State Department Noon Briefing, March 12, 2004
|Friday March 12,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2004
12:40 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Let us begin. I don't have any statements or announcements today, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about what seems to be U.S. concern about what's going on in Chad near the border with Niger?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Is there a recruiting effort by al-Qaida? Is it something menacing or --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, what's going on in Chad is that the Chadian military forces have now conducted a successful action against the terrorist organization, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat that's been operating in the sub-Sahel area. And so we congratulate them on that. They've just recently had military successes.
We send our condolences to the families of the Chadian forces, some of whom were lost in the operation. To the best of our knowledge, now, this engagement's been completed. There were no U.S. forces who participated, but I think it shows that foreign governments can operate successfully against terrorists, and that's the key to defeating terrorism worldwide.
We do have a U.S. program to train and support soldiers in this area; it's called the Pan Sahel Initiative. It's goal is to help Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania control their borders, interdict smuggling and to deny their use of territories to terrorists and other international criminals. The Chadian forces are going to begin training; it looks like, this summer.
QUESTION: So what's --
MR. BOUCHER: So it's about to happen as part, a symbol of our engagement, and our help with governments like this to fight terrorists. But they, themselves, have conducted a successful action already.
QUESTION: I don't know if you said -- we all know that there are terror groups besides al-Qaida. Is this autonomous or is it a part of the network or like-minded, or do you have any handle on it?
MR. BOUCHER: It is a Foreign Terrorist Organization that's designated in our Patterns of Global Terrorism report.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. --
MR. BOUCHER: So I'd refer you to that.
QUESTION: Yeah, that looks to be --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have all the facts in my head.
QUESTION: Sure, got you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: In light of the, you know, the statement that was released Al Quds Al Arabi in London, has there been any shift in the Administration position that who might be responsible for the terror act in Madrid yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: We're not -- I didn't say yesterday that X, Y or Z was responsible. I relayed to you what the Spanish had been saying.
MR. BOUCHER: We have every confidence in the Spanish authorities that the Spanish judicial system will be able to get to the bottom of this. We've noted Spanish statements say that they still consider ETA to the prime suspect because of a variety of things they know, but that also they will follow any line of investigation that opens up, and particularly some of these reports that came out yesterday of claims to Al Quds and of whatever it was else, Arabic language things available.
So I think all I can say is the Spanish are following this up. They remain in charge of the investigation. They are in charge of their own investigation; and we have every confidence that Spanish judicial authorities will get to the bottom of this.
QUESTION: Have they picked up the U.S. on the offer to provide assistance?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there has been any specific request at this point. We made that offer in all of our contacts and phone calls. And, of course, we have very close liaison relationships to begin with, so that work between experts continues and goes on.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary been involved in any way that they -- any planning to stop there? Has he been on the telephone?
MR. BOUCHER: Not today. He talked to Foreign Minister Palacio several times yesterday. The Secretary went to the Spanish Embassy yesterday afternoon to sign the condolence book. And the President, as you know, has talked to King Juan Carlos and President Aznar yesterday.
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, that I know, yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: So there is a lot going on between us and Spain at all levels, political levels, expert levels, leader levels to show our support and to work with them as they face a crisis that is not unlike the one we faced on September 11th.
QUESTION: Richard, back to Chad.
You said that no U.S. forces participated and that separately this -- the training program stuff -- are you saying that there was no U.S. support for this Chad operation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any particular U.S. support for this particular operation. There is U.S. support for Chad that is being expressed through the Pan Sahel Initiative and we'll likely see the training there this summer.
QUESTION: Moving on. Middle East.
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: There was a report this morning that said that you guys have basically drop -- given up your "GME" idea, the Greater Middle East --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the muffled report.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I stand before you unmuffled. I have to say that -- well, let me sort of tell you the state of play on this.
We're not toning down or muffling our calls for political reform and modernization in the Middle East. We have made very clear how important we think that reform and modernization is to the region. And in fact, we're seeing -- listening very carefully to all the voices in the region of the people themselves who are talking about it.
If you look back over the last year or so through the announcement of the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the President's London speech and the ferment going on, thinking going on in the Arab world, like the Arab human development reports, which date back even farther than our initiatives, it's the talk of the region -- the question of reform.
We intend to continue speaking out and supporting it. The G8 Summit Meeting in June is one of those opportunities, along with other meetings being held in June. The G8 political directors have been meeting in preparation for that meeting. In fact, they had a meeting yesterday and discussed the issue of Greater Middle East Initiative there. And we'll continue to work with our G8 partners, with regional governments and with civil society as we move forward.
We have just recently had a series of discussions with friends in the Arab and Muslim world on the subject of reform and how we can support their efforts at reform. We just want to make clear it's firmly and clearly in that context.
The Secretary met with the Jordanian Foreign Minister earlier this week. They talked about it. He's met recently to discuss these ideas with the President of Tunisia, with the Bahraini Crown Prince, the Moroccan Foreign Minister. Next week, during the course of his trip, he'll have the opportunity to further discuss these ideas.
We've just had two of our Under Secretaries out in the region, so active work going on; preparation for the G8 and other meetings, strong support for democracy and modernization in the Middle East, and strong -- channeling that support as support for the efforts the Arab and Muslim Governments themselves are making throughout the region to start reform and to engage, in some places, in very significant reform.
QUESTION: So the essence of the report that the G8 will -- that the summit will not produce a GMEI document is incorrect? You're still planning on doing that?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect the G8 to produce a discussion and a document about democracy or more open economics in the Middle East as well as perhaps other places.
MR. BOUCHER: It will be framed, though, in the way that we've talked about, and that is to support the efforts of countries in the region.
QUESTION: And you mentioned a ministerial meeting yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: No, a political directors meeting.
QUESTION: Political directors meeting. Have you guys changed your mind about not having a foreign ministers' -- a pre-summit foreign ministers' meeting? Or is it still your intention not to have one?
MR. BOUCHER: There is one.
QUESTION: Which was announced? I don't know. I've been gone.
MR. BOUCHER: It may have just been announced about 22 seconds ago. I'm not sure. Have we confirmed?
QUESTION: Ah, okay. So when is it and where?
MR. BOUCHER: We would -- I think while this process is underway it's being prepared, but we would expect to have a ministers' meeting before the, before the summit.
QUESTION: Could I have a follow-up on that?
QUESTION: There was an impression all along that the United States will submit a point-by-point, country-by-country process of reform sort of initiative. So are you backing away from that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not backing away from anything. I'm just saying that our support for democracy and free trade in the Middle East for reform in the Middle East is continuing, and it's going to be expressed in various meetings, but expressed in terms of how we can support the efforts of the people in the region to undertake those things.
QUESTION: While we're on the Middle East --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, Tami.
QUESTION: Before you go to Haiti possibly --
MR. BOUCHER: Nadia, do you want to stay on this?
QUESTION: Yeah, I just want to find out -- are you putting equal emphasis for both government and democratic forces within Arabic countries when it comes to advancement of democracy and reform? And don't you think it's just better off just targeting these groups like civil rights, human rights activists, you know -- and just working with governments that we know where they stand really.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think any of us want to -- well, it's not one or the other, but you have governments that are undertaking significant reforms.
Look around the region. You have governments in Bahrain and Qatar and Morocco and various other places. So we want to support their efforts -- Jordan -- all these places. Some have passed significant economic legislation. Morocco is working on very significant family law. So there are a lot of efforts that we want to support. There are a lot of efforts by members of civil society that we want to support, people who are organizing professional associations, or journalists who might want to -- need to get some training, or -- people are reforming judicial systems around the region.
We have various tools. We have economic tools that we can use in terms of governments joining the WTO and restructuring their economies. That's something we can help with. We can help by negotiating trade and investment agreements, free trade agreements. We have a lot of tools. We want to use them to support the efforts that people are making. Those efforts can be government efforts or private efforts.
QUESTION: Sure, but if you ask these people in these countries about the reform, they're still not happy about it because the pace is very slow and they believe that they're not going to change.
MR. BOUCHER: By supporting the efforts that are being made, we think we can help produce more, more reform, more of what the people are looking for.
QUESTION: While we're in the area -- I don't know if you said anything about the traveling trio. Are they back? Did they report to the Secretary? Or if you've covered it, I apologize.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven't.
QUESTION: Traveling trio?
MR. BOUCHER: I won't use the term.
QUESTION: I can call them the trinity, if you like.
MR. BOUCHER: Our three senior officials, who have been --
QUESTION: That's good.
MR. BOUCHER: -- in Israel are on their way back now. They're returning to Washington. Assistant Secretary Burns, Deputy National Security Advisor Hadley, and NSC Director Abrams are on their way back, will be returning. They're on the way back today.
They've completed their discussions. As you know, they had extensive discussions yesterday with the Israeli Government. They've kept in touch with the Israelis, but also met with a couple -- several people on the Palestinian side today. And so they're finished their discussions. They're on their way back.
QUESTION: The Secretary has a, kind of a schedule squeeze, about to go off on a trip. Will he have a chance to meet with them before he takes off? Last time he did, and they also went to the White House. Do you happen to know?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any organized meeting, but I'm sure, one way or the other, he'll -- he's in touch with them. We'll get to debrief from them on their travels and their discussions. He's been kept up to date as they've had these discussions.
QUESTION: Can I ask you one other thing? The Israeli Defense Minister, who saw the Secretary, the Vice President and Secretary Rumsfeld -- yesterday, he gave us 15 seconds of his time, but time enough for him to make a statement that -- that any withdrawal in Gaza does not "close the door," as he put it, to the President's vision -- he's picked up the language -- the President's vision, and to Palestinian statehood.
It sounded like a reassuring statement so far as reassuring the Administration. Has the -- does -- is it the impression here that, indeed, the withdrawal will not conflict with either of those two, the roadmap or statehood or whatever?
MR. BOUCHER: I -- we've just had a number of discussions with the Israelis in the region as well as Israeli visitors who've been in Washington recently, including the Defense Minister. I've seen public statements by the Prime Minister to that effect. I think the Israeli Government now, for some time, has been making clear that they looked at their disengagement idea, their disengagement plan that they're developing, as something that was intended to spur progress towards the achievement of a peaceful situation where two states can live side by side, the President's vision; and that they still recognize the roadmap as the way to get there. And they still wanted to proceed down that road, and thought that disengagement could possibly help that.
QUESTION: I promised that was my last question. But we didn't get much on the Palestinians.
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want to maybe --
QUESTION: Could I ask you about the Palestinian part of the trio's -- you know, they had talks this morning, you said.
Before they went, the Secretary made some references to things he'd like to have them go into. Can you give us any kind of a notion what those discussions entailed?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't really. I don't have a complete readout.
MR. BOUCHER: I guess "notion of what they entailed," I think, two things: Ending the violence and analyzing the situation as well as these possibilities that might come across, the goal being for the Palestinians to really take charge: Take charge of their security services; take charge of the situation with regards to the violence; take charge over the groups that have been perpetuating the violence.
QUESTION: The Palestinian Minister that met with the delegation at the consulate --
MR. BOUCHER: There are other people beyond the front row. Okay?
MR. BOUCHER: There are other people beyond the front row. Let's slow down a bit.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. willing to help finance some of the withdrawals? Israel says it's going to be looking for money from the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have anything new to say on that at this point. We'll leave the -- you know, without the debrief of the discussions, I'm really not up to date on where we stand at this precise moment. We need to let our team come back. We need to let them report to the Secretary and the President, and if there is anything new, we'll tell you afterwards.
QUESTION: So is that something that only would have come in those discussions? There hasn't been a direct request from Israel yet, as far as you know?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, frankly, if the Israelis have discussed this directly now or before. But at this point, I don't think there is anything to add, given the situation. The team is on the way back. Anything I say could be inaccurate without knowing how their discussions went in some detail.
QUESTION: Has the Bush Administration formally invited Mr. Sharon to come to the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be a White House question, but when I last checked -- I guess that was yesterday -- there -- we had not had anything formally scheduled.
QUESTION: Is King Abdallah going to be visiting Washington next month?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. You can ask the Jordanians.
QUESTION: It's been in the Arab media today.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you can ask King Abdallah first on his --
QUESTION: I'm trying to confirm that with you.
MR. BOUCHER: You can ask him on his travel plans, and if you are talking about a White House sort of indication, you'd have to ask there. I'm afraid this is just the wrong address for both of those questions.
QUESTION: Yeah. There is a high level Saudi delegation visiting the United States next month, shortly after Mubarak visits with the President in Crawford. I was wondering if -- they're going to be in New York. It's the Saudi Foreign Minister, the Finance Minister and one other, the Oil Minister.
I was just wondering if they have any plans to come down here and --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, what their plans might be, you'd have to ask them what their plans are. I'm sorry. I can't speak for the Jordanian King or the Saudi Ministers of what their plans are.
QUESTION: Well, as far as the initiative, the Greater Middle East Initiative, Mubarak and the Saudis being two of the countries that voiced some opposition --
MR. BOUCHER: We've had discussions already with the Egyptians and the Saudi Governments. We'll continue our discussions. If you remember when Under Secretary Grossman was in Cairo, there were a number of ministers there, and so he had discussions that I think the Saudi Foreign Minister or the Saudi representatives at the time, as well as the Egyptians.
So we have been consulting very widely in the region, continue to do so, and as I said, you'll see some of that going on during the Secretary's trip next week.
QUESTION: Is there anything you're hearing back from them as far as Grossman's and Larson's trip, anything that they say --
MR. BOUCHER: All I can tell you is we're discussing it with them and making clear that our goal is to support their efforts.
Okay. Were you going to stay on the Middle East for a moment?
QUESTION: You know, these incursions day after day. The Israelis are turning the Palestinian territories into rubble. I mean, you know, they are really rubbelizing the whole area that ultimately will become a state. Are you at all concerned? Are you voicing your concern? I mean, this is almost daily incursions in Rafah and other places.
MR. BOUCHER: We've been --
QUESTION: It seems that they are stripping the whole area.
MR. BOUCHER: We've obviously been concerned about the security situation, that's why we're working so hard to move forward.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, Haiti. Who was going --
QUESTION: I'll do it.
MR. BOUCHER: Is it Tammy or?
QUESTION: Do you want to?
QUESTION: Could you ask him about Aristide in Jamaica?
MR. BOUCHER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I am. There's a surprise.
QUESTION: Okay, go for it.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction? You've said that you think the best thing Aristide can do is to, you know, sort of to look forward. Do you think this might be a backward looking trip? Is it going to be unhelpful?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let's -- I mean, let's review the situation. We do think it's important to look forward. There are a lot of good things happening in Haiti. The situation has calmed down considerably, although there is still sporadic looting and violence.
The multinational force is there providing robust patrols, starting to make visits to other places outside of Port-au-Prince. There was a UN convoy yesterday that moved food and medicine up to Cap Hatien. There have been no significant rise in departures. The political situation is moving forward very rapidly along the lines of the CARICOM plan.
So we have a new Prime Minister who is taking charge, who is looking at how to address the serious problems that Haiti faces, including disarmament and security. He's moving forward. All these things are happening with the support of the international community, and I would say CARICOM has been part of that support -- that in a statement on March 11th, yesterday, we noted Jamaican Prime Minister Patterson underscored that CARICOM remains committed to the goal of restoring and nurturing democracy in its newest member state as well as to social and economic development of the people of Haiti.
We have stayed in close touch with the Jamaican Government as this whole thing has unfolded. The Secretary has been talking to Foreign Minister K.D. Knight. He's also talked today to Prime Minister Patterson of Jamaica.
The new Prime Minister of Haiti, Mr. Latortue, is well known in the region. We understand he'll be hosted by the Government of Jamaica for discussions prior to the meeting of the heads of the Caribbean community meeting that they're having in St. Kitts and Nevis later this month. So we welcome the support of the region for building democracy in Haiti. This process is well underway. We do think it's important for everyone to look forward and to support this process.
We have been informed by the Government of Jamaica that the invitation to the former President, Aristide, is for a temporary visit for family reasons. And we hope that the visit will be consistent with that goal and with the goal of all of us of strengthening democracy in Haiti.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that once Aristide is in Jamaica that he would try to use it as a launching pad to either go back into Haiti, or because of the proximity, to try to influence events there?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd just say it's important for everybody to support the process underway that's brought more stability and more opportunity and more hope to Haiti. We intend to do that. The CARICOM nations have said they intend to do that. We think everyone should do that.
So, you know, this is a visit for family reasons. That's why and how they admitted him and we have no problem with that and just think that as long as people keep their vision in a forward direction to help Haiti that it will be okay.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary express any concerns to either the Jamaican Foreign Minister or Prime Minister that this stay of family reasons visit? I mean, was there discussion of this?
MR. BOUCHER: We've discussed many things about this situation in Haiti with the Government of Jamaica, including this prospect of a visit. But as I said, I think we're all looking forward to what we can do to support Haiti and make sure that Haiti is given a chance to develop in the direction that things are now going.
QUESTION: Richard, forgive me if you've answered this question before, but as you mentioned, the trip to Jamaica is for family reasons. But given the fact that former President Aristide's wife and two children are U.S. citizens, is there some reason why -- have you discouraged him from coming back? Have you prohibited him for visiting the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: No. As we've, I think, said all along that he's, you know, he can go where he decides to go and where he can be admitted.
QUESTION: So you would not --
MR. BOUCHER: But I don't think he has a currently valid U.S. visa or residency permit. So he'd have to, like a normal person, apply and qualify.
QUESTION: Yes. But his wife and two children have U.S. passports.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, but that as grounds for applying doesn't qualify.
QUESTION: You don't have any problem with Mrs. Aristide coming -- going back to New York to see her parents and her two children?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any problem with American citizens traveling.
QUESTION: And you don't have any -- and what would happen if Mr. Aristide sought to?
MR. BOUCHER: We would --
QUESTION: Is that a hypothetical question that --
MR. BOUCHER: We would look at the application and decide if he was qualified.
QUESTION: Did the Jamaican Government consult with you before they allowed him to come -- go there, or is that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know I'd quite put it that way. They've -- we've been talking about everything involving Haiti with the Jamaican Government throughout the period of this crisis, and this is one of the subjects that came up as it developed.
QUESTION: Before they made their announcement?
MR. BOUCHER: It's one of the subjects that's come up over the last several days, yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, I just have one more on this. I just want to --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: The CARICOM meeting you're talking about is March 24th, 26th?
MR. BOUCHER: Something like that, yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. And it's in Saint Kitts now?
MR. BOUCHER: Saint Kitts and Nevis is what we're told.
QUESTION: Could you remind me again what your position is on secession for Saint Kitts and Nevis?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I couldn't.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. George.
QUESTION: Sometimes in such situations you offer financial assistance to a government, which is in need of outside assistance. You've done that in Afghanistan and elsewhere. I know the two situations are not comparable. Is there any assistance being generated since February 29th as a result of developments there?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a lot of assistance for the Government of Haiti. I mean, first of all, there's the direct assistance of the U.S. forces along with the other multinational forces who are helping provide security for the people of Haiti and helping to calm the situation down.
The -- in addition to that, we have been strong supporters all along of humanitarian work in Haiti. We have an annual budget of $54 million in fiscal year 2004 to support Haiti. Don't have the exact numbers how much of that has been spent the first part of the year, how much will be spent in the rest of the year, but that -- much of that money is still available.
We are Haiti's largest bilateral donor. Since our Ambassador declared the state of emergency on February 18th -- so that's in the last three or four weeks -- we have provided $1.8 million in emergency assistance for Haiti. Of this money, about -- over $400,000 has gone to the Pan American Health Organization, which is one of the organizations that's been making part of this new appeal that's out. And we'll certainly look at that request as well.
Okay, where were we? Teri.
QUESTION: Has the Government of Jamaica, have they asked for any assistance in keeping Aristide, or is your expectation that the visit would be so short that wouldn't come up?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any -- why that would be required. He's on a family visit.
QUESTION: Well, the Central African Republic wanted some and he was there only a couple weeks.
MR. BOUCHER: We have a lot of aid programs and assistance programs for countries, but I'm not aware of anything specifically related to Mr. Aristide's travels.
QUESTION: You would not expect Mr. Aristide to try to turn up at the CARICOM meeting, would you?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that the CARICOM heads have invited him.
QUESTION: As you know, the relationship between the U.S. and France was strained, to say the least, over the war in Iraq. How would you say that this close cooperation on every level militarily and politically in Haiti has improved the relationship with France?
MR. BOUCHER: It's been a sign that we can do things together, that we remain allies with France, as we said all along, even through our disagreements; that there are many common endeavors and common interests that we have in the world. Haiti is one of the places where we have been able to cooperate quite well and quite closely with France. But since the war we've passed UN resolutions together; we've tried to work on the problems in West Africa together; and so there have been a great many things, I think, that demonstrate that we remain allies; and we cooperate in any way we can, even if we have some rather acute differences from time to time over some things.
Let's go to the back. Sir.
QUESTION: Yes. Can I go to Korean situation?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Yes. Korean President Roh Moo-hyun was impeached by Korean National Assembly yesterday. Do you have any comment on that situation?
MR. BOUCHER: My comment on that situation is that that is a domestic internal political matter for the South Korean people to decide. I think you know that the U.S.-Korean relations and our alliance remain strong, stable and vital, that we'll continue to work together on issues of mutual concern, including things like the six-party talks and the Korean forces that are going to Iraq.
The Secretary did talk to the Korean Foreign Minister this morning. They had a good conversation and reaffirmed to each other that we'd keep working together and cooperating as this unfolds in Korea.
QUESTION: Richard, I have a question about Zimbabwe. With this mercenary --
QUESTION: Can we stay on Korea, please?
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to stay on Korea for a minute.
QUESTION: Would you think this might affect the six-party talks and --
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to speculate. I think six-party talks remains one of the things that Korea will continue to work on. They have said that they will continue to devote energy and effort to all these policies, and we look forward to working with them. I don't see, really, any change in the current level of cooperation. Certainly, the Secretary and the Korean Foreign Minister agreed today we'd continue to work together on this and other topics.
QUESTION: President Roh wasn't in power for very long and he has, some people say, caused some concerns because his strong opinion of, sort of, independence from America to govern his own government. Has this been some difficulty in the deliberations?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to do political commentary. This is a matter that the Korean Government and people need to work through, and in the meantime, our relationship is strong. We've been working very closely with South Korea, with Korea, the Republic of Korea on many, many matters including the close cooperation in terms of Iraq and the contribution that Korea is making to stability for the Iraqi people.
We've worked very closely with the South Korean Government on the talks with North Korea. We had very close coordination on that, so we've been doing, I think, very well in terms of our international cooperation and our alliance itself.
QUESTION: And yet, there was a statement from Seoul about a week ago that they intend from this admini -- that administration that they intend to pursue more independent foreign policy, more independent of the United States.
In its conversations or in any other context, has the U.S. looked into this and confirmed that there is nothing there to be anxious about from a U.S. viewpoint?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know to what extent --
QUESTION: I mean, you talk about (inaudible). There are other issues, yeah -- excuse me. Besides North Korea and troops, there are other things, so that's why I ask.
MR. BOUCHER: And that's why I mentioned three seconds ago, the cooperation that we have within our alliance.
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, we defend the Peninsula together. We have been working closely with the South Korean Government on the reorientation of some of our forces there and bases. And that's been a process that's being worked very closely with them. There is any number of things, I think, that you can cite where the U.S.-Korean cooperation has been excellent on international issues, as well on things like economic cooperation.
As far as how they want to characterize their foreign policy and how they decide to take positions, I'd really leave that to the South Koreans themselves. But I think there is an abundance of specific points to point to that say that the U.S. and South Korea have worked well together and are working well together and we expect to continue.
QUESTION: Can we go back --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We've got one more on this?
QUESTION: I just have one more on China.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout for the telephone call from Chinese Foreign Minister to Secretary Powell?
MR. BOUCHER: The Chinese Foreign Minister and Secretary Powell spoke this morning on the telephone.
QUESTION: Who called whom?
MR. BOUCHER: The discussion was about human rights.
QUESTION: All right. So, Richard, as you well know, yeah, the annual session of the UN Human Rights Commission is coming up very soon in Geneva. Have you made a decision on whether you're going to -- the annual -- the annual question about China or no?
MR. BOUCHER: We continue to give the matter serious consideration. I'd refer you back to the remarks the Secretary made in testimony this week.
QUESTION: Okay. And that was -- was this -- when you said they talked about human rights this morning, was it in the context of Geneva?
MR. BOUCHER: It was in the context of Geneva, yeah.
QUESTION: And you don't want to go into any more detail, I take it?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Richard, I have a question concerning the mercenaries, which were detained in Harare by Mugabe's Government. And it affects Equatorial Guyana and -- Guinea, rather -- and it appears that he wants to put them on trial. And since when is he taking over for a government (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into this one. I've already said the U.S. Government had nothing to do with this airplane or the people on board. I'm not offering gratuitous commentary on the matter.
Yeah, let's go to the back.
QUESTION: I have a couple of questions on Colombia.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you confirm how many Colombian Generals the U.S. Government has canceled their visas and why you made the decision?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have that information. I'll check. But I don't think that's information that we're able to give out.
QUESTION: We have that information about the General Rito Alejo del Río, General --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. But I think that gets -- we have a law that prevents us from talking about specific visa cases, and I don't think I'm allowed to do that.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll check and just make absolutely sure. But I really don't think I'm able to go into any specific visa case. Okay?
QUESTION: On Iran. Can you talk about the status of your resolution in Vienna? And rumors are, again, you're having trouble getting support for this resolution. And, I think, doesn't it need to be today that you get one done?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the meeting is scheduled to end today. Whether it does or not, we'll have to see. The -- as I think in previous sessions, sometimes they get -- they go over, if there is a lot of work to do.
QUESTION: They stop the clock.
MR. BOUCHER: The discussion continues in Vienna on a draft resolution on Iran. We've been working with other members of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors in Vienna. We think there's clear support for a resolution among many of the Board members and there is even clearer recognition by almost all of the Board members and the Director General himself that Iran's nuclear activities must remain the focus of the Board's attention and concern for the foreseeable future. And it's on that basis that we are working to achieve a resolution with everybody.
QUESTION: Wait, but do you need -- even if there's support among many, you need support with all of them, right?
MR. BOUCHER: And we're working it.
QUESTION: Okay. So basically, you're just still working on this resolution today?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: Not willing to change the language to back off criticism of Iran enough to get the other -- the nonaligned move to ten?
MR. BOUCHER: We think it's important for the international community to present a strong resolution to make clear that Iran needs to remain under scrutiny. We've had reports from the Director General. Those have reinforced our concerns about Iran's nuclear program and we're continuing to work with other governments.
But we have, I would say, reached substantial agreement with a substantial number of countries there already. And the process is sort of working its way through all the different groups and representatives in Vienna.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Middle East for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Maariv, the Israeli newspaper, close to the government, published a report saying that plans were almost completed that when -- upon evacuating the settlements from Gaza to have them enter the West Bank. Do you have a position on that?
MR. BOUCHER: We have a delegation that's just been out there. We've had close and continued discussions.
QUESTION: Is this a point of contention with the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: The overall U.S. view of this is not -- has not changed -- that these are Israeli decisions that they are making, the plans that they are coming up with. We think that this offers a lot of promise, that it could be historic, and that we will continue to discuss with the Israelis. There's a lot to talk about in the plans that they're developing and coming up with. We'll continue discussions. We've had active and ongoing consultations with the Israelis and we'll continue those discussions.
QUESTION: But in principle, are you, you saying a disapproval to --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not saying in principle this, that or the other. I'm not commenting on the Maariv articles, which may or may not be what the Israelis are planning. I'm not going to speak for the Israelis. I'd just tell you this is potentially very, very important visit, and we would take it very seriously. And there's a lot to talk about and we're talking about it with the Israelis.
QUESTION: There were two members of the Iraqi Governing Council in town, women, a foreign event at the White House, a women's event. Is there more to their presence? That's something, but --
MR. BOUCHER: There's a lot more to their presence. I think they've been appearing on television, they've been around town. They were at the event that we did here the other day. I think the Minister of Public Works for Iraq spoke at the event. You'll find that transcript on our website, right? Yeah.
So there's a lot of activity. It's a -- we see it as a very important and the event at the White House today, of course, very important to highlight all the progress being made by women in Iraq as well as women in Afghanistan for that matter.
QUESTION: What is the AID involvement in this?
MR. BOUCHER: AID is actively supporting programs for women in Iraq, Afghanistan -- other places around the world. They're funding a lot of very good work in Iraq to provide shelters, counseling, all kinds of assistance to women in this situation, to help them get organized and play a role, political role in the future of their country.
QUESTION: Yeah, have you spoken at all, and if you have, you don't have to go over it again, but about the U.S. decision to disassociate itself from the final conclusions of the ECLAC conference down in Chile, which has to do with women reproductive rights, that kind of thing?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of the issue.
QUESTION: You're not? That's unfortunate.
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look into it for you.
QUESTION: And we're getting peppered with calls, although I can't frankly --
MR. BOUCHER: ECLAC calls?
QUESTION: In our wires. Well, Congresswoman Maloney's office, for instance. Their account is that the U.S. alone dissented from family planning, which must be a policy decision, but I can't verify it.
MR. BOUCHER: All right, but I -- I can't verify it either.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of the issue. I haven't been getting calls from the Congressman's office. I'm sure somebody has. We'll check on it.
MR. BOUCHER: I -- it kind of reminds me of the Bangkok conference last year where it took us all a little while to sort out exactly who said what. But it was -- this Administration has a very clear policy on family planning. Doesn't come as any surprise to anybody. It's be enunciated again and again. We take that position at conferences. It has not stood in the way of our international cooperation on family planning. It's not stood in the way of our considerable funding of family planning activities around the world and our continued support for women's health and for family planning activities and for education activities and for fighting the AIDS virus and HIV around the world.
So I'm not sure there's going to be any surprise here once we get a chance to look into it.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, you're not the one to -- you know, it isn't fair --
MR. BOUCHER: You guys will decide. I'll tell you what's going on --
QUESTION: No, no, no. We just --
MR. BOUCHER: -- you decide if there's news.
QUESTION: We just had a little inter -- a little exchange on women's rights in Iraq and how pleased you all are that women are -- women's rights are improving in Iraq. And here's the U.S. voting against family planning and there are a lot of people who would argue that family planning should be something that women -- that protect -- that family planning is a protection of women's rights.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, the United States has been, for many years, and continues to be one of the major supporters of family planning activities around the world, including education. And we've been a major supporter of women's rights around the world. We've been a major supporter of education for women in all aspects. And so I don't think we have anything to apologize for.
This Administration has taken a certain position on family planning in the Mexico City policy. We've taken that position in international conferences. But it has not detracted in any way from the considerable work that we have done on women's health and family planning issues around the world.
QUESTION: Richard, will the Secretary visit Kuwait during his upcoming trip?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't have any more stops to announce for you today.
QUESTION: I think that's it. Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)
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