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Last Updated:9/4/01
Excerpts from State Department Daily Briefing, August 27, 2001

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 27, 2001

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be back with you after some time off.

Let me start out with one brief announcements, and then I'd be glad to take your questions.

Secretary Powell will visit Colombia September 11th and 12th, after participating in the OAS General Assembly in Lima, Peru, on September 9th and 10th. In Colombia he'll meet with President Pastrana and officials of the government of Colombia in order to underscore continuing U.S. government support for Colombia's efforts to combat the illicit drug trade, to strengthen its democratic institutions, to promote economic and social development. He will also meet with other sectors of Colombian civil society.

I believe we've already had people sign up for that trip, so I don't think that changes anything. But if somebody wants to change their mind about it, get in touch.

Q Will he just go to Bogota, or is it Cartagena?

MR. BOUCHER: Not settled yet exactly where he'll stop. We know he'll stop -- he'll have meetings in Bogota, but the schedule's not finalized. So we'll provide further details as the date draws nearer.

Eli?

Q Will one of the things he'll be trying to do is revive peace talks with the rebels there?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we've supported President Pastrana's efforts to pursue peace all along. We've also been very disappointed and concerned about the attitude that the FARC has taken, the way they've misused the areas that they've had under their control, and the way they've continued their activities, including indications that they were receiving terrorist training from the IRA, for example. So we will certainly discuss that situation with President Pastrana and express our continuing support for the unprecedented efforts that he has made.

Okay.

Q Well, on that, have you gotten any further in your looking into the IRA -- alleged IRA people who were arrested?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any further information on that for you here.

Q And the other thing is that -- is Undersecretary Grossman's visit a preview of Secretary Powell's visit?

MR. BOUCHER: (Chuckles.)

Q I mean, are they going to be talking about the -- apparently they are going to be talking about --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, obviously we'll be talking about the same sorts of things -- about the narcotics situation, about the security situation, about our support for Plan Colombia and President Pastrana's efforts.

Undersecretary Grossman will be in Mexico, leaving today. So he's there August 27, 28th.

He'll lead an interagency delegation to Colombia, August 29, 31. In Mexico he'll be meeting with Mexican officials to discuss bilateral as well as regional issues. In Colombia they'll meet with President Pastrana and government of -- Colombia officials in order to underscore our continuing support.

So, in some ways, it's a chance to go with an interagency delegation to discuss a variety of issues, all of which are important to the United States. And, obviously, the secretary's discussion will continue that.

Q You've been having a review of policy towards Colombia. And do you expect any conclusions before the secretary's visit, or even now, for example?

MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, I don't know how to answer that. We'll see when we get there. If there's something new to say, we'll say it to you then.

Q You said that you are disappointed with the FARC and with the way they've used the "despeje." Do you have any recommendations on how Colombia might deal with the FARC?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd just say that we'll be looking forward to discussing this situation with President Pastrana. This has been an important part of his efforts and we'll want to get his thoughts as he faces the situation now.

Q On this, do you have anything to say about President Pastrana's decision to allow the extradition of this suspected drug lord? And is this announcement purely coincidental, or is it some kind of reward?

MR. BOUCHER: I think this has been under consideration, discussion for some time. It was a Colombian Supreme Court decision last week that approved the extradition. That was a positive step. We do think extradition is a critical tool in combating transnational crime preventing criminals from evading justice. So we're -- obviously, we'd welcome this kind of decision. We don't actually have formal confirmation of it yet.

Q Well, what, of the Supreme Court decision or of the final authorization?

MR. BOUCHER: No, the reports that he signed the order authorizing it.

Elise?

Q Since the Supreme Court decision, have officials from this building been pressing the Colombian government to extradite him or --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if officials from this building have been doing it. The Department of Justice has been working with them. But, obviously, it's mostly our embassy in Bogota that works with the Colombian government on these matters to make them happen. It's something embassies routinely do. Clearly, we believe that extradition is important; extradition in this case is very important. But our embassy down there has been coordinating it with the government of Colombia.

Q You just said that the U.S. government supports Pastrana's way to deal with the peace process. But I think the U.S. government doesn't like the way he's working with the FARC in terms of the territory he conceded to him. What if Mr. Pastrana decides to continue that policy? You will still support him, his way in the peace process --

MR. BOUCHER: That has been the policy that he has followed, and we have supported it. So --

Q But you support --

MR. BOUCHER: Let's stop. You stop, I'll start. Okay?

I don't think it's what you think our policy is, I think it's what we say our policy is. And our policy has been to support President Pastrana's efforts even as he has had these zones. We're concerned about the way the FARC has used these zones. We're concerned about the activities of the FARC, that they have not made reciprocal efforts, that they have misused the demilitarized zones, they've abused prisoners, they've held kidnap victims, they've engaged in narcotic trafficking in these areas. So certainly we're very concerned about what the FARC has done in these zones. But, you know, I think our policy has been clear enough on this.

Q Does the secretary plan to raise human rights issues, particularly with regards to reforms that were made explicit in Plan Colombia for the Colombian military and going after some of the paramilitary groups? And since we're on the topic, could you say you're satisfied with the efforts that Bogota's made on this?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any new observations to make on that. As you know, there have been a number of criteria that we've been following based on our law. We'll continue to do that. The secretary always raises human rights issues when he goes to various places, and I'm sure he'll discuss the human rights and judicial issues with the government of Colombia.

Q Back on Colombia. You said before that the U.S. supports Pastrana's efforts to achieve the peace. But the U.S. will maintain that position if that efforts doesn't work?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how to answer a question like that.

Obviously, we want to work with President Pastrana and encourage him to pursue those efforts. We support his efforts. And we want to discuss and work with him to understand how those efforts can be effective. The goal of the policy is not to have efforts that don't work, neither on his part nor on ours.

As of September 4, 2001, this document was also available online at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2001/index.cfm?docid=4656

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