State Department Noon Briefing, June 1
|Tuesday June 1,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
TUESDAY, JUNE 1, 2004
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Sorry I'm a bit late today, but I'm here. Don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Well, we hardly have enough words on Iraq so let me ask you a couple of questions.
MR. BOUCHER: I was thinking the same thing as I was trying to review all the material.
QUESTION: I don't know whether I would put whatever you say --
MR. BOUCHER: Good. Don't put it anywhere.
QUESTION: I doubt it'll go over the main players, but the Secretary did speak, and he spoke at length about Iraq, about having talks with the interim government. He may not have used the word "talks," but over the troops in Iraq. Is there any need for negotiations? Is it just to nail down what we all know -- that they're delighted to have U.S. peacekeeping troops there?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you've seen Prime Minister Allawi speak about the need to continue a multinational presence, security presence of the multinational force in Iraq. I think that's our understanding that he welcomes that, and we need to talk to him and other members of his government, as appropriate, to sort of fix the arrangements that might be made.
But I think we're all on the same wavelength on that. I don't expect it will be a long process, but that will take place, I expect, out in Baghdad, and then to the extent that they send people to the United Nations for discussions, there may be some discussion there, but I would expect it to be worked out on the ground in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Do you think those folks will be coming down here, too? He spoke toward the end of the week I think he said.
MR. BOUCHER: The Iraqi delegation, as far as we understand it, would primarily be headed to New York to work with the Security Council on their -- on the new UN resolution. Whether they'd come here or not, I don't know. That would be a decision for them to make.
QUESTION: Another question, his reference to full sovereignty, which usually includes the power to, you know, to have relations with other countries. Would the -- does the U.S. support the interim government seeking relations with Iran, their neighbor, with Israel possibly, with other countries? Or is that something that should wait for the new government, for the permanent government?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry is already one of the 14 ministries that are in the hands of an Iraqi minister and being run by an Iraqi minister, so those decisions are for the Iraqis to make and they will make them, whatever they decide on relations with other governments.
QUESTION: Yeah, I'm just wondering -- you probably won't be able to answer this. Is there any thought of any of the new government people going to Sea Island, or is that something you wouldn't know about now or --
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen any kind of announcement like that, so I --
QUESTION: Well, that's not what I asked you.
MR. BOUCHER: I know. (Laughter.) I have not seen any kind of announcement like that. Whether there's any kind of thought, I suppose that would have been a good question for the National Security Advisor at her Sea Island briefing this morning.
QUESTION: Yes, unfortunately, I was downstairs with the Secretary. So can I go on to something maybe you do know about? The new -- the revised resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is it actually going to be presented during this experts meeting this afternoon, and if it is --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: -- does it contain revisions that deal with what had appeared last week to be the two kind of problematic or main problematic areas, which were mandate and the IAMB?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States and the United Kingdom are going to distribute a revised text this afternoon at a meeting that's planned of Security Council experts to continue discussing the resolution. The revised text takes into account our discussions with Iraqis, with other council members, with coalition partners, Arab states and others in the region.
I'll give you a general sense at this point of what the revised text does; and yes, it does deal with the main issues that have been raised in our consultations, although I think I might define them a little differently than you.
The first was the question of fully sovereign and the powers of the government. And the revised text makes clearer that the occupation ends on June 30th and that the Iraqi interim government will be fully sovereign. I think that, in a nutshell, is the main thrust of the revisions that were made.
Second of all, it does deal with the question of mandate for the forces that would be in Iraq. In terms of the sovereignty, the powers of the government, the text includes explicit reference to Iraq's control of their natural resources and that the interim government will assume national responsibility for coordinating international assistance to Iraq.
Further on economic issues, the revised draft also makes clear that the transitional government of Iraq has the right to request the Security Council to review the International Advisory Monitoring Board, the body that would oversee independent audits for the development fund for Iraq.
On security, there's added language to highlight the interim government's authority over its security forces, that is, the interior ministry's control over police and it makes clear that the objective for Iraqis is to progressively play a greater security role and ultimately to assume responsibility for maintenance of security and stability in Iraq.
On the multinational force, the revised draft underscores what we've said publicly, that the United States will respect decisions of the sovereign Iraqi government regarding the presence of the multinational force. And then new language has been added to specify that the multinational force's mandate will end upon completion of the political process that leads to democratic elections under a new constitution. Explicit language is also added to make clear that the council will act to end the multinational force's mandate earlier if requested by the transitional government. And that's a point I think we've made, as well.
QUESTION: Wow, that's -- certainly didn't expect that much of an answer when I asked the question, so let me try and get a little, just a little bit more out of you if that's possible.
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe I should have put it out in -- paragraph by paragraph. Yeah.
QUESTION: It seemed to me that the last -- that you had made the argument when the last one -- when the first one came out that it already made clear that Iraq was fully sovereign after June 30. Can you say what in this new one makes that sovereignty clearer?
MR. BOUCHER: We think, first of all, all our statements and our draft, indeed, did make clear that Iraq was fully sovereign, this Iraqi interim government was going to exercise full sovereignty on behalf of the Iraqi people come June 30th.
The discussions in New York -- there had been questions about this, that or the other very specific powers, which, in our original drafting, we didn't really feel had to be enumerated but which we were happy to do in a second draft since those were issues of concern to some people: control over natural resources, for example, or coordinating international assistance.
QUESTION: Okay. So when you say makes clearer, it doesn't actually try to -- how it -- it makes it clearer through everything you said after that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you --
MR. BOUCHER: Teri.
QUESTION: Could you explain more about what you mean by the mandate will end when the political process is complete? Is there a certain -- is it just elections, or how will you --
MR. BOUCHER: It's the democratic elections under a new constitution that would mark the completion of the political process that is mapped out at this point, but, of course, everything would be done in consultation and conjunction with sovereign Iraqi governments as they evolve through this period and so whatever decisions were made along the way with them would, of course, have full effect.
QUESTION: But what changed your mind? When you said you didn't think that that was needed, that everybody knows you'll leave when it's time to leave, and et cetera, et cetera.
MR. BOUCHER: I think this, in a way, codifies what we had been saying. It puts down in writing what we had been saying, that our forces are there to ensure the transition of Iraq to a stable, democratically elected, constitutionally-based government, and that when the Iraqis feel along the way that they were able to support their own government with the security that it needed to operate, then our job -- the multinational force would no longer be needed. So, in a way, it sort of puts those two things into the resolution.
QUESTION: As long as there wasn't a predetermined date? That was your problem --
MR. BOUCHER: It's not a --
QUESTION: That was your -- the bigger problem --
MR. BOUCHER: Now, there is an expectation of the date that that government would take office, we all know, but, no, there's not a particular date.
QUESTION: Can you say what the expectation is?
MR. BOUCHER: The expectation is that by the end of 2005 or early 2006, the democratically constitutional government would take office.
QUESTION: And will that expectation be included in the language of the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: As we've always said, it's not a drop-dead date, it's not a guillotine type of date; it's a process and it's the completion of that process that would mark the end of the term.
QUESTION: Yeah. I didn't ask you if it was a drop-dead date. I asked if it was referred to in the resolution. I guess the answer is no?
MR. BOUCHER: The resolution refers to the process, as it's understood, and I don't know if they actually have the date that that's expected to reach the end.
QUESTION: One other question on the selection of the government. The President said earlier that Mr. Brahimi was a quarterback, and I believe at another point, he referred to the government, as these are Mr. Brahimi's choices.
Mr. Eckhard at the UN was asked about this and he said that Brahimi had put together an extensive list of names for possible political leaders for Iraq following consultations around the country. Those lists were submitted to the people making the decisions, the CPA, first and foremost, and the Iraqi Governing Council, both of which had invited Mr. Brahimi to Iraq to help them in the selection of these leaders. "If you want to call that a quarterback, that is up to you." He then also said, "Mr. Brahimi did not go there to make the selection, he went there to advise and to consult."
How can you describe these as Mr. Brahimi's choices if the UN spokesman says they aren't his choices, that it was given, first and foremost, to the CPA and to the IGC?
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, first of all, this has been addressed, I think, rather extensively by the CPA, by Ambassador Brahimi, by the President, by Dr. Rice. I'm not sure that there is, in fact, anything I can add. I think it's clear that the names that emerged -- emerged through a very broad and wide process of consultation that Ambassador Brahimi held. There were lists of names that were winnowed down and narrowed. Views of various parties, including the United States, were taken into account, and the Governing Council as well. The Governing Council expressed its views as well.
So by the end of this process, we had people in the jobs. We had names that Ambassador Brahimi could say that, this is the government. And that's what he said.
QUESTION: Brahimi is who made the decision?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not as simple as saying, "Who made the decision?" It was a process of broad consultation that was guided by Ambassador Brahimi as the quarterback, you might say, that led to -- that led to the list of names.
QUESTION: But the reason I ask the question is that transparency helps go to the issue of legitimacy, and when one talks of a process, this process, names emerging, but there is no clarity on the question of who actually decided that these were to be the names, it suggests that the process: (a) is not transparent; and it calls into question whether the outcome will be legitimate. And who actually decides these things.
QUESTION: Keeping in mind that not all quarterbacks call their own plays.
MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't going to get into that -- to that effort.
I'm looking at the announcement that Ambassador Brahimi made, and he described the names of the government that we're very happy to stand among you today to convey: His Excellency, the present, Prime Minister, two Vice Presidents and members of the government.
He talked about the people who participated: the Governing Council; the Coalition Provisional Authority also took part in these efforts; large sectors of the Iraqi people met with hundreds and even thousands of sons and daughters of these people. So, I mean, the only way I can describe it is the way that they have described it. Ambassador Brahimi made the final announcements and -- but that he didn't pick these names out of a hat. He picked these names out of an extended process of consultation where many, many people had the chance to express views, including the Coalition Authority and the Governing Council -- the Governing Council themselves who passed, more or less formal resolutions on some of these points.
QUESTION: But the question is really, did he pick the next -- look, he's an experienced diplomat; there's no question. Even when taken by surprise, an experienced diplomat and experienced spokespeople can regroup and present a united front.
You deferred -- the U.S. Government deferred to this diplomat to pick the people, but most importantly, the Prime Minister, the biggest job. And by what went on Friday, it was clear that the impetus for the choice was not coming from him. I'm not saying he opposed it. It didn't come from him.
So my question is, you know, unless you want to argue about that -- I mean, you want to reject that, what caused Bremer and his other, and the Governing Council, what caused them to push ahead? Was the process moving too slowly? Did they feel --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't accept the premise that the --
MR. BOUCHER: That names that were in the air were -- came out of Ambassador Brahimi's process. He, himself, has said he was supportive of the appointment that, of Mr. Allawi as Prime Minister.
MR. BOUCHER: Dr. Rice told you this morning that we didn't have a single candidate in these races. We all knew that there were short lists of people. In terms of the Prime Minister, what caused him to become Prime Minister was really the decision of the Governing Council on Friday.
MR. BOUCHER: -- supported by the CPA and by Ambassador Brahimi. Which one of those caused it; I don't know I can quite answer that, except to say that Ambassador Brahimi was guiding this whole process.
QUESTION: Is it true, though, that the selection process took place in a secret meeting unbeknownst to Brahimi while he was in Amman?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: It is not true? Okay.
QUESTION: Would you describe this process? You've just referred to names being in the air. Would you describe this process as transparent and therefore as something that should be regarded as legitimate by the Iraqi people?
MR. BOUCHER: I would regard this process as one that involved thousands, hundreds at least, probably thousands, of Iraqis. It involved consultations with many, many groups. It involved an attempt to reflect the desires of Iraqis and the different political groupings, factions, leaders, tribal groupings, civil society members, in Iraqi society; and that the government derives its legitimacy from that broad consultation process, from having been selected through a process of -- that was led by the United Nations representative, but having been the choice of the Iraqi people that he talked to in that process and having the support of others, like the Coalition Authority and like the Governing Council.
QUESTION: But at the end of the day, Richard, I mean, everyone acknowledges that there were short lists that came from all these consultations. But are you denying that, at the end of the day, on Friday and over the weekend with these kind of protracted negotiations for the last final candidates, that the IGC didn't at least attempt to hijack the process?
MR. BOUCHER: I think by Ambassador Brahimi's statements, the statements of Ambassador Bremer and others, you know that the Governing Council played a role in this whole process and that they did express their preferences, make their choices, in a way that was supported and accepted by Ambassador Bremer and Ambassador Brahimi.
QUESTION: Did they have a greater role in choosing them than you originally intended?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was intended for a large number of groupings within Iraqi society to have an important role, and the Governing Council was certainly all along playing an important role.
QUESTION: So why should the Iraqi people feel this is a legitimate government if large roles were played by a bunch of unelected Iraqis handpicked by the United States and by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority?
MR. BOUCHER: Because there was much more than that involved in the process. First of all, that group itself was founded in Iraqi society and had members of different political groupings and ethnic groups and different parts of Iraqi society. But the consultation process that produced this government went far, far beyond that, and that it resulted from very, very wide consultations in Iraqi society. It resulted in a government that reflects in its membership a broad spectrum of people, a few of whom are from the Governing Council, many of whom are new faces and new members, who, in Ambassador Brahimi's view and the view of the Governing Council and the view of Ambassador Bremer and others in Iraq, these are the people who are capable of leading an interim government, of making decisions on behalf of the Iraqi people, and of exercising the authority that they will have.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the resolution for one second? It's a technical matter.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said that the transitional government would have the right to request review on the IAMB. So it's transitional; i.e., the government that takes -- that is the result of elections held, at the latest, in January, but the interim government does not have that right?
MR. BOUCHER: The expectation, as with the question of continuation of multinational force, the expectation is that the interim government will, indeed, want that board to continue, that the audits are an important part of the international transparency of this money. But I think we all know from other language in the resolution that there is a lot of respect given to the decisions of the sovereign interim government as well.
QUESTION: But not (inaudible) request this review?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's specifically allowed for and specifically looked at when you get to the transitional government. But, as I said, there's a lot of respect for the interim government and -- but we would expect that they would want to continue this mechanism.
QUESTION: But you also would expect that they would want to continue the multilateral force, and yet they are given, in the resolution they are given -- it's made -- it's spelled out. At least from what I could tell from what you said, it's spelled out that you will respect any decision that the interim government decides to make with respect to the multilateral force. So why can't -- I guess, why can't they --
QUESTION: Why can't they ask for a review on the IAMB?
QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. Why?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the understanding is that that this board is part of an essential process of transparency for this fund. The expectation is that they will want it continued, and therefore the question would not arise during that interim period.
QUESTION: But if they're fully sovereign, why can't they make that decision, not based on your expectation but on their consensus, their view, once they take power?
MR. BOUCHER: They can make that decision and would be expected to make that decision --
QUESTION: -- the resolution doesn't --
MR. BOUCHER: They would be expected to -- they would make that decision before the resolution is passed if they want --
QUESTION: But you're saying your resolution says that only the transitional government can make that review. If they're fully sovereign, why can't the interim government also request that review?
MR. BOUCHER: It is not ruled out. It's not just provided, it's not ruled in. That's the only way I can say it.
QUESTION: But, Richard, you understand that this is -- the quibbling that we're doing right here is exactly what's going to go on in New York.
MR. BOUCHER: And then we'll do it in New York, frankly. We'll be glad to do it in New York with the full text --
QUESTION: Yeah, well, don't be surprised at the fact that we're going to --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not surprised. I'm used to quibbling. And I expect there will be some extensive discussions in New York. But, as I said, we moved a long way in this new draft towards recognizing some of the issues that had been raised in earlier discussions of the resolution in New York. We've made more explicit and more clear the full sovereignty of the interim government and we've also dealt with some issues like the mandate that people wanted us to deal with. So I think this resolution goes a long way towards meeting a lot of the issues that have been raised during the course of our discussions in New York.
QUESTION: On the actual --
QUESTION: I have -- more on the mandate. When you say that it'll be at the end of the political process, but if the Iraqis feel that they're ready to provide security for the country it could be reviewed, who has the ultimate say over whether they're ready and whether you feel -- it's one thing for the mandate to end, which I assume can be renewed, right? Once the mandate ends, you can renew it?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the Security Council --
QUESTION: Okay. But, I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: As with other countries, ultimately this boils down to the consent of the Iraqi people. That is explicit in the resolution. Ultimately, it boils down to whatever arrangements the multinational force or other countries want to have -- have with that sovereign Iraqi government. So they could continue with some kind of presence with or without the UN mandate, the UN force -- resolution.
QUESTION: But I'm saying if the Iraqis -- you're going to give the Iraqis final determination over whether they're ready to provide security to the country. I mean, what is the U.S. -- what if the U.S. and multinational force feels that they're not ready?
MR. BOUCHER: As we've said many times, we don't think that's going to be an issue. That's going to be something that we will be discussing and working in partnership with Iraqi governments throughout this period of transition from one government to another to the final elected government under a constitution, that it will be a matter of partnership, will be a matter of coordination.
And I think we've made clear that the arrangements will allow for that. The UN resolution explicitly says it's based on the consent of the sovereign Iraqi government and we have explicitly said if a circumstance should arise where they felt that force was no longer needed, then we would leave.
QUESTION: Richard, on the issue of the mandate, unless I misheard, you were saying that where security is concerned, if the Minister of Interior, the Iraqi Minister of Interior, would be responsible for the police. You didn't say anything about the armed forces or the American armed forces and so on. So is it in the new language explicit that it only talks about police; it doesn't say anything about the multinational force?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll wait in going into more detail language until we have it out on the street. We want to let other governments see it and discuss it with us in New York, first.
QUESTION: Why did you feel that you had to revise the resolution? Was it through consultations with other members?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always said that we would take the views of other into account -- that we had taken them into account before producing the first draft, and indeed, for many governments, their reaction to the first draft was noting that, in fact, we had taken their views into account.
At -- during the course of discussion of that first draft there have been issues raised, points raised that we've felt we accommodate: They were raised by Security Council members; they were raised by Iraqis; they were raised by coalition partners, by Arab governments and others that we've consulted with. And to the extent that we've felt we could deal with some of those issues, we did so in a revised draft that'll be circulated this afternoon.
QUESTION: Richard, can you tell us or evaluate the role that Ayatollah al-Sistani played in the consultations? Was it the same as hundreds of others, or was it larger or smaller or --
MR. BOUCHER: I can't do that. I think Ambassador Brahimi would have to do that.
QUESTION: And can you tell us whether any American official has met with him during these consultations?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any meetings like that.
You've got one, too.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
QUESTION: Wait -- we have more --
MR. BOUCHER: No, still on this. We have --
QUESTION: Has the U.S. talked to the Chinese about the second draft before you introduce it today? And also, would you say the second draft better answer some of China's questions earlier in taking to their proposal the Council?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, China's questions earlier -- I think that their ideas were put together even before they saw the first draft. I think China was one of the countries that recognized that our draft resolution, the U.S.-UK draft, indeed, addressed many of the issues that they had reached -- that they had raised in the preliminary discussions, and I would expect that this next draft addresses some of those issues even more fully.
As far as consultations or discussions of this particular text, the Secretary spoke with the Chinese Foreign Minister on the 30th -- what was that, Saturday?
MR. BOUCHER: On Saturday, and they talked about the process in New York and they talked about the prospect of a new resolution.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, we had one on this side.
QUESTION: Just -- is this, this new -- the names -- the selection of the new government, is this the kind of thing that you had envisioned -- envisaged under your initial plan for the caucuses?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not exactly the same. It's a similar process, though, the --
QUESTION: Better or worse?
MR. BOUCHER: It's, it's --
QUESTION: Would you have preferred that -- if they had gone ahead with a caucus or is this -- this is okay with you?
MR. BOUCHER: What we were looking for was a process by which broad segments of Iraqi society were consulted and were involved in identifying the leaders and choosing the interim government. The caucus was one way that we, and others, even in Iraq, had felt that could be done. When it became apparent that that wasn't feasible on this time scale and according to the way that we had mapped it out, we thought this was a good process. We think the UN role in this has been very important and very helpful. We think the kind of broad and extended consultations that Ambassador Brahimi has held have been very important to the process, and above all, we think that the slate of people that has emerged to take responsibility for the Iraqi government is one that is capable of leading Iraq through this interim period and bringing Iraqis to the elections.
QUESTION: In addition to the Chinese Foreign Minister, who else did Secretary Powell speak with on this?
MR. BOUCHER: He's been keeping in touch with the British, obviously. He spoke this morning to Foreign Minister Lavrov. He -- I don't have my little stick-um with me today, I'm sorry -- or did I put it in my pocket? No. That's a different one.
He's kept in touch with the Foreign Minister -- with the Secretary General of the UN, and I'll try to remember all the other people he talked to over the weekend, but he talked to a variety of people.
QUESTION: And has he talked to Foreign Minister Zabari since, since he was formally named?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not since this morning. No.
QUESTION: In the U.S. view, is Brahimi's job over? Is he done, pretty much?
MR. BOUCHER: That's something for the Secretary General to decide.
Oh, Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos yesterday, the Chinese Foreign Minister. On Saturday he also talked to the French and Spanish Foreign Ministers, as well.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Can you analyze the Khobar terrorist bombings of oil facilities and the resultant siege, the killing of hostages at the hotel compound, and have the Saudis asked for any assistance, whether diplomatically or militarily from the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me give you the basic facts and then answer your second question.
First of all, the U.S. strongly condemns Saturday's attack in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. This horrific attack claimed 22 lives. It included citizens from 10 nations, including one American. One of those killed was a ten-year-old child. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families not only of the deceased U.S. citizen but to all who were affected by this gruesome incident. One of the injured is a U.S. citizen. That person is in stable condition. I don't have a Privacy Act waiver, so I can't give you any more information on that person.
As far as the situation, I think it's important to remember that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia continue to cooperate very closely to combat terrorism. We deeply appreciate Saudi efforts to protect their own citizens and guests in their country, including Americans. It's clear that Saudi security forces are very aggressively pursuing the terrorists who are operating in their homeland. They have been successful in preventing several attacks and, in many cases that cost Saudi lives as well.
But at the same time, I'd say we stand by the advice and the current Travel Warning that's dated April 15th, and has also been issued as a Warden Message. The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Saudi Arabia. Private American citizens currently in Saudi Arabia are strongly urged to depart.
As far as assistance, we will cooperate with the Saudi Government in investigating the situation there. We are sending an FBI team of investigators to Saudi Arabia today to work with and support the Saudi Government in their investigation, so further comment would have -- would come from the Justice Department if there's more to be said on that.
QUESTION: A couple of specific things, just to follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The language about deferring, warning U.S. citizens to defer and strongly urging private citizens to leave, I believe, is identical to the last Travel Warning. Correct?
MR. BOUCHER: That is the language from April 15th, and that's been reiterated in Warden Messages and today.
QUESTION: And then do you have clarity, and I think you might have better information on this than we do, on whether any of the 22 people who died may have died as a result of the storming of the compound, or is it your understanding that all 22 were killed by the suspected militants?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have specific information like that. That would have to come from the investigators and the people on the ground.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you feel that the operation, the storming, was really botched up? After all, the Saudis allowed three of the terrorists to run away, to get away.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to comment on other people's military actions like that.
QUESTION: Okay. A quick follow-up on the -- you know, calling U.S. citizens to leave Saudi Arabia. Will that impact in any way the oil industry or the production? Have you had any assessment?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not -- remember, we have had this statement out since April 15th and I'm merely reiterating it today since it is important to remember that we have that advice and that Americans should heed it.
But as far as whether that would have an effect on the oil industry, I don't remember anybody saying so in April or May, so I'm not -- it's not new at this point.
QUESTION: You don't have a sense of urgency added to the statement that was issued on April 15th or --
MR. BOUCHER: It's the same statement being reiterated, so people are aware of it.
QUESTION: Is there any place in these warnings or alerts, any distinction being made, between Muslims and not Muslims -- and non-Muslims?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: You know why I'm asking, because --
MR. BOUCHER: I know why you're asking, but if you look at the pattern of attacks around the world or the pattern of attacks in Saudi Arabia, unfortunately, the killers, the murderers, the terrorists have not made much of a distinction and they've killed Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
QUESTION: Well, in the most recent incident, they apparently questioned even a woman from Lebanon was asked, "Are you a Muslim or not?" She said, "I'm from Lebanon." I don't know if that means she passed muster or not.
MR. BOUCHER: I have seen those reports, but I think one has to remember that, very sadly, many Arabs, many Muslims; many people of different nationalities have been killed in these attacks. This particular attack, there were ten different -- nationals of ten different nations that were killed. And it's regrettable, but these horrible people don't really differentiate whom they kill.
QUESTION: Richard, can I just make sure exactly -- there hasn't been another Warden Message released since Saturday, right? This is the one from Saturday?
MR. BOUCHER: On May 29th there was a Warden Message, so that would have been Friday, actually.
QUESTION: It was Saturday, right? Today is the 1st, right?
QUESTION: It couldn't have been before --
QUESTION: That would have been --
MR. BOUCHER: It was the afternoon of the day of the attacks.
QUESTION: Which was Saturday.
MR. BOUCHER: The May 29th Warden Message was issued by American Embassy Riyadh: "The U.S. Mission in Saudi Arabia wishes to advise the American community that on the morning of May 29, terrorist attacks were carried out against three Western targets in the city of Al Khobar. Foreign nationals, including Westerners, and Saudi citizens were killed in the attacks."
QUESTION: Correct. But there hasn't been one since that? That's the one you're referring to?
MR. BOUCHER: That's the one I'm referring to, yeah.
QUESTION: Can we move on to something else, or is that still Saudi? Can I ask you about -- it's quick -- the religious leaders that called on the Secretary? They came down and, you know, they answered questions and made statements. And one of them said that -- and this is not exactly a new idea -- that there should be a high-level envoy appointed. Some of them were not happy with the pace of American diplomacy, and, in that vein, one said they had suggested to the Secretary that a high-level special U.S. envoy be sent there.
Did he have a response to that, or is there a response to that?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me say, first of all, that I think it was a very friendly meeting. It was a good discussion with religious leaders across the spectrum who support peace, who support the strong effort that the Secretary and the United States Government have been making to try to achieve peace in the Middle East.
They also came with some ideas about how that process could be furthered and discussed some of the things that we, in fact, are doing: working with the Quartet; looking for the opportunities in Prime Minister's withdrawal plan; encouraging support for the Palestinians as they take more responsibility for security and in order to ease the humanitarian situation of Palestinians.
They also raised this idea that, as you say -- it has been heard before -- that there should be a high-level envoy. The Secretary has reviewed the history of the high-level envoys that this Administration has had going back to Senator Mitchell --
QUESTION: -- and has found only that's been successful --
MR. BOUCHER: -- but also said that not so much that there was something wrong with it, but that that demonstrated that he was not in any way adverse or opposed to the appointment of high-level envoys, but that they needed to be appointed at a time and to work at a time when there's really something to do, when there's really some way of making progress by using such an envoy.
And in that context, I would say he reiterated the need for control of the violence and for the Palestinians to take responsibility to control the violence because that is the thing that has led to the problems and the breakdown of previous efforts by envoys.
QUESTION: Well, that pretty much answers the second point I was going to bring up because they're taking the view, which some people take that you shouldn't wait until the violence ends; you should jump right in there, send a special envoy, and roll up your sleeves. And there was a Muslim cleric who said it makes him sick, the pace of the Administration diplomacy.
But the Administration finds the violence too high to -- to what?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think that that sounds like a mischaracterization of both sides' views, as expressed in the meeting.
QUESTION: I heard him say that.
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe it was a little different outside, but in terms of the meeting, certainly they are looking for different ways that we can make progress. And as I said, they noted some of the things and encouraged this with many of the things we are doing, and also encouraged this idea of appointing a high-level envoy. But I think they recognize that the Administration is making serious efforts and continues to make serious efforts, whether it was through the different phases that we've gone through, the personal efforts of the Secretary of State repeatedly over time, the personal efforts by the President at Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh, and the continuing efforts to work with the Gaza withdrawal as discussed by Prime Minister Sharon. So there's a lot of recognition that we have made and continue to make strenuous efforts with regard to the Middle East. And this other -- these other suggestions are out there as well.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? Actually, what they were saying is, you know, despite the efforts that you had, what you really need is like a serious, intense, high-level engagement and that you can't wait for the climate where you can get something done, that you have to create the -- that you have to go there and create the climate yourself.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think any of us -- well, I don't think any of us have said we're waiting for the climate. That's -- we're not waiting. We're actually working very actively, and you've seen that through the whole series of meetings that led up to Prime Minister Sharon's visit and the meetings that have been held afterwards, that the Secretary has held with the Quartet, the meetings that he had with Arab leaders in Jordan. So there's no waiting involved.
At the same time, one can't expect to be able to make real progress unless you point out the reality of the situation, and that is that the violence itself and the failure of the Palestinian Authority to try to control the violence has led these efforts to -- into difficulty again and again. And as we look at the prospect of a real Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, a real evacuation of settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, once again, the same question arises: Will the Palestinians be able to exercise authority? Will they be able to control violence from those areas?
QUESTION: Richard, on the same topic?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, yeah.
QUESTION: On Friday, the Secretary of State suggested that he wanted to wait until after the meeting on Sunday to discuss or to issue a comment on the newly -- the new Sharon revised plan. Now that Sunday has come and gone, and there is nothing, no meeting, could you give us any assessment? How are you viewing the new revised plan, or have you got any wind of us?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not been briefed on a new proposal by the Israeli Government at this point, so until they put something forward I don't think we'll be able to comment.
QUESTION: Change subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: About Cyprus, are you still reviewing your policy against the Turkish Cypriot side?
MR. BOUCHER: We have certainly been looking at steps to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot side. I think our Ambassador in Cyprus last week announced a step with regard to extending the validity of visas for Turkish Cypriots that makes it easier for them to travel, particularly the students who might come to the United States. So that's one thing that we've announced already. We'll be looking at other steps that we can take and making those known at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: How about the financial aids?
MR. BOUCHER: If we have something to say on that, we'll say it when we're ready.
QUESTION: Okay, and other subject, different subject. The Greek Cypriot President, Papadopoulos, is coming to United States. Did he ask any appointment from the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I saw a note that he was stopping in Boston on the way back from a trip.
QUESTION: New York?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any meetings down here at this point.
QUESTION: Did he request any meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a question you can ask him.
QUESTION: China's Foreign Ministry, on Tuesday, refuted the Pentagon's annual report on Beijing's military forces, saying the report was filled of Cold War mentality and was hostile. I'm not asking you to respond from Pentagon. My question is: How do you reconcile the facts that the U.S. and China are enjoying warmer relationship and better cooperations, like in Iraq, and that the U.S. still publicly treat China as that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I'm not going to speak for the Pentagon report or comment on the Chinese reaction to it.
We have had a very consistent policy of cooperating with China wherever we can, but also being clear about our differences. And when it comes to the Taiwan Straits, I think we have a very consistent policy supporting peaceful resolution. We have opposed the use of force to settle the conflict in the Taiwan Straits and we view military coercion as counterproductive. So that's been a very steady policy that we've enunciated before.
We do see the military buildup and missile deployments as destabilizing. We've said that publicly as well, because it's a situation that is of importance to us and concern to us. We want to see peaceful resolution. We don't want to see coercion `as counterproductive. So that's been a very steady policy that we've enunciated before.
We do see the military buildup and missile deployments as destabilizing. We've said that publicly as well, because it's a situation that is of importance to us and concern to us. We want to see peaceful resolution. We don't want to see coercion and we want to be quite clear on that.
Yeah, sir. Arshad.
QUESTION: Go ahead on China, and then I've got --
QUESTION: Briefly on China. Just there are reports that the Brits are now about to join up with the rest -- with others in the EU to lift the arms embargo on the Chinese. What -- have you stepped up at all your lobbying against this?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check. We've been fairly consistent in our talks with European members, European Union members, making clear our view that it's not time to lift the arms embargo on China that they have. And so we've been, I think, fairly consistently clear about that. I'm not aware of anything new from the British, but I'll check and see if there's anything new that we have to say on the subject.
QUESTION: One on Iran. Mr. ElBaradei is quoted today as saying that the IAEA, "We haven't seen concrete proof of a military program, so it's premature to make a judgment on that." That's on whether there is a military program to build a bomb in Iran.
Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think he's also quoted in the wires as saying something like the facts aren't all in yet or we don't know, we haven't been given the information that we want.
I think what is clear as we approach the next phase of discussion at the International Atomic Energy Agency is that Iran has still not fulfilled the requirements of the Board of Governors, nor has it fulfilled its own commitments to provide full and complete information. So we look forward to seeing what the Director General can report to us for that meeting and we look forward to the discussion with other countries at the board meeting.
QUESTION: Is it still your view that their nuclear -- their civilian nuclear program has been a -- has camouflaged a military one?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's borne out by the facts, yes.
We've got one more.
QUESTION: Richard, with the new Prime Minister of India saying they've just announced a peace talks with the Pakistanis June 27th and '8th, and over the weekend President Musharraf has an editorial in The Washington Post, huge editorial. And also, can you comment on the Pakistani mosque bombings over the weekend?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to break those out in reverse article -- order.
I'm not going to comment on people's editorials about the Pakistani Government. I would say that we support the process of dialogue and discussion that's been underway between India and Pakistan. We certainly have welcomed the new government and we're glad to see that it is, as it said it would, continuing that policy of peaceful dialogue.
As far as the bombings in Karachi, we strongly condemn the latest violent incidents in Karachi, including the bombing today of a mosque in central Karachi during evening prayers, and the rioting that occurred after the killing of a prominent Sunni cleric on May 30th.
Such pointless violence against religious communities is a direct attack on Pakistan's efforts to promote religious moderation and tolerance, and it negatively affects efforts to strengthen democracy.
Attacking worshipers during religious services is a despicable and cowardly act. We join with all those who are encouraging tolerance between Shias and Sunnis and who are working to ensure that Pakistanis can practice their faith without fear.
We understand that Pakistani authorities are taking action to calm tensions, to locate those responsible for these violent acts, and to bring them to justice.
QUESTION: Thanks very much.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)
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