State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for September 10
Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC September 10, 2004
- European Union Position / Nuclear Program / Upcoming IAEA Board of
- Governors Meeting
- Undersecretary Bolton's G-8 Discussions
- Government of Sudan's Reaction to Secretary Powell's Congressional
- Discussions in Abuja
- Rebel Cooperation
- Damage from Hurricane Ivan / United States Response and Assistance
- Query on Whether Grenada has a Police or Security Force to Secure
- Ports and Airport
- Attack at U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Compound
- Reports of a Possible Violence
- Query on Whether Department Has Comment on Reports Charles Jenkins
- Will Turn Himself In
- Release of Detainee from Guantanamo
- Query on Detainee's Home Country and Repatriation
- Query on Whether U.S. is Obliged to Provide Protection to Detainee
- Reaction to al-Zawahiri Tape
- Uranium Enrichment Experiments / Six Party Talks / South Korean
- Cooperation with IAEA
- Department Reaction to Human Rights Watch Report / Hong Kong
12:30 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. There's a lot of events today, as you all know, and the Secretary will be speaking in an hour or so -- hour and a half, giving a speech, and I think we're all looking forward to that.
So, without further ado, let me just take any questions you might have for me.
QUESTION: There are only a couple of shopping days left before -- for comment, before the IAEA meeting in Vienna. Do you have anything, any update on your evaluation of the EU-3 position going into the talks?
MR. BOUCHER: We are in contact with the Europeans and talking to other delegations in Vienna. As you know, the Secretary has kept in touch, himself, by telephone with some of the European colleagues. I just talked to Under Secretary Bolton, who is in Geneva for a G-8 meeting. They have been discussing Iran and nuclear developments out there in the G-8 sessions, but also, he's had meetings and talked to other delegations who are out there.
I think what -- the way he described it to me is that we do share the objective of denying Iran a nuclear weapons capability, although we've had, at various moments, different tactical approaches, or some gaps in our tactical approaches. He feels his discussions out there have been productive, that we've made some progress in closing the gaps over how to proceed next, and that we'll continue to have those discussions as we near and undertake the session of the Board of Governors.
But he made very clear we are all very much of the mind that Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, that the International Atomic Energy Agency has a very important role to play in that regard, and that all our nations want to support the Board of Governors and its resolutions.
QUESTION: You said that you've made some progress in closing the gaps. Does that mean that the EU-3 or any of its members share your desire to report Iran at this meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not, at this point, able to really describe their position for them. We'll have to see as we approach the session, though, what kind of proposals are made in terms of resolutions and how we can work those to come up with a joint position.
QUESTION: But you did say that you had made some progress in closing the gaps. And without reference to the, specifically to the EU-3, is anybody coming closer to your position that it should be reported in September?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we feel like we're making progress in our discussions. I am not able to characterize those in terms of accepted this, accepted that, accepted that, or the particular position about referring it to the United Nations. "We'll see" is the only answer you can give at this stage. There are discussions going on, and we remain in touch with many of the other members of the Board of Governors, in addition to the consultations that Under Secretary Bolton is having.
There is not a text yet and people know our position. We're talking to other delegations and this is going to have to start to come together in Vienna. And that's when we -- when the session starts and when we start discussing resolutions, that's when we'll find out whether we do have other people at that position.
QUESTION: Well, your position has not changed, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position has not changed.
QUESTION: Well, then what is the basis -- if other people aren't coming closer to your position, then what is the basis for your statement that you're closing the gaps?
MR. BOUCHER: All I can tell you is that's the feeling that Under Secretary Bolton has after he's had his direct discussions with other nations. He's also done a press conference out there. I don't know if he went into more detail than this.
Tammy, you had something?
QUESTION: It was actually what Arshad asked.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Joel.
QUESTION: With respect to the Secretary's testimony up in front of the Senate yesterday about Darfur, the Khartoum reaction is, from President Bashir and Foreign Minister Ismail, are that they're calling this election-type politics with a humanitarian crisis. And the U.S. -- they're saying the U.S. has an isolated position. And, of course, it's the Khartoum Government that's caused the humanitarian crisis. Was that expected from them, and what is the next step?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary said in testimony that he did expect the Sudanese Government to be displeased with the statement that he made. The conclusion that he reached that the atrocities in Darfur constituted genocide, that was a conclusion based on the facts of the matter. He made that clear. The facts were very clear to him, when compared to the law, that this was genocide. And it's not election politics.
The point is that these horrible things have been happening and we're going to call them by their name. At the same time, the Secretary made clear that there was a way forward, there was a way out of this. Part of the way forward is what we've proposed in the UN, new UN resolution, and the requirements from the last UN resolution.
The most important thing is for the government to take action to stop the Jingaweit, for the African Union to expand their force and for the people of Darfur to be safe in going back to their homes. That's the way to resolve these issues.
QUESTION: The government also made some claims that this would embolden the rebels not to hold peace talks, saying that if the rebels will believe that if they just wait long enough, the Government of Sudan will be punished by sanctions and will then be, sort of, brought down by the U.S. and the UN.
Do you think there's any -- I mean, peace talks aren't going swimmingly in Abuja, so are --
MR. BOUCHER: The parties remain in Abuja. I think they've taken a formal recess, but they remain in Abuja and we expect them to keep talking. We do believe that they have made progress so far on humanitarian questions, humanitarian access questions. They are now considering the issues of security that they have to deal with and the Nigerians are working closely with them, as we are and others who are out there. We have, as the Secretary said yesterday, a senior State Department official on the scene out there to help provide whatever impetus and expertise the United States can to those discussions.
We have stressed, the UN Security Council has stressed and will stress again, the importance of those talks, the importance of all sides taking them seriously and making progress, and that's something we'll continue to do.
I don't have any prediction of the attitude the rebels may take, but certainly we have very much emphasized to them how important it is that they work constructively here and that part of their responsibility to the people of Darfur is to negotiate seriously and reach agreement to help solve this, the underlying political issues.
QUESTION: Because we didn't -- we didn't really hear much about the rebels yesterday, of course. The focus wasn't on them. But are you also concerned -- you said briefly -- are you also concerned about behavior of the rebels?
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly have been --
QUESTION: I mean, they're the ones who kidnapped the aid workers.
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly have been concerned about those specific events. But all along, from the first UN resolution, 1556, the statements the Secretary has made, including yesterday, I think he did at one point say how important it was for the rebels to cooperate with this. And certainly we've made it part of our UN resolutions and the United States has made it part of its diplomacy as well, to make sure the rebels got a clear message that they've had an important role to play in helping solve this and helping the people of Darfur achieve safety, and that was to abide by the ceasefire, as we've called on the government to do, and to work seriously towards a political settlement, as we've called on the government to do.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Caribbean and the devastation that Hurricane Ivan has inflicted on some islands, such as Grenada? Their phone lines are down, so I'm wondering, basically, what you're hearing through the embassy channels, especially about a situation, I think, with St. George's University and students taking up knives, knives and sticks, to ward off looters.
MR. BOUCHER: That I have not heard.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me tell you what we do know. The storm was devastating for Grenada and reports are very widespread damage to buildings and trees and everything on the island. Electrical power and other utilities remain down. There are reports of sporadic looting.
There is a security force of about 150 officers from the regional security system on the ground there that was deployed to assist in securing the airport, port and other areas around the city. That's a contribution of Grenada's CARICOM neighbors that, I think, everybody is very pleased to see, particularly the people of Grenada.
For our part, we have issued a Declaration of Disaster for Grenada yesterday, and that means the initial $50,000 worth of disaster assistance funds could be released. Our Embassy in Barbados and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance have personnel on the ground in Grenada. They are assessing the damage and offering assistance to U.S. citizens, including the students at St. George's University.
An initial relief plane from our Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance landed in Grenada yesterday. It was carrying plastic sheeting and water purification units and other supplies. I think the supplies we've delivered so far are valued at about $250,000. And, obviously, other governments in the region have been providing assistance.
We are trying to work with the Americans who are on the island to see what they need and how we can help them. There are various options being looked at and considered for departure for those who want to depart, and that's something we're working on now.
We are constantly evaluating conditions on the island. The personnel, the experts from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, will be looking at what is needed down there and will continue to consider additional relief efforts as they're needed.
QUESTION: What kind of the mobility do the U.S. personnel down there have at this point? Or are they hunkered down primarily in the Embassy?
MR. BOUCHER: In Grenada I think they do have some mobility, but I don't know how much. I think, at this point, we are, you know, we are hunkered down in Jamaica, but in Grenada now they're reaching out to contact Americans, talking to aid officials, looking at the situation of damage and seeing what we can do.
QUESTION: Any word on the fate of the 23 Peace Corps volunteers that are in Grenada?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any rundown at this point of the Peace Corps volunteers, specifically.
QUESTION: Out of curiosity, you mentioned the CARICOM-contributed force. Does Grenada not have a regular police or security force that would ordinarily secure things like the ports and the airport?
MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't know what they have in terms of the security services, but I think this -- in this kind of disaster situation there is a lot that needs to be done, and so having these personnel whether they're -- what they're supplementing, I don't know, but having the extra people is obviously a help.
QUESTION: A different subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: This morning there was a bomb attack in Kathmandu against the American Cultural Center. Do you have any details or any elements about responsibility for this action?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. It was about 5:30 p.m., local time, in Kathmandu when two small explosive devices were thrown at the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs compound. No one was hurt. Property damage was slight. Most of the staff had already left for the day. This compound is separate from the main Embassy buildings. Nepalese security forces responded immediately to the incident. Nepalese security forces are now investigating. We are unaware, at this point, of anybody accepting the blame for the incident.
The Embassy has provided a Warden Message to Americans in Nepal and is working closely with government authorities to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice. I would point out once again, this kind of attack has no political or other justification.
The Nepal Travel Warning that we issued on July 21st did update the information from previous warnings. We will continue to review information pertaining to the safety and security of American citizens and then make decisions, as appropriate, on Consular Information Sheets or Travel Warnings. We'll see if there is any change necessary in those.
QUESTION: The Nepalese authorities are blaming the Maoist guerrillas. Is it the conclusion that you're --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there is a conclusion at this point. They're still investigating. I think that's, at this point, an assumption -- put it that way -- that they are making. We'll wait and see what the investigation produces.
Now let's go to here. Joel.
QUESTION: Richard, there is a fear this coming Sunday of a religious riot in India, and coming from Bombay, they say that Hindus are going to destroy a Muslim temple. Have you been asked, in any way, to mediate that situation?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. It's not -- I mean, we'd obviously be concerned about a possible situation of violence, but it's not something we would normally get involved in.
QUESTION: On the U.S. Marine deserter, Mr. Jenkins, you have been saying that you would ask for his custody from the Japanese Government. And according to Japanese media, he is going to the U.S. military base tomorrow -- Saturday morning, Japan time. I wonder if you have any comments about his voluntarily bring himself to the U.S. military base.
MR. BOUCHER: I really don't have any comment at this point. We'll see what he does. This possibility has been discussed, I think, by him publicly, that he would turn himself in; and when that happens, we'll see if there's anything to say.
QUESTION: But he has already -- okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, Teri.
QUESTION: A couple questions. Did you ever get any more information on this Guantanamo detainee and the State Department supposedly being in charge of travel arrangements back to whatever his home country is?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I did.
QUESTION: That you can share?
MR. BOUCHER: I forgot -- I'm not sure. Yes, we are aware of the detainee that the Pentagon decided could be released, should be released. We are in discussions with his home country about the possible return.
And as you know, this has been a regular matter. There have been groups of prisoners that, for one reason or another, we decided to return, or, in this case, where the boards that were reviewing the situation decided he should be returned. And so we're working on that and we're hoping that that can take place shortly.
QUESTION: But you can't tell us to where he will be --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can at this point.
QUESTION: Do you know if he's -- if there's anything the U.S. found out that would possibly provoke charges in his home country, or is that something --
MR. BOUCHER: I really don't know. That would be a question for the people who reviewed at the Pentagon and, even more than that, for people in his home country to address.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I have another question? Do you -- it's not really this building, but --
QUESTION: Actually, can I add -- ask one more on that?
QUESTION: Oh, sorry, yeah.
QUESTION: You said a possible return. Is there some thinking that he won't be returned to his home country?
MR. BOUCHER: No. He will be returned to his home country.
QUESTION: Does he get the option not to go there if he doesn't to? (Laughter.) Yeah, or can he stay or go somewhere else? Can you --
MR. BOUCHER: Can he stay? I'm not sure we have accommodations.
QUESTION: Third country repatriates, third country --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I, frankly, haven't asked that question. I suppose once he's returned, it would depend on all these other questions whether there is any charges or anything against him there and how free he is to travel to other places. I think our responsibility is to see to -- repatriate him to his home country if that's -- that's the normal thing to do.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this? Why the secrecy about his home country by you guys? Is there something embarrassing about admitting the country that he came from, or what? Why can't you say --
MR. BOUCHER: No. First of all, because I don't know for sure that I can. Sorry, but I'll find out.
QUESTION: No, no. I'm not saying -- I'm assuming that you think you can't. But --
MR. BOUCHER: And second of all, I think it's been our practice not to identify the places that people are going before they went there, there are a variety of logistical, security and other arrangements that have to be made, and I think we'd just rather not forecast too far in advance where and when these transfers might take place. And here we have a where and I want to be a little careful before I divulge it.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any obligation to provide protection for him in his own country after -- I mean, he's basically been singled out and if he's shown to have been picked up mistakenly and is an innocent person, it's not so easy to just go back and start your life over.
MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't have any obligation to protect people.
QUESTION: You don't have any? Huh.
QUESTION: Can I ask my second question? Oh. This is --
MR. BOUCHER: Can you ask your second question? Sure. She's had three already, so it's --
QUESTION: Can I ask my fifth question? It's not this building, but do you have any reaction to the al-Zawahiri tape, which the, I guess, analysis -- the U.S. --
MR. BOUCHER: I guess the analysis has show that it's him.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think one needs to do a very detailed analysis of the tape. He is a terrorist, a member of a terrorist group. They're responsible for many murders, many crimes and a lot of horror, and they need to be brought to justice and they will be.
QUESTION: But is it disconcerting that he's popping up again on tape?
MR. BOUCHER: The fact that people -- he's still out there. We know that. The fact that he can get to a video camera is not too surprising.
QUESTION: Yes, it is reported in Washington Times today that National Security Council has asked the State Department to delay notification to the Congress on Taiwan's arms sale pending Taiwan's congress to pass the related budget, and thus delaying the process. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything. I didn't see that. I didn't check into it, but we don't -- I don't know that there'd be anything I could get you something on, frankly.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Unusual story, but coming from Havana, Cuba, your chief U.S. diplomat at the Cuban Interests Section, James Cason, has built a model of a Cuban prison in his backyard to literally show the human rights type violations presented by Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba. Has this been authorized by the U.S. Government or --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't know that. I'll have to check and see if there's anything like that going on.
QUESTION: On North Korea, do you have anything fresh to say about what effect, if any, the disclosures about South Korea's past uranium enrichment and plutonium experiments may have had on your efforts to pursue six-party talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't. As I said to you before, we don't see a connection between the two things except to the extent that South Korea is now offering an example of disclosure, inviting the International Atomic Energy Agency to come in and see what did happen many years ago in one of the cases, and trying to reassure everybody through the International Atomic Energy Agency that these kind of experiments and activities won't occur again.
But in terms of the six-party talks, North Korea agreed at the last round that there would be talks in September. Assistant Secretary Kelly has been in Tokyo. He's had meetings there with the Japanese and South Koreans. They have all come out again to make clear that they want to hold to that schedule, that they believe that that agreement was important. And we would hope that North Korea would stick to the understanding that was reached at the last round of talks as well.
There's certainly no question of treating the South Korean revelations any differently than in the case of other nations. And second of all, that there's no comparison between the kinds of activities here that occurred many years ago and ended, and the kinds of activities that North Korea has and continues, continues to say it is undertaking.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the activities that the South Koreans -- you were saying that there's no comparison. How would you characterize the South Korean ones in the past, both the uranium four years ago and the plutonium 20 years ago?
MR. BOUCHER: As we've said, we've described them as the South Koreans have described them, as experiments, as laboratory efforts, certainly small scale. The International Atomic Energy Agency is looking into this, as they should, and they will come out with more extensive reporting on it, I'm sure. But they're certainly of different scale and type than North Korea's efforts to develop sources of enriched uranium for the purpose of nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: This will be my last one on this, I promise. The Secretary, I think, is quoted some place this morning as using the word "academic" to describe the experiments. Does that reflect, sort of, your consensus view on what these were, that they weren't a precursor to try and actually obtain a bomb; it was just an academic, which, to me, implies just in the field of inquiry, rather than with any --
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Laboratory experiments in an academic --
QUESTION: Laboratory experiments can be designed to build weapons, though. It's different from an academic, you know, exercise.
MR. BOUCHER: We don't see these as nuclear weapons activities.
QUESTION: The same question. Is U.S. satisfied that a level of cooperation that South Korean provided for IAEA? And, if so, would you say that some report from Vienna that Western diplomats can't complain that South Korean do have some transparent manner?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I really needed to leave it to the International Atomic Energy Agency investigators to describe the level of cooperation. We've seen, certainly, a lot of cooperation. They will have a lot of questions. And as this process is underway, we certainly hope that South Korea continues to cooperate in the follow-up.
But I do think it is important that in their declarations, the South Koreans have described this activity. They have invited the International Atomic Energy Agency in to come look at it. And, you know, all I think I would say as far as cooperation is it's important to maintain the cooperation as this process proceeds.
QUESTION: Do you expect that this issue will be referred to the Security -- the UN Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's premature to start speculating on that. I couldn't say. We'll have to see what the investigation produces and what outcome it is. There is an obligation on the part of the Board to report noncompliance to the Security Council. That's been done with Iraq, North Korea, most recently Libya, and we'll just have to see.
North Korea at some time in the past?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Ma'am.
QUESTION: A change of topic?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Hong Kong. Do you have anything on Human Rights Watch report which is -- was released yesterday on the human rights condition deteriorated in the run-up to the legislative election?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen the report and we will, obviously, study that report carefully. We have been following the situation in Hong Kong closely. We've often expressed our support for the aspirations of the Hong Kong people for democracy. There have been reports of intimidation and harassment and other activities in regard to these elections. We believe that the protection of civil liberties and Hong Kong's autonomy is fundamental to the policy of one-country, two systems, and we'll continue to follow the events in the run-up to the elections.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)
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