State Department Noon Briefing, July 29, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2003
12:55 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Richard, have you seen the story that President Taylor is reconsidering his pledge to surrender power?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven't seen that story. I don't know what the sourcing or what the quotes might be but --
QUESTION: His spokesman, so it must be accurate. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: You never quite know with spokesmen.
Certainly, we have made clear that he needs to leave, the President has made clear he needs to leave, and that that departure needs to be coincident with the arrival of peacekeepers.
We're moving forward on the issue of peacekeepers working with the West Africans. We will support their deployments. They have increasingly concrete plans for going to Liberia. There is a meeting at the heads of state level that they have planned now for tomorrow in Accra, and we'll be, expect to be, represented there as well -- not at the head of state level. So the plans are moving forward for peacekeeping.
We're also discussing with other members of the Security Council a resolution that would authorize member-states to deploy troops to support a ceasefire in Liberia. And so that work continues as well.
So we would expect Charles Taylor to depart as an essential element in stabilizing the situation. He has made those commitments before. He has made those commitments publicly. He has made them to NGOs. He has made them to governments. And we would expect him to keep those commitments.
QUESTION: Can you fill us in on Mr. Kansteiner's movement?
MR. BOUCHER: Mr. Kansteiner is traveling to the region, as you know. I think he was in Paris -- I'm not sure, I think just changing planes -- and he is on his way to Guinea, will be in Guinea tomorrow.
QUESTION: In Guinea tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. And then after that?
QUESTION: You don't expect him to go to the Accra meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: He may go on to the Accra meeting, yeah. That's currently the plan, but it's not solid yet.
QUESTION: Some time ago, I think it was about eight days ago, Phil talked from the podium about your calling on neighboring states not to support any of the rebel groups, and in that he specifically mentioned Guinea. Is this part of what Mr. Kansteiner is going to be doing --
MR. BOUCHER: I expect he will take up the overall situation in the region, but also reaffirm our view that all neighboring states should take steps to make sure that there are no supplies or support reaching the rebels from neighboring countries. That's been a part of our diplomacy in a number of places, and I'm sure that Assistant Secretary Kansteiner will take that up in Guinea as well.
QUESTION: Do you have some -- do you have any evidence that there are supplies or anything going into Liberia?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be able to go into the information that we have about how the rebels get resupplied, so I'm just not in a position to share.
QUESTION: Well, is it fair to assume then, though, that you would not be calling on neighboring states, particularly Guinea, to not do any of this, and you wouldn't be doing that, unless you had reason to believe that they were?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have reason to believe that these rebels are getting their supplies from somewhere. They have guns, they have bullets, they have other weapons. These come from somewhere and they don't get it through the official channels. So that means they're coming from neighboring states, and so we need to talk to neighboring states to do everything they can to prevent that supply and support. That's as far as I can go into it.
QUESTION: President Chavez of Venezuela said last Saturday that there won't be a recall referendum for the president, but only for the opposition government. Also, military officers have said that there won't be a recall referendum, and a leader of the opposition had been kidnapped.
In view of these events, don't you think that it would be timely for the U.S. Government, as part of -- as a member of the Group of Friends of Venezuela, to consider it timely and appropriate to call for the group to send a mission to Venezuela to guarantee clean, transparent, democratic process?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I appreciate the suggestion and I'll pass it on. Let me -- let's look at the situation. You raise a number of factors that are important to us, and we do work actively on this situation. We follow it closely and we keep in touch with other governments who are part of the Friends Group people who are very interested.
It's very important to us that the government and the opposition honor their commitments, specifically the May 29th agreement that sets out the framework for a recall referendum on President Chavez's continued tenure in office. This is allowed by the Venezuelan constitution and this is what the parties agreed to on May 29th, and we expect them to honor that commitment.
We continue to believe an electoral solution offers the best hope for a constitutional, democratic, peaceful solution to Venezuela's political crisis. That's called for in the OAS Council Resolution 833.
Reports in the Venezuelan media say that President Chavez said that a recall referendum is unlikely this year. We would note that the Venezuelan constitution dictates that the decision to have a referendum lies with the courts, the National Electoral Council and the people of Venezuela, rather than with the executive branch of the government.
So these things have been decided. There are commitments that have been made. We expect them to go ahead. We want that to go ahead. So we're actively following this situation, but I don't have any specific meeting of the Friends Group planned at this time.
As for the kidnapping, our Embassy in Caracas issued yesterday a statement condemning the July 25th kidnapping of former Tachira Governor Omar Sergio Calderon. The United States condemns this criminal act and expresses its solidarity with the Calderon family. We expect the Venezuelan authorities to thoroughly investigate the kidnapping and urgently seek his safe return.
QUESTION: On that, the Vice President of Venezuela has accused the Embassy, because of that very statement that you just read, has said that this is an unwarranted interference. I looked at the statement on the website and it is what you just read, except it's in Spanish, and it seems pretty benign. Do you -- what do you say to the -- Mr. Rangel, the Vice President who says that this is an interference in --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's interference in anybody's affairs to be concerned about a major figure who gets kidnapped and to say that the government has a responsibility to investigate crime. That's one of the primary functions of government everywhere.
QUESTION: Back to Liberia for a second, if I may. Do you have any concerns that outside entities or countries might be providing support, military or otherwise, to Charles Taylor's forces and to him?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our concern is that people not fuel the situation with arms supplies. There is -- you know, there is a range of supplies that are reaching both sides. The parties have agreed on a ceasefire. Our concern is everybody from the outside do everything possible to encourage and support that ceasefire and not fuel the conflict.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea of how far the -- last week -- the President announced, I think last Friday, that some ships were moving into the region. Do you have any guidance as to how far away those ships are now from being in position --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't track ships. I'm sorry. No, I can't do that for you.
QUESTION: North Korea. There are rumors today that the United States has put a new proposal to China, rather similar to some of the others we have heard about: three plus six, including Russia in the second stage, a few days after the three-way meeting.
MR. BOUCHER: Three plus six would be nine. Oh, you mean three --
QUESTION: Three leading to six.
MR. BOUCHER: Right.
QUESTION: Is that -- and also, they say that this proposal was transferred to the -- through the Chinese to North Korea this week.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you'd have to ask the Chinese what they might have put forward to --
QUESTION: No, no, this is an American proposal.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, we're talking about three to five?
QUESTION: No, three to six.
MR. BOUCHER: And what about the sixth?
QUESTION: No, this is -- the new elements in this is that it was presented this week.
MR. BOUCHER: By the Chinese?
QUESTION: No, by the United States through the Chinese.
MR. BOUCHER: By the United States through the -- by the Chinese.
QUESTION: Is there anything in this?
MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to ask the Chinese what they have said to the North Koreans. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: No, no, this is an allegedly an American proposal.
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want an answer or not?
QUESTION: It's not a Chinese proposal.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to answer your question. Okay? And then we'll go on. You can't interrupt me every half sentence.
We have been working with the Chinese, as you know, and the Chinese have been working very hard on getting multilateral talks established. The United States has suggested, has proposed, that Japan and South Korea, at a minimum, be included in those discussions, which would make five. We have also supported the idea of Russia's participation, which would make six.
We have made clear that we're prepared to engage in multilateral talks in that sort of expanded group, and we continue our diplomatic efforts to get there. We're continuing to be in touch with the Chinese.
As far as what kind of way of getting there the Chinese may have put forward to the North Koreans, you really do have to ask the Chinese. We have said our goal is to have these expanded multilateral talks, that we are prepared to begin talks in an expanded format, expanded multilateral format, as soon as possible.
At this point though, there is no particular announcement that we can make on that because we just don't have any new developments to report.
QUESTION: Without trying to get -- without getting too far into what we've already covered in past days, into the weeds on this, your idea for multi -- let me start again. The non-inclusion of Russia in an expanded group is not a nonstarter for you, is it? I mean, you're willing to do it without Russia, right?
MR. BOUCHER: We have said we are looking for talks at least at five and preferably at six.
QUESTION: Right. But if the North Koreans don't agree --
MR. BOUCHER: If it goes to five, that's fine. We're ready to go to five. Yeah. But the problem is we haven't heard from the North Koreans. The North Koreans have not said they are prepared to expect -- accept that expanded bilateral format, as far as I know.
QUESTION: Could you update us on John Bolton's travel? And would it be possible for us to get transcripts of his press conference?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've -- did we get the one out from Beijing? I had an early draft. I'll see if we've got a final of the one he did in Beijing yesterday.
He is in Seoul from July 29th to 31st. He'll meet with South Korean officials, discuss a range of issues -- proliferation security initiative -- as well as North Korea.
QUESTION: You could try the embassy website.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it might be up on the embassy websites already. We'll check. I'll check.
QUESTION: Regarding Bolton statement, Mr. Bolton statement, he mentioned the substantial leverage against China. That means, I think, kind of a stopping the oil supply to North Korea. Is that the kind of lever --
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't you ask the same question yesterday?
QUESTION: Oh, no, no.
MR. BOUCHER: Somebody asked the same question yesterday.
Mr. Bolton, in his press conference, did refer to the substantial leverage that China might have in this situation, including, I think, he specifically mentioned oil supply, if you look at the transcript.
So, I mean, that's a fact that we're all aware of, that I'm sure the North Koreans are aware of. How the Chinese might decide to use that leverage is obviously up to them, but I think it certainly does indicate that the Chinese are a party that needs to be taken seriously, and that's why they have been able to help in this situation.
QUESTION: I'm sure you saw the Department of Homeland of Security put out some information about a possible -- about the hijacking threat.
MR. BOUCHER: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does that -- has that spread to your embassies abroad? Have they -- are they also putting out any -- taking any special measures or putting out any related warnings?
MR. BOUCHER: What we're looking at is to integrate that information into the Worldwide Caution that we already have out. In the Worldwide Caution, we go through for traveling Americans and Americans overseas the many different kinds of threats that, unfortunately, are out there, and we're looking at including hijacking as among the ongoing and continuing threats that people need to take into account. So I would expect that we'll have a revised Worldwide Caution available sometime soon.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure if it will be today, but it will be soon.
QUESTION: And it would merely incorporate the information already put out by the Department of Homeland Security?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, will reflect the kind of information that the Department of Homeland Security has already talked about.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on Cyprus. The President of the Republic of Cyprus Tasos Papadopoulos proposed to the Turkish Cypriot leader Raul Denktash a de-mining process of the entire Greek line, the line separating the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. May we have the U.S. position on that, since it is in the framework of CBM?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we welcome the readiness now expressed by both sides on the island to discuss with the UN Forces in Cyprus the de-mining of areas in and around Nicosia, including within the UN buffer zone.
This is the first time that both sides have announced a common desire to address this important issue. We hope these statements will translate quickly into concrete, practical results. Removing the dangers that are posed by existing minefields could make an important contribution toward improving the atmosphere on the island, in particular by improving the safety with which Cypriots may cross the "Green Line."
Of course, while we hope that genuine confidence-building measures improve the atmosphere on the island for achieving a settlement, we note that they are not a substitute for a comprehensive settlement.
QUESTION: In other words, do you support the entire Green Line should be de-mined, including the area you mentioned?
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure that, you know, as much de-mining as occurs we would be supportive of. We understand the proposals at this point are de-mining in areas in and around Nicosia, including on the Green Line.
QUESTION: Another question. It was reported that the Athens Bar Association via its chairman, Mr. Paxinos, filed a criminal lawsuit against the British Prime Minister Tony Blair with the International Criminal Tribunal at the Holland in Netherlands, charging he was a criminal for the war in Iraq. A bunch of witnesses already been named in the lawsuit -- they must appear -- like Javier Solana, plus other officials and individuals from other countries, including United States of America.
May we have your comment on that movement?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment at this particular moment. I'll see if there's anything we want to say.
QUESTION: Can you take this question, because it's --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there's anything we want to say at this point on a lawsuit in Europe among parties to the --
QUESTION: Excuse me?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a lawsuit in Europe among parties to the International Criminal Court, so I don't know that we'll have anything necessarily to say, but I'll check and see if we do.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Relating to that, has the State Department received any inquiries or requests about the case of the American colonel in Iraq who took the families -- the family of a suspect hostage? It was widely reported yesterday, I think, in the front page of one of the newspapers.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't --
QUESTION: It's widely considered a war crime.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we ought to reserve judgment on something like that.
QUESTION: Well, yes, he said himself that he had done it.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we ought to reserve judgment on whether it's a war crime or not. But at the same time, I think the Pentagon will be able to tell you anything there is to say about the incident.
QUESTION: Yeah, but has anybody contacted you about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll check and see.
QUESTION: On the general theme of you being contacted by people, are you aware -- (laughter) --
MR. BOUCHER: Have we been contacted by anyone? Yes, we have.
QUESTION: No, about this -- the -- this controversial Defense Department idea for the terrorism futures market which they -- has now been scrapped. But did -- are you aware of any foreign governments saying, you know, asking you exactly what this was, what it is?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, frankly, and I think the point may be moot at this point.
Another one, Jonathan?
QUESTION: Yeah, on the Middle East. I realize that most of the action here is over at the White House today, but it wasn't very clear from the press event at the White House what you considered to be the next step that needs to be taken in the implementing the roadmap. What comes next? Because this is clearly --
MR. BOUCHER: I think I can only, at this point, answer it in a general way. The Secretary, as you know, will be meeting with Prime Minister Sharon later this afternoon and we would expect him to discuss with Prime Minister Sharon how to follow up on the discussions this morning with the President. He held the same kind of meeting with Prime Minister Abbas last Friday.
The next steps are to continue to implement the obligations and responsibilities of the roadmap. And so, to some extent, we can say the next steps are all laid out there. The President and Prime Minister Sharon this morning focused on ending the violence, taking steps from the Israeli side to make it easier for Palestinians to get to work, go to school, live an ordinary life.
So under those general categories there are, of course, specific steps that can be taken to transfer security responsibilities, to take more responsibility on the Palestinian side, dismantle terror groups, as well as for the Israelis to move forward with more steps related to outposts, related to roadblocks, and related to prisoners, and related to permits and things like that.
QUESTION: On a related matter, can you think of any way in which the security fence could send the right signal, as the President said? What exactly does --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to be more specific at this point on the fence.
QUESTION: What exactly is your position on this fence, then? Is it --
MR. BOUCHER: The position is one the President said before and said today.
QUESTION: Is it the concept or the route, the route, that bothers you?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'll stick with what we said before on the fence. I am just not able to move forward on that point today.
QUESTION: But on the fence, Richard, the President wasn't very specific either Friday when he was with Prime Minister Abbas or today. What he said today was that he thought that eventually that the fence would be irrelevant.
Does that mean that you guys are prepared to accept or not to complain about the fence, the existence of the fence, until such a point when it becomes irrelevant, and at that point you would want it dismantled or --
MR. BOUCHER: I would say what the President said, which is the fence is a sensitive issue and it's one that we have to continue to discuss. So he didn't indicate we're going to stop discussing it or wait until some future date. He said we're going to continue to discuss this, and that that is exactly what we'll do. But I am not in a position to specify a more detailed position.
QUESTION: Well, is it correct to say that the discussion thus far has been you guys saying that we don't like this fence, and Sharon saying, well, tough luck, we're going to build it anyway?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think that would be correct.
QUESTION: I mean, that seems to be the case. He said today that they're going to go ahead despite the sensitivity and despite your concerns.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that would be the case.
QUESTION: Fence, still.
QUESTION: Fence? Feel free. Take another whack at it.
QUESTION: Do you still have concerns about it, and can you spell out what the concerns are?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I am not able to go into any more detail of a meeting that just took place at the White House, that the President just briefed you on.
MR. BOUCHER: The President has talked about these things in his press briefing, and I'll stick with what he said.
QUESTION: Wait a minute. But last week you had concerns. Can you say now that you still have concerns?
MR. BOUCHER: That's why we're discussing it with the Israelis, yes.
QUESTION: Because you have concerns?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: Charlie.
QUESTION: Richard, the President is going to be meeting with the Saudi Foreign Minister. Is the Secretary going to be in that meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary will be in that meeting, yeah.
QUESTION: And will there be a separate meeting with the Secretary and the Saudi Foreign Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: No, there won't be a separate meeting. There is nothing -- no separate meeting scheduled at this point, I think I'd better say. But the Secretary will be at the White House for the meeting with the President and the Saudi Foreign Minister this afternoon.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have concerns about declassifying those 28 pages? Are there specific State Department objections to it?
MR. BOUCHER: The White House has already put out a statement, I think, on behalf of all of us, and they said that their decision not to declassify reflected the judgment of senior intelligence and law enforcement people. Those are the reasons -- the investigation. The White House has explained all of that, I think.
QUESTION: Is there a State Department role?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not able to specify were there any concerns, but the decision was based on the judgment of the intelligence and law enforcement people. It has to do with ongoing information sources, methods, investigations, but they explained that.
QUESTION: You can't say whether INR concurs in it?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I'll do that. That's internal deliberations of the Executive Branch. We don't always get into those.
QUESTION: There might be a footnote in it?
MR. BOUCHER: We have gotten into those from time to time. But, again, I don't think those issues sort of -- it really wasn't that kind of call. It was a call based on sources and methods, intelligence and law enforcement investigations, and not just a foreign -- not some kind of foreign policy call.
QUESTION: Richard, what was cited as the reason to have these pages classified, remain classified, was relations with foreign countries. And as the agency that conducts the diplomacy of this country, was the State Department consulted by the intelligence agencies before they made the decision that it would affect the relations with these countries?
MR. BOUCHER: The White House statement today -- let me find the right -- said, "We understand the Saudi Government's concern over the press reports," and noted that they have asked that additional portions be declassified. "But we cannot agree to their requests at this time because of an ongoing investigation and our national security interests." Those are the reasons being cited.
QUESTION: But you said it wasn't a foreign policy decision. But, as Nicholas pointed out, it affects foreign policy a great deal, doesn't it?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not --
QUESTION: So, in other words --
MR. BOUCHER: But as Nicholas pointed out, Nicholas pointed out something that was wrong. It wasn't because of relations with other countries. It was because of other reasons.
QUESTION: No, I am not saying that it was because of relations with other countries. But doesn't the decision affect --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- nonetheless?
MR. BOUCHER: Every decision does, so we deal with it. I don't quite know what comment to make. This is a decision that we had to make based on intelligence and law enforcement reasons. Our role is to explain it to other people and make sure it's understood.
QUESTION: Richard, is there anyone in Iraq yet walking around with an extra $30 million in their bank account? (Laughter.) Or, I guess to put it another way, is the Department $30 million poorer, or is it still stat, is it still pending?
MR. BOUCHER: Not quite yet. It's still pending. We're ready to go. We're still -- we're working with the Defense Department to get the information that we need to make the decision and it's still being worked up. So we're not there yet to convene the committees, although we're all ready to do so once we get that information.
QUESTION: So just to press that a little bit more finally, I am told that you have not yet received the information from the Pentagon, that you have said that the interagency process hasn't started?
MR. BOUCHER: We are working to get the information still.
QUESTION: Is there some problem, do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think it's just gathering it together and getting it in the proper form, so that people can look at it as carefully as it needs to be looked at, and then go ahead with the right decision.
QUESTION: Normally, you know, a component of the roadmap is to lessen with the incitement and the rhetoric concerning what's going and affecting the streets. And I'm curious. Did you in any way put a statement out concerning Malaysia? Here in Malaysia, the government is asking the Islamic authorities to ban the film "Bruce Almighty" with Jim Carrey. It's the inverse, so to speak.
MR. BOUCHER: Incitement is indeed an issue that we have worked on with regard to the Israelis and Palestinians. The President spoke about it last week when Prime Minister Abbas was here.
As far as Malaysia banning the film "Bruce Almighty," that's not something I have anything on. I'd have to see if there is something that we have tried to deal with.
QUESTION: Well, in this instance, Richard, they --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the opposite of incitement is, but I am not in a position really to jump out on this one.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, any readout on the talks between Secretary Powell and the Serbian Prime Minister, Mr. Zoran Zivkovic, the other day here at the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we did a readout, didn't we? I think we did it. I don't have it on the top of my head. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: And also, the other day Secretary Powell told us in the presence of the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul that the U.S. Government placed a request via General Abizaid in Ankara for deployment of Turkish forces in central Iraq. Do you have any update on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any update on that at this moment, no.
QUESTION: Going back to the Middle East.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Israelis have released nearly 600 prisoners. Can you say this is enough? And, if not, do you have an estimate of how many more you want?
MR. BOUCHER: We have welcomed the steps that the Israelis have indicated they are going to take on release of prisoners. I am not sure if all of the releases have occurred yet, but that you can get from the ground.
We certainly said we think it's important to deal with these issues that are important to people. We know from the Palestinian side, the issue of prisoners continues to be an important one for them. And I'm sure it will be a topic that we continue to discuss with both sides.
But we need to take into account both the feelings on the Palestinian side, but also the need on the Israeli side to maintain security, and the President talked about that again this morning. So with some balance in there, we'll continue to talk both sides about the issue because we know it's important to them.
QUESTION: Two list questions. One, any more Article 98 agreements to report?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to check.
QUESTION: Okay. And on yesterday, you talked about the 30 countries who were -- who had signed on for the stabilization force. Are there any more today?
And number two, you mentioned something kind of off the -- we were talking about you were discussing with some of these countries about how to pay for them, and there is now this -- the Pentagon is saying that they will pay -- or they'll spend 200 million to help transport the Polish. This is the kind of thing you were talking about, talking about transport and housing of the --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, there are a variety of different -- different forces may need different kind of support -- logistics support, transportation, things like that. I'm not sure if any of them need equipment. But we would examine the needs, particularly for countries that may have the troops but can't get them there, where the United States especially has a unique capability to cooperate, because this is about cooperation, it's about cooperation with all these countries in stabilization.
To add to what I said yesterday, 15 countries, 15 of the 30 countries have military assets on the ground already in Iraq, boots on the ground; four of them -- one, two, three, four, five of them -- this is in addition to the United States -- are making contributions to stability operations at the brigade level or above, that's in the thousands of men or soldiers, service men and women.
QUESTION: Is it five or four?
MR. BOUCHER: Five. UK, Italy, Poland, Spain, Ukraine. Each of these countries has already deployed advance units.
QUESTION: What did you call their contributions?
MR. BOUCHER: At the brigade level or above.
QUESTION: Contributing to?
MR. BOUCHER: Stability operations.
QUESTION: Stability operations. I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, stabilization, their stability operations.
QUESTION: Got it.
MR. BOUCHER: The 15 additional countries have confirmed their participation. These countries will be contributing personnel at the battalion or smaller sized unit, mostly for stabilization but also some to support functions such as engineering and some for humanitarian operations.
So I was asked yesterday for a little more information. That's what we expect people to do.
QUESTION: Okay. So all -- so all 30 will actually have people, soldiers, on the ground; 15 of them at brigade level or higher and 15 -- the other 15 -- at the smaller unit?
MR. BOUCHER: Battalion or smaller, yeah.
QUESTION: Battalion or smaller. Not -- and the difference between a battalion and a brigade is -- I should ask the Pentagon?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. (Laughter.) Brigade is generally in the thousands. Battalions are smaller.
QUESTION: Richard, I don't know whether you can address this, but the guy at the Pentagon suggested that the United States would also be willing to pay for things like food in some cases. Is that your understanding of --
MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is we're looking at what people might need for support, whether it's transport, rations, or whatever, and that I'm sure we'll look into these things and do what we can so that people who want to participate are able to do so where they may -- in cases where they might lack the means to do so.
QUESTION: Well, the question arises, if you're willing to pay quite large sums of money for them, is it actually -- are you willing to pay above the odds just for the -- for the symbolism?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't do odds. I thought we canceled that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Just for the political symbolism of having these people present? In other words, even if it would cost less to have contractors there or whatever it is you would --
MR. BOUCHER: I have to say, frankly, I think that's a very unfair way to look at it, that countries don't put their soldiers in dangerous situations just to be there. They are offering to put their men and women, their sons and daughters, in a situation that's dangerous, in a situation where they can do some good. That is something we appreciate. They do that because it's in their interests and because they believe it's important to do. So it's not just a matter of money or it's your odds or showing face; it's a matter of contributing to something that they believe is the right thing to do.
Now, to the extent that countries want to do that but don't always have the means, we're going to try to help them.
QUESTION: Richard, though, at least one of the countries of the 30 has specifically said that it doesn't want its sons and daughters in any danger at all. That would be Japan, correct? Are there any other countries that have had -- that may have such stipulations?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll work out with each of the countries what we think their proper role is, but this is stabilization of Iraq. It's an important thing for the international community to create conditions of peace and security there, and military forces have a role in doing that. Appreciate the fact that they're doing it.
QUESTION: One of the -- Japan, which Matt just spoke about, still goes back and honors the agreements following World War II in 1945 and subsequently under Douglas McArthur, and the military troops -- it's still a question, even if they would want to partake in any type of peace type work in Iraq. But do you think that there has to be any further work with the Japanese to assure them that this would be above board and not a --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's above board. The Japanese Government has talked about this, the Japanese Diet has taken up the issue and Japanese journalists have reported extensively on it. So I don't think there's any subterfuge going on.
These are decisions for the Japanese to make within their political system. They have made some of these decisions and we have certainly welcomed their willingness to participate in reconstruction and also in stabilization.
Okay? One more in the back.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, yesterday the Serbian Prime Minister gave a press conference at National Press Club told us, inter alia, that the new status of Kosovo will be determined by Belgrade, Pristine, Washington, New York and Brussels. Do you know how do you view the status of Kosovo since he mentioned the U.S. Government, too?
MR. BOUCHER: We view the status of Kosovo as an issue that should be decided and discussed in accordance with the UN Resolution 1244.
QUESTION: To the direction of free independence or --
MR. BOUCHER: In accordance with Resolution 1244.
QUESTION: One more.
MR. BOUCHER: We have one more here.
QUESTION: Have you heard from either your Consulate in Jeddah or your Embassy in Kampala of rumors that Idi Amin is, in fact, now dead?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know, actually.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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