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International Information Programs
02 November 2001

Transcript: Ridge, Mueller Brief on Terrorism Investigations

(More than 7,000 FBI agents investigating anthrax, Sept. 11 attacks)

The United States is strengthening its immigration policies,
tightening its restrictions on student visas, and coordinating its
intelligence data bases in an effort to fight terrorism and keep
alleged terrorists and their supporters from entering the United
States, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge told reporters at a White
House briefing November 2.

Accompanied by a number of other top federal officials, Ridge outlined
what his Office of Homeland Security had been doing in the last week
to respond to President Bush's "directive that we create a safer
America" and said that the terrorist alert issued by the Justice
Department October 29 would be continued indefinitely.

Also speaking was Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Bob
Mueller, who gave an update on the FBI's efforts to track down those
responsible for the biological attacks on America and those
responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The combined anthrax and hijacking investigation, Mueller said, "are
being worked by in excess of 7,000 FBI agents and support personnel
around the country and, indeed, around the world."

"We at this point definitely know the 19 hijackers who were
responsible" for the September 11 attacks, he said. The investigation
continues in the United States and abroad.

"And we have been successful in working with our foreign counterparts
in identifying places where the conspiracy we believe was hatched, as
well as others who may have been involved in the conspiracy."

"Despite speculation about the possible source of the anthrax and the
motive for the attacks, nothing yet has been ruled out, and
investigators continue to follow the evidence wherever it may lead,"
Mueller said.

Mueller said he was disappointed at the public response to the offer
of a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of
suspects in the terrorist investigations.

"We had hoped that the $1 million reward would encourage many more
citizens to help. We have not received as many tips or leads as we
would like," he said.

He urged people to use the FBI's toll-free hotline telephone number
and its Internet address to send in information.

The hot line number, he said, is 1-800-CRIME-TV; and the Internet web
site is www.ifccfbi.gov.

Also at the press briefing were Deputy Postmaster General John Nolan
and Centers for Disease Control official Mitch Cohen.

Following is the White House transcript:

(begin transcript)

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 2, 2001


The James S. Brady Briefing Room

11:00 A.M. EST

GOVERNOR RIDGE: Good morning, again. Joining me this morning is our
FBI Director Bob Mueller; Dr. Mitch Cohen, from the Center for Disease
Control; and United States Postal Service Assistant Postmaster John

We will all be available to answer your questions regarding the
ongoing anthrax investigations and to provide an update on our
investigative and public health efforts.

Director Mueller will specifically discuss with you the status of the
investigations that have been undertaken since September 11th.

Once again, I think it's very, very important to thank the thousands
of Americans, both at the federal, state and local level, who continue
to work around the clock to meet the extraordinary challenges that
have confronted this country since September 11th.

Our law enforcement professionals and public and private health care
providers have done an extraordinary job and they've made us all very
proud with their efforts.

I would also like to give you a brief glimpse into my week as Director
of Homeland Security, to help illustrate how we have begun our work to
respond to the President's directive that we create a blueprint for a
safer America.

As you know, the President led our week by establishing a foreign
terrorist tracking task force, a recommendation from the Homeland
Security Office -- where we will fuse information from the INS and FBI
and State Department. And it will be housed in the Attorney General's

We are consolidating our intelligence data bases, strengthening our
immigration policies to keep terrorists and their supporters out of
this country; tightening restrictions on student visas; and also
working with our friends in Canada and Mexico to improve border
security, enhance, facilitate commerce, and to try to bring a greater
harmony to some of our immigration and customs policies.

As the President regularly meets with the National Security Council,
he now regularly meets with the Homeland Security Council.

On Tuesday I met with Democrat and Republican congressional leaders at
their policy luncheons, and I appeared before the House Democratic
Caucus on Wednesday. My daily discussions with members of Congress
have focused on both the war at home today -- obviously a great
concern is to where we devote some resources in the short-term -- but
also talking with them, both individually and collectively, about
long-term plans, as we work with them to create that blueprint for a
safer America.

I've had private discussions with the leaders of our airlines
industry, to discuss mutual safety and economic concerns. I was
certainly encouraged by the discussions we've had; and I had earlier
this week with leaders of the pharmaceutical industry, who pledged to
share, if needed, to share their facilities, their products and their
scientific genius, to help meet America's needs.

I had a very productive meeting with Washington Mayor Tony Williams.
We discussed the resource challenges he is facing with the anthrax
attack. We also discussed several public safety planning initiatives,
which we look forward to working with the Mayor and his staff on.

I met with the Australian Foreign Minister this week, as I have met
with Canadian, German officials in recent weeks, as well. We obviously
share mutual interests. And I'm very, very encouraged, both personally
and professionally, by the international attention to our homeland
protection initiatives.

Yesterday, I met with leaders of local law enforcement at the state,
the county and the local level. Obviously, they're part of the front
line of public safety. They're very much, today and for all time, a
significant part of the homeland security structure that we are

I am certainly pleased to report that their spirit of partisanship,
their desire to be engaged, a desire to work with federal officials,
as we go about combatting the terrorist threats that confront us
today, and may appear in the future, is sincere, it's intense, they're
on the job 24-7. And you can well imagine, as someone charged with a
national -- developing a national plan for homeland security, the one
group of people we have, the 365-24-7 in our neighborhoods, on our
streets, in our communities, our local law enforcement community. And
obviously their integration into what we do and the information we
receive at the national level is very critical to them, to being able
to effectively be that first line of defense.

I'm certainly most grateful to Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary of the
Army White, for their decision. We work with them to keep national
guard troops stationed on our northern border up there, to help the
good men and women of Customs. As you can well imagine, there are five
or six major points of ingress and egress from Canada to the United
States. We're going to continue to beef up the men and women there
charged with security. And it's critical that we devote the attention
and the resources, given the extraordinary commerce -- level of
commerce that flows between these two allies and friends and

I would ask Director Mueller to share a few thoughts with you, and
then the four of us will be available for questioning.

MUELLER: Thank you, Governor, and good morning. I want to update you
on the FBI's growing efforts to track down those responsible for the
biological attacks on America and also to ask for your help in
generating new leads from the citizens of our country.

In concert with many state, local and federal partners, we are moving
aggressively to investigate the 16 confirmed cases of anthrax, as well
as to investigate every contaminated site. We are pursuing more than a
thousand leads, including more than 100 that have taken us overseas.
We have conducted more than 2,000 interviews to date in that
investigation. We are deploying every available resource in that

I will tell you that our combined anthrax and hijacking investigation
-- the hijackings relating to September 11th -- are being worked by in
excess of 7,000 FBI agents and support personnel around the country
and, indeed, around the world. With regard to the anthrax
investigation, we have heavy concentrations of agents and support
personnel working in Miami, New York, Newark and in the Washington
field offices.

Despite speculation about the possible source of the anthrax and the
motive for the attacks, nothing yet has been ruled out, and
investigators continue to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. We
are currently looking closely at the recent fatality in New York of
Ms. Nguyen to see what that might tell us; but it's still too early to
draw any conclusions.

Since September 11th, the American people have been an important set
of eyes and ears in our investigations -- both our investigation of
the terrorist hijackings and our investigation into the anthrax

Through our Internet site and our toll-free hot line, they have
contributed more than 170,000 potential leads and tips which our
agents and support personnel are pursuing. That 170,000 is but 40
percent of the 420,000 total leads that have been generated in our
investigations since September 11th.

Over the past month, a number of private citizens and businesses have
provided us with information, support and expertise. And that is
helping to move the anthrax investigation forward; and we greatly
appreciate all of those contributions.

I will say that we had hoped that the $1 million reward announced by
the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service on October 18th would encourage
many more of our fellow citizens to step forward with important
information. And so far, we have not received as many tips or leads
under that program as we would like.

And so today, I'm calling upon all of you and the news organizations
to basically speak for us, to ask our fellow citizens to join us in
trying to bring leads to the front that will help us, both the anthrax
investigation, but also solve the September 11th hijacking

I want to reiterate that there is a $1 million reward, and I also want
to reiterate our toll-free telephone number and our Internet address
for any of you or others out there who have leads that we should be

The hot line number is 1-800-CRIME-TV; that is, 1-800-CRIME-TV. I see
some of you smiling, it's easy to remember. 1-800-CRIME-TV. And the
Internet web site is www.ifccfbi.gov.

Q: Director Mueller?

MUELLER: I'm not through yet. (Laughter.) If I might just have a
second, sorry.

I want to follow-up by urging in the strongest terms possible every
American to join us in tracking down those responsible for using
anthrax to murder Americans. We ask you throughout the country to
report any suspicious behavior that involves the United States mails
or individuals -- or individuals knowledgeable about anthrax.

I also ask you to study closely the images of the anthrax envelopes
which we released last month, that many of your publications had in
them -- and we also put that on our web site -- to look at those
images and determine if you know who was the writer of those
envelopes. And by that I mean comparing the handwriting on it to any
handwriting that you may be able to recognize.

Finally, I want to say a few words about law enforcement cooperation.
I was at the International Association of Chiefs of Police last Sunday
and Monday and had an opportunity to talk to a number of my fellow
brothers and sisters in law enforcement. I want to say to them and to
you that the FBI is making concrete steps -- taking concrete steps to
improve the level of cooperation and information sharing with state
and local law enforcement.

We are dedicating a senior FBI official to address concerns that were
raised in the course of my discussions at the IACP. And we are going
to establish an advisory group made up of state and local authorities,
as well as FBI representatives, to identify issues and resolutions to
those issues. I have urged state and local leaders to contact me and
other FBI officials if there appears to be any gap in that

And, finally, we in the FBI realize that the general threat warning
that was issued last Monday was frustrating to many law enforcement
officials. However, as we work to prevent future acts of terrorism, we
believe in the FBI and I believe in the Homeland Defense Office that
we have a responsibility to keep everybody informed, even when the
level of information may not be as specific as any of us would like.

By issuing the warnings, we are sending a strong signal to terrorists
that we are focused, prepared and united in our determination to keep
them from attacking our freedom.

And, finally, I want to thank all our partners throughout law
enforcement, the intelligence community, the public health communities
for their unwavering commitment and support since September 11th,
whether it be with regard to the attacks of September 11th or the more
recent anthrax attacks.

Q: Given the fact, Director Mueller, that the threat advisory on the
western suspension bridges apparently contained the suggestion that it
not be shared with the media, could Governor Davis' release of it have
jeopardized ongoing investigations?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: We put out that warning to law enforcement with the
expectation that it would go to the senior officials in any particular
state. And with regard to what that senior official does, that is up
to that senior official in the state.

Q: Even though you advised not to share it?

Q: Director?

MUELLER: Yes, sir?

Q: A couple of points on the Nguyen case in New York. Are you
investigating or tracking other cases that may overlap her infection
and, therefore, provide more guidance to investigators? And, secondly,
you've talked about all the leads, all of the interviews. Are you in
any better position to tell the American people who is behind this
anthrax, specifically, the letter to Senator Daschle?

MUELLER: Let me address that. With regard to Ms. Nguyen, we, along
cooperatively with the New York authorities, with Mayor Giuliani, with
the New York police, operating out of out joint task force that has
been operating for a number of years, are investigating every lead,
and we are exploring all those who knew Ms. Nguyen. We have jointly
been into, as I think the Governor -- or, the Mayor has already
indicated to you -- have been in to explore whether or not there were
any anthrax spores found in her apartment or found at work, and to
date that has been negative.

So we are trying to reconstruct her life to determine whether there
are any leads that would help us determine how she contracted the

With regard to the status of the investigations, the investigations to
September 11th is moving along. It's moving at apace both here and
internationally. As I have indicated before, one of the initial
responsibilities of that investigation was to determine who the
hijackers were. We at this point definitely know the 19 hijackers who
were responsible for that catastrophe. We have spread the
investigation in the United States -- it has been spread out in the
United States, as well as overseas, and following up leads.

And we have been successful in working with our foreign counterparts
in identifying places where the conspiracy we believe was hatched, as
well as others who may have been involved in the conspiracy.

Q: I'm sorry, but I was asking specifically about the anthrax letter,

MUELLER: I'm sorry, go ahead.

Q: I was trying to get you to talk specifically about who would be
capable of producing the kind of anthrax that has been sent through
the mail, and where you believe this is happening? Is this somebody
doing it domestically or overseas?

MUELLER: I will tell you that the three letters at issue, the letter
to NBC, the letter to the New York Post and the Daschle letter all
were mailed from Trenton, which you all know. And we are pursuing
every conceivable lead to determine who was responsible, who would be
capable of developing that anthrax strain, as well as who would be
responsible for utilizing that type of envelope, and mailing those
envelopes in Trenton.

Q: Governor, could you give us your perspective on what happened
yesterday with this threat warning on suspension bridges in
California, what might have been learned from what happened; and
whether or not you're considering at all some kind of perhaps more
regularized threat warning -- sort of like the military does, with
some threat-con level that would clue people in as to what level of
alert they ought to be on?

RIDGE: One of the challenges for this office and for the country, in
creation of a national homeland security force, is that it's a federal
government, and that we have to deal with different levels of --
different political jurisdictions. And so the integration of federal
data collection and information gathering, the state intelligence and
information sharing on the local is something that we have done in the
past, but it's pretty clear that given the events of September 11th,
how we go about approaching the new normalcy, how we go about dealing
with this new environment has created some real challenges for us.

The information was sent out and it noted that it was uncorroborated
test information. I think we can safely assume that once we send out
from the federal level to the state level and suggest that it remain
within law enforcement, there's not too much that's kept secret once
that kind of information is made available to somebody in the country.

And the Governor exercised his discretion and made a judgment.

Q: But you admitted just a couple days earlier that if you sent it to
law enforcement, it would get out anyway, so you released it. Why
didn't you release this?

RIDGE: Remember one of the criticisms of the alert -- and everybody is
trying to be constructive about this, I understand -- was that the
alert that went out Monday, with the exception of a time frame, did
not offer any additional information as to the location, the type of
weapon and the like.

This, although uncorroborated, targeted a time frame and a place. It
was based on that information that again it was sent out to the law
enforcement community. Governors of all 50 states, since September
11th -- and I think it's very important to note this, and their state
police and their local police and their emergency responders -- have
really upgraded dramatically the security enhancements at potentially
vulnerable targets.

Again, given the federal nature -- and each governor and each county
executive and each region makes different assessments as to the best
way they can harden those targets and the best way they can interdict
or prevent a terrorist attack.

Obviously, Governor Davis thought that one thing that he could do to
enhance the security of people using those bridges was to make a
public announcement. We did not encourage him to do so.

Q: In light of that, though, Governor, following up on Terry's
questions, are you going to have conversations maybe with other
governors, lessons learned here, in terms of for future, that the best
guidance --


Q: So what will your advice be to governors?

RIDGE: Great question. We are learning every day. We're in constant
conversation. I had -- Wednesday I had four conversations with four
governors. Yesterday, I think I talked to two or three. As we work our
way through better coordination, better communication, we view every
response to every single incident in the light of what can we do
differently, what can we do better.

You know, America post-September 11th is dramatically --
unfortunately, dramatically different than September 10th. So we look
at every one.

Q: Governor, is it possible -- well, one, was this information that
Governor Davis released to the public part of the unspecified
information you alluded to earlier in the week? And also, a question
for Director Mueller, could you give us a few more details about the
overseas clues -- clues that have taken you overseas, like how much of
this is involving maybe anthrax, or -- could you also speak to the
anthrax letter that showed up at a paper in Pakistan?

RIDGE: That information came in on Thursday morning, and the
appropriate agencies -- we're going back to corroborate it. Remember,
the statement went out that it was uncorroborated. And the FBI moved
forward to go back, visit the source, and make a further

MUELLER: Let me just say a little bit before I respond to your
question, if I might. In terms of the contacts with governors and the
distribution of information -- this is not the first time that we have
had occasion to call a governor or pass information to a governor.
It's happened on numerous occasions since September 11th.

In fact, before Governor Ridge was here, down here, I had occasion to
talk to the Governor about a similar matter. And, given the
information, the threat information and what a governor can do to
address a particular threat, different steps have been taken. So this
is not unusual, what happened yesterday, in any way, shape or form.

Turning to your question, in terms of the overseas investigation. With
regard to September 11th hijackings, that is taking us well overseas.
With regard to the anthrax investigation, that has been more
localized, more localized than the investigation into September 11th,
but that is not to say that there have not been leads that have taken
us overseas.

Q: A question for you, sir, and a question for the Deputy Postmaster
General. For you, sir, yesterday, it seems that on September 11th,
from then on, we've had a lot of bipartisanship in Congress. While the
vote yesterday was very partisan on airport security -- 218 to 214,
while the Senate had voted 100-0 on their bill.

Now, this seems to bode that we will be having -- we'll be having a
fight, and it will take a longer time to get airport security. There
was a major incident in New York last night. I believe a flight was
delayed because security was missing?

RIDGE: There have been other occasions, not just in New York, where
people on the ground have decided to delay flights or to divert
flights because of the situations that occurred. There may have been a
bipartisan disagreement on to the extent that -- on the House bill,
but there is absolute bipartisan agreement that we need to upgrade the
standards, we need higher competency, more training, better pay to get
men and women better equipped, along with the added technology, to get
the job done at the airports. And we're convinced that it will be

Q: I'd like to ask the FBI Director, does this mean you're tilting
more toward a domestic source?

MUELLER: I wouldn't say we're tilting -- on the anthrax, we're not
tilting more to a domestic source. What we're doing is the
investigation expands from where we've got the current evidence. The
current evidence puts us at mail boxes in Trenton, where the critical
-- three critical letters were mailed. And it expands beyond there.
And some of the leads may well take us overseas. But the thrust of the
investigation is where those letters were mailed, and trying to track
back from those mailboxes to the individual who is responsible for
putting those letters, with the anthrax, into those mailboxes in

Q: Well, what are you asking the American people to do? You want us to
alert them, they can do something -- what are they supposed to do?

MUELLER: Two things. One, if there are -- if you have persons around
you, that are suspicious in terms of -- if you see something out of
the ordinary, in terms of mail -- the mail, or if you see -- look at
the writing, the handwriting that was disclosed both on the envelopes
of the letters, as well as the pages inside, and either the statements
or the handwriting may be somehow familiar to you, somebody you may
have seen, you may have seen a letter like that, then we'd like to
know that.

On the other hand, it may well be that there is somebody in the United
States who is manufacturing the anthrax. We have not, as I said, we
have not precluded any possibility. We have not said it's domestic, we
have not said it is international. We have not precluded any
possibility. If you know that somebody is doing different things with
anthrax than they should be, and anthrax is studied in places, if you
believe that persons are doing something with anthrax -- you may be in
the medical profession, you may be in some other profession that has
something to do with anthrax, and it's somewhat suspicious, we're
asking you to let us know.

Q: A question on the post office, please. I understand that four
offices in Rockville, the FDA, that are being tested for anthrax. Do
you have any results on those yet?

MR. NOLAN: No, those would not -- results would not come to us; that's
being done by those government offices, themselves.

Q: How about the rest of the post offices around the country? I know
you had -- I think outbreaks in Indianapolis and Kansas City. Is that

NOLAN: Well, the Indianapolis and Kansas City things are very
specific, have nothing whatsoever to do with mail. Nothing whatsoever
to do with mail. We have a spare parts depot in Indianapolis. Spare
parts of a technical nature are sent there for repair. Once we learned
of the contamination of the Brentwood facility, one of the things we
did was examine everything that we did in Brentwood, and who we sent
anything to. So we began testing that Indianapolis facility, because
we know we had sent spare parts there; we knew the part numbers, so we
knew exactly where to look and, in fact, we found contamination. That
has been cleaned up and should be opened up shortly.

In Kansas City, we had a similar kind of situation where we have
first-day covers for philatelic, stamp collecting. And those that were
left over after the event were sent to a specified place. Has nothing
to do with our stamp distribution center where we're sending stamps
everywhere. It was a completely isolated place, it was found in the
trash can. And, again, they were searching for anything that related
to first-day covers that had come back from Washington. Nothing to do
with mail; nothing to do with the receipt of mail by anybody,
completely isolated, and no further problem.

Q: Governor Ridge --

RIDGE: Let me just add two other comments. One, you should know that
the Centers for Disease Control and the Post Office is developing an
internal group within the post office to help detect and
decontaminate. They just began, CDC working with the Postal Service.

The other bit of information that I think is important -- maybe you
could remind people who read, or people who listen, or people who
watch -- that the penalty for using the mail to perpetrate a hoax is
20 years. And we've had several thousands hoaxes that have had --
again, you put in the cluster of responsibilities that the law
enforcement community has, following up on and responding to potential
threats. A hoax can be punishable for up to 20 years in jail. We hope
everybody knows that.

Q: A question for the gentleman from the CDC.

DR. COHEN: Thank you.  (Laughter.)

Q: Given that the Ms. Nguyen case can't be linked to any other
previous cases in terms of how she contracted the anthrax, are public
health officials worried that this may be the start of a new cluster
of cases?

COHEN: Well, I think it's very important to conduct this thorough
investigation, both epidemiologically, as well as criminal, to try to
determine how that transmission occurred. There may be an explanation
that could help us to understand. But, again, I think it just
emphasizes the needs for people to be alert, as has been emphasized by
some of the other speakers.

Q: Governor Ridge, a number of states have beefed up their security
around nuclear power plants in the last few days, in part on your
advice. Does the government have specific information that these
plants may be targeted? And, also, there's been a lot of speculation
about the possibility of suitcase bombs, nuclear -- miniature nuclear
bombs in the hands of terrorists. Is this is a concern of the

RIDGE: I think one of the -- obviously, when we looked at targets
nationally, that are potentially vulnerable, one of the first places
you would be looking would be to your nuclear facilities owned by both
the Defense Department and the public in general. So it's
understandable then, at a heightened alert, we certainly beef up the
security there.

Remember, the charge of the Homeland Security Office is to create a
blueprint for safety that would include preventing and responding to a
variety of attacks. And, unfortunately, all the literature and all the
concern is chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear. I mean,
there is a universe of potentials that we have to deal with.
Unfortunately, in the business we're in, we have to deal with the

But there's no -- don't read anything in to the nuclear protection
other than in a general heightened state of alert. Looking at the
vulnerability of these locations, we decided to heighten the security

Q: Is the threat level today the same as the threat level you
announced on Monday? Should Americans go into this weekend believing
that the threat level is the same as you announced for a heightened
state of alert last Monday? And are you doing anything to try to rank
these levels, so that there are different levels of warning?

RIDGE: For the time being, Bill, we want people -- whether they're
involved professionally in security and law enforcement, or the public
generally -- to be on the highest possible state of alert. I know that
seems -- some people suggest that that is a contradictory message. But
the bottom line is, is that what the terrorists want us to do is to be
so preoccupied with the threat that we forget what it is about being
America and going about our business of being America.

Director Mueller I believe said it very appropriately. We have the
eyes and ears of citizens who can help us in this effort. We didn't
think we'd have to enlist them, given the security concerns that the
country had on September 10th. But as of September 11th, the need, and
one of the reasons that the alert goes out, was just to remind all
Americans, regardless of whether their daily responsibilities have
anything to do with domestic security, that your eyes, your ears, your
being alert, your being on call to respond to the inquiries that the
FBI has made, to -- if nothing else, that an employee in the airlines
now, that they're just a little more suspicious, a little more
attentive; that individual providing security on the street corner;
the local police officer at a high school athletic event -- just
everybody keep their eyes and ears -- be attentive, be on guard, but
go about the business of being America.

Q: What is the nature of the threat now? I mean, you must be getting
new information all the time. Is it worse than it was on Monday? Does
it still expire in a week? As far as I know, the first treat that you
issued never expired, either.

RIDGE: We know that bin Laden and al Qaeda have set up terrorist cells
around the world. And we know that both internally and externally
there are people who would murder innocent Americans. And we know that
it may be a long time -- perhaps we'll never be able to identify and
detain every single human being, whether they're located in this
country or elsewhere, that would do us harm. The world has changed
since September 11th, everybody has said it, and everybody probably
gets tired of reading it and saying it. But it is a fact, and a
reality that we deal with.

That simply means that as we go about building on what I found to be a
rather extraordinary infrastructure of homeland security when I first
walked into the office, while we go about building out on that -- on
those organizations and those people, we enlist America, citizens, to
help us in that effort. So be alert and go about the business of being

Q: Are we still -- until Monday, or does it still end on Monday, it's
still a week-long threat?

RIDGE: We're going to keep everybody on the Monday alert, that
attentiveness indefinitely.

(end transcript)

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Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)