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Last Updated:1/16/02
Excerpts from State Department daily briefing, January 15, 2002

Daily Press Briefing
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 15, 2002

...

QUESTION: To Colombia. Do you have any comments or reaction to what the diplomatic delegation chief in Colombia toward the peace process?

And my second question is probably you saw the story in The Washington Post today saying that this administration is trying to shift the policy toward the counter-narcotics actions in Colombia, trying to help the government now against the guerrillas.

MR. REEKER: Let me start out and answer the first part of your question by saying that we want to reiterate again today our continuing support for President Pastrana's tireless peace efforts in Colombia. I would also like to acknowledge the constructive role played by James Lemoyne, the UN Special Envoy, and the facilitating group in helping restart talks between the government of Colombia and the FARC.

We again call upon the FARC to halt its terrorism against the Colombian people and to refrain from its obstructionist tactics and to engage in good faith negotiations with the Government of Colombia.

Our goals, the United States goals in Colombia, have not changed. We seek to help that country's embattled democracy combat narco-trafficking, defend and strengthen its democratic institutions, advance human rights and promote socioeconomic development. As you know, those have been the goals of President Pastrana under his Plan Colombia. Those have been our goals in terms of our support for Plan Colombia and for the Andean Regional Initiative.

We pursue these US national interests in Colombia, as elsewhere, in a manner fully consistent with the laws and authorities established by the US Congress. And so I have read newspaper reports. I'm sure many people have. As those reports suggest, and as you all know, we regularly review programs aimed at achieving our policy goals and we frequently discuss all the different options that might offer more effective means to advance our interests.

At this point, it is totally inappropriate for me to comment on any sort of review process until such time as any decision, even preliminary decisions, have been made. And obviously we would be having consultations with Members of Congress, with the various parts of the federal government concerned with this.

So, again, the basic answer to your question is that our goals in Colombia haven't changed at all, and I think we have made that clear repeatedly. And certainly our support for President Pastrana and his tireless efforts are still very much our policy.

QUESTION: You cannot comment on preliminary reviews, but can you say if there is any time frame to make a decision about --

MR. REEKER: I don't think I could give you a time frame at this point. If I am ever able to do that, I would be happy to share that with you. But, as you know, when we look at policy, when we review things, which we do continuously, it is very difficult to set out any particular time frame.

QUESTION: Isn't it true that you are going over a request made by the Colombians to the State Department to shift some of the resources of Plan Colombia away from solely counter-narcotics to deal with the counter-insurgency?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. I have not heard that.

QUESTION: -- still at least you confirm that it is actually under discussion, the possible role of the US in counter-insurgency in Colombia?

MR. REEKER: No, I think --

QUESTION: Has it been discussed at all or --

MR. REEKER: I can't say. I don't participate in meetings to know what people discuss. Obviously people review all options available to them, but the most important thing is that we have laws, we have processes of government, we have a policy, we have a goal in Colombia, and that is to help the country's democracy there that has been embattled by narco-traffickers who have affected American interests in terms of growing and trafficking drugs which come into our country.

We have been dedicated to strengthening democratic institutions, to advancing human rights, to promoting the type of development that President Pastrana has also called for in his Plan Colombia. And that is what we want to continue supporting there. We will continue looking at how we pursue those goals and pursue that policy, and we will continue to support President Pastrana and his efforts. And so we will also, of course, have consultations with those in Congress who have an interest, and of course with the government of President Pastrana. That is a very important aspect of all this as well.

QUESTION: In those consultations, do you guys (inaudible), by any chance, what independent groups are saying about change the policy, like human rights groups?

MR. REEKER: Obviously. We read extensively. This is what experts and officials do in terms of reviewing the views of many. Input into policy-making involves just that, exploring all the options, seeing what others say, even what the press says about things. That's part of the process. But I couldn't point to any particular thing. It's a consultative process that we undergo within our national security structure, and working obviously with the country, Colombia, with the government of President Pastrana, working with Congress, as I said.

But I think we have an active dialogue with nongovernmental organizations and other groups that express interest in that. We want to hear what people have to say, and --

QUESTION: But the military aid to Colombia, it is an essential part with aid to the government of Pastrana, to combat narco-traffickers?

MR. REEKER: I think you are familiar with Plan Colombia and the Andean Regional Initiative and the various things we have provided under that, in terms of countering narcotics trafficking, and defending our own interests as part of that.

So we do have the US national interests and Colombia and those who support obviously President Pastrana and his positions in terms of fighting narco-trafficking, and defending and strengthening democratic institutions. That's important.

QUESTION: The fact that there are some talks about extending aid beyond counter-narcotics means that probably the policy that was applied to Colombia before was falling short on what the country really needed?

MR. REEKER: I don't think that's what I said at all. I think you are very familiar with what we have done over the past several years, in terms of Plan Colombia, in terms of the Andean Regional Initiative, to support Colombia, to support President Pastrana's goals of a socio and economic development there, to support democracy and certainly to counter narcotics trafficking.

And so as we review those programs that we have done with Colombia, we continuously look at our goals, look at the various options available to us, how we might more effectively advance our interests. I think we have discussed in the past, and I would be happy to look into getting you some more information on the positive steps that have been taken to counter narcotics trafficking, utilizing the assistance we have provided under Plan Colombia, what we have been doing regionally as well.

And so we will continue to look at that, how we might do things better. And as I said, we need to discuss those options, those ideas with the Colombians, with Congress, and within our own structures.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, the money that is right now under Plan Colombia program, any given time can be that used towards counter-insurgency now?

MR. REEKER: I think that's fairly set in law, in terms of when that money is appropriated, authorized, obligated. I think that's fairly set, and I would have to go back to the specific bills and get for you -- it is certainly a matter of public record what the details are in terms of using that money.

As of January 16, 2002, this document was also available online at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2002/index.cfm?docid=7276
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