Koreans will have issues they want to bring up, as well. QUESTION: But you said you are not willing to discuss those issues until North Korea ends its nuclear program. MR. REEKER: As I said, I can't give you a specific agenda for these talks. It's a first step. When we get closer to that, then I can talk about it. This is the focus, is on how they can take these steps, our willingness to consider the bold initiative, the bold agenda, the bold approach is still there. We have said that. We have been quite clear about that. But, first, we have to have North Korea fully address the concerns about nuclear weapons by eliminating them. So we'll be looking at that. And, as I have more details to share on the talks, then I would be happy to do that at a later date. Matt. QUESTION: Phil, now, don't take this -- please don't take this the wrong way. But, Phil, the last time Assistant Secretary Kelly sat down with the North Koreans, the results, through no fault of his own, were not exactly, you know, great; and, in fact, it led to the current situation that we're in now. Are you aware -- was there any reluctance on behalf of the Chinese or the North Koreans in your talks with them to have him, specifically, as the interlocutor for this meeting? MR. REEKER: Certainly, not that I am aware of. QUESTION: Okay. MR. REEKER: Terri. QUESTION: Can I change the subject? MR. REEKER: Anything else on North Korea? Tony has something. QUESTION: About the -- you are talking about Japan and South Korea with the early inclusions, is it your hope that either one of those two countries, or together, will have talks shortly after the U.S. has her talks with North Korea? MR. REEKER: I think I'd just like to leave it where I said it. We're in very close touch with them. They encouraged us to go ahead and get the process started by doing this with China and North Korea, by having these talks. And we all agreed that we would continue to press for Japanese and South Korean early inclusion as a top priority. On this? QUESTION: Yes, still on North Korea. Whose decision was it to limit the talks to just China, the U.S. and North Korea? MR. REEKER: I think at the beginning of the conversation I walked you through the process there. It was something that China and other countries have been urging the North Koreans to agree to multilateral talks. When China made this -- you'll recall that the North Koreans were arguing, or being quite insistent that it was a bilateral issue with the United States, something we have always opposed and said that this is a multilateral thing. So when the Chinese proposed talks with their full participation and the United States, we consulted with the South Koreans and the Japanese. The North Koreans agreed. The South Koreans and Japanese said we should go ahead and do this, and so it was a mutual agreement. QUESTION: Who is objecting to Japan and South Korea participating right now? MR. REEKER: I think I just answered that question in my answer. This was what North Korea agreed to when South -- when China proposed it. As you know, North Korea had not agreed to having what we had talked about for some time, including this multilateral forum with all the countries that are interested. QUESTION: Do you know who the representatives from China and North Korea will be? MR. REEKER: No, I don't. You'd need to ask them. Sir. QUESTION: Yes. In relation to North Korea's nuclear capability, are you still of the view that the KEDO should be scrapped? MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new on KEDO or anything else. QUESTION: The KEDO chief said that the -- MR. REEKER: I have nothing new on KEDO or anything else in that regard. Yes, sir, in the back. QUESTION: I hope that North Korean partner for these talks is not Kim Gye Guan, who is the usual partner of the Secretary Kelly. But some -- MR. REEKER: I just told your colleague I don't know who the North Korean delegation will consist of. QUESTION: General to Kim Gye Guan? MR. REEKER: I don't know. QUESTION: And then in that case how do you evaluate the level of talks? MR. REEKER: I don't know who the North Koreans will have representing them at these talks. I don't know who the Chinese representatives will be. Our representative will be Assistant Secretary Kelly and an interagency delegation, which would be typical for this. But you'd have to ask those two nations who will represent them in the talks. QUESTION: If you allow one more. MR. REEKER: Okay, sure. QUESTION: Will you have bilateral talks with North Korea under the multilateral format? MR. REEKER: It's a multilateral format with China, the United States and North Korea there for talks, each of them as a full partner in the talks. That's the format, that's what was agreed to, and that's what we'll proceed with as soon as we have a firm date pinned down. QUESTION: Then you don't have any plan to meet North Korea? MR. REEKER: Again, everybody is in a room and there's just no way I can parse for your or imagine for you exactly who will look at whom or say what word to whom. But I think I've described for you the process. Anything else on North Korea? (No response.) QUESTION: Mr. Lambros. QUESTION: And any comment on today's EU summit in Athens, Greece? MR. REEKER: There is an EU summit in Athens, Greece. The United States certainly welcomes the signing by the European Union of the Accession Treaty with ten new members. Although, of course, we're not a member of the European Union, the United States has consistently supported European Union enlargement as a force for stability, peace and prosperity. And I think you'll recall it was a White House statement following the historic Copenhagen Summit in December where the White House described that as a bold and historic step that advances the creation of a Europe whole, free and at peace, something that's been a bedrock of American foreign policy for decades. So we look forward to working with the European Union and its new member-states to help make our world more safer -- more safer? Can I say that? To make our world safer and a more prosperous place for all of us. Terri. QUESTION: Thank you. MR. REEKER: You had your turn. QUESTION: On Syria -- MR. REEKER: You sound so offended. QUESTION: On Syria, the Syrian Foreign Ministry says that the media has made the relationship between the U.S. and Syria out to be much more hostile than it actually is. MR. REEKER: Not the media. Imagine the media. QUESTION: And I want to know if you think that's true. And also -- or, I mean, if you would characterize their helpfulness differently than it's been portrayed in the media. And, in addition, this pipeline has finally, apparently, been shut down yesterday. And since Bashar told Secretary Powell to his face a couple of years ago that he was going to bring it under UN control and he never did, I wondered if you had some comment on the fact that it may finally no longer be pumping illegal gas? MR. REEKER: I don't really have anything new to add on Syria than what Secretary Powell said yesterday, and we can (inaudible) up -- I've watched his remarks played over and over again on numerous televisions. But on the pipeline issue, my information is that the Iraq-Syria pipeline has been shut down. And you will recall, indeed, that we had said many times that oil exported through the Iraq-Syria pipeline was in violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions. That's because it obviously did not operate within the confines of the United Nations Oil-for-Food program. It was something, indeed, that we had regularly raised, in terms of our concerns about the pipeline, as you indicated, Terri -- at the highest levels. Bilaterally, it was also raised in the UN Security Council. So the pipeline is shut down. And in terms of its future, I just couldn't speculate at this point. QUESTION: If you're standing by the Secretary's remarks from yesterday and not altering them today in any form, then we can conclude that Syria -- that you do not agree with Syria; that it's -- that it's much more constructive behind the scenes than it appears. MR. REEKER: Let's just leave it where the Secretary has. I think we have made quite clear our concerns about Syria, many of them longstanding concerns, others concerns that have arisen because of trans-border movements -- things moving into Iraq or persons moving out of Iraq, or concerns about the presence of possible war criminals in Syria from Iraq -- and our feeling that there is a great opportunity now that there is a new Iraq which represents a new start in the region, and a new opportunity for Syria to rethink how they are going relate with their neighbor and how they may want to consider some of these issues, many which have been very longstanding. Matt. QUESTION: Phil, do you have any updates on the initiative that you guys were talking about, especially the Secretary on the antiquities and artifacts? Is there anything new on that or are we still at the same -- MR. REEKER: I don't know that there is anything new to report. I have to really refer you to sort of details, in terms of CENTCOM briefings, but I understand looting is considerably down. QUESTION: No, I meant you contacts, State Department contacts, with Interpol, with UNESCO, any -- MR. REEKER: With UNESCO -- I don't have any new details. I know we are looking at -- and as just a reminder there was something that was of great concern to us and many around the world in terms of tracking down any of these antiquities that emerge on world markets, seeing that they are returned to their rightful owners, the Iraqi people, and recovering those soon. QUESTION: I have one on Syria. MR. REEKER: Okay, why don't we -- Terri, do your Syria and then we'll do there, and we'll go around. QUESTION: Syria has said -- MR. REEKER: I lost my bet I think -- but, anyway. QUESTION: Syria has said that it is going to present to the UN a resolution that would make the Middle East a WMD-free zone. Do you know anything about when that -- have they been talking to you at all about it? MR. REEKER: No, I think you would need to talk to the Syrians about that. I think the Secretary -- QUESTION: Is that something the U.S. would support? MR. REEKER: The Secretary addressed our longstanding policies about that subject generally yesterday, and I just don't think there is anything more I can add to it. Yeah. QUESTION: Senator Bob Graham came out advocating military action against Syria. And this is -- he was one of the few democrats to veto military action against Iraq. Can you comment upon this, and is there, in fact, consideration of military action against Syria? Why would he have -- MR. REEKER: Let me just do what I have done already, point you back to the Secretary's remarks yesterday. The Secretary, I think, was quite clear in his remarks yesterday -- what our concerns are with Syria, how we have raised them, and that there is no plan to attack Syria or Iran or anyone else. QUESTION: Why would Senator Graham come out and advocate -- MR. REEKER: Why don't you ask Senator Graham? QUESTION: Okay. MR. REEKER: Joel. QUESTION: With respect to Syria, possibly Iran, and other locales where the regime from Baghdad could flee, have you had to -- have you put any warnings out to any other countries for detention of some of those people, if they are in transit -- in other words, if they leave Syria, or leave Iran, have slipped over the border? Have you also notified, for instance, any of the airlines to detain some of these folks? MR. REEKER: I just don't have specific information. We have been quite clear that we think, you know, those of the Saddam Hussein regime who should be held accountable for their crimes against the Iraqi people should be held accountable. And the Iraqi people will need to determine a process for justice in that in those regards. We don't think anybody should be harboring Iraqis who may need to face justice in Iraq, nor should they be harboring anyone who has looted or pillaged Iraq, in terms of whether it's antiquities in cultural items, or other resources. QUESTION: On your earlier comment about asking intelligent -- Iraqi intelligence operatives to leave other countries, certainly, you don't want them to flee back to Iraq, or whatever. Are you asking for detention, or for outright arrests? MR. REEKER: Our concern, to repeat yet again what we have said before and what I have said today, in case you weren't listening, Joel, was that these representatives of the Iraqi Intelligence Service represent -- represented, and they still represent a threat to American personnel and American facilities, as well as the facilities of others, coalition members and other countries including, perhaps, the host countries. That was our concern. That's what prompted our request to those countries to expel those people. And should they turn up in Iraq or elsewhere, we would look to other governments or what we may consider, in terms of connections to terrorism, or threats they present. But I can't really offer you any one-size fits all answer on that. One more in the back, and then the lady here. Sorry? QUESTION: On Turkey. MR. REEKER: Sorry. On what? QUESTION: Turkey. MR. REEKER: Turkey. QUESTION: According to reports today, NATO, at the suggestion of the U.S. Government, is removing out of Turkey the AWACs civilian planes and the Patriot missile, which have been deployed for the war in Iraq. But I am wondering why should the Turkish Government still concerned about the instabilities, as they say, in Northern Iraq around Kirkuk and Mosul? MR. REEKER: I don't have any details on that. You might want to talk to NATO or to Turkish authorities, because any decisions taken in that regard would be done in conjunction, in coordination, with Turkish authorities, so. Matt. QUESTION: Do you have anything new to say about Zimbabwe and the political situation there and what you would like to see, in terms of new election -- new elections? MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new to add on that. Ma'am. QUESTION: I don't know if you're actually going to be able to answer this question. But The Sacramento Bee yesterday ran an article about newly declassified State Department documents concerning the disappearance of two Americans, Michael Long and someone else, in Laos, four years ago, saying that the issue has been of much more concern to the State Department than anyone realized before. I guess they filed under the Freedom of Information Act. Is this still an important issue between Laos and the U.S., and is it going to impact possible bilateral trade issues between Laos and the U.S.? MR. REEKER: As you suspected, I did not read my copy of The Sacramento Bee today, fine newspaper that it is, indeed. So we'll check into that. Indeed, we do declassify these kinds of documents, and we'll get you an answer.

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