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MR. REEKER: Excuse my tardiness today. We try to schedule these things when we think we can be out here. There are a number of briefings going on around town and so we are trying not to conflict with each other but, inevitably, that occurs.
Welcome back to the State Department on this fine Monday. As you are aware, Secretary Powell is traveling. He is currently in Pakistan. Ambassador Boucher is traveling with him, and that is why I am here to take your questions.
But I would like to begin with a short statement, and we will release this in hard copy immediately following the briefing. That is a statement about the paramilitary massacre of 24 civilians last week in Colombia. The United States deplores the massacre of 24 civilians in Buga, Valle del Cauca Department of Colombia on Wednesday, October the 10th.
We condemn this vile and criminal act committed by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as the AUC. As you know, the United States designated the AUC as a foreign terrorist organization on September the 10th because of its involvement in terrorist acts, such as this one perpetrated last week. We call on the AUC as well as other illegal armed groups in Colombia to cease the targeting of civilians and to respect international humanitarian law. I will put that out immediately following the briefing.
Barry, please have a seat. And, since you are standing up, go ahead and have the first question, if you desire.
QUESTION: Does State have any reports of mass defections of Taliban forces? And do you have -- kind of silly to be asking; the Secretary's in the area, right -- but anything on fighting in Kashmir?
MR. REEKER: Are you tempting me to refer you to the traveling party?
QUESTION: Well, I don't know how much access they're having, so we might as well ask here. Is there some outbreak in Kashmir now?
MR. REEKER: On your first question on Taliban defections, I don't have any particular information for you on that.
I have seen a variety of reports quite recently involving Kashmir. I think the President responded just a short time ago by noting we believe it is very important that India and Pakistan stand down. As you know, we have called for restraint on both sides, for dialogue, for pursuing a peaceful resolution through a bilateral dialogue that takes into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir.
The Secretary, as you noted, arrived in Pakistan a few hours ago. He is visiting Pakistan and India to further our coordination on the war against terrorism, to discuss Afghanistan and to pursue our continuing goal of promoting a dialogue between the two countries, India and Pakistan, to reduce tensions between them.
Obvious, as I hinted, his party may be able to provide further information on his trip there from the ground, and some of your colleagues are with him as well. As well, the Secretary will pursue in both countries our broader bilateral agendas in his meeting there. And so our Kashmir policy, I would reiterate, has not changed. We do not seek a mediating role, but we think it's very important for both sides to pursue a dialogue towards a peaceful resolution of those issues.
QUESTION: Are there any plans the Secretary has right now to meet with the Taliban Foreign Minister -- whose name I won't pronounce now -- who is rumored to be defecting, according to numerous reports from the region?
MR. REEKER: Let me allow your colleague to pronounce it, because he can do a better job than I can. I did check into some of those media reports, and in spite of such reports, I am told that we have no indication that the Taliban foreign minister, Muttawakil, is in Pakistan. There are no plans for him to meet Secretary Powell.
QUESTION: Could we move to Saudi Arabia?
MR. REEKER: Sure.
QUESTION: There was some criticism in Riyadh today or yesterday against the US, with an official there. It was the interior minister, who was blaming the US for its lack of cooperation with the Saudis against terrorism, returning some criticism that were made in the press here, and also warning the US for taking too many casualties in Afghanistan -- civilian casualties.
MR. REEKER: I don't --
QUESTION: What's the state of your cooperation with the Saudis right now?
MR. REEKER: The short answer to your question is that, as we have said before, I think even over the weekend, and certainly last week, that we are very satisfied with our cooperation with Saudi Arabia. They have agreed to everything we have asked of them in our campaign against terrorism.
I have not seen a complete transcript of the remarks to which you're referring. I have seen a number of press reports, some of which seem to reflect on things that we have been saying. In fact, if I may quote your colleague's news service, suggesting that, "The situation does not please us at all," said the Interior Minister, "but that doesn't mean in any way that we won't fight with all our effort to uproot terrorism."
I think that quite reflects the attitudes we have been expressing for five weeks now. This situation clearly doesn't please us; we would certainly rather be able to focus on other things in our foreign and defense policy but right now we are talking about a situation of self-defense and responding to the terrorist threats that were all too evident September the 11th.
So again, our cooperation with the Saudis is something with which we are very satisfied. And I would just refer you back to individual comments for that.
QUESTION: Going back to the Pakistan-India-Afghanistan situation --
QUESTION: Can we stay on Saudi?
MR. REEKER: Your choice. Saudi? Saudi it is.
QUESTION: You just said -- you just quoted the Saudi Foreign Minister saying they'll do all they can. Can this building say the Saudis are doing all they can to combat terrorism, including freezing the financial assets of groups associated --
MR. REEKER: As you know, we have made it our practice not to speak on behalf of other countries and their specific steps that they have taken. But what I can do is reiterate what we've said, that they've done everything we have asked of them. We are very satisfied with their cooperation.
I think some of you may have noted in the line of financial things, that there were senior Saudi financial and monetary officials in Washington 10 days ago for consultations on these matters. I am told that those meetings were very positive. You might talk to the Department of Treasury for specifics on that. And we are obviously continuing to work with the Saudis on this issue and continue to be satisfied with their cooperation.
QUESTION: So the Saudis have done everything that you asked?
MR. REEKER: We continue to be satisfied with the cooperation of the Saudis.
QUESTION: Not to be nit picking, but this building has, at times, disclosed cooperation from other foreign governments, such as Mr. Cunningham's remarks following the US abstention on the Sudan vote in the UN.
MR. REEKER: When those things have been made public by those countries.
QUESTION: Well, okay. But --
MR. REEKER: Well, okay.
QUESTION: There are so many mixed messages coming from Saudi Arabia on this very question about some say they do and some say they don't. And it is very confusing for us. And so you could say that they have made public conflicting information.
MR. REEKER: I guess you can say that, but I won't.
QUESTION: Back to Pakistan and Afghanistan, does the Secretary have any plans to meet with a delegation representing Zahir Shah that is in Pakistan?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of the specifics of the Secretary's plans in Pakistan. I truly have not seen a readout there, and I would just have to refer you to the traveling party. Sorry.
QUESTION: Phil, the Secretary said on the plane that he has appointed Richard Haass as his coordinator for Afghanistan. What exactly will his role be in this position?
MR. REEKER: Yes, the Secretary did announce that in his briefing on the airplane, and we will endeavor to get you the full transcript of that briefing, just as soon as it's ready. There were some difficulties in getting the full text through from Pakistan.
I have the Secretary's remarks somewhere here. I think you will note when you see that, that he has pretty much provided everything we can give you on that. That Ambassador Richard Haass, who is our Director of Policy and Planning at the State Department, will be the Secretary's personal representative working with the UN on Afghanistan policy, working with other nations directly, bilaterally, working with the international community.
As you know, we have said all along that peace and stability can only be established in Afghanistan through the formation of a broad-based government that represents all geographical and ethnic backgrounds in Afghanistan. Such a government would protect human rights, permit reconstruction which we have pledged to assist, and end Afghanistan's use as a haven for terrorists.
So Ambassador Haass, as the Director of Policy Planning, will have the lead in our policy aspects pertaining to Afghanistan. This is a policy, not an operational position, as the Secretary said. Obviously we are staying in touch with all the parties that we have long worked with. That includes the UN, includes various Afghan groups, others in the international community.
We will be exchanging views at the APEC meeting in Shanghai, with a number of senior officials, including the presidents of China and Russia and other members of APEC. And as you know, and as the President noted, we have supported the United Nations in the search for peace in Afghanistan since the 1980s. We welcome the Secretary General's appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi as his Special Representative for Afghanistan.
And so, as I said, we are still discussing these issues. We are talking to all the parties. We will support any broad-based government they come up with. We will work with those that want to create a peaceful, terrorist-free Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Just a quick clarification. They come up with? I'm sorry.
MR. REEKER: The people of Afghanistan, the Afghans.
QUESTION: The people of Afghanistan -- not the parties --
MR. REEKER: That's exactly what we have said.
QUESTION: The broad-based government in Afghanistan, the UN currently recognizes Mr. Rabbani as the President of Afghanistan, officially. Is part of Mr. Richard Haass' job going to be to maybe get the UN to reconsider that, considering he is a Tajik, not necessarily representing --
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I think we will consider talking to all the parties involved. And as we said, it has to be a broad-based --
QUESTION: Does the State Department agree with the UN, that Rabbani is the leader of Afghanistan?
MR. REEKER: As you know, we have not recognized a government in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Can I quickly -- is the Richard Haass going to keep -- going to continue to play a key role in Northern Ireland?
MR. REEKER: Yes, he will continue to keep his full portfolio under the policy planning rubric.
QUESTION: Do you know when -- where -- is Mr. Haass here now, and does he plan to go off to Pakistan to meet some Afghans?
MR. REEKER: Mr. Haass?
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Okay, when does he plan to go off and meet some Afghans? And can you fill us in on what contacts you -- we keep hearing about being in contact with all the parties, but can you actually tell us, apart from the King, and of course the Northern Alliance, who else you have had contact with?
MR. REEKER: I can check into whether I can get a full rundown of all the different groups we have had contact with recently, and over the years, if you would like. I don't have such a rundown in front of me, and I don't have any specific travel plans for Ambassador Haass at this point.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. REEKER: Are we switching subjects?
QUESTION: Well, I was going to ask you. Can you elaborate on why China would be consulted about Afghanistan's future government?
MR. REEKER: China is a country, one of the Six-Plus-Two countries; it has a border with Afghanistan. It is a member of the United Nations Security Council, a permanent member, obviously a country we would want to consult with. We have been working with China in our coalition against terrorism, and we will continue to discuss this with a broad grouping in the international community.
We're going to switch go Elise now? Yes, please, go ahead.
QUESTION: This is on the public diplomacy aspect. Last week, Under Secretary Charlotte Beers said that the State Department was working with the Ad Council to discuss a series of public announcements that distill American values. Could you speak a little bit about this? Is this unprecedented?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything particular to add at this point. In an interview on Friday, Under Secretary Beers said we are, as she had said before, working with the Ad Council on some possible projects communicating the Awards for Justice Program, the Most Wanted List, things that we have announced previously. She suggested that people talk to the Ad Council about what they may be considering. I think it is an opportunity for the Department of State to work with this organization on a variety of projects, but I don't think I have any specific details at this point.
QUESTION: Is this unprecedented, that the State Department would work with the Ad Council? Or is there an ongoing --
MR. REEKER: I am not sure. I would have to check. But I am happy to look into that.
QUESTION: If you could get some more information.
MR. REEKER: I am happy to check for you.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up on -- I think she also, in the magazine Ad Age -- this was the interview that we were referring to -- said that there would be a possibility of US commercials on the Al Jazeera network. Is this -- can you give us a little bit more information about that?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any specific information on those projects. The Public Diplomacy folks are looking at many, many avenues utilizing programs, existing programs we have, utilizing US Government capabilities, including international broadcasting through the Broadcasting Board of Governors and their resources. Certainly all of the programs that we have with our Public Diplomacy officers abroad and working here in Washington are being utilized in addition to utilizing the press, utilizing you that have international reach and utilizing those organizations like Al Jazeera.
There have been a number of US Government officials who have been interviewed on Al Jazeera directly. I think Al Jazeera is probably here covering a feed of our briefing, as they do other briefings. All of those are clearly available to them and they carry those obviously to the Arab world and beyond.
QUESTION: I believe the Under Secretary said that there would be commercials, though, running on Al Jazeera. I just --
MR. REEKER: I just don't have any specifics on that, but I would be happy to try to check into all those aspects.
QUESTION: Does the State Department often utilize public relations and advertising expertise outside of its own people in trying to get out its message, or is this something that's evolved?
MR. REEKER: I think it has happened on and off. I know in my own experiences overseas as a Public Diplomacy officer, I met with those in the realm of public relations who have expertise, sharing ideas and thoughts. But I would just have to go back and check for you in terms of anything specific like that. But I will try to look into it.
QUESTION: The HAMAS man who was killed yesterday, do you have any comment on that?
MR. REEKER: Let me just make sure we are talking about the same thing.
QUESTION: There is only one HAMAS who was killed yesterday, possibly by a helicopter --
MR. REEKER: I don't know if that is the same report that I read, then. I guess we can talk generally about the Middle East.
QUESTION: -- café bombing -- Tel Aviv café --
MR. REEKER: Jonathan is talking about a helicopter or something --
QUESTION: Talking about his background --
MR. REEKER: I just want to make sure we're not talking about different ones.
I mean, in terms of our policy and position on targeted killings, I think you are aware of that.
QUESTION: Yes, targeted killings.
MR. REEKER: Our position on targeted killings is well known. But in terms of the Middle East broadly, in the recent days, we have welcomed some of the positive steps taken by the Palestinians and by the Israeli Government. Continuing efforts by the Palestinian Authority to confront violence and terror are extremely important, must continue.
The steps by the Government of Israel now being implemented on the ground to withdraw Israeli forces from Hebron and to address the questions of closures and checkpoints, which have so negatively affected the Palestinian people and the Palestinian economy, those steps must continue. These measures, which are addressing both violence and terror and the situation on the ground for Palestinians, are essential to reestablishing trust and confidence between the parties. And so we would reiterate that it is vital that both sides sustain and strengthen their steps in this regard. There have been positive steps in recent days. This will make possible moving forward, as you know, toward the goal of implementation of the Mitchell report and progress on the direct political dialogue, which we have long called for.
QUESTION: Can I follow that up? At the outset, so we can -- so we are -- we are able to connect the dots but it's easier if you say the words. You were asked about the assassination of the suspected plotter of the disco bombing that killed, I don't know, what, 22 Israelis? And you referred us to your policy on targeting, targeted killings which, of course, is to oppose them.
But could you connect that policy to the instant case? In other words, you are disapproving of what Israel is reported to have done, because it's targeting?
MR. REEKER: I have seen reports of a targeted killing. That's why I was asking Jonathan, to make sure we were talking about the same reports that I've seen.
QUESTION: I think we're talking about the same one.
MR. REEKER: And our position on targeted killings is well known. That is, that it has not changed.
QUESTION: Could you say what it is? Because I would have to assume --
MR. REEKER: It is the same position that we have said over and over again. And that is that we oppose a policy of targeted killings.
QUESTION: Just to follow on that and to broaden it?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: To follow on that and broaden it, can you expand on your opposition to the policy -- to the Israeli policy of targeted killings vis-à-vis US policy to target Usama bin Laden, Mullah Omar?
MR. REEKER: I can't really draw a parallel between the two. Our position on the Israeli policy of targeted killings is well known, has not changed since the (inaudible).
QUESTION: Why is there no parallel? Would it be provocative to attack Usama bin Laden and kill him? Would you object to that?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to add to what the President and the Secretary of State and everyone else have said about our campaign against terrorism. That includes Usama bin Laden. That includes now the Taliban, who has given him safe harbor all this time, in contradiction to UN Security Council resolutions, even those that predate the tragic events of September 11th.
QUESTION: So you're saying any targeting by the US in that regard -- well, let me follow up, please -- would be justified because of the reasons you just stated?
MR. REEKER: No, Barry, I'm not --
QUESTION: Even if it's in violation of UN this-and-that?
MR. REEKER: No, Barry, I didn't say that.
QUESTION: With respect to this particular person that supposedly was targeted in this killing, apparently he had been arrested countless times by Israelis, as well as being held in PA jails, and released by the PA. Now, if they are going to -- you want lessening of violence and also arrests, and the PA arrest these folks and then release them, what is the alternative?
MR. REEKER: We have encouraged the PA to take steps in terms of arrests. And what I wanted to say, as I did say already today, is that we think the continuing efforts by the Palestinian Authority to confront violence and terror are extremely important and must continue. The last few days we have seen some positive steps taken on both sides. And so that is what we would like to see continue.
QUESTION: Can we go back to these steps that the -- the confidence-building measures?
MR. REEKER: Are we talking about Mitchell?
QUESTION: Mitchell and that stuff, yes. The withdrawals from Hebron and that kind of thing. And are you satisfied with the pace with which the Israelis have carried out these initial steps?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I want to try to characterize a particular pace. What we have long called for is an end to the violence, a 100 percent effort on both sides. And what I want to note today is that we are welcoming the positive steps that have been taken in recent days, by both sides -- both the Israeli Government and by the Palestinians -- and we would like to say that they need to continue those efforts. And on the Israeli side, as I indicated, withdrawing their forces from Hebron and addressing some of the questions, like closures, checkpoints, that had a very negative effect on the Palestinian people and the economy. We would like to see those continue. Those must continue, because those, as well as the Palestinian steps to decrease violence and terror, are what will give the parties both a measure of trust so that they can move forward and get into those very steps that you mentioned.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? I'm sure that you are aware that things seem to be moving fairly fast in the Middle East. Blair and Arafat both speaking today, and about Palestinian states and so on. The President has spoken about it.
Are you making any progress on drafting your next big move on this?
MR. REEKER: Nothing to add to what Ambassador Boucher talked about last week, no.
QUESTION: Well, it's kind of -- do you have anything (inaudible) about the meeting, and kind of steps -- not steps --
MR. REEKER: Whose meeting?
QUESTION: The Blair-Arafat meeting. And, in particular, that Yasser Arafat tried to draw a distinction between the terrorism that was going on in the Middle East versus what Usama bin Laden and --
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I haven't even studied that meeting and the statements from that.
QUESTION: Is there anything (inaudible) in the Philippines?
MR. REEKER: Sorry? Okay. You have got to be quick here, Jonathan.
QUESTION: Do you happen to know whether --
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: There are a couple of Americans who are going to be --
MR. REEKER: On the Philippines, you will recall that last week we confirmed the recovered remains of an American, Mr. Sobero, of Corona, California. We strongly condemn the threats to murder innocent people who are being held against their will. We will hold the Abu Sayyaf group responsible for the safety and well-being of all the hostages. As you know, we remain in close touch with the Government of the Philippines, which has responsibility for resolving that situation.
QUESTION: Do you have anything -- I'm sorry, I wish I had the facts straight -- no, the reports of Iran either expelling or taking action against a Palestinian terrorist? Do you have anything like that? Does that sound familiar?
MR. REEKER: No, I don't think I have even seen that report.
QUESTION: I'm not sure I can find it either.
MR. REEKER: Get the facts straight, and we can try this afternoon. One more for Jonathan.
QUESTION: I don't know that you have any others. Mrs. Megawati also has spoken out quite strongly against the bombing of Afghanistan.
MR. REEKER: I started seeing some reports on that. I don't have a complete text of --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) right to cleanse blood with blood" --
MR. REEKER: I don't have a complete text of her remarks as they were sent. I would note that there were no demonstrations in front of our Embassy in Jakarta today. The Embassy was closed for an Indonesian public holiday. And --
QUESTION: An Indonesian public holiday?
MR. REEKER: Indonesian public holiday. The Ascension of Muhammad.
QUESTION: What about Mubarak's remarks about Israel being a dictatorship?
MR. REEKER: I hadn't even seen those remarks. (Laughter.) I think that takes care of it. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)
Released on October 15, 2001
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