State Department Noon Briefing, May 20
|Thursday May 20,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
THURSDAY, MAY 20, 2004
12:10 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Well, we've got a lot of ground to cover, but maybe much of it is being covered by the military, either at the Pentagon or in Baghdad.
So dealing first with the incident at the Syrian border, can you provide any facts, and you know what I mean, of course, and have you been -- has the State Department been asked by Arab governments to explain what happened or what didn't happen?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any further facts. That's been, I think, the subject of discussions by our briefers in Baghdad this morning. It's for the military forces to take care of that.
QUESTION: So no on the second part and no one out there -- no governments out there or --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of, you know, any specific -- I didn't see anything in the cable traffic this morning, but that would have been pretty quick. If governments are asking, I'm sure our people are providing all the information the military has available on the events near the Syrian border.
I understand the military is still investigating, though, to make sure that they know everything that happened there and that they know for sure whether or not it was as they suspected to begin with. They said they attacked a suspected safe house. After these incidents, they always look back and, obviously, want to make sure that the -- it was such a target.
QUESTION: It's almost an uncanny parallel to what Israel is involved in in Gaza. But I guess that's my opinion.
MR. BOUCHER: That's your opinion.
QUESTION: Right. But similarly, Israel says we weren't targeting civilians, neither in getting at the tunnels or demonstrators. And you know, there was a lot of action yesterday by the Administration critical of Israel.
Has there been any response to that? You've been under fire for -- the Administration has been -- for various things, we don't have to recite them all. But have you heard a chorus of "hip hip hoorays," lately for letting the resolution get through, for condemning Israel, for criticizing Israel? There are a lot of people who'd want to --
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I'm sorry. I lost the train here. I'm not quite sure what the question is.
QUESTION: All right. All right. In the United States --
MR. BOUCHER: Was it about comparisons? Is it about the incident in Gaza?
QUESTION: No, no. Forget the comparisons.
MR. BOUCHER: Is it about "hip hip hoorays" for something? I mean --
QUESTION: The comparison was transitional on my part, so let's stick to the Israeli thing. You did several things that the Administration did yesterday: allowing the resolution to get through, which isn't too usual. You usually look for a balanced resolution or even veto them.
And have you been under pressure in the Arab world for your policy toward Israel, what's going on in Iraq -- has this in some way brought from the Arab world any statements of approval or whatever? Has there been a reaction from the Arab world to the events yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen any particular reaction at this point.
QUESTION: Against the backdrop of the anger that emerged from the abuse in the Abu Ghraib Prison, are you concerned that this attack, and the way it's being perceived in Iraq hurts your campaign to win over the hearts and minds of Iraqis?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, that's really a Baghdad question. I think they're closer to the hearts and minds of Iraqis question than we are here.
Obviously, we want to -- the military wants to make sure they know exactly what happened. They have made clear what they were going after, that there was certainly no intention of hurting innocent people, and they felt they had a good and legitimate target. As the facts come out, I'm sure they'll be up front and open about what happened there.
QUESTION: Go back to Gaza?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Are you disappointed to see that the Israeli operations in Gaza are still going on in spite of your call yesterday for maximum restraint?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've made clear our views, and certainly we have called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint in the situation in Gaza. We have been in touch with other governments, as we said we would, including the Israeli Government, but also with the Palestinians and the Egyptian Government to talk about how to make sure that every effort is made to restrict smuggling across this area, that arms are not flowing through here, that tunnels are not being used. And so that remains important to us as well, is to relieve the security concerns that Israel might have about this area.
But we thought we had -- we had made clear yesterday and in other discussions with the Israelis that we don't think these current operations are contributing to peace and security, and that remains our view.
QUESTION: Can I follow up quickly? No, it's right on point. That "in touch" you just referred to implements what was at the -- in the text of the White House statement yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Separately, I thought, when the Secretary came down, he spoke of having been in touch with different Israelis and planning to talk with the Palestinians. Did he follow through with that?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary spoke this morning to Nabil Shaath of the Palestinian Authority, yeah.
QUESTION: And which Egyptian?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our Embassy has been in touch with the Egyptians, not the Secretary.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, did you say there hasn't been any reaction to -- also the vote at the UN? Could you talk about that? You haven't heard anything back on whether --
MR. BOUCHER: I thought that was the question, was has there been a --
QUESTION: I thought that was, too. And you said there hasn't been any reaction to that.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say there hasn't been. I said I wasn't --
QUESTION: Oh. You haven't heard any?
MR. BOUCHER: I personally haven't seen a lot, seen any.
QUESTION: But what about from Israel? And could you go into the decision-making behind this unusual move?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, again, I think the Israelis understand the point that we were making, and there have been continued follow-up discussions with the Israelis that -- discussions not so much about the resolution itself, but about the policy that underlies it that I think we have made clear over several days to the Israelis our concerns. The President said the other day in public he was troubled by some of the events there. We had made clear our position on demolitions. We had made clear that while we accepted that there were security problems and concerns about this area, it was important to act very carefully with full examination of the consequences. So that's been an ongoing discussion with the Israeli Government.
We've kept in touch, obviously, with the Palestinians and the Egyptians about security and smuggling in that area for a long time. So I think it was the continuation, the evolution of the operations that led us to the point yesterday where we were abstaining on a resolution.
QUESTION: Why didn't you vote for it then? Why did you abstain?
MR. BOUCHER: Because, in the end, as we've said before, we didn't feel that it was balanced. We didn't feel it took into account the larger context of everything that was going on in that area that needed to be considered.
QUESTION: But in previous resolutions, you said the same thing, that it wasn't balanced, and that's why you vetoed it, so --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, in some cases, you know, it's -- we make a decision on the particular resolution, what's being presented, whether it reflects policy views that we're in accord with, and also whether we feel it has the full context. In this case, it did not, we feel, have the full context, although, to some extent, it corresponded to the policy views that we have expressed.
QUESTION: Okay. Just kind of a different --
QUESTION: On the resolution?
QUESTION: On the resolution. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On the resolution, did the Palestinians make changes that moved you from a veto to an abstention?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was an Algerian draft. We did discuss it with members of the Council. We proposed some amendments to the Algerian draft, but despite some revisions in the original draft, the text, in the end, in our view, did not sufficiently address the context of the recent events. So that's kind of where we ended up.
We proposed changes, a few were made, but it didn't go far enough in terms of the context, as far as we were concerned.
QUESTION: Didn't go far enough to have you support it?
MR. BOUCHER: To have us support it, yeah.
QUESTION: But it went far enough to change you from a veto to an abstention?
MR. BOUCHER: As I described, yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, just a quick follow-up.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, a quick follow-up and then we'll go to a slightly different --
QUESTION: To follow up on the resolution, the Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said that if certain language was not entered into the text, they would have vetoed it. Could you tell us what language was?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. I don't have any more detail on that.
QUESTION: Richard, you said numerous times, and other officials, that you've made clear to the Israelis your position to urge restraint, that you don't agree, yet this continues. So do you -- are the Israelis kind of ignoring your complaints? Are they trying to explain the rationale? Have they altered in any way the operations to accommodate some of your concerns, or are they just flat out ignoring your pleas and the rest of the international community?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that's a nice series of questions to ask the Israelis, to what extent do they weigh what we say and what we -- and the policy positions that we take. We have taken policy positions that are quite clear in public. We've discussed them extensively with the Israelis. But as far as what weight they give to it and how much that changes their actions, you'd have to ask the Israelis.
QUESTION: So what kind -- but, I mean, it's obvious that there has, in fact, even though you've urged restraint, that the escalation and the operations are continuing and growing. So what leverage --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that that's obvious.
QUESTION: Well, but what leverage do you have over the Israelis to get them to stop, I guess is the question?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear our positions, and you'll have to ask the Israelis how much they take them into account.
QUESTION: I'd like to ask you about the U.S. reaction to President Chen's inaugural speech yesterday.
QUESTION: We're still on Gaza.
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to stay on Gaza for a little bit. We'll come back to you in a minute.
QUESTION: Can you explain how --
MR. BOUCHER: Hopefully a minute. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can you explain how the operation in Gaza shows the benefits of Sharon's disengagement plan? Maybe other people could say, well, in fact, it shows one of the problems, which is, there will be a security problem because they won't be keeping security and they'll be able to have as many rocket launches in there as they want.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have made clear that we believe the disengagement plan offers an opportunity, but it's an opportunity that everybody needs to take advantage of and that the Palestinian Authority, in particular, needs to be able to go there after an Israeli pullout, needs to be able to manage Gaza in a way that shows that they are capable of managing, of operating as a state, but that even more important, that restricts security problems that might emanate from that area, that they have to take real security responsibility in Gaza in a way that they have not, to this time, done so -- done.
And that's why, when the Secretary met with the Palestinian Prime Minister, when Dr. Rice met with the Palestinian Prime Minister, in all our discussions with the Palestinians and with others in the region, one of the focuses of our discussion has been the need for the Palestinians to take security responsibility in this area in Gaza. An Israeli pullout would reduce the points of tension and friction in that regard, but needs to be accompanied by Palestinian responsibility for the area.
QUESTION: Could I ask a couple of quickies? I'm a little puzzled.
The statement yesterday said Israel should pull out of Gaza. Well, isn't that what the Prime Minister is trying to do? I don't -- is there some nuance I'm missing here? You're asking Israel to do what Israel says it wants to do. Or do you mean, in some technical way, that, you know, whether he gets his party to back it or however, pull out. As a Prime Minister, just pull out?
MR. BOUCHER: We think that Israel should do what Israel wants to do. I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: -- we were saying again that this -- in terms of the pullout. I'm not making a broad --
QUESTION: In terms of the pullout. In terms of --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me finish the sentence, as noted, that in terms of disengagement from Gaza, we think it is a good idea. We think the very unfortunate events, the involvement of both sides and the unfortunate deaths and the humanitarian problems created by the operation demonstrate in a sad way that it would be better to remove this kind of friction, it would be better to remove these points of conflict, and to have Israeli disengagement the way the Israelis have talked about it, and to have the Palestinians take responsibility in that area.
QUESTION: That's the way they describe it.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Another question, just one quick one. The Deputy Secretary of State gave an interview to Al Jazeera less than a month after you stood up there and held papers in your hand and excoriated Al Jazeera's printing bogus accounts, bogus reports. I wondered if you could put it in some context. Is that because he wants to, or the Administration wants to use Al Jazeera for a message or did they come to him? How does this square with your -- with the State Department's disapproval of Al Jazeera's operation to grant them an interview?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, the Deputy Secretary is not the first person in a month to do an interview on Al Jazeera. We've done plenty of interviews with Al Jazeera and we do all the time. I'm not sure at what level they've been, so I'm not sure they'd all be on the website in terms of transcripts.
QUESTION: No, Powell didn't go on.
MR. BOUCHER: But certainly we've been on the air on Al Jazeera, and we want to help them report the truth. And to the extent that we can go on the air and tell them the truth, we'd like to do that. What we objected to was their reporting of false information, not their reporting of the views of the United States Government or opinions of others. It was the conveying of false information in a very dramatic and inflammatory way, particularly from places in Iraq where they claimed things were happening that were not, in fact, happening.
QUESTION: Richard, the President's endorsement of the Sharon pullout plan was conditional on not prejudicing the outcome, as he kept repeating. Now, reports from Israel say that, what the Israeli army intends to do is to create a large buffer zone on that. Wouldn't that be prejudicing the outcome? Are they --
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I'm not sure the current operation is really directly related to the disengagement plan.
MR. BOUCHER: So I think --
QUESTION: But it's related to the same geographical area. I mean, you know, it will --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I mean, Gaza is Gaza, but I'm not sure that the, either politically, policy-wise or otherwise, that these two things are appropriately linked, except to the extent that it shows that there is a considerable amount of conflict and friction that would be reduced by an Israeli disengagement along the lines of the one we discussed.
Okay. Can we go to Taiwan, or are we still on Gaza?
QUESTION: You're not satisfied that the Palestinian Authority is doing enough on security in Gaza. In your discussions with them urging them to do so, have you got any signals that they would do so, and that would, therefore, help the disengagement plan?
MR. BOUCHER: I -- would do so in the current circumstance, or as regards to disengagement?
QUESTION: From now. You're asking them to improve security.
MR. BOUCHER: We talked, as I mentioned. The Secretary spoke with the Palestinian Prime Minister about planning, the need for them to plan for taking security responsibility and other responsibility in Gaza, when and if the Israelis disengage from there. And they said, indeed, they were working on a plan and that they would be continuing the discussion with us about how they felt they could take security responsibility in that area.
QUESTION: That was the weekend. Today, it was the Foreign Minister. You're not talking about today's conversation, which was --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm talking about --
QUESTION: The weekend?
MR. BOUCHER: -- on Saturday with Prime Minister Qureia.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about discussions with Israel about the modifications to the disengagement plan that may be announced soon?
MR. BOUCHER: No particular discussions with Israel on that. We've, you know, obviously, been reading all the various ideas that are being floated in the press and ascribed to various people. As far as what Prime Minister Sharon really is going to come forward with, we'll just have to see.
QUESTION: Change to Taiwan.
MR. BOUCHER: Change? Okay. We're going to Taiwan now. Your question was: Do we have any comment on the speech? Right?
QUESTION: That's right.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. First, let us congratulate President Chen Shui-bian on his inauguration. We particularly welcome the constructive message that was offered in his inaugural speech. We appreciate his pledge that constitutional reforms will not touch on issues of sovereignty, territory, or the national title.
We've urged both Taiwan and the People's Republic of China to take this opportunity to engage in dialogue in order to resolve their differences peacefully. Our policy remains the same. The United States is firmly committed to our One China policy, to the three joint communiqués, and our responsibility under the Taiwan Relations Act.
We do not support Taiwan independence, and we oppose attempts by either side to unilaterally alter the status quo. We've long maintained that differences between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan are matters to be resolved peacefully by the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait absent the threat or the use of force; and that they should be acceptable to the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
QUESTION: There is one point in his speech that I'd like to pursue. And President Chen indicated an appreciation, or at least, an understanding of the mainland's insistence on the One Chine principle. How significant do you think this is?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can do a much more detailed analysis at this point. We felt that, overall, the speech was constructive and many of the ideas raised in it were constructive. We hope that both sides will find it possible to take advantage of this opportunity and to try to move forward to resolve differences peacefully through dialogue.
QUESTION: Yes, Richard, can I ask, after the speech, does Chinese Government talk to State Department or any officials here exchange views on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen any official reaction from the Chinese Government. Obviously, our Embassy is talking to various people about what they think about it, but I haven't seen anything official from the Chinese Government.
QUESTION: So can we say the U.S. is satisfied or reassured by the course laid out by Chen, I mean, with respect to --
MR. BOUCHER: I'd stick to where I am, and say we found it constructive.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you didn't have anything to say about China's complaints about Congressman Leach being there, I guess, as the representative of AIT. Do you have anything to say today?
MR. BOUCHER: Just the basic facts, that we're sending a -- we have unofficial ties with the people on Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan. That's consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and with our One China policy, and that AIT, the American Institute in Taiwan, organized a delegation to represent the American people at the inauguration.
QUESTION: On Italian-U.S. bilateral relations.
MR. BOUCHER: Italian?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Berlusconi -- Mr. Berlusconi just concluded his talks at the White House, and if I can have a -- you know, some rundown on, you know, what was accomplished during his visit, whether you are satisfied with the -- still with the Italian point of views concerning the involvement of the NATO, concerning the continuation of their troops serving in Iraq and concerning their stance about the Middle East problems. Were there any contentious points or --
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, the meetings were at the White House with the President and I can't presume to offer a readout from here.
Second of all, I believe that the President and the Prime Minister both spoke to the press and there is a transcript available from the White House of those remarks.
And, third, I think in those remarks you'll see the President said that we were very satisfied with cooperation with Italy. Italy has been a steadfast ally throughout this period and steadfast in Iraq, and we welcome that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I ask, just briefly, to go back to that subject again, was the Secretary's conversation with Shaath a two-way or a three-way conversation? I ask because I think he told us yesterday that Rice was in on it, and she's been doing her own talking to the Palestinians, so I wonder if she was part of the conversation.
MR. BOUCHER: No, it was -- the three-way conversation was the Secretary, Dr. Rice and the Israeli Chief of Staff, Weissglass.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary's conversations with Foreign Minister Shalom yesterday, and Nabil Shaath today, were both direct -- just him and the counterpart.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Back to Italy. Prime Minister Berlusconi has said that Brahimi has nominated somebody to be the president of the interim Iraqi government. Is that something that Brahimi has communicated to you?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'd have to ask Brahimi if he's that far along. The Secretary, I think, described it this morning as saying Mr. Brahimi is getting closer to being able to designate people. But I'm certainly not in a position to make any announcements on his behalf at this point.
He's been having very, very extensive consultations in Iraq. Ambassador Brahimi has, I think, been meeting with a wide range of Iraqis. We've seen -- if you follow the UN briefings, you'll see every day they talk about the people he's meeting. He's met, I think yesterday it was the Iraqi Oil Minister and members of the Provisional Council in Baghdad, and in addition, he's met people in civil society, members of the Governing Council, networks of women, heads of tribes. He's really been having very extensive cooperation -- consultations throughout Iraqi society at different levels and with different groups.
So we think the work has been progressing well. He's getting a variety of views. He's pulling his ideas together. But as far as when he'll be ready to make any announcements, I'd leave that for him to predict.
QUESTION: Richard, Mr. Chalabi's fortunes have taken a sudden turn. He described himself today as America's best friend in Iraq. Do you have anything to say about the incredible disfavor he's suddenly in, when he seemed to be part of the solution, only, if you know, the hoped for solution only a few months ago? What went wrong? Or is that something for the Iraqis to address?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I really don't have any observations on Mr. Chalabi's situation today. To the extent that the events of this morning were -- can be discussed, they were discussed at the briefing in Baghdad, and I'm sure will be discussed further by Iraqi security authorities if they can talk about their investigation. But I don't have any -- I wouldn't make any sweeping observations at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary has said several times that he now has concerns that some of the intelligence presented to him before the February 5th presentation was not solid. And as we know, Mr. Chalabi had something to do, or some links with the sources who were used at that time.
It's also not a secret that this building has -- or officials in this building have had some concerns about Mr. Chalabi for many months. Can you tell us as much as you can about what those concerns might have been?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't think it's appropriate for me to try to make any sweeping observations at this point. The -- we've been quite upfront, in terms of our support for the INC, our funding of the INC. There was a lot of State Department money that helped their operations before the war. That money was to sustain them while they were outside. And it was kind of brought to a conclusion September of 2003 in terms of the State Department funding stream. I'd leave it to other agencies to account for other monies that might have been disbursed, from the Pentagon, for example.
But, you know, we had -- quite upfront, we did various audits and other accounting procedures that we apply to all recipients of U.S. assistance. But, beyond that, we've seen, as part of the Iraqi political structure, he's been there. He's been part of the Governing Council. We've worked with him as part of the Governing Council, and I don't think there is anything else to say at this point, really.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Elise.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that Mr. Chalabi has been providing sensitive information on the U.S. presence in Iraq -- security --
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be able to make any observations on what might have prompted today's raids.
QUESTION: He said this morning that one of the reasons that this operation was undertook is because you're -- he's challenging your ideas for the transfer of sovereignty and he's pushing for the Iraqis to have more sovereignty than the U.S. is willing to give them. Can you respond to this charge?
MR. BOUCHER: I really -- I don't pretend that I can do the briefing on this event today. And I don't pretend that I can do anything other than just refer you to Baghdad on this. Clearly, there were legal and investigative reasons for this event today, and not political ones.
QUESTION: Richard, on the transfer. We know that Ambassador Negroponte -- protocol will call for him to submit his credentials to the new interim government, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could you give us an idea or a timeframe as to when will this happen? Is it on July 1, on July 2nd, on July 3rd?
MR. BOUCHER: That will depend on the Iraqi interim government. When a new ambassador arrives in any city or town --
MR. BOUCHER: -- they -- there is a process that's set up for ambassadors to present credentials. In some places, it goes very quickly. Sometimes it takes longer. But since the Iraqi interim government will be handling that, you'll have to talk to them.
I would note that the foreign ministry is one of the ministries, one of the 11 ministries already turned over for the Iraqis to run, so I assume that they are already planning for that sort of thing.
QUESTION: So during, let's say, whatever few days between the time that the CPA is dissolved and the time that Mr. Negroponte assumes his position as a credentialed ambassador in Iraq, who will run the American affair in Iraq? I mean, how will it happen?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not really a question that arises. The ambassador or the DCM, whoever is there, runs that American operation and the presence --
MR. BOUCHER: -- even before an ambassador's credentials are presented. In many countries, they have procedures where you can sort of check in with protocol on your arrival and they authorize you to have meetings and do things.
MR. BOUCHER: Whether that sort of procedure is set up by the Iraqis or not, I leave to them to describe. But in terms of operating the American Embassy, working on the American presence, disbursing the funds, those are all things that an American Embassy can do, whether the ambassador has had the ceremony or not.
QUESTION: So they will start operating on July --
MR. BOUCHER: They will be up and running as soon as the Iraqi government's up and running.
QUESTION: On the transition and the relationship between the U.S. troops and Iraqis. The Secretary said that there was going to be some kind of consultative mechanism. Will that be similar to what Germany has asked for, which is a kind of a body that has the ability -- including Iraqis and members of the multinational force -- that has, you know, a right to say no?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what precise arrangements will be worked out. There will be arrangements worked out. I think we've briefed quite extensively on the principles involved, on the sovereign authority of the Iraqi government to decide what to do with their troops and how they relate to other troops that are operating there. That's a similar situation to many other places in the world.
If you look at the Deputy Secretary's testimony on Tuesday, you'll see he even described an occasion in Kosovo when a British commander, who was under operational command of a U.S. General, said he couldn't -- he had to opt out of a certain set of orders.
And so this has occurred before. It has occurred elsewhere. There are models for this. There's coordination mechanisms involved. And all I can tell you at this point is we will have the necessary mechanisms in place to work in partnership, in a very close partnership, with the Iraqi security forces, as well as others who are there helping the Iraqi people achieve their goals.
QUESTION: But not necessarily a formal review?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know whether there will be a committee, or there will be a hotline, or there will be, you know, several people in a room. I mean, at present, among the coalition there are a variety of mechanisms, both on the ground and in the field, at different levels. There's all the presence that people have at CENTCOM. So there are different ways of working this. Sometimes there are multiple arrangements to make sure that there is a good, solid partnership at every level and a good, solid partnership in terms of not just execution, but planning as well.
QUESTION: Ambassador Ricciardone, yesterday, said that a couple of hundred advisors would be -- international advisors -- would be staying in Iraq to kind of consult with the government after the handover. Can you explain a little bit more what those -- who those advisors will be and what they'll be doing?
MR. BOUCHER: The advisors are a normal part of any assistance program, particularly for a new government that's getting up and running. You've seen this in other places in the world, whether it was in the post-communist era in Eastern Europe and Russia, or in countries that had overthrown dictators and started to establish democracy. Think of some in Asia where there have been advisors helping out with the transition process.
So that's a normal part of our assistance programs so we provide advisors who can help people set up budget systems or write laws or develop plans for water systems or economic policy and things like that, and that's a normal part of any aid program. We'll be providing advisors and experts to the people in Iraq as they get their ministries up and running.
Advisors are appropriately named, though, because they're not the decision makers. The decision makers are the Iraqis who have to take all the advice and decide what to do because they're in charge of their own country.
QUESTION: Are these going to be diplomats? Are they going to be from various agencies? Are they going to be private sector people? A combination?
MR. BOUCHER: I expect they would be a combination. In cases in the past where I have seen them there have been diplomats who might have had a particular expertise; there have been academics who had a specific expertise; there have been people who have had experience in other transitional circumstances, be the economic transitions in one place that might apply elsewhere.
I think you've seen -- actually, if I remember correctly, when Poland was going through its economic reforms, there were a variety of advisors there, and then more recently, you've seen Poles in Iraq helping the Iraqis understand the kind of transition that they went through. And so there's kind of a domino or a learning effect where the people who have gone through this can help the next people down the line who might be going through it.
QUESTION: Richard, will some of these advisors be embedded physically in the various ministries?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, it would probably depend on the ministry. To the extent that there are many advisors already out there now working with the ministries, they -- sometimes they go back and forth, sometimes they work out of the ministry, sometimes they have other arrangements. It'll depend on the specific thing. You know, maybe if it's a particular expertise, they could be out in the field working on projects with Iraqis or if it's a more general thing they might be working with a ministry or working out of offices and keeping in touch with the ministry.
QUESTION: On Sudan, are there any developments in the humanitarian issues that you can --
QUESTION: Can I ask --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's hold on a sec. Come back to Sudan. Steve. Iraq?
QUESTION: What's the U.S. view of the suggestion at the Security Council that the mandate of the multinational forces expire when an elected government takes place to give the elected government the option of requesting for the multinational force to stay in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we've taken a specific position on that yet.
Okay, go on to the last question on Iraq, Said?
QUESTION: On Iraq, just a technical question. Now, there is a lot of visibility for the American military daily briefings and so on by General Kimmitt. Once the turnover takes place, are we going to see such an American visibility on a daily basis, especially the military? What is your --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you won't have Coalition briefings -- Coalition Provisional Authority briefings because there won't be a Coalition Provisional Authority. Briefings on what's going on in Iraq and how the Iraqi government is doing, what they're thinking, what they're up to will be in the hands of the Iraqis.
As far as the military and security situation, I suppose U.S. forces would be, obviously, prepared to disclose as much as they can, as they have in the past, about how they're -- what they're doing and how they're -- how they view the security situation.
I'm certain you'll have Iraqis, as well. They'll have an Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Iraqi forces, and an overview of the security situation in the country would probably come from them. But as far as what U.S. forces are doing, I'm sure they'll find ways to brief. But, no, it won't be the same kind of thing every day. It'll be different. And that's clearly one of the messages we want to get across, that it's not -- it's not a continuation of what we have now. It's a new phase; it's a different phase, where the Iraqis are running their own country.
Okay, Barry. You wanted an update on Sudan?
QUESTION: I've lost the thread, but it was a bad a couple days ago. Anything getting out of hand?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, certainly, the situation in Darfur remains dire and it's a serious concerns of ours. There's violence that continues. The rains start soon. It's likely, in fact, that conditions will worsen. We've made, as you know, already extensive efforts to get relief supplies in there through airlifts. We have had people in and out on the ground sometimes, but we have never gotten -- haven't gotten the number of people we'd wanted, but we've also encouraged and pressed the government very hard to restrain the militias since that's been a source of great hardship and difficulty for the people in Darfur.
The one thing I can report to you is, this morning, the Government of Sudan informed us that it has decided to issue visas within 48 hours for humanitarian workers responding to the crisis in Darfur, and then to waive the travel permit requirements. The Government of Sudan has also stated it will ensure that aircraft delivering humanitarian relief will not be restricted.
As you know, we've been urging the Government of Sudan to take these steps and they are long overdue. We are reserving judgment until we see this new policy implemented, but we hope that these policy decisions will be implemented because that would change at least some of the problems we've had to date.
QUESTION: You referred, a few sentences back, to having made efforts. You didn't say whether -- and you needed more manpower -- but were any of those efforts successful? Efforts to get assistance to the --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, we've had --
QUESTION: You've been trying, but I don't know if you have succeeded.
MR. BOUCHER: Do we know if it's about seven? The other day it was --
QUESTION: Did anybody --
MR. BOUCHER: On Tuesday, the seventh relief flight went in from us.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MR. BOUCHER: We've been supporting the efforts of nongovernmental organizations who have been working there. The United States has been funding support for refugees, refugees who might be coming out of Darfur into Chad. So we've been supporting the efforts of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
There have been, I think, in every possible way, we've been trying to help out, but the -- what we need is security, first of all, so that the people who are subject to the conditions of drought and devastation can no longer live in fear, and we need ways -- a much more extensive ability to get food and supplies to them. We've been working with the World Food Program, with the refugee agencies and others, but that has brought some relief to some people in some places, but the kind of widespread program that's needed is going to require more access, more security and more people on the ground. And we hope that, having waited to get more people on the ground, that these new steps will lead to the ability of the United States and others to get relief workers in there and set up these kind of more extensive distribution systems that are needed.
QUESTION: You have made it clear that the United States makes no link between the situation in Darfur and the terror list and the negotiations in Kenya. But in them suddenly saying they were going to change their mind on the visas and they've been saying they'll be much more helpful on the permits, did they make any linkage between being taken off the terror list?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. And, certainly, we would have to tell them that that's not going to happen because of this. Getting off the terrorism list is -- stands on its own. It has to be because of terrorism.
QUESTION: And a technical thing on the permits, are they already waived for the people who had received their visas? This -- I think -- is it 11 of them are in Khartoum? So can they now, as of today, try and travel to Darfur?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll just have to see. That would be the implication. But until we actually see it happen, I'm not able to describe how it's going to work.
QUESTION: So the 48 hours didn't necessarily refer to those, those guys within -- in 48 hours will not need permits to travel?
MR. BOUCHER: No. What they've said is within -- that they will issue visas within 48 hours for humanitarian workers. So any subsequent visa requests, rather than being pending for a long time, should be issued rather quickly; and then those people are able to go in and go on to Darfur without waiting for a further travel permit.
How soon our people in Khartoum are able to get out there without permits, we'll have to see the kind of implementation we see of these measures.
QUESTION: One more just on India. Do you -- obviously, the Secretary said the peace process remains intact, but I wonder if there's any concern that the way things played out, the -- there's maybe a rise of nationalism, and that's why Sonia Gandhi decided to not take the premiership?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, let me say we congratulate Mr. -- Dr. Singh on his selection as India's next Prime Minister. We look forward to continuing with him the strong bilateral relationship, which we've enjoyed with the previous government in India. We do think that the smooth transition of power taking place in New Delhi is a hallmark of this large and vibrant democracy, and we look forward to engaging with the new Prime Minister and his team on a broad array of substantive issues, which will strengthen and deepen our relationships.
As you know from the statement the Secretary made yesterday with Foreign Minister Kasuri of Pakistan, we look forward to having good relations with Pakistan and with India, and also to seeing the continuation of the efforts that our two friends have made to find common ground and resolve longstanding differences. And we've been pleased to see people on both sides reiterate their commitment to that process. So I don't think I would try to make any observations of -- about that, other than to say that it seems that people on both sides want to continue.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:50)
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