State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 11, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 11, 2005
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
May 11, 2005
US-European Union Joint Statement on Somalia
Nomination of Henrietta Holsman Fore for Under Secretary of State for Management
Evacuation of White House and Capitol Building Today / Situation
at the State Department / Whereabouts of Secretary Rice atTime
Nomination of John Bolton for US Ambassador to UnitedNations /
Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Request for Documents
The Role of History in Current Foreign Policy
Diplomatic Efforts to Encourage North Korea to Return to Six-Party Talks
Issue of Sanctions Against North Korea
Reported Comments by US Ambassador to Japan Schieffer regarding
North Korean Preparatory Steps Toward a Nuclear Test
North Korea's Statement Regarding Removal of Spent FuelRods
Assistant Secretary Rocca's Travel to Nepal and Meetings
Egyptian Draft Constitutional Amendment on Presidential Elections
Prospects for International Election Monitors for Upcoming
Gaza Disengagement Plan
Quartet Meeting in Moscow and Quartet Statement
Draft Declaration at South American and Arab Leaders Summit in Brazil
Reported Decision by King Abdullah to Pardon Ahmad Chalabi
New Tax Policy Affecting Oil Companies Operating in Venezuela
Allegations of Desecration of Koran at Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility
Prospects for International Election Monitors for Upcoming Albania Elections
Presence of PKK in Northern Iraq
Syrian Efforts to Secure Border with Iraq
1:10 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I'll talk about a couple of things. It's a tough one. We've put out a statement with the European Union together on Somalia and support for a process underway there that Somalis are undertaking. Second of all, I wanted to call people's attention to the fact that the White House yesterday announced the President's intention to nominate an under secretary for management at the State Department, Under Secretary of State for Management Henrietta Holsman Fore of Nevada. She's Director of the U.S. Mint. She has experience -- extensive experiences in the private sector. And she also has run programs in the U.S. Agency for International Development, concerning Asia, private sector, environment, things like that.
The Secretary is very pleased that she's going to be coming to join us and that she'll be an important addition to our management team. As you know, the Secretary has made it clear all along she wants to build on and further improve the management practices that have been adopted by the State Department in the last few years. She made it the first briefing she had during the transition. She's fought for the money in the supplemental that will help bolster not only some of our programs, but also our management. And you'll hear from her tomorrow in testimony about some of the budgetary money that's going to expand personnel and support State Department management initiatives. As you, I think, heard from the Deputy Secretary -- when was it, last week in front of the house?
MR. CASEY: I believe it was ten days ago.
MR. BOUCHER: Ten days or so ago. So this is an important area for the Secretary and she's very pleased to be able to add to her team in this way.
And with that, I will stop and take your questions.
QUESTION: Have the Chinese taken the option of sanctions against North Korea off the table, so far as the U.S. is concerned?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, as the Secretary made clear during her travels in Asia, it is important to all of us, including the Chinese, that North Korea not develop nuclear weapons. It is important to all of us in the talks that we resolve this peacefully through the best mechanism available, which is the six-party talks. And therefore, it's very important to us and to the Chinese to see North Korea return to the table and return to this table willing to deal seriously without issue of elimination of nuclear weapons and deal seriously with the issues on the table.
All that said, the Secretary made clear during her trip out there that the actual diplomacy for what the Chinese will do is going to be left to the Chinese. And they're going to decide how to do this, how to encourage this, how to push for this. We do think that robust diplomacy is necessary, in this case, if North Korea has resisted in treaties to come back to the talks. But exactly how to do that, I think, we'll leave to the Chinese.
QUESTION: This statement seems to suggest not only in this situation, but generally speaking, I don't think sanctions are the way to resolve problems.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I'm not going to jump on or try to interpret some Chinese statement.
QUESTION: No, I wasn't asking you to interpret it, but I don't know how you could --
MR. BOUCHER: Or explain it to them.
QUESTION: -- go on to the UN if a Permanent Member of the Security Council has a dead-set position against sanctions. Why would you waste your time trying to bring it to the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I would point out that the North Korea issue has been before the Security Council in the past.
QUESTION: You mean the sanctions have, you know --
MR. BOUCHER: Ten years ago.
QUESTION: Well, okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Not more -- I can't remember exactly when more recently, but so -- 2002, that's less than ten years ago -- two years -- three years ago. So that fact is the Security Council can and will, if necessary, take up some of these issues. That is, again, not necessarily the best way to solve them. The best way to solve them is for North Korea to come back to the talks and to be constructive.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? What do you mean by "robust diplomacy"?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've seen, through the Secretary's travels, that nations have been active in pressing North Korea in various ways to return to the talks.
QUESTION: Is it along the lines of the reported request to China to stop fuel supplies --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not going to talk about how somebody else ought to do their diplomacy when the Secretary of State was quite clear that these nations need to consider how best to encourage North Korea to come back to the talks. And I'm sure China will not only continue what it has been doing in an active effort to do that, but will also continue to consider what is necessary to accomplish that goal.
QUESTION: Just one more for me, if I may? The U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Scheiffer has been quoted as saying that, "confirming that North Korea has indeed taken the first steps towards a nuclear test" can you confirm that?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't go any further than we have before. I wouldn't quite read as much into his statements as you do. I saw the statements themselves. But we have made very clear that we have seen the North Koreans escalate their rhetoric, make continued claims. We've seen a pattern develop from North Korea in recent months that indicates they're headed in the wrong direction. And we think that rather than further antagonizing other nations and isolating themselves or taking further action in that direction, that they should reverse course, that they should come back to the talks and try to work constructively with the situation.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the announcement today that -- by North Korea that says that if it has indeed removed all these spent fuel rods that we've been talking to them about forever?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't have enough time to check, but they've made similar statements in the past about this. And as I've said before, we see rhetoric, claims, statements, activities, whatever by North Korea that go in the wrong direction. It's time for them to stop isolating themselves, for them to realize that they need to come back to the talks and be constructive.
MR. BOUCHER: George.
QUESTION: You haven't used the phrase "complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament." Is that still the policy?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has a proposal on the table that would lead to a process that results in the elimination of nuclear weapons capability on the peninsula in a transparent and open manner. The policy remains the same.
QUESTION: You used to have an acronym, CVID.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've used the acronym for a while. The policy remains the same: complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement. Dismantlement, I think it is, actually. But nobody can remember what it is if we use the acronym so we'll continue to explain it using English.
QUESTION: Back on the sanctions issue. If China is against sanctions at the Security Council for North Korea and one of your options, even though you've said it's not the best option, is to take them to the Security Council, would you be satisfied with just taking them to the Security Council, having a rebuke and stopping short of sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: You're ten steps down the road on speculation. That's not what we're doing. If we start doing that, we'll explain it when we do it.
QUESTION: But the Secretary -- you said ten steps down the road. The Secretary in Beijing --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, four and a half steps down the road. When we start -- if we start moving down that road, we'll tell you what we're doing and what we're looking for. But at the moment, let's not start speculating.
QUESTION: Okay. Apart from the public comment yesterday by the Foreign Ministry has spoken, has China communicated to the United States that it doesn't support sanctions against North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speak for the Chinese. I just want to make clear, we work very closely with the Chinese, we have worked closely with the Chinese and we'll continue to work with them. Through this process, we and the Chinese, as well as other members of the six-party process, believe very strongly that North Korea cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. And we all work together in order to try to achieve that goal.
QUESTION: In the area, another hot spot for weeks has been Nepal with King Gyanendra, with his clamp down on democracy. And Tom yesterday mentioned that Christine Rocca has been in Nepal. There's a rally scheduled for this Sunday at the White House at Lafayette Park. Is there anything new from those discussions? And also, are the Chinese Government either secretly or openly putting in weaponry into the Maoists?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Chinese have previously denounced the Maoists and expressed their firm opposition to anything that those people were up to. So you'd have to check the records on that, but I think I remember seeing that as a public statement.
Tom, did you talk about Christina's meetings yesterday or not?
MR. CASEY: Basically, talked about the general purpose of the trip. We didn't have anything have any readout on the meetings.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. All right, I'll see if we can get more on the actual meetings themselves. She did meet with the King. And of course, encouraging return to democracy as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Can you -- are you able to update your -- U.S.'s views on Egyptian reform measures? The other day, while you were away, the Spokesman said it's, you know, too early, we haven't had quite a chance -- we appreciate any efforts that are being made. Is there a-- further -- further observations on that? The Prime Minister is coming here --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I think, in terms of, excuse me, in terms of detailed observations I'd say we haven't got a thorough analysis yet of the draft amendment that was passed by the parliament yesterday. That amendment now goes to a national referendum. We certainly welcome the basic announcement on February 26th and the intention to allow multiple candidates to participate in free, fair and open elections. We look forward to reviewing the amendment in relation to that announcement and the standard that that set.
I think the principles of democratic reform in these kinds of situations are well known and that citizens, in all countries, benefit from having a direct say in their government and gain from having more rather than fewer choices available to them in a free and fair election. So we will look closely at the drafts. We certainly expect there to be a healthy debate on the draft constitutional amendment and to be scrutinized by Egyptian politicians and civil society. And we look forward to seeing that discourse.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you taking seriously the opposition complaints, which are many, that the system as passed by parliament is still very restrictive and could end up as a unilateral candidacy?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we certainly believe, as I said, there needs to be more choices rather than fewer, that there -- that that needs to be an element -- that will be an element of discussion and we'll follow this debate. But I'm not going to try to take sides on it at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, within the last hour, hour and a half, there was an incident in Washington where the White House and the Capitol were evacuated, as well as other buildings, the Supreme Court and the Interior Department. My question is: What is the mechanism that determines whether the State Department, which has had drills before and there's an alarm system -- did State Department officials know about it? Was Secretary Rice evacuated or told about it? What happened in this building?
MR. BOUCHER: State Department officials knew about it and the information was being evaluated. Decisions were in train. I'd say that they were in the process of making a decision about evacuation here when the all clear was given. So at that moment the decision-making process was stopped.
Secretary Rice happened to be in a media interview. Members of her staff that were in the room knew about it but since there was no decision to evacuate she wasn't interrupted in that interview. She found out about it, therefore, right when she finished, just about the time the all clear was given.
MR. BOUCHER: I think certainly -- frankly, it depends on the nature of the information and the kind of threat that there might be. The threat could be more localized. It could be more general. That would determine whether individual agencies might evacuate or not.
QUESTION: You just mentioned your support for more choices for the Egyptians to make. I wonder what your opinion is about the Foreign Minister of Israel conditioning the withdrawal from Gaza on the fact that the Palestinian Authority must exclude big segment -- very important segments of the electoral voices in Palestine.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me just say there have been different things said in Israel by different ministers. We have been assured by Israeli officials in our discussions that Israel remains committed to Gaza disengagement. We expect them to go ahead with that plan. That's a plan the Prime Minister has talked about in terms of it being right for Israel and that he wants to go ahead with it.
We also think it's a major opportunity for all, for Israelis and for Palestinians, to coordinate, to cooperate, to move forward in a way that they've never had an opportunity to do so before. And you've seen in the Quartet statement from the meeting in Moscow how much the Quartet supports the withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank as an opportunity and how much the Quartet intends to support the Palestinians as they build the institutions of democracy and the practices of government, of good governance that can help support a Palestinian state in the future.
So I think the issue is not so much the Israeli withdrawal. The issue is what kind of state do the Palestinians want to create. The more democratic, the more well founded that state can be, the better it's going to be able to pursue the goal of having a Palestinian state and be able to govern one peacefully and side by side with Israel.
QUESTION: If I can follow up, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem is being on the screens of the Arab TVs in the last few days and nights encouraging the Muslims to rise up to confront the Jewish extremists who are trying to invade their mosque in Jerusalem, Islamic mosque in Jerusalem. This is igniting lots of what is not desired at this time. It is encouraging some suicide bombers to increase and igniting lots of emotions.
Do you encourage the Government of Israel to contain these extremists, Jewish extremists, from invading the mosque in Jerusalem?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've spoken about the need to avoid extremism and avoid violence on all sides, and that remains our position.
Said, you had one?
QUESTION: I had a quick follow-up. Nasser al-Kidwa, the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Palestinian Authority, warned that relations with Israel are deteriorating and he attributed that to Israeli stalling tactics. I wonder if you have been in touch with him to explain his statement.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've been in touch with him or what more he might have said in that regard. I'd just remind you we had a Quartet meeting in Monday in Moscow. It was an important meeting. We heard directly from Mr. Wolfensohn. We heard the Special Envoy of the Quartet. We heard directly from General Ward. They have both been there. They're both working intensely, particularly General Ward, on the ground on issues of security, on building Palestinian institutions to make this withdrawal a success and to make the onward progress a success as well. And we need to do this, we need to do it right, and that's where a lot of attention and energy has to be focused and should be focused.
So I think whatever the debates may be about this, that and the other, it is very important for all parties to focus on the withdrawal and to make it work right and for everybody to do their part. And certainly, the Quartet is going to do their part and the United States is going to do its part.
QUESTION: On Iran, the Europeans trying diplomacy, is there still a point in continuing that process? Are you approaching the point where you have to take the issue to the Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a question we've always said is for the Europeans first and foremost to determine. It's their negotiation and they're the ones who will be determining whether it's moving forward or not.
QUESTION: I mean, do you have a -- you're not a bystander in the sense that the U.S. has a huge --
MR. BOUCHER: We've expressed our support for their effort and we will take --
QUESTION: Sure. No, but I mean, will there come a time when -- have we reached -- have you reached the point where the effort is just not paying dividends?
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, it's their negotiation. If they want to decide that, I'm sure we'll talk to them about it. But -- and I think we remain in very close touch with them and we'll continue to consult on the situation.
QUESTION: In Latin America, in South America, they have a summit between Latin American leaders and Arab leaders. Can I ask you about the final declaration because --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the final declaration is out yet.
QUESTION: They've sort of issued the drafts of it and --
MR. BOUCHER: So you're not asking me about the final declaration. You're asking me about the draft declaration; aren't you, Saul?
QUESTION: I don't know if you -- picking up on that is an indication --
MR. BOUCHER: Because we are following the situation down there, but I don't think it's for me to comment on it until they actually issue a final declaration.
QUESTION: When it's expected that the declaration is going to say it gives support for the right of people to resist occupation, does that raise concern that --
MR. BOUCHER: Then what would it be expected for me to be going to say at that moment when they are expected they're going to say what they're going to say?
QUESTION: I might expect --
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll wait until we see the final declaration.
QUESTION: Okay. And again you won't be expected to say this is support for Hezbollah?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what I'll be expected to say at that point or what you might expect me to be going to say at that moment, but at the moment, right now, I'm not gonna.
QUESTION: Well, to continue with the expectations just so I know what to expect when you give your expected reply, they've also expressed concern over U.S. sanctions over -- against Syria. So I can ask you about that tomorrow for your expected reply.
MR. BOUCHER: If they expect to issue their final tomorrow, we can talk about it tomorrow.
QUESTION: I'm sure you'll be delighted to return to Bolton talk. Yesterday we were waiting on word from somewhere upstairs as to whether more documents were going to be transferred. I'd like to know if anything did -- anything more did make its way to the Hill.
MR. BOUCHER: We've had consultations with the committee staff about what kind of documents they might need in support of the administration's nomination of John Bolton to be our Ambassador to the United Nations. We are in the process of sending some additional documents up to the committee after consultation with them. I'd add that we would expect this to be the final set of documents that need to be provided.
QUESTION: Do you think they'll get there before the vote?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: What is "in the process of"? Are they being driven across town? Have you determined which documents? You're just --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've determined the documents that we need and we're getting them together. I don't know if they've been delivered yet.
MR. CASEY: I don't know if they've been delivered yet. They should be on their way.
QUESTION: In a car?
QUESTION: In a high-speed car?
QUESTION: But today? You expect them to arrive today?
MR. CASEY: Today, yes.
MR. BOUCHER: We expect them to get there today. As a matter of fact, we expect them to get there soon. I just don't know if they've been put in a vehicle or put in a stack or put in a binder or however.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what -- if the narrowing -- if this was a result of the narrowing of the questions by the committee and if they agreed to rule out anything that didn't deal with Syria, or can you give us any idea?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't want to characterize the committee's requests. I'm sure the committee has been very active in characterizing its own positions on these requests or members of the committee have been very active in characterizing their requests when they've made committee -- and they've made requests that are separate from the whole committee.
QUESTION: How about what you've provided?
MR. BOUCHER: What we provided was an attempt to be forthcoming, as we've always tried to be forthcoming, to the needs of the committee, to the needs of the Senate to advice and consent, an attempt to help the Senate work through that process in the appropriate manner and to help the Senate conclude that process in the appropriate manner, which we think is to send a nominee forward and to help give us an Ambassador to the United Nations as soon as possible and, of course, an Ambassador whose name is John Bolton.
QUESTION: One more. The Washington Post is citing some e-mails that were providing by a State Department official yesterday regarding clearance process on Bolton's speech. Yesterday we were told that this was not something the Department wanted made public, that this would have a bad effect on discussion. Or it might have been two days ago. Was this -- was it cleared by you, for example, that these e-mails were going to be released and did you have a problem with it?
MR. BOUCHER: I was in an airplane so I, frankly, don't know how those e-mails were released or whether they're part of the documents being given to the committee.
QUESTION: Do you have a problem with giving them to certain news organizations?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point I'll have to check on it for an answer to that.
QUESTION: Do you plan to look into whether -- to that? I mean, is it something that --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure I'll see what there is to be known about this and whether or not it's a problem.
QUESTION: And can you make them public or send them to a few more people if --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that as well. I'll have to see.
QUESTION: Richard, in terms of the documents that may or may not making their way up Pennsylvania Avenue or Constitution, we've kind of glossed over a point that's become important. Are these documents that were requested by the minority -- you've made reference to committee staff -- is that, does that mean that the majority approved it because Secretary Rice, and other spokesmen have gone to great lengths to talk about things approved by Senator Lugar -- so the question is, are these documents the documents that the Democrats have wanted?
MR. CASEY: We've been in contact with both sides.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer is we've been in contact with both sides. (Laughter.) No, Tom has, as you all know, has been following this a little more closely than I have, especially with the travel. The desire the Secretary has is to be as forthcoming as possible with the members of the committee, to help them in their deliberations, to help them in their advice and consent and to help them reach a conclusion. So we certainly listen carefully to the needs on both sides and where we're able to comply with these requests, we certainly will do so.
QUESTION: Are you confident that Bolton is the right man for this job?
MR. BOUCHER: Absolutely. The Secretary has made clear all along that she was among -- well, she suggested John Bolton's name to begin with, she's been among his supporters all along. She's made clear in interview after interview, as well as her own contacts with people on the Hill and around town that she believes John Bolton is the right man for the right job, that the UN is in need of reform, the UN is in need of -- take action on a lot of issues, a lot important issues up there and John Bolton can be a strong voice to represent U.S. interests in that process.
QUESTION: Richard, can I follow on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: You said that you would -- you do expect that this would be the last 200 documents to come from here. Is that only because you would expect a vote tomorrow and there won't be anymore time or is this now a firm decision by the State Department we are not giving anything else?
MR. BOUCHER: This is because we want them to move on to conclude their deliberations and move forward. And so we're saying -- we think that by providing this final set of documents, we've put them in a position to make whatever deliberations and decisions they need to tomorrow.
QUESTION: And that you will not entertain requests for more --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm -- just said we think we put them in a position now, with the material that they've requested, to be able to conclude their deliberations in the committee, of course.
QUESTION: Could you sum up in any way, if you can, and there may be diverse documents, but can you sum up in any way, the point these documents make?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't.
QUESTION: Do they --
MR. BOUCHER: The point that they make is that they're responsive to what the committee said they wanted -- to what committee and different members of the committee said they wanted. And so the point of this is that throughout this process, we've been very forthcoming in providing testimony for Mr. Bolton and for many others in this building, in providing documents from this building and trying to work with committees on requests -- even where we saw requests that we didn't think we could comply with -- to try to talk to the committee as we did in this case and identify more clearly what they needed and provide information that they really needed.
And so, I think the point all along is that the administration has been very forthcoming in supporting this nominee and providing the committee with what they needed to conduct their deliberations. And now that we hope -- we hope that having done so all along, that the committee will be able to take up this matter and deal with it so that we can move forward on a nominee that the President, Secretary of State, think is eminently qualified to represent the United States with a strong voice at the UN. And to move forward so that we can have representation up there in the way that we all deserve.
Okay. Where were we? Said had the next one. Yeah.
QUESTION: Quickly. It seems that the King of Jordan has issued -- or issuing a pardon to Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraq Prime Minister. How do you view that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I hadn't seen it. I don't know that I'll have anything at all to say about it. That'd be a matter for Jordan to decide.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's --
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Venezuela. The Venezuelan Government made, in the past days, an announcement. It's going to request a retroactive payment of taxes and royalties to foreign oil companies operating in Venezuela. Do you have any comment on that? Do you see any connection between this announcement and the request of the -- Posada Carriles -- extradition of Posada Carriles?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there needs to be any connection to anything else. Have we commented on this tax question?
MR. CASEY: No, we haven't.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get you something on the tax question.
QUESTION: Is (inaudible) operating an opinion to Jordan about Mr. Chalabi?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: I mean the State Department.
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, it's a matter for the Jordanians to decide.
QUESTION: I realize -- then I realized maybe this is the wrong building to ask. But maybe the Pentagon would be a better place to ask, but did State weigh in with that -- that you know of, as to whether Chalabi should be pardoned?
MR. BOUCHER: Most foreign governments, Barry, don't necessary consult with us in these matters so I don't know we had any occasion to do that.
QUESTION: Can you anything more about the genesis of the statement on Somalia that you put out today? Is there -- is there a working group between the U.S. and EU?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been in close consultations with the European Union in order to support the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. We strongly support the establishment of a functioning central government in Somalia. It's time to bring Somali people out of a very long period of civil conflict and address the international community's concerns regarding terrorism.
So we have worked together with them, consulting frequently with the Europeans. I don't know if you know, but the United States is the largest bilateral donor to Somalia -- $30 million in the last year -- and that goes to provide assistance to Somalis, but not any direct assistance to the Transitional Federal Government.
So we work closely with the Europeans. I think we're all looking at the same goals that -- to reestablish effective government for Somalis so that they can live in peace and prosper. And we'll work -- to continue to work together with them in that regard.
QUESTION: Obviously, you know, the draft of the statement is encouraging the transitional government to set up in Somalia. Would the United States and EU be willing to support this financially?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we are indeed trying to help Somalis. You'll have to ask the European Union about whether -- to what extent they're willing to support the government itself. But I think as we said, the installation of government in Somalia, as you see in the statement, is really a matter for the Somalis to decide how to go about that and to decide how to do that with the support of different people inside Somalia and in the best possible manner so that the government is established effectively and accepted in Somalia.
Okay, let's work our way around the back. Sir.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the hostage situation in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Japanese hostage, reported Japanese hostage?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything new on that. Sorry.
QUESTION: Richard, I had two questions, actually, on two subjects. First, I want to move to Egypt and whether you have any follow-up on the law which was passed yesterday because yesterday you said you did not see it yet.
MR. BOUCHER: I just talked about that ten minutes ago.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry, I came in --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll refer you back to what I just said.
QUESTION: Okay, the second issue. There is some controversy in Egypt about a statement made by President Bush about seeking international monitors for elections and I was wondering whether this is U.S. standards. He was quoted in several Egyptian papers as saying that we think Egyptian elections should have international monitors and I was wondering whether this is something you have --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember the quote. I do know that, you know, it's general practice around the world for nations to welcome and invite monitoring, both domestic and international, so I don't see it as that unusual but I don't remember the precise quote. You'd have to check with the White House on that.
QUESTION: I don't know if you were aware of the situation concerning Guantanamo, the demonstrations in Afghanistan today. I mean, there were four people who were killed there. And again, you know, generally, the comment and your policy on Guantanamo in light of the FBI memos and whether this is a pattern or just an act of a few soldiers, as usually the case is.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I didn't get that question. Let me try to address that as thoroughly as I can. It is an important topic that people understand what our attitude is and what the situation is for Muslim detainees in Guantanamo. First, I want to say that the U.S. Government is looking into the allegations that were published in Newsweek that military might have desecrated the Holy Koran as part of their interrogation of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. We take issues like that very, very seriously and the U.S. Government will look into them thoroughly.
But let me point out the entire national history of the United States is bound together by a fundamental respect for religious freedom and we carry out those principles when we have -- with regard to the prisoners at Guantanamo. Desecration of religious texts and objects is repugnant to common values and an anathema to the American people.
The allegation is contrary to our respect for cultural customs and the fundamental belief in the freedom of religion that we do practice at Guantanamo Bay with regard to prisoners of the Muslim religion. Personnel that we assign to Guantanamo Bay go through cultural training to ensure that they understand the procedures for protecting the rights and dignity of detainees. The detainees, when they're in custody, receive not only adequate shelter and clothing but their meals, appropriate meals to their culture and their religious beliefs, so Muslim prisoners can get the appropriate meals that they want. There's an opportunity to worship. People get copies of the Koran. They get prayer beads. They have reading materials. They also get, of course, medical care and other facilities there. The Call to Prayer is played over camp loudspeakers at the appropriate times every day and detainees have stenciled arrows pointing in the direction of Mecca so that people are afforded the opportunity to pray as they wish.
QUESTION: And this is not the first incident. There's the incident of the FBI memos mentioning about the Israeli flag draping, about abusing women for sexual tainting. And so it's -- I mean, you've been saying the same things all the time. Don't you think you should do another -- something further than saying we are investigating the matter right now since it seems to be widespread?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't think I would accept it as widespread. I'd say the widespread practices are the practices that I described, the practices of respect for the religion of the people who are in prison there. Those are the widespread practices. Those are the general and common practices in the facility. Those are the rules and the procedures that the facility operates under. And that is to respect people's religion and afford them every opportunity to practice their religion.
If there are practices that deviate from that, they are abhorrent to us and they need to be identified. The only way to identify them is to look into them and find out about them and investigate them, where it's appropriate.
QUESTION: Could you talk about what is being done to look into those practices that have been reported?
MR. BOUCHER: The military is looking into it and they'll get back to us and tell us if there's some behavior here that needs to be investigated and corrected and punished.
QUESTION: Could you tell us the diplomatic contacts that you have had or may have had with the Pakistani Government or other governments about this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, you know, there have been demonstrations in Afghanistan, as the gentleman reported at the beginning of his question. There were even reports of some injuries in death in that regard in Jalalabad. The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police have restored order and so, of course, we're in touch with the Afghan Government about those things and I'm sure we'll be in touch with other governments, if necessary, to make clear what our policy is.
QUESTION: Before the Pentagon finishes its investigation, are you affirming that it is not common practice at Guantanamo to desecrate the Koran?
MR. BOUCHER: I am affirming that it is common practice at Guantanamo to respect the religious rights of prisoners and afford them every opportunity to practice their religion in the appropriate manner. To what extent violations of that policy or variegations from that policy might have occurred, I can't yet tell you. But the common policy and the common practice, the rules and understandings are that every prisoner has the right to practice his religion in the appropriate manner and that all of us should be respectful of that.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, a question of principle, and I need your experience since a policy maker to be in the near future. Yesterday I asked two questions on the historical role of Albanian nationalists who unfortunately still cause havoc in the Balkans. The Spokesman invoked immunity from history and evaded the answer. Let me now rephrase a related question so as to get a clear understanding how the U.S. foreign policy making is in process.
Since we are told time and again to leave history to the historians, the question is: Does the Department of State formulate foreign policy in a historical vacuum? If yes, how do you then avoid repeating history? If not, why you are so bothered when questions about the past that shapes future of Balkans policies are raised? And so such questions cause embarrassment to anyone? Does, for example, the fact that many Kosovo leaders today are the offspring of Nazi collaborators embarrass anyone in the Department of State?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay --
QUESTION: To forgive yes, to forget no, Mr. Boucher.
MR. BOUCHER: The first question is to my -- to the Acting Spokesman yesterday. How come you have immunity from history and I don't?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me take the question seriously, please, because you're not the only one that's asking the question a question about what's the role of history in current foreign policy.
As you know, during the President's trip, these issues kept coming up with, you know, 1939, 1941, 1946, the things that had happened in the prewar and the postwar with regard to Nazi Germany and the behavior of the Soviet Union at that time. And I think both the Secretary and the President along the course of the trip made very clear, yes, it's important to understand and to analyze these historical events. It's important to remember what happened and to base our current actions, in part, on the fact that we know the history of what happened.
But it's also very important to look forward. It's also very important to move forward with a people who are trying to do things differently, with a people who may sometimes be sons and daughters of other people who did things wrong. But it's important to look to people of goodwill and move forward to try to reconcile with the past, to try to move -- to try to understand it and to try to make something new with the future. And I think that's what you heard from the Secretary and the President throughout this trip and I think that's what would apply to a similar situation elsewhere.
QUESTION: The question --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Hang on. He's going to try another one in history.
QUESTION: Albania will hold the parliamentary election July 3rd and the Albanian President announced that they said that the vote will be clearly monitored by European Union and NATO. What about the United States? Are you going to monitor those elections? Because it's very important for --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see if we have direct U.S. monitoring in those elections. We sometimes participate in other groups and collections of people. We have been active in that part of the world with support for free elections, electoral education and sometimes with monitoring. I'll check and see what we have going for the Albanian election in July.
QUESTION: One more for Turkey. According to Washington Post, the U.S. refusal to move against the Kurdish organization PKK in Iraq has created anti-Americanism in Turkey and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hilmi Ozkok, complained that putting the PKK as "remain on the list of terrorist organization by the State Department does not have any meaning for Turkey in practice." How do you respond to his criticism?
MR. BOUCHER: I would respond by saying this is an issue that certainly we have worked on carefully with the Turkish Government. We are very aware of the Turkish concerns about the presence of the PKK, which we and they both see as a terrorist organization in northern Iraq. We are very committed to try to ensure that the territory of Iraq is not used for terrorist actions or as a terrorist safe haven and throughout Iraq we're taking action to try to carry through on that commitment.
With regard to northern Iraq, we do consult closely and keep in close touch with the Turkish Government, but I guess I don't have anything new to report to you right now.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, one last thing about Guantanamo. Can you update us on the fate of the detainees and whether there is any intention towards closing Guantanamo once and for all in light of all these scandals?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, let's not talk about scandals. Let's talk about charges. I mean, there have been some allegations made and they all need to be looked into.
MR. BOUCHER: There are allegations that have been made and they need to be looked into. But I do think that we need to pay attention to the general practices that are going on there, the respect that is shown to the prisoners and the fact that they do get humane treatment. And as I said, if there are any aberrations, they'll be investigated and people will be held accountable.
In terms of Guantanamo, there have been a series of releases of people from Guantanamo, some dozen -- several -- what is it? Do you remember the number?
MR. CASEY: A hundred and forty, I believe.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it's over a hundred and something prisoners already who've been released or transferred to other nations. There are processes there for review of the situations of different prisoners. But at the same time I have to remind you, many of these people were picked up on the field of battle. They were fighting against coalition forces, they were fighting against the United States, they were involved in terrorist organizations. And nobody wants to see them released, only to find them, again, on the field of battle, trying to kill Americans or coalition forces or innocent Afghans or innocent Iraqis.
So much of the terrorism that has occurred recently in Iraq kills innocent Iraqis. And one can't countenance that in any way.
QUESTION: Richard, in Iraq, you just mentioned the Turkish-Iraqi border, but there's been a foreign insurgency over the last week with U.S. Marines -- and from what you just mentioned, two coalition forces, maybe Iraqi forces, helping to wipe this out. Is there any cooperation with the Syrian Government? And we've withdrawn our Ambassador to Syria -- is there any ongoing rapport with them here in Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there are contacts with Syria and we still have people at an Embassy there and they still have an Embassy here. What we're looking for with Syria is not so much contacts as action to seal off their border, prevent the use of their territory. And I don't think I have any new developments on that front to report.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new on the Luis Posada case?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Do you know whether the U.S. is looking for a third country where he might settle?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that, George. I think from the start, we've not been able to comment on this case so I don't have anything to say at this point.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:52 p.m.)