State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for March 25
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC March 25, 2003
IRAQ 1-7, 13-14, Humanitarian and Reconstruction Operation 16 1,10-12, United Nations Security Council Oil for Food Resolution 15,18 5-9 Military Aid to Israel and Turkey 9-11 Arab League Communiqué on Ira
q DEPARTMENT 16 Secretary Powell s Telephone Calls
MEXICO 17 Working Relationship with Mexico and the Security Council
RUSSIA 17-20 Transfer of Russian Items to Iraqi Military
CANADA 21 U.S. Ambassador to Canada s Remarks on War in Ira
q ISRAEL/PALESTINE 21 Status of Confirmation of New Prime Minister
IRAN 22-23 Investigation Into Missile Firing
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I d like to make a few comments at the top about the humanitarian situation and try to put in context the announcements today of a supplemental funding request that the President talked about when he was just over at the Pentagon.
The situation as it stands now is that there is a massive and humanitarian and reconstruction operation, including US Government and multilateral assistance for the Iraqi people that's ready to begin as soon as the Port of Umm Qasr can be opened.
We have pre-positioned and made preparations in a number of ways. We have provided $109 million worth of -- $109 million for international agencies to use to prepare to take care of the Iraqi people. That's up $4 million from the figure I had the other day with the new grant that has been given to CARE -- the organization, CARE.
It also includes $60 million to the World Food Program, which has 130,000 tons of food ready. We are providing 610,000 metric tons of food worth $300 million from the United States. Already, 132,000 tons of that food is pre-positioned in the region.
We are working at the United Nations to pass on an urgent basis a resolution to authorize the Secretary General to take the steps necessary to sustain the Oil-for-Food Program, which feeds most of the Iraqi people and which also has food and supplies in the pipeline for delivery as soon as the Secretary General has the authority and that that can be done safely.
In addition, I would say relief has already begun. Coalition forces have three million rations for distribution to local populations; and I think you ve seen on television some of the pictures of them distributing that. We are sending a very large disaster assistance team to the region. Forty-seven of those experts out of 62 are already in the region. The International Red Cross is working to repair the water system at Basra. I think the reports are the same as yesterday, that they've 40 percent of the water supply back on but the security situation there is also hampering their efforts to restore water to the city.
There is a major British humanitarian shipment to Umm Qasr that's ready to be delivered as soon as the waterways have been de-mined.
Yesterday, the U.S. Agency for International Development awarded a contract for reconstruction and management of the Umm Qasr Port. The contractor is already moving experts to the region to begin organizing port services. and UN agencies are prepared, when the security situation permits, to move and distribute pre-positioned humanitarian supplies through this port.
Now, as the President announced today, we're making a huge supplemental budget request to take care of the needs of the Iraqi people. The total amount in this request for relief and reconstruction is about $3.5 billion. 2.4 billion is foreign assistance focused on the needs of the Iraqi people. That is, to help them with food, with housing, with security, with electricity, water, health care, education, and with rebuilding of roads and bridges.
There are additional amounts in this request in the Defense Department accounts, principally for things like repair of oil fields so that those assets, those natural resources, can be used for the Iraqi people.
In addition, about $5 billion in the supplemental will help coalition partners and those affected by the conflict. About four billion of this is destined for Jordan, Turkey, Israel, Bahrain, Oman, and key Central and Eastern European allies. There is another $770 million that's urgently needed to support ongoing efforts in the war on terrorism, including money for Afghanistan, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Colombia.
And I would also note the request includes $187 million to support and expanded State Department operations. Of that amount, we are budgeting 35.8 million for our U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to represent the people of the United States to the free people of Iraq.
QUESTION: How much is that again, sir?
MR. BOUCHER: $35.8 million for our future embassy, including various security measures that will need to be taken.
So that is the overall view of things. I would be glad to take your questions on that or other matters.
QUESTION: Was your embassy protected in Baghdad by our protecting power or has the building passed into Iraqi Government hands?
MR. BOUCHER: I actually don t know the current status of the building. I will have to check on that.
QUESTION: On that, according to the documents released at the White House, $1 billion is earmarked for Turkey, a portion of which could be used to support loan guarantees of up to $8.5 billion.
Is it the U.S. Government's intention to give that money to Turkey despite the absence of cooperation so far?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States recognizes that Turkey has some needs regardless of the level of their cooperation. The larger package that was under discussion -- the six billion plus however it was worked into loan guarantees -- the larger package that was under discussion was based on involvement and cooperation and therefore is not in this request.
The administration thought it was prudent to put aside some money to help our ally and friend, Turkey, deal with whatever economic consequences might arise. At this point this is a, I'd say, it's a request not a commitment. At this stage we're continuing to work with the Turkish Government on the types of circumstances and the circumstances that might lead us to be in a position to make this assistance available to Turkey. And of course, we're always concerned about the need to support economic reform in Turkey and therefore it would be conditioned on the kind of strong economic policies we've always looked for.
We thought it prudent and appropriate to put aside some money because the needs of our allies may -- that may arise for our ally in this conflict.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that if I may. When you say, "put aside" and when you say, you talk about the circumstances under which you might be able to proceed, I guess, with this, and you then stressed economic reform. Would it be fair to say that this money going forward is contingent on economic reforms by them or is it also, perhaps, contingent on other forms, on cooperation in the war?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's money to help Turkey for needs that might arise, economic consequences of the conflict, even though Turkey is not participating to the full extent that we had discussed. It's also money that would be used if, as we discussed this with Turkey, it would be used based on sound economic policies and continued performance on Turkey's international financial institution programs. So the goal of the money is to help Turkey with economic consequences that might arise regardless of its level of cooperation. Determining what those economic consequences might be would be the first step. The second step would be to say that the money could only be effective if it's based on continuation of sound economic policy.
That's been true, I think, of almost any package we've discussed with Turkey.
QUESTION: But it shouldn't be seen as a bargaining chip in the ongoing negotiations conducted by Khalilzad and others regarding Turkey possibly going into Northern Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't see it that way. No.
QUESTION: Richard, are we saying that credit right is your request? Is a credit or the credit guarantee?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the way our budget works, it's $1 billion of money. It's a grant amount, a fixed grant amount of $1 billion that can then be used to back a larger loan for Turkey. So the multiplier depends on the interest rates and how much of a loan if Turkey decided, if we decided economic consequences arose and we to help Turkey out, then this $1 billion of cash of grant could then be used to support loans of a much greater portion, a much greater amount, and we would discuss with Turkey what kind of mix there would be in that.
QUESTION: As of this morning you don't have any credit guarantees, or something like that?
MR. BOUCHER: Not other than this money, but this money could become a larger loan, a much larger loan facility. Because, as you know, a certain amount of grant money can support loans of a much greater amount.
QUESTION: Several news agencies, they report that $8.5 billion is there some kind of credit guarantees. Is U.S. thinking about that?
MR. BOUCHER: It would depend on the mix that was worked out in terms of how much of the $1 billion was turned into loans.
QUESTION: Could it get that far? I mean this is --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to do the math off my head right now, but yes.
QUESTION: Well, at least you know if, you know if this --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the general rule of thumb is that you can do eight to 10 billion in loans for a billion dollars with friends.
QUESTION: And the multiplier is better if it is the preferred -- the government, right? But what the government can get, is that what's --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to do the math right here, right now.
QUESTION: No, I am not asking you to do the math. I am asking you if the principal is here.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if in the details, if -- yeah, actually, the estimate here is -- the legislative language that we have provided would authorize up to $8.5 billion in loan guarantees through this fund.
QUESTION: Richard, can I just -- included in this, there is obviously a breakdown for the other countries that you mentioned as well, in particular, Jordan, Israel, I guess, Oman, and some of the only countries you named.
Is any of that -- is any of that money also contingent on the same -- obviously, it is all contingent on Congressional approval, but is any of the money that's earmarked for the other countries subject to the same conditions as the money that Turkey is?
MR. BOUCHER: There are -- each country is different, and the mix and the way each country is handled is different. Some of the countries, it's foreign military financing for military sales; some places it is economic support funds; some places there would be loan guarantees in addition. So there's a lot of different -- each country is particular to the situation of that country.
QUESTION: Okay. But this is ESF for Turkey?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. And the ESF money that goes to the other countries, that is not conditioned on the same kinds of things that the Turkish money is, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, each country is different. Some places have IMF programs, some don t. There are different things.
QUESTION: So the answer would -- I mean, is there no answer to the question?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is that, not conditioned on the same thing as Turkey? True, because each country is different. Perhaps, involving other conditions and factors that need to be taken into account, that depends on the country.
QUESTION: Richard, what about the $10 billion for Israel?
MR. BOUCHER: For Israel, the amounts are $1 billion in foreign military financing and separate loan guarantees of $9 billion, and the conditions on those are still under discussion.
QUESTION: Could you give us a printout of the breakdown after the briefing?
MR. BOUCHER: It may not be right after the briefing. These amounts are accurate. I am not sure I can do all of the totals quite yet.
QUESTION: You mean that the $10 billion is beside the $4 billion there, which Israel sharing with other?
MR. BOUCHER: This is a supplemental request for needs that arise because of the conflict. So --
QUESTION: The need of Israel -- it is not involved in the conflicts, no?
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want to slow down?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, my turn?
In Israel, we see that Israel has had to take a number of military and defense -- military and civilian defensive steps. And so, we are trying to help improve the readiness of defensive capabilities and systems for the Israelis. And then there is up to $9 billion in loan guarantees for Israel over a three-year period, where, as I said, the conditions are still under discussion.
QUESTION: But what is the percentage in the $4 billion for Israel?
MR. BOUCHER: What? What is the percentage of the $4 billion?
QUESTION: Yeah, for Israel.
MR. BOUCHER: It is about 1 -- of that amount, about $1 billion are for Israel; about $1 billion is for Turkey; Jordan has come slightly over $1 billion; and then others -- it kind of adds up.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the others again?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't remember what the -- go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, you said you had $38 million for the new embassy in Baghdad?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Have you -- are you planning on moving into the site of the old? Is it just --
MR. BOUCHER: I was just asked that question. And I said I regret it, but I don't know the condition of our old embassy.
QUESTION: Oh, exactly, but that's what we're asking.
MR. BOUCHER: This is money that is being -- sorry.
QUESTION: I mean does this include purchase of a new -- of new property, or you just don't know? I wasn't asking about the condition of the old embassy.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I just don't know. I just don't know.
MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know and I'm looking through all of my extensive information, but I think it's better if I look through later and see if it's a good answer.
QUESTION: Richard, for the one thing for Israel, is one of the reasons why Israel seems to be a country that's getting a larger share of the foreign aid is because you suspect that there is a -- I mean you were saying it was because of preparedness. But are you concerned that there could be a strike on Israel as a result of conflict or as part of a justification?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we're all concerned about the neighborhood being able to protect themselves. I think the United States is trying to help different countries in the neighborhood, either defensively or with regard to the economic consequences. As I said, in each country it's somewhat different, but we know that countries in the region have had to take defensive measures for both military and civilian purposes. And so to the extent we can, we're trying to help people out with that.
As you know, there've been other steps. Some places there have been direct steps taken for defense. NATO has deployed some equipment to Turkey, for example, to help with Turkish defense.
QUESTION: The billion for Israel you referred to a moment ago as financing. Does that mean that it's also in the form of a loan or is it a grant that then finances --
MR. BOUCHER: No. That's what's called foreign military finance. It's a particular category of U.S. assistance that -- it's military aid, basically.
QUESTION: It's a direct grant?
MR. BOUCHER: It's direct aid, yeah.
QUESTION: Can you get any more specific about what kind of military aid you're talking about?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Not at this point.
QUESTION: Can I just make sure on the Turkey thing -- that original package, I know this is getting redundant, but this is apart from that package that was being prepared which is on a shelf, finished, tied up in a cabinet, locked, over with. Right?
MR. BOUCHER: Off the table, in the cabinet, on the shelf, locked.
QUESTION: Because then, Turkey stood to get, I mean, more money than there is in the world, probably if they --
MR. BOUCHER: Well,
QUESTION: I mean with this amount and that amount that would have been extraordinary. Right?
MR. BOUCHER: But that's what's happening.
QUESTION: This exists on its own?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, have you -- you have told the countries that are getting this that -- you've informed these countries that this is what's in the supplemental, or not yet?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: You have?
MR. BOUCHER: I think. I can't vouch that we've told every single one. As you remember, we were being asked questions last week about the announcement and about the amounts for some country and we were declining to answer at that point because we hadn't submitted the request.
QUESTION: I know. Well, I specifically want to know about Turkey. Are you aware if you told the Turks? Yes? No?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm virtually certain we have. I will double-check on when that was.
QUESTION: And have you also told them that, of the problems that you anticipate facing up on the Hill because of their reluctance to participate fully?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that they as well as we do understand the needs of Congress to understand the needs of Turkey and we will help them in that regard.
QUESTION: Well, I guess what I'm getting at is, have you warned the Turks that they shouldn't expect to get all of this money, that it is in fact a request and it's not --
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're all quite clear on what this is. This is a request for money from the Congress and we will work, all of us, to support the President's request. We think it's been carefully studied, that it's necessary and I'm sure we'll all go up to the Hill to try to support the President on this one.
QUESTION: That means when you go up to the Hill, you are going to be definitely asking them, the lawmakers, to give Turkey this --
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to ask them to fund the President's supplemental funding request, yes. Including this. Okay?
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
QUESTION: Can I just have another question on Israel? I realize that you don't want to get into the specifics of the $1 billion and what it'd be used for, but would you at least say that because you're saying that this is money for civil/ military preparedness that the money, that there are restrictions. That this would go to things like, say, missile defense or things of this nature? Or is it just, I mean, or could they use this money for, say, tanks, or I don't know.
MR. BOUCHER: We discuss these things very carefully with each of the recipients and so we do know what the money goes to. I'm just not at this stage of the process. We don't even have the money, we're not spending it yet, we're not writing any checks, we're not writing any contracts yet. I'm not prepared at this point to try to define in that level of detail exactly what it's going to buy.
QUESTION: Well, not necessarily the level of detail, but what -- I mean can you say that are going to be certain restrictions in terms of the military on what they could spend? Or are there even going to be any restrictions?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we might be able to give you some examples later. I will see if I can.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia says it's submitted a peace proposal to both the U.S. and Iraq. Can you confirm that you have received this, whether you've received this and if you're thinking about it and perhaps some reaction to it?
MR. BOUCHER: A lot of questions. Let me answer the first one first, which is we're not aware of any peace proposal from Saudi Arabia. We are familiar, of course, with the Arab League document, statement -- that was issued yesterday, but there has been no particular approach or proposal made to us from Saudi Arabia at this stage.
QUESTION: What is your comment on the now official Arab League position calling the operation aggression?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, there are several things that need to be remembered. The first is that this conflict arose because the Iraqi regime refused to disarm. It refused to cooperate with the 12 years of United Nations efforts to disarm Iraqi peacefully and it refused to come into compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. So, unfortunately, we think the time for cooperative solutions with this Iraqi regime has passed.
Second of all, we have said very clearly our goal in Iraq is to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, to eliminate the threat that they pose to the region and the international community, and to free the Iraqi people from the brutal and corrupt regime of Saddam Hussein.
Peace proposals that leave the current Iraqi regime in place to once again threaten the international community, its neighbors, and Iraq s own people are just not workable.
Our message to friends in the Arab world has been and will continue to be, it is time to focus on how best to achieve a more stable region, how to achieve a brighter future for the Iraqi people who have suffered far too long under the vicious tyranny of this regime,
We will continue to consult with our friends in the Arab world, continue to talk to them about how they can best assist in these efforts.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, you said you had a lot of Arab countries who are part of the coalition of unnamed coalition partners. Apparently only, of all the 22 Arab countries, only one country which had reservations on this, they call the attack aggression. So where are these unnamed? They did not - apparently, they agree that -
MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to start naming the unnamed.
QUESTION: No, I mean where are they?
MR. BOUCHER: They re in the world, and I think you can probably yourself look at the region and see what is going on, and understand that there are people in the region who want to see an end to the Iraqi regime, who want to see the Iraqi people given a better life.
And in our discussions with people in the region, that is what we are emphasizing, and are emphasizing what we can do and what others can do to help bring that about, to help improve the lives of Iraqi people.
QUESTION: I thinking at the United Nations, I mean, are you - they are asking for ceasing, you know, to stop the attack. What will be your reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: We don t believe it is time to go to the United Nations for another debate. The United Nations tried again and again over 12 years with a variety of resolutions to get Iraq to disarm peacefully. Iraq repeatedly refused those requests. We don t think it is time to move to a big open debate in the Security Council on the issue. That diverts the attention of the United Nations Security Council from trying to attend to the needs of the people of Iraq.
The urgent matter that is before the Security Council now is to pass the Oil-for-Food Resolution. That is what we have tried to work for. That is what the Secretary General has said is an urgent matter, and that is a way of looking at the future needs of the people of Iraq as well as the more immediate ones, and setting up a system that can continue to take care of them, continue to look to the future and meet the needs of the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Richard, when you say that you haven t gotten any - you re not aware of any Saudi peace proposal, are you aware of, in the conversations that the Secretary has had with Foreign Minister Saud, has he expressed some kind of desire or wish to see - I guess we re just trying to figure out what he was talking about when he told a whole bunch of reporters in Riyadh that he had presented a proposal, that there was such a proposal.
In the conversations that the Secretary has had with the Prince has a Saudi desire for the end of the conflict arisen? Have they made clear - in other words, when he says --
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, certainly the Saudi Government, in public and private, has made clear they would like to see the conflict end. I saw the Saudi Foreign Minister quoted about a week ago, a little less than a week ago on Thursday, as saying that Saddam Hussein and his regime should depart, that that would be a way of solving this peacefully.
So I think they have certainly made clear that that peaceful solution is one that they would support.
QUESTION: Is it possible that when he refers to it - and I know you can t speak for him, but when he refers to the peace proposal, which he did, that that is what he is talking about?
MR. BOUCHER: I would suppose so. He may have been referring to the Arab League, as well. I don t know which it might have been. You would have to ask there.
QUESTION: Okay, and if he was referring to the Arab League proposal, which you don t know, but the Arab League proposal you just said is not something -
MR. BOUCHER: I am really not in a position to speculate on what the gentleman meant.
QUESTION: You said the Arab League proposal -
MR. BOUCHER: He may have been referring to it, but we don t know until we have a chance to ask him -
QUESTION: Do you know when the last time the Secretary talked with him?
MR. BOUCHER: The last time the Secretary talked to them directly was Saturday or Sunday, Sunday I believe. Yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, can I follow up on this? I had similar questions, Matt. We re not hung up, now are we, on the word proposal?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we re not.
QUESTION: It s not it s a formal -
MR. BOUCHER: We are just not aware of any particular -- any peace proposing from that quarter.
QUESTION: Since it is getting so much publicity, you are going to talk to the Saudis about this?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I am sure we will be in touch with the Saudis.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We always are anyway.
QUESTION: Can you say from the podium that the Saudis are allowing the U.S. Air Force to fly missions from Prince Sultan Air Base?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not described from the podium what individual governments might be doing to support this effort unless I had seen the governments themselves talk about it. And so, I am not saying from the podium what any particular country, in the Middle East, or in the rest of the world, is doing; that we have always left. For the last months, we have left to the countries themselves to talk about.
QUESTION: On the Oil-for-Food program resolution, what is the state of play on that? You said it was urgent. What is your hope or expectation of that when that -- whatever issues that remain to be resolved can be resolved?
MR. BOUCHER: The discussions have continued in New York. There is another set of meetings today in New York, and we hope to reach agreement with other council members soon.
I would note the Secretary General has asked for a resolution to ensure the program continues, and we consider this a matter of priority.
QUESTION: Are there -- is there anything more you can say, Richard, about what is causing the delay in reach agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can at this point. Experts worked over the weekend on the text. They are continuing to work yesterday and today. And, as I said, we hope to resolve this soon.
QUESTION: A follow up on that.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Is Dr. Rice's visit to Secretary General Annan related to Oil-for-Food?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it is related to the overall issues of cooperation with the United Nations. Certainly, Oil-for-Food and the resolution is one of our priorities right now, as well as one priority of the Secretary General. Secretary of State has talked to the Secretary General already twice today to talk about Oil-for-Food, and a few other matters, including I think North Korea and Sudan. So, certainly, Oil-for-Food is the principal subject of discussion right now between us and members of the Security Council as well as between us and the Secretary General.
QUESTION: Richard, can you just say -- I know what you have said already, but what is our time frame for how long Kofi Annan would be the trustee of the Oil-for-Food program under this resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there is any specific time frame at this point. But let's slow down.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you give us any indication of whether or not this would be something that would be ad infinitum, or would eventually stop, or you know how do we know when the Iraqis would --
MR. BOUCHER: I mean I can't give you a time frame. But you have to understand that the conceptual framework for this is that there are goods that are flowing now. There are things in the pipeline, things that need to be bought, money that is available. Somebody needs to be able to come forward and say, "Okay. This is what they need now. This ought to go here. This is a higher priority than something else, and this is how we should spend the money right now."
Then, the second stage is to ensure the continuation of this program through whatever transition period is required, as we move from military conflict, to civilian role, to an Iraqi interim administration. The goal would be for the Iraqis themselves to take over this program. And, frankly, eventually for Iraq to become a normal place where you don't need a program like this, to ensure that people are fed, to have a regime that is not going to misuse the resources of Iraq in the ways that we have seen in the past. It would just run an economy and have people fed.
So the conceptual framework is that the Secretary General is needed for the immediate, and perhaps transitional period, but that as soon as possible we want to get Iraqis involved in running the program, and eventually in running an economy that doesn't require the program.
QUESTION: Have you provided a benchmark to the United Nations Security Council as to when the Iraqis would be in full control?
MR. BOUCHER: I don t know that there is any particular timeframes involved in a discussion at this point. We have had some people waiting. Everything is a follow up. Stop.
QUESTION: Richard, the State Department will be in charge of the civil administration of Baghdad once it enters this period where Saddam Hussein is out.
Can you say what the goals are, what the planning is that is going on now about that, how it will be structured, what you will try to achieve in that interim period?
MR. BOUCHER: I don t think I can do the full detail for you now, but yes, we have worked with others, including former General Garner at the Pentagon. We have contributed to his team, on people who can go in and help the Iraqis with civil administration of the country after the immediate military conflict, and the goal is to move from a military circumstances state of affairs to one where there is a civil administration.
The goal of that is, (a), to keep essential services running for the Iraqi people so that they can have an organized system of electricity and water and food distribution and, you know, roads and, you know, get the repair and reconstruction and rehabilitation work up and underway as soon as possible, but also to work with Iraqis so that they can take over more and more functions themselves; so the real goal of that team is to put themselves out of business, is to give - is to put Iraqis in charge and to move towards an interim Iraqi administration that can run the affairs of Iraq after the conflict is over.
QUESTION: Can you say whether you will be doing things like reorganizing their government, their 23 ministries, now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don t think I can say at that level of detail at this point.
QUESTION: Does this tie in with the Blair visit to the Secretary on the subject of post-war Iraq?
I m trying to, you know, I m trying to (inaudible) the Rice visit, talks with the British, points Betsy is covering here, is there anything new from the French on this?
I mean, you seem to be ready to move on post-war plans.
MR. BOUCHER: Blair is Prime Minister of Britain.
QUESTION: I know he is, and he and you are partners on this, but I don t think --
MR. BOUCHER: I don t think we are waiting for something from the French on this.
QUESTION: I know, but the French don t like --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: You re not surprised that the French don t like what you re doing, are you?
I m wondering if you have heard from the French yet, or are you just going to go ahead and - you know.
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to brief on the - I m not even going to announce the visit. Has it been announced?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, okay. Sorry. Just want to be careful.
I am not going to try to brief on the visit the White House has announced of Prime Minister Blair, but as you know, we discussed the full scope of issues with our ally and coalition partner, the British. I m sure the Secretary has talked and will continue to talk to Foreign Secretary Straw about all these matters. He talks to him at least once a day, oftentimes many times more than that.
And yes, we are working closely with the British when it comes to the UN resolution on Oil for Food, when it comes to pursuit of the military operations now, when it comes to the humanitarian assistance. One of the first and I think most immediate elements of humanitarian assistance as soon as the port is de-mined at Umm Qasr will be the arrival of the British ship that is already there, laden with humanitarian supplies, and that is one of the most important and coordinated efforts at humanitarian assistance.
And we also talk to them about the longer-term issues and how we manage the whole transition back to Iraqis being in charge of their country and being responsible for their country in a way that does not persecute their people or threaten their neighbors.
So all those things are likely to be discussed with the British any time we get together.
QUESTION: What about, just to follow up on the food, Oil-For-Food, what about the objection of the Iraqi Ambassador, saying this is violating the charter of the UN?
Are you now in a position of just you withdraw recognition of the Iraqi Government, or what?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look back at the history of this, there have been occasional, I guess, periodic reluctant acceptance of the program by the Iraqis and some modicum of cooperation along the way, but I m sure you can find the Iraqis on the record as ranting and raving about this program right from the start, because it was a program that we and others designed to help the Iraqi people and to keep the Iraqi Government from stealing all the money that Iraq s natural resources produced and spending it on weapons, spending it on palaces, spending it on luxuries for the regime.
So, unfortunately, the regime has always objected to this program, even though we have seen their reluctant cooperation when it was renewed and the submission of contracts and things like that as the program went on, but this kind of rhetoric has been around for a long time from them.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say how long you all envision this interim period to be?
MR. BOUCHER: I can t give you time frames at this point, no.
QUESTION: And can you say who the Secretary has talked to today besides Kofi?
MR. BOUCHER: He has talked to President Musharraf, he s talked to Foreign Secretary Straw twice today. And yesterday he talked to -- I think I said Foreign Minister Sinha of India. He also talked to Foreign Minister Ivanov during the afternoon.
QUESTION: Richard, I asked --
MR. BOUCHER: Nicholas is waiting, too.
QUESTION: I guess I ve been asking since Friday, can you give us any more response on Anan s comments regarding the fact that the UN weapons inspectors regime has in fact only been suspended, and that he would envision they would be sent back to Iraq once hostilities stopped? Is this something --
MR. BOUCHER: I answered the question Friday. I answered the question Monday. I m not going to answer it again. I will stick by my answers twice already.
QUESTION: Yeah, Richard, you said that you were discussing with the British all the aspects of reconstruction, but are there any British members of that civilian team that is helping or will be helping the Iraqi people, and I understand there are former American diplomats engaged in --
MR. BOUCHER: We are not in a position to talk about the whole group at this point. We have been putting this together. We have been looking at how we help this transition from military rule to civilian to Iraqi rule, and I don t think the whole pattern is complete yet, but we will talk about that when the time comes.
QUESTION: Richard, Betsy, in her first question, said the State Department is in charge of running the - will be in charge of running the administration, and you didn t seem to object to that. Is that a fair statement?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn t seem to confirm it. I m not actually sure how we would describe who is in charge. I will see if I can t --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) quote that?
MR. BOUCHER: I ll quote Betsy, that s right.
QUESTION: Do you have (inaudible) this building would be involved?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, don t have details for you yet. How -- the final shape of all this somewhat depends on how events unfold.
QUESTION: Is it - I m sorry. If someone else wants to ask about the --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I m just not in a position to give you any more detail at this point --
QUESTION: Will you be looking at - is there going to be consideration of looking outside the Department to, you know, local - you know, current civic civil administrators in towns and cities around the country, to use their expertise, or do you guys have that kind of expertise in the Department now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don t want to limit it to the one or the other, I m sure we will draw expertise from wherever it can be useful.
QUESTION: Richard, this is on Mexico. There are some press reports quoting a State Department official saying that -- he was quoting the Mexican government asking them to fire its Ambassador of the United Nations because his comments on the war on Iraq.
I wonder if it is true, or it is not true, this story?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I have not seen anything like that.
QUESTION: Are you guys happy with the decision of Mexico and the U.N., the Peace Ambassador?
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- first of all, we don't comment on other people's ambassadors. They have to be happy with them. If they are happy with them, then that is the ambassador. It is not a matter -- U.S. Government doesn't decide who other people appoint to positions like this.
As far as the position of the Government of Mexico, we have worked with Mexico throughout this effort. We have continued to cooperate with Mexico, and we look forward to continuing to cooperate with Mexico and the Security Council.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Secretary Powell said that he would have gotten new information on the transfer of Russian items to the Iraqi military. And I am just wondering if you can share with us.
If he has already transferred that information to Ivanov, if you can talk about that a little bit more?
And also -- well, you can answer that first.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. The situation with regard to Russia, and the items that they sold to Iraq is that, as you know, we have raised this over a long period of time, and particularly in the last couple of weeks with the Russians. The President spoke yesterday with President Putin; the Secretary spoke yesterday with Foreign Minister Ivanov about this.
We have been providing information to the Russian government. We have continued to provide. And, yes, we have provided them with additional information since yesterday's discussion. But we have felt all along the information we provided would have been sufficient for them to run this down, and to give us a response. And we are hoping now to get a more thorough response from the Russian government, since Foreign Minister Ivanov did promise to us that he would look into it.
QUESTION: Some questions have come up on it. One is whether Belarus, not Russia, shipped some of the equipment, can you --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not in any more of a position today to go into the details of the transactions except to say that we have had information on this that is very credible and it is very solid.
QUESTION: I mean credible in Russian -- wait a minute -- credible that Russian firms do? I am sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Credible that Russian firms have provided this equipment.
QUESTION: Okay. How about the notion that some of the jammers weren't put on a prescribed list until December?
Is your information that the material with the equipment was shipped before or after December, because that would make a difference?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not in a position to go into any details of the transactions. But, no, I don't -- I don't have anything on the jammers themselves.
QUESTION: And the goggles are?
MR. BOUCHER: The goggles are in the UN, Oil-For-Food goods review list, yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Russian Government has answered you every time. Well, I don't about every time. But, at least, several times, when you have passed along some of this specific information on the companies. The Russian Government has, in fact, told you they have looked into it and come back and said, "We don't think the companies are making enough of these items," or other things like that."
So isn't it a little bit strange that, at this point, they would be saying they don't have enough information, since they actually did process what you have given them before, and in some ways rejected it as sufficient?
MR. BOUCHER: We have continued to provide them with information, and we look for a more complete response than we have gotten in the past.
QUESTION: Have you gotten any satisfaction from them since the conversations yesterday?
Have they said that they will try to stop the --
MR. BOUCHER: The conversation yesterday was, Foreign Minister Ivanov said, "We will look into this."
Secretary Powell said, "We have provided you a lot of information, and we will provide more."
We have now provided them with more, and we expect them to look into us, and get back to us with more complete answers.
QUESTION: Does that indicate the Foreign Minister hasn't looked into it before himself?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't speculate on that. You can ask him to what extent he has looked into it personally.
Were you on something else or?
QUESTION: No, I am asking something else.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Just very quickly, we are still -- I just want to make sure we are only talking about prior or previous shipments. There is no concern -- is there any concern from the U.S. right now that these companies would continue to ship these types of items now that the hostilities have started?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said yesterday, we would want the Russian Government to prevent any possible future sales to interdict any possible sales that might be in process. I can't tell you whether there are or are not such sales, but we have asked them to interdict any such sales, and to provide information on the ones that have occurred.
QUESTION: Can you say how the equipment is getting there?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: I mean are they --
MR. BOUCHER: I couldn't yesterday; I can't today.
QUESTION: Well, are they abusing the humanitarian program?
MR. BOUCHER: I couldn't yesterday; I can't today.
QUESTION: Any contact with the Syrians on the bus incident?
MR. BOUCHER: Um.
QUESTION: Could I ask you a question for a minute?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that anyway. I will have to look into it, if I can.
Okay. Are we on Russia still?
MR. BOUCHER: Betsy.
QUESTION: This morning in the military briefing, the military briefer was asked about -- about these jammers, and the briefers said that six jammers had been hit by forces.
Does that mean that that problem is taken care of?
MR. BOUCHER: That is a question you can ask a military briefer. If he wants to say, yes, he can say yes; if he wants to say no, he can say no; if he wants to say maybe, he can say maybe, but it is not mine to answer.
QUESTION: Did the subject of the Russian team believed to be in Baghdad come up in the Secretary's phone call?
Is there any indication that --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not in a position to go into any detail on the information we may or may not have.
QUESTION: Was there any indication they have left Baghdad now?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not -- wasn't in position yesterday to answer that question, and not in position today.
QUESTION: Yeah, on the Blair visit, will the Mideast roadmap be on that -- in the discussion?
And can we expect anything, you know, publicly stated to indicate that, you know, progress is being made, or movement toward publishing?
MR. BOUCHER: On the roadmap, I am sure it will be a matter of discussion. It is an important issue for the United States. It has been an important issue for Britain. It has been an important issue for the other partners that we have in the quartet. We have made quite clear we expect publication and release of the roadmap to the parties upon immediate -- immediately upon confirmation of the Palestinian Prime Minister.
That process of his forming a government, and getting approved is underway. At this point, I don't have any new estimate of when that might take place. But that remains our commitment and our goal. And that is the issue that we are watching, to see when it is time to put it out in public.
QUESTION: Our U.S. Ambassador to Canada had some harsh things to say about Canada's position on the war.
Was he operating, can you say, on general instructions?
Was it something he was ordered to do?
Can you give any --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I didn't see any remarks that I haven't checked.
QUESTION: Oh, I see, okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said of the formation of the new government in Palestine. I mean I thought it is -- it was, first, you said that upon appointment of the Prime Minister.
MR. BOUCHER: No, he said upon confirmation of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister gets confirmed with his government by the legislature. It is a term of normal use in that regard.
QUESTION: Yes, in Sunday's Duty Culture, Secretary Rumsfeld said that Northern Iraqis under the U.S. and the allies' protection -- they called it the Geneva Convention. And, if I am correct, in this area, 5,000 predicators and guerrillas also based in this area.
Are they under the -- according to Geneva Convention -- are they under the U.S. protections?
MR. BOUCHER: That is a distortion of two or three different things, and it is a wrong conclusion. Sorry.
QUESTION: Richard, back in the UN. Have you guys begun talking with the UN about removing the current team from -- that represents Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware of any change at this point with United Nations.
QUESTION: Well, I know that it is not going change.
But have you begun those discussions now?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am now aware of anything new in that regard.
QUESTION: And Phuong asked about Syria.
How about the other -- the Iran question?
Has there been any movement on that, or is it still?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new since the messages we exchanged over the weekend.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: There is - well, let me just - hang on. Phil reminds me of one thing, and that is, it is not new, but it is a reminder that there have been reports that the Iranians have said that it was an Iraqi missile that hit close to the Iranian town of Sardasht. The origin of the other missile that hit the oil refinery has not yet been determined.
So as far as our own investigation, that continues. There haven t been any new exchanges of messages, but we do note these press reports indicate an Iraqi missile may have been at least one of the hits.
QUESTION: Okay, and one last one. Do you have any reason to believe that France may have been trying to hold up a vote in the UN or hold up the UN process on the new, on what s called the second resolution, in order to give Saddam Hussein more time, or time to disperse Republican Guard forces throughout the country?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven t made any allegations like that and I m not about to start now.
QUESTION: Others have, and I m just wondering if you have. No?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not made such allegations.
QUESTION: Thank you. [End]
Released on March 25, 2003