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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for March 4

Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC March 4, 2003


DEPARTMENT 1-2 Secretary Powell to Address the Center for Strategic and International Studies

IRAQ 1 Inspectors Scheduled to Report Back to the UN Security Council 2-3 UN Security Council Support for a Vote on a Second Resolution 3-4, 5, 9 Diplomatic Campaigning / Secretary Powell s Contacts and Discussions with Security Council Members 7-8 Kurdish Demonstrations 9 Iranian Presence in Northern Ira

q COLOMBIA 4, 6 Under Secretary Grossman Travel and Plan Colombia

VENEZUELA 5-6 Efforts to Find a Peaceful and Democratic Solution

TURKEY 6, 15 Continuing Talks with the Turkish Government 8-9 Military / Political Role in Ira

q NORTH KOREA 9-10, 13 U.S. to Formally Protest Aircraft Intercept 10-11 Reports of North Korea Reprocessing Spent Nuclear Fuel

GREECE 11-12 U.S. Interest in the November 17 Terrorist Group Trial

PHILIPPINES 12-13 Bomb Explosion at the Airport in Davao 13 President Arroyo Declares Explosion a Terrorist Attack

IRAN 13 Uranium Enrichment Plant Completion

RUSSIA 13-14 Under Secretary Bolton Travel and Meetings

ZIMBABWE 14-15 Arrest of Political Opposition Leadership


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I have a brief announcement for you. Secretary of State Colin Powell will address the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday, March 5, that's tomorrow, at 2:00 p.m. in the Center for Strategic and International Studies, B-1 Conference Level, 1800 K Street, NW. in Washington, DC. The remarks will be open for press coverage. Questions will be taken from the invited CSIS audience, and the topic of the remarks is "Iraq: Still Failing To Disarm." So you can, if you want to ask me what it's about, I'll be glad to tell you but --

QUESTION: It would be critical to know.

MR. BOUCHER: I think you might even say they're still failing to disarm, which is the reality of the situation.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Blix's report?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we're always looking forward to Blix's report. We've heard already from Blix, from Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei five or six times that Iraq had not made the fundamental strategic decisions. And as you know, we have already put forward a resolution that says that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity. We obviously look forward to hearing from the inspectors, but we think it's important to keep whatever cooperation we're seeing from Iraq, to keep it in a context, and to understand what it is we're seeing now, and more important, what we have not seen now and what we have not seen for the last four months and what we have not seen for the last 12 years, which is a real decision to disarm.

QUESTION: I thought you were going to announce that he's going to the UN. Not that you have to follow the French lead, but the French foreign minister will be there. So then it becomes a question, is he entertaining the idea of going up there and saying his peace to them?

MR. BOUCHER: It, I guess it does become a question. There's no decision at this point on whether the Secretary should go or not.

QUESTION: Richard, on tomorrow's speech. Do you expect the Secretary to present any new information or evidence about Iraqi noncompliance, or is this going to be, I mean, I don't want to play down the importance of the speech --

MR. BOUCHER: I know. You don't want to insult his remarks. Every time the Secretary speaks, it adds to the understanding of the situation. I expect he will add to the understanding, but it's not the same kind of thing as the presentation that he did in February at the United Nations.

QUESTION: Okay, so you wouldn't expect it to include --

MR. BOUCHER: We're not bringing out new intelligence or anything like that that I know of, no.

QUESTION: He will take questions then, will he, by the way?

MR. BOUCHER: He'll take questions from the distinguished audience as opposed to from the distinguished members of the press.

QUESTION: Well, we get out of it.


QUESTION: The White House seems to be saying that the U.S. may not feel it necessary to get another vote -- to vote again -- to vote on the resolution that has just been put before the UN. Is that correct?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's what the newspapers were saying. I think the White House is saying the opposite. The situation is this: We've always said we want a second resolution. The President said it's desirable but not necessary.

We have put forward a second resolution. We have emphasized the importance for members of the Security Council to stand up and be counted, to stand up and say we believe in our resolution that we passed 15 to nothing, to take the opportunity to make the difficult decision, but the correct decision to say that Iraq is failing to disarm. And so that's what we're working toward, that's what we're pushing for, and we want Council members to be able to have that opportunity and they will have that opportunity shortly after the Blix report on Friday.

QUESTION: So you will bring, definitely, there is no question that you guys will bring it to a vote at some point?

MR. BOUCHER: Everything we have done is moving in that direction. I can't predict --

QUESTION: Well, you just said they would be given that opportunity. Doesn't that mean --

MR. BOUCHER: They will have that opportunity to stand up and be counted. That looks forward to a vote, but I can't deal with every possible circumstance.


QUESTION: Can you say whether you've given any more thought to this Canadian proposal that seems to be gaining a little bit more ground on providing Saddam Hussein with a list of final tasks that he must complete and a firm deadline, otherwise, war is imminent? It appears that Canada's been meeting with a lot of non-permanent Security Council members to discuss this.

MR. BOUCHER: I know there's a lot of people talking to each other, but I have not see that put forward in the Council at this point. As we've said, we've given Iraq time again and again and again.

The Security Council gave him 45 days starting in 1991. We've given him more than 4,200 days since then. We've given Iraq since the passage of the resolution on November 8th. We've given Iraq the four to six weeks that people were asking for beyond January 26th, and we're waiting for the next report from the inspectors, from Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei on Friday before we try to lead people to the vote. So the question, you know, becomes, what is the point of more time? What is the point of more time, what's the point of another deadline? The real question before the Council is not, when are we going to mean it, but did we mean it when we said it last fall? And that's the point that we're at now, in our view.

QUESTION: I'm looking for a caveat, but maybe the White House is the place to look for it. If you do an informal head count and conclude that you might even face a veto or might not get the resolution through, I guess there's a point to having a vote anyhow, but then there's a risk or -- the caveat being, let the chips fall where they may. However you size up the way the vote might break, you will go for the vote?

MR. BOUCHER: As I just said to your colleagues a few moments ago, I can't deal with every hypothetical circumstance. But I can say that we have been working towards a vote. We have been working towards an opportunity, a chance for all the members of the Council to stand up and be counted and to state their views on these important issues. That remains our goal, that remains what we're working toward, that remains what we're pressing for.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on any of the Secretary's lobbying, or, the Secretary's setting out of the fine U.S. case on this to the --

MR. BOUCHER: (Laughter.) You don't have to adopt my language just to get an answer. I'll be happy to take whatever terms you'd like to put it in.

The -- let me say the diplomatic campaign is not just the Secretary. As you all know, we sent instructions to our ambassadors in Security Council countries last week. Our embassies have been active on various levels and all these countries, our mission to the United Nations, obviously. Ambassador Negroponte is up there, and they were having a meeting today in the Council, a fairly open meeting, to discuss the U.S. proposal for a resolution and other matters.

In addition, the Secretary's been keeping in touch with other members of the Security Council and people who are interested in this. I think I told you all the people he talked to over the weekend. Yesterday, he spoke to Foreign Minister Fall of Guinea, he talked to Foreign Minister Derbez, Foreign Secretary Derbez of Mexico. Today, he's talked to Spanish Foreign Minister Palacio twice. He's talked to Foreign Secretary Straw, and he's talked again to Foreign Secretary Derbez. So he's continued to keep in close touch with all the members of the Council.


QUESTION: Was -- yesterday, it's our understanding that the Secretary met in person with Foreign Minister Derbez of Mexico in Washington. Did he meet with him again, today?

MR. BOUCHER: No. He didn't meet with him in person yesterday.

QUESTION: He spoke to him by phone.

MR. BOUCHER: Or the day before. But the day before that he met with him in person.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, when --

MR. BOUCHER: Saturday.

QUESTION: Saturday?

MR. BOUCHER: Saturday. Derbez, Foreign Secretary Derbez happened to be in Washington. They took advantage of the opportunity to have a discussion.

QUESTION: I think you have some people on the road. Do you want to elaborate on the contacts by --

MR. BOUCHER: I would love to, but I would lose track of them.

QUESTION: Well, there's one in South America.

MR. BOUCHER: Under Secretary Grossman's been traveling in South America, in Colombia. Of course, that has a lot to do with Colombian development, Plan Colombia and what we do in the Andean region. It's something he's followed in particular.

Under Secretary Bolton's on the road, I think, in Europe. I don't remember exactly where. But I will get you a rundown of other people who are out and about.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the Saturday thing? Where was that?

MR. BOUCHER: At the Secretary's house.

QUESTION: Any reason why you didn't want to tell us about this yesterday when we --

MR. BOUCHER: Nobody asked me yesterday.

QUESTION: Well, I think Betsy actually -- Betsy asked the standard, you know, can you give us a rundown --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have to talk about every meeting the Secretary has. He's allowed to have unannounced meetings and sometimes no one announces them. We're not denying the meeting occurred. We're just not announcing it in advance. It was a chance to get together.

QUESTION: Oh, sure. I mean, no one's saying that he's not. All right. Has the Secretary met with anyone else that you haven't told us --

MR. BOUCHER: Has the Secretary met anyone else? Yes. He's met with other people.

QUESTION: Well, you know, from Security Council countries, Security Council members -- has he actually had a face to face meeting with anyone other than Derbez in the last three -- since Friday?

MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check my memory as well as my records, but nothing of this nature. I will put it that way.


QUESTION: Can we move to the Western Hemisphere?

QUESTION: No, can we do Turkey?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm always happy to.

QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday Colombian officers from the Colombian government said that, or confirmed that the leader of the Colombia guerilla, FARC, Marulanda, was operating from Venezuela. My question is, Assistant Secretary Stroebel last week said that the U.S. Government had some doubts about the reliability of Venezuela as an oil supplier and that it doubted that the President Chavez would honor his word to hold elections in Venezuela. Do you believe that President Chavez could be a reliable partner to try to fight the Colombian guerillas in Venezuela?

MR. BOUCHER: I, the first think I need to say is every time somebody quotes what Acting Assistant Secretary Stroebel said in testimony to me, we look it up and we find out if that's not exactly what he said. I haven't had a chance to look up this exact quote yet. But I would suggest that people check it carefully before they use it.

He certainly did talk about our concerns about the situation in Venezuela and stressjed that the situation is deteriorating, said we need to help Venezuela find a solution to avoid further harm, a viable solution that's peaceful, constitutional, democratic and electoral. And that's what we've been saying all along. That needs to be agreed by the government and the opposition.

The effort the United States has made is to try to help Venezuela solve its political problems and get back to a situation of democratic representation and stability. That would certainly contribute to the stability of the region, and that's something that's important not only for us, but for others in the region. That's why we have the Friends Group.

As far as the operation of the FARC, of the Colombian guerillas from Venezuela, as you know, that's been reported from time to time. It's something we've kept in close touch with. We have made very, very clear our view that every government in the region should be doing whatever it can to prevent that sort of thing from happening and that's a view that we've often expressed here as well as to the Venezuela Government.


QUESTION: Kind of a subject that relates to Colombia and the earlier question about Under Secretary Grossman since we didn't follow up exactly. Does he have any planned stops in Santiago or Mexico City?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any. I will have to double-check. There weren't any when he left, but I will have to double-check now.

Yes. Jonathan.

QUESTION: Could we go to Turkey, then? Have you had any contact with the Turkish Government and what are you hearing about their second, possible second vote on the package that you wanted?

MR. BOUCHER: Another, what are you hearing, question. I'm not here to speak about what foreign governments are saying and I'm not here to say what they -- what we may be hearing. I will tell you that we have been in touch with the Turkish Government. We remain in close touch with the Turkish Government. As befits our relationship with a strong ally, we've been consulting with the Turkish Government and hearing from them as they consider their next steps. But how they decide to go forward and what they decide to go forward with is a question you can ask the Turkish Government.


QUESTION: Follow up.

MR. BOUCHER: Everybody's going to follow up, so let's just keep moving.


QUESTION: Well, I -- our report was slightly more positive; that they would indeed take another look at it. And I just wondered if the administration was doing anything so far as, I forget the Secretary's phrase, readjusting, refining the package or in any other way trying to win over, make it more palatable, more acceptable? Or are you just, just saying well, it's your turn.

MR. BOUCHER: As I think I mentioned yesterday, these elements, this particular package was negotiated and discussed with the Turkish Government in the context of their involvement. That is the context for which it remains relevant. But I'm not aware of any further discussions about it. It was essentially closed. That's the package, and that's the approach. Now, we do remain in touch with the Turkish Government about any number of things from questions of political and military cooperation to economic support. We continue, will continue to support Turkey with economic assistance and continue to support their efforts with the international financial institutions, whichever way this package goes or this eventual decision on a vote goes.

QUESTION: Ambassador Pearson met with the Turkish Prime Minister Gul today in Ankara. Did he bring any new message to Turkish Government? Do you have anything about it?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything about that particular meeting. I think our overall message is what I've been saying today. We and Turkey remain allies, we'll continue to cooperate together very closely on any number of issues. We'll continue to discuss and consider together political steps, military steps, economic steps that are part of our alliance. But in terms of what exactly does -- happens next in Turkish politics, we've always said that's a question for the Turkish Government, the Turkish party to decide, and we'll leave it to them.


QUESTION: What about the demonstration in northern Iraq by the half a million Kurds? They're afraid that the United States is doing a deal maybe with Turkey. What can you say to these people who are worried?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the first thing I would say is that we have been in touch with people in northern Iraq. You know that we had a delegation at the conference of the outside opposition, and we have been meeting over time frequently with the people who live in northern Iraq. And we've always been interested in their welfare and their safety. The United States has a very strong record on that point.

Second of all, I'd say that we've always, we've discussed very intensively with Turkish authorities the situation in northern Iraq, in particular in the context of these agreements we've just reached. And I think the basic outlook there, the basic principles that apply to the United States Government and the Turkish Government of looking for an Iraq that's representative, where all the people of Iraq can be representative and play a role in their government, but that stays together as a unitary state, those are principles we've all adopted and that is our outlook on the situation. We've also, I think, made very clear that we would intend to coordinate any military activities very closely with the Turkish authorities and that we have opposed unilateral intervention from any quarter in northern Iraq.

QUESTION: On that, a follow-up on that last sentence. Do you think that now the Turkish forces will not enter independently of United States forces? That's what everybody's talking about in northern Iraq and in the Middle East.

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, I think first of all, our record on the safety of the people who live in northern Iraq has been quite well established over the years, and we do consider their safety in everything we do. We've been in close touch with the Turkish Government. We would need to coordinate any military moves with them and they with us, and we've always been opposed to unilateral moves into northern Iraq.


QUESTION: On the same subject, did United States remind or, this half a million Kurds, because of the Turkey provide comfort giving them the security issues? Is, did Zalmay Khalilzad to remind them?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure what you're asking.

QUESTION: I'm asking you, your, to representative Zalmay Khalilzad was in northern Iraq at that meeting. And the several Kurdish groups, they complain about the Turkish pressure or the Turkish threat. In the same token, the Turkey providing to, provide comfort operation as a base in the injury phase, and that they are providing to Kurds security against the --

MR. BOUCHER: You're carrying on a debate with me that --

QUESTION: I'm not debating. I'm --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to recreate or reenact discussions that were held in northern Iraq. Did he say this, did he say that, did he reply this, did he reply that.

QUESTION: No. I'm asking did you remind them --

MR. BOUCHER: The basic position, the basic position is the one that I've stated, and I'll say it again if you need me to, but I don't think I need to. As far as the demonstration in Irbil, I think the only thing that I would say about that it that, the burning of the Turkish flags that occurred there is obviously most unfortunate.


QUESTION: Richard, the question came up yesterday and you didn't have an answer. Maybe you do today. And you haven't answered it in the last five minutes. In the absence of a package agreed by the Turks, does the United States foresee a role for the Turkish military in northern Iraq? You kept talking about, you would coordinate any military operations which seemed to imply that you did. Is that what you mean, that you do foresee a role for the Turkish military? And budget would be in coordination with U.S. forces in Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can go that far. I'm not here to engage in military planning or describe what different forces would do. But any --

QUESTION: This is a political question, not a military one.

MR. BOUCHER: No. The political question is that any activities by any military forces in northern Iraq would have to be coordinated. The question of whether there are such activities planned or expected or requested is not something I can speak to.

QUESTION: The battery division, which a group of Hezb Dawa military groups, now they are camping in northern Iraq. Are you aware of that? Did you also have, you know, before they entered Iraq, you have knowledge of that?

MR. BOUCHER: We're aware, but I wouldn't say that we had knowledge beforehand. I don't know, frankly, and I'm not sure I would be able to say so if we did. But we have made quite clear, I think, our view. I stated it here a week ago.

QUESTION: But that's not a unilateral move by some group who's supported by Iran?

MR. BOUCHER: I -- who says it's not?

QUESTION: So I thought you are against --

MR. BOUCHER: Our view is that we're against -- I stated it very clearly here a week ago. We're against any Iranian presence in northern Iraq or any group that reflects Iranian presence in northern Iraq. We think that kind of unilateral involvement of the Iranian side or at any time is not good. We've been opposed to unilateral moves by any party into northern Iraq.

QUESTION: Have you made your views clear either to the Government of Iran or to the PUK who control that territory? Have you told them that you want these people to move?

MR. BOUCHER: I think our views have been made clear. I've certainly made them clear in the public settings. I will check and see if there's any private thing that I can talk about.

QUESTION: On the resolution and on contacts, has the Secretary been in touch of late with Kofi Annan, who, again, finds positive developments in what the inspectors report? I'm exaggerating, I'm sure.

MR. BOUCHER: He's certainly been in touch from time to time with Secretary General Annan and obviously John Negroponte is up there in New York. He certainly talked to him last Wednesday. I'm trying to think if -- oh, Sunday, as well. So he's been staying in touch with Secretary General Annan.


QUESTION: Could we do North Korea?


QUESTION: The people over at the Pentagon keep saying that protests will be lodged in the wake of the incident over, or near North Korea last weekend.

MR. BOUCHER: We are, first of all, in very close consultation with South Korea and Japan about the incident and considering with them our response. We do intend to protest this kind of reckless behavior by North Korea that can only lead to further international isolation of North Korea. And we repeat our call on North Korea to avoid provocative and escalatory behavior.

QUESTION: Richard.


QUESTION: It's -- are you guys at all concerned that the North Koreans may be running out of kind of non-actual firing, or -- I don't even know how to put this -- running out of ways to escalate the situation without killing anybody?

You've accused them repeatedly over the past couple of months of taking steps that escalate the situation and now they've gotten as close as they pretty much can without firing a shot.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we consider this kind of interception very reckless. We've said that, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. But how worried are you that the next escalation, that the next step that they take may be a step from which there can be no diplomatic recourse? Is that --

MR. BOUCHER: I think I would find it impossible to predict North Korean behavior as most people do. But I think it is fair to observe that it's not in North Korea's interest to continue down this track, to continue movement in the wrong direction, to continue finding steps of whatever nature to make the problem more difficult, to make the affront to the international community more apparent, to make its violation of its commitments and agreements all the clearer. And so our goal is through is through persistent diplomacy to make sure North Korea gets the message that it's been losing out already. It loses out with every one of these steps -- all the prospects and benefits it had of better relations with people in the world; are harmed by every one of these steps and at some point, North Korea has to get the message that it's not going to get anything for taking further steps.

QUESTION: Well, aside from the protest that you intend to lodge, and I take it a venue for that has not yet been decided upon. But aside from that, is there any way that you guys are trying to get through to, you know, what appears to be some group of guys sitting around Pyongyang trying to craft new ways to get your attention?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure that I can accept a -- just I don't know whether your description of what's going on in Pyongyang is accurate or not.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, a direct way other than a public --

MR. BOUCHER: We have, I think, made our views very clear. For example, we've made our view on reprocessing very, very clear. That would be a very serious matter. I've not only said it in public from here and from the Secretary, but we've made sure that friends and others who have contacts with the North Koreans understand that clearly and are able to convey that message.

We also still have the New York channel open and from time to time we use that to make sure the North Koreans understand what we're saying.

QUESTION: And has that been used recently that you're aware of?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure.

QUESTION: Okay. And on the venue for this protest action --

MR. BOUCHER: As you took it, it's not set yet.

QUESTION: Do you know what the options are for --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I do.


QUESTION: Well, can you say what they are?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't.

QUESTION: On Greece. Mr. Boucher, as you said once upon the time, your esteemed Ambassador to Greece Tom Miller stated in today's New York Times regarding the member of November 17th terrorist organization, on (inaudible) Friday, nothing "they represent the bulk of the operational element of the organization."

Two questions. One, is the statement reflects also the view of the U.S. Government? And number two, since that means clearly that Tom Miller, your ambassador, he knew beforehand the assassin, did he provide this information to the Greek Government on behalf of the U.S. Government?

MR. BOUCHER: I have to say, I didn't see the remark, but what you read me leads in no way to the conclusion that Tom Miller knew beforehand or the U.S. Government knew beforehand about assassinations. His assessment, I would take it, is based on his own knowledge of what's happened since and on the Greek Government's investigation. And I think if you look at the record, you'll find that there are many Greek authorities that have said similar things about these people who are in custody, who say that they do believe they've gotten the major elements involved.

QUESTION: Did you have a chance to spoke to him on the phone today? Did you discuss this matter?

MR. BOUCHER: Did I have a chance to talk to him?

QUESTION: Yes, that I was told.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't know who told you. I don't think I did and I don't think Tom did, because neither of us talked to each other this morning.

QUESTION: But then it was his -- this unusual statement is clearly in --


QUESTION: Yes? Yes, an intervention of the internal judicial affairs of Greece, given the statement that he is acting like a high commissioner to take over in the name of Greece. And I'm wondering if he has been apprised to make such a statement on behalf of the State Department.

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's an absolutely ridiculous conclusion. The United States, as I said yesterday, has long had a very strong interest in the group November 17th. They have killed Americans. We are interested in seeing these people brought to justice and it's very correct that we praised the Greek Government and Greek authorities for making this case, bringing them to justice, and seeking justice and punishment for people who have done so many horrible things.


QUESTION: Do you have anything to say, the bomb explosion happened in Philippines?

MR. BOUCHER: In the Philippines, yeah. Let me tell you what we know.

First, let me say we join the Philippine Government in condemning this atrocity which Philippine President Arroyo has called a terrorist attack. We offer our condolences to the victims and to their families.

Our Embassy in Manila is monitoring this situation. Consular officers and other embassy officials from the Embassy in Manila are traveling to Davao to render assistance. We understand that the bombing occurred in a passenger waiting area of the airport and killed at least 27 persons and injured at least 140 more.

We know at this point that one of the dead is an American citizen and there are three other injured Americans. We are holding the names pending the official notification to the next of kin.

There are reports of further casualties to come in so, regrettably, I don't think we know the entire extent of the atrocity.

There are also reports of additional bombings in Davao at about the same time, but we don't yet have details on that.

QUESTION: To follow up on that, since there was an American killed and others wounded, do you believe that Americans were a target in this and do you believe it was connected at all to the debate over the mandate for U.S. troops in the Philippines?

MR. BOUCHER: I think at this point we have to say we don't know. The Philippine Government will be investigating this. I'm sure the American Government will lend whatever role -- hand we can, and take whatever role we can in the investigation. But at this point, I don't think I can speculate on motives of those who might have done this.

QUESTION: You said President Arroyo has called this a terrorist attack. Would you not call that a terrorist attack?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer is it certainly appears to be. Without knowing the group behind it, this kind of killing certainly bears all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.


QUESTION: Has the -- back on North Korea. Has the U.S. suspended the flights of these aircraft, these intelligence aircraft, in international --

MR. BOUCHER: That's not a question that I would -- it's not a question that I would ever be able to answer. It's addressed to the wrong place. But I doubt if any other place will answer it, either.

QUESTION: Richard, Iran says that its uranium enrichment plant will be ready by the end of the year, working fully. Well, first of all, do you believe them? Have you seen Dr. ElBaradei's report from his trip to Iran? And do you have any updated comments on their program?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new to say today. I'm not sure that the report from Dr. ElBaradei's recent trip has been given to the board of the IAEA yet. I'll have to double-check on that and see if there's been any movement there.

As far as our view of the situation, we have always made clear that we think the Iranians' programs were hiding a more ambitious nuclear program, that the facts and information that have come out in recent weeks and months about Iran's intent to seek an entire fuel cycle merely confirm in our mind that Iran's program is not purely for peaceful purposes and is not one that anybody should be cooperating with. And so we'll see how that develops.

We obviously have kept in close touch with other governments on this, including the Russian Government. As these facts have come out and things have developed, we've kept in close touch with the IAEA as well.

QUESTION: Well, to follow up on that, Mr. Bolton, of course, went to Moscow and this is one of the things he talked about.


QUESTION: Did you see any progress from that visit when he talked to the Russians?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can give any particular result at this point. I'd have to double-check with him.


QUESTION: Can you say whether Mr. Ivanov or Mr. Putin has said to any American official that they plan to veto the second Iraq resolution, were it to come to a vote?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, you're asking me to speak for others by what we hear, and I'm just not going to start doing that.

QUESTION: Well, I'm just asking if they have spoken to U.S. diplomats and told U.S. diplomats this.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, but you're asking me what they said. What we heard and what they've said are the same thing. I'm not in a position to speak for other governments. If they have something to say on a veto, they can say it themselves.

QUESTION: Well, that's not exactly true, Richard. Now, what you hear is often very different from what they say or what they claim to have said. Is that not correct? (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: What we heard is what they said. What people claim to have said may be different from what they may have said. But let's not get too far down that road.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject? Do you have anything on the -- anything to say about the latest mass arrests in Zimbabwe of opposition people?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. We strongly condemn the recent arrest of members of Zimbabwe's civil society and political opposition. Since last Friday, more than 100 participants in various political events have been arrested, in some cases beaten, while pursuing basic rights such as attending rallies and engaging in free speech. In addition, 23 members of the clergy were detained while seeking to present a petition concerning police brutality to the police chief.

These arrests are part of a sustained campaign by the Government of Zimbabwe and its supporters to suppress civil society and to suppress supporters of the political opposition through intimidation and violence. Recent suggestions by government officials and some members of the international community that conditions are improving in Zimbabwe have no basis in reality. Political persecution and violence continue unabated and Zimbabweans continue to suffer greatly under an economic collapse of enormous scope and severity.

The Government of Zimbabwe has done nothing to address fundamental concerns about human rights, rule of law and basic respect for democratic values that led the United States and other international actors to impose targeted measures against Zimbabwean leaders last year. Indeed, conditions in these areas continue to deteriorate.

The United States will continue to assist the citizens of Zimbabwe and to maintain pressure on the Zimbabwe Government until it reverses its assault on human rights and on the rule of law. We encourage the international community to be similarly forthright in its comments and conduct towards Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: On that, last month, I believe, you filed a formal protest with -- in Harare about the detention of a diplomat. Have you heard, has that situation been resolved to your satisfaction?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to check on that.

QUESTION: Okay, and I have another question and this is unrelated but it will be very short. It's about just -- and I'll ask at the UN as well. But last week when you guys designated the Chechen groups, you said you were bringing it to the UN. Do you know if the Sanctions Committee has added those groups now?

MR. BOUCHER: I really don't know at this point, but it was us and then all the Perm 5 together went forward for the designation.


QUESTION: Yes. Did you have any hope or assurance from the Turkish Government they can try another time for the permission business in the parliament?

MR. BOUCHER: I declined to speak for the Turkish Government about 25 minutes ago and I think I'll do that again now.

QUESTION: The second part of the question. You have a lot of military material in the Turkish -- in the bases. If you don't have any this kind of discussion, how do you planning to pick it up, like all this material? Because you are closing the whole Turkish port in the Mediterranean coast.

MR. BOUCHER: We have always worked with the Turkish military. They're friends, they're allies, they're NATO allies. We'll continue to discuss all these issues and work with the Turkish Government.

Thank you. [End]

Released on March 4, 2003

© Scoop Media

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