State Department Noon Briefing, November 25, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2003
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, pleasure to be here, happy to take your questions.
MR. BOUCHER: You can pass.
QUESTION: I can pass. I'll pass.
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want it, Teri? Or Mr. Gollust has a question for us? Where do you want to start?
QUESTION: Secretary Powell talked about Iran outside, so I don't know how much you'll have to add to that, but as I understand it, you're expecting now that you will have an unopposed vote and that it can now go through even without a vote. Right? You don't even need to take a vote to adopt the new resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they can adopt things by consensus, but I'd leave that for the people who follow the actual activity of the Board and how the Board acts, how the Board processes these things.
The resolution that was tabled last night in Vienna was a resolution that, as the Secretary indicated, we found very satisfactory. The Secretary, himself, had worked with his counterpart foreign ministers, particularly from the European nations, but we also had active diplomacy in Vienna where our Ambassador out there worked with other delegations to come up with a resolution that met the requirements that met the -- we thought -- the needs of the situation.
So we now have a resolution that we think everybody can agree upon and that looks like it can be adopted by the Board tomorrow.
QUESTION: But it would -- it would mean that the Board of Governors has to be called in again if you want to refer it to the UN; is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: The way this resolution reads is that were there to be further significant failures by Iran in meeting its obligations with the Board, yes, the Board would meet immediately to take action under the charter in the safeguards agreement.
QUESTION: And do you think now that, now that this resolution has gone through and there have been so many discussions on this and that other members have acknowledged there have been failings, as is now embodied in the resolution, do you think that you would be able to get the referral to the UN that you didn't have enough support for before this process?
MR. BOUCHER: Clearly the goal of this resolution, the goal of the effort that we've been making with the International Atomic Energy is to get Iran to comply, is to get Iran to comply with its own promises and commitments, to get Iran to comply with its safeguards requirements, and to get Iran to satisfy the international community that they're not engaging anymore in a nuclear weapons-related program. So that's the goal of this. That's why this resolution contains, first, an acknowledgement of Iran's failures and breaches, and it puts to rest any doubt about the breaches that Iran has been engaged in with regard to its Nonproliferation Treaty agreements.
It also makes clear that Iran's commitments need to be fully and promptly -- I'm trying to remember if it's the word promptly -- but need to be fully and promptly complied with, and that there needs to be robust verification that Iran is, in fact, meeting those commitments.
So it also addresses the issue of the case of violations, as I said before; and therefore, if it's followed fully, then Iran would be ending its programs that have caused so much concern among the international community. That's the goal.
QUESTION: I was just going to ask for a readout on the ECOWAS discussions that the Secretary had.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary met this morning with the Foreign Ministers of the Economic Community of West African States to discuss the situation in Cote d'Ivoire. There was some discussion of the regional situation, particularly the situation in Liberia, and the Secretary congratulated them, and they congratulated him on the work that we've done together in Liberia to bring stability to the situation and start moving forward there.
They are concerned about the overall regional situation, particularly the situation in Cote d'Ivoire, and so they discussed the situation there. They discussed some ideas about how the international community can move forward to help stabilize the situation in Cote d'Ivoire and help stabilize the situation in the region, and we and they will keep in touch and keep working together on these issues.
QUESTION: The Secretary didn't seem prepared to discuss the issue, but the President of Nigeria is now suggesting that he might be prepared to send Charles Taylor back to Liberia, seemingly circumventing the Sierra Leone tribunal. Is that something that the United States would approve of, if a --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate on this because that's not the wire that I read. The wire that I read said he'd be -- if he was asked by the Liberian Government, he might be willing to send Taylor, I thought, to Sierra Leone. But, in any case, I think that's speculative.
It was not a topic -- that particular statement or process was not a topic of any discussion at the meeting this morning with the Nigerian Foreign Minister or with the ECOWAS states. They certainly did discuss the presence of Mr. Taylor. They discussed, first of all, his absence from Liberia, the beneficial effect that that had had on the situation.
And then, second of all, there was a little discussion in passing of the presence of Mr. Taylor in Nigeria, but not a major discussion. The Secretary, I think, reiterated to you outside that we felt that -- we still feel -- that ultimately he has to be accountable for actions committed in Sierra Leone, and that that remains our position.
QUESTION: On that, did Nigeria bring up any of its opinions about this $2 million that's been allocated for a potential reward?
MR. BOUCHER: Mentioned in passing, but not -- not discussed in any depth.
QUESTION: Can you give us a context in which it was mentioned? They brought it up?
MR. BOUCHER: The context of Mr. Taylor. The Nigerian Foreign Minister raised it and said, "We know about this."
QUESTION: Can we get the 2 million?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Not that, okay.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Is the Administration prepared yet -- this comes early -- to explain the kind of help that both the White House and the State Department yesterday said would be going to the new government in Georgia?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we're able to --
QUESTION: -- discuss specifics yet?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. No, I don't have specifics yet, but we are beginning work with a new government, want to begin work with them as soon as possible. Our Embassy is already in touch with the new government and with the parties in Georgia. We'll be sending an interagency team to Tbilisi the week of December 1st; that's next week. That team will discuss with them, with the interim government, how we can help them prepare for upcoming elections and work on other issues of critical importance to Georgia. The composition of the team, as well as exactly who's going to lead it, are yet to be confirmed.
We understand that today the Georgian parliament has set January 4th as the date for the presidential election. The parliament will meet again on November 27th to set a date for parliamentary elections.
You asked about U.S. assistance. Just to mention in passing that today, in fact, there was a delivery of an air shipment of $3 million worth of humanitarian medicines and medical supplies to Georgia. That's a program that's been ongoing since 1991, where we've been working with a private volunteer organization called "A Call to Serve International" to provide humanitarian assistance, especially to acute areas of need and high mountain areas.
U.S. manufacturers donate the medicines and supplies. I think that's just another example of the kind of ongoing and active support that we have of various kinds already for Georgia, and this team that goes out there will be looking with the interim government at how we can help them prepare for the immediate task that they have before them of holding the new elections.
QUESTION: Excuse me, you said elections a couple of times. That isn't the only subject though, is it? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: No. We'll discuss the full range of relationships and how we can help them develop as a democracy.
QUESTION: How about the pipeline? That's of some interest to American oil companies.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that kind of thing gets discussed, but we've already seen some basic statements, I think, from the interim administration in Georgia, that they're not making any particular changes in their foreign policy, so we have to assume that their positions on those things remain the same.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Steve.
QUESTION: Iraq. The Governing Council of Iraq submitted a suggestion for a resolution last night at the United Nations. The first question is, what is the United States' understanding of the timing for that resolution, because there are some who read it in Arabic who said it may be that their request is not for one until next year.
And second, of course, is, what is our view of that? Are we supportive?
MR. BOUCHER: Some of these questions, you'd need to address the Governing Council. It was their letter, it was their statement, and they'll have to explain what they consider the appropriate timing for some kind of UN resolution. As you know, we ourselves have talked about that. I don't think, from the people, from the version that I read and the people I've talked to, that the letter, in fact, does specify what kind of timing they would look for in a resolution or what kind of resolution might be contemplated.
As the Secretary indicated, our position is we'll make that judgment as we move forward. So that's something we would look at.
I think the first question that is being looked at, needs to be looked at, is to study the letter and meet with other members of the Security Council. There will be meetings next week for consultations. The letter itself refers to the Security Council's call for timetable and a program. That call was in Resolution 1511. So they -- first, the Council has to look at it and decide, I guess, to accept it, as the fulfillment of that requirement.
And then, as far as some eventual resolution, I think that remains a matter that needs to be explored with the Council and -- with the Governing Council, and eventually with the Security Council, at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: Doesn't the Governing Council consult, or the Coalition Authority, on such a thing? Doesn't the United States or the coalition offer its opinion or -- about such a thing before it is submitted? I mean, they aren't yet the --
MR. BOUCHER: The letter, as I understand it, basically embodies the understandings that were, in fact, worked out with some detail between the Coalition Authority and the Governing Council. So, yes, we consulted extensively with them on the substance of the letter and the arrangements that will be made to move forward politically in Iraq. That's the substance of the letter.
As far as the exact text of, I think, some of the cover notes and things, we may -- we certainly do consult with them about a lot of things. I don't think we actually write the text for them, leave it to them to decide to -- how they want to first put forward some of these things.
QUESTION: And may I ask a second question on the -- about the Governing Council, with the permission of my colleagues?
The Council's -- the reports out of Baghdad that members of the Council, some very influential members, want the Council to continue in power in some fashion after the government is set up toward the middle of next year. Does the United States have a view about that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular view about that today. I think we have laid out, again, in great detail, with the Governing Council, in official documents the kind of program that we believe can be followed and should be followed in order to give Iraq a representative government that's based in popular sentiment and popular opinion. And so that's the path that we intend to pursue, and that's the goal, is to create -- is to give the Iraqis control of their country through a transitional assembly that reflects the view of the people.
MR. BOUCHER: Joel.
QUESTION: Richard, this morning, a World Report on Hunger report from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization was presented, both here in Washington at the National Press Club, and, I believe, in Rome, with its Director-General Jacques Diouf. And they are saying that they want to end, or, at least, halve the war on hunger to -- by the year 2015. And also, they say that, on a daily basis, 850 million people are going to bed hungry.
How does this square with your reports from USAID? And are you also working with these groups and other NGOs to put an end to this quicker?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have in my head the numbers, but I'm sure you can find in AID's website their reports on hunger around the world. Indeed, hunger has been a major concern of ours. We spend millions and millions of dollars on humanitarian assistance where it's needed.
A lot of our assistance programs have to do with agriculture, with food, with giving people the wherewithal to feed themselves and to establish active economies. Our activity through the World Food Program -- I think we're probably the most generous country involved in the World Food Programs activities. And, again, you can find -- I don't have all the numbers in my head, but you can find those on the AID website as well.
QUESTION: A question concerning the case of Canadian citizen Abdul Rahman Khadr. He was a detainee at Guantanamo until he was recently released by the U.S., released to Afghanistan, and not to Canada. Do you know why he was released to Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I think those questions you'll have to ask of the Pentagon. They've been in charge of those prisoners, and you'll have to ask them over there.
QUESTION: Could I try and get an answer to Assistant Secretary Burns and whether he's going to the Middle East? I know he's with the Secretary in the Maghreb, but will he go on to the Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: He won't? Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want to ask me if he's going to go to the region before he joins up with the Secretary in the Maghreb?
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: He'll be going over the weekend out to the region, stops in -- well, stops in what we normally call the Israel-Palestinian areas, and then he'll join up with the Secretary when the Secretary gets to the Maghreb on -- I guess that's Monday night or Tuesday, but the trail is there.
QUESTION: He sees Israelis, Palestinians. How about Egyptians and --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the full itinerary. I'm not sure all the stops are set, and so we'll get that. But he'll be going over the weekend down to that -- to that part of the region.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
MR. BOUCHER: And then join up with us.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: North Korea. Have you heard -- during the North Korean Vice Foreign Minister's visit to Beijing, he told the Chinese that they are prepared to announce the end of nuclear programs in the next --
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen a statement to that effect from the North Koreans. We'll just have to see what they do.
QUESTION: Has the Department received anything from North Koreans or Chinese regarding the -- this -- this possible announcement?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be able to talk about it, if we had. But I think the main point of the situation now is we are in touch with the Chinese, as well as the other members, to try to look forward to talks that might occur. Again, in the six-party context, we've been looking for talks in December; at this point, no dates are finally set. We'll leave it to the Chinese to try to pin down exact dates.
And as we proceed to those talks, I think our position is fairly well known, that we are prepared to discuss security assurances from all the parties for North Korea, would expect North Korea to be prepared to come and talk about how they would end their nuclear weapons programs.
QUESTION: Have they -- when Secretary Kelly was in Beijing -- or maybe after -- has the North Korean said, in any way, sent a message that they are prepared to take the security guarantee?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not -- you've seen public statements. I'm really not prepared to speak for the North Korean position, nor am I prepared to say what somebody might have told us about what they heard from somebody about the North Korean position. So you'll have to look at what the North Koreans themselves have said. I think they've been out in public on the subject of security guarantees.
QUESTION: Do you have any progress on the security guarantee from here, how you are preparing for that?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been preparing for the next round of talks and discussing this issue with our counterparts and colleagues.
QUESTION: Last thing -- promise. Any readout from the Russian Foreign Minister from yesterday -- Foreign Minister or Deputy Foreign Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: Deputy Foreign Minister. I think, unfortunately, the answer is no, but I'll have to try to get you something.
No, he -- well, just he met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Losyukov in Washington yesterday. They discussed North Korea and other issues. That's as much as we're going to say. Sorry.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)
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