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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

Operation Iraqi Freedom

For Immediate Release
April 1, 2003

U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing

Daily Press Briefing
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 1, 2003



1 Secretary Powell's Travel to Serbia-Montenegro
1-2 Purpose of Secretary Powell's Travel to Serbia-Montenegro


2 Sanctions Against Khan Research


2-3 Hijacking of Commuter Aircraft
3-4 Chief of Interests Section's Efforts to Disarm Situation
4-5 Status of Other Passengers
5 Airport Security


5-6 Secretary Powell's Comments Regarding Settlements


6 Secretary Powell's Meeting with Foreign Minister Downer


6-7 Humanitarian Aid and Authority for Distribution
6 Secretary Powell's Letter to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
7-8 DART - Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid Office at the Pentagon
8 Suicide Bombings
9 Other Militant Terrorist Joining the Iraqi Military
9-10 Iraqi Opposition


MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome back to the State Department. I apologize for the short delay, but I was on the phone with colleagues aboard the Secretary's aircraft. As you know, Secretary Powell and his traveling party are on their way to Ankara, Turkey, as part of a beginning of a two-day European trip.

In the regard, let me confirm what some of you have already heard, that is, that Secretary of State Colin Powell will travel April 2nd to Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro, as part of his current European trip. While there, Secretary Powell will discuss local and regional issues with the President of Serbia and Montenegro Svetozar Marovic and the new Prime Minister of Serbia Zoran Zivkovic and other officials. And he will also have the opportunity to call on the widow of slain Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic to express his condolences over that tragic killing.

The Secretary's visit to Belgrade will be an opportunity to underscore our strong commitments to Serbia and Montenegro's fight against the nexus of organized crime, war criminals and political extremism; Serbia and Montenegro's efforts to overcome obstacles in terms of integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions; and the region's long-term stability and economic growth. And then, of course, as you know, the Secretary will continue on from Belgrade to Brussels, the stop we already discussed, before returning to Washington Thursday evening.

Any questions on that?


MR. REEKER: George.

QUESTION: Do you have anything there to suggest they'll be talking about certification?

MR. REEKER: Not specifically. I think, clearly, it will be an opportunity to reiterate our strong view about cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, how important that is, but also how important we feel it is that we can continue our support for the progress, the transformation, in Serbia and Montenegro. So, clearly, I would think that subject would come up, but I will leave it to your colleagues traveling with the Secretary to report on that.

QUESTION: Phil, what is the new deadline?


QUESTION: For certification.

MR. REEKER: I would have to double-check. It is whatever Congress put in the law. June, I believe.

QUESTION: Is it on the 8th?

MR. REEKER: I believe it was June 30th, but we can check on that.

I did want to mention another topic -- I'll try to put this out on paper -- largely because of the confusion that there has been regarding the penalties that were imposed March 24th on the Pakistani entity, Khan Research Laboratories. And we discussed this at some length yesterday.

As you will recall, under Executive Order 12938, as amended, we imposed these penalties against Khan Research Laboratories, a Pakistani entity. We also imposed entities [penalties] March 24th on the North Korean entity, Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, under the missile sanctions law. These sanctions were for specific missile-related transfers.

Just to recap, Changgwang Sinyong Corporation is a North Korean missile marketing entity and has been sanctioned repeatedly in the past for its missile-related technology to the Khan Research Laboratories. The United States made a determination to impose penalties on both Changgwang Sinyong Corporation and Khan Research Laboratories as a result of this specific missile-related transfers. These sanctions do not pertain to any other activity, including nuclear-related ones.

As you know, we informed the Congress on March 12th that the administration had carefully reviewed the facts relating to the possible transfer of nuclear technology from Pakistan to North Korea and determined that the facts do not warrant the imposition of sanctions under applicable U.S. law.

So, hopefully, that will clarify what I think a number of people understood yesterday, but based on some of the press reports there was clearly some confusion. Any questions on that?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. REEKER: Which press reports, Matt? Not yours.

Okay. With that, those announcements, I don't think I have any others, but I'm happy to take questions on whatever subject Mr. Gedda would like to begin with.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the latest hijacking from Cuba, including a possible role by Jim Cason, the head of Interests Section?

MR. REEKER: Yes. I think many of us have been watching the news on that unfold. I think it certainly was reported in the press. A Cuban commuter aircraft -- I understand it to be an Antonov-24 aircraft -- was hijacked during the evening of March 31st -- that would be yesterday -- in Cuba and arrived in Key West, Florida, during the late morning hours today, April 1st.

We don't have extensive additional details other than that the hijacker indicated his desire to come to the United States. I am told that U.S. law enforcement and judicial authorities will take all necessary actions to investigate and prosecute what would be a very serious violation of United States law.

Just to recap what happened in the course of yesterday, Cuban authorities in Havana and in Washington explained the situation to us last night as this hijacking was unfolding. The Cuban authorities indicated that the hijacker believed that he would be welcomed in the United States if he arrived here and asked for a U.S. representative to explain to the hijacker that this was not the case.

The Chief of the United States Interests Section in Havana, our colleague James Cason, went to the airport and explained, via radio from the control tower to the hijacked aircraft, to the alleged perpetrator that hijacking was a very serious federal offense in the United States and that if he arrived in the United States, U.S. law enforcement authorities would investigate and prosecute this crime.

I think we have seen once again that Cubans are seeking to flee Cuba due to the lack of political and economic freedom that has spurred so many of them to undertake illegal voyages to the United States. And I would remind you all that our policy continues to be that Cubans should arrive here only through safe, legal and orderly means.

And I would note that, as you indicated, George, Cuba has experienced two hijackings in two weeks, indicating serious deficiencies in their airport security. And while Cuban police have been arresting some 90 democracy and human rights activists and independent journalists and librarians, they have hijackings taking place at their airports.

So this serious political repression that is going on, probably the worst to take place in this hemisphere in the last decade, might make Cuban authorities to think about not being distracted by arresting their fellow citizens for seeking their fundamental rights and, instead, focusing on what should be their mission, that is, protecting Cuban citizens from lawbreakers, including hijackers.

QUESTION: Phil, what's the status of the hijacker of the first plane?

MR. REEKER: I would have to refer you to law enforcement. I don't have updates on that.

QUESTION: I'm just wondering if any -- if Cubans who arrive here via illegal means are prosecuted or if they're given asylum.

MR. REEKER: I would have to refer you to law enforcement officials. As I indicated in this, our State Department official in Cuba made quite clear to the alleged hijacker in this case that this was a serious violation, hijacking is a serious violation of federal U.S. law, and that he would be investigated and prosecuted accordingly.

QUESTION: Sent back to Cuba, perhaps, for the crime?

MR. REEKER: That you would have to check with law enforcement. Sorry.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: What about the other people on the plane, though, if they want to stay in the United States, and the ones who don't want to stay in the United States? And if some are allowed to stay, does that perhaps tacitly encourage hijackings?

MR. REEKER: I would have to refer you to the law enforcement officials. I don't know exactly even how many people were on the plane, who they were or what they requested once here.

QUESTION: But I'm talking about people who are not the hijacker who would not be charged. What will happen to them if they want to stay in the United States?

MR. REEKER: Whatever is customary according to the law. There is a standard rule in terms of Cubans who arrive in the United States. I would just have to refer you to law enforcement and domestic authorities for that.

QUESTION: Were the Cubans -- do you know, did you hear back -- were they satisfied with Mr. Cason's representations to --

MR. REEKER: I think you would have to ask them to characterize their --

QUESTION: Did he get -- did your guy in Havana get any indication that the hijacker heard the message and understood it?

MR. REEKER: My understanding was he was communicating via radio with the alleged hijacker and --

QUESTION: Without very much success, it appears.

MR. REEKER: I can only tell you what we did.

QUESTION: Did Mr. Cason inform the hijacker or tell him that the United States would not welcome him or the plane, or did he simply say that he would be tried or he would -- that the crime would be prosecuted in U.S. -- in the United States?

MR. REEKER: I think he made quite clear, as I already indicated, that hijacking is a serious federal offense; if he were to arrive in the United States, U.S. law enforcement authorities would investigate and prosecute this crime. And law enforcement authorities can give you details of how that prosecution goes.


QUESTION: Did he --

MR. REEKER: Can we do Arshad, and then we'll come to back to Elise. Thanks.

QUESTION: I think you implicitly addressed this before, but can you specifically address Cuban authorities who say that U.S. immigration policy towards Cubans is what is to blame for incidents like this because it serves as a sort of encouragement for people to do whatever they can to get here?

MR. REEKER: Implicit or explicit, it is clear that Cubans seek to flee Cuba because they lack political and economic freedom in their own country. That is what is spurring them to undertake often illegal voyages to the United States. It's not U.S. law that encourages that. Our policy, again, is that Cubans should arrive here only through safe, legal and orderly means. So I think it is, again, Cuba that needs to examine the way they treat their people, the way they have for decades, and why their people are so eager to flee their country and seek better opportunities elsewhere, including in the United States.

QUESTION: And you're encouraging the Cubans now to use the same kind of repressive measures that they're using against the opposition in their airports?

MR. REEKER: Not at all, Matt. That's an absurdity on the face of it. What we are encouraging them is to deal with airport security. Two hijackings in two weeks indicates that there is a lack of airport security. And while they are using police and security forces to arrest human rights activists, people promoting democracy, and journalists, they might better use those individuals to follow what they should be trained to do, and that is to make sure that laws are abided by and that their airports are secure and not the subject of hijackings.

Is that it? That was -- oh, nice try. Elise, did we get to you?

QUESTION: It was just kind of along the lines of Arshad's.

MR. REEKER: Sorry. Ma'am.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question about Secretary Powell's statements yesterday at the AIPAC?

MR. REEKER: The day before yesterday?

QUESTION: The day before yesterday at AIPAC.

MR. REEKER: Sure. They kind of speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Because he was -- yeah, but he was quite blunt on his criticism of Israel regarding the end to settlements. Did you get any word from Israeli officials yet, any comments on that statement?

MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any. I think he repeated what our policy has been for some time and made quite clear that we feel strongly about that subject.


QUESTION: Another island nation other than Cuba: Australia. I understand the Foreign Minister and the Secretary met last night at his residence with Australian Foreign Minister Downer.

MR. REEKER: Yes, indeed.

QUESTION: Could you enlighten us as to what --

MR. REEKER: Foreign Minister of Australia Alexander Downer met with Secretary of State Powell last night. They did, indeed, meet at the Secretary's residence. They discussed, of course, the war on Iraq. Australia has been a tremendous participant and supporter of the coalition and our efforts to liberate Iraq, the Iraqi people, from the regime of Saddam Hussein and disarm that country of weapons of mass destruction.

They also discussed plans for reconstruction following the conflict. Foreign Minister Downer is still in Washington today. I believe he remains here today and tomorrow for meetings with others in the administration and Members of Congress. He will meet the Deputy Secretary of State later today and, I believe, will travel on to New York for meetings at the United Nations, as well.

QUESTION: Can you speak to -- and two of the nation's leading newspapers' this morning with nearly similar stories talking about the latest rift, or alleged rift, between the State Department and the Pentagon, this one over humanitarian aid and the division of authority, I suppose was what it may be called, in post-war Iraq? Can you tell us whether these reports reflect what --

MR. REEKER: I think I read the reports to which you are referring, if we're talking about the same ones. As you know, there is a tendency in Washington to try to find stories where, frankly, they don't really exist.

On the issue of humanitarian aid to Iraq, I think you are all quite aware of what the President has said, and our goal is to deliver to the Iraqi people as much humanitarian aid as necessary, as quickly and efficiently as possible. We are working to that end. There is a massive humanitarian as well as reconstruction operation already beginning, including the United States Government as well as multilateral assistance using the port of Umm Qasr and overland routes from Kuwait.

To date, the U.S. Government is providing a total of about $206 million in humanitarian relief, including 124 million for international agencies; 60 million for the World Food Program is included in that; 130,000 tons of food have already been put into that pipeline, a variety of other nongovernmental organizations that are involved in that; and we are providing some -- making available some 610,000 metric tons of food worth over $300 million, much of that already prepositioned in the region.

I think what some of the articles were getting to was a misunderstanding, perhaps, if you're reading the papers, about coordination between the DART team, the Disaster Assistance Response Team, and the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. For questions on that office, I would obviously refer you to the Defense Department. You know that that's an office the President directed to be established as a planning office to draw upon and bring together all the work that's been done within the U.S. Government in various departments and offices. It's located at the Department of Defense, but it involves representatives from all the relevant U.S. Government agencies and departments and will establish links with the United Nations, its very specialized organizations, NGOs, as well as the Iraqis that we have been working with in the "Future of Iraq" project and such things as that.

The DART, or Disaster Assistance Response Team, leaders report, of course, to the Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Bernd McConnell, whom you have seen here at this podium, and through him to the Administrator of the Agency for International Development Andrew Natsios, who has also been at this podium to bring you updates on our efforts in Iraq as well as other places around the world, and, of course, through Administrator Natsios to Secretary Powell.

And, clearly, we will be coordinating extremely closely with the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. And so those efforts are all designed to make this as efficient and quickly, timely as possible.

QUESTION: Right. But was there some misunderstanding about who these DART teams reported to? And is it correct that the Secretary sent an unusual letter to Secretary Rumsfeld laying down the law on who these people --

MR. REEKER: I don't know there was anything unusual about the Secretary's discussions with Secretary Rumsfeld or anybody else in terms of establishing -- you know, you have a DART team which has been used in the past, you have a new entity, the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, and describing just exactly as I did to you now how those offices need to clearly have close coordination, how that's very critical to ensure the prompt delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi populations most in need of that.

There are going to be roles for the military, for civilian affairs groups from the military, things that they will be able to carry out, then there will be other things, clearly, as this evolves, for nongovernmental organizations to get involved. And so it is going to be, and already is, a very massive effort designed to provide for the Iraqi people, to live up to the responsibilities to do what we said we were going to do for them as we liberate them from Iraq.

QUESTION: Can you expand on the importance of keeping the two separate? Why, if you have a whole office that's being run by the Pentagon of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid, why would these DART teams not report to them? I mean, can you talk about any reasons why you would need to keep those separate?

MR. REEKER: Because that is what the DART team does. I have just described for you and you have had a whole briefing --

QUESTION: -- working in conjunction with a whole apparatus of the administration that's dealing solely with the reconstruction and those type of things. And I mean, even though it's traditionally been, you know, the chain of command has been to the USAID in the past, why in this particular case did the Secretary feel the need to reassert that --

MR. REEKER: I don't think that is the case at all. This is a new entity, a new structure, a new situation. We have not done this in Iraq in the past and so, like with any new undertaking, particularly one as large as this, it is appropriate to simply set out the organization of this. And you have had extensive briefings on the Disaster Assistance Response Team -- what it is prepared to do, the large number of people involved -- and I would refer you back to that briefing, what, a couple of weeks ago where Administrator Natsios and Mr. McConnell came and briefed you in some detail on that.

And for, sort of functioning and structure of the other office, I would just refer you over to the Pentagon.


QUESTION: Yes, I would like to ask about what's the implication of increase of suicide bombing in Iraq to U.S. diplomacy? Of course, tension is rising inside Iraq, but it seems that the militants of other Arab countries are going to be involved in this. The Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian group, has said that they will send their men, and President Mubarak of Egypt has said that this war will create hundred bin Ladens.

Are you -- do you think, do you not think that you are putting yourself into a difficult position in carrying out your Middle East policy? Will it not affect -- will this situation not affect your effort to be a broker of the Middle East, including formal announcement of the roadmap?

MR. REEKER: No, I think we have been quite clear and the Secretary has addressed this quite recently from this podium that with the creation of a new Palestinian prime minister, with his pending confirmation, with a cabinet, that we are getting ready to put down the roadmap to the parties and move quickly forward toward the vision that the President has outlined in his speech last June. And that means working decisively through the Quartet with the parties themselves and with our partners in the Middle East region to see this vision become a reality, and that is an independent state called Palestine, living in secure borders side-by-side with a secure Israel. That is going to require efforts on both sides of the conflict, as the Secretary outlined in his comments Sunday night. That is a very important effort.

These calls that have gone out from certain quarters exhorting people to violence are simply irresponsible. We condemn such calls. We have heard people call for attacks on Americans and that is simply, as I said, irresponsible.


QUESTION: Philip, are you afraid that the war will give legitimate or -- obviously it's not legitimate to call against -- for terrorist attacks against the United States, but are you afraid that this war is creating such an Arab backlash that it's -- that terrorists are using this as a tool to recruit more suicide bombers to commit terrorist acts against the U.S.?

MR. REEKER: No, I think what people have to focus on is the people of Iraq, the Iraqi people. For far too long, they have not been thought of. For the decades that Saddam Hussein has imposed upon them his murderous, brutal tyranny, people haven't been thinking about the people of Iraq. And as the President has made quite clear, we are working through our coalition to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein's regime, to give Iraq and its resources back to the people of Iraq so that they can live in more peace and confidence and prosperity for a better future for themselves and for their children. That is why we're mounting an enormous humanitarian campaign, to make sure that we provide for the needs of the Iraqi people, why we will complete this liberation and be rid of Saddam Hussein and his vicious regime where he has tortured and brutalized his people for so long.

I think that is what people need to think about and I think when they take a step back and look at this and see what the coalition, what the United States does for the Iraqi people, and as we transition, as we have discussed, into handing back power to Iraqis who can represent all the Iraqi people, who can have a country at peace with its neighbors, that doesn't threaten its own people or its region or the world with weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism, I think that the others in the Arab world and around the world will see, in fact, that this will be a positive development for the people of Iraq.

And so these exhortations to violence, suicide bombings are dreadfully irresponsible. Suicide bombings only lead to one assured outcome, and that is the death of the perpetrator. And so the violence that these people are calling for is not going to accomplish anything. We are going to move ahead with our Operation Iraqi Freedom and give back Iraq to the Iraqi people.

Joel. Welcome back.

QUESTION: It was in the last hours, the Iraqi Minister of Information has come out with -- I guess, they are not listening -- a whole diatribe of what they expect the Iraqi people to do. And how is this humanitarian effort and communication effort going to be maintained with the people there if there's constantly a 180 degrees of we're trying to do humanitarian efforts, as you say, and yet the other side is 180 degrees out of sync with that. Is there any thought to turn off their radio?

MR. REEKER: Joel, I think people will see and experience the reality. The people of Iraq have experienced for some 20-plus years the brutal dictatorship under Saddam Hussein, the torture, the arrests, disappearances, the rapes, people's tongues being cut out --

QUESTION: But this is still going on and that they are -- yeah, okay.

MR. REEKER: I think that Iraq, the regime of Saddam Hussein has demonstrated a history and a pattern of callousness toward the civilian population of Iraq, disregard for their lives, for their safety, using them as human shields, committing a variety of war crimes, including that one; and so I think people will begin to see as they are liberated as they are freed from this and realize that they no longer have to fear the tyranny of Saddam and his forces, that they can accept the help of the United States and the outside world, the international community, and begin to look toward their future, which is that of a country that has a government representing all of the people of Iraq and where they don't have to live in that kind of fear of brutality and repression.

The kind of exhortations that we saw from the Iraqi Information Minister echo the sort of callous disregard that Saddam's government has had for its people.

QUESTION: A follow-up. In the last number of days, there was a book that has just been released by American University called, "Crimes In War." And it's very explicit and a whole press conference devoted to it --

MR. REEKER: And you were there.

QUESTION: Yeah. And is there -- now that the war has proceeded in its third week, is there any thought to having some of the Iraqi opposition leaders begin to take hold and to replace the Ba'ath Party on a temporary basis?

MR. REEKER: I think you are a little ahead of the game. We have discussed at some length the future of Iraq and our goals in the regard and exactly how these various transitions take place. I couldn't predict with any particular degree of certainty right now, but we have been quite clear in what the overall plan is; that is, clearly, as Iraq is liberated, there will be a role and a responsibility for U.S. and coalition forces. We want to see that as quickly as possible turn over to civilian control and clearly transitioning as quickly as possible to Iraqis so that Iraq can indeed be returned to the Iraqi people. [End]