State Department Briefing, October 6, 2003
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
QUESTION: Could you tell us about the contacts which may or may not have taken place with the Syrians in the last 24 hours?
MR. BOUCHER: We've been in touch with the Syrians in a variety of places in the last 24 hours, had some of those contacts from Washington, had contacts in New York where the UN Security Council has been considering the issue of developments in the region. They met yesterday in New York at the request of the Syrian delegation. I think you all know the Syrians put forward some proposals, but at this time those were referred to capitals and there's no further discussion scheduled at this moment. But nonetheless, we're in contact with the Syrians in New York.
The Syrians had a meeting at their Foreign Ministry this morning of the Perm 5 and expressed their views, and I think it's safe to say that our representative at that meeting, our chargé, expressed our views right back. As you know, we have always -- we have seen Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism for a long time. We have repeatedly made known our grave concerns about Syrian support for terrorist groups, including Palestinian groups that are engaged in planning and directing terrorist acts -- action against Israel from Syrian territory. That remains our position.
We have urged all parties to avoid actions that would heighten tensions in the region and to carefully consider the consequences of their actions.
So that's where we stand right now.
QUESTION: Who's the chargé?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check for you and get it.
QUESTION: And why is there no ambassador there at the moment?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll double-check. Do I have the memo?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it is. Chargé, right? Yeah, sorry. The chargé's name is Gene Cretz, C-r-e-t-z. And I'm not sure of the exact status of the ambassador. I'll have to check.
QUESTION: Is the ambassador in --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: You don't even know if you have one?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the exact status of the ambassador. I will check for you. Okay?
QUESTION: Well, because there has been some talk about possibly downgrading relations or recalling -- there's been some talk on the Hill about that. Has that happened?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. I will check on the exact status. Before we jump to conclusions --
QUESTION: No, I'm not jumping to any conclusions.
MR. BOUCHER: -- let's all have a chance to check the facts. I'm sorry I didn't check them before, but I don't know the exact status of every ambassador in every part of the world. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: No, but perhaps you might know the status of one whose country was attacked by Israel the day before.
MR. BOUCHER: I might, but I don't.
MR. BOUCHER: Jonathan.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any information about the nature of the site attacked by Israel? Do you have independent information about it?
MR. BOUCHER: The facility that was attacked by Israel has long been used by a variety of Palestinian terrorists groups as a training facility.
QUESTION: Do you know which particular groups?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to share that, but I think that you've seen some public comments, in fact, by people from the PFLP that said a variety of groups have used that facility.
QUESTION: Yeah, well, I think they also said it was disused. Do you have any reason to believe that it's in active use?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, it's long been used --
QUESTION: It has long been used doesn't necessarily mean it's in use today.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I can't go any farther than that.
No more questions?
QUESTION: Yeah, sure.
MR. BOUCHER: Matt.
QUESTION: So, your -- you said that the Syrian proposal at the UN has gone back to capitals, so what's your, considering we're in the capital, what's your view of -- the U.S. view of the Syrian resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: We're studying it. We'll decide if the resolution is appropriate or not. I think Ambassador Negroponte, though, has already been out and said that we don't think a resolution that deals with only part of the situation and that doesn't make any reference to the terrible and horrible attacks that occurred in Haifa on Saturday is appropriate at this time.
Ambassador Negroponte said, "Let me say that another resolution on the Middle East is not what we think is needed." And that remains our view.
QUESTION: If another resolution was drafted which condemns both operations, would that suit your needs?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate on resolutions at this point. We'll see what finally ends up being presented and decide how to vote at that time.
QUESTION: Lots of recognition internally here in the press and around the world is being given to the story of the -- of how the Palestinian lady responsible for the suicide attack in Haifa has been tragically witnessing Israeli occupation forces killing her brother, her fiancé, and yet, Sharon's government, with what seems to be a U.S. compliance, are trying to shift the blame elsewhere, as if Syria is to blame for the attack.
The question here and in the Arab streets is: Isn't it time for the United States Administration to try to help Israel face the reality that it is violence against Palestinians is what instigating those violent attacks in return, and no one else?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't see how you can ask a question like that without admitting that 19 innocent people died in Haifa on Saturday. People have a right to be able to go to the restaurant without being blown up. And I think when we look at the sequences of events, yes, there's been violence that's occurred to both sides, there have been victims on both sides. It doesn't do us any good to just talk about one side or just talk about the other side.
The point is to look at the fact of the violence, and to say, what does it take to stop it? And what it takes to stop this violence is for a Palestinian government to come on with the commitment, the intention and the resources to end the activities of the terrorist groups; and for everyone outside of Israel, including Syria, and places where these groups have gotten support in the past, to absolutely cut off and choke up their activities, their funding, their finance and their operations.
QUESTION: In light of that, Ahmed Qureia now says that he won't listen to the United States, and he won't make any move against the militant groups.
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen that comment. I don't think we're actually asking him to listen to the United States. We're asking him, first of all, to look at the roadmap and the activities, the actions that are required -- asked for -- of the parties in the roadmap, one of which, very early on, is stopping terrorism, stopping support for terrorism, stopping activities of terrorists.
Second of all, is to really look at what are the interests of the Palestinian people. They have wanted to create the institutions of government. They have wanted to have the opportunity to govern themselves, and they have wanted to create a Palestinian state. It's the responsibility of government to figure out how to do that. The way to do that is not through violence, it's not through further bombings, it's not through allowing separate armed groups to contend with the state for power. It's through negotiation, it's through establishing responsibility for your own security, and for the security of the areas that you control. And that's really what we think the objective facts are, and where we think any Palestinian government needs to concentrate.
QUESTION: Are we having meetings with him, as he is now named and forming a cabinet? And is it so that Ambassador Wolf is planning on being away from the region for several weeks?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specifics on Ambassador Wolf's plans. We've certainly been in close touch with the Palestinians all along. I think we've made clear that our people at the Consulate General in Jerusalem have met with Ahmed Qureia several times along the way. We've kept in touch with Palestinians from various groups in society, and we always seek to use our influence to move forward on action against terrorism and to understand what's going on.
The Secretary spoke with the acting Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath on Sunday, talked to him about the status of the government, reiterated to him the need for action against terrorism and action to move forward.
We have also had meetings in the region. Our Consul General in Jerusalem had a meeting today, in fact, with Ahmed Qureia on the ground to encourage strong Palestinian commitment to the objectives of the roadmap, including consolidation of the security forces and clear, unambiguous action against terrorism and violence. As we've said before, as I've said before, it's in Palestinian interest to move forward with the objectives as quickly as possible.
As far as this new government goes, I think the issue for us is performance. It's critical that the Palestinians move quickly on the objectives of the roadmap to end terror and violence, that they build the strong Palestinian institutions in preparation for statehood, institutions that don't depend on a single person or a single government, but that draw from the skills and knowledge that exist within Palestinian society. This is about achieving the goals that Palestinians all share.
QUESTION: Richard, how can you move forward if they're saying -- if Qureia is saying straight off the top that he won't move against the militant groups?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I haven't seen that specific statement. But if there's not action to end the terrorism, we can't expect much progress. We've made that abundantly clear again and again.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that Wolf is not in the region, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Wolf is not in the region right now, but I don't have any particular travel plans for him.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me go back a little more. Adi.
QUESTION: In reference to Syria, one of the criticisms from the State Department and other Administration offices has been that they haven't done that much to shut down the actual offices of these terrorist groups. And Secretary Powell was out there and he received some assurances, but they haven't really gone through. What has been done in the last -- in the recent past on the part of the Syrians? Have they made any progress along those lines -- those offices --
MR. BOUCHER: I think as we've described it before, there was limited and insufficient progress in that regard. I think we did see the offices per se to be either shut or maybe have signs taken off, but it seemed to us that many of the operations, the people and the activities continued in Syria; and therefore, that was not a satisfactory answer to the question of choking off the activities of these groups that have been supporting violence against Israelis and violence against the Palestinian cause, as well.
QUESTION: Today the, or just over the weekend, the Syrian Government released a gentleman named Maher Arar, who -- a dual Syrian-Canadian citizen who was picked up in Kennedy Airport and deported to Syria one year ago, finally. Do you have comments on this incident?
And also, what do you say to people who have citizenship in Canada who are from other -- you know, from Arab countries who feel somewhat dissuaded from traveling through the U.S. because of looking at place of birth as opposed to citizenship?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that this gentleman was released, so I don't have any comment at this point. I'll have to look into that.
As far as the issue of citizenship and the deportation involved, we dealt with that at the time and I think our comments still stand. There's no -- there's no general answer to the question, but we and the Canadians are both responsible for maintaining security in the sort of North American space that we occupy and we try to work together on all these matters.
QUESTION: When Abu Mazen took office, you were enthusiastic and you embarked on a fairly active stage in your diplomacy, even before he took any actions. This appears to be a different attitude towards Abu Alaa. Are you saying that --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, he is --
QUESTION: -- you're not really intending to do very much until he independently takes action to crack down on these militant groups?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that, did I?
QUESTION: No. I'm asking you.
MR. BOUCHER: So I'm not saying it. And I'm not going to say it.
QUESTION: Well, you came close to saying that, didn't you?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't come close to saying that.
QUESTION: Okay, so what -- okay, fine. Explain what you're going to do, then.
MR. BOUCHER: The -- I mean, first of all, let's remember what kind of comparison you're trying to make. Abu Alaa has just been named, Ahmed Qureia has just been named head as head of an emergency government. It hasn't come about in quite the same way. We'll see what he says. But Mr. Abbas, Prime Minister Abbas, was named and made a fairly significant speech that -- at the same time to the Palestinian Legislative Council, and laid out his government program, laid out his intentions, named a number of the reformers who have carried out the important work that that government did achieve.
And so we will see how this government evolves. We'll see what kind of commitments and statements they make. We'll see what kind of action they take. Certainly, we are at a moment now where we see the need for action, and that's what we have stressed over and over. That's what the Secretary stressed to the acting Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath over the weekend -- that we are at a juncture where it's -- there need to be action and --
QUESTION: Action on their part?
MR. BOUCHER: On the part of the Palestinians against terrorism, yeah.
QUESTION: Right. Do you have any particular views on the new Interior Minister Mr. Nasser Youssef?
MR. BOUCHER: No. We're no commenting on individuals or personalities. We're trying to say that it's performance that counts.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Another subject?
QUESTION: Can we go back to Syria for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: No? We've got two more, three more, four more, five more on this.
QUESTION: Mr. -- in the meeting at the Syrian Foreign Ministry this morning you said that Mr. -- chargé Cretz "expressed our views right back." Does that mean -- do you take a position, or have you taken a position on whether the Israeli action was legitimate self-defense or was the target legitimate? Or do you stop short of that and say only that the attack over the weekend in Haifa was not -- was a murder of innocents?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, if you look at what the President said this morning and what others have said over the weekend that we have said that Israel has a right to defend itself, and that this -- that we would -- that we would see this action in that way. But we've also said they need to consider the consequences of actions and avoid actions that might escalate tensions.
So our view, though, as far as what we expressed to Syria, is that, as with others, Syria needs to avoid actions that might heighten tensions, but also that Syria's been a state sponsor of terrorism and needs to end any kind of support, needs to stop the activities of terrorist groups.
QUESTION: And then that's what was expressed from the U.S. side this morning in Damascus?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what was expressed, yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, you went over the types of activities that are going on in Syria to which you object, and my notes aren't clear of what you said. Could you go over that again? Exactly what is it that the -- is going on inside Syria concerning the Palestinians?
MR. BOUCHER: If you want a more formal list than the one I did off the top of my head, let's all go look at the, I think, the Patterns of Global Terrorism. The summary is Syrian support for terrorist groups, including Palestinian groups that are engaged in planning and directing terrorist action against Israel from Syrian territory. That's where we think Syria needs to take action to stop that kind of activity.
QUESTION: Have you asked the Israelis, despite your sympathy for their position -- did you ask them not to carry out more strikes of this kind?
MR. BOUCHER: We said to them, as we've said to others, they need to avoid actions that might heighten tensions at this point.
QUESTION: Legitimate action heightens tension?
MR. BOUCHER: We've said they will need to avoid actions that might heighten tension at this moment. I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Richard, this restaurant in Haifa, it was targeted, unfortunately, it had both an Arab as well as an Israeli owner, and apparently some of those that died were also Arabs in that particular restaurant. But are you hearing feedback from any of the countries in the region, and do you think that a separate resolution, specifically for terrorism, needs to come to the Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as some kind of separate resolution, I'm not in a position to play around with different scenarios here. We'll see what is presented to the Council, and make our decisions accordingly.
As far as the nature of the restaurant in the attack, we've obviously seen those reports and it goes to what I was saying before, that these bombs, these attacks, are attacks against innocent people -- Israelis and often Palestinians alike. And they're designed to sabotage the hopes and dreams and aspirations of the Palestinian people who are trying to achieve a state, to create the institutions of a state and take the responsibility that's being denied by the bombers.
Okay, we had some back there. On this subject? Sir.
QUESTION: Yes. In condoning the Israeli attack on Syria, are you not concerned that this will lead to an escalation of violence in the region?
MR. BOUCHER: I have said that we want people to avoid any actions that could escalate violence or heighten tension in the region. That's been the position we've expressed to everybody. I haven't exactly tried to characterize this Israeli attack.
QUESTION: What's your position on the Syria Accountability Act, the second time around?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure we've taken a position on that at this point. I'll have to double-check and see if there's anything new.
QUESTION: Syria presented in the past two resolutions to the Security Council, one of them that deals with terrorism, international terrorism, and how to stop it, and how to define it first. And the second one has to do with the mass destruction, weapons of mass destruction, that Syria suggested that to make the Middle East free of all the weapons of mass destruction. These two resolutions, are they going to have a more serious look, maybe by this Administration, at the heel of these events now that we are witnessing these days? Is there more need for these --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that those res -- I think those matters have been handled by the Security Council in the past, but I don't know that there -- these resolutions are presently before the Council, so I wouldn't take a hypothetical position on a resolution that's not -- that's not before the Council at this point.
QUESTION: May we go to Iraq? Is that okay?
MR. BOUCHER: This gentleman gets to change the subject first, but Matt has one more on this.
QUESTION: Just let me -- you've been asked this before, and have just referred back to your previous positions, but I'm wondering if you have any comment on the actual Syria's membership on the Council, and whether they are upholding the standards to which you urged them to uphold when they took their seat last year. The Israeli ambassador had some pretty strong things to say on this yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. We, for our part, have not tried to offer ongoing commentary on how people are doing on the Council. But we have reiterated, again and again, there is a responsibility that comes from that, a responsibility for international peace and security, and we hope that everyone on the Council will take actions in that regard to uphold international peace and security, and above all, to uphold UN resolutions and UN Security Council resolutions.
QUESTION: So you're not prepared to join the Israeli criticism that the Syrians, in fact --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any sort of judgments to make at this moment.
Adi, on this?
QUESTION: Yes. Have you noticed any recent drop-off in foreign incursion into Iraq from Syria?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have anything on that. You might check with the military, who probably watch it more closely than I do.
All right. We're going to change subjects.
QUESTION: Turkish Government has already sent a proposal to Turkish parliament to send troops to Iraq. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: We welcome the decision by the Turkish Government. Turkey has an important role to play in stabilizing Iraq. We continue our discussions with Turkish authorities on the details of possible deployment, if parliament endorses the government's request.
Okay, behind you. Sir.
QUESTION: I understand that Bremer said something last week about asking Kuwait and some other people to forego any more compensation from Iraqi Oil-for-Food, and so forth, for the 1990-91 damages. And the question is: What's the State Department's view on this, and could you comment on this?
MR. BOUCHER: These -- we recognize these obligations remain important, but we've also had some conversations on this. I'll get you a more formal view than that, if I can, at this point.
QUESTION: Well, can we talk about the decision to open this new office under Condi Rice, the overhaul of the Iraq and Afghan missions?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's not exactly an office. It's more a committee structure. But, yeah.
QUESTION: A "structure," whatever the bureaucratic word is going to be. And, especially, the unnamed officials, including those in the Administration, saying that this is an acknowledgement that the plan, up till now, has not been working.
MR. BOUCHER: As you might expect, I don't agree. The Administration has had a great many matters that we have been able to move forward on. And in a variety of ways, we're seeing Iraqis take responsibility for their own affairs.
We've been supporting them in many ways, as schools have started again, as electricity production has expanded -- and I think we hit the figure of 4400 megawatts last Friday, for the first time, that's one of the key indicators of progress -- that tens of thousands of Iraqi policemen on the streets, village councils, governing councils, town councils operating throughout the country, and a structure of ministers now taking more and more responsibility.
So I think the achievements are undeniable. As we move forward, particularly with a supplemental, with the $20 billion that we have asked for from Congress, there is going to be a lot to do, there is going to be a lot more coordination needed, and I think it's appropriate at this time that the Administration put together the structures that can do that.
We already participate in a variety of working level and capital level coordination mechanisms with other agencies, as we work on Iraq, and we welcome this additional coordination. We'll participate actively. And we think that the whole process will benefit, especially as we go forward with more resources, more efforts and a broader set of activities. We'll all benefit from working together more closely.
QUESTION: Was State consulted on this, or just informed it would happen?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we were consulted that Dr. Rice would talk to all of the principals before she'd come out with a memo, but it's her decision to establish that.
QUESTION: And the State Department supported this?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, absolutely, yeah.
QUESTION: On this, but leaving aside the question of Iraq for a moment, can you explain what the setup is going to be, how Ambassador-designate or Ambassador nominee, Khalilzad, is going to create his little alternate universe in Kabul, as alongside, as I understand it, there is going to be basically two embassies in Kabul -- one operated by the State Department and one operated by, nominally, you know, under his control, but that he is going to have his own team, that he's been on the prowl hiring perhaps as many as a dozen experts to assist him in what will be in a separate facility and report to the National Security Council and not to the State Department.
Can you explain how that's going to fit in with --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me, first, check and see if your description is accurate. Second of all, I would note that all ambassadors report to the President, that he is their -- they are envoys of the President, and they report through the Assistant Secretary and Secretary of State.
MR. BOUCHER: But they all have that ultimate responsibility.
QUESTION: The way it appears is that he is going to be bypassing that directly.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, before we draw conclusions, let's see if there is anything specific at this moment.
QUESTION: So you're not aware of what the structure of the --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of the organization chart of the embassy there.
QUESTION: Interesting. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Now, don't ever take my lack of knowledge to be interesting or indicative of anything. It could just be --
QUESTION: Well, I just know it's been a subject of concern for quite some time since --
MR. BOUCHER: It could just be something that hasn't come over my side of the building yet. Don't assume anything because I don't know.
QUESTION: Yeah, this is Nayyar Zaidi. I would just -- he used the term "two embassies" and you did not address that. Is there to be two embassies?
MR. BOUCHER: He used the term and I said I have no idea, and before we start drawing conclusions, let us find out the facts. And I'll try to get --
QUESTION: I am relying on hearsay.
MR. BOUCHER: I know. Let's not rely on hearsay. I try not to do it.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, do you have anything to say about the agreement for Serbian troops to go to Afghanistan, especially given their history in Kosovo and possible sensitivities?
MR. BOUCHER: No, nothing particular. These things are worked out with our military, they worked out with the countries involved, and we think they can make a contribution.
QUESTION: And you don't have any views on the possible appointment of Mr. Radosavljevic, who is a head of the Gendarmerie special police forces who played a controversial role in Kosovo?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything at this moment, no.
QUESTION: Richard, last week or week before, there were problems in Iraq with Sunni and Shiite, and this morning a Sunni politician was gunned down in Pakistan. Do you foresee further problems, a religious war erupting, as well as troubles again with the warlords?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate on the differences and possible problems between Sunni and Shia. I think there are abundant history books about it, but I'm not going to speculate on how it applies at this moment.
Okay, are we still in this region?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, one more.
QUESTION: I just want to get an update, if there is one, on your efforts up at the UN. Have you -- you're hearing -- you're expecting to hear back from capitals at the meeting this afternoon?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: What -- is there any other movement on the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: Security Council consultations are scheduled for this afternoon in New York at 3:30. They're in closed session. The Secretary has been in touch with a number of his foreign minister colleagues over the weekend, including Spanish Foreign Minister Palacio, British Foreign Minister Straw, and on Friday he also talked to Mexican Foreign Minister Derbez, Canadian Foreign Minister Graham, and I think I mentioned the Netherlands Foreign Minister back then. I don't know if I noted before, but after the bombing in Haifa he also talked to Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom, if I had not made that clear.
So the Secretary has been in touch with foreign minister colleagues. I think he was talking to Foreign Minister Ivanov about the time I was coming out here. The Secretary and Ambassador Negroponte will continue their discussions also with Secretary General Annan.
At this point, other Council members have had a chance to consult with their capitals on the text that we circulated last week. We look forward, as the Secretary has said, to receiving specific suggestions from others, and we'll see what we get at the meeting this afternoon from other countries.
QUESTION: As far as you know, you haven't received any of these specifics? You're expecting to get the specifics -- the suggestions, if people have them -- this afternoon?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've heard some ideas in more or less detail from various counterparts that we've talked to, but many of them I think we expect to hear from this afternoon. So -- okay.
QUESTION: So after that you'll have the -- the process of internal consultation will resume on their suggestions?
MR. BOUCHER: At that point, we'll consider what they've said, we'll keep talking to people, and we'll decide how to move forward.
QUESTION: What about this convergence, then? Any more convergence?
MR. BOUCHER: Any more convergence? Let's answer that after we have some more discussions.
QUESTION: And just --
MR. BOUCHER: There are other people with questions. Second row.
QUESTION: Are you willing to change the text of the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not put the text in blue, which would mean sort of putting it down as this is the thing to vote on. On the other hand, we think we've made considerable steps forward in terms of offering the kind of political horizon that people have asked for, the kind of linkage between the multilateral -- multinational force and the political process, making clear that the process is temporary and progressive, to transfer more and more authority to the Iraqis.
So it'll be depend on the kind of suggestions we get. If they contribute to the kind of progress that we're looking for in Iraq, if they contribute to defining further the role of the United Nations or how the process can work, it may be that there are suggestions that we can take into account.
QUESTION: -- so it's -- you're not giving it to them as a "take it or leave it?"
MR. BOUCHER: We're not quite at that point yet. On the other hand, it's not a free for all.
QUESTION: Do I dare I re-ask the co-sponsor question?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new at this point. That would become more formal when the resolution becomes more formal.
QUESTION: But you still are under the impression that there will be people who will co-sponsor?
MR. BOUCHER: We have talked to other governments about co-sponsoring, yeah.
QUESTION: And --
QUESTION: Has anybody come up with an alternative resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any alternatives at this point.
George had one? No?
Well, let's go to some of the folks in the back.
QUESTION: In northern Iraq, today in Zaho area, with the Kurdish forces, the security this area, they attacked eight-truck convoy and they captured drivers which they -- returning from the Baghdad. These trucks and the drivers was the Turkish. Do you have any information on this?
MR. BOUCHER: These are Turkish trucks?
MR. BOUCHER: And who were they attacked by?
QUESTION: No one knows that.
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have anything on that. You'd have to check with the military folks, I think.
QUESTION: And also, did you reach any agreement with Turkey about the KADEK/PKK discussions in Ankara?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. We had very good discussions last week. Ambassador Cofer Black was out there with a team.
We and Turkey certainly agree that northern Iraq, that Iraq as a whole, is no place for terrorists, as the President has said. And the PKK/KADEK is a terrorist group that's on our list.
Last week in those discussions, we worked out an action plan with the Turkish Government to, shall we say, subdue the terrorist threat that might exist in this area. This will involve all the elements of state power, law enforcement, security, finance, and directed with both of us taking all the steps that we can.
We would also note that we welcome the Turkish effort at reintegration of former terrorists into society. So we'll continue to work with the Turks as we carry out the action plan that we agreed on last week.
QUESTION: Did you accept the Turkish offer with the joint operation against the PKK?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we worked out an action plan that describes the kind of things that we can do, but I won't have any more detail about military aspects at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, will that -- when does that plan go into operation?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's agreed and we're starting to work it.
QUESTION: Does it involve joint military operations or something?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, it involves all the elements of state power.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: What's U.S. Administration reaction to the elections in Chechnya? And I'm wondering whether you're going to call on Moscow to hold talks with Aslan Maskhadov.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Let me do the reaction to the election.
The United States has long urged a political settlement to the tragic conflict in Chechnya. When the constitutional referendum was held in March, we believe that the referendum and the autumn Chechnya elections could be useful steps toward such a political settlement.
Unfortunately, the presidential election that took place yesterday and the political process that led up to it fell short of the potential for producing a positive democratic outcome. The exit of all viable challengers to Akmad Kadyrov's candidacy and the overt control of Chechen media by pro-Kadyrov forces prior to election day lead us to conclude that the election did not meet international standards for fair and free elections. We're disappointed by this missed opportunity.
President Bush raised his concern about the Chechnya elections in his Camp David meetings with President Putin about ten days ago. Given these problems, it's unclear whether the election will have sufficient credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Chechnya to advance the settlement process. Nevertheless, we continue to hope that the people of Chechnya and their leaders at all levels, working with Russian officials, will find ways to end terrorism and human rights abuses, punish those who have committed such abuses, resolve the conflict and establish a more normal life based on democratic principles.
QUESTION: Have you made clear these -- your rather harsh comments about this election -- have you made them in person or by phone to Russian officials, or are they hearing them for the first time here, right now? I know that there have been public comments before the election --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I'll have to double-check and see what contacts there have been. I'm sorry. I have to check.
QUESTION: Because, as you know, some rather mild comments by Assistant Secretary Pifer -- or Deputy Assistant Secretary Pifer up on the Hill about two or three weeks ago raised a real firestorm in Moscow. Are you prepared for the -- for their reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: -- my question is, have there been any meetings or phone calls, except -- you said Secretary Powell's on the phone with Ivanov now, or was when you --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I don't know if they're talking about Chechnya. They certainly have an abundance of things to talk about, with regard to the Iraq resolution, with regard to working together in the Middle East, so I'm not quite sure if this subject will be raised in that channel or not.
QUESTION: So this isn't a priority for him?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's a serious priority. It's a view that we have. It's a view that we make and put to the Russians. I'm just not sure it's an issue that we can work today.
MR. BOUCHER: Without going into individuals, I would say that we have said, as I have said today, that the people of Chechnya, on both sides, needs to work with the Russians to resolve this conflict peacefully and politically, because that's the only way a satisfactory solution will be found. We've long said there's no military answer to this problem.
QUESTION: On Venezuela?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Assistant Secretary Roger Noriega said on Saturday in Miami that the U.S. Department is considering that what happened with the TV Channel Globovision in Venezuela in the frame of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. What is the meaning of that?
And my second question is, the comments of President Chavez on the weekend could have or will have any incidence in the U.S. participation on the OAS summit that will take place in Venezuela this week?
MR. BOUCHER: On the issue of Globovision, I think you asked what's the import of the comments, that -- I think, first we join the Organization of American States Secretary General Cesar Gaviria in urging the parties to resolve the matter expeditiously within the framework of Venezuelan law. We also look for them to put it -- to resolve the matter in a manner that does not put into question respect for freedom of expression or free press, which are also fundamental to the OAS.
Freedom of press is an essential element of democracy. We would view with serious concern any attempt by the government to coerce or silence a legitimate media organization. And we urge the Venezuelan Government and the opposition to honor the commitments that they have made under the February 2003 nonviolence pledge to refrain from provocative or violent acts, and to tolerate political differences. So that's our basic view of that seizure.
As far as the comments of President Chavez over the weekend, I don't have any particular comment at this moment.
QUESTION: Could you confirm that the U.S. delegation is going to participate in the OAS summit in Venezuela on poverty, equity and social justice in the frame of democracy?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to -- I'll have to see what we've got on that at this point.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Can I ask one on Burma? I don't want to make too much out of this, but it leaped out at me. Deputy Assistant Secretary Daley last week, in House testimony on the situation in Burma, said that we are -- is turning to the subject of North Korea -- he says, "We are mindful that North Korea has a proclivity for ignoring international norms and concerns for regional stability in its effort to sell arms, including missile systems. An extra measure of concern thus attaches to transactions that involve North Korea. Burma is fully aware of these concerns."
Is there a missile concern with Burma or a weapons of mass destruction concern with Burma?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to check on that. Sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: The Ambassador of Greece complained, as I understand, to the State Department. He complained because you included 17 November on the list of the terrorist organizations.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we dealt with answer to that question last week. We can get you the answer.
QUESTION: But can you confirm that he complained?
MR. BOUCHER: No, you'd have to ask the Greeks if they've complained. We've given you our position on November 17th, and the fact that organizations need to be -- we need to know for sure that they've ended their activity. And it's generally a period of about two years that we look for. The trial of November 17th is still going on, I think.
QUESTION: Richard, on that, though. You know, it was a bit different last -- I mean, it was this morning the Greek Foreign Ministry said that your good friend, Foreign Minister Papandreou, had sent a formal complaint to this building, presumably to the Secretary, about the inclusion, and that it was being raised in Athens and here at lower levels. Are you not aware of such a communication?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see if we have any kind of reply at this point. But as far as whether the Greeks have complained, I think the Greeks would have to confirm that.
QUESTION: Well, they say they're complaining. I know that. But you're not aware -- you don't know if one is --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any response at this point.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) South Korea, Chosun Ilbo, Korean newspaper writes a story about the reconstruction. North Korea resume this year construction of the 50,000-kilowatt nuclear reactor. Can you say anything on that?
In Yongbyon, North Korea.
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Nuclear reactor, nothing?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. No.
QUESTION: Yes, today to Turkish Government they sent a letter to parliament, Turkish parliament to getting to some permission for the sending troop to Iraq. Do you have --
MR. BOUCHER: We talked about that about 20 minutes ago, I think.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe 25.
QUESTION: Richard, the South Korean consulate in Beijing is closing because it's housing North Korean refugees. Have we been asked to intercede between South Korea and the Chinese to mitigate that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've been involved in that situation. I think you'd have to ask the countries involved first.
QUESTION: Iran seems to be providing a bit more information to the IAEA. They've given them a list of components that they've needed -- that they've brought in for enriching uranium. Anything on that? Any reaction to early signs they may be trying to get out of being referred to the Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that what's going to be important to us is that Iran respond fully and comply fully with all the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Board of Directors was quite specific in the long list of questions that they needed to answer and actions that they needed to take, including by signing and then implementing the agreed, the Additional Protocols. So we certainly look to Iran to do all of that, and wouldn't have any comment if some partial effort had been made.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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