State Department Noon Briefing, April 13, 2004
|Tuesday April 13,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 2004
12:40 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. A pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Cyprus briefly? I know you said on this and other subjects you're not going to debate officials every day on every point, but Turkey's top general has spoken out now and he finds problems, too, with the agreement.
The arrangement with the European Union, which we won't get into -- it's complex -- but he said there'll be some 82,000 refugees.
Now, you ticked off some positive -- things that State Department said is positive in the agreement. Is there going to be some massive refugee problem? Is it possible to reopen negotiations to deal with specific problems without upsetting the applecart?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think we've said before in our statements, this, the settlement, involves compromises from both sides. It has distinct and identifiable advantages for both sides, as well. And yes, there are some people who would move under the agreement.
The important thing, I think, is that there is a deal on the table that presents distinct advantages and benefits to both sides, to both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, that lets them get together and get the benefits together of membership in the European Union, that lets some people regain their homes, that lets Turkish Cypriots have a defined status in the -- on the island, and in a whole number of other areas solves many of the longstanding problems that people have faced.
It does not satisfy every need and every desire that each community has had or that everybody in each community has had but, on the basics of it, it addresses the issues that people have been most concerned about for a long time.
What the question does point out is that there needs to be an opportunity for careful and full implementation, and indeed, we are very committed to that -- that the agreement does have aspects where people have to move and lines need to be drawn and certain things need to be carried out on schedule. And the international community, and particularly the United States, is very committed to ensuring that this plan works, that all the parties to it fulfill their commitments, that we at the -- that we -- the international community provide the assistance necessary to help people; and indeed, there's a conference being held tomorrow to start working on that, a pre-donors conference -- sorry, in Brussels on the 15th, then, to do that, in terms of the international assistance.
We will be working with others at the United Nations to ensure Security Council support for the implementation of this plan. And so we agree that all the measures in the plan need to be carried out with the appropriate and complete support of the international community and that issues like people moving need to be handled according to the plan, but with the full support of the community, and we're committed to that.
QUESTION: The President called the Greek Prime Minister yesterday. Have you heard whether that brought any results?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'd have to ask the Greek Government if there is any change in their position, or anything more they want to say on the subject.
QUESTION: What's the U.S. role going to be at the pre-donors conference?
MR. BOUCHER: We will go and make a substantial commitment. I think that's the point that we're at right now. We intend to make a significant pledge. We also are in touch with other potential donors and participants already to encourage them to go and to make a significant pledge, and to show the support of the international community for this historic agreement.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea what that significant pledge is going to be?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm prepared to say at this moment.
QUESTION: And is this a significant pledge that would -- well, by practical terms, I mean this is a pledge that if the referendum fails, doesn't -- it's null and void?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a pledge to the implementation of the agreement. If the agreement is not being implemented, then I'm not sure the money would be necessary.
QUESTION: For the last couple of months, the Secretary has been saying, giving his assurances to Kofi Annan and to others, that he will be personally involved in this whole kind of thing. And I know that he has made a lot of phone calls. Is there some reason why he's not going to go to represent the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think the conference is being held at that level. I would say the Secretary has offered, has been actively in support of this conference, this process all along. He's talked again today with the Secretary General about it. He's talked to the leader -- one of the Turkish Cypriot leaders, Mr. Talat, about securing approval.
Again, today he did that. He'll be making other phone calls, in touch with other leaders, as well as, as I said, with our diplomacy, sending messages to other governments about contributing and supporting the plan.
QUESTION: One question on the significant pledge you're going to make. Do you have that money already at hand? Was it approved last year, or is it money you're going to have to seek from the Congress?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. I think when we announce it, we'll try to explain the funding sources.
QUESTION: You expect to announce it on Thur -- what's today, Tuesday?
QUESTION: But that it will be announced there? And who is representing the U.S. at that?
MR. BOUCHER: Ambassador -- AID Administrator Natsios and Ambassador Weston will travel to Brussels. The European Commission, I guess, is hosting the conference.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq? Kofi Annan said today that because the security situation is so bad that he no longer foresees sending in any large UN team, he said, in the foreseeable future. Has that come out in conversations between him and Secretary Powell? And what do you -- what's your reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see the exact quote. I'm not sure it was precisely what you said, though, at least the way it was relayed to me.
We always know that the security situation is an important part of consideration, particularly for the United Nations, given what they've experienced in Iraq. At the same time, I think it's worth remembering that the United Nations is playing an important role, a vital role. Ambassador Brahimi is currently in Baghdad. He's been working with the coalition authorities, with members of the Governing Council, and with Iraqis from throughout the society to try to put together some plans for an interim government.
We have very much supported his effort, very much pleased to be working with him on that in that regard. And I think as he proceeds with this, we'll let him talk himself about what he's accomplishing and what his ideas and plans might be. But I think you'll see that the United Nations is indeed moving the ball forward on the political issues, even while we deal with other issues of security and things like that.
QUESTION: Let me read you his direct quote: "For the foreseeable future, insecurity is going to be a major constraint for us and so I cannot say right now that I am going to be sending in a large UN team." I think that's pretty much what I said.
MR. BOUCHER: It's a factual statement in that way that you read it. Insecurity --
MR. BOUCHER: -- security is always a consideration in how big a team they send in. But I guess the question is: Does he need to send in a big UN team to accomplish something important? And my answer would be that there are important things being done by the United Nations right now without sending in a big UN team, although we recognize that as we move closer, for example, to the full elections that would be held at the end of the year or early next year, that there needs to be larger teams from the UN.
QUESTION: Would that be -- to follow up on Teri, would that be construed as a setback if he said that in terms of the turnover date on June 30th?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Again, once -- there are -- there are many things the UN can do in Iraq, and certainly, the more people they feel comfortable sending in, the better. But at the same time, there's a lot of movement at this stage on the role of the United Nations. There's movement being promoted and worked on by the United Nations with Mr. Brahimi in Baghdad right now that can be accomplished, I think, in the present -- even in the present security environment.
QUESTION: He actually -- Annan actually said that Brahimi has had so much trouble with his mission on the ground right now, that that's one of the reasons why he draws this conclusion.
MR. BOUCHER: It has -- the security situation makes many things more difficult. At the same time, we are moving forward. We are moving forward in, you know, everything from electricity, to turning over ministries to the Iraqis, to moving forward on the political situation; and the efforts of Mr. Brahimi, I think, show that.
QUESTION: On the U.S. side (inaudible) a quick question? Real quick. Do have an estimate of how many of the people that would man the embassy have actually been sent to Baghdad?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not at this point.
QUESTION: Is it a fraction at this point? A small fraction or --
MR. BOUCHER: It's -- everything is a fraction if it's not the whole.
QUESTION: Sure, even 98 percent.
MR. BOUCHER: It may be a big fraction or it may be a little fraction. I don't have an estimate now.
QUESTION: Because it goes to, of course, the question of how much preparation has been made and --
MR. BOUCHER: A lot of preparation has been made. We already have a lot of people in Iraq from the State Department, people who might man an embassy. Exactly how many of those people are on tours that take them beyond July 1st, I just don't know at this point. How many of those specific individuals will remain through July 1st, I don't know. But we are well underway with the planning in standing up the future U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Richard, on the security situation, do you have any better handle or any different handle on the -- the number of Americans who are missing or that you know are being held?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any more detail than, I think, the military offered yesterday and I repeated here, that we know of seven Americans who are missing, and indeed, the State Department has been in touch with seven families of Americans who are missing.
We are following up actively on the ground. I think if you look at the Coalition briefing this morning, they talked about the efforts they have underway to identify the situation of these people who are missing, who might be holding them, what their situation might be. The FBI is involved on the ground out there. And so there is a lot of effort being put into securing their release or looking at -- at -- to their welfare.
There are other hostages or people being -- missing from other countries. I think the estimate at one point was 40, although we keep getting -- seeing confirmation that some of those folks have been released. We are in touch with other governments about people that they know to be missing. Many governments have contacted us. Many governments are in direct contact with the Coalition Authority in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Do you know -- has there been, perhaps, this -- the person who is doing this is already there, but the person who was the Consul in Baghdad has either left or is leaving in the next few days, the tour being over. Is there someone new there?
MR. BOUCHER: I think there is a new Consular Officer. I don't know how new, but there is a different one than the one I knew about a month or two ago.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the last thing.
A number of countries -- Portugal, Russia, France -- have told -- have issued messages to their citizens who may be in Iraq, saying that they should -- saying they should leave. These would be people who are working for various companies in reconstruction.
Does the United States -- is that something that you guys are thinking of -- of doing? Because it seems to me that while the situation may be bad, a message telling Americans to leave would severely hamper reconstruction efforts on the ground and it may be the result --
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, as far as security goes, we will give our citizens the best advice we can. I don't have a copy with me of the current travel advisory, but I think you'll see that it does not -- it points out very clearly to Americans who might be considering going there that the situation is of times unstable and dangerous, particularly in certain parts of the country, including the parts of the country where the security situation has been a problem in the last week or two.
As far as other governments go, they do have to give their citizens the best advice. Different people go under different circumstances. Many Americans are either part of the military or working with military operations, and therefore have better protection, for example, than somebody who is out working on a factory somewhere might have. And so some nationalities may find that they have a lot of, you know, civilian workers who are out there somewhere.
So different countries will give different advice to their nationals, although generally, I think all of us recognize that it's a difficult and dangerous situation. People need to be -- look, first and foremost, to their security.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, Richard, you said we know of seven Americans who are missing. That includes -- or I'm asking. That includes one that we know of, because visually he's been taken hostage. The other six, do you assume they are hostages, or do you have any information on the other six?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific information on the other six. We do know of one American who is being held hostage, that we know for sure because of the video and other things that have come out. But I don't have a rundown on the situation of the others.
QUESTION: Can you clarify for us if a company, if an American company wants to pull out of Iraq, would they come to the State Department and say, "We want to pull out"?
Like if Halliburton -- it was rumored yesterday that they're pulling out, or their subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root. Would they come to you, or how would they go about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they would -- nobody has to check with us before they come and go. They do coordinate travel arrangements with the coalition authorities. If they have a contract that they want to somehow change or alter, then that would be with the contracting office. But I'm not aware of any plans like that that people have at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, why do you think that the release of some countries' hostages, like the three Japanese, are preconditioned with the withdrawal of troops while other countries' hostages are just kind of let go without any conditions at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea. Hostage-taking is reprehensible in every way and I don't pretend to understand the motives or the explanations for what hostage-takers might do. I just can't -- I can't explain it. It's an action that we're firmly opposed to and we'll do everything possible to look after the welfare of Americans who might be taken hostage and to cooperate and work with other governments whose nationals might be taken hostage.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: Reportedly, the Vietnamese Government has used some tough tactics against Christian protestors in the central part of the country, and incidentally, I think an American embassy team was barred from going up there.
MR. BOUCHER: We have been trying to obtain information on incidents that have been reported in the Central Highlands. We've heard about recent demonstration in Dak Lak and Gia Lai provinces. We have been trying to obtain access to the area, but as far as I know, we have not received such access at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, Prime Minister Sharon is quoted as having said that Israel will keep some major settlements in the West Bank for all of eternity. Do you have a comment on that? Do you regard that as helpful?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular comment. There are a number of issues that will be discussed with Prime Minister Sharon when he comes tomorrow, and we look forward to those discussions. We do recognize that there is historic opportunity here with the announced plans to withdraw from Gaza. There are also a number of issues that will be discussed during the course of this visit, and I'm sure we all look forward to those discussions.
QUESTION: Is it still your view that issues like the disposition of settlements in the West Bank should ultimately be resolved through negotiations between the parties?
MR. BOUCHER: It's our view that in order to achieve the vision of two states living side by side, we need to continue to follow, to work with, the roadmap and the issues there; and that issues involving final status, like the one you're mentioning, would involve negotiation between the parties, yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, on this issue, the President still adheres to the fact that his commitment calls for non-preempting the final outcome in terms of having a contiguous or a viable Palestinian state.
MR. BOUCHER: His commitment is to try to achieve the vision through implementation of the roadmap. That includes negotiation of the final status issues between the parties.
QUESTION: Okay. But he also calls for a state that is, you know, that is viable, which is contiguous.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick with the language in the roadmap. I'm not making up new language today.
QUESTION: Will Sharon get support from the Administration for his disengagement plan?
MR. BOUCHER: We will -- as I said, we'll discuss with him what we think are the opportunities presented by the plan and some of the issues raised by the plan, and those discussions will take place tomorrow with the President.
QUESTION: Richard --
QUESTION: You're discussing the opportunities and some of the issues? That would be what? Negative -- potential negative things, when you say issues?
MR. BOUCHER: There are a variety of things that can be discussed involving the plan.
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MR. BOUCHER: I do want to make clear, as I think the U.S. Government has made clear, that the prospect of an Israeli withdrawal from significant territory and the Palestinian administration of Gaza is really an opportunity to move forward, and that we want to try to take advantage of this opportunity, we want to move forward with all the parties towards the President's vision. We think this can move us down the road that's described in the roadmap in terms of looking forward to reaching a settlement. So there are issues that arise as we discuss this, but the key element here, I think, is to say that we do have opportunities to move forward here.
The Secretary has been making phone calls with a number of his colleagues, other Foreign Ministers today, to talk about the meetings that we've been having, the meetings we're going to have with Prime Minister Sharon, the meeting we had with President Mubarak. He's talked today about the situation in the Middle East with Secretary General Annan, Foreign Minister Fischer, with Foreign Minister Lavrov, Foreign Minister Muasher of Jordan, and I think he'll continue to talk to others about the opportunities here.
QUESTION: Well, that sounds to me like the strongest that you guys have come out in favor of this idea; is it not?
MR. BOUCHER: No. But I think it's a point that's often lost that we do see an opportunity here, and we see a historic opportunity to move forward. The return of territory to Palestinian control is a significant development that we want to be able to take advantage of within the context of the roadmap and the desire of all of us to move forward towards the President's vision.
QUESTION: So can you be even a tad more specific about the issues that concern you about how this plan might get in the way of -- get in the way of what's called for in the roadmap?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not, I think, in a position to outline how those discussions will proceed tomorrow. As you know, we've had a number of back-and-forth discussions with the Israelis, delegations back and forth, where we've gone through any number of questions that we've had. Many of those things have been discussed extensively already with the Israelis. To what extent they may or may not come up tomorrow, I can't predict at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, could you give us an update on where you think the roadmap stands? I mean, it was introduced quite a while ago, but for months we've talked -- or, at least in this Sharon plan, talking about how this might complement or contradict the roadmap. But, you know, where are things with the roadmap? It doesn't really seem as if -- as if there's much action on the roadmap for this Sharon plan to get in the way of it either way.
MR. BOUCHER: The roadmap remains, I think, the definition of the way forward. It remains the definition of the steps that are required to make real progress in the Middle East and how to proceed towards the negotiated solution that we all desire.
The parties are committed to the roadmap -- the Palestinian side, the Israeli side. It has the support of the Quartet, obviously, as the Quartet produced the roadmap. It has the support of Arab governments. And it is seen, I think, by all of us as the way forward towards achieving two states living side by side.
It's important that we focus on all aspects of the implementation if there is an opportunity to move forward, but we also need everybody to play their part. And that includes something that we have reiterated again and again. That's the Palestinians taking steps against violence, which, as we've always said, is a key element in being able to really move forward with all the steps on the roadmap.
QUESTION: But which they don't seem to be doing. So, I mean, just to go back to what you said, the roadmap is more a definition of an idea of how you see a Palestinian state emerging rather than steps that either party is really taking. I mean, it's not really a roadmap if no one's going down the road, is it? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure I see the distinction. It's --
QUESTION: Well, you've had all these plans. You've had the Tenet plan, you've had the Mitchell plan, now you have the roadmap.
MR. BOUCHER: And they've all embodied many of the same issues, because there are certain objective series of steps: ending the violence, halting settlement activity, moving forward on negotiations on the big final status issues - a certain objective series of steps that have to be taken to arrive at a settlement.
The def -- the roadmap identified those steps and identifies how those steps can be used to move forward. It still, as I said, remains the accepted way by all the parties, with the support of outsiders, on how to move forward, and that's what we still hope to do. And we looked -- we look at everything that comes up in those terms, of do these steps -- are they part of the objective series of steps that's needed to move forward?
We think that there's an opportunity here with the Israeli discussion of withdrawal from Gaza. We also think that there remain responsibilities of all the parties in the roadmap, including, especially, the Palestinian responsibility to take steps to stop the violence.
QUESTION: On that point, you've talked about an opportunity with Israel's willingness to talk about withdrawing from Gaza. Do you have any reaction to Prime Minister Sharon's comments before he left about keeping certain settlement blocs on the West Bank?
MR. BOUCHER: I -- that's where we started ten minutes ago. I don't have any more reaction now.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. BOUCHER: Nor, actually, any more reaction than when I was asked yesterday about some of this.
QUESTION: Are you against or willing and ready to denounce any annexation of this West Bank land since the contradictory international law and UN resolutions, and there could -- any sympathy from the United States during the visit of Mr. Sharon toward this annexation of these settlements could radicalize the Arab street and make things worse.
Are you at least willing to admit that this kind of annexation, should it become true, that it would contradict the United Nations resolutions?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I think I have made clear that we see certain issues as final status issues that ultimately need to be negotiated between the parties. People will have views on those issues. The parties, themselves, will have views on the issues. Sometimes the outsiders have views on those issues. But ultimately, all those issues need to be settled through negotiation.
Second of all, I think we need to deal here with a real possibility, a real plan by the Israeli Government to return significant amounts of territory to the Palestinians and to withdraw settlements from Gaza. That is a potentially significant development. It's one that we've wanted to make sure we've understood fully in our discussions with the Israelis.
And in terms of people's reactions to -- to the events over the next few days, I think it's important to focus on what's really on the table, what's really being looked at, what's going to happen in terms of withdrawal from Gaza, and not speculate on the outcome of final status issues so much.
There are going to be a lot of views expressed on different issues, and we may, you know, for our part, say what we think about some of these things. But the reality on the table is this opportunity of a significant withdrawal from Gaza. That's been something the Palestinians and others have been looking for for a long time, and this is a prospect of getting it and moving us forward through the roadmap, moving us forward towards that vision of two states living side by side.
QUESTION: But Mr. Sharon was so obvious. I mean, he -- five largest settlements that he wants to annex. I mean, we're talking here not about Arab reaction to Gaza matter, but to this new development by Mr. Sharon's announcement.
MR. BOUCHER: All the parties have talked about what they want, what they would like to see, what they would like to negotiate, what their positions are. As I said, even the United States has talked about some of its views of these issues.
But in the end, those will have to be negotiated. So let's look at what can be achieved as we get to that point, and not speculate on the outcome of the final negotiation.
QUESTION: A final question. Daoud Kuttab, a prominent Palestinian peace activist, long advocating non-violence, wrote an op-ed piece today in The Washington Post, and called for an international multinational force to go in. Was that something that you would consider? It could be -- he says that it could be NATO-composed, or even better, U.S.-composed --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that. Our view on that remains what it's always been.
QUESTION: Kind of a long list here. I presume -- I think I probably know the answer to this question, but I'm going to ask it anyway.
MR. BOUCHER: Good. Tell me the answer, too, so I get it right. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The release of these two senior members of the NLD by the Burmese is a nice thing, but we would like to see Aung San Suu Kyi and the rest of the detained NLD people released as well.
MR. BOUCHER: We welcome these releases. We hope that they lead to further progress towards national reconciliation in Burma. However, we remain concerned that other senior National League for Democracy leaders, Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo, remain under house arrest and that Burmese officials have refused our request to see them.
We also remain concerned about the continued detention of the hundreds of others imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their political beliefs and we reiterate our call for their immediate and unconditional release.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more to say about the Times story today about the visit of A.Q. Khan to an underground nuclear weapon site in North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as specific visits and information about Mr. Khan, I think either -- well, I think that would have to come from him or the Pakistani Government. There are things about U.S. intelligence in there that, again, I can't get into.
On the general question, though, of North Korea and a nuclear weapons capability, I think you've heard us say for some time that North Korea has pursued and is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. In our view, there has been no question of this. It's been the longstanding intelligence community assessment that North Korea has produced one, possibly two, plutonium-based nuclear weapons.
We would note that Mr. Khan has admitted to assisting North Korea's enrichment program, and his admissions have put the lie to North Koreans' denials. We continue to follow closely all information about North Korea's nuclear program. North Korea has claimed to possess a nuclear deterrent, to have the capability to produce additional weapons, and we have to take those statements seriously.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied that you're getting access to all the information that you want from the Pakistani authorities on their debriefings of Khan?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have been working very closely with Pakistan to dismantle the A.Q. Khan network. That's been our primary goal. As the Secretary stated it during his visit there, we've been working very hard with them to do that.
QUESTION: But you don't want to say you're getting everything you want?
MR. BOUCHER: That's almost a judgment on how much has he said, and how much of it are we getting. I don't think I can quite make that judgment at this point.
QUESTION: Can we focus on North Korea? Last week -- or was it two weeks ago? -- at the non-TCOG TCOG, the three sides expressed hope that the working group meeting would take place before the end of the month. Is there any progress on that at all, or is that -- is that a --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any new news. As you know the Vice President is currently visiting China. I don't know if there will be any news coming out of there that they might have for him.
QUESTION: Sorry. Do you think that there might be?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know whether there might be news that the Chinese or others might have for him during the course of that visit. But I would just say that we remain interested in talks according to the schedule that was set at the last meeting, and that involves working group meetings. And I think we said last Friday we'd like to see those occur this month.
QUESTION: Still on Khan?
QUESTION: You're changing the subject?
QUESTION: No, I wanted to go back to Iraq.
QUESTION: Okay. On Khan, are you -- can you say whether the U.S. has received the information about Khan and just that you can't share it with us, or you don't know whether you know -- you don't know whether the U.S. knows that --
MR. BOUCHER: No, the United States has, in working with Pakistan on this whole network, has received significant amounts of information from Pakistan about the network, about Mr. Khan's activities, about the activities of his associates, about others who are involved; and that the Pakistanis, as we know, have also talked to the IAEA and perhaps other governments about various aspects of this situation. So yes, we have received information from them and we have received a lot of cooperation from them in terms of working together.
QUESTION: About this visit? About this reported visit to North Korea is what I --
MR. BOUCHER: About this particular visit that --
QUESTION: Yeah, that's what I was asking.
MR. BOUCHER: -- that's something that (a) I don't know; and two (b) I don't think I'd be able to go into.
QUESTION: Yeah, I've got two on Sudan, one on Darfur and one on the Naivasha talks.
Yesterday, you said that you were -- you were under the impression or that you believed that Khartoum -- the Sudanese Government and the pro-government militias were in violation of the truce, of the ceasefire, at least in the hours imminently ahead of when it was supposed to be implemented, and also, perhaps, afterwards. Is that still the case? Because it seems to me that the people who are supposed to be monitoring this, the people in Chad, have said that it's being scrupulously adhered to.
MR. BOUCHER: The -- first of all, I think what we said yesterday is we had reports of violence by militias that were associated with the government. We're not able to confirm those. In fact, we're still not in a position to really confirm specific reports of violence that we had yesterday.
I would note that the situation appears to have calmed down. At this point, it appears to be, I guess I'd say, scaling down. The violence appears to have diminished significantly.
We remain very interested in helping stand up this monitoring group. There's going to be a meeting -- I guess now the plan is for the African Union to hold the first meeting of the ceasefire commission early next week in Addis Ababa, and at that time, the composition of the civilian monitoring team will be established. We've offered logistical support to the monitoring team in order to speed up its implementation and we would hope to see it deployed by the end of next week.
At the same time, we're very concerned about the humanitarian situation there. We have talked about putting together a Disaster Assistance Team, and indeed, the team leader and an agricultural specialist are visiting Darfur today to try to identify the needs out there.
I would point out that through a variety of organizations, the United States has given something like $40 million worth of food and supplies to help people in the Darfur region since about last October, and that is something we'll continue to do to try to help.
QUESTION: Your logistical support is what?
QUESTION: Military transport, that kind of --
MR. BOUCHER: I can't define it further at this point. It will be what they need, but -- helping people get in and out.
QUESTION: Okay. And Naivasha, the SPLA just --
MR. BOUCHER: Naivasha, the talks continue. I think the situation is probably best described as saying the parties are really facing their final decisions at this moment. There is a few more issues, important issues on the table, but where each of the parties needs to find a way to reach agreement.
Our special advisor for the talks, Mr. Jeff Millington, is out there in Naivasha working with the parties. It's something that we follow closely back here, something the Secretary follows very closely, and we are encouraging the parties to make their final decisions and to come to final agreement.
QUESTION: Wait. Yesterday you said that you had pulled him out.
MR. BOUCHER: Over the weekend, the team leaders did leave, and I guess he's back now.
QUESTION: Well, so, does that -- I'm a little confused. And so there was a -- I mean, you said yesterday that he had left, in part, to show -- to send a message to the two sides that, look, hey, this is it. You make up, you know, make up your mind now, that's the deal. So what's changed?
MR. BOUCHER: And now he's gone back to send another message to the two sides that it's time to make the decisions.
QUESTION: Well, doesn't sending a message mean that you're still -- that you still see the -- that you still see room for --
MR. BOUCHER: The basic message from the United States remains the same, that it's time for them to make these final decisions, it's time for them to reach agreement.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to Cyprus for a second? You said the Secretary talked to a Turkish Cypriot leader today and there was a possibility of additional phone calls. If he calls Greek Cypriots or others related to this, can you make sure we know?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll try to get you the information by the end of the day.
QUESTION: Additional question on Sudan. Do you know anything about these militias that everybody talks about that the government is supporting? Are they --
MR. BOUCHER: The so-called Janjaweed. Yeah.
QUESTION: Are they different nationalities or --
MR. BOUCHER: I -- somebody around here knows the details. I don't actually know them myself. I'll see if there's anything we can get you.
QUESTION: Are they Sudanese?
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- let me check on it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to Iraq quickly, for one second? They say that the Japanese hostages are being held near Fallujah, and that ceasefire, does that involve the rescue operations of those Japanese hostages at all? Are you aware of anything like that?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot pole. I'm sorry. That's not the kind of question I could answer under any circumstances.
The situation around Fallujah, as you know, the general members of the Governing Council have been involved in trying to help calm the situation there. The United States military has implemented a ceasefire in that area and we're working with members of the Governing Council to try to see what can be done to calm the situation there.
There is also, I think, information -- you've seen some of it come out of the Coalition briefings in the last few days -- that what we're dealing with there is also -- is the presence of foreign fighters, foreign fighters and some Iraqis who've been working with them and supporting them. And it's important that this be not seen as some kind of confrontation between the general population and the Coalition, but rather, a presence of people who are trying to harm progress being made in Iraq towards a more democratic and independent state. So we're trying to deal with that overall situation in conjunction with the Iraqis, particularly members of the Governing Council who can help.
As far as the hostages and specifically who's holding them where, which groups, what can be done to help get them out, that's really not anything I can comment on. The people in Baghdad are working on it as best they can. As I said, we're in touch with other governments, but it's not something I can discuss in any specific terms.
QUESTION: Richard, one last question on Iraq. General Abizaid today suggested that they may go back to some former Army commanders and so on. Could you give us --
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have anything new on that.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:18 p.m.)
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