State Department Noon Briefing, September 2, 2003
|Tuesday September 2, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2003
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Welcome back --
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
QUESTION: -- and there are meetings on the horizon -- Brussels, Northern Italy and Madrid -- all designed to attract more contributions, financial contributions, for what the U.S. is trying to do in Iraq. Could you, at this early stage, handicap a bit for us and tell us if other countries are saying, "Sure, here's -- we'll open our checkbooks, we'll write you a check?"
MR. BOUCHER: I think the simple answer is yes. There have been substantial contributions on the humanitarian side and I think you can check with the UN how the contributions have been going in response to their humanitarian appeals.
On the military side, the security side, we have already told you that 30 -- I think now it has gone up to 31 countries are already there on the ground with military forces. So there are substantial contributions already that have been made by the international community to reconstruction and stability in Iraq.
And now we are working on preparing for a donors conference in Madrid, in October, that would go forward with additional contributions. There's a lot of work being done to prepare for that.
I think -- I don't know about the meeting in Italy. Is that the European Union?
QUESTION: I'm a little confused. There's one in Brussels.
MR. BOUCHER: But there's a meeting in Brussels this week --
QUESTION: I don't know if it's the same one that was supposed to be in --
MR. BOUCHER: -- the core group, as it is called, of the donors.
QUESTION: The core?
MR. BOUCHER: The core group, as it is called for the donors for Iraq, is meeting in Brussels September 3rd. This is a technical meeting being hosted by the European Commission.
We will be represented there by officials from the State Department, Defense Department, and our Treasury Departments, as well as from the Agency for International Development. This meeting is going to take stock of the various needs assessments for Iraq, which are being prepared by international agencies, and they'll discuss other issues in preparation for the conference in Madrid, October 23rd - 27th.
QUESTION: Apple, or corps as in Marine?
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry, core as in apple or corps as in what?
QUESTION: Marine. "-E" or "-ps?"
MR. BOUCHER: Oh. It's with an "e." It's the core as in apple. It's the central group.
The preparations for the conference in Madrid, I would say, are on schedule. Nobody's talking about postponement at this point. There's a lot of work that is being done, needs to be done, to get ready for a successful conference in Madrid; and that's going on.
The work on the various assessments that were being handled by international agencies was, I would have to say, somewhat disrupted by the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Iraq and they had to pull some people out, but everybody agrees that they are on track to get those assessments finished. And as I said, at the meeting this week we'll hear preliminary results of the needs of Iraq based on those assessments.
All the work is being discussed and will be vetted with the Governing Council of Iraq so that the Iraqis can have input into what the needs are and what they see as their path to reconstruction of the country.
And there is work underway on trust fund, or trust funds, that could be used as a conduit for donors who might not want to run their own programs. These ideas have been discussed since -- well, have been successful, first of all, in other places, including Afghanistan, and were discussed with regard to Iraq at the June meeting that was held, if you remember, up in New York.
So there is a lot of work being done to get ready for this conference in Madrid, and we think it can prove to be a successful one.
QUESTION: I wondered if there is any, I don't know, -- I guess, the U.S. might consider it a threat if it exists -- contributing countries conditioning their cooperation on getting a share of contracts? I remember, you know, when the U.S. had people with it and people trying to stop the Iraqi situation, and folks like you were saying right up front, you know, if you aren't with us, don't expect to be part -- be given a big role in the reconstruction. But that was then.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, folks like me were much more subtle about it.
QUESTION: Not very subtle then. I mean the French weren't very subtle in what they were doing. I don't think the U.S. was very subtle --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think -- I've not seen that at this point. I'm not really sure I've been paying attention. But at this stage we have a lot of contributions, already, to the humanitarian programs and I'm sure a lot of the people are contributing through their traditional aid mechanisms, which may or may not have conditions or ties attached to them. I'm sure some of the reconstruction aid, you know, may be in the form of grants for specific projects.
But these things have a way of settling themselves out. The most important thing about these donor conferences is -- well, let me say two important things about donor conferences and the effort being made to prepare. The first is to galvanize the community and to get people to give a substantial amount, to come forward with amounts that they might not otherwise give; but, second of all, to coordinate the giving, so to coordinate the contributions so that it goes to needs. It doesn't just say hey, you know, I can pony up a water treatment plant, but for people to define do they need water treatment plants or do they need, you know, electrical generators for water treatment plants; so that you can define the needs in a way that donors can give something that's really useful.
QUESTION: Can you put getting donors and the amount of money you can raise in relationship to what you're trying to do over at the UN and whether you think that perhaps getting another resolution giving more political role to the UN might inspire other countries who are reluctant to give money without such a resolution? Do you think that would help?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think what we have seen so far would point to any substantial number of countries that are unwilling to give money without such a resolution. There may be questions about the amounts and the kinds of things they would give to. I think there have been some who have said that they would look for more from the United Nations before contributing military forces.
But the fact of the donors conference, the fact of UN blessing for this, it probably plays together in terms of encouraging more support. It would be hard to estimate how much might come if you had one or the other, but not both. We are considering how to move forward in the United Nations.
We have had some fairly serious discussions with a number of parties up there. We are looking to elaborate the UN's mandate, both a political and a military point of view, but I don't have any real scheduling or timing or text on such an effort now.
QUESTION: Richard, I understand that there is some -- you guys, amongst yourselves, at least here and in New York, have actually started writing drafts. And I am just --
MR. BOUCHER: We are looking at language that would elaborate the mandate is the way I'd put it today.
QUESTION: Is that expected to -- or was it a central theme of the Secretary's meeting with the President today, if it's happened? And if it hasn't happened yet, will that be a --
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary meets at least once a week with the President properly. They discuss whatever they want to discuss, and we don't brief on it in advance or afterwards. I'm sorry. We haven't done that for the more than the two years that he --
QUESTION: It's very nice of you to repeat what they said at the White House already, but since they brought it up, apparently unprompted, and just to say that the Secretary was meeting, I'm just wondering if that you would expect a resolution to --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, if you will look at the White House transcripts for about the last six months, the White House has been noting the Secretary's meetings with the President. I remember talking to Ari Fleischer about it earlier this spring, and we decided we may as well go ahead and say it because otherwise everybody spots him, and then people like you start calling me saying, "What was he doing over at the White House?"
Well, just about every week, he has a meeting with the President, and they talk about what they want to talk about. So if you look at the last six months of White House briefings, you'll find just about every week, a mention of the meeting; and just about every week, no elaboration on the context.
QUESTION: Okay, but let me just get this straight. Just about every week, but certainly not for the past three weeks, since Crawford, have they seen each other face-to-face, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be true, except they have participated in some meetings together through the wonders of modern technology.
QUESTION: Richard, a few minutes ago you made reference to elaborating the UN's mandate in political and military ways. You did not say economic ways. Do you put that under political, or is that a separate realm?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess what I would say at this point is certainly the economic and reconstruction aspect remains important and may figure somewhat in the resolution, but until we've worked out the language, I wouldn't be able to give you any more details of how much it does figure. You know, these things are already covered to a great extent, particularly the economic side, in 1483 and Resolution 1500, so I think I'll just leave it at that for the moment and say that we're looking at all these aspects and working on language that would elaborate on this mandate.
QUESTION: I was going to change the subject if I could --
QUESTION: I'm a (inaudible), that's why I'm probably going to go with this, but isn't it the U.S. preference that the economics be left out of the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say that at this point. We are working, looking at the language. We are working on it now.
QUESTION: A couple things on North Korea. First, I understand that the Secretary is going to be meeting here tomorrow with the South Korean Foreign Minister to have a kind of follow-up to the six-party talks in Beijing.
And, secondly, the Chinese seem to have come out and said that you guys are the problem here. What do you have to say to that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me say several things. On the question of the Chinese, we've seen some press reports quoting, I think it's Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi. I have yet to see the real transcript of what he said, and I want to be very careful about saying exactly what it was he said, whether he was representing a Chinese view or representing views that others, North Koreans, might have expressed. So I don't know what he said and I can't comment specifically on him.
I think that it was clear from the talks in Beijing that all, perhaps with the exceptions of the North Koreans, at the discussions in Beijing agreed that the main problem is North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and that all the parties getting together agreed that we need to address that in a multilateral fashion and ensure an end to the nuclear weapons program.
So we, the Chinese, along with Russia, Japan and South Korea, continue to work together very closely on a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear problem. And as you know, we believe this must lead to an end, to a complete, verifiable and irreversible end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
QUESTION: South Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as the meetings with the South Korean Foreign Minister, if I can just do that quickly, Foreign Minister Yoon Young-Kwan arrives in Washington today. He'll meet with the Secretary and other officials here on Wednesday through Friday. And then he returns to Seoul on Saturday. The Foreign Minister will discuss next steps regarding North Korea, as well as a range of bilateral issues.
QUESTION: Can I just be -- back to the Chinese?
Forgetting, leaving out the fact of what the Vice Foreign Minister said or might have said, how do you respond to -- how would you respond to someone who said -- who said that the U.S. position was the problem? In other words, when you say you obviously don't agree with it.
MR. BOUCHER: I would respond the way I did, that it seems that all the parties in Beijing agree that North Korea's nuclear weapons program is the problem, the main problem.
QUESTION: As far as I know, you haven't responded to the various North Korean statements since the meeting ended on Friday, the first of which said that they didn't see any point in continuing with these discussions, followed by a quasi-backtrack subsequent to that. Any comment on all of this?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it is nice to let time pass because they turn out -- there is several statements. If you comment on each one, you find yourself with a bit of whiplash.
I think the point is that, as the Chinese hosts, I think, conveyed after the discussions in Beijing, that the parties at the discussions agreed that there was value in continuing discussions in the multilateral setting, and that the next step was for the Chinese to consult with the parties on dates for another round of talks. We would expect that process to be underway.
So there was, I think, a consensus at the meeting that the multilateral process was valuable and should continue, and we would expect all of the parties at the meetings to maintain that consensus.
QUESTION: Hasn't the Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard, asked for his sentence to be reduced? Do you think he should be released? And why he is asking for that now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. That would be a judicial matter. You'd have to check with the law enforcement agencies.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on Aung San Suu Kyi, the hunger strike announcement that was made last week?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we made an announcement to the statements Sunday, on this subject. We remain deeply concerned for her safety and her well-being. We continue urge the Burmese Government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners immediately. I don't have any further details beyond what we said on Sunday.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, could you explain exactly how it is you came to know that she was on a hunger strike since you seem to be the only people in the world who have -- are aware of this? The Burmese, not surprisingly, have denied it. But even her organization, the NLD, says that they weren't -- they weren't aware of this.
What, do you run the catering services at the Burmese prisons or something now? How is it that you came by this knowledge?
MR. BOUCHER: We have what we consider credible reporting from our embassy, but I am not in a position to go through the sourcing of that. We do remain deeply concerned about her situation.
QUESTION: Well, okay. You say, "credible reporting." Is that -- not press reports though? It's something that's independent -- something independent of --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you haven't seen it in press reports, and I don't think we have either.
QUESTION: Well, is it your own -- but it's your own information. It's not -- in other words, you're not relaying to us something third-hand or fourth-hand?
MR. BOUCHER: We have credible reporting from our embassy, but I am not able to go into the sourcing.
QUESTION: Liberia. What can you tell us about a U.S. citizen who is apparently missing, and efforts underway to find him?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been engaged in efforts from our embassy in Monrovia to search for a U.S. citizen who resides in Liberia, a U.S. citizen -- a resident of Liberia, who has been reported missing. We have been in very close touch with the missing person's family, but we don't have a Privacy Act waiver. And so we are not able to go any further into the details of the person's identity or circumstances.
QUESTION: Anything about the efforts that are underway to actually try to find him?
MR. BOUCHER: No, can't give you more on that, at this point.
QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit more about the latest talking in Beijing, and what Secretary's assessment on that talk in Beijing? Was it surprised -- he surprised that the DPRK again, for their part, say that they could demonstrate their nuclear position, and what --
MR. BOUCHER: I --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, how much of readout did you guys do on Friday?
MR. ERELI: Guidance.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
MR. ERELI: There was no briefing.
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, neither the Secretary, nor anyone else around here is surprised by belligerent and somewhat contradictory statements made by North Korea. At the same time, the assessment of the talks in Beijing was that there was a useful consensus on the importance of the multilateral process, that the talks demonstrated why it's important to have everybody there.
Everybody heard what was said; no secrets, everybody heard the same thing and saw the same thing and it's all on the table. The strong consensus that North Korea needs to end its nuclear program was also valuable. And so I think we felt that the overall discussion was useful, if not if not immediately productive. It wasn't expected to be, and that there would be further talks, as everybody agreed at that meeting.
QUESTION: Wasn't it failure that they couldn't agree that a next round of talk at any other --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, they seem to have agreed to have another round of talks. The fact that they weren't set up immediately at a precise date is not unusual in diplomatic discussions.
QUESTION: Yeah, back to North Korea. Could you update us, please, on the status of the latest Proliferation Security Initiative meeting in Paris? And also, would the U.S. consider postponing those exercises in the interests of pursuing diplomacy with North Korea? The Coral Sea Exercises is what I'm specifically asking about.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't remember the date for the Coral Sea Exercises.
QUESTION: I think it was just said. I don't know if there's a specific date, but it was announced it would be after the Beijing talks, sometime in September.
MR. BOUCHER: I think it said September, yeah.
QUESTION: So I guess I'm wondering is there any thought to postponing it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll leave the participants of the Proliferation Security Initiative meeting in Paris to update you on any developments that there might be there, and let me see what I can do in terms of confirming the fact of the meeting and the logistics.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: You said that you were -- there was a strong consensus at the meeting that North Korea needs to end its nuclear program, but was there a consensus that the U.S. proposal is the right way to go about it? In other words, the first thing that would have to happen is dismantling of North Korea's weapons facilities, and only then would concessions be talked about?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can give an endorsement to a particular proposal, even ours, as meritorious as I'm sure it was. The point is that these are initial discussions. They're the beginning of a process. They are not a moment where we expected particular agreement on a particular proposal. But I think we felt that the discussions in Beijing demonstrated the value of this multilateral process and some agreement among the participants to continue.
Okay, back there.
MR. BOUCHER: I guess -- was Teri going to change the subject first? Yeah.
QUESTION: The European Commission says today that it will not cooperate with the United States in handing over names of passengers on airlines -- a request the U.S. made in -- for anti-terrorism measures. Are you up on this?
MR. BOUCHER: Not up to speed on that one. I'll have to check for you.
QUESTION: Could you check on it? Because they've announced today that it would break EU laws on personal confidentiality. The U.S. has said it could fine airlines, airline companies. Could you check on it?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me double-check on it. It's been an ongoing issue. I just have to check.
QUESTION: Right. I just didn't -- this seems to be the first time they've announced they've made a decision.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. I'll see.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan, and also Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mr. Gul, whenever they touched with the U.S. officials they are asking to clean up the Northern Iraq mess from the KADEK or the PKK terrorist group. And just yesterday the PKK declare they are changing their position which they self-declared ceasefire. They have it and they were planning to attack in the next couple of days. They said that.
What are you planning that -- on this subject, because this is the biggest obstacle for the Turkey to sending troops to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view remains the same: that there needs to be an end to the operation of any terrorist groups in Northern Iraq. PKK is a terrorist group. We have taken responsibility; the coalition has, for security in that area. We have close liaison with Turkish military and Turkish Government, and we will continue to operate in that fashion to ensure that it's not used as a base for terrorism against Turkey. And any concerns that Turkey might have they can raise with us, and we'll try to make sure that they are taken care of.
Okay, in the back.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, do you have anything on the proposal for the creation of a European Union military headquarters in Brussels independent of NATO -- something that have angered the United States, according to reports?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure what proposal that is. You mean the one from the four countries that got together and had a little, bitty summit?
QUESTION: That's exactly it -- and Belgium insisting to this --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the chocolate makers.
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry. No --
MR. BOUCHER: I think they have been referred to that way in the press. I shouldn't repeat things I see in the press.
QUESTION: No, our position on that has always been that, you know, we have been strong supporters of the European Union, we have been strong supporters of the effort that was made by the European Union to create its own military and security capabilities, and to do that in cooperation and conjunction with NATO. And we have worked very closely with European governments, particularly in this administration, to work out the arrangements to do that, and we think that's quite sufficient. We don't understand why they need more military headquarters or training colleges.
QUESTION: Do you know, is there anything new on -- has that --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware there's anything new on that. I'll have to --
QUESTION: Or perhaps they've expanded to mussels and beer now?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check and see. I'm not aware of anything new. I'll see.
QUESTION: Yes, on Japanese Self-Defense troops departure to Iraq, do you put any pressure on Japanese Government to -- for the early departure of the Self-Defense troops to Iraq and what's your stance for the -- if there's delay or there's -- because the Japanese Government still says the situation there is so --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't describe it as one of pressure. I would say we work closely with all potential contributors so that people can make the right contribution at the right time. We look forward to contributions that are being made and are planned.
QUESTION: Is an entity in the vicinity of Cuba still jamming the American broadcasting attempts into Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: Did we look into that? It's stopped, right?
MR. CASEY: We did, and it stopped.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it stopped. But I think we put out more details about two weeks ago, if I remember correctly.
QUESTION: Okay, sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: George.
QUESTION: The Cubans are complaining that some of the Cuban winners of Latin Grammy Awards were denied visas to come to the U.S. to accept their awards. Any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: The -- this is a complicated situation. We all know that Cuba is on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, and therefore all Cubans have to get appropriate handling for their visas, and it takes a while. And everybody knows -- the Cuban Government knows, most Cubans know, certainly Americans who deal with Cuba know that it can take six to eight weeks to process applications. They just submitted their applications a little while ago. We're processing the applications, even without the regularly -- what's normally required is an invitation from a U.S. sponsor, in this case the Latin Grammies -- so we're trying to process these cases as expeditiously as we can, but there are a lot of checks that need to be done. But I'm not in a position to promise that we can do them in time.
QUESTION: Can you give some idea of the checks that have to be done of singers?
MR. BOUCHER: It's for anybody. Whether it's a question --
QUESTION: But you had Iranian ping-pong players coming in here, and these are just Cuban -- were they ping-pong players? I forget.
QUESTION: Wrestlers. I don't know what. Cuba is always a --
MR. BOUCHER: That was a while back.
QUESTION: And Iraq.
QUESTION: Cuba seems to have a special -- raise special hackles.
MR. BOUCHER: No, you know, other people on the state sponsors list go through similar checks. It's just some people apply in time so that we can get all this done. Here, we have people who have applied very late in the process, and we're trying to do what we can for them. But I can't promise we can get it all done in time. You can't expect us to do all the necessary, legally required, and prudent checks in a very, very short length of time with an event coming up in a few days.
QUESTION: Indonesia? Is the State Department satisfied with the ruling that was handed down in Baasyir, and what kind of message do you think this will send to Jemaah Islamiyah?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, at this point, let me just note that the court did convict Abu Bakar Baasyir today of three charges, handed down a four-year sentence minus time already served. The court ruled that there was sufficient proof of his participation in Jemaah Islamiyah.
At this point, it's still an ongoing matter in front of the Indonesian courts. Baasyir has announced he would appeal. Prosecutors also have the opportunity to appeal, to seek a tougher sentence in coming days. So we'll see what happens with the court process.
QUESTION: Is this the place to ask about the after-effects of the assassination of the Ayatollah Hakim, the fallout, the -- are you leaving that to the Bremer group?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's probably better to look at the people on the ground.
QUESTION: All right. Because I was wondering about the brother who says -- you know, that you're getting some sort of a negative fee --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Somebody quit the council, the brother says, so maybe the Americans ought to get out of there. It's -- you know, it's apparently had some success in stirring anti-U.S. --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, it's a terrible and tragic event. It's obviously a shock to all those people. But it's also another attack on the efforts to move forward in Iraq, to move forward politically through the Governing Council, and we, despite that, we continue to have progress.
We continue to have progress with the Governing Council naming its ministers, taking more and more responsibility; continue to have progress in terms of the operation of ministries, the sales of oil; the preparation of budgets; the move forward on the constitutional venues; electricity; a whole lot of areas like that, where, despite the efforts of some to hold back the Iraqi people, hold back the political process, and hold back the prospects for the Iraqis, generally, we, and Iraqi people, and the Governing Council continue to move forward.
QUESTION: Well, the cabinet formation would be an example, wouldn't it?
MR. BOUCHER: The cabinet formation is an example. There is some, you know, increases in electricity production. There's all kinds of signs: greater numbers of security people on the Iraqi side, there is now border guards on the Iraqi side, the increasing number of policemen, civil defense forces are being organized, so more ability of the Iraqis to take control of their own security, as well as their own future.
And so we will continue to move forward with that process because that's essentially what we need to do is help the Iraqis stand up and take charge of their own country, including its security and its political future.
QUESTION: Please just one more on Ayatollah Hakim.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: He was seen as a moderate, in terms of the Shiite population there. And are you concerned that some of the more extremist elements of the Shiites will move to fill this vacuum and work towards a more kind of fundamentalist view of Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can speculate on that, that some of these events often work in opposite ways than the bombers might intend. So we'll just have to see what the political effect is over time. I think the determination of the coalition, of the Iraqis already involved in rebuilding their country, of Iraqis, generally, to provide security for themselves and provide a political future for themselves may be, in fact, strengthened by the event.
QUESTION: Middle East. How are the Deputy Secretary's plans for traveling to the region going? And does the United States still oppose the idea of the expulsion of Yasser Arafat?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as the Deputy Secretary's travel plans, I don't really have anything new for you beyond what he has said, which, I think, was Middle East some time this month. So when we have other details on that we'll tell you where he might go and when he might go there.
QUESTION: Still planning to do --
MR. BOUCHER: He's still planning to, yeah. But it's still in the planning process. And the other side was Arafat.
I think nothing has changed with regard to Mr. Arafat. The Secretary has made clear that Arafat is part of the problem, at this point, and is not helping to bring a solution. Deputy Secretary Armitage said Chairman Arafat is once again showing that he is against the interests of Palestinian people and against progress towards a two-state future, as the President called for.
We have said quite clearly, he needs to cooperate with the new government. He needs to turn over security services that have remained under his control to the control of the new government so that there can be real and effective action against terrorist groups by the Palestinian Government. And Chairman Arafat needs to do that, and everybody who talks to him needs to call on him to do so.
QUESTION: Do you have any view on expulsion?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view on that has not changed.
QUESTION: As so, could you remind us of what that view is?
MR. BOUCHER: We had been informed by the Israeli Government that they had no plans to do that.
QUESTION: Okay. Even today, even after the Defense Minister said that they --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know when the last time was, but our view is that was the right decision and remains so.
QUESTION: You're not -- excuse me -- you're not saying that you have been informed lately?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I am not. I am saying that -- he says, 'what was the position?' That was the position, and that position has not changed.
QUESTION: Sure, but you are aware of what the Defense Minister said --
MR. BOUCHER: I am aware that there have been statements, yeah.
QUESTION: And when you call for Arafat to turn over the control of security forces, doesn't that make him part of the solution not the problem?
MR. BOUCHER: I have no problem with that.
QUESTION: So he's --
MR. BOUCHER: I have no problem with him contributing to a solution. That doesn't raise his stature or make him as an individual any more likely to be engaged with us, because we're not intending that in any way.
But, certainly, whether we talk to somebody or not, they shouldn't stand in the way of the hopes and dreams of the Palestinian people. And they shouldn't stand in the way of the Palestinian Authority having the ability to take care of its own problems without inviting -- without -- take care of its own problems, period, and crack down on terrorist groups who are trying to sabotage the dreams of the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: By any chance, do you know the last time a senior -- when the last time a senior official spoke to Arafat? There's no contact, is there?
MR. BOUCHER: The last time a senior U.S. official spoke to Arafat?
MR. BOUCHER: It was prior to June 24th of 2002.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't remember. It was a day or two before the speech we might have had our last contact with him. The last meeting with Secretary Powell was in April of 2002 when Secretary Powell said to him, "This may be the last time we ever talk. It may be the last time I ever see you."
QUESTION: You said that you are aware of the statements made by the Defense Minister. Are you seeking clarification from the Israelis on whether they are intending to participate?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have anything new at this point on that. We'll see what the Israelis say.
QUESTION: Last week late, at the end of the week, I think, Thursday or Friday night, the White House tried to slip through this new announcement on family planning funding. I'm wondering -- and they neglected to mention what the impact would be in terms of dollars and groups affected. I'm wondering if you can fill us in on exactly what this latest Kemp-Kasten decision is going to do money-wise?
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't we deal with that a lot last week in terms of the funding and who was getting it?
QUESTION: No, you dealt with the one, which is --
MR. BOUCHER: With one particular organization or one particular consortium. All right, I'm going to have to go back and look at that and get you more general figures.
QUESTION: Richard, going back to the PKK, I'm sure you also saw the announcement that they intend to call off the ceasefire. Do you have a position on that? And their argument is that the Turkish authorities have not adequately responded to the ceasefire, which they announced.
Do you think the Turkish authorities have done enough over, what, the intervening -- what is it? -- five, four or five years, to address the grievances of Turkish Kurds?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that was essentially the question the gentleman asked 20 minutes ago. I don't have any --
QUESTION: I don't think so, no.
MR. BOUCHER: He asked about the calling off the ceasefire and what was going to happen next. I don't have any --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any attempts to categorize anybody in this matter.
QUESTION: Last week you came down pretty hard on the SADC, South African Development -- Southern African Development Council.
MR. BOUCHER: Southern Africa Development Council (Community)?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of anything new in that situation. I wasn't aware of the invitation from the Council on Foreign Relations. Who's the head of that now?
QUESTION: The Man With Two Heads.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll figure something out. Let me look into it and see, first of all, if it's true, and, second of all, if --
QUESTION: All right. Do you have anything on Zimbabwe on the local elections -- if the opposition appears to be winning? Anything like that?
MR. BOUCHER: On the local elections, there were local elections August 30th and 31st for two vacant parliamentary seats, seven mayoral seats and 18 urban councils. Preliminary reports indicate ruling and opposition parties each retained parliamentary seats while the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change won six of the seven mayoral seats and most of the urban council slots.
We are somewhat encouraged that the elections showed a degree of improvement over the March 2003 parliamentary bi-elections and the September 2002 rural council elections in Zimbabwe. These local elections were relatively calm, albeit with a very low turnout. U.S. diplomats observed the conduct of elections and there were independent monitoring teams that were able to gain access to most polling places.
We note with concern, however, that there were scattered reports of intimidation and violence, vote buying and the politicized use of government maize supplies, predominantly perpetrated by supporters of the ruling party.
We are also concerned about flaws in the run-up to the elections with opposition candidates in at least three areas prevented from filing paperwork. Electoral authorities did not provide all voter lists to the opposition, as it has requested, and the lists that were provided were made available at a very late date.
So there were significant flaws, as I noted, but somewhat improved over previous elections.
QUESTION: Yeah, so that's pretty faint praise: "We're somewhat encouraged by a degree of improvement." How big a degree was it? Two degrees, one degree?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was a degree.
QUESTION: Just a degree?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did you say -- and did you say one of the significant pluses was the use of mace?
MR. BOUCHER: Maize, m-a-i-z-e. Yeah.
QUESTION: Oh, maize.
QUESTION: It's like in corn.
QUESTION: Oh, excuse me.
MR. BOUCHER: Quite similar. Ma'am.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: There's been a resurgence of violence in the Taliban in Afghanistan. Do you have any comments or -- as to why it would be flaring up now? And has there been any discussion on sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I think those are really questions our military people and the people on the ground would have to answer.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: We have one more, or not? No. Okay.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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