State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for May 13
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for May 13
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
May 13, 2004
ANNOUNCEMENT -- Under Secretary Bolton s Announcement on Libya Ending Military -- Trade with States of Serious Weapons of Mass Destruction -- Proliferation Concern
LIBYA -- Ending Military Trade with Syria, Iran, and North Korea -- Diplomatic Relations between the United States and Libya -- Need to Eliminate Aspects of Chemical Weapons Programs
MISCELLANEOUS -- Red Cross Guantanamo Report
CHINA -- Negotiations on Status of Uighur Detainees at Guanatanamo
KUWAIT -- Talks with Kuwaiti Officials on Kuwaiti Detainees at Guantanamo
CONSULAR -- State Department s Contacts with Nicholas Berg and his Family -- Detention of Mr. Berg/ Assisting American Citizens to Leave Ira
q IRAQ -- UN Security Council Discussions on UN Resolution on Iraq -- Discussions with Group of Eight Ministers Tomorrow -- Transfer of Sovereignty/ Role of Ambassador Brahimi -- Security Arrangements for Ira
q INDIA/PAKISTAN -- India s Parliamentary Elections/Resignation of Prime Minister -- Vajpayee -- Dialogue between India and Pakistan/ Peace Process -- Religious Freedom in India and Pakistan
EUROPEAN UNION -- Expanding Visa Waiver Program/ Status of Belgium
NORTH KOREA -- Working Group Meeting in Beijing -- Discussion of North Korea at Group of Eight Meeting
VENEZUELA -- Military-to-Military Relations between United States and Venezuela -- Eviction of U.S. Military Mission from Base at Fuerte Tiuna
HUMAN RIGHTS -- Upcoming Human Rights Report
JORDAN -- Secretary Powell s Meetings in Jordan
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS -- Incursions in Gaza
SYRIA -- Relations between the United States and Syria
12:15 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have a brief announcement, and that is that Under Secretary John Bolton is here with me to make a brief announcement.
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Thank you, Richard. I have a very brief prepared statement on the subject of Libya, and then I'd be happy to address a couple questions on it.
Today, the Libyan Government issued the following statement. I am now quoting from the Libyan statement:
"As part of its efforts to strengthen peace and stability in the world, in the context of which Libya announced in December 2003 that it renounced programs, materials and equipment which might lead to the production of internationally banned weapons or delivery systems, as classified by the MTCR, Libya wishes to announce officially the application of this decision to its military dealings with other states.
"Libya will not deal in any military goods or services with states which Libya considers to be of serious weapons of mass destruction proliferation concern." Close quote on the Libyan statement.
Libya has also indicated that it will shortly announce its pledge to renounce trade in missiles and missile-related equipment and technology with countries that are not members of the missile technology control regime.
The United States welcomes this statement and regards it as an important step forward and an indicator of Libya's seriousness in abandoning weapons of mass destruction proliferation and rejoining the international community. We are particularly pleased that Libya has now committed to ending all military trade with states of serious weapons of mass destruction proliferation concern.
That's the end of the prepared statement. I'd be happy to answer a couple of questions.
QUESTION: Do your lists -- does your list and theirs match up? And who are these states --
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- as you understand Libya to mean?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Yes, we have discussed this question expressly with the Libyans and do have an understanding of what it covers. And that's why this is a particularly important announcement because the Government of Libya has assured the United States and the United Kingdom that its renunciation of all military trade with states of serious WMD proliferation concern includes North Korea, Syria and Iran.
We welcome Libya's announcement that it has decided to give up military trade with North Korea, Syria and Iran. All three of those countries are indeed states are very great proliferation concern, especially North Korea, which uses its exports of military technology to finance other dangerous activities. Libya's renunciation of military relationships with such proliferators is an important step forward.
QUESTION: How much business do you believe Libya was doing with these three countries? How big a provider was it, or an importer, either way?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, North Korea had been the provider of Libya's Scud Missile arsenal, which included five Scud C's, which have been removed from Libya pursuant to the Libyan December declaration, and several hundred Scud B's, a lower range ballistic missile which Libya has agreed to, as part of its general commitment not to have missiles that go beyond the MTCR parameters, 500 kilograms, over 300 kilometers, to bring those missiles within those constraints or to eliminate them.
QUESTION: Is that the --
QUESTION: Yeah, I was just wondering what -- why you're making this announcement on behalf of the Libyans?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: I didn't make the announcement on behalf of the Libyans. I quoted the Libyan announcement and responded to it.
QUESTION: Which was, what, transmitted to your people in Tripoli?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: It was made in Tripoli earlier this morning.
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Publicly.
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: The Libyan Government.
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. But in what way? Was it communicated directly to you guys?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: As you say, I don't speak for the Libyan Government. I don't have this transmitted --
QUESTION: No, I'm just --
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: My understanding is it was announced publicly.
QUESTION: But this came -- but this statement that you got here came from your interests -- whatever, your liaison office that you -- that you have in Tripoli?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: You know, where did the electrons come from? I don't know.
QUESTION: Mr. Bolton, Libya -- Pakistan was the source for the Libya and the relations in the technology and missile and nuclear and all. Do you think that Libya will continue to deal with Pakistan?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: The question of Libya's dealings with the other countries that I've indicated is that we have discussed with the Libyans the three countries that I've named. The announcement they will make on missiles will restrict it further to MTCR member countries.
And that's what we have to say about it.
QUESTION: Is the Libyan decision preceding now an imminent restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Libya?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, the course ahead has been determined by prior negotiations. I'm limiting my comments today to the subject of this further elaboration of the Libyan commitment to foreswear weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: Can you give us an update on exactly where the Libyans are now in terms of having given up existing WMD programs? Do they have anything left? If so, what?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Yeah. There are still some aspects of the chemical weapons program that need to be eliminated. Obviously, the agent itself is a highly dangerous substance and has to be eliminated under conditions of appropriate health and safety regard, and we're still working on that. The issue of the Scud B's remains, although the -- and the question of what we call phase three, or the longer term implementation issues. But we're working ahead on that. We're satisfied with the progress we've made. This announcement today is a further step in that direction.
QUESTION: What's the chemical agent that you alluded to there?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Various kinds of chemical weapons agents.
QUESTION: Right here?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Second row.
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Second row.
QUESTION: Oh, Nicholas.
QUESTION: Can you tell us, John, how much of that was actually negotiated in detail with the United States or Britain, or how much is -- is it simply an unilateral decision, good gesture, or what?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: We discussed this with the Libyans. That's why we have an understanding on what countries are covered. And this was something that's a further indication of the nature of the relations and the cooperative aspect of the work that they've been doing to eliminate their weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: How much business do you think that this will choke off from Syria, Iran and North Korea? I mean, were these -- was Libya a major purchaser?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, I think, particularly, with respect to North Korea, the sales of the Scud B's and the Scud C's over a period of time was a pretty substantial money earner for the North Koreans. And, as we know, North Korea has been the world's greatest proliferators of ballistic missile technology. They have used the hard currency earnings from that proliferation to finance their nuclear weapons program.
So this is a symbol by Libya of a decision not to have any further purchases from North Korea of any military goods or services, particularly on the missile front. It is consistent with what we have urged other states in the region to cut off their purchaser relationships with North Korea, as part of our overall effort to squeeze North Korean WMD sales to reduce the amount of money they have for their nuclear weapons program.
QUESTION: John, can I follow up? But in terms of -- so, in terms of the effect, are you hoping this will have more of a symbolic effect with other countries of the region? Or do you think that this will significantly curtail North Korea's -- or any of these other states proliferation programs?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: I think that the -- it has an immediate impact by definition because Libya will not engage in any purchases. And I think as an example, a continuing example of Libya's openness and transparency in giving up weapons of mass destruction, we hope this will be a productive example for others in the region and around the world.
QUESTION: Can I just ask --
QUESTION: Can I just ask the practical effect with Iran and Syria? Were there continuing, or were there military sales?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, not to get into the specifics, the point is, Iran and Syria are very serious proliferant states, states we consider, in the case of Iran, of sufficient concern. We've been trying for some time to get the matter referred to the UN Security Council.
So when a state like Libya, which was pursuing weapons of mass destruction and advance delivery systems, not only gives up the pursuit of those assets, but says it's not going to have military dealings with other states that are pursuing weapons of mass destruction. I think that's a very important step forward.
And, I guess, Richard, did you want --
MR. BOUCHER: Last one, on this side.
QUESTION: Will this, the renunciation, sir, will it automatically translate into delisting Libya from the State Sponsors of Terror?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: No, that's really a very separate question.
QUESTION: How will that come up? How will that be --
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: That's being handled in a separate track. I'm just addressing the WMD issues.
QUESTION: Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Okay. Thank you very much.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you very much on that topic. Thank you, Under Secretary Bolton, in particular, for coming down to do that.
The wires kind of asked for a five-minute break. So that was about two minutes ago. So if we can, we'll have three minutes of quiet, and then we'll go on to the other things. Okay?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, just to close off that discussion, there's one hanging question here: How did we know the Libyans had done this? We got -- we were informed by our people on the ground in Libya within the last hour or so that the Libyans had, indeed, made the announcement. I don't know for you exactly how they made the announcement or what arrangements you have to pick up announcements, but our people on the ground said the Libyans had, indeed, made the statement that we quoted.
Now, with that, I am glad to take your questions on other topics.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about -- there's apparently a new Red Cross report on Guantanamo that a senior Pentagon official traveling with Rumsfeld is quoted as saying was delivered to the State Department this week. Do you have any knowledge of this report, any -- can you characterize it at all? Have there been any meetings with ICRC officials about it?
MR. BOUCHER: On the subject of Guantanamo, we, obviously, have had regular meetings with the ICRC about it. They have met with military authorities. They have met with people at the Pentagon. Mr. Kellenberger, during his visits to Washington, has talked about Guantanamo with the Pentagon, the NSC and us as well.
They do have a new report on Guantanamo. I think I've seen them confirm that they have presented one to us. As usual practice, I'm not in a position to go into any details on it, but they relay some of the concerns they have and some of the issues that they wanted to raise and discuss with us. And, indeed, we will certainly discuss those with them, and I'm sure the appropriate command authorities will discuss them as well.
QUESTION: Did it go first to Guantanamo, as the usual practices, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know yet exactly. I know we have a copy, but whether we got the first one or not, I don't know for sure. But, certainly, it's available now inside the U.S. Government and we'll make sure that other responsible agencies have it and that those that are in a position to take the recommendations and decide what to do, that they are able to consider everything carefully and do what they can.
QUESTION: But now released at -- when did you get it?
MR. BOUCHER: Last couple days. I don't know exactly when.
Yeah, okay. Teri.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: Can I ask on Guantanamo?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: There was a report this morning that the United States and China are negotiating over the status of a number of Uighur detainees at Guantanamo. I was wondering if you could say anything. Is this process underway?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, we have a process underway of looking at people who are detained in Guantanamo, looking to identify those who may no longer be a significant threat or may not be wanted on criminal charges, and, indeed, reviewing those cases regularly now to ascertain which individuals might be eligible for release or transfer to other governments.
In the case of the Uighurs who are there, we have identified some who might be eligible for release. We are currently considering how that process can work. If it's decided that they can, obviously, the situations of individual, individuals need to be taken into account, including their wishes and their ability to go to different places.
We have talked to the Chinese and other governments about this situation at this point, but I don't have anything definitive for you yet on the release or where they might go.
QUESTION: In other words, they might not go back to China?
MR. BOUCHER: We've been in touch with China and other governments about it. They won't necessarily -- well, everything has to be taken into account in the individual cases.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
QUESTION: You've talked to China and other governments about the Uighurs?
MR. BOUCHER: About the Uighurs, yeah.
QUESTION: On the general issue of Guantanamo, the Secretary -- and what you were just saying -- the Secretary has said publicly that he's been trying to work with the U.S. Government in terms of identifying these people, getting them, you know, either transported or released to other governments.
Is this moving -- is the pace fast enough, to his liking?
MR. BOUCHER: The -- I think we all wanted to make sure, the Secretary wanted to make sure, and all, really, the principals who have met and worked this out wanted to make sure there's a process of review, there was a process of release and transfer. Indeed, we've managed to do that in many cases already. I think the number is 146, if I'm correct. It may be higher. I forgot to check. But the number of people who have been released from Guantanamo, it's a continuing process.
We have discussions going on with a number of governments right now, and there is a continuing process of identifying prisoners who may be, as I said, no longer a threat, if they were released or that could be transferred, subject to further monitoring by other governments. So that's an ongoing process. Obviously, we want it to be as comprehensive and thorough as possible, but I think that's what all the agencies are working together on.
QUESTION: Picking you up on your last remark, could it be that some of these people were never a threat, and they were detained while you checked suspicions and allegations, and they were, obviously, not only have gotten over being threatening but were never threatened?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to make broad observations like that. Each of these cases is different. There are, you know -- there have been many people in custody already released. The number of people that, one way or the other, were found on the battlefield are in a difficult situation; there were dangerous situations for us in Afghanistan.
It was very, very large, thousands and thousands of those people have been released, some of them are in detention. The ones at Guantanamo are the ones where there was the highest degree of suspicion about what they might have been up to. But whether every individual case, in the end, checked out or not, leave for the people who are operating the facility to answer, if they can.
Yeah. Okay. Sir.
QUESTION: Have you had any talks with Kuwaiti officials on the Kuwaiti detainees at Guantanamo, like this week, or tomorrow, or upcoming?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any particular discussions with the Kuwaiti officials. I'd have to check and see. We are in touch with a number of governments. I just don't know if we've -- where we stand on Kuwaiti.
QUESTION: Same subject.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could you go over whatever timeline you have with the State Department's contacts with Nicholas Berg while he was in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me say, once again, we extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Mr. Berg's family, and we condemn, in the strongest terms, this despicable act of murder and terrorism. Mr. Berg's remains have been returned to the United States, arrived this morning.
Our consular officers have been in touch with his family and spoke to them. I think it was on May 10th, when the remains that had been found earlier were identified as being Mr. Berg's body. We had contact with Mr. Berg in Baghdad with our U.S. consular officer who is out there. He had registered with a U.S. consular officer. He was in Iraq privately, not attached to any military operation or contractor.
We last spoke to him in Iraq on April 10th, 2004. At that time, our consular officer extended an offer to assist him in departing Iraq by plane to Jordan. He told us that he had planned to travel overland to Kuwait, and apparently had made arrangements to do that. We heard from his family a few days later and talked to his family about this when they talked to us on April 13th. Since then, since he went missing, then we were in regular touch with his family.
QUESTION: So he went -- April 10th was the last time you talked to him; April 13th was when you consider him missing, first, finally knew?
MR. BOUCHER: When his family -- I think his family contacted us and said we -- they hadn't heard from him --
QUESTION: Why was --
MR. BOUCHER: -- and what did we know?
QUESTION: Was the State Department encouraging him to get out when they -- is that why you offered to help him get to Jordan, you were encouraging him to leave?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we were encouraging him, as much as that he was planning on leaving; but, certainly, we were trying to facilitate his departure which -- at that time.
QUESTION: When he was detained by the Iraqis, was there any -- I don't know if consular rules are in order yet. But do you have to be notified and get consular visits with him? Is that in effect yet in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it necessarily legally applies in this case. I don't think it's a Geneva Convention situation, in this matter.
QUESTION: Why wouldn't it apply? If he was in prison there, wouldn't you -- there is not rule that you need to be notified?
MR. BOUCHER: It has to do with status of governments in diplomatic representation. I don't think it comes up in quite the same manner as it does in other situations. Certainly, the detention was known to U.S. authorities. The FBI visited him up there.
QUESTION: And the consular official never did, that wasn't even considered?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know at what point our consular officers learned that he had been in detention. But as far as consular notification is required to tell the U.S. Government when a foreign government arrests American nationals. In this case, U.S. authorities knew he had been detained, and indeed visited him, the FBI did.
QUESTION: What is the response to the family saying that the government, the U.S. Government didn't do enough?
MR. BOUCHER: I really am not -- don't think I'm in a position to speak on behalf of all agencies. But I'd say that we tried to help Mr. Berg when he came to us.
QUESTION: Richard, without the consular, Geneva Conventions, or anything like that, did the State Department know that this man was being detained? Because if you said that he had registered with the U.S. Consulate, wouldn't the State Department be able to clear some of the circumstances up while he was in detention?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I said three minutes ago, I don't know at what point we learned he was in detention. Sorry.
QUESTION: Did American officials, which was the next point --
MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me?
QUESTION: -- at any point -- well, I'll explain. There is an account out by people who knew him and who have said they thought he was singled out because he carried an Israeli stamp in his passport. Passports don't carry Israeli stamps, do they?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the Israeli practice is on entry; that many countries stamp your passport when you go in. Certainly, we would have seen his passport when he registered. But, frankly, in normal registration process, we don't look through somebody's passport to find out where they've been. We look at the front page to find out who they are, make sure they're Americans and register them.
QUESTION: This is -- I guess kind of goes to the whole issue of jurisdiction and custody. But if the gentleman was in Iraqi police custody, as the government -- as the U.S. has said, but the U.S. is the governing power of Iraq right now and the U.S. was interrogating him and the U.S. deemed that there was enough information that he wasn't a threat and thought that he could be released, then how does that make it that he was in Iraqi custody?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said yesterday, those questions, I think, need to be answered by the people involved in the coalition and the FBI who were out in Baghdad. So I really am not in a position to answer all those questions from here.
QUESTION: On a general issue, can you check and see what the procedure is for American citizens that are in Iraq right now that might be picked up and what the rules are for them and --
MR. BOUCHER: I think, again, that's a question of rules and authorities in Iraq by the people in Iraq, and you can have your people ask the question there.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Even though you didn't provide an answer to understand, but my question is slightly different. On the offer to Mr. Berg of help, if you don't know maybe you could find out, has that offer been extended to others in Iraq in the -- you know, since there's been a consular officer there, since the CPA has been stood up? Is this something that happens on a regular basis or an irregular basis?
MR. BOUCHER: Just based on my understanding of consular officers and what they're doing there, what they're doing elsewhere, sure. Anytime somebody comes to us and said, you know, I'm looking for a way to leave, we try to help them out. And I assume that was the circumstance in this case.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: I'm not worried about this case. I'm just asking generally. Is Mr. Berg one of a dozen, 50, 100, or one of two or three.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how many people the consular officers have seen, but if somebody comes to our consular officer and says, you know, I want to leave, I don't know how to make the arrangements, we'll help them to the extent we can.
QUESTION: Did you go over this already? Did he approach the consular officer to try and leave, or was he approached by them? Was that already answered?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, my understanding is that we extended an offer to assist him in departing Iraq by plane to Jordan. I don't know specifically if he came and said help me out or how --
QUESTION: Well, it would appear he did not.
MR. BOUCHER: -- how it arose in the conversation --
QUESTION: Is it standard practice to go to people and tell them, "Hey, we can get you out of the country"?
MR. BOUCHER: Why do you say it appears that he did not?
QUESTION: Because he stayed.
MR. BOUCHER: This was April 10th, as I said ten minutes ago. This was April 10th. That was right around the time he disappeared.
QUESTION: I mean, there's three days between there and when he did disappear, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, right around the time he disappeared.
QUESTION: I think you may have handled this, but please explain to us how do private American citizens that are not working for a major corporation or something go to Iraq, whatever reason, business or pleasure or curiosity or whatever? What is the procedure? Do they go, they get a visa? What is the -- how is it done?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: You can get a visa from somewhere?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, you can ask an Iraqi embassy. They have representation overseas now. You can call the office here. I'm sure they'll be able to tell you what they issue for travel to Iraq.
Second of all, as far as how you make arrangements to get a truck or a bus or a plane or whatever to get into Iraq, I'm afraid I'm not a travel agent. I don't know.
QUESTION: Regarding the CPA, didn't they establish some sort of a protocol on how you go about this?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, if you want to know what the CPA might do with travelers to Iraq, you can ask the CPA. I'm sorry, I'm just not -- I'm standing here 10,000 miles away in Washington. I'm not able to answer questions about how to travel around Iraq.
QUESTION: Well, on --
QUESTION: Can I follow up on a different issue?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The murderers of Daniel Pearl were caught through some sort of, you know, a tool on the internet and so on. Is there something that is similar that is going on now, because it could be traced, you know, who these people are?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how the investigation is proceeding, but there is an --
QUESTION: Because they must have used some sort of a website, you know, probably registered with an American company or something.
MR. BOUCHER: I appreciate that. I am sure the investigators are using every possible means to track these people down, and we will continue to do so until they are caught and punished.
QUESTION: There are some news reports suggesting that, in fact, he was murdered before and then he was decapitated on the video. Are you aware of these news reports and why he was wearing this orange U.S. prison suit?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: You don't know any details?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to know. I'm sorry. We're just -- again, we're not involved in the events on the ground. The investigation may be trying to ascertain exactly the circumstances, but I'm not in a position to share any details anyway, even if we had them.
QUESTION: Could I shift slightly to -- still Iraq but --
QUESTION: Well, can we stay -- I just have one more. On the -- I know you say that the people on the ground are dealing with this, but you do have U.S. consular officers on the ground. So what is the job of the U.S. consular officer there and what is the coordination with the CPA?
MR. BOUCHER: The consular officer there works closely with the CPA and works -- is there to take care of American citizens, to provide American citizen services to people who are there, whether they are contractors or military people or anybody else who loses their passport, wants to get a message home, mom hasn't heard from them for days, wants us to pass a message saying please call home, or people who are in more difficult circumstances who might be looking for a way to leave or otherwise fall into trouble in Iraq. We're there to help out Americans who are in Iraq of all kinds.
QUESTION: Is there anything new to report on progress toward a resolution or resolutions for pre-transition -- or even post-transition, for that matter?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the simple answer is that the discussions continue, that we have had a series of discussions at the United Nations. I think there have been two so-called "informal/informal" meetings, including one yesterday. We've had --
QUESTION: Informal/informal meetings?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that's what they call them up in New York.
QUESTION: Is that like a non-TCOG TCOG?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, something like that, only less formal than that. Anyway, just when a group of people from the UN Security Council get together and kind of talk in general terms about something without it being a formal meeting or a statement of positions, they're just trying to figure something out, they call it an informal/informal.
So that's what they did yesterday again, discussing what the elements might be of a UN resolution on Iraq. As you -- as I have reported to previously, the Secretary has had a number of discussions about this in his bilateral meetings over the last couple weeks and he looks forward to discussions tomorrow with the Group of Eight foreign ministers and then discussions over the weekend with some of our Arab friends and partners who he'll be meeting.
The consultations that are going on in Iraq by Mr. Brahimi regarding the formation of an interim government will also be important to consider as we look at drafting a new UN resolution. So that's -- we're going to have to gage our progress on how fast we move in relation to how fast that process moves. We don't want to get ahead of that process of forming the interim government in Iraq; on the other hand, we are having these discussions so that we have an understanding about what we can do to support that process, to endorse the process, to deal with some of the issues that arise in giving the interim government authority to, for example, control the Development Fund for Iraq and other details of things that have been previously handled in UN resolutions.
QUESTION: And just -- I'm not looking for a percentage or anything like that here, but for tomorrow in the G-8 meeting, considering that so many -- half, right? -- are on the Security Council --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, and two others who, as we know, have troops in Iraq. So there are many directly concerned.
QUESTION: Right. So can you kind of compare -- I mean, is this going to be the major or a major topic of conversation, or is it going to be -- in terms of that region, or will it be more the Greater Middle East Initiative?
MR. BOUCHER: The principal focus of this meeting of Group of Eight ministers is to talk about the Group of Eight summit that will come up in Sea Island. So they're going to deal --
QUESTION: Not the Greater Middle East Initiative?
MR. BOUCHER: They're going to deal most directly with all the issues that will come up at Sea Island. That goes beyond the Middle East. But in terms of the Middle East, I'm sure there will be significant discussion of what's called the Greater Middle East Initiative, how we support reform process underway in the Arab world. There will be probably considerable discussion of the Middle East peace process and how that's proceeding and what all of us can do to support that.
So this was -- this discussion of a UN resolution, I'd say, is an opportunity because half the G-8 are Security Council members and others are directly interested, so it's another topic being taken up with this group in a separate -- almost a separate meeting, and then get down to the plenaries and the business of the G-8. But the principal focus of the discussions tomorrow will be G-8 business.
QUESTION: Wait, wait. There's a separate meeting just on --
MR. BOUCHER: There will be a meeting on this and then a meeting on G-8 topics too. Same people.
QUESTION: Sorry. Meeting on Iraq resolution or meeting on all three: Greater Middle East, Middle East peace process and Iraq resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: There are a series of meetings during the day, including discussions over lunch, so they have parsed out the agenda. There will be a separate discussion of Iraq resolution and Iraq issues and then there will be getting down to specific business of the G-8.
QUESTION: Could I ask you if the U.S. is coming into any difficulties with France and Russia on a proposed UN resolution --
MR. BOUCHER: As you all know, there is countries that have a lot of different views about how we go forward on Iraq and what we can do in the UN resolution. We ourselves have opened up those discussions. We, the United States, and other members of the Council, have said we want to hear all the views. We want to hear the views of council members. We want to hear the views of coalition partners. We want to hear the views of people in the region.
And the Secretary himself has been consulting very widely and will continue to do so to get all the various ideas together about how we could proceed with this resolution to support the work that the UN is doing in Iraq, to support the Iraqi interim government and the overall transition process underway there.
So we're hearing ideas from the Russians, from the French, from many nations. Some of these nations have started to talk in public about some of the things that they have thrown out on the table. We ourselves, I think, have put forward a list of half of dozen things that we would expect to do in the resolution. So we'll gather all of this together in the drafting process, and I'm sure work in the usual fashion at the United Nations to come up with a resolution that everybody thinks is the appropriate one.
I would say, and this is based on our discussions with other ministers, that there is considerable convergence on the elements of a resolution, considerable understanding of what a resolution needs to do, and then we're sort of in the stage now of talking about a whole variety of details that need to be included as well.
QUESTION: Is there convergence on the principle that Iraqis should take full control of their government?
MR. BOUCHER: There is definitely convergence on the principle that the transfer of sovereignty needs to occur, that Iraqis need to be in charge of their country and running their country with this interim government and that we all support the process that Ambassador Brahimi has underway in Iraq, as well as the preparations that the UN is making to support elections down the road.
QUESTION: Richard, Secretary Rumsfeld said today in Iraq that he thought a resolution, or resolutions, will help one, two, up to three handful of countries to join the United States in Iraq. Do you share his optimism? And, if so, well, what are the reasons you have to have that optimism?
MR. BOUCHER: One, two or three handfuls?
QUESTION: He said one or two, and then, actually, the second time, he said up to three handfuls of countries, yes.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made clear that we do think there are countries who would be interested in participating in Iraq with a sovereign Iraqi government and a new UN resolution. I don't think we've -- I've seen a count over here, at this point, of how many might be willing to do that.
But over our discussions with many governments, over the course of months, really, about participation in Iraq, we know that there are many governments that said maybe when there is a UN resolution and an Iraqi government, we'll think about it more, or again, and we are in contact with other governments to see who might be interested at this stage. But I don't think I have any new count for you.
QUESTION: He also seemed to indicate in a sentence he began, but didn't finish, that if there is a second resolution, it might deal with the continuing presence of the multinational force. Is that something that you see --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not usually in the habit of finishing Secretary Rumsfeld's sentences.
QUESTION: I know. Right.
MR. BOUCHER: But that is one of the elements we've already identified previously as being something that we would expect the resolution to deal with, the continuation and status of the multinational force.
QUESTION: He said it in the context of that part would -- may have to be in a separate resolution, not in the main one.
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, these elements are being discussed. I don't have drafts or specific decisions on paragraphs or what goes in where.
QUESTION: Can we go to the elections in India, please?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Can I get one more --
QUESTION: Can I ask one more on Iraq, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Two more on Iraq. Okay.
QUESTION: Some on the Iraq Governing Council are saying Brahimi's role is advisory, they don't really have to accept what he recommends. Would you care to respond to that notion?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have all in the international community and, indeed, throughout Iraqi society, said that we appreciate the work that Ambassador Brahimi is doing. He's leading a consultative process of Iraqis. He's consulting very widely in Iraqi society, hearing a lot of different views from different people in Iraqi society.
The overall process in Iraq is governed by the Transitional Law that the Governing Council passed, and will be further supplemented by the annex to that law and other things the Governing Council will do. So their role in the current situation is quite clear that they have certain authority as well as coalition authority to make these things happen. We have all welcomed the role that Ambassador Brahimi has played and we look for the results of his consultations.
QUESTION: India, please?
QUESTION: There is a new poll in The Washington Post that says 80 percent of Iraqis are against the CPA and American forces there and they're mistrustful of the transitional government. Do you think that this will complicate your effort to transfer the government to Iraqis by June 30th, possibly the anti-American sentiment?
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- I don't think one should go by one answer to one -- one report of one answer of one question of polls. I think there have been extensive polling done in Iraq that describe Iraqi attitudes. Certainly, Iraqis want their sovereignty back, they want to run their own country, they want to run their own government.
But they also, generally, from the data that I've seen, want us to stay there to make sure they can do that successfully and securely. That's the process that is, indeed, underway. That's the process that I think most Iraqis support. That is the process that has received widespread support in Ambassador Brahimi's consultations is for Iraqi to be able to stand up and take charge of their country and take charge of their government. That's what we want, that's what the UN wants, and that's what Iraqis want.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) come closer to June 30th (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, but what does it say, in essence? It says that they want to run their own country. Well, that's what we want, too. We're all moving in that direction.
QUESTION: Richard, the most popular Prime Minister of India was ousted by the voters yesterday and he resigned today, and the Congress Party's opposition leader, Sonia Ghandi, may be the next Prime Minister in the next few hours. So you think any policy will change with the United States and also as far as the peace process with Pakistan is concerned?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not able to predict Indian policy. I will you, for the United States part, that we congratulate the Congress Party on their success in the election. As in any well established democracy, Prime Minister Vajpayee and his cabinet have accepted the decision of the electorate. Once again, we are shown how strong and how deep are the roots of Indian democracy in this matter.
We have a very strong bilateral relationship with India and we look forward to working with the new government when it's formed.
QUESTION: The Pakistan Government said it hoped that the incoming government would proceed with what they call a peace process. Is that a sentiment the U.S. shares?
MR. BOUCHER: We --
QUESTION: Because the outgoing government was making overtures to Pakistan.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we have -- first of all, we have always supported a resolution of differences between India and Pakistan through dialogue. We have made, as you know, extensive efforts to try to assist them in the lowering of tension. We think that does reflect the desire of people in both countries for peace, so we will continue to assist that process and encourage that process.
I would note that during the Secretary's visits to India, I think every time he has met with Mrs. Ghandi and members of the Congress Party leadership, and he has frequently discussed this process going on with Pakistan with them and made clear how much we encourage it and support it.
QUESTION: Richard, one follow-up. Was U.S. expecting in any way defeat for Vajpayee because it's so close relations with -- between Vajpayee and this Administration? Also, at the same time, the U.S. has been dealing with the Congress Party for the last almost 45 to 50 years. You think this will make any difference now after the (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I answered that question first off. We've had excellent relations with India and we look forward to continuing those relations.
QUESTION: And U.S. is ready to welcome Prime Minister Sonia Ghandi if she --
MR. BOUCHER: When they have a government, we look forward to working with that government. It's just not quite time to say that yet.
QUESTION: I want to change the subject, if I could. Yesterday, in meetings with Deputy Secretary Armitage, these two officials from the EU asked for the United States to expand the Visa Waiver Program to include all EU members. I presume that means that they want Greece, which wasn't in the program before but was in the EU before May 1st, as well as nine out of the ten because Slovenia, one of the new ones, is already in the Visa Waiver Program, that they want all of those countries, citizens of those countries, to be able to come in the U.S. without visas.
What was the response, and how likely is that to -- how likely is that?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States will look at these countries on a country-by-country basis, but they -- really, participation in the Visa Waiver Program is a matter of statute, it's a matter of law. The criteria for a company* to be nominated for Visa Waiver Program participation are that the country have a nonimmigrant visa applicant refusal rate of less than 3 percent, a machine-readable passport program in place, that they demonstrate adequate safeguards against fraudulent use of passports, and be sufficiently stable to ensure that conditions which could affect the program-qualifying criteria are not likely to change in the future.
Once nominated, the country must demonstrate that it has effective border controls in place for all territory under its control and that the country's law enforcement must demonstrate significant cooperation with U.S. counterparts, as well as international entities such as Interpol.
So those are the criteria that are applied that must be applied by law and that would be applied to any EU members. We are certainly willing to look at this in terms of any given government, but actually qualifying for the program requires meeting those statutory requirements.
QUESTION: Well, in fact, isn't -- aren't you more likely, at least at the moment, to drop at least one EU country from the Visa Waiver Program, Belgium, which is kind of on a double secret probation?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to make any prediction. We, as you know, regularly review countries that are in the Visa Waiver Program to ensure that all the criteria are continuing to be met. And we have had discussions with the Belgian Government, along with other governments about that, but I wouldn't make any prediction on that, at this moment.
QUESTION: Can you just make -- is it not correct that Belgium has been warned that it may be dropped --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll check on what I can say about the exact status from Belgium. We've had discussions about the criteria, and making sure that all the various safeguards are in place, and if we're satisfied they will continue.
QUESTION: Are you under the impression right now that any -- either Greece or any of the nine of the 10 newcomers that are not in the program now, if any of them come close to meeting these criteria?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we --
QUESTION: Or has it never been --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't necessarily publish refusal rates on governments, but we always do look at the countries that are coming close or are becoming eligible. So I'm sure we'll be willing to look at it for countries that may be coming close on that. But, at this point, it's a country-by-country determination. And, as I said, we're happy to look at it for countries that join the -- are joining the EU, but they're going to have to meet the requirements if we are able to accept them under the law.
QUESTION: Change the subject. Could you update us on the North Korea talks and let us know if, in fact, there was a one-on-one North Korea-U.S. meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: No separate meetings. They had a plenary session yesterday. They've had continued working groups talks today. Each party has presented its views on how to resolve the problem presented by North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons, and they are scheduled to meet again tomorrow.
QUESTION: Any progress, or everybody just made statements?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would report anything particular on progress, or lack thereof, at this stage in the talks. So I'd let the working group continue their work, and we'll see where we get to and report at the end.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) includes no sort of brief encounters together sitting in the room while --
MR. BOUCHER: There are no additional meetings, meeting. It was all at six.
QUESTION: Can I change subject? Venezuela has -- provincial government has apparently asked the United States military missions to leave liaison offices that it has at various military bases around that country, and apparently this was conveyed on Friday by the Venezuelan Defense Minister. Have you protested against this? And have the people actually left? Are they going to come back? Or are they going to end up at the U.S. Embassy? And how do you regard it?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has had longstanding cooperation with the -- longstanding military-to-military relations with the Government of Venezuela. And that has included having liaison personnel at various -- I think, four different Venezuelan military installations including the headquarters, but is being discussed here, Fuerte Tiuna.
We did receive notification from the Venezuelans last Friday that they would like us not to maintain offices at that installation, or those, I guess, all Venezuelan military bases, by May 30th. I think we find the notice disappointing. We felt that the military-to-military relations between the United States and Venezuela have been important to both of us, over a long period of time.
We have been -- worked cooperatively with the Venezuelans on military matters. We supplied equipment and continued to supply spare parts to the Venezuelans. So I think we're disappointed that they made this decision, but it is their decision to make. It's their property, their bases, their offices. And so we do think the overall goal of maintaining liaison with the Venezuelan Government. Venezuelan military remains important to us.
So I think our intention, at this point, is to put those people into our embassy and have them work out of there.
QUESTION: Does the Venezuelan military have any similar liaison officers at U.S. military facilities? And do you plan to ask them to vacate?
MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't know if they have people or offices at CENTCOM, for example. I just don't know.
QUESTION: Do you know if they have any -- and you probably don't know this. But if you -- you know --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. SOUTHCOM, for example.
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any other -- do you have any plans to sort of -- retaliate is maybe not the right word, but take reciprocal measures because of this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's important to remember that, first of all, the relationships are important to us. And, second of all, we do recognize this is a decision that the Venezuelans can make about who they offer office space to at their headquarters. So we may be disappointed in the decision, but we intend to try to continue the work from our embassies.
QUESTION: So the spare parts will continue whether -- that has been (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if there is anything in particular pending at this point, or whether it might be more difficult to do at a slight distance. But, in principle, we'll try to maintain liaison-type relationships that we have had.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Richard, yesterday, the Commission on International Religious Freedom came out with a report and they have recommended India and Pakistan, both, to be countries of concern, if Secretary is likely to enforce the assumption that they have recommended to the Secretary?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate, at this point, on what we might come out with in the -- in the designations that we do every year. The committee is separate, and they make a variety of recommendations to us.
QUESTION: How do the State Department or Secretary feel about religious freedoms in India and Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new to say today. We'll say what's new at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: Richard, do you know when the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember exactly, frankly. It takes a while.
QUESTION: Do you know when the Human Rights Report, the Report on Human Rights --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll do it early next week. We'll get a notice out as soon as we're ready.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) more on G-8 meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Japan wants to include the abduction issue and a chairman's statement to be issued after the meeting, will North Korean issues come up tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect, since many of these governments are concerned about North Korea, that we will discuss North Korea. The Secretary will have a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Kawaguchi tomorrow morning. So that's a chance for the two of us, who are most directly concerned with North Korea, to talk about it as well.
So I'm sure there will be discussion tomorrow of North Korea, including our concern that we share with the Japanese about the abductee issue. But, as far as predicting what we'll say at the end of the discussions, let's wait until the discussions are held.
QUESTION: Speaking of the Secretary's meetings, do you have anything more on who he is going to be seeing in Jordan? And can you confirm from this end what the Palestinians are saying, that he will meet with Abu Alaa on Saturday or tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure all the arrangements are made yet for meetings with the Palestinians. So I don't think at this point I can confirm any specific meetings.
QUESTION: Any? Not -- forget about the Palestinian. Anyone else?
MR. BOUCHER: He will have other meetings with other people, but I don't think I can confirm any specific meetings at this point.
QUESTION: You don't even want to go out on a limb and say that he's going to see King Abdullah?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure he will see King Abdullah. But under what circumstances, I don't know yet.
QUESTION: Well, we know that Abu Alaa is on his way to Amman. But my question to you: Why is the letter not being made available, the President's letter to Abu Alaa, to the Palestinian Prime Minister? Do you have any information on the letter?
MR. BOUCHER: I don t have anything -- information on that letter that the President said he was going to send. It would be up to the White House to discuss it. If you want to ask over there, I'm sure they can talk to you about it.
QUESTION: One more?
MR. BOUCHER: One more. Actually, we've got two more.
QUESTION: Under Secretary Grossman, on the Hill, today, this morning, said that if the new Iraqi government, whatever its shape, asks the U.S. military to leave, the military, U.S. military would leave. Is that the U.S. Government's position? Or do you not believe that you have authority in existing UN resolutions to stay longer?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look back at the exact question. I think the authorities, the sovereignty of the Iraqi government, is clear. And that would be the logical answer and I'm sure Ambassador Grossman spoke for the United States Government on the point. Whether he was asked about it at the interim stage or the further post-election stage, I don't know. Didn't see the question myself.
But, in any case, I think it's not an issue that we expect to arise. Both we and the Iraqis that we're talking to, that others are talking to, expect that we will be able to work out security arrangements for Iraq that involve the continuation of the multinational force, the taking of increasing security responsibilities by the Iraqis and eventually the departure of the multinational force when the Iraqis are able to assume those full responsibilities.
We recognize on our part as well as the Iraqi part that it's necessary to have arrangements, to have appropriate military arrangements with the interim government and with the elected government, and we're very confident that that will be worked out.
We do have one more. Nadia.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you if you've been in contact with the Israelis regarding the purpose of the incursions in Gaza and the high death of 30 Palestinians and 11 Israelis, and Arafat calling for the international communities to condemn that attack.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what contacts we've had with the Israelis. I'm sure our Embassy is in touch with them and the Consul General's Office is in touch with the Palestinian side as well. We, obviously, are following the situation out there, have been very concerned about some of the violence, some of the deaths that have occurred, specifically the attacks on the IDF and the whole question of remains --
MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me. Over the last two days, we've talked about that. We are always concerned when this kind of violence occurs, always concerned about the deaths of Palestinians as well. So it's been a flare-up of violence and our people out there are following it closely.
We've got one more?
QUESTION: Yes, please. President Bashar Assad of Syria, he, after commenting on the Syria Accountability Act, he said he doesn't see the relations between the United States and Syria as at a deadlock and he welcomed the continuation of the dialogue between the two countries. That took place after the strong criticism yesterday from Amr Moussa of the Arab League and the Gulf states, you know, for the act.
Do you see -- do you agree with the assessment of President Assad's, you know, kind of optimistic, you know, futuristic look?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd stand by what we have said over the last few days, that we're certainly willing to continue our dialogue with the Syrian Government about these issues. But more important than that, we need to see action by the Syrian Government that accepts the need to change its relationships with terrorists, to change its behavior with regard to Iraq and the various other things that we have raised.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)
*Speaker misspoke and meant to say " The criteria for a country ."