State Department Noon Briefing, June 24
|Thursday June 24,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
THURSDAY, JUNE 24, 2004
12:15 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can just tell you one thing about the Secretary's travel. I think you know the Secretary is going to be traveling with the President starting tomorrow. They're going to Ireland for very important meetings with the European Union and then we go on to a NATO summit -- and then we go on to a NATO summit with the President, where the Secretary will be accompanying the President.
Subsequent to that, the Secretary is due in Indonesia for the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting and there is a sort of a day and a half in between. The Secretary has been looking at a particular stop for the intermediate point. This morning, he went and talked to the President about it and the President asked him to go ahead, so I'm in a position now to announce to you the Secretary will be visiting Sudan starting June 29th and leaving on June 30th.
He'll be going to Khartoum from Istanbul and will meet there with the government leaders. He may also have a chance in Khartoum to intersect with the Secretary General of the United Nations, who will be traveling in Sudan about the same moment. They may have a chance to meet there. And then the Secretary will go on to Darfur. In Darfur we expect he'll be able to meet with relief workers who are there, with members of the ceasefire commission who are there, and with the many people and groups who have been displaced by the fighting and the other hardships that they've had to endure there.
As I think you all know, the issue of Sudan, achieving peace in Sudan between the north and south, has been a very important one for this Administration, for the President and for the Secretary, and we are very pleased to see the government and the rebels be able to reach agreement in the last month.
At the same time, the humanitarian crisis of Darfur has been of enormous importance to us, and just as we were pleased to see peace we were equally displeased to see what's been taking place in Darfur. And the Secretary has made this a very important issue on his agenda and, as we see from the President's encouragement, on the President's agenda as well.
The Secretary has spoken I think just about every day for the last several weeks with the Secretary General about the situation in Darfur. We have seen it -- seen the Security Council take a position on it when they made their statement welcoming the peace. The United States has worked very, very hard with the leaders of the African Union to get the ceasefire commission up and running. We have worked very hard to pressure the government to end the violence. And the Secretary's visit to Sudan is intended to continue to call attention to the dire humanitarian situation in Darfur, to do whatever we can to stop the violence there, and to make sure that the needy people of that region are receiving whatever supplies we can get to them.
If I can take a moment, if you'll allow me just to kind of go over the humanitarian and political situation in Darfur since I know that we're going to. But you can -- why don't we ask questions and I'll do that at some point.
QUESTION: We had a pretty candid -- a very candid briefing a few -- maybe a month ago, a leading official here working the problem. And he made the point, a very candid point, that the United States isn't getting a lot of help from the Europeans, for instance, from the allies, that this is pretty much a U.S. operation. Of course, it's a heart-wrenching operation.
You make reference to the Secretary General. Is the -- our Secretary going with any implicit or overt support from the traditional U.S. allies? I mean Britain, I mean Germany, I mean France, et cetera, because this has been a U.S. ordeal.
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you ask these countries, they will tell you they are concerned about the situation there. Exactly what they might have provided in terms of relief supplies, people on the ground, things like that, I don't know. There are some Europeans, three Europeans who are participating in the African Union ceasefire commission. There were certainly Europeans who have supported the language we put in the previous UN resolution on Sudan and we are, I think, we will be discussing with other members of the council, including the European members, having the Security Council take additional action on the subject of Darfur.
So implicit support -- support, yes. I think the Europeans are on record as being concerned about the crisis. But I myself don't have any numbers or statistics on what they have directly done.
QUESTION: You had told us a while --
QUESTION: I just want to make sure, looking through the diplomat -- the historians, this is going to be the first Secretary -- the highest-level visit ever to Sudan, correct? No Secretary of State has visited --
MR. BOUCHER: I --
QUESTION: No. That's wrong. I've been in Khartoum with the Secretary of State.
MR. BOUCHER: About 25 years ago --
MR. BOUCHER: Sometime in the last 55 years -- (laughter). No, my simple answer to that is I didn't have time to check. I think it's on our website and should be readily found if there's any -- there's nothing listed under Sudan visits of the Secretary of State? I presume that's accurate. But we'll call the historians and ask them to double check one more time.
QUESTION: Just real quickly, what is the Secretary going to say to the government in Khartoum to pressure them to stop the violence, one? And two, Physicians for Human Rights yesterday said that they saw a genocidal process, indicators of genocide unfolding in Darfur. Do you agree? Have you made that determination yet?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary will make clear our concern about the people in Darfur. We made clear that we believe that much of the hardship has been caused by the activities, the violence perpetrated by the militias, that we know those militias are being supported by the government, and that the government needs to bring those militias under control.
Let me take this opportunity, before I get to the genocide question, to kind of run down the overall situation and talk about some of these things further.
I think on the issue of controlling the violence, we've seen little follow-through on President Bashir's declaration concerning stability in Darfur. The Government Humanitarian Affairs Commission has said that they will bring police to south Darfur to protect civilians at the camps there, but we haven't actually seen that happen yet; we're hoping it will.
The government is also still imposing difficulties in travel restrictions on humanitarian agencies and interfering with the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
I think we all saw the declaration by President Bashir earlier this week that the government will disarm the militias. We haven't seen follow-through on that yet. In fact, we've heard some say that the government might now be retracting that statement. We strongly urge and will strongly urge the Government of Sudan to fulfill President Bashir's declaration to immediately disarm the militias and provide unfettered humanitarian access.
We will also note that we hold the Darfur rebels responsible for the ceasefire as well. We also call on the Government of Sudan to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance, including the immediate release of all vehicles and equipment and of all food shipments bound for Darfur, and call on the parties, the government, the Sudan Liberation Movement and Justice and Equality Movement to cooperate with the United Nations and the humanitarian aid agencies to avoid all interference and to abide by the ceasefire.
On the question of aid, first, the main difficulty -- there have been two big difficulties with the assistance. One is access. Whereas I've said we're still having some problems although we have gotten more people in, we have gotten, I think, about a dozen Americans in there working. The UN is there. The World Food Program is there. Nongovernmental organizations are there. But there are still parts of Darfur that we haven't had access to and therefore haven't been able to take care of the people.
There have been difficulties with road transportation. Road transportation has been hampered by the security situation, by general lack of trucks, and by now the beginning of the rains. It hasn't affected that road transportation deeply, but in the coming month it will affect it more and more.
So we have been able to deliver now 17 flights of nonfood supplies, of things like shelter and living materials. The food aid response is increasing dramatically. In May, the World Food Program was able to distribute 9,700 metric tons of food to about 577,000 people. The target for June is 27,000 metric tons, three times that, and a 24,000 metric ton target for July. In June, we expect to move 24,000 tons by road and 2,500 tons by air, but in July the mix starts changing and we have to take more by air because of the road situation and in July we expect to do 16,000 tons by road and 8,000 by air.
The other problem that has plagued the people of Darfur has been the violence and particularly the activities of the government-sponsored militias. We continue to have reports of attacks by the government-sponsored militias, including as many as a dozen attacks already this week. And as I've said, we've not seen any action by the government to bring this under control. The militias have systematically attacked hundreds of villages, including with aerial bombardments and helicopter gunships.
Our information indicates that of what we know is that 301 villages in Darfur have been destroyed and 76 have been damaged. There have been crops burned, killed or stolen cattle and destroyed irrigation systems. And that is a great part of the tragedy that has befallen the people of Darfur.
QUESTION: I don't know if it gets very specific. Over the last couple of weeks, though, you had given a more -- given more than previously -- upbeat account of aid getting through. There seemed to be an improvement the last couple of times we asked.
MR. BOUCHER: There is an improvement in terms of, you know, the government promised --
QUESTION: I mean follow-through, too.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the government promised quick visas and easier access to Darfur. It's been a little easier to get visas but there still remain problems. It's been a little easier to get people into Darfur. It was hard to get anybody at all. Now we've got a dozen or so folks there. So it was hard to get any food and supplies in. Now we're starting to get it in. It's not -- there's not enough access. We don't have enough people there. NGOs aren't operating as widely as they need to. And the situation of this violence that is practiced by government-supported militias is really hampering all the efforts and making it very difficult to get food and supplies to people who very much need it.
QUESTION: How do you square all this with them allowing the Secretary to go to Darfur? Could you give me a little of the tick-tock about how that was arranged?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary himself has been looking at it for a week or so. We had contact with the government in the last couple days and they said that they would welcome his visit. We hope they see this as an opportunity to show that they're willing to take some real action against the militias and to really open up humanitarian access for the region, but we'll have to see when we get there.
Certainly, the problems that I'm outlining for you today are real and need to be dealt with. We hope that the visit is a sign the government is prepared to deal with them. But, in any case, we think it's important to raise these issues directly at a senior level with the government. They are part of a regular discussion with the government. There is a humanitarian affairs commission in Sudan that we deal with. Our chargé meets with senior leaders of the government in Khartoum. This will be a chance to take up these and other issues at a senior level.
QUESTION: Richard, can you come back to the question about genocide?
MR. BOUCHER: We have described the situation there, I think, in very concrete and graphic terms about what's going on. There is an extreme urgency about the violence. We attach a great deal of importance to actually stopping the violence and alleviating the suffering. That's our first priority right now.
We have described the situation there as one of ethnic cleansing. We've seen attacks and atrocities against African civilians by the government-supported militias and situations where villages with Africans in them were totally destroyed and a village next door that was Arab was untouched by any violence, things like that. So we have been, I think, quite clear on the ethnic cleansing that's going on and the type of violence that this is.
As for the sort of formal determination of genocide, which is a crime, that's something we have under intense review. I don't have any determination at this point. It's not necessarily possible to do it at this stage. There may be more information needed to be gathered, but it's something we are looking at. We'll make the determination when we think it's justified and appropriate.
But I think there's no doubt about the level of our concern, the intense attention that we have attached to this, the attention that the Secretary General of the United Nations attaches to this question and the amount of pressure that we've continued to bring on the government to bring the violence under control and to allow humanitarian access.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? What is the process that results in a determination of genocide?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a legal process of the lawyers looking at the information. So it's sort of a constant process of gathering information and then making the determination when it meets kind of a legal standard, legal definition of genocide.
But it's a matter of having information, I think, that's not just -- that's more concrete, that's more like evidence than just information. That's as best as I can tell you. We gather the information and look at it, and at some point, we realize, you know, we have the foundation for a decision.
QUESTION: And is it your determination thus far that the situation in Darfur doesn't meet that definition?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't put it that way. It's just that we have not yet at this point been able to make the determination that it is genocide.
QUESTION: Well, isn't there a danger, though, that the Sudanese Government can use the visit of Secretary Powell to, I don't know, make themselves look better than they are, to make it seem like it's a reward and not that he's coming there to scold them?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't --
QUESTION: Usually, they look forward to these visits with great fanfare and, you know, lots of shaking of hands and all that.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we'll shake their hands. But -- let's -- the situation with regard to our relations with Sudan is complex. I mean, on the one thing, we and they have achieved a goal that we have had for a long time that will make life for many, many people in Sudan a lot better, and that is to have an agreement between the north and the south.
We have established with the Government of Sudan a lot of cooperation against terrorism. Sudan is no longer a place where terrorists can feel they can come and go freely and take refuge. We have addressed some of the issues of hardship throughout Sudan, including in the south in the bombardments of villages and things like that that were taking place in the south.
At the same time, we think the government's behavior in this area of Darfur is still not up to -- well, still not right. And so it's -- there are a lot of different things to talk about. This will be a major issue because it's a major issue for us. And I think we'll give credit where credit is due, and we'll make very clear our concerns where there's not enough action. And Darfur is certainly a place where there's not enough action.
QUESTION: You mentioned that you wanted to go back to the Security Council for additional action. What are you thinking of? What's --
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we're talking -- starting to talk to other members of the Council about what the next action by the Council on Darfur might be. We do think a resolution might be in order, but we're just starting to talk about that now.
QUESTION: Sudan is on the terrorism list, isn't it? And you say cooperation, but they're not --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- not eligible yet to get off, or wait till the next report?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not wait till the next report. It's kind of like --
QUESTION: They can (inaudible) --
MR. BOUCHER: -- the question of genocide. When do you make the decision? We make the decision when we think we have the evidence. But we have, I think, acknowledged the establishment of good cooperation against al-Qaida.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: I have one.
QUESTION: Still on Darfur?
MR. BOUCHER: Hold on.
QUESTION: You must be concerned that with the time that's passing, you know, we could look back on this a few years down the road and say, "Why didn't the world, the international community, do something?" That is -- do you -- are you worried that this process is going to take too long?
MR. BOUCHER: We are worried that there are people who are suffering every day in Darfur and we know that we need to do everything we can to help them. That means calling attention to the problem, making every effort to stop the violence, and delivering food and supplies to the people who need them. We've mounted major relief efforts. Since last October we've donated, I think it's 86,000 tons of food to the World Food Program for the people of Darfur and more for the refugees who end up in Chad. So the United States has, I think, been doing what we say needs to be done, is calling attention to the problem, making efforts to stop the violence and providing relief and assistance to the people who need it.
We certainly encourage all other governments to be involved and that's part of why we have raised it and will continue to raise it at the United Nations. We have certainly welcomed the attention that the Secretary General has been able to call to this matter and we do think the world community needs to work together to ensure that the government takes steps to stop the violence and ensure the kind of access that we need to deliver supplies to the hungry.
QUESTION: To North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you confirm a bilateral U.S.-North Korean meeting earlier today and can you also talk about whether the U.S. is willing to consider the North's demand for 2,000 megawatts of power annually as part of the list of things that may be discussed once North Korea gives a commitment?
MR. BOUCHER: First on the mechanics of what's going on in Beijing today, there was a plenary session today, all six parties. Presentations were made by China, Japan and Russia. At yesterday's plenary, the United States, North Korea and South Korea made their presentations. There was a separate discussion with members of other delegations, including a separate discussion with the North Koreans today from our -- by our delegation. As you know, they've had these kind of discussions in past meetings, pointing out, once again, these are not bilateral negotiations but rather side meetings, side discussions to go over some of the issues that have been raised and presentations that were made in the talks.
As far as North Korean list of demands, requirements, I think there is a North Korean proposal that was made of compensation for a freeze. We'll obviously look very carefully at everything they've said and examine it, but the most concrete and particular and specific proposal on the table is that made by the United States yesterday with the support of other governments who were there. That presentation offers not only some -- offers a way to really resolve the problem in a manner that's been discussed at previous rounds and we look to the North Koreans to study that proposal seriously.
QUESTION: Can I switch to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've got more North Korea, I think.
QUESTION: The Chinese (inaudible) briefed the reporters as to two topics at the six-party talks talk. One is to figure out what is the first step to for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. From the U.S. point of view, what would be the first step?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I went over that yesterday. You have to -- you have to start by a commitment to dismantle the program and you have to constrain the program, you have to establish a mechanism, a process to eliminate the nuclear programs in a verifiable and irreversible manner, and a complete one as well. So start with a commitment, constrain the program, establish a series of steps, implementation steps, and you start moving down that road.
As we move down that road, there are things that can happen for North Korea. We've made clear that we're prepared to take some provisional steps as that process proceeds, including the provisional granting or issuance of some sort of multilateral security assurance, with the final one being given after the dismantlement is complete.
We know that non-U.S. parties, some of friends and allies in the talks, are prepared to provide energy assistance to North Korea, non-nuclear energy assistance, once the program is stopped and we're starting to move down that road. And we've all said that if we do move down that road, dismantle the program, that the benefits to North Korea, the possibilities of better relations with us and with others, are certainly opened up quite widely.
QUESTION: With regards to the provisional security guarantee, can I just -- I'd like to make sure that first the North Koreans should submit the list of all the nuclear programs and facilities, and once it is verified by the U.S. as true, then the guarantee will be given? Is that true?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I'm not prepared at this point to go into a detailed sort of implementation schedule for you. I can outline the general tenor of our proposals but we think the detailed implementation steps do need to be agreed upon, but I don't think I can specify them all for you here.
QUESTION: One more. I asked the similar question yesterday, but is the U.S. delegation now still using the term of complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement?
MR. BOUCHER: I did three minutes ago.
QUESTION: You did, but your delegation in Beijing?
MR. BOUCHER: Our delegation in Beijing has as its goal to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of nuclear programs in North Korea. That is their goal. That's what they're talking about. And they're talking about the very specific proposals that the United States has put on the table to try to achieve that, to go and to achieve that precise goal.
QUESTION: Numerous reports from Beijing that U.S. is retreating from the usage of that term and all of those reports are quoting U.S. officials. And are you denying that?
MR. BOUCHER: I've not been in the talks. I can't count how many times they might have used the term in pieces or together. I'm telling you once again, for the United States Government, for our delegation, for Washington, for everybody, that complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs is the goal. We think that's the only way to achieve the denuclearization that all the parties want and we think that the U.S. proposal and further implementation steps can be worked out peacefully to achieve that goal and to bring a better -- a benefit not only to the security of everybody in the region but to the North Korean people as well.
QUESTION: If I could ask you about Iraq and the insurgency, given -- especially given all of today's violence. Do you have an assessment of command and control for the insurgency, the role of Zarqawi? I mean, Zarqawi appears to be the most effective actor in this.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have that kind of analysis. We generally don't do military and intelligence analysis from this podium. And really it's a matter for the people who are fighting that insurgency in Iraq. That means the Iraqi government and the coalition forces that are helping them to see how they can describe the enemy.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, but can you talk at all about Zarqawi's role there? I mean -- I mean, is --
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that Zarqawi and people like him certainly appear to be some of the most dangerous in Iraq, that the kind of violence that he has been involved in, particularly this two now beheadings of innocent people, is horrifying. It serves no purpose. It helps no one. It helps no cause, achieves no political or other ends. It certainly doesn't help the Iraqi people reach any kind of stability or any kind of control over their own destiny. So it is among the most horrifying kinds of violence that we've seen. It may not be that that's not the only source of violence. There are remnants of the old regime, other foreign fighters and probably other factors in there that someone closer to the scene could give you a better analysis of.
QUESTION: My last stab at this is do you have any sense if the Baathist insurgency is dramatically reduced?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be able to count what's what. Factional fighting, Baathist remnants, foreign fighters, Zarqawi -- people closer to the scene would have to do that kind of analysis.
QUESTION: About the handover and transfer of power and how the violence relates to that, I know you've tried to make a distinction between the security and the capability of Iraqis, of the government to handle the transition. But do you think that this increased violence is going to make any dent in the Iraqis' capacity to be able to handle the government going forward? I mean, do you think that this government is going to be equipped to continue to handle this continuing violence?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the first thing to note is that Iraqis are taking charge. Today, the Iraqi government announced that they are taking control of the remaining 11 ministries. So now all 26 ministries are in the hands of the Iraqis, for them to run, for them to make decisions, for them to carry out the work, set priorities.
So that's a major achievement; that is the guts of the handover itself, where Iraqis are taking control of their government and their nation.
Are they fully able to handle all the jobs by themselves? No, as with any country, there will be others helping them out, whether they're NGOs or aid programs or contractors who help with electricity systems, water systems, things like that. Even more as we know, security is a problem for them all, and the Iraqi government has many forces that have been trained and are on the job and security there is still not in a position to master the security situation itself and has asked for and received the coalition -- the assistance of the coalition forces.
So we are, thereby, with the consent of and at the request of the Iraqi authorities who are taking over, working in partnership with them to try to establish the security that lets all the other work go forward without any hindrance.
QUESTION: I mean, just to follow up -- I mean, there have been, you know, governments that have been toppled because of their inability to kind of stabilize the country. I mean, right now, the U.S. and the coalition are the ones in charge in Iraq. And, you know, the Iraqi people can't overthrow you because you're -- you know, it's an occupying force. But once the Iraqi government takes over, are you afraid that they're going to be vulnerable if the violence continues?
MR. BOUCHER: This Iraqi government that's coming in is really only a government for six or seven months until we get to elections. So they will be replaced in six or seven months, when we get to elections.
QUESTION: Change subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Syrian President Assad has been visiting China for several days now, and in his meeting with the President of China they have signed several protocols that would probably prepare the ground for a Chinese presence -- economic, political and other presence in the Middle East. They focused also on the Middle East problem and bringing peace to the area. And China seems to want to assign a convoy especially for this matter, for the Middle East peace.
What is your reaction? How do you read these new developments?
MR. BOUCHER: That's all very interesting. The relations between Syria and China are a matter for those two countries and not for us. China, as you know, has worked with and supported United Nations resolutions regarding the Middle East and we would expect to continue to work with China in regard to such things at the UN.
QUESTION: President Assad, while he was there, he talked about -- about Mr. Barak's reneging on the agreement that took place between Syria and President Clinton concerning Shepherdstown development, and they were almost going to sign the agreement while Israel actually negating, trying to play politics, internal politics, used the Shepherdstown for that reason. And President Clinton in his recent book, he talked exactly about that point and he admitted that.
Does the State Department, since it was very involved in those talks, have any opinion?
MR. BOUCHER: We had plenty of opinions expressed at the time. At this point, I think I'll leave it to historians.
QUESTION: There was a piece in yesterday's Financial Times which said that the U.S. has decided now not to return to China any of the Uighur detainees that it's holding in Guantanamo. Has the U.S. come to that decision, finally?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any news on that. Usually, the news on detainees comes from the Pentagon, anyway. But I don't have anything about that at this point.
QUESTION: Can we come back to Iraq for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And if this was answered yesterday, apologies. Do you have some plan for creating immunity for the multinational force in Iraq by June 30th?
MR. BOUCHER: The status of foreigners in Iraq working with the coalition, working with the Iraqis to help provide security under the current circumstances, is governed by something called Order 17 of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Given the change in government, the full transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, that order needs to be revised to take into account the new circumstances and it is being revised. It's not yet finalized so I'm not yet in a position to outline the final, the details of how they come out.
But I think the general -- the general description of it is that this is a necessary -- and, in fact, a necessary measure to provide the appropriate legal protections to people who are in Iraq to perform official duties in a dangerous environment. This is a normal kind of protection afforded by various legal instruments or understandings in places where foreign forces are stationed. And this is the way it's going to be done in Iraq with a revision to this order. But when it's done, it'll be promulgated and put out in Baghdad.
QUESTION: And how does it have standing after June 30th?
MR. BOUCHER: It has standing because the -- for the interim period, the transitional law, I think, allows the continuation of rules that have been made and need to continue.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: We've got one or two more. Sir.
QUESTION: Return now to six-party talks?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you wait North Korean answer to U.S. proposal until next six-party talks? And will your answer to North Korean proposal also come at next six-party talks or during this session?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know when we'll get an answer from the North Koreans. We certainly know that our proposal is detailed, it's complicated, it's practical, it's very thorough and it deserves serious study and attention. We would expect them to give that to it. And so we would not necessarily expect them to be able to answer during this round of talks. We didn't expect that as we went out to make the proposal and there's no surprise answer from them yet.
As far as when we might have more to say about their -- the things that they put out, we'll have -- I'm sure there's some discussion already out there. I don't know if we'll end up giving a formal response or not. The things that they put forward are very similar to things they've put forward that we've responded to in the past. What's important is that North Korea study carefully the very thorough proposals the United States has put forward to actually achieve the ends that we're down there, that we're discussing at the talks.
QUESTION: Yes, regarding the press freedom in Taiwan -- yes, not China, Taiwan -- the government is refusing to renew the license to Broadcasting Corporation of China, which is owned by the opposition party. And the timing is right after the ruling party is in power after the disputed presidential election. BCC has been broadcasting newsy stories and but they are not always the kind that the government will like to hear. If tomorrow, BCC did not pass the second review of the license renewal procedure, the government might step in and manage some of the channels.
So my question is: Should the government dictate the press freedom and free market decision, and what is U.S. view on the freedom of press?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States view is that we support freedom of the press and I'll leave it at that. I'm not going to get involved in a specific licensing issue.
QUESTION: But is the State Department aware of the procedure?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll just leave it at what I said.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)
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