State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 25
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC April 25, 2003
STATE DEPARTMENT 1 Letter from Secretary Powell to Foreign Minister Palacio 15 Secretary Powell s Call to Foreign Secretary Straw 15 Secretary Powell s Call to Foreign Minister de Villepin 15 Secretary Powell s Call to Foreign Minister Kawaguchi 15-16 Secretary Powell s Call to President Musharraf
CHINA 1,3-6 Assistance Secretary Kelly s Talks in Beijing 16 SARS outbreak
NORTH KOREA 2,5-6 Nuclear Weapons Program 3 Reaching a Diplomatic Solution with North Korea
ASIA 4,6 Talks with North Korea, Japan, South Korea
IRAQ 7 Meeting in Baghdad 7-9 Lifting Economic Sanctions 8-9 Arms Embargo 10 Accountability of Former Iraqi Leaders 11 Reconstruction
UNITED NATIONS 7,9 Security Council Resolution on Iraq 8 Role in Reconstruction in Iraq 13-14 Human Rights Commission in Geneva
SYRIA 10,12 Closing of Border with Ira
q IRAN 11 Militant Groups Entering Ira
q ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 12 Suicide Bombing in Kfar Saba
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, but I'd be glad to take your questions. Let's start with Mr. Schweid.
QUESTION: Could you authenticate the letter as having been written by the Secretary --
MR. BOUCHER: This is the letter from the Secretary to Foreign Minister Palacio about the death of the Spanish journalist?
QUESTION: A B C.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. The version that you see in the U.S. newspaper is accurate.
QUESTION: Thank you. Something else?
QUESTION: North Korea?
QUESTION: Try something else?
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Could you give us your summation of the Beijing talks, now that they're over?
MR. BOUCHER: There we go. As you know, we've concluded our discussions in Beijing in a multilateral forum with the North Koreans. Had three days of meetings: first day, trilateral meetings; second day was separate meetings with the Chinese; the third day, there was a very brief and informal trilateral meeting, on Friday, this morning. And then this afternoon in Beijing he -- Assistant Secretary Kelly went on to Seoul, where he is now consulting and briefing South Korean officials; and then tomorrow, Saturday, he will be in Tokyo doing the same, consulting and briefing, with Japanese officials.
I think, in sum, I would say the talks were useful and that they fulfilled our purpose. As the President and the Secretary have both said, we heard a lot of things. We're not going to allow ourselves to be intimidated or blackmailed by threats. But our goal in this endeavor, in these meetings, was to go out, to say what we had to say, tell the North Koreans very clearly that they needed to verifiably and irreversibly end their nuclear weapons programs. The second goal was to listen and hear what they had to say, and the third goal was to hear what the Chinese had to say. And I think it was very clear to us, and we appreciate very much, that the Chinese were a significant participant in these discussions. The Chinese Government expressed clearly their views on the denuclearization of the peninsula, as it was agreed between the two Korean parties in 1992.
We heard a lot of things. We also said a lot of things. So, at this juncture, as the Secretary mentioned yesterday, it's important that North Korea think carefully about what they heard from us, about what they heard from China, and about what they're hearing from the international community and the President and the Secretary of State.
We also listened carefully to what they had to say. Assistant Secretary Kelly will come back with his delegation and will meet with senior officials back here in Washington, and we will analyze carefully what was said and discuss it and decide, at that point, what we think the next steps should be.
QUESTION: The North Korean media says that the North Koreans in Beijing presented "a new bold proposal to clear up its bilateral concerns."
MR. BOUCHER: Let me say a couple things about that. First, as the Secretary mentioned yesterday, the North Koreans did speak of a proposal. Whether it's new and bold, I think I would leave to further analysis by -- with our team when they get back.
We have made clear, though, again and again, that we don't think the intention of going to Beijing was, first of all, not to negotiate, not to try to move the ball forward in that sense, but to say what we had to say, hear what we expected to hear, and see the Chinese participate.
The question of proposals, though, I mean, we get back to the fundamental issue that we are not going to give a quid pro quo to get rid of a nuclear weapons program that never should have existed in the first place, to get rid of a nuclear weapons program that North Korea disavowed, promised they wouldn't have, numerous times to numerous parties throughout the 1990s and into this year.
So we'll look at what they've said. We'll analyze what they've said. But I think I have to repeat our basic position, as well.
All questions answered. Let's go. Ma'am.
QUESTION: North Korea demand United States to assure over their allegiance which is, in turn, it could (inaudible) to allow (inaudible) by North Korea. What is your comment?
MR. BOUCHER: My comment is that, number one, I'm not going to pretend to convey to you what the North Koreans said, and therefore I'm not able to confirm that they said -- whether they did or did not say what you say they say. So I'm just not in a position to comment on things that I can't -- that I don't know that were said.
QUESTION: Then the North Korea complain to the United States, they say the --
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, you're asking me a question about what North Korea said, and I'm not here to repeat what they said or to speak on their behalf.
QUESTION: Was there any agreement at the end today that there would be further talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I know there are several of the parties, the Chinese especially, who would like to see further talks and who have talked about that. We have made clear, and I think our delegation made clear in Beijing, that for us that we had not decided on further discussions; that we would come back, we would analyze everything that happened and was said, and then we would decide back here on whether there should be further talks. So everybody is going back to consult with their capitals, I think I'd have to say.
QUESTION: Richard, you said several of the parties, especially the Chinese, want further talks with the three parties. You say you haven't decided. The Chinese want to. Are you implying the North Koreans expressed --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what they said. Frankly, I don't know if they did or not. But maybe "several" is the wrong word. One or more of the parties may be interested in further talks. At this point, we have not decided yet.
QUESTION: Does that mean, Richard, that you guys are -- that there may be consideration of no new talks?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're going to analyze what was said, we're doing to discuss it back here, and then we'll decide. We just have not decided at this point to go forward with further talks.
QUESTION: The President's idea that he wants to deal with this diplomatically is still --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, absolutely. And the President -- you know, the President has talked many times about trying to reach a peaceful and diplomatic solution. I think Secretary Rumsfeld just did. The President did in his interview with Tom Brokaw.
The President also made clear that there were other steps that we were going to take to strengthen nonproliferation regimes and other actions internationally so that this kind of situation can't arise.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have more here.
QUESTION: Sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: You say they were short. Yesterday's meeting was a very brief bi- or trilateral parties. Could you clarify it more on the -- could you outline the meeting, how you say they're just brief. So I need more -- I just want to hear the details, if you can. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Very brief. It was a -- it was not a substantive discussion. It was a kind of a quick, a closing to the events.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you mean yesterday in Asia. Friday's meeting. Friday's meeting is what we're talking about. I think that's where we are.
QUESTION: You say -- did they show any intention to make a concession or a change?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it was not a substantive discussion or a forum for discussion or agreement on anything. It was sort of a meeting at the end of the series of discussions that had been held, just kind of close it off.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. ask that the Japanese and the South Korean inclusion, involvement?
MR. BOUCHER: Did we urge that?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, yes, we did, repeatedly. I think I made clear, have made clear before and will make clear again, the two major points that we raised, indeed the ones that we emphasized again and again, were, first of all, that North Korea needs to get rid of these nuclear weapons programs for it to expect any progress in relationships, not only with us but with others in the world; and then second of all, that Japan and South Korea belong in these talks, they have something to contribute, both in terms of their interests and their abilities; and therefore, we felt it was important for North Korea to accept that, recognize that, and for that to take place in the future.
QUESTION: What is their reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I'm not going to try to speak for them.
QUESTION: Would you say that the situation, the tension over the North Korean nuclear issue, is any different after these meetings than before, just by the fact that people are in the same room and you, at one point, spoke with each other and laid out your points? Even if the North Koreans were pretty aggressive, did it serve to deescalate at all?
MR. BOUCHER: The question of the tension has really been based on North Korean actions. It's been North Korean actions to develop a uranium enrichment program, North Korean actions to break the seals and kick out the International Atomic Energy inspectors, North Korean actions to try to withdraw from the Nonproliferation Treaty. It's really been a series of North Korean actions that have raised the tensions. Just the fact of seeing each other and talking doesn't change those actions and we still have to deal with those actions.
QUESTION: So was it all for nothing?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to quite, you know -- I don't want to say these talks did nothing. The talks were useful. I told you the purpose we had going out. I think you can see that they fulfilled those purposes. But no, I don't think anyone would expect that an initial meeting like this, where people said what they had to say, would deescalate or defuse the tension.
QUESTION: It seems that the tensions -- well, North Korea came out with a statement yesterday that said that, due to U.S. actions, this could trigger a war on the peninsula at any moment. Are you just seeing this as just more bluster by the North Koreans, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'll probably find that that's the kind of statement that North Korea makes on a fairly frequent basis in one way or the other. It's certainly not a helpful attitude for them to have. It's not a helpful statement for them to make. But I'm not sure it was really timed to these talks. I don't know that it was commentary on what's taken place in Beijing over the last couple of days.
QUESTION: One more?
MR. BOUCHER: One more. George. Probably two more, actually.
QUESTION: Did I hear you correctly yesterday when you said you're going to go over the original Korean to make sure that the English translation that Kelly and the delegation heard was accurate? Is that going to happen?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We always -- every time we analyze one of these things, we analyze the Korean and the English and the translation and who the translator was. We look very carefully at what was said to make sure we understand the true intent.
QUESTION: Does that happen only with the Korean language, or other languages as well?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm told it happens a little more often with Korean. I'm not an expert, but that there are sometimes intricacies to the language that need to be looked at very carefully.
QUESTION: I have the same question about nuances, but I didn't ask it because my impression was when you said we'll analyze after Kelly comes home that this is still something to be done. Has it been done over the last 24 hours?
MR. BOUCHER: No. We'll talk with our delegation, with the interpreters, with people who were on the delegation who speak Korean. And that will all be part of the mix as we sit down with everybody and decide what -- analyze what happened, draw our conclusions, and decide what's next.
QUESTION: Yes. Did Mr. Kelly talk on the issue of KEDO? If so, what did he say?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into any particular details at this point. My understanding, basic understanding, is that he emphasized again and again the points about the need to verifiably and irreversibly end North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and, second of all, for Japan and South Korea to participate.
QUESTION: A general question. I'm sure that the American diplomats take note during initiation, or the talk, in the talk. But what about the informal lunchtime discussion with the partners?
MR. BOUCHER: We keep good track of everything that's said in these kind of discussions.
QUESTION: What about this time in Beijing?
MR. BOUCHER: We kept good track of everything that was said during these discussions.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: Almost, Barry. I assume the same talk.
QUESTION: Okay. When you left the talks in Beijing, did you leave them with the North Koreans frustrated, where they might want to use bravado, and are you relying on the Chinese or others to help batten that down?
MR. BOUCHER: I would never try to characterize North Korean emotions upon leaving anything. It's not my position to try.
QUESTION: Iraq. A couple of things. The meeting on Monday, I assume, is still on in Baghdad of the Iraqi groups. And isn't it likely to be the last meeting? Because there's talk elsewhere about moving ahead, you know, toward the interim arrangement. It's not a series beyond Monday, is it?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a series, and will probably be on Monday. I don't know if the next one is scheduled. At the last one, it was the groups themselves attending the meeting who decided to have another meeting in ten days. This is expected by all of us to be a series of meetings. I think the people participating expect a series of meetings, probably in different regions of the country. So I have nothing to change that outlook.
I think the one noteworthy thing I've heard about this meeting is it will probably be more run by the Iraqis than the one that's coming up on Monday in Baghdad. It will be run by the Iraqis a little more than the Americans who were trying to help chair and facilitate last time.
QUESTION: And the other thing on this is about sanctions. I didn't check. I don't know if the U.S. resolution was introduced. But assuming it hasn't been yet, can we go into a little detail on that? I don't know what the word would be, but there have been various references to the UN having a representative, having a -- I don't know -- an advisor. Could you get into that a little bit?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't get into the details quite yet because we're still in discussions. We're starting our discussions, really, in continuing discussions with some and talking more with others about the next steps in the United Nations. We're very pleased and welcome the fact that the UN Security Council did take action yesterday to address the humanitarian situation in Iraq. We rolled over, or extended, Resolution 1472 to give the Secretary General authority to use money and to take care of the Iraqi people through the Oil-for-Food program through the expiration of this phase of that program on June 3rd.
We are now looking at other issues. We believe, as you know, that now that Iraq is liberated that the situation has fundamentally changed and that the Security Council should pass resolutions that are appropriate to that new situation. A high priority, as the President has said, is lifting the economic sanctions. The current sanctions regime is inappropriate given the demise of Saddam's regime. Sanctions were imposed to deal with the threat posed by the former Iraqi regime and its weapons of mass destruction.
So, for the good of the Iraqi people and to ensure their integration into the global economy, the United States believes that the Council should act quickly to lift the sanctions and to wind down the Oil-for-Food program.
So we're in discussions with coalition partners and other colleagues in the Council now on how to address those critical issues.
QUESTION: Can you touch at all on the UN role?
MR. BOUCHER: The UN role is a vital role. The President has described that in somewhat more detail in Belfast. There is a role for the United Nations to bring its specialized agencies, its expertise in reconstruction and relief, and we already see UN agencies getting involved. I think now we've had several Red Cross flights into Baghdad and I think the UN has either started or about to start some of its flights in to bring its personnel, to start doing that important work that they're very, very good at.
Second of all, the President talked about a UN role in terms of, I think it was coordinating or providing a channel for others to contribute and for others to help out, and also a role in endorsing and supporting the post-conflict administration. So the Secretary General now has, I think, a personal envoy who we are working with. We are working in terms of our people on the ground with UN people, with UN people in New York who work for some of these agencies and for the United Nations as a whole. And I think that's a relationship that's expanding as the UN develops more of a role. How exactly that role might be defined further in a UN resolution, I think it's just a little too early to talk about because we're just really starting our discussions, having discussions in New York at this moment.
QUESTION: I know you said it's time to lift the sanctions, but could you say where you stand specifically on the arms embargo?
MR. BOUCHER: There is -- I think our view, and the view of probably many others, is that normal restrictions should apply. I mean, there are international control regimes for various kinds of goods, nuclear and others. There are concerns about weaponry being sold. Certainly, those things will have to be considered with the future of Iraq, not that Iraq should be any different than any normal country, but that those normal things would apply.
QUESTION: But do you think it's wise to have a general arms embargo lifted on Iraq when there's not even a government and an army and a -- in place?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as we've said, there need to be some restrictions in this area, but I can't define them any more precisely for you now. But having a special UN arms embargo apply or not apply doesn't change the fact that the arms -- people who sell arms in the world, the people who have nuclear technology in the world, are all bound already by the kind of decisions that we have to make in terms of selling or not selling. So there are international control regimes that would restrict a nuclear, chemical, biological military good from sale willy-nilly or anything like that.
QUESTION: Right. Can I just follow up one more time? But even conventional and advanced conventional weapons. I mean, right now with the instability in the country, I know the U.S. military --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think Iraq is --
QUESTION: Should Iraqis be getting any weapons right now, except the ones that you are training them to use for their new army?
MR. BOUCHER: Common sense would say no, but as one starts forming and training a new army, one would have to consider what equipment they might need, and so I'm sure there will be some restrictions and there will be other needs to provide. But that's pretty far down the road. It's not something you can define at this point. And, frankly, I'm not sure it's something you can define immediately in a UN resolution, either.
QUESTION: Yes. I was wondering, first of all, if you have an idea when the U.S. resolution may be introduced. And second, on disarmament, how the U.S. foresees perhaps addressing the need that's already in current resolutions for the UN to verify disarmament before the sanctions are lifted.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we've talked here many times about this, and those resolutions, as I said before, were applied to a fundamentally different situation, where you had a regime and a government in Iraq that were seeking to evade all controls, seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction and threaten their people and threaten their neighbors. That situation, happily for all of us, no longer exists. So it's appropriate for the Council to do something different in this situation, and the Council has the authority to do something different in this situation, in fact, to do pretty much whatever it decides. So we were -- we are proposing -- we will propose that the Council do -- that the Council address this new situation in an appropriate manner, and we think that's by lifting the sanctions and winding down the Oil-for-Food program.
The first half of your question I can't remember.
QUESTION: When the resolution --
MR. BOUCHER: When the resolutions. We would expect to continue our consultations and probably present a text or present some ideas on a resolution soon. When exactly it could pass, I don't know, but we do think that this work should be done expeditiously, that it is time for the Security Council to start addressing many of these issues that need to be dealt with as the Iraqis take more and more control of their own destiny.
QUESTION: Well, is next week -- is that outside the ballpark, outside the realm of --
MR. BOUCHER: No, next week is included in soon.
QUESTION: Next week is good?
MR. BOUCHER: No, soon encompasses next week, and possibly other dates as well.
QUESTION: Were you able to get anything on my question about what the status of U.S. sanctions on Iraq is?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven't gotten a good read on that yet. I'll promise again. Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Jonathan.
QUESTION: What are you going to do with Tariq Aziz and other Iraqi leaders in your custody?
MR. BOUCHER: I think first of all, on the immediate question of custody, you need to ask the Pentagon and the military about that one. I think we have explained before our approach, that for senior people there needs to be accountability and that it should be through an Iraqi-led process. And so we will work with new Iraqi authorities to make sure that an appropriate process is set up for accountability for people who have committed crimes in the past.
QUESTION: This latest arrest, detention, whatever -- was it in Syria, and can you provide any details of the circumstances?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer to the second half of your question is no, and therefore the answer to your first half of the question is can't say.
QUESTION: All right. Now on Syria generally, asking the question, Senator Graham last night spoke a great -- very -- praised the Syrians on this count, saying that they -- first of all, they hadn't knowingly let any Iraqi officials in, but more to the point, they were cooperating very actively in getting these folks out and turning them over, et cetera, et cetera.
Is that an assessment -- I know the Secretary spoke of several things that concerned him, and in one of his interviews he's going to take up -- long-winded, but what I'm trying to say, is that your analysis of Syrian behavior?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our analysis -- I'm not trying to compare and contrast. Our analysis is, today, pretty much where the Secretary was the other day, that we're watching the situation between Iraq and Syria, along the Iraq-Syria border closely. We understand that Syria has closed its borders to all but humanitarian travel with Iraq. We've made our concerns known, made clear our concerns that senior Iraqi regime officials, the very figures most directly involved in the barbarity and viciousness of Saddam Hussein's regime, including the development of weapons of mass destruction, not enter Syria. So we've made very clear to the Syrians that these people not be allowed to enter. And as the President said the other day, we're watching carefully, keeping in touch with the Syrians, but also confident that they're hearing our message.
QUESTION: Let me try a little more on the Iranian front. One of the interviews the Secretary gave yesterday, he spoke of -- without going into any detail, of some movement of Iranians. Maybe he meant spiritual movement, but I think he meant physical movement, into the Shiite area in southern Iraq. Can you elaborate at all what the Iranians are up to that distresses the U.S.?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can elaborate at all because of the way we might know about things. But I think the Secretary has talked about this, I've talked about this, Secretary Rumsfeld has talked about this, that we have seen people from Iran move into Iraq for either -- either some of them with weapons, some of them apparently militant groups, and some of them perhaps for political and other purposes. The other day, we said, you know, contrasted this with the ordinary back and forth which would exist for social or religious reasons. We think that the entry of sort of organized militants from Iran is not a helpful thing for the situation right now. It's something we do keep our eye on.
QUESTION: Could you bring us up to date on Ambassador Tutwiler's activities in Iraq? Also, on the programming and communication efforts of the BBG and Radio Sawa and what programming will also be used?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a lot of stuff to talk about there. As far as Ambassador Tutwiler, she is in Iraq working with General Garner's group to try to help them succeed in their activities of helping the Iraqi people reestablish themselves. I really can't give you -- bring you up to date with any details at this point. She's been out of email contact for a few days so I haven't heard anything from her.
On the -- what was the other half of the question?
QUESTION: About the BBG and Radio Sawa.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the BBC, Radio Sawa, you can talk to them. I think they have plenty of people to inform you on that. The Secretary did an interview yesterday, actually, with Radio Sawa and Free Iraq TV. One correspondent is handling both, and so his interview included a message for the people of Iraq because that broadcasting does continue.
QUESTION: Richard, China -- France, it's reported, has invited China to join in some of the talks of the G-8. Do you favor that? Would you like to see them included --
MR. BOUCHER: I saw the report. It just came too late for me to check. I really don't know what our position is on that.
QUESTION: Second thing. East Timor's Foreign Minister is quoted as saying that he anticipates that the United States is considering cutting its aid levels to East Timor by something like 40 percent. It seems to suggest it might reflect monies getting diverted to Iraq. Is there anything you can say to reassure him, or can you check it out?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on it and see where we are.
QUESTION: If I can follow up on Barry's question, I know we spoke yesterday about the role of religion in Iraq and any kind of Iranian-style democracy, but the Secretary of Defense has been speaking about this today again, and the Secretary of State in his interviews yesterday mentioned some possibility of religion playing a role if it's not tied directly to any formal government. Can you talk more about this?
MR. BOUCHER: I could certainly talk at great length, but not any better or precisely, more precisely, than the Secretary of State did. So I'll refer you back to his remarks, which I think were a pretty solid discussion of the issue in the world these days. Terri.
QUESTION: On Syria, you consistently say that it is your understanding that Syria has closed the border. Is it also the U.S. assessment that the border is truly closed?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I'm in a position to give you quite an overall assessment at this point. We certainly have seen indications of steps to close the border, but we also know it's a pretty big area, a pretty long border, and how effectively they've closed it at this point I can't give you an assessment. I know they've done some things to close it, prevent a lot of the back and forth. Whether they've completely sealed it or not, I can't say.
QUESTION: But the U.S. is at least pleased with the efforts, satisfied with the efforts?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Pleased with the effort. As the President said, in various ways, confident that our message is getting through.
QUESTION: Is there anything to indicate that some of the arrests that you made were a direct result of what Syria is doing on the border?
MR. BOUCHER: Barry tried to get me to say that earlier, and I'm not going to talk about it.
QUESTION: Richard, while the focus has been on Iraq, there's been more, I guess, violence and terrorism affecting the West Bank and Gaza. Any comments concerning that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the first comment is realize that, you know, the top story may be Iraq, but in many places, and certainly for us, the story of Israelis and Palestinians remains very, very important and something that we've worked on a lot. In terms of the violence that's gone on for the last few days, I think, first of all, we have to say we condemn in the strongest possible terms yesterday's horrific act of terrorism in Kfar Saba in Israel and we extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of this vicious attack, to their families and to the Israeli people.
The action underscores why we've called for new leadership for an empowered and credible Palestinian Prime Minister, committed to taking action to end the violence and terror. Abu Mazen's commitment to the peace process for more than a decade, including his public criticism of violence and terror as harmful to Palestinian interests, is consistent with the President's vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
Progress towards President Bush's vision, however, is almost impossible while violence and terrorist attacks continue.
Thank you? No?
QUESTION: No. Richard, today, finally I got it right. Today was the last day of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Do you have an assessment of it? And even if you don't, I have a specific question. Is it correct that the United States either voted against or abstained from a Brazilian-proposed resolution that would have condemned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly the details on that point in the Brazilian resolution, but I can tell you, first of all, the United States remains committed to the principle of nondiscrimination and human dignity that's enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights documents. As a general matter, in the United States, different aspects of the issues raised in this resolution are addressed by officials at the federal, state and local levels of government. Given the multiple authorities addressing these issues and the wide variety of ways in which these matters arrive -- arise, the United States was not prepared to endorse the current -- the language of this resolution.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, isn't it -- is there not one -- each state has the opportunity to conduct -- to make laws based on their own interpretation, but there's no federal law against discrimination on this basis?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there certainly is a federal law against discrimination, but then there are other subsets of those laws in local and state jurisdictions. And that makes it difficult for the United States in meetings like this to commit itself to something that requires some sort of universal application throughout the system, unless it covers basic principles that we do in the federal system. So I don't think there's any question that the United States is a nation based on nondiscrimination, that we have laws to that effect, that we have court cases to that effect and we have an active effort in the United States to end discrimination.
Now, the overall situation --
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Did you vote against or did you abstain?
MR. BOUCHER: We did not endorse it. Now, I have to check and see if we voted against it or if we abstained. I just -- do you know how it came out? Yeah, there were a number of things being done at the last minute, and I guess we didn't the final count on that one.
As far as the overall situation, I would say, first of all, that we are pleased that the Commission adopted resolutions examining the human rights situation in countries such as Cuba, Belarus, Turkmenistan and North Korea. We are disappointed that other country resolutions did not pass, such as those on Sudan and Chechnya, and that states issued -- used a no-action motion to prevent their discussion of a resolution on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.
The United States is also pleased that we've been able to join consensus on so many thematic resolutions. We continue to press for reforms to the working methods of the commission to make it more effective and responsive to human rights abuses. As Secretary General Annan told the Commission yesterday, membership in this Commission implies responsibilities as well as privileges, and we continue to be concerned about the membership of the Commission.
We also believe that silencing discussion through a no-action motion is inappropriate in the Commission. We're disappointed that several delegations again chose to employ this tactic this year. The United States applauds countries that allow the exploration of their record and considers such courageous actions a step in honoring their pledge as a UN member-state and members of the international community.
On balance, the decision shows that the United States decision to rejoin the Commission influenced outcomes for the better, including defending against unfair politicization of the Commission as seen with the defeat of a proposal to hold a special sitting on the war in Iraq, as well as on the adoption of important country resolutions. And I'm sure our delegation out there may have more details, if you need them.
QUESTION: You mentioned Secretary General Annan's comments yesterday that you supported. What about his comments that you weren't so pleased with?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, again, I agree with him in some places and I'll cite those. But I'm not here to take issue with the Secretary General. I'm here to say that it was useful for us to be there. We think we made things better by being there. But there are still aspects of this Commission that we take issue with.
QUESTION: And I wasn't referring to the Commission specifically. I was talking about his comments on Iraq which aroused the ire of your Ambassador in Geneva, I believe; correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look back and that and see if that's an accurate characterization.
QUESTION: Okay, so I'll drop that. Is there anything new on the roadmap release? No?
MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. Still, as the President said, immediately upon confirmation of the new Palestinian Prime Minister and his government.
QUESTION: On the violence in Kashmir, can you say anything ? And what kind of message Deputy Secretary Armitage will be taking with him next week when he travels?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new at this moment on violence in Kashmir. Certainly, we have continued to be concerned about that situation, and the Secretary spoke today with Prime Minister Musharraf about -- has been talking with the Pakistanis as well as keeping in touch with the Indian Government about steps that we can take to try to help them decrease tensions there.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on the roadmap. You keep using the word "immediately" but the White House keeps using different formulas, like soon or very soon or quite soon.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, no, I keep using the formula the President used, "immediately upon confirmation." When will confirmation take place? Looks like soon. You know, I mean it's --
QUESTION: This morning he said soon. I think he said the word "soon after confirmation."
MR. BOUCHER: I think in this case there won't be a big difference.
QUESTION: Could you take us through the calls the Secretary made, please?
MR. BOUCHER: I lost the stick-um. He spoke today, I think, with Foreign Secretary Straw, with Foreign Minister Villepin, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi of Japan. I'm doing this, just tell me when I -- tell me when I mess up. Foreign Minister Kawaguchi and President Musharraf.
QUESTION: What was the de Villepin phone call about? Iraq? The UN?
MR. BOUCHER: A number of subjects. Iraq, the UN, Middle East peace. Foreign Minister Villepin was just in Iran. They talked about a number of things.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, can I follow up? During this last conversation, he apparently said, you know, there are going to be some consequences, we're thinking about it. But has there been an agreement between the -- between them that even though there's a sourness to the relationship that you'll have to some consequences too, that you're still trying to work through these other issues? Or is there still tension in each one of these issues?
MR. BOUCHER: There was never any implication that we weren't going to try to work together where we could and where we found it in our interest, and throughout the differences and difficulties that we've had, I think the Secretary has kept in touch with his counterparts in countries that we were cooperating with and working with, and also with those who we had disagreements with. He has kept in touch with Foreign Minister Fischer, with Foreign Minister Villepin, and others as well.
QUESTION: With Musharraf, did he again raise cross-border infiltration? Was that one of the --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into any particular details of the discussion at this point, but the overall issue of how we can all work together to decrease tensions is one that has been an ongoing subject of discussion.
QUESTION: While our visiting team were at the talks in Beijing, the SARS epidemic appears to be getting out of hand. Were you asked by both China and other governments -- you've been issuing travel warnings -- to help rectify and do further research? Were you asked --
MR. BOUCHER: Most of our travel warnings, as you note, repeat the advice that the Center for Disease Control is giving. And indeed, the Center for Disease Control, from the very beginning, worked very, very closely with health authorities in other countries, in Hong Kong, in I think Vietnam, China, elsewhere, wherever they could, as well as with the international health authorities that we have obviously a very, very close relationship in that regard with Canada. So, but we generally, as far as the State Department goes when it comes to travelers, we're repeating the advice of qualified personnel.
QUESTION: And was the World Health Organization justified in their clampdown, especially Mayor Lastman of Toronto --
MR. BOUCHER: That's a question you'll have to ask the medical authorities. [End]
Released on April 25, 2003