State Department Noon Briefing, August 1, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 2003
1:10 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. I understand that this is the last day for one of our colleagues who has spent many years asking us artful and difficult questions. And so we've decided we would let her ask the first one today.
QUESTION: We've voted seven to six to let her have it.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) multilateral (inaudible) --
MR. BOUCHER: Is that right? Is this a consensus question? All right. Betsy?
QUESTION: North Korea, do you have anything more on when, where, who --
QUESTION: She still thinks she gets answers after all these years.
MR. BOUCHER: Betsy, I have to tell you one thing, that is the magic question of the day, and so you are a winner. I couldn't get a duck to fall out of the ceiling. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Now, do you have a question? Can I get out of it by giving you flowers?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the usual prize for after the matter?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the magic question is a regular feature and we've only had it -- we're going to have it once every five years. So I'll tell you the next time.
QUESTION: When you retire.
MR. BOUCHER: Anyway. Now the magic answer to the magic question of the day.
I think you've all seen the statements that have been made overnight. The North Koreans have now made a statement saying that they are willing to participate in six-party talks, and we certainly welcome that statement. The President has made clear we see that as a positive development. The various parties, six parties, we have been in touch with others, among them it turns out North Koreans one way or the other were notifying everybody. We'll continue to work with the Chinese on organization and details of such talks. At this point, the kind of who, what, when, where and how questions, I do not have answers to that, but we are staying in very close touch with the Chinese. Our ambassador has been meeting with the Chinese foreign ministry, and so we will stay in close touch with them as they work those details.
QUESTION: A couple of things about the North Korean statement that they made. The first thing is they take credit for having proposed this entire format, this multilateral six-way idea. Are you happy to let them claim credit for it and not claim credit yourself?
And two, they also say that the reason that they have proposed and then agreed to this is that you guys have said that you are willing to go to bilateral talks.
MR. BOUCHER: We, I think, have made clear, and you know from covering us that the President has always sought multilateral talks, that we made proposals to the Chinese in the meetings, the Chinese came here, that we proceed to multilateral talks at five or six. The North Koreans have now responded to that, now accepted that proposal that we go to multilateral talks at five or six, and we welcome that.
As far as what they mean by their proposal, it might have been just dropping of a three-way before a six-way or a five-way, but I suppose you'd have to ask them what they mean by their proposal. But, in any case, it looks like they have agreed to go to six-party talks, and we welcome that.
Now, as far as what happens in those talks, I think we've made clear, we made clear to the Chinese, we made clear in our public statements that there is ample opportunity in a multilateral setting for any party to say what it wants to any other party, for people to convey a message to anybody that they want to.
QUESTION: Okay. So you're saying now, and I realize this gets to a level that would probably, for the general public, approach ridiculousness, but given the history of North Korean demands, particularly talking about the size and shapes of tables and things like that, are you saying, then, that you guys would be amenable to within the context of the six-way talks, sitting down somewhere in private, perhaps even in the same room or just at another table, with the North Koreans to have what they would call a bilateral discussion?
MR BOUCHER: I think the only way I can tell you, because we're dealing with a situation that would be a multilateral setting, it would be a multilateral discussion. There are ways in that multilateral setting, whether it's across the table or on the side or IN some other way, probably a variety of ways that any party can convey to another party directly what it wants to say. And we have said we have noted that fact in our conversations and in our public statements, and that's the basis on which we'll attend these talks.
We attend these talks because we believe problems have to be solved in a multilateral setting. Anything that anybody says to us we share fully with the Japanese, Koreans, with our other friends and allies anyway.
But we think the problems need to be solved in a multilateral setting because that's where the people who can solve the problems will be.
QUESTION: Okay. And very briefly, is there any reason to think that Beijing might not be the venue? Are you proceeding? I know that hasn't been set yet.
MR. BOUCHER: It hasn't been set yet. I don't want to say that it might or it might not at this point, but I haven't seen anything otherwise that would lead me in that direction.
QUESTION: Richard, if you go back to this bilateral aspect of it, did -- the North Koreans supposedly have conveyed through the Chinese and directly to you their acceptance of this. In their acceptance, did they bring up again this issue of the bilateral aspect as they did in public?
MR. BOUCHER: The North Koreans conveyed through the Chinese. They also told us through the New York channel yesterday their acceptance of six-party talks. And as I said, they have informed other governments as well. I am not going to get into details of describing the North Korean position other than to say that I think, through the Chinese and otherwise, they understand our view, that I just stated. I said that view had been conveyed in public and in private.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I just follow-up quickly that let's say, do you foresee -- is there any -- do you think there is any possibility that there might be any last minute hitch over this particular aspect, or is it you think -- or do you think it's all kind of --
MR. BOUCHER: I think they understand our view of this, that we have conveyed it, as I said, both in public and in private.
QUESTION: It seems to me, they spelled out pretty much their views in Beijing in April, and the U.S. was mostly in the listening mode at that time. Does it necessarily follow that the U.S. side will make a presentation in response to what the North Koreans said in April, or is this a whole new game considering there are six instead of the three that were in Beijing?
MR. BOUCHER: No, this round, this multilateral discussion will follow on to the talks that were held in April in Beijing. And I wouldn't say the U.S. was in a listening mode in Beijing, I would say in Beijing both sides presented positions, and that we did hear a proposal from the North Koreans.
The United States presented a position, made very clear that North Korea's nuclear weapons programs need to be verifiably and irreversibly dismantled. And we also made clear that there were benefits for North Korea, in terms of its relationships with us or the world, once North Korean did that.
So we have sort of given our position. We spoke, we didn't just listen in Beijing. But we've also now said, and I believe I've done this at briefings, that at the multilateral talks that we're looking at now, we would expect to respond to the North Korean proposal and we would expect to lay out some ideas of our own.
QUESTION: How did the meeting in New York yesterday come about? Was it something the North Koreans contacted you about? Did --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, they contacted us and said, you know, "We have something to say to you. Would you come up?" We did.
QUESTION: Was this after China's President spoke with President Bush, do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: So it was a shuttle to New York for the meeting in New York?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it was shuttle or train, frankly, but yes. As usual, these meetings, they call us on the phone and we talk, and if we decide to go --
QUESTION: I thought the President flew to one two days ago.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that's right.
QUESTION: And this was yesterday --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: -- you're talking about?
MR. BOUCHER: Exactly. That's why it was after.
QUESTION: Oh, right.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) about their very sincere stance, you know, total acceptance by North Korea. Did State put any pre-conditions during the yesterday New York channel talk?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you've seen their statements. I think we and others who have heard from them would say that the North Koreans have accepted the proposal that we've made for multilateral talks. The President has been seeking such talks and the North Koreans have now accepted it.
So it's for them to explain if they have any further conditions. But from those of us who have heard from them, and we have talked to others who have heard from them as well, I would think it's fair to say that they've accepted those proposals.
QUESTION: Also, Mr. Boucher, so you can exclude the possibility of any bilateral contact?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I have answered that question several times. I will stick with what I have said before.
QUESTION: Ambassador Blackwill officially left India --
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to do a few more rounds with North Korea.
QUESTION: This administration has said that what President Bush has said to North Korea regarding the U.S. has no intention to invade stands. And as far as the U.S. is concerned that should satisfy the North's concerns about its safety?
North Korea wants a written assurance. Is that completely off the table going into these talks?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has made clear, the President and the Secretary and others, that we have no intention of invading North Korea. I guess we understand the chief concern that they want to talk about is security concerns. We will hear what they have to say, and there may be ways to communicate that, our position, to the North Koreans. But at this point, I can't prejudge the outcome of discussions.
QUESTION: The President was very optimistic that this time progress will be made in the talks. And besides confidence in his strategy of multilateral talks, has he received any indication from other governments involved that they feel as well that progress will be made?
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- I guess I find it hard to say other than the factual basis for a statement like that, do you have any basis for the statement like that. The fact is that we now -- we have sought a forum, the President has sought a forum that was multilateral that brought together the parties who can help solve this, that brought together the parties to make clear to North Korea it must abandon these nuclear weapons programs, but that also can make clear to North Korea that it has a future with them if it does so. And so I think the basis for saying that there is some optimism now is the fact that North Korea has accepted this formula and that we will have the people there that can do something.
Ultimately, whether North Korea is prepared to do something will be a decision for them to make. But at least we're going into this in a way that offers the possibility of progress.
QUESTION: On the North Korea, the President's approach is not to invade, but he said also options are on the table. This is actually a Taiwan question, but the UN --
MR. BOUCHER: We're moving quickly down the strait.
QUESTION: It's a little farfetched, but then why do you ask the Chinese to drop the force to try to reunify Taiwan by force approach? How do you distinguish these two?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the two situations are simply not the same. The goals of the parties are not the same. The relationship of the parties are not the same. A positive outcome to be expected is not the same. And so we've always said there needs to be dialogue across the straits, because that's inherent in the situation and the kind of solution that both sides would want.
QUESTION: Is one of the distinctions that is Taiwan is a domestic issue and North Korea is an international issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm going to try to do the analysis for you, other than to say they're just not the same.
QUESTION: One more thing. A Defense official at DOD said, "We will absolutely not allow China to resolve the Taiwan issue by force." Is there the same stand here at the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: I think this Administration made a number of statements like that. I'll have to check and see what they've been.
QUESTION: You'll come back and check?
MR. BOUCHER: If I can find things, yes. Okay. You were going to change the topic?
QUESTION: Yes, sir. Richard, Ambassador Blackwill officially left the U.S. Embassy in Delhi as the Ambassador of the United States. And before he left, during his farewell he said that the Administration should put more focus on the India-U.S. relations, which he, I understand that he believes now they are kind of not at the best of what he thinks they should be, that the world's largest two democracies must work together to fight terrorism and on many other issues.
Do you have any comments on what he really meant?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stand by what --
QUESTION: How do you put the U.S.-India relations today?
MR. BOUCHER: Exactly the way Ambassador Blackwill puts it in his departure, the various statements he's made in recent days, as he left India. I think he's given a number of speeches, made a number of statements, and I'll just stick with what he said. There's obviously been a major, a lot of major and important developments in U.S.-India relations. The cooperation across the board is so much better, the economic relationship is better. So there's been a lot done, but we all, both sides, agree there's a lot more we can do and should do for the sake of Indian people and American people both.
QUESTION: One more, please, local here. There was a conference last week on fighting against terrorism, which was attended by a number of lawmakers from the Capitol. The conference took place on Capitol Hill. And there were people from the Indian-American community, Israelis, and also Americans.
What they are saying now, including the lawmakers, is that time has come for the triangle - India, U.S., and Israel - to work together to fight against terrorism.
Do you have any comments on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular comments on that. We have made clear it's time for all countries to fight terrorism and to fight terrorism together. So I'll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: What they were saying really, Richard, that mainly these three nations are the target of international terrorism basically.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick with what I said.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Liberia?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The reaction to the fact that Liberians look like they have a timeline. And an update on how the resolution is doing at the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: The situation in Liberia was relatively quiet during the night. But in the morning reports resumed of shelling and gunfire in areas that are still contested. Fighting reportedly continues in and around Buchanan and in other regions. And, of course, the humanitarian situation remains desperate. The 12-member advance team of the Economic Community of West African States has been doing their work in Monrovia. They are leaving Monrovia today after making their assessment of the situation.
The West African states have announced that the first elements of their force will arrive in Monrovia on August 4th, and we welcome that, of course, and look forward to continuing to work with them as they deploy. They also called on President Taylor to step down within 72 hours thereafter. And, of course, his departure is something we have also called for.
The UN is expected to make a humanitarian appeal next week for some $37 million of additional humanitarian resources, and we would expect to augment our humanitarian assistance in response to that appeal. We have been in contact with the parties, pressing them to reach agreement on the political issues but also to implement the ceasefires that they have agreed to.
As far as the resolution, we hope to move on the resolution very soon. We have had very good consultations with other Security Council members and believe the resolution has strong support. The resolution reflects the Council's sense of urgency in bringing peace to Liberia, and it endorses effective means for doing so being that it gives a strong mandate to a multinational force to support a ceasefire and to create a secure environment for humanitarian efforts. And, in addition, it prompts the way for the creation of a UN peacekeeping force that can take over from those multilateral, multinational forces.
QUESTION: What's holding it up then? Why aren't you bringing it to a vote?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had consultations. I think we have heard comments from various parties during the course of those consultations, so we are now reviewing those and we'll get a resolution formally tabled fairly quickly I think.
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know exactly when. Possibly.
QUESTION: Are you not pushing to put it in the blue and have a vote on -- within the next 24 hours?
MR. BOUCHER: We would normally push for a vote, and then 24 hours after we put it in blue -- I'm just not precisely sure of when we can get it in blue and working.
QUESTION: All right. What seems to be the second point is this clause that you think there is no problem with but which a lot of other people think that there -- well, a lot of other people have problems with it. How much are you willing to give on the ICC clause?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to say, first of all, we do think that the clause on charges or trials is respectful of those who belong to the ICC, respectful of those who don't, and provides a working -- a formula that's consistent with other UN resolutions.
Second of all, we did get some comments on this clause, so we're now reviewing that. That will be something we consider as we put the resolution forward.
QUESTION: Does that mean that you're willing to amend some of it on the basis of your comments (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: That means I'm not going to answer in public a question on how much we're willing to give until we've decided how much we're willing to give. And you'll see --
QUESTION: So you are willing to give something?
MR. BOUCHER: You'll see whether we make any changes when we produce the resolution in final.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, just one other thing. Do you have any objections if for some reason this can't be brought to a vote today, of having a weekend meeting? Do you have any problem with calling these people in on their weekend --
MR. BOUCHER: We work weekends.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- yesterday --
QUESTION: We're on Liberia, still.
MR. BOUCHER: I guess we're going to have another question on Liberia first.
QUESTION: You've used different formulations on Charles Taylor, and I just wanted to pin you down, if possible. Some people have said step down, some people have said depart, and depart --
MR. BOUCHER: Leave the country.
QUESTION: Leave the country?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. That's what we mean.
QUESTION: That's what you mean?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: Leave the country?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that's what we mean. Leave power, leave the country.
QUESTION: Well, what's your objection to him merely stepping down and hanging around?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that would contribute to stability in this situation. The point is that his departure, first of all, his departure was planned as part of the ceasefire and the agreements that were made in Accra already. And second of all, the goal is to create more stability in Liberia, to bring a chance for Liberians to live in peace and have the support that they need. And to have him step down but not depart would not contribute to that goal.
QUESTION: Japanese (inaudible) and U.S. (inaudible) are negotiating with full, I mean Status of Forces --
MR. BOUCHER: Status of Forces Agreement, yes.
QUESTION: Yeah. But actually, the deadline is today. I mean, could you tell the points what they are negotiating now. And if you don't reach agreement, will you continue to cooperate with the Japanese police, I mean in terms of the handing over U.S. suspects to Japanese authorities?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on the status of our discussions. I'm not sure where exactly we stand.
MR. BOUCHER: Patty? Go ahead.
QUESTION: In the Miami Herald today, Governor Jeb Bush publicly disagreed with this Administration on the repatriation of these 12 alleged hijackers which occurred, I think, a week-and-a-half ago on the 21st or 22nd.
What is your comment on the Governor's statement today saying, "It's just not right"? Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, I think the White House has already been asked on the comments, on the politics of the situation, and I'm not going to get into that from here. I'd just say these repatriations are consistent with standard practice under the Migration Accords with Cuba. Experts from the Department of Homeland Security interviewed, as they always do interview all individuals, to determine whether they have protection concerns. Those who are determined to have protection concerns are sent to Guantanamo for further interviews, and those who are not are repatriated.
We have reiterated many times, and do so again today, that only safe, legal, and orderly migration should take place from Cuba to the United States.
QUESTION: There are -- Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. And in reference to this, did --there was an exchange back and forth before the actual repatriation occurred.
Given the fact that it is a state sponsor of terrorism, does this sort of business go against the U.S. policy of not negotiating with, you know, terrorist states?
MR. BOUCHER: The issue of migration has been one that's important to the United States. We've had longstanding agreements on safe, orderly migration which we expect the Cubans to meet. And that is the way we believe people should be allowed to come to the United States from Cuba.
QUESTION: Is there any change or update to the transit without visa issue which the Administration has been working on, and which the President was briefed on last night?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as the President, you'll have to check with the White House. As far as I'm concerned, it is an issue that we've been looking at, the question of transit without visas, in relation to potential threats and the types of attacks that might be planned or carried out against the United States. We want to make sure that whatever is done with this program is consistent with the needs for our national security of the homeland. The matter of transit without visa is centered really at the Department of Homeland Security now because they're the ones who decide to allow people in to do that.
We have the task, if they decide not to allow transit without visa, of issuing visas to people who want to transit. So that issue has been under review and discussion within the administration, but I don't have any announcements for you now.
QUESTION: Regarding the idea of putting Saddam on trial if, in fact, he is ever apprehended, can you walk us through some of the thinking on why it -- the thinking is going toward Iraqis trying him as opposed to say a UN tribunal type of --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the policy that we reviewed in regard to all Iraqis that we decided on, really before the war, was that those responsible for atrocities against the Iraqi people should be brought before an Iraqi-led tribunal. I think it's important that Iraqis assume ownership of this process.
We, in the international community, obviously have a responsibility to help the Iraqi people in the effort, and we should be prepared to participate as necessary. So, at this moment, it's probably difficult to assess the degree of international involvement that might be needed. It could range anywhere from minimal to substantial, financial to legal experts and judges. We would hope that all states, particularly those from the region, would be ready to contribute.
On the other hand, for crimes against U.S. personnel, we would investigate and prosecute those ourselves.
QUESTION: Given that there are a number of senior regime leaders in U.S. custody, do you have any sense of when this process is going to actually be ready to start?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can do that quite at this point. No not yet.
QUESTION: Still on Iraq. Saddam's two daughters were given asylum in Jordan, and now how they slipped out of Iraq, and now what is the guarantee that Saddam Hussein will not slip out of the Iraqi capital or out of Iraq just like his daughters?
And are you still looking Saddam Hussein dead or alive? If he is alive and captured alive, will he be prosecuted in Iraq or here in the U.S.?
MR. BOUCHER: I just answered that question.
QUESTION: What about the daughters?
MR. BOUCHER: What about the daughters? No, I think I'd have to refer you to the Jordanians on the daughters for any information on Jordan's acceptance of Saddam Hussein's daughters and their families into Jordan.
QUESTION: In the days after the beginning of the war -- excuse me -- it must be something in this room -- there was a lot of talk -- no, thank you.
A PARTICIPANT: Flowers.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, maybe it's the flowers. Maybe, yeah.
QUESTION: There was a lot of talk, a lot of talk from here, from the Pentagon, from the White House, all about Syria and the people, Iraqis, gaining -- fleeing the fighting when going into Syria. These two daughters and their rather large brood came to Amman from Syria. Were these some of the people that you were talking about, or were you then at the time concerned about actual officials not relatives?
MR. BOUCHER: I think when we spoke about this before, and our major concern with regard to the border with Syria and people going back and forth, both ways over the border, was officials, people who had committed crimes as part of the regime, people that might have information on weapons of mass destruction. And in the other direction, outside foreigners who might want to come into Iraq and cause trouble, those both remain concerns and remains issues that we discuss with the Syrian Government to ensure that they keep their borders sealed.
QUESTION: So you don't really have a problem with how they got into --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have anything particular on the daughters or their families at this point. The Jordanians decided to accept them, and I'd leave it to the Jordanians to explain that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the story from Belgium?
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Just one final question on --
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: You don't have problem -- the U.S. doesn't have a problem with the fact that the daughters would be given refuge?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not able to give you any sort of intelligence or law enforcement judgment on the daughters at this point. But at least for the initial explanation of how they got there and why they were accepted, I'd refer you to the Jordanian Government.
QUESTION: Well, the point is you don't have an opinion on the acceptance by the Jordanian Government?
MR. BOUCHER: Not right now, no.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the story out of Belgium where the Senate gave final approval to a scaled down war crimes law that the Belgian Government hopes will repair relations with the U.S.?
MR. BOUCHER: We appreciate the Belgian Government's efforts to change the law related to universal competence. Ultimately, as we have said, it's up to Belgium to solve the problem, and thus to prevent the Belgian legal system from being a haven for politically motivate war crimes cases.
We hope that the legislation will be effective in this regard. But whether the problem is resolved will be judged by the results, whether the complaints naming U.S. officials are dismissed and whether future ones are prevented.
QUESTION: So, in other words, you're not too impressed?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we appreciate their efforts. We appreciate the changes they have made, the effort that they have put into it. Does it solve the problem? We'll have to see.
QUESTION: You might remember yesterday we had this long debate about settlement. And since we aren't aware of the kind of (inaudible) roadmap has specific links to explicitly outlaws of settlements, the natural growth, in those very words, how then can you imagine that any settlement activity could fall within the parameters of the roadmap?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think I said yesterday, I would check and see what we had said about natural growth. And, indeed, I found a half dozen or so previous conversations in this room and elsewhere that were just like the one we had yesterday.
QUESTION: Yeah, but it --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me -- stop, stop, I'll finish. But as you point out, the position in the roadmap, is it consistent with the Mitchell Report?
The Government of Israel freezes all settlement activity, including natural growth of settlements. As we've said, as I said yesterday, and as we said before, we need to discuss the freezing of settlement activity in order to define that proposition, which is in the roadmap and which we do support, but to define it with sufficient clarity so the parties know what they're doing and what they need to do so that this doesn't become some cause for future misunderstanding.
QUESTION: That doesn't quite answer the question. Given the definition in the roadmap, how could any settlement activity be permissible? It seems to ban it all. There doesn't seem to be any question about --
MR. BOUCHER: It says clearly --
QUESTION: -- where is the --
MR. BOUCHER: -- that, consistent with the Mitchell Report, the Government of Israel should freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth. And that is a clear proposition, but unfortunately, in practical terms on the ground, as we discussed yesterday, there are aspects to this that need to be defined in order to make sure that everybody understands what the freeze entails.
QUESTION: Okay. Did you come to any conclusions about the 22 housing units in Gaza, then, which are something on the ground which --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that today, no.
QUESTION: So, the discussion, then, with the Israelis is what would be permissible as natural growth or what --
MR. BOUCHER: No, the --
QUESTION: What is the discussion, then?
MR. BOUCHER: The discussion begins with the roadmap, the position in the roadmap which we have endorsed, which the Israelis say they have accepted the roadmap, that the Government of Israel would freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth of settlements.
But we, as we know from the history of this issue, it goes back in many complicated years, many complicated ways, these -- this issue needs to be discussed in more detail to ensure that all the parties are clear on what exactly that entails. So how exactly that could be carried out, that's what we need to discuss.
QUESTION: Well, but it just seems so -- it already seems so clear. I mean, it says it straight out, in the roadmap.
MR. BOUCHER: I have to say, some of these terms have been subject to interpretation by the parties. Natural growth has been subject to interpretation by the parties.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but it says in there that natural growth is --
MR. BOUCHER: It should not occur.
MR. BOUCHER: So what is it that's not occurring? That needs to be defined. That's the best way I can put it to you. If natural growth is an ambiguous term, and we know it's not going -- it should not occur, then we need to know what it is that's not occurring.
The point is to define this in a way that everybody is clear on what a freeze means, and that's what the discussions entail.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, it sounds like, then, that you're going in a direction whereby the roadmap calls for the freezing of all settlement activity, including natural growth, except in some circumstances.
MR. BOUCHER: No. Including -- a freeze on all settlement activity, including natural growth, and we want to make sure that all the parties are clear on what that entails.
QUESTION: In other words, you still think that the Israelis should be bound by a blanket ban on settlement activity?
MR. BOUCHER: We still think that, as it says in the roadmap, that consistent with the Mitchell Report, the Government of Israel should freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth of settlements.
QUESTION: Richard, what do you think about the Israeli law passed yesterday on citizenship of the spouses of Israeli Arabs, or Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: That is something we'll have to look into more. I think we'll have to look at that very closely.
As you know, we certainly oppose any laws that discriminate against individuals for, you know, ethnicity or race or sex, disability. And we'll have to look carefully at this law and see how it fits under the standard views that we have on this.
QUESTION: Well, isn't it fairly obvious that it discriminates? I mean, it seems fairly -- the text is fairly clear on that.
MR. BOUCHER: I realize you've reached your conclusions already, but let us --
QUESTION: Well, most people have, actually.
MR. BOUCHER: -- let us study the legislation and decide.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll study the legislation and decide.
QUESTION: Do you have any information about Bill Burns traveling?
MR. BOUCHER: No. But I'll see when we can get you some.
QUESTION: Richard, can I just -- can I go back to the earlier question on the marriage law?
You oppose any law that discriminates against --
QUESTION: Discriminates (inaudible) --
MR. BOUCHER: Hang on. We would be concerned about any new legislation that could constitute a form of discrimination based on race, sex, disability, language, or social status as explained in Section 5 of the Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll study this legislation and make our judgments accordingly.
QUESTION: And presumably that would apply to, you know, all things, not just in the Middle East, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So that means that this building is opposed to the immigration standards set for Cubans as opposed to Haitians, which is blatantly discriminatory in terms of --
MR. BOUCHER: That proposition has been tested in U.S. courts, and I would leave it to the court decision.
QUESTION: I'm not talking about the legality of it in the courts. I'm talking about the opinion of the State Department, that you would --
MR. BOUCHER: The opinion of the State Department is that our courts, in terms of U.S. standards and U.S. law, that our courts are the best place to test these standards.
QUESTION: I'm not (inaudible), I'm really looking to understand what the confusion or what the ambiguity in the settlement statement in the roadmap is. Because previously the confusion was when the U.S. would say that it was -- it believed that there should be a freeze on settlements. The question was, does that include natural growth? Because that seems to be laid out in the roadmap, what is the remaining ambiguity?
MR. BOUCHER: It's two sides of a coin. If you can't say what natural growth is if it were presumed be acceptable, then you can't say what natural growth is if it's presumed not to be acceptable.
The question of saying that there should be a freeze on settlements, including natural growth, doesn't quite answer the question of does that mean that there's absolutely nothing that's acceptable. It doesn't answer the question of how will we know that that freeze has been accomplished. And those are discussions that need to be held.
QUESTION: How can you -- (inaudible) -- it doesn't quite answer the question of what might be acceptable. It says freezes all settlement activity, including natural growth. Doesn't that mean all settlement activity --
MR. BOUCHER: It means that the parties need to understand what it means, and they need to understand in clear and practical terms that work on the ground. And it's not a theoretical discussion in some briefing room, it's something that we hope to see on the ground in terms of bricks, in terms of land, in terms of wells, in terms of, you know, people.
And that requires a certain amount of discussion to make sure that we know what we're going to see, and we'll know when we see it, that we'll be able to judge accordingly.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that before you presented the roadmap.
MR. BOUCHER: The roadmap defines a lot of things. It defines a process. Many of these issues in the roadmap need to be discussed as we go along. We've had enormous discussions on questions of ending incitement, and there's a committee that's formed that looks at this on a regular basis.
We've had discussions of how the Palestinians can take over security and end terrorism and end violence, which we've all said is a preliminary aspect to getting down this roadmap.
So I don't think it should come as any surprise to you that other sections of the roadmap, you know, need some discussion as we go forward. The roadmap is a process that is laid out, a process that, as we work our way through these pieces, can get us to the goal.
QUESTION: Yeah, but Richard, this clause was meant to be implemented by the end of May this year, in other words, two months ago. When -- and is part of a timetable -- and yet you're saying you're still discussing it.
MR. BOUCHER: I have to say --
QUESTION: When are you - I mean, if the discussion just goes on and on and on --
MR. BOUCHER: Look, all I can tell you - well it does --
QUESTION: -- when are you going to put your foot down and say --
MR. BOUCHER: It does. I have to say, if you look at the discussions in this briefing room over the last two years since the Mitchell Report, you will find that we have had this same discussion a half dozen times.
QUESTION: Yeah. Sure.
MR. BOUCHER: And I don't think we've been able to solve it in those times --
QUESTION: Okay, but when --
MR. BOUCHER: -- because the issue needs to be solved between the parties, between us and the parties, and we will discuss it with the parties. Settlement activity is an issue on the agenda. It's an issue in the roadmap. And it needs to be defined with sufficient clarity that everybody knows what's going to happen.
QUESTION: But wait a minute, Richard. It's clearly in Prime Minister Sharon's interest to have this debate drag on endlessly into the future while he builds more settlements.
When are you going to actually put your foot down and say, "This is what it means"?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made clear that we need to reach agreement on this, and I don't have a timetable for that, but we have made clear it's an issue. It's an issue that was raised by the President, an issue in the roadmap, it's an issue we'll continue to pursue.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say -- a change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about talks that the U.S. may be in with Iran on getting their hands on some al-Qaida figures that may be in Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: I think all I would say on that is that Iran is very aware of our position that they should not offer any safe haven or harbor to al-Qaida terrorists and leaders.
We have made clear that we believe there are figures in Iran who have offered such safe haven or other support, and that there were senior al-Qaida leaders in Iran who were involved in some way in the bombings in Saudi Arabia.
So that position has been made clear in a number of ways to Iran. We would expect them to act in accordance with the UN resolutions that require all states not to provide any support or safe harbor for terrorists.
QUESTION: Richard, as you know, Iran has come out publicly saying that it is holding in custody both big and little fish in terms of the al-Qaida hierarchy.
Are you saying that in addition to these individuals, the U.S. believes there are others who are being held outside of prison, who are being allowed to operate --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think they have actually identified the individuals --
QUESTION: They haven't identified them?
MR. BOUCHER: -- nor identified the form of custody or detention that these people might be in, whether it's house arrest or ankle bracelets or actual prisons.
What we have said, I think, for some time is we're concerned about the presence of al-Qaida members in Iran. We believe that some elements inside the Iranian regime have helped al-Qaida terrorists with transit or safe haven inside Iran, and that senior al-Qaida terrorists inside Iran played a part in the planning of the May 12th Riyadh bombings. That's a position we've made clear before. That's the information that we have.
Iran has recently said that they have some people, including senior al-Qaida leaders, and said that they're in custody, but I don't believe Iran has said who they are, where they are, how they're being held, and what they intend to do with them.
Iran should act in accordance with the UN resolutions, cooperate with states who are investigating crimes like the bombing in Riyadh and not offer any safe haven or harbor.
QUESTION: Is that being done, those allegations that you laid out there, with the government's knowledge? Because it's possible that there are Iranian citizens who are helping, much as they are in countries around the world, that are helping al-Qaida operatives. But are they doing so --
MR. BOUCHER: I said some elements inside the Iranian regime.
QUESTION: I believe you mentioned the vague phrase that, "We've made clear in a number of ways." Have U.S. officials met with Iranian officials to talk about this problem?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't get into any more detail of this. You know, there were some discussions with the Iranians before about al-Qaida and the terrorism issues.
QUESTION: Before, but not about these specific persons, right? Or were there?
MR. BOUCHER: What are these specific persons? I mean, are they the ones that we believe to be there or the ones the Iranians admitted to having? I don't know who the ones are that the Iranians admitted to having, so I can't tell you what these prisoners might be. But I think we just -- I have to leave it at just saying that we've made clear our views to the Iranians in a number of ways, including public statements like the one I'm making now.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: I didn't quite catch your wording. You said that some elements in the Iranian regime that offered safe haven in transit --
MR. BOUCHER: Has helped al-Qaida terrorists transit or find safe haven inside Iran.
QUESTION: Yes. And some of these al-Qaida people were involved in the bombing. Did they -- are you saying that some of these people were offered safe haven or were helped with safe haven, the people, the bombers, the people who organized the bombing, or were they separate groups of people?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I can define those groups any more than I have.
QUESTION: And what's the time scale for this safe haven in transit business? I mean, is this something recent or is it --
MR. BOUCHER: No, this issue has arisen from time to time ever since September 11th and the subsequent ending of the Taliban regime --
MR. BOUCHER: -- in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: And more recently as well?
MR. BOUCHER: So it continues to this day.
QUESTION: Have you guys gone any further on your discussion with the Hill about IMF or Indonesia?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Okay. And can I ask another Southeast Asia question?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Briefly. Yesterday in your statement about the Cambodian election, you offered some kind of general language. I tried to pin you down specifically as to who you were talking about, who was making the inflammatory comments that or bellicose -- bellicose rhetoric.
Can you expand at all on what you said yesterday? Is this bellicose rhetoric that you're concerned about coming from all three of the main Cambodian parties, or is it just coming from one?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we discussed that adequately yesterday. I'll stand by what I said yesterday.
QUESTION: So you still believe that the bellicose rhetoric is coming from not only from Sen and the Cambodian Peoples Party, but from the other parties as well?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stand by what I said yesterday. And that's not exactly what I said yesterday.
QUESTION: Well, I think there are people who are really would like a better explanation, some of whom --
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to say I think we have reviewed the explanation we gave yesterday, and we think it's an accurate explanation of what's going on.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, you said that Hun Sen and others.
MR. BOUCHER: I stand by what I said yesterday, the whole thing.
QUESTION: Sorry. Let me get back to a very big question on the North Korea security guarantee issue on that. Sometimes the United States Government use an invade -- use the word "invade" and "attack." So you are not going to invade North Korea? And also, you're not going to attack North Korea? It's a totally different concept between the invasion and attack. So how can you clarify that?
MR. BOUCHER: It may be a totally different concept in Japanese. I don't think it's that much different in English.
QUESTION: Oh, no, I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: We have used both formulations. I don't think we plan on invading or attacking. If there is any difference, we don't want to do either one. We are not planning either one.
QUESTION: If we got the kind of provocation by North Korea, we have to attack for our defense. How do you think?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think we're drawing a distinction there.
QUESTION: Also can you say something on today's deputy's meeting with the Japanese official, Vice Cabinet Secretary Mr. Yachi?
MR. BOUCHER: I think so, yeah. The Deputy Secretary met this morning with Assistant Cabinet Secretary Yachi to discuss a number of issues important to both countries. Among the topics covered were Japan's plans for additional reconstruction assistance in Iraq including the possible dispatch of self-defense forces, and, of course, recent developments with North Korea.
QUESTION: Richard, there have been some problems with a corporation in Turkey with telecommunication contracts upwards of a billion dollars in graft and corruption. Are you in any way concerned that some of this money is being frittered away? And is this going to --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about that particular case. I'd have to -- I'd have to find out something for you.
QUESTION: Mr. Yachi and Deputy Secretary Armitage, is any differentiation between the non-combat area and the combat area called the Japanese self-defense forces to be sent to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that will be something to -- that the Japanese Government would be explaining at the appropriate time, what the role of their forces would be. Certainly, we've welcomed the passage of legislation that could allow them to deploy. It's up to the Japanese Government to decide when, where and how, if any possible deployment.
QUESTION: And also the timing is also not decided yet, right?
MR. BOUCHER: It's up to the Japanese Government to decide when, where and how.
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