State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 17
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
December 17, 2002
1 Introduction of French Spokesman
3 Calls by President Bush to President Chirac
1-2 Weapons Inspections / Dr. Blix Speaking to Security Council
1-3,5 Analysis of Declarations Concerning Weapons of Mass Destruction
9-10 Iraqi Opposition Conference in London
2 German Presidency of Security Council
3-4 US Response to EU Decision on Accession for Turkey
4 UN Mediated Settlement Talks
4-5 EU Accession
5 Consultations Regarding Iraq and UNSC 1441
5 Consultations Regarding Proliferation in North Korea
10 Bilateral Meeting with FM Ivanov
10 Russian Intelligence Connecting US with Turkish Religious Institution
5-6 Nuclear Weapons Program
6 Acquisition of Chemicals from China
6-7 Missile Defense
7 OAS Resolution 833
7-8 Shutdown of Oil Industry
8 Saudis Asked to Register With the INS
9 Cooperation with US Anti-Narcotics Efforts
10 Quartet Meeting on Friday
13-14 British Proposal to Convene Conference on Palestinian
10-11 Ratification of Kyoto Agreement
11 Presidential Election
11-12 Human Rights Watch Report on Status of Women
12 Relations with Ishmael Khan
12 Afghan Donors Conference
12-13 Testimony by Former Secretary of State Albright in The
13-14 Visit by President Assad to UK
14 Statements by Assad Concerning Relative Threat of Iraq
14 Bilateral with Egyptian Minister
MR. BOUCHER: So, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any formal statements or announcements. I'd like to welcome the new French spokesman to our briefing room, Mr. Yves Doutriaux, and just say that we fully support French efforts in Cote D'Ivoire.
QUESTION: And that the French support US efforts in Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: Absolutely. Working closely together at the United Nations, as well.
Any other questions about US-French cooperation I'll take now, but other than that, Mr. Schweid, you get the first question.
QUESTION: What can you lay out, to the extent that it's known, on the Security Council and Mr. Blix? He speaks Thursday, reports. I hear Mr. Wolf is going up to the represent the US. But how does it work out and what do you anticipate in the way of debate or consideration? Lengthy?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Simple answer. We'll see. We have been working closely with other members of the Security Council. We've been in close touch with the inspectors. As you note, Assistant Secretary Wolf and others have been in touch with the inspectors, trying to work with them on two issues. One is helping the inspectors prepare the working version of the text so that other members of the Council can have a text that they'll have a chance to review before the meeting on Thursday.
So I think the inspectors are trying to get it to them either today or tomorrow so that all the members of the Council can have that, and then we can get together on Thursday with the inspectors and hear what I think Dr. Blix has called their preliminary assessment of the Iraqi document. After that takes place, we will have something to say sometime, and that's about as definite as I can get to you.
On our own assessment, as the Secretary indicated yesterday, we see problems with the declaration and that our skepticism about Iraq and Iraq's cooperation and intentions has been well-founded. But this will be a process of discussion with other members of the Security Council, with the inspectors themselves. We'll look at all facets of Iraq's cooperation -- what's in the declaration, what's not in the declaration, what we know from other sources, what the inspectors themselves find out through their own inspections -- as we evaluate Iraq's cooperation and the final goal, which is to find out if Iraq is disarming or not.
QUESTION: Little has been said here as -- been directed at Iraq that Iraq -- well, you know, that it's more significant what's included as what's not included probably, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The leaks have begun. There's a leak now that 80 German shipments, 80 contracts with Iraq, are listed in this report. I'm not asking you to verify it, but I'm asking you whether the US has problems with the cooperation Iraq got from European countries in -- even if in dual-use equipment in doing the things it's done.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can make any kind of sweeping judgment at this point. Obviously, Iraq has had very active procurement programs through the years, bought some things, you know, legally in the past and bought many things illegally in recent years with the extra money that they've gotten from illegitimate oil sales and the various other attempts that they've made at procurement.
Countries need to know what the Iraqis have been buying. Countries need to know what we find out about what the Iraqis have gotten and where they've gotten it. So I think our view, certainly our view is not to withhold this kind of information on procurements, but rather, to share it. And to the extent that the inspectors believe it needs to be withheld for the purpose of their inspections, we could see that. But otherwise, in terms of what we're doing with the inspectors and the other members of the Council in reaching agreement on a working version for circulation to all the members, that's not really a factor.
QUESTION: I would like to follow up on Germany. There is information in the German press saying that the US is trying to prevent Germany from taking over the presidency of the Security Council in February. Can you --
MR. BOUCHER: That's a new twist. This is set by standard rotation. I don't think there's any question about it.
QUESTION: That's what the German press is saying this morning.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't account for what's written in the press. I can only tell you the facts.
QUESTION: What are your problems with the Iraqi declaration? And you seem to be backing away now from the idea that you will make some kind of judgment later this week.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we said judgment. I think we said start offering our assessment or our judgments, maybe plural, about what we think. The Secretary said we will withhold making a final judgment or a final statement until we have completed our analysis, completed our discussions with the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency and our colleagues on the permanent membership of the Security Council. So I'm sure we'll have something to say later this week, but whether it will be a "final judgment" or not, don't know, haven't promised it, and not going to promise it now.
QUESTION: You didn't answer the first part. What are the problems with the declaration?
MR. BOUCHER: There are problems with the declaration that we'll talk about later, after we've talked more to the inspectors, to the other members of the Council, and heard from the inspectors in terms of their briefings for the Council.
QUESTION: Do you think that you will give your assessment on Thursday?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Later in the week.
QUESTION: That's later in the week.
MR. BOUCHER: It offers several possibilities.
QUESTION: Yes, I have a question I asked you last Friday on the decision by the EU summit on Turkey. There are a lot of reports in the American press and the European press about a defeat for President Bush from this decision and his intervention. And there were some reports that the French President Jacques Chirac made fun of the phone calls of the President. Can you give us your analysis on the decision and how you see this decision?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view last Friday, I think, was that it had not been finalized yet. We were looking to see how it turned out. We've now looked at how it turned out, and the White House Press Secretary, last Friday, after my briefing, I think, put out a statement saying we welcome the decision to open without delay accession negotiations with Turkey on deciding in December 2004 that Turkey has fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria.
We described this as a visionary decision by European leaders. We've encouraged our friends and allies to work energetically towards this goal, even though we haven't been members and are not members, not planning to be members, either, of the European Union, and just said we've strongly supported Turkey's efforts at political and economic reform in order to attain that goal of membership which we think is so important. So, that's our view that we expressed last Friday afternoon.
QUESTION: If I could follow up, if it's possible.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: There is some kind of difference on how the Europeans view this decision and how the US views this decision. The Europeans say that they will take in December 2004 and they will decide then if they -- if and when they will start accession talks with Turkey. The US, from the White House statements, seems to me points to "without delay" phrase and say that this is a date if Turkey's ready. So, is this your view that in December --
MR. BOUCHER: My view is the White House view, yes.
QUESTION: And one more question. You promised to me to say something about Cyprus last Friday and the decision -- the fact that we didn't have an agreement in Copenhagen and what's going on from now on.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember that I actually promised to say something about Cyprus, but we're always ready to support the efforts of the UN, of the Secretary General. We do think the opportunity that has existed still exists, and we look forward to continuing to work with the parties, with the neighbors, and with the United Nations to try to achieve a settlement there.
QUESTION: Is February 28 the target day from now on?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the UN is saying these days about target dates, but we're certainly continuing to work hard in support of the United Nations.
QUESTION: But, otherwise, you don't have any reaction on the EU decision for the Republic of Cyprus?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've tried to react on every single member who was given a date or negotiations in terms of new membership in the European Union. Our view, although we're not a member of the EU, is that this enlargement process is very good, it's very good for all of us, and that the more the enlargement of the European Union brings people to participate in the community of freedom, and that's important for us all.
QUESTION: But it was a big development in connection with your efforts and the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to find the solution to the Cyprus problem, so they combined, and I was wondering why you do not react namely for the Republic of Cyprus.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't understand what you're saying. That we have been --
QUESTION: You said you do not comment on --
MR. BOUCHER: In terms of the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, this is a good thing, part of a broader good thing of the enlargement of the European Union.
QUESTION: Do you welcome this?
MR. BOUCHER: We welcome it. And if you want me to, I'll go through the whole list of every single country that was just admitted to membership and I'll welcome them too, because we think that every single one of them is a good thing.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay? Nick.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Iraq for a moment? Russia has said today that there really shouldn't be an American assessment before the inspectors' assessment of the report, and yesterday Russia, or the Deputy Foreign Minister, was quoted as saying Russia is not going to put pressure on North Korea to do what the United States wants it to do.
I'm just wondering what kind of diplomatic efforts you've got in Russia going on. We know that the Foreign Minister is coming here on Friday for the Quartet, but I'm sure you're talking to them.
MR. BOUCHER: I hate it when you answer my question before I get a chance. The Foreign Minister is coming on Friday -- (laughter) -- and I'm sure we'll continue to work these issues with him. The Secretary has been in touch, I think late last week, with Foreign Minister Ivanov and they certainly have been working with the inspectors as we and other members of the Council who have the expertise in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been working with the inspectors.
As far as the first part of your question about not making statements before the inspectors, I think I just told you we intended to say something after the inspectors, so I don't see any particular contradiction there.
And as far as the issue of North Korea, I think if you look around -- what we said yesterday with the Japanese, what we have said consistently, what's been said by the Russians, the Chinese in their own meetings and their own fora -- everybody insists that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is an essential part of moving forward. The European Union, in fact, had quite a clear statement on that and the Secretary repeated those statements yesterday to make clear that for North Korea to expect more interaction with the world, more benefits from the world, it had to get rid of these programs that violate its previous agreements and obligations.
QUESTION: In that connection, did you see the The Washington Times story this morning about --
MR. BOUCHER: I saw a lot of stories this morning.
QUESTION: -- China supposedly helping the North Koreans, providing ---
MR. BOUCHER: The question of some chemicals, perhaps. I'm afraid that given the kind of information that the story is reportedly purportedly based on, I won't be in a position to talk about it since it would involve intelligence matters for me to talk about any particular transfers or procurements.
I think we have made clear that North Korea's program to enrich uranium is a clear and serious violation of its previous commitments and obligations, not only to the International Atomic Energy Agency, to us under the Agreed Framework, also to the South Koreans and the Joint South-North Declaration, and, finally, to the world under the Nonproliferation Treaty. So any activity designed to further a program of nuclear enrichment is a clear violation of all its obligations and we have said that those programs need to be eliminated or we can't move forward in these relationships.
QUESTION: Right. But it's a violation for suppliers as well as recipients, isn't it?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I can't talk about any particular contract, supplier or otherwise.
QUESTION: You're not identifying them. But I say without identifying them, they are getting held.
MR. BOUCHER: The question of nuclear suppliers group controls, the people who participate in that is a little different and a little more complicated, but --
QUESTION: No, but the missiles --
MR. BOUCHER: But yes, basically, anybody who is providing nuclear equipment, nuclear weapons-type supplies to North Korea, would be violating its obligations, as well.
QUESTION: Intelligence reports aside, are you satisfied that China is not assisting North Korea's nuclear weapons programs?
MR. BOUCHER: I couldn't make a judgment on that without having to base it on intelligence sources. I'm not in a position to do that.
QUESTION: Change of subject? What exactly has the United States asked from Britain and Greenland on missile defense?
MR. BOUCHER: On missile defense? In the White House statement on missile defense, you'll see that --
QUESTION: Perhaps I should say Denmark rather than Greenland.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Was it in there?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it says the United States will seek agreement from the United Kingdom and Denmark to upgrade early-warning radars on their territory. I think you'll have to ask the Defense Department about the particularly technical aspects of this. I would just say in terms of the diplomatic aspects, the Secretary has been in touch with the Danish Foreign Minister, and I think he's talked to Jack Straw before. There have been other discussions with these two governments in order to work to upgrade these radars as part of our decision to field some missile defense elements.
QUESTION: Have you had any answers yet, or even preliminary answers?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. I will have to check.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new on Venezuela? The situation continues.
MR. BOUCHER: What's going on in Venezuela? I think most of you will have seen by now the statement by the Organization of American States Permanent Council last night. We support that decision. It's OAS Council Resolution 833. It reaffirms very strongly the support for Secretary General Gaviria's efforts to facilitate dialogue to achieve a peaceful, democratic, constitutional and politically viable electoral solution to the crisis in Venezuela, with all due urgency as warranted by the situation.
We fully support the Permanent Council resolution in that it also rejects any attempt at a coup d etat or unconstitutional alteration of the Venezuelan constitutional regime and reasserts support for the democratic process in Venezuela. In the end, the Venezuelan people must be able to decide which democratic, constitutional electoral option is most viable to resolve the crisis peacefully.
We recognize the situation in Venezuela is volatile, it's deteriorating rapidly. The United States believes that a solution must be found quickly to avoid further polarization that could erupt into violence. We are in close touch with other governments in the hemisphere and we are all very strongly supporting the efforts of Secretary General Gaviria down in Venezuela.
QUESTION: The first day or two of the oil cutoff, we asked about whether the US was asking other oil producers, marketers to do more to pick up the slack, and it was early and it was a wait and see, we don't know yet. Well, there seem to be -- you know, the oil prices have reached $30 now. There seems to be an impact. Is there something the US is going to do with its friends, like Saudi Arabia, to try to make up the difference?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in position to comment on that. I think as far as oil markets and oil prices go, you have to talk to the Energy Department.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Saudis and the US being asked to register with the INS?
MR. BOUCHER: That's an Immigration Service matter and they're handling all the press inquiries on it, I think.
QUESTION: It doesn't go through State at all?
MR. BOUCHER: We're part of the process because we try to give out information overseas, we try to alert visa applicants to what to expect, we try to ensure compatibility between what we do and what the Immigration Service does and we share the information on applicants so that we can check whether people are telling us the same thing overseas as they tell us back here.
QUESTION: Has there --
MR. BOUCHER: Those are ongoing efforts, but in terms of actually deciding and administering this program, it's the Immigration Service that's doing it.
QUESTION: Has there been any diplomatic exchanges regarding the new requirement from Saudi sources?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know. We've had, I think, discussions with a variety of governments about the whole question of visas and how we can continue to welcome these people to the United States from various regions around the world and, at the same time, have the necessary protections and security for our nation.
As I think we've pointed out in many of our diplomatic discussions and some of our discussions here, having a registration system that keeps track of who is coming into the country and where they are is something that the United States has really lacked for many years, whereas in most countries in Europe, it's a common practice. We all know we turn in our passports and fill out registration forms every night in the hotels in some countries in Europe, so it's not unusual to have such a system, and as the United States puts it in place we want to make sure people understand that this is a normal part of knowing who's here and who came in and where they are, and that we'll be trying to do that in the most efficient possible manner.
QUESTION: This morning, the Burmese Government announced that they had been told by the United States that the administration would not certify them as cooperating fully with international and US efforts to combat narcotics production. First of all, can you confirm it and maybe give us some details of where exactly the Burmese were judged to be deficient?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't give you that. The announcement, I would say, is premature at best. We're going to be looking at the decisions involved, make final determinations in the next several months. The question that some have raised of removing Burma from what's called the Majors List is not under discussion and it's not being recommended or looked at. Also, we're not considering any bilateral narcotics assistance for Burma.
The issue that has to be decided, because the law has changed and this list is being compiled and done differently than in previous years, is whether Burma has failed demonstrably, is the language of the law. Based on specific objectives given to Burma to make substantial efforts to adhere to international counternarcotics agreements and to take the counternarcotics measures specified in US law. And so that's an issue we'll be looking at with Burma and others over the next several months.
QUESTION: I mean, have you any idea why the Burmese have got the impression that they've been -- that they've kind of --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've had any conversations with them about it as we go forward with this process. We often do contact governments and try to understand what they've done or they haven't done. So they may have formed an impression from some conversations. But, as I said, we have a final determination to make over the next several months about whether or not they failed demonstrably to cooperate.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on the end of the Iraqi opposition conference in London and their formation of a committee?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I do, and I believe the White House may be putting something out as well. I'd just say we're pleased with the results of the Iraqi opposition conference that was convened in London over the past few days. The conference represents a historic milestone for the Iraqi opposition and a symbol of a brighter future for Iraqis both inside and outside Iraq.
This represents the broadest gathering ever convened to free Iraqis opposed to the tyrannical regime in Baghdad and the participants should be commended for their efforts. We're pleased that the conference participants agreed on a strong statement setting forth their vision of a better future for Iraq as a democratic state. We support those aspirations. We look forward to working together with them to achieve them.
The conference decision to form a coordinating committee to follow up on the critical work will be useful and we look forward to sharing the ideas and recommendations developed within our Future of Iraq Project to assist a future Iraqi government in the post-Saddam Hussein era.
QUESTION: Do you have any details on the Quartet on Friday of who's coming and where it's all going to be?
MR. BOUCHER: The meetings will be in the State Department. We do, I believe, expect everybody. Right? Secretary General Annan, Foreign Minister Ivanov, European Danish Presidency Foreign Minister Moeller, as well as High Representative Solana, who's usually here for that, and I think Governor Patten as well. So we'll be having a series of meetings in the State Department and we expect to end with some kind of press conference for you.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary have a bilateral with Ivanov?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure they will have a chance for some bilateral discussions. I'm not sure if they've scheduled a separate meeting at this point, though.
We keep going back? Sorry.
QUESTION: Some Russia, intelligence organization blamed the United States using to some Turkish religious institution in the Central Asia and the new republics of Central Asia and one of them is -- the leader of one of them is in United States right now. He's staying that. Do you have any --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't read those Russian intelligence reports, so I'm not really in a position to comment.
QUESTION: All of the agencies are reporting this.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not aware of those reports. I don't have anything on them.
QUESTION: Will the members of the Quartet go to the White House to see the President?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary said so, yes. We expect the Quartet to go to the White House, meet with the President.
QUESTION: Yeah. What is your reaction to Canada ratifying the Kyoto agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any particular reaction. I think our views of the Kyoto agreement have been well stated. We don't intend to ratify the agreement, but we do intend to work hard on the issues of climate change and to cooperate with other governments, some of whom are in and some of whom are not.
QUESTION: Do you see that this will have any effect, though, on US investment in Canada or trade with Canada?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can speculate at this point. I don't know.
QUESTION: This Thursday, the South Koreans will choose the new leader, the new President, but I know that you won't discuss about the domestic issues, but this election will be pretty hot and interesting election and do you have anything to comment about this election?
MR. BOUCHER: I agree with your answer. We won't comment on domestic politics.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the Human Rights Watch report on the status of women in Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: The report, I think, focuses on issues of abuse of women in Herat. And I think we would note that the human rights situation throughout Afghanistan, including in Herat, remains a serious challenge.
We appreciate the work of human rights organizations, Afghan and foreign, who are contributing much to the discussion of this problem and working to improve human rights conditions for all Afghans, particularly women and girls. We'll look carefully at the latest Human Rights Watch report on abuse of women in Herat. Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky will be in Afghanistan January 8th and 9th to co-chair a meeting of the US-Afghan Women's Council. Women's rights and human rights more broadly will be a central theme of her meetings.
US officials will continue to raise human rights with Governor Ishmael Kahn and other local officials. We'll be releasing our own comprehensive report on human rights in Afghanistan early next year. We'll also continue to work with the Afghan Government to take effective action to end human rights abuses throughout the country. The Human Rights Commission created under the Bonn accord is an important vehicle for this purpose and we, as well as other donors are working with the Commission to provide it with tools to carry out its mandate.
We expect all Afghan authorities, including regional leaders, to abide fully by the Bonn accord, which calls for freedom of the press, establishment of human rights, judicial, civil servant and constitutional commissions, and the disarmament-demobilization-reintegration of regional militias.
The United States remains committed to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and to the establishment of a secure environment to which refugees and internally displaced persons can return and where all Afghans can live and work freely without fear of harassment or intimidation.
I would just note that in our considerable aid budget and assistance for Afghanistan, the status of women and girls has been particularly important to us. Opening schools, getting them back into school, providing protection, providing empowerment and making them part of Afghan's future has been a very important element in our effort.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that, sir?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: What's the kind of state of relations between the United States and Ishmael Kahn? Is there any US support that goes directly to Ishmael Kahn?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I would have to check. Our assistance is generally funneled through the central government.
QUESTION: There's an Afghan donors conference today. Is the US giving anything more?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check and see if this is a pledging conference or not. The Tokyo Conference was about a year ago, in January, and I think, if I remember correctly, at that time we pledged something like $300 million, and this year we've already delivered almost twice that much -- somewhere in the $500 to $600 million range. So the United States has consistently been a very strong donor for Afghanistan.
We've provided assistance to refugees, to returnees, food assistance. We already have food stockpiled for the winter in parts of the country that are getting closed off by the snows, but we've also been a very important donor in terms of building schools, rehabilitating irrigation systems and putting down the elements of a longer term future for Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Richard, did anyone at the Department have any involvement in Secretary Albright's testimony today at The Hague?
MR. BOUCHER: We were required to authorize testimony by Secretary Albright as a former official. We do this on a case-by-case basis. The circumstances in this case are unique, in particular that the request was a joint request from the prosecution and the defense. And the prosecution and the defense shared the goal of using the sentencing hearing to highlight not only the tribunal's role in establishing accountability, but also its potential for promoting regional reconciliation.
So they jointly requested that the US Government permit former Secretary of State Madeline Albright to testify at the sentencing hearing. We granted that permission. She has now testified and we think it's an important contribution to the process of international justice for her to appear and testify.
QUESTION: Do you have to know the basic content of that testimony to approve it, or do you just give a green light no matter what the person would say at the testimony?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the issue for us is that people who appear in this manner are appearing to discuss information that they acquired in their official capacity and that's the judgment that we make. Obviously, American officials always tell the truth anyway, but especially before tribunals.
QUESTION: I want to follow up on that. Since you're on the subject, could you update us on the status of the proposal that Mr. Holbrooke testify in The Hague?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't think there's anything new on that at this point.
QUESTION: Just so I understand it, are you legally required to approve or not approve such testimony, or is it simply a State Department practice or internal rule?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's based on standard international legal practice that, for any testimony requested of present officials or former officials, that we would approve or not approve their appearances based on standard practices of diplomatic immunity.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the British proposal to convene a conference on Palestinian reforms in January in London with Palestinian officials? And do you have any comment on the presence of President Assad of Syria right now in London at the invitation of the British Government?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I have no particular comment on that bilateral visit. As far as the announcement by Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday that they'll convene a conference on Palestinian reform in mid-January, we welcome the announcement. A conference like this would be useful in providing an opportunity to reinforce and encourage Palestinian reform efforts and builds on and strengthens the work already undertaken by the International Task Force and the Quartet. Through progress on reform, as well as performance on security, the Palestinians can help make possible implementation of the President's vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
We deeply appreciate the United Kingdom's ongoing involvement in the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region and look forward to discussion of these issues within the upcoming Quartet meeting later this week.
QUESTION: While we're on the subject of Assad's visit, I don't know whether you've had a chance to see his comments he made in London, but one of them was that Syria, which of course has been at odds with Iraq for most of the past 25 years, did not see Iraq as a threat to the region, and he also said that he suspected that the US campaign against Iraq was motivated by other factors such as oil.
How can you persuade us that Iraq is a regional threat when many countries like Syria, which are neighbors, say publicly that they don't see it as such, and others have said so, too?
MR. BOUCHER: Where did you get the word "many ?
QUESTION: Well, I think the Jordanians have said so, too.
MR. BOUCHER: "Many" is one?
QUESTION: No, the Jordanians have said so, too. I think even the Egyptians have.
MR. BOUCHER: Many of Iraq's neighbors -- and I think I'm well justified in using the word "many" -- understand that Iraq has gassed its own people, understand that Iraq has gassed its neighbors, understand that Iraq has invaded two of its neighbors, and understand that Iraq's continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction constitutes a threat to the region as well as to the whole world.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's it.
QUESTION: I wanted to see if you had anything on the Egyptian Minister, Secretary Powell meeting with him?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll get you something from the Press Office.
QUESTION: Okay. [End]
Released on December 17, 2002