State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for October 7
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 7, 2002
1- Statement on the Brazilian Elections
1-3 UN Resolution Discussions
3-4, 10 Assistant Secretary Kelly s Visit to North Korea
4-5 Israeli Attack in Gaza
5-6 Assistant Secretary Burns Possible Travel
6-7 U.S. Assistance to Palestinians
7 French Tanker Explosion
8 German-American relations
8 Visa Changes
8 Reported Thwarting of Coup Attempt
9 American activities/travel
11 Deputy Secretary Armitage Meeting with Tokyo Governor
9 Oil Interests in Iraq/Debt
10 Fighting in Chechnya/Pankisi Gorge
10-11 Arrest of al-Qaida Members
11 Presidential Elections
11-12 International Whaling Commission
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, let me start off with a little statement on Brazil elections, since that was an item of interest over the weekend and, I think, this morning. And then I'd be glad to take your questions on that or any other topics.
The United States congratulates the people of Brazil for the success of the first round of federal and state elections yesterday. These elections mark the fourth time since the restoration of civilian rule that Brazilians have gone to the polls to elect their leaders, demonstrating the country's solid record of peaceful and fair elections.
US relations with Brazil are built on a foundation of shared values and mutual respect. President Bush has described this new century as the "Century of the Americas," and the United States is ready, willing and able to work together with Brazil for the benefit of the whole hemisphere. We look forward to working with whomever emerges as the eventual winner in the presidential contest.
A slightly longer statement that will be released on paper after the briefing. And I'd be glad to take your questions on this or anything else.
QUESTION: Something else? The Secretary, Friday, had no timeline to offer on the resolution -- confident that you'd get one that you like. Anything to update us with on getting a UN resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: On Iraq?
QUESTION: On Iraq, of course. And any -- you know, the usual telephone calls and such?
MR. BOUCHER: I would not offer a precise, particular timeline at this point. I would say that we continue to work on the resolution with friends and allies. Our mission in New York is in touch with other UN missions up there.
The Secretary of State has been in touch with the British very frequently over the weekend. He's talked on Saturday to European High Representative Solana about this and other topics. On Sunday, he talked to Foreign Secretary Straw, Foreign Minister de Villepin of France, Foreign Minister Ivanov of Russia. Today, he has already talked to Foreign Secretary Straw. So we have been keeping in touch with other Security Council members, particularly the Perm 5, and we'll continue to work with them on a resolution that lays out the things that we want it to.
As I think Dr. Blix noted on Friday afternoon, that there is -- he noted some convergence between the views of Council members. I think that's actually the word that the French Foreign Minister uses today, as well.
So we continue to be optimistic that we can bring this together and have the Council send a clear message to Iraq on the need for full and unrestricted inspections and have the Council send a clear message to Iraq that there will be consequences should Iraq once again fail to live up to these requirements of UN resolutions.
The effort will continue both in New York and directly with capitals. I think there is a lunch that the Secretary General has routinely with the 15 members of the Security Council that will be held tomorrow, so I am sure it will be a topic of discussion there, as well.
QUESTION: Do you think the convergence that seems to be cited by the US and by the French and the chief inspector applies to the consequences threat as well as the other elements of the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to take it too far. There is a convergence of concepts involved in this resolution. There is an understanding that Iraq is in violation; there is an understanding that the Security Council needs to take hold of this issue and specify what the rules are for inspecting and for Iraq's general compliance with UN resolutions. And that there need to be consequences and determination by the Council to draw the conclusion should Iraq defy once again the will of the international community and their own commitments that they have reached to disarm and to show that they have disarmed. So on the conceptual level, things seem to be coming together. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done on text.
QUESTION: Richard, is the United States now willing to support this two-resolution idea as long as the first resolution forecasts explicitly some kind of consequences?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to endorse any new idea. We still strongly prefer one-resolution scenarios. We believe that only when faced with the credible threat of the use of force, with the credible pressure of the Security Council, will Iraq make any attempt at compliance.
I think Dr. Blix on Friday referred to the need for constant pressure. That is our belief, as well, and we think a key mechanism for that pressure is to have the Council make clear in advance that it's determined to do something should Iraq fail to comply.
So that remains our strong preference. We know that others have a different view and we're working with them on how to bring these things together.
QUESTION: Does that mean you rule out the idea of compromising with two resolutions?
MR. BOUCHER: It means we're working on it and we'll see what comes out.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Kelly doesn't seem to have made too great an impression in Pyongyang. I'm wondering if your --
MR. BOUCHER: No. I think he made quite an impression, didn't he? They --
QUESTION: Yeah, he did. But, apparently --
MR. BOUCHER: They put out their appreciation of his many admirable qualities.
QUESTION: What's your read on it? Presumably it's the -- well, is it the same as the North Koreans'? Are you being totally candid here?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no, we actually differ with the North Koreans on Assistant Secretary Kelly. We find him a forthright person who went out to do a job for the United States and made clear US views on some very serious issues that need to be dealt with seriously by the North Korean Government.
The Assistant Secretary had his discussions last week in Pyongyang. He visited Seoul, and then Tokyo on the way back, and he returned yesterday.
He'll be briefing policymakers in Washington over the course of these coming days. In North Korea, he raised in a frank manner our concerns on a full range of issues, including weapons of mass destruction, missile development programs, missile exports, North Korea's threatening conventional force posture, human rights failings, and the dire humanitarian situation.
He had four meetings in Pyongyang, including a call on the DPRK's Supreme People's Assembly President Kim Young Nam, Foreign Ministry officials, Vice Ministers Kang Sok-ju and Kim Gye Gwan.
The US Government will now review the results of his meetings. We'll stay in touch with our Korean and Japanese allies as we consider next steps. There is no decisions at this point.
QUESTION: Are you guys disappointed at all that he didn't get to see Kim Jong-il, who in the past has -- well, who North Korean officials have in the past said really he's the guy who does it, he's the one who has to sign off on anything?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it was expected, frankly. The people I talked to around here, nobody quite expected that.
I would say that it's important for us to have these discussions. These are serious issues. As I said, the Assistant Secretary's talks were frank, as befits the seriousness of our differences. They were also useful in that we made clear what our concerns were and made clear what our positions were.
The concerns that we raised are shared by friends and allies in the region. We need to make clear the implications of North Korea's conduct for regional and global peace and stability, as well as relations with us and North Korea's neighbors. We did that. We told them we remain committed to addressing those concerns through dialogue.
QUESTION: And when you said that he's going to be briefing policymakers here, who would those people -- I mean, has he reported back to the Secretary yet?
MR. BOUCHER: He has reported to the Secretary; at least they had a brief brief. I'm sure he'll send him more information.
QUESTION: That was today?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that was this morning. Had a meeting with the Secretary this morning. So I'm sure there will be other meetings around town, particularly with the interagency groups that have worked on North Korea.
QUESTION: So we can assume --
MR. BOUCHER: George.
QUESTION: There were reports in the South Korean press of a North Korean willingness to reduce its combat preparedness along the DMZ. Did Kelly come back with anything like that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particular on something like that at this point. Sorry.
QUESTION: Going back to the Middle East, I think you said that Secretary Powell spoke to Mr. Solana over the weekend, so it was presumably before this attack in Gaza.
MR. BOUCHER: It was on Saturday, yeah.
QUESTION: Okay, so, obviously it wasn't about that. And do you have anything to say about the attack in Gaza?
MR. BOUCHER: We are deeply troubled by the reports of Israeli actions in Gaza over the weekend that resulted in the deaths and wounding of many Palestinian civilians. While the precise details still remain uncertain, Israeli operations were undertaken in crowded civilian areas and involved firing on a medical facility.
I think it's very important that Israeli forces do their utmost to act in a manner that avoids harm to civilians and to humanitarian facilities. We call on the Israeli military to investigate the circumstances surrounding these deaths and we expect immediate steps to be taken to prevent the recurrence of tragic incidents such as these.
We are also concerned at other reports of Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli Defense Forces, in some cases for reported curfew violations, in one instance the person was engaged in agricultural activities. So we would reiterate in that context as well the Israeli military must exercise the utmost discipline and care to avoid harm to civilians.
QUESTION: It seems fairly clear, but are you dismissing Israel's claim that these were armed people that they -- the victims were armed men?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always respected Israel's right to defend itself, including going after armed groups and armed men in some of these areas, but we have always said they need to do that in a manner which has the utmost care to avoid harm to civilians, particularly when they're conducting operations in heavily populated areas. And we've said that that often results in tragedies and numerous deaths, and that appears to be what's happened again.
QUESTION: And has there been any contact with the Israeli Government as far as this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything specific to report to you. I think our Embassy has certainly been in touch with the Israelis.
QUESTION: And the meeting with the Palestinian this afternoon, can you tell us anything about that?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a chance to talk with one of the people involved in the situation with Palestinian reform, financial reform in particular, to get an understanding of what's going on there; to talk about issues like the tax revenues that Israel is turning over, talk about issues such as the accountability of Palestinian institutions and talk about issues such as the accountability for foreign aid and assistance that might be going into there. So I think it's just a chance to really discuss the state of reform with one of the players.
QUESTION: Richard, there seems to be a continuing perception in the region that Assistant Secretary Burns is headed that way. Is that right?
MR. BOUCHER: He's considering travel to the region later this month, but we don't have anything set at this point.
QUESTION: Later this month?
MR. BOUCHER: October. Later in the month of October.
QUESTION: You mean late October?
MR. BOUCHER: No, there's a lot left in this month.
QUESTION: I know. Exactly. That's what I mean. So later --
MR. BOUCHER: Later this month.
QUESTION: But not late this month?
MR. BOUCHER: Later this month.
QUESTION: Well, now he's very -- he's a stealth figure who's been --
MR. BOUCHER: No, he's not.
QUESTION: Sure he is.
MR. BOUCHER: He's highly noticeable. Every time he even thinks about going somewhere, it's always preceded by press reports way before he buys his tickets.
QUESTION: He has to pay his way, you say? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: We manage to come up with the money to send him out when he's on official business.
QUESTION: You describe this person as involved in the reform movement and et cetera, but you also refer to assistance. Have you -- has the US administration decided whether there can be new assistance -- I know not to the PLO -- new assistance to Palestinians without a regime change in Ramallah? Are you looking at more money for the Palestinians?
MR. BOUCHER: That's such a rhetorical statement. It bears no relationship to reality, Barry. You know --
QUESTION: You said aid --
MR. BOUCHER: -- we give our assistance --
QUESTION: You volunteered --
MR. BOUCHER: We have provided, and we repeatedly announce when we do, assistance to Palestinians, humanitarian assistance to Palestinians through the UN agencies and the NGOs. We, ourselves, do not provide direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority --
QUESTION: I know.
MR. BOUCHER: -- except in some specific cases, for example, support for the reform of the security services. And I don't have -- I don't know whether that's all training or if there's actual money in there anyway.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I thought you mentioned assistance.
MR. BOUCHER: But we're not -- as far as I know, we haven't made any new decisions on assistance to the Palestinian Authority, itself. But other donors do. And other donors ask for accountability, and that always remains one of the issues that we want overall to see within the Palestinian institutions. Whether it's Palestinian money that they, themselves, pay to the Authority, whether it's tax revenues, Palestinian money that comes through the Israelis and we hope gets turned over back again, or whether it's foreign money, the issue of accountability is vital.
QUESTION: Do you have any new understanding of what happened off the coast of Yemen with the French tanker?
MR. BOUCHER: An explosion --
QUESTION: Yeah, I know.
MR. BOUCHER: On October 6th, an explosion occurred on board the French-flagged supertanker Limburg, setting the vessel ablaze and adrift. We understand the vessel is now secured and has been towed to a safe location by the Yemeni Government. Yemeni and French authorities are working to ascertain the cause of the explosion. The United States has offered its assistance. We remain willing to assist.
QUESTION: Well, wait a second. You said an explosion took place on board, so presumably then, you have come to the conclusion that this wasn't introduced by some outside element?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can announce any sort of conclusions at this point. The Yemenis and French are both looking into this. It'll be up to them to decide when they can reach a conclusion, when they can say something.
QUESTION: Richard, have the Yemenis and the French accepted your assistance and are there US investigators on their way to Yemen right now?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have some people who are either out there or on their way to -- experts to help the Yemenis with the investigation, but I would leave it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: The Germans seem to be all "verklempt" over the President's letter to President Rau last week and the proclamation on German-American Day, interpreting these as major olive branches and signs that the relationship is -- all is forgiven and the relationship is back to normal. Were these intended as olive branches and is this relationship back to normal?
MR. BOUCHER: The Germans remain important allies. We have sent to them on the anniversary of German unity a message that congratulates them. The President did that. It remains an important event for all of us, one that brought us closer together. And at the same time, we look forward to working with the Germans on any number of international issues where we are working with them, as well as talking to them about some of the issues that have arisen in the relationship, but don't have anything specific on when that might happen.
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing is scheduled with Foreign Minister Fischer, but we still have to discuss issues that have arisen in the relationship.
Okay, let's keep going.
QUESTION: -- there's going to be some visa changes for Americans going to Saudi Arabia, an announcement coming out of Riyadh?
MR. BOUCHER: The Embassy put out a Warden statement that said the Saudis had talked about fingerprinting Americans who travel to Saudi Arabia. You would have to check with the Saudi Government as to whether they intend to go through with it or not.
Judy. I'm sorry. Judy, did you have one or not? The lady behind Judy, then. Please. You.
QUESTION: Thank you. Change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: What evidence do you have that there was an actual coup attempt against Venezuelan President Chavez? Was it, perhaps, contrived by Chavez to discredit his opponents?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is, other than his statement, we have no information. So no information. So I leave it to him to explain what might have happened or not.
QUESTION: Change of subject. As you may know, some US families are planning to participate in an anti-war protest in Japan. I was wondering what the US stance is on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about it in particular, but we don't regulate the travel or the activities of Americans. They are free to do whatever their rights allow them to do.
QUESTION: Is there any official statement that you --
MR. BOUCHER: Not normally would there be. Americans participate in freedom of expression, and we always like that even if we don't necessarily agree with what they might be saying.
QUESTION: On Friday, Richard, you guys were looking into Putin's decision on Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty to see what the implications were. What are -- now -- well, one hopes that you would have been able to find out what the implications are, but maybe not since it was the weekend.
MR. BOUCHER: Have we?
QUESTION: Do you have a --
MR. REEKER: I don't think it's clear yet what the -- we put out the TQ and I don't think there's any more.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I think the answer on Friday was somewhat non -- well, it didn't say exactly -- I don't think we know exactly what's going to happen. I don't think we know much more now.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll try to keep on top of the subject a little better and when there is something we'll tell you.
QUESTION: Can I ask -- I know this came up briefly last week, but I will ask again since the Secretary's spoken Foreign Minister Ivanov since then. Can you say whether in the course of his conversations about Iraq the subject of Russian oil interests in Iraq and Russian debt came up?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. The discussion with the Russians on Iraq has really centered on their role in the United Nations, our role in the United Nations, and the need for the international community to take charge of this matter and specify what needs to be done.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that, just on a smaller point? Discussions with the Russians talked about the Russians' view of their fighting in Chechnya. Has that come up again? I mean, I know it's come up over the years, but is that a subject of current talks and do you have a view of that?
MR. BOUCHER: You know, I don't have a word-for-word readout of each of these conversations and, you know, that's why I didn't say absolutely -- you know, I can't tell you absolutely what words did arise or not, but I can tell you what the conversation was about. I don't think they got into very much on Georgia or Chechnya; that that really hasn't been an issue with us.
We do note that both President Putin and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze have reported -- appear to have reported positively on their meeting in Kishinau and that that we certainly welcome that and encourage them to work together on the problems in Pankisi Gorge and the region and that they may have agreed on some further action. So we certainly welcome that and encourage that.
QUESTION: Let me just say, I just want to make sure I -- I think I heard you say Chechnya and Georgia are not really an issue for us. Did you say that or am I wrong?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I said I don't think it was really a major issue in those conversations. We've had multiple conversations with the Russians on the issue of Chechnya and Georgia, but in those particular phone calls I don't think it was a major issue.
QUESTION: Back on North Korea, this is a long shot, but do you suppose once Secretary Kelly is finished with his consultations with the policy advisors he could give us a backgrounder?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be what's known as a long shot. But I will keep it in mind. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Two questions concerning looking for al-Qaida and also Islamic developments in (a) in Indonesia with the PFI -- eight members were arrested. And are we working with Jakarta at all? Because they had 200 protesters in the streets.
And also on Malaysia, we're after a Oregonian militant that fled the state of Oregon. Are we getting cooperation from the Malaysian Government looking for him and extradition back here?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I know about those specific cases. I would say generally that we've had a lot of cooperation from both of those governments, obviously on different matters. We remain in close touch with them. It remains very important to us that we have protection for Americans, for American facilities, and that we have cooperation on law enforcement. So that's sort of an ongoing issue that we try to continue to work with them on, whatever might arise.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about the meeting between the Deputy Secretary and the Governor of Tokyo?
MR. BOUCHER: The Governor of Tokyo. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: As he has with a number of important Japanese figures outside the national government, Deputy Secretary Armitage met with Tokyo Governor Ishihara for about 45 minutes today to exchange views on matters of interest. They discussed a number of issues, obviously centered on the US-Japan relationship. I guess I would pretty much leave it at that.
Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Among the issues, did they discuss about the US-Japan security arrangement or any topics related to US bases in Japan?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Governor did raise the issue of Yokota Air Base and the possible use of that as a civilian facility. The Deputy Secretary said, as we have before, it's a matter for discussion between the national governments of the United States and Japan.
QUESTION: I have a question that starts with "if" and I know you don't like "if."
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: For this one I have to use "if." If Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva wins the presidency in Brazil, what would that mean to the US policy to Latin America and specifically to Colombia and Cuba?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to draw any bigger conclusions about an electoral result that's still not final yet. Obviously this goes to a second round, I think October 27th, so we'll look forward to seeing what the results are then. The process, as I said in my statement, represents -- indicative of the solid democracy that's in Brazil, and we look forward to working with whomever is chosen by the Brazilian people. So we'll see how that works when it happens.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the upcoming special meeting of the International Whaling Commission?
MR. BOUCHER: You're ahead of me on that one, I've got to say. I will try to get there.
MR. BOUCHER: How upcoming is it?
QUESTION: It's next week, I believe, in Cambridge.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.