State Department Noon Briefing, October 31, 2003
October 31, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2003
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, but I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Let's start, please, if we may, with Korea. How do you, or how does the State Department size up North Korea's apparent willingness? I said apparently because I wonder if there are wrinkles in it that trouble people here, or do you think you have a green light from them?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have a full rundown yet from the Chinese of their discussions on North Korea. So, as I said yesterday, the "apparent," as you say, willingness of North Korea to participate in six-party talks looks like a step in the right direction. We have long felt and held firm to a course that says that six-party talks are the way to resolve the nuclear issues on the Peninsula.
So, we'll look forward to hearing more from the Chinese about their discussions and see if the Chinese have made any progress towards establishing time for another round of talks. And I think we've made clear our willingness to go -- go back to another round of talks at an earlier date.
QUESTION: I know you've proven what the Chinese have been trying to do. But the Chinese, being the translator now for the U.S. with North Korea, aren't -- isn't there a more direct way to find out?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the issue is it's not a translation.
QUESTION: I don't mean translator literally.
MR. BOUCHER: It's a party -- well, there's a difference between just being a facilitator, an intermediator -- intermediary or a translator versus being a party to the talks.
The reason we were looking for six-party talks is because we recognize that the nations of the region and others have a strong interest in the outcome, have a strong interest in a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, and have a strong bearing on North Korea's future vis-à-vis its relations with other countries in the world; and so therefore, we felt it was more important to get everybody with an interest there. And so, what the Chinese are doing is playing out their own interests, their own interests in a denuclearized peninsula --
MR. BOUCHER: -- their own interest in seeing North Korea have a stable and peaceful situation that can lead North Korea to have a different relationship with the rest of the region and the rest of the world, so the Chinese have become the organizers here, but I would say the effort that they're making, that we very much appreciate, is based on China's own interests in the situation.
QUESTION: Right. Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Charlie.
QUESTION: But you're underplaying the U.S. position of being happy with that role, aren't you? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't think I was underplaying it. We appreciate it, we welcome it, we think it's great.
QUESTION: No, but it also serves -- it is -- it obviously coincides with the U.S. interests.
MR. BOUCHER: It coincides with the U.S. desire to see all the people at the table who have a direct and strong interest in the outcome here. And we've made clear that these -- North Korea's nuclear weapons program is not a simple matter between the United States and North Korea. It's a matter that affects all the neighbors and all the world; and so yeah, the kind of role the Chinese have played for their own interests is one that coincides with our view that everybody with strong interest needs to participate and be there.
QUESTION: Change subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Has the State Department handed over all the documents and other records requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee?
MR. BOUCHER: We have cooperated with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. We have been, we think, very responsive to their requests, and we will continue to do everything possible to help the chairman and the vice chairman complete their important review of U.S. intelligence.
Since July, we have received 21 requests from the Committee; six were for briefings or interviews of personnel, and 15 are for documents. We have completed or made arrangements now for all of the interviews or briefings; that's the six interviews or briefings.
We have provided requested documents for 11 of the document requests. Of the four remaining, two requests will be completed today, and in order to complete the remaining two requests, additional resources will be put to the task and documents will be provided on a continuing basis until the review is complete.
QUESTION: And all those interviews and briefings have taken place? You've --
MR. BOUCHER: No, they've either completed or made arrangements for all of them.
QUESTION: Oh. You mean, you have set a date and set a time for all of them, or whatever?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, date and time when they can meet. Yeah.
QUESTION: Have you answered? You said 11 document requests. Have they actually been filled?
MR. BOUCHER: Eleven document requests fulfilled.
MR. BOUCHER: Two more that will be fulfilled by the end of the day, and then two more that we've got to put some more resources on to get them done as soon as we can.
Tammy, something else?
QUESTION: Can I ask about a recent al-Qaida threat? There was an email sent by someone who says that he is an al-Qaida spokesman to Al-Majallah Magazine. Are you familiar with this?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not.
QUESTION: It's -- well, there's a recent threat. This is the same individual who sent an email prior to the Riyadh attacks, warning of them, and then they took place. And this email follows on the recent Bin Laden statement, and it talks about threats to commerce in the Gulf. I guess if you could take the question then about whether this rises to the level of further warnings to Americans, if there's a -- you know, a great concern over this specific threat.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've made clear and we do make clear in our travel warnings that there's still a threat out there from al-Qaida and from other terrorist groups associated with them. The fact that they appear from time to time on TV or on the radio or in e-mails confirms that.
But it's hard, I think, to take any specific television appearance or e-mail and link to any particular attack that's about to occur. I'll check and see if there's any increased vigilance or any particular warnings that have gone out in that area.
QUESTION: On Zarkawi, I'm scratching my head because this, "up to $5 million reward," as far as I know, is not new. Hasn't it been in place for some time now, for a period -- for some time, for a period after the Foley murder where you, where you guys figured out that you thought he was culpable for that?
So I'm trying to figure out what was new yesterday and what was not. The media campaign was new. Is that what's new?
MR. BOUCHER: There are -- yeah, there is a -- I'm sorry. There is this, frankly, a standing reward of up to $5 million, I believe it is, for people -- for information that leads us to people who kill Americans, or who are involved in terrorism, so that is standing. We do decide from time to time to highlight the particular individual, or sometimes to raise a reward amount for a particular individual if we think that can contribute at some stage in the investigation.
So I guess the answer to, "What's new," is that we have identified, you know, sort of specifically singled him out to remind people that this individual is wanted and that we will pay up to $5 million for information that leads to his arrest or capture.
QUESTION: My follow-up is, the media campaign, it started about a year or so. I don't have the exact date of the murder of Mr. Foley. But why is it taking so long?
I mean, you had the Gaza convoy attacked about two weeks ago, and on the same day you had an announcement made on that -- no, no names associated with that, but still, you're having --
MR. BOUCHER: This particular issue comes up from time to time. It really depends on where the people stand in the investigation. Some points in the investigation, they may be collecting information, they may be waiting for some information on involvement to become public.
As you know, there is a trial under way in Jordan of the individuals directly associated with Lawrence Foley's murder. So, at some point in the investigation, the investigators might decide it's time to go out with a slightly larger public campaign for the arrest of other individuals. At other points in the investigation, they may have decided it's better just to continue to do their work a little more quietly.
QUESTION: So are you saying that you received more evidence inculpating him in the murder in the past X period of months, and therefore you're launching this inves -- you're launching this media campaign?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying the investigators decide, for whatever reason they decide, at what time they would think it's important to go a little more public.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? Could you put context on -- put in context then the posting now on the Hebrew University attack, the Gaza convoy?
As Adi is suggesting, are you recycling things or is there something -- is there a new element there, frankly?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, each of these cases gets handled by the investigators, and we're not going to talk about new elements in the investigation --
MR. BOUCHER: -- or status or information. But the investigators that are doing this job look at the situation, decide at some point or other whether it might be appropriate to do a bit more advertising, whether there's information that they don't know yet, that they think can be gotten from general public, or whether, you know, it's more important, you know, they're at the stage of following particular leads that they want to do more quietly.
And that depends in the individual investigation. We've seen, as you've pointed out, in some cases we've felt that there must be people out there who know something, let us go out right away and remind people that this reward's available. In other cases, say, we've gone some period of time before they've decided to advertise.
QUESTION: You know, I don't know. I hope this isn't taken wrong, but when I see these things, I wonder if they don't reflect the fact that there's some loss -- I mean, that the -- there's some -- what am I trying to say? It's a cold trail, that you need outside help.
MR. BOUCHER: I know. Barry, I --
QUESTION: It suggests that, you know --
MR. BOUCHER: I know that occurs to you because every other time that we've done this, you've asked the same question.
QUESTION: Have I? I can't remember that.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, you have. And I'll give you the same answer, and the answer is no. At some points in the investigation, again, they may, they may encounter an issue that they think could be best solved by appealing to the general public, and other times they may not want the suspect to know where they are or how far they may be on his trail. So it really depends on the specific circumstances of a particular investigation. You can't draw any kind of conclusion over the status because of this.
QUESTION: On that. I'm sure you recall that after the Gaza attack, the Palestinians said they had arrested a number of people on suspicion of carrying it out or being involved in it. Does this -- what does this posting imply about your view of that investigation and what information do you have about the status of those people --
MR. BOUCHER: What it implies is nothing, and what information I have is not much, and I'll see if there's any more.
I don't -- again, it's -- I don't think it's going to be for us to comment on or disclose details of somebody else's investigation.
QUESTION: But, I mean, do you know whether those people are still in detention and under investigation or have they been released?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a good question you can ask the Palestinians, not me. I'm not their spokesman.
QUESTION: Can I go to the subject of -- a while back, of warnings, particularly, and ask you if you can elaborate at all on the nature of the threats that were received by the embassy in Berlin to -- apparently, to American children, that prompted the embassy to shut down its day care facility and ask and receive German police, additional German police presence at schools that deal with expatriate and --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I can't elaborate. I'll check and see if there's any more information. But I assume that probably as much as we can say has already been said by our embassy.
QUESTION: Something else?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Is there anything to add to what you said yesterday about what's going on in Moscow? I specifically wondered if the Secretary has been in touch.
Have you raised questions about the rule of law, about human rights, et cetera? Have you received any assurances, clarifications, anything bothering the State Department further since yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think the first -- the first point to note is that the freezing of assets yesterday has indeed raised serious questions about the rule of law in Russia, and we've noted that it sparks concerns among domestic and international investors about respect for ownership rights in Russia.
There was a group, in fact, of such investors yesterday who met -- went to meet with President Putin to discuss the matter. We think the Russian authorities need to dispel concerns that Yukos case is politically motivated. They need to ensure that it is judged fairly and with full regard for due process of law, applied in a non-selective fashion.
We have been in touch with the Russian Government over the past few days and our embassy in Moscow continues to follow the situation very closely.
QUESTION: Do you not have anything to say about the decision to unfreeze portions of these assets today?
MR. BOUCHER: These are decisions that are made by the courts. Obviously, the markets are watching closely and will react to these things. But I --
MR. BOUCHER: The general action -- our general attitude is to follow this stuff very closely and note, particularly, the reaction of investors which matters, in terms of Russia's economic future.
QUESTION: Well, wait, wait, wait. But so, in other words, you don't have any specific -- anything specifically about --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific reaction from here about freezing, unfreezing -- well, freezing, I do. But as these things develop, what we find most noteworthy is that there are investors, for example, going to President Putin, both domestic ones and international ones to express their concerns.
There have been gyrations in the market -- I realize they were sort of back up again today. And we think all these factors need to be taken into account, first of all, with regard to the rule of law in Russia, but also in regard to Russia's economic health in the future.
QUESTION: Does this mean President Putin has taken -- maybe this is a Sunday talk show question. But does it seem like President Putin has taken an undemocratic turn? I mean, you -- the Administration has had great confidence in him -- great -- and he's Bush's best friend and --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that was Thursday. That was a yesterday briefing question, too, and we went into it in some detail.
There's always the issue, when you see a case like this, as to whether it's a singular event or whether it has some sweeping implication for the rule of law in Russia. And that's what investors are watching closely, that's what markets are watching closely. And ultimately each investor will have to decide what he thinks the climate will be, domestic money and foreign money involved.
Our effort with Russia has been longstanding, is to support the rule of law, to support free markets in Russia, and our -- you know, look at the amount of Freedom Support Act money that we've put into entrepreneurship or democratic process and constitutional process, and we'll continue to do that.
Our goal -- our interest is to see a Russia that's democratic and free market, and we will continue to invest in that as a government because we want to keep moving in that direction.
QUESTION: Wait. Can I follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So when you say that your message to the Russians through the embassy is this -- no -- in addition to being concerned about this particular event, that their -- that you're looking to ensure that there are no -- that this is not a sweeping crackdown?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. We're -- certainly, our hope, first of all, is that this particular case is handled fairly through due process; and second of all, that this does not represent any change in the government's basic approach to business and free markets, an approach that we have done a lot and continue to do a lot to promote.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea of the extent of American investment in Yukos, in particular, and in Russia, as a whole, right now?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any numbers handy. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: No, Iran. I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Should have been quicker there, Barry.
QUESTION: Today's the deadline for Iran to comply with --
QUESTION: I think we got a preview of the answer yesterday.
QUESTION: I wasn't here yesterday.
QUESTION: All right. Go ahead. I thought you there.
QUESTION: I thought it was today. Sorry.
QUESTION: No. The deadline is not today, no?
MR. BOUCHER: It is today.
QUESTION: Oh, yes.
MR. BOUCHER: There's nothing wrong with what he said so far.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MR. BOUCHER: If there's something wrong, I'll point it out.
QUESTION: -- getting a preview of the answer.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Jonathan you had a question.
QUESTION: Yeah. What about -- to what extent do you think that Iran has met this deadline and provided the information required, and so on?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you said, the deadline set by the Board of Governors on September 12th does expire today. The Board of Governors have not extended that deadline, nor is there any consideration of doing that. I think it's time to remember what the resolution said on September 12th.
It requires Iran to take a number of essential and urgent steps by October 31st, including to provide a declaration, a full declaration of all imported material and components related to uranium enrichment; to allow unrestricted access, including environmental sampling for the IAEA, to any location the IAEA requires; to resolve fully all questions regarding uranium enrichment centrifuge testing; to provide complete information on uranium conversion experiments; to provide any other information, explanation and action the IAEA deems necessary in order to resolve all outstanding issues involving nuclear materials and nuclear activity.
The resolution also called on Iran to ensure that no further failures to meet its safeguards, obligations would occur, to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing related activity, and to promptly and unconditionally ratify and implement the safeguard strengthening additional protocol. Those are the standards against which the reporting on Iran needs to be judged and will need to be judged.
We note that on October 21st, they made promises to the foreign ministers of Great Britain, France, and Germany, that they would comply with the Board resolution. On October 23rd, they provided a declaration to the IAEA. The IAEA Board will have to make the judgment to decide whether those actions, the actions it has taken in -- after those promises -- comply fully with these standards that I said.
Now, the Board will next meet on November 20th and 21st. So that's the point at which the judgment will have to be made.
QUESTION: Okay, but you are --
MR. BOUCHER: The --
MR. BOUCHER: The Board's September 12th resolution also requested that Director General ElBaradei submit a report to the Board in November, or sooner, on implementation of that resolution.
Like other Board members, we look forward to seeing that report, and we expect that all will withhold their judgment whether Iran fully meets the Board's requirements until they see the Director General's report.
QUESTION: Including ourselves.
MR. BOUCHER: Including ourselves.
QUESTION: So you don't make any judgment in this --
MR. BOUCHER: We're not making any new judgments. As you know, we've all along held that Iran has been in non-compliance, but we look forward to seeing their report to find out if Iran has brought itself into compliance by fulfilling all these requirements of the resolution.
QUESTION: Well, is it fair to say, Richard, though, that as you go prepare to look at the report, you are doing so with some suspicion that Iran has actually done what it said it's going to do?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've had suspicions about Iran's programs for many, many years. What we've seen again are promises.
MR. BOUCHER: We will find out from the Director General's reports whether those promises have been fulfilled, and fulfilled to the extent that they actually meet the requirements that were laid down by the Board.
QUESTION: Richard, in the last few weeks, you'd mentioned Malaysia, also Syria with this recent airing of the television program. And yesterday there was a speech by a German opposition leader, which has been branded by his own party as also anti-Semitic. And there is a new issue of U.S. News & World Report with that front-page cover story, "The New Anti-Semitism."
And also, what degree is the State Department participating in this weekend's Holocaust memorial here in Washington with various world leaders and others in attendance?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on the weekend activity to see who, or, if any, from the State Department are participating.
As far as anti-Semitism goes, I think the State Department has been at the forefront of activity in this regard. As you'll remember, we sent former Mayor Giuliani out to a CSE -- to an OSC, excuse me, anti-Semitism conference as head of our delegation. He and the Secretary, both, addressed the issue in front of the building.
But in many individual cases, when we see problems with anti-Semitism, we're very quick to respond and we're very active with the governments involved to ensure that they have the proper framework -- both political framework, and, if necessary, a legal framework -- to deal with any, any outbursts -- any potential anti-Semitism.
QUESTION: So you don't have any specific reaction to this German MP who said --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see that specific one. I'll have to check.
QUESTION: -- said something about perpetrating race or something like that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see what we've done on that one.
QUESTION: Along those lines, do you have any parting wishes for Dr. Maass here?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Oh, come on, Richard. Nothing at all?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity, though.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Mark has one more question.
QUESTION: Have you had anything to say about the deployment of Saudi F-15s in Tabuk, in northwest Saudi Arabia?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Can I pose two questions? In the view of this Department of the U.S. Government, does this deployment represent any kind of a threat to Israel? And two, does it violate any of the understandings made between the kingdom and the United States at the time of purchase?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we have anything to say on those questions.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)
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