State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 3
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 3
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
December 3, 2004
- Senior AFP Correspondent Matt Lee Departure
- Rwanda Troops Operating in Eastern Congo / Opposition to
- Unilateral Military Actions / Ministerial Meetings / Consultations
- in Kigali and Kinshasa / DAS Yamamoto Meetings / Tripartite
- Agreement / Secretary Powell Meeting with President Obasanjo
- Possible Visit by Secretary Powell to Nairobi / Sudan Peace Talks
- Supreme Court Annulling Election Results / Hope for Prompt and
- Equitable Solution / Election Marked by Fraud / Ukrainian Formula
- by Ukrainian People U.S. Assistance to Democracy Fund / Work of
- the Election Commission / Assistance from International Community
- / Contact Through Embassies / Non-Binding Resolution / Troop
- Contribution in Iraq
- Sale of F-16s
- Fighting Terrorism / al-Qaida Remnants
- Withdraw Commitments from South Waziristan
- EU Arms Embargo
- Assembly Confirmation of Rugova Reelection / Support for
- Visit of President
- Visit of Palestinian Finance Minster Fayyad
- Anti-Mine Conference in Nairobi / Ottawa Treaty / Decision Not to Join
- Border with Eritrea
12:50 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Before I begin, I would like to note that my understanding is this is the last briefing that will be attended by our senior AFP correspondent, Mr. Matt Lee, and I just want to thank him for all the years that he's been with us and for all the questions that he's put. We've always admired his inquisitiveness, which we note comes from the same root as the word "inquisition."
But I think you've been a major contributor to the dialogue in this room, Matt, and we really appreciate it, and also appreciate your service as head of the Correspondents' Association. We've been able to work very well together on some fairly complicated issues of airplanes and seats and lots of other stuff.
So thank you very much. We look forward to having you on our trip next week, and wish you well beyond that.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. And I should also note that Arshad here has been elected the new President of the Correspondents' Association --
MR. BOUCHER: Is that right?
QUESTION: -- in a slightly less than Ukrainian-style election.
MR. BOUCHER: I certainly hope it was free, fair and open, the election.
QUESTION: Indeed, it was, although --
QUESTION: Low turnout. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: How many candidates were there? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And if I could just also say, Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: Congratulations.
QUESTION: I appreciate your comments, and I wanted to say something. I have admired for some time your ability to thwart attempts by me and others to turn public diplomacy discourse into bombast and invective. So thank you.
QUESTION: There's one last chance today.
MR. BOUCHER: But we do have a statement today, speaking of bombast and invective. (Laughter.)
So let's -- anyway, thank you, Matt, and let's move into the heart of the matter.
I do want to say -- I won't read the whole thing. We have a written statement for you on the situation in Congo with the reports that the Rwandan units might be operating in eastern Congo. These reports are raising profound concerns here in Washington and, as you all know, they were discussed yesterday in New York.
While we don't have confirmation of large-scale Rwandan troop movements into Congo, we do want to state unequivocally that we are opposed to unilateral military actions that are contrary to the numerous agreements signed by the parties and contrary to the Security Council resolutions passed over the last five years.
We do share Rwanda's concern about the threat that's posed by armed groups in eastern Congo. For several months, we have been working on regular meetings at the ministerial level between the various countries to resolve their differences, and that process is going to continue in coming days with consultations in Kigali and Kinshasa.
Our Deputy Assistant Secretary from the Bureau of African Affairs, Mr. Don Yamamoto, will be in the region soon working on the tripartite agreement that was signed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, and we'll be urging the parties to solve their differences in a peaceful manner.
I'd also note that the situation in Rwanda was a matter that was discussed yesterday between the Secretary and the Nigerian President Obasanjo, and that they are both looking for ways to encourage the parties to avoid fighting and to abide by the agreements to resolve this peacefully.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that real quick?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: You said you don't have confirmation of large-scale movements of Rwandan troops into Congo. Do you have confirmation of small- or medium-scale troop movements?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at the information that the UN was able to provide, for example, yesterday at the debate, that there were some troops from Rwanda, in fact, spotted in eastern Congo, but I think for the moment they've only confirmed at one point that there were maybe a hundred, perhaps more.
So we don't have any kind of detailed information on how many and what they might have been doing and where they are now.
QUESTION: Richard, on Mr. Yamamoto's visit, I understand he's actually beginning his trip in Eritrea today.
MR. BOUCHER: Is that right? He's making a stop some -- yeah.
QUESTION: Oh, well, maybe then he'll find his flight -- but maybe you could out if -- when exactly he expects to be in Kigali --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay
QUESTION: -- so that we could alert people there.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, soon. But we'll find out --
QUESTION: If he's not there today, then he may be there tomorrow.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we'll find out about that.
Okay. Can we give Mr. Lee the next question, the Kenyan Motor Sports Federation election, or something like that?
QUESTION: Well, I was going to ask you about that. Apparently, you revoked a visa of some Kenyan parliament -- a member of parliament or a minister, for corruption, but I won't ask about that. It's a bit too provincial.
MR. BOUCHER: There is an election in the Kenyan Motor Sports Federation tomorrow, and we wanted -- following it closely. We want it to be free and fair.
QUESTION: My second question was, it's going to be -- perhaps, the Secretary, before he departs, might stop by Nairobi, if and when the Sudanese -- I notice the Sudanese are supposed to -- have yet again promised a December 31st peace. Would the Secretary be interested in visited there in January?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see how things develop. As you know, during the -- when the UN session was held in Nairobi just last week -- last week? -- two weeks ago -- recently -- the parties signed a commitment to try to finalize their agreements, finish the work by December 31st. And we certainly think that's a very important effort. We will be working with them in that regard.
The talks there recessed at the higher level. There were technical talks last week in Nairobi. Now Sudanese Vice President Taha and Chairman Garang are expected to return on Monday, on the 6th of December. We have a senior representative from our Bureau of African Affairs who is going out to attend the talks. They have worked out six protocols with only a few details remaining, including that of the financing of the Sudan's Peoples Liberation Movement and Army, so we remain optimistic concerning the signing of a declaration.
QUESTION: Well, then perhaps I'll see you in Nairobi in January.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see. But as far as predicting any particular travel, let's see first how the peace talks develop. We hope that they do conclude.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: And we'll do what's appropriate after that.
QUESTION: Now --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) correspondents attend briefings?
QUESTION: As a follow up, that December 31st date you referred to was this coming December 31st, not last December 31st?
MR. BOUCHER: It was this -- in this particular case, it was the --
QUESTION: Do I recall correctly there was a similar commitment last year?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, there was a similar commitment last year for December 31st, and I think they eventually got there. Let's put it that way.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. BOUCHER: We're certainly hopeful that this can be done based on their commitment to do it this time by December 31st.
MR. BOUCHER: If I could move to perhaps just the larger news of the day, which is the Ukraine election and the supreme court decision there. Do you have any -- what's the U.S. view on the decision by the court to call for a new recount, or a new second round, a new runoff round?
MR. BOUCHER: A new runoff. We welcome the decision by the Supreme Court annulling the results of the November21st vote due to evidence of widespread irregularities and fraud. We're currently studying all aspect of the court decision. What is important now is to move ahead quickly, as called for by the supreme court, to ensure a new vote that is fair, free and that results in an outcome that reflects the will of the Ukrainian people.
We hope all parties will support a prompt and equitable solution. Fundamentally, it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide the way forward. We call on the parties to work together within the framework that was agreed in the roundtable discussions now that the supreme court has ruled.
QUESTION: Do you agree with not only their intervening, but do you agree with their prescription?
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly agree with the decision that the results that the last round was marked by significant fraud and that, therefore, can't be upheld as a fair result. It's up to the Ukrainians, people, Ukrainian institutions to decide these matters and we welcome the fact that they have decided and have specified a way of correcting the problem.
We have always emphasized these choices need to be made by Ukrainian people and through their own legal and political process. We now have -- the supreme court has made its decisions. The Rada has things -- work that it has to do. And ultimately, the Ukrainian people have to be given the right to decide their leaders.
QUESTION: But you're not particularly endorsing a formula, but you're endorsing the fact, the process that produced a formula as being reflective of the people's wishes. Is that fair?
MR. BOUCHER: We have no problem with this formula.
QUESTION: You have no problem with it?
MR. BOUCHER: This is -- we've recognized this as one of the possibilities, certainly one that would be satisfactory, we think. But the point that I'm trying to make is it's not our formula; it's the Ukrainian formula.
What we have wanted all along is for Ukrainian institutions, for Ukrainian people, to be able to decide how to resolve the turmoil, how to move forward, how to have -- who to have as their future leaders, and that's what we've wanted. That's all we've wanted. And that is what is happening.
QUESTION: Well, not to mean, but, you know, it's been suggested to have a brand new election would not be entirely fair to all the contender -- to the two contenders -- one of the two contenders. It's extremely expensive, his resources would run out, so --
MR. BOUCHER: But that's not what the court decided. The court decided to redo the runoff.
QUESTION: No, I realize that. All right. That's probably no longer relevant.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. So that's water over the dam.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just to be perfectly clear, though, you said you have no problem with the prescription; i.e. a new runoff that they have suggested. But you're going out of your way not to explicitly endorse or say that you back that particular prescription. Correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- it may be too fine a point. I'm not trying to distance us from this particular solution. This is a fine solution. What makes it a fine solution is that it was decided by Ukrainian judges, that it's part of the Ukrainian legal and political process. That's what makes it a good solution. It's good for them, it's good for us.
QUESTION: So you're not going to say that you think that this should be the solution?
MR. BOUCHER: We do, because it was the solution decided by Ukrainian institutions. That should be the solution.
QUESTION: Okay. No, I'm sorry if -- I didn't -- it just wasn't clear and I thought you were trying to avoid saying that. Okay. So you think there should be a runoff because that's what they decided?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, because that's what they decided.
QUESTION: Can I ask you something that's a little bit tangential but someone in our office is terribly interested in it? The U.S. has contributed through a democracy fund to Ukraine, to Ukrainian institutions, et cetera. Can you speak to whether the money has been -- has fallen particularly into the -- I don't want to say pockets as if there's something wrong with it -- has gone particularly to a pro-Western candidates --
MR. BOUCHER: Our money doesn't go to candidates. It goes to the process, the institutions that it takes to run a free and fair election, so we do not fund candidates.
MR. BOUCHER: And we build institutions of democracy. We build electoral institutions. We do education. Training programs are open to all political parties, and so we don't fund particular candidates in this election or any other.
QUESTION: And that's not the intention?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not the intention. It's not the fact.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, Michelle.
QUESTION: Can we talk about what you plan to do to prepare for this runoff? I mean, the last election, there was all sorts of fraud, ballot stuffing. There were monitors all over the place. Are you going to send, you know, five times as many monitors or more money?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see. I think the first things that will have to happen is that, again, Ukrainian institutions have to deal with the matters. The courts decided, the Rada has work to do. I'm sure the Election Commission has work to do, and many others, and obviously it's the -- ultimately, the Ukrainian people who have a right to control and decide this process.
What we can do to help from the outside, the Europeans will try to continue to help this process through the roundtable, the experts roundtable that the parties agreed upon. We will certainly do what we can. But, no, I don't have any particular plans at this point. We'll have to see a few more decisions from their side in terms of timing and how its conducted, and then have to see what help we and others might be able to provide to the process, if it's appropriate.
QUESTION: Now you said that the money is going to institutions and not towards any particular candidate. But is it safe to assume that a lot of that money went into sort of -- or was there an extraordinary effort to spend that money or to add -- inject more energy into exposing the fraud that occurred in there?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think we're really talking about programs that are largely concentrated before the election, that's concentrated on programs designed to help them have a free and fair election, and therefore, you know, that -- and they're open to all political parties. So it's education, it's polling assistance, monitoring assistance, just these are things we do around the world. I don't have a full list of projects that might have been carried out there. But I think the money was really concentrated. The money goes before the election to try to help build the structures that can ensure a free election.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary been talking to his Ukrainian and Russian colleagues after the Ukrainian supreme court made all its decisions?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the decision, I think, was just announced maybe a little more than an hour ago, so there haven't been any phone calls recently to either of them. We are in very close touch, though, with the Europeans and with Ukrainians through our embassies, particularly our Embassy in Ukraine is keeping in touch with people from various institutions and various parties and following the scene closely, reporting back very frequently and regularly to us. The Secretary himself has been following it very closely.
QUESTION: Richard, a different election in Nigeria. There's a small town in the Nigerian Delta called Warri and they're saying there is ethnic strife that may develop and that sort of rigged the election. Do you have anything to say concerning it?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Ukraine for --
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Yeah. The parliament of Ukraine today adopted some kind of non-binding resolution, I think. Basically, it called on the president to withdraw Ukrainian contingent from Iraq. What is the U.S. Administration reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're aware of that. We do respect the opinions of the Rada. I think it is a non-binding resolution. I think at this stage, we'd only say that Ukraine is an important country. It's taken its international responsibility seriously. We have been grateful for the substantial troop contributions in Iraq that Ukraine has made. They have had 1,598 Ukrainian troops since August 2003, and they continue to play a very central role in creating a stable Iraq as Iraq prepares for the January elections.
QUESTION: Can we --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's go home. (Laughter.) Michelle.
QUESTION: Musharraf is coming into town and there are reports in the Pakistani press that the Bush Administration, now that it's been reelected, might consider selling F-16s to Pakistan. I wonder if there is anything to this, if this could be a topic.
MR. BOUCHER: I know that's a subject that comes up in the Pakistani press every time there is a meeting between the U.S. and Pakistan. I don't have anything new on it today.
QUESTION: Same one, same -- Pakistan. There have been some reports that Pakistan is withdrawing from the South Waziristan area, specifically the provincial capital of Wana, and this is believed to be one of the areas where the hunt was supposed to be concentrated.
Can you talk about Pakistan's efforts to find bin Laden? Are you still satisfied with their efforts? Or do you think there has been a slacking off in any way?
MR. BOUCHER: We continue to see a strong commitment from Pakistan. We continue to see the same commitment from Pakistan in terms of fighting terrorism and keeping terrorists, including al-Qaida people, from taking refuge there. They have made in recent weeks some tactical decisions to withdraw a few checkpoints, but they're still actively engaged in the area and cooperating closely, I think, with people in the area in an effort to capture and bring to justice al-Qaida remnants and others. So, no, we don't see any lessening of the commitment.
QUESTION: So, I mean, these tactical decisions to withdraw from checkpoints, do you think this is more of like trying to reduce their actual profile than a lessening of their actual presence there?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'll have to ask them about particular commanders' tactical decisions on the ground, but we see the same kind of commitment, the same kind of effort -- the same level of commitment and the same level of effort -- even if some of the tactics have changed.
QUESTION: Has Secretary Powell raised concerns about this at all?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it hasn't been a subject of discussion that I'm aware of. I mean, our Embassy has obviously been in touch with him about the decisions being made. But, no, it's not a subject of concern that's been raised at high levels.
QUESTION: When the Secretary goes to Europe next week, is he going to talk about the EU embargo, arm embargo, on China? Is he going to have some new policies?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've been quite upfront on our views on that. We don't think it's time to lift arms embargos on China. And I expect the situation, the matter, will come up in our discussions with the Europeans. It has come up fairly regularly in our recent discussions with them.
QUESTION: The Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister, when he was here yesterday, did he talk about that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Well, one last thing. But the EU has said there is a code of conduct. There is a new set of code of conduct for the arm sales that's made by different countries there. Do you not trust the European countries' judgment on who to sell weapons to?
MR. BOUCHER: We consult with the Europeans on these various policies. We have an active dialogue with them, and we have stated very clearly our view that we don't think it's time to lift the embargo on China, arms sales to China.
Sir. Mr. Lee.
QUESTION: Oh, all right. I'm wondering -- I know that you're often reluctant to talk about candidates for office, and things like that, but I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on the new Prime Minister in Kosovo, who has allegedly been questioned for war crimes.
MR. BOUCHER: The Assembly today did confirm the reelection of President Ibrahim Rugova and the election of Ramush Haradinaj as Prime Minister. The elections that created the Assembly on October 23rd were deemed free and fair by international observers.
We think the first priority of any new government must be the implementation of internationally endorsed standards, the focus of which is multiethnicity, tolerance and rule of law. So that's what we're going to be watching.
I'm not going to speculate on a question of potential indictments of people by the International Criminal Tribunal, but I would make clear we support the tribunal and would expect those indicted to fully cooperate with the tribunal. We'll see if that -- well, at this point, we wouldn't want to speculate if that's going to happen or not.
QUESTION: In Spain, before the briefing, there were some bomb threats, and I'm getting paged now that there were some explosions, four or so. Any comment on the bomb threats?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I don't know. No, I'll have to check on it.
QUESTION: Anything at all?
MR. BOUCHER: No, sorry.
QUESTION: The Iraqi President is due here this evening. Does the Secretary have any involvement with him, do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the White House has announced that he'll be meeting with the President on Monday. The Secretary, unfortunately, will be leaving for Europe on Monday, so I'm not aware of any opportunity for the two of them to meet.
Said, you had a change?
QUESTION: Could I change topic?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad is meeting with Deputy Secretary Armitage. Could you give us the substance of their discussions or what they will discuss and so on? And then I have a couple of --
QUESTION: They met yesterday.
QUESTION: Oh, they met yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: Wasn't that yesterday? I think I went through it yesterday that they had a number of topics on the agenda, including the questions of economic progress, the reform situation in Palestinian territories as they move towards elections. So I think they went through that agenda.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The New York Sun and the Forward reported at length that during a meeting with American Jewish community leaders, Dr. Rice, the Secretary of State-designate, assured them that there will be no pressure on Israel, that the focus will be on reform and democracy, and there will be no special envoy sent in the new administration. Do you have any input on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything new to say on those topics. I think our views on all those topics are well known.
QUESTION: Are you aware --
QUESTION: Are they true?
QUESTION: Is that true, then?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know -- this is kind of a fourth-hand report by the time it gets to me and it's not my principal who was quoted as saying it, so you'll have to check with the NSC as far as whether Dr. Rice has addressed those issues recently.
QUESTION: But the Executive Vice President of the Conference of Major Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said basically the same thing, which was, you know, we went in --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you'll have to check with Dr. Rice and find out if she's addressed those subjects recently.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Sir.
QUESTION: Going back to Nairobi for one second. Today, as you have been for the past couple of days during this anti -- this mine conference, the conference on the landmine ban, the United States has come under some heavy criticism for its position on refusing to sign on to the treaty. And just today, the conference adopted a call -- well, they called again for the United States and for others that haven't joined on, haven't joined up to it, to sign on.
Can you just briefly give us your standard explanation as to why you are opposed to -- why you don't want to?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first let me note that we did put out a statement on this the other day, which is, I think, probably more precise than I am capable of being off the top of my head. But the United States, the reasons the United States has not joined the Ottawa Treaty are well known. We have unique circumstances around the world.
At the same time, we have been a world leader in the area of demining, including a major funder of demining programs around the world, I think probably the largest funder of demining programs around the world. We have been a major leader in ending the use of persistent landmines and converting U.S. inventory and U.S. landmines, mines of all kinds, into mines that deactivate themselves so that they're not out there in the fields and farms and the battlefields long afterwards, exploding and harming farmers and children playing and the sorts of horrible incidents that we've seen around the world.
So the United States has taken a lead in this regard, although we do still have some military responsibilities around the world that prevent us from, at this moment, signing the Ottawa Treaty.
QUESTION: In the statement that you just referred to last week, you talked about your disappointment that, or, rather, Adam, I guess, did -- it was in his name -- your disappointment that the treaty doesn't -- that people haven't decided to go after anti-vehicle mines, which is one of the big security problems right now in Iraq.
People at this conference in Kenya have complained about that position, saying that you're trying to shift the focus, that the Ottawa Convention was never intended to go after anything other than anti-personnel landmines.
MR. BOUCHER: The issue is not the Ottawa Convention. The issue is mines. The issue is the mines around the world that kill people, that harm people, that blow up children who are trying to play soccer, that blow up cars of people trying to get to their jobs. The issue, therefore, is one that we have to address not within the confines of a particular treaty, but in terms of what's going on in the real world.
What's going on in the real world is that there are mines that have been sown in the past that are still out there in the battlefields, and that's why the United States is a leader in demining and demining programs around the world.
The second point is that anti-personnel mines have been horribly destructive and horribly dangerous in those circumstances. And that's why the United States is a world leader in making those mines deactivate themselves so that they can't do that kind of damage after the battle.
And the third issue is that there are problems with anti-vehicle mines around the world, that those harm people and kill people long afterwards, as well. And therefore, the United States has also taken a stance on that and tried to push forward so that mines, in general, no longer kill people.
QUESTION: The Government of Ethiopia has agreed to demarcate the border with Eritrea. To what extent did the United States have any input and give both locations or both governments help in that?
MR. BOUCHER: It's something that we have, indeed, followed and worked on very frequently over time. The Secretary has had high-level discussions with his counterparts from Ethiopia and Eritrea on the subject over the last several years, in fact, as they tried to work out the final details of the demarcation. And the United States, our Africa Bureau, has been very much involved in trying to help out in this.
As far as any technical assistance and things, I'll just have to check and see.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing ended at 1:20 p.m.)
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