State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 17
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC April 17, 2003
IRAQ 1-2 Training of Iraqi National Police /Establish Security in Iraq 2 Europeans Providing Peacekeepers for Iraq 2-4 Efforts to Safeguard Cultural Property 4-5 Iraq Representation at the April OPEC Meeting 5-6 Lifting of Sanctions / Oil-for-Food Resolution 6 New UN Resolution 6-7 Role of UN Weapons Inspectors 7-9 Governments Contributing to the Stabilization Phase 9 Efforts to Stop Looting and Stealing in Cities 13-14 Status of Abu Abbas Capture 23 Mujahedin-e Khalq Status as a Terrorist Organization
SYRIA 10-11 Secretary Powell s Possibly Travel to the Region /Publishing of the Roadmap 11-12 Support of Terrorism / U.S. Syrian Relations 12-13 Suppliers of Military Equipment to Syria
RUSSIA 12-13 U.S. Russian Relations
IRAN 14-15 Possibility of Talks Between Iran and the U.S.
CHINA / HONG KONG 15-16 Travel Warnings Revisions Due to SARS
CUBA 16-18 Passage of the Human Rights Commission Resolution
CHECHNYA 19 Defeat of the Human Rights Commission Resolution
ZIMBABWE 19 No Action Motion Adopted by the Human Rights Commission
TURKMENISTAN 19-20 Human Rights Commission Resolution Adopted
SUDAN 19 Human Rights Commission Resolution Defeated
NORTH KOREA 20-22 Assistant Secretary Kelly to Consult with Officials in Seoul and Tokyo
DEPARTMENT 22-23 Reaction to Violence on International Peace Activists in Palestine
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the solicitation of bids for the training of an Iraqi National Police? Can you go beyond where you went on Friday?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't think there's anything new other than the fact we mentioned there were 26 people being trained to go out with the Garner group to start working on organizing the police, and I think two of them are going to be there by the end of next week, or by next week sometime, but I think that's the only news.
The other elements of that, finding the somewhat larger group to go quickly, and then an even larger group to go eventually, is pretty much where it was when I talked about it last week.
QUESTION: Can you go into any detail about when the recruitment began? Was it April 1st? And why wasn't it started sooner?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me look back for a sec and see what the details are.
I think there's two elements to this. The first is that there is -- there are steps being taken right now to establish more security in Iraq and we're starting to see the visible effects of those steps. There are Iraqis who are trying to calm down the situation in various cities. The CENTCOM and the U.S. and coalition forces are taking more active effort on the ground to calm things down and stop the looting. They've been successful in many areas, already.
And then finally, they are getting the Iraqi police back to work. There's a new police chief in Baghdad. There are joint patrols in Baghdad with coalition forces. There are joint patrols in other cities. As we get these Iraqi police officers back on the job, and there are some 2,000, I think, who have responded already in Baghdad, it will be necessary to do the training, to do the creation of an eventual peace force that can be responsible for the security of Iraqi citizens, and that's where these other police, judicial and prison advisors come in.
So there are people that'll head out as part of the Gardner group. The Garner group -- sorry. And then there would be others, up to 150 that we expect to deploy in the near future after that. And then we're now in the limited competition to identify, deploy and support an additional 1,000 police advisors. Funding for that program was in the supplemental request. So the final size of that will depend on the needs assessment made by the initial group that goes in. But I think the answer to why all that hadn't been done earlier is because of the funding, to some extent.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Europeans providing peacekeepers for Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: No. They didn't say anything about it in their statement at the EU, did they?
QUESTION: Well, I thought the Netherlands and Denmark had made --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, well, I think that's -- what we have done, as you know, I think we've described this. We have been discussing with other governments what kind of contributions they could make to relief reconstruction and stabilization in terms of police, in terms of, perhaps, some military forces, in terms of gendarme, kind of slightly more organized police, more forceful police; and those discussions have been ongoing.
There have been a number of governments, quite a large number of governments, who've responded favorably. And we have been in a dialogue with other governments to try to identify the specific forces. And I think we have been very pleased so far that there has been a positive response to our call for other governments, other countries, to join us in the stabilization of Iraq, to give the Iraqi people a chance at a secure and safe future.
As far as the specifics of who will contribute what to that, it's still being worked out, but I'd also leave, as we have before, leave it to individual governments to describe what kind of contributions they might make.
QUESTION: Richard, related to this, I noticed that two members of the President's Commission on Cultural Property, or whatever it is, have resigned in protest over the fact that not enough in their view was done to prevent the looting of artifacts and other -- and other items from the museums in Iraq.
I'm wondering if you have anything to say about this. I know even though it's a White House appointment, this is a Commission at the State Department, it's a State Department (inaudible) if (a), you have anything to say about this; and (b), if, in retrospect do you think that things might have been done better in terms of protecting these things and -- I will leave it there.
MR. BOUCHER: There's a couple of things you have to remember in all of this: that the first goals of this military operation were to defeat a regime that has plundered Iraq for many years; to defeat a regime that had wasted Iraqi assets on weapons of mass destruction and had brutally oppressed its people; defeat a regime that had developed and safeguarded, tried to hide, weapons of mass destruction. That's a military task that they were out there to do.
There are many other things that need to be done in Iraq. Many other things need to be done in Iraq, partly by the coalition, partly by others, and partly by the Iraqi people themselves. But I think it's fair to say that the military had to concentrate on a very difficult task, and to do that right, in order to be able to take care of -- start taking care of these other things.
Safeguarding cultural property is something that's very important to us. And I think just the other day we gave you a statement from the Secretary of State that described a lot of the things that we are already doing to try to safeguard the cultural property and cultural heritage of Iraq. There's a -- there have been instructions by our CENTCOM, by -- for coalition forces to cooperate in this.
We have made very clear that U.S. law will be used to try to protect this stolen property should it show up in the United States. It's a matter of international law as well. It is prosecutable under either Iraqi law or U.S. -- the U.S. National Stolen Property Act. The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance will be working with the Iraqis to do that.
Law enforcement agencies are working with Interpol to do it, so there is a lot going on. There's a meeting at UNESCO today in Paris where the United States attends as an observer because we are not yet a full member again. But that, also, is trying to address and see what kind of role UNESCO can play, and we certainly welcome UNESCO's assistance in that regard. And, as the Secretary said the other day, we have been in touch with UNESCO as to what role they can play.
So there's a lot being done. I'm sure there is more that can be done and we'll be discussing that with others. Steps to stop the illicit trade I'm sure will be discussed up in New York, and we'll be doing further things.
I did see one wire service story. I think it might even have been AFP, that noted some reports that people who did the looting probably had keys to the vaults and keys to the safes. So it may be possible to identify who took some of these things and where they might be.
QUESTION: Right. So, in retrospect, you don't think anything could have been done, which is the question? And also, do you have any reaction to these resignations?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular reaction to a particular resignation, as you say, from the White House Commission. As far as in retrospect, whether there is more that could have been done, I think it's very hard to say that at this point.
QUESTION: Well, the reason I am asking is not only because of the resignations, but also because back starting in December, the State Department had been active, along with some people at the Pentagon, in bringing together scholars and archeologists to identify -- I think they ended up identifying about 4,000 different sites that should be -- that it would be good to avoid any kind of conflict or bombing around. But also in that report, they specifically talked about the problem -- what they expected to be widespread looting. And I realize that the military --
MR. BOUCHER: The problem -- no, I understand. I mean, it's one thing to say that we can avoid -- and we did very scrupulously identify key cultural and historical sites and avoid military activity, avoid bombing in those areas, even though we knew Iraq had this habit of parking military trucks, missiles and other sorts of things near cultural sites -- and we went to great pains to avoid any damage to those sites.
But it's, I think, if you ask the military, they will tell you it's militarily quite another thing to say that when we get near a town, those should be the first places we go to. Those can't necessarily be the first places we go to when you have to get rid of the regime, you have to get rid of the armed government and you have to get rid of the remnants of weapons of mass destruction and other programs that could be used against you and the local population.
QUESTION: Richard, who, if anyone, will represent Iraq at OPEC, at their OPEC meeting next Thursday?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have an answer to that yet. That ends up being a question that the Iraqis are going to have to figure out and decide their own representation at this meeting, and I don't have an answer yet on how they might do that.
QUESTION: At the moment, there is no, as far as I can discern, Iraqi governing authority, and the front page of The New York Times has a picture of six U.S. generals sitting in an Iraqi presidential palace. It would seem that the U.S. Government, to the extent that anybody controls Iraq, does.
And I'm wondering -- that's why I'm asking you the question and not some Iraqi whom I can't identify, who may go there. Do you have a position on this or do you simply --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an answer for you at this point. I'm sorry. It's a week away and a lot of things happen in the space of a week. There are meetings going on. There are Iraqis being identified who can take positions of responsibility in their government. There are people still in some of the ministries who might be able to exercise a certain amount of responsibility. Whether the process will be at that point by next week when there is an OPEC meeting, for Iraq to be represented there? I don't know. It's just not a question we can answer today.
QUESTION: One thing that -- I understand that. One thing that's related to this is OPEC has formally invited Iraq's last Oil Minister, Saddam's last Oil Minister, to the meeting. Is that acceptable to you at all?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I don't know if OPEC really expects this gentleman to show up or not. Until the Iraqis have the ability to decide their representation, maybe they won't be there. I mean, we'll just have to see.
The point is that not OPEC, not the United States, not the United Nations is going to decide what happens to the Iraqi oil resources. We've said all along that the Iraqi oil resources have to be safeguarded for the Iraqi people and that they have to make the decisions about their own natural resources. That remains our approach and that remains the approach that we should be taking.
How the Iraqis can decide and how Iraqi control of their own resources can emerge, how quickly it can emerge, is something that we'll just have to see. I can't say that some other timetable, some artificial timetable, somebody else's meetings outside the country, is going to determine who represents Iraq when it comes to oil. The Iraqi people need to be given a chance to control their own resources and make their own decisions, and that's based on their ability to stand up and take control of this precious resource, not on some outside timetable of meetings.
QUESTION: On Iraq, do we have a strategy for getting the sanctions lifted? Under current UN resolutions, you have to declare that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction in order to lift economic sanctions. The Russians today said that they would insist on that procedure being followed. Are we in a position to declare that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction? And if we're not, how do we get sanctions lifted?
MR. BOUCHER: Perhaps the most important thing you said is "under current resolutions." Obviously, sanctions would be lifted by a new resolution. And what that resolution would say would be determinant, right?
One has to accept the fact that with the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the need for economic sanctions goes away. It should be fairly obvious to everybody that we're not in the same situation that we were a month or two ago, or several years ago when other resolutions were passed.
At this point, UN Security Council resolutions are comprehensive and restrict most imports and exports, or at least require a certain amount of control.
In the end, in the future of Iraq, a future that's starting already, some restriction on trade and weapons would probably be necessary, but the need for broad economic sanctions goes away. The Iraqi people will be increasingly capable of taking care of their own affairs in that regard.
Sanctions that prohibit countries from buying or selling goods to Iraq, other than through the Oil-for-Food program, will not be need. The Oil-for-Food program is important because it's part of first, safeguarding their own natural resource base but also it's part of the food distribution system.
So we'll be working with the Security Council to ensure that the economic sanctions that were imposed because of the behavior of the Saddam Hussein regime are lifted so that Iraq can resume a normal trading relationship with the global economy, with its neighbors, and so that the aspirations and needs of the Iraqi people can be met.
QUESTION: Are you saying, then, that it's not necessary to have any sort of declaration that Iraq is free of WMD for sanctions to be lifted?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying we'll be discussing this with other members of the Security Council and the Security Council will decide in a new resolution what it wants to do in this regard.
QUESTION: And how urgent is that that we get this new resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: It's one of the things that needs to be done. There are a number of elements that need to be done. Some of them have more specific timetables like some of the Oil-for-Food actions, so I would just say probably in the near future. This is one of the things that needs to be done.
As the President said yesterday, it's important to recognize that we do need to lift sanctions on Iraq because they are no longer -- the situation's changed.
QUESTION: Richard, under the current system, the Security Council effectively has control of Iraqi oil sales. Do you accept that still applies? There's been talk about you perhaps invoking other regulations of an (inaudible) powers about how you can sell the oil.
Do you accept the current Oil-for-Food program as still the regime as provided the Iraqi --
MR. BOUCHER: We sponsored, advocated and work for an Oil-for-Food resolution, Resolution 1472. It gives the Secretary General authority, I think, until mid-May. At this point, I can't say what will happen then, but I would point out the United States was the active force behind giving that authority to the UN Security, to the UN Secretary General.
QUESTION: Would the new resolution in effect drop the requirement that there is a declaration of no WMD in Iraq? Or will there be a first, a resolution first saying that, stating that this condition doesn't -- no longer applies?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not -- I can't tell you what the resolution will say. It has not been written yet, but it is one of the things we'll be consulting with other members of the Security Council about. I just needed to point out that the new resolution will be the new resolution for a new circumstance and not necessarily just a repeat of old resolutions.
QUESTION: On the issue of WMD, one of the reasons you said that the inspectors weren't working in the first place is because of the lack of cooperation from the Iraqi regime. Now that that has been eliminated, do you see any reason why inspectors can't go back into the country to help you search for the WMD? They've said they would be willing to go.
MR. BOUCHER: We have not, at this point, defined what the future role of UN inspectors might be. Clearly circumstances have changed, but there is still dangerous activity in Iraq, the coalition forces continue their mission, which is to identify and secure weapons of mass destruction. That remains a job for the coalition forces. Once they've accomplished that job and we move through further stages along the way, I suppose we'll see what role other inspectors might have.
QUESTION: What was keeping force, or the peacekeeping force that's going to be established --
MR. BOUCHER: Call it stabilization, yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. Well, anyway, I --
MR. BOUCHER: Whatever.
QUESTION: We have some reports that United States has already decided that Germany, France and Turkey would be out of this force. Is there such thing and have you contacted any specific countries about the force?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've decided anybody, who's in and who's out. We've looked around for a number of countries to see who would be interested in making a contribution. There was a -- we've been in dialogue with a number of governments. A telegram went last night to several dozen nations to see if they were in a position to define a little further how they might fit together and where they might contribute, so no, I don't have anything specific on an individual government in or out of it at this point.
QUESTION: Can you tell us more about (inaudible) you just mentioned? Is this to the same --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't mention a memo --
QUESTION: He said telegrams.
MR. BOUCHER: I mentioned telegrams.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Was it just to the countries that have already indicated they're interested or was this another way to reach out to those who haven't yet suggested --
MR. BOUCHER: There has been an ongoing process with a number of governments and I think that we said a little while ago that there were 58 or so governments who had indicated an interest in contributing in one way or another to the relief, reconstruction, stabilization phase -- the period that's coming up in Iraq after coalition forces are able to defeat the regime, eliminate the weapons of mass destruction, identify and secure the weapons of mass destruction for elimination.
So, we got a lot of responses to the original discussions of that. We've had dialogue through our embassies, dialogue here with other nations, and so it's an iterative process that continues and so we've gone out last night with a cable that was a little more specific about the kinds of military stabilization or police stabilization forces that might be needed. It's not -- as I said, at this point, no, I can't put the package together for you yet and describe who is going to do what, and how it's all going to fit together, because we are just -- we are in a back and forth dialogue with other governments about doing that.
You asked, can you go any more further?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) for the 58.
MR. BOUCHER: What?
QUESTION: I asked if these memos went to the 58, or who have already indicated they want to help, or is this a memo still trying to draw in more countries for more support?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a telegram to ask our embassies to talk further with governments who had indicated some interest in participating in this phase in a military police, or other sort of security way.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you would it something the UN --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm asked if I can go -- I can't go into any --
QUESTION: Under whose authority would it operate?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't go any further at this point. This is -- elements are being worked out.
QUESTION: Well, is it fair to assume, Richard, then, that if you say that these went out to about two dozen, you mean 24?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say two-dozen, I said several dozen, which is a little more than that.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. All right. Yeah, you're right. You did say several dozen.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) question.
MR. BOUCHER: I thought you just did.
QUESTION: Well, do you think I would ask that banal a question?
MR. BOUCHER: No comment.
QUESTION: Several dozen. How many? Does that mean -- well, how many is that? Does that mean 58? I'm trying to figure out how many country -- you said that this is police and security.
MR. BOUCHER: I, Matt --
QUESTION: How many of the 58 of -- ?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a list about this long, about that long, and the type was about that big. I didn't count. I'm sorry. It was several dozen nations that we went out to. It's a subset of the 58. It's not all 58. It's those among the 58 who'd expressed interest, and it may be more who've expressed interest by now.
MR. BOUCHER: But among the countries who expressed an interest in participating, there were some who indicated a possibility that they might contribute in the security area. So we went back to those governments and said, "Let's try to define a little more detail how this might work."
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, according to reports, a lot of stealing and looting is going on right now in Kirkuk and Mosul. Against the residents by the Kurds for the two groups: anti-Talibani and the Barzani was over there. Is there anyone who can place a control because it's a mess right now? And there's a lot of protests from the human rights organizations all over. And I wondering what the U.S. force are doing to stabilize?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'll have to get a briefing from the military about exactly what we are doing in specific cities. I don't have the details of those particular cities. Politically, as you know, we have been working with the groups there. We put U.S. forces in that area to make sure that to the extent we can, that we take -- that all activities there by any group are coordinated with the United States. That's been our position. That's the position we have implemented through our efforts there. But the specifics of what we are doing in this town or that town, you'll have to get from the coalition military briefers.
QUESTION: Could you clarify what Secretary Powell meant yesterday when he said he'd be going to Syria? He expected to go to Syria again? Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I think he said again.
MR. BOUCHER: He --
QUESTION: That just means another time.
MR. BOUCHER: Yep, exactly. That's what he meant.
QUESTION: Okay. How soon -- I mean, is there a trip in the works?
MR. BOUCHER: There is not a specific trip on the books right now, but he generally expects that he will be going back to the region. I think he has talked also in some of the same interviews about his interest and the President's interest in being very active on the issues of the roadmap, on the issues of peace in the Middle East.
Some of that activity will be through his own travels and his own meetings; and he would expect to travel to the region in the near future, I guess I would say. And as part of a trip like that, he would expect to stop in Damascus.
QUESTION: Is that dependent on Syria's behavior between now and then?
MR. BOUCHER: It's really dependent on how we decide to move forward on peace in the Middle East, how he decides to get engaged more actively in that process. And he has been considering that, but as part of a trip like that, we would also be interested in talking to Syria, the government of Syria, about some of these particular issues that we have been pursuing: We have been pursuing in the Secretary's meetings and the Secretary's phone calls and the activities of our embassy and our Ambassador in Damascus.
QUESTION: But Iraq, not just Middle -- not just Israeli-Palestinian?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, is it -- would it be logical for us to assume that it's unlikely that he would go, make such a trip before the roadmap is actually published?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I don't know exactly when the roadmap can be published. They seem to be nearing, finishing the process of forming the government in the Palestinian legislature. So that seems to be coming fairly quickly and I wouldn't expect a trip before that.
QUESTION: Right. But such a trip is not dependent at all, pretty much, on what Syria does; it's more dependent on what is going on in the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Wait you're saying is more roadmap, and then Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: No. The fact of travel to the region is roadmap, peace in the Middle East, including Syria. In Syria, the agenda is not just peace in the Middle East, but it's also these issues with Iraq that we've been raising and we'll continue to raise, as well as terrorism and other things that we always raise when we go to Syria.
QUESTION: But I'm talking about the timing?
QUESTION: -- isn't quite right then, is it, that it doesn't have to do with Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: He was asking about timing. You were asking about topics. Okay?
All right. Elise.
QUESTION: Richard, we've heard a lot from Israel in recent days. Because of the recent public warnings and public rhetoric, if you will, that's been going on between the U.S. and Syria that Israel is kind of seizing the day and calling on the U.S. to get tougher with Syria. And a lot of people in the region see your recent warnings to Syria as part of some Israeli agenda. If you could respond to that, and also, how much of your concern about what Syria is doing right now is related to your desire to move forward on the Middle East and make sure that all the parties are cooperating?
MR. BOUCHER: These issues have been on the U.S.-Syrian agenda for a long time. Syria is, unfortunately, an original member of our list of state sponsors of terrorism. The issues of support for terrorism have been on the U.S.-Syrian agenda for many, many years.
The issues of weapons of mass destruction, the United States has talked publicly about that. We issue a report known as the 721 Report regularly that refers to Syrian programs for weapons of mass destruction. And, again, that's been an issue on our agenda for a long time.
The issues with regard to Iraq have obviously changed in recent weeks because of the military action next door to Syria. There have been some fairly important and urgent issues that we have taken up with the Syrian Government.
But the overall agenda with Syria is one that we have been very insistent upon and continue to be insistent upon. And we would hope that with the changed circumstances in the region where Syria will have a peaceful neighbor that is practicing democratic government, that is not developing weapons of mass destruction, that Syria and others would realize that that's the way to go to make the region more peaceful.
QUESTION: Can you speak to the issue of Israel in particular, that now --
MR. BOUCHER: The United States decides its own foreign policy. I don't think there's anything to say particularly about Israel's agenda with Syria. I'm sure they have their agenda with Syria, as well.
We have shared some of their concerns about Syria's support for terrorism. We share a lot of their concerns about Syria's activity in Lebanon and the activity of groups associated with Syria on Israel's northern border. But the United States decides our own agenda with Syria and we have been clear about it for many years.
QUESTION: One of the suppliers of some of this military equipment to Syria is Russia, as is true, of course, of Iran, as well. So how much -- in Secretary Powell's conversations with Ivanov, has he been stressing that it's very important for Russia not to provide anything more to Syria that could be used in weapons of mass destruction?
And beyond that, on the Russian relationship, there were these articles that came out over the weekend -- I think the Sunday Telegraph was first -- saying more evidence of Syria -- of Russian-Iraqi intelligence has surfaced as they go through some of these buildings. I just wanted you to respond to that.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that, either way, really.
QUESTION: Do you have anything old? We haven't heard anything.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything old on that, either. I don't think I've ever tried to talk about the Iraqi-Russian intelligence relationship, nor about Iraqi-Syrian military relations.
QUESTION: You can start now.
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry.
QUESTION: But you could talk about the discussions between Ivanov and Powell. I mean, isn't this something that comes up in their discussions? And is it affecting the relationship?
MR. BOUCHER: The subject of nonproliferation, generally, has been a very important one for the United States-Russian agenda. Under Secretary Bolton has discussed this many times in Moscow, many times with regard to particular nations. But at this point, I really don't have anything particular to add on relations between those two countries.
QUESTION: Have the Russians been responsive to our concerns?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, I don't have anything to add on relations between those two countries.
QUESTION: Will the issue of the Golan be raised during the Secretary's visit to Damascus? Because that, according to all the Syrian announcements and discussion about the issues between the United States and Syria, that is the issue that needs to be addressed. Is there going to be a roadmap for the Golan?
MR. BOUCHER: There are a great many issues that get addressed when the United States and Syria sit down and talk, a great many issues that have been addressed in the times the Secretary has talked with Foreign Minister Shara, a great many issues that are addressed by our Embassy on an almost daily basis.
As far as telling you which specific issues will be addressed during a trip that's not on the books, in meetings that haven't been scheduled, and papers that haven't been written for meetings that haven't been scheduled for a trip that's not on the books, let me hold off for the moment and not try to predict those meetings yet.
QUESTION: Could I have a -- are you ignoring the Syrian-Israeli problem, then, as you rush forward with the roadmap?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Richard, there were reports today on -- that Hezbollah might be choosing to attack American interests in the Middle East, Americans and American interests. Do you have any comment on that or any reaction to any move Hezbollah might make?
MR. BOUCHER: The story I saw was about remarks that were made a week before the start of the fighting, so I don't have anything new to say on that, no.
QUESTION: Has there been any further -- and I may be in the wrong place on this. Has there been any further contact with Italy or anyone else about Abu Abbas, or is this something that the Justice Department is basically going to handle?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we're handling the contact. Obviously, the Justice Department handles the question of the legal -- some of the legal aspects of this, along with our people.
What's new? We're looking at a variety of options to ensure that Abu Abbas is brought to justice. We have been in touch with the Government of Italy on this matter and continue to engage with the Italians as we review the options. And our Embassy has been in touch with the Italian Ministry of Justice.
QUESTION: So that's it? There's nothing else?
MR. BOUCHER: That's all there is for the moment. There's talks going on between -- we're looking at the situation and talking to the Italians.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that? Can I follow up on that, just --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you know -- I realize this is a question probably best addressed to the Justice Department, but do you know whether the Justice Department has come to the conclusion that the U.S. statute of limitations has expired on Abu Abbas' crimes?
MR. BOUCHER: I really think the legal aspects of this do have to be addressed by the Justice Department as far as crimes in the United States.
QUESTION: So you don't know the answer?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: A few questions on the topic of Iran.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Syria just for one more question?
QUESTION: Sure, go ahead.
MR. BOUCHER: We were on Abu Abbas a minute ago, but --
QUESTION: Can I do Iran and then go back to Syria? A week ago, former President Rafsanjani of Iran was quoted in an article as saying that the subject of relations with the United States should be addressed through a referendum or his own expediency council. It was a fairly positive statement, suggested the Iranians are now more interested in talking to us than they had been in the past.
What is our policy on this? If Iran -- if the Iranian Government comes to us and says they want authorized talks, bilateral talks, are we ready anytime, anywhere, anyplace to talk to them?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember the dogma on that. I'll get it for you.
MR. REEKER: You know what our concerns are about Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's true. We have concerns that need to be addressed. But as far as your aspect of how do we address them, let me get you the dogma on it.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on American companies purchasing Syrian oil refined from Iraqi oil smuggled through the pipeline? We've seen some recent reports about an uptick of that.
MR. BOUCHER: I've seen recent reports that say there's nothing coming through the pipeline. So it could be kind of hard to sell it unless it was being pumped.
QUESTION: Well, certainly over the last several years there's been a lot of oil that's come through the pipeline, and it's in the process of being refined and being sold as a Syrian export.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not aware of anything new on that. I have not seen anything on that. Sorry.
QUESTION: On a different subject?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll come back. It's okay. Go.
QUESTION: Can you explain the rationale behind the revision of the travel warnings as they relate to SARS, Hong Kong and China?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they said themselves that they were intended to clarify some of the actual practices of the governments involved. The one on China says it's being revised to inform U.S. citizens of updated requirements of the Government of China.
And the Hong Kong one, the Hong Kong one was to recommend that U.S. citizens consider deferring nonessential travel to Hong Kong because of the --
QUESTION: Well, wasn't that already the position? I'm just a little confused because it refers to CDC warnings, but other countries not mentioned by the CDC and regions are mentioned in these new travel warnings. So that's my confusion.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure. The CDC certainly mentions China and Hong Kong. Which ones are you talking about that aren't mentioned?
QUESTION: I was talking about Singapore and Hanoi.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Well, those are -- each of our travel advisories, travel warnings, describes exactly why it's being issued and why it's being updated and how it's being updated. So if you look in the first couple lines, you should find out what's new about it. And if you don't, then I'll go back to the drafters and tell them they didn't fulfill their mission. But I think it probably says so.
Betsy. Oh, sorry. Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, there are so many reports right now that some American company, following the questions of Elise, that they are trying to build up a pipeline from the Kirkuk and Mosul oil fields via Jordan oil, that Jordan sold to them Port of Haifa, the Safe of Israel. Do you have anything on that corporation?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen any such reports, but we need to go back to the basic premise. The Iraqis need to control their oil. We have done what we can to safeguard those resources for the Iraqi people. And any questions of pumping or pipelines or sales need to be put back in the hands of the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Do you know whether the U.S. is disappointed that the stronger resolution against Cuba in the UN Human Rights meeting today was not passed?
MR. BOUCHER: We voted for the amendments that Costa Rica proposed that would have made it a bit more up to date in terms of some of the recent events. But we are very pleased and we welcome the fact that the Human Rights Commission did pass a resolution on Cuba. It was -- the vote was, I think, quite solid. It was 24 to 20 to 9; 24 in favor, 20 against, and 9 abstentions.
It sends a strong message for the -- of support for the courageous Cubans who struggle daily to defend their human rights and their fundamental freedoms. It sends a strong message to the repressive regime of Fidel Castro. It shows that the international community is attentive to the human rights situations in Cuba, despite, perhaps, some hopes that we would be not paying attention because we are occupied elsewhere.
Latin American democracies in this example have, once again, demonstrated their leadership in the field of human rights, and their strong beliefs of democracy in the hemisphere. So we were glad to join with them on this resolution voting in favor, and were very pleased to see that it's passed.
QUESTION: -- there were a number of words that were successful (inaudible) that stronger, that stronger words condemning actions and not just calling for the UN rapporteur to be allowed in, which they never allowed anyway.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, these resolutions have consistently called for respect for human rights in Cuba. And unfortunately, the Cuban government has never respected human rights. But the fact is that a number of -- this was a very positive signal, a strong message, a good vote in Geneva today. And we are pleased to see that the resolution did pass.
QUESTION: Richard, how does it send --
MR. BOUCHER: George.
QUESTION: I don't see how this sends a strong message, since all it does is ask that Cuba allow a UN observer into Cuba without being judgmental at all, one way or the other, about the rights situation there.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we all know what the human rights situation is, and the fact that there is a human rights -- there is scrutiny of Cuba's human rights record, there is scrutiny of human rights record of Cuba at this point and time, and that there is a desire on the international community to keep looking carefully at Cuba's human rights situation. It does send a message that the international community is concerned about human rights in Cuba, and that we are intending to pay strong attention to this.
QUESTION: Richard, on this exact same thing.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Over the past couple of weeks, you, the Secretary, and the President have all come out and said that in the last -- over the last month, month-and-a-half, that the Castro Government and the things it's committed. It's, to me, it's the most repressing and the greatest wave of oppression in decades, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep.
QUESTION: Given that, and how -- George's question exactly -- the rights resolution is exactly the same resolution that was passed last year. And since last year's resolution that passed, they have committed the worst -- that you guys say -- they are in the worst wave of oppression in decades. How -- where is the message?
MR. BOUCHER: The message is that the world is watching. The message is that even the Human Rights Commission in Geneva is watching and that there are people around the world who are concerned about this situation. The message is that the Latin Americans are concerned about this situation. The message is that the United States and the Europeans are concerned about this situation and are watching and will continue to watch what's going on in Cuba. Any hopes they might have had that we were not paying attention, it seems to me, are dashed.
QUESTION: But the whole point is that because it was -- because the stronger amendments were defeated, it sends entirely the opposite message. It looks as if the world wasn't paying attention to what happened over the past couple of weeks.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't understand how you can try to get me to say that a victory, in terms of passing a resolution on Cuba, that says something about the human rights situation, that says the world is paying attention is somehow a defeat. It's not. It's passing a resolution that says the world is concerned about the human rights situation in Cuba. That's what we wanted; that's what we got.
QUESTION: On this, is the United States considering any actions of its own toward Cuba in response to the repression of the last several weeks, or more than a month now?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we are always looking at steps that might be taken, but I don't have anything new for you today.
QUESTION: On the Commission, in general?
MR. BOUCHER: Let somebody ask a question.
QUESTION: Let someone ask about the human rights?
MR. BOUCHER: Commission, in general; Human Rights Commission. Okay, that quieted the masses.
QUESTION: All right. Okay. Despite your extreme pleasure with the passage of the Cuban resolution, and the North Korea resolution, which I guess went through --
MR. BOUCHER: And the Belaraus resolution.
QUESTION: And the Belarus, which was your only -- the only one that you guys had actually sponsored by yourself.
MR. BOUCHER: And the Congo was adopted by consensus.
QUESTION: Yeah, I got a list here though. The one on Russia failed; the one on Zimbabwe failed; the one on Sudan failed. There was a resolution that condemned Israel. And I guess China escaped, but that was probably because of you, and you wanted them to escape. So, in general, given your concerns about --
MR. BOUCHER: We talked last Friday about our decision not to propose a resolution on China.
QUESTION: Given your concerns in general about the Commission, its membership, and its -- and its leadership, what does this -- what does this say? Was this a positive session?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a wrap up of the session yet, because I don't think the session is completely wrapped up.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, how about this? Can you address the failure of the -- Russia, Zimbabwe, and Sudan resolutions, and if you have any reaction to the resolution that condemned Israel?
MR. BOUCHER: On the resolution on Chechnya, it was defeated -- 15 voting in favor including the United States; 21 against, 17 abstentions. We voted in favor, as I said. We were satisfied that the resolution addressed human rights violations in Chechnya as well as terrorist acts in Russia. We're disappointed that many members of the Commission voted to defeat this resolution.
What were the others you wanted to hear about?
QUESTION: Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Israel.
MR. BOUCHER: Zimbabwe. The Commission adopted a no action motion -- 28 in favor of no action; 24 against, including the United States, and one obsession -- abstention. A no action motion, in effect, says that the Commission has no right to discuss the egregious human rights situations in Zimbabwe. Yet we believe that the use of the no action motion on country situations impinges on the mandate of the Commission. We call on democratic states that promote and defense human rights to oppose no action motions. We will continue to press the government of Zimbabwe to end human rights abuses.
What happened on Sudan?
MR. BOUCHER: He wants to know about Turkmenistan too? The resolution on Sudan was defeated by a vote of 24 in favor, with the United States on that side; there are 26 against; and 3 abstentions. We are disappointed that some influential members of the Africa Group have blocked this resolution. The United States sees this as a clear failure by the Commission to maintain a spotlight on the suffering imposed upon the Sudanese people. We call on all democracies to support human rights and the U.S. will continue to press the Sudanese Government to end human rights abuses. So that was the situation.
Turkmenistan, we are pleased that the resolution was adopted -- the situation there that had deteriorated since last November. Credible reports indicate that serious human rights abuses have occurred including widespread arrests, torture, and summary trials. Resolution is important in that it condemns these actions by the government of Turkmenistan with a strong recommendation for follow up action by other UN bodies.
Nothing on the Israel proposals.
QUESTION: Change topics?
QUESTION: On that, can you say anything about how you feel about the Israel resolution being passed?
MR. BOUCHER: I have probably said enough already, but I'll get you something later on Israel.
QUESTION: North Korea, is Assistant Secretary Kelly going to meet top Korean and Japan officials here tomorrow? What does he have to achieve in that meeting, and is he likely to go visit those two countries after the Beijing talks?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Assistant Secretary Kelly will hold consultations tomorrow with visiting officials from Seoul and Tokyo. He will be talking there about his upcoming talks in Beijing that we expect in the near future, possibly as early as next week, with the North Koreans and the Chinese together, as part of our ongoing and very close consultations with our South Korean and Japanese allies.
As far as where he might travel when he goes to the Beijing meeting, I don't have anything specific on that at this point.
QUESTION: Where is he now?
MR. BOUCHER: Upstairs.
QUESTION: And he's going to -- his meeting's going to take place tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: Here.
QUESTION: Oh, here. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: They are visiting here.
QUESTION: Still no date on the North Koreans?
MR. BOUCHER: Still no date on the talks with the North. We hope the meeting will take place in the near future, perhaps, as early as next week. That's as close as I can come to the date.
QUESTION: Will it before the security amendment?
MR. BOUCHER: We are taking bets on that. I'll give you the odds later.
QUESTION: The Secretary characterized that the talk next week as just a beginning of that long, intense discussion with North Koreans. Are there any assurance from North Koreans that they may have the second meeting, or any successive meeting they have, and if any assurances? What about the Japanese or South Korean involvement?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can give any statements or assurances on the part of the North Koreans at this point. But, as the Secretary made clear in his interviews in recent days, it should be seen as an opportunity for North Korea as well to come and put forward its concerns and its
issues, and to look for the international community to deal with those issues, just as we looked to North Korea to deal with the issues that we are raising, particularly the need for a verifiable and irreversible end to its nuclear weapons programs.
All along, we've been working very closely with the Japanese and the South Koreans, and well as with the Chinese and Russians. As you know, the fact of these talks that have just been agreed to, really, the ideas came from the Secretary's visit to Japan and South Korea in late February -- Japan, South Korea and China. And we told you during the trip, even though some people wrote stories that were the opposite, but we mentioned during the trip that we had talked about some ideas with Japan and we carried those ideas, talked about them with China. And since then, we've been working on a multilateral approach to talks. It has come to fruition in this incipient dialogue that will take place in China with the participation of the Chinese, as well as the United States and North Korea.
We are doing that in full consultations with Japan and South Korea. We certainly think Japan, South Korea and others, including Russia, have a contribution to make. In the meantime, we'll be suggesting their inclusion, but also keeping in very, very close touch with them before, during and after the discussions.
QUESTION: There was one other question today -- the hard bargaining won't begin until the Japanese and the South Koreans are involved directly in the process.
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose that's a prediction of some kind. I would find it very hard at this point to predict how this will proceed. Let's start with the initial meetings. I'm sure we're going to be raising issues and North Korea will be raising issues, China will be raising its concerns, its thoughts. China is a participant in the talks and has always supported the denuclearization of the peninsula. So the various parties that were there will raise different issues, and we'll see how it proceeds after it's started.
QUESTION: Richard --
QUESTION: On Korea, have we developed any thoughts of how North Korea might verifiably disarm? Any proposals that might be discussed with them?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any proposals to discuss at this point, no.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say, Richard, that the format, the three-way format, was actually agreed upon either during or very shortly after the Secretary returned from the region, and that you guys had been holding off on really saying anything about it until you got -- until you saw the expression of interest from -- over this past weekend, I believe it was, from the North Koreans?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it would be fair to put it that way. The way I would put it is that during the Secretary's visit in late February he talked to the Japanese, the South Koreans and the Chinese about some ideas on how we could get a multilateral discussion going, how we could make sure that the United States and North Korea had a chance to put their issues on the table, but also the broader concerns of the international community were represented there as well. And so we looked to start in a multilateral setting, as he said, and he had some ideas that he discussed during that trip.
Since then, these ideas have evolved. They have been discussed with the Chinese. They've been discussed with the Japanese, the South Koreans, in the meetings that Assistant Secretary Kelly has had, in the meetings the Secretary has had, in the meetings the Secretary had with the Chinese in New York subsequently, subsequent to his trip. They've also been pursued by our ambassadors in these places as they have developed into this more concrete aspect of a forum.
At this point, it looks like that will happen, but we'll see when it happens.
QUESTION: There is a ministerial meeting tomorrow in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I was wondering how -- basically, to address regional issues from the bordering countries around Iraq. I was wondering how that might fit into a conference schedule of similar conferences like the one in An-Nasiriya that happened this week, if that might be fitting in, or how the U.S. and coalition are coordinating that with countries in the region.
MR. BOUCHER: The simple answer is I don't know. I have to check. Are we there? Do you think we're there?
QUESTION: Are you hearing anything from Jack Straw from his recent trip there?
MR. BOUCHER: We're hearing a lot from Jack Straw about everything he does, and we tell him everything we do. But I don't have anything specific to brief on his behalf.
QUESTION: Can you give us any further guidance on the Department's reaction to the wounding and killing of international peaceniks in Palestine? And could you take a question on the Israeli supreme court decision that flechettes can be used, continue to be used in Gaza and other areas, the West Bank, which seems to be a violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything specific on that, and I'm not sure I will. As you know, if there are violations, they get reported to Congress, but I don't think we've made any such reports.
As far as the issue of the violence with regard to peacekeepers, I don't have anything more specifically on that.
QUESTION: So that means --
MR. BOUCHER: But how did you describe them? Peaceniks?
QUESTION: Not peacekeepers. Peace activists.
MR. BOUCHER: Peace activists. That's what we talked about. Yeah, I don't -- peace advocates. I don't have anything new on that.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any language on the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the Foreign Terrorist Organization whose bases have been targeted recently by U.S. military in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Slow down. The answer is yes. I just have to find it. But the language I have is to say what you just told me, that Mujahedin-e Khalq is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Department of State, as we note in our Patterns of Global Terrorism Report. This group mixes Marxist ideology and Islam and is engaged in anti-Western attacks, including support for the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and terrorist attacks inside Iran during the 1970s that killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians.
The Mujahedin-e Khalq's forces were fully integrated with Saddam Hussein's command and control, therefore constituted legitimate military targets that posed a threat to coalition forces.
And, obviously, on the targeting of those facilities I would refer you to CENTCOM.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, then, can you address -- because it also says in the Patterns of Global Terrorism that an alias for this group is the National Council of Resistance. Am I correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, a front organization with financial ties.
QUESTION: Front organization, right. These people have an office in the National Press Club and give press conferences regularly at hotels around Washington, including at the Willard, which is less than, you know, less than a mile from the White House.
Can you explain how, if these people are a legitimate military target in a war against Iraq, they are allowed to do this in the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll check.
QUESTION: Thank you. [End]
Released on April 17, 2003