State Dept. Daliy Press Briefing May 10, 2002
Friday, May 10, 2002 1:00 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 1-2 Church of the Nativity Resolution/ Many People and Nations Involved in Resolution 1-2 Sending the 13 Militants Out of the Region/ Destination After Cyprus 2 U.S. Opinion on Status of These Individuals/ Incursion Into Gaza 3 Possibility of Having Peace Conference in Italy/ Secretary Powell's Telephone Calls 4-6 Summit in Sharm el Sheikh on Saturday/Military Aid to Israel/Aid to Palestinians 9 Preventing 13 Militants from Returning to Israel 16 Next Steps to Achieve Cease-fire Agreement/ Travel by Director Tenet
TAIWAN 4,15 World Health Organization (WHO) Entry Plan/ Letter from Congressmen
GEORGIA 6-7 Train-and-Equip Operation/ Possibility of Return to Fighting in Abkhazia
COLOMBIA 7-8 Aid to Colombia/ Diversion of U.S. Government Funds/ Moving AID Offices 8-9 Car Bomb
CUBA 9-10 President Carter's Trip to Cuba
HAITI 10 Elections
RUSSIA 10-11 Links Between Chechens and al-Qaida/ International Terrorism
PAKISTAN/INDIA 11-12 Extradition Request/ Meeting with Interior Minister Haider 12-13,15 Referendum/ Infiltration into India by Militants 14 Travel by Assistant Secretary Rocca
IRAN/RUSSIA/FRANCE/ARMENIA/AZERBAIJAN 15-16 Minsk Group Meeting/ Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
NEPAL 16-17 Maoist Terrorists CHINA/NORTH KOREA/JAPAN 17 North Koreans in Consulate General Shenyang/ Chinese Entering Japanese Consulate
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 60
FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2002 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: What's your -- what is your latest understanding of the deal for the Palestinians who are in the Church?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I can tell you a couple things. First, I want to state what the President stated this morning, that we're very pleased that a peaceful resolution of the standoff at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has been reached. Many people and many nations were involved in this resolution -- the Palestinians, Israelis, Europeans, and the United States, including our diplomats on the ground. We're grateful to the European community and Cyprus for taking on the responsibility for solving the issues related to sending the 13 militants out of the region. We do believe it's essential that we refocus our efforts now on the path ahead, and we hope that this very positive development can help make progress possible towards the resumption of security cooperation and of the political dialogue between the two sides.
QUESTION: That's wonderful. But what's your understanding of the situation -- where they are, how long will they be in Cyprus? Where are they going go? There was some suggestion that they may go to Canada, I understand, or at least one or some of them.
MR. BOUCHER: I thought I saw a statement by the Canadians, but in any case, it will be for individual countries to decide. We have been in touch with various nations. We have been I think most prominently in touch with the Europeans on this issue about where these people might go. We certainly appreciate Cyprus making it possible for these people to move out of the region itself, out of Bethlehem itself.
The Europeans, as we understand it, are still considering how they might help in this matter. The Secretary yesterday afternoon talked to a number of European Foreign Ministers. He talked to, first of all, the High Representative Solana, but he also talked to Foreign Minister Papandreou of Greece, Foreign Minister Pique of Spain, Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy, and we'll continue to be in close touch with a variety of Europeans on this issue as they look to what they might do to help facilitate this.
QUESTION: Right. Well, can I just add -- does the United States have an interest in where these people eventually go, whether it's in Europe or anywhere else? I mean, I understand that Greece is actually a possible place for at least some of them, and that there may be some concerns from the US about --
MR. BOUCHER: I was asked a similar question yesterday, and I said not that I'm aware of, that we're not trying to specify where they need to go or must go, but we're looking for others to look at what they might do to help them go somewhere.
QUESTION: What's the State Department's understanding of what these people are? There's been some confusion. Arafat says that they are studying abroad; the Israelis say they never can come back. Are they tourists? What are they?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how to specify that. I think the modalities of their entry and status in any given country would depend on the country and on the individual who might be going there. So that would be something for each of these countries to look at, depending on the individuals involved. And second of all, I'm sure each of the countries will want to do what they can to do what's appropriate for public safety, if there's any consideration of that involved, depending on the individual.
QUESTION: Has the US privately expressed in these negotiations an opinion on the status of these individuals?
MR. BOUCHER: We have discussed with the Europeans that we have been in touch with some of the questions that they have about the status of these people. But beyond trying to pass information, I'd say it's ultimately up to them to decide how to handle them.
QUESTION: Richard, the Israelis still look as though they're preparing for an incursion into Gaza of some kind. What are you telling them about -- what advice are you giving them on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Same advice we've given for the last several days and that the President gave the other day when he spoke in public, that we recognize Israel has a right to defend itself. We do not in any way give Israel a green light for military action. We do counsel Israel to consider the consequences of any actions they might take. As the President said, to consider peace and how to get there, and whatever actions are taken need to contribute to that goal, and not detract from it.
QUESTION: But you are opposed to incursions; is that not correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we have always been opposed to incursions.
QUESTION: So are you asking the Israelis not to incur?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our policy is well stated and well known on that.
QUESTION: What did you think of the ticker tape parade that the Palestinian militants got when they went to Gaza? Would you have an opinion on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Do you think that that contributes to an atmosphere of peace that would defuse the situation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an opinion on that. So don't ask me to express an opinion right after you ask whether I have an opinion on it.
All right. Any other opinions I can't express?
QUESTION: I have a question about coordination. Who was it that decided today and yesterday that the White House, that your counterpart at the White House would refer to red lights and yellow lights, and you would refer to green lights?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't realize we were that good, actually, Matt. But I'm sure it was done by a greater wisdom than mine.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you could comment, apparently the Israelis are now saying that they would like this peace conference to happen in Italy. I wonder if they're just making fun of the Italians, or whether you're actually planning to have a peace conference --
MR. BOUCHER: We are not planning at this point any specific location for this peace -- this meeting, ministerial meeting, as we call it. As the President said and the Secretary said, we need to gather together the ideas and try to see how they can be brought together and how to chart a way forward. That process is ongoing with the President's meetings, with his contacts with people in the region, and with the Secretary's meetings and contacts with people in the region. But at this point we're not -- we don't have any decisions on timing or venue or questions like that.
QUESTION: On that note -- sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: All right, well, one of these days we'll go beyond the front row.
QUESTION: The Secretary yesterday spoke to Foreign Minister Maher and Prince Saud. I assume they spoke about the conference -- the meeting, sorry -- the ministerial gathering.
MR. BOUCHER: They spoke about how to proceed, how to move forward.
QUESTION: Can you say any more about that?
MR. BOUCHER: No. He keeps in touch with a lot of people in the region, as well as Europe and elsewhere, and they continuously discuss how to proceed and how to move forward.
QUESTION: And what about the summit that's taking place in Sharm el Sheikh on Saturday? Did they talk about that? And did he --
MR. BOUCHER: I assume they discussed a lot of things. They are meetings with Arab leaders in Egypt right now, and that's obviously one of the discussions that he has with Arab leaders in Egypt.
QUESTION: To clarify the conflicting reports, can you clarify that the United States will deal directly with Arafat only and advise the same thing for the Israelis for the peace process?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite understand the question. We've, for the last three days, sort of discussed this and always said Arafat's the leader of the Palestinians. He needs to lead. He needs to exercise authority. And we would intend to deal with him as the leader, but expect him to exercise authority to stop the violence and build a cleaner, more transparent, more democratic set of institutions.
QUESTION: But the Israelis are saying still that they will not --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, if you want to ask them about their policy, you'll have to ask them.
QUESTION: On Taiwan? Some congressmen wrote this letter to the Secretary, said they are disappointed for the WHO entry plan submitted by the State Department. Has there been any response to those letters?
MR. BOUCHER: Depends which letters you're talking about. We've had a certain number of exchanges already with Members of Congress about it.
QUESTION: From the Senate and House.
MR. BOUCHER: But brand new, or the stuff that we received a couple weeks ago?
QUESTION: May 1st.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to see if we've responded to that letter. We have, I think, written repeatedly to Members of Congress and told them our policy.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) policy?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll get it for you, if I can.
QUESTION: Monday is the United States going to endorse the WHO entry for Taiwan as an observer?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what you were just asking me, and I'll get an answer to you, as I said.
QUESTION: Next week, Congress is going to take up the budget supplemental and is planning to give a lot more money in military aid to Israel. Does the administration think that this is the right time for more military aid to Israel?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been in close touch with the Congress as this bill has moved through. We have been in conversations with Members on the Hill. At this point, it's still being worked. It's a fairly fluid situation, so I'm afraid we're just going to work it with the Congress and not take positions here.
QUESTION: But your request on that did not include this military aid, did it?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right.
QUESTION: So does that -- is that -- I mean, can we induce the position of the administration based on that?
MR. BOUCHER: You can induce --
QUESTION: Can we deduce?
MR. BOUCHER: You can reduce the position of the administration going in to where it was when we submitted the supplemental. That's quite clear. At this point, we're trying to work this bill with the Congress. We're trying to keep in close touch with Members. Obviously we want to see the funding for the fight against terrorism. Obviously we value the ideas that Members have, and we will work with them as we go forward.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? If such funding goes through, would you be balancing it with increased aid to the Palestinians?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we are working the situation right now, and I don't have a definitive answer on this bill yet because the bill is not definitive yet. You can check on the Hill where specific elements stand.
QUESTION: Is extra aid for Palestinians an element that's being discussed?
MR. BOUCHER: Check on the Hill where things stand.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, surely the administration does have a position on it, yes?
MR. BOUCHER: Surely we will discuss this with the Congress as the bill moves through --
QUESTION: I'm sorry -- so you say you have no position?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to take a definitive position on the bill at this point until there is a definitive bill.
QUESTION: Yes, but you would like to see it move one way or another or --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we're going to do this with the Congress. We're going to talk to the Congress about this. We're going to work with Members of Congress about this. We value -- there is a variety of ideas up there about what to do, and we'll keep working it. That's generally the way we've worked legislation, rather than trying to stake out a position from this podium, and I'm not going to do that now.
QUESTION: Well, as a matter of fact, no, you pick and choose which legislation you want to talk about, as you well know, and not --
MR. BOUCHER: I choose not to with this one.
QUESTION: Fair enough.
QUESTION: Change the subject to Georgia?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Did President Shevardnadze give the US a written guarantee that he would not use US-trained troops in Abkhazia?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'd have to, first of all, check with Defense about the purposes of the training and train-and-equip operation in Georgia. We have, I think, made quite clear the intention is to equip Georgians to be able to better deal with situations of terrorism, particularly in the Pankisi Gorge area; to better control their own borders, not to mount some new fighting force to go into Abkhazia. That has been the understanding all along. We have made that clear, I think in public. We've made it clear to the Russians. We've made it clear to the Georgians. Whether President Shevardnadze provided a letter or not, you'll have to check with the Georgians.
QUESTION: A senior US State Department official is being quoted as saying --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's very nice, but you'd have to check with the Georgians to get something on the record.
QUESTION: Can I follow that up, then?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: How does the State Department rate the possibility of a return to fighting in Abkhazia?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we can do a rating for you on that. Obviously it's a situation that we talk to the parties about, that we follow closely. We've repeatedly discussed it with President Shevardnadze, with Russians and others, to try to make sure that everybody does everything they can to resolve the situation peacefully.
QUESTION: One other question. Does it concern you at all that just this week Shevardnadze said that he wants to see a strong and united guerrilla force in Abkhazia?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see those remarks, so I don't have any comment at this moment on them.
QUESTION: Can you go back to the issue you were asked about yesterday about the funding for Colombia? There has now been a report that some of this US aid has vanished.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me give you the real facts on this one. I think I said yesterday it sounded weird and I didn't know anything, both of which were correct, I must say. So let me give you the facts. I've got them today.
We discovered about two months ago that there was a diversion of US Government funds from an account used by the Colombia counter-narcotics police to cover administrative expenses. That's things like office supplies and fuel for vehicles. At that time, we froze the account. This funding is a very, very small part of our overall assistance to Colombia and has not directly affected our counter-narcotics programs, including the aerial eradication program.
Immediately upon determining that diversions were occurring, we raised the issue with Colombian authorities. The Government of Colombia immediately began an investigation through President Pastrana's Office Against Corruption. Six Colombian counter-narcotics police officials - - that's two colonels, two majors and two captains -- have been removed from the police so far.
The Colombian Attorney General is also exploring possible criminal violations. As the administrative review is not yet complete -- the criminal investigation is still underway -- it is not appropriate for us to discuss this in much further detail.
This just in -- the Colombian National Police Anti-Narcotics Director General has been reassigned and replaced by General Jorge Enrique Linares. General Linares is well known to US Embassy personnel, considered to be highly qualified.
QUESTION: So (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, not yet. We do expect there will be further administrative action against other individuals who appear to be involved. When that's happened, we can resume full administrative support for Colombian counter-narcotics police activities. There's about $2 million involved.
QUESTION: Can I just -- getting back to this perennial question of "expect," when you say you expect further -- does that mean you think that the Colombians are going to, or you want the Colombians to?
MR. BOUCHER: I think in this case it means both.
QUESTION: Can you just clarify -- this was money that was just pocketed? Did they just use it to enrich themselves personally, or was it they were using it for something --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we know exactly yet. There is an investigation underway that I think would determine ultimately where the funds ended up. But we know the funds were diverted from an account. They're not where they should be.
QUESTION: Same country?
MR. BOUCHER: Same country. Sure.
QUESTION: Do you think this is an isolated incident?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a very, very small part of a major program. As you know, we always look at our programs to make sure that the funds are being properly accounted for. This problem indeed was discovered by US Embassy oversight measures that are designed to ensure that US Government funds are properly used. And then we worked with the Colombians on the investigation.
Our support for the counter-narcotics programs and for the Colombian counter-narcotics police remains strong. We are confident of the professionalism and the dedication of the vast majority of its members.
QUESTION: You guys notified Congress that you're going to be moving AID offices in Bogotá from an off-site, off-embassy compound location to the Embassy. Can you explain why this is being done?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: You don't want to talk about the car bomb?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll find out. Well, if you want to hear about the car bomb that was discovered a couple months ago, I think it was -- no?
MR. BOUCHER: April 28th, okay. Somewhere between a couple days and a couple months.
April 28th, Colombian police successfully deactivated explosives in a vehicle parked near a commercial office building in Bogotá that houses, among other things, a major Colombian newspaper called El Tiempo, US Agency for International Development, the German Embassy, the offices of the Colombian Electric Company and a number of businesses. We have no indication that the US Agency for International Development was a specific target, but as a precaution we have begun relocating USAID employees to the Embassy compound. And that should be completed shortly.
QUESTION: I want to go back to the 13 Palestinians that are in Cyprus now. Who is -- is the United States paying their hotel bill or any of their accommodations? Is the United States picking up any of the costs of their trip?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll check on that. I hadn't heard anything like that.
QUESTION: Another question. Has the United States offered any specific guarantees to Israel regarding these 13 people, that they would somehow be prevented from returning to Israel or from carrying out anti-Israeli activities from overseas? Did the United States -- was the United States asked to provide such guarantees, and did it provide such guarantees?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it would be quite speculative at this point. The arrangements and discussions are still underway as to the modalities of where these people should go and how they should be treated. To some extent, as I mentioned at the beginning, it will depend on individual countries, individual governments, and individual people where they end up. So I can't give you an across-the-board answer like that.
QUESTION: President Carter is going to Cuba on Sunday. Do you have any ideas on what he should focus on?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I would say in advance, as I think we've said before, that he is traveling to Cuba, we understand, from April [sic] 12th to 17th. He's on a private trip. He's not traveling as a representative of the US Government. We hope that President Carter, as a strong supporter of democracy and human rights, can deliver a very direct and straightforward message that it's time for a rapid and peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, and that the Cuban people's freedoms of speech, assembly and to choose their leaders are respected.
We think it's time for the Cuban Government to stop the repression and violation of human rights. Cuba should no longer be the exception in the hemisphere, but rather should join the inter-American community of open market democracies.
We also hope that President Carter will visit the political opponents of the regime, call for the release of the hundreds of political prisoners held by the Cuban Government. Their only offense is to insist upon the human rights for the Cuban people and to call for a peaceful dialogue between the Cuban Government and its citizens.
QUESTION: You said April 12th.
MR. BOUCHER: Did I say April 12th?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think I meant May 12th, although --
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to Carter's (inaudible) -- (laughter) --
MR. BOUCHER: The one last month? (Laughter.) All right. May 12th, sorry.
QUESTION: The words that we all wrote down (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: It's worse that I read it; it's written here, and I read it.
QUESTION: On Caribbean islands with boat people, Haiti announced today, Aristide said that he would be holding elections in November for these disputed senate and for all of the deputies. I just wondered if you have any reaction to that announcement.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I hadn't seen that. I think we've strongly supported efforts to work on democracy in Haiti, and particularly the OAS efforts. So I'll look and see if that's some kind of result of this.
QUESTION: I wanted to go back briefly to almost -- across the border from Georgia. There was something that Deputy Assistant Secretary Pifer said yesterday in his testimony that I wanted to pick up on. He took exception to what he called media reports that said that the United States Government had talked about extensive links between the Chechens and al-Qaida, and said that in fact they talked about specific allegations of links with international terrorism.
Can you tell me, does the administration differentiate between the concept of international terrorism and al-Qaida?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I think what he might have been referring to -- what I remember talking about is training. We talked about training between people in Chechnya and the al-Qaida network, international terrorism. So he may have been -- I didn't see the testimony -- he may have been just saying it was a specific kind of activity that we saw.
QUESTION: But when you say international terrorism, you mean al-Qaida?
MR. BOUCHER: We mean al-Qaida and others, unfortunately.
QUESTION: Richard, what's the current US position and also the position of your discussions with the Pakistani Government on the possible extradition of the man whose name appears in many different versions, but let's call him Omar Sheik?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's anything new on that. We have made clear in the past, and repeatedly, that we want to try him. We have made clear from the beginning that there was always a question of when different jurisdictions want to try somebody and punish somebody, how to work out the sequencing of that. We decided in this case that the Pakistani judicial system should go first. And that's where the matter stands.
QUESTION: But if he were going to be sentenced to death, though, would you feel that you have to try him before he would be extradited back to the Pakistan --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate at this point. I think all I'm saying is Pakistanis are holding the trial first.
QUESTION: Another issue on Pakistan?
QUESTION: For the moment can I just go to follow up on that? So while the trial goes on, then your extradition request is dormant, shall we say? Or latent?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the proper legal term or descriptive term would be, but --
MR. BOUCHER: -- there's nothing new while the trial is going on.
QUESTION: On Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: On Pakistan.
QUESTION: Well, the Deputy Secretary's meeting with the Pakistani Interior Minister today, is this just an extension of the counterterrorism talks? And also, I guess there was a statement or something put out yesterday about those talks, but I'm not sure -- is there any solid result from the counterterrorism meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we talked about it a little bit here. We put out a media note or a statement the other day about the topics that they had discussed. Yes, this is a follow-on discussion to the US-Pakistan joint working group on counterterrorism law enforcement, without the "just" in the sentence.
But they are meeting this afternoon, Under Secretary Armitage and Pakistan's Interior Minister, they'll talk about the war on terrorism, cooperation on a broad range of counterterrorism, counter-narcotics and law enforcement issues, and probably some regional issues as well.
QUESTION: How about domestic Pakistani issues, like President Musharraf and his political aspirations?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know to what extent we might discuss politics or hear from the Interior Minister about politics. Certainly, the overall state of affairs with regard to President Musharraf's speech of January 12th and his desire to move Pakistan in a more moderate direction, and to move away from extremism in his country. And that's the backdrop and essentially the subject of discussion.
QUESTION: Yes, one more on this. You mentioned the other day that you guys would be willing to help the Pakistanis in any way you could, any way they asked, if they did ask, for the investigation into the Karachi bombing. Do you know if they have made any such requests?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't. I'd have to check.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Since that January 12th speech, are you pleased with the actions that Musharraf has taken to combat extremism in his country?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've noted a number of steps that he's taken in that direction, as well as a number of steps to continue to move towards October elections and democracy so that we've commented on individual steps as opposed to trying to provide an overall assessment.
QUESTION: Which steps in particular? Because I believe he let most of the people he'd arrested out of prison?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to go back to the record and look up what we said.
QUESTION: One, today, I mean, at least do you favor or support his referendum? Which most of the US daily newspapers --
MR. BOUCHER: The simple answer is no, I'd refer you back to everything we said about it a week or two ago when it was happening.
QUESTION: And two, as far as this delegation is concerned here, I understand they are also going to discuss the Pakistanis being held in US jails in connection with or immigration or --
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at the note that we put up the other day and cited Pakistani detainees in the United States as one of the issues that was discussed.
QUESTION: How long are you going to hold them? Because that's the --
MR. BOUCHER: Check with Justice and INS on --
QUESTION: -- the Pakistani community is asking that what are the charges, why are you not going to bring the charges against (inaudible) if they're connected with the --
MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to check with Justice and INS on that.
QUESTION: And finally, the discussion will also include the al-Qaida and Taliban inside Pakistan, the US forces are looking now?
MR. BOUCHER: If I were to say yes, I would be confirming a whole lot of suppositions in your question. I'll refer you to the Pentagon for that one.
QUESTION: Will Mr. Armitage and Mr. Haider be discussing the issue of infiltration into India by militants? And are -- is the United States satisfied that the Pakistanis are stopping the infiltration into India of these militants?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know to what extent they'll discuss specifics like that. It's possible that the issue of the line of control and the tensions between India and Pakistan will arise. As you know, this is something we've been working on, something we've been concerned about. The Secretary called President Musharraf Wednesday, and Foreign Minister Singh yesterday, to talk about India-Pakistan issues and tensions along the line of control, and what we might continue to do, what they might do, what we might help them do to defuse those tensions.
So it remains an issue that we are working on.
QUESTION: You told them this week --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: -- and has he spoken to them for a while about this? Is this -- does this indicate some renewed activity along the LOC, now that the snows are melting?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't link it to anything particular on the ground. I would link it to the continuing desire of the United States to be involved and to continue to try to talk to the parties, see that we all do everything we can to defuse tensions there. As you know, the British are concerned as well, and it's an issue that we discussed with Foreign Secretary Straw when he was here as well.
QUESTION: One more on Pakistan/India?
MR. BOUCHER: It's the same thing. Let's let somebody else ask a question.
QUESTION: One of the Post columns today suggests that a US envoy (inaudible) next week, because of increasing US concern about this --
MR. BOUCHER: Christina Rocca, our Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, is going out next week to India and Pakistan.
QUESTION: Is that specifically on the Kashmir?
MR. BOUCHER: It's on the overall relationship, as we know. We have regular meetings with officials of both countries, either here or out there. Assistant Secretary Rocca has been there a number of times. As I said, the Secretary has been on the phone previously, as well as recently, to continue to work on the issue, to try to reduce tensions.
QUESTION: Do you have the dates yet?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have exact dates for her trip.
QUESTION: And is she just going -- this is the -- the last time she was over there, didn't she have to cancel her -- some -- cut --
MR. BOUCHER: She cut short one of the stops. I forget if it was India or Pakistan.
QUESTION: Is this -- okay, is she --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have the dates. But --
QUESTION: That was the church shooting.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Is she going anywhere else, like Sri Lanka or Nepal or anything?
MR. BOUCHER: All I know at this point is India and Pakistan. I think that's where she's going.
QUESTION: Is the US (inaudible) that no matter how many (inaudible) can take place back and forth, but unless until Pakistan stops sending these terrorists into India, which he has not done like -- you kept saying that he has done a lot since January 12th statement, but he has not according to Indian Government. So the tension will not be reduced.
MR. BOUCHER: As we've said, we've looked over time for a number of things, practical steps by the parties to defuse tension. We've looked for a dialogue between them, if possible, to resolve the issues. So these are all things that we continue to work with them, continue to discuss with them. But certainly in the end, we're not just looking for people to talk to us about it; we're looking for real steps that can help defuse the tensions in the area.
QUESTION: Richard, Afghanistan (inaudible) tensions really has gone up because he is diverting all of these Taliban and extremists and the terrorism to Kashmir (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: That's a statement, not a question. I don't have anything to say about it.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Taiwan?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: You can't state the position on Taiwan WHO now?
MR. BOUCHER: It's been 15 minutes since I said I couldn't, and I haven't had time to go get the --
QUESTION: Okay, just checking. I have two questions, real questions. Do you know if there is an agreement on -- if the administration is working on a free trade agreement with Taiwan?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard anything like that. You'd have to check other departments anyway.
QUESTION: Okay. And tomorrow in Taiwan there's going to be this parade in Taipei, that they're going to change the -- they want to change the name from ROC to Taiwan. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Richard, I believe today was the day that you were going to have your not-so-secret Minsk talks with the Iranians in Paris; is that correct? And if it is, can you tell us what, if anything --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, they were not secret because we're happy to talk about.
QUESTION: Well, I know. That's why I said not-so-secret.
MR. BOUCHER: The Minsk meeting in Paris. The Co-Chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group met this morning with an Iranian diplomat in Paris to provide a briefing on the state of play in the Minsk Group's efforts to resolve the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Minsk Group Co-Chairmen publicly extended an offer to brief Iran during the Key West peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan in April 2001, and this was merely the implementation of that public offer.
We recognize it is a neighboring state to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, that Iran has legitimate interests in being informed about the Nagorno- Karabakh peace process. And that's what we did at this meeting.
QUESTION: May I just ask, what did you brief them on? The talks that are going nowhere at the moment? What did you tell them?
MR. BOUCHER: What did we tell them?
MR. BOUCHER: We tell them, I think first of all, remember there are three co-chairs -- US, Russia and France. I leave our people in the field to try to see if there was a joint message. But I think the basic message is we remain interested, we continue to work with the parties and talk with them about the possibilities of progress.
QUESTION: Do you know if that Iranian diplomat was from the Iranian Embassy in Paris, or was he from Tehran -- or she from Tehran?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Sorry. Last one.
QUESTION: Middle East. What will be the next step for the Secretary to achieve the peace cease-fire agreement after the Bethlehem issue? And when will the Tenet -- Mr. Tenet will be back to the region? When will the envoy Zinni will be back to the region? Can we expect it?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Don't have a specific date on Tenet. Nothing new on Zinni's possible travel. And as far as next steps goes, I would refer you to the statements we've made today that now that the Bethlehem arrangements seems to have been worked out, we really look to the parties to resume their security cooperation, to start moving down towards a political dialogue. We'll be out there working with the parties in the region. I'm sure the Secretary will want to be in touch as well as we look forward over the longer term, not only to security cooperation and economic reconstruction, but political progress as well.
QUESTION: One on Nepal? One more. I'm sorry. Yesterday, Richard, Prime Minister of Nepal told me in New York that he cannot trust the Maoist terrorists in Nepal which recently offered cease-fire. Now, what I'm asking you is that as far as meetings here --
MR. BOUCHER: I think before you finish your question, I have to say I answered that question yesterday.
QUESTION: No, but what I'm saying today in connection with his meetings here, what was he offered as far as US assistance fighting terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I answered that question yesterday extensively.
QUESTION: On North Koreans in China. Yesterday Congressman Lantos and other Members sent a letter to the Chinese Ambassador Yang here and asked the Chinese Government not to send those people back to North Korea and allow some forms of humanitarian accommodation. I'm wondering if you can update us about contacts that you have with the Chinese Government.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything specific. These people remain on the -- three people remain on the premises of our Consulate General compound in Shenyang. We're in contact with the Chinese Government to try to resolve the situation. That work continues.
QUESTION: Have you decided yet whether you're going to take a stand on principle in the matter of the Chinese entering the Japanese Consulate?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think I've said before, this is a matter between the Chinese and Japanese governments that should be based on bilateral and international arrangements. We do take the Vienna Convention's obligation regarding the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises very seriously, and we expect other nations to do the same.
QUESTION: So, but you don't plan to raise this directly with the Chinese?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, it's a matter between them.
QUESTION: I'm sorry?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a matter between the Japanese and Chinese governments.
QUESTION: Richard, on these people, do you have any explanation for why those in Beijing -- that case moved so rapidly, and in this case it's dragging on? What's the difference?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Richard, do you accept that all of the North Koreans fleeing North Korea are governed by the principle of non-refoulement and that they should not be returned to North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, but we say it more directly. We don't think people should be sent back to persecution in North Korea.
QUESTION: What's the security like in that compound?
MR. BOUCHER: As good as possible, and obviously could be better.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:45 p.m.)