25 May 2004
State Department Noon Briefing, May 25
Sudan, Iraq, Turkey/Cyprus, Taiwan, Kosovo, Liberia, China, Israel/Palestinians
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed reporters May 25.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
12:45 p.m. EDT
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
-- Signing of Protocols
-- Acting Assistant Secretary Charles Synder Travel
-- Settlement of Civil War
-- Security Arrangements
-- Darfur Situation
-- Disaster/Humanitarian Assistance
-- Militia Attacks
-- Presidential Statement
-- U.S. Sanctions
-- UN Resolution/Review of Multinational Force
-- Prime Minister Tony Blair Comments/Power of Veto over Military
-- Governing Council Involvement in Appointments
-- Political Process/Brahimi Involvement/Ambassador Blackwill
-- Chinese Contribution/Other Nations
-- Delay on International Criminal Court Vote
-- Chalabi Passing Intelligence
-- Ambassador Weston Comments
-- Vice President Lu Transit/Meetings/Events
-- Resignation of UN Mission in Kosovo Special Representative Harri Holkeri
-- Murder of American Citizen in Monrovia
-- Charles Lee Update
-- Demolition of Houses
-- Secretary Powell Meeting with Nabil Shaath
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, MAY 25, 2004
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I thought I'd begin by just kind of adding a little bit to what the Secretary said about Sudan outside. The Secretary talked to both of the principal leaders in the talks on Sudan, Dr. Garang and Vice President Taha, on Sunday, and they both told the Secretary that they expected to be able to sign the protocols, the three key protocols, on Wednesday. It still looks like they're on track to do that. They continue to tell us that they're going to be able to sign tomorrow.
I'd say, generally, we've moved from sort of this far apart to fingers crossed like this, but we have sent Acting Assistant Secretary Charles Snyder out to participate in the ceremony. He arrives in Nairobi this evening. And so we certainly hope, expect and look forward to a conclusion tomorrow of the three protocols that have dealt with the key outstanding issues. That's the protocol on power-sharing, the protocol on Abyei, and the protocol on the two areas, that's of the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile.
The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development has issued invitations for the signing of those three protocols that were negotiated in Naivasha, Kenya.
Following -- let me say, once signed, these documents represent major milestones on the road to a peaceful settlement of Sudan's civil war. So we certainly, as I said, hope and expect that will happen tomorrow.
And then, finally, following the signing of these three protocols, the parties then begin, within a couple weeks, to discuss the specific security arrangements and other details of implementation.
QUESTION: Richard, on Wednesday, the Africa Bureau was sending someone to Darfur, we were told last Friday, and obviously there's a connection but not a direct connection between the situation there and the overall situation. Could you address that? Is that still the terrible situation it was just a few days ago?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the situation in Darfur remains a very, very difficult one. It's a terrible situation for the people there. We have continued to make very strong efforts to try to provide assistance. We expect our first Disaster Assistance Team members to arrive in Darfur on Wednesday or Thursday. While travel permits are no longer required, team members still have to give 48 or 72 hours' notice before traveling, and so they'll be going into Darfur on Wednesday or Thursday.
I would point out that since the beginning of the crisis, since February 2003, we have provided over 81,000 metric tons of food, worth a total of $72 million through the World Food Program. So what is being done has a lot to do with U.S. help. More recently, we have airlifted 21 million in non-food commodities; nine airlifts since May 1st. And that's to provide shelter for almost 250,000 people.
Oh, let me correct myself, 20,000 -- 21 million in non-food commodities is the total value. The nine airlifts come to something over a million dollars.
QUESTION: You spoke confidently of assistance getting through. As of Friday, there was still apprehension in this building because, you know, previous assurances had not worked out that they would not interfere, the government would not interfere with --
MR. BOUCHER: No, those problems remain. We've seen a high level of militia attacks in recent -- in recent weeks. That's still a major concern about the attacks on the militia and the violence that they're perpetrating. That prevents aid from reaching the recipients, and in some cases, makes the recipients even not want to receive things because it makes them vulnerable to theft and pillaging.
The United States is continuing to press all the parties to abide by the ceasefire. We're also working to keep the issue before the United Nations Security Council. We've been working up there on the possibility of a Presidential Statement on Darfur. That continues to work. And we're looking for the council to be ready to take appropriate action if the situation there doesn't improve.
So we remain in the basic problem that there is a terrible situation in Darfur that we need to get the people in there to try to help take care of it, to help take care of the people in Darfur, and we're now on the verge of getting some people in there.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. One last one.
MR. BOUCHER: And that the supplies that we've been able to get in have gone to some people in some places, but we're nowhere near the -- in the position that we'd like to be in, which is to be able to take care of all of the people who are at risk.
QUESTION: Do you have a date on the Presidential Statement? Again, we had heard it was to happen, but we didn't know when.
MR. BOUCHER: It's currently being discussed. We'd like to see it as early as possible this week, but I don't have an exact date.
MR. BOUCHER: Teri.
QUESTION: You said that you'll have to take further action if the situation doesn't improve. But it's been months and months and months now. So what sort of -- I don't know -- milestone do you want to reach in Darfur before you do say you need to take further action?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, we'll continue to press. We are continuing to press very hard for the kind of access, the kind of delivery that we need, and we're getting these --
QUESTION: That's only about the food. That's not stopping the violence, which is --
MR. BOUCHER: We're trying to do both, to the kind of delivery means, the kind of peaceful situation where we can deliver. We have been pressing very hard on the government. We'll continue to press hard on the government. I think the Secretary has also made clear that we are not in a position to provide the kind of benefits or assistance that might flow from peace agreement if the situation in Darfur persists. And so that -- that has been made clear as well.
QUESTION: Richard, in Naivasha, if, in fact -- and I'm sure you are all holding your breath -- this -- they do go ahead and sign these three protocols tomorrow, will that complete, will that fulfill the pledge that the two sides made to the Secretary back in October, that they would have a comprehensive settlement by the end of 2003?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it won't be by the end of 2003.
QUESTION: Yeah. But is this --
MR. BOUCHER: But these are the three big issues that we were looking to have resolved.
QUESTION: Will this -- five months later?
MR. BOUCHER: There is -- yeah, it would complete that process that we were looking at, with a proviso that they still have to work out some of the arrangements, then, that flow from this agreement that the parties have to sit down and put in place as well.
QUESTION: Was not the pledge that they made to the Secretary in October that they would have the whole thing, including with these arrangements, done by December 31st? Wasn't that supposed to be the whole enchilada at that point, not just part of it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think this is essentially the enchilada, whether it's -- from every agreement, then, there flow implementation arrangements that have to be put together. That's the next stage. But in terms of negotiating, this is what we were negotiating, these are the -- the resolution of the issues. This would resolve the remaining issues.
QUESTION: All right. Now the last time that you announced that Assistant Secretary Snyder was flying out to the talks, you also announced at the same that the two sides had said -- this was about, what, three weeks ago?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. There was a Monday when they were going to sign, as well, I remember. So that's why we've got our fingers crossed.
QUESTION: Right. He was -- but the last time he was going out to help them write -- to turn oral agreements into the written agreements, he obviously has come back in that time.
What he -- before he left the -- before he left the last time, had the -- were those things all hammered out?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- no, the agreement wasn't reached when he last approached --
QUESTION: Well, I guess my --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me remind you of a couple things. One, we have a senior diplomat there all the time, so we fly in our Assistant Secretary when he thinks he can be of particular use, but we always have senior diplomats there, have except for, I think, a brief weekend period once, where we do work on the details together with the Kenyan mediators.
Second of all, they are reporting to us that they have agreement, that they have documents to be signed tomorrow.
QUESTION: Okay, so you're --
MR. BOUCHER: So that's what we hear from the negotiators. But, as always, we have our -- we want to make sure it happens.
QUESTION: But your understanding is, then, that the writing down of everything is completed --
MR. BOUCHER: That's what we hear.
QUESTION: -- except for the signatures?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, you said if the situation persists that will, of course, hamper efforts to forward humanitarian aid and so on. What will you do if the situation persists, and do you have, like, a window on how long the situation must persist before you do whatever you --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, that's really the question I was asked before. And there are -- first of all, there's a consistent effort on our part, on the part of the international community, and we're trying to add to that with the effort on behalf of the United Nations to press the government to allow access, to press the government to use their influence to stop the militias and to work with everybody in the region to try to ensure that we take care of the people there, and that effort will continue --
QUESTION: But you don't have a timetable, like three months, six months, nine months?
MR. BOUCHER: The humanitarian needs, unfortunately, do have a timetable. It's getting worse and worse. The rains are coming, which hampers distribution. And it's a very dire situation, continues to be. And that's why the pressure needs to be very strong and we're continuing to make it strong.
QUESTION: The rains are coming. They haven't arrived yet?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so, at least not in a way that our people have reported makes things impossible.
QUESTION: I don't know if you know this offhand. We were told there were 12 separate sets of U.S. sanctions on Sudan. Do you know if any of them, meaning, essentially, I'm asking if any relief automatically will come the government's way if there is a signing?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check, but I'm not -- first of all, I don't think we've made any promises at this point. And second of all, I don't want to count the chickens before they hatch. I don't want to say that something's going to happen till we know that the agreements have been signed.
QUESTION: Can we change to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Whatever you'd like.
QUESTION: Back to an issue about the UN resolution. I just want to see if this is clear or not. There's a provision whereby the transitional government can call for a review of the multinational military force in Iraq. Why is it not being specific that the interim government can actually call for that review?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't have a chance to check the wording, but I did check around. And frankly, the answer should have been obvious to me yesterday, that we have already said the interim government can ask us to leave, so, obviously, they can also ask for a review if they want it. There's not any equivocation there as far as the people I talked to.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm trying to figure out -- and I'm not trying to make something out of nothing, but it sounded to me, what the Secretary said downstairs when he was asked specifically about Prime Minister Blair's comments, it sounded to me as though the Secretary came very close to contradicting what the Prime Minister had said. The Prime Minister said that the Iraqi interim government will have veto power over any military operation.
Now, the Secretary said that while that's all well and good, that we will consult with them and we're going to form these coordinating bodies and we don't expect there to be any problems, and, in fact, the same kind of thing has gone on for years in other places without any problems, ultimately, he said, if U.S. troops are forced in -- are put in a position where they have to defend themselves or need to accomplish their mission in a way that is not in consonance with what the Iraqi interim government might think at the time, they remain under U.S. control and they'll do what they need to do.
Tell me why that's not a contradiction.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the -- first of all, the Secretary explained all aspects of this and not just one sentence. Second of all, the gist of the Secretary's answer was that he has worked on these things his whole life. He's been in NATO, he's been in Korea, he's been working with other forces, he knows from the Gulf War. These are practical arrangements that can and do get worked out between armies in the field. They all have their command responsibility. Every single soldier has a responsibility to his own command structure, to his own general's Ministry of Defense and National Command Authority, whether it's American or Polish or Italian or Iraqi.
And these kind of arrangements exist all over the world and have existed for many years in alliances and coalitions and other military actions. So I think what we heard today was the Secretary speaking from experience saying, these kind of things get worked out.
Second of all, the Secretary is citing the example that we have in Fallujah, the same example that Prime Minister Blair cited, the same example the President cited, and said, whatever you want to do with the sort of, the language of this, look at what actually happened in Fallujah, where we had forces who were ready and capable of dealing with the situation militarily. When the Iraqis said, let's do it another way, let's try other ways, we did. And we worked it out with them on the ground, even without some mechanism of structure.
So we will have the arrangements, we will have the mechanisms and structures. Those are being worked out, as Prime Minister Blair said, as the Secretary said, and as the President said.
But it should be understood that these things have been done before and can be done with the Iraqis.
QUESTION: I thought I had gone -- I thought I had kind of tried to paraphrase all of that in my question, paraphrasing the Secretary. Yeah, that's fine, but does the Iraqi interim authority have veto power over military operations, short of asking you guys to leave? Or is that the ultimate veto there?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's the ultimate veto, ultimately what means they'll be listened to, whatever they say. They had --
QUESTION: Well, what the Secretary said was, ultimately, if there is something that is -- if there is a disagreement, the U.S. troops are going to act in their own self-defense -- fair enough -- or in their -- in the way that they think they need to accomplish their missions.
MR. BOUCHER: All I can tell you is these arrangements are being worked out, can be worked out, and will be worked out. And as far as precisely what will happen in a precise set of circumstances, I think we have to work out the arrangements before we can answer those questions.
QUESTION: Can I ask you if the Governing Council will have a say, will pass judgment on who is appointed by -- I guess Brahimi decides -- who would be appointed to the interim government. Do they get to pass on that? And do they get to pass on the constitution?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, the arrangements and appointments and individuals who might fill these jobs are being worked out with a very broad range of people and members of the Governing Council are indeed part of the consultation process that Ambassador Brahimi has underway. He's consulted very widely in Iraqi society.
Second of all, I believe the transitional law that was passed by the Governing Council provides that there should be an annex that describes those arrangements. Exactly what action they need to take in order to confirm that annex, I don't know. You'd have to look at the transitional law itself.
As far as the constitution, that part, I think, is very clear in the transitional law already, that it's the elected national assembly, the transition government, that would write the constitution and then I forget what the procedures for approval are.
MR. BOUCHER: Referendum. Yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, there is a great deal of discontent among the Shiites of Iraq about the Brahimi and what is he appointing. They are demanding certain things that may hamper this effort. On the other hand, the Kurds are also asking for one of the, either the President or the Premier. Could you tell us how the U.S. is involved in resolving this issue or is that --
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't think your description is accurate. There is a lot of people saying things, staking out positions, expressing their wishes and desires, trying to influence the process. There's a lot of politics going on. That's a good thing, it's kind of messy to watch, but that's a good thing. We saw it when the transitional law was created, approved, and agreed to. The process that Ambassador Brahimi is involved in is obviously generating a certain amount of ferment and discussion and that's a good thing. And out of that ferment and discussion and consultation will come plans for an interim Iraqi government and that's a good thing.
So I don't think we're too disturbed by all this. The fact is that this is a process of consultation that's ongoing and different people are expressing their interests and they'll have to be worked out and reconciled and balanced by Ambassador Brahimi as he tries to work through it with all the parties.
QUESTION: So I guess just to follow up, is Brahimi moving right along with the plan, or is he facing difficulties --
MR. BOUCHER: As the President said last night, as the Secretary said, our understanding from him and the UN is that he intends to try to finish this this week or early next week. We're certainly working with him out there. Ambassador Bremer, Mr. Blackwill are both -- Ambassador Blackwill, are out there working with Ambassador Brahimi and they're obviously in touch with Iraqis from all parts in various -- all parts of Iraqi society as well. So we're trying to do what we can do help this UN effort, but Ambassador Brahimi's taking the lead on this one.
Two more? Ma'am.
QUESTION: The U.S. expressed its specific expectations to China about what contribution China can make before and after the sovereignty transfer?
MR. BOUCHER: The contributions of individual nations are for individual nations to decide. So I don't have any specifics on that. Obviously, we welcome contributions from all nations, and however they might think best, they're best able to support the effort to bring stability and peace to the people of Iraq.
And you'll see -- you see in the draft, if you've seen it, of the new UN resolution, we continue to encourage nations to contribute in various ways to help the people of Iraq, and anything from China or others would be appreciated.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction on the vote on the ICC being delayed in the Security Council today? They were planning to take it up and they've now deferred that.
MR. BOUCHER: Don't have anything on that. I'll have to get you something. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: You're aware of it, though?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm aware that it's been a matter of discussion up there. I don't know if they scheduled and delayed, or if they just hadn't scheduled yet. But the vote hasn't taken place yet.
QUESTION: You were asked yesterday about Ambassador Weston referring to Mr. Talat as the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, and not Mr. Denktash, and there are some people in the area who think this is a policy shift. Remember you were asked that yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: I remember I was asked. I didn't ascribe any particular importance to it. I --
QUESTION: You said you would look into it.
MR. BOUCHER: If you want me to look into it more, I'll find out. But I hadn't -- I wasn't able to get a transcript of what he actually said. I'll try again.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Elise.
QUESTION: There's a report in the Guardian today that the U.S. believes that Mr. Chalabi was kind of being used by the Iranians to kind of pass bad intelligence to the U.S., that it was really Iran that was trying to steer the U.S. to go to war with Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: Any kind of theory or speculation along that lines, I'd just -- I wouldn't touch. Whether there's an investigation or intelligence matter involved, I don't know, but it's not -- it's not something I'm prepared to deal with here.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that Taiwan's Vice President Annette Lu -- it's Taiwan. Can I change the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we'll go on and come back.
Vice President Lu will transit the United States en route to and from Central America. She'll transit via Las Vegas, arriving on May 28th, and she'll depart for Central and Latin America on May 30th.
Upon her return leg to Taipei, she'll stop in San Francisco on June 6th and depart for Taipei on June 9th.
We approved the request based on the criteria we've used for past transits; that is, the safety, comfort and convenience of the traveler, while respecting the dignity of the traveler.
QUESTION: Any public events are approved to be held?
MR. BOUCHER: We expect and we understand that her visit is private and unofficial, and that's consistent with the purposes of the transit. She'll be greeted by officials from the American Institute in Taiwan. I'm not aware of any public or media events. I think there will be some meetings with members of Congress.
QUESTION: Are you saying what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Is that what you're trying to say? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not saying that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can I ask -- can I ask a more serious question? Every time a Taiwanese official comes to the United States on transit, their routes become increasingly -- yeah, exactly. I mean, they go to Central America via New York direct from Taipei, which does not seem to be -- ease safety and convenience at all. It seems to be going -- you're putting yourself out of your way to allow them to make -- to tour -- to tour the United States, which may very well be a good thing. What exactly is the reason that she has decided to use that well-known Central American hub of Las Vegas to transit --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'd have to ask her.
QUESTION: Well, can you explain how exactly it is that you have come to approve a stopover in Las Vegas?
MR. BOUCHER: No, but -- you've flown places recently, right? My brother goes to Minnesota through Atlanta, so I don't understand that one either, so.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the opportunities are. If you want to check the airline schedules for Las Vegas to Latin America. I just don't know.
QUESTION: Do you know if the members of Congress will meet her at the craps table or is she --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't know.
QUESTION: Will she be expected to issue any public statements during these stops?
MR. BOUCHER: Our understanding is that she has no media or public activities, that this is a private stopover for the purposes of transit and we would expect that that's the way it would be carried out.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up to Matt's question. Does anybody here suspect that the U.S. is being tested in some way by these games?
MR. BOUCHER: Does anybody here suspect?
QUESTION: That the Taiwanese are trying to --
MR. BOUCHER: We have a very established way of handling these visits. We look at them the same way every time. We take similar decisions every time. We're very clear about it. The travelers understand it. Everybody understands it. It's not different this time.
QUESTION: Has it ever been rejected, this type of a -- has any such travel arrangement been rejected that you're aware of? That's been --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's something I can go into.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: Richard, when you were in Central America last year for the Panamanian inauguration, the President of Taiwan was there as well, and, in fact, had come through New York on his very direct route from Taipei to Panama City. And he, in fact, had made public comments, gave a big speech, and so much so that, if you remember, recall, the Chinese Foreign Minister phoned him up early in the morning in Managua to ask him what was going on about that, and about his brief handshake with him in Panama City.
So I guess my question is: you have been assured that there are not going to be any kind of hiccups like this?
I know that -- you don't have to repeat that same line that it's going to be private. But you're absolutely confident? Because these promises haven't always been kept in the past.
MR. BOUCHER: We understand Vice President Lu's activities will be private and unofficial, consistent with the purpose of the transit.
QUESTION: Would you accept that your understandings to that -- some -- previous understandings to that effect have not, in fact, turned out to be private?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that I'm answering your questions about this particular visit. I'm giving you what we understand about this particular visit.
QUESTION: And have you heard about the Chinese (inaudible.)
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, Ambassador Tom Weston provided yesterday another exclusive interview to the distinguished Greek Cypriot correspondent Michael Ignatiou in which he repeated that the U.S. recognized only as the political leader of the Turkish Cypriot Mehmet Ali Talat. I'm wondering, what is the status of Raul Denktash. Do you recognize him as the leader of Turkish Cypriots? Could you please clarify the U.S. position in this matter?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I apologize for not having gotten the answer to this one yesterday. I'll get another one. I will look more.
QUESTION: There is a groundswell.
MR. BOUCHER: There is a groundswell of interest. I'll find you something.
QUESTION: Something you might want to take. I'm interested in the reaction to the resignation of the UN Administrator for Kosovo, Mr. Holkeri.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'll tell you about it.
MR. BOUCHER: We regret that Mr. Holkeri's health does not permit him to continue as a Special Representative of the Secretary General to the UN Mission in Kosovo. We wish him a speedy recovery from his illness.
Mr. Holkeri's time in Kosovo resulted in real progress in Kosovo's effort to achieve a multiethnic democracy where everyone has rights regardless of their background. It was during his tenure that standards for Kosovo were developed and released. It was under his leadership that a real dialogue with Belgrade over practical issues was launched. These have been important milestones in Kosovo's development. It remains up to the people of Kosovo to meet those standards.
Mr. Holkeri has worked hard to make Kosovo a better place for everyone, regardless of ethnic, political or religious background. We appreciate his service and we wish him well.
I've got one or two more.
QUESTION: I've got one extremely brief one. Can you confirm that the American citizen who was murdered yesterday in his hotel room in Monrovia was a DynCorp contractor?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. I'll have to check and see if I can.
Okay, we had one more, two more. Ma'am.
QUESTION: Do you have the update on the case of Charles Lee from yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: That's something you did ask me yesterday that I do have the answer to.
A consular officer from the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai last visited Mr. Lee on May 18th, 2004. As we know, he is serving a three-year sentence at Nanjing prison for attempted sabotage of broadcast facilities. The consular officer later spoke with Mr. Lee by telephone on May 24th.
This is the 20th face-to-face visit with Mr. Lee, the 34th time he's spoken -- a consular officer has spoken to him since his arrest in January 2003.
Mr. Lee was permitted by prison authorities to visit his parents and brother outside of the prison in Yancheng in Northern Jiangsu province on April 30th.
Mr. Lee reported that, since the visit with his mother, he has been performing light manual labor in the prison shoe factory.
Mr. Lee began a hunger strike on May 18th to protest working conditions in the prison's shoe factory, but he stopped the hunger strike and resumed eating on May 19th.
Consular officials will continue to monitor Mr. Lee's welfare and well-being while he remains in custody serving his sentence.
QUESTION: According to his fiancée in the States, he was forced to stay up really late and deprived of his sleep for an unknown knowledge of period of time. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any information like that.
Okay. One more. Two more. Still two more. Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the government of Mr. Sharon has emphasized the practices of -- in Sharon's government in Rafah the destruction of thousands of Palestinians houses and the killing of the Palestinians. And he said that made him recall what happened to his family by the Nazis in Europe during the Second World War. Are the Americans refraining at the United Nations from objecting to -- the UN resolution has received very positive views in the Arab world -- but so many people are wondering -- excuse me -- if that stand by the Israeli member of the government is going to encourage the United States a little more in the future not to be too reluctant in criticizing the Israeli practices against Palestinians. Do you feel that you are encouraged in the future by this event?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't -- we don't base our positions on what other people say. We've had a policy on demolitions. We've had a policy on some of these kind of events. We look at the situation, we decide what our position is going to be, and we express it in our own way.
QUESTION: Is there any progress after the Secretary's meeting with Nabil Shaath and Dr. Rice's meeting with Qureia? Is there anything?
MR. BOUCHER: We've continued to work the issues, continued to keep in touch with Palestinians, Israelis, and others about the prospect of an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. And we'll continue to work for -- to look at how the Palestinians can take more responsibility -- can take responsibility for security, end the violence, and then take responsibility when the Israelis withdraw from Gaza. So we'll continue to work the issues.
QUESTION: Are we to expect that in the near future, there will be an envoy or three envoys?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything like that planned at this point.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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