State Department Noon Briefing, October 27, 2003
October 27, 2003
U.S. Department of State
October 27, 2003
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2003
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. If I can, I'd like to start off by reading a statement from the Secretary on the bombings today in Baghdad:
"I condemn the series of terrorist bombings today in Baghdad, in Iraq, that left at least 34 people dead and more than 200 injured. The vast majority of the victims are Iraqi innocent civilians. I extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and our hopes of a quick recovery to those who are injured.
"I also want to extend my deepest condolences to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baghdad and the international relief organizations that have been targeted in Baghdad.
"American officials in Iraq will work closely with Iraqi security officials, the Governing Council and the international relief organizations to determine who committed this terrible attack and bring them to justice as quickly as possible.
"These bombings were attacks on the Iraqi people and on their hopes for a better, prosperous and democratic future. They will not deter us from helping the Iraqi people make their vision of a new Iraq a reality."
And with that statement, I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Paul Bremer has had an analysis for a week now about the there being sort of two categories of violent people: the leftover Baathists, which he didn't think posed, he said, a strategic threat; but then there are plain, all-out terrorists. I wonder if that analysis still -- is still the going theory about who is doing all this damage.
MR. BOUCHER: The analysis that we went through when we were in Baghdad, when the Secretary visited Baghdad and he went through with the U.S. commanders there, as well as with Ambassador Bremer and his people, was essentially the same. They actually divided into three categories. One was criminals who had been released from jail, who were much of the crime and the looting came from that element, and that was an element that they felt the Iraqi police could handle.
The second was the sort of the remnants, the leftovers, the losers, whatever we call them -- the people who were no longer in positions of authority, in positions where they could brutalize the Iraqi people -- and they wanted back in and that they were trying to disrupt and harm any progress that was being made. Those remnants are also a matter where it's a combination of the Iraqi police and what U.S. forces can do.
And then we have the foreign elements that come in, may or may not be working, to some extent, with the leftovers and the other criminal elements in Iraq, but where there are actual foreign terrorists that come into Iraq that need to be dealt with, with more -- how do you say? -- more military means, more aggressive means, to stop them from coming in and root them out.
QUESTION: I know there's that third category. I left it out because, I don't know, it would seem there is too much planning involved, there's too much credit -- the notion that an ex-convict, a convict who was let out of jail by Saddam Hussein could somehow carry out this type of terror --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think this type of attack is generally associated with that kind of person and that kind of grouping. The attacks that we had seen earlier, some of the lootings, some of the, you know, stealing copper wire out of electricity lines, that kind of thing seemed to be more criminal than it was political or terrorist.
QUESTION: So, Richard, is there a theory -- a change in the theory, or is there any refinement?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think so.
QUESTION: Which of those two groups might be --
MR. BOUCHER: I think Ambassador Bremer's description of the attackers today, the President's description this morning of the attackers today -- there seems to be a correlation that as we make progress in certain areas, there are people trying to disrupt that progress, people trying to destroy -- whether it's the new police stations opening up or the power transmission lines that are starting to carry power. There seems to be a correlation between as things start to settle down, as NGOs start to open up and work, as Iraqis start to go to work in various ministries and police stations, there seems to be an element that's trying to disrupt that process of normalcy, of work.
And particularly when you have people such as the Red Cross who are out there doing noble work, doing good work on behalf of the International Red Cross, but helping the Iraqi people, attempts to disrupt, attempts to disrupt people who are just helping ordinary Iraqi citizens, Iraqis themselves who are helping ordinary Iraqi citizens, unfortunately and very sadly, that seems to fit part of a pattern of people trying destroy the progress that's being made.
QUESTION: There's one man who's been taken into custody, apparently alive, who has a Syrian passport, and was involved in the attacks this morning. Have you brought this up with Syria at all? Do you see them as facilitating people getting in or getting around?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particular on that report that there was somebody with -- I mean, there is that report out there. I don't have any confirmation. That would have to come from the security authorities and the investigators.
The issue of people coming in from Syria has been an issue that we have dealt with, that we have raised, and we continue to raise on an ongoing basis with the Syrian Government to prevent outside elements from coming in from Syria, who might get involved in this sort of thing.
QUESTION: Do you think the violence is now at a stage where it makes it so difficult, perhaps prohibitively difficult, for people like U.S. contractors to operate there? Are you seeing U.S. contractors with aid contracts starting to take staff out, to choose not to do the work?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I've seen any large change in the situation. Everybody who's there obviously needs to take the security situation into account, needs to make sure that they can operate safely. But as you'll remember from our repeated briefings, there are large parts of the country that are safe to operate in, there are large parts of the country where work does go ahead, and then there are areas around Baghdad and up to Tikrit, the so-called Sunni Triangle, where there are still dangers. And so, in different parts of the country, the contractors, the NGOs, the humanitarian workers will operate somewhat differently. But, yes, they need to take into account security, do whatever they can, wherever they can.
QUESTION: Is it your view -- the last one on this. Is it your view that those areas that you describe as particularly dangerous, that it is possible to operate safely? You know, four suicide bombings in a single day would suggest that it's very hard to do much of anything.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the facts are that there are people who are operating, and there are people who are doing good work, and there are people who are helping the Iraqis, either through the activities of nongovernmental organizations, or the contractors who are rebuilding schools, or the people who are providing supplies to hospitals, or the people that are supporting the police in Iraqi attempts to get a handle on the security situation.
So, it's not a theoretical question. It's a real fact that there are people out there doing the work, and who will continue to do the work. And the President said this morning that he would even, I think, reaffirm our determination to make sure that work of helping the Iraqi people gets done.
QUESTION: Richard, do you know if the Secretary has called anyone in Geneva about this? And do you, given the fact that I -- I believe that the United States is the largest contributor to the ICRC, do you have any position, or any thoughts about their decision to remove some expat staff from Baghdad? Would you like to see them stay?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, obviously, everybody who works there needs to take into account the security situation. And many of the people, most of the people killed in this bombings today, were Iraqis, innocent Iraqi civilians, who were working on behalf of the ICRC, trying to help their fellow Iraqis. So there are, I am sure, ways to get the work done despite the security environment.
As far as telephone calls from the Secretary, I'm not aware of anything at this point.
QUESTION: So you don't -- you don't take a -- you have no thoughts on whether they're going to pull out --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we are in a position to tell people exactly what they have to do for security, whether to put people in, pull people out. What we try to do overall is provide a generally secure environment through the efforts of the coalition, through the efforts that we have along with the Iraqi police. But individual organizations have to make their own decisions based on the security environment that their particular people face.
QUESTION: Richard, can you talk about the context which the visit of United Arab Emirates Deputy Prime Minister comes in? I understand he is meeting with the Secretary later this afternoon.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, he is meeting with the Secretary this afternoon. Obviously, it's a visit that we look forward to. We worked very closely with the UAE when it came to organizing the very successful Madrid conference that we had, and we look forward to discussing with him, sort of, all the issues in terms of going forward with Iraq, from the effort of reconstruction to the -- perhaps the security situation, and also questions of international acceptance of the Iraqi Governing Council that's been growing. So there are a lot of things like that to talk about.
QUESTION: The Iraqi delegation to Madrid conference complained of the lack of generosity of Arab neighboring countries. Are you pressing or asking or urging United Arab Emirates to contribute more to the -- towards the reconstruction of Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't focus on a particular country, because the United Arab Emirates did, in fact, make a generous contribution, a contribution there. And we certainly welcome all the contributions that were made in Madrid, but we also have made clear that we'll keep working with the countries involved and with the countries who might give more or might -- some of the countries who didn't give anything and might decide to do so in the future.
So we'll continue to work to make sure the money is there for reconstruction in Iraq, and just to add the point that the Madrid conference went a long way to showing the Iraqi people that the money will be there that they need for their reconstruction.
QUESTION: One more thing. United Arab Emirates, to some extent, became a kind of a safe haven or soft touch or a destination for some of former Iraqi regime members to turn to. What's your thought on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I can only think of one prominent individual that you're talking about, right? The information minister that ended up there. I think all those -- as far as I know, the people who ended up there have been thoroughly vetted and discussed and decided by the coalition that it was -- you know, that they weren't needed for information or other purposes inside Iraq.
QUESTION: Can I follow up --
QUESTION: Richard, can you recall off the top, what the very generous contribution of the UAE was at the highly successful Madrid Donors Conference?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, because I remember what they announced in their speech, but I don't know the World Bank eventually evaluated it, because I'm not trying to do the breakdown here.
QUESTION: But can I ask you --
MR. BOUCHER: But they did come forward with a contribution, and as we've said, we welcome every contribution.
QUESTION: But can I follow up --
MR. BOUCHER: We do have others.
QUESTION: I know, but same subject, just clearly follows. It's only few days since the curtain went down, it rang down, brought down on Madrid, but do you have any clearer plans now? I know about the Paris Club. It was referred to at the wind-up news conference.
Is there a game plan yet for getting more contributions, for follow-on meetings, for persuading lenders to make outright grants? Have there even been any phone calls to that end?
MR. BOUCHER: The people who work these issues remain in touch with each other. I think one of the decisions that was made in Madrid is that the core group would continue working together, and the core group will follow up to make sure that contributions materialize themselves, to encourage other contributions, to encourage grants as opposed to loans, to continue the process of moving forward.
And indeed, this group of countries or others will have to begin looking at the question of restructuring Iraq's debt. As you know, there's a moratorium on payments on Iraq's debts for the next year or so, and over that time, the Paris Club members will have to start looking at restructuring, as well. Sure.
QUESTION: A study came out by the State Department that's up on the Coalition website about -- that there's a divide between the Iraqi people in terms of what kind of government that they want: some committed to democracy, human rights -- those kinds of principles; and the other on Islamic Sharia law.
Can you talk about this report and/or whether what kind of government the U.S. sees? Do you think that Iraqis should be allowed to form a government based Islamic Sharia law?
MR. BOUCHER: Can I talk about this report? Did you talk about this report? No. I'm not familiar with that particular report, frankly. I'd have to look into it for you.
Our view has always been that these issues need to get hashed out and worked out by the Iraqi people, and that that's why we have stressed the importance of the constitutional process being in Iraqi hands.
They intended, according to the Governing Council members we talked to in Madrid, they intended, in fact, to take up the issue of a constitutional process amongst themselves in the Governing Council sometime this week, I think, perhaps, as early as today.
So the Iraqis are focused on this. The Iraqis are going to have to work this out. There are a variety of interests and views inside Iraq. And our view is that Iraqis should be left to work out how they want to plan their own future.
QUESTION: But at the same time, you've talked about the importance of democracy in Iraq. I mean, at the end of the day, if the Iraqis decide to form a government based on principles that the United States doesn't stand for and were complaining about in the first regime --
MR. BOUCHER: That goes beyond speculation and hypothethicals into a prediction of something that's probably not going to happen. So, if it does ever happen, you can remind me that I predicted it wouldn't, but at this point, I don't think it's worth speculating.
The Iraqis, using a democratic process, representing a variety of interests in the country, are going to have to figure out a mechanism, a democratic mechanism, to channel those different interests into a democratic government. That's what we support, that's what we're looking for, that's what we think will happen. So I'm not going to speculate on all the possible alternatives because that's really the one that we think will happen.
QUESTION: One of the lingering issues related to Iraqi debt is, of course, war compensation claims. And when I listened to the Saudi and Kuwaiti delegates' speeches in Madrid, I didn't hear them talk at all about, you know, any sort of compromise on that with the Iraqis. Are you aware of any sort of -- what is the status of that? I assume that you guys talk to the Kuwaitis and the Saudis about this. You know, I'm just trying to get a better idea of where this stands right now.
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, it is -- the compensation issue remains part of the UN resolutions, it remains part of the financial arrangements that are in those resolutions. It is a subject that has been raised and discussed that I expect will continue to be raised and discussed, but the provisions for compensation are part of the UN resolutions and remain that way today.
QUESTION: Did you make any headway when you met with the Kuwaitis and the Saudis?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, these are all issues that have to be dealt with over time. It wasn't an issue for Madrid.
QUESTION: Richard, once the constitution in Iraq is in place and once there are elections and once there is an Iraqi government in place, if the level of violence that we're seeing continues or gets worse, is there -- what kind of planning is the United States doing to decide if they would remain commit -- you know, the presence of the United States would remain even after the Iraq -- Iraqi government has been established?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's really a question you have to ask the military. Overall, I mean, the first thing we're doing is we're planning for the Iraqis to be in a position to take control of their own security. Not only are there 40,000 Iraqi policemen already deployed on the streets of Iraq, but we have a massive program starting up to train tens of thousands more so that Iraqis will be able to control their security in their towns and cities.
Second of all, there's an Iraqi border patrol that's up and running now and will be expanding.
Third, there's a new Iraqi army being formed that is being trained, and the military can get you the numbers on how quickly we can train them up to the strength that they need to be.
So there's a lot being done so that by the time the political process comes to fruition, the Iraqis will have a much more substantial security capability and be able to provide, to a very great extent, for their security.
Now, depending on the level of terrorism, the level of violence, depending on who's left trying to cause trouble, it may be that the United States and the Iraqi government want to maintain some kind of relationship that involves U.S. forces. But, at this point, I can't speculate very much, other than to say that is a possibility, but it will depend on how the circumstances affect the security situation at the time.
QUESTION: And if the Iraqi government requests the United States to leave efforts in place, how significant would that kind of (inaudible) be?
MR. BOUCHER: You're speculating so far down the road, again, just like the other question.
QUESTION: Just a few months.
MR. BOUCHER: You're speculating after the end of the political process, and after a lot of determined work on security by Americans and Iraqis.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the condition of the State Department employee who was injured in the Al-Rashid attack, and do you have any information about American civilians who were killed or injured in today's?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, regarding the U.S. State Department employee who was injured on Sunday, all I can really tell you is that the person is in stable condition. Because we don't have a Privacy Act waiver, I can't give you any more information at this time.
QUESTION: Are there any other Americans?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as the event today, no, I don't think I have anything on civilians. There was one American serviceman killed, and several injured in today's attacks. And, as I said, there -- a number -- the greatest number of people hurt were innocent Iraqi civilians.
QUESTION: Change of subject. What is State Department reaction to Mr. Khodorkovskiy's arrest in Moscow?
MR. BOUCHER: Mikhail Khodorkovskiy was arrested early Saturday in Russia and charged with fraud, tax evasion and forgery. We're following the case closely. We're mindful of the implications for the rule of law and for the development of a healthy and transparent business and investment climate in Russia. We're concerned at the escalation and the confrontation with Yukos, but we're not in a position to comment on the specific legal aspects of the case.
Nonetheless, recent events do raise questions as to whether the law is being applied selectively. And, naturally, these events raise doubts on the part of companies doing business in Russia and among potential investors. So, at this point, we'll just follow the situation closely and see whether any of these doubts start to materialize.
QUESTION: Should the word "negative" be put in front of implications? I mean, they're not positive implications?
MR. BOUCHER: No, they are not positive implications. Yeah, we're concerned about the potentially negative implications with the rule of law in this case.
QUESTION: Do you know if there was a phone conversation between Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister Ivanov in regard to this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Or you've asked for any additional information from the Russian Embassy in Moscow?
MR. BOUCHER: We do have embassies. I don't want everybody on every question to ask me if the Secretary has called somebody. He doesn't have to call everybody on everything. We have embassies out there working it. In Moscow, we have our Embassy working on this issue, reporting back. I think I've even seen some public comments by our Ambassador already over the weekend on the case.
So, we can be very serious about something without the Secretary having to make a phone call. And we are, indeed, serious about this, and our Embassy is working on it.
QUESTION: Same issue. Does the U.S. view this as a political case, a politically motivated case?
And, secondly, Presidents Bush and Putin had a big energy summit recently. I mean, they've been talking about promoting energy cooperation. Is this going to -- is this arrest and this crackdown going to, sort of, cool efforts on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't quite draw conclusions for you yet about what the implications are for the energy sector, or for future investment there, anything like that. This has been several months where there has been a prosecutor's probe of Yukos. And there have been assertions that it's politically motivated, and we certainly have said it raises questions about whether there's not some sort of selective prosecution going on here.
So, as long as those questions are raised, I suppose it does give some hesitation to people who want to do business in that area or with that company, but what the ultimate effects will be, I can't predict at this point.
QUESTION: But the government-to-government relations, I mean, on energy, because that has been a big summit issue in the past?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, again, it's an issue that comes up between our governments. It's something we do raise and question when we talk to the Russian Government officials.
QUESTION: Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Mr. Rumyantsev will be visiting Washington on November 3rd, I think, and he will be meeting with Energy Secretary Abraham, so will it affect their negotiations?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. If there is any change in that, you'll have to find out from the Energy Department.
MR. BOUCHER: Can we stay on this? Matt.
QUESTION: Just, I just wanted to know if you are aware of anything different in what you said your opening spiel about this arrest and what Ambassador Vershbow said.
MR. BOUCHER: Not much. They are very closely coordinated.
QUESTION: Didn't think so, exactly. So this message has been delivered by him to the Russian Foreign Ministry?
MR. BOUCHER: This is a message that I would say the substance of which is what he's been talking to the Russian Government about, yes.
QUESTION: Change of subject -- Iran? The Iranians say that they have handed the United Nations a list of major al-Qaida suspects that are in Iran. Have you had an opportunity to see this list, and does it satisfy Iran working towards resolving the issue of al-Qaida operatives in the country?
MR. BOUCHER: The first place is to say that we believe Iran needs to turn over all suspected al-Qaida operatives to the U.S. or to their countries of origin or to third countries for interrogation and trial. It's essential that other countries have direct access to information that these people may have about past and future al-Qaida activities. Iran has, in the past, turned over some al-Qaida to third countries, however, frankly, we're not aware of any particular progress with regards to the al-Qaida who are currently in detention, and the Iranians have previously stated that that includes senior al-Qaida officials.
We will be following up with the United Nations and others in the international community regarding this issue of the names that they have provided and on handovers, but we remain concerned by reports that additional al-Qaida members remain in Iran. We reiterate our position that these operatives must be turned over to the U.S. or to countries of origin or third countries for further interrogation and trial.
So, it remains a subject of continuing concern and it's certainly not clear at all that the information that they have named -- that they have provided -- actually names the kind of people that we have talked about in the past, the senior leadership and who may be in Iran -- who are in Iran, we have asserted.
QUESTION: Can we get to Iraq, please?
QUESTION: Yeah, thanks.
MR. BOUCHER: Elise, did you have -- Charlie?
QUESTION: Just on the same subject. Has the U.S. had any direct contacts with Iran on this -- on the matter of these people?
QUESTION: Or through a third party?
MR. BOUCHER: Or is the Secretary phoning? (Laughter.) The -- you mean recently. You didn't -- I -- I mean --
QUESTION: I mean, we can parse this any way you want it --
MR. BOUCHER: No, but I do -- I think we have said in the past that when we had some direct discussions with Iran, it was on the subject of al-Qaida and the people that were there. I'm not aware of anything new, but I'll check and see if there's anything I can share with you.
Certainly, Iran is well aware of our position that we believe they should turn over information, turn over individuals on these senior al-Qaida people that they may -- that we think they have in custody.
QUESTION: Richard, while you're checking, can you check third party?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, I'm not in the habit of reporting on every particular contact or particular topic, that we may have some communication with Iran through third parties. There are a variety of people who know our views on these issues who may, in fact, share these views; who may have contacts with Iran. So I'm not in a position to report on who, among third parties, may or may not have talked to Iran about these topics.
Elise, you had more?
QUESTION: It's kind of related to this and also on the IAEA question. The U.S. has said in the past that if Iran is willing to deal with the nuclear issue, is willing to cooperate with the IAEA, and it sounds -- over the last week they've said that they've handed over a declaration to the IAEA of their nuclear program's history, that you can resume cooperation in these kind of talks in Geneva, so to speak, on other areas of cooperation, such as al-Qaida and the like.
So do you see that the cooperation that they've been providing to the IAEA thus far --
MR. BOUCHER: Wait. Well, I mean, first of all, we haven't exactly put it that way. And second of all, there are four days left for Iran to demonstrate compliance with -- full compliance with the requirements of the IAEA.
I know they've talked about signing this, they've talked about providing information, they've talked about full disclosure, suspension, other words like that. We're looking for action. We're looking for the kind of action -- specific kinds of action that were outlined in the resolution. So, until that happens, I wouldn't speculate that that forms a basis for something else.
QUESTION: Staying with Iran. Dariush Zahedi, a political science lecturer with U.C. Berkeley, has been held in Iran since July on charges of espionage. He is, I believe, an American of Iranian descent.
Do you have information about him? Have you raised his case with the Iranians? Do you have any sense of whether he is going to be prosecuted or has been prosecuted? Do you have any views on whether he may or not have committed any crimes there?
MR. BOUCHER: We are concerned about his welfare and safety. I think we may have discussed this to some extent last week, at least -- it wasn't used in the briefing, but I think people who called might have gotten an answer on it.
But I think the point is we are concerned about his welfare and safety. We need to contact his family. We have a protecting power, a Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which would serve as protecting power for us and help any of our citizens in Tehran. But I think we became aware of this last week and we're trying to work on it and see if there's anything we can do.
QUESTION: Could I -- and I realize you don't want to detail every contact the U.S. Government may have with the Iranians directly or indirectly, but on this particular issue, have you raised his status with the Iranians in any way, shape or form?
MR. BOUCHER: That's -- as I said, we're at the point of looking into the case, trying to contact the family, find out what we can. I don't think we've reached that stage yet.
QUESTION: Just on Iran generally. Was there a concerted effort made at Madrid made for -- to avoid the Iranian delegation that was there? And also, I'm wondering if you welcome with the same enthusiasm Iran's generous donations to Iraqi reconstruction as the others.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly what it involved, frankly, so I'm not in a position to comment on that in specific terms.
QUESTION: Well, one was subsidizing visits by pilgrims, Iranian pilgrims --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, no, I know. There were a number of categories.
QUESTION: Exactly. Specifically on that --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, the shrink-wrap on all this stuff is being done by the World Bank, and until we have kind of a breakdown to see how much it really means then it's a little hard to comment on that --
QUESTION: Okay, so you don't want -- your --
MR. BOUCHER: -- particularly the less -- particularly the less financial components of the announcements, which --
QUESTION: But you're in a position to comment specifically on the UAE's contribution, but you don't want to talk about that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I would say that the UAE's announcement was much more in the financial nature, and the Iranian comment was much more of a -- a little more complicated, required maybe a little more preparatory --
QUESTION: In a way, it's a serious question. Do you object to --
QUESTION: What do you mean, "in a way?" It's a totally serious question.
QUESTION: Okay, fine --
MR. BOUCHER: In a way, it's somewhat serious. No.
QUESTION: Okay, forget about it. Okay, no, well, we can make light of it.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. It's a very serious question, Matt.
QUESTION: Do you want --
QUESTION: -- that is not true.
MR. BOUCHER: -- it's harder, it's -- I'm not in a position, really, to go through every, every announcement because some of them were, you know, X amount of dollars, some of them were, "We've got this, we've got that." The Iranian question was much more complicated.
The World Bank is going to have evaluate and tell you --
QUESTION: But you don't object to the idea of Iranian pilgrims, you know, going to Iraq? That doesn't bother you particularly?
MR. BOUCHER: As long as they're truly pilgrims. You know, we have made clear right from the start that religious freedom in Iraq -- remember, shortly after the war there were major pilgrimages in Iraq for the first time in decades. We've made clear that religious freedom is part of the environment that we'd like to create in Iraq and part of the environment the Iraqis themselves want to create. So as long as people are really pilgrims and not up to no good or smuggling, then I'm sure they'd be welcomed.
QUESTION: But considering the history of Iran and Iraq --
QUESTION: What about the first part of my question?
MR. BOUCHER: The first part being?
QUESTION: Was there a conscious effort to avoid the Iranian delegation?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any particular direct contacts with the Iranians, so we don't go out of our way to look for them or schedule meetings with them.
QUESTION: Right, no. There was a report over the weekend that suggested that the U.S. delegation was told to avoid them. You're not aware of that?
MR. BOUCHER: That might be true. That's standard U.S. guidance for international conferences: don't go looking for Iranians. That's based on our recognition.
QUESTION: Considering the Iranian -- the Iran-Iraq history, I mean, at some point I would hope there would be some analysis here of whether there's an accommodation developing, which there seems to be between -- I think it's kind of maybe a more important relationship than the UAE, for instance, and Iraq, and some of the other -- I mean, they fought a big war and Iran's a big power. So if all these things add up to some nice turning point in the minds of the people here, remember you used to think there were reformers in Iran. I haven't heard that in a while. But if there is something developing, it would be nice to have the State Department say things are looking up, instead of, you know --
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, if things start looking up, I'll be glad to tell you first. We'll make the news right here.
QUESTION: But you know what I mean. Well, I mean, I think -- no, I think it's really serious.
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not -- we have had --
QUESTION: If we avoid the Iranians while the Iranians are showing signs of cooperating on nuclear, they're showing signs of rapprochement with Iraq --
MR. BOUCHER: Hold on, hold on, don't --
QUESTION: -- I think somebody ought to take notice of it.
MR. BOUCHER: Don't count your chickens before they hatch.
QUESTION: I know it's early.
MR. BOUCHER: We have to be, I think, measured in our response to these things because it's true, the Iranians have talked a lot about cooperating on nuclear. But have they signed the protocol? Have they suspended the programs? Have they defined what that means? Have they complied with the IAEA resolution? I think the answer is no, not yet.
Now, will they do so in the next four days? We'll see. Have they done anything about the senior al-Qaida figures inside Iran? No. Have they cut off their support for Hezbollah and the groups that use violence to oppose peace? No.
So, before it's time to say things are looking up, well, maybe we ought to wait for things to look up a little bit. The fact is that Iran's involvement in Iraq is complicated. There may be pilgrims who come for legitimate purposes. But we've also raised concerns about people coming across for not-so-legitimate purposes, either smuggling or people coming across to foment violence, and to oppose the progress that's being made.
So, I think one has to be reasonable about this, and not look for one swallow to make a spring, in order to confuse all the metaphors that I've been using across here. Okay?
QUESTION: Can I go to the other -- the remaining third of the axis of evil, which would be North Korea, in case you might have forgotten?
I guess this falls under the same category is we'll wait and see what they do, if they -- but on their latest statement about being interested. I realize the Secretary spoke a little bit about yesterday. Do you have anything more on the North Koreans interests in a potential agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: No, there's not really been anything more. We certainly hope it will be possible to have six-party talks again soon. Nothing is currently scheduled. There was no particular discussion in the New York channel on Friday, when they gave us a message that was similar to what the foreign ministry puts out over the weekend. So, we'll have to see what materializes, in terms of the prospect for talks.
QUESTION: Okay. And have you gotten any further in discussing the proposed -- or what you might like to see, in terms of security assurances with the other four countries?
MR. BOUCHER: No, there is nothing particularly new to say on that point either. That's been a matter under consideration, something we did say that we would discuss with other countries.
QUESTION: Well, is this something that you would like to have in place by -- or at least a proposal on paper, that you could give to the North Koreans at the next talks?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's wait until there is another round of talks before we start asking what's going to be on paper and what's not.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. BOUCHER: We'd certainly like to develop these ideas and have our discussions with other governments, with other partners involved in this process, so that we have some ideas that we can lay out at the next round of talks.
QUESTION: Can we talk about Syria for a second? Two questions. There are reports that Syrian state-owned TV plans to run a television program; I think called Al-Shatat, which The Simon Wiesenthal Center has described as anti-Semitic. I believe the program is supposed to start tonight, the first day of Ramadan.
I'm wondering if you have any particular comment on it, and whether you plan to have your Embassy there watch it, and then ultimately comment on it, much as you did with the Egyptian program last year?
MR. BOUCHER: The Horseman show, yeah. I am not aware of this particular program. I'll have to double-check and see what we have.
QUESTION: And then a second thing on -- Syria-related. Hizballah has been shelling Israeli army positions in the al-Shebaa Farms area. Do you have anything in particular to say about that today, and have you raised it with them?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've had the opportunity, quite yet, to raise this particular round of shelling with the Syrian Government. But, certainly, it's been a matter of longstanding U.S. policy, something we've spoken many times about with the Syrian, and for that matter, the Lebanese Governments, where we've asked everybody in the region to use their influence to prevent this kind of shelling, to maintain calm along the Israeli-Lebanon border.
We reiterate our calls on all sides to abide by their longstanding assurances to the UN Secretary General, and to ensure that there are no further violations of the UN-demarcated withdrawal line. Furthermore, we continue to urge Lebanon to deploy its armed forces to take control from Hizballah on Lebanon's southern border to establish the authority of the central government in those areas, as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1496.
QUESTION: When you say further (inaudible), you're referring to Syria and Lebanon, or are you referring to Israel as well? Hasn't Israel stuck to the agreement of -- by the letter?
MR. BOUCHER: They're referring, in this case, to violations for shelling that was referred to coming out of Lebanon.
QUESTION: Okay. That's -- all right.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: I have several questions regarding North Korea. The first one is regarding the North Korea -- over the weekend, the North Koreans said they're going to consider the security assurance proposed by the President over the APEC. So what's your comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I just did a few minutes ago. That's all there is to say.
QUESTION: And second thing is, according today's New York Times, Mr. Hwang Jeong-Yop is coming to Sates to visit. And do we have any schedules to -- he's going to meet with State Department officials, and what do you comment on his visit?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: And also, his visit is going to be affecting the six-way talks in the future, or do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't see how or why the visit should affect the six-party talks. But Mr. Hwang Jeong-Yop will be in Washington this week. It's a private visit. It's organized by the Defense Forum Foundation, which is a nongovernmental organization. So you'd have to check with them as far as the full schedule.
At the State Department, he'll meet later this week with Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs James Kelly. He'll meet with Fred Fleitz, the Senior Advisor to Under Secretary Bolton, and other U.S. officials, as well as with members of Congress.
QUESTION: The political crackdown in Azerbaijan after the election appears to be continuing apace -- editors arrested, election officials who refuse to certify the results have been arrested, apparently.
MR. BOUCHER: There were some violent clashes, I think, that have taken place since the election. We understand now that those might have ended. Obviously, we urge all the parties to exercise maximum restraint, and restrain from further violence.
As far as the election itself, the central election commission announced officially on October 20th that Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev won the October 15th election with 76.84 percent of the vote. However, problems observed by election monitors cast doubt on the credibility of these results. These included inaccurate and incomplete voter lists, cases of coercion and other irregularities.
The U.S. concurs with the OSCE assessment that the voting was "generally orderly but the election process still fell short of international standards."
So we would call for an immediate, independent, thorough and transparent investigation of all the violations.
QUESTION: Richard, on that, can you explain exactly what it was that made you change your initial somewhat more positive reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think our initial reaction was that much more positive. I'd have to look back. I think we did say, as this says, that the voting itself went smoothly and there wasn't too much violence on that day. But we have repeatedly, I think even before the election, expressed concerns about how the overall process was being managed.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)
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