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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
95/03/16 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN



                      U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                        DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

                              I N D E X

                     Thursday, March 16, 1995


                                       Briefer: Richard Holbrooke
                                                Christine Shelly


FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
Remarks by A/S Holbrooke on Commemoration of First
  Anniversary of Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina ......1-2
Next Steps:
  --Clinton/Gore/Christopher Meetings/Luncheon .........1
  --Assistance to Friends of Federation/Contributions ..1-3
  --Working Level Discussions ..........................2
Letter from Bosnian President Izetbegovic ..............2-3
U.S. Position on Extension of Ceasefire/Arms Embargo ...4
Selection of Military Adviser to Federation ............5
Status of Yugoslavia/Bosnia Border .....................6
Process/Progress Toward Confederation ..................7
A/S Holbrooke Mtg. w/FM Former Yugoslav Rep. Macedonia .7
--Discussion of Dispute between Athens/Skopje; .........7
    Federation; & U.S. Military Personnel in Macedonia .7
President Tudjman's Announcement on Croatia Plan .......8-9
Next Steps: Croatia--Efforts toward New UN Mandate;
  Bosnia--Revitalized Effort to Deal w/Crisis ..........8-9

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
U.S. Role in Israel/Syria Discussions ..................9-10
Vice President Gore's Trip to Region ...................10

IRAN
Report of Additional Economic Sanctions Against Iran ...10-11
Secretary Christopher/CONOCO Transaction ...............13

GUATEMALA
Report of Human Rights Verification Mission ............11

PAKISTAN
Karachi
Current Security Situation .............................12
--Timing/Length of Departure; Travel Arrangements ......12-13
Report of Multiple Arrests re: World Trade Center ......13

NORTH KOREA
KEDO--Future Announcement on Leadership Position .......13

HAITI
Report of Extradition Request for Mr. Constant .........13-14

IRAQ
Security Council Renewal of Sanctions ..................14

ALGERIA
Violence/Human Rights Violations/U.S. Travel Warnings ..14-15

RUSSIA
Report of Journalists Jailed/Killed ....................15


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPC #35

THURSDAY, MARCH 16, 1995, 12:17 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I appreciate your flexibility in the starting time, which has bounced around a little bit. Anyway, what we're doing right now is starting the briefing with Assistant Secretary of State Holbrooke. He's only got a few minutes to be with us, because he needs to join the luncheon which Secretary Christopher is hosting. But he'll be happy to begin with a few remarks and then take your questions, and then I will resume on other topics after that. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I have very little to add to what you just, I hope, observed upstairs. The Federation one year later is a fragile vessel at best, and it needs revitalization. It ended a war between Bosnia and Croats. That was a significant achievement under President Clinton's leadership a year ago this week, but it didn't do much more.

Some of the things that have happened, which have been referred to by some of you in previous discussions I've had, and the tension in the area -- any of you who've been in Mostar know exactly what I'm talking about -- is at a level where we believe we have to move to the next level.

So, the events today have three levels of meaning. One, political and symbolic. The President will meet with President Tudjman, President Zubak, Vice President Ganic and others this afternoon to continue the effort Secretary Christopher is conducting as we speak. And Vice President Gore will meet with President Tudjman tomorrow. These efforts are designed to give greater strength to the Federation.

Secretary Christopher is hosting a lunch right now with Secretary Perry and Ambassador Albright and others attending, and I will join that as soon as this is concluded.

The second level is to get assistance to the Federation -- the Friends of the Federation. We have a preliminary fact sheet here. We will have another more detailed fact sheet available for you at 4:00 o'clock, which is when this press conference was originally scheduled for, but Christine and I thought it might be more helpful to you to move it up to immediately following the event.

The third level is a practical, hands-on level, which will begin right after lunch, to deal with the specific problems, including the ones that you heard discussed in Vice President Ganic's speech.

I'll be happy to take any questions you have.

Q Following this historic moment now, what would you surmise? Is there any danger that this is going to impede the process, or how could you highlight it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I don't see how it can impede the process. As we've said many times, if the Croatians and the Bosnian Muslims fight each other, it's over. To prevent that fighting was the achievement of a year ago. Now to build something more than a house with only a roof is the goal that we're doing today. I don't think it will impede the process.

Q Absence of Bosnian President Mr. Izetbegovic and also of the Premier of the Bosnian Government, Haris Silajdzic -- is that telling, or are there some --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I'm glad you raised that question. The reason that President Izetbegovic is not here, as I discussed yesterday in a background discussion, is that he had a longstanding commitment to Chancellor Kohl to have a similar ceremony in Bonn, and for the life of us we couldn't figure out how to get him in both places at once.

He did send a letter to the Secretary of State, which I'd like to read and which will be made available to you right after this press conference.

"Dear Secretary Christopher" -- this is from President Izetbegovic -- "I would like to thank you for your kind invitation to come to Washington to attend the marking of the one-year anniversary of the Washington Agreement. Unfortunately, your invitation for March 16 conflicts with the previously arranged schedule for my state visit --"

Of course, it was a state visit, so you understand that involves much more planning, and it was impossible to move.

"-- to the Federal Republic of Germany. Although I'm unable to attend this important gathering, I wish, with all my heart, success to your idea of forming the Friends of the Federation." "It is my sincere conviction that the Federation is the cornerstone of the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It stopped the conflict between the Croats and Bosniacs. It can also be the beginning of the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

"The effects of the Washington Agreement encourage our hopes that Friends of the Federation, led by the United States, will make new strides towards peace."

"I thank you, in particular, and all your associates on this important endeavor for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I'm sending my best wishes to all participants of this historic gathering in the capital of the United States. Please accept, Mr. Secretary, the assurances of my highest consideration."

I would just add one thing. Technology is not always as good on our side as yours. We had planned to have him participate on a two-way link today on the 8th Floor, and we didn't have a fiber optic cable in, and we just couldn't do it. So it is purely technical, I assure you.

Q Can you run down a list of countries other than the European Union and the United States, and what they really are willing to contribute here?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: John, I would like to ask Aric to give you a specific list afterwards because -- I apologize for this, but we aren't completely ready. He listed some of them. I'm sorry.

Q Are you disappointed in the amount of participation thus far?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I am encouraged by the number of countries that have explicitly said they will be part of the Friends of the Federation. I wish that we had a more concrete set of specific numbers. This is an accelerating process. We only started on this a few months ago.

For example, in Japan we had a trip planned and the day it was supposed to start, there was the earthquake in Kobe and we had to postpone it. We have had people all over the world, and I believe that this will be an -- unfortunately, I'm not going to have a monster figure to announce to you today, but we are not discouraged by the response.

Dan.

Q Is the Administration in favor of extending the cease-fire in Bosnia in lieu of a settlement?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Yes.

Barry.

Q No, I was going to ask you, you're making a lot of this Federation. Is this a Federation of -- how should I put it -- temporary self-interest on the part of these two, of the three major ethnic groups? Why would you imagine history to change now? Is it just they have a common -- is it more than a common bond against a common enemy?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I think the tension between the two halves of the Federation are the most indicative thing you could have to demonstrate the difficulty that we face, and that is why what we are doing today is so important. I'm not oblivious to history, I'm a great respecter of it, and it is history which requires us to try to overcome its own legacy. And that's what we're doing here today.

The legacy of distrust between all three ethnic groups is real. Two of the groups are now in a very fragile alliance against the third, but I stress the word "fragile." And every speaker today thanked President Clinton and Secretary Christopher for a reason, and that is, they wanted external pressure from the United States to bring their own quarrels under control.

Somebody yesterday mentioned the fact that one side wouldn't even let the other send chess players across the dividing line in Mostar for a chess tournament. That kind of division is tragic, because the only beneficiary of it is the Serbs. That is why you had here today this very important group of Croats and Bosnians with President Izetbegovic here in spirit through this letter -- and very well represented, I might add, by his own Presidency.

Q Izetbegovic is saying in Germany that he doesn't think that the cease-fire should be extended, and that he wants the arms embargo lifted.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Yes.

Q Do you have any response to his remarks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Well, I think I answered Dan Williams' question already in the first half. And on the arms embargo, there's been no change in our position.

Roy.

Q President Tudjman today referred to sinister and devious circles who -- rather, a sinister and devious scheme that was created by some intelligence circles, and that's what led to the second war, the war between the Croats and the Bosnian Muslims. Do you share his analysis? And if so, which countries --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Roy, I would defer to you. You covered it, I didn't. I'm not going to be able to penetrate the interstices of the Herzo-Bosna problem and what actually happened. All I know is, it is something we have to use American influence and EU support to overcome.

Q He seemed to be referring to a Western country, that is also known as Great Britain. It's been in the Croatian press for some time. Do you share any of that allegation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: No. I have no knowledge to support that charge.

Q The U.S. supported the Federation and the Confederation. Does it include some kind of military -- some kind of support to the military alliance between the two entities?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: First of all, we are not violating the arms embargo. But without violating it, we have determined that we can provide a military adviser to the Federation. That was originally General Galvin. He left the position when he moved from the East Coast to the Midwest and other business interests and other things made him unavailable.

Secretary Perry has told the leaders of the Federation -- and they are having lunch -- Perry is with us upstairs at lunch, and I'm sure this is going to come up -- that he is in the process of selecting a retired senior officer of General rank to do that. This will not violate the arms embargo, but it will be advice.

Karen.

Q What does this adviser do? Or what is he supposed to do?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Advises. He advises. You have here two military forces, the Croats and the Bosnian Muslims, who don't have an integrated command, who don't have a combined command control structure. Any of you who have walked down the streets of Mostar or Gornji Vakauf know that those people are not coordinating well. We want to encourage that coordination.

This will be done without any prejudice to our other goals and without getting involved in an active American military participation of any sort. This does not mean the introduction of American military personnel into Bosnia or the Federation. It will be somebody like Bob Owen on the arbitration side who will travel to the region occasionally and give generic advice. It is not, for those of you with long memories, MAAG in Vietnam or MAC-V.

John.

Q Do you see the border between Yugoslavia and Bosnia as being more porous in that Milosevic's efforts are deteriorating along that border? And as a result of that report, apparently from the U.N. inspectors as they looked at it, there are some questions about whether or not easing of the sanctions should be continued when the U.N. takes that up later in April.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: We're looking at that problem very carefully, John.

Q Do you feel that the border is more porous now?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: It never was completely sealed. We all knew that. Is the what you might call cheating increasing? We have had significantly conflicting reports in recent weeks. We're investigating them through intelligence channels, through our own people in the monitoring units, and we're assessing how to proceed.

Q Is there any likelihood that money from the "Friends" would be going to suspected war criminals within the Federation, who hold positions on the Croat side?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: We sure hope not. This money is supposed to go for public administration, encourage joint police, utilities, electricity, things that encourage a Federation. We're all aware of the problem that you're alluding to, but we're going to do everything we can to prevent it.

Jim.

Q When would you expect to see the confederation part of this deal get off the ground?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: The confederation get off the ground?

Q Yes.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: When the Bosnian Serbs accept the Contact Group plan as the starting point for negotiations, then a process towards confederation -- then and only then -- or union under the Contact Group Plan, the Geneva III Plan, can begin. It's up to Pale; they know our phone number. They know how to get hold of us, and they know what's required. They are not part of this process now because they've chosen not to be. In that region of the world, where there are a lot of aggressive factions, they are the worst. They are the ones who have prevented progress on the Contact Group Plan.

Q Earlier this morning you met with an official from Skopje. Do you have any comment on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I had a very good meeting this morning with the Foreign Minister from the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. This is part of an intense effort which involves our Presidential emissary Matt Nimitz and the U.N. Representative Cyrus Vance to assist in the solution of the dispute between Athens and Skopje. It would be inappropriate for me to go into details.

We also discussed the Federation and the Bosnian situation and the American military personnel in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia and -- because we are concerned that everyone understand the high importance we attach to that. We consider the events now going on in New York under the leadership of Ambassador Albright will also be -- directly take into account President Gligorov and his government's views on this issue.

We are also in close touch with the Greek Government on this subject. And to move just one inch further to the West, also we've been in close touch with the Albanians. I met with President Berisha in Copenhagen as well as President Gligorov.

So this arena of Albania, Skopje, Greece, which is so closely related to our main subject this morning, is of very high importance to us.

Q Mr. Secretary, how do you intend or how is it intended that the root causes, the ethnic hatreds, the blood feud that's gone on for many generations -- how can these troubles be remedied to bring these people to some kind of peace and reconciliation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Of course, that's the unanswerable and unavoidable question. But I can answer you with a lot of specifics, which would just be a recitation of our attempt to do things step by step. My real answer would be Ireland.

Just look at Ireland -- the other end of Europe -- a 400-year tragedy, which has had more progress in the last few months under the leadership of Prime Minister Major and former Prime Minister Reynolds and Prime Minister Bruton, who will be in Washington tonight and tomorrow. I know there's been some dispute about specific aspects of this, but whenever I'm in Sarajevo or Zagreb, or Nicosia, or Athens or Ankara, I always talk about Ireland because I'm student of Irish history. The fact that a new generation of Irish, with Ireland in the European Union, have begun to put behind them these enmities and work together for their mutual economic and political benefit.

We're a long way from that in the Balkans, but there is no alternative but to try.

Q Mr. Secretary, yesterday, a senior State Department official, speaking on background, referred to clouds of war darkening over Bosnia.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: It sounds familiar. (Laughter)

Q I'm glad to hear you say that. I hope that perhaps you could elaborate on what that senior State Department official was referring to?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Let me repeat on the record part of what was said on background yesterday, because the only reason we did that on background was to prepare you for today. I want to be very clear on what we did. I'll just have to end with this comment.

For the last eight weeks, Secretary Christopher, the rest of us, have been absolutely focused on the crisis in Croatia. We believed, and believe, that this was a crisis that would have led to war in the Krajina and then a war back in Bosnia; that the Serbs of Serbia themselves would have probably had to come in. You would have had the makings of a third Balkan war with implications for Albania, Skopje, and the rest of southeastern Europe.

This situation, which we felt was at crisis level, demanded our primary attention. That effort culminated in the announcement of President Tudjman in the presence of the Vice President of the United States in Copenhagen Sunday. The Vice President was present at President Tudjman's request, because he's under some criticism here for having compromised and not gone ahead with a strategy which we believe would have led to war. That is why we feel that President Tudjman deserves our high praise and support.

Now, having averted what we believe was a virtually certain war in the Krajina in the last few days, we are now going back to Bosnia where the clouds of war are darkening. The four month period, the cease-fire, is running out. The incidents are increasing.

Secretary Christopher is talking about Bosnia, as well as Croatia, today, as are the rest of us. We never were oblivious to the danger in Bosnia, but we couldn't deal with it until Croatia was at its present level. The next month, I can tell you, you can focus your attention in two places: At the United Nations, where Ambassador Albright is leading an effort to replace the current United Nations mandate with a new mandate that reflects the understandings and desires of the Croatian Government. After all, that presence is on Croatian soil, part of which is occupied by a breakaway faction of Krajina Serbs.

And, secondly, a revitalized effort to deal with the crisis in Bosnia. We have had an anomalous situation throughout the winter. The greatest, with the important exception of Bihac, the region has been more peaceful than it has been in four years, and yet it has been closer to wider war than it has been in the same period of time.

We are going to simultaneously deal with the Krajina problem, the Friends of the Federation, and the situation in Bosnia.

Q Thank you.

(Following Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's briefing, Acting Spokesman Christine Shelly resumed the Daily briefing at 12:37 p.m.)

MS. SHELLY: Let me continue with questions on other subjects.

Q I know you've been trying to keep this next round of talks fairly secret for the last week, but I think it would be nice just to say what is your starting date. We were told -- in the Middle East -- we were told early next week. Can you give us the date and maybe even the location and maybe assure us that Dennis (Ross) will be at the table that first day, at least?

MS. SHELLY: Barry, I was kind of expecting that you were going to fill me in on some of those questions since you were on the trip and I wasn't. I don't have a lot to signal at this point.

Certainly, for those of you who were not on the trip, or have not seen the results of it, there are the transcripts of the various press briefings available in the Press Office.

The Secretary indicated that he would be sending Ambassador Ross to the region in the next couple of weeks. On that point, I don't have anything more specific for you. The Secretary also expressed our expectation that these talks will be resuming very shortly, hopefully within a matter of a couple of days, or a few days. I don't, again, have a specific starting date.

It's also been our practice not necessarily to put out a lot of details on those talks when they begin. So I can't hold out large promises to you that we'll be talking about them in great detail.

As to the point about U.S. involvement, as I think you're aware, the discussions will be held under our auspices and we do expect that our participation can take a variety of forms. You're familiar with the variety that that can take -- it can be asking questions; it can be offering suggestions; looking at different ways to try to pursue the issues that they're pursuing; also helping them to set an agenda. I don't want to leave the impression that we are somehow taking over these discussions. They are direct discussions between the parties, and our role is to be supportive of those discussions in any way which might be possible.

Q I don't know if the White House is handling the Gore trip, but let me try you anyhow and ask why the Vice President would be, so soon after Christopher, going over virtually the same ground, with the exception of Syria?

MS. SHELLY: Well, jurisdictionally, it would be up to the White House to address that. But I'm sure that the ability to play a helpful role is certainly very much on the mind of the Vice President and that was certainly a factor in his own decision regarding whether to travel and when to travel. We certainly expect that he will build on the results of Secretary Christopher's trip.

Q On Iran: Peter Tarnoff has said that the U.S. and the State Department are considering additional economic sanctions against Iran. Can you elaborate on that? What are you thinking of?

MS. SHELLY: I'm surprised you would ask me that question. It's a violation of one of the main rules that we exercise at this podium, which is not to key off of Congressional testimony which is taking place that same morning.

But insofar as I have not had the opportunity to track his testimony, I think I'm going to have to pass on that one for today.

Q There's a whole (inaudible)

MS. SHELLY: If you keep coming up with subjects that have either recently been addressed -- you could ask me about Cuba, and I could tell you that we had Congressional testimony on that this morning. We have some security issues being testified on this morning. I tried to get everybody up there in one day.

Q I have an old one: Guatemala.

MS. SHELLY: Guatemala, again? We've been doing Guatemala every single day.

Q I hope you have had time to read the United Nations report that concluded that security and paramilitary forces are responsible for most of the violence in that country; that impunity of these forces is the main obstacle to the peace process. What is your evaluation of the situation in Guatemala?

MS. SHELLY: I think our evaluation of the situation has been made rather explicit by our own reports recently, not the least of which was the chapter on Guatemala in the annual Human Rights Report.

As you know, we also put out, certainly, a very strong statement on March 10, which also indicated that we had completed a review of human rights policy in Guatemala. We had also announced in that context that we were suspending participation of Guatemalan military personnel in the IMET program.

I think that we have addressed those issues on two occasions quite recently. Just generally on your point, on the U.N. human rights report, we believe that the report of the human rights verification mission in Guatemala, MINUGUA, is a valuable contribution to the subject matter. It essentially corroborates our human rights report and the allegations in it, which we issued, as I mentioned, on January 31.

Betsy.

Q Do you have anything else to announce on safety measures that we are taking in Pakistan for Americans?

MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot to update on that. As you know, we put out a statement last night indicating that we were going to be evacuating school-aged dependents of our personnel in Karachi and that we were also authorizing the departure of other family members.

We did put out the public announcement on Pakistan to which we referred in that particular statement. I don't have a lot of additional information to share. I'll just go ahead and go through with what I've got.

Regarding the timing of departures, they will start immediately but they will take place by commercial airline. We anticipate they will occur over the next several days.

The travel arrangements are being made by the individuals involved. Both directed and authorized travel will be back to the United States.

Individual arrangements will vary according to the particular family situations. Travel and maintenance for parents will be covered under the authorized departure.

As to the length of the departure, it's authorized for 30 days and it's subject to review. We're continuing to review, naturally, our staffing at the consulate, and we'll be making further decisions on possible changes in the near future.

On the security situation, generally, and regarding things that we're telling the American community there -- as you've also gleaned from other notices we put out -- we continue to advise non-official Americans to practice very stringent security measures. American visitors to Karachi should register with the consulate so that they can be informed if there are any changes in the security situation.

Yesterday's decision on departures, we believe, is a prudent measure in light of the high profile of official Americans in Karachi. We're maintaining an official presence there in the city to deal with our important interests.

We continue to work closely with the Government of Pakistan to provide security for all Americans in Karachi and elsewhere, whether they are official or non-official.

The consulate will maintain contact with the American community in Karachi and keep them informed of any changes in our assessment in the situation.

Q There was a wire story this morning that, I believe, five more people have been arrested by the Pakistanis in connection with the World Trade Center bombing. These, I believe, were people that Yousef had been in phone contact with. Do you have any more information on these arrests?

MS. SHELLY: I don't. I'll be happy to check into that and see what we have.

Q Let's go back to Iran. Could you clarify the extent to which Secretary Christopher has withdrawn himself from discussions regarding the CONOCO deal? Was it specific only to CONOCO because of his former law firm's contacts with that company --

MS. SHELLY: Yes.

Q -- or is it a broader withdrawal?

MS. SHELLY: No, it was specific only to the CONOCO transaction.

Q Can you tell us who is under consideration or if there is an announcement on who it is -- the Executive Director of KEDO in the New York will be?

MS. SHELLY: No, I don't have anything on that for you. I'm sure we'll be making an announcement when a decision is made.

Q There is a report that Haiti has requested extradition of Emmanuel Constant from the United States. Do you have any information on Mr. Constant?

MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot information on that. I've also seen the same report that you have. I'm not aware that anything specific on that has happened yet, but I'm told that something along that line is likely.

When we do actually get extradition requests from foreign governments, we, as a matter of policy, do not comment in any particular detail on that. But, nonetheless, should something like that occur, we certainly would expect to work positively and closely with the Haitian Government.

Q Could you please confirm that Mr. Constant is in the United States?

MS. SHELLY: That question came up, I think, some days back, and I'm not sure that we were in a position to confirm that, and I don't have any new information on that.

Q Christine, do you have any update on Iraqi sanctions -- the lifting of Iraqi sanctions? Do you have anything on that?

MS. SHELLY: No, I don't have anything new on that. As you know, the Security Council renewed Iraqi sanctions, and I don't think any other further reviews are expected to come up for at least another month.

Ambassador Albright made some public statements at the time that that decision was taken, but I don't have anything to add to those remarks.

Q This has been another extremely violent week in Algeria. Any concerns, any intentions of the U.S. to pull the plug on its Embassy there or draw it down further than it already is? Sort of where are you on that?

MS. SHELLY: Naturally, because of the trend in violence, we continue to watch the situation very closely. I certainly can confirm that we remain deeply concerned about the situation in Algeria.

The Algerian society as a whole is paying a very heavy price for this, and the campaign of terror and intimidation against innocent Algerians, journalists, academics, political figures as well as foreign residents certainly continues.

Of course, at the same time there have been excesses by government security forces in their efforts to contain the insurgency. We condemn violations of basic human rights by all sides. As you know, there was a meeting -- there were a couple of meetings not long ago with opposition elements, leaders of the main Islamic and non-Islamic parties, meeting in Rome under the auspices of the Catholic St. Egidio Society, and they came up with some common negotiating positions for talks with the government.

We felt at the time that that happened that it was a significant development in the context of trying to establish a process for seeking a peaceful resolution to Algeria's crisis.

We certainly keep the situation regarding our own presence there under very close review. I don't have anything to announce at this point. We have continued to put out warnings to American citizens to be very cautious for those who do remain and certainly for those U.S. citizens who might be seeking to travel there to advise them that they should avoid travel if at all possible.

As you know, we have already reduced the personnel at our Embassy in Algiers to a minimum. I don't have anything new to announce regarding our presence there at this time.

Q Thank you, Christine. Let me go with the topic of an allegation in the Washington Times this morning that Cardinal O'Compo was not the victim of an accident; that he was in fact the target of an assassination. Has the State Department anything to say on that particular matter?

MS. SHELLY: I've seen the article that you refer to, but I don't have any particular comment.

Q Okay. And then speaking specifically on assassinations, let me follow. There were, I believe, 72 journalists dead and 173 in jail was the report that was released yesterday, and I know that there was quite a toll being taken by the Russian Mafia of journalists in Russia. Have you any comment on those reports?

MS. SHELLY: On the Russian point, we've commented on that before, which is certainly that the degree to which members of the press are targeted for things that they write or the views that they express is not something that we feel merits the kind of specific targeting of actions against them, and it's certainly contrary to all of the principles which we uphold regarding freedom of the press.

I don't have specific information that is new in that regard to share with you today, but certainly it's a point of concern for us.

Q Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 12:51 p.m.)

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