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MR. REEKER: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the State Department on this fine Wednesday, half way through the week.
I would like to acknowledge and welcome to our briefing room today two visitors from Uzbekistan who are part of our International Visitor Program, Ms. Marina Kozlova and Ms. Galima Bukharbaeva from Uzbekistan. So thanks for joining us today. And we'll try to keep it as brief as possible for you.
Secretary Powell has arrived in Brussels, having departed earlier this morning our time from Ankara, Turkey. As you know, he will be over-nighting in Brussels, participating tomorrow in the North Atlantic Council ministerial meetings, as well as a variety of other meetings with European allies. And Ambassador Boucher continues to be with him, and your colleagues on the road traveling there.
Let me just point out a couple of things, one a statement that we issued actually the day before yesterday, I believe, but I think was missed by a number of people due to some technical errors. That is that two groups have been added under the executive order on extremism in the Western Balkans. And the United States has designated the so-called Albanian National Army and the so-called National Committee for the Liberation and Defense of Albanian Lands under Executive Order 13219, which was originally issued June 27th of this year. The designation of these groups, whose violent tactics aim to undermine democracy and threaten ongoing efforts to secure peace and stability in Macedonia, Kosovo and southern Serbia and, indeed, throughout the region will now allow the US Treasury to block the assets in the United States of these groups and to prohibit financial transactions with them by US persons.
This action supports the efforts of the leadership and citizens of Macedonia to implement the framework agreement, which was signed on August 13th, and to strengthen inclusive multi-ethnic, democratic structures. The United States reaffirms its condemnation of any groups engaged in extremist violence, inciting ethnic conflict or other obstructionist acts to promote irredentist or criminal agendas that threaten the peace, stability and security of Macedonia and the region.
And, again, we have that statement in written for available for you.
MR. REEKER: Irredentist activities.
QUESTION: What is that?
MR. REEKER: Look it up in the dictionary afterwards, Matt.
QUESTION: Do you know how many people are on this list -- groups are on this list now?
MR. REEKER: Let me see if we have information on how many that brings it to total. We added these two new groups. The best thing I can advise, Matt, is you go to the Treasury Department website. We can give you the URL. It has the executive order there under the OFAC -- Office of Foreign Assets Control -- part of the Treasury Department's website and that can run through the whole thing.
QUESTION: What were the names again? The Albanian National Army and --
MR. REEKER: The so-called Albanian National Army and the so-called National Committee for the Liberation and Defense of Albanian Lands. So those two groups have been added. That is, as of December 3rd of this year.
QUESTION: Has anything particular happened that led to their designation?
MR. REEKER: I think these are groups that openly claim to engage in acts which seek to undermine peace and stability and, as I said, undermine the legitimate democratic structures in Macedonia and throughout the region. We examined these groups and keep under review all such groups. And we have noted that, by these actions, they not only undermine democracy in Macedonia and the region but they place at risk US military and government personnel participating or supporting international stabilization efforts in the region. We have always opposed the use of violence and intimidation for political ends. And so, in keeping with the spirit of President Bush's original Executive Order from June 27th, we think the addition of these two groups to the existing order reflects our continued attention and commitment to stability in the region.
QUESTION: How does the list that is generated from the June 27th executive order, is that in any way linked to the list of terrorist organizations?
MR. REEKER: No.
QUESTION: Can you kind of just walk us through the difference? Because -- are you saying that these groups aren't terrorists?
MR. REEKER: I don't believe we have made terrorist organization designations of those groups. I think you were here when we went through this in June.
QUESTION: Yes, I remember, I remember. I just want to be sure that I understand --
MR. REEKER: The President issued an executive order to cut the flow of financial and materiel support to individuals and groups engaged in extremist violence and other destabilizing activities in the western Balkans. This is specifically an Executive Order, Number 13219, about the western Balkans. And the development here is the addition of these two additional groups.
Since we are talking about Macedonia, let me just add that we continue to urge the Macedonian parliament to pass the law on local self-government. The continuing delays in that process, we think are detrimental to Macedonia's future, and the parliament really needs to move immediately to pass this law, as they committed to in the August 13th framework agreement that I mentioned a bit ago.
It's obviously a precondition for holding the donors conference that is specified in the framework agreement, so we would like to encourage the Macedonian parliament to show some true leadership and move ahead on that.
QUESTION: Do you consider those two Albanians groups as terrorist groups, or just as groups?
MR. REEKER: No, as you know, we have a law in terms of defining terrorist organizations under a particular definition, a review of that. That has not been made in this case, but the Secretary has been quite clear in condemning actions that may indeed include terrorist actions that have taken place in the Balkans, and the President's executive order underscores our belief that those groups need to stop those actions and commit to a forward moving process.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout for Secretary of State's visit to Ankara? Any readout?
MR. REEKER: I don't, and I'll just -- just let me tell him that I would refer you to the traveling party for that. I think the Secretary did a press conference in Ankara. We can try to help you get a copy of that transcript, and also the press colleagues of yours traveling with him will be able to do that.
QUESTION: Can we go back to this (inaudible)?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: I must admit I'm a little confused. This -- you talked about this is a list set up in June? Did you say that?
MR. REEKER: Yes, there was an executive order issued in June. We briefed on it extensively at the time.
QUESTION: Then I must have been away.
MR. REEKER: Perhaps you were.
QUESTION: But this is quite separate from any other list? This is a fifth list, or a fourth list, or whatever?
MR. REEKER: Or a first list. It's a list unto itself. It's an executive order signed by President Bush.
QUESTION: Specifically related to the western Balkans?
MR. REEKER: Exactly.
QUESTION: What is the difference with this list and for the Holy Land funding block?
MR. REEKER: An absolute difference. The Holy Land, the organizations related to HAMAS that we discussed yesterday, I think we went through all of that yesterday here, and of course at the White House. This is a separate list. This is an executive order on groups in the western Balkans.
QUESTION: No, I meant (inaudible) --
QUESTION: Can we go to Russia? The Russians announced today that they were in compliance with SALT I. Today apparently is the deadline for certifying compliance and, as I understand it, the Russians are saying that they had some questions about whether the US is in compliance. Did I say SALT I? START I.
MR. REEKER: If you bear with us, I think we may have a statement for you this afternoon on that very subject. We are just coordinating with the Secretary's party which, as I said, just arrived in Brussels.
Indeed, December 5th, 2001, today, marks the successful completion of the third and final phase of reductions in strategic offensive arms required by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. That is the START I treaty. And the United States and Russia each now maintain fewer than the treaty's mandated limits of 1,600 deployed strategic delivery vehicles and 6,000 accountable warheads.
So I think we are marking an important milestone today in dismantling the legacy of the Cold War. The treaty's final ceilings came into effect today and they have been met, and we will get you some more information on that later this afternoon.
QUESTION: On the Holy Land Foundation, yesterday a number of officials associated with the charity dismissed the charges against them, saying that they were really working only for charitable causes. Has this caused any kind of -- have you gotten messages from other Arab states that, as they've said, that this is an indication that you are no longer playing an honest broker in the Middle East peace process?
MR. REEKER: No, I am not aware of any such messages?
QUESTION: You haven't gotten any? So there has been no backlash from other groups?
MR. REEKER: No, not that I am aware of.
As the President said, the action that we took yesterday to block the assets of those three organizations is part of our war on terrorism in terms of the financial tools that we have been using. These organizations have provided substantial financial support to HAMAS, a terrorist organization. It is an extremist organization that has openly claimed responsibility for horrific acts, including acts that took place last weekend, for other attacks that have killed, maimed, injured large numbers of people, including American citizens. So this is not the final step in our financial steps against terrorism, but it is a further step in that war.
QUESTION: Just like this group raising funds in the name of charity, there are many other groups here in the United States raising funds for overseas or for the terrorist activities, like in Kashmir and other countries. So are we going to go after those groups also raising funds from the United States in the name of charity?
MR. REEKER: I think as the President said, and as I just repeated, this was not a final step by any means. This is a continuing step in our war against terrorism, utilizing the important tools at our disposal, in terms of eliminating, removing the financial ability of groups to carry out terrorist activities like those attacks against us on September 11th. So we will continue to do this.
As you know, UN Security Council Resolution 1373 makes it a requirement for all UN member states to actively take steps and measures to cease funding for terrorist activities.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) when the Foreign Minister of India was here at the State Department and met with Secretary Colin Powell, and he gave a list in connection with the same thing, what President Bush did the other day to the Holy Land groups in -- against India or in India raising funds for the Kashmir cause. Where --
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I'm not aware of that. I would be happy to check on something.
QUESTION: Back to the Middle East, I understand that General Zinni is going to be meeting with Chairman Arafat today. Is that --
MR. REEKER: I don't have an exact readout on General Zinni's schedules or plans. He does remain there in the region as I indicated yesterday. He and our embassy and consulate officials are in ongoing contact with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to help the parties achieve a durable cease-fire. That is the mandate that he has from the Secretary of State and the President. But I don't have any specifics. I can try to check and see if we can get updates on what his schedule may include.
QUESTION: Will this be the first talk he will have had with Arafat? He hasn't talked to him on the phone or in any other way?
MR. REEKER: You are taking something that I couldn't confirm and trying to make a fact out of it. And I just said I don't have any specifics on his conversations or readouts.
QUESTION: But generally, the United States still believes --
MR. REEKER: Generally. General Zinni --
QUESTION: Not talking about the specific meeting --
MR. REEKER: The specific general ?
QUESTION: -- or if this meeting is even going to take place, without talking about the alleged meeting, in general you believe that Arafat is still someone you can work with on this, correct?
MR. REEKER: Yes. I mean, as I indicated yesterday, we believe that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority need to take --
QUESTION: But before we get back onto that track -- I realize that you are going to call for them to take actions and stop terrorism --
MR. REEKER: Matt, you're welcome to step on up here and --
QUESTION: Exactly. But we've all heard that more than enough, I think.
MR. REEKER: Okay, I'll leave that for you to decide.
QUESTION: When -- I just wondered -- used to --
MR. REEKER: I think we answered the question. Why don't we move on then?
QUESTION: Well, hold on a second --
QUESTION: Let Matt finish.
MR. REEKER: Well, I can never finish my sentences, so please, finish your question.
QUESTION: Do you still believe that Arafat is someone that you can work with? Is he still a viable leader? And please don't repeat, "We believe that he needs to do more." I just want to know, straight out, do you still think that this guy is someone --
MR. REEKER: If you can ask your questions, I can give my answers. And I'll choose to give them the way I choose to do it.
MR. REEKER: Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian Authority. We think he has authority, he has prestige, he can take actions, and he must take actions. The President was clear on this last night. The Secretary has reiterated that today from Ankara. And we believe that he has got to take action. And as we have said earlier, this is a moment of truth. There is an opportunity now for Chairman Arafat to take action against the terrorists responsible for those horrific attacks, not only to arrest and bring to justice those individually responsible, but to root out the infrastructures that allowed them to perpetuate these types of attacks.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on the same --
MR. REEKER: Eli was going to be first, and then Jonathan.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. Because mine is on exactly the same thing.
MR. REEKER: Eli was first.
QUESTION: I was going to say, regardless of whether General Zinni does in fact have an appointment today with Mr. Arafat, the State Department does at least believe that it would be helpful and useful for Mr. Zinni to continue his contacts with the Palestinian Authority, including Chairman Arafat?
MR. REEKER: That is why General Zinni has remained in the region, to be available on the instructions of the Secretary of State, to be available to the two sides, to try to help them through this. That is what the Israelis and the Palestinians --
QUESTION: The Palestinian Authority, yes? You're talking about?
MR. REEKER: The Palestinian Authority is what manages the affairs of the Palestinian Authority. So I don't think we have changed any facts on the ground there, Jonathan.
Now, Eli had a question.
QUESTION: --establish an alternative leadership?
QUESTION: When the Israelis attack Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank and Arafat's headquarters in Gaza, do you think that they are trying to kill Yasser Arafat?
MR. REEKER: Those are decisions that the Israelis have made. I am not going to offer an opinion or try to interpret what they are doing in terms of their security measures.
QUESTION: Okay, but what do you make of some of these targeted strikes, which are awfully close to the leader of the Palestinian Authority, which General Zinni --
MR. REEKER: Eli, I am not a security analyst, and I am not going to try to --
QUESTION: I'm not asking for -- I'm asking for the State Department to say what they think of attacks on his headquarters.
MR. REEKER: The State Department's views are quite clear. I can reiterate them, except your colleagues seem to not appreciate that. But I will go through that once again, since you seem not to know.
We had tragic events over the past week that demonstrate yet again the need for a lasting end to the violence, and we want to see immediate progress. Too many innocent Israelis and Palestinians, especially young people, have been killed and wounded. As the President has said and as the Secretary has said, the violence and terror must come to an end now.
Two weeks ago in Louisville, Secretary of State Powell articulated our vision for Israelis and Palestinians, each with the right to live in peace and security. And I will say again that only immediate and sustained efforts by Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority against those who would block the possibility of a better life for the Palestinian people, only that action can make possible an end to Palestinian suffering.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up on that, I was trying to ask what the response was to the Israeli strikes, and you told me what you thought Arafat ought to do. Are you saying that Arafat needs to do all this in order for the Israelis to stop what they are doing, or -- I mean, I just want to get a comment on their response?
MR. REEKER: I think I gave you the comment yesterday on their response.
MR. REEKER: We have understood the Israelis' need to take security steps. I am not going to try to analyze those for you. You are perfectly capable of doing that yourself, as you all have.
Terrorist attacks like we have seen again this morning, an attempted bombing, are a direct assault on Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. And the perpetrators need to be arrested and the actions taken, as I said, to bring those responsible to justice and make sure they can't commit further acts of such terror.
We've also said many times that both sides have to consider the consequences of their actions and take decisions that facilitate progress. All sides must not lose sight of the need to resume progress towards a lasting end to violence and a resumption of dialogue. Implementation of the Mitchell recommendations, the Tenet security work plan, that will lead to peace, of course, on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
Again, the Secretary has said they must think to tomorrow and the day after and consider the consequences of their actions and find a way to move forward together.
QUESTION: If you call these attacks a direct assault on Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, as the Secretary said, as you just said, then why are you not making comment on the Israeli direct attacks on Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority? I mean, if these --
MR. REEKER: Elise --
QUESTION: Let me finish.
MR. REEKER: Okay.
QUESTION: If these attacks were from a group that's directly making an attack against Arafat, why do you not have any comment about Israel not going after -- why doesn't Israel go after HAMAS themselves? Why are they going after Yasser Arafat?
MR. REEKER: I think Israel has taken many steps against terrorist organizations that have affected the types of tragic things that we saw again over the weekend. Just as we are dedicated to fighting terrorism, so have been the Israelis, so is the rest of the world fighting these actions.
Chairman Arafat has promised to take action. He has promised before and he has promised now. And now we have to see that action. We have to see results. As the Secretary has said, if he is making a 100 percent effort, then we have to see results, and that is what we are looking to, because that is in his best interests as well. It is in the interest to save lives and bring an end to the violence, both against innocent Israelis and innocent Palestinians, and it is in his own interests too, so that we can move forward, to get back on the track toward what we've envisioned, what the Secretary described in Louisville and what we would all like to see in terms of peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, and an opportunity to move ahead with better lives.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the people who have been rounded up so far by the Palestinian Authority are, as Israelis said, third-raters and low level, and they could go after others but they haven't?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any specifics on what steps have been taken, other than to reiterate what the Secretary of State said this morning, that we haven't yet seen the results of 100 percent effort.
QUESTION: The Israelis do in fact appear to have called off, for the moment, their attacks on the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinians generally. Does the State Department -- is the State Department relieved to see this apparent lull? And have you heard -- have the Israelis given you any assurances that they have decided to think about the repercussions of their actions?
MR. REEKER: I think you will have to ask the Israelis for any comment regarding their security operations. And how did you want to --
QUESTION: The first part was, how do you -- does the State Department have any feelings about the apparent lull in operations against the Palestinians?
MR. REEKER: I don't want to try to do an hour-by-hour review of this. As you saw this morning, there was another attempt at terrorist action in Jerusalem. Our position is the basic position that I have stated over and over again. What we need to see is action taken against the terrorists on the part of Mr. Arafat, and then we need to see work with both sides with the help of General Zinni -- that is what he is there for -- and the whole international community's support to get back on the track that both sides have declared they want to be on.
QUESTION: But Phil, surely, if you are in favor of ending the violence and all the -- in the region, surely it must please you that the Israelis have suspended attacks, no?
MR. REEKER: An end to violence, sure. I'm just not trying to analyze moment by moment what has gone on there, Matt. So I am just not in a position to do that. Our view is clear about what we would like to see happen, and the actions we would like to see taken. And so I am not going to walk out of here and five minutes later find out that there is some new development that I am not aware about.
QUESTION: But Phil, that means the Israelis are fighting on their own war against terrorism, and one war is being fought now in Afghanistan by the United States against terrorism. So you think the US is going to move in the Middle East in the future, a war against terrorism?
MR. REEKER: I think we have all indicated that in fact it's the international community that is fighting a war against terrorism. Virtually every country in the world, with a few minor exceptions, is part of this effort against terrorism. Afghanistan is where we have been focusing now on al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden, and the Taliban that has harbored him. Those groups are rapidly being left in the dust of history as the Afghan people take steps, as they have in Bonn, to move forward. And we will continue to take steps necessary to eliminate that terrorist threat.
And as the President said, look beyond that to where we may need to act next, using all the different tools available to us. We have already discussed the financial tools. We have law enforcement mechanisms, intelligence and information sharing, and we will continue to use all of those things and diplomacy to fight the war against terrorism, wherever terrorism has a global reach.
QUESTION: Can we go on to Afghanistan?
MR. REEKER: Are we sure?
QUESTION: Yes. Afghanistan, yes.
QUESTION: Well, we're sure.
QUESTION: We have heard various comments welcoming the agreement. What is the status of recognition of the new interim administration? And what steps are going to be taken on the embassy in Kabul?
MR. REEKER: I am not quite sure what your first question is referring to, whose recognition of what?
QUESTION: Your recognition of the new interim administration, which is in formation?
MR. REEKER: I would have to see how that goes. I know at the UN there is a process in terms of credentialing. I think we have been fully supportive of the steps taken in Bonn, welcoming the positive developments and the final agreement of Afghan representatives on the functions, responsibility as a membership of the Interim Authority for Afghanistan. I will check in with you as that actually evolves and actually is implemented, in terms of what our specific steps would be.
In terms of the question about a diplomatic presence, I think the Secretary has indicated on his trip that we would expect to have a diplomatic presence in Kabul in the not-too-distant future. We have been actively considering how we will go about doing that, and we will send representatives in when we judge it to be appropriate.
Just a note for some of you that asked me earlier, in terms of the staff that have remained there, the Afghan staff, about 60 Afghan national employees have remained on our payroll since 1989, when we withdrew our American staff. They have been maintaining the facilities, including the chancery compound, a number of residences. Many of those employees are guards, and we have kept in close touch with them throughout this period. We are very proud of their conduct and their courage through an extremely difficult and dangerous time.
And so the decisions on reestablishing the diplomatic presence are moving forward. We need to establish accurate information about the conditions of the facilities, obviously, and we will be looking at sending a team of administrative experts to Kabul soon, when we can do that.
In the meantime, I think it is worth noting, as you indicated, some have already discussed that we do see these as positive developments. The Secretary said we are very pleased by the work done by these Afghan leaders. We expect these 30 members of an interim authority to operate.
And of course now the real work lies ahead. Then we have to implement the agreement. And as the Secretary promised, they will have our support in their efforts.
I think the Secretary General at the United Nations and his representative, Mr. Brahimi, said that this agreement will be judged by what it achieves, and this gives a breathing space to the Afghan people, I think, to establish a broad-based government and we will continue to urge the representatives on this board, the Afghan leaders, not to disappoint their people who will have great expectations for the future.
QUESTION: So you don't know anything about the Secretary saying that he was going to send Ambassador Dobbins to Kabul?
MR. REEKER: I haven't actually spoken with the Secretary since he landed in Brussels. But Ambassador Dobbins would obviously be a choice to be involved in that, since he has been our envoy working with the groups before and now during Bonn and afterwards. So as those details emerge, we will try to let you know as soon as plans emerge. It's a very fluid thing and we will let you know --
QUESTION: When they go, do you -- perhaps it's too early, because maybe --
MR. REEKER: Looking for a job, Matt?
QUESTION: Yeah. Yeah, I may well be.
Are they going to go with the idea of moving into the embassy compound immediately? Or --
MR. REEKER: I just think it is premature to know.
QUESTION: How did these 60 Afghan nationals get paid all these years?
MR. REEKER: I think they have been able to keep in contact with our diplomatic presence in the region, and we have been able to, as conditions have permitted, to make sure that they receive their payment.
QUESTION: And I assume that they will all be offered continued employment?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to indicate otherwise, but we will let you know as soon as we have developments on any diplomatic presence in Kabul.
QUESTION: Have you guys determined yet whether or not Mr. Walker's parents are lying when they say that their son is an American citizen?
MR. REEKER: We determined he is an American citizen. I think that determination is fairly set. Do I have anything specific? I think, as I did yesterday, I just have to refer you to the Defense Department, who has custody of him.
QUESTION: So you have not gotten -- you haven't had anyone in to see him yourself?
MR. REEKER: No, there is no --
QUESTION: So there is no Privacy Act waiver?
MR. REEKER: There is no issue of consular access. We don't have people in Afghanistan, as you know. So he is part of the Defense Department. It is a different issue.
QUESTION: How did you establish that, by the way?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. But that was the definitive answer that I was given.
QUESTION: What about the alleged other two?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any further information. I would send you to DOD on that one, too.
QUESTION: Have they asked you to do some kind of a passport record search?
MR. REEKER: Not that I'm aware of. The stories of those two individuals are all I've seen -- are stories. I haven't seen any reference to any State Department connection to that at all, and I am told that we did make contact with the mother of Mr. Walker and make sure that she has appropriate contacts at the Defense Department, to follow up on her query there.
QUESTION: A couple of days ago, you talked about Section 349(a)(3). Can you tell us what title that is? We can't find it. What title of the US Code that is?
MR. REEKER: I don't remember my US Code. I'm trying to see if I have --
QUESTION: It is in the Immigration Act, but we're having trouble finding it.
MR. REEKER: Why don't we look for that afterwards. As hard as I look at the index, I'm not going to find it, so the Press Office will put on their legal cap and help you with that afterwards.
QUESTION: A couple of things. As far as the embassy is concerned, can you
MR. REEKER: In Kabul?
QUESTION: Yes, whether it be foreign nationals or American teams, are they doing mine clearance around the embassy? There were some reports about --
MR. REEKER: I think you would want to ask DOD that, because they are the people that would have personnel on the ground. That would obviously be a first step before we would send a team of administrative experts, which would then probably be the next step.
QUESTION: But structural things about the embassy and stuff would be a State Department function?
MR. REEKER: Yes, once we are able to start functioning that. But on the ground now are DOD personnel, and if they can help establishing the basic security of the compound, then we will be able to take the next steps.
QUESTION: But that is up to the Pentagon, basic security of the compound?
MR. REEKER: We will obviously be in contact with the Pentagon about where they may -- the forces that they have on the ground may be able to help in making some determinations of that nature. And then we will see what the next steps will be in moving forward.
QUESTION: And then also -- forgive me if you said this and it just went over my head -- Secretary Powell said some things apparently on the plane about Jim Dobbins going to Kabul?
MR. REEKER: That was the conversation I had with Matt.
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
MR. REEKER: Secretary Powell was on the plane and I wasn't. I saw the reports of that, but I don't have the exact statements he said. I think Ambassador Dobbins is the obvious person to be involved with our continued consultations and support for the Afghan groups that have formed now this interim administration. As that comes into place, and works on forming then a government, as the agreement signed in Bonn envisions. So I think he is the obvious person to do that, but I just don't have the details of how we will be approaching that.
QUESTION: And just one more? I know you congratulated the people for their -- the Afghans for setting up their transitional authority, but do you have any particular comments on Mr. Karzai as being selected to head this interim authority?
MR. REEKER: I understand that he is widely known and respected by almost all Afghan groups. He is the traditional leader of the Popalzai.
QUESTION: The Popalzai.
MR. REEKER: Thank you. A prominent Pashtun tribe. And I understand he was active in the Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, and has remained involved in Afghan politics since, seeking support for a broad-based government as an alternative to the Taliban. That certainly is very much in line with our thinking and what we have called for for some time now, many years, in fact. So we will look forward to that, and just echo the remarks of the Secretary General and Mr. Brahimi in terms of noting that much work remains to be done, that the international community will continue to support sincere efforts of Afghan leaders, including Mr. Karzai. The real work lies ahead, but we should thank the UN officials and their staff for their tireless efforts to conclude this important understanding among Afghan leaders that was achieved in Bonn.
QUESTION: So you would not look kindly on any injury coming to Mr. Karzai in any way?
MR. REEKER: I don't think we look kindly on such injuries, no.
QUESTION: But one -- this building would likely advise other government buildings that it wouldn't be a good thing for -- is that correct? Phil? Is that correct?
MR. REEKER: I'm not sure what you are referring to, Matt.
QUESTION: Mr. Karzai was injured in the same accidental bombing of -- near Kandahar --
MR. REEKER: I would refer you to the Defense Department to comment on that. I don't have any details on operational aspects of that.
QUESTION: Phil, as far as a new government in Afghanistan is concerned, and the prime minister-to-be, Mr. Karzai, you know, according to the reports, Pashtuns were the largest or biggest supporters of Taliban. Now, how this -- and since he is now fighting against Taliban. So how optimistic you are that the new government of this group will work? And --
MR. REEKER: I don't think we are going to make sweeping statements like that on the basis of ethnicity. I don't think that is what the Afghan people have presented as they have worked together, as the leaders that have come to Bonn under the UN auspices have worked very hard and very diligently to bring about this final agreement for an interim authority. They have talked about responsibilities, they have talked about functions, they have talked about their hopes for the future of Afghanistan, for all the people of Afghanistan, and that includes all the ethnic groups. That is why we have called for as broad-based an authority as possible, that based on ethnicity as well as geography, in that very diverse country of Afghanistan.
They will now have a six-month period in which to establish a permanent structure for a broad-based government, and I think there is a lot of work ahead. And those that are dedicated to the task will do so with the support of the international community. We are very determined to help with reconstruction, as you are well aware. We have already had a conference here, and expect to have follow-on conferences on that. And we are also going to continue working on the humanitarian efforts that we undertake and have for so long to help the Afghan people get through this winter, to reduce the number of people that are going to die because of the horrible conditions that the Taliban have left them in, and because of the natural disasters they face through the decades of civil war.
So that is all part of our effort, and we are very positive about the steps that were taken in Bonn, and we are going to continue working on it.
QUESTION: So do you think the US is going to be the first country to recognize the new government, and how soon will the embassy will be open?
MR. REEKER: I think it is far premature, and we just spoke at great length about the process that we are going through in terms of establishing a diplomatic presence in Kabul.
QUESTION: Phil, just to make sure, you're not saying that the Taliban wasn't majority Pashtun, are you? You said that statement about broad-sweeping ethnic generalizations. I just want to make sure. I mean, the Taliban was majority Pashtun.
MR. REEKER: I think the questioner was trying to indicate that the ethnicity of any particular group might reflect the views of an entire ethnic group.
QUESTION: Oh, I see.
MR. REEKER: And that was what I was trying to reject.
QUESTION: There was a senior Pakistani diplomat, perhaps speaking more frankly than his government would dare to do itself, said that the structure of the new administration was a disaster, because of the heavy dominance of the Northern Alliance in the key posts. What would you say to allay such Pakistani fears?
MR. REEKER: I would say that this broad-based group of Afghan representatives and leaders has met in Bonn, under the auspices of the United Nations, with the support of the international community, including the United States, including Germany and others, to work on a final agreement to which they have all agreed. And I think the views reflected in the statements, which I haven't seen from some unnamed person, certainly don't reflect the views widely held in the international community. But as the Secretary has said, there is much work ahead, and that the people involved, the members of the interim authority are going to have to be dedicated and determined in their efforts to move ahead.
The agreement sets out a timeline for how they can do this, in terms of establishing an independent commission that can convene a loya jirga that will create a permanent government. That will be a broad-based government.
And so we are going to stick with this, we are going to continue to offer our support, diplomatic and financial, humanitarian, to the people of Afghanistan, because we think they deserve a better future in a terrorist-free, secure Afghanistan. And that is what our goal is.
QUESTION: Great advertising campaign. Can I ask you if you got an answer to the question I had yesterday about the visa waiver program?
MR. REEKER: I sure did. Lest you doubt me again.
QUESTION: Oh, no, I didn't doubt you. Sometimes these things slip through the cracks.
MR. REEKER: That is very true. And we all will recall that on October 29th, we announced the Visa Waiver Program review, and a combined Immigration and Naturalization Service/State Department team or teams, actually, have been out to the first six countries. They will soon complete their visits to six countries as part of this mandatory review of each Visa Waiver Program country's participation in the program.
You will remember, there are 29 countries currently in the Visa Waiver Program, and they are required, under the law from 2000, to have these reviews every five years. They serve to ensure that each country continues to meet the criteria for the program, and that its participation poses no threat to US law enforcement or security interests.
Specifically, reviews were conducted in Portugal November 3rd through 10th, Slovenia those same dates, 3rd through 10th of November; in Italy from November 25 through December 1st; Argentina from November 25 through December 1st. In Belgium, they are just wrapping up today, December 5th, a review that began November 27th. And in Uruguay, they are still there, from December 1st, expected to finish up on the 8th of December.
And then the next round of reviews, the next five countries we would imagine will be announced as soon as they are scheduled, sometime in 2002.
QUESTION: Okay, and what -- when do they submit whatever the report that they found --
MR. REEKER: I don't know if they have an exact timetable for completing their reports based on the review. No decisions obviously have been made on any country's continued participation or termination from the program, which is what the law required. Such a decision, of course, would be made by the Attorney General in consultation with the Secretary of State, following the interagency review of the site team's reports, and any other pertinent information that comes in.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, the decision isn't made by the Secretary of State in consultation with the Attorney General? It's made by the Attorney General in consultation with the Secretary of State?
MR. REEKER: I believe that is what the law states, yes. And so --
QUESTION: Is there a date by which -- is there any set date by which --
MR. REEKER: I don't have any other dates at this point to offer for you.
QUESTION: I mean in the law.
MR. REEKER: I would have to go back and check. I don't have any other set dates that I am aware of -- that requires to be done with in five years, every five years. And so, I think we have quite a window before the five-year time will come up. But I think they want to proceed through these and then work on the next five.
Of course, I will reiterate that we strongly support the Visa Waiver Program and welcome the continued participation of all countries that meet the requirements under the law.
QUESTION: The next five for review haven't been selected yet?
MR. REEKER: No. The next round of reviews will be announced as soon as they are scheduled.
QUESTION: And it's been a couple days now since I've noticed any stories in the New York Times or The Washington Post questioning the Saudis' cooperation with the United States on the financial -- so I just wondered, do you have any idea why there would be a lack of such stories since --
MR. REEKER: I will refer you to your fellow journalists on such questions. I think it might be that finally people are realizing what we have been saying.
QUESTION: So you think that it's a function of --
MR. REEKER: I would suspect that certain spokespeople have been allowed to finish their answers and their sentences, and that the message has finally gotten through to the broader journalistic populous.
QUESTION: A question that's I guess three interrelated regions.
MR. REEKER: Uh-oh.
QUESTION: The Middle East, Afghanistan, and where it pertains to Indonesia and especially to Malaysia and the Philippines.
MR. REEKER: But my index is arranged geographically.
QUESTION: Are -- is the trouble in both the Middle East beginning to spill over, and it seems from wire reports, there is a reluctance of the three governments to have US troops sent in. But what about coalition? Is there any -- can you speak to those?
MR. REEKER: I'm missing your entire question. What governments are we talking about?
QUESTION: To go after -- they are having problems --
MR. REEKER: Who?
QUESTION: Indonesia especially with Abu Sayyaf, the terrorist group.
MR. REEKER: The terrorist group, yes.
QUESTION: And the Middle East, it's HAMAS. Are you in any way now equating the spillover into the Middle East and into Southeast Asia as part of an al-Qaida style group? Grouping them together?
MR. REEKER: I don't know that we have made any particular finding of that nature. We have talked about terrorism and how it affects so many parts of the world, how individual terrorist groups or organizations like al-Qaida may have complex webs --
QUESTION: Yes, but what I'm saying is, is there now I guess an unwritten spillover? I guess you would say because of the hostilities in the Middle East, to egg on another location, to widen that type of terrorist activity?
MR. REEKER: No, I think, as we have said quite plainly before, the idea that the hostilities of the Middle East and the problems in the Middle East are the cause of terrorism, particularly in other parts of the world, is not something we agree with. Groups, just like Usama bin Laden, have hijacked other issues, like the Palestinian issue, to try to make excuses, when there is no justification for terrorism, there is no justification for the killing of innocent civilians for political means, in terms of what these groups have tried to do. They have hijacked religion, they have hijacked geography, and they have tried to hijack other causes for their own twisted, criminal, murderous ways. And that is what we are determined to root out and end.
As the President said, our war on terrorism will continue, and we are very much determined, along with all of those that have joined with us in this coalition against terrorism all around the world, to take those steps. And so we are working with many countries on how we can move forward against terrorism in so many ways. We talked about the financial aspects earlier, and we will continue to pursue those, as well as other --
QUESTION: On the plane, Secretary Powell said he called Mr. Armitage and instructed him to talk to embassies and bureaus about finding money to send to Afghanistan for rebuilding water systems and bridges and roads, and infrastructure things. Do you know how much money they are talking?
MR. REEKER: I don't.
QUESTION: And what kind of --
MR. REEKER: I don't. As I said, I wasn't on the plane.
QUESTION: And it's only to come from existing money that has already been appropriated --
MR. REEKER: You are asking me questions I don't even know where to begin -- you are clearly asking me questions I can't answer, because I don't have that information.
QUESTION: One of -- on immigration. As far as 600 or more arrests are concerned here in the US in connection with terrorism, one-third of them are from Pakistan. If anybody from the Pakistan Embassy or community are in touch with this Department or they met --
MR. REEKER: Yes, we had a meeting with the Pakistan Ambassador. We talked about that at a briefing earlier this week, and you will have to look at the transcript to see the discussion on that.
QUESTION: And finally, when there is terrorism in India, and India wants to go after those terrorists and those who support them, then US would call restraint for India. But now this time they never said anything about when Israel went against this terrorism, because Israel and India both are the victims of terrorism --
MR. REEKER: I don't know what you are talking about. I really don't know what you are talking about. If you have a specific question, why don't you get back to me. And Mr. Lambros will have the last one.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the Secretary's visit to Ankara?
MR. REEKER: I don't. He was in Ankara. He had a successful visit. As I told you, when you asked the question earlier today, he gave a press conference. The transcript of that press conference includes his remarks about his visit to Turkey, and we will be happy to make that available to you.
QUESTION: I was wondering if he discussed with the Turkish officials the Cyprus and the Aegean issues. That is my concern.
MR. REEKER: Why don't you look at the transcript of the Secretary's remarks, and then you will know what he said.
MR. REEKER: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:07 p.m. EST.)
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