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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for November 16

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for November 16

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 16, 2004


- Upcoming Travel of Secretary Powell
- Nomination of Dr. Condoleezza Rice as 66th Secretary of State
- Foreign Policy in President Bush's Second Term
- Resignation of Deputy Secretary Armitage / Other Resignations

- Travel of Secretary Powell to Israel and the Palestinian
- Territories / Goals
- Palestinian Presidential Elections, Leadership & Economy
- U.S. Support for Efforts to End Violence and Terror
- Israeli Revenue Payments to the Palestinian Authority
- U.S. Assistance to the Palestinians

- Query Regarding Meetings with Iranian Officials in Sharm El Sheikh
- Suspension of Uranium Enrichment-Related and Reprocessing
- Activities / Implementation, Verification & Sustainability

- U.S.-Georgia Bilateral Relationship / Cooperation
- U.S. Support for Georgia's Aspirations in the Transatlantic Community

- President Roh's Comments on North Korea's Nuclear Program


1:05 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: All right. I feel like Paul Harvey again today: We're here for the rest of the story -- not the main news, but -- Anyway. Page two.

I have one announcement I'd like to make and that is about the Secretary's travel. Secretary of State Powell will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories on November 21st and 22nd, before traveling on to the Iraq Neighbors Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The Secretary will meet with Israeli officials and the new Palestinian leadership to discuss how, during this period of transition, we can move forward towards peace and realize shared goals of the President's vision of two states living side by side in peace and security.

The Secretary also looks forward to meeting with his Quartet counterparts in Sharm el-Sheikh. During his visit, the Secretary will discuss upcoming Palestinian presidential elections, how the parties can support this essential step in helping a new Palestinian leadership emerge that is committed to democratic reforms, transparency in government, restoration of law and order and fighting terror. He'll also look for ways to revitalize the Palestinian economy and consult on how to ensure implementation of the Israeli plan to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in a way that advances the roadmap and the two-state vision.

This is an important moment for the Palestinian people, for Israel and for the region. The United States is ready to support fully Palestinians and Israelis in their efforts to end violence and terror and to realize the President's vision of two states living side by side in peace and security.

So with that, I'd be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Well, is he going from the APEC meeting? From Chile?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. He'll come from -- he'll leave the APEC meeting on his -- and go to Israel, and then go on to Sharm, Sharm el-Sheikh, for the meetings there.

Yeah. Saul.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary ask Foreign Minister Shalom, or will he ask officials in Israel to allow Palestinians to vote in Jerusalem, more than just a mail-in vote, but actually having counting booths and everything?

MR. BOUCHER: That is certainly an issue that's in the air. There are a number of issues where everybody needs to look at what they can do to help facilitate this election. And I'm sure that issue will come up and be discussed with both sides. I don't have anything more to say at this point. It did come up, I think, with Foreign Minister Shalom, not in a big way, but it's something that needs to be discussed further as we approach a Palestinian election.

QUESTION: Richard, did the Secretary yesterday or with Foreign Minister Shalom, or would you expect him to on this trip, to raise the issue of Israeli payments of, I think, tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority? And do you believe that those have been done in a timely and a complete manner in recent months?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an update on the flow of payments. As you know, the United States was instrumental in helping resume those payments in the last year or two and trying to keep them going, and also to make sure that they're properly accounted for so that everybody who was transferring money to the Palestinian Authority was confident of what it was being used for.

And so Palestinian accounting systems have improved dramatically and transparency has improved dramatically in recent years. But I don't know exactly where the flow stands now in terms of the turnover of revenues but it remains an important issue to us and I just can't tell you for sure that it will be taken up because I don't know if there is a problem in that area right now.

QUESTION: It didn't come up yesterday, obviously?

MR. BOUCHER: No, it didn't come up yesterday.

Yeah. Elise.

QUESTION: I'm sorry if you just touched upon this. But has there been any talk about giving more U.S. aid directly to the Palestinians?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, there is no -- nothing new on that score.

QUESTION: Well, what is the current status -- that it doesn't go to the authority?

MR. BOUCHER: The current status is that, well, our assistance goes to the United Nations Refugees and Works Agency and it goes to nongovernmental organizations who carry out projects to help improve life for the Palestinians. We, last year, gave a certain amount of money directly to the Palestinian Authority for their projects. We haven't done that this year.

Yeah. Said.

QUESTION: Richard, I know you said that you are discussing this with the Israelis, but is there a feeling one way or another on the issue of elections, direct elections for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem by the Department? Is there a position?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I've been asked three times about the same question. We were asked about it yesterday at the stakeout. Nothing has advanced since then.

QUESTION: Is there a position, does State have a position on it?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we've -- I've answered the question twice. We answered it yesterday at the stakeout. I just don't have anything new today.

Yeah. Adi.

QUESTION: If you start giving direct funding again to the Palestinians, would you have to get congressional authorization first?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the law is on that, but certainly that's a hypothetical at this point and I wouldn't want to speculate.

Yeah. Joel.

QUESTION: Richard, Interim PA Chairman Abbas is trying to negotiate with the various terrorist or militant factions such as Fatah, Hamas and other type similar groups. Isn't that a -- the whole idea of trying to negotiate with them to maybe bring them into the government, that might be realistic, but isn't your whole premise the whole year, year and a half, to just put them out of business? And should he be negotiating with them?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not familiar with exactly what he may be negotiating. As you know, people have looked for ceasefires and other such things in the past. We have always said it's better to have people adopt and respect a ceasefire than to continue bombing and shooting. But that doesn't solve the problem. The solution to the problem is to put the groups that engage in terror and violence out of business. That remains our view. The Palestinian Authority needs to get its -- needs to get in a position to stop the violence and stop the groups that carry out the violence.

QUESTION: Will the Secretary meet in Sharm el-Sheikh the Iranian Foreign Minister or the Syrian Foreign Minister?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific plan of bilateral meetings. What the Secretary said before about the Iranian Foreign Minister is they do expect to be in the same room at the same meeting and across the table at the general conference, and the discussions. We'll be able to say our piece and hear what they have to say. That's all that's planned at this moment. I don't have any expectation of anything else.


QUESTION: On Iran. You have always emphasized that it is important to verify that anything that Iran agreed to regarding the suspension of its uranium. They seem to be saying they will do the suspension, but only close to the date of the next Board meeting, so it doesn't seem to give you time to do any verification. Does that concern you?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we'll have to see where we are at that moment. It is very important not only that Iran reach agreement and make promises, as they have, but that the International Atomic Energy Agency be able to verify the suspension, particularly the suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. The proof of any agreement is its implementation, and we want to see that the Director General is able to report to the IAEA Board that this step and others are being implemented at the time of the meeting.

So we would encourage all parties to get on with this work. We have -- looking for the report that the Director General will be able to give us at the time of the meeting, and it is very important that he be able to report that the Agency has begun to verify the suspension.

QUESTION: Have you gotten a detailed readout on the --

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we've heard more from the Europeans. We had a visit yesterday from some people from their embassies in Washington, the EU-3. We've talked to people in capitals. We've also talked to people in Vienna. I think you may have all seen the agreement that they reached with Iran; it's on the web.

But as I said, this is a useful step, and we all know the Europeans have gone out, as they said they would, after the G-8, reached an agreement on what was necessary for Iran to build confidence in the world that they were not developing a nuclear weapon, so they went out and they pursued this with Iran. The Iranians have said they agree now to a suspension of all reprocessing activities and enrichment activities, but it remains to be verified and reported, and that's what we're really looking for.

QUESTION: So why is it a useful step?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, sort of based on the premise, better to have somebody agree to something than not agree to something, but it really doesn't make a difference until it's implemented and verified, and that's what counts.

QUESTION: And do you have any -- just one last one on this. I mean, even though the people who agreed to it have often broken their word?

MR. BOUCHER: That's why in this case; even more one would say that verification and sustainability are the two most important aspects of this because we have seen agreements before where Iran has made promises that weren't kept. Iran has a whole history of what's been reported to the Board previously, 18 years of covert activities that were not disclosed. So it is very important that this be, as I said -- that it be verified and that it be sustained over time.

QUESTION: Are you -- I'm sorry, I did say that was the last one, but one more occurred to me on this.


QUESTION: Are you troubled at the prospect that this agreement may undercut what has been your longstanding position that you'd want to refer Iran to the Security Council at the next Board meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: We still think that there is a solid basis for that. We'll see where other people are when we get to the meeting. But I think it's important to remember that this is the seventh report now that the Secretary General is providing us on Iran's activities, that they have documented in the previous six reports Iranian breaches of its obligations and its commitments. That remains the case, and it is important for everybody to remember that. Whether people will be ready to refer things or move forward in that direction, we'll have to see when we get to the meeting. And that, one has to say, depends first and foremost on whether Iran is implementing these commitments and suspending all activity in a verifiable way.

Others? Nicholas.

QUESTION: New subject? Richard, in past Administrations, it has been sort of a tradition for the outgoing Cabinet Secretary to be present when the new one is named. Was it the President's decision today or the Secretary's for him not to attend the nomination of Dr. Rice?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that's necessarily been the case, frankly. I haven't researched it. I think that may be an overgeneralization. I don't know how the schedules were decided today. I think it's important to make clear that Secretary Powell certainly very much welcomes the announcement of Dr. Rice. He's known her, worked with her for many, many years, and they've been, you know, worked very well together.

He looks forward to the transition, to having a very, very smooth transition here, and we all look forward to helping her implement the President's policies.

QUESTION: Do you know if he has spoken with her since his resignation was announced yesterday?

MR. BOUCHER: He talks to her 20 times a day, and the answer has to be yes, although I wouldn't cite any particular phone call.

QUESTION: You don't know why he did not attend?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not even sure why you would expect him to have attended, so I'd --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Christopher did.

QUESTION: When Madam Secretary --

MR. BOUCHER: It goes back a ways.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) transition.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I would maybe not expect this Administration to meet the requirements of the previous Administration, but rather, maybe look at what the general practice might have been in this Administration. I don't know. But I'm not quite sure that's the standard by which all future Secretaries of State should be measured. I think they can probably go back a little farther in time and find Secretaries who did not attend the swearing in of their successors.

QUESTION: In the Secretary's interview with --

MR. BOUCHER: Or the announcement.


QUESTION: In the Secretary's interview with the Financial Times last week, he said that this election gave the President a mandate to pursue an aggressive foreign policy. Could you expand on those comments? Do you think that the foreign policy in this next Administration will go along the lines as it has been, or do you expect a more aggressive foreign policy?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, look at what the Secretary said in subsequent follow-up questions about -- along the same lines as yours. Second of all, this has been a very active foreign policy, an aggressive foreign policy in terms of promoting freedom, promoting diplomacy, promoting the war against terror, and those things will certainly continue. The President's made that very clear in his speeches and his reelection campaign, and all of us I think look forward to having a very active foreign policy, an aggressive foreign policy that promotes freedom that makes America safer and that helps other nations achieve their goals of peace and prosperity.

Yeah. Sir.

QUESTION: Richard, where -- question, change of subject. Have you heard from the Russian Government at all? There was a reconnaissance plane -- it's typically a question I guess you'd want coming from the Pentagon, but the problems in Georgia and associated with infiltration with all types of weaponry coming south into Iraq and Afghanistan criminally --

MR. BOUCHER: Hang on. Where is the reconnaissance plane?

QUESTION: It was turned back over several -- yesterday in the reports or in the media, wire service.

MR. BOUCHER: In what part of the world? In Georgia, near Georgia, in Russia?

QUESTION: Right, right.

MR. BOUCHER: And it was criminally on its way to Iraq?

QUESTION: No, no, no, no, no.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm getting a little confused here.

QUESTION: Our reconnaissance planes.

MR. BOUCHER: If it's an airplane that belongs to the United States Government, I think you'd have to check with the Pentagon.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Sir.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question about Georgia?

MR. BOUCHER: Anything you want.

QUESTION: What can you say after a year of Georgia's Velvet Revolution, how progressive was the development in this country since the new political team came to power?

MR. BOUCHER: It's not our habit to assess foreign governments at one year, or two years, or five years. Foreign governments, particularly in democracies, are responsible to their voters. We've certainly worked very well with the government of President Saakashvili in Georgia. We certainly look forward to continuing to work him and with the government on the many things they have underway, where we're working to help them with economic development, the fight against corruption and securing Georgia's borders and Georgia's territory, which we think is important for them, as well as for their neighbors and the whole region.

QUESTION: Recently, NATO approved Georgia's individual partnership action plan. So how Washington is going to help Georgia in this process?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, we've been very supportive of Georgia's aspirations in terms of the transatlantic community and we'll certainly work with them and support them on that.

Yeah. Sir.

QUESTION: During his visit to Los Angeles, Mr. Roh Moo-hyun, the South Korean President, has said he thinks there is some truth in North Koreans' assertion that they have new kind missile for their own self-defense. At first he said is this reasonable for them to have such a assertion, but, and after that he changed it into kind of there is some truth. But it sounds very different from American view that North Korean nuclear program cannot be accepted or allowed. So do you have any comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look more carefully at the speech. We'll try to get you something later.

Yeah. Sir.

QUESTION: A small one. Have other senior State Department officials, including Deputy Secretary Armitage, Under Secretary Grossman, Assistant Secretary Kelly, made known plans to step down?

QUESTION: Or Under Secretary Green?

MR. BOUCHER: Deputy Secretary Armitage has submitted his letter of resignation to be effective along with the Secretary's when the successor to the -- when the new Secretary of State is confirmed. As far as the other people, frankly, I don't know. There's not been a general request for everybody to write a letter of resignation. People, I suppose, are making their own individual plans, and as those are fit to announce, we'll try to make them available to you. But at this point, I haven't done a general census of where people stand or gone through the phone book.

QUESTION: Could you check on those two, Grossman and Kelly?

MR. BOUCHER: I will.

QUESTION: And Grant Green?

MR. BOUCHER: (Laughter.) All right, we'll see. Let me also think about how to make this a slightly more orderly process than having you throw out names in the briefing and then us going to check on them. So let's see if there's something I can do, but I will check on those three. And when there's something to say on them or others, we'll try to find a more orderly way to tell you.


(The briefing was concluded at 1:22 p.m.)



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