State Department Noon Briefing, September 30, 2003
September 30, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2003
1:15 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm sorry I'm late this afternoon, just seemed like there was a lot to do. So glad to be here, glad to take your questions. Who wants to start?
QUESTION: Yes. Have you reported to Congress yet on the loan guarantees for Israel, and how much you intend to deduct for settlement activity?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not yet sent a report to the Congress -- process is underway to prepare and send that report to the Congress. The only thing I would tell you though is we have to submit a report by September 30th of every year, reporting any decisions that have been made regarding deductions.
It doesn't establish a deadline for actually making the determination on deductions or specify when those deductions have to be made. Therefore, I think it's safe to say, at this point, by the time we are able to send the current report that no decisions have been made on the amounts of the deductions, nor on some of the questions of exactly how to calculate them.
We have been and will continue to monitor this issue throughout the life of the loan guarantee program, and determine over the course of the program what expenditures are inconsistent with U.S. policy or as described in legislation. So the bottom line is we'll report to Congress today or very soon. The process is underway. But don't expect us to start laying out specific amounts at this point because we have really not made those decisions, and our consultations with the Israelis on these matters continue.
QUESTION: Richard, can I just say -- what did you say? You have to submit a report to Congress on September 30th. What's the rest of that sentence?
MR. BOUCHER: On decisions that have been made regarding deductions.
QUESTION: And so you don't take that to mean that you are supposed to have decided by September 30th? This seems to me to be a really flaky way of interpreting the law.
MR. BOUCHER: No, the law is clear.
QUESTION: No, I don't think it is. I mean, I think --
MR. BOUCHER: If we have decided to deduct specific amounts, then we report to Congress by September 30th that in that fiscal year we decided to deduct certain amounts. If we have not decided to deduct certain amounts in that fiscal year, then we report to Congress that we have not decided to deduct certain amounts in that fiscal year. Okay?
QUESTION: So you've decided not to --
MR. BOUCHER: Now, you know the way the program works is there's a rollover of the money as well. So there's deductions that could be made -- I mean, this gets almost metaphysical, pretty complicated. But you can discuss -- you can deduct from this year's money next year because this year's money rolls over into next year.
QUESTION: Yeah, which would mean that, actually, in fact --
MR. BOUCHER: But the bottom line on this is, as we discuss and determine these amounts, we will make the decisions on deductions and we will be in a position to report to the Congress, and I am sure we will be in a position to tell you as those decisions are made what deductions we've decided to apply in this program.
QUESTION: So your interpretation of the law is that you're allowed to tell Congress that you have not decided on deductions for fiscal 2003 money because that money can be rolled over into 2004, even though they have told you in the law that you have to report on deductions from fiscal 2003 money by today?
MR. BOUCHER: Matt --
QUESTION: Right? Is that right?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's not right. That's wrong.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We have to report to the Congress on any decisions we have made. If we've made decisions on deductions, we report them. If we haven't made decisions on deductions, we report that. We don't have to make the decisions by today. We have to report to Congress by today if we have made any decisions.
QUESTION: Okay. So --
MR. BOUCHER: So it's not a deadline for deciding the exact amount of the deductions for this year. The nature of the program is such that we can do that at any moment.
QUESTION: Well, are you reporting to --
QUESTION: But you have decided not to -- I know the rollover. But, clearly, unless you make a decision by midnight, you have decided to not make a deduction in this fiscal year, although you can in the future make a deduction even with the first $3 billion. You don't have to do it in this fiscal year, but clearly you're letting September 30 go with a decision to continue to consider but not to deduct.
MR. BOUCHER: Because our consultations with the Israelis are considering --
MR. BOUCHER: -- are continuing. We're still considering exactly what to apply and how much to apply. And third of all, we're not required by the law to make those decisions by a certain date; we're just required to report by a certain date on any decisions we might have made by then.
QUESTION: All right. Now let me ask you a substantive --
MR. BOUCHER: So there's nothing -- this is not a drop-dead date.
QUESTION: No, I understand that.
MR. BOUCHER: It's a reporting date.
QUESTION: But let me ask you a substantive question.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You keep using the plural, "deductions." The inference here is you're not only talking about settlement activity, you're talking about the fence. So let me ask you a question that I hope isn't metaphysical. The Israelis understand, and just a simple reading is clear, that settlement activity is subject to punitive action. Is it correct that there is nothing in the legislation that refers to building a security fence?
I don't know how there could be because there was no security fence contemplated then. In other words, are you reserving the right to reduce Israel's loan guarantees, no matter what they do, if you don't happen to like what they're do and didn't find it in conflict with U.S. policy?
MR. BOUCHER: The legislation says that we should make deductions throughout the life of the loan guarantee program, expenditures -- for expenditures for purposes, which described in the legislation, are inconsistent with U.S. policy. Okay. So, that's what the legislation says, that could theoretically cover a number of these things.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: We have not, at this point, decided exactly which ones to apply that to.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Let's go back, and we'll come back again.
QUESTION: Isn't it also about deducting any money spent on land that the Israelis own -- had before the -- doesn't it have something to do with the 1967 War, and whether this, the land that the Israelis are actually building on the fences right now, considered land that might be negotiated over?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't have the whole text of the legislation, whether it applies to areas occupied in '67 or not. But as I generally described to your colleague, the issue of exactly how it applies to the fence construction or other things has not been finally decided yet.
QUESTION: Does the hesitation in announcement or indecision indicate that you may not make a deduction or is it still a decision? Is it still certain that there will be deductions for these reasons?
MR. BOUCHER: We have an understanding with the Israelis that there will be deductions. We just have not finalized our decisions on the amount. We'll report to Congress that and we will continue to work through our discussions with the Israelis and internally to determine the exact amounts and exactly what we think it should apply to, consistent with the law.
QUESTION: A couple things. Since this year is now ending, does that mean that you won't be making any deductions for activity, Israeli activity, which took place in the past year -- in other words, you've sort of waived this year -- or can you make deductions retroactively for the past year?
MR. BOUCHER: We can make deductions that occur throughout the life of this program, including the past year and the ones to come.
QUESTION: Okay. And secondly, as you know, the Israelis have sold -- already sold bonds worth 1.6 billion.
MR. BOUCHER: 1.6 billion, yeah.
QUESTION: On what authority -- I mean, do they have an assurance from you that the -- that they will -- that the amount they -- you guarantee will be at least that amount? What authority do they have to do that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think those bonds have already been sold with our guarantees.
QUESTION: Yes, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, if you haven't decided on what the deductions is, how do --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as we discussed, if I remember correctly, quite extensively at the time, the only conclusion that can be drawn from that sale is that we didn't intend to deduct more than 1.4 billion for this year.
QUESTION: Have you told them as much? Have you told them?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we haven't told them a final amount. But one can always deduct in future -- it's throughout the life of the program. There's $9 billion there, of which they have floated 1.6 billion in loans.
QUESTION: 7.4, then.
MR. BOUCHER: Well --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to imply we're going to play with all the rest, but the -- should we decide on amounts for deductions that exceed that last year's amount, there are other amounts that could be deducted. But at this point, we have not decided the final amount.
QUESTION: Another issue?
MR. BOUCHER: Another issue? Joel, was yours on this or something else?
QUESTION: On a different question. To what -- Richard, to what degree do -- does Congress, as well as the State Department, factor in religious-type dogma, the street, in both the Palestinian Authority areas, as well as with foreign governments that you may or may not like, such as Syria and Egypt?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite think that's a loan guarantee question, so let me not try to take it as one.
QUESTION: Well, it may not be a loan guarantee --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's come back to that. Refine your question and we'll go -- this gentleman had the right to change subjects first.
QUESTION: Richard, South Asia Bureau Chief Ms. Christina Rocca, she just came from India. Now she is going tomorrow, I understand, to Pakistan with Mr. Armitage. So one -- yeah, she -- and two --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, Armitage announced his trip.
MR. BOUCHER: I know what Armitage said. I'm not sure that Christina Rocca is joining up with him. I just don't know that for sure.
QUESTION: And two, the Prime Minister of Pakistan is coming today, but tomorrow he will be meeting with a number of -- including President Bush and Secretary of State.
MR. BOUCHER: That's right, yes.
QUESTION: So what's going on in that region, I mean now, really, as far as solving the regional issues, including India and Pakistan and Kashmir and all that?
MR. BOUCHER: What's going on in that region? A whole lot of work with our friends.
QUESTION: What role the U.S. is playing?
MR. BOUCHER: A whole lot of work with our friends and allies. A whole lot of work, first, on a relationship with Pakistan that's very important to us, that we want to continue to work and develop.
Second of all, a whole lot of work with Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan, on the security situation in that region and making sure that we're all doing everything we can to track down and eliminate the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaida operatives that may be in that area. And the Secretary, as you know, talked to President Musharraf about this in New York. And Secretary Armitage will be out there, like you said, on Saturday to talk to President Musharraf about these and other issues.
The other thing that's going on in the region is the United States is working with both India and Pakistan to look at some of the issues between them, and to encourage them to start engaging in discussions themselves to resolve these issues. And that's a continuing issue that we work with the parties and raise with the parties.
QUESTION: If I may follow -- I know the U.S. is trying hard to bring both parties to -- on the table, and they (inaudible) now no more. What were the plans? Have India told them in New York at the United Nations that we will talk to Pakistan only if and when they will stop terrorism or infiltrations into Kashmir?
General Musharraf told me that they are really supporting the Kashmiris, but they will stop only when India will talk to us. And now, finally, President Bush in his speech said that -- with the meeting with the Prime Minister of India -- he said that there is an increase in cross-border terrorism.
So how can we solve this? And what can the U.S. do to solve this problem? Because now everybody knows that there is a terrorism increase, and they are supporting and that's what India is saying.
MR. BOUCHER: Slow down. It sounds like you've talked to everybody, so you've got the whole story. You don't really need me.
What I would say is the issue of cross-border terrorism remains important to us. President Musharraf has made commitments to end the cross-border activity, and that remains very important to us, and remains a subject of continuing discussion with the Pakistani Government as they try to achieve that goal.
Okay. Should I give you guys the rundown on the Deputy Secretary's trip, since we've got part of it out and part of it not?
QUESTION: Yeah, please.
MR. BOUCHER: Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage will visit Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, and the United Kingdom October 1-8, 2003.
MR. BOUCHER: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, and the United Kingdom.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that. I might have thought it, but I didn't say it. He'll be meeting with counterparts to discuss a range of regional security and bilateral issues, including the status of U.S. assistance programs, cooperation in the global war on terrorism.
In Afghanistan, Mr. Armitage will reinforce our commitment to a secure Afghanistan, and express our support for full implementation of the Bonn Agreement, including the constitutional loya jirga that's planned for December, and the elections in June 2004, as well as accelerated efforts by the United States and the international community to assist reconstruction efforts.
While visiting Astana, Kazakhstan, Mr. Armitage will preside at the dedication of the new embassy branch office.
QUESTION: Is there a reason Turkmenistan got left off the list?
MR. BOUCHER: You can't go everywhere on every trip.
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you can't go everywhere on every trip.
QUESTION: And in Pakistan?
QUESTION: This is security travel?
MR. BOUCHER: In Pakistan, as I think he mentioned in his testimony this morning, he looks forward to discussions with President Musharraf and others on these issues that we've been talking about, on the relationship, on the U.S. support for Pakistan as it makes its -- takes its stand against terrorism, and as it moves towards creating a Muslim -- moderate democratic Muslim nation.
QUESTION: We were told last week that President Karzai complained to President Bush that Taliban are being trained in Pakistan and they're infiltrating in Afghanistan, and he wants help on that. Is there -- is that on the agenda?
And, you know, when I brought the question up last week to an unidentified U.S. official, who later went on television, the official said that that's a tough border to manage and all. But the issue seems to be the training. Agreed, it's hard to police the border. But is that a huge problem and will he try to -- will he take that up directly with the Pakistan President?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think I said 10 or 15 minutes ago, some time back, that we are working with Pakistan, we are working with Afghanistan, on the activities of Taliban and al-Qaida remnants in the border area. This is a continuing problem for both of them. The United States participates with them in a tripartite committee that we have had operating for some time that we think has been successful in coordinating the activities of all the parties in the border area.
QUESTION: I was trying to separate the border area from training schools. You would think that the President of Pakistan would have some control over what's going on within his borders. Admittedly, he might have difficulty, given he wanted to -- and let's assume he wanted to, we hope -- police the borders. But he can close down the schools, can't he?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know specifically where these training schools are alleged to be located, but I'm sure that's the kind of subject that we would take up in our tripartite discussions with both parties.
QUESTION: A tantamount question here. You seem to suggest that you didn't know, you weren't sure if Assistant Secretary Rocca was going.
I'm kind of curious about that because yesterday, when the Pakistani Foreign Ministry announced that Deputy Secretary Armitage would be visiting their country, and then going to Afghanistan on Friday, and then returning to Islamabad on Saturday, and then going on to Central Asia, he said that he would be -- that Armitage -- they said that Armitage would be accompanied by Ms. Rocca.
MR. BOUCHER: I would not be at all surprised. I've just spent my morning worrying about the Deputy Secretary, and I hadn't had time to inquire as to how the Assistant Secretary may have modified her travel plans.
QUESTION: Richard, can I have one more, please, on the region?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: There were a number of demonstrations at the UN and also in Washington by the Bangladeshis and also by the Pakistani community, which comprises of Sindh -- in the Sindh province.
And what they are saying is really, as far as Bangladesh is concerned, that minorities are still under attack in Bangladesh, especially Hindus, and what Sindhis are saying that they are under pressure or they are being targeted by the military government in the Sindh province. And they are going to have another demonstration on Thursday here in Washington.
So, as far as human rights and all these atrocities are concerned against the minorities there, how the State Department is working on it?
MR. BOUCHER: We work on this as described in our Human Rights Report, and I'll refer you to that.
QUESTION: Another thing Secretary Armitage said was that the U.S. believes that Musharraf is committed to stopping the Taliban and to closing down camps or whatever, whatever else he's promised to do, but that the commitment is not consistent throughout the rank and file of his security services.
How can you address that? How can he -- is he going to be meeting with members of the ISI as well? I mean, how do you work on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a full schedule yet of his meetings. But, obviously, you address this by raising it at the highest levels and talking about it directly with the leadership of Pakistan, which is in charge of making sure that their national policy is followed throughout their government.
QUESTION: And you're convinced that they're following President Musharraf's policies?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, they're responsible for making sure their policies are followed throughout the government.
QUESTION: How much of the discussions in India and Pakistan will center on getting those countries to commit? Wait, I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't mention India, but go ahead with Pakistan.
QUESTION: Okay, with Pakistan. Sorry about that. How much of the discussions will center around getting Musharraf to commit more assistance to the U.S. efforts in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: How much?
MR. BOUCHER: 42.
MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, it's an ongoing subject of discussion. It will be one of many issues that we have to discuss with Pakistan -- and something that the Secretary discussed with President Musharraf the other day, as they look at the process of the United Nations resolution, as they look at how the resolution turns out, I'm sure they'll be considering, too, what kind of decisions they can make and what kind of commitments they might make. And that will be the -- and that continues to be, and will continue to be a topic of discussion with them.
QUESTION: Richard, is there any commitment to work with some of the ethnic leaders which are commonly called warlords? There's been some ethnic fighting yesterday, up in the far north of Afghanistan; but, undoubtedly, it's also down in the south as well.
MR. BOUCHER: I think there's been a strong effort in Afghanistan to strengthen the powers of the central government, and not allow individuals to set up fiefdoms in provinces. We have taken steps to ensure that money assistance, security support, is channeled through the central government.
We are working in the provinces now with provincial reconstruction teams that have gone out to the provinces to try to work there in accordance with national policy and in coordination with our overall effort. But I'd also say that President Karzai has taken a number of steps, and particularly in recent months, to help assert the authority of the central government throughout the country.
Granted, it's difficult to do. As his government grows in organization and authority and power, this is something, as it is a process, it may take some time. But he has been asserting the authority of the central government, he has been making sure that revenues are channeled through the central government, and working with us and us working with him to try to extend the security reach of the central government so that they can be responsible in all these areas, and not have separate armies, separate fiefdoms.
QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We'll come back.
QUESTION: The Secretary's mentioning of six months as a possible timeframe for a constitution in Iraq, and then the reaction in some circles in Iraq has been, we need more time, not -- who's going to ultimately decided that timeline?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as we've stated in the draft UN resolution that we put forward, it ultimately is for the Iraqis to decide how quickly they can do this. The Secretary has stressed again and again that our approach to this whole issue of transfer of authority was to see how quickly the Iraqis could get themselves organized and could build a basis for a full transfer of power.
Iraqis are already taking responsibility in a number of areas, in education, health, police, quite a few areas, water, electricity, but that sort of accomplishing the full transfer of authority depends on having them -- seeing what kind of timeframe they can put together, constitution, a ratification process, an election, so that they can have a government that's based on that election.
So the bottom line is, the Secretary said this could be done in six months, maybe. We'd like to see it done in six months, but it's a matter for the Iraqis to decide. It's a matter for the Iraqis to determine how they want to handle this process, and what kind of timeframe they can do it in.
There are different views in Iraq. I wouldn't take one statement or another statement to represent the views of all the Governing Council, much less all the Iraqi people. And we recognize there is some difficult decisions to make, I mean, you sit down and start looking at questions of parliamentary systems or presidential systems and the role and powers of various bodies of government, and you're into pretty serious discussions that aren't decided in a short timeframe.
QUESTION: So if they make a case that it takes nine months to a year, that's -- we're okay with that?
MR. BOUCHER: Our job is to support them as they go through this process of establishing their constitution and their elected authority, and to ensure that at the end of that process we're ready to transfer authority to them for full exercise of Iraqi sovereignty.
QUESTION: Is that the same as saying you'd support them if they need more time?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll support them as they -- they decide the timetable, and we'll support them, yeah.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
QUESTION: Yeah. But, Richard, the Secretary obviously believes that six months is long enough or should be long enough. And it's not just -- there may be different views in Iraq, but quite a large body of opinion inside the Governing Council said they needed more than that.
I just wondered whether you kind of could comment on this. I mean, do you think that you've -- are you frustrated? Do you think that they're overestimating the difficulties? How do you -- what do you think about these things?
MR. BOUCHER: We think that the Iraqis are going through a careful process of debate and discussion, and that they will decide. And we welcome that process. That's what this is all about, so the Iraqis can decide their own future.
So let them look at these questions, let them debate these questions, let them discuss these questions, and let them decide these questions.
QUESTION: But you still think six months is enough?
MR. BOUCHER: We think this is something that could be done in six months, perhaps. We think it -- understand the difficulty and the complications of the process, how weighty some of these questions are. So we'll see. Ultimately, we'll see how much time they think they can do this in.
QUESTION: I don't want to ask about the six months. I want to ask about the resolution.
QUESTION: Can I just have one more on the six months?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Listening to the Secretary in the interviews he did last week on this, it seemed to suggest that you've told the Iraqis, while you're waiting for them to come up on a timeline, this is the timeline you think you'd like to see.
I mean, have you -- is it -- are you just coming up with this and saying, you know, out loud that we'd like to -- you know, it could -- we think it could be done in six months; or is it something a little stronger to the Iraqis that, you know, we're going to work with you on the timeline but we'd really like to see you do this in six months?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to adopt one formulation or the other. It's what the Secretary said. It's what he said about 12 times, that we would like to see this process, the constitution writing, in about six months. We think it be done in about six months. But in the end, it's for the Iraqis to decide how long that process will take and how quickly they think they can do it. And they'll have their debate and discussion, and they'll decide how quickly they think they can do it.
The Secretary said many times nobody is more eager to see this process completed successfully than the United States. We're not trying to stay there as long as we can. We're trying to stay there long enough to help the Iraqis get this process underway and take over these responsibilities and decide these very important questions for the future of Iraq.
QUESTION: On what basis does the Secretary believe six months would be long enough?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's generally the kind of estimates that you'll be seeing from some of the people in the region. I think Ambassador Bremer had talked about something like that in terms of timeframes for writing a constitution.
QUESTION: Suggestions like that from the Council itself?
MR. BOUCHER: There are, I think, members of the Council, yeah, some of the people out there who thought it could be done in that timeframe, but we'll have to see. They are now looking more seriously and more detailed -- in more detail at these questions, and they may or may not decide it can be done in six months or some other timeframe. What we're looking for is to see their estimate of how long it -- they think it will take them to do this.
QUESTION: How close are you in your internal discussions and deliberations to getting the draft together? The Secretary --
MR. BOUCHER: We are working within the Administration. The Secretary has talked to his colleagues. We're talking to other agencies at different levels to, I'd say, integrate the ideas and the comments that we've heard from other governments during last week's -- particularly during last week's high-level consultations.
The Secretary said we should be able to come up with a second version of the resolution within the next few days, so I'd say we're on track for coming up with a version of the resolution sometime this week and having consultations with other governments sometime later this week.
But at this point, we've not circulated anything new. As I said yesterday, the goal is to take this -- a lot of the comments that we've heard, particularly the desire to see a sense of momentum on the political process, and to try to integrate that into the resolution.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, when you say the -- I mean, you're talking about having consult -- you think it's going to be out, ready to talk about at least, in whatever form, draft form you decide --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So when -- can you say if you would expect to give it to your pals on the Security Council on tomorrow or Thursday, or when can we expect to start seeing the leaked versions of it?
MR. BOUCHER: Never. Never. Confidences, I am sure, will be respected completely.
QUESTION: I'm sure. When would you expect -- you know, what day would you expect people to get it?
MR. BOUCHER: Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
QUESTION: Richard, can you share with us any aspects of it which are -- on which the Administration, as a whole, is already in agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Richard, as far as new countries are concerned, other than the Council, anybody else playing a role -- UN or any other country?
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry. On what?
QUESTION: In writing the new constitution, other than the Council, if anybody else is going to play any role, any other country, or the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: As you all know from the leaked versions of our previous draft resolution, our formulation was that the Governing Council would do this in cooperation with the Coalition Authority and with the United Nations Secretary General's special representative.
QUESTION: Different subject.
MR. BOUCHER: Different subject. Happy.
QUESTION: Just wondering if the State Department has been consulted by the Department of the Justice in terms of the continuing the border with (inaudible) called deportation -- Lateral Deportation Program in the State of Arizona that Mexico has already rejected and condemned.
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is I don't know, I'll have to check for you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, in the back.
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Boucher. Last Saturday, The Washington Post, with a front-page story, attacked Greece for security gap in the Olympic Games. I am wondering what is the position of your government on this issue since a bunch of federal and private agencies are already cooperating with the Greek Government, with full support of your Ambassador to Greece Tom Miller, for safe Olympics.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me give you the rundown on the cooperation with Greece on Olympic security. As you know, the Greek Government's planning and preparations for Olympic security are already well underway. Greece is working with several countries, including the United States, to ensure the full safety of the Olympic Games.
Almost a year in advance of the event now, the Greeks are assessing their situation, identifying needs and devoting resources to achieving a secure and successful Olympics. Exercises to highlight potential problems are undertaken with a view to solving the issues by the day the Games open, which is August 13th of next year.
The United States has offered the expertise and resources of several of our agencies to Greece in order to ensure Olympic security. Ambassador Cofer Black, U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism, is currently in Greece discussing ways to enhance the Olympic security. The United States is also providing equipment, policy workshops and security training to that end.
Our two governments frequently discuss Olympic security cooperation, including at the Secretary's last meeting with Foreign Minister Papandreou on September 17th.
We think the Greeks have the will and the resources to hold a secure and successful Olympics and we have every confidence that they will.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with this cooperation, Mr. Boucher, with the Greek Government so far?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we have been working very well, very closely, with the Greek Government so far.
QUESTION: And in the same story, Washington Post disclosed that you are going to keep Ambassador Tom Miller beyond the end of the Olympic Games Summer 2004, due to his great service. If it's true, any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know and I wouldn't make such an announcement anyway. That would be a White House matter.
QUESTION: And also one more. Since Washington Post is insisting over and over that November 17 terrorist organization is still an open issue despite the arrests and despite the trials in Athens, what is the position of your government on this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd really refer you to the terrorism report for the exact detailed position. We have certainly welcomed the steps that Greece has taken against terrorism, particularly against November 17th. At the same time, our cooperation with Greece, our vigilance with Greece on all matters of terrorism must continue.
QUESTION: But it's still open matter or closed?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the exact status of that particular organization is considered, but obviously issues of terrorism in Greece haven't gone away completely and it's something we continue to work with the Greek Government about.
Okay, also in the back.
QUESTION: Do you have a reaction to Lebanese Government initiating legal proceedings against Michel Aoun, the former interim Prime Minister, because he spoke two weeks ago here before Congress and criticized Syria for refusing to withdraw its troops from Lebanon?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven't seen that. I'll have to see if we have anything to say on it.
QUESTION: Can you give us a little preview of the Powell-Uribe meeting? And once Colombia signed the Article 98 agreement, did the hold on military funding -- was that lifted immediately?
Do you have any idea how much money -- or how that works, anyway, how much money was held up? Do they get it back now that they signed it, that kind of thing?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first, the purpose of the meeting is to talk to President Uribe, underscore our continuing strong U.S. Government support for his government. I would note that the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, John Walters, will also participate in the meeting.
I expect the Secretary and President Uribe to focus on issues where we've worked closely with the Government of Colombia, such as counternarcotics policy and, of course, the recent conclusion of an Article 98 agreement. And we also expect to discuss with them the importance of protecting human rights and establishing rule of law. We also have joint efforts in the search for three American citizens held hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia since their plane crashed on February 13th.
Colombia is a key friend and partner in the hemisphere and a strategic regional ally in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.
As for the specifics of the release of the money that might have been held up, I'm going to have to check on that. Frankly, I don't remember if it was last year's money or next year's money. I'll have to check.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary come down with President Uribe?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think they will at this point. When I came out to --
MR. ERELI: Richard, actually, we've just gotten word that they will.
MR. BOUCHER: We just got word that they will?
Okay, we just got word that they will.
QUESTION: So I'll save my questions for him.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Richard, North Korea. North Koreans are now saying that they're not interested in talks with you after all, and that they'd rather just build up their nuclear deterrent.
Is that -- I know they often say things which are quite strong. Have you heard that directly at all from -- or indirectly through any of the -- I mean, through official channels, rather than just from the press?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if they've conveyed this kind of statement through the New York channel. What I would say is North Korea's made a number of such statements, and once again reiterate that we are seeking a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the problems that have been created by North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons, and we believe the best way to achieve that resolution is through the six-party process.
QUESTION: Are you going to inquire directly whether they really are still interested and whether -- or whether this statement reflects a change in policy?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we will. I mean, in the end, they've made a number of statements like this, a number of statements not like this. And so we'll just have to see what they do. We believe these issues can be solved peacefully through the six-party process. We would hope that the others who participated would do so, as well.
QUESTION: So, for the moment, you're not -- you don't consider it to be an official policy?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't --
QUESTION: You're not prepared to treat --
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say one way or the other. It was a statement by the Foreign Ministry, I think. But, you know, what they actually do we'll just have to see.
QUESTION: Richard, on that, do you know if Assistant Secretary Kelly has any plans to go anywhere else following the non-TCOG/TCOG meetings, like maybe to Beijing to find out, to get a clarification from the Chinese about what they have heard from the North Koreans about this latest statement?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Do you have something on Cuban nationals now being allowed to go to Havana without permission from the Cuban Government? I think you do.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Do you have something on Americans, who are of Cuban descent --
QUESTION: Sorry, that's what it was.
QUESTION: -- perhaps being allowed to go to Havana without --
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt.
MR. BOUCHER: I have never heard of the topic. And I'm sorry I don't, but I haven't.
QUESTION: Could we have --
QUESTION: Richard, on Liberia, our ships are leaving shore prior to October 1st and the implementation of the new government is supposed to be the second week in October. Is EWOC -- EWAS and West African troops sufficient for that change of power?
MR. BOUCHER: We are working very closely with all the parties concerned on the transition from a West African military force supported by the United States, including our troops offshore -- our ships offshore -- to a United Nations military operation that will be up and -- that will be official as of tomorrow.
We will have approximately 100 military personnel who will stay in Liberia to help work this transition. We're also very active supporting the political transition that was agreed upon in Ghana and that will be taking place over the course of the next few weeks. I think the transitional government has to be up and running on October 14th.
As of tomorrow, the West African forces become blue helmets, become UN forces, and then additional UN forces from other countries will start to arrive in the next couple weeks. So we have people on the ground that will be working with them. Our support for the West African forces in terms of the logistics contracts and other things will remain and continue. And we are working very hard, as we have before, on the political transition process to make sure that the U.S. presence is felt, but also to make sure that this process works smoothly.
QUESTION: Richard, on Burma, she's back, she's hurt and she's freed, but she's not free. So where do we stand as far as her party is concerned or democracy in Burma?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we discussed this quite a bit yesterday. The United States has made very clear that we think that Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters should be released immediately, that her continued detention is not acceptable to the international community, and that she and her followers should be able to participate in the political life of Burma. We have made that very clear and I think we will continue to make that clear in public and in private.
QUESTION: Is U.S. working on maybe more resolution or tighten any economic sanctions or --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we just went through new legislation that we supported, and then we would expect to implement that legislation. I'm not sure -- yeah, we've taken some steps. I'm not sure if there are any left, but certainly the effects of such tightening will be felt progressively over time.
QUESTION: Richard, do you take any comfort from the fact that she is going to be able to meet Razali Ismail?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure that she has been able to meet or is going to be able to meet Razali Ismail. We know that he's been seeking a meeting and we would certainly encourage the authorities to allow him to meet with her, but at this point we don't have final confirmation that he will meet with her or a readout, if he might have done so already.
QUESTION: Getting back to a part of Teri's question on Colombia, I understand that you guys have sealed a new Article 98 agreement with a major power.
MR. BOUCHER: We've sealed a number of Article 98 agreements in recent days. I think we're somewhere over 65 now.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate on it a little bit?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have a final list for you today. I don't have an updated list. We'll see if we can get you some more tomorrow.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) In his testimony to the House Appropriations Committee today, Deputy Secretary Armitage had mentioned generous contributions; he was looking for generous contributions from Japan. Can you give me more details or elaborate on that a little bit?
MR. BOUCHER: Generous? Let me elaborate on it this way. The United States believes that success in Iraq is important to the whole world, and we have heard from many other governments in our conversations with them, in our consultations at the United Nations, and in terms of their public statements, that success in Iraq is important to them.
Some of the people who disagreed with us on going to war are as committed as we are to winning the peace, to making sure that Iraq succeeds as a stable, democratic nation and an anchor of stability in a region that has suffered from too much instability.
So we would hope that other governments, in making that analysis, would conclude, like we have, that it's worth a significant investment of our resources to ensure the success of Iraq, and we hope they will understand that it's worth a significant investment of their resources as well to ensure the success of Iraq. And we have been working and talking with donors, we have been working and talking with other governments, as we work toward the Madrid donors conference to try to see what kind of commitment we can get from the international community.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) So Japan is -- at this moment, Japan is only country which United States can predict make a kind of a generous contribution?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, we hope everybody will be generous. No, we've encouraged many other nations in the world to be generous.
QUESTION: Can you list any other specific country at this moment?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to leave any country out in terms of being generous -- not to us, not to our war effort, but to the Iraqi people.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)
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