State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 22
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC April 22, 2003
QATAR / OMAN / UNITED ARAB EMIRATES / BAHRAIN 1 Cancellation of Travel Warnings 1-2 World Wide Caution and Public Announcement
PALESTINIANS 2-4 Leadership and Formation of Abu Mazen s Cabinet 3-4 Secretary Powell s Phone Calls to Other Governments 3 United States Reaction to Nabil Shaath 3-5 Status of Yasser Arafat / Reaction to Abu Mazen 5 Contact with Jerusalem
DEPARTMENT 5-7 Comments by Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich 7-8 Gingrich Comments on Congressional Hearings 12-14 Gingrich Comments on Foreign Policy 15-16 Patterns of Global Terrorism Report
SYRIA 5 United States Policy on Syria 21 Iraqi Border Concerns
AFGHANISTAN 5-6 New Roads and Other Reconstruction
IRAQ 8 United States Policy on Iraq 9-11 Status on the Lifting of Sanctions in Iraq 11-12 Oil for Food Program 12 Status of Iraqi Embassies & Diplomatic Missions 14 Iranians Coming into Iraq / Pilgrimages 16-17 Corporate Donors Conference in Iraq 19-20, 22 General Garner / Stabilization of Iraq 20 Deputy Assistant Secretary Ryan Crocker s Participation in April 26th Follow-up Meeting in Ira
q TURKEY 15 Terrorists Concerns in Northern Iraq / Reconstruction
KOREA 8, 13, 23-24 Assistant Secretary Kelly s Travel / Discussions
UNITED NATIONS 9 Role of United Nations in Iraq 9-12 United Nations Security Council Discussions 17-18 Status of Weapon Inspections in Ira
q FRANCE 18-19 Views on NATO and North Atlantic Council 18-19 Relationship with United States
NAURU 20-21 Defections of North Korean Nuclear Scientists
NIGERIA 22-23 Status of Elections /Electoral Laws
SRI LANKA 23 Tamil Tiger Statement / Future
MR. BOUCHER: Just a note at the beginning. We'll give you a short statement. The Travel Warnings for Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have been canceled. The situation is such that we've been able to allow the return of family members and non-emergency personnel to those posts. And there is no substitute, but people should continue to be aware of the Worldwide Caution that applies to this area as well as the Public Announcement on the Middle East and North Africa, all of which still apply and deal with the dangers to safety and security of travelers.
QUESTION: So Richard, on that note, Syria and Kuwait remain?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's see if I actually have a list of the remaining ones. No, I don't. I'll have to get it for you.
QUESTION: Okay. And what's the relation between this and your Worldwide Caution of yesterday? It would seem to -- the Worldwide Caution seemed to suggest that you guys feared now in the post-war environment that there might be -- that the threat was still there, or even the fact that, yeah, it could be getting worse --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you know, domestically --
QUESTION: -- due to resentment --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, domestically we've changed the threat situation from orange back to yellow. Internationally there is still a danger out there. There is still at threat out there, potentially, to American travelers. Although the end of the major hostilities in Iraq puts us in a new situation, it has to be noted in revised language. I don't think by any means we would think that the threats occasioned by U.S. military action or the possible reaction to U.S. military action has gone away, although, in the final analysis, there was, perhaps, a little less activity during that period than one might have feared, and glad that we were able to do what we could to make that possible.
QUESTION: But my question really is, does this mean that you're lifting the Authorized Departure for these four countries, but yet yesterday you put -- and you've also allowed people back to Pakistan and back to Israel, but you're also warning of possible new threats. So I guess, is there -- are there Travel Warnings staying in place for these four countries?
MR. BOUCHER: No, these countries didn't have other warnings. It was solely based on the situation -- the threat level that created Authorized Departure.
I think the basic message is, although there is a lessened threat in some of these specific places and we feel comfortable allowing our people to return, and although there is an end to the immediate major hostilities in Iraq, no one should conclude that, you know, we're -- it's back to perfectly normal. It's a lessened threat, something of an improvement in the security situation as regards American travelers, but there are still dangers and threats out there and people need to go to the website, read the Travel Warnings and understand what they are. They're just a little different, perhaps a little less than they were during the period of conflict.
QUESTION: Can I ask it just in a very simple way? Can you explain why it is you believe the threat is less in those four particular countries? Is it the end of the major part of the hostilities, or is it something else?
MR. BOUCHER: I think certainly the end of hostilities has a lot to do with the reactions in various places by local populations, possibly by groups. In other parts of the region and around the world, we've been successful in taking some actions to forestall threats that might have existed, threats that might have come from Iraqi intelligence or other sources. So it's a combination of action by us and other governments, as well as, sort of, a natural subsiding of threat as the period of major hostilities is coming to a close.
QUESTION: I don't know if you have anything to add to what you said yesterday, but the situation in the Palestinian hierarchy seems to be getting worse, and the standoff, reports that your choice for prime minister might resign. Is there any way the U.S. Government can somehow bring this to a happy conclusion?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, this is a matter for the Palestinian legislature to decide. It's their choice for a prime minister. It's his choice of a government. Our view has been that there needs to be leadership in the Palestinian community that can take responsibility, take responsibility for all the areas of running a government and establishing a Palestinian state over a period of time. That kind of opportunity that exists now to do that is a significant opportunity and it shouldn't be missed.
So we're following the discussions very carefully on the formation of Abu Mazen's cabinet. As we've said the formation of a strong, empowered Palestinian leadership is in the interests of the Palestinian people. We're confident that Abu Mazen can choose a cabinet that would be confirmed and supported by the Palestinian Legislative Council, and it would be a cabinet that is capable of taking the steps that are needed to benefit the Palestinian people.
We've been making that view known. I think that that view is, in fact, widely shared by many in the international community. The Secretary, himself, has been in touch with a number of people, who have either traveled or have been otherwise in touch with the Palestinian leaders, and he's, we've -- certainly our embassies and other contacts we've made known our views on these things.
QUESTION: Would Prime Minister Blair be one of them? Because he's been --
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has been in touch with Foreign Secretary Straw. I don't know exactly what phone calls Prime Minister Blair might have made. As I think I mentioned yesterday, the Secretary talked yesterday with the Russian Foreign Minister, the European High Representative, the Greek Foreign Minister, the Israeli Foreign Minister. Today he's talked to Foreign Secretary Straw. He's talked to the Qatari Foreign Minister, as well. And so this subject always comes up.
There is strong international interest in seeing an empowered prime minister with his choice of cabinet so that we can get on with the work that benefits the Palestinian people. And any delay, any obstruction to that process is really just hurting the Palestinian people and keeping them from achieving their aspirations.
QUESTION: Do you think that Nabil Shaath was -- his name was mentioned. He met Colin Powell many times, the Secretary. Do you think his name is objectionable or you can accept him?
MR. BOUCHER: We're not choosing the individual. What we do notice, an individual has emerged, an individual has been chosen who is picking a cabinet. And I think it's quite clear to all the observers that that's a cabinet that could do the job and a cabinet that could be endorsed by the Palestinian Legislative Council. There's no reason to delay. There's no reason to change this process. And there's every reason to support the idea that the prime minister needs to be able to choose his cabinet. You don't have an empowered prime minister; you don't have a leadership that's capable of establishing the institutions of a state unless the leaders get to choose the members of their cabinet.
And so given the situation we're in now, we have somebody who can do the job, who has people who can be approved of, according to most observers, by the legislature, and the need to get on with it. It's important that they not miss this opportunity and start suddenly looking for alternatives to something that looks like it will, clearly to all, that it will work.
QUESTION: Can I add something -- ask one more part? It's a little touchier. But it isn't just choosing a cabinet. What the administration, the President, was looking for is a new order, a new leadership.
MR. BOUCHER: A leadership, yeah.
QUESTION: New leadership. And don't -- isn't it apparent already, no matter how this plays out, that Yasser Arafat is still a very powerful, potent force, as most people out there think he is, in the Palestinian leadership? If he is able to stymie the prime minister this long and get him to the point where he seems to even being considering giving up -- you know, giving it up, doesn't that mean that it's got to come out that Arafat is still the leadership?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not prepared to draw a conclusion at this point. You started your sentence with no matter how this plays out. I think we're going to have to see how this plays out and whether an empowered prime minister is able to choose his cabinet, is able to take control of all the areas that need to be dealt with, is able to form the kind of leadership that can create a Palestinian state and is able to carry forward in the Palestinian community with the support of the legislature to do what needs to be done so that they can form a state.
QUESTION: Richard, this is obviously a matter of high importance to the United States, considering the laundry list of phone calls the Secretary has gone -- you've talked about (inaudible). I'm curious as to why, if it is such a priority, he hasn't called either one of the two protagonists in this fight, either Abu Mazen or Arafat himself? I realize that you guys don't want to deal with Arafat, but, you know, sometimes you have to deal with the devil if you're trying to -- if you're trying to get something done, and it's -- he is the obstacle. Why is there not any Secretarial level pressure directly on Arafat or on Abu Mazen, himself?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that I think all the parties on the Palestinian side are very, very aware of American views. As you know, we don't speak directly to Mr. Arafat, but I think he's quite aware of what our views are. And second of all, we are in close touch with others in the Palestinian community, other leaders, including Abu Mazen and various other people. So we've been in touch. It just hasn't been phone calls the Secretary has made. But they are quite aware of our views. We're keeping in close contact with the people. That's why we think it is fair for us to say that there's an opportunity here that the legislature could take this step and approve this cabinet, if it's allowed to be formed.
QUESTION: I don't understand. Why don't the Palestinians merit a direct call from the Secretary when the Spanish, the Russians, the Brits, the Foreign Minister of Qatar --
MR. BOUCHER: I guess it's because it's -- certainly, many people merit a call from the Secretary of State. I'm sure many people would like to receive a call from the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State makes phone calls to do things, and if we're --
QUESTION: Well, you're trying to get going here --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, stop. If we're comfortable that these people understand our views, if we're comfortable that Abu Mazen and others know of our support for this process, that people in the Palestinian Legislative Council know of our support for this process, there may not be a particular operational need for a phone call. And that's just what I'm saying.
QUESTION: -- for a phone call to the Brits because they agree with you on all of this.
MR. BOUCHER: There's plenty of coordination that goes on with the British and others about what we're going to do and how we're going to carry out our common goals.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the fact that you don't have a -- you don't have any -- nobody has replaced Schlicher. You're following up Matt's point. If the Secretary, and you know, for whatever his reason are, isn't in touch with the players, normally you would think that you'd have somebody in Jerusalem in touch.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have people in Jerusalem who are in touch with people throughout the leadership, throughout the Palestinian community. Ambassador Burns is also in touch with those people directly from here.
Charlie, you had something else, or not?
QUESTION: Well, it was the same point I was --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, then it's answered.
QUESTION: You just said you were in touch with Abu Mazen. Do you know why this disagreement occurred now between Arafat and Abu Mazen?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a question for political commentators and I'm sure they'll write at great length about it. I don't think it's for me to do that here.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MR. BOUCHER: Move on? Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. Gingrich's speech this morning, I had wondered whether you had prepared any kind of answer to these accusations against the State Department.
MR. BOUCHER: I had a chance to skim the speech and I think, first of all, it's important to deal with the policy issues. Number one on his list was Syria. You've seen what the President said on Syria yesterday. I don't have anything more to say about the subject. I think the President gave the definitive word from the administration about how we want to approach the issues with Syria, about what we've been looking to achieve and what the President said he, the President, has some confidence that we can resolve these issues with Syria. So I don't know why he is particularly looking in our direction if we're implementing the President's policy on Syria.
That applies to several other areas as well. I note there is one specific in there about the road in Afghanistan, and since I have the opportunity, I'm going to tell you all about the road in Afghanistan, which may be a little more useful.
Everybody knows you can't pave roads in Afghanistan. You can't put down asphalt in Afghanistan in the wintertime. And I think that's something well known to all of you. But as it's springtime now, we're in a position to put down some asphalt, but the road is proceeding quite well, actually. It's well underway. It's on schedule -- design, de-mining, removing all the asphalt, and even grading has been completed for 49 kilometers of the Kabul-Kandahar highway. Even without asphalt, the new road allows increased speeds from 35 kilometers an hour to 120 kilometers an hour. (Laughter.) Hopefully, we will put in speed signs, and radar goes in next.
Asphalt cannot be laid during the winter. Now that it's spring, that process is underway. A contract is about to be awarded for the next 50-kilometer segment. Design is nearly complete for the following 96 kilometers, which would complete the originally planned segments for the U.S. Government.
On a broader scale, I think we have done well by Afghanistan. We've put children, particularly women and girls, back in school; we've established irrigation system; the road project is well underway -- in a very short period of time. And a lot is being done for the people of Afghanistan and will continue to be done for the people of Afghanistan that provides direct benefit to their lives. And I think we should expect to see the same thing in Iraq, as well.
QUESTION: And specifically on the Quartet, where he says that the State Department is deliberately and systematically trying to undermine the President's policies by allowing others --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm kind of left scratching my head, which I will do just for television that you have to kind of wonder. December 20th, the President gave his position on the Quartet, so I don't know what's being criticized here. How can we undermine the President's position when the President's position is the one that he describes, that we should work with the international community, we should work with the Quartet. It has been clearly recognized all along by us and by other members of the Quartet and by the parties concerned that the United States has a major and important role in all this, but that doesn't preclude us from working with others in trying to achieve the President's goals with the President's means and the President's endorsement in the Middle East. So I would invite people to read the President's statement on December 20th about the Quartet. If you want to know what U.S. policy is about the Quartet, what our policy is about the Quartet, that's exactly what it is.
QUESTION: I'd like to also bring up a couple of the other things he said, and the nastiness of the tone of the speech.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to say anything about that, then.
QUESTION: I mean he leveled some pretty serious accusations. He called the State Department a broken tool of foreign policy. He said that the Department's Near Eastern Bureau supports -- is interested in propping up dictators. And, I mean, some of --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't have a chance to look. I suppose that's the way he's put things, probably, for 10 or 20 years, so I didn't focus that much on the tone. The State Department is here to carry out the President's policy. In every one of these instances that is being cited, we are doing that effectively; we are doing that loyally; we are doing that diligently; and we are doing that with a fair amount of creativity and accomplishment. That is what we are here to do. We carry out the President's policy. And I think we are doing so very well, frankly.
QUESTION: One other thing he said though is that he wants an overhaul of the Department and that he wants to schedule -- not that he can do it himself, of course, but that he'd like Congress to schedule hearings. He wants a task force appointed to look into State Department workings.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary appears at more Congressional hearings, I think, actually than any previous Secretary of State. He has done 12 -- 10 to 12 every year. I forget where we are in this year's cycle, but there is a few more to come. So there is no lack of Congressional oversight. There is no lack of coordination with the Congress, and the Secretary has worked very closely with members of the Congress, as has Mr. Armitage. And I think if you look at their statements, particularly the, I mean, every hearing we go to, people in the Congress talk about a new relationship, about welcoming the effort that the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary have made to keep working with people up on the Hill. And I think you can find those statements pretty readily.
As far as, sort of, review commissions and things like that, I mean, first of all, I'll tell you that this management team has already made a number of changes in management and other areas in the Department of State and will continue to do so as necessary. And second of all, there are regular reviews. There's all kinds of commissions that have looked at this. There was just a report released last week by 11 organizations, together. I think Ambassador Tom Boyatt sort of helped organize them, and that just came out last week that provides a fairly comprehensive review of a lot of things that we are doing -- very strong praise, but also some criticism or suggestions about more we can do in certain areas, so that kind of thing goes on. We look at these things. We take them to heart. We try to continuously improve what we are doing.
QUESTION: Richard, as you mentioned, the Secretary is up on the Hill quite a bit. Every time he goes up there he always, at some point in his testimony, thanks the lawmakers who are there for their wise counsel and advice. Does the same apply to former Congressmen who offer their unsolicited opinions about the failings of the State Department?
And I just have one other --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to make any sweeping generalizations about everything that everybody says about us. I think when the Secretary goes up on the Hill and is talking to the Senators and the Congressmen who are in the leadership or who are in the leadership of the Foreign Affairs Committees or the Appropriations Committees, it's not just a generic comment, it's a specific comment because many of these people are very helpful and are very important to the accomplishment of our foreign policy goals.
QUESTION: But that doesn't apply to these comments?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll leave it to the specific moment to --
QUESTION: Un-elected commentators are not particularly --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't comment on commentators all the time. There are a lot of commentators, some of whom have been Congressmen in the past.
QUESTION: And then just -- does the State Department feel that it was basically saved from its own incompetence by the Pentagon and Defense Department planners in the question of Iraq, or is that something that --
MR. BOUCHER: No, somehow that thought never occurred to us. The policy towards Iraq is an administration one, it's the President's policy, it's the only thing that's matters is what does the President want and how can we help him get it? We did our part. We got -- he went to the UN September 12th said, I need the UN to take hold of this matter and do something. We got him Resolution 1441 by a vote of 15 to 0. The Secretary of State personally worked on that.
The President said we have to decide, we decided. We got ourselves allies. We made it possible, even without the second resolution -- or the 18th -- as we called it at the time, for many coalition partners to come with us even though they had been the ones who wanted that resolution. But we had laid enough of the foundation of international support, legitimacy, and rationale that they were able to go to their parliaments, get support, and come with us.
So I don't think we have anything to apologize for. I think this has been a broad effort on behalf of the whole administration to support a very important policy of the President, a series of decisions by the President, and I think we are proud to have been able to do our part.
QUESTION: Richard, did anybody suggest that Mr. Bolton should go to Beijing to meet the North Koreans rather than Mr. Kelly?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I am aware of that -- and no -- that said, I didn't have a chance to talk to anybody. No. I don't know if the suggestion was or was not made. What I will say is that the decision was made by the administration to send Mr. Kelly. We thought that was the appropriate level for these discussions, particularly given that their initial discussions, particularly given Mr. Kelly's personal involvement with the issue. Mr. Kelly was the one who put it straight up to the North Koreans in October about what the North Koreans were up to, about what they were losing out on. He has been the one who has coordinated our policy on this, and there is no question of how he deals with this issue.
QUESTION: Going back to the United Nations and Iraq, can you talk about what role, if any, the UN weapons inspectors may have in the future, and also the broader issue about the leverage that the UN does or doesn't have over a variety of issues, such as the money in the escrow account and future exports of oil?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, that was scratching my head to see if I can remember everything, not because it was a bad question.
The question of UNMOVIC or the weapons inspectors from the UN, we are not at that point yet. There is going to be a discussion today with the Security Council and the inspectors. There is going to be another discussion today, perhaps that is a little more timely of reconstruction assistance with Benon Sevan and the Security Council. So the Security Council is keeping itself updated on these issues and talking with the people who are available and have some knowledge in these areas. That's what the Security Council does from time to time.
But in terms of weapons inspectors, the U.S. forces are on the ground. There are still dangers in the situation. The items need to be found, they need to be identified. The process needs to get underway, and the U.S. force is the only one -- the coalition force is the only ones who are able to do that at this point. Whether at some point down the road there becomes another role for other inspectors or international inspectors or UN inspectors, I think we'll just have to see. But for the moment, the work of identifying, securing these items is in the hands of the people on the ground, the coalition forces who are dealing with the situation there.
As far as the broader question of lifting sanctions, we have all made clear, I think, recently from the President on down that it's time to lift sanctions. Soon it will be time to lift sanctions, put it that way. We said sanctions need to be lifted at the appropriate time; has to be done in coordination with events on the ground so we know how it's going to work; but that the situation has changed. We need to take account of the new situation, not perpetuate old rules, but rather, deal with the new situation that has been created in Iraq, and to give the Iraqi people a chance to take hold of their own destiny, to lead normal lives, to have normal trade, to have normal exports, to have normal imports, normal business opportunities like anyone else.
And that needs to be managed, in light of the new situation, not based on old resolutions. The Security Council can do that if the Security Council focuses on the situation now.
QUESTION: You said this is going to need coordination, (inaudible) does the White House agree with the State Department type of story? The White House just said today that there is no need for sanctions anymore. They have run their course. Their need has disappeared.
MR. BOUCHER: Isn't that what I said?
QUESTION: No, that's what they said. What you said, they had to be coordinated, but that's not inconsistent with the fact --
MR. BOUCHER: No, there is no need for sanctions anymore.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: How they are lifted will be done in conjunction with other events that take place on the ground. But there is no need for sanctions anymore. We are clearly in a new situation. I note there are some reports of one of the ambassadors in New York talking about suspending the sanctions. Well, that's not the situation we're in.
The situation where maybe a move, you know, sort of in the right direction, some beginning of understanding that the situation is different, but the situation is so much different that there is no reason for the sanctions anymore, and we need all to look at how they can be lifted, and how the Iraqi people can go back to a normal relationship with the world.
QUESTION: But don't the inspectors have to go in and verify that there are no more weapons of mass destruction for the sanctions to be able to be lifted, I mean by the very resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: The simple answer is no. The Security Council has the authority to decide what to do. And there are many people who under the -- when the Saddam Hussein regime was in charge of Iraq, wanted to lift sanctions for many years, and they argued this way and that even though he hadn't complied. Now that that regime is no longer there, now that there is no one in Iraq with the intention of developing weapons of mass destruction, the ability of developing weapons of mass destruction, or the likelihood of using them, there is a different situation. The Security Council needs to respond to that situation, not to pretend that the old rules, which they tried to change back, then somehow apply now. It just doesn't make much sense, frankly.
QUESTION: If I can follow up on that, Richard. In an instance such as Yugoslavia, however, there were certain conditions that you put on the new government that had to be certified in order to lift sanctions. So how would this be different?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure what you're talking about. I mean the situation in Yugoslavia, until the fall of Milosevic, was the fact that there was a regime in place that was not cooperating. There were a number of areas that needed to be accomplished. With the fall of Milosevic, many of those things changed, but not all of them. The fact is, in Iraq everything's changed. Everything has changed and people need to understand that.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm confused --
MR. BOUCHER: He's confused, too, but anyway -- Jonathan.
QUESTION: Yeah, a couple thing. You did say they should be lifted at the appropriate time and then you said there's no need for them now. What -- which kind of implies that there is at least something else which needs to happen before they are completely removed or completely forgotten, at least. What is that thing that -- what makes it --
MR. BOUCHER: I guess the way I'd put it is that there are obviously aspects of this that need to be worked out.
QUESTION: Like what?
MR. BOUCHER: Like the escrow accounts, the feeding, the fact that the Iraqi people are heavily dependent on the Oil-for-Food program for food. Under the old -- the Iraqi people got 60 percent of their -- 60 percent of Iraqi people got their food through the Oil-for-Food program. You have to make sure that as you adjust these things that they continue to get the food. You have to deal with issues of markets. You have to deal with issues of oil sales and purchases and things like that. All I would say is there are some things that need to be worked out, but there is no fundamental reason to have any sanctions on Iraq at this point other than a few normal controls on sales of weapons.
QUESTION: Are you seeing any shift in the Security Council on this? And are you putting any specific proposals to them on these details, which have to be worked out?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have started to discuss with other members of the Council how this process can work, how to do this. Whether there is any shift or not, I'll leave it for others for a count for. I suppose the statement today by French Ambassador about a suspension indicates some understanding of the new situation, although, as I indicated, perhaps not a complete understanding of how much things have changed. But that process is underway of consultation with other friends, and I'm sure it will continue in New York.
Okay, we've got people in the back.
QUESTION: Can we follow up on the French ambassador thing, which is relevant? What he is quoted as saying is, "immediately suspending the sanctions and gradually phasing out Oil-for-Food." Is that closer to what you all might want? In other words, sanctions go away but you maintain Oil-for-Food, so that you can deal with some of these other issues?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that all these things are not worked out, but if you suspend sanctions, they don't go away. The rationale for having them somehow still exists. And we think the rationale is gone, and therefore the sanctions ought to be done.
QUESTION: May I follow up on that? Yesterday, you seemed to leave the impression with us that you would you like Oil-for-Food to continue until, more or less, there is an Iraqi authority that can take control of Iraq's oil. Is that a correct understanding of what your position is?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, the exact timing of all this is not worked out and remains to be decided. But clearly one has to make sure that the Iraqi people are able to benefit from the Oil-for-Food program, as they have in the past, and that they are also able to come over and take charge, themselves, of all these matters. So how those things are synchronized, coordinated -- whatever, is one of the issues that has to be looked at. So I can't give you an answer, but the issue you raised is a real issue that has to be worked out.
QUESTION: So you guys say you have not decided what you want on that? Regardless of whether it's decided with the other members of the Security Council, what is your position on it?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have some ideas that we're discussing with other members of the Council, but I'd have to leave it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say if you know of any Iraqi embassies that might be still functioning with people who worked for the previous regime, and are you doing anything with host governments to make sure that these people don't use, don't have access to finances that might be in some banks so that they can't escape to some safe havens somewhere in the world?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on it again. It's a good question. As you note, in the last few weeks, we've gone several times to other governments about Iraqi intelligence officers and then about just the status of Iraqi diplomatic missions, period, and the need to keep their assets from being looted or taken away. So that is an issue on the agenda. I'll have to see if we've gone back again in this newer situation on that.
QUESTION: Yeah, can I just go back to Gingrich for one second? Despite your reputations and everything, he said what he -- what his allegations, some of which are not just based on, kind of, State Department -- accusing the State Department of obstructing, but some of them border kind of on treason in terms of trying to undermine the President's policies. Are you -- I realize you don't accept those, and you would deny them, but are you concerned at all at the amount of attention, particularly the amount of attention it gets from being on the front page of a huge newspaper, that overseas that you guys are going to be perceived -- that this is going to damage whatever efforts you have, you're undertaking, on any number of foreign policy issues? Or do you think that people will see them for --
MR. BOUCHER: People will judge us by what we do. People will judge us by whether we bring a better life for the people of Iraq. People will judge us by whether the highway gets built in Afghanistan. People will judge us by whether we work with our allies on issues around the world. People will judge us by whether we achieve the President's commitment in the Middle East, the President's commitment on AIDS, the President's commitment on growing democracy, the President's commitment on assisting governments that are trying to end corruption and implement good governance.
I think we're fairly confident that the facts of the President's policy will speak louder than the debates inside the beltway or the think tanks of Washington.
QUESTION: Can you guys -- can you -- what do you say to people who would accuse the State Department of obstructing the President's --
MR. BOUCHER: Same as I said to you. Look at the facts. The President has a policy. We carry it out every single circumstance --
QUESTION: And you're determined to take the high road on that.
MR. BOUCHER: Every single circumstance that has proven true and particularly, every single circumstance cited in this speech, we are implementing the President's policy. Anybody familiar, who is paying attention, knows what the President said on Syria last Sunday, knows what the President said on the Quartet December 20th, and knows what the President said about these other issues, and knows that you can't lay asphalt in Afghanistan in the wintertime.
QUESTION: With regard to Bolton, could you get back to us about whether such a -- you said that you didn't know whether such a request had been made.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the allegation was that somewhere in the Pentagon they made the suggestion, so it's not for me to report on what suggestions they might have made.
QUESTION: The allegation was that Mr. Rumsfeld specifically asked.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, then you can go ask Mr. Rumsfeld.
QUESTION: Would it be normal matter of protocol for a Secretary of another agency?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it would be a normal matter for the Secretary of State to decide who would go on one of these delegations and what's the appropriate diplomatic level for these kind of talks.
QUESTION: When you said you know the decision was made to send Mr. Kelly by the administration -- who made that decision?
MR. BOUCHER: Essentially, the Secretary, but whether they discussed it at the Principals Meeting with the President, I don't know.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say whether --
MR. BOUCHER: -- slow.
QUESTION: -- the U.S. is aware of Iranians coming across the border into Iraq to stir up trouble with the Shiite population?
QUESTION: Before you do that, can we come back to (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, let's jump around. (Laughter.) Oh, no, this is about people the other way.
QUESTION: That was my next --
MR. BOUCHER: Can I answer your next question and skip this one? Okay, Iranians coming into Iraq. Certainly there have been reports of this, and we have expressed ourselves before on the issue of Badr brigades of military forces or any undue attempts to manipulate or influence the scene there. But I would also note there were reports of Iranians coming into Iraq for the pilgrimages, and there is a massive -- hundreds of thousands of people -- doing a pilgrimage in Iraq now for the first time in 30 years, a situation made possible because of the effort of the coalition, because of the end of the Saddam Hussein regime.
And the Shiites, who participate in those pilgrimages, including apparently some from Iran, I think, are enjoying a religious liberty that they haven't had for many years, and we are happy to see that. That's what we see going on in Iraq today with the Shiites.
QUESTION: Forgive me if this was covered earlier. In addition to the very specific criticisms that Mr. Gingrich made, he also suggested that the President appoint a working group to report back within six months and discuss a transformation of the State Department.
MR. BOUCHER: That was covered about 15 minutes ago, and I think I answered it.
QUESTION: So you don't need -- don't feel a need to be transformed at this moment?
MR. BOUCHER: We transform ourselves on a regular basis, and I answered the question a while back.
QUESTION: If I could ask then what the motivation behind this -- these statements of --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, then you wouldn't want to ask me. You would want to ask the person who made the statements.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Sir.
QUESTION: Richard, today (inaudible) said that the Government of Turkey, they are wondering what are you planning to do -- is almost 5,000 PKK terrorists in the Northern Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the statement. Obviously, our -- one of our military goals is to prevent any terrorism from Northern Iraq. As you know, we coordinate closely with the Turkish Government on what Turkey sees in the north. We have liaison officers with some of our forces there, and the coalition has worked closely with Turkey to make sure that situations don't arise that would cause concern to Turkey and so I am sure this is, there are -- concerns about possible terrorism from Northern Iraq have been raised. We have discussed these with them many times. The Secretary discussed them during his visit, and it's an ongoing effort on both our parts I think to make sure that terrorism doesn't arise from there.
QUESTION: Also, government spokesman said today they already answer your question about how can they assist Iraq after the war, you know? They already sent the -- all of the answer. When do you -- planning to respond to this answer?
MR. BOUCHER: We are in touch with a number of governments. Some of them have actually even gone to parliaments. Macedonia and Italy, I think, have both gone public with their contributions. We have left it to other governments though to talk about their potential contributions and what they might be able to do to help the Iraqi people reconstruct their society and their nation. So I won't be talking about the specifics of anybody else here. We welcome all of these contributions. It's an ongoing process, I would say, a back and forth dialogue, once we know what people are prepared to provide, talk to them about where it might go, how it might be useful. So I am sure there is a, sort of, an ongoing dialogue on this subject rather than a specific offer and then a final response.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, did you reach any agreement with the Turkish Government for the reconstruction of Iraq so far?
MR. BOUCHER: Did we agree?
QUESTION: Did you reach an agreement with the Turkish Government?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's sort of the same question -- that we'll leave it for other countries to talk about it, but I think this is an ongoing process. We welcome all of the offers.
QUESTION: One more question. When are you planning to release the annual report on terrorism, if you have any idea?
MR. BOUCHER: Patterns?
QUESTION: The annual report on terrorism.
QUESTION: Patterns on Global Terrorism.
MR. BOUCHER: Patterns on Global -- at the appropriate moment.
QUESTION: When is it appropriate?
MR. BOUCHER: When is it due out?
QUESTION: Usually, this time of the year is when it is, that's why I am asking.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll double-check on the exact timing. End of the month, right?
A PARTICIPANT: Yes.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: On terrorism, did you see a report of the Mujahideen group being -- surrendering? And they're supposed to be on the terrorist list. I didn't have the chance to check.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the MEK is on the terrorist list. As far as the status, I think there have been anonymous reports of ceasefires. Actually, General Brooks may have said something about this general topic. But for the moment, I think I have to leave you with the Pentagon to talk about the status of events on the ground.
QUESTION: But Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- on that, have you made any recommendation on how -- on what should happen to them?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) with this Corporate Donors Conference on Iraq. So is the State Department -- do you support a formal Donors Conference? And, if so, who would run it? Would it be along the lines of Afghanistan? Would the coalition of the willing be transformed into a formal donors process, as was done in Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Let's -- you are about 17 steps down the road, and there's four to take before we get there -- before we start laying the asphalt of this particular road. The surveys need to be done. We have been working -- we, Defense, and Treasury have been working closely together with other donors to try to organize the international effort, not only humanitarian effort, but also the reconstruction effort over the longer term.
A lot of meetings were held during the IMF World Bank meetings a couple of weeks ago, and we are actively and continuously coordinating with other potential donors. There is general recognition, I'd say, that needs assessment by the World Bank. Possibly the UNDP could be a valuable part of the process of organizing relief and reconstruction for the Iraqi people.
That's something that Mr. Zakheim talked about in his remarks. He, I think, estimated that might take about six weeks. That's generally what they do take. And it may take a little while before we can send a team to do that sort of formal needs assessment, economic studies that the World Bank and others do.
The donors conference -- then after that, do we move to a donors conference? That's one of the ideas under consideration, but the first step is to do some sort of economically detailed assessments of the long-term reconstruction needs, and then whether we move to a donors conference after that is -- we'll just have to see.
QUESTION: Can we come back to weapons inspections for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: You said that whether or not weapons inspections at some point would be a good idea, we have to wait and see. Could you give -- but then you also said that there's no need for the weapons inspectors to certify Iraq before the sanctions were lifted. So could you tell us under what circumstances the U.S. might welcome UN weapons inspectors?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can -- it depends, in part, what we find, where we find it, how we find it, what condition it's in, what we need to do to destroy it -- a lot of questions like that. We're at the initial stages of that. You know, this is a fairly detailed and painstaking process, as we all know, that probably, first and most important, is find the people who can show us where the labs or where the manufacturing facilities were, where the equipment is, where the weapons might be, to the extent these have been weaponized. And so that process is underway.
But, you know, it's still a difficult and sometimes dangerous situation inside Iraq. Coalition forces are there. They're the ones who need to do that part of the job -- identifying, securing this equipment and materials -- and once that proceeds, as we see what is found and where that brings us, where we are in terms of security, then that's the time one can start to look at the situation and see whether there are other inspectors or procedures that are necessary.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: You said there is no one in Iraq has the intention to use weapons of mass destruction. What makes you sure, especially since we don't know how the new Iraqi Government is going to look like?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think the international community will insist that any new Iraqi Government be willing to live in peace with its own people and its neighbors and eschew the use of weapons of mass destruction. That's been clearly one of the major goals of this effort and one of the major goals that we will ensure is achieved.
I guess -- are there maybe some people hiding somewhere in Iraq who might want to use a weapon of mass destruction if they had the chance? I guess the answer is maybe yes, but it doesn't quite seem as likely now as it did before the regime was displaced.
QUESTION: You said yesterday you were going to try to get an update on the status of your instant, or not so instant, embassy in Baghdad. Were you able to do that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. And basically, people said it's not time yet. We're not at that point, that without a government, a new government to be accredited to, that we could establish an embassy.
QUESTION: Fair enough. Does the State Department share the opinion, the views, of some across the river that France and other, perhaps other European countries, should be punished for their opposition to the war and, in particular, their obstinance (sic) over the question of defending Turkey within the NATO context?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- who are you referring to? Who said that?
QUESTION: The Deputy Defense Secretary said up on the Hill about ten days ago that they should -- that the French, but maybe others, should pay a price for their --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made clear that there are opportunities to work with allies in the reconstruction of Iraq and bringing a better life for the Iraqi people. There are opportunities to work with allies on other issues, but that also the recent events and disagreements will have an effect on our views and our relationships. That's about as far as I think I could go at this point in drawing any particular conclusions.
QUESTION: Well, what does the State Department think of proposals to shift most NATO decision-making away from the North Atlantic Council, where it has been, and towards the military -- the defense group, of which France is not a member? And also, suggestions that are coming from -- they're coming from somewhere. Certainly they're out there --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you can tell me where they're coming from, if they are suggestions --
QUESTION: Well, they're coming out of the White House.
MR. BOUCHER: -- that people have made then we'll deal with them.
QUESTION: Yeah, there are suggestions for that. There are also suggestions that the traditional consultations and meetings that you guys have had with various European allies should be amended to exclude certain countries that don't agree with you.
MR. BOUCHER: I m sure that there --
QUESTION: Do you think those are --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not prepared to draw particular conclusions at this point. The option of doing things at NATO, military things within the Defense Policy Committee, has always existed -- well, since 1968 -- and has been used at various moments.
MR. BOUCHER: '66? Sorry. I was too young. (Laughter.)
And, you know, that's a fact. On the other than, I'd point out that the North Atlantic Council recently decided to send NATO to take over ISAF in Afghanistan, so the North Atlantic Council just recently made what's really a historic decision to send NATO forces to an area of conflict that's far beyond Europe. So there are instances where the Council can get together and do things, and there may be things that have to be done in the DPC.
QUESTION: All right. But on other meetings, do you not see -- the State Department doesn't see any particular need to transform or alter the existing relationships?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I told you there obviously will be an effect of the recent disagreements but I'm not prepared to draw specific conclusions at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, as a general matter of principle, are you -- will you be able to answer questions about General Garner's activities and internal Iraqi politics at this -- in here?
MR. BOUCHER: To some extent we all will be able to -- I'm sure at the White House, here and the Pentagon -- because we're all involved to some extent. I would also expect the people on the ground, particularly the Iraqi people on the ground, to be talking more and more about what they're doing and how they're getting power restored and hospitals rebuilt and politics organized and things coming up.
QUESTION: Well, what can you tell us, then, about the preparations for the meeting on, I think, the 26th? And why has it been decided not to have these regional meetings, which you were talking about last week and to have one in Baghdad this day?
MR. BOUCHER: Baghdad is a region, too. General Garner has been traveling around and meeting in different places. He was, I think, in the north today meeting with leaders in Sulaimaniya. I'm told there was a very enthusiastic reception for him up there. That's always good news.
We're sending out Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker. He's on his way to Iraq to participate in the April 26th follow-up meeting. This is the follow-up meeting to the April 15th Nasiriya meeting. Meeting participants will discuss the procedures for choosing an interim authority and other issues that the participants wish to raise. Special Presidential Envoy Khalilzad will lead the U.S. delegation to this meeting, as well.
We continue and expect a series of consultations that provide a forum for Iraqis to discuss their vision of the future of Iraq, and this is one of them.
QUESTION: Okay, but if I can just follow up on that. In many parts of Iraq it appears that local people are taking matters into their own hands and setting up local committees of -- covering areas of varying size. Do you envisage that General -- Mr. Crocker, or whoever is organizing this -- Mr. Khalilzad, I suppose -- would invite some of those people to take part in the Baghdad meeting on the 26th?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that I'm sure many of those people already took part in the meetings in Nasiriya. I'm sure others will take part in the meetings in Baghdad, as well. This whole idea is about Iraqis taking charge of their own future, and Iraqis in the cities and towns of Iraq have needs for normal services, for normal administration, for trash pickup and drivers licenses and electricity and water and all those things, and it's good to see in many places that Iraqis are getting organized to do that and that coalition forces have been able to help them in many cases.
I would point to what the British have been able to achieve in Basra in terms of helping coordinate local government and local services. And we will continue to do what we can to help in various places. I think there's a town council in Umm Qasr, for example, that we're helping with aid money to help them get organized and take hold, take charge there.
QUESTION: The North Korean defectors. Is it accurate that there are North Korean nuclear scientists who have defected to the U.S.?
MR. BOUCHER: We did 20 minutes of that yesterday.
QUESTION: Are there any --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we didn't get into the defectors. We got into the Nauru question.
QUESTION: Right. But are there any defectors in the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: That's never something I'd ever be able to talk about.
QUESTION: Are there any North Koreans who are not defectors in the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure -- yes, I'm sure there are.
QUESTION: I mean, have you given -- No, I understand. Have you given visas to any other North Koreans, whether they're defectors or not defectors, who are here and not defectors --
MR. BOUCHER: Do we occasionally give visas to North Koreans? I'm sure we do. But I guess I don't quite understand the question. I mean, there are people who leave North Korea by a variety of channels, some of whom, for example, might have relatives here or plan to study here, other things, who may get visas at places overseas. Are there North Koreans in the United States? Yes. But I'm not trying to deal with the question of defectors and nuclear scientists. That's not something I could ever talk about.
QUESTION: Richard, I have (inaudible) on North Korea.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's -- sir.
QUESTION: Richard, with respect to the end of the regime in Iraq, aside from weapons inspection, there are many things that have changed. Syria, for instance, within the last week said yes, it's sealed its borders and so forth. But there might be instances where the crime element elsewhere may want to take hold. There were, in Afghanistan, warlords. Is there any specific categories (sic) that you have to plan for, not necessarily with a list to give to General Garner, but to influence the neighboring governments what they have to --
MR. BOUCHER: I guess to the extent I can understand the question, we are always trying to make sure that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, you might say, and therefore we have been in touch with neighbors about not allowing transits of people, not allowing goods, weapons, to go back and forth across borders. You've seen this particularly in the case of Syria, where we've talked about it and, as the President said, are confident that we're having some response.
We are working in Iraq to try to take care of the needs of the people, but also to help organize these local governments, to help reorganize policing. You've seen us in Baghdad be able to get several thousand policemen; I think, back on the beat and help them get organized. We've been having joint patrols in a number of cities. In many cities we've been able -- coalition forces have been able to bring a sense of security and prevention of interference.
So yeah, there's a lot being done to try to stabilize the situation in Iraq. We're also talking with other governments about how to do this more and more over the long term. And I would point out finally to what I've talked about, the contracts that have been issued with, I think, DynCorp, first, to send out some policemen to help organize Iraqi security and Iraqi security forces, and to get as many, I think, as 1,000 or 1,500 experts out there to help the Iraqis reorganize security services in a way that will serve the population and protect the population, and not persecute them as the old system did.
QUESTION: Richard, there are NGOs and others that are wishing to volunteer, but is the State Department specifically asking some of those countries to volunteer members of the police force just like military troops have gone in?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: What about health care officials and others?
MR. BOUCHER: All kinds of things: health care, education, road building, police, gendarmerie, some military forces, a lot of needs in Iraq. We'll take care of some, Iraqis will take care of many, others should be able to help as well.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Nigerian election? There have been some, among other things, irregularities charged?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, at this point, I think it's important to say that the official results won't be announced. The results won't be official until they are announced by the independent Nigerian Electoral Commission, so we'll wait for that time to comment any further. We are continuing to assess the conduct and the results of the elections.
We welcome the decision of all of the parties to continue the democratic process by urging their supporters to participate in Nigeria's first civilian managed presidential and gubernatorial elections in two decades on April 19th, despite unresolved disputes over the results of the national legislative elections that were held on April 12th.
In general, the procedures at the polling stations appear to have improved over April 12th, with many more stations opening on time. However, as I think many of you have seen, there have been widespread and often credible claims of electoral malfeasance. Nigeria's electoral laws provide for investigation and redress. We urge all the interested parties with complaints of electoral malfeasance to present their evidence to the competent tribunals and for the tribunals to consider those complaints in a fair and transparent manner.
QUESTION: Richard, the electoral malfeasance that was meant to apply to the April 12th elections or to the one just taken?
MR. BOUCHER: There were unresolved disputes over the April 12th. I think the comment, in this case, specifically applies to April 19th. I have to look back and see what we said about the April 12th elections themselves. There were certainly allegations at the time of malfeasance.
QUESTION: Richard, other than the fact that Assistant Secretary Kelly and his delegation have arrived in Beijing and are presumably asymptomatic at this point still, is there anything new to say about the North Korean talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I will ask him next time we talk to him. I'll send him an e-mail and find -- make sure he's asymptomatic. They arrived in Beijing Tuesday afternoon, Beijing time. Assistant Secretary Kelly has had a productive meeting with the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Ye to discuss the upcoming talks. No other meetings were scheduled for Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, China will host a working breakfast for the U.S. delegation, and following that, multilateral talks will begin at Chinese facilities. That's what we know.
QUESTION: I have another one.
MR. BOUCHER: Please, and then Elise has one.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you were asked about the Tamil Tiger statement. You said you are checking into it, see if -- what it meant. Have you come up with any assessment of what it actually was -- errors in translation, perhaps?
MR. BOUCHER: I think just the general comment that we support the peace process in Sri Lanka. We hope talks can resume soon. As Deputy Secretary Armitage stated at the Washington Seminar in Sri Lanka on April 14th, the United States can see a future for the Tamil Tigers as a legitimate political organization, but it's up to them to demonstrate that they are a capable and worthy of such legitimacy.
QUESTION: Back to North Korea, you have said that these are initial discussions. So could you say what, if anything, you hope to achieve from this round of talks? And the fact that you have also said that South Korea and Japan, you would like to include them in the talks, could you speak to how you think that China can be particularly helpful in this -- in this round, other than fact that the North Koreans wanted only them there?
MR. BOUCHER: The purpose of these talks is to get started, for us to be able to lay out the need for a verifiable and irreversible end to North Korea's nuclear programs; for us to be able to lay out the importance of including others in these discussions including Japan and Korea, who we think are essential to any substantive outcome.
I'm sure the North Koreans will lay out their positions as well. I am sure the Chinese will lay out their interests in the situation, particularly their strong and publicly stated interests in a denuclearized Korean peninsula, so it's a chance for the parties to get together to have initial discussions to share their views, and then we'll see how they decide how to proceed.
QUESTION: Richard, does it bother you that North Koreans have sent someone of relatively low rank to meet with Kelly?
MR. BOUCHER: I, we already had the question yesterday and I don't have any comment on the rank.