State Department Noon Briefing, July 31, 2003

 

Thursday  July 31, 2003

Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, July 31, 2003
1:05 p.m. EDT

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

ANNOUCEMENTS
-- Statement Supporting Free and Fair Election Process in Cambodia
-- Secretary Powell Approves $30 Million Reward Payment to Individual Who Provided Critical Information That Led to Location of Uday and Qusay Hussein

NORTH KOREA
-- Indication of Accepting Secretary Powell's Proposal for Multilateral Talks

CHINA
-- Nonproliferation Penalties Imposed on China Precision Machinery Import/Export Cooperation (CPMIEC)

GHANA
-- Assistant Secretary Kansteiner's Participation in Peace Talks

LIBERIA
-- West African Intent to Deploy Peace Keeping Troops to the Region
-- Assertion for Charles Taylor to Depart Immediately
-- Charles Taylor Possibly Facing Indictment Charges
-- Resolution at the United Nations and Obligations Under International
-- Criminal Court

AUSTRALIA
-- Information Suggesting Australia Might be Point of Origin for Attacks

IRAQ
-- Policy Toward PKK-KADEK Members Seeking Political Refugee Status

VENEZUELA
-- Concern for Threats and Support for OAS Secretary General

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
-- Prime Minister Sharon's Visit/Progress of Roadmap
-- U.S. Discussions with Israelis on Implementation of Settlement Activity
-- Assistant Secretary John Wolf's Travel to Region to Continue Discussions on Issues in Roadmap
-- Discussions on Ending Incitement of Violence

GUATEMALA
-- Court Decision on Rios Montt

BOSNIA
-- UN War Crimes Tribunal Handing Life Sentence for Bosnian Serb Milomir Stakic


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

THURSDAY, JULY 31, 2003
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

1:05 p.m. EDT

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have a couple things to say off the top. I want to talk about Cambodia, I want to talk about Rewards for Justice, and then I'll talk a little bit about North Korea since that seems to be the phone calls that I've been getting. So let's start out with Cambodia and we'll do one at a time.

On Cambodia, we have a statement for you. There was a statement issued by our Embassy in Phnom Penh yesterday. The statement today essentially covers the same ground but updates it in light of subsequent developments.

The gist is that State, once again, the United States, supports a free and fair election process in Cambodia that fully meets international standards. We urge all parties to act responsibly during the sensitive period in advance of the preliminary announcement of election results on August 8th. It's premature to results -- to endorse results that might have been forecast and published by political parties.

In addition, we urge the Government of Cambodia to respect the right of people to assemble peacefully and express their views and grievances. We are deeply concerned by some of the rhetoric that is threatening and provocative in nature.

So we continue to push for patience and calm and respect for basic principles of freedom of expression, but also respect for the election process to allow it to complete itself without undue distortion.

So that's Cambodia. Questions on this?

QUESTION: Do you have a little -- can you be a little bit more specific? "Premature to endorse results that might have been released by a political party"? There's only one political party that's actually released any results. Which political party are you talking about?

MR. BOUCHER: I know there have been statements by Prime Minister Hun Sen. I think there have been others. I'd have to double-check. The Cambodian People's Party, I think, has said that it won and the opposition has rejected that claim. So our view is that, you know, any threats or intimidations or attempts to sort of force the hand of the election commission are uncalled for at this point. We are concerned about some of the statements that are being made and we want to see the national election commission be able to do its work.

QUESTION: What statements are you concerned about?

MR. BOUCHER: Bellicose statements and provocative statements.

QUESTION: Of whom? Such as the Prime Minister --

MR. BOUCHER: Such as the Prime Minister's bellicose statements, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there some reason why you couldn't be more specific about saying that this was CPP and Hun Sen you were going after?

MR. BOUCHER: Because I think they -- while they may be the most noteworthy statements, perhaps the most bellicose statements, they're probably not the only ones in this circumstance.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

QUESTION: He's got two more.

QUESTION: Oh, two more. Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: All right, we'll move on to questions of Rewards for Justice.

Secretary Powell today approved the payment of a $30 million reward to the individual who provided a critical piece of information that led us to the location of Uday and Qusay Hussein. We are pleased with the results in this case. We are pleased that we were able to pay this reward. It is the largest ever paid under the Rewards for Justice program.

We would note as well that Saddam Hussein remains at large. We encourage anyone with information on the location of Saddam Hussein to contact the Office of the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, or any U.S. military commander in Iraq will pay a reward of up to $25 million for information that leads to the apprehension of Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: You said individual or individuals?

MR. BOUCHER: One individual who provided the information. So one individual is getting $30 million for providing this information.

QUESTION: Can you give us any information about it?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't.

QUESTION: Are you providing any visa or U.S. passport or witness protection for the individual and/or his family?

MR. BOUCHER: Our program indicates that we can try to provide relocation assistance. But whether we're doing so in this particular case, I am not in a position to say.

QUESTION: You know but you're not in the position to say?

MR. BOUCHER: That's right.

QUESTION: Does this person -- does this individual now have the money, check-in-hand, or is this just the --

MR. BOUCHER: No, the payment will be made very shortly.

QUESTION: But how?

MR. BOUCHER: That remains to be worked out with the individual, in its choice of denominations or transfers.

QUESTION: I have two points. First, he is not going to pay any taxes, just to reiterate what you said earlier, right? And, secondly, it's a lump sum payment of 30 million, not some sort of annuity?

MR. BOUCHER: It's a payment. It's not the lottery. It's actually for services rendered. It's a lump sum payment of $30 million. The question of whether the person has tax liability will depend on their -- I'm sure -- their residence and the tax laws of the place where they are located.

QUESTION: Is this the shortest period of time that the nomination occurred to the actual decision by the Secretary of State?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

Tammy.

QUESTION: Can you say if he is still inside Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: Nope, can't say.

George.

QUESTION: Is this person an Iraqi?

MR. BOUCHER: Can't say. I'm sorry. We're not giving any information, whatsoever, that --

QUESTION: Would that narrow it down too much?

MR. BOUCHER: -- that would narrow it down to 24 million people, as opposed to 5 or 6 billion in the world. We're being very careful about the individual's identity in every possible way. And so I am just not in a position to describe for you any of the details or any of the information about who this individual might be, where he might be, or how he might receive his money.

QUESTION: Richard, recognizing why Secretary Powell would want to expedite the process, could you just state for the record why it is he felt it was important to make sure this went through quickly?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think it's important, first of all, to show people that we do what we say we're going to do; to make clear to people that if we make an offer like this, we're going to stand behind it; to make clear to people that this is very important to us and we do sincerely appreciate the effort that this individual made and the risk that he took to help us in what is a very important development for the United States, for coalition forces, but also for the people of Iraq. And so we wanted to do this as quickly as possible.

And, finally, I would say that we want to make clear that there are other opportunities for similar -- almost similar sums of money to be paid should other individuals want to come forward with information about Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: Isn't it going to be difficult to both publicize the fact that you're paying out this money because you want the Iraqis to see that you're paying out this money? How are you going to do that at the same time as giving no details about it?

MR. BOUCHER: That is, indeed, a complication, but we're going to rely on the good faith of our friends in the media to tell the Iraqi people that this money has been authorized and will be soon paid, will be paid shortly.

All right, third --

QUESTION: On this?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: On the tax issue, you made a reference to being subjected to taxes in the jurisdiction he lived, or some words to that effect. If he were to -- he or she -- perhaps it's an Iraqi woman.

MR. BOUCHER: It's an individual.

QUESTION: It's an individual. If that individual takes any help from the U.S. Government in terms of relocation and comes to the U.S., does that affect the taxes?

MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to get a tax lawyer for that. I don't know.

Okay. I've been asked questions all morning on North Korea, so let me try to respond and tell you where we are in terms of the prospect of multilateral talks with North Korea.

What I would say at this point is we are encouraged, we are very encouraged by indications that North Korea is accepting our proposals for multilateral talks. As you all know, the Secretary put these proposals to the Chinese delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Dai, which came to Washington about ten days ago.

Since then, we've stayed in close touch with the Chinese Government. As you know, the President heard the status of these discussions that the Chinese have been having with the North Koreans. The President heard yesterday from President Hu on this matter. Our Ambassador has been meeting with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials and has been meeting again with them today.

We have noted the statements from Moscow that the Russian Foreign Ministry has been contacted by North Korean officials.

So, at this point, it looks like the North Koreans are moving toward accepting the President's approach of multilateral talks to resolve the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

QUESTION: Six-party?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm quite in a position yet to confirm details. I would say that the news out of Moscow certainly indicates that the North Koreans are talking to the Russians. That would make six.

QUESTION: You're saying the reports that North Korea is accepting. Have you not heard directly from the Russians what they've heard from the North Koreans?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've had a chance to talk to the Russians yet. We certainly have been hearing things from the Chinese. And so I think we're quite encouraged that the North Koreans are accepting the President's proposal for multilateral talks and we have a number of indications to that effect.

QUESTION: But you did not hear from the -- did you hear from the Chinese first before you heard this coming out of Moscow -- the same thing?

MR. BOUCHER: We've been staying in very close touch with the Chinese. I don't know that the news from China has been exactly the same as the news that the Russians put out, but certainly we've had a lot of close consultation with the Chinese and they've been telling us what they hear from the North Koreans and they've been in a position, as President Hu was yesterday when he talked to President Bush, to indicate that things were going in this direction. So I would say the news that we're getting that I'm giving you that's out of Moscow is all consistent with the conversation that President Hu and President Bush had yesterday.

Sir.

QUESTION: So I just want to make sure that the -- if United States get the kind of confirmation through China or Moscow, the acception by North Korea of United States proposal, United States is ready to go?

MR. BOUCHER: The United States is ready for multilateral talks. That was the -- that's the President's desire. That's the proposal that Secretary Powell put to the Chinese about ten days ago that the United States was prepared to go to multilateral talks on the nuclear weapons developments and other issues on the North Korean penin -- on the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: One more question -- sorry. North Korea is a very good player, game player, so we are always concerned about their always creating new difficulties. So my concern --

MR. BOUCHER: We are, too. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yes. So my concern is that they are going to put any precondition to hold the talk? I mean --

MR. BOUCHER: I suppose we'll have to see. I mean, that will depend on the North Koreans, We are prepared to go to multilateral talks.

QUESTION: At this moment, so there is no concern or --

MR. BOUCHER: No, at this moment --

QUESTION: Distinct concern?

MR. BOUCHER: At this moment, we have indications that we find very encouraging. We have had conversations with the Chinese, but there continue to be conversations with the Chinese. We are prepared to go to multilateral talks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: And we have indications now that the North Koreans may be as well.

Adi.

QUESTION: North Korea -- North Korean officials in the past, regarding their nuclear development program, have said many things. They've said some statements, you know, harsh statements, and then taken them back. So, in terms of what they say, they are not the most credible government officials out there.

So when they have told the Chinese, and the Chinese have told you what they have said, how sure are you that the North Koreans actually mean business this time, in terms of multilateral talks? And how do you know that --

MR. BOUCHER: We won't know until we get there, but we're willing to try. The President's proposal was to attempt to solve this problem peacefully, diplomatically, to work with the Chinese on a multilateral setting where we could address these issues, express our common desire that we share with these other nations for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, and hear from the North Koreans about how they would verifiably and irreversibly dismantle their nuclear weapons development programs, but also about the other issues that they have concerns about. They have expressed many of those in public.

So we're willing to go to this kind of forum and participate in these kinds of talks, and we'll just have to see when we get there what the North Koreans are prepared to do.

QUESTION: So it sounds like you're cautiously optimistic, but not totally definite.

MR. BOUCHER: It sounds like we're prepared to talk. We're not predicting an outcome to the talks until we actually have them.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Bolton is also in the region. Is he -- did he get any indications like this from the South Koreans or anyone else that he talked to? Did he also call back in with the same indications?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that he did. I think he has been in South Korea in recent days. He was in China a few days ago. And so I don't think the time would be quite right for him to have heard from the Chinese, but -- and he himself, I think, had said that, as far as he knew, it was still waiting, the ball was in the North Korean Court. So I guess he didn't during the course of that trip. I'm sure he has been updated by now.

QUESTION: But is it a little suspicious that the message would come from Russia instead of through the Chinese, who have been the mediators?

MR. BOUCHER: No, as I said, we have been talking to the Chinese. The President heard information from President Hu yesterday that was consistent with what we're telling you now. So I wouldn't say it first came from Russia. Russia is one indication among several among -- that we have had including our discussions with the Chinese that the North Koreans are preparing to accept or looking to accept our proposal.

QUESTION: Any timeframe at all?

MR. BOUCHER: No timeframe. We would expect something in the near future.

Sir.

QUESTION: Was it the North Koreans that wanted Russia in it, or was it a U.S. proposal?

MR. BOUCHER: The United States has always suggested that the talks be expanded to five at least, with Japan and South Korea, with Russia, as well, because that was our preference and that's what we felt would be good for the talks.

Sir.

QUESTION: Did John Bolton's remarks in quotes calling North Korean "a hellish nightmare," and -- have much to do with this speech he just gave in (inaudible) to turn the North Koreans to accept these talks?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would quite draw that conclusion because I don't think the timing works out.

Okay. This or other topics, I guess. Charlie.

QUESTION: It's on this one, just trying to parse it, and following up on George's question.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm still trying. I have got one more person in the front row to try to get rid of. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: About six-way. Is it your understanding, at this point and time, that the next set of multilateral talks will be six-way, or is there a possibility you could have another round of three-way, which is also multilateral, in Beijing?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think you have seen the news from Moscow, and that that is -- the Russians have reported that they have been told that the next round will be six-way talks. And, as I said, that's consistent with what we are hearing in our discussions with the Chinese as well.

QUESTION: I have a question related. On China, just yesterday, we put sanctions on a state-owned company of China. Do you find it ironic, or at least disappointing, that they would be negotiating for a non-nuclear North Korea at the same time as they are proliferating to other countries who are in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction?

MR. BOUCHER: I think there is a couple things to say about that. First, we have a very broad and varied relationship with China. There is some matters where we have disagreements. There are some matters where we continue to look for progress from China in adhering to international standards, whether it be on proliferation, human rights or other things. And in matters where that's -- that process has worked very well in terms of trade and adherence to the WTO where it's been very positive for our relationship as well.

So different things in China we're sort of at different stages in the relationship and we have been able to conduct, and I think move in a very positive direction under this administration and particularly with the talks that the President has had with President Jiang and then President Hu, move the overall relationship in a very positive direction while continuing to pursue all these issues, at whatever stage they were.

The bottom line is it's a big country, it's a complicated relationship, and one should expect to have different things at different stages. The -- at the same time, I think you'll see that the sanctions that were put on were not necessarily at the same time as we were having these current discussions.

One of our long-term efforts and consistent efforts has been to have nonproliferation discussions with the Chinese and try to move forward, try to see them move forward in putting in place the regulations and controls that would have the Chinese Government, as I said, impose or -- well, have the Chinese Government impose international type controls on its exports of sensitive materials, including missile exports. And that's one of the reasons why Under Secretary Bolton has had these regular and frequent discussions with the Chinese in various fora that he just had.

QUESTION: But this isn't apples and oranges. They are proliferating in one direction while trying to stop it in another direction.

MR. BOUCHER: Again, that's not news to us. That's something that exists. That's a reality that we deal with, and that's where we try to move everything forward. But we have consistently worked on the Chinese, worked with the Chinese, to improve their standards of nonproliferation, and we'll continue to do so.

QUESTION: And one final question on that. You've put sanctions on this same company, if you count from 1991, three times before yesterday. Not getting the message? Or what else can you do? The company has not stopped its activities.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, the company has apparently not stopped its activities. We think it's the responsibility of the Chinese Government to impose the kind of controls and regulations to ensure that it stops this kind of activity that it's proliferating.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe the fourth time is going to work?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't see any reason not to impose sanctions and follow U.S. law, whether they do it four times, five times or 25 times. So this is something that we will continue to do as we continue to pursue efforts to get the Chinese to abide by international standards on selling missiles and other proliferating items.

Adi.

QUESTION: A change of subject?

QUESTION: No, no.

MR. BOUCHER: Nick.

QUESTION: Yeah, Richard. Now that you know who will be at the table, can you give us a sense a little, probably more specifically about what you think should be on the table when you meet with all these parties?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll have to go to the talks before we start talking about what we're putting on the table. The Secretary has made clear and I think we can tell you that the North Koreans did present a proposal at the round of three-way talks we had in Beijing, and we would expect in an upcoming round of multilateral talks to respond, but also to present our own ideas about how North Korea can end its nuclear weapons programs in a verifiable and irreversible manner. That's the essence of what we intend to do. There will be other broad range of topics that might be discussed as well.

QUESTION: Are you going to go with some kind of a draft of a broad agreement on the subject, or are you working on anything like that at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we'll be prepared to present some ideas, but I'm not prepared at this moment to lay out for you what we might want to do at discussions once they are set.

QUESTION: Richard, are any way these talks that you're setting up, are they any way contingent upon Moscow working with the nuclear development in Iran or the Chinese that have been threatening Taiwan?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think anybody -- certainly, I don't think those parties have made this contingent on anything. I think we and the others who would be involved are all willing and prepared to go to multilateral talks on the Korean Peninsula, on the nuclear weapons developments in the Korean Peninsula. The news today is that North Korea appears to be accepting that proposal that we have made that the President has often stated.

Andrea.

QUESTION: Change subject to Liberia?

MR. BOUCHER: Can Adi change the subject first?

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. On Liberia -- (laughter).

MR. BOUCHER: Okay.

QUESTION: We heard today indications are that this target date that this vanguard force could get into the country by Monday. Is the United States -- did the United States at this meeting today in Accra, did they promise to provide additional funds? Because that was one of the concerns that the Nigerians had, that they didn't have enough money from the international community to push forth this vanguard force.

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, we were present at the talks in Accra. The Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner met yesterday in Accra with President Kufuor and he has met separately with the other participants in the peace talks there. At the summit today, we also have Americans, including military people, who are present working with the West Africans. And so we have heard back from them that they do intend -- the West Africans do intend to deploy next Monday.

Now, the United States has been involved in supporting the West African effort. As you know, we have already put up $10 million that will go in the form of contract to -- for logistic support. And we -- I guess what I would say at this point is we are involved financially in this effort.

The President has indicated we will support the effort that the West Africans are making. But I don't have any new allocations or funding for that at this moment, but we'll see what kind of support they need and what we can provide.

Andrea.

QUESTION: You said that Kansteiner and other representatives from the U.S. military were there. Have they been notified officially? And, if so, how, that Liberia's president, Charles Taylor, has given assurances that he would leave?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any news on that. I checked with our people to see if we had had that directly from the talks or the participants in the talks, and we just don't have that ourselves. I have seen that in the wires.

Certainly, we have made clear, again and again, Charles Taylor must leave. He must leave as the peacekeepers are arriving there, and in a manner that leads to greater stability for the people of Liberia and greater opportunity to get them the humanitarian assistance that they need. So we -- you know, we think it's important that he meet his commitments to do so.

QUESTION: I don't know if you have this kind of detail. But do you have any idea how long it's going to take once the deployment begins, presumably, on Monday, how long it will take to get that full -- whether it's one or two battalions of Nigerians -- on the ground?

MR. BOUCHER: It's -- I think the Nigerian military, the Nigerians, will have to tell, explain that to you, or at least the ECOWAS leaders. It is a process. The important thing is to get started with putting the peacekeepers in with its vanguard. It'll be one battalion, then a second, and then broader West African peacekeepers. As you know, the United States will decide during the course of this process how much support, how we can support them, and whether we need to do that with military forces.

QUESTION: So will the U.S. -- this U.S. contractor that was, I guess, signed on to this $10 million contract, are they not going to be involved in the logistics of deploying the vanguard?

MR. BOUCHER: I have to double-check exactly what stage and what locations they get involved in. I would expect them to be involved, whether it's in Liberia as the first troops go in, or whether it's in supporting roles and functions outside. I don't know.

Adi.

QUESTION: Administration officials have been very careful in their language regarding Charles Taylor. They have been saying, such as yourself, that he must step down, but not that he must step down and face justice in reference to the war crimes tribunal.

If he goes into Nigeria, what kind of assurances do you have from the Nigerians and from elsewhere, members of the international community, that he will eventually face these horrific indictment that he's been facing?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't really think there's anything new to say on that score now. We have made very clear in the past that we recognize the work of the court and we have supported the work of the court, and that matters regarding justice through the court involve the court and Mr. Taylor, and that eventually that is the way in which they need to be dealt with in accordance with the court and the court's decrees or whatever, the court's decisions.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on where the Iwo Jima task force is, the three ships that --

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be able to do that, no.

QUESTION: Well, in the past, you have told us that they were through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven't. I've told you the military might tell you that.

QUESTION: No, no, no. From this podium.

MR. BOUCHER: Is that right?

QUESTION: We've heard those words from this podium.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. But anyway, no, I'm not going to try to give daily updates on locations of U.S. ships. The Pentagon may be in a position to do that and I expect at some point they will appear offshore of Monrovia and we'll all know.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Richard, on the resolution at the UN and the language on immunity, the British and some other countries, as far as I understand, are trying to adjust the language to exclude from that paragraph, or that sentence, states that are members of the ICC. Are you willing to do that, to make that adjustment in the text, and have you had any discussions so far about it?

MR. BOUCHER: We are consulting with other countries about the text, and, indeed, the language that we have proposed on this point has been a subject of some discussion. I am not able to give you particular details on how it might be worked and how it might work out.

What I would say is this should not be a problem, that we proposed language in our draft that is consistent with those who have obligations under the International Criminal Court and consistent with other UN resolutions. So we don't think that should be a problem.

QUESTION: Can you explain why you're looking for this at all? UN peacekeepers already have immunity from -- at least for another year. Are you just trying to hammer this point home in another form that you don't like it, which -- because I think everyone already knows that you don't like it. (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's not what the language says. The language applies to the people who might be going in as peacekeepers in this circumstance, in this case, and we think it's useful to have it there.

QUESTION: Why? Do you not accept that they already have immunity?

MR. BOUCHER: We certainly think that this language is consistent with those previous UN resolutions. It doesn't detract from those in any way. And second of all, as you yourself said, that last resolution applies for a year. Whether this may or may not go on longer than that I don't know, but we thought it was appropriate to provide for an appropriate framework for people to consider these issues in the context of this particular resolution.

QUESTION: Does that mean you do not trust the UN necessarily to renew the immunity for another year?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the UN is committed to that, although that is generally the -- I mean, that's what happened last year and generally what we would expect. But I think if we want it to apply to this particular resolution and this particular group of peacekeepers, then the simplest way is to put language in this particular resolution for this particular group of peacekeepers that is consistent with UN resolutions and consistent with those who have obligations to the court. It doesn't detract in any way from any of that other -- those other commitments that people have made.

QUESTION: Richard, once Charles Taylor leaves, are there any safeguards in place in what you envision whereby both the LURD and MODEL won't be trying to gain the presidency of -- and a civil war --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, the process, the deployment of peacekeepers, is for several particular reasons. One is to stabilize the situation and allow the people of Liberia to get humanitarian supplies, but it's also to allow the implementation of the ceasefire and then the political arrangements that have been agreed to already by the parties. So it's the implementation of that ceasefire and the political arrangements that will lead to a stable transition, with the help of outside forces in this circumstance.

Ma'am.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from the Sydney Morning Herald. I wonder if you could tell us whether the State Department has offered to the Australian Government an explanation as to why it took 48 hours for the Homeland Security Department to reverse its memo saying that Australia was an attack venue and clarifying that it was a point of origin of potential attacks on the U.S.? And Department of Homeland Security has said that you are now handling this issue, rather than they.

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, they have?

QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: That's very nice of them.

First of all, I think we've worked very closely with the Australians with regard to the potential threats and the potential dangers that exist for our citizens and citizens of other countries at this moment in time. We are all aware of information that indicates that hijacking remains a potential threat and something that we need to be guarding against, and we work very closely to do that.

So I haven't counted how long it has been that we've had these conversations, but, in essence, we've been working together this whole time on these issues before the advisory to airlines was issued and afterwards. As you say, the kind of information we have at this point would indicate that there are some foreign countries that might be sort of preferred locations for hijackers to originate these kinds of attacks, but not necessarily that they would be the targets of those attacks. The kind of information we have would indicate that some of these attacks might originate overseas but be directed at the United States.

So that is information that we and the Australians have discussed, and I think we have discussed it with the other countries that might be involved, but with a view to expanding and enhancing our cooperation.

QUESTION: Could you tell us what the current understanding is about whether Australia is indeed a venue for attack or --

MR. BOUCHER: The current understanding is the way I just put it, that there is, in some of this information on the potential hijacking of commercial airliners for use in attacks, that there are some indications that certain countries, including Australia, might be a point of origin of the attacks but not necessarily the target of the attacks themselves. It might be a point of origin of an operation that could then lead through the United States and into other means of attacks within the United States.

QUESTION: And do you have any information as to how the original mistake was made, that it was said to be a venue for the attacks?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that it was said to be a venue for the attacks. I think -- I don't have the language with me of what the advice was to airlines, but I am not sure that that language is necessarily wrong. It just may have led to misunderstanding.

QUESTION: I have a question back on Liberia, and I don't know if -- if you'll be able to answer this. It's not at probably the top of anyone's agenda at the moment. But Liberia has often been a country that -- where shipping companies get flags and restrictions are -- they are laxer under a Liberian flag.

Has the U.S. looking into whether profits from this trade are some of what Charles Taylor may be using to fund his troops, and what's going on with that industry at the moment? I'm sure it's not something we have --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what's going on with the shipping registry. I mean, the fees from shipping registries are government revenues. To the extent that his military has been paid out of government revenues because they are a government army, one would expect that the fees somehow contributed to that.

I am not familiar enough with the budget of the Liberian Government to know what percentage of their revenues comes from shipping registry fees, but that might be available somewhere on the web. The current status of the Liberian shipping registry, I just don't know. Sorry. Whether they are still registering ships or not, I don't know.

QUESTION: A change of subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: What is the State Department policy for the PKK-KADEK members in Northern Iraq, who are seeking political refugee status instead of taking advantage of this new amnesty law and going back home?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that and see if I have anything for you. I don't have anything right now.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Nicholas.

QUESTION: Richard, there are reports that the Vice President of Taiwan was denied a stopover right in New York on the way somewhere else. Do you -- are you aware of that, and is that really true?

MR. BOUCHER: Not aware of that. I'll see if there is anything we can say on whether or not there was a request for a visa, maybe not.

Do we have something, Phil, on a possible stopover? Well, if he finds something, I'll give it to you afterwards.

Okay, ma'am.

QUESTION: My question is on this microphone diplomacy of the last few days between Venezuela and the U.S. Government, and the meaning of -- you expressed some concerns that the executive is not a government branch who decides on the recall referendum. And Venezuelan Foreign Minister said this only gossips, and President Chavez said, "Who cares what the State Department says?"

What's this all about? How you will define the relationship between both countries, or it depends on the electoral solution for the political crisis in Venezuela?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure I can answer a question of what's this all about? I think that's why we read the press. We try to get you to explain it to us. But the United States has, I think, made very clear that we support democracy in the Western Hemisphere, that we are prepared to work for democracy in the Western Hemisphere, and that we're opposed to threats to democracy in the Western Hemisphere, no matter where they come from.

Now, we have been concerned about the developments in Venezuela. We have worked with others from the OAS and other members of the OAS to support the OAS Secretary General on a solution that he was working out with the parties in Venezuela, so that they would solve their problems of turmoil and chaos and differences in a peaceful and democratic manner.

So we have supported the solution that the OAS has supported. We have supported an electoral solution to the political difficulties of Venezuela. And we would urge everyone in Venezuela, whether they're in government or in opposition parties, to work with that solution and try to achieve it.

I think it's correct, as one of the parties that has been most concerned about this and most involved with the OAS, that we would be concerned about any statements that would go in the other direction. We would be concerned about any statements that would imply that people were not prepared to follow the course that was agreed to with the OAS.

QUESTION: But you will say that the relationships are somewhat tense at the moment?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that this is a known difference, that certainly steps against democracy affect our relationship. And as these increase, they affect it more and more. But, no, that's about the best assessment I can give you at this point. We have been working with the OAS in support of democracy in the hemisphere and Venezuela, and we would expect all parties to do that as well.

QUESTION: Are you confident that this (inaudible) training is going to take place?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We'll have to see.

Oh, well, here is an answer to the question about PKK and KADEK, if I can. Didn't remember exactly how it's worded, but the report is absolutely false -- (laughter) -- in case you want to know.

The reports that we're referring to are, I think, the same ones you referred to, that the United States were somehow engaged in an effort to arrange political asylum for leaders of the PKK and KADEK. The PKK and KADEK is a terrorist organization under U.S. law. The United States is in coordination with Turkey and we're committed to eliminating the threat that's posed by the PKK-KADEK.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. But is this your position? I know this report --

MR. BOUCHER: This is --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) because --

MR. BOUCHER: Our --

MR. BOUCHER: But what is your position on --

MR. BOUCHER: Our position is that this is a terrorist organization that we're working with eliminating the threat that this terrorist organization poses.

QUESTION: But you would refuse them if they come to you for political --

MR. BOUCHER: We're not involved in any way. We were not encouraging political asylum in any way.

QUESTION: But how does the mechanism work, since they are there and they want -- they don't want to return, they want to stay or they want political asylum to stay -- to come to the United States, or whatever?

MR. BOUCHER: We're not involved in this. We're not doing it. There ain't no mechanism to explain.

QUESTION: But how does the operation work, then? I mean, what is the mechanism?

MR. BOUCHER: There is nothing. There is no mechanism to explain. There is no mechanism.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay?

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: One question on the Middle East. Following Prime Minister Sharon's visit in Israel, they are saying that Sharon has said to the United States that he has already met the settlement freeze requirements in the first phase of the roadmap. Has the State Department made an assessment about what more would be required in the first phase to be considered a sufficient settlement freeze?

MR. BOUCHER: The subject of settlements is an important one, and one that we have taken up many times, and one that we continue to take up during Prime Minister Sharon's visit. The President and he discussed it. I think they discussed it somewhat at their press conference as well, and certainly the Secretary discussed it with Prime Minister Sharon in his meeting.

There are aspects of this that I think we have talked about. There -- some of the outposts were taken down, but there are more to be taken down. And I think the Israeli Government has said it has a comprehensive plan to do that.

There is the issue of settlements freeze as well, where I'd say it's not settled at this point exactly all the details of how that can be implemented. So settlements is an ongoing issue that remains under discussion.

QUESTION: And even if they -- they made an assessment that -- for this phase, they have done enough? That since it's not settled overall, you think --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have actually seen a statement by Prime Minister Sharon to that effect. There may have -- I'd just have to see.

QUESTION: Israeli media have talked about what -- right. No, I don't know that he has made a statement publicly.

MR. BOUCHER: We certainly have discussed it with him. He was discussing it with us. So we're still discussing it. I guess that's as simple as I can put it. It's not something that's finished.

Sir.

QUESTION: Well, around the country there is Israeli statements today saying they're planning to build some 20-odd new housing units in a settlement in Gaza. What do you think of that? How does this -- how does this fit in with that commitment under the roadmap? The roadmap isn't -- you say we'll have to discuss how to -- it's not very difficult to implement a freeze on settlement activity, I think. So how does this fit in there?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, the subject is still under discussion.

QUESTION: Well, so, I mean, you don't consider yourself -- do you consider that you have a commitment from the Israelis to freeze settlements or not?

MR. BOUCHER: We have a commitment from the Israelis on roadmap. We have a commitment from the Israelis to take steps that move along the process described by the roadmap. They have made very clear in public their commitments on taking down outposts. And the issue of settlement activity remains one of discussion with the Israelis on how that can be implemented as well.

QUESTION: On that, I mean, you're saying you are discussing how to implement it, or whether it should be done at all? They're two separate questions.

MR. BOUCHER: We're discussing how to implement it.

QUESTION: Maybe I'm misunderstanding this. But you seem to be -- the Israelis -- either you stop -- either you stop or you don't stop, you know. There isn't any other little discussion. There is nothing -- there is no room for discussion.

MR. BOUCHER: Matt, I know that sounds great rhetorically in the briefing room.

QUESTION: No, that's actually what the roadmap says.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I --

QUESTION: And if you're committed to the roadmap --

MR. BOUCHER: I know that sounds great rhetorically in the briefing room. But you all know enough about this subject to know that this issue has been discussed for many years, that there are very involved aspects to this of funding, of so-called natural growth, of so-called, you know, questions of children, questions of cousins, questions of schools, questions of perimeters, questions of land. You know that's been the discussion in the past, and it shouldn't be any different now.

QUESTION: So your understanding, do you have a position on what freezing settlements means? What is it?

MR. BOUCHER: We have a position that this matter is still under discussion with the Israelis.

QUESTION: Well, does that mean that natural growth, which is what the Israelis have said, is it something that you're willing to accept under the terms of the roadmap, or the roadmap could encompass that?

MR. BOUCHER: Roadmap doesn't say that.

QUESTION: I know it doesn't.

MR. BOUCHER: Roadmap says "freeze on settlement activity."

QUESTION: Well, now you're the one who is making the rhetorical point. Either there is a freeze or it's not, right?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll finish the sentence. Okay? The roadmap says "freeze on settlement activity." We're in discussions with the Israelis about how exactly that can be implemented. That's where these other questions arise.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I put it this way?

MR. BOUCHER: You can put it any way you want. I'll give you the same answer.

QUESTION: I mean, well, no. And is it possible that building 22, whatever it is, housing units at the settlement in Gaza would be compatible with --

MR. BOUCHER: I think it was five in your last question, but anyway.

QUESTION: Twenty-five?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it was five in your first question about these houses..

QUESTION: No, no, 22.

MR. BOUCHER: But anyway, go ahead.

QUESTION: Is that compatible with a commitment to freeze settlement activity, as the roadmap says? Is it a possible --

MR. BOUCHER: We are in discussions with the Israelis about how to implement the question of settlement activity.

QUESTION: But it could be -- that could fall within the parameters?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not saying it could or it couldn't.

QUESTION: I think what's confusing to some of us is that previous U.S. policy had been that natural growth within settlements was not necessarily something that the U.S. supported.

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say it was necessarily something the U.S. supported today. I said these matters are under discussion.

QUESTION: But it was not under discussion before.

MR. BOUCHER: Whether you call it natural growth, whether you call it, you know, perimeters and children and subsidies and, you know, building new floors versus building out, there are discussions, there are subjects that need to be discussed. The roadmap calls for a freeze on settlement activity. That subject remains under discussion.

QUESTION: Okay. But that is new because previously --

MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not.

QUESTION: It wasn't under discussion before, Richard. It was a stated U.S. policy that you did not agree.

MR. BOUCHER: It remains a stated U.S. policy that a settlements freeze is part of the roadmap and we expect the parties to abide by the commitments in the roadmap. We are talking with them about how they should do that.

QUESTION: Richard --

MR. BOUCHER: We haven't accepted one formula, one phrase, one word, one characterization, or not.

QUESTION: Andrea is quite right. Could you -- you haven't -- in previous statements you have said that the freeze on settlements includes a freeze on natural growth. Can you say that again today?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I've said that, frankly, Jonathan. I'd have to look it up. But in any case, that, in itself, doesn't answer the question. We need to reach understandings on how exactly the settlements freeze would be implemented. The United States supports a freeze on settlements. I don't think we are saying anything new today.

QUESTION: Well, but the problem is that it sounds as though you're willing to accept that a freeze doesn't necessarily mean a freeze; a freeze could mean --

MR. BOUCHER: A freeze means a freeze. And we want it to be clear what that is, and that's why you have to discuss these things to make sure that we have a common understanding that a freeze is a freeze, and it's not a freeze that results in continued expansion or growth.

QUESTION: So that would mean that you are, then, opposed to these (inaudible), right?

MR. BOUCHER: You know, this is an obligation that the Israelis have under the roadmap and we're discussing with them how to implement that obligation. That's where we are.

Terri.

QUESTION: Would you say that their commitment to the roadmap is not a commitment to implement it immediately, because how can they be committed to the roadmap and everything within it if they are blatantly disobeying it or --

MR. BOUCHER: As you know, the roadmap is a roadmap.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BOUCHER: It's not a pile of things in one place; it's movement down a set of steps, and different things happen at different phases and different times in the roadmap.

QUESTION: But this is one of the first ones.

MR. BOUCHER: It's one of the first ones. It's one of the things in Phase I. And we're currently in discussions with the Israelis on how it can be implemented.

QUESTION: Richard, another thorny issue is today the Israelis have closed down a pro-Palestinian type of day camp where the counselors and the leaders of that camp were speaking about incitement, violence, teaching songs to children. But the twist here is that camp was internally within Israel. And normally you don't comment on that and say go talk to a particular government, but it does have an impact on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can -- I don't know about this specific day camp. What I would say is one of the elements of the roadmap is ending incitement, and that has been a serious discussion that we have had with the Palestinian side. John Wolf is going back to the region -- I think he's leaving today -- to continue those discussions on all these issues under the roadmap. But just as with any element of the roadmap, we want people to carry it out, and we talk to them in some detail about how they can carry it out. So we've had some fairly detailed discussions and participated in the discussions with -- that the Israelis and Palestinians have also participated in discussions about incitement and how to end incitement because it's a major factor in the situation and one that the Palestinian Authority and the new government is committed to ending as well.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: You may have covered this. I had to go out for a while. The court decision on Rios Montt, which I think was yesterday, or last night, saying that he could stand in presidential elections in -- which country was it?

MR. BOUCHER: Is that -- in Guatemala. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you. Guatemala.

MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check on that. I think there was an appeal to a higher court. Are you telling me the higher constitutional court has now decided? I'll have to check on that and see. I don't have anything on that.

QUESTION: Well, speaking of courts, at The Hague, Bosnian Serb mayor sentenced to life. He got the longest sentence ever.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll get you something on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

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