State Department Noon Briefing, October 14, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF JOURNALISTS
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2003
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. A pleasure to see you all. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: No announcements? How comforting. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry.
QUESTION: Yeah, Richard, what's the status of the -- I ask this hesitantly because I know you're not going to really have that much. But in New York, on the Iraq resolution, yesterday this building, or people in this building, were saying that the reaction was interested and positive, and it looks like today that at least the French, the Germans and the Russians are going to try and use this as the -- use the latest draft as a starting point for more negotiations. Is this kind of a -- for you -- for the United States, is this a take-it-or-leave-it kind of deal?
MR. BOUCHER: We're making sausage here. It's not always pretty, but this is the way resolutions get worked. The Security Council had consultations this morning. The United States, along with the United Kingdom, Spain and Cameroon as co-sponsors, put the revised draft resolution in blue, meaning we put forward a text for consideration by other governments, which we would expect them to vote on shortly.
The Secretary has continued to discuss the new text with his colleagues. On the telephone over the weekend, he made multiple phone calls to multiple foreign ministers, several of them multiple times. He has continued to make phone calls today. I think he has spoken directly with about half of his colleagues, a maybe a little more, on the Security Council, made 20-some phone calls.
We believe the text is a good one. It incorporates many of the suggestions from others about the process for transfer of authority and the need for an expanded UN role. It gives the Iraqi Governing Council a central role in transition plans. It calls on them to put together a program and a timetable and goes a step further, requesting a timeline for drafting a constitution and holding elections by December 15th, requesting by September -- by December 15th a timeline for drafting a constitution and holding elections.
It further defines the unique role the United Nations can play as circumstances permit, especially in the political transition. It gives the United Nations some flexibility in carrying out its mandate, strengthened further under this resolution as the security environment improves.
Finally, it addresses some of the concerns that Council members had about the issue of sovereignty. It makes clear that the sovereignty of Iraq lies in the state of Iraq and that the Coalition Authority, in exercising certain authorities and obligations of governments, is temporary.
The draft outlines a process of returning as soon as possible full authority and responsibility to the people of Iraq. The process is ongoing with daily signs of progress by Iraqis establishing ministries of government and taking control of their own affairs.
In the interest -- it is in the interests of all Council members to encourage the international community to step up support for Iraq's stabilization and reconstruction. This resolution is an important way to do that, and in our view, deserves support.
We think we're making good progress towards adoption of this resolution. I would repeat again that initial reaction has been interested and generally positive, and we'll be working hard in the next day or so to ensure the broadest possible support.
Are there going to be comments? Yes. Will we take them into account? We'll certainly look at them very carefully. It is -- we think this is a good resolution. I outlined the many, many ways in which it responds to what we have heard from other members of the Council. If they have further changes that support the resolution and its intent, it may be possible to take some of those into account. QUESTION: Richard, in the days leading up to this point -- or leading up to the point, to yesterday, when it was actually distributed -- or over the weekend, you had constantly been saying that it's not final until it's in blue, and that changes can be made, you know, up until that point. At least that was your strong suggestion.
Are you saying now that it is in blue you're still willing to incorporate additional ideas?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to say it's in blue. It's a text that we think people should be able to vote upon. But if there -- it is -- it is possible to incorporate changes that go and strengthen the resolution, if we decide to do so.
QUESTION: Okay. And is there any kind of time period that you have --
MR. BOUCHER: We're looking to do this within days. So this would have to be done quickly.
QUESTION: I don't know if anything was lost in translation -- the word "amendment", and as a specific word to us, and to other folks too, I guess. Bt out of Moscow now, the Deputy Foreign Minister is saying Russia intends to suggest amendments. I don't know if they mean changes or literally amendments?
MR. BOUCHER: They mean changes. It doesn't -- it's not the same kind of parliamentary procedure, as an amendment would go through in a legislature.
QUESTION: Exactly. I thought maybe not. And is this -- he did talk to Ivanov, I know. Is this, I don't want to say more trouble, but is this an additional hurdle, or is it part of what you've been hearing all along?
MR. BOUCHER: This is the way the process works. We do think we're making good progress towards a resolution, and we'll continue to work this fairly intensively over the next day or two.
QUESTION: And when you said he spoke to ministers, he also spoke to the -- to Kofi Annan, didn't he?
MR. BOUCHER: He also talked to Kofi Annan. Yeah, that's right.
QUESTION: Multiply? Multiple times?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Could you please tell us about their talk today?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, hard to go through, if I -- at any given moment, if we don't take into account the 19 or 20 phone calls that proceeded a call, it's hard to get an exact impression. So he's talking today to members, other members of the Council. He's also talked today to the Portuguese Foreign Minister on other business. But, basically, he's been in touch with, I think, it's something like 20 phone calls to nine colleagues, plus Kofi Annan on the Security Council over the last three days, including today -- last four days, including today.
QUESTION: Kofi Annan said that the resolution did not represent a major step, and I wonder if you're disappointed in that comment, and whether you'd be satisfied with nine votes and a bunch of abstentions?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, the resolution does take into account what the Secretary General was saying about the UN's capacity to carry out the functions in the resolution being constrained at this point. So it reflects that reality on the ground. It expands on the UN roles but takes into account current circumstances.
The Secretary General also said this morning that the resolution takes some of his concerns into account and that the UN role will be strengthened as circumstances permit. He also made clear that the UN will implement any resolution passed and encourage broad support for the resolution.
We will certainly look for the broadest possible support in a resolution, but we're also looking to get a resolution, so --
QUESTION: So nine votes would be fine?
MR. BOUCHER: We want to get a resolution, and if we can do that, we will.
QUESTION: That's interesting. On terrorism, are you willing to cede, if that's the right word, or to acknowledge additional authority for the UN? It had long been said that the U.S. has a unique capability to deal with terrorism, and terrorism is a constant problem in Iraq. Do you see the UN taking on the job of dealing with the terrorist threat on the ground there? Or are you going -- or are you talking about helping run elections, train civil servants -- you know, the kind of things that I guess the UN has some expertise in?
MR. BOUCHER: The kind of things the UN has expertise in? Obviously, the UN does have some expertise in security, and we're working very closely with them --
QUESTION: Oh, I know. It's almost impossible to get a pass to go to the UN. I know. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I'll finish the sentence anytime you want me to. The UN does have -- if you, first of all, read the resolution, it specifies a lot of areas where the UN can play an important role. You might also look back at the Secretary General's report in July where he started to define a number of areas where they could play a role.
As far as the UN role against terrorism, obviously cooperating with the UN on security matters is very important to us. That has a lot to do with the security of their personnel, who suffered a horrendous bombing in the middle of the summer.
QUESTION: Richard, you're painting this as there's a lot in it for the UN and that you've met a lot of the Secretary General's concerns; and yet he comes out this morning, after you've put it in blue, and he says he's a little disappointed.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- he also said he sees positively the fact that we took into account his concerns. He'll have to give you whatever balance he wants, whether he's 10 percent disappointed and 90 percent pleased or whatever. He'll have to make that sort of balance for you. But it's not correct to say he's totally disappointed. I guess it's not correct to say he's totally pleased. The man will speak for himself.
QUESTION: Richard, one of the main criticisms of Kofi Annan and some of the other Council members is that the resolution doesn't offer a clear date of full transfer or authority over to the Governing Council. Now, is this one of your -- when you say that fundamentally you're willing to take into consideration people's concerns, but, you know, we don't want it to change the type of resolution that we're looking to pass, is this one of those things that you're not willing to put a clear date for full transfer over to the Iraqi Governing Council until there are elections?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear in this resolution all along that the transfer of authority is a progressive process, and this resolution again makes that point clear. It is a process that's already underway in terms of the kind of authority the Iraqis have already taken up. But it's also something that has continued and will continue throughout the life of this resolution until get to the final transfer of authority after the elections. That remains the basic framework, the fundamental framework for this resolution, and that's not something that we've changed in this new draft.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Are you going to push for a vote tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll look for a vote within days. I don't have a specific time yet for a vote.
QUESTION: Before the trip?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be good. Sometime this week, I think, is what was said.
QUESTION: According to what the Secretary said to The New York Times two days ago, with the new deadline and you putting for the Governing Council, you are looking to have elections and a constitution by the middle of June, next year? Or what is, exactly, the dates are you looking for?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't have an exact date. We never said six months for that. We said we felt that six months was a good timetable for having a constitution. Elections -- ratification and elections take longer.
The point, I think, here is that the Iraqis have to be in charge of this process. This resolution is about giving the Iraqis authority over their own affairs, and so on one -- the most fundamental point of how are they going to reach a new constitution and have elections, we do think that's something that needs to be handled by the Iraqis, and that's what we asked for in this resolution.
QUESTION: Do you still believe that the UN has a -- has to play a major role in writing the constitution of Iraq or --
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you, if you look at the resolution itself, you'll see the UN continues to have a vital role -- in fact, one that's strengthened and expanded with this resolution -- and that the resolution also makes clear that the UN has unique expertise that they can lend to the process of political transition as their circumstances permit them to do so.
MR. BOUCHER: The deadline, December 15th. What is the enforcement mechanism behind that? And what happens if they don't come forward and meet that deadline? I mean, is it an empty deadline? I mean, there's no enforcement mechanism, as far as I can tell.
MR. BOUCHER: It's -- the verb is "invites."
QUESTION: You won't be held in breach of a --
MR. BOUCHER: It's "invites the Governing Council to put forward the process by December 15th."
QUESTION: What if they don't have a blueprint?
MR. BOUCHER: This is not a question of setting deadlines on people and enforcing them. This is a question of trying to map out a process of working with the Iraqis where the Iraqis take responsibility, where the Secretary's General special representative and the Coalition Authority take responsibility to help them and work with them and move forward on this process that we all want to see accomplished.
I just think the question has got a completely wrong context to it. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: In the text of the resolution, it says "no later than," that it invites them to submit the timetables "no later than."
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So what if they do it afterwards? Are you saying you're not inviting them any time after?
MR. BOUCHER: I just think that's a wrong reading of this -- that we invite them to do it by then, that the expectation is that they will be able to do it by then. We'll work with them. The Secretary's General special representative, as it says here, will work with them as well, to try to help them meet that timetable.
QUESTION: A member of the Governing Council today says he -- said that he thought al-Rubai -- I think that's how you pronounce it -- said that December 15th sounds realistic, what the U.S. is asking sounds realistic; but that an election, then, the constitution and the election, are, of course, the sticking points, and that it may only be two years before they can hold an election.
Does that seem reasonable for the U.S.? Are you -- have you -- after the six months that Secretary Powell suggested at UNGA, have you gone on further with other suggested timeframes?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not gone on further to suggest other timeframes. I would say there's been some speculation. But once again, this is a matter being discussed by Iraqis, a matter to be discussed by Iraqis. I'm sure there are different views on the Governing Council as to how long or how quickly this process can proceed. And what we really need to base it on is an Iraqi estimate of how they can proceed, how quickly they can take over authority, and how quickly they can move to a constitution and elections. And that's what we want to support and work with them on.
QUESTION: And as long as there's a timeframe they've suggested you -- that looks, I don't know, reasonable, then the U.S. will just, will support that, whatever it is?
MR. BOUCHER: The timetable itself and the program will be developed in cooperation with the Authority, and as circumstances permit, the special representative for the Secretary General.
QUESTION: Richard, the three who say they -- the three countries who say that they may want amendments or changes to this have been pushing for a firmer deadline. Are you not at all willing to firm the deadline up?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not here to entertain various possibilities, suggestions, ideas, speculation about what we may or may not be willing to change. When they come forward with some concrete suggestions, we'll want to look at them.
QUESTION: I think you said before that the security situation's improving. I know you mean in the general sense, but what is the feeling here about the anti-U.S. rhetoric coming from at least two prominent clerics -- one is under detention and the other seems to be gathering force, but not in the majority? And is there some nervousness here that -- I remember, originally, you know, diverse views. The statement wasn't terribly concerned about a -- you know, kind of a wide-ranging group picking up after Saddam Hussein that would sort itself out. Is it sorting itself out, or is it sorting itself out badly?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't know what statements you're referring to, nor any statements from me that security was improving.
QUESTION: Well, I thought just before you said -- maybe I misheard that. Overall, I thought you were saying general improvement in security, I thought you said. But in any event, what is the security situation? What is the U.S. appraisal of what these clerics are saying about "go get the Americans"?
MR. BOUCHER: As I was saying, I generally have left issues about the security situation to the Coalition Authority for them to characterize the day-to-day and even the broader sweep of how things are going with security. They have faced a number of security threats that you might expect after a war, where there are still remnants of armies, and leftovers, Baathists being one group. There have been terrorist attacks as well, involving some people from outside.
So they have faced those threats, and I think we're confident that they can deal with them. But they're not things that can be put down right away; it may take a little time, so they're working on it.
In terms of the overall level of support for the Coalition and for the Governing Authority and its ministers, I think it's quite clear that as progress is being made, things have calmed down quite a bit. But I think we'll have to let the Iraqis themselves characterize that. There are certainly a lot of people in Iraq that are working with us. They're working for the future of Iraq, they're working in their ministries, they're working in the Governing Council, and they're working to construct a better Iraq.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Joel.
QUESTION: Of course, this week the Malaysian-Islamic Summit is going on, and they appear to be endorsing a little bit more moderate stance, much as what you've been speaking to. They represent 57 nations, and are you talking to some of those countries individually and working with them to shape your UN resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we talk to many of those countries. I'm not sure I can say all of them, but we talk to many of those countries about issues involving Iraq. It is noteworthy that the Iraqi representatives were seated at the meeting in Malaysia, right? And that continues the progress that they've made in terms of gaining acceptance and recognition, from the Arab League, from the United Nations, and from now the OIC. So that's something we noted. That's something we talked to members about.
In terms of the resolution, we have been in touch with other governments. I think if you remember early on in this process, Ambassador Negroponte in New York met with Arab representatives in New York, and so it's something we have kept in touch with other people about, and there are several members of the Security Council who represent nations that are Islamic.
QUESTION: Your reaction to the bombing, suicide bombing outside the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad. And also, apparently, members of the Governing Council are still saying they don't want Turkish troops in Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: On the issue of Turkey's potential contributions, that's something that's still being worked and discussed. As we have always said, we think that there can be a positive role for Turkish troops to play in Iraq in helping stabilize the country and to move forward. But I really don't have any, sort of, new developments on that at this point.
In terms of the bombing itself, as with other recent bombings, we condemn the bombing in the strongest possible terms. We wish a speedy recovery to those injured in this attack. The Coalition and Iraq's Governing Council continue to work to stop these bombings and to bring those responsible to justice. The Coalition and the Iraqi people will be undeterred by such attacks. The United States, our close ally Turkey, and the international community stand with the majority of the Iraqi people as they seek to peacefully build a free and stable country. QUESTION: Follow-up?
MR. BOUCHER: Follow-up?
QUESTION: Yeah, but there's still, you know, growing opposition from the Kurds, from Shiites, and from the Governing Council. How are you going to handle that? Do you see as a challenge to your policy? And also, aren't they also encouraging the terrorists, or were they, you know, showing them target (inaudible) Turkey with the recent bombings? You don't see it that way?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not prepared to draw any conclusions from this bombing quite yet as to who might have been involved, who might have encouraged it. I don't think I see overtly any particular signs of that.
But the question of how we're going to handle the concern that is evident in some parts of Iraq and some parts of Iraqi public opinion is what we've told you before: we think these things can be worked through; we think Turkish troops can make a contribution to stability that can be viewed as positive by Iraqis; and we'll continue to work with them, as we work with the Turks as well, on the questions involving -- involved in the deployment.
QUESTION: And did you see the Jordanian Foreign Minister's comments on the use of Turkish troops in Iraq, and what's your comment on his --
MR. BOUCHER: I'd just say what we said before, that we think this is something that can be worked out, so it does contribute to stability.
QUESTION: Do you have a timeframe in mind? When do you think it could be resolved? In a couple of weeks, or more than that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure. Sometimes these things take a little time. We have been in touch with the Turks, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry. We've had military contacts already. So we'll just continue to work this and see how long it takes to work it out.
QUESTION: On Bolivia?
QUESTION: Actually --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's finish somewhere here. Tammy.
QUESTION: I'd like to return to the resolution. Assuming it passes, if it passes, do you expect it actually to translate at this point into any additional troop or financial contributions; that this resolution will actually have that desired effect, which, I guess, was the whole genesis of it?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Any --
MR. BOUCHER: We expect it to help. I think I've given that answer fairly consistently all along. It may encourage some to contribute troops. It may encourage others to be forthcoming when we get to the Madrid donors conference. It may facilitate the involvement of some, for instance, international banks and governments who need a UN basis to provide contributions. So we think it will have a positive effect. Whether one can measure what it might have been had we not had this resolution, that's kind of hard to do, but.
QUESTION: One more on the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Barbara.
QUESTION: Again, if it only passes with nine votes, what sort of symbol -- what sort of signal does that send to the community? Isn't that not sort of -- the sort of endorsement you would want to see?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let's see how many votes it passes with. And second of all, you can ask the people who might not vote for it, if they don't, what signal they're trying to send. We think the signal to be sent is that the international community wants to work with the Iraqis, wants to help the Iraqis, and wants to be involved with them as they take over full responsibility for their government and their country. That's the signal we're inviting everybody to send. If, in the end, some people don't want to send that signal, you can go ask them why.
QUESTION: The Syria resolution -- the fence?
MR. BOUCHER: Say what? Syria resolution? I think we were going to change to Bolivia first.
QUESTION: On Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Iraq? Yeah.
QUESTION: My question might be -- might have overlapped the previous one, but I just want to make sure the -- your idea. Draft states here, "The principal body of the Iraq Interim Administration, that is, the Governing Council, which will embody the sovereignty of the state of Iraq during the transitional period until internationally recognized representative government is established." That wording embodies a kind of a -- your intention to fulfill -- fulfill the request from the Germany or France to a -- for a kind of a quick transfer of sovereignty to Iraq people?
MR. BOUCHER: It embodies -- the language is there in order to characterize the state of affairs. You'll see that sovereignty is also referred to in the preamble of the resolution. It's there to characterize the state of affairs.
With regards to sovereignty, which, as we've discussed here before, is a somewhat amorphous but legalistic concept, and so the point is to say here that the Iraqis have their sovereignty. The question is the full exercise of authority, and that is a progressive process that will be going forward and that will continue to accelerate as we move towards the full transfer after constitution and elections.
QUESTION: On that one point, though, so that means that although the Governing Council holds the Iraqi sovereignty, you could still, say, veto their objection to Turkish troops?
MR. BOUCHER: That's -- I don't --
QUESTION: Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: That's a hypothetical, but that involves --
QUESTION: Well, I'm just trying to get -- what is the authority, the authority that they have as the sovereign -- as holder --
MR. BOUCHER: No. You can't -- you can't intermingle too much the concepts of sovereignty and authority. There's a question of --
QUESTION: Well, apparently you haven't. I mean, exactly. That's the point.
MR. BOUCHER: The sovereignty of Iraq resides in the state of Iraq. Okay? That is a preambular statement that everyone accepts as true.
QUESTION: But any decisions regarding that sovereignty is going to be made by you?
MR. BOUCHER: The Governing Council and its minister are the principal bodies of the Iraqi Interim Administration, which embodies the sovereignty of the state of Iraq during the transitional period until an internationally recognized representative government is established and assumes the responsibilities of the authority.
QUESTION: But, so they have sovereignty, but no authority?
MR. BOUCHER: They embody the sovereignty as they take on more and more authority.
QUESTION: What are you doing --
MR. BOUCHER: We were still finishing off on this.
QUESTION: In the last couple of days, the last few days, Israel destroyed hundreds of Palestinian --
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to --
QUESTION: I'm just --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's -- we've got two or three changes of subject that come first. Anybody else want to ask about the Iraq resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: No? Okay. We're going to have to Bolivia first, and then we'll go to the Syria fence resolution, and then we'll come back over here.
QUESTION: What is your comments regarding the level of violence in Bolivia? And also, what the United States think about the people is calling for the resignation of the President?
MR. BOUCHER: First, I would note that we put out a statement on that yesterday, so I believe you probably have that already -- what we said yesterday. But just to repeat some of it, we're deeply concerned about the events in Bolivia. These are undermining -- these events are undermining constitutional order and democratic values and have led to a tragic loss of life. We repeat our call to Bolivians to reject confrontation that could lead to more violence.
Respect for constitutional guarantees and the rule of law are fundamental to democracy and government. We fully support the Organization of American States Permanent Council Resolution 849 that appeals to all political and social sectors in Bolivia to contribute through dialogue and negotiation to preserving the stability of the country and the restoration of public order.
I think that pretty much answers the question. As far as the issue of the calls for resignation, our support is for the constitutional process and for the constitutionally founded government in Bolivia. We think those are important to respect and to support.
QUESTION: What is your position with respect to the decision by the President of Bolivia to stop the gas exports to the U.S. and Mexico? You are one of the countries to be affected. Do you think it is a good idea of the President to try to --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know we've had any specific comment on the gas decision. I'll have to see if we have anything on that. But on the fundamental issue of support for constitutional order and the established government based on that order, we think constitutional processes need to be respected by all.
QUESTION: On Greece?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Syria resolution.
QUESTION: Syria resolution. Is it alive yet, and if so, will the United States veto it?
MR. BOUCHER: The resolution by Syria was discussed this morning at the United Nations. I think Ambassador Negroponte addressed the Council in open session on the subject. He noted that the United States has been involved intensely in the implementation of the roadmap. We're not as far along in that process as we had hoped, largely due to the terrorist bombings and the failure to dismantle the organizations and infrastructure that encouraged those acts.
The parties have a responsibility to bring peace to the Middle East. Ending terrorism must be a highest priority. So we think that any resolution on the Middle East should take into account the larger picture, the picture of the security situation, including the devastating suicide attacks that Israelis have had to endure over the past three years.
Our views on the Israeli fence have been clear as well. We've stated those many times; Ambassador Negroponte repeated them again today. So we've basically said that we don't believe a Security Council resolution that's focused solely on the fence furthers the goals of peace and security in the region. That's the state of play today. We've made those statements in the Council. I don't have any final outcome yet to see what will happen with the resolution.
Okay. Where were we? Here. You were going to --
QUESTION: Yeah. The last few days Israel destroyed over a hundred houses in Gaza Strip. Amnesty International describes that as a war crime. Do you see it this way? What's your comment? Also, to bring the total houses destroyed during the last three years to 4,000.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer for us has to be that we continue to be very concerned about terrorism. We understand Israel's need to defend itself. We've also said that Israel needs to consider the consequences of its actions. And I think that's really all we have to stay about those particular events.
QUESTION: Well, I'm just surprised at this kind of standard recitation. Were you expect -- should we expect something more, maybe later on in the day about this? You seem to be paging through --
MR. BOUCHER: I just want to make sure I had the right page. I told you everything there is. I told you everything there is to say today on the subject.
QUESTION: So this is language that you guys have worked up for today?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep. That's what we have to say today on the subject.
QUESTION: Richard, how does demolishing houses contribute to self-defense?
MR. BOUCHER: As I've said before, I think the questions of demolishing houses in extrajudicial manners have been dealt with by Israeli courts. Our understanding of this incursion, is their objective is to blow up tunnels that have been used to smuggle arms.
QUESTION: And if their house is in the way, then what --
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to deal with that, if that proves to be true.
QUESTION: Do you think they have an obligation to re-house these people?
MR. BOUCHER: As we have said, they need to consider the consequences of their actions --
QUESTION: But they don't seem to --
MR. BOUCHER: -- but they do fundamentally have a right to defend themselves.
QUESTION: You -- State hasn't said something about the Saudis having elections --
QUESTION: Can I just stay on Middle East? Also, the question of deportation of some, I think, 15 Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza. Did you prepare anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that, no.
QUESTION: How about any reaction to this alternate -- alternative peace plan that seems to have been drawn up by some well-meaning ex-officio --
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, it's a track two, as they call it, effort; it has no official status. It's really a private initiative and not something that we or any other official -- officials are involved with. Our view is that we need to continue to pursue the President's vision of two states, that the roadmap is the best way to move forward on that, and that continues to be where we put our emphasis.
QUESTION: Okay, so you -- I mean, this obviously does continue looking towards the President's vision, which I might say has been the vision of pretty much everyone else for some time. But is it -- I mean, are you saying, flatly saying out ahead, I mean, this is nice, they can run off and do whatever they want in their own little corner, but we are not going to have anything to do with it and we are going to stay with the roadmap?
MR. BOUCHER: We've not been part of this. It is private. It's separate. Our view is that the roadmap is the way forward, and that's what we'll continue to work on.
QUESTION: Do you care to say anything about the Saudi Arabians?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about the Saudi Arabians, the elections.
MR. BOUCHER: We welcome yesterday's decision by the Government of Saudi Arabia to hold municipal elections within one year. We support any initiative that leads to greater participation of all elements of Saudi society in political life.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any comment on the report based from an Iranian opposition group, also part of a Foreign Terrorist Organization, according to the State Department, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which talks about Iran having yet another nuclear facility?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've seen the press accounts. I think they've said they would reveal shortly some details about another undisclosed Iranian nuclear facility. What's clear, I think, to all of us, based on the reports the International Atomic Energy Agency has already prepared, is that Iraq has not fully disclosed --
MR. BOUCHER: -- Iran has not fully disclosed its nuclear programs. The IAEA is asking them to do so. We think the Agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, should take into account all information from all sources and look at it carefully as they proceed with their inspections. They have continued to carry out rigorous inspections of Iran's nuclear activities, and so we look forward to seeing their reporting once they have been able to complete that task, in accordance with the resolution that the Board of Governors passed.
QUESTION: Yeah, another on Iran. It has been -- the Iranians have said that they have a number of al-Qaida detainees in custody. There is a story in today's Washington Post that suggested that these people were not really in custody, or, if in custody, were still being allowed to have contacts with other al-Qaida members and to be involved in terrorist operations.
What is our understanding of the status of the al-Qaida detainees?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything I can share with you on that. I think we have said all along that there was considerable questions about what kind of custody they might have been in. There have been repeated statements like this from the Iranians, but not much clarification as to their status nor whether they were being transferred to countries that might be interested in them for investigative purposes.
QUESTION: So we don't know --
QUESTION: Richard, can I follow up?
QUESTION: We don't know?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any answers for you.
QUESTION: On Iran, I imagine you'd be quite interested in what the Mujaheddin have, or claim to have, on the nuclear facility. Have you asked them for a preview of their --
MR. BOUCHER: We do not have any contact with the National Council for Resistance because they are a front organization for the MEK.
QUESTION: But even if they have important information, you would not --
MR. BOUCHER: They said they intended to make it public. We think that all information needs to be considered by the IAEA. But as far as we're concerned, they're a terrorist organization and we don't have any contact with them.
QUESTION: Do you think that Israel has the right to strike against Iran nuclear facilities as self-defense?
MR. BOUCHER: That's such a vague and hypothetical question, I don't -- no way I can deal with it.
QUESTION: There are some reports citing U.S. intelligence that this Al Quds Force, or also called the Jerusalem Force, is part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, may be the ones sheltering these al-Qaida members, including one of Usama bin Laden's sons. Is there -- what is the U.S. trying to do to secure, through the Iranians, access to these people? Can you say anything about this Jerusalem Force?
MR. BOUCHER: No. As far as what we're doing, I think we've made very consistently clear, especially since the May 12th bombing in Saudi Arabia, that the continued presence in Iran of senior officials of terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, was a significant cause of concern for us as well as for other people in the region, and that they should cooperate with countries that are conducting investigations of al-Qaida's activities, including the May 12th bombing.
QUESTION: Do you believe that Usama bin Laden's son is one the al-Qaida leaders that --
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be able to comment on that. Sorry.
QUESTION: On that, do you believe that President Khatami is not in control of some of these, these possible forces, like -- like just mentioned, Jerusalem Force? Do you not hold him responsible for their actions?
MR. BOUCHER: I have no way of speculating on internal Iranian politics, but obviously the Government of Iran is responsible for what happens in Iran.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, in October 2nd, you release a press release redesigning to a Foreign Terrorist Organization. You listed the 25 group. In this, one of them is the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party. But, unfortunately, the old list carry only their new name, but the new list doesn't have any new name -- KADEK. Do you change? Do you --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it does. I'll double-check the exact --
QUESTION: No, this is the list.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I'll double-check the Federal Register notice. We' not necessarily have listed all the aliases, but we call PKK-KADEK, I mean, as if both are -- both are the same thing. There's no change in our --
QUESTION: Because, you know, the European Union, they recognizes the PKK as a terrorist organization, but the KADEK not.
MR. BOUCHER: We view them as the same organization, just two names.
QUESTION: And second part of that is yesterday, several of the U.S. newspaper published a report that some CIA and State Department officials contact in Iraq, northern Iraq, with the PKK elements. Can you confirm on this contact?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't.
QUESTION: Richard, this morning, Pakistan set off a third missile test, with a missile that apparently can fly roughly 435 miles, if need be, into India.
MR. BOUCHER: This is the latest in a series of ballistic missile tests. As we've said before, we urge Pakistan and other countries in the region to take steps to restrain their nuclear weapons and missile programs, including no operational deployment of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. We've also encouraged them to begin a dialogue on confidence-building measures that could reduce the likelihood that such weapons would ever be used. That kind of dialogue could be part of broader engagement to reduce tensions.
QUESTION: You said no deployment. But testing? Do you have a view of testing? Isn't testing a step toward deployment, or are they just looking at this?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, both sides have tested missiles, both sides have --
QUESTION: But Pakistan is the subject right now. Excuse me, we're asking about Pakistan.
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, both sides have tested missiles. We've restated what we think: each side has the same obligations. So we've said that specifically to Pakistan as well. But, you know, in addition to saying that they ought to handle these matters through restraint and dialogue, we've also made clear that no operational deployment of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles should be one of the tenets of how they proceed.
QUESTION: Richard, on a related matter. A report over the weekend that the Israelis are installing nuclear warheads, nuclear missiles on submarines. Do you know anything about that, and what would you think of such a development? Would that fall under your proliferation regime?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Could you look into it?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not the kind of subject we readily share information on, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Well, don't you talk about all kinds of WMD deployments and proliferation all time?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, what we may or may not know about this would not be something that I could say.
QUESTION: And similarly, Prime Minister Sharon says he believes that Libya is trying to develop nuclear weapons? Now, you haven't quite said that. Has anything changed?
MR. BOUCHER: Prime Minister Sharon said what?
QUESTION: That Libya is working on nuclear weapons?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on Libya. I'd refer you back to what we've said repeatedly about nuclear -- about Libya's attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: Can I ask something on Libya?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's let somebody else asking something, okay?
QUESTION: Thank you. For Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Yesterday, South Korean President Roh called for a referendum on December 15th. What is the reaction of the United States Government to that?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any particular reaction. That's well within his purview as President. It's a matter of internal politics for the South Koreans.
Yeah, okay. Sir.
QUESTION: Yes, in Cyprus, Special Coordinator for Cyprus, Mr. Weston predicted in the upcoming election the Turkish side, the opposition will be the winner. Is it normal, or do the State Department officials, the American officials, predict the upcoming elections results?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen his statement but we'll just -- we'll see what happens.
QUESTION: Burma? Burmese comments today that Suu Kyi is being held under a mutually agreed security arrangement.
MR. BOUCHER: You're kidding.
QUESTION: No. That's what they said.
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the statement, but I think it's rather clear to all of us that she's being held, that she is being held, and she and her followers are being held without their consent, in an arrangement that does not suit the interests of Burma, Burmese people, or the future of Burma in terms of reconciliation and democracy.
QUESTION: Back to the Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll get to the back sometime, I'm sorry. We have many disappointed people behind you.
QUESTION: Are we simply waiting around the Palestinians to consolidate a government before we do anything further to try to move this roadmap process further?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we've been in touch with the various parties, trying to move forward on this, trying to tell parties to consider their actions carefully at this moment, trying to get the parties to start looking at what they can do and should be doing right now to move forward. But we also recognize that the kind of serious steps on terrorism, serious steps to dismantle terrorist groups need to be taken on the Palestinian side, require people in authority to take hold of the reins of the security services, and to act, and forming a government is obviously part of that.
QUESTION: And so that as long as the situation is as confused as it is, you would not expect any progress?
MR. BOUCHER: No. You asked me if we were simply waiting, and I said no. You ask me if we don't expect any progress, and I'll say no. Is there -- there is still an attempt on our part to keep in touch with the parties and try to keep things pointed in the right direction, if not moving, moving forward as best we can. But we recognize that forming a Palestinian Government that has the commitment and the authority and the resources to act against terrorism is a key step that needs to be taken.
Okay. Lady in the back.
QUESTION: So what we should (inaudible) that Asian countries (inaudible) very much in addition to the missile tests. We know that PRC is going to launch the first manned spacecraft this week. And also, according to Washington Times, Pentagon proved that PRC is going to have a big, a large exercise in Fujian, and the target is Taiwan.
So do you see these two events together, combined together, as a signal of a threat to, or unstable factor to the cross-strait relation, even the Sino-U.S. relations?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a matter of pure political speculation, and I'm afraid I just can't join you in that. I'm not in a position to do that kind of analysis from here.
QUESTION: Does United -- U.S. Government concerned this kind of emerging military capability of PRC, especially in terms of the Asian security strategy?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always taken into account China's military and security developments as we've considered our obligation to help the -- meet the legitimate defensive needs of the people in Taiwan. Certainly, we take into account military capabilities as we look at the overall regional strategy. But whether those particular two events are in any way related, or demonstrative of some change or increase in strategy, that's something that you guys can do the speculation on. I'm not in that business. Okay?
QUESTION: On Greece, Mr. Boucher, Greek reporter, Mr. Delatolas, on behalf of the Greek Foreign Ministry, yesterday made the following announcement to the Greek media: "U.S. Secretary Colin Powell is going to visit officially Athens on October 22nd, flying direct from Bangkok." And a senior diplomat of the Greek Embassy here in Washington, D.C., last Friday sent to this effect a crypto-cable to Athens confirming Mr. Powell's visit.
Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Not at all? Nothing?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Is he going to --
MR. BOUCHER: He's going to Bangkok, and he's going to Madrid.
QUESTION: Stopping in Athens?
MR. BOUCHER: If there's any stops in between, we'd tell you when they're decided.
QUESTION: Is he going to Athens, yes or no?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't answer that question at this point, I'm sorry. We don't have that kind of information.
QUESTION: So the answer is no?
MR. BOUCHER: No, the answer's not necessarily no. The answer is, can't answer it yet.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is not yes yet, it's not no yet.
QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure. You have somewhere else you want to know if he's going?
QUESTION: Will he meet with the Turkish Foreign Minister --
QUESTION: In Athens?
MR. BOUCHER: In Athens?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't even know -- how do you know he's going to be in Athens?
QUESTION: Because the minister will be there at the time.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on the Secretary's travel.
Okay. Young lady in there had a question.
QUESTION: On the IFJ --
MR. BOUCHER: On the what?
QUESTION: International Federation of Journalists.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: When civilians are killed during a war, it's considered a war crime under the Geneva Convention. But the International Federation of Journalists says journalists need more protection. Does the U.S. feel that the journalists have enough protection under the Geneva Convention?
QUESTION: Or too much?
QUESTION: Good question.
MR. BOUCHER: That's an uncalled for comment, but --
QUESTION: She thought of it herself.
MR. BOUCHER: It's not an easy question to answer. It involves legal aspects of the Geneva Convention. It also involves the kind of dangerous work that journalists do. And I -- all I can tell you is I know that U.S. forces, when we go into combat, do everything possible to protect journalists, but it's not always possible to do everything to make sure they don't come to harm. So it's a combination of the legal protections, the protections that our Army can give, but also the kind of work that they are called on to do, and therefore, I'm afraid, not an easy one to give you a definitive answer on.
QUESTION: Okay. So I noticed that the U.S. did not sign the 1977 Geneva Convention Additional Protocols that even allow protection of civilians in combat.
MR. BOUCHER: That's something I have not had a chance to research. I'll have to look for you to see if there's anything to say.
QUESTION: Last week, President Bush accuse the Government of Cuba to promote illicit sex trade. Have you seen Fidel Castro encouraging teenagers to go out to the streets of Havana? What kind of evidence you have of that accusation?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's something that's been dealt with in our previous reports on Trafficking in Persons -- the Cuban Government attitude towards that -- so I don't think I have any additional detail for you at this time.
QUESTION: Back to Korea for a second, and I don't really expect much of an answer, but just to get it out there.
MR. BOUCHER: Try me.
QUESTION: The Secretary mentioned on Friday that you were looking at this kind of multilateral security assurance type of a deal and that you'd be sharing your ideas based on these 80 years of previous -- or models that have spanned 80 years in time. I'm wondering if you've begun that process of sharing it, if that's something that the President and the Secretary are going to be doing at APEC, or if this idea -- if your ideas have gotten any further along.
MR. BOUCHER: There's nothing more to say about the ideas, the models, the possibilities. We're examining all the options. We are in contact with our friends and allies. We are sharing our views on this issue, but at this point, it's premature to speculate on how this might all come out.
QUESTION: Okay. I've got --
MR. BOUCHER: Another?
QUESTION: Yeah. These are real quick ones. I noticed that Ambassador Haass, in his incarnation as the President's Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, is over there right now. Does he report back to this build at all any more, or does he go directly to the White House?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure he does all the time, but let me double-check.
QUESTION: Okay. And --
QUESTION: He's still the envoy, Richard?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep. He's still in Northern Ireland.
QUESTION: And the last one. What's going on with the Portuguese Foreign Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll double-check on that one for you.
QUESTION: You said it was another subject. I'm curious what's going on with Portugal.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll double-check.
QUESTION: Richard, another. Do you have anything about the visit to Vietnam next week by Ambassador Hanford?
MR. BOUCHER: He's going to Laos and Vietnam. I'll get you details later.
QUESTION: Who is going?
MR. BOUCHER: Ambassador Hanford, the Religious Freedom Envoy -- Special Envoy for Religious Freedom -- Ambassador. I can't remember the exact title. I'll get that for you, too. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Issues. Thank you, Jonathan.
QUESTION: Richard, a former head of the NTV television network, which was a commercial network in Russia, has been -- they've tried to extradite him. He's in a Greek court, and the Greek court in Athens says they won't extradite him. Is this a view that State Department approves?
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- if this is the gentleman I'm thinking of -- he's was -- yeah, he was previously in other places, courts have made similar decisions, and we've always said it's a matter for the courts to decide.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on the North Korean ones.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Secretary's comment on Friday, also he say that he's going to presenting a kind of idea on security assurance in due course. That means a kind of -- he's going to -- U.S. side's going to present this kind of basic idea of the time of next round of talk of six-party?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, at this point we're sharing our views and our ideas with our allies. We're talking to them about it, so it's a little premature to me to say how that will come out and when it might -- when more might be done.
Yeah. We have one more in the back.
QUESTION: Change of subject to Colombia.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: U.S. has issued a reward of a (inaudible) try to find the Americans that were kidnapped. On that reward, are you going to start a campaign to promote that information in Colombia? If that is the case, when and how long that campaign is going to --
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is yes, but let me get you the -- more details. Okay?
(The briefing was concluded at 1:43 p.m.)
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