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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for January 17

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for January 17


IRAQ 1-2 Interview With German Media on Iraqi Non-Cooperation 3-4 Steps Toward Final UN Inspections 5 Failure to Fully Disclose and Lack of Cooperation 5-6 Iraqi Rhetoric and Lack of Veracity 6-8 Information Collection and War Crimes Prosecution 10-12 Allied Cooperation

TURKEY 8-9 Military Cooperation

DEPARTMENT 9-10 Secretary Colin L. Powell Activities and Travel

OAS/VENEZUELA 11 Next Steps for Friends of OAS Secretary General Group

NORTH KOREA 12-13 KEDO Funding

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 13-14 Israeli Targeted Killings in Foreign Countries

RUSSIA 14 Dismissal of NTV Head

YUGOSLAVIA 14-15 Status Talks on Final Status of Kosovo


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.

Who wants to start? Jonathan?

QUESTION: Yes. I wonder if you could just clarify the remarks that the Secretary made to some journalists yesterday about proof of Iraqi non-cooperation. I understand it seems there may have been some mistranslation or --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, well, I realize this is difficult, that we did an interview with a number of newspapers from different parts of the globe, and therefore in different times zones. As you know, our normal practice is to let the people who do the interview report first. And some of them reported overnight and some of them won't be able to do it till tomorrow, so I don't think we'll have the whole transcript for you till tomorrow but I understand there is Q&A that has appeared in German. And so rather than have you translate back into English, we'll try to get you those portions of the interview that have already appeared in public as Q&A.

Now, on this particular one, he was asked a question, the Secretary was, and we're going to photocopy that little Q&A section and give it to you, so I'll give you the short version. He was asked about the question of proof and do we have some sort of secret weapon waiting to prove this.

And he said, "We believe that as this debate unfolds, beginning on the 27th, the information that we have available to us and we ll be providing to the world, and what the inspectors say with respect to lack of cooperation, and what the inspectors may have been able to find out that it would satisfy somebody as concrete evidence they may or may not have between now and the 27th. We believe a persuasive case will be there at the end of the month that Iraq is not cooperating.

"Now, we will have to look at that case at the time and then the Council will have to make a judgment as to what the Council should do at that time. And the United States separately, and each nation separately, will have to make its own judgment as to what it should or should not do."

And that's the full Q&A on that particular section. But as I said, we'll look to see what else has appeared in print in foreign languages and give you the English, the original English version of those sections.

QUESTION: But the line is, "There will be a persuasive case that Iraq is not cooperating"?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I read it and I'll give you the exact text as we --

QUESTION: Okay. But he believes that there will be, by the end of the month, that the case will be made?

MR. BOUCHER: We would say it's already quite clear. We said when Iraq presented its declaration that there were material omissions that constituted further material breach. We have said here and the Secretary refers to it, makes the same point in his interview, that Iraq is failing to cooperate, Iraq is failing to come clean. That's the case now. It's been the case for many years. It was the case when the Security Council found in its November 8th resolution that Iraq was in material breach. It's the case when we saw Iraq's declaration.

It's a case made even more clear by the example yesterday of chemical shells that had not been declared, which the UN inspectors say were not declared. The fact is that Iraq is not cooperating. And that case, we think, will be clear, has been clear and will continue to be clear, unless there's some dramatic shift in the cooperation we have seen from Iraq.

Now, what to do at that stage, what to do at that point, will be a matter for, as the Secretary says, for the Council to decide or for individual nations to decide.

QUESTION: Richard, just a follow-up on the published report so far -- from the German report so far. Am I correct that it is not new if the Secretary said a second resolution would not be necessary?

MR. BOUCHER: That is not new. No.


MR. BOUCHER: We've all said that.

QUESTION: Along those lines though, Richard, it's not your impression that the Secretary was breaking any new ground in what he said, is it?

MR. BOUCHER: I thought it was a very good interview.


QUESTION: Well, I'm sure it was a very good interview.


QUESTION: However, he did not come out with some dramatic new policy shift --

MR. BOUCHER: It was a terrifically comprehensive explanation of where we stand and what we have to consider as we move into the next week or two, and to try to put in perspective the importance of January 27th, but also put it into context of how we have been proceeding and what we would have to decide.

QUESTION: Yes. But his comments did not represent any change or anything new in the way that the U.S. approaches this. Is that correct?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say his comments were entirely consistent with his previous statements.

QUESTION: Can I approach this differently, because, you know, he gave an interview.


QUESTION: And I don't feel defensive, like I have to refine and figure out if he's being quoted right. He spoke. It's over. And today's a new day, so let's start --

MR. BOUCHER: Good morning.

QUESTION: Good morning. And let's forget that he gave an interview. We'll read it when we can. We get you. Powell would be better to get, but you're a good stand-in.

Is a month sort of a rough guess? How does this relate to January 27th? Does that mean that you can look for something in the way of a decision from the administration within about a month?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, but, Barry, he didn't say within about a month.

QUESTION: No, I'm asking you.

QUESTION: I would not -- he has not --

QUESTION: I wasn't asking what he said. I'm starting all over again.

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, we're starting all over again. Good morning. It's a new day.

QUESTION: Good morning. What is the U.S. --

MR. BOUCHER: I would not put any time frame on what happens after we hear the reports of the inspectors January 27th. At that point, the members of the Council will have to decide what they consider to be the next steps, how to proceed, how to evaluate what they ve heard against what we and others may know, how to evaluate what they've heard in terms of what the inspectors have found and what they have not found, in terms of what the inspectors have disclosed to them, and what we know may not have been disclosed. There is a very long list of items that the Iraqis have failed to account for, of items that they have failed to disclose, of programs that they have failed to be honest about, and things that they are hiding.

So we'll consider those, consider what to do, at that point. How long that consideration might take or what they might decide the next steps are and how long those would take, I think it's just too early to say because, first and foremost, we have to see what the inspectors report January 27th.

QUESTION: A collateral question, if I may, okay? I assume now, like then, the U.S. reserves the option of taking action on its own or with a few friends.


QUESTION: But it sounds like -- please tell me if I'm right, if you can -- at least through January 27-28 period, the U.S. is hitching its decisions, its judgments, its deliberations, to the Security Council. In other words, you want to wait to see what the Council does about what he calls, Blix calls, an interim report. And I know you and a lot of other people think it's far more critical than an interim report. But you're sticking with the Council at least until then?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have stuck with the Council ever since the President brought this to the Council on September 12th, that we have always said that we prefer international action because, as the President said in his speech, this is an international problem and it is far better and preferable for the international community to deal with this together.

So we, in the resolution, said that if there are breaches and interference reported to the Council by the inspectors, then we would expect the Council to discuss that and we would participate in that discussion.

We have always felt it is important for the Security Council, the international community as a whole, to deal with these issues. But we have always said that if, for one reason or another, that kind of collective action at the UN is not possible, we and others who feel that the dangers of Iraq weapons of mass destruction are remaining reserve the right to take action together if that proved necessary.

QUESTION: Richard, you used the expression "hiding." Do you consider that Iraq was trying to hide these empty chemical warheads which the inspectors came across yesterday?

MR. BOUCHER: Do you believe they just forgot?

QUESTION: I don't know. I mean, they were in the --

MR. BOUCHER: I hate to answer a question with a question, but I think "hiding" is a more accurate description than "forgot." And that's why I would say it's the obvious explanation.

QUESTION: Do you completely reject the explanation that these were in a declared munitions dump?

MR. BOUCHER: The UN inspectors have said these shells were not declared. I rely on them. I believe them rather than the Iraqis.


QUESTION: Richard, if the goal is disarmament and the inspectors did find these latest warheads, then isn't this evidence that the inspections are working and should be given more time?

MR. BOUCHER: The goal is disarmament. We've made this clear ever since last summer. Disarmament is not going to happen unless the Iraqis cooperate. So the question remains: Are the Iraqis cooperating, or not?

The inspectors can find some shells and destroy them, but what this indicates is that the Iraqis' failure to disclose, the Iraqis' failure to declare, is once more evident. And if the Iraqis didn't declare these shells, then one has to continue to ask, "What else haven't they declared? How many more shells? How many more programs? How many more chemical weapons? How many more biological agents?" All those things that we have listed before, have they failed to disclose?

So what you have here is another example of Iraq's failure to disclose. And that is what is troubling because we all know that, as I said yesterday, there are too many doors in Iraq and too many mounds or ammunition depots for the inspectors to open every one up and find everything. The only way to achieve disarmament -- and we know this from the way we've done it in other places -- is for the country to actually want to disarm and to say, " I don't want these programs anymore. Here's what they are, here's where they were, and I'll get rid of them."

The whole resolution requires that kind of cooperation from Iraq. And this is, unfortunately evidence, more evidence, that Iraq is not providing that kind of cooperation.

QUESTION: Well, Richard, the Iraqi explanation and the UN statement are not inherently irreconcilable, are they? I mean, it's not -- "We forgot" and the inspectors saying they weren't declared are not necessarily in conflict with each other.

MR. BOUCHER: The question is: Why weren't they declared? And either they were intentionally not declared or they forgot. I don't know how one could believe that they simply forgot about not only a subject -- I mean, these shells, these kind of rockets, shells capable of taking chemical munitions, was subject to previous inspection reports. So it's not like this was not one of the things that inspectors had noted, that inspectors had asked about. The Iraqis -- you know, there could be no confusion.

And I think you'll see from all the information we and others put out previously, this kind of shell was mentioned as one of the missing items. And to have the Iraqis act surprised just doesn't wash.

QUESTION: Richard, for well over a year, the Saddam Hussein regime in Baghdad hasn't listened. Would you categorize what's coming out in the news and wire services today, is that more taking Iraq and putting it more into the same category with North Korea, Iraq being more belligerent and just isolating themselves?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to compare the level of rhetoric. They each seem to have a unique style that we can find amusing at times. I do think if you read the speeches of Saddam Hussein, he's been fairly consistent in the kind of rhetoric that he's used and the kind of untruths that he's told.


QUESTION: Richard, can you talk about the Time Magazine story from yesterday? They claim that the Saudis are trying to engineer a coup in Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

MR. BOUCHER: No. I am not a Saudi, I am not an engineer, and I have no knowledge whether that is true or not.


QUESTION: Would the U.S. support efforts either for a coup or to get Saddam Hussein to be exiled into another country?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, both of those are hypothetical, but the second half, we've given our view of that.

QUESTION: Richard, on that same subject. Part of this Saudi proposal was that the international community, possibly the Security Council, should offer an amnesty to the vast majority of Iraqi military and political leaders, leaving aside, of course, the top ones, as a way to turn them against Saddam.

Is that something that the United States could support if you felt that it might produce desirable results?

MR. BOUCHER: This is very speculative at this moment. This sort of goes down to the questions of, "What do you offer if he's willing to leave?" Well, let's whether he's willing to leave. Let's see who's there when something happens, if something happens. These are matters for Iraqis, for the international community to decide, and at this point to start making offers of something that's quite hypothetical is just not productive.

QUESTION: But, Richard, don't you think that giving some of these generals or political leaders some guarantees in advance that they wouldn't be prosecuted might spur them to take action that would be favorable to the U.S.?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we have made quite clear that people should refrain from taking actions that constitute war crimes, because we do believe in accountability and we do believe that people need to be held to account for their actions. But to kind of speculate on who might do what and what that would mean for their future, I think really depends on many things as events may or may not unfold. And there is no way to speculate accurately at this point, particularly for someone in my position.


QUESTION: Can you say whether the U.S. is preparing documentation that could be used in any war crimes tribunal against Saddam Hussein if he were to survive, be captured, be toppled, whatever?

MR. BOUCHER: We, for many years, have had an effort underway, and we have done this to a great extent funding NGOs. There's the group Indict in Great Britain, I think that you know that we have provided money to that's been collecting information on possible crimes by Saddam Hussein and his regime.

We have not moved at this stage to a formal accusation of war crimes, but certainly it's a topic that we have made sure we collect all information on and that we keep under active advisement.


QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. Can I ask about that? And I realize you're going to say it's all speculative, hypothetical and down the road, but, presumably, if Saddam was charged with these kinds of things, he would be tried by your favorite institution, the International Criminal Court, correct?


QUESTION: Or do you think that there could be another ad hoc --

MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look around the world these days, there's dozens of different examples of ways that countries have brought people to account.

QUESTION: But those were all pre-ICC. So --

MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look around the world these days, there's still dozens of ways that people can be brought to account. And as I said, what, when, how, which charges, who, would ultimately, depending on how events unfold, be questions that Iraqis and other members of the international community could address.

QUESTION: Well, when you say around the world, these examples, you're talking like truth and reconciliation commissions or what the Cambodians are trying to do with the UN for the Khmer Rouge?

MR. BOUCHER: And what the Sierra Leoneans are doing and what's done in Rwanda, what's done in Yugoslavia. There are a lot of different examples.

QUESTION: Okay. But the U.S. is not -- would not oppose Saddam being tried by the ICC, would they? Would you?

MR. BOUCHER: That is so incredibly speculative I just can't deal with it. I don't know that that the ICC has done anything one way or the other about Saddam.

QUESTION: Could you tell us what the state of your contacts with Turkey are on the level of cooperation they might be willing to provide in any military operation?

MR. BOUCHER: Close and continuing. That's the state of our contacts with Turkey.

QUESTION: Are they closer?

MR. BOUCHER: Always, ever closer. Let me bring you up to date as best I can. I remind you that the President and Secretary Powell have frequently said that war with Iraq is not inevitable. At the same time, you know we're engaged in preparations for possible military action if that option becomes necessary to disarm Iraq.

We are consulting closely and regularly with Turkish authorities to discuss military planning issues. They have been receptive to our concerns and requests. The next one of these consultations, I think, is for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers. He'll be in Ankara, Turkey, next week, January 19th and 20th.

QUESTION: Okay. Has the Secretary been in contact with any foreign ministers in the last 48 hours? We haven't heard of what he's been up to recently. He's been very quiet, apart from meetings.

MR. BOUCHER: No, he hasn't. He's been very active. Apart from meeting, talking to journalists, making phone calls, actively working issues of Iraq, Venezuela, North Korea, all at the same time, as well as making sure that we prepare our budget to fund the President's trade, investment, HIV and other priorities. That's what he's been doing.

QUESTION: Would you mind talking about his --

MR. BOUCHER: You want to know who he's talked to?

QUESTION: Yes, sure. Why not?

MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday, he talked to Foreign Minister Downer of Australia. No, sorry. Wednesday he talked to Foreign Minister Downer. Yesterday, he talked to Foreign Minister Ana Palacio of Spain and to Secretary General Gaviria of the OAS. During the course of the week, he's talked to Foreign Minister Palacio again, he's talked to Foreign Ministers Zlenko of the Ukraine, talked to the Norwegian Foreign Minister on Monday. So he's been keeping the phones busy. He talked to Jack Straw several times. I don't have it on the list, I don't think.

QUESTION: While you're on that, do you have any more on his meetings over the weekend, any schedule to publish?

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary will travel to New York Sunday afternoon, late afternoon, I'd say. On Sunday evening, we expect to have meetings with the Chinese Foreign Minister, the French Foreign Minister and the new Mexican Foreign Minister, who he talked to on Tuesday, if I didn't mention it.

On Monday, he expects to have bilateral meetings with the Bulgarian Foreign Minister, the German Foreign Minister, the Russian Foreign Minister and the Spanish Foreign Minister. Those have not completely been set up in terms of where they'll be, whether it will a sit-down or just a chance to talk while meetings are going on, things like that.

And then, of course, there is the French idea, the French-sponsored, I guess, meeting of the Security Council on terrorism, counterterrorism cooperation and actions, which he'll be attending and speaking at. My understanding is that is an open press event.

QUESTION: Iraq, North Korea? With a theme. The subjects? Is there --

MR. BOUCHER: For the bilateral meetings, obviously with different people, different things. Just about every discussion he's had with foreign ministers or others these days, people involved in international affairs, has involved discussion of Iraq and North Korea, no matter which region of the world that people come from. I would expect that to continue to be the case in terms of his discussions. With some of them we'll be discussing the situation in Venezuela in more detail, and obviously there are other things going on, like the French-hosted talks on Cote D'Ivoire which we're also very interested in. So it will vary from person to person.

QUESTION: Let me try you out on a couple of things that come out of that. Can you say -- just when the jury is beginning to feel like, "Don't lead the witness." You know, "Don't lead the spokesman."

MR. BOUCHER: Why not?

QUESTION: But will he try to persuade these various foreign ministers that the process of inspections should not be extended months and months, that the U.S. view is that this should be done with dispatch? Is there a common theme here on inspections that he's going to push?

And related to that, is Germany a closed case? Have you given up on any support from Germany? They don't seem to leave much room for negotiations as to supporting any military action. Do you think they are just to be written off? It's a rather big country.

MR. BOUCHER: Barry, seven and half weeks of negotiations last fall to achieve a 15 to nothing resolution in the United Nations on November 8th should be testimony enough to the fact that we never close a case and we continue to work with friends and allies. When it comes to the Security Council matters, of course, we work with all the members of the Security Council.

So that said, I don't want to prejudice anybody else's position or ours. We have made very, very clear that there are events unfolding between now and January 27th. There are further inspections that will be conducted. There are meetings that Dr. El Baradei and Dr. Blix will have in Baghdad. Iraqi cooperation is still required.

And we'll get a report, a formal report, from the inspectors on January 27th. And at that time we will look at the report and we'll look at what we know -- just what I quoted from the Secretary before. The Council may or, I'm sure, will want to discuss this and members will want to consider and make their judgments about what the next steps might be.

I think preparing for that process is a topic of his discussions with the foreign ministers. He will talk with the other foreign ministers about how we focus and bring clarity to this and look at what the Council might want to do next or look at what judgments and how individual governments might want to look at this situation.


QUESTION: Can we move on from the meetings this weekend?

MR. BOUCHER: Love to.

QUESTION: Do you suppose you can not?

MR. BOUCHER: Love not to.

QUESTION: Yes. The "Friends of Venezuela," quite a few of the members will, in fact, be in New York: Chile, Mexico, Spain and the U.S. Are there any plans for a multilateral meeting or --

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of at this point. There are still things being filled in on the schedule, but I haven't heard any discussion of doing that in New York. These are all friends of the Organization of American States Secretary General, as you know, and so to some extent we want to make sure that discussions take place with him, and I think we would look for that opportunity to work with him.

QUESTION: How far have you got in arranging a meeting point, meeting at any level anywhere?

MR. BOUCHER: Nothing. Yes, nothing's set yet.

QUESTION: Well, back on Iraq. President Chirac made some comments today saying that he believes that the inspectors need more time and talking about a military action, that France would not support any military action that wasn't approved by the Security Council. Could you speak to this and whether the United States is prepared to go against a close ally like France in terms of if France --

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's really what we've been discussing for 20 minutes and I'm not going to go any farther on questions of needing the Council, not needing the Council, what happens on January 27th. We'll talk to other governments, we'll make our own judgments, we'll discuss with them what we do after that. That's all I can really tell you at this point because that's the facts.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject, please?


QUESTION: To North Korea. There seems to be some misunderstandings out there. I'm sure they are not here in the building or up on the Hill, but there seems to be some misunderstandings about what the status of KEDO and KEDO funding is for fiscal 03. Can you bring us up to date as to what your stance is right now vis-à-vis the Hill and asking for money for KEDO?

MR. BOUCHER: The administration is seeking $3.5 million in contingency funding for the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization for Fiscal Year 2003. No part of this funding would go to fund heavy fuel oil shipments or light water reactor construction. The funds would be used only for contributions to the organization's administrative expenses should we determine that such funding continues to be in our interest.

We are not prejudging the decisions on the organization's future. Proposals for funds is intended to maintain the flexibility we need to achieve our global nonproliferation goals.

QUESTION: Okay. But there was some idea apparently floating around on the Hill that this money could actually be used to shut the KEDO office down. It's in New York, yes? Is that at all correct?

MR. BOUCHER: I really don't want to describe it one way or the other. The board of KEDO will decide whatever decisions it makes on construction and other activities. We want this money to do whatever it is we decide to do for the people in KEDO.

QUESTION: Okay, so the idea is that this money would allow you to keep your hand in any continuing KEDO operations?

MR. BOUCHER: This is our contribution -- our percentage of the administrative expenses of the organization. This allows us to keep funding the organization should that be how we decide to pursue our goals.

QUESTION: This amount, though, is far less than what you were asking for at this time last year.

MR. BOUCHER: It's far less than the tens of millions that would be required to buy heavy fuel oil. Yes.

QUESTION: Is that, in fact, a full one year's contribution to the regular administrative operations of KEDO?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, it's a contingency funding. So how much or all of that that we would commit at any given moment will be a decision that we'll make at the appropriate time, but we need to have money if we may want to spend it to continue to fund the expenses of the organization -- our share.

QUESTION: Do you happen to know, is it an equal share divided between the EU and the --

MR. BOUCHER: No. We've got a percentage. I don't remember exactly what it is, but it's sort of like many international organizations. Different participants pay different shares.

I think we have one in the back.

QUESTION: If you do decide to resume oil and other payments, you'd have to go for a supplementary funding request in fiscal 03?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly where the money might -- I mean, it's speculative at this point. We have not put in for that kind of funding, so the money would have to come from somewhere, but I don't know what form that might take.


QUESTION: UP has a story that says Israel is mounting a major assassination program abroad. They've been notably unsuccessful on occasion in four or five countries. My question is: What is the U.S. view of Israel suddenly deciding to increase the funding for Mossad just for this purpose? The story had very good sources, both here and in Israel. And I'm wondering --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to evaluate the story. I'm not going to evaluate the sources. I'm not going to evaluate the intentions of the Israelis.

QUESTION: Do you agree with their decision, though? And possibly --

MR. BOUCHER: What decision? Go ask the Israelis. If they tell you what they've decided to do, I will comment then.

QUESTION: If I might, Richard. The story actually indicates that Israel is prepared to undertake targeted killings in the United States and quotes U.S. officials as being aware of this policy.

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not going to try to react to a whole bunch of anonymous sources in a speculative article.

QUESTION: Well, could you say whether the U.S. would be prepared to allow Israel to undertake targeted killings of potential terrorists in the United States?

MR. BOUCHER: If you show me something where the Israeli Government says that they are going to undertake targeted killings of terrorists in the United States, I will react at that time. I think our views on targeted killings in the region is well known. It has not changed. Our views of the importance of everybody in this country respecting U.S. law is very clear and well known. And I'm not going to try to speculate on something that anonymous sources of that kind have put in the press.

QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts of the dismissal today of the head of NTV in Russia?


MR. BOUCHER: Mr. Jordan, yes. We have heard these reports. We're deeply concerned. We note that under the direction of Boris Jordan, an American citizen of Russian descent, NTV has grown into one of the most lively, vibrant and independent voices on the Russian airwaves.

We strongly hope that NTV will retain its independent spirit under its new management. We would be very much concerned were the management to change per se, to change NTV's editorial independence. Independent media voices are a critical part of democratic society.

Also concerned by reports of government influence in Jordan's dismissal. If true, this would constitute a serious blow to Russia's independent media. We'll be following the reporting on this very closely.

QUESTION: So do you take those reports seriously of government influence?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we're --

QUESTION: -- a government-owned company, right?

MR. BOUCHER: Gazprom still owns it, right?


MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Again, the point, I think, is that there's a lot of different reports, some of which are somewhat alarming, based on what we've seen. But we'll be following this closely and see how it emerges in terms of further facts.

QUESTION: Okay. And another one? I'm sure you saw Mr. Djindjic, I think it was yesterday, saying it was time to start serious talks on the final status of Kosovo. Do you think that it's time to start doing that?

MR. BOUCHER: Our view has been and continues to be that questions of the final status of Kosovo need to be handled in accordance with Resolution 1244 of the United Nations and that it's not time at this point to begin talks on the final status questions.

QUESTION: Does something else happen, need to happen before it is time for talks to begin on final status?

MR. BOUCHER: I think our view is that we should follow the course, follow the path laid out in 1244. The UN Special Representative, Michael Steiner, has established standards and benchmarks to be achieved prior to any 1244 process on final status. We support that approach. Our position has not changed. We think now is not the time to begin that process.

So we would note the notable strides that the people of Kosovo have made toward creating a multiethnic democracy, but much remains to be done in returning refugees and displaced persons, ensuring safety and freedom of movement for minorities, combating organized crime and nurturing inclusive and effective self-governance.

QUESTION: So those things you mentioned that need to be done, those are --

MR. BOUCHER: I think those are the kind of things -- we basically support the approach that Michael Steiner has taken in terms of laying out -- these are the kind of things that are laid out that we think need to be achieved as we proceed towards the point where, under 1244, these final status discussions would be appropriate. [End]


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