Weekly Briefing for Foreign Media
Deputy Spokesman, Department of State
Foreign Press Center Briefing
February 8, 2002
3:08 P.M. (EST)
Real Audio of Briefing
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MR. REEKER: As always, it's a pleasure to come back here, and thank you for coming on a Friday afternoon. We can make this brief, but I want to give you an opportunity, after a week that's been quite busy -- Secretary Powell testified on Capitol Hill before both the Senate and the House of Representative(s) Committees on International Relations, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tuesday and Wednesday. Of course the secretary then departed for the Bahamas, where, in Nassau, he met with CARICOM leaders from the Caribbean community. And today Secretary Powell is in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he will be accompanying the president for the opening of the Winter Olympic Games. So it's been quite a busy, active week around the State Department, as it always is, and I'm happy to be here and to take your questions.
So -- sir?
Q Mr. Reeker -- oh, thank you. Khalid Hasan, the Associated Press of Pakistan. General Perez Musharraf comes to town on the 12th. So you have anything on that for us?
MR. REEKER: Yes, that's looking ahead to an exciting next week. But as you know, President Musharraf will come to Washington for an official working visit next week, from February 12th through 14th. He'll meet with the president, with the vice president, with Secretary Powell and with other administration officials. One other detail on his schedule -- I think the Pakistani embassy can help you on that -- as you know, the president has been looking forward to this meeting with President Musharraf, and in our meetings we're going to discuss a wide range of issues in our renewed bilateral relationship. That includes the continued U.S.-Pakistan cooperation in the coalition against terrorism, our support for Pakistan's programs of economic and educational reform, and of course the restoration of democratic civilian rule in Pakistan.
We'll also be talking about the support for peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan. I note today that Chairman Karzai of the interim authority in Afghanistan has been meeting in Pakistan with President Musharraf. And of course we'll also talk about Indo- Pakistani tensions, following upon the secretary's recent visit to the region and -- to discuss those issues.
So we look very much forward to the meetings next week and to engaging with you then following those meetings.
Q I'm -- this is partly -- (inaudible) -- from Dawn, and this is partly a follow-up. Is there any likelihood that this Daniel Pearl issue sort of in any way influencing or affecting the visit or clouding the visit or --
MR. REEKER: Well, our primary concern, of course, and the concern of Pakistani officials is the safe and rapid release of Mr. Pearl.
We're fully engaged in achieving that goal. Obviously, I don't want to discuss in detail the investigation. We're working closely with Pakistani police. We're assisted by U.S. law enforcement officials. We've made progress in efforts to locate and free Mr. Pearl as soon as possible. I think you've seen the reports of arrests being made in Pakistan, and the Pakistanis are aggressively continuing their investigation. Our cooperation is really very close with senior Pakistani officials involved and interested.
I think the State Department has been in constant contact with our embassy in Islamabad and with Mr. Pearl's family and the Wall Street Journal to keep them updated on our efforts. And we reiterate to those holding him, and so that all the world knows, our strong belief that Mr. pearl should be released immediately and unconditionally. His continued detention is no help for the cause of those that hold him.
Sir, here in the front.
Q (Name inaudible) -- Finnish Television. I noticed in the papers today that as to the business in Guantanamo, there is a difference made between the Taliban prisoners, who would enjoy the Geneva Convention rights, and al Qaeda prisoners, who would not. How do you make the difference between those two? And what does this Geneva Convention actually imply as to the treatment of the prisoners?
MR. REEKER: Let me find my pages on that. The White House, I think, made this fairly clear yesterday in the announcement by Ari Fleischer based on the president's decision. Just give me a second here so I can actually answer your question with a little more authority. (Pause.) They give me far too much paper for this job. (Looking through briefing materials.) All right, hold on here. Let me go to the source. Okay.
The White House also had a fact sheet, and I would direct you to that in case you haven't seen it, because it explains that fairly clearly in terms of the decision to consider Taliban prisoners under the Geneva Convention because Afghanistan is a party to the Geneva Convention. The president declined to determine that the Taliban are not covered by the Geneva Convention, but at the same time, the Taliban detainees, as we've said all along, are not entitled to POW status under the terms of the convention. Al Qaeda, those people belonging to that terrorist group, al Qaeda is not a state party to the Geneva Convention, it's a foreign terrorist organization. Members are therefore not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention.
I think it's always important to highlight the fact, and it's been made quite clear not just here, but certainly in much of the foreign press reporting too, that the detainees at Guantanamo are being treated humanely. The president's been quite clear about that. They're being provided with shelter, with food that's appropriate to their religious and dietary beliefs, three meals a day, water, medical care, clothing and shoes, showers, soap and toilet articles, sleeping pads and blankets, towels and wash cloths, the opportunity to worship, correspondence materials and the means to send mail, and the ability to receive packages of food and clothing, subject, of course, to security screening.
So we're being very careful about the humane treatment of all of those detained at Guantanamo. That's what we do, because we're the United States. It's what we very much believe in. And we'll continue to do it. The president's made quite clear. But I think thorough legal analysis has been done and the president demonstrated yesterday the decision that was made in terms of neither of these groups of detainees being prisoners of war, as we've said, but how that's defined, one group under the Geneva Convention and the other group, al Qaeda, obviously outside of it.
Q (Off mike.)
MR. REEKER: I'm sorry?
Q My question was, how do you make the difference who is who?
MR. REEKER: Oh. I think they've made that difference quite clear themselves, generally. We've had, of course, interviews. There's a careful process in place to screen the people that have been taken to Guantanamo. I think the Defense Department has gone through that in some of their briefings. The detainees were screened at least twice before they were transferred. They were screened by U.S. armed forces before they were taken to Kandahar. They were interviewed a second time in Kandahar. And so we're able to make the distinction of which group is which.
The bottom line, of course, is that they're all treated humanely under the same standards that I outlined.
Q Antonio Shotz (ph), CMT, Channel 51, from Venezuela. After his declaration of the last day, can we assume that the Secretary of
State Powell fixed a (deadline ?) of coldness and distance and space with President Chavez? How deep will be this cooling? Can it still include the old relations?
MR. REEKER: I think you're referring to the secretary's comments in some of his testimony earlier this week on Capitol Hill.
MR. REEKER: As he stated this week, and I think we've talked about before even from here, I discussed the fact that we have concerns about President Chavez's posture toward the opposition, toward the independent media in Venezuela. We are, to quote the secretary, not happy with his -- with President Chavez's comments regarding the campaign against terrorism. We made that quite clear. And we made those concerns in recent months publicly and in our diplomatic dialogue.
We're going to continue speaking out on these matters of fundamental concern to the United States.
We share concerns about the radicalization and polarization of the political process in Venezuela. And as we've been very outspoken about, we support democratic process in Venezuela, as in elsewhere. That's been the trend in this hemisphere in the past decade. It's a very positive trend. The OAS has demonstrated that, in terms of signing a declaration of democracy. And it remains to be seen, we think, what direction that process might be taking in the coming year in Venezuela. Confrontation and rhetoric will accomplish little, and it's important for all the parties involved to engage in dialogue and, most importantly, to respect the democratic institutions. So we'll continue to watch that situation very closely. We have an active diplomatic presence, of course -- our embassy in Caracas.
Q (Off mike) -- as a safe partner?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think we'll continue to look at actions and deeds on the part of President Chavez and his government. We have a long history with Venezuela. We want to be close partners in this hemisphere with Venezuela and its neighbors and our neighbors. I think, as I indicated, there's been a lot of positive development in this hemisphere in the last decade, and we've noted that. The Organization of American States has codified that in terms of expressing how members of that organization want to move forward, the respect for democratic institutions vitally important for all of us in the hemisphere, but in Venezuela's case, for the future of he Venezuela people -- to make sure that there's a strong respect for democratic institutions, and certainly having a dialogue among all the parties involved.
Q I have one more question. Excuse me.
MR. REEKER: Sure. Last part.
Q Okay. Terrorist subject is an international question of Venezuela, and it must be resolved by the Venezuelan people. But that attitude of indifference from the United States maybe fortified Chavez and maybe was -- (inaudible) -- to the opposition in Venezuela. What is your opinion about it?
MR. REEKER: I guess I would sort of not agree with your suggestion that I displayed an attitude of indifference toward
Venezuela. I think quite the contrary; we are very concerned about Chavez's posture toward the opposition, toward the independent media, as well -- as I indicated, some of the references, comments he's made regarding the campaign against terrorism, and we have expressed those concerns, quite publicly. So again, I reiterate our strong position that there should be support and respect for democratic institutions in Venezuela. There should be a dialogue among all the parties involved. That's something that everyone should pursue because they should support democratic processes, as we do.
Q A follow-up.
MR. REEKER: Yes. Another Venezuelan.
Q Yes. Maria Elena Madio (ph), El Universal.
MR. REEKER: Hi.
Q Hi. The words of Secretary Powell before the Senate committee should be interpreted as the institutional position of the United States towards the Venezuelan government?
MR. REEKER: I think Secretary Powell speaks quite well and quite effectively on behalf of the United States and -- absolutely. And as I was saying to your colleague here, Secretary Powell reiterated the concerns that we have. He stated that in his testimony and in his discussion with senators on the Hill. He definitely has some concerns. We'll raise those, we'll talk publicly about those and make those concerns clear to President Chavez and others in Venezuela and continue to watch the situation very closely.
Q Just to follow up, Secretary Powell referred to documents that link the Venezuelan government, Chavez government, with narcotraffickers, with the FARC. When he was mentioning these documents, was he referring to the public documents or are you analyzing further documents?
MR. REEKER: I think as Secretary Powell himself said in that testimony, with these charges of collusion between the guerrilla groups in Colombia and the Venezuelan military, that we've seen some reports on that. I've read press reports about it as well. But Secretary Powell said it's prudent now to wait for a more complete assessment before we comment on that. So I don't have anything further to add to what he said; that we would be looking at that, making an a assessment of that. And I don't have anything further to add.
Q K.P. Naer (sp) from the Telegraph. Since the last on-the- record statement from State on the shooting at the American center in Calcutta, there have been quite a few developments. The Indians have shot to death two men who they claim to be Pakistanis. There have been quite a few other arrests in Calcutta. The Indians have announced some other leads. What is your assessment of the way the investigation is going on in the case, especially considering FBI personnel have been in Calcutta to assist the state government in connection with the probe?
MR. REEKER: Actually, I'm not aware that that is the case, that FBI were assisting in that particular probe. In fact, we can check with the FBI, but I don't believe that that was the case in that situation. I don't think there had been a request from Indian authorities or state authorities for that. But I'm happy to look into that or just refer you to the FBI on that.
I don't think I have an overall assessment of their probe of that. I think it remains unclear. The targets of that violence, obviously, our position has been quite clear that we have zero tolerance for terror, for violence. I'm just not sure that we can make a full analysis on that until the investigation is clear and we've seen what kind of reports come out of that. So I can't really add anything on that. But I'd want to double-check on your suggestion of the FBI --
Q The government has said -- has been reported as saying that -- (off mike).
MR. REEKER: I'm happy to check into that. I don't know that the FBI, though, was involved in the investigation. I'm sure they're happy to offer assistance or get briefed by the Indian authorities on their investigation, but that would be two separate things.
Q Parasuram, the Press Trust of India. One gets the impression that world reaction to the clumping together of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the "axis of evil" has been rather lukewarm. I was wondering how you view that? And the secretary also said that if necessary, the United States will go it alone. I was also wondering whether the U.N. charter expressly forbids one government to aim to change the government of another one. Regime change is not included in the U.N. charter as one of the rights of members. I was wondering how you react to that?
MR. REEKER: Let me just refer to some of those things that the secretary said, because I think he says it best. And as you indicated, you heard his testimony. There was a lot of discussion on the Hill today.
I think the president made quite clear the continuing problems we have with those nations that he identified in his State of the Union address as being on the axis of evil. And there are other states that could join that group, that could have been tossed into that camp, as the secretary said. We have concerns about these states' continuing attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction, about their continuing support, sponsorship of terrorism. In each of those cases, these are issues that we've raised for many, many years.
All three of the states that the president mentioned, as well as other states, continue to be on our list of state sponsors of terrorism. You'll see, when we release the new Patterns of Global Terrorism report a little later this year, what our latest views of those states are. But the goal is to get those states off that list. The president was making quite clear that these countries are on notice that they have an opportunity now to get their house in order, to change their approach to the international community, think about the future of their own people and the type of future they want to have. And I think the secretary echoed that extremely well in his testimony this week.
On Iraq, the president was quite clear. Let the inspectors in -- that's what the United Nations requires under the U.N. Security Council resolutions that Iraq agreed to, that Saddam Hussein agreed to as part of the cease-fire agreement after the Gulf War, after he had invaded his neighbor and has continued to try to develop weapons of mass destruction, has continued to threaten his neighbors, threaten his own people, in fact.
And so the United Nations, the international community, with the United States very much active in this, has continued to keep Saddam Hussein and his criminal regime very much contained. We're working with the United Nations on the new goods review list, so that we can implement the smart sanctions, to make sure that the people of Iraq have the opportunity to get goods, to get food, medicine under the oil for food program, while we continue to deny Saddam Hussein the ability to reconstitute his military and to pursue his weapons of mass destruction.
There's a lot of speculation, as Secretary Powell said, in the press -- we've all noted it -- that the Iraqis want to discuss the U.N. resolution. And the secretary was quite clear on that. This should be a short discussion. Let the inspectors in. The Iraqis -- Saddam Hussein and his regime, who claim that they don't have weapons of mass destruction, they're the ones that claim it's the international community, the United States, that's denying food and goods for the Iraqi people. The smart sanctions regime will take care of that. Let the inspectors in. Agree to the regime. And without these conditions, we simply don't trust Saddam Hussein, we don't trust the Iraqi regime.
Our policy, U.S. policy, is still one of regime change. We believe Saddam Hussein should move on and that the Iraqi people deserve better leadership. Ultimately, they will make that decision. Our support for the Iraqi National Congress, for instance, and others is part of that, part of that U.S. policy.
We work with the British, of course, to enforce the no-fly zone in the North and the South, to protect the people there from the scourge that Saddam Hussein bring(s) against them. So that's another -- a third part of our policy vis-a-vis Iraq.
The first part, the major part, of course, is working with the international community at the United Nations, under these U.N. Security Council resolutions, with which Iraq must comply.
Q (Off mike) -- that the United States kind of expects of the international community or a coalition it has been building against terrorism to -- not to have a friendly relationship with those countries or have support those countries' efforts -- (off mike)?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think every country makes its own foreign policy and determines how it's going to carry that out.
Our message to our friends and allies, to the whole world, is our view of those countries and why we hold that view, the threat that they represent not just to Americans and American interests, to the entire world; to their neighbors, to the region, to global stability. And so it's of utmost importance to everybody, and I think people recognize that. Those countries that take a different approach in how they deal with some of these rogue states, we take every opportunity to encourage them to make that message known in those capitals.
And so different countries approach these things in different manners. That's why we enjoy the consultation that we do with friends, with allies, within our coalition against terrorism, within international institutions like the United Nations, in our bilateral relationships. Consultation is vitally important. We make our views known, we listen to others' views and ideas, and then we'll continue to formulate our policy. And I think the president in his State of the Union speech was doing just that, was saying where we stand on the issues related to those three countries that he mentioned as well as other countries that pursue that type of unacceptable behavior in terms of supporting terrorism which threatens innocent civilians and is ultimately threatening global stability and global security, which is a threat to all of us.
Q Endali (ph) from Ethiopian TV. My question is regarding the U.N. Security Council traveling to Ethiopia and Eritrea. This will be regarding to the upcoming determination for the border dispute issue. And I just want to know just if you have any comment on that.
MR. REEKER: You're right. And as you know, the boundary commission that was created by the Algiers peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea is scheduled to announce on February 28th the determination on the delineation or delimitation of the border between the two countries. And the findings of the commission, under the agreement are binding, then, on both parties. I think both Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles and Eritrean President Isaias have said repeatedly that they intend to abide by the boundary commission's determination, and we want to hold them to that.
The Security Council as you indicated, is sending a delegation to both Ethiopia and Eritrea February 20th through 25th. They're going to reiterate the importance of advancing the peace process to a successful conclusion, and the United States is participating in that Security Council delegation.
Our ambassador, Richard Williamson, who is our deputy permanent representative to the U.N., he'll be a member of that delegation and travel, then, beginning on the 20th of February. So it's an important point, important time in that process.
Do you want to follow up?
Q There's information also there will be -- a demonstration will be called in Addis Ababa regarding the determination because the government of Ethiopia claims to argue with their colony determination. But the folks that are going to be throwing a demonstration, do you have any information about that?
MR. REEKER: I don't. That sounds like a domestic thing. Certainly, peaceful demonstrations are something that we support -- the freedom of speech and expression. It's important for people in a democracy to have an opportunity to express their views, as long as it's done peacefully.
I think what we have in the Algiers peace agreement is a good, solid way forward for both countries to focus on their futures, away from the violence, the deaths, the tremendous economic destruction that was caused by that conflict. And so, with the international community's support and the continuing support of both leaders, I think we'll see the way ahead.
Q Yeah, Associated Press of Pakistan. Mr. Reeker, Mohammed Karzai and I have one thing in common -- we never quite get the name right of the U.S. Naval Base facility where all these characters are kept. So -- Guantan -- ?
MR. REEKER: "Guantanamo."
Q (Laughing) "Guantan" -- okay, I've got it.
MR. REEKER: Guantanamo Bay.
Q Guantanamo Bay. All right. Is it possible to give a breakdown in terms of nationality of the people there? Because the Saudi interior minister, in an interview yesterday, published yesterday, said that the number of Saudis was 50. There have been reports that the number of Saudis is hundreds. There is speculation about there being Pakistanis among them. Do you have any figures? Thank you.
MR. REEKER: I don't have that kind of a breakdown. We haven't been in a position to give that kind of breakdown. We've certainly been in touch with countries whose nationals may be among those detained at Guantanamo. But I'm not in a position to outline that. I've seen a variety of reports. I thought I had a number -- and certainly the Defense Department has given a regular number of the total number of detainees at Guantanamo, and I think that just increased slightly yesterday. But we can get that number for you, but I don't have a breakdown for you.
Q Is there -- this is information which is being sort of kept very close to the chest. What is the reluctance in releasing the names or the nationalities?
MR. REEKER: I think, first of all, there's ongoing discussions with those countries whose nationals may be among these, in terms of determining exactly who they are and the validity of those claims. It's just something we're not prepared to get into at this point, other than to discuss with the countries that we have the presence of their nationals among those detained at Guantanamo. And, of course, we're continuing to look, through interrogation, to these detainees for further information to help us prevent future terrorist attacks. And so security is a very important factor as well.
Might as well just keep the mike right there in the second row! (Laughter.)
Q Mr. Reeker, you must forgive me, but I wonder whether the State Department had a comment on Mr. Fox's visit to Cuba, and does it -- I mean, is there any -- does the United States detect any movement in the Latin American countries to sort of get closer to Cuba?
MR. REEKER: I think a number of countries have their own approach to Cuba, their own relationship. All that we suggest is when foreign leaders visit Cuba is that they take the opportunity to make clear the goal, which is the goal of the international community, to see democracy in Cuba; to see steps taken by the Cuban government to give more freedom to the Cuban people, freedoms which they deserve; the opportunity for political pluralism to allow other political parties, to allow free and fair elections so that the people of Cuba can speak for themselves about how they wish to be governed and by whom, and pursue their own futures with the same basic human rights which we believe so strongly in and to which all Cubans are entitled.
Q No, but in the context of Venezuela, for instance, there has always been some concern about Venezuela's relationship with Cuba and their close ties with it. So Mexico now --
MR. REEKER: I think, again, I'm not familiar with the specific trip there and would just refer you to those -- leaders of those countries for their own comment on their travel. But our position on Cuba is quite well known, and certainly we say publicly here that we would hope that others would take the opportunity to express to the Cuban leadership, or to whomever they're meeting in Cuba, that the time really has come to move beyond what is, in effect, a dinosaur regime under Fidel Castro in Cuba -- move beyond that into the 21st century where the people have the rights and responsibilities that they deserve.
Let me do this gentlemen, and then we can go back again to Venezuela.
Q Yes. (Me again ?), Mr. Reeker. Do you have any new development regard to Somalia, to terrorist -- (inaudible)?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything particularly new to add on Somalia.
There, I think, as you know, we've kept our eye on Somalia. Our Navy -- the Defense Department, as discussed, has been watching to make sure that al Qaeda or others cannot flee, cannot use Somalia to establish a platform to take advantage of the uncertain situation there, to thrive and grow their terrorism. So we certainly keep an eye on that.
Our embassy in Nairobi has an officer who is dedicated to Somalia and Somali issues, visits with different groups in Somalia on occasion, as we've discussed before. And we'd like to see progress there, because obviously the way forward for the Somali people is not to be abused and taken advantage of by terrorist organizations.
Venezuela again, in the back.
Q This is not about Chavez this time --
MR. REEKER: But not about -- okay.
Q No Chavez. Promise.
MR. REEKER: (Laughs.)
Q (Laughs.) There is a letter sent by the Congress on International Relations to Rand Beers, assistant secretary of State for Bureau -- for the Bureau of International Narcotics and -- very long. Okay? (Chuckles.)
MR. REEKER: Mm-hm. My good friend Randy Beers.
Q Okay. They ask him for a clarification on U.S. policy towards the use of counternarcotics assets, especially helicopters, in Colombia to fight terrorism and kidnapping. Apparently, the assets to fight narco-traffic were not initially supposed to be used for -- to fight terrorism. In any case, they welcome this move, if there is such a move.
MR. REEKER: Well, I'm not familiar with the specifics of the letter. I mean, generally our engagement in counternarcotics in Colombia is well-structured under U.S. laws. Our policy of supporting President Pastrana's plan there, our Andean regional initiative, which we have funded, is very important as part our counternarcotics thing.
As you know, the FARC and other organizations -- the ELN -- in Colombia have long been designated as foreign terrorist organizations under our law. And it is a well-known fact that these organizations, the FARC and others, are involved in narcotics trafficking. It's how these terrorists fund their -- much of their activity. And so that has been one of our concerns.
Obviously, fighting narcotics trafficking is also fighting terrorism. It's of great importance to us. Democracy in Colombia is something that we think is important. Human rights is central to that relationship. We continuously engage the government of Colombia in that issue as well.
As you know, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman just returned -- in fact, I believe today -- from Colombia, where he had a series of meetings about our broad-based strategy to help Colombia's democracy combat the illicit drug trade and promote socioeconomic development and strengthen democratic institutions, as well as protection of human rights, as I mentioned.
So those are all parts of our Colombia policy. I'm not familiar with the specific letter, but certainly we're determined to keep working closely with Colombia and to promote those values.
Gentleman in the back.
Q L.K. Sharma, Deccan Herald. In view of your just-repeated reiteration of commitment to democracy, I was wondering whether you have noted Benazir Bhutto's statement warning the U.S. that you should not try to prolong the life of dictatorship in Pakistan. That is number one. And number two, whether this issue will figure during President Musharraf's talks in Washington.
MR. REEKER: I think you might have missed my earlier comment when we discussed that, about President Musharraf's visit. I hadn't noticed specifically those remarks from a former Pakistani leader, but I did --
Q (Off mike.)
MR. REEKER: Okay. Not one that I caught today, but I will try to read that.
As I said, we're looking forward to the meetings with President Musharraf next week. He'll be here from the 12th to the 14th in Washington, and we'll discuss a range of issues in our bilateral relationship; of course, terrorism and our work together, U.S.- Pakistani cooperation in the coalition against terrorism, our support for Pakistan's economic and educational reform efforts, and also we'll discuss restoration of democratic civilian rule. We've heard some positive developments from President Musharraf.
Certainly we've been very pleased with his role and Pakistan's support for the war against terrorism, his understanding of the important role Pakistan needs to play in that and why that's important for the future of Pakistan and the Pakistani people. I think President Musharraf has spoken quite eloquently of that, of the need to prevent the extremist minority in Pakistan from steering the country down a path of economic ruin and the extremist minority that would wish to impose their views on the silent majority of Pakistan. He doesn't support this. And I think we've seen strong support for President Musharraf coming then from that majority in the country, and we're very pleased to see that.
He has spoken quite eloquently about the path that Pakistan needs to take, and that's why we look forward to discussing with him our support and work together in that direction. But certainly the restoration of democratic civilian rule, we think, is an important thing for Pakistan's future and we'll continue to raise that topic too.
Q In his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Powell has been more optimistic than at any time in the last several weeks that there has been forward movement in reducing tension between India and Pakistan.
What is this optimism based on, because if anything, statements by the Indian prime minister and others in the last three, four days have been more hard line than in previous weeks. There have been reports in the Indian media that even two or three steps proposed by the United States towards reducing tension have been rejected by the Indian government.
So what is this optimism based on?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think the secretary reflected this week before the Senate what he also reflected at the end of his South Asia trip -- an optimism that the two sides could work together, pursue dialogue to avoid confrontation. Violent confrontation will support no one's aims. As Ambassador Boucher said a little earlier when he was asked a very similar question at the regular State Department briefing, that's not to suggest that we don't maintain our concerns about the situation there.
The secretary has spoken recently both with Foreign Secretary Singh from India and with President Musharraf, as he has done regularly for many weeks now, quite frequently, to engage them, to continue encouraging them in that direction. Obviously, we'll have an opportunity next week, with President Musharraf's visit, to reiterate that point as well. The other thing I mentioned about that visit is the opportunity to talk about the Indian-Pakistan relationship and tensions there.
So we continue to watch it very closely. We want to be optimistic because we think there is a path forward through peaceful dialogue. And we're going to watch it, as I said, quite closely. I think we're encouraged that the leaders in both countries remain committed to finding a political and diplomatic solution. And as I said in answer to your colleague's question, President Musharraf has taken a very forthright stand against extremism and called for moderation. He's called for an end to poverty and illiteracy in Pakistan, and pledged to take specific steps to counter and crack down on terrorist activity. And we've seen a number of those steps being taken.
Obviously, any time you have two militaries lined up like that, it's still cause for concern and something we want to watch closely. But they have the opportunity to have some momentum now to keep moving forward.
Q Is there even one specific, concrete step on the ground, in military or in diplomatic terms, that would justify this optimism, say, in the last week?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I would want to try to parse it and try to point to particular steps, because you can sort of do that at any point during a particular day. The secretary -- and I'd just refer you to his remarks, but what he said to the Senate, when he was asked, what he said in his press conferences during and after his trip to the region -- is encouraged because the leaders in both countries remain committed to finding a political and diplomatic solution, a solution through dialogue and not through violence.
And that's why we can remain encouraged and -- but as I said, we want to watch that very closely. I don't want to overstate at all. And I think if you look at the secretary's comments, he made that quite clear -- that it's still an area that we are concerned about, naturally.
Q May I follow up?
MR. REEKER: Sure.
Q (Inaudible) -- capital on dialogue, but actually the experience in India would suggest that every time there's a dialogue, the situation gets worse and not better. First there was the dialogue in Lahore, and that was followed by the Kargil war. Then there was a dialogue in Agra, and that was followed the attack on the Indian Parliament, on the Kashmir assembly. And I was wondering why you think that if there is dialogue, the problem can resolve? Is it not better to have -- to keep at arm's length and try to solve the problems?
MR. REEKER: I don't think it's ever better to have violent military confrontation. That's not going to solve the situation between those two countries. It's not a solution. It'll make things worse, not better.
Again, President Musharraf has taken a very forthright stand against extremism. We've talked extensively about terrorism and the fact that we have zero tolerance for terrorism. The events that occurred in New Delhi, the attack upon the Indian Parliament -- all of that illustrated exactly the damage that terrorists can cause with their twisted political agendas. And that's why President Musharraf's statements and actions have been positive steps in that direction.
So we'll continue to remain engaged with both countries. We'll continue to talk to them at the diplomatic level. We'll continue to have visits, leaders coming here. The secretary was just there. And this is the way forward for both countries, for the populations of both countries, to be a better future.
Q Both Russia and China seem to sort of object to this assessment of sensitive technology being transferred, contrary to their assurances. Has the State Department conveyed any private reassurance after this latest CIA report on -- (inaudible)?
MR. REEKER: I'm not sure I'm quite sure what you're referring to.
Q About the sensitive technologies being transferred from Russia, contrary to the assurances. Both China and Russia have been --
MR. REEKER: (Inaudible) -- Director Tenet's testimony and what he discussed --
Q Making -- yeah, making adverse comments on this kind of assessment. So has the State Department conveyed any private assessment?
MR. REEKER: We have a continuous dialogue with both of those countries, as well as many other countries, on nonproliferation issues. Certainly in our bilateral relationships with Russia and with China, concerns about proliferation are high on our agenda, just because of exactly what the president talked about in his State of the Union address: countries that are attempting, regimes that are seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, along with missile capabilities, along with their support for terrorism -- and we can all see and imagine what that could lead to and what a threat that is to all of us. So those concerns we'll continue to raise.
In the case of Iran, we've raised with Russia our concerns about Iran's attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction. And so that remains a part of a bilateral dialogue.
The relationships we have with countries like Russia and China are complex, they're large relationships, they have many aspects to them. I think the secretary has spoken at great length about how we've seen our relationships evolve, develop with both of those countries over the past year, and how we feel very positive about opportunities in the future. Obviously, the president is going next week, departing for China, also to Japan and South Korea. He's got -- had a regular dialogue with his colleague, his counterpart, President Putin in Russia. And as I said, nonproliferation is an issue in our dialogues with both those countries.
Anything else? Then we can wrap it up, and have a great weekend.
Q Thank you.
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