State Dept. Daily Press Briefing - March 18 2003
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
March 18, 2003
1-5, 10-13 Coalition for the
Immediate Disarmament of Iraq
1,3-4,10, Contributions: Troops; Access, Basing, Overflight; Post-conflict Peacekeeping
2 Possibility of Expanding Coalition
2-3 Ethiopia, Eritrea Support for Disarmament of Iraq
3 Number of Current Coalition members in Comparison with Persian Gulf War
3 Criteria for Inclusion on List of Coalition Supporters
4 Queries on China, France, Germany, Russia
4-6 Next Steps at United Nations, Consultations for Post-Conflict Humanitarian Aid, New UNSC Resolution
5-6,9 Leaders’ Azores statement on Humanitarian needs, Oil for Food Program
6-7 Contacts on Humanitarian Aid, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction
8-11 Potential for War Crimes Charges Against Iraqi Leaders
8-9 Culpability of Saddam Hussein’s Sons
9-12 No plans for Secretary Powell to attend Blix UNSC presentation in New York
11-12 UNSC Res 1441 requirements for Iraqi Compliance
18 No concerns expressed on Profiteering, Hoarding During Conflict Period
6-7 Effect of Iraq Issue on Bilateral Relationship
7-8 US Disappointed at Disagreement on Action Against Iraq
12-13 Discussion of US Basing and Overflight requests; Potential for US assistance
ISRAEL, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
13-16 Roadmap for Peace to be Released upon Confirmation of New Government
Status of Investigation into Death of American citizen
17 No change in US policy Opposing Demolition of Houses
17 American Citizen Employee of Hunt Oil, Canadian and Yemeni killed in Marib
17 US will Deal with Terrorist Activities Severely
(On the record
unless otherwise noted)
1:05 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. All right. I don't have any statements or announcements. I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can you, in any way you can, describe the functions of the 30 countries listed as part of the coalition? The first question, of course, would be, are more than a handful contributing troops? And -- well, let's begin with that.
MR. BOUCHER: There are 30 countries who have agreed to be part of the coalition for the immediate disarmament of Iraq. I'd have to say these are countries that we have gone to and said, "Do you want to be listed?" and they have said, "Yes."
I'll read them to you alphabetically, so that we get the definitive list out on the record.
They are: Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan.
Each country is contributing in the ways that it deems the most appropriate. Some of these countries, I suppose all these countries have talked in public about what they're doing.
In addition to these countries, there are actually another 15 or so that we know of, probably more than 15, that are cooperating with us in -- and the coalition, or perhaps offering defensive assets in the event that Saddam resorts to the use of weapons of mass destruction.
Some of these people are what you might call boots on the ground, in terms of providing military support or deploying defensive military units like, for example, nuclear, biological and chemical specialists to be available for defense of areas if the Iraqi regime should use chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.
There are other countries who may be providing access, basing, or overflight rights. Still others have committed themselves to post-conflict peacekeeping and reconstruction. And you have some -- for example, Japan was very clearly not in the former category, but in the latter.
I think all these countries, one way or the other, and some others, have talked about what they're doing.
QUESTION: Well, in the list -- excuse me. But there's a footnote next to Japan specifying that their cooperation or support is postwar.
MR. BOUCHER: I think this has got to be the list, the way I just discussed it, but --
QUESTION: No, no, no. I hear you, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: -- what we -- I understand that Japan is postwar.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Let me put it that way. Are there others among the 30 who are simply part of a postwar reconstruction effort?
MR. BOUCHER: Many of these people are associated somehow militarily with the action. I think most, almost all is probably a better description. Some of them, like Japan, are probably exclusively interested in the post-conflict situation and helping out if we get to that, but I think most of these others, if you look at what they, themselves, have said, are in some ways willing or participating in, or supporting potential conflict, if that's where it ends up.
QUESTION: Richard, the --
MR. BOUCHER: And I would have to say some of the other 15 who have not listed themselves a part of the coalition, are in fact participating in defensive measures or other things, but just don't feel they want to be publicly listed at this point, so this is a -- I got to say this is a changing list and changing numbers.
QUESTION: Okay. So I think that might answer my question. Are you saying that your coalition of the willing and coalition of the unwilling to be named is expandable, you're still out there recruiting?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it is.
MR. BOUCHER: There are people who may want to be named in the future, and there are, I am sure, people who will be participating in other things if we have to go forward.
QUESTION: And two, I know you don't want to get into specifics of what each country would offer, but at least two countries on this list kind of jump out at me in terms of their abilities to do anything, and that would be Afghanistan and Ethiopia.
I understand that Afghanistan might be overflight rights, but what kind of thing would -- and not to denigrate the Ethiopians, but what kind of thing would you --
QUESTION: -- Eritrea -- what kind of things are these countries which, you know, do not have great amounts of resources and are not really --
MR. BOUCHER: They may not be deploying. They may not be providing a specific resource, or they may just be allowing access, overflight, or other participation in that way, or they may just have decided they want to be publicly associated with the effort to disarm Iraq. Remember, that is the fundamental of this, that these are countries who have all stood up and said it is time to disarm Iraq, and if Iraq doesn't do that peacefully, we need to be prepared to do it by whatever means are necessary -- people that are associating themselves in public with the effort to make sure that Iraq is disarmed and disarmed soon.
QUESTION: In terms of the size of this coalition, compared with others that you've created, to do with international goals, how big is this? I've heard it's the third largest assembly?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite want to do that yet, because of the question that Barry asked, because I want to make sure before I start saying. I think the generally held number for the Persian Gulf War was 31.*
But I do, I want to check that. I am not sure that we have the same standards or inclusion. This is a list of countries, 30 countries, that want to be publicly associated with the idea that Iraq needs to be disarmed now. They are all participating, contributing in some way, or interested in participating in some way. I suspect the numbers don't quite compare yet, and so I'm going to be very careful about not making that comparison yet.
QUESTION: Richard, the standard -- it's a very diverse, eclectic list, and obviously the standard for inclusion is very low. Does this mean that -- well, agreeing to be listed --
MR. BOUCHER: I would point out --
QUESTION: Does that mean --
MR. BOUCHER: -- it is probably higher than the standard for inclusion in the room here. But anyway --
QUESTION: Ooh. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Did -- I assume that you asked everybody in the world whether they were willing to go on this list, and therefore you had 160 rejections, were there?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: How many did you ask, then?
MR. BOUCHER: We asked a number of countries that we knew were involved or potentially involved. I don't have the exact number, but I think the fact that you have this many countries that want to stand up and associate themselves with the effort at this point and that, as you know, there are others who are taking steps and doing real things to contribute to the effort to disarm Iraq is significant.
QUESTION: If any country in the world said, "We want to be listed," you would not turn them down for any reason?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose we would at least -- we would want to see that there was something on their part that merited inclusion, and I think all these countries have something that merits inclusion.
QUESTION: Let's get it straight. You said some of them only -- were only listed because they wanted to be associated publicly with this.
MR. BOUCHER: And had an intention -- were either involved or had an intention of participating in the future.
QUESTION: That's not what you said, really.
QUESTION: But you have no other country --
MR. BOUCHER: I think I said those things, yes.
QUESTION: -- no other country --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's slow down.
QUESTION: One big question and one small one.
Have France, Germany, Russia, or China offered things like overflight rights for US military aircraft?
And secondly --
MR. BOUCHER: That is a question you would have to ask them. As I have set the precedent before, I continue it today, not talking about others, contributions by others, unless I am absolutely sure they, themselves, have talked about it; so you would have to ask them first.
QUESTION: And secondly, what happens with diplomacy now? Are we beginning to draft resolutions to go back to the Security Council to ask for help with humanitarian aid in post-conflict Iraq, stabilization forces, a UN mandate to -- for food distribution, for a host of things?
MR. BOUCHER: It is a very good question. If I can -- it is a big question, and I want to answer it fully, so if I can, I am going to answer his question, and then I will come back to this.
He was going to say --
QUESTION: So no --
MR. BOUCHER: -- what about the Arab countries?
QUESTION: -- no Arab country volunteered to be on the list?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I think the Arab countries have explained their steps at this point in perhaps slightly different ways. I'll leave it to them --
QUESTION: What do you mean?
QUESTION: They don't want to be named?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave it to them to explain exactly what their position is.
All right. Robin's question is an important point, and I think is actually a question that was discussed today at the senior staff meeting. The Secretary told the senior State Department staff today that we are moving into a new phase of diplomacy, that we have been concentrating on the United Nations. We were very successful in getting a critical and very important Resolution 1441 from the United Nations. We made ever possible effort since them to have the United Nations deal with this issue peacefully, did not result in a second resolution.
But I think at this point what he said was, we need to turn our energies and our attention to what follows, and that includes several things. First is working with the countries that are involved in this effort to maintain and support the effort in every way possible. The second point is to start focusing more on the humanitarian situation, if it comes to conflict, and the potential aftermath. And the third is to consider what we need to do, if the military has to do their job, in the aftermath of a conflict, in order to re-establish things like the Oil for Food Program on a new basis.
If you look at the statement that the leaders issued in the Azores, it was quite a, I think, particular explanation of -- said that we would propose that the Secretary General be given authority on an interim basis to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people continue to be met through the Oil for Food Program, so we are already in consultations with some other governments about that.
We will be talking to other governments about the critical importance of keeping the oil for food program running to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, will be consulting with the United Nations and other Council members on adjustments to the current program that can ensure continued delivery of oil for food supplies.
A new UN Security Council resolution will be necessary to ensure that foodstuffs and medical goods are available for the needs of Iraqi civilians.
In a conflict environment, and then a post-conflict environment, we are looking also at the various options with regard to program administration and operations, including alternate means for delivery and distribution.
We have been in touch with others who are interested in the humanitarian situation, such as the European Union, such as the United Nations organizations, such as individual governments like Japan who are interested in the humanitarian situation and then, in the aftermath, the questions of rehabilitation, reconstruction, helping the Iraqis put things back together after so many, many years of tyranny and misrule.
So we are, I would say, we have been working on many of these things. That is the focus of diplomacy at this point now.
QUESTION: Just following up on the -- diplomacy, the French Ambassador to the US today said that even despite everything that's gone on at the UN, that in the event that Saddam Hussein uses biological and chemical weapons against coalition forces, that this would change the equation entirely for the French Government and suggested that perhaps French -- France could even take part in a military action, also talked about working on post-Saddam Iraq issues with the US.
Do you see that, despite everything that's gone on at the UN, that France can play a valuable role and that the relationship can get back on track shortly?
MR. BOUCHER: I would quote what I have heard the Secretary say on the subject, that there is going to be more than enough work for everybody. There is a lot to do, whether it is in a conflict situation, and particularly if Iraq were to use weapons of mass destruction; and there is a lot to do after a conflict, to make sure the Iraqi people are given a chance to re-establish themselves in the world and to run their own affairs.
So we have said that we welcome contributions from other governments who might be willing to participate in those efforts, and we would be willing to work with them in that regard.
I -- as far as exactly what France may be planning, I think I will leave you with the statement of the French Ambassador.
QUESTION: But in terms of, you know, the kind of criticism, public criticism on both sides over the last week or so, do you see that the two countries are going to be able to closely together and that any kind of resentment about what's gone on in the past will be put aside in the interests of --
MR. BOUCHER: As with any ally, we always have agreements and disagreements. We can be cooperating in several areas at once and disagreeing rather noisily about something else somewhere else.
This has been a very important issue for the United States. We think it is a very important issue for the international community, for the credibility of the UN Security Council and for the credibility of the members of that Council.
So I think the French veto -- whatever happens -- threat will remain in our minds, and then certainly becomes part of the picture that we have to take into account whenever we consider issues.
So there was a serious disagreement on this matter, and I think it showed that, and the UN Security Council has lost relevancy on this particular issue, but that doesn't mean that we won't be able to cooperate with the French and others in other ways, in other times, and even on this issue as it proceeds.
Okay. Let's start heading back.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said Canada would not be involved in the military coalition, so I just wanted to find out if it was a disappointment, to have a close ally and neighbor not choose to be involved.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the answer is yes, but --
QUESTION: Yes, what, you're disappointed?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. But I won't tell you that until I can find the right page. There is the right page. Oh, I made a mistake. I am sorry. I won't tell you what --
QUESTION: I know what it was.
MR. BOUCHER: I was looking in the wrong continent. The --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to lose track.
MR. BOUCHER: It has only been a year-and-a-half, or two years, since we moved it.
Disarming Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction is vital to the security of the world community. Saddam Hussein has refused to disarm, and as Resolution 1441 authorizes, we are preparing to remove those weapons of mass destruction by force.
We are disappointed that some of our closest allies, including Canada, do not agree on the urgent need for action. We are grateful that Canada remains a critical partner in the global war on terrorism. Canadian Naval vessels, aircraft, and military personnel participating in the anti-terrorist operations in the Persian Gulf regions, we understand, will continue their deployments, and we continue to cooperate closely with the Canadian Government and Canadian law enforcement in protecting our common border.
As far as Mexico goes, the same thing. We are disappointed they don't share our urgent sense that the world community needs to quickly and decisively counter the threat that Iraq represents. At the same time, we value our relationship with Mexico and will continue to cooperate closely with the Mexican Government on a full range of bilateral issues, including implementation of our 22-point border action plan.
So, for example, when we raise the terrorist threat alert in the United States, we coordinate closely with our neighboring countries.
QUESTION: As a followup on Canada, what will be the consequences on the bilateral issues trade? Will there be any effect because of Canada's position?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how to predict any particular effect, whether it changes attitudes the one to the other, I don't know. But I think we do remember certainly the broad extent of our cooperation, the importance of our cooperation with Canada bilaterally and also in the war against terrorism.
QUESTION: Richard, aside from humanitarian work in a post-Saddam Iraq, I assume that things like -- although I guess this could be a humanitarian issue -- that Saddam and his top generals and his sons could be brought up for war crimes, or crimes against humanity. Is that included in your --
MR. BOUCHER: It is an issue that will have to be addressed at the appropriate time. It is a matter that -- certainly we are all aware of the extensive crimes of this regime, that Saddam, his family, and his top leaders have committed massive crimes against the Iraqi people, against neighbors, against Kuwait while they were occupying Kuwait; and so there are many things that will need to be dealt with.
At the same time, they need to be dealt with both in terms of what the Iraqi people want and in terms of what the international community wants, and so, as you have seen in other situations, you can't give a definitive answer as to how that will happen until the situation is resolved.
QUESTION: Could you say why Saddam's sons are included on this list?
MR. BOUCHER: Because they have been an integral part of this regime --
QUESTION: Are there particular --
MR. BOUCHER: -- and personally been involved in -- you know, one is the head of the special security organization. I forget exactly what the other is. But they have been among the top leaders of this regime, personally and heavily involved in the kind of actions, horrible actions, that this regime has taken, both internally and with regard to its neighbors.
QUESTION: Can we go back, just for a second, about the UN Security Council resolution you're going to be seeking on the Oil for Food Program? Is there anything you can tell us about what kind of changes you'd want to see, or in any more detail, other than the fact that you want to see a change --
MR. BOUCHER: We are consulting with others at this point. The way the program works now would need to be adjusted somewhat in the post-conflict environment, without the current government in place, and one would be able to make sure -- I mean, we've emphasized the fact that there are some 55,000 distribution centers inside Iraq. Not only are we planning in advance for getting humanitarian supplies into that system, but we need to also, we are also consulting with others now, so that the sort of sustaining power of the Oil for Food Program can be brought to ensure that those distribution centers continue to provide to the Iraqi people what they need, for as long as they need it.
QUESTION: I guess, are you -- one of the changes that you're seeking to make is because there won't necessarily be a formal Iraqi Government on the day after, and you want to make sure that they get access to humanitarian goods, that the US or some other group of people would have the authority to then distribute these much-needed supplies?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not going to go into too much detail at this point. We are just starting to consult with some other governments about this, to try to understand what moment and what time we can make this change in the program.
The initial stockpiling that we have done, and I think some of the UN agencies and non-governmental organizations have done, is to ensure that in the immediate aftermath, that Iraqi people don't suffer from lack of food and other supplies in whatever transition situation they become involved in.
QUESTION: About tomorrow, I understand the Secretary is not going to New York for the Council meeting tomorrow --
MR. BOUCHER: No plans to go to New York, no. No plans at all to go to New York.
QUESTION: He also said that Ambassador Negroponte would represent the United States.
Do you have any particular objective for that meeting, or are you going to listen to the other foreign ministers and other countries present?
MR. BOUCHER: We always attend meetings like this, and we will always participate for the United States. I think we have to point out that, to have a meeting on the key remaining tasks for the inspectors tomorrow, you have to sort of wonder what it's all about. The inspectors are pulling out of Iraq.
Dr. Blix himself has said that you can't do the key remaining tasks unless Iraq has cooperated immediately and unconditionally, and it's quite obvious to us and others that Iraq has not provided that sort of cooperation. But I'm sure we'll participate and provide our views on the subject at hand.
QUESTION: What do you think the meeting is about?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that is what it is supposed to be about. We will just see what the discussion leads to, if anything.
QUESTION: Even with the numbers, as people have pointed out, with 30 nameable ones on your side, does it still give you the feeling that things are turning more in the U.S.'s favor, since until this point you didn't compile a list, you didn't have even this many countries who were willing to say, yes, put us on your list; we're ready to go, you know, if it should happen tomorrow?
Does it -- does their more open support, some of these we haven't heard so much about, does that make it easier for you?
MR. BOUCHER: I think some countries, as you know, have already gone to Parliament. I think Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, others have gone to Parliament about deploying these nuclear/biological/chemical units.
Other countries have taken steps to help Turkey deal with any potentialities that might arise.
So a lot of this has been public, and as you know, we have always told you that there were at least two dozen, probably more countries who were taking steps in this regard.
As we get closer to the moment of truth, people have to make their decisions. They have to go to their Parliaments, they have to -- you know, things naturally sort of become more public; but I do think there is a very substantial group of countries that are supporting the need to disarm Iraq at this moment, not just with their rhetoric or by signing up for a list, but also by their concrete actions, whether it is deployments or overflights, basing, or starting to get ready for the post-conflict situation.
QUESTION: Another question on humanitarian -- on war crimes.
Is the US drawing up a list of charges against these people to give to whatever entity -- new, you know --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know --
QUESTION: -- after the conflict?
MR. BOUCHER: -- I think the answer in terms of the US is, I don't know. There has been information collected for many years inside the US Government as well as outside. There is a group in London that I think you know we provide some funding to, that -- Indict -- that does -- has been collecting this kind of information.
So the information has been collected for many years. Whether we are preparing a list of charges or not, I don't know.
QUESTION: To go back to --
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry. Nobody wants to leave the subject, Jonathan.
QUESTION: To go back to the Blix meeting tomorrow, some of the countries that did not support the second resolution said that it should be up to Blix to come to the Council and say, we've reached a dead end, we have nothing more we can operate -- we can't operate this way anymore, and then perhaps they would agree that inspections have run their course.
And do you think there's any point in Blix tomorrow coming to the Council and saying, this is what has been done, this is what could be done, or do you not trust the inspectors enough to make a recommendation on whether they are effectively doing their job or not?
MR. BOUCHER: There are two elements of that.
The first element was firmly, clearly decided to all the parties involved when we dealt with Resolution 1441. 1441 specifically did not say that the inspectors had to come back to the Council and say, "I can't do this anymore." That was raised. That was discussed, and it was decided, in 1441, that it would be an objective criteria. Iraq had to fully disclose and Iraq had to cooperate fully and immediately. If Iraq did not fully disclose its programs and did not cooperate completely and immediately, they would be -- that would constitute a further material breach, engendering the Council discussion, and serious consequences was left as an objective fact, not a burden that would be left on the heads of the inspectors to decide, basically, issues of peace and war.
And I think you know our position all along was to say the inspectors shouldn't have to do that. Nation states need to take their responsibility and make those decisions of what to do about it. The inspectors' job was to go to look in Iraq, to report to us on what, if any, they were getting, and report back what they were finding, what they were doing.
So that has been our view all along, and we are not trying -- never -- we did not, in 1441, impose upon them the burden of saying, "That's it, I can't do it anymore." If that became the objective fact, that was fine, but they were not called upon to make decisions nation states should be making.
As far as planning out the further work plans or trying to endorse further work plans, given the current circumstances, given Iraq's consistent lack of cooperation, refusal to cooperate over the last several months, it is quite clear to us that it doesn't make a lot of sense to talk about future cooperation, future work programs.
Dr. Blix himself wrote that the work program is predicated on the assumption that Iraq will provide immediate, unconditional, and active cooperation. Iraq has steadfastly refused to provide that kind of cooperation, and I don't see any basis for making the assumption that they will.
QUESTION: Since diplomacy was involved in organizing the coalition, can you tell us how many of the countries you listed are providing troops for offensive encounters, and if you can't tell us which ones, can you tell us if there is anyone besides Britain that is going to provide fighting forces?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not going to speak for other governments. I do know that the United States, Britain, Australia have all spoken about this in public. Whether others have, I just don't know; but I am not here speaking for any other government and I am not here to --
QUESTION: Are there any --
MR. BOUCHER: -- disclose facts that others have not -- well, you know, are there any beyond these 45 that are contributing in some way? I mean, let's -- there are very significant contributions from all these countries in terms of what they are doing. Every partner in this effort is valued.
QUESTION: But is there any country, without naming it, that is prepared to provide fighting forces?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you want to slice this and dice this 12 ways so you can say it is small numbers. If three, four, five, six are doing this, 12 are doing that, 13 are doing that, and only eight are doing that, it still adds up to a significant number of countries that have spoken out, and so I leave it to each country to explain; but the fact is that each country is deciding how to contribute as appropriate to this, and in some ways it may be offensive forces, in some ways it may be defense; in some ways, for some countries, it may be helping an ally protect itself. Some places, it may be post-conflict scenarios. But each country has to decide how to commit itself, how to participate.
QUESTION: Can I just, one last followup?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that Denmark and Poland are willing to provide fighting forces?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not speaking for any other government. You can go ahead and check. I know that the Poles have talked publicly somewhat, have talked publicly about, I think, the nuclear/biological/chemical units, but you can ask them if those are defensive, offensive, or however they want to describe them.
QUESTION: How close is Turkey from allowing positioning of U.S. troops on its soil?
MR. BOUCHER: The Turkish Parliament, the Cabinet, I think, is still meeting at this point. The Secretary, as you know, talked to now Foreign Minister Gul last night, would expect to speak to him again after the Cabinet meeting is over.
The United States has made a series of requests to the Turkish Government, as you all know, over time, and overflights is a priority for us, but all the requests are pending. We will hope that we will be able to have Turkey's support in the days ahead. We are in close consultations with them, and we will await the outcome of the Cabinet's decisions.
QUESTION: I understand that you're not going to speak for other governments, but you can speak for what was asked of the countries.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't do that, either.
QUESTION: Specifically, Italy.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't do that, either. Thank you. Sorry.
QUESTION: -- because I was a little confused after what the Secretary said.
The status of the 6 billion, that package itself, as a $6 billion package, is off the table. I understand that. But something smaller than that, or something -- something somehow similar but different in some ways is still on the table, or could be on the table, if they participated, or if they get involved? Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: I will be glad to release the exact transcript of what the Secretary said, and I will leave you with those words. I think he explained it, I think, quite clearly, and I am not going to try to revise and extend his remarks.
Okay. Jonathan will get to change the subject.
QUESTION: Yes. The British today have the impression that the roadmap might be released today. Is that a possibility? And if not, have the conditions for the release of the roadmap been met?
MR. BOUCHER: The President the other night said that the roadmap would be released immediately upon confirmation of the new government for the Palestinians. I think the Palestinian legislature is taking an important -- an important step in moving forward by confirming the office and the duties of the office, created the position of an empowered Prime Minister. That is a positive and important step forward.
This is a significant shift in the authorities to the Prime Minister regarding important issues like public order and security, oversight of public institutions, Cabinet, et cetera.
So at this point, we are looking for the condition that the President talked about. The President said immediately upon confirmation of a Palestinian Prime Minister, the roadmap will be given to the Palestinians and the Israelis.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
So confirmation means what, exactly, in this context?
MR. BOUCHER: Confirming the new government.
QUESTION: You mean by Parliament?
MR. BOUCHER: By the legislature. Yes.
QUESTION: But as far as you are concerned, the legislation setting the powers and authorities is sufficient to meet your conditions?
MR. BOUCHER: The legislation is important. It is not all -- I don't know exactly what you mean by, "to meet your conditions." For release of the roadmap or --
QUESTION: Your conditions -- authority --
MR. BOUCHER: -- empowerment?
QUESTION: Empowerment. Right.
MR. BOUCHER: We think the legislation provides significant empowerment. As we have discussed here several, several -- many times, that we think full empowerment is important, and we will just see how this -- how the authorities can be exercised.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, you haven't really answered the question at all.
MR. BOUCHER: I thought I answered it about three times, but I'll try again.
QUESTION: No, no, you haven't at all. You haven't --
MR. BOUCHER: Well --
QUESTION: -- you've completely avoided the question. The question is very simple. Is --
MR. BOUCHER: When are we going to release it? Immediately upon confirmation of the government.
QUESTION: No --
MR. BOUCHER: Is that the question?
QUESTION: -- under the present -- under the existing legislation?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, the legislation that was confirmed -- the legislation that was provided is, I said, a positive step, and now, the next step, I think, is for the government to be named, for the Prime Minister to be given authority to choose a government, and then for the government to be confirmed, and then we released the roadmap.
QUESTION: You said two different things here.
QUESTION: Is it just for the Prime Minister to be confirmed, or is it for him to name a government and with what you gave to the Israelis, like --
MR. BOUCHER: My understanding in most Parliamentary systems is that the Prime Minister and his government are confirmed together.
QUESTION: So you are not intending to step back a little bit from what the President said the other night when he said --
MR. BOUCHER: I am sticking right with the President, 100 percent.
QUESTION: Okay. But you quoted from him accurately, immediately on the confirmation of the Prime Minister, and then you seemed to have this new formulation, immediately on the confirmation of the government, but those are, in fact, the same thing is what you're --
MR. BOUCHER: We -- what the President actually said, that we expect that a Palestinian Prime Minister will be confirmed soon. Immediately upon confirmation, the roadmap will be given to the Palestinians, Israelis. Okay? Confirmation is the word that I think is generally used in Parliamentary systems for the Parliamentary approval of a Prime Minister and his government.
There is also a step of asking someone to form a government, which is, if you want to break it down to its fine points, is probably the next step that will take place among the Palestinians.
QUESTION: So Richard, you dropped most of your conditions, if that's only confirmation now, we are awaiting confirmation. I thought you have list of conditions on the Prime Minister --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, then, I guess you thought wrong, because this is the way the President put it the other night, and I am still exactly where he was.
QUESTION: Richard, I understand that last week, the draft legislation that would empower the Prime Minister would meet these conditions that the President talked about, but over the weekend, there has been some back and forth between Arafat and the Palestinian legislature on exactly what the powers of the prime ministership would be, so the question I think that we are all asking is, is it just a confirmation of the Prime Minister or does it have to sort of at least have the powers that you've been talking about that were in that draft law, because it seems to me that it could be a fluid situation right now.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the creation of the position was, that they have now approved, was the confirmation of the powers.
MR. BOUCHER: As I remember this, yes, it did evolve over the weekend, but frankly it evolved in a positive direction of giving the Prime Minister more powers.
MR. BOUCHER: And we have always said that is significant, he is getting significant powers, but the exercise of those powers remains a critical issue, and he has been given, theoretically, the ability to exercise broad powers over all the significant areas. We want to see him be able to do that.
QUESTION: Still on the Middle East, Richard. Have you guys heard back from the Israelis yet about their investigation into the death of Ms. Corrie?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me double check on that.
Let me go through the background, if I can, because I don't think I have done this on the record yet.
But our American Embassy in Tel Aviv learned of the death of Ms. Rachel Corrie on Sunday, March 16th. She was killed in the Southern Gaza Strip during the course of an Israeli Army operation.
The United States deeply regrets this tragic death of an American citizen. We offer our sincere condolences to Ms. Corrie's family. We are in contact with the family and providing all possible assistance to them.
Our concerns are being made known at the highest levels, and we have called upon the Government of Israel and the Israeli Defense Force to conduct immediate and full investigation into the circumstances of this death.
We understand that the Israelis have announced that they have begun an investigation. We look forward to learning the results of any investigation.
We again call on the Israeli Defense Force to undertake all possible measures to avoid harm to civilians, and I would point out we do have a travel warning for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza that was updated on March 16th, to reflect the order departure status for family members and non-emergency personnel.
So in terms of what we have heard back from Israeli Government at this point, it is just that they are conducting an investigation.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have anything on an American being killed in Yemen today?
QUESTION: What about the demolishing of the houses? You didn't talk about it?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position on -- our policy position on demolishing houses has been expressed many, many times, and it remains the same as before.
QUESTION: But because of this tragedy, you don't think you should stop it, call for stoppage of it, or not?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made very clear we are opposed to demolishing houses. We have been opposed to it for a long time.
As far as the situation in Yemen, there is an American citizen, an employee of Hunt Oil, that was -- who was shot and killed today in Marib, Yemen. A Yemeni citizen and a Canadian citizen were also killed, and another Canadian citizen was wounded in the shooting accident. We understand the assailant killed himself.
Our sincerest condolences go to the family of this American citizen and to the families of those whose loved ones died.
In deference to the family of the American citizen, we are not releasing the name of the deceased individual at this time. We will provide all possible assistance to the family and we have also offered our assistance to the injured and the other deceased individuals, the families of the other deceased individuals.
Motives behind the incident are not yet clear, so it's premature to speculate on why this happened and what the motives might have been. But, obviously, we condemn the motives involved.
We've been in touch with the Yemeni authorities. There is a U.S. investigative team in Marib already this evening to help the Yemeni Government investigating the incident. Our Embassy in Sanaa has notified the American citizen community of the incident through the Warden system. We have reiterated the information in our November 30th, 2002, travel warning for Yemen, which remains in effect, and which continues to urge all American citizens to defer all travel to Yemen.
QUESTION: Richard, when this war commences, are you also putting warnings out to various terrorist groups, wherever they may be, to cease and desist?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't exactly know what you're -- we don't exactly have direct channels into the terrorist groups. But I think we have made quite clear that no one -- first of all, terrorism won't be tolerated, period. The President has made that clear repeatedly. But no one should try to take advantage of any conflict with Iraq to perpetrate horrible crimes and killings and terrorism elsewhere, and that we will deal with that as severely as we would any other sorts of terrorist activities.
QUESTION: And also with regard to logistics, obviously when this does commence, there are profiteers, there are others who want to hoard food and medicines and such. Does the same thing apply, that they should be --
MR. BOUCHER: I -- actually, given the size of the U.S. economy, certainly domestically, I haven't heard that kind of fear expressed.
Released on March 18, 2003