U.S. Department of State
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 7
THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2001 12:50 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, apologies for the false start here.
QUESTION: It's a new Administration. You've got to have bumps early on.
MR. BOUCHER: No, we're not.
QUESTION: That's what makes it all the more dramatic.
MR. BOUCHER: That's what makes it worse. Okay, we'll levitate a little bit here.
All right. I don't have any statements or announcements on other issues. We will be getting out, I think, a few various statements during the course of the day. Nothing to read to you now. So glad to take your questions on anything else.
QUESTION: Anything to say about South Korea's announcement of a more robust missile program?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we did release a statement on that already. Right, Chuck?
MR. HUNTER: Right.
QUESTION: There was another Korean statement. Is this on the missile program itself?
MR. BOUCHER: The South Korean missile program?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I think we did release a statement that said that the South Koreans had made their announcement, that we have been in conversations with them for many years -- I think it goes back five years -- and that we certainly welcome the fact that this program was going to be within missile technology control regime guidelines.
QUESTION: Never saw it, but thank you.
QUESTION: Could I change the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: What is the extent of your contact thus far with the Russian Foreign Minister or the Russian Embassy here on the status of Mr. Borodin? I understand that the Russian Ambassador has actually offered his personal guarantee that Borodin will not leave the country if he is released.
MR. BOUCHER: Our Embassy in Moscow has had discussions with the Russians in Moscow about the issue, and the Russians at that point expressed their concerns. I will go back through the facts and the basic situation as we know it.
Pavel Borodin, who is a Russian Government official, was arrested on January 17th on arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Mr. Borodin was arrested in response to a request from the Swiss Government that is made under the US-Switzerland extradition treaty. Switzerland has filed criminal charges against Mr. Borodin. Obviously the Department of Justice will handle the judicial matters, and information concerning his arrest or extradition have to be directed there.
He was traveling to the United States with a regular and non-official passport and a business visitor visa that was issued in 1998. We don't have any record or indication that he was accredited to any embassy, consulate or international organization of the United States, and thus he would not be immune from arrest.
QUESTION: Perhaps you don't know this, but he has said, or his lawyers said, that he was coming to attend the Inauguration. Do you know if that is correct?
MR. BOUCHER: That is not something I have for you. You would have to check with the Inaugural Committee on that.
QUESTION: Okay. I had another question about this, but I lost it.
QUESTION: New subject?
QUESTION: Can we just stay on the first subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, stay on this.
QUESTION: Any response, though, to the Russians saying that they don't appreciate the way in which this was handled? Should other countries that are sending people for the Inauguration make sure that they check their --
MR. BOUCHER: If they are subject to indictments and international arrest warrants, yes, people should check their travel plans. (Laughter.) But that's the issue here. We have certain legal obligations. There is a Swiss case on this. We have obligations in terms of legal cooperation with others, so when somebody shows up without any immunity or diplomatic status and is subject to arrest, we have an obligation to carry it out. And then there is appropriate legal procedures that obviously review these cases, that look at them and determine whether the extradition is justified.
QUESTION: Did the Swiss provide you with his flight information and all those things necessary to make this arrest?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how that aspect of it was handled, but that would be something within the purview of the Justice Department. But I doubt if they would say much about it.
QUESTION: I'm sure the Russians are going to be looking for consular visits and all of that kind of stuff.
MR. BOUCHER: They have had consular access.
QUESTION: They have?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, they were granted consular access while he was still at John F. Kennedy Airport. And he has had a hearing, and I assume the Russian officials were allowed to attend that. Those things are being held in New York.
QUESTION: Can you confirm also that Ambassador Collins has already been called in? Is that what you mean by contact in Moscow?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not certain it was at Ambassador Collins' level. Do we know? It was Ambassador Collins? Yes.
QUESTION: There is a report that says Ivanov actually called him in.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I can confirm it was done. The Russians spoke to our Ambassador in Moscow.
QUESTION: How does a request like this come from the Swiss, and who on this side said, okay, let's pick the guy up?
MR. BOUCHER: These are international legal matters. There is coordination. I don't know if it's Interpol or if it's another arrangement, but there are international warrants for people's arrest or detention. Countries contact each other. Again, that's the whole province of coordination that's done with the Department of Justice that they could probably explain to you.
QUESTION: Do you know if it's possible for them to post facto establish that he is a diplomat? Is there any way for them to now try and prove that?
MR. BOUCHER: The issue is whether he was accredited to a Russian mission or to an international organization in the United States. When a diplomat travels, he doesn't carry immunity wherever he goes, even if he is personally a diplomat. When I travel on vacation to the Bahamas or I go to a business meeting in Paris, I don't have immunity unless I'm accredited to a post there. So that would be the legal issue.
QUESTION: If I could just follow up. Since so far you don't have the fact that he was accredited, is there any way for them to then say, well, we forgot to fax you the accreditation or whatever it is? Is there nothing they can do now to establish that he has diplomatic immunity?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think the issue is his status at the time of his arrest.
QUESTION: Do you know -- you said that Ivanov had --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it's Ivanov --
QUESTION: Well, the contact had been with the Ambassador, but you don't know if Ivanov has called the Secretary at all about this thing?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has not talked to Ivanov this morning, and yesterday for that matter.
QUESTION: The other thing is you said that the Russians, through the Embassy in Moscow, had expressed their concerns. Well, in fact, they've done a bit more than that, haven't they? Haven't they come out with a formal protest of this? Both the Russians and now the Belarusans, who I'm sure you don't really care too much about their complaints, but are saying that this is a flagrant diplomatic incident.
MR. BOUCHER: We are obviously aware of the public statements as well. I leave it to the Russians or the Belarusans, or whomever, to characterize their concerns. I will describe the case from our point of view the way we see it, and that this is the regular implementation of an international legal obligation for an arrest that's carried out pursuant to criminal charges that have been filed in Switzerland, and the legal procedures need to be carried out and respected. And I'm sure in the process, whether it's the issue of Russian consular access or it's the issue of his right to defend himself and prove his case, that everybody will have due process here.
QUESTION: But you won't characterize the response of the Russians or the Belarusans as a formal diplomatic protest?
MR. BOUCHER: It's up to them to characterize what they say.
QUESTION: Well, if they have given you a demarche that says we protest -- have they done that, or have they just simply expressed their concerns?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I'm not going to tell you what is in somebody else's demarche. I don't happen to know personally what words they used, but it's not for me to characterize the position of the Russian or the Belarusan Government. We speak for the United States here.
QUESTION: I realize that. But, I mean, if you're operating under the assumption that they were only expressing some kind of concern, then it's a bit different than if they've made it -- then you're dealing with it a bit differently than if they had made a formal and official protest.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
MR. BOUCHER: We're operating on the basis of direct knowledge of what they told us. We heard from them. They told us. We know exactly what they think on this matter because they told us what they think on this matter.
Is it my job to then convey that third-hand to you? My answer to that is no.
QUESTION: Vladimir Szurdenovsky, another person I'm sure you're happy to react to, said that this was the work of the new Administration and how shameful that's their first move. But this can't really -- this doesn't really have anything to do with the new Administration, does it?
MR. BOUCHER: The simple answer to that is no, as well.
QUESTION: New subject? Can you tell us what you know about Kabila? I understand you've been told officially he has passed away? Or what have you been told? Or assassinated, I should say. I'm forgetting history. And what is the latest on that?
MR. BOUCHER: This, again, is just -- it's an issue of who says what about whom. It's for the Congolese Government to make any announcements formally on his status. We understand that they will make an announcement shortly. We also understand ourselves from a variety of credible reports that President Kabila has died and that his body is currently in Harare. Obviously we condemn the violent killing of Kabila, just as we condemn this kind of violence anywhere.
Yesterday, there was an announcement from the Congolese Government that Joseph Kabila, General Joseph Kabila, the president's son, was appointed the interim leader. We would urge all parties in this situation, including the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the rebels and external belligerents to redouble their commitment to implementing fully the Lusaka Agreement. And we continue to believe that the Lusaka Agreement remains the most viable means of achieving a just and lasting peace in this region.
QUESTION: Can you work with the son? Can the US work with him?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that question quite arises at this stage. The issue for us, for all the parties really, is implementation of the Lusaka Agreement. So in terms of how we can do that, it will depend on the cooperation of all the parties, including whatever interim leader or government takes over in the Congo.
QUESTION: Will the US be represented at the funeral, if there is one?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a whole new question, if there is one and when will it be and what appropriately will happen. So I don't know.
QUESTION: Richard, the South Africans are saying that several African governments were called to meet with Kabila's government and they were officially notified. So the US has not had any of their people officially notified as of yet; is that your understanding?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that. We have had meetings with the government there. We have obviously kept in touch with other governments in the region about what's going on. But get back to the point of it's not for me to convey an official announcement on behalf of another government.
QUESTION: Can you tell us, going on the sources that you have, whether it's your understanding that he died in Congo or in Zimbabwe? And also, who are your sources? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: And who are yours? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I can't tell you that.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't tell you, either.
QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of what kind of level you're talking about here?
MR. BOUCHER: We have, as I said, talked to people, officials in governments. We have talked to a variety of other people who follow the situation closely. We have talked to other governments in the region. So I think, as I said, we have credible reports from a variety of sources that he is dead, and we would expect the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to make their own announcement, their formal announcement, shortly.
As far as the sort of circumstances of the death, I don't think we have anything more detailed that we can convey to you at this point. It's not clear who shot the president. We've seen a lot of reports, including possibilities that it might have been an inside or military officer or group of officers, but we really don't know.
QUESTION: Are you dealing with the son as the interim president, or as president of the DR Congo right now? And please don't say that you only recognize governments and not people.
QUESTION: And has any US official met with them yet?
MR. BOUCHER: States, and not governments. But I don't believe that any US official has met with him. I don't think we have had any dealings with him yet.
Obviously people -- governments decide their continuity. Our interest is in working on things like the Lusaka Accords with the government and clarifying the situation, I guess first and foremost. So whether we have had a meeting with him or not, whoever is the leader would be the one who decides how we move forward on this. Clearly, once it is decided who will be the leadership, we will deal with them.
QUESTION: And is the Embassy back up to full -- operating at full strength now? Is the warning or the advice to stay indoors for Americans -- has that been lifted?
MR. BOUCHER: There is longstanding advice about taking prudent security cautions in going about their business in Kinshasa and Congo as a whole. And there is a curfew, and we are advising people now to respect the curfew. But it is no longer, "Stay home."
Our Embassy is saying that the city remains calm; Kinshasa is calm, businesses are reopened, people are going about their normal daily activities. There is a curfew from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 to a.m. The UN has reported that airports operated on and off yesterday -- that's January 17th -- and as of this morning the river crossing was closed but expected to reopen.
QUESTION: But in terms of the Embassy, is it back up and fully open?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, the Embassy is open and operating. They have returned to full, normal operations. Ambassador Swing is on his way back to Kinshasa. He hasn't arrived there yet.
QUESTION: Also, what are you all -- what words are you using to describe it now -- an assassination, an attempted coup, both? What is the official US Government line on that?
MR. BOUCHER: We asked ourselves that question this morning, as well. I think until there is more kill -- (laughter) --
QUESTION: Are you anticipating more killing? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What information do you have that leads you to believe there will be more killing?
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let me start that sentence again. That until there is more information about the circumstances and the perpetrators, I think it is hard to reach a final characterization. It is a violent killing and attack, a shooting. That is what we know of so far.
QUESTION: This is a little bit -- it is out of left field. I hadn't even thought about it until about two minutes ago, and if you don't have an answer on it, I understand.
But Dennis Ross is leaving after 12 years as being principal mediator, and presumably -- I think maybe we do know that he plans to write a book. Are there any restrictions on the -- and the Mideast process, of course, is still going on. It isn't by any means concluded.
Are there any restrictions on the papers or the information he is able to make public, or do you depend -- does the government, State Department depend on him being his own censor, so far as what he feels he ought to withhold out of sensitivity, and what he might write about?
MR. BOUCHER: There are very careful procedures involved in the safeguarding of government records and ensuring that particularly classified information remains appropriately safeguarded. So whether it is the transfer to a presidential library or putting them in the archives in Beltsville or an official leaving, there are very careful guidelines that are explained to everybody who might be leaving about their papers and how that should be handled so that all matters of official record remain in the official records.
Second of all, any manuscripts that are prepared based on government service or that might involve the potential disclosure of classified information get reviewed in the Department before they are -- I can't remember if it is before they are published or before they are submitted to publication. So one of us, or someone in this building, would have the honor of reading anything Dennis writes before it is released publicly to make sure that no classified information is disclosed.
QUESTION: I asked especially because it is an ongoing process. It's not reviewing the Cuban missile crisis, which is long over, or some such historic event that is over. Is there a cooling-off period? Is there a period when people are either required or asked to withhold their public views?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I mean, once they are --
QUESTION: They just have to be submitted?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I mean, the issue is disclosure of classified information for people who have departed, and that is subject to review. And I don't think there is any statute of limitations of that. Obviously there is a declassification process as well, and so if you are writing about something that is more than 30 years ago, chances are that we will have declassified most of the documents anyway. But if you are writing about something that is more recent, then the documents may not be in the public domain yet, and therefore any material would have to be reviewed for the potential for disclosure of classified information.
QUESTION: Richard, on the Middle East peace process, there are late reports this morning that Arafat has agreed to intensive talks to try to achieve an agreement before the Israeli election. The wires are saying that Israel has not yet agreed to this formulation. Is the US in touch? Is Dennis involved at all in this, or any -- is there any US involvement in this situation?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we are in touch. I don't want to overplay sort of our direct role at this point. We are in close contact with the parties. We remain in close touch with them, with both sides. They are continuing to meet, though. They are having their meetings and continuing to meet in an attempt to narrow the differences between them as much as they can.
You know that Chairman Arafat and Shlomo Ben Ami met in Cairo yesterday. We understand they reviewed sort of the recent Israeli-Palestinian contacts. We certainly appreciate President Mubarak's continuing efforts to bridge the differences between the parties, and we will continue to do what we can to support the efforts. But the parties themselves need to take the steps required to reach an agreement for peace.
QUESTION: To what extent will the US be involved in these after noon on Saturday, do you think?
MR. BOUCHER: That will be a decision for the new Administration to make, how much direct involvement they want to have at this point, as well as for the parties. But it is clear at this point Dennis Ross is not going to travel to the region. There is not enough time for the trip to take place before noon on Saturday. But as I said, we will continue to stay in close touch with the parties.
QUESTION: Listen, it has gotten very hard to, I guess, expect a very specific response to this. But in the last several days, ever since the President made a speech January - what, 7th or 8th -- there hasn't been, high-profile at least, US involvement, and frankly it was given to at least two interpretations.
One is you haven't just begun to say since January 7th -- it has been said all along -- it is really up to the parties. It has always really been up to the parties. But President Clinton has been involved with the parties, like till 4:00 in the morning, night after night on occasion. So while it is up to them, the US has been heavily involved.
There are only -- I can think of two possibilities -- that you concluded that there is no way they can do the deal and there is no sense expending energy uselessly; or, indeed, you are kind of a little bit -- what should I say -- a little bit disillusioned by their willingness to compromise, and it is really up to them, and go ahead. You know, we're not going to -- the US is not going to play a prominent role.
Do you want to touch that at all?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. As usual, I'll pick none of the above, and go on to try to reconcile some of the things you were saying.
I think we have made clear that the President put forward ideas. We had a series of meetings with the parties at various levels to discuss their understanding of those ideas, to try to see if we could narrow the differences in the way they understood those ideas so that we would have a basis for peace, a basis for negotiating peace.
That process went forward until about the time of the President's speech, of clarifying/ answering questions, dealing with conflicting interpretations, our trying to help them narrow the differences. We did take that forward and continue to work on that.
There was a point after the President's speech where we said if there is more that we could do in that regard, Dennis Ross might even go out to do it. But the fact is, throughout that period -- and now, we've said there is really not time to negotiate these ideas; it's not time to get involved in an extensive negotiation with us over the President's ideas; it's time to decide whether you can use these ideas to form a basis for peace.
So after having gone through a process of clarification and discussion, we have certainly kept in close contact with the parties. But the point that we have made all along is that the parties do have to decide. And if they decide that these ideas, or whatever they work out, is the basis for a peace negotiation, fundamentally that is a good thing. If they can decide on the basis for peace talks, for negotiation and for a settlement, that is a good thing, because fundamentally the decisions are up to them.
QUESTION: Is there any second thought to the extent of US involvement? A Washington think tank brought out a study today on the Middle East with all sorts of suggestions for the new Administration. And one is that the President -- that the Secretary of State should be in charge of this, and the President should limit his intervention to situations where a breakthrough appears likely, or a breakdown. This is not the way President Clinton has operated. He has been hip-deep in this.
Is it a strategy that -- (inaudible) -- ?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I might -- I think I would differ with that. I mean, the President's involvement with the Wye talks, the Camp David talks, and the possibility more recently of actually working out a fundamental basis for peace, I would describe those as points where breakthrough or breakdown might come.
But as far as the sort of the level of involvement of the President, that is for each Administration to decide. We have the examples of Jimmy Carter and President Clinton. We have other examples in the past, as well.
What is clear is that the United States is not going to give up supporting efforts by the parties to reach agreement. We have the ongoing peace team people here. We have the Bureau of Near East Affairs that is working on this. We have our Ambassadors in the field that are continuing to work with the parties.
So the United States continues to be in contact, continues to be close to this process, and will remain close to the process. The effort to help the parties in the Middle East to achieve peace has been a bipartisan effort that has run consistently through the years in our policy, and I think it is safe to predict that our search for peace in the Middle East is not going to end at noon on Saturday.
QUESTION: Richard, could I continue on this for just one moment? Is there anything in the talks in the last two days that gives you hope that there is movement in a positive direction, either in addressing the President's suggestions or moving beyond them?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I can characterize progress or lack thereof in those discussions or where exactly they stand in terms of their discussions. So again, that is, I guess in the end, something that they would do if they feel like it.
QUESTION: There has to be some kind of continuity, I suppose, if the US is going to be involved in this in the next few weeks as they try to hammer out an agreement before the election. So at noon on Saturday, who is in charge of this continuity, picking up the ball? Is it just the Foreign Service Officers in these bureaus, or has that been determined?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there are any number -- a great number of people involved in this process, who will remain involved in the process. Dennis Ross will be around until the end of the month, the end of January. The other people on the peace team, many of them will be remaining with us. The people in the Bureau who handle Israeli affairs, Palestinian affairs, the desks, and the whole Arab world; this is something of continuing concern that we work on. Our Ambassadors in the region, in the key posts -- Israel, Jordan, Egypt, some of the other states -- are all going to be there, on the job, I guess, Sunday, after their Arab World Weekend finishes for many of them.
So there is a continuing and close involvement by all these people in the process. Ultimately, the decision on whether to put forth ideas or send out an envoy is one made by the Secretary of State and the President, and as soon as the new Secretary of State is officially sworn in, I'm sure he will be the one responsible for making those decisions.
QUESTION: George Tenet is now the most senior person who is officially staying on who has been involved in this. Are there any plans for him to go to the region anytime soon?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not normally confirmed or denied, much less announced, travel by the Director of Central Intelligence, so I don't now.
QUESTION: Can we give this dead horse a rest for a second?
QUESTION: Just one more. It's not quite dead, Matt.
MR. BOUCHER: Actually, we had a change of subject back there, too, I think.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell repeatedly used the terminology, "There must be an end to the violence," which of course is your terminology here, too. The fact is, the negotiations have continued without any change in the violence, maybe a change in the level from time to time, but it is still there.
What is your feeling now about continuing the negotiations without any diminution of violence?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me try to characterize it this way. We have concentrated for the last few weeks, if not few months, on trying to create an environment in which peace could realistically be discussed and realistically agreed. We think that has required an end to the violence. We have been quite clear, whether it was in Paris with the parties, at Sharm el Sheikh with the parties, in the Secretary's statement in December, in the President's discussions with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak in early January, or in the statements we have made here, that we expected to see the parties take steps to try to reduce the violence.
Overall, there has been an improved situation in regards to the calm and welfare of people, but it is quite clear to all of us that there is still violence; there is still tragedy for many people who live in this region; and there is still a kind of environment that we have confidence the parties don't want to perpetuate.
So as we continue to say the peace process is important, try to reach a negotiated settlement, we will do what we can, we will stay in touch with you, make the decisions to go forward on peace, we have continued to work very closely with the parties on ending the violence because, ultimately, our belief -- and we have, I think, been quite clear on this for quite a while -- is that you have to have an environment of peace in order to make peace.
QUESTION: Thank you, Richard. This is Arshad with The Daily Inqilab, and a question on Bangladesh. Before I went into that question, on behalf of my distinguished colleagues here present, I would like to thank you for doing a marvelous job and a remarkable job, and we wish you a very, very healthy and a prosperous future.
A question on Bangladesh. What is the status of the extradition treaty with Bangladesh, and which the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pleaded with the US Government? And added to that, will the US return those confessed killers of the former Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman? I would like to have your very kind -- (inaudible) --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I appreciate the compliments. I will be here on Monday to continue to answer your questions. And I have to, having taken the compliment, immediately show my incompetence that I really don't have an update on the extradition treaty and the status of those who are wanted for the killing. So I'm going to have to check on that and get back to you later.
QUESTION: Agra Kupora, Czech Radio. I have a question regarding Cuba. There are two Czechs, one of them a member of parliament, detained in Cuba, and threatened with a trial for being spies, spying for the Cuban Government.
Do you have any statement on that, or what is the US position? Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: We will have for you a statement on the subject. It is a matter of concern to us. We think it is a limit on the freedom of expression of people and the right to meet. It is a fundamental human rights issue for us, and we will have a more formal statement for you sometime during the course of the day, I hope soon.
QUESTION: Two in Asia. One, how concerned are you at the deteriorating state of affairs in the Philippines? And then if you have anything to say about our good friend Mr. Kim's visit to Shanghai, that would be appreciated.
MR. BOUCHER: The issue of the political or impeachment developments in the Philippines is clearly a domestic issue, and we don't want to get into that. That needs to be handled according to their own constitutional system.
I think what we would say about the general situation in that regard, though, is that everybody should respect peaceful and democratic process, and respect the rule of law. Extra-constitutional measures or violent activities have no place in a free and democratic society such as the Philippines.
Oh, sorry, what was I --
QUESTION: Mr. Kim?
MR. BOUCHER: Mr. Kim. I think the thing to point out as we see these reports is that our policy that we have followed, subsequent to Dr. Perry's policy of review, has welcomed the international engagement with North Korea as Pyongyang addresses areas of concern to us and other members of the international community.
As we know, China has played a constructive role as a participant in the Four Party Talks. We, in coordination with our South Korean ally, continue to work with China, in fact, in pursuing the goal of a stable and peaceful Korean Peninsula.
So as far as detail regarding the travel, I will leave it to the governments involved. But I think you have seen in our policy, whether it was the last trip to China or the other openings that North Korea has made, we welcome the interaction with the international community, and we have in turn worked closely with other members of the international community.
QUESTION: Were you involved at all, or this -- these diplomats there involved? Apparently he toured through a GM plant in Shanghai. Were you -- did you have a -- was there any American diplomatic presence on that tour, considering it is a joint venture with American -- lots of American -- ?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, frankly. I would have to check on that, if anybody from the Consulate might have been there.
QUESTION: I'm not sure you can comment on this, but there are reports from Yemen that investigators will be coming here to interview surviving soldiers on the USS Cole. Do we have anything to say about that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: And one other question. Sorry. Sorry, George. Do you have anything to say about President Kostunica's decision -- reversal of his decision that he would not meet Carla del Ponte?
MR. BOUCHER: We have said all along that they need to work out the arrangements. We thought it was important that they meet with each other, and obviously we would welcome the decision to meet.
The issue of the procedures and how to carry this out is within the hands of the Tribunal, and we would look for them and the Government of Yugoslavia to work together in carrying out these international obligations.
QUESTION: To follow up on that, did anyone in this building communicate to Belgrade their desire that President Kostunica should meet with Carla del Ponte?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been in consistent contact with the Tribunal, with the Government of Yugoslavia, as well as others in the region, and we have always encouraged governments to meet and discuss these issues with the Tribunal as it carries out its international duties.
QUESTION: So there was no specific US pressure in this case?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick with the answer I gave before.
QUESTION: Which is that you are always urging --
MR. BOUCHER: -- people to meet with the Tribunal and to work out these procedures and make sure that the Tribunal can carry out its international obligations.
QUESTION: And you did so in this case, as well?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been talking to the Government of Yugoslavia as well, yes.
QUESTION: It's Colombia things. I want to know, there is supposed to be a certification of human rights in Colombia, but some press reports say that this year that certification is not necessary. Can you tell us about that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, what we have done is we have submitted a voluntary report to our Congress, or are submitting a voluntary report to our Congress. It provides our assessment of the progress that has been achieved by the Colombian Government in addressing human rights issues.
Human rights does remain a central issue in our bilateral relations with Colombia. We will continue to engage the Government of Colombia on concrete measures that it should take to improve its human rights performance.
The White House did determine that the legislation doesn't require formal certification by the Secretary of State or a waiver by the President in order to proceed to spend the money that is appropriated by the emergency supplemental, but the President decided that we should submit a voluntary report to our Congress that provides our assessment of the progress.
In terms of the progress, we note general progress by the Colombian Government and the armed forces on most human rights issues. This report will offer the evidence of progress and improvement in matters involving civilian judicial jurisdiction over the military, separation of suspected human rights abusers from the armed forces, development of proper judicial procedures within the military, and efforts to control the paramilitary forces in Colombia. The report will also note areas where we think additional steps should be taken by the Colombian Government.
QUESTION: There was no official announcement from the Department of State or the White House about this issue? I mean, you say this is voluntary?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I am answering your question now. I am telling you what is going on. The report is being prepared and submitted. I'm sure we will be able to make copies available as soon as possible.
QUESTION: It falls to the next Administration to determine the question of waivers or non-waivers; is that right?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there was the question whether another report was required by the law -- report and then subsequently waivers, depending on the findings, before the expiration of President Clinton's term, I believe. And so the White House has determined that we don't believe the legislation requires that kind of formal certification, but in order to -- so that is the determination that has been made. I suppose other lawyers in a future administration could decide the law somewhat differently, but that is the determination that has been made. But we are submitting a voluntary report, and obviously any future administration would decide whether to submit a voluntary report or not.
QUESTION: There was a waiver last August or so of five or so of the conditions. And now you are saying that you are not certain that waivers are actually required.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I am not questioning that. That was required. There was a question as to whether another one was required or not before the end of this Administration. That determination is that there is not another one. The determination was made. There is another report required. But as I said, it is being done voluntarily.
MR. BOUCHER: We are going to given them a report anyway because we want them to know about the human rights situation in Colombia. They are concerned about it on the Hill; we are concerned about it here; the Government in Colombia is concerned about it. So we have written a report on the human rights situation in Colombia to tell them the answers to questions we know they have.
QUESTION: And when was that going to go up to the Hill?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on the exact timing, I don't know.
QUESTION: But it can't go past -- it has got to be delivered basically before noon on Saturday?
MR. BOUCHER: It has got to be before noon on Saturday, that's for sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 P.M.)
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