State Department Briefing, September 4, 2003
|Thursday September 4, 2003
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MR. BOUCHER: Well, welcome to the second event of the day in our continuing effort to overwhelm you with briefings and information. The others that I wanted to note was 2 o'clock this afternoon we'll have a briefing in this room by a senior official on background on the recent six-party talks in Beijing, and at 3:30 this afternoon we'll have a briefing on the record by Under Secretary Al Larson, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, where he'll be prepared to talk about the effort on financing reconstruction in Iraq and the meeting that he just attended in Brussels among potential donors. So that will be at 3:30.
QUESTION: Will that be on camera?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Sorry. This is Larson?
MR. BOUCHER: Larson will be here at 3:30, unnamed official on Korea at 2 p.m.
And the third event I wanted to tell you about is tomorrow morning. The Secretary will be giving a speech at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium at 11:00 a.m. We've put out a Notice to the Press on the arrangements to cover that event. The event is open for press coverage. He'll speak on U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy. I would describe it, I think, as a major foreign policy address, reviewing the whole of our policy at this moment.
So, those are a few of the upcoming events that we have for you. Now, with those announcements, I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: We've had German and French reaction. We've had Italian reaction. Are there other responses that you could tell us about? And, of course, has the Secretary been hitting the telephones again?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary yesterday, after I talked to you, I think, spoke with the Spanish Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Palacio. He has spoken this morning with Foreign Secretary Straw as they continue to work on the resolution, and, of course, he had the meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Frattini, who is going tomorrow to meet with the rest of his EU colleagues at a meeting he's hosting in Rome.
We have been in active discussions over yesterday and today with other members of the Council about our draft resolution. In addition to the Secretary's contacts, Ambassador Negroponte has been sharing the text and briefing other delegations in New York, and by the end of the day today we will have had individual meetings in New York with each of the other members of the Security Council to go over the text with them.
We do think we have a good draft that accommodates the concerns expressed by others. We look forward to working with our colleagues on the Council to reach a consensus. We think there is an opportunity now for members to come together and galvanize international support for Iraq's stability and reconstruction.
We'll be engaging in discussions in the coming days over the details in the text. I think it's clear from our discussions so far that we do have a common goal, and that is to help the Iraqis govern themselves fully as soon as possible.
The draft resolution recognizes the importance of international support in that process. It builds on the earlier efforts under Resolutions 1483 and 1500. It reaffirms the United Nations' role. It outlines a political process and encourages greater involvement of the international community in security and reconstruction.
It also answers calls from the Secretary General and Council members for a clearly defined UN role and for a political horizon in response to calls by many UN member-states for a multinational force that would be authorized by the UN.
As the Secretary said when he was outside, we've seen the initial reports of the press conference by the French and German leaders, and we'll obviously looking -- look forward to hearing from the French, from Germans, from other members of the Council. Specifically, what kind of elements they might want to add, what language they might want to add, if they think the process can be changed, accelerated to give more authority to the Iraqis in a different way, we'd just like to hear from them in specifics what they have in mind.
QUESTION: Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get them on board?
MR. BOUCHER: To get what?
QUESTION: To get the French and Germans on agreeing with the (inaudible) resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we're willing to do what it takes to get a good resolution that supports the Iraqi people in their hope to reestablish authority over their whole country. We think that is a common goal shared by the Council, and if all members want to work towards that goal we're happy to work with them. The goal is not a resolution; the goal is reconstruction of Iraq.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary appeared to be less than impressed by the fact that Chancellor Schroeder and President Chirac had come out expressing opposition or objections to the draft, but had not, themselves, actually suggested ways in which they -- where they could be improved, and at one point even talked about, you know, we welcome constructive input, appearing -- it seemed as though he was saying, you know, don't just bash this idea, we want to -- we want to hear.
Is that a correct impression? Are you really looking for them to come up with these other ideas to speed this up, or do you think that your idea, which he seemed to say outside is the best, to let the Iraqi people set their own timetable, is --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think I said we do think we have come up with what we'd say is the best way to move forward, to put this in the hands of the Iraqis. People want a timetable. They want a political horizon. But you can't just dump political power on somebody. You have got to see how they can establish themselves to take it, and to use it, and to exercise it on behalf of the Iraqi people.
Now, the coalition can help with that process; the UN can help with that process. And so we think the next step, the best way to go about this, is to hear from the Iraqis themselves, the Governing Council, which has been welcomed by Security Council already, to hear from the Governing Council on how they want to go about this, what kind of help they need, and, above all, their own timetable for how they can do it; and then we'll help them achieve that, and the UN has a role as well.
If you -- some of you are, shall we say, familiar with the text already, and I don't think we're in a position yet to pass out copies. But throughout the text, nations, the United Nations, are invited to help with building national/local institutions, to help with reconstruction, to help with finance, to help with infrastructure, to help specifically with the election process.
There's a lot that we can do, but it's all devoted to helping the Iraqis so that the Iraqis can take control. And we think that is our common goal and that's a goal that, if others have ideas about how to achieve it, I guess we would welcome those.
QUESTION: But are objections without constructive input meritless, in your view?
MR. BOUCHER: What we've seen so far is press reports of a press conference.
We've given these governments, all the governments in the Security Council, the text, and we would expect to hear back from them in more specific terms than one might hear through wire service reports, initially, of a press conference on what exactly they have in mind, what they really do think about this method that we have put forward.
But we think we've thought about this carefully, and the best way to proceed is to hear from the Iraqis on what they can do, how they can do it and when they can do it, and then to do everything we can to help them.
QUESTION: Well, wouldn't it have been better, perhaps, for them -- for Schroeder and Chirac -- to have held their tongues until they could have come up with a, you know, some idea of their own to present along with their objections?
MR. BOUCHER: I welcome the opportunities that you're giving me to say something a little more exciting about leaders of two allied governments in the Security Council, but I think I'll stick with where the Secretary was and we'll just see what they really do come up with in specific terms.
QUESTION: Can I get more specific, Richard?
QUESTION: I wish it was Tuesday again.
QUESTION: Me, same here.
MR. BOUCHER: You wish I still had that sort of lassitude that comes from having been on vacation, right?
QUESTION: Just testing. Richard, the Secretary and others have made clear the U.S. is not willing to give up control over the security side. The French and the Germans have been fairly specific about talking about the UN having primary responsibility on the political side. Is -- are you willing to give up that kind of control on the political side even as you work with the Iraqis to hand things over?
MR. BOUCHER: As we have read comments from the Secretary General and others over time, as we have talked to countries and looked at the comments the French and others have made in recent weeks, everybody keeps talking about the Iraqis having the primary role, about the Iraqis being in charge, about turning over as much as possible, as soon as possible, to Iraqis to move forward in their own fashion to create their own government -- take responsibility.
So that's what we want to do, and we want to help with that through the coalition. We think the UN can help with that. We think other countries can help with that. And that's why I note that throughout the resolution, countries' UN Special Representatives are invited to get specifically involved with the Iraqis in building national/local institutions, helping with elections, writing constitutions, things like that.
QUESTION: Well, there's a follow-up. That's all fine, but this is going to be a long process. It's going to take months, if not longer, and the question is, well, everybody's going to be helping the Iraqis, but who's going to be in charge until the Iraqis, at the end of the day, take over their own country (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, there is a responsibility that has fallen to the coalition because of the nature of the events that occurred, and the coalition will continue to exercise that responsibility. But in terms of helping the Iraqis take over that responsibility, their responsibility, there are many that can play important roles and need to play important roles.
QUESTION: Richard, can I follow that up, please? It goes to timetable. It goes to -- in fact, Charlie touched on two things I wanted to ask about, constitution and elections.
The Secretary yesterday spoke of those two events as being part of a timetable. Is this literally the case that -- because now it's an issue how -- what kind of a speedy transition or slow transition the U.S. has in mind. Is the U.S. idea to wait out the Iraqis' conversion into -- Iraq's conversion into democracy before turning authority over to them? Or is it -- or is he saying, if they're on the track to democracy -- setting elections, writing a constitution -- you know, we can proceed and turn control over?
MR. BOUCHER: Those are questions, I think, that have been asked and discussed many times, particularly with Ambassador Bremer in Baghdad. If you look back at how he described the process when he arrived in June, I think it was: first, we need a Governing Council; the Governing Council has to write a constitution, proceed to elections. That process of getting a constitution, getting elections, an elected Iraqi government can then sort of take over the exercise of Iraqi sovereignty.
Obviously, what our future relationships would be, what kind of assistance we would continue to provide, would be at that point a matter of us and the Iraqi government working together. But throughout that process, the Iraqis are taking more and more responsibility. They've already taken responsibility for naming ministers and running cabinet ministries. And you saw that event take place yesterday when they were sworn in. So, throughout this process, the Iraqis will be taking more and more authority and responsibility.
QUESTION: But need it be a lengthy timetable --
MR. BOUCHER: No --
QUESTION: See, the French say just get out, turn it over to them, go away and let us have a few contracts --
MR. BOUCHER: To who, when? Who, when and how? That's the question that --
QUESTION: Well, of course, I understand the problem, but I'm wondering if the U.S. is --
MR. BOUCHER: We think we've come up with a way that says who, when and how; and that is, the Iraqis will tell us when and lead the process in this manner.
QUESTION: I'm just trying to get a notion of how wide the time gulf is between their approach of immediately give it -- get up, get out of there, and the U.S. approach is to send them on a course toward democracy.
MR. BOUCHER: The goal is the same, but we've come up with some answers to the who, when and how question.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: Elise.
QUESTION: One of the things that the UN does when it moves, when they work on this political arena, is also kind of working with the country in terms of integrating the immediate security into the long-term institution building. Do you see any point in the future where the military portion of the -- of what the coalition is doing in this multinational force would have to work with the UN and the Iraqis in terms of getting them stable with their army, getting the police force? I mean, it's not just the UN does political and the multinational force does security. I mean, the two go hand in hand.
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not. I mean, that's not what we've written into this resolution, anyway.
Yes, it's really a matter of the coalition, the international contributors, working together, and then working with the Iraqis as the Iraqis stand up their own security. The goal is to have the Iraqis take care of their security in a variety of ways through their own police force.
And we've got policemen on the streets. Iraqi policemen are on the streets throughout Iraq and I think the numbers are above 30,000 now. A border patrol that's being reconstituted and formed, which will be another, I think, 5- to 10,000. An Iraqi army which is already starting to be trained, which can have responsibility for security. That will be another, you know, multiple -- I forget what the ultimate goal is, but that's, again, thousands and thousands.
There is something like, in process, 60- or 70,000 Iraqi security personnel, whether they be in the army or the border patrol or the police, that are either on the job, in training, or where it's being constituted. And that's part of this process so that the Iraqis can take not only more and more responsibility for the political process, but also for the security process as well.
QUESTION: But when you talk about a political role for the UN, I mean, it sounds like what you'd be asking the UN to do with the Iraqis is far more than "political." It has a lot to do with actual physical infrastructure, building institutions that don't only -- you know, aren't only considered political institutions.
MR. BOUCHER: The -- I think the goal of the resolution is to have the expertise, the ability, the capabilities come from wherever they can. The UN has certain capabilities and has demonstrated those in the past. I have to say, Special Representative of the Secretary General Sergio de Mello, before his very unfortunate death, had demonstrated how much the UN can do. And if you look at his report to the Council, you'll see how instrumental he was in the formation of the Governing Council in helping, and his work already on the political arrangements was, I think, an example of how much the UN can do in terms of his person and their institutions. But there are also capabilities in the UN, for example, on voting, on elections, that can be used. There are also capabilities within the European Union. There are individual countries, as well, who have expertise training police or in reconstruction.
And then the other thing the resolution does, it invites the financial institutions, the international financial institutions, to bring their expertise to bear on the reconstruction tasks, so that they can either work directly or they can coordinate, in terms of operating trust funds for others who may not -- who may want to donate money, and through that method. You can hear more about that this afternoon from Under Secretary Larson.
MR. BOUCHER: Joel.
QUESTION: Yes, I have a question concerning the new Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari. And, apparently, he said that he doesn't want Turkish troops in Iraq, also, as well, other troops of neighboring countries, and that "they might meddle in Iraqi affairs." And question: Is that the consensus of the entire Iraqi Council? And how --
MR. BOUCHER: For a question about the consensus of the Iraqi Council, you have to ask them. You have to ask the Iraqi Governing Council for what their consensus is.
We do work carefully with potential donors of troops to make sure that the circumstances under which they go in, or one under which they might go in, lead to greater stability and help the Iraqi people. And I'm sure we'll do that in all cases where governments are prepared to make contributions.
QUESTION: Richard, on that, are you prepared to overrule the view of the Iraqi Foreign Minister and impose troops which he doesn't want on Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: These things are always well-worked and well-coordinated. And I'll just leave it at that for the moment. You're speculating.
QUESTION: Well, then how much weight do you attach to his opinion. You keep talking about the Iraqis this, the Iraqis that. And then when the Iraqi Foreign Minister says something you don't like, you ignore it. So what is --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't ignore it.
QUESTION: Well, how much weight do you attach to it?
MR. BOUCHER: A lot.
QUESTION: Richard, as far as U.S. role and Iraq is concerned --
MR. BOUCHER: Forty-two. Sorry.
QUESTION: As far as U.S. role is concerned, what Indians are saying in India really in private in politics, that, on the other hand, U.S. is helping Pakistan in arming and plus giving $3 billion; on the other hand, asking India to help the United States and the UN in Iraq.
So what they are saying is that how India will benefit? What the U.S. is offering India, as far as India's help is concerned, being the largest democracy and influencer in that area?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I think the Indian Government has made formal public statements that express the Indian view, and you don't necessarily need to rely on what people might be saying in coffee shops.
QUESTION: So, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Second of all, I think it's important to remember what we talked about yesterday. Countries will get involved in this because they care about the region, because they care about the Iraqi people, because they think it's good for them to have a more stable region, particularly in a neighborhood that India is quite close to. And we would certainly hope that India would find it possible to make a contribution to stability in an area that's very important to India.
QUESTION: Let's say if India comes with the United States in this reconstruction or in the UN. Do you think you can stand to the (inaudible), sir, that U.S. will help India fight against terrorism and end of terrorism in India?
MR. BOUCHER: I would tell you that the United States will help India against terrorism and work with India against terrorism, whether India decides to send troops to Iraq or not.
QUESTION: Richard, can we go back to the Turkey question? There is a -- quite a serious question here. Does the Iraqi Governing Council and its cabinet have veto power over contributions, or over who might come -- who might contribute troops?
MR. BOUCHER: I really think you're speculating based on one statement. The --
QUESTION: Well, no, forget about the statement. Just generally, is the Iraqi Governing Council and its cabinet, its --
MR. BOUCHER: It's not a question of some sort of legal arrangement or parliamentary procedure or UN Security Council rule. The arrangements that exist in Iraq with the Governing Council taking more and more authority, and the coalition having certain responsibilities, are that these things get coordinated. They get coordinated with the Iraqis in the Governing Council, they get coordinated with the military, they get coordinated between militaries; and I'm just here to express my confidence that that can be done in an appropriate fashion should it come to Turkey being willing to provide troops.
QUESTION: All right. But you're still looking at this point, right now, you have called up the Turks and said, well, the Iraqis, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, says he doesn't want your troops, so forget about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that would be a question to ask at the Pentagon. But no, I'm not aware that that's been happening.
QUESTION: Well, okay. But I guess -- could the Iraq -- is the Iraqi Council and its cabinet entitled to ask for help from specific countries?
MR. BOUCHER: The Iraqi Council is expected to express their views, expected to take responsibility. They're in a position to go forward and run more and more things as time goes on. So I think we certainly always welcome initiatives that they might take.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm sure you've noticed Abu Mazen seems to think he's in some trouble. What are your -- what are you contingency plans in the case where he either fails to get a vote of confidence or resigns and the --
MR. BOUCHER: Or any other of any long list of bad things that you can imagine might happen.
We are looking at the events of the day closely, obviously, and following them. We certainly welcome Prime Minister Abbas' reaffirmation of the Palestinian commitment to the roadmap and his call for the consolidation of the Palestinian security services under his authority, in order to permit progress on the roadmap.
We've made clear that both sides need to do more to advance the process. They are committed to the roadmap, and these commitments have been made to the President that both sides need to fully implement, and both sides must keep in mind the consequences of their actions as we move forward on this process.
We certainly face serious challenges as we try to push forward with progress, but our view remains that the main problem is terror and violence -- the fact that there are still those who fail to understand that there will never be a viable Palestinian state built on terror. It is in the interest of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people that these acts of terror and violence come to an end.
Once again, the recent spate of violence illustrates the urgent need for a transparent Palestinian security service, consolidated under the authority of Prime Minister Abbas. A consolidated Palestinian security service can work to prevent attacks such as these, investigate and arrest those responsible when they do occur, and disrupt and dismantle the infrastructure that permits extremists to carry out these kinds of attacks.
Those are the goals we're working for, those are the goals we think the Palestinians need to work for, and that others need to work for as well. And we will continue to support them in this process. As the Secretary has said before, there's really no alternative to the roadmap. Beyond the roadmap is the cliff, I think was the way he put it. The Palestinian -- the Italian Foreign Minister said today there's -- it doesn't have any alternative. And the point is that we need to move down that road. Whatever happens in politics in the Palestinian Authority, the need to end terror, the fact that they can only get a state by ending terror and building institutions of a state is going to remain as the basic path.
QUESTION: What do you think about Prime Minister Abbas' comments that U.S. treatment of Arafat is contributing to the problem and his ability to work with the Palestinian --
MR. BOUCHER: All I can say is our view of Chairman Arafat hasn't changed.
QUESTION: So you're basically giving his opinion the same weight as the Iraqi Foreign Minister's?
MR. BOUCHER: I --
QUESTION: Or less?
MR. BOUCHER: All the choices I'm offered here. That's why we don't do comparisons.
No. Our view on Chairman Arafat is, unfortunately, based on many years of experience and attempts to work with him, many years of his failing to deliver on commitments.
QUESTION: So you --
MR. BOUCHER: And we have not changed our view in any way. We don't intend to deal with him.
QUESTION: So your position is non-negotiable no matter how loudly Prime Minister Abbas makes his appeals?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position is a conclusion reached over a long time --
QUESTION: And non-negotiable?
MR. BOUCHER: -- based on some bitter experience, and we don't expect to change it, no.
QUESTION: Richard, they've also criticized the United States saying you hadn't done enough to put pressure on the Israelis for them to take the steps that they're meant to be taking on the roadmap, many of which have not happened yet, including the settlement of outposts and all that stuff.
What's your response to that?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we welcome the fact that he recognizes the problem of terror. We welcome the fact that he --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the other side.
MR. BOUCHER: We welcome the fact that he recognizes the problem of terror. We welcome the fact that he puts emphasis on the consolidation of security services because, for us, the main problem is the terror and violence that needs to be stopped. That needs to be done.
Within that context, we have made clear to both sides, and we do consistently make clear to both sides that they each have commitments, that they each need to carry out steps; and, indeed, we had been in a process where both sides were carrying out steps.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) believe they haven't done enough.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure each side --
QUESTION: Are you saying (inaudible) you have done enough?
MR. BOUCHER: -- each side believes the other side hasn't done enough. We have continued to work with both sides to carry out their commitments. But I don't want to sugarcoat this. The main problem now is terrorism, terror and violence, and the Palestinian Authority needs to take hold of that problem if we're going to move forward.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, there's also speculation that --
MR. BOUCHER: There are about a dozen people behind you, in case you want to know.
QUESTION: Well, on the same subject?
QUESTION: Same subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: No, not actually on the same subject. So it's still quite a lot of speculation that if this roadmap process does collapse, that the Israelis might launch yet another reoccupation of Palestinian territory, and that the Bush Administration would turn a blind eye to that. Would you have a -- can you give any assurance that you would take --
MR. BOUCHER: Are we writing the "Worse Case Scenario Handbook" again? I mean, what's going on today?
QUESTION: Well, it seems pretty bad, actually, Richard.
MR. BOUCHER: It's not good. It's not good. But I am afraid our goal is to push this in a forward direction, to push this in a positive direction, and to get back on track because there is no alternative. There is no alternative that can give security in the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians. There is no alternative that can create a Palestinian state that can live side by side in peace with Israel.
And that is the direction that we will continue to push forward on, rather than engaging in constant speculation about all the bad things that could happen. And, indeed, bad things do happen. We know that.
QUESTION: A new subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: On Iran. Has the U.S. prepared a draft resolution to be presented next week in Vienna criticizing Iran for violating its obligations, that you'll try to bring to a vote at this meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been talking with other governments about the meeting on September 10th -- 8th? -- Monday, I guess. Yeah, on September 8th. We certainly think that Board of Governors at the IAEA needs to look closely at the Secretary General's report on Iran, needs to look closely at the situation on Iran, and needs to take appropriate action.
That's about where I have to stop because I just have to check and see if we're -- if there is a resolution drafted that we might be pushing for. Okay?
QUESTION: But would you need a resolution to bring it to a vote? Wouldn't you need something like that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think certainly the Board can take action of various kinds. I thought you described a resolution that would refer to the UN, and that's a more specific thing that I have to check on.
QUESTION: No, a resolution that you would pass around, that you're going to bring to the Board of Governors.
MR. BOUCHER: We would look for the Board to take appropriate action. Whether we have got a draft in circulation or not, I'll have to check.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) resolution -- sorry -- or some kind of statement of concern or something along those lines?
MR. BOUCHER: To focus on the matter. But, again, exactly what it might say if it's drafted, I would have to check.
QUESTION: Richard, on Burma?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's do something else, now for something different.
QUESTION: Yeah, on Mexico. The Secretary is going to meet the Foreign Minister of Mexico tomorrow. Can you tell us what are going to be the main topics of the meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: As always, when we meet with the Mexican Foreign Minister, the Secretary will have a really broad range of things to talk about. Mexico on the Security Council obviously means that the Iraq resolution and current work underway in the Security Council is important.
We have cooperated and worked closely with the Mexicans through the summer on a variety of issues, and we would hope to continue that with a new Iraq resolution. Then there are also issues like migration, water, that always come up, and bilateral issues, probably trade issues for the hemisphere always get discussed.
And my guess is I probably just left out half a dozen things that will come up.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up. Do you know if the Secretary is going to give to the Foreign Minister of Mexico the same amount of time for his meeting that he gives to the former Foreign Minister of Mexico Jorge Castaneda, a few days ago?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember when he had a chance to see Castaneda, but it -- meetings are not done in that fashion. He will give, I am sure, plenty of time for his discussions with Foreign Minister Derbez. They have had a good, solid relationship, close relationship. They have had a lot of telephone calls, and it's a good chance to get together and talk about it.
QUESTION: Is it the same kind of relationship that the one he has with Castaneda?
MR. BOUCHER: They have had a very, very important relationship. That's all I'll say. We don't compare countries. We don't compare foreign ministers, either.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's stay in the back for awhile.
QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Armitage will meet Japan's Vice Foreign Minister today and tomorrow, so what issues will come up if you can say something about this meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: Everything, but not water, with Mexico.
MR. BOUCHER: The -- well, let me get you something more complete once we have the meeting. Again, there are so many issues involving Iraq, involving reconstruction there, involving North Korea, obviously, as well as bilateral relationship issues and regional issues that it'll be a lot of -- there are a lot of things to talk about.
QUESTION: That's not on Armitage's schedule for today -- his public schedule, anyway.
MR. BOUCHER: I have to double-check. I'm kind of vaguely aware of the meeting. I'll have to check exactly when it is.
QUESTION: Richard, on Burma?
MR. BOUCHER: On Burma?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Since your statement on Sunday, Richard, you have -- absolutely no one else has come forward or been able to come forward with any corroborating evidence to suggest that Aung San Suu Kyi is, in fact, on a hunger strike; and, to the contrary, the Thais said overnight that their intelligence suggests that she was not.
How do you explain this?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, the only way I can explain it is all this is a very unfortunate consequence of the fact that this -- this leader, this important person, is being kept with little, if any, outside access.
We had credible information about Aung San Suu Kyi being on a hunger strike. We have consistently called for her immediate release.
The junta, now, is denying that she's on a hunger strike, but has failed to take the obvious step that would settle any concern or question by allowing international observers to have access to her immediately.
The Secretary said yesterday we and others in the international community are very concerned about her situation, as well as the -- just the basic fact that she continues to be imprisoned. But the junta in Burma can easily and unambiguously resolve all these concerns and reports and resolve any questions by releasing her and, for that fact, allowing international access. So that's what we think they should do.
In addition, I would repeat, they need to release all other political prisoners and take steps to implement a concrete plan that includes the full and free participation of the Burmese Democracy Movement to restore democracy in Burma.
QUESTION: So this -- particularly the Thai statement from the Thai Foreign Minister overnight doesn't affect your understanding of this situation where --
MR. BOUCHER: I did not see that statement, nor do I know what it might be based on. But as I said, there's really only one way for all of us to know, and that's for people to be allowed to see her, and for people to be allowed to see her free.
QUESTION: But that would seem to suggest that you don't really know. There's only -- if you say there's only one way for us to know -- you're standing, I just want to make sure, you're standing by your understanding --
MR. BOUCHER: There's only one way for all of us to know.
QUESTION: All right. Okay. So you know better than --
MR. BOUCHER: We know based on what we -- based on our information. We had credible information that we believe that she was on a hunger strike.
QUESTION: But Richard, just to follow up, just to follow up.
MR. BOUCHER: That gets into the nature and the source of the information that I'm -- at the time we put out the statement, we had credible information she was.
QUESTION: So you still believe she's on a hunger strike?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm -- I don't think I'm able to answer that question. I'll have to check.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on Burma.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, Burma.
QUESTION: Now, Richard, Burma has now new Prime Minister and he said that new changes will come in Burma. I don't know what he's talking all about because to date, I've not seen any new or old. Everything is the old.
Now, she is on hunger strike, whatever she is doing --
QUESTION: I thought we didn't know that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Let's see from the press reports. Whatever she's doing now, she's following the path of Mahatma Gandhi in a non-violent way. What I'm asking you, you think in this time of age she will succeed by following Mahatma Gandhi to drag the military out of power and bring democracy in Burma?
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly have been long admirers of her efforts, long admirers of her persistence, long admirers of the risks that she and her supporters have taken all along to bring democracy to Burma. And we think it's a cause that we can support and that others should, as well; and it's a cause that, therefore, with the support of everybody, has a chance of succeeding.
Okay. Let's go in the back.
QUESTION: My hand is still up from the Middle East, so --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: With respect to these two requests that -- appeals that Abu Mazen made to the United States to let up on its isolation of Arafat, and to the whole Quartet, to put more pressure on Israel to show restraint, I'd like to know if that came up in today's meeting between Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister Frattini, and especially with a look to the meeting tomorrow of the foreign ministers of the European Union, if they -- if this will be discussed there. And input from Secretary Powell --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, Foreign Minister Frattini will have to discuss what he intends to raise and discuss with his European colleagues tomorrow at their meeting. He did go over a number of topics with Secretary Powell in order to make sure he understood our views on some of these topics we expect within -- so that when he discusses them with his colleagues he'll know what we think.
The specific remarks you're referring to didn't come up in the meeting. We didn't have that reporting. But the questions of Palestinian leadership, of how to move forward in Palestinian -- with the Palestinian Authority, with Palestinians taking authority over security and centralizing authority over security, those certainly did come up, as well as the need for both sides to keep moving forward along the roadmap, and they addressed that in public as well.
QUESTION: Venezuela. Another crisis. Ambassador Shapiro offered technical support to the Chavez -- to the government -- in holding a referendum on recall of President Chavez. But the president and his supporters are ignoring such an offer and they're ridiculing the effort to accumulate signatures, questioned its legality and all. Meanwhile, Chavez has been up in Cuba on the same stage with Fidel Castro condemning the United States, and today his foreign minister is in Caracas signing a pact of close collaboration with the two countries on foreign policy.
MR. BOUCHER: Same comment we've given before. We've been very concerned about Venezuelan democracy. We've worked closely with the Organization of American States, and the Friends of the Secretary General to support constitutional resolution, peaceful resolution of the political problems, political turmoil in Venezuela. It's hurting the country, it's hurting the people, it's hurting the economy there. And that situation does need to be resolved.
A method was found, proposed and accepted by all the sides to move forward on the political process, and that's the recall referendum, and we expect the parties to hold their commitments, and we also expect that the OAS and the Friends and others of us will continue to be prepared in helping that process along.
QUESTION: Will there be a meeting of the group of Friends soon?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of anything specific that's scheduled, but I'm sure the Friends will continue to coordinate closely with each other. There may be.
QUESTION: (Inaudible)like the vote will not be held now, so what's the United States going to do about it?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, we think that was a method proposed by some, accepted by all, to help resolve the problems, and we think it's still important to proceed down that road.
QUESTION: The Venezuelan Ambassador here questions that it was accepted by President Chavez.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the book on that one. I'll have to let you check a little more with the experts.
QUESTION: Next question. Do you have anything about General James Jones' visit and with the talks in Ankara?
MR. BOUCHER: No, you'd have to check with the military on that one.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)
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