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03 May 2004

State Department Noon Briefing, May 3

Israel/Palestinians, North Korea, Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, Panama, Freedom of Press Day, India, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Georgia,

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press at the noon briefing May 3.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
Monday, May 3, 2004
12:55 p.m. EDT

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

-- Response to Israeli Vote on the Sharon Plan/Roadmap
-- Quartet Meeting in New York/Quartet Agenda/Representatives

-- Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with China's Envoy for North Korea
-- Six-Party Talks/Working Group Meeting
-- Abandonment of Nuclear Weapons Program/Libyan Model
-- Peace Treaty Still on Agenda for North and South Korea

-- Relations with Mexico
-- Remarks by Fidel Castro on Human Rights Violations
-- Mexico and Peru Withdraw Ambassadors
-- Commission Report on Cuba Delivered to White House

-- Mexico's Request for U.S. Analysis of March 31 Hague Ruling

-- United States Humanitarian Assistance

-- Election of Martin Torrijos as President

-- Query on Freedom of Press Day

-- List of Terrorists Groups/Entry into United States

-- Allegations on Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners/United States and Human Rights
-- Effects of U.S. Diplomatic Efforts in Region

-- Update on Attack in Yanbu
-- Warning to American Citizens/Warden Messages
-- Reports of Dragging of a Victim

-- Freedom of Expression

-- Status of United States Diplomacy
-- Destruction of Bridges
-- Restoration of Governmental Authority in Ajara
-- U.S. Call to Disarm Paramilitary Forces
-- Reports of Human Rights Abuses of Activists and Journalists
-- U.S. Talks with Russians


MONDAY, MAY 3, 2004

(12:55 p.m. EDT)

MR. BOUCHER: Big turnout today. Okay, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. We'll be issuing a couple statements later on the -- on World Press Freedom Day. I'm sure you all are celebrating in your own way by writing stories about us. And then second of all, we'll put out a statement on the Macedonian presidential election to congratulate the winner of the election that was held to replace President Trajkovsky, who died very tragically. So I won't go into those any further right now, but I'd be glad to take your questions.

Mr. Gedda.

QUESTION: Looks like Prime Minister Sharon is going to Plan B on Gaza disengagement. Do you have any comment on the events of yesterday and today?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the first comment I need to make is that the United States will continue to press forward, continue to look for ways to move forward on the roadmap and on the President's vision of two states that can live side by side in peace in the Middle East.

We will use every opportunity and we remain of the view that this proposal to withdraw from Gaza does represent an opportunity and could represent an opportunity. It'll be up to Prime Minister Sharon to decide how he proceeds within his party or within his government. I suppose this is certainly a setback in what he had planned, but at the same time, we note that there is wide public support in Israel for the idea of moving forward and for the idea of withdrawing from Gaza.

So we will continue to look for opportunities to move forward towards peace. We'll continue to look for both parties to fulfill their obligations under the roadmap and take steps for peace. Always looking for the Palestinians to stand up and take action against terrorism and always looking for the parties to move forward on the roadmap.

Tomorrow, the Secretary will go to New York. He'll be meeting with the Quartet at the ministerial level. They, again, will look at where we are on the roadmap and look at ways to move forward on the President's vision.

QUESTION: You said it was a setback for him and his efforts. Do you regard it as a setback to the United States and its efforts?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said before, we're always looking for opportunities to move forward. What happens to this particular plan is now being looked at by the Israeli Government, by Prime Minister Sharon. But we are always looking for opportunities to move forward, so I don't think we've hitched our wagon to any single effort.

Certainly, we recognize that many other -- a lot of the other things were not moving forward and we saw this as an opportunity. But it's not necessarily the only opportunity.

QUESTION: You've certainly hitched your wagon to the idea that this was a good idea, and that was one of the reasons that the President issued the letters that he did.

MR. BOUCHER: And we remain of the view that this is a good idea.

QUESTION: But you don't feel like your efforts -- you're happy to lay this on him? It's his setback, not yours?

MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look back, the Secretary and I were both asked Thursday and Friday how we wanted people to vote and what sort of position we would take on the specific vote, and we declined to do so now, so -- we declined to do so then, so I think it's not quite fair to say that we lost something that we were looking for.

What we do have now is a political situation that will be dealt by the political leaders in Israel. We note, however, that the population of Israel, by and large, appears to be supportive of the Gaza withdrawal plan.

Prime Minister Sharon says he still wants to move forward and we still think it's a good idea.

QUESTION: Considering that Sharon held out stubbornly until he got what he wanted, and he went back to not really lobby very hard, do you think feel that he's lured the Administration into a trap?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't see how there can be any trap in trying to move forward. We're going to look for every opportunity that we can find to move forward towards peace, towards the vision, towards the steps in the roadmap. That's what we'll be doing with the Quartet tomorrow. We're not -- there are different ways of doing that. We've always sought to take every opportunity.


QUESTION: Will you talk about the advantages of the Sharon plan tomorrow with the Quartet? Wasn't that the plan, that you would talk about this?

MR. BOUCHER: We still think it's a good idea. We'll still talk about it. Certainly.

QUESTION: So is that a moot issue now? I mean, you know, now --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that it is moot. That'll depend on what the, what Prime Minister Sharon decides to do. At this point, he says he's still committed to trying to move forward with the withdrawal from Gaza. And it doesn't change our view that Israelis pulling thousands of settlers out of Gaza, pulling military out of Gaza, Israelis pulling out of settlements, that that can be a good thing if handled properly. That remains our view.


QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken with Prime Minister Sharon or any other officials in the region following the vote?

MR. BOUCHER: No, not over the weekend, not today, certainly. No. We've -- certainly, our embassy has been reporting back. We've been getting cables and active reporting from people, and we are in touch through that channel with the Israeli Government.

QUESTION: So you think at this point it would premature to kind of say it's time to regroup and think of something new?


QUESTION: I mean, you're still hoping that something can be arranged?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we'll see what happens in Israel, first of all. Second of all, we'll talk to the Quartet more generally about how to move forward on the roadmap with all the different things that have been put forward to move forward on the roadmap, and as well, as the opportunity that this could present if Prime Minister Sharon moves forward, as he says he still intends to do.

QUESTION: But when you say all different things, what do you mean by that? I mean, you have the Sharon plan. But what else is out there lately?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, admittedly, many of the other efforts on the roadmap are proceeding slowly, but there are continuing efforts to, first of all, get the Palestinians to take responsibility, to show the will and the commitment to control the violence, which we saw as an essential step to move forward on the roadmap and which remains an essential step.

We have always encouraged the parties to take humanitarian steps, particularly the Israelis to remove humanitarian roadblocks, to ease access, and things like that. So there have been a lot of things on the Quartet agenda which still remain important to us.


QUESTION: Richard, the Quartet, it seems to me, would probably like to receive your assurances about the -- that you're not prejudging final outcome, as you have many times since the Prime Minister of Israel was here. Do you expect, though, to present anything in writing to them to assure them that you are not indeed judging -- prejudging any negotiation?

MR. BOUCHER: It's in writing in the President's letters, in the President's statements already. I don't know to what extent the Quartet might want to do a written statement. But at this point, we'll be talking to the Quartet members, and we're happy to restate our position on that issue if they want us to.

Yeah. Sir.

QUESTION: Richard, Governor Schwarzenegger has been on a visit to Israel for the Holocaust Museum opening of the new Museum of Tolerance, and he is now in Jordan talking with King Abdullah. Is he carrying any message from either President Bush or from Secretary Powell?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I've heard of, no.


QUESTION: Richard, will everybody be represented tomorrow at the Quartet meeting at the foreign minister level, plus Annan, so far as you know?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, as far as I know, everybody will be there. Yeah.

QUESTION: Richard, do you have a firm date on the visit to Washington of the Jordanian King Abdullah?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the White House spokesman announced on Friday it would be on the 6th of May.


QUESTION: Is this event with the Gaza plan going to affect the ability of King Abdullah obtaining a counter-letter from the Administration, a letter of assurance that would counter the one that's being given to Mr. Sharon?

MR. BOUCHER: The issue of the visit and what might be done or exchanged during that visit is really a White House question. I'll have to leave you that.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Change of subject? No, same thing. Are you changing or are you staying?

QUESTION: Yes, changing.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, then she gets the first chance.

QUESTION: Okay, North Korea. Do you have anything on the meeting between the Chinese North Korea envoy with Deputy Secretary Armitage?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Want me to tell you about it? (Laughter.)


MR. BOUCHER: Okay. The Chinese Special Envoy for North Korea Ning Fukui met with the Deputy Secretary for 30 minutes this morning. They discussed the progress of the six-party talks and the upcoming working group meeting beginning in Beijing on May 12th.

Ambassador Ning will have further consultations with Special Envoy for North Korea Joseph DiTrani and she'll pay a call on East Asia and Pacific Assistant Secretary James Kelly this afternoon.

QUESTION: Is the United States committed to the six-party framework even if the North Koreans decided to take after the Libyan model to bypass all other parties to talk to America?

MR. BOUCHER: That's a pretty big "if." I don't want to speculate at this point. Certainly, we want them to abandon their nuclear program. We think that's best achieved in the six-party context and that's the way we've been pursuing it.

Okay, let's see. She was going to --

QUESTION: Stay on Asia?

MR. BOUCHER: It's a pretty big place. But sure.

QUESTION: Sorry, but -- okay, then, not North Korea. Well, because -- I ask that because the White House officials one time, last time during the second six-party talks, they said they hoped North Korea would go after -- take after the model from Libya and just total surrender.

MR. BOUCHER: It's not total surrender. It's doing something that was in Libya's interest, which Libya figured out was in its interest, and which is actually in North Korea's interest as well, to stop wasting money on nuclear weapons programs, stop making yourself an international source of concern, stop isolating yourself from all the benefits that you can have from interacting with the world.

So frankly, we think it would be a very rational decision for North Korea to make, to say that these programs don't bring them any good, they only bring them grief and it's time to get rid of them. If North Korea were to make that decision, I'm sure all the members of the six-party talks would not only welcome it, but would find ways to help them achieve that.

QUESTION: But Richard, if I could follow up. If you are looking for North Korea to -- to follow up on my colleague's question -- if you're looking for North Korea to follow the Libyan model, Libya, you know, did this in an effort, primarily, to open up the dialogue with the United States and Britain. So I mean, are you going to turn North Korea away if it comes to you to open up this dialogue about disarming its --

MR. BOUCHER: Again, you're building speculation on speculation on speculation, and I'm not going to join you going down that path.

We have a forum where North Korea can communicate and make a decision to abandon its nuclear program, and where six countries can sit there and work together with North Korea to achieve that.

How exactly the relationship with the United States might evolve if they were to do that is really a matter of a speculation at this point that I'm not going to start entering into.


QUESTION: Yes, on --

QUESTION: Stay on North Korea?

MR. BOUCHER: Why don't we do something else for a minute?

QUESTION: Yes, hello. I would like you to move a little bit for this -- to this hemisphere to talk about what is going on between Mexico and Cuba.

As you know, there's a big crisis in the relationship, and I wonder if you can tell us what do you think, or what do you expect will be the consequences of this for the Fidel Castro regime, and maybe even for the United States?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, just to review events, Castro has once again verbally attacked several nations, among them Mexico and Peru, for speaking out against human rights violations in Cuba -- criticized them, attacked them for voting in favor of a resolution that was critical of Cuba at the recent Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva.

Cuba has resorted to such actions before, retaliating against countries and organizations that dare to criticize the Castro regime.

The decision to withdraw their ambassadors obviously rests with the Mexican and Peruvian governments, but given the nature of the Cuban statements, the Mexican and Peruvian government actions appear to be entirely appropriate.

As far as what the implications might be for their relationships, obviously, the -- Castro taking very negative actions on human rights and then lashing out at people who dare to point out the facts and criticize this, obviously makes it more difficult for anybody to maintain any kind of relationship with Castro.

But I think you can see clearly where we put the blame for this matter.

QUESTION: Richard --

QUESTION: You are in some way -- I mean, the State Department is the place where you analyze the international events, so what do you think it could be happening? I mean, this is, this is a big change in Mexican --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to join you in speculation.

QUESTION: Please --

MR. BOUCHER: We don't do political commentary. I'm sorry. I'll tell you the facts. I'll tell you what we think of it. I'll tell you what our policy is, but I'm not going to join you in political speculation.

Thank you.

Okay, let's, let's -- slow down. Slow down. We've got other people here. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Yes, Richard, do you think the decision by Mexico and Peru is because they are feeling that it's time to be in line with the United States policy toward Cuba, or do you really feel that the governments of the Western hemisphere are changing their attitudes toward Fidel Castro?

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, first of all, these countries -- all they did was point out the fact that Cuba has been repressing dissidents. It has moved from arrests to trial to really imposing enormous hardship on anybody who dared to try to exercise their constitutional rights in Cuba.

So the development, the change over the last year has been in Cuba and in Cuban behavior. And then, when these countries voted in favor of a resolution at the UN Commission on Human Rights, which is the appropriate thing to do, Castro attacked them, so the change was again in Cuba. It was in the attack from Castro, the verbal attack from Castro, for having upheld human rights.

So the premise of the question that somehow these countries are adjusting their policy, these countries are being attacked by Castro for pointing out the truth. We're glad they're willing to stand up for the truth. But I don't think the analysis should start with something changing in those countries. What's gone on is a worsening of the human rights situation in Cuba and the Cuban Government lashing out at people who point out the truth.


QUESTION: In his long speech, he also stated periodic intervention by the United States, and he said that they did not send in a single doctor or medical person. In contrast, Cuba sent in 17,000 people to Haiti. He cited Haiti, for instance. Could you -- do you have any figures on medical help that the United States has extended to Haiti over these years?

MR. BOUCHER: We have, in the last 10 years, provided -- what was it, 800, 900 million dollars? -- worth of assistance to Haiti. It goes for food for needy people. It goes for medical supplies. It goes to education. It goes to all kinds of support for the Haitian people.

As any military operation conducted by the United States also involves an attempt to facilitate humanitarian efforts, I'm sure that feeding and health programs were indeed part of the current humanitarian intervention as well.

QUESTION: Staying with Cuba.

MR. BOUCHER: Staying with Cuba.

QUESTION: Miami Herald reported over the weekend that the task force looking at U.S. policy toward Cuba has reached its report and is transmitting it to the White House. And it says that the thrust of the report's recommendations are to decrease the flow of U.S. funds remitted by U.S. citizens to Cuba and to decrease tourism and I think other visits by U.S. citizens to Cuba.

As you're well aware, U.S. citizens, I think, are allowed to remit $1,200 a year, and I think Cuban Americans can go back, but regular Americans can't. And my question is two-fold: One, is that the thrust of the report; and two, is there any intention to actually reduce the annual remittances or suggest trying to better police and enforce them so that people aren't sending back money in ways that they shouldn't be?

MR. BOUCHER: The bottom line on my answer is going to be, it's not time for us to go into that level of detail. We've forwarded -- the Commission that did this study has forwarded a series of recommendations to the White House; the report itself is being delivered to the White House today. The President will view the Commission's report. He will decide which measures will be implemented and when.

So generally, all I can tell you at this point is the Commission has addressed the two issues in its mandate: it's recommended additional measures to help the Cuban people bring about an expeditious end to the dictatorship in Cuba, and it also outlines a plan for agile, effective and decisive assistance to a post-dictatorship Cuba.

In fulfilling that mandate, they've come up with a number of ideas and recommendations that are being provided to the President, and the President will then decide which ones to implement. Once that decision is made, I'm sure the Administration will answer in great detail some of the questions you're asking.

QUESTION: Can you rule out one thing? Can you rule out that reducing the $1,200 ceiling on remittances is --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to rule in or out any particular idea at this stage. That just gets me into playing 20 questions until we narrow down what it is in the recommendations. And I have to leave it to the President to decide what we're going to do.

QUESTION: And you're using new language there. Are you recommending regime change in Cuba for the first time?

MR. BOUCHER: The mandate of the Commission right from the start has been to address how the United States and others could respond quickly to an end to the dictatorship in Cuba. I think if you look back at the President's announcement, he made clear that we felt that would have to happen someday and we wanted to be ready for it. That's been the policy and that's what they were called upon to address.

QUESTION: You talk about hastening the transition to democracy, and now you're using the word "end," "the end of the dictatorship."

MR. BOUCHER: They are two sides of the same coin: hastening the transition to democracy. I think I'll stick with the same as we've always said. If you say that's what we've always said, I'll say it again.

Okay, all right. Where do we go? I withdraw the answer. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: Richard, nearby in Panama, they have just had elections. Are you going to work with the new President, and how do you see his incoming presidency affecting both the United States relations, maybe Cuba, Haiti and elsewhere in the Caribbean?

MR. BOUCHER: Maybe we can't speculate all that far, but I do want to -- let me start by heartily congratulating the Panamanian people on another successful exercise in democracy. Press reports indicate at this point that Martin Torrijos and the Democratic Revolutionary Party have won the election. We understand that the Electoral Commission has called Mr. Torrijos last evening to inform him that he was the winner.

So we congratulate Mr. Torrijos and we look forward to continuing the close cooperation we've had with the government of President Moscoso.

Okay, let's -- we'll keep going around.

QUESTION: World Press Freedom Day?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have a statement for you shortly after the briefing.

QUESTION: Another question. Richard, you may call it a celebration, but this morning at the dedication ceremony in Arlington, Freedom Forum, they didn't think it's a celebration day because they had added another 53 names to the list of over 1,500. And also, at the same time, journalists are under attack around the globe today and there is no justice in killing so far for Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in Pakistan.

So how does the Secretary feel today as far as Freedom Press Day is concerned and journalists for doing their job around the globe?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, as far as freedom of the press goes, it is something to be celebrated and is something that journalists make an important contribution to every day. Many of them face great danger in doing that, and we respect that and we admire that. And certainly, we have every sympathy for those who lose their lives in carrying out what to all of us is a very, very important freedom.

QUESTION: Also, there is a report from Bangladesh that Bangladesh is the worst country in Asia today as far as journalists are concerned under attack by the Bangladesh Government. So how do you answer --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of that report. I wouldn't be able to comment. Certainly, our view of press freedom in a given country is expressed quite clearly in the Human Rights Reports that we put out.

QUESTION: Can I have a question on terrorism, please?


QUESTION: You have put a report, or actually Mr. Ereli the other day, the Secretary has added another ten names or ten groups on the list of terrorist groups. And Secretary Powell really was praised or highly praised around in India and also here among Indian Americans as far as these groups added. One is Babbar Khalsa and also International Sikh Youth Federation and Maoists in Nepal.

My question is here that many of these groups that change their names, and here in the list, in the statement, it said that these organizations are added for immigration purposes only. So what does it mean for immigration purposes? Because these people, when they enter the U.S., groups doesn't enter, only the individuals. So they change the names, organization names are changed. How do we keep up with these groups and people in the future that they do not enter?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, there are several ways. One, the regulations constantly try to keep track of new names that might be used by various organizations, and so names are added as aliases and similarly added to the databases we have.

Second, obviously, if somebody tells us during the application process or the entry process that they're a member of one of those groups, they can be excluded.

But third of all, we do collect information and have a database of people that are associated with these organizations, and this gives us the legal means to exclude them if they -- if those people should try to get in the United States.

Okay, sir.

QUESTION: Okay. Has the Secretary spoke to the Foreign Minister of Mexico today?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, no.

QUESTION: And the second question on human rights: Do you think the recent photos of the abuses to the Iraqi prisoners by the U.S. military personnel will affect or deteriorate the position of the United States to judge human rights situations in other countries?

MR. BOUCHER: The United States has never claimed that our practices were perfect. We've always made clear that we are constantly trying to improve our practice of human rights domestically, and that we hold ourselves and our soldiers to the same high standards that we hold others around the world.

In cases where people don't meet those standards -- and in Iraq it appears that we do have a small number of military people who did not live up to those standards -- we are quite open about it. We are quite clear about it. We take legal action. We take it forthrightly and swiftly.

And the world has heard from the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, military commanders, and others about how seriously we do take these allegations, how despicable we do think the conduct was that we ourselves have revealed and reported, and how it is -- how important it is to us to see that these crimes are prosecuted and that all the behavior is ended in that way.

But once again, I have to say, we hold ourselves to very high standards and we will continue to make sure that our military observes these standards, as they do, as thousands and thousands of American soldiers do every day, in a very professional manner.

Okay. Okay. Let's keep going back.



MR. BOUCHER: Follow-up to that, Charlie?

QUESTION: Can you address the question of the effect, not of the legal effect, not of the small group of soldiers, but the effect on diplomatic efforts in the region and what you've heard from other Arab -- from Arab countries about the effect that these pictures have had on diplomacy?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I can isolate a particular effect on diplomacy. There are certainly a lot of people who are very disturbed by the pictures and the reports that are coming out, and we know from our embassies in the Middle East that they hear this from journalists, people in civil society, as well as government people.

At the same time, I think people recognize the commitment the President has made to upholding standards of human rights, the commitment the United States makes to ensuring professional conduct by all our military and the fact that this does occur daily among the military and that these aberrations are clearly just aberrations and not the rule of conduct of our military forces.

And I think, at the same time, countries remain committed to the kind of things the United States is trying to achieve in the region, committed to trying to stabilize Iraq and give the Iraqi people a chance at democracy and development, a chance -- trying to resolve the issues in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians, and give both Israelis and Palestinians normal and safe lives, or the support the United States has for the process of reform and the rule of law and open economics in the region.

So fundamentally, our goals remain the same, our goals remain aligned. And this hasn't changed that in the least and I think the cooperation that we're looking for and the cooperation that we expect on those goals will still be there because they are shared goals with people in the region.

Yeah. Okay, ma'am.

QUESTION: Yes. A few days ago, the Mexican Government, through the appropriate diplomatic channels, asked the State Department to take a definition or make a -- define their position on the Hague rule of March 31st. And I was wondering if -- up to now you have been saying that you're still studying that ruling, that it's very complex, and I was wondering if you finished studying and if you have already responded to the Mexican Government, and if you are going to do anything to get the nine states, where there is 51 Mexicans sentenced to die, to be able to comply with the ruling.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm going to have to check on that. It is very complicated. It requires some very close legal study.

When I last talked to the legal experts about it on Friday, they had not completed their analysis yet, so at this point, I'm not sure. It'll be done, but I'll check again and see.

QUESTION: And another quick question. This morning Secretary Derbez was supposed to be in this build speaking at the Council of the Americas this afternoon. And because of the events with Cuba yesterday, he canceled the trip. And he was supposed to meet with Secretary Powell, and I was wondering if that meeting was rescheduled.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a new date for it. Certainly they always look forward to seeing each other, but he did cancel his trip. He's not coming to Washington, so more details on that have to come from him.

Yeah, okay.


QUESTION: Richard, over the weekend, the German Defense Minister was quoted as saying that even if NATO decides to support, in some way, the operation in Iraq, Germany will not contribute anything militarily -- troops or anything else. Did you see those comments and is that a disappointment to the Secretary?

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see those comments. I don't know exactly what he said, so I find it hard to respond.

Yeah, sir.

QUESTION: Richard, the Saudi Government, our troops have gone after these militant insurgents, and of course, have captured them and/or eliminated them following the bombing -- or the killing of the --

MR. BOUCHER: The shootings at Yanbu.

QUESTION: -- of these subcontractors. What rules apply to subcontractors? Are they part of the military, or do they follow any particular type of regulations? And when they are serving just like an NGO overseas, do they fall into any type of protective-type custodies or special --

MR. BOUCHER: That's a complicated question. You can go ask the military, but I don't think that's the question for this particular case. The people in question were employees of ABB Lummus Global in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. This was a petrochemical factory.

Certainly, we strongly condemn the attack. There were two American citizens killed, as well as one Aus -- one British citizen and one Australian citizen. So we extend our deepest sympathies to the family of the American citizens and also to the families of their murdered colleagues.

I would point out we are working very closely with Saudi Government officials regarding the incident, and we're working to identify any other ongoing threats there might be to other foreigners or Americans in the Kingdom.

Our Ambassador traveled to Yanbu this morning, met with the American citizens there and with local government officials. He visited the site of the attack. And our Consul General in Jeddah is working to support the Americans in Yanbu at this time, and to facilitate the departure of others who might wish to leave.

And at that point, I think that's about all I have.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea on the identity of the perpetrators?

QUESTION: And a follow-up.

MR. BOUCHER: No. We don't know the identity of the perpetrators. We have been working very closely with the Saudi Government to combat terrorism; appreciate their efforts to help protect American citizens and guests in their country, including Americans.

But obviously, the reality is they can't always anticipate or stop the kind of horrific attacks that have occurred, and it's -- they're now in the position of having to investigate and try to find out who it was.

QUESTION: Do you suspect that they are Qaida operatives?

MR. BOUCHER: I just can't say at this point. We don't, we don't know. I can't speculate.


QUESTION: Richard, do you have any plans to change your travel advice to Americans who might go there? I don't know if it can get any more restrictive than it is now.

MR. BOUCHER: I was going to say, it's already pretty strong. We've warned U.S. citizens to defer travel to Saudi Arabia and said that private American citizens currently in Saudi Arabia are strongly urged to depart. Our Embassy has kept in very close touch with American citizens who are in Saudi Arabia. I think they issued two Warden messages over the weekend when this -- as this occurred, and certainly, our advice stands.

Yeah. Teri.

QUESTION: As a follow-up on the Saudi Arabia situation?


QUESTION: Have all the non-central -- I know that's not the right word -- non?

MR. BOUCHER: Non-emergency personnel.

QUESTION: -- non-emergency personnel and the dependents left, at this point, since you issued that order more than two weeks ago?

MR. BOUCHER: Families and non-emergency staff have now departed, as we announced they would in mid-April.


QUESTION: Have you heard reports that some of the disturbing images of, for example, possibly the dragging of one of the Americans' bodies behind a car was shown on Saudi television?

MR. BOUCHER: We've heard an account of mutilation or dragging of a victim, but we don't know and we're working with the Saudi authorities to try to find out the truth of what happened.

QUESTION: But do you know whether those images were shown on Saudi --

MR. BOUCHER: I have not heard that those images might have been on Saudi television, but we've heard stories that that might have happened and we're trying to figure out, along with the Saudis, if it did.

Okay. Sir.

QUESTION: Richard, in Iran, they have re-sentenced a professor who has been criticizing the cleric rule. His name is Hashem Aghajari and -- anything to say? And do you think that Iran is stirring up trouble, both in Iraq and Najaf, or in Saudi Arabia?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the second part of your question, we've dealt with before. As far as the first, sentencing of a professor, I don't have anything specifically on that, but I'd point out we have consistently stood up for freedom of expression in Iran and elsewhere.

Yes. Some people have been patient in the back.

QUESTION: The situation in Georgia appears to be heating up some more. Ultimatum, the leader of Ajara says he's not -- he will not comply with this, and they're talking about civil war. Is the U.S. involved in diplomacy or anything?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we are. This is something we've been following very carefully and, in fact, our officials both here and in Tbilisi have been following this, working this, throughout the weekend. We're deeply concerned about Ajaran leader Abashidze's decision to destroy two bridges that link Ajara and other parts of Georgia. These steps disrupt key international transportation links and investments linking Georgia with Azerbaijan and Europe. They're providing lifelines for the people of Ajara to the rest of Georgia. Abashidze's actions lead us to question his commitment to serving the people of Ajara.

Throughout the weekend, U.S. officials in Washington and Tbilisi had been in contact with Georgian and Ajaran officials. Ambassador Miles met with President Saakashvili today and discussed recent developments. We welcome President Saakashvili's announcement that Georgia would not use force, and we continue to encourage the Government of Georgia to use political and economic tools in its efforts to restore the rule of law in Ajara.

We also call upon Ajaran leader Abashidze to disarm the paramilitary forces in Ajara, as he's previously agreed to do. Recent steps taken by Mr. Abashidze and his government raise concerns that he may be trying to provoke a military crisis with Georgia's newly democratically elected leadership, rather than try to resolve the situation peacefully.

The fundamental issue for us is that Ajara is part of Georgia. We strongly support the Georgian Government's effort to restore its authority and the rule of law in Ajara. We also believe that the people of Ajara deserve the same level of democracy and government accountability as all of the people of Georgia.

Over the past few months, we've noted our concerns about Mr. Abashidze's willingness to allow human rights activists and journalists in Ajara to be harassed and abused; such incidents have included brutal beatings and arrests on false pretenses. The reports by international observers of extensive fraud in Ajara during the November 2nd parliamentary elections also calls into question Mr. Abashidze's commitment to the democratic process that subsequently emerged in the rest of Georgia.


QUESTION: Have you talked to the Russians about this? They have a base in Ajara. And this Ajaran regime is described as pro-Russian in many accounts.

MR. BOUCHER: We have talked very frequently with the Russians about the situation there, always trying to work with them and encouraging them to take steps to calm the situation and to keep -- keep Mr. Abashidze from provoking military confrontation.

So it's been a regular part of our dialogue, certainly has been for the Secretary in his meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in recent -- last few weeks. And it's a matter that our Embassy discusses regularly with the Russian Government.

Okay, in the back, sir.

QUESTION: Well, there was a report by Japanese media that last -- in the last six-party talk on February, Mr. James Kelly offered to the North Koreans to start a new negotiation for peace treaty, if the North Koreans -- North Koreans continue, start progress in eliminating the nuclear program.

MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen the report. I'm not aware of any -- let me check on it. Obviously, discussions on a peace treaty have always been part of our agenda for the Peninsula, and we've always made clear that we were interested in pursuing an agenda for the Peninsula, if we could resolve these issues. But how that might fit in in the future, I don't want to speculate at this point.

QUESTION: That's a peace treaty with North and South Korea, not a peace treaty with the United States and North Korea? But you're not --

MR. BOUCHER: It's been -- no, I'm not breaking new ground here. It's been pursued in a broader context I think.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) You're talking about a peace treaty between the two Koreas, not a peace treaty between the United States and anybody else?


QUESTION: Correct? Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. But it's --

QUESTION: But it's in the context of the six-party talks, isn't it?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we're going back into history here and I don't want my faulty memory to mess anything up, frankly. Let me get you the exact -- it's been the subject of four-party discussions in the past, but the goal was a peace treaty between the Koreas, if I remember it. A permanent armistice was what was discussed.

QUESTION: Replace the armistice?


QUESTION: Richard --

MR. BOUCHER: But anyway, that -- we used to be part of the agenda, and we've said we'd be prepared to get back to the agenda. But I don't have to break any new ground now, so let me get the exact wording for you.

QUESTION: A couple questions on Taiwan. Some names have surfaced as the candidates for the Taiwanese representative at TECRO here. Is the State Department reviewing candidate lists and also the May 20th speech of Taiwanese President?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into any other -- anybody's nominations for personnel of their representative office, so I can't get into that.

As far as the May 20th speech, I'll look and see if there's anything we have to say about it.

QUESTION: Also, are you aware maybe the --

MR. BOUCHER: I think we actually have addressed the speech before, right? I'd look back and see that first.

QUESTION: So you'll check on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll check on that, but I think we've already addressed it.

QUESTION: And are you aware the Vice President Annette Lu from Taiwan is going to stop by America and then go to Central America?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. I'll check.


QUESTION: Do you have anything on Hong Kong's Labor Day protest? Labor Day is May 1st.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything today. I'll see if there's anything we want to say. Thanks.

In the back.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, any comment on the Green Line regulation Cyprus adopted April 29th by EU saying inter alia that does not constitute external border of the European Union?

MR. BOUCHER: I leave that to the European Union.

Okay, we have one here.

QUESTION: Richard, can I just go back for a second to the terror list, please? Just a quick question as a clarification, that if any of the -- as far as groups from India and Nepal are concerned, if the Government of India or the Government of Nepal or the embassies in Kathmandu needed or requested or helped to put this list out?

MR. BOUCHER: The answer is I don't really know. A lot of these things we do based on the information that comes to us, that comes to us from a variety of sources. Certainly, we have cooperation with all those governments against terrorism.

QUESTION: And finally, when you put these lists out or against these groups, or these groups or individuals on the list, do you ever hear from these groups in writing or ever --

MR. BOUCHER: If they want to show up at our doorstep, we'll be glad to give them the appropriate handling.

QUESTION: Or complaint?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'm not aware that any of them write us letters. But I suppose it might have happened in the past. I think we've had complaints that people were put on the list.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:42 p.m.)

(end transcript)

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

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