State Department Noon Briefing, May 28
|Friday May 28,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
FRIDAY, MAY 28, 2004
12:35 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I know everybody saw the Secretary's briefing at the Foreign Press Center and I think all the big questions were asked over there so I'm not going to try to duplicate that effort. I thought I'd just make myself available and take the opportunity to amplify on one thing.
I also want to make a brief statement about Burma. We'll give you a full text, but we note that on May 30th of 2003, elements of the Burmese junta orchestrated a brutal attack by government-affiliated thugs on the democratic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her pro-democracy supporters as they were traveling in that country. Now, one year later, the people of Burma are no closer to reconciliation or accountability for human rights abuses.
This month also makes the 14th anniversary of the 1990 elections, which were won overwhelmingly by the National League for Democracy and the military juntas never recognized the results of those elections.
So we take this occasion to call on the Burmese junta to take immediate steps towards a broad-based democratic government. We urge the government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo and the other political prisoners in Burma and to undertake a substantive dialogue with democratic opposition and ethnic groups and begin a path towards genuine reconciliation.
QUESTION: On the Iraq resolution situation, if there's nothing on Burma --
MR. BOUCHER: Can I say one more thing?
QUESTION: Oh, please. Anything on Burma?
MR. BOUCHER: I want to just fill in a little bit on what the Secretary said about Haiti, give you the details of our disaster assistance with the proviso that we do have disaster assistance experts in the region. I think you've also seen the U.S. Ambassador in Dominican Republic has been visiting the affected areas. And so we're looking at what more is needed and what more we might do.
At this point, both our Ambassador to Haiti, Ambassador Foley, and our Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Ambassador Hertell, have declared disasters and invoked their power to provide $50,000 to assist in disaster response in Haiti. Forty thousand of that money -- $40,000 of that money went to Catholic Relief Services to purchase and distribute emergency non-food relief supplies, including hygiene kits, cooking kits, blankets and water containers. They're also providing up to $10,000 of fuel for use by the Government of Haiti's Ministry of Public Works for --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the embassy --
MR. BOUCHER: The embassy. Ten thousand dollars would go -- $40,000 to Catholic Relief for those kits and blankets, $10,000 for fuel to the Ministry of Public Works so they can do urgent road repair in the affected area.
In the Dominican Republic, the $50,000 will be divided as follows: 40,000 will go to World Vision to purchase and distribute emergency non-food relief supplies, including hygiene kits, mosquito nets, cooking kits, bedding, plastic sheeting for temporary shelters and small potable water containers; there'll be the remaining $10,000 to procure fuel supplies directly for use by the Government of the Dominican Republic to facilitate road repair and humanitarian access.
We do have our disaster response officials there and we're coordinating with other governments and organizations, like the Pan-American Health Organization and others, about the disaster there.
QUESTION: Could you (inaudible) --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, now.
QUESTION: Okay. On that? I wonder, we did hear the Secretary this morning. I wonder if I could pursue with you whether there is a difference on peacekeeping troops in Iraq between the U.S.-British proposal and what the Chinese -- now you say it's not a proposal, but what the Chinese and others, to use his words, are suggesting. I mean, when he went over the ground, he said that the troops are there with the consent of the Iraqi government. Nobody questions that.
I just need, please, to understand whether the U.S. is saying and he is saying that our position and the others' position is just about identical, because it strikes me the others want to end the lease, so to speak, when the elections are held, for instance -- because I haven't seen their proposal.
Are they the same on the troops or is there a difference worth talking about?
MR. BOUCHER: Is this the same or different than a proposal that you haven't seen and that the Secretary said we haven't really seen a concrete proposal? We know Chinese ideas that the Chinese had before they received our resolution, and they shared those with us and some others.
What the Chinese position is on so-called mandate, at this point, you'll have to ask the Chinese. Maybe they can define it for you and then you can compare and contrast. Our position is quite clear. It's expressed in the resolution. We've done our briefings here. We've made clear that we don't think that you can end the security assistance to the Iraqi government at an arbitrary date, but rather that you have to be able to fulfill the mission of providing security for the Iraqis, to put the Iraqis in a position to maintain their own security.
And the fundamental of saying we're establishing a, as the President just said, a complete and fully sovereign Iraqi government, the fundamental, how can I say, aspect of that, is that they are the people who are going to decide. They are the people whose consent is needed for whatever happens in Iraq and they are the people who are going to decide how long they need that security assistance.
QUESTION: That helps. You want to talk on -- ask about that?
QUESTION: Well, specifically about this and specifically about the expert meeting that was yesterday, because you -- I know you spoke to this exact issue at length yesterday in the briefing --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I did.
QUESTION: -- but that was before the experts meeting, and I'm just wondering if, out of that meeting, your understanding is that anyone's position on this has changed. And I just want to make sure that I have -- you do acknowledge, right, that in the Chinese non-paper, non-proposal that they gave to you before you gave them the resolution that it does suggest a January 2005 cutoff for the mandate. You are acknowledging it, right?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to brief or change the Chinese non-paper --
QUESTION: I'm know, I'm not --
MR. BOUCHER: I just told your colleague I don't know what the Chinese position is right now. It's for them to express.
QUESTION: But you are aware that that was their suggestion in --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm aware that that was their idea.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any reason to believe, since the experts level meeting, or since they got your proposal and since this -- the meeting, the counsel meeting and then the experts level meeting, that that position has changed, or that suggestion has changed.
MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea. I have no idea.
QUESTION: You don't know. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'm not the Chinese spokesman. I didn't check with the Chinese this morning on their position.
QUESTION: Okay, well, then, you know --
MR. BOUCHER: There was an expert meeting yesterday. The experts are reconvening again this morning, so they're continuing their discussions of various technical aspects of the text. I'm told that we have received some proposals, a few changes were proposed at yesterday's meeting. And we'll be going over that and working with them, as the Secretary indicated we would.
QUESTION: Did any of those relate to the specific mandate?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: The way he presented it today, it would sound that any changes can be accommodated. In other words, he was asked to liken it to what went on before the war, and, of course, he dismissed such a suggestion, and he said that it could be worked out. So when you see a few changes, are we talking about secondary changes, semi-colons for commas, or are they getting to the -- or do people really want to rewrite the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not going to try to characterize the positions of others. There has been a discussion in New York at the technical level that largely, I am told, dealt with technical issues involved in the resolution. There may be other ideas that others have. The Secretary said we'd be willing to consider those.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me remind you, this is not the first resolution we've done at the United Nations on the subject of Iraq. In fact, we've had three resolutions since the war, all of which were worked with other members of the Council. We negotiated text, worked in some changes, not all of them, where people had suggestions and changes. And I think all those three were unanimous by the Council.
So this process is underway. I'm not -- we're not going to do it here at the briefing room. It's going to be done in New York with the consultations among technical experts that are taking place now. I would expect ambassadors in New York to get together again next week and continue that process of working the resolution.
QUESTION: I realize you're not taking ideas here for the resolution, but has --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'll pass them on, if you have any, but we're not going to negotiate them here.
QUESTION: Well, has there been any discussion about whether there could be a date given that would satisfy those calling for an exit date that, at that point, then the Iraqi governing -- or the Iraqi interim government would have to vote to the keep the U.S. there if they wanted them to stay, so that would accommodate both an exit date and the Iraqis being able to decide if they wanted --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if anybody has proposed that.
QUESTION: Don't you think it's clever?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's very clever. I'll pass it on.
MR. BOUCHER: But as far as the United States goes, no, we have not made a proposal like that.
QUESTION: Richard, people in New York are saying that you guys want to vote on this by the 5th and they're also saying the French and the Germans are sticking very hard to an idea that they want to wait at least two weeks until after Brahimi makes his announcements, which I understand may be on Sunday.
Do you have any response to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess number one is I don't know when Ambassador Brahimi is going to make his announcements. Number two, the Secretary did just say we would certainly expect the sovereign Iraqi government, once it's identified, that they would want to send somebody to New York and get involved in these discussions to make sure it coincides with their views. So that will be -- I don't know how long that process might take, but we have felt that, first of all, we should wait for Ambassador Brahimi announcements but then, second of all, that we should move very quickly after that. And that would still be our plan.
QUESTION: And on the consultations, people are also saying that the United States has firmly ruled out the Council interviewing the government, Brahimi's team, individually, and that it has to --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware anybody's made such a suggestion, but the Council is not picking the Iraqi leadership. The Iraqi interim leadership, the leadership for the Iraqi interim government, is emerging from a process the Council has fully endorsed. Remember, we had a Presidential Statement that fully and completely endorsed the efforts of Ambassador Brahimi. Ambassador Brahimi has been undertaking those efforts. He has been helping organize, through a process of consultation, an Iraqi leadership group that can lead a new government. He'll make his announcements at the appropriate time.
But it's the -- the government is chosen by this process of consultation among the Iraqis that have been very wide, very broad, that Ambassador Brahimi is putting together. What the Council is doing in New York is endorsing that process, as they have before, trusting that process, endorsing it, endorsing the process leading to elections, and modifying the things that need to be modified so that it is clear that the new Iraqi government is going to be fully sovereign.
QUESTION: Apart from the mandate issue, which you are aware is an issue for some, even if it's just in this room, there seems to be, according to people --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's probably in New York as well. But we'll let them --
QUESTION: Well, okay. Glad we got that.
The other thing seemed -- the other -- one other sticking point, or the other major sticking point, appears to be the IAMB and how long its oversight and audit function can be. What's your position on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position on that is it's covered in the resolution and that, you know, when somewhere down the road and if the Iraqi government needs to change that, then I'm sure it could be -- you know, that it would be discussed appropriately. I don't remember what the provisions are, frankly, in the resolution for review or change of that mechanism.
QUESTION: Well, is that something that the interim government could abolish?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check the resolution and see how it looks.
QUESTION: The Secretary said he was pleased that Allawi had support in the Governing Council to be the pick to be prime minister, and then after the Secretary -- but he said he was waiting for Brahimi, waiting to hear from Brahimi. But after he spoke, Brahimi's spokesman came out and said Brahimi welcomes Allawi as the pick.
Does the United States also welcome Allawi as the pick to be prime minister?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick where we are right now. We're, obviously, following closely Ambassador Brahimi's work. Our people in Baghdad have been working closely with him, but he's got to put together a full slate, a full picture. This, you know, decision, recommendation from the Governing Council, is certainly an important part of that picture, but we're really waiting for -- looking for Ambassador Brahimi to put together the whole structure and then we'll have something to say.
QUESTION: Is he putting --
QUESTION: That same spokesman said Bremer agreed. In the same sentence, he said Bremer and Brahimi agreed on this. Would that indicate that the CPA, speaking for the U.S., has sanctioned this?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not questioning that at all. I'm just saying that we're really -- this is part of a process, and rather than have us jump in further -- the Secretary's already addressed this question -- rather than have us jump in further at this moment, I think we'll look to see, let Ambassador Brahimi continue and finish his work.
QUESTION: But when you -- excuse me -- when you say you're waiting for the whole slate to be done, can you at least confirm that, Allawi, in that slate, has been picked to be the prime minister --
MR. BOUCHER: That's for Ambassador Brahimi to do.
QUESTION: How about Ambassador Bremer to do?
MR. BOUCHER: That's for Ambassador Brahimi to do.
QUESTION: Does Bremer speak for the U.S. Government?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: So did the Secretary not know that Bremer was going to endorse this move? He actually congratulated Allawi, according to reports.
MR. BOUCHER: I've seen the press reports. I don't know what we knew in advance, no.
QUESTION: Did you know that the IGC was going to be making this endorsement?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Did that come as a surprise?
MR. BOUCHER: I frankly don't know myself, so I can't enlighten you on that.
QUESTION: Aren't you saying that you want to see the whole slate -- I mean, slate --
MR. BOUCHER: That's what I did say.
QUESTION: -- It's Brahimi's choice. Right? I mean, you're not going to do them one by one here.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. As far as, we're standing here, right here, an hour and a half, two hours after the Secretary addressed the question, don't have anything more to say at this moment, because it's only a couple hours since then. The next step, really, is the bigger step in the process for Ambassador Brahimi to come forth with the whole slate, the whole picture. And he'll be doing that at the appropriate time, I'm sure.
QUESTION: And do you think it's -- somebody mentioned Sunday. Do you think it's days away, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know when -- I don't know when. Really, it's his process. We've left it to him to run it. We and other members of the Security Council have endorsed that process and we'll let him go forward.
QUESTION: So will Allawi be prime minister in that slate?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what Ambassador Brahimi will tell you when he decides to. You're telling me his spokesman's already said so. But it's not for me to -- it's a process that Ambassador Brahimi's running. We're going to respect that process.
QUESTION: So he hasn't yet told you that Allawi -- told the United States that Allawi is the prime minister.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, frankly. He and Ambassador Bremer may have had that discussion out there.
QUESTION: Can we ask something else?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Can we ask if there's any updating necessary on a reward for Zarqawi? Is there a decision here, or is it just a matter of discussion?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a matter of discussion. There's no decision at this point.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Phil.
QUESTION: I have a question about another radical cleric, in a little bit of a dispute with you and the British Home Secretary David Blunkett. You're trying to extradite him for his activities. He's trying to set up a terrorist camp in Oregon. And he may be linked to the bombings with the U.S.S. Cole and also 9/11. He's been in Yemen. We would like him extradited, obviously, and the British say, well, we've withheld evidence to the Brits concerning his arrest and --
MR. BOUCHER: The extradition process is a judicial process that's being handled by the Department of Justice. I think Attorney General Ashcroft has already spoken to it, but any further questions about what evidence is being presented for the extradition would have to go to Justice.
QUESTION: A follow-up question?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Wouldn't the Brits -- did you ask Britain in any way to -- also to put him under arrest earlier since he's been --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you'd have to ask Justice about those kind of things.
QUESTION: We've heard the sympathetic word from the Secretary already about the two Japanese -- our fellow journalists were killed in Baghdad. And family members and the Japanese authority are waiting for a kind of a formal positive or negative identification of the body and the remains, and can you say, can you update on this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. I don't think -- I certainly don't have anything new since the Secretary spoke to it.
QUESTION: Can I move on to the Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: As the Secretary noted, Prime Minister Sharon is going to be putting his plan, revised plan, to the cabinet on Sunday. There are reports that the plan includes the destruction of the settlements, buildings and facilities that would be evacuated.
Given the fact that the Secretary and others have, from, in this building and this country have made a big deal out of the fact that this would not be happening and the Secretary addressed this specifically in Jordan, saying that these facilities would be left intact and there would be mechanisms created to oversee the transfer of them to the Palestinians, I'm wondering if you have told Prime Minister Sharon that this is not a good idea.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary was really asked that question very specifically at the briefing that he just did. I'll stand with his answer.
QUESTION: And I'm sorry, what -- as I remember, he didn't answer the question.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll give you the answer he gave.
QUESTION: Which was we're going to wait until Sunday?
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to wait and see what the plan actually is. There's been a lot of speculative reports in various newspapers about this, that and the other, that may or may not be in it.
QUESTION: But would you oppose that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate at this point.
QUESTION: This is not -- this is not speculation, Richard. I don't understand why you can't answer a question.
MR. BOUCHER: Would I oppose something that hasn't happened yet or been proposed yet?
QUESTION: I would ask it that way --
MR. BOUCHER: I won't oppose something until it's been proposed. If it's proposed, we'll oppose it then.
QUESTION: You will? Okay.
QUESTION: All right, Richard. We won't ask it that way. The Secretary took a position --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) and I just want to make that clear --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to -- no, I'm --
QUESTION: -- if it's proposed, we will oppose it then?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not trying to -- I'm not trying to deal with that specific aspect at this point.
QUESTION: Well, why not?
MR. BOUCHER: It's one of many speculative things. If there's --
QUESTION: No, no, forget -- I can understand you don't want to talk about something that hasn't happened. The Secretary of State took the position that it is a very good thing if, unlike in the past, when airfields and settlements and everything else was torn up, rather than turn it over to the new occupants, he thought it was a good idea that these settlements be left intact, put in trust, and he spoke at some length that this would give the Palestinians a running start on getting together. I mean, you know, it helps them economically, gets them going.
Isn't this the U.S. position irrespective of what Sharon proposes?
MR. BOUCHER: The U.S. position is the position that we've taken and expressed in the past. I'm not able to compare and contrast the U.S. position to something that may or may not be proposed. That's all I'm saying.
QUESTION: I'm not -- I wouldn't ask you to do that. But I know the -- I want to confirm that the U.S. position is that it would be good if the settlements are left intact.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not changing the U.S. position in any way. I'm not trying to change anything the Secretary said an hour and a half ago, but this kind of feels like a slow-motion replay of what he just did. And all I can tell you is we'll look at what comes out and we'll give you our position when we see it.
QUESTION: You're not trying to change anything the Secretary said in Jordan, then, either?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Okay. So it's your understanding that these -- that these facilities will be left intact?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any change in that at this point.
QUESTION: Why are you so frightened of saying anything that might be perceived as being --
MR. BOUCHER: Because there's been 23 different speculative stories in various newspapers and potentially wire services about what's going to be in his plan, and I'm not going to start here today to say: What about option one, option two, option three, option four; what's your analysis of option 17? Let's deal with the facts as they are. There aren't any facts, other than the ones that we had. If there are new facts, we will deal with them.
QUESTION: Richard, on the lead-up to the submission of the first plan, I mean, you were in constant contact with the Israelis, working with them, talking to them about --
MR. BOUCHER: And I point out we were not speculating on what the Israeli plan was going to contain at that point.
QUESTION: But I mean, at that -- when you were working with them and talking about it, certainly you knew what the elements are. So you're saying you don't know what the elements of the new plan are?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying that we have not been briefed by the Israeli Government and it's for them to put forward whatever they want to put forward at this point and we'll look at it and see, just like the Secretary said.
QUESTION: Have you been briefed on the idea that this would be a phased -- that this would be a phased plan?
MR. BOUCHER: That's another element of speculation. We haven't been briefed by the Israeli Government. I'm not going to deal with his element, your element, or anybody else's element.
QUESTION: Okay, but you'll stick to the statements that you originally said about the Quartet that --
MR. BOUCHER: We have not changed our policy. There is no -- there is nothing new. Any more on this?
QUESTION: In the run-up to the presentation to the plan, has the United States suggested that they leave, in the plan, they leave the settlements intact?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to deal with that, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: But that's a straight question.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Have you suggested it because you've been involved in consultations --
MR. BOUCHER: We've had consultations, as you know, over many months with the Israeli Government. What they decide to put forward as their plan is their decision. We'll see what they put forward.
QUESTION: So you don't know whether you've suggested that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not getting into you the discussions that we have had. We've explained to you our position on what is known. If the Israelis put something else forward, we'll explain to you our position on that at that time.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the Japanese been killed in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said you don't have the update for the identification of the two people. Have you -- do you have more information on this attack?
MR. BOUCHER: I really don't have any more information now than we had when the Secretary briefed, I'm sorry. It's a very sad situation, but I don't have any more information for you.
QUESTION: Can you quickly -- can you tell us if you're in touch with Japanese Government? Is there any dialogue or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specifics for you but I'm sure we are in touch with the Japanese Government on this.
QUESTION: On Sudan. Wires are saying that the Government and the two main rebel groups in Darfur have now signed this ceasefire and monitoring agreement. Well, I don't know if they resigned the ceasefire, but they agreed to let observers come in and monitor the --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, as you know, they agreed on a ceasefire sometime ago, and we've been working at the African Union headquarters. They have, along with the African Union and us, been working to establish the Darfur Ceasefire Commission. That's been done; that was signed this afternoon in Addis Ababa. We think this is a crucial step towards establishing peace in Darfur because it will enable international monitoring, the ceasefire that was signed on April 8th.
So we welcome that event. Continuing violence at Darfur is the greatest obstacle to humanitarian assistance, reaching the people in need. Establishing a ceasefire commission reaffirms the party's commitment to the ceasefire. It sets up the mechanism by which reports of violations can be investigated.
In other parts of Sudan, monitoring missions have played a key role in establishing peace and building confidence among the people.
I'd like to express our appreciation to the African Union for their efforts, which made this possible. The ceasefire commission and its oversight commission, the joint commission, are comprised of the parties to the ceasefire, the Chadian mediation, the African Union, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations. An advance mission from the ceasefire commission will travel to Khartoum next week to set up an office there and expects to be in Darfur by the middle of next week. We'll have two U.S. people participating in those efforts.
QUESTION: That's covering two of the three things the Secretary said was essential -- were essential today: ceasefire and monitoring. And I think the third was aid getting through. Anything further? That sounds like the UN thinks -- sounds like it's on track as well. Anything to -- any positive developments on that front?
MR. BOUCHER: We have a Disaster Assistance Response Team in Darfur now. They are working with implementing partners there to distribute the supplies that have arrived during the nine airlifts. They've also begun conducting their assessments to determine the specific needs of the vulnerable population.
But there, as the Secretary said, it's a dire situation. There are many, many people at risk. Setting up these mechanisms, getting some people on the ground is useful, it's important steps forward. But ending the violence and feeding the people and taking care of the people who need it is what really matters and there's a long way to go to do that.
QUESTION: With all do respect, this is an assessment team that's there.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there's a --
QUESTION: The food isn't getting through --
MR. BOUCHER: No, the team is distributing some supplies, the supplies that we got in by airlift.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MR. BOUCHER: But there is much more to be done to get the food to all the people in this area that need it.
QUESTION: There are also, as this happens, reports that Sudanese aircraft, Sudanese Government-supported aircraft bombed another village on the border this afternoon.
MR. BOUCHER: I know there are continuing reports of violence. I have not seen that particular one. But part of the reason to get the ceasefire monitoring mechanism up and in place is to try to verify and prevent those kind of instances.
QUESTION: The violence won't hinder getting the mission set up, you don't think?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the ceasefire commission's got to go in.
MR. BOUCHER: But hopefully by monitoring the violence and being able to do something about it when it occurs, they can lower the violence and get the parties to stop the violence.
We have made very, very clear in our discussions with the Government in particular the need to end the violence and we'll continue to do that.
QUESTION: On another thing, south -- a little southwest of there in DR Congo, there's been an outbreak of -- substantial outbreak of violence in Bukavu, I think the name of it is.
MR. BOUCHER: Bukavu, yeah.
QUESTION: Bukavu. Right. And there are reports that a UN helicopter opened fire.
MR. BOUCHER: Hmm. I hadn't seen that report. I don't know.
QUESTION: Have you got anything on the report -- can you confirm and tell us the significance of it if you do know about it -- an arrest of Sri Lankan businessman in Malaysia, as a key figure in the Khan group? I mean, Pakistan has promised to cooperate on this. I assume you're up to -- the U.S. is being informed all the way.
I mean, it's just, as we see, this just in, so I don't know if the U.S. State Department is aware yet.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're aware of it. We're delighted by the arrest, frankly. This is decisive action that has been taken by the Government of Malaysia. Mr. Tahir was one of the most important figures in the A.Q. Khan network. He served as Chief Financial Officer and essentially ran network operations. We think his arrest is a major step and it will serve as a catalyst to international efforts to shut down the Khan network.
We encourage all states with individuals or companies tied to the network to take similar action. So this is an action taken by the Government of Malaysia. We think it's a good thing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Pakistan?
QUESTION: Is there anything new on the investigation into the bombing in Karachi -- bombings in Karachi?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think so.
QUESTION: No? And --
MR. BOUCHER: Unless, of course, I have another piece of paper here. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Are you aware, I guess the day after the attacks, there were some reports in Pakistan that said that the Embassy, your Embassy in Islamabad, had received a series of e-mailed threats that involved -- the threats were said to involve hijacked aircraft under attack. Are you aware of this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know specifically about that. I do know there are a variety of threats all the time and we consider --
QUESTION: Yeah, but these --
MR. BOUCHER: -- so many places to be high-threat areas --
QUESTION: -- because of the contents, apparently were --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to see if there is anything, or anything to say about that, and whether that -- that may -- anything like that might have become part of the investigation, so I'm not sure we could talk about it anyway. But I'll check and see.
QUESTION: Yes, Pakistan again and the Khan case. And why -- you know, this case, he's embodiment of this, you know, transfer of nuclear material, nuclear technology, was revealed almost a half year ago. Why, at this moment, he was detained, he was arrested? Why this moment?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a Malaysian arrest, a Malaysian decision. You'll have to ask them why they did it at this moment.
QUESTION: You got any briefing on this, on this particular --
MR. BOUCHER: We're in touch with the Malaysian Government on all these issues, as well as other governments, about this network. But it was their decision to go for the arrest, and you'll have to ask them about it.
QUESTION: You're going to interrogate this particular individual?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a Malaysian decision. He's in Malaysian custody facing Malaysian charges. You can ask them about it.
QUESTION: I was just wondering if you have any comment on the Washington Times report that the United States is going to -- United States is going to just abandon on the light-water nuclear reactor project in North Korea. It's been halted for six months --
MR. BOUCHER: We have made very, very clear we see no future for that project. As you know, it's, the decisions about what to do are for the KEDO board to make. We're part of the KEDO board and we'll work with our colleagues in that board in that regard to do the appropriate thing about this project. But we have made very, very clear our position on that. I think everybody knows we see absolutely no future for the project.
QUESTION: And does that mean the U.S. is going to abandon the project?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as what we might do at the next board meeting in December, I'll leave that for December. But we've made clear once again we don't see any future.
QUESTION: And is the Administration getting some pressure to abandon it by the Congress or any other party?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made very clear our position all along. We know there are members of Congress that feel strongly about this as well. But the United States, as I said, once again, doesn't see any future for this project, and, as members of the board, we'll discuss it with others at the appropriate meetings.
QUESTION: Just one. So you did repeat your position on the last recent previous board of governor in New York two weeks ago? Did you raise --
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, our representatives discussed it with other members there when they continued the inspection. I think it was about that time that we were saying here and there what our opinion was.
QUESTION: Richard, you've put out in the last day or so a notice about the Chinese reported crackdown on dissidents, and there's the anniversary of Tiananmen Square about a decade -- a little over a decade ago. And there's going to be a march, one of the marches, in Hong Kong on Sunday, and Beijing says no.
What is your reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen Beijing saying no.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. BOUCHER: We have always believed that freedom of expression for the people of Hong Kong was an important part of the Basic Law, and we'd certainly want to uphold that and for the Hong Kong people to be able to exercise the rights that they do have.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)
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