State Department Noon Briefing, September 3, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2003
1:20 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, well, ladies and gentlemen, after having somebody do the bulk of my work, I thought I'd just make myself available to see if there's any clean-up, follow-up, and other things we need to talk about.
QUESTION: Can you tell us, you know, why the Secretary decided to do this, and why there was such, why on such short notice? Was it a hastily arranged --
MR. BOUCHER: You know, no good deed goes unpunished.
QUESTION: No, no, no, I'm not --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm referring to "hastily" stories that have already appeared. (Laughter.) The hastily written stories that have already appeared citing hastily things.
I think the Secretary's presence in the briefing room to come down and talk to you directly demonstrates the importance the Administration attaches to this initiative, demonstrates our desire to get the word out, and get it out authoritatively from the Secretary of State, and to do so at a moment where we had the opportunity to meet with a number of you in a single place and a single time, in a relatively quieter atmosphere than we have with the airplanes and motorcycles outside. So it was an opportunity to demonstrate how important this is, this initiative is, to the Administration.
QUESTION: I don't quite understand --
QUESTION: Can you hang up the phone, please?
QUESTION: I don't quite understand what role the UN will have in terms of the political process. Can you explain what -- sort of what this draft (inaudible) and what kind of support we will have for that?
MR. BOUCHER: I hesitate to try to go farther than the Secretary did. The Secretary talked about a number of areas. I think the most important thing -- and the Secretary cited this as one of the two key elements -- is that the resolution would invite the Iraqi Governing Council to come forward with a program and a timetable for a constitution and elections, and that the coalition and the United Nations would support them in that process. The Iraqis would take the lead more and more on the political process.
That's been our goal, that's been what we've worked on, and the UN has a lot of different means to support that. The Secretary cited a number in terms of election assistance and political support.
QUESTION: He said that the command would then report back to the United Nations? What does that mean, exactly? That they would just come and give regular reports, and would the Security Council then have any input over what the U.S. command does?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can clarify that any more at this point. The process of reporting to the Security Council is to tell them what's going on, to give them information. I think one of the questions about sharing of information, both in terms of asking the Governing Council to share information on its plans, so that the UN can support them, and asking the military structure, the multinational force, the U.S. on their behalf, to provide information about their circumstances. It provides that information to the Council. I suppose one can always say people are free to say anything they want to in the Council -- but at -- they are now.
QUESTION: Is it a one-way street, that the U.S. tells them what they're doing, but the Council doesn't have any -- wouldn't have any influence, even now?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess the only way I can tell you is it's a reporting responsibility.
QUESTION: Why do you think other countries will be more inclined to provide troops for Iraq if the United States retains total control over their operations?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, let's remember, countries that participate militarily want to do so in a militarily competent fashion, and we all know that military operations in places like this require a single unified command. And those who are participating now, some 30 countries, are part of that single unified command. And, obviously, anybody who participates has a lot to say over where their troops go and how they operate, but ultimately there is a single unified command, because that's a military necessity, I think, in terms of security and efficiency.
Second of all, it's not an issue. Remember when the Secretary went up and talked with Secretary General Annan -- was it a week ago Thursday, when he went down to New York --he was asked -- well, he went -- he was on Long Island, so he was actually kind of going down. Now I lost the train of thought.
He was specifically asked the question, "Did you talk about command, UN command?" And he said, "No, the issue didn't come up". Because nobody is jockeying for command. Nobody's saying, oh, give it to me, give it to me. The Secretary General has explicitly said we're not talking blue helmets, we're not talking UN command. I haven't seen any other country step forward and say "We want to be the commander of this".
Indeed, the United States recognizes our responsibility, as the United States, as the leader of the coalition, and as the country that's currently most involved, and would expect to continue in that role.
QUESTION: But my question is, have other countries given you to understand that they are willing to participate in this matter? I'm not talking about --
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look -- well, if you look at other countries, some of them have made statements. The Secretary cited Turkey. I think India's made a statement. Several other countries have made statements, saying that with a more explicit UN mandate or request, they might be more willing to provide forces.
QUESTION: Might be. But, in other words, you don't get any sense that there's any reluctance on the part of other countries to participate if the U.S. retains command?
MR. BOUCHER: That has not been the issue. It has been the issue of getting a UN mandate to do so.
QUESTION: Richard, it seems to me -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- that the information and decision-sharing that some countries, notably France, have called for, that, on that issue, specifically, you are leaning away from UN sharing of that information, decision-making, toward Iraqi sharing, and that by bringing the Governing Council and the Iraqi institutions up high in the resolution, inviting them to submit this plan, that instead of, kind of -- although it would be a multinational UN-mandated force, that you really want as much Iraqi participation in the decision-making and information-sharing -- you want more of that than of the international community through the UN. Is that wrong?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's right. But it -- hasn't that been the goal all along?
QUESTION: Well, it may have been your goal all along, but to some of the Security Council members it's not what they wanted.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me -- our goal -- no, other Security Council members -- I think what we have said is that we need to turn Iraq -- the goal of this was to put Iraq in the hands of Iraqis, not of some dictatorship, some terrorist dictatorship, but rather in the hands of real Iraqis through a representative process that leads to elections and a representative government. That's been the goal that we have worked for. That's been the goal that we laid out right after the war, that Ambassador Bremer laid out when he first arrived in Iraq, setting up the Governing Council, moving to a constitution, moving to elections. So our goal has certainly been to put Iraq in the hands of Iraqis.
I think if you look around to statements of other countries, that has been their goal as well. Some of them have called for quicker transition to Iraqi responsibility, some have called for a timetable, a political horizon. Those are all the things that are being talked about that are present in this resolution, to give the international community a way of supporting that transition process and to make it go with as much support from the UN, from the coalition, and others.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm not speaking -- my question isn't related to the goal, which I don't think there's any real dispute about. It's in the interim period and in the transition, and it relates -- my question relates to the economic side and basically contracts that go along with the reconstruction of Iraq.
Does the resolution speak to that in any way? The Secretary talked about two main elements, but he didn't talk about a real way -- he made reference to the economic element with international institutions, but who's going to decide on contracts?
MR. BOUCHER: The Iraqis, of course, now have ministers and ministries. Countries will decide, donors will decide, institutions, trust funds will decide. There will be a variety of means through which nations can contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq.
What this resolution would do is encourage companies -- countries -- to contribute, encourage countries to help with the rehabilitation of infrastructure and encourage financial -- international financial institutions to participate as well, and then encourage companies -- countries -- to participate in the donors conference that's coming up. And as you know, there's meetings going on today -- I think today and tomorrow in Brussels -- to work on those preparations.
But, in the end, you'll have a number of mechanisms. It may be countries running their own aid programs, it may be countries contributing to the Iraqi Development Fund, or transferring assets to the Iraqi Development Fund, it maybe be countries transferring assets to funds that are operated by international financial institutions. And then the Iraqis themselves have their revenues that they may be using in various ways.
QUESTION: But, Richard, if I could follow up.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: But who is going to be coordinating all that? Who -- is it going to be the Iraqis ultimately that say, "Okay, Germans, you do this, you do this"? Or is the United States, its role in the Coalition Provisional Authority, going to be the ones who take the needs assessments, of course, working with other countries, and have the ultimate authority, in terms of --
MR. BOUCHER: That's not a question that needs to be dealt with again in a resolution. It was dealt with quite extensively in 1483 and is being coordinated right now between donor groups in Brussels and will be further coordinated among donors in Madrid when we get to that conference.
QUESTION: Richard, just go back to the force for a second. Some people have talked about -- and I recognize that you don't want to compare it to anything else because no two situations are the same. But there has been talk of what -- the kind of thing that you're envisaging is somewhat like the peacekeeping operation in Timor. Is that an accurate --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to compare it to anything else because no two peacekeeping operations are the same. But we see this as --
QUESTION: But, I mean, the general structure of one country in command, but yet there being a UN mandate. Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to compare it to anything else because no two situations are really the same.
QUESTION: Perhaps using another as a model?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what we are trying to do here is to make this an appropriate operation for the circumstances that exist in Iraq, an appropriate operation to allow nations to participate and support the desire of the Iraqi people to take more and more responsibility as they establish sovereignty.
QUESTION: But you do believe that what you're proposing here is not a new concept? This isn't -- you're not breaking new ground by suggesting this multinational force with a unified one-country command structure, right? I mean, it has been done before?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, but no model. I mean, it's not exactly this or exactly that. It draws from things that were done in other places, yes. It's not totally new, but it may be unique.
QUESTION: Can I pick up on -- or ask you to elaborate on "reporting to the Security Council"? That phrase has been used in New York, and the Secretary just used it.
MR. BOUCHER: And I used it too. Remarkable consistency. We did about 10 minutes of that at the beginning.
QUESTION: Oh, did you? I'm sorry. I was busy putting out the Secretary's words. I wondered if it's like --
MR. BOUCHER: Hastily, hastily putting out the Secretary's words.
QUESTION: Like the Prime Minister reporting to the Queen, but it's a technicality. The Prime Minister is in charge of Britain. Now is the U.S. in charge of this, or is the UN in charge of this? That's the simple, bald question: Who's in charge?
MR. BOUCHER: The Prime Minister reporting to the Queen. Let's dispense with analogies.
QUESTION: Because we know that Mr. Blair is in charge of the Government of Britain --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's dispense with analogies.
QUESTION: -- even though he reports, occasionally, I guess, to the Queen.
MR. BOUCHER: The United States would be the -- in command of the multinational force.
QUESTION: Well, would the United States be in command --
MR. BOUCHER: The UN would authorize a multinational force under unified command. The United States would be the unified commander, and on behalf of that force would report to the Security Council.
QUESTION: You did cover reporting, so I won't take you through it again.
Now, how about the two other phases, the -- which Charlie touched on -- the economic and the political phase. Now, obviously, Iraq will have a say about this issue.
MR. BOUCHER: I hate to say it. But I really think we spent 15 minutes on those questions and the Secretary did as well, and for me to answer them one more time doesn't quite seem terribly productive.
QUESTION: Okay, sure, sure. I'll drive in the nail.
MR. BOUCHER: Tammy. Let's let somebody else drive a nail or a wooden --
QUESTION: Okay, here is my turn, my go.
MR. BOUCHER: -- silver spike, or whatever it is.
QUESTION: Is there any practical effect, any practical change on the ground with how the force is going to operate and be run, other than the requirement to report and the fact that there will be some more -- hopefully, some more foreign troops? Is there any change, practically?
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, other than the changes, are there any changes?
MR. BOUCHER: No, but there are changes. There are things that would be expected to happen. With this authorization, we would expect other nations to be willing to provide more troops. We would expect the Security Council to be better informed because we'll be reporting to the Security Council.
QUESTION: Richard, just to get that -- and the last time on this point. Is this function of reporting something that you are willing to discuss and negotiate to people, or is it your plan to leave it intentionally -- not vague but intentionally undefined, specifically undefined, so that -- so that you can get support of other countries?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- first of all, I don't think I would describe it as specifically undefined. I think if you look over UN resolutions, you will find that, in many cases, for many different ways, when the Security Council is interested in something and wants to be kept informed, they ask for a periodic report.
And in this case, we think that's an appropriate mechanism to use that has been used in many other circumstances. And so it's not -- it's a natural and normal part of UN life of the way the Security Council does business to have a periodic report.
QUESTION: How do they, then, generally react to those reports? I'm just trying to figure out --
MR. BOUCHER: With acclamation.
MR. BOUCHER: It depends on what the Council wants to do at the time, really. There's no way of predicting how they will react to any particular report. Sometimes they may say thank you very much, sometimes they may have thoughts, sometimes they may want to make speeches, sometimes they may want to pass resolutions.
QUESTION: Richard, in all this, it appears that there are different entities. You've had, for instance, with the Middle East the Quartet, you've had the EU, and so forth and so on. And when you get to all these different subset and groups, it seems to be taking away their enforcement.
Going back three and four years when they did arrest Milosevic -- he's at the World Court at The Hague -- he now says, well, I want two years out, freedom, so I can prepare my case. Well, that's obviously absurd, and at the same time --
MR. BOUCHER: Slow down. We've got half the world in already. I don't want to have to deal with the rest.
QUESTION: Okay. The judicial portions, not just the political portions, it seems that there is no consensus --
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let's --
QUESTION: It does. It has a lot to do with Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to answer the question as best I can understand it. Let me try to answer the question as best I can.
The role of the Security Council is a continuing role. The UN Security Council has dealt with all these issues, whether it's, in some cases, establishing war crimes tribunals, in other cases authorizing action to resolve problems. And I think here again this is something that we have dealt with in Security Council. We've, since the war, as the Secretary noted, we've passed two resolutions regarding postwar Iraq, including one, 1500, that welcomed the formation of the Governing Council, and now we are talking about a third. We've been talking about that for maybe a month or so.
So the continuing role of the Security Council is something that you should note and not think that these are ad hoc arrangements.
Second of all, in terms of tribunals and justice when it come to Iraq, I think we've expressed a policy there that the Iraqi people deserve a chance to try those who might have committed crimes against the Iraqi people in the past.
QUESTION: How much of an obligation would you say that this new resolution, as you envision it worded, makes participation? You keep saying encourage, encourages other countries.
MR. BOUCHER: I've said authorizes, encourages.
QUESTION: Authorizes, yes. But does it extend to the point of an obligation once this resolution goes through?
MR. BOUCHER: It's still each country's decision. The desire of countries to participate comes from a variety of reasons. One is they find they have their own security interests in making sure the situation in Iraq stabilizes and Iraq becomes a peaceful and helpful partner of the international community, that that part of the world is stable. So that's why countries would want to participate, really, in the end -- bottom line.
But this can help them. This can facilitate that. We know that from what the countries themselves have said in private and in public.
QUESTION: But do you think that if -- it's coming down as a -- I mean, that wasn't what -- I'm not asking about -- about their motivation with or without the resolution -- I mean, sorry, without the resolution --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You know, it authorizes this. It calls on countries to participate. It calls on countries to contribute in various forms -- financial, police, whatever. So countries determined -- I, frankly, don't think countries contribute just because there's a UN resolution that calls upon them to do so. They do so because they find it in their interests. And I think there are already many countries that have said we think it's in our interests, we would like to do this with a more explicit UN mandate, and this resolution would provide that for them.
QUESTION: I'm trying to get an idea of how close to final the draft resolution is. Is it still subject to revisions based on consultations? Could they be major revisions? Or are you pretty much confident that you know what you want to put on the table?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we know what we want to discuss with the other governments. Obviously, we need to take their views into account. We haven't -- as we say, we haven't put it in blue at this point. It's not a draft that we would push to a vote. It's a draft that we will discuss with other governments.
QUESTION: When the Secretary talked about -- I'm recognizing it's early days still, but when the Secretary talked about next week pushing aggressively on this, was he suggesting that you might look for a vote as early as next week? Or was he trying to imply that certainly before the General Assembly you would like to have some resolution to this resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I think he was trying not to give you a final answer on that question.
QUESTION: But what did he mean by --
MR. BOUCHER: But we will push aggressively. We think that after listening for a couple days, talking to others, giving them the draft -- as he said, he's made phone calls, Ambassador Negroponte is consulting with others on specific text -- we'll have enough, we should have enough views that we'll have something to go forward with next week, and we'll push aggressively and see how soon it can be worked, how soon it can be wrapped up.
QUESTION: And can you say who else he was planning to talk to? The Chinese Foreign Minister tonight or this evening?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's quite a call scheduled. He talked to the Chinese Foreign Minister the other day about a number of issues, and I think generally Iraq came up. So he expects they'll talk at some point, but I don't think there's anything scheduled now.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any other lists at this point, but he -- when he starts making calls, he makes calls. For those of you who need to know, he made 37 calls while he was on vacation for two weeks. So I would expect even a few more now that he's back here.
QUESTION: When the Secretary says that the response so far has been pretty good, do you find that there's already a consensus on the kind of pillars of this and that the things that remain are like, you know, little details? Or do you find that some --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to overstate it. The Secretary was very careful to describe to you and said don't -- you know, don't -- don't read too much into that. He described, I think fairly concisely where his -- the reactions he got, and I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Will there be calls to Arab governments, do you suppose?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to predict at this point. I'm sure there will be a variety of calls.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: New subject? Please, sir.
QUESTION: Yes. Does -- on the Middle East. Can you go at all beyond what the Secretary said specifically talking about Arafat's comments or not responding to Arafat's comments, but more generally where you see the situation is now between Abbas and Arafat? And if you have anything on the Deputy Secretary's trip?
MR. BOUCHER: The short answer to your question is no. We have not had a particular dialogue with Chairman Arafat and I think our view hasn't changed, so I'm not going to get in the practice of responding to his comments. And as far as the overall situation, I think the Secretary described it to you.
QUESTION: And nothing on --
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new on potential travel by the Deputy Secretary.
QUESTION: Do we have -- that was my question. By the way, is that an Iraq-oriented or an Arab-Israeli, or both, trip when he takes it?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new on potential travel by the Deputy Secretary. That's about all I can tell you today.
QUESTION: It's only potential?
QUESTION: He said he would.
QUESTION: We understood he was planning to go this month to the region.
MR. BOUCHER: There's nothing more or less today. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: All right, nothing more.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Another one. I don't suppose -- I guess since -- is the Secretary still planning on coming out with the South Korean Foreign Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. So you can ask him all these questions.
QUESTION: All the Korea questions we can wait for then? You don't have anything new to say on the situation in North Korea right now, pre-meeting?
QUESTION: Question mark, not a period at the end of that.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think there is. The Secretary will meet this afternoon with the South Korean Foreign Minister and they'll have a complete discussion and then be able to answer your questions.
QUESTION: Richard, a group called the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund says that they have filed a federal -- they filed a lawsuit in federal court today arguing that the State Department has discriminated against an individual who applied for -- applied to become a Foreign Service Officer, passed the written and oral tests, and then was turned down because he is HIV-positive, and they argue that this is illegal.
Do you have a reaction to the lawsuit?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't. I am aware -- we are aware of the lawsuit. It's a matter before the courts and I think we'll have to respond there.
QUESTION: Is it, in fact, the State Department's policy to refuse to employ people who are already HIV-positive? I'm not talking about people who are currently employed and become HIV-positive. I'm talking about people who are applying.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get the policy on diseases for you.
QUESTION: Could you get that to me?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Yes. Could you comment on the continued construction on the wall and the fence, and how that's going to be impacting your roadmap? And are you suggesting to the Israelis any confidence-building measures in this very fractured moment?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have been working with the Israelis on a variety of issues, as well as with the Palestinians, and I think we have left the emphasis right now where it belongs: on the Palestinians taking control of their security situation and moving against the terrorist groups. And that requires the Palestinians to unify their security services in order to be able to do that more effectively. So that's where our emphasis is now.
Our concerns about the fence, the wall, continue, haven't really changed. We've said it's a problem if it starts to infringe on land or prejudge the outcome of negotiations. And that's what -- that's been our view and we've continued to adhere to that view and make that known in our conversations.
QUESTION: Can we get back to the issue of North Korea? Have you had any chance to talk with the Chinese also with the comment by Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Yi?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had a chance to talk to them about it. I don't have any more information. I think any further clarification would have to come from the Chinese side.
QUESTION: Also, can you say anything on the -- yesterday's North Korean parliamentary decision which has endorsed the reinforcement of the nuclear deterrence? Can you say anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd just say what we've said before, what many governments have said and what the parties who attended the six-party talks said, that the Korean Peninsula must be free of nuclear weapons. The goal of the international community, including the neighbors who were at the talks, is to seek a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the problem, one that results in a complete, verifiable and irreversible end to the North Korean nuclear programs. That's a fact that needs to be accepted by the North Koreans and we need to talk about it.
QUESTION: You don't have any comments about the credibility of the North Korean legislature as a representative body --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's a body that's been known to be either representative or to act independently in any time in the past.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: Got one more back here.
QUESTION: Is there any difference -- any policy difference between the United States and South Korea in dealing nuclear? Any issues?
MR. BOUCHER: No. None. None at all. We'll talk this afternoon, and I'm sure everything will be hunky-dory.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any updates on Aung San Suu Kyi and her health and if her hunger strike continues?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any.
QUESTION: The reason I ask is because there are some people in Burma, and I have no idea how credible they are, but who have suggested that she occasionally goes on fasts on her own. And that is not your understanding of the situation?
MR. BOUCHER: That's not our understanding, and that's not the way we described it.
QUESTION: Could you let us know if the Cuban singers are going to make it to the Latin Grammies?
MR. BOUCHER: They're not going to make it, I'm sorry. They just -- we just got the stuff too late to be able to process it for them.
QUESTION: When did you get the (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Do I have an exact date? I don't remember. It was days, only days ago. It was not -- nowhere near the sort of six to eight weeks that's normally required.
QUESTION: Has the Cuban Government issued a formal complaint to you?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know.
QUESTION: On Lockerbie, do you have any more idea, or this just something that you have to ask the British?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new. We'll work with the British on timing. The Secretary and others have kept in touch with other governments on this issue. But I think you've seen the news reports about the French progress, and certainly we think that the Lockerbie matter should move forward on its own merits when Libya meets the conditions. But perhaps we might be in a position to move forward soon.
QUESTION: Was that any part of the conversation with de Villepin this morning or was it all on Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Not this morning. But it has been in the past and has been a matter of high-level discussion among a number of governments.
QUESTION: Could you work on that at the same time that you're working on Iraq? You've got two resolutions popping up there.
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Great. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
Copyright 2014 Q Madp PO Box 86888 Portland OR 97286-0888 www.OurWarHeroes.org