Daily Press Briefing - Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing - Richard Boucher, Spokesman
July 17, 2003
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
Do you want to start?
QUESTION: Well, I'll --
QUESTION: Okay. He can do it.
MR. BOUCHER: He was the only one on TV -- go ahead, Jonathan.
QUESTION: Oh, yes. North Korea. Can you fill us in on what you've been hearing from the Chinese about what the North Koreans are, perhaps, proposing in the way of talks?
MR. BOUCHER: As on previous days, I have been here to brief on behalf of the United States, not on behalf of the North Koreans or the Chinese, so I would invite you to ask the North Koreans or the Chinese what they think about this, that and the other.
What I will tell you is that, for the United States part, we have been working very closely with the Chinese. The Secretary talked with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing on Tuesday. They agreed that Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo would visit the United States to brief us personally on his trip to Pyongyang last weekend.
Vice Minister Dai will meet with U.S. officials, including the Secretary, tomorrow, July 18th. We also expect him to meet with other Administration officials.
In our discussions with Vice Minister Dai, we will continue the close collaboration and contact we have had with the Chinese on how to pursue a peaceful and diplomatic solution that results in a nuclear-free Peninsula.
Obviously we have said before, we appreciate the role that China is playing and we will talk to them thoroughly about how to achieve the multilateral talks that we think are important. The United States has participated in the past, as you know, in the discussions in Beijing that had three parties. But I think it is important to remember that we believe at this juncture that there should be five-party talks, that Japan and South Korea need to be added to these discussions if they are to achieve any measure of success.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up there? Are you willing to consider a return to the same format that the talks took place --
MR. BOUCHER: We think at this juncture, it is important to move to five-party talks. We will continue to press for that, but I'm not going to speculate. We haven't ruled out the formula that was used in Beijing. We have just said we think it is important to move to five-party talks, and we will continue to press that.
QUESTION: Richard, Under Secretary Bolton, in an interview with some Asian or Japanese media yesterday, said that, in fact, yes, what you just said, that three-party talks are okay provided they then lead to the inclusion of the others. Is that -- can you -- is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not here to give you a formula. We will talk to the Chinese about how we can achieve our common goal of multilateral talks that can help denuclearize the Peninsula. I saw the interview. He was asked, you know, what about this, that, and the other, and he said yeah maybe that would work. He made clear we don't rule out the three-party option, but we very much think it is time to go to a five-party format. So that is what we will continue to press for.
QUESTION: Okay. And in the Vice Foreign Minister -- the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister talks here, can you say -- what exactly is it you're going to be discussing with him? The format or formula, as you say, or just does it get to that level of specificity, or is it broader?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what we will be discussing is everything. First, we want to hear directly from him about his conversations in Pyongyang. We want to hear directly from him about the position of the Chinese Government on these issues and what the Chinese Government thinks we should do in order to achieve a goal that we and the Chinese share of peacefully ending nuclearization of the Peninsula. And that will involve discussions of format, substance, whatever is on the agenda at this moment, to see what they heard in Pyongyang, and to make sure we understand Chinese views and the Chinese understand our views.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary, yesterday, sounded rather optimistic about this process. Does that mean that you have any reason to believe that the North Koreans are looking -- are moving towards your five-party format?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we will have to see. We will have to hear from the Chinese what they said. I think it is certainly time for the North Koreans to agree to multilateral discussions. And we will listen, hear from the Chinese about their -- you know, what they heard, and we will see what can be achieved.
The Secretary, yesterday, said there was active diplomacy. That is absolutely true and remains true and will be true tomorrow. He said there were going to be new developments, and lo and behold, here we are talking about a new development. So just stay tuned.
QUESTION: The new development is the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister, the Chinese Minister's visit, or is it something else?
MR. BOUCHER: That certainly is a new development.
QUESTION: But if he --
QUESTION: What is the other new development?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any others to announce for you.
QUESTION: Okay. But he did use -- I believe he used "developments," plural.
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look back, but just, you know, he told you diplomacy was active and I think we have plenty of evidence of that today.
QUESTION: Bilateral talks, then, are dead?
MR. BOUCHER: We have never supported the idea of bilateral talks. We have always said that is not the way to resolve these issues. That has been a very consistent position we have had from the start.
QUESTION: The three-way talk is a much larger --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, three-way was multilateral. I said we don't rule that out. We have participated in that, but we think it is time to move to five. We will continue to press that.
QUESTION: Okay. So now if it's in a three-way talks, how can you get guarantee from North Koreans that Japanese and South Koreans can get -- join the talk in the course of the multilateral talks?
MR. BOUCHER: You are repeating things we talked about five minutes ago. I don't have anything new to say now on these speculative formulas of how something could move into something and whatever. We will hear from the Chinese.
Our position has consistently been that at this moment it is time to move to five-party talks, and that is a position we will continue to press. We think the Japanese and South Koreans need to be there. We have explained many times why. That is where, in that kind of multilateral forum, is where these problems can be solved.
What North Korea has done and is doing, as it continues to be an affront to the entire region and, indeed, the entire world. We need to solve the problems there, but you also need to say that that is the kind of forum which can deal with the prospects that North Korea would like in the world.
Okay. Elise, you had something? No?
QUESTION: Well, I don't think you have an answer for it, so I won't ask it.
QUESTION: Same subject?
MR. BOUCHER: We have the same subject back there? Let's finish in the third and fourth rows, and we'll come back.
QUESTION: Ambassador Howard Baker is here for to talk with the President. Is the talks going to be related to the North Korea issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Actually, I haven't followed his schedule or his substance, so --
QUESTION: Do you have anything to brief afterwards or do you going to have a --
MR. BOUCHER: No. We don't usually brief on meetings between U.S. officials, so I don't think I will be doing that. If you want to know a little bit about his schedule, you might check with the Embassy or the East Asia Bureau. I am talking about Howard Baker's schedule.
QUESTION: So, we got a kind of a gunfire yesterday at the DMZ between North and South. This instance doesn't influence, doesn't affect the ongoing process of the multilateral dialogue?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- we're aware of the incident. We understand the South Koreans are looking into it and the UN command is also looking into it, but at this point I don't have any assessment or conclusions.
QUESTION: Richard, recognizing the fact that you don't speak for other departments of this government or other agencies in this government, but you said that the Vice Foreign Minister would be meeting with other U.S. officials. Can you, at least, if you can't say names, can you say what buildings he'll be going to?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. Not at this point.
QUESTION: Because it hasn't been set, or?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that it's been set. Yes.
QUESTION: Richard, going back to the bilateral issue, I know you don't like the idea, but could it -- is it -- are you ruling it out completely or could -- if it was part of a sort of three-layered package or a, you know, a three-tiered package, is that something that the United States is willing to consider?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not here to speculate on everything that's --
QUESTION: No, I'm not asking you to speculate. I just --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you are. "If that were part of a three-tiered package, would you consider it?" That, in my book, qualifies as very speculative if it has an "if" and a "would" in the same sentence. Okay?
But I can tell you that we have not supported bilateral talks. We don't believe that is a formula that works. We don't believe that is the way to solve the problem. And we have always insisted on multilateral talks and we expect we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Well, I'm not suggesting it as a way to solve the problem. I'm talking about it as a way to make sure that talks take place at a multilateral level in the way you want.
MR. BOUCHER: We have always insisted on multilateral talks. We continue to insist on multilateral talks.
QUESTION: But, Richard, can I try?
MR. BOUCHER: You wanted to ask the same question? Go ahead.
QUESTION: I guess what I'm asking is, if speaking with them privately in a way to persuade them to then meet in a multilateral setting and get them to feel comfortable, what -- and you said it's not a -- you're not going to solve anything in that private meeting anyway, why can't you just meet with them privately?
MR. BOUCHER: We are not interested. We are interested in multilateral discussions because we are interested in solving the problem in a forum where the problem can be solved. And that is what we have pursued.
Why should we sit down for a bilateral meeting if we don't think that's going to accomplish anything?
QUESTION: Well, it might accomplish setting up --
MR. BOUCHER: Just because they say they want it?
QUESTION: -- a multi-party talk.
MR. BOUCHER: Why do they set the rules and not us? I mean, let's face it. This is a diplomatic negotiation. We worked out a formula that worked in Beijing. We think it's time to move to five. That's the proposal that we have made.
QUESTION: Maybe you might hate my question, but I have to ask. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I love all the questions. I kind of enjoy the answers especially. I get used to them.
QUESTION: Okay. So let me make sure. You say that you didn't rule it out. You didn't rule the three-party meeting, but you said you will need -- it's time for a five party. That means a five-party meeting guarantees a kind of precondition for another three-party meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I wouldn't -- I would put it the way I put it and not the way you put it. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Can I ask, just back on the Chinese -- the visit of the Chinese --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: I'm not sure I understand exactly why you guys need a personal briefing. I mean, the Secretary, himself, said that he had a very long conversation with the Chinese Foreign Minister. Is there some kind of nuance that you think you might be missing in what the North Korean -- in the North Korean message to the Chinese? I mean, what is so important about seeing this guy personally here in Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the basic premise is that you can talk more completely with somebody in person than you can on the phone, even though the Secretary has demonstrated he can do a lot of business on the phone.
QUESTION: I'm glad you added that.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm glad I added that, too. (Laughter.)
But the Secretary did get a pretty thorough readout from the Foreign Minister, but it is always interesting to sit with the people who are in these conversations. And I think it is not just a matter of briefing. You know, read us the points of what, you know, you heard and give us your summary. It is a matter of discussing with the Chinese, who share an interest with us in pursuing this diplomatically, in pursuing this multilaterally, in pursuing this to denuclearize the Peninsula, of sitting with the Chinese and hearing their analysis and discussing with them the issues that are before us now.
So it is not just a briefing. It is a briefing and consultation, discussing with some people who -- with the Chinese, who share our goals.
QUESTION: Does that mean that you might be imparting some information to him that he could then take back to Beijing and then back on to Pyongyang? I mean, do you --
MR. BOUCHER: Such things have been known to happen in the past, but I'm not predicting any particular impartation at this point.
QUESTION: So you're not --
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't quite describe it as a Chinese --
QUESTION: Okay. So he wouldn't -- he's not a messenger?
MR. BOUCHER: He is not a shuttle diplomat at this point, but we are certainly working with them, and they are working with us and the North Koreans, to try to achieve multilateral talks. But we will see, you know, if anything we say to them is useful in getting that goal.
QUESTION: There was a report that Under Secretary Bolton said that he couldn't confirm that North Korea had completed their reprocessing of the spent fuel of yet. So it is something U.S. is sharing with Chinese side at this moment?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it is something we have said consistently in public and in private.
MR. BOUCHER: You have to ask the Chinese what their information is. But we -- I said the other day here that, yes, the North Koreans had said that they completed reprocessing, but we are not in a position to confirm that.
QUESTION: Richard, new subject? As I'm sure you're aware, the Italian press is alive with the sound of speculation. There are reports all about the Niger uranium documents, and I'm wondering if you're able to say anything about these reports. One, are you aware of an FBI investigation that involves the Embassy in Rome? Two, if you are -- well, if you are, is that investigation related to a foreign journalist giving these documents to, or presenting them to, the Embassy in October of 2002?
MR. BOUCHER: And your first question you can ask at the FBI, if they have any investigations. I'm not in a position to talk about anything like that, whether I know about it or not.
As far as the source of the documents, let me just say that there was information prior to that. We all understand that Ambassador Wilson was sent to Niger to check out allegations that Niger might have sold uranium to Iraq.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Prior to when?
MR. BOUCHER: Prior to October of 2002. We acquired the documents in October of 2002 and they were shared widely within the U.S. Government with all the appropriate agencies in various ways.
But I think the point that we have made, and this goes back not just to the documents which turned out -- the documents themselves, which turned out to be forgeries, but regarding the allegations, is that while the idea that Niger sold uranium to Iraq has been classified as, you know, false or highly dubious or many other things, there had been reports that Iraq was out seeking to purchase uranium there and in other places in Africa.
And now, we have not said that those reports are solid either, but I think the fact that Iraq had not abandoned its nuclear ambitions, the fact that Iraq had not abandoned its programs for weapons of mass destruction, that was the basic fact that led us to want to see the implementation of the UN resolutions, not a particular report or a particular document about Iraq's intentions.
QUESTION: But, okay, my question isn't really about the overall picture. It's more very focused specifically --
MR. BOUCHER: My answer is about the overall picture, yes.
QUESTION: I know. When you say, "We acquired the documents in October of 2002," you're talking about you acquired -- they were presented -- they were, in fact, given to the Embassy or to someone in the Embassy in Rome?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be able -- I don't think I'm in a position to say that specifically. There is a certain point at which we can't get too detailed into how we acquire things.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you say that it was acquired in a -- okay, how specific can you get about how --
MR. BOUCHER: As specific as I've been.
QUESTION: Okay. So not at all, in other words? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I've told you when. I've told you it was us.
QUESTION: Yeah. But not where?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven't said where or who from.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, but prior to this, I had been under the impression that you guys had said that it had come from the intelligence service of another country.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I said that.
QUESTION: Well, maybe not you, but --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the U.S. Government has said that. I think that's been widely reported in the press by -- because the British said they had information from other intelligence services, and I suppose people must have made the assumption that was talking about these documents.
QUESTION: But it wasn't?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the British themselves have said it wasn't.
QUESTION: All right. Well, let me just get one more. I just want to make sure this is on the record. The documents that you did acquire in October of 2002 were specifically these specific documents about Niger?
MR. BOUCHER: Were the documents about Niger that we had, and that we subsequently turned over to the IAEA and that Dr. ElBaradei talked about in front of the Security Council, and which have subsequently proved fraudulent.
QUESTION: And are the documents that were published by La Republica, in fact, those documents?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. I haven't read La Republica.
QUESTION: Not today?
MR. BOUCHER: Today?
QUESTION: I believe it was yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know.
QUESTION: Change of subject? The United Nations is asking for $190.4 million in claims relating back, I guess over ten years, to the first Iraqi war. And are you, in any sense, working with the UN to demand these monetary claims against the --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure what the figure is. You would have to ask the UN, I think. There are a variety of claims from the previous war that have been dealt with in various UN resolutions, and if you look in the most recent resolution, 1483, there was language in there that described how those various claims should be dealt with in terms of the escrow account and the remaining claims.
QUESTION: So do --
MR. BOUCHER: But the UN, I guess, will have to explain the math on that.
QUESTION: But to save time and bother, are these similar claims from 12 years ago being lumped together with present claims --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you've got to read the resolution. It was all done there. Our contribution was to work it out with the other partners in that resolution. That's where the rules are. The UN is charged with making it happen.
QUESTION: Sao Tome and Principe. Have you established whether this was a coup? It looks like a coup to most people.
MR. BOUCHER: I guess the answer is that we don't -- it is not a question of determining whether the word is right or not. It looks like a coup to most people, it walks like a coup, it quacks like a coup.
I have to make clear our position is based on the fact that there was a freely elected government that was overthrown by elements of the military. There were arrests of officials of a freely elected government by elements of the military. And we strongly condemn that.
We have urged a peaceful and nonviolent resolution in Sao Tome, including the release of all hostages, and to allow the elected government to continue to function.
As far as the situation on the ground, there are no obvious changes since yesterday. We have no report that any of the 14 government hostages have been released. All American citizens are safe and we're not aware of any injuries. The airport remains closed.
President Menezes is in Nigeria where he was attending a conference. Our ambassador, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Moorefield, remains in Sao Tome with other staff from Embassy Libreville. But Ambassador Moorefield has been in touch with President Menezes and he has been working with other diplomats there to try to achieve restoration of democratic government.
QUESTION: Is that working with the Portuguese?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, working with the Portuguese, and I'm not sure which others.
QUESTION: Have they made -- are they confined to the island? Have they made any effort to leave? Or are they just staying because of this issue --
MR. BOUCHER: I think they are staying because of the events; at least cable traffic I have read has said we intend to stay here and try to work this as best we can and we'll stay on top of the situation. So I don't think they've made an effort to leave. I don't know if they can. The airport is closed.
QUESTION: So your -- right. Your determination, though, that this was a freely elected government overthrown by elements of the military, what -- that has consequences. How much is it costing them?
MR. BOUCHER: That has consequences that will have to be looked at. I don't have any legal determinations for you today. We will have to look at the questions involving the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
As far as the amount of U.S. assistance, in the past -- in this fiscal year, 2003, they received $30,000 from the Democracy and Human Rights Fund, $18,000 in special self-help funds, International Military Education and Training Funding totals $100,000.
There was an ophthalmic clinic constructed -- an eye clinic constructed -- with military humanitarian assistance. There is a language laboratory that was constructed in 2003 with 2002 money. The military also contributed $300,000 towards malaria control.
Additional assistance proposed but not yet spent includes $500,000 to upgrade coastal security and $400,000 towards malaria control. So we will have to look at all those programs and assess the implications.
QUESTION: Has that been suspended, though?
MR. BOUCHER: No. At this point we will assess the situation and make the proper determinations for our assistance programs.
QUESTION: Well, I thought that when you -- in your opening spiel you said that it was a freely elected government overthrown by elements of the military. Right?
MR. BOUCHER: I also in my opening spiel said we haven't made legal determinations based on one word or the other.
QUESTION: But isn't that important?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't made legal determinations at this point. We will continue to assess the situation, and if we do make the determinations on way or the other, we will tell you.
QUESTION: Well, am I wrong though in thinking that once you call it that, i.e. a democratically elected government being overthrown in an undemocratic manner, you are require, aren't you, under U.S. law, to -- by Congress to suspend all non-humanitarian aid? Is that not correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- I don't know if that's correct or not. I would have to check the law.
QUESTION: Richard, on that, there is this talk -- well, the Mozambique President has gone to Nigeria and they are -- officials say they are discussing a possible African military intervention to restore the government. Is that something that they've consulted you on, and would you support such an intervention?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that is very speculative at this point. Certainly, the articles that I saw about it were anonymous officials speculating on this, that or the other. Our emphasis right now is trying to achieve a peaceful restoration of democratic government, and that is what we are working with President Menezes and other diplomats to achieve.
QUESTION: Have you -- has the Ambassador been in touch with any of the coup participants like this Major Pereira or whatever his name is?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a full list of people he's been in touch with. I can't -- I don't know.
QUESTION: Okay, I'm not asking you for a full list, but has he been in touch with any of the new de facto authority?
MR. BOUCHER: He is on the ground working the situation with other diplomats. I'm not going to go into detail on meetings he may have had at this point.
QUESTION: In the Senate floor is which they have an agenda is the 2004 State Department Budget Resolution. And some of the Senators giving the some amendment to insert Armenian genocide wording. What is the State Department position on this subject?
MR. BOUCHER: I -- the statements of our position -- are you talking about -- which bill is this?
QUESTION: 925 is the State Department --
MR. BOUCHER: Senate 925?
QUESTION: Yes. Senate 925.
MR. BOUCHER: Is that the --
QUESTION: 541 is the amendment number.
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to get something on that. We have statements of Administration position on legislation that are on the Office of Management and Budget website. You can look up there and see if we have had a statement of position on that particular legislation.
QUESTION: And also, Mr. Weston is in Turkey, and he said that they are supporting the Annan plan -- he said that Annan plan is the only plan to solve the Cyprus problem. And on the same side -- and the Turkish side put the several plan on the table, which it means is the U.S. doesn't recognize any other plan other than the Annan plan in this solving the Cyprus problem?
MR. BOUCHER: We have said again and again we think that the Annan plan is the way to move forward on this issue. We have emphasized the need for the parties to get back to talks on that basis. That is the only basis that we have supported for negotiations at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, when the Secretary went up on the Hill yesterday to brief some senators behind closed doors on Liberia, did he at all mention of any draft resolutions that the Administration might be preparing to have them ready, or it ready, when the decision is made?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. Wouldn't say. I'm not going to brief on what he said behind closed doors. We have, indeed, been preparing language for possible UN resolutions, should the President decide how we will participate in the effort in Liberia. The President has made clear that he is looking at that, and when he decides, we will look for the appropriate UN resolution. So we have prepared, you know, contingency language, talked with other agencies about it, but it is not something we would move forward on until the President makes his decisions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- discussed it outside the Administration with other Security Council members?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. No.
QUESTION: Richard, on this Liberia thing. It looks like the fighting had resumed after a lull of some days. Does this mean that diplomatic activity is reactivated to -- on a possible military intervention by ECOWAS and yourselves? Is there anything happening on the diplomatic front?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be -- you could only reach that conclusion if you somehow thought it had been deactivated, which it hasn't been. It has been very active all along. Just last weekend, we had people working with the ECOWAS nations in terms of their planning for military operations. They, themselves, have already put out statements about their intentions to move forces into the area.
As you know, the United States has been actively considering how best we can support the efforts that they are making and others are making to bring about a more peaceful situation for the people of Liberia. So this has been a very active thing. The fact that there is some fighting again demonstrates once again that this remains an important issue on our agenda and that we need to keep working on it.
QUESTION: Yeah, but what's happened since Monday, since Kofi Annan was here? Is there --
MR. BOUCHER: We have had continuing discussions with the Africans. We have been in close touch with the United Nations Secretary General and the United States Government has continued to consider how to move forward on these issues.
QUESTION: Do you know anything about an August 2 "out date" for Charles Taylor?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen that reported anywhere. No.
QUESTION: Richard, given -- I realize you're not moving forward with this UN resolution, or resolutions, until the President makes a decision, but has it been decided then, already, that any U.S. participation, that you want a specific UN mandate for U.S. involvement? Or could you -- in other words, you're not going to do it simply between you and ECOWAS. You want --
MR. BOUCHER: The UN, the drafting, the playing around with language, the bringing together elements of a resolution, doesn't decide what the President had to decide. The President decides and we will modify whatever language we have accordingly. If he decides to go with a U.S. participation, militarily or otherwise, if we decide that that benefits or needs a UN resolution, we have language that we have prepared on a contingency basis. But I'm not going to let the fact that we have done contingency planning prejudice the President's decisions.
QUESTION: Okay. But I just -- then, it's entirely possible that this would never -- that these contingency -- well, I guess it's inherent in the word "contingency," but it's quite possible that you would never bring this to the UN? Right?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't predict one way or the other at this point.
QUESTION: But still -- but, and still not bring it to the UN but still get involved?
MR. BOUCHER: That's very speculative at this point. Our position is the President is actively considering this. We are prepared to support diplomatically, and I'm sure the Pentagon is prepared to support militarily, if necessary, anything the President decides to do. And we are doing the proper contingency planning so when the President does decide exactly what he wants to do, we'll be there to support him.
QUESTION: But, right, but -- it looks like there -- the President has said you have said that you'd like to participate in some way in helping in the effort. Would you prefer that that participation is under some kind of UN mandate or something like that? You've talked about --
MR. BOUCHER: We would prefer to do whatever the President decides, and I'm going to leave it to the President to decide whether what he wants to do and what form of UN support he may or may not want for that.
QUESTION: Richard, the assessment team is still in Liberia, I believe.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Have you received any recommendations from them, and what are they?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to talk about their recommendations. The assessment team remains in Liberia. I'm sure they are reporting back through various channels what their thoughts are and what the situation is there. But I'm not in a position to share that with you. The President will have to take all of this into account as he makes his decisions.
QUESTION: Richard, just to go back to this thing with the UN. You're answering this, or not answering it, in a way that makes me suspect that what you're worried -- really worried about is that people turning then to Iraq and saying, "Well, why don't you go for a specific -- you know, a more specific UN mandate for a peacekeeping --
MR. BOUCHER: No. What I'm worried about is my telling the President he has to get a UN resolution when it is up to the President to tell us whether he wants one or not. I'm just not getting ahead of the President's decision.
QUESTION: Okay, well the implication was, in the report this morning, was that this is the way you had decided to go, the UN route. And I just want to -- I'm trying to make sure that this --
MR. BOUCHER: We are making sure we are ready to go the UN route if the President decides to go the UN route. The President always has the options. All I'm doing here is not getting ahead of the President.
MR. BOUCHER: You can go as far as you want down the road. I'm going to wait for the President to decide, and then I'm going to do what he wants.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay?
QUESTION: And we'll report then. But we're just trying to figure out what to report now.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I wouldn't speculate on anything else.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Yes, I still want to know what kinds of topics are included for today's talk between the President and the Ambassador? I mean, --
MR. BOUCHER: Whatever they want to talk to about. I don't know that it is on the schedule. We don't brief on meetings between U.S. officials. If the President encounters Senator Baker, Ambassador Baker, I'm sure they talked about Japan. But what they want to talk about is up to them. Again, I'm not getting ahead of the President on that either.
QUESTION: Richard, there are a couple of Palestinian ministers who came along today to see Mr. Burns and Ms. Cheney.
MR. BOUCHER: Is that right?
QUESTION: Yeah. Either that or maybe you --
MR. BOUCHER: Fascinating. Let me find out about it and tell you what I can.
QUESTION: You don't --
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't know about it. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Can you say where discussions are with the British on these two Brits being held at Guantanamo? Do you anticipate that there'll be a decision soon or are you -- is it simply an issue of handing them over to the British for trial, or not, or are there other arrangements that can be made to address some of the British concerns about them being tried here in the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had a number of discussions with the British about the situation of the British detainees at Guantanamo. As you know, the Secretary and Foreign Secretary Straw have discussed this a number of times. We have also had legal discussions with the British about technical and legal issues involved. We have also had discussions with the Australians as well to make sure that we and they understand the situation in the same terms.
So those discussions have gone on. They look at all these aspects, all aspects. Where is the appropriate place for prosecution of people that are subject to prosecution for crimes? What are the possibilities of transferring detainees to one jurisdiction or another for action? Some detainees may qualify for release. So there is all -- we're in touch with other governments about detainees at Guantanamo, and especially with the British Government and the Australian Government about their detainees at this moment.
As far as when decisions can be made on how these people need to be handled, I just can't predict that at this point.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Deputy Secretary Armitage's talks with the French diplomatic advisor to Chirac? And we've had the Germans here yesterday and the French today. Is it just normal diplomatic traffic, or is there something else going on?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, on the
talks today, the Deputy Secretary welcomed Mr.
Gourdault-Montagne, the diplomatic advisor to French President Chirac. This morning, they discussed a range of issues, including Iraq, Iran, Africa and the Middle East. That is about all I have at this moment. I would just describe it as continuing consultations between our governments. We meet with European allies especially fairly frequently and have a lot to talk about.
QUESTION: Richard, today, I believe Matt mentioned, is the 35th anniversary of the coming to power of Saddam Hussein. He's coming out with vindictive audiotapes again. Is there any way to go after the news outlets to prevent that from necessarily occurring?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not --
QUESTION: -- the Cubans -- (laughter) --
QUESTION: It seems to be going to --
MR. BOUCHER: No, this is -- there is a serious issue here, but that's the issue of Saddam Hussein. The 30th anniversary of his coming to power is not a date we celebrate. It is a day that may be appropriate to remember all the victims of his rule and the mass graves that are being found and the people that he gassed in Halabja and on the Iranian border, all the other cruelties that existed in Iraq for so long. It is a day to think about the better prospects that the Iraqi people now have, including the prospects of their controlling their own government and their own country.
Ambassador Bremer, a couple of months ago, said by mid-July we would have political councils up and running. We've got a political council up and running now. We have said that we would get Iraqis together, let Iraqis draft their new constitution. That is the next step going along. So we are moving down this track to get -- let Iraq move well beyond this horrible period when Saddam Hussein was in power. There are remnants. There are these tapes that come out from time to time that threaten that whole process. But the whole process is a process that the Iraqis can use to develop their own future, to get their country back. I don't think this kind of statement has much appeal except for a small band of people who benefited from the cruelties and the nepotism of the previous regime.
QUESTION: As a follow-up, have you put any type of stern warnings to those particular news outlets?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, it's not so much a question of the news outlets. It's a question of, you know, the dynamic of what's going on. And I think the dynamic is in favor of the Iraqi people moving from that past, rejecting that kind of cruelty, and moving to a future that they control in a democratic manner.
QUESTION: Do you have any update at all, or maybe it hasn't actually begun yet, on Assistant Secretary Craner's visits, travel?
MR. BOUCHER: No. He's in Kabul today, right?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any reporting back at this point.
Okay, thank you.