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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 20, 2005

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 20, 2005

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 20, 2005

INDEX:

CUBA
Cuban Independence Day / Meeting in Cuba to Engage in Democratic
Debate / Peaceful Transition to Democracy / Possible Arrest of
Opposition by Castro Regime / Expelling of Pole and Czech Foreign
Dignitaries and Journalists

NORTH KOREA
Decisions on Pledging / World Food Program / Food Need /
Delivering Food / Production and Monitoring / Decisions Not Made
Based on Political Factors
Possible Return to Six-Party Talks

MISCELLANEOUS
Publishing of Saddam Hussein Photographs in Prison / Military to
Pursue Matter / Violation of Directives / Muslim World Attitudes Toward the U.S.
New York Times Article Regarding U.S. Criminal Investigation into
Deaths of Two Afghans / Government Accountability and Transparency
/ Visits by Red Cross and other Foreign Diplomats

IRAQ
New Government Moving Forward / Visits by Secretary and Deputy
Secretary / Working with Iraqi Officials
Important to Have Good Working Relations with Neighbors / Syrian Border with Iraq
Rewards for Justice Program
Zarqawi Tape

UZBEKISTAN
U.S. Concern of Events Spilling over into other Countries / Border
with Kyrgyzstan and Humanitarian Needs
Consequences for Human Rights Situation / Withholding of Funds to
Uzbekistan Government for Human Rights Violations
Number of People Killed / Need for International Investigation

JORDAN
First Lady and Deputy Secretary Zoellick Visit / World Economic
Forum / Middle East Peace

IRAN
Russia has Agreed to Supply Iran with Enriched Uranium / U.S.
Views / IAEA Board

INDONESIA
Secretary Rice's Meeting with President / IMET Training Programs

ETHIOPIA
Watching the Elections / Focused on Humanitarian Needs / Secretary
Rice Meeting with Officials


TRANSCRIPT:

12:50 p.m. EDT

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. There's just one thing I'd like to call your attention to. Today is Cuban Independence Day, May 20th, and to honor the occasion a group of Cubans is getting together to engage in democratic debate and discussion. We applaud the so-called group, the Assembly to Promote Civil Society's efforts to bring together some of the Cuba's independent voices. We commend all those brave members of the peaceful opposition who defy the Cuban Government and are working for a rapid and peaceful transition to democracy. The free and open airing of differing ideas is a hallmark free societies and one which we know the Cuban people will one day share with the rest of the hemisphere.

It's not a surprise that the Castro regime is seeking to disrupt the meeting by arresting opposition members and denying entry to or even expelling foreign dignitaries and journalists. These actions demonstrate the Cuban Government's fear of Cubans who assert their rights and underline the need for change.

So we think that the convoking of this meeting is an entirely appropriate way to celebrate Cuban independence and to look forward to the day when Cuba can be independent and free.

Tammy.

QUESTION: You said expelling foreign dignitaries. Do you mean from the country or from the assembly today?

MR. BOUCHER: They asked some foreign dignitaries to leave in advance of this meeting and I think some journalists as well.

QUESTION: Leave the country?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And was the United States diplomatic --

MR. BOUCHER: No, no. I think it was a Pole and a Czech but I can't remember who the journalists -- where the journalists were from.

QUESTION: And did James Cason attend today's assembly?

MR. BOUCHER: I think this is an assembly for Cubans, Cuban voices, so I'm not sure if we had anybody there. I don't know that we necessarily would.[1]

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Richard, there 's a story in the Wall Street Journal today saying that the United States has cut off food aid to North Korea. You're obviously quoted in it. Is that an accurate characterization?

MR. BOUCHER: No, that's wrong.

QUESTION: My recollection is that you tend to make decisions about how much food aid you plan to pledge for North Korea around the end of the year. When was the last time you made a decision about this and when would you next expect to make a decision?

MR. BOUCHER: The last time we -- last year, in 2004, the decision, I think, was announced July 23rd. The year before that, if my memory is correct, we did make one decision in the May/June time period and then completed that in December.

There are a number of factors that go into considering food assistance to any country, including North Korea. One is the need and the request and our conversations with the World Food Program and others about what the needs may be. The second is the ability to make sure the food gets to the people who need it and, as all of you who have followed this issue know, that's been an issue with North Korea over the years. The third is competing needs. Are there other places, if there's a limited amount of food aid available, are there other places that may need some food and therefore we have to allocate it among different places? And, of course, we know that there are places like Sudan and other areas that have needs for food.

But at this point we are considering the needs in North Korea. We are following the situation closely. We'll want to look at the production and we'll want to look at the monitoring. We want to keep in touch with the organizations who do this and supply this and we'll make our decision in due course. But it's wrong to say that we've halted it. We've completed last year's shipments of 50,000 tons and we're considering what we might want to do this year.

QUESTION: When was the last shipment that you made under the 50,000 that you have pledged?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to check on that.

QUESTION: Could you?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: It would be interesting to know if that was, for example, on the ship last month or something.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, it would be interesting to know and sorry I don't know now, but I'll find out.

QUESTION: And you have, however -- it is, I mean, a matter of record that you have reduced the amounts of aid, food aid, that you have given in recent years. Why is that? Is that primarily because you think the need is not there? Is it because of your longstanding and frequently expressed concerns about whether the food gets where you think it should? Or is it competing need?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: All of them?

MR. BOUCHER: I think -- let me -- there's one more thing to say about it, though. First, I think we have made clear and the Secretary made clear during her visit to Asia that we don't calibrate or decide on food assistance based on political factors and that we do want to help the people of North Korea and make sure the people who are in need get the food that they need. And so it doesn't have to do with the comings and goings and rise and fall of six-party talks or any other issue like that.

What are the factors we do consider when it comes to food? All the things you cited. The actual need in North Korea, the ability to monitor and make sure the food gets to the people who need it and the competing needs that we have elsewhere. And I think as we've talked about the amounts over the past few years, we've talked about each of these factors as influencing our decisions on the amounts and the timing of aid.

You remember in 2002 -- 2003, there were 100,000 tons total, but it was two tranches where the initial tranche was given because we had felt there was an urgent need. But we're very concerned about monitoring. We felt that monitoring improved slightly during the course of the year and we were able to top that off to 100,000 tons. So all these factors affect it in any given year and we try to reach a balance with the needs, not only in North Korea but the needs elsewhere.

QUESTION: Do you --

QUESTION: But the reduction -- I'm sorry, could you answer the question? I mean, the reduction reflects all three factors, one of the three factors?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the reduction reflects all three factors.

QUESTION: Can I --

MR. BOUCHER: But primarily monitoring and competing needs. Those are the two that we cited most at the time.

QUESTION: What have you found, if you know, so far as whether food gets through in the last few years?

MR. BOUCHER: As far as I understand it now -- and we will want to work closely with the World Food Program as we approach any kind of decision on what we might do this year -- that there has been a bit more access than before, that they have been able to improve their ability to monitor, but it's not by any means up to the standards of monitoring that one would have in the rest of the world -- throughout the rest of the world.

QUESTION: Let me understand. The issue isn't -- or is it -- that the U.S. knows that the food doesn't get to the people who needs it. The issue is the U.S. doesn't think it has the proper ability, the required ability, to see if the food gets to the people who need it. Is that right?

MR. BOUCHER: That's the primary concern, yeah, that we do not -- that the monitoring needs to be sufficient to make sure that the people who really need the food are getting the food.

QUESTION: Now, if the monitoring is insufficient, isn't that evidence that the food isn't getting through? Otherwise, would they -- why would they make it difficult for you to monitor it?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I would -- I think you're probably better off talking to the World Food Program about this since they actually operate the monitoring. And they do believe that they've had some improvement and they have some decent handle on where it goes. But it's certainly not up to the standards that we would have elsewhere and therefore one has to wonder why and where it goes.

QUESTION: Is it now sufficient? I mean, you used the phrase "decent handle." Is it now sufficient that you would feel that if you were to get -- if the two other criteria were satisfied -- need and competing needs -- that such difficulties as you may have on monitoring would not get in the way of giving it?

MR. BOUCHER: That's a decision that we'll have to make as we evaluate the needs and the other things. This will be done -- we'll look at all these factors together.

QUESTION: And you do have any sense of timing on when you would make such a decision?

MR. BOUCHER: We're in discussions with the World Food Program now about what the needs might be and how this might work, but I don't know. We have, actually, until the end of the fiscal year to make decisions about aid coming out of this year's budget so we have until the end of September. And I don't really know when to predict a decision.

QUESTION: Could you take that one as to whether there is any -- whether the end of the fiscal year has any bearing on it?

MR. BOUCHER: No. By the end of the -- no, I just said, the end of the fiscal year does have a bearing but --

QUESTION: I'm sorry, I thought you said, "I don't know if."

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't when the decision might be made one way or the other. We have until the end of the fiscal year to make decisions regarding this year's funds.

Andrea.

QUESTION: Staying on North Korea. Have you had any response, either directly or indirectly, to the meeting that you held last week with the North Koreans at the UN?

MR. BOUCHER: Directly or indirectly?

QUESTION: Through any of your --

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, you mean through somebody else?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, no.

QUESTION: Do you know about the --

MR. BOUCHER: But it's not -- again, it's not necessarily that kind of exchange. It's a way to clarify -- for us to clarify policy. They may or may not want to clarify their own policy, but so far I don't think we've seen anything in public or private that makes clear what their intentions are.

QUESTION: (Inaudible?)

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Japanese news agency the other day said that you can expect a response in a week or two. Does the U.S. --

MR. BOUCHER: Is this --

QUESTION: -- have inside information?

MR. BOUCHER: Is this agency that reported other things last week that were totally wrong?

QUESTION: Possibly.

MR. BOUCHER: Possibly. So we will -- we will see if --

QUESTION: Other newspapers reported it wrong, too. I mean --

MR. BOUCHER: We will see if things come out.

QUESTION: No. But I mean, you -- I mean, I don't want to stretch this --

MR. BOUCHER: Do not stretch this. I have no indication that the North Koreans intend to reply or have a reply for us. We'll just have to see if they do. But I do know that they have not clarified their position on returning to the talks, even though everybody is telling them that's the best thing for them to do.

QUESTION: Do you have any travel updates from Ambassador Di Trani or Director Foster?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: No.

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Are you worried about the repercussions of the publication of these Saddam pictures in prison?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made very clear that multinational forces, the Pentagon have made clear that pictures like this are taken and released in direct violation of their policy, that they are going to pursue this matter and find out who violated their policy, that we do consider the -- in many cases, the sort of public identification of prisoners and photographing or publishing of photographs about their status in detention to be a violation of Geneva Convention standards. And it was very much against our policy, so we will -- the military will pursue that.

I don't know that -- you know, what the public reaction will be to seeing these photographs. But certainly I know our reaction is that we don't want to see them public -- published and it's a clear violation of directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines.

QUESTION: Well, the President seems to suggest that he doesn't think there will be repercussions. This is very different from --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, you asked -- he was asked a different question than you asked me.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: The fact is there are people in the world, there are terrorists in the world, who are trying to kill and murder and kidnap civilians, humanitarian workers, citizens of various nations, irrespective of what's in public. The President cited the example of the Taliban and al-Qaida from Afghanistan. The conditions the Taliban imposed upon Afghanistan were not related to anything the United States was or was not doing at the time, anything that was or was not published at the time.

The murders committed in Iraq every day in terms of the humanitarian workers and the people applying for jobs, they're out there murdering, whatever the news of the day is. So there are people that are going to have to be fought in that manner. I just don't know what another news report like this would add to their desire to kill. They seem to be bound and determined by their hatred.

There is also a broader general public that follows events and that we've talked a lot about attitudes of the Muslim world towards the United States and the attitudes as affected by the Newsweek report or by Abu Ghraib, other things like that.

I think what's important is to see that in this case, again, the information is coming out, but the United States is making clear that this is a violation, that we're bound to get to the bottom of it and punish it. The United States is an open society. Much more information comes about us and what we're doing and different conditions in different places, perhaps, than anybody else. But we also are open to talking about how we deal with those situations.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: There's an extensive story on the front page of The New York Times, based on the U.S. criminal investigation into the deaths of two Afghans held in U.S. custody and the story essentially documents their beatings, mistreatment, abuse. I don't know if technically the word "torture" would apply, but I think the layman's definition of "torture" probably would apply. And I wonder as you seek to convince the broader Muslim-Arab publics of the United States' good intentions and high ideals, how much more difficult your task is made by the fact that these kinds of abuses have occurred and, indeed, have been documented in such detail by your own investigators.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think that's the first point you have to start with, that this article is about things that have already been investigated, published, by the investigators. The reports are all out there of these particular crimes. And the Pentagon tells me seven people have already been punished for abuses as Bagram, including these. So this is not new information. There is a lot of detail there, but it's all based on the investigations that we ourselves did and that we ourselves have put out.

So I think we all very, very much regret that these kind of abuses have occurred there or at Abu Ghraib. The most important thing for us to do is to show that we are as appalled as anyone that such (inaudible) crimes could occur, that such activities could occur, and that we're bound and determined to change the practices and also to punish those responsible. And I think that's what this does show, that this has been thoroughly investigated, that people have been held accountable for these kind of abuses. And when they do occur, as regrettable as they are and we all wish they did not occur, we need to show people that we do hold ourselves to a standard that is higher, that we do hold ourselves accountable.

QUESTION: My question here goes not to whether or not these matters are new, because I'm aware that they are not new. Nor does it go to the fact that they were investigated and that people had been punished because that is also well known. It goes more to the State Department's challenge in trying to convince people that this country -- it seems to me that -- well, how are you going to persuade people that you live up to your ideals when these kinds of abuses take place in multiple documented instances in multiple parts of the world? Even if you 'fess up about them and people get punished, does it not make it harder for you to convince people of U.S. good intentions when these things happen in multiple cases, regardless of whether you subsequently punish the people and disclose it?

MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't do the U.S. reputation any good to have these abuses occur. I think we all know that. But the fact is they did occur. And I think you have to sometimes take a slightly bigger picture of this, that the best asset the United States has in the world is our freedom, that we do stand for freedom around the world, we stand for open societies, we stand for government accountability, we stand for free press, we stand for separation of powers and all the things that make our judicial review and our legislative review and the hearings that Congress holds when something like Abu Ghraib happens so important to all of us. And as regrettable and awful as it is that these abuses might occur, that the way we deal with them is part of our freedom. And that we need to -- if they do occur, and we all hope they don't, we still need to stand up for our ideals and that means warts and all, transparently being willing to accept that these things occur, make sure they don't happen again and to punish those responsible and to move on.

QUESTION: Do you think -- one last one on this and it goes to the point of transparency because I think in most of these cases, wider or more systematic access to prisoners -- i.e., people who've been deprived of their freedom -- you know, clearly, there was not in this instance adequate supervision because had there been adequate supervision, these people wouldn't have been, you know, abused as they were and then these two men died. And I wonder to what extent you think transparency ought to involve greater access by outside parties to such prisons so that there is another layer of accountability so that these things are not being disclosed after the people have been tortured to death or beaten and subsequently died in custody, but so that there might be greater real-time accountability and protection for people who are imprisoned and in the United States' custody and care.

MR. BOUCHER: I think in any prison in any place in the world, you need to balance issues of access with issues of security and the need to ensure that people don't engage in further acts even while they're in prison. And that balance has to be reached in every circumstance. There are some people in these prisons who are very dangerous people, who don't -- shouldn't have any contact with outsiders, shouldn't have any ability to pass messages and who should, by all rights, be reporting on what they did and what they might know in order to prevent further acts of terror. So you have to balance all those needs.

There is regular visits by the Red Cross. And I think we talked in recent days about how when the Red Cross sees something and notifies us of it, we try to take action and we try to satisfy their concerns. And I think in the case of mishandling of the Koran, I saw quotes in the newspaper today from the Red Cross saying, yes, they raised these things and they were taken care of. We acted on them.

There are visits by foreign diplomats in many of these cases. So there is a certain level of outside access but I think any prison system needs to be, to a great extent, some extent, self-regulating. They need to make sure that these things don't occur to begin with and there needs to be rules, regulations, supervision and procedures so that abuses don't occur. And every time something like this does happen, two questions: One, is it investigated and punished; and second of all, have they put in place procedures so it doesn't happen again? And I think what our military has done in these cases does stand up to both of those standards.

QUESTION: Can I take you back to Iraq for a moment? The Secretary's been to Baghdad, the Deputy Secretary. Is there a new strategy or at least tactics involving with a more hands-on approach by the U.S. to what's going on in Iraq? There was a newspaper that led its paper today suggesting there is. Things aren't going well in Iraq is the theme. And -- the LA Times. Things aren't going well in Iraq, people are getting killed, insurgents haven't been stopped.

And is this just a coincidence that the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary have gone there? Is there more that the administration is -- there was a time when you were talking about stepping back and letting the Iraqis take charge. Do you feel now that they need a little more hands-on U.S. intervention?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't think the characterization -- I don't know if it's yours or the article that I didn't read, but several of these things are related but only related to one central fact, that was -- that you did not mention, that's Iraq has a new government. Iraq has a new government composed of people from throughout Iraq. They are moving forward on a very ambitious schedule but a schedule they can meet to draft a constitution, have a new election by the end of the year. They're moving forward to develop Iraq's economy. They're moving forward to take over more and more responsibility in the area of security.

Ever since we transferred sovereignty last June, it has been clear that the movement in this area was going to be done in very close coordination with us but more and more was being led by the Iraqis. They have a new government in Iraq who is leading this forward and a very strong desire by the United States to support and work with them.

And so, yes, you have had visits now that they have a new government. You had Deputy Secretary, the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary again. You'll have more visits. We have daily work together with them on the -- from our embassy. You have a variety of other people who will go out there periodically and work with the Iraqis on these major tasks in front of them.

We want to make sure that they, as they move Iraq forward that they have all the support that we can give them. And that's -- if there's any change in the pace, the tempo or the visibility of our interaction, it's because Iraq has a new government.

QUESTION: It sort of sounds like yes and no, but maybe it's --

MR. BOUCHER: It's not --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: We're not taking over. We're not -- we are hands-on. Just there's a group that are doing something that we can work with now. During the period from the election to the formation of the government, they were involved a lot in their own politics. They were working it out. We were certainly keeping in touch with them but they weren't in a position to set out government programs, plans and policies in areas like security or economics or even how to meet the deadlines in the political area.

QUESTION: Richard, what are you doing to dispel and discount the 67-minute audiotape by Mr. Zarqawi with his ranting and essentially thumbing his nose at both the U.S. and coalition troops? And is there a step up in the Rewards of Justice monetary reward? And thirdly, do you approve or sanction the tour that Prime Minister Jafari is making to both Turkey and next to Syria?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me take them from the back to the front because I think one of your question sort of has implications for what I just said to your colleague. It's not for the United States to approve or sanction or otherwise comment or decide on the visits that the Iraqi Prime Minister wants to make. We've been very clear we think it's important for Iraq to have good relations with all of its neighbors. We have taken up issues with Syria and we've noted that the Iraqis have taken up many of the same issues with Syria as regards the border and finance and people and things like that.

And I think Iraqis have made very clear what their view is of the need for good neighborly relations, transparent neighborly relations. But the Iraqi Government is in charge and moving forward on these things and so we coordinate with them, work with them, but it's not for us to approve or sanction.

On the Zarqawi tape and the Rewards for Justice. Rewards for Justice, I don't think has changed. There's already a very substantial reward for information about Zarqawi.

And as far as the tape, these things come out from time to time. I don't think we've mounted any special effort on this one. Frankly, most of these tapes he attacks, defames, assaults, threatens many, many people in the world. And it shows his determination to start internecine conflict among other peoples and to undermine governments that are trying to move forward in a civilized and modern world.

It's unfortunate this kind of material gets out and gets a hearing, but I don't know that we mount any special effort when he does come out.

Teri.

QUESTION: Change of subject? Uzbekistan? There are differing reports as to whether President Karimov has refused to let an international investigation go forward or whether the UN hasn't actually asked. Do you know anything about that? Has our Ambassador heard anything on this issue? And what's the U.S. view of this?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, it is something that we are discussing with other nations, that we're keeping in touch with others on, including the UN. And we continue to press both publicly and privately for a credible and transparent assessment of the events in Andijan. We believe that this assessment is a necessary next step and we believe that the international community should be involved in this assessment or inquiry.

We've seen the statements from the Uzbek Government, including statements by President Karimov, and I guess at this stage I wouldn't want to try to characterize their position but say -- just say we're disappointed that so far they have not welcomed international participation in an inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened in Andijan.

We are in contact on several levels with different people about the situation. Secretary Rice spoke this morning with the Foreign Minister of Slovenia Dimitrij Rupel, who is the current Chairman-in-Office for the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe. Our Ambassador in Uzbekistan Jon Purnell has been in touch with the Deputy Foreign Minister in Uzbekistan. Our Assistant Secretary here, Daniel Fried, is keeping in regular contact with the regional neighbors and with European partners on these issues. And we're also in touch with the Uzbek Ambassador here in Washington.

So we're coordinating with the international community, who have all called for a credible and transparent assessment or inquiry into what happened in Andijan and an international element to participation in that. And we continue to push that with the Uzbek Government.

QUESTION: So it sounds like, from the U.S. side, if you're having to push, then it tends to support the story that says that cutting off has been asked, and has been thus far refused.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, again, exactly -- I don't want to characterize a conversation with Kofi Annan. In our conversations, we have put this forward. Others have as well. I'd just say at this point they have not accepted the idea that there needs to be a full inquiry. And yeah, there are some statements we've seen in public where they appeared to reject it, but as far as we're concerned it's something that's important, it's something we'll continue to press.

QUESTION: And why are they -- why are they not allowing an investigation?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's for you to ask them, not me.

I think one of the points that needs to be made is this is not purely an internal matter in Uzbekistan. The events in Andijan have, I think, created situations that spill across borders. All of us in organizations like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or the NATO partnerships are concerned about events in other countries and how these countries are moving towards more stability, towards peace in these regions, towards respect for their citizens and participation in a broader community. So I think there are many interests that other countries have in this situation and that those interests need to be taken into account as it evolves.

We know there's a situation on the border with Kyrgyzstan, that many people have come over. I think we appreciate the Kyrgyz Government's concern for attending to the humanitarian needs of people and to meet their international obligations with regard to refugees. And I think it's important to remember Uzbekistan should not pressure Kyrgyzstan somehow to violate its responsibilities in that regard, either.

Andrea.

QUESTION: Richard, you still seem somewhat restrained in the extent to which you're ready to criticize the Uzbek Government for -- in light of the reports that have come out, having spoken and having heard from a number of refugees.

Does the U.S. want to let the Uzbek Government know that there are consequences for not cooperating with an international investigation?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the Uzbek Government already knows there are consequences for the human rights situation, of which this is part. Last year, remember, we withheld something like $11 million from the funds that we had available for Uzbekistan because they were not meeting international human rights obligations. This year there's something like $22 million that could be affected by the legislation and by how they work on human rights. So it's not a matter of making statements here. I think the Uzbek Government is very clear that the United States does take all these things into account in very concrete ways.

QUESTION: Richard, this coming week there's a summit, an economic-based summit, in Jordan and is Deputy Secretary Zoellick going to be attending --

MR. BOUCHER: The First Lady and Deputy Secretary are there today, in fact.

QUESTION: Right. Now, starting --

MR. BOUCHER: And speaking today.

QUESTION: Also, Sunday is a big APEC convention here in Washington. With the state of the Middle East right now, as well as Lebanon, will Secretary Rice here in Washington and/or Deputy Secretary Zoellick be bringing up some of these questions with major leaders in both locations -- make advantage -- take advantage of that?

MR. BOUCHER: The Deputy Secretary during the course of his visit -- he's been in Iraq, he's at the World Economic Forum conference, he's been in -- or maybe today is with the Palestinians, actually. I think today he's actually seeing Israelis and Palestinians. But during the course of these few days' visit, he's going to do all these things. So certainly we're talking about peace in the Middle East, progress between the Israelis and Palestinians, how we make Gaza withdrawal work, as well as talking to other people -- the opportunity at the World Economic Forum. There is an opportunity to see a lot of people, talk about not only economic development in the region, reform in the region -- both very important subjects to us and the Deputy Secretary -- but also other issues of peace in Iraq.

So yes, the opportunity -- we always take these opportunities to talk to leaders about broader goals in the region as well as some of the specific things we're doing.

Saul.

QUESTION: Change to Iran?

MR. BOUCHER: Yep.

QUESTION: Are you aware of an Iranian proposal whereby they would convert yellowcake into gas but not actually (inaudible) the enrichment side; that could be done by Russia?

MR. BOUCHER: There is apparently a Iranian idea like this they have floated with the Russians. Let me point out a couple things. First of all, Russia has already agreed to provide at least the first decade's worth of enriched uranium fuel for Iran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr so Iran would have no need to do any conversion work whatsoever. Their desire to do so only reinforces our view that Iran's enrichment and conversion effort is, in fact, designed to contribute to the capabilities that are needed to develop nuclear weapons.

I think the EU-3, the IAEA Board, the Russians and the U.S. have all agreed that Iran should not be allowed to develop the capabilities necessary to make nuclear weapons. And the agreement that the Europeans have already with Iran is quite clear on suspension of all conversion, enrichment and related activities and we would expect that to be respected.

QUESTION: So it would be an unacceptable position to the United States?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me stick with what I've said, that we have made clear what -- our views are. I think all of us have made clear what our views are on Iran's developing capabilities that are necessary to make nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: But you're talking about -- there's an agreement on suspension. There's nothing that -- the Iranians haven't agreed to anything permanent. Their suspension is voluntary. They're not doing -- their enrichment activities don't violate the NPT in themselves. It's just that you're suspicious --

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say they did.

QUESTION: No, no --

MR. BOUCHER: I said they --

QUESTION: -- I'm giving some context to the --

MR. BOUCHER: We have always said they used -- they had 18 years of covert activities, particularly in this area of conversion and enrichment. But why were they hiding it? What were they hiding for so long? Well, everybody says -- we certainly have concluded -- they were doing this because they want the capability to make nuclear weapons.

So having that experience with Iran for so long, having seen multiple reports to the IAEA Board, having seen the Board itself say that Iran should no longer carry out such activities, we -- I think we all feel that the suspension is very important; they need to respect it and they need -- it needs to continue.

QUESTION: Would --

MR. BOUCHER: How it continues in terms of making that a permanent solution and cessation, that's something the EU are pushing Iran on now. We'll leave it to them how to do that.

QUESTION: So in terms of the objective guarantees that you would need to dispel the suspicions you have about them developing capabilities, it is that they would have to maintain a -- they would have to stop permanently all enrichment-related activities?

MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear we think the cessation ought to be made permanent.

Ma'am.

QUESTION: On Uzbekistan. The government says there are about a 169 people killed and some army sources tell the BBC it's more like 500 and there's also reports of them hiding -- of the government having hidden women and children's bodies. Does the State Department have any rough idea which figures are more accurate?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have any way of giving you an estimate of this. We have had people in the area. We've talked to a lot of people who have been in the area. We are -- it appears that there was indiscriminate firing into large crowds of people where, I guess I would say possibly at this point, several hundred people were killed. But it's hard to make an estimate.

And it is our view that there needs to be a full inquiry. There needs to be an international component to that inquiry, that the facts need to come out in a credible and transparent way. And that's why we've asked the government to go forward with such an inquiry or allow such an inquiry. That's why we've asked the government to open up the area to journalists and humanitarian workers, so that they can go in and take care of people who need it and report on what happened.

QUESTION: Richard, is there any groups other than the UN? Are you looking at the OSCE to lead it up?

MR. BOUCHER: There are a lot of ways to have an international component or an international participation under an international inquiry. And as I noted, there are many interested organizations. The UN relief agencies and humanitarian agencies are certainly interested in the refugee situation down there. The UN has expressed an interest in getting to the facts of the matter. NATO has an interest. OSCE has an interest. Many nations have an interest. So we can -- you know, I think all of us need to express that and all of us are expressing that interest in getting the facts out on what happened in a credible and transparent manner.

QUESTION: And the U.S. doesn't prefer one over the other, just as long as it's international?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we'd want to work with other governments as well as the Uzbek Government in terms of how it should be organized.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Given that possibly several hundred people are being killed, does the United States think this is a massacre?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think we need to get all the facts out. And at that point, we can start characterizing it.

QUESTION: Richard, looking ahead to the visit of the Indonesian President next week, I'm well aware that Secretary Rice made the decision to resume IMET training with Indonesia and Secretary Powell made the decision to allow the sale of certain aircraft, spare parts, to Indonesia in the context of tsunami relief. Is there any discussion at present between the United States and Indonesia about resumption of a broader, more thoroughgoing mil-mil, you know, defense relationship and, if so, what would it take to allow for broader military cooperation?

MR. BOUCHER: The first issue is next week when the President of Indonesia comes. We'll have very broad talks on a lot of topics, areas of cooperation, tsunami relief, including our -- things like our military-to-military cooperation. As you noted, in recent months we've been able to sell spare parts for some C-130s so that they could get up and running for -- help the people affected by the tsunami. Secretary Rice made the decision to resume International Military Education and Training programs with Indonesia. That was based on a determination that Indonesia's new democratically elected government was acting on some of the human rights concerns that we've had in the cases that we've raised and discussed.

We want to see that process continue. I'm sure during this visit with Indonesian President and Indonesian officials, we'll discuss how to continue expanding the military-to-military relationship and that the steps that are needed to be able to do that on both sides, including the continuing progress on some of these human rights issues.

QUESTION: Are there any legislative impediments to expanding it or is it more just a case of what the administration feels they want to see the Indonesians do before you take steps?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, there are legislative requirements. I'm not sure -- I know that some of them -- I think I know of them, but I'm not sure. There are at least requirements that we be able to certify that they're taking action on some particularly prominent human rights cases that occurred. And we were able to do that sufficiently for the IMET program. But we'll want to make sure we can continue to do that.

Yeah. One more.

QUESTION: Hi. Richard, there's been an election poll following the election in Ethiopia and they say that there have been pre-marked ballots. And the whole area or eastern region of Africa with Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea seem to be in very poor shape, both for food as well as drought and other type -- just the way the populations are being treated by their government. Is there any push with the AU to put a working group specifically for that three-country section?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the AU is doing, but in terms of the Ethiopian election, we've been following that closely. It think we've discussed it here or the press office is prepared to discuss the Ethiopian election situation with you. We are, indeed, focused on the humanitarian needs of this region.

Am I wrong in thinking that AID did a briefing on it not too long ago?

QUESTION: Yes, you are.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I am wrong? Okay, I'm wrong. (Laughter.)

Anyway, I know that the people in AID have been looking very closely at this area in terms of the humanitarian needs at this juncture and that we will continue to work with people there to make sure the needs of people are met and also to hope that the region makes progress. The Secretary met with the leaders from Djibouti just the other day and discussed this region. She is personally interested in what's going on in this area.

One more.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the reports out of Afghanistan that the Italian aid worker may have been slain by her captors?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything.

QUESTION: Confirmation of that?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

(This briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)

DPB # 88


[1] A representative from the U.S. Interests Section did attend the meeting.

Released on May 20, 2005

ENDS


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