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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for October 8

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 8, 2004

INDEX:

EGYPT
- U.S. Condemnation of Bombings / Condolences to Families
- American Citizens Injured in the Attack

IRAQ
- Oil for Food Program Investigation
- Duelfer Report
- Other Government's Reactions to Duelfer Report / French Complaints

LEBANON/SYRIA
- UN Security Council Resolution 1559
- Syrian Interference in Lebanese Internal Affairs

SAUDI ARABIA
- U.S. Transfer of Yaser Esam Hamdi to Saudi Arabia

PAKISTAN
- Nuclear Program / A.Q. Khan Network

CUBA
- Secretary Powell's Comments

AFGHANISTAN
- Upcoming Elections / U.S. Efforts in Support / Efforts to Disrupt
- Trial of Afghan Warlord
- Candidates for President

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
- Gaza Incursion

CAMBODIA
- Abdication of King Sihanouk

KENYA
- Congratulations to Professor Wangere Maathai for Winning Nobel Peace Prize

NEPAL
- Agreement Between the Nepali Government and Maoists

TRANSCRIPT:

12:48 p.m. EDT


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome. I don't have any statements or announcements so I'd be glad to take your questions.

George.

QUESTION: Could you tell us what you know about the bombings in Egypt last night, and particularly with reference to who you think may have been responsible?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, the answer is we don't know who may have been responsible. We've seen, I think, one group claim responsibility, but it's not clear who was responsible for this, and I'm sure Egyptian authorities, as well as Israelis and others, will be looking into that matter further to identify who might have been perpetrators of this horrible attack.

Let me make clear, first of all, we condemn the attack in the strongest possible terms. Our deepest condolences go out to the victims of the attacks and to their families, and we express our most sincere sympathies to the Egyptians, the Israelis, and all the other victims of this vicious attack.

We have been in close touch with the governments of Egypt and of Israel at senior levels in Washington and especially through our embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv. We've offered our assistance. Both governments have expressed gratitude for the offer, but neither has requested any specific assistance at this time.

We've dispatched consular officers and security personnel from our Embassy in Cairo. They are on the scene in Taba now. Consular officers and security personnel from Tel Aviv are on the Israeli side of the border. They are providing assistance to American citizens where necessary.

At this point, we have no information on American citizens who might have been killed. We have reports of light injuries to several American citizens, and we're still seeking to account for all the American citizens who might have been present in Taba or, for that matter, in Sinai at the time.

Our Embassy in Tel Aviv reports that several American staff members and their families were injured in the blast. They happened to be at that hotel over the weekend, over the -- yesterday, and none of them were injured critically and the employees and their families have returned to Israel.

That's about it for the moment. We are -- our embassies are reporting full cooperation from the Government of Egypt and from the Israeli Government in the wake of the attack, and we'll continue to work closely with them.

QUESTION: Do you know how many embassy staffers were injured? Family members --

MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Do you know how many embassy staffers and --

MR. BOUCHER: I think it was two. It was light injuries, apparently looked at, and they're okay.

QUESTION: Okay. And from Cairo or the other side?

MR. BOUCHER: From Tel Aviv.

QUESTION: From Tel Aviv. Sure.

QUESTION: (inaudible) law enforcement action at this point? And if so, are the Israelis being allowed to investigate the bombing in Egyptian territory?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'd have to ask the Israelis and the Egyptians that question. I think, obviously, they're all looking into it. The Egyptians, since it is on their territory, would have the lead on this. I'm sure that, like we would if American citizens died, that we also look into the circumstances. I would expect the Israeli Government and perhaps others will want to look into the circumstances of the deaths of their citizens.

QUESTION: Just for clarification, you said American officials had gone from Cairo to Taba. Were those consular officials only, or were they consular and security officials?

MR. BOUCHER: Consular and security officials from our Embassy in Egypt have gone down to Taba, and consular and security officials from our Embassy in Tel Aviv have gone down to the Israeli side of the border where a lot of the people are being taken and treated.

QUESTION: The two people from the Embassy in Tel Aviv, they're diplomats? Are they family members?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to get into too much detail. I don't know, actually, some of the details of it. I think they were both employees. But --

QUESTION: Not that it makes much a difference in what the --

MR. BOUCHER: Exactly.

QUESTION: Except for descriptive reasons. Is it wrong to say that two U.S. diplomats were lightly wounded?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know their exact status, whether the individuals had diplomatic status or whether they were staff members of the Embassy.

QUESTION: Were they Americans?

MR. BOUCHER: They were Americans.

QUESTION: Were they local Israeli --

MR. BOUCHER: They were Americans from the Embassy in Tel Aviv. I don't know their exact accreditation status in Israel.

QUESTION: And it wasn't their families, it was --

MR. BOUCHER: This was the employees, as I said.

QUESTION: And they were in the hotel?

MR. BOUCHER: They were in the hotel.

QUESTION: Could you find out? Would that be hard, or do you think it's unreasonable to ask?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it is somewhat unreasonable to try to go into too much personal detail about individuals.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. We're not asking for their names or anything. It's just, I mean --

MR. BOUCHER: You're asking for all the information that would identify them. I'll see. I'll see if I can.

QUESTION: Richard, how many people work at the Embassy in Tel Aviv? I don't think this is going to --

MR. BOUCHER: A lot.

QUESTION: Exactly. So saying that two people were diplomats or not diplomats --

MR. BOUCHER: Right, I'll find --

QUESTION: Were they gardeners? Were they, you know --

MR. BOUCHER: They were American employees of the Embassy in Tel Aviv. That's as far as I can go. That's as much as I know. If there is more I can tell you, I'll look into it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Another subject. Richard, in the last few days, Oil-for-Food Program, there is reports which indicates clearly that high-class official from the different governments, including the ministers, and all that, and also in this UN Security Council, including some officials in the past from India were involved in this scandal. What kind of action U.S. is recommending or going to recommend to the UN to take action against those countries or those individuals who were involved or paid off?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, don't try to mix too many things together at once. There are two reports. One is the report done by Mr. Duelfer that's out. It's a report about Iraq. It describes what Iraq was trying to do, the people that Iraq was trying to make contact with, the people Iraq was trying to do deals with, the things that Iraq was trying to buy. It doesn't say that those transactions were completed. It doesn't say whether or not governments intervened. It doesn't say whether or not individuals declined. It doesn't really say what happened.

And so I think it's important to remember this is a report about Iraq. Now, there is another report on Oil-for-Food being done by Mr. Volcker that will try to define what happened and how things operated, and we'll look for that report to tell us more. Whether it's a matter for UN action or not yet, I don't really know until we know all of the facts. But I think, first and foremost, whether it's a matter that's been raised or a matter that's been concluded what happened is for governments to follow up.

The U.S. Government will follow up as appropriate under our laws on reports of U.S. individuals or companies that might have been involved, and in some cases governments have intervened and stopped transactions in the past. They may have investigated some of these allegations already. In other cases, they may decide it's appropriate to do so now. But individual governments will have to decide what to do about information that comes to light.

QUESTION: But, Richard, how the governments will decide? Because many of the countries are involved who are on the veto power on the UN Security Council, and why they will investigate themselves unless the whole body of UN will --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think all these countries have a track record: When their nationals have broken their laws, they investigate and take appropriate action. But it would be for those governments and judicial authorities to decide if that's occurred. But I'm not trying to lay any charges against any individual or any national at this point because, as I said, it's a report about Iraq and what Iraq was trying to do, and the attempts that Iraq was making doesn't actually describe, in most cases, how far those things went and what actually happened.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Ann from the Kuwait News Agency. I spoke to a French Embassy official who informed me that the Ambassador approached the White House and the State Department with their displeasure concerning the release of the names. And I understand that the Duelfer report is independent, but what has the State Department's response been to the French Embassy or the French?

MR. BOUCHER: We have told other governments, including the French, exactly what I've told you. We have heard from the French and other allies about their views. We have made clear to them the report doesn't make judgments about the success of the attempts that Iraq was making to undermine the sanctions, it simply reports the intent and the activity by Iraq. And that's what I just told you.

QUESTION: Would it be fair to say that the other governments who have expressed their views have uniformly been displeased with the disclosure?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I just don't have enough of a survey to say that.

QUESTION: Were most of them displeased?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't know what quantity it is. Some of them were displeased. But whether it's any proportional amount, large or small, I don't know yet.

QUESTION: The second report, what's the timeline on that?

MR. BOUCHER: Who's report?

QUESTION: Well, you said that the second -- or maybe I misheard you. You said the first report was --

MR. BOUCHER: Duelfer.

QUESTION: Right, what's the second report?

MR. BOUCHER: The second report is being done by Paul Volcker for the United Nations. That's up in -- that's in his hands. I don't know if he's set a timeline yet for finishing it.

QUESTION: Okay, I was --

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Tammy.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary received any phone calls from other governments expressing their displeasure or --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any, no. Yeah, I'm not aware of any. I mean, not a specific phone call to say that. I can't remember it coming up in any of his conversations recently, but it hasn't been the major topic of any that I know of.

QUESTION: Was there a meeting in this building yesterday in which foreign diplomats were filled in on the report?

MR. BOUCHER: It was day before yesterday, right?

MR. ERELI: Tuesday.

MR. BOUCHER: Tuesday. It was Tuesday. And then Tuesday night, a cable went out so our embassies could talk to other governments. I don't know -- I haven't heard of any follow-up meetings yesterday.

QUESTION: There's a report that Mr. Tefft had headed --

MR. BOUCHER: I think that was the meeting on Tuesday. With John Tefft?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Could you update us on the Security Council debates regarding the implementation of the Resolution 1559?

MR. BOUCHER: Let's see where that is. At this point, discussions are continuing in New York on the appropriate steps for the Council to take in response to the Secretary General's report. That report was received last Friday and, as you know, Council members were briefed yesterday by the UN's Middle East coordinator.

The United States is fully committed to full implementation of Resolution 1559, and we're working with our other partners in the Council to achieve this. Unfortunately, the report makes clear that the parties have not yet taken the necessary steps to implement the resolution. The report stated clearly the requirements of the various -- on the various parties have not been met. Syria has not withdrawn its forces from Lebanon -- excuse me -- and Lebanon has failed to disarm and disband the militias.

Once again, we say that Syria must actively comply with this resolution. We have made that clear to Syrian officials, and made clear our deep concern over Syria's intervention in the Lebanese political process. We have reiterated that, in accordance with 1559, Syria must end its interference in Lebanese internal affairs, immediately withdraw all its forces from Lebanon, and allow the Lebanese armed forces and Government to establish their authority throughout Lebanon.

Okay. Tammy.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on Hamdi and the possibility of his return to Saudi Arabia?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything new for you today. We have stayed in touch with the Saudi Government. We have stayed in touch with the courts. The Secretary said the other day he thought these things could be worked out. We still think so and we're trying to work them all out.

Yeah.

QUESTION: There is no attempt to renegotiate the terms, but rather implementation by the Saudis?

MR. BOUCHER: It's not even so much implementation by the Saudis. It's because they are not a party under the agreement. They're not a -- they don't inherit any obligations of the agreement. It's just working out the details with the Saudis, questions so that they understand fully what the agreement is, what Mr. Hamdi's status is vis-à-vis the U.S. Government, and, by implication, sort of what his status might be in Saudi Arabia. But at this point, we're still working on it and in touch with the Saudis and with the court and we still believe it can be worked out.

Joel.

QUESTION: Richard, with respect to that, if you strip Mr. Hamdi with American citizenship -- he was apparently born in Louisiana -- doesn't it say when he returns to Saudi Arabia, where he grew up, that things could change? Is he under any binding commitments from the United States once he returns there, such as whether he's jailed or turns into maybe celebrity status?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that would depend on his nationality and status at that point, but he is under the commitments that he has made. He has made commitments in this agreement and those are the commitments we would expect to see him carry out.

Sir.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Richard, can you clarify a report in Daily Times in Pakistan, and also (inaudible) report, they are quoting that Pakistan nuclear program is not very safe. And now what are the views from the State Department and the U.S. Government that if Pakistan's nuclear program is safe today, despite all the A.Q. Khan stories out? And he said that he's the only one behind it. So what do you have to say about this?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I haven't seen these reports. I can't quite tell from your question exactly what you're referring to.

QUESTION: There is a report in Daily Times Pakistan --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I know, but I can't -- I don't know if you're talking about safety of Pakistan's nuclear materials or whether A.Q. Khan has been shut down. A.Q. Khan has been shut down. Pakistan assures us that they have taken care of all of this activity and they will maintain their vigilance to make sure it doesn't reoccur, and assures us that they are very conscious of the need to safeguard all nuclear material, and that they are making appropriate efforts to do that.

George, you had something?

QUESTION: New subject, on the Secretary's comments to Knight-Ridder yesterday. The Secretary called Castro a troublemaker in Venezuela and a troublemaker in Colombia. This sounds to me like language that hasn't been used before, at least not within my earshot.

I know the Cubans have had health workers and teachers and physical education trainers, thousands of them, in Venezuela. But nobody has suggested, at least at this end, that they were doing anything untoward there. Do you know what he was referring to when he said that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll get you the details.

QUESTION: And could you do the same for Colombia?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

Joel.

QUESTION: Let me run up this weekend. Are the Afghan elections -- what is the United States doing with regard to that? And also, the warlords and Taliban and other insurgent-type groups, is that under control?

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, simply put, the United States, the coalition members, the people who have served in Afghanistan, but above all, the Afghan people for decades now, have done a lot, struggled very hard to get to this day when Afghans can go out and vote and can choose their own government. It's a historic day for the people of Afghanistan.

We have worked with the Government of Afghanistan to help them carry out the elections. Sometimes that means getting ballots to faraway places. Sometimes it means supporting it financially. We've done a lot of training, a lot of voter education, a lot of training of people involved. We have a bipartisan delegation out there now -- as a matter of fact, it arrived today -- to observe tomorrow's elections in Afghanistan.

The delegation is sponsored by the International Republican Institute. It's headed by former U.S. Ambassador Richard Williamson and former Assistant Secretary of State Bernard Aronson. A delegation is going to visit polling stations in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan. It's going to join some 500 other international observers and several thousand Afghan observers. The candidates will also have their agents at polling sites to observe.

So this will be a well -- how should we say? -- scrutinized election, and one that we think all of the parties are committed to, to try to carrying out in a full, open, smooth manner as possible.

Campaigning ended at 7 a.m. on Thursday, October 7th. Today, election organizers are reviewing the logistics for operating the 25,000 polling stations and then collecting the ballot boxes to start counting once the polls close. I would point out the organizers think it may take up to two weeks to compile the results, so we'll have to watch that process unfold.

Once again, the numbers that we have, over 10.5 million voters have registered in Afghanistan, and 42 percent of those people are women. In addition, 740,000 eligible Afghan refugees registered to vote from Pakistan, and up to half a million Afghan refugees are eligible to vote from Iran.

Certainly, we want to see these elections fully reflect the will of the Afghan people in choosing their president. We support the desire of the Afghan people to exercise their democratic rights and assert political self-determination and then chart their own nation's future.

So it's a great development and we're happy to see it happen and we'll watch it very carefully over the weekend.

QUESTION: And a follow-up, please.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: There's an Afghan warlord that is facing torture charges in the U.K. Did the United States and the coalition bring him to trial, and how is that going to proceed?

MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, I don't know what role we had in that. I'll check and see if there's any role for us.

QUESTION: Richard, to back up, and a follow-up to that previous question.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: The part you didn't answer in the original question about the possibility of warlords and those that -- certain warlords and others in Afghanistan are making to disrupt the election. Do you have anything to say?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we talked about that somewhat yesterday. The fact is that, yes, there may be people who try to influence the outcome of any election, in Afghanistan or elsewhere. The power of the warlords is being dealt with by the central government as they assert their control in different areas of the country. We've seen that work go on; it's probably not complete yet.

But this is the first time Afghan voters have a chance to go in and mark their own ballots and decide on their own. And there's a point in the balloting, when you go into the booth or whatever and mark your choice, that nobody decides but you. And that's an opportunity the Afghans have not had for many, many decades.

QUESTION: One just to follow?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan -- he was talking from Kabul -- he said that as far as this election is concerned, of course, for the -- to defeat -- that first time ever in Afghanistan, democratically elected government will be there to defeat the terrorism, civil war and Soviet occupation and all that. But also, he said that as far as Karzai Government is concerned, or Karzai presidency is concerned, many of the militants on the presidential -- or presidential candidate, they are united, 14 of them, against him. So you think are we ready to bring back again those terrorists as president in the government?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: And what are you doing also, as this kind of --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there are any terrorists running for presidency of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Militants and the warlords, and they are against the --

MR. BOUCHER: There are a lot of -- there are 18 candidates in this election.

QUESTION: Yes. (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Some of them have announced a united slate, but actually, I'm not sure they've implemented it yet. They're talking about doing it in the second round, if there is one.

But we'll see how things evolve. We'll see who the candidates are. But I don't think any of these people qualify as terrorists in your -- the way you call them.

Sir.

QUESTION: Gaza? Can you describe if any conversations in the last 24 hours on U.S.-Israeli on this issue? Do you feel the proportional response has been met yet? And do you -- are you prepared to say how the U.S. feels about this idea that it needs to end as soon as possible? Can you be more specific yet about that?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that was the Secretary's idea, so we support it. I mean, the Secretary said, I think, two days ago --

QUESTION: Exactly. I'm quoting that and trying to find out more what that really means.

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary said two days ago that he would hope that this operation would conclude as quickly as possible. Certainly, the presence of rockets in this area, the firing of rockets in recent days from this area, has been a threat to the Israeli people, to the populations that have been hurt by it, and is something that needs to be stopped.

We have always called upon the Palestinians to stop that sort of violence coming out of Gaza. The Israelis have now decided, as they can, that they need to defend themselves against this, they need to end the firing of the rockets. But we have made very clear to them in various discussions. I don't have any specific new ones to cite, but it's a continuing subject of discussion.

We have made very clear to them we hope the operation is concluded as quickly as possible, and Israeli forces are able to withdraw.

QUESTION: Can you clarify that they're responding to that request?

MR. BOUCHER: We're watching the situation closely. I don't have a judgment at this point.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Well --

MR. BOUCHER: Matt.

QUESTION: Did you get anything on Sihanouk's abdication?

MR. BOUCHER: Just to sort of note the situation that's out there. It really is a matter, as far as we're concerned, for the King, the Cambodian Government and the Cambodian people to decide. I think King Sihanouk has announced his intention to abdicate the throne. There are also Cambodian Government officials, members of the royal family, who are trying to convince him to reverse his decision. So at this point, we're following the situation and leave it to them to decide.

QUESTION: So when someone says that they quit or they retire, you're still not convinced that that's going to happen? You're not prepared to say that --

MR. BOUCHER: I think you probably know better than I do, this may not be the first time that such announcements or statements have been made.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting that the King has vacillated? (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to suggest anything about the King, other than the fact that who is king of Cambodia, how this process work, is entirely for the Cambodians to work out and not something the United States wants to get involved in --

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MR. BOUCHER: -- despite your invitation.

QUESTION: And do you have any reaction to the Nobel Prize being awarded to a Kenyan ecologist today?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. First, let me offer our congratulations to Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya, who was selected as this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She's had many long years of environmental activism. We're delighted to see that she's the first African woman to have been selected for this unique honor. She is currently the Assistant Minister for the Environment of the Kenyan Government. This reflects well on that government and on Kenya itself.

I'd point out that our Embassy in Nairobia has worked -- Nairobi has worked with her in the past on environmental issues on related programs. Earlier this year, she and Ambassador Bellamy planted a thousand saplings donated by the Embassy in Karuru Forest near Nairobi, in order to commemorate Earth Day.

QUESTION: In that, can you just look into it because there seems to be some reports in Nairobi, or in Kenya, that, in fact, the U.S. Embassy was at complete odds with this woman over things that were going on in the Karuru Forest, including the nearby -- the construction very nearby this forest of the new U.S. Embassy. This dates back to 1998 now.

MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to --

QUESTION: Now, while you say that maybe that --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we certainly have not agreed with her on everything. I don't know about this particular issue, but we've been able to work with her and we think she's been a very prominent and important activist on environmental issues, and we have great respect for that. So, as I said, we do some things together with her, but we haven't agreed on everything.

QUESTION: Can you just elaborate on what you haven't agreed on, just an example or two?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we congratulate her today.

QUESTION: One more, on Nepal, please.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Richard, on Tuesday, Deputy Secretary, Mr. Armitage, met with the Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal, and that Mr. Armitage asked the Nepali Deputy Prime Minister that there should be agreement between the Nepali Government and the Maoists. What kind of agreement are they talking about, because how can you have agreement with the terrorists killing innocent people in Nepal?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can go into it anymore at this point.

QUESTION: This is a statement put out by the State Department.

MR. BOUCHER: We put out a statement -- no, I know.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. BOUCHER: I just don't think I have anything to add to it at this moment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing ended at 1:15 p.m.)

DPB # 164

[End]

Released on October 8, 2004


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