State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 13
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 13
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
December 13, 2004
- U.S. Policy Toward an Additional Term for Director General ElBaradei
- Geneva Consensus / Two-Term Policy for Major International Bodies
- Allegations of Wire Tapping Against ElBaradei
- Possible Candidates
- U.S. Concern About the Escalation of Violence in Darfur
- U.S. Support for African Union Forces
- Successful Elections a Tribute to the People of Taiwan
- Under Secretary Bolton and Deputy Secretary Armitage Meetings with
- Minister Yuriko Koike
- Possible Sanctions on North Korea
- North Korea's Commitment to Six Party Talks
- Read Out of DeTrani Trip to Japan and South Korea
- U.S. Deeply Disturbed by Physician's Report of Yushenko's Poisoning
- U.S. Support for Democracy in Ukraine
- Reports of a Hunger Strike by Hussein Loyalists
- Hussein Trial / Special Tribunal
- January 30 Elections / Voter Registration
- Arrest of Writers in Beijing
- Military Exercises
- U.S. Calls for a Peaceful Transition to Democracy
- Israeli Government Reshuffling
- Attack on Israeli Outpost
- European Efforts on Resolving the Iranian Nuclear Issue
- Cessation of Enrichment Activity / Weapons Programs
- U.S. Policy on Iran
12:53 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: All right. It's good to be here with you all. I don't have any statements or announcements today. I'd be glad to take your questions. Mr. Schweid.
QUESTION: What's the Schreiber approach? There's a newspaper in town that thinks the State Department would not -- or the Administration -- would not like to see ElBaradei go another term. Is there any basis for such a feeling?
MR. BOUCHER: I think everybody knows our position. There's nothing new, there's nothing exciting, there's nothing dramatic about it. We have upheld what's called a Geneva Consensus -- I'd better look that up -- that heads of major international bodies, UN bodies, should only serve two terms. That's been our view, that's been a view we've stated before, and at this point, that's the only piece of our policy that would apply to this situation.
If once we know who the possible candidates are for this particular agency, then we will look at the particular agency and decide what to do about it.
QUESTION: Do you need more information -- if that's the policy, that's U.S. policy, and I'm sure it's other countries' policy, so do you need persuasive information to try to, what? First of all, you try to persuade other countries to look at it your way. And do you need more information to buttress your view? Or is it just a matter of two terms is enough, period?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view has always been two terms if enough. The Geneva Group, that's an informal group of 14 largest donors to the UN system, has a policy that heads of UN organizations should serve no more than two terms. That has been our view; that remains our view. With regard to any specific agency, we'll have to see where we stand once we know -- once the moment comes for replacement or renewal, whatever. We'll have to see who the candidates are and we'll make our decisions at that time.
QUESTION: Can I ask you one quick last thing?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you know -- even if you want to identify the countries -- do other countries share your interpretation?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the groups -- the group that meets in Geneva, that Geneva Group of 14 donors, plus especially the co-chair of the group is the U.K., I think that's same as ours, all the general policy that they share.
QUESTION: How hard -- are you persuaded that ElBaradei will in fact be out after his second term?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. As I said, we'll see who the candidates are, and we'll make our decisions accordingly.
QUESTION: And is the United States prepared to go to the mat on this?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we have a policy. Everybody knows our policy. We'll see who the candidates are; we'll make our decisions accordingly.
QUESTION: If, in fact, he ends up staying, how do you think that you'll be able to work with him, given what's --
MR. BOUCHER: That's what we call here "seven degrees of speculation." I'm not going to go that far.
QUESTION: What can you say about the accusations that the U.S. has spearheaded a wire-tapping campaign against ElBaradei?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say anything about any intelligence accusations or allegations.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, there have been instances in the past where you've called for a kind of reexamination of these term limits on candidates that you do like. I mean, if you had a stronger feeling about ElBaradei, would you being saying that perhaps he should be staying another term?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our policy -- this policy of two terms at these organizations has been applied very consistently by the United States. That has been our policy; it remains our policy. It's a policy that we have expressed publicly and in private to heads of organizations, including Dr. ElBaradei. But it's not new. We're not at a moment now of knowing who the candidates are. We're not at a moment of having to make decisions, and we'll do that when the time comes.
QUESTION: Richard, can I go back to my question? I mean, I know that the State Department wouldn't be carrying out the wire tapping, but is than an acceptable -- I mean, is that acceptable diplomacy? Is this something --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't talk about any allegations involving U.S. intelligence. I'm sorry. I'm not going to comment on this one.
QUESTION: Do you believe ElBaradei has handled his job in a fair with respect to U.S. interests?
MR. BOUCHER: These are all the same question about whether we want him or not.
QUESTION: No, no.
MR. BOUCHER: The issue is that -- as far as we're concerned, that's not the issue at this point. The issue is whether the two-term at the UN organization standard is going to be applied, who the possible candidates might be for this job, and as I said, we'll make those kind of analyses at some future date.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: On Sudan, the African Union reports there have been about 67 violations of ceasefire agreements since September. My first question is, how concerned is the U.S. about these violations?
My second question has to do with AU troops in the Darfur region. They were supposed to send about 3,000 troops and the report says only 800 so far are in there.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me take the two things separately. The first, as far as the violence, I think Adam Ereli made clear to you last week in his briefings that we are certainly very concerned about the level of violence in Darfur. We think both parties have been responsible for violence and both parties need to abide by the commitments they made to a ceasefire agreement.
We share the concern that was expressed by Jan Pronk, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sudan. He made a statement December 9th to the Council about the escalation of violence, and we share the concerns that he expressed.
We have seen a variety of reports. We've got a preliminary report that two Sudanese workers for Save the Children were killed yesterday but don't have any information on that. We know a humanitarian convoy was attacked December 5th by some assailants. The government took military action on roads around Al Fashir, new eruption in fighting around there on December 8th.
So there have been a series of incidents recently that -- and violent attacks by both sides that we think are disturbing and we think -- very much making the point to everybody that needs to be stopped; the parties need to abide by the ceasefire.
As far as the status of the African Union forces, we have been very supportive, as you know. We started the airlift to get the African Union forces in there. The process continues. There is that target of 3,000. We will get there. But for the moment, there are 833 African Union personnel in Darfur. They do have a mandate of proactive patrols, mediation, return of detained personnel and rapid investigations, and as you see from the reports they've been putting out, they've been carrying out that mandate.
There will be a continued regular flow over the next few weeks. They expect a total of 2,000 people by the end of January in this force. We had supported their deployments. There is a contingence of 390 Nigerian troops, who are going to deploy very soon, additional troops, with Australian assistance. There are 56 headquarters staff that are going to arrive shortly. Senegalese and Gambian troops are due to arrive shortly. After the Australians, the Dutch are prepared to head up with airlift. The Germans have announced that they, too, will help with airlift. So there is a series of airlifts planned for the coming future.
We do recognize that African Union planners in Addis Ababa have been working through a very challenging task in getting the troops organized and equipped for this mission. It's a very large geographical size to Darfur that has to be planned very carefully.
In the meantime, the U.S. civilian contractors are preparing bases for approximately 17 thou --- 1700 troops, excuse me, and the contractors continue their work for a total of 16 bases that are projected to meet with the expansion.
So it is ongoing. It is regular. It's just, I think, not as fast as everybody would have liked.
Yeah. Okay. Ma'am. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Taiwan just had Legislative Yuan's election last Saturday. And before the election, the President Chen Shui-bian has said that they are going to -- he's going to push to change the names of the Taiwanese representative offices name in United States. At that time, you had say that United States will not support the idea of changing, even say that, it will be consider as a move to change the status quo.
Now, with the opposition party won the majority seats in the Legislative Yuan, I'd like to know what's the State Department's view on the region's stability. And my second question is actually about a defense bill.
Because the opposition party had already say that before election, they are vow to stop the defense bill to be passed in Taiwan. So do you -- does that raise your concern right now because, you know, now with the results of the election, the opposition party might do something over there?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I think the fact of a successful election is a tribute to the people of Taiwan, that that's all we wanted to see and we're glad to see the strength and vitality of democracy in Taiwan.
Beyond that, you're asking me to sort of go in the direction of political speculation. What will President Chen do? What will the new legislature do on this, that or the other issue? And the answer for our point of view is, we'll have to see.
Our positions that we took on these policy issues, I think, are quite clear. But I really am not going to join you in speculating on what the various parties might do after this election or what political implications it might have.
They had a successful election. That's a good thing. We're glad to see it. What they decide to do within their political system now on some of these issues is going to be decided in Taiwan.
Yeah. Okay. Sir.
QUESTION: Richard, a two-parter. I have a question. Under Secretary Bolton met with the Japanese Secretary, Japanese Secretary for Rural Development in Okinawa Affairs today, this morning.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a readout on that. She, Ms. Yuriko Koike, is also meeting with the Deputy Secretary this afternoon at 4:30. I think I'd just leave it in general terms that she is Japan's Environment Minister and Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories. He'll be discussing all those topics with her, particularly, I think, the issue of Okinawa. Under Secretary Bolton, as you know, has certain security responsibilities and so some of those things fall in his area. But we're just glad to have her with us and we'll be talking about security relationships, Okinawa and perhaps other issues.
QUESTION: Thank you. The second question is would the United States support Japan imposing economic sanctions on North Korea for their lack of straightforward stances in resolving the abductee issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've always said that those kind of questions are for each nation to decide, the kind of economic relationship, the kind of economic restrictions or opportunities they might want to have with North Korea for each nation to decide. It is important, I think, for North Korea to remember that they are committed to talks, that there are benefits, in fact, that they are losing out on the more they stay away from talks, and I'm sure that just the facts of the matter remind North Korea of that.
But we'll keep looking for them to meet their commitment to come back to talks.
QUESTION: One more on North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: They're committed to talks -- only if they're committed to talks, not if the United States keeps saying they're committed to talks. And it seems as if increasingly North Korea is saying, you know, it really isn't interested in coming back. It seems to be controlling the process now.
How -- I'd like your reaction to that. And how long does the United States think it can go on with the current situation, meaning indefinite no talks?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, North Korea is committed to the talks because they are committed to the talks. They committed last June to come back to another round of talks by September. Now I know they made a variety of different public statements and comments that go this way and that way and occasionally indicate, seem to indicate, that they're coming or they're not coming. The failure of North Korea to show up is North Korea's fault, North Korea's problem. They come up with a variety of reasons for that.
But nonetheless, they remain committed. They have made the commitment last June. They haven't shown up but they come up with a variety of reasons for not showing up.
I think it is important to remember that we remain ready to come back. We remain ready to come back at an early date; and second of all, that this is the way to address issues of concern, and what North Korea gets by not coming to these talks is they get continued isolation, they get continued problems in their relationships with neighbors, they get continued lack of -- continued lack I guess is the -- how do you express it -- they don't get the kind of economic benefits that they could get out of having a relationship with people and moving forward on this.
And so, the question of what North Korea -- I guess I'm not sure what "it" referred to in your last question, but how long can "it" go on without coming to talks? That's a question you can ask North Korea. How long can they go on without coming to talks? They're the loser in not showing up to talks because talks is the way to solve these problems.
QUESTION: Is there a downside for the United States, though, if this impasse continues indefinitely?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we would like to solve the problem, too. We would like to solve the problems, the President has said, in a peaceful and democratic -- and diplomatic fashion. We think that is in the interest of all of the parties and we're ready to do that.
QUESTION: But with all due respect, that doesn't really answer the question. Does the United States see a downside if this -- you know, if a year from now we're sitting here talking about the same issue, do you feel that that's a negative for U.S. policy, for stability in the world?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on what you and I might talk about a year from now. At this point, we know where we are. North Korea's committed to come to the talks. North Korea keeps finding reasons to delay. They keep missing out on the opportunity of solving this and the other opportunities that would arise by solving this. And we, for our part, remain ready to solve this peacefully and democratically at an early date by moving into these talks, by moving into these talks at an early date.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: A quick follow-up.
MR. BOUCHER: A follow-up, one or two?
QUESTION: Do you have anything to readout on Joe DeTrani's trip?
MR. BOUCHER: He met in Japan and South Korea to talk about his recent meetings with the North Koreans that had occurred in New York. Don't know there is much more to say than he engages in the process of regular consultation and that's what this was about.
QUESTION: And just a sort of follow-up on the subject. Do you have anything on the last weekend Reuter's report on that U.S. has shown that a new flexibility on its policy on North Korea in which it basically is saying that they have to admit that HEU program but they don't necessarily mean that it's for nuclear weapon program.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to confirmation over the weekend that Viktor Yushchenko was, in fact, poisoned?
MR. BOUCHER: I got it. I think first and foremost, we wish Mr. Yushchenko a speedy and complete recovery from the problems that have faced him.
Second of all, we are deeply disturbed by the physicians' report. The physicians have now said that he was poisoned with dioxin. We support a full and complete transparent investigation into that matter, into how it happened, who did it, what the cause was.
And we think it's an important opportunity for us to reiterate that the Ukrainian people should be able to decide who their next president is on December 26th and we look forward to them deciding in a democratic fashion.
QUESTION: There are reports that he believes he was poisoned by someone sent by the administration. Does the U.S. have any view on that?
MR. BOUCHER: By what administration?
QUESTION: A dinner. Well, not your administration. By the current -- by the outgoing administration.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh. No, I don't have anything on that. Obviously, that's the kind of thing that does need to be looked into, how it happened, who did it, because I think the doctors have said it was an intentional poisoning. And so that needs to be looked at very carefully and there are a variety of proposals for investigation, I think, in Ukraine.
QUESTION: Same subject. Mr. Yanukovich had an interview with AP and he accuses the United States of meddling in the election and financing Mr. Yushchenko's campaign.
MR. BOUCHER: These charges keep coming up. I think he's even throwing numbers about. But we will make our position clear once again that we do not have a favorite candidate in the campaign; our interest is in seeing democracy prevail. As the Secretary said last week in Brussels, our sole point of view has been let the people decide. And that's what we've tried to foster all along in terms of our pre-election assistance to the democratic process.
The effort that we've undertaken with our election-related assistance is a part of a broader assistance -- broader campaign of assistance for independent media, for local government reform, for rule of law, civil society and transparent political processes. Our programs don't promote or subscribe to any particular political outcome or any particular party or candidate. For example, political party training is funded by the United States and is open to all parties on an equal basis. Pro-government as well as opposition politicians have taken part in our programs.
The U.S., the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, numerous individual nations, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations have been active in this way, developing democratic electoral processes, political parties and civil society -- all these elements of a democratic society -- in Ukraine. And we think that's important work and will continue.
QUESTION: Are these programs going on in this extra stage of the campaign?
MR. BOUCHER: They do continue in that the efforts that these various organizations are making to support monitoring, to support voter education, those things do continue as the election continues.
QUESTION: Can I move to Iraq and -- there were reports that Saddam and some senior regime members are on a hunger strike. Is that true? False?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information on that and I guess you'll have to check with the Pentagon on that. I thought they had, in fact, made some statements on it.
QUESTION: And the second question is, now that it's been a year since Saddam's been captured, is the U.S. disappointed with what appears to be a slow pace toward trial?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we're not. The process of preparing a trial, of preparing a trial of such a complicated nature is one that does take time. We understand that. We have been working with the Iraqis as they pass their laws. They put in place the court. They have judges now, a full complement of judges for the Iraq Special Tribunal, and they have been meeting together, doing the investigations and preparing for the trial.
The nature of this work is that much of the work is behind the scenes until it gets to a further stage of its investigation, and I think that's true in this case. The database is cataloging mass gravesites, and listing names of missing people, for example, have been created. That's not highly visible work and I would expect some of the things to come in early 2005 to be more visible as they prepare for trials and further develop the structures of the special tribunal.
Our assistance that we provide to this process and that of other international partners is designed to help ensure that they have the necessary resources and assistance and training to conduct fair, open and effective prosecutions.
The Department of Justice has the lead from the U.S. Government in terms of providing this assistance, and there is a Regime Crimes Liaison office that is now working with Iraqi counterparts to support the special tribunals.
QUESTION: When you said that some things, you expect some things to become more visible early next year, can you be more specific?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't at this point. It'll be up to the tribunal to decide how to move and when to move on various cases that they might be preparing.
Yeah. Okay. Let's head to the back. Ma'am.
QUESTION: I'm just wondering, do you have anything on the sudden arrest of two independent writers in Beijing, Liu Di and Liu Xiaobo?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. I'll have to check and see if we want to say anything.
QUESTION: Marion Wilkenson from The Sydney Morning Herald. Could I just go back to the IAEA issue? Can you give us anything on what discussions took place between State Department officials and the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, from the period of September through this year, on him as a candidate for the IAEA position?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. We'll have to see, as I said, what candidates might emerge, but I don't have anything on any discussions.
QUESTION: This is on Cuba. The Cuban military is preparing for what it's calling the biggest military exercises in over a decade and in preparation for a potential U.S. invasion and to show their enemy, Washington, not to underestimate the Cuban military. Can you respond to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particular on the scope or the size of the exercises. I would say two things about it: One is, the United States has repeatedly called for a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. We think that's what the Cuban people deserve and we think they deserve it in a peaceful fashion.
Second of all, exercises is just, I'd say, one or more of the many things that the Cuban Government does to try to distract people from the problems that they face in their daily lives. And so, no, we don't think there's any justification or any particular foundation for this kind of charge.
QUESTION: Well, would you be willing to say that the U.S. has no plans to invade Cuba, and so it's a waste of time?
MR. BOUCHER: I've always said that we support a peaceful change in Cuba. I'll stick to that.
QUESTION: Richard, now that it's concluded, anything to say on the Israeli parliament and government decisions to bring to Labor into the government as well as the weekend's tunneling and ten tons of explosives that went off --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything to say about Israeli politics. I'm not sure Israeli politics ever concludes --
QUESTION: Well, how will it affect --
MR. BOUCHER: We'll just have to see. We'll look at what government emerges and what the government wants to do. I think our policy positions are known on the various issues.
As far as tunneling, no, I don't have anything new on that. You know, we've always been -- made clear that the Palestinian Authority needs to be able to take control, as well, and stop any sort of violent activity and that the parties in the region need to do everything they can to avoid -- to stop the kind of smuggling that the tunnel represents.
QUESTION: Yeah, today the Europeans and the Iranians resumed their negotiations, and I was wondering whether you had gotten any early readout of the beginning of the talks, and what message, if any, the United States was sending to them.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any readout from them yet. Our message, I think, is the one the Secretary has expressed publicly: We support their efforts; we think that the suspension needs to move into a permanent cessation of enrichment activity because, ultimately, what the Iranians have to do is to take action to reassure the international community they're not going to pursue weapons programs. That requires a series of steps that the Europeans have discussed with the Iranians, and we hope that the Iranians will agree.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to Iraq for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: It's the 13th of December today. Is it still your position that --
MR. BOUCHER: It's still our position that it's the 13th of December, yes. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And is it still the Administration's position that the Iraqi elections will go on as planned on January 30th?
MR. BOUCHER: It's still our view that that is an important goal to be working for and we continue to work for that goal. It is the commitment of the Iraqi President, the Iraqi Prime Minister, the Iraqi authorities to do that, and it's our commitment to help them do that.
QUESTION: There doesn't seem to be a significant number of Sunni candidates or Sunni parties registering. Are you concerned that if there's a dominance of -- and it's not a representative government if you don't get enough Shia candidates or --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm not sure what you say is true. I mean, first of all, the election timetable, there was December 10th was the deadline the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission set for provincial elections, December 15th for national elections, so there may be more to come. We know that there are more than 200 political parties and individuals who have now registered with the Commission for participation in the January elections. I suppose that number will be increased before the deadline occurs, and then that's the moment to start doing the analysis of who's registered.
In fact, voter registration is proceeding apace. The provinces -- all provinces but al-Anbar province are conducting voter registration. So the Commission is moving ahead, I think, quite swiftly. We think the progress they've made is impressive and we look forward to them taking this forward to an election on January 30th that all Iraqis can participate in, both as candidates and as voters.
QUESTION: Do you know how many of those 200 political parties are Sunni?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a breakdown yet. Obviously, with the Kurds being Sunni, there is a lot of Sunni already, but what the breakdown is from different parts of the country and different groups and different political persuasions, I think that's a fairly complicated matrix. I'll leave it to commentators to figure out.
QUESTION: There's been an editorial written by Madeleine Albright and others, with their view on Iran, both diplomatic as well as nuclear issues. Do you welcome that type of commentary? And do you hope that that particular group can assist in working to end this crisis with Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's for us to welcome or not to welcome. It's a free country. People are going to be writing about us. We obviously look to them and read them and take all this discussion seriously. We do believe our policy on Iran has been very clear, that we have made clear our serious concerns about various aspects of Iranian behavior. We've made very clear especially our concern about the developments with regard to nuclear weapons. We've been rather successful in organizing or galvanizing or energizing the international community to deal in a straightforward and serious manner with Iran's nuclear activities and we look forward to continuing to work with the rest of the international community on these issues.
We have been ready to engage with Iran where we felt it was important to do so, if and when the President determines it's in our interest. So we continue to pursue all of these issues in the appropriate manner.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:22 p.m.)