State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 12
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 12, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index December 12, 2001 12:33 P.M. EST
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
TRADE 1 Senate Finance Committee Action on Trade Promotion Authority
AFGHANISTAN 1-2 Diplomatic Presence/Assessment of Existing Facilities in Kabul 1-2 Interim Authority Agreement 2-3 Status of Security Force 10-12 Status of Release of Usama bin Laden Tape
ARMS CONTROL 3-5,7 ABM Treaty 5-6 START II Treaty
ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 7-10 Continuing Violence 8,10 General Zinni Remains in the Region / Continuing Work with the Parties
WAR AGAINST TERRORISM 11-13 US Public Diplomacy Efforts
UZBEKISTAN 13-14 Opening and Operation of the Friendship Bridge
IRAQ 14 Ambassador Ryan Crocker's Trip to Northern Iraq 14 US Position on Opening a Second Border Crossing with Turkey
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2001 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:33 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here, a pleasure to be back with you. It is slightly warmer here than it was in Central Asia.
The only thing I would like to say at the beginning is to note that the Senate Finance Committee has just reported out legislation to give the President trade promotion authority. It has been reported out of Committee. We are very pleased with this. We certainly welcome it.
The Secretary has worked very hard with other members of the Administration to try to secure trade promotion authority for the President because he believes it is an essential part of our foreign policy. And we look for movement on the Senate floor as soon as possible. That is a bit of good news for us today. We have been working hard on that one.
And with that out of the way, I would be glad to take your questions on this or other subjects.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan a little bit, in a few days -- the precise day is still a little bit uncertain -- the US will resume a diplomatic presence in Kabul. What do you see as the first or first two or three major problems or issues that American diplomats will have to deal with? You have put together -- helped put together an interim government, not always factions that get along. What's the job at hand now?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the job in hand is to get up and running. We have had a State Department team that has done an assessment of the existing facilities that we have in Kabul. The Embassy Chancery building is structurally sound, but it doesn't have reliable electricity, water, and it needs various other repairs. There are a whole variety of other logistical problems in getting up and running. But, nonetheless, we are making arrangements to overcome those problems, to provide adequate security for the people that will go in. And we expect to establish our diplomatic presence in Kabul very soon. It is possible that Ambassador Dobbins may be able to arrive there by this weekend.
That will put us on the ground in anticipation of the -- what do you call it -- inauguration? What is the word that we use for the new -- for the interim government, the taking over -- the transfer of power -- that's the good word, that's the word -- the transfer of power to the Interim Authority of Afghanistan. And this is a group of people that we have worked with, specifically Ambassador Dobbins worked very closely with in Bonn, along with the United Nations. So we will want to look to do everything we can to help them get established and to take over the running of the affairs of Afghanistan.
So we look forward to working with them, supporting them in a variety of ways, both diplomatically and politically, as well as with financial help and security assistance, a security presence of some kind. And that is what we are working in the United Nations, to talk about the resolution for the security force.
QUESTION: -- obviously they all had an incentive in seeing the Taliban vanish. But is the prospect for future cooperation -- do you think this era of good feelings will carry over, or will old animosities resurface, do you think?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I would describe it one way or the other. I think these parties have all made a political calculation to understand that the way Afghanistan has suffered for the last 10 years or so, in particular after the -- well, the last 20 -- suffered for the last 20-some years. But, in particular, after the Soviets pulled out, Afghanistan has never enjoyed the kind of stability that it deserves, it has never enjoyed the kind of peaceful development that its people deserve. And the parties having experienced that, we hope, will realize that the only real way to achieve that is to work together now for all of Afghanistan. And we have certainly made quite clear that our intentions are to support the reconstruction of an Afghanistan that has a broad-based government that does look to the welfare of all the people.
QUESTION: Richard, first of all, you said Ambassador Dobbins' return. And understand he is ambassador by title. Will he be the US ambassador to Afghanistan? Or do you want to clarify what he would be when he shows up?
MR. BOUCHER: He will be initially the US representative there. I'm not exactly sure what the title is for somebody that is not accredited to a government that hasn't arrived yet. But once the interim authority does get there, then he will be our chief representative in Kabul, I guess is the way I would put it for the moment. I will find out the diplomatic titles later.
QUESTION: What are you doing, what has been done today or in the last two days to get the security force together, and what is the position you're hearing from those Islamic countries which were touted as possible candidates?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, during the Secretary's trip, he talked about the international security force idea with a number of governments. Some of the meetings he had starting in Romania, at the OSCE, but it was a major topic of discussion in Turkey and Moscow and Paris and London, and in Berlin, and at NATO, along with a number of allies that we were able to consult with.
So I think this is sort of part of the process of getting together on where we want to go. We are in touch through embassies and otherwise with a variety of nations who might be interested in participating. We are in touch with some governments about the United Nations resolution that is being worked right now. The consultations are going on in New York to provide an authorization and a mandate and a framework for this international security force, and then we will be getting together the decisions on leadership and participation.
So I would say we are working on it. We don't have anything particular to announce at this moment.
QUESTION: Can I just ask whether it is conceivable at this stage that it would -- or some elements of it would be in place by December the 22nd, when the new government is meant to take office?
MR. BOUCHER: Conceivable, yes. But I can't promise that it will be. We are moving on this fairly quickly. I would say there is gathering momentum in putting all this together, but we are not quite ready to make -- we are not ready yet at this point to make announcements.
QUESTION: I want to change the subject.
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what exactly it was the Secretary was telling people, particularly the Russians, about the ABM treaty while he was on his trip?
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want the short answer or the long answer? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It depends. Are they both the same thing?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the short answer is no.
QUESTION: The short answer is no, you can't tell us? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't tell you.
MR. BOUCHER: The longer answer is that we have made clear all along, if you go way back to May of 2000, when George Bush as a candidate made clear that we would have to -- we would develop a missile defense program, and we would have to get beyond the limits of the ABM treaty. And from the beginning of this Administration, the President and the Secretary in their meetings indicated that we would have to do that at some point, that we did intend to go forward with missile defense.
We have had a lot of consultations with friends and allies along the way. We have had a lot of -- we were willing to work out various kinds of arrangements to do this by mutual agreement. But we have always made clear that, if necessary, we would exercise our right under the treaty, and the President will decide when the President decides, and we will tell you when he has decided after he has decided.
QUESTION: Okay, so you are not prepared then to echo what Senator Daschle said this morning, that the President has, in fact, decided to give the Russians notifications that you will withdraw?
MR. BOUCHER: I leave it to the President to announce that if he decides to do so.
QUESTION: Richard, all along with the discussions with the Russians over the last several months, you kept saying that you saw that there is a possibility for an agreement for an amending of the ABM, some kind of an agreement with the Russians. Are you saying that there is no opportunity for such an agreement or do you think that before the President gives notification that there is still a chance you could come to a meeting of the minds?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that that is something that we did pursue, that the President wanted us to pursue. And when the President decides that that's not possible, he can make his own decisions about withdrawal, if that is necessary. I am not trying to close off any particular course of action, but I'm just saying it's in the hands of the President.
QUESTION: A decision to withdraw, notification of intention to withdraw within six months, do you suppose that six-month period could be used to keep trying to, as you put it, make some kind of arrangement? Or does it foreclose --
MR. BOUCHER: I think that is a bit speculative at this point. But let me say this. If you look in particular at the press conference that Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister Ivanov did in Moscow, you will see that both of them made quite clear that this was a possibility. I think the Foreign Minister said that we are not excluding the possibility the US may be withdrawing and that that will be part of their calculations and thinking.
But he made clear our task will be to ensure national security on the one hand for himself and to promote the strengthening of a control over the cuts in weapons as well as the nonproliferation regime. So I think he has made quite clear that however this works out on defense, that we do intend certainly for our part and for the Russian part to pursue the discussions of a strategic framework to effectively reduce nuclear weapons by about two-thirds from the levels that they are on now and to continue our work together on nonproliferation.
It is very important to the United States we continue these discussions, and we heard and you see in the Russian comments in public that we will continue to work on all aspects of the strategic framework. And certainly that applies to defense as well. We will keep talking to the Russians about defensive issues and how that fits in the overall strategic framework.
QUESTION: Will defensive -- fine. But I just wondered if you chat about it, or is the six-month period as -- can the six-month period be as useful as the period until now has been to try to work out something? In other words, if you say you're withdrawing, does it foreclose any possible new arrangements?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I would say definitively one way or the other. As you know, we have worked hard to see since -- I think the two presidents talked about it in Slovenia, if I'm correct -- about the possibility of working out a mutual understanding on this subject. And we have worked hard to do that. And if that is still possible, that was the course that President Bush himself said we would prefer to follow.
But I think what is important is the two sides will continue their discussions of strategic framework throughout this period and into the future. We will continue our efforts to cut offensive nuclear weapons by two-thirds and the Secretary said, after his Moscow talks, we were closer on that. We will continue our work on nonproliferation. We will continue our work together on defense.
We have said all along we want this to be a transparent process, and we will continue to work with the Russians as we go forward on defensive systems.
QUESTION: Even though the President has decided to withdraw from the treaty?
MR. BOUCHER: Who said that? I didn't say that.
QUESTION: I'm asking.
MR. BOUCHER: I would say the President will decide and announce when he feels it's appropriate.
QUESTION: So you're saying that, regardless of what happens with the ABM --
MR. BOUCHER: Regardless what happens with the ABM treaty, we will continue to work with the Russians on defense as part of the overall strategic framework. That is about as concise as I can put it. Thank you for helping me get there.
QUESTION: Let me ask a related question. Yesterday you probably noticed, although you were in transit, that the Russian Defense Minister now is saying that START II cannot be implemented, because this side hasn't approved, hasn't ratified the changes in the START II treaty, the protocols that give the Russians four more years than originally planned to get rid of those weapons.
I don't know if this is the place to ask, but I may try. Is there some reason that this Administration doesn't want to go forward with the START II treaty? Are you prepared, frankly, the Administration, to let that treaty die, too?
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I don't think you have characterized it properly. I haven't seen the comments by the Russian Defense Minister. What the President has said on this is he wants to go way beyond the cuts that were forecast and that would have taken place in the START II treaty. He wants to go to a third of the levels that might be in existence now, and that would be considerably lower than the levels of the START II treaty.
QUESTION: I know.
MR. BOUCHER: Second of all, he wants to pursue a different form of arms control, a form of arms control that can be based on trust and transparency, upon the basic premise that arms control and nuclear weapons in this new world is not based on the prospect of the Soviet Union and the United States annihilating each other, as it was in the past. It is based on a friendship between the United States and Russia, and a belief that, yes, we would provide for our security and they would provide for theirs, but that the strategic equation wasn't me versus you anymore.
And therefore, the President has said, we need to make cuts, we need to go forward with a different kind of arms control. And we have also said we need to use some of these verification inspection mechanisms that were developed for previous agreements, even as we go forward in somewhat of a different way. That is the sort of package that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Ivanov and President Putin were discussing in Moscow, and that is the kind of discussion we will continue to have to move forward to real cuts in offensive weapons.
QUESTION: I understood all that, and unfortunately to get into that would take hours, because there's all sorts of contempt of previous negotiations, contempt of -- or call it a changing world, no need anymore to have formal agreement. I don't want to get into that. I was simply asking --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you have, and let me reject the premise.
QUESTION: All right, I know the Administration's view of arms control, a bunch of pieces of paper. But here's the -- except for verification - - but here's the question. It's very simple. Is the Administration going to move for ratification of the revised START II treaty, specifically the protocols that extend it from 2003 to 2007, the deadline for getting down a 3,000 to 3,500, or is it just going to sit there? And of course you're proceeding in other ways; I realize that.
MR. BOUCHER: I will check and see if we have made a formal decision on that. But let me tell you, fundamentally, the answer to your question is that the Administration intends to go beyond the START treaties in reducing weapons, in making the world safer, and using a different approach, because we do recognize that we are in a new world, and not negotiating with the Soviet Union anymore.
QUESTION: Richard, you said it all lies in the hands of the President. Does that mean that the Secretary and the President's other advisors have actually given their recommendations? And if so, what was the Secretary's recommendation?
MR. BOUCHER: A, we never answer those questions; B, I'm not going to answer them today; and C, the President will decide when he wants to decide, based on whatever inputs he may or may not get, and whatever information he has.
QUESTION: Can I get a two-part answer to a two-part question, too?
MR. BOUCHER: You can get a five-part answer to a one-part question.
QUESTION: What do you tell -- even though everyone is loath to say that this is -- that the decision has been made, and what the decision is, there are people reacting to the reports that are out there now that are already beginning to express some concern. So are people whom the Secretary spoke with on his trip.
So my -- without confirming or saying that the President has -- what the President's decision is, what do you say in general to people, or to countries like the Europeans and like the Chinese, who have serious concerns about the -- about a withdrawal from the treaty?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say the following, and it's really the answer we talked about before, that the reduction in nuclear weapons that we are working on makes the world safer. The development of missile defense systems that we are working on makes the world safer. So let's stick to the basics. And we are going to proceed with those basics. We are going to proceed in close consultation with allies and friends, in complete transparency with partners like Russia, in making the world safer by reducing weapons and making available defensive systems in a limited way.
QUESTION: On the Middle East, can you respond to reports that General Zinni has negotiated a 48-hour truce between the two parties, which appears to have already been broken?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't respond to those reports. But let me make clear on the violence that has occurred, that we absolutely condemn it in the strongest terms. There has been a round of terrorist attacks in the West Bank and Gaza, a shooting attack on a bus that has left several dead. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims.
Once again, we stress that it is absolutely imperative that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority act immediately, undertake all possible measures to pursue and apprehend those responsible for these horrific actions, and ensure that the organizations responsible are unable to commit further terror. We are deeply troubled by the fact that these groups continue to have freedom to conduct their actions. We said before, only immediate, serious and sustained efforts by Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority against both the individuals and the infrastructure of the groups that plan, support and execute violence and terror can make possible an end to the suffering of Palestinians.
General Zinni remains in the region. He continues to work with the parties. He has had trilateral security meetings on Sunday and on Tuesday night. There was a bilateral security meeting at which both Israelis and Palestinians discussed their efforts that was convened -- also convened -- I think that was Tuesday as well. So he remains in the region and continues to work with them.
We can help convene meetings, we can help work with the parties to achieve a cease-fire and get back to talks. But ultimately, the parties themselves have to take the steps and we are looking particularly to Chairman Arafat to take the steps and for them to work together. We have seen the beginning of cooperation. But we need to see the efforts, particularly by Chairman Arafat, against the groups involved.
QUESTION: There are some reports that even before this latest round of violence which you're speaking of, that Israeli tanks moved into the town of Jenin?
MR. BOUCHER: We are aware of those reports. That's why I say that we look to Chairman Arafat to take immediate and effective steps, but we also look to the Israelis to take steps to help achieve a cease-fire. We have, I think, made quite clear that each party needs to consider the implications and repercussions of their actions and we will continue to make that point. But General Zinni is there to help work with the parties to achieve the cease-fire. But both of the parties have to take steps to end the violence and get to a cease-fire.
QUESTION: Richard, maybe I missed it but you didn't appear to condemn or to offer any condolences to the victims of the families of the Palestinians who were killed in the Israeli attacks on the Palestinian police -- two, I believe, Palestinian police cars? No? Nothing there?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, there has been a lot of violence over the last few days. I don't know what we were able to do yesterday.
QUESTION: You specifically mentioned the Palestinian attack in Gaza and the bus attack, which were both against Israelis.
MR. BOUCHER: Against Israelis. Those are the ones -- those are the ones that happened today.
We have made quite clear all along that there are too many dying, that Palestinians have suffered, Israelis have suffered and this whole process is devoted to trying to get each of them the kind of peace and stability that they deserve to live in this region. And so, yes, we condemn the deaths of innocent peoples. We always have sympathy for innocent victims.
QUESTION: But does there come a point, though -- and I must admit that before that incident that I just mentioned happened, I was not -- I was still skeptical about the idea -- this isn't about me. Anyway, does there come a point when Israeli attacks that are launched against the Palestinian police infrastructure, and in particular this incident that I'm talking about -- actually hurt the cause that you are trying to get the Palestinians to do? It does not appear that it is enough in many cases for the Palestinian police to simply arrest these people and put them in jail. The Israelis appear to want them dead as well, and they appear to want to kill the police officers who are arresting them as well, as this latest incident shows.
So does there come a point when this is counter-productive?
MR. BOUCHER: To say "does there come a point," I think the answer is obviously, yes. We have asked both of the parties to consider repercussions for their actions.
But Chairman Arafat has said very recently that he was going to be able to do what he had to do in terms of controlling the armed groups and keeping down the violence, and we look to him to do that. It is not enough to say you will. It is not enough to put somebody in jail temporarily and let them out the back door and say you're arresting somebody and it turns out they're living in their house, making cell phone calls. You have to really carry out these actions as an effective way to stop the violence. That is what we are looking for him to do.
And as the Palestinian Authority acts, we look to the Israelis to respond positively with actions that can make the situation better and work toward a cease-fire.
QUESTION: You said you condemned the deaths of the Palestinians. Are you willing to condemn the Israeli actions, the attacks on the police force --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't exactly know what we are referring to. No, I don't have any comment on that.
QUESTION: Okay. And furthermore, can you give any kind of comment on reports of the latest incursions into Jenin from the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any particular comment at this point. I think our views on incursions have been well known, but what we are looking for is action by the Palestinian side to stop the acts of terror in the groups, and we expect the Israelis to be able to respond appropriately.
QUESTION: Can I just ask one more? Are you concerned that people in the Arab world that might be viewing this briefing would say that these comments have been fairly one-sided? And in terms of criticizing specific actions from the Palestinians and not specific actions from the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think what I would be concerned about was people concluding that we were not serious about stopping the violence, and we would have the continuation of terror attacks. It is important that we be quite explicit and clear in saying the terror attacks have to stop, the groups that carry out them have to be curbed, and the individuals that are responsible have to be arrested.
Our interest is in making clear the need to stop the violence and getting the violence stopped. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians should have to live with this kind of violence, and our concentration is not on -- shall we say not on the viewership for our words, but rather on getting the parties to take effective actions to stop the violence.
QUESTION: Richard, who is it that the Palestinians arrested that is actually living in their own house and making cell phone calls?
MR. BOUCHER: That was sort of a generic comment. I think we have heard reports of various kinds. I don't think I have confirmation of any particular case in that.
QUESTION: Richard, every day the phrase we hear is, "General Zinni remains in the region." Can you say that he intends to remain until he manages to obtain a cease-fire that holds? Or is anybody in this building, or in this town, considering withdrawing him at some stage?
MR. BOUCHER: That is such an open-ended question, I don't think I can answer it for fear of laying down a rule that might change at some point. At this point, he remains in the region. He intends to remain in the region for the foreseeable future, as long as the parties are willing to work with him and take -- continue to work together, continue to work with him to achieve a cease-fire.
QUESTION: I imagine that he reports back regularly. But has there been, or will there be, sort of now that the Secretary's back, not that he has had a communication on the road, but is there a wrap-up report expected, or has it come in? In other words, I have the notion that Zinni will sum up at some point what he has been able or unable to do, present it to the Secretary, and the Secretary will make a judgment whether this process --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would describe it -- I wouldn't describe -- I don't anticipate anything like that. I wouldn't describe what he is doing that way. He keeps us fully and completely apprised on an ongoing basis, all through the Secretary's travels. He was kept fully informed of the status of General Zinni's discussions. These discussions are very important to him. And he keeps fully up to speed on a daily basis. And at some point, you know, if there are decisions that have to be made, I'm sure they will be able to make them together, whatever stage we reach.
QUESTION: Regarding this release of the Usama bin Laden tape, which hasn't been released yet but will, is there anything that you, the State Department, or the government will be doing to kind of win the hearts and minds of the people in the street in Arab countries, and governments, to your side, that in fact he is saying "I did it, I'm the bad guy"?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say, first of all, we are not handling the translation and release process. That is being done, I think, at the Defense Department.
Second of all, I think, yes, we will probably look for ways to allow people to see for themselves who this man is, what he has done, what his attitude is towards his own people, as well as the innocent people around the world that he is threatening. I suppose people in the world deserve a right to see it.
QUESTION: Specifically, will this tape in any way be incorporated into the public diplomacy and media outreach campaign that Charlotte Beers, and I think yourself, are running? I mean, will this be on the website, will you try to get --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not exactly -- we haven't made final decisions about it, but I think we do intend to make it widely available, first of all, not necessarily through our means. We may just pass it out -- you know, other agencies, when they have it available, may just pass it out to anybody who comes.
But I'm sure we will incorporate this information into our public diplomacy campaign and our materials that we make available to people around the world -- websites, embassies, things like that.
QUESTION: So this is under consideration? Putting a link on your website to a video of Usama bin Laden?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that, did I?
QUESTION: I'm trying to figure out what exactly you did say.
MR. BOUCHER: I am trying to say that, first of all, another agency is handling the translation and distribution of the tape, okay?
QUESTION: Yes, but you just -- Eli just asked you if you were --
MR. BOUCHER: Second -- you'll get a five-part answer to a one-part question, if you don't mind. Second of all, that we have tried to make clear to other people who this man was and what he was doing, and that if we have more information on that, I'm sure we will add it to our promotional materials. Third of all, nothing speaks like the man himself, and to the extent that we make excerpts, transcripts, or information on this tape available, we might do it through the promotional materials, the informational materials on our website, as well as through our embassies.
QUESTION: So the answer to my question is, yes.
MR. BOUCHER: So I would expect to integrate this into our campaign. Yes, we probably will, but we haven't decided exactly.
QUESTION: Okay, fair enough, so when I get comments from the side here saying, no, no, no. And what does that mean?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't listen to them, and you shouldn't either.
QUESTION: The answer to my question is, yes. Thank you.
QUESTION: Are there any plans under way, or considerations of translating the tape into other languages, like Urdu or other languages?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
MR. BOUCHER: And, Matt, the answer to your question, which was, "Are you going to put a link to this videotape on your website" --
QUESTION: No, I said is it under consideration?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Okay? We will integrate it into our public diplomacy campaign. Exactly how, I can't tell you yet.
QUESTION: Besides governments that he signed up and has done stories and we have seen comments, the man in the street in many Arab countries seems to have a great deal of sympathy for the man who is rich and lives in a cave and all of that sort of thing.
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't talked to him.
QUESTION: So do you do anything to try to sway the public opinion, not just the governmental opinion?
MR. BOUCHER: This is what we have been talking about here in terms of public diplomacy. The United States Government does a lot, makes a lot of effort to get information out, not only to governments around the world, but also to people in the street, through newspapers, television, websites, promotional materials, brochures, films, things that we make available to television stations and whatever to reach the man on the street, to reach people around the world who care about these subjects.
And that overall effort is called public diplomacy, and as what I said, we are sure that this videotape, the information in this tape will be integrated somehow into those activities, although I don't have details yet on how.
QUESTION: Do you think that you have been successful or unsuccessful so far in doing public diplomacy on this point of view?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have been active. We have had some success. I am sure there are a lot of people we haven't reached yet.
QUESTION: I don't know if there are other issues, but on a different subject, and in a somewhat lighter vein, just for the record, would I be correct to note that the necktie you're wearing bears a certain resemblance to a statue in a European city you just visited?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say it was a gift from people, and whether I like it or not, I'm wearing it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Is the (inaudible) I'm wondering if you can (inaudible) their most (inaudible) or individual bank accounts?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer to that is, I will have to check. Okay? I don't have an update on the team.
QUESTION: I have one. Do you know anything about the State Department holding up licensing of about 24,000 metric tons of corn in several states? The Commerce Department apparently -- this is for aid to go to the region, to Afghanistan -- apparently the Commerce Department issued the license, but the State Department is holding it up?
MR. BOUCHER: Corn?
QUESTION: And satellites.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we license corn. But if you have something specific, let me -- we will look into it for you. I don't think we issue licenses for corn, frankly.
QUESTION: I have a question. Do you know anything about Turkish Government oil companies' plans to prospect for oil in Iraqi Kurdistan, possibly in collaboration with the US oil company? And do you have any views on whether it would be appropriate for --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard about it, so no, I don't have any particular views.
QUESTION: And another one. Have you asked the Uzbeks for any explanation why the Friendship Bridge has not been operating, has not been open for the last, at least a day-and-a-half, I think?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think the bridge has been open. I'm not sure exactly what the status of movements across it is, and whether they have encountered technical problems or not. But the bridge is basically open. They are set up to allow process -- to allow things to cross. And I don't think I can give you an accounting every day for how much goes across. But we certainly have people out there who are working with the Uzbeks and aid agencies to try to make sure that this remains a viable channel to provide food into Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Does the Crocker group -- while you were away, there was an announcement.
MR. BOUCHER: They are still in Northern Iraq. I think Phil has gone through that Ambassador Crocker will visit the main cities in the north. He will meet with representatives of the various parties. And, yes, I think that is about all I have on the itineraries, that they are still there. Let me see.
He will -- well, at the end of his visit to Northern Iraq, he will meet with Turkish officials in Ankara as well, but he is not there yet.
QUESTION: Is he making Northern Iraq safe for oil companies?
MR. BOUCHER: No. It's -- the goals of the visit, which I assume we have gone over with you --
QUESTION: I thought they were honorable political goals.
MR. BOUCHER: The goals of the visit, which I am sure we have gone over with you before, are to demonstrate continued US engagement with the Iraqi opposition, to consult with key players on issues in Northern Iraq, to provide for direct discussions on the status of Iraqi-Kurd reconciliation, and to evaluate the implementation of the Oil-for-Food program in Northern Iraq.
QUESTION: Yesterday I asked about any US on-the-record position with regard to the Turkish-Iraqi construction of a second border gate between those countries. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been opposed to the opening of a second border crossing with Turkey, and we have made that view clear before.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:07 p.m. EST.)