State Department Noon Briefing, April 16, 2004
|Friday April 16,
U.S. Department of State
FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2004
1:05 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here and I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Aside from congratulating the South Korean people, do you have anything to say about the election?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's not fair. Give me a chance to congratulate the South Korean people, if you wouldn't mind. (Laughter.)
We congratulate the South Korean people and all those elected to the 17th Republic of Korea National Assembly. We look forward to continuing our work with the Republic of Korea Government, including the new Assembly, and we look forward to further strengthening our bilateral relationship and to developing our global partnership with South Korea.
QUESTION: Richard, I hate to do this, but I'm going to anyway.
MR. BOUCHER: I know you are. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You, the Secretary and the President today have spent the last 48 hours basically trying to convince people, particularly Arabs, that what was -- what the President announced on -- two days ago was not a change in U.S. policy and that everything is still up to final status negotiations regarding refugees and the settlements in the West Bank.
And I'm just wondering, in light of this, do you really think it was worth it to sow such confusion and risk and get the wrath of the Arab world to do this, that there really was no change?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't think we've said completely no change. We've said we have taken some positions on final status issues, some of these final status issues that we had not taken as the U.S. Government before, although the ideas had been out there in the previous negotiations.
But we have said, ultimately, it's not the U.S. position that matters; it's what the parties agree to in final status negotiations. And we have talked extensively yesterday, but there have been other cases on final status issues where the United States has taken a position. And, obviously, that has an influence on the future of negotiations. But it doesn't determine the outcome; the outcome is determined by the parties.
Do I think -- do we think it's worth it? Absolutely. Because we think it's worth taking every opportunity to move forward. We think the prospect of real withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza and some from the West Bank is an opportunity to move forward to peace.
As the President said, it's a way to move forward on the roadmap; it's a way to move forward towards the President's vision of two states. And that is a significant opportunity, and perhaps, the only significant opportunity that's come up recently, and we think it's important for us and others to take advantage of that.
We are, as I know we discussed yesterday, intent on moving forward. That is the focus of our conversations now with the parties, with people in the Arab world, with people in Europe, and we will look for ways to make -- to make the most of this opportunity to ensure that it really happens by working with the Israeli Government; to ensure that the Palestinians are in a position to act responsibly or to install responsible government in those areas, as the Palestinian Authority. There will be assistance from a variety of sources to help them do that; to make sure the Palestinians are in a position to maintain security, and there will be a variety of people helping them do that; to discuss the issues that arise, whether they have to do with property or border crossings or other things, as we proceed down that road. But we think it's worth it. We think it's worth the effort to move forward and to make sure that this really happens.
QUESTION: And just one related, this will brief. The -- you haven't officially announced that the Secretary is going to be going to Germany, but there is talk in Brussels today from Mr. Solana that there will be a Quartet meeting in Berlin right around the time that the OSCE conference is going on.
MR. BOUCHER: I think --
QUESTION: Is that the first --
MR. BOUCHER: A couple of things on that. First, is you're right. We haven't officially announce that the Secretary is going to the OSCE conference, but I think the Secretary's a number of times he looked forward to going --
QUESTION: Yeah, but my question is about the Quartet.
MR. BOUCHER: And so we'll do that at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: Right. But would you --
MR. BOUCHER: Second of all, as far as the possibility of a Quartet meeting, they -- we have had discussions of a possible Quartet meeting in near future. At this point, the location and the date are not set, so I can't confirm or announce anything for you.
QUESTION: Do you feel it's as urgent as the Europeans apparently do and the Russians?
MR. BOUCHER: We've been looking for some time at the possibility of a Quartet meeting. The Secretary's discussed it, for example, during his phone calls this week, he talked to Javier Solana, to the Russian Foreign Minister, to Secretary General Annan about the possibility, about the ideas of getting the Quartet together, so we think it's important and useful. And as I said, in the context of everybody focusing on how to move forward, how to move forward on the roadmap, how to move forward on the opportunity presented by Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
QUESTION: Do you think they don't particularly see it that way, necessarily?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's important for everybody to get together and talk about how to move forward, and that's what we want to do. So -- but the when and where are not set yet, so I really can't announce anything
QUESTION: Tony Blair was talking about the importance of aiding the Palestinians, getting them ready for this withdrawal and hinted at some further aid to the Palestinians in terms of directly to the Palestinian Authority. Where does the U.S. stand on -- if you're going to prepare the Palestinians to be in a position to have the institutions in place to take over once this withdrawal happens, do you think aid should go directly to the Palestinian Authority?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, we've done that in the past. Presently, the economic support that we provide, the 75 million a year, goes through nongovernmental organizations. We've requested another 75 million for 2005, and then in addition to that, every year we provide funds for the UN Relief and Works Agency General Fund. In 2004, that's $88 million, so I think the first thing to say is the United States has supported and will continue to support the welfare and the development of Palestinians as we have in the past.
Second of all, as far as decisions about future levels or allocations of assistance, I really don't have any new decisions on that now.
QUESTION: The U.S. Ambassador in Damascus handed a letter to the Foreign Minister al-Shara yesterday. Could you elaborate on the context of this letter, please?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary sent a message to President Assad this week. It was focused on the fact that Syria has a huge stake in the emergence of a unified and stable Iraq. It urged Syria to work closely with the rest of the international community to promote a stable Iraq. It also made clear that Syria -- to Syria that it needs to control the transit of its border by terrorists and people supporting the insurgents in Iraq.
That's something where, as you've -- we've often noted before, we feel that Syria had taken some steps, but that there's more than they can and should do in that regard.
QUESTION: Did it mention the Accountability Act at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know specifically if it did. I'm sure the Syrians are quite aware that we have those decisions in for us.
QUESTION: They are. Right. I realize the Secretary spoke to this yesterday afternoon in his rather extended comments outside, but --
MR. BOUCHER: And the fire engines.
QUESTION: Is there any new -- is there any new since then?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not anything new since then.
QUESTION: Did it directly -- did it directly suggest that some of these people coming in were Syrian?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not going to be able to get into all the details of the message. Let's talk about the people who transit. There are, I think, a variety of people who've transited the border, who've gone to foreign terrorists, who've gotten into Iraq -- some are Syrians, some are other nationalities.
QUESTION: I couldn't hear what you're saying.
MR. BOUCHER: Some are Syrian; some are other nationalities.
QUESTION: Right, but you're saying these people have entered through Syria, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Through Syria. Right. As well as -- we know it's happened through other neighbors, too.
QUESTION: Any new development on that suggestion of Syria that there be coordination between the Syrian high-ranking officers, military officers, and the Pentagon officers also? Syria -- some Arab newspapers have talked about the Pentagon reluctant to cooperate with the Syrian officers along the Syrian-Iraqi borders a week or ten days ago. Is there any new development on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any new developments. I'm not aware the Syrians have actually put forward a clear idea of what they might have in mind, but you could check with the Pentagon and see if they have anything there.
QUESTION: Back to the message that the Secretary sent. It's a similar message to the one you've been sending in the past. Was there anything that prompted this now?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's a similar message to the message that we send to all the neighbors about controlling borders and infiltration. You've heard us say the same thing with regard to Iran, for example.
It is a message that we have delivered to Syria in the past. What prompted it now, I think, is that it's an ongoing problem. It's something that we feel needs to be reiterated until it's taken care of, and it's not taken care of yet.
QUESTION: A new subject?
QUESTION: Can I ask about the Accountability Act? Is there any -- the Secretary said he has nothing new to announce on that, but are there still things Syria could do to change whatever the prevailing opinion is on what the President will do?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose it could still take action on the criteria in the law.
QUESTION: But, do you think there's still time between now and whenever you might announce a decision?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look at the law again and see what it requires, but I think it basically specifies the things that we would want to see; and therefore, if we see them at the moment of just -- you know, before we make the decision, the decision would obviously be affected by whatever Syria does.
QUESTION: So a decision hasn't been made?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't announced anything.
QUESTION: That's different.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure if Syria takes positive, concrete and significant steps that those will be considered.
QUESTION: A hypothetical there.
QUESTION: And choosing from the menu of options that you have, that's what you're saying, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that's true, because we do have a menu. But there -- well, I don't want to try to explain the law. I haven't reread it recently, whether there's waivers and stuff. Look at the law.
All I'm saying is that if Syria does things, we'll consider it. But we'll also do what's appropriate, what's required under the law.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the hostage -- U.S. hostage situation in Iraq or any new news on the identities of the bodies, of the remains that were found?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any news on the bodies, nor do I have an update on the hostages generally, except to say that there are now reports that there was a U.S. citizen kidnapped from a hotel in Basra and our Consular Officer in Baghdad is working to ascertain the veracity of these reports to try to determine the whereabouts of the American citizens who we know to have been in Basra.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did Secretary Powell ever refer to Doug Feith's office at the Pentagon as a "Gestapo office"?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I have ever heard him say, no.
QUESTION: This is from --
MR. BOUCHER: Where -- why are you asking this?
QUESTION: This is from Bob Woodward's new book. It's --
MR. BOUCHER: Unfortunately, we haven't had a chance to read it yet.
QUESTION: Okay. The --
MR. BOUCHER: But we won't do book reviews. I promise.
QUESTION: And the article previewing part of the book posted on The Washington Post website about two hours ago, I think, also says that Vice President Cheney and the Secretary are barely on speaking terms. Is that true?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's not true either.
QUESTION: I've got a couple about Geneva -- China, Zimbabwe and Cuba, the first one Cuba.
What have you guys decided to do, if anything, or what is your recourse in dealing with this Cuban guy who decked the U.S. observer at the Human Rights Commission meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the first thing is to say that we have delivered a statement today at the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva about the various things that the Cubans have done to harass delegates to the conference, including the physical attack yesterday by a member of the Cuban delegation on a representative of an American-based NGO in the lobby of the building there.
The -- we have raised these matters. Unfortunately, there was -- interruptions by the Cuban representative, who tried to prevent the Commission from hearing about these incidents. But we continued and finished the statement.
QUESTION: Wait a minute, the same guy or the ambassador?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think it's the same guy. It was whoever was in the chair at the time.
That was today's session. I'll get you a copy of the statement that we made, and we think that other members of the Commission should focus on these issues and that the international community should make clear the need for Cuban delegations to respect the rules of procedure and proper order.
QUESTION: Have you made a determination, or has the UN come down with a determina -- I mean, Ambassador Moley was pretty strong in saying that he wanted to press criminal charges if they were applicable in this case. Have you --
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a matter that still remains to be sorted out.
QUESTION: Is the UN investigating this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the only answer I can give you is UN security guards took into custody the individual who attacked the NGO, the American, and you'd have to ask them what they're doing to follow up on an attack within a UN building in Geneva.
QUESTION: Have you called in or gone in Havana to the Cuban Foreign Ministry or to the Interest Section here to make clear your --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. The first thing we've done is to raise it at the site itself where the other delegations are and should be concerned about this.
QUESTION: Do you know if something like that is planned?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't.
QUESTION: Okay. And then on China and Zimbabwe, both countries are pretty happy with the fact that they got no action motions on the resolutions, which you were co-sponsoring -- sponsored in China and co-sponsored on Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe press is saying that they have been -- that the country's been cleared of any human rights abuses. I'm wondering what your reaction is to these --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you can't be cleared unless there's some discussion. And we're disappointed that there were not resolutions on other countries' human rights abuses such as China, with regard to Russia and Chechnya and Zimbabwe. But silencing discussion through a no action motion, we think, is inappropriate. We're disappointed that China and Zimbabwe chose to employ that tactic. And we applaud countries that allow an examination and exploration of their record. And we think that countries that try to block any discussion can certainly not be called cleared. If they don't want to discuss it, then obviously, there's something they're trying to hide, something they're trying to avoid.
QUESTION: Okay. Over the past couple of years, you guys have been talking about wanting reform in the Commission, and I presume that a physical assault on someone in the lobby of the building where it's happening is an indication of that, but you have also complained that Libya was the chairman of it last year.
Have you gotten any -- anywhere on your desire -- well, are you seeking to end, to try and change the way the Commission works so that -- so that these no action motions can't be used to stop debate? And if you are, have you gotten anywhere with it?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on the specifics. I think we have been pushing and will continue to push in a variety of ways to try to reform the Commission, to try to ensure that people who, themselves, are guilty of violations of human rights are not allowed to sit and prevent judgment on themselves and others. And so, in a variety of ways, we will keep pushing that agenda.
QUESTION: This has been a complaint of yours about the Commission for several years, and then this recent kind of assault, I mean, I know you want to further the objective of human rights, especially in an international forum such as the UN, but is there any consideration to fact -- to the idea that this body is really just a joke and, you know, trying to continue to participate in what seems to be sometimes, in the words of some officials, a farce, you know, is there any consideration to just not participating until the body reforms itself?
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- from the United States' point of view, and this has been consistent for many years when these questions have been raised, we feel that it's important to raise the issues. And by putting them forward, by making countries face some scrutiny, even if there is no action, we can put forward the facts to the international community; we and others can make clear that countries that do violate human rights need to be held to account and held up to scrutiny; we and others who share these views can sometimes pass resolutions. But even if we don't, we can highlight these cases. We can make these countries face the music to some extent and raise these things there. So this Administration and others felt it was important for us to go there to make the case, to press as hard as we could, to lobby hard outside of the Commission, to try to get these resolutions, and to make countries that are violators of human rights face up to that fact through this process.
QUESTION: I'm not sure when Libya's term ends, but since its human rights record hasn't improved, even though its relationship with the U.S. has, will they still stay on your list of countries that you'll be critical of?
MR. BOUCHER: This is not a matter of political relationships. If there's a human rights problem, it gets raised in the appropriate fora. As you know, it also gets raised bilaterally. And as we engage in discussions with the Libyans on a variety of political issues, certainly, human rights will be on our agenda, directly, as well as internationally, as appropriate. I'm not -- don't have anything on Libya at this current session.
QUESTION: A new subject?
QUESTION: On Libya.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's finish with the Human Rights Commission then do Libya, more generally.
QUESTION: On the assault yesterday, did anybody from the U.S. delegation witness the assault?
MR. BOUCHER: Our Ambassador witnessed it.
QUESTION: Okay. Did he provide an account of what happened, any reason why you can't share it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I just promised, a moment ago, to share with you the statement. He, in the statement, he says, "Many of us witnessed yesterday the outright physical attack by a member of the Cuban delegation on a representative of an American-based NGO in the lobby just outside this very room. The victim was attacked from behind and knocked to the floor. UN security guards had to physically subdue the Cuban delegate. This kind of behavior is not only outrageous, but shows disrespect for this Commission and its members."
We'll give you the full statement that we made at the Commission, but our Ambassador was among the many witnesses to that incident.
Okay. Human Rights Commission. We'll go on to Libya.
QUESTION: When you expect the Libyan delegation to come to Washington? And do you expect the son of Qadhafi to lead this delegation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on timing or composition of Libyan delegations. You'd have to check with the Libyans, I think, on who their delegation might be and when they might be able to come.
QUESTION: Back to another subject. I think -- I was out doing something else, but I think you said you had no announcement about a Quartet meeting. Tony Blair says there should be one as soon as possible. Cowen of Ireland, who is hosting the European Union meeting in Ireland, says there ought to be one as soon as possible, and in Ireland they're saying there will be one in Berlin April 28th.
Does the U.S. support a Quartet meeting April 28th?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick with the answer I gave ten minutes ago on that subject.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, I thought the question was: Is Powell going? I'm asking you if the U.S. supports a prompt meeting of the Quartet.
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at what I said ten minutes ago, you will find the answer to your question has already been given, and I'm not going to start repeating everything five times because people want to wander in and out.
QUESTION: Okay. We're not wandering; we're doing journalism.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm doing briefings, so --
QUESTION: I appreciate it. Yeah.
QUESTION: The UN has said that the Sudanese Government is refusing to allow a team, a humanitarian inspection team, into Darfur. You guys have -- want -- I think that this is different than the Civilian Monitoring Commission, right?
MR. BOUCHER: This is different.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, what do you --
MR. BOUCHER: It is a matter of concern to us as well. Let me update you on that and some other things.
On the Ceasefire Commission meeting, both the Sudan Liberation Movement Army, and the Justice and Equality Movement are prepare to attend the Ceasefire Commission meeting convened by the African Union in Addis. That's for next week. We strongly support the African Union and we urge all the parties to the ceasefire agreement to cooperate to send out the first monitoring mission by the end of next week.
However, we are concerned that the Government of Sudan has not moved to normalize the situation in Darfur and continues in not fully facilitating humanitarian access. That is not acceptable.
We urge the Government of Sudan to immediately grant visas to the two United Nations teams who are investigating the situation in Darfur and to other humanitarian workers who are working in Darfur.
I would add that we do continue to hear reports that pro-government militia have attacked internally displaced people in Darfur. We hold the Government of Sudan responsible for their activities. They must stop the attacks and rein in the militias, and we hold the Government responsible for protecting the citizens of Darfur.
The United States has continued to look for ways to assist the people in Darfur. As you know, we have members of our Disaster Assistance Team who are already out there looking at the situation. We understand the World Food Program has reported that some truck shipments on humanitarian assistance are getting through to more delivery points throughout Darfur and the airlifting of some food commodities into Geneina, G-e-n-e-i-n-a, in West Darfur has also commenced, so we're doing everything possible to help the people there, everybody possible to work with the African Union to get going on the Ceasefire Commission. But these problems by the government and the government militia need to be resolved.
QUESTION: Did you have -- you say you continue to hear reports of violations of the ceasefire, but do you have -- are you in a position to be able to say that they've actually happened?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer is, it's very hard to confirm, and that's why it remains important that we get the Ceasefire Commission out there because those are the people who can look into these things and try to confirm them.
QUESTION: Is that meeting in Addis on Monday?
MR. BOUCHER: Next --
QUESTION: The 24th.
MR. BOUCHER: Early next week. I don't have a date.
QUESTION: And -- okay. And then on --
MR. BOUCHER: The 24th, some people say, based on the wires.
QUESTION: And then on the other Sudan issue. There had been --
MR. BOUCHER: Naivasha?
QUESTION: Yeah, there had been some talk in the Sudanese, in Khartoum, that there would be an agreement today. Do you have any --
MR. BOUCHER: That would be great but I'm not -- we're not counting on it. The parties do remain intensively engaged at Naivasha with the intention of solving the outstanding issues, but they haven't achieved an agreement yet. We think that both sides need to make the final difficult political decisions and that the time has come to conclude the negotiations. We do have a senior officer at Naivasha who is trying to work with them and assist them in reaching understandings. And we have pointed out that the progress, or what happens out there, will be reflected in our determination under the Sudan Peace Act on April 21st, where we will make clear with party or both is responsible for failure to achieve agreement if there is not one.
QUESTION: Yeah, getting back to Darfur. I have a statement here from a spokesman within the Sudan Liberation Movement that says that they will not be attending ceasefire talks in Addis Ababa or N'Djamena? Could you speak to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- our understanding of the statement that they made is that it has to do with political talks to go beyond the ceasefire into political discussions, that they are committed -- I'd have to --
QUESTION: Ceasefire talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd -- I'd have to look for an exact quote.
QUESTION: But you're not --
MR. BOUCHER: Our understanding is they're still committed to go to the ceasefire talks in Addis, that the issue of further political talks has been discussed and there were further political talks that were scheduled for the 24th. There has been some back and forth about their attendance at that, and we'll just have to see that more clearly as the date for those political talks approaches.
QUESTION: So you're saying the ceasefire -- you think they have said they are attending the ceasefire talks and anything after that is questionable?
MR. BOUCHER: The only word I have problems with is "after." I'm not sure if the ceasefire talks are before or after, but --
QUESTION: Okay. Now this --
MR. BOUCHER: Our understanding was that they were committed to the ceasefire talks and would be going there, but that they weren't, at this point, committed to the political discussions.
QUESTION: Can you check on that? Because this says, will not be attending ceasefire talks in Addis or the political talks in N'Djamena.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see what we can get.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry.
QUESTION: We've been back -- go back to Iraq, but if you've answered this, please, I apologize in cutting you short. Mr. Armitage is going to the Gulf region and in one of the interviews -- in an interview he gave, I think, yesterday or today, he mentions the countries he's going to. I'm trying to follow as best I can the discourse on a caretaker plan. Will Mr. Armitage -- Blackwell is still there -- will Mr. Armitage be engaged in that discussion in any way while he's in Baghdad or, you know, will he be in and out doing other things before --
MR. BOUCHER: The Deputy Secretary, in visiting the region, as the President announced, will be discussing any number of matters related to making progress in Iraq, as well as, I think we've pointed out, some of the other issues with Arab countries and Persian Gulf countries.
He's going to discuss with them what's going on in Iraq, try to look -- try to gain an understanding of them, the stakes involved, the need for all of us to contribute to success in Iraq, talk about the role that neighboring states might play, particularly in the Sunni areas, in sort of encouraging political progress and participation there, and both in terms of, you know, direct assistance or just adding their voices to the effort to find political progress in Iraq, come together on an interim government arrangement, and then move on towards elections.
So he will certainly be discussing all those issues with neighboring countries, as well as while he's in Iraq, I'm sure with the Coalition Authority, with some of the Iraqis he'll meet that this issue of interim government, as well as the issue of getting to elections will be discussed.
But I don't -- I mean, he'll discuss it because it's an issue of the moment. He's not trying to displace Ambassador Brahimi, who we've working very closely with. And as the President just said a few moments ago, we welcome the work that he has been doing. We welcome the ideas that he has come up with, and look forward to his further work when he returns to Iraq to carry that work forward.
QUESTION: I don't mean -- since I don't know Mr. Brahimi's schedule, I don't know if they'll actually cross paths, for instance, but --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'd be the one to talk about Mr. Brahimi's schedule, but I don't expect them to cross paths there.
QUESTION: I get you. But picking up on what you just said. In this interview, he mentions every country he intends to go to, and he says he will ask none of them for peacekeeping troops. Now you know the Administration isn't interested in more. Ambassador Negroponte said today, we'd like to see more contributions. He wasn't asked in the interview why, I suppose, it would be inappropriate to ask both countries to contribute.
Could you deal with that? Why wouldn't you ask these Arab countries? You're trying to improve the region, trying to make them safer. Don't they have a stake? Shouldn't they be part of the peacekeeping operations?
MR. BOUCHER: A lot of countries have a stake. As we've seen in Iraq, sometimes there are sensitivities about which countries. Some countries are able to contribute; some countries have just plain not; and then there is also questions of timing. Is it the moment?
So I really don't have much more explanation. There are a lot of factors to consider. It just happens that this, with these particular countries that he's visiting at this time, he's not going to be asking for troops. He was asked if that was part of his mission. He said, "No."
QUESTION: No, but I think you just answered it.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: On that, I don't know if you have more details about what Ambassador Negroponte said up at the UN today. Apparently, he was calling, again, on countries to contribute to this new force to protect the UN in Iraq, and he did specify that they would be under U.S. command. Is that going to provide a problem? And is this something that it was always envisioned that they would -- that the new UN protection force would be under U.S. command?
MR. BOUCHER: We talked about that yesterday or the day before. We've always discussed the need for unified command of military forces in Iraq. You can't have different commanders sending troops to different places, or, God forbid, the same place where they cross paths.
So you need a unified command structure. That is an issue that we've discussed with relations to the post-June 30th environment; that once we've turned over responsibility for running the country to the Iraqi interim government, you still need to have the multinational force, really, in charge of all of the security services at that point, because you need to have unified command.
That would apply to any force whose primary goal or mission is to protect the United Nations, as well. But we think that can be worked out within the context of the existing UN resolutions and any future ones that might do the same thing.
QUESTION: Also, on the UN, Kofi Annan has just announced that Paul Volcker will head up the Oil-for-Food investigations. Did you know that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Does that give the U.S. maybe more confidence that it will be a stringent investigation, if you admitted to having any doubts before?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the problem is we never admitted to having less confidence.
QUESTION: If you didn't admit to having less confidence.
MR. BOUCHER: We always said we thought that the UN was taking this seriously, that they were engaged, that the Secretary General committed himself to a full and thorough investigation in an open manner. And I think all of us in the Security Council want to see that as well.
And I think if you've -- those who follow this closely -- you've seen that we've done things ourselves, in order to protect records. I think Ambassador Bremer has made clear that he's -- whatever records they find in Iraq of previous transactions under Oil-for-Food that they will try to provide those to the UN.
So the United States will do everything we can to contribute to a complete and thorough investigation. And certainly, we would welcome Mr. Volcker to conduct the kind of investigation that the UN has pledged and that we've wanted.
QUESTION: Following up on something from earlier this week. Do you know if your people in Vietnam were ever able to get into the Central Highlands and find out what was going on there?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to double check, yeah, and find out.
QUESTION: Sorry, just bringing it back South Korean election, just a quick one. You say that it's a domestic matter. But the, you know, the majority party, ruling party's position is quite clear on the North Korean policies. They're very sympathetic, more sympathetic to the North Korean previous majority. So do you have no concern at all, I mean, in terms of --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I didn't say it was a domestic matter.
MR. BOUCHER: I congratulated them on the election. But now that you asked me about what's the government going to do, that, I'll say, is really a domestic matter. It's a matter for the government to decide, for the parliamentary majority to decide. We have, all along, had a very strong friend an ally in South Korea. We expect that to continue. We look forward to working with them to strengthen that relationship across the board in the many, many ways that we cooperate with our ally in South Korea, whether it's policy towards North Korea, where we coordinate with Japan and South Korea very closely, or the fight against terrorism and their deployments to Iraq.
So we really do look forward to continuing to strengthen that relationship with South Korea.
QUESTION: Does your omission of any mention of the Vice President being in Seoul today have -- is that related at all to the Washington Post preview of the --
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's solely related to my failure to think of it. And besides, the Vice President is in Seoul today and, you know, moving forward in all of these areas.
QUESTION: Is he doing a good job?
MR. BOUCHER: Great job.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to South Korea saying it would like to possibly host the next round of six-party talks, I think -- or I don't know if it was working group or six-party talks -- instead of Beijing? Was it the --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see that so I don't have any comment.
QUESTION: I think it was yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: We have one more. Sir.
QUESTION: Roman Catholic leaders in the United States and for the American Council of Churches of the United States, they have continued today to express lots of serious grievances that Israel is acquiring new lands in Jerusalem and other places that belong to the Christians, to those churches, and Jerusalem. They have expressed that opinion, those grievances, to Mr. Hyde in the Senate, and he investigated those incidents and he agreed with them.
I wonder if Secretary Powell has had any chance to address this subject with Mr. Sharon during their meeting recently.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know whether it came up during the course of the White House discussions. It was not a subject of the limited meeting that they had, hour or so, at breakfast yesterday with Secretary Powell. We do report regularly on religious freedom around the world and what we have to say on Israel, you can find on those reports.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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