State Department Noon Briefing, June 2
|Wednesday June 2,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 2, 2004
12:55 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can start, I'd like to make one statement about Indonesia, and then we can go on to your questions.
We understand that the Indonesian Government has asked the director of the International Crisis Group's Jakarta office, Sidney Jones, and an additional staff member to leave the country. We are very concerned about this development. Ms. Jones is a highly respected policy analyst. We are not aware of any actions by her or other members of her organization that would warrant such a step by Indonesia.
Such expulsions will be particularly disappointing because this would stand in stark contrast to the impressive progress made by Indonesia in recent years in developing a democratic civil society with freedom of expression.
I'll stop with that and take any questions on this or other matters.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about a report that William Taylor, the State Department Coordinator for Afghanistan --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's slow down. Let's slow down. First we'll do questions about Indonesia, and then our senior wire correspondent will start us off.
QUESTION: Yes. Would you be making the same pitch if Ms. Jones was not a U.S. citizen?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We have seen the work of this organization as being very valuable. I think we would stand up for freedom of expression, stand up for independence of research and academic institutions, no matter what the nationality is.
QUESTION: Do you regard this "asked to leave" as an expulsion, and not just simply a request with a little force behind it?
MR. BOUCHER: We regard it as being asked to leave, and we don't think that's the right thing to do in this case.
QUESTION: Was there not discussion with authorities before you made the statement to try --
MR. BOUCHER: I think her organization and others have had discussion. We have repeatedly raised this issue in Jakarta through our Embassy and we'll continue to raise the issue, frankly.
QUESTION: There's no way to -- I mean, they have the authority to do this, of course.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, they have the authority to decide who's in their country. We just don't think it's a good step to take.
QUESTION: And do you think it has any bearing on the election?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. I've seen a lot of speculation about that, but I wouldn't be able to say one way or the other.
QUESTION: Or her commentaries about separatist violence?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't know. I don't know. I don't think the government's given a particular reason for this at this point, and so I'm not going to speculate.
QUESTION: Well, okay. But you are not intending to endorse the findings of her - or her group's reports?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we're intending to endorse the right of scholars, academics, analysts, to do analysis, to do serious work and to publish the results, publish the information and their conclusions. We think there has been a noticeable increase in freedom of expression in Indonesia, and the step of asking the head of this organization's office to leave would stand in contrast with that.
QUESTION: On another subject, do you have any reflections on the continuing disorder in Karachi and a possible al-Qaida role? Apparently, it's spreading, it's continuing. It's -- the toll is rising.
MR. BOUCHER: We are deeply concerned about the situation, the recent violence in Karachi, pointless violence against religious communities as a direct attack on Pakistan's effort to promote religious moderation and tolerance. We condemned, I think, yesterday, the attacks on religious worshippers. And we agree with President Musharraf that extremism and militancy lead to violence and despair rather than hope and prosperity.
As far as who's behind it and al-Qaida involvement, I don't think we really have any information like that. There are local organizations and leaders that have been promoting the violence or the demonstrations. We've been concerned about the violence aspect of that, not the political aspect of that.
QUESTION: Just to follow, Richard, several American interests, or restaurants and other buildings, were burned down. Do you think there is a terror warning for Americans traveling to that city or in Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've already had a fairly strong warning about the situation in Karachi, and I invite you to look at that. Okay?
QUESTION: Recently, General Musharraf had said that attempts on his life, the people behind were (those) who killed Daniel Pearl, and also some members of his military. Do you think these are the same people -- what are you hearing from the Pakistani Government, as far as this violence are concerned?
MR. BOUCHER: I would not want to speculate on that. As I said, there is various local groups, leaders, other people involved. Whether it's something bigger than that or others, I just wouldn't want to speculate at this point.
QUESTION: Yeah. On the general violence in Nepal, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let's -- if we're going to change the subject, the young lady over here was going to.
QUESTION: My name is Jennifer. I'm from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I have a question on Afghanistan. William Taylor says that the U.S. wants Canada to stay in Afghanistan an extra month, through the September elections. What can you tell us about that?
MR. BOUCHER: First, it's, I think, important to remember that the Canadian participation in ISAF is part of a NATO deployment. We certainly appreciate Canada's leadership in ISAF. They've had a one-year deployment of 1,900 troops that ends in August, and Canada has an ongoing commitment of other forces to ISAF.
NATO is looking at different options for the International Security Assistance Force to provide security support for the elections into September. We do regularly talk to Canada and our other allies about how to best provide that kind of support, but any formal decisions and discussion really takes place at NATO so it wouldn't be for us to brief on it here.
QUESTION: Are they -- he said that the U.S. is suggesting that Canada keep their troops in an extra month. Would that be a fair characterization?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can characterize the discussions at this point within NATO nor the views that we put forward. We tend to leave the discussion phase of military deployments to them there.
QUESTION: Generally, what would be the fear if Canada pulled out their troops in August, before this big election?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to focus on Canada, frankly. NATO has got to make some arrangements to continue to meet the requirements of the International Security Assistance Force. ISAF is a NATO-led mission, and we and our other allies will work within NATO to ensure that that mission continues, because it is important to continue to provide security and to provide security through the election period.
How exactly, with various troop contributors, NATO puts together that force and continues that mission is really a matter for countries to discuss at NATO.
QUESTION: Would that be the U.S. position, though, that they're hoping that Canada extends their --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we're going to discuss it with other NATO allies. The U.S. position is to work out with our allies how best to ensure NATO's continuing role. But the role of individual countries will be decided at NATO and by the countries themselves.
QUESTION: Would you be happy if ISAF left in August?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I said it's important to continue --
QUESTION: Okay. So you're trying to keep ISAF going there and you are approaching members of NATO --
MR. BOUCHER: I said --
QUESTION: -- including Canada, including everyone else, to see if they'll keep their troops in longer?
MR. BOUCHER: I thank you for repeating --
QUESTION: Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: It's not?
MR. BOUCHER: I think --
QUESTION: I think that's what you said, but just in a confusing way that you must not have --
MR. BOUCHER: I --
QUESTION: Just let him speak.
MR. BOUCHER: The NATO mission in Afghanistan is very important. We want to continue the NATO mission in Afghanistan. What nations and troops contribute to that mission at any given moment is a subject of discussion at NATO, that is being discussed at NATO. I'm sure NATO will find a way to continue the mission, but I can't tell you what will happen to individual components of that mission, nor can I tell you at this point what possibilities there might be.
QUESTION: Well, just one sec. Why can't -- you can't come out and say that within NATO --
MR. BOUCHER: Because I didn't say we --
QUESTION: -- there are discussions about --
MR. BOUCHER: Never mind. I just said there's discussions in NATO. I did not say, as you said in your rephrasing of what I didn't say -- (laughter) -- that we had approached all the countries in NATO to contribute troops because that's not necessarily true.
QUESTION: Can you just go through, in a general way, why it is the position that you want NATO to continue on?
MR. BOUCHER: The situation in Afghanistan has, you might say, two components. One is stability and the other is tracking down the remnants of the old regime and al-Qaida. Operation Enduring Freedom is very active in tracking down the remnants; but the essential factor of stability, one of the essential factors of stability, has been the presence of the International Security Assistance Force and the ability of NATO nations, through that force and the Provincial Reconstruction Teams and other things like that, to provide a basis of stability for the country.
As we move into election periods, there's going to be campaign workers, election workers, activity throughout the country; and it's important to have that presence there of NATO and of the International Security Assistance Force to maintain stability.
QUESTION: Richard, there's one question on Afghanistan. What Afghanis are really getting a commitment from the U.S. that this time U.S. will not leave them alone, they will protect them and as far as property is concerned and rebuilding and all that. Can you say that U.S. is behind Afghan and they will not leave them alone this time?
MR. BOUCHER: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Richard, can you just --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you know what Ambassador Taylor said?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the exact quote.
QUESTION: Do you have -- do you have a clue about what he said?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the quote, no.
QUESTION: Maybe I could ask you to confirm what Voice of America said that he --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see if there's a transcript of his remarks.
QUESTION: Okay. I have it here, if you need it.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on the increasing allegations of -- that Ahmed Chalabi provided sensitive information to Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: Nope.
QUESTION: Figured that was the answer.
MR. BOUCHER: Ma'am.
QUESTION: Did Secretary Powell meet with the National Security Advisor of South Korea this morning? Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, he did. You want to hear about it? Okay.
The meeting this morning was about 30 minutes between Secretary Powell and Advisor for National Security Affairs to the Republic of Korea President Roh, Mr. Kwon Chin-Ho. They discussed, as you might expect, North Korea policy, including preparation for the next round of six-party talks and further strengthening of our efforts together in those talks to bring about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
They also discussed the situation in Iraq. The Secretary expressed appreciation for the Korean commitment and for the understanding of the Korean Government and people with regard to U.S. deployments to Iraq. And Mr. Kwon reaffirmed the commitment of the Republic of Korea to deploy additional personnel to Iraq.
QUESTION: Can you tell us more about the redeployment of U.S. troops in South Korea? Have they talked more about it?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no more details discussed today.
QUESTION: Is this -- South Korea again now. Is this U.S. troops redeployment or -- I'm sorry, this withdrawal, total withdrawal?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to, I think, leave it to U.S. forces and to the Pentagon to define it more precisely than I did. I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: The language put forward by the U.S. and Britain last night at the Security Council. I want to talk about the military mandate, the multinational mandate set out in paragraph 10. It talks in the same sentence about when the mandate shall expire, which is the completion of the political process that you talked about yesterday, and declares its readiness to terminate this mandate earlier, if requested by the elected transitional government of Iraq.
Can you tell us what the difference is operationally between the mandate expiring and declaring its readiness to terminate early? What's the -- are those -- those are two different processes? And can you describe the difference between the two processes?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's clear in the resolution, if you've -- reading the text or what we've said about it. We've always said that the goal, our goal, was to create a stable, secure, democratic, representative government in Iraq. So that's the completion of the political process, when that mission is achieved.
QUESTION: And it shall expire when that happens.
MR. BOUCHER: And it shall expire when that happens. Now, that's without prejudice to any further arrangements that a sovereign government of Iraq may make with U.S., multinational or any other forces. They'll have the right to make any arrangements they want at that point, or, frankly, any other point. But that's the expiration of the UN mandate, as such.
But we've also recognized that, were there to be a point before those elections when the Iraqi government felt that it was sufficiently stable, sufficiently in control of the security situation, that it could take over the security responsibilities, then it could not only request a review, but decide, if it needed to, that it was time to end the deployment of a multinational force. And as a sovereign government, that would be their right. And so the second part of that paragraph recognizes that if the sovereign government asks us to leave, we'll leave.
QUESTION: Okay. But would that require a vote at the Security Council? Under this language, declaring its plans to terminate the mandate --
MR. BOUCHER: The actual departure would be a question of the sovereign government. The end of the mandate would require, I think, under those terms, would require a vote.
QUESTION: Which the U.S. could veto.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. But the -- it works in practice, but not in theory? Is that what we're saying?
QUESTION: No, I'm just saying --
MR. BOUCHER: Because, in practice, we've already said that U.S. troops are there -- throughout the resolution, it says we're there with the consent of the Iraqi government. We know that. We've recognized that in our own public statements of the Secretary, the President and others.
So, should it come to that point where the Iraqis felt they were in control, in charge, and didn't need the help any more, and they said, "We think it's time for foreign forces to leave," foreign forces would leave. And then you would have a procedural matter of terminating the mandate.
QUESTION: They would leave before the mandate was terminated, (inaudible) --
MR. BOUCHER: They could leave any time.
QUESTION: But, in practice, you're saying they would?
MR. BOUCHER: In practice, I'm saying it probably will never happen, so we'll never know how it will happen.
QUESTION: Okay. But if it does happen --
MR. BOUCHER: Because we recognize we're there with the consent of the government. So far, every indication from the interim government is that they want multinational forces to continue to help with security. Every indication from the Iraqis is that they want multinational forces to help them in that regard until they are fully --
QUESTION: This applies to the transitional government, right?
MR. BOUCHER: If I can finish the sentence, too.
MR. BOUCHER: -- until they are finished with the whole transition.
QUESTION: I just want to clarify that, though, that there will have to be a vote at the Security Council under that provision, right, at some point?
MR. BOUCHER: To terminate that provision procedurally, yes, but not for troops to come or go.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
QUESTION: Mr. Zebari is going to be in New York meeting with the Security Council members tomorrow. Is there -- and I asked you yesterday if there was any thought of him meeting, coming down here or going to Sea Island, or any of the other --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any discussion of his travel beyond New York. I would say that we've had some good discussions yesterday at the Security Council, at the ambassador and the experts level, of the resolution. There will be further discussion at the experts level today. They are scheduled to meet this afternoon to talk further about technical issues.
And then the next step would be that the -- Mr. Zebari and representatives of the Iraqi interim government would be in New York -- expected shortly. I don't know precisely when they would meet with the Council, but they would expect to meet with the Council. And that will continue the consideration of the resolution.
QUESTION: But sometime maybe next week, as early as next week?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I'm --
QUESTION: Or even before that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think he gets into New York today, if I'm correct.
MR. BOUCHER: And therefore, I would expect the Council would meet with him soon.
QUESTION: Okay. And has there been any -- I presume, but I don't know, so I want to make sure that no one has come back to you yet with anything specific about the changes they might like to see in the revised draft.
MR. BOUCHER: I think there were -- first of all, yesterday, there was a lot of recognition that we had taken into account many of the suggestions and ideas that had been put forward and there was continuing discussion of other ideas. I don't know if anybody made specific textual suggestions, but there was a good discussion, we felt, yesterday, a lot of recognition of what we'd done with the resolution. But there are still some points that people would like further, either answers to, or perhaps changes.
QUESTION: But you would expect, then, that there will be another draft?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if there will be or not. We'll see what kind of changes or suggestions are put forward and decide whether they're things that we think should be done in this resolution or not.
QUESTION: The newly selected president of the interim Iraqi government has expressed his desire to see the resolution state specifically that the interim government, not just the transitional government, have the explicit authority to request the withdrawal of multinational forces.
Is there any intention on our part -- do you think we might move in that direction through this process, or is that not negotiable?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen that statement. We'll see what Foreign Minister Zebari says when he comes to New York. I think we've all recognized that a sovereign Iraqi government, whether it's interim, transitional or final, has the right to specify what they want about the presence of foreign forces.
And if you look in the resolution and the language that we submitted before, but especially in the language we submitted yesterday, it's very clear that this is -- the presence of foreign forces is with the consent of the Iraqis, of the sovereign Iraqi government, and is done at their request. So that's the basis for the deployment, anyway.
QUESTION: Richard, besides Saddam Hussein going on trial, what's happening with his advisors, like Tariq Aziz and others? Are they going also on trial, or where are they now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'd have to ask the Pentagon. I think they're in military custody.
Okay. He's got -- you've got Iraq back there, too?
QUESTION: Middle East.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let's finish with Iraq.
QUESTION: A technical question on the Status of Forces Agreement that
we're going to enter into in this letter with the interim government
that's referred to in the Security Council resolution. Who has to
approve that in the interim government? Just the prime minister; all
members of the cabinet; prime minister and president; prime minister,
vice president; vice president, president? What's the -- what
technically will have to happen?
QUESTION: The American Embassy in Israel said that President Bush gave the Prime Minister Sharon a guarantees -- a guarantees message, instead his full withdrawal from Gaza. If the withdrawal will be not -- will be partial, and what will -- what will happen?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what you're referring to was also said by the White House yesterday in relation to the meetings that were held yesterday at the White House. The Israeli Chief of Staff, Mr. Dov Weisglass, was meeting at the White House yesterday. Our Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Bill Burns attended that meeting. The discussion was about the withdrawal plan, noting that during Prime Minister Sharon's meeting with President Bush in Washington last April, the Prime Minister presented a plan that included withdrawal from certain military installations and all settlements in Gaza, and withdrawal of certain military installations and settlements in the West Bank.
It was that plan that we endorsed, that President Bush endorsed on April 14 as a bold initiative that could further the cause of peace. It's that plan that we support now and none other. So that's what was discussed yesterday.
QUESTION: Well, that was said exactly that way by the White House yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: Good.
QUESTION: But I didn't see much point in pursuing, as I can here, whether that's a warning to Mr. Sharon not to water down the plan. There's one way of looking it and that's, there's only one plan, so what's -- you said it's a good plan and that's the only plan there is, so you don't have to make a selection. But everybody knows that he might have to refine it a little bit to get it past some of its critics. Is that the -- is the Administration telling Sharon, "Don't compromise that plan. Stick to it exactly as it was presented to the President"?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what we're saying is what we're saying: we support that plan and no other plan. So we have not been presented with any other plan at this point, but we worked on our support, we looked carefully at -- went through this very carefully with the Israelis and found that we could support this plan.
QUESTION: Richard, one of the -- it's -- I don't know if it's intentionally phrased that way; I'll bet it is: "We support this plan, not any other plan." How about if you put in the words, "and will not support any other plan"? Would it still be an expression of the Administration's view?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate on some other plan because there is no other plan, and we have not been presented with another plan.
QUESTION: I know.
MR. BOUCHER: We're just making clear that that's what we support. Anything else that came along, we'd have to look at. But one can't assume that we would come out one way or the other on some variation. I know there has been a whole lot of speculation, but we've made clear that we support what we were presented with.
QUESTION: Richard --
QUESTION: Richard, if I could follow up. The Quartet's statement said that you approve -- you called for --
MR. BOUCHER: Full withdrawal.
QUESTION: A full withdrawal.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: So why would you -- why would anything less than what you called for in the Quartet's statement be acceptable?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not saying that anything less would, or might, or could, or possibly might, or may, in some point, be acceptable. I'm saying that there is a plan that was presented, as described then, and that's what we support and not anything else.
QUESTION: Richard, is it your understanding that the plan that you support would not include the razing of any evacuated settlement facilities?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick with the description that we gave when Prime Minister Sharon was here, and that he gave when he was here.
QUESTION: Which is that --
MR. BOUCHER: Which is a matter of record.
QUESTION: Okay. But the Secretary's comments in Jordan that you were looking to create some kind of a mechanism for the transfer of non-destroyed, non-rubble from the -- to the Palestinians --
MR. BOUCHER: I know there has been speculation on this. There has been a lot of speculation of various kinds about plans, variations, reductions, continuing with the plan the way it was. I'm not going to speculate and try to react to each one of those old pieces of information. The plan was described. We expressed our support. At this point that is the only thing that there is U.S. support for, and not any of the ideas, variants, or whatever proposals.
QUESTION: I understand. I don't want to try to get into the thing that we got into last week. But when the Secretary spoke in Jordan about this mechanism, he was drawing from this plan that you supported then and still support now. That's his comments about --
MR. BOUCHER: He was drawing from the descriptions that the Israelis had given of the plan that they presented. And that's a matter of record for us and for them.
QUESTION: But that understanding is that these facilities will not be destroyed, demolished?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to take this to the point of trying to react to articles and speculation in the press that this might happen or that might happen.
QUESTION: Well, I'm not asking you to. I'm just asking you if your understanding of the plan --
MR. BOUCHER: You're asking me to give a counterpoint to something that's appeared in the press. I'm not willing to do that. I'm saying that our remarks, our descriptions, our papers of what we put out during the Sharon visit -- more importantly, what the Israelis put out during the visit -- was a very thorough and extensive description of a plan. That is the plan that we considered, that we discussed with them, and that we can support.
As far as whether any other variation or other plan might be acceptable, there is no U.S. pledge to do that.
QUESTION: Your recollection of that plan, though, is that it did talk about those facilities being turned over to the Palestinians in a non-demolished state?
MR. BOUCHER: My recollection of that plan is that there were a lot of different elements to it, and I'll leave it to the record to -- as far as what it was.
QUESTION: Is that the sum and substance of the interaction for 75 minutes with Mr. Sharon's chief of staff? In other words, there were other issues, like outposts, things you want to see --
MR. BOUCHER: There are certainly always other issues.
QUESTION: Did anybody push on that from the U.S. side, like let's do something about outposts, let's do this, let's --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we always discuss these issues: questions of outposts, questions of humanitarian treatment of Palestinians, questions of roadblocks and barriers that might impede daily life without any particular security significance. There are a lot of issues like that that always come up. I don't have a list of all of the issues that came up yesterday, but there is more than just endorsement of a single plan.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the early indications from an IAEA report that will be submitted to the BOG in which Iran admits, apparently, seeking centrifuges that would -- that would help make weapons-grade uranium?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency's Secretariat circulated the Director General's fifth report on Iran for member governments. Circulation of the report is restricted to delegations and it's not a matter of public record, so I can't discuss it in any detail.
However, I would say that information in the report demonstrates once again Iran's delay of inspection and its continuing efforts to conceal nuclear activities from the International Atomic Energy Agency. We're reviewing the report carefully. We look forward to discussing it at the meeting of the Board of Governors that's scheduled to begin on June 14.
I would point out once again the International Atomic Energy Agency has documented 18 years of clandestine nuclear activity in Iran. Tehran has repeatedly failed to declare significant and troubling aspects of its nuclear program. It has interfered with and suspended inspections. It has failed to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency in resolving outstanding issues related to its nuclear program.
It is clear that the International Atomic Energy Agency's investigation and verification work in Iran must continue for the foreseeable future.
We once again urge Iran's full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and we call on Iran to make good on its repeated pledges for full cooperation with the agency.
QUESTION: Don't you want to address the centrifuge accusation directly because it's in the report? Or don't you find it alarming?
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly have talked about some of those reports before and said that we were quite concerned about the information itself, but also about the fact that this information was not disclosed by Iran, despite its repeated commitments to do so.
QUESTION: And one more. The Iranians are saying that if you have evidence that they are trying to build a bomb, why don't you share it? Is that something that you have done, that you have given to --
MR. BOUCHER: The IAEA has reported 18 years of covert nuclear activity by Iran, including enrichment activities, including attempts to build centrifuge enrichment and other facilities, whose only purpose can be to create weapons. So there is no doubt that they have an extensive program of nuclear activity and that many of those activities are in no way peaceful and are specifically intended to create weapons.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? Why can't you say whether you believe them to have centrifuges or not? I mean, it's not -- not talking about the report itself, but do you believe --
MR. BOUCHER: The IAEA has previously documented that they had centrifuges. We certainly accept that conclusion.
QUESTION: Do you think that the matter should be referred to the Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: We think that the Council should -- the Board of Governors should discuss it. We look forward to that discussion, and it will be up to the Board of Governors to decide what to do. But we do think it needs to maintain its scrutiny of Iran's activity and to continue that investigation and verification work that the International Atomic Energy Agency has been doing.
QUESTION: Richard, may I --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt.
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any additional information about the shooting incident in Riyadh this morning?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Just what the Embassy had to say the last time is still --
MR. BOUCHER: You're talking about --
QUESTION: The two soldiers who were apparently shot at?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh. No, I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Okay. How about, assuming there's no one else in back of me, how about -- there's renewed fighting in the eastern DRC? Do you have anything on that? I asked about it last week, and now it looks like the rebels have taken this town of Bukavu.
MR. BOUCHER: In Bukavu, yes. We are deeply concerned and we strongly condemn the fighting that has continued in and around the eastern Congolese city of Bukavu, on the border with Rwanda, since last Wednesday.
The situation is extremely fluid. The dynamics surrounding the violence are not entirely clear at this time. There are conflicting accounts of what sparked the fighting last Wednesday between elements of the "integrated" Congolese armed forces and those of a dissident military commander. From reports this morning, it appears that renegade forces, formerly from the "Rally for Congolese Democracy" have taken control of Bukavu.
UN peacekeeping forces are currently working to put a halt to the looting, defend United Nations' facilities and personnel, and protect Congolese civilians.
We strongly condemn the killing of an unarmed MONUC UN military observer and the serious wounding of a second north of Bukavu on May 29, and we express our condolences to the family and the colleagues of the slain peacekeeper.
There are reports that Congolese Tutsis are being targeted in an orchestrated mass killing. These reports are false, according to U.S. Embassy people in Kinshasa and to the United Nations people who are there. Suggestions that a genocide or a mass killing of Congolese Tutsis has taken place are irresponsible and unnecessarily inflammatory.
And then, of course, we've been in touch with American citizens in the area. There's a small group of Americans who live in or who were visiting Bukavu. We issued a Warden Notice last Thursday for them. Consular officers have been in regular touch with Americans known to be in Bukavu, and those who wished to depart have now done so.
All those who have chosen to remain in Bukavu are reported well.
MR. BOUCHER: Darfur. Not a lot of new detail here.
QUESTION: Well, there are continued reports of civilian deaths from the --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. There are continuing reports of violence, and we're deeply disturbed by the reports of new violence. This is the greatest obstacle to humanitarian assistance.
The Government of Sudan has signed an agreement establishing the Darfur Ceasefire Commission and enabling international monitors to investigate ceasefire violations and attacks against civilians. That is very important work, and we hope it gets underway soon.
That monitoring mission is in Khartoum today. They're in the process of setting up their operations there, and we understand they'll be sending people out to Darfur, perhaps, in the next week or so -- within the next week.
We call on the parties to work with the African Union Ceasefire Commission and to observe the ceasefire. The Government of Sudan must end the violence in Darfur, rein in the Arab militias in accordance with their April 8 ceasefire commitments, and allow the ceasefire monitors full freedom of movement.
Despite improvements in visa and travel procedures, the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations continue to have difficulties getting staff and supplies into Darfur. Under the new policies, aid workers are able to travel freely on commercial flights, but our operations have been constrained by customs and government requirements on locally procured labor. So that's still a problem, although we do have a Disaster Response Team in the area. They have been working to distribute the supplies that arrived on the nine airlifts, and they have also continued to conduct their assessments.
QUESTION: Could we have a follow-up? I understand that there's going to be a signing ceremony in Nairobi this weekend on the protocols for the north-south peace agreement, and I wonder if there are any -- I'm told that Secretary Powell has been invited. I wonder if he has any plans to try to get to that signing ceremony, and, if not, if it has to do with his other travel or if it has anything to do with your misgivings about what's still going on in Darfur.
MR. BOUCHER: Secretary Powell very much wanted to attend the signing ceremony in Kenya. I think he's looked at the logistical requirements of getting there and the need that he has to be on the other trip that's already scheduled, and it looks pretty clear he's not going to be able to make it to Kenya. But we'll send an appropriate representative, I'm sure.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) wanted to attend the signing ceremony in December.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there wasn't one in December. There's one now.
QUESTION: I know.
MR. BOUCHER: But given the other demands, it's just almost impossible for him to get there.
QUESTION: And, Richard, why wouldn't -- just as a follow-up, why wouldn't what's going on in Darfur make him have second thoughts about going to this signing ceremony?
MR. BOUCHER: We -- I think we've made very clear our very serious concern about Darfur and we've raised the issue pointedly and repeatedly with the government at different levels, including at some of the very highest levels.
The Secretary, himself, every time he talks to Sudanese leaders makes a very strong point about Darfur. But that is not a reason to delay peace in the rest of the country. Peace for the rest of the people of Sudan remains a very important task It remains important that they not only conclude these protocols, but move forward with a comprehensive settlement so that the people of Sudan can live better and live in peace for the first time in a long, long time. Both are important.
It would be a much better thing for our relationship if the government had been more open about Darfur, in terms of access and helping the people who are suffering there. And it remains important for the government to rein in the militias and permit the kind of humanitarian access that can take care of people in that region. But that's no reason to stop pursuit of peace in other areas.
QUESTION: Will there be a selective lifting of sanctions? You remember that dozen set of sanctions --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we made clear that the kind of benefits that might be expected after a comprehensive peace agreement are not going to be forthcoming if the situation persists in Darfur. But we certainly hope that by the time they have finished negotiating the comprehensive peace that the situation in Darfur has improved, because there's a dire humanitarian and it's very urgent that those steps be taken.
QUESTION: Can I go back for a minute to the Iraq resolution -- you want to stay on this? Can I go back to the Iraq resolution, if you don't mind, just for a moment? I checked back. There's a long list of countries -- the list is getting longer and longer -- that are dissatisfied still with the resolution. They want additional revisions, essentially on the issue of the troops. And it's just -- I mean, I didn't -- it's got to be at least eight countries.
Armitage had something to say in Europe that is slightly ambiguous. I don't know if he's speaking about the future or the present when he says differences can be accommodated. I don't know if he means the U.S. is prepared to make additional revisions. So that's the question, please. Is the U.S. prepared to get a whack at the resolution one more time or two more times or a half a dozen more times until Germany, China, Algeria, France and everybody in the world is in accord with the United States and Britain?
MR. BOUCHER: I think your colleague asked that question about 15 minutes ago.
MR. BOUCHER: Twenty?
QUESTION: Maybe like a half hour ago.
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe like a half hour ago.
QUESTION: But I don't remember --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't changed my answer in the last half hour, twenty minutes. I'll tell you what I told him, and that's we'll be interested in seeing what people have to say, and we'll see if it can be accommodated and if it's appropriate for this resolution.
QUESTION: One more?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Richard, on Nepal. Violence continues in Nepal and some reports are saying there are some people in Nepal, that China is behind and supporting the Maoist militants or terrorists. What comments do you have on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment on that. We've certainly been following the situation, concerned about the situation. There've been some political developments there. We certainly hope that all the parties will realize the way to solve their differences is through politics, and we would hope that people would follow a peaceful course.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. concerned about the violence? Are there any
terror warnings on this?
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I have a G-8 question. Can I ask you one more --
MR. BOUCHER: We have one more G-8 question? Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Just that Condi Rice said yesterday that the President will be meeting with G-8 leaders to speak about the Middle East and Iraq. And my question is, he's meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin, Canadian Prime Minister, on Tuesday. Do we know the substance of that meeting? Is it going to be Middle East and Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure. I suppose it depends on what we want to raise, what the Canadian side wants to raise. But every time we get together at any level with the Canadians, we talk about Afghanistan, we talk about Iraq, we talk about the Middle East peace process, and usually many other things that we have in common.
QUESTION: And how much interest is there in the ongoing, very exciting election in Canada right now?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure there's a lot of excitement and interest in the election, but we're not going to comment one way or the other on it.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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