Department Deputy Spokesman Philip T. Reeker
October 18, 2001
MR. REEKER: Welcome back to the State Department, everybody, this fine Thursday
afternoon. As you know, the Secretary is in Shanghai, China, where it is 12
hours later than it is here. Ambassador Boucher, of course, is accompanying
him. So I am here to try to take your questions. But I would like to first welcome
to our briefing room today a group of spokespersons from Croatia, representing
a number of ministries and governmental organs in Croatia.
And with that I am happy to begin with our esteemed colleague from the Associated
QUESTION: This may be a little bit off the wall or beyond the State Department's
reach, but I thought we would try you out. There's a report from an Islamic
group that an Egyptian militant named Abu Basir Amassiri has been killed by
a bomb in eastern Afghanistan. Is that something the US has any knowledge of?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on that. Sorry. Anything else.
QUESTION: Sure. More, I suppose, substantive is -- the story is still breaking,
but Israel apparently has responded to the murder of its cabinet minister. And
also Israel is demanding that the murderers be turned over to Israel. Now, as
we know the White House and State Department yesterday called on the Palestinian
Authority to take action, and I suppose, prosecute and then apprehend and then
try. Does the US think that they should be tried by Israeli authorities? Or
is the US government satisfied with the Palestinian justice system?
MR. REEKER: First of all, as you noted and as we said yesterday, both from here
and in a statement released by the White House, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian
Authority must move immediately to find, arrest and bring to justice all those
responsible for the act yesterday, as well as continue arrests of other known
terrorists. And as we noted yesterday, words are simply not enough, the Palestinian
Authority must take vigorous action now to confront and stop terrorism.
Yesterday, the Secretary and the President condemned Minister Zeevi's assassination.
The White House issued a statement on that. And as I said, we discussed that
from here. We stressed the urgent need for the Palestinian Authority to act
against those responsible and we made quite clear the imperative of Israel exercising
restraint because of the positive steps that we've seen recently by both Israel
and the Palestinian Authority to improve the situation. Terror must not be allowed
to divert the parties from continuing steps to put an end to the violence and
implement the Tenet and Mitchell plans and resume a political dialogue, as you
On the question you posed more specifically, I think the important thing to
stress again is that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority need act
now to halt decisively the activities of all of those responsible for the particular
act yesterday and for other acts of terror. They need to take vigorous action
and arrest those responsible.
QUESTION: But most of that was said yesterday. But Israel has now demanded that
these arrests be made and that the arrested suspects be turned over to Israel
for prosecution. And so what I'm really driving at here is whether the US Government
would have the suspects tried in the Palestinian system? Or does it see a point
to having Israel try people for the murder of an Israeli cabinet officer?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think, Barry, the important thing is that is something for
the two sides to work out. The important thing again is for Chairman Arafat
and the Authority to act now to arrest those responsible. That's obviously the
first step there. And without getting into some legal discussion, the focus
needs to be on the Palestinian Authority acting to permanently halt the activities
of those responsible for terror like the assassination yesterday of the Minister.
So ensuring the perpetrators of acts like these are brought to justice has always
been part of the understandings between the two parties.
QUESTION: Let me ask, please, and then I'll pass, in your answer you spoke something
about the US doesn't want distractions from the search for negotiations.
MR. REEKER: I don't know if that's a word I used, but take your paraphrasing
QUESTION: -- allowed to distract or, I don't know, turn us away -- whatever
it was -- divert -- you're making the point that the focus should be -- is there
something -- are those mutually exclusive things? I mean is it possible, do
you suppose, for a country to punish people that kill their people and at the
same time proceed with peace negotiations, or is it an either/or proposition
to the US Government?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I can give you a philosophical answer on that. My
response, and what we said yesterday, what the President said, what Secretary
Powell said from China was that terror should not be allowed to divert the parties
from the continuing steps they have made. We don't want to give terrorism another
victory in this battle. And so in the context of the Middle East peace process,
we've seen positive steps on behalf of both of the Israeli Government and the
Palestinians in recent days. We have talked about that. We have encouraged them
to continue with those steps. It is important that they do that, continue to
keep the violence down so that they can use the Tenet work plan structure, use
the Mitchell report and its road map of recommendations to get back to peace
negotiations, of course, under the rubric of the UN Security Council resolutions
242, 338 for a permanent status. That's what will change the lives of the people
in the Middle East and allow them to pursue a peaceful existence.
QUESTION: Does the United States condemn the Israel incursions into Jenin?
MR. REEKER: All sides, I think, have to act in a manner to help restore trust
and confidence and should avoid steps to inflame the situation and to make more
difficult any measures to achieve calm.
Again, we have seen positive steps in recent days, and we don't want to let
the terrorist acts that have occurred, which we have condemned, derail the opportunity
for both sides to keep moving in the right direction.
QUESTION: Are you calling for Israel to withdraw its troops and tanks from wherever
it has advanced into?
MR. REEKER: Again, we have called for Israel to act with restraint, not to let
the terrorism that was perpetrated against their Minister to have a victory
in this by derailing the positive steps that we've seen. That's exactly what
the perpetrators of these acts want to see happen. And so we call on both sides
to continue with the positive movement they have had. In particular, Chairman
Arafat and the Palestinian Authority need to take steps to arrest those responsible
for this act as well as others responsible for terrorism.
QUESTION: One follow-up. Are you concerned that this new rash of violence in
the Middle East could have an impact on the campaign -- the support in the Islamic
world for the campaign against terrorism?
MR. REEKER: I think the strong support for our global campaign against terrorism
remains. Our coalition remains very much working together against terrorism.
I think all the countries in the world have recognized, with minor exceptions,
that we need to move against terrorism. This is a campaign against terrorism
by the civilized world, and I think we have strong support there.
The Secretary is meeting, as you know, with a number of ministers in China.
The President will have an opportunity with other foreign leaders now that he
is in China as well in the rubric at the APEC Conference. We still have overwhelming
support, and that includes many Middle Eastern countries, Islamic countries
that are all contributing in their way towards the campaign against terrorism.
QUESTION: Do you have a comment on the sentencing today of the men held responsible
for the Embassy bombings?
QUESTION: Can we stay on Israel-Palestinians?
MR. REEKER: Sure, and then we can go back. I leave that up to you guys.
QUESTION: You seem to imply that these incursions inflame the situation. Can
you be a bit -- is that what you meant to say?
MR. REEKER: What I said was, Jonathan, and that is what I meant to say is that
all sides, we think, should act now in a manner that helps restore trust and
confidence and avoid steps that inflame the situation.
We have called for the Israelis to exercise restraint in this. We don't want
to the terrorists to have a victory by derailing the positive steps that both
sides have made.
QUESTION: An easy way to answer Barry's question, which you didn't take, was
to say that you have no reason to believe that the Palestinian Authority was
in any way responsible for this assassination and, in fact, that it took place
in defiance of their orders. Is that something -- is that the conclusion that
the United States has reached?
MR. REEKER: I guess I don't quite know which of the questions that were asked
that would have suggested -- I don't think he did, either.
QUESTION: No, he said is it possible to --
QUESTION: To try them.
QUESTION: Is it possible to make -- is it possible to make peace with somebody
who is attacking --
MR. REEKER: If you guys want to debate over what you asked. Do you want to ask
me a question, Jonathan, go ahead?
MR. REEKER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, I do. No, I mean his question was is it possible to make peace
with somebody who is attacking you.
QUESTION: No, that wasn't my question.
QUESTION: That was one of your many questions.
QUESTION: No, it wasn't my question. The Palestinian Authority is not -- I didn't
say the Palestinian Authority is attacking Israel.
MR. REEKER: I think what we're going to do now is move to another question because
she had a question that I can answer.
QUESTION: Okay, the question is this: Do you see the Palestinian Authority as
being in any way responsible for this Israeli Minister yesterday?
MR. REEKER: I don't think we have made any particular investigative judgment.
The PFLP has claimed responsibility for that assassination. We've talked about
that in our statements. We've condemned that soundly. And we've called upon
again today -- numerous times already in this briefing -- for Chairman Arafat
and the Palestinian Authority to move immediately to find, arrest, and bring
to justice all those responsible for this act, as well as continue to arrest
other known terrorists.
And again, words in this matter are not enough, we need to see vigorous action
to confront and stop terrorism.
Okay, now we can move onto your question. And just remind me what it was.
QUESTION: Reaction to the sentencing today of those responsible for the embassy
bombings, or some of them, anyway?
MR. REEKER: Yes, the United States is pleased that these terrorists -- all four
-- were brought to justice. We hope that the thousands of people whose loved
ones were killed or injured in the bombings, including so many of our embassy
employees in East Africa, will take some comfort in the court's decision. I
want to stress once again that the United States will not consider the case
closed until all of those responsible for these brutal attacks are brought to
justice for their crimes. And for any other details you may want to contact
the Justice Department on the sentences that were just handed down in the past
couple of hours.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: There's going to be tomorrow a meeting in Tehran with Iranian, Uzbek,
Tajik, Russian and Afghan representatives, but apparently no US representative.
Do you see this meeting in Iran as in contradiction with your own efforts for
the future of Afghanistan?
MR. REEKER: No, I don't see that in contradiction at all. As you know, we have
long had discussions, including Iran, in the UN's Six plus Two rubric about
Afghanistan -- that is the six countries that border Afghanistan, along with
Russia and the United States -- discussing our concerns there, discussing our
desire to see stability in the region. Certainly we've had many discussions
with many countries.
Today, as you know, Ambassador Richard Haass, the Director of the State Department's
Policy Planning Office, whom the Secretary has named as the coordinator of US
policy towards Afghanistan is in New York meeting with the Secretary General
and Mr. Brahimi, who has been reappointed as the Secretary General's Special
Representative on Afghanistan. So they're having talks there today. Mr. Brahimi
will be traveling to Washington tomorrow. He's going to meet with Deputy Secretary
Armitage. He'll meet with officials over at the National Security Council.
So this dialogue with other countries in the international community, as well
as international fora like the United Nations will continue, as well as discussions
with various groups -- Afghan groups and so we'll continue to do that to pursue,
as we've said, the hope that the Afghan people can form a very broad-based government
to bring some semblance of order, democracy, human rights to their country,
to have an Afghanistan that is peaceful and terrorist-free. That is our goal.
I think that is the goal of all those in the international community.
As you know Secretary Powell was just in Pakistan and India. He discussed Afghanistan
with officials from both those countries. The implications of a more peaceful
and terrorist-free Afghanistan for stability in the whole region, I think, are
quite obvious. That's why we have been pursuing this vigorously. We feel the
Afghan people deserve a much better situation than that give to them by the
Taliban for the last five years and the instability of nearly 20 years of civil
war, as well as famine caused by natural causes. So we'll continue to have talks
with all of those parties involved in this.
QUESTION: Has the US asked China to do what they also asked Iran to do, which
would be in the event that an American plane went down in their territory that
they would return the pilots or the remains or that they would give medical
MR. REEKER: Without commenting specifically what you're implying regarding Iran,
I'm not aware of conversations with China. Obviously, the Secretary is in China,
as is the President. So they'll have an opportunity to meet with Chinese officials.
And I just wouldn't presume at this point to comment on that.
In terms of Iran, the Secretary said yesterday in a briefing with journalists
traveling with him that we've been in touch with Iran through various channels.
We are exchanging some ideas and information. I don't have any particular comment
on diplomatic communications with Iran. But as we've said before we are determined
to develop as broad a campaign as possible against international terrorism.
A positive Iranian role in this effort would contribute to our goal of promoting
peace and stability. And similarly a positive Chinese role will contribute,
as well. And the Chinese have been very forthcoming in their statements of support
for the campaign against global terrorism.
QUESTION: Yes, can you tell us what advice the United States is giving to the
Afghan people in their ordeal? Should they, for example, stay at home? Should
they leave their areas and go to safe areas? Should they rise up against the
Taliban? Should they ignore the Taliban or what?
MR. REEKER: Are you referring to something specific in terms of messages?
QUESTION: No, but I mean, if you're bombing some people, then you should tell
MR. REEKER: Well, first of all, we're not bombing the Afghan people -- as you
know very well. We are conducting a campaign against terrorism focused on the
al-Qaida network, which has been given safe haven and refuge in Afghanistan
by the Taliban regime. These are not Afghans, the al-Qaida network. They are,
in fact, foreign invaders who have come in and abused the Afghan nation by conducting
their terrorist activities from there.
The President was very clear in giving the Taliban authorities the opportunity
to turn over bin Laden and the al-Qaida network as required under UN Security
Council Resolutions. The Taliban chose otherwise. They chose to side with the
terrorists. And so we are continuing our campaign against those terrorists.
But I think in messages to the people of Afghanistan we have been quite clear
that we have no quarrel with the Afghan people. And in fact, as I said a bit
earlier, as the President has said, as the Secretary has reiterated many times,
we want to see the Afghan people have a better life, a better opportunity.
We have been the largest supporters of humanitarian assistance for the Afghan
people for many, many years, and I think that is the broad message that we give
to the Afghan people.
QUESTION: I mean you have not answered the question at all. The answer is what
practical advice are you giving to Afghan people who might be in areas where
bombardment is taking place nearby? What are you telling them to do? I mean
I think you have a responsibility to tell them something. What are you telling
them to do?
MR. REEKER: Well, I would refer you to DOD, which has had some information campaigns
involved in and specific messages going in to Afghanistan. And your colleague
at the Defense Department will be able to ask that specifically there when my
colleagues are briefing in about half an hour's time.
So if you are looking for the specific messages there -- however, I think some
of the messages that have gotten lost include the unfair and inaccurate description
of difficulties in the distribution of relief, food in Afghanistan. This has
been attributed to the current military campaign, which is against the Taliban
not against the people of Afghanistan.
It is important to point out, I think as I did already, that the famine there
started well before the military campaign began -- based on three years of drought,
based on two decades of civil war and five years of brutal Taliban rule. We
have been supporting with food and humanitarian donations for many years to
the people of Afghanistan. They are well aware of that.
The Taliban has recently obstructed communications between the international
relief organizations and their local staff. That is the principal impediment
to the expansion of food aid. Local Taliban leaders have also imposed new fees
on humanitarian relief supplies at key border crossings. They have engaged in
looting, stealing of trucks and other abuses. And the departure of humanitarian
staff took place well before September 11th, in fact, because of the arrest,
prosecution, and increased harassment of aid workers by the Taliban regime.
At the same time, I think it is important to point out again today that the
international community has rapidly expanded its provision of relief recently
with a shipment into Afghanistan of an additional 27,000 metric tons over the
past month. International groups like the World Food Program and UNICEF and
a number of international non-governmental organizations continue their provision
of food aid working with local Afghan staffs. Recently a pledging conference
in Geneva obtained pledges over $700 million, substantially more than target
figures established by the UN. Additional food aid is already getting the Afghan
people with more on its way. Another 52,000 tons of food will be supplied through
the World Food Program. I think it is just important to note that the international
community is taking impressive new actions to facilitate distribution despite
the efforts of the Taliban to prevent them from doing so.
QUESTION: Is there any plan to try to expedite any of the US food aid given
the seizure by the Taliban and the bombing of the grain --
MR. REEKER: I understand further on from what USAID Administrator Natsios discussed
with you earlier this week that a new shipment of 65,000 metric tons of food
aid into Afghanistan is going to be transported through more secure routes along
the western and northern borders of Afghanistan with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan
On those seizures of warehouses, I think you're aware that the World Food Program
Executive Director, Ms. Bertini, told reporters yesterday that the Taliban had
seized World Food Program warehouses in Kabul and Kandahar. I understand that
this morning the World Food Program received word from its local aid workers
there in Kabul that they had regained control of their warehouse in that city
which is storing 5,300 tons of wheat. And the local workers are reporting that
nothing has been taken from the warehouse, and the armed Taliban have left the
warehouse. So once again, we will urge the Taliban to return the control of
the other warehouse in Kandahar back to control of the World Food Program Afghan
So despite those seizures, the food deliveries did not stop. The World Food
Program has 48,000 tons of food stored in the region, and 10,000 tons stored
or on the move already into Afghanistan. So they are continuing with that.
QUESTION: Some of the aid organizations have called for a three day moratorium
on bombing so they can get a real infusion of food into some of the areas where
the bombing is taking place.
What is the US response? Is there any consideration of this?
MR. REEKER: Well, once again, I would first suggest you also talk to my colleagues
at the Pentagon. It is not the air campaign that is preventing or inhibiting
help to the Afghan people. As I just described, even with the attempts by the
Taliban to obstruct a number of these efforts by the international community,
food is getting into Afghanistan. And the dedication of the NGOs and the international
organizations is remarkable in continuing to put this in despite the Taliban
I think if you will note my colleagues in the United Kingdom noted recently
that it is not true to say that if the bombing stopped, there would not be any
problem in moving humanitarian supplies.
QUESTION: But if the bombing stopped, there would be one less problem moving
QUESTION: It is my understanding that one of the problems is that it is hard
for some of the aid workers to get truck drivers that will be willing to go
into the area because they are afraid of some of the bombing. While you are
not bombing the food or you are attempting not to, it is more of like a consequence
of the bombing that it is hard to get trucks, it is hard to get people to go
in, and that is why they are asking for a three-day moratorium.
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of the specifics of how they deliver this into there
other than what I described to you and what Mr. Natsios talked about earlier
this week, but I think it is quite clear and the people on the ground, according
to many of the press reports that I have read, have also realized that our bombing
and military activity is extremely targeted and focused on the Taliban, taking
out their threats in terms of air defense systems, focused on the terrorists
which, after all, are the target of our campaign.
As Claire Short in the United Kingdom said, as Ms. Bertini said, food and humanitarian
assistance is still getting into Afghanistan. It is moving into Afghanistan
in these tonnages that I just described here in spite of some of the press reports.
So, again, I think it is unfair and inaccurate to attribute difficulties on
the distribution side to the military campaign against the terrorists and the
Taliban who harbor them. Difficulties primarily include the obstruction by the
Taliban of communication, the fact that they have started charging fees on humanitarian
relief supplies at key border routes, and the fact that many of the expatriate
international humanitarian aid workers were forced to leave by the Taliban long
before the September 11th events, even. So we see the international community
continuing with American leadership as the largest donor for Afghan relief to
do a remarkable job in getting food supplies into a very difficult situation
that was extraordinarily difficult long before we had to take action in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Mr. Axworthy, whom you may remember, a former Canadian foreign minister,
made a speech last night and made several complaints about the campaign, specifically
the use of cluster bombs and anti-personnel mines in violation of the Ottawa
Treaty. And he also alleged that the Northern Alliance was receiving what he
called clandestine arms shipments in violation of the Small Arms Convention.
I wondered if you could answer these allegations?
MR. REEKER: I haven't seen his remarks. Those are operational issues about which
I wouldn't have that information.
QUESTION: Well, they have sort of foreign policy and international law implications.
MR. REEKER: I haven't seen his remarks. I would be happy to try to take a look
at them in terms of our air campaign. Again, you can go to the Pentagon, who
has been briefing daily on that. I will note since you bring up a Canadian that
Canada is contributing significant forces to the military campaign against terrorism.
Prime Minister Chretien, on October 17th, bid farewell to a Canadian naval task
group as it left Halifax to join US forces in the Arabian Sea and the Persian
Gulf. Canada is deploying overall a destroyer, up to five frigates and a support
ship. And as you know, Canadian frigates regularly sail as part of US carrier
task groups, being one of our closest allies under NATO and a good friend. Canadian
air assets for the campaign have been assisting us and the Canadians have been
working with us quite closely.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to add to yesterday's report -- the extensive
report, cataloguing you gave us of embassy closings and/or suspicious white
powders found any place or other?
MR. REEKER: We can follow up specifically on Japan. I think a number of you
were following that closely. The consulate in Osaka remained closed today. We
are still waiting for the tests results on the letter that was received at that
consulate on October 17th. The US Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, received a suspicious
letter containing an unknown substance on Thursday, that's today, October the
18th. And as we did with the incident in Osaka, we contacted Japanese police
immediately. The letter was turned over to the police.
As a precautionary measure, individuals who handled the letter are taking antibiotics
and undergoing tests. The Japanese police are running tests on the letter just
as they were in the case in Osaka. And we're awaiting results of those. The
Embassy remained open for business today and is expected to be open for business
as usual tomorrow October 19th.
QUESTION: Do you happen to know how many individuals?
MR. REEKER: No.
QUESTION: And they are undergoing tests for what?
MR. REEKER: They are undergoing appropriate tests to determine if they were
exposed to anything that might be hazardous.
QUESTION: Question back to the detainees in Afghanistan. Apparently the lawyer,
who is coming out of Islamabad, Pakistan, has been unable to make contact. But
also there were 16 Afghanis who were taken away. We have never heard much about
them, working with Shelter Now. Has this government tried to make any contacts
with the Taliban or other renegade groups within Afghanistan to find what has
happened to those detainees, as well as --
MR. REEKER: To Afghans?
QUESTION: Afghans. Have they been executed?
MR. REEKER: I don't now. And I am happy to ask. I think our focus has been on
the American citizens -- the two detained American citizens. But we've also,
of course, been working closely with Germany and Australia who also have citizens
In fact, the US Consul General in Islamabad has been working very closely with
Mr. Ali Khan, the lawyer representing the detainees, to try to obtain updates
on the detainees through the Taliban representatives in Islamabad while communications
with Kabul have been very difficult. At this point I have no updates. I understand
that Mr. Khan, the lawyer, last met with all of the detainees over the weekend,
the past weekend -- both on Saturday and on Sunday -- before he departed Kabul.
And at that time, according to him, the detainees all appeared well. He is applying
for a visa to return to Kabul to continue the detainees' case. I understand
he plans to return there on Friday, that is tomorrow. In the meantime, the parents
of the detainees remain in Islamabad. They are in close contact with the Embassy.
Secretary Powell met with the mothers of the two Americans yesterday -- actually
it was the day before yesterday -- and expressed to him support. I think you
are quite aware of what the President's message has been on the subject, and
that is that the Taliban needs to release all foreign nationals -- including
So we will continue to watch for updates on that and keep in touch with the
lawyer, as well as the families.
QUESTION: What does the State Department exactly do for the Afghan people to
get its messages? And are there any public diplomacy efforts towards Afghanistan
MR. REEKER: I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. What kind of efforts?
QUESTION: Public diplomacy efforts.
MR. REEKER: Yes. As I indicated to your colleague, Mr. Wright, the Defense Department
can talk to you about efforts that they undertake in terms of getting information
into Afghanistan. It is a very difficult public diplomacy and information challenge
in reaching people that have been extremely isolated, not only by geography
but by the regime that has controlled them for a number of years now.
And so we do make efforts through international broadcasting, including the
Voice of America, certainly through independent broadcasting, all of you, some
of whose programs or reports may make it into Afghanistan, certainly to make
it quite clear that we have no quarrel with the Afghan people, that we have
been strong supporters of them. The President has talked about this repeatedly.
He set aside and pledged significant funding for Afghan humanitarian relief
because that is part of what the United States does in any given situation,
and we were doing this long before the Taliban-supported terrorists attacked
our country. So we have no quarrel with the Afghan people and will continue
to help them, and we will continue efforts to try to get that message to them
even though it is a difficult task given the situation there.
QUESTION: That letter in the Embassy in the Tokyo, do you know where the letter
MR. REEKER: No. I have no further information on it, Barry, and I think we will
probably turn it over to the Japanese police so that they can conduct the appropriate
QUESTION: Was the Sarajevo embassy closed because of this sort of an incident?
MR. REEKER: No. The Sarajevo embassy was closed, pardon me while I find the
update on that. There is no update in that the Embassy in Sarajevo, as well
as the branch offices, remain closed to the public today providing only emergency
American citizen services.
This step was taken due to a credible security threat to the official US Government
facilities and personnel in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am not led to believe
that that was connected in any way to suspicious letters or packages but to
other information that indicated that there was a credible security threat to
our personnel and our facilities.
QUESTION: Is the United States sending a team to Pakistan in the coming days
in order to carry out some assessment of economic assistance to Pakistan?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of that. If you had a particular report, maybe you
know something I don't know.
QUESTION: If I do, I am not saying. (Laughter).
MR. REEKER: As a follow-up to Secretary Powell's visit, I will check into it
for you if you would like.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell went on to India, and I don't think we have had a
readout from this platform yet about --
MR. REEKER: Yes, we did yesterday I believe.
QUESTION: Okay. The Pakistanis are concerned about India. They have been shelling
India today returning the military thing. What is your assessment of India-Pakistan
relations at this point?
MR. REEKER: I think the Secretary has talked about this on the road, and I would
have to refer you to his party. We have got transcripts from some of the briefings
the Secretary himself has conducted, press conferences he had both in Islamabad
with Pakistani President Musharraf and Mr. Vajpayee in India -- his press conference
with the Foreign Minister. We will get you the transcript.
Obviously, as the Secretary has described it himself, he had very good meetings
on his visit to India, since you asked specifically about that where they discussed
our common interests, our growing and expanding relationship, something we have
been working on, as you know, even prior to the terrorist attacks in September,
our interest in transforming our bilateral relationship and, of course, confronting
terrorism now with India being a crucial member of our coalition against terrorism.
He reiterated that we support India on terrorism. Obviously, Kashmir is an important
issue that needs to be resolved between India and Pakistan on the basis of dialogue.
We did discuss that at some length yesterday. They need to take every effort
to reduce tension, avoid violence, maintain respect for human rights and pursue
a dialogue there. And that is the same message that we have continued to state
for many years now, in fact.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the Afghan groups and Secretary Powell spoke about
a need for a broad-based government?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you talk in that regard about Mr. Haass' visits to the UN and
other talks this week. Things seem to be moving very quickly in the sense that
all of the groups are getting together and deciding what they want to do, and
if you could speak a little bit about that.
MR. REEKER: I think I sort of covered much of that in discussing that. I noted
that Ambassador Haass is in New York today, along with our Ambassador at the
United Nations, Ambassador Negroponte, meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan and the Secretary General's Special Representative, Mr. Brahimi, who was
reappointed to be the UN's point person on Afghanistan. So those meetings are
taking place. I don't have a readout of that today.
Tomorrow, Mr. Brahimi will be here in Washington, where he will meet with Deputy
Secretary Armitage, officials at the National Security Council and others in
the US Government to continue our coordination with the United Nations on this.
We also discussed earlier, in response to Jonathan's question, the international
contacts we have had over a long period, obviously continuing those with particular
focus on Afghanistan now. So we want to see the most broad based group of Afghans
come together to form a government to try to bring stability in a post-Taliban
Afghanistan that is based on peace and closed to terrorists.
QUESTION: If I could follow up on that. Some of the Afghan groups themselves
have said that the United States is, if not pushing, certainly encouraging them
to move quickly saying, listen, time is not on your side. You really need to
get your act together. Yesterday Mr. Brahimi, in a press conference, said that's
not the way to go, that there is a lot of groundwork that needs to be done and
you cannot do this very quickly. In fact, the reason that he left the last time
was out of frustration that these groups really could not get their act together.
So I mean it seems that Mr. Brahimi is advocating a much more careful, a much
more thoughtful approach while it seems as if the United States is worried that
you need to get this in as quickly as possible. Can you --
MR. REEKER: I don't know if I would accept your characterizations particularly
of Mr. Brahimi's talks. He made statements yesterday. He is in talks today with
Ambassador Haass. He is down here again tomorrow. And so I think it's a little
premature for me to say anything while we are having meetings right now.
We have been working with everyone in the international community and particularly
with the United Nations, as the President said, to work on this. There is obviously
a certain sense of urgency, but it is important to do this right. We want to
see as broad as possible group of Afghans work together to form a government
that can bring stability to post-Taliban Afghanistan that can give the Afghan
people a better future, provide for them, certainly better than the Taliban
regime has been doing. With the support of the international community and humanitarian
measures, as well as the promise to help with reconstruction, we think there
can be a much brighter future for Afghanistan. So we will continue working in
that vain and the meetings that we discussed that are going on today and will
take place here in Washington tomorrow are right along with that.
QUESTION: In those discussions, has the US been able to identify an Afghan faction
that would give a better life to the Afghan people than they have had so far?
MR. REEKER: As you know, we have not --
QUESTION: That may not support terrorism. But I'm talking about the well being
of the Afghan people.
MR. REEKER: As you know, we have not supported any individual Afghan faction.
We have encouraged them to work together to try to form a broad-based government.
With the help of the international community and continued help of the international
community, including the United States, that is our goal -- to see a more peaceful,
stable Afghanistan that can support its people in peace and without terrorists.
QUESTION: I understand the goal, but I'm just -- the UN representative said
yesterday that they didn't seem to be in sync with the US. He said the Afghans
are proud people and they don't really want outsiders telling them what to do
and looking after their affairs.
MR. REEKER: I don't think that is what we have tried to do. I think we tried
to encourage the Afghans. The President of the United States and the Secretary
of State have been quite vocal in saying this is something for the Afghan people
to do. But the international community, the United Nations, countries in the
region, have interests in this. They have supported the Afghan people in terms
of the tremendous humanitarian work we've done, with the United States leading
the way in that regard, and we will continue to do that because we have no quarrel
with the people of Afghanistan. We want them to have a better life, and we want
a more stable Afghanistan, which is better for the entire region and indeed
for the entire world.
The lady over here had a question.
QUESTION: Actually, my question is on a different subject, so I can wait if
you need me to.
MR. REEKER: We will keep doing Afghanistan. Jonathan.
QUESTION: Specifically on the question of UN peacekeeping force which Mr. Brahimi
opposed. What is the US thinking on that at the moment?
MR. REEKER: I think the Secretary has addressed it a bit. I would refer you
to his comments. But I will --
QUESTION: Very vaguely he did.
MR. REEKER: Okay. Can you read the comments even if they were vague? I think
you can do that. We will have a better sense of --
QUESTION: I am asking you to fill --
MR. REEKER: We will have a better sense of the UN's assessment following the
meetings that, again, are taking place today and tomorrow in Washington. So
I do not think it would make much sense to try to characterize anything after
we have had a chance to touch base with the UN in the meetings that we have
already got scheduled. And we will continue to talk to them
Are we changing subjects? You go ahead, and then we'll go over to your colleague.
QUESTION: With respect to Afghanistan, the television service, Al Jazeera, which
is based in Qatar. It's a state-run --
MR. REEKER: I'm quite familiar with it, yes.
QUESTION: -- or state-owned television service. Have we spoken to that government
and also asked other representative Arab governments --
MR. REEKER: I think we addressed some of these issue. Go ahead and finish your
QUESTION: I know we did this last week and the week before.
MR. REEKER: Good.
QUESTION: But are we in any way asking that they moderate any of this and maybe
other broadcast services throughout the region?
MR. REEKER: I think the statement to be made is that we have not asked foreign
broadcasters or governments to do anything in particular regarding --
QUESTION: Newspaper services?
MR. REEKER: The answer applies to media. I don't have anything to add what we
discussed last week and the week before. I will let you spend your afternoon
chasing down those transcripts.
Okay, we are going to make the full change now -- not just the partial change.
MR. REEKER: Random.
QUESTION: Earlier this week, 14 Syrian student pilots entered the country to
train at a flight school at Fort Worth, Texas. They did so legally with the
sponsorship of the Syrian national airline --
MR. REEKER: Could you repeat that? They did so legally?
MR. REEKER: Thank you.
QUESTION: With the sponsorship of the Syrian national airlines. Because Syrian
planes are not allowed to land on US soil, is there somehow a conflict here,
or even a loophole in policy?
MR. REEKER: I am not sure why there would be. But it is something I will have
to look into. I do not know anything about it. I would not want to mix pilot
training with another subject. But it is something I would have to look into.
And we will be happy to do that.
MR. REEKER: Okay. Now, we can make another complete change. Unless you have
one to follow up on that.
QUESTION: Do you have any response to the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman's
proposal that the United States reciprocate their generous decision to close
down their listening post in Cuba and his proposal specifically that you close
down your radar installation in Norway?
MR. REEKER: First of all, let me reiterate if anybody missed it yesterday, in
terms of the statement released by the White House, that we welcome President
Putin's decision to close down the Lourdes facility in Cuba. His decision is
recognition that the US-Russian relationship has moved beyond the Cold War.
I think Secretary Powell reiterated that in remarks he has made in Shanghai,
as you know. Perhaps you didn't. Secretary Powell had dinner this evening with
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. They had quite a lengthy, good discussion,
I am told, by Ambassador Boucher. But I do not have any particular readouts
on that. So I want to leave it for the Secretary and his party and for the President
and the White House party, which is also in Shanghai and also anticipating a
meeting with President Putin, to discuss anything about that.
I am sure they will have the opportunity to hear directly from Russian officials
if there are matters relating to that subject and they can comment from there.
Another one, sure.
QUESTION: Not related.
MR. REEKER: Thanks.
QUESTION: A subject close to your heart.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
MR. REEKER: Everybody presumes these things, but, yes.
QUESTION: As I'm sure you have seen that the NATO and EU delegations have gone
off to Macedonia?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: And can we assume that the United States fully supports this is sending
much the same message to the Macedonia parliament.
MR. REEKER: I think that's a reasonably strong assumption. But lest we confuse
anybody by assuming anything, I will note as you said, that the EU High Representative,
Mr. Solana, and the NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, as well as the NATO
Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Ralston, and the OSCE Chairman- in-Office,
that would be the Romanian Foreign Minister, Mr. Geoana, are all in Skopje today
along with Ambassador Pardew, whom you know has been leading US efforts there,
working with Ambassador Einik and his Embassy staff.
Ambassador Pardew is expected to go to Brussels tomorrow where he will brief
NATO representatives, as well. We expect the parliamentary process to implement
constitutional changes foreseen in the political framework agreement to move
forward early next week. And it's very important that Macedonian leaders actually
show and exercise true leadership and move that process forward. We're urging
party leaders and members of the parliament to do their part and the peace implementation
process can come to a rapid and positive conclusion on those amendments as soon
QUESTION: Speaking of NATO in Europe.
MR. REEKER: Speaking of NATO in Europe.
QUESTION: Can you respond to media reports --
MR. REEKER: Not the dreaded media reports.
QUESTION: That the Belgians, in particular, and other European and NATO countries
are not being helpful in the war against terrorism?
MR. REEKER: Well, we have seen reports in the US and European press calling
into question the support for the worldwide campaign against terrorism by individual
European nations. And I suppose this is sort of par for the course. But I think
it's important to state categorically that support for the coalition among our
European allies and trading partners has been immediate, resolute and effective.
It's an unprecedented level of cooperation and assistance, which continues today.
It was immediate following the September 11 tragic terrorist attacks against
New York and the Pentagon.
And the United States is very grateful for the support of our friends and allies
all around the world, but of course, in Europe, as well.
Many European and NATO officials have visited Washington, as you know, to support
and pledge their solidarity with the campaign against global terrorism. European
leaders are meeting, I understand this weekend, to press forward with their
own campaign against terrorism. And I also understand that today European Justice
and Home Affairs Ministry staffs are at the State Department to discuss ways
more closely to coordinate with the United States in our joint efforts against
terrorism. So again, in our campaign and within our global coalition we're using
a variety of approaches. We're taking advantage, as the President has said,
of all the tools available to us and capitalizing on our alliances in the international
structures and organizations that have been created and strengthened over so
many years -- NATO being a primary one of these.
I think first and foremost we have to note again in a historic move that NATO
declared the September 11 attack on the United States as an attack on all 19
NATO countries, invoking for the first time Article V of the Washington Treaty,
which created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Moreover, NATO has agreed
to provide military support for US operations in the global campaign to combat
terrorism, including the unprecedented deployment of five AWACS aircraft to
assist in the defense of the United States.
Some individual NATO allies I already mentioned, Canada, have already sent units
to fight side by side with ours. Others stand ready to do so if needed. The
President and Secretary have continued to reiterate the thanks we have to our
allies and partners. And we will continue to consult with and seek the support
of those countries as we move forward in this campaign.
QUESTION: There's a little blur here between the campaign and Afghanistan and
potential future campaigns. I guess I'm the only one here who had the benefit
of being at a breakfast of mostly Pentagon correspondents with Bob Bell, the
esteemed former NSC official who now is a NATO assistant secretary general.
He said that the NATO allies are not willing, without evidence from the Bush
Administration, to support this campaign against other terrorism targets. I'm
not talking about al-Qaida. He recites, as you did, all the things the allies
have done, and he said even more than you have of showing their support. But
if you separate the ongoing campaign which grows out of an attack that NATO
discerned as equivalent to an attack on all of the allies, that's one thing.
The US has, at least rhetorically -- there is no evidence of it yet -- has said
that it's ready to even use the military option against terrorism elsewhere.
Mr. Bell says that the Europeans want evidence of these terrorism operations
before they salute that proposition.
MR. REEKER: Obviously, without having heard myself his comments and having had
QUESTION: Sure, but my question really would be are we providing evidence to
the NATO allies of other terrorism operations? Simply, they're in the Patterns
of Global Terrorism. They are all over the place.
MR. REEKER: And as you know, we have had extensive discussions with our NATO
allies and others, even prior to September 11, in counterterrorism efforts.
In terms of sharing information, sharing intelligence, these are exactly the
tools that the President has talked about using in the campaign on terrorism.
We are using those. Many of them we were using before, and also law enforcement
We have talked about from here the number of arrests that have taken place,
many of them in European countries for those associated specifically with the
September 11 attacks and other terrorist activity. So I mentioned I think a
moment ago, as I was describing the support we have had from Europe and NATO
allies, that European leaders are meeting this weekend to press forward in their
own campaign against terrorism, which may include discussion of next steps and
efforts. We may want to pursue in this.
Right now the President has been quite clear we are focused on al-Qaida, its
network and the Taliban which has supported it -- pulling that out, uprooting
it, cutting off its funding, making it impossible for them to perpetrate attacks
like September 11, and then we will continue to look further until we can wipe
out the terrorist threat.
QUESTION: I didn't mean arrests nor do I think he did. Six countries are actively
participating in the military operation alongside the United States, and others
have contributed and volunteered to do all sorts --
MR. REEKER: Like I just described.
QUESTION: Yeah, Canada, Spain, Italy --
MR. REEKER: Thank you for your validation.
QUESTION: That's right. But what they are not ready to do is to say we will
participate in military operations against other terrorists.
MR. REEKER: I don't think anybody has asked them to do that, Barry, so I think
you are ahead of the game.
QUESTION: Well, then, what's the evidence? I'm just asking is the US making
its case against Hamas, for instance, which except for al-Qaida, has killed
more Americans than any other terrorist organization?
Are we giving this evidence to NATO, or are you waiting for an attack to --
MR. REEKER: Barry, maybe I'll let you go back to the remarks I just made. Prior
to September 11, since September 11, and certainly on into the future, we will
continue to share information, intelligence particularly with our closest allies,
with those in the NATO alliance regarding threats, security elements, and that
includes terrorism and counterterrorism efforts. And we will continue to use
all the tools in our toolbox that may include military action, just as the President
has said, as we continue to root out this threat in terms of self-defense and
in terms of regaining the security that we need to have.
QUESTION: I think I may be daydreaming while you spoke, you made a reference
to some people coming to the State Department today. Could you just go over
that quickly? Who is here today and what are they doing?
MR. REEKER: Your daydreaming aside, I shall repeat that European Justice and
Home Affairs Ministry staffs are here at the State Department today to discuss
ways to more closely coordinate with the United States our joint efforts against
QUESTION: What level is this?
MR. REEKER: Problem with that?
QUESTION: No, no.
MR. REEKER: I would have to check and get more detail on -- just as I told the
people that provided me this information -- I'm sure it's a combination of our
counterterrorism people. There are a variety of people in this building and
other agencies that are involved in our campaign against terrorism. I can try
to get you more information on who those people are and with whom they are meeting.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Any specific question on that? One last question.
QUESTION: Can you give us some idea of the scope and the substance of Mr. Brahimi's
talk with Deputy Secretary Armitage?
MR. REEKER: You must have come in late because I repeated I think now for the
fourth time that Mr. Brahimi, the recently reappointed Special Representative
of the Secretary General of the UN for Afghanistan, is in New York today where
our Ambassador, Richard Haass, the Director of Policy Planning at the State
Department is meeting with him. Tomorrow, Mr. Brahimi will be coming here to
meet with Deputy Secretary Armitage and others in the US Government including
over at the NSC. So I cannot give you any particular readout of talks that haven't
taken place yet, but we will be happy to look into that after they occur tomorrow.