State Department Noon Briefing, April 14, 2004
|Wednesday April 14,
U.S. Department of State
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14, 2004
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, pleasure to be here; don't have any statements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: The President talked last night about a UN Security Council resolution for Iraq. He did not elaborate. Are you in a position to flesh it out?
MR. BOUCHER: I would, I think, review for you what the Secretary has said already about that. Last Thursday, the Secretary said we're looking at a resolution, what kind of resolution might be appropriate. He identified, I think, four areas that obviously need to be fleshed out in our discussions with other members of the Security Council.
He said it could extend a hand to a new Iraqi government, since we will have a changed situation with regards to governing. Second, he said it could deal with reconstruction activities, and those will continue to move forward. Third, it could encourage other nations to get involved, certainly has been part of our diplomacy and will continue to be part of it. And finally, structure a role for the United Nations.
And you've seen the vital role the UN has played, in terms of Mr. Brahimi, in terms of preparing for elections, and in terms of playing a wide role in assistance in other matters, as they can -- as wide a role as they can consistent with security. Those, I think, being the four major areas.
Now, obviously, all that needs to be fleshed out and defined in more detail as we move forward. But as we move to a situation where you have an Iraqi interim government, an Iraqi government that exercises sovereignty for Iraq. The UN will want to recognize that, and we want to encourage countries to get involved and help that government and help the Iraqi people in the reconstruction process.
QUESTION: Richard, two, hopefully, brief things. The President also said last night that he was sending Deputy Secretary Armitage out to the Middle East to talk about the transition and get this board of the -- Iraq's neighbors. Can you be a little bit more specific about where Mr. Armitage will be going? And I'll stop there.
MR. BOUCHER: I can be a little more -- give you a little better idea, but right from the start, I've got to say that given the security considerations involved in the travel, we don't expect to be able to put out an itinerary or to be able to link specific stops and the specific dates. He'll be leaving Friday night; he'll be in the region from then into next week; he'll be visiting Gulf States; he'll be visiting some of Iraq's neighbors.
QUESTION: Okay, and on that line, you wouldn't expect him to go to Iran, though, would you?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't.
QUESTION: Okay. On the subject of Iran, Foreign Minister Kharazi seems to be under the impression that the United States has made a formal request to the Iranians to mediate the dispute with -- the standoff in Najaf and deal with al-Sadr.
Is there anything -- is he correct in his -- in his impression? And if he is, or if he isn't, what do you make of the fact that the Iranians have sent a team now into Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'd say a couple things. First of all, the U.S. did not invite Iranian officials to Baghdad for those purposes, or did not invite Iranian officials to Baghdad. On the general question of the remarks that I saw, I would say that we have made clear to Iran, as we've made clear to others of Iraq's neighbors that they need to play a helpful role, they need to play a positive role and calm the situation, help Iraq achieve the goal of a stable transition on July 1 and help with the reconstruction of a stable democratic and peaceful neighbor.
We have been concerned about the role that Iran has been playing, and it's something that we monitor very closely.
QUESTION: Well, if you didn't invite Iranian officials to Baghdad for that purpose, did you invite them for any purpose?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I then added a sentence after that. We did not invite Iranian officials to Baghdad, period.
QUESTION: Oh, well then --
QUESTION: You're getting an invitation. Did you ask the Iranians to use their good offices to help the situation?
MR. BOUCHER: We -- I'm not -- the United States did not ask the Iranian officials to go to Baghdad to do that.
QUESTION: I'm trying to take the "go to Baghdad" out of the --
MR. BOUCHER: We made clear to Iran, as we have made clear to other neighbors, that all countries need to try to play a helpful role in stabilizing this situation, do what they can to stabilize the situation, and avoid any sort of interference or any actions that might increase tensions. That has been made clear to Iran, I'd say, all along, but also recently.
QUESTION: Well, forgetting -- forget about the invitation or not, what do you think of them sending this foreign ministry delegation there, ostensibly with the aim of easing the tensions?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I had no particular comment on a particular delegation. What I would say is, in general, we do monitor Iranian activities and the role that they play, and we want that to be a helpful role as we have said to Iran and as we have said to other neighbors.
QUESTION: Well, is it a good thing? Is it not a good thing? I mean, you said you don't want them to -- you said to avoid any sort of interference. This certainly seems to be something that could be construed as (inaudible) interference.
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is not the delegation. The answer is what do they do, and if they do. If they help stabilize the situation, that would be good -- if they don't, that would not be good.
QUESTION: Without asking them to go to Baghdad again, did you specifically ask them to try and mediate the current kind of tensions with the Shiites and see if they can -- say if they can do specific things to calm the tension, rather than, you know, just asking all of Iraq's neighbors?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Well, is it conceivable that this trip could be a good thing? You said only if they help save lives, but you're open-minded about their purposes until you see --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I know enough about their purposes and they're -- what they're going to do yet, to be able to describe it one way or the other.
QUESTION: Can you say when the last time it was that you made clear to Iran that they need to play a helpful and constructive --
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, we have various channels of communicating with Iran when we need to, and we have made clear that we're willing to do that on practical matters, on matters that are of importance to us. We've done that all along. I think rather than getting into any specific messages or dates, I would just say that we have done that all along and recently, as well.
QUESTION: Well, okay. And recently?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I know you're going to tell me to ask him. But since I'm not in Tehran and I can't ask Foreign Minister Kharazi, is it your impression that what he was talking about today would have referred to your most recent discussion or your most recent message to Iran that they should play a helpful role?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know. I just don't know what he was referring to.
Teri. We'll come in a minute.
QUESTION: Have you heard about Muqtada al-Sadr now saying that he is dropping his preconditions for negotiations with the U.S., even though the U.S. apparently didn't ask for negotiations directly with him? What's your reaction to that? And does it open the way?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it's kind of what you just said. We, as you know, first of all, in terms of how to work this situation, those decisions and who to talk to and all that needs to be worked out by the people on the ground in Iraq, and they are the ones who are working it. So I can't give you any particular course of action or discussions or lack thereof or intermediaries [inaudible].
U.S. position though, U.S. policy, has been that we're quite open and willing to look for a peaceful resolution of the difficulties around Najaf and easing of tensions. We have made clear all along, however, that Mr. al-Sadr needs to face Iraqi justice since there is an Iraqi criminal indictment or criminal charge against him; second of all, that as described in the Transitional Administrative Law, that militias need to be disbanded; and third of all, the government needs to be restored, legitimate government needs to be restored and the government needs -- government property needs to be returned. They need to return to the police stations and be able to exercise legitimate government authority in that city as elsewhere in Iraq.
QUESTION: And likely, the President's affirmation that U.S. -- or coalition forces will pursue Sadr to arrest him or kill him, and so on, is it your impression that the Iranians will not be sort of affected if that happens? [inaudible]
MR. BOUCHER: That would require a level of political sophistication from me that I'm not prepared to offer because I don't think I have it. There are different elements in the Shia community. There are some that are closely tied to Iran, some opposed, some secular, some religious, some -- you know, there are different, different people within that community. It's not a single bloc as you point out. But exactly what the effects of this or that might end up being, I wouldn't want to speculate.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up on the transition.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Now the British, with Jeremy Greenstock being, I guess, the second in command after Paul Bremer, once the turnover takes place and the Embassy is there, what role will the British play in terms of running Iraqi affairs day to day, as they do now?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, what role will any of us play in terms of running Iraq day to day? The Iraqis will run Iraq day to day. So not Americans, not Brits, not anybody else will be doing that.
Obviously, we're going to have a particular and important role in the security situation. But, basically, the role of an embassy is to support, to advise, to spend money on aid projects, to have relationships with a new government and support the reconstruction process in every way we can. But in terms of running Iraq day to day, that will be in the hands of the Iraqis. That's the essence of the transition.
As we've noted before and as Ambassador Brahimi noted this morning, among the institutions that go out of business on June 30th is the Coalition Authority, as well as the Governing Council. And so that transition will take place, and members of the Coalition Authority, American and other nationalities would, many of them, I suppose, will join their -- the embassies of their governments there.
Many of these governments are very committed to continuing their support for Iraqi reconstruction. I'm sure we'll continue to coordinate with each other. I'm sure we'll all continue to support the Iraqis with experts, advice, money, reconstruction projects -- whatever role they think coalition members can play.
QUESTION: Considering that the choice is narrowing down to Ambassador Negroponte as the Ambassador in Iraq, could you shed some light on that? And will he work very closely with the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: This question was basically asked at the White House gaggle this morning, and Scott pointed out you are trying to trick me into accepting the first part in order to answer the second part. It's a White House question, and it's not a question that anybody can answer today.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up on the UN question. There was talk recently about putting non-U.S. forces under UN command and leaving everything else, and the U.S. would have its own commander there. Have you heard about that one?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. About what, putting non-U.S. forces under?
QUESTION: Non-U.S. forces would be under a UN command which, presumably, would make it more palatable for some countries to volunteer troops to Iraq, but the U.S. troops would be under U.S. command.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary's pointed out, with regards to, particularly, Iraqi responsibilities in the security area, that there needs to be a unified command, there needs to be a coordinated security effort. As far as how that would be structured, whether that could be restructured in a new resolution, I think it's sort of too early to say.
We all recognize that as the UN gets more involved, as we hope it will, on the humanitarian side or the election side or working throughout the country that there will be a security requirement to help the United Nations operate there. And we have talked to a number of governments about -- a number of other countries about their willingness to help with that. But the existing resolutions already recognize and authorize a multinational force, so countries could do that at any time under existing UN authority.
QUESTION: Richard, can you update us on the bodies that were found yesterday and on the fate of American hostages and other hostages as well?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Let me get the details, if I can. I'm afraid we don't have any more detail for you today than we did yesterday afternoon. The bodies of four individuals were found on the morning of April 13th outside Baghdad. We don't have the details concerning the condition of the remains, other than to say that they could not be immediately identified.
Examination of the remains is underway to determine if they are among the seven U.S. citizens that were reported missing by their employer, but it may be several days before an identification can be made of these remains.
State Department consular officials have contacted the families of those who were believed to be missing in Iraq in order to offer all possible assistance. And as I noted yesterday, we're working to confirm the whereabouts of American citizens throughout Iraq, using our Warden System. That process is still underway. But at this point, we've not identified any other missing Americans.
QUESTION: It's going to take several days to identify them and that's supposed to --
MR. BOUCHER: The remains, yeah.
QUESTION: The remains were not in good shape?
MR. BOUCHER: That's certainly what it suggests. But the only information I have on their condition is that it wasn't immediately possible to identify people.
QUESTION: Has [inaudible]?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to Armitage's trip for one second? I realize you're -- trying to get any type of destination other than the general area is impossible. But is it safe to assume from what the President said last night that his sole focus is going to be Iraq and the transition? Or is there going to be some kind of -- will there be an Israeli-Palestinian angle or a peace -- I mean a GME Middle East initiative -- whatever it's called?
MR. BOUCHER: He'll be discussing all the major issues we have in this region with countries in the region. So the focus will certainly be on promoting regional and international support for the transition to a sovereign democratic government in Iraq. But I would expect he'd also engage in discussions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation and efforts to promote political, economic and educational reform throughout the Near East region.
QUESTION: Thank you. Richard, that answers part of my question.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: But what is being done to ease tensions among the Palestinians now that Israeli intends to withdraw from the Gaza, but leaves many settlements on the West Bank?
MR. BOUCHER: What is being done to what?
QUESTION: To ease tensions among the Palestinians now that Israel intends to withdraw from the Gaza, but leave many settlements on the West Bank.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, on the basic issues of the withdrawal from Gaza and the other things being discussed with the Israelis, as you know, the President and Prime Minister Sharon will be speaking very shortly, so I'll leave all that to him.
In terms of contacts with the Palestinians, we're always in close touch with the Palestinians. I think we've seen various statements that they have made. We have pointed out frequently that the prospect of an Israeli withdrawal from settlements and other installations in Gaza is something that they have long looked for; that they need to be able to control violence from that area, as well as other areas; that they need to be able to establish authority in that area.
And so we have talked to them. Our teams that have been back and forth to the region, have, in fact, talked to the Palestinians on just about every trip, if I remember correctly, and we'll continue to be in touch with the Palestinians. Nabil Shaath of the Palestinian Authority will be coming here next week, will be meeting with the Secretary. So we'll keep in touch with them, keep working with them, as we move forward on these opportunities here.
QUESTION: Did you ever get a specific date for his meeting with the Secretary?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not yet.
QUESTION: Envoy Brahimi gave a press conference today, talked about some of his thoughts about a caretaker government. Have you been able to see his remarks? He said that -- he was kind of specific about a prime minister, vice president, but not so specific on how that would be chosen by June 30th. Can you shed any light on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't go into more detail than he did. He, obviously, described his ideas as tentative. We have been working with him and talking to him as he has carried his work in Baghdad. He noted he has met with a great number of Iraqis from government, nongovernmental positions, civil society, and said that he would be further developing his ideas after he came back, briefed the Secretary General, talked to the Security Council, and then would go back to Iraq and work them further.
But I would say that we noted a couple things just immediately. He said that it is possible, it is feasible to establish a Iraqi interim government before June 30th. It is important, as the President said last night, for the transfer to occur on June 30th, and that he and we all have every intention of making that transfer, that we need to get started on the elections process as well, that there are laws and regulations to be put in place in Iraq so that the elections can occur in January of 2005. And we are working with him on the current plan, as well as on those longer-term plans.
So without -- I don't think I can go into any more detail than he did on how his ideas are developing about how that can be done. But I would note that he did say it can be done, and it can be done on the schedule that's set.
QUESTION: He also said that the security situation would make elections extremely difficult. So why -- what's the difference between kind of getting all these things together for interim government, in the security situation being the way it is, and that's okay, but the longer goal of nationwide elections is being hampered by the security situation?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, they're different things. I mean, it's different to do the consultations, to identify what he described as, I think, capable and effective, honest and competent people to run an interim government for a limited period of time, and then have those people step forward and actually start running the government on June 30th.
That's a different process than a nationwide registration and election process that has people far and wide throughout the country registering and voting and campaigning and all that sort of stuff. So we recognize the security requirements for the election are indeed broader, more difficult. That's why we continue to work very hard, as the President said last night, to get control of the current situation and to establish the security that Iraqis want.
QUESTION: Can we go back --?
MR. BOUCHER: We had some others. Yeah.
QUESTION: Have you been contacted by the Japanese Government regarding the two -- actually, two more Japanese being kidnapped in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of two more being kidnapped. We have been in very close touch with the Japanese Government about the Japanese who are missing in Iraq. We're trying to work very closely with them as we look into the overall hostage situation. But, no, I don't have any new news on specific new reports.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Okay. Sir.
QUESTION: High-level academics and ex-U.S. diplomats have said during a forum that was held by the Egyptian-American Council on the Relations of the Egyptian-American Council, they said that they predicted that the United States was going to use its partnership with Egypt during Mr. Mubarak's visit in order to employ that partnership to have Egypt contribute in helping the new Iraqi government develop a new system and trainings for the military, Iraqi military, and security people there. And they indicated that the recognition of Egypt of the new Iraqi government is very essential for the United States in order to give legitimacy to the new government in Iraq.
Is that the United States position? And what has the United States asked Mr. Mubarak to present, you know, for Egypt to give? What kind of help did you ask them?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the first part of your question I can only answer in a general way. I think the Egyptians will have to answer what their capabilities might be, what their willingness might be, to take on certain tasks.
But, certainly, we encouraged Egypt and any other governments in the region or elsewhere to try to get involved in helping, as best they can and in ways that they can, in the reconstruction of Iraq. We'd certainly welcome such a role and we work with a great number of countries who do work in Iraq already.
As far as the other part of your question -- what was the other part of your question?
QUESTION: What kind of help did the United States ask Mr. Mubarak to --?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that was the first part of your question.
QUESTION: You asked them to recognize --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, recognition for Iraqi interim government, certainly, that is important to us. As we have worked very hard with the Iraqi Governing Council to get its acceptance in the Arab League and the Islamic Conference to have representatives of Iraq be able to appear at the United Nations, it certainly is important to us to have the world recognize and work with the Iraqi interim government as the sovereign government of Iraq responsible for running the day-to-day affairs in Iraq after June 30th.
And I think, one of the things I noted at the press conference this morning by Ambassador Brahimi, was he said that the UN would be looking forward to engaging with the interim government as the legitimate government of the state of Iraq, and we would hope that everybody would be willing to do that as well.
QUESTION: Good morning. Mr. Tony Blair is coming to Washington this week to meet with the President. I'm assuming Iraq will be at the top of the agenda. What else is -- what else are they going to be discussing?
MR. BOUCHER: I really leave questions like that to the White House. I'm sorry I can't answer it for you here. But, in terms of the President's agenda with foreign leaders, I have to leave that to the White House.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Mr. Sharon's meeting with the President?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we were there to begin with, but --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I went there, so I'm not really going back. But go ahead.
QUESTION: Go to that. Now, Mr. Sharon said that six major settlement blocs are eternally Israel's and there is speculation that the President may give him a nod or an approval, a nod of approval on some of that. If that happens, would that be -- would there be a major departure from traditional U.S. policy that says that settlements are [inaudible]?
MR. BOUCHER: Love to be able to expound at length on the answer to your question. But since the President and Prime Minister Sharon are about to speak to the press on the issues that they've discussed, it wouldn't behoove me to stand here and speculate at this moment.
QUESTION: But as far as you know, there will be no major departure from traditional U.S. policy on the settlements?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as I know, I'm not going to address the question no matter what you ask. So that's all I can tell you at this point. It's going to be done shortly at the White House. We'll let them make the news on whatever there is to say.
QUESTION: Would you care to outline the President's agenda with -- in his meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan next week?
MR. BOUCHER: The same answer.
QUESTION: I'm kidding.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Appreciate it.
QUESTION: On Sudan and Darfur, do you have any updates on the ceasefire? Is it holding?
MR. BOUCHER: Today, we don't have any confirmed reports of ceasefire violations in Darfur. Situations with regard to reports of violence on Monday remains a little murky, haven't been able to confirm those reports either.
So it does appear that the violence may have gone down, but we really haven't been able to accurately determine whether the ceasefire is holding completely. We do think there is an urgent need to set up a ceasefire commission, and I think I described yesterday how we're working with the African Union to do that.
We also have our Disaster Assistance people there. The DART team leader and the U.S. agricultural specialist are presently assessing the situation in Darfur. There is a U.S. Agency for International Development food specialist in Chad, who is conducting an assessment related to providing assistance to Darfur refugees in border areas.
And we are also intending to, as we form this team, to make sure that we have adequate attention to the protection of civilians and we include -- will include someone called an abuse protection officer from USAID. So it will be an assistance as well as sort of civil mission that goes out to do this work for us and the people out -- who are planning it are there right now.
QUESTION: Human Rights Watch is saying that since the ceasefire agreement only said the militias had to be neutralized and not completely disarmed or disbanded, that they're concerned that the Government of Sudan may just absorb these groups, leaving them in control of their arms and possibly then able to go back out and do this again.
Do you know if it was made clear to the Government of Sudan, or do you know if it was the purpose to make sure that these bands are completely dismantled?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the exact terms might be. The most important thing is to stop the violence, stop the killing, stop the destruction that has wreaked, really, human disaster on this region. And that is where the focus has been. So getting them to stop the violence has obviously been the first goal.
Certainly, the United States and other governments would be very concerned if there was any situation which led to a recurrence of that violence. And we would expect the government with its influence already over these militias and whatever status they might end up in, or these people might end up in, that the government would continue to use its influence over the long term to make sure that the violence does not recur.
QUESTION: Given the government's influence and control over these militias, do you have any guarantees by the government that these USAID employees will -- their security will be guaranteed?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how specifically that was discussed. But, certainly, given the government's influence over the armed groups there and the government's -- the fact that this is territory in Sudan, we would expect them to do everything possible to make sure that humanitarian assistance workers are protected. As you know, one of the early parts of this ceasefire was to allow the provision of humanitarian supplies. That, by necessity, includes protection of the people who will be doing it.
QUESTION: Forgive me if you mentioned this in your answer to the first question. But yesterday, the UN was complaining that the Sudanese Government hadn't been given access to the team that was supposed to be going -- their team that was supposed to be going in to investigate atrocities by the -- did you talk about that?
MR. BOUCHER: For the UN team?
QUESTION: UN -- yeah. This is out of Geneva, the human rights.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. No, I don't have anything on the UN team. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: All right, and --
MR. BOUCHER: I just know that some of the U.S. people are there.
QUESTION: Okay. Another subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: Yeah. UN Human Rights Commission. Can you give us an update about where you -- what your plans are, what's happened there, what's going to happen there?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think that, as you know, the Commission is underway. They're considering a variety of country-specific and thematic resolutions. A few of them have been voted already, but really, Thursday and Friday the Commission is scheduled to vote on several key resolutions, including China, Cuba, Israel and Belarus.
We, as you know, from the White House, and I think from here, that the Secretary, the President -- the President, the Secretary and others in this building have been making phone calls to members of the Commission, have talked to other governments who are interested in these human rights situations, and encouraged votes in the direction that we would like. So we've been comparing notes with others who are encouraged about these situations and hope for the best.
QUESTION: Okay. So then I would assume, then, that on the four that you just mentioned that the first two you want yes votes on, the third one you want a no vote on, and the fourth one you want a yes vote on. You said: "China, Cuba, Israel --
MR. BOUCHER: China, Cuba, Israel and Belarus.
MR. BOUCHER: The China resolution, the first thing is the no action motion, so we're looking to defeat the no action motion.
We're looking to pass a good resolution on Cuba that makes clear the concern that many of us have about the deterioration in the human rights situation and the Cuban Government's abuses of human rights in the past year.
In terms of Israel, we've voted against resolutions on Israel because we've felt that they were unbalanced. And that appears to be the case again this year.
In terms of Belarus, there is a resolution that's co-sponsored by the United States and the European Union. We think it can send a powerful signal to the government of Belarus to begin meeting international standards. Unfortunately, Belarus has taken no meaningful steps to implement the recommendations that are contained in the 2003 resolution and the situation has deteriorated. So we would look for a resolution this year that makes that clear.
QUESTION: And Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I have an update on where we stand in Iran at the Commission. I'll have to get something for you on that.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. I have just one more on this. Are those the only four that you have special interests that are coming up for votes on Thursday and Friday?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, we have a great many interests, but I think those are the --
QUESTION: I know. I mean special interests though. China you're supporting; Cuba you've always done; Israel you've always taken that position; and Belarus you've been increasingly critical of over the past several years.
MR. BOUCHER: China, we're opposing the no action resolution, and then seeking a resolution.
QUESTION: No, I know. But you don't -- but it's your resolution on China. So you have a special interest in it?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. Is there any -- are there any other ones that you have a special interest in?
MR. BOUCHER: There may be others that we have sponsored or co-sponsored that I'll have to check on and see.
QUESTION: Back to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Human Rights Watch called for an investigation into allegations that the U.S. forces have used excessive force, using -- causing undue -- and undue collective punishment on the population. Will the U.S. comply?
And what is the status of Fallujah? I mean, how does -- technically, what is its status? It's occupied? It's hostile? It's what?
MR. BOUCHER: The second question I, frankly, don't understand. Fallujah is a city in Iraq. It needs to be administered by the government of Iraq. It needs to be peaceful for the sake of its local population, and we and others are making efforts to bring security to the people of Fallujah; we're making efforts to exercise -- help the government, the Iraqis exercise good government in Fallujah.
And I think we've pointed out that much of the trouble in Fallujah, including recently, has been the result of foreign fighters and Iraqis who might be working with them and supporting them, not necessarily the general population of the area.
So Fallujah is an Iraqi city which, like other cities, needs to have peace and security for the sake of the people who live there, and needs to let the people who live there run their own affairs without interference from other foreigners and without violence caused by other elements coming in.
QUESTION: About on the allegations?
MR. BOUCHER: On the allegations, I think I'd have to leave that to the Pentagon; that when there are allegations involving U.S. forces, obviously, we're aware of those. Whether the specific thing with Human Rights Watch is something that needs to be looked into or not I'd leave to them.
I would point out though that U.S. forces always follow very high standards of professional conduct, and when there are difficulties that arise, it's often our own internal -- their own internal vigilance that discovers them, investigates them and rectifies them.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Richard, can I go back to the Middle East --
MR. BOUCHER: I guess we have one or two more here.
QUESTION: -- the Sharon visit for one second, which is, just yesterday, you told us about a series of phone calls the Secretary had made to try -- to kind of -- preparing or to tell the international community what was going on, and I think you mentioned four or five people he had talked to. Do you know, between then and the start of the meeting over at the White House, if he's talked to anyone else about this specific issue?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember where I left off yesterday so let me start at the beginning. There were basically -- the Secretary did talk to Pakistani President Musharraf yesterday about the situation in that region. But I'd say that yesterday, and to some extent, this morning, the Secretary is making two sorts of phone calls: one is to talk about the issues in the Middle East and the second is to talk about Cyprus with Cypriot leaders.
And we talked about that. So on the Middle East and other issues, sometimes both, he talked to the Secretary General, he talked to German Foreign Minister Fischer, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, Jordanian Foreign Minister Muasher -- I think those are the ones I had --
MR. BOUCHER: -- when I briefed yesterday. And then in the afternoon, he talked to French Foreign Minister Barnier, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Shaath, European High Representative Solano -- talked to him about Cyprus as well -- talked to Saudi Foreign Minister Saud, talked to the Foreign Minister Cowen of Ireland, about both issues, I think.
And then on Cyprus, specifically, I think I'd mentioned he talked to one of the [inaudible]
QUESTION: A lot.
MR. BOUCHER: -- party leaders, Prime Minister, so-called, Talat; he then also talked to party leaders and former presidents of Cyprus; talked to AKEL party leader, Mr. Christofias, talked to the former President Vassiliou and this morning, he talked to former President Clerides and DISY party head, Nicos Anastastiades.
QUESTION: So, okay. And all these calls on Cyprus? On all these calls, he has omitted the two main -- he has omitted Denktash and Papadopoulos. So can I ask again, does this mean that you guys think that there's not really any -- there's no point in trying to convince these guys to change their mind?
MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, we would welcome a change of mind by those people.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you --
MR. BOUCHER: But we also want to talk to people who may be in the process of making decisions on their positions, people who may be outspoken already in support of the referendum so that we can make sure that we're meeting the needs of those who support the referendum.
As I said yesterday, we're going to do everything we can to try to support this agreement, and we think it's the best course forward. It offers benefits, specific benefits, to both Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots alike. We're going to go to the conference, the donors conference in Brussels tomorrow, and pledge a substantial amount.
We're going to be working with the United Nations to make sure that everybody on the island and elsewhere understands that the United States and the United Nations will work to ensure implementation of the agreement and consistently find ways to make clear our view that this is an agreement, this is an opportunity for the people of Cyprus that needs to be taken.
QUESTION: All right. Specifically on the Musharraf phone call, what was the --
MR. BOUCHER: Looking at the situation in the region with Pakistan and in terms of the dialogue between Pakistan and India.
QUESTION: Nothing to do with A.Q. Khan?
MR. BOUCHER: Not in particular, no.
Okay. We have one more in the back. Sorry.
QUESTION: Anything new with Hong Kong? Last weekend there is a big protest by the democracy activists in Hong Kong. Do you have anything new on Hong Kong?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I'll get you something on the situation in Hong Kong. We've been following that closely.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)
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