State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for October 18
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 18, 2004
- Referendum and Parliamentary Elections / Results / OSCE Report /
- Government Electoral Misconduct / Reports of Journalist Arrested
- Election Observers
- Consequences for U.S. Policy
- Query on when OSCE Observers will arrive in United States
- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's Visit to Asia / Topics for Discussion / Agenda
- Impact of U.S. Elections on Secretary's Trip and Six Party Talks
- Issue of Human Rights in China During Secretary's Trip
- Dates of Secretary's Trip to Asia
- Query on whether Secretary will ask China to Contribute Troops to Iraq
- Six Party Talks / Stalling by North Koreans
- Query on how to get North Korea back to the Negotiating Table
- President Chen's Speech / U.S. Position
- Visit by President of China's Supreme Court, Xiao Yang
- U.S. view on Chinese Justice System / Human Rights
- Query on Estimate of Number of Deaths in Darfur
- Reports Regarding Discussions between Libya, Chad, and Nigeria /
- Role of African Union Troops
- U.S. Efforts in Darfur
- Resolution 1559 / UN Security Council Discussions
- Comment on Election of Greece to Non-Permanent Seat on UN Security
- Query on Reports of an alleged deal between United States and Rodriguez Orejuela Brothers
- Query on Iranian Aid to al-Zarqawi / Iranian Support of Terrorist Groups
- Query on Reports of Saudi Arabia Proposal for a Muslim Force to Protect UN
- Query on Report that Argues Slow Pace of Reconstruction Fueling Insurgency
- Assistant Secretary Ambassador Burns's Meetings in Cairo, Morocco, Europe
- Gaza / Human Rights Watch Report / Demolition of Houses
- Human Rights Watch Report on Conditions in Guantanamo
- Sumate Case / Proposed Law to Prohibit NGOs from receiving Domestic or Foreign Funding / Threat to Freedom of Expression
12:53 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I'd be glad to take your questions.
George. Thanks for the music.
QUESTION: Let's go straight to the jugular. What do you have on the Belarus elections? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: As you all know, we've repeatedly called on Belarus to meet international standards, to meet OSCE standards when it came to these -- to this referendum and parliamentary elections. The initial report from the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights elections observer mission indicates the election fell significantly short of Belarus' commitments to the organization.
We deeply regret that the Belarusian people were kept from freely and fairly expressing their will. International observers have noted a number of serious violations by the government in the campaign period, potentially biasing the election even before the votes were cast. Electoral misconduct continued throughout the voting and vote tabulation process. We're aware, for example, that exit poll results present a far different picture of the voters' preferences than the results that have been announced by the Belarus Government.
We're also concerned by reports that a journalist was arrested and seriously beaten on election night, and we call on Belarus Government to promptly ensure the full facts of this alleged incident come out.
QUESTION: That's it?
MR. BOUCHER: That's it.
QUESTION: So you think it was a well-run election then. Can I --
MR. BOUCHER: Not exactly.
QUESTION: Isn't the fact that they allowed observers in a positive sign?
MR. BOUCHER: Isn't it what?
QUESTION: A positive -- some kind of a -- I mean, you wouldn't have these -- there are countries in the world that don't allow observers in.
MR. BOUCHER: There were something like 300 observers there. But allowing observers in doesn't make up for all the problems of the election. Is it better to have observers than not to have observers? Sure. But observing this --
QUESTION: I guess what I'm getting at is that you're unwilling to give Lukashenko's government any scintilla of credit for even allowing observers in, which you, normally is something that you first call for in an election.
MR. BOUCHER: We're glad that they allowed the observers in. Nonetheless, the election was seriously flawed. It didn't meet standards. It does not look like the voters of Belarus were given a fair choice.
QUESTION: And if --
MR. BOUCHER: Or a fair chance to express their choice may be a better way to put it.
QUESTION: And are there any consequences for that from your end?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to look and see. As you know, our policies -- our relations with Belarus are already pretty strained over the issue of democracy. And this, unfortunately, rather than making them better just continues in the same pattern.
QUESTION: Richard, on a related issue of election observers, do you know how many and when election observers are arriving in the U.S.?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I don't think I have the details on that yet. The projection was something like 60 observers. It's headed by a Swiss legislator, the team that will come. It's fairly standard practice now among OSCE countries, one that we very strongly supported to have observers go to different countries for elections, and this is a case where people are coming to the United States and they'll look at the election, and report back and comment on it, as many people in the world do, and as everybody in the United States will do. So you might check with the OSCE and see if they have any more details yet on the mission and when it might come.
QUESTION: New subject. Yeah, just on the Secretary's North Asia trip. The South Koreans are saying that their Defense Minister is going to be here for meetings at the Pentagon, but also here and at the NSC this week. I presume this will be before the Secretary leaves. Is he, in fact, going to meet with the Secretary? And when he is in Seoul, how much of his time, if you can say, is going to be devoted to non-six-party talk issues, specifically the troop --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I can't give you a breakdown on the time yet. Let me check, first of all, if the Secretary is going to have a chance to meet with the Korean Defense Minister before he leaves.
There are a lot of things to talk about during this trip in the three different stops that the Secretary is making. I looked it up; it's been more than 18 months now since the Secretary took a trip to North Asia, so although he's stayed in very close touch with his colleagues and seen them in New York and other parts of the world, it's always useful, the Secretary thinks, to go and see them and visit with other people who you can visit with in the capitals. So that's one reason.
The Secretary has a new Japanese colleague, who has visited Washington, and the Secretary wanted to try to visit him in his capital as well. So it's a chance to talk further with the new Japanese Foreign Minister.
They're all getting ready for the meetings at the ministerial level and other levels that will take place out at APEC. APEC becomes then an important agenda item because APEC is now taking up issues of terrorism, of nonproliferation, as well as the very important economic and trade issues that it's always been dealing with. So that's something I would expect discussion of in China, as well as Japan and Korea.
Two of the three nations he's going to visit have troops in Iraq. I'm sure in Japan and Korea, probably China as well, we'll want to talk about the situation in Iraq, the evolution of the situation in Iraq, and how we all contribute to holding a free and open elections for all the Iraqi people come January, and then a chance to follow up with these countries on the donors conference that was just held in Japan and for which Deputy Secretary Armitage was out.
As you noted, global posture, rebasing issues, are important on the agenda in both Japan and South Korea. I think if you look at it with the Secretary, we made progress on some of the details, particularly in South Korea, but the Secretary, I think, still feels it appropriate to talk about these redeployments and rebasing ideas in a strategic context, to really try to deal with them in terms of our overall posture in the world, our overall posture in Asia, and how we and our allies who share strategic goals can work on that together and understand each other, make sure we do these things with a broader strategic concept in mind.
Six-party talks will be an important element in the discussions in all the places, look at what's next, I think, to make clear from the countries who are ready to go back to early talks, including ourselves and Japan, Korea and China, that we remain ready to go back to early talks to see if anybody has any news on North Korea's willingness to attend talks or if they're still stalling. We'll see what happens with the visits to Beijing this week.
And I think furthermore, to take the opportunity in public and in working with our allies to remind people that we have a significant and comprehensive proposal on the table, and North Korea needs not only to come back to talks but to be ready to deal with that proposal.
Finally, other specific issues in specific places. In China, he'll want to take up some of the Taiwan issues again. I know there's been a lot of talk about arms sales to Taiwan. The Secretary looks forward to having a chance to respond on that. And also to talk about the speech that Chen Shui-bian made recently, President Shui-bian made about the prospect of dialogue with Beijing, and to say that we do see that as an opportunity, that we continue to encourage dialogue. We know the Chinese didn't take the speech that way, but I think it's a chance to look at what we can all do to promote the idea of dialogue across the straits.
And finally, I'd note it's the first time in China after the changes in leadership there in August and September. So it's a chance to talk to the Chinese leaders, particularly Prime Minister Hu Jintao, about the -- I'm sorry -- President Hu Jintao about the evolution of events in China and the new leadership.
So there's a lot of things on the agenda. There are many things that involve international or global issues like Iraq and North Korea, and also things that are more particular to each stop involving, say, troops in Japan and Korea or the Taiwan issues with China.
QUESTION: All right. I know what you're -- I know what the answer to this question is going to be, but I have to ask it, so please forgive me. And that is: Does the Secretary really expect to get anything done with the election less than a week from when his trip is, and the possibility that, you know, that U.S. foreign policy might take -- and particularly with regards to North Korea -- might take a dramatic turn, in the event the election goes one way?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, the Secretary is not planning on that, and I think his --
QUESTION: Well, he may not be planning on it, but his interlocutors may be looking at --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure our interlocutors are planning on it either. You'll have to ask them. But I think the point is that there are many things going on in these relationships. There is many things coming up in November, December, January, not to mention next year, that we are going to be working with these countries on, that we are going to be looking to move forward on. And so, I think there is plenty of work to do.
QUESTION: Yeah, but the point is is that these three countries can't help but look at the potential for a change in leadership in this country. And what -- does the Secretary think --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, it may come as a surprise, but, first of all, U.S. foreign policy doesn't stop for an election. The President, this President, as many others, has made very clear to the Secretary and Secretary Rumsfeld that they were to continue promoting our national interests around the world and continue their work without reference to the politics of the moment.
And second of all, the world doesn't stop. The world doesn't stop for American elections. There are many issues that need to be dealt with that can be dealt with and that can be planned for, in terms of the coming months and longer. And if the election results affect that, I'm sure we'll take that into account at the time, but you need to get going on these things.
QUESTION: Well, last one and then I'll stop and someone else can -- but the six-party talks issue in North Korea, there is a fundamental difference between the President's idea and the -- sorry, between the President's idea and his challenger's idea, in terms of one-on-one direct talks. How can you possibly expect to get -- to get any movement forward in the six-party talks issue, or at least on the whole issue of denuclearization of the Peninsula, when there is such a difference looming out there, and the North Koreans obviously well aware of it, as are the Chinese, the South Koreans and the Japanese?
MR. BOUCHER: You're asking really for us to speculate on what's in the minds of the North Koreans, and I'm not prepared to do that. I know they've given a lot of reasons for stalling and delay, but essentially -- one of which is the American election, but there have been a lot of others and a lot of other speculation.
So the fact is they're stalling and delaying. There are a group of countries that are ready to go back to early talks. That includes the United States, that includes Japan, that includes China, that includes South Korea. What we can all do to get North Korea to come back to early talks is an important topic of discussion, and of those countries, I would include Russia in the group ready for early talks as well. Of those countries ready for early talks, only one happens to be having an election at this moment. So that's an important coordination process among our nations, and that is something I would think that the United States would want to pursue as a matter of national interest.
Second of all, the goal is denuclearization. The United States has put on the table a proposal to achieve that, and we think it's important to remind people and to talk to other people about how we can get North Korea to focus on that goal and to focus on the proposals the United States has made. I don't anticipate there be any particular modification of those proposals in coming months, and it's important for North Korea to be prepared to deal with them seriously.
QUESTION: I noticed on your list of issues that the Secretary would be bringing up in China, human rights wasn't on there. Is that a priority for him on this trip?
MR. BOUCHER: It's always an issue. It's always an issue that the Secretary raises and makes clear our views about. So I didn't list every possible issues. I raise those that are at this moment somewhat different or where there's some new development, but he will certainly list, and he will certainly raise, as he always does, many of the issues that we talk about every time we get together with the Chinese, even if there's not a particular anticipation of a new development on that score.
QUESTION: Just to confirm, the Secretary will meet with China's president Hu Jintao?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm able to confirm any specific meetings and specific places yet. That's something that we're still working on, the details of the schedules. I think we've given you the dates and the cities. Maybe we haven't.
The Secretary will arrive in Tokyo October 23rd, have meetings in Tokyo on the 24th, and then travel on to Beijing that evening for meetings on the 25th in Beijing.
From Beijing he heads on to Seoul for meetings on the 26th and then he'll return to Washington the same day, on the 26th. But specific meetings and specific places, I can't confirm yet.
QUESTION: And you mentioned two of the three countries have troops in Iraq and China, probably, would Secretary suggest or ask China to send troops to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly there are UN resolutions and other requests from the Iraqi Government that encourage all nations to contribute as best they can. But we have left it to each individual nation to decide what their best contribution might be.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On Taiwan, are you entirely happy with the speech by President Chen last week? There were some aspects of it which seemed to differ from your viewpoint. I don't believe he made any reference at all to One China. He talked about Taiwanese sovereignty.
MR. BOUCHER: We're not endorsing anybody's speech completely, obviously. We think there were elements in it that were creative, we think there are elements in it that were constructive, and we felt that there was an opportunity here to get back to a cross-strait dialogue that should be looked at by all the parties. And we'll continue to encourage the Chinese and others, Chinese particularly, to see it that way and to look at what they can do to get back to a cross-straits dialogue, which we think is ultimately very important for both sides.
Okay, let's go here.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to say about North Korea that an important topic is how to get North Korea to come back to the table, is there anything that you can do? Haven't you, in the past, just said, well, it's up to them, they're the ones who are stalling? What do you mean by getting them back to the -- how you guys can get them back --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think all the parties to these talks need to encourage North Korea to come back to the table and need to let North Korea know that there are consequences for their not pursuing this peaceful course of dialogue. But we currently have a high-level North Korean visitor to Beijing this week. One of the things we'll be interested in finding out is whether he's bringing any news or any expression of the North Korean attitude towards talks.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, I mean, what are the consequences of not coming to the talks right now?
MR. BOUCHER: We have, I think, gone over this before. I'd really refer you back to the things we've said before. There are people, nations, that are ready to do things for North Korea that they're not ready to do without some progress in the talks.
QUESTION: So it's more that there are benefits for North Korea to come to the table now versus consequences that they would suffer if --
MR. BOUCHER: I guess I studied more economics, and I see it as an opportunity loss.
QUESTION: I have two sets of questions on Western Africa --
QUESTION: Oh, wait, wait. Can I just --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let's finish with North Korea, then.
QUESTION: Without you -- asking you to go through every single agenda point, I assume in China that Security Council issues -- Darfur, reform -- will come up, yeah?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I'm sure. Again, there are a lot of issues that will come up overlooking -- see where there's a particular anticipation of the moment, there's something particular to talk about, all these other issues, Security Council issues, Darfur -- Haiti, for that matter, frankly, with the Chinese police arriving in Haiti, and all the other Security Council issues are likely to be discussed to some extent, yeah.
QUESTION: The President of China's Supreme Court, Xiao Yang, met with Secretary Powell last Friday. Do you know if they discussed the status of Chinese detainees held in Guantanamo Bay?
MR. BOUCHER: This was not a formal sit-down meeting. It was not an attempt to go through an agenda. There was a delegation from China's Supreme Court that was in the United States hosted by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and they had, that delegation, had some meetings at the State Department, I think, with Under Secretary Dobriansky. The Secretary was able to stop in and say hello and chat briefly about their visit and the state of Chinese justice, but it wasn't a question of going through a particular agenda of topics.
QUESTION: Well, what is the state of Chinese justice in the U.S. view?
MR. BOUCHER: Less than perfect. It is expressed in great detail in our Human Rights Report.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary raise this issue, that the United States does not believe the Chinese judiciary, including the court on which this man sits, is an independent and unbiased practitioner of justice?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what the man himself said, so it's -- I'm not going to get into the whole discussion, but they discussed their role in the Chinese system. We have expressed our views on Chinese justice at great length and it involves many issues involving human rights that have been raised in our Human Rights Report and some of which will probably get discussed out in Beijing as well. Okay?
QUESTION: Richard, I have two questions concerning Africa. The first is that they're saying that human shields are being used in Darfur to help the Jingaweit set up both military bases and act as cover.
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry. Who is saying that?
QUESTION: Reports from the region; many of them are from the BBC.
Secondly, there is a fate. They say that 70,000 refugees now in the refugee camps, both in western Darfur and Chad, may die before the end of the year. It's considerably worse.
And the second question is that, according to the Biafra Foundation, Nigeria is engaged in ethnic cleansing of Igbo tribes and other tribes in the Biafra region. And there's a new BBC survey today, which says that three-quarters of Nigerians would leave Nigeria if they could. And they say that oil fields are in play and there may be new Muslim-Christian warfare.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. First of all, on Darfur, I had not seen the reports of human shields. I'll have to see if there is anything on that. You might also check the reports from the African Union monitor, since that's probably the most extensive and reliable series of reports that are available.
Second of all, on the -- no, there was one more before Nigeria. Oh, the estimates on the number of people who might die in Darfur, we have long stated our very serious concerns that the deaths, that the horrors of Darfur were going to continue no matter what, and that the fact that we've been able to get food in now but we weren't able to get people back to their homes, back to their fields before the rainy season or during the rainy season, that that was going to create enormous hardship in the months to come because you have people who have been very much weakened from the travail and the suffering that they've already gone through. And they are unable to get back to their fields and produce their own food, so there's a level of dependency of the people in the camps, that the people in the camps have to stay there to get food or we have to otherwise find ways to get food to them if they can get back to the villages. But they don't have their crops and they don't have their sustenance for the upcoming months, and they're already weakened and potentially diseased, so many of these people are going to die.
And in addition to that, there are all of the peoples who never made it to the camps. And those are people, again, who have been cowering somewhere and hidden somewhere and may not have had the chance to grow crops during this rainy season and therefore, they, too -- probably they, more than people in the camps, are at risk of further deaths because of that.
I don't have a number. It could be very high. I'll have to check and see if Administrator Natsios or anybody has seen a good study from the World Health Organization or somebody like that, but we have expressed a lot of concern that the devastation of Darfur was going to continue for some time, particularly if we missed this window of getting security and getting people back to safety in the rainy season.
That said, we're still working very, very hard to get the African troops into Darfur. The United States has taken a very, very active role in this process. We've been working with the African Union who, and now, it appears come together in terms of their own planning. They're close to implementing their -- completing their deployment plan for Darfur for the expanded observer mission.
We have already let the contract for $20-some million more of assistance from U.S. contractors to help them get there, and we're prepared to do other things to try to get African troops into Darfur as soon as possible. So we've been coordinating with the Africans. The Secretary talked to President Obasanjo last Thursday.
We've also, through our embassies, been working with the countries that can supply troops and had experts talk to them as well. So we're moving forward, we think, fairly rapidly on the deployment of its additional monitors, and that should help, even at this late date, that should help with the security situation.
QUESTION: What about when they talk about this ethnic cleansing in the Biafra --
MR. BOUCHER: With Biafra and the Ibo, no. I hadn't seen anything new on that particular group. There have been troubles, I think, in the Delta region of Nigeria. The government has tried to work with the people there and we have expressed our support for solving these problems peacefully.
QUESTION: Also on Darfur?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the talks between Libya, Chad, Nigeria and -- not Nigeria -- and Egypt talking about, they just put out a statement calling against foreign intervention, that this is solely an African problem and basically that the international community should stay out of it?
MR. BOUCHER: Just to say that, you know, we've only had preliminary reports of these discussions, but I think in general, I'd say we welcome any good faith effort to try to help improve the situation in Darfur. And certainly, we have no differences with those who emphasize the African role. We've seen the Africans play a very important role and the African Union, in terms of troops, playing a very, very important role in monitoring and helping stabilize the situation.
We want to make sure that that role expands, and we will work and support the African Union in doing that. In terms of outside pressure, monitoring, UN Security Council involvement, U.S. involvement, we think that's well justified by the tragedy of Darfur and that, indeed, has led to the kind of progress that we've seen, but we all have to work together on this and we welcome Africans who want to step forward and try to move the -- move the situation to a better plane.
QUESTION: Do you think that countries, Egypt and Libya, in particular, have been a little too soft on the government? I mean, not --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to judge other nations at this point. We think everybody needs to be committed to the sole goal of making sure that the poor people of Darfur, who have been suffering so much, are able to get the food and supplies they need and are able to find the security they need to go back to their homes.
That requires the government to do many things, it requires the Africans to do many things, it requires outsiders to do many things, and we all should be playing our part.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the UN resolution -- draft resolution --
QUESTION: Can we stay on Darfur?
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to stay on Darfur for a second.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, sir.
QUESTION: Yeah, I just, I realize that you are loathe to get involved in politics, as you just made clear from your answer earlier to the Asia questions, but Sudanese officials are saying that this whole issue has become, it's become a political football this campaign season between the two camps.
And Senator Kerry's campaign last week came out with a statement saying that this -- that the -- what's happening in Darfur is a prime example of the Administration dropping the ball.
Now, without you having to comment on, specifically on those comments, what would you say to people who say that the Administration has dropped the ball on Darfur and that the reason that there are so many -- that, basically, it's partly -- the United States is partly to blame, should take a lion's share of the blame for the deaths that are happening there?
MR. BOUCHER: I would -- well, I would stay out of the politics of the situation. But I think anybody who looks at our record going back to -- I think it's about February of 2003, and particularly throughout this year, throughout the efforts we've been making through the Secretary's trip to Darfur, his work with the Secretary General, you'll see the United States, the Secretary of State in particular, has been leading the effort to try to change the situation in Darfur, has been leading the effort to get the channels of assistance opened and to take care of the people of Darfur, to get the pipelines full of the food and medicine and shelter that people need, and has been leading the effort to try to bring security to the region of Darfur.
The effort has required demobilization of a lot of resources, diplomatic and elsewhere, to achieve that goal, and I think the United States has a very solid record as the largest contributor, the largest, the most energetic donor, the most active participant in the whole process and the nation that in many ways has led to the help that has been provided there.
I would also say that for any foreign party to assume that somehow this is only being done because of the U.S. election or whatever their assumption might be, that that would be a totally wrong assumption, that Americans of all political parties and all political persuasions feel very strongly about the need to help in Darfur, feel very strongly about the need for the government to stop supporting the Jingaweit and stop supporting the violence, and feel very strongly about the need to get the Africans in there to help stabilize the situation so the people of Darfur can go back to their houses.
That's quite clear I think, not only in the political statements made by people of both parties, but also in the kind of congressional support that there has been for the efforts that we have made.
Okay. Where were we? Back there.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the UN draft resolution regarding Lebanon and Syria?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. On Friday afternoon, the Security Council met to discuss the U.S. and French draft resolution that has been proposed in response to the Secretary General's report on Resolution 1559, which deals with Syria and Lebanon. We feel that the discussions Friday constitute a good exchange on the basis of the draft that we proposed. We're looking at the ideas that were proposed now by other delegations.
There are further Security Council consultations scheduled this afternoon. We think it is important for the Council to respond to the Secretary General's report, and that there is indeed strong Council support for follow-up action, as recommended by the Secretary General. So we would hope to move forward on this matter in the Council soon.
QUESTION: On Greece, Mr. Boucher. Greece has been elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council last Friday, and the Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis stated, and I quote, "A special honor to our country and confirms the prestige Greece has (inaudible) and the trust it enjoys in the international community." Any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: I couldn't have said it better myself.
QUESTION: You don't have anything?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, to the extent we dealt with it, we talked a little bit about it on Friday. We certainly congratulate Greece and the other candidates on their election. We look forward to working with all these nations and the Security Council when they assume their seats.
QUESTION: On Tom Miller, the Greek press is giving a lot of time to this, on more of the wonderful epithets you and the Secretary of State bestow upon your Ambassador to Greece, Tom Miller. But do you have an idea when he's going to be replaced by the new Ambassador, Charlie P. Reis?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a date or timing on that at this point. It'll happen sometime in coming months. I don't know exactly when. You'll have to check with Ambassador Miller.
QUESTION: By the end of the year of 2004?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, sometime in the coming months. I don't have an exact date on it at this point, a particular fine-tuned timing.
QUESTION: And on FYROM, any answer to my pending question regarding FYROM, changing the adverbs from formally to formerly?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is we made a mistake and I think we've corrected it.
MR. CASEY: We have.
MR. BOUCHER: We have corrected it.
QUESTION: And the last one, if you will. When Under Secretary Marc Grossman, October 1st, and the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, October 11th, were in Skopje during the press conference, both often used the term "Macedonia," against that whatever you told us the other day that DOS has the last word in diplomatic formalities otherwise in the U.S. foreign policy.
How do you explain the fact that both gentlemen, Mr. Grossman and Mr. Rumsfeld, violate so openly the present view policy vis-à-vis to FYROM over the name?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's really necessary for us to explain why we call Macedonia Macedonia. I do so myself all the time.
QUESTION: Thank you. There is a confirmed information in Colombia that a Colombian senator met with Rodriguez Orejuela brothers in jail, Cali Cartel leaders, that they are negotiating with the United States that, in exchange for the United States leaving their families alone, they will give up names and drug routes to the United States. Are you or the U.S. Government in any position to confirm or deny this information?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you can't start the question by saying there's confirmed information and end the question by saying, "Can you confirm this?"
QUESTION: I mean, by the Colombian senator.
MR. BOUCHER: But what we have seen is what we would call very speculative reports in the media about an alleged deal between the U.S. and Rodriguez Orejuela brothers. Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez are under indictment in the United States. We have submitted requests for their extradition. And further than that, I'd have to refer you to the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Zarqawi and any assistance or support that the U.S. believes he's getting from Iran? There are some reports to this effect.
MR. BOUCHER: I know there have been some reports, not something I would be able to go into. As you know, Mr. Zarqawi has operated from -- in Iraq for some time. The Secretary, when he did his presentation to the United States, linked him to the killing of Mr. Foley in Jordan, the AID officer in Jordan, where some of the testimony, I believe, at the time had indicated that Zarqawi's cell was responsible and was responsible for it by operating out of Iraq.
So the question of how much support they get from outside, how much they might be getting now from Iran or elsewhere, I think, has been raised recently. All I would be able to say is that we have generally been very concerned about some of the reports of Iranian activity in Iraq. We have frequently discussed these in public as well as made clear, I think, to others what our concerns were so that the Iranians would know exactly what our concerns were about possible support for different groups inside Iraq.
The Iraqi Government, the Iraqi Interim Government, has also been quite vocal both directly with the Iranians and in their statements with others about the concerns about Iran, so it remains an issue of very serious concern. And were it to be found that Iran was providing particular support for this terrorist group, obviously that would be a very, very serious matter.
QUESTION: Well, if I could just follow up.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The statements that have been made in the past have concerned, been focused more on Muqtada al-Sadr and his connections to Iran.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, militias, political groups, things like that is what the focus has been.
QUESTION: Is there, in fact, evidence that Iran has been supporting terrorist groups?
MR. BOUCHER: I would not be able to go into what evidence there is on what Iran might be doing with particular groups or individuals inside Iran -- inside Iraq.
QUESTION: On Iraq, but tangentially related. You are still, I presume, in the planning processes of this international conference?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'd say the Iraqis and the Egyptians are in the planning process. We're watching that planning.
QUESTION: Well, right, but you're -- right, okay. But in light of that, could you give us a little details about Assistant Secretary Burns's meetings in Cairo tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: No. In light of that -- I don't think I'd quite say, "in light of that" -- I would say that there is always a broad agenda to discuss with the Egyptians. Clearly, Iraq and the status of Iraq in the region and the relations of Iraq with people in the region and the neighbors is an important issue that we always discuss when we meet with the Egyptians.
We also go through Israeli-Palestinian issues, so Ambassador Burns will want to go this time in Egypt as a chance to -- and he is meeting there tomorrow --
QUESTION: I knew that, but --
MR. BOUCHER: What? You know that, but I just wanted to -- in case people thought I was not confirming it, I am confirming it. He's having meetings in Cairo tomorrow. But I think it's an opportunity for him to hear from the Egyptians as we hear from the Iraqis as well what the status of their planning and preparations for the meeting is.
QUESTION: Okay. And in Morocco he'll be talking about their hosting of the Forum for the Future --
MR. BOUCHER: Forum for the Future is obviously an important issue but as well as regional issues.
QUESTION: And any other stops you would care to enlighten us about?
MR. BOUCHER: He'll go on to Europe after those meetings and have some discussions with the European Union representatives.
QUESTION: On Iraq, there were a couple of reports about the Saudi proposal for a Muslim force to protect the UN. Is it true that in the end the United States rejected the proposal because the Muslim force wouldn't have been under a U.S. command?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there was ever a concrete proposal made for a group of troops and a commander and a structure or anything like that. It was an idea that had been floated by the Saudis with us, with the Iraqis, with others.
I think we've said we'll see what happens to it. Certainly, we're happy to discuss this with people, but I'm not sure it ever got as far as saying that there was actually a group of troops ready to deploy under certain conditions or circumstances.
QUESTION: So then it never really got off the ground --
MR. BOUCHER: It never really got off the ground, yeah.
QUESTION: -- because the U.S. made it clear that they would have to be under a U.S. command?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think that's true. I don't think we ever heard back that there was a group of troops that were ready to deploy and what conditions they might be prepared to deploy under.
QUESTION: Richard, there's a report saying that the European judges, the European court has ended press human rights freedoms and, was that in any way under discussion when you -- Secretary Powell was talking to the Foreign Minister from Belgium last week?
MR. BOUCHER: That the European court has ended press freedom?
QUESTION: The European court has brushed aside 50 years' worth of international case law.
MR. BOUCHER: That is not a topic I remember hearing about in the Secretary's discussions. I'm not quite sure what you're referring to.
QUESTION: Human Rights Watch Report were critical of the Guantanamo and the demolition of houses in Gaza. And do you have comments on these two subjects?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've commented extensively on the operation in Gaza and we've encouraged the Israelis to avoid any civilian loss of life and civilian damage, humanitarian problems created by such a military intervention; and indeed, we encourage them to finish the operation and get out, and it looks like that's what they've done or are doing.
As far as the Human Rights Watch criticism of the conditions in Guantanamo, I think we have been quite clear that people in Guantanamo will be treated in a humane manner that's consistent with international obligations and with international standards, but as for the specifics of that treatment and how it's going, I think you have to check with Pentagon.
QUESTION: The report is calling upon the U.S. to hold Israel accountable for the demolition of houses and consider that is violation of international law. Do you agree with this characterization?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've expressed our view on that before. The demolition of houses, we've always expressed concern about that being used as a method of judicial punishment. But, no, we have not expressed ourself on humanitarian international law in that regard.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Venezuela's plans to put on trial the leaders of opposition groups which supported the recall of President Chavez, the trial based on their supposed links to the National Endowment for Democracy?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess you're talking about the Sumate case?
MR. BOUCHER: This links in also to a proposed law in Venezuela. I think there were a draft law to modify the penal code that was proposed some time back that would prohibit Venezuelan NGOs from receiving domestic or foreign funding on the ground that this represents treason. And furthermore, the draft law would prohibit certain forms of democratic protest and political expression.
We have grave concerns about the content of this law, as well as the media law, which threaten freedom of expression in Venezuela. We believe the proposal, if it becomes law, would criminalize the defense of human rights in Venezuela.
We're also following closely the developments in the Sumate case and are concerned that the request pending in court for an arrest warrant for leaders of the group would constitute, again, a violation of basic standards of justice and human rights. We don't believe that the leaders have violated any Venezuelan laws, nor have they violated Venezuela's constitution, so as part of our continuing concerns about the state of liberty and political expression in Venezuela.
QUESTION: There were some reports over the weekend that the kind of slow pace of reconstruction in Iraq is actually one of the -- according to some Pentagon officials and military -- some of the military rank and file -- that the slow pace of reconstruction is actually one of the greatest things fueling the insurgency right now, and the fact that some of these basic services are not being provided is actually one of the things that's angering Iraqis even more. And that's kind of a cycle, that not necessarily fixing the security problem is the answer but delivering some of these services and that --
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, our view on this has been that you need to do both. And I think that's been Prime Minister Allawi's view as well, that the importance is to give people safety and security, which is what Iraqis say they want, first and foremost, but also to give them the water, the hospitals, the schools, the other government services and opportunities that people say they need.
And so, you had, for example, a situation where, by the end of June, I think, some $400 million had been expended out of the relief, the reconstruction assistance the United States was providing. And when the Secretary went out there in early July, he focused his discussions with our ambassador, with Ambassador Negroponte, and with the military, but more importantly, with the Iraqi Government on what needed to be done to increase the pace of assistance and increase the impact of our assistance.
And so, he met, for example, with half a dozen to a dozen of the interim government's economic planners and responsible economic officials who laid out their emphasis in the areas that they felt were most important. He discussed the issues of security and reconstruction with Prime Minister Allawi and Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh as well, and they all look to increasing security, getting more money out quickly, getting more money to Iraqi contractors and Iraqi jobs programs, getting more money to areas that were affected by the security situation.
And indeed, that's what we've done. We've spent -- with having spent $400 million up to June 30th, I think we've spent at least a billion dollars more in the three months since -- not even -- yeah, three and a half months since then, which is a very stepped up increase in the rate that money is being spent.
Second of all, we spent the money on Iraq -- more money on Iraqi contractors and Iraqi jobs and programs that help the Iraqi people.
Third of all, I think you've seen from press reporting, as well as from what we have said, that a lot of the money -- that there is money that's intended to be high impact and quick impact in places like Najaf, in places like Samarra, in places like Sadr City, where having gone through the difficulties of the fighting and tensions and conflict and bombings, we know the people there have been denied some of these basic services. They've, you know, even down to things like trash pickup. And so, you have projects as simple as getting money out for people to go clean up after an area that's been held by the Mahdi militia for so long.
So we have really concentrated on those things, to bring the benefits of services, bring the benefits of money to the Iraqi people more quickly and see those reconstruction efforts, including the creation of employment, as going hand-in-hand with the creation of more security for the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Yeah, and just on Haiti. Last week, a couple of times, you were harshly critical of President Aris -- ex-president Aristide's playing a negative role with the situation that's going on there now. And I'm just wondering, are you aware of any contact between the United States and his South African hosts about President Aristide's -- the terms of his presence there?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that the United States is in touch with the South Africans through our embassy out there. I'm trying to think the last time the Secretary met with South African Foreign Minister -- was it about a month or two ago? I can't remember exactly.
Generally, President Aristide's situation and what he's doing, the terms of his status in South Africa, all that is -- that comes up from time to time with the South Africans, yes.
QUESTION: But you're not aware of anything recently, like within the last week --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any special discussion that we've had with him recently.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)