State Department Noon Briefing, March 9, 2004

 

Tuesday March 9, 2004

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, March 9, 2004
12:34 p.m. EST

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

INDONESIA
-- Reported Reduction of the Sentence of Abu Bakar Baasyir

IRAN
-- Discussion of Draft Resolution on Iran with IAEA Board Members
-- Libya's Cooperation with IAEA versus Iran's Cooperation

SYRIA
-- Detention of U.S. Diplomat/Syrian Explanation

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
-- Reported Hamas Power-Sharing Plan Following Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza
-- Greater Middle East Plan and Palestinian Authority
-- Israeli Actions in Gaza Strip

JORDAN
-- Visit of Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher

IRAQ/SOUTH KOREA
-- Detention of Korean Journalists in Iraq

IRAQ
-- Drafting of a Permanent Constitution
-- Transitional Law; Future Government
-- Status of Forces Agreement/Timetable
-- Staffing for U.S. Embassy in Iraq

CUBA
-- Office of Foreign Assets Control Decision on Travel by Group of Doctors and Other Medical Professionals to Attend Symposium

PAKISTAN
-- Reported Missile Test

ZIMBABWE
-- No U.S. Government Connection to Seized Plane or Passengers

CHINA
-- Secretary Powell's Meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo

SOUTH ASIA
-- Secretary Powell's Upcoming Travel to Region

CYPRUS
-- Progress on Talks


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

TUESDAY, MARCH 9, 2004
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

12:34 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.

Mr. Gedda.

QUESTION: Did you see the report on the release or prospective release of Indonesia's leading militant cleric, and do you have any response?

MR. BOUCHER: We have seen those reports. The question was about reports that the Indonesian Government might release or reduce the sentence of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, one of the convicted terrorists in Indonesia.

Now, we have seen those reports. We have not yet seen an official verdict or rationale for a judgment of reduction of sentences, but I think it is safe to say we would be extremely disappointed were the Supreme Court to reduce Abu Bakar Ba'asyir's prison sentence to 18 months, as has been reported.

We believe there was extensive evidence presented at his trial that described his leadership role and his personal involvement in terrorist activities. The murder of innocent men, women and children and other violent acts such as bombings in Indonesia demonstrate that terrorism is a grave threat to the security of Indonesia and her neighbors. And we believe that Indonesia and its government need to stand firm against that threat.

Teri.

QUESTION: New subject: Iran and the IAEA meeting.

There is word of a U.S. draft circulating that has some Europeans on one side, Canada on the other. I just wondered if you could give us any details on the draft since details are leaking out of Vienna and tell us what your plans are for getting the proposal through.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think the first thing is to say that, yes, we have circulated a draft; we are discussing a draft on Iran with other members of the Board of Governors in Vienna. Those discussions are still ongoing. I think we have made no secret of our view that Iran's nuclear activities, its clandestine activities, were in support of a nuclear weapons program. We think it is clear that Iran has not made any decision, any strategic decision to abandon a nuclear weapons effort.

We are concerned about the pattern of Iranian behavior that is documented in reports over the last year from the Director General, Dr. ElBaradei. These show grudging, partial Iranian cooperation only when confronted by the International Atomic Energy Agency with compelling evidence of an undeclared program. That pattern is continuing.

So we believe the Board should adopt a strong resolution on Iran that reflects the concerns of the Board and of the international community. This is especially necessary in light of the Director General's fourth report on Iran, which reinforced our concerns about the nature of Iran's nuclear program. We are looking for the Board to state clearly that Iran has not yet addressed fully the longstanding concerns about its nuclear activities. We need to send a strong signal to Tehran that it cannot refuse to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency with impunity.

We remain concerned that Iran has furthermore not met the terms of the November 26th resolution from the Board of Governors, that it has failed to declare the full extent of its nuclear activities, it has failed to move swiftly to ratify the additional protocol, and even more troubling, by Iran's failing to adhere to its pledge to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, as defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Now, as far as where we stand vis-à-vis other governments, we have been working very closely with European governments, with other nations at the Board of Governors meeting. I think we all want to ensure maximum compliance by Iran with the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and we are working together to try to work out a resolution that will do that.

QUESTION: Well, if all of these things are so clear, why isn't everyone in support of your language then? What are the holdups?

MR. BOUCHER: I have seen many cases where things are clear but there is still debate over language so I don't think that's too surprising. Let's -- let us keep working this. We think we can move forward

There is, I think, a stark contrast with the situation with regard to Libya that is also being taken up by the Board there. We have had -- as I think you all know - there is a ship that has been loaded with Libyan nuclear weapons-related items. The ship has departed Libya, so all known remaining equipment associated with Libya's nuclear weapons program is now onboard, including all centrifuges and parts.

Based on that, we also expect that the Board at the IAEA would take up the matter of Libya and would move forward in a positive manner that can show that this kind of behavior deserves the credit of the Board, deserves the commendation of the Board and deserves to move forward towards closing the file.

The contrast with Iran couldn't be starker. When a country like Libya cooperates and decides to get rid of its nuclear program, and does so sincerely, forthrightly and quickly, it will see the -- it will see the case closed. And we are moving towards that point with Libya. When a country like Iran refuses to cooperate, only provides begrudging cooperation and refuses to disclose the full extent of its programs, it will remain, as Dr. ElBaradei said the other day, under international scrutiny.

QUESTION: Do you think it's time to submit the Iranian case to the UN Security Council in New York?

MR. BOUCHER: I think our point at this moment has been to keep Iran under continued scrutiny. So we are not looking for a formal non-compliance resolution at this time, but we are seeking a strong resolution that keeps pressure on Iran to comply with all its obligations.

Yes, Teri. You have more?

QUESTION: Are you concerned that some European governments are not willing to use such strong language? That's been --

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we are going to work out the language in Vienna with other governments. We have been willing to work with them. We have been talking to them. There are a variety of meetings going on with other governments, as usual, in Vienna today over the language.

But the bigger point -- that we all want to see Iranian compliance in full with its promises, with its commitments, with the requirements of the IAEA board -- I think that point is clear to all of us and we are trying to work with our European friends and others to achieve that goal.

Okay, sir.

QUESTION: On Syria?

QUESTION: No, on Iran.

MR. BOUCHER: Iran.

QUESTION: Given the, all this lack of compliance so far, why stop short of reporting Iran to the UN? Why do you think, in the future, the scrutiny is going to bear fruit?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we will have to decide -- the Board, together, will have to decide, what is the proper moment. The goal is to have Iran comply. The goal is to have Iran disclose. The goal is to have the IAEA carry out its activities in Iran and be able to assure all of us that those activities have been identified and that they can be rendered harmless or, you know, suspension would be effective the way the Iranians had promised.

So we will gauge that process as it goes forward as long as necessary until we decide, along with the others, that it is time to declare non-compliance. That's where it should -- if that's where we eventually end up.

Yes. Okay. Let's see, are you on this or something else?

QUESTION: Something else.

MR. BOUCHER: Something else. Go.

QUESTION: On Syria, do you consider the matter of the detention of the American diplomat to be closed, or is that likely to accelerate the tension and maybe speed up the process of --

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to speculate. I'm not -- I didn't have a chance to check today. I'm not sure we have heard anything more from the Syrians.

QUESTION: What kind of explanation did the Syrians give you?

MR. BOUCHER: Let the Syrians provide their explanation. I'm not here to speak for them, but I'm not sure we've gotten one yet. I'll just have to check.

QUESTION: Did they provide you with any --

MR. BOUCHER: I'll just have to check. I don't know if we've gotten one, but I'm not going to stand here and try to explain the Syrian behavior.

Okay, sir.

QUESTION: Middle East.

MR. BOUCHER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hamas said it's putting out a plan, a power-sharing agreement plan, once the Israelis pull out. Do you have a response to that?

MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me? Hamas has got a plan?

QUESTION: Hamas. That's what it says.

MR. BOUCHER: To blow everything up and kill more people?

QUESTION: A power-sharing plan once the Israelis pull out.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid all we have ever seen from Hamas is explosions and death and destruction.

QUESTION: But is that something that --

MR. BOUCHER: There is no, as I think the Secretary said, or it might have been the Jordanian Foreign Minister said -- the Secretary said it when they were just outside -- one of the issues is whether the Palestinian Authority will be prepared to take over and assume authority like the government of a state, like the government it hopes to create for a state.

And that is something that we have to continue asking questions about, but I don't think any of us see that turning over Gaza to terrorists is going to help anybody.

QUESTION: But if the Palestinian Authority says it's okay to share power with them, is that something that you'd be okay with?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's highly speculative given the kind of attacks that they have carried out, that they have tried to undermine not only Palestinians' aspirations and dreams, but tried to undermine the very essence of the Palestinian Authority trying to create its own institutions and its own state.

Yes, Nadia.

QUESTION: This meeting with the Secretary and the Jordanian Foreign Minister, they just had the visit now, did he come with any alternative to the American plan for the Greater Middle East democracy? And is it completely different from the U.S., or he accepted the U.S. plan but he wants to modify it?

MR. BOUCHER: You had your chance to ask the Jordanian Foreign Minister all those wonderful questions and you didn't ask him.

QUESTION: Yes, we did but, well, one question allowed, so we can't ask two.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, did we listen to what he said? Did we listen to what the Foreign Minister said?

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. BOUCHER: Both the Secretary and the Foreign Minister made clear, it is not an American plan for the Middle East. I think if there is any summary from the meeting, it is the Jordanian Foreign Minister made clear that the Arabs themselves are serious about reform on their own in their own economies, and that the Secretary made clear that we would look for ways to help them. And that is the essence of this plan for the Greater Middle East. It is not our plan for them. It is our plan to support them in their efforts to reform.

QUESTION: Then there is no disagreement because this -- the Americans said we're not imposing anything --

MR. BOUCHER: There's no disagreement.

QUESTION: -- and the Arabs saying, yeah, fine. It has to come from inside.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I know. It doesn't make news stories, but the headline is no disagreement.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, sir.

QUESTION: Is it Middle East?

QUESTION: Your embassy in Seoul --

MR. BOUCHER: I guess we're going to go back. Hang on a second. We'll go, finish off with the Middle East there.

You had one?

QUESTION: More Israeli killings of Palestinian civilians today. General, Israeli generals revealed to a leading Israeli newspaper today that the killing of 14 civilians, Palestinian civilians last Sunday, was a method to provoke Palestinian militants.

This new policy of Israel of killing civilians in order to provoke militants, is this something that can gain some sympathy from you, or is there a chance that the Arab street may hear a condemnation of this policy or even an expression of sympathy for the families of the innocent victims of last Sunday and today?

MR. BOUCHER: I would just tell you again what I told you yesterday, that the United States has made very clear that, first of all, we regret any loss of life. We have worked very hard to try to create peace for Palestinians and Israelis, alike.

We recognize that Israel has a right to defend itself and needs to do so, but we have always urged them to consider the consequences; we have always urged them to refrain from activities that could cause undue harm to innocent life and property, and that has been a concern.

But at the same time, in order to get this violence overall under control, we also expect the Palestinians to take steps to end the violence and end the activities of groups who engage in violence.

QUESTION: Richard, may I follow up?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: There were some reports that -- I mean, this one woman from Jenin was killed in her house, just, like, shot in the back. So, I mean, I don't know if it's up to the U.S. to kind of ask for these kinds of clarifications, but, I mean, do you see kind of the rules of engagement from Israel that, you know, when incidents like these --

MR. BOUCHER: We don't write Israeli rules of engagement --

QUESTION: No, I didn't say you write them, but do you --

MR. BOUCHER: Nor do we approve them, nor do we scrutinize them. That's not -- we're not involved in Israel's military actions in any fashion.

QUESTION: No, I know. But when --

QUESTION: But you're doing --

QUESTION: But you're use a different language --

MR. BOUCHER: We scrutinize what happens. We don't scrutinize their rules of engagement.

QUESTION: Could I follow up on that? Because it's the same story, and --

MR. BOUCHER: Let's -- is Elise --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, how -- you know, when incidents like these happen, I mean, it's one thing to undertake self-defense, but I mean there are some incidents where, you know, I don't know what to say. It's just sounds like --

MR. BOUCHER: Is there a question there?

QUESTION: Well, the question is, I mean, how do you -- how do you work with the Israelis to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening, people getting killed in their homes?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say, under the policy that we have talked to you about, we have frequent conversations with the Israelis. When things happen, when there are reports of innocent loss of life, we often raise it with the Israelis. Our Embassy out there tries to understand these incidents, tries to understand how they occurred, tries to talk to the Israelis about how they might prevent such loss of innocent life in the future, if that's what it was.

So it is an ongoing subject of conversation. But that doesn't mean we need to stand up here every time something happens and try to render a judgment on a particular circumstance. We are not in a position to that. We have a very clear policy and we have, I would say, a continuing conversation with the Israelis about the incidents that occur and how they can perhaps prevent that sort of thing from happening in the future.

QUESTION: But there is a follow-up on -- in this issue. There was a story in Haaretz on the general - the general we were talking about and (inaudible) the reporter was saying that the army is now conducting this as a matter of policy, that they will do incursions one after another, lest it be interpreted that they pulled --

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the exact story, but it didn't sound to me, from what he said or what you said, that the army is actually announcing a policy.

QUESTION: The army is saying that they will do this --

MR. BOUCHER: Has the army announced a policy of provocation and killing?

QUESTION: According to Haaretz.

MR. BOUCHER: According to Haaretz. Haaretz has announced the army has a policy of provocation and killing. I'm not in a --

QUESTION: But they say you don't want to have a repetition of Vietnam. That's, you know --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. You guys want to respond to Haaretz, you can respond to Haaretz. If the Israeli Government has a policy, I'll deal with it. But we have made very clear our policy is to press the Israelis, encourage the Israelis to do everything they can to minimize the loss of innocent life, do everything they can to consider the consequences of any actions they might undertake. It has been a longstanding policy. It has been a policy that we have discussed and do have continuing discussions with the Israelis about.

That is our policy. If you think the Israelis have some different policy, well, then they have to explain how they can have that policy.

Nadia.

QUESTION: But you don't worry that you're going to be accused of playing double standard here? Because exactly on the same podium you criticized the Palestinian side, and yet when this incident happened you said you're not here to scrutinize the Israeli policy.

MR. BOUCHER: I have talked about our policy on what the Palestinians ought to do. I have talked about our policy on what the Israelis ought to do. I will always criticize people who are bombers and blow up buses, if that is what you are talking about, when there are incidents like that.

But in terms of what I just said about the Palestinians, what I just said about the Israelis, I think those are U.S. policies on what needs to be done to move forward on the peace process, U.S. policies on what needs to be done to calm the situation. They stem from the objective reality. They stem from our concern about the ongoing violence that involves -- that harms Israelis, harms Palestinians and harms the vision that the President has enunciated of two states that can live side by side.

Okay, Joel.

QUESTION: This morning, Foreign Minister Qureia was saying that -- I don't know from his statement, but he seems to be giving up on the roadmap and saying that it should be a one state solution. And also, from Syria, they seem not to want to cooperate.

Do you have any comments concerning --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comments. I didn't see those statements. I think people have said things like that before. Whether he said it or not, I don't know. The point that we have made is that the only true peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike comes about through a negotiated settlement.

QUESTION: On cooperation in science between Israel and Jordan, does the State Department think there are any political -- that there's a political -- positive political dimension to this? The Jordanian Foreign Minister went out of his way to isolate that cooperation from what he calls political issues. I wonder if the State Department has a sort of grudging attitude about cooperation, which seems like a big deal.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it's a big deal. I'll check and see.

QUESTION: Well, isn't a positive political move, or is it --

MR. BOUCHER: It's always positive for people in the Middle East to cooperate with each other.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: But I don't know enough about this one to say whether this is a big deal or not.

All right. What were we doing? We were changing to Korea.

Sir.

QUESTION: Thank you. Your Embassy in Seoul, actually, yesterday expressed some regret on the Korean journalists detained case in Iraq. And what is your official comment or the position, the State Department position on this?

MR. BOUCHER: The official position of the State Department is the one expressed by our Embassy in Seoul yesterday and expressed by me here, that this incident occurred because a bomb dog found what they thought were traces of explosives. They did the search, detained people, and let them go when it was over.

Certainly, we regret any inconvenience to the journalists involved. We have been in touch with the Korean Ambassador. I think our general has met with the Korean Ambassador in Baghdad to discuss this situation and to make sure we understood it from both sides clearly.

But we also -- I think it is important to maintain security for all of us. We certainly welcome the fact that Korea has been such a positive contributor to the effort in Iraq. We look forward to the arrival of Korean troops and the kind of work that we can do together out there.

Yes, okay, Barry.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about Iraq? The Secretary was really jubilant this morning about the adoption of an interim constitution, but he also recognized there will be problems along the way. Some of those problems are being identified by Shiite officials as -- we don't really have to go through them, but can you -- does the State Department also have a view, can it identify what it thinks might have to be smoothed out, if that's the way to describe it?

It's just an interim -- and the Secretary's hinted there are going to be changes, and that's normal in a democratic process. But where might, in the U.S. view, the problems arise? Well, it seems to go that the interim would bind the future --

MR. BOUCHER: I want to talk about the road; you want me to talk about all the potholes in the road.

QUESTION: No, no, no. The emphasis, clearly, on what he said is hip, hip, hurray, they've made a huge breakthrough for that region.

MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I guess the point --

QUESTION: -- with some influence from the outside, by the way, instead of from within.

MR. BOUCHER: All right. The point that we all have to look at is this is part of a process. There will be elections. There will be an elected assembly in Iraq by -- what does the transitional law say? -- by the end of January next year.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BOUCHER: There will be a constitution in Iraq that will be written by Iraqis, and that this transitional law that establishes certain basics, which in and of themselves are very positive, very important and historic --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BOUCHER: -- for Iraq and to some extent for the region, to a great extent for the region.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: That's a step in the road. It is a step along the way to letting the Iraqis have a fully-fledged government and constitution that they choose, that they choose democratically through elections.

So the step that we have taken, the step that they have taken by signing this document, is a major step forward. But it doesn't answer all the questions that have to be answered as one goes about setting up a system of government and democracy for any country.

Some of these questions have been raised and said, well, we still haven't done this, we still haven't done that. And that's true. You want a list of all the questions that need to be answered; you could probably read the Federalist Papers. There are a great many things that any government has to go through, any society needs to go through as it defines a democratic system of government.

So I don't think I am in a position to list them all. There are obviously issues that they will raise, that they will raise with each other, and that then, they will go on, we hope, to solve with each other in a democratic fashion.

QUESTION: One, and the only one I would ask about, is, in the U.S. view, does this interim administrative law unduly bind the future? The constitution still has to be written. Is it too restrictive? Or is it a good start and you can go from there?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we think it is a good start. It is a good basis for moving forward. It is certainly a good basis for government during the interim period and provides the basic protections and standards that the Iraqi people will expect from their government. But this, as we all know, is to be followed by an elected assembly and the drafting of a constitution.

Yes. Okay.

QUESTION: Richard, about this same subject?

MR. BOUCHER: About the same subject?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we got one here, two back there.

QUESTION: Okay, Richard, yesterday with the final signing, Grand Ayatollah Sistani -- I guess his objections even down the road are police, justice administration, and there might be a further objection. You're trying to plan for more women to be in the new interim government and beyond. And is there any plans to bring these particular aspects into focus so that there isn't a civil war between both Shiite and Sunni?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that they're going to have a civil war over the drafting of the constitution.

QUESTION: Not the -- no, the --

MR. BOUCHER: The fact that we've gotten this far with this many principles and basics agreed by the Iraqis, by the 25 Iraqi members of the Governing Council, by other members of, you know, through consultation with other members in society, is a major step forward.

I guess you could ask the same question: Well, won't they have a civil war when they have to draft a transitional law? Well, they didn't. They sat down democratically and worked it all out.

The fact that the next stages in this process after an interim government is that has to be designed and fixed and will have considerable help from the UN in doing that. And once there is an interim government, then we will move on to the electoral process that is even more open, that has, I think, even more legitimacy through all the people who vote.

So in a way, when we're moving to -- down the road when they get back to the questions, have to draft a new constitution for Iraq, there will be a body that even has more firm grounding in representing the broad masses of people in Iraq and therefore probably has an even more solid basis for working out some of these questions.

Sir.

QUESTION: Yes, yesterday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mr. Gul spoke with the Secretary of State Powell about the Turkish concern on the new Iraqi constitution. And do you think that you can get rid of the Turkish concern on this subject?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it is a question of us getting rid of the Turkish concerns. The Secretary has made the point before and, I think, did again in his phone conversation with Foreign Minister Gul yesterday, that -- yesterday? Day before?

MR. CASEY: Yesterday.

QUESTION: Yesterday, yes.

MR. BOUCHER: That the Iraqi -- as the Iraqis go forward in designing their democracy, that all Iraqis are involved, that people from all ethnic groups, all parts of Iraqi society are involved, must be involved, and that that part of it is very important to us and that we will continue to champion that aspect of the process.

Yes, Adi.

QUESTION: How much progress has been made on the Status of Forces Agreement?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything to report at this point.

QUESTION: Do you think you'll meet the informal deadline of the end of this month?

MR. BOUCHER: If there was a deadline, we would meet it. But there's not a deadline, so we won't meet it. Or something like that. But we have never put out a deadline for that. We've never said that it could be done by a certain time period.

We need to have Status of Forces with the new Iraqi government when they assume full sovereignty and we need to have the arrangements for the continuation. We've never said that it needs to be negotiated or done somehow with someone before then.

QUESTION: Do you think it's possible that you wouldn't have an agreement in place before the transfer of sovereignty?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we want to have an agreement in place on July 1st.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: I'm hearing voices.

Sir?

QUESTION: You said that you will have an agreement by July 1st?

MR. BOUCHER: I said we want to have an agreement in place by July 1st.

QUESTION: Richard, there's a story about 70 U.S. scientists were denied permission by the U.S. Government to attend a conference in Cuba. Do you have anything on that?

MR. BOUCHER: This was largely a question of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. They do ask for foreign policy guidance from the Department on applications, and they asked for guidance on an application by a group of doctors and other medical professionals for licenses to travel to Cuba to attend a symposium on coma and death.

But our understanding is that before the Department was able to make a recommendation, the Office of Foreign Assets Control determined that the applicants had not provided sufficient information in their applications to qualify for the licenses.

So that's as much as we know. You'd have to get the rest of the story from Treasury.

Yes, okay, Elise.

QUESTION: On Pakistan's announcement of a long-range missile test, do you have anything to say about that? Do you think that it could -- you know, we've seen improved relations between India and Pakistan, which you've said is a welcome thing, and do you think that this is a provocative action?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'd have to check and see whether appropriate notifications were made and whether there was anything special about this, this test.

Okay?

QUESTION: On Zimbabwe. Have you determined finally the country of origin and the registration of the plane?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we haven't, really. We know that there is no U.S. Government connection to the seized plane or its passengers. To date, in fact, the Zimbabwe Government has not contacted us concerning the matter, so all we have seen are the various reports that the plane was sold by a U.S. company to a South African company last week. We don't have confirmation of that. So questions -- you might check with the Federal Aviation Administration as far as if there are any more details on registration or ownership.

And furthermore, we have no notification of any American citizens detained in this matter. We have asked the Government of Zimbabwe to find out if -- make sure that that's the case. But as far as we know, no Americans involved, certainly no U.S. Government connection to the airplane or its passengers, and can't -- haven't pinned down the actual registry at this moment in time.

Okay. All right. Let's see, we were trying to look for the neglected few, but they're all the same few, so let's just head back.

QUESTION: Richard, when you find shipments such as this and mercenaries, especially in an unstable area such as Africa, are there any safeguards or anything you'd like to say to some of these governments concerning this? Not just the Zimbabwe Government.

MR. BOUCHER: None of us are in favor of mercenary activity. (Laughter.) I think the message for the mercenaries is: Don't do it.

Okay, we've got a few. The lady over there.

QUESTION: Switch subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Please.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister's visit?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, let me give you a rundown of the discussions with Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo.

The Secretary and Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo talked about a number of bilateral and regional issues of common interest, including, I'd say, predominantly North Korea and Taiwan.

On North Korea, the Secretary thanked Vice Foreign Minister Dai for China's hosting and full participation in the second round of the six-party talks and for the positive role that China has played on the issue.

The Secretary said that the United States looks forward to working with China and other parties as we move toward the next round of talks.

On Taiwan, the Secretary stated that there has been no change in our one-China policy, which is based on the three joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act.

The Secretary reiterated U.S. opposition to any attempt by either side to unilaterally change the status quo. He told Vice Minister Dai that the United States wants to see a peaceful resolution of the Cross-Strait issue and that the United States supports dialogue between the two sides toward that end.

I would note also that Deputy Secretary Armitage will meet with Vice Foreign Minister Dai later today and they will discuss a number of issues as well.

QUESTION: Is there any suggestion of any difference in approach between China and the U.S. in dealing with North Korea? It's all right that people working together have different approaches. These stories keep popping up that the Chinese would be a little bit more flexible than the U.S.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think, first of all --

QUESTION: You don't have to explain the stories, --

MR. BOUCHER: We weren't there today to compare and contrast. We were there to talk about how we can move forward. The Chinese have ideas. We have ideas. We're trying to work together. The process of, I'd say, discussion of setting up the working group is underway between U.S. and Chinese diplomats and I assume between the Chinese and diplomats of other countries as well.

We are looking forward to another round, to trying to see what we can accomplish in the interim with the working group. And so that is kind of where we are. There are obviously going to be differences in approach for each of the parties. We each have our own position. But I think what was clear at the last round was that, at least for five of the parties, the focus and the direction of the talks needs to be the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: We understand Mr. Dai also met with Mr. Kelly yesterday. Can you tell us if there is any progress on the preparation of the working group?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, all I can tell you is that there are diplomats meeting. People have been discussing how to do this, but there's nothing concrete at this point to announce.

Yeah, okay. Ma'am.

QUESTION: Did the issue of Hong Kong come up?

MR. BOUCHER: The issue of Hong Kong did come up briefly at the end.

Saul.

QUESTION: Did the issue of human rights come up? Did the Secretary say that the United States was leaning toward putting a resolution condemning China's rights at the UN?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the issue of human rights resolution came up at this meeting. There was a little private time at the end that I'm not sure about, but it didn't come up in the bigger sessions.

Okay. Where are we? Sir.

QUESTION: Can you shed more light on the upcoming trip of Secretary Powell to, next week to South Asia?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we shed a lot of light on Friday and maybe a little bit yesterday.

QUESTION: Any more details?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any more details. There's a bit of reticence on our part, I think, about -- for security reasons, not to go into too much detail about specific travel plans.

Sir.

QUESTION: About Cyprus. Several new reports said that U.S. officials is inspecting and studying the Turkish side's counteroffer on the Annan plan. Can you confirm on these reports?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite understand. We have certainly worked closely with the Turks. We've worked with the parties. We've worked with other governments who are interested. And anything any of the sides believes is important we will obviously look at seriously. But let's remember the focus is to try to get progress under the auspices of the United Nations. That's what we remain committed to try to help do.

QUESTION: Turkish-Cypriot sides, they offer is the -- they put the several new suggestion about the Annan plan, and they said that Mr. Weston bring to Washington and the State Department is studying on it.

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, whatever any of the parties of the interested parties have to say about the talks or have ideas about the talks, I'm sure we'll look at it carefully. But that doesn't provide any special insights into how we might deal with one set of ideas or another.

QUESTION: And also, is the -- in the Greek side, the Greek-Cypriot side, they conducted several public opinion -- looks like the Greek side is using a no in the referendum. If we get this kind of results, do you planning to lift embargo to Turkish side?

MR. BOUCHER: That's wildly speculative at this point and, as you know, I'm not wildly speculative, so I'm not going to go down that road with you.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, can we go back to the Greater Middle East for a minute?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure.

QUESTION: Now you're saying that you -- well, the Secretary of State today stated that you are talking to all the governments of the area so you can get their inputs.

Now, the Palestinian Authority is part of the Greater Middle East. Are you talking to them or will you talk with them? Will they give you any input and so on? Or will you consider their input?

MR. BOUCHER: We talk to the Palestinians all the time about democracy --

QUESTION: On this particular issue.

MR. BOUCHER: -- about democracy, about building Palestinian institutions, about reform of Palestinian policies and how to achieve a Palestinian democracy that can live in peace with its neighbors.

How and to what extent they might -- we might find opportunities under the particular program to support their reform efforts, I don't know. It's probably much to early to say that. But I think U.S. support for Palestinian reform has been very, very clear in our bilateral relationship and everything that we have done with them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: We have --

QUESTION: Does Jordan expect reform as well? I ask because the Foreign Minister came down and told us how all this stuff has to sort of come from within.

MR. BOUCHER: He also told you how committed Jordan was to not only further reform, but to the reforms they've already made. We've often spoken very highly of the steps that Jordan has already taken and the seriousness with which they approach the whole issue as they move forward.

Last one?

QUESTION: That reminded me of a question. There was a report today about this new embassy in Iraq and you were trying to recruit Arab-speaking diplomats. And, in fact, you don't have enough, so you're pulling them out from other Arab regions. So, do you have a problem with that -- finding people to fill the spaces in the Embassy who speaks Arabic?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made clear all along that one of our highest priorities is to staff -- the highest priority is to help in Iraq, is to be able to go out and make sure the Iraqis can succeed in building their own government and their own democracy.

Whatever resources it takes from the U.S. Government to do that, we will find and we will send out there. So the Secretary and Mr. Armitage have made clear there's no higher priority for any of us in the Department and that where we are called, we serve.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: About PKK, sir. Last time I talk about the U.S. action against the PKK units in northern Iraq, you said that everything is in order. But several Turkish commanders complain about that they have a problem with the U.S. timing. Can you --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what you're talking about. I can't respond to something that's not clear.

QUESTION: Timing of operations.

MR. BOUCHER: The timing of operations. The timing of operations that have occurred?

QUESTION: Yes -- no.

MR. BOUCHER: That sounds like a military issue that you'd have to check with the military on.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:13 p.m.)

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