State Dept. Press Briefing Transcript for Nov. 12
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
November 12, 2004
- Temporary Withdrawal of Staff from South Darfur by UN High Commissioner for Refugees
- Efforts to Assist & Protect Internally Displaced Persons
- Call on the Sudanese Government to Allow Unimpeded Humanitarian Access
- Discussions Regarding Deployments in Iraq
- Overall Level of Deployment
- Opportunity for Sunni Groups to Participate in Political Process
- Efforts to Ensure Human Rights for All Citizens
- Abduction of American Citizen in Baghdad
- Moving Forward with Roadmap & Palestinian Elections
- Efforts to Assist the Palestinians / Economic Development
- Israeli Disengagement from Gaza & Some West Bank Settlements
- Ad-hoc Liaison Committee / Importance & Possible December Meeting
- Activities of Assistant Secretary Burns in the Region
- Importance of Democracy & Efforts to Cease Violence
- Opportunities to Coordinate & Cooperate with EuropeanFriends & Allies
- Language Instruction at the State Department
- Allegations Regarding Former Ambassador Jones
- Decision to Implement Ohrid Agreement
- U.S. Recognition of Constitutional Name of Republic of Macedonia
- Situation Update
- Status of Embassy / Efforts of Embassy Personnel
- Status of Commercial Flights / Evacuation of Foreign Nationals Continues
- Efforts by President Mbeki on Linas-Marcoussis & Accra III Accords
1:00 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Did you notice that the UN Refugee Commission is pulling its staff out of Darfur because the Sudanese won't let them travel freely?
MR. BOUCHER: They're coming out of southern Darfur because of problems that the government has created for them with regard to access. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has announced that they are going to temporarily withdraw staff from South Darfur because the Government of Sudan authorities will not agree to their efforts to assist internally displaced Sudanese. They are continuing their work in West Darfur where most of the Sudanese refugees in Chad are from.
Our view remains similar to theirs. The government has committed to and must ensure unimpeded and unrestricted access for humanitarian workers and assistance to all the needy people throughout Darfur. While their withdrawal is not specifically related to the forced removal of internally displaced persons, they and we share grave concerns about that situation and we see them as one of the agencies that can indeed help people who might be faced with that kind of prospect, that they play an important role in protecting internally displaced workers -- persons.
So we commend their work. We commend the work of other humanitarian organizations and we call on the government to allow the kind unimpeded access that will let their work proceed throughout Darfur and not just, you know, in certain parts, as they currently -- which is the situation they currently face.
QUESTION: Do you have more details on the forced removals than you did on Wednesday?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't really. We've looked over what we know today, and I don't have any more details at this point. It was from the Al Geer camp. It was reported to have taken place November 10th. But at this point, no, I don't have any more information.
QUESTION: The Dutch government has said today, Richard, that they're going to withdraw their troops, about 1300, from Iraq, on March 15, which was not unexpected. But my question is, are you trying to convince the Dutch government and other governments that are in Iraq that they should perhaps extend?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've had conversations about deployments like this with the Dutch government over the course of time, about their deployment over the course of time. We certainly would encourage them to consider how to continue their contribution to the effort in Iraq through NATO or with their direct deployment.
I think, first of all, note, you know, commend them for the work they have done and will continue to do through March of next year at least. They have announced a decision. Certainly, any given moment, there are people coming, there are people leaving. The coalition has had some turnover and we'll expect it will continue to have some turnover.
In the end, the overall level of deployment should depend not on dates on the calendar, but rather on the needs of the Iraqis for security, and that has been our view and it continues to be our view and that's the way we will continue to work with other coalition partners to try to ensure that if some people do move out, some other people are moving in, so that we maintain whatever the appropriate level is at the time. We won't know until we get closer to that date as to what -- you know, what forces are needed at that moment.
QUESTION: Well, they have said that under certain circumstances they would consider extending the deadline, so --
MR. BOUCHER: We'll keep talking to them and we'll keep looking at the situation on the ground because ultimately that's what I think determines for all coalition members what kind of assistance the Iraqis need and what kind of assistance the members can provide.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The President talked about the importance of the Palestinians earlier today. What assistance, if any, does the United States plan to provide the Palestinians in their effort to hold elections?
MR. BOUCHER: The President and Prime Minister Blair, I think, identified a number of areas where we are looking very carefully at how we can move forward, of course looking forward, looking to how we can move forward on the overall process, including the roadmap and steps to achieve the President's vision, looking at how we can move forward by assisting the Palestinians with the election that they have responsibility to carry out within 60 days.
We think that is an important part of the process and we'll be working with the Palestinians and the Israelis to try to make sure that this election process can go smoothly and that they can have an elected leadership that reflects the desires of the Palestinians, Palestinian society, but also helps them move forward with the kind of legitimacy, kind of representation that they need to create a state and participate in negotiations.
The other areas that the President identified are equally important. The whole economic basket that he talked about, the commitment to mobilize international support, to encourage -- support economic development for the Palestinians to help transparency in financing and other areas like that. This has been an ongoing effort, one that does continue.
As you know, I think some of you noticed we had one of our senior people from the Near East Bureau, Deputy Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Dibble was out in Palestinian territories just last week, even as the events unfolded, to keep working with the other countries on the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee to try to move forward, and that's an effort that, working with other governments, will continue to move forward.
So you have the roadmap and the overall process, you have support for the elections, you have support for greater economic transparency and economic progress for the Palestinians, and then, of course, you have -- all that feeds into making the opportunity of Israeli disengagement from Gaza and some of the settlements on the West Bank, making that opportunity really work by having the Palestinians be able to step forward with responsibility for that area, be able to reduce the prospects of any violence coming out of that area, and being able to work with the Israelis on the withdrawal.
So we have been looking at what the possibilities are at this moment to move forward, examining all these factors, talking to other governments, and we'll be looking in more concrete ways about how we do that.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary plan to create some sort of a special working group, an ad hoc working group, you know, to look at these issues that you've identified, sort of in a larger concept as to how they relate to each other?
MR. BOUCHER: There are responsible people -- you mean within the U.S. Government or the international community?
QUESTION: Within the U.S. Government, especially on the elections --
MR. BOUCHER: I guess what I would say, in particular, there are people already in the U.S. Government directly responsible for these things. Our Bureau of Near East Affairs has already started to look very carefully at the series of steps that are necessary to help the Palestinians get to an election, how we can help with that, steps the Israelis can take to help with that, how do we take the opportunity of Gaza disengagement and make sure it works.
All these steps are worked in some detail by our Near East Bureau. They've been working at them now, started some conversations with other governments about them and that's the process. That's how the process will continue.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate that the ad hoc liaison committee meeting next month will be the main forum for additional assistance to Palestinian -- to the Palestinian Authority?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it's actually fixed at this point. There is certainly talk of an ad hoc liaison committee meeting in December. That meeting -- I mean, without focusing on that meeting, the ad hoc liaison committee is an important part of the progress that has been made in furthering transparency and furthering the kind of assistance that the Palestinians need to create institutions to help their people have opportunities to develop.
And so, yes, we do see that as a key part of that process, particularly on the economic side. It may be that other things are needed on the election side and it certainly is that groups like the Quartet, groups like -- well, and the efforts that we have bilaterally with Israelis and Palestinians are very important to move forward on the overall roadmap and peace process.
QUESTION: And can you shed any light on the types of things that the U.S. could do to support the election process?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't think I can give you much more detail than just to say we're looking at all these things we can do. It's, I think, important that this process be able to run smoothly. It's important that people be able to, you know, campaign and have access to polling stations, things like that. So there are elements that we can help with, there are elements we can try to encourage the parties to work out between themselves as well.
QUESTION: Richard, you made a reference a few minutes ago to you've already started conversations with other countries. Would you care to name them? You certainly wouldn't want to let this opportunity pass. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think it's time to start naming them. Assistant Secretary Burns, in Cairo, has attended the funeral. He'll also be staying until tomorrow morning, so he will have some opportunity to meet with others who are in Cairo. I don't have a specific list of meetings, nor is he at the point to lay out too many specifics at this point. But part of the coordination process is talking -- his talking to governments out there.
Certainly, in terms of other countries, on the economic side, we've been working with the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee. In addition, we have regular contact with the Israelis and the Palestinians, also people like the Egyptians. So there are other governments that we're talking to now and we keep in touch with the Europeans as well. So that process is underway and developing, but it's not centered around a particular plan at this point.
Okay, let's go to the back.
QUESTION: Anything to add to the notion of an envoy or a conference?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think the President was pretty clear on both those points. I'll just leave it with that.
QUESTION: Richard, is there any, in the next 60 days, any warnings that you want to give to any of the governments, such as Syria, Iran, or groups such as Hezbollah and others, as well as to media organizations such as Al Jazeera? And do you have any plans to work maybe with the Europeans and UN to block the borders and/or the sea coast to be able to have a viable election?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything special to say like that at this point. I think our views are very, very clear. This is an opportunity, a moment of deep emotion for the Palestinians. It's a moment where we offer them our full sympathies. We understand the way they felt about Chairman Arafat.
It's also a moment when we can all look at how we can continue to move forward. It's a moment when they have been managing a transition process to new leadership, to institutional arrangements. As the President said, part of that is managing it in the direction of more and more democracy and democratic stability for Palestinians and other people in the region alike.
So we certainly want to move in that direction. And those who would oppose more rights for Palestinians, those who would oppose the creation of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state should cease and desist. We need everybody to make efforts to make sure that violence isn't allowed once again to take away the dreams of the Palestinians and disrupt their efforts to create stable institutions and a viable Palestinian state.
So you will hear certainly from the United States again and again of the need for those who engage in violence to undermine the dreams of the Palestinian people to stop it, for governments and others who can control them to control them and make them stop it, and for the Palestinians themselves to control violence in their areas from groups that might be operating there.
QUESTION: Richard, the President talked about improving relations with Europe today and some upcoming travel that he will do after the inauguration. The Secretary talked about his own travel on the plane the other day. From what you've heard from the Europeans since the election, are you optimistic that the second term would be -- would go more productively and smoothly than the first did?
MR. BOUCHER: Even more productively and smoothly than the first did, is what you -- I'm sure that's -- well, I'll phrase it that way. You can say it however you want.
There are many opportunities to coordinate and cooperate with our European friends and allies, and as the Secretary has pointed out in some of his recent interviews, you've seen a lot of cooperation between us, not only on Iraq where we've had, you know, cooperation on unanimous UN resolutions, or NATO involvement and training in Iraq, or support for the United Nations and what they can do in Iraq -- Afghanistan, Bosnia, other areas where we're all involved militarily together to try to bring stability and offer prospects for democracy to those areas.
But you've seen our coordination with many -- with regard to many things in Africa --currently engaged together in Sudan, and so you not only have, you know, the U.S. flying African troops into Sudan and the U.S. putting up some money to support them logistically, but the EU has put up $100 million, substantial contribution, to support the African deployment in Darfur.
And so there are many things of great importance and strategic importance to the United States that we do in cooperation with European friends and allies that go not only in the European sphere but way beyond that.
Second of all, we do have a whole series of meetings coming up with the Europeans where we'll talk about all those areas. We'll look at each of these particular areas that are so much of concern and try to move forward.
And third, the President talked about making his own trip to Europe, and we see that as a further opportunity to move forward.
So I think the areas -- it's not just this area or that area, we want to do this in Iraq, we want to do that in Afghanistan. There are so many places where the U.S. and Europe are cooperating closely together, where we're cooperating and working with the G-8, for example, as well as directly with NATO, the EU and other institutions. And I think by what we do, you will see our relationship, how solid and smooth it can be, and certainly the United States is committed to working with European friends and allies on all these fronts.
QUESTION: It's a question on FYROM. I was told the Department of State, in its School of Foreign Languages, teaches also the so-called, quote Macedonian unquote, language to all the members of the Foreign Service. I am wondering why.
MR. BOUCHER: I, for example, have not taken that course. (Laughter.) I know people who have.
MR. BOUCHER: We teach people languages because they need to do them -- they need these languages to do their jobs, so they can talk to people, so they can be with people, so they can understand people. I think you asked the same question the other day. I really don't have anything more to add to that.
QUESTION: In other words, do you teach also the so-called quote-unquote Macedonian language?
MR. BOUCHER: We teach a lot of different languages. I think probably the course list is available on the web somewhere.
QUESTION: Can you clarify for us, for the record, along with the recognition, do you recognize also quote Macedonian language, ethnicity and citizenship unquote for this tiny country?
MR. BOUCHER: We went through all those questions last Wednesday. I really think I answered them then. I don't have anything more to add.
QUESTION: But there is no answer, so I'm wondering do you --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think we talked about them at the briefing and I'll stand by what I said.
QUESTION: But as you stated November 10th, the Albanians are residents of the new recognized republic and therefore I'm wondering which is the official language they are going to use from now on dealing with the authorities of FYROM.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an answer to that. I don't know.
QUESTION: The Ohrid Agreement you signed also with FYROM is saying specifically that the Albanian language will be also the official one of the new created multiethnic country, therefore which is the other one?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we've discussed all those things last Wednesday. I really don't have anything to add.
QUESTION: Could you please, for the record, tell us chronologically, exactly, when Senator Paul Sarbanes has been informed for the first time about this recognition? And with this opportunity, could you please release the list of all the Greek Americans, prominent leaders, who should be notified by the Department of State, including the date, the time and the name of the U.S. official?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid we went through a lot of that over the last two weeks. I don't have anything to add.
QUESTION: No, no, but you didn't -- you didn't tell exactly whether it was a month ago, three months ago --
MR. BOUCHER: I think I did answer that question.
QUESTION: -- 15 days ago, on the eve of the recognition.
MR. BOUCHER: I answered the chronology of the decision and the notifications at the time. I don't have anything to add.
QUESTION: But it's possible you'll take this question to figure out?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm sorry, I've answered that question. I have nothing to add to it.
QUESTION: Did you see the story this morning about the Secretary and Mr. Armitage intervening on behalf of a staffer at the Embassy in Kuwait who supposedly was verbally and physically abused by Mr. Blackwill? Any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: Did I see the story? Yes.
QUESTION: I did ask a question.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Do you have a follow-up?
QUESTION: Any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Let me say first that these sorts of matters are not things that I can get into in any detail. They involve privacy for individuals, they involve personnel actions, and therefore I can't go into any particular matter that might be reported on this.
I think the one point I would like to make is that the Secretary and Deputy Secretary Armitage take any allegations of abuse, misconduct, threats very, very seriously within our organization. They are committed to the highest standards of leadership and management, and whenever such a thing might occur or be alleged, they make every effort to get to the bottom of it, to make sure that the people who might be affected by it are treated fairly and decently and with all the respect the Department can muster, and that any allegations are looked into thoroughly, and that appropriate information is passed so that action can be taken.
And I have to stop at that because I really can't get into this particular matter.
QUESTION: This morning or yesterday, hard-line Sunni clerics have been arrested, along with 25 others, with weapons caches which are stored in mosques. Do you see any --
MR. BOUCHER: Are you talking about Fallujah or elsewhere?
QUESTION: Well, Fallujah and elsewhere.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you see anything that our government can do, as well as the coalition troops, to ease the pressure between Sunnis and Shiites so there isn't a civil war between them?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the Iraqi Government and the coalition and the American Government, to the extent we've been involved, have made it very, very clear that we want Iraq to be able to have a political system, and the Iraqi interim authority wants Iraq to have a political system where all Iraqis can participate, and that this system needs to be open, for example, in elections, for all Iraqi citizens to participate, and that groups that want to participate in the system politically, groups that want to take advantage of the opportunity of democracy, should be given every opportunity to do that.
And so, indeed, we have worked with Sunni groups. The Government of Iraq has worked with Sunni groups. The Government of Iraq, I think, if you look at the statements Prime Minister Allawi has made for the last several days or going back weeks, really, but particularly in the last several days, he has kept open the political process. He has kept open the opportunity of Sunni groups to participate in the political process, and that dealing with the foreign fighters and the hard-core insurgents that might be in Fallujah is, in fact, one way of creating opportunity for the rest of the people in Fallujah, for the rest of the people in Sunni communities to participate more fully in the political life of the nation, and that people who want to -- Sunnis who want to participate as groups or individually in the politics need to have that opportunity and can't be left under the control of these radical terrorist groups that have been controlling some of these towns.
QUESTION: Yeah. But what further can be done to stop some intimidation, especially we'd like, I suppose, women to be functioning in the new government in many different posts, as well as different ministries in Iraq, or they should, beyond January? How --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I have anything more specifically for you on that. The Iraqi Government, I think, can tell you about the efforts that they're making to ensure human rights for all citizens, including women. That's part of the basic Transitional Administrative Law that Iraq is operating under. We would expect provisions of equal rights, or provisions of human rights, ensuring human rights for all the citizens to be part of an upcoming constitution that needs to be written by the people who are elected in January.
So I think fundamental to the kind of future that we hope Iraqis will have is respect for all their citizens and respect for the rights of all their citizens.
QUESTION: Yes, do you have anything on an American hostage who was shown on an Arab network today? His name is Dean Sadek, or Sadek.
MR. BOUCHER: The embassy -- our embassy, our U.S. embassy in Baghdad has confirmed that an American citizen was abducted in Baghdad yesterday -- no, not yesterday, on Tuesday, November 2nd. Sorry, that goes back awhile. I'm not able to say 100 percent that this is the individual who appeared on television at this point, so we're still looking at that, but the abduction took place November 2nd, which is some 10 days ago now.
We've been in touch with local authorities in Baghdad to see what we can do to ascertain the welfare and whereabouts of the abducted citizens. We're trying to work with Iraqi investigators and provide all possible assistance to them. We are also in touch with the family of an abducted American. We've offered them all possible assistance. And that's about as far as I can go because of privacy considerations and the wishes of the family.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. When you're referring to this person who was abducted on November 2nd, is it this Lebanese-born American citizen, whose name is Sadek, too?
MR. BOUCHER: I cannot go into particular detail at this point of the individual involved.
QUESTION: On FYROM, Mr. Boucher. In the October Country Note on Albania, you finally recognized, thanks God, the Greek minority, there is 10 percent and not 1.17 percent as it was presented in a previous one. Do you know if it would be possible for the U.S. Government to initiate a similar type Ohrid agreement process in order for those Greeks to be in a position to create their own self-rule autonomous entity inside Albania?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know.
QUESTION: Why? Why in the case of FYROM you have taken the initiative to do that?
MR. BOUCHER: If you remember, the Ohrid Agreements were worked out by the people there, the different groups, with help from the European Union and the United States. I don't know if any such process has been initiated or planned in other places. We certainly think that all countries need to provide respect for minorities, respect for the rights of their citizens, all their citizens, but what's appropriate in any particular country is -- has a lot to do with -- it is a decision that those particular countries have to make.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, in the recent days, it was said by a bunch of analysts that this tiny development it's obvious to be rooted in fears that the recognition will aggravate the ethnic Albanian question and destabilize the entire Western Balkans for the creation, quote unquote, of great Albania in order to proceed your own strategic plans, whatever are, in the southeast of Europe.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, I'm --
QUESTION: How do you respond to this?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to deal with a bunch of analysts. I think the facts speak for themselves. The situation speaks for itself. And I've just said, as I've said many times, we think that the decision we made and the outcome in just a short period of time shows it was a decision that contributed to stability.
Okay, we've got other people with other questions.
QUESTION: Those were the --
MR. BOUCHER: The rest of the world is waiting.
QUESTION: Just this question. Are you aware, Mr. Boucher, that Adolphus Hitler was trying to create a great Albania, in quotation, in full cooperation with Albania, a permanent member of the Axis and today is your great ally. How do you explain this phenomenon: Hitler does U.S. foreign policy?
MR. BOUCHER: That's the most grave insult I could imagine and I totally reject it.
QUESTION: It --
MR. BOUCHER: No, we've got a question -- we've got a serious question down here. Sorry.
QUESTION: It is historical event, so --
MR. BOUCHER: No, your accusation that Adolph Hitler decides U.S. foreign policy is very objectionable, highly insulting and totally untrue.
QUESTION: I'm saying, how do you explain this phenomenon?
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Change of subject.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on the situation in the Ivory Coast and did the Embassy reopen?
MR. BOUCHER: The Embassy is open today. The Embassy continues to keep in close touch with the American community. At this point, there are no reports of violence against Americans. The situation on the ground in Abidjan is improving with traffic moving along the streets; however, President Gbagbo has called for a gathering tomorrow at the main soccer stadium in downtown Abidjan with the goal of mourning those killed in recent violence, and we certainly urge and hope that those who attend this gathering will refrain from violence.
The international airport is closed to regular commercial flights as evacuations of foreign nationals continue. In the absence of regular flights, the Embassy is working with other diplomatic missions to secure seats on special charter flights for Americans who wish to depart the country.
I'd note as well we very much support the efforts that South African President Thabo Mbeki has been making with the various parties to the conflict on the basis of the Linas-Marcoussis and Accra III accords. We urge all the political actors to seize this opportunity to restart dialogue and reconciliation.
We also applaud the African Union's initiative with this regard, and particularly meetings planned for Sunday in Abuja, Nigeria, that are being reported in today's press. In conversations with Ivorian officials, we continue to urge the government of Cote D'Ivoire to cooperate with the African Union and to help establish order in the country.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:27 p.m.)
Released on November 12, 2004