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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for July 19

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for July 19 -- Transcript


Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 19, 2002

INDEX:

CHINA
1-2,5 Sanctioning of Chinese Firms
4 Continued Discussions on Nonproliferation

MISCELLANEOUS
1,3,5 Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act
1,3,5 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare
Elimination Act

IRAN/RUSSIA
4 Nuclear Programs

GREECE
5-6 November 17 Terrorist Organization

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
6 Campaign Against Terror
6-9 Tenet Security Ideas Plan
7-8 Palestinian Reform Efforts
7-8 Creating New Institutions for Peace

PAKISTAN
9 Election Commitments

IRAQ
9-10 Consulting with Members of Congress on Iraqi Issues

UNITED NATIONS
10 Attendance of Iraqi Officials at ICC Meetings

DEPARTMENT
10-11 Secretary Powell s Meeting with the Peruvian Foreign
Minister
14 Visa Fraud
14-15 Privacy Act Considerations
18 Visa Eligibility

ANGOLA
11 Demobilization of UNITA Forces
12 Assistant Secretary Kansteiner s Meeting with President
dos Santos

SPAIN/MOROCCO
12 Perejil/Leila Island Dispute
13 Dialogue between Secretary Powell and the Spanish Foreign
Minister
13 Dialogue between Secretary Powell and the King Mohamed

ITALY
14 Consular Officer Comments

SAUDI ARABIA
16-18 Visa Refusal Rates in Saudi Arabia


TRANSCRIPT:


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. Don't have any statements or announcements today, so I'll be glad to take your questions.

George.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on Chinese firms being penalized?

MR. BOUCHER: The actions that we're taking are actions under the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992 and/or the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991. Basically, on July 9th we made a decision to impose sanctions on ten entities pursuant to these laws. We will be reporting to Congress shortly, and at that point we'll publish the details in the Federal Register. And I'm afraid at this moment I'm not in a position to go into much more detail.

Eight of these entities are being -- having sanctions imposed under the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act for transfers to Iran. Two entities' sanctions -- and they're also being sanctioned under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 for knowingly and materially contributing to Iran's chemical weapons program. Two of the entities sanctioned only under the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act for transfers to Iran or Iraq of goods or technology that contribute to their efforts to acquire chemical weapons or destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.

But at this moment I'm not in a position to tell you where these entities might be located and what they might have transferred.

QUESTION: Did I hear you right, saying that the chemical weapons program was Iran's?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: And the other one, when it's Iran-Iraq, is it for transfers only to Iran, or is there some suspicion of transfers to Iraq as well?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, I'm not able to go into any detail at this point. Eight of them are for transfers to Iran, including transfers to Iran's chemical weapons program. Two of them, under the other law, is transfers to either Iran or Iraq, and I'm not able to specify at this point who did what.

QUESTION: Did you say in your answer that they were, in fact, Chinese? Are you saying that they --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say any nationality where the entities might be located.

QUESTION: Even though the question -- okay, I just wanted to make sure because the question -- you're not assuming --

MR. BOUCHER: The question was about Chinese. Yeah, I never assume what's in the questions.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you just do one thing? I realize you can't give the names of whatever entities these are, but can you say how many of them are actually people and how many of them are companies?

MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point, I'm sorry. We have to be able to report this to the Congress first.

QUESTION: Okay. And when do you expect to report these to Congress?

MR. BOUCHER: Very soon.

QUESTION: Well --

MR. BOUCHER: But I don't have a specific date on that.

QUESTION: But, and is it the same as with other notifications to Congress, that it's seven days after it is reported to Congress that it appears in the Register?

MR. BOUCHER: It's not -- the publication -- we report to the Federal Register at the same time we report to Congress. When we report to Congress, we provide the information to the Federal Register. They set the publication schedule. It frequently is seven days or so, but it's not a locked-in time period.

But as soon as I can provide that information to you, I will. But we do need to report to Congress before I can.

Ben.

QUESTION: Are biological weapons involved here?

MR. BOUCHER: I have not been able to specify in any more detail what was involved. As I've noted, in one case, it was for -- in eight cases, it's transfers to Iran, including Iran's chemical weapons program; in two cases, it's Iran or Iraq, chemical or biological, and that's as far as I can go.

QUESTION: Can you say what the sanctions actually are?

MR. BOUCHER: Under the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act, the sanctions are as follows: For a period of two years, the United States Government shall not procure or enter into any contract for the procurement of any goods or services or technology from a sanctioned person or entity; for a period of two years, the United States Government shall not issue any license for any export by or to the sanctioned person or entity.

Under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Sanctions Law, we prohibit -- that law prohibits the United States Government from procuring any goods or services from the entity, prohibits the importation into the United States of any products produced by the sanctioned entities. These sanctions apply for a period of 12 -- at least 12 months, after which the application of the sanctions can be terminated, waived or continued as provided for by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Law.

I would note that in some of these cases, some of these entities are already under sanctions, and therefore the sanctions are cumulative on those entities. But some of these entities are new.

QUESTION: Cumulative, meaning that if they were already under sanctions that were -- say they were named Company X --

MR. BOUCHER: They may be under -- sanctions under -- this is the first time actually we've imposed sanctions under these laws. But if some of these entities have sanctions under other laws, and therefore Company X is under a given level of sanctions, these are just imposed on top, although the period of duration may not be the same.

QUESTION: They may, in fact, be the same sanctions, right? So they're just --

MR. BOUCHER: They may be very similar, yeah. They may be the same.

QUESTION: And they're not really on top; they are kind of identical?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. But depending on the time period, it could be -- it could extend some sanctions under other laws that might expire, and these might continue.

QUESTION: Can you say how many have been pre -- are under existing?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. I can't.

Eli.

QUESTION: In a somewhat related question -- and I realize that you haven't named the nationalities of these entities -- could you update us on the status of talks between the US and China on the November 2000 agreement that is supposed to deal with these sorts of issues?

MR. BOUCHER: Are you telling me we've had talks recently, or just that it's an ongoing issue?

QUESTION: I'm just saying that this is -- that there was at one point a diplomatic attempt --

MR. BOUCHER: No, and there have been continuing discussions. It is an ongoing issue. It's an issue that we raise when we talk to the Chinese. Nonproliferation is one of the most important issues on our agenda. It's been raised at the highest levels of our government, and it's raised regularly by our Embassy. But as I said, I'm not aware of any new developments in that regard or any new sets of talks.

QUESTION: I realize, again, you haven't named the nationalities and -- but some of us have found out another way that most of them are Chinese. And as just an obvious question, can you explain how Russia has managed to avoid sanctions like this, even though you have this great concern that there are transfers to Iran from Russia?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you have to look at the specific law. The specific law covers specific activities and actions. We have concerns about Russia's ongoing nuclear programs with Iran. We have concerns about some of the announcements that have been made about Russian agreement or intention or assumptions that they would be making some conventional weapons sales. As you know, we've been very concerned about advanced conventional weapons.

But at this point I don't think -- I think it's safe to say we just haven't seen anything transferred that would be affected by one of this particular laws, although we have frequently reminded the Russians that we have laws regarding these things and that any entities that might be involved would have to be looked at under those laws.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on this?

MR. BOUCHER: One more on this. Mark.

QUESTION: Again, without specifying the country, can you say whether these entities are totally private or quasi-governmental?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't.

QUESTION: This is the standard question, and I think George usually asks when these things are announced, which is --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, let George ask it.

QUESTION: Can you say with any degree of specificity what the actual impact of these entities is going to be? I mean, are they -- are you importing massive amounts of equipment from these companies, or is this punishment fully symbolic?

MR. BOUCHER: It will depend on the entities when we actually see them, but you have to assume that any entity, company, around the world that's involved in some kind of high technology weapons business would want to have access to US technology, would want to have access to US equipment.

And so I would expect that in most of these cases the impact is more on the question of our not licensing US military goods or dual-use goods for those entities. And that, at least I know from the complaints I've gotten from companies overseas, they at least tell us that that's a pretty severe impact.

QUESTION: Change of subject? No?

QUESTION: Maybe I missed it. When did you notice the Chinese Government and -- I'm sorry. You mentioned the 12-month. Is it the period of time for the sanction?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure we have notified the Chinese Government. We made the decision on July 9th. We have to notify the Congress. I'll check for you and see if we're notifying the Chinese Government as well.

And as far as the time period, because --

QUESTION: Not that you necessarily would have to notify the Chinese Government, because they may be -- it might be another government that you might notify.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we might notify -- I'll check and see if we've notified any foreign governments where these entities might be located. (Laughter.)

All right. There are two different laws. The ones that are covered under the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act, and that's all ten of them, are for a period of two years. And the chemical and biological sanctions law, that's eight of the ten entities, those apply for one year, after which they can be terminated, waived or continued.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, any comment on the terrorist organization November 17 since the Greek police is claiming today that they arrested the mastermind behind the group, Professor Alexandros Giotopoulos?

MR. BOUCHER: Any comment on the organization? We've written massively on the organization in our Patterns of Global Terrorism and other reports over the years. This is one of the most violent groups that we have had to deal with in Europe.

As I said, we commend the Greek authorities for the success that they've been having. Our cooperation with them has been excellent. We have been working with them on this investigation, as well as on the general issues of cooperation against terrorism.

So beyond that, I think I'll leave it to the Greek authorities just to say exactly where they are and who they've picked up and what they might be in a position to charge him with.

QUESTION: Another question, on Cyprus. Do you know if Under Secretary Marc Grossman, during his recent trip to Ankara, Turkey, discussed also with the Turkish officials the Cyprus issue, vis-à-vis however to have a mission into the European Union by December 2002?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to double-check. I didn't have a chance to ask him.

QUESTION: Richard, back on the arrest of this alleged mastermind. Do you -- it's not your understanding at this point that you've gotten any kind of -- or that you are independently satisfied that this guy is who the Greeks think he is?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we are working with the Greek Government on many aspects, virtually all aspects, of this investigation. Wherever we can be of assistance, we will be. As you know, this group has killed Americans in the past. But any information on the investigation would have to come from them and not from us.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Middle East? It looks like there's a new Israeli policy -- well, they've resumed house demolitions, which they were doing before, of course, of the families of militants. And there is now -- they are now moving towards a policy of expelling relatives of militants from outside the Palestinian territories.

What does the United States think of these measures?

MR. BOUCHER: We expect that Israel's actions in its campaign against terror will be based on information that's related to an individual's culpability, not to personal or family relationships. We think that taking punitive actions against innocent people will not solve Israel's security problems, and we'll be raising that issue with the Israeli Government.

QUESTION: Richard, do you -- many people would argue that actions such as that violate Geneva Conventions and, in fact, amount to war crimes. Do you have a view on that?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we believe that these actions don't solve Israel's security problems. We believe that they -- that actions should not be based on family relationships, but rather on individual guilt. But I'll just leave it at that.

Betsy.

QUESTION: Can you say today whether the Tenet security plan that we discussed yesterday has been presented to the parties?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we intend to have discussions with the parties about the way forward, including the Tenet plan, the Tenet security ideas plan, in the very near future, and leave it at that.

Mark.

QUESTION: Jordan's Foreign Minister said this morning that Israel would have to have withdrawn its forces to the September 28, 2000 line prior to the anticipated Palestinian elections, so that these -- the elections can be conducted. Does the United States share that view?

MR. BOUCHER: We are certainly aware that many of the parties have raised this issue and understand that to have an open election people have to be able to move around, they have to be able to campaign. In order to achieve that, we need to improve the security. And we have made clear, as the President made clear in his speech, that as security improves we would expect Israel to withdraw to those lines.

So the immediate goal of getting going on the security aspects, getting the security reform underway, getting the Palestinians in a position to take more responsibility of their security, helps facilitate that outcome.

QUESTION: Could I follow up with a related question? Egypt's Foreign Minister has said that in order for Egypt to conduct the necessary training of Palestinian police, Israel should be out of the territory where that training is to be conducted. What's your view on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into that kind of detail yet, because that involves the elements that might go into restructuring, streamlining, retraining in the Palestinian security apparatus to create an apparatus that can really take responsibility. We'll talk to the parties about those things, work them out with the parties, and cooperate with other governments as we go forward.

QUESTION: I don't know if you can answer this, but would the Israelis be allowed to try Palestinian leaders in Israeli courts under any kind of security arrangement that Tenet envisioned?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's an issue being raised by us at this point.

QUESTION: Well, they've just pressed charges, as you probably know, against the founder of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, or they say he's --

MR. BOUCHER: I know, and you've asked me before about trials here, trials there, and I said I'm sorry, but there is a lot of law, there is a lot of Israeli court decisions on this, on the question of jurisdiction. There is relevant provisions of the Oslo Accords. And I don't think we're in a position to do that legal work here or for you. It's a matter that does get raised, and any defendant that felt it was a legitimate point would have a chance to raise it in the Israeli courts, as some have done in the past.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: You're talking generally about a lot of the steps we're making to reform in the Palestinian territories -- security reform, political reform, et cetera. What -- can you speak specifically to what's being done to make sure that -- to reduce Arafat's role on whatever election does result so that he's not -- even though he's not in it, he doesn't affect the process as much?

MR. BOUCHER: What we have talked about repeatedly is we're not really designing a role for Arafat. We're just saying that we need to get an institutional basis. So the -- it's not so much of a particular individual's role or what he does; it's a matter of creating the institutions, creating the election procedures, creating the opportunities for people to come forward and participate so that it's not a personally dominated process, but rather one that has a solid basis in law and institutions.

QUESTION: I guess, let me clarify that. I didn't ask the question right. In '96, one of the things he did was he arrested some journalists in a high-profile fashion when they didn't run the stories he wanted. He controlled the state-owned TV as far as access to time for candidates. Along those lines, to ensure open access to the process, that Arafat cannot block from individuals --

MR. BOUCHER: I think in some ways those kind of specific questions will have to be looked at in Palestinian -- by the Palestinians themselves who rate movements toward reform. Part of that reform is to establish more independent information, media, things like that. That's something we've always supported. And certainly our belief has always been that there need to be independent media, there needs to be an open media environment in order to have a successful election. That would be something that we'll certainly support. How that comes about in detail may be part of the Palestinian reform efforts that we're trying to support.

Matt.

QUESTION: Can I go back to a kind of nomenclature question along the lines of the International Task Force? Betsy, when she asked her question, referred to this as the Tenet security work plan. Is that something that you guys want? You know, given the amazing success of the first Tenet security work plan, do you really want this one known as Tenet II?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think it actually has a name or an abbreviation yet. Obviously nothing, you know, really exists until it has an abbreviation. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Exactly.

MR. BOUCHER: We're calling it -- we've called it "the ideas developed by George Tenet" and we've called it "the plan that George Tenet helped develop that we will implement to reform the Palestinian security apparatus". Things like that. I don't think it has a formal name at this point.

QUESTION: But it's not incorrect to say that he is the driving force behind it, correct?

MR. BOUCHER: He went out on a mission to come up with some ideas, and he has done so in cooperation with various other parties who are interested.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject to India-Pakistan?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure.

QUESTION: I know you talked a few -- a couple weeks ago now, I think, about Musharraf's plan for constitutional amendments. But I was looking at the comments -- and I'm not sure if this question has been asked. Have you actually asked him not to fiddle around with the constitution?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that we've actually addressed it in that fashion. What we've said is that it's very important to carry though on the election commitments, that the election in October that he plans on having is part of an overall process of movement towards democracy, and that overall process remains very important to us. So we would expect to continue to see steps, including the elections, along that road.

QUESTION: So we might be going too far if we thought that when he said, okay, let's talk about this, he was reacting to pressure from here?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there's anything more specific we can say at this point.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Richard, there's some more news on this on the Hill about a lack of consultation with them about the plans for Iraq, and a lot of Members, according to an account yesterday, think there should be greater consultation than there has been. Can you respond to that?

MR. BOUCHER: The administration certainly believes in consulting and talking to Members of Congress. As you know, we've talked frequently with Members of Congress about the dangers that are inherent in Iraq's attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and its behavior in using those weapons against its own people and threatening its neighborhood. So certainly on those fundamentals, we are in close contact with the Congress.

As you know also, though, the President hasn't decided on any particular options with how one -- how we should deal with that problem of danger posed by Iraq. That is an issue and a discussion that we certainly do believe that Members of Congress should be involved in, and I'm sure they'll find various ways of doing that.

But as we continue to move forward, I'm sure there will be more and more discussion with the administration, and we'll provide them with any information we can about the dangers inherent in Iraq's development of weapons and the various issues that are out there, like the need for Iraq to admit international weapons inspectors.

QUESTION: What about congressional approval prior to any military action?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's an issue at this point, since the President hasn't decided on any particular option. And second of all, as you know, it gets to question of the War Powers Act and other that many administrations have had to deal with. And I think I'd refer that one to the White House for you.

QUESTION: As I understand it, Senator Biden is going to be holding hearings on Iraq next week, and I think there's some question about whether the administration is going to testify.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any administration testimony at this point on the subject. Certainly though, I would say these are important issues for all of us: how to deal with the danger posed by Iraq. And that's something that we would expect the people's representatives to want to look into and discuss, and I'm sure they'll find ways to do that.

Teri.

QUESTION: Did you check on that question yesterday about Iraq claiming one of its delegations isn't being allowed into a New York meeting, a UN meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. And did we -- maybe we didn't put up the answer. Maybe it just came through this morning. But the US delegation to the United Nations received no request for visas from the Iraqi delegation to the UN regarding Iraqi officials' attendance at meetings on the International Criminal Court in New York from July 1st to July 12th of 2002.

So we never got a request for visas for that. That was meetings, those were meetings earlier this month.

QUESTION: As Betsy points out, they probably won't get them then, huh?

MR. BOUCHER: No. (Laughter.) We can't turn them down unless they apply.

QUESTION: Can I ask quickly about this morning's meeting the Secretary had with the Foreign Minister of Peru? And has Peru -- or did the Minister this morning ask for any cooperation the United States can provide in finding or bringing back to Peru a certain former high official?

MR. BOUCHER: Are you talking about Fujimori?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: Or -- he's the -- I was trying to remember where the others were.

QUESTION: Montesinos.

MR. BOUCHER: He's already back there, right?

QUESTION: Yeah, he's back.

MR. BOUCHER: No, that specific issue didn't come up. It was a good meeting. The Secretary, first of all, congratulated Foreign Minister Wagner on his new position. He has been Ambassador here, and they met when the Ambassador presented his credentials. He said the United States looks forward to working with him. As you know, Peru is a valued partner in our efforts to strengthen democracy, human rights, free trade, counter illegal narcotics trafficking in the hemisphere, and in counterterrorism as well.

They discussed a number of issues: the commitment to counter-drug cooperation, the desire of both sides to expand the -- to extend the Andean Trade Preferences Act, discuss where that stood in our Congress right now; and how to help Peru deal with its current economic difficulties and unemployment problems, especially by passage of opportunities to trade with the United States. They also discussed Lori Berenson's case, the Secretary once again expressing our concerns about her welfare.

The Secretary made clear the President remains committed to getting Trade Promotion Authority and the Andean Trade Preferences Act passed, and they discussed how we were working on that.

Teri.

QUESTION: Different subject. Do you have any reaction to the EU saying it will delay steel trade sanctions, delay implementing trade sanctions?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't see that. I don't. I'll see if we have anything on that.

QUESTION: Just before the briefing.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Angola. As I understand it, there will be the final demobilization of the UNITA forces sometime Saturday, and this looks like it will be the first time in more than two decades that there won't be a rebel group in that country. And do you have any observations on that, plus observations on the humanitarian situation there and what the United States is doing about it?

MR. BOUCHER: Certainly demobilization of forces of UNITA in Angola has been very important to us, and as you point out, it's been a long time coming. We have always urged a peaceful path for that nation and felt it had great potential if it were to achieve peace, and we're glad to see that that's happening.

Our Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, as I think we've put out, will be in Africa and Angola specifically, and Nigeria, from July 21st to 26th. Assistant Secretary Kansteiner will meet with President dos Santos in Angola, other officials to talk about how to promote their transition towards a peaceful, economically viable and democratic nation, as well as the efforts that we're making to alleviate the severe food crisis that's affecting Southern Africa; and then in Nigeria, have talks about counterterrorism, economic cooperation, democratization, counter-narcotics and regional issues.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about the US-Taiwan security dialogue in Monterey, in California?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Did Secretary Kelly go?

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

QUESTION: Will you check?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll check. I promise.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Taiwan.

MR. BOUCHER: A follow-up on Taiwan.

QUESTION: Yeah. The United States has sold these AMRAAM missiles to Taiwan, but has not delivered them to Taiwan. Is there any intention responding to letters from four US senators asking that the AMRAAM be delivered to Taiwan?

MR. BOUCHER: I have to look into that and get you something on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: A Taiwan congressional group will be here early next week. They're going to meet with Members of Congress on the Capitol. Do you have any plan to meet with some of them?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to check on that one, too. Sorry.

QUESTION: -- one on India that was answered while I was out of the room. Any more calls with the Spanish or the Moroccans to --

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has been working very closely with the Spanish and Moroccan Governments on the issues surrounding the island of Perejil, or Leila, as I think it's called by the Moroccan side.

He spoke earlier this week with the Spanish Foreign Minister and the Moroccan Foreign Minister. Last night he talked to King Mohamed of Morocco. He talked to the Spanish Foreign Minister again twice last night. He talked to the King again this morning and the Spanish Foreign Minister again this morning.

QUESTION: Oh, wait, wait, wait. Can you do that again? I'm sorry.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't, actually. I was on a roll. (Laughter.) Last night --

QUESTION: He's talked to a lot of people.

MR. BOUCHER: Last night he talked to King Mohamed. He talked to the Spanish Foreign Minister twice yesterday. This morning he has already spoken to the King again and to the Spanish Foreign Minister. And he does expect to hear back again from the Spanish Foreign Minister and will probably talk again to the King.

We have been working this, as you can understand, very closely with the parties. We remain hopeful that a resolution of these issues can be reached on the basis that we've been talking about; that is, on the basis of returning to the status quo ante, the way things were before. And we'll give you any news we have when we have it.

QUESTION: Okay. Does the United States believe that this uninhabited little rock has any strategic significance to either country?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's for us to make judgments like that. It is for us to say this is a dispute between two friends, and if we can help them resolve it peacefully, we will. And that's what we're doing.

QUESTION: So you have absolutely no opinion on the merits of this little spat?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't like to see our friends fighting with each other, and if we can help out, we will, whatever the subject of the dispute is.

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MR. BOUCHER: Sir.

QUESTION: When you say "status quo ante" -- that means what? What was the status quo ante prior to this dispute?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'll go into detail right now about it, but that's what we're looking to return to. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: I think -- that gets into the details of what we're discussing with the parties, frankly.

Ben.

QUESTION: On visas? Has any action been taken against Mr. Charles Keil of the Consul General in Rome, or Colombia Barrosse, the two people who sent the e-mails which were ridiculing some Members of Congress over the visa issues?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, these issues have been referred to the Director General for appropriate action, and that's I think where we stand.

QUESTION: Director General?

MR. BOUCHER: Bureau of Human Resources, yes, for appropriate action. The Director General of the Foreign Service is the person in charge of that Bureau.

QUESTION: Okay. I had heard that Mr. Keil actually was on the point of retirement?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not able to talk about a specific individual's retirement because of Privacy Act considerations.

QUESTION: And if I could just, in a broader sense, there had been a question of sales of visas in Doha. Do you know of other US Consulates that have been involved with selling or accusations or investigations into visa fraud or visa sales, besides Doha?

MR. BOUCHER: Periodically, from time to time, one finds a case where there are allegations of visa sales, or even proven facts. We do prosecute these cases. We punish people. We revise and improve procedures to make sure these sorts of things aren't happening, and that they stop. As in any organization, we occasionally have people go bad. And as in any responsible organization, we take steps not only to punish the perpetrators, but also to make sure that the systems are as tight as possible to make sure it doesn't happen again.

As far as any investigations that might be underway, obviously I wouldn't be able to talk about a particular investigation. In the case of Doha, we have been able to say as much as we can at this moment about the type of fraud that might have occurred and about what we've done to track down the people who might have gotten visas that way. And I think yesterday I gave the update of 72 visas and 40 people in custody, and another 19 being sought, nine have left the country and five who are spouses or minors.

But we have taken -- since the discovery of the fraud in Doha -- we have taken a number of steps to make sure that there is a better system put in place of reconciliation, a better system to protect us against this kind of fraud, and we're looking at further steps that can be taken by various embassies to ensure that systems are as tight as possible.

QUESTION: And just I've heard allegations about Nepal, that visas are being sold out of -- in Nepal.

MR. BOUCHER: I have to say I haven't heard those specific ones. If there is an investigation that I could confirm, I'll do that for you. But there are at any given moment a lot of rumors and stories in places in the world. We take these very seriously. We investigate them. I've been asked questions like this about two or three embassies recently, and --

QUESTION: Can you say which embassies?

MR. BOUCHER: No. That would be divulging other reporters' information. But in all these cases I've been able to get back to the reporter and say, yeah, we heard there were rumors, and we investigated them.

But there -- any of these sorts of allegations are taken very seriously, and we do follow up on them and we investigate them. But they're also kind of a part of the myth of visas out there. People who get turned down start spreading rumors that there's another way, when in fact there isn't. And it's very important for us to make sure that there isn't. And that's why we're so serious about following up on allegations and punishing any fraud that exists.

QUESTION: But of course in some cases there is, as --

MR. BOUCHER: Unfortunately there is, yes. And these cases are a matter of public record when they go to prosecution and things.

QUESTION: I just want to -- the reason that you are not able to talk about the Consul General in Rome is -- why were you able -- or maybe not you, but your Deputy able and willing to talk about Mary Ryan's retirement? Was that -- was there some difference? What's the --

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, first of all, we talked to Mary Ryan and asked her what we ought to say. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Oh, okay. So it's like the normal Privacy Act where someone signs --

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, people can say, yeah, go ahead and say that about me. And obviously we check first and foremost with everybody involved to see if they'll agree on the facts, and make sure that they're all okay with us saying it. People do have certain personal privacy rights. It's easier for us to talk about actions that the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary take, rather than actions than an individual employee might decide to take in his own personnel matters.

QUESTION: First off, I looked back yesterday, and I want to apologize; I did not give you a chance to respond appropriately to my questions. So -- and I'm also sorry if I in any way gave out the impression I was questioning your credibility.

MR. BOUCHER: You did.

QUESTION: And I apologize if it came across that way. That was not my intention.

MR. BOUCHER: I appreciate you saying that. Okay, you've got a question?

QUESTION: -- State Department -- yeah. Could you explain the discrepancy in the numbers between what I had received in this fax, and was also reported by The Washington Post earlier, and the fact that the consular package, you know, has roughly 7,000 nationals who were refused in 2001, and roughly 35,000 total between issuances and refusals?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you're confusing refusal rates for Saudi nationals and for third-country nationals.

QUESTION: No, those are just the figures for Saudi nationals.

MR. BOUCHER: There's -- there are different figures for different groups.

QUESTION: No, I understand that.

MR. BOUCHER: And we keep them separately because obviously we turn down a lot more third-country nationals in any country than people who are in their home country. And that's what I think you're looking at.

QUESTION: Actually, for that I was looking at the numbers for Saudi nationals specifically, not third-country nationals.

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think -- I do believe our Consular Affairs people have gone through this with you.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BOUCHER: And my understanding of the -- you have fiscal year numbers too, which don't coincide with pre-September 11th and post-September 11th.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MR. BOUCHER: The number that I have used is to say that the general refusal rate for Saudi nationals before September 11th was about 3 percent. It's gone up since then. The interview rates have gone up dramatically since then, and there's an awful lot of other procedures being put into place to make sure that our processing of visas in Saudi Arabia, as elsewhere, is as careful as possible, is compared to all the information we can get our hands on, and that we fulfill our responsibility that we have to keep the wrong people out of the United States.

QUESTION: Okay, I guess I just -- I don't understand then how the numbers are different on the consular package itself.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to be able to go through these numbers with you in detail at this moment. I think that the Consular Affairs people already have.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: And I'd leave it to them to comment if they want to on the specifics of how to add and subtract. But as I've said before, you can't impute from gross rates to specifics about what in an individual case might happen, and frankly, you can't impute that there's any correct refusal rate for any given country, because you have sociological patterns and a whole lot of other things that affect who applies.

So you can't say that this country ought to have a 10 percent rate and that country ought to have a 20 percent rate. It may be that only certain types of people travel from a given country, and they may be easier or harder to give visas to. They may be -- they may have a much harder time in some places sociologically, given their circumstances, to prove that they're eligible for a visa, and if they can't make the standard, they don't get the visa.

QUESTION: Richard, I'm not sure if I heard you correctly. Did you just say that the general refusal rate in Saudi Arabia is 3 percent?

MR. BOUCHER: That was --

QUESTION: Prior to 9/11?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, for Saudi nationals.

QUESTION: I thought you had said in a previous briefing that you didn't release those numbers.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I did. So I shouldn't have. But I did.

QUESTION: Oh.

MR. BOUCHER: I think we had actually talked about that one before. But generally, no, we don't because of this problem. Because there's no appropriate refusal rate for any given country. There is that single legal standard on the visa waiver program, which is not applicable to Saudi Arabia.

But at this point, as I said, you have to be careful with the numbers because they include lots of different kinds of people. And it's also a self-selecting group of people who may or may not decide to apply, and therefore you can't impute a given pattern of behavior or likelihood of committing terrorism from any numbers like that.

Ben.

QUESTION: Wasn't also the interview rate for Saudi nationals prior to September 11th also 3 percent?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's right. I don't have it with me, but I think that's right. But as I've said, that's gone up dramatically. We interview 45 percent of all cases in -- I think it was last fiscal year, but since September 11th, we've been interviewing 60 percent of Saudi nationals, 72 percent of third-country nationals, and 92 percent of people in the target group of military-age males that's been identified by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies as of most concern. And we are working with our Embassy to -- embassies around the world to increase interview rates, and specifically in Saudi Arabia.

QUESTION: And do you know the rejection rate of this 90 percent of target group?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. And again, that -- if we start getting to that level of detail, the numbers don't necessarily stack up, though, in any particular sense.

Mark.

QUESTION: Richard, what's the refusal rate for Saudi nationals post-9/ 11?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, these are numbers that are not meaningful, and therefore we don't usually release them. I'm not in a position now to give you that number.

QUESTION: In Mexico, there was local guidance after -- I believe it was a May 24th cable, which talked about the implementation of the new FBI list into the class database. There was guidance given to consular officers in Mexico not to check names against the list if those people could be refused for other reasons, under 214, I guess, for --

MR. BOUCHER: 214(b).

QUESTION: 214(b), right. You're just like an encyclopedia.

MR. BOUCHER: I've done it. I've been there.

QUESTION: So can you speak to that at all? Is that a resource question, or why is that?

MR. BOUCHER: Generally, if somebody's not eligible to go to the United States under the basic provisions of law, it's not -- it doesn't add anything to the interview or to the ability to turn them down to go through further checks or to look up legal matters.

QUESTION: But the cable actually had directed that even people who were likely to be refused shouldn't be checked.

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen this particular cable, and I'm not going to try to accept your quotations from it, since --

QUESTION: Okay. No, that's fine. I'll follow up.

MR. BOUCHER: -- I have accepted quotations in the past that haven't always been accurate.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: All right.

[End]


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