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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 26, 2001

Daily Press Briefing Index

Tuesday, June 26, 2001

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

YUGOSLAVIA 1,2 Milosevic Extradition/War Crimes Tribunal/Donors Conference

GREECE 3 Reports of Attempted Murder Against Member of Parliament

ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 3-6 Upcoming Visit by Secretary Powell to Middle East 3,5 Meetings with Prime Minister Sharon 3,4,5,6 Mitchell Committee Report/Regional Violence 6 Discussions with Chairman Arafat

HONG KONG 7 Hong Kong Policy Act

CHINA 8 Journalist Assault Update

IRAQ 8,9,10,11 Smart Sanctions Update 13 Iraqi Troops on Kurdish Border

RUSSIA 11 Tobin Update

PERU 11,12 Secretary Powell's Meeting with President- Elect Toledo 11,12 Montesinos Arrest 11 Ex-President Fujimori 11,12 Berenson Case

MACEDONIA 12 Violence 12 U.S. Embassy Team Observer Wounded 12 Departure of National Liberation Army Rebels from Aracinovo

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB # 89

TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2001 12:45 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements. I would be glad to take your questions.

Q: President Kostunica has said that there is no way that President Milosevic can be extradited before Friday. How does this influence US thinking on the donors conference?

MR. BOUCHER: The question was about President Kostunica's comments about the timing of the extradition of Mr. Milosevic to The Hague. Let me put it this way. We very much welcome the moves that the Yugoslav Government, the Serbian Government, have been taking. We welcome the Yugoslav Government decree on cooperation with the Tribunal. We welcome the initiation of legal proceedings against Milosevic pursuant to this decree. We are encouraged by these positive developments as we consider participating in Friday's donor conference.

A recommendation on participation has not yet reached the Secretary's desk, but obviously these steps will weigh heavily on our decision on attendance.

Q: Which steps?

MR. BOUCHER: The ones that I said: the government decree, the initiation of legal proceedings.

Q: How much time do you need to make arrangements to participate? I mean, when is the last time, moment, that you can make a decision on this to participate?

MR. BOUCHER: Theoretically, it would be the moment the conference starts. Maybe even the moment it finishes. We'll decide in ample time to field whatever team we might need to field.

Q: Could you be more precise about "in ample time"? When do you think you'll decide?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not going to give you a time table.

Q: At this point, is the State Department considering, if it can't participate in the donors conference, could it arrange separate kinds of aid to, say a World Bank project, to get Yugoslavia's economy going? Does it have to be in the form of a conference?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's hypothetical at this point. Let's just leave it for the point of we will decide soon on the question of whether we can go. The positive steps that we have seen will be an important factor in reaching our conclusion and our decision. I am sure we will decide with ample time to prepare and to participate in the conference fully, should that be the choice that the Secretary decides.

Q: Can I ask another one?

MR. BOUCHER: Can I answer it the same way?

(Laughter.)

Q: No. Senator Leahy has said that there is nothing magical about the June 29th date, that the US should support Yugoslavia when they cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal. What do you make of that?

MR. BOUCHER: We agree.

Q: Despite your welcoming comments, you are still looking for Belgrade to do additional things as well in terms of cooperation, correct?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have always made clear that there are many aspects of cooperation; there are many elements involved in cooperating with the Tribunal. And there, I think we would say that the Yugoslav authorities, through our contacts with them and the contacts the Tribunal and others have had with them, are fully aware of the whole scope of cooperation.

At the same time, I would point to these developments as being very positive indicators of their intention to cooperate, and they will be considered carefully as we decide.

Q: In other words, you take the decree and the legal proceedings initiated against Milosevic as an indication that Belgrade is willing to do the other things that you have brought up with them?

MR. BOUCHER: We take these to be an indication of positive developments with regard to their cooperation with the Tribunal. Cooperation is a broad area, but these are important steps.

Q: I don't suppose I'll get an answer, but the question has to be asked. What additional steps do they have to take?

MR. BOUCHER: As we have said, there is no particular set of steps that have to be taken or that can be omitted. There is a broad area of cooperation with the Tribunal. There are a lot of things that are involved. We look to them to carry out such cooperation with the Tribunal. That is the only standard.

Q: (Inaudible) by the terrorist organization 17 of November in Greece in which the terrorists accuse the US for an attack recently on a member of the parliament in Greece. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. BOUCHER: It's totally and utterly absurd.

Q: What is?

MR. BOUCHER: The allegation that the US was somehow involved in an attempted terrorist murder of a member of the Greek parliament. That's what the November 17 people are saying. It's totally and utterly absurd. We have been working with the Greek authorities. We are not going to engage in some debate with a terrorist group. We work with the Greek authorities on bringing perpetrators of these kind of acts to justice.

Q: Can we move to the Middle East?

MR. BOUCHER: Please. We're going to move there this evening.

Q: Firstly, just to ask straight, what exactly is the purpose of the Secretary's trip, but also to ask how his engagement and that of the President and the CIA Director fits with his own strictures against over-involvement of senior figures in the Government?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, there are no strictures on the Secretary's involvement. The Secretary had made quite clear from the beginning of the Administration, as has the President, that they were going to be involved in the Middle East, they were going to be engaged. The President has had numerous meetings with leaders from the region. He is meeting again today with Prime Minister Sharon. And the Secretary is going out there for the second time in the space of five months. I wouldn't call that an excessive travel schedule in regard to the Middle East, but it's an important trip. It is a useful trip to make at this time.

The purpose is to look at the situation, to evaluate the situation on the ground, to speak to the leaders in the region about where we are with respect to the work plan that the Director of Central Intelligence worked out when he was out there. Toward that end, we will be encouraging both sides to make 100 percent efforts to reduce the violence, as called for in the Mitchell Committee Report. This will allow the sides to take steps towards full implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations in all their aspects, beginning with the cooling-off period.

As it is stated in the Mitchell Committee Report, we continue to work towards the eventual resumption of negotiations toward a comprehensive peace consistent with UN Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of Land-for-Peace.

Q: The Secretary also said he wouldn't go until there was a sign of progress. Do you think the violence of the last few days has been progress?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think the violence over the last several weeks has been much reduced from where it was before. The sides have declared a cease-fire. They have taken some steps. The point of the trip is to continue to encourage them to take the steps necessary to reduce the violence. And we think 100 percent effort is needed, and we will keep working on full implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report in all its aspects.

Q: Richard, I'm trying to figure out exactly where the State Department or the US stands on where the situation is right now. Are you still at the cease-fire phase? I realize they declared a cease- fire and that can happen one second and then the next day, the next minute, you are into what should be a cooling-off period.

But is it the US position that the cooling-off period has started, even though there is not a total cessation of violence? And if --

MR. BOUCHER: No, we have not said that.

Q: Okay, so it's not. You are still at the cease-fire and waiting to go into the cooling-off period?

MR. BOUCHER: We are still looking for the parties to take the steps necessary to reduce the violence. We are looking for, as we say, 100 percent effort. That is what is called for in the Mitchell Committee Report. We are still working with the parties on the work plan that was developed with the help of the Director of Central Intelligence. We are trying to get the parties to continue to take steps to reduce the violence.

Q: Richard, does the US have a position on how long the cooling-off period should be? Or is this something that you are going to try and work -- I mean, both sides -- the Israelis and the Palestinians -- have come out with sharply different ideas about how long it should be. Is that something you are going to try and -- the Secretary is going to be trying to determine?

MR. BOUCHER: As you know, that was one of the subjects of discussion when Ambassador Burns -- during the various meetings that Ambassador Burns has had in the region. So I would imagine it would be a continuing subject of discussion. But the effort right now is to continue to focus on reducing the violence, to get the parties to continue to take steps to reduce the violence.

Q: Have you seen the Haaretz piece from yesterday that says that Powell is going in with a very specific time table? I mean, can you comment on that? Have you seen that story?

MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen the story.

Q: But, I mean, obviously what you just said --

MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't the source for the story because that's not what I just said about what the Secretary is going to do. I just described the trip to you five times. I'll describe it again the same way, if you want me to, but this is what the trip is about. It's about what I say, not what Haaretz says.

Q: Reducing violence? Just reducing violence?

MR. BOUCHER: The goal is to go out there, to look at the situation. After all, it's been about a month, maybe a little more, since the Mitchell Committee recommendations. It's been a couple of weeks since -- no, it's been more. It's been about a month since the cease-fire was declared. It's been a couple weeks since the Director of Central Intelligence's work plan was worked out. It is a good time to evaluate the situation, talk to the leaders about the steps that they are taking and talk to them about the steps they need to continue to take so that we can get on with this process of full implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations.

Q: You're still being a bit vague. I mean, when he talks about the steps they need to take, how far forward will he be looking in this process? I mean, will he be just looking at the steps they need to take to get to the cooling-off period, or the steps they need to take during the cooling-off period as well or including the steps after the cooling-off period?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll be talking about implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report in all its aspects, so all the aspects will come up. The first and most immediate need is to reduce the violence so that we can -- I mean, that is what Mitchell called for -- cessation of the violence. That still remains the priority.

Q: The Secretary is going to have a separate meeting with Prime Minister Sharon after the President's meeting. Is this something that you expect just to be a bit more detailed in terms of the discussion about what the Secretary's trip is going to be, or are there other issues that are going to be coming? Are you going to worry about US- Israeli bilateral relations, for instance?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have a different agenda for that meeting than the one the President has, and I guess we'll see when we get on the airplane when we talk to the Secretary and find out then what he discussed.

Q: Senator Mitchell yesterday said that he thought that the Administration should invite Arafat to come see the President. Where do we stand on that? At what stage is your consideration of this?

MR. BOUCHER: That is something you'd have to check with the White House on.

Q: Your former Assistant Secretary of State also said the same thing yesterday, that the fact that at one point is was useful but now it's being counter-productive that Arafat is not being invited to Washington.

MR. BOUCHER: There are a lot of former Assistant Secretaries of State. Which one was this?

Q: Well, Edward Walker said that it's counter-productive at this point, that at one point he wasn't making, you know, any types of steps to end the violence and now he seems to be taking steps, and it's crucial that he is invited shortly.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm waiting for a question mark.

Q: Do you think it's counter-productive that Arafat hasn't -- is it time to invite him to Washington?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I need to point out the Secretary has been talking to Chairman Arafat frequently. We have been in close touch with him through our representatives in the region. The Secretary will be seeing him again this week. Any further meetings, considerations at the presidential level, would have to be answered by the White House.

Q: Going back to the Secretary's trip, does he hope while he is there to declare that the cooling-off period has begun? There are some reports to that effect. Or does that depend on events on the ground?

MR. BOUCHER: I am sort of asked this question three different ways. He hopes while he is there to evaluate the situation, to speak to the leaders directly about where they are in respect to the work plan, and to continue to urge them to take steps to reduce the violence. There is an effort that is needed by all the parties, and we want to see all the parties take further steps to reduce the violence and to get on with the work of the Mitchell Committee recommendations, which include -- which begin -- with a cooling-off period. But at this point, the effort is to get them to reduce the violence and get on with the work of the Mitchell Committee Report.

Q: Some people are saying that is a fairly modest goal for the Secretary of State of the United States to trot all the way to the Middle East. I mean, is that a reflection of the times we're in?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would describe it as a modest goal. It is saving lives and laying a foundation for what needs to come afterwards, which is full implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report. You can't get on with all those other things until you have reduced the violence, and saving lives and stopping the violence and getting on with this much broader and bigger agenda is a very important goal, and that is what we'll be doing.

Q: Can I follow up on that? The CIA Director got both sides to sign a piece of paper committing to very tangible and specific steps that clearly would have reduced the violence, from redeploying troops to certain positions to collecting weapons and mortars and this sort of thing.

What can the Secretary do, on top of what has already been attempted that is obviously not working at this point, to get to that point of reducing the violence?

MR. BOUCHER: There have been steps taken. There need to be further steps taken. We want to see where they are with respect to the work plan, and we want to encourage them to carry out those steps. So the Secretary will go out to see that we continue moving down that path of implementing the work plan and getting on with the broader work of the Mitchell Committee.

Q: Can we move on to Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we had a change to China over there first.

Q: There is a report that the State Department is going to resume a report on Hong Kong's self-rule. Is that true? If yes, based on what ground that you resume that?

MR. BOUCHER: The answer is yes. It has been --

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: All right. I will review that in a second.

The Hong Kong Policy Act called for the State Department to produce a series of three annual reports to Congress on Hong Kong status after its 1997 reversion to Chinese sovereignty. The last of these mandated reports was submitted last year in May of 2000. We are continuing to be very interested in the high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong, and therefore the Administration has decided to submit a voluntary report to Congress this year on developments in Hong Kong. We think the continuation of this practice of drafting annual reports is useful.

Q: Can I follow up? (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Sometime in the coming months. No specific date is set at this point.

Q: But the Chief Executive Officer is seeking the second term to be head of Hong Kong. Is this a measure to impact on that election in any way?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

Q: Well, what exactly is -- you say it's "useful." In what way is it useful? Is this designed to send a message to the Chinese that you are watching closely what they do in Hong Kong?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the Chinese understand, and the Hong Kong Government understands, that we continue to attach great importance to Hong Kong's autonomy. We continue to work very closely in Hong Kong and elsewhere with Hong Kong authorities to make sure that we cooperate and work with Hong Kong in areas of its autonomy.

So they know how important this is to us. This report is a reflection of that. It is a chance for us to inform our Congress of where things stand and the wider world of our view of things.

Q: Is there a reason to be concerned about a decreasing level of autonomy in Hong Kong?

MR. BOUCHER: I will just leave it at the importance of the autonomy. We have always held that, and we will continue to emphasize that.

Q: Can I move to China for a second? I understand that the Embassy in Beijing has made some representations to the Chinese Government about the rather violent assault on one of our photographers at the Three Tenors concert last night.

Can you explain what is going on there?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

Q: Who happens to be an American citizen that is involved.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, this is an American journalist accredited to work in China who was assaulted by Chinese police officials. We are outraged at the assault. We protested the incident in the strongest terms with the Chinese Government. Our Embassy in Beijing has talked to a number of people in the Foreign Ministry about this, and we will be talking to the Chinese Embassy in Washington here today as well.

We want to see a full explanation of what happened, an inquiry into the behavior of police officers who apparently violated Chinese laws as well as internationally recognized standards guaranteeing freedom of the press. We would expect the Chinese Government to hold the security officers involved in this incident accountable for their actions and to make available to us the results of the inquiry into the incident.

Q: So you are going to wait for that before you decide -- the Chinese Foreign Ministry has come out and said that this is an isolated incident. You are going to withhold judgment until the investigation - -

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, what I am saying is that this particular incident needs to be investigated and we need to see the results and we need to see the people are held accountable for it.

Q: Have you, more specifically, contacted the Chinese Embassy today? At what level?

MR. BOUCHER: Our senior people in the Bureau of East Asian Affairs will be talking to, I think, the Deputy at the Chinese Embassy.

Q: I just wonder what your response was to Russia's declaration that it will not allow the British-American sanctions to pass.

MR. BOUCHER: Did they make such a public declaration?

Q: Well, no, but several diplomats have been kind enough to give it to journalists.

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: Must be somebody else. Let me try to explain the situation with regard to implementation of the new sanctions policy. The Secretary addressed this in New York yesterday and said that we were continuing to work on implementing the policy that was decided and agreed to 15-0 by the Security Council at the beginning of the month. And we think it is very important for members of the Council, all members of the Council, to work on this cooperatively and productively. And that remains our goal.

We find it ironic that now that the United States has proposed a radical shift in how we deal with Iraq in the United Nations that there are some on the Security Council that oppose this change, despite the fact that they had long advocated it. We do think the time has come to change the status quo, and if we don't do that on schedule, if we don't do that by July 3rd, then the status quo would remain in place. Those who have always claimed that the status quo has operated to the detriment of the Iraqi people would be merely continuing that situation.

Other members of the Security Council, including some with extensive commercial relationships with Iraq, have indicated or claimed that they are basing their decisions on a more balanced range of considerations, such as the humanitarian situation or the threat that Iraq poses. We believe that those who advance the arguments in the Security Council that Iraq should accept this solution actually miss the point. Our goal is not to allow Iraq to do what it wants. We have seen where that leads.

Our goal is to establish a more effective, a more flexible set of controls that meets humanitarian concerns and restores international consensus, while providing Iraq with the opportunity and the responsibility to comply with its weapons of mass destruction obligations under Security Council resolutions.

So we have had experts-level talks. The experts have still not reached agreement on the list of controlled goods that the UN would review and approve before Iraq would be allowed to import them. We have narrowed the gaps with some of the members. There appears to be support for a presumption of approval for most civilian items, which are not on the goods review list, to be exported to Iraq. Talks are intensifying as we approach the July 3rd deadline, and once again we would urge all members of the Council to work energetically to meet the Council's own self-imposed deadline.

Q: You seem to be implying an ulterior motive on the part of those who oppose it. What is it, in your opinion?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We find it very ironic that members of the Council who have all advocated easing up on civilian goods for the Iraqi people would somehow advocate maintaining a system that they have always claimed doesn't do that and that would resist a move towards a more flexible, smoother flow of goods.

Q: Richard, as I understand it, your differences with the Russians mainly concern the items which would be on the list of controlled goods. At least that was the way it was presented to us at the end -- a month ago or so. Is that still the case, or has in fact the gap widened since then?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that all members of the Council agreed at the beginning of June to take a new direction. And so yes, the issue is implementing that new direction, implementing it in terms of the lists and the goods that need to be controlled.

But we have also seen some members of the Council argue now that there needs to be a review of previous mechanisms, changes to what essentially is embodied in Resolution 1284, or that somehow a deal has to be worked out that Iraq would accept. We don't think that is the case. We think the Council should do what it said it would do at the beginning of June, and that is set up a new mechanism and reach agreement on the lists.

Q: I just want to make sure I understand. Are you saying that if there can't be an agreement on new sanctions, we would keep the current regime, or would there be no sanctions? I just want to make sure I understood what is at stake.

MR. BOUCHER: If there is not agreement on new sanctions, then we would have to continue the old sanctions. We would have to --

Q: But would that require a separate vote, and has that come up in those discussions as well? Are they saying, "Scrap the sanctions or work with us in terms of going in this direction"

MR. BOUCHER: Well, some of the people that are not ready at this point to reach agreement on the lists and the other mechanisms have been people in the past who have advocated longer-term extensions of the current set of sanctions. So if there is not agreement by July 3rd, the current program would have to be temporarily extended.

Q: But it wouldn't automatically be extended?

MR. BOUCHER: No, it would have to be extended. But I would say that is the argument that people have always -- people have somehow made. Put it that way.

Q: You don't want to identify against whom you are railing?

MR. BOUCHER: That would be undiplomatic, wouldn't it?

Q: Yes, but it is -- you are using the plural, though, so it is not just the Russians, right?

MR. BOUCHER: I have declined to identify particular countries. Obviously we have had an active dialogue with the Russians on this. The Secretary has spoken to Foreign Minister Ivanov several times over the past month or so. He did receive a letter from Foreign Minister Ivanov over the weekend on the subject of Iraq. But I don't think it is for me to describe other countries' positions or to go into the details.

Q: No, I'm not asking you to describe anyone else's position. I'm just asking you, is it more than one country that is the fly in the ointment here? Because you keep saying plural.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, there are various arguments presented by various members. There are also a number of members who we think we have made very constructive progress with.

Q: Different subject? Are you aware of a statement today by the FSB, the Russian Secret Service, in the John Tobin case accusing him of being an FBI agent, an allegation dating back to '97 where they say John Tobin questioned a Russian scientist who was arrested in the US? Do you have any -- are you aware of it? Do you have any comment on it?

MR. BOUCHER: We are aware of the statement. I would say that we have begun checking into these statements just for the sake of accuracy. We are not aware of any information that would substantiate these kinds of allegations.

Let me remind you that Mr. Tobin is now, I think, 24-years-old. In 1997 he would have been a 20-year-old college student in Vermont. It doesn't --

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't quite match the allegation, I would say.

Q: New subject? Peru. Can you speak about the Secretary's meeting with President-Elect Toledo?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I would say, first of all, it was a very good and interesting meeting. They discussed a very broad range of topics and recognized, I think first of all, as we all do, that President-Elect Toledo is still President-Elect, and therefore much of the discussion was about the need and our desire to work with Peru to help consolidate democracy there, to support democracy there.

First of all, the Secretary congratulated him on the election and on the process that Peru has gone through. Prime Minister Perez de Cuellar was at the meeting as well. And much of the discussion was how to make the political democracy that Peru has achieved -- how to help consolidate that with economic democracy or rule of economic law, you might say as well, to get the benefits of openness and free markets available to the people of Peru to help them overcome the problems there.

The Secretary also expressed our sympathy for the victims of the earthquake in southern Peru and said that we would continue to do what we can to help. And Mr. Toledo talked about his priorities in governing Peru, including advancing social and economic development, addressing corruption -- again, that being part of this issue of the rule of economic law that they discussed -- respect for human rights throughout the government and the way the government acts.

Q: On a related subject, Mr. Montesinos. Can you say anything about the role of Venezuela in cooperating with the Peruvians on this? Have you been satisfied or disappointed with the level of cooperation Venezuela has shown in leading to his arrest?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I would just simply note that the detention of Mr. Montesinos in Venezuela came about as a result of information that the FBI was able to develop in Miami regarding Montesinos' whereabouts. This information was passed to the government of Peru, and they in turn worked with the government of Venezuela to facilitate the detention by Venezuelan authorities. And as we know, now he has been returned to Peru from Venezuela.

That kind of international law enforcement cooperation is good, and it is a very positive thing, and we are glad to see it happen.

Q: So are you saying there was absolutely no contact between the United States and Venezuela -- direct contact between the US and the Venezuelans on this?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't know if we talked to them about it, but the main channel was this way.

Q: (Inaudible) cooperative enough, or that they could have been more helpful in this case?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't get into kind of rating each individual event. Just to say that this kind of cooperation has been very important. There have been a lot of actually very positive results from law enforcement cooperation in the Hemisphere recently, and we look for that to continue with many countries.

Q: Is the State Department willing to help Peru in any way to try to get ex-President Fujimori back into Peru for his trial?

MR. BOUCHER: I think President-Elect Toledo told you this morning that was a matter between Peru and Japan.

Q: Well, does the State Department have a position on this? I mean, do you --

MR. BOUCHER: I think President-Elect Toledo told you this morning this was a matter between Peru and Japan.

Q: Have US-Cuba migration talks begun in New York, or are they about to begin?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. (Laughter.) George is usually right about these things. We will check on that for you. Phil may know. Phil believes they have. We will check on that for you.

Q: Did Berenson come up at all? Did the Secretary of State ask something about Berenson?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it did come up. Once again, recognizing that Mr. Toledo, still President-Elect, the Secretary just flagged it as one of the issues that was of -- her situation was of great importance to many here in the United States. President-Elect Toledo had said he had met with the Berenson family. And they discussed our continuing interest and the need to look at this matter.

I think, as President-Elect Toledo said to you at the door, he places great importance on the independence of the judiciary, but as well he has great sympathy for the situation of the family.

Q: The Secretary said yesterday he was going to try to look further into these reports of troops massing on the border of Iraqi Kurdistan. Do you have anything more on that? And sort of as a follow-up, is that still one of the red lines that could merit a possible US military response?

MR. BOUCHER: I will tell you what we know. We have seen reports that Iraq is moving troops towards the Kurdish areas. We are trying to establish the facts on the ground. We are watching the situation closely. Our longstanding policy has been that if Iraq reconstitutes its weapons of mass destruction, threatens its neighbors or US forces, or moves against the Kurds, we do maintain a credible force in the region. We are prepared to act at an appropriate time and place of our choosing.

Q: (Inaudible) troops is potentially threatening to Iraq's neighbors? Or why do you think that they are moving the troops now?

MR. BOUCHER: You would have to ask them. We are still looking to establish the facts. We will see what the situation is.

Q: Anything to say on Macedonia?

Q: And also, not only can you say anything about it, but can you clear up what seems to -- what happened actually yesterday with the injury -- the wounding of this American -- there seems to be a --

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Let me do a couple things. First, the general situation. I want to make clear that we condemn the violence overnight in Skopje. The European Union has said the same thing. We join them in that condemnation.

We urge all citizens of Macedonia to respect the law to remain peaceful. This is not the time for violent demonstrations or for mob action. We strongly condemn the National Liberation Army attack yesterday against a police post near Tetevo in which one policeman was killed and four others were wounded. We think it is important now to expand the cease-fire to cover the entire country, and also it is important for the political parties to continue their political dialogue.

With regard to the wounding of a member of our embassy, there was an embassy observer team that wasn't -- they were unmarked, they weren't particularly identified as such. But there was a team that was out southwest of Kumanovo. They came under fire. At this point we don't know all the facts, but one member of that team was wounded. The Macedonian forces provided first aid and assistance to the wounded team member, and he is being treated at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. His condition is not life-threatening.

Q: Right, but that didn't have anything to do with the escorting of the NLA guys out of -- however you pronounce it -- the suburb of --

MR. BOUCHER: Aracinovo.

Q: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: No, not that I'm aware of.

Q: Have you identified what the source of his injury was?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we don't know all the facts. We will have to try to do that.

Q: (Inaudible) American troops that were involved in yesterday that put demonstrations, et cetera -- is that a Pentagon question?

MR. BOUCHER: That American troops were involved in? You mean --

Q: No, that they are escorting of --

MR. BOUCHER: They were escorting of the people -- the departure of National Liberation Army rebels from Aracinovo was completed yesterday. NATO and particularly the United States assisted with the transport. As you know, withdrawal of armed insurgents from Aracinovo was a priority for the government, and NATO agreed to facilitate that withdrawal from Aracinovo.

NATO requested the countries, on an urgent basis, contribute vehicles to that effort. We had some assets that were available for that purpose, and after approval by our chain of command, we deployed them for that use.

Q: Is the United States going to join UNESCO?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I am not aware that there is anything new on the subject. So I think the Secretary has addressed it before in testimony. But I don't know of anything new.

Q: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:20 P.M.)


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Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

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Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

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Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

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Mexico: Violence And Repression Of Teachers

The member organizations of Network for Peace express our indignation over the acts of repression that the Mexican State has carried out, through the police forces... In Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, the conflict has resulted in murders of teachers and civilians as well as hundreds of wounded and dozens of people arrested. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On Britain's Pleas For Mercy

So… Boris Johnson is promising that he won't be holding a snap general election, if he's chosen as the next UK Conservative Party leader. Reportedly, he is even making that promise a feature of his leadership campaign, since a vote for Boris would therefore mean (wink wink) that his colleagues wouldn't have to risk their jobs and face the wrath of the British public until 2020. More>>

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