27 January 2005
State Department Briefing, January 27
Iraq, Canada, Mexico, Organization of American States, Nicaragua, Serbia and Montenegro/Kosova, Cyprus, Kuwait, Russian Federation, Sudan, Israel/Palestinians, Iran
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press January 27. Following is a summary of his remarks on the upcoming Iraqi election:
PLANS SET TO MAKE IRAQI ELECTION FULLY ACCESSIBLE
Efforts are under way to make the January 30 elections safe and accessible to all Iraqis, says State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
For example, in Anbar and Ninevah -- provinces hard-hit by insurgent violence -- residents can register to vote on Election Day at any voting center in the province, Boucher said. In addition, Iraqis who have been displaced from the provinces by violence or other reasons will find three polling centers set up specifically for them in Baghdad, the spokesman said.
These steps, Boucher said, demonstrate that the Iraqi Election Commission "is taking into account the security situation that exists in a few parts of Iraq, and to provide even more opportunity for people who might live in those areas, recognizing the difficulties they might normally face in voting."
"Nobody's claiming this is going to be the perfect election. We all know there's violence," the spokesman acknowledged. Nonetheless, there are people trying to prevent it, he said.
The Iraqis and the Iraqi forces will provide Election Day security, Boucher said. "There are obviously places where U.S. forces might be needed, or coalition forces might be needed," he said, but "the Iraqi efforts to provide security for the election places is paramount, and clearly they're in the lead."
"This is very much an Iraqi process," Boucher said. "They're running the election. It's their election commission that's running it. It's their tally center, their polling centers and their media center, and they're in charge of it."
According to Boucher, 40 percent of the local polling centers already have their election materials, such as ballot sheets and boxes. The recruitment of polling staff is complete in most governates, and the training of poll workers is in progress, he said.
Iraqi officials, Boucher said, have already accredited 1,200 media representatives, most of whom are Iraqi and pan-Arab journalists. In addition to thousands of poll workers, there will be about 55,000 different observers and monitors who will be at the polls, the spokesman said.
Boucher said the elections will represent "a major milestone" in Iraqi history, and those elected will have "more legitimacy than any previous Iraqi government."
Following is the full transcript of the State Department briefing:
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, January 27, 2005
12:50 p.m. EST
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
-- Department Welcome to Secretary Rice
-- Secretary Travel to Europe and the West Bank
-- Secretary’s Official First Day at Department / Telephone Calls
-- Elections Update / Polling Places / Media Accreditation / Process / Neighboring Counties / Voter Education / Security / Role of Department Employees / Monitors
-- Arrar Deportation to Syria
-- Security Situation Along U.S. Border / Public Announcement
-- Cooperation on Law Enforcement Issues
-- Abductions and Kidnappings
ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
-- Support for Francisco Flores for OAS President
-- Report of Anti-Aircraft Missile and Arms Sales / MANPADS
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO/KOSOVO
-- Future Status of Kosovo / UN Resolution 1244
-- Property Transactions in Northern Cyprus
-- U.S. Recognition of Republic of Cyprus
-- Terrorist Threat Warning
-- Rule of Law and Civil Society and G-8 Talks
-- Update on Violence in Darfur
-- Accountability for Crimes and Atrocities / Genocide
-- UN Report / International Criminal Court / Possible Sanctions
-- Civilian Deaths / Security
-- Efforts to End Nuclear Weapons Development / Chancellor Schroeder Comments
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 15
THURSDAY, JANUARY 27, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:50 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing; and we were all very happy today to welcome our new Secretary, Secretary Rice, this morning to the lobby at the State Department when she came in. And she is here and actively working with all of us on the foreign policy agenda.
I'd like to do two things at the top. One is to continue my daily series of numbers and facts about the Iraqi election. And the second, then, will be to talk to you about travel. So let me do the Iraqi election update first.
Preparations, of course, are continuing. They are on schedule for the Iraqi election on Sunday. The focus, now, is moving to preparations at the local level. We know that 40 percent of the local polling centers already have their election materials -- some of those materials I talked about yesterday.
The media badging at the election center continues there, so we now have 1,200 media representatives who have been accredited to date, most of which are Iraqi and Pan-Arab journalists. So we welcome the widespread attention that the election in Iraq is getting in the Arab world.
The recruitment of polling staff is complete in most governates and the training of poll workers is in progress. Most of the recruiting for Anbar province is being done outside the province, as you might expect. I'd like to talk a little bit about the situation in a couple of the more difficult areas: Anbar province, there are 950 poll workers for Anbar; for the provinces of Nineveh and Anbar, registration is being allowed on election day, which is unlike other places in the country. And for the people who live in the provinces of Anbar and Nineveh, residents can also go to any voting center in the province to vote, again, unlike other places in Iraq.
And finally, the people who have been displaced from the province by violence or other reasons will find three polling centers set up specifically for them in Baghdad. So this is part of the effort not only to provide security for the election and the opportunity for the election throughout Iraq, but to make sure that we took into account -- that the Iraqi Election Commission is taking into account -- the security situation that exists in a few parts of Iraq, and to provide even more opportunity for people who may live in those areas, recognizing the difficulties they might normally face in voting.
So I will stop there for the moment. If there are any questions about this, we can do that and then move on to the travel issue.
QUESTION: I don't want to question you as far as your use of pronouns, but when you said, "we have 1,200 media registered," do you mean, is it the Iraqis who are handling media registration?
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- no, I'm glad you do question me on that because I think, actually, the election center and the media badging is being done by the Iraqis and that they have 1,200 media representatives.
QUESTION: The U.S. hasn't rejected anybody or asked the Iraqis not to allow --
MR. BOUCHER: No, not at all, that I'm aware of. This -- and I should emphasize again, I should have said, "they have" because this is very much an Iraqi process. They are running the election. It's their Election Commission that's running it. It's their tally center, their polling centers and their media center; and they're in charge of it.
QUESTION: On the election, quickly, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey today, I think at Davos, said that he didn't think the election will be "fully democratic." Are you sure that all the neighbors of Iraq and the other countries in the neighborhood will actually recognize the results out of that election?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there's any formal process of recognizing the results, first of all. What we've found is that many of the neighbors are looking forward to working -- have been working very well -- with an Iraqi government, with the existing Iraqi government, the Interim Government that was chosen, as you know, through a process of consultation and selection, and have looked forward to having a government that had a more broad and firmer democratic base in terms of an election.
And so nobody is claiming this is going to be the perfect election. We all know there is violence. There are people trying to stop it. But this is a major milestone. This is going to be the first election that Iraqis have had to choose their own leaders. These leaders that will emerge, this assembly that will emerge from this election, are going to have that additional basis of legitimacy to call upon as they operate for Iraq, as they represent Iraq in the international arena, and as they fight the insurgencies and the violence and overcome the other problems inside Iraq.
So it is a major step forward, and I think everybody will recognize, if you want to put it in the generic way, that these people who will be elected come with more of a popular base of support and more legitimacy than any previous Iraqi government.
QUESTION: Richard, there has been sharp criticism, from a top UN commissioner saying basically that the U.S. forces has been distributing materials to Iraqis --
MR. BOUCHER: I think there's been a subsequent explanation by the United Nations as well of what she meant to say.
QUESTION: But is it -- I mean, is the U.S. forces distributing materials to people there?
MR. BOUCHER: I have certainly seen pictures of people, Americans, distributing election materials, and that has occurred in some places at some times. But exactly how much and how often, you'd have to get the military to give you that sort of accounting.
It is important, we think, this sort of -- voter education has been very important to us. We've seen a very large effort on the part of the Iraqi Election Commission to do that. Again, the Iraqis are spearheading that effort. They've produced TV ads. They've produced materials. They've done briefings. They've put instructions in newspapers, done videotapes on how to vote. There's a very broad voter education effort that is underway and, indeed, we have noted in a few instances some U.S. forces have distributed voter education materials.
But as to how widespread that might have been and where they might have done it, I'll leave it to the military to explain.
QUESTION: But, will we understand the need to secure these places? I mean, don't you think that the U.S. forces should step back so they don't look like they're running the show?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you will see on election day that most of the security is being provided by the Iraqis and the Iraqi forces. There are obviously places where U.S. forces might be needed, but -- or coalition forces might be needed, but again, the Iraqi responsibility for the elections, the Iraqi efforts to provide security for the election places is paramount and clearly, they're in the lead.
QUESTION: Richard, is there -- going off her question, are there any members of the State Department or anyone affiliated with the State Department who are distributing these leaflets or this education material?
MR. BOUCHER: You mean actually handing them out on the streets? I don't know.
QUESTION: Or organizing that they would be available?
MR. BOUCHER: We do a lot of support for voter education: National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, all the sort of -- National Endowment for Democracy-type organizations, various NGOs. You know, we do that all over the world and with government funds and so, yes, the U.S. Government has been active in supporting the voter education programs in Iraq. But the -- much of that effort is being spearheaded; I'd have to say, by the Iraqis.
QUESTION: But is it being coordinated with the military? Is there any sort of a correlation here that there is some State Department or affiliation with the State Department is helping out on this effort?
MR. BOUCHER: I will -- you know, I'll have to check if there's any particular coordination with the military, but I really think this is an on-the-ground question: Of the Iraqis on the ground; the election commission on the ground; how they are running their voter education projects and producing their voter education materials with support from us and others.
And then second of all, to what extent the U.S. military might have been assisting in that role is a question on the ground for the U.S. military, not something back here.
QUESTION: But you will get back on this question?
MR. BOUCHER: If we have anything. I'm not promising I can get it back here. It's really more an out-there sort of issue. And as you know, we do get information, and we'll see if we get it.
QUESTION: This may fall in the same category, but more specifically, will there be any State Department monitors out at polling places from the Embassy or from the other posts outside of Baghdad?
MR. BOUCHER: The bulk of monitoring for any election, particularly this one, is domestic. People -- I've talked before about the observers, the agents, the parties, all the various people who will be monitoring the people trained for polling places duty. There's something -- when you add it all up, I've talked about 25,000 specifically trained in recent weeks, but when you add it all up, there's something like 55,000 different observers and monitors and agents who will be at the polls in addition to the poll workers. So that there will be a lot of monitors there.
Certainly, our Embassy and our people in Iraq will be collecting reports and information as it comes to them about what's going on at the various polling places. But whether they actually have plans to sort of hop in cars and drive out to the different polling places, I just don’t know. I am not sure I would want to talk about it for security reasons, but we'll see.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up there, Richard. All these reports that are coming in, is there somebody going to be in charge of correlating those reports and making some actual definitive assessment about the --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, the Iraqi Election Commission.
QUESTION: The Iraqi Election --
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, it's their election. They're going to be making the first assessments and collecting any allegations one way or the other on how voting is going, on problems that might have arisen and that sort of thing.
QUESTION: All right. Okay. And is the United States willing to accept whatever the Iraqi Election Commission says --
MR. BOUCHER: I -- we'll obviously look at all the reports. We'll look at what kind of adjustments and analysis they do.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Is there a minimum -- sorry. What's the minimum you look for on the turnout in terms of participation or percentage-wise to consider this election successful or legitimate or --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't do that in the United States; we don't do it in France; we don’t do it in Germany; we don't do it in Malaysia; we don't do it in Indonesia. I'm not going to do it in Iraq.
QUESTION: But technically speaking, I mean, it looks like 50 percent--
MR. BOUCHER: You don’t judge an election by a minimum turnout. There's not a -- that's not the way anybody anywhere in the world judges elections, so I don't know why that standard is being applied to Iraq. The fact is the Iraqis are having the first election in their history. The fact is, they're electing people who will be able to continue the process of writing a constitution, moving on to even larger and more constitutionally based elections at the end of the year. We think that's a great process, and it's underway and it will be really solidly founded by having an election on Sunday. And that's what we're looking at.
QUESTION: A follow-up question about the monitors. You said it will be up to the Independent Election -- Electoral Commission of Iraq to make the determination about charges of fraud and abuse and allegation, yet they are the ones running the election. And that is not a standard that we've accepted in other places, including the recently concluded elections in Ukraine. Why are we not --
MR. BOUCHER: Whatever organization does this, there's -- in addition to the Iraqi Election Commission, there's -- what's the other abbreviation? I can't remember.
A PARTICIPANT: The IMEI*.
MR. BOUCHER: The IMEI, the Monitoring, the Iraqi -- there is a monitoring body as well --
QUESTION: From Jordan, right? A number of them are going to be --
MR. BOUCHER: -- the international monitoring that's involved.
Every election that we've seen around the world has different people observing it, different people watching it, different people making judgments on it. One doesn't -- the people in charge of the election are the, first and foremost, the people who are responsible -- we've made that clear everywhere -- in collecting any reports of problems or difficulties or things that might have disadvantaged voting or fraud and abuse, if that is alleged. And they have the first responsibility to collect those reports, look into everything and make sure it's understood and make sure it's explained and investigated properly and corrected, if possible. So I don't think that's different than anywhere else in the world.
One's judgment on any particular election, on how smoothly it proceeded and how fairly it proceeded, is always based on a combination of things: Their own reports, as well as what the international monitors say, as well as what the press reports say. I mean, this is going to be a heavily reported election. You've got 1,200 press people reporting on this election as well. They're as good as any monitors, maybe, if I might hazard a guess, a little more prone to reporting allegations or problems. So I think we'll all have adequate information to look at when this, as this election proceeds, to understand what happened.
QUESTION: But there won't be any international monitors working for the IEMI, I believe is the acronym of the group, in Iraq itself.
MR. BOUCHER: That doesn't necessarily prevent information from coming out. There will be plenty of information about how this election proceeds. I don't think anybody worries about that.
QUESTION: Richard, can you talk about any polls done by the U.S. Government in terms of what parties might be coming out on top? There are some reports that recent polls by the U.S. Government show that the -- Ayatollah Sistani's United Iraq --
MR. BOUCHER: The simple -- before you go any farther, the answer is no. I'm not getting into any --
QUESTION: The U.S. Government isn't doing any polls?
MR. BOUCHER: There's plenty of polling done. There's reports of polling that we see in the press and in Iraq. We're not making any predictions. The outcome of this election is going to be decided by the Iraqi voters, and we're looking forward to seeing how they decide.
QUESTION: Okay. But is the U.S. Government doing its own polls on lists?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen a lot of polling in Iraq, and that's as far as I'll go.
QUESTION: Do you have a general idea as to when the Iraqis will actually complete tabulating the votes?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's a matter of days. It's not immediately, I know.
QUESTION: There was an original estimate of February 15th that the White House was talking about. Is that still on the table?
MR. BOUCHER: I’ll tell you what, the Iraqi Election Commission has done a briefing every morning, I think -- maybe not this morning, but I know they addressed the issue in yesterday's briefing. They are probably the best place to give you the best possible estimate of that.
Do you want to talk about travel? All right. Between February 3rd and February 10th, Secretary Rice will visit eight European countries, as well as Israel and the West Bank. The trip is -- the trip comes in advance of the President's visit to Europe between February 22nd and 25, so she'll take this opportunity to advance the President's agenda and the United States agenda in cooperation with our European friends and allies.
She will visit the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Turkey, Israel, Italy, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Let me go through sort of four or five basic goals of the trip, and then give you a flavor for what she intends.
QUESTION: Is this the order, Richard, in which she's going to visit them?
MR. BOUCHER: It's the approximate order in which she intends to visit, but not every detail is pinned down yet, so I can't attach countries, places or dates quite yet.
During the course of her visit, she intends to promote President Bush's vision of democracy and freedom as the keys to peace and prosperity. She will work to identify a common agenda for 2005 with our European partners and our partners in the Middle East -- an agenda of fighting terrorism, proliferation, disease and poverty, as we support democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
She will coordinate with European partners and institutions to support reform in the broader Middle East and North Africa. She looks forward to working with European allies to advance the Middle East peace process, and she expects to support development of European institutions while in Europe.
I would note, as well, that Secretary Rice and Deputy Secretary-designate Zoellick would expect to visit all NATO capitals, as well as European Union institutions in Brussels by -- before the spring. That's one of their goals they've set for themselves as they come on. And this will be a start for that with eight European countries, as well as Israel and the West Bank.
So that's the basics of the trip, and heading off after the State of the Union on February 3rd.
QUESTION: Could you be more specific about what she wants concerning Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, at this moment, we'll probably leave it to describe it in general terms, frankly, each of these goals.
We know that NATO is involved in training in Iraq. Training and security issues are, of course, paramount on the agenda and we'll always be looking with NATO at how they can continue to achieve their training goals in Iraq. In addition, we've seen a number of European countries that, in different ways, are training policemen or other security personnel for Iraq, and that's also going to be, I'm sure, a subject of discussion with some of them.
QUESTION: Richard, can you give us more detail on what, exactly, that she would hope to accomplish in Israel and the West Bank and whom she will meet?
MR. BOUCHER: Not yet. She will meet leaders on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian leaders. She will, first of all, look to hear from them about the opportunities and how they're proceeding. This will be her first trip there as Secretary of State, although she is very familiar with the people and the issues.
But I would also say that this is a chance for her to hear from them about all the things they have been doing, about how they see the opportunities, and of course, as the President has said, she’ll convey the President's commitment and our desire to take advantage of every opportunity to move forward towards peace.
QUESTION: She said in her confirmation hearings that she expected to "personally" take a hand in seeking to promote peace in the Middle East. And I wonder if you would expect that she will be going back regularly, or if this is just something to sort of shake things off at the start of her new job and not necessarily something that she'll be doing on a regular basis.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I want to announce one trip at a time. But I would note the President, in his interview yesterday with Al Arabiya, mentioned that he was sending her to London to the Palestinian conference being planned -- the conference on Palestinian reform that's being planned for London in early March. So, I think this trip and that trip and the other efforts that you've seen her make in the past and would -- she would expect to make in the future will be a sign of her ongoing personal involvement in the process of, as I said, taking advantage of every opportunity to move forward.
QUESTION: And you can't say now whether she would expect to meet either President Mahmoud Abbas or Prime Minister Sharon?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect she would meet with senior leaders on both sides, but we don't have the -- every meeting pinned down. I'm not in a position to give you schedules for any particular stop yet.
QUESTION: Richard, would you expect that the Iranian nuclear talks and the Chinese arms embargo would figure prominently in her discussions in Europe?
MR. BOUCHER: There are many issues, many of which I have outlined. I told you one of them is to identify the agenda on fighting terrorism, fighting proliferation. Certainly, the Iranian nuclear issue and where the Europeans stand in terms of getting Iran to abide by international norms will be on the agenda. We've always discussed the issue of their arms embargo in China with European countries in the past, in recent meetings; I would expect that to come up again.
But remember, this is her first trip as Secretary of State in this capacity, and a lot of this is coming before the President's trip. And therefore, what's important is to set a sort of active agenda with the Europeans to focus on the things we can do together this year and the things that they can do together with the President this year.
So. We'll work back.
QUESTION: If I could ask quickly, if you know, do you have a sense of how her day's been going so far and what sort of things she's been doing since --
MR. BOUCHER: Great.
QUESTION: Did she find her office?
MR. BOUCHER: Found her office, no problem. She spent a little while this morning after she came in, and I think you saw her sort of meeting people and shaking hands in the lobby. Spent a little time upstairs at her office, but -- meeting the people on the seventh floor and kind of wandering around and looking and seeing what people were up to and how they -- meeting all the various people that support her as the Secretariat.
She's had some White House meetings. She's been making phone calls. I think you might have heard that she was going to call a number of European and other foreign ministers. And she's already connected with Foreign Minister Lavrov. That was fairly early this morning. She's connected with Italian Foreign Minister Fini, connected with Pakistani President Musharraf, and I expect her to continue making phone calls to other colleagues throughout the day just by way of checking in and starting off some of these relationships or continuing some of these relationships in a new capacity. And she looks forward to seeing many of them during the course of her visit when it comes to Europe.
I would note as well, this afternoon, she'll come down to the bureaus -- to the East Asia Bureau and meet with a group of people, not just from that bureau, but the different departments that have been working on tsunami relief. That's one of the issues that she wanted to work on directly as she started.
Yesterday, while still in the transition offices, she met with people to talk about the Iraqi elections and how the preparations were going for that. She met with people to talk about the Sudan peace and all the things that we're going to have to do now with the conclusion of the Sudan peace and where we go next on a lot of those issues.
So, she has been in transition having these meetings to focus on major issues. And today, as Secretary, she's coming down to the East Asia Bureau to talk about tsunami relief with all the people from the different bureaus of the department that do that.
QUESTION: Richard, did she meet with Dov Weisglass today? Is she planning on meeting him? And now that she's here, --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that she has. I'll have to check. Is he in town?
QUESTION: I think he is -- was supposed to be. Now that she's here, can you talk about her meeting with the Israeli foreign minister yesterday? And did any --
MR. BOUCHER: I think the simple answer is no, she wasn't here when she met him. I assume the NSC did the appropriate briefing on that, but no, I don't have anything new on that. I forgot to ask her about it, frankly. Sorry.
QUESTION: Does she have a Chief of Staff yet?
MR. BOUCHER: She's got a staff, yes.
QUESTION: Chief of Staff?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there are any personnel announcements to make on her behalf on the --
QUESTION: Richard, you alluded to White House meetings in her schedule. Was she over there? Was there something that she did -- a conference? I thought you alluded to --
MR. BOUCHER: As you all know, there are regular White House meetings on various topics, and she went over there for one today. We'll get to that. That's -- no, I can't. White House would have to do that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything that you can tell me about the conversation with Fini?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say it was certainly a friendly conversation. They look forward to working together, and they look forward to seeing each other soon.
QUESTION: And do you have the date of the stop in Rome?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have dates and places quite yet. We're still working on it.
QUESTION: And will you be staying on --
MR. BOUCHER: I said, we're going to Italy.
QUESTION: And will you be staying on as her press spokesman?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll be here for some transition until she decides it's time to have somebody else do this job.
QUESTION: Can you talk at all about her conversation with President Musharraf and if she talked about President Bush's plan to spread freedom in places that aren't necessarily democratic?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's best to characterize these calls as sort of touching base with people. They're talking about working together; they're talking about keeping in touch. Certainly, our support for democracy in Pakistan has been well known, well expressed, and it will be a continuing issue on our agenda. But I'd say that call, like the others, is pretty much just touching base and talking about how they can work together on many issues in the future.
QUESTION: Well, the Indians are going to say, why didn't she call them?
MR. BOUCHER: She's still in the process of making phone calls, so don't anybody start getting -- feeling that she's calling somebody and not somebody else. She's just -- has a number of calls she wants to make.
QUESTION: I was just trying to help you out.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. Appreciate it, George. I need it.
QUESTION: On Dr. Rice's, Secretary Rice's trip to Europe, you mentioned that she's going to be coordinating with the Europeans about working on the Middle East peace process. When you mention the Middle East peace process, is that a comprehensive peace that would include Syria and Lebanon, or what we hear recently, as though it has to do only with the Palestinians and the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's obviously -- excuse me. Our interest in a comprehensive peace has not changed and certainly that is our goal and that is what we are working for. I would think that the facts on the ground show that there is more promise and opportunity through the actions of the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli leadership at this moment; and that's where she is -- will be concentrating on this trip.
QUESTION: I have a -- I have a question about Canadian Maher Arar, if I could?
MR. BOUCHER: Can we go on to something else, guys?
QUESTION: Today, a Canadian newspaper, the Toronto Star, released a letter that shows that the U.S. decision to deport Maher Arar to Syria was based on Canadian intelligence. Why is the State Department, then, not cooperating with the Canadian inquiry into this matter?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have any updates for you on this. I think it's a matter we've expressed ourselves on many times in the past, and I'm just afraid I'm not prepared to entertain new allegations on it at this point.
QUESTION: On Mexico. The Mexican Government have received with disappointment the Public Announcement in regards to the security along the border. I would like to know if you can elaborate on the reasons for this Public Announcement and if you have received any complaint or call from the Mexican Government?
MR. BOUCHER: The -- I think we're certainly aware of Mexican views on the issue. We do feel it's important to tell Americans about the security situation near the border. There are a great many people visit back and forth, and we do note that a vast, vast majority of visitors, whether they're Americans coming to Mexico or Mexicans coming to the United States, visit without any mishaps or difficulties.
But there have been some incidents that have occurred. I think we're aware of 27 incidents involving abductions of Americans and that we know 2 of those Americans were killed and 11 remain missing; 14 were eventually released. So it's something that people need to be aware of. We're not saying anything particular, other than making people aware of those facts.
In terms of our cooperation with the Mexicans, I would say that we've worked closely with Mexican authorities to take the appropriate steps to ensure the safety and the security of U.S. citizens in Mexico. And in situations where Americans are victims of crime, we do follow those cases very closely as the Mexican authorities try to arrest and prosecute those who are responsible.
QUESTION: The Mexican Government was questioning the basis for the mentioning of lack of funds for police, judicial system, weak and inefficient. Can you elaborate a little bit more, sir, about it?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I can't, really. I think some of the problems we allude to are fairly well discussed and known and debated, even within Mexico. So I really don't think we're making any new revelations here. It's just a situation we felt Americans should be aware of. We do work with the Mexicans very closely on the safety of Americans. We provide -- we work with the Mexicans on improvements to the police and judicial system. We do joint training. We do programs together. So there's a lot of back and forth on these things so that we can all have the kind of safety and security that we look for, both in the United States and in Mexico.
QUESTION: In the letter of Ambassador Garza to Mexican officials, he is offering some help from the U.S. How U.S. can help? Do you believe that maybe expedite the extraditions can be can be a good measure, or maybe --
MR. BOUCHER: I think there are a lot of ways that we do work with Mexico and we're happy to help with Mexican Government on ensuring security for their citizens and others who visit. So we have a lot of ongoing programs. We do training, technical assistance with Mexican law enforcement. The number I have is, in 2004 we sponsored over a hundred training courses attended by more than 4,000 Mexican police officers and prosecutors, working on everything from criminal investigations, anti-corruption, border safety, forensics, kidnapping, hostage negotiations, there's a whole gamut of police techniques and police training.
So we have programs like that that we have and will continue. We have basic police and judicial cooperation, and we do talk to the Mexican Government about what kind of things they make their priorities, where they think they can use our assistance or our expertise. And that's really -- these programs are designed in conjunction with the Mexican Government.
QUESTION: Finally, do you have any reports in regards to the possible interview between President Fox and President Bush?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't have anything on that over here. That would be a White House question.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can -- oh, okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Same country.
QUESTION: Same country. That beats same region.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see your same region and bid you same country.
QUESTION: Same question? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You referred to 27 abductions. Were they all in the northern border region of Mexico?
MR. BOUCHER: At least 27 Americans citizens have been abducted along the border over the past six months.
QUESTION: Six months.
MR. BOUCHER: This number does not include "express kidnappings," if you want to know, where American citizens are abducted for a short period of time, forced to withdraw large sums from ATMs before being released. That's also a crime that we've seen occur in these areas.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you talk about support for former El Salvadoran President Flores for Secretary General of the OAS?
MR. BOUCHER: I can, right? We were -- (laughter). Well, we wanted to make the announcement first to the people at the OAS.
QUESTION: I think you did.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we probably did. If you know about it, then we probably did.
The United States supports the candidacy of Francisco Flores, former President of El Salvador, for Secretary General of the Organization of American States. President Flores is a dynamic former head of state. He has the political acumen, the regional stature, the administrative skills and the experience needed to lead the Western Hemisphere's most important multilateral organization.
As a committed democrat and multilateralist, President Flores embodies the values that we think underpin the work of the Organization of American States, and we're letting other countries in the region know of our support for President Flores for this very important position.
QUESTION: Several months ago, Secretary Powell, and I think you and Adam, both, said that the U.S. would support a consensus candidate in the region if one emerged. Do you see him as this consensus candidate at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if there's full consensus yet. We would certainly hope so. We also made clear that our hope was to support a Central American candidate, and so President Flores, we believe, has the support of Central American governments.
QUESTION: Same region. There was a report in one of the papers this morning about a sting operation involving Nicaraguan forces, also with the United States involved. And there's an implication there -- a sting operation for the purchase of Russian, or Soviet-era anti-aircraft missiles, and there's an implication there that there's a market somewhere for that sort of thing. Can you talk about the specific case, or in general about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think a couple of things, going from the most general to the more specific.
Worldwide, the United States has been very concerned about the issue of manpads, and we've had a number of programs, whether it's with individual countries or in organizations like APEC, where we're looking to control these missiles that can be used against aircraft.
In Nicaragua we have worked with the government of President Bolanos. He gave assurances to President Bush and former Secretary of State Powell in 2003 that Nicaragua would destroy all of its man portable air defense systems in order to reduce the chance that they might fall into the hands of criminals or terrorists. And we commend Nicaraguan authorities for successfully recovering one of their manpads, in this case a Russian-made SA-7, during a criminal investigation that culminated this month. Our Drug Enforcement Administration assisted them with that investigation.
We will continue to work with them. We have the State Department's Office of Weapons Removal -- of Weapons and Removal -- that is responsible for obtaining foreign governments' cooperation in destroying their excess manpads or better securing them against theft. And we are working with Nicaragua to help them destroy their stock of manpads.
QUESTION: This seems to imply that they didn't destroy them all because there were at least one out there. I think this report I was referring to has suggested that there was some unhappiness on the part of the United States about that.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the reports of this particular thing indicate that there might -- there are allegations or suspicions that there might be some stockpile that's held by the military or other parties. And we have asked the Government of Nicaragua to look into that and to investigate and find out whether, indeed, there might be some of these that have gone missing or might be in the wrong hands.
Yeah. Okay, sir.
QUESTION: On Kosovo, Mr. Boucher, any response to my pending question since January 25th regarding Kosovo, the International Crisis Group propose sovereignty leading to independence. Serbia-Montenegro proposed today, as you are talking, partition. (Inaudible) proposed that Kosovo must remain a provision of Serbia and that Kosovars could live comfortably there, as other minorities all over the world, like the Albanians in this country, and the Greeks in Albania. What is the U.S. position?
MR. BOUCHER: The U.S. position on Kosovo is the international position on Kosovo. We think it would be premature at this time for the U.S. to begin discussing future status options for Kosovo. We support the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the UN Security Council way ahead that's been -- the way ahead that's been endorsed by the UN Security Council.
That way ahead calls for a comprehensive review of Kosovo's progress on the standards for Kosovo around mid-2005. If that review is positive, then the international community will begin a political process to talk about Kosovo's future status. So we encourage Kosovo to continue to work to implement all the standards, and we think that more remains to be done in that regard, but we'll see where we are when we get to the mid-year review.
QUESTION: And if I may, Mr. Boucher, you don't be afraid that in case of independent Kosovo would create a precedent and the Albanians would have a free hand to grab more land from neighboring areas like FYROM and Montenegro?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't come to these status issues yet and I'm sure all the proper factors including the neighborhood will be considered.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, may I?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. Your written statement January 25th on the illegal property transactions in the occupied territory of Cyprus by Turkey is considering by the Nicosia as an attachment to the website, www.kofiannanplan.com, which means clearly permission of this mess. How do you respond to this criticism on your statement?
MR. BOUCHER: Is there really a www.kofiannanplan.com or is that --
QUESTION: That's exactly the question because -- it's an attachment? Otherwise, is your attaching this statement the Annan plan?
MR. BOUCHER: What I gave you was the position of the United States Government. We have always felt that that was -- the questions of property are duly and appropriately handled in the negotiation. There are certainly many questions of property that are dealt with in the Kofi -- in the Annan plan and we support the Annan plan. But I don't -- if you want what the UN position is on property transactions, you'll have to ask the United Nations.
QUESTION: One more. And according to the press reports, some of these illegal property transactions have been already taking place in the two illegal airports by the Turkish occupation forces stealing the land belonging to the Greek Cypriot refugees up to the level of 30 percent in order to build various facilities in those areas. Did you take that into consideration, your policy to terminate the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots?
MR. BOUCHER: Property issues are, of course, important, but as I said before, they need to be dealt with in the context of a final agreement.
QUESTION: Back to the Middle East. Can you tell about this warning from the American Embassy in Kuwait of a possible attack?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, there --
QUESTION: There's a warning from the U.S. Embassy that there might be attack on Kuwait.
MR. BOUCHER: Is there a Warden Message in Kuwait that you guys know of?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh.
QUESTION: It just came before I came here, so I don't know if you have more details on this.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh. Well, I'm sorry I don’t have it, but we'll check on it. I'm sure it's widely available. They try to make those things available.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Freedom House held a panel this week talking about the recent designation of Russia as not free. And a lot of the panelists were advocating that Russia be taken out of the G-8 or that the U.S. raise this idea of Russia -- Russia's going to be the host of the G-8 summit in 2006, I believe. And also, I guess, assuming the presidency of the G-8, and a lot of the panelists at the Freedom House panel were saying that the United States should raise this issue with Russia before allowing Russia to assume the presidency.
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen a press conference yet or anything, but if you're asking about democracy issues, if you're asking about status of freedom in Russia, judicial issues and things like that, the United States does raise these, has raised these consistently, at all levels.
The President is now preparing, looking forward to seeing President Putin in Europe later this month, and I'm sure the whole gamut of areas of issues with Russia will come up: The issues where we cooperate, where it's important to both our interests to work together and where we do work very well together; but also, the issues where we have concerns, the President himself has concerns.
So I'm not sure at this point whether it's time to raise it in the G-8 context. The British are currently the head of the G-8 for this year and, you know, we'll see if they suggest this. But the issues, the fundamental issues that are being talked about: The issues of freedom, the issues of judicial procedure and judicial independence, the issues of democracy, are being raised with Russia, will continue to be raised with Russia.
QUESTION: You don't know if it's ever been raised or if anyone has -- if it's on the table or being raised in the G-8 context?
MR. BOUCHER: I think all the G-8 nations in various ways have expressed concerns about some of these developments in Russia. We've certainly talked about developments in Russia with all the G-8 members at every level.
QUESTION: Senator Kennedy is in the process now of giving a speech in which he's calling that the current course that the Administration is making in Iraq right now is only making it worse. And in fact, he's asking for the Administration to redefine not only the military presence, but the political presence in that area. Given the very tough questioning that the Secretary went over with Senator Kennedy, what sort of chance would it be that she would be listening to Senator Kennedy's advice on what he believes should be done in that area?
MR. BOUCHER: We all listen very carefully to everything that members of Congress have to say.
QUESTION: And what is your reaction to this call?
MR. BOUCHER: That we'll listen very carefully to whatever members of Congress have to say. But there's an election Iraq on Sunday. The Iraqi voters will define the kind of government they want to take them forward. They will define the kind of representation that they want to move them forward in writing a constitution; and it's in their hands to define their political future.
Okay. We're almost done here?
QUESTION: Richard, today is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and there are world leaders attending that particular --
MR. BOUCHER: Including Vice President Cheney.
QUESTION: Right, exactly. And yet the situation in Darfur, again, is worsened. Government planes were bombing in Darfur from Khartoum. Under what circumstances would a no-fly zone go into effect around Khartoum and maybe turn those planes and helicopters over to NGOs and other similar-type groups?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, you raised a lot of questions here that I need to deal with bit by bit.
The question of the state of affairs in Darfur is certainly one of great concern to us. We have been appalled by the violent clashes and blatant violations of the ceasefire that have been happening in Darfur. All the parties -- the Government of Sudan, the militias that are allied with the government, and the rebels are to blame for this increasing violence. It must stop immediately. And as we have always said, people who are involved in this violence must be held accountable. The African Union is actively investigating the most recent violence.
What we've seen is that the Government of Sudan has conducted aerial bombings, as you say, of Darfur villages. This is a clear violation of the N'djamena ceasefire agreement and the Abuja Security and Humanitarian Protocols that the government has signed and promised to uphold.
The Jingaweit militia attacked Hamada, a town there, and killed more than a hundred people, many of them women and children. Khartoum's callous attacks call into question its sincerity to abide by the principles and the spirit of the north-south comprehensive peace agreement that it signed less than three weeks ago.
The Darfur rebels, specifically the Sudan Liberation Army, are also breaking every promise that they made by their brazen attacks on villages in recent days -- burning them, killing as many as 20 people. We have joined with Jan Pronk, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sudan, in expressing our concern about three national staff members of the Adventist Development Relief Agency International that are presumed to have been abducted by Darfur rebel groups and have been unaccounted for since December 16th.
Continued targeting of humanitarian workers by all parties violates the principles of international law, and we expect the government and the rebels to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers. I would add to this that the Government of Sudan has apparently arrested Dr. Madawi Ibrahim Adam, chairman of the Sudan Social Development Organization. We understand he was taken into custody earlier this week by government security officials, and we would call for his release. This is an ill-advised arrest that we think indicates a less than total commitment by the government to the humanitarian pledges it has made, and we call on the government to give Dr. Adam immediate access to legal representation and medical staff.
All these developments are disturbing. We are continuing to talk to all the parties, to work with the Africans and other nations to insist that the accords that have been signed by the different parties be respected, to take practical steps to help stop the violence, like continuing the deployments of African Union troops, and to talk to other parties about accountability for crimes that have occurred in the past. As you know, the United States was among the first to call many of the actions in Darfur genocide and to start to assign blame and responsibility. We sponsored a UN resolution that produced a UN commission that's been looking into the atrocities there, and as you all know from the UN and from press reports, that that commission is nearing the end of the work and we have begun now to talk to other nations in the Security Council and elsewhere and outside about how to ensure the accountability that we have insisted upon from the beginning and that we have insisted upon, that many others have insisted upon as well. And we think there are various options that the Security Council needs to consider. So that process is also underway.
QUESTION: Can I ask you two on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's -- slowly.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up, quickly, on that. (Inaudible), of course, there is a Criminal Court that has broad support in Europe. Condoleezza Rice is about to go off to Europe. Shouldn't this -- couldn’t this be an olive branch to Europe if the U.S. would agree to see these Darfur crimes?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position on the international court has not changed. I think -- I guess what I would say is there are a number of options, and we think the Security Council; when it gets this report, in order to ensure proper accountability, look at a range of options, look at the various options that are available. And we have begun our -- begun some discussions with other nations about how accountability can be ensured for the atrocities, the crimes and indeed, the genocide that has occurred in Darfur.
QUESTION: But the ICC is not one of the options the U.S.--
MR. BOUCHER: We have not been supporters of the ICC, no.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell said in September that genocide had occurred in Darfur. Do you believe it is still occurring?
MR. BOUCHER: I know this is the question we get every time we talk about atrocities and violence. We talked about the patterns of violence that had occurred. We talked about the government attack and the -- in coordination with the militias and said that those constituted genocide. We have seen that pattern repeated. But I would also point out this UN commission is completing its further investigation. We, ourselves, have continued to report, whether it's in public or to the Congress, on the violence and atrocities and the patterns of attacks that have occurred. And we will look to see what kind of conclusions this UN commission draws in terms of war crimes, specific crimes like genocide.
QUESTION: But you're not willing or able to say whether it is continuing, this genocide?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that those patterns of attacks that we said constituted genocide, and we've seen that pattern continued. And that -- I'd leave it at that at the moment, yeah.
QUESTION: Are we moving any closer towards the imposition of sanctions, whether it be with the Security Council or unilaterally?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, that's right. That was sort of the last part of his question that I forgot to answer. We are discussing with other governments also, the issue of how to move forward in the United Nations to increase the pressure on the parties to abide by their commitments that they have made. And indeed, you'll remember from the previous resolutions that the United States has drafted and sponsored that we've said we thought it was important for the Council to consider further measures should the parties not abide by their commitments.
QUESTION: But you have already, as we just said, Secretary Powell told Congress that he believes that genocide has occurred. So, are you kind of committed to just working through the Security Council on the imposition of sanctions or are there any unilateral measures that the U.S. can impose?
MR. BOUCHER: I think every time you've asked that question before of us or the Secretary, we've had to point out there are, frankly, sensitive restrictions already on U.S. relationships with Sudan, with the government in Khartoum and elsewhere. But we're always looking to make any pressures or measures effective, and they're more effective if they're done internationally. So I'm sure we'll look at whatever we can do. And there is legislation that asks us to look at specific things that we can do to encourage the government, to pressure the government and others and the rebels to abide by the ceasefire. So, we'll look at all those options, simple -- the simplest answer I can give you at this moment.
QUESTION: With respect to that, would Dr. Rice or now Secretary Rice consider sending John Danforth back to Khartoum to settle the western portion with the conflict?
MR. BOUCHER: This is her first day. I haven't heard her talk about anything like that yet. We are looking at how to advance this matter. The Security Council has a number of issues before it. Our diplomacy on this is ongoing and active. The United States has been at the forefront of calling attention to the atrocities and crimes of Darfur. We've been at the forefront of seeking accountability in Darfur and we will continue to do that.
We have also been at the forefront for the last several years of helping the Africans bring peace to the country as a whole, and we hope that that development, indeed, can contribute to bringing peace to Darfur as well.
QUESTION: Another Palestinian civilians, including children, yesterday -- a seven-years-old girl was killed by the Israeli army. That now goes into a number -- that's numbering, like, in the hundreds now of children that have been killed by Israelis. Were the Israelis celebrating with other countries, including the United States, the memory of victims -- the Jewish victims during the Second World War? Is Dr. Rice going to address this issue to refrain Israel from committing more acts of killing civilians during her visit and talks with the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: The issues of security for all people in the -- Israel and the West Bank are paramount. We understand that Israelis and Palestinians, alike, want to be able to lead normal lives. They want to be able to bring up their children in safety and have an opportunity for prosperity. Those issues are at the core of everybody's lives, but also at the core of the search for peace. And she will address with the parties how to achieve peace for all the people who live in that region.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on Cyprus, one more question. January 10th, Paul Kelly, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs in a letter in my possession to a number of members of the U.S. Congress regarding the illegal airport, saying, inter alia, "There has been no change in our policy of recognizing the Republic of Cyprus, as the Government of Cyprus know -- is there any attempt to undermine the legitimate and legal sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus." But his statement contradicts your policy, vis-à-vis to the illegal airports and seaports for the termination of the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, which -- not actually undermines the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.
How do you comprehend those totally difference actions?
MR. BOUCHER: I have told you --
MR. BOUCHER: -- a thousand times --
QUESTION: Yes, and --
MR. BOUCHER: --and I will tell you again today that we recognize the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. We are not changing that question of recognition, nor have we been asked to change that question, that issue of recognition. The steps that we intend to take to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, the steps that we have taken and are taking did not, in any way, change that recognition policy. That's what Assistant Secretary Kelly said in the letter. That is entirely consistent with what I have told you here 1,001 times, and what we will tell you tomorrow.
QUESTION: No, these actions --
MR. BOUCHER: Nor is it contradicted by the policies that we have undertaken, okay? We've got one more over here.
QUESTION: German Chancellor Schroeder this week called on all friends to strictly rule out any military option when it comes to dealing with Iran's nuclear ambition. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I think our position has been made clear. We are supporting European efforts to end Iran's programs that are intended to develop nuclear weapons. The President has expressed himself many times on this, talked about it again yesterday in his interviews and his press conference. There's no doubt about our support for this diplomatic solution. The President has made that very, very clear. But at the same time, in no situation do we take options off the table.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 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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