State Department Noon Briefing, September 17, 2003
September 17, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2003
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: One of the old handicap questions on the UN resolution. The Greek Foreign Minister seemed a little bit upbeat.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary certainly did discuss the new resolution with the Greek Foreign Minister, as he has with other counterparts he's met with in recent days and weeks.
The status of the resolution, I think, is that we have heard a lot of comments and had a lot of discussions with other governments, including the discussions the Secretary had last week in Geneva. I would add as well that the Secretary, during his visit to Baghdad, as well as in the north where we were talking to some of the leaders who are also on the Governing Council there, heard a lot about the progress that's being made, the process that's underway among Iraqis to create governmental institutions, to move towards a constitutional convention. And so that this has been an active subject of discussion for him over the last week.
We've now heard a lot of views directly in those meetings with the Secretary, as well in New York. We are considering those, and at this point I can't really give you next steps because they haven't -- we haven't settled on exactly how we intend to proceed at this point.
QUESTION: Well, it would seem to be logic if things are moving better, and better maybe than expected, doesn't that mean that could accelerate the U.S.'s departure?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've tried to give any particular timetable to it in terms of days, weeks, months, you know, exact periods of time. What we've tried to do is describe the process, and Ambassador Bremer himself has described it first to the Iraqi people was underway, the seven-step process. We've said that as we work from the current state, which is the Governing Council, ministers who are taking charge and running things for Iraqis, and a constitutional preparatory group that's already meeting, so we move from that into a constitutional conference, have a constitution and election. That's the process through which Iraqis will assume full responsibility for their affairs and we will move -- we'll be in a position to depart.
So that's a process we have described, but I'd say that that is also a process that's underway.
QUESTION: Richard, you don't seem to share the same optimism that Foreign Minister Papandreou had, who said that he was hopeful or he thought that quite soon that a resolution could be adopted. And someone else who is kind of more -- or is less on the periphery than he is, realizing his country is not a Security Council member, but the Spanish Foreign Minister said that he thought that -- he said this morning that he thought it could happen in --
MR. BOUCHER: The Spanish Foreign Minister? She.
QUESTION: Spanish -- sorry. Spanish Prime Minister or President, Mr. Aznar.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: Said that he thought it could happen in a couple days. Are you not as optimistic as that?
MR. BOUCHER: I just don't have the exact timing for you at this point. We certainly are --
QUESTION: I'm not asking for timing but --
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly do think that this is a proposition that will command substantial support in the Council, and we have had a variety of discussions. I know there was some focus in Geneva on the views of perhaps one or two countries. What we have found is that there are a variety of views in the Council, and we think this is a resolution that can command substantial support, but exactly how we move it forward from here is not decided.
I think some of you may know that, generally, the Security Council doesn't meet during the week that the UN General Assembly is starting up, so there are sort of logistical complications in addition to just deciding that, you know, we've got to decide how to get the resolution. We think we can do it.
QUESTION: But it could meet, right?
MR. BOUCHER: What? I suppose so, but that's --
QUESTION: You could have an unprecedented meeting of the --
MR. BOUCHER: That's something people will have to look into and to decide.
QUESTION: Would it be fair to say that all of these views that you've heard, this variety of views, will be incorporated into the resolution before you put it to a vote?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't necessarily say "all," because --
QUESTION: Or some of them?
MR. BOUCHER: -- there may be contradictory ones. But certainly, we're trying to listen carefully to what we've heard from other countries, listen carefully to the many helpful suggestions that we've gotten, and any that are constructive will be incorporated into our thinking as we try to move forward.
QUESTION: Richard, I understand that the leader of the, current leader of the IGC, Ahmed Chalabi, is going to be leading a delegation to the White House soon. What kind of diplomatic protocol will there be? Will he be treated as a head of state?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about a visit to the White House. You'd have to ask at the White House about that.
MR. BOUCHER: But Mr. Chalabi, as well as the Foreign Minister, Mr. Zebari, Minister Zebari, who the Secretary met with in Baghdad, will be coming to New York in a delegation from the Iraqi Governing Council that will come from Baghdad for the General Assembly. And so the Iraqi UN mission has informed other missions of that.
When the Secretary was in Baghdad, he spoke with the Foreign Minister quite extensively about this process, about, first of all, the success that the Governing Council has had and their taking the seat at the Arab League. And, obviously, we welcomed and encouraged them to come to New York and work for a similar outcome there. It's also, obviously, an opportunity in New York to meet with a variety of other ministers from other nations, and the Iraqi Foreign Minister told us he would take advantage of that as well.
Something to follow-up?
QUESTION: I do have some follow-ups on that. Just two quick follow-ups. Chalabi has been quoted in the last week as saying that he would like a more rapid transfer, and he is going to be coming to meet -- or there was a letter just recently released today that said that he is going to be meeting with some leading members of the Senate to talk about this $87 billion request for the reconstruction and, obviously, peacekeeping in Iraq.
Does the State Department have any views on the IGC sort of independently discussing this budget matter with the Senate?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's important for members of Congress to have as much information as possible about the state of affairs and how we proceed. And no, we don't object to their meeting with anybody. They decide that on their own. You're aware of that. In any number of situations, foreign and domestic, they meet with whoever they feel is appropriate to do their jobs. But we think, actually, there's a value in talking to Iraqis who are involved in this process so that the members understand that we're funding rebuilding, reconstruction in an Iraq that is going to be democratic, that there is a process underway, and so that we know why we're asking for the supplemental and what we're asking them to put the money into.
QUESTION: Richard, how much success is the U.S. Government having so far in persuading its allies to provide reconstruction aid at the Madrid conference?
MR. BOUCHER: This is an ongoing process. We've been working with other donors since earlier this year. I think you know the first donors meeting, the first major donors meeting, was in June. That was discussed publicly with the UN as well as other governments involved. We've had subsequent meetings in Belgium. We've kept in very close touch with the potential donors, major donors.
It's not time to account for success yet. We're moving towards the conference in Madrid. That's where we will see how much success we are having.
The Secretary has, of course, talked to others in the international community about the importance of contributing. This was also a topic in his discussions with the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, the Greek Foreign Minister. I'm trying to think of one or two of the others that he's had recently where it's always come up.
So it's important to us. We're also mounting a diplomatic campaign to be in on a working level with other governments and embassies around the world where there are potential donors. We also know that a new UN resolution would help that process because there are either countries, governments or, in some cases, international institutions that are either unable to contribute except under the auspices of the UN resolution or at least that would be helped to do so by a UN resolution.
So it's a very broad effort: the Secretary's level, working level, economic officials, getting a UN resolution and working together towards a donors conference. It's underway, it's part way through. It's not at the point yet where I can give you any statistics or numbers. It's not exactly like pledge week where the thermometer goes up all week long. It's getting people ready to announce their commitments when they get to Madrid.
QUESTION: The White House has asked Congress as part of its $87 billion request for $20 billion for reconstruction from the U.S. taxpayer.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you want a similar amount from the rest of the world?
MR. BOUCHER: We want as much as we can get.
QUESTION: There's a story in the Journal today suggesting that your initial soundings are not being met with a lot of enthusiasm. Would you care to rebut that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't want to try to give any kind of estimate at this point. There's obviously a lot of demands on the international community right now. We think the more we talk about this one, the more we press on this one, the more people will understand how very important this is. The President has obviously looked at the all the commitments the United States has overseas, including reconstruction in places like Afghanistan or fighting AIDS in Africa or some of the famine situations that exist, and felt that this was a situation that really merited an extraordinary amount of help from the United States.
QUESTION: Is the 24th a hard date for the Madrid conference, or would you consider extending it or postponing it if you needed more --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's been any discussion of postponing it. Not that I've heard around here. I asked the question of various people a week or two ago, and people said no, they hadn't -- that wasn't under consideration.
QUESTION: And lastly, how much do you expect this to feature in the Secretary's bilats and meetings in New York next week?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect it to be a regular thing. It may vary a little by country to country, depending on the abilities from each, according to his abilities. We'll look at how -- obviously, we may press harder --
QUESTION: Well, you just said you wanted as much as you can get.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we'll press harder on those that we think we can -- might be in a position to give a little more. But so, yes, it will be something that he will pursue during his meetings next week, just getting people ready for the donors conference and emphasizing the importance of the whole process.
QUESTION: I want to change -- the UN, but not Iraq, if that's possible.
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Can you explain how the United States so badly misjudged what was going on yesterday up in New York with the Arafat resolution, how it was that the Department was convinced that -- or was not -- was unaware of the vigor with which the Syrians were going to push ahead with a vote on their resolution --
MR. BOUCHER: First of all --
QUESTION: -- to the point where -- to the point where, you know, even an hour before you actually vetoed it, there was still thinking that you could prevent a vote from happening?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't accept the charge. I don't think the Department badly misjudged. I think our people in New York were quite aware of what was going on and kept us fairly well informed.
The fact was the Arabs were having a meeting yesterday afternoon at which they were going to decide, and whenever you go into that meeting and they can decide to go forward or not to go forward, there is obviously the possibility that they won't. They decided to go for it. They decided not to allow more time. And we were ready with a United States position, with a decision to veto if we had to, and with an explanation of why. So I think we were ready for what happened yesterday and we're on top of the issues.
QUESTION: Okay. Then is it the case, though, that you were looking for more time because you wanted to add -- you wanted the resolution to include specific condemnation of Hamas and other groups, or would you, as your Deputy suggested yesterday, still have opposed the resolution or any resolution on the Middle East yesterday even if it had included that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. It didn't happen. I can't predict at this point. We certainly felt that a resolution, this resolution, was not one that we could support or even abstain on. That's why we went to veto. If amendments had been made that named some of the other problems and difficulties, we would have decided accordingly.
QUESTION: Richard --
QUESTION: Well, what was your wanting -- what was your reason for wanting more time, then, to debate the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we felt that if any resolution was going to be considered and passed that it had to include other things.
QUESTION: But you still -- but you couldn't say whether you would have not vetoed it if --
MR. BOUCHER: I can't say for sure. No.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say whether there was an effort on the part of the United States, given that the position was that Arafat shouldn't be expelled or harmed, that there was an effort to find suitable language?
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly the United States, and I think, in particular, some other governments, were working to try to get suitable language. I haven't seen the explanations of vote from those who abstained, but I think they were looking for language and, frankly, they were looking for a little smoother process.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the reaction that you've gotten back from the Arab countries after this resolution? There's been, well, many reports that there's been a strong backlash.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any particular characterization. I haven't seen anything unexpected.
QUESTION: Haven't gotten calls?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check and see what our embassies have heard. I haven't done a check of the cables on it.
QUESTION: Richard, do you think that the fact that the U.S. had to wield a veto so close to the diplomatic push for the Iraq resolution will, in any way, hinder your efforts to make that persuasive case?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't make that connection. No.
MR. BOUCHER: I hope others would not, either.
QUESTION: Back to the UN resolution.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Secretary, last week in an interview with a Mexican television, said that he will take into account any changes that Mexico will have. And then he said, "And I hope that his representative in New York will also view the discussions in a positive light."
What the Secretary was saying with this? That the Ambassador of Mexico at the UN says one thing and the Foreign Minister says another thing?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary was saying that he hoped the Ambassador of Mexico in New York would contribute to these discussions in a positive light.
QUESTION: So he's not contributing anything with --
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary was making the point that he hoped that the Mexican Ambassador in New York would contribute in a positive way.
QUESTION: Can we go back to --
MR. BOUCHER: That's all we have to say on that subject. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Arafat for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm a little confused. If it is, in fact, the U.S. position that you oppose and have told Israel that you do not think that -- or that you are opposed to the expulsion or the harming of Arafat, why you can't say now that if the inclusion of Hamas and the others -- if those had been included in the resolution, you wouldn't have voted for it.
It seems to me that by vetoing it and by not saying that you would have voted for it in another circumstance, you're weakening your case that you really are opposed to the Israeli position.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't accept that.
QUESTION: In other words, you had a chance to put your money where your mouth was and you didn't.
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, I would say we thought the whole international community had a chance to put their money where their mouth was as far as condemnation of terrorism and to name the specific groups that are involved in terrorism.
You can't go doing UN resolutions on one slice or another slice of the situation. If you're going to do a resolution that tries to address the whole situation, you've got to address the whole situation.
QUESTION: No, I --
MR. BOUCHER: You're asking me hypothetically, "Were there conceivable amendments that would have led the United States to vote for this resolution?" I suppose there might have been. If certain amendments were accepted, would we have voted or abstained or vetoed? It depends on what, in the end, it said. So -- because, you know, it just -- we veto a, or vote for, or abstain on a specific resolution. I can't tell you what the resolution might have been or could have been. I knew what it was, and that's what we vetoed.
QUESTION: Yes, but you thought that improvements could be made and then you would have voted for it?
MR. BOUCHER: It's -- if they --
QUESTION: Or abstained?
MR. BOUCHER: If the resolution was the right -- if the improvements were made to the extent we thought appropriate, then we would have -- might have been in the position to vote or to abstain.
QUESTION: Okay, but I'm just asking -- you had to have some idea of what could be added or taken away from the Syrian draft that would have led you to take a different position when it came to a vote.
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at Ambassador Negroponte's explanation of vote, you'll see in there he named quite a few specific things that we felt were missing.
QUESTION: Yes, he did, but you are unwilling -- neither you, nor him, nor anyone else that I can find -- maybe it's just my poor reporting ability -- will say whether you would have supported it if -- had those suggestions been taken into account.
MR. BOUCHER: What's clear is without those things we could not support it. If those things had been in it, certainly it might have been possible for us to vote for or abstain.
QUESTION: Mr. Powell met with, I believe, two members from the Iraqi Governing Council separate from --
QUESTION: Could we stay on this?
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: The Middle East?
QUESTION: Going back to Iraq. Sorry.
QUESTION: Jabril Rajoub, apparently, made an offer, at least over the media, of a new ceasefire with Israel, which, I guess, apparently, has already been rejected by the Israeli Justice Minister. Are you aware, through any reporting back by Ambassador Wolf or other people in the region, whether this was a genuine offer that had legs? Do you have any more information on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen much more than press reporting on that. Adam, did you address that in the last day or two or not?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if there's anything we want to say. I think that, you know, there was an offer, there was a response. We have always made clear that concrete action against terrorism is required, that that's the issue on the agenda, and acting against the groups remains the priority for all of us, for progress on the roadmap, and we think for a new Palestinian Government as well.
QUESTION: Well, can I follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: For the Palestinians to offer a ceasefire whereas there'll be no terrorist attacks against Israel, is that implying that they would be able to turn the faucet on and off on these terrorist attacks?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You can ask them. We've always made the point -- I've made the point, I think -- it's not a question of what people will do or won't do; it's what they can and cannot do. And I think the Secretary, the President and others have made the point that we are at the moment now where, to make progress on the roadmap, to make progress towards a Palestinian state, the capabilities of these organizations, the organizations themselves need to be dismantled. And that is prime on our agenda. We think that needs to be prime on the agenda of any new Palestinian Government.
QUESTION: Is the --
QUESTION: Is there not some benefit from the ceasefire, Richard? During the period of the now-vanished ceasefire of the summer, a lot fewer Israelis got killed. Is there no benefit to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I've said what we think is on the agenda right now. I'm not going to speculate on whether there's some benefit or not, but it's not any substitute for moving against the groups. We think moving against the groups is front and center right now.
QUESTION: Would you -- I mean, is it possible to have a ceasefire and also have the Palestinians moving against the groups?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate. It strikes me as we're beating a dead horse here, that this proposal was proposed and seems rejected. I don't want to speculate on it.
QUESTION: The last time the ceasefire was happening, the State Department supported it.
MR. BOUCHER: Last time we said ceasefires are one means to getting to the elimination of terrorist capabilities. If people proceed with that, we don't object, if it's a means of getting to the elimination of terrorist capabilities. We think we are at the moment now when terrorist capabilities need to be eliminated. And that's the point we meant.
QUESTION: But you're not saying anything on a ceasefire now?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We're changing the subject? No, we're not changing the subject.
QUESTION: One more Iraq question.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Go.
QUESTION: Are there any early indications that Arafat is actually getting out of the way of the new Prime Minister, because, of course, that was one of the problems I think most people cited under Abbas' government. What are the signals that you are receiving right now from others?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not really trying to do any political commentary on the events going on among Palestinian leaders. What we have made clear is that the Prime Minister needs to put together a government that's committed, that has the resources, and that has the firm intention to move against the terrorist groups. So, as the whole process of forming a government proceeds, we'll reiterate that, and I have done so.
QUESTION: Does the State Department actually believe we're heading down that path, though, right now?
MR. BOUCHER: It's too early to speculate on that, and if we get there and we see it and there is a commitment and there is action, we'll know we're there. We've made quite clear again and again that that needs to be done. We've been continuing to meet with Israelis throughout this process, continuing to meet with Palestinians. Ambassador Wolf is on the ground working hard. Our Consulate General remains in touch with the Palestinians. I think they had another meeting with Prime Minister-designate Qurei again today. So we're actively working, making clear that this is the moment to move against terrorism.
QUESTION: And one last follow-up. Is the dismantling of Arafat's Fatah organization considered -- a group that has taken credit for terrorist actions -- is that, a dismantlement of that group, part of any necessary process towards peace?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have specified that there are some groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but any terrorist capabilities need to be eliminated.
QUESTION: Richard, are you any farther along in the last 24 hours on the Israeli loan guarantee figure?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Final details remain to be decided.
QUESTION: Any idea when that might happen, approximately?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Richard, actually, on that, on the loan guarantee?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is it not the case that these deductions are somewhat of a sham because the Israelis yesterday sold 1.6 billion worth of bonds on -- in New York, and that the deductions that you're considering had already been factored in to the Israeli requests? And so -- in other words, what you're deducting -- your deductions for settlements actually have already been made. They're coming out of the 3 billion, up to 3 billion that the Israelis were allowed to get, and -- rather than the 1.6 billion that they actually requested.
MR. BOUCHER: That doesn't compute because either you're saying that there's already a cap on the amount of loan guarantees the Israelis could sell bonds for, or it's not decided. What I'm telling you is it's not decided exactly how much the details of the deductions, okay?
Now the -- implicit in this -- the deductions will come out of the total that they would sell in a given year. So if there are deductions, they wouldn't sell the total of 3 million -- 3 billion. They might sell 1.6, they might 1.7, 1.8, 1.9. But the total amount of money that they would raise through this process would be limited by 3 billion minus whatever deductions were decided upon.
QUESTION: Well, I guess what I'm asking is, did the United States encourage Israel to ask for less than the 3 billion?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we were in a position to tell them they could take the whole 3 billion because we haven't decided what deductions there might be.
QUESTION: Well, in other words, it just makes it --
MR. BOUCHER: So they would have to ask for less than the whole 3 billion, but I'm not sure -- I don't think we set the amount. I mean, people, when they go to the loan markets, they go, usually, on several tranches.
MR. BOUCHER: Because you can raise money easier in smaller amounts than trying to get the whole thing right away.
QUESTION: Yes. Yes, but you do understand that it would look -- it would appear differently to the public, to the Israelis, to the -- or, whoever --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know why --
QUESTION: If the Israelis asked, this time, for 1.8 billion and you said, "Well, I'm sorry, no, we're deducting .2 of that for the settlements."
MR. BOUCHER: Even that would not necessarily make a difference. I don't know why anybody would want to draw a conclusion on this until they had seen the total amount that the Israelis were able to raise under this program in a given year. That's where the deductions will become apparent.
QUESTION: Even if they went for 1.6 and you say there's still a decision to be made on reductions, isn't it the logical conclusion that the 1.6 is not a reduced figure? How could it be? You haven't decided how much to reduce.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So how could 1.6 reflect a reduction?
MR. BOUCHER: That's kind of what I was just saying.
MR. BOUCHER: But maybe not as clearly -- but I'll buy into that.
QUESTION: Well, so let me go one step further.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Three installments, 3 billion each, was the theory. I don't know, you have to, as you say -- you can't -- maybe it's better to break it up into little pieces. Is this -- does this bear any relationship to the fiscal year that you know of? In other words, is 1.6 it for the first installment, or is it not that tidy?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check. I don't know exactly if it was broken down evenly over the fiscal years or --
MR. BOUCHER: -- or whether it's --
MR. BOUCHER: -- whether it's front-loaded or back-loaded in terms of fiscal years. It may depend, in part, on the amount that the Israelis want to loan -- want to raise. It may not depend on fiscal years at all. I just have to check.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. the guarantor of the 1.6 billion that was raised yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what I read in the press. If you want -- I'd better get you an official --
QUESTION: Well, if you're --
MR. BOUCHER: It's the premise that we're all operating under, and it's not a premise that I specifically questioned. The answer is yes.
QUESTION: So then --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, thank you.
QUESTION: Okay. If the U.S. is a guarantor of the 1.6 billion, then what is there to discuss in terms of possible deductions for the settlements, and what you would guarantee for the possible 1.4 billion? But this $1.6 billion isn't touched.
QUESTION: The second .4 billion.
MR. BOUCHER: The -- no. The only conclusion that you can draw now is that we won't -- that we don't intend to deduct more than 1.4 billion of the $3 billion amount.
MR. BOUCHER: That's a fairly simple conclusion to come to.
MR. BOUCHER: But we've gone ahead -- they've gone ahead with financing of $1.6 billion. So the remainder is $1.4 for the original $3 billion this year. And we would intend to deduct somewhat something less than that amount, but the final amount is not set.
QUESTION: I think the statute requires you to make public to Congress your decision by September the 30th. Do you still expect the decision on how much to deduct -- do you expect to meet that deadline?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check the statute, but yes, I'm sure we will meet all appropriate deadlines. The statute provides $3 billion each in fiscal years 2003, 2004, and 2005, with a possibility of carrying over unused guarantees into 2006. That's why the fiscal years are somewhat -- and those are all fiscal years.
QUESTION: Okay, can you take this question? Because I'm sure it's not there. But in the carryover into 2006, do the deductions still count if you have deducted from this coming year, the next year and the next year? Are they eligible to apply -- to ask for that again in the carryover year? Or is that money just -- is that just gone off the table? Can you take that?
MR. BOUCHER: I will ask that question.
QUESTION: Because, I mean, if they can get the money again, and you know, reapply for it a year later --
MR. BOUCHER: It's a deduction, not a delay.
QUESTION: Okay. So no. The answer is no? Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: If you want that specific answer about carrying over funds from one fiscal year to another, this has a lot to do with legislation and Congress and scoring, and a lot of things that I don't understand. So let me ask that question.
QUESTION: This is not on loan guarantees.
MR. BOUCHER: Good.
QUESTION: Is that okay? (Laughter.)
Yesterday, apparently, the Jordanian Government backtracked on a decision it had made to freeze Hamas assets, along with several other Palestinian terrorist groups, groups that the U.S. has asked countries to freeze the assets of. I find this kind of puzzling since Secretary Powell just met with Muasher yesterday. I mean, is this something that came up that meeting and did Foreign Minister Muasher tell the Secretary they would not freeze Hamas assets?
MR. BOUCHER: Did it come up in that meeting?
QUESTION: It did not.
MR. BOUCHER: No. But let me --
QUESTION: Are you aware of this decision?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me make clear a couple of things. I think we have made quite clear across the board for everyone involved that shutting off the flow of funds to Hamas is crucial to reducing its ability to conduct terrorist attacks and its activities that thwart progress towards peace. This has been a major part of our effort with countries in the region, with countries in Europe, and through the United Nations with all countries of the world.
Jordan has been an important ally in the war on terrorism, including the financial war on terrorism. We urge the Government of Jordan to restore its order to freeze the assets of these Hamas leaders and charities. We think it's the right thing to do.
QUESTION: Isn't it strange that it wouldn't have come up yesterday, then, if, I mean, if Foreign Minister Muasher didn't inform the Secretary they were not going to follow through on this commitment?
MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know the status of the exact timing of decisions that were made.
QUESTION: Richard, what is your reaction to some press reports that the Saudi Government is giving money to Hamas organizations?
MR. BOUCHER: This has been an ongoing effort with the Saudi Government to choke off the funding that is obtained by various organizations. As you know, we've been working on this for some time, and have had some success. The Saudi Government has committed to ensuring that no Saudi Government funds go to Hamas. We know that private donations from people in Saudi Arabia to Hamas are very difficult to track and stop, and we continue to work closely with Saudi officials to offer expertise and information that can assist them in that regard.
We've been working with the Saudis under a U.S.-Saudi Joint Working Group on Terrorism that was created in 2002. That has proven to be a solid mechanism for doing this work together with the Saudi Government. We would note that they passed an anti money-laundering law in August. That was a very positive step. And we continue to have active work going on with the Saudi Government. We had a group of counterterrorism experts out there just two weeks ago, from here and the FBI and National Security Council on that.
QUESTION: Can you say that you are 100 percent sure that the -- there is no Saudi money Government given to Hamas?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we can say that about any country, that every country is -- we're working with every country to pass the laws to put in place the regulations, to ensure the monitoring mechanism of the Saudi Government is no exception to that. More needs to be done internationally to choke off the flow of funds to Hamas. That's why it was a big issue for the President when he met with other regional leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh. That's why it's been a big issue in terms of our conversations with the Europeans, and the decision the European Union made about -- what was it, a week ago -- to -- they made a political decision to cut off Hamas funds, but they still have to carry through on the specifics.
So this is an ongoing effort with the international community.
QUESTION: I just want to go back to the Jordan thing, very briefly.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you -- you made your public call just then for them to reverse the decision. Do you know if anyone has made a direct call to -- in Amman, or if the Secretary plans to bring it up with King Abdallah, who has been in town all week and presumably is aware of what's going on in his country?
MR. BOUCHER: It is a very important issue to us. As I said, we've raised it with other leaders internationally. I can't predict at this point exactly whether the President or the Secretary will have a chance to discuss it with King Abdallah, but I think the Jordanian Government is already well aware of our views on this.
QUESTION: Do you know how (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our Embassy has been active, but I'm not sure if there have been other contacts as well.
QUESTION: Richard, on this topic -- is it on this topic?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I keep trying to go on, but --
QUESTION: If it's so critical to turn off, to make sure that governments turn off funding for Hamas and choke that off, have you ever thought of any penalties to governments that refuse to do so?
MR. BOUCHER: The effort that's been underway is one of cooperation. It's been one of working with other governments across the board. This is one of many steps we're encouraging governments to take against terrorism. It's been an effort that we have done in cooperation with other governments, where governments have stated clearly, in many cases, their intentions to go forward and have made clear their willingness to write the legislation. We've been trying to help them do that, and then to enforce the rules that they make. So it's not a matter of penalties; it's a matter of making the cooperation effective.
QUESTION: Hold on. He's a minister. He writes a budget. He says this much money for this, this much money for that. Then why is it so complicated? Why is it a process of writing a law and doing all this other stuff? I mean, why can't it just be make the decision to stop funding Hamas?
MR. BOUCHER: Because governments make the decision to stop funding Hamas, and yes, they can take it out of a budget if it was in a budget. But that doesn't stop money from going to Hamas. That stops some money from going to Hamas, but Hamas gets its money in a wide variety of ways. There may be contributions to charities, there may be private channels, there may be barter channels, there may be under-the-table channels, and we're trying to stop the money from going to Hamas, period.
And so we can't just settle for having people write it out a government budget, if it was there to begin with. But we need to work with these governments to make sure that the money flows don't continue through any other channel as well.
QUESTION: But I think a few questions ago, and maybe I misheard it, but you were asked if you can say certainly whether Saudi Government money was not going to Hamas, and you said you couldn't make that guarantee for any government. But, I mean, assuming, based on what you said, at least the official stuff you could take care of with just a decision.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the Saudi Government has made clear that they are not funding, they have no intention to fund Hamas any more, and we trust that they have made that decision effective and we worked with them to do that. But I said the overall question of how money ends up through various channels, private channels, is still one of discussion with the Saudis to try to help them make that effective, as it is with other places.
Are we off -- are we changing subjects? Adi.
QUESTION: Just regarding the Israeli cabinet decision to postpone construction of part of the security barrier today. Do you have anything to say on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that. Our views on the fence remain as they were.
QUESTION: Okay. Secretary Powell's trip. How many people from the Iraqi Governing Council did he meet with separate from the Iraqi Governing Council? Because I believe he had a meeting with them over the weekend at the Council.
MR. BOUCHER: He met with the entire Council. I think everybody was there.
QUESTION: And did he -- but didn't he also meet -- I believe he met with Mr. Pachachi and, I believe, also with Mr. Zebari separate --
MR. BOUCHER: He had a meeting with Mr. Pachachi, who was in Geneva.
MR. BOUCHER: He had a meeting with his counterpart Foreign Minister.
MR. BOUCHER: He had a meeting in the north when we went to Halabja with two members of the Council, Mr. Talibani and Mr. Barzani, who were there. I don't know if the others were, but he had a meeting with the full Council as well.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if any of the members of the Baghdad City Council were. He had a meeting with the full city council, who were also members. But, basically, he met with a lot of people.
QUESTION: If he had the meeting with Mr. Pachachi, did he also have a meeting separately with Mr. Chalabi?
MR. BOUCHER: He met Mr. Pachachi in Geneva, where he had -- Mr. Pachachi had come to talk to the delegations at the talks there.
QUESTION: Right, no, and I understand that. I was just curious why -- why the State Department would have Secretary Powell meet with Mr. Pachachi separately but not with Mr. Chalabi separately or others separately.
MR. BOUCHER: Because Mr. Chalabi wasn't in Geneva.
QUESTION: Well, would there have been -- would he have been able to -- to meet with, or is that a hypothetical you choose not to address?
MR. BOUCHER: We have met with Mr. Chalabi. I'm sure we'll meet him in New York, so I wouldn't get too excited about this --
QUESTION: Well, no, I mean, obviously --
MR. BOUCHER: -- today, frankly --
QUESTION: -- there's a history of State Department people who are asking auditors to help shut down the INC --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that was an inaccurate report, but anyway.
QUESTION: Oh, so you -- the report was not accurate?
MR. BOUCHER: We've said that before.
QUESTION: You've said that. Well, I'm sure you've said that before. So, but there's no -- there's no animosity, then, between the State Department and Mr. Chalabi?
MR. BOUCHER: We're working with the whole Governing Council, including its current president. The Secretary met with the whole Governing Council, including its current president. And I'm sure we'll meet with him again.
QUESTION: But I guess I just always thought part of the argument against Mr. Chalabi and other members of the INC --
MR. BOUCHER: I've never made an article -- an argument against Mr. Chalabi or other members of the INC.
QUESTION: Well, but certain people from the State Department talk all the time --
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary of State has never made an argument against Mr. Chalabi or the INC.
QUESTION: Fair enough. But it's well known that the State Department sentiment --
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary of State, nor I, nor the President of the United States, has never made an argument against Mr. Chalabi or members of the INC.
QUESTION: Not publicly, in their name, right.
MR. BOUCHER: And nor have I, in any way, shape or form.
QUESTION: But the off-the-record comments from the State Department are clear --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not dealing with off-the-record comments. I'm dealing with the position of the United States Government.
QUESTION: So you choose -- so you're not even going to go down the path of disgusting the relationship with Mr. Chalabi or of the Secretary --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to go down any disgusting paths -- (laughter) --
QUESTION: -- and not with others?
MR. BOUCHER: No. The Secretary of State met with the entire Governing Council, including Mr. Chalabi. I am sure the Secretary of State will meet with any representatives that are sent to any meeting, as he met with Mr. Pachachi, who was sent to Geneva.
QUESTION: Was Mr. Pachachi at the meeting of the full Governing Council?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I wasn't in the room. I didn't count the heads. Don't know if he was back or if he went on to New York.
MR. BOUCHER: Tammy.
QUESTION: Also about Iraq, but a different issue. The New York Times this morning talked about a poll that had been conducted by the State Department that, in Iraq, that found rather extensive hostility toward the American presence there. Was this a State Department poll? Do you have any details about this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any poll like that. We don't have any poll like that here. There is a public poll that was done not too long ago, the Zogby poll, which we've obviously looked at and are interested in. But no, I don't have any polling to share with you that we might have done.
QUESTION: So there's no separate State Department recent --
MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point.
QUESTION: Are you disputing (inaudible) again?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, the description that we've made of the security situation in Iraq is the same one as we heard by the commanders when we were out there.
The Secretary has discussed it several times, so yeah, he's never described -- what was it -- bitterness among the people as a security problem. I think we've said quite clearly that there was a lot of exaggeration to claims that ordinary Iraqis were somehow reacting badly to the circumstances now.
Obviously it's difficult, and we understand that, for many Iraqis. But there's been widespread support and most of the country is calm. And there's a lot of good progress going on in people's daily lives.
So the Secretary has described the security threats very similarly to the way our military or our Defense Department people have. There are loyalist elements, leftovers, dead-enders -- Secretary Rumsfeld calls them. There are criminal elements, many of whom were released from jail by Saddam Hussein, and there are some foreign elements who have gotten in and are carrying out acts of terrorism. That's how we describe the security problem in Iraq, not with some grand sweep of generalization.
QUESTION: Well, but you sort of said that there was no poll. I mean, is there a poll that you react to?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a public poll that Zogby did.
QUESTION: Well, but did the State Department do another poll?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular State Department poll. And no, we have not done our own polling in Iraq at this point. But I don't want to say for sure that we might not at some point. We do that from time to time.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. This gentleman has been waiting.
QUESTION: Richard, did anyone from the Department contact the Syrian Government prior to Bolton's testimony yesterday about the gist of that or have they contacted him since about those topics?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, about those topics, we've been contacting them repeatedly over time.
QUESTION: How about in the last, you know, just prior -- just since -- the last couple of days?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check on when the last meeting was, but the Secretary of State has repeatedly made clear to the Syrians the problems that we had with them across the board. If you look at the Secretary's press conference in Kuwait two days ago, you'll see that he addressed, once again, the issues that we had with Syria and the need for Syria to do more.
Our Embassy gives the subject of their contacts and meetings with the Syrians, you know, on a daily, weekly basis -- constant basis, so I'd just have to check on when the last meeting was.
QUESTION: You don't think they were surprised by the Bolton testimony?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh no. We've -- all the issues that are raised in the testimony are issues that we have very directly and pointedly raised with the Syrian Government a number of times at any number of levels.
QUESTION: Have they contacted you since his testimony?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Under Secretary Bolton referred to kind of a delicate moment right now in terms of he talked about very intense efforts that the Secretary is engaged in right now. Was he just talking about the recent trip in May and discussions with the embassy, or is the Secretary involved in some kind of new, intensive effort with the Syrians?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me check and see if we want to describe it. As I said, it's been an ongoing effort. Whether it's reached some recent moment of intensity or not, I'll check. But it certainly has been a very active effort from the Secretary on down since the end of the war, really, especially with his trip earlier this spring.
MR. BOUCHER: In terms of public diplomacy, Richard, your comments to the GAO Report, and specifically public diplomacy as it relates to the people of Iraq, how is the American message getting through to the Iraqi people in terms of communications and media awareness, things like that?
MR. BOUCHER: The GAO Report from September 4th?
MR. BOUCHER: We addressed that at the time.
QUESTION: I don't think you made any on-camera --
MR. BOUCHER: I think I did.
The only thing I think that one can really say is that there is always a greater effort that needs to be made -- that we have looked at the situation over the past years, we have had a more active, more directed effort at the Arab and Muslim world. We realize that, for a variety of reasons we were out of the game for a long time. And now it's going to take us a while to move back in.
But there are a lot of new things going on, from the new radio system, the new radio stations being set up, to the activities of our embassies, to the exchange programs that we're starting, to training for journalists, to the whole Middle East Partnership Initiative.
One of the things recommended in the GAO Report is that we do a more systematic job of outside evaluation, or using assets on the outside -- contracting. And that's something we've already started to do as well, so I think we all recognize that changing attitudes in the Arab world can take a long time. But I would say we're well begun on that process.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: On the --
MR. BOUCHER: Hold on. Who's yelling at me?
QUESTION: Can I just --
MR. BOUCHER: Tammam.
QUESTION: Can I just ask for this follow-up for the record?
QUESTION: In Syria, just the (inaudible) follow-up?
MR. BOUCHER: We're following up on something that was before we had the change, but -- okay.
QUESTION: You mentioned the Middle East Partnership Initiative, and I have to admit I am writing a piece on that as a feature, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Good. It's a great thing.
QUESTION: Anyhow -- it is a great thing.
Is MEPI now the umbrella of the prior public diplomacy stuff? I mean, I thought -- I thought they were kind of separate --
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: It's not?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, the prior public diplomacy's efforts were done before Middle East Partnership was started.
MR. BOUCHER: The goal of Middle East Partnership is to involve individuals who, themselves, are looking for change, looking for reform, and to get the United States involved and on their side, and to promote civil society, to promote economic reform, to promote more openness, just as Arab experts themselves have recommended.
And, you know, the Secretary gave a whole speech on this.
QUESTION: I know. I remember.
MR. BOUCHER: But some of our previous public diplomacy efforts were not intended to be all encompassing. Nor was every exchange program we could think of put under one rubric. We have a lot of activities, many of which now can be concentrated in that forum on Middle East Partnership. But those are not the only exchanges we have, nor the only public diplomacy activities.
It didn't include everything in the past and it doesn't include everything in the future.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay?
QUESTION: Thanks. Great.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Are we changing subjects again, or -- follow up. We'll go back to the Syrians in a minute. Sorry.
QUESTION: Okay, I talked to some -- talking to some people on the ground in Iraq, they are worried about the Iranian TV and I guess Al Jazeera and others, and saying that the American television presence and broadcast presence, generally, is weak in Iraq.
How high a priority is being placed on expanding that quickly and getting more of an American broadcasting presence in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a very high priority. It's something that we have been working on with the Coalition Provisional Authority. We have sent them people. They have money. But there's an Iraqi -- it's called The Iraqi Media Network that is now up and running and broadcasting. We worked with them when we were in Baghdad. They asked the Secretary questions at press conferences and were already, I think, getting active up there, so we're doing everything we can to help them.
QUESTION: What's the content generally? Is it like news all day? I --
MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to check with the coalition out there. I don't have the details of the content.
QUESTION: But that's something that more resources are being poured into? Is this something that could come under the UN umbrella when the UN comes in to play a bigger role in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that the UN would necessarily want to fund this. Certainly the United States is gearing up our funding and our support for the Iraqi media without any direct reliance on the UN. If there are others in the international community that want to help grow free media and independent media in Iraq, they certainly would welcome that.
QUESTION: The foreign minister of Syria said today that if the United States had reasonable demands they were welcome to give them these demands. But, they said your demands are not reasonable. Do you have any reaction to what he said?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we consider that ending support for terrorists who kill innocent people is reasonable; that ending support for groups who have been trying to sabotage the peace process is reasonable; that ending support for the groups that themselves are trying to undercut the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian dream of building their own state is reasonable; that asking countries to abide by international standards and conventions with regard to weapons of mass destruction is reasonable. So, no, we don't any problems with the kind of requests that we've been making of Syria and other countries in that regard.
QUESTION: Richard, an Islamic cleric in Fallujah has made a statement. He's inciting violence again and saying that Usama bin Laden is the mentor for these young terrorists. And also, do you have any reaction to an audiotape by Saddam Hussein that's just surfaced?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular reaction to the remarks in Fallujah. I'll leave that for the coalition authorities to discuss if they want to. As far as the audiotape goes, again, no, the same kind of diatribe we've heard before and, you know, we'll see if it's real, but -- I guess the guy's got a tape recorder.
QUESTION: Change of subject? On Liberia, there are new reports -- sparked particularly by the UN's envoy there -- that Charles Taylor is wielding continuing influence, including having government, current government ministers visit him and ask him for advice on how to spend the national budget. Is the U.S. concerned about this, and talking to Nigeria perhaps about what kind of control --
MR. BOUCHER: I have to check and see. I don't know. Sorry.
That expression says "no comment".
MR. BOUCHER: That expression says "a shelling"? As in artillery? That's a long way from Guinea. I mean, just geographically, I tend to doubt the story, but let me double-check and see if there was anything that happened at our Embassy. Okay?
QUESTION: Speaking of Guinea, has anything happened there that you'd like to talk about?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
MR. BOUCHER: Anybody want to ask about Guinea-Bissau? Okay.
QUESTION: Have you decided whether it was a coup or whether you're going to withhold any of the pittance of aid that you give them every year?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I'll just tell you that the Economic Community of West African States has got a delegation that's visiting Bissau. They're working with all the parties to ensure a peaceful and democratic outcome to the ongoing events, and we support and encourage those efforts.
QUESTION: Was it a coup or not?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we support and encourage their efforts. We understand that President Yala has signed an agreement ceding power in the presence of these West African States delegation. He'll make some kind of statement shortly. I don't think we're in a position yet to make a judgment.
QUESTION: Well, you support the ECOWAS. They called it a coup.
MR. BOUCHER: We support their efforts, but I'm not going to try to make legalistic judgments at this point.
QUESTION: Well, can I ask why not? It did happen, like, four days ago and -- three days ago at least.
MR. BOUCHER: We are supporting their efforts to try to get a peaceful and democratic outcome. And we want to see what results from those efforts.
QUESTION: Well, you don't seem particularly upset that President Yala is out of power. Is that a correct assessment?
MR. BOUCHER: Our goal is to see a resolution of the situation in a peaceful and democratic manner. It's not to start making declarations.
QUESTION: So you don't have any concerns about the military locking up the President and --
MR. BOUCHER: If we decide there are concerns like that, we'll express them at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: And you said you don't have any of those concerns.
MR. BOUCHER: At this point the West Africans are working to try to get an outcome that's peaceful and democratic, and we want that to happen. That's our prime concern.
QUESTION: How much -- can you say how much aid is at stake, how much aid could be withheld or suspended if a determination was made that it was a --
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't we answer that question the other day?
QUESTION: No, you did not.
MR. BOUCHER: We put up a question taken on IMET programs.
QUESTION: Posted a question.
MR. BOUCHER: Posted a question on that. Yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: There's 77,000 in the IMET program for 2003. All of that money was obligated but 72,000 remains to be expended from that program. The remainder was set aside to pay for two students programmed to begin travel in October, and we're suspending that program for the moment.
MR. BOUCHER: That's posted.
QUESTION: Okay, well I must have missed that then. But if you have suspended that aid, have you not made the determination that it was an undemocratic -- the toppling of the democratic --
MR. BOUCHER: We've suspended that program. I don't have any
determinations to announce for you.
MR. BOUCHER: We have other questions. There are other people.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Minister of Political Affairs and Security is coming to town tomorrow, and I wanted to know if he's meeting with any of the State Department officials and what other steps you would like to see Indonesia take concerning terrorism and Jemaah Islamiyah.
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is yes, and I'll check for you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. Sorry, one more.
QUESTION: This is -- has to do with Hambali. The Thais say now that they have been given, or that someone in the United States has given them $10 million in reward money for the capture of Hambali. There was a question that was posted the other day saying that the Diplomatic Security, or Reward for Justice had no received any nomination. I'm wondering if you can tell me where this money, this taxpayer money is coming from, or that there's some kind of rogue reward operation out there that just throws money around.
MR. BOUCHER: I think all I would be able to say on that would be that the U.S. Government does find ways to support people who have been helpful in activities, who we have been working with, and there are a variety of ways to do that. And I'll leave it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: So can you confirm that there is money, that money has been paid, and specifically 10 million?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't do the accounting for the U.S. Government, no.
QUESTION: So, but it wasn't the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: It was not our Rewards for Justice funds, which is a different kind of program.
QUESTION: But you do know that there was money given to the Thais?
QUESTION: U.S. money.
MR. BOUCHER: At this point I'll just say that we find ways to support people who have worked with us closely.
QUESTION: Well, has a payment been made to the Thais that you are aware of by anybody --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to talk about any particular payments.
QUESTION: This morning, Richard, the Council on International Religious Freedom said that it was not particularly pleased with the State Department's resistance to naming Vietnam a country of particular concern. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: And -- well, that's it. That's all.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
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