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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 16

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 16

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

INDEX:

AFGHANISTAN
- New Bin Laden Tape

SAUDI ARABIA
- Authenticity of Audio Tape of Jeddah Consulate Attack

IRAQ
- Border Security with Syria / Meetings with Syrians and Boarder
- Patrol / Groups Operating to Support Insurgency / Pressure on
- Syria for Boarder Security
- Preparation for Saddam Hussein Trial

ISRAEL
- Arms Sale Policy with China / U.S. Dialogue with Israel on Policy

KUWAIT
- Warden Message / Security for Americans in Kuwait / Possible
- Preparation of Terrorist Attack

MISCELLANEOUS
- Secretary Powell Meeting with Annan / Security for UN Election Workers in Iraq
- U.S.-EU-NATO Help in Rebuilding Iraq / Coalition Forces Helping with Security

BOSNIA
- Working with High Representative Paddy Ashdown / Help with
- Identifying Locations of Fugitives from the Court / Restrictions on Serbian Party Leadership

ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN
- U.S. and EU Support of Elections / Essential in Moving Forward on Peace Process

RUSSIA
- U.S. Concern of Yukos Case / Affect of Investment Climate /
- Economic and Business Implications


TRANSCRIPT:

12:50 p.m. EST


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements. You've heard from the Secretary of State on his meetings this morning, but I'd be glad to answer your questions on that or other topics. Who wants to begin?

Christophe, you're our senior wire for the day.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Congratulations. We've gotten rid of everybody else.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: So just to check with you if you got any confirmation or authentication on the bin Laden tape release?

MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. As the Secretary said, it appears to be bin Laden. We haven't finally confirmed that, but it appears to be the usual kind of diatribe that we've heard from him, including threats against everybody in the Arab world, as well as us.

Yeah, Tammy.

QUESTION: Has there been any authentication of the audio purported to be of the attack on the consulate in Jeddah?

MR. BOUCHER: That, as well, I'm not aware of any particular authentication of that. That's a little more murky, I think, even.

QUESTION: I'm sorry?

MR. BOUCHER: That's a little more undefined as to what exactly it was, but I'll see.

Yeah, sir.

QUESTION: On Iraq. There seems to be contradicting statements by some Iraqis that Syrian President and the Foreign Minister have received many of the Iraqi officials in the last week, and most of them have given very positive statements about the cooperation of security on the borders only to hear a different kind of statements yesterday from some of the people.

The Syrian Foreign Minister has issued today a statement rejecting those accusations and reaffirmed that Syria is committed to the security, to the stability of Iraq, to holding an election that would cover all the Iraqi segments of the society.

How much is the United States contributing and helping? I know that there is $40 million for helping the election, holding the elections. How much is the United States helping financially, technically, the Syrians and the Iraqis to control the borders?

MR. BOUCHER: The issue of control of borders is something that the Syrians need to do. We have provided advice, assistance, information to the Syrians. We've had direct meetings with them ourselves. We've had meetings between the military and border control people involved from the United States, Iraq, U.S. coalition forces and Iraq, the Iraqis themselves as well as the Syrians to try to talk about specific coordination and elements that could be done at the border.

But there are many aspects to preventing use -- Syrian territory from being used to support the insurgency. One is actual border control, not letting people cross, and there's been some things done on that we have welcomed. And we'd certainly welcome further improvements in that regard. There needs to be more there. There's also this issue of other people operating in Syria, either with finance or other resources to support the insurgency, and that's where we have looked to Syria now to try to identify people who might be operating inside Syria and stop their activities. So I think at any given moment, it's a mixed picture with much more that needs to be done.

As long as there are still elements -- Baathist elements or others -- in Syria who appear to be supporting the insurgency, we will continue to press Syria, as the Iraqis will continue to press Syria to stop that kind of activity by preventing transits of the borders or by identifying the elements and tracking them down.

QUESTION: We all know how difficult the Mexican-American borders are, and they are even that much more difficult on the Iraqi-Syrian borders. They have mountains, they have desert, and it is not as easy as some people might want to make people think. But it is obvious -- I think it is very strange statement, if you have seen it, that reaffirms what Foreign Minister Shara has conveyed to Secretary Powell in Sharm el-Sheikh affirming Syria's stance that Syria cares about the stability --

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to cut you off again. I know you've talked about this before. But certainly statements are good and we like to see people say the right thing, we like to see them recommit themselves to doing the work that has to be done. But what really matters, particularly when you're involved in fighting a deadly insurgency in Iraq, is to see real action and make sure that there is no support whatsoever going to those people from Syria.

Okay, Teri.

QUESTION: Also on Iraq. Saddam Hussein finally got to see an attorney today, I guess the first time. Why has he not been allowed access to counsel before now?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a question you'd have to ask the Iraqi tribunal. As they prepare the trial, they're going through appropriate legal procedures and as legal proceedings begin in -- for a variety of defendants, and I'm sure there will be more and more involvement by attorneys. But I just don't understand the legal process. They have been setting it up in Iraq and you need to ask them about it.

QUESTION: Right. But for much of this time the U.S. was in charge, so what about during that time?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we were not conducting legal proceedings. We were holding him in custody and holding him in custody on behalf of the Iraqis. So, I mean, where they stand at -- when you see an attorney is a function of legal proceedings.

QUESTION: Change the subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: We're getting reports out of Israel that there is some mounting concern in the U.S. about Israeli arms deals, particularly to China, and even one report that the Pentagon is seeking the dismissal of the Director General of the Israeli Defense Ministry just over a particularly sensitive deal. Can you tell us anything?

MR. BOUCHER: We've had an active dialogue with Israel through the years on arms sale policy. It's a dialogue that continues. I think we and Israel are both very concerned about proliferation issues.

As you know, in relation to previous sales, we've talked to the Israelis before about China. As far as the exact nature of the discussions between the Defense Department and Israel, you'll have to check at Defense.

QUESTION: So you can't confirm about the asking for the resignation?

MR. BOUCHER: No. If the allegation is that Defense did it, you'll have to check with Defense, find out if they did.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Sir.

QUESTION: On the Warden Message for Kuwait yesterday, following on that.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is there anything more you can say? Should Kuwaiti citizens be concerned about their own safety? Do you have any advice for them, in terms of also being helpful and looking out for anything?

MR. BOUCHER: We work with host governments in cases like this and we're working closely with the Kuwaiti security authorities to try to provide security for our people who are there. But also, I think they work hard, more generally, in the Kingdom.

As we said yesterday, we do have credible information that terrorist groups are developing near-term plans for attacks, but against unspecified targets in Kuwait. So people in Kuwait, whether they're Americans or others, need to be on a higher level of vigilance, and the security people need to be on a higher state of alert. But how exactly that carries through for different populations, our securities people will work with the Kuwaiti security services to do what they can for Americans. I'm sure they'll also do what they can for the general population.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that this could actually be targeted against Kuwaitis? The could be somehow caught up in --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's an unspecified target, so we can't tell. But whenever we think somebody is preparing a terrorist attack, people need to be at a higher state of vigilance.

Joel.

QUESTION: With Kofi Annan here at the State Department this morning have there been discussions concerning the agenda for such troubled areas as Africa and maybe South Asia? And what about integration of more security with the UN and NGOs? Was any of that discussed?

MR. BOUCHER: All that came up in terms of specific issues that the Secretary went through with the Secretary General. I think he -- they both sort of talked about them when they walked outside.

One of the issues that we have been working very closely with the Secretary General on is security for the UN people operating in Iraq. And as you know, we have -- the Fijians are deploying personal security as well as troops to help protect locations and facilities.

We have been talking with the Georgians who are looking at deploying to help with that and as well as others. And so, in the context of their discussion of how the UN is supporting and can support the Iraqi election effort, certainly security comes up. That's one of the elements making sure the UN can operate.

We think they have an important role. We think they need to have the security necessary to carry out that role and we have been working with them very closely to make sure it goes forward. The Secretary has discussed this with the Secretary General many times.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you --

MR. BOUCHER: Is it something else, or what?

QUESTION: Yes. Do you also have any firm agreements or philosophies on whether NATO and/or the EU can also integrate in with the UN in some of the aspects of what they're doing where it would not necessarily go against U.S. policy?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, U.S. policy is to encourage everybody to be involved in helping the Iraqis rebuild their country and helping the Iraqis have their elections. There is a great deal of training going on from various sources, including NATO, including some of the European Union nations, and we reviewed a lot of that during our visit last week to Europe when the Secretary talked to the NATO foreign ministers as well as the European Union 3, the Troika.

But the -- sort of the integration, the interplay between coalition forces, NATO forces, the EU and the United Nations' security has been worked out over time. It seems to be working well. The UN wanted to have sort of identifiable people that they could rely on for security, and so that's where the Fijian deployments and the -- some of the other things being discussed were developed. They work in very close coordination with all the forces that are there, particularly the coalition forces.

Let's let somebody else have a question. David, you had something?

QUESTION: Yeah, I was wondering if you had anything to say about a seeming surge of activity today on the Bosnia front. We had a raid by the European forces there. Paddy Ashdown sacked a number of Bosnian Serb officials and the United States imposed sanctions on a number of Bosnian Serb entities and individuals. Is this coordinated?

MR. BOUCHER: We have been working very closely with Paddy Ashdown, with the others in Bosnia. The Secretary, during his last visit there, talked quite a bit about the need to make a special effort to identify the location of the fugitives from the court in The Hague and to do everything we could, including isolating the elements that seem to be supporting and help hiding them.

And so you'll see a more complete statement from us very shortly, but the essence of this is that we are acting in concert with these other entities. We are acting to impose restrictions on the Serbian party leadership that had been -- we think have been colluding with Mladic, Karadzic, these kind of people, to protect them.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. It's sort of a half empty/half full cup. Are we happy, the United States happy, with the performance of Ashdown? Because there's been a lot of activity, but, of course, Mladic and Karadzic and these guys are still at large.

MR. BOUCHER: We've been working very closely with him. I remember the Secretary's meeting with him was very positive last time we were out there. And so I think today is a further example of how we can closely work together and try to obtain a goal that we're all intent on reaching.

QUESTION: Very shortly on the statement -- does that mean later today?

MR. BOUCHER: That means very shortly. That's faster than soon.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: On the meeting between Mr. Annan and the Secretary Powell, was the election in the Palestinian territories any part of their discussion today?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm trying to remember. It came up, but not as a major topic. I think it was mentioned in passing if I -- well, you know, it came -- I think it came up, but I didn't even write it down. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Does that mean it wasn't --

MR. BOUCHER: I think the point on the Palestinian election is that both we, and the UN, are very intent on doing what we can to support this process. There's not that much to talk about at this point except for supporting it and trying to make it successful.

QUESTION: But no role, more important role for the United Nations to facilitate the election campaigns of the Palestinians? We know -- the success --

MR. BOUCHER: I think they're already involved to some extent. You'll have to check with them on -- to the extent of their involvement, but we're all looking for this to be a very successful election. We think it's an important step forward for the Palestinian people after the death of Yasser Arafat, and we think it's an essential element in moving us forward on the peace process. So there's -- as far as I understand the situation, there's not that much to discuss at this point. We're all pushing forward towards the same end.

Okay.

QUESTION: I'd like to take another stab at Yukos. Is the Administration concerned about what appears to be growing Russian Government control over energy resources with the expected nationalization of Yukos' main production unit when it goes up for auction?

MR. BOUCHER: The U.S. is concerned about a number of issues; I think, first and foremost, the issue of how these cases are handled and what kind of respect for legal contracts, what kind of respect for independent corporations the Russian Government is going to give. That becomes a concern to us because of a matter of law, but also because of the way it affects the investment climate and the prospect for further development in Russia, including energy development. And I think you've seen some announcements now from some other companies, including energy companies, that they were having second thoughts about investments in Russia because of the way the Russian Government is handling this case and other cases, so it's a particular concern about the way the case is handled, but also because of what we think are the broader political and particularly economic and business implications for Russia.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Something different. In Cuba. Do you have anything on this Cuban dissident, Hilda Molina, who is seeking refuge at the Embassy of Argentine?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of the situation. I'll have to check on it.

QUESTION: It happened today.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay? Thank you.

(The briefing ended at 1:10 p.m.)

DPB # 207

[End]

Released on December 16, 2004


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