State Department Noon Briefing, October 3, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2003
12:10 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any announcements, glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: I'd like to have a little clarification, if I can. The Secretary spoke at length about the Kay report. And he spoke in the area of weapons of vials of botulism being discovered.
Now, it's generally being reported -- and I am not sure it's correct anymore -- that no weapons were found. When he referred to that, he then -- the Secretary -- he then put it in a rhetorical sense. He said, so what about weapons, or something like that.
What I'm trying to ask is, is it the Secretary's position that those vials constitute -- even if they didn't have the missiles to deliver them yet -- are those weapons of mass -- can we finally conclude that Iraq, indeed, not only had the will, precursors, intent, they actually had weapons -- that Kay has found weapons of mass destruction?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you need to leave the definitions to David Kay. You kill people with botulinum.
MR. BOUCHER: If you find botulinum, you have found something to kill people. It doesn't have any other use that I'm aware of. Okay? I would call that a weapon. If you don't want to call that a weapon, okay.
But the point being that what we're finding, what David Kay is starting to find in an effort that's just started and underway, corresponds quite a bit to the things that our intelligence showed us were there.
February 5th, the Secretary talked about an extensive concealment program. David Kay is finding an extensive concealment program, down to the point that the Secretary made about people removing and destroying hard drives. David Kay is finding destruction of hard drives, even after the war.
The Secretary talked about the intent. David Kay is finding a lot of Iraqi scientists who talk about their intent.
The Secretary talked about a lot of programs. David Kay is finding programs, even specific ones like the ones to develop new biological agents, the ones to develop a missile beyond a thousand -- that's good beyond a thousand kilometers, the ones to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle beyond 500 kilometers.
The Secretary also talked a lot of other things, some of which we've seen, like moving weapons around, some of which the United Nations had documented over the years; about the leftovers, the shells, the potential agents, the growth media. And as David Kay proceeds through those thousands and thousands of sites he's talked about, we'll see his description of the full extent of these programs.
But that's what we're starting to see now from his initial report and we're starting -- he's starting to find agents that can kill people.
QUESTION: Something else the Secretary said was that it was clear from the report that Iraq was just waiting or hoping to weasel out of the sanctions or get out of the sanctions so that they could reconstitute their weapons and to build on top of what -- he said something like whatever they had at the moment, whatever they had at the moment.
Doesn't that statement imply that the sanctions were working -- that Iraq -- and I'm not getting into the justification for going to war, just on the -- on what the UN program was doing.
MR. BOUCHER: I would put it this way. If -- there was clearly -- and David Kay, in his report -- and everybody really should read this whole thing. There's a lot. To understand it, I think you have to read the whole thing, and also understand that it's not the whole thing yet, it's not the whole report. There's a lot more work to do.
But as I read this report, he talks about two aspects of your questions. One is the intent to revive, reconstitute more, as soon as he could, as soon as he was out from under the sanctions. And I suppose one could construe that as to say, well, if we just maintained sanctions indefinitely we'll be okay.
But he also talks about numerous programs and activities that were not reported, numerous programs and activities that were concealed, numerous programs and activities that he is finding out about that were not being constrained by the UN sanctions and inspections. And those have to be a cause of concern.
QUESTION: Okay, and just one other thing. Can you explain or can you give us some insight into why the Secretary chose to respond to a question that had nothing to do with the Kay report, and everything to do with your efforts at the UN right now on a resolution, with a lengthy and spirited defense of what is in the Kay report and how it justified going to war?
MR. BOUCHER: Because, as the Secretary told you in his complete and exhaustive answer to the question, the two are related. I think he ended up by saying that the Kay report makes us all the more determined, all the more confident that we were right in going to war and removing the menace; and second of all, all the more determined to rebuild Iraq so that it doesn't constitute that kind of menace in the future. That's not his exact word, but that was the thought that he ended with, and that's how the two are intimately, intricately and totally related.
QUESTION: When the Secretary spoke about those vials, did he mean that those are weapons of mass destruction?
MR. BOUCHER: I just answered that question. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: No, but are they weapons of mass destruction?
MR. BOUCHER: He meant that botulinum kills people. It kills people in large quantities. That is a weapon -- botulinum is a weapon of mass destruction, yes.
QUESTION: So does he -- is he saying now that everyone who is on the Administration's back for wondering why we haven't found weapons of mass destruction yet, does he now believe that the Administration has been vindicated because they found these vials?
MR. BOUCHER: I certainly believe, and I think the Secretary certainly said, that the programs that we talked about, the intent we talked about, the concealment by the regime that we talked about, the dangerous and awful things that this regime was up to, are starting to be confirmed, even in the preliminary and interim report that David Kay has done so far, down to some of the details that I cited and some of the details the Secretary cited.
You know, whether -- he also said everybody ought to read the full report, base your judgments on David Kay's report, not on a headline that might have appeared two weeks ago or yesterday. But read the whole report, and one can see the developing picture.
So, you know, as far as people getting off our back or saying this or saying that, that's up to them. I would hope that they would only make those judgments after reading the whole Kay report.
QUESTION: Moving on to the resolution.
QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait, I've got a question. Does your statement right there, "Botulinum is a weapon of mass destruction," should cosmetic surgeons be quaking in their boots right now?
MR. BOUCHER: I think botox is a little different than what we're talking about here. I'll leave that to medical professionals.
QUESTION: And is it not the case, actually, that without a delivery system, botulinum can't be a weapon of mass destruction?
MR. BOUCHER: Go to the dictionary. If you have something that kills a lot of people, there are -- that strikes me as a weapon of mass destruction. The way to deliver it -- you can go into various ways to deliver it. There are terrorist ways of delivering it, there are probably sophisticated missile ways of delivering it, there's -- you know, we talked about, David Kay talks about the testing that was done on F1s and Mirages, and possibly Migs, as delivery systems. He's talked about the UAV's that -- the Secretary said they've tested a UAV to over 500 kilometers, David Kay says they've tested a UAV to over 500 kilometers. I don't think Kay at this point is able to certify that that was a delivery system, but certainly we had indications that that might be the case.
So yes, you have the agent that kills people, and you have a way of getting it to kill people.
QUESTION: How far are you prepared to extrapolate this? Anything that kills a lot of people is a weapon of mass destruction?
MR. BOUCHER: You know what I mean. Anything that destroys on a massive scale is a weapon of mass destruction. I mean, the point, I think, is that these agents exist, these agents are highly dangerous, and these agents were being developed by a regime that, thankfully, is no more.
QUESTION: I'm just confused, because I thought that the conclusion by the Administration was that all of the agents were developed, and that's why it constituted an immediate and imminent threat to the U.S.
MR. BOUCHER: We don't know from David Kay's report yet the full extent of some of these programs. He's certainly finding the programs, finding the research and development. He's got less on the production side at this point. We have talked more about the production side. We have talked more, as the UN did throughout the 1990s, about the unaccounted for quantities, about the unaccounted for shells, about the unaccounted for chemical munitions. The Secretary talked somewhat about the chemical munitions being moved. And as David Kay points out, he's got thousands and thousands of weapons storage bunkers and sites to still look at.
So no, David Kay hasn't certified every detail yet. We're starting to see certain points of corroboration. We're starting to see the same kind of story being told from his research as the Secretary told on February 5th.
QUESTION: Dr. Kay said he needed more time to find the proofs of weapons of mass destruction. Before the war, President Bush was very sure that Saddam Hussein has the weapons. Why it is taking so long to find any proof? What's wrong with the intelligence of the United States? You almost -- on the contrary, you didn't find anything.
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's an incorrect conclusion. What the U.S. intelligence described, what the Secretary of State described, and what David Kay describes in his report -- and I invite everybody to read it carefully -- is a very systematic and deliberate program to conceal -- to conceal evidence, to hide people, to destroy evidence.
And David Kay says that continued, not just to February 5th, when the Secretary made his presentation, but through the war, and even after the war. He describes concealment of the -- the suspicion -- and I think some of the people he has talked to -- about how some of this production capability might have been concealed in dual-use facilities. And that's what we have described before. That makes it harder.
He lists, on page 2 of his report, five, six specific reasons why this is a difficult and long job, and so we understand that. And if everybody would at least read to page 2, you'd understand that too. I hate to keep doing this, but it really is worth spending some time with, as we have tried to do, to understand fully what he is finding and what he is learning.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, a DOS document released yesterday characterizes the entire Greek media, irresponsible, aggressive, sensationalists, out of context, et cetera, et cetera.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's take --
QUESTION: Let me finish.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll answer your question a little bit later.
QUESTION: Something is being rejected -- excuse me?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Everybody is objecting that this is not a question about Iraq. And I'm telling them that I'll answer your --
QUESTION: Okay, okay. Forgive me, forgive me.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll answer your question quickly, and then we'll move on.
QUESTION: But I here for Iraq. Do you have anything on the agreement you released yesterday with -- in Ankara, Turkey, how you can fight PKK members in northern Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. I lost my train. You were headed in this direction, and now you're headed in that direction.
MR. BOUCHER: Pick one.
QUESTION: The Iraq one.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We'll stick with Iraq.
QUESTION: That was about Iraq, wasn't it? PKK, PKK and northern Iraq or something? Anyway, the Secretary said that you're anxious to hear suggestions about the resolution. Does that mean that when you hear these suggestions, you'll make further adjustments to the language of the resolution, or are willing to consider making them?
MR. BOUCHER: Willing to consider it, yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. He has told his colleagues he is willing to consider specific suggestions that they might have. That's always the case until we get to the moment when we put down the final version of --
QUESTION: The reaction has been fairly negative.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's true. The Secretary has talked to a number of foreign ministers. We have picked up, I think, some co-sponsors, even. And so, you know, a mixed reaction -- some positive, some not yet completely positive -- and we're still working on it. We're certainly willing and interested in hearing from others on the Council.
Let me try to fill you in on what is going on, if I can find it somewhere.
Yesterday, there were informal consultations in the Security Council during which Ambassador Negroponte shared the U.S. revised draft resolution on Iraq, and there was a preliminary exchange of ideas. In addition, the Secretary has continued to talk to his counterparts. I think yesterday, we got -- I mentioned or we mentioned to you, some of you, that yesterday he talked to Chilean Foreign Minister Alvear and French Foreign Minister de Villepin.
Today, he has talked to Mexican Foreign Minister Derbez, and talked to the Secretary General, and he has also talked to the new Netherlands Foreign Minister designate, since the Netherlands Foreign Minister is on his way to NATO.
All members now have a chance to study the draft and consult with their capitals. We look forward to hearing back from them. We scheduled further Council discussions on Monday afternoon in New York. And the Secretary will be in touch with his various colleagues over the next several days, as they provide their reactions.
As we have made clear, the draft clarifies the point that the issue is not sovereignty itself, but rather the pace of the Iraqi assumption of authority and responsibility for their own affairs. In that context, it urges the Iraqis to complete the political transition process expeditiously, and underscores the fact that the Coalition Authority is temporary.
I would also note that it encourages the Secretary General to pursue the course of action that he proposed in his July report, notably, 25 individual tasks drawing on UN expertise in the political, economic and humanitarian spheres. So that's where we stand with the resolution, and we'll continue working it with other members at different levels.
QUESTION: On that, do you know or can you answer the question, when the consultations begin Monday, will there be any revisions in the U.S. proposal?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. It would be the next consultation, I think, since the reactions we have gotten are preliminary, and what we're really looking for at this point is sort of more specific suggestions that Monday might be the time for many governments to come back and give us some more specific suggestions, if they have any. I think there are some who may just come in and say, we're with you on this.
QUESTION: You don't have any revisions? There are no plans for revisions?
MR. BOUCHER: We're not revising it every day. We're trying to collect a sense of what people are looking for and provide revisions. We've done a considerable amount of that already. I think we've gone a long way in the direction of the comments that we heard last week. So no, I wouldn't necessarily expect a new version to be produced on Monday
QUESTION: Were you hoping at all, to have any kind of a hard date for transfer of authority?
MR. BOUCHER: We have continued to put the emphasis on the Iraqis, because this is about the Iraqis taking charge of their own affairs, and the first thing they can take charge of is setting for themselves a timetable of how quickly they can assume that responsibility.
So that remains a pretty fundamental point in our resolution. I don't know if any people might have suggestions on how one can give the -- we tried to give the sense of urgency, the sense of moving expeditiously, in the text that we then -- that we produced in the last few days. There may be other suggestions that can somehow balance the two, but our view is that this is an Iraqi process, needs to be determined as how quickly the Iraqis can take and exercise the kind of authorities of government that we're talking about.
QUESTION: Wait, may I follow up? For weeks now, I mean, you've been sort of diplomatically trying to light a fire under the Iraqis to try to come up with some kind of specifics on how and when they would do this, but they don't seem to -- the 25 that the United States Government* chose don't seem to have done so. What is the holdup? Why is this -- what is --
MR. BOUCHER: The constitutional group -- what are they called? The Constitutional Preparatory Committee Group, something like that. The Iraqis have been meeting, a group of Iraqis, have been meeting to sort of design this process of producing a constitution. And they've been working, I think, for a month or so now, maybe a little more. And I think they're nearing the point, or they're at the point where they're now talking more fully about these issues in the Governing Council. That's a process that is underway, and that we've watched and that we've supported.
So I don't think it's quite right to say that nothing's going on, or that we're trying to light a fire under the Iraqis. The Iraqis themselves have been working on this and are continuing to work on this. And that's the kind of process that we envisage.
QUESTION: But has somebody come up with dates or timelines or anything, which seems to be clearly what you are looking for, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: But they will. I mean, they're in the process of doing so. You could say they haven't even been asked by the Security Council yet, because the resolution hasn't passed. So --
QUESTION: Well, clearly, he wants it.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. And we made clear in our resolution we think the Security Council ought to ask them for a timeline. But we know they have the process of preparation underway, and it may be that at the time that the Security Council asks, they'll have the answer. We'll just see how those two things work together.
QUESTION: You mentioned co-sponsors? Who is now co-sponsoring with you?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to double check.
QUESTION: Would Britain be one of them, maybe?
MR. BOUCHER: My guess is they might be, yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me double-check.
QUESTION: Aside from Mr. de Villepin and Mr. Annan, phone calls with Mr. Powell with anybody else -- to anybody else?
MR. BOUCHER: I just gave you a longer list.
QUESTION: Oh, sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick back with what I just said three minutes ago.
QUESTION: Some Iraqi officials have said that the process of getting a constitution together is one thing, and that takes a long time because you have to draw up census -- it's very complicated with census and voter registration and elections and things like that, but that the actual transfer of power is some -- and transfer of authority -- is something that can take place as they prove themselves.
So are you looking at the actual drawing up of a constitution, voting on by the people, the Iraqi people, as the criteria, the one criteria; or do you have a set of criteria that, if the Iraqi Governing Council meets, that you'll gradually transfer more authority and power to them?
MR. BOUCHER: I thought every day that I stood up here, I give you a little pitch about how the Iraqis are running health care, the Iraqis are running education, the Iraqis are running the police services, the Iraqis are now running a foreign ministry, the Iraqis are running electricity, they're selling oil, et cetera, et cetera.
QUESTION: Yes, but the Iraqis --
MR. BOUCHER: And every day, those responsibilities grow. This is recognized, and you'll see it in the new text that we put forward, that this is a progressive process. I think that's what the word is in the resolution, that it's a progressive process of transfer of power to the Iraqis, and that -- but that that final, sort of the full completion of that authority and responsibility, should be designed to take place when the constitution and the elections occur, because that's the only way that the process can really be concluded.
QUESTION: Richard, the last time around on something like this, I remember the Secretary standing out downstairs in front and saying that he wanted to hear specific suggestions, and not "editorial comment" from other countries. I'm wondering, is it -- are you of the opinion right now that the objections that you have heard from the French, from the Russians, and even from the UN, even from Kofi Annan, are not specific suggestions, not helpful, they're just editorial comment, and that you would like to see them transform their concerns, their objections, into, you know, a more positive -- more positive statements?
MR. BOUCHER: No. We haven't said that. As you said, we may have said that at one point, but we're not saying that now.
QUESTION: Do you have -- have you gotten suggestions?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has talked to his counterparts. He has gotten -- I don't know if we have gotten specific suggestions yet. We have gotten comments and promises that they'll be turned into specifics.
QUESTION: Okay. And what was the response? What was the response of the Secretary and this building to the Secretary General's rather dismissive comments yesterday saying the resolution goes in the wrong direction?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you have to look carefully at what the Secretary General said. We have -- the Secretary has talked to him. John Negroponte, our Ambassador in New York, spoke with the Secretary General this morning. It was a good meeting. We are working together, talking to him about all of these issues, and we'll continue to work with him.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary and did Ambassador Negroponte ask him for a clarification of what he meant?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they talked about the various things that were said during the course of meetings in the last few days, just to make sure we're still working together, and we are.
QUESTION: Do you think the U.S. resolution will be approved? Do you prefer it to be approved before the donors meeting in Madrid?
MR. BOUCHER: We think it would be very useful if the resolution were approved before the donors meeting, yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, the Iraqi Governing Council has been invited to Malaysia, to Kuala Lumpur, October 16th to the 18th, for an Islamic leaders summit. Now, you're not represented there, but are you talking to some of those particular leaders in advance of that conference?
MR. BOUCHER: We have certainly been in touch with members of the international community, as regards to the presence and representation of Iraq, of the Iraqi Governing Council, in international bodies. They were successful working with members of the Arab League in representing Iraq there and attending those meetings. They have now successfully attended the UN meetings in New York. I think I saw somewhere they attended OPEC meetings.
So I think, more and more, we're just seeing international bodies say, yes, these people represent Iraq, are representative of the Iraqi people in their new ambitions, in their new endeavors. And as we move towards constitutionally elected government, these people will assume seats and participate in international meetings on behalf of Iraq. So we'd certainly welcome that happening in various bodies around the world.
QUESTION: So, why are you trashing the Greek press?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's let the gentleman in the back try to answer -- ask the question.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, a DOS document released yesterday characterizes the entire Greek media, irresponsible, aggressive, sensationalist, out of context, not objective, et cetera, et cetera -- something that has been rejected today by the Greek spokesman, Minister Christos Protopapas.
May we know, how do you come to this conclusion and allow, Mr. Boucher, to remind the writers that what President Thomas Jefferson said: "I prefer a free press than a government"?
QUESTION: Can we get copies of the story?
MR. BOUCHER: You can get it on the web. I think background notes are all on the web. Just to correct, I think it's occasionally irresponsible; it's not categorically irresponsible.
As you may know, this language has been in our background notes for a number of years now, and it is actually currently being reviewed and we're considering a revision to it, based on the more recent assessments that our Embassy might able to give us.
QUESTION: Your recent assessments are more positive or more negative?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you'll have to see. We'll come out with new text, as soon as we reach a new formulation.
QUESTION: Is that suggesting that you have received some complaints about the characterization of --
MR. BOUCHER: I think people have raised the issue. I'm not sure if they raised it here. Perhaps some of the members of the Greek press might have raised it with us or with our Embassy. But we are taking a look at it and developing some language that might be a more accurate reflection of the high esteem with which we hold our colleagues in the Greek press corps.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: On November 17, why would your in your designated list of international terrorist organizations released yesterday, you have included the November 17 terrorists organization? Citizens and members already have been arrested, facing justice, and your government has considered the matter closed almost a year now.
May we assume that it was placed by mistake, as the Greek spokesman, Minister Christos Protopapas stated today, that this specific list is not updated?
MR. BOUCHER: We do look at each of the groups as we redesignate them. And they come up, what, every two years, for formal redesignation. I haven't looked into the November 17th issue. I think, if you look at the Patterns of Global Terrorism report, which we put out every year, you'll have to see what we believe the current status is. Certainly, we believe that Greece has made great strides against that organization, that the trials that took place, that the effort that the police and authorities in Greece have made, have been very, very effective in reducing the capabilities of the organization.
I think our people just, at this moment, felt we couldn't guarantee that they were completely out of business. And there are other groups that are, I think, still on the list that may not be active at this moment. But until we know for sure they're out of business, we tend to maintain them.
QUESTION: One more question. Why in the same list you do not include al-Qaida terrorist organization of Usama bin Laden?
MR. BOUCHER: I believe it --
QUESTION: They didn't realize --
QUESTION: But al-Qaida is not included.
QUESTION: It was. It was.
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was. Let's check the final version of the announcement. Let's check the final version of the announcement.
QUESTION: Reports on testing the new short-range missile today, which had said it's capable of carrying all types of warheads, presumably including nuclear. Any particular comment on this? Do you find it a slightly provocative action? Do you note it happens just as Secretary Armitage is heading off?
MR. BOUCHER: The missile that was tested, which was a HATF-3 short-range ballistic missile, it was the latest in a series of tests of this missile. I have to say, initial public reactions are such that it doesn't seem to have heightened tensions in the region. But we have continued to urge both Pakistan and India to take steps to restrain their nuclear weapon and their missile programs, including no operational deployment of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.
We have also encouraged them to begin a dialogue on confidence-building measures that could reduce the likelihood that such weapons would ever be used, and obviously we think that dialogue could be part of a broader engagement between the two countries to reduce tensions.
QUESTION: On that, it appears that the Indians have actually refused dialogue though. Are you specifically asking the Indians in this case to?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry? The Indians what?
QUESTION: Are refusing dialogue at the moment.
MR. BOUCHER: We have worked with both parties to try to encourage a dialogue on measures to reduce tensions. We'll continue to do that.
QUESTION: Can you give us an update on the Deputy Secretary? Has he left? Is he going today?
MR. BOUCHER: He, being Mr. Armitage?
QUESTION: I said the Deputy Secretary.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I'm sorry. There was cross-talk.
He should have left by now. He was due to leave this morning. Deputy Secretary Armitage -- let me do the whole sentence. Deputy Secretary Armitage was due to leave this morning for South Asia. He was delayed due to a very brief illness. Unfortunately, he has had to cancel his stops in Central Asia at this time.
He will visit Pakistan and Afghanistan between October 4th and 7th. He'll be meeting with President Musharraf, President Karzai, and other counterparts and other officials to discuss regional and bilateral issues, U.S. assistance programs, the cooperation that we have with Pakistan and with Afghanistan in the war on terror.
In Islamabad, he'll also discuss the sustained efforts to assure security along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as regional stability issues. In Kabul, he will reinforce our commitment to a secure Afghanistan; our support for full implementation of the Bonn agreement, including the constitutional Loya Jirga that's planned for December; and for the elections next year. He'll also talk about the accelerated efforts that the United States will be making along with the international community to assist in reconstruction.
QUESTION: Is he still going to London?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what we call a very good question. Let me double-check.
QUESTION: Cuba. Do you have any reactions to the recent decision by the Cuban Government to ease the sanctions or conditions for Americans to travel to the island?
MR. BOUCHER: We looked at that, but, frankly, it doesn't seem to change very much. I don't have the details with me. The Cuban Government still considers that Cubans who left after a certain date are Cuban citizens and won't let them travel on their new citizenship, and that puts people in some jeopardy of decisions of the Cuban Government. And so, for many of the people involved, it really doesn't provide any sense of facilitation or security in their travels.
QUESTION: On the leak investigation, could you make available a copy of the letter that was sent by the Justice Department here?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you the Justice Department letter. You'd have to check with Justice on that. But I think what other agencies have done, including the White House, is to make available the notice that goes out to people in this building that's based on that, that responds to the request from the Justice Department.
We're in the process of drafting that now, sending a notice to all the employees, basically, including by cable form to the embassies overseas, that will describe the request from the Department of Justice and instruct our own employees to comply. And so I think I can make available a copy of our own internal notice when I have that.
QUESTION: Do you expect it to go out today?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it's being done right now.
QUESTION: Okay, Joel.
QUESTION: Richard, Israeli troops fired on a coffee shop in the West Bank and apparently inflicted injuries on over a dozen. They also have made arrests. And at the same time, the religious group that mops up after bus bombings in Israel is putting together a display at a New York trade fair showing and bringing the actual bus that had been bombed in Jerusalem to that fair.
Is that appropriate with what's going on between the Palestinians and Israelis at this time?
MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't aware of the particular incident you're describing today, so I can't describe any more what went on or what it looks like, nor of the exhibit itself. I don't think I have any particular comment on either, frankly.
QUESTION: Have you been asked about the new (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary addressed it to some extent yesterday. I think -- well, is that a question?
QUESTION: Yeah. Are you more -- have you looked at it more closely and decided?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the first thing to remember is the juncture that we're at, the moment -- that wasn't very good English. The moment right now is one where the Palestinians are forming a government, and we're all looking to see a government that has the commitment and the authority and the resources to carry out action against terror. That's what we believe to the be the next step that needs to be taken. That's where we believe the key lies to moving forward on the roadmap and having both parties continue to meet their commitments.
At the same time, we've also been in touch with the Israelis to make clear that we want to continue movement on the roadmap, and we think they should maintain that sense of direction and not do things that would detract from achievement of that goal. We have said before, and I'll say again today, that we think that continued settlement activity is unhelpful in terms of the process of movement on peace, as well as the achievement of the President's vision of two states living side by side.
We also, as you know, have decisions to make on loan guarantees and deductions, and we'll have to take into account the settlement activity that does occur as we make those decisions.
QUESTION: Okay. Richard, can you be a little more specific? You say -- you speak generally about settlement activity being unhelpful and detracting from that goal. Are you talking specifically about the 600 housing units which they -- which were announced yesterday? Are those --
MR. BOUCHER: Those particular ones come up in settlement activity in general, we've characterized as unhelpful, and so additional settlement activity such as the announcements would fall into that category.
QUESTION: Well, does anybody know, or have you asked the Israeli Government to change its mind about building these housing -- these particular housing units?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say we've made clear our views with the Israelis, as I've described them to you now.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: George.
QUESTION: You used the word "unhelpful." The Secretary used to use the word "crippling" to describe its impact on the peace process. Do you stand by --
MR. BOUCHER: I stand by everything the Secretary has ever said.
QUESTION: Richard --
QUESTION: There was a distinction there, though.
MR. BOUCHER: There's a distinction. I think at different times we've characterized it in different ways, sometimes more graphically than others. Perhaps the Secretary speaks better English than I do.
QUESTION: Can you explain exactly what you mean when you say it's unhelpful? What -- how is it unhelpful? Does it comp -- is it your view that right now, at the moment that we are at now, it's complicating the Palestinians' creation of a government? Or is it your view that it's unhelpful because -- in a -- in a broader scheme of things?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's been a view we have held for some time, and it's because it does complicate the process of reaching agreement. It puts people in areas that need to be negotiated. It makes it -- complicates the process of achieving a two-state solution. And so settlement activity has long been a focus of us, of the United States, as well as of others who have looked at how to move the peace process forward. We all know the recommendations, the way it's handled in the roadmap, the way it was handled in the Mitchell committee recommendations
QUESTION: But it is particularly unhelpful at the moment because -- I mean, this latest decision, even more unhelpful because of the moment that we're at?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll just stick with what I've said. It's --
QUESTION: Richard, you say that you continue to let the Israelis know that you think that settlement activity is unhelpful and to think about moving the process forward. But to take up what Jonathan has said, have you specifically talked to them about the announcement about this recent settlement activity, because, obviously, your continuing to tell them that it's unhelpful is not having that much effect on whether they decide to continue building them, as the Secretary said yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: We have specifically been in touch with them about these most recent decisions, yeah.
QUESTION: Was it through this building or through the Embassy? Did the Secretary speak to --
MR. BOUCHER: No, the Secretary didn't make a phone call on it.
QUESTION: Is there anything on the agreement you reached yesterday in Ankara, Turkey, how you could fight with the Turkish* PKK members in northern Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I'll have to get you something. I'm sorry.
David had one.
QUESTION: On the Azerbaijan elections, some -- a few developments. Essentially, a father-son transfer of a presidential candidacy. Also complaints by the opposition that they're not getting a fair shake in the campaign.
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, first of all, the withdrawal of President Aliyev is an internal matter for Azerbaijan. The United States Government has worked closely with President Aliyev in the past. We have been a good friend of Azerbaijan. We look forward to free and fair presidential elections on October 15th. It's very important to us that these elections meet the standards of the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe, and we've long made that clear and work towards that end.
We've provided more than $2 million for election-related assistance already, and I think the OSCE itself has done work there.
QUESTION: So you have no problem with dynastic succession here? You wouldn't even like to see, you know, perhaps an eight-year period in between father-to-son taking over?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't pick people's candidates, Matt. We don't pick their candidates. We just ask them that they -- ask that they hold free and fair elections. That's exactly what I did right now. And they'll decide. The voters of Azerbaijan should be allowed to decide who they want to vote for.
QUESTION: Okay. But you don't have any problem with it?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any problems with the votes of Azerbaijan deciding who they want to vote for, no.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)
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