State Department Noon Briefing, August 6, 2003
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, and welcome back to the State Department. Sorry for the slight delay. I was on the phone with Mr. Armitage, placing my cheeseburger order, and wanted to make sure we got that right. So we can hurry through the briefing today and enjoy our lunches. They are down in Crawford. The Secretary and the Deputy Secretary will be back in Washington later this evening.
I don't have any other formal statements or announcements, so, Mr. Schweid, please do the honors.
QUESTION: Well, Liberia. But, you know, I won't ask you about the operational side -- defense, security and Pentagon. But I want to ask you some, you know, contour questions. Is the U.S., now that it's getting engaged, is the U.S. satisfied with contributions, for instance, that the Europeans are making, humanitarian? They're making no troop contribution. In other words, is this the Africans plus the U.S., or is it the Africans plus the U.S. plus others?
MR. REEKER: Well, I would refer you to the Security Council resolution, Barry, that was passed, as you know, last week on that. The United States, of course, has taken very seriously the situation in Liberia. And as the President indicated to you, as the Secretary said, and we've talked about earlier this week, we are very pleased to see the vanguard forces from Nigeria move into Monrovia, and they are there to pave the way for the rest of the West African force to move in. We are supporting that effort and, as you know, the Pentagon has told you that a team, what they call a liaison team, a small military liaison team, is on the ground there working with the West Africans as part of this continued involvement of the United States.
If you look at the Security Council resolution, it calls on members to support this effort, and certainly today at the United Nations they have been talking about the humanitarian side of this, the real needs that are there to help the Liberian people. That's what we are looking at. I think we would want everyone to take a look at what they can do to support the humanitarian effort and to support and encourage ECOWAS, that is, the West Africans who are leading this, this effort, to provide a stabilization force there so that we can help the Liberian people.
And Secretary Powell just noted that there is hope, I think, that's returned for the people of Liberia. We are pleased with what the Nigerians have been able to do so far, but there is much else to do because of the humanitarian situation on the ground is truly grave.
We continue to be in contact with all the parties to the dispute, that is, in Accra or in Monrovia, to keep working to remind all the combatants that they need to make sure they cooperate with the international peacekeepers and the humanitarian relief workers who should be able to move in and begin relieving the situation.
Our embassy has reported that fighting has pretty much ceased in Monrovia, but that the humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate, so it is very important that we move quickly with this.
QUESTION: Philip, I don't know if you have anything on this because it came out just before the briefing started, but has the State Department or anyone in Washington been alerted by ECOWAS that Charles Taylor is going to have some sort of formal announcement coming out?
MR. REEKER: Just saw it on the wires. I don't know.
MR. REEKER: Our position on Charles Taylor remains what it was, as the President repeated it just a few minutes ago with the Secretary standing by his side, and that is that he needs to step down and he needs to leave the country.
QUESTION: And as far as any waiving of war crimes charges?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new. We have talked about that all week and our position remains exactly what it has been.
QUESTION: Do you have any more specifics on what Pacific Architects & Engineers will be doing, whether they -- I don't know -- will they even be in Monrovia? Will they be armed? What sort of logistical support are we talking about?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I can add to what we have said over the past few days. I think we posted an answer on that last week. Our contract with Pacific Architects & Engineers, PAE, as it's known, will have them be phased in to providing a broad range of logistical support for the operation, for ECOWAS and their work in Liberia. That will include, but not be limited to: air- and sealift operations for moving peacekeepers into Liberia, supplying them, providing equipment maintenance, for instance, and provision of food and water and fuel, which will be important for the ECOWAS forces.
How specific that will be and exactly how that's accomplished I am not in a position at this point to describe, but that was envisioned as something that will begin after the United Nations' logistic support in the first couple of weeks of this deployment of the ECOWAS thing. And then after that, our assistance through this contractor, through Pacific Architects & Engineers, would then kick in to provide the logistic support for them.
QUESTION: Do you know if the assessment of what they are going to be required to do has been completed?
MR. REEKER: I think it is something they have general ideas about. But some of these things, you have to see on the ground as you get there what the needs would be. I just couldn't speak to it in any greater detail at this point.
MR. REEKER: Sure.
Still on Liberia?
QUESTION: No. Can I change --
MR. REEKER: Liberia?
QUESTION: Well, the first three letters are the same.
MR. REEKER: Librarians. What? Please.
QUESTION: Well, do you have anything to say -- what's your understanding of the status of the talks on Lockerbie and Libya?
MR. REEKER: Oh, that country. Libya.
QUESTION: It would be L-I-B.
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything particularly new to say today. As you know, for a long time, discussions between the families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 and the Libyans have been ongoing. That's been many years in the process and progress continues to be made there.
Certainly, Libya has known for some time what they have to do. We have welcomed the families' negotiations for many years, but there has been no change in U.S. policy toward Libya. There are no announcements to make in this regard.
What is important, as we have said before, is that Libya needs to meet the United Nations' requirements, which include an acceptance of responsibility and payment of appropriate compensation. So Libya knows what it needs to do and I will repeat what we have said before: There are no shortcuts or no lowering of the bar for what they need to do in that case.
There have been some press reports, obviously, that I think have cited a meeting that I believe may be taking place in Paris today or beginning today between the lawyers for the Pan Am 103 families and the Libyans. But I would refer you to the lawyers or the Libyans for any discussion of that.
QUESTION: You don't know if there's any -- at any point on his current trip, if Assistant Secretary Burns is going to delve into this issue at all, do you?
MR. REEKER: No indication of that. He is in Moscow and other points, Iraq and others.
QUESTION: Are there any reasons to believe that there might be a U.S.-UK-Libyan trilateral meeting coming up?
MR. REEKER: Not that I have heard of, but I guess we could see. We have had them in the past, but I am not aware of anything formally scheduled at this point.
QUESTION: The two conditions you mentioned, acceptance of responsibility and payment of compensation, as I recall, there were two others. They were a Libyan promise never to engage in terrorism again, and full cooperation with the court. You only mentioned two, though.
MR. REEKER: I think if you look at the United Nations and what the requirements are there and what we have talked about, UN sanctions and the question of that will only be lifted when Libya meets the obligations there that are about paying compensation and acceptance of responsibility. You may be looking at questions about U.S. sanctions and our view of Libya, which is a very different matter.
MR. REEKER: Clearly, we are talking about the same country, we are talking about terrorism, but let's not forget there are two separate issues here. And one is meeting the requirements for lifting of United Nations sanctions, which have been suspended since Libya turned over for trial its two agents some time ago.
QUESTION: It might be worth double-checking that because I thought George was right. I thought those two elements, renunciation of terrorism and cooperation in the investigations on Lockerbie, were part of the UN requirement.
MR. REEKER: I think if you look at what Libya has already done, the things that are outstanding are what we have talked about here. So if you go back to what Libya -- the steps that were taken when the sanctions were suspended, and we can go back to the specifics at that time, I believe this is what remains outstanding in terms of meeting the UN requirements.
QUESTION: And from your point of view, does the acceptance of responsibility have to be in writing?
MR. REEKER: I believe that has been a requirement, but check with the United Nations and what their requirement is. But I do believe that is what we have said in the past.
Anything else on Libya?
MR. REEKER: No? Then the lady back here was going to be next. Hi.
QUESTION: More on the interdiction flights over Colombia. Do you have any announcement for today, first?
And, second, have the UN made any progress in conversations with Colombian border countries, specifically, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, in order to expand these flights?
MR. REEKER: Okay, once again, two separate questions. It is usually easier if we do them one at a time.
I don't have anything to add to what we said yesterday. As we have made quite clear for a long time, we hope to have the Airbridge Denial Program up and running again in the very near future. I don't have anything new. As I said, we have had the internal review of this program, which was suspended after the tragic shoot-down of the missionary aircraft, you will recall.
And as I indicated yesterday, any formal announcement concerning the program will come from the White House. And I think they indicated to you yesterday as well that the State Department has been leading the rigorous and thorough interagency review process over the past year and a half or so, and we are in the final stages of that review and evaluation.
So our overall concern has been to support our allies in Colombia. President Uribe has been doing a terrific job. We have been doing all we can to help them in this effort to combat narcotrafficking, illegal drug trafficking, which, as we know, is also tied in with terrorism. But we want to make sure that that takes place with sufficient protections to make sure that it is done safely, to make sure that it is done just right. So no new announcements today.
On the broader part of your question, we have continued to work with other countries in the region, too. Specifically, in Peru, we have been working with them to help with their programs to curb production and trafficking of drugs in and out of the country. We are discussing with Peruvian Government officials elements of a limited airbridge monitoring program, but there are a number of issues related to infrastructure and training and, similarly, safety that need to be considered and addressed before an aerial interdiction program could be reinitiated with Peru. So that is something that continues to be a topic we are working on with the Peruvians.
QUESTION: What about Venezuela?
MR. REEKER: We continue to talk to all countries in the region about what we can do to work together on this significant international, multinational, multilateral problem. It's really a global problem, and that is narcotrafficking, its ties to terrorism. It affects all of us. And so we have programs with many different countries who are battling this real scourge.
QUESTION: Colombia, also. You have answered some of my questions.
MR. REEKER: But you'll ask them anyway? No?
QUESTION: Excuse me. Would the United States support a change in Colombia's constitution that would allow Colombian President Uribe to stand for reelection?
MR. REEKER: I'll let --
QUESTION: And --
MR. REEKER: Let me just answer that right away. That's a matter for the Colombians to decide. We are not dictating Colombia's constitution.
QUESTION: But would you support that?
MR. REEKER: We don't do -- no, I said that's a matter for the Colombians to decide. I am not going to take a position on some hypothetical statement just because you are making it here in our briefing room.
QUESTION: Okay. Second part?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: And would the United States support a law intending increasing foreign aid to Colombia to continue the reforms in that country?
MR. REEKER: We have a package of support for Plan Colombia. The American people, through the Congress, working through the State Department, have been working very closely with Colombia to support Plan Colombia. And we, as I said earlier, have been very pleased with the efforts that President Uribe has taken because this is something that is important to his country to fight these narcotraffickers who are intimately tied with terrorists, who have terrorized Colombia, who have robbed its people not only in many cases of their lives or their freedom, but of their treasure, and taken away opportunities for Colombians to pursue better lives and more prosperity for their families, for their children and grandchildren, which is something we all want to see improve, as well as stop this drug trade and terrorism which threatens all of us in the region and around the world.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. REEKER: Anything else on Colombia, Latin America?
MR. REEKER: Teri.
QUESTION: Okay. On Saudi Arabia, there is a high-level group of U.S. Government officials there now, including the State Department's own Cofer Black, and they are apparently talking to the Saudis about shutting down even more financing methods for terrorists. And I would also -- in connection with that, I would also like it if you could explain why the State Department is reportedly blocking Treasury on putting sanctions on some of these groups.
MR. REEKER: This has been an ongoing process with the Saudis. We have talked about it for a long time in terms of our counterterrorism cooperation. As Ambassador Black told you himself, I believe it was April 30th when he briefed here on the rollout of our most recent Patterns of Global Terrorism report, he had made two separate trips at that point to Saudi Arabia as part of an interagency team in January and April, and now again in August.
Ambassador Black is part of a team of officials from a variety of agencies in the U.S. Government concerned with counterterrorism that go and work closely with senior officials in Saudi Arabia. It's a long-term pattern of close cooperation on terrorism issues, and as he put it at the time, you know, we are really heading in the right direction on this. As the Secretary noted on Monday, if you follow the news, you can see that the Saudis are taking a number of steps, arresting terrorism -- arresting terrorists, finding caches of weapons, ammunition that were intended to conduct terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia and abroad. They came to the Sharm el-Sheikh summit month before last and committed themselves to stop funding organizations, to make sure that the funding of terrorist organizations was cut off, to do all they can, as we have been with so many countries and under UN Security Council resolutions, to take the financial bite out of terrorist groups.
So there is a constantly improving level of cooperation on this. But, as the Secretary also pointed out and I think we discussed yesterday, we can always do more. And that is why we continue to have the dialogue. That is why we continue to have visits back and forth with officials at a variety of levels and from a variety of agencies to discuss what we can do, what we can do together to fight terrorism.
On the other topic, I would reject the notion that the State Department or any other particular part of the interagency process blocks putting anybody on lists that involve our executive order or terrorist designations. It is a process that is indeed an interagency process. And just as in any law enforcement action, any investigation, when you come up with names or ideas, they get presented, and before you actually take a formal action, you share that information and look to see if it really is the appropriate step to take and at the appropriate time.
And that is what goes on interagency between the Treasury Department, the State Department and other agencies of the government. Obviously, we don't release lists that propose names because that would be highly irresponsible, number one, until you have determined that, in fact, those are individuals or organizations that should be listed under our legislation and regulatory measures.
And, number two, we do not want to give people head starts. If they are up to nefarious things, if they are involved in terrorism, if they do deserve to be listed on these programs to have assets seized or to be, you know, designated as terrorists, then we are not in the habit of trying to give them a head start in terms of moving their assets or moving themselves out of that.
So this is a process that obviously has to take place with a certain amount of discretion and confidentiality and exchange of information between and among agencies in the U.S. Government, and it is obviously an ongoing process.
QUESTION: So are you saying that the names that Treasury has submitted for State Department's consideration are still being looked at, or has there been a decision made that you don't feel that they warrant being put on list?
MR. REEKER: Couldn't say for sure because there is a constant exchange of names all the time between and among agencies, as we look at different things. And one agency may have identified something through a set of information that another agency is able to say, "Oh, we have already looked at that, and, in fact, this is not the appropriate designation at this time," or, "We need to do a little more work on this, look at that a little more deeply." It is an ongoing process.
QUESTION: So would you guess that there still are names that will eventually come out when they are -- I mean, once they are put on the list, of course, we know who they are. Are there names that have gotten through State?
MR. REEKER: Oh, there's lots of people on the list, so clearly there are people that have --
QUESTION: New ones. I mean Saudi groups.
MR. REEKER: As I said, it's an ongoing process and I couldn't predict one way or the other. It's a continuous process. As the President has said, the war on terrorism and all of the efforts we are taking to fight it is an ongoing, long-term process, and each of the agencies involved in the U.S. Government is going to continue to do that as we work with other countries around the world, as well.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. REEKER: Anything else on -- please. Go right ahead.
QUESTION: Me? Okay. I'd like to move on to -- tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the East Africa bombings. Why is the State Department opposed to letting the families who lost loved ones in that, the twin bombings there, apply to the 9/11 Compensation Fund?
MR. REEKER: First of all, I think as we do look at anniversaries such as that, where we lost friends and colleagues and loved ones, and so many people did lose lives or were terribly injured in these brutal, senseless attacks, the administration and the Department of State are sympathetic to all the victims of terrorism for the pain and suffering that they have experienced. And that includes the victims of the East Africa bombings and their families.
The September 11 Fund, which you highlighted, was a special ad hoc program established to address the specific needs of the victims of those tragic events of September 11th, 2001. It was not intended, as it was established, to address the needs of other victims or groups of victims. But certainly recognizing that the various other statutes providing for compensation address the needs of only a few victims or individual groups, Congress turned to us for assistance and we worked very closely with Congress to develop legislation, and we support now the passage of that legislation, which is known as Senate Bill 1275, which would establish a comprehensive benefits program for all U.S. victims of international terrorism.
It provides benefits in line with those provided to families of public safety officers killed in the line of duty, something for which Congress has previously determined that taxpayers would provide compensation. And that is why we have supported this legislation to streamline this approach, to provide equal benefits regardless of earnings potential, for instance; and rather than a lengthy adjudicative or judicial process, to see that all victims, all American victims of terrorism, could be compensated.
QUESTION: Okay. What has the State Department done to improve security worldwide? We know, obviously, there was the Crowe Report, but what has actually been done? It had certain recommendations and --
MR. REEKER: That's right. You are referring to the 1999 report that looked into security after those tragic bombings in East Africa. We have done a lot in the past five years since those bombings.
With Congress' support, obviously, in our budget we have provided almost $6 billion to improve security at embassies and consulates around the world. We have requested another $1.5 billion for our fiscal year 2004 budget.
So there are an extensive number of things that we have done. Broadly speaking, we have improved security at every diplomatic mission abroad since 1998. We have worked very closely with host governments to close streets or change traffic patterns in front of U.S. missions in a number of cities, increasing the presence of host country security personnel at our facilities. That ties in with antiterrorism training and assistance that we have been providing to support foreign police in this area.
We have hired and trained additional Diplomatic Security special agents as well as security engineers and technicians and diplomatic couriers and others supporting that effort here in Washington. And that has meant we have been able to deploy hundreds of additional Diplomatic Security special agents overseas to augment security at our missions, and we have hired more than 10,000 additional local guards at missions around the world.
We have also completed construction of new and secure offices at a number of locations with money that's been provided. Budgetary support since 1999 and a number of other construction projects are in the works at this point.
And we have also done a lot of physical enhancements. I don't want to go into specifics on a number of those things because obviously prudence suggests that we not highlight security steps we have taken, but things like reinforced perimeter walls or installation of bollards and closed-circuit TV cameras, video-recording equipment, shatter-resistant windows, armored vehicles.
These are the types of steps we have taken, as well as purchasing land for new facilities that provides additional setback in locations. Sometimes this means that our embassies can't be located as centrally as they may have been or in downtown areas, but where we can get land, working with host governments to build new facilities that provide that additional security and setback.
So a lot has been done, and a lot has to continue being done. A lot of this is long-term planning, stuff that takes time to implement. But speaking personally and having served overseas, I can see a tremendous number of things that have been done as we examine all of the potential threats that we may face and steps we can take to protect our people and American citizens abroad.
QUESTION: Do you hope once this fund is established that this will reduce the temptation on the part of some families to get compensation through access to frozen assets of countries where terrorist acts were committed?
It seems to me that there have been $300 million or so of Iraqi frozen assets, if I remember correctly, that were used to pay compensation to families of victims. And instead of being available now to the Iraqi people, it has been used for other purposes.
MR. REEKER: I would have to go back and check on that, George. I am not familiar with that.
QUESTION: All right. But you are familiar with the pattern of families of victims using frozen assets as compensation, and it originally was not the purpose of frozen -- of freezing the assets?
MR. REEKER: I think the purpose of the legislation, as I indicated, is to try to streamline the process and provide equal benefits to all Americans who have suffered from terrorism. Right now, there is a sort of ad hoc approach with ad hoc legislation and individual court cases that address needs of certain victims or groups, and it leaves many with nothing.
And I think Congress has spoken out and recognized the shortcomings of this approach, and the need for this kind of comprehensive program that would establish prompt payment of compensation to victims or their families in the time of need, rather than waiting years through judicial or adjudication processes.
And so I think this is a fair and affordable approach for the U.S. taxpayer, keeping in mind that the program would cover all U.S. victims of terrorism and meet the specific criteria that Congress set out with us and what we have tried to do by working together to develop this.
QUESTION: Phil, you talked about this a couple of weeks ago when it was -- when the counsel was up testifying about it. Can you remind us what the amount is that the -- the amount is that you proposed or that is in the legislation for the compensation for each victim? Was it 267 million or something like that?
MR. REEKER: I have a figure here. Hold on a sec.
The comprehensive program provides benefits in line with those provided, as I said, to families of public safety officers killed in the line of duty. for which Congress has already determined a particular amount.
The current amount is $262,000, which is subject to an automatic escalator clause, as the lawyers call it. Those injured or held hostage would receive up to that amount according to a schedule to be established in regulations under the legislation.
So, again, the idea would be to provide an equal benefit regardless of earnings potential and streamline the process.
QUESTION: All right. Now, exactly -- and I asked this question at the time. Exactly why does the State Department believe that the U.S. taxpayer should be -- should have to pay for acts of terrorism committed potentially by agents of another government or a terrorist group or a non-state actor?
MR. REEKER: As I told you, this was something we were directed to do by Congress. In the fall of 2001, Congress directed the President, directed the Executive Branch, to submit a legislative proposal to establish a comprehensive program to ensure fair, equitable and prompt compensation for all programs.
QUESTION: Yeah. But they didn't say that that had -- that program had to come out of the U.S. Treasury, come out of --
MR. REEKER: Well, that was the idea of the program was that this would be just as the program to compensate public service -- public safety officers who were killed in line of duty would do that. That was what they directed us to do. And you will recall that last summer, Deputy Secretary Armitage sent a letter to key members of Congress that set out a bunch of principles for that: that everybody should get the same benefits; they should get it as quickly as possible; and that to preserve the President's prerogatives in making foreign policy, that the money should not come from blocked assets, but this would be something that we provide to Americans who suffer from terrorism as we continue to fight terrorism and try to eliminate it, itself.
And so the Congress has worked with us, took the proposals that we outlined, and submitted it as a legislation that I just mentioned.
QUESTION: All right, and one more thing on this. You say it's in line with what public safety officers get. Well, I'm not exactly sure, as tragic as it may be for someone to become the victim of terrorism, they are not all employees of a state. They are not all working, you know, they are not all -- these things don't happen in the line of duty to the average citizen. Why is it that you think that a person going about his or her daily job and is affected by an act of terrorism merits the same, the same amount to someone who is working or gets injured or killed in the line of duty in terrorist acts is --
MR. REEKER: I think that is what we have looked at as an amount that Congress has already said so that we could provide equal benefit regardless of earnings potential, because everybody suffers from this. Anybody killed -- and I'll let you ask the family of a --
QUESTION: I'm not suggesting that people aren't suffering. I'm just saying that there would seem to be, on the surface, at least, a difference between someone who is a law enforcement officer or a -- well, let's take that -- someone who is a law enforcement officer who is killed or wounded in the line of duty in an act of terrorism and someone who happens to be walking down the street --
MR. REEKER: I think it's probably --
QUESTION: -- not taking any particular risk in their own milieu?
MR. REEKER: I think it's probably a little difficult to tell that to the family of the person that's been killed.
QUESTION: Phil, I'm just, you know, I knew you were going to try and say that, but there is a difference, is there not?
MR. REEKER: Well, Matt, you have asked me a question and I am trying to tell you the answer. I have discussed it already. We have made a view. Congress has expressed views. Currently, there is an ad hoc situation with a variety of legislation that gets passed for this group or that group. What we are trying --
QUESTION: Phil, I'm not quibbling with it. I'm just asking you what the rationale is.
MR. REEKER: I've described it to you, Matt, is that victims of terrorism, we believe, deserve to be compensated. Congress has set levels for those that are killed that are public safety officers, and we believe that the lives of other Americans that are taken are similarly, tragically taken by these acts of terrorism. This is to streamline this, to provide equal benefits, regardless of earnings potential, to all Americans who are victims of terrorism and so that we don't have to go through an ad hoc process every time, and lengthy, lengthy judicial proceedings.
These families that are left with family members, often income earners killed by terrorist acts, need the assistance quickly. They need it at that time of need. And we believe it's fair to equate public benefits for victims with those afforded public safety officer who undertake tremendous personal sacrifices, as you noted, for the safety and welfare of our nation.
QUESTION: Phil, can you -- and if you can't, that's fine, but is it possible for you to explain just briefly what the automatic escalator clause is? I didn't --
MR. REEKER: It isn't. I am not a lawyer and I can't get into details about automatic escalator clauses. I would be happy to let you read --
QUESTION: You mentioned it. I was just wondering what you meant.
MR. REEKER: I was putting it out there as a point. An automatic escalator clause, as I would understand it, is one that can -- it increases automatically based on inflation or other factors. But I would want to get you a specific detail, or invite you to read the legislation yourself at any point. There may be some additional language which would help you to write the detailed explanation.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a separate thing? On Aliev, the President of Azerbaijan, are you --
MR. REEKER: No.
QUESTION: Oh, you -- sorry.
MR. REEKER: We have lots of other people with questions.
QUESTION: On the same subject, Phil, is this the Armitage -- Armitage drew up a proposal on this last year, as directed by Congress? Is that what you said?
MR. REEKER: Well, Congress directed the President, the Executive Branch, to submit a legislative proposal to establish this type of comprehensive and equitable program --
QUESTION: Okay. And in that --
MR. REEKER: In response to that, since the State Department was given the lead in doing this, the Deputy Secretary provided a letter to Congress last summer outlining the administration's principles for such a program. And as we have moved forward on those principles, that is what has guided the legislation.
QUESTION: Okay, and this is just something -- because I don't know what Congress asked the State Department to do. Was it possible that the State Department could recommend in those proposals that it be looked again at blocked assets, or was that never one of the options that State Department had with how to come up with this money? Because I think some of the -- one of the questions that we are wondering is not that whether it's -- well, Matt was asking whether it's fair to equate them with public safety officers, but also, is it fair to take taxpayer money instead of use the blocked assets of countries that are committing this. And --
MR. REEKER: Two points there. In addition to Matt's question, which addresses it more, I think he was suggesting, you know, should these people get as much as those public safety officers who was killed. One of the questions is: Should they get much, much more through lengthy judicial procedures and lawsuits? And what we think is that those that do put their lives on the line are entitled to amounts as well, you know, to be treated equally and fairly as all victims.
To your broader question, as we have said for a long time, the President's prerogative, in terms of making foreign policy and obligations under international conventions and commitments, is something constitutionally, as well, we don't believe should be impeded. And so constitutions# should not come from blocked assets, in order to preserve the President's prerogative. It is the same position that we have taken all along on these issues. And that is why this was one of the criteria we looked at in working with Congress on this legislation.
QUESTION: Phil, aren't you concerned that by having the taxpayer fund this, you are going to absolve those responsible of responsibility? And just taking the question that came up earlier today about Libya and Lockerbie, for Libya to get off the UN -- the sanctions and the U.S. sanctions, they have to pay compensation as specifically outlined.
Under this proposal, if that happened now, how does that work? Do they -- does the country committing the act have to pay something as well, on top of what the taxpayers are doing?
MR. REEKER: I think there are other factors. This is about immediate, comprehensive, equitable compensation of American victims --
QUESTION: Okay. So it doesn't --
MR. REEKER: -- and other factors. I would have to get you the lawyers, Matt, and go through the legislation. I haven't read it to the point of detail that you obviously want and I can't offer you any more, I don't think, this afternoon on this.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then do you happen to know though if, in accepting this compensation, if a victim accepts the taxpayer-funded compensation, if they are then enjoined from seeking compensation from those responsible?
-- Correction: compensation should not come from... MR. REEKER: I would have to look at the legislation, Matt.
Anything else on this?
MR. REEKER: Sir.
QUESTION: On Kosovo. In the recent days, a new series of killings started in Kosovo?
MR. REEKER: A new series of?
QUESTION: Of killings, killings.
MR. REEKER: Killings.
QUESTION: In Kosovo, Serbia, creating the kind of tension in the Western Balkans. And I was wondering if you had anything to say on that?
MR. REEKER: Well, the one thing I would certainly note is that we -- the United States joins the United Nations Special Representative in Kosovo, the acting Special Representative, in strongly condemning the murder of a UN police officer, Satish Menon, who was a police officer from India who was killed on August the 4th in the line of duty while serving as part of the United States Missions in Kosovo.
This crime, other than a callous murder, is also a crime against Kosovo's civil institutions, against the rule of law, by some criminal elements determined to derail the progress that we have seen in Kosovo. Kosovo has made a lot of progress towards achieving a stable, democratic and secure society.
And you will recall that we have established a variety of benchmarks, goals that the people in Kosovo should be working towards. Our chief of the U.S. office in Pristina, Marcie Ries, has similarly issued a statement deploring the murder of this police officer and reminding all the people in Kosovo that this type of attack is an attack against Kosovo's civil institutions.
So we are urging anybody that has knowledge of the crime or the persons involved with it to come forward, so that justice can be done. That is going to be an important step in this.
QUESTION: Any plans for more practical steps in order to prevent that type of crimes besides with the diplomatic efforts you mentioned?
MR. REEKER: Well, law enforcement is an important part of the civil society in Kosovo. And I think they will continue with the UN police, working with local authorities, to do everything they can to prevent these kinds of attacks. But people should be very aware that those perpetrating that type of attack are attacking the institutions of the society itself.
QUESTION: With respect to possibly Kosovo, but Milosevic is under trial at the World Court and he --
MR. REEKER: It's actually not. It's at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
QUESTION: Right, at The Hague. And he refuses to talk unless he's under public TV, and investigators want information. Have we worked out with the UN and other bodies specifics when a dictator such as that would come to trial? He's --
MR. REEKER: Milosevic has been on trial.
QUESTION: He's been under -- he's been in trial, right, but --
MR. REEKER: I would refer you to the court for any details on the status of his trial. We have supported the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia extensively, including with extensive material and information to support the prosecution in that case against Slobodan Milosevic. So I am not quite sure what you are asking.
QUESTION: Well, in other words, he wants to possibly turn this into a further sideshow.
MR. REEKER: Joel, I think you are kind of a couple of years behind the times and we have watched this case --
QUESTION: No, this is --
MR. REEKER: -- if you want to get the latest details on the trial of Slobodan Milosevic --
QUESTION: This is in today's news, though.
MR. REEKER: Then I refer you to the court. Okay?
QUESTION: All right.
MR. REEKER: Arshad.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about President Aliyev of Azerbaijan? Is he indeed in Cleveland for medical treatment? Do you know what his status is?
MR. REEKER: We have been informed that President Heider Aliyev is en route to the United States for medical treatment. I don't have any other details besides that or when he would arrive or if he has arrived, and so I would just direct you to the Azerbaijani Government or perhaps their embassy here for any other details they can release about his situation.
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: No, go ahead. I've got something else, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Indonesia. I was just wondering if there is any update on the situation from yesterday's bombing?
MR. REEKER: Let me just find that. I don't think there's anything --
MR. REEKER: -- new to report. Indonesian authorities are investigating the deadly terrorist attack. We remain ready to assist in any way that they may determine is useful.
QUESTION: They haven't --
MR. REEKER: I note that the attack has been condemned widely within Indonesia. Our embassy has reported on that, including a prominent Muslim group, or several prominent Muslim groups and leading religious figures.
The American citizen who was hospitalized with second-degree burns was taken to Singapore. And as I think I mentioned yesterday, we have sent a Warden message to the local American citizen community to note the details of the attack. I think you have seen that.
QUESTION: Yet you don't know if they have -- the Indonesians have taken you up on your offer of assistance, though?
MR. REEKER: I don't know at this point. I think they need to conduct their preliminary investigation. They can let us know what we might be able to provide in terms of help and assistance along the way.
QUESTION: There's another report out of Japan about the possibility of a Japanese-South Korean-U.S. meeting ahead of six-way talks on North Korea, saying it's likely to be late next week or early the following week. Do you have anything on that? And do you have anything on dates for possible six-way --
MR. REEKER: No dates. Can't move you any further than we were yesterday when I mentioned that we expect the talks to be held in Beijing. We are planning and coordinating with partners and allies all the time, but I don't have anything to report now on, as I said, on dates. But the talks -- nothing is scheduled in terms of other details or meetings. I mean, we expect to be in touch with allies and partners, but I don't have anything on any specific meetings.
George, and then we will move back this way.
QUESTION: On Iraq, a WMD question. Does the Secretary stand by all aspects of his February 5th presentation on Iraqi weapons that he made on February 5th, as far as you know?
MR. REEKER: As far as I know, as he made February 5th, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. There's no element of that testimony that he has had second thoughts about?
MR. REEKER: I haven't asked the Secretary in the last 48 hours, George, but -- because I haven't been with him, so -- happy to do so.
QUESTION: As of 48 hours ago, that was the case?
MR. REEKER: As far as I know, George, yeah. Is there some specific point to your question or -- no?
QUESTION: You'll see.
MR. REEKER: Okay.
QUESTION: On Iraq, for the countries who are willing to contribute troops to the stabilization force but looking for a UN or NATO mandate, is the State Department considering any other options such as joint invitation by the Governing Council, the Iraqi Council?
MR. REEKER: I haven't heard that one. I don't have anything to add to what we have said, what the Secretary has told you. We are looking at opportunities, things we might do. We are having discussions with other countries. I think President Bush has said, and many countries agree, that Resolution 1483 gives wide latitude and opportunities for countries to participate. And we encourage countries to participate to help the Iraqi people, to help the region.
Indeed, we think it is in everyone's interest to help with the stability there and with the security, with the reconstruction, which are priorities. You know, there has been discussion at the United Nations of a presidential statement. There have been various other discussions that have been undertaken. And we continue to talk to other countries about this, but I don't have any specifics like what you suggested.
QUESTION: Is there any evidence that -- from Indonesia part of -- any part that indicate that U.S. personnel were targeted in Jakarta's bombing?
MR. REEKER: Not that I know of. As I indicated, the Indonesians are investigating this case, but I don't think I could single out and suggest that Americans were targeted. The people that were killed were largely Indonesians -- innocent civilians of, perhaps, a variety of nationalities, killed and injured by, again, a ruthless terrorist attack with no aim and absolutely no justification.
It has shown again that terrorism is a global phenomenon that knows no borders. And similar to the attacks in another part of Indonesia in Bali some months back, many innocent people have lost their lives because of these murderers.
Let me do here, and then we will come back to Matt. Yeah.
QUESTION: On the Middle East, do you have anything to say about the release of the Palestinian prisoners?
MR. REEKER: Middle East. Let's look at the Middle East, shift brain patterns for a few minutes here.
You know, generally, we have supported, of course, the efforts of both sides to make progress on prisoner releases and we continue to consult with the Israelis and Palestinians on the issue of prisoner releases. I don't have anything specific. I have seen a variety of wire stories and things coming out of the region on that. But it is something we have encouraged, in terms of making progress on that, and we will keep in touch with both sides on it.
QUESTION: Phil, were you able to get an answer to the question about -- that was raised yesterday about the German utility company possible -- and the State Department reportedly warning them to -- that they might be subject to that?
MR. REEKER: As you know, I think everybody is aware, or should be, that United States policy has long been opposed to investment in the petroleum sector of Libya. And we have a law, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which provides for sanctions in the case of certain such investments. That remains U.S. law.
And that means that reports, such as those about a recent agreement by the firm RWE to explore for oil and gas in Libya, those reports are of concern to us. And we normally raise our concerns with appropriate parties, including companies and governments, and we have done so in this case with the company and with the German Government. So we will look closely at the facts and review them in the light of our law.
QUESTION: But there hasn't been -- there hasn't been any decision made one way or another as to whether to actually impose any penalty against --
MR. REEKER: No, I think, as in any of these cases that get looked at under this law, we would follow the same procedure, evaluate the facts, determine whether sanctionable activity has taken place. And if it has, then decide, in light of our national interests, what action under the law we would take. So I can't prejudge anything at this point.
QUESTION: And just on this in general, on ILSA, are you aware of any sanctions ever being imposed on a company, a foreign company, under this -- under this law?
MR. REEKER: I would have to go back and check. I believe so, but I would have to check. I don't know. I am happy to look into it.
MR. REEKER: Okay.
QUESTION: In raising your concerns on that, have you made it clear to the German Government and to this company, RWE, that they could face sanctions?
MR. REEKER: Yeah. I mean, I think -- frankly, I think people are quite aware of our law. But that is why we raise it with them, to tell them about our concerns, based on the reports we have seen, and that we are going to look at the facts and review them, and in light of the law.
QUESTION: I just want to follow up on my taken question yesterday about Iraq being taken off the list.
MR. REEKER: Oh, right. I think we gave you -- let's see. But I know that doesn't work for TV always.
QUESTION: I don't think you did put it out. Did you?
MR. REEKER: No, I was told somebody had called you and given you all the answers, but I'm happy just to go through them here.
QUESTION: Not true.
MR. REEKER: Iraq, as you will recall, was dropped from the list of countries not cooperating fully with U.S. antiterrorism efforts because, obviously, since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has been cooperating.
The statutes concerning designation of state sponsors of terrorism have a different criteria, and so at this point we haven't recommended the removal of Iraq from the so-called terrorism list. The President has exercised his authority under the wartime supplemental to make a section of the Foreign Assistance Act, under which governments were designated as State Sponsors, inapplicable with respect to Iraq. So the designation was made inexplicable. This had the practical effect --
QUESTION: "Inapplicable," you must mean.
QUESTION: You just said "inexplicable."
MR. REEKER: Sorry.
MR. REEKER: Yeah, probably. You know, I should have just had the lawyers come and do the whole briefing today.
The designation -- didn't we go through this when the President did this? He exercised his authority, which makes the Foreign Assistance Act section inapplicable --
MR. REEKER: -- it was clearly a Freudian slip -- with respect to Iraq. Anyway, cutting to the right line, the practical effect of this puts Iraq on par with non-terrorist states.
QUESTION: Okay, then what's left to just -- why wouldn't you just remove it?
MR. REEKER: Because Iraq's name can be legally removed from the state sponsors list when it has a government in place that pledges not to support acts of terrorism in the future.
QUESTION: Okay, so the Secretary just misspoke of it and should have said, "Well, practically, they are off the list," not, "They are off the list"?
MR. REEKER: I wouldn't even say that. His point was to respond to the question in an interview about -- and the question was posed, "No countries have changed their behavior?" And his point was to say that the law under which governments are designated state sponsors no longer applies with respect to Iraq.
QUESTION: This is another shot in the dark from yesterday.
MR. REEKER: I went back, and it was Elke Summer.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have anything to say about Iceland's announcement that it's going to resume whaling?
MR. REEKER: Iceland. Well, let me say that the United States is extremely disappointed with Iceland's decision to begin a lethal research whaling program, which they have said anticipates the taking of 30 minke whales. Since Iceland's announcement earlier this year of its intent to begin killing whales, the United States has urged Iceland in numerous fora to refrain from commencing this program.
You will recall, perhaps, from a little earlier this summer that at the International Whaling Commission meeting in June, we co-sponsored a resolution urging Japan to terminate and Iceland not to commence lethal research whaling for -- well, that's what we urged. Another one done by the lawyers.
QUESTION: The rest of it's inexplicable.
MR. REEKER: The position is consistent, of course, with our previous positions on lethal scientific whaling. And I would point out that while Iceland's program is technically legal under the Whaling Convention, the United States believes that the lethal research on whales they proposed is not necessary and that the needed scientific data can be obtained by other well-established, non-lethal means, and the taking of whales will likely trigger a review of Iceland's lethal scientific whaling program for possible certification under the Pelly Amendment, which provides for a range of U.S. responses.
MR. REEKER: Including trade sanctions for activities violating international conservation agreements.
QUESTION: Okay, and one more, just one more on Iceland. I don't expect you to have an answer to this, but do you know, has there been a final decision been made yet about the planes at Keflavik?
MR. REEKER: We have ongoing discussions with our longstanding ally, Iceland, about, you know, under NATO, various deployments and what's the right way. I don't have anything new to report. We continue to discuss these matters with the Icelanders.
Joel, and then -- sorry, I look this side, I look that side, I never look straight ahead. We'll get to you in a sec.
QUESTION: A UN-directed team has been in Tehran and has apparently been looking again at the --
MR. REEKER: That would be the IAEA team I have discussed the last two days.
QUESTION: Right. Are you satisfied with the responses that they have gotten?
MR. REEKER: I think it's premature, Joel, to say. As I have said the last two days, we will look forward to the report of the IAEA, which will be discussed -- we expect the report the end of this month, and it's to be discussed an International Atomic Energy Association Board of Governors meeting, I believe, in September.
QUESTION: Yes, let me get back onto North Korea.
MR. REEKER: North Korea. We are going back to North Korea. Yeah.
QUESTION: Senior Vice Foreign Minister of Japan will be meeting with Assistant Secretary Kelly this morning. Can you say anything on that?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I knew that. I will have to check with Assistant Secretary Kelly's office on that, the talks. We have, you know, a regular conversation with Japan. I just want to make sure that they haven't given me some point on that.
No, I will double-check on that meeting.
MR. REEKER: But it is in line with our ongoing dialogue with these countries.
QUESTION: Also it is the Japanese -- today it's the 58th anniversary of A-bomb on Hiroshima. On yesterday, mayor of Hiroshima showed -- he sent a very strong warning against the United States on the lowering of the power of the use of nuclear weapons. Maybe he is pointing out the (inaudible) nuclear weapons of development researching. And that might be an issue of Pentagon, but can you say anything on that?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think this same question, the basis of this was asked of me last year, which points out that I always happen to be the one briefing in August. But I don't have any particular comments to offer on comments from a mayor. He is obviously expressing his own views, as he is free to do, and as I said last year.
QUESTION: Okay. Also, he invite President Bush and Mr. Kim to Hiroshima yesterday. Can you say anything on that also?
MR. REEKER: I didn't even see that. And we have a very strong and close relationship with Japan, which we conduct through the national government of Japan. And, as you noted, I am going to check on what meetings we have had today with Japanese officials. And so that continuing dialogue on so many areas of concern with our close ally, Japan, goes on.
QUESTION: Thank you
MR. REEKER: Gene.
QUESTION: One last one. Would you take the question how much is in the Iraq Development Fund at this point? This is the --
MR. REEKER: Gene, I will have to look into it. I don't have that.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 p.m.)
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