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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing January 24, 2002

Daily Press Briefing Index Thursday, January 24, 2002 1:05 p.m. EST

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

~ANNOUNCEMENT~ -1- Briefing on Reconstruction to Afghanistan

~DEPARTMENT~ -1-2,11-12- Unblocking Frozen Afghan Assets

~CHINA~ -2-5,13- Penalties Under Iran Nonproliferation Act -13-14- Chinese Speech on Taiwan

~ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY~ -5-8- Palestine Liberation Organization/Diplomatic Efforts/Incursions/Security -9- Assistant Secretary Burns’ Visit to Middle East -9- Chairman Arafat’s Investigation into Smuggling

~IRAQ~ -9-10- Inspections for Weapons of Mass Destruction

~AFGHANISTAN/CUBA ~ -10- Contact with Countries Re: Detainees at Guantanamo

~RUSSIA~ -11- Meeting with Chechen Officials

~VENEZUELA~ -11,13-14- Planned Demonstrations

~AFGHANISTAN~ -11-12- Visit to Washington by Interim Authority Foreign Minister

~PHILIPPINES~ -14- US Ambassador-Designate Ricciardone

~INDIA~ -14- Investigation on Attack Against American Center

~UZBEKISTAN~ -14- Referendum on Presidential Term

~CAMBODIA~ -15- Elections



1:05 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I would like to note two things off the top. The first is that we will have a briefing here tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. by Under Secretary Alan Larson on the subject of the International Conference for Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan that was held in Tokyo. This briefing will sum up what we did, what happened and what we heard from others there, and where we go next with reconstruction in Afghanistan. So he will be here for you tomorrow at 11:30 in this briefing room.

Second is I wanted to note that the Treasury Department has now signed the license authorizing the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to unblock Afghan government assets frozen in 1999 under Executive Order 13129. The license has been signed by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. It allows the new Afghan Interim Authority to access the assets of the Afghan Central Bank held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It unblocks approximately $193 million worth of gold and $24 million in other assets of the Afghan Central Bank that are held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The next step then will be for the Afghan Interim Authority to contact the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and make whatever provisions they would like for the transfer of those assets.

QUESTION: Richard, this isn't intended to be a criticism, but you'll probably take it at that. But, I mean, for over a week, I guess, people have been saying, you know, it's coming, it's coming.

MR. BOUCHER: We have been saying sort of any day now, just one or two more technical hurdles.

QUESTION: What were the technical hurdles? What was it that allowed them to do this today and not last week?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it was really just getting the one piece -- the one more piece of paper or certification. There were a variety of things. The Secretary did a certification last week. I think we mentioned that at the meetings in Kabul we collected some signatures from Afghan officials, sort of the same kind of signature card you fill out whenever you start a bank account, so that they could demonstrate their authority over the monies. And there was just sort of one hurdle after another of technical things that had to be done, and we are glad to be able to say today that this finally was all accomplished, and the next step is for them to establish whatever procedures they need for the transfer working with the Fed.

QUESTION: Can I ask about China?

MR. BOUCHER: Please.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about these entities that you're sanctioning? (Inaudible) we had heard of, but the other two, who are they, and is it all Pakistan-related?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me see if I can -- did we put out a statement with something? It's in the Federal Register. Okay, I just wanted to make sure I knew what we had said.

Okay, here is what we did. We imposed penalties on three Chinese entities pursuant to the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. This action was taken on January 16th and the determination was published today in the Federal Register. The penalized entities are the Liyang Chemical Equipment Company, a gentleman named Q.C. Chen, and the China Machinery and Electric, or China Machinery and Equipment -- I'm not sure -- Import and Export Company. I have to double-check the Federal Register on that.

The penalties were imposed for the transfer to Iran of equipment and technology that is used for the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons. This equipment is controlled under what is called the Australia Group.

As far as the entities themselves, I think the only thing I can tell you is there are two Chinese companies and one individual, Mr. Q.C. Chen. I don't have any additional information on them.

QUESTION: Is this Chen guy, is he affiliated with either of these two companies, do you know?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to double-check and see what I can say on that.

QUESTION: You don't know what his status is?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to find out. I don't know.

QUESTION: I understand that the State Department informed the Chinese about this. Can you kind of give us some details about what that was like? And have they protested?

MR. BOUCHER: You can ask the Chinese for their reaction. But normally, yes, we do inform -- once these determinations are made, we normally inform the countries involved.

QUESTION: Well, if I could follow up, the Iran -- the sanctions were applied, and there is a waiver clause in the Iran Nonproliferation Act. Did you at first bring this information to the Chinese and try to work something out, or did you make a decision internally to sanction them and just let them know that they were being sanctioned?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to double-check. I don't know, frankly. I'll check for you.

QUESTION: Was the government involvement apparent and heavy in this? John Bolton is making a major speech today in a disarmament conference in Geneva.

MR. BOUCHER: The Conference on Disarmament, yes.

QUESTION: On the whole business. You know, you have NPT, you have other vehicles. And he speaks of vigorous pursuit of companies, but he also speaks of countries that allow this to happen. Can you go a little deeper into the Chinese situation? That's one act.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. What we have sanctioned in this case are companies, companies and entities, corporate entities and an individual, involved in transfers that we felt violated the provisions of the law, of our law, and required us to impose sanctions because these transfers had taken place. As you know, we have had a longstanding dialogue with China on nonproliferation issues, and overall sought to get China to abide by or impose similar standards to those that the rest of the international community follows when it comes to these kinds of transfers.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary talked with Chinese officials about this?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I am aware of.

QUESTION: Was this equipment and technology specifically for chemical or biological weapons, or could it have been used for a number of other things, including --

MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure I am allowed to get into the specific equipment, what we might know about the transfers. That would be under control of the Australia Group. Generally the equipment is sometimes dual-use, particularly in these areas where it involves chemical or biological kinds of equipment. But I will have to double-check and see if I can go into the specific items, whether they were dual-use or whether they were more specifically designed for this purpose.

QUESTION: The penalties -- are there a range of penalties that you could have chosen?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the penalties are fairly straightforward. I can go through them briefly for you. No department or agency of the US Government can procure or enter into any contract for the procurement of goods, services or technologies from these entities. No department or agency of the US Government can provide them with any assistance. They are not eligible to participate in any assistance program. US Government sales of any items on the munitions list of these entities are prohibited. Sales of defense articles, services, design or construction services, are to be terminated, and new licenses denied, existing licenses suspended under the Export Administration Act of 1979.

So that basically cuts off their access to US contracts and US military or dual-use equipment and technology.

QUESTION: Do you have some sort of estimate (inaudible) these companies?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can do that.

QUESTION: Do any of these companies have contracts with the US Government?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Could you check, take the question?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll check for you, yes.

QUESTION: This is not November 2000?

MR. BOUCHER: No, November 2000 was missiles.

QUESTION: Is this something that was discussed when the Secretary was in Beijing or when the President had his visit there? Does it come into these negotiations on Pakistan? And also, the SEMAC sanctions, does that change anything? The sanctions that were imposed on them already for Pakistan, do these add to -- or is this --

MR. BOUCHER: I think these are comparable. I will have to double-check with the lawyers, see if there is any particular difference.

QUESTION: When there were Chinese companies helping Iraq with their telecommunications and some things that the US Government didn't think was appropriate, it made a big stink with the Chinese, and eventually these companies stopped. Did I understand you correctly that we have not -- the US has not warned the Chinese in the past about -- that this was happening, and that this was the first time they were --

MR. BOUCHER: No, you didn't understand me correctly. I have never said anything like that.

QUESTION: Well, so have you --

MR. BOUCHER: I was asked on sort of what is the history of our discussions with the Chinese on this issue, and I said I would check. That's the truth.

QUESTION: Can you tell us the period over which these violations were made, when they started and led up to this point, and if it was all kind of the same time period?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if I can do that.

QUESTION: Would it be years or months, just in general?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't do that right now. I'll see if I can do that.

QUESTION: Can I just try one more?


QUESTION: You probably can't answer this either, but can you sort of just quantify whether or not -- what this would mean in terms of Iran's biological and chemical weapons program? Did this significantly move it along?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I could do that. No, I am sure we are not in a position to do that, given what we know, how we know it, how we are loath to describe what we know and how we know it.

QUESTION: Well, so we can keep trying, right? Do you happen to know if Iran was the final destination for this equipment or if it was moving elsewhere, like to the Middle East?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to conjecture on things. I will find out for you if there is a better description I can give to you of the equipment and its intended use, whether it was dual-use or specifically designed for these kinds of manufacture things. But in many of these cases, as I assume in this one, there is a distinct limit to how much we can say because of the way we learn these things.

QUESTION: This is a new topic, so if anyone wants to -- Middle East? First of all, do you have any comment on some reports from the region, Haaretz and the credible Israeli radio, that the US is considering closing the PLO offices in Washington and elsewhere in the United States?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any comment on that.

QUESTION: Well, similarly, Congressman Engel is asking Secretary Powell to, in effect, declare the PLO a terrorist organization, which of course undercuts the basis for dealing with them, because it was the renunciation of terrorism that led Secretary Shultz to establishing relations with the Palestinians.

Do you happen to know if the Secretary is considering -- you have accused them of support or not doing enough to stop terrorism. Are they going to be listed as a terrorist organization, or are they considered such?

MR. BOUCHER: We have not taken that step.

QUESTION: Just to ask it another way, can you just comment at all? I mean, are you or are you not considering shutting down the PLO offices in Washington?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't comment at all on that.

QUESTION: So you can't deny it either?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't talk about policy under consideration, whether it's true or not, and I'm not in a position right now to do that. You know that we continue --

QUESTION: So this is under consideration; is that what you're saying?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that, Ben. I mean, let's be quite clear on what I said and what I didn't say. "Can you comment at all?" "No, I can't comment at all." At this point, I am not going to talk to you about what are purported to be options under consideration. If we get into that and we say no today and you pick a good one tomorrow and I can't say no tomorrow, it's the same thing as confirming things.

So the point that I would take away from this is to look carefully at where we are. We are continuing to call upon Chairman Arafat to take action against those who are smuggling arms, to account for the actions of the Palestinian Authority in the matter, and to ensure that those who would disrupt the peace process are not able to carry out their actions; to dismantle the terrorist networks.

The Secretary spoke to Chairman Arafat yesterday, gave him this message quite clearly. We remain engaged and involved to find a way for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace. So we continue to work very hard on that and we continue to make very clear the responsibility that we believe Chairman Arafat has with regard to the arms smuggling and with regard to the terrorist groups.

QUESTION: But many times you say policies are under review: the Iraq policy is under review, the envoy policies are under review. Why can't you say this is under review or not?

MR. BOUCHER: "Under review" is one thing. "Are you considering doing X, Y or Z" is another.

QUESTION: Is the policy of leaving the Palestinian Authority office open in Washington under review?

MR. BOUCHER: That's the same question. I mean, it's the same question.

QUESTION: What is your understanding of the status of this bill, the Middle East Peace Commitment Act, which would require you to close the --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Does the Administration still -- still opposes that though, right?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see. I'm not aware what position we have taken on that specific piece of legislation.

QUESTION: You're against it. You were, at least in December.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, good for me.

QUESTION: I'm just wondering if it's -- so this is a -- you just don't want to get into this in any way, shape or form?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know -- yes.

QUESTION: You guys aren't going to -- you're not going to close down the offices? You talk to them all the time. (Laughter.) I mean, just --

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. I'll write that down.

QUESTION: The situation in -- the Middle East situation in general is basically where you just had it. You're continuing to call on Chairman Arafat to take action?

MR. BOUCHER: It's where I just had it. It's where we were yesterday. It's where the Secretary's conversations yesterday with Chairman Arafat, and then I talked about that. He talked to Prime Minister Sharon later yesterday. So the situation continues to be our effort to encourage, push, Chairman Arafat to take the steps that are necessary to end the violence.

QUESTION: Isn't Chairman Arafat pushing the Secretary to send back General Zinni because he says that he needs Zinni in order to take these steps required?

MR. BOUCHER: As I think I said yesterday, I don't want to try to speak for Chairman Arafat's side of the views on General Zinni. But at this point there has been no decision to send General Zinni back, and that option remains open should the Secretary and he decide it's appropriate and useful.

QUESTION: There is an option. Would General Zinni -- have the Secretary and General Zinni had their discussion yet, as envisaged? Or has it kind of been overtaken by --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think they have, no. I don't think -- they certainly haven't had a direct meeting. I frankly don't think they have been on the phone with each other at this point, but they may have and I may have forgotten.

QUESTION: What is your view about the Israeli tanks that have pushed close to Arafat's headquarters, and the fact that he is held there? Does the United States think that that should be changed, or does it accept Israel's move?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we understand Israel's need to take steps to ensure its security. I think we have been very clear that the focus needs to be on Palestinian action against violence and terror, and that's where we believe that Arafat's focus should be -- on the circumstances in the territories and on taking immediate action to improve the security situation there. I'll just leave it at that.

QUESTION: You don't think Arafat's confinement affects his ability to crack down on -- take action against the violence that you're talking about?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I have to say we understand the need for Israel to take steps in self-defense. We are very clear about what the Palestinians need to do. We have welcomed their withdrawal after incursions. We have criticized incursions in the past. But I would also say that more generally we have always encouraged the Israelis to consider the consequences of their actions and what happens after these actions. So, in that regard, we watch these things and try to assess those things.

QUESTION: Okay, well, I guess I just -- are you saying that virtual house arrest, or the office arrest that Arafat is under, is a step that helps -- that ensures Israel's security?

MR. BOUCHER: I certainly think that's the way -- well, that's what Israel characterizes it as, I would have to say. At the same time, we have not tried to characterize particular steps necessarily. We have always felt that incursions such as these --

QUESTION: Stick just to Arafat.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, there's various elements at play here. The first is that we have always been against incursions. We have always felt they were counterproductive, that they don't help. The second is that we have always thought that actions, whether they are actions like these or others, need to be considered in the longer term in terms of the consequences. But that doesn't detract from Israel's need to ensure its security and to do what it thinks is necessary, and frankly it doesn't detract from the focus on Chairman Arafat and his need to take steps to stop the violence.

QUESTION: Okay, let me get this right. You're talking about the incursions specifically related to the one into Ramallah, which has kept -- which is basically keeping Arafat in -- that's how you're approaching it from --

MR. BOUCHER: That's another -- all these incursions, whether it's been in Tulkarm, which they have then reversed, or others -- Jenin earlier -- we have said that the incursions such as those are counterproductive. Now they have done this in Ramallah.

QUESTION: New subject? Can we change areas? The Secretary's meeting with the Foreign Minister of Qatar?

MR. BOUCHER: Armitage, right?

QUESTION: Deputy Secretary.

MR. BOUCHER: Deputy Secretary. Don't have anything. I have to get something.

QUESTION: Yes. Secretary Burns met with Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah last week. Has anything come out of that, or anything you could tell us?

MR. BOUCHER: He did a whole swing through the region, and that was one of his meetings. He was out there working on the counterterrorism activity, the coordination, obviously talking about Middle East peace as well. I don't know that there is anything particular to cite as coming out of one particular meeting, but he had a good series of discussions with countries in that region about the events and the solid cooperation that we have gotten against terrorism.

Other Middle East, Mark?

QUESTION: Is the United States still actively examining whether Arafat was involved in the arms smuggling? And has the United States received any explanation from Arafat, satisfactory or otherwise?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we have not received any -- we have received some explanations. As you know, he has said again, as he said before, that he wasn't involved and that he didn't believe his people were involved. But he has also said he would conduct an investigation, was willing to have a full investigation. I would say we don't have the results of that investigation at this point.

QUESTION: Are you still looking into the --

MR. BOUCHER: I am sure we are interested in any kind of information we would acquire on this affair. We view it as very serious, and we would be interested in anything we can get on it.

QUESTION: A question on Iraq. There was a Reuters wire story shortly before we came out here that said that a US official had warned Iraq that sort of the time is coming short for them to let inspectors back in and that Iraq had for some time been using this period when inspectors hadn't been there to rebuild their weapons programs. It wasn't clear on which programs he was referring to.

Can you confirm that the US has warned Iraq and what it means?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we are all familiar with the President's remarks of a couple weeks ago where that is essentially what he did. And the President did it again -- yesterday, wasn't it?

QUESTION: He had NBC's camera in his ear and he spoke about the -- he called them the US inspectors. They're UN inspectors. But he was close and he did repeat it again.

MR. BOUCHER: I love the ongoing commentary here.

QUESTION: Well, I'm just saying NBC --

MR. BOUCHER: Anyway, the President has repeatedly, I think, made clear what our views are on that. I am not sure there is anything new.

QUESTION: Has someone from the State Department gone and told --

MR. BOUCHER: Have we sent some sort of message recently?


MR. BOUCHER: I have to check on that. I don't know.

QUESTION: Yemen is the latest country to want access to its people at Guantanamo, and they say that if they were allowed to talk to these people it could help the joint investigation on the Cole and other incidents they are concerned are planned for Yemen. Is there any thought being given to let Yemeni investigators sit in on some of the interviews with their citizens?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure how the procedures might work in such a situation. I would leave that open to the people responsible down there and the people responsible for the investigation. I would say that we are in touch with a number of countries. I think I have mentioned to you before that we have told the countries that have nationals in Guantanamo. We have seen a visit by the British. We are certainly in touch with other governments who might be interested in visiting down there, and I am sure we will establish appropriate procedures for that. At this point I don't think there have been any more -- there haven't been any more visits other than the British one, but we are certainly in touch with governments like Yemen and others who might want to visit.

QUESTION: Is it a special case when we have a joint investigation ongoing with them into an attack against Americans, other than the WTC?

MR. BOUCHER: Is it a special situation? Yes, it's a very important investigation to us. But I can't necessarily say that there is something in Guantanamo that relates to that. We'll just have to see.

QUESTION: The Russians are up in arms over the fact that some people from the Department met yesterday with the Chechen foreign minister, as he calls himself. I know that you guys have had meetings with Chechens before, but can you describe what exactly this meeting was about?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. State Department officials yesterday met with Mr. Ilias Akhmadov for a discussion on the situation in Chechnya. As in the past, the meeting was at the office director level. As we have said before, we recognize Russia's sovereignty over Chechnya. We did not meet with Mr. Akhmadov in any official capacity, but as an individual with particular insights into the Chechen conflict.

This is one of a great number of contacts we have had with many individuals, both public and private, as part of our efforts to encourage a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

QUESTION: Richard, where was this meeting held? It wasn't in this building?

MR. BOUCHER: These meetings are held outside the building, and we normally inform the Russians when we do them just so that they know.

QUESTION: And that is where this came from, the protest came from? They heard it from you?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm assuming, yes, that after we informed them they responded, as they have in the past.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Another subject.

QUESTION: Bomb threat at the Embassy in Caracas yesterday. Do you guys think that that was at all related to the pro- and anti-Chavez demonstrations?

MR. BOUCHER: Do I know anything about the bomb threat in Caracas?

QUESTION: It could be a false alarm, but --

MR. BOUCHER: The answer is I don't know anything about a bomb threat in Caracas. I'll find out for you.

QUESTION: Can I go back for a second to Afghanistan? Mr. Abdullah comes today, the foreign minister, and I'm wondering -- well, he's going to meet with officials, and I just wonder, what are you going to talk about? What's on the agenda? And also, just to go back to this money question, this money has been made available. How soon will it actually appear in Kabul to be able to be disbursed?

MR. BOUCHER: The question of the money, first. That really depends on the Afghan government, the Afghan Interim Authority, and their contacts with the Federal Reserve. Now, remember that $193 million or so approximately is in the form of gold, and they may want to leave it as currency reserves. Then there is another 24-25 million that is in deposit accounts that they can presumably transfer or draw upon. So it will be largely up to them, although they have to get in touch with the Federal Reserve and make the appropriate request for that to happen. So that will depend on them from here on in, really.

QUESTION: What about the agenda for the meetings with Foreign Minister Abdullah?

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the agenda with Foreign Minister Abdullah? To continue the discussions the Secretary had in Kabul, first of all; to prepare for the visit of Chairman Karzai next week; and I would say generally to focus on the situation in Afghanistan as regards security and reconstruction, and the actions that the government needs to take and that we want to help them take to get on the path towards effective government and reconstruction of the country.

QUESTION: How seriously does the US take reports that Iran is shipping weapons in? And we have talked about it before, but there seem to be recurring reports now, and getting more credible.

MR. BOUCHER: We follow these things very, very closely. These are important to us. We have called repeatedly upon all parties to follow the Bonn agreements and to continue to cooperate in support of broad-based government in Afghanistan. That remains our position. We have spoken with some concern before. I think if you look at the remarks that Special Presidential Envoy Khalilzad had in Kabul not too long ago, you see that we have expressed our concern about some of the activities which it appeared that Iran was engaged in.

QUESTION: Have there been warnings sent to the Iranians about this, or are you just making public calls for everyone to honor the Bonn process?

MR. BOUCHER: I have to check and see if that is something I can answer.

QUESTION: A little while ago, the Justice Department announced a new visa scheme -- well, not scheme, but a new visa program for people who have been trafficked. And I'm just wondering, the consular aspect of this, were these people treated just as regular visa seekers in the past? You don't know about this?


QUESTION: They weren't, or you don't know?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't know about this. Yes, I don't know.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Going back to Caracas, there was a bomb, but it didn't hurt anybody. But what it really was was a gigantic parade, estimated as as much as 250,000 people in unified opposition to President Chavez. He claims that his parade was three times as large, but nobody believes that.

What I would like to ask you is, do you have an evaluation of those parades? But more important, do you consider that the political situation in this vital neighboring republic is cause for grave concern at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, I think demonstrations, whether they're the opposition or the pro-government, represent the kind of freedom of expression, and particularly in the political process, that we have always encouraged. We have been concerned about things in the other direction that tended to limit the political process or limit freedom of expression, such as with the newspapers.

So I think we would have to say that our belief in democracy makes us welcome demonstrations of whatever kind as expressions of -- as a manifestation of freedom of expression. They are a democratic political process, we think, can best foster the kind of peaceful engagement of Venezuelan citizens and the political process that is necessary to resolve these kinds of situations.

QUESTION: Are you concerned regarding the situation?

MR. BOUCHER: As I have said, we believe in democracy. We believe in people having the ability to express themselves, and we believe in allowing an open political process to resolve these situations.

QUESTION: Do you believe having these alternate parades one after another is conducive to democracy in Venezuela?

MR. BOUCHER: It's people expressing themselves. We support that.

QUESTION: Did you not impose sanctions on Iranian entities that received chemical and biological materials? Why not Iranian entities? Is it because you couldn't identify Iranian entity or Iranian entities?

MR. BOUCHER: Give me a second, and see if I've got the name of an Iranian entity here or not. I'll have to double-check and see if there was such an entity.

QUESTION: On China, Chinese leaders gave a speech on Taiwan's treaty issue, and part of that speech is considered to signal a softer line toward Taiwan, such as welcoming members of Taiwan's ruling party to visit China and developing further economic relations between two sides of the Strait. Do you have a comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't at this point. We're still looking for the actual text, as opposed to the news reports. So once we get the text, we'll have a chance to analyze it and then comment if we wish to.

QUESTION: Richard, a couple minutes ago over at the White House, your counterpart lamented the fact that the Senate had not yet moved to confirm a bunch of people. But one of the people he mentioned was Ambassador-designate Ricciardoni, who I actually thought had been confirmed, but I guess not.

I realize that you guys want to get all of your nominees confirmed as fast as possible, but given the situation in the Philippines right now and the terrorism war, is there added urgency to his confirmation?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm just a little bit loath to pull somebody out, as if that would be sufficient, but let me put it this way. We would certainly like to see all our nominees confirmed, but the situation in the Philippines right now demonstrates why it is important to have nominees confirmed, particularly one for such an important spot.

QUESTION: On the shooting in Calcutta, there were reports that an FBI agent flew in to -- well, just that an FBI agent flew into Calcutta. I know that the Director was already there in New Delhi. But is that part of -- I mean, you said a couple of days ago that the US wants to help with the investigation once there is more information. Do you have any information on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check. I hadn't seen that report. I didn't have a chance to check on it, and I don't have anything new as far as responsibility or results at this point.

QUESTION: A government congressman in Caracas has accused the US Caribbean Command -- I think he mentioned General Pace -- as mounting a conspiracy against the Chavez government.

MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll leave it to the Command to tell how ridiculous that is.

QUESTION: Richard, yesterday you put out a taken question response about the upcoming referendum in Uzbekistan. I was under the impression that last fall, when you guys and the Uzbeks were signing all sorts of various counterterrorism cooperation pacts, I was under the impression that you had said that that didn't mean that you were going to let up any in your criticism of President Karimov's rather authoritarian rule. And this seemed to fall -- I mean, you acknowledge that the referendum is not going to be free and fair, but you don't seem to be doing any -- you don't seem to say anything other than that.

Are you expressing concern directly to the Uzbek authorities about the conditions for this referendum?

MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at the answer we put up yesterday, and the Human Rights Report that we put out every year -- when did we last put out the Human Rights Report? -- that we will put out shortly, that you will see that we have continued to make clear the importance of human rights. The answer yesterday said that we look to a more free and more fair process than the one that was going on for the Uzbek people to be able to express their views about their government. And I think we have made that quite clear all along in our discussions.

And second of all, as I said yesterday, it's not just a matter of not letting up; it continues to be a matter where we believe around the world that the best guarantee of stability, the best way to avoid terrorism and some of the sources of terrorism, is to offer political avenues to resolve issues, to offer avenues for freedom of expression, so that we see maintaining and expanding human rights as an essential part of fighting terrorism.

QUESTION: But in terms of Monday's referendum -- Sunday's referendum, you've given up on the idea of it being a free and -- meeting any kind of international standard?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, we have -- yes, we have made quite clear our views in that answer yesterday. And as I think we mentioned, neither we nor the OSCE has felt it necessary to go down and observe this.

QUESTION: Because the conditions are so bad?

MR. BOUCHER: Because the conditions are such there's little hope that it would be a free and fair expression of people's views.

QUESTION: Why are you treating --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that is particularly soft-pedaling it, I guess is the bottom line on my answer to your question. We are quite clear that we don't think this is a free and fair expression of the people's views, and therefore we're not participating or observing or otherwise associating ourselves with it.

QUESTION: I've got another election question. This one is on elections coming up in Cambodia. I know that you had something to say about that, I guess last month. Is there anything new you have to report on pre-election violence there?

MR. BOUCHER: Don't think so.


QUESTION: You probably don't have an answer to this question.

QUESTION: It's already been asked.

QUESTION: Apparently it's been asked.

MR. BOUCHER: I guess so. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m. EST.)


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