State Department Daily Briefing, November 17, 2003
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the resignation of an Italian advisor to the Coalition in Iraq? He claims there's gross mismanagement of reconstruction.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything specific on that. I think the news story is just crossing the wires right now and I'd leave the Coalition Authority in Baghdad to deal with the specifics.
I would point out that we think that we have made excellent progress in any number of areas: the physical reconstruction of Iraq; the restoration of services to the Iraqi people; the beginnings of political authority among the Iraqi ministers; and now an accelerated path to political authority among that's been announced and agreed to by the Coalition and the Governing Council over the weekend. So we think there's a lot of progress being made in a lot of areas. It may not be everything everyone would like, but there's significant progress being made and I think a significant prospect for accelerated prospect as we -- progress as we go forward.
QUESTION: Well, without leaving that subject, on the Secretary's calls to the Secretary General, was that -- he said in the last 24 hours -- can you be a little bit more specific about what that means? Was it yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday, yeah. It was Sunday.
QUESTION: Okay. And what -- what exactly is -- it's -- my impression from what he said is that you guys would like to see the UN kind of make a decision soon to go back. Obviously that depends on their own security and how -- their own security concerns --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- but that you would like them to get back as soon as -- as soon as possible?
MR. BOUCHER: We have supported a role for the United Nations in Iraq that was defined in Resolution 1511, the resolution that we put forward and negotiated, and that everybody voted for.
The Secretary General at the time said he looked forward to playing that role as circumstances permit. And in fact, that was the language of the resolution and, I think, the language the Secretary just used outside, so to the extent the UN can, we'd like to see them play a role in Iraq that's helpful, that can help the political process along, and play that role through a representative the Secretary General would name as soon as he's ready to do that.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you would like to see that done sooner rather than later? Especially now that you've gotten this agreement with the Governing Council --
MR. BOUCHER: We'd like to see that happen as circumstances permit, which is the understanding in the resolution.
QUESTION: You don't have any -- there's no sense of urgency on your side on them getting back?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'd say we'd like to see them do it as circumstances permit. It's not -- it's, obviously we welcome that kind of role. We'd welcome that kind of role as soon as they think it possible to do so, but we don't want to push them ahead of their security considerations. They're going to have to move forward, they want to get back. They want to participate in all this, I'm sure; and I think I saw statements from the Secretary General indicating that.
QUESTION: Yeah, and just on the UN role, one thing: Senator Biden has proposed call -- a UN High Commissioner or some -- something that I believe would go a little bit more -- a little bit beyond the mandate that you had in mind or the mandate that Mr. de Mello had. Do you -- do you think that has any -- any merit?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we'd have to look at the specifics. The Secretary General's special representative is defined in the resolutions that we have so far, and quite a significant role, I think, is defined for the United Nations and the Secretary General's representative in those resolutions involving considerable work to be done on political matters as well as helping with humanitarian and other reconstruction needs.
QUESTION: Well, outside, the Secretary also said that it was unclear whether additional UN action would be required. What, what was he referring to? I mean, is it looking at an expanded role for the UN, or is this simply -- I mean, there's already an existing resolution, which spells out what the UN's role is?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look at the exact phrasing the Secretary used that I don't remember precisely. I think what he was talking about was there is already considerable breadth for a UN role that can be played now, somewhere as we go through this accelerated process. There may be further UN action that's appropriate to support it and to recognize it as we go -- as we move down the road towards transitional authorities and transitional assembly for example.
QUESTION: But at the -- at the moment, you guys are not actually thinking about a new UN resolution. Do you feel like you already have everything you need?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any proposals for the moment. There's ample authority and UN basis for doing what we're doing now.
QUESTION: General Abizaid says there are about 5,000 insurgents causing problems in Iraq. And also, you qualify the PKK as a terrorist organization, and they're known to have a few thousand fighters in northern Iraq. Now, do you share the General's view that there are about 5,000 insurgents, and if so, do you count the PKK inside that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd leave it to General Abizaid. He certainly knows better than I do exactly what the enemy is that we're dealing with in Iraq, and I would trust his numbers. As to whether he included the PKK in that or not, I don't know.
QUESTION: Richard, apparently Iraqi scientists are fleeing to both Iran and to Syria, and your State Department has a new plan, supposedly spending $16 million with an 11-page draft. What can you tell us about that, please?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, just the very basic outlines that we have been
working. We've been looking at programs to redirect Iraqi scientists and
technicians and engineers with expertise in weapons of mass destruction
technology to peaceful civilian employment. These would be based on the
kind of programs that we have in the countries that used to be part of
the Soviet Union.
QUESTION: Concerning the bombings in Istanbul --
QUESTION: Wait, wait -- can we stay on Iraq -- just this part for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is the $16 million figure about right?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how much was spent on these kinds of programs in the former Soviet Union?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I'm sure that's available widely on the Web, but I haven't sat down to add it up over the years.
QUESTION: Well, no, I thought maybe someone else might have done it beforehand -- asked about it earlier -- sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: That's what spreadsheets are for.
QUESTION: Yes. Concerning the bombings in Istanbul, the statement said that, you know, you will do, you will assist in every way. Did you make any specific offers as to how to find out who were really behind it or can you give us a more sense of what kind of a cooperation you would like to have?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, when the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Gul on Saturday, he offered, as you say, assistance in any way possible; I think specifically referring to possible law enforcement assistance, if that's what Turkey should need. At this point, Turkey has not made any formal requests to us, so it would be up to them to determine whether there was special expertise or other assistance that they might want from us and then we'd try to provide it. So that's about where we are now.
As far as who's responsible, obviously we'll be sharing any information we might have with the Turkish Government. There have been several, I think, separate claims of responsibility already in Turkey -- some from individuals, two separate claims have been made by individuals saying they represent al-Qaida. It will be up to the Turkish authorities and their investigation to determine who was responsible.
QUESTION: You don't have, at the moment, any information as to -- or passed to the Turkish side?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have any information on that at this point.
QUESTION: Iran and the IAEA meeting. I presume from what the Secretary said downstairs to a small group of us afterwards that Foreign Minister Fischer did give you guys the British-German-French draft, or you had it some other way?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've got a copy of it from our people in Vienna. I'm not sure if he handed one over to us or not.
QUESTION: And what's your -- what's your impression of it?
MR. BOUCHER: As the Secretary said, we will be examining it. In the 15 minutes since he spoke, or 20 minutes since he spoke, so I don't have any more detailed answer than we do -- than we did -- from the experts who were still looking at it during the last hour when he spoke.
QUESTION: All right. Well --
MR. BOUCHER: So we'll look at their proposal. Obviously, our view -- and I think you heard this from Foreign Minister Fischer as well, is that there needs to be a serious look at Iran's record on this; that we need to verify the promises and the information that Iran has put forward; and we look forward to that discussion with the Board this week.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, Mr. Solana, when he was speaking in Brussels earlier, in addition to saying that he thought the Iranians had been honest in providing the information that they did to the IAE also -- IAEA also said that he did not expect the Board to refer the matter to the UN Security Council.
Now, assuming that he was speaking with knowledge of what is in the French-German-British draft proposal -- and I think that he probably is --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you can ask either him or the French or the Germans or the British what's in that draft, I --
QUESTION: Let me -- let me get to the question. Do you think -- is it -- is the United States prepared to just let Iran go from previous violations, or what you say are previous violations of the NPT and not refer -- and kind of start with a clean slate and say, "Okay, what you did in the past is one thing, but your promises and whether you uphold them now and the future, and what kind of --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- first of all, I can't accept that characterization of the French-German-British draft just because we have not finished examining it and I don't know if your characterization is accurate or not.
The point that I just made, that we want the Board to focus seriously on Iraq -- Iran's history -- we have something like, I think, 18 years now documented where Iran has been conducting programs that were not in compliance with the requirements of the IAEA. They say that they have provided information with regard, full information with regard to those programs. We're going to have make sure that's true. And the I -- International Atomic Energy Agency needs to verify the information; it needs to see them perform on the promises, and above all, needs to take a realistic attitude towards Iran's past behavior, as well as the promises that Iran has made about its future behavior.
So we look forward to a Board meeting that focuses on those issues; that takes up the issues of Iran's past behavior, and also looks at the promises they have made; and looks at how best to proceed to ensure full compliance by Iran with all the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency's, particularly the ones the Board put down just a month or two ago.
QUESTION: Do you think that the -- this verification process is one that is likely to take weeks or months?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. That's a question for the experts in the Agency who will have to go through the process of verifying the information that they've put forward. But there will be an ongoing need to determine whether Iran is living up to its promises.
QUESTION: Is there any reason to believe that the verification would be complete in time, just three days from now, for the Board meeting, so you could make a determination on that basis, if you know?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there is any expectation of that. The question that your colleague asked is sort of, "How do you deal with the question of noncompliance even while you're verifying the information that they've given?" And that's an issue that the Board will have to take up on Thursday.
QUESTION: If you can't come to any conclusion --
MR. BOUCHER: Wednesday or Thursday, I can't remember which -- It's Thursday, yeah.
QUESTION: If you can't come to a conclusion on a sort of rounded, thought out, carefully assessed conclusion on verification by this week, do you think it's then reasonable to just kick the can down the road and not make any decision about referring it to the Security Council at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure the Board will have that as an option, but the point is that the Director General's report already shows, even by Iranian admission, that they have conducted programs that were not in compliance with IAEA requirements. Whether that's full and complete accounting of all those programs is what needs to be verified. So there is ample grounds to believe that Iran has already been failing to live up to its obligations, and therefore, one needs to be skeptical or realistic, as the German Foreign Minister said, about any information and any promises that are given at this point.
QUESTION: Do you think that the verification process might give you a little more time to win a few more votes?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to swing things one way or the other at this point. We look forward to a focused and serious discussion of all these issues with other Board members on Thursday, and we'll see how the Board decides to proceed.
QUESTION: Yes. About the Istanbul bombing --
QUESTION: Ad hoc, wait a minute. Can we just stay on Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted -- what would -- what is your idea of how the Board can take a realistic attitude with respect to Iran's past behavior? How do you see them doing that? How would you like to see them do it?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first -- I don't quite understand the question. They need to address seriously the issues of Iraq's failures over the years -- Iran's failures over the years, thank you -- and look at how Iran needs to act to bring itself into compliance -- not just look at the promises that are made or the volume of information that might have been provided.
QUESTION: Okay, so let me just get -- and I just want to get this straight. You, you, you believe that for the past 18 years Iran has been in violation of its obligations, in violation of the NPT?
MR. BOUCHER: The information that's been provided, the information that's been obtained by the International Atomic Energy Agency, through its own research, demonstrates a long history of failure to comply with Iran's obligations.
QUESTION: And you're -- but you're -- are you suggesting that you're willing to overlook that? I mean, I thought this Administration was very, you know -- if things were black and white, you would --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not -- I'm not suggesting that. That's not what I'm suggesting at all. I said that's an important part of the discussion.
QUESTION: Well, okay. All right. Are you suggest --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't just go into the discussion and say, "Look, they've given some information and made some new promises." We need to go into the discussion and say that for something like 18 years, they have failed to live up to their obligations; they've had covert programs that have been hidden. And as the IAEA deals with this matter, they need to base it on that knowledge, as well as whatever new information or promises Iran might have produced.
QUESTION: But it's not your position that the 18 years of noncompliance merits or warrants a referral to the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that the Board of Governors would want to deal appropriately with all of the facts before them on that.
QUESTION: I would never ask you to speak for the Board of Governors, Richard.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not --
QUESTION: I'm only asking you to speak for the U.S. Government. Your position is --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not -- no, you're mischaracterizing our position. Again, I'm not --
QUESTION: I'm trying to figure out what it is.
QUESTION: He's asking what it is.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, he wasn't asking, he was making an assertion. But in any case, if that's a question, is your position that 18 years of noncompliance merits referral to the United Nations, the answer is that 18 years of noncompliance makes -- merits serious attention by the Board, and we look forward to talking with other members about it on Thursday.
QUESTION: Yeah, sir.
MR. BOUCHER: Or he had -- sorry. He had first dibs.
QUESTION: About the Istanbul attack, did you urge the Turkish officials about the expectations about this kind of attack? Because the several news items about that the U.S. urge the Turkey in the past in this kind --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that whatever information we have on subjects like this we would share with our Turkish allies. I don't know if we had any or not, frankly.
QUESTION: Richard, an Egyptian mediator, Omar Suleiman, has invited militants to sum up potential peace talks next week in Cairo, and he is seeing also positive signs from Israel to attend. Are you going to help in those talks or in any way take part in them?
MR. BOUCHER: We've been keeping in close touch with the Egyptian Government, as well as with Palestinians and Israelis as this process is moving forward. We've certainly welcomed the role and appreciate the effort that's being made by the Egyptian Government, including by getting Mr. Suleiman involved in talks with the Palestinians at this point.
We appreciate these steps to support the roadmap. So we'll continue to keep in touch with all the parties, but I think if you look at the way they've conducted these discussions in the past, there's no specific U.S. representatives involved in those talks, particularly if they were to involve Hamas, and people like that, that we consider terrorist groups.
QUESTION: Do you have something to update on the Assistant Secretary James Kelly's trip to China?
MR. BOUCHER: To update: He's in Tokyo, and it's nighttime there. I think that's about what I can say. He's done some press conferences along the way, though, so I think he's updating it himself, as he goes along.
QUESTION: Same area.
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry?
QUESTION: Same area.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Chinese Government issued a statement warning Taiwan's authority to stop what Chinese Government called, "a separatist crime," and old Taiwan may face some dangerous situation. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything specifically on their statement. As you know, we always discuss this with the Chinese, whenever they want to. I think Foreign Minister Li and the Secretary talked about it over the weekend -- talked about issues involving Taiwan, among other things, when they talked over the weekend.
Our interest remains in maintaining stability in the Taiwan Strait. We've continued to urge Taiwan, as well as the PRC, to refrain from actions or statements that increase tensions or make dialogue more difficult to achieve. We've also made clear our adherence to the Three Communiqués, as well as our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act. And we've also made clear we don't support Taiwan independence.
QUESTION: Do you think Chinese Government said that that not only to Taiwan, but also to U.S., because U.S. might do something to affect Taiwan?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I don't know. You can examine whatever you want as motives for their behavior. Our policy, I think, has been pretty clear.
QUESTION: Richard, on Taiwan.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah, I'm just wondering if you've managed to figure out exactly what the Chinese Foreign Ministry was referring to when they went after Ms. Shaheen and the alleged comments that she made about the U.S. not opposing Taiwan independence.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. I don't -- I, myself, have not tried -- have not seen a transcript of any remarks like that.
QUESTION: Of the Chinese Foreign Ministry?
MR. BOUCHER: No, of Ms. Shaheen saying anything like that.
QUESTION: On Japanese Self-Defense Forces. According to the transcript released by the Pentagon, Defense Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz said that, "Japan was never a country that we counted -- we counted on providing very much," concerning the delay of sending Japanese Self-Defense Forces to Iraq in a Minneapolis TV interview last Satur -- last Thursday.
I think that his remarks means -- his remarks mean that the United States doesn't expect very much from Japan (laughter) regarding reconstruction of Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if you're dealing it -- it doesn't exactly sound like the way that Wolfowitz phrases things, but -- if you're dealing with it in English translation or the Japanese translation of the English remarks or whether that's the original English, but I suspect if you look at what the Deputy Secretary of Defense said, he's probably saying what numbers of us have said: That we appreciate every contribution including the expectation that Japan will send forces, send some troops, non-combat troops, I think, to Iraq.
At the same time, we've also made clear in public that we don't expect large numbers of troops to be forthcoming from Japan or some of the other members of the international community, but we certainly appreciate every contribution that's made.
QUESTION: Richard, this morning, Germany has extradited two Yemenis with ties, possibly, to al-Qaida, and extradited them here to the United States. Was this something that Foreign Minister Fischer and the Secretary discussed?
MR. BOUCHER: It wasn't really -- just indirectly in terms of the kind of cooperation that we still have against terrorism; that we have with German authorities across the board -- whether it's law enforcement intelligence or other security cooperation. The matter itself was handled by our law enforcement authorities and I think you've seen statements from both the German prosecutors and Attorney General Ashcroft on the subject.
QUESTION: They had some elections in Serbia over the weekend, and it seems that they have failed again to get a legal majority, or a 50 percent vote. Any reflection on that?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. The low turnout in Sunday's elections in Serbia were estimated at 38 percent of registered voters. This reflects the fact that two major democratic- and reform-oriented- parties chose to boycott the vote. The low turnout exaggerate the -- exaggerated the results obtained by the Serbian Radical Party. Supporters of the Serbian Radical Party consistently turn out to vote, and so he won a comparable number of votes to those that they captured in past elections.
There will be another test of support for the political parties in Serbia on December 28th -- probably a better test to the overall support when the Serbian election -- an electorate will be asked to elect representatives to a new Serbian parliament. At that point, it will be up to the parliament to decide whether they take up a date on -- what they do to set a date for the next round of presidential elections; try one more time to get the 50 percent requirement.
QUESTION: Isn't that a failure of democracy, really? You've -- as far as U.S. analysts see? I mean, they can't get a, you know --
MR. BOUCHER: This is a peculiar requirement. I think it's one that was put in the constitution by Milosevic. So you might call it a "poison pill" for democracy. But the fact is democracy is up and running and functioning in Serbia anyway, and we'll leave it to them to decide how to deal with the situation.
QUESTION: Two things: Deputy Secretary Armitage will be meeting and visiting Turkish General probably on Wednesday. What will be the U.S. message?
And secondly, the plan to have Turkish peacekeepers in Iraq has failed. There's also major fighting going on in Afghanistan, and stability is -- they're high -- the stakes are high. Would you like to have additional Turkish troops in Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: Thanks for the offer, but NATO is now operating in Afghanistan and I'm sure Turkey's making whatever appropriate contribution is being made necessary under NATO; and we'll leave it to NATO to coordinate the requirements for the mission in Afghanistan.
As far as the offer of troops for Iraq, I think I told you about a week or two ago that the Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Gul; and then you'll remember the Vice President talked to Prime Minister Erdogan and they agreed that, given the circumstances after reviewing the situation with regard to Turkish troops going to Iraq, that they decided it was best to withdraw the offer at this time, so that's where we are.
QUESTION: What about Armitage and the Turkish General meeting? Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that yet. I'll have to look at it when it starts -- when we get closer. Adam will look at it for you when we get closer.
Mr. Ota, in the back.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you. Let me get back to pick on North Korea again. Can you say anything about the successor of Jack Pritchard, Ambassador?
MR. BOUCHER: The successor to Jack Pritchard?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware there is one.
QUESTION: I mean, because some --
MR. BOUCHER: Is this to speculate with you on who it might be? No, I don't think I'll do that. Thank you.
QUESTION: Because somebody in Tokyo accompanying Mr. Kelly, so I just want to, you know, ask you your view on that. You can say something on that or not?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Maybe they just didn't want to answer the question out there because it doesn't have an answer at this point. Thanks.
QUESTION: Yes, (ph) Nair Zadi. I want to go back to Afghanistan.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Not literally, but here.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I know.
QUESTION: On -- Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokar was here a couple of days ago, Pakistan's. And Pakistan says that, you know, when they meet the U.S. officials at any level, they are full of praise of Pakistan's support and cooperation on Afghanistan; but however, we are seeing a media campaign most aggressively I would say by Washington Times. There was an editorial last week and a full-page story constantly saying that U.S. officials are not happy, or they are finding that Pakistan is not doing much on Taliban, that there is cooperation on al-Qaida, cooperation on al-Qaida but not on Taliban. So how serious -- if there is this perception of the U.S. Government, and how serious is it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, you know we don't write the newspapers, unfortunately.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe fortunately, for everybody else.
QUESTION: But there are those unidentified senior Administration officials --
MR. BOUCHER: I know, but when you have, when you have the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of State, the State Department spokesman, as well as, from time-to-time, the President of the United States speaking out on Pakistan and the appreciation for the cooperation and the work that we have been doing together, I think -- I think I should take that more seriously than unnamed officials that might appear in some newspapers.
So we certainly have welcomed the kind of steps that Pakistan has taken, particularly in recent months. We have worked closely with Pakistan in the trilateral framework with Pakistan and Afghanistan. And I believed I've even seen some statements from Afghan President Karzai recently about the efforts that Pakistan is making, or maybe it was Foreign Minister Abdullah when he was here the other day.
So there is appreciation for the steps that Pakistan has taken, and really, a recognition on all our parts that we need to continue working together and continue coordinating so the Taliban can't find places of refuge.
Got a couple more here.
QUESTION: I had asked on Friday if we could get the State Department's position on one aspect of the Syria Accountability Act, which is expected to be passed by the House on Wednesday and then signed by the President; and it's whether it's your understanding that it would bar U.S. companies from trading in Syrian crude oil. Did you get an answer to that, and if not, could you take the question?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll take the question, but I think until the legislation becomes law, it might be premature for us to answer.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm curious in the meeting with Foreign Minister Fischer -- if the subject of this separate EU defense headquarters, which has been -- the proponents of which were -- been likened to confectionary makers at some point; if that is still an issue for the United States, or if the new, apparent move towards scaling back that, what the original plan was, is acceptable to you guys?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it came up in the meeting today. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Fischer were one-on-one, so the readout that you've gotten from them is the same readout that I've gotten at this point. The issue of the European constitution and defense arrangements is something actually the Europeans will be discussing in Brussels as we go out there, so I would expect it might be discussed during the course of our lunch with them tomorrow in Brussels. And at that point we'll get the latest on where they stand with regard to European defense collaboration.
QUESTION: Do you have anything else to say about tomorrow? What -- just what Adam said on Friday?
MR. BOUCHER: I think so. Would I have what Adam said on Friday? We'll
QUESTION: 24, actually.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll deal with that later, but --
QUESTION: One of them is here in Washington. He won't be there in Brussels.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think he'll be there.
QUESTION: No, he's going to be in New York.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: He's not going to be in that group.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh. Well, the last thing he and the Secretary said to each other was, "See you in Brussels." Maybe not.
QUESTION: Oh, really?
MR. BOUCHER: But -- and then we'll have a meeting with the Troika. I'm sure there'll be somebody representing Germany though, however, at the table.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:30 p.m.)
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