State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 11
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC April 11, 2003
UNITED NATIONS 1,5 Resolution on Human Rights in China 2,6 Resolution on Human Rights in Chechnya 3-4 Human Rights Commission 6 Resolution on Human Rights in Cuba 6 Co-Sponsoring Human Rights Resolutions for Belarus, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Sudan
CHINA 5 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
IRAQ 6-7,11,13,20 Coalition Meeting in Nasiriya 8 Iraqi Opposition Groups 8-9 Mr. Jay Garner s Visit to Umm Qasr 9 Future Interim Iraqi Authority 9-10 Policing of Iraqi Cities 10 Regional Meetings 12,21 Post War Reconstruction/ IMF/ World Bank 13,19-20 Humanitarian Assistance 13 Iraqi Oil 17 Iraqi POWs 18-19 Iraqi International Debt 20 Post-Conflict Administration
STATE DEPARTMENT 14 Secretary Powell s Meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Tan
TURKEY/IRAQ 15-16 Kurds in Kirkuk
SYRIA 18 US Contact with Syria
FRANCE/RUSSIA/GERMANY 20 Meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia
NATO 21 Headquarters in Brussels
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I do not have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Could you tell us about something that didn't happen, as in the China resolution in Geneva?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a great deal happening in Geneva. I'll talk about that, too.
On the subject of the China resolution, let me tell you that after careful consideration the United States decided not to sponsor a resolution on China's human rights practices at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva this year.
The decision on the Geneva resolution was based on what we believe will best advance the cause of human rights in China with a new government in Beijing. It is our hope and expectation that we will see further concrete progress in 2003 with China's new government.
Over the last 18 months, we have placed a very high priority on advancing the human rights situation in China. Senior level meetings between the United States and China have promoted substantive dialogue in bilateral and multilateral channels.
We believe we are beginning to see some limited but significant progress along the following lines: China's commitments to the United States in December of 2002 to cooperate with UN mechanisms without conditions, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; China's decision to invite the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; China's decision to allow special representatives of the Dalai Lama to visit Beijing and Lhasa; and the release of a significant number of political prisoners, including democracy activist Xu Wenli, the longest serving Tibetan prisoner Jigme Sangpo, and Tibetan Nun Ngawang Sangdrol.
As we have made clear in the recently released Human Rights Report, China's human rights record remains poor. Much remains to be done to promote improvement in China's human rights practices, and over the coming year we will continue to press China's new government to improve its human rights record. That remains a key element of our overall China policy.
QUESTION: When the Secretary was in Beijing, I guess about six weeks ago, he talked about the human rights record --
MR. BOUCHER: And we had seen some backsliding. I think we even used the word at that point.
QUESTION: But has there been improvement since he spoke that day?
MR. BOUCHER: There have been some releases since then. There is, we think, an opportunity here to work with the new government now that just took over, even -- well, around the time of the Secretary's visit. And we think there is, therefore, an opportunity to move forward with China using the mechanisms that we have, the dialogue that we have, the relationships China has agreed to establish with international organizations, and we're going to try to see where that can take us.
We saw a fair amount of progress. We've seen some backsliding. Now we think we do have an opportunity to move forward. And after all, this whole process has to be devoted to what's the best way to get progress for the human rights of the people of China.
QUESTION: There are also reports the United States has dropped plans to co-sponsor a resolution on Chechnya. Can you tell us about that? Is that true? If so, why?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we have decided at this moment we're not going to co-sponsor the Chechnya resolution. There is a resolution drafted and submitted. We have not yet decided how to vote. We have also said that we think it's best to have a chairman's statement on the subject of Chechnya.
In either case, whether this goes to resolution or whether it's a chairman's statement, I would say we do remain very concerned about the human rights situation in Chechnya and we will continue to work for progress there.
QUESTION: And why did you decide not to co-sponsor it?
MR. BOUCHER: We just decided at this point not to sign up as a co-sponsor to this particular resolution, again, having felt that a chairman's statement might be more appropriate at this moment.
QUESTION: Can you talk about some of the issues that you're referring to?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the issue is how to make progress on human rights again there. There was a referendum that was not, by no means, perfect or satisfactory, but which does cause -- does sort of constitute a basis, we think, for trying to move forward with political progress in Chechnya. And therefore, we felt that the situation merited a certain amount of attention at the Human Rights Commission, but also see if we can't take an opportunity for progress.
So that's where we stand. That's why we thought it was best to have a chairman's statement. Whether this resolution itself ends up coming to a vote, we'll have to see, and then we'll decide what we have to vote.
QUESTION: You thought it best to have a chairman's statement that would come from a chairman who represents -- chairwoman who represents a country which you actively tried to get -- does that not count any more?
MR. BOUCHER: The chairman's statement is a formal process that is accepted by all the members. It's not issued on behalf of a particular state. It's issued by whoever happens to be sitting in the chair, but it's not -- it's not dependent on the person who sits in the chair.
QUESTION: Okay. So the credibility of it isn't at all affected by the fact that you tried to prevent the chair --
MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, the credibility of the overall Human Rights Commission has been affected by who is sitting in the chair. The credibility of the body has been affected by some of its membership being among the world's worst human rights abusers. But at the same time, for that body to act, it has to act through the chairman; and whatever credibility it has, it doesn't lose much more by having it be issued on a certain date by a certain person.
QUESTION: How do you respond to criticism that the reason you're not sponsoring a China resolution or not co-sponsoring a Chechnya resolution is a quid pro quo for support for the war on terrorism and possibly an attempt, political attempt, to get political support for what's going on in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is no. It's just not the case. Those things don't enter into these discussions. There is very careful situation of the human rights situation in these places. There is very careful consideration about how to make life better for the people who live there, and that is fundamentally the bottom line.
QUESTION: Richard, can you explain the chairman's statement? Does that need to get majority support in the same way as a resolution would have to, or how would it work?
MR. BOUCHER: In most of these bodies, chairman's statements need consensus. I'll have to double-check exactly what the rules are at the UN Human Rights Commission.
QUESTION: Richard, can you clarify the State Department position more on the referendum which happen, you know, during the war so everybody was not taking attention? Because --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we were, and we actually said something, or at least had something to say. I'm not sure if we did. We did say something. Yeah. So I would refer you back to that.
But, generally, the position has been that it wasn't an election, it wasn't a fully open, consultative process, but it did give a basis, an opportunity, for people to express some of their views and an opportunity to move forward on a political track to try to solve the problems in Chechnya, which we've always said can't be solved by military force and fundamentally need -- while you can fight terrorism, but you fundamentally need a political solution there.
QUESTION: Richard, the government in Vietnam has suppressed religious freedom and are beginning to jail some dissidents. That's come out in the news today. Is this in any shape or form some of the countries such as China, as you just mentioned, Cuba, to sort of do this in tandem while we've been concentrating on Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that people do this in tandem. Certainly, nobody should be under any illusions that, you know, it's a good moment to crack down on human rights. We have made clear that the war on terrorism, part of the war on terrorism is improving the human rights situation around the world because we believe that respect for human rights creates the kind of stable societies where terrorism doesn't find fertile ground to grow, it creates the kind of societies that offer hope and opportunity to all their citizens.
So pursuing a good human rights policy, and we have pursued a good and strong human rights policy, in our reporting, in our actions here, as well as in our positive actions to help people build better institutions, pursuing a good human rights policy has been part and parcel of the war on terrorism, and nobody gets off the hook on human rights because of the war on terrorism or the war on Iraq or anything else.
QUESTION: Can I just follow on this, though?
QUESTION: Yeah, I'm still on this, as well.
MR. BOUCHER: Still on this.
QUESTION: Two things, which will be pretty clear, I think. You really held out till the last possible minute on making this decision, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: When was it actually decided?
MR. BOUCHER: Sometime late yesterday. I don't know exactly.
QUESTION: Late yesterday? Was it actually decided after the deadline had passed, or was it --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, when I -- I suppose it was decided before the deadline had passed. I don't think the formal decision had been made. When I came out and briefed yesterday, it had not been made before then.
QUESTION: Okay. And then even though you're not going after a resolution on China, you still mentioned your very deep concerns about the situation there. And I'm wondering, in light of that, if there's any concern at all about the steps that you pointed out in your travel warning last night for China on SARS, this kind of very -- somewhat strict quarantine measures that they've decided to impose. Is there any concern on your part that this might be misused by the Chinese Government, which, as you say, does not have a good human rights record, to persecute dissidents or others who they could say show symptoms of this disease, lock them away in a --
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that's pretty speculative at this point. I'm not aware of any allegations of that nature. And I think -- I haven't looked at the exact nature of everything the Chinese are doing, but we've certainly encouraged them to take -- first of all, to make more information available, second of all to take steps in terms of this disease. And I think the steps they're taking are actually quite similar to those being taken in some other places.
QUESTION: Do you think -- do you not have any problem at all with putting someone in a hospital, even a foreigner, say an American citizen, who displays some symptoms of SARS, putting them in a hospital and not allowing them to have access to their own physician, to their families, or to U.S. consular officials?
MR. BOUCHER: I think certainly we think that, you know, having contact with family, having contact with consular officials, is appropriate. But I don't want to start saying that the necessary public health steps might be human rights violations. I don't think we've looked at these steps quite in that way. We've looked at these steps as public health steps, and obviously Americans need to know that these situations might occur. But as I said, in a general sense, I think these steps are somewhat similar to what other countries and governments have done.
QUESTION: Can we move on to Iraq?
QUESTION: Can I have one quick question?
MR. BOUCHER: Terri had one.
QUESTION: What is it that makes a chairperson's statement more appropriate in this case than a resolution that made you decide to support that instead?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, I think we think that some of the recent developments in Chechnya might constitute a basis for political progress, and we want to encourage that progress.
QUESTION: So the impact of a chairperson's statement is less severe than a -- that's what I meant -- than a resolution? Or what?
MR. BOUCHER: It has a slightly different feel to it. It offers a chance to push forward, I think, an opportunity to go forward. Certainly, in past years, our preference has always been to work this out with the parties involved, but I think that was not possible in this case.
QUESTION: Still on this. You've talked about what you're not doing. What are you actually doing in terms of the -- what are you sponsoring and what are you planning to vote for?
MR. BOUCHER: We -- well, let me start with Cuba. Three Latin American countries -- Peru, Uruguay and Costa Rica -- have introduced a resolution on Cuba urging the Cuban Government to adhere to a 2002 resolution by allowing a visit by the UN -- by the High Commissioner for Human Rights' personal representative. We welcome this effort by the Latin American members of the Commission. We're working to ensure that a resolution passes which sends a strong message to the Cuban Government. We would expect a vote on that Cuba resolution to take place next week and we're discussing with others how to ensure that a resolution passes, and also the question of how to take notice on the recent developments, whether in the resolution or in some other way.
Belarus, we're sponsoring the resolution along with some others. Zimbabwe we're supporting and co-sponsoring a resolution. North Korea, we're co-sponsoring a resolution. And Sudan, we're co-sponsor on a resolution, as well.
QUESTION: Okay. And there's no -- there isn't any -- so there are no resolutions that you are sponsoring sole -- on your own?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of, but let me double-check. I'm not certain this is an absolute comprehensive list. There's a lot going on there that I may not have listed.
QUESTION: Can we go on to Iraq, then?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: Can you update us on preparations for the meeting which might take place in Nasiriya next Tuesday?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I can now say it will take place in Nasiriya next Tuesday, the 15th. It's a meeting to bring together liberated Iraqis from newly freed areas of Iraq, members of the Iraqi opposition, including representatives from the Future of Iraq project that we've been working on. These are representatives from these various groups and organizations.
Special Presidential Envoy Khalilzad will lead the U.S. delegation to the conference. Ambassador Khalilzad and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker will travel to Nasiriya this weekend.
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 and their ideas regarding the Iraqi interim authority. We hope these meetings will culminate in a nation-wide conference that be held in Baghdad in order to form the Iraqi interim authority.
So that conference is now under preparation and is being organized out there, and our people will be out there soon.
QUESTION: Who has prepared the invitation list and how many people are there on it at this stage?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the invitation list for you at this moment. I'll see at what point we can put that out. It was prepared in consultation inside the U.S. Government, as well as discussion with the groups. The invitations themselves, I guess, will come from General Franks. And I don't have an exact number for how many people are on it at this point.
QUESTION: Will the UN be (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Will the United Nations be represented?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I guess you'll have to ask the UN. The Secretary General, as you know, has a personal representative, and I don't know whether he'll go out for it or not.
QUESTION: You're organizing it. Have you invited them?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll double-check on whether they're invited. He asked me whether they were going. I don't have an answer for you at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, are you inviting representatives of all the groups in the leadership council formed in Salahuddin?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the exact correspondence yet. Certainly, we've been working with half a dozen or more groups in terms of the future of Iraq, and therefore have invited people from -- representatives from many of these groups.
QUESTION: I didn't quite catch what you said. You talked about the Future of Iraq and you spoke about people outside. What exactly did you say about exile groups? Did you --
MR. BOUCHER: About what groups?
QUESTION: Exile groups. Former exile groups.
MR. BOUCHER: I said members of the Iraqi opposition, including representatives of the Future of Iraq project. Members of the Iraqi opposition means the groups that have been working, that we have been working with, including the London conference, the Salahuddin conference people. Whether every single group has been invited exactly, again, I don't know until I get a copy of the list.
QUESTION: What is your reaction to the rejection of the Supreme Council, the Hakim group, of your invitation?
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't you ask me that yesterday?
QUESTION: Well, that's why -- now you --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have anything new to say. We're looking for people who want to participate in the future or Iraq, who want to build a representative government for the Iraqis, who want to build a new future for the Iraqi people, and we would hope that all the groups would want to do that.
QUESTION: What about the reaction also of Mr. Chalabi said he -- in an interview with the Financial Times yesterday said he rejects any American involvement in the interim government in Iraq. What's your reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have designed this process to help organize an Iraqi administration that could be representative of the Iraqi people, that can function on their behalf, and that can start building the kind of representative government that's our goal to help the Iraqi people establish. Terri.
QUESTION: Would you expect Jay Garner, Jay Garner and his group, to come in and start liaising at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if Garner will go to this particular meeting. I'll have to double-check on that, as well. I just don't have too many details at this moment and we'll probably have some more by the end -- you know, early next week.
The Garner group, certainly an important part of the next steps in Iraq. They're basic job is to establish basic needs and services for the Iraqi people. Jay Garner was in Iraq today. He was up at Umm Qasr meeting with town and local officials. As you know, the British have also been working with local officials in the places that they're operating in, in Basra and elsewhere and Umm Qasr. And so this process is underway and will continue. As I said, this is the first of a series of regional meetings and we'll be talking to a variety of Iraqis about their future.
QUESTION: -- British involvement in the meeting, if they're coming? Were they invited?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's generally a coalition meeting. I don't know exactly who the Brits will be sending.
QUESTION: Can I ask where policing will come in the priority list of that meeting and whether you've had any progress in terms of finding contributing countries?
MR. BOUCHER: That's actually several important questions. Let me try to divide them up.
In terms of this meeting, I think it is about the vision of the future. It's about how you establish the interim authority. To what extent any given subject is discussed in that context will probably depend on the participants, the Iraqis. This is their -- we're trying to help them start a process that they can start designing their own future with.
At the same time, policing is clearly an issue that arises in every city where we've gone into and there are efforts -- again, you've seen it with the British in Basra, I think already -- in trying to reestablish a certain sense of local authority and policing without involving the remnants of the regime or the torturers who once plagued the lives of ordinary Iraqis.
The Garner group is concerned with the issue of policing. They will address it as one of their issues as they start to move into Iraq and help the Iraqis establish administration. We have identified 26 police and judicial officials who will go out and be part of their group, who will be working with the Garner -- as part of the Garner group to conduct assessments of how to establish local policing, local security.
We have also been working on a contract -- under a contract with DynCorp to identify 150 people who can go out soon. That's a process that's underway. The money is from existing funding and I think congressional notifications are up right now.
And then in the supplemental that we have that Congress is considering right now, there is additional funding which will be used for something like 1,000 police and judicial officials to go out and help the Iraqis reestablish security and order in their towns and cities.
I'd have to say these people who we're sending out will conduct assessments, provide advice, help people get organized. They're not cops on the beat. They're not actual -- we're not going to do the policing of Iraqi cities.
QUESTION: Are those American people that you're talking about?
MR. BOUCHER: Those are all Americans. No -- oh, that's right. The 26, the 150 and 1,000 are presumed to be Americans under these contracts, but I need to add to that that we have been talking with a number of governments around the world. I think I said yesterday we've had 58 expressions of interest in participating in some way in that next phase of stabilization, reconstruction, transition to Iraqi political authority. And many of those governments who have indicated a willingness to consider a military role or a police role, some of them have indicated that they are able to help with the policing function, with the judicial function.
QUESTION: Richard, can I just clarify something?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: To go back to the meeting, you keep using this expression "a regional meeting" and I just want to make sure that I haven't misunderstood this. You're not implying that this only covers one particular part of Iraq, are you, and that there will be other meetings in other parts, other regions? This is a national meeting, right?
MR. BOUCHER: There are national participants. There are a variety of participants. When you have it in a particular place, given the lack of easy travel in Iraq at this moment, you tend to have a lot of people from that particular place. But they are there to discuss national issues. They are certainly not just talking about local water and sewer supply; they are talking about the future of their whole country. And so we'll have these different meetings in different places, and many of the attendees in a particular place will be from that place, but some of them will be either from outside or more nationally based people.
QUESTION: So can I just get this straight, then? So before the big conference in Baghdad, do you expect to have, say, similar meetings in the north or in Basra or in Mosul?
MR. BOUCHER: A series of meetings in different regions of Iraq, yes. I can't give you a whole list at this point, but that's the idea.
QUESTION: But with also -- similarly with a national participation?
MR. BOUCHER: People from inside and outside, people locally, and maybe some more nationally, to discuss the future of their country.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Charlie had a question.
QUESTION: Mine is a follow-up, too. In addition to these regional meetings, you've made a allusion to culminating in a national meeting in Baghdad. And while I certainly wouldn't expect you to give us a date, can you at least give us a timeframe of when you think that might be? Is that -- are you talking weeks or are you talking months?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't at this point. It depends, obviously, on the military situation, on the security situation, on how quickly Iraqis are able to speak out in different places, how quickly Iraqis are able to start considering their own future in different parts of the country. You can't have a national conference until people from the whole nation can attend.
QUESTION: I have a similar hair-splitting kind of question. Is this meeting on Tuesday actually in Nasiriya or is it outside or --
MR. BOUCHER: It's scheduled to take place April 15th in Nasiriya.
QUESTION: In the city. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: That's as much as I know. I don't --
QUESTION: Well, yeah. So does that -- should we presume from that that you -- that there have been people out there who scouted out a particular venue?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the particular venue and I don't know if it's chosen yet. It may be --
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
QUESTION: I know it is, Jonathan. I wanted to get him to say it.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not able to specify a particular venue at this point.
QUESTION: Are you going to facilitate the travel for other Iraqi exiles, or is Chalabi going to be allowed his head start that the Pentagon gave him?
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure that we will help attendees at the meeting get there.
Okay. You had a question? No? Back there. We'll come back to you, Joel.
QUESTION: Are the United States and British and Australia and Poland are thinking -- planning some sort of four countries donors meeting at the same location at the same day?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: On that exact point, though, is this where this confusion may have come from yesterday? You were asked about a donors -- the Poles had -- I asked you a question because the Polish Prime Minister had come out and said that the United States, Poland, Australia and Britain were going to be hosting some kind of a reconstruction conference coming up soon. To the best of your knowledge, is this meeting in Nasiriya on Tuesday being held by those four members of the coalition -- you, Britain, Poland and Australia?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. I'm not sure I would say that that's the source of confusion.
There is a lot of discussion among donors right now. Everybody -- the IMF World Bank meetings are taking place, a lot of meetings of financial officials, the economic officials from different governments. Under Secretary Larson, on our side, has been particularly active in talking to other governments about the future of Iraq/post-war reconstruction issues surrounding that meeting, and I'm sure people will be getting together with us and with each other throughout the next few days to talk about future reconstruction needs.
QUESTION: There are reports out of Cuba that three of the men who hijacked the ferry on the 2nd have been executed. Does the State Department have any information on that or any reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information like that. I'll have to check and see if we've seen anything.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's let the gentleman finish.
QUESTION: One quick follow-up on Cuba. Could you give us -- I think the Secretary made a statement the other day on the situation in -- with the dissidents in Cuba. Could you give us the official State Department take? And also, your reaction to the --
MR. BOUCHER: The official State Department take is exactly what the Secretary said the other day, and I'll be glad to give you a hundred copies.
QUESTION: And also, any reaction to the Foreign Minister's speech on the dissidents?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think our views have been quite clearly said. There is no excuse for this kind of conduct.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Yeah. I don't want to waste time if you don't have anything new on this, but there's a great deal of interest, of course, in your thinking on the -- how to manage the Iraqi oil industry. Has the administration come to any conclusions on that?
And also, while you're on the subject, do you know whether the famous pipeline to Syria has, in fact, been damaged during military operations?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an update on that. That would be something you might want to ask out in the field.
As far as oil goes, I think we have made quite clear what our policy is. Iraq's oil is for the Iraqi people. Clearly, right now, the immediate focus is on humanitarian assistance. At the appropriate time, the needs of the oil sector will be addressed. For the moment, the effort has resulted in coalition forces being able to secure the oil fields in the south and in the north.
Damage from sabotage appears to be minimal. By doing this, we have prevented environmental disaster. We all remember what Saddam's forces did in Kuwait in terms of the environmental disaster that they created around the oil fields. We were able, in this case, to prevent that. We were able to preserve these assets for the Iraqi people to use, and that will be an important factor as the Iraqis start to figure out how they want to organize and rebuild their oil sector.
Now, clearly, the first step will be an assessment for the damage that's been done over 23 years by the way this country was run, and so there is a lot to do to get this sector back up to international standards.
We've been in touch with other coalition partners about the whole gamut of assistance/reconstruction issues, and I'm sure this will be one of the subjects that the Iraqis will want to take up as they talk about their vision of their own country.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I just follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Clearly, most people have an interest in seeing exports resume fairly quickly. Do you -- does the United States envisage, envision, the Nasiriya meeting taking any decisions on this, and do you think that meeting itself has the authority to take any decisions on --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't think -- we have not talked about the Nasiriya meeting as being one where decisions could be made on things like this. There are many issues that will confront the Iraqi people. They need to start figuring out how they're going to deal with them before they can give you answers on how -- on their decisions on particular matters.
QUESTION: CENTCOM, or somebody, released a list of 55
MR. BOUCHER: They released a list, or just make reference to it?
QUESTION: Well, I thought --
MR. BOUCHER: Anyway, maybe they did.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, good.
QUESTION: And the question arises --
MR. BOUCHER: I refer you to them.
QUESTION: -- presumably some of these folks are trying to escape, and are efforts being made to track them if they do try to escape?
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure that question will be asked at the next CENTCOM briefing, and I look forward to hearing their answer.
QUESTION: Can I ask you to give us a sense of how Iraq came up in the meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Tan of Singapore morning, and maybe a more general readout of the whole meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: We had a very good meeting, the Secretary did, had a very good meeting this morning with Deputy Foreign Minister Tan of Singapore. As you all know, Singapore is a good friend and a close partner in many of the things we're doing today. They share, I would say, a common approach to many of the problems of the world.
The Secretary and the Deputy Foreign Minister discussed the fight against terrorism, in particular. They discussed the issue of Iraq and why it was necessary to take action in this case. They discussed the prospects for rebuilding and the need for all of us to contribute. And I think I'll leave it to the Singaporeans to talk about where they stand on that, but they indicated some interest in contributing to the reconstruction phase.
They also discussed regional issues, issues like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and how they're dealing with that.
So it was a very, I think, positive meeting, a very good meeting between some close partners in many of the very important issues that face us in the world today.
QUESTION: And it was a mask-free meeting, presumably?
MR. BOUCHER: A what?
QUESTION: A mask-free.
MR. BOUCHER: It was a very comfortable, friendly and close meeting without any impediments.
QUESTION: Richard, do you all have any information about the escape in Yemen of ten people believed to be connected with the Cole bombing?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I hadn't heard about that, didn't check anything. I'll have to check now and see if we can find out anything.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. involved at all in the investigation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know anything. This is news to me and I haven't had a chance to check it out.
QUESTION: Yesterday we talked a little bit about Secretary Powell's conversation with Abdullah Gul about the Kurds in the north, and late yesterday the Pentagon said that actually they had asked the Kurds not to go into Kirkuk so quickly and seemed to indicate that then U.S. forces were kind of playing catch-up, and also seemed to reinforce what Abdullah Gul had said, how he had characterized his conversations with Secretary Powell earlier in the day, saying that the U.S. expects the Kurds to pull out of Kirkuk. And we talked a little bit about that yesterday.
Can you tell us how that -- how Secretary Powell's conversation actually went with -- whether he --
MR. BOUCHER: I thought I did yesterday. It was a --
QUESTION: Well, it wasn't so clear that he had told the Turks, in fact, that we would see that the Kurds pull out, and possibly by today, is the way the Turk --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let's look at where we are today. Let's start with yesterday and then we'll look at where we are today.
Yesterday the Secretary spoke to the Turkish Foreign Minister. Their conversation was firmly based on the decisions that they had made a week earlier on how to cooperate if there were matters that were of concern to the Turkish Government. Obviously, the entry of the Peshmerga into Kirkuk was a matter of concern to the Turkish Government. They did what they had promised each other they would do; they talked on the phone, had our embassies get together, have our military cooperating.
So where do we stand today? It remains our strong position that no group should control Iraqi cities and oil fields. U.S. forces are on the ground in Kirkuk, they're in Mosul, and they're taking full command in those towns. I've also seen press reports that indicate that the Peshmerga are moving out of Kirkuk.
We are in the process of doing exactly what Secretary Powell discussed with Prime Minister Erdogan, Turkish General Staff and other leaders in Turkey last week. Our military has also invited a number, small number, of liaison officers from Turkey to accompany additional U.S. troops into Northern Iraq. These observers are joining U.S. troops today. And I think Turkish leaders have now issued a statement citing these positive steps and talking about our ongoing contacts.
QUESTION: Did Secretary Powell tell Abdullah Gul that the Kurds would be out of Kirkuk within 24 hours?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to go into any precise detail of the conversation any more than I did yesterday. The Secretary assured the Turkish Government, as we had discussed the week before, that we would take care of the situation, that we would insert U.S. forces into these towns, and that we would make sure that situations did not arise that would cause concern to the Turkish Government.
QUESTION: And is that --
MR. BOUCHER: And that's what we did. And I think we have done that very successfully in this case.
QUESTION: And does that require the Kurds pulling out completely from Kirkuk and Mosul?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I can't go into any precise detail on that aspect.
QUESTION: What about the group, the exiled Kurdish group, which had been like refugee? They are planning to go back. I mean, they are civilian. Will you allow them to go back or no?
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, we want people to be able to go their homes. I don't know exactly what group you're talking about. But the matter that was of most concern to the Turkish Government I think was the entry of armed groups, organized armed groups, into these cities.
QUESTION: Richard, has the State Department been approached by the Justice Department for to clarify the Iraqi Ambassador to the UN's diplomatic status, and in the context of a court proceeding that was supposed -- that was supposed to take place yesterday, but has now been moved to the 16th? And if you have --
MR. BOUCHER: We're aware of the court proceeding. We are in touch with the Department of Justice. But, at this point, I don't have any more information for you.
QUESTION: Okay. And what is his status? It's not -- unchanged since yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, as far as we know, it's unchanged since yesterday.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: And please, sorry.
QUESTION: Can I just -- I'm sure you don't have an answer to this. So I'll just -- do you have an answer to my question yesterday about the treatment of POWs -- Iraqi POWs, and whether -- specifically, the photograph that I showed you was --
MR. BOUCHER: I thought I answered the question, to the extent that I could here, and I invited you to contact others to get any more details that you wanted to.
QUESTION: Yes, but another part of my question was whether the State Department had expressed concerns or asked the Pentagon to ensure that the treatment of --
MR. BOUCHER: I think I answered that question yesterday, and that's about as far as I can go.
QUESTION: Okay. So then, in other words, no?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I said we're in constant touch with others in the government; others had people on the ground. If you want to know what guidance they give to journalists, what guidance they give to their forces, you'll have to ask the Pentagon.
QUESTION: No, but I was trying to get what you had told the Pentagon to tell them what your --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't normally talk about what we tell other parts of the government. We're in close touch with them on these issues. They're important to us all.
QUESTION: Richard, reports are beginning to emerge, press reports mostly that I have seen, that other Arabs may be going into Iraq through neighboring countries to fight the American and coalition forces there. Do you have any indications that that is indeed the case, and are you concerned about it?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as what the situation might be on the ground, again, the military will have to account for that. We have seen those reports. I think they have actually been coming out for some time now. And we have been quite clear in our discussions with other governments that that kind of transit should not be allowed. And it's been an issue, I think, that we have raised repeatedly in public, as well as in private.
QUESTION: Speaking of that, do you have any further -- in terms of the Arab, they will be treated as the Guantanamo people, like they are not lawful combatant or what, I mean?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess it depends on who they are and what they are.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) transit have you had, or has an ambassador, too, for anyone else had any contact with the Syrians in the last 24 hours about their -- about how you see their closure of the border?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't. Has he had contact with anybody in the Syrian Government? I think it's safe to say yes. He is always, every day, in touch with the Syrian Government. I am not aware of any specific high-level meetings that he has held in the past 24 hours. As far as how we see the border, as we know, the Syrians have said that it would be closed to all but humanitarian traffic. It's something we are watching closely, but I don't have any assessment at this point.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Paul Wolfowitz said that the U.S. would like to see Germany, France, and I believe Russia forgive their debt, their bilateral debt to Iraq. Is this something that the State Department had been discussing with these countries in advance, or was yesterday the first time such an announcement was made?
MR. BOUCHER: It's an issue that arises in all of our discussions. I think in many of the Secretary's discussions, he is with other government leaders, foreign ministers, that he met in Europe. For example, frequently, the subject of debt comes up. I think the only particular answer we can give at this point is that there are international mechanisms for dealing with these issues. It's been a long time since Iraq has been paying any of its debt. And there are international mechanisms for dealing with those situations that we would expect at the appropriate time the international community might use.
QUESTION: You're taking it up as a bilateral issue with these governments at the moment?
MR. BOUCHER: It's been an issue discussed among -- bilaterally with other governments, but in the end they are sort of a formal multilateral mechanisms for dealing with them appropriately.
MR. BOUCHER: Depending on the kind of day, yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, the United States, I believe, is out some $2 billion by Iraq, all the various things you sold back in the '80s, which we won't go into. And --
MR. BOUCHER: Food, we won't go into them.
QUESTION: There was some food, and there was some other things as well.
MR. BOUCHER: It was principally, particularly food.
QUESTION: Have you already written off that debt?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the exact status of that debt. But, as I said, there is debt to a lot of countries that Iraq has not been servicing for many years. These transitions occur sometimes in other places, and there are international mechanisms for dealing with them at the appropriate time. I don't have answers for you now, as to what will happen -- as to what will happen with this, that, or the other debt. The holders of the numbers, I am not exactly sure where they are. But I am not sure I can give you any at this point.
QUESTION: And you don't even say that you're doing -- you're doing it yourself, or we'll definitely do it?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, there are appropriate measures for us and for other donors to take these things up together. And to decide them, we'll do that at the appropriate time. Today's press briefing is not the moment for me to write off however many million dollars debt we had.
QUESTION: This week there is a World Bank Conference. And, obviously, with the possible end of the military downfall, the regime in Baghdad, are you in any way at odds with the World Bank? Because they are saying that, according to their rules, they can't really offer any humanitarian assistance unless a full government is in place in Baghdad. And, of course, you're trying to get some of this humanitarian aid and other stability into Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: No, we're not at odds. This is one of the many subjects of discussion with bank members with bank officials during this conference. As I mentioned, Al Larson, our Under Secretary, as particular, is taking this up with a variety of other governments and officials, international financial officials, to try to work on this whole plan of how you do it.
The United States itself has already come forward with hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of food assistance, of medical assistance. We have prepositioned supplies for hospitals. We are moving them in. You see ships pulling up to Umm Qasr now. We have had the British ship, the Spanish ship, I think. I am not exactly sure if the UAE ship has arrived yet. There is water flowing now in places where -- and the populations -- like some of the people in Basra who didn't get good water under the old regime because they were Shiites, and they were discriminated again.
So there is a lot being done. There is more that will be done, as the security improves in other areas. And the United States has been supporting this to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. At the same time, there is a lot of planning going on, on how to move forward. I think one of the -- there are several things that this involves, the economic planning of reconstruction, the structural planning inside Iraq that the Iraqis can do of how they want to move their country forward, and also what we can do at the United Nations.
As you know, the President, and the Prime Minister of Britain, the Prime Minister of Spain issued a statement in the Azores, where they said they did look to a UN role, and described in Belfast as a vital role. And one of the elements of that is to seek UN endorsement for the post-conflict administration; so that the post-conflict administration in Iraq is able to carry out some of these functions with the international financial institutions, or, you know, the oil markets, or wherever they need to, to carry on the functions of government.
QUESTION: A follow-up, too. The French, the Germans, and the Russians seem to be taking their own stance with -- I don't know -- any particular plan. How do you poll some of the other governments that weren't exactly finally in this coalition into this whole reconstruction and humanitarian effort?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you know, there is a meeting today in St. Petersburg. I haven't read any of the statements out of that meeting yet. I think, generally, our attitude has been that if we all focus on the future of Iraq for the sake of the Iraqi people, what we can do to help them get their economy going again, get their government organized, get a political structure that's representative, get rid of their weapons of mass destruction, live in peace with their people and their neighbors, that we all can contribute to that. There is a lot of work to do. We have been organizing a lot of it. We're trying to help the Iraqi people as much as we can, and we would hope others would want to do that as well. If that s the focus, there will be plenty of areas for cooperation.
QUESTION: Yes, are there going to be any Arab or other nations at the Nasiriya conference?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know at this point.
QUESTION: What about the representatives of the 5,000 long-suffering Iraqi refugees in Saudi Arabia? Are there going to be any preliminary --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know at this point. I was asked 20 minutes ago for the guest list, and nobody has given it to me in that intervening moment.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. suggested that NATO had quarters be moved out of Brussels because of Belgium's opposition to the Iraq war?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think our ambassador was misquoted in Belgian newspapers, and has provided the exact text of what he in fact said.
QUESTION: But that's never been -- that's never been a suggestion?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's not been a suggestion that we have made.
QUESTION: Well, on a Brussels question. Have you all gotten up to speed yet on the European plans to bring the reconstruction contacts before the WTO, or is your answer the same, and nothing more has been --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I have checked on it. I am told there is no, at this point, challenge.
QUESTION: No, no, it's not a challenge. They just said they were going to.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we'll see.
QUESTION: So the same thing you had to say yesterday, which was basically it would be a waste of time?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think. Let me just double-check and see if we have any more information on that for you. But I think the answer is there is nothing really that has materialized on that.
MR. BOUCHER: To our knowledge, there have been no complaints filed by European companies regarding the tenders. The process was in full compliance with the federal acquisition guidelines. Companies outside the United States, unless they are located in a terrorist country, are eligible to compete for subcontracting work under a waiver that was signed by the U.S. Agency for International Development in January.
Status of the contracts is two have been awarded to prime contractors. There is a third that was done through interagency agreement with the Air Force for logistical support such as warehousing and trucking. The remaining five contracts should be done in the next few days, in early next week. Normal procurement, as I said yesterday, normally can take upwards of six months or more.
So this is why an expedited process was used.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on a bunch of officials from Serbia in town coming to meet with people at the Department? And if you do, can you say if the ICTY cooperation, and the [inaudible] question is going to be a factor?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I don't have anything on a group of officials coming to town. As you know, the Secretary was just in Belgrade and discussed those issues there.
QUESTION: All right. And the last thing, can you say what changed about the security situation in Indonesia, which prompted you to allow your ordered departure diplomats to return?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get you something on that.
Released on April 11, 2003