State Department Noon Briefing, February 2, 2004
|Monday February 2,
U.S. Department of State
12:45 p.m. EST
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2004
12:45 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, everyone. A lot of things going on here today. As you all know, we'll be having the inaugural meeting of the Millennium Challenge Corporation this afternoon. The Secretary will chair that meeting. It's a new innovation on the way we provide assistance to countries that are pursuing democracy and economic reform. I think we've provided budget numbers for you today. And we'll have a briefing on that tomorrow.
Finally, I'd note about 45 minutes from now, the Secretary will be meeting with some Iraqi Fulbrighters, the first group to come over to the United States in the Fulbright Program, scholars to come to the United States and engage in academic exchanges with their American counterparts.
So with all those things in mind, I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: The situation in Iran concerning the elections seems to be escalating. Do you have any fresh observations on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Fresh? You came here for fresh?
Certainly, we've been following closely the various events out there, and the questions in Iran about how they proceed. We've always been supporters of free and fair elections, always been supporters of the idea that the Iranian people should have a right to decide their government and their government's policies.
We urge the Iranian Government to respect the Iranian people's wish for a genuine voice through free and fair elections. We've also made clear our concerns about the status of political freedom and human rights in Iran, generally, and we watch the events unfolding in that context.
MR. BOUCHER: Interesting.
QUESTION: Can we go to Pakistan? Well, we have Dr. Khan supposedly admitting to transferring nuclear technology and designs, and so on. I'm wondering whether you have any position, and whether you have been working with the Pakistanis to clear this whole thing up -- what actually happened?
MR. BOUCHER: The news on this subject really has to come out of the Pakistani Government. They're the ones conducting the investigation, making any decisions as to what should happen to individuals or programs. We're certainly following the events closely. We welcome the Pakistani investigation. It marks the sign of how seriously the government takes the commitments that President Musharraf has made to make sure that his nation is not a source of prohibited technologies for other countries.
Pakistan, in this process, has been working very closely with the IAEA and with other governments, as they investigate and as they look at the information that is coming out of, especially, the IAEA on what's been going on. So we welcome President Musharraf's actions, as do other members of the international community, but it's for them to talk about what they're doing.
QUESTION: Yes. Do you have called the other governments?
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, we've had exchanges with Pakistan in the past on nuclear developments around the world. We know this has been a subject of importance to us. But I think if you look at the information the Pakistanis are providing, that they're really talking more about information that came out through the mechanism of the IAEA.
QUESTION: Can you tell us whether anything that is being learned about transfers from North Korea whether they'll have any impact on your negotiations in the six-party talks that might occur in the near future?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's pretty speculative at this point. The effort to arrange six-party talks continues. We've been, as you know, sort of preparing for the next round, making progress, in terms of dealing with some of the issues that the Chinese and others think -- we think -- should be dealt with in the next round. I expect -- put it this way. We're ready for talks fairly soon. We'll just have to see if that comes about or not.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that some materials were apparently sent to North Korea aboard Pakistani military planes?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't be able to confirm something like that.
QUESTION: Given what has come up with Pakistan, do you think Pakistan should prosecute the scientist, Khan?
MR. BOUCHER: It will be for Pakistan to decide what to do.
QUESTION: Different subject. Richard, can you shed any light on whether or not Prime Minister Sharon is coming to Washington soon, or whether any senior Israeli delegation might, or whether a U.S. delegation might be going to Israel in the next couple of weeks?
MR. BOUCHER: Given all of the possibilities, I'm sure one of those things will probably occur. I think, first of all, a Minister -- a visit by a Prime Minister to Washington is the subject of a White House announcement, if such things occur.
Second of all, we have delegations back and forth with Israel all the time. As you know, just late last week, we had Ambassador Wolf out there talking with the Israelis and the Palestinians. We have Ambassador Satterfield, who has been out there.
Is he back, do we know?
A PARTICIPANT: No.
MR. BOUCHER: Ambassador Satterfield?
A PARTICIPANT: No, he's not --
MR. BOUCHER: Satterfield's -- okay. So Ambassador Satterfield was out there at the same time, so we have continued to work with them. But I don't have any predictions of the next delegation, but we just finished the last one.
QUESTION: I was referring to a delegate more senior than Satterfield.
MR. BOUCHER: Well --
QUESTION: Still no? No.
MR. BOUCHER: -- nothing, nothing to announce at this point. It will be up to the Israelis and the White House to announce anything at the Prime Minister level, at that level.
Okay. Down in here.
QUESTION: Can we move to China?
QUESTION: I still want to stay on Israel.
MR. BOUCHER: Still on Israel, okay. Elise.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Sharon said, very recently, that he's drawing up plans for the evacuation of some of the settlements in Gaza for the eventual day when there will be no Israelis in Gaza. Do you know anything about this? And are you concerned that he is moving even further on a unilateral settlement of this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as what we know about this, I don't know that we've got any particular information from the Israeli Government. I think it was a Haaretz story, based on an interview that he did with them. Our view, I think, is to look at this in the context of the other statements and commitments that the Israeli Government has made.
We have seen the commitments from the Israeli Government to President Bush, commitments of both sides, to the vision of President Bush proceeding towards a -- two states that can live side-by-side in peace. The Israeli Government, in that context, made commitments about the roadmap, about settlements, about dismantling outposts, about ending settlement activity and moving in the direction of final status negotiations.
So those things remain on the agenda. We're obviously looking for any concrete steps that the parties will take to translate their commitments into actions. We continue to discuss the general issues and obligations with the Israeli Government, and continue to make clear that, on the Palestinian side, there needs to be immediate action against terror and violence. That's where movement forward is most required right now.
QUESTION: So do you see this announcement as part of the roadmap, or is it something that is more in line with a disengagement strategy? Would you encourage him to go ahead with the --
MR. BOUCHER: We would encourage them to go ahead with the obligations and commitments that they have under the roadmap, the obligations and commitments they have to move forward on the President's vision, the way it was announced and the way it's been discussed with them.
QUESTION: So this particular move, would you encourage Sharon to go ahead with that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can put this move in isolation. What needs to be looked at is the overall commitment that they have made and the need to move on those particular commitments that they have made so far.
QUESTION: Speaking of stories in Haaretz, are you aware of a request from the Israeli Government to delay the release of your annual Human Rights Report until after the ICJ hears the -- or doesn't hear -- after the ICJ decides on the -- on the ruling on the separation fence?
MR. BOUCHER: On the fence? No, I'm not aware of anything like that. I could check. I hadn't heard about it.
QUESTION: But do you know when it comes out? Is it March?
MR. BOUCHER: Is the day, March 1st, for the Human Rights Report? Julie knows.
A PARTICIPANT: We think that it's February.
MR. BOUCHER: What's the normal date? It's due on the Hill on the twentieth -- on the first?
A PARTICIPANT: Yes.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I'm told that the preparation of those reports is proceeding as normal, and at this point, we don't anticipate any delay in its preparation.
QUESTION: Preparation or presentation?
MR. BOUCHER: Preparation.
QUESTION: Does that means that it will be presented on time?
MR. BOUCHER: We expect to present it on time.
QUESTION: Which is when?
MR. BOUCHER: March 1st, February 28th, whatever day that is.
QUESTION: It is a leap year --
MR. BOUCHER: Or the 29th. I'd have to look at the law. I'm not sure if the law says end of February or beginning of March, but whatever the normal schedule is. It's around that time. The exact date will be named later.
Okay. Other things? Who was going to change it?
QUESTION: Well, wait, wait. I just have one more on this, and this has something to do with the budget, and so I don't expect you to be fully conversant on it.
But in the OMB's version of the budget on their website, it has a provision at the very end of it which says that any U.S. citizen, for certificates of birth or passports, who was born in the city of Israel, that the Secretary of State on request of this person shall put his country of -- his or her country of birth as -- down as Israel.
Now, in your version of it that just came out, this has all been deleted, and it explains that it's unconstitutional because this is a -- must be an advisory opinion, and it might -- it would conflict with your desire to -- not to interfere with final -- you know, anything that would have to do with final status.
I'm just curious. How did this thing get in the -- how does this get in the budget in the first place? It's the President's proposal. Why is it even -- why would it even be in there to be taken out? Why?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Other questions?
QUESTION: Yeah. I know there is a budget briefing tomorrow, but some of us had a quick look at your thick books here.
I'm a little confused about new facilities. In one place, it speaks of eight new embassies. Well, let me finish. It's not going to be that technical a question.
And when you get into the fine print, it's like 11 facilities, so maybe facility and embassy are different, but in any event, what I'm looking for, and I'm sure a lot of us are, well do you have plans for Baghdad in the coming year, for a new embassy in Baghdad?
MR. BOUCHER: We -- in terms of Baghdad, we certainly do -- are making plans for Baghdad. We'll need both a temporary facility and then a permanent embassy to be built. To what extent that's reflected in the current budget that we're proposing for 2005, I think I'll have to let the experts do the analysis for you tomorrow.
QUESTION: I think it might not be, because when you get to the 11 facilities, Baghdad is not one of them.
MR. BOUCHER: It may be that we can only budget for what we've actually designed and planned and have feasibility and cost estimates on, and that may not be there yet, but that's a good question to ask the budgeteers tomorrow when we get them together.
Okay. You were going to change topics.
QUESTION: Yes. I just wanted to know that the Chinese official Chen Yunlin, Director of the Taiwan Affairs Council, is arriving today as we know. Do you have his agenda and who he's going to meet and what is the topic he is going to talk about?
MR. BOUCHER: First, I'd note that Mr. Armitage met with him in Beijing on January 30th, when Mr. Armitage was in Beijing, and of course they had an in-depth discussion of cross-trade issues.
Now, he's, Mr. Chen Yunlin is now in the United States for meetings with other U.S. officials, including Under Secretary Grossman, to discuss cross trade matters. He was last in the U.S. in July of 2003, and met at that time with the deputy secretary, as I said, who he just saw in Beijing.
So he'll meet this afternoon with Under Secretary for Political Affairs Grossman, and they'll concentrate on the continued discussion of cross-trade issues.
QUESTION: A follow-up that, well, do you know if Taiwan Referendum be one of the focus of their discussion?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose it will probably come up, since that seems to be one of the topics that comes up in that context these days.
QUESTION: You just said that Secretary Armitage had just met with Director Chen in Beijing. Is there any particular reason for him to come to Washington, D.C. at such a short interval?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer is that normally when he comes to Washington he has a number of different meetings. This year, he's -- this time, he's having a number of different meetings. It's just one of those was in Beijing and the rest are in Washington, pretty much similar to the kind of program he's had before, just split a little geographically because of travel.
QUESTION: Is he traveling alone? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You would have to ask the Chinese.
QUESTION: Anything on the suicide blast?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have one more on Taiwan.
QUESTION: Yes. Mr. Armitage said something on Taiwan's referendum when he was in Beijing, but the response from Taiwan, one of Taiwan's leaders said Mr. Armitage might say something different when he returns to Washington, D.C. What's your --
MR. BOUCHER: I think Mr. Armitage will probably say the same thing when he returns. What he said was that we're looking at the referendum very carefully. We want to study not only the words, but also the context in which they are used and how that is being interpreted, and that's what we are looking at. The Secretary said a while back that we were going to study the proposal carefully and we are doing that.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Secretary Armitage has said, quote, "The language that we saw on paper was not the language that I think most of us had been led to believe might be the case," end quote.
Does that mean that the text you previewed was a different version from the one that the Taiwanese leader put forward?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think it means that there had been a lot of discussion for a long time in Taiwan about what this referendum might be about, and when language was actually put forward. The Secretary, as you know, said the language shows a bit of flexibility. Mr. Armitage was basically saying the same thing, but also saying that as we study it, we want to look not only at the words on paper, but also the context and the interpretations being given to the referendum.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on that, since these was two to three weeks ago. How long exactly does it take to --
MR. BOUCHER: As long as that, sir.
QUESTION: So, basically, you'll be reviewing this up until the actual vote?
MR. BOUCHER: We will say things when we think it's necessary and appropriate to say them. I don't know that there's a particular time frame to adhere to.
QUESTION: But you can definitely say that you're still, that you haven't made up your mind, you're still studying --
MR. BOUCHER: We're still following the situation closely, yes.
QUESTION: Is there anything on the suicide blast in Northern Iraq against the Kurds in the Irbil area?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first and foremost, to condemn the terrorist bombings in Irbil thoroughly. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and the victims of these horrible attacks.
The timing of this attack on civilian targets in Iraq during the Eid Al-Adha religious holiday only underscores that those behind this attack do not serve the interests of the Iraqi or Moslem people in general.
Attacks such as these will not alter or diminish our commitment to assisting the Iraqi people in realizing their aspirations for a free, responsible and representative Iraqi Government.
At this point, as far as who is responsible, I don't think I have any new -- any information.
QUESTION: Any communication between the State Department and (inaudible) Barzani for instance?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there's been direct communications from the State Department. I'm sure that Americans in the Coalition Authority have been in close touch with them.
QUESTION: You don't know anything about Kurdish aspirations, per se? I mean, your overall Iraqi people, is that supposed to include the Kurds, I guess?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. We've always supported the territorial integrity of Iraq, the political unity of Iraq. Kurdish members, Kurdish leaders of the -- Kurdish leaders, Kurdish members of the Governing Council have approached the political issues that are facing them now in the same context of a united Iraq, and that's where they play an important role in Iraqi politics, as to how those arrangements are worked out.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question left over from the Turkish visit? I don't know if this is the place to ask. But there was some discussion of amnesty. We're talking about different Kurds now. We're talking about the PKK. Will the Administration requesting Turkey extend?
MR. BOUCHER: I think Turkey has had a program that is already announced and operating.
QUESTION: That's correct. It has a limited program. Under certain conditions, will it grant amnesty? Doesn't the U.S. want broader amnesty and how did it come out, do you happen to know?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any particular discussion of that point. We've always said that the Turks have this program, that people who were fighting or involved in fighting groups should lay down their arms, take advantage of the opportunity. It was good that Turkey provided this opportunity. But at the same time, we remain determined to move against terrorists and terrorist groups that might be operating in Northern Iraq.
QUESTION: Does that mean the US might apply force against terrorist groups?
MR. BOUCHER: That means the United States is determined to move against terrorist groups that might be operating there.
QUESTION: Concerning the blast, Turkey offered -- do you know if they were transferred to Turkey, the injured people, they could take care of it? Do you have any response to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information on that. That is something that would have to be worked out on the ground.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any contacts, developments on Cyprus issue, now that the Secretary is much more involved actively?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary spoke on Sunday with Cypriot President Papadopoulos. He spoke to the Secretary General last week, Thursday or Friday, on the subject of Cyprus. So this is something that remains very important to us, to the Secretary, as well, and something that we continue to work.
The Secretary General will be in town tomorrow for meetings, and I expect it will come up again in the discussions we have with him here.
QUESTION: Sure. Could you tell us a little bit about what the Secretary expects to discuss with the head of the World Food Program this afternoon, whether it's going to touch on North Korea, specifically monitoring and distribution, and whether you have any plans any time soon to make a pledge for North Korea for this year, following up on the ones that you did last year, the 40 and the 60?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect that North Korea will come up. They are going to discuss a number of issues involving food security and food assistance around the world.
He's in town, I think he testifies on Wednesday, along with our AIDS coordinator and our director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mr. Morris. They are talking about there will be testimony on AIDS and hunger at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, so he's in town for that. He will have a number of meetings with people in the Administration, as well. In terms of the meeting with Secretary Powell, though, I would expect North Korea to be prominent along with other issues involving food assistance around the world.
QUESTION: Where are you in the process in terms of determining how much, if any, food assistance you may provide North Korea this year?
MR. BOUCHER: At the end of last year, we provided the 60,000 tons additional that was responding to the earlier request, and to some extent, to the new request being made, so that we could make sure that was in the pipeline.
As far as this year's possible commitments, I really don't have anything new at this point. I don't know that we're very far down the road with that at this point.
QUESTION: The World Food Program said about two or three weeks ago that they had to suspend shipments in the middle of the winter because of lack of donations. Has that had any resonance here?
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly in December, providing our additional 60,000 tons was an effort not only to provide necessary food for the North Korean people, but also to encourage others in the donor community to contribute. I don't have the details on shipments, whether they're suspended or resumed at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm sure we can get an update on this later today. But do you have any reason to believe that the distribution and monitoring circumstances in North Korea have improved at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I think when we committed the additional 60,000 tons we were able to say that, working with the World Food Program, they had been able to get access to a few more areas and get some more information on how the food was being distributed.
Certainly, we didn't think it had come all the way up to international standards that apply in other countries, but we felt that there had been a bit of progress in that regard.
QUESTION: You mentioned that they were going to testify on Wednesday about AIDS and hunger. Does that mean that when the -- was that what the Secretary was referring to last week when he said that there would be like, not a rollout, but there would be details about the AIDS money coming out this week? Is that where this is going to be, or is that going to be tomorrow with the Secretary General?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Or should I just ask the White House?
QUESTION: Or none of the above.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll take Option C.
First of all, there is a lot of money on the AIDS program in the budget that is being put out today.
MR. BOUCHER: Just that there is a lot of money in the budget being put out today.
The omnibus appropriation that passed provided the first tranche of money that we can use to support the President's Global AIDS Initiative, and so we are moving appropriately with the Congress to commit that money to programs. But I, at this point, can't tell you exactly when that might be announced, how we're going to commit that money.
QUESTION: Do you expect it to be this week, as the Secretary said?
MR. BOUCHER: I expect it to be very soon, like the Secretary said.
QUESTION: Well, would this be something that would -- I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it's going to be addressed at this testimony or the next testimony. But in terms of the substance of the matter, we're not only announcing new numbers to continue the President's initiative in further years, but we're also right now in the process of committing the money that we just got from the Congress a week or two ago.
QUESTION: Would you expect the subject of HIV/AIDS to come up in the Secretary General -- Secretary General Annan's meetings in Washington tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: I would not be surprised. I would expect it to come up. It usually does when they get together.
QUESTION: In public or just in private meetings?
MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't depend solely on us. I don't know.
QUESTION: Were any of the Saudi nationals whose diplomatic status was removed recently declared persona non grata, and do you have anything else you can tell us about that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything else I can tell you about that at this point.
QUESTION: What about the first part of the question?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure. They were asked to leave because they were no longer in status is the simple explanation of it.
QUESTION: Could you put that in layman's terms? No longer in status?
MR. BOUCHER: That they had come into the United States as diplomats on diplomatic visas and we, after looking at their activities, realized they no longer qualified as diplomats, and therefore they no longer had grounds for us to give them that status.
QUESTION: Regarding the budget, if it's possible, could you specify the money for KEDO in 2005? You know, construction is suspended already.
MR. BOUCHER: That's the kind of question you can ask the briefers tomorrow.
QUESTION: Can you say that tomorrow -- today? At this moment? No?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't -- I'm afraid I'm not the budget expert today.
QUESTION: Well, it's pretty easy to look at it and see that there is no money in there for KEDO.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Well, I haven't had that opportunity either. I haven't memorized every page and every line. But go ahead and look at it. You might find out that there's not any money for KEDO.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing ended at 1:15 p.m.)
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