State Dept. briefing at Thurmont Elementary School
U.S. Department of State Ambassador Richard Boucher Department of State Spokesman Press Briefing at Thurmont Elementary School Thurmont, Maryland, July 17, 2000
Released by the Office of the Spokesman
MR. BOUCHER: We've put out a couple statements in Washington, one on a bombing in Spain we think was particularly awful, a shooting and murder on Saturday of a city councilman and member of Spain's governing party in Malaga. And we've signed an Agreement for the International Test and Evaluation Program for Humanitarian Demining, something we're doing with the European Commission, Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Sweden. And it's basically a signing ceremony that takes place this afternoon in Brussels and this is an organization that will promote the development and sharing of information on new technologies for humanitarian demining.
Q: But you still need--
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't changed our position on the Convention.
Q: Does the improvement in relations with North Korea call for the United States to get in step with most of the rest of the world and be in favor of a total ban on mines, not just where you find it to your best interests to not have mines?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, this agreement is on humanitarian demining, a subject to which the United States has devoted enormous effort in supporting programs around the world in places like Cambodia and elsewhere. Humanitarian demining, as opposed to military demining, is to thoroughly clear land mines laid during wars and conflicts from all areas, including homes, civilian structures, schools, places of worship, factories, roads, railways and arable land.
So this is a risky and expensive process. We've been strong supporters of it consistently. On the other side of the thing, the Mine Ban Treaty, as it's known, our position hasn't changed.
Q: So the agreement though is for everywhere or for some certain specific countries?
MR. BOUCHER: No, this is an agreement, as I understand it, to establish - this is a memorandum of understanding that has established this international test and evaluation program. That program is one that will develop new technologies for humanitarian demining so the work can be done better as we do it around the world.
Q: So everywhere?
MR. BOUCHER: This is a program to develop technology so we can use cutting-edge technology instead of dangerous methods to find mines, or more dangerous, slightly more dangerous, whatever.
Our position on the Convention, which is a separate issue, is we will sign the treaty in 2006 if we succeed in developing and fielding alternatives to anti-personnel land mines and mixed anti-tank systems that would adequately protect US forces. So that hasn't changed.
And with those two mentions, I would be glad to take your questions.
Q: Can we go to something related to what Barry was talking about? You have nothing more for us on the Secretary's plans or desire to meet with the North Koreans?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything to announce.
Q: Can you say that her schedule remains the same where the G-8 is concerned?
MR. BOUCHER: She's not part of the G-8.
Q: Isn't she going to G-8 with the President?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
Q: I thought she was.
MR. BOUCHER: No, she normally would not go.
Q: Her schedule in terms of--
MR. BOUCHER: Her schedule has not been changed. She has events on her schedule this week and next. It's not changed at this point.
Q: Events which would require going back to Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: No, she'll be here through the peace talks.
Q: Can you say anything about the Bahraini princess? I don't know if she's gone yet or if today is her hearing?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it remains in the hands of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Q: But does the State Department have an opinion on whether she's here legally or illegally?
Q: I saw a story yesterday that said the State Department is calling for her deportation, on a wire.
MR. BOUCHER: Here's the situation as far as I think I was asked before as far as contact. The Bahraini Government has made its views known to us concerning the matter. We feel the case should be decided on its merits in accordance with immigration law and that's why we leave it in the hands of the Immigration Service.
Q: Obviously, you have an opinion on what those merits are, right?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not a matter in our hands in any way. I'm sure everybody in this room probably has an opinion. But we think it should be handled according to immigration law.
Q: If it's handled according to immigration law, what does the State Department think the results should be? Does this woman in the country--
MR. BOUCHER: Are there any other court cases in this country you would like us to establish an opinion on?
Q: The tobacco settlement?
MR. BOUCHER: We could have that question.
Q: I mean, well, look, you had an opinion on Elian.
MR. BOUCHER: Did we have an opinion on Elian?
Q: Yeah, you did.
MR. BOUCHER: We had a general opinion.
Q: Exactly. So why can't you have a general opinion on this?
MR. BOUCHER: Our opinion is it needs to be decided on its merits according to immigration law, period.
Q: I don't understand why you get to pick and choose when you're going to decide--you know, anyway--forget it.
Q: I have a question about tobacco. In light of this judgment and the growing evidence that tobacco kills, why does the United States help tobacco firms to export cigarettes overseas, creating a happy market, as we do for all businesses? That's the business of America's business, I know, even under Democrats.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll get you an answer on that. We have certain rules about how we handle those situations.
Q: I mean, whether they have to carry warnings, keep them away from young people, et cetera.
Q: Is there anything new on Mary--what was her name--in Afghanistan, whether she's--MacMakin--have you heard anything new on whether she's going to be allowed back in?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I do. No, don't know.
Q: And you didn't have anything on the virus.
MR. BOUCHER: No, other than the fact I do want to assert that there are people in the State Department who have funny jokes. Contrary to press reports.
Q: But they're always on background.
MR. BOUCHER: I know. (Laughter.)
Q: How about her? Has she done anything non-Mid East? I mean, well, she sent the telegram to Bashar--
MR. BOUCHER: She sent a message to the Syrians. I can tell you about that. Actually, the President sent a message, too.
Both the President and Secretary Albright sent messages to President Bashar Al-Asad, congratulating him on his inauguration and the Secretary also welcomed his assurances on the Middle East Peace Process.
Q: Can you read that whole sentence about the assurances again?
MR. BOUCHER: Both the President and Secretary Albright sent messages to President Bashar Al-Asad congratulating him on his inauguration and the Secretary welcomed his assurances on the Middle East Peace Process.
What assurances or commitment you might say? His inauguration remarks were consistent with the comments that he made to the Secretary when they met in Damascus last month. In his speech, he reiterated serious commitment to the peace process and the US role as a broker for peace. So we look forward to discussing the status of the Peace Process with Bashar Al-Asad in our future contacts, at an appropriate time.
Q: Would you like to narrow "the future" down to some sort of certain potential time?
MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. We're totally involved in the process right now of trying to seek peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Q: If there is something substantive by tomorrow night, will he and King Abdullah know about it before we do?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not something I'll address in this room, because this is not a Peace Process room, other than what I mentioned.
Q: But did she make any phone calls? He didn't--I mean, Clinton didn't--I mean, in her usual role of--
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. There may have been one or two in the past days.
Q: Was this--this was, I gather, a written message of congratulations; it wasn't a verbal message?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
Q: Richard, you know the Republicans have questioned this whole idea of AIDS as a national security threat and now Holbrooke has sponsored the resolution in the Security Council, that I think got passed, I think it's gotten backing or is expected to, suggesting that peacekeepers should be better educated and inoculated and--well, I guess it's not inoculation, but better educated on the threat of AIDS?
MR. BOUCHER: Focusing on military forces and peacekeepers.
Q: Given the Republicans' comments already saying that this Administration focus on AIDS is overblown, what's the State Department's view on all of this?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I would cite the remarks that the Secretary made on a certain network radio interview a week ago Sunday, network TV interview a week ago Sunday, sorry, where she talked about it. You know, without trying to address Republicans - we realize there are critics out there who say we spend too much time on this. But the fact is that AIDS is killing people, it makes development more difficult, makes societies more difficult, makes trading more difficult, it makes peacekeeping more difficult around the world and especially on the continent of Africa and southern Africa.
Q: What is driving the US, though, and Holbrooke to sponsor this? Holbrooke's staff say that the French think it's not worth doing and the Arabs say that their troops don't have sex, so they don't need it. And so why is the US the one driving this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we do see this as a real problem, the UN sees it as a real problem, that AIDS affects many, many national security--issues of national security importance to us and it's an issue of national security importance itself. And to the extent we feel we can use UN resolution and a program set up by it to counter that problem, we think we should.
Q: Is this leading by example or do we have a real problem with troops having AIDS? I mean, the focus had been in the past that people within countries were infected. Is there a concern that too many US troops are coming back from peacekeeping missions with AIDS?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not--I don't think it's based on something like that. I mean, you can check with the Pentagon if they have numbers on that sort of thing. But I think the fact is with large movements of people in and out of countries, that that's how the disease spreads. And you've seen, you know, places in Africa where it's spread along trucking routes and things like that. So the fact that you have large movements of military personnel, including peacekeepers, shows you that that's an area where something needs to be done and some attention needs to be paid to keep that from contributing to the disease. So this is a way we think the United Nations can contribute to slowing the spread of the disease and improving the prevention that's done around the world.
Q: Richard, does the State Department have any better idea of when Secretary Albright might go to Japan, because she's not going on this one?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we don't have anything for you at this point on that.
Q: She still plans to go at some point?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
Q: Can you say whether it's this week or next week? Is it like early next week? It would kind of have to be, wouldn't it, for her to get there in time? Oh, sorry, Japan--
MR. BOUCHER: No, you're sort of asking about Bangkok.
I don't have any kind of schedule for the ASEAN thing yet so there's not much I do on that.
Q: But if we're still here when something like that comes up, you will let us know when exactly it is we have to have our bags packed?
MR. BOUCHER: If we make any announcements, you will see them first.
(The briefing concluded at 2:35 p.m.)