State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for September 7
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for September 7
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
September 7, 2004
- Remarks by Secretary Powell and Secretary of
Housing and Urban
- Development in the Briefing Room
- Assistance to Victims of Violence in Belsan-North Ossetia / C130s
- with Medicine and Medical Supplies / U.S. Military Command and
- European Command/ Relief Agencies / Ambassador Vershbow and
- Dispersing of Funds / Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary
- Armitage Signing of Condolence Book
- U.S. Meetings-Contact-Relations with Chechen Officials / Fight of
- Terrorism / Need for Political Solution
- Decision to Suspend Production of Centrifuges / Six Reports by
- Director General on Nuclear Program / Persistent Reports of
- Violations / Need for Suspension of Nuclear Activities / Working
- with Countries to Find Diplomatic Solution / Possible Referral to
- UN Security Council by Board of Governors / Issue Possible Before
- UN General Assembly / U.S. Contact with the IAEA / Contact with
- Other Governments
- Dealing with Nuclear Programs Independently and Diplomatically
- Ambassador Black Comments about Capturing bin Laden
- President Musharraf Determined to Fight Terrorism /Commitment of
- Government and People
- Reports of Izzat al-Duri Capture
- Capturing of French Reporters / U.S. Contact with French
- Government / French Diplomatic Efforts
- Forces for Iraq by Various Countries / Nepalese Contribution
- Prime Minister Qurei Remarks / No Justification for Terrorism
- U.S. Support of Free and Fair Elections for Palestinians / Quartet
- Expression of Support
- Discussion Regarding Settlements / Technical Team from Washington
- Assistant Secretary Burns Travel
- President Bush's and Secretary Powell's Appreciation for
- Contribution of Troops to Iraq
- Awaiting IAEA Uranium Enrichment Report
12:50 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Well, welcome back to all and sundry, especially sundry.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any statements or announcements except to remind you that the Secretary will come down with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development this afternoon at about 10 of 2:00. And instead of subjecting you to inclement weather, we're going to do it in this room. We're going to have an inside stake in instead of an outside stake out. So I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Well, the Russian
situation, to follow through, obviously, Mr. Putin is very
distressed, but he has flatly and very colorfully ruled out
talking to the Chechens. U.S. policy is that that's the
only way out, right? So how do you size that up, and have
they asked for anything that we're not aware of
-- any sort of help? Do you have --
MR. BOUCHER: Our views on the overall situation have not changed, but I think at this moment it's really most important to focus, as we have, on what we can do to help the people in Beslan who are hurt and who are victims of this horrible attack, and what we can do to cooperate with the Russians in our absolute solidarity with them against fighting the violence and the terrorism that has beset them.
In response to a request from the Russian Government for emergency medical supplies, two C-130s from the U.S. European Command delivered to North Ossetia early this morning, local time -- I'm sorry -- early morning, local time, on Monday, some $580,000 worth of medicines and medical equipment from U.S. military and civilian stocks in Germany. This included 65 pallets. It was medicines and supplies, bed linens, EKGs, X-ray systems, blood and chemical analyzers, burn dressings, other equipment.
These are stocks that we hold that the State Department actually has in Europe, positioned in Germany for just these kinds of emergencies in that area; and, of course, transportation was provided by the U.S. Military and European Command, so a joint effort that we made. We've got another C-130 with additional emergency medical supplies that'll go from Italy tomorrow, and we are assessing what more we can do.
U.S. Ambassador Vershbow this weekend authorized $50,000 in emergency assistance funds for use by relief agencies in Beslan. The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the U.S. Agency For International Development is disbursing those funds primarily to the Russian Red Cross, and under the scope of a current grant agreement between our Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration and the nongovernmental organization, World Vision.
World Vision is responding to the crisis through the provision of $25,000 worth of medical supplies to hospitals in North Ossetia that are dealing with the victims injured in the attack.
I would point out as well, Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage went to the Russian Embassy this morning about 10:15 to sign the condolence book and to express their sympathy with the victims.
QUESTION: What was the price tag, please, on that C-130?
MR. BOUCHER: It's about $580,000 worth on the first two C-130s --
QUESTION: Oh, one other --
MR. BOUCHER: This comes to $655,000 worth of assistance so far, with another C-130 to come tomorrow.
QUESTION: Right. And another thing. I
don't know that you have special
-- take on special knowledge. But there have been various reports suggesting that the terrorists were not all Chechens. Some are identified as Arabs. Some are identified also as elsewhere. Does the Counter Terror Office here have any size-up on whether there's some al-Qaida connection here?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any firm information ourselves. We've seen all those various reports and we are, obviously, following them closely to see what connections there may have been to other groups. But at this point, no, we don't have any firm information.
QUESTION: Richard, you talk about absolute solidarity with the Russians in fighting terrorism, but President Putin said today that the U.S., in fact, is undermining Russia's fight against terrorism because of past U.S. decisions to meet with Chechen officials. Can you speak to this?
MR. BOUCHER: There have not been any recent meetings between Department officials and Chechen political figures, separatist political figures. The United States has met with people in -- from Chechnya who have differing points of view, including points of view that differ from the Russian Government. But, you know, we don't meet with terrorists. We don't meet with people who are involved in violence or fomenting violence.
QUESTION: Well, if I could follow up, though. But what he seemed to be indicating is that the U.S. decision to encourage Russia and the Chechens to work towards a political settlement, in fact, he doesn't make the distinction, as you do, between certain Chechen officials and terrorists. He's indicating that he considers all Chechen rebels a terrorist movement and the U.S. shouldn't be meeting with them or encouraging their political situation.
MR. BOUCHER: That's an old story, that we've had differing views of certain individuals. I think that's been known for some time.
QUESTION: When you said our views haven't changed, or view hasn't changed -- whatever -- you mean that ultimately a solution requires negotiations between Russia and the -- I don't know what to call them anymore -- the Chechens? I mean, there are all kinds of Chechens. There are all kinds of everything.
MR. BOUCHER: Again, it's more complicated than you're saying.
MR. BOUCHER: But, fundamentally, that ultimately there needs to be a political solution. We need to look at that, how to build that prospect.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Same --
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Richard, Vladimir Putin is complaining. He's saying that the United States still has a Cold War mentality, these are not freedom fighters, and he's also critical because you granted asylum to what he calls the foreign minister of Chechen separatist movement. And also, does that have any tie-in to today's editorial in The Washington Post?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You can ask Washington Post if President Putin had anything to do with the editorial, but the --
QUESTION: No, not the editorial, critical of the U.S. The editorial --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to start talking about editorials. As far as our relations with Chechen figures of different points of view, I think we've dealt with that question. And we, obviously, are willing to look at any information the Russian Government has on organizations or individuals that may be involved or associated with terrorism, but our view of some of these political figures has been different than the Russians, and that's just been a fact for a long time. That's not an issue that's being dealt with or trying to be dealt with in the current situation.
In the current situation, there's no question of our stance against the people who perpetrated this act. There's no question of our stance with the Russian Government in fighting these kind of terrorists, whether it's the people who bombed airplanes last week or the Moscow subway or the attack on the school. Russia faces a horrible and deadly terrorism problem and we are working with them in a variety of ways, exchanging information, cooperating at the UN, doing other things together, to fight terrorism because we recognize the threat that the Russians have faced and, in this particular circumstance, trying to help the victims of that terrorism.
QUESTION: Even if the U.S. views haven't changed that there should be a political solution, has there been any change in your prognosis of how possible a political solution is now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think one changes a prognosis two days after an attack or one week after a series of attacks. The fundamental view of the United States remains the same.
QUESTION: And that there is one possible?
MR. BOUCHER: That there needs to be.
QUESTION: Richard, you said you, American officials, have not met with Chechens for some time. Do you know, do you have an idea roughly, when the last time might have been? A year? More than a year?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know for sure, no.
QUESTION: Are you saying that in the future such meetings might be possible again?
MR. BOUCHER: We do have -- as I said, we do have a policy that says we will meet with political officials, leaders who have different points of view. We've done that in the past. We may or may not do that in the future, depending on who these individuals might be.
QUESTION: Diplomats in Vienna are saying that Iran --
QUESTION: Can I ask just one more question on this?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Has there been any contact with the
Chechen side in the last
-- I mean, not meeting with officials but any kind of contact with some of your intermediaries in the last two weeks, say?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any. I know -- I don't know what sort of contact you might be talking about if it's not meetings.
QUESTION: Were not there phone calls? E-mails?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see if we've had any talk with Chechens recently.
MR. BOUCHER: Any phone calls, e-mails or IM messages.
QUESTION: I mean, there are political figures in --
MR. BOUCHER: Instant messages on our cell phones.
QUESTION: Exactly, full range, I'll take it. Thanks.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we've got anything with Chechens recently. But as I said, I think our pattern over the past, you know, period of time, past year or two, has been quite clear. We meet from time to time with various people with different points of view about Chechnya, but we do not meet with terrorists and people who are involved in terrorism. There is no question that the people carrying out these acts have no political affiliation, they have a terrorist affiliation, and one shouldn't confuse the two things.
Nicholas, you're done with, right?
QUESTION: Yeah, I'm good for now.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Iran. Diplomats, some diplomats in Vienna are saying that Iran has agreed in principle to halt the production, testing and assembly of centrifuges. Are you aware of any -- is the U.S. Government aware of any such agreement in principle? And would you find it acceptable, given the Iranians have promised to do this, and by their own omission violated those promises in the recent past?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it -- you don't have to look back too far to find Iranian officials saying that they were going to suspend production of centrifuge and use of centrifuges, and then to find them saying that no, they were going to go ahead anyway.
One might conclude that some of these cycles have to do with the imminence of IAEA Board meetings, that we hear that they're going to do this, that or the other before a Board meeting and then somewhat afterwards, not necessarily too long, we find out that they either did not or would not or will not do those things. So what it boils down to is what we've said before. There have been six reports by the Director General on Iran's nuclear program, clandestine program, spanned almost two decades. There have been persistent reports by the Director General of violations of Iran's nuclear pledges, its promises and commitments and its treaty obligations.
Iran has a legally binding treaty obligation under the Nonproliferation Treaty to accept safeguards and verification for its nuclear activities. What's needed now is concrete action by Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities, including its pursuit of a complete nuclear fuel cycle that would give Iran that capability.
We continue to work with other countries to find a diplomatic solution to Iran's defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its pursuit of nuclear weapons. We believe Iran needs to comply with its promises and with the requirements put down by the Board of Governors. But that's happened. Those requirements have been put down many times and Iran has not complied, so we do believe that it's time to look at referring this matter to the UN Security Council, and that's what we're discussing with other governments as we head towards the meeting in September.
QUESTION: You're clearly very skeptical about the idea of their making such promises, but the first part of my question was: Are you aware of their having made such promises or agreed to do this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we're aware of the public statements that they have made. I'm not aware of any particular promise or commitment, new commitment or promise that they've made in any firm way.
QUESTION: Different subject?
QUESTION: One more.
MR. BOUCHER: One more.
QUESTION: I follow, Richard, on this Iran. During the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting, do you think Iran -- this issue will be brought up before the international community in whole that what Iran is doing really does affect the world peace and it should stop?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, if brought up to the community as a whole, I suppose that would include statements and speeches that various governments might make in their General Assembly statements. That's indeed possible. The matter before the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency is referral to the UN Security Council, not so much to the General Assembly at this stage. If they decide to do that in September, then it will hit the Security Council some time later.
QUESTION: But privately what Iranians are saying to you or to the U.S., are they saying anything other than publicly?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that we've had any direct contacts on this matter. They do have contacts with a lot of people at the International Atomic Energy Agency. And as we've seen, they're trying to explain away their behavior, but the behavior has been documented multiple times and can't be overcome by new promises since past promises were not kept.
QUESTION: And one more, finally. Do you think this is as serious as North Korea? Both are similar.
MR. BOUCHER: You can't really compare one situation to the other. We are dealing with both diplomatically. We are looking at how to do that and we've got different instruments in each case. There have been different sets of requirements and promises.
What's clear is that there are examples in the world today of countries that have given up nuclear capabilities and that have adopted international standards and that are all the better for it, and we would hope that any government would follow those models.
Yeah. Okay. Iran still? Yeah.
QUESTION: When you mention that it's coming up in UN or in New York, I mean, you mean that before that there is not any diplomatic contacts, diplomatic channels with Europeans or anything about this issue, or --
MR. BOUCHER: No, quite the contrary. It's not coming up in New York unless the Board of Governors decides to send it there, and that's what we're talking to people about and we are in contact with Europeans. The Secretary has talked to all the foreign ministers last week, the three European foreign ministers last week. We've kept in touch with the Russian Government. The Secretary has kept in touch with other international figures on the matter. And we are working this in Vienna and through other governments to try to see whether there can be an international consensus to refer to the United Nations at this time.
Okay. Iran, Nadia, or something else?
QUESTION: No, Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, he gets first dibs.
QUESTION: Yeah, I was wondering whether you could clarify a statement that Cofer Black was quoted as making over the weekend about capturing bin Laden. How close or how much closer? So, further, Pakistan is saying they know nothing about being anywhere close.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is actually too much to clarify, if you look at what he said. He has reiterated in an interview over the weekend that the capture of Usama bin Laden and the dismantling of al-Qaida remains a high priority for the United States; more than three-quarters of al-Qaida's key members and associates in place on September 11th have been detained or killed; bin Laden is a fugitive from an international coalition that will pursue him until he is brought to justice.
Ambassador Black's remarks clearly indicated there is no way of predicting when this might occur, whether it's sooner or later, but he was also very clear that we would not relent until bin Laden is caught. That's the substance of his remarks and I don't think that should come as any surprise to anyone.
QUESTION: Can I follow up, Mr. Boucher?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: But also, I heard the reports in the Pakistan newspapers that there are differences between General Musharraf himself and his generals, with that they don't want Usama bin Laden to be handed over to anybody and he might be in trouble. So do you -- are you -- I mean, what's your reading as far as that's concern?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think this is -- should -- can or should be the cause for great speculation. The United States and Pakistan are allies in this fight. President Musharraf is determined that his country needs to take a more moderate course; it needs to fight against terrorism, and indeed, the evidence -- the, what you can see, yourself, on the ground is that Pakistan has, again and again, sent troops into harm's way to try to eliminate the terrorists that might be taking harbor in parts of Pakistan, where previously the government wasn't even represented, and now they're out there fighting and sometimes dying in order to get rid of these foreign terrorists from Pakistani soil.
So I don't think there's any doubt of their commitment and the commitment not only of the president, but of the people who are out there fighting.
QUESTION: Well, let me put it in different way quickly. Is U.S. behind, fully, 100 percent, General Musharraf if he's ready to take any actions as far as Usama bin Laden is concerned?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me put it the same way, perhaps, quickly. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Nadia.
QUESTION: Iraq. Another capture. Izzat al-Duri. There's been so many reports about him. He's been captured or not?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure about that one. I think by the end of the weekend people decided it wasn't facts.
QUESTION: But there was reports coming from Iran today confirming that, in fact, it is him.
MR. BOUCHER: Did the Iranians capture him?
QUESTION: No, they haven't. But they're saying that basically they have information that he was captured.
MR. BOUCHER: I really have to refer you to the people in Iraq. The Iraqis, I know, had some initial reports. They thought they'd caught him. But as far as I know, by the end of the weekend it was fairly clear that whoever they caught, it wasn't him.
QUESTION: Still on Iraq. As you know, two French reporters were kidnapped in this country a couple of weeks ago.
MR. BOUCHER: That's right.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what kind of efforts the U.S. is doing to get them released?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't go into any detail because we're not in a position on any of these cases, but I would say we are in close touch with the French Government. We're certainly very concerned about the situation of these reporters. We've seen the diplomatic efforts that the French Government has undertaken to try to encourage his release. And obviously, we'll follow the situation closely and any assistance that we can give them in securing their release, we would like -- we would be happy to do so.
QUESTION: Richard, the Syrian Defense Minister is highly critical of the U.S. as well as putting pressure on the UN for -- over the resolution. And also, with respect to terrorism, of course there was this Gaza raid on the training field against Hamas, and yet I don't know whether Hezbollah and Hamas are considered terrorist groups by the U.S.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, absolutely, they are.
QUESTION: But Foreign Minister Qurei says that --
QUESTION: Prime Minister --
QUESTION: -- they're justified, meaning the Palestinian Authority, in a counterattack against Israel. How do you, then, settle the situation? Are the terrorist groups becoming the PA, or are the PA becoming the terrorist groups?
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let's see. We took a long route to get there, but if I understand the question, it's about remarks attributed to Prime Minister Qurei of the Palestinian Authority.
At this point, we're still trying to chase down the remarks and see what he actually said and whether he actually said what's been reported. Certainly, if the remarks are reported accurately, if he indeed did say this, then we would certainly find those kinds of comments unacceptable. There's nothing that can justify the kind of terrorism, the kind of bus bombings and other things that are attributed to Hamas recently.
We've made very clear these groups need to be put out of business. We've made very clear the Palestinian leaders need to take hold of this problem, need to get the authority and take immediate and credible steps to end terror and violence. The time for explanations, excuses and discussion is long past. We think it's time to see some action that sends a clear message that terrorists will not be tolerated.
QUESTION: Richard, the Palestinians are undergoing their voter registration, and there's been some speculation that Hamas -- if Hamas representatives ran that they might have a very strong showing in an election. I mean, what does the U.S. -- where do you think that the process will go if members of Hamas are elected to the Palestinian leadership?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't want to reach three steps down in speculation and end up somewhere that may or may not happen, but the United States supports free and fair elections in -- for the Palestinians at the municipal level. That's what they're preparing for.
The Quartet expressed support, confirmed in a July 7th statement, the Quartet issue confirmed the Quartet's readiness to assist with this process as appropriate. We believe that the Palestinians deserve elections, in this case, municipal elections as much as anybody.
QUESTION: And you stand ready to work with whoever is elected?
MR. BOUCHER: We're not predicting the outcome at this point.
QUESTION: Can I ask on settlements activity? Again, there have been plans for a partly State Department technical team to go and investigate exactly what this constitutes in terms of the plans. Have we got any further on that, please?
MR. BOUCHER: We've continued discussions with the Israelis in recent months on the issue of settlements. We are prepared to send a technical team to Israel from Washington at the appropriate time. There is not a date at this point that's been set.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary said that the team is ready to go shortly after Labor Day. When is the appropriate time?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see when the arrangements can be made.
QUESTION: Well, is it an issue about arrangements and logistics or is it an issue that the mandate and the parameters of the team's visit hasn't been settled?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I'm not ready to get into any detail.
QUESTION: Yes. Is Assistant Secretary Burns' visit still on? Any new things you have to say or just new steps or --
MR. BOUCHER: Burns is still planning to go out to the region. I don't have any more on his schedule at this point, or his stops.
QUESTION: Do you have the dates? Do you have the dates?
MR. BOUCHER: It's -- I can't remember if it's later this week or next week. I'll check for you and see what I can get you.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any explanation on the part of the State Department as to why President Bush did not mention Korea when he was introducing all the Iraq war allies in the speech on Thursday?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's important to remember that on other occasions the President, the Secretary of State and others have shown a great appreciation for the contribution that the Republic of Korea has made. There should be no doubt about our gratitude to South Korean troops for the contributions in the coalition.
QUESTION: Did you -- sorry. Did you get any explanation on that from the White House or Bush camp, or any --
MR. BOUCHER: The President always cites various examples in his speeches. Sometimes it's some countries, sometimes it's others. But the President has made clear in various statements repeatedly how much he values the deployments of the Republic of Korea to Iraq, how close our relationship as allies is and how well we're working together in current years and months. And that remains a very firm foundation of our policy, one that the President has reiterated again and again, albeit on different occasions.
QUESTION: Concerning the uranium enrichment of South Korea. That group of IAEA inspectors has returned from Seoul after a long, weeklong probe. And then did you hear something from Vienna?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll, at this point, wait until they present their report. I'm not aware that they have presented any reports yet.
QUESTION: One more about South Korea.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Please on the Korean officials, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul or the one -- some officials in your department said that one Mr. Bush -- that Mr. Bush did not mention South Korea in his speech, it is not what the government did, it's kind of the Republican Party did, so they express that kind of regret but in --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave the Republican Party to express their own opinion of this, but I know that from a government point of view, the President is the President, and he has on many occasions, expressed his support and appreciation for the effort that South Korea has made and for the cooperation that we have with South Korea.
QUESTION: Richard, can I go back to Iraq, please, one question? I follow the killings in Nepal and other parts in things happening as far as security problems in Iraq is concerned. There is disturbing reports in Nepal that why there are not Muslim countries in Iraq with their forces, why only non-Muslims or other forces, or workers.
Now, also, when I last time met with the Foreign Minister -- Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan here in Washington, both told me that U.S. never ask them to send their troops, and also this was also said by Deputy Secretary Armitage when he was in India. So why U.S. has not asked India and Pakistan forces for Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, the subject of other forces for Iraq was dealt with in UN Security Council resolutions. Every country was encouraged to provide forces. The Iraqi Interim Government, in addition to the Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi, wrote to a number of countries, including several Muslim countries, about the possibility of providing troops and this was a subject of discussion in various fora at different times.
So I think all governments have been encouraged. Frankly, not that many have stepped forward to do this. In terms of workers and participants, I know if you, unfortunately, look at the news reports of who's been kidnapped, there have been a number of workers from Muslim countries kidnapped and some of them killed. Turkey and Pakistan both come to mind --
QUESTION: After this issue --
MR. BOUCHER: -- having nationals there.
QUESTION: After all this issue of the killings in Nepal is concerned, is Nepal still committed to their commitment in Iraq or have they --
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'd have to ask the Nepalese Government on that. Certainly, we welcome participation by anybody who wants to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq for the sake of the Iraqi people. It's not a matter for the United States or any other cause. It's for the sake of the Iraqi people, and the people who go there and work or drive trucks or go there as military people are helping the Iraqi people achieve what they want for their destiny.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)
DPB # 147
- - # # #
- - [End]
Released on September 7, 2004