14 February 2005
State Department Briefing, February 14
Department/Foreign Service Exam, State/appointments, Lebanon, South Korea, North Korea, China, Iraq, Nepal, Romania, Israel/Palestinians
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press February 14.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2005
12:45 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have a couple of things I want to talk about at the beginning. Just a brief mention of the Foreign Service Exam, a statement by the Secretary on the death former Prime Minister Hariri and then some personnel announcements for you. So if you'll bear with me, I'll go through those one by one.
The online registration for the Foreign Service written exam is up and running for this year's exam on April 23rd, 2005. To register, visit the Department's website: www.careers.state.gov, which allows prospective candidates to determine their suitability for a career in the Foreign Service. So we look forward to everybody who wants to join us, to take the exam and come in. We're seeking service-minded U.S. citizens interested in an international career. We're looking for people from all walks of life.
Last year we hired 538 Foreign Service Generalists, there are 19,000 people who took the test. So this is only the beginning of the process, but we look forward to having people take the exam and come join us in this exciting job and career. Any questions about that?
All right, we'll move on to, unfortunately, sadder news. This is a statement from Secretary Rice about the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The United States expresses its deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and to the others who were killed and wounded in the brutal terrorist attack in Beirut today.
We state our unequivocal condemnation of this act of terrorism and we call on all parties to maintain calm at this difficult moment and to avoid any further violence. Prime Minister Hariri was a statesman who was committed to the restoration and renewal of Lebanon after the ravages of that country's tragic civil war. His vision of a prosperous Lebanon living in peace with its neighbors sent a powerful message of hope to the people of Lebanon, and of the region.
In its Resolution 1566, the United States condemned "in the strongest terms, all act of terrorism," and called on states "to cooperate fully in the fight against terrorism. All of those responsible for this terrible crime must be brought to justice immediately."
The United States, together with the international community, will follow closely to ensure that this happens. In its Resolution 1559, the United Nations Security Council called for all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently in the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon. It called for the Government of Lebanon to extend its control over all Lebanese territory.
The United States takes this opportunity once again to call for the immediate implementation of Resolution 1559, including the withdrawal of all Syrian forces, the disbanding and disarmament of all militias and an end to foreign interference in the political independence of Lebanon. Lebanese people must be free to exercise their political choices without intimidation or the threat of violence."
That's the statement from the Secretary of State. Now I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: You mention 1559, then you explicitly repeat the call for Syrian forces to withdraw. Do you have any reason to believe that the Syrian Government or Syrian-backed actors may have been behind the assassination of Mr. Hariri?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point there's been no statement -- no determination of responsibility. We'll follow this closely to make sure it is thoroughly investigated and to see the perpetrators are brought to justice. But I don't have any way at this point of speculating or identifying or making assumptions about who might be responsible.
QUESTION: The former president called for an international investigation. Does the U.S. agree with him?
MR. BOUCHER: We think the matter needs to be thoroughly investigated. I don't have anything more precise on what manner.
QUESTION: Who would do the investigation? The people who control Lebanon, or some international panel?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't have anything more precise at this juncture.
QUESTION: Why reiterate -- I mean, I know it's a matter of U.S. policy that you spearheaded 1559 and you co-sponsored it and so on, but why choose this occasion to repeat it if you don't actually know who may have been behind this?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, whoever is behind this, it's, I think, another sign that Lebanon needs to be free of violence; Lebanon needs to be able to stand on its own and take care of itself. And at this moment when this former prime minister was killed in such a horrible way, we think it's very important that people remember that ultimately the goal of all this has to be for Lebanon to be able to stand on its own and control its future, and that's what 1559 reminds us of.
QUESTION: Have you had any recent -- meaning since the explosion this morning -- contacts with the Syrian Government about this? I know you've called the Syrian ambassador in the last week, but has there been somebody else?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've had any further contact since the bombing this morning.
QUESTION: Is there a cost for contact with the Syrian Government?
MR. BOUCHER: Given their influence and interest in Lebanon, certainly, there might be. The Secretary has talked about the situation in Lebanon with the Secretary General, Secretary General Annan this morning. It's of concern, great concern to both of them. I expect she'll be talking to the French Government about it some time when she can connect with the French Foreign Minister. So we will be in touch with many other governments about the situation in Lebanon.
Okay. Got more? Said.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary, of course, condemned the killing of Hariri then she talked about implementing 1559. Is there a feeling that the lack of implementing 1559 sort of conducive to clear the claim for violence and assassination of someone?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think I said to your colleagues, I'm not really sure I can add to that, that there is a -- this is a moment of great tragedy for the people of Lebanon, but a moment that reminds all of us how important it is for Lebanon to be able to control its own future, for Lebanese to be able to organize their politics and their security situation without interference from outside. And therefore, we thought it was the appropriate time for the United States to remind people -- that is what Resolution 1559 says; and it's important to all of us that it be implemented.
Yeah. In the back, you had one?
QUESTION: The White House said today that the U.S. is having consultations at the Security Council to punish, for the purpose of punishing the people who are responsible for this crime. Can you give us anything on --
MR. BOUCHER: We either are or will be soon consulting with others at the Security Council to see what we think the appropriate message from the Security Council might be at this point, but can't go beyond that at this stage.
All right, moving on, I want to make some personnel notes. I think many of you may have noticed that on Friday afternoon the White House announced several important nominations for us here at the State Department; that Ambassador Nicholas Burns has been nominated to be Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. As you know, he is currently our Ambassador to NATO and a former occupant of this podium.
In addition, the President intends to nominate David Welch to be Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. David Welch is currently our Ambassador to Egypt.
And finally, the White House announced that the President intends to nominate John Bellinger to be Legal Advisor at the Department of State. Mr. Bellinger is currently a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State here.
So those are three announcements made by the White House, and I would like to add to those a few others that we can do that show you that the team at the State Department is being filled out in terms of the State Department side of the appointments.
Secretary Rice has selected Stephen Krasner to be the new Director of Policy Planning. He comes to us from Stanford University, where he is Director of the Center on Democracy Development and the Rule of Law, Deputy Director of the Stanford Institute of International Studies, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Graham H. Stewart Professor of International Relations. He'll be working on a variety of strategic issues here at the State Department.
Now, that's -- Mr. Krasner is going to take over the job held by Mitchell Reiss, but Mitchell Reiss is going to keep his role as the Special Envoy of the President and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland after his departure from his position as the Secretary's Director of Policy Planning. That, too, is a request and announcement from Dr. Rice -- Secretary Rice, excuse me.
And finally -- no, not finally -- third, Secretary Rice has selected Elizabeth Cheney to be the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs and Coordinator for Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives. Her duties will include a focus on U.S. bilateral and multilateral efforts to support freedom, democracy and expanded education and economic opportunities in the broader Middle East and North Africa. And we look forward to welcoming her back. As you know, she has worked on these issues with us before.
QUESTION: Richard, you don't normally announce the appointments of DAS's.
MR. BOUCHER: We do sometimes. And this is one that I think is particularly important to Dr. Rice. It's a Principal Deputy in the Near East Bureau, and it's one where I think it demonstrates the kind of effort and focus and attention that we expect to give to the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative.
And finally, Secretary Rice has appointed Ambassador to Korea Christopher Hill to serve concurrently as the head of the U.S. delegation to the six-party talks. Ambassador Hill will remain in Seoul, but he plans at an early opportunity to begin meeting with his counterparts. I would expect he might have occasion to meet with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts while he is in Seoul, and he'll be touching base, making contact, with his Chinese and Russian counterparts, as well, as we continue to believe that the six-party talks is the appropriate mechanism for resolving North Korean nuclear issues; and we will continue to pursue that goal. This -- that appointment has been in the works for some time now. It's not occasioned by the announcements that North Korea made last week.
Now, with those, I'd be glad to take your questions. Arshad.
QUESTION: To follow up, as head of the U.S. delegation he would then serve the function previously undertaken by Assistant Secretary Kelly, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Yeah.
QUESTION: Why is there a belief that that role should be filled by an ambassador in the region rather than a senior State Department official here in Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's -- at this point, Ambassador Kelly, Assistant Secretary Kelly, left. He's finished his work with this and left on January 31st. So it's important for us to have a senior and knowledgeable person who could shepherd this work forward and move forward. We think the best person at this point is our Ambassador to South Korea, and that he is fully able to take up that job from his current position; he's in very close touch with us. And so we think he's the best person to move us forward on that -- in that regard until if -- when Mr. Kelly's replacement is named, then perhaps the Secretary will decide what to do.
QUESTION: But that may change, in other words, when --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not predicting anything at this point. We'll just have to see.
QUESTION: Isn't Mr. -- isn't Ambassador Hill slated to become Mr. Kelly's replacement?
MR. BOUCHER: That wouldn't be an announcement I would make here.
QUESTION: What is DeTrani's role?
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry?
QUESTION: What is Ambassador DeTrani's role?
MR. BOUCHER: Ambassador DeTrani continues in his role as special envoy for the talks, and he continues to work on this every day and in great detail.
QUESTION: The South Korean Minister made some statements after the meeting with the Secretary, who noticeably did not come down, as her predecessor usually did.
MR. BOUCHER: That's not true. As her predecessor occasionally -- sometimes did.
QUESTION: Well, so far, it's zero for one. We'll have to wait and see.
MR. BOUCHER: This is a new Secretary; she'll do things differently. She already did some things differently today.
QUESTION: Well, hopefully. Yeah, what would she have -- what do you mean? Like, have the fireplace going?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Oh, I see. Well, in any event, do you care, in her stead, to make the usual sum-up statement, and then we can ask you a couple of hard questions?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I would be glad, in her stead, to come down here. She asked me to come down and read this meeting out to you, and I think she promised you that that's the way you would get it. And on her behalf, I'm here to tell you everything I can about the meeting.
QUESTION: We're all ears.
MR. BOUCHER: And you can ask any hard questions you want.
QUESTION: You want to do the bland statement first or you want the questions?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll try to make it interesting for you, Barry. We're prejudging everything today, is that right?
All right, Secretary Rice met this morning with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban. They had a very, very good discussion, as befits an excellent bilateral relationship, close cooperation on the issue of North Korea, and indeed, a global cooperation between two very close allies.
They agreed on the importance of continuing to work together in the six-party framework and continuing to encourage North Korea to come to that forum in order to succeed in denuclearization of the Peninsula, which even North Korea states is their goal.
As you know, Foreign Minister Ban has been in Washington for several days. He's met with Vice President Cheney, with Acting Assistant Secretary Evans Revere on Friday; and we continue to work with him and with the South Koreans in a variety of ways.
They did go through a whole broad agenda of bilateral and multilateral issues, including Iraq, North Korea of course, bilateral cooperation and specifics, including property, and housing and chanceries, things like that in South Korea.
The best summary I can give you is that we, and the South Koreans, believe it is very important to continue to pursue the six-party framework. We will be consulting with the South Koreans. They will be consulting with others; and I think you will see a very active pace of discussions between the various parties to the six-party talks. We've already been in touch with many of the other parties through our embassies in the capitals, and we'll continue to pursue an active diplomacy aimed at making these six-party talks work.
QUESTION: Besides the shared interest in denuclearizing the Peninsula and getting back to the six-party framework, was there discussion of what to say when you get there? And are there any tactical differences, like calls for flexibility from Japan and South Korea that the U.S. may not agree with?
MR. BOUCHER: The discussion, I think, was looking at the current situation, and therefore, didn't get as far, at this moment, of saying what we'll say when we get there, although you know the United States has put forward a very forthcoming proposal and one that other parties to the talks, including the South Koreans, have supported. And that remains on the table and remains a subject of discussion at any future talks.
In terms of their discussion today, we and the South Koreans, I think, believe very firmly in the principles that I sort of moved through: That the six-party talks is a way to resolve this, that North Korea should come back to the six-party talks in order to resolve it, and that the goal of the talks has been and remains the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And it is only through that mechanism that we are going to get to a better situation on the Peninsula.
QUESTION: That has been the case all along.
MR. BOUCHER: It that remains the case.
QUESTION: And remains the case. And we have the North Koreans saying, you know, we don't care to talk to you on those terms. Is there any suggestion, any consideration of -- without losing sight of your main goals -- of changing your playbook a little bit in the hopes of enticing them --
MR. BOUCHER: We, and the others, agree that this is not the moment to start changing the playbook, as you might say; that the North Koreans shouldn't be rewarded for causing difficulties in the reconvening of talks. Remember, they had originally promised to come back to talks in September. And that this continued delay by North Korea should not be the reason to offer them further rewards. It remains fundamental, though, that the talks are the place to solve the issues; and we remain committed to that.
QUESTION: One last thing. One last thing here. Can I try one more thing and then we'll be finished?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: The South Koreans are saying here and in Seoul that, you know, it's possible that this North Korean claim to have already produced weapons may be a bluff. They don't use the word "bluff," but that's clearly what they're saying.
Does the U.S. share that view, that maybe it's a stratagem by North Korea and perhaps maybe they didn't develop these weapons?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm in a position to clarify things any further for you than what you've seen reported. I would note that for a long time now, the United States has assumed that North Korea has been able to produce enough material for nuclear weapons; and therefore, the premise of our policy all along has been the prospect, the probability, that they, in fact, had nuclear weapons. So while it's interesting to pursue the information on what they're saying and what exactly it means, I would say the implications for policy have already been reached.
Yeah, okay, let's talk -- okay, we'll move back. Yeah.
QUESTION: As a follow-up to Barry's question, you said that there's no intention to change the playbook in terms of rewarding them. The New York Times reports today that the Bush Administration has been developing strategies to choke off North Korea's sources of income and describes those as part of a toolkit of techniques to increase pressure on North Korea. Is there any truth to that report and are you considering changing the playbook to ratchet up pressure on North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would call this a change. We have been aware for some time of North Korea's illicit activities. They have been a concern to the United States and other nations for decades, in fact. U.S. law enforcement agencies have worked closely with counterparts around the world against activities by North Korea that violate international law. We have seen them at different times, different places, involved in narcotics, involved in smuggling activities, involved in counterfeiting and involved in proliferation. So this international cooperation against these illicit activities by North Korea has been going on for some time and will continue in the future wherever we see these problems occur.
QUESTION: But are you looking to increase pressure on them, aside from cracking down on illicit activities?
MR. BOUCHER: To what extent cracking down on illicit activities results in pressure on them, I don't think I can speculate. What I would say is that these activities can't be allowed to occur with impunity and we will follow them up and stop them, together with others, wherever we can find them and stop them.
QUESTION: What exactly are you thinking of?
MR. BOUCHER: Law enforcement, basically.
QUESTION: Richard, to what extent are you going to try and get a more formalized international mechanism of tightening these controls, like the UN Security Council --
MR. BOUCHER: There are already active mechanisms to tighten these controls, to follow up and stop these activities wherever we find them.
QUESTION: Are you not looking to --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything new being proposed at this point.
QUESTION: You're not aware --
MR. BOUCHER: Of anything new being proposed at this point.
QUESTION: But you are trying to tighten controls right now.
MR. BOUCHER: We have been pursuing these activities for decades. We have been pursuing them actively for years.
MR. BOUCHER: And we will continue to pursue them wherever we see them.
QUESTION: You're not giving them any more emphasis, however, now? You would not say that there's any increased emphasis on this now?
MR. BOUCHER: There is continuing emphasis.
QUESTION: But is it increased?
MR. BOUCHER: I would find it hard to gauge emphasis. There is continuing emphasis.
QUESTION: Are you happy with the cooperation by China and South Korea particularly in relation to stemming these illicit activities?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to single anybody out, but we think there is good international cooperation on stemming illicit activities from North Korea. We've seen this occur in a variety of places and have secured the cooperation of a number of governments.
Yeah. Okay, sir.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
QUESTION: Can we stick with North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: We're sticking with North Korea for a while.
QUESTION: Can you state what is the U.S. policy toward North Korea in terms of whether or not the United States has hostile intent toward North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has said before -- Secretary Rice, Secretary Powell, I think the President and others -- that we don't have hostile intent vis-à-vis North Korea; we have no plans to attack or invade.
QUESTION: What's the difference between the situation with Iran and North Korea? I mean, in Iran they say or they claim they're not pursuing, you know, nuclear weapons for any military use but, you know, or whatever they say; and then you have North Korea on the other hand saying, hey, I have a nuclear weapon. And you're insisting on the diplomatic -- intensive diplomatic path with North Korea while in Iran you have mentioned Security Council resolutions. What's the difference? Why aren't you willing to mention Security Council movements when it comes to North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: You can't -- I mean, what's the difference? You, yourself, pointed out about four different differences in asking the question. The point is we're going to deal with each situation with the tools we have, with the mechanisms we have and with the participation and cooperation of other parties.
In the case of North Korea, it has gone to the Security Council before. At this point there is a venue; there is a way of resolving this through the six-party talks, which North Korea has, in fact, even participated in. There are other tools and other mechanisms available when dealing with Iran's -- the problems created by Iran's nuclear programs. We are working with the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency. We're working with the Europeans. We have the European-3 negotiating with Iran. We're working with the Russians. We're working with others in the international community to try to get Iran to abandon these enrichment activities, which are essentially nuclear weapons program.
QUESTION: So how would you break the deadlock? If they insist on bilateral talks, you insist on six-party talks, then what happens? How long this deadlock can go on?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I don't think you can say they insist on bilateral talks because the guy who mentioned it on Thursday seemed to balk back on Friday. Or was it he mentioned on Friday he seemed to balked it back on Saturday? But in any case, we have made our position on that clear. We have had a very clear position that we want to resolve these issues with North Korea diplomatically through the six-party framework. The President has made that clear that that is his goal as well. And we're ready to do that as soon as North Korea is ready to do it as well. So I think North Korea needs to come around and needs to decide that they want to solve their problems, and that we've provided a way, a venue, and a way for them to solve their problems.
QUESTION: Richard, (inaudible.) Are you hoping to wait before you --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific timeframe for you at this moment, but I would point out the longer this goes on, the more difficult -- the more the difficulties for North Korea increase.
QUESTION: Okay, Richard, North Korea has illegally manufactured nuclear bomb against international agreement. It is reported that United States Government intended to cut off all the aid to punish North Korea. By the way, the South Korean Government has given $260 million worth of various form of aid in 2004 or on. Does the United States Government have any plan to (inaudible) South Korean Government to cut off any economic aid to North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: We have cooperated closely; have worked very closely with South Korea on the issues involving North Korea. In fact, we've worked very closely with all the other governments involved.
I think all these governments, all five of us, have been finding different ways to make clear to the North Koreans that they need to come back to the six-party talks; they need to solve this problem. All the other governments that do provide some kind of assistance, I think have some limits on the kind of assistance they might provide, certainly on the potential for economic cooperation and assistance. But you'd have to ask individual governments about what they might be doing on specific programs.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? MR. BOUCHER: We have -- well, we have more. We'll come back to you.
QUESTION: Yes, Secretary Rice spoke with the Chinese Foreign Minister on Saturday.
MR. BOUCHER: That's right.
QUESTION: I'm just wondering, is there any -- did they discuss substantial measure that China can take, for example, like send a senior delegation to North Korea or cut back the oil and food aid to convince North Korea to come back to the delegation?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary, as you know, did talk to Chinese Foreign Minister Li on Saturday. They talked about the situation with North Korea. They talked about the common desire for the United States and China in pursuing the six-party talks and in getting North Korea to return to the six-party talks.
China will continue to undertake measures as it can to make clear to the North Koreans that they should return to talks. I'll leave it to the Chinese to talk about any specific steps that they might have in mind. But what you're seeing here has been and will continue to be a fairly active period of diplomacy with the Secretary talking to the Chinese Foreign Minister over the weekend, talking to the South Korean Foreign Minister in her office today. We have an opportunity on Saturday with the Japanese, when the Japanese Foreign and Defense Ministers will be coming on the 19th. And in the meantime, we'll be in touch with other governments directly from Secretary Rice, but also through our embassies, as we have been.
So various -- among us, I think, we'll be talking to each other in different configurations over the next, at least week, and probably somewhat longer period of time. And what we see at this point, and what I think will continue to be true, is that the other five parties to the talk are all looking for different ways of encouraging the North Koreans to come back to those talks, making clear to North Korea that staying away is a big mistake, staying away is a problem for North Korea, and the kinds of benefits that they might anticipate from solving this issue.
QUESTION: Is there any possibility of just the five parties meeting and stating in one common voice their aspirations on the North Korean situation?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see. I think we've had -- I can't remember if we've had such meetings before. We're trying to recall. But we'll just have to see how the different configurations of people meet. As I said, there might be, for example, informal discussions about -- among the Japanese, South Koreans and us in Seoul, given that our Ambassador to Seoul is taking on this new role. So I expect we'll have a variety of different kinds of meetings. I hadn't -- I'm not aware of any particular plan for a five-party meeting, but I don't want to rule anything out at this point.
QUESTION: This may be impossible. But when you talk about the old, the free -- you didn't use that word -- but it's clear they're free to pursue their own ways of bringing North Korea back to the table. Are you saying that apart -- outside the negotiating room, each of those parties are -- have U.S. support, should they offer a concession in this area or that area to North Korea if they think it will bring them back?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I was saying that.
QUESTION: What do you mean by ways, I guess?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'd say, first of all, that I think we, and others, agree that North Korea needs to come back to the table. We, and others, agree that North Korea is making a mistake by staying away. We, and others, agree that one should not reward that mistake. We, and others, agree that North Korea is losing out on a variety of benefits by not pursuing the peaceful solution to this.
So the questions I was asked was: Is China going to cut off this? Is South Korea going to cut off that? Are they going to proceed with this or stop that? I think we're really, in terms of what kind of measures these countries are prepared to proceed with, we'll have to look at the individual countries. But I think everybody is determined to make clear to North Korea that there are difficulties created by its behavior, and therefore, we would expect people to look at the various things they're doing and try to use them to encourage North Korea to return to the talks.
QUESTION: But Richard --
QUESTION: Is it fair to say that, then, you would oppose any one, any of the other members of the six-party talks rewarding North Korea for not coming, but that you would not oppose their punishing North Korea for not coming?
MR. BOUCHER: I would not try to find a nice formulation like that, because I think each nation will look at this individually, but I don't see any inclination on the part of any of them to offer concessions, as your colleague said, to get North Korea to come back.
QUESTION: And how about any inclination to offer disincentives for their failure to come back?
MR. BOUCHER: That would have to be for each nation to decide. There are already built into this situation disincentives for the failure to come back; and that is that some of the benefits that North Korea could anticipate from participating actively in the talks will not be forthcoming.
That's it? Okay. Back there, and then Joel.
QUESTION: I want to come back to the food assistance to North Korea. United States has provided a huge amount of food assistance to North Korea last year. What I remember 50,000 metric ton or so on. You said that the -- you are very reluctant to lead the humanitarian assistance with -- and the nuclear crisis. Still do you have same policy?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We do not link our humanitarian assistance for the North Korean people to the behavior of the North Korean regime, as long as we know we can provide the food and have some assurance that it's going to the people who need it.
QUESTION: So even in the case and what with program was so wrong you issued a appeal?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite certain of what the status of the appeals is now, whether we're looking at anything new. But we have not in the past nor do I expect us to start linking humanitarian assistance to the Korean -- South -- to North Korean people.
QUESTION: There's no decision yet on a new shipment is there?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no new decisions for 2005.
QUESTION: Is that just the way it goes in a bureaucracy or?
MR. BOUCHER: It's just the way it goes, the pace of these things. When did we announce the 50,000 tons? Late last year, second half of last year, shipments get put together and ordered, and if I remember, the pace of these things, it's usually more like June or so, and we decide. But I'm not even sure the UN appeal is out.
Okay. Who was going to change -- no, Joel -- Joel had one, sorry.
QUESTION: Just one last one on North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: If he asks it, yeah.
No, go ahead. Whatever.
QUESTION: It may be easy to get this out of the way. Do you have any comment on South Korea's military-to-military talks with North Korea? Does that bother you? Do you feel like they shouldn't be talking to them bilaterally in that kind of a context?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Richard, a Russian news agency has reported yesterday that the Russians have opened a torpedo line factory in Iran, and you're trying to, of course, stop proliferation of deadly defense materials, and with the Russians have also been assisting the North Koreans and doing a similar type thing there. And what is your reaction to this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know enough about that particular situation to make any sort of comment at this point. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: On Sunday, South Korean magazine reported its administration asked Libyan Embassy for Colonel Qadhafi to persuade North Korea. And did Secretary Rice talk about this idea with South Korean Foreign Minister today?
MR. BOUCHER: Former Ambassador who?
QUESTION: I don't know the name of -- Libyan ambassador. Libyan.
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard the story. It doesn't ring any bells with me; I've got to say. Certainly nothing like that came up this morning.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) situation with North Korea.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did the Chinese raise any concerns about a possible flood of North Korean refugees --?
MR. BOUCHER: We didn't talk to the Chinese this morning. Oh, you mean in the phone call with the Secretary? No, no.
QUESTION: What's the analysis here so far as the Shiite showing in the -- is it a pro-Iranian showing in Iraq, as some would have it, and others --
MR. BOUCHER: I think one has to avoid any sort of simple label being thrown on the results of the Iraqi election. First of all, what the Iraqi election showed is that the Iraqi people want democracy; they're going to turn out for democracy despite the dangers and difficulties in doing that. And we congratulate every candidate and every voter who participated in these elections.
All the parties in Iraq that we see now are out politickin'. There's a whole lot of politickin' going on. And we really see a lot of different configurations of people talking to others. Everybody seems to be committed to bringing more people into the process, reaching out to the Sunni population. And we certainly hope that those who were not participating in this voting or running candidates on lists will, indeed, find ways to become involved and engaged in the process.
There are additional nationwide elections during the course of this year, in October for the constitutional referendum, and December for national elections. So we hope that the democratic process in Iraq is an ever expanding one and that the various parties who did not participate in this election will find ways to participate in the constitutional process and the further elections later.
The Iraqi Independent Election Commission will certify the votes, we think, probably in the next few days. That will then start to tell us who's going to be in the 275-member Transitional Assembly and those people will start working out in further detail their coalitions and their voting. But it's going to take a considerable number of votes to pass the major pieces of legislation, two-thirds majorities in these cases, which means they are going to have to cut across ethnic lines and cut across party lines. And there's a process of forming coalitions and alliances and working with people that's already underway in Iraq. It's a good process. It's a healthy process. It's a democratic process. And those of us who are interested in it should sit back and watch and let the Iraqis work it out, and that's what we intend to do.
QUESTION: But is the general -- how should I say it? -- the general flavor pro-Iraqi, pro-independence, not to be taken over or beholden to a neighboring country?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know that I want to start characterizing it, but I think you see a lot of Iraqi politicians who have stood up and run, who have stood up to participate in this process, and they will guide the course of the process, not others.
Okay, we'll move over there.
QUESTION: If we could stay on Iraq, but on a different issue. Several Democratic senators earlier today harshly criticized the way money is being spent by the United States in Iraq. Senator Dorgan, to use his words, said there is a massive amount of waste fraud and abuse taking place with U.S. funds in Iraq. He also said that very little of the money that's been appropriated for improving the situation in Iraq, at least on the humanitarian side, has actually been spent. I wanted to give you the chance to respond to those allegations.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see those comments, so I didn't get an updated set of figures. I would point out the Secretary has budget testimony three times this week on Wednesday and Thursday, and I'm sure she'll be prepared to go forward and describe not only the efforts that we're making to move the money out the door and make sure it gets spent on worthwhile projects, but also the careful accounting that we go through. It has been very, very important to us since last June 28th when the State Department took over responsibility for this money to make sure that it was all properly accounted for, and second of all, that it was spent as quickly as possible on the needs of the Iraqi people.
And I think you've seen an accelerated disbursement scheduled, accelerated set of projects that have been undertaken in the last six to eight months in order to achieve that, in order to give people a stake in Iraqi reconstruction, to use Iraqis in many of these jobs. And I think the numbers will reflect that. I'll see if we can get any numbers for you today, but it may be that they'll prepare up-to-date numbers for her testimony, and that would be the place to look for it.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. BOUCHER: New topic? Okay, two more on this. Joel.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up to what was just mentioned. Apparently, they're -- Senator Dorgan is saying they're -- U.S. paid bags of money to Iraqi contractors, to the tune of roughly 2 million, with no oversight. And the other is, there's a report that --
MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me.
QUESTION: -- a U.S.-funded media network, grossly has been working with --
MR. BOUCHER: Hey, guys, I'm sorry, but -- Barry, please.
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Okay. A U.S.-funded media network has grossly mismanaged reporting duties in Iraq and has rehired Baathists and displaced reporters to work with Al-Jazeera. And I believe I've mentioned, and I guess others, too, have mentioned to Adam while you were away the situation with Al-Jazeera being a biased television network. And right now, Al-Jazeera is putting ads in the paper looking for more television producers.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's not wander too far off. I didn't see Senator Dorgan's comments. I don't have any comments on his specifics.
QUESTION: Now that we know the Shiites have a clear plurality in Iraq, what plans does the Secretary have to try and prevent a new government in Iraq from becoming a religious theocracy comparable to Iran's?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm -- that's really the question I've been asked four times now by your various colleagues. The fact is there's a democratic process in Iraq. It's a democratic process that's going to require Iraqis from different ethnic groups, from different parties, from different political views, from different religious backgrounds, to cooperate with each other in order to take significant steps forward. At every juncture that Iraqis from different backgrounds have shown themselves able to do that, they were able to pass a transitional law, they were able to create an interim government; they were able to agree on the election procedures. And now, they're going to have to agree on constitution writing and governments and presidencies and ministers and all that stuff.
So as I said, it's going to be a process that's going to involve all Iraqis, but I think what's the assurance that this will come out as a democratic country? I think the fact is that that's what they're pledged to, that's what they're working on, that's what they are all striving for. And within the system that they had, they're going to try to involve others, they're going to try to protect the rights of everybody to participate in this process. That's the way the system's designed and that's the way the people are committed to it and that's the way the people are operating.
QUESTION: Richard, what do you hope to achieve by the recall of the Ambassador from Nepal?
MR. BOUCHER: The recall of our Ambassador, along with the ambassadors of the United Kingdom, India and France, who are also leaving Katmandu today, I think, is an indication of the deep concern in the international community about the recent developments in Nepal. These are widely shared among nations of the diplomatic -- of the international community, and I think we've made clear that point that the King needs to restore and protect civil and human rights; he needs to release those detained under the state of emergency, and move quickly towards the restoration of civil liberties and multiparty democratic institutions.
That is the point we're trying to make. We will consult with our Ambassador and others will consult with their ambassadors about how best to achieve those goals, how we can support those goals, and we'll be sending our Ambassador back after a period of time in order to convey that message even more clearly.
Okay. Start working around --
QUESTION: What were the messages conveyed to the King, or the Nepali authorities what action will be taken --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, during the course of consultations, we can consider what the next steps are. We have already conveyed the basic message to the King. Our Ambassador met with the King on February 7th, and he'll be coming back with us to consider further steps.
QUESTION: You said after a certain period of time, he would be sent back. The statement left the impression that --
MR. BOUCHER: A week, I think it is.
QUESTION: It is a week, indeed, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, yeah.
Okay, over here.
QUESTION: Still remaining in the area of embassy, there's been an auto crash, a car crash in Bucharest. It's the second case where a U.S. member of the Embassy is involved in such an unfortunate event. How is the Department going to be involved in the inquiry, considering the fact that a previous inquiry, in which a Romanian pop rocker died, also caused in an accident involving a U.S. member of the Embassy?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me start off. These are two unrelated accidents. They're both very tragic and very sad, but this tragic accident has nothing to do with the one that resulted in the death of Teo Peter, the Romanian celebrity.
We are indeed deeply saddened by the death of our colleague, Greg Gessner, a retired Customs official who was working at our embassy, and he was working with the Government of Romania on export control and border security issues. Our deepest sympathies go out to this family and to his friends. We are working with Romanian authorities to investigate the accident. And that's the way that these things need to be followed up on.
QUESTION: Do you have any details on who was driving the car?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything alone -- anything more at this point. Mr. Gessner was in his car alone, but I think it was a three-car accident and the Romanian authorities will have to follow up and decide how it happened.
QUESTION: New topic. There was a report out of Jerusalem quoting a U.S. official that you might be reviewing your Travel Warning to Israel, in light of the fact that there has been a decrease in violence and the --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything new at this point. I'll have to check.
QUESTION: Richard, on the aid to the PA, the short-term high-impact aid, $40 million, over the next 90 days, is that going to be spent directly through USAID or will be given to the Authority?
MR. BOUCHER: The plan was for that to be spent through existing cooperation projects, through NGOs and others that we already work with, and because that we wanted it to have high-impact soon, we wouldn't try to invent new mechanisms for it.
QUESTION: On Iran. May I ask if it's correct that the State Department has rejected as untrue a complaint by Iranian authorities that U.S. military aircraft have violated their airspace?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the State Department has anything to say about reports like that. It's not the kind of thing we'd be in a position to comment on.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any comments on yesterday's Parade magazine article written by David Wallechinsky, which, through Freedom House, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, he's rated 10 of the worst countries and Omar Bashir of Sudan leads that list. And I guess the best on the list of 10 was Cuba. So it's going from the worse to the best and there are other countries.
MR. BOUCHER: The simple answer is: no, I don't have any comment. Unfortunately, our world is big enough and complex enough, we can't just make a top-10 list and deal with those; we deal with everything in the world at the same time.
Okay? Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:58 p.m.)
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