State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for February 1 --
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for February 1 -- Transcript
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
February 1, 2005
UN Commission Report on Darfur
Role of UN Security Council and ICC
Discussions on a UN Resolution
Reports of Atrocities
Three-Point Approach to Peace
Consideration of Sanctions
Use of Terms "Genocide" and "Crimes Against Humanity"
Deployment and Status of Peacekeepers
Deaths, Violence Involving Civilians
Efforts to Control Attacks, Guarantee Security
Declaration of State of Emergency, Restrictions
Safety, Security of U.S. Citizens
Reports of Arrests
European Union Resuming High-Level Contacts
Human Rights Watch Report
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
U.S. Position on Kosovo
Maintaining Territorial Integrity
Reported Comments by Turkish Prime Minister on Iraq
MIDDLE EAST REGION
Travel of Department Undersecretary John Bolton
Reported Comments by Mexican Interior Secretary on U.S.
Meeting of African "Great Lakes" Countries
Reports of Election Fraud
12:30 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: All right, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Good to be here with you. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the findings of the UN Commission on Darfur?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Let me make a number of observations on this, if I can, and then tell you what we are doing.
First of all, let me say flat out we welcome the work that's been done by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur. We very much supported its work, we supported its creation in a UN resolution last fall that we drafted, and we think it's done a very good job detailing the appalling and widespread and continuing atrocities that have occurred in Darfur in which, as the Commission says, amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
They have noted things like 2,000 villages destroyed, continuing attacks on ethnic groups, the mass killing of civilians, the widespread rape and other serious violence against women and girls, almost 2.5 million persons displaced from their homes. And they've also noted the vast majority of attacks on civilians in villages have been carried out by the Government of Sudan armed forces and the Jingaweit, either acting independent of each other or jointly.
The report also notes that, in some instances, individuals, including government officials, may commit acts with genocidal intent. As the court notes, the determination of charges of genocide is for prosecutors, for a court to make, in a case-by-case basis, based on a specific case that's being presented.
I do want to say that we stand by the conclusion that we reached that genocide had been occurring in Darfur, and we think that the continued accumulation of facts on the ground, the facts that are reported here in the Commission's report, supports that view, that conclusion that we've reached and continue to hold.
We will work with the international community to stop the violence and the atrocities. We are calling on the Government of Sudan to take steps, we are calling on the rebels to take steps -- immediate action to stop the violence. We are continuing to work with the African Union to expand their peacekeeping presence there. We are continuing to support the efforts being made for a political solution, support the efforts being made by Africans in countries like Nigeria to try to reach a political solution.
In addition to that, we believe that now that this report is done, we need to move now to the stage of accountability. So today we are discussing elements of our proposals for accountability with other Security Council members and with interested African countries. We believe that the best way to address these crimes, as detailed in the report, is to establish a UN, an African Union tribunal, that would be based in Arusha, Tanzania. It would involve African countries integrally in the process in keeping with the African Union's leading role in Darfur. We understand that the Commission itself talks about the International Criminal Court. We think it's important for the Security Council to consider the various options, and we believe that having accountability for these crimes in a tribunal that's based in Arusha, Tanzania, is the best way to ensure accountability.
So with that, let me -- let me stop and see if you have any other questions.
QUESTION: Richard, if you can help me understand something. Now, the ICC can basically decide to take up this matter by itself. It's not responsible to the Security Council. It doesn't take any commands from the Security Council. Now, it has even a report by the United Nations recommending that it does take up the issue.
MR. BOUCHER: Actually --
QUESTION: There are several Security Council members who actually have publicly endorsed the ICC. What exactly can the United States do within the Council, outside the Council, to prevent the ICC from taking up Sudan?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I guess, the first thing is, I suppose you're right in terms of the Rome statute.
MR. BOUCHER: Legal experts would confirm that -- have to confirm that. In terms of this report from the UN Commission, they actually recommend that the Security Council refer it to the ICC. So the Security Council then needs to deliberate and decide what's the appropriate mechanism. I think our view is that there not be an automatic referral to the ICC, as if that's the only way of dealing with it. In fact, when you look in more detail at the facts and the legal aspects of this, we do think that the tribunal in Africa is a preferable way, is the better way, to ensure that there is accountability to these crimes.
There's a number of advantages of doing it that way. I've mentioned it would involve the Africans and the African Union in playing a continuing role for accountability, as they have played one in trying to stop the crisis in Darfur to begin with. It also has the practical advantage of building on the existing infrastructure of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. That would allow the Sudan tribunal to commence more rapidly, take advantage of the expertise and lessons learned in dealing with the crimes from Rwanda.
The Commission of Inquiry, also, in its reporting on these atrocities, details crimes that took place in 2001 and 2002. Those crimes predate the establishment of the International Criminal Court and therefore predate -- that therefore the court wouldn't have jurisdiction over those crimes. So you have all the crimes of 2001 and 2002 that couldn't be handled by the International Criminal Court because of the way its statute reads, whereas a tribunal in Africa could deal with all the crimes that have been committed in Darfur from the beginning.
So for these reasons and others, we are proposing to other governments the establishment of a tribunal in Arusha, and we think it's important that the Council look at the various options seriously.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up quickly. Pierre Prosper was up in New York on Friday and he discussed that exact issue with several Council members. What were the responses or the views of the others that he received? And are you optimistic that actually -- that your idea might be accepted?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to characterize any individual countries' views in detail. Let me know two things. One, we have had some discussions already and I think it's fair to say that other governments are interested, at least open-minded on the matter, and I think many of our partners have agreed that it is important to look at the various options and the pros and cons.
Second of all, we're expanding our consultations now, as we speak, so that they're --
QUESTION: Outside the Council?
MR. BOUCHER: No, people in the Council and outside the Council. We'll be discussing elements of a resolution with them today. And so we'll start to know more and more as we proceed down that road.
I want to note one or two other things: That we're also proposing the establishment of the UN peacekeeping mission for Sudan that can support the African Union and the eventual deployment to Darfur as conditions permit, based on the Secretary General's recommendations in his January 31st report. We're also making proposals at how to increase pressure on the parties to abide by their commitments under Resolutions 1556, 1564 and 1574.
We have, in our consultations already with a number of Council members on this question, made clear we believe it's time to move toward sanctions. We have raised a number of measures, including oil sanctions and targeted sanctions, with other Council members, and we'll continue the discussion of those.
QUESTION: Are you not dismayed that the UN report did not allege that genocide had taken place at the instigation of the -- with the support of the Sudanese Government?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I wouldn't quite describe it that way. If you look at the report, and I've only read the executive summary, but they describe, you'd almost have to say, everything but the intent. There are several legal elements to the crime of genocide -- that's the kind of atrocities and crimes that they've documented. Second of all, the fact that those were directed against ethnic groups.
We also reached the conclusion that there was an intent on the part of people carrying out those crimes to wipe out those ethnic groups. So, yes, the UN Commission didn't go that far, but the information that they documented in terms of the atrocities, the crimes that have occurred, the way those crimes were perpetrated against ethnic groups, I think substantiates to a great degree the kind of information that we got as well and that led us to our conclusions. So they didn't take the final step and draw that conclusion, but that's really, in the final analysis, a question for a prosecutor to do at a competent tribunal.
QUESTION: Would it not then send a stronger signal to the Sudanese Government which, as you well know, has conducted offensives against people in various parts of its territory, for them to have stood side by side and taken that last step along with you?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. That would be a subjective judgment. Whether people would be -- would stop this kind of activity if they were in fear of being accused of genocide rather than just in fear of being accused of crimes against humanity, I'm not sure I could make that judgment. What I do think is true is that we need to look for more efforts than that, and that's why we're proposing this three-pronged set of approaches for the Council to take. Number one is to set up an accountability tribunal which, as I said, we've proposed for Tanzania to be built on their Rwanda tribunal. The second is to deploy the peacekeepers, not only the African Union people who are already headed that way, but a move on deployment of peacekeepers to Sudan generally. And the third is to start imposing sanctions, and we've proposed that as well now to the Council and started to talk to members of the Council about imposing sanctions as well.
And so I think we need to keep up the activity on all of these fronts, and it's not just a matter of what reports say but it's a matter of really trying to move towards some of these goals.
QUESTION: Two things here. One, I mean, you have been proposing sanctions, including against the oil industry in Sudan, I think, since at least last August. And I believe --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've been saying that they need to be considered.
QUESTION: But that got stripped out -- can I finish the question?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: That got stripped out of the resolution, if I'm not mistaken, and because there just wasn't the sentiment on the Council to do that. Do you sense any kind of a shift in sentiment that there is a greater willingness to consider sanctions, which were essentially rejected last year?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think you're quite right in pointing out that even -- I think the language we had proposed was along the lines of, consider the further measures such as, and identifying some of those specific things, like oil sanctions, that the Council might want to do at some point. At that point, as far as I remember, we weren't even proposing the Council actually do those things; we were proposing that they be on the agenda for consideration.
QUESTION: But you couldn't even get support for that?
MR. BOUCHER: We couldn't even get support for that. So where are we now? Well, now we're actually proposing the Council start doing some of these things, perhaps oil sanctions, but targeted sanctions and controls on travel and activities, assets of individuals. So one would think it would be harder to get that than just a statement that these things should be considered.
I think our hope is that Council members will look at the facts as outlined and detailed in this report of the U.S. Commission -- of the UN Commission, that they will look at the activity on the ground. Remember, this Commission's report does not only starts back in 2001, but goes all the way through about mid-January of this year. So these are actually up-to-date, certified facts, and we think the Council should look at it carefully and deal with it and come to the same conclusion that we have, that this activity has gone on to an extent that we do need to start imposing sanctions.
QUESTION: But you don't perceive -- my question was: Do you sense sentiment change?
MR. BOUCHER: Can I say there is a shift in Council sentiment? No, I can't say that yet because we've really just -- we're undertaking consultations; the report is just out. I'm sure that people will want to study it very carefully. And we, ourselves, are undertaking consultations that have been going on for a few days now but will accelerate now.
QUESTION: But if I -- if you guys will forgive me, if I can ask my last one on this. You said -- you used the verb tense that you had come to the conclusion that genocide "had been" occurring. I know you get annoyed whenever I ask this, but do you mean to imply by that tense that you believe that it did occur but is no longer occurring?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: So you think it's still going on?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd have to tell you what I've told you before in response to this question, that we reached a legal determination that Secretary Powell expressed last September that genocide and all its aspects -- the crimes, the ethnic impact and the intent -- had, in fact, occurred at that point, and that the government and the Jingaweit were responsible.
Nothing has happened to change those conclusions. We stand by those conclusions. We have seen that kind of pattern of attacks repeated. So the pattern of attacks that we labeled genocide has been continued. But I guess the only reason I put that verb tense on it, because that was a specific determination a specific time, and that's more accurate, a little bit more accurate, just to say that's what -- a determination we made at a particular moment.
QUESTION: You understand the reason that -- when I asked the question, is that if genocide is, indeed, still occurring, it might imply that the U.S. Government would try even harder to stop it.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- it's kind of the flip side of an earlier question. Would we -- would the international community be more intent on stopping genocide rather than crimes against humanity? I think everybody agrees that there are horrible things going on, that have gone on in Darfur that need to be stopped, that it requires every possible effort from us, every appropriate effort to get these things stopped, and that we continue to make aggressive efforts.
The United States is now proposing to other Council members a number of elements of an accountability tribunal, deployment of peacekeepers and the imposition of sanctions, which we believe up the ante and do move aggressively to try to stop those atrocities, stop those activities. We think that, generally, the international community will -- should understand that need, whatever their -- whether some are willing to call it genocide and others are willing to call it crimes against humanity.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on sanctions, Richard, just quickly? If there is, indeed no shift of attitude now or in the future, would you still put --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, hold it, hold it. He said, you know, today at this moment. I'm not saying now or in the future. We'll -- we're beginning consultations.
MR. BOUCHER: We think it's important for people to go this way in the future.
QUESTION: Would you put that proposal of yours to a vote, and, you know, even if people don't go along with you, just to have them raise their hand and, you know, be counted as not favoring such sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's about three degrees of speculation. I'm not going to get that far ahead right now.
QUESTION: Well, I'm asking because some of those countries on the Council, as you know, have a stake in Sudan's oil industry that are at stake.
MR. BOUCHER: We know that. Yeah.
At this point -- we're talking about now -- at this point there's a report out that details extensive crimes and atrocities perpetuated largely by the government and the Jingaweit in Darfur. It also outlines atrocities by the rebel side. This report comes through at least mid-January.
We know, in fact, that some of those kinds of attacks have been repeated even more recently. And therefore, we do think the Council members should focus carefully on this, should draw the conclusions that more needs to be done, and we are making proposals about things that can and should be done. We'll see where we get to in terms of convincing others, but that will be -- that will be something we'll all see in the coming weeks.
QUESTION: The sanctions you're proposing today, are they going to include senior members of the Sudanese administration?
MR. BOUCHER: What we are talking to other governments about, other Council members about, is a range of measure, including oil sanctions. We've discussed this with key Council members. We've also put forward specific ideas for targeted sanctions, an assets freeze and a travel ban, as well as the extension of the arms embargo to the Sudanese Government. The targeted sanctions, assets freeze and travel ban, would relate to specific individuals or government officials.
QUESTION: May I ask, how determined is the Administration not to refer this matter to the International Criminal Court?
MR. BOUCHER: Our views on the International Criminal Court have not changed, and we don't think that's the -- but in addition to sort of our basic opposition to that course of action, I think there are actually some practical and fundamentally -- fundamental reasons not to refer this particular set of crimes to the International Criminal Court. And that's why we do think it's important for the Council to look at the various options and to consider some of the proposals and arguments that we're putting forward.
QUESTION: You talked about deployment of peacekeepers to Sudan generally. Could you expand on that?
MR. BOUCHER: The north-south accords that were reached in Nairobi several weeks ago -- I'm trying to remember the date.
QUESTION: Well, the 9th --
MR. BOUCHER: December 30th, signed in Nairobi.
QUESTION: On the 9th.
MR. BOUCHER: On the -- anyway. The north-south accords that were just concluded and signed in Nairobi recently provide for international peacekeeping to help keep the peace throughout Sudan. We have said -- I think we made clear at the time, we've made clear all along -- that we think that the implementation, the full implementation of the north-south agreements, whether it's the peacekeepers or the governmental arrangements, can and should be -- should contribute to helping end the violence in Darfur. And so we do think it's important to move forward swiftly on that process.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Since you are talking about genocides and killing of civilians, one more time yesterday the Israelis shot 10-years-old girl in her school, in her head, and her friend also got shot in her arm by an Israeli personnel. Aren't you worried that these actions are actually projecting more suicide bombers, while the Palestinians and the whole world is trying to create peace in that area and that you're putting so much effort into that?
MR. BOUCHER: We did put up an answer on that question yesterday afternoon. We're always concerned about the death of civilians, particularly innocent children. We make every effort to stop the violence, to encourage the parties to prevent the violence. And then there was -- after that there was then mortars and shells coming back in the other direction towards Israel. So we're trying to work with both parties, with both Israelis and Palestinians, to stop the violence, to succeed in the withdrawals, to try to make the situation more peaceful for the sake of Israeli families, Palestinian families, alike.
What is important is that we all take these opportunities to move forward, we all take the opportunities to stop the violence, because it deeply matters to people, particularly civilians, that they get their lives back in safety. And we'll continue that. We know that there will be ups and downs. There will be setbacks. There may be difficulties along the way in terms of how smoothly this proceeds. But it's very important to people and the opportunities that are opened up need to be seized by both sides. They need to find ways to proceed down this road peacefully together and not allow the violence to continue or allow the violence to distract them from that effort.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, the killing of 10-years-old girl, in her head, by an Israeli soldier, that's an act of a government soldier, while the bombing of some settlements as a response to that action, the bombing of some Israeli settlements, is coming from some militias or resistant -- national resistance of the Palestinians. This act of the Israeli army, one day after another, killing little children. I mean, is there any way that we can say that Secretary Rice is going to address this subject more seriously with the Israelis during her visit?
MR. BOUCHER: None of us should be trying to justify any of the violence. The violence and the killing has plagued this region for far too long. It's horribly tragic and sad when it affects young people, affects the children like this. But it's also tragic and sad when it goes off in shopping malls or buses or settlements. So everybody should be avoiding the violence and everybody should be trying to stop the violence.
QUESTION: May I follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Because it seems to me that President Abbas is doing everything he possibly can to stop the violence and shelling from Gaza into the Israeli settlements. I mean, they've deployed a lot of troops, but it doesn't seem as if they've been able to stop shelling. They've tried to.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've noted the efforts that have been made. We think these are positive. These are solid. They have had, apparently, some effect. But we all know that as long as violence continues, as long as you have reaction and counter-reaction, that there will be lives lost. And that is what everybody needs to work on stopping. And so as long as this goes on, the Palestinian side needs to do more to control the source of the violence in Palestinian areas and we believe the Israelis, as they are doing, should work with them and cooperate with them in trying to help stop the violence for everybody.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the state of emergency declared in Nepal by the King?
MR. BOUCHER: Nepal. We've been following these developments closely and I would say we are deeply troubled by the apparent step back from democracy in Nepal. Today the King dismissed the multiparty government, declared a state of emergency and suspended fundamental constitutional rights. In addition to undercutting Nepal's democratic institutions, the actions, we feel, undermine the Nepali struggle with the Maoist insurgency, which is a very serious challenge to a peaceful and prosperous future for Nepal.
As we have repeatedly said, we support a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Nepal. The protection of civil and human rights and strengthening of multiparty democracy are key components of Nepal's progressing down this path. So we are urging an immediate move towards the restoration of multiparty democratic institutions under a constitutional monarchy. We are continuing to urge the Maoists to abandon their struggle and to join the political mainstream through dialogue.
QUESTION: Does this go beyond a verbal response? Have you made some -- any representations to the government or some other countries in the region?
MR. BOUCHER: We are in close touch with our Embassy there about the situation, but also about the status of Americans, and they're putting out Warden messages. At this point there are no reports of problems for the Americans. But beyond that, in terms of the Embassy, them not being able to make the representations and get in touch with the government, because of the situation in town, it's difficult for them to communicate directly with people right now and to make diplomatic approaches.
So, frankly, that's a long way of saying that we will be addressing these concerns directly with members of the government, with the council of ministers when it's been appointed, and directly with the King once our Ambassador is able to go see him. But I can't tell you at this moment that that has occurred because of the complications in Kathmandu.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that. Indian media are reporting that many Nepalese politicians have been placed under house arrest. I presume, but I'd like to hear you say it, that your desire to see steps toward restoring multiparty democracy or rule there would include freeing those placed -- politicians placed under house arrest.
MR. BOUCHER: It would, unless they're -- well, yes, it would, period. Let me just stop there.
QUESTION: A different subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Cuba, you said yesterday that you would read carefully the text today, the EU decision on suspending the sanctions against this country. So do you have a more formal reaction today?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. We've looked at this a little bit more carefully overnight. We do understand the European Union has agreed to resume high-level contacts, during which it says it will raise the human rights situation with the Cuban Government. The European Union is also committed to developing more intense relations with the democratic opposition.
We remain concerned that suspending the restrictive measures without achieving the goals for which they were put in place will embolden regime hardliners and dishearten the peaceful opposition. At the same time, I would say that we do look forward to seeing examples of European engagement for democracy. We will encourage the European Union to actively support the peaceful opposition. We will encourage them to make more vigorous efforts to focus international attention on Cuba's egregious human rights record.
Our experience in terms of watching what's happened with Cuba and the Castro regime is that a productive dialogue with the Castro regime is simply not possibly. Past efforts by the Europeans and others have yielded neither political nor economic reforms, and therefore we believe that the kind of pressure that has existed in the past is the only approach, the best approach, to trying to secure change in Cuba. But we will continue to work with the Europeans on how best to promote human rights in Cuba and how best to support the democratic opposition.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have an answer to my Saudi question from yesterday about the literature?
MR. BOUCHER: And the -- I think the simple answer is I don't have anything more here. We are looking at and we'll read the Human Rights Watch report, but whether there are activities in the United States occurring that have -- that might be unlawful or contradict American law is a question the Justice Department will have to look at.
QUESTION: But it's something that you would -- if that were true, you would, I expect, raise it with the Saudi Embassy or the government in Riyadh.
MR. BOUCHER: And at this point, we're looking at the report. We're trying to understand the activities a little better ourselves from our own information as well.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on the Balkans. Mr. Wesley Clark, who described Yugoslavia in 1999, in an article published today in the Wall Street Journal has the guts to advise President Bush to address the resolution of Kosovo's final status now, before it's too late to prevent another tragedy in the spring, claiming that Albanians will not settle until full independence. Since it's obvious something is going on against the entire western Balkans, could you please once again clarify the U.S. position vis-à-vis to Kosovo's status?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I think I did that last week. Our position on Kosovo has not changed since then, and I'll refer you to exactly what I said back then. Nothing has changed at all. Second of all, I'm not sure it's obvious that something is going on against the entire western Balkans, but I'll leave that aside for the moment. Okay?
QUESTION: How would you assure the international community that the U.S. will never allow the unification of Kosovo with Albania against the territorial integrity of Serbia? Because it's a lot of discussion in the --
MR. BOUCHER: We -- and I know there may be discussion out there. There is certainly no discussion by our government to any other government involved in this matter of changing -- altering the territorial integrity of the areas and states that have emerged. We have stood for the territorial integrity of Macedonia and every other state where it's been challenged and we'll continue to do so.
Our belief is that a peaceful Balkans requires good relations between all of the states of the region, it requires proceeding with Kosovo on the path outlined by the United Nations. And we're not interested, supportive -- we remain opposed -- to any alternation of borders and things like that.
QUESTION: On Turkey. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, in an interview today in Newsweek, stated that the elections in Iraq were not fair, since voted only those Iraqis who had food cards provided by the occupational forces but not the rest. Any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that was actually a comment that he made in Davos before the election. And so I think, as we've said, look at the results of the election. Look at the Iraqis who did turn out and vote. Look at the fact that voters came forward, even in the most dangerous areas, and even when they were being attacked in the lines they stayed there in many places and continued to vote.
So we think the opportunity was provided for Iraqis to vote and the Iraqi Election Commission has now counted ballots at the precinct -- the local level. They're transferring those ballots into the central -- the tally center is underway. This is an election that's proceeding in full transparency and with a lot of commitment and determination from the Iraqis who participated as voters, from the Iraqis who participated as election officials, from the Iraqis who participated as observers. And we think the results are clear.
QUESTION: And also, Mr. Erdogan said in the same interview that 80 percent of the Turkish people and 75 percent of the British are against the war in Iraq and the U.S. is a threat to world peace. How do you respond to this criticism?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure that's the way he said it, but I'm not going to get into a back and forth with an interview that was published. We work closely with the Turkish Government on all these matters and we'll continue to work with them.
QUESTION: More from the Turkish Prime Minister. He gave a speech today where he criticized the U.S. for not doing enough to rein in the Kurds in northern Iraq and thinks that they should -- you know, this, obviously, is something that's been going on for a while, but I guess he's still not satisfied. Anything you can say back to them?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I stand by what I said before. We work closely with the Turkish Government on all these matters. We have made clear our position on terrorism and the PKK in the north. We're not in any way countenancing their activities, and we continue to work, ourselves, against terrorism throughout Iraq as well as coordinating closely with the Turkish Government. I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about Mr. Bolton's trip to the Mid-East?
MR. BOUCHER: He's just getting back now, and I haven't had a chance to talk to him about it. The trip was basically to go out to the Gulf countries and discuss nonproliferation, to talk about the situation in the region, including things like Iran and where we are as a whole in the region. But I think I'd just have to kind of leave it at that for the moment because I haven't had a chance to talk to him since he just touched down in the last hour or so.
QUESTION: On Mexico. Do you have any comment on the words of Mexican Secretary of the Interior, Santiago Creel, when he was talking about the certification, saying that it shouldn't be reinstated because Mexico is actually working very hard and arresting drug lords; and, on the other hand, U.S. is not identified their own drug lords that work here in the U.S., and furthermore the U.S. is not talking about where are all the millions of dollars that are, you know, that come out of the drug trafficking in the U.S. What -- any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have any comment. I hadn't seen his particular comments, but this is not a matter of argument between the United States and Mexico. It's a matter of cooperation between the United States and Mexico. We've done a lot together to fight drugs. We know we've got supply problems, demand problems, and we both need to address both, all these aspects. And our emphasis with Mexico on the drug problemsis to fight them together, to cooperate in law enforcement, to cooperate in policy issues, and that's the way we'll keep handling these things.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the meeting on Wednesday between the foreign ministers of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda here at the State Department? And they are supposed to meet with Secretary Rice.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not -- I'll have to check on Secretary Rice. I think Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Connie Newman is organizing a meeting with the Great Lakes -- representatives from the Great Lakes countries. As the -- probably tomorrow we'll be able to get you a little more detail about who's coming and how it's going to be organized.
This is part of an ongoing, really long-term U.S. effort to try to advance the cause of peace in the region and encourage the neighbors to cooperate. And as you know, that effort has proceeded at various levels: Deputy Assistant Secretary Don Yamomoto has been out to the region several times to try to encourage this common cooperation; Secretary Powell has had meetings on the subject; and Dr. Rice remains interested in these efforts that we have been making and very supportive of them. And so we'll get you more details on the meeting tomorrow and see exactly what level of (inaudible).
QUESTION: Anything on Zimbabwean President Mugabe setting March 31 for their elections and whether you think conditions, given the allegations of rigging in the 2002 and 2001 -- and 2000, excuse me, elections, you think conditions even remotely obtain for there to be a free election this time?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look at that and get you something on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)