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02 July 2002

State Department Noon Briefing Transcript

(North Korea, International Criminal Court, Cuba, Mexico,
Israel/Palestinians, Afghanistan, United Nations, Pakistan/Kashmir,
Iran) (8590)
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed.
Following is the State Department transcript:
(begin transcript)
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index 
12:40 pm EST -- Tuesday, July 2, 2002 
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
-- Future of Political Dialogue
-- Naval Incident
-- U.S. Position
-- Future of Peacekeeping Missions
-- British Position
-- Bilateral Agreements
-- Bosnia Peacekeeping Extension
-- Peacekeeping in Afghanistan
-- Illegal Immigrants
-- Arrest of Oil Company Director
-- Quartet Meetings/Assistant Secretary Burns Travel
-- Visa Granting Authority/System
-- Worldwide Caution
-- Civilian Casualties
-- Cambodian War Crimes Tribunal
-- World Summit for Sustainable Development
-- Meetings with Iraq
-- Militant Group Threats
-- Humanitarian Aid
12:40 p.m. EDT -- JULY 2, 2002
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I'd like
to start with a statement about the situation vis--vis North Korea
and the political dialogue which we have proposed.
On June 14th, we asked the North Korean Mission to the United Nations
if there were any dates that might be inconvenient for a US delegation
to visit North Korea, and we were told to simply propose a date. Last
Tuesday, on June 25th, we informed the Democratic People's Republic of
North Korea's UN Mission in New York that a US delegation would be
prepared to enter North Korea on July 10th to begin the process of
expressing US concerns and explaining US policy toward North Korea. We
reconfirmed this in a meeting in New York on June 27th. We asked the
North Koreans for a timely response in order to make the necessary
logistical arrangements, given an American holiday.
Last night, we informed the North Korean Mission to the United Nations
that we could no longer plan on a July 10th trip since we had not
received a timely response from Pyongyang. We also informed the North
Koreans that the violent naval conflict in the Yellow Sea had created
an unacceptable atmosphere in which to conduct the talks.
So that's where we are with North Korea. And I'd be glad to take
questions on this or any other questions.
QUESTION: Does that mean, for the time being, at least, you're going
to shelve any -- the US is going to shelve any effort to get together?
Or what if they came back with a date? I mean, is this on ice now or
MR. BOUCHER: The proposal that we had made is off the table. Our
desire, the policy that we have expressed, that the President
expressed last June remains in force. We would expect to maintain our
regular, our routine contacts with the North Korean Mission and the
North Koreans. As to rescheduling the talks, we will have to look at
that again in the future.
QUESTION: Richard, would -- you mentioned an unacceptable atmosphere
because of the weekend's violent actions from the North Koreans. If
they were to apologize to South Korea, would that change the
MR. BOUCHER: Well, again, all this is hypothetical at this point.
We'll see what happens.
Obviously, what they do with regard to the incident, which we viewed
as an armed provocation, will have some bearing on how we view these
situations. But, as I said, we took this offer off the table, we took
this proposal off the table, because in fact they have failed to
respond in a timely manner, and that made it impossible to do the trip
the way we had originally proposed it.
So we remain committed to the policy of having serious discussions
with the North Koreans, but we'll just have to look as things evolve
at any questions of rescheduling.
QUESTION: Is there anything else you're referring to as the proposal
besides just this date?
MR. BOUCHER: It was the date for a trip by US representatives to
QUESTION: Right. But is anything else different? When you say this
proposal is off the table, is it just that it could take place July
10th? That's the only thing that's off the table? Every --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that's -- that was the proposal we made, and that's
what's off the table now.
QUESTION: But isn't that the same as just the date slipping to
something you re-propose?
MR. BOUCHER:  Well, there's no rescheduling at this point.
QUESTION:  Okay.  No rescheduling?
MR. BOUCHER: There's no rescheduling at this point. As to
rescheduling, we'll have to look at that in the future.
QUESTION: If there hadn't been this clash, wouldn't you have had to
cancel the trip anyway since they hadn't gotten back to you before
July the 4th?
QUESTION:  Or July 5th?
QUESTION:  I mean before the whole --
MR. BOUCHER: Probably so. It became impractical at this stage, given
our holiday, to try to arrange a trip for the dates that we had
QUESTION:  What could, then, North Korea do to set it (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I want to lay out any particular
prescription at this point. Obviously we'll watch how events develop
and we'll see what they do and consider rescheduling at some point in
the future.
QUESTION: Could you mention the three or four top issues of concern
vis--vis North Korea that would have been raised had these talks gone
MR. BOUCHER: I'd go back to the President's statement of last June,
where he said we were ready to enter into serious discussions with the
North Koreans on the issues that are of concern to us. Those include
missile developments and sales, nuclear developments, issues of ties
to terrorism, and issues of conventional forces on the Korean
Peninsula, which we are concerned about. So all those issues that the
President stated in his policy last June remain the issues that we
want to discuss now.
QUESTION: One intriguing -- or intriguing to me -- little detail. You
say that you first told the North Koreans that you'd be willing to go
on July 10th last Tuesday? That would be the 25th, two days before the
meeting in New York that we found out about?
MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah --
QUESTION: How did you relay that offer and how did you manage to keep
it so secret?
MR. BOUCHER:  The first question --
QUESTION:  I mean, was it a telephone call or was it --
MR. BOUCHER: -- how did we relay the offer, I think it was done by
telephone. It was done by telephone. And how did we manage to keep it
so secret? It must be pure coincidence that anything managed to stay
QUESTION: All right. And why then, if you -- I mean, do the -- I don't
know how the North Koreans operate, but did they require some kind of
reconfirmation in person? Why did, then, did you send someone -- if
they already knew what your offer was, why send someone to New York?
MR. BOUCHER:  Again, I'll leave it to them to explain.
QUESTION:  Well, from your side --
MR. BOUCHER: We were quite prepared to go up and talk to them about
it. We gave them a heads-up that these dates -- that we were going to
propose these dates, then we proposed them in person.
QUESTION: From your side, does that mean -- from your side, your point
of view is that that made it -- that cemented the offer? That made it
-- it was designed to show the North Koreans that you were more
MR. BOUCHER: Our point of view is that the offer was made on June
25th, and a week later we had not gotten a response from them on that.
QUESTION: I'm not sure if someone asked you this, but did you give
them a date by which you said, look, we really need to know by this
date to get everything together? Because everyone that deals with the
North Koreans typically says that they know that they are -- that they
habitually stall people, wait till the last minute. I mean, this is
kind of their MO.
MR. BOUCHER: We had told them that we were looking for a timely
response. As you know, as I went through the chronology here, you see
that they said, "Propose any date." And so we did, and we told them we
were looking for a timely response at that point. We did note that the
approach of the holiday made it more impractical to actually do the
schedule and make the arrangements, and therefore we looked for an
early response.
QUESTION: Would you be able to say how much of your decision was based
on the naval incident and how much just on not getting a response, and
whether there is any lasting damage, you think, to the atmosphere, to
the long-term atmosphere of the potential talks because of this
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as for the long term, we'll just have to see. I
don't think there's any way of predicting at this point what the
results of this situation might be. Clearly, we are concerned about
the situation with the naval conflict that occurred, and that is
something we will continue to follow closely and continue to keep in
very close touch with our South Korean ally on.
As far as what the factors are, I would say the most immediate factor,
the most practical factor, was that, as we had told them, as July 4th
approached it became less practical for us to try to make any
arrangements for a trip, even if they had come back at that point.
QUESTION: Two really quick ones. You mentioned that you relayed an
offer through the telephone. I'm assuming that that's through the New
York -- the UN mission?
QUESTION: Okay. And second, sort of a variation on a lot of these
questions, but could you rate the North Koreans' handling so far of
the naval incident? What do you think of their public statements?
MR. BOUCHER:  Could I rate it?
QUESTION: Yeah, just tell me what you think. The way they've handled
it, the way --
MR. BOUCHER:  I don't do ratings.  I'm sorry.
QUESTION:  All right, don't rate it.  What do you think?
MR. BOUCHER:  What do I think about what?
QUESTION: How the North Koreans have pretty much totally denied any
responsibility for this incident.
MR. BOUCHER: What do I think of their statement last night where they
accused us of being behind it?
MR. BOUCHER:  I said it was spurious.  Ben, you had something?
QUESTION: Well, yeah, I guess you sort of answered that. I wanted to
ask, did you request or obtain any clarification of the incident from
the North Koreans?
MR. BOUCHER:  I don't think they provided any at this point, no.
QUESTION:  Did you request any?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, the conversation was as I described. I'll leave it
at that.
QUESTION:  And is this going to have any effect on KEDO?
MR. BOUCHER: That was not a topic of discussion in these -- in this
particular scheduling issue that we --
QUESTION:  So you will continue to supply --
MR. BOUCHER: We continue to abide by our commitments and we expect
North Korea to abide by theirs, is basically where it is.
QUESTION: In between the conversation that you had on June 25th and
then the call that you made last night to the mission, did the US
contact the North Koreans at all to say, guys, we need an answer,
otherwise we're going to withdraw the offer? And if not, why not?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we had the meeting on the 27th. We had the contact
on the 25th, the meeting on the 27th. I don't know if there were any
-- we have routine contacts of different kinds, so I'd have to check
and see if there were any contacts between the 27th and yesterday.
QUESTION:  I mean, it just --
MR. BOUCHER: But I'm not aware of any that related directly to this
QUESTION: Do you know why it's so important, after so many months of
waiting, to have a trip? To tell them that you want to have a trip,
and then to give them such a short period of time during which to
MR. BOUCHER: They asked us to propose dates. We proposed -- we asked
them if there were any dates that were inconvenient; they said no,
propose any dates you want; we got back within that request and
proposed July 10th. And as we got to July 1st and 2nd, it became clear
that it wasn't going to be possible to travel on July 10th. So we went
back to them and said, it's not practical to do it in that time frame
QUESTION: Do you think it's at all possible that the North Koreans
were thrown by the fact that until this last meeting, they thought
Jack Pritchard was going to be going, and then you said, no, in fact
it's going to be Jim Kelly?
MR. BOUCHER:  You'll have to ask them what their thinking was.
QUESTION: Richard, when the United States is deciding whether to send
a delegation to a conference on racism or anything like that, a lot of
times you wait -- the administration has waited till maybe the day
before, till exactly as much time as you have people to fly there. Why
this time -- (beeper rings) -- (laughter) --
MR. BOUCHER:  That's the notification right there.  (Laughter.)
QUESTION:  Why this time did you need this much time in advance?
MR. BOUCHER: There's any number of reasons. This has to be organized,
the tickets have to be bought, people have to get ready to go.
Pyongyang is not on the shuttle. You don't just drive down to National
Airport and hop the flight. So for any number of reasons it becomes
impractical to consider going on the 10th, being there for talks on
the 10th.
QUESTION: I've got one more. If I can. I assume you notified the South
Koreans and the Japanese last night as well that you were going to
take the dates off the table? Or are they finding out about it now?
MR. BOUCHER: No, they know about it. I can't remember exactly how we
notified them, but we've been in pretty constant touch with them,
particularly with the South Koreans since the naval incident.
QUESTION: Okay. And just one other thing. The delegation, had it gone,
there were also -- they also would have stopped in Tokyo and Seoul,
MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know.  I mean, I didn't have an itinerary.
QUESTION:  All right.
MR. BOUCHER:  Charlie.
QUESTION:  Can I move on?
QUESTION: Still one more question. The concerns that you listed did
not list nuclear issues. You had missile sales and development, ties
to terrorism --
MR. BOUCHER:  Yes, I did, didn't I?
QUESTION:  Oh, you said nuclear in there?  I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Can we move to the ICC, and can you bring us up to date on
whether or not there are any last-minute diplomatic breakthroughs, or
whether it's going to come to an impasse? That's the first --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're in the middle of the last minute, because the
extension was for three days. That's until tomorrow, I think, if I
count three days correctly. So they are -- I think the best summary is
we continue to work on this. Our commitment to the Bosnia mission is
very strong. Our desire to see this worked out in the context of the
United Nations is very strong. Our willingness to engage with the
other players is there. And we have been talking to other players.
The Secretary has had a number of phone calls with European foreign
ministers, the Canadian Foreign Minister on Sunday, with High
Representative Solana yesterday. He has talked to Foreign Secretary
Straw twice today. So he continues to stay in close touch with his
European counterparts on these issues.
Ambassador Negroponte in New York is having close consultations with
other delegations in New York. So we're continuing to work on these
issues, because it is our desire to work it out in a way that allows
us to continue this very important mission without being exposed to
further risk from the International Criminal Court.
QUESTION: The President made a statement today in fact that -- we just
had it; I don't know, maybe it's been a while, but -- you know, to try
to work something out. I don't hear the word compromise, though. Is
this an issue that the US is prepared to reach a compromise on? Or do
you just --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that it's an appropriate word at this point.
The issue is for us as non-participants in the Court, but as
participants in UN peacekeeping, not to be exposed to this risk. I'm
sure among the many people that are working on this, there are
probably various ways of doing that. But there has to be a sufficient
basis for us to conclude that we won't be exposed to that risk. And so
that's what we're looking for, and that's what we're trying to work
So I tried to use language that was appropriate. It's not like there's
six of these and we're going to divvy them up between four and two or
three and three; it's a matter of achieving our goals, and yet not
doing it in a way that contradicts the adherence of some of the
members of the Council to the Court. And we have said all along we
believe that's possible. The proposals that we have made are
consistent with their obligations to the Court. And so we think it's
an issue to be worked out.
QUESTION: Well, can I follow it up with the second -- the next
question I was going to ask? So Timor, three peacekeepers come out;
Balkans, you've ruled a -- the US has declared will not be affected.
Are there other peacekeeping operations up in the air?
MR. BOUCHER: There are plenty of other peacekeeping operations which
have various schedules of renewal. The issue for us, though, is to try
to find some formulation that can make sure that when US personnel are
participating in these missions, they don't get exposed to these
risks. How that is done, we originally proposed a generic resolution
-- that's one way to do it -- and then when others didn't want to do
that, we said, well let's do it in this case in the Bosnia context.
And then either way, we want to work this out so that US peacekeepers
are not unduly exposed to the risk, but so that we are able to
continue these very important missions.
QUESTION: I understand that your priority is to find a resolution by
tomorrow night. But have you seen enough movement to make you hopeful
that could happen? And if it doesn't, how quickly would these missions
be affected? I mean, would you be pulling people out immediately?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on that at this point. There
are various ways of handling the implications if we don't reach
agreement. But the effort right now is to reach agreement, is to try
to work something out. I have no way of handicapping that or
predicting whether it can succeed or not, but I think certainly for
our part, we're quite willing to do so and willing to work with others
to do so.
QUESTION: Well, if the Secretary has spoken with Jack Straw, for
example, how can you say there's no way to tell whether there is any
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary spoke to a lot of people; Ambassador
Negroponte has talked to a lot of people. But it's going to take the
15 members of the Council to do this --
QUESTION:  But you can't tell whether there's --
MR. BOUCHER: -- or at least a majority. And I'm not in the business of
predicting at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, to go back to those East Timor peacekeepers who are
in fact two, I believe, rather than three, I think we established,
didn't we?
MR. BOUCHER: There were three; one left a couple weeks ago, and then
there are two that are subject to recall.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, I just wondered, some of the things -- what you
said yesterday suggested that their departure was in some sense
conditional on the resolution of this dispute, or the non-resolution
of this dispute rather. Is that correct, or are they -- have you taken
a definitive decision to withdraw them? And do you know when they
would have left anyway, because I understand that their term of
service was coming to an end?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the dates of when they would have left
anyway. The question that you ask on conditionality is -- it has to do
with how we solve the problem, if we can -- if we don't do it with
relation to Timor, but only to Bosnia, then I assume that we would
have to proceed with our intent not to replace these people in Timor.
If we manage to solve the problem generically for all US -- all
peacekeepers operating with the UN, that situation might be different.
So I think we'll have to look at it, depending on how we -- what
happens in the next day or two, or whether we can actually resolve the
broader issue.
QUESTION: So there is not a definitive -- you haven't told these
people, leave? You're saying we may -- you're telling them you may
have to leave if we can't solve this --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly how we've worded it in telling them,
but we have told you and told them that our intent is to withdraw them
unless there's some provision for their protection.
QUESTION:  Unless there is some provision.
QUESTION: So it is conditioned? I'm sorry, I'm still a bit confused.
It is --
MR. BOUCHER:  Unless there's some provision for their protection.
QUESTION: The US works especially closely with Britain on such things.
Could you describe the situation now on this issue? Is there a wide
gap with the British especially?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm kind of being asked to handicap and predict and
declare progress and declare gaps.
QUESTION:  No, the British especially, because -- no, Britain --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how to put it any more frankly than to say
we want to stay in Bosnia, we want to be part of this mission; we
think it's a very important mission and we want the mission to
continue. Our allies and friends also want the missions to continue.
This is important to us all. We have differences, different views of
the Criminal Court. Our friends are willing to talk to us about those.
We're talking to them, they're talking to us, about whether we can't
reconcile in some form in the resolution our desire to have US people
participating in UN peacekeeping to be immune from the exposure to the
Court and their desire to adhere to what they've already signed up to,
which is the Court.
Now, I'd say we're working together. We're looking at possibilities.
We're trying to resolve this. We have discussions which are based on
sincere commitment and good faith from both sides. But I'm not able to
predict at this point as to whether that will reach fruition or not.
We would certainly hope it would, and that's what we're trying to do.
QUESTION: Richard, under the ICC charter, the US or any of the
signatories would have been able to negotiate a bilateral agreement
with any country. Why was it -- in order for the US peacekeepers to be
exempt from the ICC. Why was that considered unacceptable by the
United States that you would be able --
MR. BOUCHER: That's the Article 98 agreements. That's not
unacceptable. That is something that we certainly intend to do. But to
have broad coverage like that, you'd have to negotiate a whole series
of agreements, and obviously on the first day of entry into force you
can't negotiate however many agreements it might take.
QUESTION: Richard, in light of the fact that you say you think Bosnia
is an important mission, you don't want to leave it, are you prepared,
are you willing, to support another temporary extension of the
MR. BOUCHER: Our desire at this point is to see the issue resolved,
and resolved in a manner that is satisfactory to us and to the people
who also participate. At this point, I don't know of any proposal to
extend the mandate.
QUESTION: The proposal to extend the mandate was a US proposal, right,
on Sunday?
MR. BOUCHER: For the three days? I can't remember exactly, actually.
QUESTION: Well, would you be willing to propose another one in the
event that you're -- I realize you're going to say this is
hypothetical --
MR. BOUCHER: We have not made a proposal like that, and our desire is
to see this resolved.
QUESTION: Yeah, okay. Well, can you at least say on the record that
it's a hypothetical question?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a hypothetical question as to where we stand
tomorrow night.
QUESTION:  Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER:  Okay.  Same subject?
QUESTION: Yeah. The next mission that's set for a vote or extension is
UNIFIL at the end of this month. What is your view on UNIFIL and your
role in that?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's take it one step at a time. I think that's our view
at this point. It could be that we can resolve the problem generically
to cover the others. It could be we have to do it case by case. It
could be we can't find a solution. We'll just have to see what
QUESTION:  On Mexico, Mr. Boucher --
MR. BOUCHER: She had dibs on changing the subject first, if she wants.
QUESTION: One more on this Court thing. What about UN peacekeepers in
Afghanistan? Will you withdraw them if they don't get protection from
the Court?
MR. BOUCHER:  There aren't any.
QUESTION: There are not any UN peacekeepers, US peacekeepers in
MR. BOUCHER: No. The US military is out there under the other terms
and conditions.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about them facing prosecution in the
Criminal Court?
MR. BOUCHER: We're concerned worldwide about the generic issue of the
Court, the liability that can ensue from that. It is something that
faces us -- US military as well as US officials worldwide -- and it's
one thing that we're going to have to deal with in a variety of ways.
As the question arises at the UN, we're trying to deal with it. As the
question arises bilaterally, we will try to have these agreements,
these Article 98 agreements.
So we're going to end up having to deal with this issue for Americans
all around the world because we do have a special role. We do have a
broad range of commitments, and often in many dangerous and
controversial situations. The United States plays a role in the world
unlike any other, and therefore this affects us unlike any other
QUESTION: -- speculation in Miami that's going to be a new wave of
Cuban illegal immigrants, many people leaving Cuba, that Castro is
going to allow them to leave. Have you detected anything like this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to talk about the speculation. What I will
say is to reiterate that we believe the migration accords have largely
promoted their central purpose of encouraging safe, legal and orderly
migration between Cuba and the United States. Moving away from the
accords or promoting migration outside the accords, which are saving
lives, would be irresponsible and a disservice to the Cuban people. So
we think it's very important to adhere to these accords and that any
migration or support for migration occur within those accords.
By the same token, we appreciate responsible expressions of support
for orderly and legal migration through the accords as the only
appropriate channel to facilitate such migration.
QUESTION: In your last immigration talks, was there any hint by the
Cubans that they may be leaving these agreements?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if there was in the last talks. There was a
statement by Castro the other day that was interpreted in that way,
and we have said quite clearly we think these accords were important.
The only safe way to migrate -- to have the migration, and the
orderly, is to go through the accords, and therefore we intend to
stick with them, and that people shouldn't be talking about abandoning
them or going around them or doing something else, or encouraging
people to take unsafe routes.
By the same token, we believe it's important for people to stand up
and say, these accords are important; they should be made to work;
they should be allowed to work; and people should use this as a safe
route to migration.
You had a Mexico question.
QUESTION: The Mexican authorities requested on May 21st to the State
Department a provisional arrest of a former oil state company
director, Mr. Montemayor. But he is free in Houston, after he
surrendered to a federal court. And the US District Attorney in
Houston said there is no -- any order of arrests against him. And the
Mexican authorities are saying that the US is not cooperating with
them in this case. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: Just to say that we are in fact cooperating with Mexico
on this matter. The Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Castaneda
yesterday about it, and we have been working with the Mexican
Government on this. We received the request for provisional arrest of
Mr. Montemayor from the Mexican Government in a diplomatic note on May
21st. That's the procedure that's required by the US-Mexico
Extradition Treaty. We have passed that request to our Department of
Justice, and they are now reviewing the matter.
So for any further information on that or on the particular intentions
of the US Attorney, I think I'd have to refer you to the Department of
Justice. But I can tell you we are cooperating with Mexico in this
QUESTION:  Have you had any news from the Quartet in London?
MR. BOUCHER: No news, except the meetings are ongoing. Assistant
Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Bill Burns is in London today. He
is having his meetings with Middle East envoys of the Quartet. They
are reviewing steps to support and implement the President's vision
for progress on security, institution-building and reform, economic
reconstruction and a resumption of political dialogue.
So that meeting has been taking place today in London.
QUESTION:  And as far as you know, it hasn't finished yet?
MR. BOUCHER: No. As far as I know it hasn't finished yet, or we
haven't gotten a read-out yet.
The purpose of the trip is to work with our colleagues in the Quartet
as we work with other European and Arab friends to support the effort
of Palestinian reform. Following those meetings, he will report back
to the Secretary and then we'll decide on the appropriate next steps.
QUESTION:  And do you know where it is, by any chance?
MR. BOUCHER:  In London.
QUESTION:  Yeah, I know.  Do you know where in London?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Are you guys chasing around looking for him?
(Laughter.) Sorry, can't do that from here.
QUESTION: Do you have any more details about the Paris leg? Do you
know who he's going to see there, and --
MR. BOUCHER:  No, I don't.  He'll stop in Paris --
QUESTION:  Tonight?
MR. BOUCHER: -- for meetings and consultations prior to his return to
Washington. I think it's tomorrow.
QUESTION:  Is that with the French Government?
MR. BOUCHER:  Yes.  The French Government.
QUESTION: Is there a trip to the Middle East? You say there's going to
be a decision --
MR. BOUCHER:  No, he's not going to the region after that.
QUESTION:  He will not?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I said he is coming back here, report to the
Secretary. As you know, the Secretary has been keeping in touch with
the parties, with people in the region, with Europeans. Tomorrow the
Secretary has a meeting with the new foreign minister from the new
presidency of the European Union, the Danish Foreign Minister, and
that's an important part of the Quartet in the whole process as we
work on the Middle East.
So between the Secretary's phone conversations, the Quartet
consultations that Ambassador Burns is having, the meeting that the
President and Secretary will have with the Danish Foreign Minister
tomorrow, and I go back to the G-8 meetings the President had in
Kananaskis. We are pulling people together. We want to work with them
on the issues of reform, and we want to develop support from the
outside for the Palestinian efforts to reform.
QUESTION: Richard, the British Junior Minister is seeing Arafat in
Ramallah today, in what appears to be a sort of symbolic gesture. Do
you have any comment on such meetings? Do you approve of them?
MR. BOUCHER:  I don't have any comment on meetings.
QUESTION: This is some of last week's news, but do you have anything
to report on how the proposal is progressing about moving all visa
functions to the new Homeland Security Department? There were some
hearings last week.
MR. BOUCHER:  Yes, that's not our proposal.
QUESTION:  No, I realize that.  But it certainly affects you.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. The President's proposal in the law is that the
Homeland Security Department should have the legal authority for visa
issuance. And that is something we very much support. There's a
benefit to all of us of consolidating those functions in the Homeland
Security Office, consolidating the information, the databases, all the
things that we need to check, that the Immigration Service needs to
check to make sure that the people we admit to the United States are
the right people, and that we keep out terrorists and people who are
So that's an important part of the President's proposal, and something
that we think is very good for our national interests and for the
function that we do in terms of the issuance of visas.
The President's proposal says that we would continue to handle the
actual issuance of the visas. That matter is one that has been done by
the State Department successfully over the years. It's one where
matters of reciprocity with foreign governments enter into some of the
details of the process. It's the actual issuance of the visa. It's
something that requires an understanding of the local environment,
understanding of the local language which gets applied so that our
visa officers, as you've seen in many cases, are able to kind of sort
out what feels right, what doesn't feel right, what looks right and
what doesn't look right, and identify cases where we can do further
investigation or suspect fraud or whatever.
It's also part of the overall consular function, the actual issuance
of the visas, where we take care of Americans and have relations with
customs and immigration services around the world. So for those
reasons, we do think it's important for the State Department to
maintain the issuance of visas, the implementation of the rules. But
the rules themselves and the authority for this will be set at the
Homeland Security Department. And we think that's a good step, too.
QUESTION: So would the decision come to the State Department, yes or
no you can issue this? Doesn't that make it sound like it's just
basically an administration function for the State Department, and not
MR. BOUCHER: No, they would set the rules and the guidelines and the
standards, and they would maintain the lists of ineligibilities, they
would help maintain the databases of information that we would have
that we would then -- they would then be able to consolidate from
around the government. So that whether it was our visa officers who
have to do a name check for every single visa that gets issued or the
Immigration Service officers at the border who do a name check as
well, it could be done against the best possible information.
So those sorts of functions would be consolidated at the Homeland
Security Office, but then the implementation of those rules in
specific cases, the specific interview and decision-making and the
investigation of specific cases under those rules would continue to be
handled by the State Department.
QUESTION: Why do you think that's good, taking more of the
decision-making away from the consular officials on the ground?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, there's a lot that goes into the
decisions on visa issuance. It goes into knowledge of the local
environment, knowledge of the language, experience in issuing visas,
also experience in the country involved. In many visa cases, consular
officers, you know, look at details. You know, when I did it years
ago, we used to look at these very sort of cryptic household
registration documents, and you could find out who people lived with
and when they changed residences and when they changed their name.
And consular officers, having that expertise to go through that kind
of stuff, have a way -- have a better sense of what's right and what's
not. And so that, in addition to the name checks and the legal checks,
that knowledge of the local environment goes into deciding a visa. And
then, as I said, it's also part of the overall consular function which
involves a whole series of relationships with immigration and police
personnel in the local country. And you use those relationships to
make sure that we find the bad applicants and don't let them into the
United States.
QUESTION: How can you say this process has been successful since you
gave visas to all of these hijackers who committed September 11th?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, we didn't give visas to all of them. But a
number of them got visas. A number of them then came through the
Immigration Service at the border and got into the United States,
where they're actually admitted to the United States. We've said many
times that what a lot of what we need if we're going to find people is
to know in advance who the ineligible people are. That has to do with
how good the databases are, how good the information sharing is.
Whether it's INS or it's us, if we check against the database, it
needs to be as complete as possible. And that's where one of the
benefits of consolidating a lot of these functions in Homeland
Security is going to be a benefit to the whole system.
QUESTION: But none of these would have been turned away on that basis,
would they have?
MR. BOUCHER:  It depends what information we had at that time.
QUESTION: But how many of these 19 would have been stopped if the
files had been connected to all CIA documents on all meetings in
Germany and all suspicious files and all these things?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if I can say that at this point. I don't
think I have the information --
QUESTION: So you're not sure that it would have worked? So you've got
a system now that you're not sure is going to work?
MR. BOUCHER: We have a system that allows us in every possible way to
identify people who shouldn't be in the United States. And the
Immigration Service, the intelligence agencies, the law enforcement
agencies, do that. We do that in terms of our visa issuance overseas.
The more we integrate the system, we more we integrate the
information, the more we add the expertise of people like our consular
officers who know what's going on, the better we're going to be at
finding out who's who, what's what, and who doesn't belong here.
George, you had something or not?
QUESTION: I was just wondering whether the law enforcement and
intelligence agencies had fallen short last summer and could have
provided information about these applicants, and didn't.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'll have to check with them as to what
information they had on the applicants in advance.
QUESTION: It's sort of a change in plans, was -- are you taking any
acts or precautions for the 4th of July at embassies abroad?
MR. BOUCHER: We have -- well, two things. One, for the general public,
I think everybody knows we put out the new travel warning, which if I
could find it I would find it. I got it. Worldwide Caution.
QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. The Worldwide Caution that went out
yesterday evening advises Americans of the need to remain vigilant
during the upcoming summer season. It notes the continuing threat of
terrorist actions. It notes that we continue to receive credible
indications that extremist individuals are planning additional
terrorist actions against US interests.
As has been our standard practice for many years, the Department also
sent a cable to our posts abroad in June suggesting that they
carefully review their security situations and take appropriate
security precautions with respect to their July 4th celebrations. At
this time, I'm not aware of any posts that have canceled or postponed
their 4th of July events.
QUESTION: The worldwide warning, is there a region that is on
heightened alert?
MR. BOUCHER: We've made this worldwide. We also have existing warnings
that continue for particular regions, including the Middle East, the
Arabian Peninsula and places like that. Pakistan and other places have
particular warnings based on the circumstances that we know apply
there. What we put out last night applies to the whole world.
QUESTION: Was it issued because of specific warnings, or is this just
a general something that you do every summer because Americans travel
a lot?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have information on specific timing, targets or
methods of attack. What we have are continuing receipt of credible
reports that extremists are planning additional terrorist actions
against the United States and US interests.
QUESTION: The Greek authorities are holding a man who possessed a gun
that was traced to the terrorist organization November 17th in what
looks to be as the first breakthrough in the fight against November
17th. And I was wondering, since there is close cooperation between
Greece, the US and Great Britain on that, how does the US assess this
MR. BOUCHER: I think you have to look to the Greek authorities for
information. They are conducting the investigation into this. This was
the incident in Piraeus on Saturday. So they're conducting the
investigation and you'd have to check with them on it. All I can
really say is that we have very close cooperation with the Greek
authorities. The cooperation has been excellent, and we remain ready
to assist as needed.
QUESTION: Switching to Afghanistan. In light of the (inaudible)
civilian casualties, I was wondering what is the State Department --
how is the State Department dealing with the issue of civilian
casualties in Afghanistan? Is there any -- has there been any attempt
to make a real comprehensive tally? And do you have a policy or are
you thinking about adopting a policy of compensating the families of
MR. BOUCHER: I think any questions about compensation, you probably
have to check with the Pentagon. From our point of view, let me tell
you first of all that this matter is under investigation, what
happened. Whatever the cause, we are deeply saddened by the loss of
life. Our Embassy, along with some military people and Afghan
Government officials, has gone to the area to look into the facts of
the matter and see what we can do to help.
The military make every effort possible to avoid civilian casualties
as they carry out this very important job of ridding Afghanistan of
al-Qaida. And I would just point out as well the United States remains
the largest donor in order to help Afghanistan, the people of
Afghanistan, rebuild.
QUESTION: So any kind of compensation for victims' families would --
the State Department wouldn't be involved in that? That would be
strictly a Pentagon thing?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that we're involved in anything like that.
You'd have to check with the Pentagon on whether there is something
specific there.
QUESTION:  And is there no --
MR. BOUCHER: But overall, the United States I think has made a very
strong commitment to the people of Afghanistan, and we'll do
everything possible to help all the people of Afghanistan rebuild
their country.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Have you had a chance to look at remarks
by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on possible amendments, which
might make it possible for the United Nations to resume its work on a
tribunal for Khmer Rouge leaders?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, and we welcome the remarks. The Cambodian
Government's statement that it's prepared to compromise with the
United Nations, to include amending current Cambodian law in order to
ensure that the establishment of a credible joint Khmer Rough tribunal
with the United Nations involved. So we welcome those remarks.
QUESTION: Have you actually had a chance to speak to Cambodian
officials about the details of it, or are you just responding to his
public remarks?
MR. BOUCHER: The remarks I think were made today, so I don't know if
we've had a chance to talk to them after that. But this has been a
subject of continuing and ongoing discussion with us and the United
Nations and the Cambodian Government. So we welcome the statement.
QUESTION: Richard, twice in the last couple of days, foreign officials
have said to some of us that they have some serious concerns that the
upcoming summit for sustainable development at Johannesburg is going
to turn into an anti-Israel meeting akin to what happened in Durbin.
Do you have those same concerns? Are you hearing any of these same
rumblings that Arab countries may be pushing for some kind of
anti-Israel resolutions?
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly that is a difficulty that we would want to
guard against. The very important efforts to protect the environment
and allow -- give people opportunities to develop are the subject of
the conference, and we would object to any attempt to hijack it for
political ends. And we have, I think, made that clear all along in the
preparatory meetings, but at least our understanding was that that was
not going to be attempted for this meeting and that we could in fact
use the meeting to focus on the needs of people around the world who
want to develop in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
QUESTION: Okay. So right now, you're of the impression, at least from
-- I'm not trying to trap you into saying something that might be
wrong later, but you're under the impression right now that this isn't
-- this isn't as big a problem as --
MR. BOUCHER: It is a problem we want to guard against and that we're
always watching out for and that we made clear our views on. But at
this point, I don't think it's a problem the way it was with last
year's conference.
QUESTION: You say that you have an understanding that it's not going
to be attempted. Is that understanding from discussions with the
managers of the conference or the NGOs that --
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that's based on the way these issues were
handled at preparatory meetings.
QUESTION: May I come back to the peace force mission in Bosnia? Is
there any US decision on peace force mission in Bosnia going to affect
the ESDP or NATO enlargement?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any link. Certainly we haven't made any
linkage to those other issues. This is an issue involving UN
peacekeepers, US participation, and the International Criminal Court.
I don't think we've made any linkage to ESDP or NATO enlargement.
QUESTION: The UN meets with Iraq again on July 4th. I was wondering
what expectations and hopes do you have for those meetings?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'd say -- I have to say that given the history of
past meetings, given the consistent unwillingness of Iraq to allow
unfettered access by inspectors, that we have neither expectations nor
hopes for this particular meeting. It is another opportunity for Iraq
to come forward and say it's willing to comply with its obligations;
it's willing to abide by the obligations that it accepted in terms of
the UN resolutions. But I'm afraid Iraqi representatives have
continued to raise issues that seem only intended to prevent or delay
the process of meeting those obligations, that they have not indicated
their willingness to cooperate fully and unconditionally with the
QUESTION: They say that the US, even if they were to fully comply, the
US wouldn't change its policy of regime change. Is there any outcome
from these talks that would affect the US policy?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's purely hypothetical, particularly
considering that Iraq has shown no indication of any willingness to
comply with its obligations.
QUESTION: Richard, two of the militant groups in Pakistani-controlled
Kashmir issued threats today: one to kill the chief minister of
Kashmir, of Indian-controlled Kashmir; and another to kill or to
threaten people who participate in the elections, the upcoming
elections inside Kashmir. Does the United States consider that those
kind of statements reflect Mr. Musharraf's living up to his commitment
to permanently --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of the statements, nor who made it, nor
what links they may or perhaps may not have with the Pakistani
Government. So before you jump from such a statement to a president,
let's make sure there might be some connection there.
We think it is important for all the -- both India and Pakistan to
continue to refrain from provocative actions. We think it's important
for both sides to carry out steps to reduce -- further reduce
tensions. Tensions have eased somewhat but we're not -- we still have
armies deployed along a common border and the line of control. So both
sides need to continue to work to ease the tensions and to take
further steps.
QUESTION:  Thank you.
QUESTION:  One more.
MR. BOUCHER:  Jonathan has one.
QUESTION: Your humanitarian aid arrived in Iran. Is that the end of
this, and that's the whole lot and that's it, or is there more --
MR. BOUCHER: I think so. I'm not aware we've been asked for anything
else. The humanitarian aid arrived in Iran through UNICEF yesterday.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)
(end State Department transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
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