State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 9, 2003
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC April 9, 2003
IRAQ 1-17 Reconstruction and Planning for Post-Saddam Government 2-3 Humanitarian Aid Efforts 6-7 Reports on Location of General Garner s Group 7 Response to Countries Opposing War Effort 10 Status of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 11,22 Reaction to Al Jazeera and Other Journalists Killed 13-17 Status of Weapons Investigation Efforts 21 Secretary Powell s Conversations with Foreign Ministers on Reconstruction of Ira
q RUSSIA 8-9 Rumors of Russian Embassy Harboring Saddam Hussein 9 Secretary Powell s Calls to Foreign Minister Ivanov
NORTH KOREA 18-20 Discussion at the Security Council of North Korea s Nuclear Programs
CHINA 20-21 American Citizen Death due to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Where is everybody?
QUESTION: Covering the news, probably.
MR. BOUCHER: Just probably covering the news. Okay.
All right, I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'm glad to take your questions or sarcasm, whichever comes first. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I'm going to give you an easy one.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: The road to victory is pretty clear by now. I wonder if you have a roadmap, not for the Middle East, because we know what that is, but a roadmap for a post-war Iraq. Can you fill in any of the -- you know, the Secretary said we want to move quickly and he said exiles as well as people there should be involved. Are there any milestones or steps you can, at this early stage, tell us about?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I can talk about it a bit.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's -- first of all, I think you'll see all of us in the government trying to remind everybody that there are dangerous people in Iraq, there are dangerous places in Baghdad, and there are dangerous places throughout the country. And while we are certainly as happy as many of the Iraqis are that many of them have found their freedom already, it's important to remember that there are many Iraqis, still, who haven't had that experience yet, that there are still dangers in Iraq and these need to be dealt with.
But just as we've been planning carefully for military victory, we've been planning to win the peace, and that has been an ongoing process. I think you've all seen what the President said very, very clearly in Belfast yesterday, that as we proceed towards reconstruction, we're going to work with Iraqis, other donors, other organizations, and that -- to work with Iraqis so that they can stand up a government of Iraqis to run their own country.
Our initial effort after the military secures the situation is being led by the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance headed by Jay Garner and done in cooperation with other members of the coalition. Their focus is to help restore services, to help restore immediate services, basic services, to the Iraqi people. And then as early as possible, we want to get to work on an Iraqi interim authority.
What's being planned now is a meeting of liberated Iraqis from newly freed areas of Iraq, as well as members of the free Iraqi opposition who have been free overseas.
The location, the date of the meeting, have not yet been determined. Special Presidential Envoy Khalilzad will lead a U.S. delegation to the meeting. We expect this to be the first in a series of regional meetings that will provide a forum for Iraqis to discuss their vision of the future of Iraq and their ideas regarding the Iraqi interim authority.
We hope that these meetings will culminate in a conference to be held in Baghdad, and the conference can form the Iraqi interim authority. That Iraqi interim authority, of course, will serve as a temporary authority during a transition period until fully representative elections can be held and a new government formed.
So that's where we are right now. The work is underway to prepare that first in a series of meetings to try to make sure that we are well coordinated and working with Iraqis inside the country, as well as outside, working with local leaders, as you've seen happen already in areas like Basra, as well as with people who have been outside the country struggling for Iraqi freedom.
QUESTION: This could go on even if there is residual -- not -- limited residual resistance?
MR. BOUCHER: It's geographic in some ways, that as you -- you know, as various parts of the country tend to calm down, obviously the first imperative to take care of the people in those areas requires a certain level of local organization and leadership. And you have already seen coalition forces in Umm Qasr, in Basra and other places, start to work with local leaders in order to turn the water back on, turn the electricity back on, deliver supplies, take care of hospitals and all those sorts of activities that are now well underway.
There is a lot of humanitarian support already going in to places that are becoming safer every day. And so as that proceeds, you can have a series of meetings with local leaders, as well as with Iraqis from outside, to try to form local administration, but also to start talking about their vision of the future and work towards, ultimately, an Iraqi interim authority.
QUESTION: Richard, Vice President Cheney came out this morning and said that the meeting would be held Saturday near Nasiriya. So is it that it hasn't been decided, or you just didn't -- weren't ready to announce?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's actually been finally decided. I'd have to look at the Vice President's words and see if he talked about the possibility of such a meeting on Saturday near Nasiriya are definite --
QUESTION: Okay. And the --
MR. BOUCHER: But I think you'll have to check with him for clarification.
QUESTION: If we could back up a little bit before the actual kind of delivery of services, could you talk about the delivery of aid, like -- and not over the long term, but just what's being done right now on the ground in terms -- and not -- I don't mean in like terms of like donations and things, but more like active, practical --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I know. Let me try to do the whole thing, but I'll skip over it quickly. The overall effort is we're continuing to make progress on actually allocating, shipping, prepositioning and delivering emergency supplies and food to the people of Iraq. The total U.S. money allocated to this effort for immediate relief already comes to $873 million -- $874 million. So every day, you know, we have given you totals that were less than $400 million. We keep allocating new money for food, new money for UNICEF, new money for various organizations to undertake work in Iraq of a nature of immediate relief.
You have seen the British ship, Sir Gallahad, come into port at Umm Qasr. That's -- there are supplies now arriving from Spain; supplies scheduled to arrive tomorrow from the United Arab Emirates. The Spanish vessel today is called the Gallica. It contains 10 metric tons of water, 14 metric tons of food, and it can also be used as a floating hospital. So that's coming in. The United Arab Emirates ship has 700 metric tons of supplies of water, of boxed meals.
The World Food Program has also begun to transport food, transport wheat into Northern Iraq. Food distribution is scheduled to begin on Saturday in Umm Qasr consisting of supplies from the British ship, as well as from the World Food Program coordinated by World Food Program and distributed by local community representatives. The Kuwaiti Joint Relief Committee convoy carrying water, food, and blankets was expected to arrive in Al-Nasiriya yesterday.
There are pockets of need in Iraq, particularly as the destruction of regular distribution systems has occurred with the fighting. But there are also people, frankly, who are benefiting from city services, who are benefiting from supplies that they couldn't get under the previous Saddam Hussein regime. Many are problems of poverty. The pockets of poverty and difficulty in Iraq are caused by the intentional discrimination of the Saddam Hussein regime against certain groups of minorities.
The stories, if you watch the water situation in Basra, for example, you'll see that there was significant portions of the city that didn't have clean water under Saddam Hussein. And now that we have been able to restore water to a great percentage of the population, they are actually benefiting from clean water.
Let me talk about one more thing, and that's medical supplies. Because we know that there is a -- a lot of need in the hospitals in Iraq. We have made very clear that we have made every effort possible to avoid civilian casualties in this conflict. Nonetheless, we know that those casualties do occur and we feel great sympathy for the people that may be harmed in the course of the fighting, either because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time or because the Iraqi Government, as we have seen, has intentionally put civilians in harm's way.
So there are medical supplies that have been given by USAID through the British that are being delivered to local hospitals in areas where the British are. The U.S. Government prepositioned 97 World Health Organization kits in the region. Each of these kits is designed to serve 10,000 people for approximately three months. Kits contain a basic and a supplementary unit. The basic kit contains 12 non-injectable drugs, as well as medical supplies. The supplemental kit, to be administered only by professional healthcare workers or physicians, contains more drugs, including injectables.
Yesterday, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Health, a medical supply convoy of 12 refrigerated trucks arrived to restock hospitals in Umm Qasr, Safwan, Az Zubayr. Medical personnel will remain at Umm Qasr to assist the hospital until the convoy returns from the other cities.
Medical teams are also prepared to enter Northern Iraq with additional staff volunteers and medicines.
Medical supplies from the International Committee of the Red Cross reached hospitals near Basra on April 4th and the organization has also begun trucking water to the three main hospitals in Basra and to a neighboring town.
So there are also, I would point out, coalition military units that have been caring for civilians in places where they are located.
QUESTION: Can I follow up, just one thing? In Baghdad, with -- it seems as if the streets are -- you know, there's a lot of chaos going on. I know that the Pentagon says that they're going to try and restore some order. How are you going to be able to get the aid in to the cities where people are in the streets, things like that? Are you --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the first step in each of those cities has been to eliminate the dangers posed by the regime. When you have a regime that's been targeting civilians, putting military equipment in civilian areas, there are obvious dangers that come from fighting that kind of regime in urban areas. So the first thing one can do for the people of the area is to get rid of the danger caused by the regime.
The second thing, as I think you've seen the pattern in various places, there's been a certain amount of chaos right when the regime has departed, or when their control has crumbled; then order has been established, local officials have emerged. We've been able to get in there, as I said, in all these towns now with supplies and support. So I'm sure that will happen in Baghdad, as well, as we proceed.
QUESTION: Richard, a couple things. One, is there opposition in this building to the venue for this meeting that is supposedly coming up, to having it in Nasiriya?
MR. BOUCHER: The question of where this meeting is held really depends on the circumstances of security, of the fighting, of what goes on inside Iraq. That's something that's still been -- being discussed. It's just not decided yet.
QUESTION: Okay, well, so it's -- so there isn't any inherent opposition to that as the venue from the Department that you're aware of?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think you see in the Secretary's briefing on the airplane on Monday, you see he was already referring to the fact that we were sending people into Iraq to start these meetings.
QUESTION: Yeah, but he didn't give the location, I don't think. And the Vice President -- anyway, the reason I'm asking is because there does seem to be some concern among some in this building -- I don't know if it's institution-wide or if it's just individuals, and that's what I'm trying to find out now -- that to not have it in Nasiriya because it would seem like somewhat of a "coronation," is what I've been told by some people, for Mr. Chalabi.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- first of all, you have to understand what this meeting is. It's the way I described it. It's not a coronation, it's not a choice of some kind of government. It's an opportunity for American, for U.S., for coalition officials to meet with free Iraqis from inside and outside Iraq to discuss their vision of the future, to start working with local administrations and talk about the vision of the future.
It's not a meeting of organizational leaders or of political figures. It's a meeting for a -- with a significant number of Iraqis representing a wide range of Iraqi groups, and that is the intention of the administration in helping to organize this meeting.
QUESTION: And is this something that the State Department is taking the lead in organizing, or is it more of a --
MR. BOUCHER: We're certainly very heavily involved. Given the situation right now, the fact there's still fighting going on and security is so important, I expect General Franks will probably be issuing the invitations.
The U.S. delegation is headed by Special Presidential Envoy Khalilzad, but we obviously have very strong members of his team working with him.
Let's go down here for a moment.
QUESTION: But, Richard, who chose the people who are invited to that meeting and on what criteria did they use when they --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can talk about the people yet. The criteria are the ones I gave you: Iraqis that are not part of the regime who can participate as local leaders, as local figures, who are not chosen on the basis of organization or political stature, but rather, the idea is to get a significant number of people from throughout Iraq so that there can be a sort of broad-based discussion of the vision of the future.
QUESTION: Ahmed Chalabi told CNN -- and speaking of CNN a couple of minutes ago asked where the Garner group is and why they weren't in Iraq already. Are they still in Kuwait, and is their not being there yet simply a function of security?
And finally, can you address some of the reports from a week ago or so suggesting that State Department officials were getting nixed or held back? Are those people going forward now as part of the Garner group? Did all that evaporate?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as where, exactly, General Garner is and where, exactly, the State Department people are who are with him, I would let the folks at Defense or Garner's team, himself, address those questions.
As far as putting people on those teams, the State Department has a number of people working on those teams -- names that we have put forward, people that we've sent, experts from over here who we've sent -- so I don't think that constitutes any sort of problem.
QUESTION: Are any of the people that you're sending or that you're recommending be invited to this meeting from the Future of Iraq projects here, how are you working in the work that was done here over the last few months, if at all? Because it sounds like you're going to be doing a lot of the same things over there just with people -- with the local people, and one would think you'd move some of the people that have already gone through that over -- over there.
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check and see if there are some of the same people. Certainly we've always said the Future of Iraq work is important; it provides a basis for anybody that's going to address those questions. But we've also made clear it needs to be experts and free Iraqis from outside, as well as people from inside the country who had a stake in their own future, who have yet to be liberated or who may have recently been liberated.
So yeah, the goal is to match up the expertise inside and outside the country. I can't really deal with a guest list yet, but once we know who's going to the meeting, I will try to check and see how much -- how much the people from the Future of Iraq project are involved in there --
QUESTION: Because otherwise, what happens to their work? Nothing.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, part of it has become, you know, codified; part of it has become generalized. So I think the work is certainly valuable and is transmitted in various ways to the people that need to address those specific questions.
QUESTION: Can you tell me who exactly is in charge of Jay Garner's group? I mean, here on Monday, we were told to go to the Pentagon for information about them; the Pentagon was sending people to the NSC; and the NSC is saying, well, it's not us. So --
MR. BOUCHER: Given the circumstances, I think the group works most directly for the Pentagon, or for the U.S. commanders in the field. They become the civilian apparatus that can go in as soon as it's safe, so that the commanders can turn over responsibility or work, particularly for basic services, to them. We, obviously, all have a piece of this because we're contributing people, we're contributing planning, we're contributing expertise and information that might have been developed before, but I think their most immediate superiors are at the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on a number of State Department people's names were submitted to the Pentagon and who were --
MR. BOUCHER: The same comment I had to him five minutes ago on that question.
QUESTION: Will you talk a little bit about opposing factions? I'm talking about, as you have termed it, the less willing -- the Syrians, the Iranians, possibly even the French.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have created any coalition of the less willing. I, certainly, except for your using the phrase, haven't used the phrase.
I think you have to take each nation on its own. But I would give just a general comment that it's time for all of the people who have been involved, who have had differences one way or the other over this, to start thinking about the future of the Iraqi people, to start thinking about the opportunities that lie before the Iraqi people, to start celebrating with those Iraqi people who have now gained their freedom and who are so obviously celebrating on the streets, and to start looking forward to the day when all the Iraqis have gained their freedom, and that we can work with them in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of their country.
QUESTION: A follow-up. Are you -- have you warned any of the neighborhood countries? Of course, Turkey now is obviously helping the coalition. But such as the Syrians, if some of these militia slip over the border and start to use that as a base --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made quite clear in a number of statements that we don't think anybody should be aiding a dying regime.
Let's see. Where are we going to go? We'll go to Terri. We'll go across the second row then.
QUESTION: Speaking of aiding a dying regime, do you have any clarification on rumors earlier today that the Russian Embassy may be harboring Saddam?
MR. BOUCHER: I never saw anything to substantiate that. It's just a rumor.
QUESTION: Have you talked -- is there word from -- have you spoken to Moscow directly?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we have. It would seem to me to be entirely a press rumor, frankly.
QUESTION: You can't say --
QUESTION: It was quoted by Lebanese officials, a Lebanese leader.
QUESTION: Factional leader, lawmaker, I don't know.
QUESTION: You don't know --
QUESTION: I don't want to mention the name if it's -- if you're going to --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, why don't you -- why don't you ask him first?
QUESTION: I don't want to ask him.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't --
QUESTION: You don't know if you even checked it out?
QUESTION: No, I'm saying it wasn't a press rumor. It was initiated by a prominent Lebanese politician.
QUESTION: A Lebanese leader rumor.
MR. BOUCHER: I see. Okay, that's interesting. All I can say is I have never seen anything to substantiate it.
QUESTION: But you didn't -- you don't think that anyone here checked it out?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure if anybody has bothered to ask anybody in Moscow.
QUESTION: I think that they have.
QUESTION: On Barry's same -- has there been -- I saw that Ambassador Vershbow went on a radio station in Moscow yesterday and said, for the first time I think that an official has said it, that the Russian convoy that was leaving Baghdad had altered its route, and that that may have been a cause of the incident that happened on Sunday. You guys have pretty highly over the past couple of days tried to assure the Russians that you are looking into this and you take it seriously. What -- is there any update on that investigation now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have too much of an update. We have continued to investigate the incidents on April 6th. These are regrettable. We regret that the group of Russian diplomats came under fire while they were leaving for Syria. But no determination has been made at this point over what happened, whose forces were involved. We're trying to establish the facts. We are in close touch with the Russian Government on the matter.
We have actually been in close touch, had been in touch with the Russian authorities over the several days prior to the actual departure to discuss the withdrawal their personnel. We had provided our military with detailed information about the vehicles and personnel, as well as the route that they had told us they planned to follow. There does exist some information that would make it that it appears that the Russian convoy may have taken a different route out of Baghdad than the one we recommended. But all of these things are being looked into. Still, I don't have a definitive judgment at this point.
QUESTION: Okay. Is there nothing more on that route, like if you -- do you have indications that the Iraqis may have suggested to them they -- or may have told them that they had to take this alternate --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I do not, at this point, have any further information.
QUESTION: All right. And just one more on this. There had been reports in some Russian papers that had been vigorously denied by the Russians -- Russian officials themselves, but I just thought I'd try here as well. Did Secretary Powell demand or tell the Russians that they had to close the embassy because, according to these reports, he -- according to these reports, he did do that, and said that the reason was that you guys had some information that there was some of this jamming equipment located on the embassy compound?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has kept in close touch with Foreign Minister Ivanov. He has talked to him a number of times in recent days, including both before and after the convoy went out. But I wouldn't describe any of his conversations in that light.
Certainly, in our conversations with the Russians, we have made clear that the situation in Baghdad was getting more dangerous every day and we try to work with them and coordinate with them so that their people could get out safely. That was our interest in the matter, that was our hope, and that was what we tried to help with. And that's why the Secretary and Foreign Minister were discussing it.
Okay. We're back on the second row.
QUESTION: Richard, how soon are you looking to lift the sanctions on Iraq, and is there any work being done yet on some kind of a resolution that I would think would help to achieve that?
MR. BOUCHER: You've heard us talk about sort of the many things that need to be done with regard to Iraq. Some of those will involve UN resolutions. The President has talked about a resolution or resolutions. I think the President and the Secretary have both talked in that vein. So we are looking at that. We are discussing it with other members of the Security Council.
There is nothing proposed at this point for any particular piece of that puzzle. Providing, as the President said yesterday, a vital role for the United Nations, a role that is humanitarian, that provides a vessel for contributions, that is involved in the political transition, will involve, eventually, several elements for the United Nations, and we're discussing how that can be done in resolutions, but nothing precise at this moment.
QUESTION: In terms of the sanctions, do this sooner rather than later, because obviously they are hurting the Iraqi people as --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, let's remember the sanctions have not been hurting the Iraqi people. The regime of Saddam Hussein has been hurting the Iraqi people. The money has been in the escrow account to spend on the Iraqi people and this regime has neglected them as a whole, and also neglected various parts of this society in much greater -- to a much greater degree.
The areas of Iraq in the north where the government control has not been as firm have, in fact, enjoyed a rising standard of living and fairly high levels of nutrition and welfare. So it's quite clear that -- where the dichotomy has existed between different parts of the country.
So with that as a background, certainly the -- a new government of Iraqis in Baghdad that's willing to live at peace with its neighbors, willing to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction, live in peace with its own people, will not require the same level of vigilance of the international community in terms of the sale of equipment, dual-use equipment, in particular. And so I would expect that something would be changed in the sanctions regime, but I can't predict when or how, exactly, it would be changed.
QUESTION: Well, that leads into my question which is, now that, now that the UN has control of the Oil-for-Food program, I mean in terms of Kofi Annan signing contracts, do you know if any contracts have been signed? Has there been any movement to get --
MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to check with the UN on that one.
QUESTION: But you're not aware of this being done?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't checked with the UN on that myself, but you can.
QUESTION: Richard, I have a question about the Iraqi regime and the legality of it. We're hearing from the region itself that the regime has fallen, it's over, it's finished; and yet, the old regime still has an ambassador at the UN in New York. Can you straighten out for us or take the question of when that person would no longer be recognized? Or what's your position on it today?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position on it today is don't go too far, too fast. As we started this briefing, let's go right back to the beginning again. There are still a lot of dangers in Iraq, there are still dangerous people in Baghdad, there are still dangers in other parts of Iraq that have not been liberated yet.
All these things will happen in due course, in due time. Exactly at what point it becomes appropriate to have a new group of Iraqis representing Iraq at the United Nations is, of course, something that needs to be addressed. I don't think we're quite at that point yet. Whether I can get you some information on how that will happen and when we will -- when it's appropriate for that to happen, I'll just have to see.
QUESTION: So, right now, you consider Ambassador al Duri to be -- to represent Iraq in the UN?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We've never considered him a very credible or a liable representative of Iraq, I would have to say. Certainly not of the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Nonetheless, you accepted his position as --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't accept. The United Nations accepts. I think, in fact, the General Assembly accepts. When it's appropriate for the General Assembly to make a different judgment is the question I was just asked.
QUESTION: Yeah, I know, but there -- in many -- this happened with -- it's happened in other countries, with other countries, when there has been regime change. I know that it's not up to you --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not claiming --
QUESTION: -- to decide whether --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, all we're talking about is today, okay? We're not talking about the entire process. We're not talking every other country in the world. We're talking about today. You asked me right now. I wouldn't claim at this point there has been regime change in Iraq yet. I would only claim that the regime is losing control more and more every day, but that there's still work to do.
QUESTION: Have you heard from the governments of Qatar or the UAE, either in Washington or overseas, about the issues related to Al Jazeera or UAE Television, the bombing of the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We've been in direct touch with Al Jazeera. We've expressed our regret over the death of their journalist, their camera man. But I think we have also made clear, as we did this morning at the CENTCOM briefing, that there was firing going on in that area and that it's necessary for our forces to return fire.
The situation of the journalists -- Al Jazeera ones, there have been Spaniards killed, there have been Germans killed, there have been Americans killed -- we understand how dangerous the profession is, how many of you or your colleagues are out there, and they know of the dangers when they go out there, and they're doing a difficult job under dangerous circumstances. So that we very much understand. We certainly regret the loss and feel for the loss of these people who are out there doing this job.
QUESTION: And how do you -- I mean, this may be more of a Pentagon questions, but how do you reconcile the fact that several reporters from various news organizations that were on the ground there said that they didn't see any shooting from the --
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'll have to ask the Pentagon that question. They have the people on the ground who were caught in that situation who found it necessary to return fire.
QUESTION: Wait, wait. Are you talking about the Al Jazeera question or the hotel?
MR. BOUCHER: I think she's asking me about the hotel, actually, now. But in both situations the Pentagon has said the same thing, that there was fire coming from those locations that they had to return.
QUESTION: But -- but, Richard, there -- I mean, again, it might be a Pentagon issue, but there have been various places that have been off limits, even though there is some firing -- some firing in the area, such as hospitals, mosques, schools to some extent. Are journalists -- even though there are journalists in the area, apparently some of these news organizations said that they had let the administration know exact coordinates. Why didn't -- why didn't the administration give these news organizations a call, as they did some of our own organizations, and say, you know, these are legitimate targets, get out?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- that's clearly a CENTCOM and a Pentagon question you'll have to ask. But just as clearly, there have been a number of journalists killed in different circumstances and we understand how dangerous these jobs are, and I think those involved understand, as well.
QUESTION: -- the lead-in alleging vast storehouses of hidden chemical, biological weapons, a nuclear program, missiles. Nothing has turned up yet; at least nothing's been proved. Is the State Department still confident of the information, that it was accurate?
MR. BOUCHER: Just as I would warn you to avoid declaring total victory today, I would warn you against declaring failure today, as well. As you know, as coalition forces have moved north, they have found at various locations chemical weapon suits, masks. It's been clear that Iraqi forces have been prepared for a chemical environment. Everybody knows the United States, the coalition, does not carry such weapons, does not have such weapons, so the only conclusion can be that the Iraqi soldiers were preparing for the use of chemical weapons by their own side.
Our troops are fighting against resistance. They're dealing with forces that are still operational, maybe in small ways, but still dangerous. And there will be time enough to go find the weapons once we're there.
As you note, all along throughout the inspection process, we have made clear, and I think others have made clear, that having -- talking to people, talking to people freely, was a very, very important part of the inspection process. If you look back over the history of 12 years of inspections when we found out what was really going on in the Iraqi nuclear program and we found out what was really going on in the Iraqi biological program in the past, it was always because people were able to talk to us for the first time -- defectors, people who came out, others who felt free to talk.
We made that a major point in the inspections that were carried out last fall and early this year, but the Iraqi regime never allowed it. If you remember from the Security Council discussion after the Secretary's presentation on February 5th, a number of governments emphasized -- the Spaniards and the Bulgarian foreign ministers, if I remember correctly -- emphasized how very important it was for people to be free to talk.
So I would say maybe we're coming on the point now where people will be free to talk and free to show us what they had.
QUESTION: I guess what got me thinking about it again is the -- was the occupation of several palaces, because it was said here and by the -- well, it was said here in high rhetoric that he's now moving stuff around, that there's even -- it's even secreted in his palaces.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we actually made that claim, Barry.
QUESTION: I would think somebody would stumble over it by now.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I don't -- I think you look back at the Secretary's presentation on February 5th and my briefings, you will find that we didn't say he had secreted it in his palaces. We had said that palaces -- nothing -- could be immune from search, nothing could be an off limits site, otherwise he would, obviously, put it at places that were off limits.
But we identified any number of sites for the inspectors, some of which they were able to inspect. But we have always made clear that the whole production capability was well hidden, that the whole weapon capability was well hidden, and it may take a bit, and it may take people who are free to talk to actually go out and find it. But let's let the soldiers do their job first and finish the fighting before they start scurrying around looking for things.
QUESTION: Have you found any biological vans, Richard?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'll let the soldiers do their job and we'll talk about that later.
QUESTION: Well, you spoke of how you had hoped that an eventual conference in Baghdad would lay the groundwork for an interim authority. Can you talk a little bit about how you would envisage selecting the people for that conference so that there would be some kind of legitimacy to whatever outcome they choose?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what I have talked about is a series of conferences in Iraq with local leaders, with local Iraqis, particularly as new cities become liberated, as new people become available to talk or participate in this process. And, therefore, you would have an increasing number of Iraqis from inside the country, outside the country, involved in this process of discussing their vision, of discussing their hopes, of discussing their plans, discussing how to form the Iraqi interim authority and preparing for an eventual conference that would do that.
QUESTION: Would you expect the U.S. Government to select the people for such a conference, or would you expect some kind of a more local and organic process whereby the Iraqis actually decide?
MR. BOUCHER: We would hope that the Iraqis would take the maximum role in all of this, that the Iraqis themselves would make the selections. You have seen that said by Secretary Rumsfeld, by the President of the United States in recent days, that the Iraqi people need to be involved in this process, they need to control this process, and they need to decide who their interim government will be, as well as their future government.
QUESTION: Can I follow that up very briefly please, very briefly?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: You have talked about exiles and people inside. Can you go a step further? Is it the State Department's intention for hope that Iraqis of all stripes -- Mosul is an Arab Catholic city predominantly, for instance. You have Kurds. You have Shiites in the south. Is the prescription for Iraq's future one that would have representation, at least at this formative conference, of Iraqis from a vast array of groupings?
MR. BOUCHER: That is the U.S. Government's position. That's what the U.S. Government has said today. That's what the President has said. That's what the U.S. Government has said in the joint statement with Turkey, and the Iraqi groups that met in Ankara not so long ago. It's been a very consistent position of the United States that the future of the Iraq needs to be decided by the Iraqi people, and needs to be decided by a very wide range of Iraqi people, so that all of the different groups, all of the different regions, all of the different areas and cities of Iraq, are represented in the transition; and then the Iraqi people get their own chance through elections to decide who their representatives will be.
QUESTION: Do you have any more details on this shooting incident in Jordan, in Amman, last night? And is there any reason to think that this is related to the war?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have much detail at this point. There was a single shot, we understand, was fired from a passing car at an American citizen last evening shortly after he had left his hotel. He suffered a minor injury, did not require hospitalization. The U.S. Embassy and Jordanian authorities are investigating, and that investigation is ongoing. The embassy has issued a Warden message to all Americans to avoid drawing attention to themselves, take prudent steps to ensure their personal safety.
QUESTION: Is there any indication that this person -- first of all, who was this person? I don't necessarily need a name.
MR. BOUCHER: It was a U.S. Government employee on temporary duty in Jordan.
QUESTION: Was it a State Department person?
MR. BOUCHER: That's as far as I can go, at this point.
QUESTION: Okay. Would it be incorrect to call this person a diplomat?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a U.S. Government employee on temporary assignment.
QUESTION: Yeah, well --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, that's as far as I can go. I'm not going to go any farther. So you can use 15 different words, and I'll repeat the ones I have.
QUESTION: This temporary -- this person, this American, this U.S. Government employee, American citizen, who is on temporary assignment at the embassy in Amman, was he drawing attention to himself? Was he conspicuous as an American, or was he simply -- was he following the guidelines that the embassy has put down, or was he simply walking along the street low profile?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't know. In this particular case, I don't have any indication he was drawing attention to himself or doing anything unusual. At the same time, these are prudent guidelines for people to follow.
QUESTION: Well, the reason I ask, I was wondering, I mean, does it do any good to --
MR. BOUCHER: It certainly does some good. Does it protect you from all harm? No.
QUESTION: Yes, I understand that. But you don't know if this --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, if the premise of the question is that if this person was not -- was following the guidelines, and there was a shot fired anyway, then you shouldn't follow the guidelines, I can't accept that premise. You should follow the guidelines, but it doesn't protect you from all harm.
QUESTION: The premise of my question was not that all. The premise of my question was, was this guy walking down the street, waving an American flag saying, you know, I am here, or was he following the guidelines of the embassy?
MR. BOUCHER: Does it do any good? Yes. Question, answer. Thank you.
QUESTION: The answer is -- actually, the answer would be you don't know?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer on whether he was doing anything unusual is I don't think so. The answer on does it do any good is yes. I have no more answers for you. I have answered your questions.
QUESTION: Can I go to North Korea?
QUESTION: Are you --
MR. BOUCHER: Hang on. We have got one more on Iraq?
QUESTION: Yeah, about the weapons of mass destruction, on WMD.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Where is the burden of proof right now there is no Saddam Hussein regime? And is it --
MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Where is the burden of proof? I mean, who is responsible to prove that there indeed is weapons of mass destruction in there? Same thing --
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, there is no doubt that there are weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi forces have been prepared to use them. We know they exist and we're sure we'll find them. So they will be found by the coalition.
QUESTION: So the U.S. military is now in charge to prove?
MR. BOUCHER: They will be found by the coalition, and whatever others are needed to do the job. But this --
QUESTION: So is there a chance for the UN inspectors to --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any new talk of that at this point, no.
QUESTION: What about the selection of these people from inside Iraq? Is that being done by the people from outside Iraq? Do you have a de-Saddamization program already underway, in a sense, a certification?
MR. BOUCHER: I really don't have anything more to say than I did 20 minutes ago on the subject.
QUESTION: Any scientists, who were Iraqi scientists who were free to talk to the U.S. forces during this time were involved?
MR. BOUCHER: Are there any?
MR. BOUCHER: I expect that there are or there will be, but I don't have any reports.
QUESTION: -- the U.S. forces?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any reports on that at this point. You can ask that question at CENTCOM.
Okay. Where were we, North Korea?
QUESTION: Yeah. Are you disappointed that China has refused to support the presidential statement in the Council on North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, we welcome the opportunity for discussion at the Security Council of the issues involved in North Korea's nuclear programs. It's a critical issue. We believe action in the forum is timely and appropriate.
This is the first of a series of meetings, we would hope, by the Security Council to take the issue up formally. It fosters a sustained discussion by the Security Council and helps focus attention on North Korea's nuclear program. We do believe the Council should act to go on record opposing North Korea's nuclear actions and warning against further provocations.
The Council is charged with issues of international security such as this matter. It needs to unite to produce an effective response to North Korea's actions that challenge the Nonproliferation Treaty and the Safeguards Agreement, as well as many other agreements that North Korea had. So we look forward to further discussion with the Security Council on the matter.
QUESTION: Follow-up on that. You were asked the other day about how you see North Korea's status as under the NPT. Do you have anything -- actually, it wasn't you, it was your colleague who was asked this -- but what do you have on that? Have the North Koreans -- are they now out of the NPT? And if so, does that mean that they no longer have obligations of which the UN Security Council --
MR. BOUCHER: The -- I think we gave -- did we give the answer?
QUESTION: No, he didn't.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh. Maybe my colleague gave the answer, but I will read you the legal answer. On January 10, 2003, North Korea issued a statement of its intention to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The United States recognizes Article 10 of this treaty provides a legal process for a withdrawal of any member, including a requirement that any notice of withdrawal be given three months in advance.
The administration has not taken a position on whether North Korea's withdrawal notification meets the requirements of Article 10. For the present, we see no need to try and reach agreement on North Korea's legal status under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty after April 10th. Debate on this legal question could sidetrack ongoing multilateral consultations at the Security Council and in the region.
It is important to remain focused on the real strategic issue: obtaining the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. There is considerable political unanimity in the international community on the importance of denuclearization of the peninsula and that's where we believe the emphasis needs to stay.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm sorry. I was under the impression that you had taken a position, at least regarding North Korea's claim that they could withdraw from -- that their withdrawal would take effect sooner than the three months because they --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we took a position that the immediate withdrawal announcement was not effective because --
QUESTION: Didn't work --
MR. BOUCHER: -- but we have not taken a position on whether the three-month withdrawal is legally operational or not.
QUESTION: Well, if they -- so I don't get it. I mean, can you contest someone's withdrawal? If someone says they are going to withdraw in three months, why --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's a matter of contesting it. We don't think that's where the focus belongs. We don't think that's really the issue at this moment. The issue at this moment, as the international community has said, North Korea needs to denuclearize; the peninsula needs to remain nuclear-free.
QUESTION: But as --
MR. BOUCHER: The international community has got to work to make that effective. That's not really a matter of a legal interpretation of the treaty.
QUESTION: But as of -- well, the first time they said they were going to withdraw from it years ago, you asked them to reconsider and, in fact, they did one day before the three months had expired, and they rejoined it. Is there no such effort now going on? Now one day, it's my --
MR. BOUCHER: I think there is --
QUESTION: As of tomorrow they will be able to say without much argument from you, I think, that they are no longer bound by the obligations of the treaty.
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's quite clear to many in the international community that North Korea has violated its obligations, violated its Safeguards Agreements, violated its agreements with its neighbors, violated its agreements with the South on denuclearization of the peninsula. It violated the Agreed Framework. So the issue is not a legal one; the issue is one of the international peace and security, and that's what the Security Council needs to deal with.
QUESTION: So there's no effort on your part or that you're aware of on anyone else's part to ask the North Koreans or to urge the North Koreans to suspend their withdrawal?
MR. BOUCHER: We want North Korea --
QUESTION: In other words, you don't care whether --
MR. BOUCHER: We want North Korea to abide by all the commitments it has made, to abide by the most fundamental commitment, that is, that they would not develop nuclear weapons on the peninsula. And that is one that's been made many times over in many fora. The fact that they are violating all those different commitments is, I think, just one of the pieces here.
QUESTION: Well, I'm sorry to belabor this, but I'm just trying to find out. Do you not -- do you -- is it no longer an issue or an issue of primary importance to you whether the North Koreans are in or out of the NPT?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not the primary focus or the primary issue at this point. The issue is that there is a threat to international peace and security being created by North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.
QUESTION: Richard, I understand that the main reason the Chinese don't want to support that presidential statement is because they want to give the chance to this multilateral process and maybe try to set up some kind of a forum in the near future. Because you are working with them very closely on that same subject. Isn't there -- wasn't there a way to reconcile whatever differences there might be between you and them and come out with a statement that will be as mild as possible, but still to be a statement?
MR. BOUCHER: As you very well know, we are working with other members of the international community, regional players, including China, to try to start multilateral talks to address these issues with North Korea. We have made clear that our goal is to find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to this. So there's no contradiction between that and going forward in the Security Council at this moment. This is a matter of concern to many nations; it's a matter of concern to the International Atomic Energy Agency Board, which referred it to the Security Council; and it's a matter, I said, that that involves international peace and security. The fact that we're trying to solve that peacefully doesn't mean that the UN Security Council shouldn't address these important issues.
QUESTION: Richard, with respect to the SARS outbreak in Southeast Asia, it's been alleged that the Chinese for a few weeks have been foot-dragging. And they have treaties with the World Health Organizations. Are you alarmed that they are not being as up front as possible?
MR. BOUCHER: I think certainly as a matter of public health that's important like this, we would hope that everybody would cooperate with the international organizations as early as possible. Our own CDC is heavily involved in this and I think I would have to refer you them as far as any judgments to be made on the medical implications of disclosure or failure to disclose.
QUESTION: Richard, on that exact same issue, do you have anything about what I believe would be the first American fatality from SARS of someone who was in Hong Kong who had come in from China?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. We do know that we can confirm, actually, that there was an American citizen who contracted Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in China's Guangdong Province who has died, now, in Hong Kong.
U.S. Consular officers are providing all possible assistance to the family of the deceased American. We clearly want to extend our condolences to the family. Out of consideration for the family's privacy, at this point, we are not releasing any further details about the death.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then you'll probably not answer this. But do you know if this person was there on business, or if it was a holiday?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can answer that. I'll check and see if there is any sort of descriptive pieces I can provide.
QUESTION: Okay. And on the same issue, has there been some -- and this gets to the WHO as well. There have been some allegations that the Taiwanese response to SARS was hindered by the fact that are not a member of the WHO. And, of course, this is something that China has fought, member -- Taiwan's membership. Is there any hardening of the -- or any change in the administration's position or hardening of its position that Taiwan now should be a part, or should be allowed to join as a full member the WHO?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position on that has not changed. I'll be glad to get you the official doctrine on it, though.
QUESTION: Richard, did the Under Secretary have a conversation with Foreign Minister Ivanov today, and can you give a quick readout on that?
MR. BOUCHER: He did talk to Foreign Minister Ivanov, among several others, today.
QUESTION: And what --
MR. BOUCHER: And you have to ask me who.
MR. BOUCHER: Saudi Foreign Minister Al-Faisal, Jordanian Foreign Minister Muasher, Foreign Minister Ivanov of Russia, Foreign Minister Maher of Egypt, and Foreign Minister Palacio of Spain.
In all these conversations, he has discussed the current situation in Baghdad, discussed with some of them particular issues -- the death of the Spanish correspondent in Iraq, or the status of looking into what happened to the Russian convoy, diplomatic convoy -- with different people. But, generally, they have been touching base on the state of affairs, looking to the future, to how we can all get together and help the Iraqi people rebuild.
QUESTION: Going back to the Jordan one, was the shooting discussed?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that particular point came up, no.
QUESTION: The Spanish Government has said that it wanted -- it was going to ask you or demand from you an explanation about the death of the Spanish journalist. Is that something that came up during -- is that --
MR. BOUCHER: No, it didn't come up in that particular phone call. I think the Spanish Government knows that we are looking into these deaths, and we'll get them any information we can.
QUESTION: I have got one more. It's on East Timor. If you don't have anything in your book, I won't ask the question.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know what's going on in East Timor, but we'll check for you. Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.