State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for September 27
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
September 27, 2002
1-2 Update on UN Resolution
1-2 Undersecretary Grossman s Travel to Paris and Moscow
1 Secretary Powell s Calls to UN Secretary General and
2-3 Evidence of al-Qaida presence in Iraq
4-7 Status of Downed U.S. Pilot CDR. Speicher
16-17 Meetings of the Iraqi Opposition
3 Situation in Pankisi Gorge
3-4,7 Assistant Secretary Beth Jones Travel to Turkey and
7 U.S. Policy Review
8-9 Visas Condor Program/Security Checks/Backlog
9 U.S. German Relations
9-12 Assistant Secretary Kelly Travel to Pyongyang
COTE D IVOIRE
12-13 Update of Situation/Revised Travel Warning/Welfare of
13 Situation in Gaza and Ramallah
13-14 UN Security Council Resolution
14 Embassy Warden Message Warning of Possible al-Qaida Kidnap
Threat Against Americans
15-16 U.S. Military Survey Operations
17-18 Community of Democracies Meeting
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new to update us on the Secretary's attempt to get support for the resolution in the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: What the Secretary has been engaged in, what Under Secretary Grossman is engaged in Paris, is consultations with other members of the Security Council. We are not -- what we are doing is we are working on a resolution with the other members of the Council to make sure we get a good resolution, a tough resolution that can get maximum support. We have taken that effort now to a wider group of members. We've, as the Secretary said, agreed on the elements with the British. And Under Secretary Grossman is today in Paris having meetings at the Foreign Ministry and with others in Paris to hear their ideas, talk to them, work with them on a text that we hope can garner support, and then he'll be going on to Moscow to do the same thing.
As far as the Secretary's phone calls, hasn't had any since the ones I gave you yesterday. Well, I guess he did -- yesterday afternoon he talked to Secretary General Kofi Annan, he talked to Foreign Minister Saud al-Faysal of Saudi Arabia as well on these subjects and the Middle East as well.
QUESTION: Will Grossman, by any chance, be going on to China?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, he is scheduled to do Paris and Moscow. As you know, he talked to the Assistant Foreign Minister, Chinese Foreign Minister, yesterday before he left because we had him, Mr. Zhou Wenzhong, visiting in town so we took that opportunity to talk directly to the Chinese before he left.
QUESTION: Have you heard back from him yet from Paris? Because the French have just said that Chirac has told Bush that France will not support any resolution that has -- that gives -- that uses the words "use of force" in it. So --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on how this --
QUESTION: I asked if the meeting was over and if you heard back from him.
MR. BOUCHER: I have not heard back from him. I know he's having his meetings. I'm afraid we're not going to go into any particular detail at this point because we're talking about the elements, the ideas of a resolution. We want to hear from people what their ideas are and we want to discuss how this resolution can give the Security Council control of the issues, how this resolution can once again put the Security Council in the driver's seat on what happens.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, what about the French apparent reaction so far?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to react to everything that everybody says. We're working on a resolution with other members of the Council. We're listening to them. We're presenting our ideas. We're talking to them. We're discussing text and how that can be worked out. This is a process of consultation, it's a process of discussion, to work out a good resolution that we can get maximum support for. And we'll continue to do that, and at the appropriate time when it's time to discuss the elements of the resolution in public, we'll do that. But we owe it to our friends and allies to talk to them first and to work things out with them first before we start playing 20 questions about what's in a resolution and what's not.
QUESTION: Can you at least say whether the other Perm Five have agreed that there should be a resolution, or is that still also up in the air?
MR. BOUCHER: We're consulting with the other members of the Perm Five about a resolution and about what should be in a resolution. I'm not going to speak for anybody else. Whether some people are doing that but still have ideas that maybe we don't need one, that's up to them to say. But they are at least discussing with us a resolution or more than one resolution and what should be in it.
QUESTION: Over the last week, Condoleezza Rice and Secretary Rumsfeld have said more forcefully that there is evidence of an al-Qaida presence in Iraq that Saddam controls. Is Under Secretary Grossman going to be presenting any kind of new evidence in his trip to Paris along these lines?
MR. BOUCHER: The trip to Paris and Moscow by Under Secretary Grossman is to work on the elements of a resolution, to work on the text of what could be a resolution. It's not a briefing. It's not an intelligence briefing. As you know, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and I think the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence were out recently meeting with NATO allies and doing intelligence briefings in the last week or so. So that information is shared not only on a regular basis with all our friends and allies, but there was a particular briefing on Iraq that was done I think in connection with that meeting. But you'd have to get details from Defense.
QUESTION: If I could just follow up, I mean, is it your hope that this -- presenting this new evidence, and it's obviously been shared with the public at this point, would potentially sway the French, the Russians, the Chinese?
MR. BOUCHER: It is our hope, as the President made clear in his speech and as Kofi Annan made clear in his speech, that the Security Council members will want to face up to their responsibility, that they will want to make themselves effective in doing something about the many violations which are not particularly matters of intelligence but which have been obvious to everybody, which have been described by the Council in the past, which have been condemned by the Council in the past and which have been documented in public records of inspection teams and many, many others. There is plenty of reason to say that Iraq has been in violation, remains in violation, that we need to do something about it. And that's the issue that the Secretary -- that the President put to the United Nations. That's the issue, frankly, the Secretary General put to the Security Council when he said that the Council needs to face its responsibility.
QUESTION: President Putin has worked very hard, and as has Minister Ivanov, to draw a link with Georgia while all this debate has been going on. In fact, President Putin said that Russia felt more threatened from Georgia than it did from Iraq this week. Does the United States share the assessment that the activities in Georgian territory represent a -- present a real threat to Russia? And is there any sense in the administration's thinking that you should lighten up on criticizing the Russians because of what's happening with Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: There is -- I don't intend to lighten up. There is no quid pro quo. There are certainly concerns that Russia has that we share about the activities of terrorist elements in and out of the Pankisi Gorge. We certainly feels it's necessary to deal with that situation. We have made absolutely clear however that the best way to deal with that situation, the appropriate way to deal with that situation, is what we're doing: we're training and equipping and helping Georgian forces be able to deal with the problems within their territory, be able to secure their borders. They have undertaken now military steps to try to secure that area, and we think that's the best way to do it.
In addition, we have made clear we believe that cooperation between Georgia and Russia in stopping this activity in and out of this area, and in and out of Georgian and Russian territory, is important as well. And we have, to the extent we can, offered cooperation with them on a bilateral as well as trilateral basis. But we think there needs to be more cooperation by them in the area in order to stop this kind of activity.
QUESTION: Do you have anything trilateral planned?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to double-check on that. I think we've -- you know, if there's anything in that regard we can do, we would. I'm not sure if we've actually engaged in anything particular yet.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Iraq for one second? Beth Jones, next week, is going to Turkey and then on to Ukraine. We can talk about the Ukraine thing a little bit later, but I want to talk about her trip, her visit in Turkey. Presumably, Iraq will be a subject of discussion there; is that correct?
And also, did the Turks tell you when you were arranging this that Tariq Aziz was going to be in Ankara at this exact same time that Beth Jones is going to be there?
MR. BOUCHER: I know Beth certainly knows because she mentioned it to me this morning. Our Assistant Secretary Jones is going to be traveling in Turkey September 29 to October 1st, Ukraine October 1st and 2nd. As our Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, she keeps in close touch with the countries in the region, particularly important allies and friends like Turkey. And in Turkey, she will have discussions on a full range of bilateral and regional issues.
QUESTION: Any comment on Tariq Aziz being in Ankara?
MR. BOUCHER: No particular comment.
QUESTION: She's planning on avoiding him or --
MR. BOUCHER: She's not planning on seeing him.
MR. BOUCHER: Or encountering him.
QUESTION: So what exactly is she -- well, when she goes to Turkey, is she going -- the full range of issues, does that include potential use of Turkish facilities or facilities in Turkey?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have a very broad relationship with Turkey that includes military cooperation. It includes economic cooperation, political cooperation, concerns about the situations in the region. She'll discuss all those things. I'm not going to get into any particular speculation on military aspects.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, can you say that at least she's going to talk about Iraq? Can you say Iraq or do you --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure she'll talk about Iraq.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: In the Secretary's testimony yesterday, he said there had been some new developments on the Speicher case. Could you please bring us up to date?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to be able to go into any particular detail on that aspect of what he said. The Secretary works very closely, keeps in close touch with the Pentagon, senior leadership at the Pentagon about the Speicher case. He is personally committed to doing everything we can to determine the fate of Commander Speicher and try to make sure that we can help the family in that regard. The Pentagon keeps in close touch with the family. And you know there have been recently some questions that came up that he talked to counterparts in the Pentagon about that I won't go into any detail on it since it's really family business and not ours.
But at this point, I do think it's important to remember that we've been pursuing the Iraqis on this consistently and unfortunately have gotten no response. In mid-July we sent a diplomatic note to the Iraqis through the Red Cross and Red Crescent responding to the public -- the statements to wire services, I think, that Iraq had made about a meeting. We outlined again, as we have done in numerous previous communications on this issue, directly to Iraq and in a tripartite commission, that Iraq needs to provide information on the critical questions.
Over the years, we've sent numerous communications to Iraq asking for specific information and answers regarding shootdown of Commander Speicher's aircraft, a technical team visit of the crash site in Iraq in 1995 to gather more information regarding Commander Speicher's state, but failed to obtain critical answers from the Iraqi Government at that time.
Given our extensive efforts with the Iraqi Government through the International Committee of the Red Cross, Iraq's failure to attend tripartite commission meetings and their assertion that they will provide no new information, we really have to question the seriousness of some of the things the Iraqis have done in past months on this.
That said, we remain committed to following up every possible avenue, and that remains our position. We'll do that if we can.
QUESTION: How many variables are there, Richard? I mean, they've changed his status once. What kind of new developments? If the Iraqis haven't given you anything new, what do you have that's new?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into anything. We don't have any new information on Commander Speicher's fate. That's the bottom line.
QUESTION: Last week, though, a lawyer for the family said that they were going to be writing to the Iraqis and were hopeful that they could have a meeting with an Iraqi official who would be in a position to know what the fate of -- what his fate was. Does the State Department have any position about whether the family should be meeting with Iraqi officials? Did you recommend ow How hhklkad Wethat they -- did you recommend this?
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure the family will want to do everything possible to get information. We certainly think that despite previous Iraqi unwillingness to provide any significant information, we should all do everything possible to get that information. But any proposals for such a meeting would be kind of family business I wouldn't get into.
QUESTION: And you wouldn't get -- you wouldn't take a -- recommend against or recommend for?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to -- that's not the kind of thing I'd talk about here.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you say if that's what the Secretary was referring to when he spoke of the new developments? Because if you're not -- when he comes out and says on the floor of the Senate, or in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that there have been new developments in the case, and if that's what it is, if it's simply the family talking about maybe wanting to meet with an Iraqi, it would be helpful to, you know -- in other words, the Secretary doesn't want to be in the position of getting people's hopes up, does he?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the Secretary was in a position of getting people's hopes up. He mentioned developments. I don't think he even used the word "new." But --
QUESTION: Well, but he said developments earlier this week.
QUESTION: -- prompted him to get in touch with the families?
MR. BOUCHER: Indirectly, yes.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, that sounds like -- I mean, I think the common impression is --
MR. BOUCHER: It's just not my business to talk about.
QUESTION: -- he heard something promising and he told the family about it.
MR. BOUCHER: And I'm telling you we haven't heard anything new from the Iraqis. So don't jump too far on one word, or five words.
QUESTION: Richard, there was, though, in this report a defector alleged that he had personally driven --
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's what Senator Nelson referred to.
QUESTION: Yes, so there have been press reports. But presumably, if a defector had said that, the US Government is aware of it. Can you say whether this is true?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I have not personally looked into that. As I said, the Pentagon follows this most closely in trying to determine every aspect, every possible piece of information on Commander Speicher's fate. And I'd leave it to them to try to tell you anything they can about specific reports.
QUESTION: So, Richard, you said you hadn't heard anything new from the Iraqis. Have you heard anything new from other sources? Or anything new, period?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, if there was anything that the Pentagon has been able to develop, I'd leave it to them. But I'm not claiming any new information here.
QUESTION: Can you at least say what is the State Department's role? As I understand it, it's simply to pass the messages if there were any from Iraq, right? To convey things to Iraqi officials or from Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Our role has been, and continues to be, to pursue the Iraqis on this -- to do everything we can to get the Iraqis to divulge everything they know, to keep the issue prominent, and to continue in any way we can to collect information.
QUESTION: But then why would the Secretary even have cause to mention recent involvement, if there's nothing from the Iraqis?
MR. BOUCHER: Because he was asked if we were -- what are we doing on it? And he basically said we're still working on it; as a matter of fact, something came up this week with relation to Commander Speicher, and it was on his agenda.
QUESTION: We dropped Ukraine before you got to it. Is Beth Jones' visit to Ukraine related to the supposed sale to the Iraqis?
MR. BOUCHER: The visit of Assistant Secretary Jones is -- at a different tab. The visit of Assistant Secretary Jones is to talk about US-Ukrainian relations, clearly in the context of our ongoing policy review towards Ukraine and President Kuchma. It's not the "visit of experts" that had been proposed, but certainly we will take up the issues of the Kolchuga sale to Iraq, the agreement to sell Kolchuga to Iraq, and consider, in that context, the Ukrainian offer to have experts come out.
I think it's important to remember that we have always urged Ukrainian officials to be as transparent, as forthcoming as possible on these questions. Unfortunately, I have to note that Ukraine, the Government of Ukraine has not been candid in the past with us on this issue. We're considering the possibility of a visit by technical experts, but before proceeding we would want to have confidence that Ukrainian officials are prepared to address this issue in a transparent way, and that appropriate understandings about the scope of work and access were in place in order for the effort to be productive.
So these issues will be taken up by Assistant Secretary Jones as she travels.
QUESTION: When will she be going?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I just gave the dates -- 1 and 2 October.
QUESTION: Can we try something else?
QUESTION: I would like to follow up. Has the administration done any assessment of what it would mean if Iraq had this system? Do you know --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure the appropriate military experts have. I don't have anything like that to share with you, though.
QUESTION: Richard, can I briefly have you go back to the visa situation of a few days ago? There have been some calls and faxes and all. There seems to be an impression that the State Department was saying the whole backlog of pending applications had been cleared away, and these people are calling and writing and saying that -- of personal experiences that --
MR. BOUCHER: Are these people that were held up because of "Visas Condor" checks?
QUESTION: Well, that's the -- I guess that might be the misunderstanding because I don't know. No, but judging where they say they're looking for visas to be issued, they don't seem to be --
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose anybody that doesn't get their visa tomorrow doesn't -- thinks their visa is backlogged. The fact is that we cleared out an enormous backlog that had built up of a specific kind of visa check that we do for security reasons that we've done since September 11th in order to be more careful about possible terrorism, about people who may mean us harm.
There are any number of other parts of the visa process where we look at different aspects of an applicant's application, we consider it carefully. Sometimes we do other database checks for different kinds of people. Sometimes, you know, we need the appropriate paperwork from the INS and the United States. It doesn't mean that every visa gets issued when the person walks in the door. We're going to do every check we need to do. We're going to check every security aspect and every other legal aspect of a visa before we issue it. We're very careful, and we're probably more careful now than we ever were before. But we have cleared out a significant backlog of one category that was causing enormous delays for people.
QUESTION: Not to drag it out, but I think you're saying it takes more time across the board than it used to.
MR. BOUCHER: In some cases it does. In some cases it doesn't. But the checks are all being done very carefully.
QUESTION: All right. But at the same time, you said the other day the process was streamlined. That wasn't your word, but you had new equipment, new material, new databanks, et cetera. And I think you used two weeks as maybe a yardstick now for visas.
MR. BOUCHER: For --
QUESTION: -- Condor.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, why would Condor move faster than a guy who's waiting for his fiancée to come from Russia?
MR. BOUCHER: Because different visas require different things. Working visas require work certifications in the United States. It can take much longer than a couple weeks. Fiancée visas require different kinds of certifications about the intention to marry and the whole immigrant visa process. Fiancée visas get essentially the same visa as an immigrant, so they have the health checks, the police checks, the background checks -- the things that an immigrant would get.
Each category of visa, each aspect of -- each applicant is treated individually and there are different checks for different categories.
QUESTION: Lastly, is there now an additional security check across the board? Just like when we go to the airport --
MR. BOUCHER: Everybody who applies for a visa now fills out an additional information form. Depending on what is in that form and the other information we have on an applicant, there might be a more extended processing time for some of the individuals.
Every applicant, as always, is run through the database of information on ineligibilities. That database has grown by millions of names. So every applicant is checked against that database, yes, and that's a more extensive check just because it's bigger now.
QUESTION: Richard, given the somewhat frosty relationship between the United States and Germany at the moment, I'm wondering if you have any -- what your reaction is to their election to the Security Council today and if you have any concerns about that.
MR. BOUCHER: Germany is one of our key allies in NATO. We work with them in many things around the world. They, I think, were the unanimous candidate or the unopposed candidate of a grouping, and I think actually all the candidates this year are, so it would happen as a matter of course, if that's what happened. I, frankly, haven't noticed.
QUESTION: Okay. The second thing on this is that Joschka Fischer seems convinced that he's coming here to speak with the Secretary, and he said it again today that he's coming here in mid-October. Is that correct.
MR. BOUCHER: There's nothing scheduled at this point.
QUESTION: Who will be the counterpart of Mr. Kelly?
MR. BOUCHER: Who will be the counterpart of Mr. Kelly?
MR. BOUCHER: In Pyongyang?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Ask the North Koreans.
QUESTION: Okay. In regard to North Korea, I have two questions. One thing we know the United States demand. The Secretary explain us over and over again, and you also explain us. Are there any additional demands on the table? That's my first question.
And the second part is this delegation who is going to leave for Pyongyang next Thursday. Are these people are people who convey -- trying to convey some message from Washington to North Korea or are they negotiators?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, the framework for all this is the statement that the President issued about more than a year ago now, that we were ready for serious discussions on a number of issues that we wanted to take up. That's the intention of this group. Assistant Secretary Kelly will go out to Pyongyang from October 3rd to 5 and will discuss these concerns in detail. We've told the North Koreans that we're prepared for a dialogue and that we seek a comprehensive resolution of our concerns, including on the North's programs for weapons of mass destruction and missiles, its nuclear activities, its conventional force posture, and of course the humanitarian situation of the North Korean people.
The United States, like our South Korean and Japanese allies and the international community as a whole, have very serious and longstanding concerns about North Korea. We recognize some recent positive developments, but there are many areas where we've seen little movement, especially in the security area.
The delegation will go out and will take up this whole series of issues. The delegation involves about nine people that are drawn from various agencies of the US Government, including National Security Council, Joint Chiefs of Staff, several people from the State Department, representatives of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. So it will be an interagency delegation that goes to take up and to discuss with North Koreans all the issues that the President said we wanted to discuss over a year ago.
They will stop in Tokyo October 2nd and 3rd on their way to Pyongyang and they'll stop in -- I'm sorry, in Tokyo October 2nd and in Seoul October 3rd on their way to Pyongyang. And on their return they will visit Seoul on October 5th and Tokyo on October 6th. So we remain in very close touch with our friends and allies.
QUESTION: When does that mean they're leaving? Are they leaving on the 30th, 31st?
QUESTION: There is no 31st.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what -- yeah, they're leaving on the 31st. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Wait, wait. You don't know?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have airplane schedules. Sorry. They'll leave in time to get to Tokyo for October 2nd.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm sorry, but this is -- you know, this is --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, I'm sorry. They're leaving in time to get to Tokyo on October 2nd, to be in Tokyo for consultations on October 2nd. I actually don't know what time they get on the airplane.
QUESTION: I don't want to know what time. I just want to know when --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's what you asked.
QUESTION: No, I asked what day.
Anyway, how are they getting from Seoul to Pyongyang?
MR. BOUCHER: In a small, executive-style military aircraft.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is that a US military aircraft?
MR. BOUCHER: I assume so.
QUESTION: Since the White House is doing the announcing on this, is he going as a Presidential envoy?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the White House announcement yesterday said the President has asked him to go. And that's how he's going.
QUESTION: Is he taking any press?
MR. BOUCHER: No. He's got a small executive-style military aircraft -- (laughter) --and, unfortunately, no space for the press. It's a small aircraft.
QUESTION: Can I make a plea for as much information as possible about their schedule, since we're apparently -- there's no arrangements being made for us there. So --
MR. BOUCHER: We're just not in a position to make any arrangements either to take you or accommodate you out there. We don't --
QUESTION: No, I realize that. But if you could get a schedule or something, that would be really helpful.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we'll be able to do that, but if we can, we will.
QUESTION: Could you update us on the Ivory Coast after your authorized departure announcement of yesterday, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I think you all know -- as you mentioned, we issued a revised Travel Warning for Cote d'Ivoire which urged US citizens to defer travel to Cote d'Ivoire at this time. We've also said that American residents in Cote d'Ivoire should make arrangements to depart the country temporarily. The US Embassy in Abidjan continues to assist American citizens who wish to depart areas affected by the rebels and the fighting.
We remain in contact with the American citizen community through the Embassy Warden System. The American citizens known to be in Bouake and who wanted to leave have now departed. We're working closely with the French to assist French, American and other foreign nationals who wish to depart these areas.
Once again, I'd like to thank the French for their assistance in these matters. We're in the process of bringing together the Peace Corps volunteers assigned to Cote d'Ivoire, of bringing them together at a place outside the country.
There continue to be no reports of attacks against Europeans and Americans or their property. And I think we've previously given the phone number for individuals who have concerns or who have information about Americans in the Ivory Coast, but just to give that once again, it's 1-888-407-4747.
QUESTION: Do you have a number for any of these groups?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Like Peace Corps, or people -- the Americans who left, in fact?
MR. BOUCHER: No. We generally try not to go into the numbers, so nobody starts counting them. As far as people who've left, there were 193 people evacuated from the Christian Academy, the International Christian Academy in Bouake; 147 of those were American citizens, and 19 have opted to be flown on to Accra, and we've taken them there.
QUESTION: What do you make of the suggestions in Abidjan and in the capital that Burkina Faso is behind the -- and have you talked to anyone in Ouagadougou about this? And are you planning to have anyone going to sit in or observe the West African summit on this?
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly support the effort that the West Africans are making to try to bring some peace back to this area and resolve these issues peacefully. We've called on both sides to seek a peaceful conclusion to the confrontation. We particularly made clear our interests in seeing the rebels resolve this peacefully.
The situation, I would say, remains very fluid. The rebels are still in control of Bouake, Korhogo and areas in the north. There was a truce in place to facilitate the extraction of third-country nationals, and we haven't seen any reports of resumed fighting since then. So we support every effort that can be made regionally.
We're in close touch with the government from our Embassy out there. But at this point, our concentration really remains on making sure -- ensuring the safety of American citizens.
QUESTION: So nothing on the alleged Burkinabe --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything new to say on that, on the causes and the motivations of people.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Sudan that you didn't put out yesterday? They've since announced that all aid flights to the south are being stopped. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: We have announced?
QUESTION: No, no, Khartoum.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'll have to check on that and see.
QUESTION: Richard, the Middle East. Do you have any comment on the Gaza raid yesterday? You used to be against these targeted killings.
MR. BOUCHER: We still are against targeted killings.
QUESTION: Particularly this one? I mean, in reference to this one?
MR. BOUCHER: We are against targeted killings. We are against the use of heavy weaponry in urban areas, even when it comes to people like Mohamed Deif, who have been responsible for the deaths of American citizens. We do think these people need to be brought to justice. Anyone responsible for terror and violence needs to be brought to justice. But operations such as those conducted in Gaza endanger civilian lives, and inflame tensions, and undermine efforts for peace.
QUESTION: And Ramallah? There is, of course, that Security Council resolution which is still awaiting implementation. What are you doing about that?
MR. BOUCHER: We have said we expect Israel to comply with this resolution. We're in close touch with the Israeli Government. We have urged the Government of Israel to cease the measures it's taking in and around Ramallah. We support the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian cities to the positions they held in September of 2000, consistent with security requirements.
So we continue to work and talk to the parties, and look for implementation of the resolution.
QUESTION: And what -- those contacts you've been having, can you say what level they are, who's contacted who?
MR. BOUCHER: Our Ambassador in Jerusalem has been very active on this issue at all levels of the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: And Mr. Burns too, or not?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know what contacts he might have had. He's frequently on the phone with people in the region; I just don't know if he's had any meetings.
QUESTION: Richard, on China --
QUESTION: Wait, can I --
QUESTION: Just next door. What can you tell us about this embassy message that was sent out yesterday in Amman, saying that there was an al-Qaida threat to kidnap Americans there?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd tell you what it says in the message, and that's really the extent that I think I can go into it.
The embassy put out a Warden message yesterday in order to make as much information available as possible to the Americans who live there. And what they told people is the US Government received uncorroborated information indicating that as of this summer, one member of the al-Qaida organization was considering a plan to kidnap US citizens in Jordan. That's as much as we're able to say. There's no further information available to determine the credibility of this threat or any indications of the timing.
But they felt it was necessary and appropriate to tell Americans resident in Jordan who might be subject to this about it, just in case it turned out to be real.
QUESTION: But Richard, aren't you normally -- isn't there like a procedure for putting out this kind of information? Usually the uncorroborated information is not given out the public because it might freak people out and stuff?
MR. BOUCHER: There are procedures for doing this. We try to evaluate every bit of information, and find out if it's useful. I think the standard has always been specific, credible, and cannot be countered. But we have also tried to be prudent in making available information where we could, so that people, particularly who live in places where there may be dangers from time to time, so that they have the best sense -- as much information as they can. And many of these judgments are made locally by the embassies, in terms of what they feel is necessary to put out, given their relations with the American community there.
QUESTION: So in this particular case, you can -- and it's okay to put out information that's only one source?
MR. BOUCHER: It's uncorroborated information, that's true. And we made that clear; I think they made that clear to the people involved. But when you have a population that would be the presumed targets of this, you need to tell people.
There's also the double-standard issue, frankly, in that if you feel it's necessary and appropriate to tell your staff to do certain things, to watch out for kidnappings, then you really owe it to the other residents, American residents there, to tell them, even if you're doing it on the basis of uncorroborated information. So that's why many of these judgments are made locally.
QUESTION: Can we go to China? There are reports that a US oceanographic vessel operating, I guess, near China has been harassed by a Chinese vessel or vessels.
MR. BOUCHER: The reports that we saw were that there were collisions. And I have to tell you, there is no truth to reports that there were collisions between a US military survey vessel and a Chinese fishing boat.
We do have a survey vessel that had been doing some operations, and these survey operations were not surveillance or spy activities -- that's been part of it, too.
You can get operational info as appropriate from the Pentagon. What I would like to say is that international law, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, allows nations to conduct military surveys and other military operations in another nation's Exclusive Economic Zone. US ships have the right under international law to conduct military surveys in China's Exclusive Economic Zone.
We've been in contact this week with officials at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the issue. We've underscored for them the legality, based on the Law of the Sea, of military survey operations in the economic zone of a coastal state. The type of such surveys conducted by the USNS Bowditch does not harm the economic interests of the coastal nation or the environment.
QUESTION: Did that come up yesterday in the meetings that Grossman had with the Assistant Foreign Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- it was certainly not the subject --
QUESTION: No, I know it was mainly Iraq, right? But --
MR. BOUCHER: No, we've been -- we've talked to the Chinese at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing. I don't think the subject has come up here.
QUESTION: Richard, do you know -- is that right specific -- specified in the various laws of the sea? Or is it just that it is not explicitly banned, so to speak?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a distinction made -- and I believe in the Treaty; you'd have to check with the legal experts on this -- between military survey operations and marine scientific research. Military operations, including survey operations, can be undertaken in the economic zone of a coastal state without prior notice to or consent of the coastal state.
QUESTION: What happened in the meeting, if nobody was doing anything wrong?
MR. BOUCHER: We had seen the Chinese statements about it. I don't know if we asked for a meeting, or if they asked us to come in and explain what was going on. But we certainly felt it was appropriate to take the opportunity and explain what was going on, and explain that our ship was doing things that are permitted under applicable international law.
QUESTION: There was an Iraqi opposition meeting, led by the INC, I believe, in London. Was there a US observer there, any kind of US presence? It may still be going on through the weekend, but they have definitely already come out and had some public statements today.
MR. BOUCHER: There are a great number of meetings of the Iraqi opposition, and I can give you the whole rundown. But I have to say from the start, I don't remember that we have anything on one currently going on in London.
QUESTION: That has six parties, including the Kurds -- according to Reuters, I should say?
MR. BOUCHER: Six parties. Well, we have worked closely with six major opposition groups. You'll remember they met in August. The opposition figures attending those meetings participated actively in a spirit of cooperation. We think that meeting in August was a significant and important turning point, and we urge them to continue to work together.
I think I've now seen some press reports that indicate that they're planning a meeting in Belgium in October.
QUESTION: The conference.
MR. BOUCHER: The conference that they had talked about. No? The press reports today say Belgium.
QUESTION: Well, Belgium hasn't said yes yet. But anyway --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm citing press reports, so it goes without saying that may be totally unreliable. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But we weren't there at this -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if the meeting going on in London right now is one that we're participating in or not. But we do keep in very close touch with these groups. We've worked with them on this effort, the six opposition groups. We've also worked very closely on the Future of Iraq project with a whole variety of Iraqi groups and representatives of political groups.
We've now finished four out of the six working groups that we planned for from our meetings in April. The two remaining working groups will have meetings in October on health and humanitarian issues; on water, agriculture, and the environment. And then we'll proceed to a second phase of our work, with six to nine sessions focusing on other issues.
The opposition, while they always had differences among political figures, as everywhere, they seem united on the opposition to the current regime. They've been focusing on their strengths rather than their differences. We think the recent meeting of the Democratic Principles Working Group, which was one of the working groups that makes up the Future of Iraq project, was a case in point: there were about 30 Iraqis -- Sunni and Shi'a, Kurds and Arab, Turkoman and Assyrian, secular and Islamist -- as well as writers, academics, and intellectuals that came together to discuss these fundamental issues affecting the future of their nation.
So there's a lot of work going on that we are doing with them, and some of which they're doing on their own.
QUESTION: Just a quick one. When they have their big opposition meeting, what role does the State Department have in planning that? Are you asking countries to host it? Are you -- I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: Some of these things we have organized, we have funded. Some of these things they do on their own. So what we may or may not do in connection with this meeting in Belgium, if it occurs there, we'll just have to see as they develop their plans and tell us if they need any of our assistance.
QUESTION: One, what do you make, if anything, of the Burmese decision to invite the UN Rights rapporteur to visit?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that.
QUESTION: Okay. And secondly, yesterday the invitation list for the Community of Democracies meeting came out, and there were some notable omissions -- or perhaps not omissions at all. I'm just wondering -- I guess it's no surprise that China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia are countries that weren't even invited as observers. But I'm curious to know why --
MR. BOUCHER: I think the full lists are on our web site.
QUESTION: Yes, exactly. I'm curious to know why --
MR. BOUCHER: --- the people and who's in what category.
QUESTION: -- why the Palestinian Authority hasn't been invited to at least observe. It would seem to me that your policy of trying to push democratization upon them, that they might be able to pick something up from, you know, osmosis or something if they came.
And I'm also curious as to why France was invited, since France was the country, the only country at the last meeting, that refused to sign on to the final declaration.
QUESTION: It's not even a democracy.
MR. BOUCHER: No, France is a democracy, and has been -- I'm not going to deal with that. That's -- especially coming from the Agence France-Presse, it's not a question I think I want to get into.
The list of invitees was developed by a consensus among the ten countries in the convening group of the Community of Democracies. The Koreans, as hosts of the meeting, have been issuing the invitations to all invitees.
We think this offers a unique opportunity to bring together the countries that are committed to democracy in order to work to strengthen our own democratic institutions, as well as promote democracy regionally and globally.
As far as who's included and who's not, I will be glad to refer you to the website for the listings. But I don't think I can get into a particular discussion of why country X or entity Y was or was not invited. Consensus was developed among the ten countries involved, and they made judicious decisions.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.