State Department Noon Briefing, December 18, 2003

 

Thursday December 18, 2003

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
December 18, 2003
12:35 p.m. EST

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

IRAQ
-- Program to Employ Iraqi Scientists
-- Goals of the Program
-- Iraqi International Center for Science and Industry
-- Initial Six-Month Program Costs
-- Qualifications of Scientists Participating
-- Iraq Survey Group/David Kay
-- State Department's Role in Administering Program
-- Scientific Community's Role in Reconstruction
-- Number of Scientists Participating
-- Possible Exchanges Between U.S. and Iraqi Scientists
-- Additional Long-Term Program Funding
-- Former Secretary Baker's Consultations in Europe/Debt
-- Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra/Wall Street Journal
-- Iraqi Tribunal for Saddam Hussein

IRAN
-- Commitment to Inspections
-- Implementing the Additional Protocol

SAUDI ARABIA
-- Authorized Departure

CYPRUS
-- Annan Plan/Reaction to Turkish Proposals

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
-- Ambassador Satterfield's Consultations
-- Reaction to Prime Minister Sharon's Foreign Policy Address

PAKISTAN
-- Musharraf Proposal on a Referendum in Kashmir
-- Upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit

DEPARTMENT
-- Secretary Powell's Medical Condition


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2003
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

12:35 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, ladies and gentlemen. I guess we can start now. First let me make an announcement, read a statement, about a new program that we're launching in Iraq. We are announcing today a two-year program to support the peaceful civilian employment of Iraqi scientists, technicians and engineers who formerly worked on programs for weapons of mass destruction.

Our program has two mutually reinforcing goals: first, to keep Iraqi scientists from providing their expertise to countries of concern or groups of concern; and second of all, to enable them to serve in the economic and technological rebuilding of Iraq.

This program was developed in cooperation between the State Department and the Coalition Provisional Authority but also in consultation with the Iraqis, the Governing Council and the government. I point out that the Iraqi Minister of Science and Industry was in Washington on November 12th meeting with our Deputy Secretary, and they discussed these potential programs for --

QUESTION: When was that?

MR. BOUCHER: November 12th. And they discussed these programs at that time.

The first step in this multi-stage process will be to establish a new United States funded office in Baghdad, the Iraqi International Center for Science and Industry. The center will identify needs and provide funding for specific scientific projects that use the expertise of personnel formerly involved in Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

Initial projects will focus on establishing the priorities for future scientific work, training and long-term cooperation between the United States and Iraqi scientific communities. These projects will begin within six months of the opening of the center and are expected to cost around $2 million. They will be funded by the United States Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund.

Over the next two years, the Iraqi International Center for Science and Industry will work closely with the Iraqi Government to identify, develop and fund activities in support of Iraqi reconstruction. Of fundamental importance will be the need to provide meaningful civilian employment in a democratic Iraq to Iraqis who might have worked on weapons of mass destruction programs.

We'll be giving you a fact sheet on these programs. The initial projects include workshops, training, interviews, seminars, things like that, and also work to begin on a desalination project. So that's --

QUESTION: Are their political views, the political --

MR. BOUCHER: The cost of the initial six-month effort is about $2 million. As we get into then identifying priorities and projects over the longer term, there may be as much as $20 million that would be needed, but that funding hasn't been decided at this point.

Barry.

QUESTION: Is there an assumption here that Iraqi scientists who worked for Saddam Hussein somehow were coerced or politically neutered? You know, I think of Wernher Von Braun. We did this, of course, after World War II. Mort Sahl is out of business now, so somebody has to ask the question. Is there any vetting of these people? Are we confident that they're newly democratic and committed to the best things in Iraq and the best things for the United States?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, their willingness to participate in these programs indicates --

QUESTION: But they're getting paid. Sorry, go ahead.

MR. BOUCHER: -- indicates some willingness to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq. I'm sure that if there are issues that arise with regard to individuals that those issues will be looked at. We have had programs like this in the former Soviet Union. As you know, we've had quite extensive programs in Russia and expanding into other countries as well. If you've noticed, one of the things we've done with some of those programs, add new countries to the places where we do these things.

We're looking at scientists and technicians here, not politicians, not political people --

QUESTION: Have you exhausted whatever might productively be told the U.S. by these scientists about Iraq's programs or is that an ongoing process and perhaps promoted by this gesture?

MR. BOUCHER: This is not an information collection program. This is a program to put people to work, to give them more productive uses of their expertise, their intelligence and their energy than work on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs.

There are other programs. The work of the Iraqi Survey Group continues in terms of collecting information, going through documents, talking to scientists to try to identify the full extent of the programs of the previous regime to develop weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: You said the first step is that within six months of the office opening they were going to do X, Y and Z. When is the office actually going to open, or is it open today? Is there a site for it that's been found?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not that, physically, there is a site for it. I would guess the best answer is that some of these programs will be up and running by February. So, and then within more or less six months from the announcement, sometime soon.

QUESTION: And slightly along the lines of Barry's question, but less specific, have the scientists who will be involved in this been identified yet, or is that part of what is going to be happening in the opening months of the program?

MR. BOUCHER: That is partly what will be happening in the opening months of the program. We're dealing with scientists and technicians here. As you know, over the many years of inspections, a lot is known about Iraq's scientific community and the people who worked on it.

There are facilities and sites that were research labs, or Tuwaitha laboratories, or other places where Iraq worked on nuclear matters or Iraq worked on other things that have been identified. So there are certain entities that are already known to have been associated with these programs, and so we'll look at the people who worked there, first and foremost.

But there are probably hundreds of scientists that might be eligible to participate in these programs, and, we hope, willing to participate in these programs. And so we'll be looking at some of those locations but also making the program more widely known.

QUESTION: And then again, following on Barry's -- what makes one eligible for this?

MR. BOUCHER: Having worked on programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: Is there anything that could disqualify?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure there are. I don't come with a specific list of hiring criteria, but I don't think we'll take just anybody in terms of hiring them to pay a salary.

But our view, the view of the United States as taken on weapons of mass destruction, for example, has been that the United States would be interested in pursuing for prosecution people who might have used weapons of mass destruction. But the people who might have been associated with the programs to develop them, we would not be interested in prosecuting.

QUESTION: And in a related matter, you mentioned the Iraq Survey Group. Do you have any idea what Mr. Kay's intentions are in terms of his continued employment by that group?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I would have to refer you to his employers for that matter. I would say, however, that the work remains a high priority, that the work of the survey group is very important to all of us, and that they continue to work hard to determine the full extent of Iraq's programs in development of weapons of mass destruction.

Chris.

QUESTION: In terms of determining eligibility, would the candidate have to demonstrate or in some way establish that he had worked on weapons of mass destruction, or would you take his word at it? What's the procedure?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, this is the announcement of a program. The forms for people to apply, the qualification statements, those things I don't think have been done yet. But yes, people would have to demonstrate or be known to have worked in these places. There are certain places that are, as I said, that are already known. The Atomic Energy Commission, the Military Industrial Commission -- these are the places that Saddam Hussein used to develop weapons of mass destruction, some of the laboratories like Tuwaitha are known. So people who were employed there and worked there would be able to show that.

The other thing to remember is that Iraq is not as large as the former Soviet Union. The scientific community, particularly the military scientific community, is a relatively defined group of people who have been -- their work locations and they're known to each other and they've been, you know, at times interviewed by the United Nations. So it's easier to get a handle on who this community really was, and therefore to check people out for their bona fides, if you want to call it that, or mala fides, for having been involved in these programs.

QUESTION: I don't know if you said -- answered either of these in your statement, but did the Iraqi civilian authorities approve of this, have a voice in this?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I said we've been doing this in consultation with the Iraqis and pointed to the meeting that Deputy Secretary Armitage had November 12th with the Iraqi Minister of Science and Technology, where he discussed this quite extensively.

QUESTION: And where is their pay drawn from?

MR. BOUCHER: Where is the what?

QUESTION: They're getting paid?

MR. BOUCHER: There will be a stipend and a payment for people who participate in these seminars and training efforts, and then as projects are identified and funded those projects will then hire people who would become part of the programs. For example, the desalination plant will hire scientists to develop a desalination demonstration project.

QUESTION: To what extent, since it's a relatively defined group of people, to what extent is there already believed to be some brain drain? I mean, we certainly know of anecdotes of scientists who have left the country.

MR. BOUCHER: We do, too. And there are anecdotes. There's the potential for scientists to leave and to look for employment elsewhere. But I checked this morning to see if we had any numbers or real confirmation of how much of that might or might not be going on, and we just don't. We hear the stories, we know of the potential, and we wanted to do something fairly early and fairly quickly as this program is unveiled to try to give these people an opportunity to contribute to the future of Iraq.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Just a bureaucratic question. Why is this being done with the State Department, though the State Department, and not the Department of Energy?

MR. BOUCHER: If you look at the programs we have elsewhere, many of them are State Department programs, and, in fact, we have a lot of money in our budget for the former Soviet Union to do programs like this. There are also programs at the Department of Energy. There are also programs at the Department of Defense. We tend to sort of encompass the whole field of nuclear, biological, chemical, missiles -- any weapons of mass destruction -- whereas perhaps some of the other agencies specialize in one or the other.

QUESTION: Richard, did you canvass any of these Iraqi scientists before establishing this program? And if you did, I wonder if you found enthusiasm among them for the prospect of being paid to do something, or if you found any misgivings or worries that they'd be seen as American stooges or that they might be the subject of attacks, like Iraqis who have worked with the Americans?

MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't know if they've done any focus groups or polling or talking to people.

QUESTION: I didn't say focus groups.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I know, but --

QUESTION: I said canvass, which means to have asked them --

MR. BOUCHER: -- if they've done anything --

QUESTION: -- you don't know if you asked them?

MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't know, as I said.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: I was going to include that among the list of things I don't know.

But I would say that these are not projects where we're asking people to identify themselves to the United States. We're giving people an opportunity to contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq, and if you look around Iraq these days, you do find teachers and doctors and scientists and policemen and people joining the civil defense, people joining the army, who are willing to stand up to fight whatever danger there might be, people who are willing to participate in local government councils, people willing to become mayors and deputy mayors, despite the attacks, because they want to contribute to Iraq's future. And we would expect the scientific community to respond similarly.

QUESTION: In your preparations to make this announcement, did you go back and look and -- I remember discussing this a couple weeks ago here, very, much more generally. But do you remember when that was, or did you look and see when that was that you talked about this program?

MR. BOUCHER: I did not look at our previous discussions.

QUESTION: You do remember that though, right?

MR. BOUCHER: I remember the subject's come up from time to time. I think now we have something concrete and specific to announce.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay.

QUESTION: Richard, do you have any comments on the Iranian signing --

MR. BOUCHER: That's called moving on. Let's finish with this first. Sir.

QUESTION: Just a quick one. Did you say or did I miss the potential number of participants?

MR. BOUCHER: Hundreds. There are scientists but this would also involve technicians, so it may involve a somewhat larger community than just the experts who might have been interviewed in the past by the UN. So it's hard to estimate the exact number but there would be hundreds, maybe what one might call the high hundreds.

Sir.

QUESTION: A number of those scientists are self-proclaimed Baathists. Not all Baathists are supportive of Saddam Hussein, that's a fact. Is this going to be overlooked in the future, the membership in the, or previous membership in the Baath Party? Is it going to be overlooked in the efforts to having those scientists or other Iraqis involved in the new Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we've had this question several times already. You've asked it more directly than anybody else. But I am not at this point able to give you sort of the qualifications and the disqualifications, other than to say that we're looking for people who really were involved in these programs and who want to contribute to the future of Iraq.

But how specifically we would evaluate any individual in terms of participation, I think we have to leave that a little bit down the road. I'm not able to give you the employment criteria and disqualifications at this point.

MR. BOUCHER: Sir.

QUESTION: Thank you. $2 million is a very, you know, quite a great amount of money, so can we expect any cooperation from a business society, or what is the cooperation with the academic scientists of this country on this?

MR. BOUCHER: Meaning the United States?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure there will be people who, on the U.S. side, who want to get involved who are looking for exchanges between Iraqi scientists and American scientists. We're looking to try to cooperate and make these cooperative projects as we start to design things that can be done for the reconstruction of Iraq. So I would expect there will be people who want to get involved.

But I would point out the $2 million is the initial funding to establish priorities and design projects, and then we'd be looking for additional funding, perhaps on the order of $20 million to carry out many of the projects that are chosen and identified.

QUESTION: So does that mean up to $22 million, or was it just up to $20 million?

QUESTION: Additional.

MR. BOUCHER: It's not a specific number yet. The expectation is that there may be an additional $20 million, but I can't say that -- we don't have that money yet and we don't have the projects to fund yet, so it may or may not turn out to be that.

QUESTION: And then just one more thing on the eligibility. Given the fact that, thus far, the effort to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has been -- has not been successful to find the actual weapons, how can you be sure that any of these scientists are any good at what they do, or what they were supposed to be doing?

MR. BOUCHER: The fact that Iraq had research and development programs, programs where scientists, unfortunately, made some progress towards weapons of mass destruction, is widely known, has been demonstrated again and again by the United Nations, and is being demonstrated once more by even the preliminary results of the Iraqi Survey Group.

There were scientists developing toxins. There were scientists developing gases. There were scientists who, unfortunately, made the gases that killed thousands and thousands of people in Halabja and on the border with Iran. So there's no doubt that Iran had -- that Iraq had these programs and that there were people involved in creating these horrible agents. But, you know, whether that -- so that, that is the -- those are the people that we're trying to keep out of anybody else's hands and give them a chance to contribute in a positive way to Iraq.

QUESTION: Right, but in the -- but you mentioned the other programs that you've had. Barry went back all the way to Germany, but you, you specifically talked about the Soviet Union, where these scientists -- there were, there were demonstrable results. I mean, you're going back 20 years now, or more than 20 years to look, to say that these people were successful in what they were doing. The fact is, for one reason or --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not claiming success, but it has been known for 20 years or more that Iraq had these programs, and that there were people willing, willing to work in them. It's known from the preliminary reports that David Kay had that they had ongoing research and development programs for chemical and biological weapons, that they had a cadre of nuclear scientists, that they had every intention of redeveloping -- that Saddam Hussein had every intention of redeveloping these programs and expanding them.

How much they achieved in the recent term, as you point out, is still not known until David Kay finishes his report. But it's quite clear that there were people working on these programs.

QUESTION: Can we move along?

MR. BOUCHER: One more question on this.

QUESTION: No. On Iran --

MR. BOUCHER: All right. If it's no, then we go to Barry.

QUESTION: Mr. Brill thought this was a step in the right direction that Iran had taken by agreeing to unfettered international inspection. Others might focus on what they actually do to implement this promise. What is the State Department's view of this? Is this a monumental concession by Iran?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't use words like "monumental." I would agree with Ambassador Brill, as he said, that it's a useful step. It's welcome that Iran has made this commitment, but what's important to remember is that it is only a first step. Iran needs to bring this into force, needs to ratify the additional protocol that is now signed. And above all, it needs to implement the programs that they've agreed to.

For the part of the IAEA, they need to ensure that there is rigorous verification of the protocol's implementation because Iran does have a history of deception in this area, as demonstrated by the information the IAEA has been able to report over the past several months.

So we look to Iran to implement this, to carry out its promises in signing the protocol, and also to keep its promises to give full cooperation and transparency to the International Atomic Energy Agency's ongoing investigation into Iran's nuclear activities; and furthermore, to suspend all enrichment-related reprocessing activity as the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors has insisted.

Fundamentally, for the international community to have full confidence in Iran's nuclear program, they're going to need to abandon enrichment and reprocessing, and they're going to need to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Agency in allowing everything that the protocol provides for and in answering all the questions they've been asked.

QUESTION: I think you're saying, at least that you hope, but do you expect that inspection will get to enrichment, which is I guess, now, the primary concern? You can go ahead with a nuclear program, a country can, and be part of the NPT. I mean, but anyhow -- do you -- are you confident -- is the U.S. confident that the enrichment program will be supervised now? And are you setting aside, at least for now, any threat of sanctions? Are you satisfied you've seen enough to, you know, sidetrack that for a bit?

MR. BOUCHER: We have agreed with other members of the Board of Governors that we will continue to watch this program very closely to make sure that Iran does implement all its promises. The signature alone doesn't implement the promises, it doesn't suspend the enrichment program, and it doesn't fully satisfy the international community that Iran is not going to carry out activities relating to nuclear weapons. So it's, as I said, a useful step that they've signed, but actual implementation and then verification are the important steps now.

QUESTION: And sanctions is --

MR. BOUCHER: We've kept this under advisement, together with other members of the Board of Governors. I can't remember exactly what the time delay was on the -- the time limit on the last decision, but there are meetings coming up in the new year where the Board of Governors will keep looking at Iran's actions to see not only whether they've signed, but whether they've allowed the inspections, whether they've answered the questions, whether they've suspended the programs and carried out all the other promises that they have been making.

QUESTION: Richard, is there any chance in exploring with the United Nations and other groups the possibility of implementing a similar type program that you've just spoken about Iraq with Iranian scientists, and also, perhaps, with Hans Blix and Mr. ElBaradei?

MR. BOUCHER: I've not heard any discussion about it at this point.

QUESTION: Richard, do you have any expectations on how long it may take Iran to ratify the additional protocol? Have they given any indications to the IAEA about when that may happen?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, but you'd have to ask the Iranians about that. I've seen, I think, some quotes today from Iranians in Vienna, but didn't contain that information.

QUESTION: Can you update us on Jim Baker, James Baker's mission in Europe? And can you tell us whether he has any plans to go anywhere else?

MR. BOUCHER: You keep limiting my options here to answer your questions. I was just about to tell you Houston, but no, I don't have anything beyond Houston. At this point, we don't have anything to announce on Secretary Baker's further travel.

As you know, he's had very productive meetings with Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi yesterday and with Prime Minister Blair of the United Kingdom today. We certainly welcome the statements that both prime ministers have made supporting substantial debt reduction for Iraq in the Paris Club in 2004. He's now in Russia, his last stop overseas before he returns home.

QUESTION: Could you (inaudible) on that? Can you go into the Saudi Advisory a little bit? Do you happen to know this early in the game if people are picking up on the opportunity to leave at government expense? And, you know, anything you could add to the statement yesterday as to what brought this about -- the general climate or something new and threatening?

MR. BOUCHER: The Advisory permits employees who want to leave -- non-emergency employees and eligible family members -- to take this opportunity to leave Saudi Arabia if they choose to do so. This Authorized Departure gets reevaluated every 30 days, so we look at that, at that status every 30 days. And I would add that we are advising Americans, private Americans who are currently in Saudi Arabia, to carefully evaluate their own security situations and to consider departing at this time as well.

The Advisory was issued based on the credible threat information that prompted our earlier travel warnings, and a continuation of that threat. We're always looking at the threat environment in any given country. We're quite aware of the very active effort that Saudi Arabia has mounted against terrorist cells and terrorists since earlier this year, in particular, since May 12th, the bombing in Saudi Arabia.

We certainly appreciate that effort. They have indeed been able to round up and knock out a number of terrorist cells that were in Saudi Arabia, and that makes people safer, but we also know and they know that there are others who still may be hiding, who still may be there who will have intentions to attack Americans, Westerners, diplomats and even private people, and who carried out terrible bombings that killed many Arabs and others as well.

So we just felt that in light of the continuation of that threat, that it was prudent at this time to offer our employees this opportunity, for non-emergency employees and their family members to depart if they wanted to.

QUESTION: Do you happen to know if -- how the offer is going?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if any have left yet. I'm sure many -- some are making plans. We will not be in a position to give you any numbers just for security reasons. We don't want anybody counting how many potential American targets there are in any given location.

QUESTION: On this, Richard, do you recall when the last authorized departure was lifted? I believe it was put in place in May after the bombing. How long had these people been not covered by -- not covered by the program?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I don't recall. And I was just trying to see if it was back there somewhere. I'll have to get that information for you.

Sir.

QUESTION: Yes, Turkish Foreign Minister yesterday, he announced that they will release the new Turkish Government Cyprus plan next week. At the same time, Mr. Weston is in the island right now and he said that he made, at the press conference, and he said that the only solution in the Cyprus problem is the --

MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me. Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Only solution is the Annan plan. Is it means is the U.S. doesn't support any other than the Annan plan for the Cyprus?

MR. BOUCHER: The United States has consistently made clear our support for the Annan plan. We believe that is the solution that needs to be looked at now by all the parties. We're obviously interested in ideas and thoughts that the Turkish Government might have, but we are looking for all the parties to support the Annan plan and to get back together and start working on that basis.

Sir.

QUESTION: Can you give us anything on Satterfield's travels, how that's gone?

MR. BOUCHER: This is one day I don't have an update of Satterfield's travels. Maybe I do. It's in there. Okay. It's in the book, not in my head.

Okay. We told you about the meeting in Jerusalem on December 15th, where Deputy Assistant Secretary Satterfield met with Israeli and Palestinian representatives to talk about a practical agenda to improve the lives of Palestinians. Both Israelis and Palestinians gave detailed presentations, and we appreciate the fact there was a frank and constructive dialogue at the meeting.

There were two key topics: one is increasing economic cooperation between Palestinians, Israelis and the donor community, and second of all, addressing the humanitarian situation of Palestinians.

We're encouraged by that effort. We hope the parties will now focus on concrete steps to move forward.

Ambassador Satterfield is presently in Cairo having meetings with senior Egyptian officials. He's talking about various bilateral and multilateral issues, including, obviously, our coordinated -- our efforts together and separately to pursue Middle East peace. He'll be back in Washington this weekend. Okay.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Sharon is in the process of announcing certain steps today that amount to what the Middle East has looked at as steps that are unilateral steps that don't agree with the roadmap. What is your position, the United States position on unilateral action by any sides? Again, I mean, you talked about it before, but today it will have, or it will carry, I see, you know, specific meaning, probably.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I can't give it specific meaning, because he's giving the speech and I'm here. We'll have to look at what he says, and obviously we'll study carefully anything the Prime Minister of Israel says. We'll look at the speech and when we have some analysis or something to say about it, we'll give it to you. We have previously discussed the issues of -- that have been rumored and talked about as part of the speech, but at this point let's just see what he did say and we'll find out if we need to react further or not.

QUESTION: Well, I think a few days ago, sir, that you mentioned that unilateral steps were -- that the United States objects to unilateral steps that would -- would you --

MR. BOUCHER: We have consistently made clear that we don't look to either side to try to settle these -- settle all these complicated issues by unilateral imposition or steps. We think that these issues need to be negotiated for there to be a true settlement. But whether that is or is not part of the Prime Minister's speech, whether that remark applies or doesn't apply to the Prime Minister's speech today, I don't know. We'll have to see what he says and we'll have to see what
what he's intend -- what he's planning on doing.

QUESTION: I'm confused now. Didn't you say just the other day, maybe yesterday or the day before, that you would welcome steps, even if they were unilateral, on the settlement, on withdrawing from settlements? Did -- maybe I misunderstood you when you said -- I thought that's what you said.

MR. BOUCHER: I tried at one point to put everything into one sentence and I'll stay with that sentence. He asked me about one aspect of it, I answered today. You're asking me about another. Yes. The answer is yes to your question, but I'll stick with the way we phrased it the other day if I can. I'm not going to try to rephrase it again.

QUESTION: Okay, so but nothing has changed from essentially what you said the other day?

MR. BOUCHER: Nothing's changed since we discussed this issue more extensively the other day.

QUESTION: Richard, this is, I guess, an ongoing conference at Herzliya, and yesterday Prime Minister -- or Foreign Minister Shalom spoke and basically says, I guess in his comments, he's not totally in line with what Prime Minister Sharon would think. And also Joschka Fischer spoke yesterday from Germany. Is it -- this is more of a think-tank type conference. Are you monitoring that with Ambassador Satterfield and others?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Our people in the field always pay close attention to these kinds of conferences. We're obviously interested in what various Israeli Government officials say, or nongovernment officials, political leaders and others in society. That's why we have embassies out there to follow what's going on.

QUESTION: Pakistani President Musharraf appears to have offered to drop the longstanding Pakistani insistence on a UN-mandated plebiscite in Kashmir, and I wonder if you have any comment on that.

MR. BOUCHER: The United States welcomes the proposal by President Musharraf that's been reported in the press. We think it's constructive to relinquish the demand for referendum on the status of Kashmir, if those reports prove to be accurate and it seems they are. We believe that engagement in confidence-building measures such as those recently adopted by both sides, move India and Pakistan towards establishing more normal relations, build the momentum for peace. We're pleased by the recent steps that both countries have taken.

We also look forward to a productive South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit in Islamabad in early January.

QUESTION: Could you update us on Secretary Powell, when he may be able to go home, his visit with the President? Any transatlantic phone calls?

MR. BOUCHER: Secretary Powell's home.

QUESTION: Oh.

MR. BOUCHER: Secretary Powell went home this morning from Walter Reed. He did meet with the President at Walter Reed this morning. The Secretary, as usual, was up and making phone calls to his Deputy and sending emails to others quite early this morning. Not quite as early as yesterday morning, but I think he was clocked in about quarter of seven or twenty of seven this morning, as usual.

So he went home shortly before noon this morning and will be there on a reduced schedule, but at home now for --

QUESTION: He'll be at home? What does that mean?

MR. BOUCHER: He will be at home and he will not be working as hard as he does when he is at the office. May not be work -- I wouldn't predict that. But no, he'll be at home now recuperating.

QUESTION: How is he doing?

MR. BOUCHER: He's doing well. By all reports, he's doing fine, up and around, was quite eager to get out of the hospital and to get home. So he's doing well.

QUESTION: Does that mean that he would have preferred to have left before today, but hung around to see the President?

MR. BOUCHER: No, he stayed as long as his doctors felt it was necessary for him to be at the hospital.

QUESTION: He's going to come back and work a normal schedule in early January?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we'd expect him to be back on a normal schedule first thing in the new year.

QUESTION: First thing in the near year?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: I meant to follow up before on Satterfield. Will he remain in the region beyond Cairo?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I said he's coming back this weekend.

QUESTION: Richard, is your orchestra spat with the Wall Street Journal over? Or are you still looking for --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I've seen yet a report on the actual visit of the orchestra in that newspaper, but maybe I missed it.

QUESTION: So it's not over yet?

MR. BOUCHER: We wrote the letter last Thursday when they wrote the article, and it appeared, my letter appeared today. But I don't think in the intervening time I've seen any reporting on the actual visit of the orchestra. But, thankfully, there were 200-some publications and perhaps over 200 video stories that we clocked as well on the visit of the orchestra, so Americans have a way to understand what happened during this visit that we thought was quite significant and certainly most welcome to all of us.

QUESTION: So in other words, no?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: The spat isn't over?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't call it a spat. I merely took an opportunity to point out a few facts to the readers of the Wall Street Journal which I felt they might want to know, and which I had not seen otherwise reported in their newspaper.

QUESTION: Richard, what is your reaction toward what looks to be Arab defense attorneys getting together and ganging up a defense group for Saddam Hussein, and they appear to be very anti-U.S. and coalition?

MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen that. I don't know what group you're talking about. I think we, under the rules -- first of all, we would expect there to be the right to counsel and all basic legal protections in any trial that took place. The President said he wants to make sure it's fair, it's open, that it meets -- that it's satisfactory in the eyes of the international community.

The Iraqi tribunal that they have set up provides for legal counsel, provides for basic rights and protections. So I think everybody has agreed that there will be legal representation and a fair trial.

Ma'am.

QUESTION: On SARS. Taiwan reported a SARS case two days ago, and this somehow reminded us of Taiwan's unsuccessful effort to pursue -- even send observer to the World Health Organization back earlier this year. Do you have anything new on this?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything new. We have a position that's been well known for a long time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)

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