State Dept. Press Briefing for Mar 29 -Transcript
Daily Press Briefing for March 29 -- Transcript
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC March 29, 2004
MIDDLE EAST 1, 6 Arab Summit 2 Regional Reform Efforts
TERRORISM 2 UN Security Council Vote on Killing of HAMAS Leader Sheikh Yassin
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 3-5 Consultations with Regional Governments 5 Proposals on Gaza
SYRIA 6-7 Peace Negotiations 7 Sanctions
UZBEKISTAN 7-8 Bombings 8 Status of Embassy Tashkent
GEORGIA 8-9 Election Results
IRAQ 9-10 Constituting the Interim Government 10 Elections
UNITED NATIONS 11 U.S. Contributions to the World Food Program
PAKISTAN 12 Recent Military Operations
NORTH KOREA 12-13 Six-Party Talks / Working Groups
IRAN 13-14 Cooperation with the IAEA 14 Centrifuges
HAITI 14 CARICOM Position on Haitian Government 15-16 Police Support / Multinational Force
SERBIA-MONTENEGRO 16 Aid and Assistance
NATO 17, 20 NATO Expansion 17-18 Relations with Russia / NATO-Russia Council
AFGHANISTAN 18 President Karzai Schedules Elections for September 19 Donor Conference 19-20 Reconstruction
CYPRUS 21-22 Settlement / Reunification Talks
1:05 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Well, lots of things. The Secretary yesterday, after being on TV, was stopped, as he sometimes is, on his way to his car, and said basically on the Arab summit that he'd be checking in the next day or so with Arab foreign ministers and might have more on it.
Has he checked? What's the size-up of it now, if it's changed?
MR. BOUCHER: He hasn't connected with any Arab foreign ministers at this point, although we do have embassies in the region who have been talking to people and who have been reporting back to us, so we're getting some views from countries in the region about the postponement. As the Secretary said yesterday, we had nothing to do with the postponement of the summit.
MR. BOUCHER: We were, in fact, hoping, he was hoping, the summit would be able to go ahead.
And I guess I'd say the cancellation or postponement, whatever we're going to call it, of this Arab summit meeting doesn't change in the least our commitment that we have to supporting homegrown reform and modernization in the Middle East, looking for initiatives within the region to expand political, economic and educational opportunities. Those are very important, and we plan to consider at the G-8 how best to support them.
QUESTION: Is the canceling of the -- the cancellation of the summit, is it a disappointment to the United States of America, considering that it was pushing for reform, and so on?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd did say it wasn't -- I mean, it wasn't our summit. We plan on pushing forward anyway. We know there are countries in the region who are committed to reform. We are talking to them, hearing from them, looking at their reform agendas and looking at ways we can support it. We'll continue to do that. If they have a summit, we'll continue to look at what the summit or other meetings in the Arab world produce.
QUESTION: Richard, would you kindly expand on the vote at the UN this past week on the resolution that you effectively canceled in the Security Council on the killing of --
MR. BOUCHER: Sheikh Yassin?
QUESTION: The Sheikh. And also, Mr. Rantisi seems to be coming out with vitriol against both Israel and the United States.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the first is on the vote at the UN, the U.S. veto. I'd leave it to what we said at the time. I think Ambassador Negroponte issued a statement and that full statement is available to you.
As far as the threats that we've heard, I would just remind people that Hamas is a Designated Terrorist Organization. There is no question that Hamas is a major obstacle to the pursuit of Middle East peace, it's a major obstacle to the achievement of the vision the President has enunciated of having two states that can live side by side, and Hamas is indeed a major obstacle to the Palestinian people in trying to achieve their aspirations.
Peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be achieved by dismantling and disarming the terrorist capabilities of organizations that take innocent lives in order to prevent the peace process from moving forward. We don't think that Hamas and other Palestinian groups should be permitted to undermine the aspirations of both the Palestinian and the Israeli people. In that regard, we'd call once again for the Palestinian Authority to do everything in their power to confront and halt terror and violence.
QUESTION: To go back on the Arab League. Do you not see this as a setback for your G-8 agenda? And when you talk about countries that are doing their own reform, and you've mentioned a few now and again, seems like some of the major players in that group are not necessarily on board from the things I hear their leadership saying. And so how do you hope to bridge this by the early June?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, if you look around the region, the major players, the minor players, the region, is talking about reform. It's different in each place and that's one of the premises that we go forward on is that it will be different in each place. Each country will find its own path forward. Each country will identify the areas that it's prepared to reform in and try to go forward in.
But there seems to genuine discussion in the region, genuine movement in the region, general -- genuine effort in the region to look for areas of reform, to look for areas where they can modernize their economies and their societies and political systems. In many cases, this is homegrown. It comes from the region and our intention is to support homegrown reform and modernization. So it is different in each country, but I think there's a pretty widespread recognition that this is on the agenda for each country but in a different way in each place.
QUESTION: Are you saying, in a way, that collective moves toward reform are not as -- but not more effective -- not as plausible as country by country, that a summit may not be the best format?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not. Obviously, they wanted to take up the issue at the summit. There were some indications they'd reached substantial agreement on how to take up the issue at the summit. I think if you look around at the reporting, you'll find that they were coming together and, in fact, may have agreed in advance on how the summit could support the process of reform.
Obviously, that's important for the countries collectively to make their commitment and to talk about how they wanted to move forward, but I don't think even that -- I don't think they see it as everybody has to do the same thing. I think that everybody deserves support and encouragement from their friends to do reform in their own way, and that's the way we look at it, too.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more to say about travel by Burns, Abrams, Hadley?
MR. BOUCHER: The team is leaving today. This is Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs William J. Burns, Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley, and Senior Director for Near Eastern African Affairs Elliot Abrams. They're traveling to the region this week. They first go to Brussels, and then on to Jerusalem, and then other Arab capitals. So, as usual, we won't give out the exact itinerary, but they'll be in the region this week.
QUESTION: Why Brussels?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's to consult with the Europeans.
QUESTION: And why are they --
QUESTION: Because they're part of the roadmap, or -- or because of their influence and --
MR. BOUCHER: All of the above.
QUESTION: What is the purpose of the trip to the region?
MR. BOUCHER: To continue the discussions that we've had on Israeli proposals, ways that they can advance the President's vision of a two-state solution. Our work is focused on ways to facilitate implementation of the vision that the President stated of two states that can live side by side.
QUESTION: Here's a sensitive question. Have you had any indication from Jerusalem that this isn't the best time to -- for the prime minister, with his problems, to get immersed in the process, or are you proceeding as you would normally?
MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to ask Jerusalem if they have anything like that to say. Our visits are always arranged with the cooperation of the governments in the places where we're going. And if they -- so the visit's on.
QUESTION: But I mean does the U.S. team feel inhibited in any way? Will they be hurt or will it be --
MR. BOUCHER: We intend to go out and pursue our agenda. If, for some reason, they can't receive it, that would be up for them to say.
QUESTION: Richard --
QUESTION: If all they do in that discussion --
MR. BOUCHER: Hang on. Hang on.
QUESTION: Do they expect to meet with anyone in the Palestinian leadership?
MR. BOUCHER: They always have met with Israelis and Palestinians. I don't have an exact list of names at this point.
QUESTION: You would expect anyway?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect there would be meetings, yeah.
QUESTION: Also, and can you say how many Arab, other Arab capitals they're going to, even if you can't say which ones?
MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point.
QUESTION: Do they expect to see Prime Minister Sharon?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not going to give out the schedule of meetings. We'll see who they meet when they get there.
QUESTION: I didn't ask for the schedule of meetings. I asked if they were meeting one particular person. I didn't ask the date or the time or the place.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I won't say so in advance in any case.
QUESTION: Are they doing more than just discussions? Are they actually negotiating aspects of the separation with Prime Minister Sharon or with the Israeli Government?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think we've made clear all along, they're in a --
QUESTION: -- in a --
MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me.
QUESTION: I mean, they're making too many trips, one after the other.
MR. BOUCHER: They're making too many trips. Okay. We don't think so, but that's okay.
They're making a lot of trips. There's a lot of back and forth now with the Israel Government and discussions with others, including the Palestinians and regional players. Some of that discussion has taken place with these, with this team that's gone out there. Some of it has taken place with the Secretary of State's meetings that he has had in Washington recently, and some of it will take place with further meetings at the presidential level during the course of the month of April.
So they're discussing, fundamentally, the President's vision, how to achieve it, and how the various steps discussed by Israel are being taken in the region can contribute to that achievement. As we've made clear before, there's a back-and-forth process here.
We are asking questions, looking for answers on a lot of questions that we've had, and there's been an ongoing dialogue between us and the Israeli Government, but also between us and other regional players as to how these steps or other steps can be taken to further proceed down the path outlined by the President of two states living side by side in peace.
QUESTION: With all those talks, with the Israelis coming here regularly, you've got to have some solid handle on Sharon's proposals for Gaza. Is it -- have you reached the point where you're able to -- I don't know what the word would be -- to certify? I know what you've said about it, the Administration has. But is the Administration prepared to say, you know, without any qualification, yes, this is a reasonable and a good step toward peacemaking or roll forward?
MR. BOUCHER: We're not at the point yet to render some kind of judgment or characterization. These are ongoing discussions. They have continued on a regular basis, and as I pointed out, there are other even higher-level discussions coming up. So I wouldn't want to characterize the state of play or the nature of our discussions at this point.
QUESTION: And you realize I'm asking about a published report Saturday that Israel wants you to do this.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, right.
QUESTION: You don't have to speak for Israel, but you're not ready?
MR. BOUCHER: There have been a series of published reports like that --
MR. BOUCHER: -- over the course of several weeks. And I don't think we've jumped into it before. I'm not prepared to make any categorical judgments at this point.
QUESTION: Yes, regarding the Arab summit. I mean, the signals from here last week kind of optimistic. Do you feel that you are disappointed?
And the second thing, are you interested to have another summit or, I mean, you don't care?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, it's not our summit. Second of all, the question of whether we're disappointed was asked eight minutes ago and I don't have a new -- I'm sorry -- I don't have a new answer now. We'll give you the transcript.
And as far as a new summit, that's in the hands of the Arabs.
QUESTION: My second question is regarding these contacts? Is part of this three people are going -- is going to be part of this revive, because one of the exact agreement was this -- the peace -- the so-called process between Arab and Palestinians, Israelis. Is this going to be part of the reviving the summit or having the summit?
MR. BOUCHER: We're not the movers behind the summit. This is an Arab summit that's organized by the Arab countries. It's obviously a point of great interest to us, it's a point that's been discussed in the region now for several months. Most of the meetings we've had with Arab governments over the last several months have involved some discussion of the summit. So I wouldn't be surprised if this came up during the course of their meetings, but I wouldn't say that they're going out to restart the Arab summit. That's not for us to do. It's not our role.
QUESTION: The recent statements of Secretary Powell concerning the dialogue with Syria, it had received very positive reaction in Syria. They were encouraged by his statements about the continuation of dialogues and they expressed the same views in the Middle East that the Israeli factor has been really a stumbling point in better relations between America and Syria.
Is the visit of Mr. Sharon to Washington going to include any encouragement from the U.S. Government to pursue a single initiative for peace between the two countries there?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if this will be discussed during the visit of Prime Minister Sharon. The United States has made clear it's open to movement on the Syrian track, that our view of peace in the region is a comprehensive view. We would like to look for opportunities to move forward on any of these fronts. Whether they're -- it's an opportune moment to discuss that when Prime Minister Sharon visits or not, I don't know.
QUESTION: Do you have an early assessment of what's going on in Uzbekistan on --
QUESTION: Can we stay on -- continuing on Syria for a second.
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. Has there been a decision made to delay or to not announce the -- whatever sanctions you are going -- you're going to announce eventually on Syria, due to the situation in the Middle East right now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we ever set any particular moment for announcement.
QUESTION: Well, let's see. You said very soon about two weeks ago.
MR. BOUCHER: The very near future, I think.
QUESTION: Very soon is what the Deputy Secretary has testified to on the Hill. I believe he was under oath when he said it.
MR. BOUCHER: I was thinking whether Ambassador Burns said it, "very near future," not too long ago, either. So I think we're still within our time frame. We'll just see how things proceed.
QUESTION: Well, there hasn't been --
MR. BOUCHER: I have nothing to announce at this moment, nor can I give you a date when we might announce it.
QUESTION: Two bombings in Uzbekistan, you know, suggestions that it may be terror -- you know --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, let me tell you what we know. First, let me make clear that we strongly condemn the senseless act of violence that occurred in Uzbekistan. We'd like to extend our condolences to the Government of Uzbekistan and the Uzbek people for the injuries and the loss of life caused by these terrorist attacks.
The attacks are yet another example of the importance of continued cooperation against those who would stop at nothing to achieve their misguided goals.
We have seen reports of 19 deaths and 26 injured. There have been no reports of any injuries or deaths of U.S. citizens. At this point, no one has claimed responsibility, but we understand that Uzbek authorities have detained several suspects.
Our Embassy in Tashkent remains open. At this point, there are no plans to cut back on operations. They did have a suspension of visa operations for the day on March 29th, but the Consular Section continues to provide services to American citizens. They did take some precautionary measures and temporarily close several offices that were not located on the main compound. But at this point, we are open and we are in touch with the Uzbek Government as far as how they proceed in terms of their investigation.
QUESTION: Any request for help, any offer of help?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we don't have any requests for assistance. We'd be, obviously, willing to entertain any request, but nothing particular at this point.
QUESTION: New subject, Georgia. Elections in Georgia. According to the exit polls, only one political team has chance to win. And also, if you know, how is the statement of OSCE and (inaudible) observers?
MR. BOUCHER: We have obviously watched carefully the Georgian election. We are pleased to see the steady progress that the Georgian Government appears to have made in administering free elections. We agree with the preliminary conclusions of the OSCE observer mission, which noted that Georgia has made commendable progress in bringing these elections closer to European standards.
I think it's a little premature to comment on the numbers of the parallel vote count until after the Georgia Central Election Commission and the OSCE complete their work -- I guess, maybe tomorrow.
But generally, I think we can say the Parliamentary elections look to have been generally conducted well. There are allegations of serious irregularities in a couple places and we look to the OSCE for their final report.
QUESTION: Richard --
QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?
QUESTION: Yeah. Wait, no. On Georgia?
MR. BOUCHER: On Georgia.
QUESTION: The last time you guys put out a preliminary assessment of an election in Georgia, you had to reverse it awfully quickly. Are you worried at all that by not waiting until tomorrow or until the OSCE comes up with its final recommendations, that you might again be put in a situation that's a bit untenable?
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, first of all, we had people out ourselves looking at the elections. We're basing this also on the conclusions that the OSCE had, at least their preliminary conclusions. So I think we're pretty much lined up with others who are out there watching. There's obviously more detail to be added in terms of the final report, but we're fairly comfortable with the basic conclusion at this point.
QUESTION: But you recall the election that I'm talking about, right?
MR. BOUCHER: I do recall.
MR. BOUCHER: Iraq.
QUESTION: Is it true that -- there are some reports coming out of Baghdad that the CPA or the United States is looking to abandon expanding the council for, you know, in favor of a premier, appointing an Iraqi premier. Is that true?
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen those reports. We've had discussions with Iraqis, both in the Governing Council and outside it, about how to constitute the interim government. We're looking to the arrival of the Secretary General's delegation, the UN delegation, to help carry that process forward. So it's way premature at this point to draw any conclusion about how that process might work.
But generally, all the discussions have involved meetings, councils, expansion towards a more representative, a bigger, more broadly representative body of some kind. And that's the direction I think -- at least the Iraqis tell us that's the direction that their discussions are headed in.
So it's premature to draw any particular conclusion, but I think we'll see what happens at the next step, which is when the UN gets there.
QUESTION: But you wouldn't dismiss the idea of a premier (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't dismiss any particular idea at this point. I'll just tell you the way things have been going and that it's premature to say that anything's been decided, by us or the Iraqis.
QUESTION: So then, isn't that not the way the Ayatollah wants to move, the broader representation. He seems to be starting a drumbeat of criticism of the constitution, of the notion of the -- with the Shias and the Kurds getting representation and wants the Shiites to -- I mean the Sunnis -- he wants the Shiites to be in charge of them, doesn't he? Are you wondering -- is the constitution in peril?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I'm not here to brief on behalf of Ayatollah Sistani so --
QUESTION: No, but he's attacked the U.S. --
MR. BOUCHER: -- I don't think I can characterize his views. We have seen some criticism for those quarters of the transitional law. I think he put out a statement.
MR. BOUCHER: And there's a lot of discussion in Iraq. I mean, first of all, let's remember the transitional law is transitional and it's meant to take -- to establish a good foundation for Iraqi government, for an Iraq's -- Iraqi sovereign government through the time when Iraq can have a fully constituted, constitutionally-based, elected government.
Second of all, that that is the direction of full elections that we're all headed towards that I think everybody agrees is the -- has to be the goal and has to be achieved as soon as possible, and the UN election people are now back out in Iraq working with the Iraqis, working with the Coalition Authority on how to organize that election. So there is, indeed, progress being made every day, as we speak, towards that broader election in Iraq, towards defining how it can be held and when it can be held, and the goal is to get that done at the end of the year or very soon after.
And the third thing I'd point out is that there is a lot of different political debate and discussion in Iraq. The transitional law itself was the subject of some noisy debate, including last-minute hitches; the interim government may be a matter of considerable debate. It's another big question the Iraqis have to decide.
But we're confident that with our help, with the help of the United Nations' representatives who are heading out there, that they will be able to come to agreement on a form of an interim government that can get them through this period of whatever it is -- six, eight months or so -- until there's a more fully elected government.
QUESTION: So it sounds like this is a healthy and reasonable debate. It's -- they're not trying to --
MR. BOUCHER: It's always healthy.
QUESTION: Yeah. But there isn't a force there, a very important force, trying to shoot holes in your progress to a democracy, huh?
MR. BOUCHER: No, just different people in Iraq with different views. They've shown an ability to work them out in the past. We are confident that with our help and the help of the United Nations they should be able to work them out again.
QUESTION: A quick question about the World Food Program. There's a story out of Johannesburg quoting a senior WFP official as saying the United States plans to cut its contribution to the WFP by something like 20 percent or almost $300 million this year. Is that right? And if so, why?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the -- I just heard about this story, or just saw this story. I wasn't able to retrieve all the numbers myself. But let's remember how this process works. We budget an amount for food emergencies through the WFP, World Food Program, that we expect, based on what we can see on the horizon, meaning we budget an amount that looks like it'll be there, to take care of what food emergencies one might anticipate during the course of the year.
In many years the emergencies, unfortunately, far exceed the amount budgeted and we add. So last year we added 58 percent to what we had in the budget. So this year we've -- at an amount that's more than the original budget last year, but less than the final total -- and that's our expectation of how much will be needed, but if necessary, we'll be able to augment it with resources as appropriate.
QUESTION: Could you take the question and get us the numbers so we can --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll get you the numbers, but it's not -- with this particular kind of account, this food emergencies, it's not correct to draw conclusions about overall spending in the year based on what we budget at the beginning. Our budget is just an estimate of the kind of food crisis we might face.
One would hope that we wouldn't even need that, that the food situation for people around the world will be better and we wouldn't face those kinds of emergencies, but that it's an estimate of the crisis out there as opposed to a limit on the amount we might provide.
Yeah. Okay. Okay, Elise.
QUESTION: On Pakistan.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: In the light of the Zawahiri tape and all the military losses that the Pakistani Government has incurred as a result of this latest raid, how convinced are you that the Pakistani military will remain loyal to Musharraf?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really see any basis for asking that question at this point, that the -- the Pakistani armed forces have just carried out an operation dictated by national policy, commanded by their civilian leader, their leadership, and that goes to the very heart of the policies adopted in Pakistan to rid the country of extremism and to end the presence of foreign terrorists within their borders to those that are holed up in this area. So I don't quite understand why the question would arise at this moment.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, it was a decision that I know the U.S. supported, but a lot of people in Pakistan didn't support the military action. So do you think that, in light of the casualties, that perhaps the military will not remain loyal to Musharraf going forward?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be wildest speculation, and I don't see any reason to start that.
QUESTION: Can I move to North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: Go right ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Yesterday, the Chinese Foreign Minister met the South Korean Foreign Minister in Beijing and according to a report from Beijing on the North Korean side, emphasize again that they want to talk -- they want to raise the issue about the compensation for fleets in coming working group? And do you have -- can you give us any -- your stance on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's useful to try to get into another round of back and forth in the press on specific positions. I suppose what you're telling me is that -- a the position North Korea has taken in the past. But we've, I think, made clear our position, both in the six-party talks in Beijing and to some extent in public about the various proposals that have been made.
The next step, we think, is to try to establish the working groups and get down to work. The United States has been consulting and coordinating in diplomatic channels on the establishment of the six-party working group that was agreed in the last round of talks in Beijing in February. So we would look forward to convening a working group at the earliest possible time.
QUESTION: So Mr. Boucher, are you willing to, United States are willing to talk the issue of compensation for fleets, this idea, you can talk about?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we've made clear that we don't plan on extending any compensation ourselves for North Korea not to do things it never should have been doing, and but if you want the views of others who were there, you can check with them as well.
Yeah. Okay. Let's go around. North Korea any more? Elise.
QUESTION: Can you talk about why it's taking so long to -- or the challenges of setting up these working groups? I mean, we've been working on setting them up for a while. So what -- could you talk about what some --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the talks were in February, it's now the end of March, so it's about a month later. I don't think anybody has said this is just going to fall into place real simple and easy-like. So we're working on it. The Chinese are trying to help organize it. They've just had a high-level visit out to North Korea and we are in touch with them, and as your colleague pointed out, others are in touch with them as well. We would hope the North Koreans would agree to working groups talks at an early date.
QUESTION: Is it that the North Koreans are not agreeing to the working group talks? Are there other intricacies of setting up such a group?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to characterize the situation at this point. The Chinese are trying to bring it together. It's still kind of -- the process is still ongoing. When there's something to report, we'll report it.
QUESTION: On Iran. Iran now says that it will stop building centrifuges, which was a complaint of the U.S. earlier, and it believes this will help establish greater credibility in the rest of the world. I just wondered if you have any reaction to that decision.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular reaction to that. We've seen those reports. It's really a matter of Iran cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency. There are safeguards inspectors from the agency who returned to Iran on March 28th. So they are conducting the inspection and -- investigation and verification work that needs to be done.
I'd point out, once again, this group was delayed for several weeks by the Iranian Government. It's another example of the difficulty of getting transparency and cooperation from the Iranian Government.
So at this point, we're looking forward to further work by the International Atomic Energy Agency. We're looking forward to further report from the Director General of the agency by the end of May as was requested in the mid-March resolution from the board. And we expect that the next resolution -- next report would describe Iran's implementation of all the steps that were called for by that resolution and previous IAEA board resolutions.
QUESTION: Is it enough that they just stop producing new centrifuges, or does the U.S. also demand that they destroy the centrifuges that they've already built?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, if you look into the history of this, you look at the resolutions that the board itself has passed in November and in March, there are quite a few other steps that were required, steps, many of which Iran has not fully complied with at this point. So it's not just a matter of stopping some work.
QUESTION: But also on that specific question though, does the U.S. also expect them to destroy their stockpile of centrifuge?
MR. BOUCHER: I would look at the whole range of commitments that they have made to the IAEA and the whole list of requirements that have been made in the board resolutions.
Yeah. Hang on, also on Iran.
QUESTION: There was one report over the weekend about details about a systematic Iranian cover-up of its nuclear program, efforts to conceal elements of the program from inspectors, and that there's some intelligence reports floating around that the U.S. has received that give weight to the idea that senior officials in the Iranian Government are actively involved in this cover-up.
Can you say anything?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, I wouldn't be able to comment on allegations that reportedly come from intelligence reports. I would point out that we do not think that Iran has come clean or shared fully the information that it should have shared by now with the IAEA board about its past and present nuclear activities, so we fully support the ongoing efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate it and uncover the full extent of that program.
QUESTION: Richard, on Haiti, is there any reaction to the CARICOM nations' decision this weekend not to recognize the interim government in Haiti, and also their call for a UN investigation into the circumstances of Aristide's departure?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what they did is they postponed the question of accepting Haiti as a representative in CARICOM, and they'll look at that again in July.
I think I would just say we've been working with the CARICOM countries, we've been working with the countries of the region, to try to encourage cooperation with Haiti, to try to act on their commitments and pledges to help Haiti reestablish itself economically, socially and politically. There's a lot of progress that is being made in Haiti by the new government there with the support of the international community, and we would hope that the CARICOM nations could be part of that.
So we've stayed in touch with them. We've looked at their communiqué, but we've also kept the dialogue going and we'll keep talking to them. The Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Knight over the weekend -- on Sunday, right?
QUESTION: And the second half of that question was -- had to do with the call for a UN investigation into --
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new on that. We don't think it's necessary.
QUESTION: Would you cooperate with it?
MR. BOUCHER: That's hypothetical at this point. We just don't think it's necessary.
QUESTION: It doesn't bother you at all that CARICOM is not recognizing this new government, even though you've been talking to them and working with them all along?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we want to look for ways to get them involved. We would prefer that they be more involved, as they have said they wanted to, but that hasn't stopped our continuing dialogue with them about how they can act in this situation. We would hope that they would become more involved.
QUESTION: Isn't that a pretty big hindrance to the new government though, if they don't look at it again until July?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, things seem to be calming down in Haiti. The situation is stabilized. The government seems to be getting up and running. Food deliveries have resumed around the country. So there's a lot going on in Haiti over and above the question of whether they are represented at this regional meeting -- so.
QUESTION: Change of subject, Serbia.
QUESTION: One more on Haiti?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: If you -- if you're looking to the region to -- and regional partners in the Caribbean countries to help support in the effort to kind of rebuild Haiti's institutions, is this not going to cause the -- is this not going to require the U.S. to -- and its partners that have been working on this to do more to make up for CARICOM nations that are not going to be supporting this effort right now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of anything particular that they might have done or had pledged that's not being done.
I guess they talked at one point early on about maybe joining the police effort that's being made down there, but that's being organized now. We're involved with the police. Other international forces are involved with the police helping the police reestablish themselves in Haiti. While we would welcome all the help we can get, I think that effort is well underway without them.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how many countries are now involved in this, how big this international force is?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a list at this point. There were -- it was us, the French, the Canadians, the Chileans.
MR. BOUCHER: The Brazilians. That's five off the top of my head. There may be more.
Yeah. Okay, Saul.
QUESTION: Serbia-Montenegro's aid certification comes up for review this week. They, Serbia-Montenegro, hasn't handed over Mladic. So is it automatic that on March 31 Serbia-Montenegro loses its aid?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing's automatic, but we are talking to them about cooperation with the tribunal, and we'll just have to see where we are when that moment comes.
QUESTION: On that, what was the announcement on Friday about Serbia-Montenegro and continued sanctions that was in The Federal Register?
MR. BOUCHER: Anybody remember what the announcement was in The Federal Register on Friday?
QUESTION: Serbia-Mont --
MR. BOUCHER: All right. No. We'll look at -- never mind. We'll look it up for you and get it for you.
QUESTION: It was -- I presume it was unrelated to this. Do you know how much money is at stake this year?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. We'll address when the time comes.
QUESTION: Richard, I have a question, a U.S. extradition request on a guy named Okamoto?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I don't know anything about it. You can check with the Justice Department. They're usually the ones who don't comment on extradition requests.
QUESTION: Well, actually, I meant to say that he was freed from jail on Monday because the Japanese court denied the U.S. request to extradite him here to face espionage charges. Is the State Department going to do anything else to have him extradited or -- are you --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we are involved with the Department of Justice, but they make the substantive decisions on how to proceed in court, so you'd really have to check with them. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Japan has decided to, at this point, not host the exercise under PSI initiative near Japan Sea, given the concern that they have of their negotiation with North Korea on abduction issue and nuclear issue as well. I'm wondering if you have any comment on that.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have. I didn't see the news. I'll see if there's anything to say on it.
QUESTION: Can I ask about NATO?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. You want to ask about NATO?
QUESTION: Yeah. Are you concerned with the statement that was made by the Russian Defense Minister threatening to expand their military, even their nuclear arsenal, as a result of expanding NATO, or do you think this is just blowing off steam?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to comment on why people make statements around the world. I would just make clear what we've said before, that NATO's expansion is not a threat to anyone. NATO's expansion involves the expansion of values of peace and democracy and open societies that, in the past 10, 15 years, have led to a more stable Europe, a better Europe, a more secure situation for all the countries in Europe -- whether it's those joining NATO or those who are not in NATO.
The NATO-Russia Council remains an important area of cooperation for all of us, and that continues to be, you know, we think, fruitful in bringing stability to the continent.
QUESTION: You are doing anything to reassure them that this is not really something that can threaten Russia?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they've heard from us again and again. The best thing we can do is the kind of real cooperation that we have in the NATO-Russia Council, which we recognize and they have recognized brings us together in very practical ways that contribute to the security of NATO members, of the United States, as well as of Russia.
QUESTION: Richard, I realize State Department isn't directly involved in this, but I'm wondering if you're aware if your embassies in Bangkok or Manila or if here the Department have received complaints from these governments of two of your most recent non -- major non-NATO allies about a question in a poll from a National Republican Congressional Commission, which identifies Thailand and the Philippines as places which harbor terrorists? Both governments have complained and demanded apologies.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I have not heard it. I have not heard it. I have not heard of the poll nor of any complaints. I'd have to check and see if there's anything to say on that. It doesn't sound like, again, as you said in your question, it doesn't sound like something we're directly involved in. We might have heard about it.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan. Can you talk about the postponement of elections, and if there's anything you have on the upcoming donors conference and what you hope to come out of the conference?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, I can't talk about the postponement of elections because that's not how we see what's happened. What's happened is elections have been scheduled in Afghanistan and that's a decision that we welcome. We welcome the decision by President Karzai to schedule presidential and parliamentary elections both in September. This is another step forward for Afghanistan. It fits within the kind of timeframes and discussions that we had during the Secretary's trip to Afghanistan when he discussed the issue of elections with President Karzai, with the United Nations representatives who play an important role in the registration and with people at the registration center who are registering to vote in the upcoming elections.
So we think it's very positive. We strongly support President Karzai and the Afghan people in their determination to advance toward a fully representative government as envisioned by the Bonn Accord and by the constitutional -- the constitution that was set forward by the loya jirga late last year, early this year.
QUESTION: Do you have anything at this point on the donors conference?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing particular on the donors conference. We certainly look forward to it. If you look at what the Secretary said in Afghanistan when we were there, he indicated that we were going to commit another $1 billion to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan on top of the 1.2 we've already pledged for this year. That's money that we do have allocated through Congress and we've seen in the budget cycle as it's gone through.
It's important, I think, for us to stand up and work with the Afghan Government. This is a very important year for them. We've seen an awful lot of progress in so many areas in Afghanistan, but there remains more to be done, whether it's on the road system, on the political process, on the education system, really expanding the benefits of peaceful reconstruction throughout the country.
And so we look forward to going out there ourselves to contribute to that and to make clear to other governments in Berlin that we have substantial contributions that we can make and will continue to make, and we hope that others show up in the same spirit to work with the Afghan Government.
QUESTION: Where is our demand on this? Last year, you know, up until this particular conference, one of the complaints was, at the last donors conference on Afghanistan, was that a lot of pledges were made in Tokyo but that a lot of countries didn't kind of follow-through on those pledges. Would you see that that's improved or is that still a problem getting the international community to make good on its pledges?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the picture is probably mixed. Overall, I haven't seen it raised as a vital -- a sort of key issue right now. I'm sure there's still some areas where people who have pledged need to do better in terms of delivery.
But again, you have countries like the United States which, at the Tokyo donors conference, pledged an amount that was, what four or five hundred million, and then that year we ended up giving twice or more than that amount. So some people have over-fulfilled their pledges, certainly the United States has in the past.
We have been working with others to accelerate the delivery of the actual aid. We had the completion of the road, which was a major achievement, last year. You have further road building this year. You have further secondary road building, millions of books in the schools, and things like that, that have been done already.
So I think there's a lot of real work on the ground going on. I don't know to what extent it will be necessary at this point to encourage people to make good on their pledges, but it seems like there's been a lot done already.
QUESTION: Just one more on Afghanistan. Spain is now saying, and I think it's a kind of an agreement between both the outgoing and the incoming government, that they'll increase the number of Spanish troops in Afghanistan. Do you have anything to say on this? And do you think this is a --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I've seen any official announcements to that effect. I know I've seen discussion in the press about it, but I don't think I've seen a decision by the Spanish Government at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, on NATO again, I wonder if you have anything to say to mark the event at the White House today in the State Department and the role of those new members in the NATO and the future role that is expected of them. And does it include the modernization of their armaments and missions, peace missions around the world? And what other things that you can elaborate?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, the Secretary -- the Secretary has spoken to this, there will be an event at the White House, so I hesitate to add my paltry words to the mix. But since you ask specific questions, let me try to give you a sense of where it is.
The process of joining NATO has already involved a lot of change in those countries of bringing their military up to standards of professionalism, civilian control, budget accountability, anti-corruption measures, interopera -- the ability to operate with other armies. (Laughter.)
And so there's a lot of effort they've made already. But I think if you look back -- if I can remember, perhaps, it was last December's press conferences -- one of the things that then Secretary General Lord Robertson said, and I think the Secretary said as well, is that membership is -- becoming a member may be the easy part, that there are continuing responsibilities of membership, continuing responsibilities to make a contribution to upgrade one's capabilities that will go on after these countries become members.
So we're marking a stage in their progress. It's a very welcome stage to have them as NATO members, and now we start working together as allies within the Alliance to improve the defensive capabilities of all of us.
NATO's mission has also expanded along with its membership. NATO is involved in Afghanistan. NATO is involved working with countries widely around the region, around the globe, and that becomes part of the responsibilities of the new members as well.
QUESTION: Shall we just speak on the Taiwan issue. The Taiwan Government yesterday said it invites the three U.S. forensic experts to join the investigation of assassination attempt of President Chen. Could you confirm that or --
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard about that, haven't had a chance to check. I'll see if there's anything to say.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Richard, this -- the next three days have deadlined to perhaps settle the Cyprus crisis because of Turkey trying to come into the European Union, and Kofi Annan is at a Swiss retreat and there's a new 9,000-page document with substantial changes. They're saying Greeks with more land and fewer to return home. That's at the north --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we know, we know.
QUESTION: -- with Turkey. Are you following these developments, and what is your comments concerning them?
MR. BOUCHER: We're following it very closely. We're working with the parties involved. As the President said, the Secretary has been personally in touch with the parties. The Secretary, over the weekend, spoke with Secretary General Annan about the situation regarding the Cyprus talks. He also has talked on Saturday and again today with Turkish Foreign Minister Gul about the situation on the Cyprus talks.
So we're trying to work hard to support the Secretary General's effort in Switzerland. The Secretary General today submitted what he calls, "the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem." He has asked the parties for their reactions no later than Tuesday morning. We look forward to agreement among the parties to finalize a settlement. So we're very supportive of the effort that he is making and we'll continue to do our own work with the parties to try to gain acceptance for his proposals.
There is an extraordinary amount of effort that has already gone into this initiative, including the work by the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots together with the United Nations. As you note, they've prepared 9,000 pages of a new federal law, a list of 1,134 treaties that are part of the settlement.
We do see a final settlement, as the Secretary General said, as a win-win for all sides. We join the Secretary General in urging the parties to seize this opportunity to secure a better future for all Cypriots.
The Secretary General has consulted and will -- the Secretary, I'm sorry, has consulted and will continue to consult with the parties directly himself and also through our Special Coordinator for Cyprus, Ambassador Thomas Weston, who is in Switzerland with the U.S. team at the talks themselves.
QUESTION: I do believe that the Secretary is in Europe this week -- and so is Switzerland. (Laughter.) Do think a personal appearance by the Secretary could give impetus to these negotiations?
MR. BOUCHER: I think Switzerland will be in Europe next week, too, but the Secretary won't.
QUESTION: I'm just speculating.
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to speculate at this point. The President and the Secretary both said they will do what is necessary to try to help this process along. But I wouldn't speculate on that at this point.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) today. Were there any other phone calls today that he made?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)