State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 29, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, November 29, 2001 12:40 P.M.
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
DEPARTMENT 1 Readout of Iftaar Dinner and List of Guests 8 Deputy Secretary Armitage Opening ASEAN talks 11 Anthrax Update / Mail Service
CUBA 2 Food Sales to Cuba
RUSSIA 2-4 Troops in Afghanistan; Secretary Powell Conversations with Foreign Minister Ivanov 4-5 Timeline for Rebuilding U.S. and Russian Embassies
AFGHANISTAN 5-8 Meetings on Interim Government 8-9 Status of Friendship Bridge and Humanitarian Aid
UZBEKISTAN 8 Deputy Secretary Armitage Talks with Uzbek Delegation
EGYPT 9-11 New Aid to Egypt; Missile Sales; Legal Assistance Treaty
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 11 Situation Update / General Zinni's Meetings and Travel Plans 12-13 Efforts to Secure Cease Fire
CHINA 11 Under Secretary Bolton's Meeting with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang
SAUDI ARABIA 13 Assistant Secretary Burns' Meetings
NORTH KOREA 14 Ratification of Treaties to Fight Terrorism
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2001 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:40 P.M. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any announcements or statements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
We don't have any questions? Then I'd be glad to go to lunch. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: On the Secretary's Iftaar dinner he is hosting, do you have anything on who might be attending or --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have a list for you. It is prominent Muslim leaders from the United States, some members of Congress, people in the State Department. But it is designed to invite to the State Department, as we have, I think, in two previous years a number of prominent Muslim leaders in the United States, to join with them on the occasion of Ramadan and breaking the fast.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Secretary's remarks, anything that he might be saying?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, he will be saying something.
QUESTION: He will be saying something -- (laughter).
MR. BOUCHER: He will be talking about the occasion, he will be talking about the importance he attaches to it, talking about tolerance and the importance that we attach to tolerance and respect for religions. There will also be some people there, some Muslim individuals from New York City, who were significantly affected by the events of September 11th. He will talk a little bit about them as well.
QUESTION: Let me ask a semi-snide, but -- these are people who have not been detained in the Attorney General's widespread crackdown? These are citizens, US citizens?
MR. BOUCHER: They are mostly US citizens, I think, by and large. I can't say every single one is a US citizen. I am sure they are all legal in terms of their status. But I think more than that, they are leaders of organizations, representatives of various American Muslim organizations, many of these organizations are organizations we work with throughout the year, in fact, because we have ongoing relationships with nongovernmental organizations of all kinds.
And, as you know, everyone who comes to this building, whether they're invited for a special event or coming in to do business, go through a certain set of basic security checks anyway.
QUESTION: Richard, has the Department come to any conclusions about the significance of the sudden spate of food sales which the Cuban Government has arranged? And do you have any --
MR. BOUCHER: Conclusions about food sales?
QUESTION: Yes --
MR. BOUCHER: Food purchases.
QUESTION: I mean food purchases. Food sales by you --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's say one thing first of all. Hurricane Michelle appears to have inflicted quite a terrible blow on Cuba. As we did with other nations affected by the hurricane, we offered an assessment team to determine if we should provide some kind of disaster assistance. Cuba turned that down, but did respond politically with a request to buy food and medicine. Those sales are permitted under our law, medicine sales since 1992, food sales since 2000.
I think this Administration has had a very consistent policy. The President said he would oppose any effort to weaken sanctions against the Cuban Government until it respects Cubans' basic human rights and civil rights, frees political prisoners, and holds free and democratic elections with international observers.
But at the same time, under our law and under our policy, we are quite willing to sell food to the Cubans at a time when they obviously need it because of the events and the destruction that was caused by the hurricane.
QUESTION: Okay, under the law, I believe that it is possible for the Administration to raise objections to any particular sale. Have you -- do you know whether anybody has? Are these all sailing through?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. I would assume that stuff is handled by the Treasury Department. You might check over there. Is it Commerce that handles it? Okay, we'll find out who it is.
QUESTION: Could I -- I wanted to pick up on a couple of things that the Secretary dealt with downstairs a while ago. The first would be Russian troops. He says even troops, it's kind of maybe not the appropriate description. It's impossible to square his expressions of no concern with The Washington Post account, which has him very concerned, registering that concern on the telephone with the Foreign Minister of Russia. I'll take his words at face value, but could you tell us something about these telephone conversations? Have his concerns been allayed of late? Or was it never any concern in the first place?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let's see. I'm given a choice between believing the Secretary of State or believing anonymous officials in a newspaper.
QUESTION: I have no problem. I can make the choice easily.
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll go with the Secretary. I don't know about the rest of you. But you heard --
QUESTION: Hey, this may surprise, but so did I --
MR. BOUCHER: I hope you will, too. Okay.
QUESTION: So did I. But I'm asking you about these telephone conversations.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary -- we saw these reports in various press things. I don't want to single out one newspaper, but others have reported on the arrival of Russians in Kabul in various ways over the last few days. He has spoken, as I think you know, every two or three days for the last week or more with Foreign Minister Ivanov, and in several of these conversations, the issue came up, what's going on. The Russians came back to us and said, humanitarian personnel, emergency personnel, some of whom have a military rank attached -- and I forget, the Secretary actually mentioned, I think, some of the specifics.
So we saw the reports; we asked them about it; they told us what it was; and as the Secretary said, we're comfortable with it and we support it.
QUESTION: I hate to belabor it, but there have been such reports, and although Pristina was a different situation, it wouldn't be the first time the United States was taken by surprise by Russian movement of troops. Could it -- is it fair to say that he had some concern initially, and they have been allayed by his conversations with the Minister, or was he just inquiring as one normally would?
MR. BOUCHER: We saw press reports; we inquired about them. The Russians told us what was up, and that was fine.
QUESTION: Is there any explanation for why the Russians (inaudible) humanitarian were allowed in when the British weren't previously? The Northern Alliance said it didn't want the British humanitarian --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's apples and oranges, but you would have to check with Northern Alliance and other people like that. If I'm not mistaken, the British are there.
QUESTION: But there was some problem. They initially landed --
QUESTION: Richard, would there be any red lines in terms of what the Russians would do, such as recognizing the Northern Alliance as the legitimate government? Have you given any things to the Russians that you said don't cross this line?
MR. BOUCHER: We have worked cooperatively with the Russians. We have discussed all the various issues of what is going on, as we do with all the various partners. As I think you all know, we've talked to other governments that are involved in supporting the Bonn process, supporting the UN process to help form a broad-based government. We have all said that's what we support. The Secretary had his meetings in New York with the neighbors, Six Plus Two. We have had a variety of other meetings.
We have always said in there that we think that the issue of recognition, working with governments, working out security arrangements with governments are best handled when the Afghan factions, Afghan parties agree on what sort of arrangement they want to set up, and then that will be something that all of us can work on, can work with in terms of whatever the security requirements might be, what we can do for reconstruction, what we can do as the international community to help them get established and then follow on with an even broader and more durable governmental arrangement.
QUESTION: Have you seen the Russians act too precipitously to accept the Northern Alliance as the current de facto government, or do you see them as willing to accept a broad-based government?
MR. BOUCHER: The Russians have been strongly supportive of the idea of a broad-based government. They have made that clear in all the various statements that they have made. As we mentioned the other day, various governments have different histories of recognition and different situations with regard to what they have done in the past.
But I think everybody at this point is pledged to support a broad-based government and that's what we see the Russians and others carrying out in their actions.
QUESTION: Now that the Russians are rebuilding their embassy, can you give us an update on the time line for when the US expects or what you need to see to start rebuilding the US embassy or any kind of diplomatic presence?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have a time line at this point. We are interested in doing it. We are interested in seeing an interim authority government established in Kabul. We are interested in seeing the Afghans get together on what the future arrangements would be. And, obviously, we are going to be interested in having a close relationship to them and to that whole process, and we'll support them with assistance and other things.
So we are interested in having an embassy as well. But there is no time line at this point.
QUESTION: Are you saying that those sorts of steps that you just outlined would be preconditions until the US would start rebuilding the embassy?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Richard, the Northern Alliance have, as has been noted, shifted position on a multinational force. But they are still saying that they would like the next meeting, the kind of definitive meeting on setting up this interim administration, to take place in Kabul. Does the United States have any view on what the appropriate venue for such a meeting is?
MR. BOUCHER: It is the same view that I gave you last, what, two times you've asked that question, and that is that how they go forward in this process is a question that the Afghan parties need to work out.
QUESTION: Your many-hatted Policy Planning Director is now, I believe, shortly if he has not already landed in Moscow. Presumably, he is wearing his Afghan hat this time. And is he going to be bringing up these concerns about quick recognition that some officials have told us about by the Russians?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't --
QUESTION: You yourself yesterday said that you would prefer not to see --
MR. BOUCHER: I myself yesterday said the same thing I myself said today. The concerns about precipitous action and quick recognition I've heard in questions; I haven't heard in any of my answers.
QUESTION: No, in fact, I believe you specifically said you would want to see the Bonn conference end in something --
MR. BOUCHER: And that's what I said again today.
QUESTION: I didn't hear you say that. Anyway, my question isn't about that. My question is about what Ambassador Haass is doing in Moscow.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Ambassador Haass will be discussing the situation. I'm sure they will be discussing the situation in Bonn. I'm sure the question of what we can all do to support the process will come up. I'm sure the question of how we can all support a broad-based government and how we can all work with whatever interim arrangement and broad-based government is established, those questions will clearly be on the agenda.
Whether particular questions of recognition and how that process works come up or not, I don't know, because as I pointed out before, the history for each of us is different, and so the mechanism may be different.
QUESTION: But this is -- what I'm trying to get at, Richard, though, that Ambassador Haass' mission to these four places that he is going or has gone to is going to be slightly different, depending on the context of what country he is in.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: He is not going to be raising with the Indians, Indian troops suddenly showing up in Kabul, because as far as we know, none have. Right? So is he going to bring up this issue in Moscow with the Russians? As they think he is going to?
MR. BOUCHER: I would really have to say I don't know at this point. As we have said, we have not expressed the kind of concerns that you are ascribing to us. In fact, we have expressed the contrary to that. We have said we understand the situation with regard to recognition. We understand the situation with regard to support for the broad-based government. And we understand the situation with regard to the Russians who have shown up in Kabul.
Whether those things will come up in the discussions, yes, perhaps, but I don't want anybody to go out of here writing a story saying that Haass is on a mission to raise these US concerns about these issues because it doesn't exist.
QUESTION: Richard, can I pursue recognition a bit? Could it be that what the Russians are talking about is not recognition in the full sense? I mean, is there a semantic problem here?
MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, yes. There is always a semantic problem with the question of recognition, and if the lawyers saw what we have been saying, they would probably quibble with various uses of the terms, because we recognize states and not governments, we establish working relationships with governments. So in those terms, if one wants to be precise and legal about it, the word "recognition" is probably wrong for what we're talking about. What we are talking is establishing a working relationship with the new government in Afghanistan.
Some governments already have, sort of through history, an existing relationship with certain leaders in Afghanistan who they have worked with as the head of the whole country. We don't have that situation. But I think we all look forward to the formation of a broad-based government, the formation of an interim arrangement so that all of us can establish that kind of working relationship with a new governing authority in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Could you -- this is a little out of the field, so I don't know if you'll have anything -- but is this country legally, in a legal sense, at war with Afghanistan and the Taliban? I mean, we talk about the war against terrorism, we talk about the war in Afghanistan.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. That's a constitutional scholar question. I'm not real good at those. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty lousy at those.
QUESTION: Richard, as a matter of interest, because this has come up in the context of the Taliban, what is the difference between the kind of working relationship you established with the Taliban in the past, and the kind of working relationship you establish, you have, you continue to have with, say, the government of France? I mean, what --
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you really want to boil it down to that, Jonathan --
QUESTION: I mean, you said you didn't recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. What does that mean?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: What makes you think we have a working relationship with France? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: When you say --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, after everybody else takes a shot at it, I'll take a shot at answering the question.
QUESTION: When you say you didn't recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, what did you mean?
MR. BOUCHER: We meant that we did not talk to them, deal with them, work with them on matters that affected the diplomacy, the status, the politics and the future of Afghanistan.
Now, do we convey messages? Do we talk to different groups that may or may not be governments? Yes. Our relationship with the Taliban in the past has consisted of telling them to stop supporting terrorism, telling them to let US hostages go, telling them to stop selling drugs on the international market, telling them not to blow up statues in violation of all religious tenets that we are aware of. I don't think we have every done those things with France.
QUESTION: That's a pretty one-sided relationship you had there.
QUESTION: You told them to let go of our hostages, now that they're gone? Not detainees?
MR. BOUCHER: What did I say?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, detainees, excuse me. Let the record be corrected.
QUESTION: May I ask a question you may actually have an answer to?
MR. BOUCHER: I had an answer to that one.
QUESTION: No, well, I know, but one that you might have thought that you might have been asked today. Deputy Secretary Armitage, this morning, opened the annual US ASEAN talks. What -- don't tell me you don't know -- what's -- just give us the rundown of what you expect or hope, or what you are hoping to achieve in these talks.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get you something. A statement at the end? I'll read this one before you ask me about it.
We'll -- it's an annual consultation, and we'll get you the statement at the end. I'm sorry, Matt.
QUESTION: The Deputy Secretary had a meeting this morning with the Uzbek delegation. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: There is an Uzbek delegation in town. They are here to follow up on the discussions that the Secretary had on the 16th with the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan and, of course, the ongoing cooperation that we have had with Uzbekistan. This is a senior level delegation from Uzbekistan. They are here today and tomorrow for consultations. It includes the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Issues, the Minister of Defense, Deputy Foreign Minister and the Minister for Economic Relations.
Principally, they are here to follow up, as I said, on these discussions the Secretary had, by discussing US assistance to Uzbekistan. They did meet with Deputy Secretary Armitage this morning. Most of the discussions today will be chaired by Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Beth Jones. And then they will be meeting with senior officials at other US agencies and international financial institutions.
QUESTION: Is there anything you can say about aid levels and the opening of the Friendship Bridge?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new to say about aid levels at this point. Let us have these discussions. We have made quite clear all along that we wanted to work with and support the people that were working with us and supporting us in the fight against terrorism. And I think that will apply to Uzbekistan as well.
As far as the opening of the bridge, we are continuing to work on this issue. We certainly hope we can open the Friendship Bridge as soon as possible. It is a matter of making sure it's safe to do so. We understand that that is what the Uzbek authorities have said, that it will be open for traffic when it is safe to do so. So I am not able to give you a timetable at this point.
QUESTION: Is human rights part of the dialogue?
MR. BOUCHER: With Uzbekistan, human rights has always been one of the issues we raised. And it is a continuing issue with countries around the world.
QUESTION: Back to Secretary Powell this morning with the Egyptian. The Egyptian -- Egypt is having a lot of problems economically. Tourism is off. They have all sorts of explanations. They blame insurers partly.
But in any event, the Secretary was very sympathetic and he seemed to be implying he would consider new assistance to Egypt. I wonder if that is what he was sort of saying? And I wondered how you could justify new assistance to Egypt, even while selling them $400 million of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, unless they're not paying for them, unless it's a gift.
MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure I see any contradiction in our willingness to work with and support our partners in this cause in a variety of ways. We are certainly aware of some of the economic consequences of the situation. And as the Secretary I think told you this morning, we would consider the needs that Egypt had and see if there was something we could do for them.
The sale of Harpoons is part of an ongoing, longstanding cooperation we have had with the Egyptian military. This is a follow-on to a system that they already have. It is, frankly, a matter where our cooperation with them -- we have encouraged them to expand their capabilities in terms of being able to protect shipping in the Suez. And we see that as a value to shipping generally and to US warships that use this channel as well. So there are a variety of reasons for that sale.
We have discussed it with members of Congress and we will continue to discuss it with members of Congress.
QUESTION: They're anti-ship missiles, and they also can hit land. Is there --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I think the version that is being sold is a follow- on that is a bit more precise, but it is an anti-ship system, I think. It is a sea-borne anti-ship system and not anything else.
QUESTION: So we have no definable enemy, but just as a protective device?
MR. BOUCHER: We have encouraged them to expand their abilities to protect shipping in the Suez, including US warships that use that a lot.
QUESTION: Could you discuss the treaty that they signed a bit? We know it is mutual legal assistance, but what is the significance of that? How is it going to help in the fight against terrorism, financial measures?
And also could you tell me whether the Secretary brought up reports of arms sales between North Korea and Egypt?
MR. BOUCHER: The second subject didn't come up that I'm aware of. I am not sure if it has been discussed with other members of the delegation. As you know, we do talk about nonproliferation with Egypt, so I wouldn't be surprised if we discussed it with other people during the visit.
As far as the issue of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, it is a treaty that we have with a number of countries, in order to provide a better channel for helping each other when it comes to investigations, court cases and criminal matters. But it does have significance in the current circumstances, because the kind of information exchange, documents exchange, evidentiary exchange that this treaty can help facilitate can be important in terms of our cooperation against terrorism.
And I think particularly when it comes to the financial aspects, the exchange of information and documents is important. We look to this to be a step forward for us in terms of being able to cooperate in legal matters.
QUESTION: Is it a step toward an eventual extradition treaty? Are you working on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Not necessarily. I don't exactly know where we are on extradition with Egypt. I'll check.
QUESTION: Back on economic assistance, back on the 2nd of November, you put out a statement saying after the visit of another Egyptian official, saying that one of the things that has been looked at is a free trade agreement between the US and Egypt. Has that progressed any further from where it was back on the 2nd and is that something that the Secretary was talking about when he said what he said this morning?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure that specifically came up between them. Basically, we have had other people looking, working with the Egyptians on what we might be able to do, and I will have to check and see if that is something that has progressed since we talked about it.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary spoke about accelerating these programs. Do you have any details on that? And I think the Egyptian Minister also spoke about flexibility yesterday, which seemed to imply converting some programs, long-term programs into sort of cash, quick cash programs or something like that. Is there any specifics on --
MR. BOUCHER: We are looking at various means of making the assistance more effective, making it more helpful to the Egyptians in the present circumstances. But, really, until the experts have worked out what we can do and what would be helpful, I am not prepared to start speculating on one aspect or another of it.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about any arrested al-Qaida fighters being flown to Guam or one of the islands, or whether they will be, or whether any of those islands near Hawaii are going to be used as a potential military tribunal --
MR. BOUCHER: I can't say anything more than I didn't say yesterday.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- Afghanistan and the NGOs, Amnesty and the others have been concerned about this. Are you and are you checking those reports, and are they going to have any effect at all on the effort to form a government and the future stability of the country?
MR. BOUCHER: We are aware of those reports. I think the Pentagon has been looking at them and was discussing it at their briefing over there. I am not sure if they have any information yet, really.
QUESTION: I have a week-old question here.
MR. BOUCHER: Testing my short-term memory.
QUESTION: Is there any update in the mail situation, m-a-i-l situation -- (laughter) -- as opposed to the m-a-l-e situation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is at this point. I haven't actually heard anything new, but then I haven't checked specifically.
QUESTION: The first tranche of mail had gone to be looked at. It was mainly the Secretary's mail.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, and I haven't heard any results back, and I don't know how far we have gone with the testing of mail. But let me get an update for you if I can.
QUESTION: Middle East. What progress is General Zinni making towards a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that it's time yet, after three days of meetings, to start counting progress or trying to count it on a day-to- day basis. As the Secretary said this morning, the goal is to get a cease-fire. They have had good initial meetings; they are off to a good start. They are certainly looking to work with the parties, to get the parties to start taking steps that can be reciprocated, that can start moving them in a real way down that road towards a cease- fire. It will be done sort of patiently and with determination, to try to make sure that we move in a real fashion down that road towards a cease-fire and then into the implementation of the Mitchell and Tenet recommendations so that we can get back on track with negotiations.
QUESTION: Yes, in the context of the war on terrorism, is the US working specifically with any other countries specifically on safety of shipping? Is that something that is being emphasized with other countries, aside from this Egyptian --
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is, yes, but I don't think I'm the one to go into any more detail on it. We'll see if the Pentagon might be able to inform you more on that.
QUESTION: Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Wang, is here for tomorrow's arms control talk. What is the focus of tomorrow's talk, and who from the US Government will be attending?
MR. BOUCHER: He will be meeting on nonproliferation and arms controls issues with Under Secretary John Bolton on November 30th, tomorrow. This is Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya. He and his delegation will be participating in consultations in the Department the 29th and the 30th, and he will meet this afternoon with the Secretary of State briefly.
In addition to those discussions, we will also have discussions with his group, with his delegation, on counterterrorism cooperation and the situation in Afghanistan, along with other issues of concern.
QUESTION: And any particular things that Mr. Wang and Secretary Powell will be discussing this afternoon?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that will depend on both of them, but I'm sure that all these topics will arise in a general way, and then we'll have more detailed discussions with them during the course of the day tomorrow.
QUESTION: Just back to the Middle East for a second. When the Secretary made his speech, he made several demands of both sides that were included originally in the confidence-building mechanisms. When he talks about coming up with a time line, that time line is to actually start the things that he just sort of asked unconditionally for both sides to do? Is that what he is talking about, or is he talking about something else?
MR. BOUCHER: No, what the Secretary has always discussed is steps the parties can take, get to a cease-fire, get into this implementation of the Tenet recommendations and the Mitchell recommendations. To some extent, the process is mapped out in those reports; to some extent it's not. And working with General Zinni and Ambassador Burns while he's there. We would look to work with the parties to get some agreement on how to move down that road. And when to move down that road.
QUESTION: But can you -- I mean, what is -- when they get to that road, are we still talking about the concrete steps that are in the Mitchell and the Tenet plan pretty much? That both sides would have to take?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So there isn't an expectation from the State Department, at least, that some of those steps, such as redeploying troops, arresting terrorists, and a freeze on all settlements, would happen sort of unconditionally outside of that process?
MR. BOUCHER: The goal of General Zinni and Ambassador Burns out there is to get the parties to work a series of steps that will lead into that process and get the violence down, essentially is what we're talking about, stopping the violence, getting the cease-fire and then moving through confidence-building to overturn negotiations.
QUESTION: As I said, some of that is laid out in the agreements already. I'm sure there are going to be many other steps the parties need to take to get down that road, and they will be working with the parties to try to get agreement on how to do those steps.
But we're not offering a substitute for that whole process. The goal is to get through that, is to get into that process.
QUESTION: Does Assistant Secretary Burns have any stops planned between Cairo and Riyadh? And are the Saudis still cooperating with you in the financial war?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Yes to both. Would you like to know where he is going to stop between --
MR. BOUCHER: He is now in Egypt, where he has met with President Mubarak. He will travel later in the week to Jordan, on Friday, and Saudi Arabia on Saturday for consultations regarding bilateral and regional issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the international campaign against terrorism.
Ambassador Burns is expected back in Washington on Sunday.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Zinni and his mission? Does the United States still feel that the seven days of calm is a realistic objective?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have ever said that, and I don't have anything new to say on the subject.
QUESTION: Richard, as I understand it, the North Koreans signed an anti-terrorism treaty today or yesterday. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess what we have seen is they have indicated an intention to ratify two of the international terrorism conventions, consistent with UN resolutions. And we would certainly welcome and encourage North Korea to participate in those conventions and to cooperate in international efforts to combat terrorism.
In our past talks with North Korea, we have also made clear what actions North Koreans must take to be considered for removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and on this, as well as other issues, we have made quite clear we are ready to engage in a dialogue with North Korea on these issues at any time and any place they are ready to begin serious discussions.
QUESTION: Has the US ratified these treaties?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not exactly sure which ones they intend to ratify, so I wouldn't be able to tell you until I had a chance to check.
QUESTION: Is this maybe use the way for them getting off the state sponsors list? They were very close last year at this time.
MR. BOUCHER: We have made quite clear to them last year, as well as for long standing, what they need to do to get off the state sponsors list, and we would expect to see them to do those things that we have already specified.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: And can you kind of tell us what they are then?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we've never specified it in public.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m. EST.)
# # #