September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
State Dept. Daily Briefing; November 15, 2001

Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 15, 2001


2:15 p.m. EST

MR. REEKER: You got the statement that we put out. I think a similar statement was released from Tokyo that the Japanese and the United States will co-chair a meeting on Tuesday, senior officials here at the State Department, to discuss reconstruction of Afghanistan. This is a sort of first step in a process that is expected to expand and include all members of the international community committed to a prosperous future for Afghanistan, to develop a common approach on how we are going to initially support rehabilitation and reconstruction and the next steps to bring it about.

QUESTION: Are the participants by specific invitation by the US or Japan? And if so, can you tell us who is invited? Is it everyone, or is someone not invited?

MR. REEKER: Yes. Well, right now, since it's sort of a first step, they are pulling together for Tuesday -- let's see here -- we've got Canada, Germany, Russia, the UK, Italy, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Afghan support group, which is chaired currently by Germany and by Norway in 2002.

QUESTION: Is that a UN group?

MR. REEKER: Yes. And the European Union presidency, which is currently Belgium, of course; representatives from the European Commission, the Organization of the Islamic Conference -- the current chair is Qatar; the World Bank; the UN; the Asian Development Bank; and the Islamic Development Bank.

QUESTION: Which banks again?

MR. REEKER: The Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the UN.

QUESTION: And all these are coming on --

MR. REEKER: This is for Tuesday, yes.

QUESTION: On Tuesday?

MR. REEKER: Tuesday the 20th.

QUESTION: Are these the ones who have been invited, Phil, or the ones who have responded that they will be coming?

MR. REEKER: These are the ones that Japan and the United States are inviting as a preliminary thing. I think there will be an expectation, obviously, that it would --

QUESTION: They better all be there.

MR. REEKER: No, that it would ultimately include, as the statement says, more people, but initially this sort of covers all the --

QUESTION: Is this a donors conference?


QUESTION: There will be a press conference?


QUESTION: How is it not a donors conference? How is it different from a donors conference?

MR. REEKER: It's not a donors or pledging conference. It's a conference to discuss, as the statement says, I think fairly straightforward, what the needs are and what the next steps will be, how we'll move forward.


MR. REEKER: And this is a first initial conference. It's not a pledging conference. There are also other ways, besides large financial contributions, that countries can contribute to reconstruction efforts, like in-kind contributions and expertise sharing. So this is going to discuss initial needs and how to move forward from there with the goals.

QUESTION: There was a Balkans conference here that was called a donors conference, but not a pledging conference. In other words, it was the first shot at mapping out things. But you still don't want to call this a potential donors conference?

MR. REEKER: This has nothing to do with the Balkans. This is exactly what it's described in the --

QUESTION: No, I'm saying -- I'm talking about the -- of course it has nothing to do with the Balkans. I'm talking about the fact that there was a donors conference in the auditorium here a few years ago that, with the caveat that it is not a pledging contest; still, it's the beginning of a donors operation. But I don't want to beat it to death. It looks like a donors conference to me.

QUESTION: How can we cover this thing if -- can't somebody come in afterwards and talk to us?

MR. REEKER: It's on Tuesday. We announced today that we're inviting people for Tuesday. I don't anticipate a press conference, but I'm sure we'll go to great lengths to get you information. So don't worry, don't panic today, on Thursday, about Tuesday's event.

QUESTION: What kind of level of participation do you expect at this?

MR. REEKER: I think our group will be the -- the chairs will be Alan Larson -- on our side, Alan Larson, the Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, and John Taylor from Treasury. He is the Under Secretary for International Affairs at Treasury. That's on our side.

QUESTION: International Affairs?

QUESTION: At Treasury.

QUESTION: Will Powell be there?

MR. REEKER: Powell may stop by. It's not a ministerial level meeting, but since we're co-hosting it, I don't know. I don't have the detailed agenda. I don't have responses of who is necessarily coming. It's simply to announce that we have pulled this together.

QUESTION: Is it going to be mostly ambassadors, though? Like that came at this short notice or something? But, I mean, all those countries will be finance ministers?

MR. REEKER: It's up to those countries. I think the expectation -- the level at which we will be represented chairing it will be that, and the Japanese, I would think, a similar one.

QUESTION: Why is it US and Japan?

QUESTION: And why not the UN or the World Bank or the --

MR. REEKER: I don't have a Japanese name. You can ask them. They put out a statement too.

QUESTION: -- another international organization?

MR. REEKER: I think the UN is coming. I mean, the UN is going to be there, all these multilateral development banks. We have offered to host this, we and Japan have taken the initiative to host this.

QUESTION: And you are co-chairing this?


QUESTION: And why is it not organized under the auspices of the UN or the World Bank as such? With the UN chairing it --

MR. REEKER: Because we are co-chairing this initial meeting to bring people together quite quickly in a very short time frame. We are announcing this today, and we're going to do it Tuesday. I don't know --

QUESTION: Will these folks try to come up with a dollar figure for how much need there is?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. I don't know that that is the goal of it. I think its assessing what needs to be done. Again, read the statement, and the statement sort of says what we have to say about it. It's not a pledging conference. It's looking at what the needs are and how one can move forward.

QUESTION: But you can start looking at what the needs are --

MR. REEKER: I don't know if they anticipate developing dollar figures. That is not what has been indicated to me.

QUESTION: Anything new on anthrax?

MR. REEKER: No. Except we had meetings today where the CDC and the FBI, State officials met to continue developing the protocols for doing the additional testing that Richard talked about.

QUESTION: Have you guys had contacts with --

QUESTION: Was EPA (inaudible)?

MR. REEKER: I did not hear EPA. I heard CDC and FBI, State Med, Diplomatic Security, and Department and Administration folks.

QUESTION: What does protocol mean in this case? You mean an arrangement?

MR. REEKER: Yes, procedures, developing procedures for searching for additional environmental sampling at the Sterling Center, and for, as Richard talked about yesterday, the procedures for searching for a suspicious letter or letters that they want to do.

So far nothing has appeared, no letter testing positive has appeared in the mail since then.

QUESTION: Does that mean you have been looking for the letters, or it just hasn't appeared? I mean, I thought you hadn't started looking.

MR. REEKER: Right. Because the meeting we had today was to discuss procedures for seeking out a letter.


MR. REEKER: In the course of our general work over these weeks, we have not, as you know, found such a letter.

QUESTION: With the mail being pretty much shut down, have you developed alternative ways of paying the various contractors that provide services for the State Department?

MR. REEKER: I would have to check with the Administrator of the Bureau. I don't think that's usually a problem. I think most of that is done in a variety of (inaudible).

QUESTION: So after this meeting today, will the search begin tomorrow, you think, or today?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. I don't know what their determination -- they were trying to develop procedures to go ahead with that, and I don't know what the final outcome was. So we'll check -- maybe tomorrow they'll know more on how they want to move ahead.

QUESTION: Dobbins?

MR. REEKER: Dobbins. Dobbins is in Islamabad. He had some meetings today. He met with Vendrell, he met with Pakistani officials and a number of Afghans.

QUESTION: Do you have their names?

MR. REEKER: I don't. It included Pir Gailani -- does anybody know that name? Is that how you pronounce it.

QUESTION: Pir -- could you spell that?

MR. REEKER: P-i-r, I'm told, G-a-i-l-a-n-i. First name Pir.

QUESTION: Is he a Pashtun?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. He is described as a long-term Afghan political leader. I don't know his ethnic makeup.

Brahimi is continuing his efforts to convene a meeting. Still no determination of location. As you know, the Security Council expressed support for holding a meeting as soon as possible. I don't have any more details on Dobbins' next moves.

QUESTION: Can you -- do you have anything on his meeting with Pakistani officials?

MR. REEKER: I don't.

QUESTION: How much of a concern is it in discussions between the US and Pakistan that bin Laden might try to cross the Pakistani border into the eastern part of Pakistan, where there is a lot of support?

MR. REEKER: I just don't know if that has been a subject of our discussions or not, or particular concerns. Maybe the Pentagon can give you something on that. I don't know.

QUESTION: Well, do you have any reaction on the Security Council decision of last night?

MR. REEKER: Which one?

QUESTION: It's a resolution vaguely expressing support for multinational troops. It doesn't specifically mention it, but the US mission is saying that it gives it cover to send in troops now.

MR. REEKER: Yes, I think while they look at all the options that they're considering, there is no -- I think Rumsfeld may have talked a little bit about that. I don't have any particular reaction, other than what USUN might have done. Brahimi is continuing talks. They are looking at next steps on all those aspects, pulling together a meeting. That's the goal of the broad-based government.

We and the Japanese have announced co-hosting this as an initial meeting on the reconstruction efforts. And whatever other things the UN may be considering in terms of interim roles they can play, as well as possible peacekeeping roles, that moves things forward a little bit.

QUESTION: Now, you're going over to the Foreign Press Center, right?

MR. REEKER: Yes. That will be my weekly --

QUESTION: You're not going to spring any surprises there, are you?

MR. REEKER: I don't think so. Unless they ask me something you didn't.

QUESTION: Is there anything lurking? Because last time you --


QUESTION: Oh, Cuba, yes.

MR. REEKER: What did I do last time, Jonathan?

QUESTION: The Venezuelan Ambassador. The Ambassador to Venezuela.

MR. REEKER: Well, no one asked.

QUESTION: I know, but we didn't know.

MR. REEKER: I can't help it. You didn't know?

QUESTION: Cuba paying cash.

MR. REEKER: Cuba paying cash. You guys all recall our statement from last week about Hurricane Michelle. And in the wake of Hurricane Michelle, the Cuban Government indicated to us its interest in buying US food and medicine with hard currency. Such private sales are permitted by US law.

The Cubans agreed not to seek to use Cuban vessels, and they are following up with US suppliers regarding purchases of food and medicine.

QUESTION: Agreed not to use Cuban vessels?

MR. REEKER: Right.

QUESTION: So they're going to use a third party?

MR. REEKER: That I don't know.

QUESTION: US or a third party?

MR. REEKER: Right. Vessels coming from Cuban ports are generally prohibited from entering US ports, so we suggested it would be more efficient and quicker to use US vessels. But they are following up with US suppliers on that.

QUESTION: If (inaudible) they have been hit by a disaster, why aren't you donating the food? That's a serious question.

MR. REEKER: We offered, Barry. We offered assistance to them, and the Cubans declined. We offered to send in AID officers, a Foreign Disaster Assessment team to Cuba, immediately following the hurricane, in order to determine the possibility of providing appropriate humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people. That is exactly what we told them. They declined the offer, Barry.

QUESTION: Did they decline the team, or they declined --

MR. REEKER: They declined the offer.

QUESTION: No, the offer to send a team, or you sent a team and then offered, and they said no?

MR. REEKER: No. They declined --

QUESTION: The offer to send a team?

MR. REEKER: Right.


QUESTION: What about Cubans buying, paying cash directly to American companies for other things?

MR. REEKER: That's what allowed under the law in terms of food and medicine. The medicine has been allowed since 1993. That's a Commerce Department process. And since last year, was the agricultural sales that Congress legalized.

QUESTION: Not food and medicine. Lumber?

MR. REEKER: I don't know if lumber would qualify as an agricultural thing or not. You would have to ask the Commerce Department to determine that.

QUESTION: That's to go -- is that the place to go build (inaudible) if there's any variations in light of the tragedy, whether those rules are bendable? They need houses.

MR. REEKER: The Commerce Department, Barry, administers the process.


MR. REEKER: And there's an interagency review that takes place under that. There is a commercial license that they have to get for medical sales, and we have been doing that since '93. Given the humanitarian nature of their request, we will consult with other government agencies and seek to expedite authorization of the approved sales.

QUESTION: That's the food.

QUESTION: And medicine.

MR. REEKER: And maybe the medicine.

QUESTION: All right, can you tell us about Monday's speech? Where does that stand now?

MR. REEKER: I haven't seen a draft, any more than Richard had yesterday.

QUESTION: Let's go back to Cuba.

MR. REEKER: One thing at a time.

QUESTION: Do you see this as an opening between the US and Cuba?

MR. REEKER: Our position on Cuba remains the same. We have offered, in the wake of the hurricane, humanitarian assistance, and our law has been quite clear on what is available in terms of US food and medicine to be purchased with hard currency.

QUESTION: So this will not lead to anything bigger on the political front?

MR. REEKER: Medical sales to Cuba have been legal since 1992, and Congress last year passed a law regarding agricultural sales under the various requirements under the Justice Department system, the notification requirements.

So that's what they are participating in.

QUESTION: Just what can you tell us about Monday's speech? Subject?

MR. REEKER: I don't know anything else, other than it will be a serious foreign policy speech. With the Secretary in Waco, or Crawford, I don't know that anything has moved further in his decisions on what the speech will contain. I haven't seen, nor has Richard, any draft or content.

QUESTION: Can you say one more thing? Can you say, is there an emphasis on the Middle East, do you know?

MR. REEKER: I can't say any more than what Richard said yesterday, which was any speech of that nature will obviously include discussion of the Middle East.


QUESTION: Thank you.

2:30 p.m. EST


Released on November 15, 2001

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