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18 May 2004

State Department Noon Briefing, May 18

Sudan/Chad/Kenya, Libya, Israel/Palestinians, Iraq, Russia/Iraq

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed reporters May 18.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing.

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
1:00 p.m. EDT

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

SUDAN/CHAD/KENYA
-- Sending Supplies into Darfur/Distribution Assistance from CARE
-- Humanitarian Aid Agencies Need for Free and Unfettered Access to Darfur
-- Call for Government of Sudan to Suspend Permit Requirement
-- Problems with Refugees Coming to Chad
-- Removal of Sudan from List of Countries Not Cooperating in War on Terrorism
-- Naivasha Talks/Ceasefire Monitors
-- Sudan Remaining on State Sponsor List/Presence of HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad

LIBYA
-- Libya Taking Significant Steps to Repudiate its Past Support for Terrorism
-- Reviewing Libya's Track Record on Terrorism/Residual Ties with Terrorist Organizations

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
-- Concerns about Housing Demolitions/Violence in Gaza
-- Need for Palestinians to Take Steps to Stop Arms Supply
-- Weapons Smuggling through Tunnels/Status of Gaza Withdrawal Plan
-- Proposal for UN Resolution Calling on Israel to Stop Demolition of Homes

IRAQ
-- Suspending Monthly Payments to Mr. Chalabi/Iraqi National Congress Funding
-- Foreign Ministry in Iraq Sending Delegation to the UN
-- Pictures of Prisoner Abuse

RUSSIA/IRAQ
-- Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov's Comments on Transfer of Sovereignty


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

TUESDAY, MAY 18, 2004
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

1:10 p.m. EDT

MR. BOUCHER: Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, I'm glad to be here. I'm happy to answer the questions.

QUESTION: What can you -- hopefully you can advance the Sudan situation, but those poor aid workers couldn't get through. It's, well, we all know the situation.

MR. BOUCHER: Let me give you -- let me tell you where you are -- where we are with Sudan. And first, as you all know, we've been sending supplies into Darfur by plane. We have a seventh plane that went in today -- landed today in south Darfur. The plane carried approximately 620 rolls of plastic sheeting. That provides shelter for 6,200 families.

Our implementing partner, CARE, is assisting us with the distribution, and that's significant in terms of the kind of assistance that we're getting from nongovernmental organizations and the support that we've provided to their activities in the Darfur area.

Nonetheless, we're having problems, continuing to have problems with the government in terms of getting people into Darfur. This is a massive humanitarian tragedy that the Secretary was just speaking about, and we want to make sure we're doing everything possible to get people in there and to get supplies in there to the people who need them.

So the team -- the team that we have in Khartoum have been unable to get the necessary permits. The government has continued to play games with travel permits while the humanitarian situation in Darfur has deteriorated.

We're deeply disturbed by the failure of the Government of Sudan to provide free and unfettered access to Darfur to all humanitarian aid agencies, and we call on the Government of Sudan to suspend, entirely, the requirement for such permits for the duration of the crisis in Darfur.

By delaying access to humanitarian relief organizations and to the international community, the Government of Sudan is preventing assistance from reaching their own citizens, many of whom are in desperate need.

These actions call into question the commitment of the Government of Sudan and their concern for the well being of Sudanese citizens and their stated intent to resolve the situation in Darfur.

So that is something we'll continue to push on. We think that humanitarian access is very, very important. As I said, there is some, but nowhere near enough to deal with the scope and the scale of this crisis.

We continue to get reports of fighting in this area. We continue to have problems with the refugees coming to Chad. The Secretary spoke this morning with the head of the UN -- well, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. They are making a lot of efforts to try to take care of refugees in Chad. But, fundamentally, we all agree we need to help the people in Darfur and we need to make -- we need to have the government come around and change its attitude in terms of letting people and supplies in there.

QUESTION: Does it say anything when you try to get them to cooperate?

MR. BOUCHER: You know, as I said, really, they've been playing games on the issues of permits. They say --

QUESTION: Well, have they just been --

MR. BOUCHER: They say, "Oh, yeah, we want to help the people in Darfur," but their actions tend to belie that statement.

QUESTION: I'm sorry if I missed it. Was this in response to a question or is this a --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: It was in response to a question.

QUESTION: About the Chad --

QUESTION: Well, it came back on and he's still speaking.

QUESTION: Powell.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. So, in that case, I apologize for being here. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Anyway, I presume about playing games you're talking about the three-day, the self-expiring travel permits.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, they issued us some three-day permits that -- but they didn't give them to us until the three days were up. They give us three-day permits, but then you have to notify the government 72 hours in advance of your departure. So by the time the notification becomes applicable, the permit's expired.

QUESTION: On Sudan, can I just ask if this -- if you're so troubled by what -- and deeply disturbed by this, why, today, take the step of removing Sudan from the list of countries that is -- that are not cooperating in the war on terrorism? I mean, I realize that it's a semi-different subject, but it just would seem to send a message that perhaps you don't want to send.

MR. BOUCHER: The message that's sent by that and the message that's sent by our continued pursuits of peace talks in Naivasha, and our criticism, our sharp criticism of what the government is doing in Darfur is that we will take these situations as we see them. We will deal with them honestly and forthrightly. Where there have been positive steps, we will seek to reward it; and where there are negative steps, we will point it out and make it an issue.

As in any of these cases where you have a country that has significantly changed its policy in some areas over years, there are still areas, which are still causing us great concern. And I think we've been fairly frank about that with all these countries.

When you have the case of Libya, we've had high praise for what they've done on weapons of mass destruction recently, and we have changed our policy accordingly. But we've also made very clear that there are other concerns that remain.

QUESTION: Right. I understand that, but you know, that message doesn't always get through to various capitals who -- or they try to present it as something that it's not. Have you done anything to tell the Sudanese Government that they should not regard this as kind of a, as a, you know, clean bill of health for anything else?

MR. BOUCHER: We have, I think, had many discussions with the Sudanese Government about -- and even in the case of terrorism -- why they remain on the list of state sponsors even while we find that they are cooperating in significant ways and therefore, we've taken over the -- taken them off of the non-cooperating list. So there are very direct and serious discussions of all these issues with the government in Khartoum.

QUESTION: Do you know that -- if anyone has made this clear to them since the -- I guess, what was it, the 12th that the Secretary made the decision, but it doesn't become effective until today?

MR. BOUCHER: The Federal Register notice was today, right?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've had those conversations the last ten days but certainly all these areas are regular subject of discussion.

Teri.

QUESTION: Richard, when there's a U.S. presence at the Naivasha talks and with this move today, doesn't that still lend credibility and legitimacy to a government that is, is, as you admit, refusing to take responsibility for its own citizens? I mean, how can -- I just don't understand what excuse they could give you would be acceptable and how--

MR. BOUCHER: I think there's no excuse that's acceptable for the way things are going in Darfur. And we think not only should they not -- stop offering excuses for the non-issuance of permits or for the issuance of expired permits, but they should abandon -- they should just allow unfettered access, period. And we've made that very, very clear.

But as I said, in many of these cases where countries have been making significant changes in one area, which we do try to reward, which we do try to offer positive enforcement to, we still have major problems in other areas. But the goal of diplomacy is to push the whole thing along.

QUESTION: But they're getting away with it for -- scot-free at the moment.

MR. BOUCHER: Not scot free, but the situation has continued. It's affected our relationship. It will continue to affect our relationship. You just heard the Secretary of State say in the part that was on TV that we have made clear to the Government of Sudan that even if we solve the north-south issues, the Naivasha; and the Naivasha talks succeed, that they should not expect a significant flow, an immediate flow of support or assistance until their behavior in Darfur has changed.

So they're very clearly on notice that solving one problem won't unleash a flow of aid as long as the other problems continue.

QUESTION: But do you acknowledge that that hasn't, hasn't brought any response?

MR. BOUCHER: I, the Secretary just said it a half hour ago, so we'll see whether there is a response to that statement or not.

QUESTION: Can you characterize what you think -- I mean you've called them thugs, these Arab militias or whatever, but I mean, what is the definition in terms of what they are? I mean I would imagine that people in Darfur would consider them terrorists, so why, you know, if the government is arming these people, you know, is there -- are you making a political distinction here?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we're making a political distinction. There's -- you can look at the back -- maybe it's the front of the Patterns of Global Terrorism book for the exact definition that we use in terms of that book and the state sponsors. That's been a definition in U.S. law use for many years.

These militias are government-supported. They act, according to many reports, often in cooperation with government forces and they've done many, many terrible things. We've been -- had no lack of condemnation for them. Whether they meet the -- that precise definition of terrorism or not, I don't know, frankly. I don't know if that, that kind of definitional designation has not been made that I know of at this point.

QUESTION: Richard.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: You made a very brief reference to fighting a couple of minutes ago, and there's supposedly a ceasefire in place, and I wonder if you can evaluate who's violating the ceasefire?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't do that in a lot of detail because we're still working hard to try to get the ceasefire monitors in there from the African Union. That's a process we continue to work with. We're trying to bring it together this week. I can't predict, exactly, at this point, when the ceasefire monitors might get in there. But we think that will -- you know, there, for a long time we've been pushing for that to get organized and get them there.

We will participate and we think that's the only way to bring some clarity to how the fighting goes, but there are continuing reports of violence caused by the militias, by the government-sponsored militias.

QUESTION: How are you participating?

MR. BOUCHER: We have designated, I think, we had two people who went on the advance team that did go to Darfur. How we'll exactly participate in this -- in the ceasefire monitoring -- how many people we'll have, I don't -- I don't quite know yet, but we'll certainly participate.

QUESTION: Richard, in the many, many talks you've described with the Sudanese Government, was it ever even suggested by someone from their government in those talks that movement on the list would equal more cooperation on Darfur?

MR. BOUCHER: They have certainly asked for movement on the terrorism list, and we've always made clear that that's an issue that has to be dealt with on the basis of their support for terrorism or contacts with terrorist groups, or their lack thereof. And so that -- we've made very clear that's a separate issue.

Whether they've, at any time, suggested that they might do something somewhere else if we took them off the list, I don't know. I think there have been general statements that, you know, boy, wouldn't that lead to a great improvement in how we dealt with each other, but I don't know that they've held permits for Darfur or anything like that hostage to this -- not that I know of.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you check on that for us?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there's anything more to say than I just have.

QUESTION: Because if there's a suggestion that, that they were pushing this at the same time and we've given in to them, it would seem, again, like it sends the wrong message.

MR. BOUCHER: No. That's -- I think that's certainly not the case. If you're talking about -- I thought you were talking about the more general of the terrorism list.

We have made clear that anything, that any of these other topics rests on its own merits and if they're going to continue to have, you know, contacts with terrorist groups, they're going to stay on the terrorist list. If they are cooperating on -- against terrorism, then it's on only that basis, and only on that basis that they would appear or not appear on the non-cooperating list.

Yeah? Teri.

QUESTION: I know that this is a very long and laborious process to put a group on the terrorism list, but is there any thought or research being put into looking whether janjui would qualify?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that'll be looked at at the appropriate time, I just don't know if there's --

QUESTION: What's the appropriate time?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's not a matter of saying something about the janjui --

QUESTION: No. But, I mean, you know what they're doing, so wouldn't that be something that could already start?

MR. BOUCHER: That would be something that would be looked at appropriately when it's time. If you're talking about it for definitional purposes for Patterns of Global Terrorism report, or for whether we keep them on the list or not, they're already on the list because of the presence of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. So it's not a matter of --

QUESTION: Sudan is; but not -- not the group.

MR. BOUCHER: Sudan is. Yeah, Sudan is. Whether we look at this group for designation, you know, that will go on, as appropriate.

QUESTION: Well, Richard, just to follow up, I guess the question is: Is this a time when, you know -- and I don't know if you've started any such designations or even thought about them, but is this the time to be congratulating Sudan for its contributions to the war on terrorism because you have said that the war on terrorism is global and isn't just, you know, focused on al-Qaida and fighting that group of Palestinian rejectionist groups?

MR. BOUCHER: Look, these are the facts. Okay? Sudan has taken a number of positive steps on cooperation against terrorism over the past few years. The U.S.-Sudanese bilateral counterterrorism cooperation information-sharing has improved remarkably, but they remain on the state terrorism list because of the presence of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and some other concerns that we have.

The specific designation under a specific definition in a specific piece of legislation in this matter doesn't change other matters. That's what we've been talking about. The fact is that, if they do cooperate against terrorism, it's good for us to show that that leads to a beneficial change, which is you're no longer on the countries -- on the list of countries not cooperating.

That's the encouragement for other countries to cooperate against terrorism. It doesn't change the kind of pressure that we're bringing on Sudan, strong pressure we're bringing on Sudan from us, and others, in the international community, to change their behavior in Darfur. And it doesn't change that whatsoever. And it doesn't change the underlying facts that have kept them on the state sponsors list.

QUESTION: Richard, more generally on the list, the non-cooperation list. In the announcement, the Secretary all but comes out and says that he's about to take Libya off. And it's more than a nudge, nudge, wink, wink. It's kind of like you read between the lines and it's there.

My question just has to do -- is this like the state sponsors list in that it can be changed at any time? And was the -- well, that's my first question. Any time? There's no set date when people come on or go off?

MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, I'll have to check. I think the -- what we had in the Federal Register today applies to fiscal year 2005.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: So that -- that starts October 1st.

QUESTION: And was the large -- the reason for doing it now, and this doesn't really -- I mean, was it to take Sudan off or was it to say that Libya will most likely be coming off soon, or was it both?

MR. BOUCHER: It may have been neither. It may have been a normal deadline for submission of a report to Congress or something like that. I'll have to check on why this happened at this moment.

QUESTION: Okay. And what exactly is it? Why didn't Libya come off at this point? What exactly is it that Sudan has done that Libya hasn't to warrant -- in other words, I understand there is a difference between this list and the state sponsors list. But if Sudan is cooperating, I believe Libya has made a big deal out of the fact that it was cooperating and that it was the first country to issue an Interpol warrant for Usama bin Laden, and all this kind of thing. What --

MR. BOUCHER: I think, you know, basically, what we've seen from Libya is maybe more progress on the other side than on this side. But --

QUESTION: I'm sorry, more progress on the state sponsor?

MR. BOUCHER: On the state sponsor side, I'll have to see if there is more to say than that. But Libya has taken steps to repudiate its past support. We've said that. Libya has fulfilled UN requirements relating to the renunciation of terrorism. It's actively seeking -- it is actively assisting in the global war on terrorism. It has pledged further cooperation and has adopted and implemented a policy of eliminating its weapons of mass destruction program.

So there is progress in each area, in cooperating, and in state sponsors. But the actions since December of 2003, and destroying weapons of mass destruction material, of course, then lessened the chances that terrorists or others might get it from Libya as a source. So we are looking at Libya's track record on terrorism, including any residual ties. But until that review is complete, we won't be able to have more to say, or we'll have to consult with Congress, as well.

So I think the simplest answer is we're looking at Libya, just not at this point, ready to remove it.

QUESTION: But, and so, does that mean -- I assume that that probably exhausted what you have to say.

MR. BOUCHER: That pretty much exhausted what I have to say at this point. I have tried to give you the summary, based on everything I can deem from all this, and I know. But, you know, we'll have to look at all of these things further before we have announcements to make about Libya's status on either this or the state sponsor list.

Sir.

QUESTION: Richard, can you tell us the -- if you have any idea on the nature and size of Hamas and Palestinian jihad presence in Sudan that is keeping it on the terrorist --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any detailed information like that. You might look at the Patterns of Global Terrorism Report. I'm not sure --

QUESTION: Do they have camps or offices, or they're collecting money? What are they doing there?

MR. BOUCHER: You might look at Patterns and see if we offer more information there.

QUESTION: Do you have anything specific?

MR. BOUCHER: Third answer: No, you might look at Patterns and see if there is more. If you want to --

QUESTION: What is -- what do you mean the Patterns? What do you mean?

MR. BOUCHER: Patterns of Global Terrorism is the annual report we put out.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: When did we last put it out?

A PARTICIPANT: Two weeks ago.

MR. BOUCHER: Two weeks ago? There is a brand new updated version. You can read it. And it will describe each country and their ties to terrorism. And any details that we're able to share would have been shared in there. Okay?

QUESTION: Can you just explain a little bit further, the difference between the two lists? I don't quite understand how you stay on one and not the other. Is it a distinction in the style of terrorism, or particular groups that you're --

MR. BOUCHER: No, the specific list that we're dealing with here, and I've got a slightly more detailed statement for all of you that says which countries are certified as not cooperating, but this is an annual certification pursuant to Section 40(a) of the Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits the sale or license for export of defense articles and services to countries determined to be not cooperating fully with U.S. antiterrorism efforts.

So it's a question of whether a country is cooperating fully or not. The ones who are not get on the list. There is a separate list, State Sponsors of Terrorism, which has a different definition, which I may or may not have with me -- which I don't think I have with me, but is a different law, a different definition -- a slightly different definition. And in that case I would say, it deals not only with active and ongoing ties, but residual ties.

And we've found in many of these cases, and you'll see this in the Patterns of Global Terrorism Country Report, there are countries that have not been active in any operational sense with terrorist groups for many years, but which we feel have not yet severed the residual ties. So you could have a country that -- we do have countries where there are some of these residual ties, but they're, in fact, on the other side of the ledger is cooperation, again, active cooperation against terrorism.

QUESTION: So they warn us, but they say they haven't formally severed a tie with a group --

MR. BOUCHER: Or finally severed a tie with a group.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: Which keeps them on the state sponsors list, but on the other hand, they're cooperating in current efforts.

QUESTION: But in this instance, it would seem that if you're allowing Hamas to continue operating in your country, you're not helping the U.S. with its antiterrorism war.

MR. BOUCHER: In this case, it would seem that they are helping the United States in cooperating against terrorism, even though they're still allowing Hamas to have a presence there.

QUESTION: Right. Could I clarify one thing about this? With, with -- the actual effect of this on Sudan, though, right now, is basically nothing.

MR. BOUCHER: Is basically nothing because since they remain on the state sponsors list, they're not eligible for exports of U.S. defense articles and services.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Okay.

QUESTION: Is that it?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure.

QUESTION: The Palestinian-Gaza situation, can you talk about any talks that the U.S. has had with the Israelis over the demolition and, you know, I know yesterday there was some talk about whether it contributed to Israel's security, but if you could expand on any knowledge that you have about whether this refugee camp is truly a haven for terrorists or has underground tunnels -- if there's anything you could say about that.

MR. BOUCHER: This is a complex situation. Let me try to explain it all to you. First, I'll make clear again, as the White House has made clear, we and the Secretary have made clear, that we oppose the destruction of houses of innocent Palestinians.

And as the President made clear this morning in his speech, we're troubled by the violence that is occurring in Gaza. We have had discussions with the Israeli Government about this. We have asked some questions about these things. We have tried to pursue them -- about what's going on.

Now, they tell us that there are three concerns about this area, which -- which we understand, and we have spoken about many of these things before. First, they're trying to find the tunnels that have been used for weapons smuggling. They are trying to confiscate stockpiles or arsenals of weapons, and they're trying to detain individuals who might be holed up in these areas who have been involved in attacks on Israelis.

They say that housing demolitions is not an objective of their operations, but, as I said, I think I've stated our position, as well. We certainly understand these security concerns. We have always said Israel has a right to defend itself. But we have said, also, that we believe that other security measures can and should be taken by the Palestinian Authority, by Israel and by Egypt with the support of the international community to address these problems in this border area. And we have called on all parties to exercise restraint; and we've asked them to avoid actions that undermine trust and create new obstacles to implementing the roadmap and realizing the President's vision of two states.

QUESTION: Have you gotten --

QUESTION: Having said that is to say that all the parties you say like to see help oppose the smuggling of weapons to Palestinian terror groups. Is that fair? Otherwise, you'd be asking people who acquiesce in this to stop it, to -- you know --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we don't think anybody should acquiesce.

QUESTION: I know you don't.

MR. BOUCHER: We think that parties should oppose it. We have called on the parties to oppose it. We have said that the -- that all these parties need to cooperate in opposing it and taking action against it. And we think that's the better way to address the --

QUESTION: I understand. Well, we can follow logic down to no end.

QUESTION: Do you --

MR. BOUCHER: Let's slow down.

QUESTION: You indict the Palestinian leadership regularly for not curbing terrorism. And now you -- and, alternatively, when Israel tries to -- says because of these shipments through tunnels they're taking these actions they're taking, you'll suggest to Israel they should depend, look to the Palestinian leadership and others, like Egypt, best trail's Lebanon, which, you know, is not exactly a self-acting government, to assist in cutting off the terrorist supply. I mean I'm lost.

MR. BOUCHER: We think -- well, let me find you.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: All right.

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: We think that all these parties should cooperate --

QUESTION: Sure, they should.

MR. BOUCHER: -- parties that have actively done this or not. We have long said that the Palestinians need to take steps to stop the arms supply. We have said -- you know, we are always asked this question of, "Aren't you asking the Palestinians to start a civil war?" And we've said there's plenty of things they can do. And, frankly, we've always said that finding and stopping the tunnels is one of them, so we do think each of these parties -- Israel, Palestinians and Egypt -- each have a responsibility to take action here.

I don't think we're acting -- asking one country to depend on another or one party to depend on another for security. We're saying the best way to solve this is by each party taking responsibility and solving the problem together. That doesn't change certain basics about our position in the situation, which we've stated and the President has stated as well.

QUESTION: You're just asking parties that are complicit to not be complicit; and you're telling Israel don't do what you're doing, look to them to help stem the --

MR. BOUCHER: We're saying there are betters ways to solve this than by knocking down houses of innocent people. We've recognized Israel has security problems. They have a right to deal with them. And we -- but we are also calling on others to deal with these problems.

QUESTION: Is that the main message for the Secretary calling Olmert in, or are you checking also on the status of the Sharon plan? Has it been revised?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know it was the Secretary calling Olmert in.

QUESTION: Well, I mean about their meeting.

MR. BOUCHER: Their meeting.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: I would expect this to come up. I would expect the status of the Gaza Withdrawal Plan to come up. Last time they talked, they talked about sort of the current situation in the region. I would expect them to do that again. The Secretary has just been out there, had meetings with the Palestinians, and is always interested in sharing observations and talking about the situation with Israeli groups.

Yeah. Teri.

QUESTION: How do you distinguish who are innocent Palestinians? And how would you have any idea if the Israelis -- and you have the same idea about who's an innocent Palestinian and doesn't deserve their house to be bulldozed?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I guess maybe the best definition to use -- that's the shorthand definition, but, you know, if you look, say, at the roadmap, the roadmap says on security in phase one that Israel should take no actions that undermine trust, including: -- and then gives a list of things. And one of the things on that list is "demolition of Palestinian homes and property as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction." So those are the kind of situations where we'd consider the people whose homes are being knocked down to be innocents.

QUESTION: But that doesn't distinguish between anyone's homes. It just says don't tear down homes, right?

MR. BOUCHER: Don't tear down homes as a punitive measure or to facilitate construction. Those are the kinds of circumstances where we consider knocking down a house to be -- to involve innocent Palestinians.

QUESTION: What they're doing now is not punitive? Or is that how you view it?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't make a judgment on every single house. I guess, in some ways, that's the question you're asking. But, certainly, we have opposed these kinds of demolitions and continue to do so. We have made that very clear. The Israelis know that.

QUESTION: Richard, have the Israelis supplied you with any evidence that, in fact, they are demolishing the homes to stop the tunnels and the flow of arms from Egypt? And that's one.

Second, there are reports from Israel that are suggesting that these home demolitions are serving the purpose of creating a buffer zone around this. Could you tell us anything about that?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't tell you any more than I have. I've told you what the Israelis say. If people want more detail on that, they'll have to ask the Israelis.

QUESTION: But you're not conducting your own kind of investigation to see if, in fact, they --

MR. BOUCHER: We are certainly watching the situation. We'll follow whatever can be known. We'll keep asking questions and talking to the Israelis about the situation, but not in the fashion that you're describing, no.

QUESTION: But can I follow that --

MR. BOUCHER: Can we --

QUESTION: -- because that broaches -- the Secretary says and tells the Arabs and everybody else: jump on the Sharon plan, seize the opportunity, it's a chance to start -- not dismantling because the settlements will be turned over to the Palestinians, but getting Israel out of the area and getting blah, blah, blah.

Olmert, last night in his speech -- they, of course, call it a disengagement operation -- says one main purpose is to get away from friction between Israelis and Palestinians through some separation. Of course, he also talks about the barrier, to accelerate work on that.

Does the U.S. see any virtue in the plan as a means of keeping the two parties apart? You see a virtue in the settlements going. Do you see a virtue in flashpoints being removed or distanced?

MR. BOUCHER: I think --

QUESTION: Because that goes to his question. Demolishing homes would do it too, whether it's right or wrong.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's something we have tried to take a position on. We certainly haven't taken the position that you've said. We've made our comments about the barrier. We've made the comments about the pullout, the opportunity presented there. We made our comments about demolitions. I don't want to try to wrap these into some grand unified field theory. If I could just say one thing, if we can move on, because I've got another group of journalists waiting for me in ten minutes, and they're -- I'd like to be on time for them.

QUESTION: Could you give us an update on what is the next step after Secretary Powell met with Shaath, and Dr. Rice met with --

MR. BOUCHER: We'll keep talking to the Palestinians, working with the Palestinians and others.

QUESTION: Were there any tangible results or something, other steps that have come out?

MR. BOUCHER: As we've said, I think we said this in Jordan, that one of the things we talked to Prime Minister Qureia about was that for the Palestinians to come up with ideas and a plan for how they can exercise security control and overall authority and control in Gaza in the areas of the West Bank that the Israelis would pull out of.

And we certainly expect to keep talking to them about that, hearing from them on that, and then working with them on that to make sure that they are in a position to take authority as a Palestinian Authority, if Israeli withdraws from Gaza.

Yeah. Nicholas.

QUESTION: Can we move to Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: One last question on the issue of the demolition of homes. Now, if the Arab groups --

MR. BOUCHER: Can we --

QUESTION: One last question, promise.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I'm here suffering. I'm here at your sufferance.

QUESTION: If the Arab groups have met the proposal for a UN resolution calling on Israel to stop the demolition of homes -- Security Council resolution, will the U.S. veto that?

MR. BOUCHER: There is no resolution at this point. So I can't predict how we'll vote.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, Richard, what you know about suspending the monthly payments to Mr. Chalabi after the 1st of July? Does it have to do with the State Department taking --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- the Defense Department -- I think, it has been reported. I think Secretary Rumsfeld actually acknowledged it at some point, so -- but the Defense Department's responsible in that area, so I'd leave it to that. Our own funding for the INC, which took place for a long time before the war -- that finished up in September of 2003.

QUESTION: Did you -- did the Defense Department ask you, or did you give them any kind of advice, in terms of whether the payments should continue?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what interagency discussion there was, but we certainly don't talk about that. That's internal deliberations.

QUESTION: Another quick one. It has been reported by -- that the foreign ministry in Iraq is sending a delegation to the UN, and they want to take part in the discussions on the UN resolution. Are you going to be willing to invite or allow the Iraqis to sit on those meetings?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the formal status will be in the rules at the UN. But certainly, we have worked toward the acceptance of Iraqi representatives, for consultations with Iraqi representatives. We, ourselves, of course, consult with them all the time in Baghdad.

How that process will proceed in New York, I don't know, but we've had very wide consultations on the resolution and would certainly be interested in Iraqi views.

Yeah. Matt.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to Foreign Minister Lavrov's comments about what you now have -- to the effect that what you -- what is now planned for June 30th, July 1st is nothing more than a kind of empty ceremony with flags moving back and forth, and that there is really no "there" there to the transfer of sovereignty?

MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen those comments. I've certainly not heard him say that in our meetings.

QUESTION: What would you -- what would you make of the -- if someone were to say that?

MR. BOUCHER: If someone were to say that, then, I would want to know that they had said it before I tried to make something of it.

QUESTION: Well, I just figured that since you're now willing to speak -- tell us what the Israelis told you, which is a big break from the past --

MR. BOUCHER: I've told you that Minister Lavrov has never said anything like that in our meetings with him. So if he said it in public, then I'll have to rely on the wire services to report it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: We've got one more.

QUESTION: Prisoner abuse. Prisoner abuse, real quick. Deputy Secretary Armitage testified today before Foreign Relations Committee, and he was asked if they were, if the State Department was aware of pictures and that "60 Minutes" was going to air them and was holding them up. And his response was, no, but he was aware because he heard it from a reporter at CBS, somebody at the network. Is that accurate throughout the Department? Or is that --

MR. BOUCHER: That, I wasn't aware and nobody at CBS called me about it, so I guess I knew a day or two in advance, somebody told me. But that speaks for Mr. Armitage. I don't know who else knew it, no.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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