State Department Noon Briefing, December 17, 2003

 

Wednesday December 17, 2003

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
December 17, 2003
12:40 p.m. EST

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

AGHANISTAN
-- Kabul-to-Kandahar Road

DEPARTMENT
-- Secretary Powell's Condition
-- Secretary Powell's Telephone Calls
-- International Religious Freedom Report
-- Former Secretary Baker's Travels/Efforts to Reduce Iraqi Debt

IRAN
-- Signing of the Additional Protocol

NORTH KOREA
-- Six-Party Talks
-- Chinese Statements on Flexibility
-- World Food Program

FRANCE
-- President Chirac's Proposal to Ban Wearing Religious Symbols in School

CHINA
-- Designation of Terrorist Groups/Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement

GREECE
-- Sentencing of November 17 Convicts

EUROPE
-- Solana Meetings
-- Active Dialogue With the United States/European Security Strategy

BURMA
-- Reaction to U.S. Criticism of Democratic Reforms

TAIWAN
-- Statements Made by President Chen
-- U.S. Policy in the Region

IRAQ
-- Trial for Saddam Hussein

QATAR
-- Cancellation of the Visit by the Foreign Minister

AUSTRIA
-- Statements by Austria's Haider


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2003
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

12:40 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Just to get right something that I got wrong yesterday, the languages on the Afghan road brochure that we printed all our material in are English, obviously, which we all recognize, and this is Pashtu and Dari. So two Afghan -- languages of Afghanistan. So now that that's clear.

QUESTION: Two of the languages.

MR. BOUCHER: Two of the languages of Afghanistan. Two languages of Afghan -- et cetera.

Thank you very much, pleasure to be here, and I'll be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Well, we got the spit and vinegar report again today. What might the Secretary --

MR. BOUCHER: You got the 5:40 a.m. report as well, right?

QUESTION: 5:40 a.m.

QUESTION: And it'll be earlier tomorrow?

QUESTION: It can't get any earlier, can it?

MR. BOUCHER: He's going to get better every day.

QUESTION: Get any e-mails, did you?

MR. BOUCHER: I got e-mails. Everybody is getting e-mails. We're in business.

QUESTION: When will he be going home, for instance?

MR. BOUCHER: Don't know for sure yet. He says he's up and around and at Walter Reed, but don't know for sure yet when he might be going home.

QUESTION: Have there been any further medical developments?

MR. BOUCHER: No, just what appears to be an excellent recovery process.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: How about phone calls? Any outside of the 202 or 703 area code?

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I can account for every phone call outside those area codes, but there was one transatlantic phone call today.

QUESTION: That would have been with Mr. Straw?

MR. BOUCHER: No. That would have been with Spanish Foreign Minister Palacio.

QUESTION: Oh, I should have known.

QUESTION: Of course.

QUESTION: Was it from her or to her?

MR. BOUCHER: To her.

QUESTION: What did they talk about?

QUESTION: But they're on our side.

MR. BOUCHER: It was basically a talk about good wishes and working together.

QUESTION: Okay, but the --

QUESTION: You've got to come up with something better than that.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: It was a personal phone call. It wasn't a work related phone call. Is that what you're trying to say?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't quite say that.

QUESTION: So the -- all right.

MR. BOUCHER: It was a -- they reaffirmed the importance of the transatlantic relationship and the partnership between the United States and Spain in all the big issues of the world.

QUESTION: Do you guys actually expect --?

QUESTION: Wow, you really went out on a limb there, didn't you, Richard?

QUESTION: Do you actually expect the Iranians to sign the additional protocol tomorrow?

MR. BOUCHER: We have discussed this issue many times, and I think you won't be too surprised when we say that Iran's signature on the additional protocol, as we all know, is still pending. We urge Iran to sign immediately the additional protocol and to implement the provisions of the additional protocol, as the Board of Governors has called for, and to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with all the information and access required by the protocol.

We would certainly welcome Iran's signing of the additional protocol, but the signature is only one step towards resolving the remaining open questions about Iran's nuclear program and towards increasing international confidence that Iran's nuclear program will be limited to peaceful activities and that they will suspend, truly suspend, all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

So the answer is really, we'll see.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on North Korea? Are we at the point of no return yet?

MR. BOUCHER: No return to where?

QUESTION: For '03?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the other day I said it had become clear to the Chinese over the weekend that we weren't going to be able to have the talks this year for technical reasons and that we would keep working with the Chinese to see about having talks very early in the new year. But we don't have any dates yet for that.

QUESTION: Richard, when you say for technical reasons, I mean, is it more because you all couldn't agree on this document that you were trying to flesh out? I mean, you gave the Chinese a draft. They came back to you. And what are the technical issues that prevent --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, the technical issues were that the dates that had been held for possible talks this week, that at some point over the weekend it was obvious it became impossible for negotiators to actually arrive and talk at that point and date in time. So it was just not going to be possible to do the talks this year, whether agreements on a basis and substance for the talks were reached or not.

The facts of the matter are, however, that the United States has made clear, in our conversations in private as well as in public, that we have been prepared to go to this round, prepared to go to talks, six-party talks to resolve the North Korea issue without any preconditions, without requiring any particular agreement on a particular formula before we went in.

We've made clear what we want from those talks. We've been willing to work with the Chinese to plan the talks and to try to work hard on outcomes that could be expected from the talks, but we were not setting out preconditions. Unfortunately, the North Koreans did and they failed to agree to this round of talks, as far as we can tell.

QUESTION: The Chinese have said that the U.S. needs to be more flexible.

MR. BOUCHER: The Chinese have said that everyone needs to be pragmatic and flexible. That's the way they put it in telephone calls between the Deputy Secretary and the Foreign Minister earlier this week. And that's -- obviously, we've said that we're willing to be pragmatic and flexible. We've made clear the overall goal that we have is the same overall goal the Chinese and others share, and that is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In fact, the Chinese made clear that that was a consensus of the last round of six-party talks, so that should not be controversial.

We have been working with the Chinese in what we think is a pragmatic and flexible way to try to talk about how that goal can be achieved.

QUESTION: So if you say that you are willing to come to the talks without preconditions but the North Koreans were not, then do you think it's just an issue of more time, more talking to them? I mean, what do the technical issues of a date have to do with the fact that you can't agree on whether there should be conditions or not? I mean, you say they are.

MR. BOUCHER: I -- keep going. I don't quite understand you.

QUESTION: Well, you said that the North Koreans are putting preconditions on it.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: So is it more about the North Koreans putting preconditions on the talks that you're not having them, or is it about a technical issue that you couldn't find a date? I mean, what is more time going to do, I guess is the question?

MR. BOUCHER: More time allows the Chinese to keep working the issue and try to resolve whatever preconditions or difficulties there may be in getting everybody to the talks. The technical issue this weekend was that the Chinese came to a point where they understood, well understood, that even if they had gotten an agreement the next day or the day after, it was not going to be possible for people to do talks this year.

QUESTION: Richard, a shot in the dark here. Do you have anything on -- has there been any decision made on the WFP appeal, or is that still pending?

MR. BOUCHER: It was -- no decision. No decision as of yesterday. I don't think there's one today.

Sir.

QUESTION: Different topic. And you may not have anything to say about this, but I wonder if you have any comment on President Chirac's proposal that headscarves, skullcaps and large crosses should be barred from -- students should be barred from wearing any of those at the French public schools.

MR. BOUCHER: No. We'll see if it comes up in the context of religious freedom, but I don't have anything at this moment to say on that.

QUESTION: Well, on that, a report is coming up tomorrow, and I'm just wondering if you could preview it for us and -- well, I'll stop there for the moment.

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: If the report is coming out tomorrow, I am obviously going to wait till tomorrow before we talk about it. I can't put it out today.

QUESTION: Can you remind us, or at least me, remind me -- this is not the point at which the countries of particular concern are designated; is that correct?

MR. BOUCHER: That is correct. This is the Report on Religious Freedom that we do annually that we provide a rundown of the conditions around the world and, to some extent, try to talk about, at least in our briefings, about what we've done in this year to try to ameliorate those conditions for religious freedom around the world.

The judgments on countries of particular concern are then subsequently based on the information that we've been able to develop and put together in the report.

QUESTION: And remind us again how many months late is this report coming out this year?

MR. BOUCHER: That's a good question to ask the briefer tomorrow.

QUESTION: Wait, isn't it Friday that this comes out?

MR. BOUCHER: Tomorrow.

QUESTION: Tomorrow, okay.

QUESTION: Okay. Anything else?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Chinese designation of four Uighur separatist groups as a terrorist organization?

MR. BOUCHER: I just note that we also -- the United States has determined, after a careful review of evidence, that one of those groups, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, is a terrorist group. That's one of the groups on the Chinese list. We have designated them under Executive Order 13224 on Terrorism Financing. We also worked to ensure that in September of 2002 the United Nations designated the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement as a terrorist group.

We constantly review groups and individuals for inclusion on these lists and for appropriate designation, but in terms of what we've done, that's what we've done.

QUESTION: Yeah, but you did that quite a while ago.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. 2002.

QUESTION: Well, that was when the UN did it. But you did it even earlier, before the UN, right?

MR. BOUCHER: I think -- yeah. I don't remember. It wasn't -- it was a couple of months before the UN, if I remember correctly.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: Sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, any comment on the Athens criminal court decision sentenced the members of the November 17 terrorist organization?

MR. BOUCHER: The Greek justice system has pronounced its verdicts and sentences. We hope and expect the sentences will be fully carried out. Now this chapter has come to an end, but we believe it's proper and important to focus on the suffering and the trauma of the victims and their families.

That's all we're going to say for the moment.

QUESTION: Do you still consider this legal, political, what?

MR. BOUCHER: It's a sentencing. It's --

QUESTION: As a --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't understand. The sentencing was obviously a legal matter.

QUESTION: You don't know then. And the other question, any statement regarding extradition on behalf of the U.S. Government as far of some of the members of --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything on that.

QUESTION: Why would you say hope and expect? I mean, why wouldn't you just expect that Greek authorities would carry out the sentences? Is there any reason think they wouldn't, that these people would be --?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to raise questions. We're just expressing our hopes and our expectations that they will be fully carried out and that nothing will intervene to prevent that.

QUESTION: Richard, when you say that you're now concerned about, what was the second -- the second sentence was what?

MR. BOUCHER: Important to remember the suffering and the trauma of the victims and their families.

QUESTION: Are you trying to suggest that perhaps some kind of civil suit should be filed against these people in order -- particularly on behalf of the U.S. victims of this group in order to get compensation?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to predict any particular legal moves by anybody. I'm just saying that at the moment when the people responsible for some of this violence have been sentenced, it's important to remember that there were a lot of people who suffered because of the actions that were taken.

QUESTION: Well, what's the Department's position about what should -- what, if anything, should be done for the American victims of November -- the victims of these --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particular on that. Our support for a bill that deals with victims of terrorism, that helps families and victims who are people who are affected by terrorism is, I think, a matter of record.

QUESTION: Well, there was some concern that the murder of this, of Mr. Welch, was not covered in this conviction because there is a statute of limitations on murder in Greece. That statute of limitations doesn't exist in the United States.

MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to speculate on U.S. legal action. If you want to know what the possibilities are, you'd have to check with the Department of Justice.

Sir.

QUESTION: One more question. To this point, did you consider the case of November 17 totally closed or still open?

MR. BOUCHER: Last time you asked me the question, I said that would be up to Greek law enforcement and judicial authorities, and I think I've seen Greek law enforcement and judicial authorities say that this doesn't close the book on November 17, that they still do have open investigations.

QUESTION: Is this positive so far as security for the Olympics is concerned?

MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, we've viewed the overall process of going after November 17, arresting many of the leaders and being able to prosecute, and now, we hope, put them in jail for a long, long time, as an overall positive process. But there's a lot to do to ensure security for the Olympic Games. We're working very closely with the Greeks on that.

QUESTION: Well, as for the Middle East, did you get anything from Mr. Solana regarding the Syria Accountability Act?

MR. BOUCHER: From Mr. who?

QUESTION: Mr. Solana.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that that was discussed this morning. I wasn't in the meeting, but that was not among the issues that people cited for me.

Let's keep moving around. Let's go there. Sir. Yeah.

QUESTION: Reaction to the Burmese Government's rejection of U.S. criticism of their democratic reforms?

MR. BOUCHER: They're reacting to something I said yesterday about something they said the day before, so rather than getting into a daily back and forth, I think our position on Burma has been pretty well said and pretty well known. The issue is involvement of all the people who represent democracy, who represent the ethnic groups in Burma and who represent the people of Burma and, in fact, received the votes of the people in Burma.

And that's what we want to see and that's what we're watching for. That's a position we've held all along, and it's not a debate that has to be held. The facts of the matter are very, very clear to the whole world, that the voices of the Burmese people have not been allowed to participate in the political process and that the voices of the Burmese people need to be included in any process of change that's undertaken in Burma.

Sir.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on former Secretary Baker's trip next week?

MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Do you have anything to, you know, for former Secretary Baker trip next week?

MR. BOUCHER: The last two words? The second to last word was "next," right?

QUESTION: Next, yes.

MR. BOUCHER: I just want to make sure I heard "this week" or "next week." No, I can tell you where he is this week, but as far as future trips I wouldn't predict. I'm not in a position to announce or predict anything at this point.

QUESTION: Richard, the Japanese are under the impression that he is coming there next week. Do you have any reason to believe that the Japanese are --?

QUESTION: -- grossly mistaken?

QUESTION: Yes. Uninformed about --

MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position here to announce or predict any particular travel by Secretary Baker. We are supporting him on his trips, on his trip he's making this week, and I'm sure we'll support him in any eventual travel that he might undertake.

QUESTION: Is he coming home after Moscow?

MR. BOUCHER: He's coming back to Houston on Friday.

QUESTION: Are you kind of removing yourself, removing the State Department, from the announcement, from the equation of announcing his trips, and will that be done by the White House?

MR. BOUCHER: The last time the White House and we announced it at the same day, more or less the same time. So we're happy to help you with that. It's just I'm not going so far off in to the future as to predict what Secretary Baker is going to do.

QUESTION: So far off into the future? It's three days.

MR. BOUCHER: What he might be doing next week. That's right.

QUESTION: It seems as if he's making some success. Has he, by chance, been in touch with the Secretary?

MR. BOUCHER: He hasn't been in touch with the Secretary. The Secretary has been otherwise occupied, and, of course, Secretary Baker has been pretty busy in terms of the places that he's going to.

He issued yesterday a statement describing his discussions with France and Germany, a statement that was issued at the White House for us. It describes the progress that he's made. This is a very important and welcome step forward. Three key creditor countries have now agreed that there should be substantial debt reduction for Iraq in the Paris Club in 2004. Former Secretary Baker has been in Italy and the United Kingdom today, and after that will continue on to Russia before he returns home to Houston.

In these meetings he will continue to expand the circle to include more of the creditor countries for Iraq in the arrangements for reducing and rescheduling Iraq's debt.

That, we think, is a very important development. We have supported him through our embassies. We have assigned a senior economic official to go with him and support him during the trip. And so we are getting reports back, but we always remember he does -- he's going on this mission for the President and he will report back to the President.

QUESTION: But since you're in the hints of the subject, is it -- is his success attributable to his powers of persuasion alone, or is the U.S. giving ground on contracts and other irritations that made his job a little more difficult?

MR. BOUCHER: I would leave it to Secretary Baker to describe his success and the reasons therefore.

QUESTION: Richard, were you reading yesterday's statement when you say three key creditor countries? And by that, do you mean the United States, France and Germany? Or are you saying that the Italians are now on board as well?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not adding at this point. I'm reading --

QUESTION: So the three is U.S., Germany and France?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. So there was an agreement of three countries.

QUESTION: So that means you don't have -- you don't have --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not updating it with -- I'm not adding to it yet. I'm just saying he's -- us, the French, the Germans are on board, and he'll be --

QUESTION: Does that mean the Italians haven't signed on?

MR. BOUCHER: It just means I don't have any instant updates for you on Italy and the UK.

QUESTION: When you said expanding the circle, were you -- I presume you were just talking about the other countries that he's going to visit this week. You're not talking about any other countries or any other --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not announcing or predicting any future travel.

QUESTION: That was my question. My guess is that when you're saying expanding the circle you're talking about the other places he's going this week; you're not talking about other talks he may be having on the phone or any other way with other --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm talking about the places he's visiting today and tomorrow.

QUESTION: Do you know where he'll be Christmas?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't know where you'll be on Christmas, either. I'm afraid I'm not in a position to predict other people's Christmas plans, either.

QUESTION: We're just trying to -- I mean, Mr. Baker has always been known to be very open, but still we'd like to file from here a little notion of where onward from Moscow, if there is an onward.

MR. BOUCHER: Houston.

QUESTION: Houston, okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay?

QUESTION: Is there anything to add -- Texas oil people to do about the debt burden?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any particularly Texas angle on this story here. I don't think they have any sovereign debt with Texas.

QUESTION: Mr. Solana said this morning that he would have liked to see the contract announcement coordinated better with Baker's trip. Was that a major topic of his discussion with Secretary Armitage, even though they both came out saying that's behind us and things are going fine? Did they talk about the disappointment and disgruntlement among, with the Europeans?

MR. BOUCHER: My understanding from people who were in the meeting was that that was not a major topic. I think he was responding to a press question. They talked about the transatlantic dialogue, the transatlantic relationship, and how the United States and Europe both benefit when we keep an active dialogue going; how the conversations that we have been having about things like NATO, European Union, cooperation on issues of defense, have been successful, with cooperation in the Balkans, cooperation in Afghanistan among NATO members, for example; that these are the product of a very active dialogue between the United States and Europe and how that's essential to our relationship as we head forward. And so they looked at ways to continue to enhance that cooperation.

QUESTION: And you didn't get the sense that there is still a high level of irritation -- a high level of unhappiness or --

QUESTION: Neuralgia.

QUESTION: Yeah, neuralgia, coming from the Europeans?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, it was not a significant topic. It was a -- the meeting was about the transatlantic dialogue and about how well we've been doing and about how we can continue to do even more on the transatlantic dialogue to work together on many of these issues.

As you know, High Representative Solana is involved in the creation of, the working of this European Security Strategy, which in many ways is complimentary and dovetails with our own. So that's another area where we need to work and we're going to be working together and talking to each other about the common strategy general approach to the world.

QUESTION: Was there enough there on the Middle East for you to say a few words?

MR. BOUCHER: They touched on things like the war against terrorism. They touched on the Quartet and the roadmap process. In terms of the Middle East, they really concentrated on the situation in Iraq and the situation vis--vis Iran.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MR. BOUCHER: We've got more in the back. Sorry. We've got guys in the back that have been waiting. Sir.

Norman.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on President Chen Shui-bian's interview with the Financial Times, you know, which he said if China test-fires missiles toward Taiwan, he would consider that the use of force and he would rescind his "four no's" pledge?

MR. BOUCHER: Without trying to comment on every statement that gets made day by day, I think our overall policy has been clear and continues to be clear. We have opposed any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the Taiwan Straits. We have made clear that the use of force to resolve cross-strait differences is unacceptable and we have urged both sides to restrain from actions or statements that increase tensions or make dialogue more difficult. So that remains our position.

QUESTION: Also --

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. BOUCHER: Let's let the man follow up on this.

QUESTION: Okay. In your assessment, since the President's remarks, you know, on December the 9th during his meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jaibao, has the situation improved anyway, or it still continues to be a standoff? Because the President made it clear he opposes any so-called "defensive referendum" which might lead toward independence. And President Chen, on the other hand, has made it clear he's going to go ahead with this referendum. So there's a --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I'm not here to do assessments or political commentary. I'm here to tell you what the policy of the United States Government is. It was clearly stated by the President and we've stated it again clearly today.

QUESTION: The question was about a potential action and a potential response. And so when you caution against unilateral action, is that addressed to the Chinese test firing, or is addressed to what Taiwan might do in response unilaterally?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I said two things.

QUESTION: I know you did. Restraint -- you always -- yeah, I know restraint is part of the --

MR. BOUCHER: I said three things.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, I know the formula, but I'm just wondering if you --

MR. BOUCHER: I said no unilateral action, don't try to use force or coercion to try to solve cross-strait differences, and we urge both sides to refrain from actions or statements that increase tensions and make dialogue more difficult.

QUESTION: Would it be fair to --

MR. BOUCHER: I think all of -- each of those would probably apply to each of the situations you're speculating on.

QUESTION: Richard, were you going to comment on expectations of Kuwait and Iran, that their grievances against Saddam Hussein would be heard in the tribunal?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can comment at this point. There are a number of issues that we need to work through as we head towards a trial for Saddam Hussein. The President has made abundantly clear it needs to be an Iraqi-led process that is fair, that is open, and that satisfies the international community in terms of the quality of justice and the punishment and accountability for the crimes that, all the crimes that Saddam Hussein has perpetrated during the course of his rule.

But final decisions on particular charges, statements, courts, things like that, it's much too early to speculate. It will take some time to work through all the various issues that are raised.

QUESTION: I noticed you said all the crimes, though. This implies beyond Iraq.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I think, again, I don't want to try to imply anything by that about the -- we're aware of the many, many crimes he committed in various forms. I don't want to try to speculate on what the charges might end up being in an eventual prosecution so I don't want to imply, just -- I don't -- I'm not trying to imply that. Sorry.

Sir.

QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of State of Qatar Emir Hamad bin Jasim was supposed to be visiting Washington. There was a scheduled visit for him last week and press reports today were talking about National Security Council officials being irritated about the Al-Jazeera TV and that he did not do enough firing in the station, that they were so upset and they downgraded the level of officials that he was going to supposed to meet here. Could you please clarify the reason why he canceled his visit?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to get three pieces that -- first of all, the Foreign Minister canceled his visit, as you note, and so I'd really have to refer you to the Government of Qatar for any further explanation of why he canceled his visit. Arrangements were being made, had been made for a visit to Washington that included senior meetings that were already scheduled at the State Department here.

I would point out on the general point that Qatar is a close friend and partner in the region with whom we consult closely and regularly on a broad array of bilateral and regional issues, working together in the campaign against terrorism and terrorism financing. Our cooperation has been outstanding.

I'd point out the Deputy Secretary talked to the Foreign Minister on Monday about the capture of Saddam Hussein, and the Secretary had a very positive visit in Qatar just last June.

We've also looked at Qatar's new constitution, which demonstrates a commitment to protect individual rights and freedom, provides for an elected legislature, and we see that as an important development for Qatar and the region.

As far as the issue of Al-Jazeera goes, once again, I'd say we stand for freedom of the press and we regard the principles of a free press as standards that all governments should aspire to and all media should aspire to, for that matter. We have expressed publicly our deep concern about Al-Jazeera's past broadcasting of inflammatory al-Qaida tapes, and I think that's well-known as well.

QUESTION: So are you trying to say that the -- his meetings were not -- you decided to give him lower -- meetings with lower level officials instead of --

MR. BOUCHER: As far as State Department goes, he had meetings at senior levels already scheduled here, and as I mentioned, we've had fairly recent contact at senior levels with the Foreign Minister as well.

QUESTION: But the Foreign Minister, or the Qataris, weren't apparently senior enough to get the Vice President or Dr. Rice to schedule an interview?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't comment on meetings at the White House that may or may not have been scheduled. But for our part, we were looking forward to a visit and senior meetings.

QUESTION: So he would have seen Armitage? He wouldn't have seen Armitage, had they kept their visit?

MR. BOUCHER: He wouldn't have?

QUESTION: No, would he have seen Armitage?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly who the meetings were scheduled with. I'll have to check on that.

QUESTION: Isn't this the second visit that he's canceled?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'll have to ask him.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: No, we've got one more way in the back. Sorry.

Ma'am.

QUESTION: Do you have a comment to the interview of the Austrian politician [inaudible] Haider who said yesterday it's not sure if the Americans kept the real Saddam Hussein, if they captured a double, who called it a second-rate comedy by Americans, the capture of Saddam Hussein, and who said for him it's a difficult choice between Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush because both violated human rights and international law?

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see those comments. That all sounds pretty silly.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

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