State Department Briefing, February 27, 2004


Friday February 27, 2004

12:45 p.m. EST
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman


Repatriation of Migrants to Haiti
Travel by Under Secretary Grossman to Middle East and Europe

Receptivity to Greater Middle East Initiative/ Role of NATO

Support for a Political Settlement/ Secretary Powell's Remarks
CARICOM Proposals/ Political Solution Consistent with Haitian Constitution
President Aristide Remaining in Office/ International Security Assistance
Dialogue with the Democratic Opposition
Commercial Flights Cancelled/ Road Access to Airport/ Charter Flights Operating
American Citizens in Haiti

Efforts to Stop Violence in Venezuela/ The Rights of the People of Venezuela
Contingency Plan for Export of Oil
Protests against United States/ Support of Political Referendum

Discussion Today in Paris regarding Haiti
Secretary Powell's Calls to Foreign Minister de Villepin

New U.S. Landmine Policy/ Reaction of Other Governments/ Ottawa Treaty

Visit of Chancellor Schroeder

U.S. Efforts with Parties in the Region
Palestinian Banker Denied Entry into United States
Clash between Israel Police and Palestinians Outside al-Aqsa Mosque

Six Party Talks/ Uranium Program / Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula
Secretary Powell's Contact with Foreign Ministers of China and South Korea

Ambassador Weston's Trip to the Region/ Security of Cyprus/ Role of NATO

Death of President Trajkovski

Donors Conference in Abu Dhabi/ Breakdown of Madrid Contributions

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, everybody. There's two things I'd like to talk about at the top. The first is repatriation of migrants to Haiti and the second is some travel involving the Greater Middle East Initiative. So I suppose we can take them one at a time.

I thought I'd bring you up to date on the situation with regard to migrants from Haiti. I think we've all seen the reports during the course of the week of a few spikes in the number of people that have left. There were a few boats full of people picked up by the Coast Guard.

According to our information, the Coast Guard interdicted 531 Haitian migrants. As we speak now, they are being repatriated to Haiti. We have done this, we are doing this, in cooperation with the Haitian authorities. They are being taken safely and landed again in their home country.

U.S. policy with respect to boat migrants, including Haitians, is clear: They will be returned to the country from which they departed absent specific concerns that they might have about protection.

U.S. authorities interview migrants when they assert a fear of return to determine whether they have the credible fear of persecution that's required to meet international standards for asylum.

Coast Guard vessels have health service technicians aboard who conduct a medical assessment and provide treatment, as necessary. They also receive food. They are treated as well as we can, given the conditions onboard ship, and they are taken, as I want to emphasize again, they are taken safely back to their home country, as we are doing now.

So that's number one. Questions about that, or should we move on?


QUESTION: Is it possible to be afraid of being returned to Haiti and demonstrate a fear of persecution if you're just looking at a chaotic situation of random violence on the ground?

MR. BOUCHER: International law, I think, is fairly specific about the conditions of persecution, and I'd refer you to that.

QUESTION: Can we go to other aspects of Haiti?

MR. BOUCHER: It's up to you all. You want to do Haiti and then --

QUESTION: Let's have the other announcement.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let me go on with the travel on the Greater Middle East, and then you get to start the questions on any subject you want anyway.

In support of the President's Initiative in the Greater Middle East to continue our dialogue with governments and leaders in the region, and to seek ideas on how the U.S. and our partners can support reform in the region, Under Secretary of Political -- for Political Affairs Marc Grossman will travel to the Middle East and then to Europe next week. He'll be going to Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Bahrain, and then on to Europe, Turkey and Brussels.

Under Secretary Grossman departs for his travel February 29th and will return on March 5th.

The President articulated a vision for supporting the transformation of a Greater Middle East through freedom-based reform and speeches to the National Endowment for Democracy on November 6th of last year and again in London on November 19th.

As the President has said, ideas for reform must come from the region. The Greater Middle East Initiative is designed to respond to the region's needs. The Secretary said in an interview this week with Al Hurra that we would never suggest a reform plan, that it should come from the outside. These are sovereign nations; they have their own interests to protect. And we are in consultations with them now.

So this is part of the ongoing process of consultations. We've talked to friends in the Arab and Muslim world for some time about our initiatives. Under Secretary Larson, our Under Secretary for Economic and Business and Agricultural Affairs, is returning today from his trip to the region. He's been in Ramallah, Jerusalem, Amman, Riyadh and Cairo talking about bilateral economic and trade issues, but also listening to views from potential partners about the President's Greater Middle East Initiative.

The Secretary has recently had the opportunity to discuss this initiative directly with several leaders from the region, including the Tunisian President, the Bahrainian Crown Prince and the Moroccan Foreign Minister. And, of course, Assistant Secretary Burns has been in touch with -- regularly -- with counterparts in the region as well as discussed the ideas during his recent travel to the Persian Gulf.

So I just want to highly Under Secretary Grossman's trip. We've had a lot of consultation going on with people in the Middle East about the Greater Middle East Initiative, seeking to emphasize what the Secretary and the President have both said: This needs to be based on ideas for reform in the region and how we can support that.

QUESTION: Could you elaborate a little bit on the European part of this mission?

MR. BOUCHER: We've had a number of discussions with European friends and allies. The Secretary has had an opportunity to discuss it again with the NATO Secretary General when he was here, the various European foreign ministers who have come through; we discussed it yesterday with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Passy. The President now today, just now, has been talking about it with Chancellor Schroeder. And on Monday, we have U.S.-EU consultations.

So we have, indeed, kept in close touch with our potential -- with European partners about this. They have a number of important programs that address this region of the world to try to encourage more open trading, try to encourage growth of civil society and things like that. We have a number of programs -- the Middle East Partnership Initiative, our Middle East trade initiatives -- again, to open up free trade and opportunity for people in the region. And we also see the potential for NATO to be involved in perhaps some aspects of developing security relationships.

So what we want to do is look at these programs that we have, see what they cover in terms of supporting reform, supporting change in the Middle East, and then look at how these organizations or other organizations can supplement that and help build a fairly comprehensive system of support for reform and positive change for people in the Middle East.

QUESTION: I won't delay you much, just for a second. The somewhat new, but not brand new, concept of NATO being out of theater and being of assistance in the Middle East, for instance, is it a given that NATO is ready to be part of such a program, security program? Security is a big thing in the Middle East, obviously. Or is it something that still needs to be formulated, would you say?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I would point out two things. One, the somewhat new about out of area is, as you know, not --

QUESTION: Not that new.

MR. BOUCHER: -- not so new because we've been in Afghanistan for a while together, and that bridge was crossed a couple years ago.


MR. BOUCHER: I think it was NATO Foreign Ministers in Iceland that put out the statement saying that the threat is terrorism and we're going to have to deal with it wherever it comes from.


MR. BOUCHER: At the same time, for even longer than that, NATO has been involved, sometimes very far away, in activities like the Partnership for Peace, like the cooperation with states in Central Asia on various aspects of military and security reform, trying to help countries in a much broader area deal with the security problems they faced.

So it's not that unusual to consider whether NATO might have a role. That's about as far as we are in terms of talking specifically about what NATO could do. But I think we all agree that, at the moment, maybe NATO should consider whether some of its programs can be adapted and can support the ideas of professionalization or reform or integrated security concepts for countries of the region, the way we have done in Central Asia and elsewhere.

George, you had -- you want to shift?

QUESTION: I know the White House has expressed support this morning for a political settlement in Haiti, and I'm wondering how Secretary Powell's remarks last night contribute to that goal. The U.S. usually is pretty careful about trying to steer sort of a neutral course between parties in a conflict. And how does the Secretary's remarks -- how do the Secretary's remarks enhance the possibility of a political settlement?

MR. BOUCHER: Let's remember what the Secretary actually said. I mean, he said that we hope that President Aristide will examine his position carefully, that he will decide how best to serve the Haitian people, as well as whether he can effectively continue as President, given the current circumstances.

As the White House has said, as the President, I think, just has said in his appearance with Chancellor Schroeder, the United States has been very deeply concerned about the people of Haiti and the situation in Haiti. It's important that that remain our focus and that remain the focus of all Haitian leaders, government and opposition leaders.

So it is important to decide how everybody can best serve the interests of the Haitian people. That's what the Secretary has said. We have been -- remain active with the government. We have been actively in support of the -- actively working in support of the CARICOM proposals. Our Ambassador is maintaining a dialogue with the government.

As you know, some of the government ministers, I think, had some discussions today in Paris about how, again, to look -- how to look for a political arrangement, a political solution. We have strongly supported the proposals being put forward by CARICOM. We've also maintained an active dialogue with the opposition, again, through our Ambassador in Haiti, encouraging all the parties to come to terms with the situation, to try to find a political arrangement that will work, that can effectively calm things down and that can allow for the introduction of foreign security assistance that would help to really calm things down completely.

That's an effort that we are leading, that we are in very close touch with partners in Canada, partners in the Caribbean, our partners in France and the French-speaking world, since the meeting that the Secretary held here a week ago -- a week? -- two weeks ago. A week ago Friday. Sorry. Seven days. Exactly only seven days ago. We have maintained close contact with other foreign ministers.

So we remain determined to do everything we can to help the people of Haiti. We remain determined to try to reach a political arrangement that can calm things down for them. We think all the parties have a very serious responsibility right now to examine what they can do to further that process along, and we're making that point with the government and with the opposition as well.

QUESTION: Richard, when the Secretary said yesterday, and you said again today, that President Aristide has to think about how he can best help his people, whether he can effectively govern, is it the position of the U.S. that he can, or do you have a position whether he can effectively govern at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a particular position on that. I think that's something that people in Haiti, particularly people in the government, need to consider for themselves.

QUESTION: But isn't it so that you may be considering backing off the previous insistence that Aristide, being the democratically elected leader, should remain in office? That certainly wasn't evident in the Secretary's remarks yesterday.

MR. BOUCHER: Our view has been and remains a view that violence should not be -- should not change the elected leadership of any government, including that in Haiti. The Secretary expressed that about a week ago, I think, in several interviews. The Sam Donaldson interview comes to mind. But that as leaders consider their position and what they can best do for the people of Haiti, if they decide on some other course, that's fine.

QUESTION: They being the people, or they being the government, the leaders?

MR. BOUCHER: The leaders themselves. Yeah.


QUESTION: Violence in the region continues. As we speak, in Venezuela the army forces --

MR. BOUCHER: Let's stay on Haiti for a little while.

QUESTION: Oh, this is going to go to Haiti also.


QUESTION: So there are shooting at an unarmed demonstrators and -- of the opposition who are trying to call for a recall referendum of President Chavez. What can the U.S. Government do to stop violence in Venezuela? Would it lead a group, like it did last week to Haiti, in order to try to stop violence?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an up-to-date rundown of what's going on in Venezuela right now. The United States, I think, though, has been very consistent and very clear in our view that the rights of the people of Venezuela need to be respected, their rights to petition the government under their constitution, their rights to express themselves freely on politics and other issues need to be respected by the government.

That's a point that we have consistently made, along with others, in the international community, including the Friends of Haiti.* The Venezuelan Government has, at times, agreed with those rights, but often we've seen activity that we think is not consistent with that. So we've been careful to point that out, quite consistent in pointing that out.

That's about all I can tell you for the moment. I'm not aware of any new plans, but I'm sure we'll continue to make the point as best we can in a variety of ways.

Now back to Haiti. Saul, you had something?

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks.

The talk about the force that could go down to Haiti, are you all still on the same page? We hear the French continuing to talk about an immediate force, even though the Secretary said the statement from de Villepin had been somewhat misinterpreted. And CARICOM yesterday, at the United States -- at the United Nations, rather, had a very clear call for immediate intervention to create a political solution, not to go down after the settlement --

MR. BOUCHER: I think that -- I'm not sure that these differences are, in fact, real. We have stayed in very close touch with the French Government, for example, with Minister de Villepin. The Secretary has talked to him a number of times. His understanding -- they both agree that the common understanding is that we need to be prepared to send in international security assistance in the form of police and whatever, to support a political arrangement. I think his statement from the other day says to support a government of national unity.

And that remains a position that we know we share with the French, we know we share with the Canadians. And I think we've heard many of the CARICOM nations say the same thing, say that they would be prepared to participate in that force.

I didn't see all the statements that they made yesterday at the UN so I can't comment if -- how the immediacy question played out up there, but certainly the United Nations session yesterday made clear how much of a concern this is to the entire international community.

QUESTION: But when you say to (inaudible) you'd prefer to have an international force to support a political arrangement, are you deliberately --

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the President just said a few minutes ago it depended on a political solution.


MR. BOUCHER: So U.S. policy has been quite clear on that, on that matter, for a variety of reasons.


QUESTION: In Paris, as you noted, the Foreign Minister, and I think Aristide's Chief of Staff, met with de Villepin. And I think the opposition leaders could meet with the Foreign Minister in Paris next week. Are any U.S. officials going to be at that meeting, given the fact that the opposition leaders are not really supportive of peace initiatives at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's the issue. The issue is whether we're -- whether this is sort of --

QUESTION: Are you -- have you been --

MR. BOUCHER: -- trilateral, multilateral meeting --

QUESTION: Have the French invited U.S. --

MR. BOUCHER: As far as I understand it, it's meetings the French are having. I don't know that we've been invited to join the meeting. We're certainly in very close touch, coordinating with the French. The Secretary has talked to Foreign Minister de Villepin every day for the last three or four days about the issues in Haiti, including the upcoming meetings and what was going on, how they were going to use the meetings in Paris to try to advance the common agenda that we have of encouraging a political solution.

So it's been very well coordinated with us. Our Embassy in Paris is in touch with the French, following events on the ground. So I guess these may be bilateral meetings but we're all working on this one together, so it's not -- nothing funny going on.

QUESTION: Yesterday, the Administration took the position that Aristide has been duly elected, he's the constitutional leader. Now, as you move along, have you identified a mechanism, some constitutional way that people in this building or in the Administration think can be employed to either get him to step down, which you seem to be leaning to now, or to at least have him strike some sort of a new arrangement with the opposition, which no longer are called "thugs", I noticed?

MR. BOUCHER: To quote our earlier briefers, there's so many -- I'm not sure I can deal with all the distortions in the question, so let me just try to explain --

QUESTION: There is a -- there is a tonal shift, you know.

MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to explain the situation.


MR. BOUCHER: The thugs are still rampaging in Haiti.


MR. BOUCHER: The democratic opposition is still interested in dialogue with us. We have maintained a dialogue, we have a very active dialogue with the democratic opposition, as we do with the government itself.

The goal is to promote a political understanding that's consistent with the Haitian constitution. That has been one of the premises all along. The CARICOM plan that was produced that we continue to -- that we pressed very hard and that we would continue to like to see the parties accept is based on provisions of -- is consistent with the Haitian constitution. So we are continuing to look for a political solution that's consistent with the Haitian constitution.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: The Secretary's remarks last night sounded eerily familiar to what he told Eduard Shevardnadze about three months ago, and the situations are fairly comparable. And just a few days after the Secretary spoke with Shevardnadze that day in November, he was gone. And how do you respond to that?

QUESTION: You don't have a cookie cutter.


QUESTION: Cookie cutter?

MR. BOUCHER: Each of these situations is very, very complicated. I know I've seen comparisons to Georgia, I've seen comparisons to Bolivia. I'm sure that wise commentators could probably come up with a few more. The fact is that governance, particularly democratic governance, is a difficult thing and the -- these kind of events do sometimes occur. But at the same time, each of them has its own political dynamic, each of them has its own constitutional framework.

It is very important to us that democratic constitutional government be respected, and that's been one of the premises, as I explained to your colleague, one of the premises of our policy with Haiti.

Within that framework of a democratic and constitutional outcome, there is a heavy responsibility on the people themselves who are in leadership positions, or the people of the country who want to be in leadership positions, to work within that framework and try to figure out what they can do that's in the best interests of their people. But that's all we've been saying. That applies to people in government or out of government.

QUESTION: Outside of accepting a political agreement, which he already says that he is willing to do with this CARICOM plan, are there any steps that Aristide and the Haitian Government could be or should be taking to kind of stop this violence right now, or they pretty much have their hands tied at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: It remains very much what we talked about the other day when I think you asked a similar question, that all the leaders in Haiti, again, government and outside, need, first of all, to distance themselves to the violence, need to distance themselves from the groups that are carrying out this violence, need to try to use their influence to calm the situation, need to try to work together to find a politically acceptable outcome that fits within this democratic framework.

They need to move forward in accordance with the Haitian constitution on furthering democratic government and not just digging in in terms of their positions. So there's a lot of things that need to be -- that can be done by the parties to start to show that they're interested in a peaceful settlement.

At the same time, the Secretary, I think, made clear in testimony they need to consider all the options about how they can further a political solution that meets the needs of the people of Haiti.

QUESTION: Richard, in his consideration of how he can help the people of Haiti, has anyone has discussions, has the U.S. had discussions with anyone, about finding another place for Mr. Aristide to go, should he decide, within a constitutional and democratic framework, to make a political decision, make a political move, and go somewhere else?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any such discussions.

QUESTION: Not aware. Still not.



QUESTION: Given that flights, commercial flights, don't seem to be going in and out of Haiti any longer -- I'm not sure if they've completely stopped but they most clearly are suspended -- is the U.S. either sending in charters or making other contingencies available to people?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, let me tell you the situation. The airport is open and there is some road access, but road access to the airport is very difficult. Most, many commercial flights, perhaps commercial -- I think the answer is commercial flights have been canceled. So it's not many -- I think it's pretty much all.

There are some charter flights that have continued to operate and we understand there are some people leaving today on charter flights. Our Embassy is working with American citizens who want to depart Haiti. The Embassy will keep them appraised of any developments pertaining to their safety, security and their ability to leave. As far as the option of organizing charter flights, in most situations it depends on demand, so I'm sure our Embassy will be in touch with people to find out what need there is and whether we can organize something or need to organize something for people who might still want to leave, or whether there are, in fact, other options available. It'll depend on the number.

QUESTION: Do you have an estimate of the number of American citizens still present in this country?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't at this point. I'm not sure we could really come up with one. If we have one, I'll be glad to share it. But at this point, I think it's been fluid; there have been a lot of people leaving. I'm not sure everybody who's left has sort of given us a phone call before they left. So I'll try to see if we have one, but I'm -- I can't promise one, just given the nature of the situation.

QUESTION: Can I move to another subject?

QUESTION: A quick one?


QUESTION: Is there an option that the United States is considering to send a task force of three ships down to Haiti?

MR. BOUCHER: That's very much a Pentagon question, so I'm not going to try to answer it in any way here.

QUESTION: Getting to the fine print on landmines, if I may --

MR. BOUCHER: You're next.

QUESTION: Have you -- has the U.S. been in touch with other -- Canada, particularly, which had a pivotal role? Are you getting any initial reaction?

MR. BOUCHER: We've been in touch with some other governments. I think our briefers mentioned earlier that we'd talked to the South Koreans, for example. We'll be briefing more generally in capitals of friends and allies today, and then tonight as dawn comes around the world.

We're making experts available to some to discuss technical aspects of this, and Assistant Secretary Bloomfield is briefing the diplomatic corps in Washington today, as well.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MR. BOUCHER: So that process is ongoing. It's too early to try to describe reactions. I've seen some reactions from some of the nongovernmental organizations involved in this. I think some of the people who always wanted us to sign the Ottawa Treaty are making -- talking about that.


MR. BOUCHER: But there are others who, indeed, recognize the United States has been at the forefront of the effort against landmines, that this moves us even farther forward, and, as our briefer said, makes us the first to adopt the use of self-destructive mines, the first to make all the mines detectable and to continue to be the world leader in terms of supporting mine action humanitarian efforts around the world to get rid of these mines that kill and maim so many people year after year, even long after the conflict has occurred.

Okay, may I have the lady in the way back?


QUESTION: Could I just go back to the Schroeder's visit?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure. I don't know much about it because it's still over at the White House, but I'll try.

QUESTION: Well, it's over, but I mean, in his meeting with the President and the Secretary, the Chancellor seemed to focus on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The President was talking more of the Greater Middle East Initiative.

Do you think that there is a difference in focus between the Europeans and the Americans on what is priority in Middle East?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is a difference on this one. Certainly, in every one of the meetings that we have had, whether it's with our Arab partners or our European friends, the Canadians, everybody we talk to about Greater Middle East, Israeli-Palestinian issues are always part of the conversation, as well.

We all recognize that it's important to make progress not only on the process of reform and more open societies in the Arab world, but it's important to make progress on some of the issues that are very important to our friends there. So we have always continued to discuss this with people who are talking about the Greater Middle East because we recognize that they are mutually reinforcing, you might say.

The United States continues its strong efforts with the parties in the region. We've been in close contact with the Israelis. We keep in touch with the Palestinians. The Secretary, I think, said in testimony the other day we believe that perhaps the most important thing on the agenda immediately now is to try to get Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Qureia to meet as soon as possible.

We've been talking to the parties about how that can be accomplished, how we can move forward in a variety of ways. We have been in close touch with the Israelis about some of these steps that they are considering, and as the Secretary said, perhaps those give us something to work with. So we are continuing to look for ways to move forward on Israeli-Palestinian issues, as well as ways to move forward with our partners in the Middle East on the process of reform and openness.

QUESTION: Do you see the initiatives being parallel to each others, or one is ahead of -- one is more important?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's ahead of the other. It's they're mutually reinforcing. They actually help each other. We want to make progress in all -- in the Israeli-Palestinian issues, as well as in the process of building democracy and more open societies. We think that both -- each one helps the other one out, and that a Middle East of more open and democratic societies is also a place where some of these issues can find an ultimate solution.


QUESTION: About the six-way talks, it seems that the talks will go to the overtime and you will resume till Saturday. I don't know, but what's your evaluation so far? And I think your position, the U.S. position, is not changing, remain the same. I'm talking about including the plutonium, HEU, all kinds of purpose of the nuclear program, you're asking to the -- the North Koreans to give up. Would you just evaluate at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: I hesitate to give any kind of definitive evaluation while the talks are still ongoing. The talks, indeed, are going on. They met in a third plenary session today. That's Friday, February 27th, as well as some meetings at the deputy head of delegation level.

Parties were scheduled to meet in a session tomorrow morning, Saturday, February 28th in Beijing. That is expected to be the final session of this round. So we'll see -- we'll see that tomorrow and there may be something said after that.

You saw with the Secretary yesterday about the atmosphere of the talks and some of the attitudes that we'd seen. We found the talks to be useful. I think we've made clear that the parties in Beijing are discussing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that we have made clear the U.S. position is that it needs to be done in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner; it needs to include all aspects of nuclear weapons programs in North Korea.

And that is a position that we started out with and, yes, that we have, indeed, maintained. But that's what people are talking about in Beijing is the common goal of denuclearization of the peninsula, which doesn't have any particular exceptions to it.

We think it's been useful to have this series of meetings. I don't want to try to predict any specific outcomes, although I think you remember going into this we did say it was important that there be follow-up work that covers all aspects of these issues, and that's something, I guess, we'll be looking for in terms of what comes out of it.

QUESTION: Is there a statement that will be issued at the talks?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see. I don't know.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on Cyprus. Do you know if Under Secretary Grossman in his trip --

MR. BOUCHER: No, we're going to go on Korea one more. Okay?


QUESTION: Has China or South Korea or Japan shared or support U.S.'s position or approach on the North Korea's uranium program?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you'll have to ask them if they want to talk about their positions on specifics. They have all, I think, expressed an interest. All the parties, even at the last round, said that the goal was to find a peaceful way to get denuclearization of the peninsula. That has obvious aspects that have to cover all aspects of nuclear weapons programs. So -- but you can ask them to define that in more specific terms, really.

The Secretary has talked this morning with both Foreign Minister Li of China and the South Korean Foreign Minister. They both called to talk about where -- the way things were going at the talks. So he's constantly comparing notes with others about how things are going and looking for how we can all move forward towards this goal that we hope that all the parties share sincerely.

QUESTION: And is there any joint statement coming out with the U.S. --

MR. BOUCHER: I was just asked that. I can't predict that at the moment.


QUESTION: Can you tell at this point --

MR. BOUCHER: Are we still on North Korea?



QUESTION: Can you tell at this point, the day before the talks -- this round winds up, will the -- is it a given that there will be another round?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you anything at this point. We'll just have to see how it comes out tomorrow.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary have any contact with any Japanese representatives -- Foreign Minister, Deputy Foreign Minister?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there have been any telephone calls, but he's certainly aware of the kind of effort that we've been making, that Assistant Secretary Kelly has been making with the other delegations to coordinate very, very closely. And so we're very familiar with their views. As you know, the Secretary wanted to make sure that Assistant Secretary Kelly stopped in Japan and South Korea on his way into Beijing. So it's a process that we do coordinate very closely.

These two phone calls were phone calls that came in from South Korea and China.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We're going to change subject? Over there? No, we're not going to change subject.


QUESTION: Were the calls after the hearing yesterday? When were the calls with the Foreign Minister?

MR. BOUCHER: This morning.

QUESTION: This morning. Sorry. And in those calls, did the Chinese and the South Korean officials agree with the Secretary that the talks were positive, encouraging?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to characterize their positions. And I'm not going to tell you whether we heard them say that they were positive and encouraging. I'm sorry. Let's not do that one anymore.

QUESTION: Let's try it this way. Is there a common --

MR. BOUCHER: No, let's not try it that way. Let's --

QUESTION: Is there a general --

MR. BOUCHER: We do this every time, Barry.

QUESTION: No, is there a general appraisal that this has been, among all --

MR. BOUCHER: I'll let the generals appraise it the way they want to. I'm not characterizing other people's positions at this point.


MR. BOUCHER: I've just been asked five different questions to do that; I've declined every one. If you want to keep going, we'll keep going.


MR. BOUCHER: All right. Now, we're going to change the subject over there and then we'll come over here, okay?

QUESTION: Yes, on Cyprus. Do you know if Under Secretary Grossman, during his trip to Turkey, as you said earlier, is going to discuss also the Cyprus issue, along with the Middle East problem?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be surprised if it came up. He frequently discusses the Cyprus issue with people in that area of the world. So I wouldn't be -- I wouldn't be too surprised, but the primary purpose are these many other things that we have to discuss with them.

I would note that Ambassador Weston is also going out to the region next week. He'll be in the region from February 29th to March 4th. So he'll have some meetings with the parties while he's in Cyprus. The talks, as I think you know, resumed in Cyprus yesterday, so he'll go out and check on the situation in the region.

QUESTION: And one other, sir. On a conference which had been organized yesterday by the Western Policy Center of Mr. Joe Sitilides, it was stated unofficial, on condition of anonymity, that the continued division of Cyprus is "anachronistic." Do you agree with this characterization?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the comment. I wasn't at the seminar, and, as you say, it might have been off the record, so we may never know for sure what was said. But I would point out that the United States has been -- made a major effort for a long time to try to help resolve the situation in Cyprus. And we have urged the parties, continue to urge the parties, to look forward to the date of May 1st and to try to resolve the issues by then.

QUESTION: On the same conference, a lot of emphasis was given to the security of Cyprus and how NATO could play any role in case of any kind of emergency. What is the U.S. position in any involvement of NATO to this issue?

MR. BOUCHER: The U.S. position is that matters involving the security of Cyprus are part of the negotiations that are ongoing. We certainly will discuss those with the parties in the negotiation, but it's not for us to take a position outside those talks.

They have to help resolve those issues, and that's the place to do it is inside the meeting rooms. And that applies not just to Cypriot parties, but to Greece and Turkey and others from the outside, like us, who are trying to help.

I would point out as well that security for Cyprus goes way beyond just military arrangements. Security for Cyprus is best found in a comprehensive settlement, and that's what we're trying to work for.

QUESTION: On Skopje, any reaction of the sudden death of late President Trajkovski of the Former Yugos -- Republic of Macedonia flying on a Greek private plane from Skopje to Sarajevo?

MR. BOUCHER: We issued a statement yesterday by the Secretary of State. He also had comments in his hearing, and I think he expressed our views very well there, so I'll just stick with that.

Okay. Ladies in the middle.

QUESTION: Going back to Venezuela,


QUESTION: Maria Victoria Verde from National Radio. Is that true that the United State have a contingency plan in case the Venezuela stop exporting oil to the United State?

MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't know. The oil markets are pretty large. There's a lot of adjustment within the markets. The United States also has some petroleum reserves. Whether we have specific plans for specific contingencies like that, I don't know. You might check with some other departments of government, though, rather than here.

QUESTION: Update. In the newspaper, in the newspaper yesterday in (Inaudible) Pais, Everett Bauman affirm, assure that United States prepare in the contingency plan to prepare for a stop oil -- for a stop in the production of --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know who that is, so I'm sorry. I can't deal with it.


MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the lady next--

QUESTION: A couple of weeks ago, apparently a Palestinian banker, Issam Abu Issa, was barred entry into the United States. Do you have anything on why?

MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. Have you checked with Homeland Security? Are they able to give you anything on that?

QUESTION: Not yet, but apparently the --

MR. BOUCHER: That's really where the question of entry comes.

QUESTION: Yes, but apparently the directions came from the State Department, not from --

MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, doubt if we can comment on any specific case, but I'll see if we can. Okay?

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, Elise.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about this Iraq donors conference taking place in Abu Dhabi over the weekend? Will the U.S. be participating, and what's going on?


QUESTION: Can you say who will be participating on behalf of the U.S., a little bit about --

MR. BOUCHER: There's a donors conference in Abu Dhabi that starts this weekend. This is principally focused on the -- the trust funds that are being set up. The United States is participating in those funds, although the vast, vast bulk of our assistance is going to be transmitted to the people of Iraq through our own apparatus and our own bilateral programs.

There are many donors who are looking for a trust fund to contribute to, and we certainly look forward to working out with the other donors some of the mechanisms. Perhaps the most important thing about the meeting over the -- starts this weekend -- is that the World Bank and the UN are, by means of this fund, by means of this mechanism that's being set up and worked out over the weekend, getting back again more involved in the reconstruction of Iraq; the promises and pledges that they made, that people made to them in Madrid, are starting to be fulfilled as the mechanism goes forward; and that we will be working out how they can do projects, how they can help the people of Iraq in a whole variety of ways.

Assistant Secretary Tony Wayne will be going out to this conference for the United States, and we look forward -- he looks forward to working with the other partners there to really support the involvement by these outside -- by the World Bank and the UN in the reconstruction process in Iraq, and support the involvement by the donors through them in reconstruction in Iraq.

QUESTION: Did you say it's starting to -- they're starting to fulfill the pledges? Can you -- do you happen to have any handle on approximately what percent or --

MR. BOUCHER: It's not precisely a pledging conference, so I wouldn't look --

QUESTION: No, no, I mean --

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't look to this meeting to being --

QUESTION: No, I mean the Madrid follow-through.

MR. BOUCHER: So I don't know what, you know, how many of the contributions are paid in at this point. That's an ongoing process for many of them. I think I've seen the Japanese Government indicate that a very large portion, very large amounts of money, would be channeled through this mechanism.

So you have to get from the UN and the World Bank sort of the state of play on the flow of funds. But there was a -- and I'm trying to remember, back in Madrid -- I'm not sure -- the World Bank, if I remember, came out with a breakdown of the Madrid contributions after the conference, once they'd had a chance to go through and vet the numbers. And at that point, I think they defined to some extent the expectations for how much money might be channeled through this fund, but my recollection may be a little iffy on that. You'd have to check with them.

Yeah, Teri.

QUESTION: Does the Department have any comment on the remarks made to Mr. Noriega, Assistant Secretary Noriega, about how the Administration's people are all white guys?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd just have to say that the Administration's policy on Haiti is determined by a large -- a number of people who all have the goal of determining what the United States can do to help the people of Haiti and to advance the interests of the people of the United States.


QUESTION: Under Secretary Grossman's trip next week. Could you --

MR. BOUCHER: Which I talked about for ten minutes. You were here for that, right?

QUESTION: Yes, I was.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Sorry.

QUESTION: What I was wondering is, can you say something about the countries in the Arab world that he's visiting as to -- do you feel these countries are showing some receptivity to this Greater Middle East stuff that they're hearing about, as opposed to, you know, why he might be visiting these countries instead of other countries. Could you just talk about that a little bit?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to characterize them with regard specifically to this initiative. We need a chance to talk with them even further than we have already. The Secretary has talked to several of the ministers and leaders from these countries. We have been in touch with them before, but this gives us a chance to -- Grossman's trip -- Under Secretary Grossman's trip has given us a chance to explore that more generally.

I would point out that Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Bahrain have been among the partners of the United States in many various aspects of the region. They are countries where we have seen sometimes important changes and reforms already. And so there are people we think are very important who are involved in that process who are engaged in this process already themselves that we would like to talk to about how we can advance and further those goals that we know we share with some of them already.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Ma'am, in the back.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, do you know that just right now there are street protests just ongoing and there are some fears that the --

MR. BOUCHER: Are you talking about Venezuela?

QUESTION: Yes, I said to you on Venezuela.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, sorry.

QUESTION: And there are two kinds of protests, one against the United States and one -- and the others in support of recall referendum. Do you think that the Venezuelan can expect anything from the international community, from the United States, on the part of Group of Friends or --

MR. BOUCHER: I do think that's pretty much the same question I was asked about ten minutes ago and I don't want to add to my answer.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. I came too late. I'm --

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We'll be happy to show you the answer I gave already. I probably could never recreate it quite so eloquently.


QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to Israeli police having a clash with the Palestinians outside the al-Aqsa mosque?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if I have anything particular on that. No, I don't have anything specific on that. I'll check and see if there's anything we want to say, but I'm not sure we can.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)


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