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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing March 13, 2002


Daily Press Briefing Index March 13, 2002 12:45 p.m.

Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

ZIMBABWE 1-6,13 Zimbabwe Presidential Elections Neither Free Nor Fair/ U.S. Considering Broadening Sanctions / U.S. Views Versus Those of African Countries/ No U.S. Advice to Zimbabwean Opposition/ Views of African States/ Protest Detention of US Diplomats

SUDAN 4-5 U.S. Officials Meeting with John Garang

MEXICO 5 Monterrey Conference and Africa Economic Development

ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 6 Shooting Death of Italian Journalist 6-7, 9-11 Contact With Israeli/Palestinian Leaders on Zinni's Trip to the Middle East/ General Zinni's Travel Plans/ Objectives/ Re- occupation of Ramallah 8,12 U.N. Security Council Resolution on Israel/Palestinians 9,10 U.S. Reaction to U.N. Secretary General's Comments on the Middle East

EGYPT 11 Drowning of US serviceman in Egypt

TAIWAN 12 A/S Kelly's Meeting with Taiwanese Official/ Chinese Reaction 12 Senator Helms' Letter About American Institute in Taiwan Nominee

LIBYA 13 Scottish Court' Expected Decision on Libyan Defendant 13,14 Libya's Compliance with U.N. Resolutions

PHILIPPINES 14 U.S. Reaction to Video of Hostages in Philippines

DEPARTMENT 14 Deputy Secretary's Briefing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 14 Deputy Secretary's Meeting with Baltic Defense Ministers

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #32

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13, 2002 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

12:45 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I'd like to read a statement on the Zimbabwe election results. This is a statement by Secretary Powell that I will read on his behalf.

There is overwhelming evidence that the March 9th to 11th presidential election in Zimbabwe was neither free nor fair. The pre-election period was marked by a sustained government-orchestrated campaign of intimidation and violence, and the numerous and profound irregularities in the electoral process itself resulted in an outcome that does not reflect the will of the people of Zimbabwe. As a result, Mr. Mugabe can claim victory but not democratic legitimacy.

For over two years, the Mugabe Administration has systematically subverted democratic principles and processes. His government's policies and actions have been marked by a blatant disregard for the rule of law, serious human rights abuses, a broad repression of the Zimbabwean electorate, and ultimately the disenfranchisement of thousands of Zimbabwean voters.

This fundamentally flawed election will only deepen the crisis in Zimbabwe and the suffering of the Zimbabwean people. The United States will consult closely with other governments to develop appropriate responses to this major setback to democracy in Zimbabwe. Among the responses we are considering is a possible broadening of sanctions against those responsible for undermining democracy in Zimbabwe.

And with that, I'd be glad to take your questions on this or other topics.

QUESTION: Does this mean that the United States will wait for -- I'm not suggesting a delay -- but wants to act jointly with other countries, that there's nothing the US would do on its own? Secondly, how is this resonating among African countries, this rigging of elections? And third, any thought of going to the UN? Do you think the UN would want to listen to this, listen to your complaint? Is it a place to go?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't exactly know why it would necessarily be a place to go.

QUESTION: Well, to get world support, I suppose, for sanctions.

MR. BOUCHER: I suppose it's conceivable. I'm not aware that's ever been done in the case of flawed elections before, but I'd have to check the records. What is important is that we coordinate with other governments. I think you've actually already seen, several other governments have issued similar statements and made quite clear that they do not accept the results. This was an election that was won by intimidation and not by votes, and we've seen that also in the statements by other observers, the South African Development Community Parliamentary Forum observer mission. Other credible observers came to similar conclusions on this election. Severely flawed, like we say.

We think it's a moment for the Parliamentary Forum and other African states to speak up in defense of the rule of law, respect for human rights, and democratic principles. As I said, we will be consulting with other governments on this stolen election and about the steps that we might take, and those steps would be directed against those who subverted democracy in Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Is one of the steps that you're considering the freezing of assets for Mr. Mugabe and his associates in the regime in this country?

MR. BOUCHER: There are a variety of steps that we can consider. One of them indeed could be the blocking of assets of specific individuals. It could be a formal ban on commercial export licenses for defense articles and services, and there are other measures that we might deem appropriate.

QUESTION: Did you argue, though, for his neighbors imposing some kind of economic embargo otherwise, rather than having more strident action from outside the region?

MR. BOUCHER: I think what we would say is we would argue that all nations, including the neighbors, should take a look at these results, take a look at what happened in Zimbabwe, recognize the difficulties that this causes, not only to the people of Zimbabwe but also the neighbors, as Zimbabwe's crisis deepens. But each would decide what it needs to do, or they might decide as a group what kind of action they might want to take.

QUESTION: Richard, you mentioned that a number of other governments have also weighed in with similar assessments of this election, but, in fact, the neighbors that you were just talking about have not. They have, including the OAU, these people have come out and said that they see the election as -- that the election was free, fair and credible.

What do you make of this divide between what the African nations are saying about the election and what you guys and your European allies, for the most part, are saying?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think that kind of assessment is, frankly, not based on fact. We have seen -- yes, there have been different statements by different observers. The ones that I was citing for you were from the Southern African Development Community, SADC, as it's frequently known, which is a group of parliamentarians sent by those neighboring nations, and they reached very similar conclusions to ours. So, yes, I understand that there have been some observers or some voices who were out there during this election that did not reach similar conclusions, but there are at least some Africans who have felt very similar to what we did about this, as I said, stolen election.

I would also point out that Assistant Secretary Walter Kansteiner is in the region, I believe in South Africa now, and he is meeting and consulting with countries in the region about the situation and about next steps.

QUESTION: Can you --

QUESTION: Hold on. Can I get an answer? What do you make of the divide between your position and that of many of Zimbabwe's neighbors?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, South African Development Community, their parliamentarians, those are the neighbors.

QUESTION: They're farm (inaudible). Richard --

MR. BOUCHER: Those are legislators from the neighbors. There are others. There was some kind of South African observer delegation that issued some kind of positive statement. I would say that we have seen different African voices, but I'm not going to let anybody draw a conclusion that there's a divide between what the Western world has seen and what the Africans have seen. There are Africans that saw the same thing as we did.

QUESTION: Well, you look at South African legislatures who do not represent the executive of that government, and I'm talking about President Moi of Kenya has come out and congratulated President Mugabe on his vote. The team of election -- of observers that were sent by the Namibian Government, not necessarily legislators, have come out and said that they think it's free, fair and credible. You know, I'm not sure it's credible for you to say that there isn't a divide, because there is one.

MR. BOUCHER: There's no divide. There are different -- I grant you that there have been different African voices in their assessments of these elections. Perhaps over time, as the facts come out even more, we'll see some sort of convergence of the different African voices we've heard. But I would not say that there's any kind of dramatic split between Westerners and Africans on this; there are some Africans who in fact have reached the same conclusions as we have.

QUESTION: Well, is coming to a conclusion that's different than yours or your allies something that you are prepared to discuss with the government that does so?

MR. BOUCHER: We are prepared to discuss with the countries in the region, and Assistant Secretary Kansteiner is discussing with the countries in the region all the flaws that we saw in this election, how it was stolen, how it was an election decided by intimidation instead of by the voters, and then what to do about that, or what it means for people in the region, what it means for us, and what we ought to do together about it, because we are interested in working very closely with African nations about this issue.

QUESTION: Can you reach back -- I mean, some of us remember when the State Department was cheering Mugabe on against a white-ruled minority government of Ian Smith. He was one of your hopes, like some of the people Matt is quoting, who also are commending him, had strong US support as being a new democratic force in Africa. What went wrong with Mugabe? Did he stay too long at the fair? Does power corrupt absolutely? What is the -- is there an analysis in this building what went wrong in this country with this leader?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can give you an assessment of 20 years of Zimbabwean history.

QUESTION: I'll ask a think tank.

MR. BOUCHER: Why don't you ask a think tank? I would point out, though, that this administration has, since its inception, paid a lot of attention to this. You remember the Secretary discussed the issue of Zimbabwe with other governments when he made his first trip to Africa, and in South Africa he recommended retirement for leaders who had been in office a long time, including President Mugabe.

QUESTION: But not --

MR. BOUCHER: So -- what?

QUESTION: He didn't recommend it for correspondents, did he?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Because you've been here so long, we would expect you to remember this as much as I have, as well as I did.

But anyway, so this has been a subject on our agenda all along. It has been a subject we have discussed with Africans, with Europeans. The Secretary has been in close touch with people in Africa. He has talked with various European foreign ministers -- Jack Straw, among others -- about this repeatedly over the last few weeks. And so it is a matter of international concern, and a matter that has been on his agenda, certainly, from the first days of this administration.

QUESTION: What is your advice to the opposition right now?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll hold off on that for the moment.

QUESTION: On Sudan. What is the State Department's plans to speak with, if there are any, John Garang who is in town, the SPLA leader?

MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday I mentioned that we would have meetings with him. Assistant Secretary Kansteiner will meet with him when he gets back; I think that means Friday. And there may be other meetings. I don't think the other meetings are pinned down yet, but I'll check.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on what he has been saying so far in town, that this deal that was reached is really not comprehensive enough to make a difference in all of the country, and that the United States shouldn't settle for such a limited cease-fire?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen those comments. But clearly the four points that Senator Danforth put forward and got the government to agree to, and the SPLA for that matter, constituted the beginning of a peace process, not a settlement.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate -- I understand that NEPAD, the New Partnership for African Development, is going to be discussed in Monterrey at the UN Conference this weekend. Do you anticipate the US may rethink its funding for NEPAD in light of the Zimbabwe election?

MR. BOUCHER: NEPAD?

QUESTION: NEPAD.

MR. BOUCHER: I think you're referring to the sort of -- the African Renaissance Plan, the --

QUESTION: NEPAD. The New Africa --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I'm not going to use such an atrocious abbreviation.

QUESTION: Please do, yes. (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: That will never cross my lips. (Laughter.)

No, I think the point of financing for development, the point that we have made, both in preparations for the conference in Monterrey, as well as the point that we've been making when we went to Africa and elsewhere, is that we believe that development assistance is best used when it can be used in a context of rule of law, of democracy, of good governance, anti-corruption efforts. And that we intended to support especially those governments in Africa, as elsewhere, who are trying to pursue that course, because that is not only the best way to use public funds and development assistance, but that's the best way to attract private funds and to ensure the development of the country and opportunity for all the citizens.

So we're not shirking from our support for African initiatives, because I believe -- at least I haven't seen these initiatives in recent weeks -- but certainly at their inception, when we discussed them, they, too, put emphasis on the need for good governance and accountable use for the aid and things like that.

QUESTION: As a regional power, could you comment on what role you'd like to see South Africa play vis-à-vis the Zimbabwe elections now?

MR. BOUCHER: We have always encouraged South Africa and others in the region to take a close look at what was going on in Zimbabwe. We recognize that what goes on in Zimbabwe has a very direct effect on them in terms of refugees and economic migrants and support and things like that. And that's one of the reasons why Assistant Secretary Kansteiner is down there to talk to them about the situation.

QUESTION: Sorry. Will Zimbabwe's neighbors' policies towards Mugabe if he stays in power be a benchmark for US relations with them?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we want to work with Zimbabwe's neighbors, we want to consult with Zimbabwe's neighbors. We're doing that now. I think at this moment we better stick with that and not try to lay down benchmarks and tests.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken with anyone today about this?

MR. BOUCHER: About this?

QUESTION: Zimbabwe.

MR. BOUCHER: You mean outside this building?

QUESTION: Well, you mentioned that he had talked to Jack Straw over the past couple of weeks several times about this.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think he has today talked to anyone about this. I'm pretty sure he hasn't.

QUESTION: How about talking to Middle East players just hours before Zinni leaves? Anything going on here? Any contacts? Any -- White House issued an expected statement that, you know, we'd like the two sides to cut it out, set a good basis for mediator Zinni's arrival in Israel tomorrow.

Has the Secretary had any recent conversations with the Israelis or the Palestinians?

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary talked to Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat -- I have to remember -- it was the day before yesterday in the morning. He hasn't had any direct phone calls since then. What we've been doing now is to really press through our representatives in the region -- Ambassador Kurtzer, Consul General Schlicher, have been in contact with both sides to reiterate the importance of the message that they both need to take steps to reduce the violence, they both need to consider the consequences of their actions. And we have stressed again and again the need for immediate action.

General Zinni is planning to depart for the region this evening. He will continue to press both sides to take immediate steps to implement the Tenet security work plan, to reduce the violence, to improve the security situation, and take the first steps towards implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report and the resumption of a political process.

The point that our representatives have been making is that we are very concerned. We're deeply concerned about the loss of life, about the escalating violence. We've noted not only the continuing problems with humanitarian workers, but also the death of an Italian journalist, the wounding of a French journalist by Israeli Defense Forces earlier today. So we continue to reiterate this message, both in public and private, that both sides and all the regional parties need to take immediate steps to create an environment in which progress is possible. This means considering the consequences of their actions, avoiding escalation, ending provocation and incitement, ceasing immediately actions that harm civilians, including damage to civilian infrastructure, access to water and electricity. The focus of both sides must remain on ending the senseless violence and bloodshed and restoring hope to Israelis, Palestinians, and the region as a whole.

QUESTION: You're not suggesting that Israel is shooting intentionally a journalist, are you?

MR. BOUCHER: We find the shooting death of an Italian journalist, the wounding of a French journalist by Israeli Defense Forces troubling. But, no, I'm not -- I can't say. As with the deaths of humanitarian workers -- you know, we've had Israel Defense Force actions and a high number of casualties produced on humanitarian workers, Red Cross, Red Crescent officials, ambulances, hospitals, individuals attempting to transit checkpoints for urgent humanitarian reasons. So, in those cases, while we respect Israel's right to self-defense, we think they need to act with the utmost restraint and discipline. But I can't tell you that in each of these cases that it was intentional.

QUESTION: All right, two quick ones. Zinni has stayed long once and stayed briefly once. Is there any time constraints on his trip? And the obvious, is he considering now going to Egypt and Jordan along the way, or is it kind of an ad hoc trip?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any other stops planned for him at this point, and I really don't have anything about the length of his trip other than what the Secretary has said. The Secretary said that he will stay there as long as he can report progress.

QUESTION: So it's an open-ended trip? Is it open-ended?

MR. BOUCHER: One would hope that he can continue to report progress.

QUESTION: Some senior Palestinian figures are charging that the United States basically gave Sharon a green light to go in and bash who he wanted to bash before Zinni got there. Will you respond to that?

MR. BOUCHER: That's not the case. We don't give the Israelis a green light for their actions. We've been quite clear on our view of some of these actions. We've been quite clear that we expect both sides to take steps immediately to reduce the violence. We have seen as well during this horrible period that we've experienced since the announcement of Zinni's travel, we've seen suicide bombers, shootings in schoolyards and other actions taken against Israelis. So we've called on both sides to take immediate steps to reduce the violence and not to wait for Zinni's arrival to do that.

QUESTION: Given that there are reports of 150 tanks, Israeli tanks that rolled into Ramallah yesterday, would the State Department categorize the situation now as a war?

MR. BOUCHER: We would characterize the situation as one where both sides need to take immediate action to reduce the violence. I'll stick with that. I'm not going to adopt somebody else's words.

QUESTION: Well, it's not somebody else's words. But would you -- are you calling it -- I mean, what would you say is the situation? Both sides have said it's a war. Is Zinni going to end a war?

MR. BOUCHER: Zinni is going out to get the parties to stop the violence, to implement the Tenet plan. That's what we've said all along. That is the truth of the matter, and we'll continue to state it very clearly.

QUESTION: How would you describe the United States-sponsored vote in the United Nations last night? Do you think that will help in the upcoming week with the Beirut Conference and of course Cheney, as well as Zinni's return to the Middle East?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, the effort that we made last night and that the Security Council supported we felt was very productive. We had near unanimous support in the Security Council for Resolution 1397 regarding the very serious situation that exists between the Israelis and Palestinians. Resolution 1397 is significant because it reaffirms the vision that was recently espoused by President Bush, Crown Prince Abdullah and others of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, will live side by side within secure and recognized borders.

The resolution demands the immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction. It calls on both sides to cooperate in implementing the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell Committee recommendations. The resolution also is an endorsement of the efforts of the leaders of the region and the international community to assist the parties in bringing an immediate end to the violence and a resumption of the political discussions towards a just and lasting peace in the region.

The United States proposed this resolution text. The Council approved it earlier this morning by a vote of 14 to zero with Syria abstaining. Both the Palestinian and the Israeli missions in New York welcomed the US-sponsored resolution.

As far as what effect this has on General Zinni's travel, I would say that it does lend support to his efforts. It lends support to -- shows that the international community is strongly behind the effort to reduce the violence, to implement the Tenet recommendations on security, and to move into implementation of the Mitchell recommendations on how to rebuild confidence and get back to peace talks. That's a very important part of the picture, and to have that international backing as General Zinni would plan to go out to the region we think is important.

QUESTION: Also, is this going to change the whole mission of Vice President Cheney, instead of concentrating perhaps on Iraq, now to further look to put a stop to all this violence within days, weeks?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I think people have been asking that question for days, and you see, as from Vice President Cheney's press conference in Egypt that he just did with President Mubarak, that he is dealing seriously with the issue of Arab-Israeli peace, but he is also dealing very seriously with the other issues that he went out to consult on, and our bilateral relationships, which was the original -- the thrust of the trip.

QUESTION: A couple things. Do you have any specific response to the UN Secretary General's comments yesterday about Israel should stop its illegal occupation right now?

And two, regarding the tanks in Ramallah, some senior -- some of Arafat's top aides are saying that Zinni's mission will fail unless Israel withdraws from Ramallah. Do you agree with that, or do you just fall back on the old language that you think that incursions should not be permanent?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we don't -- we still have our view of incursions. But we have asked, we have called on both sides to take immediate steps to stop the violence. We think it's imperative that the Palestinians take steps to end the violence by the shooters and the suicide bombers and others, and we have also called on the Israelis to exercise restraint and to create a positive atmosphere.

So we look now to both sides not to come up with reasons not to take action, but rather to take action to reduce the violence, and we look for them to do that each in their own way.

QUESTION: But they're -- okay, and they're supposed to decide that for themselves, or you have been suggesting --

MR. BOUCHER: No, we've been quite clear with the different parties that we want to see them take actions to reduce the violence and create an environment that can help us make progress.

QUESTION: Okay. But the question, is the assessment that Zinni's mission will fail, unless things are --

MR. BOUCHER: Zinni is not planning on failure. We are planning on going out there to get the parties to implement the Tenet plan, and we'll be pushing for that, and we look for the parties to do that because, ultimately, they're the ones that have to take the steps to reestablish security.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: And how about the first part? Yes. Thank you, Barry.

QUESTION: He seems to have taken a position --

MR. BOUCHER: All right. You want to ask three questions, I'll answer one of them.

QUESTION: No, that was originally Matt's question. When the Secretary General called Israel an illegal occupier, does that help Zinni?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll let the Secretary General explain his remarks as he wishes to.

QUESTION: Yeah, but you've got to worry about the Zinni mission. Does that help the Zinni mission, to call Israel an international occupier, a violator of international law?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll let the Secretary General explain his remarks as he wishes to.

QUESTION: But do you wish to join in with his remarks, I guess is what --

MR. BOUCHER: We have said -- the Secretary said in his speech in Louisville that it is in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians for the occupation to end.

QUESTION: But you don't have any specific comment on his remarks, on Kofi Annan's remarks?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll let him talk about his remarks if he wants to.

QUESTION: Can you say -- can you just answer whether it's illegal?

MR. BOUCHER: Let's go beyond the front -- sorry, let's go beyond the front row. Betsy.

QUESTION: Is Zinni taking any specific recommendations of things that the parties can do to get to the Tenet plan, and do these recommendations include the use of US people as monitors?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I would say that Zinni is not going to recommend things that people must do to get to the Tenet plan. He is going to work to get the parties to take the steps in the Tenet plan right away. We've always said that in the context of implementing the Tenet plan that third-party monitoring could be useful. The Secretary made clear the other day that we are quite willing to participate, that we would look -- that the parties seem to look to Americans to do that. And so he will be, I think, prepared to discuss that with the parties.

But what he's looking for is immediate steps on the ground by the parties. He's looking for immediate steps to implement the Tenet plan.

QUESTION: Richard, can Mr. Zinni succeed while the troops are in -- Israeli troops are in Ramallah?

MR. BOUCHER: That's the same question I was asked before. I don't have --

QUESTION: Yes, it is. It is. I'm just asking it in a different way.

MR. BOUCHER: I know, but I'm not going to answer it in a different way. I'm going to give you the same answer I gave you before. We are looking to the parties, each of the parties, to take steps to reduce the violence and improve the atmosphere. General Zinni is going out. He's going to push as hard as he can for them to implement the Tenet plan. But, ultimately, the parties have to take the steps. The Tenet plan is the one where the parties can achieve better security by cooperating and by taking reciprocal steps than either of them could ever hope to achieve alone through violence. And that's the basis of our mission, and we hope the parties will recognize that and take the steps that are outlined in the plan.

QUESTION: And does the State Department believe that the Israeli presence currently in Ramallah, and for that matter in Gaza and in general in the West Bank, constitutes an illegal occupation or violation of international law?

MR. BOUCHER: We have never described it that way. As you know, Resolution 242 itself refers to the territories occupied by Israel as one of the issues that needs to be negotiated. That has always been our position as well.

QUESTION: One administration described it as illegal, the Carter Administration. They're the only ones that did. So when you say "we", you mean the Bush Administration? The United States has called Israel's occupation illegal.

MR. BOUCHER: All the administrations of which I have any personal knowledge.

QUESTION: I mean, the even-handed administrations haven't described it as illegal.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to question that. All recent administrations. Let me put it that way.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about a body found by Egypt today, apparently wearing a US uniform with papers from the Theodore Roosevelt? The embassy there has acknowledged this.

MR. BOUCHER: Is that right?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: It sounds interesting, but it's news to me, so I'll have to get you something.

QUESTION: Could you check on it, please?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: It's a Defense Department thing. If there's a uniform involved, it probably is.

QUESTION: What can you tell us of this six-month report on Palestinian compliance with various provisions of law? Do you expect it to come out soon?

MR. BOUCHER: I forget the dates on it. Is it end of March or something like that? I don't know. These things are done periodically. I will get you information on it when it's time to put it out.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of Secretary Kelly's meeting with a Taiwanese official yesterday?

MR. BOUCHER: No. They were both down at the conference. It's a private conference, as you know, which Assistant Secretary Kelly attended. They did have a courtesy meeting down there. But, no, we're not going to provide a readout.

QUESTION: A follow-up? The Chinese Ambassador was here yesterday to - - I'm not saying protest, but to mention that it's a violation of the Taiwan policy, of US Taiwan policy. Do you have anything on that and what Mr. Grossman said?

MR. BOUCHER: The Chinese Ambassador did come in to see Under Secretary Grossman on Tuesday about this meeting and about the visit and the prospect of a meeting. They expressed their views in private, as they have in public, and we obviously expressed our view that it's not a violation of our policy.

QUESTION: On Taiwan, there was a letter that was sent last week from Senator Jesse Helms regarding nominee Doug Paal for the American Institute in Taiwan, the AIT. Do you have any kind of response to the charges that they are making in that letter that he may have a financial conflict of interest to take this position, that he has criticized the President before in his Taiwan policy?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Nothing on that?

MR. BOUCHER: Nothing on that. I think if there is such a letter, and I haven't seen it, I think we would leave ourselves the option of replying directly to the senator.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Zimbabwe briefly for one second?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure.

QUESTION: It has not really anything to do with the election. Yesterday you guys sent your formal protest about the detention of the diplomats and also expressed -- I don't know if it was in written form or not -- your concerns about lack of consular access to two Americans who have been detained. Have you gotten any satisfaction on either of those two points?

MR. BOUCHER: My guidance just says "nothing new" so I think the answer is no, not at this point. But, yes, we did protest the lack of consular access by diplomatic note to the Government of Zimbabwe. Our consular officers have still been denied access to two Americans who remain in jail.

QUESTION: Have they offered any explanation or apology for the detention of the diplomats?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, but you'd really have to direct that question to them.

QUESTION: To who?

MR. BOUCHER: To the Zimbabwe Government, if they wish to provide any explanation.

QUESTION: Tomorrow the Scottish court is expected to issue its decision on the appeal by the Libyan defendant in the Pan Am 103 case. This could end the legal processes. Will this trigger anything that you're aware of?

MR. BOUCHER: No, the court decision is not what triggers anything. It would be Libyan compliance with the United Nations resolutions that we've always sought. Obviously we look forward to seeing the decision of the court. We'll look at it carefully. But our policy has been and will continue to be that we seek full Libyan compliance with the terms of the United Nations resolution.

QUESTION: So your position will remain regardless of any overturning or any -- regardless of whether any Libyan ends up actually being convicted of this, you're still convinced that Libya was responsible and they still have to pay compensation and accept it, even if there's no court saying that that's the case?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to start to speculate on the verdict at this point.

QUESTION: No, I'm not asking -- it doesn't matter what the verdict is, it sounds to me.

MR. BOUCHER: Our position is that Libya needs to comply fully with the UN resolutions. I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: But those resolutions do include paying compensation and accepting responsibility, correct?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: So even if --

MR. BOUCHER: You're asking me to speculate on a hypothetical outcome of the court. The court has already found the Libyans, Libyan intelligence officials, responsible for this. And we'll just have to see if they reach any different conclusion tomorrow.

QUESTION: Well, right, but it's not a hypothetical question. Your position is, regardless of what any court says, that Libya has to accept responsibility and pay compensation --

MR. BOUCHER: My position is what I said. I'm not going to rephrase it.

QUESTION: Any comments on a recently released video, perhaps from early January, on detainees, or now hostages, in the Philippines?

MR. BOUCHER: I said something about that this, this is the Burnham -- the case of the Burnhams?

QUESTION: Right, from Abu Sayyaf.

MR. BOUCHER: I think I said something about it last week. I'll try to get that for you.

QUESTION: Richard Armitage briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. Can you tell us what that was about?

MR. BOUCHER: Can I? I knew he was up on the Hill, but frankly I don't remember what the precise topic was. So, no, I can't right now.

QUESTION: How about another Armitage meeting, with the Baltic defense ministers? Do you have anything on that?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Did it happen?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll try to get you something on that, if I can. Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:22 p.m.)

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At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

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

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

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

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

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Other Australian Detention

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

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

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

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

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

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