State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for October 29
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 29, 2004
- EU-3 Discussions with Iran
- Role of UN Security Council
- Query on Alleged Offer by IAEA Regarding Reactor Fuel Guarantee
- Iranian Uranium Enrichment Activity
- Arafat's Absence / Implications for Region
- Upcoming Elections / U.S. Observations of Election Campaign
- Reports of Russia's Involvement in Campaign
- Signing of European Constitutional Treaty
- Libyan Extradition of Wanted Terrorist Abderrezak Al Para to Algeria
- Situation in Monrovia / Lawlessness Related to Ethnic Tensions
- Bombings / Violence / Death of Over 80 Citizens
- U.S. Response to Coronation of King Sihamoni
- Query on Whether Coronation will Resolve Political Impasse
- Incident at Marriot Hotel in Islamabad
- Query on Whether U.S. Accepts Pakistan's Preliminary Explanation
12:30 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements. I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Well, somehow, the European talks with Iran have slipped off the scope. There's nothing coming from there and I wondered if you got a report from them and some sort of a size-up of -- is it what we see that Iran is saying? You know, no total suspension of enrichment?
MR. BOUCHER: I've seen a lot of different statements from the Iranians, most of them saying that they're not going to suspend or end these programs. The Europeans have had some discussions with the Iranians, now two sets of discussions. We have been hearing from the Europeans. We've talked to them. We've heard about their meetings. They will continue to conduct these meetings and have another meeting soon, we expect, but at this point I really don't have anything to report. There is no particular commitment from the Iranians that I'm aware of that's been made.
QUESTION: Commitment --
MR. BOUCHER: As we've always said, the issue is whether Iran commits to do what is required by the IAEA Board, and at this point they're just not.
QUESTION: No, I meant immediately. They are --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, they are apparently going to meet again soon. That's what we're told.
QUESTION: And you have no -- do you have any --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to be able to brief on their meetings if they're not doing it.
QUESTION: Well, not on the meetings. I mean, don't you think this is sort of, some sort of a slowdown process to prevent a final judgment?
MR. BOUCHER: The fact of the matter is that in September the IAEA board said when we come to the November meeting we want to have a definitive report on whether Iran is or is not meeting the Board's requirements. That is the expectation that we will all have. Iran needs to agree to that and we need to -- it needs to be able to put the IAEA in a position to verify and report it.
So yes, time is running out on the Iranians, but at the same time these discussions will continue and we will see where we are in November, whether or not Iran has met the requirement. That's the issue and it's a simple issue, as far as we're concerned.
QUESTION: Okay, a senior Iranian official is quoted in Tehran as saying that he thinks that even if you do eventually refer the matter to the Security Council, there's maybe a ten percent chance that Iran would actually face sanctions. Do you want to try to disabuse him of that notion or do you agree that if it goes to the Security Council there will probably just be a lot of thinking and then no sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, there's a lot of different things the Security Council can do with it once it gets it. I would just -- I don't know who this senior official is, whether he's named or unnamed.
QUESTION: I don't have the name. I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. But in any case, I would say that at least some of the Iranian Government seemed to have gone to great lengths to argue against referral to the Security Council for over a year. And I guess there are many, perhaps, others in Iran, in Tehran, that are more concerned than this particular gentleman.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. aware of the offer that the IAEA has reportedly made to Iran to guarantee a supply of fuel for their reactors? And what's your reaction to such a move?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that -- I think you'll have to check with the IAEA as to whether there's a particular offer on their behalf. It has been a feature of the discussions that, as you know, the Russians, in terms of their supply of fuel, the Europeans, in terms of how they have discussed, I think, in public, their potential cooperation with Iran, and the IAEA, that in order to reassure the world that Iran's not going to conduct enrichment activities that lead to the possibility of nuclear weapons, the best way to do that is to have a supply in of fuel and a of taking back of spent fuel. That's the arrangements the Russians have proposed for the power plants that they're building, so -- and it's always been our understanding that the IAEA would have a role in whatever is worked out with Iran, whatever Iran needs to do. I mean, Iran, even if it's referred to the Security Council, the IAEA still has a role in verifying, describing, looking at what is going on in Iran and trying to get -- to ascertain whether or not Iran is meeting its commitments. So -- I guess we saw the report this morning that sort of stems from the logic of everything we've seen, but it doesn't -- I'm not in a position to say that there's a particular offer like that being made.
QUESTION: Do you happen to know if experts, American experts, feel secure that there can be verification of uranium enrichment so as to discern the point at which the intensity of the enrichment packed -- moves into the weapons preparation stage? You have to get its confidence --
MR. BOUCHER: That's not what we're thinking about. The IAEA Board has asked --
QUESTION: No, I know.
MR. BOUCHER: -- has demanded of Iran that it suspend all enrichment activity, period. That's the standard we expect Iran to meet, because of these concerns that anything short of that would still leave a lot of concerns on our part and the part of others that Iran was continuing to pursue a weapons program.
QUESTION: New subject? Yesterday, you talked about how you wished Chairman Arafat got the medical treatment and that he recovered, or, I don't remember your exact words. But I'm wondering if you have seen any signs or you have any hope that his absence from the region may, I don't know, bring about some kind of a new approach on the side of the Palestinians.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's -- I don't think I could speculate on that at this point as far as what it might produce. What it--there's no particular change in the situation as of this morning. I mean it just --
But I wouldn't want to speculate one way or the other on what his absence or anything else might produce in the region.
QUESTION: Change of subject. There's been greater speculation what has happened with those explosives, and accordingly there's speculation that a Russian-French suppliers -- we're not talking government moved them through Syria. This is about a year and a quarter ago.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I think that subject was dealt with yesterday by the Pentagon, so I'd leave you to them.
QUESTION: There's also a videotape of KTSP Television --
MR. BOUCHER: And there's also another briefing going on at the Pentagon right now about it, so I'll refer all that to them.
QUESTION: There's another election in the coming days, the Ukraine. Do you have any observations as to the campaign and of suggestions of Russian meddling in the election?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first, I think you're all aware we have been following the issue of the elections in Ukraine quite consistently. The Secretary has made clear the need for free and fair elections in his meetings and discussions with officials from Ukraine. We've done that very consistently. You'll see in The Financial Times today an op-ed piece by the Deputy Secretary of State on the subject as well.
We certainly hope that the people of Ukraine have the opportunity to vote in free and fair elections and to make their own choice of leaders. Our view of how it's been conducted, of course, has been to note that there have been some shortcomings in the campaign. The campaign has fallen short of international democratic standards -- excuse me -- and we find that deeply disappointing. It's not too late for Ukraine to conduct an election itself that does meet international standards.
We don't have a pref -- a candidate in this election. Our preferred outcome is that the people of Ukraine have the right to freely decide who should be their president. So we'll be watching it very closely and see if that -- if they have the ability to do that.
I would note we are heartened to hear that 39 journalists who work for pro-government media announced that they oppose censorship and they would now report the campaign honestly. We urge the Ukrainian authorities to allow them to do so. We also urge the Ukrainian authorities to allow everyone in Ukraine to vote freely and urge them to adhere scrupulously to internationally accepted standards for tabulating and registering the results on election day.
QUESTION: Any changes in the itinerary of Mr. Armitage? It's not a long way from Ukraine--
MR. BOUCHER: The Deputy Secretary?
QUESTION: Yeah. Mr. Armitage.
MR. BOUCHER: Not in this direction.
QUESTION: Richard, the second part of that question --
QUESTION: Not in this direction? Is he going --
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of.
MR. BOUCHER: Put it that way.
QUESTION: Second part of the question is about what the Russians are up to in Ukraine?
MR. BOUCHER: There have been reports of Russian involvement in the presidential campaign. We have often discussed the subject of Ukraine with officials in Moscow and obviously, consistently urge them to support free and fair elections in Ukraine. We think that is very much in their interest, as it is in ours, and those of all the international community and neighbors.
So we have had these discussions with the Russians, but actually, as far as these reports, I'm not able to provide any information or detail for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: There's only two days left until -- the vote is on Sunday, is it not?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You're saying that you still that they can turn it around and have a -- with 48 hours --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not -- I tried to draw the difference between the shortcomings of the campaign, which are obvious, which are fact, and the conduct on election day and with the election itself, which, you know, one doesn't want to see more problems occur on that day.
QUESTION: Right. But doesn't a flawed campaign necessarily mean that the election is going to be flawed?
MR. BOUCHER: A flawed campaign can distort the outcome, obviously, yes. So one would make an overall assessment, but it's certainly better to have them back off and let the election go fairly and freely on the day itself. And what -- a final assessment would have to involve all the factors, whether -- how much that might have been distorted by the problems of the campaign.
QUESTION: Do you have any specific recommendations that they could -- or things that you would like to see that would make it -- that they could do it two days that would over --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I would say it's the conduct of the day itself, too. I mean, let the journalists report freely on what's going on at the polling places, make sure the tabulating and the registering of the results is done without any interference or fraud or manipulation, make it a transparent and open process on election day.
QUESTION: Richard, could you be slightly more precise on what the campaign hitherto have been, other than media access, or freedom of the press and media access?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't actually have a full list with me. Generally, in the past, we have talked about media access, the ability of candidates to express themselves, you know, the way the candidates and campaigns are covered in the press.
There have been charges of misuse of "administrative resources," some issues of provocations of candidates and parties in provocative incidents and things like that. So --
QUESTION: There's one more thing. You said that you don't have a candidate in this election. You're not meaning to imply that some elections you do have a candidate, do you? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: As in all elections, the United States does not favor a particular candidate; we just want the people of any country to be able to choose their own leaders.
QUESTION: Well, sometimes you don't particularly like a candidate, though, and you've done that in Latin America recently, where -- I can't remember where it was --
QUESTION: That was on the Rios Montt.
QUESTION: Guatemala. And you also talked about the Ivory Coast coup leader, Robert Guei, and not wanting to see him as a candidate. Is there someone you --
MR. BOUCHER: As in all elections, we don't try to pick the outcome, but we do sometimes say that if particular people are elected we might have a problem working with them. That's a fact voters need to know sometimes.
QUESTION: Well, do you have that kind of problem with any of the candidates?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're not choosing a particular candidate in this election. We want the people of Ukraine to be able to decide, and obviously, it flows from that that we would obviously accept anybody that they chose to elect in a free and fair manner.
QUESTION: I don't suppose you can define the phrase "misuse of administrative resources?"
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. I'll have to see if we have more information on that. I think, you know, if you look back, we have spoken to some of that before and some of it is outlined in the opinion piece in The Financial Times this morning by the Deputy Secretary. I just don't have a full listing with me now in detail.
QUESTION: Richard, this morning, they have just signed the constitution for the EU, and will that make any tremendous change, instead of contacting individual governments, you, then, have to contact the whole, entire body once that's underway and finalized?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we can quite answer that question at this point. First of all, I do want to congratulate the 25 European member-states on the signing of the European Union's Constitutional Treaty. We hope the treaty, if and when ratified, will serve to enhance the outstanding working relationship that exists between the United States and the European Union.
In some ways, the constitution as we understand it would combine and define a single point of responsibility for external relations or foreign ministry type of matters that would be an EU foreign minister, so I presume that if it's ratified we would find our contacts with the European Union a bit more centralized, bit more direct. But how, eventually, it will evolve in terms of the contacts with the Union versus contacts with individual states. I can't really predict that at this moment.
QUESTION: All right. Do you have anything about the extradition by Libya to Algeria of this guy who is --
MR. BOUCHER: Mr. Al Para?
QUESTION: Yeah, the kidnapper.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Or alleged kidnapper.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we welcome the news that the Algerian authorities now have custody of the wanted terrorist, Abderrezak Al Para. The pursuit of Al Para took place across North Africa for many months, and his capture and return to Algeria to face justice for his crimes demonstrates the commitment of several countries in the region to work together to fight terrorism. That's our guidance.
QUESTION: That's it?
MR. BOUCHER: That's it.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on --
QUESTION: You don't have any -- okay, well, presumably, you're pleased that the Libyans handed him over, yeah?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we're pleased that a number of countries, including Libya, cooperated in this matter to see that he's turned over to the Algerians to face justice.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the rioting in Liberia?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep. The situation today in Monrovia remains tense, and there have been multiple reports this morning of various kinds of lawlessness related to ethnic tensions. I would say, as of about nine o'clock our time, streets near the embassy were clear and calm, and the UN mission in Liberia and Liberian police have deployed and they control the downtown parts of Monrovia.
There have been some reports of shooting but no casualties, and several mosques and churches were set on fire, burned down last night and earlier this morning.
The Chairman of the National Unity -- National Transitional Government of Liberia, Mr. Gyude Bryant, and United Nations Special Representative Jacques Klein, have appealed for calm. They've imposed a curfew and urged people to stay off the streets. Our Ambassador, Ambassador Blaney, has also gone on the radio and appealed for calm.
We condemn the violence. Much remains to be done, but we think that there have been great strides already in Liberia on disarmament, reconstruction and reconciliation. Liberians must not allow a small group of malcontents to thwart the peace and the mutual successes that they've been achieving.
At this point, we've cautioned American citizens to stay off the streets and remain in safe locations. Our embassy personnel are all accounted for.
QUESTION: Thank you. And one other real quick one on Thailand.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I believe there have been a couple of new bombings in southern Thailand. Do you have anything fresh to say on that? If you don't, that's fine.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we are concerned about the bombings and the new violence. We'd also note the Prime Minister has expressed regret and promised an investigation into the events earlier, which -- in which over 80 Thai citizens lost their lives.
We do look to the Thai Government to restore order and to prevent further violence and restore peaceful intercommunal relations in the south. And we'll be following this matter closely as they proceed with the investigation.
QUESTION: Next door? After unsuccessfully trying to get you to talk about Sihanouk's abdication, perhaps you have some words of encouragement for his successor who was coronated today? No?
MR. BOUCHER: I did say something about Sihanouk.
QUESTION: Not much.
MR. BOUCHER: I ended up -- no, after being pushed and pushed and pushed, I ended up saying congratulations and good wishes. But now that he's -- now that the new king has been crowned, coronation has taken place, we offer His Majesty, King Sihamoni our heartfelt congratulations on his coronation, wish him the greatest success as Cambodia's new monarch in supporting peace, prosperity and freedom throughout the kingdom.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication, or are you hopeful that he will be able to resolve this lingering political impasse that they have, or do you not have any high hopes for his --
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see. It is, I think, noteworthy that his selection, the selection of Prince Sihamoni as -- to succeed the king was carried out in a very orderly way, used the country's institutions. So we think that's noteworthy. But whether that leads to more political cooperation on other matters, we'll have to see.
QUESTION: Is there any new word on the CARE worker who was kidnapped in Iraq? Is she --
MR. BOUCHER: No, there's really not. I have not seen any new word on that. Our people in Iraq who are obviously following this closely and coordinating with others on the matter. But no, I don't have any news for you.
QUESTION: Is there anything about Tony Blair's reaction to it or --
MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to ask Tony Blair.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Ok. Sorry. Matt.
QUESTION: Richard, what's your understanding of what happened yesterday at the Marriott in Islamabad?
MR. BOUCHER: We have put out some advice to -- we put out an advisory for American citizens. Pakistani authorities are now investing the incident. There was one American who was slightly injured in the incident.
QUESTION: An official or just a U.S. citizen?
MR. BOUCHER: An official from our Embassy.
QUESTION: Do you buy the Pakistani explanation thus far that it was an electrical short circuit?
MR. BOUCHER: Our information and the information we shared with the American community was that it was probably an improvised explosive device, a bomb of some kind. And -- But as I point out, this matter is under investigation by the Pakistani authorities and I'm sure that all our conclusions, whether ours or theirs, are preliminary and it's the investigation that will tell us all what really happened. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)