State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for October 7
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 7, 2004
- Denial of Visas to Group of Cuban Academics / Basis for Decision
- Dov Weisglas' Comments Regarding the Roadmap / Israeli Commitment
- Disengagement from Gaza / Settlement Activity / Sharon's Comments
- Policy of United States Toward Roadmap
- Undersecretary Grossman's Comments Regarding Multiethnic Societies
- Elections in Kosovo
- Status of Elections
- Potential for Election Fraud
- IAEA Agreement
- IAEA Board of Governors / Uranium Enrichment
- Query on Whether Department Agrees with Findings of DuelferReport
- David Kay's Comments Regarding Duelfer Report / Justification for War
- Secretary Powell's Presentation to the UN on February 5,2003
- United States Non-Proliferation Policy
- Sanctions Regime Before the War
- Oil for Food Program
- United States Policy Towards Libya / Relations with Qadhafi
- Resolution 1559
12:20 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Where are my fellow travelers? Where are the hale and hearty that came on the trip?
QUESTION: They're filing a briefing on the way in.
MR. BOUCHER: I guess so. All right. Well, in any case, it's good to be back with the rest of you. Pleased to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Okay. Academics and some members of Congress are distressed by the State Department's decision to deny visas to some 60 Cuban scholars, to describe that, to go to a conference in Vegas, and they're going to -- or probably have already begun to turn it into a protest meeting.
Considering all the way back to the Helsinki Accords, why would the Bush Administration stop Cuban academics from having a free exchange or an unfree exchange with scholars in America?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think that's exactly why, because of the unfree exchange. The fact is that Cuban academics are government employees and they come as government officials, and we have a policy restricting travel by Cuban government officials. We think it's not consistent with our national interest. And so, this was a group I think of 67 Cuban officials, who were intending to come to a conference, noted that the number is approximately -- I think 68 is the current number of dissidents that Cuba has thrown in jail and is persecuting in its jails, and we just felt it wasn't appropriate for this many Cuban government officials, "academics," to come to a conference to spout the party line.
QUESTION: How many? Did you decline all 67?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we declined them all as a group; the decision was made last week.
QUESTION: Yeah, I know. But a couple of members of Congress asked for reconsideration --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- in a letter to the Secretary. Evidently, they were simply turned down. I don't know if they got a reply letter.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if the Secretary has gotten a letter from members of Congress on the road.
QUESTION: Yeah, he's been on the road. Yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to check on that. And I'm sure that, you know, we'll want to cooperate and explain with members of Congress, but that is the decision that was made and that that's where we stand at the present moment.
QUESTION: Well, if it's a narrow decision based on the restrictions you apply, for whatever good or bad reason, to travel by Cuban officials and you take the -- all 67 people, as Cuban officials, that's one thing. But if the State Department doesn't want them to come to Las Vegas and "spout the party line," I think it says something about the State Department's views about academic freedom and about a free exchange of ideas.
We hear party line all of the time. We've heard party line from Soviet officials, for instance, for decades until the Soviet Union disintegrated. Is it the State Department's business to evaluate what people are going to say at an academic conference that has nothing to do with the U.S. State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: It's the State Department's view that Cuban officials should not travel freely within the United States, and that Cuban officials and the Cuban regime needs to feel the pressure of our disdain for that regime, and the condemnation that we have for the way that regime treats its own people, throws them in jail, and persecutes them.
And if these people, who are employed by universities but who are effectively Cuban officials want to travel around and, you know, enjoy the hospitality of the United States or enjoy the free and open discussion here, that's one thing, but we think it's important for them to -- for the Cuban Government and the Cuban regime to know that the United States is not -- has not countenanced their activities as Cuban officials inside Cuba.
And therefore, we think one of the appropriate ways of bringing pressure on them is to deny Cuban officials the ability to travel, to deny them the right to travel around the United States and enjoy our hospitality.
QUESTION: Can you just give us the rundown -- you seemed to be, at one point, you were about to run down just the exact details on this, the decision to deny the visas --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wasn't. I was about to promise to remember to find it for you if I needed to.
MR. BOUCHER: So I take the --
QUESTION: Would you make that promise?
MR. BOUCHER: So I'll take the request. I'll get you the details --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: -- on when and how we turned it down.
QUESTION: Are you meaning to suggest that all Cuban academics are government officials? That sounds like what you said.
MR. BOUCHER: I think, given the nature of the system, they are.
QUESTION: Well, what would you say to -- I mean, some of the people who are in jail right now could be considered academics?
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, it's clear --
QUESTION: Could they not?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I --
QUESTION: I mean, there's this woman, the economist, who is --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the exact employment of some of these people, whether they still have their government jobs or their academic jobs. But I mean, this is a large group of academics and people employed by the Cuban Government who wanted to travel as a group, and we felt it was appropriate to turn down this group.
QUESTION: So -- but you're not -- so, wait, I --
MR. BOUCHER: As far as I'm aware --
QUESTION: You're saying these 67 --
MR. BOUCHER: As far as I'm aware, none of these individuals has distinguished him or herself for free thinking and for questioning anything the regime has said.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but they're, you know, there are academics in the United States who are what you might consider apologists for Cuba. But so I'm just trying to figure out whether -- is it just these 67 who applied, I mean, and others might apply in the future that you might consider to be government officials, or are you saying that all Cuban academics are government officials, in your view?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're saying what the facts are, which is the university system in Cuba is a government-employed, government-run system; and, therefore, when we look at travel by people who work for this university system, then we need to consider that they fall into the category of Cuban officials where we have some interest in restricting them.
Does that mean we will restrict every and all Cuban official for every and all purpose of travel and conference? No, individual decisions have to be made. Decisions have to be made case-by-case. But here we found a group that we felt at this time it was appropriate to deny the opportunity to travel.
QUESTION: Well, do you then -- do you regard employees -- professors or academics in any country's state-run universities or colleges as government officials?
MR. BOUCHER: It's -- they're government employees. But --
QUESTION: Yeah, but say you work for a New York --
MR. BOUCHER: Different -- no, you can't make that kind of generalization. I mean, in some countries they are federal government employees, some countries they're state government employees, some universities they're local government employees.
I'm not quite sure, but I don't think we have too many countries where we actually have a policy of trying to bring pressure and restrict activities by government officials so that they feel personally the policies that we have.
QUESTION: Well, that sets an interesting precedent.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think it sets any precedent at all because whether these people are government employees or not in other countries, in other countries we don't have a policy of denying travel of foreign government officials. We welcome foreign government officials from 98 percent of the countries of the world -- maybe even 99 -- I haven't counted recently. But so, it's not a precedent for anything other than the fact that Cuba has often wanted to travel more to -- well, wanted to enjoy the hospitality of the United States and spread the party line and we don't think that's always appropriate.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, sir.
QUESTION: Change subject?
QUESTION: Yeah, but you keep going -- I'm sorry -- you keep getting back into what they're saying and whether they're going to have a hearty breakfast or not. I mean, if the decision is that they're government employee -- you know, our professors --
MR. BOUCHER: The decision is --
QUESTION: -- at Michigan State University are employees of Michigan State. Should they be denied -- or participation in academic seminars because they work for a state?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
MR. BOUCHER: And that's what I just told your colleague.
QUESTION: And what's the difference with the hospitality, whether they eat a good breakfast, or whether they spread the party line? Don't you want to hear the party line and maybe engage it and try perhaps to persuade them otherwise? Isn't engagement, dialogue, the business of the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: Engagement and dialogue is not an end in itself. Engagement and dialogue is a means to achieve U.S. interest, and engagement and dialogue is a means to achieve benefits and improvements for people who are oppressed around the world. We have plenty of engagement and dialogue with the Cuban Government through our Interests Section in Havana; unfortunately, it's not very productive.
The Cuban academics and others who have tried to have real engagement and dialogue with their own government on behalf of the Cuban people who signed the Varela Project petition have found themselves thrown in jail and kept there for now going on -- what is it? -- more than two years, or at least a year and a half. That's what happens with engagement and dialogue with the Cuban Government.
I would not profess to say that this travel by government-employed Cuban so-called academics is going to enhance engagement and dialogue or in any way benefit academic discussion and expression in Cuba. But the purpose I think, the primary purpose of denying these visas is not so much because of what they say or the hospitality, I mean, it's just another way of putting it, but the point is to bring the pressure on the Cuban Government and on people who are employed by the Cuban Government so that they understand that their treatment of people in Cuba has implications, has implications for how we see them, and that it's not just a matter of policy pronouncements, but it's something that they can't -- they shouldn't expect to benefit or to enjoy themselves when they're -- when they and their government are oppressing people back in Cuba.
QUESTION: One more on Cuba. On Monday, the Treasury Department published some new rules about Cuban cigars. You may or may not be aware of this. But among other things, what the new rules say is that people who were -- who are licensed to go -- who have Treasury licenses to go and do business in Cuba or spend money in Cuba, are no longer permitted to buy cigars. And I'm wondering if you can find out if this applies to Interests Section employees, people who may or may not be covered by the laws that apply to the rest of us.
MR. BOUCHER: Is there any question about it? I'll take the question, but I'm not aware that Interests Section employees are in any way different than other Americans in terms of our laws, except to the extent that they need to be able to spend money to maintain themselves down there. But I'll check and see if there are any different rules on cigars for Interests Section employees.
Okay. We'll go to this aisle, please.
QUESTION: Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, Said.
QUESTION: The Secretary of State yesterday expressed his confidence in Sharon's commitment to the roadmap, while, you know, Chief Dov Weissglas, who is a top advisor to Sharon, keeps insisting that this is really no more than a ploy and the state is over. Are there any like secret set of assurances that you have received from the Sharon Government that says we are committed, but we're saying this for whatever reason?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we need to come back to the basic and fundamental facts here, that the -- first of all, it's for the Israeli Government to explain Mr. Weissglas' comments and for them to explain what the position of the Government of Israel is. The Prime Minister of Israel has issued a statement where he explains his position and the position of the Government of Israel, and he states that that is that the commitment to the roadmap and that the roadmap is the only way forward to achieve peace.
That is the position he took when he was with the President in April. That's the position we took when we were with him in April, and subsequently in the Quartet and elsewhere. So our commitment I think cannot be doubted. It is important to remember that this disengagement is not just disengagement from Gaza but rather it includes disengagement from four settlements on the West Bank. And that is a direct tie-in to the roadmap, a direct tie-in to the future of the issues that need to be settled in the future.
So we have worked with the Israelis and the Israelis have committed themselves not just to making this a one-off step, but rather a step that contributes to the future, and that's what the Prime Minister said when he was here in April and what he has said since then.
So as far as I understand it, that is the position of the Government of Israel, the position that Prime Minister Sharon took with the President of the United States in April. And if there is any different or question about the position of the Government of Israel, they'll have to explain it themselves. But we have been in touch with them, and they have restated to us, as they have restated in public, that their position is that disengagement is a way to move forward and it's an opportunity to move forward, and that they remain committed to the roadmap as the way to finally settle the issues, all the other issues, every -- all the issues in the end.
QUESTION: If I may follow up, Sharon made, you know, during two back-to-back meetings just last month, statements to the effect that, you know, don't talk about the roadmap, it is no longer on the table, we talk about the disengagement. And you guys were supposed to follow up on that and see what his position is. Are there any, you know, assurances --
MR. BOUCHER: The Prime Minister talked yesterday about the roadmap, didn't he?
QUESTION: I mean, you know, but there was all kinds of contradictory statements, and what I'm saying, are there written things that you have assurances --
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, there's written things that we have that you have, all the statements and the letters that Prime Minister Sharon and others signed and said in April. There were repeated statements by Prime Minister Sharon, including one yesterday, that they remain committed to the roadmap. That's, as we understand it, the position of the Israeli Government. That's what they've consistently said to us. And that's the kind of position we expect them to adhere to because that is, according to them, their policy.
QUESTION: Do you consider that to be sufficient, that's what they say, or are you demanding something tangible that you can, some sort of --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, the --
QUESTION: -- that you can measure their commitment to the roadmap?
MR. BOUCHER: The commitment, in part, is through how they carry out the disengagement, and that's where, you know, things like the inclusion of the four settlements on the West Bank make it a step forward, in terms of some of the larger issues and not just a single disengagement from Gaza.
Let's not forget there's another side to this as well, and that for this to really work and move us forward on the roadmap, the Palestinians need to be in a position to take responsibility. The Palestinians need to be in a position to control Gaza in a secure way, to establish themselves and to be able to move forward in the West Bank as well, and to be able to move forward as a negotiating party for the Israelis.
So the Israelis are committed. We expect the Palestinian -- and we expect them to express that in concrete terms through their actions in the disengagement. And the Palestinians need to be committed to this, too, as well, and need to express that in concrete terms through their actions in the disengagement and through their actions against terrorism.
QUESTION: Richard, disengagement, Israeli disengagement in Gaza is non-existent at the moment, as you -- I mean, they are far from disengaging. They are engaging rather heavily, or have been, for reasons that they have explained. But you said that their commitment to the roadmap is measured by the steps that they take towards implementing it, and one of those steps was to freeze settlement activity.
QUESTION: Including natural growth.
QUESTION: And they don't seem to be moving forward on that at all, either. And I -- as best as I can tell, there's no security reason why they couldn't stop putting out tenders for new construction. So why -- I don't understand how you can be -- you can consider this kind of case closed, any questions or concerns you may have had by Mr. Weissglas' comments are -- have been totally addressed, when, in fact, the Israelis -- neither side, but in this, for the purposes of my question, the Israelis have shown anything close to actual progress in implementing their commitments.
MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear all along, both sides have obligations. As you know, we continue to discuss with both sides their obligations, including discussions with the Israelis on the freeze of settlement activity.
So, you know, these are all issues that we take up with the parties and we expect to keep working on. In this particular terms, is, you know, starting out with the original quotes and then the clarifications, the issue was disengagement from Gaza and that's what I addressed. And when it comes to disengagement of Gaza, one of the key elements that links it to the roadmap is the West Bank settlements.
QUESTION: Can we --
QUESTION: Just as a follow-up to the first question, really, do you have no concerns at all about the implications of the comments raised by Mr. Weissglas?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, it's for the Israeli Government to clarify the implications of any comments that are made by Israeli Government people or officials or people associated with the Prime Minister. We have ourselves questioned the Israelis about these statements, and they have responded to us that the policy of the Israeli Government is that which is stated by the Prime Minister, that the roadmap is the only way forward and that they remain committed to moving in that direction.
QUESTION: And that -- you are satisfied with that?
QUESTION: And are you -- yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: That's the policy of the Israeli Government. That's the policy that they stated in April, and that's the policy that they continue to adhere to.
QUESTION: But are you satisfied with the one-sentence statement coming out of the Prime Minister's office?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was longer than one sentence.
QUESTION: Well, terse, brief.
MR. BOUCHER: But that's the statement of the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: But are you satisfied with it?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not -- we don't get satisfied or unsatisfied every day. We try to understand other people's policy and that's what we've said.
QUESTION: Well, this plan has gone nowhere for the last year, and you seem incapable of saying that anyone is showing -- is being less than -- they're being less than forthright in their commitment to it except for the Palestinians.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've been quite clear that both parties have obligations, that none of them -- that neither party has moved as quickly as we want on some of these issues, and that we have continued to work very hard to try to get progress, and that we do see the Gaza disengagement as an opportunity to make progress on the overall issues along the lines of the roadmap. And that's something we have worked very hard with internationally, as well as directly with the parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians.
We have had a continuing dialogue with them, with both sides, about how to meet their obligations and how they should be meeting their obligations. And I think we all share the disappointment that things haven't moved faster on both sides, but we continue trying very hard to make progress.
QUESTION: Can we get updated on what's going on in Gaza? The Secretary a few days ago said he'd like to see the Israeli offensive stop -- I don't know if he said "promptly" or "soon" or suggested that it shouldn't go on --
MR. BOUCHER: As soon as possible, I think it was.
QUESTION: Yeah, shouldn't go on much longer. The Palestinians have rocketed an Israeli town again, and of course the Palestinians and their -- the Israelis and their incursion of -- had some casualties -- have brought about some Palestinian casualties. So, well, where are we? I mean, if Israel gets rocketed, is it the State Department's understanding that that's rationale with justification for continuing, or do you think it's -- the Israelis have made their point and it's time to call a halt?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know that there's anything new to say on this particular issue. I think the Secretary's comments from the other day apply today as well.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Richard, could I follow up on an earlier point?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. But, you know, Dov Weissglas is a frequent comer to the United States, and he made claims beyond just the Israeli Government or his authority as an Israeli official. He said that there is a congressional and presidential, meaning American congressional and American presidential, blessing to the sort of ending of the roadmap. I mean, that is a hefty claim. I mean, you know, I'm surprised that you are just -- you're content with a statement by the Mr. Sharon's office that you actually --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, who's the Prime Minister of Israel? Is it Mr. Weissglas or Mr. Sharon?
QUESTION: I'm sorry?
MR. BOUCHER: Who's the Prime Minister of Israel?
QUESTION: The Prime Minister of Israel is Sharon.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Right. But --
MR. BOUCHER: He states the policy of the Government of Israel, he states the policy of the state of Israel, and we have to rely on his comments to tell us --
QUESTION: But didn't you ask for a clarification on exactly what he said, because he said we have congressional and presidential blessing.
MR. BOUCHER: We asked for a clarification on what is the policy of the Government of Israel.
MR. BOUCHER: And the Israeli officials that we have spoken to and the Israeli Prime Minister have stated what the policy of the Government of Israel is. If anybody wants for clarification of remarks by Minister Weissglas that appear to be out of step with that policy, I think they need to ask the Government of Israel.
QUESTION: But what about Mr. Weissglas' comments, as this gentleman just raised, about U.S. policy? Is it incorrect to say that the Administration and Congress have blessed Mr. Sharon's disengagement plan?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we've supported Mr. Sharon's disengagement plan.
QUESTION: No, I know. But the idea that the --
MR. BOUCHER: The policy of the United States --
QUESTION: -- the idea that the roadmap is dead and the idea that the whole thing is on formaldehyde --
MR. BOUCHER: That is decidedly not the policy of the United States, as I've been explaining for the last 20 minutes. The policy of the United States is a policy that the President of the United States stated in April when Prime Minister Sharon visited, and the policy that the President of the United States has stated subsequently, including at a speech at the United Nations a couple of weeks ago. The President has very frequently emphasized the importance of the roadmap and of moving forward on the roadmap, the importance of the obligations of both parties in doing that, and the importance of taking advantage of the opportunity of Gaza disengagement to make progress precisely in that direction.
QUESTION: But Richard, you're so entirely dismissive of Dov Weissglas when he in, you know, recent months, has been the primary interlocutor for the Sharon government. He's not some, you know, lower level government official. He is the one who goes to the White House, who meets with Condoleezza Rice, who meets with the President, who meets with Secretary Powell --
MR. BOUCHER: And meets with the Secretary here, yeah.
QUESTION: Exactly. So it's not like this was some Sharon, you know, office lackey who made some --
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not.
QUESTION: No, no, this is --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't try to imply that, but he doesn't work for me either.
QUESTION: No, I understand that. But he made some comments --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- presumably on behalf of the Sharon Government, very public ones, in an interview.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, did he or did he not make these comments on behalf of the Sharon Government? That's a statement for that -- that's an answer the Sharon government needs to give. That's a question we do ask the Israelis. And the answer we get is that the policy of the Israeli Government is the one that Prime Minister Sharon has stated and stated again, that the roadmap is the way forward. Okay?
QUESTION: So you're willing to -- you're willing to accept, then, that the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Prime Minister --
MR. BOUCHER: We accept that they know what their policy is.
QUESTION: -- is so ill-informed about his own boss's plans that he not only comes out and says something completely contradictory to what your understanding is, but also apparently lies about the fact that -- about saying -- about when he says that this plan to freeze the roadmap and prevent a Palestinian state from being created has the blessing of the U.S. President and of Congress?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, he doesn't work for me. I'm not here to explain his comments. The Israeli Government, the Israeli Prime Minister, has spoken what the policy of the Israeli Government is, and we expect them to stick to those statements, stick to those policies.
QUESTION: Richard, as long as everybody's concerned about this issue, would you take a step and ask the Israeli Government to disassociate itself from Dov Weissglas?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a question that the people need to ask the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: Is it something that you would ask?
MR. BOUCHER: We ourselves ask the Israeli Government, what is this, what does it represent, does it represent your policy? And the answer we get is: No, the policy is the one that the Prime Minister is stating.
QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Boucher, any comment to the today's device explosion over the roof of a central cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and Istanbul, Turkey, something similar to the previous attack a few weeks ago?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wasn't aware of the events of today. I'll have to look at it for you and see if we can get you something.
QUESTION: On the Balkans, Under Secretary Marc Grossman, during press conferences the other day in Belgrade, Pristina, Serbia and Skopje, was talking about the creation of multiethnic societies or entities in the western Balkans, which is (inaudible) U.S. policy, but he did not clarify political ones or any other type. Do you have -- do you know what exactly you are trying to do with this multiethnic-type policy? Do you have any similar model to be administered in order to understand what is going on exactly?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't have the full text of his remarks and I expect he probably explained it. But the United States has always valued the diversity of our own society and the diversity that we see in other societies and the ability of governments to institute laws that protect people, the laws that protect individuals, that protect the diversity of different societies, we think is a strength for countries around the world and that's something that we have frequently advocated in terms of tolerance, in terms of the rule of law, in terms of protection of minority rights.
QUESTION: One more question. How do you explain to the Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica rejection of western pressure to endorse the elections in Kosovo, Serbia, of October 23rd, which means clearly succession from Serbian territory in creation of independent Kosovo?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's not what the elections mean, and I think different Serbian politicians have taken different positions on this.
QUESTION: But we're talking about elections in a country, in a different area, so that means -- what means, exactly?
MR. BOUCHER: It means elections in Kosovo.
QUESTION: But Kosovo is a part of Serbia.
MR. BOUCHER: Local elections in Kosovo.
QUESTION: Excuse me. But Kosovo is a part of Serbia.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So why Kosovo not participating in the general election of Serbia and it is a separate election?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I -- come on. I mean, look around the world. Not every election is a national election. Not every election on a municipal level takes place at a federal level at the same time. Not every election in one region of a country takes place throughout the country at the same time. You all know what the issues are with Kosovo. This election is moving forward on the question of standards before status, on the ability of the Kosovo people of all kinds, from different parts of their society, different ethnic groups, to participate in their government and start to establish the democratic institutions, maintain a momentum towards democratic institutions.
That is good for the people who live there. That is good for other people in the neighborhood. But it's not immediately a change in their status.
QUESTION: Also, but there's a lot of fear that you are trying support the kind of creation of independent Kosovo. This I would like to clear out for the record.
MR. BOUCHER: Our policy on that has not changed and this election doesn't change them.
QUESTION: As a follow-up, loosely speaking, to the elections around the world. Can you go -- give us an update on Afghanistan? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: That's kind of a stretch there, you know. That's kind of a stretch, Charlie. All right.
The preparations are all on track for the election in Afghanistan on Saturday. This is a historic moment for people who have not had the chance to vote and to control their own destiny for decades and decades. It's particularly welcome to note that coming out of the oppressive rule of the Taliban regime, which persecuted its own population and harbored terrorists, that Afghans now have engaged in this process of reconstruction, have prepared for these elections, and that Afghan people are now turning out in record numbers, or at least registering in record numbers.
You all know that at least 10 million Afghans have registered to vote, 40 percent of them women. We think that's a remarkable figure, especially given some of the predictions even months ago that we would be lucky to get to five or six or seven million registrants. We'll see what kind of turnout there is, but we think that registrations is a very good sign in terms of preparing for an election where the Afghan people get the ability to control their own fate and future for the first time in decades.
And it's a sign that, first of all, they want democracy and deserve democracy and deserve control over their lives as much as anybody else in the world. It's a sign that when the United States goes into a country, has to go into the country for military reasons, that our goal is to reestablish the country as a democratic state where people can have control over their government and their future, and that we are true to those promises, and that we are carrying out those promises in conjunction with the people of Afghanistan who are building their own kind of democracy.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, George.
QUESTION: Richard, if I could just make a comment, there are actually fairly sizeable indications some are exercising more control over their right to vote and others' right to vote than perhaps the U.S. would like. How concerning is it to this Administration that there are many women -- you mentioned the 40 percent women -- who will be voting based on what their husbands or brothers or fathers tell them to do, and that, in fact, many of the warlords -- there are allegations out there that they are buying votes or trying to influence the voting patterns of those who have registered.
MR. BOUCHER: This is the first nationwide election that they're having in Afghanistan. We don't expect it to be perfect. We know that a lot of work has gone into it by the Afghans themselves, by the United Nations, by the coalition forces, to make it as fair and free and open as possible and to afford all the Afghan people the opportunity to go forward and vote.
So we'll look at the various reports that come out, and I'm sure the responsible people on the ground will look at those too and investigate them, try to make sure that the vote is not in any way distorted by social pressures or pressures from warlords and things like that.
But this is, let's say, the first time the Afghan people have had the right to go in and privately mark their ballot for whoever they choose; and based on registration, based on the desire of people to have voter cards, we think it's a good sign that they really want to do that.
QUESTION: Are you confident that the number of people who have registered are, in fact, one person, one vote, and not -- that there isn't any duplicative --
MR. BOUCHER: You can never be sure that there is, you know, not any duplication whatsoever. But I think it's a responsible system that was set up by the United Nations. It was done with as much care and -- how can I say? -- thoroughness as possible to try to ensure that that kind of duplication is kept to a minimum. I expect that will apply when it comes to actual voting as well.
George, you had something?
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any comment on the apparent agreement reached between the IAEA and Brazil? It doesn't require 100 percent transparency on the part of the Brazilians. And doesn't this set a bad precedent given your quest for 100 percent transparency and cooperation on the part of Iran with the --
MR. BOUCHER: Did they announce some kind of agreement?
QUESTION: No, well, you know, it's -- people are talking. People are talking about it in Vienna.
MR. BOUCHER: Our understanding from the Brazilians is that they have had discussions with the IAEA. They felt that they had made progress in sort of establishing the principles by which they can do this inspection in a way that's very consistent with what the IAEA has done elsewhere, that they are going to have visits by IAEA technical experts or team in about 10 days or so, and that needs to be done in order to work out the details.
But as we have pointed out, the International Atomic Energy Agency has worked out agreements around the world that ensure transparency and yet ensure protection of proprietary technology and things like that. So we're confident this can be worked out. we're confident the Brazilians want to work it out and we're confident the International Atomic Energy Agency wants to work it out. So we'll just have to wait and see and let them do the work that they know how to do and that they need to do.
QUESTION: Do you know whether the Secretary raised his concerns about Iran in the discussions with the Brazilians?
MR. BOUCHER: We discussed -- the Secretary discussed, in public as well, the issues involved with the IAEA. He made clear that we saw no comparison between Brazilian nuclear power programs and the kind of covert weapons program that Iran has been undertaking for years or the kind of renunciation of inspections, the kind of renunciation of the IAEA that North Korea has been engaged in. Those are not comparable situations and nobody should confuse them.
QUESTION: Yet, you don't want to give the Iranians anything they can seize onto?
MR. BOUCHER: No, but the Board has made very clear to the Iranians what the requirements are and that when it comes to Iran, given their history, given their history of covert activities which we think can only be intended to make nuclear weapons, the Board has said to the Iranians you shouldn't have any uranium enrichment at all. For the Iranians it's not a question of proprietary technology, it's a question of what Iran has committed to, what the Board has asked them to do and what makes sense in their own environment. And there is no reason for Iran to have uranium enrichment activities and that has been made clear.
QUESTION: Richard, I presume -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- that this building has now fully digested the Duelfer report.
MR. BOUCHER: It's fairly large. I think we're still chewing on some of the pieces. But what do you need to know about it?
QUESTION: Well, I just want to know if you agree with its findings, if the Department agrees with its findings, if you accept it.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think -- we've always accepted the judgments of the intelligence community when it came to what Iraq was up to. We have our own, as you know, analysis with the INR and they are part of the intelligence community. This report done by Mr. Duelfer on behalf of the -- I guess it's for the DCI, right? -- he's special advisor to the DCI -- I think represents a step forward in terms of the understanding.
It confirms many of the things that have become known over time, that Iran -- Iraq, excuse me --did not have stockpiles of weapons but that they maintained -- that Saddam Hussein maintained the intent, was trying to preserve his capabilities, that he wanted these weapons and he had used these weapons, and that he was just looking for the opportunity to get back into business once sanctions had been lifted.
The report also shows the extent that he was going to to try to subvert the sanctions regime and to make sure that sanctions and controls like that were not effective. And it also makes clear, I think, some of the difficulties that we faced at the beginning of this Administration, if you remember, one of the first tasks that the President asked Secretary Powell to undertake was to take a totally crumbling sanctions regime and try to put it back together with smart sanctions.
So I think, basically, the Duelfer report adds to our understanding. We certainly accept what it says about Iraq's intentions and activities, and believe that we need to use it to understand what went on.
QUESTION: Okay. So you accept this as -- you said we've always accepted the judgment of the intelligence community. You also accepted the previous reports that were done on the same subject by Mr. Kay, the judgment that was --
MR. BOUCHER: I think Mr. Kay said his report was preliminary. This report is not described as final, but I think it's been described as more comprehensive.
QUESTION: Well, I'm wondering if you agree with the comments that Mr. Kay made this morning that the Administration is in denial about this and that intent without capability is not an imminent threat. And if you don't agree with those comments, why not?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see Mr. Kay's comments. I don't know that I want to get into a back and forth with him. Let me try to --
QUESTION: Well, I'm just curious because, if you do -- if you say you've always accepted the judgment of the intelligence community --
MR. BOUCHER: That doesn't mean that I've accepted everything David Kay has ever said or might say someday on television. He produced a report.
MR. BOUCHER: The report -- that report looked pretty solid to us. Mr. Duelfer has now produced a more extensive report, a larger report. I haven't, frankly, compared the two to see if there are any things that are corrected or elaborated or different from one to the second, but this generally goes in the same direction, and we take this as probably the best statement out there right now as what Iraq, what Saddam was up to, and what he wanted.
Does that mean I endorse everything that David Kay may say now and in the future, or everything that Mr. Duelfer may say now or in the future? No, I can't make that commitment.
David Kay's report is not everything David Kay says on TV. So let's let the man be himself. Let's let him have his own opinions. That's true of everybody.
Now, do you want to talk about substance?
QUESTION: No, I want to talk about your judgment of -- your accepting the judgment of the intelligence community.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's the issue here. If you want to talk about whether Saddam was a danger that had to be dealt with, which is what you're implying by citing that quote, I think this Administration made it very clear that if you have a leader like Saddam Hussein, who, as Mr. Duelfer points out, was the sole determinant of Iraqi behavior and was the be-all and end-all of Iraqi policy -- so you have a leader like this who has a history of using chemical weapons, who gassed people in Halabja, killed 5,000 people on a Friday morning, who used gas in the Iran-Iraq war, who wanted to keep these -- who wanted these weapons and had all sorts of weapons programs in the past, and who was just looking for the opportunity to develop them again.
He was trying to maintain the intellectual capital, at the very least, and some of the other capabilities, and he was trying to do everything he could to break out and erode the sanctions regime so he could get back to work on his weapons. That is a danger. The lesson, I think, the main thing to understand about that danger is also that 9/11 should have taught us that if you have a danger that's not going away and that is only likely to grow, you have to deal with it. And that's where the President felt we had to deal with it. He didn't want to take the risk that Saddam would succeed someday.
QUESTION: Okay. So the short answer to my question is: No, you don't agree with what Mr. Kay said this morning, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I did not see what Mr. Kay said this morning. If you are quoting it accurately, I don't agree with what you just said.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary regret that some of the things that he said at the UN on February 5th, 2003, have proved so grievously wrong?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary, in February 5th of 2003, presented the case that was known, as it was known at that point to the U.S. intelligence community; in fact, as it was well-known to many internationally as well. Many of the things the Secretary presented were the violations, the areas where Saddam Hussein had failed to come clean, failed to account for stocks that the UN had pointed out and that sort of thing.
So the extent of Saddam's violations of UN resolutions, I think, was clear then and is still clear now. He also presented a lot of evidence about -- that we had at the time, the evidence that we knew at the time, of what the regime was doing in various areas, including the idea that they had stockpiles.
This was, at the time, the best intelligence we could get from the U.S. Government. It was the intelligence that people agreed very strongly on and where there were elements like the aluminum tubes where there was still debate within our intelligence community, the President -- the Secretary made that clear as well. So he presented on behalf of the U.S. Government the best judgments of our intelligence community. Now, he has expressed since then his disappointment and sometimes regret that some of the elements did not prove true. But we need, in all this discussion of particular details, not to forget who we were dealing with.
We were dealing with a man who had a history of using chemical weapons, who had a clear desire to have weapons of mass destruction, who had had multiple, multiple programs to have weapons of mass destruction, who had done everything he can to deceive and deter inspectors and others from finding out what he really had. And there was no reason to assume that he had somehow abandoned these programs, nor is there today any reason to assume that he had abandoned his intention to develop these capabilities once he could break out of the sanctions.
QUESTION: But, Richard, couldn't the same thing have been said for somebody like Libya's Muammar Qadhafi, that nobody could have imagined -- many in this Administration have said the same thing -- that he would willingly give up his weapons of mass destruction program, but based on the sanctions put in place --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Well, as you know, the United States for a long time has --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I didn't quite finish -- and the fact that the same argument could be made, not 100 percent parallel, but similar enough, between Iran and North Korea, that they have, and this Administration has certainly talked about it enough, that they pose a danger to the international community, based on what the U.S. alleges are secret nuclear weapons programs. So, it's just the U.S. seems to cherry pick whenever the case, you know, suits whatever its policy.
MR. BOUCHER: I think there are similarities, but there are clear differences as well. I mean, as you know, I don't make it a habit to come out here and defend Muammar Qadhafi's behavior when he was developing weapons of mass destruction. And in fact, I think you've heard us say that as much as we were trying to call attention of the world to the fact that Libya had programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, even we were somewhat surprised when he made his decision and somewhat surprised -- well, quite surprised when he made his decisions -- and somewhat surprised by the extent those programs had gone forward, even farther than even we had thought.
But bottom line is, Muammar Qadhafi had not gassed 5,000 Kurds in Halabja. He had not gassed a foe in battle on the Iranian border, nor, for that matter, have Iran or North Korea. The history of Saddam Hussein, his intentions, his violations of multiple UN resolutions, time and time again, made clear this was a danger that had to be dealt with and a danger that only could be dealt with in the way it has, and by dealing with it we no longer have to worry about that. We no longer have to worry about his ability to break out of sanctions or support foreign entities. We no longer have to worry about when he's going to be able to do what he's always wanted to do, develop weapons of mass destruction.
But that doesn't mean we're neglecting Iran and North Korea. As you know, we have very active efforts underway with other countries, multilaterally, through diplomacy, peacefully, to try to bring about situations where Iran and North Korea's -- Iran and North Korea no longer pose any threat to their neighbors and to the world, in terms of their programs for weapons of mass destruction.
So you may need to deal with all these things, but you don't necessarily deal with each of them the same way.
QUESTION: Well, we're speaking of Mr. -- Colonel Qadhafi, while you're right to say that he didn't gas 5,000 people in Halabja, he did blow up two airliners and killed a lot of Americans, blew up a disco in Berlin, which killed two, so which I think is probably more Americans that were killed by Saddam before the war, either -- both of them.
That said, your new friend, Mr. Qadhafi, today has come out and said that resistance to the government in Iraq, the interim government and the coalition is legitimate. I'm wondering if you have any comments on that.
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen the statement. I certainly don't agree that it's legitimate, and I reject the characterization of Qadhafi as our new friend. We have said, the President has said, that we believe that Libya made the right decision. We are willing to move forward with Libya as we can in each of the areas. We're willing to reciprocate good faith that's shown by the Libyans. And they have, indeed, done a lot in terms of changing their relationship with the world and getting rid of these programs that so scare everybody and that have strained and distorted their relationship with the world.
But at the same time, when it comes to terrorism, for example, they're still on the U.S. terrorism list, and we will deal with that matter as appropriate under our law when we feel our concerns have been satisfied.
QUESTION: Could you check and see if anyone in your -- you have resumed -- let's just -- I'll take back the "new friend" line. Relations are certainly friendlier than they were, say 18 months ago. You now have, you know, near direct diplomatic ties. And so, could you look into the -- looking into whether anyone in Tripoli has asked for a clarification of --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we've seen a statement --
QUESTION: -- Mr. Qadhafi's comments?
MR. BOUCHER: -- or if we've had occasion to talk to him about it.
QUESTION: It was on the National News Agency wire.
QUESTION: Also wondering if he's been accurately quoted here, if you regard this as, you know, defending the legitimacy of the insurgency, which you routinely describe as terrorists and conducting acts of terrorism, if Qadhafi defending the legitimacy of their acts is, in effect, supporting their, what you certainly regard as their terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: That's about three steps down to the road to finding out, after we find out what he said and what we consider its implications are, but I would certainly say we do not agree with statements that say that military action against coalition forces or Iraqi forces or Iraqi civilians waiting in line to become policemen is in any way justified.
QUESTION: No, Richard, just to get this on the record, he did say that while the resistance is legitimate, that they should not resort to terrorism. That was in his comment.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: So just --
QUESTION: Libya took it off the list.
QUESTION: Just so you know --
MR. BOUCHER: If you're blowing up people --
QUESTION: -- what I'm talking about.
MR. BOUCHER: -- who are there to help Iraq become a more peaceful and democratic place, I don't think how you can justify that in any way.
QUESTION: No, no, he said that you should --
MR. BOUCHER: All right. I'm not trying to quote Qadhafi here. I haven't read Qadhafi's statement.
QUESTION: Well, I've got one more.
QUESTION: Could we go on?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's -- there's about five people in the back who are interested, too. He's coming down on close to 1:30, so you can -- we can keep talking here for, you know, forever, but he'll be lonely if you don't finish up.
Let's go on to somebody who hasn't asked a question for the last 25 minutes.
QUESTION: Richard, you keep saying that Saddam was looking for the sanctions regime to crumble. Given the fact that the Security Council was in charge of that regime, and that you are one of the five permanent members, do you have any reason to believe that the sanctions regime was indeed about to crumble before the war or anytime soon, at that point?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, crumble in terms of repealing the sanctions? No, I don't think that was what the fear was. The fear, well documented by Mr. Duelfer, is that the sanctions were not being respected the way they should have been and that Iraq was making every means -- using every tool possible through its deception front companies, or sweetheart deals on oil and other things to try to suborn the sanctions regime and try to acquire things it was not supposed to be buying under the sanctions regime.
That was certainly the state of affairs that we found when the Secretary embarked on the effort to get smart sanctions that could tighten up on sanctions on things that clearly mattered, and prevent him from acquiring many of those things that Mr. Duelfer has now documented he was actively trying to get. I think it's fair to say also the Duelfer report says -- it doesn't note any particular change under the smart sanctions regime and that the effort to have a better regime, a better set of sanctions, did not stop Saddam from continuing his efforts to try to undermine sanctions as a whole.
QUESTION: But doesn't the Duelfer report really confirm that the sanctions regime was working perfectly, as a matter of fact, there was no cause to go to war?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: You don't think so?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's what it says, and at great length, that's not what it says. It's much more complicated than that, and I think it offers a lot of insights into what the Iraqi regime was up to, but it certainly does say he wanted these weapons, he had a desire to develop them further when he could, and that he was only willing to get rid of his programs under the pressures of the sanctions regime and he was doing everything possible to get rid of the sanctions regime, and second of all, to keep his powder dry until he could develop these weapons further.
QUESTION: Richard, on --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's -- there are still a few that have had their hands up for a long time.
QUESTION: Richard, it's on this, following up on this.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, it's on this.
QUESTION: Yeah. Does the U.S. believe that it shares any responsibility for not going public, perhaps, sooner with its suspicions about the corruption that was taking place in the Oil-for-Food Program?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been, I think, very supportive of the effort that's been underway to look at the Oil-for-Food Program. We've cooperated with Mr. Volcker, the head of that team that's working on it for the United Nations. The Iraqi Government has cooperated with him. I think you remember one of the last acts of the Coalition Provisional Authority was to help safeguard and secure the records that were needed by the Iraqis and by the investigation to go through it.
So I think we have been very supportive of this effort. We certainly wanted to succeed in full and great detail, and Mr. Duelfer's report, too, we've supported the release of a lot of material on what Iraq was up to at the time. So I don't -- no, I think we've been very supportive of this effort to disclose the facts.
QUESTION: Before the war?
MR. BOUCHER: Before the war -- first of all, we're quite up front about the sanctions regime. Look at how the Secretary described his effort on smart sanctions and where we were and what was happening. We were quite up front when we found some of these cases where we could intervene diplomatically, and we did, and governments often, in many of these cases, took action to prevent sales or to follow up on sales that might have occurred.
We were quite frank about the fact that Saddam was using his -- manipulating his oil sales to amass 1 to 2 billion dollars a year, that he was then using for illicit purposes -- sometimes to buy palaces, sometimes to buy whiskey, and sometimes to buy equipment for his military establishment. So I think if you look at the record of the United States going back many years, we were quite frank on how Saddam was trying to manipulate and suborn the sanctions regime.
QUESTION: The Security Council will discuss today the Secretary General's report pursuant to Resolution 1559. What do you expect the response of the Council will be?
MR. BOUCHER: That's the resolution on Syria and Lebanon, right?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a prediction at this point. It is being discussed today in New York, and I'm sure the Council will decide how to move forward. The, I think, report, we felt was good one. It was quite clear on where the various problems and responsibilities lay, and I'm sure the Council will want to deal with it seriously.
QUESTION: Do you expect a new resolution, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We'll have to see what emerges from the discussions in New York. As far as I know, those are just going on today.
QUESTION: Richard, a follow-up on Syria.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, let's -- let's go this way.
QUESTION: On North Korea, it is reported that lots of the North Korean refugees applied for the political asylum in the United States. Could you tell us how many as of today?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'm going to have to check on that. I know I'm not allowed to talk about individual asylum cases, and I'm not sure if I'm allowed to talk about sort of the overall totals from a given nationality and where, but I'll check and see if there's anything I can get you on --
QUESTION: South Korean newspaper saying about seven, and they're waiting for --
MR. BOUCHER: About what? Seven?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I thought you were asking for, like, full-year totals. I don't think I could talk about any particular group of people who might be applying for political asylum or refugee status at this point.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: Matt.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the abdication of King Sihanouk of Cambodia?
MR. BOUCHER: Not at this moment. I'll have to get you something later. We'll -- at this point, I think we're sort of watching events. Not sure it's been officially confirmed at this point, but we're certainly following the situation. But at this moment, I don't have anything to say on it.
QUESTION: Richard, could I ask about Syria, follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, ask a question about Syria.
QUESTION: Okay, yesterday -- very quickly, yesterday Mark Indyk, the former ambassador to Israel, said that during his meeting with the Syrian President, Bashar Asad, he got the impression that Syria is ready to enter or engage in unconditional negotiations with Israel, but that it was -- he was rebuffed by Sharon Government. Are you aware of anything like this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've talked to him. We've certainly made clear our interest in comprehensive peace and making progress on all the tracks when we can. That's where we stand, as far as I know.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)
DPB # 163
Released on October 7, 2004