U.S. Department of State 96/04/15 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, April 15, 1996 Briefer: Glyn Davies DEPARTMENT Death of Veteran Department Correspondent Joe Polakoff . 1 LIBERIA Update on the Situation in Liberia/Status of Evacuation .1-6 --Numbers of Amcits Evacuated/Locations/Onward Travel ...3-4 --Numbers of Amcits Unaccounted For .....................4,5 --U.S. Embassy To Remain Open/Embassy Staff Remaining .. 4-5 --Status of Special Forces/US Ships Deployed ........... 5-6 --U.S. Interests in Liberia .............................6 LEBANON/ISRAEL Hizbollah Shelling Into Nortern Israel/Israeli Response 7-8,12-14 Secretary Christopher's Diplomatic Efforts/Contacts.....7,10-12,14 Effect of Fighting on the Peace Process .................8 Discussion of Current Fighting at UNSC Session ..........8-9 Countries Which Support/Have Influence re Hizbollah.....9-10,11 Diplomatic Efforts by the French Foreign Minister .......11 TURKEY Arrest of PKK Leader for Passport Fraud.................15-16 CHINA Status of U.S. Determination re: Transfer of Technology .16 TAIWAN Reports Taiwan Presidential Spokesman Next Rep to U.S...16-17 COLOMBIA Reported Cancellation of U.S. Visa for Colombian Official 17-18 NORTH KOREA Reported U.S.-North Korea Missile Talks.................18
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, APRIL 15, 1996, 1:09 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Jim has got a housekeeping/ administrative matter to announce. Welcome to the State Department briefing. We go to an announcement first.
MR. JIM ANDERSON: I would like to note the passing of a friend and colleague, Joe Polakoff, who died last week at the age of 87, after a career of 70 years, including 27 as a government employee including USIA where he served in four overseas posts.
We'll remember Joe as a person who held very strong, passionate views about his main love in life which is the future and security of Israel. He never concealed the way he felt. He was outspoken and passionate, and I think he will be missed by all of his colleagues here at the State Department and at the Foreign Press Center.
MR. DAVIES: Thank you very much. Welcome to the briefing. Let me start off by welcoming some visitors -- 12 journalists from South America, Europe, and Asia, who are here in the United States to participate in a Freedom Forum program to learn more about freedom of the press. You will find out that our press is very free here -- free to ask any questions they wish.
MR. DAVIES: Sometimes we have answers, too. It's rare but it happens.
Let me give you an update on the situation in Liberia, and then go to your questions.
The bulk of the evacuation of non-official Americans appears to be over. We continue to assist American citizens and others in need of assistance who reach our Embassy compound. We continue to go out. Everyday we go out to help people get into the compound.
The airlift that now totals some 65 helicopter sorties -- give or take, more are occurring all the time -- has evacuated a confirmed total of 1,795 people from Monrovia, 306 of those are American citizens. A number of other Americans, we believe, have made their way out of Liberia through means other than this helicopter air-bridge, but it's difficult to come up with reliable estimates of their number.
We continue to work on the ground to verify the whereabouts of all Americans who were registered with the Embassy prior to the recent outbreak of fighting and who are now unaccounted for.
What we're doing essentially is taking the registration list of Americans and we're running it up against the manifest lists of Americans who have left the country, and we're also doing some work, as you would imagine, out of this building to follow up on names of people on our registration lists to find out if perhaps they've somehow left the country.
Until we are sure that we've reached all Americans desiring to be evacuated, we remain ready to assist third country nationals in leaving the country. Therefore, our military assets will remain in the region until we can be reasonably assured that the Americans are safe.
As the bulk of the evacuation is now over, a little over a third of the official Americans have departed Monrovia. The remaining American officials will continue their work of assuring the safety of American citizens and facilitating their evacuation from Liberia, and they'll continue to perform their diplomatic duties.
Security conditions permitting, our intention now is to maintain our official diplomatic presence in Monrovia, at reduced levels, to help negotiate an end to the fighting and to move the parties back to the Abuja peace accord.
The cease-fire news -- it's mixed, it's not good. ECOWAS, the regional organization continues to attempt to broker a cease-fire but their attempts -- the results of their attempts remain uncertain, as we continue to receive numerous reports of fighting.
We are also continuing to encourage ECOMOG, the Multinational African Force that's in Monrovia, to re-establish security in the city.
At the Barclay Training Center, where there has been for a number of days a standoff between several of the factions -- that continues. We understand that a considerable number of Liberian civilians and foreign nationals are among the forces of the Krahn factions which are under seige there.
The looting and the intimidation of civilians by armed men continues on a fairly broad scale, though we've all seen the reports that there seems, at this stage, little left to loot in Monrovia after days and days of this activity.
We are repeatedly urging and continue to urge the warring factions to abandon their ambitions to try to militarily take over the city and to return to the Abuja peace process which they committed themselves to last August.
In that effort, we're talking to other West African governments -- to representatives at the Organization of African Unity, the United Nations, other members of the international community -- on what steps might be appropriate to take, as the situation continues to be bad.
There have been, on a happy note from our narrow perspective, no further incidents of any firing on the U.S. forces. I think back on April 10, we had the report that one or two helicopters had been perhaps fired on.
At the Greystone compound, next to the Embassy compound, we now have slightly better estimates of how many Liberian citizens are there. Non-governmental organizations have been active over there, as has the U.S. Embassy when it can spare the time. We now think there are about 15,000 Liberians who have sought refuge there.
We have assisted in bringing in seven truckloads of food to the Greystone compound. So that has helped relieve the food shortages. Distribution of that food within the compound has been facilitated by the non-governmental organizations.
The total number of nationals -- rather, of nations whose citizens we've helped is now about 64. So there are nationals of 64 nations who have been brought out by the United States forces helicopters.
With that, I will go to your questions. George.
Q What do you know about the Americans who left? Are they going to stay in Sierra Leone and Senegal? Are there lots of Libero-Americans who really don't have any roots in the U.S. and have no place to go even if they were to come here? Are they in a holding pattern, hoping eventually to go back?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have a good sense for that, George. It's a good question. We can look into that. My general understanding is that most of the American citizens who have come out have availed themselves of onward travel to Dakar, Senegal. Many of those folks have gone on from there to Europe and to the United States. So I don't know how many Libero-Americans there might be, perhaps waiting in Freetown to see how the situation develops; but I'm happy to look into that and try to find out for you.
Q Do you have a better fix on the number of Americans that aren't on any list and that you haven't reached that you know about? Are we talking 10, 50, 100?
MR. DAVIES: What I can give you by way of some indication there is that we think there are less than two dozen Americans who are on our lists who are as yet unaccounted for. That means they've either left the country through some other means or they're still in the country and wish to remain, or they're in the country and we haven't gotten to them and they wish to be evacuated.
So within the several dozen on our lists that we haven't tracked down, those are the categories. I can't break it down further.
Q Glen, so that means that maybe there's 100 Americans who are choosing to stay in Liberia? Is that given --
MR. DAVIES: It means that we have satisfied ourselves, based on the lists that we've got, that all but 20 are content with their situation, whether we've taken them out or whether they've stayed there; that's correct.
Q On the Embassy staff, you said a little over a third have left. So we've got, what, about 24 still in the Embassy?
MR. DAVIES: That's roughly --
Q Including the Ambassador?
MR. DAVIES: The Ambassador, Bill Milam, is still there. That's correct.
Q He will stay there?
MR. DAVIES: He will stay there. Our intention is to keep the Embassy open for the time being. As long as the security situation allows us to do it, we'll keep it open and play as useful a role as we can. Then, of course, we still have residual work to do, helping American citizens. So we've got that consular aspect to it, and then we've got, if you will, the political aspect to it.
Q Special forces are still on the ground, too?
MR. DAVIES: Special forces are still there; that's correct.
Q Maybe I'm missing something. But to follow up on Carol, the numbers don't seem to add up. You say 306 Americans have left, 24 haven't been reached, and about 24 remain in the Embassy. That adds up to roughly 355. I thought that there were 450 Americans in Liberia?
MR. DAVIES: There were 450 Americans approximately who were registered at the Embassy. I could perhaps get you some more on this. But some of those Americans would not have been in the country. It was, after all, roughly spring vacation time for some. They might have been out of the country. Some are in the country, and we've gotten in touch with them and they're happy where they are.
There are some Americans -- especially missionaries -- who were in outlying areas that are as yet unaffected or greatly affected by the fighting. So they've chosen to remain where they are. It's kind of a mixed bag of situations. That's my understanding of the math. We'll continue to try to refine these numbers, as we move along.
Q Could we discuss Lebanon, or there any Liberian --
MR. DAVIES: Liberia. Mark.
Q Are the additional American ships still steaming toward Liberia?
MR. DAVIES: They are.
Q What's the point in having them go there? And will there be any involvement by the U.S. military in the distribution of the relief supplies even after the need to evacuate Americans has ended?
MR. DAVIES: Mark, we haven't worked out precisely where we'll be four or five days from now when those ships arrive on station off the coast. They have been deployed as a contingency to assist in further evacuations, if needed. Beyond that, we simply haven't spelled out what it is that they'll be doing -- certainly, not publicly.
So the ships continue on the way down there as a contingency, and, if they're needed, obviously, we'll avail ourselves of them, but right now I don't have any further details on what they plan to do.
Q There was a Liberian man quoted in a newspaper story this weekend, saying that the Francophone African countries, when they get into trouble, have always had France to rely on to come and help them get order restored and get themselves back on their feet.
But the nearest thing to that that Liberia has is the United States, since the country was founded with American help.
Does the United States feel any special obligation at all to prevent chaos in Liberia?
MR. DAVIES: The United States has historical interest in Liberia, given how that nation was founded, and we have played an active role in the regional diplomacy to try to secure and consolidate the Abuja peace accords. So we believe that we do have an interest in Liberia that's a bit different from the interests that other nations might have, and that's one of the reasons why we've decided that we will maintain our diplomatic presence there.
I don't know this for a fact, but we're certainly one of a very few, if not the only, diplomatic mission to remain open. So that's a mark of our interest in sticking with the Liberians as long as it's possible, given the security standpoint.
It's difficult to know where we go from here. Clearly, in this sort of intramural conflict, there has to be on the part of the Liberians themselves a willingness expressed, actual impetus, toward peace; and we simply haven't seen enough of it, I don't believe, for the United States to do anything more than continue our bedrock diplomacy, which is calling on them to get back to a cease-fire and back to the Abuja peace accords.
We'll have to see what time brings us, but I think for the time being the fact that we're staying in a very dangerous situation is one strong measure of our interest and our ties to that nation.
Q Okay, about Lebanon?
MR. DAVIES: Lebanon -- okay.
Q Three days of continued shelling and the casualties that we know, is the position of the United States -- is the United States going to maintain its position from last Friday that Israel's bombing of the Lebanese capital is a justified and adequate response to Hizbollah's attacks?
MR. DAVIES: What we've been saying is that the firing of the Katyushas by Hizbollah started this. They've kept it up. They fired more Katyusha rockets over the weekend. I saw reports that they fired more than a dozen again this morning into northern Israel -- Qiryat Shemona and some of the towns in the northern -- along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
It was those attacks that began this violence that the region is still suffering from. As a result, of course, Israel continued its -- launched air raids and has continued them over the weekend and has fired artillery into Lebanon. They've concentrated their efforts in about a 20-mile-wide strip of southern Lebanon -- the Israeli military efforts.
We have been engaged in intensive efforts to try to defuse the situation and to restore calm along the Israeli-Lebanese borders. The Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, in the last 24 hours has been personally and intensively involved in that effort. He's led it from our side.
He has spoken with the Foreign Minister of Syria, Foreign Minister Shara; with the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Mr. Hariri, and with senior Israeli officials, including the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Peres.
What I won't be doing for you today is going into any detail about those discussions, because we simply don't think that's useful to the diplomacy that we're engaged in. But our position remains the same -- that the provocative Hizbollah attacks are the basic cause of the heightened tension in the region.
Q Is the U.S. position justifying Israel's response -- you were talking about the border. I am talking to you about Beirut. Does that justify the response? We've seen all the shelling of the ambulance, we've seen the killing of the children. What's the U.S. -- is the U.S. going to react to that? Is there going to be a condemnation, or is this really --
MR. DAVIES: The shelling of the ambulance was a terrible tragedy. There's no question about that, and we couldn't help but be moved by the images that came from that incident.
But what's important is to remain focused on the fact that the violence must be brought to an end, and that the violence is due to Hizbollah's Katyusha rocket attacks into northern Israel. Those attacks must stop for the violence to end, and that is where we're concentrating our efforts now.
Q (Inaudible) of the United States regarding the continuation of the peace process?
MR. DAVIES: The United States, as a sponsor of the peace process, hopes very much that the process is able to continue. But as with the suicide terrorist bombings earlier, we're once more faced with a more immediate challenge, in this case, of course, the tragedy that's occurring in Lebanon.
So we hope soon that all the parties can get back to the table and continue that peace process. Right now the effort is to try to get Hizbollah to cease its firing of rockets.
Q What does the U.S. know about that vehicle and the uses to which it was put in this instance and in previous instances -- a vehicle described as an ambulance by Lebanese and by the Israelis as a vehicle to transport terrorists under the pseudo cover, under the fake cover of being some sort of a medical van? Do you know that it was an ambulance?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, I don't have an answer for you.
Q No, but you picked up on her description of it as an ambulance. Does that mean the U.S. Government knows it was being used as an ambulance?
MR. DAVIES: It was reported to have been an ambulance, and the images, as I say, that came out of that incident were tragic -- terribly tragic. I can't trace back its registration to its owners and tell you whether the ambulance was an illegitimate ambulance or one necessarily owned by Hizbollah, incorporated. I just don't know, Barry.
But it was a tragedy, and we're happy to say that, because that kind of thing, obviously, simply raises the temperature in the region.
Q The Security Council of the United Nations -- there will be discussion today, I believe, over these issues. What are possibly the highlights of the U.S. position, since you are repeating since the last three or four days a position which is not acceptable to the Arab League, the Arab countries, to Lebanon and to France and a few other European nations -- that you are almost giving a green light to Israel to continue what they are doing now. This is what was interpreted. It's not my words here.
MR. DAVIES: Your question is heavily freighted with premises that I don't know that I can associate myself with. But there will be a discussion at the U.N. Security Council at 6:00 o'clock this evening. The United States, a permanent member of the Council, will participate in the discussion, and we will express at that session the view that I've just expressed to you that the current strife in Lebanon is due to and will only end when Hizbollah ceases its rocket attacks on the northern region of Israel.
Our call publicly and in the Security Council session will be on all the parties in the region who have influence to use that influence to restore peace and stability.
Q Did you get any answers to which two countries in the area that are supporting Hizbollah/Hamas, that this kind of terrorist organization -- for example, one is Iran other one is Syria. They are so quiet right now. Did you get any answer to these states? Are they planning to ban or move to their headquarters -- this terrorist organization -- out of their territory?
MR. DAVIES: In terms of updates on Hizbollah's rear headquarters, if you will, I really don't have anything beyond where we've been in the past. We've condemned Iran a number of times and consider Iran the principal sponsor of Hizbollah, and our views are well known on that score.
I think what we've got to do is continue to focus all of our energies on getting Hizbollah to cease and desist in its rocket attacks, and really only then are we going to get to a situation where perhaps a cease-fire can take hold, and we can get back to talking about the peace process.
Q But I'd still like to know if the U.S. is of the view now that Lebanon has the power, the muscle, to force Hizbollah to leave, if it wanted to? Other groups have been thrown out of Lebanon. You know, all these conversations have been held with the supposition that it would take Syria to require Hizbollah to leave.
I wondered if it's still the State Department appraisal that the Lebanese Government is being so weak that its unable to get out from under by getting Hizbollah out of the country.
MR. DAVIES: We've had some things to say in the past about the degree to which various parties might have some influence over Hizbollah. The point is that Hizbollah does have some friends in the region. They operate out of various countries' territory.
It's important that all who have some measure of influence over Hizbollah -- whether great or small -- use that influence to convince Hizbollah that these kinds of rocket attacks are dangerous -- certainly dangerous to the peace -- and should cease.
Q Glyn, without getting into the diplomatic details, can you tell us whether Foreign Minister Shara gave the Secretary any encouragement that he would use Syria's purported influence? And, secondly, are there any plans to send Ambassador Dennis Ross to the region?
MR. DAVIES: Charlie, answering your first question would get me into diplomatic details, which I'm not going to do because we don't do that.
Q Sort of a general whiff of positive feedback, negative feedback?
MR. DAVIES: We're going to continue our discussions with all the parties in the region to try to do what we can to play a useful role. I don't have anything for you on travel by senior Administration officials to the region.
Q Not even the Secretary?
Q There is a group there in the Gulf now -- I don't believe they're carrying a cake -- but you do have McLarty of the White House and you have Mark Parris, who's the senior NSC man on the Middle East, some State Department support as well, ostensibly to raise money for Bosnia's military.
Could they provide any function? Could they get the message across to Iran, for instance?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, I think it's not just ostensibly, but that is, as I understand it, their mission.
Q Their entire mission?
MR. DAVIES: That's their mission to do that, and they've had some success. I don't believe that they have a brief -- certainly not one that I'm aware of -- to play any role in resolving this.
Q (Inaudible) get to Iran on this. Again, through public appeals, or is there some way you can tell us about that the U.S. has tried to exert influence on Iran to rein in Hizbollah?
MR. DAVIES: We are certainly saying some very strong things in public, and I think I will let the rest of our diplomacy operate in diplomatic or in public silence, so it has some chance of succeeding.
Q What does it say about Syria as a committed partner to the peace process that it has been unable or unwilling so far to exercise its influence on Hizbollah?
MR. DAVIES: Carol, I'm just not going to get into whether Syria has been unwilling or not or unable or not to exercise its influence.
Q If it was able to exercise its influence, presumably the attacks would have stopped.
MR. DAVIES: I really think it's very dangerous at this stage to presume anything about what any of the various actors in that region are doing or not doing to bring about an end to this fighting. I can tell you from the United States' standpoint what's in our interest, which is that the Katyusha rocket attacks stop, and that the violence end, and we get back to the cease-fire and then move on from there to peace.
But what I can't do is analyze for you Syrian capabilities or motivations. We have a view, and it informs our diplomacy, but our diplomacy for the time being is going to remain private.
Q The French Foreign Minister apparently is trying to intervene or intercede to bring about a cease-fire. Is this a role that the U.S. welcomes?
MR. DAVIES: We welcome any diplomatic effort that is aimed at bringing peace to the region. The Secretary has spoken with Foreign Minister De Charette of France, and we wish them well. In fact, the Secretary, in speaking with Foreign Minister De Charette, mentioned that we'd be more than happy to do what we can to help out. So we welcome their initiative.
Q Lebanon has said that the only solution to stop this crisis and this escalation would be an Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Is that an option being discussed at all either at the Security Council or in bilateral talks?
MR. DAVIES: What I'm not going to do is get into what's being considered, what's being discussed. The United States has a diplomatic initiative under way. The Secretary of State is the point person on that and has been very engaged in the last 24 to 36 hours in a number of contacts.
If others, such as the French, wish to mount an initiative, that's welcomed. But at this delicate stage in what is a very tragic situation brought on by Hizbollah's firing of Katyusha rockets, what I don't want to do is burrow into the diplomacy and give you any kind of great detail here in public, because we think our efforts stand the best chance of succeeding if they remain private.
Q According to reports, there are some 400,000 Lebanese refugees from the southern part of the country. You keep saying that the cause is the Katyusha rockets being fired from Lebanese territory, but what you don't -- and you haven't discussed so far, and I would ask you to do so now -- is the proportional response.
Do you think the shelling of something like 2,000 artillery shells into villages is proportionately justifiable?
MR. DAVIES: Jim, I'm not going to get into games of body counts or what's proportionate and what's not proportionate. This is a tragic situation. It has a large human element and a large human cost to it. We believe that the author of this violence -- this round of violence is Hizbollah and their firing of rockets, which continues day after day. They continue to fire dozens of rockets into northern Israel.
We believe that they began this with absolutely no provocation, so we are going to keep our focus on that element of it. We can but regret, obviously, the humankind that is affected by this violence that's been launched. But let's get back to who started this, and that's Hizbollah, and they've got to stop it for all of this to stop.
Q In the past, the United States has deplored a continuing cycle of violence and urged restraint on all sides. Your response this time is clearly different. Can you tell us why?
MR. DAVIES: Because, Mark, no two situations are alike.
Q Glyn, there was a -- Secretary of State midwifed an understanding July 19, '93, between the Lebanese Government, Hizbollah and Israel not to shoot at civilian areas, and it looks like this agreement or understanding is moot or incapable to be functioning. Will you be pressing for bringing this back to forth or negotiating possibly or midwifing another agreement which will be with more muscle and strength?
MR. DAVIES: The reason it hasn't held up, of course, is because of the actions of Hizbollah. We will be active and persistent in our diplomacy, and we'll simply have to see what degree of success we have. The degree of our success is, of course, very much dependent on the other actors in the region; and what actions they take in the first instance is dependent on what Hizbollah does, and they should make the right choice, which is to cease firing these rockets into northern Israel.
Q The question that Jim asked earlier about bombing of villages, will the bombing of electrical generators that the Lebanese Government was spending millions and millions of dollars to try to rebuild the whole electric system in the country is considered bombing the headquarters or the installations of Hizbollah? And as a result of that bombing, I think the electricity was cut off from some of the presidential palace or some of the Prime Minister's office and other things.
MR. DAVIES: Abdul Salam, I don't have a target list here, so I don't know what Israel is targeting as it responds to these unprovoked attacks by Hizbollah. So I can't say and won't say what's proportional, what's not, what's justified, what's not.
What's unjustified is firing rockets at innocent civilians in northern Israel. Israel has said that it's targeting Hizbollah targets, and we are both observers of the scene and participants in some diplomacy to try to bring an end to this conflict.
But it would serve no purpose at all for me to stand up here and handicap each of the targets that might be on Israel's list.
Q Are you saying in your private diplomacy the same things that you are saying here publicly?
MR. DAVIES: Yes, we are.
Q And are you surprised that the Syrians don't accept that point of view or the Lebanese?
MR. DAVIES: Again, I mean, this is good -- this is kind of an all points attack happening here. I told you the press is free, and here's a good example of it.
I'm not going to say at this stage what reaction we've had from Syria or from Lebanon or from Israel, because again I think our diplomacy flourishes best in this instance in private. So I'm simply not going to get into whether they've rejected what we've said, accepted it or to talk about their degree of influence over Hizbollah.
Q While the term "green light" might be shorthand, just about everything you've said here today seems to imply a green light to Israel's retaliatory actions. Would you agree?
MR. DAVIES: What we're trying to do is flash a big, fat red light on what Hizbollah has been up to, and flash a red light on the violence that's occurring there.
We think it's fairly self-evident that the violence occurring in Lebanon is a result of what Hizbollah has been up to over the better part of the last week. So that's where we're going to maintain our effort diplomatically, publicly, as calling on them to desist.
Q (Inaudible) the French, and you said Christopher had called the French Foreign Minister. Are there any others that you could add to the list besides Israel, Lebanon, Syria, France?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, I can't. Also, just a caution on De Charette. I'm not certain who initiated the call.
Q They spoke?
MR. DAVIES: They spoke. They spoke on the phone.
Q Anyone else? Especially with the U.N. meeting coming up, I wonder if he talked to the Russians or the British?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, I don't have anything on any other calls. Those are the ones I know about. I've told you what I know about it.
Q The European Commission has expressed opposition to --
MR. DAVIES: I know they've made statements. I don't have anything on any diplomacy with officials of the European Union.
Q Another terrorism question. The PKK has a worldwide, some kind of front organization, which the Kurdish Information Network is one of them. I believe in Washington, D.C. has another one -- American-Kurdish Information Network.
Today's wire report said that the leader of the American-Kurdish Information Network is arrested because of passport fraud. I believe the passport issue belongs to you, in your duty area. Can you give us some information about the subject?
MR. DAVIES: That's correct. In fact, we issued a statement on Friday about that. It's the same individual. This would be Kani Xulam.
Q Kani Xulam.
MR. DAVIES: Kani Xulam -- that's how it's pronounced? I'm sorry. What I can tell you, to reiterate what we had to say publicly in an announcement late Friday, which some of you may have missed, is that special agents of the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service arrested an individual who identified himself as Kani Xulam on charges of passport fraud on April 12. That arrest occurred in Washington, D.C.
This gentleman is believed to have used several false identities during the last decade. The result came after a two-month long investigation by U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service agents in Washington, Los Angeles, and Ankara.
He is being charged with making false statements in his application for a U.S. passport. Passport fraud is a federal felony which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. If connected with narcotics trafficking, you can get up to 15 years. If connected with international terrorism, up to 20 years.
We believe that he's been working for the American-Kurdish Information Network. They do have an office in Washington.
Because this investigation is ongoing, we won't be having any further comment for the time being on the arrest.
Q This organization also has, in the past, several claimed -- they have accusation they've funneled some kind of fund to the PKK. They gathered some money here to sell material and then send it to northern Iraq or Syrian-based PKK organization. Did you have this kind of information or investigation?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have detail beyond what I've given you. Also, because the investigation is ongoing, and there will presumably be some legal action taken against him as a result of the arrest, what we will do is stick with what we've provided so far about his activities; what relationships there might have been between what he was doing and with the PKK elsewhere.
Q I don't want to leave the briefing without asking about Imia/Kardak. Anything new on that? (Laughter)
MR. DAVIES: Charlie Lambros. I don't.
Q Just checking.
MR. DAVIES: Nor do I on --
Q Just checking. (Laughter)
MR. DAVIES: What if I had? What a tragedy that --
Q How about ring magnets, since we're checking?
MR. DAVIES: Ring magnets -- nothing new for you. The Secretary has had something public to say that was on a network broadcast that you're associated with on Saturday. What he said is where we are, so that's what I can do for you.
Q In a recent Wall Street Journal report, apparently some lower-level Chinese officials have fessed up?
MR. DAVIES: I've seen that. I've seen that. It was a good article, I suppose. On that aspect of it, it was squishy enough for me to be very cautious in sort of how I react to it. We'll simply have to see how this plays out. The Secretary will be meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen on the 19th in The Hague. We may or may not make a decision before then. We'll have to see.
Q Taiwan's Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Hu Jason, is coming to Washington to be the next Taiwan's representative to the U.S. Has the U.S. been notified of the decision? And what is your response?
MR. DAVIES: I can check into that. I do not know if we've been notified, so I'll look into that for you. I'm happy to.
Q The Security Council has met this morning also on the Palestinian complaint -- at 10:30, I believe, 10:00 or 10:30 -- reported in the New York Times. Can you give us an idea about what went on there, or the position of the United States regarding the Palestinian complaint?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything beyond the considerable public comment that we've made in recent weeks about that. I can confirm that that meeting is occurring in New York, but I don't have any detail for you now. Perhaps tomorrow we can have something to say.
Q Glyn, on another issue. On Friday, the State Department cancelled the visa of a very high-ranking official of the Colombian Government, the Samper administration. I believe he was the Prosecutor General, Mr. Vasquez-Velasquez, his last name. Do you have anything on that?
MR. DAVIES: You're going to like this answer. Under Section 222(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, records of the Department of State pertaining to the issuance or revocation of U.S. visas are confidential.
Generally, we don't comment on such matters, so I won't be having any comment for you today. But I, too, have seen reports that Attorney General Vasquez-Velasquez' visa has been revoked.
Q Getting away from the visa question, what kind of guy do you think Vasquez-Velasquez is? (Laughter)
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything on what kind of a guy he is. We are very interested in seeing that justice is done in that country. There is an investigation under way on the part of Prosecutor General Valdiviesco. We're very interested in seeing that that is carried out in a free and fair and expeditious and open manner.
I don't have a rap sheet on this gentleman to be able to give you any comment.
Q Do you know what the reason for the cancellation of the visa might have been?
MR. DAVIES: Since I can't talk about revocation or issuance of visas, since the law says that I can't, I can't answer that question, I'm afraid.
Q Can you tell us something about the missile talk with the DPRK?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry -- the missile talks?
Q The missile talks?
MR. DAVIES: We want very much to get those talks underway. But at this time, I don't have any public announcement to give you about those talks.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:50 p.m.
To the top of this page