Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


3-4,6U.S. decision on what happened in Pakistan was a coup?
3-4,6-8Milam-Musharaff meeting readout/US pressing for rapid return to democracy
4-6,11Sanctions to limit US assistance, lending of international institutions
7Issues of nonproliferation and security
8India-Pakistan relationship
9-10Restoration of Sharif government
10-11Suspension of Pakistan from the British Commonwealth of Nations, UN Security council

DPB #131


QUESTION: Has the US decided yet if what happened in Pakistan was a coup?

MR. FOLEY: If you would like, because some of your colleagues may be interested in our assessment of the current situation today and what we can tell you about Ambassador Milam's meeting with General Musharaff earlier today Pakistani time, so perhaps in the course of an extended answer we can touch on that or you can come back to me if I fail to hit that particular nail on the head.

Early this morning in Pakistan, as you know, the military authorities under Chief of Army Staff Musharaff declared a state of emergency and suspended the constitution and national and provincial assemblies. Spokesmen for the military have said that martial law has not been declared, that the President remains in office, that police and judicial functions continue for the most part to be carried out by the regular authorities. However, it is clear that the decree prevents legal challenges to decisions made by the military authorities and allows the military to alter, amend or repeal all laws.

And to answer your specific question, it is clear, I think as Jamie Rubin indicated yesterday, that the military has indeed taken over power in Pakistan, at least at the present time. The public mood in Pakistan remains calm. Most daily activities have returned to normal.

Ambassador Milam met today for two hours with General Musharaff. Ambassador Milam delivered our strong message calling for a rapid return to constitutional democracy under a civilian government. Ambassador Milam sought information on the intentions of the military authorities for Pakistan's political future. He also urged General Musharaff to assure the safety and well-being of Prime Minister Sharif and his advisors.

For his part, General Musharaff described the recent developments that he said led the military to take action against the government of Prime Minister Sharif. He assured Ambassador Milam that Mr. Sharif and his advisors are safe and being well treated. General Musharaff told Ambassador Milam that he would be addressing the nation this weekend to describe the steps to be taken in the coming months.

Notably, he agreed with Ambassador Milam about the importance of continuing Pakistan's dialogue with India to resolve their differences and of addressing issues of nonproliferation and security. General Musharaff also recognized the great seriousness of the economic crisis facing Pakistan.

The United States is working with other concerned nations about the recent developments in Pakistan. We join the rest of the international community in pressing for a rapid return to democracy in Pakistan.

QUESTION: So the answer to my question is?

MR. FOLEY: As I said, it is clear that the military is running things in Pakistan.

QUESTION: I just want to know if we're using the "c" word yet.

MR. FOLEY: They are now the law in the country. We are pressing, for our part, for a rapid and full restoration of civilian democratic authority. I think, in my dictionary, a military takeover is tantamount to "coup," certainly.

QUESTION: The White House, at least according to my colleague, is using that word. Why are you reluctant to?

MR. FOLEY: I just used it.

QUESTION: Does that mean that the sanctions have been triggered?

MR. FOLEY: I believe that we, the State Department and I personally, indicated to journalists yesterday that indeed that has happened. We are not conducting business as usual. Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act is very clear on this when there has been an overturn of a democratically elected government and, because of that provision under the law, we are applying sanctions under 508, Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act. What that means is that we prohibit a broad range of assistance to countries where, as I said, a democratically elected government has been removed by the military.

I think all of you are aware of the fact that, as a practical matter, most forms of assistance were already prohibited for Pakistan under other statutory restrictions.

QUESTION: But what about - (inaudible)?

QUESTION: There are things permitted going on and they almost border on humanitarian or at least there is a US interest. We are talking about nearly $5 million and about 3 million of it for anti-narcotics activities, a few hundred thousand, I think, for health care. Do you know as a matter of fact whether the sanctions that are being applied will limit or halt any of those forms of assistance?

MR. FOLEY: I will have to take the question. I don't want to misspeak on it. You're right, it's very small numbers. I think it is $5 million or less, some of it for counter-narcotics, some of it is funneled, as Mr. Rubin said yesterday, to NGOs. I think he suggested it was to the tune of a couple million dollars, and I will have to check on that.

QUESTION: It's a little more. It's nearly 5 million. But so, you're announcing sanctions but to all practical - in any practical way, the government doesn't know if anything is going to be halted, or does this deal also with the pending installment of a loan at the World Bank?

MR. FOLEY: That's a different matter altogether. I mean, we --

QUESTION: As a matter of fact, the US will work against that loan?

MR. FOLEY: We have sanctions already in place under the Glenn Amendment. You are pointing out what we have already acknowledged.

QUESTION: I am asking have you done anything new, really.

MR. FOLEY: Which is you cannot sanction in practical terms what is already sanctioned. You cannot not provide what you are already not providing, if that makes sense in the English language. So that simply is a fact.

But the legislation, the law here, does not cover, though, US support for lending of the international financial institutions. As a matter of law, it doesn't cover it.

We are unaware of any steps taken by the IMF Board in reaction to recent events in Pakistan. We are, frankly, in a wait-and-see mode in terms of how we would react or how we would act or how we would vote in the event of if future lending is to come up at the IMF. We are not there yet but we'll be looking at that very carefully. I would note that we will be in close consultation with friends and allies and other members of the IMF Board.

QUESTION: But you don't know that this action has any practical effect, do you?

MR. FOLEY: You have to specify your question. I indicated that the IMF -

QUESTION: That I understand. You cleared that up.

MR. FOLEY: -- is not covered by the loan.

QUESTION: I wonder if any of the small programs, or medium size -

MR. FOLEY: I will get you that answer. In fact, maybe we can get it before the end of the briefing.

QUESTION: Is there any provision in, then, 508 for Presidential waivers and might it be used, for example, in the anti-narcotics, which seems to be of national interest to the United States?

MR. FOLEY: We will do what we think is in the national interest of the United States.

QUESTION: Using your Presidential waiver, you mean?

MR. FOLEY: I said that as a general proposition. You can apply that to any country around the world. I don't want to misspeak. Barry asked a legitimate question. We have a tiny, tiny bit of assistance that has to do with counter-narcotics which is, obviously, in the US national interest. Whether that is affected or not is a legitimate question. I will get you the answer.

I'm sorry, was there more to your question?

QUESTION: Okay. But on the technical question of whether the Section 508 does include a Presidential waiver -

MR. FOLEY: Right. This is a matter of law and I don't have the statute in front of me so I want to be careful in not claiming to describe it in its particulars. There is a provision in the law, is my understanding, for the President to waive the sanctions that are mandated in the event that - and forgive me because I don't have the statute before me - but in the event that there is a restoration of constitutional democratic government. But that is not where we are now. We are in a phase of military takeover and, therefore, the law applies and we have invoked it.

QUESTION: Military takeover, not a coup.

MR. FOLEY: I used the word. I think you are mistaken if you weren't -

QUESTION: You said tantamount.

MR. FOLEY: No, I did not.

QUESTION: A takeover by the military is a coup.

MR. FOLEY: Yes, that's exactly what I said. Yes.

QUESTION: My question is, during Ambassador Milam's meeting with General Musharaff, you said that the ambassador called for a rapid return to democracy. What was the general's response?

MR. FOLEY: I am not going to be able to tell you the details of their conversation. What I would point you to is the fact, as I said, that the ambassador was told by General Musharaff that he is going to be addressing the nation sometime over the weekend and we would expect that he is going to lay out what his intentions are politically for Pakistan for the coming period and that, until that happens, we are not going to talk about - or speculate on, rather - what those intentions may or may not be.

Ambassador Milam made it very clear what the view of the United States is. We consider Pakistan to be a very important country. Ever since Pakistan's inception, we have had a close relationship. We have had strategic interests on the Subcontinent and with Pakistan. We don't want to turn our backs on Pakistan but we hope that Pakistan does not want to turn its back on the United States, on the international community.

Frankly, we are awaiting his speech, we are awaiting what his political intentions are. We hope that the imposition of the state of emergency and the dissolution of parliament represent a transitional stage that does not lead to direct military rule.

QUESTION: Did Ambassador Milam ask General Musharaff for any kind of reassurance that Pakistan will continue to abide by the moratorium on nuclear weapons tests or -

MR. FOLEY: Again, I am not going to get into the details.

QUESTION: Did he ask for it, though?

MR. FOLEY: I am not going to get into the details of their conversation. I would point you, however, to what I said in my opening remarks, which is that General Musharaff agreed with Ambassador Milam about the importance, as I said, of a dialogue between India and Pakistan but also of addressing issues of nonproliferation and security, and I would suggest that that issue was discussed in that context.

QUESTION: When you say addressing issues of national security, is that addressing it with India or just addressing it in general?

MR. FOLEY: Addressing issues of nonproliferation and security. We have, obviously, an important nonproliferation agenda with Pakistan and, certainly, signature of the CTBT is front and center of what we have been discussing with Pakistan and India for over a year now. We are continuing to urge both countries to sign the CTBT, and General Musharaff affirmed to the Ambassador the importance of addressing the nonproliferation agenda.

QUESTION: In your description of Ambassador Milam's meeting with the General, my notes show that you urged him to undertake a rapid return to civilian government. You didn't mention the word democracy until the end of your statement when you were - not describing the meeting, but describing US policy. Am I nit-picking here by citing that phrase you use, "rapid return to civilian government," without reference to democracy; without reference to elected government?

MR. FOLEY: What we would like to see - and you'd have to check the specifics of the statements that the President has made, the Secretary of State has made, Jamie Rubin has made over the last days. There are different ways of describing the same thing. A democratically elected civilian government has been overturned by the military. We would like to see the restoration of democratic civilian rule in Pakistan.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Vajpayee of India has had words of peace; has said India is not particularly disturbed by what's happened in Pakistan; and I would take it that such an attitude would be welcome by the State Department. Am I correct?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not familiar with what the Prime Minister said exactly but, clearly, improved relations via dialogue between India and Pakistan are in the interests of the entire world; they are certainly in the interests of India and Pakistan. We were pleased that General Musharaff noted the importance of dialogue in his meeting with Ambassador Milam so, if the Indian authorities are echoing that sentiment, that is obviously positive.

QUESTION: That's right. That's what I saw reported.

QUESTION: Is Ambassador Milam still there or was he sent back only to be recalled again? I mean, not that he was recalled in the first place but, I mean, is he going to stay there through the weekend to judge the speech?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: If I have the sequence right - and if I haven't got it right there's no point to the question. If I have the sequence right, the President of the United States publicly - on not a very good day for the President considering the Test Ban Treaty, and some people saw that as a humiliating setback - the President of the United States said publicly he was sending the ambassador to Pakistan to insist on a return to democracy.

Am I correct that the general acted - and a decision was announced by the state-run radio before the ambassador was on his way to RawalPindi to get there; is that correct?


QUESTION: Does the US Government have any feeling about that considering - you yourself made a reference to the strong ties, especially in the Cold War, Pakistan was used in the Kissinger-Nixon Administration for all sorts of things --


QUESTION: -- you were very close to Pakistan and --

MR. FOLEY: I see where you're --

QUESTION: -- and not that close to India, as a matter of fact. Has Pakistan rubbed the US' nose into it by not waiting for the ambassador?

MR. FOLEY: If what has been announced yesterday is a transitional development, as I indicated, and that there will be a return to democratic rule, civilian rule, we'll be able to determine our position, our stance and our policies on that basis. We have the announcement last night about what is the prevailing situation at the moment, but we do not have confirmation about what the political intentions of General Musharaff are and we are awaiting his speech to the nation this weekend, which he indicated to the ambassador he's going to lay out his plans.

The visit or the meeting of the ambassador was a critical opportunity for the United States to make clear our view that it's in Pakistan's interest that it return to the democratic fold as rapidly as possible, but I think the jury is still out in terms of what's going to happen there.

QUESTION: Did the ambassador spell out to the general what the implications were if the military did choose to stay in power for a prolonged period?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we have indicated that we can't do business as usual, and that's why we've invoked, as we must under the law, Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act. That is where we are today. We don't know where we're going to be tomorrow. That really depends, frankly, on what direction the Pakistani authorities take so we'll just have to wait and see.

QUESTION: Then what exactly triggered Section 508 - the action on Tuesday or the state of emergency announcement yesterday? When did you make the determination of this section?

MR. FOLEY: It's triggered by the action on Tuesday. I think we indicated in comments to the press that this was something that we were in the process of - the processing of the paperwork necessary to effectuate the implementation of 508 - why are you guffawing there, Matt? Or just coughing?

QUESTION: At the words "effectuating" and "processing."

MR. FOLEY: Okay, we're back in English class.

I don't know if we have other subjects that we need to cover - let me just say this - because Susan Rice will be coming shortly. So I would just hope we can move smartly.

QUESTION: On the same subject, there is a quote that the President of the United States, President Clinton, talked to Mr. Vajpayee in Pakistan.

MR. FOLEY: I would have to refer you to the White House.

QUESTION: Also, secondly, I find in all the plethora of statements made in Washington, there is no reference to the restoration of government. Is it not restoration of civilian rule? Prime Minister Sharif was elected by the people and they are not calling for the restoration of that government, isn't it?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think that is a matter for the Pakistani people to decide. What we want to see is a restoration of democratic civilian rule.

QUESTION: The State-Justice-Commerce bill is expected to go to conference sometime in the next few weeks, possibly this week.


QUESTION: A question on Pakistan. You said the US is working with other concerned nations. This morning, the Canadian Foreign Minister, Mr. Axworthy, called for the suspension of Pakistan from the British Commonwealth of Nations. He also said he is sounding out the UN Security Council members to see if a resolution can be agreed upon.

Does the United States have any opinion or view on these two -

MR. FOLEY: I just saw that coming in. It is clear where the international community stands. I don't think there has been any member of the international community that has not expressed concern over the events in Pakistan in the hope that there will be a return, a restoration, of democratic and civilian rule. And I think the Secretary General of the UN has stated similar views.

QUESTION: Would you support a UN Security Council resolution --

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, I just saw the report coming in. I've said simply what I am familiar with, which is the international community appears fairly united on the subject.

Yes, are we still on this subject? Excuse me one second.

Okay, the total - and Barry Schweid has departed but this was his question. The total of assistance for the year is less than $5 million; $2-1/2 million is for counter-narcotics assistance and this will not be affected, as some of you suspected; $1.7 million is for a Pakistan NGO initiative for health and human aid. This will be affected by the cutoff. OPIC insurance programs are affected. There will be no new programs. Trade and Development Agency programs are also affected. Their funding is very small; it's been less than $10,000.


(The briefing concluded at 1:45 P.M.)

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