State Department Noon Briefing, May 10, 2004

 

Monday May 10, 2004

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
Monday, May 10, 2004

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

DEPARTMENT
-- Applegarth Briefing on the Millennium Challenge Corporation

IRAQ
-- Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Investigation/ICRC Reports
-- Al-Jazeera Video
-- Discussions on New UN Resolution
-- Brahimi Consultations/June 30 Transfer of Sovereignty
-- U.S. Standards and Contracting Rules
-- Staffing and Financing of New Embassy
-- NATO Forces in Iraq

PAKISTAN
-- VOA Broadcasts in Urdu

NORTH KOREA
-- Upcoming Working Group Talks on Six-Party Process/Special Envoy DeTrani

CUBA
-- Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba Report/Vicente Fox Comments

VENEZUELA
-- Capture of Colombian Paramilitaries

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
-- Cancellation of Visit by Prime Minister Sharon
-- Dr. Rice Meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Qureia

SUDAN
-- Update to Aid Efforts
-- African Union Reconnaissance Mission
-- DART Team/Visas

HAITI
-- U.S. Assistance to Haiti
-- Asylum for Former President Aristide


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

MONDAY, MAY 10, 2004
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. No particular announcements. I wanted to remind you that we have a briefing in this room at 2:30 this afternoon. Mr. Paul Applegarth, the Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation will be available to answer your questions about the list of nations who will be eligible for assistance this year, and how the program is working and how it intends to go forward, so -- making good progress there and he'll be glad to talk about it.

Questions about that or something else?

QUESTION: Sir, can you answer, sir, that today VOA, Voice of America announced a 12-hour extend their service to Pakistan Urdu service?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that has anything to do with Millennium Challenge, so if we can follow the usual protocol and let the senior --

QUESTION: From three hours to 12?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't do VOA anyway. So you can get everything from them.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: But I don't know who our senior wire correspondent is today, but who's going to start?

QUESTION: I have another question on Iraq, sir.

MR. BOUCHER: In a minute. We usually start by protocol here with the senior wire correspondent.

Anybody got one?

QUESTION: The junior wire person?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, the junior wire correspondent. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Red Cross, International Red Cross was saying that they had briefed Secretary Powell in January about conditions -- prisoner conditions in Iraq. Do you have any information about that and what action was taken afterwards?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we dealt with this last Thursday and Friday as some of this reporting was coming out.

The point I think I made is that the Red Cross talks to -- first and foremost, they talk to the people involved in running the detention centers, and so the Red Cross itself is reporting that they briefed coalition forces as they made their visits in Iraq whenever they, as a matter of routine, whenever they came out with concerns or recommendations, they would do that.

Others in the U.S. Government from time to time would have meetings with the Red Cross or receive letters from them; and certainly when such information came to us, as it did over the course of -- over the course of time, over late last year and early this year, we certainly took note of the information.

Our job, I think, primarily, was to make sure that it was in the hands of those who could do something about it. And so that's where the State Department, at different levels, at various levels, first wanted to make sure -- made sure that the information that was provided to us was already in the hands of those in the coalition forces or the Pentagon or elsewhere that could do something about it; and, second of all, that it was going to be taken seriously, and so we would get in touch with counterparts in other agencies and do that. That's pretty much what happened on a regular basis, whether it was meetings that Secretary Powell had or others in the building had.

But, in most cases, the Red Cross itself put most -- its emphasis on getting the information to coalition forces, and, indeed, there were cases where they told us they were not going to provide us with particular reports because they wanted it to be sort of solely and directly in the hands of the people who could fix the problems.

QUESTION: But do you know what information Secretary Powell received from the Red Cross on --

MR. BOUCHER: Again, we received a variety of information on these visits as they proceeded, or after they -- after they took place. Let me put it that way. And the February report, I think, we got here in March. So yes, we did receive information from time to time in various forms, meetings with the Secretary, meetings with others, letters, reports.

And, as I said before, our job was to make sure that that was in the hands of those who could fix the problems and was being taken seriously. And that's what we did.

Teri.

QUESTION: Does the State Department -- I know that you've said before that -- that you couldn't tell us exactly what recommendations were implemented and what weren't, but did the State Department consider it part of its responsibility to follow up after you passed on the information? Or whose job was it to see that it, as you say, it was taken seriously and something was done?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, certainly, the follow up was important and there were regular discussions. And I think you all know, at least, as of January of this year, there was -- the investigation that was already going on, a serious investigation within the military that I think people have written about enough, though, that you know it was a thorough and honest investigation. That was what was called for in that case, and that's what they did.

Yeah. Elise.

QUESTION: Was the State Department involved in any way in training officers in the military on human rights, on paying attention to human rights when they go over?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of, no.

QUESTION: When you passed on information that came from the Red Cross, are you satisfied that it was taken seriously?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we had made sure. We know, in specific instances, that it was. We had heard back at various times from the Red Cross that the cooperation was very good that they were getting. We have certainly heard back from the military that they were implementing some of the recommendations.

And in the case of January -- the February report, by the time that came to us, we already knew the military had a thorough investigation underway. It's -- I can't give you a full accounting of what was and what was done at different times because that was not in our hands, but it was a continuous issue for discussion for us, to make sure that indeed, not just that some steps were taken, but that everything possible could be done to prevent the kind of concerns that have surfaced.

QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of some of those recommendations that were implemented?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Again, it's -- that was mostly in the hands of those directly involved in the -- in the prison system and the system of detentions, and they're the ones that will be able to describe more fully the changes that they made along the way.

QUESTION: On Al-Jazeera.

MR. BOUCHER: Sure.

QUESTION: Al-Jazeera is broadcasting today a new video showing a group of Iraqis threatening to kidnap and to murder foreign workers working in Iraq. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I don't have any comment on that. I have not -- I wasn't aware of the broadcast so I don't really have anything to say at this moment.

Yeah. Nicholas.

QUESTION: Still on Iraq. If I can ask about the resolution of the UN and what's going on, can you tell us; is there a draft at this point? Have you been discussing it? Have the British or other members of the council been helping you with that? And is there at least an approximate time frame at this point for tabling it?

MR. BOUCHER: No, yes, no, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not aware of any draft at this moment. Yes, we've been discussing it. We have put -- we've had discussions with various coalition partners, with various members of the Security Council. The Secretary, as you know, has been discussing it with other members of the Security Council and the coalition. He had discussions last week in -- when were we in Berlin? Last week -- last week in Berlin -- no, last week in -- week before last in Berlin -- let me start this timeline right. I got -- Tuesday was New York. Week before last in Berlin, we had discussions with the German Foreign Minister about it, we had discussions in Denmark with our coalition partner. The Danes had discussions with coalition partners; Poland, Bulgaria, during the course of those events in Berlin; had more discussions on Tuesday, including a fairly extensive discussion with Foreign Minister Lavrov.

Later in the week, there was a discussion, an informal-informal meeting, as they call them up in New York, among Security Council members to talk about what might go into a resolution and how different things might be handled.

And the Secretary has continued to discuss it with other members of the Security Council, like Foreign Minister Jack Straw of the UK. Had a discussion on Sunday with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier about the UN resolution.

So what we're doing at this point is sort of gathering ideas about how it might proceed, what kind of elements belong in it and how different questions might be handled. I'd say there's a fair amount of congruence on the major issues to be addressed. We think those discussions have proceeded well, but, obviously, we'll have the kind of usual discussions we have at the UN when it comes down to putting words on paper and getting them through.

As far as timeframe, I think we all know we're looking for a resolution as soon as possible before the handover, transfer of sovereignty, which will take place by the end of June. But we're also using -- looking to use the resolution to endorse the process and the progress being made in Mr. Brahimi's discussions, so some time between when he comes up with a sort of more definitive statement about how he thinks we should proceed and the handover, we need to get the UN resolutions in place as well.

QUESTION: Can I follow up with two quick ones? Is the interagency process here still going on in terms of what exactly the resolution should say? And is Mr. Blackwill, as far as you know, with Mr. Brahimi, and are they now working as a team there?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't describe them as a team. Mr. Blackwill -- Ambassador Blackwill is out in Iraq, certainly meeting and discussing and having frequent contact with Ambassador Brahimi. He will be also having other meetings on his own in Iraq. So -- but it's not -- they're not doing the meetings jointly as far as I know.

QUESTION: Interagency --

MR. BOUCHER: Interagency discussions continue, obviously, as we head towards drafting and then producing a text and negotiating a text. They will just continue to go into more detail, but whenever we discuss, for example, at the meeting in New York, the kind of elements that we would like to see in a resolution or the basis for the Secretary's discussions with other countries, when he puts forward the U.S. position, that's something that's been worked out in the U.S. Government already.

Okay. Elise.

QUESTION: What's this building's view in terms of who should -- what type of person should serve in the interim government? There was a lot of back and forth with Brahimi about whether there should just be technocrats and political parties shouldn't be involved. Do you think that political parties would be needed to kind of have influence over the country?

MR. BOUCHER: Our view is that we should let Ambassador Brahimi proceed in his consultations and that we support his efforts. He is talking to a broad range of people. He's made clear that he thinks there needs to be a viable and credible political process to form an interim Iraqi government. But I don't want to try to specify or limit or jump to any conclusions yet about how he's going to proceed. He's -- will -- is meeting, will meet with the people in -- from a broad cross-section of Iraqis from all political walks of life to assist Iraqis in forming an interim government.

It's premature to speculate at this moment on who and what kind of people might emerge. We concur with his commitment that officials of the interim government should be honest, well qualified and of high integrity. But I think our goal at this point is to let him proceed with his consultations and talk to as many people as possible, consider as many people as possible, and see where, really, the Iraqis that he's talking to, what kind of government they're looking for at this moment.

Okay.

QUESTION: Come June 30th and July 1, the State Department is likely to have a larger role in Iraq. Are you recommending any kind of a protocol to organize or regulate the relationship with the private contractors, especially now that it has come to light that they have played a role of either supervising or even conducting the abuse? Or is that a military matter?

MR. BOUCHER: It's a bit of a complicated question because the U.S. Government has standards and contracting rules, which need to be followed. Those standards and contracting rules applied before, apply now, and will apply in the future. Depending on which way the money flows, the bidding procedures might be slightly different, but anyone on U.S. Government work is supposed to -- is expected to meet certain standards. And frankly, in terms of the security contracting, the same rules apply as they would to any normal security personnel.

The contractors that might be employed in Iraq, much of the embassy money, the 18-some billion for reconstruction that has been used and the -- the remainder of that will transfer over on June 30th so that we can continue to spend it out of the embassy. That money is largely devoted to reconstruction and to helping the Iraqis get schools and hospitals and roads and bridges and all the things necessary to put their economy and their country back on a solid footing.

To some extent, we may have security contractors involved in protection of embassy and U.S. Government facilities, but then, there might be some in the military as well, supporting the military effort, which is under a slightly different chain of command.

The simple answer to your question is that there's no simple answer, except the simplest answer is that there are rules that everybody has to follow, whatever the stream of contracting.

QUESTION: I guess my question --

MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't matter whether it's the embassy-in-charge or the military doing the contracting, whether it's now or in the future, there are rules and standards everybody has to follow.

QUESTION: Concerning that they are civilian U.S. citizens, although they perform some military duties, will they report to the embassy? Will they report to you directly? Will you be responsible for them and their activities and their conduct?

MR. BOUCHER: As I just described to you, it's not simple to say who "they" are and how "they" might report through whatever contractor or whatever responsible agency is doing the contracting except to say that everybody has to meet certain standards of behavior.

QUESTION: But how will they be held accountable though? I mean, if you just say it's not simple --

MR. BOUCHER: The problem is you keep using the word "they," which can embody a broad universe of people, some of whom will be held accountable in one way and some in other ways. But whether it's as U.S. citizens or as contractors or under the terms of the various contracts, people are expected to meet certain standards.

Sir.

QUESTION: First on Iraq. How did Secretary feel when he heard his name on the Hill that he should be replaced with Secretary of Defense?

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I don't know that he took that seriously or paid much attention to it, frankly.

QUESTION: And two, as far as his visiting the UN and outside the UN is a concern diplomatically, are there any complaints from -- or which countries are complaining or have complained to him about the abuses in Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've had any great level of what you might call direct complaints in a diplomatic sense, but certainly we know it's an issue of concern to many in foreign publics, many that we see -- we follow the media commentary on this, the editorials and commentators, what's being said about us, and we certainly know it's a matter of concern to governments and people in governments.

We have made sure that people understand that the United States is dealing with this in an open and up-front manner. We're willing to face the problems that occurred, fix them and punish people who might be responsible for abuses or crimes. That's what the President said this morning. That's what the Secretary said, the Secretary of Defense, generals, everybody.

So whether it comes from our public statements or the discussions we might have with other countries' diplomats or their embassies might have, we tell them frankly what's going on and how we're going to deal with it.

QUESTION: Can I go to Kurdistan?

QUESTION: A follow-up on that?

MR. BOUCHER: A follow-up on that?

QUESTION: Yeah. Have you found that countries or officials who called you initially are calling back again, renewing their concerns as more pictures come out, or are your answers reassuring them enough that they are -- that they're not coming back to you again?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have enough information to make a broad generalization like that. I think it's a matter of continuing concern. As we all know, this has been a matter of concern since -- at least since we started talking about it in public in January. But, obviously, when pictures come out and more pictures come out, people's attention is again riveted and their feelings well up, and so we may be talking to people repeatedly as this goes on.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. BOUCHER: Let's -- Chris, is it similar or different? Do you want to --

QUESTION: It's still Iraq, but it's a little different, so --

MR. BOUCHER: Okay.

QUESTION: -- I defer.

QUESTION: On the issue of -- you talk about more pictures coming out --

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and us doing everything we can to convince people this is an open and transparent process, what's the view in this building about the diplomacy value or damage of the U.S. releasing the other pictures that it already has in its possession versus allowing them to trickle out through leaks over the next umpteen weeks or months?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that the position here is the same as for the whole U.S. Government: that we're certainly looking at what there is and how it can be made available. But as you know, there are certain legal prosecutorial guidelines and things like that at Defense that govern the custody of things like that and how they can be released. So I know the U.S. Government is looking at that, the White House has made that clear on behalf of all of us. But at this point, I can't -- I can't really tell you how it's going to -- how they're going to work it out.

QUESTION: But is there a view on whether it will help or hinder in terms of public diplomacy?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we want to show the maximum possible openness in these matters, but we also want to make sure that we demonstrate that we can punish people who might be guilty of criminal abuses, so we're all having to weigh those factors, those factors being weighed by the Pentagon and the White House.

Yeah. Okay. Chris.

QUESTION: I was wondering if there is any update available on the staffing and financing of the new embassy?

MR. BOUCHER: The last update, I guess, was about three weeks ago now, with Marc Grossman's testimony. Let me see if there's anything more to say. They've been certainly -- well, I can tell you one position that's now been filled and that's Ambassador to Iraq. There have also been quite a few other senior positions they've decided on who's going to be who in the embassy. The Deputy Chief of Mission will be Jim Jeffries. I think Ambassador Negroponte has also settled on a number of his senior leadership, section chiefs and others, because each of those in itself will be a major operation, so he's getting senior personnel for that.

We had an abundance of bidders for the jobs at our Embassy in Iraq and so the process has gone quite smoothly of filling those jobs. And then there are also, as you know, a whole series of decisions that get made about money and contracts and how to administer various kinds of funds, how to organize the embassy. As far as I know, that's proceeding smoothly.

I don't have any updated numbers on the totals. What was the total? We said was about 1,000 Americans and 700 local employees. That's, as far as I know, still what's expected. If there's any more detail than this, I'll try to get you something more, but I think off the top of my head, that's how the process has been proceeding.

QUESTION: As a follow-up.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay.

QUESTION: Richard, when you look into, or if you can look into and get any further information, could you also take the question, unless you have the answer now, of how many are Arabic speaking, how many of these senior officials?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll look into it and see.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Has Public Affairs been chosen?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

Yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Well, let's start with Christophe and work our way back.

QUESTION: But still on Iraq. Two weeks ago, the Secretary asked France to consider sending troops to Iraq in order to -- for the purpose of protecting the UN there. And I understand that today the answer, the response from Paris is completely negative. Do you have a reaction to --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that the Secretary specifically asked the French to consider sending troops. He was asked to speculate several times on what NATO might provide. And I think he made clear that, first of all, we didn't expect large numbers or significant numbers of troops from NATO nations because 16 of the 26 NATO nations are already involved in Iraq, and that we already knew from France and Germany, the only other sort of large military possibilities, that they were not very inclined.

He did say that it might be that France or others might want to help support UN security out there. They might have some part in NATO decisions that are eventually made. So we've seen the statements from Paris, but I don't think they come as much of a surprise. And I think we continue to work with other NATO partners on what NATO's role might be in Iraq and how NATO can facilitate the involvement of NATO nations, many of whom as I said, are already there.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure.

QUESTION: Senator Biden, yesterday, suggested that the situation is so critical that maybe the President ought to host a major summit at Camp David with the heads of NATO, the head -- you know, the European Union, bring in some Arab leaders, and so on, to really work out all of these details -- how you could involve the international community more, you know, hands-on kind of situation, and sort of lift that American face off the occupation. Would that be something that Secretary of State Powell would recommend or advocate?

MR. BOUCHER: That would be something that the White House might consider, if they want to consider it, but you'll have to check over there and find out if they are considering it.

QUESTION: But it is not something that you guys would (inaudible)?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't bring every White House question over here by just saying what does Secretary Powell think of it. I'm sorry. It's -- a recommendation like that for a big White House event at Camp David is something the White House would want to think about. If they decide to, and if they decide not to, they are the ones to explain.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Richard, can I go back to my question VOA please?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: This morning Voice of America announced extended from three hour to 12-hour service to Pakistan in Urdu. My question is that only 20 percent people in Pakistan speak Urdu, and more than 50 percent are Punjabi-speaking. Why U.S. is extending 12 hours? And also, are we facing any kind of threats or something within Pakistan?

MR. BOUCHER: I really have to leave you with the Voice of America for that, on the number of hours they broadcast in different languages. I just don't know what they broadcast in other languages.

Yeah. Ma'am.

QUESTION: North Korea's six-party talks, have -- has Mr. DeTrani left, already left for Beijing's, the working group meetings?

MR. BOUCHER: I believe -- he's not only left, but he's arrived. Special Envoy DiTrani arrived in Beijing today. He'll have working group talks among the participants in the six-party process. They begin on Wednesday in Beijing.

We have an interagency delegation headed by Mr. Joe DiTrani, our Special Envoy for North Korea. It includes representatives from other agencies of government, including the National Security Council and the Secretary of Defense's Office.

Special Envoy DiTrani will consult with South Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Russian counterparts on Tuesday before the first session of the working group. Our objective remains the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs, and we will pursue that objective at this working group meeting and at the next six-party plenary meeting, which is expected to take place before the end of June.

That's where we are.

Ma'am.

QUESTION: Can you tell us some information, like how many days the meetings are scheduled to last and format, whether there will be a bilateral between U.S. and North Korea?

MR. BOUCHER: Talks are expected to last several days, but at this point no end dates have been set. As our Special Envoy is meeting with various other delegations out there, as happened at previous plenary talks, I wouldn't be surprised if he had meetings within the context of the six-party talks with individual delegations, including a North Korean delegation, but I don't know of anything set or scheduled at this point.

Yeah. Elise.

QUESTION: I know your ultimate goal is the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement, but that's a pretty long-term goal. So what are the goals for this set of working talks in terms of moving forward?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the goals for this particular session are to try to talk a little more, identify a little more the steps that could be taken to achieve the comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs; offers us an opportunity to clarify, answer any questions about proposals that we have put forward; to make absolutely clear that complete, verifiable and irreversible are key terms and that those are the parameters of what we expect to achieve. It gives us a chance to state again that we don't offer any rewards or inducements for North Korea to come into compliance with its obligations, but also to make clear that if North Korea accomplishes the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear programs, it would have the prospect of becoming a full member of the international community with all the benefits and responsibility that that entails.

So I guess the basic answer is to go into a little more detail, to clarify things and answer questions as we head into the next plenary session, which should take place by the end of June. That's more a location for decision or negotiation.

Yeah. Ma'am.

QUESTION: On Taiwan. Taiwan start the recount of the presidential election this week, actually ten days before the inauguration. How does U.S. view this recount? And, meanwhile, have you decide the head of the delegation to the May 20th inauguration?

MR. BOUCHER: As far as delegation to the inauguration, I don't have anything for you on that at this point.

As far as the recount goes -- nothing new to say. We've always made clear we've felt that questions of irregularities or other things involving the election could be dealt with within the framework of Taiwan's laws and procedures, and that's what we see occurring at this point.

QUESTION: Is the decision on the delegation pending because of the -- you're still waiting for the result of the recount or --

MR. BOUCHER: It's pending because we haven't announced anything yet.

Sir.

QUESTION: Yeah, on Cuba. What do you respond to other countries, particularly President Fox in Mexico, criticizing the report that came out last week on speeding up transition in Cuba and saying that there are undue intervention in the affairs of other countries?

And as far as the report calls for other countries in Latin America to join, how concerned is the United States that other countries might not want to jump in, into this plan?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't tried to do a survey or look at specific criticism, so I don't really have any particular response to particular people.

In terms of the general issues that you raise, I would say, first of all, that the report that we produced deals with U.S. policy, how we handle travel by U.S. citizens, how we handle remittances by U.S. citizens, how we handle, you know, the per diem rules for Americans who want to go for Cuba -- to Cuba.

We do know that other countries have handled these things differently in the past and wouldn't be surprised that they do so in the future. But we also know that increasingly, there is an international dynamic of concern about Cuba, that you saw that expressed in the -- Geneva at the human rights resolution. We know that from the behavior and statements of various other governments who have said that particularly when it comes to the 75 people that Cuba has put in jail and is now -- and is now perpetrating great hardships against, that there are, indeed, many nations in the hemisphere that are concerned and that want to raise their voices.

So we'll continue to work with other governments about those concerns and continue to talk to them about what we're doing and what they have in mind themselves.

QUESTION: Does this include getting them to implement these, the recommendations as well?

MR. BOUCHER: Those are U.S. recommendations, U.S. regulations. I don't think we expect other governments to adopt those.

Ma'am.

QUESTION: Venezuela.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Venezuelan Government captured Colombia's paramilitaries in Caracas. Is United States concerned that despite the aid the United States give to Colombia, the violence is nevertheless affecting neighboring countries?

MR. BOUCHER: We have always been concerned about the activities of these paramilitaries. That's why they're on our counterterrorism list; that's why the United States has taken its own steps to prevent their activities.

The incident involving arrest or capture of 77 Colombian paramilitary figures is something we've heard about through the media, so we are certainly watching the situation closely as it's reported in the media, but we don't have any information on the investigation or the ongoing investigation that the Venezuelan authorities are conducting, so I can't get too much farther than that.

I know there have been some charges that somehow this is all part of a U.S. plot to overthrow the Chavez government. So before we get asked about it, let me say one more time that those kind of charges are baseless and irresponsible, and we categorically reject these kinds of outrageous statements and accusations.

QUESTION: What about the other charges that this is actually all a ruse, that the Chavez Government has just invented these paramilitaries?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, we don't --

QUESTION: You don't have any suspicion --

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any particular direct information of our own that we can provide. We're seeing this reported in the press, but we don't have any direct information that we can give you.

Sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Sharon has quit work on another plan of his own concerning the destiny of the Palestinians and their land. Is he doing that with consultation of the Administration in order to agree with the roadmap or is he doing that on his own this time?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have had consultations in the past with Prime Minister Sharon about his plan to withdraw from Gaza. We have expressed our support for that plan. The Quartet expressed support for the full withdrawal at their meeting last Tuesday. And I think that's our position.

As far as what Mr. Sharon may come up with in terms of proceeding with this plan or anything else he might have to propose, we'll just have to wait and see.

Adi.

QUESTION: On the same topic --

QUESTION: Different.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Sir.

QUESTION: Could you tell us why, if you have any information, why he canceled this trip to Washington?

MR. BOUCHER: That's a matter for him to discuss and decide. I think he was coming to give a speech, wasn't he? So it's up to him to explain.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. Could you also tell us if you know anything about that upcoming meeting between Dr. Rice and Qureia?

MR. BOUCHER: Next Monday in Berlin. I talked about it on Friday in terms of the context of how we were moving forward and looking for ways to move forward after the Quartet statement; that the Secretary would be going to Jordan over the weekend.

He'll have an opportunity there to talk with Arab leaders, but also with Palestinians, and then Dr. Rice has an opportunity, in the context of a trip she's making to Europe, to meet with Prime Minister Qureia in Berlin, so she's taking advantage of that opportunity also to help the United States try to move the ball forward on Israeli-Palestinian issues and the roadmap.

QUESTION: Is there a chance, albeit small, that the Secretary will meet with a Palestinian official, (inaudible), with Qureia or somebody else, at that level in Jordan?

MR. BOUCHER: I said Friday, we expect that he would. I said again just now that I expect he will. I just don't have a name for you.

QUESTION: At the level of Qureia or?

MR. BOUCHER: No, probably not at the level of Qureia because I think he's traveling or about to travel. I don't know that he'll be in Jordan. We'll just have to see. I don't know exactly who -- which Palestinian leaders will be there in Jordan, but certainly, last year there were several of them there.

Okay. Adi.

QUESTION: Can you update us on the situation in Darfur, in reference to the DART team?

MR. BOUCHER: On Saturday, five members of the Disaster Assistance Response Team from the U.S. Agency for International Development arrived in Khartoum and they immediately submitted requests for travel to Darfur. I have to say that, regrettably, in the past, it's taken at least several days before such permits were issued.

We do have two airlifts that are going into south Darfur, one on -- this is the third and fourth of a series of airlifts. The third airlift is going to south Darfur on Saturday, and one -- then the fourth is going today. These are commercially chartered aircraft. These flights have been carrying plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets and Jerry cans for carrying water.

The African Union Reconnaissance Mission arrived in Darfur on Saturday. The mission is expected to last nine days. It includes representatives from the African Union Commission, from Chad, from the United Nations, the European Union, of course, the United States and France. We have two officials participating in that mission, both officials that we have in the region.

QUESTION: Who?

MR. BOUCHER: One is a political officer from our Embassy in Khartoum; and the other is someone who has been out on a monitoring mission in southern Sudan.

The mission is seeking to identify suitable locations for the operation of the ceasefire monitoring team to look at the military and security issues with the parties to the conflict and develop a logistical support plan, including verifying the whereabouts of internally displaced persons and camps.

I would note that we continue to receive reports of violence in Darfur, including encounters between the militias and the Chadian army. The United States urges all parties to respect the ceasefire and calls on the Government of Sudan to stop the militia activity and put an end to the violence.

I would note, as well, that we've seen Sudanese refugees showing up in Chad from the conflict in Darfur, and we are racing, along with other members of the international community, to provide relief measures, both in Eastern Chad and Darfur.

Part of the urgency here is that the rainy season is about to arise. That makes everything more difficult, and it also means that the spread of disease and other things are enhanced in those conditions. So we've just approved an additional grant of 432,000 for the International Rescue Committee to help meet the needs of refugees into parts of Chad.

Adi. More?

QUESTION: I'm just a little bit confused because last week the Sudanese Government gave the DART team 11 visas, right, to go into --

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- into Sudan, I mean?

MR. BOUCHER: It will require a visa to get into Sudan. Once you get into Sudan, you have to go to Khartoum and get a permit to travel to Darfur.

QUESTION: How would you --

MR. BOUCHER: And so we've been going through that process and pushing hard on the government to have it happen as soon as possible.

QUESTION: How would you characterize the discussions for these five members to get into Darfur?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the discussions would depend on the results, and I don't have any results yet.

QUESTION: So where are the other six, if you have five in the Sudan?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll check. We had several -- let me give you a full accounting. We had one or two people who were on this team who were already in Sudan, and I think got permission to go to Darfur or had permission to go to Darfur. And then there must be others on the way, but I'll see if I can get the rest.

Yeah. Okay, sir.

QUESTION: On Haiti. The Secretary said last week that there may be, I think, 40 million more coming to Haiti and possibly more beyond that. Do you have any information of what that final figure may turn out to be, how much more aid it may receive?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't have a final figure yet. As you all know, there is $55 million worth of U.S. assistance for Haiti that's already in the budget for this year. The Secretary made clear to Prime Minister Latortue that he can count on American support and we are still looking at other funding possibilities.

I would point out that the United States is the largest bilateral donor to Haiti and that we will -- we have already identified 40-some million in additional U.S. funds that can be used for police support, training, urban jobs program, humanitarian assistance, technical assistance to strengthen transparency, accountability, democracy in governance, as well as elections. Three million dollars have already been used for emergency food and medical supplies.

I would also say that those figures don't include the cost of the U.S. contribution to the multilateral -- multinational interim force in Haiti. There are over 2,000 U.S. troops who have been stationed there, and that's been essential to restoring stability to Haiti.

So we are now looking at how we support peacekeeping, first of all, as that goes forward. There'll still be a significant U.S. contribution there, in addition to the numbers I've told you already, and we're reviewing other sources of funds to respond to other priority needs of Haiti.

Chris.

QUESTION: Still on Haiti. Does the -- the South African Government has indicated that it would be willing to grant asylum to President Aristide, and I'm wondering if our government sees that as a useful thing to happen in terms of stabilizing Haiti.

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, you have to go back to the basics, that where Mr. Aristide decides ultimately to reside -- where he decides to reside is a decision for him to make. We have been in touch with other governments about his travel, his -- and his destinations, a temporary place for him to stay, but I really don't have any other information at this point. That's been something we've talked about from time to time with other governments, but the decision on where to go and the decision on where to welcome him are decisions for others to make.

QUESTION: Richard, so you restarted these discussions with other countries? Because right after he went to Central African Republic, you were saying that the U.S. felt that it had done what it could and wasn't still making phone calls on his behalf. So are you saying that you have started again to make phone calls for that purpose?

MR. BOUCHER: The subject of where he would stay, where he would go, has been a topic of conversation all along. The question of, I think, when he went to Jamaica, that was, indeed, for a temporary period. So as that period has gone on, there have been further discussions about other places where he might want to go.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:30.)

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