State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for February 3
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC February 3, 2003
IRAQ 1-2 Secretary Powell s Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal 2-4,6-7 Need for Compliance and Disarmament/ Secretary Powell s Presentation 3-4 Bilateral Meetings/ Variety of Events in New York 9 Possibility of Exile for Saddam Hussein
IRAQ/POLAND 2 Status of Polish Diplomats in Baghdad
TURKEY 4,16 Stationing of Troops/ Talks with Turkish Government
GREECE 4 Foreign Minister Papandreou s Trip and Contact with Secretary Powell
KUWAIT 1 Communications Problem in Kuwait 8-9 Travel Warning/ American School in Kuwait
EGYPT 9,16 Possible Summit in Cairo/ High Level Delegation in Town
ISRAEL/LEBANON 6-7 Warning from Hezbollah
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 14 Need for New Leadership in the Palestinian Authority/ Quartet Roadmap
BAHRAIN 8-10 Secretary Powell s Meeting with the King of Bahrain
NIGERIA 10 Violence in Warri
SOUTH KOREA/NORTH KOREA 10 Envoy s Visit 5,10-12 Need to End Programs to Develop Nuclear Weapons/ Diplomatic Efforts 12-13 Renouncing Nonproliferation Treaty/ Sanctions
KYRGYZSTAN 13 Constitutional Referendum
CYPRUS 14-15 Deadline for Cyprus Solution/ United Nations General Secretary s Plan
VENEZUELA 15 Strike Update/ Meetings of the Friends of the Secretary General Group
ZIMBABWE 16 Trial of Morgan Tsvangirai
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: If I can check a minor technical point with you. In the Secretary's Wall Street Journal article, he refers to smuggling, without using that word -- you know, Iraq bringing in stuff -- through last month. Do you think he meant January or December, because it's already February?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was last month when it was drafted, that the inspectors, if I remember correctly, Dr. Blix had said last month. But it meant December, and we just picked that up.
QUESTION: And another thing, Iraq-related maybe, I don't know. But we're getting reports from Kuwait that all communications, I think all communications, are out -- phones, Internet, everything. Is this anything that --
MR. BOUCHER: As far as I know, it's just a communications problem in Kuwait and not anything bigger than that.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Well, is there something to that? And one would wonder how Barry had heard about it if, in fact, communications were cut off. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe he tried to call and nobody was there to tell him.
QUESTION: Is it an embassy-specific problem?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I think it's broader than that. You'll have to check with AT&T or the Kuwaiti equivalent of that to find out what's going on with communications there.
QUESTION: The United States has Polish diplomats representing it in Baghdad. Can you tell us whether you have asked them to withdraw from Baghdad?
MR. BOUCHER: Any questions about the status of Polish diplomats in Baghdad really need to be directed to the Polish Government. I would say that we deeply appreciate the efforts that they have been making and continue to make on behalf of the United States under the difficult circumstances in Baghdad. And I would point out to you the President said he still hopes for a peaceful solution to the differences with Iraq, still hopes for Iraqi compliance.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? Do you mean that you haven't given the Polish Government any advice about whether they should stay, go, come, go?
MR. BOUCHER: We are always in very close touch with our Polish friends and colleagues regarding all the issues that might affect their personnel there, but any questions about the status of their personnel need to be directed to the Polish Government.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, in a more general sense, though, when there is a protecting power anywhere in the world, is it the U.S. prerogative to decide whether those -- whether the diplomats who are that protecting power stay or leave U.S. diplomatic facilities? Or is that entirely up to whatever government that is?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the answer is to that. That's a general question. Certainly if we don't want to have a protecting power in that country anymore for diplomatic reasons we can end their status and sort of withdraw the request for them to represent us, but that's a different thing than what we're talking about here. Any issues of safety and security would normally be handled by the government itself.
QUESTION: In this case though, you have not asked Poland to no longer be your protecting power in Iraq, have you?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we have not.
QUESTION: A question a little bit related to the Secretary's op-ed this morning in The Wall Street Journal, that he said that there was no smoking gun. Is the administration concerned that maybe expectations are a little too high for the Secretary's presentation tomorrow and that the world is expecting some kind of, you know, "gotcha" here that will, you know, suddenly turn public opinion on its face?
MR. BOUCHER: The administration has said that we are doing this presentation in order to support the report that the inspectors have already given. We've also made clear we think the case of Iraq's failure to comply is already quite clear from the evidence from the information that the inspectors conveyed.
This will -- presentation will, we think, be compelling. It'll be a straightforward explanation of the facts and we think an explanation that will reinforce the conclusion that the inspectors have been forced to draw, the reports that the inspectors have -- the facts that the inspectors have been forced to report to the Council: that Iraq is not cooperating, Iraq is concealing evidence, Iraq is trying to preserve its weapons of mass destruction. And so I think it will go a long way to bolstering that case, to making clear the facts as we think they already are clear.
We're not trying to hype this presentation. We have, I think, made clear it's a straightforward account of what's going on that supports the conclusions and the facts that the inspectors have already put forward. The bottom of the TV screen may have other small words on it, but we didn't write those.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, when you say, though, that you think it will be compelling, do you think it will be so compelling that anybody that didn't think before that Iraq was hiding things is now automatically going to say, "Oh, yes"?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that anybody with an open mind and open ears and open eyes will see that the Iraqis are failing to comply with the UN resolution.
QUESTION: Can you say whether he's going to have any bilats, either Tuesday or Wednesday?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I can. He will have bilats Tuesday or Wednesday.
QUESTION: And who with?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. He'll be -- there will be a variety of events up in New York. Some meetings will be one-on-one. I think there's already being a lunch being planned for after the Council session on Wednesday, so he would expect to see all the various members of the Council in those meetings or have a chance to talk to them on the side, perhaps.
QUESTION: Is this going to be at the ministerial level or ambassadorial level?
MR. BOUCHER: Most -- I can't say most. We know that a number of members of the Security Council do intend to be there at the ministerial level. I would leave it for them to announce, but the Secretary does expect to see counterparts from a number of countries.
QUESTION: There are reports out today from London quoting U.S. officials as saying that there are intercepts that will be presented with actual conversations saying -- with Iraqis sort of gloating over hiding things from the inspectors and making fun of the fact that they missed things. Can you tell us yet whether those kind of things have been declassified and cleared for presentation?
MR. BOUCHER: The material that's being assembled for use by the Secretary in his presentation is still highly classified and I'm not able to talk about what it might be or what form it might take.
QUESTION: So you still haven't -- the agreement hasn't been reached on what exactly he will be allowed to include in that?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say anything about agreement. I said the material is still very highly classified and I'm not able to talk about it.
QUESTION: How much are you sure of the Turkish parliament approve the U.S.-Turkish cooperation about the base and the forces, you know, the station of the U.S. forces? Because you already asked several contractors; they will start next week, I believe, is the refurbishing airports, military airports, and the ports also.
MR. BOUCHER: It's not a question for us. It's a question for the Turkish Government. We work with the Turkish Government on all these matters. We work with the Turkish Government in terms of all the aspects of our alliance and preparations on the military side. And the Turkish Government has explained to us at various moments their constitutional responsibilities towards parliament, but it's up to them to decide how to handle individual measures when they -- whether they have to go to parliament or not.
QUESTION: Foreign Minister Papandreou is in Arab countries, in three, four Arab countries regarding the situation in Iraq. He also had a phone call with Secretary Powell yesterday. Will you give us your reaction to this trip, and also if you can share any details from the phone call?
MR. BOUCHER: Foreign Minister Papandreou talked to the Secretary on Saturday and they discussed the Minister's trip, they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian situation, obviously they discussed Iraq. No, I'm not in a position to go into any more detail than that, but they've kept in touch regularly, not only as Foreign Minister of Greece but also since he's taken over the European Union presidency. They've been in very close touch every few days, actually.
QUESTION: And your reaction to this specific initiative to go there and talk about Iraq with Arab countries?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular reaction. I think everybody understands the importance of Iraq complying with the UN resolution, of Iraq agreeing to disarm peacefully, and a lot of people are looking for ways of making that clear together, making that clear publicly, making that clear directly to Iraq. We think Iraq should pay heed to these calls. Iraq should listen to people in its region, to people from Europe, as well as to us, to say Iraq does have a final opportunity to resolve this peacefully by disarming peacefully, but that window is closing.
QUESTION: A follow-up, if I can. The Foreign Minister, under his capacity as president of the Council of Ministers of the European Union, announced that on February 10th he will go to North Korea. Any reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have a particular reaction to that other than we have coordinated closely with the European Union and a number of others. We have, I think, made clear -- we've coordinated closely with the European Union as well as other nations in this regard and made clear that North Korea needs to understand that the kind of benefits that it's looking for from the world require it to verifiably and irreversibly end its programs to develop nuclear weapons.
And so those -- that point, I think, has been made in various European Union statements. It's certainly been made in U.S. statements and statements that we've issued along with Japan and Korea. It's been made in the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors' statements before, and that's a message that we hope the North Koreans will understand.
QUESTION: Richard, in response to an earlier question you said that anybody who listens to what the Secretary has to say on Wednesday, who has an open mind, open ears and open eyes will see the message, see the point.
Are you, in advance of his speech, questioning the intelligence of people who aren't -- who may not agree with you in the end, or are you simply saying that they are deaf and blind? (Laughter.) Or is it something else?
MR. BOUCHER: I said neither the one nor the other.
QUESTION: Well, you said that --
MR. BOUCHER: Jonathan.
QUESTION: -- anybody with an open mind, open eyes and open ears will see the point. There are going to be, very likely, people on the Security Council who do not see what the U.S. -- what the U.S. sees.
MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't referring to anybody on the Security Council, Matt.
QUESTION: Richard, yes, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch -- I don't know whether you've seen this -- has written to Secretary Powell seeking assurances that the evidence he presents on Wednesday will not contain material collected as a result of torture. Can you give them such an assurance?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen that and I don't know why the gentleman would suppose that anything we have is the result of torture.
QUESTION: Well, he was -- it was based on press accounts, recent press accounts suggesting that some of the detainees may have been mistreated.
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a ridiculous charge for anyone to raise.
QUESTION: Can I come at sort of that subject a different way? Isn't there a risk -- I mean, maybe it's a risk the U.S. feels is worth taking -- in speaking of Iraqi scientists and other people who might want to cooperate and are being hampered, being harassed, as the Secretary said in the Journal article? Are you possibly risking making life tougher for some Iraqis by what you're going to say Wednesday?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to talk about what we're going to say Wednesday. I'm not going to talk about the sources of the information --
QUESTION: No, the principle of the disclosure.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll finish my answer.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to talk about the sources of the information, but you can be assured that as we look through what we're making public, we are looking very carefully at the sources of the information to make sure that we don't lose these sources, whether they are technical or human, and that lives are protected.
QUESTION: The Vice Chair of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Emma Nicholson just put out a release saying that she personally presented Hans Blix with incriminating new evidence against Saddam and the Iraqi regime. This detailed evidence apparently demonstrates that Iraq has been attempting to procure material to develop WMD.
Have you seen this evidence?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I think you'd have to ask the inspectors if they have it and if they passed it on, first. The fact that Iraq is continuing to procure materials and equipment to make weapons of mass destruction is something that we have said is true and which we know to be true.
QUESTION: This presentation that the Secretary will be making tomorrow, is it solely evidence that the --
MR. BOUCHER: Wednesday.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. Wednesday. Is it solely evidence that the U.S. possesses or is this culled together from other countries and other allies?
MR. BOUCHER: Did I mention I wasn't going to talk about the information nor the sources of that information? I'm not in a position to say at this point.
QUESTION: Can you just say, have you decided -- is it decided on what the presentation is going to look like? Is it going be like a PowerPoint, or is he going to have photographs that are on easels, or what?
MR. BOUCHER: Have I mentioned I'm not going to talk about the information or the sources of information?
QUESTION: I'm not asking you what it is. I'm asking how it's going to be presented.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to describe it. I'm not going to talk about the kind of presentation he'll make. The information is still very highly classified and I'm not in a position to discuss it at this point.
QUESTION: So what is he going to say?
QUESTION: Has anybody given any of the bit players, your allies or pseudo-allies been given any advance information by the U.S. --
QUESTION: -- even in a general sense of what he is going to --
MR. BOUCHER: That's what I'm afraid of. (Laughter).
QUESTION: No, no. I just wondered if it will come as a -- I don't suppose it should come as a surprise because it follows what the inspectors have been saying. But will they hear things that they had never heard before or see things they'd never heard before? You don't want to discuss this.
MR. BOUCHER: Generally, no.
QUESTION: Generally, no, that these are things that they have seen before or generally that you haven't shared it?
MR. BOUCHER: He asked me whether they will -- it will come as a complete surprise, and I said, generally, no.
QUESTION: Can I move onto a new subject?
QUESTION: Can we talk about --
MR. BOUCHER: No, we can't talk about that in any more detail. Really, I was, you know, nervous about answering that question because I --
QUESTION: The meeting with the King of Bahrain. Could you say anything?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Let's let him ask his question first, though.
QUESTION: It's close to there. It goes back to Kuwait, but maybe you know since there's no communications with Kuwait. But do you know anything -- have you heard anything about -- I think it was in Kuwait, at least, these two American schools being closed down?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we have heard about that. First, I think most of you noted the travel warnings that we put out last Friday for Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, where we strongly urged Americans to consider departing.
MR. BOUCHER: Thursday. Where we strongly urged Americans to consider departing. And that was the authorized departure also for U.S. employees.
We do consult regularly with the American School in Kuwait, as a member of the American community. We have provided them with updated Warden notices and the travel warnings for Kuwait. But the American School is an independent institution unaffiliated with the U.S. Government and so it's up to the school to decide what their plans are, and they've made their decisions on their own.
QUESTION: When you presented them or when you gave them -- sent them the Internet link or whatever you did to show -- to inform them about the Warden message --
MR. BOUCHER: They're part of our Warden system.
QUESTION: Was it accompanied by something specific to them saying we think you should -- we think you should close down, or was there no --
MR. BOUCHER: No, they make these decisions based on their own schedule, but they certainly are fully aware of our advice to Americans, who obviously constitute a good part of their student body as well.
QUESTION: So no special mention?
MR. BOUCHER: No, there's no particular advice for schools in there, but there is advice to the American community to consider departing.
QUESTION: Richard, I guess a last ditch effort is being arranged for Cairo, Egypt, with Arab leaders. They would like a summit before February 14th. I don't know if you've discussed with them. Could you tell us whether you've discussed the possibility of -- we've been mentioning about exile for Saddam Hussein. And also, what would you be telling those leaders to -- or suggest to them to defuse this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I had not seen that particular report so I don't know if I can offer any more information about that particular meeting. But I would refer you back to what we said in general, that there are a great many people who are trying to make sure Saddam Hussein gets the message that he is not complying and he needs to comply because that's the only way to solve this peacefully; a great many people who are trying to make sure he gets the message that his behavior is a danger to the region, is a danger to his own people, by developing these weapons of mass destruction. So anybody that can make that message sink in, all the better. But we have to obviously prepare for the fact that he doesn't seem to be getting the message.
QUESTION: A follow-up. Hezbollah has been warning Israel to stay clear of Lebanon, especially with some spy overflights. Anything?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that situation, no.
QUESTION: Well, we can go to Elise's question.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, sorry. Elise. Bahrain?
QUESTION: The King?
MR. BOUCHER: The King. We had a good meeting this morning with the King of Bahrain. We were very pleased to welcome him to the State Department. He met with the Secretary this morning. He'll see President Bush tonight. That's been rescheduled, I think. It was originally tomorrow.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary be joining that meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect he will. The King also has a number of other meetings with cabinet heads during the course of the week.
The Secretary's discussions with the King of Bahrain covered the entire range of a very warm bilateral relationship. They talked about regional security and the international campaign against terrorism, our shared goal of reaching a just and lasting peace between Arabs and Israelis, and international efforts to ensure Iraqi disarmament and the continuing threat that Saddam Hussein represents to his neighbors, his own people, and to stability in the region.
Bahrain is a major non-NATO ally of the United States, a trusted partner in the international campaign against terrorism, and a firm supporter of our efforts to achieve peace and stability in the Gulf region.
Under the leadership of King Hamad, Bahrain has embarked on major democratic reforms, including municipal council elections held in May of 2002 and elections for the lower house of parliament in October. These elections were based on universal suffrage and featured several women running as candidates. We have commended Bahrain's commitment to political reform and strongly supported the Bahraini Government as it continues down that path.
QUESTION: Do you know if the U.S. will provide more Patriot protection for Bahrain, as pro-government newspapers reported yesterday? I doubt that they're off wildly on their own.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary and the King did not discuss military deployments today, so you'd have to go ask at the Pentagon about anything like that.
QUESTION: Any comments about the violence in Warri, Nigeria, where both homes and offices have been set ablaze and 18 people killed?
MR. BOUCHER: Not right now. I'll see if we get anything for you.
QUESTION: Can you tell us of any meetings that the South Korean envoy might have with leaders in this building? And, generally, where do things stand with the IAEA going to the Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let me get out the list of meetings. Chyung Dae-chul, the South Korean president-elect Roh Moo-hyun's special envoy, is in Washington today through February 5th on Wednesday. He'll meet with Secretary Powell tomorrow to discuss many issues, including U.S.-South Korean relations, our alliance, incoming President Roh's agenda, and North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
He also will meet with Secretary Rumsfeld, with officials at the White House and with congressional leaders during the course of his visit.
As far as the status of things in Vienna and generally with North Korea, I would point out that we continue to believe that this issue can be solved diplomatically. We continue to consult closely with our friends and allies about the international community's efforts to resolve concerns over North Korea's nuclear weapons program in a peaceful manner.
Members of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors, which in recent months has adopted two resolutions calling on North Korea to come back into compliance with its Safeguards Agreement, are consulting on scheduling the next board meeting sometime in February. At that time, they will discuss North Korea's safeguards violations. As you know, the United States is looking for the Board of Governors to report to the Security Council on these matters.
I think the international community is united in opposing the threat to international peace and security posed by North Korea's plutonium and uranium based nuclear weapons program. And we will continue to work with others as they proceed.
As you know, we've had visits by officials from South Korea, Australia and Russia to Pyongyang in recent weeks. We just discussed the European Union delegation that would go, we heard, this month. And so we'll continue to consult closely and work with all our partners in this regard.
QUESTION: Does the envoy have any meetings today, do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any here, but I guess I would have to check and see if there are meetings at other levels.
QUESTION: Richard, on the same subject of North Korea. Every time the administration has taken a reaction to what the North Koreans have done, it has seemed to further ratchet up the crisis, if you will, and has seemed to provoke yet a new action by the North Koreans. Why take this to the United Nations, to the Security Council? Aren't you afraid that that will provoke yet another counter-reaction on the part of the North Koreans?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you have sort of an odd way of looking at things, frankly.
QUESTION: That's what I get paid for.
MR. BOUCHER: I know. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Just because you don't agree with it doesn't mean it's weird.
MR. BOUCHER: I will explain why. No, I don't find everything I disagree with weird. I just find this weird.
North Korea was the one -- was where it started. North Korea started a program to enrich uranium after signing agreements saying they wouldn't develop nuclear weapons, after signing agreements with South Korea and others, including the Agreed Framework with the United States, that said that that they were committed to a non-nuclear peninsula. And so every time they have taken a step to ratchet this up in terms of, first, developing a nuclear weapons program and then confirming it with us, second of all, renouncing their obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency and then renouncing the Nonproliferation Treaty itself, the international community has been forced to respond in what I would say is a fairly measured and consistent manner.
The fact of the matter is that renouncing the Nonproliferation Treaty is, by definition, a matter that the Board needs to send to the United Nations under its own guidelines. And North Korea's behavior is clearly a question involving international peace and security, which the Security Council needs to take up.
QUESTION: Okay. But just to follow up, you do have the choice as to the tempo at which you urge this to go before the Security Council.
MR. BOUCHER: And we've been working with other members of the Board out in Vienna on the tempo. It's been several weeks already that we've said we thought it should go to the United Nations. But others have said -- asked for delays for particular meetings to occur or for other reasons. And so we're still working with other people on the question of timing.
QUESTION: Given the fact -- given North Korea's pattern of behavior, it's certainly reasonable to expect that once this goes before the Security Council, the North Koreans, presumably, are going to do something else, whether it's launch a missile test or do something to further -- I mean, that's been their consistent pattern, so --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, one would have to see. It's not -- it's not to blame us for some other step backward that they might take. At the same time, one would think they would want to see what the Security Council might do before they would think about further action.
QUESTION: But Richard, may I?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: But then, you talk about a measured and consistent manner, but the more measured you seem to be with your approach and your kind of hesitancy to talk with North Korea about a wide range of issues until they take any steps to abandon their nuclear ambitions, they seem to be going in the opposite direction. And they seem to be going more in the direction of developing nuclear weapons the more measured you become. So do you think, perhaps, there is a thought to actually having a dialogue?
MR. BOUCHER: You're prompting us to take ill-considered and irrational action. Is that what you'd like to see? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That might provoke a measured response. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: That would provoke a measured response on the part of the North Koreans.
Not to make light of this, I do believe we have maintained a consistent and -- set of responses on this, and made clear that this is not a matter solely between North Korea and the United States, but rather, the entire international community has made clear, when you start tearing up the Nonproliferation Treaty and throwing out the monitors and breaking seals and developing nuclear weapons, not only in violation of their obligations under the Agreed Framework, but also under the denuclearization agreement with South Korea and also under their agreements with the IAEA, that those are matters that the entire international community is concerned about.
And the United States has made clear in this regard we're prepared to deal with the issue with North Korea. We had made that clear right from the start when Jim Kelly was out there talking to them. We were prepared to deal with those issues but for these nuclear weapons programs. And that remains our position. It's a position we've reiterated. We've made clear we're prepared to deal with security issues that might arise.
Regrettably, North Korea continues to persist and move in the wrong direction and to refuse to verifiably and irreversibly end those programs.
QUESTION: The U.S. is opposed to Security Council sanctions against North Korea; is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: When we get to the Security Council, we'll see what we propose there, but we have not talked about sanctions at this point.
QUESTION: A lot of people are talking about it on background, but you're not prepared to say that on the record, huh?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying I haven't said anything about sanctions on the record, no.
QUESTION: Richard, again, back to ill-considered and ill-timed -- last week you put out a statement suggesting that that was -- that those words might apply to this constitutional referendum that was just voted on Kyrgyzstan. You said that it was not a good -- it failed to meet international standards. It's now been approved by the populace. What do you -- do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think our view would have changed, but I will see if it has just to double-check.
QUESTION: Middle East. Arafat has announced that he's ready to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. Are you encouraging Mr. Sharon to take a step forward or you are adopting the same stance of not negotiating with the current leadership in Palestine?
MR. BOUCHER: We're adopting the same stance as in the President's vision of June 24th of last year: that there does need to be transformation in the Palestinian Authority, there does need to be new leadership in the Palestinian Authority, but there also needs to be progress by both sides in the direction of peace.
We made quite clear in the Quartet statement of December 20th that we intended to move forward, that both sides would have responsibilities and obligation, but the way to find peace was to move in a forward direction towards two states that can live side by side in peace. And we intend to do that. The Israeli election is now finished. They are forming a government. We look forward to moving forward with the Quartet roadmap as the way of achieving the vision announced by the President.
QUESTION: But Palestinians argue that so they are -- so long as the occupation is there they can not do any reforms or --
MR. BOUCHER: I know the arguments back and forth, but the fact is we believe there are obligations on both sides. There's been a lot of discussion of constitutional change in the Palestinian areas. There's been some reform, particularly in the financial areas. We look for the Palestinians to take more responsibility in the security areas in particular so we can end the violence that makes it harder to achieve their goals.
But we do know that there are responsibilities on both sides and I think the Quartet statement makes that clear.
In the back.
QUESTION: Another subject. About Cyprus, Mr. Grossman, Assistant Secretary Grossman said lately 28th of February is the deadline for the Cyprus solution in the -- about the United Nations General Secretary's latest plan. What is the meaning of the deadline? If they pass through this deadline with a vote, the community -- are we going to go to bomb (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- it's what the United Nations has said and I have said and Under Secretary Grossman has said, that there is a clear opportunity between now and the 28th of February to resolve the issues in Cyprus. We look for the parties on the island, the neighbors, and anybody else who can help out to try to see that that's achieved.
It's an important date by which we think there can be a resolution and we're working very hard to achieve that.
QUESTION: It's not a deadline?
MR. BOUCHER: It's the deadline. It's the moment at which we should have -- we should finish this. That sounds like a deadline to me.
QUESTION: If I could ask about Venezuela because the -- President Chavez seems to have beaten back the strike each day. The opposition strike's getting weaker and weaker, and I wonder if that makes the Friends' job a little bit easier because the opposition will be in the mood to compromise.
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's going to take two parties to compromise and to resolve these things politically. We have had our senior representatives of the Friends of the Secretary General's mission for Venezuela having meetings down in Venezuela on Friday. They and Secretary General Gaviria had a productive meeting with President Chavez, who was joined by the government's dialogue team. They also had meetings with the opposition dialogue team, the executive committee of the opposition umbrella organization, the Democratic Coordinating Committee.
Our Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Curt Struble was the United States' senior representative at those meetings. Both the government and the opposition reaffirmed their commitment to seek a peaceful, constitutional, democratic and electoral solution to the crisis.
All sides acknowledged that both electoral options of the proposal tabled by former President Carter, that is, an amendment to enable early elections and a recall referendum, that those were both constitutional. The Friends identified several areas of potential agreement, particularly regarding steps to mitigate political violence.
So we look forward to the government's comments and reactions to the Carter proposals. Those are expected today. The Friends reaffirmed their offer to contribute to the efforts to ensure that any agreements reached by dialogue were respected and we'll be working with them on next steps.
QUESTION: Is Mr. Struble going to be down there for the foreseeable future or are you having some sort of deadline on this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see him at the staff meeting this morning. I will double-check on where he is. We're not quite sure if he came back over the weekend or not.
QUESTION: Maybe he's with other friends.
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe he's with his friends. That's right.
QUESTION: Richard, the opposition leader in Zimbabwe, Mr. Tsvangirai, went on trial for treason. Some reporters, some diplomats were kept out of the proceedings by police. Any reflections on either?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, in the end, our Ambassador Joseph Sullivan was able to attend the trial today. We are closely following the treason trial of Mr. Tsvangirai and two other senior members of the opposition movement for democratic change. This trial has very important implications for the rule of law and the state of democratic pluralism in Zimbabwe.
We're concerned by reports that police detained and harassed some journalists, diplomats and Zimbabwean citizens seeking to attend the trial.
We are pleased that the judge subsequently ordered that all interested parties be granted to the trial.
QUESTION: A high-level Egyptian delegation will be in town starting Wednesday. Do you have any plans for State Department officials to meet with them?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to double-check on that for you. I don't know.
Okay. Well, one more way in the back.
QUESTION: On different subject. On Iraq, actually, concerning talks with the Turkish Government on this possible war with Iraq, where are you at this stage? Are you still continuing the talks or are you waiting a reply?
MR. BOUCHER: We're talking to the Turkish Government constantly. We've had a series of visitors, delegations back and forth. We've had military people out there working closely with the Turkish Government. And as you know, the Secretary of State met in Davos with Prime Minister Gul and party leader Erdogan.
Released on February 3,