State Department Noon Briefing, October 10, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2003
12:30 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have three announcements I'd like to make at the top: the first is the Secretary's travel; the second is on the anniversary of the Bali bombing; and the third is about the Nobel Peace Prize.
QUESTION: Why don't you do the travel last?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. I'll do the travel last. First is about the Bali bombing. October 12th will mark the one-year anniversary of the terrorist bombings in Bali, Indonesia. This tragedy took the lives of over 200 civilians, mostly from Indonesia and Australia, and including also seven Americans. It is with great sadness that the United States marks this anniversary. We express our support and our solidarity with the peoples of Indonesia and Australia, and with the families from all the countries who lost loved ones in this terrible act.
The peoples and governments of both countries have responded to these horrendous acts with a determined effort to work together, and with others in the international community to fight the scourge of terrorism. We commend the efforts and the leadership of both governments during this difficult year, and we pledge to work with these countries to defeat the forces of tyranny and fear.
Let me move on to the Nobel Peace Prize. The United States applauds the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Iranian democracy and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, who has tirelessly worked on behalf of all Iranians, with a focus on the rights of women and children.
Ms. Shirin is both the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to win the peace prize in its 102-year history. We fully support the aspirations of the Iranian people to live in freedom, and hope the call for democracy will be heard and transform Iran into a force for stability in the region.
And, finally, travel, and then we can take questions on these or other topics.
Secretary of State Colin Powell will travel to Asia and Europe from October 16 to October 24th, 2003. He will first go to Bangkok, Thailand, where he will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting before joining the President's party.
The Secretary will continue on to Madrid, Spain, to lead the U.S. delegation, together with Secretary Snow to the International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq that will be held in Madrid from October 23rd to 24th.
So that's what I have for you at this juncture, and be glad to take your questions about this or other topics.
QUESTION: What can you say about intermediate stops?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing at this point. The final details of the schedule are still being worked.
QUESTION: But will there be one?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, final details being worked. I can't promise any particular stop or stops.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, the Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul yesterday, in Antalya, Turkey, reached an agreement to cancel for unlimited period of time all the military exercises in the Aegean Sea and over the Republic of Cyprus.
Do you have anything on that since your government is up to the neck to defuse the tension between the two countries?
MR. BOUCHER: Up to the neck?
QUESTION: Yes, you are involved, of course.
MR. BOUCHER: We are, absolutely.
QUESTION: Please don't do this.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't disagree with that. I've been up to my neck in these things, too.
QUESTION: You're involved.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Yes, this is a good thing. We welcome the announcements by the Turkish, Greek and the Cypriot governments canceling the annual fall military exercises on Cyprus. We think the decision contributes to building a positive atmosphere for reaching a comprehensive Cyprus settlement and stability in the Aegean region.
QUESTION: Do you know, since Mr. Papandreou met with your Ambassador Tom Miller prior to (inaudible) the passage to Antalya, Turkey, and since he was here a couple for a couple of days, did he bring any message on behalf of the government to Mr. Papandreou for this specific agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always encouraged all the parties to forego these military exercises. As you know, they've done that in previous years, so I think the Ambassador, as well as the Foreign Minister, have been well familiar with our position.
But really, we see this as having come about because of the kind of mutual trust that's been established between Turkey and Greece over the past few years, and the foreign ministers on both sides have a lot to do with that.
QUESTION: On another subject. The European Commission says that it has worked out details of this fund that they're interested in setting up for Iraq that would not be under U.S. control. Do you know -- did you hear about this? Or do you know about the --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard about that. There is a -- there's been a lot of talk about a trust fund. The whole donor group's been working on this --
QUESTION: Right. They say that --
MR. BOUCHER: -- ever since last June, when I think the UNDP and the donors talked about it.
QUESTION: They say they're ready to announce it in detail next week, on October 14th. And I just wondered, does the U.S. feel that this is some lack of trust in the way that the coalition spends the money? Is it any sort of slap at the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: No, this is something we've supported. This is an idea that we were part of right from the beginning. It's a mechanism that works in Afghanistan, that there is a trust fund of some sort that's operated in conjunction with the multilateral banks that's available for donors who want to give money who, for one reason or another, whether it's capability, logistics or other considerations, want to give money to help people but don't necessarily want to give it to one entity or another. And in Afghanistan there was such a trust fund. It works with the government, with the donor community, and we would expect the same thing in Iraq.
There need to be a variety of ways of helping the Iraqi people; their own money and money from some other sources is going into the Iraqi Development Fund. This trust fund is being set up. There will be donors who want to run their own programs. There will be donors who want to work through the United Nations, as well as, you know, all the other forms of support and investment. So we just see this as one of the vehicles, and we've worked with other donors on setting up such a trust fund so that people have different ways of giving money.
QUESTION: And would this be compiled in the same -- in the same totals that you get from your donors conference -- from the donors conference, I should say?
MR. BOUCHER: The contributions into this fund would be. They'd get counted depending on who's contributing. The channels for the money get sorted out by the coordinators who, you know, spend it, but you don't count this -- you don't double-count a country giving X amount and X amount in the fund. You only count it once.
QUESTION: Right, and would the Europeans conceivably only give to this trust fund, or would that be a decision worked out by --
MR. BOUCHER: It'll be up to the Europeans how they give. And as you know, there's some aid that comes out of them as a collective body, there's other aid that comes out bilaterally. So some countries, some governments, may decide to run their own bilateral programs or channel it in some other way. So I don't know that it will be one way or the other. It may be a mix.
QUESTION: Richard, for the third time asking, can you fill us in on the process of setting up the International Advisory and Monitoring Group for the Iraq Development Fund?
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't we put up an answer on that?
MR. CASEY: (Off mike.) I don't believe so. It (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: Oh. The process is underway. Not concluded yet, but underway, and we're working with other donors on it, and I think we're into the final stages.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how much money is being spent from the fund without the existence of the group?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't do that right now. I'd have to have the people out there who -- money being spent --
QUESTION: But has money been spent from it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. That's a Baghdad question, not a Washington one. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Speaking of updating in Iraq, could you update us on the UN and the status of the resolution, and whether you're still thinking, rethinking, taking off the table, putting on the table, whatever?
MR. BOUCHER: We're still thinking. We're not rethinking. We're still thinking and looking at the resolution, looking at how to get a resolution that supports the Iraqi people. We've been in touch with other countries. We've been in touch with -- obviously discussing this within the Administration as well, looking at how we can gain additional support for the resolution, and with a view to getting a good resolution. So, we're still working it, I guess, is the simple answer.
The Secretary has, of course, continued to make his phone calls in addition, I think, to some of the ones I talked about yesterday. I don't know, I think I did mention the Secretary General because I misspoke his title. We talked to him twice yesterday, talked to Italian Foreign Minister Frattini yesterday. This morning, he's already talked to Foreign Secretary Derbez of Mexico and Foreign Secretary Straw of the UK. So he's continued to keep in touch with foreign counterparts as we've looked at what we can do to enhance support, further support for the resolution.
QUESTION: Is there more specific language that's being discussed, either over the phone or in New York? Or is it not in specific language levels yet?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure some people have specific language in mind, but, well, I'd just say that, you know, we're working on specific language changes that might be made, but we don't have anything at this point to share.
QUESTION: Would you -- taking a hypothetical notion that there were no resolution, would that affect where the money from the donors conference would go?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, I don't answer hypothetical questions. But no, I don't see how it would. It might affect the individual decisions of some countries, but this resolution doesn't change the structures that have been established or that are being worked on, pursuant to Resolution 1483.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up to what you said, "We don't have anything at this point to share." You didn't mean to share with us; you meant you don't have anything to share with the people you're talking about in specific language.
MR. BOUCHER: I meant to share with you, actually.
QUESTION: So you are sharing language with others?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'd quite go that far. We're discussing the resolution with others. And I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: One of the key points with Turkey this week is the fact that --
QUESTION: Can we stay on the resolution?
QUESTION: No, it's related to the resolution -- was the fact that they made a decision to send an unspecified number of troops to Iraq without this resolution, you know, they -- some countries regard this resolution as diplomatic cover. Are there any other countries out there that you are aware of that will be willing to provide troops, troop forces to be sent into Iraq, without a resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: Did you ask me the same question yesterday?
QUESTION: No, I was not here yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh. Somebody did. It's not -- it's too defined a question. There are some countries that have said that they're looking for more endorsement for the kind of request that could be made in a UN resolution. I'm not aware that any country has said, "If it passes, I will come." But there are certainly countries who have said this would be helpful as we consider it and as we work out political decision-making process.
Second of all, there's, we think, an impetus provided by the resolution to help the financial contributions in the Madrid meeting. So that's another reason why we think it's still good to get a resolution if it's the right one.
And third, there are certain aspects of international financial institution contributions that can be assisted, can be facilitated, by the existence of a UN resolution.
So there are a number of reasons, practical reasons, for doing this. But the real reason, the bigger reason for getting the resolution, is that it lays out for everybody, including the Iraqi people, the kind of transition process, the kind of process that is underway and that will be completed and how it's going to work, so that they can have full control of their nation. And it makes that very clear to everybody.
QUESTION: So, really, you say that you're still deciding which way to proceed, and if you don't -- so, if you don't get a resolution before the Madrid conference, does that mean that you could still possibly seek it after the conference? And if you decide not to go with a resolution, does that mean that the type of UN role, or the type of transition that you've been spelling out in the text that a lot of us have seen -- does that mean that you will not do those things? I mean, is it just a factor of getting international support or is this still how you intend to proceed, with our without a resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I know I shouldn't have answered a question that has one "if" in it, and now I have to answer a question with two "ifs." Nonetheless, I want to make the point we don't respond to hypotheticals.
I suppose all of the options are available, as far as how we pursue this resolution. And as we look at the possible changes, as we look at reactions and support from other countries, we'll decide on a course of action. We certainly believe it would be useful and beneficial to have a resolution before Madrid, but I suppose other options are also there.
As far as what the UN role would be, absent a new resolution, I suppose one could say that remains to be seen. But I'd also point out that under Resolution 1483, the Secretary General's Special Representative, Mr. de Mello, who very sadly died, was working in Iraq with UN agencies, with the political process, and played quite an extensive and constructive role.
So, I am not sure there will be a clearer demarcation. But this resolution certainly does enhance and define and support an expanded role for the United Nations, and those countries that want an expanded role for the United Nations can find the way to support that with this resolution.
QUESTION: I just wanted to check with you, whether in the last 24 hours any of those countries have mentioned to you the possibility of delaying the Madrid conference, as was rumored yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't check this one every 24 hours. All the people I talked to yesterday, quite clear that nobody has asked us to delay it. We're still working on the Madrid conference, on the dates. I just announced the Secretary of State will be in Madrid for the conference, October 23d and 24th. So I have no reason to think that there is any discussion of postponing this.
QUESTION: Okay. And can you fill us in on the -- your latest contacts with the Turks on the troop deployment? You had some contacts yesterday in Ankara.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a readout of that. I'll see if we can get something from the Embassy, or maybe the Embassy has done something already.
QUESTION: If you don't get a resolution, wouldn't the Governing Council, in coordination with the CPA, take some steps towards self-rule in advance of the conference to perhaps improve the environment for the conference, and is anything being done in that direction that you're aware of?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we'll take the suggestion on board. But I think you have to recognize that, yes, there is a lot being done that we're aware of. I have talked before about all the things that the ministers are in charge of. We have talked before about the independent judiciary and the new economic, very significant economic legislation that has been worked by the Governing Council and the coalition.
So there is a lot being done, transferring responsibilities to the ministries, and for the Iraqis taking over more and more decision making about their own future. That process, as I have pointed out, will continue. The other thing that's going in parallel is the constitutional preparations. And I haven't checked recently. But there is a Constitutional Preparatory Commission still meeting and discussing among Iraqis how they intend to go about this process.
At this point, I don't know exactly whether they will have, you know, a proposal for the Governing Council before Madrid or not, but that work is certainly well underway, and I think you're quite aware there is a lot of serious issues that they're debating.
QUESTION: Can one assume that there will be lots of Iraqis at the conference in Madrid?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to double check. I know that some are coming. I don't know quite whether I can "lots" yet.
QUESTION: Change the subject? No?
MR. BOUCHER: Teri. Change the subject?
QUESTION: New subject. Go ahead.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, on North Korea. I'm sure you have seen those various reports from a North Korean official in New York and the Chinese Ambassador in New York about the possibility of six-way talks resuming in December. Do you know anything about this? Have they told you anything about this? Is it --?
MR. BOUCHER: We've seen the various press reports. We don't have anything new on dates from the Chinese at this point. As you know, the Chinese are working on setting up a new round. We have made very clear that we hope another round can be arranged in the near future. As I think many of you know from reading your own wire services, the North Koreans have made any number of statements about the who's and when's of these discussions, and I'd just say the Chinese are working on it and we're prepared to go to talks in the near future.
QUESTION: But have you actually asked either of those parties whether there is something afoot on --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's for the Chinese to try to put this together. They're quite aware of our views, and I'm sure they'll be in touch when they have something to propose.
MR. BOUCHER: Teri.
QUESTION: On Cuba. Can you give us any details about what Secretary Powell will be doing in his -- the new responsibilities given him by the President this morning? Like, I don't know, he's probably been doing that all along, but anyway, more officially announced.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, what the President announced was that there will be a Commission for the Assistance to a Free Cuba that will be co-chaired by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. They'll bring in experts from the government. They will look at how the United States can plan for Cuba's transition from the current Stalinist type regime to a more open society, and to look at ways to hasten that day. So it's a commission that can work together with experts from outside and look at, you might say, other things that we can do to make that happen.
QUESTION: Isn't that -- those are some of the things that the State Department looks at all the time.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, but it's always useful to have others -- to work with others and do it in an organized fashion from time to time.
QUESTION: Instead of?
QUESTION: What exactly does that mean, "plan for the transition"? Is this some kind of Future of Cuba project that you're working on?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it would be exactly comparable, no.
QUESTION: I wonder what it would be them. What is it?
MR. BOUCHER: As we said, as the President said, eventually Cuba is going to change from a dictatorship to a democracy. It's a matter of --
QUESTION: Richard --
QUESTION: What does that -- does that mean, "hasten"?
MR. BOUCHER: It means speed up.
QUESTION: Well, what action could we take to hasten it?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what the commission will look at.
QUESTION: Is this post- or pre- transition planning?
MR. BOUCHER: This is transition planning. This is planning on how to encourage that, what steps the U.S. might take to hasten that development, meaning to support the process, the historically inevitable process that is underway, and how we would be able to structure a relationship with a free Cuba.
QUESTION: Would the steps to hasten include military action?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's -- certainly that's not been mentioned by the President.
QUESTION: Because hastening a transition from a Stalinist government is -- you know, it's not done by voting. I mean, I'm not trying to be smart here, but you say, "hasten the transition."
MR. BOUCHER: I 'd have to say just about all the transitions from Stalinist government that I know of have been done without military action. I think that's a fair statement.
QUESTION: Or from outside hastening, weren't they?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, in Eastern Europe, we certainly had a lot to do to support democracy. But in the end, it was the people of Eastern Europe that took back their countries. Right?
QUESTION: There are some reports today that there was -- that the U.S. has information that there was widening of roads and new construction at this camp that the Israelis bombed earlier in the week, and that that's part of the reason that the United States was less critical of Israel bombing this camp than one might expect.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to be able to go into any detail of what we may know about this camp, except to say that it was well-known as a terrorist training facility and that it was in active use at the time of the airstrike.
QUESTION: Do you believe that it was an active use to plan attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not able to go into any more detail on who was using it and what they might have been up to. But it's a terrorist training facility.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any comments on the Israeli move to Southern Gaza, where apparently they've blown up some tunnels, and they were worried about arms smuggling into Gaza, especially shoulder-fired missiles?
MR. BOUCHER: No specific comment. As with all Israeli actions, we'd say Israel has a right to defend itself. They just need to consider the consequences of actions that they take.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary's meeting Carla Del Ponte a little bit later. Do you have any idea what the agenda for that is going to be?
MR. BOUCHER: If I -- at this point, let's, I think, just deal with it in general terms, and we'll try to give you something more specific once they actually have a chance to talk. As you know, they meet periodically. And I certainly expect the Secretary will reaffirm our support for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, express our support for the efforts they are undertaking to bring to justice those most responsible for Syria's violations of international humanitarian law. And then they'll talk about the work and the process of investigation and prosecution that the tribunal has underway.
QUESTION: There's an Israel resolution scheduled for the Security Council on Tuesday. Does the United States plan to veto it?
MR. BOUCHER: There's been a discussion this morning of a Syrian proposal for a resolution that would call the fence illegal. We went to the meeting. Ambassador Negroponte made some points that the resolution is unbalanced. We don't think it's the right approach because it gets immediately into legal issues. This is not a legal argument. This is a question of the effect of the fence on the peace process. And we stated our position, as we have before, that we're against anything that can prejudge the outcome of negotiations, or that results in confiscation of land and other -- creating other problems on the ground.
But at this point, we've expressed serious concerns about this resolution, and there will be, I guess, further discussion on Tuesday.
QUESTION: Is it your expectation that these serious concerns that the United States has expressed will result in changed language, or are these just -- or are they are a prelude to veto?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see. We'll have to see how it turns out with what's presented or not presented on Tuesday.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say that you haven't made a decision yet?
MR. BOUCHER: We can't make a decision until we see the final language.
QUESTION: I mean, but are you making an effort to change the language, or do you not think that the United Nations Security Council should be dealing with this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have expressed strong concerns about the proposal. We, generally, have not supported the idea of new UN resolutions, and I think that would apply to this one, as well.
QUESTION: Well, but the U.S. has been quite public about its objection to the fence.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So why should the United Nations Security Council not take up an issue that you, yourself, have not been able to make much headway with?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess the question is, what's it going to produce?
QUESTION: It's a statement of international --
MR. BOUCHER: What good is it going to do? Certainly, we and others, have been quite clear about our views. But to take up one element of the situation at the United Nations separately from all other things going on, including a series of serious and dangerous terrorist attacks that Israel suffered over time, doesn't strike us as something that will help move the process forward.
QUESTION: Normally, Steve, I guess, would ask this question. But there was a march that was blocked to Aung San Suu Kyi's home, to the end of what's considered the Buddhist period of Lent, and 30 of her party's followers were blocked about a quarter of a mile from her home. And you've been asking that the junta release her, so that she's free to move around the country.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if I need to make a specific comment about that. Obviously, that's consistent with the kind of behavior we've seen from the regime, in terms of preventing diplomats, preventing others, from getting to her home and maintaining her under detention and confinement. So, once again, I remind people the way to move forward on this is for her and her followers to be released, and for them to be allowed to participate in the political process.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, the Greek press is continuing to report that the Valerie Plame was self-funded in U.S. Embassy in Athens as a vice consul in the 1990s. Since it's not an intelligence matter, but a diplomatic one, due to her capacity as a U.S. Vice Consul, could you please verify this and say something about her diplomatic services, taking into also consideration that in that specific period, November 17 terrorist organizations was still active, killing innocent people?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: You are so adamant saying no. Why?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I explained why, yesterday or the day before. I am not going to go into those matters. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: But it's a vice consular. I'm not saying --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. I am not in a position to go into this matter.
QUESTION: It's not that complicated. I'm saying that it's a vice consul, U.S. Vice Consul, in Greece.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. I am not in a position to go into any of those matters.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on what Condi was doing here? Is there a lunch or -?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see her. Is she over here?
QUESTION: My cameraman just saw her.
MR. BOUCHER: Your cameraman just saw her?
QUESTION: Yeah, saw her leaving.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll double-check and get you something.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)
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