State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for August 27
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for August 27 -- Transcript
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC August 27, 2002
TAJIKISTAN 1 Article 98 Agreement Signing
DEPARTMENT 2 USG efforts to achieve Article 98 agreements 2 John Bolton Travel 10 David Satterfield s meeting with Palestinian leaders 11-12 USG s Public Diplomacy Efforts 13 State Department intervening on behalf of General Motors
SPAIN 2-3,10 Banning of Basque Political Party Batasuna
AFGHANISTAN 3-4 Release of Pakistani prisoners
IRAQ 4-6 Secretary Powell s engagement / Future Strike 6-7 Media Training for Iraqi dissidents 7,13 UN Inspections / New UN Resolution 8-9 Vice President Cheney s Speech 9 Repercussions of a military strike
RUSSIA/GEORGIA 9-10 Pankisi Gorge
WTO 10 USG reaction to new WTO president
SAUDI ARABIA 12-13 State of US/Saudi relations/ President Bush / Prince Bandar s meeting
CHINA 13 Deputy Secretary Armitage s meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister
SYRIA 14 Relations to Ira
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements. I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: You don't want to say anything about Central Asia?
MR. BOUCHER: Do I want to say anything about Central Asia?
QUESTION: About Tajikistan, perhaps?
MR. BOUCHER: You want me to talk about Tajikistan?
QUESTION: I thought you might have something to say since it is a victory of sorts for you guys in your quest to --
MR. BOUCHER: On Tuesday, August 27th, the United States and the Government of Tajikistan signed an Article 98 agreement in Dushanbe. The United States has now concluded four of these agreements. The other three are with Romania, Israel and East Timor. We'll seek to conclude agreements with as many countries as possible, as provided for under the Rome statute. And that's an effort that continues. We're in discussions with any number of governments and in negotiations with many as well.
QUESTION: Can you say who actually signed it? Was it the Ambassador?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure who it was.
QUESTION: Tommy Franks was there yesterday. Does it have anything to do with, you know, ironing out perhaps any kind of last-minute --
MR. BOUCHER: I think General Franks has a lot broader issues to discuss. Whether this came up in their conversations or not, I don't know. It is essentially a diplomatic effort that our embassies have spearheaded and concluded.
QUESTION: And also, so you say you seek to conclude as many of these agreements as -- so is this 4 down and 192 or something to go? What's the -- are you literally looking for, you know, North Korea to sign one?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have gone to many, many countries in the world. I'd have to go back. I think when we originally announced the effort we gave you some indication of how broadly we sent the cable to. We've had our embassies contacting foreign governments and concentrated, I think, on the most likely places that US troops are going to be present or deployed or passing through. So certainly places where US personnel are not likely to ever be located in the foreseeable future are not high on the list.
QUESTION: Well, but was the cable sent to every single embassy?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't remember exactly whether it was every single embassy or almost every embassy.
QUESTION: I was just wondering. Now, on Tajikistan, only two of the four countries that you guys have gotten these deals are actually signatories to the Rome Treaty, correct -- Tajikistan and Romania?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's right. It doesn't change the effort. The effort's still necessary.
QUESTION: Is John Bolton is Seoul?
MR. BOUCHER: Is he in Seoul? I can't -- let me see if I have the exact dates. He's in Seoul by tomorrow. Whether he is physically present in Seoul at this very moment, I don't know. But the answer is, basically, he's in Seoul on Thursday, it's now Wednesday morning in Seoul, so I will just have to see exactly when he arrives there. I don't know, frankly.
QUESTION: And he's going to be giving a speech there?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Is that going to be released here?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we'll try to see if we can get you a copy of it, yeah.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on the Basque political party? Can you explain why you don't object to closing down a political party?
MR. BOUCHER: I think first and foremost, because we have strongly supported and continue to strongly support Spain's fight against terrorism from the ETA. Like any sovereign democracy, the legitimately elected Government of Spain has the right to use every democratically elected institution, law or court system to defend itself against terrorist organizations. Decisions yesterday by a Spanish judge, and then there was a Chamber of Deputies, Spanish Parliament action against the Batasuna Party, the Basque Party that's demonstrated close ties to a terrorist group.
Our understanding is that these actions are not directed at any legitimate political expression or freedom of speech, but rather, the organization's ties to terrorists. So we think that these actions are being taken within a democratic and constitutional framework within a vibrant, functioning democracy to protect itself against terrorism that is obviously there.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? This party won the support of, I believe, 150,000 people at the last elections or so. Does it not concern you that this measure has the effect of disenfranchising all those people?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it necessarily disenfranchises them. As we said, it's designed to get at the financial and material support for Basque terrorism. And I don't think the people who might have voted for them or supported them are necessarily supporters of terrorism and want their votes to be construed in that fashion.
QUESTION: And do you see any parallels here with the longstanding contacts between the US Government and, say, Sinn Fein, which as I understand it has a similar relationship with the IRA as this party has with ETA?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't particularly see any parallels, no. It seems to me a different situation.
QUESTION: Change of subject? Afghanistan. There's going to be a number of prisoners released in Afghanistan, many of them Pakistani and many of them saying they're going to head back to Pakistan and continue the fight against Americans. Is this something that the US has discussed with the Afghan Government about releasing these people, why not just keep them locked up? Or at least with Pakistan, about whether they're going to provide any extra troops at the border or --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with the situation. I'll have to look into it.
QUESTION: Would you take it, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, yes.
QUESTION: It's been going on several days that these prisoners have been giving interviews to us and others that say, yeah, we're ready to be released and go back to fighting. If you'd check into it.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll see.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Iraq and the Secretary's engagement or involvement. What's going on? Made any important phone calls, significant phone calls lately? I assume he's here this week, isn't he? I think last week was the unannounced vacation. Am I wrong?
MR. BOUCHER: You must be wrong somehow. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, I (inaudible) one myself. Did I miss something?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary is here this week. He doesn't always have a full public schedule every day this week, but he's got a lot of activities. I saw him this morning upstairs.
On Iraq, I don't think there's anything particularly new to report from the administration. The Secretary has made clear I think in various conversations, phone calls and meetings with foreign ministers for some time now that Iraq was a serious problem that we had to deal with and that Iraq presented dangers to everybody in the whole region, as the President made clear in his State of the Union speech, and this was a problem that we in the international community had to face up to and have to deal with. And that's something that he's been consistently making clear to interlocutors and people across the board in every way.
QUESTION: Well, let me go a little deeper into this. You know, there's a view, in fact, that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia's foreign affairs advisor claims that there isn't a country in the world that supports an attack on Iraq right now. So is the Secretary -- whether, you know, absolutely true or not, there's a lot of sentiment against an attack. Is the Secretary's job -- does his job entail trying to persuade others to support a US use of force?
And secondly, the rhetoric has been assigned apparently to people like the Vice President. I mean, the really blistering rhetoric, the angry rhetoric, the notion that they've acquired -- they're hell-bent on getting nuclear weapons and that, you know, someone's trying to build a case for preventive war. I don't know that the Secretary is part of this. I can't quite figure out if his role is just to say Iraq isn't good and something has to be done about it, or if he's beating the war drums with the others.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, yes, you are wrong, to go back to the original question you asked. The characterization of war drums I think is not accurate. We have made clear, the White House has made clear, the President himself has made clear, he has not decided on what options to pursue, and therefore there are no war drums to beat.
Nonetheless, everybody in this administration, the Secretary included, has been absolutely frank and absolutely clear in their public statements and their private discussions with foreign leaders, and I think in every single one I've ever sat in on for the last several months with the Secretary when the subject of Iraq has come up, and he has made absolutely clear that there's no question of the threat that Iraq represents to the international community, there's no question that Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction is a serious danger to us all. The Secretary has been absolutely serious, absolutely clear on this, and making clear to the international community we need to face up to this fact and we need to deal with it sooner rather than later. And so that has been, I think, part of our diplomacy and part of our discussions with people.
Now, you're right. There has been a certain amount of debate and discussion about how to deal with it. But as the White House has made clear, the President has not decided, so there's no option to enlist people's support for. There's no war drum to beat. There's no particular course of action that we're trying to sell right now.
The goal I think we need to make clear though, the international community needs to face up to this challenge that's presented by Iraq's defiance of the United Nations and Iraq's failure to disarm and Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? You say that there's no question that there's a threat, but I mean, there clearly is a question because people like Mubarak and the Qataris and the Jordanians, again, have all -- are all saying that they think it's a very bad idea to start attacking Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's not what I just said. I mean, I just said to your colleague that there was indeed --
QUESTION: I haven't asked my question.
MR. BOUCHER: I know. But you've already mischaracterized my answer of 13 seconds earlier.
QUESTION: Sorry. Can you explain?
MR. BOUCHER: As I just explained to your colleague, there is no question of the danger that Iraq presents. There is a debate and discussion about how to deal with it, and that that's what you're pointing out.
QUESTION: Okay. You just gave the impression that, am I right in thinking that you don't -- that US diplomats do not feel any urgency about persuading these Arab countries to change their views for the moment until you come up with a war plan?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that, again, sort of mischaracterizes the situation, that the -- until we come up with a war plan? The President will decide what options we want to pursue. And at that point, if it's necessary to enlist diplomatic support, we'll be doing that. But at this moment, we're not selling a war plan because the President has not decided what option he wants to pursue.
QUESTION: But are you trying to -- are you selling something else short of a war plan?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what we're doing is what I've described to you many times in making clear to the international community the danger that Iraq represents and the need to deal with that danger, and deal with that danger sooner rather than later.
QUESTION: Richard, can I get from you a definition of what the State Department believes "beating the war drums" are? Because if the Vice President's speech yesterday wasn't beating the war drums, if Condoleezza Rice's interview with the BBC, whenever it was, ten days ago, wasn't beating the war drums, then I don't know what is beating the war drums. Does it have to be an actual declaration of war or saying we are going to invade or do something militarily? Is that beating the war drums for the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure "beating the war drums" has a precise definition anywhere. But I was asked -- you know, I'm being asked, using this phrase and other phrases, are we enlisting people in a military campaign against Iraq. And the answer is: When the President decides what option to pursue, we will get support for that option, whatever it might be.
QUESTION: One very brief follow-up. Does the Secretary plan to meet with these 17 prominent Iraqis to impart his well-known abilities to speak publicly?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's any particular meeting with the Secretary on their schedule. No, they're having -- I think today is mostly a discussion among themselves about experiences, themes, ideas, and then there's two or three days of specifically sort of training on how to handle yourself in dealing with the media that's being done by a private contractor.
QUESTION: Do you know who?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Can you name any of the Iraqis?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not at this point.
QUESTION: I'm just wondering, is this the same kind of firm, consulting firm, that like the NFL and Major League Baseball hire to teach, you know, athletes or Hollywood stars to, you know, how to present themselves?
MR. BOUCHER: Probably. It's the same kind of firm. I don't know exactly which firm it is. The first time I took this job they contracted with somebody to try to teach me a thing or two. It didn't take, but they tried. (Laughter.)
Sir. Mr. Schweid has a question.
QUESTION: Back to the point that the Saudis and others have made. They say -- they also say they want Iraq to change its ways. They also say they want the inspection stations open. And I know your position is that weapons sites open, but I know your position is that isn't enough.
But in any event, they say that the UN effort to get unfettered inspection of weapons sites will succeed and that's what all of us should be waiting for, that it is a positive diplomatic effort that's certain to succeed, and therefore the US will get its policy carried through without firing a single shot or losing a single soldier.
Do you see the UN effort as on the brink of success?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, Iraq has come and gone, what, two, three times already this year in communications with the United Nations, and not indicated that Iraq is prepared to accept unfettered inspections. The President has made clear, we've made clear, that any inspections in Iraq need to be unfettered, need to be completely open.
But the issue is not inspections. Inspections are not the goal in themselves. The issue is Iraqi disarmament. The issue is Iraqi compliance with a series of UN resolutions that specify that they won't development weapons of mass destruction, that they'll destroy what they had, and in a variety of other ways that they're not going to threaten their own people and cause danger to the region again. So the issue is securing Iraqi compliance with these resolutions, and consistently Iraq has failed to indicate any willingness to comply.
QUESTION: Richard, how do you determine disarmament without inspections?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, we're not saying you do it without inspections. The President himself has said that inspections are -- unfettered inspections need to be done. There are means to doing that. But the goal, once again, is not just to get inspectors back; the goal is to get Iraq to disarm in compliance with UN resolutions.
QUESTION: I thought the goal was regime change.
MR. BOUCHER: That's a US goal. We were talking about the international goal.
QUESTION: Richard, the Vice President said yesterday that we now know that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, and we haven't exactly heard that formulation before. Is there new information that leads you to that conclusion?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'd have to ask the White House exactly if they want to provide any new information. Certainly --
QUESTION: I'm not asking what it is. I'm asking if there is any.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I don't know specifically what that line in the speech was based on. Certainly whether it was new or old information, certainly we all know from history and from Iraq's use of weapons of mass destruction in the form of poison gas that Iraq has these weapons. And from the previous inspections, we know that they have not destroyed everything they had.
QUESTION: Richard, in your view and in the Secretary's view, did the Vice President in his speech yesterday lay out the case for preemptive action against Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Vice President's words speak for themselves. I don't think I need to go any farther than that.
QUESTION: In one point of the speech, he said that such preemptive action and the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime would enhance the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Does this mean that efforts to get a renewed peace process going should be placed on hold until after Iraq is taken care of?
MR. BOUCHER: That's not what the Vice President said, at least in my reading of the speech. He did not say that we should in any way delay the effort to achieve peace. Certainly we are actively pursuing the effort to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We have welcomed the steps that they have started to take in terms of easing up on the situation. We have welcomed the cooperation that they have started to establish in terms of on-the-ground efforts, meetings of local security people. And we continue to welcome, we are pleased to see, that they continue to take steps in those directions to ease up there and to move down the road the President laid out in his speech on the Middle East.
QUESTION: In these talks with opposition folks -- go ahead.
QUESTION: I wanted to talk about the Palestinians.
MR. BOUCHER: Mark, I'm not questioning the original quote. I'm just saying that the inference that you're trying to draw, the question that you asked about it, is not necessarily an inference that I would draw.
QUESTION: Well, excuse me. He says, "Our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991."
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. But he did not say, "So we're going to wait until then before we do anything on the peace process." That's the only part that -- that was the question, and the answer is no. He said what he said and not -- I wouldn't draw any further inference from it.
QUESTION: In the conversations with Iraqi opposition, some of whom are Kurds, has there been discussion of Kurdish aspirations for a state of their own? Has there been any statement by US officials that the US -- a phrase I haven't heard in a long time -- does support the territorial of Iraq? I ask because the Saudis are saying among the unforeseen consequences of an attack could be the declaration of statehood by the Kurds, by the Shi'ites, you know, the consequences are unforeseen. Is the US hearing hopes from the Kurds that maybe they'd like their own state from this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- I don't know if there are any particular discussions that you are referring to. If you're talking about the people that are here for this discussion today, I haven't been in the room. I don't know if it came up.
But in like meetings, everybody is quite aware of our support for the territorial integrity of Iraq. That remains an important part of our view of the situation in the region. It's something that when we discuss the issues of Iraq with regional players we always make clear. And it's something we always make clear in our discussions with Iraqi groups.
And that's why one of our efforts is to bring together, through various seminars or activities that we have with the Iraqi opposition people, all the various groups that are interested in one way or the other in change in Iraq, so that they understand that their future, this whole project on the future of Iraq, is the idea that all these people have a future together in Iraq and not somehow as separate entities looking for separate benefits or outcomes.
Andrea, you had something? No? Jonathan.
QUESTION: Any contacts with either the Russians or Georgians in the last 24 hours over their dispute?
MR. BOUCHER: Not from the Secretary. I'm sure that our embassies in both places are fairly active, but nothing new from the Secretary's point of view.
QUESTION: Does your rebuke of Russia have any implications for US-Russian relations?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that the United States made quite clear all along what our view is on dealing with the situation between -- in this region in the Pankisi Gorge. We have, you know, made clear in our contacts and diplomatic channels our concerns about the actions that the -- we have taken action to help the Georgians train their troops so that their forces who are now going into this area can be effective in controlling the border from their side, that really, we think it is up to Georgia to do that. We've tried to help Georgia do that.
QUESTION: On this, would the US support Georgia taking this to the Security Council? It says it's contemplating bringing a resolution to the Security Council, but of course, Russia being a Perm Five Member could be complicated.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if that issue has come up in New York. I'd have to check. But I think in terms of the actual situation on the ground, we have tried to help the Georgians be able to take charge in this area of the Pankisi Gorge and make sure that terrorists can't operate out of there; tried to encourage the Russians and the Georgians to talk to each other so that they can deal together with the question of international terrorists that may be there that may be moving into Chechnya.
And we've also continued our efforts with the Russians to encourage them to look also for a political settlement in Chechnya, in addition to fighting terrorism.
QUESTION: Palestinians, new subject. Can you tell us about David Satterfield's meeting with the Palestinians and the steps he outlined that they had to take?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure he's met with the Palestinians yet. Where do I have him today? Depart for Jordan later today. That's probably by now. So I don't think he's made it to Jerusalem yet.
Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Could I just go back to the Spanish party again? When you said it has ties to terrorism, did you have independent information or are you just taking the word of the Spanish authorities on this? And also, does that mean that you're considering adding members of this party to any of your lists, your executive order list, or your, whatever the lists --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can go that far at this moment. Certainly we stay in very close touch with the Spanish Government on the issue of terrorism. We share information that we have back and forth. And so I think we certainly trust their judgment and share it.
QUESTION: Several years ago, Richard, you guys got the Thai Government quite upset with your opposition to their candidate, Mr. Supachai, for the head of the WTO. You supported instead -- you wanted Mike Moore, the New Zealander, who is now, or next week, going to be stepping down. In turn, Mr. Supachai is taking over as a result of the compromise that was reached.
I'm wondering if you still have the same concerns about Mr. Supachai that you did back when you opposed his original nomination.
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at the record you'll find that we wanted to work something out. Something was worked out. We were happy with the arrangement. We're happy with the arrangement now. We look forward to working with Mr. Supachai as head of the WTO.
QUESTION: Let's try another one. Public diplomacy. It's been about a year now. What has the administration done to improve our image in the Muslim world?
MR. BOUCHER: A big question. I would say, look at it generally this way: We have gotten out there to explain what we're doing in all kinds of new ways in the last year, but we've also started to get at sort of the underlying questions of who we are and what we stand for in ways that are probably more long term. So we've had people on Arab media. We've had Arab journalists in to report about the United States. We've helped -- we've used programs that were directed in other directions, like programs for Eastern European journalists to learn about the United States, and use those now for Arab journalists to learn more about the United States and to report themselves on what they see going on here.
We've had speakers out. We've had more exchanges, more of our exchange programs devoted to that part of the world. And we're also looking at sort of fundamental issues like the ties, the fundamental values that are shared by the United States and Muslim populations all over the world. So you'll see on our web pages things like "Muslim Life in America," information that we put out in brochures and other web pages and video releases and things like that being prepared that we can sort of deal with these more fundamental questions of how we relate to people in that part of the world and how we can actually find ourselves with a lot more in common than people think.
QUESTION: Do you have any way of measuring your success in this, because there are some polls and critics that say that the image has only gotten worse?
MR. BOUCHER: The effort needs to be long term. I think we all understand that you can get some explanation, some acceptance, some understanding for policy. I think the understanding that the United States is not waging a war against Moslems has sunk in. That's been part of everything that we have tried to do and say.
I think the understanding that terrorism is a threat to us all, not just to American society, but to all governments that aspire to some sort of freedom, some sort of stability, some sort of modernization, that has sunk in.
So in some ways you could say some of these points are getting across. On the other hand, yes. The polls are out there that show that the disposition, the general disposition of people's attitudes is quite strong often, often quite strong against the United States. And we have to deal with that. But have to deal with that -- it's a very long-term proposition. In part, it's a long-term proposition because we were absent from the playing field for many years and as we cut our budgets and restricted our operations and redirected them elsewhere in the '90s.
So many of these more longer-term efforts are going to have to take time before we kind of, hopefully, see some kind of turnaround in the general attitudes towards the United States.
QUESTION: Richard, excuse me. On the Muslim Life in America thing you just mentioned, has the State Department ever responded or taken a position on the allegation by these three religious figures that that website is actually unconstitutional because it promotes one religion over another?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've discussed that here before. We certainly don't view it that way. I will see if there's been some more legal reaction that was required anywhere.
QUESTION: Richard, how do you respond to critics who say that the public diplomacy campaign as it stands right now really misses the point and that it's not so much about Muslims or the Arab world being upset with the United States because it believes either the war on terrorism is aimed at them or because it believes the United States is not friendly towards Muslims in this country; but rather, it has to do with US policy, and that until the US addresses their concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian situation and Iraq, the polls are going to continue to reflect negatively against US policy?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we understand that around the world there are people who will disagree with US policy. We'll make our strongest efforts and best efforts to get people to understand what we're doing and why we're doing it and to get them to agree with US policy, whether it's the efforts that we're making with the Israelis and the Palestinians or the effort that we all need to make to stop the threats from Iraq.
The issue is a little more than that, though. To make these arguments convincingly, you have to have, I think, a willingness to listen. And in many ways, that's where identification, values, conveying a sense of who we are, what we stand for, what we're about, is necessary to lay the ground for the arguments on policy to take place and to take place in an atmosphere where we can understand each other.
QUESTION: -- the best summer for US-Saudi relations. Can you tell me, first, is there State Department representation at the meeting down in Crawford today with the Saudi Ambassador? And also, can you kind of summarize overall the state of US-Saudi relations?
MR. BOUCHER: To answer the first question, I think, no, I don't think we sent anybody down for the meetings with Prince Bandar and the President and the National Security Advisor. Certainly we're working with our colleagues at the NSC and we're working in a coordinated fashion in terms of the various contacts we have with the Saudi Government.
Overall US-Saudi relations, we have a very solid relationship with Saudi Arabia. We're cooperating and working with the Saudi Government in the fight against terrorism in all its aspects, especially in areas involving finance, legal matters, investigations.
We're cooperating and working very closely with Saudi Arabia on the issue of peace in the Middle East, and as you know, we've been very actively engaged with them and the task force efforts, the efforts, remember, when the Secretary went up to New York, they not only had a Quartet meeting, but had meetings with the Saudis and the Jordanians and the Egyptians, as well as meetings down in Washington a few days later. So this has been a very active effort between the United States and Saudi Arabia, particularly this summer since the President's speech in June, to engage in the process of moving forward towards a Palestinian state.
I would cite as well, the fact that we and Saudi Arabia are both concerned about the dangers the regime of Saddam Hussein represents, about making sure that he never again threatens his neighbors, threatens his people, and threatens the regional stability. And those are issues that we also discuss very actively with Saudi Arabia.
We don't agree, necessarily, on every issue. There are points that we pursue with them and they pursue with us. But overall, the United States US-Saudi relationship is solid. It's one that's based on common interests and it's one that demonstrates a lot of active cooperation on important issues.
QUESTION: The Chinese Foreign Minister met with the Iraqi Foreign Minister one day after Armitage met with the Chinese. Did Secretary Armitage leave any message or consult with the Chinese on Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know whether he did or not, I'm afraid. I just don't have that information. What I would say is that I think it's safe to say we're profoundly skeptical of the value of any of these contacts with the Iraqis, but we would certainly hope that anyone that is meeting with the Iraqis make quite clear the absolute need for Iraqi compliance with their obligations that they accepted under UN resolutions.
QUESTION: You said the US goal and UN goal about Iraq is different, that if you want to achieve the US goal of toppling Saddam, are you going to exclude the UN role in that mission?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a question I can't answer right now. I don't think the President's made any decisions. You're basically asking are we going to go for a new UN resolution. And I don't think I can say one way or the other right now. I would say it's quite clear that Iraq is already subject and has accepted something like, what, nine resolutions since the war, and is, in our view, is not in compliance with those.
QUESTION: I've got a bit of a bizarre, off-the-wall type of question. Do you know anything about the State Department intervening with General Motors to prevent them from laying off some employees at a plant in Canada because of some confusion over whether US -- over whether workers who are apparently building some new top-secret tank or something needed to be US citizens or not? Do you know anything about this? There's reports in Canada about it.
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's safe for me to answer no, I don't know anything about this.
QUESTION: I told you it was bizarre.
MR. BOUCHER: But, well, I will see if we have anything.
QUESTION: In the earlier discussion, how do you view Syria in the context over Iraq? And also with the Palestinian and Israeli settlement? Are they still intransigent or are they cooperating?
MR. BOUCHER: I would just say generally, as one of Iraq's neighbors, Syria needs to be as concerned as anyone about Iraq's behavior in the region, about Iraq's -- the dangers posed by Iraq's attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction.
As far as the overall peace process, our view is that there does need to be a comprehensive peace process, and as we talk to Syria about many, many issues, one of them is the peace process.