State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for November 30
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
November 30, 2004
- Secretary Powell to Travel to Haiti / Meeting with President
- Alexandre and Prime Minister Latortue / U.S. Support for Democracy
- / HIV-AIDS Support Services / President's Emergency Plan /
- Humanitarian Assistance / International Forces in Haiti / Support of Transition
- President Kuchma's Suggestion of New Elections / Peaceful
- Resolution / Working Group Discussions / Strong Support for
- European Mediation / Talks with Presidential Candidates /
- Objection to Separatist Initiatives / Refrain from Force
- Senator Lugar and OSCE Characterization of Elections / Legal Political Process
- Russian Involvement / Working Together
- Satisfactory Solution for All / Supreme Court Inquiry
- UN Security Council Report Regarding Reform / U.S. to Study Report when Released
- Endorsement of Japan for Membership in Security Council
- Embassy Skopje Reopened / Security Reasons
- U.S. Recognition of Macedonia / Consultations with U.S. Lawmakers
- / Support of Macedonia and Current Borders
- U.S. Relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
- / Secretary Powell Participation in ASEAN Meetings
- Burma Membership in ASEAN / U.S. Relationship with Burma / Freeing
- of Political Prisoners and Opening of Political Process
- Recent Release of Political Prisoners / Release of Raul Rivero /
- Exercising of Fundamental Human Rights
- Easing of Pressure from other Countries / Human Rights Situation /
- Continued Pressure on Cuba
- Turkish Truck Driver Security in Iraq
- Red Cross Report on Possible Torture of Guantanamo Bay Detainees /
- Red Cross Access to Prisoners / Establishment of Pentagon Office /
- Receipt of Red Cross Reports / White House Letter Not Condoning Torture of Detainees
- Expulsion of Two Aid Workers / U.S. Dialogue with Sudanese Government
- Full Suspension of Enrichment and Reprocessing Activity / IAEA
- Verification / Report for Not Complying / Carrying Through with Pledges
12:45 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start with one announcement.
Secretary of State of Powell will visit Haiti tomorrow, December 1st. He'll travel to Port-au-Prince, where he will meet with President Boniface Alexandre, Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, other civil and political leaders, and with UN representatives. During the meetings, the Secretary will reiterate U.S. support for the efforts of the Government of Haiti to bring democracy, prosperity and hope to the people of Haiti.
In commemoration of World AIDS Day tomorrow, the Secretary will meet with Haitian youth, who receive and provide HIV/AIDS support services, including peer counseling. In fiscal year 2004, the United States committed $20 million to Haiti, 20 million U.S. dollars to Haiti to support a comprehensive treatment, care and prevention program under the President's Emergency Plan, and we've requested even more money for 2005.
The United States spearheads the effort to relieve poverty in Haiti, making available $46 million in the wake of recent hurricanes and flooding and we've pledged $230 million at the Haiti Donors Conference to assist the people of Haiti in job creation, budget support, technical assistance to government ministries, security improvements, judicial reform, humanitarian assistance, education and elections.
So this is part of the comprehensive U.S. effort to help Haiti recover from its problems of the past, including the recent flooding, and to move forward with Haiti into a more stable and democratic situation for the people of Haiti. That will be a one-day trip. The Secretary will go down in the morning and come back in the evening.
QUESTION: Anything on the status of the UN peacekeepers there, how many there are, and how many they're authorized to have?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to check on the exact figures as we go down. It's not something I checked on today. As you know, the Secretary has had opportunity to discuss in Brazil on his recent trip and then just last week when he was down at APEC to talk with the Chileans about their forces there, their presence there, and the appreciation we had for the contributions that they've made. Where exactly we are in the numbers in terms of the buildup, I'll have to check for you.
QUESTION: And can you check particularly on the -- are there any American soldiers who are part of the mission at this point or did we withdraw entirely from the mission?
MR. BOUCHER: We pulled down our basic force. Whether there might be a miscellaneous few that are in some capacity with the force or not, I'll have to check.
QUESTION: And then two other things on this.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said that the U.S. Government had committed $20 million to Haiti in FY04. Did you actually spend that?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, the questions of accounting, I didn't have a chance to go into it fully. "Committed" means we've found projects and identified things that we're going to do with the money. I don't know exactly how much of that has been disbursed. Some of these things are multiyear and therefore get spent over a period of time.
QUESTION: And you said that -- could you explain, just in really simple terms, what is the purpose of the trip?
MR. BOUCHER: The point is to go down and support the transition that Haiti is making from very difficult political and economic circumstances to a better life for Haitians, and that involves a political transition, including moving to an open political system that reflects the will of all the people of Haiti and provides an outlet for peaceful exercise of political views by all Haitians.
It's a transition to an economic system that brings opportunity to the people of Haiti. And it's a transition out of some very difficult economic circumstances, both ones left over from the past and some of the new tragedies that have occurred in terms of the flooding. And so the United States is helping in all those areas, supporting the government on making the political transition, supporting the economy of Haiti with development assistance and supporting the recovery of Haiti with specific funds to recover from the flooding.
QUESTION: Could we move to Ukraine? The opposition has pulled out of the talks. Do you have an opinion on whether they should have continued the talking, and do you today have any assessment of President Kuchma's suggestion yesterday that perhaps there should be new elections in the country?
MR. BOUCHER: On the -- let me start with the latter part, on President Kuchma's suggestion that there might be new elections. That is certainly something that we do think should be considered and we welcome the fact that he is discussing and entertaining different ideas about how the situation can be resolved peacefully. And that is one that, if the parties can agree on, would certainly be satisfactory to everybody.
On the question of the discussions that have been held, our understanding is there had been some follow-up working group discussions to the last visits of the Polish President and the European Union High Representative and others, and that it was these working group talks that they had found, at least the opposition had said that they were pulling out of. There's going to be a new round of discussions now with the representatives of the European Union and the Polish President himself both going down there in the course of the next day or so. High Representative Solana is heading down there to Kiev today. The Secretary spoke to him this morning about his mission and about our desire to support him in his efforts to find a peaceful, political and legal settlement to the problems of Ukraine.
Second of all, the President, President Bush, spoke this morning with President Kwasniewski and conveyed our strong support for European mediation in that phone call as well. So we're keeping in very close touch at senior levels, also at other levels with the Europeans, as they continue their efforts, and we urge all of the Ukrainian parties to cooperate with them and work with them and look for, as we have said before, a peaceful and political outcome.
I think I described yesterday how the Secretary had talked to President Kuchma and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. In addition to that, yesterday afternoon, Deputy Secretary Armitage spoke to both of the presidential candidates, Mr. Yanukovych and Mr. Yuschenko, again, to encourage both of them to look for peaceful, democratic efforts to resolve all the questions related to the fraudulent election. The Deputy Secretary also conveyed to Prime Minister Yanukovych our strong objections to any separatist initiatives and to urge the government and his supporters to refrain from any use of force.
With Mr. Yuschenko, Mr. Armitage spoke about the importance of continuing the peaceful and orderly nature of the protests and to support the deliberations underway to resolve the crisis.
So the United States is trying to work with the parties in Ukraine, trying to work with the Europeans as they make their efforts, and we're making our own efforts to work with people on the ground to try to encourage a peaceful outcome that respects the legal and political process underway in Ukraine and that results in -- that comes to results that reflect the will of the Ukrainian people, unlike the flawed election that was held.
QUESTION: Did the Deputy Secretary tell the Prime Minister that his victory was a fraud?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the exact language that he used.
QUESTION: You used "fraudulent," I think.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: The reason I think Matt may be interested is that you guys previously have been very careful to say "allegations of fraud" and call for an investigation; now you've just said "fraudulent election." You've reached that conclusion unmistakably that it --
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look back at exactly how we worded it, but I think both Senator Lugar and the OSCE representatives said flat out there was a widespread fraud, and we're accepting those conclusions.
QUESTION: But he definitely conveyed to the Prime Minister the U.S. feeling that his victory is a sham, it's not reflective of the -- that the official results are not reflective of the will of the Ukrainian people?
MR. BOUCHER: The purpose of the phone call was --
QUESTION: But I'd just -- I have a follow-up, too.
MR. BOUCHER: The purpose of the phone call was to talk about how to move forward and how to correct the fraudulent election. Whether he actually referred to it in the phone call as a fraudulent election or not, frankly, I don't know. I wasn't part of it. But certainly that is the premise upon which our actions and the actions of others are based.
QUESTION: Well, the reason I'm asking is because -- do you get the sense that he -- that the Prime Minister accepts the idea --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to characterize the Prime Minister's views. At this point, I think he understands the difficulty of the situation. He certainly understands the need to avoid separatist activities and to try to seek a peaceful outcome. But beyond that, I don't think I can characterize his views in any detail.
QUESTION: Well, yesterday you spoke of how you saw a statement from him saying that he was prepared to accept a revote in certain places.
MR. BOUCHER: Under certain circumstances.
QUESTION: Right. Is that something that you encourage?
MR. BOUCHER: We were just talking about it in terms of the statement that President Kuchma that you guys cited to me yesterday.
QUESTION: But I'm talking about the Armitage call for the Prime Minister.
MR. BOUCHER: Again, the call -- I described the phone call to you. I can't go into every moment, everything that was said in the phone call, except to say that this was the basic thrust of the phone call and this was the goal, was to encourage them to seek a peaceful and political outcome. I don't, frankly, remember if there was any direct reference to a new election or a repeat.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, are you satisfied that both candidates agree on the need for a peaceful, legal and whatever -- peaceful resolution to the crisis --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I can't characterize their personal views. I can say that they say they look for a peaceful outcome. They say they look for a political outcome.
QUESTION: Let me put them in the way that you can answer them. Are you concerned, after these phone calls, that Ukraine is on the brink of catastrophe or bloodbath, or do you think that your mediate -- your intervention and the intervention of the Europeans and everyone else that you just mentioned has a chance of succeeding?
MR. BOUCHER: I can describe for you what happened. I'm not about to go speculating on bloodbaths and things like that. The United States believes that our efforts and the efforts of others offer a way to the parties involved in the Ukraine to find a legal political process that can resolve the issues raised by the election. We believe we are offering them an opportunity. We are encouraging them to take advantage of the opportunity. But that's about as far as I can go, in terms of characterizing what we're doing and not trying to characterize how they will act in the future.
QUESTION: Change subject?
QUESTION: Just one --
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Richard, in the Secretary's call to Minister Lavrov yesterday and in other contacts you've had with the Russians or the Ukraine, have you told them or signaled in any way any impact that their involvement in the election in Ukraine might have on your relationship with Russia?
MR. BOUCHER: The conversations are based on a, I think, a premise that we all want to see a peaceful resolution of these problems in Ukraine, that we all want to see, we and the Russians both want to see an outcome that reflects a peaceful, legal and political process in Ukraine. They're not threatening. They're based on how can we work together, how can we encourage that kind of result.
QUESTION: But clearly, the United States and Western Europe and Russia are not on the same side on this. The Russians have been involved in the campaign without hiding it.
MR. BOUCHER: I would look at -- look carefully at what the Russians have said. I don't want to try to characterize their views, but at least in our conversations with them, they, too, have said that they're looking for a peaceful outcome that rests on Ukrainian legal and political processes.
QUESTION: Richard, if you're able to say that we and the Russians agree on a peaceful outcome to this, why can you not say that we and the two candidates agree on a peaceful --
MR. BOUCHER: I think I phrased what I said about the Russians exactly the same way I phrased it for the two candidates, that they have said that they are looking for a peaceful and political and legal outcome.
QUESTION: If there is a repeat of the second round of voting, do you think that that second round should be -- do you think the repeat should be partial and only in certain parts of the country or full?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's a position that we've taken at this point. We'll see. There are these various ideas out there being discussed. I'm sure the European mediators will discuss them with the parties when they get out there about revoting or partial voting or perhaps other solutions that parties might agree upon. Our hope is that they can use the opportunity presented by the European mediators, the European representatives, to find a solution that's satisfactory for everybody, and that, in the end, will reflect the will of the Ukrainian people.
QUESTION: Richard, how would that will be expressed? Does it have to be approved by the Supreme Court in order for it to reflect the Ukrainian people's view? Does it have to be acceptable to both of the candidates or, you know, if one candidate wants to do a partial and the other wants to do a full, who do you think speaks for the Ukrainian people?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view is that these things need to be worked out by all of them. We'll see where it gets to, where the Europeans can get to, that would be the preferable outcome. I'm not going to try to take a position on judicial or other matters.
QUESTION: What do you mean by "all of them?"
MR. BOUCHER: That, as we've said, we've encouraged all parties, both of the candidates and their supporters, to find a solution that's acceptable to everyone and that results in a reflection of the will of the Ukrainian people. It's not for us to prejudge the legal process that is underway. The Supreme Court in Ukraine is looking at the matters again today. There are political processes underway in the Rada. But rather than take a position on sort of Ukrainian procedures and legal procedures, I think our general attitude is the one that I've expressed to you.
Yes, sir. You had another one, or -- who was changing the subject? I can't remember. You were.
QUESTION: All right. One more on Ukraine. Do you believe that the Russians intervened inappropriately in this process, both before the election and before the runoff?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that today.
Sir. Sir, sorry.
QUESTION: Just going to change the subject.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, you were going to change the subject first.
QUESTION: Yeah, apparently there's a report out today at the United Nations. A working group came up with some proposals to reform the Security Council by expanding the number of countries that would serve on the Security Council, then also serve as Permanent Members. Have you had a chance to see this report?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't believe it's been publicly released yet, has it?
QUESTION: It was leaked yesterday, or late yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, leaked and publicly released are different things. When it's --
QUESTION: It was supposed to be released on Thursday, but -- and because it was leaked it was released today.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Good.
QUESTION: But you had a copy of --
MR. BOUCHER: Our view is that we'll take a look at it. We'll study it carefully. We'll talk to other members of the United Nations, and when we have something to say on it, we'll say it. That's not today.
QUESTION: Well, are you maintaining that you haven't seen the report in this building, it doesn't have a copy?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that.
QUESTION: All right. So you just want to wait until everyone else gets a chance to read it before you start talking about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I said when we have something to say, we'll say it.
QUESTION: Can I rephrase the question by asking, does the United States believe that the Security Council should be expanded?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States believes that we should take a serious look at this report, that it was a very useful effort and contribution to the thinking that's going on about many aspects of reform at the United Nations, and that as we study it we'll talk to other governments involved and concerned about the issues, and when we have something more to say in public we'll say it.
QUESTION: Richard -- well.
QUESTION: Can I stay on this for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Not about the report, but have you given any more thought to who, other than Japan, you might support for Security Council membership?
MR. BOUCHER: That's one of the issues that's raised in the report but, no, we haven't changed our position on it.
QUESTION: So it's still -- Japan is the only country that you support --
MR. BOUCHER: Japan is the only country we've publicly endorsed, yeah.
QUESTION: But you stand by the comments the Secretary made, basically against Germany, in support of Italy and --
MR. BOUCHER: I stand by what the Secretary said, not against your mischaracterization of his comments.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, it wasn't that he said, "We stand by our friends," and specifically referred to UN reform in a meet -- at a dinner at the Italian American --
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't say anything against Germany.
QUESTION: Well, the Italian -- standing with the Italians in this matter means standing against Germany, as you are probably well aware.
MR. BOUCHER: He didn't say anything against Germany.
QUESTION: No, but he said, but you're standing with the --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, he didn't say anything against Germany. Your interpretation is a mischaracterization of what the Secretary said. I'll stand by what the Secretary actually said.
QUESTION: On UN issues, I realize --
MR. BOUCHER: We do have other people who want to ask questions.
QUESTION: I wanted one question. The United States Embassy in Macedonia Skopje has reopened today after a temporary closure of some of its services today. Yesterday you said that locally acquired information referred to a potential threat. Can you elaborate on the specifics and the nature of the threat and if there is any significance about this timing given the recent significant events concerning Macedonia prosperity, the recognition under its constitutional name by the United States and the decentralization referendum?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, the Embassy is open again for normal services today. No, I can't elaborate on the information that we had. It was related solely to security. The Embassy took a chance to look at their security posture and decided it was okay and safe to reopen today. And no, it was not related to any policy decisions that we have made.
QUESTION: When you say it decided it was okay, does that mean that they didn't take any additional security measures?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that doesn't. I don't know if they did or they did not. We normally don't talk about it. But as they review their security posture, often they do take additional measures before they decide to reopen. I just -- I don't know if that happened in this particular case. They look into the information, they look into their security posture, they look into what the host government might be able to do to help them, they decide on any further modifications, and then at the appropriate time they reopen. That happens around the world from time to time.
Okay, what else do we have? Let's start over here. Ma'am.
QUESTION: ASEAN countries and Japan, China and South Korea agreed on having East Asian summit, and traditionally it's the United States didn't like these countries to have these kind of meeting which exclude United States. So what is your position to this East Asian?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had, I think, a very active relationship with ASEAN. I think we put out some information not too long ago about many aspects of our relationship with ASEAN. We work very closely and practically with ASEAN on trade issues, on security issues, on political issues. And so we believe that we have a very strong relationship with ASEAN ourselves. As you know, the Secretary of State has always gone to the ASEAN meetings, the ASEAN PMC meetings, and attaches great importance to his relations with our ASEAN friends.
We don't have any criticism of others who have relationships with ASEAN. We think it's an important organization that needs to play a supportive role, economically and politically, in the region, and so we're -- no, we're not critical of others who might have relations with ASEAN.
QUESTION: Sir, but my question is not about the ASEAN. ASEAN and Japan and China and South Korea have -- so --
MR. BOUCHER: There's an ASEAN Plus Three mechanism they've had for a number of years.
QUESTION: Right. That's --
MR. BOUCHER: We've never criticized it.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you very much.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: On ASEAN.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir. ASEAN.
QUESTION: You go ahead.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: After a meeting has been held today between Presidents Bashar Assad and Egyptian Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh, the Egyptian presidential spokesman said that Syria is prepared to resume negotiations with Israel without prior conditions, and Egypt considers it necessary for Israel to respond alike without prior conditions. Do you have any reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. We've talked before about the prospect of -- our interest in seeing comprehensive peace, our continued interest in seeing comprehensive peace, but I don't have any particular reaction to what two other people said to each other.
Yeah. Matt, you had something on ASEAN?
QUESTION: Yeah. I asked yesterday about what your feelings were, I presume, a strong relationship with ASEAN. You don't -- it includes Burma, and ASEAN's relationship with Burma, yes?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have a strong relationship with Burma. We do talk to ASEAN governments about Burma, though.
QUESTION: Well, what is your reaction to the way ASEAN has chosen to deal with Burma in its recent summit?
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly follow this closely. We think that more attention to the progress of democracy in Burma is appropriate from the nations of the region, and we have certainly been in touch with them in connection with the summit.
I haven't really gotten an extensive analysis of the various things we've done. I know I've seen some comments from ASEAN nations encouraging Burma to free political prisoners and to open a political process again and have a real national and constitutional dialogue, and that certainly goes in the same direction as our views.
QUESTION: Well, as you know, given the way that the ASEAN leadership structure goes, Burma, under its name, its own name, and it calls itself Myanmar, is next up to be the president, or to be the chairman of ASEAN. I realize you can't speak for the next Secretary of State, but will the United States look favorably on sending a Secretary of State to Rangoon?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to predict anything at this point. I'll see if we've taken a position, if we've said anything to the nations involved about their choice of the next presidency country.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have a reaction to the Cuban Government's early release, somewhat early release of dissidents in recent days?
MR. BOUCHER: I talked yesterday about the release of some of the political prisoners -- I think it was a half dozen or so people, and there are certainly rumors of others. The news today was that Mr. Raul Rivero has been released, and certainly, we do, as I said yesterday, join his friends and family, as we did of the other -- the friends and family of other prisoners, in welcoming him back home and the end to his unjust detention.
At the same time, we've pointed out these people never should have been imprisoned in the first place, and that we believe it's important for them and everybody else in Cuba to be able to exercise fundamental human rights that everybody in the world should have to express themselves and to participate in the political process without fear of this kind of imprisonment.
QUESTION: Richard, yesterday on this subject -- if you want to go to someone else on a different subject, that's fine.
MR. BOUCHER: No, go ahead.
QUESTION: You talked about how these releases were the result of pressure from democratic countries -- presumably, that you're not including yourself in there because the Cubans don't really listen to you -- but in theory -- I mean, well, they don't.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, who knows if they react?
QUESTION: They make a great point of saying --
MR. BOUCHER: They make a great point of saying they don't, but --
QUESTION: they don't.
MR. BOUCHER: But we certainly think that our pressure is an important aspect of international --
QUESTION: Right. But the EU, and in particular, Spain, have been credited with -- or at least people appointed to meetings between Cuban authorities and officials from the EU and Spain as a way -- as a focal point in -- or something that sparked these releases. But are you not concerned at all that it was not so much pressure as it was easing of pressure from countries like Spain, which have adopted a somewhat more conciliatory stance towards the Cuban Government in recent months, that it was a result of the --
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at the big picture, first of all, I can't describe this Cuban decision as being the result of any specific nation or upcoming meeting or anything like that. I don't know if the Cubans will say that's why they did it, or this is why they did it or not, and whether they'll be speaking the truth anyway.
But second of all, I think if you look at the overall international situation, you see the Europeans have been, in recent years, partly because of our work with them, a bit more insistent on human rights aspects in Cuba and raising these issues. You've seen a lot of Latin American nations be quite a bit more clear about this. You've seen a number of specific European nations being quite a bit more clear about the human rights situation in Cuba. And we think that all that is an important part of the pressure on the Cuban Government to release these people and to change its system.
Now, we grant that little has changed in Cuba. A few people have been released and we're glad for that, but fundamentally this kind of pressure needs to remain and people need to continue to push Cuba to move.
QUESTION: On FYROM. Mr. Boucher, 70 members of the House of Representatives characterize as counterproductive your policy recognition of FYROM as "Republic of Macedonia" in a letter to the Secretary of State Colin Powell, November 19th. They write in inter alia, "This is more than an issue of a name for the Greek people. As you recall, Mr. Secretary, over 50,000 Greek-Americans attended in May 31st, 1992, memorial service in Washington, for the 40,000 Greek citizens who lost their lives at the hands of people living in what is today FYROM. When the lives were lost, our Secretary of State Edward Stettinius called, 'talk of Macedonian nations as justified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality,' 'and a cloak for aggressive intention against Greece.'"
Similar letter was sent to Secretary of State by 11 senators. How do you respond to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've responded to that specific letter. I think the overall situation, with regards to Macedonia, was explained here many times. As I noted at the time of our announcement, we had consulted with various members of Congress about it and we knew there were differing views on the Hill, and we're always happy to hear from people.
I would note that the decision to call the Republic of Macedonia by that name is not, in any way, a political or historical gesture, or a gesture related to history, nor are we turning our backs on the people who -- nor are we turning our backs on the many people who died in the second World War in this area. It was merely a question of what we thought we should call the nation at this point.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, I noted yesterday that you have an advocate or defender in the Voice of America, namely, George Bistis, the director of the Greek program, who attacked me personally in his dispatch all over the world, based on the way you and I conducted yesterday's dialogue on FYROM.
MR. BOUCHER: They attacked you?
MR. BOUCHER: Really?
QUESTION: George Bistis, correct. It's a free dispatch. In a way, however, that only using the VOA facilities as a propaganda machine, but also as a tool to intimidate me, to disgrace me and to threaten me with the usual motives against the freedom of the press and the right to speak free, keeping in mind, Mr. Boucher, that your greatest president, Thomas Jefferson, said once upon a time, "I prefer a free press than a government." I would like you to comment on that.
MR. BOUCHER: Number one, we agree with Thomas Jefferson. Number two --
QUESTION: Excuse me? Number one, what?
MR. BOUCHER: We agree with Thomas Jefferson.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary of State -- we got the gist.
QUESTION: That's why I quote him.
MR. BOUCHER: We got the gist.
QUESTION: Number two (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Number two is, as you know, I've never criticized the questions that are asked here in the briefing room. I think you all come and you have the right to ask whatever you want. I've always said there are no bad questions, there are just bad answers. So I'll stop at that one. I think that's good enough.
QUESTION: Any answer to my pending questions why your November Background Note on FYROM -- I asked you yesterday -- the authors wrote, "Alexander III ("the Great")? Is there any explanation for that because --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have offered to get you an answer on that one, I'm afraid. That was sort of a level of grammar that I wasn't going to research any further.
QUESTION: Last night you released the following: "The U.S. supports Macedonia's current borders," which means -- and it will speak today. What about in the future borders after a month or a year or three years?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we support Macedonia as it is now within its current borders and we don't -- we're not pressing or encouraging or asking for any change in those borders.
QUESTION: As of today?
MR. BOUCHER: No, for now that is our policy, that our policy for now and in the future is to support Macedonia with its current borders, not to seek any change or forecast any change in those borders.
QUESTION: But taking the example of what happened to Kosovo, you were saying exactly the same when the Albanians moving day by day after the point that they're ready in May 2005 to create an independent Kosovo. So that's why I'm asking you, this policy will be forever or just as we are speaking as of today?
MR. BOUCHER: This is our policy.
MR. BOUCHER: This is our policy, period. Policies aren't dated. That's our policy and that's the way we see the situation with Macedonia, for now and for the future.
QUESTION: In the state --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's --
QUESTION: In the same statement you are saying yesterday, "The person of the Country Background Note referred to today's briefings is the history section which describes the situation in Macedonia thousands of years ago," but you have not clarified the Greek or Hellenic character of that area. And I'm wondering why. Could you please, for the record, in order to correct the history, clarify that Alexander the Great was Greek from Macedonian territory and that Macedonians would speak in Greek because they were Greek nationals and they speak the Greek language? And the authors did not mention anything to this effect, the Greekness of the ancient Macedonia, since the entire history, Mr. Boucher, including Macedonia, were written in stones in Greek language and the stones are remained in (inaudible). I would like you to comment.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: And why not?
MR. BOUCHER: I -- really, I don't want to make light of this, but I don't think we're here to talk about the situation as it existed thousands of years ago. If you want to know current policy, I think we explained current policy.
QUESTION: Why then you released this document, two pages, did you write those stuff?
MR. BOUCHER: In two pages, you can't explain the entire history of a region or an ethnic group or a nationality or a language. I'm going to stand with what we've written, stand with what I said, but I don't think it requires further explanation from me.
QUESTION: But you don't have any --
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry.
QUESTION: -- prior policy --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it requires further explanation from here.
MR. BOUCHER: Our current policy on those questions, you and I have discussed many times here. I think it's been adequately explained.
QUESTION: Is there anything new of agreement on the negotiations, recent negotiations between Turkey and the United States about the truck drivers' security in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on the subject. Certainly we've expressed our concerns about the situation. We've been in close touch with the Turkish Government. We have active liaison between our people in the field. We certainly hope that Turkish truck drivers can continue to do their work and do it safely.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the demonstration in Beirut against UN Resolution 1559?
MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't aware of that. No, I don't have anything on it.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on published reports today about the ICRC and Guantanamo involving possible torture of suspected terror suspects?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I'm not going to be in a position to quote from those reports or to explain further what might have appeared in the press. The one thing I would tell you is that we think we have an active and good relationship with the Red Cross. The Pentagon talks to them all the time about issues involving the prisoners at Guantanamo. They have frequent visits there. They have regular visits to Guantanamo and they have regular access, including private access, to various prisoners, to the prisoners who are down there.
So we certainly value their monitoring and we have, as I said, a very active discussion ongoing with them about the conditions for people at Guantanamo. We take their reports very, very seriously. I think they, themselves, have noted the establishment of an office at the Pentagon of Detainees Affairs, which is in regular touch with them concerning the welfare and the situation of detainees.
We have said before that we think that the detainees there are kept -- held in humane conditions that take into account the various security and other problems that these prisoners might present but that they are treated humanely and in accordance with standard international -- with relevant international practice.
You'll have to get any more detail from the Pentagon on the practices under which they are held, but I just want to say we do have an active and we think useful dialogue with the ICRC. We value very much things they raise for us in their reports and we will -- we respond to them in various ways through this dialogue.
QUESTION: And you have received -- State Department lawyers here have received these confidential reports, right?
MR. BOUCHER: We receive regularly Red Cross reports. I don't think I'm in a position to point to a particular one.
QUESTION: Can you address more particularly the question of whether the U.S. Government does or does not, as a matter of policy, condone the torture of detainees in its custody?
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly do not condone the torture of detainees in our custody, and that is something that's been expressed, I think, many times before. There is, I think, a fairly authoritative letter from the White House a while back on that subject.
QUESTION: Taiwan's President Chen has responded to your call to explain his position on referendum and the new constitution. By saying that he is sticking to all his pledges and he is following constitutional procedures. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. We saw the statement. Certainly, we expressed our view that those pledges that he had made were very important and that we continue to hold to them, and we certainly welcome any comments that say he does hold to them and he's not going to undertake any actions that would contradict them.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Matt.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: No, we've got some more.
QUESTION: Going back to my UN question, this is a bit old. Last week, the Third Committee rejected or refused to -- well, they actually adopted no action motions, I guess, on two U.S.-supported resolutions critical, one, of Sudan and one on Zimbabwe, and Ambassador Danforth at the time used this, especially the Sudan, the failure of the Sudan resolution to question the utility of the General Assembly.
I'm just wondering if you've combined the two together, Zimbabwe and Sudan, the failure of both. Are there any ramifications at all for this in terms of U.S. policy and how the U.S. is going to deal with Third Committee in the UN, particularly on human rights issues?
MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, it's not an issue I've looked at that carefully. I'd have to look for it for you.
QUESTION: All right. Do you know if, you -- yesterday you said that you thought a U.S. official or that the United States somehow was going to be pressing the Sudanese on these two aid workers. Do you know if that -- they appear now to have rescinded their expulsion. Do you now know if there was any U.S. pressure directly on --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the United States Government and various other governments, through our embassies in Khartoum, spoke directly to members of the Sudan Government, expressed our view that the reports of expulsion of the directors of two important humanitarian aid organizations, that that was contradictory to the kind of policy we'd encourage the Government of Sudan to take, and indeed the kind of commitments they'd made on humanitarian access.
Our understanding at this moment is the Sudan Government has said it suspended for further review its earlier expulsion of Oxfam and Save the Children country directors, and we'll continue to follow up on this matter with them to make sure that this is the final word.
QUESTION: Okay. And you were asked about the Lebanon demonstration. You said you didn't know anything about it. Well, some people in the building must know about it because --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure. We know everything. It's just I don't.
QUESTION: I'd like to ask about another demonstration. On Sunday, the day before you announced that the Secretary would be heading up the U.S. delegation to the Forum for the Future conference in Rabat, there was a massive demonstration in Morocco against this, against the meeting. Do you have any -- there were hundreds of thousands of people there all protesting, saying that the Moroccans shouldn't host it. Was that noted at all, do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't know. As you mentioned, I'm sure there were people around here that know more about it than I do and probably did note it.
QUESTION: Just one last one on Iran. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator has been crowing about what he describes as the great Iranian victory over the United States at the IAEA and in particular he says that Iran has never given up, has not relinquished its right to the full nuclear fuel cycle and never will do so, and he also says that the length of the suspension of their activities will only be for the time that they're negotiating with the Europeans, not too long, we're talking about months, not years. Any comment on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that there have been a variety of statements out of the Iranians. The only thing that matters is performance. The Iranians are now on the hook for performance for a full suspension of all enrichment and reprocessing activities and for allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify that full suspension.
It's also clearly noted in the report -- in the resolution that we agreed to yesterday that should they not honor that full suspension or break with it at any point in the future, the Director General of the IAEA should report to the Board and the Board should consider what further action to take.
So our view is that Iran is very specifically on the hook to carry through with its pledges and its promises now, and as you know, our view has always been that the only way for Iran really to satisfy the concerns about -- that many people in the world now share -- about Iran's nuclear intentions is for them to engage in a complete cessation of all enrichment and reprocessing activities and to run any power plants on a closed fuel cycle.
QUESTION: Do you agree with Mr. Rohani's characterization of what happened yesterday as an Iranian victory?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: You don't?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Is it not correct that you did not -- is it correct that you, in fact, did not get your wish to have this referred to the UN Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: I believe we had that discussion yesterday. I'll stand by what I said yesterday.
QUESTION: You're not going to accuse Mr. Rohani, though, of taking the negative view of the situation?
MR. BOUCHER: I expect him to take a jaundiced, prejudiced and counterfactual view of the situation. I may not expect that from all my friends.
QUESTION: You seem to feel quite positive about the whole thing, but --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)
DPB # 195