06 April 2005
State Department Briefing, April 6
Department statement on attack on the Kashmir bus route, Secretary Rice travels/meetings with the Israelis, North American Travel Initiative/cooperation with Homeland Security, Visa/system, Israel/Palestinians, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, Turkey
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press April 6.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6, 2005
12:35 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: All right, ladies and gentlemen, it's good to be here this afternoon. I think you all saw we issued a statement strongly condemning the attack on the Kashmir bus route. We think that this is a very positive development that represents statesmanship from both India and Pakistan in these steps to reduce tensions, and we strongly condemn any who would attack this.
That's all I have for the moment, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: When do you think the Secretary will be back? And I'm asking particularly because there were a flock of Israelis coming here, some are here already, many of whom I thought would be seeing her or at least --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, she's already had some meetings with Chief of Staff Weissglas before she left. But she left. She's with the President now through the weekend and then Prime Minister Sharon is down at the ranch next Monday.
QUESTION: Richard, there have been some reports where the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not quite settled. In the last week, there was a resignation by the new security official in the West Bank to President Abbas. And last evening, Frontline had a special where they showed the religious right of Israel still holding on to West Bank type settlements and enlarging them. And there hasn't been a scenario where both sides have tried to work together, live in communities together. Are these some of the issues that will be discussed next week with the pullout from Gaza and so forth?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Simply put, yes. We have, as you know, have been taking up issues with the Israelis and with the Palestinians, I'd say, on an ongoing basis. It's important they coordinate the disengagement, that we all work to resolve problems that could occur with the disengagement, because it is essentially a very important step forward and we want to make sure it succeeds. So we're taking up with the parties all the various aspects of this to try to help make it succeed.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary, in her meetings with Weissglas, talk about money, U.S. money, to pay for any of this? Any development --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into too much detail any more today than I did yesterday on the meetings that we had with Chief of Staff Weissglas. We did talk about all the Israeli-Palestinian issues, the disengagement questions, a broad range of issues in advance of the Prime Minister's visit. As far as speculation on money that the Israelis might ask for, I can't go there yet. We'll have to see if they raise it as the visit appears.
QUESTION: Are you saying he didn't raise it yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not saying that.
QUESTION: Are you prepared to give any money --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to predict anything at this point.
Okay. Same or different?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Israeli Justice Minister acknowledged that there are a serious difference between Israel and the U.S. over Jewish settlements expansion. How will you deal with this difference?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll make -- we'll deal with this by continuing to make very clear our views. The President made clear our views yesterday again in his cabinet meeting talking about support for the roadmap and the fact that the roadmap calls for no expansion of settlements. So the United States has been very clear on this and we'll continue to be clear on it.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: New subject. There's a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun saying that North Korea has agreed to resume six-party talks and, I believe, citing an American official who I don't think was named to back it up. Is there any reason to believe that that's accurate? Has North Korea made -- agreed to resume talks? Do you have any --
MR. BOUCHER: Not to our knowledge. We have no indication that North Korea has yet agreed to return to the table. We reiterate we remain prepared to hold the talks with no preconditions and we urge North Korea to return to the table for serious discussions so that international concerns about its nuclear programs can be resolved and so that North Korea can end its international isolation.
QUESTION: While you're waiting for that, is there any change in view as to configuration? Do you intend -- when you resume to go back to that same six-party --
MR. BOUCHER: We think, as we've stated repeatedly, the six-party talks is the place to resolve these issues. It's the place for the neighbors of North Korea to find their concerns resolved. It's the place for North Korea to find the benefits it wants from interaction with the rest of the world, particularly its close neighbors.
QUESTION: You have talked for several days about the Zimbabwe elections being tainted. Is there any upshot of that for implications for the Government of Zimbabwe of that? Is the United States talking to other parties about what it might do?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're certainly talking to other parties about the situation in Zimbabwe; it's been a continuing concern of ours, the plight of the people of Zimbabwe, both economically and politically. It's been a major concern of the United States. It's something we have continuously discussed with people in the region and in the commonwealth and elsewhere.
As far as, you know, the fact that the election was not free and fair, what implications does that have for policy, I'm not aware of any specific sort of cause and effect, legal or other requirement, but I think it's very clear that that's a factor that has to be taken into account every time we consider what we can and might do with Zimbabwe.
QUESTION: Do you have any assessment on the results of the talks of the President of Iran with the French President?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Another one here.
QUESTION: Richard, you've released a communiqué citing a Diplomatic Security arrest again of a gentleman that's now taken upwards of $40,000 in visa bribes and it may be a small cadre of people there. They've also issued new guidelines concerning North American travel between Canada and Mexico, which we'd need now for passports. Also down on the Mexican border are dubbed minutemen that are patrolling the border. Is the Homeland Security and State Department initiatives adequate to ensure for identification and the ultimate --
MR. BOUCHER: I hesitate to answer questions that have too many "also's" in the question.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: But the simple answer to your real question, is Homeland Security and State coordination adequate, I think it's more than adequate and I think it's been very active, very aggressive, implementing legislation like the North American initiative that we discussed yesterday, implementing tighter controls, merging databases so we can check applicants, exchanging information. There's been a very cooperative relationship.
And I think that extends, too, to any time any of us hear about fraud or abuse or possible sales of visas. We're going to get after this. This is a very serious problem. We want to maintain the absolute integrity of our visa system, and anybody in our system or outside of it that tries to play fast and loose with our visa system is going to find the full weight of the law coming down on their heads.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: We've got one more there.
QUESTION: The Lebanese (inaudible) has said that after the end of the (inaudible) to discuss all the details regarding its future, including the keeping of Hezbollah weapons and stores or the integrate of the Hezbollah elements in the Lebanese army. What's your view regarding this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, our view of Hezbollah has not changed and we know that they're going to have to face Lebanese voters, they're going to have to face Lebanese politics, and they're going to have to make their decisions accordingly.
Sorry, we've got a couple more, I guess. Said.
QUESTION: One more, please, about the Palestinian issue. Congressman Anthony Weiner is introducing a bill to close down the PLO office. Are you having consultation with him? Are you talking to him?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've had any discussions on that bill at this point. I'll have to check and see.
QUESTION: On Turkey, sir?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: In a news article dated March 30th in Turkish Daily News, a Turkey-based daily newspaper in English, an anonymous State Department official was quoted saying Islamic businesses in Turkey is expanding at a pace and in ways that we fear may go out of control. Does U.S. Administration fear the rise of "Islamic businesses" in Turkey?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. I hesitate to try to go chasing after every quote from some anonymous official. I think our policy on business and economic reform in Turkey is very clear and we're very supportive of growth of business in Turkey.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:42 p.m.)
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