State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 8, 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, August 8, 2001
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman DEPARTMENT 1 Fact Sheet: Embassy Security Improvements
MACEDONIA 1-3 Political Talks / Violence / NATO Involvement
AFGHANISTAN 3-4 Arrest of employees of humanitarian organization, Shelter Now
ITALY 4-6 Arrest of Americans at G-8 Summit / US Efforts for Peaceful Demonstrations
COLOMBIA 6 President Pastrana and Talks with Army National Liberation 7 Reports of Activists' Difficult Passage through Rural Area
ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS 7-9,13-14 Violence and Mitchell Report Recommendations 8-11 Arms Export Control Act and Weaponry Issues 11-15 US Contacts with Officials and Travel to Region / Monitoring
MIDDLE EAST / IRAQ 7-8,14 US Policy on Peace in the Middle East and Iraq
BANGLADESH 12 Former President Jimmy Carter's Visit Regarding Elections
EGYPT 14 Missile Program and Technology
MEXICO 15,18 Talks with Mexican Officials on Migration Issues
CUBA 15-17 Possible Return of Jonathan Colombini
NORTH KOREA 17 US Offer for Dialogue
ARGENTINA 17 Economic Situation
SUDAN 18-19 Capital Market Provisions in Sudan Peace Act
RACE 19 Geneva Meetings on World Conference Against Racism
HONG KONG 19-20 State Department Report on Hong Kong
CHINA 20 US Congressional Visit
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 113
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8, 2001, 1:10 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Sorry I am a little bit late today -- sorry I am more than a little bit late today. I am very, very sorry that I am more than a little bit late today. (Laughter.)
I don't have any formal statements or announcements. We will be putting up for you a fact sheet on one of the questions asked yesterday about security improvements at embassies overseas, to go through in some detail a lot of the various efforts that we have been making. I think I talked about it in general terms yesterday and today we will give you the fact sheet that has some of the details and some of the numbers.
So after calling your attention to that little piece of paper, I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Are you late because of Macedonia?
MR. BOUCHER: No, actually, I am late because I was studying hard. Just slow today.
QUESTION: There were developments in Macedonia. I just wonder what your impressions are.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me, if I can, talk a little bit about the situation in Macedonia. And I think, first of all, we need to say that the ambush this morning by the insurgents was really an outrageous act of violence. There were 10 Macedonian soldiers reportedly killed and more wounded and we condemn this act in the strongest terms. We have unequivocally stood against all acts of violence in Macedonia and all breaches of the cease-fire and will continue to point that out. We would offer our condolences to the family members and the loved ones of those who died.
Now, this outrageous event comes at a very critical moment, a moment when European Envoy Mr. Leotard and Ambassador Pardew have been working very diligently with the parties in Macedonia to try to bring their discussions on a political arrangement to a conclusion. We think the importance of doing that is made all the more apparent by the attacks and difficulties of the last few days and would like to point out once again that the conclusion of a political arrangement, a final conclusion, the signature of a political arrangement, would actually open many doors for Macedonia and opportunities for Macedonia. That remains our intention and Mr. Leotard and Ambassador Pardew will continue to do that and try to bring the process to a full conclusion as rapidly as possible.
QUESTION: There have been reports that the participants are actually initialing an agreement. Can you confirm that?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't confirm particular aspects of the discussions. I would say that there are discussions and there will continue to be discussions with the parties that we welcome any progress that has been made. But our focus is on bringing this to a final conclusion, to try to rapidly conclude all the pieces and get it signed in a solid way. And that is -- we are continuing to work with the parties to achieve that.
QUESTION: There are reports that crowds marched on the US embassy in Skopje, overturned several cars.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have up-to-the-minute details. There have been crowds near the US Embassy. I think their concern was about the attack this morning on the Macedonian soldiers, which I have clearly and completely condemned. I think we share their concern about the attack. Obviously we also look to the welfare of our people there, and we are working with the Macedonian Government to maintain safety and security in the area around our embassy. But I don't have really up-to-the- minute details. I don't know how big the crowds are, or if they have dispersed by now or not.
QUESTION: Do you have information that contradicts the report that there will be an initialing on Monday?
MR. BOUCHER: The report was that there was an initialing today. There will be a signature on Monday.
QUESTION: A signature on Monday?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that, I think simply put, we don't count our chickens before they hatch. We are working very hard to make sure that the process is brought to a complete conclusion. I think that is the moment when a lot of other things can happen for Macedonia, both in terms of the opportunities that are presented to achieve stability, the opportunities presented to join Europe, to be part of the greater process of stabilization and integration, and the opportunities that would ensue for NATO to come in and do its job in helping to disarm the rebels once those -- that key piece is in place, and then there are some other pieces that have to be put together for the NATO part to go, too.
QUESTION: Once and if a political settlement is signed, can you review for us what kinds of commitments the US would be willing to make in terms of peacekeeping at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: The work that NATO has done to prepare for has been to prepare for doing disarmament in the context of a political agreement. Now, there are certain preconditions that have to be met. NATO has to first determine that is preconditions have been met for NATO to commence its operation. Those include maintenance of the cease-fire, reaching of a political agreement, working out various arrangements on the status of the NATO force, and I think a plan for what you might call the modalities and the timetable of the weapons handover, the explicit consent of the National Liberation Army, that they are prepared to surrender the weapons.
Once those preconditions are met, NATO can move very quickly, within a matter of days, to carry out the surrender of weapons and the disarmament part. For the United States, our planning with NATO has involved planning for US participation in this operation. There are a number of many other members of NATO who are willing to contribute, each in their own way. We would be looking to provide command and control, communications, medical, and logistics support, and we would draw largely from forces who are already in the area. Our number would probably be several hundred.
QUESTION: New subject? Can you bring us up to date on the situation with the Americans in Afghanistan, with the Taliban?
MR. BOUCHER: We have a little bit of news on that, in that the Taliban -- let me get it exactly here, what they have told us. The Taliban chargé in Islamabad has told our chargé that the detained employees of Shelter Now are in good condition and are being treated well. Our request that a consular officer be permitted to go to Kabul and visit the detainees has been forwarded to Taliban authorities, but they have not yet responded.
We will obviously continue to press for the visa and for access to the detainees. Our main concern is for their welfare, and we want to be able to meet with them to ensure that they are being properly treated and cared for and that the case will, in fact, be resolved swiftly.
We are in contact with the families of both of the American detainees. I can't go any farther than that because of Privacy Act concerns. But I would say we are working with the German and Australian embassies in Islamabad. They, too, have asked to send consular officers to Kabul to see to the welfare of their detained citizens and we are also working with Pakistani officials, who have been helping with communications with the Taliban.
QUESTION: You said yesterday that you had been in touch with the NGO group that they had been working for. And today this group, Shelter Now International, says that none of these people that were working in their group were involved in preaching and that all of the materials that were seized were for their own use. Have you confirmed that in your discussions with them? Is that something you talked about?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to describe or go into those kind of matters. I really don't want to offer any comment on these charges of proselytizing. I think it is important for us to be careful in this matter. I am not going to try to explain it for them.
QUESTION: Along those lines, have you formally protested that American citizens would be arrested on charges of proselytizing?
MR. BOUCHER: We have asked to visit, to see to the welfare of our detained citizens. I will leave it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- the four Americans jailed after the G-8 Summit in Genoa?
QUESTION: Can we stay on the topic for a second? But we also have questions on that, too, of course. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: To Americans in jail and out of jail around the world.
QUESTION: Americans in jail all over. (Laughter.)
Can you sort out exactly what organization this group was? There are some reports that Shelter Now -- there is a Shelter Now in the United States, and that this group is actually affiliated with a group in Germany and might not be operating legitimately under the name "Shelter Now," but more -- a larger group called Vision for Asia, which is based in Germany.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't sort everything out for you. I can tell you that we know there are two groups known as Shelter Now. One which operates in Hirat is US-based. The other that operates in Kabul -- that is this group, with whom the detained workers were affiliated -- is headquartered in Germany.
QUESTION: But is Shelter Now headquartered in Germany, or is the larger umbrella group, Vision for Asia, headquartered --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't had the chance to search the registrations and filings on these places, so I am not going to try to do it. We know of two groups known as Shelter Now. One is based in Germany, one is based in the United States. The people who are detained are associated with the group that is based in Germany.
QUESTION: The Americans in Italy.
MR. BOUCHER: Italy. The remaining Americans in detention in Italy.
We know of 10 Americans that were arrested in Genoa on charges connected with the demonstrations surrounding the G-8 meetings. Six of those people have been released. There are four more who were arrested as part of a larger group of 25 people.
Our consular officers have visited the American citizens that are detained, visited them on several occasions. We have been working with Italian authorities to allow them direct contact with their families. Ms. Suzanna Thomas, who is discussed in the newspaper -- in fact, each of the American citizens involved -- is represented by legal counsel. We understand the defense attorneys have requested a hearing to ask the Court for the release of the defendants pending trial, and that court date is scheduled for August 13th. Our embassy and our consulate in Milan will continue to closely monitor the situation of these American citizens and provide all appropriate assistance to them.
QUESTION: But what do you know about their well-being, or their injuries or anything?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any indication that there's particular problems with these people who are in detention. We knew of three American citizens who did sustain serious injuries during the demonstrations and arrests, but those three have since been released and have returned to the United States. So I don't have anything that would indicate that there is any particular difficulty for these other four who are still in custody.
QUESTION: Can -- does this Government feel that the Italian Government used excessive force on these demonstrators?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to make a judgment on that. I would say that we have expressed concerns to the Italian Government about the injuries that were sustained by the three American citizens during the course of the demonstrations and arrests. I would also note that the Italian authorities have begun an investigation of the violence in Genoa, and how their police and other authorities operated during that period. So we obviously have an interest in that, and we will see how that comes out.
QUESTION: Starting at the G-8 -- it might have been even before this, but I know at the G-8 and in Rome, there was some kind of dialogue talked about, that you might be able to talk with some of these non- violent protesters to see if these kind of events can't be stopped in the future in this way. They are always brought into the process.
Is that dialogue that was being established at the time any further along?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we, as a government, meet very, very frequently with a variety of non-governmental organizations, including many of the people who don't agree with us. We have active work with labor groups, with human rights groups, with environmental groups. In many cases, we are able to cooperate and work together around the world. In some cases, we don't agree on exactly what to do and how to proceed.
But I think by and large that we, as a government, maintain a very active dialogue with groups throughout our society that are interested in various aspects of these issues. Now, that was true also in Seattle. That was true, especially with the Canadian Government in Quebec. It was true of the Swedish Government in Goteborg, and it was true of the Italian Government in Genoa.
I am not -- I think most of us would conclude that the people that we have our dialogue with, the people who seem to be most interested and most sincerely interested in the issues, are not really the people that have caused the violence. There have been a variety of demonstrations in these places that have been peaceful, that have been from these groups that we talk to all the time, that would maintain a peaceful dialogue. But we also know that many of these events have been subject to violence by groups who may or may not have any particular agenda in that regard, and this agenda may be violence itself.
QUESTION: Was there any kind of action plan as to how you are going to prevent these kinds of events from happening again, or are you just willing to use extra security each time so that the injuries and damage to infrastructure and stuff is minimal?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, obviously we want to do everything possible to make sure that people are not allowed to cause damage and that there are few -- no injuries, if possible, no damage to the cities where these kinds of events take place. And I think the authorities in each city have to look very carefully at how to achieve that.
There has been some discussion, there was some discussion among the ministers, for example, in Rome about these kinds of events, about how to minimize the risk, how to maximize the involvement of our citizens in this process. Because we are all democracies getting together and we are all representatives -- represent governments elected democratically by the people of the countries, we want our citizens involved in these processes.
So there has been some discussion about how to do this in the future. But I don't think anybody has found a solution, since we are able to work with the groups who have a point of view to express but there seem to be others who are bent on violence.
QUESTION: I would like to switch tracks to Colombia, please.
MR. BOUCHER: Colombia? Okay, let's go.
QUESTION: What is the US reaction to the decision of President Pastrana to cut off talks with the ELN?
MR. BOUCHER: We have strongly supported the efforts that President Pastrana has made to establish a dialogue with this group, the Army of National Liberation, known as the ELN. We think that throughout his tenure, he has demonstrated tremendous courage in trying to achieve peace in Colombia, and that he has demonstrated firm commitment to the peace process. We think he has made, in fact, every effort to negotiate seriously with the Army of National Liberation.
Unfortunately, they have chosen not to reciprocate his good faith intentions. So we have long supported this process and we are sorry that President Pastrana was compelled to end the talks. But I would say we fully understand and we fully support his decision. We think it's time that the Army of National Liberation would recognize that Colombia's problems cannot be solved through continued violence and terrorist acts and that they need to take this process as seriously as President Pastrana has.
QUESTION: Just as a follow-up question, there were some peaceful activists who were either detained or re-routed in rural Colombia including, I believe, some US citizens. Do you know any more details about that?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have too many details. The reporting that we had indicates that they were forced to alter their route or not permitted to pass by a group of armed peasants that are somehow in favor of or aligned with the ELN. They are on a boat together. We understand they are not being held, they are just not permitted to pass. And our embassy in Bogotá is trying to determine what circumstances are and how many Americans there might be with this group.
QUESTION: The Israeli-Palestinian violence. There are a lot of stories coming out, frustration over here. Is there anything at all that you could say to give people hope to believe that any effective change might be coming at any time?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen a lot of violence. We have seen continued violence and bloodshed in the region, including the shooting death of an Israeli earlier today in an Israeli helicopter strike on the West Bank.
We want to underscore what we have been saying all along. Both sides need to recognize that this path leads to disaster. Violence and escalation are a dead-end street that lead nowhere. We have been working very hard with both sides to get them to take the immediate steps that are necessary to restore restraint, to restore calm. And, ultimately, for the parties themselves to take the actions and take the responsibility to make these difficult decisions that will lead to implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations and an end to the violence.
This path that we are following is a path of hope. The parties themselves, the people themselves, both the Israelis and the Palestinians, say they are looking for security, say they are looking for safety, say they are looking for a normal life where they don't have to live in fear of bullets or bombs, and the Mitchell Committee recommendation is a path to achieve that.
The parties themselves say they are looking for an opportunity for political negotiations to resolve the issues between them through negotiation. That is what the Mitchell Committee report offers as well. So, in terms of offering hope, it's there. The prospect of resolving these issues, the prospect of implementing the Mitchell Committee recommendations in all their aspects is there, if the parties will take the hard steps, but the very real steps, that are necessary to cease the violence.
Do you have a follow-up?
QUESTION: Just reports about that situation and how it may be affecting what we are trying to achieve in Baghdad, Iraq. There has been some saber rattling, if you will, some speeches made today about Saddam Hussein and also some publications in Iraq have been doing likewise yesterday, and then some press reports are saying that the Administration is constrained because of the problems around Jerusalem.
Can you address this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have tried to address this periodically, and actually rather recently here. I would --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's not mine. I can -- we can give you transcripts of what we have been saying on these subjects for a while. But I think the key point is that with regard to Iraqi speeches, we don't react to every single one, because they tend to make the same noises and the same threats, and they just reconfirm what we have always said, which is there is no sign that Iraq has changed its intentions, that Iraq still constitutes a potential threat to its own people and to its neighbors, and that we all need to be vigilant and take the proper actions to prevent them from acquiring the weapons or other means to carry out those kinds of threats.
In terms of the operation of the policy in the Middle East, and how these things interact, we do know that there is a relationship, how people feel in the region about doing various things based on the interplay between what goes on in Israel and the West Bank, what goes on in Iraq, what goes on in other parts of the region, and we do try to work these things in the context of our relationships with individual countries, as well as the way that the issues play.
That, at the same time, doesn't alter the fundamentals of what we are trying to achieve, and the first is try to achieve prospects for peace and negotiation in the Middle East, and to try to prevent Saddam, for his part, from threatening his own neighbors.
QUESTION: How does this Department react to the increasing or repeated use of helicopters -- US-supplied helicopters, very heavy shelling from helicopters overnight? And I believe that we heard the Secretary say that he didn't think this was going to continue to be a problem. Correct me if I'm wrong, and tell me if it's still a problem.
MR. BOUCHER: I think you are wrong. I think that was F-16s. But in any case, I think I would say that the issue for us is whether the cycle of violence is broken or not. The issue for us is whether the parties take the steps that are necessary to stop the cycle of violence, and to get back to a security that is formed by cooperation, whether they use the opportunities available to stop the violence and to get back to security cooperation.
QUESTION: So you are saying it is not an issue that they are using these helicopters? I know it is. It is discussed frequently, isn't it?
MR. BOUCHER: It is an issue that is raised, but there has been no determination regarding the legal implications of the use of US weaponry.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) said that this afternoon that we don't have any leverage with Israel anymore?
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that one?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we are heavily involved in the process. The parties want us involved in the process. I don't know about leverage, but certainly everybody looks to us and listens to us.
QUESTION: But can I follow up on the use of the American weapons? The Arms Export Control Act would require you to make a finding that these US-supplied equipment was being used for non-defensive purposes. You have condemned the targeted killings as excessive force and so forth. And yet, you have said there has been no determination made at this point, and I'm assuming you're referring to the Arms Export Control Act. So I'm just trying to square the circle. If you are condemning the targeted killings -- the targeted killings are used -- are made with US equipment, then why haven't you made a determination that they are in violation of the Arms Export Control Act?
MR. BOUCHER: Because the two things are not the same.
QUESTION: Well, how --
MR. BOUCHER: One is a legal determination, and the other is a political judgment. In terms of our political judgment about the situation and how to handle it, in terms of our regret of the loss of life and particularly things like the children who were killed, we do not believe that targeted killings is a good policy. We think it is wrong, and we think it is a terrible tragedy for many of the people that are affected by it.
That is not the same as making legal determination.
QUESTION: Well, just to follow up, then at that point, I mean, is it possible, considering that there hasn't been a legal determination yet, that this building would agree with Vice President Cheney that there are some cases when it is justified, or that there is appropriate use of defense there?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to expand on that. The White House did that subject thoroughly on Friday, and I thoroughly agree with them.
QUESTION: One more on helicopters, please. Wouldn't this building have the option to write to complain about this? Doesn't it, to Congress to write a report about this behavior, if they think it is a problem? Is there any talk about doing that? And can you also say whether it is being raised regularly with the Israeli Government that the US isn't comfortable with this?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made our position on targeted killings quite clear.
QUESTION: What about the helicopters.
MR. BOUCHER: We have made our position on targeted killings quite clear. You are raising helicopters in that context. Obviously, we are concerned about the violence. We have made our position about the violence, about targeted killings and other things quite clear to the Israeli Government. We do discuss that with them.
The report to Congress that you are talking about -- I would have to check the law. But I am pretty sure that is a report that is made -- if a determination is made. And since we haven't made any kind of determination, that wouldn't kick in.
QUESTION: Is the State Department the lead agency on making that determination?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we are the lead agency for the Arms Export Control Act?
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? Are you in the process of making a determination? Are you -- when would a determination be made?
MR. BOUCHER: We are quite aware of the law. We are quite aware of the events, and a determination would be made when we thought it was necessary to make one based on the events.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, can you tell us when the process of making this determination that hasn't yet been made began? Because the question of US --
MR. BOUCHER: No. It began 20 or 50 years ago when the Arms Export Control Act was started. We are cognizant of our responsibilities under the law, and we always evaluate events compared to our law. If we feel that it is necessary to make that determination, we will do so. What I am saying is we have not done that.
QUESTION: The question of Israelis using American-supplied weaponry arose in October, with the first helicopter attacks. Has -- was that when this question was first --
MR. BOUCHER: That question has been around for a long time, for decades.
QUESTION: So what is taking so long to make a determination?
MR. BOUCHER: Because we haven't felt it necessary to make that determination based on the facts and the law. We have not made the determination because we don't feel that the facts have yet reached the point where a determination is made under the law.
QUESTION: Well, what are the facts?
QUESTION: I'm sorry if you have already said this, and I just didn't get it, but are you -- is there an ongoing investigation at which point you will make the determination?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Or you just don't feel at this time as if you have to go there?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't feel at this time that the facts have justified a determination under the Arms Export Control Act. We are very aware of our legal responsibility. We follow the events on the ground very closely. But at this point, we haven't made a determination because we don't feel that that portion of our law has kicked in.
QUESTION: A question a little bit different. What about the so-called weaponry that is flowing into West Bank and to Gaza Strip? State Department and Pentagon looked into where this is coming from? Is it coming from rogue states or in from Iran or, from that matter, from Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have any information on that that I can share with you. I will double-check and see if there is anything.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Could you just tell us what -- what would be facts that would justify determination? I mean, I know you don't like to do hypotheticals but what facts would you need? They used weapons, you have political criticized the use of those weapons in the targeted killings. What would the facts -- what more facts would you need?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to get engaged in a process of offering a prescription for what people can do to violate our law. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I am not asking for a prescription --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that is what you are asking: List five things the Israelis could do that would violate our law with regard to weapons transfers. I am not going to do that.
QUESTION: Well, not even the Israelis. What could any -- you know --
MR. BOUCHER: Read the law. It says what the standards are in the law. If we think those standards are violated, we will make the determinations that are necessary. At this point, we have not done that. That is about as much as I can tell you. I am not going to give you a list of five or 10 things they could do that would violate our law.
QUESTION: The Secretary was last night reported to have spoken to Mr. Sharon on the telephone.
MR. BOUCHER: Last night?
QUESTION: In the Israeli press. And Mr. Sharon is quoted as saying that a team from Washington will next week go to the region to speak about the question of monitors. Can you give us any details on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't check on phone calls this morning. I'm sorry, I will have to double check if he did talk to Prime Minister Sharon yesterday.
As far as teams going out, I would say that our Deputy Assistant Secretary David Satterfield is in Beirut, Lebanon, today for meetings with senior Lebanese officials. He will be visiting Damascus for meetings with Syrian officials and those discussions will cover a wide range of bilateral and regional issues.
Following those stops, Ambassador Satterfield will travel for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials. His focus will remain on the issue of urging the parties to take the steps that are necessary to implement the Mitchell Committee recommendations as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Thank you, Richard. A question on Bangladesh. President Carter recently visited Bangladesh. Would you please comment on the outcome of his visit following the upcoming elections in October. I believe there was a thorough discussion with both the parties, major parties, as well as the caretaker government.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me tell you what I can about President Carter's visit. He visited from August 2nd to the 4th as head of a pre-election delegation that was organized by the National Democratic Institute and the Carter Center. The delegation's goal was to observe the pre- election atmosphere and to offer encouragement and support for free and fair elections, and that is a goal that we heartily endorse.
Mr. Carter met with leaders of the two major political parties, and others, as he sought to improve the political climate, create an atmosphere for peaceful and transparent election in which the results are respected by all the participants. The delegation issued a statement about its hopes for the electoral process in the post- election period.
These elections will occur in less than three months. We know that the caretaker administration is overseeing the preparations for these elections and we would urge, once again, all political parties in Bangladesh to support a transparent and peaceful election process.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, I was still on the Satterfield visit.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Some diplomats from I guess both sides, and western diplomats, have quoted these visits by the Deputy Assistant Secretary as "babysitting" visits; that, while he goes and urges the parties to do the same thing that you have been doing from this podium, the visits haven't been all that productive. And can you say whether he will just go there to urge the parties or is he going there to put pressure on the parties in a significant way to take some action to reduce the violence?
MR. BOUCHER: I would reject any kind of characterization that doesn't take these visits seriously. These are serious efforts by the United States, in that they add to the efforts that we are making with the parties directly, either through phone conversations and contacts from Washington, or through the active efforts of our diplomats in the field, like Ambassador Kurtzer and Consul General Schlicher.
The goal is to continue to work with the parties to try to get them to take the steps necessary to stop the violence, to implement the Mitchell Committee recommendations. And that is something that we work on. We don't send people out just to have tours of the region; we send them out to do work and hopefully to find the parties willing to work with them.
QUESTION: Right. But could you speak to the level of frustration that you keep sending these high-level officials. Secretary Powell was out there. From this podium almost every say, you keep urging the parties to take steps and you don't see any marked steps to reduce the violence. The violence is still pretty high. Could you speak as to the level of frustration by this Administration, that even if you mean business, that they're not taking those words seriously and acting upon them?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we still think it's imperative to work on Middle East peace. We have been working on Middle East peace for 50 years. We have occasionally had progress and results -- (laughter) -- but I suppose it is pretty easy on any given day the US fails to get peace in the Middle East. On the other hand, that doesn't mean it is not important to our nation to try to work on this, to try to help the parties achieve something. And we will continue to do that.
The goals of the effort, the need for the effort and the direction of the effort I think are quite clear, and we will continue to be committed to it.
QUESTION: Is Satterfield bringing a proposal on monitors, or is there another team going out to talk about monitors? Or is it still the State Department's position that it is premature to talk about that subject because of the ongoing violence?
MR. BOUCHER: We have discussed the issue of monitors in the context of third party monitoring, accepted by the sides and in the context of implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations. That remains our position. Obviously, we have had some discussions with the parties about how that might work and we will continue to have discussions with the parties about how that might work. But it all takes place in the context of looking for those first steps, the cessation of violence that can get us started with the Mitchell Committee recommendations.
So all those things will be the subject of discussion with Ambassador Satterfield when he goes out. But the key focus is on trying to get those steps to stop the violence and start the Mitchell period.
QUESTION: Can I ask one about Egypt quickly? It's a follow-up from yesterday. Is the United States considering opening a strategic dialogue with Egypt about proliferation on a different level from the dialogue you've had with them in the past?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on that question and see what I can say.
QUESTION: Could you do that, could you take that question?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And also I would like to add on to that question, if I could, whether the concern about Egypt then being able to raise the issue of Israel's missile program is still there. And if I could follow up --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't understand that part of the question. That we wouldn't talk to the Egyptians about proliferation issues because they might raise concerns about Israel's capability?
QUESTION: The level of the dialogue, whether the dialogue may be raised to a level where Egypt would then have an opportunity to raise this at a level it wouldn't otherwise have.
MR. BOUCHER: We have an active dialogue with Egypt at a whole variety of levels, and I suppose they could raise anything they want in those meetings. But I will check if there is a specific set of meetings on proliferation and issues that are expected at a higher level.
QUESTION: Well, actually, I have one. You might not be able to do this, but you mentioned -- you said you didn't want to respond to all the different speeches coming out of Iraq. But the one that Saddam Hussein just delivered was a fairly major speech, and he did make some fairly direct criticisms of the United States in it. Could you address that speech?
MR. BOUCHER: I will go see if anybody wants to take it on. I am sure it is a great opportunity for us to respond to outrageous rhetoric, and maybe we'll take advantage of it.
QUESTION: Can I just ask a monitoring follow-up? Given that there have been disputing accounts of various events, particularly in the last week, and even from this podium, on Thursday you said that you didn't know, or you couldn't confirm whether the Israeli strike on I guess an apartment building was actually Hamas headquarters.
Do you think, regardless of both sides, that monitors or observers could shed some light on what are these differing accounts? Could they help the situation in that respect?
MR. BOUCHER: We think that third party monitoring accepted by the parties could be a useful part of implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations. That is what we said in Genoa.
QUESTION: Could I move a little west? Secretary Powell is going to receive some high-level Mexican officials tomorrow, along with I believe Secretary Ashcroft, to talk about migration issues. Could you preview those meetings for us?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you all know this dialogue with Mexico on migration issues stems from the agreement of the two presidents earlier this year to try to look for a process of safe, orderly, dignified migration between the two countries. We have been having discussions with counterparts in the US Government, with Mexican counterparts as well, with private sector groups, with Congress on all aspects of the immigration issue.
So the meetings that are coming up tomorrow between Secretary Powell, Attorney General Ashcroft, Foreign Secretary Castaneda and Interior Secretary Creel is an important step in that process. We are not in a position at this point to get into the details. The meetings will happen tomorrow. We will be discussing a lot of issues with the Mexicans, and we will be looking forward from there to the visit of President Fox in September, where these discussions can continue at a higher level.
QUESTION: Can you say if there will be a press conference after that meeting, Richard?
MR. BOUCHER: There is no particular press conference planned at this point. I assume that they might -- if they have some remarks to make on the way out, they can make them to the stakeout.
QUESTION: Are they going to discuss --
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Sorry. Are they going to discuss other topics, such as anti-drug cooperation with them, or Mexican trucks?
MR. BOUCHER: The meeting tomorrow is designed particularly to discuss the migration issues, but anytime these guys get together, they often discuss other things. So I wouldn't be surprised to say that those things come up, but I can't tell you for sure that they will.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the case of little Jonathan Colombini and his mother, who were scheduled to be returning from Havana to the United States today?
MR. BOUCHER: In Cuba -- from Cuba.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, from Cuba to the United States. Yes, isn't that what I said?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, Havana.
QUESTION: And apparently the first flight they were going to be on didn't work out, and they may now be on another flight in.
MR. BOUCHER: All right, I don't have that second piece of information. We have been working with all the parties over the last several days. Our intersection in Havana has been working very closely. It was our understanding that Ms. Blanca was returning with her son voluntarily this morning from Cuba. We are aware she didn't show up at the airport in Cuba this morning, and thus she didn't arrive in Miami when expected. You would have to discuss things with Mrs. Blanca to get any more detail on why she didn't make it to the airport at that hour.
I would point out that over the past several days, we have been in repeated contact with both of Jonathan Colombini's parents, as well as the Cuban Government. On Tuesday, our consular officers issued Jonathan Colombini a US passport in keeping with the law that has been in effect since July 2nd. Both of his parents consented to the passport issuance.
We also issued a passport to Jonathan's younger half-sister, who is also an American citizen, and we verified with the Immigration and Naturalization Service that their mother and her husband have legal status to enter the United States. Consular officers were also able to verify with the government of Cuba that there were no legal impediments to the family's departure from Cuba.
In keeping with the wishes of both parents and with Cuban family law, our consular officers have not sought a direct role in resolving the custody arrangements, and custody disagreement between Jonathan Colombini's parents. So at this point, that is what we know. We have been working with them. We thought she was going to be at the airport this morning as well, but she wasn't there. And we have no information for you on why she might have changed her mind or --
QUESTION: Did he not have a passport (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess I don't know for sure whether it was never before, but he needed a new passport.
QUESTION: Is this a case that you think will -- this would have been prevented had this law already been in effect, and she went through normal channels to exit the country? Wouldn't it have?
MR. BOUCHER: That sort of depends on the answer to the previous question. If the key element was his having a passport to go to Cuba in the first place then, yes, it might have been presented if the law had been in effect that said both parents had to consent to the issuance of the passport to the child. But since I don't know how they traveled and whether he had a passport at that point, I am not able to say that.
QUESTION: Did the Cuban Government resist them returning at all? Was there any problem with that?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware of any particular problems. We have been able to work on this with the Cuban Government, and since both parents have been there, have been trying to work this out together, then basically we have been trying to leave it to the parents to work it out. I think that has worked out well so far.
QUESTION: On North Korea, the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman has said that Pyongyang is not willing to go into talks with the United States before it withdraws items on the agenda, which characterizes as an attempt to disarm and stifle the DPRK. Does Colin Powell -- Secretary Powell's offer of talks without preconditions stretch to flexibility about the agenda of the talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the question you are asking could be paraphrased as saying, does the offer of talks without preconditions allow for conditions to be imposed on what is to be discussed. I would just repeat once more that we have made quite clear we are prepared for serous discussion with North Korea at any time, at any place, and without preconditions from either side. At this point, the North Koreans have not yet accepted our proposal. But we have made quite clear that there a number of subjects that we do wish to discuss, such as implementation of the agreed framework, verifiable constraints on the missile programs, and a less threatening conventional military posture on the Peninsula.
So those remain topics that we want to discuss. I am sure the North Koreans have topics they would like to discuss, and we are prepared to meet anytime, anyplace, and without preconditions.
QUESTION: Going back to Latin American. In Argentina, a lot of people are focusing on the economic problems there, and saying that that is emboldening critics of free-market capitalism and against democracy. Is that a concern that you have in this building, and what do you say to those critics who look at Argentina's problems and aren't seeing any successes there?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have been working very closely with the other departments of the US Government, the international organizations, and the Argentine Government to deal with the financial difficulties there. That's about as far as I want to go, lest I move a market somewhere.
But I would also state that our belief in free markets and democracy is unshaken.
QUESTION: Can I go back to (inaudible)? Can you tell us something about the recommendations that are going to be issued by the Department of State to the White House? The recommendations about immigration issues?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Who would be eligible, or no?
MR. BOUCHER: No. We don't talk about recommendations we might be making to the White House, and we will have a talk tomorrow with the Mexicans about all these issues, about the issues of a temporary worker program, about the issues involved in establishing safe and orderly migration, about the implications or how we deal with questions of undocumented aliens that are in the United States already. What we have said before, we are not looking for a general amnesty program. We are working with the Mexicans for a safe and orderly process.
QUESTION: Do you know how many people this would affect?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to talk about that at this point.
QUESTION: There is apparently a story in The Financial Times this morning that says the Administration has told Congress it opposes provisions in the Sudan Peace Act that deal with capital markets, blocking access to capital markets. Can you confirm that?
MR. BOUCHER: The House and the Senate have passed two different versions of the Sudan Peace Act. We have made clear that we oppose the capital market provisions of the House version that would prohibit an entity engaged in the development of petroleum resources in Sudan from raising capital or trading securities in the United States.
We believe that prohibiting access to capital markets in the United States would run counter to global United States support for open markets, would undermine our financial market competitiveness, and could end up impeding the free flow of capital worldwide. The Senate bill does not contain that provision.
Let me say in general, however, that we think that the act is an important piece of legislation. It addresses what the Secretary has called "perhaps one of the greatest tragedies in the world today." What is happening in Sudan, the bombings of innocent civilians, the tolerance for slave raiding, the denial of religious freedom, uprooting thousands of civilians by the continued military actions of both sides has shocked all persons of conscience, and we share the outrage that is expressed in the act, and we join with the Congress in the call for a peaceful end to the conflict.
QUESTION: If I can follow up real quickly, would the Secretary recommend to the President that the legislation be vetoed if the final version has the capital markets access limit in it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think at this point we will see how it turns out. As I said, there are two versions. We have expressed our opposition for provisions of one. We will see what happens in the end before the Secretary has to make a recommendation.
QUESTION: On the Sudan track, those provisions were included in the bill as a way to put pressure on foreign companies that were investing in Sudan, and the government in Khartoum, that were using those profits to carry out those atrocities you just listed. What alternatives does the Administration at this point have for prohibiting or discouraging investment in Khartoum, or do you think that that is just a bad idea in general?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me get you a more formal position on what we have said about investment in Sudan, rather than make one up.
QUESTION: Time is ticking on US agreeing or not agreeing to go to the Racism Conference, Friday deadline. Does it look -- I think there's a Friday deadline.
MR. BOUCHER: What? There is a meeting going on in Geneva.
QUESTION: Right, that meeting.
MR. BOUCHER: But it is expected to end on Friday.
MR. BOUCHER: We said that we would make our decision on US participation after this preparatory conference is over. There is no particular deadline for buying tickets or anything like that.
QUESTION: Is it looking good?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to characterize the way it looks.
QUESTION: Can I have one more? On Hong Kong report, do you have any general comment on the report?
MR. BOUCHER: The report is released. We provided it to Congress yesterday. It is available on the website that we can give you. We have got copies available to people. And it is out. We said we would do one; we did it.
QUESTION: Was it postponed because you were trying to wait for the Li Shaomin case, for him to go to Hong Kong?
MR. BOUCHER: It was prepared over a period of time. As you know, there is no specific deadline for this report. It was done as a voluntary gesture for our Congress to keep them informed, and we put it out, and then it was done.
QUESTION: Just one last thing. The congressional delegation in China meeting with the Chinese leaders, what they bring back -- would they bring back -- would that have any effect on the Administration's policies and (inaudible)? Or are you going to talk with Senator Biden, or --
MR. BOUCHER: We always keep in touch with important members of the Foreign Affairs Committees, and Senator Biden included. So we will obviously look forward to talking with him about his visit. The embassy out there is heavily involved in helping with the arrangements, and the process of the visit. So we keep in close touch all the time. That will be the case with this visit as well.
QUESTION: No big significance or anything?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not attacking any particular importance. We have other discussions.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)