State Dept. Daily Press Briefing March 10
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC March 10, 2003
ANNOUNCEMENT 1 Condolences on Death of President of Nauru
GUINEA 1 Secretary Powell s Meeting with Foreign Minister Fall
DEPARTMENT 2 Secretary Powell s Telephone Calls to Foreign Leaders
PAKISTAN 2 Pakistan s Decision to Abstain
IRAQ 2-4 Potential Votes/Extending the Deadline/ Clear Standards of Resolution 1441 8-9 Sharing of Information with Weapons Inspectors 9-11 Dr. Blix s Report to the Security Council/ Items Found by Inspectors 12-15 Disarming Iraq/ Contingency Planning for the Reconstruction of Iraq/ Oil Wells
RUSSIA/FRANCE/GERMANY 4-5 Contact with Russia, France, Germany 5,7 French Foreign Minister s Lobbying in Africa/ Russian Use of Veto
TURKEY 5-7 Election/Vote in Turkish Parliament/ Economic Assistance/ Turkey s Role
UNITED NATIONS 3 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan s Remarks 7,8 Relevancy of UN/ Rwandan Genocide as Example of UN Ineffectiveness
IRAN/CHINA/PAKISTAN 8,16-17 Nuclear Program/ Engaging Iran and China on Nuclear Front 18 Pakistani Cooperation with Iran
HUMAN RIGHTS 16 Timing of Release of Annual Human Rights Report
NORTH KOREA 18-19 Intercept of Airplane/ Recent Test Launch/ Contact with New York Channel
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 19-20,22 Commitment to Roadmap/ Palestinian Financial System
SAUDI ARABIA 21 State of Religious Freedom
SYRIA 22 Elections
CYPRUS 23 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan s Meeting Today in the Hague
MR. BOUCHER: Well, ladies and gentlemen, after our unexpected event at C Street, it's a pleasure to be here with you.
If I can, let me start out with a very brief statement. The United States wants to express its condolences on the President of Nauru.
The United States expresses its deep condolences to the people of Nauru and to the family of Bernard Dowiyogo on the passing of the President of Nauru. The President passed away on Sunday, March 9th, at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was being treated for a heart ailment. President Dowiyogo traveled to the United States for bilateral talks held February 26th to 28th.
Funeral arrangements are being made by the family and the Nauru delegation. The United States is offering all possible assistance to Nauru on those arrangements.
So with that statement, I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Actually, I have a question about that.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Our reports out of the South Pacific say that you guys were going to fly his body home. Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any details yet. We are working with them to make the arrangements and obviously we want to make sure that the President is treated with the utmost respect in this matter.
QUESTION: On Iraq, could you bring us up to date on the Secretary's meeting and well, more importantly, his thinking on how it's going. Is he still cautiously optimistic, as he has been?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, as you saw, the Secretary over the weekend said that we're hopeful, we're working hard, we're within striking distance, we're encouraged. I would say that remains an accurate characterization of where we are. It's hard to know exactly how the votes will settle out until people either announce in public or raise their hand in the Security Council, but we are working hard.
The Secretary just had a very good discussion with the Foreign Minister of Guinea. Over the weekend he's been spending a lot of time on the phones, yesterday and today, especially -- yesterday keeping in touch with Foreign Secretary Straw and Foreign Minister Palacio, both cosponsors of the resolution. He also talked to Foreign Secretary Derbez of Mexico.
Today he's, again, kept in touch with the other sponsors of the resolution, Foreign Minister Palacio and Foreign Secretary Straw, and also talked to Foreign Secretary Derbez again. He's talked to President Musharraf of Pakistan, President dos Santos of Angola, and may make additional phone calls as the day proceeds.
We've also, obviously, our embassies are working and keeping in touch with key players around the world.
QUESTION: Richard, we have a source in Islamabad saying that Pakistan has decided to abstain. Did President Musharraf tell the Secretary that?
MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to ask Pakistan what Pakistan's position is.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: Can you, wait, hold on -- stay on this generally, but also, but Pakistan specifically? Can you tell us, you know, what does the Secretary think after his conversations with these various people? I mean, you said at the top that what he said this weekend remains an accurate characterization, but in his conversations with, let's see, Derbez, Musharraf, dos Santos and the Guinean just now, are you specifically referring to that when you say that it remains an accurate characterization to what he heard on those phone calls?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm referring to what he heard on those phone calls and the overall situation.
QUESTION: And you don't want to go beyond that in saying that you expect certain support or --
MR. BOUCHER: No. I haven't for the last two weeks, I probably won't for the next two or three days, so I wouldn't want to make today an exception.
QUESTION: The next two or three days -- does that suggest that the vote could be Thursday instead of Wednesday?
QUESTION: Does that imply that the vote will be Thursday?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to predict exactly what day the vote will be. I won't even predict it until after it's happened, I'm sure.
QUESTION: Which is going to be within two or three days.
MR. BOUCHER: Betsy.
QUESTION: Kofi Annan has said today that the U.S. should not proceed without the UN behind them. How much of a --
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, I'm not sure that -- at least the wire stories that we saw were accurately quoting exactly what he said. I think we're all aware that there's 12 years of UN resolutions on the subject of Iraq, going back to Resolution 687, 678. Resolution 1441 was quite, quite clear. And inherently in the UN Charter, in any case, countries have rights to take steps in their own defense. So there's a lot of different aspects of -- that would apply to this.
Obviously, we felt it was desirable to go back to the United Nations. The President felt to begin with that it was desirable to get the UN behind him, thought it was desirable both from the point of view of taking action and making possible the peaceful disarmament of Iraq, because Iraq was not likely to act unless it did feel the force of the international community; but also, in terms of making it clear the United Nations can handle a problem of this grave magnitude for the international community.
So the President took it to the Security Council. The Security Council passed Resolution 1441. We think now it's time for the Security Council to pass another resolution. So it remains our hope that the Security Council will do that, but that doesn't negate the entire history of this matter, that there are 12 years of resolutions calling on Iraq to disarm peacefully and that Iraq has not complied with any of those.
QUESTION: What is your view on either extending the deadline, even if it's just some extra days, and also the issue, I think in any sort of timelines or a more clear indication of what Iraq needs to do, whether in or out of the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: There are different things there. Let me start out by saying, obviously, in our conversations with people we are listening to them and we are talking to them about what kind of resolution they could vote for. And so we are in discussions over the language, over the resolution that the British put forward with our support. I think the British have indicated they are listening to people as well, and the Secretary did over the weekend.
On the other hand, we chose the date of March 17th because we felt it was an entirely appropriate date. We've always known in the past that Iraq doesn't take any steps unless faced with a deadline. We've always known in the past that Iraq does not act except at the last minute. So why give them a month when they wouldn't do anything until the last minute anyway?
Second of all, the point is that we have been at this for 12 years. We've been at this for six months since the President's speech at the UN. We've been at this for four months since the resolution passed. We've been at this for three months since the Iraqi declaration, the false Iraqi declaration. We've been at this for six weeks since the inspectors made their first formal report to the Security Council. We've been at this for one month since the Secretary laid out additional information for the Security Council.
So one has to ask, what is the magic period of time? And the answer is, March 17th is a more than adequate date for Iraq to change its behavior, a more than adequate date for Iraq to accept the premises of 1441 and to demonstrate full, immediate and active cooperation in a substantial way, in a much more substantial way than they have done now.
We think Resolution 1441 has very standards in it. As the, I think, the British Permanent Represent Jeremy Greenstock, Ambassador Greenstock, said on Friday, if Iraq were really cooperating, it would be blindingly obvious, as it was in all those cases that we know of where the governments decided to get rid of their weapons of mass destruction. But it's not obvious. In fact, it's quite obvious that they're not cooperating.
So we think the standards of 1441 are quite clear and that the point is to increase the pressure on Iraq to disarm peacefully, not to go looking for questions that Iraq might be able to answer with a yes.
QUESTION: If you can rule out, out of those issues of extending the --
MR. BOUCHER: I gave you reasons why those particular suggestions were not ones that I was focused on at this point, but I don't rule out listening to other governments as we go through this process and seeing what we come up with.
QUESTION: Could I narrow that down to Jack Straw's proposal in the House of Commons this morning that Iraq be given a series of "defined tasks" to perform?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think we'll be in close touch with the British as this proceeds, but that we are moving along and we did think that, first of all, the standards of 1441 are already quite clear; and second of all, the date of March 17th is more than ample for Iraq to demonstrate immediate and active cooperation, if they have an intention to do so.
QUESTION: Richard, have you guys basically now decided to write off the Russians, French and Germans, and has there been a decision that you don't really need to get in touch with them again until an actual vote is called, or just prior to one?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you know, last Thursday and Friday the Secretary met quite --
QUESTION: Yes. That was then. I'm talking about now.
MR. BOUCHER: It's only two or three days ago.
QUESTION: Well, the Russians -- I mean, Foreign Minister Ivanov came out this morning with a pretty strong statement and Foreign Minister de Villepin has been pretty strong and he's been --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we obviously want to keep in touch with those governments. Some of them, as we know, have appeared to make up their mind way before we even went to the UN. Others may have made up their mind in recent weeks. Maybe they made up their mind last fall when they voted for the first resolution and never intended to pass a second. Others we might want to continue talking to. So I don't have anything particular on writing them off, but obviously they're friends and allies that we work with in a lot of other ways, so there's no lack of contact between these two governments.
QUESTION: If I could follow up on that, the French Foreign Minister, as you know, is in Africa today trying to lobby the undecided members to not support the resolution. And also, is there any way to compromise with the French so that not only they're threatening to veto the resolution, but trying to take votes away from the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard any proposals from the French. We have certainly listened to other members of the Council and tried to work with members of the Council, but I think you would have to ask them if they are at all interested in any resolution at this point. We think the facts are clear, and if it's a simple matter of having the Council state what the facts are, that it should be fairly easy for anyone.
QUESTION: Yes. Did the Secretary talk with the Justice Party, Turkish Justice and Development Party leader Erdogan lately? Did they discuss about the presenting the new resolution the Turkish parliament?
MR. BOUCHER: Has the Secretary talked to him lately?
QUESTION: Yes, Erdogan, Mr. Erdogan.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't remember the last time they talked. You're probably really asking have they talked since the election yesterday in Turkey. No, but our Ambassador had a chance to talk to him, a fairly long meeting yesterday, so we're continuing to compare notes on way ahead.
QUESTION: And also, yesterday is the Secretary when he was in the NBC in a talk show, and he said that he has more hope than before is the presenting the resolution in the -- for the new government in the Turkish parliament. What is the source of your more hope?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're obviously getting reports from our Embassy and our Ambassador on their conversations. We've seen public developments reported in the news media in Turkey in terms of the statements that various parties in Turkey are making. So I would say we'll have to see, but the final decisions will lie with the political leaders and the political parties in Turkey on how they go forward and when they go forward.
QUESTION: If there is going to be a new vote in the Turkish parliament, do you think the aid package will be on the table, the same aid package will be on the table, or there will be some changes in the package somehow?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've made clear that that package was developed in order to help Turkey with the economic consequences of military action against Iraq, if that should happen. Clearly, we think that the more Iraq is faced with the certainty of military force if it doesn't comply, then we actually have a better chance of getting some sort of peaceful disarmament, peaceful cooperation. So we want to make sure that this pressure is brought to bear and that we're ready to what's necessary, should it prove necessary.
But the aid package is part of that in terms of working with Turkey and in terms of helping Turkey, should there be an operation. So I think all I can tell you at this point is it's really up to the Turkish parties to decide the politics of this and how they would intend to proceed, if they proceed with another request to parliament.
We continue to hope that we would be able to stage the northern option through Turkey. At this moment, I think we have to operate under the possibility that that may not happen. But in either case, I think we'll be prepared to talk to Turkey, work with Turkey, and we've been in close touch with Turkey all along.
QUESTION: So the answer is maybe?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is the package that was designed to help Turkey with the economic consequences of a northern front, of an operation from the north, would be there if there were to be an operation from the north.
QUESTION: Well, I thought that it was dependent upon -- that's not what you said when -- last week, or whenever it was that they voted against it. I thought what you had said was that it was dependent on Turkey's participation or its involvement, I think was the word you used, in that.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not changing that. I'm just using slightly different phrasing. It's the same thing.
If Turkey is -- if we are -- if this is approved by parliament and we work with Turkey on -- and Turkey is participating and involved in the process of military action coming from that part of the country, that part of Iraq, we would therefore be ready in a position to help Turkey with the economic consequences of that action.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Do you have any deadline on this subject?
MR. BOUCHER: I have never stated a deadline on this subject, so all I can say is at this point we're ready either way and we'll be prepared to deal with the situation either way.
QUESTION: And this offer?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, obviously, there comes a point when it's no longer an option when other things happen.
QUESTION: Richard, in addition to the aid package, there is also a deal on what role Turkey would play in Northern Iraq, in a post-war scenario. Erdogan has suggested that he'd like to renegotiate some of that. Is the U.S. open to renegotiating or is the package a take-it-or-leave-it package?
MR. BOUCHER: I think at this point, all I would say is we are in close touch with Mr. Erdogan. As I said, our Ambassador met with him yesterday. Those things are basically agreed at this point. I suppose it's fair to say some of the details might not be all worked out, but the packages are basically agreed.
QUESTION: Following that question, and you already answered some of it, Russia did announce this morning that it will veto or say no --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- again, look at the exact text of what people say. People are being fairly subtle in expressing their views, and I would have to look exactly at what it was Minister Ivanov said.
QUESTION: Okay. I have another part -- and with the threat of French veto, the second resolution seems doomed. With 17 resolutions against Iraq and no action, the UN seems totally ineffective. Is the United States considering withdrawing from the United Nations and allowing it to go the way of the League of Nations?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States still sees the value of the United Nations. We would hope the United Nations would act in this matter because it is an important matter for the UN. It's an important matter for the Security Council to show that it can deal with such a serious issue, that it can deal effectively with such a serious issue, and that it won't allow situations like this to drag on year after year after year.
The Security Council needs to stand up. It needs to stand up in favor of its own Resolution 1441. I don't want to speculate at this point what the long-term effects might be if it doesn't do that, but we'll just have to see. We think it is important for the Security Council to stand up for its own resolutions.
In the back.
QUESTION: On the question of Iran and its nuclear capabilities --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, you want to finish up with Iraq, first?
QUESTION: I would just to follow up on your answer to the previous one. Without looking at the long-term consequences, in the short term, feasibly the U.S. could take the resolution to the General Assembly if it really wanted an international mandate and couldn't get the votes it needed in the Security Council. Are you planning on doing that?
MR. BOUCHER: I've never heard that suggested before.
QUESTION: Could we stay on --
QUESTION: -- over the weekend have been citing the Rwandan genocide as an example of --
MR. BOUCHER: I think Dr. Rice did, yes.
QUESTION: -- UN ineffectiveness. Is it only fair to point out in that connection that the United States, as a member of the UN, was opposed to the intervening in Rwanda that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it is unfair to point that out and I think members -- people who were in office at the time, including, you know, Foreign Service as well as political people, have expressed their regret that we did not take more firm action in that case.
There does come a point where, if you can't get collective action, you have to decide yourself whether it's appropriate to do something, either yourself or with a coalition of other governments. And Rwanda is an example of that, in a much different way.
QUESTION: Is there a suggestion there that the United States was in any way willing to act on its own if the UN failed to act in Rwanda?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'd have to go back at the time, but I don't remember that being the case.
QUESTION: If it hasn't come up, but it's certainly come up in the past, the business of sharing intelligence about sites keeps cropping up. Can you, at this point, recap for us, on suspect sites, I mean, to what extent does the U.S. share its information about suspect sites with the inspectors?
MR. BOUCHER: I can recap for you because it's what we've been telling you all along. We share an enormous amount of information with the inspectors. We share information that's useful to them. We share information that they can use in their work, either to understand the Iraqi production process or procurement system, or to understand locations where they might go to inspect and what they might look for at those locations.
I haven't checked recently, but I think even a few weeks ago we said we'd already shared 60-some sites of information like that, information on 60-some sites. There's probably many more now.
I think the point is that the inspectors, what the inspectors need from us and what we give them is information that says, you know, this place was cleaned out but that we think there might be something in the back room, or information that says, you know, here's a spot that if you showed up all of a sudden you might find something in, or, you know, things like that.
Now, the problem for the inspectors is identifying what Iraq actually has. I think if you look back at Dr. Blix's briefing on Friday -- I mean, not to mention all the things that are in the 173-now-page report where he talks about several additional items, and then the things on top of that which Iraq has not accounted for. But just look at his oral report. He says about two or three different major items. I know specifically he says it in the case of anthrax, he says it in the case of the R-400 bombs, which is one of Iraq's weapons delivery systems for chemical and biological weapons, and I think he says it more or less about the al-Samoud missiles as well: "We may be able to determine how many were destroyed, but we still don't know how many they made." So if you don't know how many they made, then you don't even know whether the glass is half full, a quarter full, a tenth full, or 1/100th or 1/1000th full. And that's the problem, that without that kind of cooperation information from Iraq, all they can do is count what they might find and destroy, without knowing whether they've got the program or not, because Iraq is failing to cooperate.
QUESTION: Can you tell us why Secretary Powell is so concerned about the 173-page report that was given out after Blix's oral report?
MR. BOUCHER: I think both, as you saw from the copies they had -- maybe you didn't see the copies they had, but I remember Thursday night when Jack Straw and the Secretary met together and they showed each other their sort of dog-eared and marked-up copies of the draft of the 167-page report, each one had gone through very carefully because they want to understand the full extent of what the inspectors had reported and understood. And we've gone through the report carefully as well since then when it was expanded a little bit to 173 pages.
I think the importance of this is that you have to take what the inspectors are reporting in its totality; that they have given an oral report to the Council and I cited some of the things out of that just now where, as you know, they said several times they had -- without Iraqi cooperation, they couldn't know the full extent of the holdings of the weapons they were destroying.
But then if you look at the totality information they are presenting, the inspectors have done a lot of work and are presenting a lot of it. You see other things in there. You see on page 14, for example, that they inspectors have found a drone, a remotely piloted vehicle or what does UAV stand for? I can't even remember. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Anyway, one of these flying machines that, as we know in the past has been Iraq's favorite method of spraying or dispersing chemical and biological weapons, well, they found another one that they put on page 14 of their report that was not disclosed by Iraq. It's a new item. It hasn't been previously disclosed by Iraq and it's proscribed under many different ways, both from the (inaudible) side, they should have reported what they bought and how they and how they bought it. They should have reported the item itself, they should have reported any testing of it, and it has been tested, and here are the inspectors now finding a whole new system of pilot-less vehicles that Iraq could be developing for dispersal of chemical and biological weapons, another indication they are still working on this.
There are further disclosures, I think, that are coming to light at this point that are even beyond the scope of the report, but there's a chemical munition that Iraq has developed based on South African cluster-bomb technology, but this one's been modified in order to spray chemical weapons instead of operating as a cluster bomb. The inspectors have, I think, come across that in some of their inspections and now we find there may be hundreds of these -- over a 100 of them at least.
So there are items being found by the inspectors that deserve the focus of the international community and which will probably be discussed more and more with them up in New York. We think it is necessary for people to look at the totality of what the inspectors are presenting and what the inspectors are finding and to look at it in some detail like this in order to understand what's really going on.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. asked the inspectors for an explanation of the belated disclosure, and have they given one?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have been in touch with the inspectors and want to stay in touch with the inspectors about these things that they are finding. We want to understand what they are finding, we want to understand what it is they are reporting so that we understand fully the extent of Iraq's programs.
QUESTION: Do you think it should have been in Blix's report on -- that he presented on Friday?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it was it was in Blix's report presented on Friday and we think that people should have read the whole repot, all 173-pages, as our Minister and the British Minister and probably some of the others did.
QUESTION: No. I'm sorry. I mean the portion that he presented in the Council.
MR. BOUCHER: It's up to him to decide how he presents his report to the Council. We do think it's important that all the factual information they uncover is provided to the Security Council as quickly and expeditiously as possible.
What forum, whether he does that in the written report or his oral reports, I suppose, is up to him.
QUESTION: Do you know how many concerns about what one might call the -- in a court of public opinion who are watching this and are not going to ever take a look at this 173-page, that they will pay great attention to what Dr. Blix and what Dr. ElBaradei said. You don't have any concerns that the public may be being misled by the failure of --
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, people, because of the excellent quality of news reporting, and I'm sure it covers all these aspects, that people do have information available to them in the wire services, at least, if not some of the major newspapers from time to time. But -- and television. Sorry.
But, there is information out there for people to read and to look at on these subjects. I know you know it's been reported over the weekend.
And the second point to make, I think, is governments need to take this seriously and some governments, many of the governments we're talking to are, indeed, taking this seriously. They are looking at all the facts, they are reading these reports, they are studying very carefully, the Resolution, studying very carefully the facts and making a serious decision and so ultimately, this information needs to be in the hands of Security Council members as much as anybody else.
QUESTION: So this is something the Secretary is raising in his conversations and meetings with the various officials that he's been dealing with --
MR. BOUCHER: To some extent he is. It's not major point because I think governments do have this information available and you, certainly people in our missions in New York are talking about it. I think there's further Security Council discussion this afternoon. It's another opportunity to talk about these things with other members of the Council.
QUESTION: The drone that the Secretary spoke of as well as you spoke of and the variation of the South African clusters bomb, were these originally American intelligence discoveries that were passed on to the inspectors?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would be able to go into that, Barry.
QUESTION: Well, it's not so much I'm trying to get secret information. It goes to how much the inspectors can know on their own or operate on their own.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's the inspectors in their report who are reporting on the unmanned aerial vehicle and how that was developed. They are uncovering factual information. We also understand they've discovered a munition to disperse the chemical and biological agents, so these -- not things that we're saying, these are things the inspectors have discovered and some of which they've reported already to the Security Council.
QUESTION: Just on the issue of public opinion, how is it that the United States is losing out for world opinion to somebody who's not a very popular by most accounts. Is it --
MR. BOUCHER: Are you talking about?
QUESTION: Saddam Hussein.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I thought you might be -- never mind. (Laughter.) I don't think you framed it right. No. I'm not going to go there, don't worry.
I don't think you're framing it right. I mean, I've heard this said and it's easy to say, it's not a question of us versus Saddam Hussein, nobody likes Saddam Hussein. Nobody believes that the region is better for having him there. Everybody that we talk to, everybody says in public, the world, the region, the Iraqi people, certainly, would be a whole lot better off without Saddam Hussein, without being threatened and raped and tortured and gassed by Saddam Hussein.
The world, and I think you've seen this in all the statements at the Security Council, is united, as we were in 1441 in saying that Iraq has to disarm. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, programs, its weapons and its programs are a threat to us all that needs to be dealt with.
We're at a juncture now where we think it's time to increase the pressure, to keep trying for a peaceful resolution but to be ready in a very short period of time to deal with it militarily. We think, as I've recounted before, the history of the last 12 years, the last six months, the last three months, the last two months, six weeks, or whatever, and the last month since the Secretary presented his report makes quite clear that no matter what the pressure, what the information, what the disclosure is, Iraq is not changing its ways.
So the point is, how do we do that? Well, we think it's time. Others don't. Others thing that there's some merit in continuing this process for some longer period of time. But I do thing we're all united in terms of the question of Iraq, fundamentally, of the danger Saddam Hussein poses to all of us and the need for Iraq to be disarmed. The question is how we go about it.
QUESTION: Why do you think you've had such trouble mobilizing world opinion behind your course of action?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose because we are prepared to face the hard reality of the situation. We're prepared to do what's necessary to achieve the goal that the United Nations set for itself and we're ready to decide. We think it's time to face up to the facts. Perhaps others don't come to that so quickly.
QUESTION: Richard, correct me if I'm wrong. USAID is an Agency of the State Department, is it not? It comes under the, in other words, your budget is their budget -- or their budget falls under your budget?
MR. BOUCHER: Where are you going on this?
QUESTION: I'm trying to figure out how the Agency for --
MR. BOUCHER: They have a separate budget. But it's part of the Foreign Affairs Request that the Secretary of State presents and defends to the Congress. It's part of the Function 150 Account.
QUESTION: Right. But Mr. Natsios reports to Secretary Powell, does he not?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you explain why USAID is making a secret tender offer for nearly a billion dollars' worth in contract and contracts to five or six companies for Iraqi reconstruction without --
MR. BOUCHER: You want to write a sentence that it's because they report to Secretary Powell?
QUESTION: Well, I would like to know how this happened.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, he has quite a different -- it's quite a different situation. But we're still on the subject of Iraq, so I'll be happy to answer it for you.
As part of the U.S. Government's contingency planning for Iraq, the United States Agency for International Development solicited proposals for various goods and services, including seaport and airport projects, schools, education and health services.
Because of the urgent circumstances and the unique nature of this work, the U.S. Agency for International Development will undertake a limited selection process that expedites the review and selection of contractors for these projects. We are prohibited by law from discussing specific information about these ongoing procurements.
This is a method of procurement that's available to government agencies under the government regulations, which I am sure you can read any time you want online, when it's necessary to make a procurement on an expedited basis.
QUESTION: Is there -- can you say when this proposal went out?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the detail. I'll have to check.
QUESTION: Okay. And I'm sorry, which companies are being solicited?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not able to say that, at this point.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. This is nearly a billion dollars worth of taxpayers money and you can't say where the --
MR. BOUCHER: We are following the appropriate procedures in the federal regulations governing these kinds of procurements, and I am sure you can see exactly in there what we are able to make available and when.
QUESTION: Is that at all like competitive bidding?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a slightly different procedure to get a quick selection so that we can carry out projects that are necessary on an urgent basis.
QUESTION: Can you find out, though, when it was actually -- when this --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if I can do that, yes.
QUESTION: It doesn't seem to be like it would be secret.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if I can find out.
QUESTION: Can you also find out when they're expected to tender, or when they have to do it?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if I can find that out for you.
QUESTION: Since this process --
QUESTION: Or whether the --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not sure how much of this is public, at this point. This is a matter that we need to be able to proceed on quickly. I'll get you as much information as I can. But as it is a limited selection process under the federal regulations, it's done regularly by various agencies, and, frankly, by some agencies in amounts that are much, much greater than this. And we will see how much information I can provide to you.
QUESTION: Since the process is underway, and it seems to be very much underway, there was reference last week by the Secretary, for instance, that even though Germany opposes the resolution, he would hope that they would participate in a post-war Iraq. Is all this to be borne by the American taxpayer, this type of rehabilitation work, or have you already begun talking to other countries about funding?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've been telling you for weeks that we've been in touch with other governments about reconstruction of Iraq, humanitarian needs of Iraq. We've been working very closely with the United Nations. Now, we have provided already $75 million in funding for UN and other international and nongovernmental organizations to prepare for the possible contingencies regarding Iraq. We want to make sure that every possible bit of planning and stockpiling of food and equipment and supplies is done before military action so that we can take care of people who might be affected by it or whose distribution systems might be disrupted by it. So there's a lot of that going on.
As we go through the process, though, as we move from military conflict into civilian administration, and we would hope with the support of many international organizations and other governments, we would find, I am sure, others that would step up to the plate and bear some of the burden of helping the Iraqi people recover from the last, you know, 20 or 30 years of their existence, where their money has been squandered.
But Iraq also has its own resources and we would expect they would want to spend some of that on their own reconstruction, as well.
QUESTION: Tangentially, on the subject of reconstruction, in the oil sector, are you aware of reports today that the Iraqis have started putting explosive charges on their oil wells? And this has come up from time to time, but there's another report today.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware. I guess I heard there might be reports today, but I think there were briefings on this subject over a month ago already, so it's been around for a while.
QUESTION: Richard, on Germany and Iraq, a German Government official recently likened the United States behavior on Iraq to a dictatorship. I'm wondering if you have any reaction to that and if you feel that it's sort of an appropriate comment, particularly after the level of vitriol directed at the United States.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see the comment, but it's ridiculous.
QUESTION: On the issue of the tenders, obviously people will say, "Does this mean the war is already a done deal?" Is there anything going to be signed before a war, or this is just a preparatory thing?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how the contracting process works. As I said, we've had to allocate some money already to the United Nations and the NGOs so that they can prepare for possible contingencies. I mean, if you ask people to do planning to start moving food around, to buy it and put it in warehouses and places, that costs money. And so I'm not sure how much in these contracts it might take to get ready, so there might be something signed with that, with regard to that. But I don't know the specific contract procedure here.
QUESTION: Richard, in your remarks, you said that the U.S. is talking to countries to see what, you know, what they might need in a resolution in order to back it. And does that mean that you all are considering changing the current resolution that's on the table, and would that delay any vote?
MR. BOUCHER: Since we haven't scheduled a vote, I can't delay it for you. But I would say that we are obviously listening to other governments as we talk to them, and we'll see where we come out on this. At this point, I don't want to predict anything either way.
QUESTION: I'll leave it to you to determine whether this has to do with Iraq or not, but today is March 10th. It is the day that you had been expected to release the Annual Human Rights Reports, according to a variety of people. And there is some concern among some think tank types that the reason that you're not putting them out today, and, in fact, it's not scheduled to go out for -- there's not been a new date set for it -- that you're waiting until after the Security Council vote in order to keep people like, perhaps, Pakistan and China happy. What do you have to say to those groups?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I can't postpone something that's not scheduled. As far as I know, that was not scheduled.
Ma'am. She was going to change the topic to Iran, at some point.
QUESTION: Yes, but are we ready to change?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure. I am. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay, up to you. On Iran and its nuclear program, Secretary of State Powell was quoted as saying they have more capabilities than the U.S. is aware of. And this is a two-point question, but they've gotten further along in the process than we're aware of.
One, are we engaging Iran on that front? And two, are we engaging China to make sure that it is not aiding in terms of materials to Iran on that front?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I think he said, "We suddenly discovered that Iran is much farther along, with a far more robust nuclear weapons development program than anyone said it had." I would point out, though, that the United States has been making the case, both publicly and in private to other governments, that we felt that Iran's peaceful development of nuclear power was not only a waste of money and energy, but was also being used as cover for a much broader nuclear program that was capable of producing nuclear weapons. And indeed, the information that's coming out now supports that conclusion, supports the conclusion the Iranians are now even saying that they were developing a nuclear fuel cycle, a whole cycle which produces material that could be used for nuclear weapons purposes, and, in fact, doing that in these circumstances refutes the claim that it was all for peaceful purposes.
So we have long made clear our very serious concern about what Iran was up to in the nuclear area, and we've been making that very clear to other governments and are continuing to make it clear to other governments as this more recent information has come out. Iran has been trying in secret to construct a uranium enrichment plant and a heavy water plant. The first could be used to produce highly enriched uranium for weapons, the second could support a reactor for producing weapons-grade plutonium.
Iran has admitted to these facilities, but only after it faced no choice because they've been made public by an Iranian opposition group.
Last week, Iranian officials also said publicly that they will soon begin operating a uranium conversion facility to provide material for the enrichment facility.
Once again, I would say there is no economic justification for a state that is so rich in oil and gas, like Iran, to build these hugely expensive nuclear fuel cycle facilities. Iran flares off more gas every year than they would ever get from these reactors that they're talking about building. Iran and Russia agreed that Russia would provide all the fuel for the life of the reactor that's under construction at Bushehr and that Russia would take back any spent fuel. So again, that's one more reason why they don't need these other parts of the fuel cycle.
States with peaceful nuclear energy programs have nothing to hide, and nothing to hide from the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has done its best to hide these other nuclear fuel cycle activities. Iran has been the only state that did not accept the IAEA's call in 1992 for states to declare new nuclear facilities before construction. If it has now agreed to do so, that would only be because of intense pressure.
Iran has also refused for several years to sign what's called the Additional Protocol with the IAEA, and this is a document that most countries in the world have signed that greatly increases the IAEA's insight into its nuclear activities.
So there are a lot of things going on here, and a lot of things that were seen during the visit of the IAEA to Iran recently that we're sure will be reported and that we'll all look at once we've had the opportunity to -- we'll all discuss these in the International Atomic Energy Agency once we have the opportunity to look at all these reports.
QUESTION: You are engaged with China in terms of who may be helping Iran with some materials? Is there any --
MR. BOUCHER: We have been engaged with potential supplier countries for a long time. As you know, we have talked a lot to Russia about this matter. We have certainly talked to other members of the International Atomic Energy Agency to make sure that everyone is vigilant with regard to Iran.
For many years now, we've said nuclear cooperation of any kind with Iran was not a good idea because we have asserted, and now it proves to be true, that, in addition to these reactors, they were using this as cover for a covert program that went far beyond that into the nuclear weapons area.
QUESTION: What about the Pakistan cooperation with Iran? They have a quote from that topic.
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we have said all along to any number of governments that it was not a good idea to cooperate with Iran in nuclear areas. Pakistani officials have said they do not want to become a source of sensitive technology for Iran, and we have urged Pakistan and are working with Pakistan to do all Pakistan can to strengthen controls to ensure that technology cannot fall into the wrong hands. We do believe that Pakistan takes this responsibility seriously.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: George.
QUESTION: Is there any cooperation between the United States and Iran on the possible war with Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: It's such a broad question, I don't think I can give an answer to it.
QUESTION: Richard, obviously, these governments, meaning Iraq, Iran, North Korea and such, they have to get raw materials. Short of the resolution at the UN this next week, are there any thoughts of putting in a resolution or a mandate to quarantine those three countries to prevent items, shipping, export, whatever and fine companies throughout the world that are dealing more, not necessarily --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's broader than that. It's not, I mean, obviously there are countries that are of more concern than others, but there is an international nuclear suppliers group guidelines that regulate the trade and all materials that could be used for nuclear weapons purposes and that require all governments to monitor and police this in a fashion that's effective.
The United States has done a lot to strengthen those international controls, to strengthen those international regimes. I think you're familiar with the speeches of Under Secretary Bolton and his travels in that regard to try to improve the international controls on nuclear weapons-related materials as well as other advanced technologies.
QUESTION: Perhaps I missed it when you were in New York, but did you guys ever find a way, a venue to make your protest to the North Koreans over the intercept of the airplane?
MR. BOUCHER: Of the airplane? I don't think I have any news on that. I may have to go check.
QUESTION: You don't know, okay, you don't know, so you don't know if you actually filed a complaint or no protest? Don't know?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I have to double-check on that. I'm sorry. I don't.
QUESTION: Do you have the comment on the missile? On the North Korean cruise missile test? I'm sorry, were you done?
QUESTION: No, I was going to change the subject.
MR. BOUCHER: North Korea's recent test launch came as no surprise. Following official notification last week, North Korea launched another short-range anti-ship cruise missile today. This was similar to the one that was test-fired on February 24th.
QUESTION: Nothing else beyond that?
MR. BOUCHER: That's it for the moment.
QUESTION: And -- I will just ask then -- and no contacts that you're aware of through the New York channel?
MR. BOUCHER: As we always say, there's routine contact through the New York channel. I don't know if we've had a particular contacts recently.
QUESTION: The latest developments in the Middle East. What do you make of those and is the report that appeared on Saturday, I believe, in The New York Times, that you guys have shelved the roadmap until after Iraq is taken care of. Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Prime Minister of --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think that's what he was referring to, but he wasn't as precise as you were. But I'm glad to try to deal with all those questions.
All right. First question on the roadmap: let me make clear, the President's made very clear his own personal commitment to the roadmap and to the vision that he outlined on June 24th. The roadmap is the means to make progress toward the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.
We and our partners in the Quartet have drafted the roadmap as a means to make progress. The President has stated his determination to see the roadmap implemented as soon as possible. As you all know, we were looking for a new Government Israel, we were looking for a responsible and empowered Palestinian Prime Minister that we could work with and we've been looking for both the parties to be able to take actions in the right direction, so we will continue to work with them and we will continue to look for what's the best way to move forward.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) appointment of the Prime Minister is the first step in implementing the roadmap.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to get into the details of the roadmap, but certainly we've looked forward to being able to work with an empowered and credible prime minister on the Palestinian side in order to implement this vision of two states, in order to prepare for that eventuality in order to move forward on the elements of the roadmap.
The change is not the change of structure. That change that needs to be undertaken is the change of empowerment of Palestinian institutions so that we have credible institutions that we can work with and so that the Israelis and others in the region have credible institutions that they can work with; and institutions that eventually can form the basis of supporting a state.
QUESTION: But do you consider Mahmoud Abbas the Prime Minister is well-chosen, I mean, since he deplore any, you know, suicide attack or all these things?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to comment on individuals at this point. I don't think the debate and discussion is quite finished. My understanding is the Palestinian legislature is still discussing the whole issue of appointments and powers and division of powers, and so we're looking forward to seeing how that comes out.
In the end, as I said, the individual is only part of the picture. It's a question of is the person empowered, is the person capable of moving forward? Is the person given the authority? Are the institutions given authority to stop the violence and start establishing a regular state?
QUESTION: And did you receive a financial report about the Palestinian Authority? It was delivered to the State Department. Have you had any reaction about it?
MR. BOUCHER: What financial report?
QUESTION: Apparently, there was a report required from them and some sources in Washington, Palestinian sources, they said they got the financial report to you. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on it. I think we have worked very closely with the Palestinian financial system, with the officials involved, to make sure that there was a transparent system set up to make sure it was as comprehensive a system as possible for accounting for Palestinian finances so that Palestinian people, as well as any donors, could know that their money is going for the purposes intended.
QUESTION: Richard, on Saudi Arabia, the Saudis were spared being put on the list of countries of particular concern with respect to religious freedom last week by the Secretary, and a Saudi official is quoted as saying today that Saudi Arabia would never allow a church to be built. Any response?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, let me make clear the state of religious freedom is Saudi Arabia is -- well, it's not there. There is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. It's a country that, based on the guidelines in the law, came very close to the threshold of being listed. However, it was the recommendation of all the experts involved in the government that we continue the same listings as last year and that we look for ways of working with the Saudi Government to try to take advantage of any opportunities there might be to improve the state of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: What do you mean that --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me finish his -- an answer.
QUESTION: -- on the grounds --
MR. BOUCHER: Will you slow down and let me finish an answer? Okay?
MR. BOUCHER: Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has, as you know, on a number of occasions, called for moderation and tolerance among the Saudi people. We welcome those statements and the initial steps, and we'll be working to eliminate language of intolerance, for example, in school textbooks and places like that, with them.
So it was the recommendation of our experts, looking at the totality of the situation, and whatever options and opportunities there might be, that we list the countries that we listed, and in other places such as Saudi Arabia, that we explore all possible options for improving the actual state of religious freedom.
Now, you had a question?
QUESTION: There is no religious freedom, I mean, for other religion, you mean, not for Islam, right?
MR. BOUCHER: I think religious freedom is generally defined to mean all religions and not one particular one. If you only have one religion, then you don't have religious freedom.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the Palestinians for a second? Our reports are that, as currently structured, the prime minister would not have responsibility for peace --
MR. BOUCHER: I know there have been some reports in that regard, but, frankly, there is a discussion underway right now where these very issues are being discussed. They have not been decided, and I think it's better not to base one's judgment on instant wire reports, but, rather, to wait until there is an outcome.
QUESTION: Could you possibly view such a position without --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's better to base one's judgment on the outcome, and not on a wire report.
QUESTION: On that, Richard -- well, not on that specifically, but I missed your -- you said no when I asked if it had been, if the roadmap had been shelved until after the -- but then that was the only response to it, so I guess that you really did mean to deny that. But it appears from your other answers that the only thing you're not waiting for, since you've got a government in place in Israel, the only thing you're not waiting for before putting this out is for an empowered Palestinian prime minister.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't quite put it that way. I said that we were looking certainly for the formation of an Israeli government, we were looking forward to --
QUESTION: Checking a box?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not a simple matter of checking boxes. It's a matter of determining how best to proceed in concert with our allies and friends. We've had a recent discussion, as you know, with the European Union when they were here. The Secretary had a good discussion last Friday at the United Nations with some of the Arab League representatives, but obviously talked to them, talked a little more I think with some of the Europeans during the course of the day on Friday.
So it's a matter of discussion, continuing discussion, to develop the roadmap and to try to work with the parties on the elements of the roadmap, and we'll determine with others what's the best time to publish it and what's the best time -- how best to move forward. But certainly, our desire and intent to move forward on this is dependent on the ability to move forward in the context of this particular issue, and not contingent on something outside.
QUESTION: You mean Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Okay.
QUESTION: The Syrian election, do you have any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: But you comment on every election in the whole world. Why not Syria?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't comment on every election in the world.
MR. BOUCHER: Joel.
QUESTION: Richard, what progress is being made at The Hague today with respect to the Cyprus talks, and is this an urgency to get Turkey into the EU on April 16th, or is that date fixed and firm?
MR. BOUCHER: As you, I think, yourself, noted the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is meeting today in The Hague with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders and with representatives of guarantor powers, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
We believe that the United Nations plan is fair. We think it's need to be put to referenda on both sides of the island on March 30th so that the people of Cyprus can decide their future.
Secretary General Annan said recently Cyprus has a rendezvous with destiny. This is a unique opportunity which may not come again, not only to end the longstanding division of the island, but also to allow a united Cyprus to sign the European Union Treaty of Accession on April 16th so that all Cypriots can become European Union members.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.