08 October 2003
State Department Briefing, October 8, 2003
Iraq/Turkey, Iraq, Palestinians, Syria, Greece, Burma, Liberia, Vietnam, Malaysia
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed.
Following is a transcript of the briefing:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2003
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:00 p.m. EDT
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Iraqi Governing Council Opposition to Turkish Troops in Iraq
PKK/KADEK Discussions with the U.S.
Costs of Deployment
United Nations Security Council Resolution
Syria Accountability Act Legislation
Support for Terrorist Organizations
Syrian Comment on Further Attacks by Israel
November 17 Terrorist Organization
ASEAN Statement on Burma
Aung San Suu Kyi
Signing of Article 98 Agreement
US-Vietnam Air Service Negotiations
Status of Release of International Religious Freedom Report
Ambassador Hanford's Travel to Saudi Arabia
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: The Iraqi Governing Council looks like it is, indeed, digging its heels in, in opposition to the Turkish troop presence. But is this one of those issues that the U.S. is going to make a decision irrespective of what of what others might think?
MR. BOUCHER: "Looks like maybe it is" is not an outcome yet. As you know, there are various views among the Governing Council -- we've heard those when the Secretary traveled to Iraq, we've heard some of those in their public expressions.
We consistently have said and viewed -- we have consistently said that people should keep an open mind on this and that we will work with the Iraqis on the subject of Turkish deployments for stabilization because we think ultimately those are of benefit to the Iraqis as they proceed to take over more and more responsibility for their own future.
Ambassador Bremer met today with the Governing Council to discuss this Turkish offer of troops for Iraq. He did listen to some concerns from some members of the Governing Council. He also explained why we supported the offer.
At this point, I think all we can say is that we expect them to have further discussions.
QUESTION: So are you taking the -- you seem to be of the opinion then that even though many members -- there are 25, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Well --
QUESTION: 24. That many of them have come out, including the foreign minister, as -- I mean it just seems like you're choosing to ignore what appears to be the overwhelming sentiment --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, hold it. You just went from, you know, three or four named people, to many, to overwhelming. Before we do that, let's face the facts. There has been no decision, no announcement, no statement, no resolution passed by the Governing Council. There have been individual statements by individual members of the Governing Council. We're talking to them; we're working with them. We know, as well as you do, that many of them have strong views, many of them have different views on this subject.
But until they, as a body, or as a group, or in some overwhelming, or many, or a majority fashion have expressed their views, I think you have to say it's a matter under discussion. We know there are some concerns, and we'll continue to meet with them.
QUESTION: Well, it just seems to me that you're --
MR. BOUCHER: We are not ignoring the fact that there are some people opposed to this. We're meeting; we're talking to them. We're doing what we have said long ago we would do, and that's work through this matter with the Iraqis.
QUESTION: All right. So you do not accept the idea that the -- when the foreign minister says that they oppose troops from any neighboring country, for whatever reasons, you don't think that he is speaking on behalf of the Council, in much as the same way the Secretary speaks for the U.S. people?
MR. BOUCHER: I think he, himself, has said -- well, I think, without a Council decision or communiqué or a statement on this subject, the foreign minister, himself, has said that that's his personal view. That was certainly the way he put it when he expressed that view to the Secretary when we were in Iraq.
QUESTION: All right. He seemed to do it yesterday -- in a news conference in Baghdad, he seemed to say that that was -- the whole thing. And I would think that you understand that in the absence, as you say, of some kind of formal communiqué or statement, that you would take on board what the foreign minister says as being --
MR. BOUCHER: At this point --
QUESTION: -- as being an expression of what the Council thinks.
MR. BOUCHER: -- our understanding is that the Governing Council has not issued a statement or had a vote, that we have had some discussions with them. We recognize there are concerns among members. And, as we've said for a while now, we want to work through those with them, and those discussions will continue.
MR. BOUCHER: Elise.
QUESTION: Would you say that those discussions -- further discussions are an effort to make the Iraqis more comfortable with this, or you're still taking on board their concerns on whether you would put Turkish troops in that country?
MR. BOUCHER: We think it's a good idea. And we hope that the Iraqis will come to see it that way as well.
QUESTION: Richard, do you -- many members, many politicians and members of the Council have said a majority of the Council is opposed to this. Do you dispute that interpretation of these views?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's any way to ascertain that.
QUESTION: Well, you could ask them. I mean, presumably Bremer asked them. I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose we could do a poll, but we're not into doing the poll or the vote count. We're talking to them now. We're hearing their views. We're listening to their views because their views matter to us. And Ambassador Bremer has had a meeting with them today and will have further meetings with them.
QUESTION: And how's the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: How's the resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: Doing fine. What resolution?
QUESTION: The Iraq resolution.
QUESTION: But before you go on to that, with all do respect, Richard, it doesn't sound as if their views matter to you at all. You say that they come out -- many, some, whatever number it is -- the foreign minister says it, and say that they don't like this idea. And then you say, we think it's a good idea and we hope the Iraqis will come to see that.
MR. BOUCHER: If their views didn't matter, we wouldn't bother talking to them.
QUESTION: You're hoping to change --
MR. BOUCHER: If their views didn't matter, we'd just go ahead and work out the deployments.
MR. BOUCHER: But we have things to work out with the Turks, and we're going to talk to the Iraqis as well, because we want to work this through in the best possible manner.
QUESTION: In Baghdad, there's been a Shiite cleric that's been detained, and there are daily protests now. Why, specifically, was he detained --
MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to get it from the Coalition.
QUESTION: It's from them.
MR. BOUCHER: Exact status, yes.
All right. You wanted to say -- you mean the Iraq resolution?
QUESTION: There are many suggestions that you're close to abandoning your quest for a new resolution? Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- well --
QUESTION: No, quite a few actually, I'd say, many. Well, an overwhelming consensus, shall we say, that you're on the verge of abandoning your quest? Is that accurate?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm underwhelmed. There's an underwhelming consensus. I think I described this to you yesterday as accurately as we can. That is really pretty much where we are today. We are still evaluating how best to proceed. We have studied the specific suggestions that we've gotten from other delegations at Monday's meetings, and the ideas that came to us in the Secretary's phone calls. We are taking into consideration the general comments we've heard from various delegations, and also from the Secretary General.
Ambassador Negroponte has met informally with others in New York, including yesterday with the Secretary General. Yesterday, the Secretary, in addition to speaking to the Turkish Foreign Minister, spoke with the French Foreign Minister and with the British Foreign Minister. I am not sure if I reported those to you.
So, contacts continue both outside and inside the Administration but we have not scheduled further consultations in New York. We continue to believe our resolution is a good one. We have gone a considerable distance to accommodate the ideas and concerns that were expressed by other Council members, as well as by the Secretary General, for a more defined political horizon and a strengthened UN role.
We've made clear what our bottom line is -- that our resolution incorporates how we believe the political process needs to unfold to ensure Iraq's stability and democratic future. And so we will weigh the options, we'll look at the language, and we'll determine how we wish to proceed.
QUESTION: When you say, "weigh the options," do the options include withdrawing -- or withdrawing this resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said yesterday, I think, that we could proceed or not proceed with the resolution. That's definitely one of the options. The Secretary has made that clear before. It remains true today. At the same time, I would say, we want to proceed with a good resolution. We want to get a resolution -- if we can get a resolution that meets our criteria and that helps get international support for the process of political transition that's underway in Iraq.
QUESTION: Would changing the resolution radically from what it is now be among the options you'd look at, in response to criticisms from --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we're looking at any radical departures from the way it is now, from the basic structure of the process, because that process is already underway. Nonetheless, there may be some things that we can do for other delegations who want more definition of this or that in the resolution. We'll be looking at those possibilities.
QUESTION: How long is the U.S. prepared to continue with this? Because this process has been going on for some time.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, everything is relative. Not as long as some resolutions and longer than others. I don't think we're really looking at an extensive amount of time. We'll be considering this in the near future but I don't have a precise timeline for you, at this point.
QUESTION: Can you define --
MR. BOUCHER: As we've said before, we'd like to have a resolution -- or, at this point, I'd say we'd like to have a resolution one way or the other before the Madrid Conference.
QUESTION: Resolution, small "r?"
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: You'd like to have a resolution to --
MR. BOUCHER: We'd like to have a resolution, big "R." We'd like to have a --
QUESTION: Resolution to the resolution.
MR. BOUCHER: -- outcome to this question before Madrid.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Richard, could you talk about the installation of the new Palestinian cabinet?
And also, there is speculation that Chairman Arafat may have had a mild heart attack. And would that change the dynamic radically if he's forced to leave the area for hospitalization elsewhere?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have any information on his state of health, nor any speculation on what that might imply, so no, I can't deal with that part of it.
As far as a new Palestinian Government, the new cabinet, we are obviously following the developments out there very closely. Our Consul General David Pearce has been in touch with Ahmed Qureia, met with him yesterday, talked to him on the phone today, so there is a regular contact going on with the new Palestinian government as it is being formed.
I think we have seen some news indicating it might go to the Legislative Council this week. But our view, I think, remains fundamentally, in terms of the issues involved -- that it is a matter of the issues involved. It is a matter of the task ahead to move forward on the roadmap, and that is performance. That is performance on stopping terrorism, performance on ending the activities of groups that have perpetrated the violence against innocent people, and so undermine the Palestinian cause.
So, we will be looking for that kind of performance as we go forward. That is what we are saying in our contacts with the new government. And we will keep in touch with them as they assume their duties and see what they do.
QUESTION: It's too early now to have --
MR. BOUCHER: It's too early now. They haven't really taken office.
QUESTION: Richard, does the Administration now fully support the Syria Accountability Act?
MR. BOUCHER: The position on that is that we have indicated to the House membership that we do not object to the Syria Accountability Act legislation. We look forward to reviewing the final language that emerges after Committee mark-up.
I would remind you that the Secretary made clear during his visit to Syria in May, in his discussions with President Asad, that without some significant steps by Syria against activities of terrorist groups in Syria, that there would be, in fact, moves in our Congress, in particular, to restrict our relationship between Syria and the United States, and that is what we are seeing unfold because Syria hasn't taken any significant action against terrorist groups.
QUESTION: Can you say when you indicated this to -- when you made your -- your decision not to object known to people on the Hill?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to double-check. It's been very recently, but I'll double check exactly when it was.
QUESTION: Within the week? Within this past couple days?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Initially, the Administration -- the State Department, said that it didn't want to see, and the White House, they said didn't want to see the President's hands tied by this legislation. What makes you now think that his hands wouldn't be tied?
MR. BOUCHER: This kind of legislation, as you know, in the past we have had concerns about. I would say that at this point, we had told the Syrians that this type of move was likely, that we expected to see it. And frankly, the Syrians have done so little with regard to terrorism that we don't have a lot to work with. There is nothing -- there's no particular reason or facts that one could go back to the Congress to, with, and say, "This is a bad idea."
QUESTION: That doesn't answer my question. Why do you now think the President's hands wouldn't be tied in policy making with Syria, whereas before you did?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose in --
QUESTION: Are you just saying there's no policy to have your hands tied?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I didn't say that. I would say there's no -- not too much grounds for argument that Syria's done enough or anything that would mean that this was necessarily a bad idea. We'll have to look at the final version of the bill that emerges and see if it does restrict the President in some way, but at this point, we have not objected to this legislation.
QUESTION: Is this because there's less engagement, perhaps, than you envisioned when the act first was introduced?
MR. BOUCHER: No, this has come around several years in a row, and there's always been some prospect or some progress.
QUESTION: I'm not really sure.
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, you know, marking it from when we told them this was inevitable seems as inevitable now as it did back then.
QUESTION: Richard, often this kind of legislation contains a Presidential waiver authority. I don't know whether this one does, but would you like it to contain that just to give you a --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know whether it does either. But at this point, we're just -- we'll see what emerges from Committee mark-up.
QUESTION: So you're not specifically asking for anything like that?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we'll look at what comes out in mark-up.
QUESTION: Richard, you say that it was inevitable, but you mean it was inevitable that there would be a move on the Hill to do this, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And, are you -- is it your position that not only have the Syrians not shown any improvement, but they've also been backsliding?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've quite characterized it that way. I would say that, given the fact that they had terrorist groups operating with offices and activities there, some training facilities, transshipments, and a host of other things that we had cited where we asked them to stop those activities, they've taken, you know, very, very small steps, as we've said. That's the way we characterize it.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me put it this way. Did -- have you -- did the Secretary, when he was there in May, or has anyone else subsequently to that said, "Look, if there is no improvement, we are going to drop -- we've protected you -- or not protected you -- we've opposed this in the past because we've seen steps that you've taken, or we've been convinced that -- but if you don't really move forward now, we're going to drop our opposition to this legislation."
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that, first of all, we have repeatedly, on a variety of -- with a variety of arguments, including the fact that it is in Syria's own interest, and in the interest of the Palestinians for Syria to stop these terrorist activities, we have gone back repeatedly to the Syrian Government at various levels, sometimes at very high levels, sometimes with envoys such as Assistant Secretary Burns, to make that point again and again and again, as our Embassy does very frequently.
So, I'm sure this was part of the argument, part of the continuing argument. But it was not the sole reason. It wasn't "good cop, bad cop." It was a variety of reasons, this one of many reasons, why Syria really needed to stop the terrorist activity.
QUESTION: And, very briefly, do you know -- was this position, this new position that you've told the Hill very recently, has that been conveyed to the Syrian Government?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll check.
QUESTION: Syria is the only member of the terrorism list, with which the U.S. maintains full diplomatic relations, if I'm not mistaken, although that may change soon with respect to Sudan. Has this option been considered -- downgrading the diplomatic relationship with Syria? Have you heard talk of that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that is something that is covered in this legislation. So we will have to see what emerges from the legislation -- whether that becomes some sort of requirement more than the sanctions that they list.
QUESTION: Well, you don't have to wait for Congress to act, do you?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, at this point, I don't have anything further on that possibility.
QUESTION: President Asad said last night he has given an interview to one of the Arab newspapers. He reiterated Syria's stand of point concerning the importance of the continuation of dialogues between Syria and the United States, that that would lead to a much better results in solving any differences that might exist. Also, he reiterated Syria's stand that Syria was ready to have a full peace with Israel whenever Israel is ready to return the occupied land and to have normal relations with Israel.
Now, what the Arabs are seeing nowadays is that one thing after the other, there is something that's going on against one Arab country or another. Aren't you worried about the efforts that you are employing in the Arab world, and public policies arena, aren't you worried that, if the Arabs now see any new resolution against one more Arab country that that is going to make your efforts fall? Or fail?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, frankly, what we're more worried about is groups that go around blowing up innocent people and undermining the Palestinian cause. The dialogue that we've had with Syria has been extensive on this. It's not -- it wasn't even a new issue when the Secretary raised it in May. It's been an ongoing dialogue. It's been very intense. We've had discussions and dialogue with the Syrian Government at levels from the Head of State on down to the normal interaction of embassies. But dialogue at some point has to lead to action.
And if Syria wants, eventually, to have peace, and is willing to have peace with Israel, one has to question why they continue to allow the operation and support the operation of groups who are fundamentally opposed to that goal.
QUESTION: But they're making it --
MR. BOUCHER: And groups who are fundamentally opposed to the goal of the Palestinian Authority of creating its own institutions and having its own state.
QUESTION: But they're making it clear that these are information offices, that these people are not the leaders of Hamas or others. They represent 400,000 refugees in Syria to express their opinions about what's going on in the Middle East, you know.
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's been quite clear to us, and we believe it should be quite clear to anybody who's looked at these offices and these activities closely, that they are not merely information offices, that there are very significant activities.
We have said that the place that the Israelis bombed was a terrorist training camp, and was in active use up to the time of the bombing. So, that's not purely an information activity. It's just not the case.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Richard, the Administration, earlier on, and until quite recently was saying that the Syrians were cooperating well against al-Qaida and like-minded groups. Did you take into account the damage that this legislation and your attitude toward Syria might have on that cooperation when you decided to -- not to stand in the way of it, or not to seek any changes to it?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that as we review this subject, as we look at the final language that emerges from Congress, we'll look at all aspects of the relationship. But some of these very, very significant efforts that we've looked for, some of these significant actions, we have not seen.
QUESTION: Another subject. Mr. Boucher, it was reported
MR. BOUCHER: Another subject.
QUESTION: -- extensively in Athens that this famous lady, Valerie Plame, served at the U.S. Embassy in Greece. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Another question. Last night, the former minister of public order Mikhail Khrisokhoidis, who dealt extensively --
MR. BOUCHER: We know the guy.
QUESTION: -- extensively with the November 17th terrorist organization, in the presence of your Ambassador Tom Miller in the (inaudible), and the (inaudible) said that November 17 is completely out of business.
You said last Friday to me, answered to a question that November 17 is not out business so far. How we can bridge this difference between Athens and Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't see any particular difference between Athens and Washington. As you know, the trial is still going on. I explained, I think, in more detail to you, whether it was that day or the next day, that there are more detailed criteria for how we "unlist" or take people off our terrorism list.
We want to know that they're completely out of business, and we want to know they have been out of business for two years. So, we just haven't reached that stage yet. It's not a difference of opinion on the status of the organization.
QUESTION: Other words, it's still open matter, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: They're still listed.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) stage so far?
MR. BOUCHER: Until we reach that determination, they are still listed.
QUESTION: I hear there was a comment on the ASEAN comment on Burma last week?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as the ASEAN communiqué, obviously, we've read it, looked at it. I'd need to, however, reiterate our stance that, our stance towards the Burmese military junta has not changed. Aung San Suu Kyi and all others detained for peaceful expression of their political views should be released immediately and unconditionally.
They should allow the reopening of the National League for Democracy's offices and begin meaningful discussions with her and with political parties so that national reconciliation can begin. We also look for the ethnic minorities to be part of that.
No proposal for a roadmap is meaningful without the full participation of the democratic opposition. That, to us, is the way forward. That, to us, is the only way forward to achieve peace and stability in Burma.
QUESTION: So would you see the ASEAN statement was helpful, not helpful, neutral?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I'll leave it for them to describe their own statement. I'm not going to characterize it at this point. We know what they said. We know they called for a roadmap. They noted, "positive developments." We don't see those. And we don't see any need for a roadmap unless it has full participation of the opposition. And that's the way forward to us.
QUESTION: Have American diplomats in Rangoon been trying to contact, still, Aung San Suu Kyi?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to check. Normally, we have. I don't know if we got a reply to our formal request, but until that's replied to we will certainly -- until that's replied to positively, we'd certainly keep reiterating our request.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Yes, Richard, one of the leader of PKK/KADEK, in which they base in the northern Iraq right now, he give an interview in English Guardian newspaper. And he said that still they are talking with the United States and they have an agreement between the United States and the PKK forces not to destroy each other or not to attack each other. Is that true? Do you have any dialogue with them?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not read the Guardian this morning, and I don't know of anything like that.
QUESTION: It's a very long interview.
MR. BOUCHER: Then it's even longer that I haven't read it.
QUESTION: But I heard, this issue, Richard, my colleague, it was the men settling the negotiation between your team, Ambassador Black in Ankara and the Turkish Government, as far as all they can deal with the PKK.
MR. BOUCHER: That's right.
QUESTION: So you don't have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I talked all about that discussion and that agreement yesterday. Was it yesterday or the day before?
QUESTION: New subject. I understand you are signing an Article 98 today, I think?
MR. BOUCHER: With Liberia.
QUESTION: With Liberia?
MR. BOUCHER: With Liberia?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And the Foreign Minister was coming here to sign that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And I'm curious what kind of meetings he was having and why, perhaps, the Secretary didn't see him?
MR. BOUCHER: On October 8th, is that today? Yes.
The United States and the Government of Liberia concluded an Article 98 agreement here at this Department of State. Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs signed for the United States. Foreign Minister Lewis Brown signed for the Government of Liberia.
Liberia and the United States have signed the agreement as part of a worldwide Article 98 agreement push. The agreement is in support of the transition in Liberia as part of the support for U.S. troops, diplomats, and others currently operating in Liberia. We have now concluded bilateral Article 98 agreements with over 65 countries.
QUESTION: Why didn't he have any meetings with the Secretary or anybody higher than Ms. Bridgewater?
MR. BOUCHER: He's had meetings, I think, at the Africa Bureau. We just felt, at this point, that was the appropriate level.
QUESTION: Going back to Syria. I'm sure you saw the remarks by the Syrian Ambassador in Madrid, I think it was, saying that if the Israelis attacked again and Syria would retaliate. Have you been in contact with Syria for any explanation or clarification on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we have or not. I've also seen some statements. I'm not sure if they were formal statements or not, from Damascus, where people said that's his personal view, so I'd say that it's somewhat confusing as to the status of those particular remarks, but I don't think we have anything new to say. We've certainly made very, very clear our view that all of the parties in the region need to avoid any actions that could heighten tensions or escalate the violence.
QUESTION: But you didn't reiterate their message as a result of seeing these reports?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we've reiterated just about every day, but whether we did so as a result of seeing those reports, I don't know.
QUESTION: How long have you had a (inaudible) on the legislation in Congress on Syria?
MR. BOUCHER: I was asked that 15 minutes ago and I haven't found out since, so I'll find out for you.
QUESTION: Richard, there is an agreement now between Vietnam and the United States to put together commercial air flights directly from Vietnam to the States. Can you comment on that, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. The delegations representing the United States and Vietnam are expected to initial in Hanoi tomorrow, the first air services agreement between our two countries. Upon entry into force, the agreement with permit a wide range of services, including direct passenger and cargo service, between the United States and Vietnam. The agreement also provides for liberal same-country, bilateral and third-country co-chairing. Currently, U.S. carriers must rely on limited co-chaired agreements with third-country carriers that operate to Vietnam.
The delegations have agreed to reexamine the agreement after four years, with a view to liberalizing aviation relations further at that point. The U.S. objective remains for an eventual full, open-skies relationship with Vietnam.
QUESTION: Is that it?
MR. BOUCHER: The text of the agreement will be submitted to governments for signature in the near future.
QUESTION: But it won't take effect until it's actually signed?
MR. BOUCHER: It has to be signed and the procedures for entry into force have to be carried out.
QUESTION: Okay. And you don't have any idea when that might actually come into force?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not at this point.
QUESTION: Presumably, within four years though? Because you're going to review it in four years, right?
MR. BOUCHER: I would -- first of all, yes, presumably within four years. I'd also check -- have to check the text and tell you whether it's four years from the initialing or whether it's four years from entry into force that they sit down, but presumably, it's not very long from now that we can make enter into force, and therefore four years. It's more or less the same.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on carriers or routes, or is that to be negotiated?
MR. BOUCHER: No. That would come down in the future, generally. You have to have the air services agreement, and then carriers start flying -- start filing -- for routes and concluding these various co-chair or other arrangements as they feel free to do so under the agreement.
Okay. Back there? Sir.
QUESTION: In the same region. Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia is stepping down after decades of premiership. Very often, he voiced a strong criticism to the United States. Nevertheless, I guess he was your partner in counterterrorism. Do you have any words of farewell to him?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: And one more.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell visited Malaysia last year, and he proposed setting up a counterterrorism center in that country.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: What is the development since then?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on the exact status. I think the, at least the preparations, if not the execution, were underway. So it's -- there is a great deal of counterterrorism cooperation with Malaysia that has proven beneficial to both sides.
I believe when the Secretary met, he met with the new Prime Minister, as well as a variety of other figures there. So we have a lot of cooperation with Malaysia, and we hope we can make that cooperation grow and continue.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have a few more back there.
QUESTION: Can you comment on Brazil's decision to begin enriching uranium?
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen that. I'll have to check and see.
Yes. Okay. Sir.
QUESTION: Richard, North Korea has told China that it would welcome a visit by Wu Bangguo, the head of China's parliament. And obviously, a delegate of his level would probably involve talks about nuclear weapons and so forth. Would you characterize that as North Korea's sign to come back to the table about ditching its nuclear weapons?
MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea what it means. You guys will figure it out for us and tell us, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the Turkish troops?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Did the Turks ask for money for the deployment of these troops?
MR. BOUCHER: We were essentially asked the same question yesterday, whether there would be any cost to the U.S. taxpayer. At this point, we'll be talking to the Turks about the operational details of the deployment, about whether there's, you know, support that we -- that they would need from us. That will depend on how they work out the whole scenario for deployment. So I can't -- I can't answer the question. We don't know yet.
QUESTION: Generally, who's paying for this, for the expenses of these troops?
MR. BOUCHER: Of the various 30-some foreign troops -- 30-some nations who've sent troops? Many of them pay it themselves. Some of them we've helped with direct support in terms of, you know, we have airlifts capabilities that other governments don't have. And sometimes we've been able -- we've paid for equipment and other support for the various forces that have deployed.
QUESTION: Richard, what happened to the International Religious Freedom Report, which is now almost -- well, now late, a week later or so?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's late, and it will probably be later this fall. The whole process got bogged down this year, and it's just a little slower than it has been before.
QUESTION: What held it up?
MR. BOUCHER: A variety of bureaucratic details.
QUESTION: Like what, exactly?
MR. BOUCHER: Like cables that went out late, and replies that came, are coming in later; things like that. So, don't expect it soon is what I'm told. It will be released later this fall.
QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on Ambassador Hanford's trip to Saudi Arabia and tell us whether that trip was one of the reasons why -- why the report was delayed?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that trip is actually not related to the delay in the report. It's not connected.
MR. BOUCHER: Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom John Hanford visited Riyadh October 5-8. He had a series of meetings with Saudi officials. These meetings are part of our ongoing diplomacy with Saudi Arabia, as we discuss issues relating to international religious freedom.
QUESTION: Richard, on that, do you expect that his visit will provide any input into the report? I mean, was he specifically investigating the state of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I wouldn't describe it that way. He goes out and he discusses policy with other governments on religious freedom. He goes out to seek more openness in terms of policies towards religious freedom. I think if you look back at when we described our decisions on the countries of concern this year in May, we said, with regard to Saudi Arabia, that Saudi Arabia had not been listed but that we look forward to working with them to try to encourage steps to improve the environment towards religious freedom. And that's what we said we would do and that's what we are doing.
QUESTION: On that, do you see any signs of improvement at all?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I'll leave it to say that he went out there to do that and we'll leave it to the Saudis, for the moment, to account for what they've done. We'll do so at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: Richard, did you just -- I'm sorry -- can I just to clarify that? You said that nothing that Ambassador Hanford picked up on his trip to Saudi Arabia is going to be put into the report? I find that a little --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I quite put it that way.
QUESTION: Oh, I see.
MR. BOUCHER: I said that the purpose of his trip was not to collect information. The purpose was to work on policy.
QUESTION: It wasn't to look into the steps, as you said, when in March, when the Secretary decided not to designate Saudi a country of particular concern?
MR. BOUCHER: Was it March or May? Anyway, earlier this year.
QUESTION: March. Yeah. It was just before the war. When you -- you said that you were encouraged, even though you said that Saudi Arabia does not have religious freedom at all, you said you were encouraged by Crown Prince Abdallah's steps, pledges that he said he was going to take. And you said that there will be people going out to check up on the various different pledges, including removing inflammatory language about Israel and Judaism from textbooks and things like that. Are you trying to say that none of this is part of -- that Hanford's visit doesn't have anything to do with that?
MR. BOUCHER: Did I ever say that? Did I say nothing, never, not anything?
QUESTION: Yeah, you said he went up there to talk about policy. He didn't go out there to look into anything.
MR. BOUCHER: I -- did I say nothing, never, not no how, not a ways?
QUESTION: Well, Richard, I guess I'm --
MR. BOUCHER: I said he's not an investigator. We have plenty of people collecting information. The purpose of his trip is not merely to collect information but to continue to discuss these policy issues, to continue to encourage more action to open up religious freedom in Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: Do you know who he met with, if any, officials? And whether he told them that they may, in fact, be designated a country of particular concern if they don't follow through on the Crown Prince's policy?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly who he met with, nor the specific points that he raised. But the Saudis are quite aware of the law and the process. As you know, we generally report in the fall, and then in the springtime, we make the designations.
MR. BOUCHER: So, that process is something you're quite familiar with.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you say when you asked Congress for the delay, so that you didn't have to meet the September 30th deadline -- which is their deadline, they set it in the 1998 law -- can you say when you asked for the delay?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check and see if we have done that formally or not.
QUESTION: Well, formally or informally? I understand there was a verbal agreement.
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check.
QUESTION: Richard, just a quick one. It came in rather late, so you may not have anything on this. King Abdullah of Jordan said U.S. foreign policy was "naïve and lacked cultural sensitivity." Did you see that today?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen it.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
This page printed from: http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2003&m=October&x=20031008183029hsans0.2794153&t=usinfo/wf-latest.html
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