State Department Briefing

 

Monday  May 19, 2003

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Monday, May 19, 2003 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) 3:30 p.m. EDT BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman DEPARTMENT Secretary Powell's Travel to Paris for G-8 Preparatory Meeting ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS Terrorist Bombings in Israel Strengthening Security Outside Support for Terrorist Groups and Operations Palestinian Authority Efforts at Peace Roadmap for Peace and U.S. Diplomatic Efforts CHINA Falun Gong Genocide Lawsuit Charles Lee Sentencing and Rejection of Appeal SAUDI ARABIA/IRAN Bombings and Possible al-Qaida Terrorist Links in Iran MOROCCO Bombings in Casablanca U.S. Assistance ALGERIA European Hostage Situation IRAQ IAEA and UN Weapons Inspections Update on UN Sanctions Resolution VENEZUELA Press Freedom and Incident at Ambassador's Residence ROC-TAIWAN WHO Observer Status PHILLIPINES Bilateral Talks and U.S. Assistance SYRIA Syrian Cooperation in Iraq Stabilization MIDDLE EAST Reaction of Islamic Religious Leaders to Bombings and Other Terrorist Acts NORTH KOREA Report of High Ranking Official Asylum Request INDONESIA Failure of Tokyo Talks on Aceh MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I have a trip to announce for you, having gotten back from the last one. Secretary of State Powell will visit Paris, France to attend the G-8 Foreign Minister Meeting on May 22nd and 23rd. The Secretary will be working closely at that meeting with his counterparts from France, Germany, Italy, Canada, the UK, Japan, Russia and the European Union on preparations for the G-8 summit in Evian that will be held from the 1st to 3rd of June. The Secretary will depart Washington on May 21st and return to Washington May 23rd. So now I would be glad to take your questions about that or any other topic. QUESTION: Do you have any particular comment to make on the latest suicide bombing in Israel? MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I think you have seen statements from the White House, from the President himself, making clear that we condemn the bombings over the weekend. There were five acts of terrorism carried out against Israelis in the last 48 hours. We condemn these in the strongest possible terms. These included a horrific bombing this morning in a shopping mall in the northern city of Afula that killed at least three and injured at least 15 people. There was Sunday's homicidal bombing in Jerusalem that killed at least seven and wounded many more. We extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims of these despicable acts. Once again, we call on the Palestinians to take immediate and decisive action to eradicate this infrastructure of terrorism and violence that has wrought such tragic bloodshed for both Palestinians and Israelis and has undermined Palestinian aspirations. Saturday's meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas was an important step in the right direction in restoring an active dialogue between the two sides. We fully support these efforts to begin discussing the roadmap and to try to bring peace to this troubled region. We remain in close contact with Prime Minister Abbas and his cabinet and we continue to support efforts to end the violence and terror in the region and truly achieve the new dynamic in the Palestinian leadership that will permit us to move forward. The President and the Secretary have made clear the need for both sides to take immediate and concrete actions. It's imperative that the Palestinians move on security. Israel needs also to think of how it can act in ways to support Prime Minister Abbas and his new government and show respect for the life and dignity of Palestinian people. The focus must be on practical steps to move forward, and we'll continue our efforts with both sides to ensure movement on that agenda. QUESTION: That's awfully close to what Abbas told Sharon, that last point. If I understand what he said -- and we weren't there -- he said that he couldn't -- moving on security requires that Israel move on, you know, the territories, that Israel -- he didn't use the word "concessions." In other words, he seems to be conditioning the strengthening of security on actions by Israel. Does Israel have to pay a price to get security? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I don't -- QUESTION: I mean, you have made an even-handed statement, a very typical statement. You said Israel has to -- as if they are "dissing" the Palestinians -- Israel has to do some things, and the Palestinians have to do some things. Does it have to pay an IOU to get security? Is there a charge for getting security? MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't think -- I didn't see any remarks that I would interpret that way from the Palestinians. Certainly, when we went to see Prime Minister Abbas when then Secretary spoke to him, he was quite clear in the meeting, and also in his press conference, that an important part of establishing Palestinian institutions that they desired for the future was to be able to take control of their own security, take responsibility for their own security matters. And that was part of his agenda. You remember he said it his intention to establish a single authority, not to have competition from armed groups. And as the President pointed out this morning, whenever there are steps towards peace there seemed to be these armed groups that come out and try to destroy those attempts, and the only conclusion that we can draw is we really have to persevere. The Palestinians have to persevere in getting control of their security. You'll also remember that the Israelis have talked about taking certain practical steps, taking certain measures that they felt they could take without compromising their security in order to move forward. And we would continue to encourage those kind of steps. But we recognize that this is a very difficult task, it's a task that has been difficult in the past, and there are those who will try to disrupt it. The beginning of the meetings between the two sides, which the Secretary encouraged while he was out in the region and which we are glad to see happen, that's an important effort being made by the two sides, and we would encourage them to continue that, to continue the kind of steps on security the Palestinians need to take and must take in order for this process to really have any prospect of moving forward. QUESTION: What I am asking is, is it the U.S. position that there should be a precondition -- MR. BOUCHER: No. QUESTION: -- some form of Israeli -- MR. BOUCHER: No. QUESTION: -- gesture -- MR. BOUCHER: We haven't made it that, and what I have tried to explain to you is I don't really believe -- QUESTION: You know that Abbas is saying that? MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen the Palestinians make it a condition either. Certainly, he did not make it a condition at the press conference we had at Jericho with him. QUESTION: No, I know. I'm talking about his -- after his meeting with Sharon. MR. BOUCHER: Again, I haven't seen anything I'd interpret that way. QUESTION: And what does this, these five attacks, say about his ability, let alone his willingness or his interest, in stopping terror? MR. BOUCHER: Well, it says it's a terribly difficult task, that there are armed groups that are competing for power that are trying to kill Israelis, that are trying to kill innocent people, and also disrupt the process of building a Palestinian state. And just as we've seen before, every time there is a serious attempt to move forward, there are these people who come out and try to disrupt it. We need first to get the people under control, and second of all to take away their wherewithal. We keep talking about ending the violence and terror, but also dismantling the infrastructure to do that. And you know the United States has been doing its part not only with the parties, but in places like Syria where some of these groups have offices. And we have also been doing our part in working with other people in the region, as the Secretary did during his trip, so there can be support for expanding the capabilities of the Palestinian side to get a hold of this violence and terror that's directed against Israelis, but that also undermines Palestinian interests as well. QUESTION: Richard, the President was very emphatic this morning in calling on other countries to support the Palestinians in cracking down on this kind violence and actually cracking down on it themselves. Do you have any reason to believe that there is any foreign complicity in these last five attacks? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular information on these attacks. The investigations will be done, of course, by the Israeli Government, and I wouldn't be in a position to share any information on that myself. What we have pointed out in the past is these groups operate from other areas. Some of them, as I said, have had offices in Damascus that we've looked to see closed down, and there has apparently been some progress along that side. But there is also another side to it, in not only allowing these people to operate anywhere in the region, but also there are other governments that we have talked to, that we continue to talk to, in terms of supporting Palestinian capacities to deal with the violence. And that's an important effort that has to be made as well. QUESTION: And people are not making it yet? MR. BOUCHER: It's something that is just beginning with the new Palestinian Government, beginning again with the new Palestinian Government. And I think once again we would emphasize the importance of that, not only the need for determination on the Palestinian side but also capacity on the Palestinian side. QUESTION: To Barry's last question, do you believe -- are you still convinced that Prime Minister Abbas is fully committed to this effort? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I have seen nothing that would put in doubt his commitment that we heard very clearly a week ago. It's imperative, I think many on the Palestinian side understand now, that these bombers are undercutting their own aspirations, undercutting their own ability to move forward. QUESTION: Richard, I have two kinds of technical nomenclature questions. Has the State Department made a conscious decision to refer to attacks such as these as homicide bombings, like you just did, which I believe was the first time that anyone from State has called them that, although the White House has before? Maybe I missed something. MR. BOUCHER: I think I've done that before. QUESTION: No. MR. BOUCHER: I said homicidal. QUESTION: I know, I know. It's a logical extension. MR. BOUCHER: It killed people. That's the point. QUESTION: And the second this is, have you made a conscious decision to stop referring to the new Palestinian Prime Minister by his nom de guerre, Abu Mazen, and instead refer to him as, well, Abbas? MR. BOUCHER: We have made a conscious decision to refer to him as Prime Minister Abbas. QUESTION: I don't suppose you'd tell us why -- I swear, in the last four or five statements by you and the Secretary, there's this new element. And I've heard this music for a long time and there's always a slightly different theme. This "respect." What is this "respect" thing that you keep insisting that Israel show respect? Are they disrespectful? Is that the idea? I thought it was more than a matter of respect. I thought it was a matter of keeping people from their -- what is -- it sounds like, I don't know -- MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I'd suggest you read the Louisville speech. There's quite a complete explanation in there. QUESTION: Respect? MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. QUESTION: I didn't think it was a matter of respect. I thought it was a matter of killing. MR. BOUCHER: We don't like killing. QUESTION: Yeah, I figured that. MR. BOUCHER: That's particularly true. But if you want to go in to delve psychological subjects, I'd say Louisville is probably where we've explained them the most. QUESTION: I'm always interested in the slight changes, but it's still the same thing. MR. BOUCHER: What we said in Louisville. QUESTION: Have you anything to verify reports that -- whatever you want to call these groups, their offices are being closed in Syria? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have final confirmation for you. I think we've seen a variety of reports, many of which would indicate that their offices are being closed. But remember, the Secretary made very clear that it wasn't just a matter of taking down a sign or closing a door that's normally open; it was a matter of making sure that their operations and their activities would cease. And that's what we'll be following to make sure they do. QUESTION: Is this a move in the right direction? MR. BOUCHER: We've seen some indications in that direction, but I'm not ready to reach a definitive conclusion at this point. Nicholas. QUESTION: Richard, Prime Minister Abbas told the Secretary last week that he would begin with dialogue with these groups and see what happens. Do you think that's the best approach for the moment, and have you seen any indications he's trying to do this? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of anything new in that regard. Certainly, he indicated that his intention was to make sure there's a single authority in the Palestinian areas, that there were not competing armed groups that continued to exist. How he accomplishes that is obviously a matter of some difficulty, but a matter that he'll have to decide. Our intention is to help with that process, to get others to help with that process and to make clear the urgency of that process. QUESTION: Also, the President said today that after the attacks the road will be bumpier. In terms of the roadmap, how does the dynamic change? Are you still continuing not to insist that Israel accepts publicly the roadmap, or would you change? MR. BOUCHER: Well, I wouldn't describe our position one way or the other as being that. Certainly, we look forward to the eventual meeting with Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush when that can be rescheduled. We'll continue to work with the parties on the roadmap and on taking practical steps along this road. It remains the guideline for our work. But we all recognize and have recognized all along that we are not going to proceed very far down that road without an end to the violence. And that's why we have tended to emphasize the end to the violence. QUESTION: Are you saying that when such meeting occurs between the President and Prime Minister Sharon, he might accept the roadmap then? MR. BOUCHER: I am not making any predictions at this point. I don't know when the meeting will be. Steve. QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit more about how the United States has been, as you put it before, "in close contact with Prime Minister Abbas and his cabinet" in the last day or two? MR. BOUCHER: Deputy Assistant Secretary Satterfield was out there until the weekend and so he had been in touch with the Palestinian side as well as the Israeli side. In the last day or two, I think it has been our Consulate General people who have been there, who have been in touch with them. The Secretary spoke -- where is my little stick-um? The Secretary spoke over the weekend with the Israeli Foreign Minister and with Prime Minister Abbas. And I'll tell you which day it was as soon as I get my stick-um back. QUESTION: Okay. A follow-up? Not to parse you too closely. MR. BOUCHER: Please don't. QUESTION: But in your opening statement you, I think, said that it was important for the Palestinians to take action, and it was also important for Israel to think about easing the humanitarian conditions. And since sequencing is always a topic, I am wondering if you can clarify whether or not what has to happen now is for some action for the Palestinians to take before the second thing can happen. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's a matter of before. There were certainly steps the Israelis were considering that they indicated they were willing to take, which they felt they were in a position to take, even without the end to the security situation, so that those kind of practical steps we would say remain on the agenda for both sides, and certainly offer a way to get started on the work of the roadmap. But we all know that the overriding imperative of creating security for Israelis, security for Palestinians, is the one that needs to be addressed first and foremost. And, therefore, I guess the urgency of the steps on the Palestinian side is quite clear; the urgency of the need to get a hold of the security situation is quite clear. But both sides should be looking at steps they can take to move down the roadmap, and we would encourage both sides to take those steps. QUESTION: I am curious about the State Department's point of view on the genocide lawsuit filed by some victims of the persecution of Falun Gong against Chinese former head, Jiang Zemin, last October, when he visit United States. And is the pressure from China's former head, Jiang Zemin, part of the State Department decision, since sources say that, "He would like to pay any price to get rid of this lawsuit"? MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't necessarily agree with the sources, but let me get you a position on the lawsuit itself. There are matters involving diplomatic immunity that are important to us that we have to deal with, along with whatever right for lawsuits various parties may have in the United States. So I'll get you something more detailed on that. Elise. QUESTION: On the Saudi bombings and al-Qaida and Iran, can you talk about any links between the bombings and any al-Qaida operatives in Iran that you may know about and whether you believe that the Iranians are providing safe haven to al-Qaida operatives? MR. BOUCHER: I can't talk about any links. The Saudis are conducting an investigation, the Saudi Arabian Government, into the attacks in Riyadh. That's their responsibility, given that the attacks took place on Saudi soil. The FBI is also out there. There is interagency teams that are out there working with the Saudi Government, helping with the investigation, and also conducting their responsibilities under U.S. law to look into these matters. So, as this matter is still under investigation, I don't think I want to speculate any more on the perpetrators and where the leads might lead us to, what links might be found. As far as the question of whether there have been al-Qaida operatives in Iran, I think our answer has always been yes, that we know that there have been al-Qaida operatives working out of Iran. And we have made that clear -- again, you know, before. We have made clear that we have called on Iran to meet its responsibilities under UN resolutions and not allow safe havens for people who support terrorist acts, and to take steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts by providing early warning to other states through the exchange of information. So those are the kind of messages we have conveyed to Iran about the presence of al-Qaida people in Iran. But whether the investigation leads to some sort of link in that direction or not, I can't say at this point. QUESTION: We talked a few weeks ago about meetings between the Iranians through various channels and messages being passed to the Iranians through various channels. Do you expect there to be another meeting involving the U.S. and Iran, such as the Geneva process or something, any time soon to kind of reiterate these messages? MR. BOUCHER: I would just say that we have ways of communicating with Iran when we need to, but I don't talk in advance about any meetings. I don't particularly talk after most of those meetings either but -- other than to confirm that we have had such meetings in the past. But no, we have ways of communicating these kinds of messages to Iran and we'll keep -- we'll keep doing that where it's in our interest to do so. QUESTION: Can you give us a better idea, more of an idea of what the U.S. is trying to do out there? I get the -- I assume Satterfield left. I know he was staying on, but he left before -- MR. BOUCHER: "Out there" is a big place. Are we back to Israel -- Israelis and Palestinians now? QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. MR. BOUCHER: Okay. QUESTION: Satterfield works that problem. And there was a rash of bombings, but I got the impression that he already left the region. The Secretary was on the phone. Could you, you know, elaborate a little bit? Or is the pitch essentially the public pitch you are making, that both sides have to do things? What are you addressing? I talked to Ambassador Walker today, for instance, and he thought that Tenet ought to go out there and try to get the two security forces together and get them to collaborate. So I am trying to figure out -- I am trying to get a notion of the energy or the involvement of the administration and where is it being directed. MR. BOUCHER: The energy and the involvement of the administration is being directed with both sides at continuing the process of meeting, and hopefully expanding that, so that they can begin to address together things like the security issues. QUESTION: Meeting? MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. The Secretary, when he was out there, encouraged these kind of meetings between Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas, and glad that that one occurred. And we hope that that kind of process continues and continues in other levels they can start to address the security issues because we've always maintained that to really get a hold of the security problem you not only need the Palestinians to crack down, but you need security cooperation as well. Second of all, the effort continues to call on the Palestinians to take their responsibilities, especially for security. Third of all, the effort continues with both sides to continue practical steps, to look at practical steps that they can take that help move this process forward and give people back a semblance of normal life and try to make things work better for both sides. And the United States stays involved at various levels. The Secretary did speak with Prime Minister -- I mean Foreign Minister Shalom of Israel and Prime Minister Abbas of the Palestinian side on Sunday. He has continued to stay in touch with various other players in the region, and our Embassy and Consulate General in Jerusalem continue to work very hard at all levels on these problems. QUESTION: Who is that now, by the way? Because wasn't the job open, the top job? Consulate General? MR. BOUCHER: The Consulate General, the Acting Consulate General, is Jeff Feldman. QUESTION: Oh, okay. QUESTION: Moving a bit east, has the Secretary had any calls with Moroccan officials? MR. BOUCHER: He did talk to Foreign Minister Benaissa on Saturday. QUESTION: Which was mentioned in this -- MR. BOUCHER: I think we mentioned it in the statement or in the follow-up for that. QUESTION: Was there any additional contacts since then? And is there anything new you have to say on the attacks there? MR. BOUCHER: Any additional contacts? Our Embassy in Morocco is certainly in close with them. Let me give you a rundown of where we are with that. First of all, to make clear that we condemn in the strongest possible terms the despicable terrorist bombings that were conducted in Casablanca over the weekend. Our sympathies go out to the families and to the loved ones of the victims of these attacks, and we express our hopes for a speedy recovery for the injured. We are in touch with Moroccan officials at the highest levels to convey these sentiments, offer whatever assistance we can at this time of sorrow and grief. In keeping with our long history of excellent relations with the Moroccan Government, the United States has sent an FBI team to assist with the Moroccan investigation into these attacks. They arrived in Morocco this morning. They'll be meeting soon with Moroccan officials to assist in any way they can. I would also note that Ambassador Margaret Tutwiler, who has been serving temporarily in Iraq, has returned to Morocco and she will supervise our efforts of cooperation with the Moroccan Government as Chief of Mission in Morocco. Obviously, we'll be looking into all the reports of connections to international terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and possible linkages to other states in the region, but a final determination of who is responsible depends on the results of the investigation. Finally, let me note that we deeply appreciate the leadership shown by King Mohamed VI and the Kingdom of Morocco in the international campaign against terrorism. The United States will continue to stand together with Morocco against this threat to both our nations and to all peace-loving people. Charlie. QUESTION: About the way you phrased the possible ties to al-Qaida or other groups. Do you have any preliminary information that would tie the bombings to al-Qaida? MR. BOUCHER: No, no. QUESTION: Can I follow up? MR. BOUCHER: Sure. QUESTION: Do you have anything that suggests that maybe it's not, that it's the work of a local homegrown group and not -- MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not in a position to try to describe it one way or the other. I said let's try to avoid drawing conclusions until we've had a chance to investigate, and I'm not going to be able to speculate one way or the other with you at this moment. QUESTION: A little further east -- yeah, east? QUESTION: Can I come back to the Palestinians? QUESTION: Well, that's going east. You probably won't be able to answer this. MR. BOUCHER: Try me. QUESTION: Algeria. What's your understanding of what's going on there with the European hostages and if they've been released or not? There seems to be contradictory reports. And also, are there any plans? You guys issued a warning about travel to the -- parts of the Sahara and Algeria. Are you looking into revising that at all? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if they've been released, frankly. We've seen the reports. I don't think we have definitive information one way or the other. And, obviously, it would be for others to report that if they did have that, rather than us. And as far as revisions, I think it's probably too early to start speculating on revising our advice. The fact that these people were taken hostage or kidnapped out there seems to indicate it is somewhat dangerous. Terri. QUESTION: On Iraq, Mohamed ElBaradei is coming out ever more strongly, saying that he really wants to get back into Iraq and fears radiation poisoning and that there's -- could be really a nuclear emergency there if inspectors like himself and his team don't get in there soon. You said -- no, Phil said last week that he didn't think it had been brought up directly with the U.S., I believe. Can you talk about that? He says now that he has asked the U.S. MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly what contacts there have been. Certainly, we have been in touch with the IAEA. There are two aspects to this that need to be kept in mind. One is that there were previous safeguards, seals, monitors, under normal IAEA procedures with the materials that were in Iraq. The second is the IAEA took on the role as part of UNMOVIC with the inspectors. At this point, I know people have talked, recommended that they become involved again in one way or the other. We have heard some of that from others that we have consulted with on the resolutions. But I really don't have any decisions at this point from the United States side. Certainly, we don't think it's time for the UNMOVIC inspectors to begin going back in. And as you still have a largely military situation, I wouldn't speculate really one way or the other at what time that might be appropriate. QUESTION: Is that why you don't think UNMOVIC should go back in, because of the security situation? MR. BOUCHER: I think because of the situation we're in now that you have still essentially a situation where the travel, access to these sites, locations that need to be looked at, all have an essentially military character. I think we're better -- coalition forces are best positioned to do this work and we will continue to do the work of ascertaining the locations of various items of interest to the international community, weapons of mass destruction, radiological materials, things like that. QUESTION: You have carefully split IAEA's role initially in safeguards, seals, et cetera, and then its role with UNMOVIC. Are you suggesting that once security has been restored sufficiently that you might -- that it perhaps is more likely that the IAEA would go back, even if UNMOVIC did not? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to suggest one way or the other. I just say there are two aspects of this that have to be dealt with. At this point, our answers would be the same for each aspect, but how they might evolve I can't say at this point. QUESTION: Okay, well, that was basically my question. You weren't trying to say, then, that you would allow one -- you would allow -- you might -- you are more willing to consider allowing the IAEA or -- alone, without -- not under UNMOVIC -- MR. BOUCHER: No, I wasn't saying that we were ready to suggest one or the other role at this point. QUESTION: Okay. So right now, the United States does not have a position about whether UNMOVIC should be reconstituted, and, if it should, whether it or whether the IAEA should go in, or the IAEA by itself should go back in? MR. BOUCHER: The questions involving UNMOVIC will have to be addressed down the road. Questions involving the IAEA responsibilities in safeguarding material will have to be addressed down the road. We think at this moment in time it's not possible to come up with answers to the exact role of those organizations because of the type of situation that still obtains on the ground. QUESTION: Right. Just one more. Do you expect -- I understand that Ambassador Negroponte is going to be tabling the resolution in probably about three minutes, considering the lateness of the hour. MR. BOUCHER: No, a little more than that. QUESTION: Well, 5:30. It must be about 4:00. QUESTION: Anyway, an hour and 27. QUESTION: Do you expect -- do you think that you'll be able to have -- you'll be able to get a vote on this before the Secretary heads off to Paris, or do you think that when -- during his time in Paris, the Secretary is still going to be battling this out with the French? MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. The resolution that we have put forward is important. It carries out a number of important steps, including lifting the sanctions, providing for a vital role for the UN -- for the United Nations and the Secretary General's representative. It provides for support from the international community for the people of Iraq to achieve a new life. It's important that we do this and we do it quickly because the oil situation is such that the refineries and the storage tanks are getting full, and they need to -- oil -- a mechanism needs to be established for oil to be sold, and for the money to be used for the Iraqi people. So this resolution does those things and it should be passed urgently. We think we have, through a series of changes, taken into account a lot of what we heard from other governments during the Secretary's consultations with the Russians and the Germans, for example, last week, as well as the other discussions we have had in New York and elsewhere with other governments. So we have provided a resolution with some changes last Thursday. We would expect to provide another text today with a number of changes that respond to the issues and concerns we have heard raised from the other governments. And we would hope that there would be wide and immediate support for this version and, therefore, we would be able to proceed soon -- shortly to a vote. I think Ambassador Negroponte said he would look for a vote this week. There was going to be a discussion this afternoon at which he expected to be able to table a slightly revised text. But I can't give you an exact date for the book. QUESTION: Do you hope for Wednesday evening? MR. BOUCHER: I would hope it would be this week, which encompasses either of the possibilities that you discussed. Steve. QUESTION: Back on the Palestinians, there are a lot of people in Israel and in the Government of Israel who blame Arafat for this violence. Does the U.S. have a view about that, and, second, a view about the desire of some in the government to expel him as one of the steps that they could take? MR. BOUCHER: You mean some in the Israeli Government to expel? QUESTION: Yes, yeah, in the Israel Government. MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, our view is that Prime Minister Abbas and his cabinet provide new leadership to the Palestinians, and that they need to do everything they can to exercise the authority they got from the Palestinian Legislative Council. Certainly, we have head in Prime Minister Abbas' speeches, and also the statements he made to us and with us at the press conference, a strong commitment to establishing authority over all of these areas, including security. And we will do what we can to enhance his ability to get that job done. We are also in touch with other members of the international community; people in the Quartet, Arab leaders, to urge them to exercise their responsibility and try to support the new leadership and help them achieve the goals that they have, the Palestinian people have to create an authoritative government institution. As far as what role Chairman Arafat continues to play in all of this, I don't think I would speculate at this point. We certainly think it's very important for the Palestinian community to have this authority to exercise control over its own security, and that they have leadership that's not associated with a taint of terror and corruption. And that's what we think all parties ought to be supporting, in terms of supporting a new government and their attempts to take control over security. QUESTION: My other question is on May 9th, the second day of the filing of the Department of Justice amicus brief on the genocide lawsuit I just mentioned, the U.S. citizen also that filed a group petition on Charles Lee's appeal was rejected in China's court and he was sent to Nanking Prison. According to U.S. consulate in Shanghai, no one was allowed to visit him. So that area is one of the five most SARS-inflicted areas in China, according to WHO. Are we doing anything more effective to get him back? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see whether we have been able to visit him since the appeal was rejected. As you know, he was sentenced to three years in prison on March 21st. And he appealed the sentence immediately, but that was rejected on May 9th. The request to appeal was rejected then. A consular officer from the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai was present during those proceedings, but I'll have to check and see if anybody has been able to visit him since then. Okay, sir. QUESTION: The Venezuelan parliament has given preliminary approval to a law of content, which means that the Venezuelan Government will determine what is objective truth to be published by the Venezuelan media. At the same time, the Parliament has declared that Ambassador Shapiro has been guilty of unfriendly contact. I think you are probably familiar with the incident down there. And I just wondered what are you going to -- are you going to -- Chavez has always said that he allows freedom of expression. But there have been repeated notes from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, and now there is this. What does the American Government have to say about this? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particular to say on these latest events. I'll have to check on them. I wasn't familiar with this new law. But, certainly, we have expressed our concern repeatedly about freedom of expression, about the political violence that has occurred, directed much of it against the opposition, and about the attempts to crack down on freedom of the press in Venezuela. It's been a subject of ongoing concern. I wasn't aware of these most recent developments, but I think we have been quite clear on the need to not allow restrictions on freedom of expression in Venezuela. And I'll see if there is anything particular we want to say about this law. QUESTION: The United States apologized for the little incident that took place in the embassy, and in your absence some of your people declared that was an inappropriate act. But this is going pretty far in what they are saying about the U.S. representative there, and, in effect, although you can say they are sending up a mission to the OEA to denounce him. If you don't have a reaction to that could you get me one? MR. BOUCHER: That's what I just said I would. QUESTION: Yeah, okay. MR. BOUCHER: Sir, yes. QUESTION: (Inaudible) in Geneva has -- is likely to deny the Taiwanese application for -- as an observer status. And what's the U.S. policy on that, in light of the -- MR. BOUCHER: Our policy has been the same as it's always been, that there are organizations where Taiwan's participation can be useful -- because, particularly when you have these sorts of health matters, non-political matters such as this, particularly when you have SARS affecting them and others in the region, it's important for people to be able to cooperate together. Sir -- yep. QUESTION: On the Philippines, MILF insurgency, in particular, today President Bush said that if MILF abandons violence, then U.S. will provide diplomatic and financial support to a renewed peace process. Could you elaborate on what U.S. is exactly trying to do? Is U.S. ready to be -- to join Malaysia as direct mediator of the conflict, or just ready to show political support, or perhaps U.S. is ready to play a role which is similar to what you are doing on Sri Lankan issue? That means rather than being involved directly on negotiations, assist in the peace process by holding a donor's conference or something. MR. BOUCHER: I really don't have anything more for you at this moment. I think the President expressed his general desire to help and to be part of this. I am not sure if we can get you more details at this point, but I'll check and see. QUESTION: (Inaudible) a country that you mentioned in the (inaudible) reports today? MR. BOUCHER: Most of those talks were over at the White House. You would have to check over there for the details. Sir. QUESTION: The Secretary expressed hope during his visit with the Syrians recently. The Syrian Government would be cooperating as the U.S. has asked. Can you tell us what the extent of the Syrian collaboration has turned out to be since then? MR. BOUCHER: As the Secretary said at the time, there is no specific time limit. We expected to see this kind of cooperation work its way through a number of areas that there had given them quite a bit to think about, and quite a number of steps that we would expect them to start taking. As I mentioned earlier, there have been some signs in some of these areas that they are taking steps with regard to the border, with regard to transits, with regards to some of the groups that operate there, but there is much more to be done. And so we will be following that closely and continuing to remind them of the need to take these steps. So I don't have some overall grand assessment for you at this moment. It's just not possible to do that right now. Yeah, sir. QUESTION: During your trip, there have been of these bombings, whether it be in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and in Casablanca, and every time there seems to be a bombing the militant Islamic Clerics seem to come out of the woodwork. Is there any particular plan that you have instituted with various governments to go, to break that tight militancy up, or is it just -- MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't know if I quite agree with the conclusion. In fact, what you have seen happen since the bombings in Saudi Arabia -- and I think in Morocco, as well -- that a number of the religious leaders have started to speak out against this kind of action. And I have seen Saudi Government officials and Saudi religious leaders talk about this as being, you know, against their religion, anti-Islamic. And they're, I think, speaking out more and more in various places among the religious leaders to say that these kind of actions are not in accord with their religion. They are a perversion of the creed. And that, I think, is an important factor that obviously there is a lot that needs to be done not only from the social and religious point of view, but from the security point of view, to make sure that groups like this can't carry out these actions. QUESTION: (Inaudible) you fairly well stated the policy that you have on Taiwan. But the Taiwanese seem to be under the impression that this year at the WHO meeting, you guys are going to be more vociferous or more vocal, open, openly vocal about saying that they need to have a presence in the organization. Is that -- have they been misinformed? MR. BOUCHER: I think I was fairly openly vocal about five minutes ago. QUESTION: No, I am talking about the -- I am talking about the delegation actually over there, Richard. You know, Tommy Thompson was there, and he has already made one surprise announcement I guess. Is he actually going to -- last year at the WHO meeting, he talked about Taiwan, but he only did it at a luncheon. He didn't do it at the plenary at all. MR. BOUCHER: I'll try to keep you informed of what statements our delegation does make, but this is a position that we have held for some time, which we think gains a certain amount of importance and prominence given the current situation with SARS in the region. QUESTION: There is one thing about having a position and saying it here, and another thing about having a position and actually saying it where it counts where the delegates are going to vote on this kind of thing. MR. BOUCHER: I am gravely insulted, but I take the point. Yeah, sir. QUESTION: I'm sorry. Please? MR. BOUCHER: No, go ahead, Mr. -- QUESTION: Thank you. QUESTION: Sorry for that. QUESTION: Regarding North Korea, we get a report on last Friday about the -- a high ranking member of the North Korean Labor Party, who is (inaudible) is seeking political asylum to the United States. Could you -- can you say anything on that or -- MR. BOUCHER: No, I couldn't. I don't know of this report, but I wouldn't be able to say anything anyway about an asylum request. QUESTION: (Inaudible) is illegal to help the people who are seeking asylum including such a high-ranking member of the North Korean Labor Party? MR. BOUCHER: We have asylum laws that follow international standards, and they don't discriminate on the basis of high rank or low rank. Yeah. QUESTION: Richard, the Aceh peace process is in shambles now. I have been told that you have something to say about it new, something new to say about it. Is this correct? MR. BOUCHER: New? What kind of standard is that? Let me tell you what we think on the failure of the Tokyo talks on Aceh. First of all, we deeply regret that the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement forfeited a rare opportunity to advance a peace process with the assistance of the international community. It's our judgment that the possible avenues to a peaceful resolution were not fully explored at the Tokyo conference, and it steps incompatible with a determined approach to negotiations undermine the process. The United States maintains its support for the territorial integrity of Indonesia and for the peaceful resolution of the Aceh conflict, based on special autonomy. At the same time, it does regard the problem of Aceh as one that is not amenable to a solution by use of military force. We call on the two parties to return to the negotiating process as soon as possible. We also call for the most careful observance of the laws of land warfare, and the strict observance of the human rights of civilian populations. QUESTION: Okay. I am just a bit intrigued. How many conflicts do you see -- the appropriateness of the military resolution? This is one of them that you don't. I am just -- MR. BOUCHER: Well, we felt that a military resolution was not only appropriate but necessary and the responsible thing to do in Iraq. QUESTION: Yeah, but that was a little different than this is. This is a civil war. MR. BOUCHER: That's why we say this one is not a -- QUESTION: Okay. So a civil war is not an issue. MR. BOUCHER: Not -- this one is not amenable to military solution.

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