State Department Noon Briefing, January 16, 2004
|Friday January 16,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
FRIDAY, JANUARY 16, 2004
1:00 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I think we're about ready. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I do have countless statements, four or five -- three or four things I wanted to tell you about at the top, all somehow having to do with today.
QUESTION: Is there a theme here?
MR. BOUCHER: No, there's not, actually. It's a number of different things that I just wanted to call your attention to up front. So let me go through with them.
The first one is to tell you that Secretary Powell will be traveling to Tbilisi, Georgia and Moscow, Russia next week. He'll depart Washington next Friday, January 23, return to Washington on Tuesday, January 27th. In Tbilisi, Secretary Powell will attend the inauguration of President-elect Mikhail Saakashvili on Sunday, January 25th. In Moscow, the Secretary will meet with Foreign Minister Ivanov and expects to meet with President Putin as well as with representatives of business, civil society and the media. Press office will handle the usual arrangements for people getting seats on the airplane.
Questions about that?
QUESTION: Well, kind of -- you don't want to have a two-hour briefing, but could you try to capsule the state of U.S. relations with Russia? Now, that's asking too much probably. But is it good or is it --
MR. BOUCHER: That's kind of a two-hour briefing and I understand some of you had a chance to talk very recently with our Ambassador to Moscow and he's made speeches around town --
QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Some of us did.
MR. BOUCHER: -- so that we've tried to do that for you. The -- I think the two-sentence version is that our cooperation with Moscow on issues of fundamental strategic importance to the United States and to Russia has been very good and has been able to continue improving. At the same time, we have also a strong interest in developments within Russia and we found occasion to raise those with the Russians as well.
QUESTION: Can I ask a quick one on top of that? Russia carries the biggest burden -- I mean, the debt -- oh, boy. Russia has the biggest bill so far as Iraqi debt, something like $8 billion, and they've offered to cooperate. It's unclear if they mean the Paris Club parameters of two-thirds, blah, blah, blah. Is this --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the Paris Club has set parameters yet.
QUESTION: No, I think they have a general guideline, but that's all right.
Putting that aside, is the Secretary apt to bring good news to Mr. Putin on contracts, primary contracts, for Russia?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if the contracting issue will come up or not. As you know, we have said that the -- the President said, first of all, Canada can be added to the list, and second of all, said further that as circumstances might change, as we look at what other countries are doing there, the contracting could change as well.
So I'm not -- I don't expect we have any particular news to convey at that moment, but we'll just have to see. That's ten days down the road.
I expect that Iraq will be a major subject of discussion, as will Afghanistan, as will the common fight against terrorism that we and the Russians are involved in. And you get to the Middle East, you get to almost every part of the world, as well as the United Nations, U.S.-Russia relations, economics situation in Russia. So there's a vast number of subjects that we talk about and work with the Russians on these days. And all -- many of these things are very positive. Some do raise concerns.
QUESTION: Do you expect Mr. Khodorkovsky's case and the issue of rule of law generally to come up?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, it's one of those things that's certainly part of that picture of developments within Russia, some of which have raised concerns with us. I'd have to say it's possible. We'll also be meeting with business and civil society people. Many of them are likely to talk about it and give us their opinions.
QUESTION: Just on the -- does -- in Tbilisi, other than meeting with the new President and some of his aides, there presumably will be other foreign ministers there, including Mr. Ivanov, I would expect. Does he plan -- are there any other --
MR. BOUCHER: I think Foreign Minister Ivanov will be there. I don't know that they need to take the time to sit down for a separate meeting in Tbilisi if they're seeing each other extensively the next day in Moscow.
QUESTION: So Georgia is just Georgia?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, Georgia -- no. But as you point out, rather than just focusing on Mr. Ivanov, there will be other foreign ministers there, and it is very likely that he might meet with some of the other foreign ministers who will be there, but not necessarily Mr. Ivanov.
QUESTION: This is the near abroad group? That kind of grouping, do you think?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it will be a kind of grouping. The Georgians are doing the invitations for their inauguration, so they will be inviting some of their neighbors. There may be some representing other parts of the world. I'm not sure how far and wide. But it may be an opportunity to meet, for example, with some of the people in the neighborhood.
QUESTION: On the contracts issue, can you confirm that the Administration is considering expanding the primary contracts?
MR. BOUCHER: That's -- I answered that question as much as I can, but let's stick with the trip to Moscow for a bit and then I'll go on to the other statements before we do anything else.
Okay? Still on this?
QUESTION: Actually, will the Secretary be meeting with Mr. Shevardnadze?
MR. BOUCHER: He'll have a number of meetings in addition to the meetings with the leadership. I expect he'll meet other members of the Georgian leadership -- the President, the new President. And I just don't have a firm, complete schedule with you, but he'll meet with other members of Georgian society. So I can't say for sure at this point, but it's possible.
QUESTION: The Council on Foreign Relations is saying, in -- relative to Georgia, that the Administration should be giving even more money than it is now to help consolidate the government there after Shevardnadze. Is the Secretary likely to be bringing any kind of monetary gift with him?
MR. BOUCHER: We just had an important visit out to Georgia about two weeks ago, I think it was, by Deputy Assistant Secretary Linn Pascoe. It was reported in the press. He went out there, looked at how we can help the Georgians, I think made some new commitments of funds.
Our support for the Georgians has been longstanding, it's been ongoing, it's been very solid. In the 2004 budget, I think we have $164 million of support for Georgia. So I would expect significant U.S. support to continue. The occasion of a presidential inauguration is not necessarily the time to make new pledges or write checks.
Okay. Second one, I think some of you have noticed the -- our curator for the 8th floor, the man who brought us the wonderful rooms we have up there, Mr. Clement Conger, has passed away. So if I can, I'd like to read a statement on behalf of the Secretary of State:
"I note with sadness the passing of Clement Conger, a long time dedicated friend of the State Department. Mr. Conger left to all of us a wonderful gift of our Eighth Floor Diplomatic Reception Rooms. As the Department's Curator and Deputy Chief of Protocol, he spent many years collecting art and furnishings of incredible beauty and value, putting it all together to create a part of American history here in our building. Every day we're proud to share Mr. Conger's legacy with friends, guests from around the world, and I extend my deepest condolences to the Conger family."
I wanted to remind you that this afternoon we'll have a briefing in this room at 3 p.m. by Under Secretary of State Grossman and Assistant Secretary of State Noriega on the Bolivia Support Group meeting that is being held and that probably just wrapped up.
And, finally, we'll be putting out a note with some detail on the new next round of Foreign Service Exams coming up on April 24th. Registration has now opened. All of you can sign up. I know I encouraged all of the journalist friends last year to sign up, but I'm not sure how many actually did. But registration is open for this year's Foreign Service Written Exam. Details are in the media note that we'll be issuing today. Deadlines for registration are March 24th in the United States and March 17th overseas and the exam will be held on April 24th of this year.
QUESTION: Richard, may I?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, Charlie.
QUESTION: If a journalist passes that exam, does he or she get to go above the second floor in this building?
MR. BOUCHER: As long as you can pass the security clearance, yeah.
QUESTION: Do you know anything about Hamas and Hezbollah operating --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's finish with the Foreign Service Exam --
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: -- and then we'll go to questions starting with Mr. Schweid.
QUESTION: Well, not necessarily the Foreign Service exam, which I'm not going to take, but I was going to ask you about --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there's -- well, I'll check on the age limits for you.
QUESTION: Well, I have a cousin in the Foreign Service, that's enough. Consular Affairs. On the Secretary, is he seeing Mr. Bremer separately today? Was he at the White House -- or, I guess the White House meeting was -- maybe it hasn't started yet. And will there be any opportunity here to talk to the Secretary and Mr. Bremer?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, yes, yes, and no.
QUESTION: No opportunity?
MR. BOUCHER: Exactly. The Secretary was at the White House this morning for meetings with other members of the Administration and I believe Ambassador Bremer was there. Ambassador Bremer meets this afternoon with the President. The Secretary will be participating in that as well. And then we expect this afternoon Ambassador Bremer will be over here for a meeting with the Secretary later in the day. The Secretary, probably Ambassador Frank Ricciardone, who is now working the transition for us, will have a chance to talk to Mr. Bremer in -- Ambassador Bremer in more detail about some of the questions that are on our agenda as well.
QUESTION: You don't mean just --
MR. BOUCHER: And does --
QUESTION: You're including the UN as well as your agenda?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, yeah.
QUESTION: That was talking about Monday as well, then?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. No, that's -- I mean, there are many subjects being discussed: the state of affairs in Iraq; the political transition that's undergoing, underway; the meeting that will -- especially the meeting that will be held in New York on Monday about how we can get the UN more involved in the political transition, what we can do for the UN's security needs, things like that; and as well as the issues of moving from Ambassador Bremer's structure of the Coalition Authority to the new structure that will take over for the United States when the Iraqis have a transitional administration.
I don't anticipate any separate event over here for the press with Ambassador Bremer or the Secretary.
If that's all the questions -- no. We'll go on.
QUESTION: Do you know anything --
QUESTION: On that, Richard, can you tell us the time of the Secretary's meeting with Bremer?
MR. BOUCHER: It's 3:30, 4 o'clock, something like that. But, again, I don't know how he's coming in and out. I am not encouraging people to go out and stand in the cold. I'm discouraging people from going out and standing in the cold.
QUESTION: Does that mean he won't be coming in C Street, as far as you know?
MR. BOUCHER: That means I don't know how he's coming in, but I'm not promising anything at all, even a glimpse or a sighting.
QUESTION: Do you know anything --
QUESTION: Can we stay on Bremer?
QUESTION: Please, may I ask my question?
MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me. The protocol over here is we try to finish with one topic before we move on to the next. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Okay, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: I just want to ask about -- is there some part -- is there something different that's going to be talked about here with -- more logistical or something? Why have the Secretary meet three times in one -- three separate times in one day with Mr. Bremer?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that the only answer is there's a lot to talk about, and second of all, that these meetings are in different configurations because some subjects are -- will be discussed in some meetings and some in others.
The Secretary and Ambassador Bremer have been very close, in constant touch throughout the period that he's been out there, whether it's electronically or in person, and so it's not unusual that they meet separately and have things to talk about.
QUESTION: What might be discussed here that wouldn't be discussed --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I expect the Secretary will be talking to him about a lot of different things, but over here what's a little different than some of the meetings that we might have with larger groups is that we have a transition process from his apparatus to ours to plan; and to work on that together so that particularly by having Ambassador Ricciardone there, who is in charge of planning that transition for us, it will be a chance for them to focus a little more on those issues than you might do in front of the President or with all the members of the National Security team.
Okay. Are we done with this? No?
QUESTION: Richard, just to clarify, is this going to be a series of meetings that Ambassador Bremer will hold here, or is Ambassador Ricciardone going to be part of the meeting with the Secretary?
MR. BOUCHER: I think he's joining the President -- joining the Secretary at that meeting.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
MR. BOUCHER: Paul.
QUESTION: On Iraq reconstruction -- I don't know if that's in the category -- but you gave the answer on Russia. I just want to make sure it applies to France as well, because the French Defense Minister was here today and she's talked about --
MR. BOUCHER: I apply it to every country in the universe except for Canada. Things can change as circumstances change, but nothing new to announce.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you know anything about Hamas and Hezbollah operating openly in southern Iraq, and does the Administration have a policy on this?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know anything about Hamas and Hezbollah in Iraq. I don't know if there's any information available from the coalition about -- and the military about what they might be seeing out there.
And our policy on any terrorist group is that they shouldn't be allowed -- shouldn't be in Iraq, shouldn't be allowed to operate in Iraq, and we'll stop them if we can get them.
QUESTION: While we'll there, on the subject of Hamas and other groups of that nature, you have in Jerusalem a senior Israeli official warning that the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin, was marked for death. And of course, that calls for all sorts of questions here.
But is the United States trying to deter what would be an assassination, I suppose? Have you weighed in with a view? Do you want to weigh in now with a view? And if you do, do you want to say what's different about what Israel faces as against what the U.S. faces in places like Iraq?
However you want to deal with it.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me talk about this specific issue. And it's really just to remind you of our fundamental policy on these things, that we recognize Israel has a right to defend itself. There is no excuse for violence and terrorist attacks, and we've called on the Palestinian Authority to take action to ensure that these groups, like Hamas, are not able to carry out these attacks and that the violence that has hurt so many civilians and undermined the hopes and dreams of the Palestinian people is brought to an end.
While Israel does have the right to defend itself, we have also made clear that Israel needs to consider the consequences of any actions that it might be contemplating. Progress towards realization of the President's vision of two states living side-by-side is impossible while violence and terror attacks continue unabated. Hamas' January 14th attack and the statement that was made by its leader not only incite terror, but also, as I said, go contrary to the hopes of the Palestinian people.
Such attacks demonstrate why ending terror must be the highest priority. We call on the Palestinian Authority to act now to dismantle the terrorist capabilities and networks that perpetuate such attacks.
QUESTION: Do you still oppose targeted killings except in the case where they're -- the person is deemed to be a ticking bomb? And do you see Mr. Yassin as a ticking bomb?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position on targeted killings hasn't changed.
QUESTION: Talking about North Korea. It is reported North Korea had shown U.S. delegation the plutonium produced at the nuclear facility in North Korea. Can you confirm that?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't confirm that. I cannot confirm that. Let me not mumble. No, I can't confirm that. The people themselves who went on the trip will have to brief on what they saw. We've had meetings with them. Some of them -- I think Ambassador Pritchard -- noted that he had been here on -- two days ago, on Wednesday. Was it Wednesday or yesterday? Wednesday.
We had a meeting this morning with some of the Congressional staffers who had been on that trip. So we're certainly talking to the people on that trip. We're in touch with others in other ways. We've talked to them in our embassies, as well. So we have heard a lot of the stories, heard a lot of what they saw, have gotten a lot of information, although I'm not sure it's definitive yet.
I would say it's not definitive yet, as to the implications of some of these things. But we don't think it's our job to brief the world on what these people saw. If these people want to talk, they can talk. I think Ambassador Pritchard gave a speech yesterday. So you'd really need to address specific questions to them.
QUESTION: The Congressional staffers meeting here, who did they meet with exactly?
MR. BOUCHER: They met today with Assistant Secretary Kelly and other State Department officials, as well as interagency -- and an interagency group. That took place this morning here at the State Department.
QUESTION: Taiwan --
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Mr. Ota.
QUESTION: Yes. Mr. Boucher, you didn't -- or you declined to comment about the Pritchard speech yesterday and especially Mr. Pritchard emphasized the comment by Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Gye Guan and he emphasized the time is not on U.S. side.
What you -- you know, what he -- what you heard so far on his comment and made you, you know, kind of a sense of urgency, or what's your reaction on that especially?
MR. BOUCHER: Our reaction is that what we're doing is the right thing. We're seeking the elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs in a way that's verifiable and irreversible so that none of us will face this crisis again. We're working with the international community to do that in a peaceful and diplomatic manner. We are preparing and ready for talks in the six-party framework at an early date, the earliest opportunity. We are working constructively, we think, with the Chinese and others to prepare those talks.
The United States policy has been very firm, very consistent, but very willing to sit down and solve this issue in a peaceful manner. And that's what we've pursued. That's what we continue to pursue.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, so has the sense of your urgency increased based on what they say? Yes or no, please.
MR. BOUCHER: They say all kinds of things all the time. I don't think our urgency spikes. Our firmness in sort of pursuing a goal, of resolving this in a peaceful and diplomatic manner has remained throughout. We've made quite clear we are ready for talks at the earliest opportunity.
QUESTION: The U.S. delegation is that the expert of the nuclear weapons or diplomatic, you know, expert --
MR. BOUCHER: What delegation are you talking about?
QUESTION: Because they visit facility site in --
MR. BOUCHER: The people who just went to North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: They were not an official U.S. delegation. They weren't sent by the U.S. Government. They were some individuals who were invited by the North Korean Government. And, you know, they can describe themselves. They've been described -- some were congressional staffers, some were nuclear experts. Ambassador Pritchard had previously been involved in the policy and the discussions. So different kinds of people.
But we didn't choose them. We didn't send them. They went. They saw. They conferred.
QUESTION: The government is not responsibility for the strong --
MR. BOUCHER: It wasn't our delegation. We're happy to talk to them, interested in talking to them, interested in hearing what they saw. But we didn't send them.
QUESTION: I don't know whether you were asked this or not, but Jack Pritchard said yesterday that the North Koreans, in his words, were "absolutely unthrilled" by the notion of security assurances. I know this was -- the Secretary was working hard on this issue weeks ago, and I just wonder whether there was the same sense of urgency, given what Pritchard said.
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I have to make clear this was not an official delegation. We were not negotiating with the North Koreans. They may have heard various North Koreans say various things. Since their visit, the North Koreans put out a whole slurry of press statements. So yes, the North Koreans make statements from time to time for various purposes.
We have been consistent, firm and clear in our goals. We are willing to pursue diplomatically the verifiable elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program and, in return, to give North Korea some satisfaction on the security issues by offering multilateral security assurances as the President announced in Bangkok. That seems to us a formula for resolving these issues.
I suppose I would say our goal is to solve this issue, not to thrill the North Koreans. It's to solve this issue. We think that's a realistic and fair way of approaching the issue, and we hope that the North Koreans will understand that that would be the best thing for North Korea's future and for North Korea's people.
QUESTION: Richard, two extremely brief ones on this. Is it still in the cards for Assistant Secretary Kelly to have consultations here with the Japanese delegation, or has that not been rescheduled yet?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing rescheduled at this point. We'll certainly be talking to the Japanese. Just no -- nothing scheduled.
QUESTION: Okay. And secondly, do you know if the Secretary has had a chance to speak to his new South Korean counterpart?
MR. BOUCHER: He did. He talked this morning with the new minister, Mr. Ban, and congratulated him on his appointment, said he looked forward to working with him, and they talked a little bit about how they would both work to further improve U.S.-Korean relations, which are already so close.
QUESTION: And there is no, as you said yesterday, which seems to have kind of gone in one ear and out the other of many analysts, at least in South Korea, that there is no concern on the U.S. side for -- that South Korea may start trying to impose an independent --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that plenty of people get paid for saying more interesting things than I do, but sometimes the bland is the truth.
QUESTION: So it's still the same. You don't see -- you don't see the new --
MR. BOUCHER: I have no draw -- conclusions to draw. Ban Ki-moon is one of the Republic of Korea's most experienced diplomats, prominent civil servants. He has served in Washington. He is well known and liked here. So we look forward to working with him. And the Secretary called him this morning and made that clear.
QUESTION: Any other phone calls, while we're on the subject of phone calls?
MR. BOUCHER: He's always making phone calls. He talked to Foreign Minister Ivanov today about the visit to Moscow. He talked to Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Al-Sabah today about the designation of Kuwait as a Major Non-NATO Ally, which is -- the announcement was issued by the White House yesterday, right? That's a very important development for us and something that we hope will further improve U.S.-Kuwaiti relations. So the Secretary took the opportunity to talk to the Foreign Minister about it.
Okay. Thanks. Ma'am.
QUESTION: Can we come back to Taiwan?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. We know that President Chen made --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, that's right. Yeah. Never mind. Same question.
QUESTION: -- made a -- yeah -- made a statement about the content of the referendum he has proposed. I wonder is there any response from U.S. Government?
MR. BOUCHER: I think there are a couple things worth noting at this point. The first is that we have just seen the statements and the text that he has put out, and we'll certainly look at that closely. We'll certainly take a chance to review it and understand what it means for Taiwan and for the situation out there.
I don't know that we'll endorse or not endorse any particular phrasing for any particular referendum. Our policy has been made clear and that is that we have a One China policy. We'll support that policy and abide by the commitments that we've made in the three communiqués and also in the Taiwan Relations Act.
We are not supportive of any effort by either party to try to force a unilateral resolution to the difficulties between China and Taiwan, between the mainland and Taiwan. And that's a policy that's been stated clearly as well. So we'll look at this referendum, try to understand it in its context. He seems to have shown some flexibility on the wording in this, in terms of what's come out versus what was talked about in the past. But I think the policy parameters for us are quite clear.
We'd also note that in his speech, he did commit not to change the status quo and not to pursue -- and to pursue a dialogue with Beijing. So those are both things that we have supported in the past.
QUESTION: So can we say the U.S. welcomes such indications of flexibility, or does this somehow lessen --
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't quite go that -- I didn't go that far. I think all you can say at this point is we'll study it carefully. We've noted that there may be some flexibility shown in the wording but that our fundamental policy is the same. We're not -- we're welcoming the fact that he restated commitments that he would not change the status quo and commitments to pursue the dialogue with Beijing.
Another one? Yeah.
QUESTION: Regarding that their officials indicated that the question only dealing with the internal affairs of Taiwan may be acceptable by the U.S., so do the questions announced by Chen meet the test?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not prepared to give a judgment on them. And I'm -- as I said, I'm not sure we will ever -- it's not necessarily for us to endorse wording of a referendum in Taiwan, but our policy parameters have been made quite clear.
QUESTION: Actually, I understand that the draft actually of this statement has been given to U.S. Government before President Chen make any public statement. So actually, you do have, you know, several days more to study it. Can we confirm that?
MR. BOUCHER: Is there a question there somewhere?
QUESTION: Yeah. Can we confirm that you actually got a draft before he delivered that speech?
MR. BOUCHER: We do have the text of the proposals that he intends to make for the referendum. I don't know when we got them, but we'll study them carefully, as long as it takes, as long as we feel is necessary to reach a wise conclusion.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: We'll come back, Matt. We'll get there.
QUESTION: Yes. President Bush has said that he opposed any unilateral action which change the status quo.
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: And the statement also added that including referenda, after you have received the content of the question, do you still think the referendum is a unilateral action? And do you -- does the wording really --
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you'd look back at what we've said, that we've said we're not opposed to referenda, as a tool of government.
QUESTION: But you said including referenda.
MR. BOUCHER: We're opposed to unilateral actions that try to resolve the situation, whether it's through referenda or other means.
Again, it gets -- it boils down to whether there is some unilateral attempt to change the status quo. We'll look at the questions and the proposals that have been made in that context, in the context of the policy the President stated.
QUESTION: Richard, to put a finer -- maybe put a finer point on that, though. When you say you're not prepared to endorse or not endorse it, and it's not up to you to do that because this is an internal Taiwanese thing, are you saying that after you finish studying it and you come to a conclusion about whether it is an effort by one side to change the status quo, you're not going to say anything about it?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: So, in other words, you haven't decided yet whether you think this is an effort to change the status quo?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't reached a conclusion about this particular set of referenda questions. Yeah.
QUESTION: Right. Okay, you haven't reached a conclusion then. But when you do reach a conclusion --
MR. BOUCHER: We may or may not say something.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: But you will certainly make your feeling known to the Taiwanese?
MR. BOUCHER: If it's necessary, yes.
QUESTION: While you're deciding on whether this is unilateral action, does the --
MR. BOUCHER: We're not deciding anything. We're reviewing. We're looking. We're studying.
QUESTION: Reviewing. While you're reviewing, does the wording really matter, or what you -- what it matters is the Taiwan Government is going to do this at all? Which matters?
MR. BOUCHER: No, as I said, weren't not against referenda per se. Many countries use referenda as tools of government in matters of consulting the public on a matter of policy. What we're against is either side trying to define the resolution of the situation unilaterally, whether they do that through statements, through arms or through referenda. So we'll certainly look at this referendum in that context. If we decide it tries to define a unilateral solution, then we may feel it appropriate to say something. But otherwise, we may not.
QUESTION: In your early look at this, you've seen some signs of flexibility. Have you also seen a show that the President has listened to the United States over the wording of the referenda?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to do the political analysis. As we pointed out, sometimes it's more interesting than what I say, but the -- I would note that in the speech he did restate the commitment to not trying to resolve this unilaterally and a commitment to dialogue with Beijing.
QUESTION: A senior Turkish military officer made some statements this morning, including that if there is a federal structure in Iraq on an ethnic basis, the future will be very difficult and bloody. And he also said that he didn't think the United States was doing enough to wipe out PKK guerrillas in northern Iraq. I wonder if you have any comment on either of those.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've seen the statements. On the issue of territorial integrity, we've always been quite clear that we support Iraq's territorial integrity and political unity. The Governing Council, as you know, is making decisions on how to proceed to -- on the structure of a future Iraq state. The constitutional issues will be for Iraqis to decide, but we would point out that the Governing Council does include Kurdish members who have expressed their own commitment to a unified Iraq, and that process of defining the state is taking place within the context of widespread agreement on a unified Iraq with territorial integrity.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that particular point?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, the statement doesn't seem to be directed at the issue of territorial integrity or political unity, but rather on the idea that there's a -- that the territorial integrity remains with Iraq and there may be political unity also within Iraq, but that there might be an ethnic-based, i.e., Kurdish-based, subset within Iraq, within an Iraqi federation, and that's what worries them.
MR. BOUCHER: It seems to be, might be, could be. It's hard to say exactly what it is that might worry them. But the issue of all Iraqis coming together, living together, working together peacefully in a state that is unified, that has territorial integrity, that's not really subject to question by anybody. And we think that's the kind of state, a democratic state, where all the Iraqis live together and work together and decide their own future, is the kind of state that can be a good neighbor to all its neighbors.
QUESTION: What can you say about going after the PKK in northern Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Just that we're doing it. We continue to work against the PKK to make sure they can't find any haven in northern Iraq. There is no place for the PKK in Iraq and we continue to work with the Kurdish government, regular contact between our military officers and Turkish military officers on the subject of what's going on in northern Iraq, and that's an arrangement that seems to have worked quite well so far.
QUESTION: Richard, on Monday, the IAEA is having a meeting to talk about Libya and its pledge to -- its pledge on WMD. I'm just wondering, there's been some talk in Vienna, apparently, that Under Secretary Bolton was going to go there. Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is he representing the U.S.?
MR. BOUCHER: Under Secretary Bolton has met with his counterparts in London to discuss Libya issues, and now he plans to hold meetings with Director General ElBaradei at the IAEA next week in the company of his UK counterpart, Mr. William Ehrman. He looks forward to productive meetings with the Director General, anticipate they'll make progress, ensuring our cooperation between the IAEA and the United States, the United Kingdom and Libya in ensuring that the trilateral elimination of weapons of mass destruction initiative proceeds smoothly.
QUESTION: And can you say how close after this meeting, after these talks in Vienna, will you then be ready -- you, the Brits and perhaps the IAEA -- to start moving ahead with how you're going to help the Libyans in the dismantlement process? In other words, getting people on the ground is what I'm looking for.
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't necessarily say after this meeting. This is part of a process of a number of steps that we are taking to work closely with the Libyans, for the U.S. and the UK to work closely with the Libyans to assist them in implementing the decisions that they made to get rid of their programs for weapons of mass destruction and missiles.
Last week, we had a discussion with Libyan officials in London, I believe it was, together with the British about the details of that kind of implementation. We would hope to continue that process and provide even more concrete assistance to the Libyans soon. From time to time, we will send people into Libya to help with that work, but I'm not going to have any details for the moment on specific travel.
QUESTION: All right. And just one other thing. You said -- mentioned Bolton had been in London. Was that just like today or something that he was?
MR. BOUCHER: It was earlier this week. Does anybody remember exactly?
QUESTION: Last week.
QUESTION: Last week. It was the meeting last week.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: It wasn't something new?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: So there's a meeting on Monday in Vienna?
MR. BOUCHER: Monday in Vienna. U.S. and UK, Bolton and Mr. Ehrman, with ElBaradei.
QUESTION: Richard, the Burmese are said to have released 26 members of the National League for Democracy. I wonder if you have any confirmation as to whether they actually did that and if you see that as maybe a small, very small perhaps, step in the right direction in heeding your call for them to release all of Suu Kyi's --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look into it and see. I'm not sure we can confirm it. But 26 out of the hundreds, if not a thousand or more that are in jail, would be a small --
QUESTION: An IAEA question. Are you aware of the report that there was a small sample of yellowcake found in the Netherlands that the IAEA have confirmed came from Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've seen the -- we've seen the report. We do understand the Dutch Government is investigating it. But at this point, don't have anything more.
MR. BOUCHER: No, we've got to -- Tammy, do you have one?
QUESTION: Oh, I did earlier about Libya. Can you say if there's -- if anybody is actually on the ground now?
MR. BOUCHER: Can't say.
QUESTION: Richard, can you discuss the placement on a watch list of some Indonesian military figures?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I can't. We're barred by law from talking about who's on the watch list.
QUESTION: On that, Richard, is General Wiranto welcome to visit the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I'm not in a position to comment on visa eligibility or ineligibility.
QUESTION: I'm not asking about visas. I just want to know, is the United States Government -- he is a presidential candidate.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't believe we've invited him.
QUESTION: Would he be welcome to come here?
MR. BOUCHER: There's several billion people in the world. I'm not going to start asking -- answering whether individuals are welcome in the United States.
QUESTION: Yeah, but several billion people weren't named in a story in a major U.S. newspaper as having been placed on a watch list. I'm just curious if --
MR. BOUCHER: Because somebody writes a newspaper story doesn't mean I have to violate the law and start talking about who's on the watch list.
QUESTION: I'm not asking if he's on the watch list. I'm asking if he's welcome to visit the United States.
MR. BOUCHER: That's the same question, worded another way. I'm sorry, I can't get into individuals.
QUESTION: Okay. Are you concerned at all about the failure of the Indonesian Government to turn over people who have been indicted by this UN-supported trib-- these UN prosecutors in East Timor?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've talked many times on that point.
QUESTION: No, you've spoken to the ad hoc Indonesian human rights court, but you have not spoken, that I am aware of, of the -- about the failure -- the refusal of the Indonesians to turn people over.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll check and see if we have and if we haven't, see if we have anything to say.
QUESTION: Have you had a formal response back from the EU on sky marshals? They have now come out and had a statement that most members are against, except France and Britain. And Asa Hutchinson was in the building yesterday and I wondered if that was a meeting on that subject.
MR. BOUCHER: This is something we work with Homeland Security on, but I can't tell you what the EU has said or not said on the subject.
QUESTION: You have not received a response?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't tell you what they have said. I am not trying to speak on their behalf, on whether they have responded.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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