State Department Noon Briefing, June 21
|Monday June 21,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
MONDAY, JUNE 21, 2004
12:55 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements. So I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Well, we know about the UN nuclear agencies report and you, at the State Department, addressed that last week. And Iran's -- number one, denies that they have a nuclear weapons program. How close, with ElBaradei being here today, how close is the U.S. to supporting sanctions against Iran? We've already agreed that they haven't been forthcoming. Do they pay a price for that?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States and other countries joined together on Friday, at the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and we left no doubt that Iran should come clean, fully cooperate with the IAEA and fully honor its commitments. Obviously, Iran's past record does not give us confidence that they will meet the terms of this resolution. But we have, I think, placed the ball firmly in Iran's court to meet the conditions and the requirements, as well as its own promises.
The resolution calls on Iran to take on all necessary steps on an urgent basis to resolve all outstanding issues, including Highly Enriched Uranium and Low Enriched Uranium contamination, and the nature and the scope of the P2 centrifuge program. It stresses the importance of complying with deadlines for further declarations required by Articles 2 and 3 of the Additional Protocol and that all such declarations should be correct and complete. And it called on Iran immediately to correct the shortcomings in its response to the Board's earlier call to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.
Iranian officials, at this point, have made contradictory statements about their intentions regarding uranium enrichment. Press reports say that the leader, Mr. Khameini, has asserted it's "essential" that Iran continue to work on the nuclear fuel cycle; however, Mr. Rowhani, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council quoted as saying that Iran has not taken a decision.
So, once again, we call on Iran to comply with the decisions by the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency to comply with its promises.
How close are we to taking some other steps or the Board taking some other steps? That will depend on what Iran decides and what Iran decides to do. What we have asked again and again is for Iraq to meet the requirements of the Board and for Iraq to meet --
QUESTION: You're talking about Iran.
MR. BOUCHER: -- Iran to meet the requirements of the Board and Iran to meet its own promises, and what the Board will decide to do if they don't will be something we'll take up with the Board if they don't.
QUESTION: Is a deadline being entertained?
MR. BOUCHER: The resolution calls on Iran to do these things immediately so the Board will decide at what point it wants to take them up again if Iran doesn't.
QUESTION: Still on Iran. Some coalition vessels on the border with Iraq and Iran have gone missing. The Iranians say they have taken the boats and vessels. Do you know anything about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know anything about it. I think we've seen those reports and haven't been able to confirm them at this point. So we'll just have to see what happens or what the facts are.
QUESTION: Have you conferred with the Brits over it?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm -- I expect we have. I just don't know for sure. That may be -- certainly would be something that would take place in military channels.
QUESTION: Do you have any updated intelligence on the South Korean hostage held in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any new information for you on that. Obviously, we condemn the kidnapping of innocent civilians. Our hearts go out to the family of the South Korean civilian who is being held, I guess, in Fallujah. We call for his immediate release. We deplore the unjustifiable and violent threats that are made against this man and hope the world will reject these sorts of acts against innocent civilians.
We are working closely with the coalition partners through the Coalition Provisional Authority. We are in close contact with the Government of the Republic of South Korea. The Secretary, Secretary Powell, spoke with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban last night and we'll certainly assist the Koreans in every way possible.
The Secretary and the Foreign Minister agreed on the difficulty of the situation. The Secretary said he would -- we would assist in any way we can.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran just very quickly and ask if the State Department or the Administration has a position on whether ElBaradei should take the unusual step of seeking a third term?
Apparently, it's sort of customary, there's no rule against it, two terms are considered the limit. He's up in 2005; that's a way away. Does the U.S. have a view that you are able to tell me?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, the meeting is about to start. We'll see if this comes up in the meeting, but I don't believe that the Director General's expressed himself yet on what his intentions might be.
QUESTION: Richard, back on the South Korean. In the past you guys have been very critical of Al-Jazeera, and other Arabic television networks for airing provocative or inciteful video. Do you have any reservations about their airing of this rather extended tape yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'd have to check and see if -- I was not familiar with what kind of coverage.
QUESTION: On to another subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: I know he'll travel on a brief visit to South Asia or India tomorrow to cover these talks between India and Pakistan. What message do you think the Secretary has for India and Pakistan, as far as these talks are going on next week? And also, if U.S. is going to -- or playing any role, and especially any -- a special message for the new government of Mr. Singh?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we applaud the efforts that are being made by India and Pakistan to try to make progress in their bilateral dialogue. We have supported that dialogue in our contacts with the new government in India, as well as our continuing contacts with the government in Pakistan. This is the latest series in a series of discussions that they have had.
We're glad to see that these are going forward and we think -- really appreciate the efforts on both sides to reduce tensions. We do think this is an opportunity for them to make further progress and comprehensive engagement, while at the same time, agreeing on concrete steps to lower the risk of accidental or intentional use of nuclear weapons. So we do think there are opportunities here and we are glad to see the parties are pursuing them.
QUESTION: About Georgia elections in Ajara, an autonomous republic. According to the Foreign Observer, some violations have been reported at several polling stations.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I don't have anything for you now. I will have to see if I can get you something later.
QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia, it seems like there are mixed messages coming out of the State Department whether private citizens should stay or shouldn't stay in Saudi Arabia. The Travel Warnings have said that, since April, have said private citizens, American citizens are urged to depart. Powell, however, in interviews on Friday was encouraging people to stay. Which is it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the Secretary was encouraging people to stay. Our advice has been and remains that Americans should defer travel to Saudi Arabia and Americans who are in Saudi Arabia should depart. We understand the difficulties with the current security situation, but we think Americans need to take our advice.
We recognize the individual difficulties that the current security situation puts people in, but we think our best advice must be for Americans to consider to leave, and that is the Secretary noted that fact in his -- I think the regional newspaper interview, if you read the transcript.
MR. BOUCHER: There are going to be some people who stay. We recognize that. We hope that they will listen to our advice carefully; but we will also do what we can to work with their companies to see that they can still be safe. And we're also working with the Saudis, more generally, supporting them in their efforts against terrorism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to try to create the kind of environment where everybody can feel comfortable working there and not have to worry about their safety.
QUESTION: Well, isn't that an acknowledge that the Saudis, try as they might, cannot assure the safety or cannot be relied upon? Because, you know, Americans are -- although 90 percent of the work done in the oil fields is done by Saudis -- Americans are important in Saudi Arabia in assisting the oil program.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure I understand the question. The facts are we warn Americans that it can be dangerous in Saudi Arabia and that you do have some of these terrible incidents happening is, yes, based on the fact that the Saudi authorities, as commendable as their overall effort is, have not yet been able to crack the -- to stop the terrorists to the point that everybody doesn't have to worry anymore. If they did, we'd change our advice.
QUESTION: The Secretary told Michael Reagan Friday afternoon that it would be a victory for the terrorists if the Americans left.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary addressed that I think also in the other interview, in the regional roundtable, as well, and he noted that our advice is and remains that Americans should defer travel. We don't want to see a crippling of the Saudi oil industry. That would be a victory for the terrorists. We expect Americans to consider our advice, and the Secretary noted the advice, that is, they leave. But there are going to be some who remain and we certainly don't want to see a crippling of the oil industry.
QUESTION: Although the Saudis have denied this, does the U.S. have any suspicion that there were any Saudi security officials who somehow cooperated in the abduction of Mr. Johnson?
MR. BOUCHER: You know, that's -- I think that's a charge that was made by the killers or people claiming to be the killers that was posted on an extremist website. It's totally unconfirmed. We know that terrorists have, including people from al-Qaida, have impersonated Saudi police and military in the past. We have no evidence to suggest that Saudi security personnel were in any way complicit with the kidnapping of Mr. Johnson.
QUESTION: But you're not discounting it altogether? I mean, you are -- are you investigating this? I mean, when you detain terrorists, whether it be in Afghanistan or Guantanamo, you talk to them and try to elicit information. Do you hear those things?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure investigators will and should pursue whatever leads they have on whatever accomplices or assistance people might have gotten. I'm just saying we don't have any evidence at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, just I'm kind of confused by your answer to Barry -- the question, two questions ago. We don't want to see a crippling of the Saudi oil industry; that would be a victory for the terrorists. Are you saying, are you meaning to suggest that if all the Americans heeded your advice, all Americans in Saudi Arabia heeded your advice and left, that that would cripple the Saudi oil industry?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think -- I don't think I could quite go that far. They obviously have capabilities and personnel. So our advice remains to all Americans that they should -- they should leave.
QUESTION: I don't understand how those two things go together then -- I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: I think your colleague asked me about victory for the terrorists and what context those remarks would be seen in, and this is the context that I gave.
QUESTION: Well, maybe I misread the transcript of the Secretary's radio interview, but I don't think he said crippling of the Saudi oil industry. He just talked about Americans leaving.
MR. BOUCHER: I think I gave the context for the remarks about Americans leaving, but we wouldn't want to see Americans leave to the -- we wouldn't want to see the result of Americans' departure be a crippling of the industry. In mean, that's the logic behind the statements that the Secretary made. I'm not trying to change our basic --
QUESTION: Okay, okay. But then, logically, you're saying that if all Americans did leave, it would cripple it, right?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not necessarily saying it would. I'm saying, I guess it might, it could have an effect. And the reason one has to be -- recognize that there is, as the Secretary did, that there are other sides to this is that we wouldn't want to see that.
QUESTION: Can we go further on Saudi different, in connection with terrorism? According to the -- I mean -- Los Angeles Times, they are saying that there was a connection, Saudi and Pakistani connection, according to the Commission that was investigating 9/11 attack, that they are the one who helped and settled the 9/11 attacks and they are behind the 9/11 attacks against the United States. Do you have any comments on the report by the Los Angeles Times?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see that particular report. I know that the information coming out of the 9/11 Commission about financing and things like that has been reported fairly widely.
I think, first of all, you have the statements of the Saudi Government about what they did. I think also you have a conclusion in the report -- that I have somewhere around here -- that --
QUESTION: It was reported in India, both Saudi and Pakistan.
MR. BOUCHER: Slow down. You have a conclusion in the report, I guess, that said, "found no evidence of Saudi Government or officials providing financing to al-Qaida." And, of course, the Government of Saudi Arabia has long denied providing finances to the al-Qaida terrorist group.
So we're looking at all this with interest. I think the effort that we have made since 9/11, the effort that we have made with the Saudi Government since 9/11 to cut off sources of financing of terrorism is widely recognized. We have done more and more and more. They have done more and more and more to ensure that no money from the Kingdom is reaching the hands of terrorists and that's important for us all. And the strategic decision that President Musharraf made after 9/11, I think is widely known to everybody that there was a distinct change in course to put Pakistan on the right course in terms of the future of Pakistan, as a member of a community of nations, as a modernized democracy.
QUESTION: I have a question on the 9/11 Commission conclusions. Over the weekend, I believe it was Lehman who said that they believed that there was an al-Qaida in Saddam's Fedeyeen, in his security service. Is that something you --
MR. BOUCHER: I thought it was the other way around. But anyway, no, I don't have any --
QUESTION: No, one of the --
MR. BOUCHER: One way or the other, I don't have anything on it.
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) was an al-Qaida.
MR. BOUCHER: It's not anything I have information on at this point.
QUESTION: Is it something you would have information on, that's being checked out?
MR. BOUCHER: I would assume that the intelligence services will go back over their stuff and see. But, no, I don't have any information like that here.
QUESTION: Richard, on Saturday the President of Sudan said that he was mobilizing his forces and would disarm all illegal groups, including this Jingaweit, and I was wondering if the United States has noticed anything on the ground that he is actually doing this.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, what we have noted are the statements. President Bashir made a statement concerning stability in Darfur, and we noted also that his decision that he announced to mobilize the Sudanese Armed Forces to disarm the militias that have been operating in Darfur. Certainly, the United States would very much welcome the government taking action finally in this region to stop the attacks and to really abide by the ceasefire that was announced -- or that was signed on April 8th.
We would also note that in Darfur the rebels also have a responsibility to observe the ceasefire, as well. The African Union Chairman Professor Konare visited Darfur today to review their ceasefire commission being set up to monitor the ceasefire agreement. The African Union is occupying the compound and flying the flag in El Fasher in Darfur. Two representatives from the government of Sudan arrived in El Fasher over the weekend, additional monitors from Kenya, Switzerland to the Netherlands are expected shortly and the United States has been providing support and logistic support for the deployment of these monitors. So, we note the statements and we hope they are carried out.
QUESTION: You have had the senior American officials going in and out. Is there any imminent presence of someone from the Africa Bureau? The monitors are not Americans, of course.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we do have -- we have, I think, two people out there with them now. We have been providing extensive logistical support and other assistance to the monitors to help them get in. We have emergency personnel, disaster assistance personnel from the Agency for International Development who are now in Darfur in larger numbers than before. We have been able to overcome some of the obstacles and the government has indeed relaxed its regulations on that. We are delivering food by air. We should be up to 15, I think, airlift flights now.
So it's continuing and ongoing, really, strong effort on our part. But, as far as the ceasefire situation, we've noted these statements. We're prepared to monitor. The international community is prepared to monitor a ceasefire. We want to see the ceasefire adhered to by the parties.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) since they began about a month ago?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, since I first started announcing it three weeks -- a month ago.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Burns is in Cairo today, head of the Quartet meeting, I guess, on a Wednesday. Do you have -- can you give us any details about his travel or meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure. The Quartet envoys will meet later this week in Taba, Egypt. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William J. Burns will participate in the meeting with his counterparts from the United Nations, the European Union and the Russian Federation.
We and our Quartet colleagues are prepared to work directly with the parties and through existing mechanisms on the economic, political, security issues that need to be addressed by both sides in planning for disengagement. We'll work with the ad hoc liaison committee, the Task Force on Palestinian Reform, and the newly established World Bank Budget Trust Fund.
We are also talking to our regional partners, Egypt and Jordan. Mr. Burns will meet with Egyptian officials in Cairo and express our appreciation for Egyptian efforts to work with both Israelis and Palestinians on practical ways to begin the process of Gaza withdrawal.
QUESTION: Well, Egypt is taking a more pronounced role now in all sorts of ways. Can you go into any detail of how much you would like to see Egypt take on? It's not just Gaza. It's --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the Egyptian officials have been meeting with both sides, with the Israelis and the Palestinians, to talk about the security situation and talk about the --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, well, talk about their border with Gaza, and to talk about sort of the political process of Palestinians consolidating control over the security services and being able to take real responsibility for areas such as Gaza that are under their control. So that's a very important and welcome role, I would say, that Egypt has played in this process and we will continue to work with them.
QUESTION: It's on Iraq.
QUESTION: Can we stay on the Quartet for one second?
QUESTION: The fact that it's in Taba -- will you be inviting Israeli and Palestinian officials to meet on the sidelines?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if there are any other meetings planned. As far as I know, it's just the Quartet.
QUESTION: Richard, this is a question regarding Iraq and Mexico. The Mexican authorities, federal electoral authorities, will start training some Iraqi officials for the electoral process in Iraq. I wonder if there is something that was coordinated by the UN, Mexico and the U.S. Or what is your comments or reaction about it, how Mexico is going to train Iraqis when Mexico used to have a very corrupted electoral process?
MR. BOUCHER: They know how to fix the process and get a good one.
QUESTION: But didn't the Iraqis turn down the Florida help?
MR. BOUCHER: I had not heard about the idea. It sounds like a great idea. The United Nations, as you know, is in Iraq. Ms. Perelli is out in Iraq working on the process of preparing elections and I'm sure she's getting assistance from any number of countries, and I think we welcome all the assistance that might be provided to her in preparing for those elections that are a very important part of the electoral transition in Iraq.
QUESTION: This is very briefly. Have you gotten any idea when you're going to put out the revised terrorism report yet?
And I don't know if you answered these questions, but there are people up on the Hill complaining that you guys still have this thing up on the website. Granted, there is the statement below it that says that it's going to be corrected. But do you have any intention of answering these or acting on these concerns to take the old one down?
MR. BOUCHER: First, I hadn't seen those complaints. As you know, we've always dealt with you that once we make things a matter of public record in our website, I think the pressure and the request from the journalist side of the house has been to leave them there because they're public documents and not to make them disappear. And that's what we've done. We've obviously provided the explanation that's necessary to make people understand the statistics in the report that's up there now are not accurate.
We do expect that we will be able to present to you tomorrow the revised statistics and analysis. We haven't set the exact time or format for doing that, but we'll promise it to you tomorrow. And at that point, we'll be able to put up the revised sections on the website and reduce the erroneous figures to a footnote of some kind. So that will be taken care of tomorrow at the same time as we brief.
QUESTION: A South Korean Government official has been quoted to say that South Korea is very frustrated with the United States rigidity in dealing with North Korea's nuclear problem. Having said that, can you give us a readout of what's going on in Beijing?
QUESTION: And would you care to address that comment by the South Koreans?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've addressed those sorts of anonymous comments before. I don't think I can deal every time some anonymous official in every country makes some comments about us. The United States has been very clear on what we think the goals need to be for this set of talks, for the six-party talks. In fact, all the countries attending previous rounds of six-party talks have accepted that denuclearization is the goal for the Korean Peninsula.
The United States has been willing to go forward and discuss with the other parties how that can be achieved in a complete, a verifiable and irreversible manner, because otherwise, the talks won't be successful. We've also made clear that we understand that North Korea seeks certain benefits from the outside world. For our part, our own President has made clear that he's willing to enter into multilateral security guarantees so that the North Koreans don't have to worry about their security.
Other nations participating in the talks have indicated that at certain points in this process of moving towards the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's weapons that they would be prepared to offer certain kind of economic benefits and other ties to North Korea.
So we feel like the talks should show progress towards dismantlement of nuclear weapons programs, dismantlement of nuclear programs on the peninsula, which is the agreed-upon goal, and that's what we're looking for.
Now, in terms of the meetings out there, the bilateral discussions started yesterday, on Sunday. The U.S. delegation met with the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation and then we had a trilateral meeting with counterparts from Japan and the Republic of Korea. The working group met today, the 21st, in Beijing at the Diaoyutai Guest House, and they're having discussions to prepare for the plenary talks which happen later this week.
QUESTION: You can agree on (inaudible) with the four -- but isn't their room for -- not even disagreement -- for the divergent views about how to achieve your goal? Let's -- nobody's suggesting that China and South Korea don't want to denuclearize North Korea. The suggestions were more than just idle speculation that persisted. It's that they are suggesting the U.S. ought to be more flexible in dealing -- in getting there.
MR. BOUCHER: I think my answer pointed out that, in fact, there are somewhat different approaches at different stages by different parties in these talks, even though we do share a common goal and that we look to these talks to sit down and talk about how to get there.
QUESTION: Okay, and you raised the issue of economic. The U.S. would not be in like, would it, with those other parties --
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has made clear that we are not going to pay again for something that we felt we paid for before, that North Korea has violated its commitments and it should not -- we are not prepared to compensate North Korea somehow for not doing something that they never should have done to begin with.
Okay. Do you have one, George?
QUESTION: Could we go back to Sudan for a minute? I have been seeing conflicting accounts of the road situation in Darfur. Some say the roads are already impassable and others say that that won't happen for another few weeks. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particular. I think last week we noted that there were a number of problems with the roads, that the transportation had proven very difficult, and that's why we were using more airlifts and we continued our airlifts. But what the situation is today with the rains, I don't know.
QUESTION: Richard, as far as you're familiar with
MR. BOUCHER: I've got 10 minutes, I think.
QUESTION: Do you know about Secretary General Annan's remarks this morning in which he suggested the General Assembly adopt resolution condemning anti-Semitism?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see those, no. I think we would support that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: We have one or two more. Let's try to do them quickly.
QUESTION: Richard, very quickly, returning -- I don't know whether it's --
MR. BOUCHER: Quickly.
QUESTION: -- the Quartet or the Palestinians themselves --
MR. BOUCHER: Quartet.
QUESTION: -- about the Iraq's martyrs brigade with promises for jobs and money. They seem to be resisting this. In other words, to play nice --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know who made the promises, but they're --
QUESTION: To join the security?
MR. BOUCHER: They're one of the groups that ought to be put out of business. They are a bunch of terrorists. We've got to let the others ask a question or two. I'm sorry. I'm in a hurry, as you are, but --
QUESTION: I'm sorry. North Korea. There are some reports saying that North Korea might let the IAEA team back to the country to conduct inspections. Would you consider that as one of the steps toward CVID?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always said that their breaking of ties with the IAEA, their renouncing all their agreements and understandings was part of the problem, so that is something they should obviously do.
(The briefing was adjourned at 1:25 p.m.)
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