State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for October 10
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 10, 2002
1-2 Elections Process/Reaction
2-3 Update on French Tanker Explosion
8 Counterterrorism Efforts
3-7 Update on UN Resolution
8-9 General Zinni s Comments
7 Secretary Powell s Reaction to Harry Belafonte s
10 Under Secretary Bolton s Testimony
12-13 Non-immigrant Visa Fees
7 US Marine Shooting Incident/Terrorist Acts
7-10 Al-Zawahri Tape
10 Prime Minister Sharon s Visit
11-12 Update on Situation and Continuing Violence
13 Assistant Secretary Kelly s Trip
13 Request for Referendum
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here. If I can, let me start talking a little bit about the elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The United States welcomes the successful conclusion of elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Prime Minister Vajpayee's personal commitment to making them transparent and open was a critical factor that helped take the process forward. We hope that this will be the first step in a broader process that will bring peace to the region.
We applaud the efforts of the Indian Election Commission and commend the courage of the candidates and the voters who chose to participate, despite violence and intimidation. The Kashmiri people have shown that they want to pursue a path of peace.
We unreservedly condemn the terrorist attacks aimed at disrupting a democratic process and intimidating the Kashmiri people. We welcome the assurances that reports of irregularities, including alleged coercion by security forces, will be investigated fully by Indian authorities. It is important that these assurances are followed through.
Following the completion of credible elections in Jammu and Kashmir, we call on both India and Pakistan to make strenuous effort towards and early resumption of diplomatic dialogue and all its outstanding issues including Kashmir. A lasting settlement, which also reflects the needs of the Kashmiri people, can only be achieved through dialogue.
We welcome the Indian Government's commitment to begin a dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and we hope that this dialogue will address improvements in governance and in human rights. The United States and the international community will continue to make every effort to help India and Pakistan to resolve their differences.
And I would be glad to take your questions about this or any other matters.
QUESTION: You said following the completion of credible elections in where?
MR. BOUCHER: Jammu and Kashmir.
QUESTION: Okay. So -- I thought they were completed?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Oh, oh, I see. I see. Sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Now that the credible elections are over, we now call on them to begin a dialogue.
QUESTION: Do you want to move on?
MR. BOUCHER: I will go anywhere you want to, Barry.
QUESTION: The explosion on an oil tanker in Yemen, was that an act of terror?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we are able at this point to say one way or the other. There are investigators who are out there working with the Yemenis and the French. American investigators have gone out to work with French and Yemeni authorities. Any information that would come out would come out from the Yemeni and the French investigators. They are continuing their efforts to try to determine the cause of the explosion. I don't want to speculate at this point on the -- what results and conclusions the investigators might reach. I would say that terrorism has not been ruled out as a possible cause.
QUESTION: And the other thing I would like to know about is whether American, I don't know what, officials have been able to have the access they want to the ship.
MR. BOUCHER: I understand -- all that is being worked out on the ground so I will leave it to -- or on the sea; no, it is being worked out in Yemen, so I don't have any update on that.
QUESTION: Well, could you be a little more, what is "it"?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to follow the movements of the investigators step by step.
QUESTION: Nor do I want a laundry list. But the question is whether the American investigators have been prohibited from gaining access to the ship, having requested it? If they haven't requested it, well, that's another matter.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry --
QUESTION: You're saying, it's being worked out. What is "it"?
MR. BOUCHER: Whatever we can do to help with the investigation, whether that means access to the ship or other expertise or access, that is being worked out locally with Yemeni and French investigators. I am not going to try to track the movements of our investigators who are determined or try to report on their every step. And therefore, it is not appropriate for me to start talking about whether or not they've towards the ship.
QUESTION: Richard, on Monday, you said that the explosion occurred on board the vessel. Is there any reason that you're not repeating that today?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I talked in my briefing about how the explosion occurred, but there was a --
QUESTION: Yes, you did.
MR. BOUCHER: --I guess there was an explosion on board the vessel. That's clear. I don't think I talked about the --
QUESTION: No, I --
MR. BOUCHER: --in my briefing about the cause of the explosion and I'm not going to try to do anything more now.
QUESTION: I'm not saying -- you didn t say that, you just said that it was an explosion on board the vessel which -- and I asked you after you said that, does that mean you don't -- you think that it wasn't introduced from somewhere outside of the actual ship. Is there any reason that you're not saying that there was an explosion on board the vessel today?
MR. BOUCHER: There was an explosion on the vessel, on board the vessel. I am not -- I don't want you to read too much into it, if we say it or not. The causes have not been ascertained. Terrorism, meaning an explosion that was on the vessel but that came from outside, has not been ruled out. So, yes, there was an explosion on the vessel, on board the vessel. But we -- I am not going to try to define its cause today any more than I think I did on Monday. I understand, you know.
QUESTION: Could you say where things stand today in your efforts to try and resolve differences over the Iraq resolution in the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: The talks are progressing, the work continues. We have been in touch with other governments to continue to work on the elements of a UN resolution that would accomplish what we have always said, that would make clear that Iraq is in violation, that would make clear what Iraq has to do in terms of rectifying those violations. And that means principally specifying what steps Iraq needs to take to cooperate with the inspectors, and it makes clear that there will be consequences if Iraq should fail to do that. So we continue to work on that resolution.
The Secretary has been in touch with other governments, principally, I guess, the last 24 hours or so, he's been talking -- talked to Jack Straw several times, Foreign Secretary Straw of Great Britain. The President, as you know, spoke yesterday to President Chirac of France. And I think afterwards, President Chirac said he would hope that negotiations would proceed rapidly towards a strong resolution. We certainly hope that's the case as well, and we continue to work it.
QUESTION: Can you speak to if it's one -- whether they spoke on the question of one resolution or two?
MR. BOUCHER: The issue of trying to work out how to -- how to craft this resolution so that it sends a clear signal to Iraq of the determination of the council and council members was discussed, but I am not going to get into any more detail now.
QUESTION: There are lots of reports about these various contacts, many of which suggest that the initial -- a resolution merely by referring to Iraq's being in material breach of previous resolutions would be -- the United States would consider that sufficient as a trigger for forcible action. Is that a possibility?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate. I'm not going to interpret a resolution that hasn't been passed yet. But I think we have made clear all along that the importance of having a resolution that makes clear that that there are consequences to Iraq's failure to cooperate is not only in terms of what action might ensue, but is also in terms of what action needs to be taken by Iraq and the likelihood of getting some kind of cooperation from the Iraqis is much greater the clearer the Council and its members about their determination. And the President, our President, has been very clear to say that one way or the other, we are going to have to disarm Iraq. We're going to have to deal with this problem.
And we've also been very clear. I think the President and the Secretary consistently, to say that we and other nations always have the right to do what is necessary to maintain our security.
QUESTION: On that same, exact same point.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: If, in your understanding, does a -- if -- I don't want to say "if" because I know what you're going to say to that.
Is it your understanding that if -- that if there is a material breach of the agreements that ended the Gulf War by Iraq, that the truce agreement in there is no longer valid? The ceasefire.
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I am not going to start interpreting a resolution that has not been passed yet.
QUESTION: Well, I'm asking you about a resolution that has been passed at the end of the Gulf War.
MR. BOUCHER: You are asking me about language on material breach that may be in this resolution.
QUESTION: No, no. I'm asking you, if Iraq is found to be in material breach of the old -- of the conditions of the old resolution, does that nullify the truce or the ceasefire that came about?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think this is really an interpretation of something that we are working on now, but the question about the old resolutions, the council has made clear repeatedly that Iraq is in violation of those resolutions, the council has made clear repeatedly that Iraq needs to correct that. But it is not a legalistic question of the wording of UN resolutions.
The President of the United States always has the right to do what is necessary to protect our security. That is clear in the UN Charter, that is just fundamental to the way we operate, and I don't think these questions of interpretation of language in a particular resolution are really the operative question.
QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the old resolution, the resolution that ended the war, contains a clause that says that if Iraq is found in "material breach" of the agreements in that -- the agreements that it signed up for, that the ceasefire is nullified?
MR. BOUCHER: It is a legal question that if you really want an answer, we will try to address it at the appropriate time, but I just don't think it is the right time to start answering it now.
QUESTION: Richard, some of these reports also say explicitly that Secretary Powell in his conversations with his Perm 5 colleagues has shown flexibility on some of this automaticity and a number of resolutions and so on. Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into the details of the Secretary's conversations. He has been talking to other foreign ministers, as the President has been talking to other leaders about how to make clear the determination of the council, make clear that there will be consequences if Iraq should violate this, and working on a best way to do that.
QUESTION: The French apparently have revised their resolution, although not in a substantial way we understand. Has the US changed its resolution at all?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't put forward a new text, no.
QUESTION: I know technically you haven't.
MR. BOUCHER: You asked me if we had and I said we haven't. Now, is there a follow-up?
QUESTION: Has the United States revised the words it is circulating as its intention as to what ought to be in the UN resolution when they submit the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: No. We have not revised the text that we and the British put together. We have discussed with other members of the council, elements of a resolution and how we can bridge some of the differences and express the determination of the council and the need for consequences.
QUESTION: But when you do that, I wonder if point two contradicts point one. Because if you discuss things, when you discuss them, does it contain an assurance that you're open to revising things?
MR. BOUCHER: We're --
QUESTION: I mean, you may not revise the text. But if your next sentence is, if we decide to revise it, we will, that is sort of a promise that, if necessary, it could be revised.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how to answer. It's a logical question, Barry. But the diplomacy on this is being conducted, it's intense, it's ongoing. We are discussing with other members how to resolve these issues, we are discussing with other members how to achieve the goals that we have and that others we think share, to express clearly the determination of the council, to make clear that they're -- as the Secretary and the President said all along, to make clear that there will be consequences. We're discussing how to do that.
Once we agree with them on how to do that, that I'm sure will be reflected in the language of the resolution. But we have neither -- we have not tabled a resolution yet. And so to say we have revised something at this point wouldn't be accurate. But I am not trying to open any doors; I am just saying we're working on it. All that you have said and I have said follows from that, but I am not going to agree with any particular formulation other than my own.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to add on what the White House said about the Iraqi offer today? Do you, for example, see this as possibly a positive sign?
MR. BOUCHER: Are you going to give me a chance to agree with the White House? Can I do that first?
QUESTION: I think, going beyond what the White House said, do you have anything to add?
MR. BOUCHER: I know. But let me first, if I can, if you give me the opportunity, first agree with the White House and say that it is -- it is clearly up to the Security Council to specify what Iraq needs to do; it is not for Iraq to pick and choose and to sort of float something one day and float something else another day. What we see again is more evidence that, when faced with pressure, Iraq will backpedal and that has been a consistent pattern, and that is why we and others have noted the need for consistent pressure on Iraq and the need for the council to take charge of this, to tell Iraq what they have to do and make it stick.
Both Dr. Blix and Dr. Baradei, I think, in their briefings, have made clear that the council needs to give them the mandate and give them the instructions and the authorities they need, and needs to keep up the pressure. And we still think that is vital, whatever the Iraqis might say one day or the next.
QUESTION: The last couple of days, you've used a formulation, one part of which was that you're not working on text yet. Notwithstanding the earlier question and answer about text and revisions and stuff, are you working on text yet?
MR. BOUCHER: Everybody knows we have a text out there. The elements of that text are under discussion, but we are not in the swap-this-word-for-that-word kind of scenario yet.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you did mention it in a press briefing, but my question is, are radio and television talk show hosts meddling in foreign affairs? And that is growing out of the talk radio show interview on KFMB radio in San Diego with Harry Belafonte. And part of that entire interview, Harry Belafonte saying that he works with UNICEF and the United Nations, and his firm belief that --
MR. BOUCHER: We heard about the interview.
QUESTION: Now --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me stop you right there and just say, number one, isn't it the job of radio and TV talk show hosts to meddle in foreign affairs and other things? And, number two, I think the Secretary talked about the Harry Belafonte comments last night and I'll refer you back to what he said.
QUESTION: A change of subject to Kuwait. Apparently some Kuwaiti officials have said they have notified the United States that in addition to this recent attack, they also have information on possible attacks on other US interests in the country, such as schools or military assets, things involving Americans. Do you have any information?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information like that, no. We do have very good -- excellent counter-terrorism cooperation with Kuwaitis. But I don't have any specific information like that.
QUESTION: Could you speak to this Al-Zawahri tape and any potential concern that you have about potential attacks in -- for US interests?
MR. BOUCHER: I think there is always concern about the potential for attacks, and particularly when al Qaeda puts out statements, one has to make sure that we're appropriately vigilant, not only here but also at our missions overseas. Our missions regularly conduct reviews and we have an ongoing dialogue with them about how well they are -- make sure their security precautions are at an appropriately high level. There has been a very high level of alert ever since September 11th, and we try to make sure that's maintained.
We also, I would point out, have public travel warnings and cautions. When was the latest, September 9th, 10th? Do I have it with me? I'm not sure I do. This one says September 9th, worldwide caution. And that advises that we do continue to receive credible indications that extremist groups and individuals are planning additional terrorist attacks against US interests, these groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets and we remind Americans to remain vigilant.
That, I guess, revised appropriately from time to time. But we do try to make sure that everybody, both officials and non-officials, are aware of these threats and try to maintain a high state of vigilance.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, two questions, I guess. Are you planning any updated travel warnings or worldwide cautions?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to see if we have anything new.
QUESTION: Okay. And on this Zawahri tape, are you concerned that the recent events in Yemen and Kuwait are related in some way to the Zawahri tape?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'm not sure I could draw a connection.
QUESTION: You just spoke of good communications with Kuwait. If I can go back to Yemen, I wonder if Yemen is up to the job of countering terrorism in the US estimate? Your counter-terror chief, outgoing counter-terror chief, just met with the President. Even if you can't tell us much about the conversation, has he or is the US suggesting any upgrading, any revisions, because Yemen seems to be a fertile ground for terror?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a detailed readout of this particular talk, but you will remember, last December when the Yemeni President came to the White House, we issued a statement then and since then we have followed through in any number of ways of training and cooperation and exchanges and working together with the Yemeni Government to strengthen their ability to deal with terrorism, to strengthen their ability to control their borders and to control their territory and to strengthen their ability, frankly, to investigate crimes that might occur.
So we have worked with them in many ways. We have done training and other things from our counter-terrorism assistance program and I am sure we will continue to do that. I don't know of any particular details of that that might have been discussed when Ambassador Taylor was out there, but I am sure that is the kind of thing that they did discuss.
QUESTION: I guess I will go back to Iraq. General Zinni spoke this morning. He doesn't seem to agree with the administration on Iraq in any way whatsoever.
MR. BOUCHER: I kind of remember that.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see what he said this morning. I do remember some comments he made previously.
QUESTION: Okay. What exactly his status at the moment? Does he have any connection with the Department? Is he still on your kind of calling -- your telephone list? Is he envisaged --
MR. BOUCHER: No, we haven't called him up. We haven't called him up recently. As you know, he worked for us on Israeli-Palestinian security issues. We haven't had cause to call him up back to that recently. I will have to check and see if the contract might have changed or expired at the end of the fiscal year, but I don't know.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on Zinni? He made two points, Zinni. He said that first of all, he thinks that containment of Saddam Hussein has worked and can work. Do you -- obviously, would like to rebut this argument?
MR. BOUCHER: A lot of people are talking now, as I said last time when General Zinni made some comments, but there are plenty of debate going on, there is plenty of commentary going on, there are even radio and TV talk show hosts that are talking about this right now. I'm not going to try to deal with every piece of it.
The President the other night gave a very comprehensive and detailed view, answered many of these specific questions that are being raised, why now, why do we have to do this? What, you know, what can we do to get others with us? And I think that really stands on its own.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, if I could follow up. He also made a point that the US has five other higher priorities in the Middle East right now. Does the United States see Iraq with all of the other war on terrorism, what's going on --
MR. BOUCHER: I think the President answered that quite well, as well. I will leave it at that.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the al-Qaida thing? You said in your first answer to the question, "We're always concerned about potential for attacks, particularly when al-Qaida puts out statements." Are you saying now, I don't think anyone said this on the record, but, that this tape was definite -- that you've come to the conclusion this tape was definitely bin Laden's number two speaking and that it represented new threats to US interests?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, hearing it one has to make that assumption to begin with, if you're going to be safe. You have to protect yourself.
I think others have said already that the first tape of bin Laden's voice was, indeed, bin Laden's voice. When it was made, I don't think anybody has tried to say or anybody really knows. So there are these things coming out right now. And it's appropriate --
QUESTION: The question was supposed to be about the Zawahri --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in the position to authenticate that tape myself. I would have to check and see if others who have studied it might be able to say that.
QUESTION: Well, can you -- I'm just wondering -- particularly when al-Qaida puts out statements, what does that refer to? Statements --
MR. BOUCHER: It refers to the various tapes that have come out. Somebody has put forward this bin Laden tape and the tape purporting to be al Zawahri for some reason. One has to take that into account in making sure that we maintain a high level of vigilance.
QUESTION: Mr. Bolton yesterday said that the United States was very concerned about serious nuclear program and, despite several requests, difficult to get any reason why you were suddenly concerned about this when the CIA was saying in January that it was just something that you would monitor. Do you have any explanation for this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think he testified at some length yesterday. I don't know if they went back to that piece of his testimony or not, but I will see if there is anything more to add.
QUESTION: Between the Ukrainian Government and some of those radar systems as well as the Israelis saying they have proof that Iraq is now aiding Palestinians to foment more terrorism, Prime Minister Sharon is coming here next week to meet at the White House, or at least has that planned trip. Where do you think -- is there any room for any progress? Things seem to have been stalled the last month or two. There's now been another bus bombing this morning that was somewhat thwarted --
MR. BOUCHER: We always look forward to working with the Israeli Government. You'll have to check with the White House on Prime Minister Sharon's visit, if they are prepared to see if anything is scheduled. But we continue to be in very close contact with the Israeli Government and with both sides in the region, to see if we can't achieve progress along the lines the President outlined on June 24th.
We do condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrorist bombing earlier today in Northern Israel. It killed one Israeli civilian, wounded four. As we have said before, terror and violence have no place in this region and undermine Palestinian national aspirations. We have called again on Palestinian leaders to take this opportunity to condemn terror and violence and to take steps against all acts of violence.
We have said we are troubled, deeply troubled, by the recent upsurge of violence in the region. We have looked to both sides to take steps that can end the violence and get on with the agenda that the President set forward.
QUESTION: Richard, judging by recent experience, Prime Minister Sharon often uses these bombings as a reason to make new incursions into Palestinian territories and sometimes to try to get rid of Mr. Arafat. Have you asked the Israelis to, in advance, after this incident, to show restraint and not to make incursions?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made quite clear our view that as Israel takes whatever steps are necessary to defend itself, Israel needs to act with care and also take steps to prevent recurrence of tragic incidents such as occurred recently in Gaza, and to refrain from actions that only inflame tensions. That is a view we have expressed consistently and continue to express.
QUESTION: Richard, you've said that the Israelis know your view and you've made clear the view, but it seems is the only time Israelis act is when the Americans talk to them on a particular instance and give some kind of indication of how you feel about that particular event. Do you think that the United States needs to be pressuring the Israelis a little bit more after every attack, or --
MR. BOUCHER: We've -- first of all, this terrible bombing just occurred today in Northern Israel. I don't have an immediate report to know if we have talked to the Israelis since then. We have certainly made clear in the past few days our deep concern about the violence, the upsurge in violence, not only the deaths and injuries that occurred in the Israeli incursion in Gaza, but also, for example, the killing of an Israeli family of four the other day.
And we have, in that context, been quite -- in quite close touch with the -- both the Israelis and the Palestinians and we told both that we think they need to act, told the Palestinians again quite clearly they need to act to end the violence and to take real steps to end the violence, and we have talked to the Israelis about our concerns about the kind of force that was being used and the deaths of civilians that had occurred.
QUESTION: A couple of weeks ago and months ago in talking about the reform of the Palestinian Security Forces, can you give us an update of how you think that's going and whether they are developing some kind of stronger capability to -- and infrastructure to deal with --
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if I can anything precisely on the status. It's an ongoing effort, it is work that we have committed to, that we have begun already. But I will see if there is anything more to say about its precise status.
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: You just referred to pressure, how important it is -- it's not a new thought you've expressed. On Iraq, pressure is a tactic by the United States. On Iraq, do you think there's room, in your prescription for Israel, for Israel to apply pressure as a way of countering terrorism, or do you think they just ought to, you know, kind of hope that your exhortations will be heeded by the Palestinians?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made very --
QUESTION: By "your," I mean the Administration, of course.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, as I said two and a half minutes ago --
QUESTION: I'm not asking about defending yourself.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, you are.
QUESTION: I'm asking you about pressure. You're not defending yourself against Iraq. You're applying pressure on Iraq. And I'm asking you if Israel has a right to apply pressure as you do as a way of countering terror?
MR. BOUCHER: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: I didn't say that. I said pressure. You define pressure, if you like.
MR. BOUCHER: I will withdraw from this debate if you guys want to --
QUESTION: It's not a debate.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, whatever rhetorical devices --
QUESTION: You tell them to hold their fire.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry. Did I say that?
QUESTION: Be careful what you do, you said. Be cautious. Do you want a parallel to US policy here?
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, whatever rhetorical devices you might want to use, the situations between Iraq, Israel and the situation in the Palestinian areas are totally different.
QUESTION: Of course.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you guys, late in the afternoon -- so late I almost missed it but I caught it in the end -- you very slyly announced that you were raising the fees for all non-immigrant visas by more than 50 percent, to -- from $65 to $100, yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: Just barely more than 50 percent.
QUESTION: Sorry? Well, $35. You're raising these fees to cover a --
MR. BOUCHER: That's more than 50 percent. You guys do the math later. Okay? Let's not digress. We've been digressed.
QUESTION: And the reason you said you're doing this is because you're facing a critical shortfall because of all the new requirements that have come in for visas after 9/11. But what it didn't say and what I wanted answered, but it was too late to get answered was, how much is the critical shortfall and how much money do you expect to generate by charging an extra $35 bucks a pop for a visa?
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if we have those numbers for you, Matt. I don't have them right here.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Jonathan.
QUESTION: No, I have one more.
The North Korean mission in New York said yesterday that they don't expect any talks with the United States to resume in the near future, and also that Mr. Kelly essentially presented a series of requests for North Korea to fulfill. Is that also your understanding of how the position stands with North Korea after Mr. Kelly's visit?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd say Mr. Kelly -- Assistant Secretary Kelly made quite clear that we had serious concerns. He raised a broad range of serious issues in a serious manner during his meetings in Pyongyang.
We remain committed to addressing those concerns through dialogue. We hope the North Koreans are reflecting on his presentation, which was carefully prepared, in the interests of promoting lasting peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.
One more back here.
QUESTION: Yes, please. Moving to Venezuela, today is -- (inaudible) -- march taking place in Caracas, to request a referendum that the side -- President Chavez remain in power. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say, first of all, we have called on both the government and the opposition groups to exercise their democratic freedoms in a responsible manner. The government has a special obligation to ensure that proper conditions for the safe exercise for freedom of assembly, freedom of speech. We do and have expressed our -- we do view with concern and have expressed our concerns about the current political troubles in Venezuela. We have opposed any effort by any party to resort to violence or unconstitutional means to resolve political difficulties, and we have called on the government and all Venezuelans to redouble their efforts to work with organizations, the Tripartite -- Organization of American States, the UN Development Program and the Carter Center initiative -- to facilitate a dialogue, find a peaceful, constitutional and democratic solution to the political impasse.
As a first step, we encourage all parties to sign the declaration of principles that was negotiated by the Tripartite Working Group, and we have applauded the OAS Secretary General's efforts to advance this process during the visit that he just had, October 2nd to 4th to Venezuela.
Okay, thank you.
Released on October 10, 2002