State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 16, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 16, 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
May 16, 2005
Decision by Parliament to Give Women the Right to Vote / Important Step
Rights of Women a Matter of International Human Rights
Iran's Relations with People Inside Iraq
Negotiations on Iranian Nuclear Program / Possible UN Referral
Border Security / Foreign Insurgents in Iraq / Cooperation in Border Areas
International Definition of Terrorism
Secretary's Remarks About Constitutional Process / Territorial Integrity of Iraq
Need for Syria to Remove All Syrian Influence in Lebanon / Resolution 1559
Guantanamo Bay / Newsweek Article Retracted / Effects Around the World
Situation on the Ground Today / No Further Reports of Violence
U.S. Condemnation of Attacks on Protestors, Government Facilities
Next Steps / Full Access for ICRC Urged and Media Urged
U.S. Contacts with Uzbek Government and Other Governments in Region
Human Rights Record of Uzbekistan / Government's Efforts to Fight Extremism
Khodorkovsky Conviction / U.S. Concern
Oil-for-Food Allegations / Russian Involvement
Effect of Khodorkovsky Case on Confidence in Russian Institutions
Dialogue Between North Korea and South Korea
Need for North Korea to Return to Six Party Talks
Ambassador Hill Meetings
Possible Incentives Proposal / Coordination Among Parties
Comments by Ambassador Tony Garza
President Fox Comments / U.S. Request for Clarification
Travel Warning for U.S-Mexico Border Region
U.S. Reaction to Election / U.S. Embassy Observers
Claims of Fraud / Call to Refrain from Violence / Post Election Demonstration Ban
Additional Information for Bolton Confirmation Process
Secretary's Travel to Iraq / On-going Dialogue
Discussion of Expansion of Security Council Permanent Membership / Veto Power
Reports that Associates of Rebiya Kadir Harassed
Congressional Delegation Travel to North Cyprus
12:50 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here with you. If I can just make one note at the beginning, we'll have a statement for you, it's not fully written yet. But the Kuwaiti parliament just voted to give women the right to vote. We think this is an important step forward for Kuwait, for the women of Kuwait and for the nation as a whole. And certainly the ability of the women of Kuwait now to play a more effective role in the full political life of the nation is a good step forward and one for -- one that will help the people throughout Kuwaiti society and help women throughout Kuwaiti society.
So with that note, we'll get a statement to you a little later and it's all I have to say at the beginning. Be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Let me ask you, please, have there been a lot of words about Syrian insurgence that many feel were words about Iran. Could you attempt to give us the dimensions of the Iranian insurgency and how serious a problem it is as you try to move ahead in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know I can give you the dimensions of it. We have been concerned all along about undue influence by Iran in various ways in Iraq's politics or in supporting various groups within Iraq. You've heard a lot of this from Iraqi leaders themselves. And the Secretary, I think, you'll see in the transcripts as they come out that she talked about neighbors -- Syria and Iran -- during the course of her visit.
And I think the bottom line is that Iran's neighbors -- Iran's relations with people inside Iraq are not transparent and they need to be made transparent. They need to be normal relations, friendly relations between neighbors. But they shouldn't be in the nature of political influence. They should be in the nature of diplomatic relations.
QUESTION: In so far as fighting people -- fighting -- are people coming in from Iran into Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I really don't have any new information on that. As they are from Syria, I don't really have any new information on that, Barry.
QUESTION: Can I try -- you want to stay on that? You should make reference of --
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Said.
QUESTION: Richard, why is it so difficult to determine, in a way, with a scale of one to ten, how much from Saudi Arabia, how much from Syria, how much Iran -- why is that so difficult? Because they, you know, they're caught, they're killed, and so on. Can you determine their identities just to see, you know, which country is exporting more of these fellows?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I'm not sure it makes a difference. We do try to determine the routes by which insurgents, terrorists and others get supplies, get support and get people and we try to cut those off. That's what you have to do. But as far as trying to give a numerical percentage of how many people came from here, how many came by there or how many came by there, I'm not quite sure what the point is. But second of all, these people don't declare themselves at border post. They don't fill out a form and say, "I'm going to Iraq to commit terrorism."
QUESTION: I understand. But --
MR. BOUCHER: So you do have, you know, some kind of feel for this. The military on the ground may be able to give you some kind of feel for this. But the point is to stop these people and to stop the insurgents that work with them and support them.
QUESTION: Wouldn't it be prudent or an effort in the process to stop them, if we determine that so many have come from Saudi Arabia, so you can lean more on the Saudis, instead of --
MR. BOUCHER: I think you can identify the routes by which people get there. In some of these routes, there is cooperation in stopping them. There is cooperation with Saudi Arabia on the border areas of Saudi Arabia, which we know are often distant, somewhat desolate parts of the country and therefore difficult to police. But we are, indeed, working with the Saudis to try to cut off transit through that border area, try to cut off any support of any possibilities of people getting through.
Iran -- the Iraqis have made efforts, coalition has made efforts, as you know, to keep people from coming across, but there's less cooperation and that with Syria, as the Secretary's made clear during the last few days as well, the Syrians have made insufficient efforts to try to cut off that border and there are people still gathering and supplying and infiltrating from Syria. And we think the Syrians need to make a much bigger effort to cut that off.
QUESTION: Yes. As a matter of principle, does the U.S. Government consider terrorists those people who are resisting invasion and occupation forces of their own country? For example, Adolf Hitler was calling the brave Polish people who resisting the Nazi forces terrorists during the invasion and occupation of Poland. Could you please clarify the U.S. position on this crucial matter? Otherwise, how do you distinguish the freedom fighter from a terrorist?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't.
MR. BOUCHER: Look, this matter of defining terrorism is a major issue of international debate and discussion. We think most of that discussion is worthless -- that when you have people bombing cafes, bombing civilians, blowing up police who are standing in line to blowing up individuals who are standing in line to become policemen, you have terrorists who are kidnapping and killing aid workers, like Margaret Hassan. It's not a matter of defining terrorism. They're out to kill Iraqi civilians in marketplaces. They're out to kill Iraqi civilians standing in line to get jobs. They're out to kill humanitarian workers who are helping the Iraqis. It's not a matter of some international definition. It's a matter of looking at what they're doing and saying, "These are terrorists and they need to be stopped."
QUESTION: Can I move a little bit eastward again? The Secretary made some reference to Syrian intelligence still being in Lebanon. I'm not sure I can track all this. I thought, as difficult as they are to distinguish, as distinguished from troops, I thought the U.S. was pretty well convinced everybody's out.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: No, we're not?
MR. BOUCHER: We've always made it clear that -- no, it's not now or not. It's -- we haven't been.
QUESTION: No, it's -- yeah.
MR. BOUCHER: We've made clear since the beginning, since Syria actually started removing troops that, you know, we noted the things we had seen, which was withdrawal of the military forces. We noted some of the things that we had seen, like closing down some of the acknowledged intelligence facilities. But we said it's still an open question, indeed, as to whether Syria has left a residual intelligence presence and that they need to remove all sources of influence, all their intelligence people, as well as all their military people. And the United Nations has sent a team out there to look at that situation. I'm not sure; I don't think they've reported back yet, so until we know for sure, I think it's important to remember that they do have to remove all --
QUESTION: But do you think it's possible to figure out for sure?
MR. BOUCHER: It may be difficult.
QUESTION: Just intelligence people --
MR. BOUCHER: It may be difficult, but I'm sure that there are many in Lebanon who are sensitive to this matter. There's press in Lebanon that will report on this matter and will look at all available sources of information and give you our best judgments as well. But until it's clear and verified by the UN that all Syrian intelligence have left or that all Syrian influence has been removed because that's what the resolution called for, then I think it's important to remember that is what the resolution calls for.
QUESTION: Richard, you mentioned this Friday, but Newsweek has come out with a partial retraction of their article concerning Guantanamo. And how are you dealing with this? And also, there have been fiery clerics, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan; how do you deal with these clerics that want to incite more violence?
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, it's appalling, really, that an article that was unfounded to begin with has caused so much harm, including loss of life. And one would expect as the facts come out of how this story was written, one would expect more than the kind of correction we've seen so far. But I think it's very clear to us nonetheless that the effects around the world have been very bad. Happily -- well, luckily, I guess I would say, that things are a little bit quieter today in the South Asia region and Near East. We haven't seen any additional protests today.
There were instances where we felt there was some incitement going on or local authorities felt there was some incitement going on. I think you've seen Afghan authorities talking about that, where people were using this for other local political or other ends.
How do we deal with it? First, I think we deal with it by the same way we have been dealing with it, being transparent and up front and open about what U.S. policy is, what U.S. soldiers do. We have promised that we will look into these allegations, even if the magazine itself has more or less retracted the assertion. But we promised we would look into them and we will. We are looking into them. General Schmidt has been conducting an investigation of the FBI memos and has found nothing that would substantiate in those memos or otherwise charges of desecration of the Koran.
We have made clear, I think, that there is the utmost respect for religion of the prisoners. In fact, the Army, since early 2003, has had instructions to its personnel about handing of the Koran. The Koran is only to be handled by chaplains and Muslim interpreters. It's, you know, people -- they're supposed to put on gloves before the touch it. They're not supposed to in any way disrespect or desecrate the Koran and there are a very specific set of rules the military has on handling the Koran.
So this kind of report, this allegation that's now proving not to have any real basis, is anathema to us. We've said that. We made it clear that our practices and our policies are completely different. And I'm afraid because this story is out there and you can't get it back, we're just going to have to make -- continue to make clear that our practices and our policies are completely different.
QUESTION: What do you do in public diplomacy? There's a predisposition, isn't there, in that part of the world to maybe believe such accounts? And you've been trying to get word to the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that it's limited to that part of the world.
QUESTION: Well, lots of parts of the world. But are you -- have you done anything --
MR. BOUCHER: A lot of people don't want to think there is.
QUESTION: Because of this article, have you done anything you want to point out to try to set the record straight in Arabic?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been quite vocal, I think, in Arab media and as well as South Asian media. I have done a couple of interviews every day and continue to do that. My Deputy has done some interviews already and will continue to do that. We have our ambassadors armed, I think, with the full facts. We have asked our embassies to go out and make clear what the facts are, particularly today, now that the Newsweek retraction is out there, and we will expect our people to be very active in making this case, but -- and I remember one of our predecessors at the White House saying all the electrons that go out, and you can't get them back. Well, the electrons are out there and the story is out there and unfortunately, it has very bad consequences and one has to be a lot more careful before putting such stories out.
QUESTION: What you said before, that you would expect Newsweek to react even further than what you've already seen, are you talking just about the full retraction of the story; or would you think the people responsible for the article should be held accountable; are you calling for them to be fired?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll leave that to the magazine itself and how they want to deal with the situation, where they put something with considerable consequences in the magazine when there have been, you know, no real sourcing and corroboration of it. That's a matter for them to look at, but I would think that they would do that.
QUESTION: A change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Uzbekistan. Now, we've had a little more time or you have had a little more time to assess what happened. Could you just give us your view of what did happen at the prison and who you think was involved in the demonstrations?
MR. BOUCHER: I think there's a number of aspects to the Uzbekistan situation. None of them can be taken in isolation, so let me go through different things. First, the situation on the ground, based on our reports, we haven't seen further reports of violence today. There are reports of refugee flows into Kyrgyzstan and near the border area and we are in touch with the governments involved as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in terms of trying to make sure those people are taken care of.
Second of all, we are deeply disturbed by the reports that the Uzbek authorities fired on demonstrators last Friday. We certainly condemn the indiscriminate use of force against unarmed civilians and deeply regret any loss of life. We have urged -- had urged and continue to urge the Uzbek government to exercise restraint, stressing that violence can not lead to long-term stability. And we have made that point with senior Uzbek authorities in Washington and Tashkent.
On the government's side -- I'm sorry, that's on the government's side. On the side of the demonstrators, rioters, whatever you call them, the armed attack by civilians on the prison in Andijan and other government facilities is the kind of violence that we cannot countenance in any way and we condemn these kind of armed attacks on prison facilities and on government facilities. There is nothing that justifies acts of violence or terrorism and we're very concerned at reports of either the release or the escape of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan members.
What happens next? Well, first, we urge the government and have urged the government to allow the International Committee of Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations full access to the region so we can get the facts, so that they can help take care of people that may need their help. We also urge the Uzbek Government to restore full access to news broadcast and the internet for its populations so people can know what's going on.
But we also want to continue to make the point that the stability in Uzbekistan ultimately depends on their government reaching out to the citizenry and instituting real reforms -- political reforms, economic reforms, the rule of law -- and addressing its human rights problems. We're disappointed in the degree of progress we've seen and we will continue to work with the Uzbeks to address all these areas.
QUESTION: Can you just tell us how the communication went in Washington? Was the Ambassador called in here?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- we've been in touch with the Embassy, the Ambassador here, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tashkent. I don't know if it was face to face or on the phone.
QUESTION: And neither here nor Tashkent, you don't know if --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it was face to face or on the phone, but we've been in touch with them both those places.
QUESTION: Can you tell us about any discussions that the U.S. is having with Russian authorities on this matter?
MR. BOUCHER: I know that we are looking to get in touch with other governments. I don't have anything precise at this point. I don't know whether we've been able to complete some of those connections yet.
QUESTION: A follow-up on this and then a fresh question. I'm sorry if I missed it, but was there a -- is there a new travel warning on Uzbekistan that was put out by the State Department at all?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a good question. I may have missed it, too. Did we put out anything yet on travel to Uzbekistan? I think we'll have to check.
QUESTION: Okay. And in terms of --
MR. BOUCHER: Most of the reports are that this is a particular part of the country and not widespread at this point, but again, we'll have to see. It may be appropriate and we'll look at that.
Let's finish on this subject and then you can change.
QUESTION: When you went to the refugees, do you know an approximate number of people who were trying to cross the border?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have a good number on that. I've seen a variety of figures. I would hesitate to repeat any of them. I don't think any of the verified -- any are verified yet.
QUESTION: Okay. And on the original flashpoint for the rioting, there were a group of about two dozen local businessmen and they were on trial for religious extremism, they were on charges of religious extremism. What's your view of those people, given the human rights situation and given all that you've said about, you know, democracy and the need for reforms? Well, are they extremists or were they just as local human rights people say --
MR. BOUCHER: I really -- I don't have a judgment on that particular point at this moment. I think you have seen in our Human Rights Report and elsewhere we felt that the tag of Islamic extremists has been used too broadly by the government and that there needs to be more respect for people who want to peacefully exercise their religion.
On the other hand, no one can deny that Uzbekistan has faced a problem with terrorism by real extremists who are violent, who are trying to overthrow the government and kill people. And those people need to be dealt with as well. So exactly where the line is, is obviously, a difficult question but we've felt at some points it was used too broadly.
So we definitely support the Government in terms of fighting terrorism, but we've also consistently urged the Government to undertake democratic reforms and allow people who have a peaceful view of Uzbekistan's evolution to find an outlet in the political system for that view.
QUESTION: Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said that the government has said it would organize a trip for foreign diplomats to go to the area. Is the U.S. Ambassador involved in that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything like that at this point. I'll have to check and see if anything like that materializes.
Yeah. We had others on this subject? Uzbekistan? We're done.
Jeanine, you get to change.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the conviction today of Mikhail Khodorkovsky of fraud and tax evasion and, sort of, is the State Department concerned of the impact this could have on foreign investment going forward?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I think they're partway through reading the verdicts and we will -- I think we'll look at the final verdicts in the case summation closely, once they're all out. We're aware that the ruling is complex. Mr. Khodorkovsky and Mr. Lebedev have the right to appeal, so there may be further legal action. But I do think it's important to remember that we've been concerned about this case all along and many actions in this trial and the Yukos Company case as well, the retroactive tax claims that exceeded revenues, the freezing of accounts so taxes can't be paid, the questionable auction of assets.
Many of these things are very serious questions about the rule of law in Russia, about the independence of the court, the sanctity of contracts and property rights, a lack of a predictable tax regime. So in addition to raising questions in the minds of many about the rule of law in Russia, they have also certainly raised questions in the minds of potential investors about the circumstances of their investments in Russia and I think fairly well documented, it had a chilling effect on investors.
Actions in this and other cases raise questions about Russia's commitment to responsibilities that all democratic free-market countries embraced. The conduct of the Khodorkovsky-Yukos affair has eroded Russia's reputation and eroded confidence in Russian legal and judicial institutions. We think it is in the Government of Russia's interest to act to assure the world that the institutional weaknesses highlighted by this case are going to be addressed in a timely and direct manner.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: I don't know if you all noticed -- same thing?
MR. BOUCHER: Teri. Russia.
QUESTION: Oil-for-Food. Do you have any reaction to the new allegations that Oil-for-Food abuses went all the way to the highest levels of the Russian Government?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't -- not at this point.
QUESTION: Do you -- I mean, does the State Department have any --
MR. BOUCHER: We're very aware of the allegations. We'll certainly look at them, but I don't have any independent information on that.
QUESTION: Did you have it on oh sorry.
QUESTION: On Khodorkovsky.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Khodorkovsky, that the Secretary warned Russia while she was over there that the United States would be looking very closely at the case. Do you detect, in any way, that Russian authorities have reacted to U.S. criticism of the case and has that been reflected in the sentencing?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't think the sentencing has happened yet. I think the verdict is only partially read and there's more to come tomorrow, so I don't know if that will be the case or not. I think that's, in the end, a question you'll have to ask the Russian authorities, though, whether the concern of the outside world -- not just the concern that the United States expressed, but that many others expressed and that many in the business community have expressed, whether that was taken into account as they considered how to deal with this particular case.
QUESTION: A major (inaudible) of your relationship with Russia is what it's doing about rule of law and democracy and so --
MR. BOUCHER: That it is.
QUESTION: So I presume that when you see his sentence today, tomorrow, then you'll assess how your tactic is going, how -- if they're listening to you.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think you have to say that this case has gone on for a long time and that the verdict -- the sentences are only part of it. Indications are the verdict and the sentences are merely going to continue a long path that this case has followed that raises concerns at numerous junctures along the way and therefore, that when seen as a whole, this case has had a definite effect in shaking confidence in Russia and shaking confidence in the investment environment, shaking confidence in the rule of law. Russia will have to do things to try to reinstill that confidence and try to rebuild the integrity of its judicial institutions. In the long run, that's what ultimately will decide whether Russia can gain a reputation as a country where the rule of law prevails.
QUESTION: USA Today had an interview with Kofi Annan in which he sort of suggested not take Iran to the Security Council; it'll be a deadlock, it'll be hard to get action on Iran and North Korea. Do you -- that opens, you know, makes me think about whether you're closer to going to the UN. And is his analysis of a potential deadlock, meaning -- I suppose you don't have the Europeans onboard an accurate one, do you think?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, I'm not going to try to comment on the article because I read the article and I couldn't quite understand what he said and what he meant. But second of all, I don't think the U.S. position has changed. We feel that those people who violate the nonproliferation treaty, as a matter of course, need to be referred to the United Nations Security Council. We've made that clear in the past. The Iranians are talking to the Europeans. They have thus far not broken the suspension of enrichment and conversion activities, but I think many have said that the -- if they were to do so, that one of the options is definitely to go to the Security Council. That's something that I'll remind you we have supported all along and we haven't changed our position.
QUESTION: You've still got a chip or two on negotiations?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a question for the Europeans.
QUESTION: No, I mean, the U.S. is still hoping negotiations --
MR. BOUCHER: We've supported the Europeans. We think it's time for the Iranians to come to terms and to comply with their desire. We think it's time for the Iranians to demonstrate to the world that they're not going to develop nuclear weapons and to do so with objective guarantees, as the Europeans say.
Okay, in the back.
QUESTION: But they have to decide -- Barry's question has a point, that one of your ideas is to take Iran to the Security Council where you presumably would have Britain and French support. What are you doing about talking to China, which has said we don't agree with sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to start counting votes in the Security Council for something that hasn't gone there and hasn't been --
QUESTION: It's not hard to know where everyone is. It's not -- it's just Russia and China that you have to talk to.
MR. BOUCHER: There are 15 members in the Security Council.
QUESTION: Well, okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Right?
QUESTION: Yeah, there are. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: There's no resolution in front of the Security Council so how are they going to vote on a resolution, if there should be a resolution placed before those countries, saying something under some set of circumstances that haven't materialized yet? I'd say that's pretty hypothetical. I'm not going to try to speculate at this point.
QUESTION: I mean, you can say that it's hypothetical but you for over a year have been saying the Security Council is an option. And I'm asking, because it's hypothetical, are you therefore -- you haven't had any discussions with China about Iran in the Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: We've had discussions about Iran with members of the Security Council. We've had extensive discussions of Iran with members of the Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. I think you would find that most of the members of the Security Council are in the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. So there's been an extensive international discussion of the situation with Iran. I would say there is very strong support among the international community for Iran to comply with the requirements of the Board, to comply with the proposals that the Europeans have put on the table. If Iran doesn't comply in that situation, members of the international community will then decide what to do at the Board of Governors and at the Security Council.
QUESTION: On North Korea, similar issues. Are you encouraged at all that South and North Korea are holding bilateral talks now and can you shed any light on what South Korea might mean by saying they would make a substantial proposal to North Korea if it would come back to talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I think South Korea will have to ask -- answer questions about that. I would just say that we have certainly been in touch with them. We've certainly supported their efforts to convince North Korea to come back to the table. I think it's noteworthy that in these talks today and tomorrow which have as a primary focus the question of fertilizer, which is by and large a humanitarian question, that South Korea is taking the occasion to raise other issues, including to make very clear how important it is for North Korea to return to the six-party talks and to eliminate its nuclear weapons programs.
I think as we've said before, it's an issue on the agenda just about anytime now when anybody meets with the North Koreans and there is a lot of international pressure in urging for North Korea to return to the talks and to return there seriously. So they're doing that. Assistant Secretary Chris Hill was just out in Seoul. He's gone on to Australia now but he had meetings in Seoul over the weekend and on Monday, Seoul time, where he's been in touch with the Foreign Minister, the Deputy Foreign Minister, the Unification Minister, the Minister of Trade, their National Security Council Deputy Secretary. So he's talked through a large number of issues with the South Koreans, including these present talks that they're having with the North.
QUESTION: But are you concerned at all that South Korea is offering -- not a bribe, but incentive to return to the talks that you may not be comfortable with and saying that they're going to discuss that proposal with the other members of the six-party talks at some other time? Are you --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's what they said. I think there's still some ambiguity about --
QUESTION: Said details of the proposal will be revealed in detail after consultation with the related countries. I would presume you're one of the related countries.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I would presume we are one of them as well, but it's important to remember, I think, that we have worked very closely with other countries involved in these talks, but that each country has had somewhat different approaches or somewhat -- has taken on different aspects of this. We have all recognize that humanitarian assistance to the people of North Korea, including food or helping them grow food, shouldn't be conditioned or negotiated as part of the six-party talks. We've been willing to do that. South Korea's been willing to do that in different ways. South Korea has also been willing to support the North at certain stages if North was going to come back to talks, perhaps ahead of some of the other members of the grouping.
So it's not unusual to find people doing slightly different things, but all pushing in the same direction, all pushing in the same direction of getting North Korea to come back seriously to the talks and eliminate its nuclear weapon program.
QUESTION: Richard, can you confirm that what South Korea is offering is not any -- a joint offer with the United States for example?
MR. BOUCHER: I cannot say anything about a South Korean offer. They would have to talk about that themselves.
QUESTION: But are you involved in it?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, it's up to them to decide what kind of proposals they want to float with the rest of us. No, we're not involved in any new proposal at this point.
QUESTION: So, I mean, was this kind of -- these talks between the South Koreans and North Koreans, was it done in coordination with the United States? I mean, when China goes and sends a high-level envoy and things, you've always made a point to say that all of this is, you know, while they're kind of handling a lot of bilateral efforts, this is all done in coordination with each other.
MR. BOUCHER: I would say yes, we do coordinate with everybody. We coordinate particularly closely with South Korea and Japan, trilateral mechanisms as well as individually. Our Assistant Secretary was just out there. All along, we've worked very closely with them. We've known about their various bilateral discussions with North Korea and as I said, we welcome the fact that even in those bilateral discussions that concentrate mainly on fertilizer, that they are indeed raising these issues of the importance of getting back to the six-party talks, the importance of North Korea coming seriously back to those talks and eliminating its nuclear weapons programs.
QUESTION: But is this a coordinated proposal?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: No. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I just said so.
QUESTION: You coordinate with them; this proposal is a bilateral, as far as you know?
MR. BOUCHER: Proposal -- whatever proposal they make would be theirs and they have said -- I think you just read me a quote. They said they're going to talk to the rest of us.
MR. BOUCHER: But they define it as their own ideas.
QUESTION: Yes. Last week in Mexico, Ambassador Tony Garza made some remarks, criticizing the Fox Government, especially in the economic side, as well as the war on drugs. I would like to know, how do you guys defend those -- what do you think was the benefit of those remarks, especially when the Minister of Interior criticized Mr. Garza as someone who was talking about internal matters?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure what remarks you're referring to. I'll have to look it up and get back to you.
QUESTION: Also on this?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Have you seen the comments made by President Fox over the weekend about Mexican illegal immigrants doing jobs that African-Americans wouldn't want to do and has there been any follow-up with the Mexican Government on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've talked to the Mexican Government about this. Obviously, that's a very insensitive and inappropriate way to phrase this and we would hope that they would clarify their remark if they have the chance.
QUESTION: What was the level of contact with the embassy?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly. I don't know. I think our embassy has been in touch.
QUESTION: I want to follow-up on Mexico.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Also, (inaudible) spoke about the situation created by drug organizations in Mexico. He seems to imply that the situation is going to be -- there is not going to be changes in the future in that respect. I was wondering -- you guys make another -- probably one, maybe a week or two weeks ago, for how long are you going to maintain that warning for people traveling to Mexico?
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to keep the warnings up as long as there's a danger. The warning is not a political act. It's not something done against the Mexican Government. Many of these cases we're actually working together with the Mexican Government to take care of the dangers or the problems that might exist, particularly in the border areas. But as long as these problems or dangers might exist for Americans traveling there, we owe it to American citizens to tell them what the facts are.
QUESTION: Anything to say about the Ethiopian election over the weekend?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess the first observation is that voting was peaceful, turnout was high in these May 15th elections for national and regional representatives in Ethiopia. It appears that opposition parties garnered voter support in urban areas but I don't think we know the full outcome yet. Administrative and procedural irregularities such as ballot shortages, slow lines and problems with voter registration lists were observed in various locations but didn't appear to fit a pattern of systemic fraud.
There were 17 teams of U.S. Embassy observers that were deployed to 11 sites around the country and in the capital. The Carter Center and the European Union fielded over 150 election monitors to observe the elections throughout the country as well and President Carter was present there.
The major opposition parties have claimed harassment and intimidation during the polling and in the pre-electoral process. These claims are being investigated. If substantiated, of course, they would raise a question about the government's commitment to real democratic reforms and the development of true democratic institutions.
We expect the opposition, the majority party and the government to maintain a peaceful atmosphere and respect the outcome of the voting and to refrain from violence at this juncture. We are concerned about a decision by the Government of Ethiopia to ban post-election demonstrations and our Embassy is monitoring that situation closely.
QUESTION: Mr. Bolton again. Any change since Friday when you seem to have reached the end of the line on providing material to the committee? Is that -- anything new gone over there since then?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think anything new has gone over there since then. Let me just leave it where it was there.
MR. BOUCHER: Denise.
QUESTION: Can you do a little background on the Secretary's trip to Iraq in terms of whose decision it was to dispatch her at this moment and what you think you can reasonably achieve after just a several-hour visit on the ground in terms of persuading, I guess the main goal, to persuade the government to incorporate more Sunnis in the constitution-making process?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary's visit to Iraq, I think, is part of a continuing consultation between the United States and the Iraqi Government. Now that Iraq has a new government, the Secretary made clear she wanted to go out there, talk on the ground to the people involved in that government, talk to them about moving forward in a number of areas -- moving forward in the political area, moving forward on security and the training of security personnel, moving forward in terms of services and infrastructure for the Iraqi people.
So she's out there to deal with a number of people in the new government to talk about all these things, but it is part of a continuing contact that we have with the Iraqi Government. She had looked to going a little bit before but the security situation prevented that. Frankly, the trip leaked and we didn't want her to go in that circumstance. So this time we went, we think, without leaks.
But they have a new government. It's an important time to get on the ground and work with them. She was there for a full day of meetings. She was in Irbil as well as in Baghdad. She had meetings with political leaders, the Prime Minister, the President, the Deputy Prime Minister, security personnel on the Iraqi side, the security team, the Ministers of Interior and Defense. She met with President Talebani, met with the speaker of the assembly. She had a whole, I think, full range of discussions with a variety of people in the Iraqi Government. And it's part of a continuing series of contacts that she's had with visitors to Washington and people she's met elsewhere.
QUESTION: A follow-up, Mr. Boucher.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: But the Secretary also during her remarks in Irbil was given assurances to the poor Kurdish people who suffered so much, about independence in a federated Iraq. But the independence of Kurdistan already exists de facto, making actually the Turks very upset, as you know. I'm wondering under which legality Dr. Rice was given those assurances? It sounds like the Secretary was talking on behalf of the U.S. Government of Iraq, as they say. Could you please clarify what exactly she was trying to tell to the Kurds and to the international community in general for the Kurdish issue?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I think you mischaracterized her remarks, frankly. And I think it's important for people that are looking at this to look at exactly what she did say and I think that is one of the transcripts we have out and we'll have more transcripts out, of course, soon.
And second of all, I think within the scope of what's being discussed, there has been considerable discussion inside Iraq about how exactly the federal system should work and how different parts of the country should have different -- how they should have it and what kind of powers they should have within the system. That is a process that will go forward. That's a process that will be part of the writing of the constitution. It's a matter for all Iraqis to be concerned about.
The Secretary, during her trip, has stressed the need for inclusiveness of all groups in Iraq to be as involved as possible in the drafting of the constitution and indeed, that's what she heard from the Iraqi Government, which in itself does contain a broadly representative group of people. So, they're committed to inclusiveness. She encouraged that and said that as the constitutional process moves forward, it's important to maintain that inclusiveness and to work out many of these questions that are, indeed, going to be difficult.
QUESTION: About the Kurdish issue?
MR. BOUCHER: That's something that the Kurds and the other Iraqis are going to have to address as they go forward within the scope of their constitutional framework, but we have always made clear and I think they have made clear that the territorial integrity of Iraq is important to all of us, the unity of Iraq is important to all of us, and they need and want an inclusive process where all Iraqis can be involved in charting their future together.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, there was a report that the United States is telling candidates for the UN Security Council -- candidate countries -- the big ones, Japan, Germany, Brazil and India, that the U.S. would support them only if they -- essentially if they renounced the idea of a veto power in the Security Council. Is that the case?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have much new on that. I think, obviously, we all know that the issue of the veto power is one that's been discussed. It's been raised in discussions among the member states, including by some who were looking for membership in the Security Council. I think we know that this matter will raise a lot of different views among different nations. We look forward to that discussion. It is a matter of concern to the United States, but I don't have any definitive words on that right now.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. concerned whether it should have a veto power? Is that an issue?
MR. BOUCHER: Is that an -- what do you mean, is that an issue? The United States should have the veto power, period.
QUESTION: The United States is considering whether countries like India, if they came on the Security Council as Permanent Members, should have the veto power that goes with permanent membership. I wondered if the whole issue of veto powers is under consideration.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Okay, just the others.
QUESTION: What's the official position on Japan? It's the only country the United States has supported a Security Council seat for. Does that include the caveat that they should or shouldn't have a veto power?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear our support for Japan's candidacy for a permanent seat. I think that's where it stops for the moment.
QUESTION: Richard, the government -- or the new Government of Somalia, which has been centered right now in Nairobi, Kenya, is having difficulty moving itself down to Mogadishu and there's, right now, a dispute with -- between Mr. Aden and President Yusef. Is the United States, the AU, EU, or the United Nations trying to settle this dispute within their new government and move it to Mogadishu?
MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, I don't know.
QUESTION: I don't have the benefit of your forthcoming thing on your opening remark about Kuwait parliament vote, but -- and since I don't have it, perhaps this will be included, but if it's not, do you see anything in this action that's a message for others in the region or is this strictly a Kuwaiti issue, in terms of how you would look --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we don't think the rights of women is strictly a Kuwaiti issue or any single nation's issue. It's a matter of international standards, it's a matter of international human rights, and it's something the United States has advocated for everywhere around the world in terms of protecting and advancing the rights of women. So, to what extent others in the region see this move as a positive one and want to consider doing the same thing, I think we would certainly encourage that and we do encourage that, but the U.S. is very active around the world in trying to help societies develop and protect the rights of women as they do so.
QUESTION: Is that on your website? I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll get a statement out on the listserv and the website, yeah.
QUESTION: Isn't the decree as long as the women follow the rules of Islam -- I mean, do you think that women who aren't -- who don't follow Islam should also have the same rights?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position quite yet to interpret it. I realize there's statements like that in it, but I think the Kuwaitis will have to tell us a little more about what that really means.
QUESTION: There was a report that Chinese authorities apparently ransacked the business of Rebiya Kadir the dissident who they released several weeks ago, and -- if you have a response?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. We are in touch with her family in the United States. We're aware of reports that one of her sons is in hiding and that five family members and associates -- five family friends and associates may have been subjected to harassment. We have expressed our concern about these reports to the Chinese, both in Washington and in Beijing. We would see such actions as contrary to the cooperative spirit between our two countries that led to the release of Ms. Kadir to the United States two months ago.
One more in the back.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, Mr. Boucher. The following six U.S. parliamentarians are going to visit the illegally occupied area of Cyprus and with the approval of the U.S. Government, according to your statement last Friday, the (inaudible) from American lobbying firm on behalf of the Turkish Government: Robert Wexler, Democrat of Florida; Edward Whitfield, a Republican of Kentucky; Bernice Johnson, Democrat of Texas; Kendrick Meek, Democrat Of Florida; Nathan Deal, a Republican in Georgia; Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California.
Since I was told specifically that they are going to be briefed by the Department of State, something which is happening by practice, as I was told. I'm wondering when this brief is going to take place, prior to this date?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know when we're briefing them, frankly. But we always make ourselves available to members of Congress.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)
DPB # 84
Released on May 16, 2005