State Department Noon Briefing, August 20, 2003
|Wednesday August 20, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2003
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. Mr. Schweid.
QUESTION: Could you please bring us up to date on the Jerusalem bombing, what the Secretary might be up to -- others, et cetera?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Let me review, I think, the whole situation -- first, to make absolutely clear that we condemn in the strongest possible terms this horrific act of terrorism in West Jerusalem and extend our deepest sympathy to the victims of the attack, their families, and the Israeli people.
As the President reiterated yesterday, even before the bombing, the Palestinian Authority needs to dismantle and disarm the terrorists, the terrorist capabilities of the organizations that are taking innocent lives and trying to prevent the peace process from moving forward.
Secretary Powell has made a number of phone calls to world leaders about the situation there. Yesterday afternoon, he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Shalom. He has a call now scheduled with Prime Minister Abbas this afternoon. He has expressed our sympathy to the Israelis, condemned the attack, and with both parties he is discussing the need for the Palestinians to take immediate, effective security steps to dismantle terrorist capabilities, making clear, underscoring, the need for the Palestinians to move now on security.
Despite these brutal attacks, the United States remains committed, the President remains committed as he said yesterday, to his vision of two states living side by side in peace. We think it's essential to have the support of the international community toward that goal and that international and regional leaders all do their part to ensure that no assistance, no support gets to terrorist groups and groups engaged in violence and terror.
The Secretary has been on the phone with a large number of foreign ministers and in most of these conversations after the bombing yesterday, in addition to discussing the Baghdad bombing and with some, the UN Security Council resolutions on Libya. He's also been discussing the bombings in Jerusalem and how to move forward to end violence and terror there.
This morning he's been on the phone with Foreign Minister de Villepin of France, Foreign Secretary Straw, European High Representative Solana and German Foreign Minister Fischer. And yesterday he talked to Spanish Foreign Minister Palacio, Secretary Straw yesterday, again, as well as other phone calls that I've discussed.
So we've been very active. The other thing that happened yesterday is the Secretary asked John Wolf to go back immediately to the region. So our Special Envoy Ambassador Wolf is back in the region. He's already in meetings with both sides, meetings and discussions. He's been in contact with both sides already and continue to -- will continue to work with both sides to find the way forward to ending violence and terror and to obtaining the kind of action that we need to dismantle the terrorist capabilities.
QUESTION: When you speak of dismantling the terrorist structure, does that mean the Administration does not accept Mr. Abbas' argument that it would touch off a civil war to try to do something like that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I haven't seen him make that argument in recent days, certainly not since this horrible attack occurred. I think he's been quite clear in condemning the attack and saying that he will take action. We look for him to take action.
So that's the message that we are conveying directly to the Palestinian side, that they need to move now on security.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to, or someone from the building spoken -- do you know that Ambassador Wolf is actually on the ground?
MR. BOUCHER: I know that he is physically on the ground there and that he has had some meetings already. He's had some phone calls already with the various parties, and is continuing to have meetings.
QUESTION: And do you know who he's met with?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a full list yet. I just know he's been in contact with both sides.
QUESTION: Richard, apparently this bomber that set off the suicide bomb in this bus yesterday was a least likely person, a family -- elderly family member in his late 40s with -- coming from Hebron, but an Islamic cleric. Is there more that the Palestinian Authority can do especially with the religious entities?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer is obviously, there is more that they can do and that's why we're calling on them to move now on security to, especially to dismantle the capabilities of these organizations that carry out terrorist attacks. A great many factors in addition to people and their motives that go into carrying out attacks like this. There's funding, there's support, there's munitions, there's organization and all that needs to be taken apart.
As far as the individual involved, I won't have any particular comment on the individual, but I think, clearly, if you look at some of the pattern of the war on terrorism, as we have rolled up some of the networks and been able to pick up some of the more obvious candidates, there's always this tendency on the part of terrorist groups to try to recruit more innocent-looking people. And I think we've seen that in other cases as well.
QUESTION: What is the attitude that the -- this building has with the Israelis in terms of the need for Israel to protect itself and prevent future attacks until the Palestinians take action, and at the same time, not restarting this whole cycle of violence action/reaction that would just let the roadmap --
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's, frankly, a fairly accurate description. The Israelis, for example, have announced they're suspending talks on turning over some of the West Bank towns. I think we do understand the first priority is security.
We encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to remain engaged in terms of how to establish security, but as the President said even before the bombing, the most important thing is to dismantle the capabilities of the terrorist groups. And both sides need to look at how that can be done. The Palestinians need to look at the steps that they can take and must take, now, to move in that direction. But both sides also need to consider what is the way forward, what's the best way to achieve security for Israelis and Palestinians, alike, and that's what we are, indeed, talking to both sides at either at Secretary levels, Ambassador Wolf's level, or our envoys in the region.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: In speaking to Shalom and Sharon, did Secretary Powell urge Israeli restraint and is there a response?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't put it that way. I would say that, you know, he talked to them, as we're talking to -- I mean, we've talked to them as others are, as well, and we're in touch with the Israelis to look at the way forward.
I know there's a lot of speculation in the newspapers. There were a lot of questions yesterday about what's our reaction to these sort of horrible attacks. You have a bombing in Baghdad, you have a bombing in Jerusalem. And, you know, I think our answer is that first of all, terrorism is a problem. We've made clear that we're fighting terrorism around the world. The President has made clear we are fighting terrorism in Iraq, that we're dealing with terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and that we need to deal with this terrorist threat wherever it appears.
But second of all, as horrible as these events are, our reaction to the horrible events is that we need to move forward. We need to establish peace and security for people in Iraq, Palestinians, Israelis, others, and we need to eliminate the capabilities of these groups to carry out terrorist acts. That applies in all our fight against terrorism.
So the resolve is not weak or the international community, in fact, I think is recommitting itself to the fight against terrorism, to finding peace, and to supporting the efforts in Iraq of helping the Iraqi people rebuild their own country and take responsibility for their own community, their own nation.
QUESTION: But, nonetheless, you are not criticizing -- excuse me -- Prime Minister Sharon's decision to call off security talks and not hand over the city. That's not something the U.S. is critical of, as not being a way forward?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we understand the first priority is security, and that more needs to be done to dismantle the capability of the terrorist groups. We are talking to both sides and how to move forward to achieve those goals.
QUESTION: Are you saying you understand that that must be done before security talks should resume, and that both cities be handed over?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd put it the way I put it, and not try to rephrase it.
QUESTION: Do you agree with it?
MR. BOUCHER: I put it quite precisely.
QUESTION: Well, on that same topic, what do you make, if anything, of Prime Minister Abbas' decision to cut off contact with Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Is that something that you think is a good idea? Or is it something --
MR. BOUCHER: As we've always said, the steps that need to be taken are steps to dismantle the capabilities. And those are the kind of concrete actions we're going to be looking for.
QUESTION: To cut off contact? Because there are some that say that engaging them might -- that it may be easier to dismantle their terrorist infrastructure if there is some contact.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's a debate that leads anywhere. It's not a matter of statements or contacts. It's a matter of capabilities, and that remains our focus.
QUESTION: Well, exactly. So you don't make very much, then, of the statement that they're going to cut off contact?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particularly one way or the other. That may be part of the equation as far as they see it, but the effort, the thing that we're concentrated on now, is seeing what can be done to dismantle the capabilities of these organizations.
QUESTION: Right. But surely Ambassador Wolf, as he's out there, and others, as they have their conversations, are telling both sides what they think, you know, or suggesting to them different ideas. And I'm just wondering if the United States thinks that the way -- that one way to dismantle and disarm these organizations is for the Palestinian Authority not to have anything to do with them?
MR. BOUCHER: As we've, I think, said all along, whether it was a question of achieving a ceasefire or having discussions, negotiations, about what they would or would not do, first of all, those kind of -- that kind of discussion/approach question is something that the Palestinian Authority needs to decide.
We have not really had a strong opinion one way or the other on contacts. But the question is not what they will or won't do, the question is what they can and cannot do. And that remains the focus for us, as it has been all along. Are they capable -- do they have the capabilities? And the capabilities need to be eliminated.
QUESTION: Well, so is it fair to say, then, that your position is that the means don't matter so much as the ends?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the end of making sure they can't do it any more.
QUESTION: I wanted to follow up on what you were talking about with fighting terrorists and the situation in Iraq. There are some who openly say that the slow pace of reconstruction and, you know, the disgruntlement around the -- among the Iraqi populace is actually making Iraq more of a breeding ground for terrorism.
What is your response?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's not a factually based conclusion, I'd have to say. Iraq has been on our terrorist list before the war. Iraq was a place that harbored terrorism; so terrorism existed in Iraq. And we know groups like Ansar al-Islam, al-Qaida-associated groups, operated in Iraq before the war. So to pretend that they suddenly magically appeared or that they have grown out of indigenous elements since the war is not entirely accurate, frankly.
Second of all, we do understand there is a certain level of violence from leftover Baathists, leftover members of the regime or members of the army because of the nature over the way the conflict was fought, that all the military forces weren't defeated. There is the so-called Fedayeen, there's others. So there are a variety of militant, you know, armed, dangerous elements in Iraq, which existed before the war, not all of which have been eliminated. So that situation is one that we have to deal with and we are dealing with it.
QUESTION: But to what extent has the problem become worse both because there are more adherents, if you will, inside Iraq now because of disgruntlement with the way that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's any real sign that there are more adherents inside Iraq. We, certainly, there are fewer people in the Iraqi army, there are fewer people in government-supported, government-sponsored, government-countenanced terrorist operations, terrorist camps, training facilities. We have eliminated much of that, but we haven't eliminated all of it.
Those elements that were there before, whether they were Iraqi Government elements or Fedayeen Saddam or Ansar al-Islam, some of those people are still there. Now, there have been -- as we have talked about -- there have been some people who have made it in from outside, and that's a problem we have to deal with, as well.
QUESTION: This truck bomb was kind of a new element, a sort of an escalation, if you will, and some have suggested that maybe it indicates that perhaps outside terrorist groups have begun to come in. Do you see any difference at all?
MR. BOUCHER: It's possible. There are various possibilities. It could be local. It could be outside. It could be a combination. It could be, you know, outsiders who were there to begin with. There is an investigation underway. I think we have something like 27 FBI people, who are out in Baghdad.
The Iraqi police are involved in the investigation, and so there is an investigation going on. I believe the FBI has already talked a little bit about their own efforts out there. It's certainly an attack of -- I think Jerry Bremer, Ambassador Bremer talked about it being of a different scope, a different nature to the things that happened previously, including the bomb at the Jordanian Embassy. But what that means about who did it, I don't think we could answer that question at this point.
QUESTION: Does the bombing of the UN Headquarters make it more difficult now to persuade more allies to sort of share the burden in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a matter of pure speculation at this point. What we have seen from the international community is a reaffirmation of the resolve to support the United Nations, recommitment by the United Nations itself to do the very important work that it does do in Iraq, in terms of supporting the Iraqi people.
We are in consultations with other governments about what's the best way to continue this support, facilitate the support of the international community, and we'll continue those consultations to make sure that the many people in the international community that want to support the Iraqi people, that want to support the effort of the United Nations are able to do so.
QUESTION: Are you talking with any more troops, Richard, in these consultations?
MR. BOUCHER: The question of, you know, mandates, troops, things like that, has been a matter, as you know, under discussion at the United Nations before. That remains a question on the table. It is being discussed with different people. And, as I said, it's important that the international community support the United Nations in the effort, the commitment that they're making, that they're recommitting to now; and part of that discussion will look at how best they can do that.
QUESTION: Do you think that, if I may follow up, do you think that there is a need, do you think that this incident demonstrates a need for additional troops, regardless of whether they come from the United States or elsewhere to maintain security?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't make that kind of security assessment at this point. Obviously, the priority of many of the security people in Baghdad now is to take care of the victims and the site itself. And the people who are out there, they will be making the appropriate security assessments and whatever recommendations are necessary.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, back a month or so or several months ago when the whole issue of the status of diplomatic missions in Baghdad came up after the PLO incident, it was my understanding that you guys said at the time that you were discouraging countries and other big organizations from going into Baghdad, partly because of the uncertain security situation there.
Yesterday, Ambassador Bremer, in several of his interviews said that you were now -- there was going to be a big meeting on Friday?
MR. BOUCHER: Friday, I think he said. Yeah.
QUESTION: Has your earlier position -- are you discouraging people from opening embassies or missions? Has that changed? Are they now going in? And if there are, do you have a rough idea of how many --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't. I think you'd have to get that from the people on the ground. The, certainly, our basic position is that we're not able to provide necessarily the kind of security that people might want or expect.
There are people who are out there. We are obviously doing what we can for the overall security environment. The UN, like other missions in Baghdad, has personnel that provide security at their sites and we want to make sure that we coordinate all these efforts: between us, between the missions, between the UN, between the Iraqi police, the Iraqi Civil Defense Forces, who are also helping provide security. And that's what Ambassador Bremer will be doing.
QUESTION: Okay, but is it no longer your position that you don't want people to go in and set up shop?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think our position has changed on that.
QUESTION: What about, could I ask you about the State Department? Well, this really follows up --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's, Terri, can you --
QUESTION: How about the Americans, the flow of Americans in? Is that going to be slowed? Can you give us --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's been any change in the flow of the Americans. Certainly, I haven't had any discussion of that.
QUESTION: I mean civilian (inaudible). I mean State Department, AID, Public Diplomacy --
MR. BOUCHER: We have a lot of people out there. We have a lot of people in dangerous places around the world. And we operate with the best security we can. But the work we're doing is very important.
We're there, the UN is there, many others are there to help the Iraqi people. And that's a task that we're very strongly committed to, the President's made clear we're committed to it, and we want to work with the rest of the international community to make sure we do that with the best possible safety for our personnel.
QUESTION: Would it be possible, if not now, of course, to get some figures on American civilians --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if I can. I really -- that's another question the Coalition Provisional Authority would have to answer. They're the folks on the ground in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Despite what you're saying about security there and that security assessments have yet to be made, the UN seems to be pretty clear that it believes the U.S. was supposed to provide that security. Annan said again today that they'd hoped the U.S. would --
MR. BOUCHER: I think that Fred Eckhardt at the UN has just done a briefing on this whole issue, and I really refer you to what he's just said on this.
QUESTION: So whatever -- whatever the UN says is what the U.S. is saying now? Why would you refer me to him?
MR. BOUCHER: Because I think he described his understanding with a little more detail than he did yesterday.
QUESTION: But Secretary Annan spoke today, as well.
MR. BOUCHER: As I said yesterday, I think what the Secretary -- I think what I saw from the Secretary General is similar to what I've been saying. Obviously, the Coalition has a responsibility to try to create a secure environment in Iraq for Iraqis, for foreigners, for workers, for humanitarian efforts, for reconstruction in general. But other organizations also have security officers who are there providing security at their specific sites, as was the case with the United Nations. So the important thing is we all work together to do everything possible to maximize the security for the people who are doing this important work.
QUESTION: So if I'm not mistaken, you're saying that the Coalition did have responsibility for guarding this building?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that.
QUESTION: Obviously, the Provisional Authority said that--
MR. BOUCHER: I said we have responsibility; we have a role in Iraq to provide security in the country, security in the cities, security to as many, you know, locations as we can to provide security for the environment of Iraqi reconstruction and we've put tremendous resources and effort in that regard. But in terms of some specific buildings, many times it is the organization itself that provides security at that building, as was the case with this building.
QUESTION: When Security Powell spoke with Annan yesterday, do you know if Secretary Powell made any security guarantees that said, "We will now, from this point forward, provide additional security for your building." Did he --
MR. BOUCHER: They issued -- you asked me yesterday about the phone call, I'll tell you exactly what I told you yesterday because that's what happened in the phone call. They both noted the tremendous effort that was being made at that moment shortly after the bombing by U.S. Forces, by Coalition personnel, to help the UN at the site care for the wounded, take care of the people who were affected or injured or killed by the bombing and made the general commitment, "We'll continue to help you in every way we can."
QUESTION: To move away from the actual issue of security of any particular sites, obviously, there are continued attacks in the country, and specifically against UN troops, and is there any recognition at this point that perhaps a stronger --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the UN has troops.
QUESTION: Well, at this -- is there a recognition at this point that there is some resistance to the U.S. occupation and that perhaps a stronger international component would give the occupation greater legitimacy and alleviate some of the burden-sharing?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't it's a result of the attack yesterday, but there has been a recognition, there has been an effort underway, to ensure that international participation was available to help the coalition; that countries that were willing to participate in improving security in Iraq would be able to do so. And we've had resolutions to that effect.
I think one of your colleagues asked the other day -- and I've got the answer now -- on the, sort of, some of the details of the troops contributors. There, first of all, as I've made clear, I think there are continuing discussions, but at this time there are only 27 countries in addition to the United States who have contributed a total of approximately 21,700 troops to the ongoing stability operations in Iraq. In addition to these 27 that already have forces on the ground, there are four others who have committed to providing troops and we're talking with at least 14 other countries about whether or not they can provide forces to Iraq.
So that's been an ongoing effort. As you note from the last time we talked about this when I think the -- I forget -- the number 19 or maybe less, 14. But these numbers have grown over time and will continue to because there are many members of the international community that have wanted to contribute to this effort, provide security and stability for the people of Iraq, and for the humanitarian operations that are being conducted.
QUESTION: But still, the Provisional Coalition Authority, it still has a U.S. face. And is there any thought about, kind of, giving it more of an international umbrella so as to make it more of the international community helping to rebuild Iraq, instead of the U.S. and --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I realize that there has to be somebody at the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority and that is an American with an American face. But there are many other people involved in this process. As I said, you've got 27 nations already out there with troops. You've got the international community involved in the rebuilding and reconstruction effort. You have at the UN building, unfortunately, people from nations throughout the world who were hurt, killed, in yesterday's bombing because the international community was heavily involved.
And this was an attack on the international community. This was an attack on the Iraqi people. It was not particularly an attack on the Americans. But the international community is involved and we've seen a recommitment of that, and we want to make sure we continue to provide ways for people to be involved.
QUESTION: Who are the four countries who are committed? And secondly, as talks continue in that respect, with Turkey, is your approach, the U.S. approach is that Turkey should commit first and then discussions in the details? There are reports in that respect because --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to go into discussions with others who might or might not be interested in participating. And as far as the list of the 27 countries and the four countries, I'll give you -- I'll put up those separately, if I can.
QUESTION: Richard, on that, on the numbers, when you say the 14 countries that you say you're still -- you're talking to right now, do those include countries that have been approached and have said no for some reason or another already, such as India, Turkey, Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: Those are countries that we think are currently considering whether to provide forces to Iraq. I can't go beyond that at this point.
QUESTION: Well, can you find out, though, if you still -- if the countries --
MR. BOUCHER: I can't start listing these countries that we're still in discussions with.
QUESTION: I'm not asking you to list them. I'm asking --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you're asking me to identify three or four members of the list.
QUESTION: Well, all right. Well, then I'll take away the specificity. Are any of the 14 countries you're still talking to countries that have been approached already and said no for one reason or another?
MR. BOUCHER: I would hazard a guess to say that some of -- some countries who have issued public statements that they might not be ready to do so at this moment --
QUESTION: You're still in discussions with.
MR. BOUCHER: -- may still be continuing discussions with us because there may be other circumstances under which they might be willing.
QUESTION: Okay. And along those lines, what are your thoughts about a new UN Security Council resolution that would, perhaps -- that would either a) give more of an umbrella, a UN umbrella to it, or that would just simply reinforce the resolution that was passed?
MR. BOUCHER: 1483 -- the language that said everybody should support this.
MR. BOUCHER: The same as I think I expressed about 10 minutes ago, that that has been a discussion that had, as a matter of consultations, a discussion up at the United Nations. Those discussions continue. We have seen this outpouring on the behalf of the international community wanting to support the UN and the Iraqi people, and we'll continue to discuss with others how to do that --
QUESTION: And on that --
MR. BOUCHER: -- how best to facilitate that.
QUESTION: On that --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary, in his phone call with Foreign Minister de Villepin this morning, suggest that the U.S. might be willing to, kind of, back off on the urgency of the Libya sanctions lifting resolution if -- in return for full French support of whatever the Security Council might do in relation to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: No. But let me tell you where we are in the Libya resolution.
QUESTION: Well, you don't need to go into that yet.
QUESTION: No, please do.
QUESTION: Go ahead with that.
QUESTION: Other people might want to ask more about Iraq.
QUESTION: Let me ask one more question on the numbers. The 21,700, how many of those are British? Do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't know.
QUESTION: Do you know if the majority are?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't have the number, all those numbers with me. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Is the United States advising that the UN scale back its presence right now in Iraq until a better security atmosphere can be assured?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we're coordinating with the United Nations. Obviously, there are going to be people who want to leave. There are people who are injured and need to leave. So it will be, people will come and go. But we're coordinating with the UN and other organizations who are there, as evidenced by this meeting that Ambassador Bremer's having on Friday, to try to ensure that people can operate, do the important work in a secure and safe environment for their personnel.
QUESTION: Richard, they have already announced they're scaling back and taking some people out to Amman. So is that -- are you saying that's something that the U.S. is helping on?
MR. BOUCHER: Our understanding of that -- let me tell you what -- our understanding is hidden somewhere in these papers.
We understand the UN denied reports that it was pulling out workers, according to UN spokesman, Salim Lone, "The news that we are evacuating to Jordan is not true. We're evacuating only those who cannot be treated in Iraq, and those workers who are scheduled to leave."
QUESTION: So is the U.S. helping do that or not?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Yah, can you update us on the American casualties in both Iraq and Jerusalem?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's start -- in terms of Baghdad, first, let me express our condolences and sympathies to the families whose loved ones perished in this heinous act of terrorism. We know that two American citizens were killed in the attack in Baghdad. We're also aware of one other American citizen who may have been killed, and we're seeking further information to confirm the identity and status of that individual. I have to say, regrettably, there may be more. We don't know yet.
One of the deceased American citizens was an employee of the United Nations. I think the United Nations is taking care of notifying the next of kin and has released that name. We won't be releasing any further information on these people out of deference for the families.
We're also aware of eight American citizens who have been reported injured in the Baghdad bombing, but the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. We have a consular officer in Baghdad who is working with the U.S. military to locate and contact all of the injured
Americans and who will continue to work to help do this.
In terms of the situation in Jerusalem with the bombing, again, our condolences and sympathies go out to the victims of this horrible attack. We know that five American citizens were killed in the bombing in Jerusalem. There were 12 Americans injured. U.S. consular officials at the consulate in Jerusalem have met with the injured American citizen victims and/or their family members. We don't have Privacy Act Waivers, and therefore we don't have permission to go into any more detail on these people either; and the same on the deceased U.S. citizens. We, out of deference to the families, we won't provide detail.
QUESTION: These were people who were on the bus, then?
MR. BOUCHER: They were injured or killed in the bus bombing. I assume most of them were on the bus, but I don't know for sure.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. BOUCHER: We had a right --
QUESTION: I'm surprised the AFP passed up the opportunity to --
MR. BOUCHER: I know. I tried to drop a big hint --
QUESTION: It has to do with France.
QUESTION: I was trying to be polite --
MR. BOUCHER: All right, where do we stand on Libya? We understand that Libya has begun the transfer of the $2.7 billion payment to the escrow account. As you know, we've said the Council needs to address the issue of sanctions once the money is deposited in the escrow account.
There are consultations underway at the United Nations. There are meetings going on today. But I need to point out, this is a very large sum of money. Apparently the transfer is not just one push of the button, and it will probably take until Thursday or perhaps even Friday to complete the transfer. It will be -- they're consulting with British sponsors of the resolution about -- and other members -- about the timing and how to move forward.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the Secretary -- I'm assuming that this featured to some degree in the Secretary's talks with Foreign Minister de Villepin. Can you tell us what they talked about in particular?
MR. BOUCHER: They talked to follow up on their earlier conversations that -- they talked last Saturday on the general topic of how to coordinate the efforts that we're making in the United Nations to resolve the issue for the sake of the Pan Am 103 families. And also the issues, the efforts the French are making, on behalf of the families of the UTA flight.
And so we're trying to coordinate the efforts. We have great sympathy with the families of the UTA flight, but we have expressed before, and the Secretary has expressed to the French Foreign Minister directly, that we don't think that there should be actions that would impede the Pan Am 103 settlement. And so we think the Council's consideration of lifting Libya sanctions should be based solely on Libya meeting the requirements in the UN sanctions resolution.
QUESTION: Did he make that point this morning?
MR. BOUCHER: We made --
QUESTION: I know you made it before.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to say he made it in exactly those words, but yes, essentially, he did.
QUESTION: Richard, what year was it again that -- the French had said that Libya had met the UTA --
MR. BOUCHER: It was in 1999 that France advised the Security Council that Libya had met its Security Council requirements on UTA, leaving only the Pan Am 103 conditions to be met.
QUESTION: I thought it was '98, and the Security Council confirmed it in '99. It doesn't matter, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I guess I'm dealing with the date that the Council, whatever, took note, or accepted, or, you know, whatever --
QUESTION: The Secretary General --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Sir.
QUESTION: Richard, a respected Middle East expert and policy advisor, Michael Ledeen of American Enterprise Institute, has come out with some criticisms of Secretary Powell saying, in some respects, he's been diplomatically naive with respect to Iran. Is he justified?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the comment, but I think our policy on Iran is quite well expressed. We've been very, very clear. The Secretary has been very, very clear about the need for Iran to end all support for terrorism. The policy the administration has pursued in the IAEA and elsewhere in order to organize the international community to cut off support for nuclear efforts in Iran is showing some success. As you know, this is something that's pursued -- been pursued for many, many years. I remember Secretary Eagleburger talking to Foreign Minister Kozyrev about it, Russia's support for nuclear activity in Iran, and it's been in recent months that the United States, through the efforts of Secretary Powell and others has been able to see quite a change in the Russian attitude towards nuclear developments in Iran, as well as in the attitude of the international community as expressed in the IAEA and elsewhere.
So, I haven't seen the exact text of the criticism, but anything along those lines doesn't seem to correspond to any factual basis of what we're actually doing and achieving in terms of our policy towards Iran.
QUESTION: Another subject, Richard. Let's go to another part of the world where terrorism is still continuing. India's Ambassador, Mr. Lalit Mansingh, to the United States, celebrating the 57th Independent Day of India, in Maryland. He said that who to believe now, United States or Pakistan, because terrorism is still continuing in India by Pakistan and now what should we do? We have been telling Pak -- we have been telling to the United States and United States has been telling to Pakistan that terrorism has stopped, but it has not.
So where do we go now?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, you know --
QUESTION: He was addressing over one comment and then Americans --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not going to accept your characterization of his remarks, but you're very familiar with what we have said here in this room, and that is that the issue of cross-border terrorism remains on the agenda with Pakistan, that while there had been some decrease in the level of cross-border terrorism, we were still concerned about it, and it remained an issue that there was still some activity going on that needed to be stopped and it remained a very important issue on our agenda with Pakistan.
QUESTION: Richard, on Pakistan. Yesterday, the embassy in Islamabad announced that you guys have completed the arrangements for the sale of the C-130s. There was a little bit of confusion about that. These planes are being purchased by Pakistan with money that the United States is giving it under the Foreign Military Financing program?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, well, I had the details in my book yesterday but I'm not sure I have them today. Do you have that handy, Tom?
QUESTION: I just want to make clear, they're not actually paying for them, then?
MR. BOUCHER: We're looking for it. We'll get it for you later, just to make sure. I'm not quite sure that precise point is covered, but I'll check on it for you. Okay?
QUESTION: Also today, the Pakistani Interior Ministry says that it will set up a new antiterrorism force that will be trained by the U.S. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: The -- we do a lot of terrorism cooperation with Pakistan, obviously. We are -- our Office of Antiterrorism Assistance, which is part of the Diplomatic Security Bureau, began teaching a 15-week course in counterterrorism investigation in Pakistan on July 7th. We are also providing crisis response team training. This is all part of our ongoing effort to assist the Government of Pakistan in the fight against international terrorism.
As you know, Pakistan is a key ally in the global war against terrorism. We are considering -- we are committed to assisting them to building their capabilities. That's what this is.
QUESTION: Maybe their announcement was that the 15-week course had just ended. That looks like about the right date.
MR. BOUCHER: They what?
QUESTION: Maybe they were announcing it in connection with the 15-week course.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I don't -- I didn't see the exact text of their announcement, but that's what we're doing.
QUESTION: Another question? The Secretary has any kind of opposition to the Ambassador Blackwell's appointment to the White House? He is coming back to it from the -- as Ambassador to India.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: And another one. (Laughter.) Another question about the press release you have here about the Diversity Visa Programs, that has been criticized by the poor countries like Bangladesh and others because they have no access to go online or computers. So what is the suggestion from the State Department? What they should do?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, in many countries, and as we have traveled around the world, whether it's been in South Asia or Africa or Asia or China or elsewhere, you see things like Internet cafes. There are various ways -- at universities, through friends and others -- to get access to whatever brief time you might need to fill out the form. For some --
QUESTION: There's eight pages of instructions.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Whatever time you might need to fill out the form. I'm not sure if that Paperwork Reduction Act notice goes on the end of it or not, but --
So let's admit there are people in rural communities and poor places that have, you know -- who might want to do this, but who may have equal problems or similar problems in organizing and getting the forms and sending them in through the regular mail. So for some people it would probably be easier, for some people it may be more difficult, but we do think that, by and large, this is available for people who want to apply, that they can, in most places, find ways of doing this.
QUESTION: Are you setting up any alternatives, then? I mean, there are plenty of people who live in places where there aren't Internet cafes.
MR. BOUCHER: But who may be able to get to places where there are, or have this done on their behalf. This system will provide a much, I think, more secure, more efficient means for those who do apply. It will provide a more efficient means of eliminating duplicate entries that might skew the curve or change the odds.
So we are, I'm sure that this will be a better system for all of us, including the applicants. And I suppose if people really do have difficulty, maybe our embassies can help advise them on how to do it.
QUESTION: Do you know if there were studies done about how many people this may cut off that would have been able to somehow manage with --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't know of any particular study, but I think the general view of this is that in many, many, many of the places involved where people might want to apply, that there is some form of access available to people.
QUESTION: Did you find out, Richard, though if the embassies, U.S. embassies, consulates, these American-presence posts, or wherever, you know, they might be, would be willing to allow people uses of their non-classified databases?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can quite go that far at this point.
QUESTION: No, but could you find out because there is a concern?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure our people would be able to advise others on how to go about this, on where it might be located, in country, or what are the other opportunities, first. Whether they're able to actually offer their machines for doing this or not, I don't know.
QUESTION: On that, would filling out that paperwork normally be free? It would, wouldn't it?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So paying to use a computer at an Internet café isn't the quite the same thing?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, cost is minimal.
QUESTION: Well, to you and I, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, you could say is filling out the form and mailing it in free? Yes, but you got to buy a stamp. I mean, at some point, in -- there is a cost in buying paper and envelopes and stamps.
So, you know, whether -- how this compares in different countries to the cost of spending whatever time it takes at an Internet café to fill out the form, I really can't tell you. But let's -- that's not a fair question, I have to say.
QUESTION: Let's say if the U.S. is making any kind of arrangements or helping those governments really have no access, those people there, is there any way --
MR. BOUCHER: It's not a question of governments. I mean, remember, one of the -- you know, let's cite an example. When we were in Bangladesh, and the Secretary spoke about this when we got to Jordan, we were briefed by the Minister for Information Technology and Science Technology General on their plans in Bangladesh to set up Internet access sites in some of the remotest parts of the country, and how those plans were already proceeding in many places.
So it's not just a question of poverty level. It's not just a question of rural versus urban. There are in many, many places facilities available. So I think -- I don't think the assumption that people are making that somehow this might cut off enormous numbers of applicants who otherwise would be able to apply, I don't think that assumption is valid.
QUESTION: Back to the Palestinians. Your stated theme underscored is that the Palestinians must move now. What is it that you think Abbas can or should do now that he has not already been trying to do?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we are in discussions with both sides, and particularly with the Palestinian side, in terms of John Wolf, in terms of our other people we have out there at the Consulate General, to talk about how they can move forward, talk -- hear from them about the steps that they think they can take to dismantle the terrorist capability.
So I don't think it's quite a matter of my trying to specify it from here. It's a matter of working with them, talking to them and hearing from them about the steps they can and intend to take to make sure that those are steps that they can take that are going to have an effective end to the capabilities.
QUESTION: On that, a congressional delegation now in Jerusalem, was supposed to meet with Prime Minister Abbas tomorrow and says they have called off the meeting because Abbas is either impotent to stop terror or unwilling to act, and either way it's hard to see him as a partner for peace.
So with that coming from members of the U.S. legislature, how helpful is that?
MR. BOUCHER: I have no comment on that. The legislators make their own decisions about who they want to meet with and who they don't.
QUESTION: Not speaking for the U.S. Government as a whole, though?
MR. BOUCHER: They make their own decisions about who they want to meet with.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about today being the fifth year, five-year anniversary of the missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan ordered by President Clinton in response to the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think so. It's not an anniversary we've celebrated in the past, is it?
QUESTION: I wasn't suggesting that you were going to celebrate it. I thought you might bemoan the fact that it didn't do anything and that the worst terrorist attack in history happened just three years later. No?
MR. BOUCHER: No, thanks.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Can you say anything on yesterday's Deputy Secretary's meeting with the Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers on internals of the consultations the six-party talks on the North Korean issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I believe that before the meeting we said they would discuss the visit of President Putin to the United States in September, also expect them to discuss Korea and some other -- a variety of other bilateral issues. So I would say at this point they discussed the upcoming visit of President Putin in September, the situation in Korea, the upcoming talks and a variety of other bilateral issues. That's about as far as I can go for the moment.
QUESTION: Richard, late yesterday, it appeared that there was a very senior foreign personage coming to this building, either a head of state or a head of government, to meet, I presume, with Deputy Secretary Armitage since Secretary Powell's not here. Can you tell us who that was?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a very important person.
MR. BOUCHER: From the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
QUESTION: And who was that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the exact name of the young lady.
QUESTION: And, okay, so this was a child who won a Make-A-Wish?
MR. BOUCHER: It was an American.
QUESTION: Or not won, but was given it. And the wish was for?
MR. BOUCHER: I -- let me --
QUESTION: Find out?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have all the facts precisely with me now. I'm sure Make-A-Wish Foundation could tell you about the visitor. But we wanted to make sure that the person was treated with all the proper respect that we would treat a head of state.
QUESTION: Can I go back on Libya, Richard, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: As far as terrorism is concerned, it sounds like that yesterday who were supporting terrorism or was with the terrorists, and today we shake hands with them. Now, Libya's Qadhafi is a dictator and he's still supporting terrorism, and yesterday he did, like bombing 103, and in Africa. And today you are shaking hands with him, opening the doors for him for the future, like lifting of sanctions and all this.
So where do we stand as far as terrorism concerned in the future?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I don't think we've shaken hands with him. Second of all, we haven't lifted U.S. sanctions, we haven't lifted Libya's status on the terrorism list. We have noted -- and you'll see this going back a number of years in our Patterns of Terrorism report -- that over the years Libya has decreased its support for terrorism and has taken some significant actions in that regard.
But the settlement for the sake of the families of Pan Am 103 does not in any way remove all the other issues that we have with Libya, whether it's human rights or weapons of mass destruction or their past support for terrorism.
QUESTION: The Russian -- Russia has announced that naval operations that would -- in the case of a conflict between North and South Korea. How does that affect upcoming talks, the six-party talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea. Sorry.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)
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