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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 23, 2005

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 23, 2005

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 23, 2005

INDEX:

IRAN
Guardian Council's Invalidation of Presidential Candidates

EGYPT
Arrests of Muslim Brotherhood
Presidential Election Process

DEPARTMENT
Department's Public Diplomacy Efforts

UZBEKISTAN
Developments in Uzbekistan / US Contacts and Meetings
US Assistance to Uzbekistan / Provisions for Withholding
Assistance
Kryrgyzstan's Assistance to Refugees / US Efforts to Assist Kyrgyz Government

VENEZUELA
Posada Carriles / Legal Case

AFGHANISTAN
US View of Afghanistan's Counter-Narcotics Efforts

NORTH KOREA
Six-Party Talks

AZERBAIJAN
Government's Refusal for Opposition to Hold Rally

AUSTRALIA
Reported Security Threat in Canberra

TRANSCRIPT:

2:05 p.m. EDT

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I hope you enjoyed the opportunity to have lunch today. I don't have any --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any statements or announcements. I'd be glad to take your questions.

Mr. Gedda.

QUESTION: Did you notice that the Iranians rejected the great majority of the folks who were seeking to run in next month's presidential election but their supreme leader said today he was overruling that initial ruling? And do you have anything on where that situation stands?

MR. BOUCHER: I suppose we'll see what's meant by these latest remarks. I would say that, unfortunately, this situation is not unprecedented. In January of 2004, they threw out, I guess, thousands of parliamentary candidates who were running in the February 2004 elections and that is what resulted in an electoral process that was deeply flawed.

Certainly, we're deeply troubled by a decision like this, where a clerical regime's unelected Guardian Council invalidates the candidacy of over a thousand presidential nominees in the upcoming elections, including the candidacies of the most prominent moderate candidates and all 93 women who had registered for the election.

It's particularly ironic that the decision comes on the seventh anniversary of the date that the Iranian electorate took to the polls to vote in a candidate Mohammad Khatami, not supported by the hardline clerics. Today's disqualifications are clearly -- excuse me. Today's disqualifications are clearly intended to ensure that only those completely acceptable to the hardline regime are presented to the electorate.

As always, the United States believes the Iranian people deserve to shape the governance of their country and to choose their own leaders. The hopes and dreams of the Iranian people have gone, sadly, unfulfilled but their aspirations for a better and freer Iran remain.

QUESTION: The Secretary spoke about it earlier this morning.

MR. BOUCHER: She did?

QUESTION: She spoke in similar tones. It almost sounded -- almost -- a rallying cry to the Iranians to do something about their government, not just to keep their fingers crossed and wait for the best. Is there anything actively the U.S. would prescribe for the Iranian people?

MR. BOUCHER: A chance to choose their own government.

QUESTION: Well, you see how well --

MR. BOUCHER: We continue to support that. We continue to believe that the Iranians deserve the same chance that everybody else has and that these unelected -- the unelected Guardian Council that has thrown out so many candidates in past elections and appears to be doing so in this one is really doing a great disservice for the Iranian people and they should have the same opportunity to choose that everybody else either has or deserves to have.

QUESTION: Without relations with Iran, without, you know, a way to get at them, there isn't -- isn't there -- is there much you can do except exhort and, you know --

MR. BOUCHER: I think first of all, the Iranian people will decide their own destiny in the end, that they have to have the opportunity to do that. And for the United States and other nations, we can do some things and we can provide information and broadcasting and various ways of getting information in there. We can express our willingness to have contacts and civil society aspects. We've been very helpful to the Iranian people when they suffered the earthquake, for example. We're quite happy to have relationships with Iranian people.

QUESTION: Do you have anything new on the broadcast front in the run-up to the election?

MR. BOUCHER: No. You might check with the International Board of Broadcasting.

QUESTION: Can I change to Egypt?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, there were some raids on the Muslim Brotherhood and some people who have already been criticizing the presidential election process have said this is a way of trying to direct the election, given that they're one of the main opposition movements. The U.S. obviously has an awkward situation where, you know, you don't exactly like the Muslim Brotherhood but they're popular. Is this something that you condemn or do you even applaud these type of raids?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you say, we don't support the political philosophies of the Muslim Brotherhood but we do advocate in all countries guarantees of civil and political rights, including principles of free speech, free press, legal and peaceful assembly. We also believe that there's a responsibility of all political actors to uphold the rule of law and operate through peaceful means. So without being able to comment on the specific circumstances of this arrest, we do believe that people who are acting peacefully in terms of exercising political rights and rights to free expression should be allowed to do so.

QUESTION: I don't think the Egyptians would disagree with you. The Prime Minister, in an interview last week, told us that Brotherhood is outlawed but they don't object to individuals running for office. Do you have a position on whether it's proper, in the interest of giving everybody a right to vote, et cetera, to outlaw an entire group?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- frankly, I don't know --

QUESTION: Or is it their decision?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've taken a position on that or not, Barry. I do think that we ourselves have expressed our disagreement with many of the things the Muslim Brotherhood stands for.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BOUCHER: On the other hand, we do believe that people in Egypt, as everywhere, deserve a chance to express themselves and to carry out peaceful political activity.

QUESTION: And to vote, yes?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And when we ask you about the presidential election process, you tend to say, "Well, we're waiting to see how it plays out." As you wait and see, it looks like there is more -- there's accumulating evidence that things aren't working out in a democratic way, the way that you would hope for a model for democracy. Is there any assessment that you can give us at this point about how things have developed since Mubarak said he would open it up?

MR. BOUCHER: We will continue to follow this closely. The election is still months away. There will be many things happening between now and then. Our view is that we need to continue to encourage an open election, an election with the widest possible participation, an election that's based on freedom of expression and the ability of all the various political points of views to express themselves. So we'll continue to push for that and encourage that.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure. We only have a few people waiting behind you.

QUESTION: Okay. Just -- Richard, one thing I want to understand is that you just had a pretty strong criticism of Iran, where they're going to have six presidential candidates, and yet you don't seem to want to have any criticism of Egypt, where they're determined to have one. Do you see a difference or --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, but which unelected clerics in Egypt threw out a thousand presidential candidates?

QUESTION: I'm talking about the results of the ---

MR. BOUCHER: And all 93 women.

QUESTION: -- results of the process. For 25 years, Egypt has had --

MR. BOUCHER: You are also predicting a process that hasn't happened yet. You have decided they are only going to have one.

QUESTION: No, I'm just saying --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's what everybody else has decided besides you. So we'll find out if you're right.

QUESTION: Well, I'm saying --

MR. BOUCHER: But at this point, let's not draw comparisons that are not based on facts. And there's no facts to support a comparison.

QUESTION: I know, but you're not responding to criticism of people who are afraid that that is going to happen -- in Egypt, I'm talking about -- that that will be the result --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm responding to something that actually happened in Iran and I'm not going to respond to every criticism you can think of of what may happen. Stay with the facts. That's all I'm saying.

Okay. Tammy.

QUESTION: Can we change the topic?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. Public diplomacy. Later this week, Dina Powell has her confirmation hearing.

MR. BOUCHER: Mm-hmm. And Sean McCormack.

QUESTION: And Sean McCormack.

MR. BOUCHER: Don't forget Sean.

QUESTION: At least in Dina's case, it's more than two months after the announcement was made that she was going to be nominated. Don't expect Karen Hughes to have a hearing for some time. Are you concerned about the signal that's being sent that -- is public diplomacy faltering? It is now a year and half, I think, since the Djerejian panel and there really hasn't been much except public -- except for announcements that people are going to take posts and it's going to become much more of a priority.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I guess I don't agree with the assessment. First of all, since the Djerejian panel was one of several reports that was done, I think if you look at the time that Margaret Tutwiler was here, and it did take her a long time to get confirmed as well. It's just the way sometimes the process works. But if you look back at the Djerejian report and the other reports, you'll see that during the time Margaret Tutwiler was Under Secretary, she was able to accomplish, put in training and get going, in some places complete, half a dozen or so specific programs that came out of recommendations of these reports.

So there are things that we did in terms of English teaching or book distribution or American Corners -- specific, perhaps detailed, but positive and strong. We've kept that up in many ways. There is a process, constant process of outreach to the Arab world and Arab-Muslim world, in particular, that gets a lot of attention and a lot of emphasis. We also look forward to the arrival of Dina Powell and Sean McCormack sooner and Karen Hughes over the course of the summer, in terms of helping us move that process forward.

I think while it has been a couple months since they were nominated, we do see that there's a lot being done in terms of preparations. Dina Powell, Karen Hughes have been around in this building, talking to people, meeting with people on the outside, including many of the people who worked on these kind of reports, getting, I think well prepared, so that when they do get confirmed by the Senate they'll be up and running in a way that they would have been if they'd been in office a little longer. So I think they really have been doing a lot to prepare for the day that the Senate does confirm them, we all hope, and they get into office.

QUESTION: But on the larger issue of public diplomacy efforts, I mean, are you making any dent?

MR. BOUCHER: Are we making any dent? Sometimes yes. I don't know that public opinion polls have turned around completely because of our public diplomacy efforts. There are signs in different places that the attitude towards the United States has improved and there are signs in other places the attitude towards the United States has gone down. We all know that this is a long-term proposition of rebuilding the image of the United States. It'll come and go with different policy aspects, but over the long-term we need to reestablish a positive view of the United States, a view that the United States is a country that brings opportunity, brings change and brings freedom. And I think that's -- the combination of policy and promise will do that eventually.

QUESTION: Last question on this. How do you think things will change once Karen Hughes and Dina Powell are here?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we'll have to see what kind of specifics they want to embark upon when they get here. I think we have been keeping a lot of our programs moving forward in this time period and I'm sure they will add new ideas, new programs and maybe new funding to move us even farther forward and kick-start it a little more. But until they're confirmed, I think it's a little premature to predict what we might have at that point.

Teri.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Uzbekistan. Could you bring us up to date on any high-level contacts with the Uzbek Government, trying to urge them to allow an international investigation? And could you also talk about Kyrgyzstan forcing people back into Uzbekistan and what responsibilities you think they have as a border country to help with the overflow?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me start with the first question. I think there's a lot of international coordination going on, and in terms of getting the message to the Uzbek Government that we're all looking for a credible and transparent assessment or inquiry into the events at Andijan, we've seen a number of developments.

First, there was a statement May 20th on the situation by Foreign Minister Rupel, the Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We very much support that call and we believe that a prominent role for the organization would be appropriate.

Our Ambassador, Jon Purnell, in Tashkent, has been in close touch with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Head of Mission in Tashkent. Our Deputy Assistant Secretary here, Laura Kennedy, is going to call -- is getting together a meeting today of Uzbekistan's neighbors, which is similar to the one that Assistant Secretary Fried did last week.

We've been in touch -- Assistant Secretary Fried has been in touch with the Uzbek Ambassador here last Friday. He's in Europe today. Nicholas Burns, our Under Secretary, is going out to the NATO meeting in Sweden where we expect that they will have a lot of contact with European Union and NATO counterparts on the issues of Uzbekistan.

I think there is a very clear and consistent point of view being conveyed by the international community that we want to see a credible and transparent investigation or inquiry into the events in Andijan and that Uzbekistan needs to respect human rights and respect -- provide an open political environment so that people can have an outlet for their views and their desires.

As far as the situation --

QUESTION: Are you making any progress just on that part? Any sign from Karimov that he's changing his mind?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say we've seen any signs from the Government of Uzbekistan at this point, no. But I think it's a very clear message that's increasingly organized and increasingly persistent.

As far as the question of Kyrgyzstan goes, Kyrgyzstan has taken in a lot of people, a lot of refugees. We have been helping them in terms of supporting some of the efforts of humanitarian workers and NGOs who can provide, for example, clothing, blankets, basic medicines, medical supplies to some of the Uzbeks, the 500 or so Uzbeks that are camped near the border.

We've also helped airlift medicines that were donated by AmeriCares and Project Hope International. So those are $2.5 million worth of antibiotics, pain relievers, anesthetics and heart medications. So we are helping the Kyrgyz Government take care of the people, as is their international obligation, and we're calling on the Uzbek Government to avoid interfering in the Kyrgyz assistance to refugees that they've been giving.

Joel.

QUESTION: But Kyrgyzstan isn't being -- some of the refugees are complaining about their treatment by Kyrgyz authorities and saying they're being forced to go back to Uzbekistan already.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look into that. That certainly is one of our fears, that Kyrgyzstan won't be able to take care of them or won't take care of them, but at this point I had not seen any reports like that. So I'll have to check on that. But we're trying to help the Kyrgyz Government take care of the refugees who are showing up.

Joel.

QUESTION: Richard, there are reports that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is --

MR. BOUCHER: Let's stay on this.

QUESTION: Just one more on this. Joel, thank you.

You have noted in public, and so has the Secretary, that some U.S. aid to Uzbekistan is linked to a certification process on human rights. As you press the Uzbek Government for an inquiry that's credible, are you explicitly saying that they can't get aid unless they hold a credible --

MR. BOUCHER: The -- a credible inquiry?

QUESTION: Correct.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. First of all, I think the Uzbek Government is very aware of what our law is and the provisions that we used last year to withhold almost $11 million of assistance from the Uzbek Government, I think. They know clearly we can't -- there's a certain amount of money we can't give to the Uzbekistan Government unless we make a determination that Uzbekistan is living up to its commitments to political and economic reforms.

I don't think that's any matter of confusion on their part. We have made clear, as I've made clear here at the briefing and I'm sure we've done this in our meetings as well, that the events in Andijan will be considered as we consider this decision on certification. But at this point, the Secretary has not made her decision and is -- can't predict exactly when that might be.

But U.S. foreign assistance is very much designed to support projects and programs that are in U.S. national interests. We spent a lot of money supporting economic development, economic reform, civil society we do though NGOs. But there is up to $22 million in this year's assistance that could be affected by the certification decision.

So that's where we stand on that and I think the Government of Uzbekistan is quite clear as far as those matters.

QUESTION: Change of subject. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is saying he now wants nuclear technology and he's entered into a partnership with Iran, saying he wants both atomic and solar power projects. Do you have any comments regarding that?

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see that one. No, I don't have anything on that.

QUESTION: Can we hold Venezuela?

MR. BOUCHER: Ma'am.

QUESTION: He also said that if U.S. don't extradite Posada Carriles, he'll think about reviewing the diplomatic relations, even shut down the U.S. -- the Venezuelan Embassy here in the U.S. So would you -- do you have any comment? This is one more of --

MR. BOUCHER: The question of an extradition, the question of all the matters facing Mr. Posada Carriles, this is a legal matter. It's not a political matter. It's not a question of diplomatic relations. It's a legal matter. And that as we look at his status here or we look at the provisional request for arrest, we'll look at it based on the legal facts. Our judicial system will deal with it, our Justice Department will deal with it. Any future requests, anything that goes on in that matter, needs to be based on a legal case and the facts of the matter. It's not a issue of political pressure or diplomatic pressure or threats to do this, that or the other. We'll look at it based on a legal situation.

QUESTION: Well, what about the, they say, threat of reviewing diplomatic relations with --

MR. BOUCHER: It has nothing to do with legal case. The legal case will be the legal case and that's how we'll look at it.

QUESTION: But this is one more, they say, one more of Mr. Chavez's, they say, statements against the United States or trying to push the United States to come up with -- is one more Mr. Chavez's statements.

MR. BOUCHER: So?

QUESTION: So? What do you have to say about that? Is it --

MR. BOUCHER: Nothing particular. It's one more of his statements. It's not relevant to the matter at hand so I don't think I need to deal with it.

QUESTION: Is there any way Mr. Chavez's public statements can sway the U.S. Government in the case?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, it's a legal matter. What happens here in terms of our own situation with regard to status or any other matters before the U.S. courts will be made on the legal case. If the Venezuelan Government presents such a case, we'll look at it completely and fairly. But what we decide to do will be based on the legal -- on a legal basis, not on threats, not on diplomatic arguments, not on statements, not on outbursts or whatever you call them. It's going to be a legal matter.

QUESTION: A related question. Do you have anything to say about what the U.S. thinking is with respect to holding Latin American countries accountable for their democratic processes to ensure that they are in compliance with the Democratic Charter of the OAS?

MR. BOUCHER: I would just say, in general terms, the U.S. thinking is that all the countries in the hemisphere need to help each other meet the standards and requirements of the Democratic Charter. The Charter established that we're all concerned about each other in terms of meeting those standards. I think you saw, while we were down in Chile at the Community of Democracies, that the new OAS Secretary General, Mr. Insulza, made a statement about how important a part that was of the OAS activity and how even -- how civil society groups would be brought into that process as well.

So people throughout the hemisphere want to make sure that democracy is maintained in this hemisphere and I'm sure people throughout the hemisphere will cooperate to see that it is.

Tammy.

QUESTION: Afghanistan. There was a cable that was reportedly sent from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to Washington that -- it -- that talked about -- or I should say criticized President Karzai and his government for not acting aggressively enough to combat the counter-drug problem. Can you talk about that cable and does it reflect the State Department view and --

MR. BOUCHER: I can't really talk about a single cable written about a particular situation in a particular area and a particular group or person's views of things. I can tell you what the U.S. Government view is and the U.S. Government view is that President Karzai has made a strong commitment, along with the rest of the Government of Afghanistan, to tackling the scourge of opium production and trade. He expressed that commitment this morning with the President when they met and when they came out and talked to the press. He expressed that commitment to Secretary Rice and to -- and in the news conference when he came out with Secretary Rice when she was in Afghanistan. We talked about it further in the meetings today. I understand it was discussed at the White House. It came up during lunch about our counternarcotics cooperation as well.

I think both our governments are firmly committed to ending opium production and poppy production in Afghanistan. We have made progress in that regard, but there's a lot more to do and there's a lot more to do together in terms of our cooperation and further enhancing and improving our cooperation. So we're going to be working together. We do have programs for alternative livelihoods. I know that question came up on some of the broadcasts over the weekend.

There is, you might say, a quick fix program that's been underway this year that AID has that's provided -- where are my numbers? It's called the Immediate Needs Program. It provides a social safety net and cash-for-work employment opportunities. There are currently 26,000 Afghans employed daily in the country's two principal poppy-producing provinces. There are about $3.4 million in wages that have been paid to Afghan laborers. And by the end of this project in November 2005, USAID will pay $20 million in wages and created 5 million days of work.

We recognize that's only an immediate needs program. The long-term solutions are to develop opportunities for Afghan farmers to grow other crops and to sell them, just as President Karzai has been saying. And that principal component is currently being launched, that sort of longer-term thing, in an effort to stimulate agricultural growth, to get them engaged in the production and marketing of high-valued licit crops such as fruits and nuts. I think pomegranates and melons were mentioned this morning. And so that's another part of the program that's up and -- getting up and running now. It's a program that we will work very closely with the Afghan Government on and try to help each other make sure it's a success.

QUESTION: Did President Karzai raise any concerns about the reports of the cable with Secretary Rice?

MR. BOUCHER: Didn't talk about the cable. Talked about the program and how to make it succeed.

QUESTION: In that regard, did you talk about the British role? I mean, they're the ones who are supposed to be spearheading this, right?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Yes, we talked about -- a little bit about the British role. I think in all this, it's understood that what we in Afghanistan do together is part of what we all do together with the United Kingdom, which has spearheaded this. And I'd say we're all working very closely in cooperating with the British as well.

QUESTION: Well, given the fact that you still have as big a problem as you have, was there any talk about changing the lead?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't think we have -- I mean, we have a big problem. There has been some success in terms of reducing some of the --

QUESTION: Didn't say there wasn't.

MR. BOUCHER: -- some of the acreage. But it's not as big a problem as we had. It's still a very big problem. And it's a problem that we understand needs to be dealt with not only in the short term but in the longer term. There need to be serious alternatives and the opportunities for Afghan farmers. This is something that we and the Afghan Government are committed to working together to develop and committed to working with others in the international community, especially the British.

Yeah.

QUESTION: North Korea. While the U.S. is waiting for the response of North Korea, there are reports saying that North Korea is asking China to provide more economic assistance before they come back to the talk. And also, the reporter said that if they get a satisfactory answer, they would come back in the coming week. It seems that the resumption of the six-party talk relies on the satisfactory answer. I wonder if you can tell us what you have heard from the Chinese about their efforts to bring North Korea back to the table and if you are informed by the Chinese specifically on this negotiation with North Korea.

MR. BOUCHER: I think first of all, we do keep in close touch with the Chinese, but I'm not here to speak for the Chinese or to describe their efforts, other than to say that we know that they've been making consistent efforts to try to get North Korea to come back to the table.

I'd have to take exception with one phrase you used to describe the situation. It doesn't rely on satisfactory answers. It relies on North Korea showing up for talks, willing to work on the subject matter of the talks, which is eliminating the program -- the nuclear weapons programs. That's the problem. The rest of the parties have all said they're willing to show up, they're willing to come to six-party talks unconditionally and work seriously on the subject matters at hand.

We have made clear our position. The Secretary's made clear repeatedly our position in terms of the opportunities that those talks prevent -- present for North Korea. During the course of her travel in Asia, more than a month ago now, almost two months now, if I remember correctly, she was very explicit in describing the opportunities at the talks and that remains to be -- the case today.

So it's not a matter of asking for more answers or more assistance. It's a matter of deciding to show up and show up seriously to negotiate on the matter at hand.

Yeah. Teri.

QUESTION: Is it frustrating that even after using the New York channel, North Korea is saying that it needs to have U.S. views clarified?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know I could comment quite in that vein. The U.S. -- the New York channel is used to convey views very similar to what we've said in public.

QUESTION: They're saying that you say different things in public and private.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I know. They're accusing us of -- what's the phrase? "Endless stream of balderdash," or something like that. That was it.

QUESTION: I didn't see that.

MR. BOUCHER: Look, you know, we're not going to go fall into that same sort of rhetorical back and forth. What matters is whether they show up at the talks and whether they show up serious. The fact is, five parties are now willing to show up unconditionally, resume the discussions and work seriously to eliminate nuclear weapons on this peninsula to give, as the Secretary said, to give North Korea the kind of respect it desires and the assistance it needs. Five parties are willing to do that. We hope the sixth will be, too.

Joel.

QUESTION: Richard, within a day, both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as well as Palestinian President Abbas is here in Washington, on Thursday. There's now a delay in the elections on the Palestinian Authority, a delay of two months. Is that in any way tied to the Gaza withdrawal?

MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to ask the Palestinians. I'm not quite sure they have decided to delay. There's some talk of it. I don't know if they made a decision. But that's their decision. What they tie it to, why they do it, will be up to them. Gaza withdrawal is indeed a very important event for all of us. It's very important that that succeeds and we all want it to go smoothly. We do all need to concentrate on what it takes to make it go smoothly.

Thank you.

QUESTION: No, no, no. Wait, wait, wait.

MR. BOUCHER: No, no, no. Wait, wait, wait. George.

QUESTION: Unrest in Azerbaijan?

MR. BOUCHER: Unrest in Azerbaijan. Not there. Here.

We regret that Azerbaijan's Government refused a request by the opposition to hold a peaceful rally. It's also regrettable that the police used force to disband small groups of protestors and detain participants in an unsanctioned rally.

We again call on the Government of Azerbaijan to honor the right of its people to assemble peacefully and freely and to ensure that those detained in the rally -- during the rally are afforded due process immediately.

The government's approach to the rally and the decision to detain protestors, we think, violates the spirit of President Aliyev's May 11th decree that affirmed the people's constitutional right to peaceful assembly, a right that any democracy must justly cherish and safeguard. We strongly support the right of people to assemble peacefully and freely as is a normal part of the democratic process.

QUESTION: Another --

MR. BOUCHER: One over back there, too.

QUESTION: Australia?

QUESTION: Australia says that they've picked up evidence of a terrorist threat in Cambodia to its embassy. The U.S. Embassy is in the same vicinity. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything to say about that. We'll keep in touch and watch the security situation at all our embassies and all our posts, but I'm not aware of anything much different in Cambodia.

Ma'am.

QUESTION: I wonder if you could comment on the Supreme Court decision to turn aside the appeal by the Mexican citizen and 15 other ones. They were asking to overturn their sentences because they were improperly denied help by their consulates.

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

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 p.m.)

DPB # 89

Released on May 23, 2005

ENDS

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