State Department Noon Briefing, May 21
|Friday May 21,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
FRIDAY, MAY 21, 2004
12:35 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I'd like to make one statement about Burma.
We regret the failure of the Burmese military junta, the State Peace and Development Council, to take actions that would have made it possible for all elements of Burmese society, including all democratic representatives and ethnic groups, to participate in the ongoing constitutional convention. A convention that does not include all of these groups cannot make real progress towards democracy or national reconciliation, nor can it help Burma repair its international reputation. An assembly, such as the convention now under way, that lacks participation by delegates of the democratic opposition, is not truly representative of the peoples of Burma. It lacks legitimacy and therefore we deplore it.
We repeat our call for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Sui Kyi and U Tin Oo and the other political prisoners.
We have heard a growing chorus of voices from the international community calling for the credibility -- for credibility in the process of national reconciliation in Burma. We note that a number of countries, including countries in the region, have expressed their support for democratic reform in Burma. The United States -- United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has also expressed his concern and he has called for the release of National League for Democracy leaders.
We urge the authorities in Burma to react positively to the concerns of the international community before yet another opportunity to bring peace, security and prosperity to Burma is lost.
So, with that, I would be glad to take your questions on this or other topics.
QUESTION: I have questions I'd like to ask about the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Tunisia, where diplomats there are saying that they hope the abstention on the UN Security Council resolution on Wednesday signals a softening of U.S. support for Israel.
Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to disappoint anybody, but I think it's clear that U.S. support for Israel is going to stay strong. We have always supported Israel strongly. That doesn't mean we support everything that Israel does or every policy that Israel undertakes.
We view the current situation as one that has obvious difficulties and we've taken positions on what's going on in Rafah. We've been very concerned about the humanitarian effects of the Israeli operation. In fact, our Ambassador has been working with people on the ground to try to ensure access for water, for humanitarian supplies and for the needs of the people in that area.
We have been working with other governments like the Egyptians, as well as the Israeli Government and the Palestinians to try to get a more stable security situation there and take care of some of the security problems. So in this case, like in others, we call them the way we see them. But that doesn't diminish our overall support for the state of Israel.
QUESTION: Do you think it's good that Israeli forces started pulling out of Rafah today? Are you pleased to see that?
QUESTION: We're watching it closely. We'll have to see what it leads to. Obviously, lessening of these military operations can ease the lives of some of the people that have been affected by them.
QUESTION: Richard, the Arab press is reporting that the Israelis have given you assurances that they will not demolish any more homes. Could you confirm or deny that?
MR. BOUCHER: I -- it would be for the Israelis to confirm what they've said or done.
QUESTION: Okay, just a quick follow-up. Did the Israelis supply you with any evidence that they actually did discover and destroy any tunnels?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, it's for the Israelis to discuss what they've found and destroyed.
QUESTION: But, but you --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to talk about somebody else's military operation or what they're finding.
QUESTION: But to follow up on what you said earlier this week -- a couple days ago -- that you guys are investigating and you're following up on the story, have they told you anything? Have they shown you any evidence and so on, because they did --
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, it's not to me to talk for them. They can talk for themselves. I'm not in a position to discuss what they may have shared or not have shared with us.
QUESTION: Can you say whether the U.S. is -- is satisfied that Israeli assurances that this demolition would not -- that -- that no more homes would be destroyed, that it would be limited to a certain targeted area -- is the U.S. satisfied that Israel has followed its assurances?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that Israel has made any such assurances in public and it would be up for them to account for what they are or are not doing.
QUESTION: Change of subject. A man died in an Uzbek jail this week on Tuesday, and Human Rights Watch said that his body had markings on it consistent with torture. I'm wondering if you have any comment on this particular case. As you're well aware, the State Department has in the past -- I forget the exact word -- but expressed its unhappiness at the deaths of people held in Uzbek jails.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware personally of the specific case, so I'll have to look into it and see if there is anything we have to say.
QUESTION: On that, on a related matter, when you look into it, if you could also look into what effect, if any, this may have on the Secretary's decision on whether to certify that Uzbekistan has made progress on the joint strategic framework that you signed with them in 2002, progress which, I believe, is necessary for the continuance, or for the disbursement of certain categories of U.S. aid.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there are any decisions on that.
QUESTION: On the raid yesterday on Mr. Chalabi's house and --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about a government investigation as to who might have provided Mr. Chalabi with U.S. intelligence and operations in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I am not in a position to comment on either investigations or intelligence, or investigations relating to intelligence.
QUESTION: Is it true that Mr. Chalabi opened an office in Iran for the INC using State Department money?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, frankly. I'm not aware of that.
QUESTION: Can you take the question?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if that's ever been reported or indicated.
QUESTION: There have been some reports that part of the ongoing operations that the INC had undertaken using some of the State Department money was to open up an office in Iran.
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, our funding for the INC, for the Iraqi National Congress, ended in September of 2003. So I don't know when this might have taken place.
QUESTION: No, I mean before -- I mean before then, that part of their -- when you gave them money for their information collection and in offices in dealing with the Diaspora that they opened an office in Iran to do --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see if an office in Iran was part of that.
QUESTION: They would have had to report it under the rules of their -- of their funding.
MR. BOUCHER: They would have had --
MR. BOUCHER: -- if it was our funding and under our contracts, yeah.
QUESTION: You have an abundance of intelligence. Do you have any concerns, broadly speaking, about contacts that Mr. Chalabi may have had with Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment on that, at this point.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- some other members of the Iraqi Governing Council are threatening to resign as a result of the raid on Chalabi's headquarter or home. How will that complicate the situation as we move closer to the transition?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, let's not speculate on the outcome of something that may or may not happen. Second of all, I need to point out again, as we have in Baghdad, as well, that this -- this raid was carried out pursuant to an Iraqi law enforcement process that representatives of the Iraqi Central Criminal Court confirmed yesterday. The actions stemmed from investigations that are underway within the Iraqi judicial system.
So that's a limit to what happened yesterday, and they have talked about it themselves, to what they did.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that. There has been calls not to include any of the current members, the present members of the council, in the upcoming government. Is it the State Department's view that this may be a good idea or not a good idea? How do you view this?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view is that Ambassador Brahimi is out in Iraq. He is consulting very, very widely within Iraqi society. He is talking to Governing Council members. He is talking to social groups. He is talking to political groups. He is talking to religious and tribal leaders and others throughout Iraqi society. He has been to various places outside of Baghdad to talk to people, and he is helping, coming forward, helping the Iraqis come forward with a list of names of people who could run the government. And we'll leave it to him to specify who they are or who they should be.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just one more on Chalabi, just to put a fine point on this. When you said about the raid was related to Iraq, are you saying that yesterday's raid had absolutely nothing to do with U.S. concern about Mr. Chalabi?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a yes.
QUESTION: So, not one more, two more. Can I just -- I know that we don't -- I'm sure you don't -- I don't -- remember exactly what the rules were for the State Department funding. But I do know that it was for office space. Can you check whether that would have been an allowable use, not only did they, but whether that would have been an allowable use of State Department money, given their restrictions?
MR. BOUCHER: It was -- the funding was from 1999 to September 2003. It was for information collection. It was for newspapers, radio, TV broadcasts, things like that --
QUESTION: I think it was for office -- for office space --
MR. BOUCHER: -- including the offices and the space necessary to do that. So, you know, that's as much as I can describe. I don't know if I can --
QUESTION: See, I don't know if they had -- if they got to decide where they open new offices.
MR. BOUCHER: -- hypothetically decide. I'll just find out if that was part of our package or not.
MR. BOUCHER: If it was not, then there is not much more to say.
QUESTION: Allegedly, to set up an office in Iran would have required specific approval because, I guess, it would go against specific U.S. policy governing the funds.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it would have. I'm rather skeptical that this was either part of the package or permitted because you're not allowed to spend U.S. money in Iran, under Treasury regulations, anyway, so.
QUESTION: Anti-terrorists law.
MR. BOUCHER: But, yeah.
QUESTION: So if it's proven that he did actually spend State Department money in Iran, are you --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you're asking me to speculate on three levels of hypothetical. If it's proven, then you can ask me whatever question you want to after that.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay?
QUESTION: I just -- can I change the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: On the Myanmar issue, the statement at the first stage of this briefing. And is it the time for United States to review the policy, entire policy toward Myanmar, because you introduced the brief, very strong sanction against the country. And so maybe it's time for U.S. to change this policy or take other country to join the same strong measure, especially China and ASEAN countries. And what's your view on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view is that each country does have to decide on its own its relationship with Burma, but that we don't hesitate to point out and discuss with others the problems that we see there, the way the country is being run, the way the democratic forces in Burma are being repressed, and the need for everybody to support a real national dialogue, a real constitutional change that involves the people who want elections, the people who have been involved in that process before.
You can't do that with major figures like Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo in jail. You can't do that without the participation of a substantial part of the political spectrum. And so that is something that we discuss with other governments frequently. We raise it; we press it; we encourage them in their contacts or their statements to make that clear, as well.
QUESTION: So you're going to -- not going to change your policy at this moment?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not seen any significant change in Burma that would lead us to think we needed to change our policies.
QUESTION: China's Foreign Ministry spokesman had the statement on Taiwan President's inauguration speech and he also called on the U.S. not to be deceived by Chen's words. And I'm just wondering, can you tell us any, I mean, the content and tone of any communication the U.S. has had with China regarding Chen's speech.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I'm not in a position to go into any particular discussions. The Chinese view we've seen. We've heard from some Chinese. I'm not sure if there's been an official statement or approach to us or not.
And I think you know our view as well, as put out by the White House yesterday. We do think that the speech was responsible and constructive, and we think it offers an opportunity, and we hope the two sides will take advantage of that opportunity to begin a peaceful dialogue again.
QUESTION: And is it fair to say the U.S. is playing sort of mediating role?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't think that would fair. We're not at that -- we're not doing that.
QUESTION: Change of subject -- any more Asia?
MR. BOUCHER: No, one more. Okay.
QUESTION: All right, Wei Jing.
QUESTION: A follow-up on China. Well, Taiwan has -- some company launched a satellite from California yesterday. Do you have any guidance in the cooperation between U.S. and Taiwan or U.S. and mainland China on that kind of --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm afraid I don't.
QUESTION: Well, you have anything on the -- Annette Lu's visa application status?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new, no.
QUESTION: There is not --
MR. BOUCHER: Am I supposed to at this point? Is there news? Is she coming or not coming? I'll have to check and see if there's any news on that.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. I wanted to go to the UN resolution on Iraq.
Secretary Powell says he's working hard on it and talking to other countries, not waiting around for, for -- even for Brahimi to announce names. Can you give us the state of play and, also, how much disagreement you feel there is at this early stage over whether or not there should be a clause in there that says when troops should get out, as some countries are calling for?
Was that too long?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that was too long. And I'll talk about the agreement at this stage rather than this disagreement at this stage, if you don't mind.
QUESTION: Oh, of course. Yeah, that'll be smaller, right?
MR. BOUCHER: We've been --
QUESTION: It'll be shorter.
MR. BOUCHER: No it won't. It would be rather extensive. I can go on for hours about the areas of agreement that we have already established --
QUESTION: That we'll remember?
MR. BOUCHER: -- but I'll give you the short version.
We have continued our consultations. As you know, we had meetings yesterday with political directors from coalition member-countries. We had, during the course of those meetings, fairly extensive discussion of UN resolutions and how we go forward with them. We found that to be a very useful, very productive discussion.
We had a third round of what are called "informal informals" in New York, where we get together among the members of the Security Council and talk about the elements and prospects for this resolution.
We do feel there is very substantial agreement on the basic elements of a resolution, on the need to endorse and encourage the new government, endorse the political process that's underway leading to elections, provide for the vital role that the United Nations can play, provide for the continuation of the multinational force, and make sure that it's clear that various assets, like the Development Fund, are turned over into Iraqi hands. In sum, it ends the occupation and sets up a new situation where the members of the international community can work with and support the -- an independent, sovereign Iraqi government.
We've had considerable discussion of those elements. We've had considerable discussion of some of the details. We've heard a lot from different countries with various ideas. We're moving forward. I think we're getting closer to a text, at this point, that we could share with other members of the Council. And I think the text, as we begin to share it, will reflect many of the ideas that we've heard during the course of these very wide consultations.
QUESTION: Do you think that countries like France, Germany, Russia and Pakistan are willing to concede that there will not be a clause on the military and --
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, the resolution does need to provide for the continuation of the multinational force, and how much detail the resolution itself goes into it will be a product of the drafting process.
QUESTION: But the continuation is not the closure, which is what they're asking for -- or what they say they're asking for. I don't know what they're doing in your meetings.
MR. BOUCHER: We're not arguing for some kind of open-ended mandate to the multinational force. We're saying that the resolution needs to address the continuation of the force and the role of the force after June 30th, and so that will be part of the process of consultation and discussion.
QUESTION: You said that you're getting closer to a text.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Any ballpark as to when you're going to have one that you can share? With other nations, not necessarily with us. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I would say -- I'd just say we're getting closer to a text. We're discussing this in more detail with many countries. So soon we'll be discussing it in great -- in more detail with all the Council.
QUESTION: The proverbial "soon."
QUESTION: Next week?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be a guess, but she asked me for an estimate. I'm not quite willing to go that far.
QUESTION: Will you be showing the text to members of the coalition before you submit it to the Council?
MR. BOUCHER: Some members of the coalition are in the Council. We've been --
QUESTION: Well, no, I understand. But are you -- I mean, are you --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have for you, at this point, a sort of, well, game plan of who we show it to. We talk to various members of the Council. We'll talk to a lot of the people we've been talking to all along. We have, as you know, in this resolution had very wide consultations because there are many countries involved. There are many countries who care a lot about how we move forward in Iraq. They're the members of the Security Council. They're the members of the coalition, including the 32 nations who have boots on the ground that we were talking to yesterday. And there are a lot of other members of the international community who take a great interest.
And we all want the process of political transition in Iraq to succeed. We all want the international community to do everything possible to establish Iraq as a stable member of the community of nations. And so we have had broad discussions and we will continue to have broad discussions as we move forward.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Gaza for a minute?
QUESTION: Just one last one on Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let's finish on Iraq.
QUESTION: How much these consultations are focused on also the neighboring country of Iraq's, including those countries that you don't have very good relations with -- Iran or --
MR. BOUCHER: I think there has been, obviously, some discussion with some of the neighbors of Iraq, including the discussions we had over the weekend with neighboring countries, such as Jordan and others from the region, who were at the conference in Jordan. I'm not aware of any other consultations or broader consultations than that at this stage.
QUESTION: Don't you think that what -- that if you involved other important countries that are not very -- on very good terms probably with your policies in the area, would then that help further your efforts in, you know, trying to bring stability to Iraq and to, you know, to better the situation in there?
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe. I'll check on this and see if we've had diplomatic contact with some of the neighbors, just to make sure. Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Nadia.
QUESTION: I don't know if you have just discussed today or not. But some of the reports talking about Ahmed Chalabi that, basically, the accusation that he passed some sensitive information to --
MR. BOUCHER: We dealt with that about ten minutes ago, or didn't deal with, as the case might be.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. Okay. The other thing is, as you're aware, one of Jazeera cameramen were killed today. And I'm wondering if you have information about that, the circumstances in which he was killed, and whether you're going to open an investigation to that.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I'm aware of that. I think there is some wire reports. But I think the investigation has to be handled out in Iraq by the appropriate authorities.
QUESTION: Basically, the UNRWA representative in Gaza gave a presentation yesterday and he said that the United States, by far, is the biggest donor for UNRWA. But he also said that they are having communication with the U.S. Government seeking emergency aid. Are you aware of any emergency aid that is underway or that is being proposed or that is being channeled right at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything particular. We are very, very substantial donors to UNRWA. I think it's something like $75 million a year that we provide them. We have certainly been working with them in the current situation. As I said, our Ambassador has been looking to try to make sure we did everything possible to ensure access by humanitarian agencies so that supplies can get in, food and water can get in to people whose lives have been disrupted by these military activities in this area. But I'm not aware of any special donations or appeals, at this point.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: One last thing. Do you have anything, any more to say about Mr. Koizumi's visit to North Korea? Are you going to ask him afterwards what happened, actually, there?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we'll be talking to the Japanese Government about their discussions in North Korea. We always keep in close touch with the Japanese on matters that involve North Korea. As we've made clear, we fully support the effort that the Japanese are making on North Korea, both on the denuclearization side, but also to try to resolve their issue of abductees.
QUESTION: I just want to follow up on the Koizumi visit. And the United States is, you know, quite insisting on the multilateral framework, multilateral framework. On the other side, the key allies country -- Japan --hope, you know, summit meeting with the Kim Jong-il. So do you see any contradiction or compromise on your policy, on your approach on the multilateral framework?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: No? No concern?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. We've never had concerns of that sort. We have supported the efforts that other governments have made vis-à-vis North Korea. I know you have seen recently the South Koreans and North Koreans had talks leading to, perhaps, some military discussions. We certainly want to see issues between Japan and North Korea resolved to the satisfaction of Japan, particularly the plight of abductees and their families.
QUESTION: I lost count of the questions. Sorry if you answered that. I came late today.
MR. BOUCHER: I may have.
QUESTION: So I apologize.
The Israelis were saying, basically, that they are redeploying rather than withdrawing from Gaza right now. And do you think that's helpful considering the --
MR. BOUCHER: I was asked a very similar question, and really left it to the Israelis to describe their military operations.
QUESTION: But when, in your contact with them, aren't you telling them basically that maybe, considering the outrage and the outcry from the international community, that maybe it's good for them to withdraw now?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear our views on this particular set of circumstances, and I think the Israelis know them quite well.
Yeah. Sir, in the back.
QUESTION: Yeah. Already go back to North Korea. If the Japanese Prime Minister take Mr. Jenkins back to Japan, what are you going to do? Are you going to ask Japanese Government to hand over the Mr. Jenkins to U.S. authority?
MR. BOUCHER: That's also a hypothetical. I'd have to check and see what we've said in the past on Mr. Jenkins, if I can. Thanks.
QUESTION: But you have been talking with the Japanese Government, right?
MR. BOUCHER: We've been in very close touch with the Japanese Government, yes.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)
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