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MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome back to the State Department. Thanks for your patience. I can confirm that the Secretary of State has arrived in Ankara, Turkey, after departing earlier today from Bucharest, Romania. You may have seen reports from your colleagues traveling with him on his participation there at the OSCE Conference of Ministers, and of course, now he'll be spending the night in Turkey for meetings there with our Turkish allies.
Of course Ambassador Boucher is accompanying him, so I am here. Other than highlighting the points the President made today, and the announcement from the White House, along with Secretary O'Neill from the Treasury Department and the Attorney General, I don't have other announcements. But I would like to point out that we have taken the steps today to freeze assets as another step in our war against terrorism, the financial aspect of that war.
In addition to those steps announced by the President, it is important to point out that over 120 countries are taking part in this, and following the atrocities of September the 11th, I will remind you that the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1373, requiring all nations to keep their financial systems free of terrorist funds.
And so while we use all these other tools at our disposal to fight the war against terrorism, focusing on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and the Taliban that have given Usama bin Laden and his cohorts safe haven, we are also using the financial tools at our disposal in pursuing them.
QUESTION: Just to be clear, to follow this up. Is Saudi Arabia among one of those countries that is cooperating on this?
MR. REEKER: Yes, Matt, just as they were yesterday as well.
So with that, let me refer to Mr. Schweid and your questions.
QUESTION: Somalia's economy is just absolutely ravaged, devastated, and a UN humanitarian expert, or something, says part of the reason is because the United States closed down an institution which had a lot of money transfers, and of course some of those transfers were to Usama bin Laden's outfit, and that is why you moved against it, or asked them to.
But is there by any chance any response to that? That the country is even worse off because of having to close down outfits that -- I don't know if it's a bank, or money transfer operation -- on terrorism grounds?
MR. REEKER: I don't know that I have seen the exact words of the UN official you cite, but I have seen some of the press reports referring to that, and the reference to those. I think we have noted in the past that there are alternatives to the Al Barakaat system for providing remittance services to Somalia. Those alternatives already exist. They are operating, and they are expanding with the closure of Al Barakaat.
Indeed, regrettably, there are some disruptions and dislocations, and we expect those to be temporary. We talked about that at the time, when we took that step to shut down this organization that has supported terrorist financing. We expect the alternatives to continue in their expansion to make up for what has been cut off with Al Barakaat.
We are deeply concerned about the welfare of the Somali people. We have been a leading donor to humanitarian and relief efforts in Somalia for many years. In fact, the United States is one of the largest donors in providing assistance to Somalia. In the past fiscal year 2001, the US Government provided $24 million in emergency assistance, including food aid, to Somalia.
And so we will continue to do that, but at the same time, we are determined to act against financial institutions that are linked to terrorist activity. The sooner such actors are replaced by legitimate institutions without such ties to terrorism, the better for all of us, including the Somalis. And so we will continue our humanitarian efforts, but we will certainly continue with the steps like those we took with reference to this organization in Somalia, and those steps that the President took today.
QUESTION: Given the money transfer system, in the case of Al Barakaat, is basically anonymous -- anyone can turn up and transfer money to anyone in Somalia -- what measures have you taken or might take to prevent bin Laden's associates from using these alternative channels?
MR. REEKER: I would have to refer you to those that actually focus on the financial institutions, that is the Department of the Treasury, law enforcement agencies that could give you a better readout of that. It is not something that I have been fully briefed on in terms of the technical aspects of them.
QUESTION: When I asked about this about a month ago, the answer was that -- the answer to the question, what are you doing, if anything, to help out the people who have been frozen out, who can't get remittances now from the US and other places through this bank, the answer was that the Treasury Department had provided -- had had some contact with the Somali community, expatriate communities, around the States and given a list of these alternatives. Is that in fact --
MR. REEKER: I would have to check, or you could check with Treasury. That was my understanding, that there are these alternatives, and therefore, the displacement, disruption would be envisioned as being short-term. Those that were in the pipeline when that was closed down. Anything new, obviously, could go through new structures.
QUESTION: Can you say whether there is any State Department involvement in reaching out to Somalis who are --
MR. REEKER: It's something I would have to check on, on the specifics. I believe it was something the Department of the Treasury was taking the lead on, but I could certainly ask, and we can look into that.
QUESTION: Can we go to the Middle East?
MR. REEKER: Sure.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what General Zinni has been up to?
MR. REEKER: General Zinni remains in the region. I don't think I have a specific readout of all of his phone calls. He has certainly been in touch with officials in both the Israeli Government and on the Palestinian side, along with other officials from our Embassy and our Consulate. They have these ongoing contacts, as we discussed yesterday, to try to help the parties achieve a durable cease-fire, making themselves available in whatever capacity they could be used to help in that process, because after all, that has been our goal; that was General Zinni's goal in going out there.
So he remains in the region and remains in contact with the parties.
QUESTION: And will he stay indefinitely?
MR. REEKER: At this point, he is remaining in the region. I don't have any ongoing travel plans for him at this stage.
QUESTION: Philip, given the stern statements directed at Arafat from the President and from Secretary Powell, how much concern is there that this now complicates the US effort to keep together the coalition, anti-terror coalition, particularly among the other Arab states?
MR. REEKER: I think our position is quite clear. As you indicated, the President made it clear yesterday. We are fighting terrorism. We have strong support from the worldwide coalition in our efforts in that regard. We think we have strong support from the international community in pursuing a process to bring peace to the Middle East. And that has to begin with ending the violence. It has to begin with ending the terrorism, like the attacks we saw over the weekend in Israel. We have a plan, which has been fully endorsed and continues to be supported, not only by the two parties, but also by the full international community, that is the Mitchell Committee Plan and process for moving forward in this. And that is what we call for.
I think the events of the past week, especially the last four days, demonstrate more than ever the need for progress towards a cease-fire. The terror and the violence must end. That is why General Zinni was dispatched by the President of the United States and Secretary Powell to the region. It is important, as we said yesterday, that whatever actions are taken there, that all parties have to consider the repercussions of their actions so that peace can still be achieved. That is, after all, our long-term goal. And as the Secretary said, there is going to be a tomorrow and a day after tomorrow. And we have to continue to live with that.
QUESTION: But just to follow up on that, it is clear that your Arab allies in the fight against terror, particularly Egypt and other countries, are not pleased with the pressure being brought directly on the Palestinians now, and the perception that the United States is taking sides, if you will, and therefore, this clearly must complicate the coalition against the terror.
MR. REEKER: I will repeat again today what we said, and what we firmly believe, that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must act now against terror, and all those responsible for the violence. Those that perpetrated those acts, that have taken responsibility for them, were also attacking Chairman Arafat, attacking his authority, attacking the Palestinian Authority, and ultimately attacking the prospects for peace, that are things that the Palestinian people want.
I think all the people of the region, the Israelis and the Palestinians, have a right to live in safety and security. And Chairman Arafat needs to help achieve that by taking the steps we described. He needs to arrest those responsible, but not just arresting perpetrators, but taking steps and action to ensure that those organizations, those organizations like Hamas, responsible, are unable to commit further acts of terror. He needs to root them out and tear down the infrastructure that allows this to occur.
We have articulated, I think, a vision of what peace can achieve, including a Palestinian State. And we have had strong support from others in the region for that. We have dispatched a senior envoy, as we mentioned already, to work with the parties to achieve a cease-fire. So our envoy is remaining in the region. He needs time and the full cooperation of both sides in order to succeed. And it is in the interests of both sides to succeed, and that has to begin with Chairman Arafat taking those steps.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on the coalition? If these countries in the Arab world were ever -- are against terrorism and are behind the US in the war against terrorism, do you think that it is incumbent upon them to respond to this act of terrorism in the region?
MR. REEKER: I guess I don't quite understand your question.
QUESTION: Well, do you think that the Arab world in particular and other members of the international community should be putting more pressure on the Palestinians, if indeed they are behind the war against terrorism?
MR. REEKER: Our view is quite clear, and that is that Chairman Arafat needs to take these steps.
QUESTION: No, not Chairman Arafat. Do you think that other countries besides the US should be putting more pressure on Chairman Arafat?
MR. REEKER: We think Chairman Arafat should do what we have called for him to do, and if other countries want to encourage him to do that, that would be helpful too, Elise. Progress towards a lasting peace is possible, but only if sustained, serious actions are taken now to confront the terror and the violence. That is a reality, and Chairman Arafat has got to take these steps to move forward. There has been a fundamental challenge made to his own authority by these groups that perpetrated those acts on the weekend, and he needs to show leadership now and he needs to exercise the authority he has and pursue and arrest those responsible.
QUESTION: No, I understand that, if I could just follow up one more time. It is clear what you think Arafat needs to do, but if other countries say they are behind the war against terrorism, do you think that by not responding to this particular act of terrorism in Israel, would that be cherry picking, so to speak, that the President said you can't --
MR. REEKER: We have said that you can't pick cherries. These were terrorist acts. They need to be condemned. They have been condemned. And action needs to be taken beyond the words. And anything anybody else can do to encourage that action, we think is a positive step.
So we remain in touch with others in the international community. We remain in touch with the two parties. And whatever we can do to help move the process along, we will continue to do. But Chairman Arafat is, as the Secretary of State said, it's a moment of truth and he needs to act, and he needs to act now.
QUESTION: You mentioned cease-fire several times. Are you in favor of an immediate cease-fire?
MR. REEKER: We want the parties to work together to achieve a cease-fire. That is something that --
QUESTION: Why not start one right now?
MR. REEKER: That is something the two sides need to do. Only they can do it. They need to take the steps to do it, and they need to start it right now.
QUESTION: Well, are you in favor of one now?
MR. REEKER: We are in favor of a cease-fire. As soon as the two parties can forge one, that's what they need to do. That is why General Zinni is there. He is available to help that. That is what we want to see so that they can move forward in the process.
What we are in favor of, Jonathan, is peace in a region in the world where all sides, all parties there, can live in peace and security. That is what they deserve and that is what we are standing for.
QUESTION: Would you not start that right away?
MR. REEKER: If the two sides can agree to that, that's what we want to see. That's exactly it-- it takes the two sides to --
QUESTION: If I could just follow up. Yesterday you spoke at great length, and the White House too, about self-defense. It is quite clear from what the Israelis have been saying today that what they are doing is not, in fact, self-defense; it is an attempt to intimidate Arafat into taking actions they want him to see.
MR. REEKER: That's your interpretation.
QUESTION: No, it's quite clear. They said that themselves. That's what they say. Is that something the United States favors, using force to intimidate Arafat into taking actions?
MR. REEKER: As we made clear yesterday, we understand the difficult situation faced by Israel and the need to fight terror. Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have got to act now against terror and --
QUESTION: The question is, are you in favor of using force to intimidate Arafat into taking certain actions?
MR. REEKER: Jonathan, what we are in favor of is Chairman Arafat taking action --
QUESTION: I know you're in favor of that, but are you in favor of using force to intimidate him into doing that, which the Israelis say they are doing?
MR. REEKER: Jonathan, our position is quite clear, that the two sides need to come to an agreement on a cease-fire. The Israelis, as we have said, face a situation where they are making decisions about their security. We have sent an envoy to the region and said repeatedly that we want both sides to come to a situation where they can have a cease-fire and move forward into a peace process that we have all endorsed. It is something both sides need to do. Arafat has got to take the steps to root out the infrastructure so that the terrorist attacks, like occurred on Saturday, can not continue.
QUESTION: Well, let me put it another way. Do you think that Arafat and the institutions associated with him are an appropriate target in this campaign?
MR. REEKER: What we think is that Arafat needs to take efforts. It's not for us to define targets in anybody's campaign; it's for us to call for the two sides to take every effort possible to move towards a cease-fire and move into the process that we've talked about so many times and that all sides have agreed they want to move into.
As the Secretary said, he believes that Arafat is capable of doing a lot more. There have been statements, there have been promises; there needs to be action. We need to see action in ensuring that organizations responsible for the types of acts that we saw over the weekend are unable to commit further such terror.
QUESTION: But do you think that the Israelis are going to be able to bomb him into cooperating? I mean, that's basically what they said they --
MR. REEKER: That isn't a question for me. Our position is very clear. We remain committed to trying to help the parties move towards a cease-fire. Because, ultimately, there has got to be a process towards peace. They have got to live together. Both sides have got to take steps to root out terrorism. We have talked about that broadly in terms of our steps to root out terrorism as it threatens us.
QUESTION: Okay. Is bombing Arafat's headquarters a step to root out terrorism?
MR. REEKER: I am not going to try to determine what steps the Israelis may or may not take or how they should take it. What we want to see is action to end the terrorism. We have called for that. Chairman Arafat has made statements. He needs to follow through on those statements. He can do more. He needs to do more to take the steps to end the --
QUESTION: In the past, you have often made comments about Israeli actions. You've said provocative, counter-productive. Why are you not willing in this case to make any kind of judgment about their actions?
MR. REEKER: Jonathan, I haven't particularly spent my day watching every action that has been going on there. There is too much violence in the region. There has got to be an end to the violence. There has got to be --
QUESTION: So you're in favor of an immediate halt to violence?
MR. REEKER: There has got to be an end to the violence. The two sides have got to come together. They have got to use the structures that they have that we have helped supply them with; that is, the security process available to come to a cease-fire so that they can move forward. Nothing will be accomplished until the sides are able to do that.
And we have always said that the parties need to consider the repercussions of their actions so that peace can still be achieved.
QUESTION: Phil, are you saying that the US sees a need for bargaining to bring about a cease-fire? The Arab position is -- I mean, you're not going for an unconditional cease-fire, nor an immediate cease-fire. The Arab position is you can't expect the Palestinians to agree to a cease-fire unless there is something -- they see something -- coming down the pike at them. You dangle the Mitchell Commission Report in front of them, but I think the Arab argument is that they need something almost as a quid pro quo to stop the attacks.
MR. REEKER: I think --
QUESTION: Sorry, that's it.
MR. REEKER: The quid perhaps, Barry, or the quo, will be when both sides can live without the fear of the violence that has plagued the region. People have suffered, as the Secretary said in his speech two weeks ago, for far too long. And so our position remains that there is a process by which through security cooperation, through the Tenet work plan, with General Zinni there to help, his good offices available, that the two sides can work on security together to bring about a cease-fire, to stop the violence, and then move into the other political processes. That is what will be in the interests of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people for the long term, and in the interests of the whole region and indeed the whole world.
QUESTION: Arafat said in a television interview today that he was trying to do that, he was willing to have security cooperation, he was trying to follow up on the Secretary's speech; but then this terrorist incident happened despite his best efforts, and that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon is trying to undermine the peace process by bombing his headquarters.
MR. REEKER: Rather than going back and forth with trying to comment on what each person said back and forth, let me just again cite what the Secretary said yesterday, and it remains true today, that we believe that Chairman Arafat is capable of doing a lot more and he needs to do that.
QUESTION: Have you guys seen at this point any sign from either side that leads you to have hope that General Zinni might be able to accomplish his mission, or not yet? I mean --
MR. REEKER: I think we always have hope.
QUESTION: No, no. Have you seen any sign from either side that they are willing to move toward a cease-fire?
MR. REEKER: I am not in a position at this point to describe any particular signs. I don't have readouts of General Zinni's conversations that he may be having with officials from both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority.
Our hope definitely remains. Whether there are any specific signs, I don't know. He certainly remains there looking for the full cooperation of both sides, and he will need some time for that.
QUESTION: But it's fair to say -- so right now you're not aware of any sign that either side is willing to --
MR. REEKER: I just don't know. I am, myself, not aware of that. But he is remaining there and he will need time, and hopefully the cooperation of both sides, to move forward.
QUESTION: Phil, Barry asked a question, which -- at the beginning of his many questions which you ignored -- which was an interesting one.
MR. REEKER: I didn't ignore it. I probably forgot it, if you'll forgive me.
QUESTION: He said do you think a cease-fire can only come about as a result of bargaining?
MR. REEKER: That's not a decision for me. That's a decision for the two parties. They have got to come to the cease-fire. We have given them a structure --
QUESTION: Basically you guys are saying yes, they have to -- it's something that has to be negotiated. I mean, you can't just have an instantaneous -- you're saying that they can't --
MR. REEKER: Well, Jonathan, your question is sort of elliptical. If that's what they agree to, then that's what could happen. But the two sides have to agree to that. It's not the United States' cease-fire. It's something that we want the two sides to agree to. There needs to be a cease-fire, however they can come to it.
QUESTION: Well, in many cases in other conflicts where a mediator has called for a cease-fire on both sides, and the both sides have said yes and it has come into effect.
MR. REEKER: They have a structure with which they can proceed. They have the Tenet work plan. They have General Zinni there and available, talking to both parties. And if they are able to do that, so much the better. We need to see a cease-fire. We need to see, most of all right now, action by Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority against terror and all those responsible for the violence.
QUESTION: The US and Cuba had migration talks yesterday. Could you give us a rundown?
MR. REEKER: I predicted you would ask that question. Indeed, as Mr. Gedda informed us, on Monday, December the 3rd -- that was yesterday -- a delegation led by the State Department's Coordinator for Cuban Affairs Jim Carragher met with Cuban officials in Havana for the latest round of the semiannual migration talks.
The meeting provided an opportunity to review implementation of existing migration accords. And as you know, these talks have taken place roughly twice a year since the signing of the joint communiqué on September 9th, 1994. We remain fully committed to full implementation of the migration accords.
QUESTION: Any progress?
MR. REEKER: Well, I wanted to see if you had any follow-up. While the accords are largely achieving their central purpose of encouraging safe, legal, orderly migration between Cuba and the United States, there are still important areas of concern. We talked about some of these before, and we continue to voice concerns at these migration talks over Cuban barriers to legal and orderly migration.
Such barriers entail prohibitively high fees and other outright denial of exit permits to certain Cuban nationals in possession of valid US entry documents. This is particularly the case with professionals in the fields of medicine and technology. We have noted that these practices result in the separation of families, which undermines an important US migration goal; that is, family reunification.
And we discussed these issues, as well as our efforts to confront organized alien smuggling of Cubans into the US, which, as we have also discussed before, is a highly dangerous criminal activity which persists despite the alternative of safe, legal and orderly migration procedures.
We reiterated also that the current US legal framework, we think, provides the best basis for safe, legal and orderly migration from Cuba to the United States and that illegal Cuban migration, despite the legal mechanisms that exist, stems from the desire of Cubans to escape the system there.
QUESTION: Undoubtedly, Cuba called for the repeal of the 1966 Cuba Adjustment Act at the talks yesterday. What is your position on that law?
MR. REEKER: I don't think we have any change of position at all. I don't have anything specific on what the Cubans discussed or did not discuss in regard to that. But we certainly don't have any change.
QUESTION: Well, what was the Cuban reaction to your expression of concerns about these --
MR. REEKER: I'll let you ask them. We simply expressed our concerns and continue to do that. I don't have a readout of their reaction.
QUESTION: Oh, because a -- well, there was a senior -- there was some US official saying that the Cubans hadn't progressed even a millimeter.
MR. REEKER: There often are officials that speak to you, and I am afraid in what I have for you today I am not going to try to speak on behalf of the Cubans. I will let them do that.
QUESTION: Is there anything new about the Friendship Bridge? Is it open or is it not? If not, when would it be open?
MR. REEKER: In Uzbekistan -- let me see if I do have something on that. I think the Secretary indicated that the Uzbeks were still working on that, and we were hoping to see it happen as soon as they had worked out the technical and security arrangements for that. But I don't have any particular update here. I think you would want to rely on reports there from the region or check with the Uzbeks, but it is something we anticipate, which of course we will continue to add to our ability to carry out the humanitarian mission in Afghanistan that, as you know, has been a priority for us.
QUESTION: If you don't have an update on that, then how about on your alleged American Taliban fighter? Apparently, the Pentagon was saying that there may be two other Americans who --
MR. REEKER: Yes, we are working very closely with the Defense Department on that to confirm identities of the individual. The person in question that has been highlighted so much in the press, if the person in fact is John Walker Lindh, he is an American citizen. As I indicated yesterday, given the possibility that he is a US citizen, we have to presume a right of privacy and protect that right, and so you may want to talk to the Department of Defense for any additional things.
To follow up on the questions you had yesterday, our Bureau of Consular Affairs has left a message with the mother of John Walker Lindh, who was listed as a contact in the gentleman's passport, and they are attempting to pass on to her the proper Department of Defense contact.
QUESTION: That was a US passport?
MR. REEKER: That's right. And as we said --
QUESTION: Well, then I don't understand how you're not sure that this guy is a US citizen. You think that he maybe stole the -- it's not his?
MR. REEKER: If you listen to what I said, we checked the passport files and have determined that John Walker Lindh is an American citizen. If the person in question who has been highlighted on television is indeed John Walker Lindh, then, yes, he would be an American citizen. We are working with the Defense Department, who have custody of the individual, to confirm that identity.
QUESTION: But do you have any reason to suspect that this person may not be?
MR. REEKER: I don't think particularly, but until we have made that determination we are not going to --
QUESTION: And the other two?
QUESTION: And what about the --
MR. REEKER: And on the other ones, I think you have to talk to the Defense Department because I didn't have -- did I have anything else on that? I don't think so. No, I don't. I have no information on that at all. You would want to talk to the Defense Department. It hasn't become a State Department issue.
QUESTION: You are not aware of Mrs. Walker -- if she has contacted you back from your message?
MR. REEKER: The last update I got was that we had left the message, and I don't believe that there has been a response since then.
QUESTION: Not necessarily in this case, but in a case where you do make a call to someone who is listed in a passport as the person to contact in an emergency, what are you asking them? What do you want them to --
MR. REEKER: In this case, we were --
QUESTION: Not necessarily this case. Any case in general. What is it --
MR. REEKER: Well, that is why in your passport you have a space where you may voluntarily list the person you would like to be contacted in case of emergency. In this case, because there is speculation that this individual may indeed be someone who is in, one might say, dire straits, we are contacting the person that was listed in that passport, hopefully to help with the confirmation of identity, working with the Defense Department who has custody of the individual; and also to be as helpful as we can to the person, the mother in this case, that was listed, if she has any questions and, in this case, as the Bureau told me, to give her a proper contact at the Defense Department to make sure that they have married up to exchange information.
QUESTION: Could you comment on the latest developments on Cyprus?
MR. REEKER: The United States welcomes the news today from Nicosia announced by the UN Secretary General's Special Advisor, Mr. Alvaro deSoto, that the two leaders have agreed to direct talks on Cyprus starting in mid-January, and we commend both leaders for reaching this agreement. It is certainly an encouraging development. And you might want to talk to the UN for further details of those talks. As you know, through its good offices mission, the United Nations has worked hard to help the parties achieve a settlement, and we supported that mission and we will continue to support strongly those efforts by the Secretary General and by his Special Advisor, Mr. deSoto.
QUESTION: I don't know -- this just came to me as I was walking up here, and it's kind of old. But last month, as part of your review of the Visa Waiver Program, teams were sent to Portugal and Slovenia. I'm presuming -- they were only supposed to be there about a week, and this was in early November, or mid-November, so I assume they're back. If you don't have anything, can you check?
MR. REEKER: I will check into that. I, myself, would be curious to hear how things were, and --
QUESTION: And also, if then other teams have been -- to the other four --
MR. REEKER: Very good question, and we will check into that and see where that stands. I am sure the Bureau can come back to us.
Anything else? Yes, Elise?
QUESTION: Is there anything new on the Egyptian detainees? Any talks with the Egyptians about letting them know about any detainees? We talked about it last week a little bit.
MR. REEKER: Egyptian detainees?
QUESTION: If any.
MR. REEKER: People being detained where? In the United States?
QUESTION: In the United States.
QUESTION: Remember, Powell was trying to get them consular access.
MR. REEKER: Right. I don't have anything new on that one. In the Pakistani case that was talked about, you know, we met with the Embassy of Pakistan and made quite clear that we will take whatever steps we can to uphold consular notification and access obligations, and we are working very closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure that they are aware of and properly carrying out our obligations under the Vienna Convention. And I think it is important to note, and it would apply to the Egyptian case as well, that in every case that has been brought to our attention, we have raised the foreign government's concerns with the appropriate law enforcement agency, or agencies, and been assured in response that these agencies are complying with their Vienna Convention obligations.
So we will continue to work on that.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MR. REEKER: You bet.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m. EST.)
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