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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for March 8

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for March 8

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 8, 2005


Secretary Rice's Meeting with Foreign Minister Shalom
Israeli & Palestinian Obligations Under the Roadmap
London Meeting
U.S. Views on Settlement Activity

U.S. Policy on Iranian Nuclear Programs
Iranian Compliance with International Obligations

China's Anti-Secession Law
U.S. Policy on Taiwan
Cross-Strait Relations and Dialogue

Journalist Guiliana Sgrena
Discussions with Government of Italy

Immediate Withdrawal of Syrian Military and Intelligence Forces

U.S. Policy on Reunification / Annan Plan
U.S. Does Not Recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Secretary Rice and Deputy Secretary Zoellick Meet with Former
Presidents Clinton and Bush on Tsunami Assistance

Arrest of Activists

Prime Minister Haradinaj Indicted by International Criminal
Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY)
UN Security Council Resolution 1244

Resuming Six Party Talks

Reported Death of Chechen Rebel Leader Aslan Maskhadov

Recission of Unused Loan Guarantees


12:45 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements so I'd be glad to take your questions. So let's start with our senior wire correspondent.

QUESTION: Can you just elaborate on the discussions between Rice and the Israeli Foreign Minister?

MR. BOUCHER: We had a good meeting today between the Secretary and the Israeli Foreign Minister. They, obviously, discussed developments in the region, especially how to make progress with the Israelis and -- between the Israelis and Palestinians. They talked a bit about the issues in the London meeting, talked about the need to move forward in terms of both sides meeting their obligations and responsibilities: on the Palestinian side to end terrorism, dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism; on the Israelis' side to meet their obligations as well. The President talked about this a bit in his speech this morning, as you note.

I think the focus right now is on both sides finding ways to move forward, really looking for how much they can do to move the process down the road, and we're helping with that and we're focused on that as well.

QUESTION: I wonder if I could follow up. Was there any discussion about the issue of natural growth? Obviously, the President today spoke about no new settlements.

MR. BOUCHER: No new settlement activity.

Not in those particular terms. The question of the obligations of both sides, as I said, a lot of that's in the roadmap. For the Israelis there is also the obligations of Aqaba that they took on in terms of outposts and settlement activity. The President has talked about that many times. And so we will be pressing both sides to take the actions that are necessary to move the process forward and we'll continue to raise all these issues with them.

I would say much of the focus right now, though, is on making sure that the disengagement can be successful and that that works to bring better lives and better security to people on both sides.

QUESTION: Did the issue of Lebanon come up in the talk?

MR. BOUCHER: It did, just generally in terms of looking at changes in the region. Nothing particular about it.


QUESTION: Was your impression, Richard, that the Israelis support the conclusions of the London meeting last week?

MR. BOUCHER: I'd leave it to the Israelis to explain their position on the London meeting. I think they were quite clear all along -- before, during and after the meeting -- that they supported the idea of the London meeting, they supported -- they were very much in favor of the kind of support for the Palestinians that would allow them to take hold of the terror problem, the violence problem, and build the kind of state, the kind of institutions of a state, that can live peacefully side by side with Israel.


QUESTION: Iranian officials have threatened to --

MR. BOUCHER: I think we're going to stick to this. I'll come back to you in a minute. Okay?

QUESTION: I apologize because I missed about 15 seconds of your remarks, but I wanted to go back to the outpost thing for a moment. Did Secretary Rice specifically raise the issue of the roadmap's obligation on the Israeli Government to dismantle so-called unauthorized settlement outposts?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we did deal with that before. I talked about some of the obligations on both sides, including the obligations that the Israelis have taken on in regard to outposts.

QUESTION: So she raised it?

MR. BOUCHER: She talked about the obligations on both sides, and I just did as well.

Okay, sir.

QUESTION: Yes. Iranian officials have threatened to break off the ties with the EU-3 if the EU-3 insists on Iran stopping all its sensitive nuclear activities. What is the U.S. position and do you think it will pave the way for sending the Iranian case to the Security Council?

MR. BOUCHER: Our position is the international position. Our position is the position that the International Atomic Energy Agency has taken, both through its Board of Governors and, frankly, through its leadership as well, and that is that Iran needs to fully comply with its obligations, it needs to sign the additional protocol, it needs to turn this temporary suspension into a permanent cessation of enrichment activities. Iran has an obligation right now to reassure the international community that its statements about not seeking nuclear weapons are true, and the way to do that is the way the international community has laid out, both in the IAEA resolutions but also in the EU-3 package that they put together.

So posturing by Iran is not going to get them anywhere. Refusal by Iran to do this, that and the other is not going to get them anywhere. The only way Iran is going to get anywhere with the Europeans or with the rest of the world is by accepting freely its obligations and undertaking to fulfill them. Unfortunately, we have not seen that kind of attitude from Iran and we may have to consider what other action to take if Iran does not fulfill its obligations.


QUESTION: Can we move to China?


QUESTION: Okay. Regarding to the China anti-secession law we saw, there is a draft and some explanation about the possible content of the law. I wonder do you have any comment about the possible non-peaceful means to resolve Taiwan issues announced by Beijing, and especially there seems to draw a red line.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me talk about a couple of things regarding this law. The full -- the first is to say I don't think the full text is actually out. There has been a description of it, though, given in public and we've looked at that and we've studied that as best we can. The description given by National People's Congress Standing Committee Deputy Chairman Wang Zhaoguo on March 8th, we think runs counter to recent trends towards a warming in cross-straits relations and we would consider passage of this law unhelpful.

The law, as you noted, calls for non-peaceful means possibly to be directed at Taiwan. We have always opposed any attempt to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means. Our policy, I think, is well known, but let me say again we're committed to a "one China" policy; we uphold the three communiqués; we do not support Taiwan independence. Moreover, we oppose any attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo by either side.

We will continue to talk to both sides about these developments. We'll continue to urge both sides to avoid steps that raise tension, that risk beginning a cycle of reaction and counter-reaction, which could make dialogue more difficult.

QUESTION: A follow-up?


QUESTION: What explained by Wang Zhaoguo seems to indicated that China could attack Taiwan if there is a major incidence happened, you know, a change in this status quo move to Taiwan independence. Will U.S. worry that this is too ambiguous and give China, you know, a leverage of interpretation of what the status --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to interpret a Chinese law that we haven't seen that hasn't been passed, but certainly the kind of description of this law that we've seen, as I said, we consider unhelpful. We have made clear to both sides they don't -- they shouldn't be taking steps right now or any time to try to unilaterally alter the situation, and that remains our position.


QUESTION: Can you elaborate on that? You said that it was unhelpful. You then went directly into the reference to the non-peaceful means being directed at Taiwan. And now you've given a second reason, which is that you seem to suggest that the law, insofar as you understand it, would appear to be a step in the direction of resolving this unilaterally.

What is your beef with the law, the non-peaceful or that you think it's a unilateral effort, or both?


QUESTION: Anything else on --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'll stop at that for the moment.

QUESTION: Richard, you can't run away from the fact that the gist was --

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. BOUCHER: Wait, we're -- you're still on this, right?


MR. BOUCHER: Let him ask the question.

QUESTION: Plus, you still can't run away from the fact that the gist of the legislation is that China would invade Taiwan if it makes any move to secede from whatever, so how would this really give any implication to the U.S. security assurances to Taiwan?

MR. BOUCHER: We have always said that any attempt by a party to resolve this by other than peaceful means could be a threat to peace and security in the region. That's a position we've always taken and that still applies. I think the point to be made about the law -- I know it's been described in various ways. The Chinese have described it as an effort for peaceful means to be used and emphasized how much it talks about peaceful attempts to reach dialogue, but they've also noted that this possibility of using non-peaceful means is in the law as well.

I think our view would be, simply put, the two sides in different places passing laws or trying to define things is not the way this is going to be solved. This is going to be solved by the two sides getting together and talking to each other through dialogue. And passage of legislation is not going to help solve the problem. It's the peaceful dialogue that we've always supported that we think could be used to solve the problem and that's where we'd like to see the parties expending their effort.

QUESTION: What is the problem?

QUESTION: Just one quick one?

QUESTION: I mean, you say there's only one China --


QUESTION: So the fact that the democratic island would like to wriggle -- maybe wiggle free from an authoritarian government doesn't have U.S. support. What is to resolve except the absorption of Taiwan back by the mainland? Is that right?

MR. BOUCHER: The problem is the strained relationships, the tension, the danger that exists between the people in the mainland and the people on Taiwan.

QUESTION: The people. Well, their representatives, too, no?

MR. BOUCHER: And given the political conditions, yes.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. expressed its concerns about the legislation directly to Chinese officials?

MR. BOUCHER: We have. Ever since the law was being discussed, we've talked about this with people in China, in the PRC as well as people on Taiwan. We've had continuing discussions with both sides and we expect that dialogue will -- that discussion will continue.

QUESTION: Has Secretary Rice talked with her counterpart about it?

MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check. I don't think so. I don't think this particular topic has come up, but I'd have to double-check.


QUESTION: When Secretary Rice is going to visit Beijing next week, will she raise this issue during the meeting with the Chinese leader?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, if eventually I confirm that she's going to make a trip and that China might be part of that trip, then I would expect her to discuss Taiwan questions in Beijing if she were to go there, yes.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the if you covered it, forgive me and we'll drop it. But the meeting with Shalom --

MR. BOUCHER: I just did ten minutes of that, Barry.

QUESTION: I know you spoke of the meeting, but did you speak of the bounty issue, the issue raised by Fayyad in London that perhaps one way to deal with the -- on the issue of bringing down the militants, the terrorists, that some sort of a bounty would be paid to retire people in security forces who might not be desirable?

MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't know what you're talking about. It didn't come up this morning, whatever it was.

Okay, sir.

QUESTION: Richard, to come back to the anti-secession law, during the discussions between the United States and China, has the United States ever raised objection to the law? And in your conversation with Taiwanese authorities, what are you telling them or urging them to do or not to do?

MR. BOUCHER: In our contacts with both sides, we've made clear that we think that this kind of legislation is unhelpful. We've also encouraged both sides to pursue a peaceful dialogue. That's been a very consistent position of the United States.

QUESTION: Did -- sorry -- quick follow-up.


QUESTION: When Secretary Rice spoke to the Chinese Foreign Minister yesterday, did she raise objection to this?

MR. BOUCHER: She talked to the Chinese Foreign Minister on Monday, which, in fact, was yesterday, and this subject didn't come up yesterday. I was asked if she ever raised it, and I said I'd have to check.


QUESTION: New topic.

MR. BOUCHER: Nicholas.

QUESTION: Just one quick -- one thing. The ultimate goal that Beijing seeks is the peaceful unification. Is that something that you support, the unification of Taiwan with the mainland?

MR. BOUCHER: We support peaceful dialogue to resolve the differences between Taiwan and the mainland. Where they get to in that dialogue, how they resolve those differences, will be a matter left to them.

QUESTION: But there is only one China and Taiwan's part of it, so why wouldn't it be wrong in his assumption that you support the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland?

MR. BOUCHER: I think he's over-interpreting or you're over-interpreting. I'm not sure which.


QUESTION: There could be one China without Taiwan.

QUESTION: This is a new topic, on Italy and the firing of the convoy. I know that you talked a little about it yesterday. But today, General Casey maintained that he did not know that the convoy was going to be arriving at this checkpoint. He couldn't rule out that nobody in the U.S. Government or the Embassy or anybody knew that the convoy was going to be moving in this area, and the Italian Government maintains that the U.S. Government did know. Can you say whether anybody at the Embassy or any U.S. officials out of this Department --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try do this piecemeal. What we need now, and I think we and the Italians agree on this, is a complete and cooperative investigation and we will be undertaking that with the Italians participating in the inquiry and that -- that's going to commence shortly. We will get to the bottom of this together with the Italians. We will get to the bottom of this and get to the know all the facts together. That's what's important.

I think we've very clearly expressed our deep condolences for the tragic event. We've offered Italy our assistance in dealing with the aftermath of the incident. I think the Pentagon has, in fact, briefed on this. But the important thing now is to get the facts and we'll be doing that and we'll be working with the Italians to do that together.


QUESTION: Richard, there are reports today questioning that whole ransom issue. Do you have anything more to say on --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything more to say on it.

QUESTION: And is Ambassador Sembler or the Embassy doing anything at all to, you know, some sort of damage control or do anything with the Italians?

MR. BOUCHER: The Embassy has been in very close contact with the government. I think you noted the other night Ambassador Sembler met with Prime Minister Berlusconi. They've been in contact subsequently. And I know our Ambassador has been in touch with the Italian Government to inform them of fact that we're inviting Italians to participate in the investigation and the inquiry. So our Embassy out there has been keeping in close touch with the Italian Government, working together with them on this matter.

QUESTION: Do you see this as having any sort of medium-term or long-term impact on Italian-U.S. relations?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you seen Italians and Americans say that our relationship is very strong, it's very positive; it involves many, many areas, as allies, as friends, as likeminded nations that know the importance of helping bring freedom to the people of Iraq. This is a very regrettable, very tragic event. Italy lost one of its able and fine, dedicated civil servants. But I think we know that the U.S.-Italian relationship is still strong and will continue strong.


QUESTION: Can I move to Syria?


QUESTION: This morning the President, in his speech, said -- he called for Syrian withdrawal by the time Lebanon holds the election. Is that a pushback in U.S. position, in the U.S. position? You are already calling for an immediate withdrawal. Is this some kind of a -- you know, are you giving them some time?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't call it that, no. We have made clear, I think, again and again that the withdrawals, the withdrawal the international community called for in Resolution 1559, the immediate and full withdrawal of all foreign forces -- it would mean Syrian military and intelligence services -- from Lebanon. The Secretary of State, I think, has made clear that any elections held while Syrians are still occupying Lebanon could be tainted. And therefore, it certainly follows that if we want to have a free and fair election, those troops need to be gone immediately and be gone by the election.

QUESTION: So immediate withdrawal basically is before elections?

MR. BOUCHER: If they leave immediately, they'll be gone by the election. I don't see it as that much different.


QUESTION: Has this -- has the U.S. Government been in touch with the Syrians about their stated withdrawal and their plans and has there been any attempt by Syria to reach out to you and members of the international community to coordinate it? Or are you just going on what he said, what President Bashar said and waiting for action now?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we know what he said. We've seen the communiqué issued by the two presidents yesterday that doesn't fulfill the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 1559. That's been expressed by many members of the international community, including members of the Security Council.

As far as whether we're talking to the Syrians, yes, we have an Embassy in Damascus, we have a Chargé there who does keep in touch with the Syrian Government and we make this view clear to them.

QUESTION: No, I understand, but are you just kind of -- they're telling you that they're going to pull out and you're waiting for them to do it, or is there -- do you see any movement on their part to coordinate their withdrawal and do you see that this is going to happen soon?

MR. BOUCHER: There is no reason to wait. We don't want them to take any excuse to wait. We think they ought to pull out immediately. There's no need to wait to coordinate the withdrawal. The withdrawal -- The presence of Syrian troops has not created stability in Lebanon. The withdrawal of Syrian troops is a necessary condition for the Lebanese Government to create stability in Lebanon. That's what we seek.


QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on Cyprus. At the expense of the U.S. Government, the State Department invited the senior advisor to Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat, Ms. Wonta Senyiget, for consultations. May we have a readout about her talks here at the State Department and do you know if she met also with Secretary Condoleezza Rice?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any meeting with the Secretary. I'll have to check on any meetings we had and what the discussions were about.

QUESTION: And also, the Deputy Spokesman, Mr. Adam Ereli, stated on March 2nd, 'we want to see the Annan plan, must apply for a solution to the Cyprus problem.' I am wondering, revised or unrevised, because as it is that 10,000 pages, it's a destruction, a total destruction from the Cyprus.

MR. BOUCHER: Look, I don't have anything new on that. I think what Adam said is accurate. There is no such thing as a revised Annan plan. There is an Annan plan. And so I don't think it's worth speculating on your question.

QUESTION: No, no, not speculation. So you said that the plan should be applied as it is, correct?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm just saying there is -- the facts are clear and there is nothing new.

QUESTION: And also, in the Human Rights Report under Cyprus, you are saying, "The TRNC is not recognized by any other country except Turkey." In the previous years you were saying always, "It is not recognized by any other country, including the United States." Why exclude the U.S. for the first time? I asked Mr. Ereli March 1st, but he referred me to the Bureau for an answer, but the Bureau, on condition of anonymity, said, "This is our new policy."

Could you please, Mr. Boucher, elaborate more why you are doing this for the first time? And more specifically, it is a first small step to the direction of recognition of the occupied area of Cyprus by Turkey?


QUESTION: But why didn't you -- why didn't --

MR. BOUCHER: It's not any -- there is no change in our policy on recognition and I wouldn't read anything into that.

QUESTION: But why did they exclude it?

MR. BOUCHER: It's a statement of fact. I'll leave it that way.

QUESTION: No. Why do you exclude it, the United States for the first time after 30 years?

MR. BOUCHER: We're not excluding the United States. You know full well the United States does not recognize the so-called TRNC. Our policy has not changed on that. There is nothing new in that sentence. There is nothing new to talk about today.

QUESTION: But in the report, why it is --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. There's -- I can't make news when there is no news here, so let's just leave it where it is.

QUESTION: There is news. Excluding the U.S. Why?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, you know our policy on recognition. It's always been that way and it hasn't changed in the slightest. So the first answer I gave to your question, "No," is an accurate answer and I'll stand by it.


QUESTION: Just a couple of quick ones. Can you give us a quick readout on what former Presidents Clinton and Bush were doing in the building today, who they met, whether they talked about the tsunami, et cetera?

MR. BOUCHER: They came in to talk about the tsunami. They met with the Deputy Secretary for a while to talk to him about the tsunami and how we go forward. Obviously, we very much appreciate the effort the two presidents, President Clinton and President Bush, have been making on tsunami relief, including the trip that they made.

They're having other meetings in the building. I can't remember them all.

MR. ERELI: Video, taping some video.

MR. BOUCHER: They're taping some video messages for the region.

QUESTION: PSAs? Or to generate ?

MR. BOUCHER: I think they're basically PSAs, right?

MR. ERELI: I am not sure.

MR. BOUCHER: Either they're -- I'd have to check a little more on the content of the messages but they're for the region. And I think they may have other meetings but I don't have a full schedule.

QUESTION: Why didn't they see the Secretary? I mean, they're --

MR. BOUCHER: They did. Oh, I forgot to mention. The Secretary, right after she finished the meeting with Foreign Minister Shalom, which was scheduled for the same time, she went down to the Deputy's office and joined the meeting with the Deputy for a moment, said hello, talked a little bit, then went on to her next engagement.

QUESTION: And two other quick ones, if I may. The Nepali police arrested more than 180 activists today, including some former ministers, as they took part in rallies that we're describing as the largest since the King seized power. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to see if we have any comment on that specific event, but I think we've very clearly and consistently expressed our concern about the arrests, about the arrest of political figures and prominent figures in society there. We don't think that that is correct and we have urged their release and a return to the past democratic dialogue.

QUESTION: And Maskhadov? Sorry -- go elsewhere, if you wish. It's a small thing.


QUESTION: The Prime Minister of Kosovo resigned. He's going to turn himself into The Hague Tribunal. Any reaction to that?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. The United States welcomes Mr. Haradinaj's stated readiness to go to The Hague tomorrow. We call upon the people of Kosovo to refrain from any violence and we reiterate the importance of continuing to work on the standards for Kosovo. Adhering to the rule of law is a key element of the standards. We continue to support the tribunal. We call upon all parties in Kosovo and throughout the region to cooperate fully with the tribunal. This includes apprehending and transferring all fugitive indictees to The Hague.

Okay. Sir.

QUESTION: Do you still support the UN Resolution 1244 for Kosovo to be a part of Serbia?

MR. BOUCHER: We support Resolution 1244 and that's not what 1244 says.

QUESTION: It says correctly, Mr. Boucher, this. I can --

MR. BOUCHER: I think we better read the resolution again.

QUESTION: It's on the resolution so that's why I'm raising this question.

MR. BOUCHER: We very clearly support the standards for Kosovo, we support the Contact Group and the effort that it's making to implement Resolution 1244, and that's the direction we're headed.

QUESTION: On China. Before I came in, did you talk about a Chinese emissary coming here to talk about six-party talks?


QUESTION: Do you have anything on that?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I'll check on it. You may know something I don't know. Probably do.

QUESTION: He's actually arriving today.

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, good.

QUESTION: According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

MR. BOUCHER: Good. Who is it?


MR. BOUCHER: Never mind. I'll see if my guys can catch up with you. Get you something on it.

Okay, sir.

QUESTION: According to some North Korean officials, they seem to send some signal that they want revival of New York channel dialogue between the Embassy -- the North Korean Embassy between UN and the U.S. officials. Do you have comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment on that. I hadn't seen any particular comment by North Korean officials. That channel is used from time to time. I don't know when it was last used, but it's used from time to time to pass messages.

But the place for negotiation, the place for moving forward, the place resolve issues involved with North Korea's nuclear program, the place for North Korea to see what opportunities there are to interact with the world, that's the six-party talks. And our effort really should be concentrated on getting the six-party talks going again and North Korea's attention should be focused on getting the six-party talks going again as well.

QUESTION: Oh, one more question about South Korea. According to some news media, that you yourself singled out as a strong candidate for Ambassador to South Korea. Is it true?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment on personnel rumors, no. Even if they involve me. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Maskhadov?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any confirmation. We've seen the reports that Mr. Maskhadov has been killed. We don't have any confirmation of that. And our policy remains the same, that we think there should be a political aspect to the solution in Kosovo -- in, excuse me, Chechnya. And we'll continue to make that point.

QUESTION: I'm told that his body has been shown on Russian television with a bullet hole near his head and I wonder if you think -- I guess if you aren't really sure that he's dead, it's hard for you to say, but if you think the assassin -- the killing of somebody like this is a step in the direction of a political solution.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm going to speculate at this point on what this might mean and I don't know for sure that he is dead so I can't speculate.


QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Boucher. Do you have a formal statement you promised us the other day, March 4th, regarding the budget cut of $1 billion to Turkey, which you described as unused part of the loan guarantee?

MR. BOUCHER: Did we put out a further answer or did they decide what I said was sufficient?

MR. ERELI: They decided what you said was sufficient.

MR. BOUCHER: I think they decided what I said was accurate and sufficient so that's -- the answer I gave is the answer.

QUESTION: That's the answer. And also, in the recent days the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, the Turkish people and Turkish media in general have been attacked by a bunch of American institutions, by big American news agency like UPI, and the American press in general, on the favoring anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism with unusual details and extensive stories. I am wondering, as the Department of State, did you notice something like that and how do you comment on those criticisms?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on what UPI might be saying or try to analyze it for you. I think I'll just leave the press to account for their own reporting.

QUESTION: But also it's from institution, not only from the news media.

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'll let other people explain their positions. I think our relationship with the Turkish Government is quite solid and quite positive and we continue to view it that way.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)


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