12 March 2005
State Department Briefing, March 11
Madrid bombing anniversary, Iran, North Korea/China, Turkey/Cyprus, Sudan, Israel/Palestinian, Ukraine, Guantanamo/detainees, Syria/Lebanon, Macedonia/elections
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press March 11.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2005
12:45 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. If I can, I'd like to do two things off the top. One is to remind you of a statement issued yesterday and the other is for those who might not have looked at it yet, tell you about the statement we issued on support for the EU-3 in Iran.
The statement we issued yesterday from the Secretary, I think, bears some note because it is March 11th. It is the anniversary of the Madrid bombings and the Secretary yesterday, in her statement, conveyed her most heartfelt sympathies and those of the American people as Spain commemorates the loss and devastation of so many lives in the terrorist attacks of March 11th, 2004. She noted that the United States and Spain share not only the grief inflicted by a common enemy, but the resolve to combat and defeat the scourge of terrorism on all fronts at home and abroad. The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with Spain on this solemn anniversary and I wanted to note that today is the actual date. And we are thinking of our friends and partners and allies in Spain.
If I can go on from there, I do want to read, sort of, into the record the statement that most of you have seen already about support for the European Union 3, who have been negotiating with Iran on the nuclear program. The United States appreciates the efforts of the European Union 3 and the International Atomic Energy Administration to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue. President Bush had very good discussions on Iran when he was in Europe which reflect a common view of the way forward.
The Europeans have been very clear that the Iranians -- with the Iranians that there will have to be certain objective guarantees that Iran is not trying to use a civilian nuclear program to provide cover for a nuclear weapons program. In order to support the EU-3 diplomacy, the President has decided that the United States will drop its objection to Iran's application to the World Trade Organization and will consider, on a case-by-case basis, the licensing of spare parts for Iranian civil aircraft, in particular, from the European Union to Iran.
We share the desire of European governments to secure Iran's adherence to its obligations through peaceful and diplomatic means. Today's announcement demonstrates that we are prepared to take practical steps to support European efforts to this end. The spotlight must remain on Iran and on Iran's obligations to live up to its international commitments.
We also share with European governments concerns about Iran's record on human rights and democracy and its support for terrorism. At this moment of historic opportunity, as the United States and our allies work together to support progress between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Iran must cease support for those groups who use violence to oppose Middle East peace.
And with that, I'll be glad to answer your questions on this or other topics.
QUESTION: Do you have any timeframe by which Iran would have to commit itself to complying with its obligations, number one, and is -- do you have a timetable in mind for -- how long will it take for these incentives to kick in?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the -- as far as the overall timeframe, obviously, Iran is being presented with an opportunity and we think they should take it and we think they should take it now. The Europeans have been pursuing this. We'll let them decide the pace and the timeframe for their negotiation. Our goal with these steps is to support the Europeans and that leads into the second question, the timeline for WTO or sales of spare parts is something that we will be discussing with the Europeans as they go forward. What we're indicating here is we'll support their efforts. Especially -- specifically in these two areas and so we'll consult with them to determine how to handle these things and the WTO or when there might be specific sales of spare parts.
QUESTION: One of the things I'm curious about is, you've spoken in the past, the U.S. has questioned why does Iran need a nuclear research program in the first place because of its oil reserves.
Does this announcement today mean that the U.S. is willing to drop its objections to Iran using nuclear power for peaceful purposes or -- does the position still remain the same --
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has not said Iran can't have nuclear power for peaceful purposes. We've, you know, the last several years, I think, you've heard us say it's, you know, we had -- didn't object to the Russian reactor sale if it was done under proper safeguards, with the additional protocol and the take back of fuel and all those things. We know the Europeans in their discussions have been talking about civil nuclear power and we've supported that as -- you know, said we supported their efforts as well.
What we have objected to is anything that can be used as cover for a nuclear weapons program because that's what, remember, Iran's been doing for 18 years, according to the IAEA, and that falls particularly in the area of enrichment and that's why we think it's important, and the Europeans do as well, that the suspension of enrichment activities be continued and I think those of you that might have seen the European letter, see that it's quite clear from the European side.
QUESTION: Some of (inaudible) believe, Mr. Boucher, that Iran may not accept these incentives because they might consider it not large enough. Do you have any position on this? And will you be able to increase the incentives in the future?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're not negotiating with Iran. We are supporting the Europeans. The Europeans thought that these were good steps for them so that, as they presented their position to Iran, they would be able to present credible commitments or credible possibilities that they can carry through on. Iran can't get into the WTO without the consent of all the parties, so for one party or a few parties to say, you know, we'll help you into the WTO, they can't deliver on it without support of people like the United States, so what we're doing is trying to support the European effort here.
What the Iranians think of this, I don't know. But the point, I think, for Iran is they do have an opportunity, they have an opportunity here if they're willing to take it, and the European position and the United States position on the importance of Iran accepting that opportunity, the important of Iran ceasing any activity that could be cover for nuclear weapons programs, and the vital importance of Iran not getting a nuclear weapon.
These are things the United States and Europe are very, very clear on. We saw that during the President's trip to, especially I think, this sort of -- this came out of discussions the Secretary had during her trip, as further discussed during the President's trip to Europe where he talked to each of the European leaders and he heard things like you all heard from Chancellor Schroeder at the press conference. One thing is clear: Iran must not have a nuclear weapon.
And then we pursued it further when the Secretary was in London for the Palestinian conference. She had a dinner meeting with the European 3, plus Javier Solana, the High Representative of the EU, and started to put together this whole package. But what this does is it brings a common view, a unified message, a unified position of the United States and Europe.
Iran, now presented with that unified view, should take the opportunity and should try to reassure the international community and not try to start negotiating other things. The issue is: Is Iran going to abandon any effort to develop nuclear weapons? Is Iran going to take steps to implement its obligations and reassure the international community that it won't do that?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) was there any quid pro quo? Have the Europeans given guarantees that if there's no progress with Iran, they will refer this and support U.S., referring to the Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: I think many of you have seen the report that the EU-3 and High Representative Solana have given to the other members of the European Union on the status of their discussions and they are quite explicit on that point that if Iran -- I was going to say if Iran violates the suspension or the terms under which they're negotiating, it would be referred to the Security Council. But I'll leave that to them to explain further if they want.
QUESTION: It's really unclear which will come first, you dropping your objections or they stopping the enrichment? (Inaudible)
MR. BOUCHER: I guess unclear, because that's an issue that we -- I mean, those are discussions we'll have with the Europeans, how they proceed. Some of this stuff might proceed in some way, but we'll do it in conjunction with the Europeans. We'll do it in consultation with the Europeans as to what the appropriate timing is and how we proceed on these matters.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) condition for you -- for Iran going to the WTO such as improving to -- for human rights, with respect to human rights in Iran? Or you -- trust to your allies, European allies as well?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think you all know from your experience with other governments, entry into the WTO is not automatic. It requires the unanimous consent of the parties and therefore, each of the parties would have the opportunity to raise issue in one way or the other. Many of the parties will raise the same issues, I'm sure. So, you know, that would be a process that would develop over time. I don't have any particular prediction on it.
What the situation has been so far is that every time Iran's application to start negotiations has come to the WTO, the United States has objected and we've told the Europeans we'll drop that objection and let those discussions start. But, you know, I mean, I think the first thing to remember is that joining the WTO and meeting the requirements of WTO membership has been seen in many economies as an element of opening up; opening up to trade, opening up to investment, opening up commerce, opening up travel and other things. And so, it's usually a good thing for societies to open up in that fashion. So we'll, I think, when it comes time, probably look at it with some of that in mind. At the same time, we do remember it all requires consent of the parties.
Democracy, human rights, terrorism, these remain very, very important to us and as you see from what the Europeans have said in their statements and letter -- very important to them as well and we will pursue these issues even though the front-burner issue right now is the nuclear program.
QUESTION: Two questions if I could. To follow on the timetable question, is the U.S. willing, then, to support just open-ended diplomacy? And the second is just to clarify spare parts for civilian aircraft only, no military on the table, is that right?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. That's right, spare parts for civilian -- normally passenger aircraft, I'd say.
As far as the timeframe and the timeline, again, we'll be in close consultations with the European friends. This is our effort to, in active and very practical terms, support their negotiating effort, how they're proceeding with their negotiating effort, and what kind of timeline they have for that. It's something they would have to decide.
MR. BOUCHER: We're not here to start limiting the Europeans and put walls around the Europeans. We're here to support their effort.
QUESTION: The statement is saying that licensing of spare parts will be done, in particular, from the European Union to Iran. Would you be more specific about it? What does it mean? What role the European Union could play in this licensing of --
MR. BOUCHER: They might be selling aircraft parts to Iran for European airplanes or aircraft parts manufactured in Europe that would have U.S. content, U.S. technology. Those would still, in many cases, require U.S. licenses. There might be transaction licenses involved with those -- U.S. supplier there. So, we'll support -- again, getting back to the idea that I expressed with the WTO, they're looking at certain things that they might be willing to do, that they might do for Iran in the context of these discussions. And they want to be able to -- you know, if they want to do something, they want to be able to deliver on it. And it's in our interest that they be able to do that as well and so, we'll provide the kind of licenses that they would need to fulfill those commitments on spare parts, yeah.
QUESTION: Richard, in talking to the EU-3, but however, Iran's been trading, whether above board or below board, with the Russians and possibly China and Pakistan. Have you put any restrictions in your wording as pertaining to imports of equipment and/or military wares from other locales aside from the EU?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't --
QUESTION: In other words --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we don't control exports from other countries.
QUESTION: Oh, I understand that.
MR. BOUCHER: We control exports from the United States. There's one point I would make, though, in response to your question and that is that -- you know, we all know the European 3 have been the ones directly talking to Iran. They have the support of the European Union. They have support of, I think, most members of the IAEA. I can't remember how exactly we addressed it in resolutions. And we ourselves have been working closely with other members of the board of the IAEA, other members of the European Union. We've talked about this quite a bit with the Russians as well. I think the President and the Secretary, when they visited Europe, both discussed Iran and policy towards Iran's nuclear program with the Russians. We found them firm as well on the issue of -- Iran can't be allowed to get a nuclear weapon, that's why the Russians have attached conditions to their reactor contracts.
And so, I think if you look around the world, people are very, very united on this message. We will support the European efforts, but that means Iran needs to comply with its obligations. Iran needs to take this opportunity to reassure the world that it's not developing nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: Any fair --
MR. BOUCHER: Let's keep going on. Yes?
QUESTION: One of the major problems in these talks up this point, as I understand it, is the idea of the permanent halt. Iran has always maintained, as I understand it, a right to, one day, complete the nuclear fuel cycle and they've not been willing to say that they would agree to a permanent halt.
Are we demanding that this negotiation end up with the language, explicit language of permanent halt?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States' position has always been that the suspension needs to be turned into a cessation of enrichment activity.
QUESTION: But that could be (inaudible). Sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: You know, you can ask the Europeans on their position. They have said, I think, in their letter that the continuation of that suspension is an absolute necessity for the continuation of the discussions. They have made clear what would happen if the Iranians did not continue the suspension. I think it's important to really understand this, that it's not a matter of Iran negotiating for rights or laying claim to privileges. Iran should be trying to reassure the world that it's not the danger that we all perceive. Iran should be trying to reassure the world that it's not developing nuclear weapons and the only way to do that satisfactorily will be to end its enrichment activities.
QUESTION: Just one more follow-up. Up till this point in the past, U.S. officials -- pretty senior U.S. officials have said -- you know, "We don't think these talks are going to succeed. We hope they do, but -- you know, good luck."
And I'm wondering if our attitude is now one of optimism. Do we think that the talks are going to --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think our skepticism is -- about Iranian tensions has changed. We want to do everything possible to support the Europeans, but every day, we keep seeing statements from Iran about asserting rights to this and saying they're going to do that and new reports of things they might have acquired. So, you know, we're watching Iranian behavior. That's why we keep stressing they have an opportunity that they ought to take.
Here, our support is for the Europeans. We do hope that they will succeed because by succeeding, they will bring about Iranian compliance with its obligations.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up to that part of the question.
So, if the Iranians suddenly say, "We are swearing off, once and for all, enrichment," will you enter into direct negotiations with them? That's one.
And second, how would you characterize the situation? I know you're not negotiating directly with the Iranians, but a lot has happened in the last three weeks to the Europeans and so on. Would you say the tensions -- that it's pretty much as it was, let's say, two months ago -- that now maybe we are heading towards an area where you can find commonality with the Iranians?
MR. BOUCHER: Tensions with whom? With the Europeans or the Iranians?
QUESTION: With the Iranians.
MR. BOUCHER: With the Europeans, everything's fine. With Iranians, not much has changed.
QUESTION: Not much has changed?
MR. BOUCHER: Because if you look at the -- if you look at Iranian behavior right now -- you know, we've got the possibility of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The Iranians continue to support violent groups that are trying to literally blow up the peace.
We've got a world that's headed towards more and more, I think, peaceful relationships between states, and the Iranians, they're apparently still pursuing programs that lead to nuclear weapons.
We've got the people of Iraq turning out to vote and take control of their government and we apparently have continuing Iranian interference in that process, not letting the people of Iraq decide.
So I'm afraid, you know, the kind of things -- problems that we have with Iran, including what we see going on as far as human rights go and the respect for the citizens of Iran, I'm afraid that hasn't changed very much. But as I said, we want it to change and in this particular area of nuclear negotiations, we think the best prospect is for the Iranians -- the best opportunity -- is for the Iranians to take advantage of the negotiations with the Europeans. And that's why we want to make sure we do everything we can to support the European effort.
QUESTION: How do you respond to those who say that any kind of incentives effectively rewards bad behavior and sets a bad precedent?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we're rewarding bad behavior. I think we're supporting a good effort by the Europeans to get the Iranians to change their behavior.
Christophe, did you have one? Have I ignored you for hours? Yes.
QUESTION: You provided this very country incentives for Iranians before you start a negotiation. You've negotiated with the North Koreans for years --
MR. BOUCHER: No, no, that's a very bad analogy.
QUESTION: How do you convince the North Koreans -- why don't you give them some very concrete incentives for them to come back, even to the talks?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we haven't -- this is not about the Iranians as to Iran-U.S. relations. This is what we can do to ensure that the European negotiations, which have been ongoing, have all our possible support and have every chance of success. The burden is on the Iranians to accept what the Europeans have put forward and we want to make sure that the Europeans have all our support in doing that. The spotlight needs to stay on Iran where it belongs.
As far as the situation with the North Korean talks, I think many of the members of those six-party talks have made clear there are things that will start to flow for the North Koreans if they agree to abandon their nuclear programs and stop nuclear weapons developments. But there are two different sets of negotiations and discussions, two different situations and we deal with each of them individually.
QUESTION: But if this was, I guess, a Presidential announcement -- is very high-up support for the EU. How do you convince your partners in the six-party talks that you are giving them enough support so that the --
MR. BOUCHER: The President has repeatedly expressed his support for the six-party talks. The President, right at the beginning of the administration, indicated that there were prospects for a different relationship between the United States and North Korea, if North Korea was going to -- was willing to deal with these areas, particularly in the nuclear area. The President has supported and made clear that we were putting on the table a forthcoming proposal at the last round of the six-party talks, which offered the prospect of better relations and opportunities for North Korea if they were to take advantage of it, if they were to make the critical decision of eliminating their nuclear weapons programs.
QUESTION: Is it on the agenda of the Administration to be dealing with the Israeli mass destruction -- weapons of mass destruction and the nuclear capability of Israel?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always supported universal adherence to the NPT, (inaudible).
QUESTION: About Ambassador -- Mister -- Ambassador Hill --
MR. BOUCHER: Move on? Okay.
QUESTION: Is there any update?
MR. BOUCHER: Is there any update about Ambassador Hill?
MR. ERELI: (Inaudible)
MR. BOUCHER: No update, What Adam said yesterday. He's having meetings here today. Ning Fukui is here today?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
MR. BOUCHER: Chinese Vice Minister is here today having meetings with Ambassador Hill and others.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Do you have a date for the next round of talks?
MR. BOUCHER: No, do you?
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on Cyprus. It was reported that the so-called "TRNC" has opened a consulate center in Los Angeles and I'm wondering why you allowed this to happen since the U.S. does not recognize this illegal Turkish entity -- occupied territory of Cyprus, as you repeated 1,001 times from this podium in this room. What is going on?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me make it 1,002. Our recognition policy has not changed. I'll check and see if the Turkish Cypriots have an office in Los Angeles.
QUESTION: Office or consulate?
MR. BOUCHER: It wouldn't be a consulate. It's not a diplomatic relationship.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: I want to ask you a question about Darfur. There's increasing clamor on Capitol Hill for some action, either sanctions or -- and a no-fly zone and I know the Secretary of State met the former Marine Captain who is going around showing some fairly horrific photographs of what's been going on there.
Are you any nearer to getting sanctions in place or calling for a no-fly zone or something that's effective?
MR. BOUCHER: We are working with others at the United Nations in New York right now on a resolution that would establish the peacekeeping operation pursuant to the North-South agreement and would identify some other ways of supporting and promoting the efforts in Darfur.
As you all know, I think we think that having the North-South agreement -- having it implemented can help contribute to a more -- to bringing a peaceful situation to Darfur, but it's not the sole thing we should be doing. So, in our resolution, we put forward things, including targeted sanctions, (inaudible), it would also extend the arms embargo on combatants in Darfur and it would call for a cessation of offensive military flights over Darfur.
We also agreed, I think, with our partners on the need for accountability, although we're still discussing what the appropriate mechanism is to achieve that. So, we are trying to move this resolution forward. Experts have met this week. We're now working to resolve the outstanding issues.
I do think there is general support for most -- for this resolution, certainly strong support for the peacekeeping operation. We also see fairly strong support for the sanctions that we put into the resolution. And so, we'll continue to pursue that and we'll hope we can get a vote soon.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to follow up on the -- trying the war criminals, those people responsible for barbaric acts. Is there any movement on whether it could be done by the ICC?
MR. BOUCHER: We are very firmly committed to accountability for the atrocities, the criminal acts, the -- what we've called the genocide that has been committed in Darfur and I think others are as well. We do have a difference over what the mechanism should be. We are talking to the Europeans, we're talking to the Africans, we're talking to other members of the council about how to do that. I don't have a consensus or an outcome for you yet, but it's a pretty active subject of discussion with the people who are most concerned.
QUESTION: Is that difference delaying the passage of the resolution, specifically on ICC versus Arusha (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say it's specifically delaying the resolution, but it's one of the things that has to be dealt with as we move forward with this resolution. We hope it can be dealt with and we move forward soon.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Change of subject, okay. Let's let him change first.
QUESTION: Can you tell us if there are any measures underway that you are taking right now to make sure that the Israelis dismantle the outpost in accordance with the Sasson report?
MR. BOUCHER: We have, I think, been quite clear in public and in private that we hold all the parties to their obligations under the roadmap. We expect all the parties to fulfill their commitments. I think we've made clear on the Palestinian side that first and foremost, that involves ending the violence and dismantling the infrastructure of terror.
On the Israelis' side, they've made a number of commitments both on the roadmap and also at Aqaba about dismantling the outposts and curbing settlement activity.
And so, those are still obligations that we expect all the parties to meet and we do frequently remind the people involved, the Israelis and Palestinians, both in public and private, that we expect those obligations to be met.
QUESTION: But did you follow up with any sense of urgency after the Sasson report that -- you know, go ahead and do this now since --
MR. BOUCHER: This is a continuing subject of discussion and obviously, these days, with the report coming out, a more active subject of discussion, but --
(Cell phone ringing)
MR. BOUCHER: Everybody's looking around like it's somebody else. It's got to be somebody here. This has been a frequent subject of discussion, the obligations that both parties have, and obviously, with the release of this report, the issue of outposts and settlement activity is all the more at the forefront. So yes, it is a subject of current discussion with the Israeli government, principally through our embassy in Tel Aviv, yeah.
QUESTION: Do you know whether President Yushchenko was treated by American doctors last year?
MR. BOUCHER: He was looked at by some doctors from the University of Virginia. We provided what I would call limited routine assistance to them, as you might expect under circumstances like this. I can't go into any more detail out of concern for the privacy of the Yushchenko family. I would note that the Department and I think others in the U.S. Government provided lists of qualified experts at the request of the family and it was the family who ultimately chose the University of Virginia doctors.
QUESTION: Did the United States provide assistance to the family because the U.S. supported his candidacy?
MR. BOUCHER: No. It was a matter of trying to make sure the gentleman got the kind of medical care that he might need. His family requested some help from us in identifying the appropriate people, but they made the decisions and we provided fairly routine assistance.
QUESTION: New subject. What is the State Department's position on reports of attempts to get some of the Guantanamo detainees back to serve out sentences in their home countries?
MR. BOUCHER: We have done a lot to try to help the Defense Department as they have identified detainees who no longer needed to be detained or who could be transferred to some other custody. We have worked with other governments to try to ensure the smooth transfer of individuals or, in many cases, their release. So, we are the ones who conduct the diplomatic discussions with foreign governments whose nationals are detained at Guantanamo. We've negotiated the terms and the arrangements for transfer. We've encouraged countries to become involved in the process, including helping us to assess who these people are and what threat they might pose.
We have had continuing discussions with a number of governments. If I look here, I can find you the number. To date, 211 detainees have departed Guantanamo, 146 of those were transferred for release and 65 were transferred to the control of host governments for further detention, investigation, and/or prosecution as appropriate. Of the 65 detainees who have been transferred to the control of host governments, 29 of those people went to Pakistan, nine to the United Kingdom, seven to Russia, five to Morocco, six to France, four to Saudi Arabia, and one each to Denmark, Spain, Sweden, Kuwait, and Australia.
QUESTION: And are there any issues with this program that are troubling, sending them back for detention to the other places or not?
MR. BOUCHER: They -- we do have a policy position that we maintain and that we are very careful about, not to transfer a person to a country if we determine that it's more likely than not the person might be tortured. So, we're careful about that and we make decisions accordingly, but no, we've worked most of these agreements out with a number of governments and they seem to have worked fairly well.
The issue, I think, is always what potential danger might they still pose and that's a judgment that we have to make in releasing people from Guantanamo and that's a judgment that, under their laws, other governments have to make in terms of whether they're charged or put in custody when they get home.
Okay, let's do someone in the back here.
QUESTION: Just one more thing on North Korea.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes?
QUESTION: Ambassador Hill said yesterday that if North Korea didn't come back to the talks, they will face serious consequences. And also, Ambassador DeTrani said it's a critical juncture now for the -- going on off the talks. Do you have any interpretation or comment on why they say those --
MR. BOUCHER: Because it's true. That would be my only comment. I don't have any further elaboration of those remarks.
QUESTION: And are you saying this is the last time, the last chance that they have to --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that. I said what they said, whatever it was.
QUESTION: There are reports out that a UN envoy is going to go to Syria to send a message that Syria will be isolated if they don't -- you know, remove troops and intelligence folks from Lebanon.
Do you have any sort of statement on whether the U.S. supports this move?
MR. BOUCHER: Very much. This is Terje Roed-Larson's mission. He is an envoy for the UN and the basis for his going out is UN Security Council Resolution 1559. We strongly support his efforts. He's out in the region now. He met last week with Secretary Rice and Ambassador William Burns. They discussed his mission thoroughly as we have with other governments on the Security Council and elsewhere.
I think we and the international community have clearly stated in Resolution 1559 that Syria needs to withdraw all military and intelligence personnel from Lebanon, according to the announced -- to an announced timetable. We're looking for actions from Syria. We're not looking for excuses or rhetoric. We think it's time for the people of Lebanon to have a government that fully reflects and respects their will and look forward to elections that are free, fair, and credible, that can be monitored by international observers that is not subject to the distortion or contamination of presence of foreign forces in Lebanon.
QUESTION: Richard, a quick follow-up. The President of Syria, Bashar al-Asad, had an interview with Joe Klein of Time Magazine in which he said it's months. Is that sufficient? In fact, there are some reports that they are moving their troops to the Bekaa Valley?
MR. BOUCHER: There certainly are some reports that they're moving their troops. There are other reports that they're leaving intelligence offices behind. There are some reports they are moving some troops to some places in Lebanon. That's not what the resolution said. Resolution 1559 says immediate and full withdrawal. That's what we're looking for. We'll tell you if we see it.
QUESTION: So within months is not sufficient?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not immediate and full withdrawal.
QUESTION: Okay. How -- I'm sorry, just a quick follow-up on the intelligence apparatus. Do you have any kind of a yardstick that you can measure how the intelligence is pulled out? Because a lot of that intelligence -- to my understanding, I may be wrong -- is Lebanese and they will continue to be in Lebanon.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any yardstick that I can give you that we might measure it by. We'll certainly watch this situation closely. I'm sure others will as well.
QUESTION: Two questions. One is, do you term Larson's mission as -- to deliver an ultimatum? That's the first question and the other question is about Hezbollah and whether there are any options on the table that we are considering that would encourage Hezbollah to embrace its role as a national party rather than a regional destabilizing terrorist group?
MR. BOUCHER: What was the first part of that?
QUESTION: Is Larson's mission an ultimatum?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, is it an ultimatum?
QUESTION: A lot of people don't describe it as an ultimatum.
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't -- I don't think I describe his mission that way. I would say that in Resolution 1559, the Security Council was very, very clear on what Syria needed to do and that Larson is going out in support of Resolution 1559.
QUESTION: But as I read the resolution, it doesn't have a punishment if Syria does not comply.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's for the council to consider further if it wants to at the appropriate time. And as far as the second part on, sort of Hezbollah's future, I guess the only thing I would say is what we want to see is a withdrawal of foreign forces so that the Lebanese can have a chance to freely and fairly decide their own future and that is what will determine the future of any political constituency in Lebanon.
QUESTION: But are we at all concerned that the withdrawal of Syrian forces might actually lead to the rise of Hezbollah. Has it led to --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the presence of Syrian forces has not stopped the rise of Hezbollah, nor has it stopped their involvement in terrorism. We think that they should end -- any group in Lebanon, every group in Lebanon should end its involvement with terrorism. We haven't changed our view of Hezbollah.
QUESTION: Richard, since 1559 says the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, have you come to a conclusion whether the Shaaban or the Lebanese territory or Syrian territory are --
MR. BOUCHER: That area was delineated --
QUESTION: Delineated, delineated.
MR. BOUCHER: -- by the United Nations many -- several years ago. That's the end of the story as far as we're concerned.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, the Balkans -- anything to say about the elections in FYROM this coming Sunday since there is a lot of tension between (inaudible) and Albanians.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Are you going to send observers?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see for you.
QUESTION: One more question.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes?
QUESTION: Washington Post reported today that Kirkuk is (inaudible) city that is populated with Arabs during Saddam Hussein's rule. What is the U.S. position on that issue?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position is as we've stated previously, so I'm not going to try to tell you the Washington Post's position. Okay.
Briefing ended at 1:30 p.m.
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