25 February 2005
State Department Daily Briefing, February 25
Department, Egypt, Palestinians, Sudan, Nepal, Israel/Palestinians, Syria/Lebanon, Iraq, Greece, Iran, Miscellaneous, Canada, Congo, Burma, Singapore, Cyprus
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press February 25.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
Daily Press Briefing Index
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
-- UN Environmental Meeting / Establishment of Mercury Program
-- Diplomatic Immunity of UAE Embassy Employee
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2005 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I've got four things to talk about and they are Human Rights Reports, comings and goings, travel and Sudan. So we can take them one at a time, but let me make you aware of these. We've put out details on how to cover the events, but Monday we'll put out our Annual Human Rights Reports, the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. We'll have a briefing here at 9:00 a.m. with Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky.
As you know, we now do two reports on human rights every year. We do a factual report that will come out Monday and then we'll do in about a month or so another report that (inaudible) programs and the policies and how the United States is working on the basis of these facts to improve the human rights situation around the world. So I encourage you, as you read this report, to think about that one as well.
The Secretary has been involved in the preparation of this report, will be very involved in the preparation of the next report on programs and policies. She'll be traveling on Monday so she won't be about to do this rollout, but she is very much involved in the process. At this point we'll do the briefing at 9:00 a.m. and we'll have embargoed copies available for you to look at, starting at 8:15 a.m. on Monday.
Okay, any questions about that?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. People. At the senior staff meeting this morning, the Secretary took the occasion to note that today was the last day in the office for a number of people who have served our nation and our Department very well for many, many years, including in very high positions for the last few years, and I just thought I'd run through that as well as some of the new arrivals and appointments in terms of her filling out her team. She paid individual tribute to each of these individuals and I won't do the whole history here, but if anybody needs information on their careers we can find it for you.
Under Secretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, this is his last day, and he's been a mainstay of this Department for the last four years and through a whole career.
Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Al Larson, this is his last day, a long and very illustrious career.
Assistant Secretary for Europe Beth Jones, this is her last day.
Legal Advisor Will Taft and our Chief Information Officer Bruce Morrison all making their last appearance at the senior staff meeting and I think for most of them it's actually their last day in their office before they head on to retirement seminars and other things like that.
New arrivals. We're announcing today that Secretary Rice has appointed Philip Zelikow as Counselor of the State Department. Though the position has been vacant since 2001, the Office of Counselor is not new. It's been part of the State Department's organization since 1909. The Counselor is a principal officer of the Department and, as Counselor, Mr. Zelikow will serve as a senior policy advisor on a wide range of issues and he'll undertake special assignments, as directed by the Secretary.
We have a slightly longer written statement for you that includes some of his biographic information, but I think he is certainly somebody that is well known to us in the foreign policy community.
The quote from the Secretary about him is, "Philip and I have worked together for years and I value his counsel and expertise. I appreciate his willingness to take on this assignment."
So we'll have that for you on paper.
And one more personnel announcement, and that is that Assistant Secretary William Burns has been asked by the Secretary, and of course he accepted, to exercise the functions of Under Secretary for Political Affairs during the interim period between Marc Grossman's departure today and the -- we hope -- confirmation of a new nominee for Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Ambassador Nick Burns. So this gives us a chance us a chance to get used to saying Under Secretary Burns before Nick actually arrives.
QUESTION: So many corrections. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Anyway, so we'll keep William Burns exercising those functions for the interim period and Nicholas Burns -- we hope -- after confirmation by the Senate coming in to have the job of Under Secretary for Political Affairs. He will also -- sorry -- William Burns will remain in charge of the Near East Bureau and continue to have responsibility for that area during this interim period.
That is personnel. I think we can go on.
QUESTION: Yeah, Richard, since Larson is leaving, Jones is leaving, who is going to be in those positions until their replacements come on?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there will be -- for Europe; there will be acting people. I forgot to ask who will exercise the functions of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs. I'll try to get that for you later. Whether that needs to be designated or not is a decision for the Secretary. We, of course, have our Economic Bureau, the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, which handle all the work of the economic function.
And the other one was Jones, Beth Jones, the -- again, I'll have to check on who the Acting Assistant Secretary will be, starting on Monday.
QUESTION: Is that a good guess?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a good guess. I want to make sure.
QUESTION: Just two questions. One, the position of Counselor does not require Senate confirmation, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it doesn't.
QUESTION: It does not
MR. BOUCHER: Does not, yeah.
QUESTION: And then just to be perfectly clear, Assistant Secretary William Burns, would it be accurate to call him, henceforth, Acting Under Secretary William Burns or not?
MR. BOUCHER: It would not. There is a particular wrinkle in the law in the appointments process. I remember this from a brief period when I was exercising the functions of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy that it has to be worded in that manner. Take on the duties of Under Secretary, fulfilling the responsibilities of the Under Secretary, doing -- working, carrying out the work of the Under Secretary, that that's sort of what he is doing but in a very precise and legal way it’s not exactly acting.
QUESTION: Do you know -- why not just make him acting until he moves on to whatever else he might do?
MR. BOUCHER: It’s frankly relatively short period of time, we hope, with the confirmation process for Ambassador Nicholas Burns and it doesn’t necessary merit all the paperwork that might require, let’s put it that way.
QUESTION: Are more things coming or the same? MR. BOUCHER: I’m sure there are plenty of changes coming. We’re all looking forward to changes.
QUESTION: Just one more quick on the Counselor position. Is this the position that Wendy Sherman used to have under Secretary Albright?
MR. BOUCHER: Yep, yep.
MR. BOUCHER: But each Secretary who’s had a Counselor has used it differently and I think you all remember that different people have done it at different times. Robert Zoellick was Counselor for Secretary Baker for a period of time. So, you know, this goes back -- Chip Bohlen was Secretary Marshall’s Counselor. And, you know, at points it’s been a very significant position. It’s been somebody the Secretary could turn to, rely on for projects, advice, thinking, coordination -- a lot of different things. And it’s a very personal position, sort of, for the Secretary. And this Secretary has chosen Mr. Zelikow. She knows him, has known him for a long time. They’ve worked together before in many capacities, private sector and public. And she looks forward to using his talents and expertise.
You want to move on?
QUESTION: When do you expect Deputy Secretary Zoellick to be confirmed?
MR. BOUCHER: Last Tuesday -- no, last Thursday, he took over; he took up the job on Tuesday. He’s Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick now, has been chairing staff meetings since Tuesday, fully working.
Secretary of State Rice will travel to London on Monday, February 28th for the March 1st London meeting on supporting Palestinian Authority. She looks forward to working with key officials there on our joint efforts to support Palestinian political institutions, to build security and to invigorate the Palestinian economy.
The meeting in London will include 30 delegations, including a number of Arab states and other members of the international donor community, who will come together to express their support for the new Palestinian leadership. Secretary Rice will also participate, while in London, in a Quartet meeting. She'll have bilateral discussions with the British and there will be other meetings in London before she returns to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
I'll just add to this that we've, I think, expressed before our appreciation to the British Government for hosting this meeting and where we think it's going to be a very useful event.
QUESTION: After London.
MR. BOUCHER: Turn the page -- no?
QUESTION: From London. Returning to Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: Returning to Washington.
QUESTION: Do you remember when there was talk at the briefing maybe a week ago, we were talking about Syria and you said I'm sure that while she's on her trip -- and I think you said in the region -- she'll discuss these things? So was there a regional trip planned that has now been cancelled?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure when she does go to the region that she will discuss these things.
QUESTION: But you were referring specifically to --
MR. BOUCHER: There were -- as you all know, I think there was some consideration given to going out to the region at this time, especially when the Egyptians were going to host the meeting between the G-8 and the Arab League. And I think when the Egyptian Foreign Minister was here we also discussed that -- that meeting, which was still on the books at that time. And she told you, if I remember correctly, at the press conference that the delegation -- had not made final decisions on her delegation there.
Shortly after that, the Egyptians decided to postpone the G-8/Arab League meeting, so then the question became, what's the best time to go to the region to work all the issues. And we -- she decided -- coming back today, we've reviewed these developments in the region. We looked at how to push forward on the very, very important issue of Palestinian reform, and this is a big conference, a lot of delegations, a lot of work that can be done, will be done, while she's in London. And she decided she'd rather visit the region a little later in order to do a full range of issues, including, obviously, Israeli-Palestinian issues, Iraq, reform, all that sort of stuff -- to have a chance to discuss all those issues in London but it's really a chance now to push forward strongly on the issue of Palestinian reform and she will visit to the region, I think, at what I'd say is a fairly early date.
QUESTION: When, for example?
MR. BOUCHER: At a fairly early date, say, in the next few months.
QUESTION: Listen, in London you said there will be Arab delegations there. Will the key players or key countries be represented, meaning Jordan, Egypt?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure many of these countries will be there. I don't know for sure yet exactly the individuals who will be there. Now let's remember, we have a full agenda of meetings. You just saw the Egyptian Foreign Minister. I'm not sure if I can talk about some of the others. But we have a full agenda of meetings with all of the players. It's a very constant process, especially at this point, and it will be a very intensive process in London, working on the Palestinian issues.
QUESTION: Can you give us a readout on the Secretary's phone calls? Has she made any phone calls today to her counterparts?
MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point, no.
I've got one more statement on Sudan to tell you about.
QUESTION: At the London conference, Richard, will the U.S. be pushing the other allies to match its contributions for Palestinian reforms?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you know, the President announced a very significant contribution to Palestinian reforms in his State of the Union speech, and we are certainly working with other governments to make sure that everybody steps up to the plate to help the Palestinians take advantage of this opportunity and to really build, as I said, the kind of institutions that are necessary for a state, to build the kind of security services that can control the violence and to help invigorate the Palestinian economy in a way that gives their people the kind of life that they want.
In addition to encouraging everybody to come forward with support for Palestinians in that manner, we also are taking every opportunity to encourage those who have promised in the past to provide that kind of assistance, to make sure that they deliver on that kind of assistance. So I'm sure that to the extent we see those nations, we'll be raising that as well.
QUESTION: Does the United States have any plans to pledge any additional financial assistance to the Palestinians at the conference or does the President's proposal stand?
MR. BOUCHER: The President's proposal stands and it's a quite considerable amount of money. It's a quite considerable increase over what we've done in the past, and we will be consulting and working with the Congress on questions like how that money gets spent. And I think it has yet to be voted on by the Congress, so one step at a time.
What is important, I think, at this meeting is the coordination aspects, is the organization aspects, how do we all get organized, how do the Palestinians gets organized to really accomplish these things are rapidly as possible and to take, for example, full advantage of the opportunity of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and four settlements on the West Bank to demonstrate that they can have responsible government there, end the violence from these areas and give their people a better life there.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) said they needed to reschedule the G-8 meeting, you said it was -- that they had told you or announced it was to talk more to the Arab League members.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: What did they -- have they now got back to you and said what they needed to talk about?
MR. BOUCHER: It would be for them to discuss what they’re going to discuss with other people. They, I think you’ve seen their public statements. There is an Arab League meeting coming up on March 22nd. They wanted to further coordinate with the Arab League at that meeting.
QUESTION: I thought because this was potentially changing the Secretary’s plans they would have explained further. They’ve given you no explanation other than what you said?
MR. BOUCHER: I’m not going to provide their explanation. I’m not their spokesman. I’m not a spokesman for the Egyptians nor the Arab League. I would hesitate to try to predict what the Arab League was going to discuss at a meeting that we’re not attending.
QUESTION: A question for a U.S. spokesman, for this Department then. It’s easy to speculate that because of the extra tension in the U.S.-Egyptian relationship regarding Nour and your criticism of that case, that the Egyptians are upset and therefore you’ve been disinvited. Is there any truth to that?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Richard, was there any understanding that a new Palestinian cabinet that just got voted upon had come into being, and over the last week Prime Minister Queria seems to be under the gun and they have new members, all with Ph.D.s and not just been allied to what used to be Chairman Arafat; in other words, they're intellectuals as well as trained specialists. Is that a key to having this particular meeting in London?
MR. BOUCHER: The meeting in London has been announced quite a while ago. If I remember correctly -- I don’t remember if it was here. It was around the time that Prime Minister Blair came and visited with President Bush last November. So it’s been on the books. We all knew that after the Palestinian election, which they did successfully, and after the formation of the Palestinian Government, which they have now done successfully, and we certainly welcome that government and look forward to working with them, that the international community could organize itself and help them get organized to carry out some of these very important tasks that they have already embarked upon. And we look forward to doing that. We think this -- as we’ve said from the start, we think this was a very good initiative by the British and we look forward to doing a lot of good work at the conference.
QUESTION: Richard, can we go to Sudan peacekeepers?
MR. BOUCHER: I’m going to get to Sudan one of these days, sure.
QUESTION: Okay, very quick. Are you aware that there’s been an announcement by the Israeli Government that they are going to confiscate thousands of acres in the West Bank and build 5,000 new settlements --?
MR. BOUCHER: I am aware of that. Let me --
QUESTION: We’ll go back to this?
MR. BOUCHER: We’ll go back to this a little later if we can. I’d rather deal with particularly things involving the travel and the London conference, then we’ll get back to other regional issues afterwards.
Anything else on that?
We’ll move to Sudan.
QUESTION: At the time of the conference, at the time Blair came, President Bush said, "I’m all for conferences as long as we get something done, as long as it's -- "
MR. BOUCHER: And what I’m telling you today is Secretary Rice is going out there and together with the British, the Palestinians and others, we’re going to get something done.
QUESTION: Well, do you guys have a list of goals of what you want to come out of the conference?
MR. BOUCHER: We’ll work at the conference with others. I think the way I've described it is to really mobilize the support for institutions, security, the economy. It’s to define how those jobs can be tackled by the Palestinians. A lot of that will be what we hear from them and to define better how we can support them. And that’s what we’ll do out there.
QUESTION: And the Israelis will not be attending, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I don’t think the Israelis are coming. This is really a conference looking at Palestinian reform issues and knowing the -- all the things that they are embarked upon and things they have to do and trying to help them.
QUESTION: Do you expect anybody else to pledge money at this? I know it's not a donor’s conference.
MR. BOUCHER: It's just not a pledging conference. I, frankly, don't know at this point whether governments are going to come and announce something or not. But that's not the main purpose of the conference. There are donor coordination mechanisms already, ad hoc liaison groups, various ways that we have worked in the past and people have put up money at these conferences. I know, we've put up money before at those conferences. So I don't rule it out but I don't necessarily expect that to be a significant goal, nor is it -- nor would it be correct to try to judge this conference by a dollar sign or the amount of money raised. It's not like some of the conferences we have had for other places where that is usually the indicator of how it went.
Okay, I'd like to say a few words about Sudan. The United States is taking a number of actions to support the comprehensive peace agreement in Sudan. We think the agreement provides a sound basis for achieving stability and national unity throughout Sudan, particularly with respect to Darfur and the areas still affected by conflict. And we urge both sides to implement the agreement fully and rapidly and to seize this opportunity to solve the crisis in Darfur.
A few things we've done diplomatically. We've strengthened our diplomatic presence by appointing Ambassador David Kaeuper -- that's K-a-e-u-p-e-r -- as the chargé d'affaires of the American Embassy in Khartoum. Ambassador Kaeuper has arrived in the Sudanese capital. He will engage the Sudanese Government on critical issues, including the crisis in Darfur, implementing the comprehensive peace agreement, delivering lifesaving humanitarian aid to millions of Sudanese threatened by displacement and food shortages. The Embassy has also sent an official to southern Sudan with a view to establishing a U.S. diplomatic presence there.
Second -- or third, I guess -- the United States has named former Ambassador to Sudan Donald Petterson as its representative to the Abiye Commission. That Commission is responsible for resolving border issues in the Abiye region and that was one of the subjects, as you remember, a separate protocol included with the comprehensive peace accord.
In addition, we plan to name a senior official to the Assessment and Evaluation Commission which will be established to monitor and report on implementation of the agreement.
We urge the parties to establish this and other commissions called for in the agreement as quickly as possible.
The United States is committed to working very closely with the international community to provide assistance and promote peace, security and reconciliation in Sudan. We take this opportunity to underscore our grave concerns about the violence and atrocities in Darfur. Darfur remains a major priority and the United States will continue its strong support for the African Union mission in Darfur.
The United States will not fully normalize relations with Sudan until the situation in Darfur has stabilized.
QUESTION: Have you said that before, that you won't fully normalize relations until Darfur stabilizes?
MR. BOUCHER: I think so. I'm not sure we've used exactly those words, but we've said that they can't expect to see the kind of benefits, diplomatic and financial benefits, that would normally accompany this agreement as long as the situation in Darfur continues.
QUESTION: So then you've given up -- a couple of weeks ago you told us that you were reviving your effort to impose UN sanctions on Sudan, notably on its petroleum industry. Have you thrown in the towel on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we have continued to pursue a draft UN resolution that continues to be under discussion up in New York. It includes targeted sanctions and the possibility of further measures in other areas such as petroleum.
QUESTION: But not actually -- it's just a possibility down the line, not actually --
MR. BOUCHER: I think that was the language that was worked out is targeted sanctions now and then noting specifically for the UN Security Council to identify specifically that possibility of further measures. I'm not -- that's a paraphrase. I don't have the exact language in front of me. But we continue to pursue a UN resolution. We think that the issues right now before the UN Security Council on Sudan are very important. It is -- the north-south agreement, how we support that, the peacekeepers that need to be there, but we don't think we can act on that without taking into account the situation in Darfur and therefore think that Darfur needs to be part of that resolution as well. And that's in the draft that we've been consulting with other governments on.
Okay, Sudan or not? Joel.
QUESTION: Earlier today there was a forum discussion at Brookings Institute -- Institution, and the whole question about the war crimes trial, should it be at the ICC or in Tanzania, did come up, and one of the difficulties remains -- or a question -- is China. Have you approached the Chinese Government with respect to what their activities have been in Sudan, and perhaps either jawboned them or leaned heavily on them?
MR. BOUCHER: (Laughter.) You guys are always telling me about these interesting meetings I can't go to because I'm preparing for the briefing. But the issue of accountability for the crimes, the atrocities, we would say, the genocide that has been committed in Darfur, is one that's high on our agenda. We have discussed it extensively with other members of the Security Council. We've discussed it quite a bit with key African partners. We've discussed it with the Europeans during, for example, the Secretary's trip to Europe. I don't know at this point whether it came up during the President's trip or not. You'll have to check with the White House on that.
We all agree, I think everybody that we've talked to agrees, horrible things have happened in Darfur. There needs to be accountability for those crimes and atrocities, that most people agree there needs to be international accountability for that, and we're still discussing what's the most appropriate way to put that together to make sure that violations of the international humanitarian and human rights law are punished.
QUESTION: Can I follow up, Richard? U.S. Ambassador Prosper took part from the State Department in that discussion. Will he be given further duties, especially for war crimes trial and/or for other activities in Sudan?
MR. BOUCHER: He's got ongoing duties. He's our Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and he is actively working this issue.
QUESTION: At the UN, the last I heard was the U.S. had just handed out elements of what it wanted in a resolution. I wondered if you can just bring us up to date on how far along this process has gotten, how close are you to a vote. And secondly --
MR. BOUCHER: Are you talking -- there are actually two resolutions. One's the peacekeeping resolution and it includes Darfur sanctions, and the second would be a further resolution on accountability for Darfur.
QUESTION: I'm talking about the first one, the north-south peacekeeping in Darfur.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let me answer that first.
MR. BOUCHER: We circulated a draft Security Council resolution on Monday, February 14th, that would establish the UN peace support operation in Sudan and includes measures to pressure the parties to the Darfur conflict to abide by their commitments under Resolutions 1556, 1564 and 1574. As I mentioned, we're actively discussing the text with others. We're open to constructive comments and suggestions. Experts met last week to review the text and they're meeting again today. As I said, that discussion continues.
Now the second half?
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. The top UN official on peacekeeping is here in town, and I know that he's been talking about this 10,000-strong force for north-south, but I wonder if the Bush Administration is encouraging the UN to get more involved in Darfur in any way, if there's going to be some crossover with these UN -- the peacekeeping mission.
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first, the UN is heavily involved in Darfur and I think you'll remember that a lot of the international attention on Darfur was focused by overlapping visits from Secretary of State Powell and Secretary General Kofi Annan last summer, and that our effort to work the problems of Darfur and try to solve the problems of the people of Darfur has been very closely coordinated with the UN. The Secretary General's representative Jan Pronk reports regularly to the Security Council and we work very closely with him and other UN agencies who are working to monitor the situation, to report on the situation, to pressure the government and the rebels, as well as the UN agency involved in the provision of relief. So the UN, as a whole, is heavily involved in Darfur.
In terms of the military deployments, we do think that implementation of the north-south agreement, including the implementation by the peacekeeping presence that will be sent to Sudan in order to implement the north-south agreement, that that process is stabilizing for the country and contributes to, we would hope, a solution to Darfur as well. But the specific military presence in Darfur at this point is an African Union mission. They're now up to 1,900-and-some forces there. They have traveled extensively, reported extensively. We continue to support them with financial support, with expertise. Many others do as well. But for the moment, that's the way it settles out.
QUESTION: On Nepal.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's -- I forget who was going to change the subject first, but I guess you just won. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Richard, opposition leaders from Nepal and also human rights groups, including Amnesty and Asia Watch, what they are saying is that political leaders and innocent people have been arrested by the King rather than the Maoists or the terrorists. And what they are asking the U.S. is really can U.S. (inaudible) King is asking only after three years he will think about restoring democracy in Nepal.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made clear our concerns about these reports of arrests. We've made clear our concerns about the status of opposition leaders. As you know, Ambassador Moriarty came back to Washington after delivering a message on our behalf to the King and now is back in Nepal and continues to pursue our efforts to urge the King and leaders in Nepal to resolve this very quickly and resolve it in the favor of democracy.
So no, we don't accept a lengthy timetable. We think that the King needs to move quickly to reinstate and protect civil and human rights, to release those who are detained under the state of emergency, and to begin a dialogue with the political parties intended to restore multiparty democratic institutions under a constitutional monarchy.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Ambassador Moriarty (inaudible) to stop by at (inaudible) to Kathmandu for consultations. Is there any efforts being made by the United States to coordinate positions with the other allies in relation to Nepal as the -- as India and Britain had basically frozen military aid?
MR. BOUCHER: We are certainly in close touch with India, with Britain, with other nations about the situation in Nepal. Any number of countries have expressed the same kinds of concerns as we have. They have moved diplomatically. And we do know that some of them have already made decisions, for example, on cutting off military assistance.
At this point we're still looking at our options on security assistance. We certainly remain disturbed by the lack of progress on detainees and restoring fundamental rights. I would point out the majority of U.S. assistance to Nepal goes to promoting economic development and we're looking carefully at our programs to determine which ones would best achieve the objective of restoring democracy but also presenting -- preventing a Maoist takeover. So we'll look at all those programs very carefully.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary -- I'm sorry. The Secretary spoke with anybody in Nepal or any leaders in India or Bhutan on this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think she's had, you know, phone calls or anything like that for a while, but she's certainly following this issue carefully and directing our embassies to keep in touch and coordinate with others on this.
Okay, Said was going to talk about settlements, if we're changing.
QUESTION: Yeah, I want to go back to the (inaudible) intention to confiscate more land and build more housing units on the West Bank.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the first thing to say is what we've seen so far are press reports about decisions, possible decisions, by the Israelis with regard to settlements and housing units. We are following up with the Israeli Government to determine the facts. From a policy point of view, I think the President has said many times and has said again in this Brussels speech that Israel should impose a -- Israel must freeze settlement activity as both sides carry out their obligations with regard to the roadmap. And our position is that we support the obligations that both sides have undertaken as stated in the roadmap, including the freeze on all settlement activity, and that we continue to pursue with both sides not only the opportunities that we obviously see in things like the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the new Palestinian Government, the process of democracy in the Palestinian areas, but also the obligations that the parties have at this time.
QUESTION: Richard, did this come up in any way in the Secretary's discussions with Israeli leaders? Did they signal her that this was -- that they would be doing this?
MR. BOUCHER: On this specific issue, not that I'm aware of. No announcements like this. These things do pop up in the press from time to time, and as I said, let's -- you know, we're still looking into it to find the details or the facts.
The issue -- the understanding that both sides have obligations at this important time and that, in fact, that President -- Prime Minister Sharon, when he visited, discussed a lot of issues with the President and that Israel made commitments at that time to President Bush about outposts and settlement activity, and that is something that we still hold to and the Israelis understand we still hold to.
QUESTION: Well, would you take the question to see whether it did come up? I mean, she was there.
MR. BOUCHER: No, it didn’t. Not -- this specific thing did not come up when she was there.
QUESTION: It did not? MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. But the understanding of the obligations did come up when she was there.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up. Considering that the settlement activity seems to go on unabated despite repeated calls by the U.S. to freeze them, what would be next? What could you do to make the Israelis actually freeze settlement activities?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the point, I think, with both sides is that, first of all, we need to take up the opportunities, but in doing that we need to carry out the obligations. We’ve insisted, as you all know, that the Palestinians move to end the violence. That was part of their obligation under the roadmap. We’ve also insisted that the Israelis carry out their obligations under the roadmap.
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up. Given these sorts of announcements by the Israeli Government about new settlements, does this raise any concerns about exactly what the term “natural growth” means, as was called for in the roadmap? Because it seems like these announcements come out and it might make one wonder if the Israelis are not keeping up their bargain as outlined in the roadmap when it comes to settlements.
MR. BOUCHER: I don’t have any new interpretations to the roadmap. We certainly stand by the roadmap. We stand by -- we ask the Israelis to stand by the public commitments that they have made with regard to the roadmap, the public commitments they’ve made with regard to the outposts, and commitments that they’ve made in regard to settlements in general. So for us, you know, we think there is a lot out there already that they have committed to and we expect them to meet those obligations.
MR. BOUCHER: Standing by the roadmap, yeah.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Can we stay just one more minute? Could we stay for one minute?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, hold on. The gentleman back there first.
QUESTION: I'm trying to get you to explain to us what exactly what the Israeli obligations are. You mentioned the Palestinian obligation to end the violence, as you said. But could you tell us the Israeli obligations would include stopping the activities of settlement, stopping the infringement on the Palestinian lands, the wall, the separation wall, and what else can you tell us?
MR. BOUCHER: I’m not here to recite the roadmap. There are a number of obligations both sides have taken on in the roadmap, other obligations they’ve taken on in their public statements and announcements, and we expect them to carry through on those statements. The President in Brussels said Israel must freeze settlement activity, help the Palestinians build a thriving economy, ensure that a new Palestinian state is truly viable with contiguous territory on the West Bank. So those are some of the things that he cited, but I couldn't dare to recite the entire roadmap, including obligations that both sides have taken on.
QUESTION: On the issue of U.S. citizens in Israeli prisons, (inaudible) back up to (inaudible). Are you following up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: We always do. I don’t have any new news on it though.
Okay, sir. Greece?
QUESTION: Greece's consular --
MR. BOUCHER: No, no, hold on. I think Nicholas had the first chance to change.
MR. BOUCHER: So you’re second though.
QUESTION: Sort of staying in the region, but Iraq and Syria. Have you been able to establish yet whether that report about a Syrian intelligence officer that was captured and was on TV is actually true, and do you know anything about that?
MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don’t have anything about that here. I think you’d have to check with the coalition in Baghdad maybe.
QUESTION: If the report were true --
MR. BOUCHER: I don’t answer questions that start out, "If the report were true.” Think of a different phrasing.
QUESTION: Would you not -- I’m trying because I’ve been asking for several days and it seems that, you know, you and your colleagues are saying that even if it were true you wouldn't necessarily know. But someone from the United States Government in Iraq must know.
MR. BOUCHER: I agree with that.
QUESTION: Who would that be?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be somebody working for the coalition forces, most likely.
QUESTION: And isn’t the State Department now in charge of the American presence, except military presence? Isn’t the Embassy in charge?
MR. BOUCHER: The Embassy is certainly in charge of the U.S. presence in Iraq, but I believe this person is in the custody of the Iraqis and they’re the ones who would be responsible for putting out information. And at this point, that’s as much I have to say on it. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Are we still on Syria?
MR. BOUCHER: We’re still on what? I forget where we were.
QUESTION: In Iraq.
MR. BOUCHER: Somewhere between Iraq and Syria. All right, let’s go. We’re moving back to Greece. It'll be there.
QUESTION: Thank you. First, are you satisfied that the Syrians are redeploying into the Bekaa? That's one.
Second, the President and President Chirac also called for the withdrawal of the intelligence apparatus. Now, some say that there are a lot of Lebanese who belong to the Syrian intelligence apparatus in Lebanon. How would they handle that situation? How would they manage it?
MR. BOUCHER: As regards the first element of Syrian redeployments, at this point I don’t think there’s any real action or movement that we’ve seen or has been reported. Our view on redeployment is that Resolution 1559 calls in clear and unequivocal terms for all foreign forces to withdrawal from Lebanon. That needs to happen to immediately and we’re looking for action, not just statements.
Now, as far as the second point, Resolution 1559 talks about an end to foreign interference of all kinds. It's not just about forces. It’s about ending foreign involvement in Lebanese affairs and that would include all aspects of that. That’s what we’re looking to implement. We have, as I think I said, Ambassador Satterfield traveling to Lebanon this weekend. He'll follow up on Assistant Secretary Burns’ recent travel.
Ambassador Satterfield will meet with a range of Lebanese to discuss several things: One is US support for the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, including withdrawal of Syrian forces; second, the need to establish a political environment free of violence, intimidation and outside interference, making it possible to hold free and fair parliamentary elections; and third, he’ll also underscore the need for a thorough and transparent inquiry into the Hariri assassination.
So that’s next up on the agenda with Lebanon.
QUESTION: When you say all foreign intervention, while the Syrians say they’re redeploying and but they acknowledge, and both Syrians and Lebanese have said that, you know, is very involved in Lebanese politics and they will continue to, you know, work for their own party list and people that they support, are you saying that you don’t think that Syria should have any hand in supporting politicians in Lebanon?
MR. BOUCHER: I don’t have the resolution right here with me, but it calls for an end to foreign interference in Lebanon. That means that Lebanese should run their politics, Lebanese should decide their government, Lebanese should have a free and fair process, an open process available to them to make their decisions about who is going to govern them.
Are we going to Greece yet or not? We're still on Syria?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no, we've got to do -- we've got to finish off Syria and then we'll go to Syria-Lebanon.
QUESTION: The Syrian Ambassador has expressed Syria’s position that the enemies of Syria are trying to have or call for a humiliating, immediate withdrawal without coordination with the Lebanese Government, whereas the Lebanese Prime Minister has talked to Reuters last night and he said that -- you know, he talked about intertwined interests of Syria and Lebanon in so many aspects: security, traditions, all the common things between Syria and Lebanon. And he called for an organized kind of future withdrawal for Syria that would agree with the Taif or within the Taif agreement.
Do you see that as happening or do you see that United States could cooperate with the two countries, with Lebanon and Syria, in a way that a withdrawal would not leave a vacuum of security and that would agree with the Government of Lebanon’s position?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, what we’re calling for, what the international community is calling for, is for a chance for the people of Lebanon to decide their own future and to have a free, fair, open election to be able to decide freely on their leadership without any interference. And we all remember how we got to Resolution 1559 and that's because of the history of interference in Lebanon.
Second of all, that the Resolution, I think, is quite clear in all those forms. It’s about withdrawal of foreign forces. It's about the end to outside interference. It's also about extending Lebanese Government control over all their territory and giving the Lebanese people a chance to decide their own future. And that’s what we support. That’s what we want. That’s what the international community has said and we’re part of that.
QUESTION: Syria, Lebanon.
MR. BOUCHER: Go.
QUESTION: On the Taif Accords, my understanding is that the Lebanese -- I think it was the Defense Ministry yesterday -- said that Syria had agreed to withdraw in accord with the Taif Accords, which just means the forces go into the eastern Bekaa Valley.
MR. BOUCHER: I think that’s where we started this line of questioning is: Are you satisfied that if they redeploy into Bekaa Valley. And I said no, we want 1559, which is all foreign forces out.
Okay, sir. Greece question.
QUESTION: Greece’s Consular Information Sheet you released yesterday, Mr. Boucher, looks like a slander to (inaudible) than an informative one, and I'm wondering why you are doing this? (Inaudible) a couple of points. You are saying, “Greece shares with the rest of the world an increased threat of international Islamic terrorism.” Could you give us one example, just one, to verify this unfounded claim?
QUESTION: This is not a matter of (inaudible). We are being increased with Islamic terrorism -- "Islamic" one --
MR. BOUCHER: The first thing we’re doing is joining Greece with the rest of the world. Anybody who is paying attention, I think, will have noticed that the unfortunate pattern of terrorist attacks these days is that there is no particular pattern to them. Things have happened in Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia, Philippines, Russia, Madrid, New York. Any number of places have been subject to terrorism associated with Islamic causes, sometimes al-Qaida, sometimes other groups. We’re saying that Greece shares that, Greece is part of the world, Greece is part of the international community, Greece is part of Europe. All these mean that any American traveler to Greece or any other country should be aware that there’s a possibility of terrorism.
QUESTION: But you said you noticed "an increase." I was wondering what it's all about. MR. BOUCHER: I’m not saying that the threat is particularly increased for Greece. I'm saying that the threat is out there in the world and has been steady and increasing sometimes.
QUESTION: Another thing. Do you know of the terrorists' origin?
MR. BOUCHER: I’m not pointing to any specific terrorists in Greece. I’m sorry, I can’t do the explanation word by word on the text on the Consular agreement. I think we have to really understand what these things are. There are ways to inform Americans who are planning on traveling somewhere about the conditions they might encounter and therefore sometimes they reflect worldwide problems, sometimes they reflect specific problems, be it, you know, traffic and documentation or whatever, that exists in a particular country. They’re not slander. They’re objective reviews for Americans of conditions they might encounter when traveling.
QUESTION: You are saying, for example, "Additionally, certain Greek terrorist domestic groups have in the past assassinated U.S. Government personnel." Do you mean November 17th terrorist organization? Because you do not mention this. MR. BOUCHER: I mean certain domestic groups. I’m not -- again, I'm not here to give a book review or an explanation of every piece of this. I think many of these facts are self-evident. And I know you might question some of the wording, but I think the facts over the last many years in Greece make this quite clear.
QUESTION: Well, if this was a big event, why then you are not saying in this series that all its members have been arrested and are in prison today? Why you do not? MR. BOUCHER: Again, we all know November 17 has been arrested and these people have been put in jail. That does not mean that every domestic terrorist in Greece is in jail. There’s always a possibility that there are more in other groups. There is always possibility of domestic terrorists in many countries.
QUESTION: According to Mr. --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, but it's --
QUESTION: No, no, the last one. Why you don't list, for example, that Greece had the most safety Olympic Games? It's a historic fact. Why you do not mention that? This is an informative series --
MR. BOUCHER: It’s a wonderful fact. It was a wonderful Games. We’ve praised it here many, many times. I personally have, I think, offered my high regard. The Secretary of State has done that before -- Secretary Powell. There’s no question that Greece had wonderful and safe Olympic Games. We’re very glad that they did that and we’ve expressed our admiration for Greece for doing that.
But the Consular Affairs travel sheet is not intended to recite all the wonderful things about a country, all the many wonderful things that have happened in the last few years, few months or few centuries. It’s intended to tell Americans what kind of conditions they might expect when they travel. The fact that the Olympic Games are finished would indicate that we’re not going to have Americans encountering the Olympic Games when they travel to Greece at this time.
QUESTION: After the President’s public backing of the EU-3's talks with Iran, I just wondered if there was a time frame that you're looking for results. I think there's a suggested on one of the wires that there is a positional paper that came out in Vienna that you've set a deadline of June.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that's a misinterpretation, frankly. I'll go through what that was. But as far as your specific question, have we set a -- or what happens next or have we set a timetable working with the Europeans on Iran, certainly we think it's important for Iran to agree immediately to do what it in the past had promised to do and what is under an obligation to do from the IAEA. So there's no question. As the Secretary has said many times, this is an opportunity for Iran and we think they should take advantage of it right away.
As far as how the Europeans are working, what kind of timetable they're working on, I'll leave you to -- they'll have to talk about that. But the Secretary made very -- the President and the Secretary have made very clear we appreciate their effort and we hope that Iran takes this opportunity and ends is nuclear enrichment programs, as they should.
On the question of what it was that has led people somehow to jump to the conclusion that June is the timetable, there is an IAEA Board meeting coming up in June. We have started consulting with other governments in anticipation of that Board meeting, telling them a little bit about our views of the current situation with regard to Iran. But the emphasis that we have put on that Board meeting was to say that we all need to expect, as we always do and as we always get, a good and thorough report from the Director General on the state of affairs with regard to Iran.
We expect the Secretariat -- Secretariat, that is, Director General's office, will present a detailed report before the June meeting on Iran's enrichment pledges and we'll look forward to hearing from him around the time of that meeting as to where things stand. We'll decide what action is appropriate at that time -- we all will -- based on what we see in his report.
QUESTION: Sorry. But then is the next step that after that meeting you would expect to go to the UN or --
MR. BOUCHER: The next step depends on what Iran does between now and that meeting. We'll look at the Director General's report and on that basis, what he is able to report in June, be able to decide together with the rest of the Board what the next step is. Certainly we would hope that by that time Iran would have taken the opportunity and started to carry out the commitments it's made. We'll just see -- have to see where we are.
QUESTION: The Iranians are complaining that WTO membership is not on the table. They're saying they were promised it by the Europeans and now the Europeans are backtracking. I know that it was a big goal for the Europeans to get Bush to sign on to the WTO membership, offering that to Iran as an incentive. Does anyone in Washington even have that on the table? I mean, has that even --
MR. BOUCHER: If you remember correctly what the President said during the course of his visit, he had some very good conversations with the Europeans about Iran and there were some things that he wanted to talk about further after he got back to Washington. We'll continue our discussions with the Europeans. I'm not going to focus on any particular issue at this point because it's not really a matter of throwing more things on the table. The Iranians have taken on certain obligations, have made promises. It's a matter of them carrying them out.
QUESTION: There's a report out of Berlin, Richard, that quoting Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani as saying that he would welcome U.S. assistance in talks with the European Union.
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we're certainly talking to our European friends, in very close touch with them. We know what's going on. They tell us, we tell them, what our views are. So there's no lack of consultation transparency with this. The President has expressed our appreciation and our hope that the efforts of the European Union 3 succeed. We've all expressed the importance of Iran agreeing to carry out its obligations and I think there is, as the Secretary says, unity of message and unity of purpose on this issue.
But again, we're not talking about throwing more negotiators at the table or throwing more offers on the table. The point is Iran has certain things it has to do and is talking -- should be talking to the Europeans about how they're going to do that, not finding new excuses not to do things.
QUESTION: I believe the Board also meets next week, so I'm wondering why the focus is already on the June meeting and not next week's on this issue. And is this to give the EU-3 more time to work things out with the Iranians?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm told next June is the regular quarterly meeting. I guess there would be one in this quarter as well. Let me double-check on that. I think there is a lot of focus now on the June meeting. I'll check and see if there's one before that that may or may not deal with this issue.
QUESTION: Also on Iran, as you said, there seems to be unity of purpose with the Europeans and even with Russia that Iran should not have nuclear weapons, yet Russia has not agreed to stop the sale of nuclear technology. Do the talks with Russia continue on this in the wake of the meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we've cited many times very important steps that Russia has taken in this regard, and that is -- and the President talked about this -- I can't remember where it was -- at one of the press conferences in Europe and praised them for taking a stance of not providing nuclear fuel and not providing further nuclear technology to Iran unless Iran agrees to implement its international obligations and agrees to accept fuel, from Russia presumably, and allow Russia to take back all the spent fuel. Under those terms, Iran would have no need for an enrichment program, which we think is the source of the program and the source of their nuclear weapons program.
QUESTION: There's a UN meeting next week. It's a kind of ten-year checkup on women's rights. The last one was in Beijing. Can you just tell us who will represent the United States at the meeting? Has the Secretary, now that her trip is shortened, got any plans to go?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it'll be -- it wouldn't normally be the Secretary and so I’m not aware of any change. The meeting is February 28th to March 11th in New York and I may have an announcement for you later on who’s going to represent the United States. I can’t quite do it at this moment.
QUESTION: Richard, there’s this UNEP meeting in Nairobi where U.S. blocked attempts to launch formal talks on an EU-backed treaty to ban mercury. What are the reasons for such a -- for blocking this?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States is actively participating in this UN Environmental Program meeting on a number of issues that are being discussed there. We’re certainly quite aware of the problems that emissions of mercury have created and we have taken steps since 1990 to reduce human-caused emissions of mercury by more than 45 percent, from 220 tons to about 115 tons.
We are the first country in the world with plans to regulate mercury emissions from power plants and our EPA will finalize next month, the first ever rule to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. That action will require a mandatory 70 percent cut in mercury emissions from power plants.
But as we all know, steps the United States takes alone are not sufficient because mercury can travel long distances from where it is released. The estimated global pool of all mercury emissions is more than 4,000 tons, with Asia contributing more than 1,000 tons of mercury annually. Approximately 97 percent of human-caused emissions originate outside of the United States.
We have been an international leader in addressing the problems of mercury pollution. In 2003, the UNEP -- United Nations Environmental Program -- Governing Council adopted a U.S. proposal to establish the UNEP Mercury Program which assists developing countries in taking action to deal with mercury. We’ve provided over 80 percent of the budget of that program, nearly $2 million since its inception. We’ve been building on the proposal at the last Governing Council session and we’ve proposed expanding establishing partnerships and collaborative activities with key nations to address mercury pollution at the international level. The proposal complements the work of the UNEP Mercury Program while expanding its scope and accelerating its results.
There are a number of areas that we’ve proposed for partnerships. I go through all this to say that we believe that the aggressive kind of global strategy that we’ve laid out is a faster way to achieve real results than trying to negotiate an internationally binding agreement on mercury. We believe negotiations of an international treaty would divert resources from implementing immediate activities to reduce mercury use and emissions. In short, we don’t think it makes sense to initiate a new negotiation on some kind of legally binding treaty on mercury. We think there is much to be done. We are already doing much of it ourselves. We are financing the international effort to do this and we should all put our effort into really getting into doing the work of reducing mercury emissions and not spend something like, you know, five to eight years negotiating and bringing into force a treaty.
QUESTION: On missile defense. Ambassador Cellucci said yesterday -- today sorry -- that Canada has, in effect, given up their sovereignty by bowing out of missile defense. So I wonder will the U.S. consult with Canada before shooting down missiles over Canadian air space and, if so, how that consultation will take place?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don’t have a transcript for what Ambassador Cellucci said so I can’t give you any precise thing. You may have it, I don’t have it, I’m not going to try to pretend that I know it, so I don’t.
Second of all, I think we’re all aware of the amendments to the NORAD treaty and we think that is a very important step for us in North American defense and that provides, as you know, certain provisions that would allow us to go forward in missile defense. The Government of Canada, of course, announced yesterday it's decided not join the Ballistic Missile Defense Program. It informed us of the decision. We note that Canada that the United States has a longstanding cooperative relationship on defense matters and we’ll continue to work that relationship.
QUESTION: Just as a follow-up on that, though, does the U.S. have to ask permission to shoot down a missile and will they over Canadian airspace?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at the amendments to the NORAD treaty you’ll find the answer there, but frankly I’m not expert enough to tell you.
QUESTION: Michelle mentioned before that the UN peacekeeping mission senior official is in town. He's speaking to reporters and he's basically expressed a lot of concerns that the sexual exploitation that's been found in the Congo mission could be actually widespread across the world in all the missions. So the U.S. is a major contributor financially, logistically, and sometimes with troops. Do you also share the concerns that this could be more widespread?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we do share concerns that sexual abuse could be widespread, could exist in other places, and our concerns extend to not just widespread but we really have zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse. That is the UN's policy. That is a policy that we very much support. So it doesn’t matter if it’s widespread or not; it shouldn’t exist anywhere in UN missions.
And we’ve worked very carefully with the UN to try to get them to adopt policies and practices, programs and rules to make sure that alleged misconduct is investigated, that it is punished, and that in fact prevention become a top priority for UN peacekeeping operations and troop contributors.
We do note the UN has taken steps to prevent abuse and ensure accountability, such as establishing personal conduct units in peacekeeping missions to help prevent, detect and respond to cases and that the UN is considering other measures. Troop-contributing countries also have the responsibility to investigate and prosecute allegations against their nationals who participate in UN missions. United States for its part remains vigilant in ensuring awareness of the problem. We have raised our concerns in discussions with UN officials and other concerned countries. In addition, I'd point out that Assistant Secretary Holmes will testify on the situation with respect to UN peacekeeping mission in Congo on March 1st in Congress, so you’ll hear more about it there.
We continue to urge the UN and troop contributors to take disciplinary and legal enforcement action against offenders and to strengthen their efforts at prevention.
QUESTION: One issue says that the nations contributing troops need to take responsibility. They don’t always. They need to be pressured to prosecute. What do you think about the UN naming and shaming the countries? They don't do that at the moment, but isn't that a way of pressuring?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the-- that’s certainly one idea that's out there that we think does merit consideration and discussion, but the goal is not the naming and shaming. The goal is the prevention and if necessary the punishment and that’s where you need to work with countries to ensure that they do take action to prosecute offenders and they do have within UN peacekeeping operations and in fact in their armed forces generally training and prevention steps that they can take to make sure these things don’t occur.
QUESTION: What about issues of them (inaudible) report on each of the missions in the countries, what sort of things go on while they're contributing troops to --
MR. BOUCHER: I don’t know. I’m sure there are many actions that can be contemplated. We’ve tried to work specifically on some of these things that I’ve talked about today. We’re always interested in doing as much as possible and having the UN do as much as possible. I do note that some of these allegations have come out indeed because of UN reporting, because the UN itself has looked into them and found evidence of problems and tried to call attention to them so they will be corrected and punished.
QUESTION: You’ve said that the military government in Burma is now writing a new constitution (inaudible) and abolishing the entire civilian democratic constitution. And what one official in Burma said is similar to the one in Pakistan. So what State Department or the Secretary now will take action because of the leader is still in jail and (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has very consistently taken action, raised concerns, made it clear in public and in private with other governments that the situation in Burma is not only not good but has been moving in the wrong direction. And we have certainly pressed for the release of prisoners -- political prisoners. We’ve pressed for the release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, and some of those things have happened to some extent.
But we’ve also made clear there needs to be a process of open dialogue in the country that involves all the parties, all the different groups within the country, so that they can really set a democratic course for the nation. Some of these steps taken last year or two by the junta have not opened up that dialogue at all but rather have restricted it. And that's been -- those have been concerns that we have raised consistently.
QUESTION: Well, what do you know about the constitution issue? Do you have some --?
MR. BOUCHER: I don’t know too much about Burmese constitution, I’m afraid, so I don’t have anything on that specifically. But certainly we've noted a lot of these different steps that have moved in the wrong direction. There have been a few things in terms of house arrest or political prisoners that we’ve welcomed but they haven’t led to kind of national dialogue that we think is necessary to put Burma back on the right track.
QUESTION: But just to follow up. Just the way we are pressing Nepal now because Nepal has taken the same steps, how far are we going to press Burma's military government to --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're a million miles down the road with Burma compared to other places. You know, we’ve got sanctions, we’ve got trade restrictions, investment restrictions, lower diplomatic representation, a whole bunch of things. Any number of steps the United States has already taken and continues to take with regard to Burma.
QUESTION: Richard, the U.S. has indicated previously that it may not attend the annual talks of ASEAN next year, which are going to be held in Myanmar, or Burma, if they do not move rapidly towards reforms. And was this issue raised today with the meeting -- with the Secretary’s meeting with Mr. Yeo from Singapore?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it didn’t come up.
QUESTION: And what are the issues that were discussed today, if you could just --
MR. BOUCHER: The meeting with Minister Yeo from Singapore was very, very good. It was an extensive discussion, I'd say, of regional issues as well as U.S.-Singapore cooperation. The Secretary expressed our appreciation for Singapore’s deployment of personnel and equipment to Iraq. They discussed regional cooperation and ways to strengthen cooperation with the United States and other outside players with people in the region. They talked about the US-Singapore free trade agreement and the benefits of free trade for others in the region. They talked about tsunami relief efforts and not only what we’ve done but how we can work together on long-term reconstruction.
So I'd say it was a very positive and constructive meeting, a very good consultation with a close friend.
QUESTION: One more here.
MR. BOUCHER: We've got five more, so let's go to Tammy first.
QUESTION: I'm sorry --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm happy to be here as long as you guys want to. But I note the salad line closed five minutes ago -- and the pizza line.
QUESTION: Yes, pizza is more important.
There is an attaché to the United Arab Emirates Embassy who has been implicated in a electronic solicitation of a minor. Any consideration on the part of the State Department asking that his diplomatic immunity be revoked or anything like that?
MR. BOUCHER: Because of legal matters I'm not allowed -- I'm not in a position to comment on the specific case, but I think I can tell you our policy on all such cases, and that is that first we encourage law enforcement authorities to investigate allegations such as these very thoroughly, they document and prepare all cases so that charges may be pursued as far as possible within the U.S. judicial system.
In each instance where a prosecutor advises that but for immunity he or she would prosecute the case, the Department then requests that the sending state waive immunity so that all the allegations can be fully adjudicated. In felony cases, in the absence of such a waiver, the Department would require that an alleged offender depart the United States and would request that an arrest warrant be issued so that the individual can return only to address outstanding charges.
So we do encourage law enforcement authorities to pursue these cases to establish whether or not there are grounds for prosecution. If there are grounds for prosecution, we ask the foreign government to waive the immunity and allow the prosecution and, if necessary, punishment of the offender.
QUESTION: I know you can't talk specific, but can you tell us if any of this has started in this case? Has the prosecutor come to you and said there are grounds and --
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be able to speak for a prosecutor in that regard.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Is he here? Has he --
MR. BOUCHER: I can't talk about a specific case. Sorry.
QUESTION: Just to follow --
MR. BOUCHER: Sir, just to follow.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) my question (inaudible). Many of the --
MR. BOUCHER: That was my answer, too.
QUESTION: No, that's fine. But in different way. Many of the cases against diplomats and their families' members were unreported or undocumented. How many cases, do you think, on a (inaudible) State Department does and what do you do with those cases? I mean, do you follow, in this case, like Virginia sheriff is asking to revoke the immunity of this particular official and in other cases?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a number on how many cases there might be every year where a diplomat gets arrested. What we do in those cases is exactly what I just told you we do.
QUESTION: In the light of the many developments in the Middle East and the ongoing dialogue between the United States and Syria, is it a possibility that Secretary Rice will be looking into having a high-level meeting with the Syrian officials that would agree with the policy of President Bush that he believes in achieving results and also that would agree with the policy, the public policy objectives of the United States that it is not targeting Syria and --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if that's a question or a suggestion, but I'm not aware of any meetings planned at this point.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on Cyprus. On the illegal transfer of U.S. weapons to Cyprus (inaudible) you stated yesterday in writing that, "We have no independent confirmation of these media reports." I'm wondering if you could confirm, as you did in the case of Greece, and already you (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- when we say we don't have confirmation, we don't have confirmation. When we do have confirmation, we'll look at it for appropriate action.
QUESTION: Are you going to do this? Because in the case of Greece you --
MR. BOUCHER: It depends on whether we get confirmation or not and what it entails, how it is affected under U.S. law.
QUESTION: One more question. The e-mail that I got, Department of State is talking about "election" in Turkish Cyprus, not in the Turkish community of the Republic of Cyprus isolated by the Turkish invasion and occupation forces. And I'm wondering why you are using the, in quotation, Turkish Cyprus.
MR. BOUCHER: Did we do a taken question about the -- I'd have to get it out. We're talking about the part of Cyprus where the Turkish Cypriots live. The Turkish Cypriots are having an election.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 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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