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26 April 2004

State Department Noon Briefing, April 26: Powell's Weekend Calls

North Korea, Cyprus, Secretary Powell's Weekend Telephone Calls,Israel/Palestinians, Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, China/Taiwan, China/Hong KongHaiti, Germany

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed.

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
April 26, 2004

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

-- Offer of Assistance to North Korea/Appeals from Red Cross and UN
-- Food Assistance to North Korea/Monitoring of Assistance
Working Group Meeting

-- Reaction to Referenda Results
-- Reviewing Policies for Turkish Cypriots/European Union Membership
-- Manipulation by Greek Cypriot Leaders in Run-up to the Elections
-- Inviting Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister to Washington, D.C.
-- Sanctions on Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

-- Secretary Powell's Weekend Telephone Calls

-- Quartet Meeting
-- Israelis Pulling Out of Gaza/Role of the United States

-- Situation in Darfur/Reports of Killings/Villages Being Burned
-- African Union's Monitoring Mission

-- King Abdullah' s Upcoming Visit

-- Ambassador Brahimi's Weekend Comments
-- Transitional Administrative Law/Role of Ambassador Negroponte

-- Visit of Presidential Office Secretary General Chiou
-- New Constitution/ Possibility of Coup in Taiwan

-- Decision on Suffrage/Future of Democracy for People of Hong Kong

-- Transition to International Peacekeeping Force

-- Secretary Powell's Trip to Berlin


MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2004

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements. You have just heard from the Secretary. So I would be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: So, Richard, I'm wondering if in the last 15 minutes or so, if you guys have refined your offer of assistance to North Korea?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't -- I don't have any more details for you from what the Secretary told you that we were certainly reviewing it. And I would expect the United States will make an announcement soon.

QUESTION: Does that mean today?

MR. BOUCHER: Possibly.

QUESTION: Okay. And he seemed to say that it would be, at the very least, financial, but could be more, could be. And do you have any idea of what --

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I can't define it further for you at this precise moment.

QUESTION: But you would expect soon to be able to define it further?


QUESTION: And this would be -- this would be to, or through, the United Nations and the Red Cross?

MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Yeah. Through the international organizations, the Red Cross and the UN --


MR. BOUCHER: -- that we would be able to assist the people of North Korea. As the Secretary said, they have suffered a tragedy. We have always been willing to help. And I expect we'll be able to announce shortly what we can do in this particular situation.

QUESTION: Can you -- do you have offhand the -- the United States is the largest donor of food assistance already through the WFP to North Korea. Do you know how much that is -- has been this year, or the last time it was calculated?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, last year, in response to last year's appeal, there was 100,000 tons of food, initial tranche of 40,000 given earlier -- early in the year last year, and then another 60,000 tons that was given, announced, I think it was, December. And some of that food has been arriving in recent months, given the shipping, the amount of time for shipping, so it was 100,000 tons last year -- substantial.

QUESTION: And how much money did that -- was the equivalent, do you know?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember.


QUESTION: Richard, would this be the first --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) today?

MR. BOUCHER: Your colleague asked me that just a moment ago.

QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.

MR. BOUCHER: And I said possibly.


MR. BOUCHER: Possibly shortly, possibly soon, both are possible.


QUESTION: Would this be the first time that the U.S. has provided financial aid to North Korea?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, as your colleague just asked and I answered, this would be money that would be provided to international organizations so they can help the people of North Korea. That is something that we have done in addition to the food support that we've provided abundantly to the World Food Program, for example. There have been monetary contributions to those organizations, as well.

QUESTION: Do you know if --


QUESTION: Did you get any direct contact with North Korea over the weekend on this issue?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything in particular, no.

QUESTION: Are you going to --

QUESTION: There is something restrictive about waters and -- are there any mechanical problems that will stand in the way of the U.S. following through on this? Is there anything you want them to do to make it easier to get the help to the people?

MR. BOUCHER: Our goal is to help the North Korean people. And if we think it's possible in this situation, then we will support those who are able to do it.

This issue of making sure that aid and assistance gets to the intended donors has been a longstanding concern of ours that we have raised repeatedly with the North Koreans, worked with the World Food Program on, but I'm not sure whether it -- how much it arises in this particular circumstance with the organizations that are providing other kinds of assistance in this, in this situation.

QUESTION: Is that a condition for your providing financial assistance and possibly other things -- that you have monitors in place or some ability to ensure that it actually gets to the people who need it?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't believe so.

QUESTION: But there would --


QUESTION: But with Mr. Schweid a question, so have you found any improvement since you announced last on the 60,000 tonnage of food? Has there been any improvement?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, there had been some -- some slight improvement during the course of last year that we thought permitted us to go forward with the 60,000 tons that we announced at the end of last year. We're still reviewing the needs and the possible allocations for this year, so I really don't have a new assessment of that, whether there has been further improvements since then.

QUESTION: I think you just said to Arshad that there would not necessarily have to be U.S. monitoring of the assistance. But wouldn't the arrangements, whatever international organization -- Red Cross, I suppose -- don't they have some way of trying to make sure that --

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I mean, it goes without saying that all the international organizations that are involved in the assistance business make every possible effort to make sure that their assistance goes to the people to whom it's intended. That is very important to us, whether it's food or other assistance.

And so we would, in that case, have to rely on those organizations to make sure the food was, or the assistance, whatever it is, was actually reaching the people who were affected by this disaster.

QUESTION: Richard, your answer to my question seemed to me to make clear that you're not going to hold up any assistance because of concerns about this. Your aim is to just --

MR. BOUCHER: We would provide the assistance and then rely on those organizations to make sure it gets to the right people.

QUESTION: Richard, did you say that WFP has had access to this particular region?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if they had. You'd have to check with them.

QUESTION: Could you take the question on how many counties the World Food Program has had access to?

MR. BOUCHER: Isn't that a World Food Program question?

QUESTION: Oh, no. It's been answered in here before.

MR. BOUCHER: If we can find the answer on the Internet, we'll give you the website.


QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, any comment on the referendum in Cyprus?

MR. BOUCHER: First, I'd refer you to the remarks that the Secretary made outside. We, the European Union and others are all disappointed by the result. We think that the Greek Cypriot vote against the settlement means that a unique and historic opportunity was lost.

We believe the settlement was fair. It has been accepted by the Turkish Cypriot side. There will not be a better settlement. There's no other deal, there's no better deal available, and we hope that the Greek Cypriots will come to comprehend this in due time.

We have nothing but praise for the courageous Turkish Cypriots who voted for this settlement, as well as the Greek Cypriots who voted in the minority in the referendum.

We also praise the Secretary General, the Special Advisor Alvaro de Soto and the UN's entire Cyprus team for their extraordinary efforts. We appreciate as well the efforts of Turkey and Greece in supporting the settlement.

QUESTION: Are you going to continue to get involved to find a solution after May 1st?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, the United States has been very involved and we were very involved in supporting the Secretary General in getting this to this point. But as I've said, there's no other deal, there's no better deal.

Certainly, our general view that it's important to the people on the island to have a settlement that will remain, but there's not a new negotiation planned, there's not a renegotiation planned, there's -- this is the deal.

QUESTION: You don't have any plans so far?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any plans. We made that clear in advance.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

QUESTION: Richard --

MR. BOUCHER: Slow down, slow down. Let's -- not everybody talk at once.


QUESTION: Well, yeah, I mean, is there anything you can do to lobby the UN? Because, I mean, the Turkish Cypriots did vote in favor of the plan, which would have helped their ascension into the United Nations. And given the fact that the Greek Cypriots, who were already going into --


QUESTION: Didn't I say that?



QUESTION: Sorry. I meant the EU. Is there anything you can do to help their membership?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as the Secretary mentioned outside, the -- and actually the Danish Foreign Minister mentioned as well outside, that the European Union has already had some things to say about how they can react, how they can deal more with Turkish Cypriots. That is, we think, important.

We also, as the Secretary said, we will be reviewing our policies in light of what's happened and we will review our policies -- also review the EU statements so that we can be consistent with the European Union in regard to what we all decide to do at this point.


QUESTION: You've made very clear that there's no other deal. There's no hidden deal that could be dusted off and brought out now.

So what are you counting on? Is a mechanism for another go at this or another vote on it? Or how can -- how can it carry the day if they've said no?

MR. BOUCHER: I guess the answer is I don't really know if there is one or not. But --

QUESTION: All right.

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, there's really nothing more to say. We respect the decisions that the voters made. We do think that there was a lot of manipulation by the Greek Cypriot leaders in the run-up to the election, that the outcome was regrettable but not surprising giving those actions.

I think the Europeans, as well, have made clear statements by External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten, European Parliamentary President Pat Cox, Enlargement Commissioner Verheugen that they have strong concerns in that regard as well. So we will just have to see how things evolve.

QUESTION: Do you think the Greek Government in Athens could have been a little more clear in supporting the --

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we appreciate the support that the Greeks -- Greek Government and the Turkish Government provided to this effort.

QUESTION: All right. Okay.


QUESTION: Are you planning to invite the Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Mr. Talat to Washington D.C. because this kind of the news items are out there right now?

MR. BOUCHER: I realize there are some news items on that. I don't have anything for you at this moment on that.

QUESTION: Did you intend to invite him?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything for you at this moment on that.

QUESTION: Is there any consideration being given to some sort of recognition to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate on what our review might produce. The -- as I said, the European Union has said a few things already. We will talk to them and look at what they've said and decide accordingly in what we might do.

We would expect to be consistent and to act in a way that's appropriate, given the outcome of this vote.

QUESTION: Richard, what you did do today was to offer a large amount of assistance to the northern part of the island. You had set aside $400 million and pledged $400 million at the pledging conference in the event that it passed both, both communities voted in favor of it.

Is that money, or some of that money, do the Turkish Cypriots expect to see some of that in terms of aid if you are truly going to be consistent about -- in --

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to speculate at this point on how that might be handled.

QUESTION: Can you outline what the U.S., current U.S. sanctions are on -- for the TNRC? Or TRNC?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't do that for you right now. I'm sorry. I just don't know it all off the top of my head. I don't have a listing.

QUESTION: So, in other words, last week you really were serious when you said there wasn't any consideration being given to anything other than a "yes-yes" vote?

MR. BOUCHER: We felt that other than having to give a press briefing at noon on Monday that there would be ample time to review all these things and to come up with prudent decisions as we move forward, based on the outcome of the vote, and so we'll do that.

QUESTION: Do you stick to your intention not to leave them out in the cold?



QUESTION: On a slightly different issue, do --


QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, if it's about Cyprus, it's --

QUESTION: It's not.


QUESTION: Mine is not Cyprus.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Mine is.

MR. BOUCHER: Go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: You said that the outcome was regrettable, but not surprising. If this didn't take you by surprise, why did you not have -- why don't you -- why didn't -- why don't you have something in place right now? I mean, the EU acted quite quickly, within two days of the vote, to say they were going to make this pledge of aid.

MR. BOUCHER: We've -- certainly we studied the question. We looked at the question before. We just haven't decided yet. We'll let the EU go first. That's fine. We don't need to be out there before them and we'll come back. We'll tell you when we decide.

QUESTION: All right. And just -- in the -- in your opening comments, and this is kind of related to Barry's question, you kept speaking of this plan in the present tense, "This is the only plan, this -- there is no better plan." Do you hold out any kind of hope that --

MR. BOUCHER: He asked me whether we thought there was some kind of mechanism to renew it or review it or revote it. I'm not aware of any. But in terms of the kind of settlement that can be reached, has to be reached, and is really the only way to solve these problems. It's a fair settlement to both sides and it's --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, why --

MR. BOUCHER: -- all that's there is an objective fact.

QUESTION: So it's something that could be gone back to?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how, but I suppose so.

QUESTION: Yeah. I think you said there will be no better plan. Does that mean you would oppose any other plan other than this one?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that there would be any effort to produce one.

QUESTION: Well, but just that you're unaware of any effort to produce one doesn't mean that sometime in the next two decades somebody might come up with one.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not ruling out anything that might come along in the next two decades. I can't give you a timeframe. But since there's no effort at this -- there's no promise of renegotiation, there's no promise of improvements, there's no promise of, you know, a new round in Geneva or new decisions, I don't expect that there will be one in the foreseeable future. That's as far as I can see into the future.

Charlie. No? Not yet?

QUESTION: No, on Cyprus. Just, you said -- you basically said that you're planning to help out, that you're going to assist -- well, reward the Turkish Cypriots for their "yes" vote. Is there any contemplation of any -- given what you've described as manipulation by Greek Cypriot leaders, to penalize -- penalize them for their manipulation of the vote?

MR. BOUCHER: What we decide to do at this point I think is still under review, so I don't have an answer. I'm not going to speculate one way or the other.

QUESTION: Well, is it possible that there will not be just a carrot to the -- or not just reward to the Turkish Cypriots but also some kind of punishment for --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to speculate one way or the other.

QUESTION: What was the manipulation that you alluded to?

MR. BOUCHER: There was restrictions on the press, a decision by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation's Board of Directors, that limited full coverage of foreigners statement on the UN settlement and on Saturday's referendum. A statistical study of pre-referendum media environment indicates anti-settlement advocates, including the President himself, received almost twice as much air time as pro-settlement advocates.

I think we noted that even the European Commissioner, the Enlargement Commissioner, was not allowed on the air, strucked us at particularly odd.

There was also a lot of reports that the Ministry of Education dismissed children from school early on the 21st and 22nd so that they could go to anti-settlement events. Teachers were instructed to encourage their students to vote "no." And students were provided with "no" banners and t-shirts by their teachers. Some were even bussed to specific locations.

So, given those kind of purposeful policies, we're not surprised that numerous reports of physical intimidation and threats were made by Greek Cypriots campaigning for a "no" vote, especially a death threat directed at an 18-year-old schoolboy who favored the settlement.

We especially regret that not one Greek Cypriot official spoke out at the time against the numerous shameful incidents that took place before the referenda.

QUESTION: When you talk about students, I assume you're talking about students 18 and older, i.e. those eligible to vote?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, no, we're talking about students of all ages who were out demonstrating and campaigning. Obviously, only the ones at a certain age would be in a position to vote "no," but many of them were brought to rallies, many of them were provided with materials that were supposed to sway their parents and others.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: Charlie gets first dibs.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on the Secretary's phone calls over the weekend, and also tell us whether there's been any movement on a Quartet meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: Through the weekend, the Secretary kept in touch with UN Secretary General Annan on questions of Cyprus as well as talking about some of the Iraq issues and Middle East issues. He also had occasion on Sunday to call Foreign Minister Ismail of Sudan to express our strong concern about the situation in Darfur, as well as to look forward to how to resolve the remaining issues in the negotiations taking place at Naivasha.

This morning, the Secretary talked to King Abdullah of Jordan, taking the opportunity to discuss two issues, I'd say. Primarily, one is the opportunity of how to move forward in the Israeli-Palestinian situation, part of our continuing consultation and discussions with Arab leaders about that; and then second of all, the process of reform in the Middle East and where we stood on the Arab League meetings, the Arab League and other meetings, let's say.

QUESTION: And the Quartet?

MR. BOUCHER: The Quartet -- we're looking at a meeting this Friday at the envoy level in London, April 30th, and now we're scheduling -- or we have scheduled a Quartet ministerial level meeting for May 4th in New York.

QUESTION: Envoy level? Could you be a little more specific?

MR. BOUCHER: Assistant Secretary Burns for us.

QUESTION: Well, you don't speak for the other organizations. But I suppose senior officials but not the top. Not Annan, of course.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Not ministers or leaders.

QUESTION: On Darfur, does the United States have evidence that government-backed militias continue to attack the local population there? Or you don't have evidence, but you believe that they continue to?

MR. BOUCHER: I guess what I would say on Darfur is we have continued reports of people being killed, forced from their homes, people in camps for internally displaced people being attacked, villages being burned. That is over a period of time.

How much is in the last few days, I don't have a specific update on. But I think this situation in Darfur, as it continues, has been of grave concern to us and very serious to us.

We have pressed very hard for the Government in Sudan to allow humanitarian workers in, to allow the United Nations in, to allow UN human rights workers in, to allow U.S. Agency for International Development personnel to go in and provide assistance.

I think some of the international organizations have gotten some assistance through, but not on the scale or level that is really needed to help the population there. So it's a matter of increasing concern to us and one where we've tried, we pushed very hard, for the government to control these militias that are associated with the government, as well as to allow humanitarian access. And that's something that we will continue to push for.

QUESTION: Two things. Has the African Union yet begun the monitoring mission that was envisaged under the ceasefire?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me double-check on that. I have not seen that reported today. Let's put it that way.

QUESTION: Could you also take the question of whether these continued reports that you see of attacks, and so on, include the last few days?

MR. BOUCHER: I will.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Back to the Quartet for a second?


QUESTION: The meeting on the 30th is to what, is to set the stage for the meeting on the 4th?

MR. BOUCHER: Is part of the regular meetings that we have at that level, and then to look at what the ministers might want to do in their meeting.

QUESTION: But they will meet?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, on the 4th of May in New York.

QUESTION: And while we're talking about meetings, and you brought up the conversation with King Abdullah -- I know it's a White House affair, but is that nailed down that the King will be here?

And the Saudis, the Foreign Minister and Finance Minister were up in New York for a conference intending, I understand, to come down to Washington Thursday. Will the Secretary have a chance to see them, or at least see the Foreign Minister this week in Washington?

MR. BOUCHER: As you know, on Thursday the Secretary is still in Berlin, and that will depend. I didn't know they were coming, but that would depend on the schedule.

As far as King Abdullah, it is a White House matter, but I believe the White House made clear last week that we expected to see him in the first week of May.


QUESTION: A follow-up on --

QUESTION: Let me just do a quick one. Does Mr. Burns have --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. Crown Prince Abdullah. No, King Abdullah.

QUESTION: You said King Abdullah.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, King Abdullah. That's who we expect to see in the first week of May.

QUESTION: Does Mr. Burns have any other travel other than going to London for the Quartet?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, actually. I'd have to check.

QUESTION: Could you check?


QUESTION: Yesterday, former American Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk wrote an article (inaudible) that first took Gaza, and he says, like it or not, when the Israelis pull out, the United States will be stuck in Gaza.

Would you care to comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't know what to say. The Israelis pull out. The Palestinians have to take authority in Gaza, have to take responsibility.

QUESTION: What role will the United States play, then?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll support them, as will others.

QUESTION: What would prevent it from developing into chaos? What would you require the Palestinians --

MR. BOUCHER: Palestinian responsibility. The Palestinians have to step up to the plate and take responsibility there. They have to take responsibility for preventing violence from that area, for running that area and for taking advantage of the opportunity of the Israelis pulling out of settlements.

That's what we made clear when Prime Minister Sharon was here. It's clear in the President's statements. It's clear that we and others will assist them in doing that. But the Palestinians need to be prepared to take responsibility there.


QUESTION: So you don't foresee any kind of direct American involvement in at least security or training or?

MR. BOUCHER: How this all will evolve over the coming months, I don't know exactly, but certainly the idea that the United States is taking over Gaza is pretty farfetched.

Yeah, Matt.

QUESTION: You said others would help, Richard. Who else? Do you have commitments from other people that --

MR. BOUCHER: There are other countries in the region that have already spoken about helping the Palestinians take responsibility on their --

QUESTION: Do you expect -- this isn't really my question, but --

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, well then don't ask it if it's somebody else's.

QUESTION: -- that I had my hand up for. But do you expect that at this Quartet meeting some kind of plan will emerge on how to coordinate the withdrawal and help develop --

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we'll have to see. I don't have anything on the outcomes yet.

QUESTION: If we can move to Iraq -- if any, if everyone's off the Middle East.


QUESTION: Ambassador Brahimi made some comments in an interview over the weekend, kind of linking what's going on in the Palestinian territories to Iraq and seems to have kind of irked a lot of people.

MR. BOUCHER: I thought he made those comments last week and the Secretary said something about it, and I did as well, Friday.

QUESTION: Well, he said something again, I mean, actually. But, I mean, do you think that he's overstepping his bounds in terms of, you know, linking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to what's going on in Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see any new remarks as far as what he said last week. The Secretary General has commented on it. I think I comment on it. The Secretary of State has commented on it. I don't have anything to add.

Yeah. Okay, let's let somebody in the back. Okay? Ma'am.

QUESTION: Change of subject?



QUESTION: Can we keep on Iraq just for a while?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we're going to stay on Iraq for a while. Okay?

QUESTION: Last week, Javier Solana had a press conference in Washington after meeting various U.S. officials, and he raised the possibility of changing aspects of the Transitional Administrative Law, I think in conjunction with the Brahimi plan to set up an interim government. Would the U.S. be prepared to consider that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's any particular proposal. There's no particular need. And as far as I know, there's no particular idea about doing that. The law is the basis for the transition. It's a short transition, but it provides the authority and the material that's necessary for the interim government to go through this transition. It involved, as we'd said, a lot of discussion, a lot of decision making by Iraqis on matters that are very important to their political future, but it's not the final say in terms of a final constitution.

The Iraqis have many more issues to debate and ultimately settle. And that will be done through a very careful constitutional process whose job it is -- it's the job of the interim government to set up that process through the elections and the convention and then the writing of a constitution, the referendum to follow, so the Interim Authority has the basis that it needs to proceed in the Transitional Law, and will prepare the more extensive view at all these -- extensive look at all these issues that will happen through a process of elections and referenda and the writing of a full constitution.


QUESTION: It seems Ambassador Brahimi has been out there and working with Iraqis and he's going to help them with this idea of a caretaker government. Do you think that the Transitional Law could be, you know, not necessarily scrapped, but evolve from his meetings with the Iraqis? I mean --

MR. BOUCHER: He's asking about something that Javier Solana supposedly said, and now you're attributing it to Brahimi I guess.

QUESTION: Well, no, no, no. I'm not attributing it to him. It's just --

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen Ambassador Brahimi talk about evolving or scrapping or changing the Transitional Law.

QUESTION: Well, there were some reports over the weekend that said that you were considering.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate.

QUESTION: I'm just saying that because Ambassador Brahimi -- I'm not attributing this to him. I'm just saying that he was out there having a lot of meetings with Iraqis, coming up with a plan for a caretaker government. Do you think that there's any room for an evolution of the Transitional Law in coordination with what he's developing for this caretaker government?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll stand by the answer I gave before. He gave an extensive press conference in Baghdad on his ideas, and I have to say that was not one of them.

QUESTION: On the same issue. This morning, Senator Lieberman launched an initiative to stop all bickering and close ranks on the differences in Iraq, and stop all the differences at loggerhead. *Just fine. I think you probably like that.

But during the course of the discussion, somebody suggested that Mr. Negroponte ought to report a UN High Commissioner, and he seemed to agree with that. What is your feeling on that? Would that ever happen? I mean is --

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see this. I don't -- I don't want to comment on what people may have said. Somebody suggested, he seemed to agree. I don't know how to deal with that, frankly.

QUESTION: But would that be something --

MR. BOUCHER: That's the kind of --

QUESTION: -- that -- if you want to bring in the UN?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate. The U.S. Ambassador is an envoy of the President who reports to the President of the United States. I'll stop with that.


QUESTION: Yes, I have a question on Taiwan.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We were going to change subjects. She was going to change it first. Are we off Iraq? No, we're back on Iraq. Sorry. We'll get there.

QUESTION: Just very briefly. When you talk about not being aware of any changes or any idea to change the TAL, you're not referring to this annex that is supposed to come out from -- that is supposed -- the annex to the law that is supposed to be agreed upon by -- well, supposed to incorporate --

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the transition mechanism. The incorporation of that. No, I was referring to the material that's already been done in the --

QUESTION: Okay. But, I mean, there is going to be at least an addition to the TAL before --

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I was talking about changing what already exists, not adding what's expected.

QUESTION: Right. But is it possible that that annex could contain changes to -- or could contain amendments to what is in the actual -- the current document? Or is that not envisioned at all?

MR. BOUCHER: It's never been described that way. I don't know whether, legally speaking, it could or couldn't, frankly.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on today's raid on this allegedly chemical weapons manufacturing facility?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. That would come out of Baghdad.

Okay, ma'am.

QUESTION: The high-level envoy of Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, Mr. Chiou-I-Ren, has arrived in D.C. this morning and will have, you know, several meetings. And by this opportunity of the first face-to-face, high-level communication between Washington and Taipei after the election, what kind of concerned message will you express to Taiwan Government?

MR. BOUCHER: We're aware of the -- Mr. Chiou's visit. We would handle any request for meetings in accordance with our usual practices. One of our usual practices is not to comment on these visits, nor to try to discuss what we may discuss with the representatives of Taiwan when we meet with them.

So I'm afraid I can't give you anything on that.


QUESTION: The Deputy Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Mr. Keegan, met with officials from Taiwan's Foreign Ministry Monday, and he had a comment on Taiwan's plan to write a new constitution. I wonder, is Taiwan providing clarification on the issue or has the U.S. requested one?

MR. BOUCHER: We discuss all these issues from time to time with Taiwan authorities, representatives. But really, I'm not in a position to go any farther in public at this moment.


QUESTION: Can I ask -- David Keegan also said -- actually, he reiterated what Kelly -- Mr. Kelly, said last week.

MR. BOUCHER: Good for him. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, he will be safe now. And U.S.'s support for Taiwan's new constitution is limited. I don't know whether this message also passed to Mr. Chiou. And could you elaborate what does that mean that U.S. support for a new constitution is limited?

MR. BOUCHER: I really can't try to elaborate on some of these things. Assistant Secretary Kelly gave a very comprehensive speech on Taiwan only last week. Was it last week? Just about. There is really nothing to add at this moment. So I think that our view on constitutional amendments, constitutional questions, was really expressed very well there. There is nothing further to add at this moment.


QUESTION: Is this high-level visit by the request of Taiwan?

MR. BOUCHER: I believe so. I'm not certain, though. You'd have to ask them. I think that's the way it happened.


QUESTION: Another follow-up. President Chen of Taiwan accused the opposition parties of initiating a coup after the election. Is there any such possibility of a coup in Taiwan?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not getting in -- I am not going to get involved in political charges in Taiwan. I'm sorry.


QUESTION: Richard, on this, though, are you saying that you won't comment on meetings between AIT people and these visitors, or State Department meetings?

MR. BOUCHER: We have never really spoken in any detail about either.

QUESTION: Well, that's not -- I mean -- no, I mean, you have the Deputy Director of AIT in Taipei talking about his meetings.

MR. BOUCHER: They can do that in Taipei if they feel like it.

QUESTION: Yeah. So are you saying that you're not -- that you expect AIT here to say something about --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if AIT here will say anything about their meetings or not. But I have never commented on either AIT's meetings or -- commented in detail on either AIT's meetings with people coming from Taiwan, nor on State Department people meeting with them.

QUESTION: Yeah, but in detail. So can you say if there are any meetings scheduled?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything for you at this moment.

QUESTION: Well, if there were meetings, would you be able to say that there were after the fact?

MR. BOUCHER: I might. We'll see.


QUESTION: Is China's will send any special envoy recently, I mean, after Chiou-I-Ren visit? Usually, they will send somebody to talk Taiwan issue.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if China is sending anybody or not. I don't know of anybody at this point. We just did have a (inaudible). She's talking about something else.


QUESTION: Hong Kong?

MR. BOUCHER: Hong Kong.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on Hong Kong after Beijing ruled that the Hong Kong people cannot have the universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008 for the Chief Executive and the in the legislature?

MR. BOUCHER: We are disappointed by the decision, as we believe it doesn't adequately reflect the expressed wishes of the Hong Kong people for universal suffrage and for democracy.

As we've stated before, the United States supports electoral reform and universal suffrage in Hong Kong in keeping with the Basic Law's own goals. The Hong Kong people have taken to the streets three times to express their own support for these goals.

The United States believes that the Hong Kong people's aspirations should be given priority in determining the pace and the scope of democratization in Hong Kong. International confidence in Hong Kong is based on its rule of law and the high degree of autonomy. The United States will continue to watch the situation closely with the goal of supporting democracy.


QUESTION: A lot that -- the decision was made by the Chinese Congress and Chinese Foreign Minister said it's in accordance with the basic law. Are you -- would you say that Hong Kong -- people in Hong Kong should follow the rule of law?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm going to try to give you all the legal debate that's been going on back and forth about the authorities of the National People's Congress under the law, but we think that there's a basic reality in Hong Kong, and that is that the people of Hong Kong have wanted universal suffrage, wanted democracy; and that they have expressed their views very widely and through actions such as the demonstrations. We believe that the views of the people of Hong Kong should be taken into account.

QUESTION: Maybe you would suggest the Chinese Congress to make an amendment to the basic law?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not making any legal suggestions here. I'm saying that, as a matter of simple reality, the wishes of the people of Hong Kong can, should, and really must be taken into account as one talks about their future.


QUESTION: Are you concerned if there might be a larger protest, maybe around 1st of July in Hong Kong?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I can't predict that sort of thing, but they've -- certainly people in Hong Kong have expressed their views, and we think their views need to be heard.

Yeah, ma'am.

QUESTION: Sorry. Do you think the Beijing (inaudible) is actually eroding or erosion into the high autocracy promised by the joint declaration when Hong Kong was handed back to mainland China?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any sort of sweeping characterizations at this moment. We do report on this periodically. But I really don't have any new characterizations overall. I'm speaking about a specific matter, but a very, very important matter, and that's the future of democracy for the people of Hong Kong, something that they, themselves, have expressed a desire for many times. And we believe those views need to be taken into account.

Yeah, Chris.

QUESTION: Yeah. Change of subject to Haiti?


QUESTION: I was wondering if we're still on schedule for the transition to an international peacekeeping force and whether or not that will include the withdrawal of some American troops.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have a precise schedule for you at this moment. We have been working at the United Nations with other members of the Security Council to put in place the resolution that will describe that transition, describe the establishment of a peacekeeping force.

We've certainly been working with other governments to do that, and we do expect that in the near future.


QUESTION: Can I go back to North Korea for just two seconds?

It's now the 26th of April. You've got four days left in the month. You had hoped to have a working group meeting by the end of this month. Is it your understanding that because of the situation with the disaster, that that's not going to happen anymore?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it's because of the situation of the disaster, but we remain interested in having the working groups, as agreed at the last round of six-party talks. We had been prepared to do that in April, along with our friends, the Japanese and the South Koreans. We are still prepared to do that at an early date. And I think we're all looking to hear from the North Koreans as to when they're prepared to sit down and have discussions, as they've agreed to, and at least in general terms, it seemed their leader indicated when he was in Beijing.

QUESTION: Last week, you said early May, you hope for early May. Does that still seem realistic?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, there's no dates yet. So I can't say when -- it's hard to predict when the North Koreans might agree to sit down and work on these important issues. But we are certainly ready to do it in early May.

Okay, go to the back.

QUESTION: Back to the question my colleague just raised on Taiwan's coup attempt. Has AIT received or reported any information on that coup attempt, and has --

MR. BOUCHER: I'll go back to the answer I just gave your colleague: I'm not going to get involved in political charges in Taiwan.

QUESTION: Just about the Secretary's trip. You said he'd be in Berlin on Thursday. Are you aware, does he plan to have a, you know, wide range of meetings outside of the OSCE conference to -- I mean, with other European colleagues who may or may -- who may be there?

MR. BOUCHER: He will have some meetings outside of the conference with other Europeans, including the Germans who are hosting the conference, but I don't have a list of those yet.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:23 p.m.)

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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