State Department Daily Briefing, May 5
|Wednesday May 5,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
WEDNESDAY, MAY 5, 2004
12:55 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Sorry I'm late today. I don't have any statements or announcements. I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Are you prepared to say anything about the GQ article?
MR. BOUCHER: The GQ article?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me say this. There's a lot being written and said and talked around this town about the Secretary, and books and articles and everything else. You all, especially those of you who cover the State Department, you watch him, you see him, you know him.
Rather than read about him, people should look at what he says, look at what he does and look at what he's doing; look at what he said to Larry King last night, look at the daily appearances he does; look at man who gets to work earlier than all of us and accomplishes more than any of us.
He's said very clearly in his own words that he's got a positive agenda, he's very proud of the successes of this Administration, he's very comfortable with the choices that were made about going to war, and he's very satisfied that he's served the President well.
So rather than read about him or talk about him, I'd just say people ought to read his own words and watch what he does.
QUESTION: Why are you talking about him in the past tense? "Has served the President well."
MR. BOUCHER: And is, and continues to do so to this very moment and into the future.
QUESTION: Richard, about specific comments that are not attributed to the Secretary in this story, does the Secretary share the opinions of Richard Perle and others that his Chief of Staff expressed so eloquently in the --
MR. BOUCHER: Those statements by individuals were statements by individuals. The Secretary, as I said, has expressed his own sentiments at various times, and I don't think he's expressed that opinion about Mr. Perle, no.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then, going to his own comment, one quote at least that jumped out at me from this was, well, does the Secretary really believe that the fight -- that the dispute between Spain and Morocco was over "a stupid little island"?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that -- it was obviously not "a stupid little island" because it was a major issue between major allies. The island itself, as we all know, is pretty small. And it's just one characterization of it. But the dispute itself we took very seriously.
QUESTION: What about the Cuba policy being the stupidest --
MR. BOUCHER: That was not put in the -- that was not the Secretary's words. The Secretary has expressed himself on the subject of Cuba many times. He has done a thorough and excellent job of preparing a report for the President, along with the Commission on a Free Cuba, and I think you'll see the fruits of that labor in the next day or so.
QUESTION: Do these people need the Secretary's permission to talk about him when they're on staff, to talk about him to the press?
MR. BOUCHER: Need permission, in the sense that if the Secretary didn't want them to, they wouldn't do it. But he doesn't necessarily, even if he knows somebody's talking about him, he doesn't necessarily know what they're saying.
QUESTION: These were all done with his -- the interviews -- with his staff. They were not done on --
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary knew that the reporter knew was talking to these people, but I don't think he knew in advance what they were going to say, because he didn't know in advance what the questions were, so you can't know what the answers are.
QUESTION: Richard --
QUESTION: The Secretary wanted -- wanted these people to talk to the reporters?
MR. BOUCHER: As with many reporters who have been chasing us for months, we try to find people for them to talk to, to help them with their articles. That's what happened in this case. This was not an article that we went out looking for or sought, or a reporter that we called up and -- with a great idea. It's somebody who was after us to write about the Secretary, and we let him talk to several, you know, made it possible for him to talk to several people, including, eventually, the Secretary himself.
QUESTION: And just to -- just to ask the question in a simple and straightforward way, is the Secretary, as the article suggests, and as people who are, at least who claim to be, close to him, and apparently spoke not just with his permission, but, you know, at his desire, is he tired and does he want to leave at the end of this term?
MR. BOUCHER: No, and he serves at the pleasure of the President.
QUESTION: Harlan Ullman said he got the green light from the Secretary to "tell it like it is," so to speak, which puts a somewhat different cast on it than you just did.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if he talked to the Secretary. I know that -- that he was in touch with our staff and that we said it was fine to go ahead and talk to the reporter who was writing about the Secretary. As far as we were concerned, it was fine to talk to him.
QUESTION: But Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: These are people that are, as Arshad just pointed out, very close to the Secretary. They're speaking about the Secretary's, you know, state of mind or, you know, how he's feeling and how he views certain things in the Administration, which you say: look at what he says and look at what he does. Some of the things that were said in this article suggest a different point of view, and they're speaking on the record about how the Secretary's -- about how the Secretary sees things.
So, I mean, are you --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, but they're still talking about him. What I'm saying, I mean, I'm talking about him, too, right now, but that's not the primary source. The primary source is the Secretary of State.
As far as I'm concerned, this is the man that demonstrates the power of positive thinking, a man who knows his direction. He gets up every day and moves things in that direction. He's very proud and satisfied of his service, and he's very proud of the agenda and the accomplishments of the Bush Administration. But you don't even have to believe me. Look at what he said.
Look at what he said at the Larry King interview last night. He went through a whole list of things that this Administration had accomplished in foreign policy and said he was satisfied that there were many successes. And then he identified the challenges that he continues to work on.
So rather than making observations about him, or even allowing people close to him to make observations about him, I think that it's best for us all to look at what he's saying, look what he's doing.
QUESTION: But nothing of what he said last night precludes what Harlan Ullman said, according to the author. In talking about the Secretary's discomfort with the Bush team, "This is, in many ways, the most ideological Administration Powell ever had to work for. Not only is it very ideological, but they have a vision, and I think Powell is inherently uncomfortable with grand visions like that. There is an ideological core to Bush, and I think it's hard for Powell to penetrate that."
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, again, let's look at the facts. How did the Secretary spend his day yesterday? He spent it up in New York, after coming to work at his usual hour of 6:30 or something like that, I'm not here -- I don't know exactly what time he gets here. And he spent his day in New York working on the President's vision of two states that can live side by side in peace with Israel. He spent his day yesterday working on the roadmap, the President's roadmap, the roadmap the President's endorsed.
So I don't want to try to dispute every sentence that everybody utters, but this is a Secretary who praises the President's vision, who works on the President's vision and who achieves the President's vision. When the President decided to go to the UN on Iraq, the Secretary successfully took the issue of Iraq to the UN, got the resolution, set up the path, set up the fork in the road, and was comfortable, whether that fork was going to lead us towards war or whether that force was going to lead us towards peaceful conclusion of Saddam's programs.
So it's a great observation, but I don't think the facts support it. And I think, in a way, you all know the facts as well as I do.
QUESTION: If people were told to go ahead and tell it like it is, when you or the Secretary read the article, does that reflect what it is, in your mind?
MR. BOUCHER: Not in my mind, no. Not in the Secretary's, either. I --
QUESTION: You think so?
MR. BOUCHER: I assume --
QUESTION: You've spoken to him about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I have spoken to him about it. I don't know if he's actually read the whole article, frankly. But the parts that I've talked to him about certainly don't reflect his attitude or his intentions or his feelings.
QUESTION: In the broad sense that he's not tired, he doesn't feel like he's outside the Administration or what -- is there anything in particular you could point to that the Secretary feels he was misquoted or misrepresented?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's just the overall tone and characterization and the idea that he's tired, that he's frustrated, that he's in disagreement with the President. Again, last night on TV, he spent his first fairly long answer explaining all the achievements of the -- that he and the President had done in foreign policy: praising the AIDS program, praising the HIV program, praising the way that he and the President had been able to build relationships with China and Russia and elsewhere.
So does that indicate any disagreement with the agenda that the President has? No, it indicates very full support.
QUESTION: No, it doesn't. However, at the same time, this is not the first article. There have been numerous articles, people that are allegedly -- well, or that seem to be very close to the Secretary, reflecting a much different point of view than the Secretary himself.
At the same time, these people supposedly went out at the behest or the approval of the Secretary. So the question is: How do you reconcile the two?
MR. BOUCHER: How do I reconcile the two? The Secretary says, sure, talk about me. He doesn't necessarily know what people are going to say. And sometimes, as you talk about people, as people say things, sometimes they're more accurate than other times, particularly when they're making observations about another individual.
There is, frankly, a lot in this story that is not sourced to anybody, but I'm not going to go through the whole story.
The point is that it comes down to the fundamental question: Are you going to believe what people are whispering about and gossiping and always telling reporters, or are you going to believe what you see with your own eyes and what you hear with your own ears in terms of how the Secretary is doing and what he thinks and what he's doing right now?
And I think we have abundant evidence in front of our own eyes, abundant evidence in front of our own ears, of the state of affairs regarding the President and, as again, I said, the successes that he and the President have achieved. He's very satisfied with his service. He remains so, and he will continue to be as he continues to serve.
QUESTION: Richard, what's the response of the Killgore-Curtiss letter that says --
MR. BOUCHER: Are you changing the subject?
QUESTION: Well, no, same subject. It's a letter that has criticized the, I guess, policies of the government vis-à-vis the Middle East, Iraq and possibly Afghanistan. And these were noted ex-diplomats. Is that something that they think the Secretary thinks is within parameters or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if the Secretary read the letter today. I don't have any particular response to it. I think our policy positions on the subjects raised in the letter are quite clear. And these people are former diplomats and free citizens. They have a right to speak out and say what they want.
QUESTION: I know you were telling us that the Secretary, of course, serves at the pleasure of the President. We know that, that he's been enforcing the President's policy. But are you telling us that Secretary of State saw eye to eye on all these policy issues with the President of the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: As the Secretary himself has said, there is often differences in the Administration. He himself answered that question very directly in an interview not too long ago, and I'd refer you, really, primarily to his answer.
But I would also say that we all respect the fact that the President is elected to make decisions on behalf of the American people. That's our system. Whatever the decision -- whatever the differences, disagreements, pros and cons of any policy are, our system is that the President is elected to decide those things, and we have great respect for that.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: So many of the things the President has done were done with the explicit recommendation of the Secretary. When he does other things, that's fine, too. That's the way the system works.
QUESTION: So the Secretary does not have any regrets over foreign policy issues over the past four years that could have been done differently, in a different way?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll let him figure out what could have been done differently, in a different way, in some future time of repose and reflection. I don't think I can quite answer that question at this moment.
QUESTION: Okay. So, if I've get this right, you're not in the position, or you're not disputing any of the quotes or any of the statements that are attributed to the Secretary or his -- or the people who are identified as being close to him in the story, but you do dispute the tone or the conclusion of the story and would certainly disagree with the headline of it, "Colin Powell Wants Out." Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: That's just plain wrong. But as I said, I'm not -- I'm not here to try to do the extended line by line or paragraph by paragraph on the story. I assume the quotes are accurate. I'm told some of them may be slightly out of context. As far as the general characterizations and descriptions made to apply to the Secretary, I think we have abundant evidence in front of our eyes that they're not accurate.
QUESTION: But nothing jumps out at you as being -- from the -- what people said? They may have been taken slightly out of context, you say, but nothing jumps out at you as absolutely wrong?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of anything specific that they didn't say. I see some things in there that they said that don't necess -- that aren't an accurate reflection of the Secretary's views. But that's the problem of the speaker, not of --
QUESTION: Well, let's just deal with -- deal with people who you had contact with. The quotes that are attributed to Mr. Armitage and Mr. Wilkerson, you don't -- there's nothing in there that they flagged for you as being way out of line and not in keeping with --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what you mean by way out of line.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. BOUCHER: Were they inaccurate quotations of what the individuals said? I assume that the trans -- you know, the transcriber got the words right.
QUESTION: Well, you -- in other words --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that any of those words are not -- were not uttered by the individual.
QUESTION: No one's been screaming up on the 7th floor, "I've been misquoted, I've been misquoted"?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Some people have said, that's out of context, that's not what I meant, or things like that. But no, I assume the quotes are -- are right. Whether they are fair and accurate characterizations of the Secretary's state of mind and whether they had the implications that the author attributes to them in the story, I think that is something that we question.
QUESTION: Have you heard anything about people believing they were speaking on background or off the record that were used then on the record?
MR. BOUCHER: I've heard something of that, yeah. But --
QUESTION: Do you have -- can you say which -- which individual feels they were --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I don't really think that's the point. I mean, if the point is to describe the doings of the Secretary of State and his intentions and his state of mind, to the extent we have to psychoanalyze him every day, then I think it's better to look at what he's done and what he's said and not try to do a detailed analysis of an article or what an individual said or whether they said it on background or on the record or not.
The point is the substance of the matter. The facts of the matter are that you have a Secretary of State who's happy in his job, proud to serve the President, accomplishing a lot along with the President, satisfied with his service. That has been the case and continues to be the case, and I think that's what all the evidence in front of us says. That's what we see with our own eyes, not what's being written about or whispered in the corridors.
QUESTION: But I'm sorry, Richard. But that's totally opposite to what this article says. And you're saying that it's generally correct.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying -- no, I'm not saying it's generally correct. I said he transcribed the words correctly.
MR. BOUCHER: I took issue with the substance of what was being said. I took issue with the imputation and the conclusions being drawn from some of those remarks. But the facts of the matter -- it boils down to a question of what you're going to believe: what you see, what you know, what you hear, or what somebody says about something somebody else said about somebody else.
QUESTION: Did you read the --
MR. BOUCHER: I'd rather believe my own eyes and ears, and I see the man several times a day.
QUESTION: Has the White House raised this with this building?
MR. BOUCHER: Not in any -- I don't know to what extent it's been a matter of discussion or other commentary, but I think they, too, know what the Secretary is doing and what he's accomplishing on behalf of the President.
QUESTION: Richard, in response to Teri's first question, were you -- or an earlier question -- were you suggesting that the author may have violated some ground rules of these interviews?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't raise the point and I'm not trying to make an issue of it.
QUESTION: Well, when you said that you had heard suggestions that people may have -- may believe that they -- that the ground rules of the interview were violated --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's more than that, but I'm -- again, it's not the issue. I'm trying not to -- I'm not trying to make an issue of it.
QUESTION: But shouldn't you? I mean those are rules that journalists have to adhere to.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I would think that journalists would want to respect the rules that they set in an interview and want to respect the understandings that they agree to in an interview. But that's not my side of the story. That's something for a journalist to explain.
QUESTION: Well, you won't follow up with the journalist to say, look, this was given to you on different --
MR. BOUCHER: We'll follow up with the journalist, as appropriate.
QUESTION: Suffice to say, he's probably not getting another interview with the Secretary?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I'd say that's a good guess. (Laughter.) You know, if you can't trust somebody with the ground rules, then it makes it hard to talk.
QUESTION: Well, okay. Wait a second. Now you are raising it. So you're saying that the ground rules were violated?
MR. BOUCHER: He's asking why.
QUESTION: The ground rules were violated?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I'm saying the ground rules were violated, but I'm not trying to make a big issue out of it. That's not --
QUESTION: With the Secretary or somebody else?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's the point.
QUESTION: With the Secretary or somebody else?
MR. BOUCHER: With somebody else. Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. Wilkerson?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: Now you pulled that out. We can -- can we go on to something else?
QUESTION: What was the ground rules? The ground rules -- it was supposed to be on background?
MR. BOUCHER: It was supposed to be on background.
QUESTION: That doesn't mean it's not true.
MR. BOUCHER: What?
QUESTION: It doesn't change the substance of what he said.
MR. BOUCHER: That's why I didn't make a big issue out of it.
MR. BOUCHER: That's why it's not a point that I have foisted on you. It's something that you pulled out of me, somewhat reluctantly. But then, again, I don't want to be bashful about it.
QUESTION: Can we move to actual substance and policy?
MR. BOUCHER: No, come on. Let's keep doing this for a while. We're in Washington.
Do you have something on actual substance and policy?
QUESTION: What I was going to say on this subject is, everyone seems to think that the Secretary is very hard-working and very loyal, and you've sort of, in so many words, expressed that, that viewpoint; and then you say there are some other things that keeps making Elise say that's the opposite. (Laughter.)
And my question is -- well --
QUESTION: Of what's written, but not the opposite of what's true.
QUESTION: Well, yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's keep going here.
QUESTION: To the article. What I'm saying is, could you, like, give us a little more candor and just at least say that, you know, that the Secretary, like all of us, you know, in his job he gets frustrated and he has some misgivings about the way things go? And, you know, I mean, is there something that you can say about that that would address this perception that seems to be all over town?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary, like all of us -- (laughter) -- you know, he encounters difficulties, tries to overcome them. Sometimes he gets tired. But --
QUESTION: And frustrated?
MR. BOUCHER: But in terms of his state of mind, in terms of the overall, you know -- we're not dealing with how he felt at 4:38 on Tuesday afternoon. We're dealing with a state of affairs. We're not dealing "sometimes."
In terms of the overall appreciation of the man and what he's done here, I mean, this is the guy who came in and told us all that optimism is a force multiplier and has demonstrated it every day throughout his last three, three-and-a-half years, and I'm sure will continue as long as he serves at the pleasure of the President.
But he comes in every day looking for what he can accomplish. He's got a tremendously forward-looking and positive attitude, and it's demonstrated in what he does, in how hard he works, what he does for the President and how he talks about it.
That's what I see. And that's, I think, if you look at him, that's what you'll see as well.
QUESTION: Richard, the Indian Foreign Ministry has said that it has asked the United States, and specifically the Embassy in New Delhi, to explain reports about Indians used as slave labor and held against their will by contractors at U.S. military camps in Iraq.
Have you received such a request to the Embassy in New Delhi, and have you begun to look into reports of whether any Indian citizens were held against their will?
MR. BOUCHER: There were apparently some press reports in India that said that there were Indian nationals who alleged they were lured to Iraq under false pretenses and mistreated while working in Iraq.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs contacted our Embassy in New Delhi about this on May 4th -- that would be yesterday. So our Embassy has started to look into these reports and has advised the Ministry that it's doing so.
Obviously, we take all such reports seriously, and we'll do our best to find out the facts of the matter.
QUESTION: You have just the Embassy in New Delhi looking at it? I mean, if it goes to the behavior of contractors working for the U.S. Government in Iraq, is there any broader effort to find out in Iraq what actually happened to these people?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think that's what the Embassy would do is try to identify, first of all, who these people worked with, where they worked and what they were doing, and then use our folks on the other end of the equation to find those specifics of that circumstance, see what really happened.
QUESTION: And do you know if you've gotten in touch with the Pentagon yet to pursue it, or is it just --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly where we stand, but I'm sure our Embassy will follow up and get in touch with everybody that's appropriate.
QUESTION: How much responsibility or authority does the U.S. Government have over these contractors? I mean, if they're contractors working for the military, I mean, are they reporting to the military? I mean, or -- you know, some of these work conditions and stuff, can they -- that these people and the Indian Government are complaining about, can they be kind of, not blamed, but, you know, whose responsibility for their working conditions is it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'd better ask at the Pentagon. The contracts themselves are done over there, I think. I mean, it's conceivable that these were AID subcontractors or something like that. But since most of the money has been Pentagon contracts, I'd have to assume that's where it might be.
But in terms of the standards in contracts, I mean, all contracts that the U.S. Government signs have certain basic standards that we expect employers to meet. And so yes, we would have authority and expect certain standards to be met by the contractors in terms of how they treat -- how they employ people. They -- no, I won't go on from that. I'll just stop with that.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea how many embassies have kind of, have cabled back to Washington asking how they should deal with the backlash, or potential backlash, from the mistreatment allegations? And if there have been any, what are you telling them to do? Are you -- has there been some kind of a fact sheet or something prepared for them to use, or do you just refer them to the President's interviews or to the Secretary's comments? How exactly is State responding to this?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, you know, first of all, I think the President's made clear again today how seriously we take these reports, how abhorrent the behavior is and how firm is our intention to follow up and make sure that justice is served.
That's basically our message to foreign governments. The Secretary addressed it yesterday at the Quartet, saying we share the outrage, these are reprehensible, immoral acts, and justice will be served.
The other thing we'd point out is that we're taking steps to ensure that actions like this are never repeated. I think General Kimmitt, in his briefings, has outlined some of these steps earlier this week, to include the internal reviews to ensure the command structure's adequate -- accurately report events and to ensure that prison guards are properly trained.
We also do point out that these actions are contraventions of the principles for which our nation stands, and that our commitment to policies that we've consistently advocated remains unchanged.
The -- in question of numbers, I don't have any specific numbers. I'm told that we're not so much getting inquiries from governments as seeing the expression in the press and in editorials and commentaries. And so a lot of what our embassies are doing is taking the materials and the statements of the President, of the Secretary, the Secretary of Defense and of the generals, and making those available to foreign audiences, either directly or through their own statements and quotes that they put out, because it seems to be something where, particularly in the media, we need to get the case out and make clear the firm determination of American leaders.
QUESTION: But you don't know -- but you don't have -- is it -- have dozens called back in saying, "How do we do this?"
MR. BOUCHER: I'm just reading the cable traffic. I haven't seen that many cables on it. But our system works, kind of as a matter of course, that all this material is made available to embassies. So we've had some summaries done, for example, of what's in the foreign press, the usual daily media summary that our INR Bureau does, did a summary of foreign commentary on Monday about it and showed that there were some foreign media who recognize that this is an aberration, abhorrent behavior, but an exception rather than the rule. There were others who used it to portray much larger policy issues.
And so, in terms of our responses, what we're trying to say and what we're giving our embassies to say, it's really trying to address some of those issues.
QUESTION: Richard, who will be responsible for the prisons and prisoners in Iraq after June 30th?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, to a great extent already, Iraqis are responsible for the criminal justice system, including prisons. At least they share responsibility. That trend will only accelerate. Are there going to be people who are in some other form of detention? I don't know, is the answer. It's something I'd have to research, both from a legal and a practical point of view.
QUESTION: Okay, I mean, what I'm getting at is not -- I'm getting at prisons and prisoners -- prisons currently run primarily or solely by the U.S. military, and prisoners thus in custody, primarily or solely, and I suspect most of them, it's solely, in the custody of U.S. forces. Are those guys, are those people in those facilities, going to stay under the control of U.S. forces post-June 30th?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to see. I don't know for sure. I mean, when -- as far as the system, whether it stays under U.S. control, I don't know, I'll have to see. As far as the individuals, I would point out, and this -- I think Ambassador Bremer made statements about this a week or two ago -- that we're actually releasing large numbers of individuals. They're reviewing cases very quickly. They've got a board to expedite things. They've released over 2,500 detainees in the last couple of months. There are fewer than 10 females who were detained. They publish a daily list in Arabic on the coalition website, and pass it out in other places, of all the individuals that are in detention.
So there have been a lot of steps taken in recent weeks and months to, one, release every people we could and provide information to the families, understanding that there was a lot of concern about the people in detention. So that process of releasing individuals will continue; that process of making the existing system more transparent will continue all the way through.
But at what point do these specific -- does this prison system or this detention system and how much of it gets turned over, I'll have to check.
QUESTION: Do you think you can get that today, do you think?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if I can get that today. It may involve legal complications I don't quite understand, but I'll look into it.
QUESTION: Richard, today, the President, in his --
MR. BOUCHER: I was going to go to Nadia. Let's --
QUESTION: -- his interview --
MR. BOUCHER: Hang on. Let's go to her first.
QUESTION: Apart from the condemnation, on the practical side, will you be comfortable to allow committees like the International Committee of the Red Cross to monitor the prisons, like Abu Gharib, for example, to go inside regularly and find out what's happening?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, as you know, we've had -- you know, we've had Red Cross visits to Guantanamo. I think Red Cross has done some work in Iraq. I don't know if they have been into this specific prison or not. But I think you'd have to check with the military on that one.
QUESTION: Would you allow -- I mean, are you comfortable with that, regularly, not just --
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'd have to check with the military on that one to see if that's already being done or if there's any reason not to do that.
QUESTION: After the pictures have been shown, not before?
QUESTION: Why shouldn't the Red Cross be allowed, as a matter of course --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say they shouldn't.
QUESTION: I know you didn't. But I'm asking why you can't say, "Well, they should be." I mean, it seems like abuses are, perhaps, a little less likely to occur if there is some -- some light occasionally shed in these places.
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, first of all, it is the policy of the United States Government to prevent abuses, to do everything we can to train our personnel so that this does not happen, to identify them, to find them, to punish them and to expose these acts ourselves. And that, in fact, is what's happening in this case.
It's not pretty. It's reprehensible behavior. It's despicable. It's horrible to see for all of us. I am sure it's even more horrible for the families of people involved. But it's the policy of the U.S. Government to ensure, on our own, because of the standards that we believe we have to keep and the values that we believe in, that if this does happen it is identified and punished.
So we would hope that people would be able to say that we have -- that we can demonstrate that we are capable of doing that and preventing such abuses in the future.
On the other hand, would that process be helped by having Red Cross visit these places? Again, as a policy matter, I'm not objecting. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the idea or there is some reason why it can't happen. But, you know, in terms of the legal and practical aspects of this, it's really the people who handle this, this system of detentions, who have to speak more directly to that.
QUESTION: Don't you think that if the United States Government, if it had a policy that the Red Cross should be allowed, in such cases, to see people, it would make it easier for you to argue with people like the Burmese authorities, for example, that the Red Cross should be able to regularly see Aung San Suu Kyi?
MR. BOUCHER: In many circumstances and occasions, we have had Red Cross visits. I pointed out the Red Cross has visited Guantanamo. I mean, frankly, I'm standing up here not knowing exactly how much the Red Cross has visited prisons in Iraq. I know they visited Saddam Hussein. I don't know how much more broadly that they've done that. Maybe you do.
But to some extent, having this dialogue, until we have those facts in front of us, it may not be terribly productive because we may be talking about something that already exists or that, for some reason, I'm not aware of, cannot exist. But all I've said is I'll check on it for you. And that's why I said I'll check on it for you, because I don't have the answer right now.
QUESTION: The President today told Al Hurra in his interview that he only learned about this from the television, which was a week ago today on the 30th -- the 28th of April, when it was aired on CBS. Isn't that rather strange considering that the Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, apparently, knew about it at least two weeks before it was aired, since he requested CBS to postpone the airing for two weeks? Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to --
QUESTION: I mean, it is something that is potentially so explosive and terrible.
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, let's take half a step back. And the President said, "The first time I saw or heard about pictures was on TV." You said he said the first time he heard about this was on TV.
So if by "this" you mean pictures, then you're actually quoting the President. If by "this" you mean the possibility of abuse at this prison, then I don't think you're accurately quoting the President. I don't know exactly when the President heard about it, but we all knew it from the fact that, in January, General Kimmitt in Baghdad said that they had heard serious, serious allegations that they were going to identify -- that they were going to investigate -- that they were going to identify not only what had happened, but who was responsible.
And what we have in front of us now is that process working itself out: of allegations being brought within the U.S. system, of a very serious and thorough report and investigation, an honest investigation being done within the U.S. system, and that then leading to the public exposure of what happened and to the next phase, which is to identify people that are responsible in a criminal way. And six people have already been referred for possible criminal charges. So this has been known to all of us since we ourselves publicly disclosed it in January.
QUESTION: With respect to these -- the prisoner abuse, are there any guidelines or rules? There's one subcontractor agency, CACI that has been involved also with guarding of prisoners, a Northern Virginia firm. But also, what is the rules regarding, since there are so few people involved, could it have been that the tabloids both in England and here, National Enquirer and such, were putting some of the guards up to this? They figured it would turn into some publicity?
MR. BOUCHER: I -- no, I'm not going to buy into anything like that. I think, as I said, the U.S. Government has conducted a thorough and honest investigation. Our own generals have found that there were abusive -- abuses that occurred.
I'm not trying to pin it on anybody else. There have been -- I mean, the fact is, there are some awful pictures in the press of some things that happened, but there also have been instances of fakes appearing. There are some things printed in Egypt that were not from Iraq. There was some website somewhere that they pulled some pictures down and blamed -- said it was a portrayal of something that we had or we had done.
But that does not excuse the kind of behavior that we've seen, the kind of photographs that we've seen, the kind of -- the kind of things that happened.
QUESTION: Richard, in addition to promoting the President's vision for the Middle East yesterday up in New York, the Secretary also met privately with, well, I guess, one on one or in a small group with Foreign Minister Lavrov to talk about the transition and -- and the new UN resolution. And I'm just wondering if they came to any conclusions about what, specifically, should be in the resolution, or if you -- if you have it, an agreement beyond just the broader, "Yeah, we should have a new resolution."
MR. BOUCHER: Somewhere in between. It was a normal meeting with aides on both sides, and they -- it was a good meeting. It was a long discussion. A host of issues came up. The one they spent the most time is on -- on was the situation in Iraq, especially looking forward to the political transition and to the UN resolution: how to go about that; how to support that process, both the U.S. and the Russians, I would point out, looking to support the efforts that are underway so that Iraq -- Iraqis can have a government that's well accepted and seen as capable of bringing them through the transition to an election.
In terms of the discussion of the UN resolution, the discussion was necessarily preliminary at this point. The Secretary made very clear he welcomed Russian ideas; he looked forward to thorough and ongoing consultations with the Russian Government, including directly with Minister Lavrov as we proceeded down the road to crafting a new UN resolution.
And in terms of what should go into it, they discussed, I'd say, in a preliminary way, some of the elements that might belong in a new resolution. We're not at the point yet where there is text to be discussed, shared or negotiated. We're at the point of identifying the major thrust of the resolution and how to go about it.
So the Secretary explained it in terms, actually, quite similar to what he said in public. In fact, I think, Minister Lavrov had with him some of the statements the Secretary had said about endorsing the new government, recognizing the political process, authorizing some of the transition aspects and things like that.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any disagreements over -- I mean, is there going to be a --
MR. BOUCHER: No. At this point, I think that they agreed that their basic concept --
QUESTION: They both agreed on the basic concept of what --
MR. BOUCHER: They both agreed on the basic concept of what goes into the resolution.
MR. BOUCHER: There is going to be a lot of discussion and further consultation to see if the Russians have more ideas.
We're welcoming ideas from other countries, coalition partners, as well as Security Council members. And then we'll see, as the UN proceeds, especially to define further its -- its plans in Iraq as Mr. Brahimi continues his work and the Secretary General comes up with more definitive information for us all. That's -- we'll see how we can endorse that in a Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: Can we do Georgia? Moving on to a new subject or --
QUESTION: Can we just do Georgia? Did the subject of Georgia and Ajara come up in that conversation?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it did. And they talked about Georgia and Ajara. Both U.S. and Russia are looking for political dialogue, looking for the parties to try to make every effort to solve their disputes peacefully, and especially to avoid provocative actions.
The Secretary cited, in particular, some of the actions that, on the part of the Ajarans recently -- the kind of things that we talked about at the press briefing the other day -- the blowing up the dams. Dams? Bridges.
MR. BOUCHER: Bridges. And other attempts to provoke military confrontation.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary ask Minister Lavrov or Russia to do anything in particular?
MR. BOUCHER: To make clear the Russian view, as we were making clear the U.S. view, that this should not move to provocation and that they should try to resolve this through political dialogue.
Yeah. Okay, sir.
QUESTION: On Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: No, let's --
QUESTION: Can I go to --
MR. BOUCHER: Go ahead. Let's -- we'll come back.
Is that okay? You want to stay on Georgia? Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We're going to do one more Georgia.
QUESTION: Some reports that the Georgian -- the Aba -- I know I'm going to say this wrong -- the Abadashi --
MR. BOUCHER: Abashidze.
QUESTION: Yeah, that asked President Bush to intervene personally. Do you know anything about that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know anything about that. I haven't seen a statement like that at this point. I would say -- I think you're all watching the wires today. We're also following events very closely in Georgia today. The situation is moving very quickly.
Our Ambassador, Ambassador Miles, is in touch with local leaders on the ground. He has been in touch with Mr. Abashidze. He's been in touch with Prime Minister Zhvania, who was here last -- last week talking with the Secretary. And we've also been in touch in other ways with the Georgian Government.
The -- we also understand that Georgian President Saakashvili has been in touch with Russian President Putin, and that Russian National Security Advisor Igor Ivanov will be in Tbilisi tonight.
So it is a rapidly evolving situation, one that we're following closely. We are urging -- as I said, we're urging dialogue, we're urging a political solution, and we're urging all the parties to avoid violence or provocation.
QUESTION: Are you urging Saakashvili to stand down his troops?
MR. BOUCHER: We're urging dialogue and avoiding provocation. We've noted the very negative actions taken on the Ajaran side, frankly.
QUESTION: Can you comment on the recent bombings in Greece and in Cyprus? Do you worry at all or do you think that they are small incidents?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we always -- we always worry when we see attacks like this. In terms of Cyprus, we are extremely concerned at the claim of responsibility, where there was a Cypriot group, Greek Cypriot group, I think, that claimed responsibility and claimed political motivations for the attack. That's also always something of great concern.
We deplore the attack on Mr. Anastassiades' home. We look forward to a full and thorough investigation by the Greek Cypriot Government and to their apprehension of those who are responsible for this.
In terms of the events in Greece, I really -- obviously, we're concerned about any bombings that occur, but at this point, the Greek Cypriot -- the Greek authorities are investigating the bombings, so I don't have a lot of information on that one.
QUESTION: I have another question on Cyprus, if I can.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you agree with the President of Cyprus, who said that the Annan plan is on the table if Secretary General Kofi Annan makes some changes?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary General, the United States and others made clear it's not a matter of renegotiation; there's no plan to go back to the table; there's no plan to renegotiate things that weren't raised in Switzerland or that were negotiated in Switzerland. This is the deal. We've said so before. We'll say so again. We stand by what we've said.
QUESTION: Yeah, according to the readout of the meeting with the Secretary and Prime Minister Talat yesterday, the Secretary said that he hoped that soon to have some ideas about how to ease the isolationism. Do you -- can you be a little more explicit as to, you know, when -- when do you expect to put these things, you know, out there for comment and review by --
MR. BOUCHER: For comment and review?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, for -- when do you expect to make them public? When do you expect to --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Let me -- first, for those who didn't get it, let me do the basic readout. The Secretary had a very good meeting with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community yesterday, Mr. Talat. The Secretary praised the admirable support the Turkish Cypriots had given to the UN settlement plan. He expressed regret that the Greek Cypriots rejected the plan in their April 24th referenda, and that that had prevented a united Cyprus from joining the European Union and prevented the Turkish Cypriot community from enjoying the full benefits of European Union membership.
The Secretary did tell Mr. Talat that we're reviewing our policies. We are coordinating with European partners with an eye towards easing the isolation of Turkish Cypriots. That process continues. The Secretary noted that we were looking at a number of measures, we are going -- intended to act in a manner that's more or less consistent, although not identical, with the steps that the European Union was taking.
But at this point, other than saying that we were working on it and expected to come up with something soon, we're not able to put a specific timeframe because some of these things do raise legal issues that can take a little while to figure out.
QUESTION: Is it time to change your policy on Cyprus?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're reviewing what we can do in order to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. And we'll make changes and announce changes when we're ready to do that.
Yeah. Okay. Sir.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Yesterday's Financial Times carried the front-page story based on the interview, American journalist interview with the North Korean member to Kim Yong-nam. And he said to this American journalist and they're not going to transfer any nuclear technology or material to terrorists. On the other side, he said the -- they are entitled to share the missile technology to any party.
What's your comment on that? What's your view of that?
MR. BOUCHER: I read the story. I guess there was also the first story by Selig Harrison himself on the inside page. You know, all I can say is our policy is very clear on this. North Korea has been a problem in terms of proliferation. There are international standards. There are international rules. There are rules that other members of the international community find very important in terms of controlling the proliferation of weapons -- controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons, controlling the proliferation of missiles.
Those are important to us. Those are important to China's -- to North Korea's neighbors. I think you all know that China has joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group -- another step, we think, in helping with the international adoption of standards.
So we don't think it's right for North Korea to become a source of proliferation, and therefore a danger, to the rest of the world. That's why we do think it's important to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula to lead to stability there, and that's why we think that North Korea needs to put its economic energies into helping its people and not trying to sell arms overseas.
So we will continue our very strong nonproliferation policies because that is a dangerous -- proliferation is a danger to us all.
QUESTION: Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: Middle East. Let's go down -- what do you want to ask me?
QUESTION: Not Middle East. Afghanistan.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: At the Asian Development Bank, there is a little bit of concern that the security situation in Afghanistan is hampering development. Particularly, there's concern about the slow buildup of the Afghan army. So are they concerns that the United States shares? And what are you doing to accelerate the process of the buildup of the army?
MR. BOUCHER: That's something I'd have to check on. I haven't checked on it since our last Afghan conference in Berlin, which was not that long ago. But certainly, we're doing everything we can to ensure the continuation and the expansion of reconstruction in Afghanistan. We have numerous successes already, in terms of roads, schools, bridges, hospitals and other aspects of daily life in Afghanistan.
There has been very significant progress on the political front. There is still work being done and still work to do on the security front. But we are encouraging donors. I think the money is coming in. We had a very successful donors conference in Berlin. And the work is well underway to train the Afghan army and to build up the Afghan police force so that they can handle security in their own country.
QUESTION: Pakistan says it has -- it has protested to the U.S. through diplomatic and military channels that some U.S. troops crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan May 2nd. Have you received a demarche of any kind on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we did hear from Pakistan on that. I'll have to get you the answer that we gave them.
QUESTION: You already answered them?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll get you something. I think we've made clear our answer.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Sir.
QUESTION: In addition to really scraping the barrels of the State Department coffers to find some money for Haiti, what else -- the Secretary talked about this morning -- what else are your -- what else were you able to tell the Prime Minister that the United States is doing? Is there an active U.S. lobbying effort to get people to contribute troops to UN force in June? What else, other than looking for money in --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, let me do it in terms of the discussion since, indeed, we discussed a number of areas where we're working with Haiti and helping Haiti. One of the things the Secretary discussed with the Prime Minister was the process of transition to a UN peacekeeping force and the efforts that we're making to ensure that that transition is successful and that there are peacekeepers there. Indeed, it's a subject the Secretary's discussed with other foreign ministers as well.
The Secretary spoke yesterday to the Secretary General, in fact, about ensuring that this process works well.
The second thing they talked about in this was --
MR. BOUCHER: What?
QUESTION: Powell spoke with Annan.
MR. BOUCHER: Secretary Powell spoke with Secretary General Annan yesterday in New York on a number of subjects, including what they were both doing to ensure that the transition to a peacekeeping force in Haiti was successful.
I think the second aspect of it that they discussed was economic development and the steps that the government was taking to fight corruption, to ensure a better atmosphere for economic development and for investment, and things that we could do to help that process along, in terms of assistance or other steps, things that we'll try to work with them on.
And then the third aspect, I think, was assistance generally, where the Secretary made clear, as he did outside, that we're looking to assist the Haitian people and the Haitian interim government to establish the foundations of economic success, as well as to help them with humanitarian problems.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: No, we've still got a few.
QUESTION: One question. We understand that the President rejected the King Abdallah's request for a Memo of Understanding, although it was given to Sharon.
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't write that today. I'd wait and see what happens tomorrow and then write it.
QUESTION: Well, now, we understand -- my understanding was that the State Department actually drafted the Memo of Understanding, then it was rejected by the White House.
Could you shed some light on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Ask me that question Friday.
QUESTION: And he still won't answer it.
MR. BOUCHER: And I still won't answer it, but by then you won't ask it because there will, in fact, have been or have not been a letter. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can I just -- without talking about whether they're going to get a letter, some of the assurances that the Jordanians were asking for, such as these final status -- that some of these sensitive issues should be final status negotiations -- I mean, it sounds like some -- most of those things that they were asking for were covered in the Quartet statement yesterday, so, but --
MR. BOUCHER: If you want to talk about U.S. policy, I would say look at the Quartet statement, which we helped draft and fully endorse. I'd also look at what the President himself actually said when Prime Minister Sharon was here, that there are final status issues based on 242 and 338 are to be solved in final status negotiations.
And on the specific issues where he talked about right of return, where he talked about settlements and realities on the ground, in those specific areas the President said mutual agreement by the parties and final status negotiations.
So there's no question that that's been part of our policy and continues to be part of our policy. And we have no problem saying that to anybody.
QUESTION: But, I mean, the Quartet statement didn't mention anything about realities on the ground. So when the President talks about new realities, and at the same time says final status -- that this should be resolved from final status negotiations, is he simply giving his opinion in terms of what the parties should consider when they go in to these negotiations, or is the U.S. lending support to the idea that some of these settlements should remain intact?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, our opinion is that negotiators need to take reality into account when they negotiate. That may not seem like too exciting a proposition when it's stated that way, but that is our opinion, and that's pretty much what we were saying in that case. The point is that the Middle East -- there's been various statements at various times about final status issues where you -- you can start with the President's vision of two states living side by side. I guess some could say that's a -- that's a final status issue.
Well, that's a position the United States has taken. Obviously, it's one that's widely agreed to and accepted. But we do think that our views carry some weight and influence. We'll state our views on some issues when we think it's the appropriate time, but always knowing that the final disposition of these issues is going to be the result of negotiations by the parties. And that's what was clearly stated by the President during the visit of Prime Minister Sharon, clearly stated by us during the Quartet and in the statement the Quartet made yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Ariel Sharon says he's returning to Washington next week and he intends to keep his plan, or a modified plan, intact and moving forward, in other words. Now, he hasn't had -- in the vote with Likud, he's had a negative vote there, but the populace of the all Israel is behind this plan, and of course, you've endorsed it up at the UN yesterday.
What will you be trying to do, work in that modification plan, along with the Quartet to see if there's any --
MR. BOUCHER: I can't, at this point, comment on any modified plan because there is no modified plan. We made clear, and I think the Quartet made clear, that we thought that the full withdrawal from Gaza would present an opportunity, withdrawal of settlements from Gaza would present an opportunity that we were willing to work with and take advantage of.
That's pretty much as much as I can say because that's the only proposal that's been made at this point.
QUESTION: (inaudible) of the -- of bringing peace to the Middle East has been, obviously, bringing lots of frustrations among many political parties of the Middle East countries. About 80 parties, political parties, met in Damascus recently, and while the Syrian Government reaffirmed it is choice of peace as a strategic choice, those 80, more than 80 political parties, yesterday expressed the frustrations of those efforts to bring peace.
And that seemed to agree or correspond with the letter of the 50 American diplomats of what is described today as a disarray of the roadmap and even Sharon plan. They have said today and yesterday that their frustration has amounted to a decision where they are calling for a national resistance as the only choice to get rid of the occupation of the Palestinian land and to counter Sharon extreme politics.
Do you see this as part of maybe failure of public policies of the United States or failure of --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I didn't see what the 80 parties said and I don't know who the 80 parties are, whether they're legitimate political parties or whether they're associates of terrorists. If people think that it's some failure of U.S. policy to have people prone to violence or threatening violence to achieve their ends, I just can't accept that.
Second of all, the use of violence, the killing of innocent people, the bus bombs, the shootings, have not gotten the Palestinian -- the Palestinian people a Palestinian state, nor have they created peace between Israel and its neighbors.
So a real effort at peace, a real effort to build a Palestinian Authority that itself could take responsibility for the state, that can take responsibility to control the violence, that's what's called for here, not calls to further violence. And I think we've made our position on that very clear.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m.)
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