07 May 2004
State Department Daily Briefing, May 6
G-8 ministerial meeting, Iraq, Bulgaria, Georgia, Jordan, Cuba, Cyprus, Greece
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed reporters May 6.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, May 6, 2004
12:35 p.m. EDT
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
-- Statement on May 14 G-8 Ministerial Meeting in Washington
-- Media Arrangements for G-8 Ministerial Meeting
-- ICRC Visits to Abu Ghraib Prison
-- Secretary's Discussions with ICRC President Kellenberger
-- Secretary's Discussions with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Passy
-- Secretary's Discussions with King Abdullah of Jordan
-- Reports of an American Citizen Held Hostage in Iraq
-- Fake Photos Appearing in Egyptian Media
-- Medics Sentenced to Death in Libya
-- Abashidze Resignation / Political Asylum
-- Rail Link Restored
-- U.S. Efforts to Urge a Peaceful Resolution
-- Secretary's Discussion with President Saakashvili
-- Secretary's Meeting with King Abdullah
-- Report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba
-- Secretary's Leadership of Commission
-- No Change in Recognition
-- Deputy Secretary's Meeting with Minister of Public Order Voulgarakis
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, MAY 6, 2004
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:35 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. There is a lot going on today, but I thought I'd come over and answer whatever questions you have.
A small announcement on -- well, it's not really on travel because it's about an event in Washington on May 14th. Secretary of State Powell will host his G-8 counterparts at a foreign affairs ministerial in Washington on May 14th. The Secretary plans to discuss the Greater Middle East Initiative for key regional concerns and other matters in preparation for the June 8-10 Sea Island summit.
So I'd be glad to take your questions about this or others.
QUESTION: On that, just does that mean he will not attend the Dead Sea summit?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing for you about the World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan today.
QUESTION: Can you give us the back and forth for the Red Cross on the atrocity allegations between the Secretary? And he said this morning that he had talked to the head of the Red Cross. But what led up to this, the Red Cross had alerted the State Department, or someone else? Can you fill us in?
MR. BOUCHER: No, this is -- the U.S. Government has been working with the Red Cross on the people detained in Iraq. We have had in different agencies, regular contacts, but more important than that, the Red Cross, the ICRC has had regular visits to places of detention in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib.
I think they themselves say that their visits have taken place about every five or six weeks since late last year. They say they've been granted unimpeded access to all detainees in all sections of the Abu Ghraib prison. They have, as is their job, during visits when they see things that they think need to be modified, improved or corrected, they raise them. And so they have raised these.
We've heard some of them here. We've made sure that the appropriate authorities in the U.S. Government heard about their recommendations; and indeed, I think you'll find that the Pentagon has had numerous meetings with the Red Cross about the detention system, about the detentions of people in Iraq.
QUESTION: And specifically, Secretary Powell --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me --
QUESTION: What --
MR. BOUCHER: As far as the State Department, specifically, Secretary Powell, let me finish my answer.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary spoke this morning with -- was it president Kellenberger? -- Mr. Kellenberger, the president of the Red Cross, president -- the head of the Red Cross, the head of the ICRC.
As you know, they've had an ongoing dialogue. I remember they met during the Secretary's visit to Switzerland for the Davos meeting a year or more ago. So they've -- they have had a series of discussions over time. They spoke again this morning and talked about the cooperation of the United States with the Red Cross and our desire to get to the bottom of these allegations, to ensure that they are fixed and that people are punished.
QUESTION: (inaudible)...they talked to Secretary Powell.
QUESTION: No, wait a minute. Can I follow up on the question? May I follow up?
Yeah, but I'm wondering -- if I could try to have you be more specific on this as to a time, as to when the Red Cross first made the Secretary of State, or the State Department, or both, aware of their, their concerns that there may be mistreatment of detainees.
MR. BOUCHER: The issue of what the Red Cross said when, I -- really is one for them, ultimately, to decide.
The point I would make is that they have issued statements. They have made clear that they do raise issues and questions when these come up during their visits.
We have made sure that these were circulated in the U.S. Government. And, indeed, we know that other government departments received some of these recommendations directly from the Red Cross, as well as the ones that were given to us that we passed on; that to this specific prison, again, leave it to them in their statement. But what I have before me, they say that Abu Ghraib visits have taken place about every five or six weeks since late last year. So that's what I know about their visits.
QUESTION: (inaudible)...they say that they wrote a letter to Secretary Powell, specifically, raising the issue of asking for a review of human rights in, I believe, all of the detention areas over the last year. Did Secretary Powell give them a response on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check about a specific letter, but over time, as they visit detention facilities, their job is to point out things that could be improved, changed, modified or corrected. And that is certainly one of the reasons that they visit, in addition to looking at the welfare of prisoners.
We have welcomed those recommendations that they have made, and I think they've made them in a number of different ways. Certainly, they've raised them in meetings here, as well as in meetings with other government departments, had regular meetings with the Pentagon. And so we've all listened to these various recommendations, and some of these recommendations have indeed been implemented.
QUESTION: Well, it appears they were seeking additional information from the Secretary.
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we coordinate with other government departments. I think all of us talk to the Red Cross, and we try to ensure that we listen to them. And as I said, we've heard various recommendations from them over time as they've gone through these visits, and as I said, some of those -- some of those recommendations have indeed been acted upon.
QUESTION: Richard, at what point --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's --
QUESTION: Which recommendations were acted upon?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a breakdown of that. That would be for the particular departments that receive specific recommendations and take particular actions.
QUESTION: You mean the Pentagon? You can't talk about that? Even though you've just asserted that some recommendations were acted on, you can't tell us which ones?
MR. BOUCHER: I understand from the Pentagon that some of the recommendations have been acted upon. But they're the ones who have control of these facilities, and therefore responsible for taking whatever actions are appropriate when they think those recommendations are appropriate.
QUESTION: Richard, President Bush said that he was only made aware of those photos when they were shown in the media and the accusations of specific -- these specific acts of humiliation that were evident in the photos. At what point did Secretary Powell become aware of the existence of the photos and these specific acts of humiliation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know I can be any more precise on this than I was yesterday. We certainly have known that there was the allegations of abuses at this prison since January. When it was reported internally, an investigation was started within a day of these initial internal reports; and second -- and then I think two days after that, it was announced to the media that we had received allegations, we were investigating them.
So certainly, since that time we've all known that there have been allegations of abuse at this particular location.
QUESTION: Richard, there were some reports alleging that interrogators from neighboring countries also participated in the interrogation, citing maybe Kuwait or Jordan. Could you shed any light on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. I hadn't seen those.
QUESTION: Did the Pentagon issue any reports on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'd have to check with Pentagon.
QUESTION: I'm trying to -- one more clarification. Why did the Secretary feel compelled to call the head of the Red Cross now?
MR. BOUCHER: The head of the Red Cross called him now.
QUESTION: Oh, he called him.
MR. BOUCHER: But they've had an ongoing dialogue. They've had meetings in the past. We've always listened to the Red Cross. We've always had meetings with them at various levels throughout this Department, and they have the ability to raise concerns, and we listen to those concerns and make sure that the appropriate people in the U.S. Government are aware of them as well. And I said, this has been something the whole U.S. Government has worked on.
The situation with detainees has been something that all of us have looked at and all of us have worked on. It led to the decisions that Ambassador Bremer announced in Baghdad in late April, to try to increase the numbers of people who were released, to set up a system so that all cases can be reviewed in 72 hours so that people who didn't have to be detained weren't necessarily detained, and to take other steps to try to ease the burden of this on the Iraqi -- of detentions on the Iraqi population.
Now that is not in any way to -- those kind of steps to process and handle regular detentions more efficiently, don't correct the kinds of abuses that we've seen. We recognize there is a heavy responsibility that we all have to ensure that these abuses are investigated, punished, and never allowed to happen again.
QUESTION: Yeah, Richard, I just wanted to -- and Mr. Kellenberger, in the conversation, did he tell Secretary Powell that they were going to be putting out this -- was it a kind of a -- there was one reason for the call, your understanding kind of a heads up that they were going to be speaking on this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they, the Secretary and he, have talked in the past about how ICRC handles information about -- that they do maintain a certain level of confidentiality because they think worldwide that's important to their work.
So, but yeah, I mean, he did make clear that they would be putting out some of these basic facts, similar to what I've read from their press release, frankly.
QUESTION: Is it true, as The Washington Post reports today, that Secretary Powell repeatedly raised in White House meetings the importance of releasing as many detainees as possible and ensuring that those that remained were properly cared for?
MR. BOUCHER: The situation of detainees has been a matter of discussion at senior levels of the government, has been a matter of concern throughout the government, and people at various levels in all the departments have been discussing it, working on it. As I said to Barry, that led to the kind of announcements that Ambassador Bremer made, and it has led to the determination at this point to get to the bottom of these questions of abuses and make sure that they are corrected.
QUESTION: But did the Secretary, as I asked, raise that issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to go into what an individual said at an individual meeting, or a series of meetings.
QUESTION: I'm not asking about an individual meeting.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to go into the internal dynamics of an administration. The Administration, as a whole, all the senior members of this Administration, have been concerned with and working about -- on the detainee problem, the issue of people in detention, and they have worked on this together.
QUESTION: Richard, as a follow-up to that and one of the previous questions, since the President of the United States has said when he first learned the dimensions of it and saw the pictures, if you don't know, could you find out and tell us when the Secretary learned the full dimensions of it? We know he's been raising it. But can you tell us when he learned the full dimensions of it?
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, I'm not quite sure what the question -- how to respond to that question. What is the full dimension at this point? You mean --
QUESTION: Well, did he know photos existed? Had he seen the photos?
MR. BOUCHER: The allegations he knew about in January; the investigation he knew about; the report that was completed in March, I don't know when he actually received a copy of that, but he's not in that particular chain of command at this point. So he's known about these problems and these allegations as they have developed.
You know, did he see the "60 Minutes" pictures before they were broadcast? I don't know. But he's known the full dimension. He's known there was a problem with detainees, as have others in the Administration.
He has heard from the Red Cross. People in the State Department have heard from the Red Cross about things that they felt needed to be corrected, but so did the Defense Department, so did other departments.
The Administration, as a whole, has been aware of problems, has been working on a policy with regard to detainees together, and these specific allegations were known when they came to light and were revealed and investigated starting in January.
QUESTION: Well, the President didn't seem to know the full dimensions of it.
MR. BOUCHER: The President said he hadn't seen the pictures --
MR. BOUCHER: -- until they appeared on TV. You're trying to say looking at the pictures is the full dimension. I don't equate the two.
QUESTION: No, there may be more.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the question -- what the phrase, "full dimension" is supposed to mean. Is it supposed to mean a particular set of pictures? There may be more. Do we -- do you know the full dimension now? Does anybody? I don't know. There are still investigations underway.
What the Secretary has worked on with his colleagues in the cabinet is: first of all, the general issue of detainees, which led to the policy that Ambassador Bremer pointed out; and, second of all, the issues that have arisen, either over time, at different times with the Red Cross, or in terms of the investigation that was started in January by the military that -- again, that the Administration has been working on those.
QUESTION: Richard, even though it's not his responsibility, do you know if he read the Taguba Report?
MR. BOUCHER: He hasn't. And I know he has been reading it. I don't know if he has read the whole thing yet.
QUESTION: Amnesty International came out with a report at the end of June or early July, also with allegations of specific abuse in that sense.
MR. BOUCHER: Of last year?
MR. BOUCHER: 2003?
QUESTION: 2003, sorry. With specific issues and charges of abuse of Iraqi detainees. Do you know if there was any action taken after that report? They said that they -- Amnesty International said that they contacted both the CPA and Pentagon and the State Department about some of these allegations.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know specifically. I think, again, the people that are most directly concerned with the detentions and the system would be the ones to find out what actions were taken after a particular report or a particular set of recommendations.
Yeah. Okay. Where do we go?
Back -- the gentleman in the back.
QUESTION: Senator McCain this morning said that he thought there was some decisive on this issue and listed various things among which was razing of Abu Ghraib prison as a symbol of Saddam's torture, and now this latest stuff. Does the Department have a position on the merits of that idea?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen the Department take a position on the merits of that idea. I will remind you, though, that the Administration is looking at this situation, dealing with it at very senior levels.
The President, I think, has demonstrated his concern about the issue and his very strong desire to make sure that abuses are corrected and fixed and never happen again.
QUESTION: And when we go to a change of topic, I'd like to go back to your opening announcement please.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Richard, I don't know whether it's because of what's occurred in Iraq, but in Pakistan they are releasing -- or not releasing, they're transferring 3,500 prisoners to the north, Taliban and al-Qaida-type detainees, and putting them under Dostum's control.
MR. BOUCHER: Are these supposed --
QUESTION: Is that anything because -- is that due to the International Red Cross and our recommendations?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I'm not aware of that. I don't know.
QUESTION: The President's trying to get a message to the Arab world, interviews. He will speak Al-Ahram later today. Has the Secretary heard from or done anything of late to communicate, you know, the message that the U.S. is trying to get to the bottom of this, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? Has he been in touch with people or is he planning interviews?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, in terms of public statements, he's made several public statements. He has talked to a number of foreign leaders, coalition partners like the Bulgarian Foreign Minister who was here yesterday, or the subject, of course, came up in his discussion this morning with King Abdullah.
So I think it is a matter of concern to him, a matter of concern to others, and we have been discussing it. The Secretary always makes clear the President's determination to get to the bottom of this matter, to make sure that abuses are punished and aberrations are corrected.
As far as further interviews, I'm sure that it will come up and just about everything the Secretary does. He does regular interviews with the foreign press, as do many of us.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm trying to get an answer to Arshad's last question through another tack. I don't know how successful I'll be. But is it fair to say, given the dialogue, the back and forth that's been going on between the Secretary and Mr. Kellenberger of the ICRC, is it fair to say that the Secretary brought the concerns raised by the ICRC and others to his colleagues in the Administration?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would characterize either the Secretary's role or the State Department role quite that way because the ICRC was meeting, other departments were opened and listening and meeting with the ICRC as well. So the ICRC had a dialogue with the Pentagon, meetings with the CPA and others. So I think our -- what we heard from the ICRC we made sure that it was also being -- also known at the other departments, particularly the ones more directly concerned.
QUESTION: Without saying that the Secretary was the only person in the Administration seeking -- trying to get these things addressed, he was one of?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. The Administration has met in different departments at different levels with the Red Cross and has been not only open to their visits but open to their recommendations.
QUESTION: Richard, I asked you yesterday who would control those prisons and prisoners that are currently prisons that are run by and prisoners that are in the custody of U.S. forces now after June 30th, and you said you'd look into it. Do you know the answer to that question?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any further information than what we had yesterday. We're still working on it.
QUESTION: Do you have --
MR. BOUCHER: Are we on the same topic?
QUESTION: On the same topic.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have any knowledge on the extent with which private contractors are involved in the interrogation? And why is it -- why are private contractors used in the interrogations? Who decides that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I don't know. You'd have to contact other agencies that might have contracts.
QUESTION: The Pentagon would know about that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'd have to contact the other agencies that might have contracts.
Okay, we're going to change topic or not yet?
QUESTION: One more.
MR. BOUCHER: No?
QUESTION: Do you have any information on whether this man whose family is claiming he's an American hostage held in Iraq is, indeed, an American?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen the reports of an American citizen being held hostage in Iraq. TV has video. A family member of the U.S. citizen contacted the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, after seeing the Al-Arabiya broadcast showing the U.S. citizen being held hostage. So we certainly know -- believe him to be a U.S. citizen.
The U.S. Embassy in Amman and U.S. Consular Officer in Baghdad are working to ascertain the welfare and whereabouts of this U.S. citizens. Beyond that, we don't have a Privacy Act waiver so I can't go into any more detail.
QUESTION: But you are confirming that he is a U.S. citizen?
MR. BOUCHER: We are confirming that he's -- as best we know, he is a U.S. citizen and that we have been in touch with a family member.
QUESTION: Back to the abuse charges, first.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on Teri's question quickly? Do you have anything on whether he did, in fact, work for the Pentagon?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any Privacy Act waiver. I wouldn't be able to tell you his employer.
QUESTION: On that. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: After you -- you mentioned this very briefly yesterday, but following that your Embassy in Cairo has put out a rather damning statement regarding photographs published in at least three Egyptian newspapers that purportedly showed abuse, sexual abuse, of prisoners.
The Embassy statement says that it has, after exhaustive research -- and I presume that they found a -- that these pictures were taken from a pornographic website. And I'm just wondering if you've uncovered any other instances of this in the Arab press and whether your demands, which I presume are coming from Washington, as well as the Embassy in Cairo, for retractions and corrections to be issued by these newspapers, if you have any reason to believe that you will get what you are looking for.
MR. BOUCHER: This is the only instance that has been brought to my attention at this point. I'm sure other embassies are following what's being reported. And certainly, the Embassy Cairo's efforts in this matter are fully supported by Washington. But that's --
QUESTION: Oh, I'm not suggesting that they are not.
MR. BOUCHER: No, but the demands for retractions and other things being handled out in the field, we fully support them. I don't have any particular estimate on what the publishers may do.
QUESTION: So they haven't gotten back to you, as far as you know?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information on what the publishers may do.
QUESTION: Okay. And does this kind of thing just add to your very public concerns about what's been broadcast on -- over the airwaves in some of the Arabic -- Arab media? Does this just -- what does this do to your confidence and the professionalism of at least some members of the Arab press?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to make sweeping judgments. There are individual outlets, individual papers that might be faking things, but we all know that there's a lot of real bad news out there.
QUESTION: Well, you have seen the statement from the Embassy, I presume --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- which accuses these three newspapers of professional -- you know, being completely unprofessional?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, yes. And that's why I'm saying there may be individual outlets and media or papers that have done things that are unprofessional, but I'm not going to stand up here and make sweeping judgments about reporting in this part of the world.
Okay. Same thing, or?
QUESTION: No, if you'll allow me to change the topic, Mr. Boucher.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Then he has first dibs on changing the topic.
QUESTION: Yeah, just a quick one, Richard, on your opening announcement, the May 14th ministerial.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Will all the counterparts involved be here or just some? And will there be any media availability in connection with that? And where?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll work some of the details out later. As far as I know, we've done some -- a fair amount of checking with the ministers involved, and we would expect the eight ministers to be here. I can't say absolutely certain every single one is going to make it, but we've done a large amount of checking and at least at this point it looks like everybody can make it.
As far as media, we haven't planned it out yet. I'm sure there will be plenty of time for you all to discuss things with them, as you wish. We'll make sure there are appropriate media arrangements. Just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Bulgarian National Television. Mr. Boucher, five Bulgarian doctors were sentenced to death in Libya on false accusations of causing AIDS to Libyan children. How do you think the United States could help those people? And what do you intend to do?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has frequently discussed this case with the Bulgarian Government, including the Foreign Minister, who was just here in Washington. We have been following this very closely for five years. I think you know we've been very critical of Libyan violations of the legal and human rights of the Bulgarian medics. We find the verdict that was pronounced in the court to be unacceptable, and we've raised this case frequently with senior Libyan officials.
An official from the U.S. Interests Section in Tripoli attended the trial proceedings in Benghazi. We recognize the great human tragedy that occurred in Benghazi and our deepest sympathy is extended to the families of 400 children who were infected with the HIV/AIDS virus; the death of over 40 children is also a devastating toll.
But in this particular case, we note the defendants have the right to appeal their verdict, and we urge the Government of Libya to take steps to resolve this case quickly.
As the Secretary said yesterday on this, the United States will continue to follow this matter closely and do everything we can to bring pressure on the Libyan Government to resolve this matter so these people are released and can return home.
QUESTION: Same subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Same topic?
QUESTION: Bulgarian National Radio. Did you contact yet somebody of Libyan Government?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, U.S. officials in Tripoli, who attended the trial, have also been contact with the Libyan Government about this.
QUESTION: Has there been follow-up since the verdict, Richard?
MR. BOUCHER: Now that I look at it, let me make sure absolutely sure it's since the verdict; certainly, we've talked to them all along the way.
QUESTION: Does the Libyans' handling of this case, and what you just said it in your statement, as there are repeated violations of the, I think you said, human rights of the Bulgarian medics, hinder Libya's efforts to get off the -- to get out from under the various U.S. sanctions on them?
MR. BOUCHER: The various U.S. sanctions are often imposed for different reasons. Whether this case has relevance to one or the other, I don't know -- one or the other set of sanctions, I don't know. But it is certainly a matter of importance to us that we have raised and discussed with the Libyan Government and will continue to follow it very closely.
QUESTION: A new subject, Georgia?
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, in a minute.
QUESTION: I just want to make sure that I - I think I know the answer to this, but I was just wondering, did you agree, are you agreeing with the premise of the very first question, that all the accusations against these people are false? Is that why this verdict is unacceptable, or it's --
MR. BOUCHER: I have said we think the verdict is unacceptable. I'll just leave it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: What do you think of the actual charges?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll just say what we think of the verdict at this point.
QUESTION: Why is the verdict unacceptable? Is it unacceptable because the trial went on for five years? Is it unacceptable because there are problems with the sentences?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that the circumstances of the trial, the whole circumstances of the trial and the verdict and the sentences that were reached, we find to be unacceptable.
QUESTION: Well, okay, the Secretary said yesterday that these people should be released and allowed to return home. Mr. Bradtke said the same thing back in February.
MR. BOUCHER: And I said the same thing today.
QUESTION: That would -- and that would imply, at least, that you think that the allegations are without -- well, the charges were without merit. But I just -- I want to make sure that I understand why you think this.
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if we have taken a position on the charges themselves. We think that, certainly, there was a humanitarian tragedy that occurred but that the prosecution of these individuals for that has led to a verdict that we consider unacceptable.
QUESTION: And do you know if your officials or if Assistant Secretary Burns, when he was in Tripoli, or anyone, in their conversations with Qadhafi or higher-ups, have called on him to renounce his suggestion of several years ago that these infections were in fact -- that these infections may have been part of a CIA-Mossad plot to spread AIDS in the Muslim world.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if that kind of accusation has ever come up. Certainly, we've made clear over the years that that's about as untrue as anything one can imagine.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, a follow-up. As U.S. Government, did you investigate this case thoroughly, what happened exactly in Libya, besides what has happened in the court, as an incident? Did you find out? What is your Ambassador saying in Libya vis-à-vis to this tragedy?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, we don't have an Ambassador in Libya; second of all, we haven't had people in Libya for very long; and third of all, we're not an investigating authority in Libya. So the premise is just impossible.
QUESTION: But (inaudible) mention who is in contact with Libya. You might not have an official Ambassador in the capital. But I'm wondering, somebody is representing your interests in Libya, should they then investigate thoroughly this case, what happened besides that?
MR. BOUCHER: We are not an investigating authority in Libya. That's all I can tell you at this point.
Okay. Sir. Georgia?
QUESTION: Do you have anything about Georgia? Aslan Abashidze, Ajarian leader, has been resigned last night.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we put out a statement yesterday welcoming the peaceful developments in Ajara that lead to the peaceful extension of government control. We understand that President Saakashvili spent the day in Ajara meeting with local residents and discussing Ajara's future.
The rail connection has been restored and Georgian authorities are working quickly to restore economic ties to Armenia and Azerbaijan and deliveries to the people of Ajara; bridge repair is also underway.
As you know, Russia offered Mr. Abashidze political asylum and guarantees that he not be returned to Georgia. Russian Security Council Chairman Ivanov flew in to discuss the arrangements with Abashidze, who was persuaded to step down.
Our Ambassador, indeed, the U.S. Government, was in touch with various parties out there. Mr. -- our Ambassador Miles was in touch with Mr. Abashidze, urged him repeatedly to seek a peaceful resolution to the situation. We also greatly appreciate the constructive role that Russia played in this matter, specifically President Putin and Chairman Ivanov, who personally played constructive roles in persuading Mr. Abashidze to step down.
We have been in touch with the government in Georgia. The Secretary spoke with President Saakashvili yesterday afternoon, right? Is that right? Somebody else remember?
So the Secretary and he discussed the situation in Georgia, the -- what at that point was the impending departure of Mr. Abashidze. As you know, the Secretary has worked very closely with the Georgian Government to try to resolve the situation in Ajaria in a peaceful manner. We're glad to see that that's what happened and very much welcome these developments and, we feel, the constructive role that everybody played.
QUESTION: Go ahead. You've been asking longer.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: I wanted to go to the meeting between Secretary Powell and King Abdullah of Jordan. Can you tell us anything about the substance of the meeting? What did they discuss?
MR. BOUCHER: Not too much. The basic meeting this morning with the King of Jordan was a good meeting. It was a good discussion going over some of the issues that, I'm sure, are being discussed right now with the King of Jordan at the White House. They talked about Iraq, talked about Middle East peace, talked about bilateral relations. And for the moment, I think I'll leave it there and then you'll hear directly from the leaders themselves soon.
QUESTION: Any idea of --
MR. BOUCHER: Six minutes? A little longer than that? Anyway, they'll be meeting at the White House. You'll hear from them right after that meeting.
QUESTION: Can you talk about anything whether the topic of the Memo of Understanding came up or not in the discussion?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to go into any details. That was a discussion leading to the President's discussion, and the President and the King will read out their meeting afterwards.
QUESTION: When are you going to end the briefing? We have to hurry. I have to ask about the GQ article again, and I am wondering --
MR. BOUCHER: What's to say? It hasn't changed since yesterday.
QUESTION: Well, has the Secretary read it?
MR. BOUCHER: The article hasn't changed.
QUESTION: Has it -- has it gone into the Pres -- I mean, into the Secretary's head yet? Has he read it?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: A copy?
QUESTION: He has not read it?
MR. BOUCHER: No, he's got other -- he's got work to do.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that the comments in the article about Cuba are going to detract, or at least distract, from the Cuba rollout today?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know why anybody would be distracted from the rollout today. It's an important event. It's an authoritative and definitive event of U.S. Cuba policy and nothing else anybody says could detract from that.
QUESTION: And you don't think it casts any doubt on Powell's commitment to that policy?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary led the commission, worked with the commission, prepared the report, did -- for the President. And I don't -- I think that's any evidence anybody needs, including the event today, to see that the Secretary and the President are working together on this new policy.
QUESTION: Did you get an answer to my Caribbean question?
MR. BOUCHER: No. The situation in Barbados?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: A Cyprus question. Yesterday, in the briefing, for the first time since 1960, you used the term "Greek Cypriot Government." That means any change vis-à-vis to the Government of the Republic of Cyprus?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Why would you state it?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a description. There's no change in our recognition policy.
QUESTION: And also, Secretary Powell, in New York City, called Mehmet Ali Talat as "Prime Minister." Of what? For something Mr. Papadopoulos complained.
MR. BOUCHER: Look, there's no change in U.S. recognition policy one way or the other. I think we'll leave it at that. We're not talking about changing our recognition policy. We are talking about steps to reduce the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community, and let's leave the debate in that sphere. That's all we're talking about. That's what we're talking about.
QUESTION: So it was stated by mistake, then? Correct?
MR. BOUCHER: No. It was a descriptive term. It wasn't a change in legal authority.
QUESTION: Your statement and Mr. Powell's statement, it was by mistake or for --
MR. BOUCHER: There is no change in our recognition policy.
QUESTION: And also, do you have anything about the meeting today between Mr. Armitage and the Greek Minister of Public Order, Mr. Voulgarakis?
MR. BOUCHER: The Greek Minister of Public Order has been having a series of meetings in Washington. He met today with Mr. Armitage. They obviously discussed the Greek Cypriot -- the Greek -- excuse me, the Greek Olympic security effort and our contributions to that.
QUESTION: Wait. Have they met already?
MR. BOUCHER: Will meet today. I'm sorry. They're meeting shortly. I didn't have my watch properly set. Anyway, their meeting is shortly. They'll talk about the Greek Olympic security effort, our cooperation and contributions with the Greek Government in that regard.
QUESTION: Anything, update on the bombings in Athens yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no.
QUESTION: What are the U.S. contributions to it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a full list. We've been working very closely with the Greek authorities as they prepare for the Olympics.
QUESTION: So there is nothing new, in other words?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|