State Department Briefing

 

Thursday  May 29, 2003

U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing Index Thursday, May 29, 2003 12:40 p.m. EDT BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman BALKANS -- New Executive Order CANADA -- Missile Defense -- Canada's Plan to Reduce Criminal Charges for Marijuana Possession ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS -- Summit Meeting in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt/Participants -- Meetings Between Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas -- Assistant Secretary Burns' Travel to the Region -- Goal of Roadmap/Role of U.S. DEPARTMENT -- Secretary Powell's Upcoming Travel/Schedule IRAQ -- Status of Former Diplomats Accredited to Old Regime -- Status of Diplomatic Properties in Iraq SYRIA -- Reported Oil and Gas Deals between Syria and U.S. Companies CYPRUS -- Reported New Round of Talks by Special Coordinator for Cyprus Weston IRAN -- U.S. Policy on Iran -- Reported Arrest of Al-Qaida-linked Individuals In Iran CHINA/HONG KONG -- Proposed Legislation on Article 23 of the Basic Law DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO -- UN Security Council Resolution on Multinational Force to Ituri COLOMBIA -- Reported Government Proposal of Amnesty to Certain Armed Groups -- Extradition of Nelson Vargas Rueda NORTH KOREA/SOUTH KOREA -- Reports of North Korean Ships Crossing Maritime Line PERU -- State of Emergency U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING THURSDAY, MAY 29, 2003 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) 12:40 p.m. EDT MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions. I'm going to start in the front row with the seniors. QUESTION: The President signed an Executive Order concerning Yugoslavia this morning and sent a copy to -- of a notice to the House. Could you explain the practical effect of it? MR. BOUCHER: All right. I can go into great, excruciatingly precise detail, but let me just say, in essence, the Executive Order takes two previous sanctions programs, one that targeted the former Yugoslavia and one that dealt with the Western Balkans, and it merges these two programs into one. The new Executive Order targets individuals in the region, not specific countries or governments. The new list now comprises 172 persons and organizations. There are roughly 45 people from the old Milosevic Executive Order and some from the old Western Balkans Executive Order who were dropped. QUESTION: 42? MR. BOUCHER: About -- roughly 45 that were dropped for one reason or another. The new annexes list still includes Milosevic and his cronies, as well as other extremists who have sough to destabilize the Balkans. But as I said, certain individuals from previous lists have been removed for one reason or the other. QUESTION: Why do you say roughly 45? Is not that an exact -- is there some question about that? MR. BOUCHER: Because I haven't had a chance to count them myself. QUESTION: And these lists, though, the new list wasn't part of the Executive Order, correct? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it's actually in the Executive Order or if it's separately issued by Treasury, but it's on Treasury's website with the executive order. QUESTION: Okay. So, in other words, the practical effect of it is that it combines the two old Executive Orders and drops 45 people from -- 45 entities from -- about 45 entities from the sanctions? MR. BOUCHER: Three things, I would say. It combines the two previous Executive Orders, it focuses now on the individuals and not on governments or countries, and it drops about 45 people and maintains 172 on the list. QUESTION: And does that mean no one else was added or nothing else was -- MR. BOUCHER: There are some who were added. Do we have a description of the ones who were added? QUESTION: New bad guys? MR. BOUCHER: Oh, yeah. There was at least one gentleman who was added, Mr. Boskovski, because he undermined stability in Macedonia. QUESTION: Boskovski? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Okay. Your turn. QUESTION: I actually have a Canadian question. The Canadian Government today has said that they will engage in talks with the U.S. with the goal of joining the ballistic missile defense. Can you just talk, from a political point of view, what the reaction from the United States might be? And I have a follow-up question, if I could. MR. BOUCHER: See, I don't like that, because follow-up questions imply that my answer was insufficient, so you can't ask it until my answer is proven to be insufficient. But let me try to give you the answer to the first part. The whole history of the U.S.-Canada relationship has been built on many, many things, but including a common commitment to defense. We think missile defense is very important for us and for our hemisphere for North America, and, therefore, the political significance of being able to join together and work with Canada on this is that it continues a longstanding relationship, a longstanding tradition that we have had, and shows that Canada and the United States still have many interests in common, including the defense of the people. QUESTION: Can you offer any reassurances to the Canadian Government? They say that they would not be able to participate in any kind of exploration of space-based weapons. Can you offer any reassurances that that is not indeed what -- MR. BOUCHER: I can't describe the missile program for you in its totality at this point. I think I'd just have to leave that to the experts. And I'm sure that any subjects like that can be covered in expert-to-expert discussions as we begin. QUESTION: Do you think that it's relevant for Canada to say that they will sign on to the list of missile defense? MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know enough about how the program works to say that you can -- you know, you can -- you can buy two of these and three of those, but not one of those. So that's really for the experts to figure out how they cooperate in a program that meets the needs of both us and Canada. QUESTION: Richard, while the United States and Canada have many, many interests and things in common, there are certain things that they don't have in common in interests. And I'm wondering if you got an answer to the question about the marijuana liberalization question. MR. BOUCHER: I think it was really just -- our view is we'll leave that to law enforcement authorities. Law enforcement people on both sides have been in touch to make sure we understand the new Canadian regulations or new Canadian rules in that regard. And I think we'll leave it to our law enforcement authorities to study the implications and decide how to keep us both safe. QUESTION: Okay. Well, the last INL report had some -- I realize it was issued by the White House with the President's signature on it, but it had substantial input from here in this building. MR. BOUCHER: We draft it, yeah. QUESTION: Exactly. But it had some pretty harsh criticism of Canada, not only for the precursor chemicals to make, I think, methamphetamine or something else, but also because of lax enforcement of the -- of marijuana becoming a major transport -- MR. BOUCHER: But if I remember correctly, what we said at the time was that these problems exist. We have had an ongoing dialogue with Canada. We have seen some changes and cooperation in terms of our ability to work with him in these areas, and we would hope to be able to continue to do that. But it really occurs between law enforcement authorities. QUESTION: There is no diplomatic concern that decriminalizing marijuana might increase the amount of trafficking over the border? MR. BOUCHER: Again, that is -- I don't want to speculate. I am not going to go into wild speculation. I am not even going to go into un-wild speculation. What I want to say is that these regulations, these rules, are coming out. First, it's important for us to understand them clearly before we start speculating, and I think there's been some exaggerated reporting, perhaps, of them. And second of all, it really is a matter for law enforcement authorities to look at and see if it produces any new trends, and decide together how to counter any bad, negative trends that might occur. Nicholas. QUESTION: Richard, as you were preparing for the summits next week, what was your sense about how the Palestinians and the other Arab governments and leaders dealt with the fact that Yasser Arafat was not invited? Did you feel that they were not particularly unhappy about it? Publicly, they're still saying that he is the recognized leader of the Palestinian Authority, but -- MR. BOUCHER: How do we feel about their feelings about this and that? QUESTION: Well, how they responded to the fact that he was not invited? In other words, the -- MR. BOUCHER: You can ask them. You can ask them to -- I don't think I've seen any public remarks by Arab governments about whether Mr. Arafat was attending or not. Certainly, you know, as we've said before, all parties have responsibilities. The goal of the meeting in Sharm el Sheikh is for the President to be able to talk to Arab leaders about their responsibilities, about things that we can do, they can do, we can all do, to end the violence and terrorism and to support the new institutions of a Palestinian -- future Palestinian state and support progress on the roadmap. In Aqaba, we and the Jordanians will be working with the Israelis and the Palestinians to try to see what projects they can achieve in terms of starting to deal directly with each other more and more. There's a meeting today, the second meeting of Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas. There will be another meeting in Aqaba. We've always made it -- it's always been a key component of what we're working for to get the Palestinians and the Israelis to deal together in a position of responsibility. Prime Minister Abbas has been given that responsibility by the Palestinian legislature. We want to see him exercise that responsibility and we want to try to help him build up the institutions that he needs to build, particularly the security institutions that he needs to build, so that we can really make progress down this road. QUESTION: Richard, is the United States working on a joint statement to be issued in conjunction with the Aqaba summit? And do you know whether it's likely to include yet another statement of mutual recognition by the two parties? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to get ahead of the ball here. There was an extensive briefing at the White House yesterday afternoon about the upcoming meetings. And if the subject came up there, I'll leave it to what Dr. Rice said; and if it didn't come up, it's not for me to get into it. QUESTION: Richard, on the trip, just now specifically on the Secretary's portion of it, are you in a position today to confirm any meetings with Vatican officials while he's in Rome? MR. BOUCHER: No, not yet. But we're still putting together the schedule for it. QUESTION: All right. Well, but as you said yesterday, you anticipate it's possible? MR. BOUCHER: I would expect there to be meetings with the Vatican, yeah. QUESTION: So, can I ask a hypothetical one? Should he meet with the Vatican Foreign Minister or, in fact, the Pope himself, can you say what kind of -- you know, what's the reason for this? Is he seeking absolution for the war in Iraq or is it other things? MR. BOUCHER: I would not characterize any of our meetings at the Vatican in religious terms. The Vatican plays a role throughout the world. The Vatican has played a role particularly in the Middle East. You remember the work, some of work they did around the time of the siege of the Muqatta and the church in Bethlehem. And in other instances, they have representatives on the ground, and it's obviously a subject every time we go to confer with the Vatican to compare notes on what they're hearing in the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians, and to talk about that. I'm sure there will be other issues around the world -- there always are -- to talk to, given the Church's interest in so many places. QUESTION: Well, and Iraq being -- MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary, in almost all his meetings, takes an opportunity to explain the situation in Iraq and explain the need for everyone to get involved, as best they can, in the process of reconstruction and helping the Iraqi people take their country back. QUESTION: Well, does he have any trepidation about going to the Vatican, considering the Pope's very strident opposition to the war? MR. BOUCHER: No. QUESTION: Okay. QUESTION: Richard, a related country. There were reports this morning that Syria -- MR. BOUCHER: How about an -- a directly related follow-up? QUESTION: It's not on Rome. It's back on the Middle East. Do you have anything on Secretary Burns' -- or Assistant Secretary Burns' travels, along with Eliot Abrams, and are they doing just Israel and the Palestinians, or are they doing other countries and capitals in the region? MR. BOUCHER: Other countries and capitals as well. William J. Burns, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, left for the region yesterday. He is traveling with Eliot Abrams, the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs of the National Security Council. Their itinerary includes Cairo, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Amman, and then they'll join the presidential party at Sharm el Sheikh and go on to Aqaba and Doha. The purpose of this travel is to work with the parties and the countries of the region to help prepare for the President's visit. At this point, I don't have any details of particular meetings, but I would expect to see leaders and others in all stops. QUESTION: You would expect to see others? MR. BOUCHER: I expect they will have a variety of meetings in all stops. Let me just put it that way. QUESTION: You don't know anything about -- are they also going to Saudi? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything at this point on going to Saudi, no. Okay, we have one down here and we have a couple back there. QUESTION: On Israel-Palestine. MR. BOUCHER: Palestinian questions? Okay. QUESTION: Do you have anything on the raid by U.S. troops on the Palestinian Authority's mission in Baghdad? MR. BOUCHER: That's an Iraq question. Let's finish with the summit. (Laughter.) QUESTION: Well, if the answer is no, then just say no. MR. BOUCHER: The answer is yes, but let's finish with summit and Israeli-Palestinian questions. QUESTION: Bahrain was added to the summit meeting in Sharm el Sheikh. There are certain countries, what they call front countries, like Syria and Lebanon, were excluded. Why? I mean, is Bahrain more important in Middle East peace process than these two countries? MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to speculate on who was not included. There are a great number of countries that are not there because it's a smaller meeting. People coming together there, the people who have made a commitment, significant contribution, taken the opportunity to make a significant contribution to moving forward on the peace process, on the roadmap. The members of the Arab League, Arab countries are there because we have seen them take up responsibility. So I don't -- a variety of countries have contributed in different ways to this process, but the goal is to get together a group of countries to continue to take responsibility, that can contribute to the process, and that can help out with the -- especially the Israeli-Palestinian side of this process. Obviously, we remain committed to looking for comprehensive peace involving Syria and Lebanon, but this particular meeting is not about that at this point. Now, George is going to go to Iraq via Palestine -- QUESTION: I have a Palestinian question. MR. BOUCHER: Yes? QUESTION: Has the State Department in any way been involved in preparing a list of possible penalties, sanctions, forms of pressure, that might be applied by the United States against Israel relating to the roadmap and progress on the roadmap? And, if so, could you elaborate? MR. BOUCHER: The goal is to work with the parties to achieve a better situation for Israelis and a better situation for Palestinians. It's not a question of sanctions and pressures. It's a matter of trying to work with them so they achieve what they want, which is the opportunity for Israelis to live in safety and Palestinians to live normal lives. That's what the roadmap lays out. It lays out a process under the President's vision that can achieve that, and that's what we have been working with them on. That's what we have been preparing for. QUESTION: As a follow-up, as Bill O'Reilly would say, this is a no-spin zone. I don't think you answered my question. MR. BOUCHER: I think I did. I said we are not working on sanctions and pressures, we are working on how to work with the parties, how to bring the parties along the road of the roadmap. QUESTION: Has the State Department worked on the preparation, or has it prepared any sort of list? MR. BOUCHER: We are not preparing sanctions on Israel. QUESTION: Have you worked on a proposed list that was passed on to another agency of the government? MR. BOUCHER: We are not preparing sanctions on Israel. QUESTION: Well, can I follow up on that? QUESTION: So the answer is no? MR. BOUCHER: The answer is no, no, no, and not. QUESTION: Not talking about any list of sanctions or anything like that, but is the inducement for the parties to follow the roadmap the only thing that you think that they need to go through the roadmap? I mean, if they don't implement the steps that you have, are you saying that the punishment, if you will, is that you are not going to have peace, or is there any kind of U.S. pressure you can exert on the parties to implement the steps as you have laid them out? MR. BOUCHER: We think the roadmap is a good thing. We are behind it 100 percent. The President has endorsed it. Now the parties have accepted it. We will work with the parties to implement the roadmap because it achieves something that they both want. The role of the United States is to help the parties achieve what they want, to help the Israelis achieve real stability and security and safety for their people, to help the Palestinians achieve their political aspirations of having a state that can live peacefully, side by side with Israel. That's been our role, and that's what we'll keep working on. At the moment that the United States and the Quartet has promulgated the roadmap, at the moment that both parties have accepted the roadmap, at the moment that the parties have begun to meet with each other, just about maybe even six minutes from now, to continue meeting with each other to implement the roadmap, is not the moment to start speculating on, "Oh, my God, what if they don't do it?" They have accepted it. They are starting to work on it. We have seen some steps and we continue to work with them for more steps. Now, George was going to -- QUESTION: All right. There is a story out that U.S. troops raided the Palestinian Authority's mission in Baghdad and arrested 11 members, including its top diplomat. QUESTION: That was three days ago, wasn't it? QUESTION: Well, this is Palestinian officials being quoted today. MR. BOUCHER: That's a news story. QUESTION: Hmm? MR. BOUCHER: That's a news story. He was asking three days ago. This is a news story. Same thing. There have been these reports. I'd say, as far as the facts on the ground, we are still looking into it and you're going to have to check with the people from CENTCOM in order to get whatever more details you might. So I really can't confirm anything about the events or even that they occurred. I would say, as a matter of policy, since I was asked about that the other day, that we discourage foreign diplomats from entering Iraq. There is no Iraqi government for them to interact with. There is no Iraqi government to grant the privileges and immunities that diplomats would normally have inside a country. And we, in terms of the kind of control we have to exercise at this point, also reserve the right to exclude people who we don't think belong there. So, at this point, there is -- there is really no purpose. Now, there are some foreign diplomats who are there, and there are some foreign liaison officers and others, who are out there working with us, working with the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. And, certainly, people who are contributing to reconstruction for the Iraqi people are welcome and we'll work with them. Many of them are diplomats. But, in terms of sort of the accreditation of foreign embassies in the usual formal sense, we are not at that stage now. QUESTION: Well, does that mean, Richard, that the people who are already there and who may have stayed through the war -- although you are discouraging people from going in, what about the people who were there, who were accredited to the old -- to the -- to Saddam's government, and who are not a liaison officer or working with the -- MR. BOUCHER: Some of them who have remained are, indeed, working with the coalition authority and Office of Reconstruction on tasks that are at hand now. There are diplomats who were previously accredited to the Saddam regime, who have been residing in former mission residences, who are still there. We do not regard those as diplomatic missions. They're accredited to a regime that is no longer existent, and, therefore, their accreditation would have lapsed. QUESTION: What, so you don't believe those premises have any immunity whatsoever? MR. BOUCHER: They and their premises don't have diplomatic status anymore. QUESTION: But, in the past, you've always said that diplomatic status, and so on, was not attached to any particular regime and that you didn't recog -- you know, it's sort of a question of recognizing governments, was a question of recognizing countries, as well. MR. BOUCHER: No. That's confusion about what we've said in the past. I will see if there is any distinction between the actual offices and the people. Certainly, the accreditation of the individuals has lapsed. Whether the property has some residual status, I will have to check on. QUESTION: Well, does that mean, though, is there a distinction that you make between those diplomats who are in Baghdad now working with the ORHA and those -- like, do you regard them as having some kind of diplomatic status or do you -- MR. BOUCHER: No. QUESTION: Nothing? MR. BOUCHER: No. QUESTION: So there is no -- there are no diplomatic privileges right now in -- anywhere in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, because there's no government in Iraq to grant those privileges. QUESTION: But, Richard, as the occupying power, do you have the authority? You said you have the right to -- MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. QUESTION: Well, you said you have the right to exclude people, so do you have the right to allow people? MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, we have the right to allow people to enter and to be there, but that doesn't give us the right to grant diplomatic status to people in the country. QUESTION: Can you tell us who, specifically, it is that you are discouraging from going in or who, specifically, you regard as -- MR. BOUCHER: We're discouraging foreign diplomats, in general, from entering Iraq. QUESTION: Well, can you say either who -- either who the -- what countries the diplomats are from who are "okay," who are working with you guys in Baghdad, and which diplomats are there who are not? MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to make too fine a distinction. What I'm saying is there are diplomats who are in Baghdad who have reasons to be there, who are doing things: working with the coalition, working on reconstruction and things like that. But in terms of this sort of legalistic point, "Do they have diplomatic accreditation? Do they have diplomatic status? Do they have diplomatic immunity?" No. They don't. QUESTION: Okay. Well, then -- let me -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to say -- trying to define why -- QUESTION: Okay, let me put it this way, then. Have you told these people this or are you doing it right now? In other words, were the Palestinian -- the delegation that was there -- were they told, "Look, you guys no longer have this?" MR. BOUCHER: Well, the Palestinian Representative Office is just that. It's not -- QUESTION: (Inaudible). MR. BOUCHER: Well, it lapsed when the old government lapsed. QUESTION: Well, were they informed? Were these people informed? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know to what extent we've informed people. I think most people that are familiar with diplomatic status and law would be -- would understand this on their own. QUESTION: Okay. Well, I think some of them, at least, didn't. Right? QUESTION: Richard, can you take a question on the status of their premises, which presumably -- MR. BOUCHER: I just did. QUESTION: -- are, in many cases, the property of the foreign governments which send these diplomats to Baghdad? MR. BOUCHER: I will see if there's anything different to say about that. QUESTION: But, at the moment, you're saying that you reserve the right to enter these premises and do what you want in them? MR. BOUCHER: No. For the moment, I'm saying that the individuals don't have diplomatic status and I'm checking on the status of properties. QUESTION: Could you also check on the -- as the occupying power, whether you have the authority to grant diplomatic status temporarily until a new government is in place? MR. BOUCHER: I really don't know if the question arises. But if it does, I will check. QUESTION: And, Richard, specifically to these facilities, these buildings, which, as Jonathan points out, are considered property of the sovereign nation to which the -- to which it belongs, right? So say, hypothetically, Country X, which you recognize and you have a good relationship with outside of Iraq, their mission in Baghdad -- QUESTION: Bulgaria. QUESTION: Well, all right. Let's say Russia. Russia had diplomats in Baghdad all through the war -- MR. BOUCHER: Look, we're not -- I know what you're -- QUESTION: -- do you think, now, is it the opinion of the U.S. Government that the Russian Mission, which is Russian property, is now -- no longer has diplomatic status? That's what -- MR. BOUCHER: Isn't that the question that three times I've promised to look into for you? QUESTION: I just want to make sure that we got it. MR. BOUCHER: I got it. QUESTION: Yeah, okay. Can I ask an additional query, then? MR. BOUCHER: Can somebody else ask a question, or are we going to stay in the front row for another ten minutes? QUESTION: Well, I had mine lined up. MR. BOUCHER: Okay. You had yours lined up. You have been in line. Okay, go. QUESTION: There reports today of oil and gas deals between Syrian Government and a couple of U.S. companies. Are there any restrictions of any kind on such transactions? And do you have -- do you take a position on the -- on the wisdom of meetings with the Syrian oil sector? MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, I don't know the answer to if there are any restrictions or considerations that need to be taken into account. You can look up the regulations on the various websites of Commerce and Treasury. But it's the -- you know, the standard sanctions related to terrorism countries apply to Syria. Whether they affect these particular transactions, I'd have to know more about the regulations and more about the transactions to make a judgment. QUESTION: Okay. Leaving aside the legal aspect, do you take a position on the political advisability of U.S. companies --? MR. BOUCHER: We take the position that U.S. companies need to follow U.S. law, and that means taking into consideration these various legal restrictions and requirements. If they do or do not affect this deal, I don't know. Sir. QUESTION: Change of subject? (Inaudible) Coordinator Tom Weston is going to start a new round of talks on the Cyprus issue visiting the three capitals -- Nicosia, Athens, and Ankara? MR. BOUCHER: Don't know, but I can find out and get back to you. QUESTION: Could you update us, Richard, on anything you might have about the interagency team that was going to work on the ground with the parties to help them, in terms of security and other matters? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is any update to give at this point. We have talked about it before. Obviously, we have always been willing to put -- take on a monitoring function. We have talked about creating an interagency, sort of coordinating group on the ground. But, at this point, there is no new news on that. That's one of the ideas. That's one of the prospects that's out there. There is nothing concrete to announce at this point. Elise. QUESTION: On Iran, I know the Secretary and you and others have said the other day that the policy is not changing yet. There are still reports -- MR. BOUCHER: No, we didn't. We said the policy has not changed, period. QUESTION: Has not changed. Are you saying that the policy has changed? MR. BOUCHER: No, we didn't add the word "yet." QUESTION: "Yet," these reports are still predicting that -- MR. BOUCHER: "Yet," you persist in asking this question, as if it's true. Go ahead. QUESTION: I said reports are persisting that avenues of the administration are advocating regime change, are advocating arming the MEK. And could you just -- and they are quoting senior State Department officials. So can you -- MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to deal with everybody -- look, you can get somebody in this town, you can get somebody in this government, and you can just about get somebody in this building to say just about anything anonymously. QUESTION: Except you. (Laughter.) MR. BOUCHER: What you can get from me, what you can get from the Secretary, what you can get from Dr. Rice, what you can get from the President's spokesman, is the policy of the United States Government. And we have all said in the last two days the policy towards Iran has not changed. We have serious concerns with Iran in a number of areas. We are prepared to address those concerns in different channels at different times, but the policy towards Iran has not changed. QUESTION: Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Any ambiguity about that? QUESTION: I have a follow-up. MR. BOUCHER: We have a follow-up. QUESTION: Yes. MR. BOUCHER: As if there was -- QUESTION: How do you respond to The Washington Post the other day that there is a difference between how they approach this problem between State Department and the Pentagon? MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't try to respond to The Washington Post, since they are not expressing the policy of the United States, to begin with. Second of all, all I know is that what I have said, what the White House has said, what Dr. Rice has said, and what the Secretary of State has said, is all the same thing. QUESTION: Have you gotten any -- through any channels from the Iranians about these potential Al-Qaida members that might be in custody, who they are? MR. BOUCHER: As I think we said yesterday, we still haven't received any definitive information on arrests made by the Iranian Government that they have talked about in public. We continue to look for Iran to abide by responsibilities that all nations have under Security Council Resolution 1373 to deny safe haven and to prevent the commission of terrorist acts by providing early warning to other states. We do note that in August and November of 2002, the Iranian Government cooperated with the Governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in handing over individuals with links to Al-Qaida. We have made clear to the Iranians that we would expect that they would assist the Saudis with any information or individuals who could prove useful to the ongoing investigation of the May 12th bombings in Riyadh. QUESTION: Richard, you note that? Does that mean that you note that the Iranians have said that, or do you have -- MR. BOUCHER: We note that not only they have said that, but it's true. QUESTION: It's true, okay. MR. BOUCHER: Ma'am. QUESTION: I have a question about Hong Kong and Article 23. We heard that next week there will be a delegation from Hong Kong, including Hong Kong Legislative Council member concerned about this proposed national security legislation, or Article 23. We just want -- the question is: What is the point of view of State Department of this proposed national security legislation in Hong Kong, including the contents and the procedure? MR. BOUCHER: Including contents and procedure? Our view that we have expressed from here, and I think our Consul General in Hong Kong has expressed it as well, has been that the subject of Article 23, the security regulations for Hong Kong, is one that deserves wide public discussion; that the views of the public and legislators and others in Hong Kong need to be taken into account; and that these need to be done carefully, in accordance with Hong Kong's status under the basic law. But it's a subject that deserves widespread discussion, and the views need to be taken into account. That's pretty much what we said before. Okay. QUESTION: It looks like the UN Security Council will approve a peacekeeping force for Eastern Congo. MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. QUESTION: What, if any, will be the U.S. role? MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have supported the call by the Secretary General for rapid deployment of a multilateral -- multinational force to the Ituri region of the Congo. The goal is to provide security until a reinforced UN presence can be established. We welcome France's decision to take the lead in this force. We've been working with Security Council colleagues on a draft resolution. France circulated a draft yesterday and we support the resolution and we would expect the resolution to be passed as early as tomorrow. And then the troops could get out there within, probably within days. We welcome regional support by Rwanda and Uganda for the rapid deployment of the force. Experts meetings are planned in New York today to work out the details. We think the rapid deployment of such a force is critical to stabilizing the region and, in so doing, allowing the ongoing political process to move forward. At this point, I don't have any details on possible U.S. support. We would certainly consider requests for logistical or financial assistance from states that are part of the multinational force, but we're not planning any U.S. personnel at this point to take part. QUESTION: How about transport? MR. BOUCHER: Again, we'd consider requests. We don't -- as far as I know; we don't have any formal requests at this point. Sir. QUESTION: I have a question about Saudi Arabia. According to the Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi Air Force and the Egyptian Air Force started a joint training exercise yesterday called "Faysal 04," and it's, according to this report it's supposed to go for about two weeks. Does the State Department think something like is helpful at this point, again, vis--vis the roadmap where you're trying to have a peace plan? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I wouldn't try to speculate. It's not for us to comment on other people's military exercises. QUESTION: On Colombia, please. MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. QUESTION: What is U.S. Government opinion about the president's (inaudible) proposal to give amnesty to the guerillas and paramilitary fighters, which commit horrible crimes such as kidnappings and killings? MR. BOUCHER: Is there a particular proposal at this point? I know that in the past we've seen the speculation that something like that might come along. QUESTION: (Inaudible) yesterday. MR. BOUCHER: There is a proposal at this point that we're looking into? MR. REEKER: We have to look into it. MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We'll have to check on it and find out for you. QUESTION: However, I would like to know what could be the impact of this proposal to the international fight against terrorism. MR. BOUCHER: Well, we'll be glad to look at that along with everything else, but at this point, let us look at the proposal and tell you what we think. QUESTION: All right. MR. BOUCHER: Okay? All right. Sir? QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about these North Korean allegations that South Korean warships crossed the sea border? Do you know anything about it? MR. BOUCHER: No. There have been reports the other way around, that North Korean fishing boats are coming across to the South. QUESTION: I think, well, maybe they are making mutual counteraccusations. MR. BOUCHER: I know for several days there have been reports in South Korea that North Korean boats were coming south across the maritime line. QUESTION: Well, there's definitely one today about North Korea saying that South Korean warships have crossed the line. MR. BOUCHER: I see. QUESTION: Are you taking a position on who's right and who's wrong in this? MR. BOUCHER: I won't jump into it yet at this point. Thanks. QUESTION: You don't have anything to say about the unrest in Peru, do you? MR. BOUCHER: The unrest in Peru. We have advised American citizens about the unrest and told people to exercise caution. We actually understand that relative calm has returned. Our Embassy in Lima is monitoring the situation closely. About all there is. That's it. Okay? QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait, wait. MR. BOUCHER: We have one more. QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the extradition of guerilla rebels to -- from Colombia to U.S. Government? MR. BOUCHER: This is -- [IN BACKGROUND]: Nelson Vargas. MR. BOUCHER: Nelson Vargas? [IN BACKGROUND]: Yes. MR. BOUCHER: Thanks, Phil. (Laughter.) We are pleased by the extradition of Nelson Vargas Rueda from Colombia to the United States. This action underscores a strong degree of law enforcement cooperation between our two countries, as well as our commitment to bring the accused murderers of American citizens to face justice. And the Justice Department will have to get you details on extradition and trial.

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