World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for June 26

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for June 26

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 26, 2002


1 UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

1-4 Contact with Palestinian Leadership
4-5,7-8 Chairman Arafat s Reelection
5-6 Palestinian Authority s Role in Terrorism
6 Chairman Arafat s Reaction to President s Speech
6, 8 Palestinian Aid
8-10 International Reaction to President s Peace Plan
10-11 Democratic Reforms in Region
16 Free Elections

10 Arrest by Diplomatic Security
12 Court Ruling on Terrorist Fund Raising in US
17 Voice of America Award

11-12 Earthquake Relief Aid

12-13 Recognition of Government

14 GAO Report on Smuggling of Nuclear Materials

14-15 Travel Warning

15-16 US Ambassador Nomination

16 Opposition Meeting


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I want to mention one thing. Today is United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, and we're putting out a statement that calls for the elimination of torture, which is something the United States stands for all around the world. So we'll give you copies of that after the briefing.

QUESTION: Does that include the State Department briefing?


MR. BOUCHER: All right. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd be glad to take your questions on that or any other topics.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: No, it's okay. Whatever you need to talk about.

QUESTION: The Secretary did a radio interview to the Arab world yesterday, and he spoke of the administration going to continue talking to Palestinian leaders. In fact, he spoke of having continued this dialogue -- a word I hate -- continued talking to them even up to Bush's speech, the President's speech.

Since I wasn't at the interview, nor had an opportunity to ask him myself, I wonder if you could tell us --

MR. BOUCHER: Are you sure about that?

QUESTION: -- how do you distinguish between -- I mean, which Palestinian leaders is he talking about? Are there people in the Palestinian Authority who are distinctively different in their views on the subjects you care about than the people you want to avoid? I don't know how you make this distinction. Who are these people, please?

MR. BOUCHER: Barry, there are some fundamental assumptions you're making that I have to, I think, challenge here. We're not picking Palestinian leaders. We're not saying, you know, he deserves to have this job; he deserves to have that job. The people within the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian people, need to decide who their leaders are going to be. What we have made clear is that the current leadership has not brought them what they wanted, has not brought them to the point of creating a Palestinian state, and if we're going to create a Palestinian state along the lines of the President's vision, we need new leadership.

It doesn't mean we've stopped to work on the problems now. It doesn't mean we've stopped to talk to people. Our Consul General in Jerusalem has a full range of daily contacts with Palestinian officials. He will continue to work with the people who are engaging in reform, with the people who are responsible for stopping the violence, with the people who we still want to get engaged in security coordination that can make lives better for Israelis and Palestinians.

So we haven't stopped this effort. This effort continues. We're trying to deal with the situation now, even as we do everything we can to support the movement for reform within the Palestinian people--the effort on their part to get a more responsible set of institutions, and we think a more responsible set of leaderships to go forward.

QUESTION: Well, bearing in mind that the President never mentioned Mr. Arafat by name, but spoke of the leadership, and found it inadequate and worse on the terror issue, and wanted these people removed by the Palestinian people -- no one is saying the United States is going to carry out a 19 -- I don't know -- '50s-style coup, the State Department used to be involved in, but that they want the Palestinian people to make these changes.

But still, it's a monolithic structure. The Palestinian Authority is Mr. Arafat's authority, clearly. Everybody there, the senior people, they consider him the elected leader, and they take their constructions from him, their leads from him.

So are you dealing with people in the Palestinian Authority who are indistinguishable in their views on terror and violence from the people you want removed? Are they the same people?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't deal with terrorists. We don't deal with members of the terrorist organizations. We deal with the leadership, the people who are responsible and who we think have a continuing responsibility to push forward, to control the violence, to make lives safer, to make lives better and to conduct the reforms that the Palestinian people so obviously want. That involves meeting with a full range of people, and I'll just leave it at that for today.

QUESTION: Richard, may I attack this from a slightly different way? The Secretary did, in this interview with Radio Sawa, say that Consul General Schlicher had been in touch with senior Palestinians before and after the President's speech on Monday. Can you be specific about who he was talking to?

And also, yesterday it seemed to be a bit unclear whether there was or would be any kind of policy, any kind of directive from either the White House or from the Secretary, from this building, as to whether there could be direct contact between US officials and Arafat himself. Can you -- has there been a decision made on --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any particular directive like that, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, any kind of --

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we are going to continue to do the work that has to be done now, and that is to call on Palestinian leaders from bottom all the way to the top, to take their responsibility and to make the effort to stop the violence. That's an immediate need. Our Consul General is going to work with a full range of people. No, I'm not going to get into listing his meetings every day. He has a lot of meetings with a lot of people inside the legislature, in the Authority, in the responsible positions, and outside as well.

QUESTION: I don't want to know his meetings every day. I want to know who he talked to before -- immediately before -- what the Secretary said was that you -- that Schlicher had spoken to people immediately before and immediately after the President's speech. Now, you told us --

MR. BOUCHER: He talks to dozens of people every day in the leadership.

QUESTION: Richard, you told us, and so did the Secretary -- you told us specifically the day of the -- or the day after the speech who the Secretary had his phone calls with. You specifically mentioned foreign ministers of a variety of -- various countries, the UN, the EU. You did not -- the Secretary, you said, did not speak with any Palestinian leaders, and I think it's entirely relevant for us to ask and to know who it was in the Palestinian leadership, who are the ones affected by this new policy, who it was that the US talked to.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think it's entirely appropriate. First of all, we have to be able to conduct diplomatic business without putting out the calendars of every one of our ambassadors every day.

QUESTION: I'm not asking for that. I'm asking for --

MR. BOUCHER: Matt, you're starting me down a road. If you're going to ask for everybody that Ron Schlicher talked to on a particular day, and then you're going to say, well, who did he talk to on the phone, in addition to whatever meetings he might have had, then there's no reason why not to ask about the next day or the next ambassador or the next Consul General.

The fact is we have to conduct diplomatic business with a lot of people. The second is the entire premise of the question is wrong. The United States is not choosing good guys and bad guys among Palestinian leaders. We note* terrorists and we don't meet with them. Other than that, we will work with people within the Palestinian leadership, but we will always support this process of reform, this process of getting new leadership, so that they can establish the kind of leadership and the kind of institutions they need to carry forward.

QUESTION: So you don't accept the premise that this is an exceptional situation? You are willing to tell us all about the Secretary's phone calls and the Secretary's conversations about this, but you're not willing to say who it was that the US is engaged in, interlocu -- who your interlocutor is with the existing Palestinian leadership? Why is that not relevant?

MR. BOUCHER: It's any number of individuals in the Palestinian leadership, but also within the Palestinian Authority. It's Palestinian legislators, it's academics, it's civil society people, it's reformers, and it's people who have existing jobs and responsibilities. We're very engaged in the present situation as well as building the long term, and we're going to continue to do that the way we have.


QUESTION: You also said yesterday that Arafat himself is still responsible to do many of these tasks, to continue to try to end violence. Why wouldn't you continue talking to him about these things, then?

MR. BOUCHER: Matt asked me if there was a decree or directive, and I said I'm not aware of any. So I'm not going to say things one way or the other. If you want to ask hypothetical meetings, I'm going to say they're hypothetical.

QUESTION: -- you said there were no plans to --

MR. BOUCHER: You asked me if the Secretary had any plans to talk to Arafat, and I said no, there's no plan to talk to Arafat. He doesn't have a trip planned, doesn't have an occasion when it might arise.

QUESTION: But he's still instrumental in efforts to end the violence at this point.

MR. BOUCHER: Absolutely. He still has a responsibility in a leadership position. Everybody in a leadership position still has a responsibility.

QUESTION: Would communication be helpful on that, then?

MR. BOUCHER: We communicate with the Palestinian leadership across the full range. We have a variety of ways of communicating with Palestinian leaders.

QUESTION: Richard, I've been out for a couple of hours, but the last -- earlier today it looked like Arafat was going to stand for reelection. At least Nabil Shaath said so. Do you think he is making a mistake or -- and would you urge him to stand down? Or again, is he free to do whatever he wants?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't know what he may personally have announced as far as candidacy or lack thereof, or what his intentions are, but I do think the President made clear that we needed a new dynamic, we needed more reform of Palestinian political, economic and security structures. The announcement of new elections is part of that. It's a positive part of that that the President called for. It needs to proceed, though, as part of this overall effort to reform, need new institutions, more openness, more democracy in the Palestinian Authority, and with a view to creating the institutions that can support a state.

Obviously it would be important that any elections are open, transparent and accountable, but the important thing to us is that this be done positively as part of an overall reform effort that the President outlined.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up on that. There have been various slightly differing answers to the question of what happens if Arafat does get reelected. Have you had time to have a closer look at that and come to a more consistent position in the administration?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll have a closer look at that when there's actually something to look at. Really, the reason it's hypothetical is because it doesn't exist at this point. And we'll look at it. As the Secretary said, if that happens, we'll deal with it.

QUESTION: This is kind of starting to remind me a little bit of the situation with Noriega, when we were on the one hand accusing him of criminal activities, and the second hand we were calling upon him to stop criminal activities. And in the end, we invade Panama. Does the United States --

MR. BOUCHER: Funny, I was here at the time, and it doesn't remind me at all of that situation.

QUESTION: Does the United States believe that Arafat has criminal responsibility for terrorism, some of which have killed Americans?

MR. BOUCHER: Our answer on that needs to be the same thing as before, that we have been very concerned about the fact that elements of Palestinian Authority, of Palestinian organizations, have been involved with terrorism. We have made that quite clear. We have been disappointed in the leadership of the Palestinian Authority for not taking control and not eliminating all those sorts of contacts, and we will continue to call on them to do that. That's one of the basic reasons why they need to have a new leadership that's not tainted by terrorism.

QUESTION: Can I go a little further here? Can I follow up on this? You said you're disappointed that they are not eliminating terrorism. But according to reports today in the newspapers today, Arafat funded one of the terrorist groups, al-Aqsa. And that's not just not eliminating; that's actually subsidizing, supporting and paying for it.

MR. BOUCHER: I said two things. One was not eliminating, but the other was that there was contacts and support that goes from elements within the PLO and within the Palestinian Authority and their other organizations with terrorists and with terrorism.

I'm not going to be able to talk about any allegations that are sourced to intelligence reports. But the President has made quite clear, not only in his speech the other day, but also over a longer period of time, his very consistent and vocal concern about the fact that terrorism is continuing, and that the evidence of complicity or support from some elements in the Palestinian Authority had not been eliminated.

And you are all quite familiar, going back to last December with the Karine A affair, when the United States made absolutely clear that any involvement of the Palestinian Authority with smugglers and weapons and terrorists was absolutely unacceptable to us. There has been a consistent voice, and it's a concern that found its fruition in the policy the President announced the other day.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? Assistant Secretary Burns said a week or two ago that he didn't believe the PA was complicit in terrorist attacks. I mean, has that view changed in the past couple of weeks?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to talk about the specific allegations, so I'm not in a position to change anything that we've said before on that.


QUESTION: Richard, there are news reports saying that right after President Bush's speech that Arafat said who, me? Is he actually referring to me? He didn't necessarily believe those -- they were referring to specifically him. Is it a case of sending maybe mixed messages and that the interpretation that we're sending is not necessarily being translated in the same language, meaning a change of behavior and conduct?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't speak Arabic myself, so I can't say how it comes out. But I think we've been quite explicit in making clear that the leadership and the direction that they've taken in the past is a dead end street, that the Palestinians need a chance to establish a state, and they need a chance to choose a different direction, a different dynamic, one that realistically can establish a state within a fairly short time frame, as long as we all proceed down that road.

QUESTION: Richard, the President said earlier in Canada that he intended to withhold, or that he wanted -- he would withhold money from the Palestinians if -- unless they had enacted the reforms that he has called for. I presume that he was talking about non-humanitarian money, and that he was talking about a continuation of no US assistance going to Palestinian officialdom. Because as I understand it, there isn't any money that goes to the PA right now directly; it all goes through NGOs.

MR. BOUCHER: That's right. It goes through the United Nations and through nongovernmental organizations.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you -- do you have a figure for that right now? Can you get one?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a figure for that right now. I'll have to check. Most of our assistance, I think, goes to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.


QUESTION: Since the administration has said that the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority is not justified or shouldn't run the country anymore because of -- or excuse me, the territories -- because of its corruption and other problems, why not call upon that same leadership not to bother running for reelection? Because, I mean, it's the --

MR. BOUCHER: I think fundamentally the proposition that we're putting out is saying the Palestinians have a choice. They can either choose what we've described as the disappointing kind of governance that they've had. They can choose a dead end road that hasn't led them to fulfill their aspirations. Or they can choose to follow a different path, a path of reform, of institution building, and create this kind of state. They can have the support of the United States, the international community and others.

So in the end, I guess, we recognize the choice is theirs. We're not trying to choose candidates, choose leaders. But we've said this leadership, this direction, has not gotten you what you want and is not going to get our support and our encouragement and our funding. So in the end we recognize the fact, particularly as they grow more democratic, the choice is theirs.

QUESTION: But isn't it in US national interest to end the violence, not to mention the region's, to end the violence as quickly as possible? And what we're talking about is another five months down the road before this election would take place.

MR. BOUCHER: Absolutely. That's why we say there is a continuing responsibility of anybody in a leadership position now, and certainly anybody who aspires to further leadership, to take real steps to stop the violence, create the conditions so the lives of Palestinians can be improved by more freedom of movement, turning over tax revenues, an end to the occupation that's taken place in September of 2000.

Those kinds of things can result. And we've made quite clear, the President made quite clear, that there would be those kinds of things as the security situation improves. So we're not asking anybody to wait five months or six months or whenever the election is held. We're saying people who have responsibility now should exercise it and should move in a direction that not only makes things better for Palestinians right now, but creates some momentum towards the achievement of these goals.

QUESTION: But Richard, recognizing that you are not trying to choose the new Palestinian leadership, I presume, though, that you are going to be suggesting or telling the Palestinian people who you think might be a good candidate in the new elections so as -- as you've told them who you think will be a bad candidate, so they're not faced with a kind of Hobson's choice where they go and elect someone who you -- you know, they don't know that you think is bad.

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't make that assumption, Matt. And if we're ready to do that, I'll be happy to come out here and tell you.

QUESTION: Okay. But anyone but Arafat is basically the -- is the -- and they'll get US support for that? I mean, you know, you're telling the Palestinians, look, you've got to get a new leadership. But, you know, what if that new leadership -- you believe that new leadership is just as tainted as the old -- you know, the new boss is the same as the old boss?

MR. BOUCHER: Matt, the point is the direction of leadership, is the directions of the Palestinian leaders and the Palestinian people want to choose. We've made that clear again and again. They're going to have to make the choice. If they make the right choice, if they make the choice that leads in the direction of fulfillment of their aspirations, we'll be there with them. We'll be there with them through reform --

QUESTION: But you're not prepared to suggest to them what the right course might be?

MR. BOUCHER: We're not picking candidates, no.

QUESTION: No, no, I'm not saying --

MR. BOUCHER: But I did find some numbers for you.

QUESTION: Oh, great.

MR. BOUCHER: The United States is the UN Works and Relief Agency's largest contributor. In 2001, we contributed over $123 million. Our 2002 contribution to date is 110 million. There may be additional funds, as you said, that go to NGOs, but that's, I'm sure, the bulk of the money.

QUESTION: That's to UNRWA? Just to UNRWA?

MR. BOUCHER: UN Relief and Works, yeah.

Okay, Ben.

QUESTION: You indicated that Palestinians can choose either the dead end road that they've been on or -- but that if they did that, that it would not have the support of the US and the international community. It appears that the international community is less willing to withdraw its support for Mr. Arafat than the US Government. What do you say to the continued statements such as the French Foreign Minister, who was in Ramallah yesterday, basically supporting, you know, Mr. Arafat as the chosen person -- leader of the Palestinian people?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, and first of all, let's not read all these things selectively. We know different people have expressed different views about elections and Arafat and all these sorts of things, but fundamentally there's been a positive message of support from the international community, from people in the United States, from people in the Arab world, Europe as well.

Everybody that we've talked to has said we welcome the President setting a direction that can realistically achieve a Palestinian state, we understand he talked about the obligations of both parties, we understand that he talked about the need for reform that we all support, and we want to work with you on this.

The Secretary spoke this morning with European High Representative Javier Solana. He talked this morning with Foreign Minister Maher of Egypt. He talked this morning with Foreign Minister Muasher of Jordan. And in all those conversations he talked to them about how we move forward down this path that the President outlined, about how they can help and will help in achieving those goals, as well as how they can help and will help in dealing with the immediate situation, which continues to create hardship and danger and violence for both sides.

QUESTION: Did they also bring up --

MR. BOUCHER: We'll continue to consult with the parties. He said he wanted to assess the views after the President's speech, start planning with others how we can all do this work -- because it's not just the US, there are many others involved, and we'll continue to talk to others as we try to start this ball rolling down the road.

QUESTION: Can you break that down a little bit, because there are self-evident -- can you break it down a little bit, because there are obvious things in the President's message any Arab leader would be in favor of. I mean, they all want to get Israel off the West Bank, for instance. They all want interference with Palestinian workers stopped. They all want revenues returned. They all want a Palestinian state -- I think.

So what is it that they have -- but that's not -- you know, this conversation for three quarters of an hour has been -- and even reporters are picking up the phrases -- dead end street. I didn't think the President's speech was that Arafat doesn't want a state. I mean, Arafat is the pioneer. He's the father of Palestinian statehood aspirations. What the President's speech was about was terror as an instrument and how we can't deal -- the US can't deal with people who foment terror.

Now, what is it that the Egyptians and Jordanians have to say about that part of the speech? Are they going to rein in terrorists? Are they going to help?

MR. BOUCHER: All right, slow down. Yes. And they have. And they have already since September 11th. Right?

Second of all, they have expressed support for reform in the Palestinian Authority. They have expressed support for more responsibility in the Palestinian Authority. I'm going to have to look at it carefully, but I think either the President in his speech or various people in subsequent discussions have talked about the need. We will be working with Arab leaders to try to end the kind of support that some of these radical and terrorist groups have gotten from various quarters in the Arab world. The President called on Syria, for example, to stop support for terrorist groups.

Certainly some people like parts of his speech better than others. But nobody is under any illusion that they can pick and choose, that this is à la carte for both sides. Everybody is quite clear that in order to -- the President's statement most clearly was that in order to create a Palestinian state and have a peaceful situation with Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side, we need to do any number of things. We need to create the institutions of that state in a way that's not tainted by terror, is not tainted by the dead end practices and roads of the past, in a way that actually gives the Palestinian people what they've aspired to. And in order to achieve that, the Palestinians have to do a lot of things, the Israelis have obligations too, and the international community will help anybody who wants to head down that road.

QUESTION: Richard, since you're willing to tell us what -- unusually, to some extent -- what these ministers did say on some subjects, can you tell us --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm actually generalizing based on public comments as much as what we do in private.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what they said about the -- what many of us saw as the crux of the speech, which was, let's get rid of Arafat? Did they back the President on that? Did they say, great, that's a good idea, let's go for it? Or did they say, hang on a minute --

MR. BOUCHER: As I think I mentioned before, in the various public statements that have been made, you have seen various views expressed and not expressed about Chairman Arafat, but the fundamental element of the speech, which was reform and realization of a Palestinian state to live side by side with Israel, we think got pretty solid support in the statements, as well as our private conversations.

QUESTION: Do you know, Richard, if the three foreign ministers, or at least the Jordanian and the Egyptian, asked the Secretary for clarification about what the President meant when he was talking about new leadership. You know if they asked him, does this mean Arafat has to go?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think if they asked in so many words, no.

QUESTION: Richard, United States just interested to bringing more democracy to Palestine, or are there other initiatives to bring democracy to the Arab world, especially to the Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Syria for example?

MR. BOUCHER: We have been supporters of democracy, active supporters of democracy, throughout the world, including in the Arab world. There are some countries in the Arab world that have already proceeded pretty far down that path. And everywhere we've been, we've always encouraged more and more democracy and more openness, more transparency, better governance, especially more accountable government, more transparent government. And we do that in different places in different ways.

Some places there are legislative exchanges we can sponsor. Some places there are training courses we can sponsor. In a lot of places, we help train independent journalists so that they can be an essential part of any growing democracy. And in some places, we're able to advocate directly elections, supervise elections and help people with elections.

So it works in different places in different ways. But yes, we're out there supporting more open, transparent, civil society; more active involvement of people in public affairs; more active and independent journalism -- things like that everywhere in different ways.

QUESTION: New subject?


QUESTION: Diplomatic Security apparently has been involved in the arrest of a man in Baltimore, together with the FBI, who is thought to have been a one-time roommate of some of the hijackers. Can you tell me anything about it?

MR. BOUCHER: Can I? No, but I will.

QUESTION: Perfect.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry I can't right now.

QUESTION: Oh, you can't?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I know.

QUESTION: You might be able to?

MR. BOUCHER: I might be able to. We were certainly working with other agencies in that effort, and I'll try to tell you what our part was.

QUESTION: Any progress with the Iranians on what kind of humanitarian aid you might send? How, when, how much?

MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. That will be worked on through the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. As you know, we have made the offer of humanitarian assistance, in keeping with our President's statement last Saturday. The Iranian Government has come back and thanked us for our offer, and they say they've provided the list of their specific needs for the international community through the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

So our US Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance is working with the United Nations, with the other international donors now regarding how best to address the specific needs Iran has detailed, and we would expect to have more details regarding our specific US contributions soon.


QUESTION: A federal court in California -- on Monday it was reported that they had overturned -- they declared unconstitutional the US law by which the State Department lists groups of terrorists and subsequently they are forbidden to raise funds in the United States. Does the United States State Department plan to appeal this decision?

MR. BOUCHER: When was this?

QUESTION: It was Friday in L.A.

MR. BOUCHER: Is that right?

QUESTION: It's Iranians.

MR. BOUCHER: All right. Well, I'd be glad to look into it for you. I'm sorry, I hadn't heard about it.

QUESTION: Richard, can you explain exactly what the United States has done vis-à-vis recognition in Madagascar?

MR. BOUCHER: Without getting into all the legal niceties of recognition of states rather than governments and working with governments, let me explain where we are now with Madagascar. The bottom line is we have begun doing business with the government of President Ravalomanana. We accept his administration as the Government of Madagascar.

Our goal all along has been to help the people of Madagascar to solve their governance crisis in a transparent and democratic way, while avoiding civil war. We appreciate the sustained efforts of Senegal's President Wade, the African heads of state, the Organization of African Unity, and the others who have facilitated mediation and sought to resolve Madagascar's political crisis.

We believe that accepting Mr. Ravalomanana as president will now prevent additional violence, will speed an end to Madagascar's political crisis, and help the Government of Madagascar get back on its feet. Working with Mr. Ravalomanana is consistent with our democratic principles, supports the rule of law, and fosters regional stability.

I would note that Secretary Powell has initiated steps to restore access to Madagascar's funds at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York earlier following the disputed December 2001 election. In order to prevent unauthorized access to the account, the Federal Reserve Bank suspended operation of that account. And the Secretary has now, yesterday, signed the paperwork permitting the Government of Madagascar to access the funds.

QUESTION: When was this?

QUESTION: So how much money --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how much money it is, no.

QUESTION: You now consider the dispute in that country to be over -- the political dispute? I mean, the --

MR. BOUCHER: We consider Mr. Ravalomanana president, and look forward to working with his government. There was a court case. A court in Madagascar decided on the election a number of weeks ago, and there have been efforts to work out mediation of some kind since then.

But in a sense, we're saying we accept that court decision, we accept the results of that election, and we're going to work with this government.


QUESTION: New subject?

QUESTION: No, no. Do you know when, and by whose authority, the Fed froze -- the Federal Reserve Bank froze the account?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. But I expect it's in a bank circular somewhere. I just don't think I have that information with me.

QUESTION: And the money is actually in an account in New York?

QUESTION: At the Federal Reserve Bank?

MR. BOUCHER: At the Federal Reserve, yes.

QUESTION: Richard, on that again, are you expecting -- do you expect Mr. Ravalomanana to take any kind of reconciliation steps towards his former rival and his supporters?

MR. BOUCHER: We have always said that we supported any efforts towards reconciliation, towards working this out between the various parties and factions involved. So I think we would continue to support any steps towards reconciliation.

The efforts that the Africans themselves have made have had our strong support in their attempts to do that. But at this point, I think our involvement is to work with the government and to work, we hope, together with the government on the needs of the people of Madagascar.


QUESTION: I need to ask you what the State Department reaction to a GAO report which came out and that was somewhat critical of State Department efforts -- US efforts, I should say, to control smuggling of nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union.

MR. BOUCHER: Let's see what I can tell you about that.

QUESTION: It said it was pretty disorganized.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think the bottom line is we see it as constructive criticism. We welcome the General Accounting Office's recommendation that the Secretary of State take the lead in facilitating the development of a government-wide plan to help other countries develop an integrated approach to nuclear smuggling. We have already taken steps in that direction, and recognize that there's always room for improvement, and we have begun to coordinate development of the prioritized list of border crossings and ports of entry overseas that should be equipped with radiation detection equipment. We're also working with experts from all relevant agencies, and we'll include the private sector, to determine the most appropriate type of equipment that we can provide.

QUESTION: Any idea how long this will take?

MR. BOUCHER: You mean to sort of reorient the program?


MR. BOUCHER: I think there's a lot of things being done now already to take these comments and recommendations from the GAO and make them part of our program.

As far as the funds go, we're going to have to prioritize the funds and seek out the right kind of equipment. So I think it's an ongoing process of getting equipment. We have been doing this since the early 1990s, and we want to make sure that we start getting new technology, putting it in the most priority places. That will be an ongoing process.

QUESTION: I was just going to say, under the circumstances, since 9/11, it's just -- it would seem as if -- that time would be of the essence to try to --

MR. BOUCHER: No, absolutely. And as I said, it's ongoing. It's not something we're trying to constantly improve and get it out to the most high-priority places.

QUESTION: -- Britain has issued a travel warning on India? Are you doing the same?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure if the paper is out. I guess it's not. But we are indeed revising our Travel Warnings to India. We're revising our Travel Warning for India today. The one for Pakistan remains somewhat the same.

We do take very seriously our responsibility for the safety of Americans overseas. We constantly evaluate the situation in every country in order to provide Americans with our best and most up-to-date assessment of the security environment.

While tensions between India and Pakistan remain far from relaxed, they have recently eased somewhat, so that we felt an adjustment in travel warnings was in order to reflect the recent positive steps taken by both countries to back away from an imminent escalation of armed conflict.

Nevertheless, we still advise Americans to defer nonessential travel to India. We also remind Americans that the terrorist threat in Pakistan remains very high and unchanged.

So the travel warnings will say that for India, we recommend that American citizens defer all but essential travel to India. And for Pakistan, given the different situation, the bombings and the threats there, we reiterate our warning to American citizens to defer travel to Pakistan and strongly urge American citizens in that country to depart.

QUESTION: So you're not asking Americans in India to depart anymore?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we're advising Americans to defer all nonessential travel.

QUESTION: Hold on. Does that mean the authorized departure program is over?

MR. BOUCHER: No, the employees and family members who departed India remain out of the country. So we continue to operate on authorized departure.

QUESTION: On Pakistan, Richard, can I ask?


QUESTION: The White House, either earlier today or late yesterday, sent up Nancy Powell's name to -- the nomination for her to be the Ambassador to -- the new Ambassador to Pakistan. I'm just curious as to -- if there was some reason why it was today or yesterday. Was it because she's been there for a while? And I --

MR. BOUCHER: She's been there as Chargé.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. But I know there has been speculation that she was going to get -- she was going to be nominated back then. But was there some specific reason why you guys thought that it would be propitious yesterday or today to do this?

MR. BOUCHER: Astrologically speaking? (Laughter.) Not another one of those questions?

QUESTION: No, I mean, was there a question about whether she actually really wanted the job? Did she want to go there and see what it was like first?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think it was timed to anything in particular. You all know that the process involves a lot of forms and a lot of careful checks by different agencies and ethics lawyers, and financial things as well. So I think this was one that they wanted to do as soon as possible, and as far as I know she got the forms filled out and they went through it and just got it up there as soon as they could.

QUESTION: The Iraqi opposition has been talking about a meeting in Europe this summer. I'm wondering if the State Department will play any role in that, and whether that would substitute for the conference you all have talked about --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about that particular meeting.

QUESTION: The Group of Four?


QUESTION: The Group of Four? They're talking about doing it this summer in Europe.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we're involved in a Group of Four meeting in Europe this summer. I just don't know.


QUESTION: Back to the Middle East. Are you concerned that free and fair elections in the Palestinian Authority may not be possible?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd put it the other way, the way the President put it in his speech. One of the things the President said, that the United States, along with others in the international community, will help the Palestinians organize and monitor fair, multiparty local elections by the end of the year, with national elections to follow. That's not quite the schedule, but the principle that we and the international community will help in any way we can to make sure that they are free, fair and open.

QUESTION: Does multi mean more than one? Or is there a particular number?

MR. BOUCHER: It did the last time I saw the dictionary.

QUESTION: No, I mean, two could be multiparty elections?

MR. BOUCHER: I will need to seek our own dictionary's advice on that. Multi means more than one, that's for sure.

QUESTION: Richard, tomorrow the Secretary is scheduled to appear at an awards ceremony in this building, in which the news director of the Voice of America is going to be presented with a commendation for constructive dissent for disregarding, in fact defying, the State Department, the Deputy, Mr. Powell's Deputy, Mr. Armitage, and yourself by airing a report last year that included bits of an interview with Mullah Omar.

Do you see any irony in this at all? (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: That's democracy.

QUESTION: So is it fair to say that the Secretary -- do you still believe that it was inappropriate for US taxpayer money to go for paying -- to pay for airing Mullah Omar's voice?




QUESTION: But you don't think that the Secretary or you, if you're planning to go, have any --

MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't planning on going. But no, I think we have to respect the fact that we live in a world, in a democracy, in a country where people speaking out, even if we don't agree with them, is still a good thing.


MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.


Released on June 26, 2002

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


North Korea: NZ Denounces Missile Test

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has denounced North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test. The test, which took place this morning, is North Korea’s third test flight of an inter-continental ballistic missile. More>>


Gordon Campbell: Zimbabwe - Meet The New Bosses

At 75, Mnangagwa is not exactly what you’d call a new broom. As many observers have pointed out, his track record has been one of unswerving dedication to Mugabe ever since the days of anti-colonial insurgency... To these guys, things had to change in Zimbabwe, so that things could remain the same. More>>