State Department Briefing, August 21, 2003
|Thursday August 21, 2003
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, at the top, I'd just like to tell you about one thing. The Secretary directed that, in honor of the late Sergio Vieira de Mello, flags at all United States diplomatic and consular facilities be brought to half staff. Flags will remain at half staff through the end of the day on Thursday, August 21st. That's one of our ways of honoring a gentleman who we have enormous regard for.
I think that's all I have to say in the way of statements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
Do you want to start?
QUESTION: Do you have any particular comment to make on Israel's killing of this senior Hamas figure this morning? Do you regard it as a targeted assassination? Do you think they should try to refrain from such acts?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular comment to make on that. I would comment on the overall situation. I think first of all, to refer you to the remarks the Secretary made this morning, how important it is to insist that terror perpetrated by organizations such as Hamas come to an end. And the Secretary has made clear in his various conversations with Prime Minister Abbas, with Arab leaders such as Foreign Minister Muasher and Foreign Minister Saud, who he talked to yesterday, the importance that all the parties, the Palestinians, take immediate steps against these organizations, but also that all the people involved in the region take essential steps to cut off any kinds of support or any kinds of finance that might be reaching terrorist groups such as Hamas. That's been a topic of discussion with the Europeans as well. So we have been active on that.
I think the basic point, though, is that we want the parties to look for ways to move forward, to -- we understand that the big question right now is security after the horrible bombing in Jerusalem, that people need to establish security. We've been quite clear that Israel has a right to defend itself. We've also been clear the parties need to think about the consequences and to establish security in a way that moves forward, and that next steps are dismantling the organizations that produce the terror.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not able to characterize that particular action. I think we have been quite clear that Israel has a right for self-defense.
QUESTION: Do you think it makes it easier or harder to move forward?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to characterize that, either. I think as we have said, the parties need to think about how to move forward, they need to think about the consequences of their action.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary made any calls on this today, and could you read out any other calls he made besides Muasher and Abdullah that he made yesterday that we didn't hear about? Or that relative to this?
MR. BOUCHER: The calls on this today -- no, he hasn't made calls to the region, but --
QUESTION: Didn't you say Abdullah?
MR. BOUCHER: No, Saud.
QUESTION: I apologize.
MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday, the Secretary was on the phone all day long on a variety of topics. With most, for example, the Europeans, it was, obviously, Baghdad, Iraq, the new UN resolution, the Middle East. With some of them it was the status of the Libya resolution. With the Palestinians and the Arabs it was the Middle East, the need to end the violence, action on security, actions that the Palestinians can take but also actions that everybody should be taking to squeeze the terrorist groups, put them out of the business of terrorism, put them out of business, period.
So the list yesterday was Foreign Minister Villepin of France, Foreign Secretary Straw of the United Kingdom, German Foreign Minister Fischer, European High Representative Solana and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abbas, Italian Foreign Minister Fratini, United Nations Secretary General Annan, Jordanian Foreign Minister Muasher, Spanish Foreign Minister Palacio twice, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud, and Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim. This morning, he has talked again with the Brazilian Foreign Minister. That's what we have so far.
QUESTION: Richard, building on the Secretary's cliff metaphor from the UN, how close -- how close are they, these lemmings, to falling off or running off the cliff?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's a metaphor that -- first of all, the Secretary didn't use the word "lemmings." But second of all --
QUESTION: Well, it springs to mind --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it springs to some minds maybe, not mine. But the --
QUESTION: Creative minds.
MR. BOUCHER: I see. All right. Creative minds might want to estimate the distance, but we're not measuring distances to cliffs at this point.
QUESTION: Well, I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: Just making clear that the direction -- you know, this is --
QUESTION: How fragile does the United States think the situation is? I mean, you've got Ambassador Wolf over there; presumably, you can tell us something about what he has been doing. He, Ambassador Wolf, went there on an urgent mission.
MR. BOUCHER: It was important. It was urgent to get Ambassador Wolf back in the region, and he has been active with both sides. We -- the Secretary himself has been in touch with the parties. The Secretary has been in touch with a variety of people who could help press this forward in a way that ends terrorism, that ends the terrorist -- the ability of terrorist organizations to carry out their actions.
So that, I think, is clear. That's the direction that we want to move in. And we have been quite clear we need to move forward -- forward with the steps that are needed to establish security. And that means dismantling the terror organizations.
QUESTION: Can you tell us if Ambassador Wolf has reported any progress in his mission?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any new reports or characterizations from him. As you know, he has been -- all along, as he has been working with the sides, he has been encouraging their talks, encouraging their steps. Clearly, what we're looking to see now are steps from the Palestinian side to move on security. And those are, I think, what -- you know, how we will judge progress or not.
QUESTION: The Secretary made an appeal directly to Chairman Arafat to use the security forces that are under his control to try to crack down on, to stop some of this violence. Do you think that he, perhaps, has the muscle to do this and that Prime Minister Abbas, perhaps, just doesn't?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I -- first of all, that's not exactly the way the Secretary put it and I think it is important to recognize that what the Secretary said is, "I call on Chairman Arafat to work with Prime Minister Abbas and to make available to Prime Minister Abbas those security elements that are under his control."
And, as you know -- we have talked about this any times -- in the appointment and the authorities given to the cabinet and to Prime Minister Abbas there was still some split in the security organizations.
We said at the time that we thought that Prime Minister Abbas had authority to carry out steps and, indeed, he has had the authority or the capability to carry out steps on security, like establishing security in Gaza, taking over responsibility there, taking over responsibility of Bethlehem. So that has happened.
But, at the same time, that split still remains. There is still not clear authority over all the security apparatus, and in order to carry out the kind of serious and immediate steps that are needed right now, we think he does need to have control over all the security elements, and that's what the Secretary is pressing for.
QUESTION: Are you -- other than making this public call to Chairman Arafat, has anybody -- are any U.S. officials talking to him directly to try to convey that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no. But I'm sure others are.
QUESTION: Is there any thought of a somewhat higher level official going to the region?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there always is and there -- I mean, we've talked all along about having periodic high-level visits. I don't have anything at this point planned, but --
QUESTION: On Arshad's question, has the Secretary, in any of his conversations, conveyed the desire to get the message to Arafat through those parties that are still talking to him?
MR. BOUCHER: He has always, I think, made the point in his conversations, including his conversations in recent days, that people need to get the message to Arafat to allow Prime Minister Abbas to move forward on these steps, that he needs to cooperate, needs to stop blocking steps that need to be taken, and this is part of that.
So I think if you can sort of look at it as several circles, the innermost circle is the Palestinian Authority and our discussions with them, and what we encourage others to tell them is you have to move now on security.
The next circle are, say, the Arab parties and some of the other parties where there might be finance, there might be some ability to operate, as in Syria, of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. We want those people, we're telling all those people, to do everything they can to make sure there's no money, there's no support, there's no ability to operate.
And then there's another circle, which is, maybe most of the -- some of the Europeans, where there are other steps that they can take to encourage this process along, to stop the broader flow of finance or other things that might go to Hamas and countries like that.
And so we -- the Secretary in his conversations has been working all those different levels of the problem to make sure that we're focused on effective steps on security that can help the Palestinian Authority dismantle the organizations that have been perpetrating terror.
QUESTION: Some of these European nations still have relationships with Arafat. Is Secretary Powell urging these countries to stop speaking with him --
MR. BOUCHER: Our position on that has really not changed, but we do encourage those who do have some contact to make clear these points that I went over just a little while ago.
QUESTION: The Palestinians said that they were working out an operation on their own to dismantle the terrorist groups when the attack was made, when the targeted killing happened. Did Prime Minister Abbas share in advance some of that with Secretary Powell, that you could share with us?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: No to which question? The second one?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: I think I described the conversation yesterday with Prime Minister Abbas. I'll leave it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: Anything you can tell us about anyone in the Administration from this city or this area talking to Dahlan, himself, about steps, rather than Abbas?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we have. We've certainly maintained close contact with him, whether it's John Wolf, Ambassador Wolf, in the region or our Consul General. Sometimes people here talk to him on the phone. So I just don't track those conversations that much, but there's frequent contact.
QUESTION: Is there any sense that you would care to disclose about the adequacy of the steps before now? Any frustration in the Administration, which some speak of anonymously that perhaps he could have done more in recent weeks -- Dahlan, in particular?
MR. BOUCHER: Without getting personal, I think, to look at what the Palestinian Authority has done, they have taken some steps, but we have always made clear that more needed to be done and that more needs to be done.
So the goal -- you know, before the bombing, the President said the most important thing is dismantling the terrorist organizations. And that has been what we've raised in public, what we've raised in private, and continues to be; and that the pressing need to do that is all the more apparent now, except very sadly.
QUESTION: Some of the Palestine militant organizations have called an end to their self-imposed ceasefire. Do you -- would you like to see them return to a ceasefire, or are you no longer interested in that and you simply want to see them dismantled and taken apart?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always said we want to see them put out of the business of terrorism. We have allowed -- we have, I guess, acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority, having this responsibility, also has to figure out how to go about it. But the point is that they need to be put out of the business of terrorism, and that's what we are continuing to press for.
So, you know, I go back to the phrase I use all the time: It's not what they will or won't do; it's what they can and cannot do. And they cannot -- these organizations cannot have the capability to carry out terrorism.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
QUESTION: Just a little more on the ceasefire. Is -- would it be a good thing to -- would a ceasefire, a return to the ceasefire, contribute to -- be a positive step?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can really characterize it in that fashion. As you know, when it was originally decided, when they originally announced their ceasefire, we made clear that while we respected the decisions of the Palestinian Authority to go about the elimination of terrorists, or terror capabilities in that fashion, a ceasefire was never an end in itself; a ceasefire was maybe a mechanism or step along the way, but the goal had to be to eliminate the terrorist capability. And that remains the goal. That's where the final judgment needs to be made: Do these organizations get put out of business?
QUESTION: And if -- just on this subject. I know you were very careful yesterday about, when asked about -- to expand on your comment that security, understandably, was the priority now. But again, if I may, I would like to ask whether that implies that it would be understandable that the reciprocal steps under the roadmap of pulling back forces by Israel and other steps that we all know, whether it would be understandable that there would be a pause now in such steps while security is being attended to by Israel.
MR. BOUCHER: If I remember correctly, I said yesterday we could understand those decisions.
QUESTION: On Iraq? The UN?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: What exactly are you looking for in a new resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary, I think, discussed this to some extent this morning, so let's start with that as the --
QUESTION: If you could fill out what he said.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, start with that as the beginning, as the basis.
As he said, the goal is to make sure that the UN can carry out its important work and the international community can support the important work the United Nations is doing and support the people of Iraq as they try to reestablish, reconstruct their country.
The section I was looking for, I can't find right now, so I'm going to have to paraphrase. But the -- so the goal of our consultations with other governments, with other countries, conversations the Secretary had yesterday, conversations Ambassador Negroponte had yesterday and is having today -- and we'll get into more details as time goes on -- is to come up with language that can be put together for the Security Council to endorse the UN role, obviously pay tribute to the work that was done by Sergio de Mello and those who have died, but to continue that work and to press forward, and to encourage countries to support and participate in the work of reconstruction in Iraq and the help for the Iraqi people, to make explicit the authorization for countries to contribute to stability through military forces or police or other contributions; and thereby, to provide an encouragement, support and authorization for countries to get more involved in providing stability and providing assistance for the reconstruction of Iraq by the Iraqis.
QUESTION: Now, you have argued for some time that the existing resolution, already --
MR. BOUCHER: We do believe it already provides that sort of authority.
QUESTION: Okay. So why now concede the point, or appear to concede the point?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, it's -- we said weeks ago when this matter was under discussion -- the Secretary said, I think several times, and I did as well -- that while we believe the authority existed, and indeed the figures show that there are, you know, 22,000 troops already there on the basis of Resolution 1483, and now there's Resolution 1500 as well that endorses the Governing -- the UN Mission and welcomes the Governing Council. So there's certainly a sufficient basis for 22,000 troops already and for others to be on their way or considering it.
But there are others we know who would like to see more explicit authorization or some other more explicit endorsement for that. The overall thrust of the resolution to support and encourage the people to participate and support that work, I think, is the reaction to the bombing.
The bombers, they were evil people who tried to bomb the United Nations, the international community, out of Iraq. It's time for the international community, we think, to stand up and to move forward; in fact, to get more involved, to do more to support reconstruction and the people of the Iraq, and to show that this kind of terror tactics are not going to succeed.
QUESTION: So, if I can just make -- see if I can get you to connect that on maybe a shorter sentence, the --
MR. BOUCHER: Shorter sentence?
QUESTION: Give me a quote.
MR. BOUCHER: This is getting -- (laughter). I'm trying. I'm working on it. We'll do it three times maybe by the end of it.
QUESTION: Well, I don't want to have to use ellipses, which, you know --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't like them either.
QUESTION: So what you're saying is that you guys -- that the decision to go for a new resolution that would explicit -- make explicit the authorization to contribute to the -- to stabilization is based on -- now, you can't say just "yes" either. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Is a reaction to the bombing and the fact that you guys think that now, while you were happy with 1483 before, that you need -- you definitely need more people.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me try a couple of short sentences, and then you can pick the one you like.
MR. BOUCHER: We think there is authority in 1483. Many other countries have already contributed, including some 22,000 troops. After the bombing, however, we think it's important for the United Nations, the Security Council and the international community to stand up again and to get more involved, and for those who would look for more authorization to provide that so even more countries, even more assistance can be provided.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. That wasn't short, but it was short enough. Okay?
QUESTION: Do you think this is one of the measures you could get France and Germany into the boat? And, if yes, why do you think?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be for them to decide. I wouldn't try to predict what their decisions might be. As you know, we're in touch with a large number of countries about the possibility. Some countries, like India, have already stated publicly that they might be looking for this kind of statement from the United Nations or more explicit authorization from United Nations.
But I wouldn't want to speculate on what their decisions might be. The countries will have to make their own decisions. We just think this is a way of encouraging and making it easier for people who may be on the cusp and want to make the decision.
QUESTION: You mentioned India specifically and you said there were other countries who think the same way that India does. Can you name some of those countries?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if I'd say think the same way. They haven't said the exact same thing. Some of them have been a little less public. But I think it's well known we have been in discussions with India. We have been in discussions with Pakistan, Turkey and others who are considering contributions. Indeed, I think I said yesterday, the Secretary mentioned this morning, there are some 14 countries that are considering contributions. Each of them may have a slightly different viewpoint, but we do think that having a more explicit authorization from the United Nations would help some of them make the decision.
QUESTION: Have you been in touch with India post-bombing?
MR. BOUCHER: I --
QUESTION: I mean on this matter.
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to say I assume so, but I can't tell you explicitly how. I'll see if I can -- if there are any particulars I can say.
QUESTION: You said several times, "explicit UN authorization." What is it -- what kind of concessions is the U.S. willing to make to get these countries on board as far as giving the UN a broader role that's been talked about --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it hasn't really -- I mean, it's been speculated on, but if you look at what the Secretary and the Secretary General said this morning, the issue of UN command or UN control was really not discussed.
The Secretary General has been quite clear in his statements yesterday and his statements this morning we're not talking about blue helmets, we're not talking about a UN command.
QUESTION: Then what are you talking about?
MR. BOUCHER: We're talking about more international involvement in stabilization and in conjunction with the coalition arrangements that are made there.
The UN is very involved, as the Secretary General, again, said on the economic side, and Sergio de Mello and his team were very involved on the political side working with the Iraqi Governing Council, and a variety of issues -- social-humanitarian issues.
So the UN is playing a vital role. And that role will continue to grow as the Iraqis themselves develop more of their institutions, develop more of their capabilities, take more control themselves. The United Nations' role in supporting them will probably grow, as well.
But on the military side, we're really not talking about some UN command. Nobody really has raised that.
QUESTION: But, if I could follow up. Even without a UN command per se, some countries have said that if the U.S. would like other countries to participate, that they would like more of a role in the decision-making about how things are going to go.
Are you prepared to allow for some more collaborative effort in terms of future operations -- how the military should work, reconstruction of the country, et cetera?
MR. BOUCHER: Everybody who participates in the military arrangements has a lot of input to the process. Militaries, however, operate under certain command structures that need to be clear. And I think the Secretary, based on his enormous experience, also made that quite clear this morning.
QUESTION: But what about in terms of the reconstruction?
MR. BOUCHER: There are many ways that people can be involved in the reconstruction. There are direct projects that people are undertaking, there are UN mechanisms that are already operating in Iraq, there are -- there's the Iraqi Development Fund available for people. There are other measures under discussion such as having a World Bank/IMF-led Donors Fund that can do projects in Iraq. So we certainly encourage -- and will in whatever's worked out at the United Nations encourage -- countries to be very involved in reconstruction, to be even more involved in reconstruction. And there are a variety of vehicles for doing that.
QUESTION: Today there seems to be a little bit of question about where Japan falls into the mix on the international participation. So yesterday, in the posted answer to a question that was taken, there were 27 countries that were mentioned as contributing to the troops, and four who have committed to providing troops.
But on the 28th of July, there were 30 countries, and Japan was among that as already committing to the participation. Can you clarify where Japan stands?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, every time you do this, I have to say, you've come up with a slightly difficult number. The Secretary used the number 30 today. And there are three countries who have -- who are participating who have not identified themselves publicly. That's the difference between 27 that I said yesterday and 30 the Secretary said today.
But I have to say, some of the best advice I got ten years ago from a colleague was, "Never use numbers at the podium," and I'm learning that lesson again most every day.
QUESTION: Who told you that?
MR. BOUCHER: Roman Popadiuk.
MR. BOUCHER: But the issue of Japan, it boils down to how do you categorize countries. Japan, as we know, has had these discussions, and the Diet has raised this from the prime ministerial level. They are intending, as we know, to send Self-Defense Forces. They have, you know -- how far along there are in that process, I guess they're not as far along as some of the others, and therefore, which category do they fall into right now, it's -- you just can't quite categorize them in one of those two categories, so they're not listed.
QUESTION: So would you regard them as one of the 14?
MR. BOUCHER: They are certainly --
QUESTION: Just given their boats?.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, they're certainly on the record as being a country that's considering, even intending, to participate.
QUESTION: So that would fall, maybe, into -- Powell mentioned five today that are in the final steps of making a decision?
MR. BOUCHER: No, those are -- those are the committed -- firmly committed. Japan's sort of somewhere between considering and committed. Japan's intending? So we, rather than creating a separate category, would like to keep it as -- a little simple. But that's why the difference sometimes in numbers. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can we move on to Lockerbie?
QUESTION: Well, I think --
MR. BOUCHER: You've got another one?
QUESTION: Yeah, just on that subject again, it sounds as if what we've been hearing is that there made be a little fiddling with the UN language, but on the ground in Iraq, things are not going to change that much as far as the U.S. control. I mean, could you just discuss that a little bit?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's our intention to change the command-and-control arrangements for military forces in Iraq. There is a responsibility that comes with the -- with the war. There needs to be a command structure for the military. But military participants, obviously, work together, and whoever participates works with the others involved to sort out, geographically and in other ways, the responsibilities that each nation will take up.
QUESTION: One last question. What about the issue of Iraq's oil and the complaint by many countries that the U.S. hasn't had other countries involved and they're giving the contracts to American companies?
MR. BOUCHER: The arrangements for Iraq's oil are explicit, detailed in Resolution 1483 that was passed by the UN Security Council unanimously by the time the final votes were counted, and those were endorsed by the international community and those are the arrangements that are working. In terms of the sale and the marketing of the oil, the Iraqis are in charge. In terms of the use of the funds, the money goes into a fund that's subject to international audit.
QUESTION: I'm sorry to ask one more question on the same thing, but the 28th of July, when the 30 countries were mentioned, it said that these are countries who are participating in the stabilization operations. So there is one report coming from Japan today saying that Japan was mentioned before as one of the 30, and that now it's 27 and Japan is not among those. But it looks to me like this might be the difference between troops and stabilization. Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it's troops on the ground versus participating in stabilization. I mean, every time -- I have to admit, every time we do the numbers, depending on how exactly you define what a country is doing, you may come up with a slightly different number. But this gives you certainly an order of magnitude of the numbers of people already involved and willing to get involved, and perhaps there will be more that are more willing to get involved if we get new language in the United Nations.
QUESTION: Is there a timeline for getting language on the new UN
QUESTION: Apparently, a group called the Armed Vanguards of the Second Muhammad Army has issued a statement claiming responsibility for the UN bombing and has released this statement promising to make war on all foreigners and continue to do similar acts in Iraq. Have you heard anything on this?
MR. BOUCHER: Not having a pager in my pocket, no, I haven't. Sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: George.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on "Chemical Ali," as he is known?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I think the military has talked about that, though.
QUESTION: Two questions on this. There were reports out of the UN this morning that Britain and France have reached an agreement to hold a vote on a resolution of lifting of sanctions on Libya next -- early next week. Can you confirm that? And, secondly, have they completed the transfer of funds?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't confirm Britain and France. You'd have to check with them on what they might have discussed or agreed to. As far as transfer of funds, it's still underway. It's not completed yet. It may not be completed until tomorrow.
We have always said that we wouldn't envisage Security Council action until after the transfer had been completed, so we'll monitor that one closely. It is a British resolution, and so we'll consult with them on the timing.
QUESTION: Do you see any reason why it might slide beyond tomorrow, or do you expect it to get wrapped up tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: The transfer or the resolution?
QUESTION: The transfer.
MR. BOUCHER: Can't predict exactly how long it will take, but it's -- all I know is it's still underway now. It could easily take till tomorrow, but I can't tell you for sure it will be wrapped up tomorrow.
QUESTION: Richard, on this, I asked this question yesterday -- ask it again. Have you told the French that you are prepared to allow or -- to allow the vote on the lifting of sanctions to slide in return, or if they will support your Iraq resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday I said no. Today I'll say no.
QUESTION: Well, yesterday, I asked you if Secretary Powell spoke has talked to de Villepin about that. Today, I'm asking if -- it's more general.
MR. BOUCHER: No, these things are both being worked and we're coordinating with the French on the Libya questions, as are the British. And we're working with the British and other members of the Council. We're working with other members of the Council. We'll be consulting with the French and others, I am sure, about possible language on Iraq as well.
The facts of the matter are that, for the moment, we're looking for the transfer on Libya to be completed. So, for whatever reason, somebody who might have been looking for a couple of days, it's happening because the Libyans aren't transferring -- you know, hadn't transferred the money.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, I realize that yesterday you said that it is a very large amount of money and that it takes more than just one push of a button to get it all transferred to the Bank for International Settlements from the Libyan State Bank. But, in fact, huge, even larger sums of money, get transferred every day with less than -- less than two pushes of a button -- just the way the financial world works, I am told. I certainly don't have any firsthand knowledge but --
MR. BOUCHER: That may be the way the financial world works --
QUESTION: Let me get to my question --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- which is, did you suggest to the Libyans that maybe they stagger their payments of the money into the bank in order to give their -- to allow for some leeway for the French to renegotiate the UTA, the UTA compensation deal? In other words --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's a conspiracy I hadn't considered.
QUESTION: Well, it's --
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: A lot of other people have.
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't know what the financial arrangements for the Libyans are, whether, you know, how many accounts they have their money in, and what kind of computers they have, and what kind of correspondent relationships they have. But if you want to know more about the intricacies of electronic banking systems, I am afraid I am not the one to explain it.
QUESTION: All right. So the answer is no?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer to the question on had we conspired with the Libyans to get --
QUESTION: I didn't say conspired.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I'm sorry, you implied it. But, anyway, you get to rephrase my questions, I get to rephrase your answer. Whatever.
Have we asked the Libyans to stagger their payments? No, we asked the Libyans to pay the money and to pay it quickly. And that's been our position all along. We think the families, having reached this agreement, deserve to see it implemented as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe the Libyans are dragging their feet over the transfer of the money?
MR. BOUCHER: All the explanations I've gotten is that this is the way the banking system works.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what you expect from the six-party talk in Beijing next week? And are you looking at any kind of proposal or roadmap or --
MR. BOUCHER: Not today.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, staying on North Korea, though.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: There is a report, a couple of reports in various newspapers this morning, having to do with China and North Korea and you guys. I'm wondering if you could talk about one of them. In a Japanese -- a Japanese report that quoted Assistant Secretary Craner as saying you were working with the UN to try and modify the refugee rules for North Korean refugees in China. And then the second one is about -- well, the second one is not really North Korea.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. I'm sorry. I don't have anything up to date on it.
QUESTION: Okay. And then on China and Mr. Craner again, he is quoted in The Washington Post as saying that there has been a tremendous amount of backsliding on the human rights commitments that the Chinese made to you, that you're not pleased with it. I assume that what he says is true.
MR. BOUCHER: That's true.
QUESTION: Can you expand and elaborate on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's true. We have been -- I think we have made that clear during the course of the year that there has been backsliding. And unfortunately, that pattern has continued, that despite the progress in 2002, we've been disappointed to see the negative developments in 2003, and that the commitments made by China at the conclusion of the December Human Rights Dialogue have not been met. Things like visits of UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and Religious Intolerance, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention -- those visits have not yet taken place.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was compelled to postpone their August trip because the Chinese insisted they not visit Hong Kong, and there's also been a number of troubling incidents: the execution of a Tibetan without due process, arrests of a number of democracy activists, the harsh sentences that were laid down for Internet essayists and labor protesters, and a number of other things that constitute backsliding. And we're going to keep pushing for more progress in the dialogue, pushing also for more progress on human rights.
QUESTION: Do you know if there is a -- or you expect if this one's been scheduled, or you expect another round of the talk -- of the dialogue any time in the near future?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on anything scheduled at this point. We can certainly look to see the dialogue, but also look to see the progress that we've been -- that was promised.
QUESTION: And just --
QUESTION: Based on these commitments of -- by China seven or eight months ago, that a decision was made not to pursue a China resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission? Is that true?
MR. BOUCHER: Essentially, yes.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to one thing about -- on the refugees? Do you have the readout Assistant Secretary Dewey's visit in China?
MR. BOUCHER: Visit to China and Vietnam?
MR. BOUCHER: I can get you one. I had one a couple of days ago that I'll have to pull out.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)
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