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31 January 2005

State Department Briefing, January 31

Rice/travels to Europe, Rice/phone calls, Israel/Palestinians, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, China/Taiwan

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press January 31.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Monday, January 31, 2005
1:00 p.m. EST

Briefer:  Richard Boucher, Spokesman

DEPARTMENT

-- Secretary Rice's Travel to Europe and the Middle East/Schedule/Meetings/Focus

-- Secretary Rice's Telephone Calls

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

-- Agenda for Secretary Rice's Meeting with Dov Weissglas

-- U.S. Assistance to the Palestinians

-- Query Regarding Ceasefire Violations

EGYPT

-- U.S. Concerns About the Arrest & Treatment of Ayman Nour

IRAQ

-- Effect of the Elections on the Activities of European Governments

-- U.S. Phone Calls & Discussions Regarding Elections

-- Travel to Baghdad by High-Level State Department Officials

-- U.S. View of Elections/Monitors/Security Personnel

-- Future of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad/Personnel

-- Future of Iraq/Political Process/Constitution/Another Election

SUDAN

-- UN Report on the Situation in Darfur

-- U.S.-UN Security Council Consultations on Further Resolutions & Measures

CUBA

-- Query Regarding the Temporary Lifting of Sanctions Against Cuba by the EU

-- U.S. Concerns About the Continuing Repression of Dissidents

NORTH KOREA

-- Status of Six-Party Talks & A Working Group Meeting

SAUDI ARABIA

-- Query Regarding Freedom House Report on Saudi Literature Promoting Hatred

ZIMBABWE

-- U.S. Efforts in Support of Open, Free & Fair Elections

INDONESIA

-- Status of U.S. Decision on Resumption of International Military Education & Training Assistance

-- Determination by Secretary of State on Indonesia's Cooperation in Murder Investigation

-- Sale of Spare Parts to Indonesia for Its C-130 Aircraft

-- Tsunami Update/Confirmed Dead/Presumed Dead/Whereabouts Inquiries

-- U.S. Support for Continuing Discussions Between the Government of Indonesia and Representative of the Free Aceh Movement

CHINA/TAIWAN

-- U.S. View of Cross-Strait Flights for Chinese New Year

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

MONDAY, JANUARY 31, 2005

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

1:00 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.   I think I was asked last week to give more detail on the Secretary's upcoming trip.  So I'm in a position now, I think, to describe for you the places where she'll be on different days, and then as we go into the trip, we'll try to describe to you more the meetings that she'll be having.

She flies on Thursday, February 3rd, gets to London late at night.  No events there that day.  On February 4th, in the morning, Friday, she'll be in London, then go on to Berlin, spend the night in Berlin; February 5th, Saturday, she'll be in Berlin, Warsaw and end up in Ankara, spend the night in Ankara; Sunday, February 6th, she'll have meetings in Ankara, go on to Tel Aviv, overnight that night in Jerusalem; February 7th, she'll be in Jerusalem and the West Bank, depart that afternoon for Rome; Tuesday, February 8th, spend the morning in Rome, go onto Paris; Wednesday, February 9th, spend the morning in Paris, go onto Brussels and on to Luxembourg, spend the night in Luxembourg; and Thursday, February 10th, have meetings in the morning in Luxembourg, return to Washington.

Let me flag a couple events during this trip:  One is the Secretary will give a speech on the afternoon of February 8th in Paris, a chance to discuss her view of U.S.-European relations, current policy and other things, as we go forward, and then obviously we'll have a number of high-level meetings in each of the places that she visits, including meetings with prime ministers and as well as foreign ministers.  The stop in Luxembourg is not only a chance to talk to the Luxembourg Government but also the head of the EU presidency.  So we'll be meeting with the EU Troika there -- she will be meeting with the EU Troika there.

So that's the basics of the trip.

QUESTION:  What's the setting in Paris, do you know?

MR. BOUCHER:  Do you mean the location of the speech?

QUESTION:  I mean is it --

MR. BOUCHER:  Not finalized yet.

QUESTION:  All right.  And you went so fast.  She's covering a lot of ground.

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  You've got her in Tel Aviv on the 6th.  Will the meetings be in Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, she flies into Tel Aviv.

QUESTION:  Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER:  Meetings in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Monday.

QUESTION:  Okay.

MR. BOUCHER:  The 7th.

Okay.  On to questions about these or other topics.

QUESTION:  Just on the travel.  Can you tell us more about what she's doing in Brussels, which institutions she'll be going to?

MR. BOUCHER:  Brussels is a chance to see the Belgian Government, also NATO, also the EU.  The schedule of meetings not finally set yet.

Yeah, sir.

QUESTION:  Is there any reason as to why other major U.S. partners in the area, such as Egypt, for instance, why is she not going to Cairo?

MR. BOUCHER:  Because you can't go everywhere at once.  There is a limited number of places you can go in a single trip, and to have seven days and to do this many places is already, I think you'll agree, a fairly remarkable accomplishment.

QUESTION:  Couldn't she squeeze -- those numbers there --

MR. BOUCHER:  No.  We've got plenty of friends in both Europe and the Middle East that we'd love to see; and I'm sure she will be seeing them during the course of her early travels, but at this point, you just can't go to too many places on one trip.

Tammy.

QUESTION:  Can you talk about her stops in Israel and the West Bank, specifically, where she's going in the West Bank, who she plans to meet with?

MR. BOUCHER:  Not yet.  We do expect to be meeting with senior leaders from the Palestinian Authority, including, probably, President Abbas and his team.  There will be some other events there that we'll talk about later.

QUESTION:  It is the West Bank, though?  She's not going to Gaza?

MR. BOUCHER:  No.

QUESTION:  Considering, you know, the circumstance, I wonder if she would take a look --

MR. BOUCHER:  The plan is to meet with them in the West Bank.

QUESTION:  Okay.

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.  Sir.

QUESTION:  If there is a focus of the trip, is it about the Middle East peace process or?

MR. BOUCHER:  I would say there's a number of things.  One is to work with -- and this is what we talked about when we announced the trip.  She's talked about it somewhat over the weekend.  One is to work with our friends and allies on a common agenda.  It's a common agenda that includes:  Fighting terrorism, building democracy, fighting disease like AIDS, and cooperating around the world on putting through some of the major -- the premier institutions like NATO, the G-8 and also things that the Europeans do in the European Union.

The second is a focus that we all have at this moment on the Middle East, to take advantage of opportunities between the Israelis and Palestinians, but also to continue and perhaps make even more concrete as we go forward the initiatives on modernization, reform and democracy in the Middle East that are embodied in such things as the Forum for the Future, the other G-8 outreach programs, the NATO outreach programs, the European outreach programs.

And the third, I think, is to support and work with European institutions as well to express our continuing support for united Europe and recognize that as Europe goes through a lot of discussions and changes in this current period that the United States has always been one of the supporters of a united Europe and an active European role and to work together with them on many of the things involved in that process.

I'm sure she will do it more eloquently herself at the appropriate time, but that's a gist.

QUESTION:  Yards can be written about the choice of Paris, a major speech considering the stated U.S.-European rela -- would you like to get into those yards and say why she singled out the country with -- in Europe with which the United States has had the most difficulty over the last few years?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, I think it's a good place for a speech and there's a lot to talk about; she wanted to do it in Paris.

QUESTION:  Is there anything symbolic, that this is a new day, a dawning?  (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER:  Not sure what time of day the speech will be yet, but --

QUESTION:  Well, she said (inaudible) here.  I mean, why did she --

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, I think the -- having talked to her a little bit about it, not extensively, but she wanted to do it in Paris because she felt Paris was one of the places where there's a lot of debate and discussion about the U.S., about Europe, about common goals, about how we achieve our agenda, and that she wanted to be part of that discussion.  That's a discussion that does go on in Europe, does go on in France, and that she wanted to be part of that discussion and put her ideas into the mix.

QUESTION:  Richard, can you talk about her meetings today with Prime Minister Sharon's advisors, exactly who is there at the meeting and what's the purpose?

MR. BOUCHER:  There's not a lot to say.  The meeting is going to be this afternoon with Dov Weissglas, who she knows very well from her time as National Security Advisor and his time as Prime Minister Sharon's advisor.  So this is part of a continuing series of meetings that they've had on and off as the presidents have been meeting and as the Secretary of State and his counterpart have been meeting over time. 

So this is an opportunity for her to look at some of the discussions they can -- she can have next week with Israeli leaders as she heads out to the region.  It's a chance for her to get an understanding and I think express our appreciation for the kinds of efforts that the Israelis and the Palestinians have been undertaking together, which Mr. Weissglas and others have been very involved in; to hear directly from him about how this process has worked and many of the things they have achieved together so far, in terms of cooperation and where that process can go in the future, and a chance to talk to him about many of the continuing issues on the table in terms of the roadmap and proceeding forward. 

So I guess I'd put it part as a continuation of the kind of discussions they've always had and part of it's looking forward to the further discussion of issues that she'll have during her trip next week. 

QUESTION:  The Israeli media was saying that Mr. -- Prime Minister Sharon's military attaché, General Galant, will also be there -- is that true -- and what they would be discussing specifically military --

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't have a list of participants from the Israeli side.  There will be people from the NSC and people from the State Department with her on the U.S. side.

Charlie.

QUESTION:  Will she have the ability to meet with a Palestinian before she goes to the region?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know of anything particular that's planned at this point.  They were in town and it's a good chance to talk to the Israelis.  As you know, Ambassador Burns has just been out there -- Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs -- and he's just been out there talking to both sides.  And he, himself, has had extensive discussions and he is obviously working now with Dr. Rice on the preparations for her trip.

QUESTION:  Is he out there?

MR. BOUCHER:  I'm sure he'll be out there.  I don't have a final list.

QUESTION:  The Israelis and Palestinians have been doing pretty well the last few days on their own.

MR. BOUCHER:  Frankly, they've been doing pretty well for the last few weeks, a few weeks, actually -- 

QUESTION:  That's right.

MR. BOUCHER:  -- on their own, with help and encouragement from everyone, including us.

QUESTION:  All right.  So do you think they need much in the way of U.S. input at this time or --

MR. BOUCHER:  As the Secretary said over the weekend, she'll be looking at areas where we can help, looking with them together at things that the United States can do to be a helpful part of this process. 

QUESTION:  Do you have any idea now --

QUESTION:  A quick follow-up.  You said that --

MR. BOUCHER:  No, not at this point.  I wouldn't single out any areas.

Said.

QUESTION:  You said that it's a continuation of the meetings she's had before with Weissglas.  But to the best of our understanding, those meetings in the past, as an NSC advisor, were focused on national security and so on.  Is that so?  Is it in that -- along those lines or?

MR. BOUCHER:  I wouldn't say that's the best of our understanding.  I don't think that's the way they were reported or discussed when they actually occurred. 

QUESTION:  Okay.

MR. BOUCHER:  Joel.

QUESTION:  Richard, you've been with Secretary Rice now since Friday.  (Laughter.)  What are some of the substance and tone differences that she --

MR. BOUCHER:  Since Thursday even, I think, yeah.

QUESTION:  Since Thursday.  You've seen some of the -- what are some of the substance and tone differences between she and Secretary Powell, especially with procedures and --

MR. BOUCHER:  I'm going to stop you right there.  I've served various Secretaries of State.  Each has had their own style.  Each has risen to the challenge of their times.  I've appreciated the honor and the opportunity every single time, and I have never done a comparison.  And I am not going to start now. 

QUESTION:  Richard, a prominent Egyptian opposition politician has been arrested, charged with forging documents and held in custody rather than being freed on bail.  It's the Ghad party leader, Ayman Nour, whose wife and whose lawyers say that the charges of fabricated documents are trumped up, false.  Any comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.  We are following the situation.  We are concerned by the signal that the arrest sends.  Mr. Nour, we understand, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and arrested on January 29th.  He is one of Egypt's most prominent opposition leaders and the arrest in Amman raises questions about the outlook for democratic process in Egypt.

This is the beginning of an election year in Egypt.  We're on the eve of a long-planned national dialogue between opposition parties, including Nour's and the ruling National Democratic Party.  That is a dialogue that we feel is very valuable and we would -- we find this arrest at this moment incongruous with proceeding with that dialogue.

We're also concerned about reports that he's been roughly treated.  We note he's a diabetic who needs regular medical attention and we would hope that he would first make sure that he's properly -- that the Egyptian Government would make sure that he's properly treated and that they would reexamine the issue, given that he is an opposition member of Parliament, and finally encourage the Egyptian Government to provide him with immediate and transparent access to counsel and appropriate legal recourse.

QUESTION:  Reexamine what issue?

MR. BOUCHER:  The issue of his arrest at this time.

QUESTION:  How do you -- I don't think you said in all of that whether or not you have raised this directly with the Egyptians, unless I missed it.  Have you raised it with the Egyptians?

MR. BOUCHER:  We are making clear our concerns to the Government of Egypt, so frankly, I'm not sure if it's been done today or not.

QUESTION:  He was arrested two days ago?

MR. BOUCHER:  29th, I guess it is.  Yeah, I don't know if they did it, if we've quite done it yet, but I'll check and see when we have.

Yeah.

QUESTION:  Just to get back to Secretary Rice's travels to Europe, after the Iraqi elections there, is there the hope or the expectation that this will generate more of a spirit of cooperation on the issue of training and other issues among the allies?

MR. BOUCHER:  I think we'll have to see.  We would certainly hope that everybody would recognize what a step forward the Iraqi people made, and how important it is for all of us to encourage and support those steps.  I don't think any of us expect to see a radical shift in the kind of activity that various European governments are involved in, but many of them have been very supportive of this process.  Others have gotten involved in other ways, whether it's through NATO or through the individual training that they're doing.  The Germans are doing some training for policemen and things like that. 

So we'll talk to them all about what they might feel comfortable doing, and we hope that the demonstration of the Iraqi people's desire for democracy, despite the adversity and difficulty of that, would inspire some of them to support that desire.  But we'll just have to see what happens.

QUESTION:  Could you talk about who U.S. officials have been in contact with since the election?  And at what level?

MR. BOUCHER:  Sorry, in --

QUESTION:  About --

MR. BOUCHER:  -- in Iraq or around the world or what?

QUESTION:  Yeah -- no, well, Europe or wherever, about the election.

MR. BOUCHER:  Oh.  Our embassies are all over the place, certainly talking to their -- to the governments in different places about the Iraqi election.  We certainly are all looking at the information that's coming out of Baghdad and coming out of the polling centers that have been established around the world.

I think you've seen not only the briefings by the Iraqi Election Commission, but also the International Monitoring Commission has come out and said they ran a good election.  And we're all, I think, looking at those kind of results, just of the process, and looking forward to the kind of results they produce on the outcome of the election and that.  And so I think that's true in foreign ministries around the world and that we are talking to counterparts there.

Secretary Rice has continued her phone calls.  I think we ran down for you some of the phone calls she made last week.  We're up to, I think, 23 counterparts, foreign ministers and other leaders around the world, with phone calls to the Chinese Foreign Minister, the South Korean Foreign Minister, the Spanish Foreign Minister and the UN Secretary General today.  So she's -- I'm sure the Iraq election comes up, as it did last week, in various phone calls that she's making.

QUESTION:  Are these in the category of touching base, like last week's, or --

MR. BOUCHER:  Touching base, preliminary discussions sometimes of the issues; obviously with the South Korean and the Chinese, she's emphasized the importance of six-party talks, as they do.  So that will be one of the issues we'll work together on.

QUESTION:  On Iraqi elections. 

MR. BOUCHER:  Let's --

QUESTION:  Could I follow-up on Korea, for one sec?

MR. BOUCHER:  Okay.  We've got plenty of people after -- behind the first row who have been waiting.

QUESTION:  I'm happy to wait.  Happy to wait.

MR. BOUCHER:  Okay.  Go.

QUESTION:  Yeah, I was wondering, the Sudanese Foreign Minister says a UN report that's going to come out tomorrow will show that genocide is not occurring in

Darfur.  Do you have any comment?

MR. BOUCHER:  I would not be able to comment yet on a UN report that has not been released, so I'll leave it to the UN to -- I think they're in the final stages of preparing the report.

I would point out not only did the United States say that genocide had occurred in Darfur, but we asked for this commission in the resolution, we have supported its work, and we are looking forward to seeing the results.  They have done extensive research and interviewed a lot of people and collected a lot of information, not only on what things that we collected information on last summer, but on the subsequent events, and therefore it would behoove everybody to look at the whole report in some detail to understand how things have evolved or, sadly, in some cases, not evolved in terms of what's going on in Darfur.

We are also consulting with other members of the Security Council at this point on further steps and further resolutions regarding Darfur.  We've been talking to other governments about the issue of accountability and how that needs to be established and the options that we think the Security Council should consider.  We've been also talking to them about further measures, including possible targeted sanctions that the Security Council might want to adopt given the continuing pattern of atrocities and violence in Darfur.

Said.

QUESTION:  Going back to the Iraqi election.  Considering that it's been invariably described as compelling and historic, are there any plans for high-level officials, U.S. officials, to go to Baghdad anytime soon?

MR. BOUCHER:  High-level officials do go to Baghdad from time to time.  We generally, (a) don't talk about the plans in advance, and I don't have a comprehensive look at that for you, no.

Sir.

QUESTION:  The EU today announced it's going to at least temporarily lift its sanctions against Cuba.  Any reaction to that?

MR. BOUCHER:  I hadn't seen the announcement so we'll have to look at that when we see it.  We have pointed out repeatedly that the dissidents in Cuba remain in jail, that most -- almost all of the 75 people who were arrested a few years ago have remained in jail.  The continuing repression of anybody who is trying to speak out in Cuba, we think is a strong argument for not making changes in the way we deal with Cuban officials.  But we'll look at the EU steps and decide what to say about it when we've seen the details.

Okay, Gene.

QUESTION:  Two quick questions.  On the $200 million announced for Palestine Authority, is the Secretary going to be discussing the disbursement of that?  And secondly, do you have a request from the Israeli Government for $180 million to improve the checkpoints, particularly the ones -- the major checkpoints and --

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know that I can talk about requests, and I think the money that we spend in the Palestinian Authority is fairly well understood how it's been allocated in the past.  When Assistant Secretary Burns was out there, he made very clear our desire to support Palestinian institutions, Palestinian security efforts and Palestinians in terms of the economy and giving them economic prospects for the future.  So we will look for every possible way to do that, including accelerating the provision of our assistance or even adding to it.  But I don't have any new numbers for you at this moment.

Okay, we'll go all the way to the back and we'll start again at the front. 

QUESTION:  Can you give any more readout on the Burns and Bolton trips in terms of what they heard from the people that they were dealing with in the respective places where they were?

MR. BOUCHER:  I really can't.  I think I've described as much as I can what Assistant Secretary Burns was talking about, but I'm not going to try to brief on behalf of the other people he talked to.  Same with Bolton.  I think we've given the basic reasons for the trip.  I have not gotten a readout from him, though, yet on the visit.

Okay, Jonathan.

QUESTION:  Yeah, on the Iraqi election.  There's a report in the Assyrian News Agency complaining about Christians in the north being denied the right to vote and ballots not making it in.  Have you heard anything on this or --

MR. BOUCHER:  I have not heard anything on that.  I would note that the Iraqi Election Commission has established procedures for reviewing and hearing any complaints or reports of balloting difficulties or other problems with the election process.  So I think if that kind of report is raised with them, they will indeed look into it, investigate and try to determine what happened.

Yeah.  Sir.

QUESTION:  Along that subject, do you have anything you want to say more broadly on the Iraqi elections, please?

MR. BOUCHER:  I said some broad stuff, but --

QUESTION:  I mean, since you started (inaudible) last week.

MR. BOUCHER:  Give me a chance to go through the page-and-a-half of points I've got.  I would never turn that down.  That's for sure. 

(Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Well, since you started last week three or four different times with --

MR. BOUCHER:  First, I want to say we applaud the millions of Iraqis who voted in their first free and fair parliamentary election in generations.  The election opens a new chapter in Iraqi history.  The elections were an essential step in the Iraqi people's path toward stability and democratic self-governance. 

We commend the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq for guiding the transparent election process under difficult circumstances.  The elections were transparent.  Observers from nongovernmental organizations, political organizations and parties were present at all voting centers.

The International Mission for Iraqi Elections' preliminary assessment is as follows: "Iraq's Electoral Commission has prepared and put in place a framework for an election that generally meets recognized standards in terms of election law, planning and preparations."

I'd also praise the courage of the many, many election workers, including domestic monitors who went to the polling stations and ran the electoral process.  The UN Advisory Team played an essential role under the leadership of Carlos Valenzuela.  And I would commend the more than 100,000 Iraqi security force personnel who were engaged in security operations.  Their performance demonstrates a growing capacity on their part to handle security issues inside Iraq with, of course, many thousand of coalition forces who supported them.

There have been very strong statements, I think, at this point, of international support.  There have been a number of statements from Iraqi leaders coming out of the election, talking about inclusiveness, talking about the desire to work together.  We have Prime Minister Allawi, I think, talking about national dialogue as a continuing process after the election.

So I think it's worth remembering at this time what we're heading into.  There will be a process that proceeds from here that once the election is certified, the Transnational -- Transitional Assembly will be seated, will choose a presidency council, that council will choose a prime minister, the prime minister will choose a government.  That whole process will take several weeks even after the election results come out and they are expected within ten days.

As we head into this period, I'm sure we'll see a lot of exciting press reports.  We're heading into a period of politicking in Iraq, as the parties emerge with various strengths from the voters, as coalitions, governments start to get put together, committees start to get put together.  It will be an interesting time, and it will be a time for the Iraqis themselves to work together and to do the various pushing and pulling and pieces of politics that they need to do to get moving on their own agenda.

I'm sure it will be interesting.  We've seen these periods before, as they've gone, for example, in drafting the Transitional Law or the formation of the Iraqi Interim Government, and we'll watch it with great interest.  But this time, we have an even more, I think, maybe it's even more an Iraqi process.  This election represents Iraqi voters taking back control of their nation, of Iraqi leaders taking control of the government through an elected process, and of Iraqi security forces demonstrating that they can take control of security to a great extent on election day.  So we think it was a very positive accomplishment for all of them.

Yeah, sir.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on what you just said?  Given the fact that the elections are over, are there any plans by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to reduce its presence, i.e., reduce the number of employees that are going to be there, or --

MR. BOUCHER:  We'll obviously look at what the appropriate balance of different people there is, but I think generally, the kind of effort that we've had -- remember, we've had an embassy that since last June, June 28th, has been devoted to supporting the Iraqi Government, a lot of people who work on aid programs, a lot of people who are working on security issues and training issues, a lot of people who are keeping touch with the various parts of the Iraqi body politic, you might say, a lot of people working on the economic plans and programs and supporting the Iraqi Government in that way.

So as this process proceeds, as the Iraqis accelerate their own political process and accelerate their own process of drafting constitutions and moving towards another election, I think we will stay involved with them, and there will be even more items of interest for us to support and get involved in or keep in touch with them on.

So we'll have to see if there are any adjustments, but at this point, I haven't heard anybody predicting anything.

Yeah, okay, we're going to come back to the front, I think.

QUESTION:  Two quick ones, one going way back to your description of her -- Dr. Rice's, Secretary Rice's phone calls with the South Korean and Chinese Foreign Ministers, last week I'd asked you if you had heard anything about a report of six-party talks resuming at working levels.

MR. BOUCHER:  At working levels, yeah.

QUESTION:  Did that come up at all?  Is there a sign of --

MR. BOUCHER:  The general idea of resuming talks and our desire to see talks resume, I think, has been -- was part of the discussion.  But no, there's no new news on North Korean willingness to show up to talks.

QUESTION:  And then to go back to the Middle East, in Gaza, a Palestinian girl is reported to have been killed by Israeli gunfire at a UN-run school, and Palestinian militants are said to have shelled a Jewish settlement in retaliation.  Do you have any comment on either of those two specific incidents, and do you see any signs that the lull in violence or ceasefire may actually be unraveling?

MR. BOUCHER:  The answer is no.  I'll have to look into those two particular incidents and I wouldn't make any generalizations on it at this point.

Nicholas.

QUESTION:  Richard, last week, Freedom House released a report about Saudi Arabia, particularly about the Saudi Government distributing Saudi literature here in the United States in mosques and other places that preaches, basically, hatred toward Christians and Jews.  Were you aware of this report or do you have anything to say about it?

MR. BOUCHER:  I'm not sure I've heard about that report myself.  I'll ask our people if we have anything to say on it.  As far as anything domestic, you might also check with the Department of Justice to see if they're involved in that.

Okay, let's -- we're going to go to the patient gentleman in the back.  No, Said, please.  There's a patient gentleman in the back.

Sir.

QUESTION:  On the Secretary's trip to Brussels -- thank you -- do you see any possible resolution of the dispute between the U.S. and the EU over the EU's plan to lift its arms embargo on China?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know.  We'll have to see.  I'm sure the issue will be discussed with various European partners, as well as in Brussels and probably Luxembourg.  But I don't know where it will end up.  We'll see.

Said. 

QUESTION:  I just wanted to follow up on that point.  You have not read the report by Freedom House?  Is that what you're saying?

MR. BOUCHER:  I hadn't -- I, myself, have not.  I'm sure somebody around here has.  Our people at Democracy, Human Rights and Labor do keep close track of these things.  I just haven't talked to them yet.

QUESTION:  Apparently, this is, you know, they have literature in mosques in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, New York, many other places.

MR. BOUCHER:  I'm glad to hear about the report.  I'll look into it.  I would caution you not to take my ignorance ever as a sign of anything other than my own ignorance.  So I'll find out for you if there's anything we want to say on that.

QUESTION:  A quick follow-up.  The Saudi Academy, which is nearby, right outside Washington, apparently is also doing the same thing.  Are you aware of that?

MR. BOUCHER:  You've asked that question before and I think we've gotten you some comment on it, and now --

QUESTION:  Before - but Freedom House raised it again. 

MR. BOUCHER:  I still haven't read the Freedom House report five minutes after it was first mentioned to me.  So, again, I apologize for that and we'll look into it. 

Joel.

QUESTION:  The Agriculture Minister of Zimbabwe is saying that the U.S. and other governments are involved in a plot to destabilize the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe.  Any comment?

MR. BOUCHER:  Not seen that particular comment but I think it's widely known that our efforts, what we've said about Zimbabwe, what we've tried to do diplomatically about Zimbabwe, has been solely in support of open, free and fair elections.  We've stressed the importance of that and we encouraged the government itself to hold open, free and fair elections.

QUESTION:  And further, they're saying that half the population is going to need substantial food aid by the end of the year. 

MR. BOUCHER:  That's a sad commentary on the agricultural situation in Zimbabwe, which used to be a massive food producer.  And we've, I think, talked before about Zimbabwe's land policies and agricultural policies.  We recognize some of the difficulties that they have encountered in the last few years and, in fact, have been a -- we've been a donor of assistance.  But I think there's a lot of factors involved here and it's too bad and we'll try to help. 

QUESTION:  Do you have anything new on the possibility of military assistance being resumed to Indonesia?  The subject has been in the air lately. 

MR. BOUCHER:  I think the simple answer is that there are no decisions at this point.  We haven't made a decision on resumption of International Military Education and Training assistance for Indonesia.  It's a situation, though, that is under review and we keep -- we have been looking at it.

I would point out that congressional legislation has tied the resumption of International Military Assistance and Training to cooperation by Indonesia with the FBI investigation of the August 2002 murders of two American citizens.  The Secretary of State would have to make a determination in that regard that the Indonesian Government has been cooperating.  Since 2003, I would note the FBI has been conducting a thorough investigation in Indonesia with Indonesian authorities and there was a June 2004 U.S. federal indictment of a murder suspect. 

So that's a situation we've been reviewing, looking at, and the Secretary of State will make whatever determination is appropriate.

There is a limited amount of U.S. assistance in this area that Indonesia is already eligible for what's called Expanded International Military Education and Training, which entails courses about democratic institutions and protections of human right -- human rights, but the issue that is under review is whether to make Indonesia eligible for the full range of courses that are available under International Military Education and Training programs.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on that?  Do you remember when former Secretary Powell was in Indonesia, the Indonesians -- the Indonesian Government and then he, himself, talked about the possibility of providing C-130 spare parts.  Did that ever go through?

MR. BOUCHER:  Yes, for five C-130s.

QUESTION:  And it has happened?

MR. BOUCHER:  Any other -- any more hand signals?  That's it.  (Laughter.)

Yes, it has happened.  We checked this morning.  Adam checked for me this morning and, indeed, we've done this.

QUESTION:  Restrictions?

MR. BOUCHER:  No, that's subject to different provisions of law, I think.

QUESTION:  That's tsunami-related, right?

MR. BOUCHER:  That was assistance that we wanted to give to the -- or not even assistance.  That was an opportunity we wanted to give the Indonesian Government to buy spare parts for its C-130 aircraft so that they could use them on an urgent basis for tsunami relief, and so we were able to make arrangements for that to happen for five of their C-130s under existing provisions of law that allowed for certain kinds of sales to Indonesia's Government.

QUESTION:  I don't know if you were able to find out when that decision was taken and whether they -- when they actually got the spare parts?  Do you know when it was done?

MR. BOUCHER:  It was taken, really, while the Secretary was in Indonesia.  Committees met in Washington, made the decision that we could do that, made the arrangements with the Indonesian Government.  I'm not sure exactly when the parts were shipped, though.

Yeah.  Charlie.

QUESTION:  Yeah, a follow-up off the tsunami end of the question.  Last week came and went -- the one-month date since the tsunami took place.  Could you give us an update on where the American casualties stand on the unresolved inquiries?

MR. BOUCHER:  We have continued to work to resolve the question of American citizens and the whereabouts inquiries that we've received since December 26th.  We've gotten, as you know, 30,000 phone calls.  We're now down to 72 whereabouts inquiries that remain.  As far as the number of dead, we have -- we know of 18 American citizens confirmed dead.  We have been able to reduce the number of presumed dead by one.  We found somebody, so we're now down to 15 Americans who are presumed dead.  And our offices here in Washington continue to work with family members and our officials in Sri Lanka and Thailand to provide all available assistance to the family members of these American citizens.  That's where we are.

QUESTION:  How did you find (inaudible), do you know?

MR. BOUCHER:  Did you guys find out?

We were checking -- not quite sure where he or she showed up, but very happy to hear that a person that we had thought was in the area and thought had died is now confirmed to be alive.

Yeah.

QUESTION:  On the tsunami.

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Very quickly.  Do you have any comment on the breakdown of talks between the Indonesian Government and the militants that were, you know, talks that were spurred by the tsunami, actually?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't think it's a breakdown.  I think they've actually agreed to get back together again.

The Government of Indonesia and representatives of the Free Aceh movement held discussions over the weekend.  Our understanding is they've agreed to get together again soon, and obviously we welcome these discussions.

We support continuation of such talks as part of the effort to achieve a solution in Aceh.  I'd note at the same time, we support the territorial integrity of Indonesia.

Yeah.  Okay.  The woman in back.

QUESTION:  Do you have any comment on first direct flight, a chartered flight, across the Strait over the weekend from China to Taiwan.

MR. BOUCHER:  I think we welcomed it on Friday, right?  We put something up.  It's a good thing.

QUESTION:  Is it still welcome?

MR. BOUCHER:  We still welcome it today.  We welcomed that it was going to occur.  Now we welcome that it has occurred.  Let me be precise there.

Nicholas.

QUESTION:  On Korea, Richard.  Yesterday, the South Korean Unification Minister in Davos said that, first of all, he hoped that there will six-party talks by the end of the summer.  But then he said he's hoping that Kim Jong-Il will be able to attend the APEC Summit in South Korea.  Is the American President going to go to a summit where the North Korean leader might be?  I know it's a theoretical thing --

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know.  I'd say we're --

QUESTION:  -- it's unofficial, a minister in South Korea saying that.

MR. BOUCHER:  -- speculating on a hypothetical, so it may be appropriate for him to do that.  It's not appropriate for me.  I wouldn't be able to start talking about that at this point.  We'll see.  If something like that happens, I'm sure the President will make the right decision. 

QUESTION:  We're going back and forth about Iraq and I keep forgetting to ask about the rocket or mortar attack on the Embassy.  Do you have any update on that?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't have any further information.  I think we gave you some on Saturday.  That's -- I think that pretty much covered everything, yeah.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)

(end transcript)

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



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