State Dept Daily Press Briefing 19/10
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Thursday, October 19, 2000
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
NORTH KOREA / SOUTH KOREA 1-6 Secretary Albright's Travel to North Korea and South Korea
MIDDLE EAST 6-7 Outcome of Sharm el-Sheikh Summit / Next Steps in Peace Process
11-12 UN General Assembly Emergency Session
12-13 Upcoming Arab Summit
13-15 Statements by Regional Leaders re Middle East Peace Process
14 Secretary's Meeting with Syrian President
YEMEN 12 USS Cole Investigation
TERRORISM 7-8 Department's Issuance of Worldwide Cautions and Travel Warnings
CUBA 8-9 Legislation on Food and Medicine Sales / Travel Restrictions
COTE D'IVOIRE 9-10 Upcoming Elections / Withdrawal of UN Election Observers
CHINA 10 Missile and Nuclear Technology Acquisition
EGYPT 10-11 Elections in Egypt
RUSSIA 15-16 Update on Edmond Pope Case
BOSNIA 16 Stone-Throwing Incident in Brcko Between Serb and Bosnian Students
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #102 THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2000, 12:50 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be back with you, but I don't have any statements so I'll be glad to go straight to questions.
QUESTION: Tell us what you can about North Korea, the talks that have been held there this week, plus anything you can say about press arrangements.
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let's see. I don't know where to start. Let me tell you as much as I can. We have a group of Americans that arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday in order to prepare for the Secretary's planned trip to Pyongyang. They crossed the Demilitarized Zone from South Korea into North Korea at the truce village of Panmunjom. We are pleased with North Korea's cooperation in facilitating this travel.
Ambassador Thomas C. Hubbard -- that is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs -- is leading our group. The American officials have previously crossed the Demilitarized Zone to take part in discussions or negotiations with North Korea, so it is not the first crossing.
But we are discussing with North Korea, as well as government officials from Republic of Korea and UN Command, what we need to do to support the Secretary's travel. And it is our understanding that further crossings may take place as necessary.
As far as the Secretary's trip itself, she will depart very, very early on Sunday morning, almost late Saturday night, from here for Pyongyang. She will hold talks in Pyongyang on Monday and Tuesday, and during her visit she will have a chance to talk with Chairman Kim Jong Il.
The advance team, as we have said, has been working on the arrangements, including the press arrangements for the trip. Please be assured we are making every possible effort to get adequate arrangements for the press to go in, for adequate numbers of you to be able to go, for you to be able to do your work in Korea. We have said this is a historic trip, and one that we think is very important to the foreign relations of the United States. And you can be assured that we want you there as much as you want to be there.
After the visit Monday and Tuesday in Pyongyang -- we will stay Tuesday night -- and then Wednesday morning the Secretary will fly on to Seoul. In Seoul, she will have discussions with senior South Korean and Japanese officials. I don't have any details of that, but it is important for us to have that trilateral consultation as we leave North Korea, and we will do that in Seoul.
The visit gives us an opportunity, gives the Secretary an opportunity, to talk with Chairman Kim Jong Il, to continue the discussions that we held with Vice Marshall Jo and his delegation in Washington on the broad agenda of regional and bilateral issues that have been the focus of our dialogue. These issues are reflected in the joint communique where we said we wanted to fundamentally improve the bilateral relationship; we stated that neither government would have hostile intent; and we wanted to move -- undertake a new direction in our relations. And that is the point of the Secretary's visit is to pursue those opportunities further and see what can be accomplished in terms of her own visit, but also in preparation for a possible visit by the President.
She noted during her visit she will be exploring the opportunities for progress on the issues of greatest concern to us. She will be looking to make some serious progress on the key issues in order to allow a visit by the President to proceed.
The visit will also give the Secretary an opportunity to probe the willingness of North Koreans to build on the openings that have been achieved with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, and in the visit to us by Vice Marshall Jo. As you all know, the progress and relations with South Korea has been a very important part of what we see as the overall progress of opening up and the prospect of reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
That is a long answer, but you asked sort of everything in your question, so I tried to answer everything at once. But let's go back.
QUESTION: Is this visit by the President a fait accompli? I mean, are preparations being made, or are there certain things that need to happen before such a visit would take place, and what are they?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't describe it as a fait accompli. We have said it is a possible visit by the President, that the Secretary's visit is in preparation of a possible visit by the President; and that, second of all, that we look to keep making progress on the issues of concern to us and want to make sure that any further steps are part of that progress.
QUESTION: Could you, first of all, be a little more specific about what kind of progress you need on those issues for the President to go ahead with his visit?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I can at this point.
QUESTION: Okay. The British and the Germans have announced today their intention to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea. Do you think the United States is going to follow suit in the near future?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at what we are doing, you can predict it by looking at the Perry Report, and look at the fact that we talked about a process that would lead to substantial improvement in our bilateral relationship, but a process that proceeded step by step in terms of steps that build mutual confidence and that move forward. So I'm not going to predict the opening of bilateral relationships at any particular point in time, but I will predict that that is part of the substantive agenda as we proceed on those substantive steps.
QUESTION: Could you tell us, in a little more detail than we've had so far, what happened during Vice Marshall Jo's visit on the question of the liaison offices? This was clearly discussed, but I don't -- I think it wasn't even mentioned in the joint communique, which I was reading this morning. Why not?
MR. BOUCHER: Which I read the first half of this morning, so you're ahead of me. I'll assume it's not in the back half, and you have read it more thoroughly than I did.
Again, there area a number of things that will come into play as we move forward step by step in our relationship. First and foremost, what we are looking for out of this is steps on the key issues that we have been concerned about -- on missiles, on nuclear weapons, on terrorism. And obviously there are a variety of other issues that we have raised.
But these are key issues affecting the security of all of us, including and especially the people who live on the Peninsula. So as we make progress on the issues, we will build a better relationship with the North. It is through that process that we get to bilateral relationships and issues like that.
QUESTION: The German and the British announcements were suspiciously timed. What kind of a consultation or collusion, one might say, was there between the United States and the British and the Germans about this? Were they waiting for the Secretary to make her announcement before they said that they were going to take these steps, or is this something that is purely coincidental?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it is purely coincidental as far as timing of announcements, but obviously we know that a great many of other allies and friends have been also engaged in this process with North Korea, and we have consulted with a variety of nations. We consult most closely, obviously, with the South Koreans and the Japanese, but we do keep in touch with others as well on this whole overall process, which we have welcomed, of North Korea opening up to the world. We think it is good that others are taking steps as well.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary talked to either Foreign Minister Fischer or Foreign Secretary Cook yesterday before the announcement was made?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: She did not?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: On the same subject --
MR. BOUCHER: Can we let some others ask questions, too?
MR. BOUCHER: She talked with Cook -- I can't remember -- about a week ago.
QUESTION: Did she discuss this with --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that she has discussed this. I think I can say she did not discuss this specific announcement with Cook, that this is not a coordinated announcement. Let's put it that way.
QUESTION: Thank you. You said earlier "looking to make serious progress on key issues," and then you said "steps on the key issues." So when we gage in our minds whether you made progress, should we look for serious progress or --
MR. BOUCHER: I would always encourage you to use the minimum standard when judging us. (Laughter.) But I think they both amount to the same thing, that these are major issues of importance to the United States. We want to make sure that the process of visits contributes to further progress on these issues, that we can see steps taken forward. So I think the prospect of serious progress is what will keep moving us forward in this relationship as we continue to take steps along the way, if I can phrase it -- put both in the same sentence.
QUESTION: A couple of loose ends. Do you expect former Secretary Perry to accompany Secretary Albright on this trip? That's the first one. And the second one is, after the meeting --
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check, but I wouldn't automatically expect it because his duties as the high-level envoy have been transferred to Wendy Sherman, Ambassador Sherman.
QUESTION: Secondly, you said she'll be going to Seoul for meetings there. Will she be staying in Seoul on Wednesday, or returning Wednesday or returning Thursday?
MR. BOUCHER: The prospect at this point is for a daytime visit to Seoul and then departure sometime during the afternoon or evening once the business there is done. So then we would arrive in the usual shoddy condition back in the United States the next day -- or the same day. I can't remember the dateline.
QUESTION: Maybe the day before.
MR. BOUCHER: The day before, but feeling like it's three days later.
QUESTION: I just want to go back to the British and Germans -- you say you want to see serious progress on these various issues before you establish relations.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that.
QUESTION: Yes, you did.
MR. BOUCHER: But I said that part of the process is seeing progress, and part of progress is establishing relations; this will all come in a matter of course.
QUESTION: Do you think it would be useful if, in fact, you had coordinated with the British and Germans and did this in step with them, and keep up the pressure on North Korea to make these serious steps -- progress on serious issues or whatever phrase you --
MR. BOUCHER: We obviously talk to a number of governments about the issues that are of concern to us. We know that many, many governments share those concerns, including our allies, including people in the region, including people like the Russians. But I think we also, in general, have expressed very strong support for this attitude, this idea that North Korea is establishing relationships around the world, that others are looking for what they can do with North Korea.
We think it is good that North Korea is establishing these relationships. We think it is particularly good that North Korea has established a relationship with the South through the summit and other steps, and that we want to encourage that process to continue.
QUESTION: Is there going to be any kind of a human rights component of this trip, or is that something that is simply too early to deal with a country that effectively doesn't even have a human rights record?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not at this point in a position to lay out the full scope of the agenda during the trip, but I would remind you that during the visit by Vice Marshall Jo, we discussed a full and complete range of issues with them at one level or another.
QUESTION: Early on in the process of trying to have an exchange of liaison offices -- this was about three or four years ago -- it was being said that the US was going to move into some sort of German facility in Pyongyang. Do you know whether that is still true, and what kind of facility is that, since they don't have diplomatic relations?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We will have to see if we have been back to check out the curtains recently. But I would have to see. I will have to check on that.
QUESTION: If North Korea agrees, State Department is going to arrange to charter the airplane for press?
MR. BOUCHER: I will deal with specific press arrangements, I think after the briefing. I am not definitive enough that I want to do this in the glare of cameras. If I had everything nailed down, I would. But I can, after the briefing, give you some idea about how things might work out.
QUESTION: What you said -- you're not planning any other trips or stops besides Pyongyang and Seoul, is that the plan?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, that is all that is on the schedule.
QUESTION: Events in the Middle East. How does this building see what's going on as the agreement begins to take shape or not take shape, depending on --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let me go back a little bit. As the Secretary pointed out to those of us on the airplane, both sides have issued the statements that were called for in Sharm el Sheikh calling for an end to the violence. Israel has opened the Gaza airport and international passages, including at Rafah and Alanby. Israel has also announced that it will lift the internal closure in the West Bank. Security contacts between the two sides have also resumed, and there have been meetings with security officials.
At the same time, I think we need to make clear, as we have before, implementation is what matters. Calming the situation is what mattered; an end to the violence and end to the harm and the wounded and the killing is what really matters. So we have no illusions about how difficult this is going to be. We are pleased to see that the two sides are taking steps in parallel to implement their commitments at Sharm el Sheikh, and we do have hope that because the leaders have made these commitments and are starting to show themselves that they intend to fulfill them. But we will continue to follow the situation very, very closely, and obviously to play our part in security committees and other steps where we can help.
QUESTION: Mr. Ben Ami accused the Palestinians of violating the deal already by failing to disarm Fatah militiamen, and the Israelis used helicopter gun ships. Do you consider either of these actions or inactions to be violations of the agreement reached at Sharm el Sheikh?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have declined thus far to go through in all its specific detail the kinds of security steps that we expected the sides to take, either by commitment to each other or based on understandings reached with us. So I can't get into sort of making a checklist or giving grades on specific steps. I do think it is important that all sides, that both sides, continue to take these steps and that their security people continue to discuss them and work out any differences that they may have over the kinds of steps and the way the steps are being taken.
QUESTION: Yes. When you said commitments to themselves, you're talking about the commitments made in Paris, right, not the ones -- because there were no commitments made to each other at Sharm, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there were commitments made in group meetings, and then there were commitments made in bilateral meetings, I think is the way to explain it.
QUESTION: Yes, but when you talk about the commitments, mutual commitments that the Palestinians and Israelis have made to themselves --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me do it this way. The President, in his statement -- yes, there were commitments made in Paris, first of all. Second of all, the President, in his statement, outlined the steps that the parties were committed to taking, right? And those are well known to all of us. And so, in addition, we have not provided further details on the kinds of steps the parties might take, but there are understandings about other things that they could do that would help the situation, and we expect to see implementation.
QUESTION: There were hearings today with Zinni there talking about the clearance for Yemen to be used for refueling, and there was a lot of tough questions about why that was allowed. I know there was some back and forth about who bears the ultimate responsibility for clearing the port, but since the State Department does have a role in all of this, is there some rethinking going on now about how ports will be cleared in the future?
And then I want to ask about the Travel Advisory that went out yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any broad rethinking. I think everybody involved in these situations will try to learn as much as possible about them. Certainly in the case of Yemen, the military, in the usual -- in consultation with us and experts throughout the Government, has suspended further visits, which makes a lot of sense obviously given the situation in Yemen.
And I am sure that as anybody involved in this whole process, whether it is the military making its final decisions or the rest of us who are involved in consultations, advice, or whatever with them, will try to learn as much as they can from this event, and hopefully draw conclusions that help our forces in the future be safer and safer.
QUESTION: And then on the Travel Advisory that went out yesterday, we talked about it a lot with Phil. But as he pointed out, there was nothing specific in terms of when there might be specific terrorist action taken, where it might be taken. And, apparently, according to various different government officials, that type of broad-based warning went out before the USS Cole attack, but they kind of put it off to the side because they didn't have more details. Was the decision to put out this caution yesterday in part based on that, not wanting to repeat maybe what might have been seen as an error of not taking those kinds of broad-based threats more seriously and bringing them to the public's attention?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we had a public Worldwide Caution on October 12th. I think we have had them in the past before that. I'm not sure if that was a replacement or new one at that point, but the October 18th one that Phil discussed with you yesterday says, "Individuals may be planning terrorist actions against United States citizens and interests in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey."
That is the best information that we can provide at this time. Clearly we have a policy that if we know of a specific threat at a specific location or time or flight, that we -- if we cannot counter the threat adequately -- we make that information public as well. But this is a broader thing based on the nature of the information that we have.
QUESTION: Can you say whether -- when someone looks at that type of thing and it doesn't tell them not to go there, is it State Department advice not to go there at all?
MR. BOUCHER: State Department advice is explicitly stated in the warning, and it is precise depending on what we know and what we feel we can advise people based on what we know. In this case, it says, "US citizens should exercise caution in considering travel to those areas at this time."
QUESTION: Can you -- these specific threats in Turkey, do you see any kind of correlation between this anti-American sentiment right now because of the Armenian Genocide Resolution and these so-called terrorist groups that are planning attacks?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can get into more detail. This, though, has to do with Persian Gulf, Arabian Peninsula and Turkey, and so I would just give you that general sense of it and not necessarily tie it to a specific resolution.
QUESTION: Congress has sent to the President legislation that, among other things, eases restrictions on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba, and also freezes current travel restrictions in place. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. As always, we have always favored steps that hold the promise of helping the Cuban people without bolstering the regime. On the other hand, we are concerned the travel restrictions in the bill might eliminate the President's flexibility and discretion to conduct aspects of our foreign policy with Cuba. We are looking on what next steps we might take to address that issue as it appears in the legislation.
So that is kind of where we stand.
QUESTION: Would you recommend a veto of this legislation?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you will have to check with the White House as far as presidential signature, but the answer --
QUESTION: No, no, but would you recommend? I'm not saying --
MR. BOUCHER: We have not. No, we wouldn't. We have not said that.
QUESTION: So you would not recommend a veto?
MR. BOUCHER: We are not recommending a veto from this Department.
QUESTION: Not yet, or you just haven't -- has there been a -- has this building offered its advice?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure if advice has gone forward or not, but we are not recommending the President veto this.
QUESTION: Are you recommending other steps concerning travel that the Administration would like to take that would be prevented under this legislation?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the issue is as much how it affects some of the things that are currently being done as prospects for the future. So I think what is important is that we try to see what steps we can take to address the issues that are raised currently with the travel restrictions in this bill.
QUESTION: I'm still a bit confused by that. You're not recommending a veto, but you don't like the travel -- the way the travel restrictions -- so what are you going to do about it?
MR. BOUCHER: Try to fix it.
QUESTION: But it's been passed, hasn't it?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't go into full detail on how this might be done or could occur, now or in the future, but we register our concerns on travel and we will see how those might be taken care of in the future.
QUESTION: Can I go to a new subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, you managed to infuriate the Belarusian Government with your condemnatory comments about its election, and I'm wondering if you would like to do the same thing for Ivory Coast, which is about to have its election on Sunday.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we left Belarus to Mr. Reeker, and I would be glad to do the Ivory Coast. I think generally on the Ivory Coast we have expressed ourselves many times over the past few months about the way the election was shaping up, and you knew that we withdrew our electoral observers from the Ivory Coast elections that are now scheduled for October 22nd. We suspended our election-related assistance to the Ivory Coast as well. US assistance was predicated on free, fair and inclusive elections taking place.
Recent events have rendered such a process impossible in the Ivory Coast. We had about $1 million that had been available to support groups like the National Democratic Institute and their activities there.
The United Nations, in addition, has repeatedly called for a political transition that is based on democratic elections for the president and legislature that are open and transparent. These elections are not.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Secretary General, as did the United States, deplored the fact that many major opposition candidates would be excluded from the Ivory Coast presidential elections. In addition, many countries and organizations, including the Organization for African Unity, who were originally providing observers and funding for Sunday's presidential elections, have also withdrawn their support.
QUESTION: So does it go without saying that you will not recognize the results of this election?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it goes without saying that we don't see the whole process shaping up to be free, fair and inclusive. Not recognizing results is a kind of a different technical question, and I don't think I can answer at this point.
QUESTION: Well, except that you did say that about Belarus before the election happened, that you wouldn't recognize the results.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we don't consider this whole process looking free, fair and inclusive. But I think that is pretty clear that we don't see the results as a valid reflection of the expression of the desires and will of the Ivorian people.
QUESTION: The Chinese ICBM program. There are reports that suggest the US Government may have new evidence, or newly translated evidence, that the Chinese may have acquired technologies related to that that are of special concern, that they might have acquired them even from US sources.
Are those reports accurate?
MR. BOUCHER: I have a very simple answer, and that is we can't comment on intelligence matters. So I am afraid I can't help you with that. I don't know about the agencies responsible for the investigation, whether they have anything they can say in public.
QUESTION: Can you talk at all about the Chinese ICBM program and whether it has advanced recently in ways that cause any concern?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. Sorry.
QUESTION: Another election. The Egyptians also had elections. As usual, they haven't allowed in any international observers; and the authorities, as usual, have arrested large numbers of people who might have taken part in the campaigning. What is your assessment so far of whether these are free and fair? And also, of course, the law excludes large numbers of categories of political opinions.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't remember if they are still under way, but I will have to look into it and get you something.
QUESTION: Well, they're in --
MR. BOUCHER: I will look into it and see if we can get you something at this stage, or whether we have to wait for a further stage.
QUESTION: Things didn't go so well for the US and Israeli position yesterday at the United Nations, and apparently the Secretary General asked them to discontinue this Middle East dialogue until he can come back and address the General Assembly on Friday. Has the Secretary spoken to him, asked him to do something on Friday that would head off another resolution that would not be to the US liking, or what's your effort on that front?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the Secretary has spoken to him for a day or two at least since Sharm, since Sharm el Sheikh. Let me sort of give you our basic -- tell you our basic position on this. I think it is probably well known to you all.
But at the meeting yesterday at the General Assembly, the representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority outlined their positions on the violence in the occupied territories. The session will continue later this week when the Secretary General is expected to brief the General Assembly on the events at Sharm el Sheikh.
We do not support this session. We believe it is counter-productive. We believe the priority now should be on the implementation of the understandings that were reached at Sharm el Sheikh, and we believe these understandings form the best basis for progress. They have been endorsed by the parties, by President Clinton, by the UN Secretary General, by the Egyptians, by the Jordanians. And we really think that that constitutes the best hope for progress, and we don't think the session in New York can help; we think, in fact, it is counter-productive.
QUESTION: There was a transcript from the plane yesterday. I don't know if it was on background on what. So a senior official said, traveling back from Saudi Arabia yesterday, that rhetoric is not important now; what is important is on the ground. Is that a way for the State Department to say that what happens at the UN doesn't matter, because it's just rhetoric?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we go a little bit beyond that. The Secretary spoke to reporters on the airplane and talked a little bit about various events that were going on, and said that what is really important, as I just said, is implementation, and that rhetoric and some of these other events could in fact be counter-productive. We certainly think that this discussion of the type being held at the General Assembly would be counter-productive, and we really think the emphasis needs to be the agreements that were reached at Sharm el Sheikh by the parties with the support and the effort of the international community that was represented there.
QUESTION: Speaking of these events, is one of those events that you're referring to the upcoming Arab Summit over the weekend, and are you -- is the US concerned that this might end with a lot of anti-Israeli rhetoric that might aggravate the situation over there?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the way to put it is that -- first of all, we would note again the substantial international or regional representation at the Sharm el Sheikh meetings. The President and Secretary Albright, I think, made particular note of the roles that President Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah, had played for their work on behalf of peace. Their efforts, both publicly and behind the scenes, were invaluable. Secretary General Kofi Annan was there and made special efforts there. So there were a lot of people involved in helping this out.
We have been in continuous contact with regional leaders on the situation in the peace process. We have found broad agreement that both sides must do everything they can to cease violence, restore calm, find a way back to the negotiating table. So we would believe that the other Arab leaders who are meeting would understand the sensitivity of the current situation and of the commitments made at Sharm el Sheikh.
At this critical juncture, we would expect that Arab leaders will make every effort to make a constructive and positive contribution to the successful implementation of the Sharm el Sheikh understandings and to the eventual restoration of negotiations. So that is what we would hope they would do at the meeting. And until the meeting is occurring, I am not going to try to characterize it otherwise.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? Did you get an indication from the Jordanian King and the Egyptian President that they understand that there are so-called extremist elements of the Arab world coming to this summit, and they are going to try to temper any kind of statements that are going to come out of it?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we know that there are a variety of opinions that are going to be represented at any meeting of Arab leaders. We also know, as I think I have been pointing out by citing the people who were at the summit or noting -- look back at our conversations in Saudi Arabia, look back at -- the Secretary has been on the telephone with various people; the Foreign Minister of Tunisia, for example.
So we also know that there is a substantial body of opinion in the Arab world that supports the Sharm el Sheikh agreement, that thinks the importance right now is on restoring calm, ending the violence, ending the harm, the deaths, the hurt that is being felt in the region, and looking for a way of restoring the peace process, and who believe that the Sharm el Sheikh agreement does that. And so we would hope that those who feel constructive about the Sharm el Sheikh agreement would also look for a constructive outcome.
Obviously there are people with different opinions, but there is a substantial body of Arab leaders who we believe take a positive attitude towards this and are looking for a constructive outcome.
QUESTION: I have a couple of questions on the same subject. First of all, I think it is customary for the Secretary to send a letter around to her counterparts before every Arab summit. Do you know whether the Secretary has done that yet, and can we assume that the message in it is pretty much the one you just delivered here?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it is customary, I don't know if it has been done. But if it were done, I am sure it would be consistent with what we say in public. So let me check on the letter.
QUESTION: And secondly, from what you are saying, you seem fairly confident that Arab leaders with a positive attitude constitute the majority.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I thought I was very careful not to say that. I said there is a substantial number, a substantial body of Arab leaders we know who have been positive --
QUESTION: Well, overall, I got the impression that you felt fairly confident that the --
MR. BOUCHER: I stick with what I say, not for impressions that others make of them.
QUESTION: Majority is perhaps the wrong word, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it is.
QUESTION: -- but those with a positive attitude would carry more weight in Cairo --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that either.
QUESTION: Oh, well, how - well -- (Laughter).
MR. BOUCHER: I will refer you back to the transcript. I just said it. I know what I said. But I really don't want to try to have other people --
QUESTION: Do you feel fairly confident that the outcome will meet your requirements?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer to that question is we will have to see.
QUESTION: Still on the same thing. When the Secretary spoke to the President of Yemen the other day, did she bring up this specific -- what you have just been talking about?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary has had a number of discussions with Arab leaders --
QUESTION: Let me just continue. The Yemen news agency says that the Secretary asked him specifically to, or told him specifically, that the United States was counting on Yemen at the Arab summit meeting to help temper any kind of wild statement that might come out. And I'm just wondering -- I mean, are they -- is the Yemen press agency -- is the Yemeni President, does he -- never mind. Is that what she said to him?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. The answer is the Yemeni press agency may be better informed about this specific phone call than I am. I have gone through these discussions that the Secretary has had with other Arab leaders in a general sense. I don't have specific quotes from specific phone calls.
In her phone calls and her discussions that she had in Saudi Arabia and with Arab leaders and generally in Sharm, she has encouraged the need to support the agreements at Sharm el Sheikh. She has discussed the positive outcome we felt those gave us, the positive prospect of implementation and really changing the situation on the ground; and encourage people, whether they are in the meetings at the Arab League or elsewhere to support these and see how everybody can make this the future of the region and not otherwise. But as far as specific quotes from a specific conversation, I'm afraid I just don't have that.
QUESTION: Well, other than the phone calls that she made to the Yemen President and to the Tunisian Foreign Minster, and other than the people that she did see personally -- Bashar, the Saudis and the people that she saw in Sharm -- who else in the Arab world has she spoken to to convey the US message on your expectations or your hopes for the summit?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that is it, but that is a fairly long list: the people who were in Sharm, the people she talked to in Saudi Arabia, and the phone calls that she has made. She hadn't made -- she didn't make any further phone calls from the airplane last night.
QUESTION: Could you -- given that the Secretary raised this topic with Asad but didn't get much of a response, could you give us the latest assessment by the State Department of the strength of Hezbollah? And was she disappointed that she didn't get more of a response from Asad in terms of helping convince them to release Israeli soldiers?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have anything further to what the Secretary said 12 hours ago, or maybe a little more than that. She discussed this fairly thoroughly on the airplane. I really don't have anything subsequent to that.
QUESTION: Well, is he still regarded as the Arab leader that has the most influence, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I really don't think we've quite characterized it that way in the past, but I am not in a position to characterize it now.
QUESTION: We have a pretty clear idea of what you would like the Arab summit to do and say. Can you give us an idea of what you don't want it to say, what you're worried that it might do that would upset your plans for the region?
MR. BOUCHER: I think obviously we are looking --
QUESTION: Given the Iraqis executive --
MR. BOUCHER: We are looking for a constructive -- for it to be constructive, for it to support the process that was started at Sharm el Sheikh. Obviously, they are going to have this discussion, and they will decide what they do.
But, in any event, we would hope that whatever happened at these meetings, whether it is this one or the United Nations one, would not inflame the situation or support a return to violence. We all know that is not the future that we want for the region and, above all, that is not the future that the Israelis and the Palestinians want for themselves. And they are trying to take steps to restore calm and to get back to the peace process, and we think the international community should be supporting them in that.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: Were you able to get any readout on Ed Pope's trial yesterday? And is it so that they finally agreed to let him have a medical examination by an independent doctor?
MR. BOUCHER: Really?
QUESTION: I'm not sure.
MR. BOUCHER: Not --
QUESTION: I was hoping you would know.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me tell you what we know about that. I don't think that's -- where are we here? All right.
The trial did begin yesterday in the Moscow City Court. We understand the proceedings included a lengthy adjournment and a number of motions by the defense. However, the trial is closed; consular officials have had no access to the proceedings. I understand at this point they are adjourned until Friday.
We have repeatedly said we see no evidence that Mr. Pope did anything illegal. We are very concerned about Mr. Pope's health. We believe he should be released and returned home at once. And the President, as we have said, has made these points repeatedly to President Putin.
We have seen today's comments that Mr. Pope is concerned about receiving a fair trial. We share his apprehension. We have stated that lack of access to the investigation and to the trial causes grave concern about the fairness of the proceedings against Mr. Pope.
Throughout Mr. Pope's detention, Russian authorities have denied us details of the charges and the investigation concerning Mr. Pope, despite our requests, and they have forbidden and prevented Mr. Pope and his lawyers from discussing them with us. They have even blocked access to Western medical care.
We continue to make every effort to see Mr. Pope and insist that Russian authorities provide for his immediate welfare. I would also note that, while in Moscow, Under Secretary Pickering raised Mr. Pope's case with Foreign Minister Ivanov and with the Deputy Foreign Minister as well. Once again, we are disappointed. The consular officers were not admitted to the hearing. They will continue to seek access to the proceedings.
And I want to stress once again, the objective of the US Government -- and by this I mean the Administration and our friends in Congress who are working on this -- is to get Ed Pope home.
QUESTION: You don't know anything about the proceedings of yesterday other than that?
MR. BOUCHER: No news on anything on the proceedings, because we weren't allowed in.
QUESTION: What was the reaction by Ivanov, whether in his many conversations with the Secretary or with Pickering, about the decision by the State Department to change its consular-- update its consular information?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any particular reaction. I will have to check on that and see.
QUESTION: The last one. Do you have anything on Bosnia? There are some tensions in Brcko today and some fighting between Serbs and Muslims, and the local police and US peacekeepers are --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's see what's going on in Bosnia. In Brcko, there was an incident of stone throwing between Serb and Bosnian students at a school in Brcko yesterday. American troops went to the school, but it appears the exchange died down on its own. Of course we deplore the intolerance shown by students, and such behavior has no place in what we would see as an emerging democratic state in Bosnia.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 P.M.)