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12 January 2005

State Department Briefing, January 12

Iraq, Syria/Russia, Russia, Ukraine, Asian tsunami update, China/EU, Kuwait

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press January 12.

Following is a transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing Index

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

12:50 p.m. EST

Briefer:  Richard Boucher, Spokesman


-- Iraq Survey Group/Duelfer Report/Addendum to October 2004 Report on Weapons of Mass Destruction

-- Security for Iraqi Elections/Process and Procedures for Elections

-- Foreign Observers for the Elections

-- Reported Paying of Journalists by Iyad Allawi to Cover Political Events


-- Syrian President Assad's Upcoming Visit to Russia

-- Reported Russian Sale of Missile Technology to Syria


-- Secretary Powell's Meeting with Russian Defense Minister Ivanov


-- U.S. Representation at Future Inauguration


-- Status of American Citizens Affected by Tsunami/Number of Welfare and Whereabouts Inquiries

-- 18 American Citizens Confirmed Dead/17 American Citizens Presumed Dead

-- Reported Indonesian Government Restrictions on Movements of Relief Operations

-- Children Orphaned by Tsunami/Trafficking in Persons/UNICEF Camps


-- Jack Straw's Comments on EU's Potential Lifting of Arms Embargo Against China


-- Reported Kuwaiti Security Forces Action Against Al-Qaida Activists





12:50 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I don't any statements or announcements.  I'd be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION:  Would you kindly run through what you have to elaborate on what the White House has said about the search for remaining weapons in Iraq?  Apparently, the Administration is also citing accomplishments on uranium, et cetera.  It's about over, the White House says, although you're --

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah, what the White House has said, what we're prepared to say, is that the team that was out there is wrapping up their report.  They're working on an addendum to the report they put out last October.  The addendum won't change substantially the conclusions they reached in the interim report.  And we commented, I think, extensively at the time to make clear that we felt the reporting indicated an intent on the part of Saddam Hussein's part to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and a desire and intent to maintain the capability to do that.  So that's essentially, I think, where their bottom line is.  We'll see what further information there is in the addendum, but they've said that their addendum won't change the fundamental conclusions.

As they wrap up their report, there will be a small number, a handful, of members of the Iraqi Survey Team who will be left in Iraq to follow up on any further information or reports we get about the weapons of mass destruction programs that Saddam had.

QUESTION:  Could you give us any report on what -- maybe we'll wait for the report, but any progress that may have been made on uranium enrichment and on -- oh, there's something else that suddenly slips my mind.

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

QUESTION:  Oh, on the --

MR. BOUCHER:  We have -- on employment -- we have in the process of this reporting period and looking at it, we have, as you know, removed low enriched uranium and other radioactive sources, helped secure materials that were known to be in Iraq and offered -- and as part of the sort of securing any sensitive materials that we could. 

There is a program that we have been operating to try to offer employment to individuals with information on these programs of weapons of mass destruction.  It's a program that's offered civilian employment.  It's been operating for the last year.  It's had the, I'd say, enthusiastic participation of a number of Iraqi scientists and has engaged about 120 scientists in various activities, paying them stipends for their participation, providing opportunities for them to reestablish contact with peers and colleagues in the United States and get -- work into -- work into other fields of science rather than weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION:  Are they coming here?

QUESTION:  Is that the DOS program?

MR. BOUCHER:  That's a Department of State program, yeah.


QUESTION:  Are they coming here, you say?

MR. BOUCHER:  Not necessarily.  I think, you know, regular scientific exchanges; Iraqi scientists would have contact with their peers and counterparts in the United States, but the stipend that we pay them is paid for work that they do in Iraq as they help plan programs of --


MR. BOUCHER:  -- new scientific research in other fields.

Yeah, sir.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on Iraq?  The Secretary, in his interview with NPR, talked about the Iraqi elections and he said that even in the provinces which are not considered to be stable that the Iraqis should still go out and vote.  Can you explain why somebody would want to go out and vote in an area where they might be killed?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, I think there are a lot of things to look at here.  I think the first thing to remember is that Iraqis want to go out and vote.  Look at the polls done in Iraq.  I think the IRI had a poll done in late November that showed that 70-some percent of the Iraqis wanted the elections and wanted to be able to participate in the elections.  Now, there is a campaign of violence and intimidation that's trying to prevent them from having that right and that opportunity, but many of them, even in parts of countries that are somewhat dangerous, we hope, will try to take advantage of the opportunities.

The Iraqi Government, meanwhile, the Iraqi Independent Election Commission of Iraq and the Iraqi Interim Government, are taking steps to try to provide that opportunity to the citizens of Iraq and they're moving forward in flexible fashion to offer the ability of citizens to vote, and, furthermore, to establish more security in areas where citizens do want to vote.  So they are taking steps and the coalition forces are supporting them in doing that.

There has been a great deal of effort put into this.  The Iraqi Government has carried out outreach efforts and meetings with various members of the Sunni community as well as others throughout Iraq to try to encourage voting.  We've seen the neighbors' conferences in Sharm el-Sheikh and then yesterday in Cairo try to encourage maximum participation.  We've seen the Gulf Cooperation Council issue statements to encourage maximum participation, especially by the Sunni community.  Jordan has held meetings with neighbors.  So there's been, I think, a lot of effort put into it by the international community, a lot of effort put into it by the Iraqi Government, a lot of effort put into it by the coalition forces to make this opportunity available to all the citizens of Iraq.

We recognize that there are still those trying to intimidate voters and make it difficult to vote.  Nonetheless, there are some 6,000 polling places being established in Iraq.  There are some 14 million voters on the list.  And we think they should have this opportunity.

QUESTION:  Richard --

MR. BOUCHER:  Let me add maybe one more thing to that.  And that's to say, let's remember that having this election and affording that opportunity to so many people inside Iraq and so many parts of Iraq that will vote smoothly and peacefully, as well as those where voters might be running some risk, is, in itself, a major achievement.  And that's a major step forward along the timeline that was planned for the Iraqis to take on more and more authority, more and more responsibility for their future.  This leads to a Transitional Assembly that will write an Iraqi constitution, and then there'll be another election towards the end of the year. 

So there will be many opportunities along the way for the Sunni community to express itself, either through voting or through other participation in the political process, and our goal is to try to make sure that all those opportunities are available to all the citizens of Iraq.

QUESTION:  May I follow up?


QUESTION:  Of those 6,000 polling places, how many of those venues will have U.S. troops present?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know that there are plans in that direction.  That's a question you'd have to ask the coalition forces.  I think a great deal of the security for the elections is being provided by the Iraqi forces.


QUESTION:  Richard, could we go back to the decision to end the hunt for weapons of mass destruction?

QUESTION:  Can we just finish on elections first?


QUESTION:  Well, this is an earlier one.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Right, I understand.

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't care.

QUESTION:  Well, because there are some things, you know, that need to go back.

MR. BOUCHER:  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Well, the White House was a bit reluctant to end the search because, you know, the likelihood of finding something in the future or evidence that they may have migrated elsewhere, gone to another country.  Does that mean that the end means that there is no evidence whatsoever or no more suggestion or, you know, whatever it is, say, that they may have something else there?

MR. BOUCHER:  On what basis do you stipulate the White House is reluctant to end the search?

QUESTION:  Well, I mean, that's what --

MR. BOUCHER:  On the fact that Scott McClellan this morning used the exact same language that I'm using now, because I just copied what he said and now I'm reading it to you?  (Laughter.)

No, the White House has, I think, dealt with this issue extensively and has made clear that there were a lot -- there was a lot of information in the interim report about the intent and the capability.  There was also information showing that, the best of our knowledge, there were no stockpiles, despite what people knew and came to believe at the time, based on extensive intelligence.

But I don't think anybody has been reluctant to conclude this.  We have been looking for this group to do a careful and thorough job and to conclude at whatever time they felt was appropriate.  They put out an interim report in September/October and now they're doing an addendum to finish up the reporting.  But there will still be an Iraq Survey Group to follow up on any leads that might come along or further information that might come along.

QUESTION:  So now the notion that it may have gone elsewhere, is it being abandoned or is it being pursued or is it actively pursued?  How would you characterize it?

MR. BOUCHER:  I would leave it to the Iraq Survey Group to see if they've gotten more information on that.  I don't know if that will be part of their addendum or not, but we'll have to see when they finish their work whether they address that issue any more.

QUESTION:  Was that the American group?

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah, yeah, Charlie Duelfer and his team.  Yeah, Iraq Survey Group.  Yeah.

Adi -- or Teri.

QUESTION:  Are you doing elections?

QUESTION:  I am, but you --

QUESTION:  Oh, thank you, Adi.  That's very polite. 

MR. BOUCHER:  That's very graceful.

QUESTION:  There were reports out of Baghdad that Iyad Allawi's electoral group, after a press conference, handed out $100 bills, or $100 in cash, in some form, to reporters in an apparent attempt to make them more amenable to covering their press conferences and their political -- their political actions.  Is this something you're aware of?  And if so, does it lead --

MR. BOUCHER:  Frankly, I don't know the facts of the matter.  You'd have to check with folks out in Baghdad on that.

QUESTION:   You haven't even heard that this happened.

MR. BOUCHER:  I think I saw a press report.  I don't know the facts of what exactly --

QUESTION:  Would it be something --

MR. BOUCHER:  -- occurred or didn't occur.

QUESTION:  Wouldn't the State Department, with all its training on free media and a free press, be concerned about reports like this?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know the facts of the matter.  I don't know who did it, what happened, or anything like that, so I'm not going to start expressing concern about something I don't know exactly what occurred.

QUESTION:  All right.


QUESTION:  In reference to foreign observers and the UN, in terms of its presence in Iraq, can you give us an update on how many UN election experts are in Iraq?  I know you can't talk specific numbers because of security reasons, but do you expect that number to increase in the next 18 or so days?

MR. BOUCHER:  I think that's a question for the United Nations to answer.  I do know -- I think you've all seen the reporting -- the UN has been an important part of this, had said that the -- in their view, that the Iraqi Election Commission is ready to conduct the election and to conduct the election on time, and that they have supported this process with advice and expertise, they have supported the process with ideas about how to encourage maximum participation throughout Iraq, including in the Sunni areas.  But exactly how many people they will have, I don't know.

Let's remember that, fundamentally, they are not running the election.  The Iraqi Election Commission is running the election.  They are the ones that have been establishing polling places, finding poll monitors and all that sort of thing.  So I don't know if they have any plans to put more people on the ground on the day of the election or not.

QUESTION:  And in reference to foreign observers at the different polling locations on election day, do you know how many are going to -- I know there was a conference in Ottawa not too long ago on this subject.  Do you know how many American officials are going out there to participate in such a --

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know, as far as how many Americans might be going out.  I'll check and see if we have any information, or maybe it's a little too early to try to give you a total count.

Yeah, Nadia.

QUESTION:  Richard, Mr. Abdul Aziz Hakim -- he is the head of the Islamic Supreme Council -- has said that in his election, one of the candidates in the election, said that he will clean up the intelligence services and the security services of the ex-Saddam Baathists, who are keep on torturing Shiites, according to what he said.  Do you -- first of all, your reaction to that?  And second, do you really believe that now that we have ex-Baathist colonels, whatever they are, generals, within the Saddam regime that are inside the security service?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't want to get involved in Iraqi politics and try to comment on statements that are made by various candidates.  So I'm afraid I just -- I can't get into that.  I would say that the U.S. policy against torture is very clear and very firm, and that where we have found cases of abuse, allegations of abuse, we have followed up and we have tried to not only correct the abuses, but prosecute those who might be responsible.

QUESTION:  But are you satisfied with the current security arrangement within the intelligence community in Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER:  I'll leave it at what I said.


QUESTION:  Changing topics, unless people aren't ready.



QUESTION:  Okay.  Syrian President Assad is due to visit Russia later this reports and there's reports out now that Russia's getting ready to sell one of their more sophisticated missiles -- I think the SS-26 -- which could hit any target in Israel.  How would the U.S. react to such a a sale?  And does the Secretary have any intention to raise that with the Russian Defense Minister, who is present today?

MR. BOUCHER:  We'll have to see if it comes up.  I don't want to, at this point -- the meeting's an hour away.  I don't want to start listing topics.  We'll see how it comes up.

I guess I would just say, you know, we've seen reports of the sale.  U.S. policy on this is very clear:  We're against the sale of weaponry to Syria, against the sale of lethal military equipment to Syria, which is a state sponsor of terrorism.  We think those kinds of sales are not appropriate.  The Russians know about this policy.  They know about our views.

QUESTION:  Just a follow-up.


QUESTION:  What sort of action could you envision if the Russians go ahead anyway?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, there are potential sanctions, under U.S. law, but that would have to be looked at if and when such a sale should occur.  So, at this point, I think I'll just state what the policy is, what the law is.  As you said, this is now speculation about something that may or may not occur.  Let's see what does, in fact, happen and then we'll apply the law accordingly.

QUESTION:  Well, you said you were against the sale, but you said you have to wait till it comes up.  Do you intend to raise it with the Defense Minister?

MR. BOUCHER:  I would say that we are -- we have a very clear policy on this.  The Russians are quite aware of what our policy is.  Whether it comes up this afternoon or not, the Russians know what our policy is on this and they know what our law is on it.

QUESTION:  Can I ask you that old question about Ukraine and whether the Secretary will have time remaining to attend the new installation?  The process of appealing, apparently, has not run out yet.  Does this pretty much keep him from attending?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know.


MR. BOUCHER:  Simple answer.  I don't know what's going to happen in Ukraine, when they're going to schedule things.  Once they do, you can ask us who's going to go.

QUESTION:  And he can go as a private citizen.

MR. BOUCHER:  We'll send the appropriate person at the appropriate time, I can promise you that.

QUESTION:  But apart from that, considering his interest in the subject, I mean, Jimmy Carter still makes trips, I mean, places.

MR. BOUCHER:  Barry, I'm not going to speculate.  I promise we'll send the appropriate person at the appropriate time.  But, at this point, we're looking to see what happens in Ukraine, and whatever they decide, we'll decide accordingly.


QUESTION:  Can we go to tsunami update time?  Anything new on casualties, obviously?  And also, since the White House says, we, the Administration -- they, the Administration -- are looking into what Indonesia means with its apparent request for a pullout of military forces, I would presume the State Department is doing some of the communication.

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.  We're in touch with the Indonesians on that question of military forces and where they can operate in Aceh.  I would make clear, first of all, U.S. military forces are in the area providing relief to Indonesian citizens, and that this process has been worked very closely with the Indonesian Government.  As you know, when the Secretary was in Aceh, we met with Alwi Shihab, the minister who is in charge of the effort there, as well as the commander on the ground, and the United States and Indonesia have worked very closely together to try to get relief to the people who need it. 

I think it's -- we have been in touch with the Indonesians.  We'll continue to follow up on these reports that there might be some restriction.  But, at this point, there are not any restrictions on our military assistance, on USAID workers, or on our international partners.  We're in touch with the Indonesian Government, seeking more information about their policy towards access to various parts of Aceh, but, to date, there's been no such restriction. 

QUESTION:  And no --

MR. BOUCHER:  And our commitment, and what we're doing with the Indonesian military and the Indonesian aid officials, is to get the relief supplies to the people who need it, where they need it.  And I think you see many, many examples of that being done through the reporting coming out of Aceh.

QUESTION:  So no restrictions now and no notification that that would be changing, as far as you're aware?

MR. BOUCHER:  That's right.  That's right.  But we're inquiring on the subject anyway.

QUESTION:  Okay, and can you talk about the lists?

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah, as far as American casualties, those who are known and presumed dead, the numbers remain the same at 18 American citizens who have been confirmed dead, 17 American citizens who we now presume are dead, based on what we know about the circumstances of where they were when the tsunami hit.

We continue to work with family members and our officials in Thailand and Sri Lanka to provide all the available assistance to family members for those who are either dead or presumed dead.  We have continued to collect information and work to lower the number of unknown cases, people whose whereabouts we don't know.  Of  30,000 calls that we had received over time, we now have 472 whereabouts inquiries that remain.  And so we will continue to work on those to try to identify where those individuals might be.

Okay, Peter.

QUESTION:  Just to follow up on the Indonesia question there.  As you know, the Secretary or the United States did make a gesture to ease the embargo on the spare parts.  The Secretary did say that it was a matter of humanitarian concerns trumping the reservations of the political.  Is there at any point that you will be telling the Indonesians, though, that their abuses or their using this relief operation for political purposes there will have a negative effect on that?  Have you, or do you plan to --

MR. BOUCHER:  I'm -- I don't -- you sound like we're supposed to start throwing out accusations.  I'm not aware the Indonesians have done that.

QUESTION:  Mm-hmm.

MR. BOUCHER:  Our view is that they do need these C-130s to provide relief and that that's what they want them for, that's what they need them for.   And we're going to try to help them put them into service for that.

QUESTION:  Well, I'm talking specifically about these restrictions on the movements within Aceh.  Is that --

MR. BOUCHER:  Which don't exist.

QUESTION:  You don't know yet.

MR. BOUCHER:  As far as we know at this point, which don't exist.  So you want me to reprimand them for something that I just said doesn't exist?

QUESTION:  No, sir, I don't.

MR. BOUCHER:  Okay.  I don't think I'll do that.  Thanks for the opportunity, though.


QUESTION:  Yes, sir.  Today, UNICEF said that in Sri Lanka they're establishing camps for children, orphaned children, to guard against their forced labor or slavery or prostitution.  I know you addressed this issue before, but is there anything specific that is targeted to that effort that the Department of State or the United States is doing and not part of a larger aid?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, first of all, the United States provides a lot of support to UNICEF and we work closely with them on these matters involving potential for trafficking to occur in these situations.  Second of all, we have an Office on Trafficking in Persons that's very much involved, and I'd have to check with the AID people to see what specific money they might have spent on this particular effort.

Okay, Christophe.

QUESTION:  Another from here?


QUESTION:  The British Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, today said that he expected the European arms embargo on China to be lifted by next July.  Do you have anything, any comment on --

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't have anything further at this point.  I think we've stated our policy quite clearly.  We've kept in close touch with the European Union on this matter and don't have any change at this moment.

QUESTION:  Are you considering any, I don't know, sanctions or measures to try to --

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't want to speculate at this moment.  We have a clear policy on this.  We continue to keep in touch and work with the European Union as they consider what their policies should be.

The Secretary addressed this quite clearly when we were in the Netherlands for the last U.S.-EU meetings.

Yeah.  Nadia.

QUESTION:  There have been reports coming from Kuwait in the last few days talking about the security forces being engaged with the al-Qaida activists.  Are you worried that what was seen in Saudi Arabia might spill over the border to Kuwait, as well?

MR. BOUCHER:  I think what we've seen in both places is an effort to root out the dangers, root out the potential dangers of people who might want to attack the government or the establishment or U.S. forces there.  And that's -- part of an effort going on in Kuwait right now is some information they apparently discovered.  But as far as details on it, you'd have to check with the Kuwaiti authorities.

QUESTION:  But, I mean, does it worry you because it is controversial and Kuwait has denied that there were al-Qaida activists and they said that wasn't the case, but now it seems it is the case?

MR. BOUCHER:  I think I'll leave it to the Kuwaiti authorities to explain what's going on with that particular case.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER:  Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

(end transcript)

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

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