State Department Noon Briefing, August 27, 2003
|Wednesday August 27, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 27, 2003
1:20 p.m. EDT
MR. REEKER: Well, welcome back to the State Department on this Wednesday. I am certainly pleased to be here and I would like to start with one statement and we will put this out in paper copy at the end of the briefing. That is regarding the appointment of the National Electoral Council in Venezuela.
The United States joins Secretary General Gaviria of the Organization of American States in welcoming the designation of the new National Electoral Council in Venezuela. This is an important and necessary step in fulfilling the commitments made in the May 29th agreement between the government and opposition in Venezuela.
We expect that this decision will facilitate the peaceful, democratic, constitutional and electoral solution to Venezuela's political crisis, which was called for in the OAS Permanent Council Resolution Number 833.
And with that, I am happy to try to answer your questions on that or anything else.
QUESTION: On North Korea, I know you're loaded for bear and could you --
QUESTION: -- could you give us a rundown on the talks?
MR. REEKER: A rundown?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any adjectives and I don't have any adverbs, but I can tell you that the six delegations met in plenary session today in Beijing from 9:00 a.m. to about 4:00 p.m. with a break for lunch.
The six delegations delivered opening presentations of their positions. As anticipated, as we have talked about, Assistant Secretary Kelly had an informal exchange with North Korean representatives in the plenary meeting room at the end of the day, and there will not be any separate, formal bilateral meetings with the North Koreans as we have also said before.
I would just remind you what a senior official told you in a full briefing last Friday, that this is a process, it's the beginning of a process, and so I don't have further details to offer regarding the substance of these talks. We expect another plenary session tomorrow, I believe, there, in Beijing, and will continue as such.
QUESTION: If you don't have details, do you have a characterization of how things went?
MR. REEKER: No. No adjectives, no adverbs. We did what I just said we did.
QUESTION: Well, I knew you were loaded for bear on this one.
QUESTION: Phil, the --
MR. REEKER: Sorry.
QUESTION: Although there are not going to be any separate, formal bilateral meetings, would, could there -- might there be another informal exchange such as the one that happened today, tomorrow our -- the next day?
MR. REEKER: I suppose, in theory, that's possible. The whole --
QUESTION: You're not ruling that out when you say there will not be any separate --
MR. REEKER: There will not be any separate, formal bilateral meetings with the North Koreans. That's a fact.
QUESTION: But you don't intend to rule out --
MR. REEKER: That's what we have always told you.
QUESTION: -- with that, by saying that you don't intend to rule out another informal exchange --
MR. REEKER: No. The informal exchange is, as we have said all along, when you are in a room with six delegations --
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. I know. I know. I just want to make sure that you're not saying that --
MR. REEKER: -- there's an opportunity for anybody to say anything to anybody else within, between, and among all of the people that make up those six delegations participating in the talks.
QUESTION: Did the North Koreans share any information that the Assistant Secretary found new or significant?
MR. REEKER: I'm just not in a position to try to do that kind of description regarding substance of the discussions from one direction or the other.
They -- each of the delegations offered opening presentations of their positions and we proceeded with the talks, as I described, and I'm just not going to be able to get into anything else.
QUESTION: Has Mr. Kelly asked for new instructions from Washington?
MR. REEKER: Don't know. I'm not aware of that kind of detail in the talks. We expect, as I said, another plenary session tomorrow. And so that's where we'll wait and see and try to keep you posted as they meet. Obviously, in Beijing it's the middle of the night, so we'll see where we are tomorrow.
QUESTION: At the risk of belaboring something that's just not going to get answer, there were reports out of Tokyo that the North Koreans raised the issue of a non-aggression pact and that the Americans rejected this. Do you want to respond to that now?
MR. REEKER: I just am not going to try to describe substance of the discussions. Our position on that type of thing has been well discussed. Even yesterday, again, Deputy Secretary Armitage made quite clear, as the President has stated in his comments, that we have no desire to invade, no desire to attack North Korea.
What these talks are about, what our goals are, is what was described for you in many different fora and as I have said from here, we're about complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of the nuclear weapons program in North Korea, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the lessening of tensions. And so that's our focus. Obviously, it would be the substance of our presentation and what we are in these talks to discuss.
MR. REEKER: Elise.
QUESTION: There were also reports that there were actually more than one informal exchange. Can you just --
MR. REEKER: You know, it's so hard to describe informal exchange when you're in a room. A lot of people are in a room and they are participating in talks. As I said, there was an informal exchange where Assistant Secretary Kelly talked -- I believe it was for about 35 or 40 minutes -- with North Korean representatives there in the plenary meeting room at the end of the day.
And you know, obviously, as human beings encounter each other, there are other opportunities for informal exchanges. So that type of thing may happen throughout the course of these talks. That is part of what multiparty talks are about.
But this is taking place in a multilateral setting, you know, in a plenary room with all six delegations there because all of these countries have an interest in pursuing these talks; these talks, obviously, including South Korea and Japan, China, Russia and the North Koreans. They include countries that have serious equities and serious interests in the goals that I just described in terms of a non-nuclear and denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
QUESTION: What kind of impression do you have regarding with North Korean attitude? Was it harder than your anticipation, or they were more flexible than you expect?
MR. REEKER: I know it is very disappointing to you, but I just am not going to try to do descriptives. I don't have any adjectives. I put them all away. We are going to continue with this process. We are going to continue with these talks, and I am just not going to try to describe views. I know you are seeing lots of various reports out there from various and sundry sources but this is where we are going to stay right now.
Anything else on North Korea?
Then, Carol, please go ahead.
QUESTION: Can we talk a little bit about Iran?
MR. REEKER: Sure.
QUESTION: Given that this new IAEA report is out there now, there was a -- there have been reports out of Moscow today that the Iranians are prepared to sign an agreement with the Russians, and that the Russians are -- you know that, to send waste back to Russia -- and that this would clear the way for the Russians soon to provide fuel for Bushehr. Is that -- what do you think about that?
Do you think that -- especially since Under Secretary Bolton has just been in Moscow -- is that your understanding of the way things go -- are going? Are you concerned?
Do you still believe that the Russians are going to send that fuel soon to Bushehr?
MR. REEKER: A number of those questions are obviously things you need to ask the Russians. I am not going to try to speak for them or characterize them. Let's just --
QUESTION: But Bolton was just there.
MR. REEKER: Let's just, yeah, let's start with that, since Bolton was just there.
We talked a bit about that yesterday. Under Secretary Bolton, in fact, yesterday, Tuesday, was in Paris, where he met with French Deputy Secretary General for Political and Security Affairs Stanislas Lefevre de Laboulaye to discuss a wide range of nonproliferation issues that included discussions in advance of the September 8th meeting of the Board of Governors of the IAEA that will take place in Geneva. That will address concerns -- sorry. Pardon me, Vienna, yeah -- that will address concerns about the Iranian nuclear program. They also had the opportunity to discuss North Korea and the Proliferation Security Initiative.
Today Under Secretary Bolton is in Rome for discussions with Italian officials. He had met Monday, as we discussed yesterday, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Kislyak to address a wide range of nonproliferation issues with them as well.
It is really the latest in a series of ongoing discussions with the Russians about that. One of the subjects, obviously, is the issue of Iran and our concerns about that. He also met, I think I mentioned it yesterday, with the Russian Minister of Atomic Energy, Rumyantsev, and the purpose was, again, to consult with the Russians prior to the September 8th meeting in Vienna.
So I guess, then, to step to the next part of your question, we clearly have concerns about Iran, about their nuclear programs. There's nothing new in that. We have made that quite clear. In terms of the IAEA, the Director General's report on Iran's nuclear program has been circulated to the 35 members of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors. It has not yet been released to the public, and even though you all think you have copies of the authentic text, I am just not in a position to really comment on it or discuss anything that is purported to be in the report. We do find Iran's nuclear activities troubling. We have talked about that for some time
We think that Iran's nuclear ambitions prevent -- present a serious challenge to the entire international community, and specifically to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, which is based on the Nonproliferation Treaty.
And so we have been looking forward, as we review the report, to discussing it September 8th, in Vienna, and to meeting with the other IAEA board members, and to coordinate an appropriately strong response to the report. But I am not going to try to shadow or preview that now.
We have steadfastly supported the IAEA effort to bring about the facts of Iran's nuclear program, to bring those facts to light. And until Iran has fully satisfied IAEA's questions and fully addressed the concerns of the international community, including a full, immediate and unconditional implementation of the additional protocol, which we have discussed before, then we believe that no country should be engaging in nuclear cooperation with Iran, and that is the view that we expressed to Russia as well.
QUESTION: Can I just finish, because my question was actually a little more specific than that.
The fact that the Russians are saying today that Iran has agreed to sign this agreement under which they would commit to send this nuclear waste back to Moscow or back to Russia, therefore clearing the way for the Russians to continue cooperation with Iran and, in fact, to go and give them the spent fuel they need to start up Bushehr, did Under Secretary Bolton get any commitments? How do you view those reports? Do you find them accurate? Do they comport with what --
MR. REEKER: I can't -- okay. I think I answered at least half of that question. In terms of finding them accurate, I've seen the reports, you'd have to ask the Russians. I can't comment on Russians or commitments that Iran has reported to have made to Russia.
In terms of our views of the overall situation, as I just said, until Iran satisfies the IAEA's questions and fully addresses the concerns of the international community, including full, immediate, unconditional implementation of the additional protocol, to the Nonproliferation Treaty, we believe that no country should be engaging with Iran in nuclear cooperation, and that would include Russia.
So that is our concern. Iran has an opportunity to address these concerns, and it is obviously a subject we will discuss in Vienna when the Board of Governors meets.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, how do you feel about Russia, though? They continue to do this, apparently, and yet, you know, they're seated at the table with you in Beijing, you know, trying to put the North Korean --
MR. REEKER: Well, they are very different situation, Carol.
QUESTION: Well, they're both proliferation.
MR. REEKER: I mean, there is not a cookie-cutter approach to proliferation or any other issue in diplomacy, as you well know.
We have ongoing discussions with Russia about dozens and dozens of issues. We are working with Russia on the North Korea issue. They are, as you pointed out, one of the six parties in Beijing on these talks. They have made their own public statements about their views on the need for a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula.
On the issue of nuclear cooperation with Russia, we have had -- with Iran, we have had differences with Russia on this, and we have been quite clear about that. We have had a series of discussions including the discussions that Under Secretary Bolton has participated in in both capitals and at other opportunities, and it is something, clearly, we can discuss in the multilateral forum of the IAEA Board of Governors meeting, where we have the report from the IAEA to review, and to discuss, and to come up with an appropriately strong response to that report.
So it is an ongoing process, and something that we will obviously keep well engaged with the Russians on.
Anything else on Iran or the IAEA?
MR. REEKER: Vienna or anything else? Nothing else?
Matt. Surely, Matt has something else. Don't tell me I spent all these hours --
QUESTION: I have plenty. Can you elaborate at all on Deputy Secretary Armitage's comments yesterday in this interview with the regional syndicates about the United States and others at the UN exploring the possibility of UN leadership for the stabilization force as long as there is an American who is in command?
MR. REEKER: I think what the Deputy Secretary was referring to was the type of thing I discussed yesterday, and the Secretary has referred to in his remarks, including up in New York last week -- that we are talking to other Security Council members, other interested parties, on a regular basis about different ideas, different possibilities.
Our goals for Iraq are well known. We have Resolution 1483 in place, which provides opportunities and incentive and encouragement for countries to participate in Iraq; and indeed, many countries are. I think 29 countries is the number the Deputy Secretary had yesterday, are on the ground working on stabilization along with and includes the coalition countries and the United States.
As part of that, there are other countries that are about to deploy as part of that, and additional ones that are still thinking about that. So we are looking for opportunities, possibilities, ideas. There are no determinations yet about any particular resolution or any specific language. But as Deputy Secretary Armitage indicated, that is an ongoing process.
I think the President was quite clear in his remarks yesterday about our goals for Iraq, the need for stabilization, the need to stick with the Iraqi people as they move on to a more positive future.
QUESTION: But that specific idea, though, can you explain what your thinking is on --
MR. REEKER: No, it is one of the many ideas that are out there, that have been enunciated by a variety of people, some of it talked about publicly, some of it privately. We just continue
to have those discussions and we will see where it leads.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I just want to make sure that I understand. He is not talking about what the Secretary General and what Secretary Powell seem to have ruled out already, which is a blue-helmeted, a, you know, UN force; but he is talking about a UN-mandated multinational force that would be commanded by an American general. That's the idea? It's not the --
MR. REEKER: That's an idea that I believe others have put out there. It's not an idea that we are necessarily, the plenary --
QUESTION: Well, the Deputy Secretary brought it up himself.
MR. REEKER: Yeah. If you read his transcript, from the context --
QUESTION: I did. And I realize that it's an idea, one of many ideas, but I want to make sure that I understand the specifics of that particular idea.
MR. REEKER: I don't think I can give you any more specifics of that particular idea. I think he wasn't providing any more specifics either.
QUESTION: Well, I think you just did. I know, which is why I'm asking you.
MR. REEKER: Right.
QUESTION: And if you don't want to, that's fine. But I think you just did. You're not talking about a blue-helmeted force. What this particular idea would be is a UN-mandated multinational force with an American general commanding it. Is that correct?
MR. REEKER: It could be. That's one idea. Matt, I can't, because I'm not trying to give credence to any particular single idea.
QUESTION: Well, it's a bit late.
MR. REEKER: What Deputy Secretary Armitage indicated in his discussion with some of your colleagues yesterday, as we have indicated all along, is that there are a variety of ideas and a variety of language and possibilities for moving forward that we are discussing with any number of countries and with the Secretary General, with Kofi Annan. And at this point, I just, you know, can't really move it in any particular direction. But what he indicated was that that discussion is going on and there are ideas like this out there.
QUESTION: On the Middle East? Can you -- Yasser Arafat made a public statement in the last 24 hours calling for all parties to recognize the ceasefire. Can you say what your reaction is to this?
MR. REEKER: I think our view has been quite clear. Terrorism has to stop now. There has to be an end to violence. It has to be unconditional. We've got to end the violence. We have said that all along. The roadmap talks about that. We certainly discussed that yesterday. And so that is our view.
We remain in close consultation with both sides. As I have indicated all this week, bringing about an end to terror, violence and the death of innocent people and making possible progress toward the President's vision of two states remains the focus of our efforts. The roadmap contains the commitments of both sides, and it is essential that the Israelis and Palestinians rededicate themselves to those objectives.
As we have also said, the core of this issue is the need for the Palestinians to exert maximum effort to end terror and violence. It's not about personalities. That's not what's important. It's about performance and making good on the commitments that they have made.
And to achieve progress, it is essential that the Palestinian security services take concrete steps now to confront those responsible for the terror and violence that undermine the pursuit of peace, to confront the enemies of peace and rip them out root and branch. They are people that are against the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
And, once again, we would say strongly that all Palestinian security services must be consolidated under the authority of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. It's what the roadmap calls for, it's what the Palestinians have committed to do, and it's what must be done as soon as possible.
QUESTION: So, although all security services must be consolidated under Abbas, since it's not about personalities, if Yasser Arafat is the one calling for the ceasefire and those parties were to recognize the ceasefire once again, that would be seen as a welcome step?
MR. REEKER: What we have said is stop terrorism now. There is no excuse for the violence. It's unconditional. As Deputy Secretary Armitage said yesterday in the same interview that Matt was discussing earlier, Chairman Arafat is, once again, showing that he is against the interests of the Palestinian people if he prevents the consolidation of the security forces. He is against the progress and against the two-state future, as the President has called for. That is what we continue to call for and what we continue to press for in our dialogue with both sides.
QUESTION: If I could just try one more time. I understand what Deputy Secretary Armitage said about -- yesterday about Yasser Arafat and the consolidation of the security services. But you're not saying today, in response to Yasser Arafat's call for all the Palestinian parties to recognize the ceasefire once again, that Yasser Arafat is against the -- you don't think that this particular action that he took today is against the aspirations of the Palestinians?
MR. REEKER: Our view is that terrorism has to stop. Violence has to stop. I mean, nothing has changed in respect to Arafat. The Secretary has made perfectly clear that Arafat is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and I think that is clear to anybody that looks at the situation.
So any parties that remain in contact with Arafat need to make clear that he needs to move now to permit the consolidation of all of the Palestinian security services under Prime Minister Abbas, as the roadmap calls for.
QUESTION: Phil, I'm just a little puzzled about how you can say that this is not about personalities when you spent the last 14 months specifically trying to isolate and get rid of one personality in particular. And yesterday, after you, yourself, in this building, both yesterday and the day before, declined to comment on the appointment of Jibril Rajoub, the White House felt compelled yesterday to come out and say that this guy -- that this was not a good move.
MR. REEKER: In fact, we were saying the same thing all week. The forces, the security forces, security assets of the Palestinian Authority need to be consolidated as the roadmap calls for, what we've just been talking about. It's not about personalities. It's about performance. It's about showing performance. That's something that Arafat did not demonstrate. And in fact, he has, as I just said, demonstrated that he has not supported the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: Do you share then, the White House's concerns about the Rajoub appointment?
MR. REEKER: Exactly.
QUESTION: Based on his -- the whole performance, or based on who he is? Based on his personality?
MR. REEKER: The view is that it needs to be consolidated under Prime Minister Abbas. That's the view. That's what the White House talked about yesterday, it's what I talked about yesterday, it's what -- the exact words that --
QUESTION: Well, you've also said --
MR. REEKER: -- Mr. Armitage used yesterday.
QUESTION: -- under Abbas and Dahlan.
MR. REEKER: Right.
QUESTION: Okay? Two personalities. So you -- you have something -- you have something against Rajoub?
MR. REEKER: Matt, what we want is to see all of the Palestinian security forces consolidated under Mr. Abbas. That's the point. It's not the personality, so it's not Mr. Rajoub. It's consolidating it under Prime Minister Abbas.
QUESTION: So if Rajoub worked directly for Abbas, you wouldn't have a problem with this?
MR. REEKER: I don't think so. Consolidate what the roadmap calls for, Matt. So read that.
QUESTION: Okay, I just wanted to --
MR. REEKER: Joel.
QUESTION: With respect to this, the Hamas group has called the crackdown "dangerous." And is this going to lead to eventual civil war within the Palestinian Authority? And should there be some type of timetable, a month, or, perhaps, two months for a total disbandment of Hamas and Islamic Jihad set?
MR. REEKER: What there should be, Joel, is an end to the violence. They should stop the terrorism now. It is the groups like Hamas who slaughter innocents, who are the enemies of peace and the enemies of the process which the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, leaders in the region, the whole international community has signed up to.
Everybody has commitments, and those commitments need to be lived up to. And we are doing everything we can to support Prime Minister Abbas. That is why we have called for living up to the commitment of consolidating the security forces under Prime Minister Abbas and Mr. Dahlan, whom he has selected as the leader of the securities efforts by the Palestinian Authority.
And that is what has to happen, and action has to be taken to pull out, root and branch, the capability of these terrorist organizations to disrupt the process, to perpetrate their criminal murderous actions, which only causes suffering of innocents and derails the process and the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people. And so our views of Hamas, this terrorist group, are well known. And our view, again, is that terrorism and the violence has got to stop now.
QUESTION: To use -- to borrow the phrase you used to describe Kelly's meeting with the North Koreans, has there -- have there been any, whatsoever, informal exchanges between Americans and Arafat since the bombing in Jerusalem last Tuesday?
MR. REEKER: No, our policy has not changed at all with regard to Arafat.
QUESTION: Nothing? Informal exchanges? Nothing?
MR. REEKER: No. We, as you are quite aware of what the Secretary has said, what we have said about that, we work with Prime Minister Abbas and with his government, the new government that represents hope for the Palestinian people in terms of moving forward in this process.
QUESTION: But, excuse me, just a follow-up. Since the Secretary did make an appeal to Arafat when he was at the United Nations --
MR. REEKER: No. Again, you heard what the Secretary said. It is exactly what I am saying right now. Arafat needs to turn over and allow consolidation of all security forces under Prime Minister Abbas. That is what the Secretary has said.
QUESTION: He said, "We call on Arafat," so --
MR. REEKER: That is exactly what we have been doing.
QUESTION: That's, yeah, okay.
MR. REEKER: And as Deputy Secretary said, as I said, as the White House has said, as we have all said, and you have all heard, and you have all read that Chairman Arafat is showing that he is against the interests of the Palestinian people, he is against the process toward the two-state future, if he does not turn over authority, as the roadmap calls for.
QUESTION: Phil, the Italians are apparently trying to get a Quartet meeting together around UNGA, looking at the 24th. I know the Secretary in his calls has been speaking with the Foreign Minister Frattini. Do you know if this has been a topic that has come up? Or are you amenable to having one? I know that there usually are --
MR. REEKER: I couldn't possibly say. We are just not doing UNGA scheduling at this point. I haven't seen a call between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Frattini
QUESTION: Last week --
MR. REEKER: --in the last couple of days, so I am not aware of that, specifically. Obviously, UNGA scheduling, the scheduling of all of the various meetings that we are able to organize around the margins of the UN General Assembly is a process that clearly is underway, but I don't have any announcements on meetings to make at this point.
QUESTION: There have been reports in recent days, and specifically, yesterday and today regarding a supplemental for reconstruction efforts in Iraq, specifically for civilian reconstruction efforts. Can you tell us whether this was discussed in the conversation that Mr. Bremer had with Mr. Powell yesterday, and your comment on reports that the supplemental might be in the billions of dollars?
MR. REEKER: The Secretary did meet with Ambassador Bremer yesterday. They are in quite frequent touch telephonically and through e-mail, and took advantage of the -- of Mr. Bremer being in Washington and the Secretary having returned from his vacation in New York, to get together yesterday. I think they met for about 45 minutes. Obviously, they discussed a lot of things about Iraq, but I am not in a position to go into the specifics of their discussion. We don't do that in terms of internal discussions. I think the President made quite clear in his remarks yesterday, the speech that he gave, that building a free and peaceful Iraq will require substantial commitment of time, of resources, and that we are going to work -- the President and the Administration will work with Congress -- to make sure that we provide the resources to do the work necessary. It's in our interest to do so and we are committed to the goals that we have set for Iraq, for an Iraq that is free, for an Iraq that is sovereign and ruled by Iraqis that can provide a much better life for Iraqis and for their children and grandchildren.
So that is something that will be part of the discussion. I don't have any announcements to make in terms of budgetary requests. You'll want to talk to the White House if they have anything on that. But I think what the President said yesterday is really the best thing to go by at this point.
QUESTION: What is the State Department's opinion on the latest threat that was broadcast on Al-Arabiyya Television against the Iraqi Governing Council, and is that threat being taken seriously by the United States?
MR. REEKER: Well, let me say that we find Al-Arabiyya's decision to air the remarks of these masked terrorists to be irresponsible in the extreme. There can be no excuse for the kind of inflammatory broadcasting that that station allowed to take place.
We have to question why an organization claiming to be a legitimate news service would effectively provide this conduit for terrorists to communicate plans, tactics and incitement to murder, and to attempt to disrupt the peaceful aspirations of the Iraqi people.
We are instructing our missions to those countries where -- whose citizens are involved in the ownership and direction of Al-Arabiyya to convey at the highest levels our outrage over the particular broadcast, and we would expect those responsible to take immediate steps to prevent that type of activity, prevent this sort of incitement to murder and terrorism.
QUESTION: Is that threat being taken seriously by the United States?
MR. REEKER: We're very aware of threats all over the world in terms of terrorism. It is something that, as we approach September 11th and the second anniversary of attacks on our country in New York and Washington, of course we are very aware of that. The President has talked yesterday about the war against terror, and we are doing everything we can to fight it.
So this type of participation by an organization that claims to be a legitimate news organization and giving a platform for those types of groups, for terrorists, for murderers, to communicate their plans and to incite violence is simply unacceptable.
QUESTION: Pardon my ignorance, but you want your missions to -- missions in how many countries, do you know?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I would have to go back and check.
QUESTION: And also, where is Al-Arabiyya based?
MR. REEKER: I will check for you and get back to you.
QUESTION: Well, has the country in which it is based also been -- the government of that -- are you just going to the investors? Are you -- have you made your objection known to the government of the -- well, we'll find out shortly.
MR. REEKER: I don't have any more details for you, Matt. It's something that just took place and we are sending instructions to the embassies. I don't have a list of the countries that may be involved where our embassies will be trying to raise that with those that are responsible for allowing this kind of content to be aired by a supposedly reputable news organization.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the prospects for a resolution this week to lift sanctions against Libya?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any particular update, nothing to add from what I had said yesterday. As we have made quite clear, we would like to see that done as quickly as possible. And so I don't have any news from New York on that.
Let's go back here first and then pop back here.
QUESTION: Back to the six-way talks. Has Mr. Kelly addressed the abduction issue formally or informally, in committee meetings or --
MR. REEKER: Again, I don't have any specific readouts on the substance of the talks, but you had a briefing last week which, once again, made clear our support for the Japanese position on the question of the abductions, on that issue. And so that is a position we support, but I don't have specifics for you in terms of the --
QUESTION: Just to follow up, do you support like a -- like afterwards there's like bilateral talks between the North Korean and the Japanese?
MR. REEKER: That would be a question for the North Koreans and the Japanese to decide. We support the Japanese position in terms of that issue of abduction.
Yes, right here.
QUESTION: Can you talk about or can you confirm this report this morning about the State Department cutting off financial aid for an AIDS program because one of the groups involved allegedly supports forced abortion and sterilization in China?
MR. REEKER: Mm-hmm, I saw that report.
Let me remind you all that the United States is strongly committed to improving reproductive health worldwide, and I don't think I need to remind you of the President's commitment to programs dealing with HIV/AIDS. These have been important parts of the Administration's foreign policy.
In terms of what was raised in that specific article regarding the Reproductive Health for Refugees Consortium, it's a group of nongovernmental organizations that had submitted individual proposals for refugee health funding. The Department of State, through our Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, offered to fund the activities of six of those seven organizations that were contained in the proposal. And that seventh organization, the Marie Stopes Organization, was not included in that. So we offered this funding to six of them in order to continue supporting the good work that they have done on prevention in response to HIV/AIDS in refugee settings.
It was the Consortium's decision not to accept the funding. I think you will recall that a provision of our Foreign Operation Appropriations Act notes that the Kemp-Kasten language provides that no funds "may be made available to any organization or program which, as determined by the President of the United States, supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."
And last July, Secretary Powell had determined that as a result of the United Nations Fund for Population Activity, their participation involvement in China's program of coercive abortion, it was not permissible to fund UNFPA. And the Marie Stokes Organization is a major implementing partner for the United Nations Population Fund in China.
And there were other organizations that we determined were capable of using U.S. assistance to pursue the HIV/AIDS work. So we decided that the approach we've taken, that I've just described, was the most consistent with U.S. policy, and that is to fund the other groups providing HIV/AIDS work, but not the Marie Stokes Organization. But those other organizations made their own determination, their own decision in terms of funding.
QUESTION: So the United States no longer funds the program?
MR. REEKER: At this point, the Consortium has decided not to accept the funding that we offered them.
QUESTION: And when was that decision made? On the cut-off, not the offer to the Consortium, but the --
MR. REEKER: Let's see, the Secretary made the decision last July* that Marie Stokes could not be funded because it was part of UNFPA.
QUESTION: Okay. So the story today is a year old, basically.
MR. REEKER: No, I think that's -- when I mean last July I mean --
QUESTION: Oh, you mean, just a month old?
MR. REEKER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. I was just trying to figure out why it was in the paper today.
MR. REEKER: Sorry, there's always that question, if it was last July, last July*. My understanding is that we're talking about the very last July, the one we just passed a month ago. If it's the otherwise, I'll tell you. And I'll not wait a year to tell you.
QUESTION: Okay. So that decision on the Marie Stokes, or whatever it was in July, what about the offer to the Consortium?
MR. REEKER: I just don't know. Nobody has given me that kind of detail.
QUESTION: Do you remember when it was refused?
MR. REEKER: No, I have no other dates. I have read you everything I have on the subject.
QUESTION: Do you have it down already?
MR. REEKER: Nope. So if you want anything more we would try to get you some more information this afternoon. I have exhausted my fount of knowledge on this subject. There was one in the far back and then we can come back to Matt.
QUESTION: If the Congress doesn't satisfy Mr. Bremer's seeking for additional resources in Iraq, what is the State Department's vision for the next step?
MR. REEKER: I think you're sort of postulating a very hypothetical question. Let me refer you to the President's speech in describing yesterday, and reflects what we've been saying from here in terms of our goals and our view and our vision for Iraq.
At this point, I can't get into specifics in terms of funding -- I don't think that's what Ambassador Bremer did either. He talked about some of the challenges, and indeed, funding is going to be an important part of that and the President made that quite clear yesterday that this is going to take resources and it's going to take time. And those are things that we are looking at, and we are going to work with the Congress to make sure that we have the appropriate resources to follow through on these important commitments to reach the goals that we have, because they are important for the American people.
QUESTION: The situation in Nepal has taken a turn for the worse, or dire, with the rebels, Maoists, pulling out of these talks. What do you have to say about that?
MR. REEKER: Well, we certainly deplore the announcement made today by the Maoist group in Nepal of their decision to end the seven-month long ceasefire that has been held with the Government of Nepal, as well as the systematic violations of the Agreed Code of Conduct during the ceasefire.
The public rejection that these Maoists have made of the government's reform proposals during the peace talks last week is also something that we find appalling. The Maoists are ignoring the overwhelming support within Nepal and the international community for a negotiated settlement of what is truly a senseless conflict. And this conflict has claimed the lives of thousands of Nepalese and disrupted efforts to develop Nepal's economy and political infrastructure.
We continue to believe that the conflict can be settled only through peaceful and democratic means. And we urge the Maoist groups to restore the ceasefire and resume the negotiation process that they seem to have spurned.
QUESTION: Okay. And I have one more. You can go over there first.
MR. REEKER: Is there someone over there? No.
QUESTION: Yes. There seems to be, following the two bombs that went off in the Bombay area two days ago, more disturbances in Kashmir. A bomb went off there prior to Prime Minister Vajpayee's visit. And I think they're acknowledging that it may not necessarily be the Pakistanis themselves, but Taliban or other remnants, meaning al-Qaida. Any comments concerning this?
MR. REEKER: No, I don't have any details on those bombings that we deplored or on the reports that I did see of more violence in Kashmir. Again, an end to terrorism is what we have called for all around the world. That includes in South Asia. And there are groups, terrorist organizations, extremists, who are determined to try to force their views on others, and to use and misuse religion as some sort of excuse.
Well, there are no excuses for this kind of violence, for this wanton taking of life. It is murder, and it has to end. And that is why we are working with so many countries around the world on a variety of tasks in the war on terrorism, working together, sharing information, intelligence, law enforcement activity, taking steps to seize finances and assets of terrorist groups to bring an end to this.
QUESTION: Phil, in the case of the Vietnamese cyber-dissident, whose crime was intricately linked to the State Department --
MR. REEKER: You mean Pham Hong Son?
QUESTION: Yes, his sentence has been commuted today. Do you have anything to say about -- or yesterday?
MR. REEKER: We welcome the reduction in the sentence of Pham Hong Son. But I would point out our strong belief that he should never have been jailed in the first place for his actions. We continue to urge the Vietnamese Government to adhere to international human rights standards.
Those are standards that Vietnam has freely assumed through its ratification of the international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights. So we urge the Vietnamese Government to release Mr. Son immediately, along with all citizens unjustly jailed for peaceful expression of their opinions.
QUESTION: Did you have any -- did you ever take any position on the appeal process or the -- his appeal being closed to the press and to the foreign diplomats?
MR. REEKER: I would have to check specifically. But for those that were not aware of the situation, which I am sure you will write fully in your story, this was a gentleman who was arrested in arrested in March of 2002, not long after translating and publishing online the text of an article that he had downloaded from the State Department's website. And so on the 26th of August, yesterday, as you pointed out, the supreme court in Vietnam did reduce the sentence he had from the original 13 years to five years in prison, to be followed by three years of house detention.
But as I just said, we urge them to release him immediately and state again that we believe he should never have been jailed in the first place for the actions he took.
Is there one other -- somebody? No? Great, thanks.
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