State Department Briefing, August 5, 2003

 

Tuesday August 5, 2003

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, AUGUST 5, 2003
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:30 p.m. EDT
BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman

Index

INDONESIA
Explosion in Jakarta Hotel Labeled Terrorism
Counter-terrorism Efforts in Indonesia
Jemaah Islamiya Organization and International Terrorism

EAST TIMOR
Ad Hoc Tribunal Renders Verdict on Major General Damiri
Tribunal Delivers Minimal Sentences

IRAQ
International Tribunal for Saddam Hussein?
Development of Governing Council and Arab League Relations
Secretary Powell's Conversations with Amr Moussa
State Sponsor of Terror?
Rewards for Justice Check

LIBERIA
Secretary Powell's Conversations with Kofi Annan
Situation Update/US Response to Taylor

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
Meetings Between the Prime Ministers
Update on the Wall and Impact on the Roadmap
Assistant Secretary Burns' Travel
Negotiations Over Release of Political Prisoners

IRAN
Nuclear Weapons Program/US Response
Upcoming IAEA Report

RUSSIA
Vladimir Putin's Travels and Sale of Arms to Malaysia

COLOMBIA
Restart the Airbridge Denial Program
US Encourages Colombia to Enter Peace Process with Illegal Arms Groups

NORTH KOREA
Six-Party Talks, Possibly in Beijing
President Bush and Secretary Powell Converse in Crawford

SAUDI ARABIA
Counterterrorism Talks and Efforts

MR. REEKER: Welcome back to the State Department. I would like to point out that today represents the 100th briefing for the calendar year 2003, so I am very pleased to be here on this sentinel centennial event. No balloons, I'm afraid, but I do have no particular announcements today so we can go ahead and start with the questions.

Mr. Lee.

QUESTION: Can I ask two things about Indonesia? The first is -- I realize the White House has already given your view of what happened at the hotel overnight, but do you have anything to add to that?

And also, then, on a related matter, do you have anything to say about the trial of -- the just-concluded trial of this general?

MR. REEKER: Sure. Let's first go over that. You did hear my colleague, Mr. McClellan, from Crawford talk a bit about that. I would like to reiterate our deepest condolences to the victims of this deplorable act of terrorist violence. We are monitoring the situation closely in terms of the large explosion that ripped through the Marriott Hotel in downtown Jakarta, Indonesia, today; believe it was likely caused by a car bomb, as we've seen reported, detonated near the front doors of the hotel.

Press reports have indicated the deaths of 17 or more people and injured more than 100 people, although those numbers are quite likely to go up. We do have no information at this time that would verify any reports of American citizens being killed. Two Americans have been identified among the injured. One was taken to a hospital, treated and released. Another American with second degree burns is in the process of being medically evaluated# and they will make decisions accordingly. The Embassy doctor, the American Embassy doctor, and consular officials have visited hospitals to check and see if there are any other Americans who may have been injured in this attack.

So we have been in touch, obviously, with the local American community through our Warden network to notify them of this nature, and would remind everybody to consult our travel advisories, including the Worldwide Caution we have.

-- Correction: in the process of being medically evacuated

Once again, this type of act has demonstrated that the war on terrorism is a global war; terrorism knows no borders and effects innocent civilians all over the world. We strongly condemn this extremely cowardly act. We stand ready to help the Government of Indonesia in any way we can, and we will continue to work with Indonesia and many countries around the world in our efforts to end terrorism.

QUESTION: Before we get on to the trial, do you have any indication of who might be responsible or --

MR. REEKER: At this point, no, I don't think I could offer anything. Obviously, the Government of Indonesia will be investigating this. We stand ready to offer any assistance we can. We'll keep in close touch, as we do with so many governments on these issues.

QUESTION: Are there any plans for any U.S. officials to go and help in the investigation -- FBI, or anybody else?

MR. REEKER: At this point, it's a little early to say, but we do stand ready to help should the Indonesian Government need that.

QUESTION: Once again, before you go on to the other part, is there any change in the IMET situation?

MR. REEKER: Nothing to report today.

QUESTION: And I take it that you are still generally -- overall you are generally pleased with the Indonesians' cooperation in the war and with --

MR. REEKER: We have tried to work very closely with Indonesia. I think you will all recall the tragic Bali bombing of last October, which demonstrated again the global nature of terrorism, that it can strike in all corners of the world. After that, the Indonesian Government stepped up internal investigations against international terrorist groups.

Jakarta's response at that time, as we have said in our annual report, Patterns on Global Terrorism, represented a major and multifaceted counterterrorism effort. And they undertook significant actions including quick adoption of anti-terrorism decrees, and introduction of counterterrorism legislation and other steps.

And so we have worked with the Indonesians and with the international community, in terms of the UN resolutions and other things that we have tried to follow, including designation, of course, of the Jemaah Islamiya organization as an international terrorist organization. And they have in the past, of course, been responsible for terrorist activities in that part of the world.

QUESTION: But is that group's earmarks, fingerprints, on this situation?

MR. REEKER: As I said to your colleague's answer, Barry, it's too early to say. I don't have any response to that, at this point.

QUESTION: Can I clarify one thing in your language? You said you had no information at this point to verify any reports that Americans are dead. Do you have any reason to believe that any Americans are dead or --

MR. REEKER: No, we don't. There were media reports and so I had been asked earlier if we could verify media reports. But, actually, we have no information to indicate American citizens were killed in this tragic accident, but --

QUESTION: Accident?

MR. REEKER: Tragic situation, act of terrorism and violence; but certainly we extend our condolences to the families of those killed and to the survivors of this thing.

Now, Matt, you had another question.

QUESTION: Timor.

MR. REEKER: Timor, right.

QUESTION: Well can we -- when we are --

MR. REEKER: Yes, Elise.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that even though, thankfully, we don't know of any Americans dead right now, but that because it's an American company that it was an American target?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any information on the attacks or the -- in terms of drawing that kind of conclusion and couldn't do that for you.

Matt has asked about East Timor and the verdict from the ad hoc tribunal there. As you have indicated with your question, Matt, the tribunal has rendered its final verdict. The United States is disappointed with the performance and record of the Indonesian ad hoc tribunal. We believe that the overall process of the tribunal has been flawed and lacked credibility.

This trial phase ended today in Jakarta and it did end it with it a conviction, and we are pleased that the judges went against the prosecutors' recommendation for an acquittal in this final case. But nonetheless, the judges sentenced Mr. -- Major General Damiri only to three years in prison, which is far less than the 10-year minimum recommended under Indonesian law.

The light sentencing of this highest-ranking defendant and others when they were found guilty, we think, has been disappointing. The court has convicted only six defendants and handed only one convict a sentence that meets the country's minimum standards. The court has also permitted all of those convicted to remain free pending their appeals, and we have noted that on numerous occasions the Indonesian Government failed to take full advantage of many opportunities to hold human rights violators fully accountable for their crimes in East Timor.

QUESTION: I have to admit I haven't followed this case as perhaps closely as I should have, but did you just say that you're pleased that the judges went against the prosecutors' recommendation of acquittal?

MR. REEKER: That's right. The prosecutors had recommended acquittal in this case.

QUESTION: Aren't prosecutors generally the ones who are trying to convict people?

QUESTION: Sometimes they get off.

MR. REEKER: How about you ask the tribunal? I don't --

QUESTION: Are you noting with any irony the fact that the prosecution asked for an acquittal?

MR. REEKER: I will let you describe it as you see fit, Matt. The prosecutors in the case recommended that this defendant, Major General Damiri, be acquitted, and the judges went against that case. We think that was the right decision. But they sentenced him to only three years in prison, which, as I noted, is far less than the minimum recommended under Indonesia's own laws.

QUESTION: Well, is your problem, then, or is your disappointment, with not only the tribunal itself but also with the prosecution?

MR. REEKER: Well, prosecutors have presented weak cases, judges have failed to adequately punish the few who were deemed responsible for the human rights abuses in East Timor, and, quite frankly, to date, no one has been jailed for their role in those atrocities back in 1999 which left a thousand people dead.

So we have continued to talk to multilateral partners, options to ensure a credible level of justice for these abuses. You will recall from years back, since those atrocities in 1999, it is something we have been very concerned with. And I would remind you that any application to enter the United States by individuals who allegedly committed crimes against humanity in East Timor are reviewed very carefully to determine whether a visa would be appropriate.

QUESTION: And just one last thing. Prosecutors had presented weak cases? It sounds in this case they didn't present any case, or they presented a case and then --

MR. REEKER: Matt, I will have to let you do your own analysis of the specific thing, but that is our view.

QUESTION: Well, I want to know -- just weak case? I mean --

MR. REEKER: I don't think I'm going to try to get into the details of each individual case up here. In this last of these 18 cases, we were, as I said, extremely disappointed that the prosecutors would recommend acquittal. We were pleased to see that the judges went against that recommendation but then offered a sentence, which, as I said before, didn't even meet the minimum sentence recommended under Indonesian law. And if you look at all of the cases of this ad hoc tribunal together, I think it has been a very disappointing process in terms of rendering justice unto those who committed horrible atrocities in East Timor just a few years ago.

QUESTION: Do you think, perhaps, this might have been better handled if it had been international rather than a local tribunal?

MR. REEKER: I think that is the type of thing we are discussing with others in the international community in terms of, as I described, the multilateral discussions on how we could see justice in these cases, what options there might be to ensure a more credible level of justice for what were clearly abuses of human rights in East Timor.

QUESTION: Does your consideration of that in this case make the U.S. Government any more inclined to consider an international tribunal rather than an Iraqi tribunal to try people for crimes committed under Saddam Hussein?

MR. REEKER: Oh, I don't know that anybody would have drawn that type of conclusion at this point. I think we have been quite clear in Iraq what our views are, that the Iraqi people should have an opportunity to develop a structure through which to prosecute those who have carried out crimes against the Iraqi people.

And I think there are very different situations, Arshad, and, obviously, that would clearly have to be taken into consideration as those things are considered.

Barry.

QUESTION: The Arab League has declined to recognize the Governing Council in Iraq. Is that disappointing? It isn't, you know, black and white, the judgment. But it is -- they had --

MR. REEKER: I don't know that I have seen any final statements put out by the Arab League, who are meeting in a council session. I did see wire reports quoting a group of ministers referring to the Iraqi Governing Council as a "step in the right direction," I think was the quote that I saw.

As Secretary Powell said yesterday in his interview, we think it was very important that the Iraqi Governing Council was formed. It really represents the beginning of a new Iraqi government for the people of Iraq, representative of geographic, ethnic, tribal and religious diversity of the country.

They have in just a few weeks established themselves, elected a president, sent representatives before the United Nations to make presentations. And as Secretary Powell said, we believe that all Arab nations should welcome the Governing Council and provide expressions of support.

We have made that view clear. The Secretary has spoken with some Arab leaders in that regard. We have communicated that to Arab governments. We think it is important that this structure be given the support from the region, as well as the international community more broadly, as the United Nations has.

QUESTION: He talked directly to Moussa. You know, he put his -- he got involved directly, personally. But the State Department does not, what, conclude that it's a final action, or doesn't see -- because it's a mixed result, doesn't see it as disappointing?

MR. REEKER: I think, Barry, I have to leave it with what I have said and what the Secretary has indicated. I haven't seen final results from this one meeting of the Arab League. And, you know, I have made quite clear what our views are, as the Secretary has, and certainly as Ambassador Bremer has, in terms of the plans for the future of Iraq.

With this Iraqi Governing Council in place, there is now in the hands of the Iraqi people a transition to democratic self-rule. The timing of that obviously will be something we will have to look at, they will have to look at. But their part in this process, I think, will lead, as you know, to writing of the constitution, and then election of a government in Iraq that then can be fully sovereign.

And we are going to continue supporting this council as we also live up to our responsibilities and the responsibilities and obligations of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which are working with the Iraqi Governing Council and the Iraqi people on so many contributions from the international community around the world to make progress in Iraq in terms of security, in terms of the economy, in terms of so many areas: health care, education, universities opening, courts being put back into operation -- things we have talked about before.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Phil, on that, briefly, the kind of support that you would like the Arab League or the region to give them, did that extend to actual -- some kind of recognition of the Governing Council? Or was it just a -- kind of a general idea of support?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think "expressions of support" is how the Secretary put it. I think that's important. It's the type of thing the United Nations did when they received the representatives of the Governing Council. So welcoming the council, expressing their support for it, I think, is important.

QUESTION: Yeah, but not necessarily including them in any meetings they might have or --

MR. REEKER: Those would be decisions they would have to make and that the council would have to make, frankly.

QUESTION: Yeah, but would you like to see that happen?

MR. REEKER: I don't want to make a blanket statement because I am not sure, specifically, what you would be referring to. But clearly, the more support that the council can have --

QUESTION: Well, would you like to, for example, to see a representative of the council attend, even as an observer status, Arab League --

MR. REEKER: Those will be decisions for them to make, both for the council and for the --

QUESTION: Well, I know they're decision -- all right. Well, if you are not going to answer the question, you are not going to answer it.

MR. REEKER: Terri.

QUESTION: Well, part of that was my question, but Secretary Powell said that the State Department had sent out cables to Arab governments overnight -- sent these two nights ago?

MR. REEKER: We sent cables to our embassies to make the same kind of pitch, as you will, if you will, as I have publicly, that this is our view. That's how we conduct the diplomacy. And as the Secretary indicated yesterday, he was on the phone personally with Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, and indicated our views that we would like all countries of the region to show their support for the Iraqi [Governing] Council.

QUESTION: Is there anyone else he made calls to, personally, in between the time you sent out these cables and the time -- and today when the Arab League meeting is --

MR. REEKER: On that matter, no. This was something -- he called on Sunday, I think he may have indicated to you. Today he did have a phone call with Kofi Annan, but on other subjects.

QUESTION: What was that on?

MR. REEKER: I don't have a full readout of that.

QUESTION: Liberia?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. I wouldn't -- I could guess that Liberia is a subject they discussed regularly, but I don't have a readout. And as you know, the Secretary is on his way to Crawford now.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. REEKER: Sure, Barry. Anything else on what we have already been talking about?

QUESTION: Another slump in the roadmap process: the meeting between the prime ministers was canceled or postponed. And Mr. Shaath, who is the would-be or the de facto foreign minister of the Palestinian movement, is asking the U.S. to do something about it, to intervene. I don't know quite what he would like, but is there something you want to say about --

MR. REEKER: I hadn't seen his specific comments. Obviously, as we have said and done, we encourage that both sides meet directly to discuss progress on the roadmap. That's important. It has occurred and has been important and has showed results and the ability of the two sides to work together.

In terms of their specific meetings, though, I would just refer you to either the Palestinians or the Israelis, or both of them, for any information on that.

Gene, on this subject?

QUESTION: Yes, on this subject, as you can imagine. What is the policy of the Department of State today with regard to the continued building of the wall? And I would like to follow up on it.

MR. REEKER: We've been through that numerous times. I don't know if you've caught the transcripts. The policy of the United States, the Administration, the President, is concern about building of the fence. We have expressed those concerns to the Israelis. You are aware of that, consistent with what we have said both publicly and privately, for instance, last week, when Prime Minister Sharon was here visiting and, similarly, the week before, just a few days before that, when Prime Minister Abbas was here.

So we have expressed our concern about that. We are pleased that the Israelis have affirmed that they are taking our views under consideration and we are going to continue to talk about this with the Israelis.

QUESTION: One follow-up on that. You have in the loan guarantees a provision that says that the President can decide that buildings, construction, work in the occupied territories, including the wall, might result in a withdrawal of part of the loan guarantee. Is there any consideration being given by the Department or any hint being given to the Israelis that this might happen?

MR. REEKER: As I have said, we have expressed our concerns about the fence. Secretary Powell noted again yesterday that we are concerned that when the fence crosses over land, lands of others, if it is constructed in a way that makes it more difficult to move forward on the roadmap, that that causes a problem.

So we have discussed with Israel about the fence they are building, and we hope we can find a way of discussing that or looking at that that doesn't become a hindrance, in terms of making progress on that. We are going to continue talking about that. Any talk of decisions, in terms of things you reference at this point, in this matter, would certainly be premature.

QUESTION: I know that Israel is not supposed to spend any of U.S. assistance on settlement activity and things like that. Would the fence qualify as something that Israel shouldn't be spending U.S. dollars to do? And have you made clear to the Israelis that you don't want them using U.S. funds to build this fence?

MR. REEKER: We are continuing discussions with Israel about that. As I said, we are pleased that the Israelis themselves have affirmed that they are taking our views into consideration. As some of your colleagues indicated, and as your question indicates, consistent with the legislation that authorizes loan guarantees, Israeli expenditures on settlements will be deducted from loan guarantees.

But in terms of the specific link to the fence, that's something that we are discussing. And some of the reports that I have seen about decisions having been made are clearly premature.

Yes.

QUESTION: Liberia.

MR. REEKER: Liberia. Switching to Liberia, okay. Please, ma'am.

QUESTION: Oh, thank you. Is the United States offering any incentive to Liberia's Charles Taylor to step down and leave the country? And is the U.S. willing to see the UN indictment against him for being a war criminal dropped?

MR. REEKER: I answered those questions yesterday. You know what our view is on Charles Taylor. He needs to leave, as he said he is going to. He needs to step down and leave the country. He said he is going to do that on August 11th, and that's what we expect to happen.

As we discussed yesterday, issues of the indictment are issues that need to be discussed by Mr. Taylor and the court in that matter that issued the indictment against him. But our overall view on Liberia and the situation there has not changed. We continue to be in close touch with all of the parties to the dispute, whether in Accra or in Monrovia, where our ambassador has met with the head of the vanguard force, the Nigerian troops that have moved into Monrovia as part of the West African states peacekeeping force that's moved in there.

And as we discussed yesterday, we continue to urge all of the parties to the conflict to cooperate with the Nigerian forces. We have noted that fighting in Monrovia was lighter than it has been in recent days. The situation in other parts of the country remains fluid. Certainly, the humanitarian situation is very dire and continues to deteriorate.

So it is very important that we are able to begin some of the humanitarian work that we are focused on to help the Liberian people. And it's important for all the parties to cooperate to live up to the ceasefire, to make sure that the ceasefire is maintained, and allow for a peaceful transfer of power.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. REEKER: Let's do Elise first, and then Matt.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on a meeting between the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and any ECOWAS military commanders?

MR. REEKER: I just mentioned it in an answer to your colleague's question.

QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: I assume you have seen these reports coming out of Nigeria that say that Taylor is now putting conditions on his --

MR. REEKER: I have seen so many reports over the days. I have seen reports from a variety of people who purport to speak to him and --

QUESTION: All right. Well, then let's just talk about what you said yesterday and what you're saying today.

My first question is: Do you know why the Department decided to release what you said yesterday in statement form today?

MR. REEKER: Because we didn't release it last night.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MR. REEKER: Did you have a problem with that?

QUESTION: No, it's just that what you said yesterday in the briefing when you were reading what it was in the statement is that at the end of this bit about Taylor needs to leave office, he needs to leave the country, you also said that he needs to answer the indictment. And that is not -- that part is not in the statement put out today.

MR. REEKER: I think when I said that it was in response to a particular question. We have always said that he needs to depart and address and answer the indictment. I was asked what was our view of the indictment, and I said that's an issue that he needs to deal with, to answer with the court. And we're not asking for the indictment to be rescinded, I think were my specific words in response to a question yesterday. There is no change in our position, if you're trying to divine such a thing.

QUESTION: No, no, no, I'm not trying to change -- I'm just curious as to why --

MR. REEKER: Often, Matt, when I am talking up here -- it wasn't -- we put out a statement because we wanted to put out something in writing. When I try to speak to you in response to your questions or to give you our views on something, it does not necessarily conform to what ultimately we'll type out.

QUESTION: Okay. But you still think that, even though it's not in the statement from today, you still think that he needs to answer to the indictment, he needs to address the issue with the court?

MR. REEKER: Right. That was the question I was asked yesterday: What about that? And our view, as I have said, as Richard Boucher has said, as Secretary Powell has said, is a question for the court and for Charles Taylor to answer or discuss with the court.

Anything else on Liberia? You want to change the topic?

QUESTION: Going back to what you talked about yesterday, Iranian nukes?

MR. REEKER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How close to having a weapon does the U.S. currently estimate? I mean, would you say late stage of development? Would you agree with that characterization?

MR. REEKER: I would just refer you to everything I said yesterday, since I covered it quite thoroughly, and I am sure you can use that footage as well, is that I would not be able to comment on the intelligence-related specifics that have come up in some press reports.

We have long believed that Iran is pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program under cover of a supposedly peaceful civil nuclear energy program, and we think that that represents a serious challenge to the international community, to regional stability, and to the entire global nonproliferation regime.

And so, as the President has been quite clear, we are committed to using all available tools to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. We cannot allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. And so we have been in very close touch with others in the international community. We have fully supported the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to rigorously investigate Iran's nuclear activities. They have already uncovered proof of Iran's failure to comply with its safeguards agreement, including carrying out undeclared nuclear activities, using undeclared nuclear materials at undeclared nuclear facilities.

And so the upcoming second report from the International Atomic Energy Agency is something we will look for probably later this month, I would expect, and it will be discussed by the Board of Governors of the IAEA in September.

Terri.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Iraq for a moment? I have a couple questions.

One, Secretary Powell said in his interview yesterday that Iraq has been taken off the state sponsors list.

MR. REEKER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We haven't heard any announcement, as far as I know, on that. Is that a process that has been completed?

MR. REEKER: I'll go back and -- it was announced. I believe there was quite a --

QUESTION: No, it wasn't being taken off the list. It was the sanctions were being suspended, but there was --

QUESTION: Right. No, that happened a long time ago. But that doesn't mean they're off the list.

MR. REEKER: I'll check with you -- check for you what are the specific --

QUESTION: That was quite a while ago. But he said yesterday -- the question was none of these countries have ever been permanently removed from the list, and he said Iraq now has. And as far as I know, that process hasn't been completed.

MR. REEKER: I'll check for you on the exact process where that stands in terms of the Secretary's general remarks.

QUESTION: Okay, another question. The head of Iraqi TV, the U.S.-funded Iraqi TV, has apparently now quit, saying that the U.S. is losing the propaganda war in Iraq.

MR. REEKER: Didn't know that, and would refer you to the Coalition Provisional Authority for any comments on that.

QUESTION: It's probably nothing, but do you know if the check, or whatever, has been cut for the $30 million?

MR. REEKER: The Czech or the Slovak? Oh, I see. Sorry. (Laughter.)

You know, I need to check. They were working out the logistics. It was all approved. As you know, we announced, and I think Ambassador Bremer made quite clear that the individual and the individual's family had been relocated. Whether the transfer has taken place or the exact process of that, I will have to double-check and make sure. We want to be particularly efficient and correct with $30 million.

Joel. Your turn now.

QUESTION: I have question concerning a trip by Vladimir Putin to Malaysia, to Kuala Lumpur. And, apparently, he signed a contract giving over $900 million in sales of warplanes, which is an inordinate amount. Do you have any comments concerning that?

MR. REEKER: I don't. I think you could ask the Russians about President Putin's travels to Malaysia and figures of $900 million for warplanes. I just don't know. I am not aware of those matters.

QUESTION: Can I just have one more?

MR. REEKER: Elise was going to be next. There's a few more, Barry. Sorry.

QUESTION: On Colombia, can you say anything about a recommendation by the Secretary to resume the antidrug flights in the Andes?

MR. REEKER: What I can tell you is that, as we have said for some time, we hope to have the Airbridge Denial Program up and running again in the very near future. You will recall that in April of this year, the United States and Colombia signed an agreement to restart the Airbridge Denial Program. We want to make sure that this is done safely, get it right.

You will recall the program had been suspended pending a full review following the tragic shooting down of a missionary aircraft. And so that process has been going forward. I can't give you any final determination on that. I would expect, actually, that it is something that the White House would make any announcement on in, you know, in the very near future.

Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah, can I just go back and see if you -- on the Middle East -- and see if you just have a better fix on the -- Assistant Secretary Burns' itinerary.

MR. REEKER: I don't. I have no further details. He is leaving today for Russia.

QUESTION: If we are on the Middle East, can I ask one quickly? Among the Palestinians' complaints, not a new one, and the President addressed it, but there is some imprecision here that Israel hasn't released enough people. I mean, they want up to -- estimates going up to 7,000.

The President said he wouldn't ask anybody to release killers, but is there some area, some -- a compromise figure between a few hundred and 7,000 that the United States would like Israel to settle on?

QUESTION: It's certainly something that we are in close consultation with the Israelis on. I don't have any particular updates or figures for you. It's clearly a situation that is very much in process, and if you read, you know, the various news wires from the region, there are a variety of different reports. So it is something that we have spoken to, the President has discussed, and we are in close contact with the Israelis about it.

Terri.

QUESTION: If you can say what the Secretary has recommended to the White House on the Airbridge Denial Program, why, yesterday, could you not say what the State Department's recommendation was to the White House on the fence?

MR. REEKER: I don't believe that I said either.

QUESTION: You said we have said we hope to have the Airbridge Denial Program restarted as soon as possible and the White House will make the decision.

MR. REEKER: That's something -- no. That's something I have said for a long time. That has been the administration's position, Terri, on the Airbridge Denial Program that it was something --

QUESTION: Then why isn't -- go ahead.

MR. REEKER: That it was something that is important. We believe it is important, but it needs to be done correctly. It was suspended because of concerns after the tragic shoot-down, so a thorough review has taken place and all kinds of things have been looked at.

As we have always said from the very beginning, we would hope to restart it as soon as possible. That's the administration's position. I haven't commented on any particular steps taken by the State Department or anyone else.

QUESTION: Oh, so there isn't a formal recommendation made by the Secretary of State that it should be restarted?

MR. REEKER: There may or there may not be. Those are internal deliberations in terms of process. What I indicated to you was any announcement on the restarting of the Airbridge Denial Program would be made, most likely, by the White House.

Yes, sir. In the back.

QUESTION: I'm just thinking of Colombia again. It has to do with a televised interview yesterday to one of the leaders of the AUC. He said that he would propose the State Department to send a delegation to hold parallel negotiations with them about their extradition. My question is: Have you received such a request? And if you do, and you will, will you be able to at least consider such request?

MR. REEKER: Well, as you have known for some time, we have always supported the Government of Colombia's position that it would enter into a peace process with any of the illegal arm groups willing to first declare a ceasefire.

A credible peace process can help end the violence in Colombia and achieve an enduring peace. Still, in terms of U.S. policy, we have insisted that in any process the United States will continue to seek the extradition of any Colombians who have been indicted in the United States now and in the future, including leaders of the AUC, like, Carlos Castano and Salvatore Mancuso.

Gross violators of human rights should be prosecuted for their crimes in Colombia. There should be the rapid disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants. And the Government of Colombia should control any zones in which combatants are concentrated for the purposes of demobilization and disarmament. And that has been our longstanding position.

Sir.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. REEKER: Sure.

QUESTION: There's some reports out of Berlin that the U.S. Government is considering sanctions against a German energy firm called "RWE" for its plans to explore natural gas in Libya. The sanctions would be under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act.

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on it, but I would be happy to check.

QUESTION: But can you say if the United States has raised concerns or can you get me something on that?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on it. It's the first I've heard of it, so I would be happy to check into it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. REEKER: Check with the Press Office in due course.

Matt.

QUESTION: This is a shot in the dark, but --

MR. REEKER: That was a good movie, a Peter Sellers movie in 1962.

QUESTION: Yes, indeed.

QUESTION: Who was his co-star?

(Laughter.)

MR. REEKER: Elke Summer.

QUESTION: Elke Summer?

MR. REEKER: Britt Eckland. I don't know. Anyway, delightful film.

QUESTION: Is there anything at all new to report on North Korea?

MR. REEKER: North Korea. Let's see.

QUESTION: Yes, a resumption of talks?

MR. REEKER: Do you want to give me a hint or something? I mean, are you looking for a particular thing?

QUESTION: "Hellish nightmare, tyrannical dictatorship." That kind of thing?

MR. REEKER: No. We do expect the six-party talks to take place. We expect that to happen in Beijing, but we have nothing to report on dates or preparations or the U.S. delegation members, decisions that the President and the Secretary will make, or other details of the talks. But -- so I guess that's about as far as I can --

QUESTION: Are you at the stage where you might -- where an announcement could be expected in the coming days, or you just have no idea? I mean, this is something, obviously, that the Secretary and the Deputy are talking about with the President while they are down in Crawford. Presumably they could --

MR. REEKER: I would think North Korea is a topic of that. I think, you know, you're talking about six countries, six parties to these talks, so there is clearly, you know, logistical questions and details that have to be worked out with six governments. But at this point, I can say that we do expect the talks to take place in Beijing. I just can't give you a specific date or time.

QUESTION: Is it going to be at the foreign ministers level or --

MR. REEKER: I just answered that question. I said I don't have any information on makeup of the delegations. For our part, that is obviously something that the President and the Secretary will decide upon, in terms of choosing a U.S. delegation. So the only thing I can offer you today, in terms of any news, is that we do expect the talks to take place in Beijing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. REEKER: Last one from Joel.

QUESTION: Over the last week, Secretary Powell has lauded the Saudi Arabians for their anti-terrorism efforts and, "There are more things that all of us can do." And as you know, the Saudis were at the White House last week and came out very dejected. Has there been a change in tone in the last few days?

MR. REEKER: I would caution you, Joel, from trying to read tones or levels of dejection or anything else from daily things. In the Secretary's interview yesterday, he was asked about Saudi Arabia and he said many of the things that he has said before and that we had reiterated from here.

We have a very good cooperation with Saudi Arabia on issues of counterterrorism, particularly since May when al-Qaida attacks occurred in Riyadh, taking the lives of Saudis as well as others. Saudi Arabia is seized with this problem.

Is there more we can do? Absolutely. All of us together, including Saudi Arabia, always looking at further steps we can take to make sure that funding for terrorist organizations is dried up, assets are seized, support is cut off, making sure that support for what would purport to be philanthropic or charitable organizations does not get directed to terrorist organizations who only want to cause harm and the death of innocent civilians.

So these are all things that we continue to work on. We continue to have discussions with Saudi Arabia, as well as so many other countries on this. It's a global effort, a worldwide effort utilizing all the tools available to us. And I think that is reflected in what the Secretary said yesterday. Saudi Arabia has been working closely with us on these matters.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MR. REEKER: Thanks.

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