State Department Briefing, May 13
14 May 2005
Bolton Hearing/Quran Protests in Afghanistan, Pakistan/Uzbekistan, Russia, Belarus, China, Taiwan, North Korea, Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, Venezuela
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press May 13.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
May 13, 2005
John Bolton Committee Hearing / Department Responsiveness Committee Requests for Documents / Secretary’s Commitment to Working with Congressional Members from both Parties
Outbreak of Violence in Adijan / Escape of Prisoners / Government’s Response to Situation
Allegations of Desecration of Koran at Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility / Demonstrations and Protests in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Response to Russian Federal Security Service Chief Nikolay Patrushev’s Allegations of U.S. Efforts to Support a Revolution in Belarus and Funding of NGOs to Carry Out Intelligence Activities in Russia
U.S. Efforts to Support Civil Society and Democracy in Belarus
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Taiwanese People First Party Chief James Soong’s Joint Communiqué Stating Principle of "Two Sides of the Strait, One China"
Secretary Rice’s Telephone Conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Li
North Korea’s Continued Refusal to Engage in Six Party Talks / Next Steps
Recent Violence Along Blue Line
Congressional Delegation’s Visit Northern Cyprus
Luis Posada Carriles / State Department’s Role in Assisting Other Department’s in Any Extradition or Asylum Request
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements so I'll be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Senator Biden was very upset yesterday during the Committee hearing about the State Department decision to withhold or not to be responsive to certain requests for documents that he and other Democrats had asked for. Do you have any comment about his statements?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd just say we have cooperated very extensively with the committee. We've provided them scores of documents, dozens of witnesses, a lot of answers to follow-up questions. They -- we were very responsive to the requests that we got from the Committee. And where we couldn't comply with some of the requests from some of the members, we got in touch, as I said yesterday, and provided more documents where we could that were responsive and provided documents as late as Wednesday to respond to some of their requests we got.
The fact is, there's certain kinds of requests that we don't feel comfortable producing because of the chilling effect on deliberative materials -- materials, exchanges within this Department at lower levels in particular that relate to how people commented or thought or worked on various pieces of the speech or a statement.
We've tried to balance that against the committee's review of specific information, allegations regarding Mr. Bolton and we tried to provide a lot of that -- a lot of material to the Committee and to the members of the Committee, so we have done that extensively. We did that extensively for the Committee. The Committee had many -- several hours of deliberations yesterday before sending his nomination -- Mr. Bolton's nomination on to the floor. And we don't think anything further is required before the floor vote.
QUESTION: Senator Boxer has now placed a hold on the nomination, apparently in an effort to gain more documents to inform the other Senators’ deliberations -- what you said yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't speak for Senator Boxer as to what she has or has not done in this matter. I would repeat to you though that we've been very forthcoming with the Committee requests, responded to the committee requests, we worked committee staff to try to comply and satisfy the interests of the members of the Committee. But having been very forthcoming and cooperative with the Committee, we really don't think we're in a position to provide anything more before the floor vote.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) go back to Senator Biden -- his comments yesterday that the letter written by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State, presumably at Secretary Rice's behest, said that you -- said the Department had refused to turn over certain materials because they were not deemed specifically tied to the matters under consideration regarding Mr. Bolton's nomination. And a State Department spokesman, speaking on behalf of the Department, also said separately that they -- certain materials were not deemed to be relevant.
And to go to Senator Biden's question, why should the Department be the arbiter of relevance on these matters? Why shouldn't the committee, including its minority members, be the arbiters of what they should and should not see?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, because we have the materials, we know what's in the materials and when they ask us questions, we provide materials that are responsive to those questions that help them understand the things that they are trying to understand. But I think beyond that, the letter that we wrote to them and the language that I just used, the issue is really that providing all the internal communications, the emails or whatever notes might go back and forth in the process of changing words and modifying language and working on a speech, to provide all that stuff in public would have a chilling effect on the kind of deliberations that an organization -- that people have to do in here.
And that's a matter, I think, of principle that we have upheld in other situations. We've had practices that have been followed with regard to the Congress. That we have been able to work with Congress while keeping to those principles and we've been able to work with Congress while keeping to those principles in this case as well.
QUESTION: But the fear that it might impede your internal discourse on certain matters, you know, you could have made a Constitutional argument. You could have cited executive privilege, you could have made, you know --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't want to turn this into a showdown between branches of government. As I have said, we have followed, in the past, with other congressional committees -- with this congressional committee certain practices regarding the kind of materials that are made available. We've always had this view that the deliberative process was not something that needed to be documented or should be documented in this manner. It should be provided in that manner and then it would have a chilling effect on the process to do this.
So given that principle, we've been able to work very well with the committees in the past, we've been able to work very well, we think, with the committee in this case. We were very responsive to the requests that we got from the committee. We were even responsive to requests we got from individual members where we were able to sit down with, particularly, with committee staff and kind of work it out.
So this is just not some, you know, some confrontation of branches of government that we're seeking here. We're trying to work with the Committee, but maintain the same kind of guidelines and principles we followed in the past.
QUESTION: One last one for me on this. You said, "We don't think anything further is required." Does that mean that if you are asked either by the Committee, by members of the Committee, or by individual senators for additional materials that you will not provide them?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we think that we have provided everything that's relevant to this nomination. We don't think that there are additional materials that would, could or should be provided. If we have the same requests given to us again, we’ll have to take the same positions on some of these things. But as I've said, we've provided a lot of material and tried to be as responsive as possible.
QUESTION: But if you get different --
MR. BOUCHER: And done that, if we get different requests, I guess we'd have to look at them.
QUESTION: Okay, so you're not ruling out the possibility of providing additional material and you'll consider requests?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying we think we've provided everything that they need to vote on the nomination.
QUESTION: But if you get more requests, you will look --
MR. BOUCHER: If that happens, we'll answer the question then.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary has emphasized how important it is that she work with Congress on both sides and as did her predecessor, in fact. And as far as I know, she has tried to reach out and meet with people from both sides. Was it worth it over one nomination to damage relations with certain members of Congress on the Democratic side?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has worked with members from both sides of the aisle -- looks forward to working with the members from both sides of the aisle. I think you saw that at her hearing yesterday; you saw that in the kind of contacts and meetings she has with members of Congress on a whole variety of issues, including some very important foreign policy issues for our whole nation. So I think she remains very committed to doing that.
Some of these disputes over nominations do end up dividing up -- on political lines. That's part of our system. But as I said, we've tried to be very responsive to the committee as a whole, we've tried to be very responsive to the members of the committee when we could work through staff and work out perhaps more specifically what they might need. So we've tried to work with members from both sides of the aisle on this committee.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Uzbekistan and the EU seem to have blamed the Government of Uzbekistan for the violence. Would that be the view of the U.S. Government, too?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been looking at this situation. We have been following it closely. I would note that while we have been very consistently critical of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, we are very concerned about the outbreak of violence in Adijan, in particularly the escape of prisoners, including possibly members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an organization we consider a terrorist organization.
I think at this point we're looking to all the parties involved to exercise restraint, avoid any unnecessary loss of life. But we are continuing to follow the situation closely. Our primary concern has to be the situation of Americans. We have -- our Embassy has checked on Peace Corps volunteer and -- Peace Corps volunteers and some of the other Americans who are in that area, and they are safe. They've reached out through the Warden system to contact Americans and encourage all Americans to stay inside and avoid the protests. I'd note as well that Uzbekistan's Government has provided increased protection for our diplomatic facilities.
QUESTION: New subject?
QUESTION: Sir, can I just follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, but the European Union is blaming the government for this violence and I just wanted --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the European Union's statement. Certainly the outbreak of violence at this point, I think, is something we all regret and we want to see both sides try to do what they can to calm things down.
QUESTION: Do you think you've been sufficiently critical of Uzbekistan on it's -- on rule of law --
MR. BOUCHER: We've been very -- read our Human Rights Report. It came out two months ago. We've been very clear about the human rights situation there. We've been very factual about it. But, unfortunately, the facts are not pretty.
QUESTION: Regardless of what the European Union said about this, the reports are that Uzbek troops opened fire on a square in this town. Do you think that's a good idea? Do you think that is excessive violence?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't think anybody should be using violence. We think everybody should be using -- whatever -- that everybody should be using restraint and doing whatever they can to avoid violence in this kind of situation, but I'm not going to comment on the latest report. You know, the one before that had other people doing other things. The one before that had criminals being released from a prison, including possible terrorists. You know, this has been a whole series of violent events and both sides need to do what they can to tamp down the violence and deal with these problems peacefully.
QUESTION: Have you conveyed that view directly to President Karimov or to other members of the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know who exactly I talked to, but certainly our Embassy is conveying that view, yes.
QUESTION: Do you think, Richard, those people, or anyone for that matter, in Uzbekistan has the right to call for the President's resignation?
MR. BOUCHER: We believe that everywhere people have the right to express their grievances and that they should be able to do that, but that they should do that peacefully and that grievances should be perceived -- pursued through a peaceful process.
QUESTION: And if I can try, sort of, the same question in another way, do you think that there is a response to --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll give you the same answer.
QUESTION: Well, that's -- we'll see. Do you think the government's response to what has happened was appropriate?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we think everybody should be doing everything they can to avoid violence, to calm down the situation and to deal with these differences peacefully.
QUESTION: A different subject. Yes, despite the Secretary's remarks yesterday on the alleged desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, the protests and demonstrations are continuing in many Muslim countries. Are you considering to do something maybe more to --
MR. BOUCHER: We have continued to make clear what the Secretary made clear yesterday, that desecration of the holy Koran is in no way consistent with our values or our policy, that these allegations are a very serious concern to us. The military has started an inquiry and we'll conduct a thorough inquiry into those allegations.
We've also made clear that the rights -- religious rights and obligations and practices of the prisoners are respected, that they have the ability to pray and the call to prayer is heard in Guantanamo Bay, they get the proper meals, they get the Koran, they can study and things like that, so their religious observances are respected in Guantanamo Bay.
We have tried to make that clear in the media, in South Asia in particular, and also tried to make sure that everybody understood our policy was very clearly part of the foundation of the United States, that it came from respect for religious freedom, which is one of the principles our nation was founded upon.
In terms of what's going on out in the field, our Embassy in Kabul is telling us that there were several demonstrations today. We don't have many details but it appears some of that might have ended up in violence. We're not aware of any reports of Americans injured. In Pakistan there were scattered peaceful demonstrations. U.S. Consulates in Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore were closed as a precautionary measure. The Embassy and Consulates in Pakistan continue to keep local U.S. citizens informed of safety and security issues through the Warden system and we're reminding Americans that demonstrations and rioting can occur at any time.
We have made sure that the Secretary's statement of yesterday is broadcast far and wide, and available to citizens of other countries who might be concerned about these reports.
QUESTION: Richard, this is now the fourth day in a row that you guys have expressed -- that you guys, the U.S. Government has expressed its view that this kind of alleged desecration of a holy book is abhorrent. You used the word "anathema" on Wednesday. The Secretary spoke about it yesterday herself. The President, I don't think, has addressed it yet. But it certainly doesn't seem to be helping. The Afghan protests that you referred to, at least according to our reports, nine people have died in violence today. That's added to seven that died in the previous 48 hours.
Is there anything else you can do? Are you considering doing anything else -- to try to persuade Muslims that either this didn't happen? Presumably, if you can get a quick investigative reply that it didn't happen it might help -- be helpful for you to say that -- or that, if it did happen, that, you know, to try to quell their anger about this? I mean, because your statements so far just clearly have not done the trick.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
QUESTION: You're welcome. Well, what more can you do? If you don't have any other ideas, I mean, that's fine, too. But --
MR. BOUCHER: My turn?
QUESTION: By all means.
MR. BOUCHER: The military has begun an inquiry. They have promised a thorough inquiry. We have made clear that anyone that was involved in acts like this that violate the military procedures and codes will be held accountable. We understand, I think, why people might be upset at these reports of possible desecration of the Koran. But we will investigate them thoroughly and we will take appropriate action and we will hold people accountable, as necessary. And we will do all this in a transparent manner. So the fact that we continue to say these things every day is because we are transparent about this, because we are up front about this. We'll continue to be up front about this.
What, you know, what will satisfy people in the field? I don't know for sure. All I know is that we will be true to American principle: We will respect other religions, we will find and punish any errors and mistakes that occurred, and we will do it all in a transparent manner.
QUESTION: Do you have any sense of how long the investigation will take? I realize that's hard to --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't. It's something -- that's something you'll have to ask the military. I think they are undertaking this in an expedited manner. I think General Myers said a little bit about it yesterday. But I'll leave it to the military to complete that and to report on it.
QUESTION: And one last one. On -- you said that the military has begun an inquiry into this. Is it your understanding that the inquiry that has been begun is separate from the broader inquiry that has been underway for quite some time now about alleged abuses at Guantanamo?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you'll have to ask the military that. I'm not sure about whether they've double-tracked it or merged the two.
QUESTION: Do you get any sense that there is opportunism in these protests on the part of Taliban elements or anti-American?
MR. BOUCHER: There are reports that in some of these protests, there's sort of local politics involved. But I think I'd just say that, you know, that we understand there's genuine feeling about this in these parts of the world and therefore try to explain our position and our views and our commitment as clearly as possible.
QUESTION: And then on (inaudible) in somebody's, you know, disrespecting holy book of over a billion people. My question is probably centered around the Department's last question, probably better to invite the media, probably Middle Eastern media, to Guantanamo and (inaudible) in this investigation or something or whatever, interview people that maybe helpful to suggestions?
MR. BOUCHER: I appreciate the suggestion. (Laughter.) I'll pass it on.
Okay. In the back.
QUESTION: The head of the Russian media -- I'm sorry - head of the Russian Federal Security Service Mr. Patrushev said yesterday that the western countries were nurturing plans to stage a Velvet Revolution in Belarus and he mentions Slovakia as a place where the NGO's met and they were plotting to overthrow Mr. Lukashenko. He also -- he didn't mention which western countries, but he stressed that it took place in International Republican Institute and that U.S. Peace Corps was somehow involved. Do you have any comments and -- because U.S. Government makes no secret that it wants to see the change in the Belarussia?
MR. BOUCHER: We saw a lot of charges yesterday from the Federal Security Service Chief Mr. Patrushev and I have to say that they're completely false. Most of them are ridiculous. There were charges about nongovernmental organizations, which are totally false. Remember, Peace Corps has held very, very high standards throughout its history since 1961. They - - 2003, when Peace Corps was closed in Russia, the Russian Government expressed its gratitude for the assistance Peace Corps provided, through the work of their volunteers, and said their work in Russia's regions throughout the decade had been positive and useful. That's what the official Russian Government position was -- has been, as far as I know, to this day, on Peace Corps.
Frankly, we think that the 60th anniversary of Victory Day should have reminded us of our need for global cooperation, not only to defeat threats to common security, but also to advance peace, prosperity, and freedom throughout the world. And that's what we're talking about here in terms of the work that Peace Corps did or the work that nongovernmental organizations are doing. The work that the nongovernmental organizations do, in terms of promoting democracy and educating people in democracy, helping the growth of civil society is open, is transparent. It's a long record. It's well known.
The United States has a long and open record of supporting efforts towards democratic reforms in Belarus. And in other countries in Europe and Eurasia, we've provided $6.5 million in assistance to the Belarusian people in this fiscal year of 2005. There are fact sheets on the State Department website. It's www.state.gov. Congress added $5 million to the Emergency Supplemental in the Freedom Support Act to provide funds to promote democracy in Belarus, so that's also well-known.
Our election aid in Belarus and elsewhere is for civic participation in the election process, balanced media coverage, nonpartisan political party training, election monitoring and election administration. These programs are nonpartisan, they're transparent, they're peaceful in nature, and we'll conduct them in Belarus in order to support efforts to build civil society and democracy.
QUESTION: China's President Hu and Taiwan's opposition leader James Soong yesterday came out with a new formula to redefine the cross-strait relations, as "two sides, one China," instead of just "one China." And President Hu also stated that the two sides needed to conduct dialogue on an equal footing and put aside differences. How would you characterize China's efforts here?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to characterize the positions of one side or the other. I think, as you know, we've always encouraged exchanges. We've always encouraged discussions. I'm sure we'll learn more details from both sides about the discussions that have been held this time and previously.
I think I would just point out, as we have before, that we're also encouraging the people on both sides of the straits to have a more official dialogue, you might say, for the Chinese to conduct a dialogue with the duly elected authorities on Taiwan, and that's something I think the President conveyed to President Hu the other day when he talked.
QUESTION: And is, I mean, President Hu reaching out to Taiwan's leader --
MR. BOUCHER: You can ask President Hu what he's doing.
QUESTION: And the other thing is, do you see this new formulation, "two sides, one China," as a way forward to resumption of the cross-strait dialogue?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see what it leads to. I can't predict at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, this morning in Cairo the Egyptian authorities, apparently very upset with Al Jazeera's coverage of the pro-democracy movements, arrested eight journalists from our bureau in Cairo. And I was wondering if you have any reaction to that.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't know about that. I'll have to check on it and see if we have any thoughts on it.
QUESTION: I mean, it's confirmed. They've been running the story all day long. There's no denying from the Egyptian authorities.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, I hadn't seen it myself. I didn't have a chance to ask about it.
QUESTION: Thousands of judges from across Egypt are meeting in Cairo to demand the (inaudible) that will give them more independence. What's your view regarding this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get back to you on that.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, there are reports that the President of Afghanistan, when he comes to Washington by the end of this month, that he's planning to sign a new strategic partnership agreement with the U.S. Can you tell us anything about this agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point, no. We have -- I think if you look back, if you do a search on some of this stuff, you'll see when Secretary Rice was in Kabul, when we've had various other high-level meetings and discussions, the strategic relationship between the United States and Afghanistan has been a source of -- a subject that we have talked about for some time now. We do have similar interests. We have a desire to work with each other and support each other. But how exactly we're going to do that, I think I'll leave for the conclusion of those discussions.
QUESTION: North Korea? The Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr. Machimura, said to the reporter yesterday that and if the North Korea will not come back to six-party talks the next step is five-nation talk without North Korea. Do you have any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll have to see. Obviously, as North Korea continues to stay away from the talks, people are looking at what the other steps are that we can take. I think we all continue to believe firmly that the best way to solve this problem is through six-party talks and we're looking for North Korea to come back and to come back serious to deal with the issues and to eliminate the nuclear weapons program.
The structure that's there, the opportunities that are there, as the Secretary has made clear in her testimony yesterday, are -- make this the best place to solve it. But we are also coordinating with our allies and friends about other steps that we might need to take in order to encourage that and in order to lower the risks of what's going on in the peninsula.
QUESTION: North Korea is known to make a nuclear test in the near future. In the meantime, North Korea keeps saying they might enter six-party talks, provided their demands are satisfied by the United States. What do you think their true intention is?
MR. BOUCHER: That -- I would not pretend to understand what their true intentions are. What I understand is whether or not they've shown up to deal with these issues and to deal with them seriously and I know that they have not come back to the talks, they have not been willing to deal with these issues seriously at the table with the six parties who can help them solve their problems and solve the problem of the dangers on the Korean peninsula.
So I think it's important for all of us to keep encouraging them, to keep making clear that this opportunity is available to them, but also to consult with each other on what are the things we might need to do together.
And Ambassador Hill, Chris Hill, our Assistant Secretary for East Asia is in Seoul today -- the next couple of days and he'll be talking about that with the South Korean Government and we'll be keeping in touch with the other friends involved in this process.
Okay, we'll start back at the beginning here.
QUESTION: So when you say you would have to look at the idea of five-party talks, what would the goal of those be? To --
MR. BOUCHER: The Japanese Foreign Minister proposed it. I'm saying other people are obviously -- people are obviously looking at what the next steps might be. I don't have any analysis of particular steps, nor am I making any particular proposal right now.
QUESTION: Something different. Do you have anything on why the flight yesterday from Paris to Boston was diverted to --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think you would have to check with Homeland Security on that one.
QUESTION: Can you say if the passenger --
MR. BOUCHER: No, you would have to check with Homeland Security on that one.
Okay, working back.
QUESTION: There was an attack in Lebanon. There was an exchange of fire between Hezbollah and Israel today and yesterday. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. We are -- they -- start over. The United States is deeply concerned about the recent violence along the blue line. We call on all parties to immediately cease all attacks and to exercise calm and restraint. This is an especially sensitive and critical time for the Lebanese people, who will be voting in parliamentary elections beginning on May 29th. This opportunity for reaffirming democracy in Lebanon must not be undermined by militias pursuing their own agendas.
These incidents highlight the urgent need for full and immediate compliance by all parties with UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1583. All militias in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, must disarm and disband and the Lebanese Government must extend and exercise its sole and exclusive control over all the Lebanese territory.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Secretary Rice's telephone conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Li and was the Secretary briefed on the opposition -- Taiwan opposition leader's visit? And also, did they talk about President Bush's visit to Beijing?
MR. BOUCHER: They didn't talk about visits. They didn't really talk about Taiwan. They talked about North Korea. The Secretary talked to the Chinese Foreign Minister this morning as part of our continuing cooperation that you've seen between the U.S. and China on North Korea. We've been working very closely with them, have worked during the course of her visit to Asia and Beijing, and have kept in close touch with him since. So the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Li this morning about North Korea and about how we continue to encourage North Korea to come back to the talks and deal seriously with these issues.
QUESTION: Did they talk about alternatives to the six-party format?
MR. BOUCHER: They talked about the six-party context, about the six-party talks, yeah. It's all within there.
QUESTION: Do you have the date for the first U.S.-China senior-level dialogue?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Will that -- okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we were heading in the back.
QUESTION: Concerning Colombia and the two U.S. officers arrested last week with arms allegedly bound for paramilitaries, AP has reported that these arms were U.S. arms that were part of Plan Colombia. I know you probably don't want to comment on the investigation underway involving the officers, but can you confirm for us whether or not these U.S. arms were, in fact -- or these arms were U.S. arms and part of Plan Colombia, or not?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't get into the investigation at this point.
QUESTION: Can you tell us --
MR. BOUCHER: Those matters are under investigation.
QUESTION: And can you tell us, as a follow-up, if the officers have come to the United States and whether or not they would be prosecuted here?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I went through that a couple days ago, last week. A couple days ago. They are in the U.S. I think we confirmed, right?
MR. CASEY: They are and there's a statement that's been released by the relevant command.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, there's a military statement from the relevant command we can try to point you to.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: But I'd just go as far as saying they've returned to the U.S., and then after that they're in military custody.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on Cyprus, according to a statement by Congressman Robert Wexler, a Democrat from Florida, during a hearing May 11th in the Capitol Hill, some members of the Congress will visit the occupied territory of Cyprus during the forthcoming Memorial break, traveling direct, however, from Turkey to the illegal airport of Tymbou.
Merely, some questions. Do you agree?
MR. BOUCHER: Do I agree with what? That some members will visit Cyprus coming directly from Turkey to the north?
MR. BOUCHER: The delegation is making their own decisions about travel and you'd have to check with them to get confirmation of their travel plans.
QUESTION: Did they check before the Department of State?
MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, I don't know. But if they asked us, we would have to tell them that there's no legal prohibition against U.S. citizens traveling to northern Cyprus.
QUESTION: Since you don't disagree, do you approve of this trip that it's in the framework of your policy to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, the delegation is making its own decisions. Congressional delegations decide on their own travel. We certainly encourage congressional delegations to go out in the world and find about situations that they're interested in. But as far as the specifics of this trip, you'll have to ask the delegation themselves.
QUESTION: Do you know who pays the ferryman?
MR. BOUCHER: Who pays?
QUESTION: The ferry man, yes. The expenses. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: The expenses? There's a congressional budget that does that. I don't know how they do it, no. Check (inaudible).
QUESTION: Why did you not travel via Larnaca Airport if the Government of Cyprus offered to facilitate a trip to the north part of the island?
MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to ask the delegation.
QUESTION: But you are not interested? It's a matter of foreign policy.
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's a matter for the delegation to decide how they travel. It's not -- as you know, U.S. personnel are allowed to fly into Ercan Airport and there's nothing -- there is nothing stopping them from doing that. They decide what their travel plans are.
QUESTION: Do you consider their actions illegal or legal? Since they're going to illegal airport -- you just said that.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I said U.S. citizens -- U.S. personnel, even government personnel, have been allowed to fly into Ercan Airport. There's nothing stopping them --
QUESTION: Did the Cyprus Government protest?
MR. BOUCHER: What?
QUESTION: Did the Cyprus Government protest?
MR. BOUCHER: You would have to ask the Cyprus Government.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that the Venezuelan Embassy delivered a letter to the State Department today asking that the United States detains and then extradites to Venezuela Luis Posada Carriles?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't -- I don't think I can do that. I'll check and see if we have anything like that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that or do you leave that to Justice?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as the matters of reviewing somebody's extradition or, for that matter, when reviewing an amnesty request, we wouldn't comment on that here.
QUESTION: But the fact that the Venezuelan Embassy says, "We delivered a letter to this building," you wouldn't comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have confirmation for you that they did and I think they are confirming it. I have no reason to disbelieve that, but as far as the facts of the matter regarding the gentleman's situation, that would be something that either Homeland Security, in terms of his own status here or Justice, in terms of his legal status would have to address.
QUESTION: Right. One clarification on what Mr. Zelikow said in Congress yesterday. He said --
MR. BOUCHER: That's about what I just said now, wasn't it?
QUESTION: That the State Department is helping gather evidence. This is my --
MR. BOUCHER: That's true. We do help them get information so that they can make their appropriate determinations by including --
QUESTION: About possible asylum -- any asylum request. What about now -- that the Venezuelan Embassy is saying they want this extradition, do you help get them evidence to find the guy -- is there, are any efforts to find him -- to detain?
MR. BOUCHER: It's for other Departments to address these situations. We certainly assist any other Department of the U.S. Government in any way we can, including Justice or Homeland Security with regard to the matters that are before them.
QUESTION: Richard, thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Thank you.
This briefing was concluded at 1:25 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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