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State Department Briefing, May 19

19 May 2005

Statement on Upcoming Meeting Under Broader Middle East North Africa Initiative on Education, Committee Minority Report on Nomination of John Bolton, North Korea, Department's Position on Religious Freedom, Allegations of Desecration of Holy Koran, Mechanisms in Place to Ensure Respect for Religious Rights of Detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Denmark/Greenland, Iraq, Israel/Palestinians, Nepal, Greece, Kosovo

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press May 19.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, May 19, 2005
12:20 p.m. EDT

Briefer:  Richard Boucher, Spokesman

-- Statement on Upcoming Meeting Under Broader Middle East North Africa Initiative on Education
-- Committee Minority Report on Nomination of John Bolton

-- New York Channel/Reasons for Meeting of May 13th

--  U.S. Position on North-South Talks/Agreement on Fertilizer
-- Secretary's Afternoon Meeting with Admiral Fallon

-- Department's Position on Religious Freedom
-- Allegations of Desecration of Holy Koran
-- Mechanisms in Place to Ensure Respect for Religious Rights of Detainees at Guantanamo Bay

-- Attacks on Census Workers/Chemonics International

-- Greenland Joint Committee Meeting

-- Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Travel/Areas of Focus
-- U.S. Engagement with New Iraqi Government

-- Recent Violence/Mortar Attacks
-- Query on General Ward's Recent Travel/Focus to Build Palestinian Security Forces

-- U.S. View of Human Rights Situation

-- Secretary's Attendance in President's Meeting with Greek Foreign Minister
-- U.S. Bilateral Relationship

-- U.S. Policy on Status


THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2005

12:20 p.m. EDT

MR. BOUCHER:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I wanted to mention one statement we'll be putting out about an upcoming meeting under the Broader Middle East North Africa Initiative on education.  The ministerial meeting on education, May 22nd and 23rd at the Dead Sea in Jordan, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings will head the U.S. delegation.

I think this meeting is very, very important; we wanted to call it to your attention because education reform and increased access to quality and relevant education is the fundamental basis on which political and economic reforms can be based.  So that's an important connection and I think education merits some further attention by all of us.

So that'll be May 22nd and 23rd at the Dead Sea.  And with that note, we'll put out a little more information on the meeting but be glad to take your questions on this or other things.

QUESTION:  Can we dabble a little bit into the meeting the U.S. had with North Korea -- North Korean officials last week?  The U.S. Embassy in (inaudible) says there was a meeting.  We'd like to verify that.

MR. BOUCHER:  That's in the press office, if you ask them.

QUESTION:  Yes.  So is there anything you can say about it?  Did it move the ball a little bit or what?

MR. BOUCHER:  No.  Those of you who are familiar with this know that from time to time we use this channel in New York.  We have face-to-face meetings about I guess I'd say every now and then.  I think the last one was -- the last one before this was in December.  We had a meeting last week and our people went up from here -- Ambassador Joseph DeTrani the Special Envoy to the six-party talks and Jim Foster the Director of our Office of Korean Affairs went up and met with North Korea's Permanent Representative at the UN and the Deputy there.

The contact was working level, as we described it, with these two people.  It was last Friday, May 13th.  And we use these meetings, as we say, from time to time to make sure the North Koreans are clear on our positions and things.  At this meeting, we reiterated positions with which you are familiar and urged the North to return to the six-party talks as the best way to solve the nuclear issue and to come there prepared to address to the concerns of the parties.

So this is a fairly normal contact that we do have from time to time with the North Koreans.  It is not in any way a negotiation.  It's just a way to make sure they're clear on what our position is.

QUESTION:  Since there are working level people, I don't imagine you've gotten a definitive response but --

MR. BOUCHER:  No.  Generally, we don't.

QUESTION:  Yeah, but do you have any sense of any -- is there anything from this meeting that causes you to believe they're interested or less interested or more interested?

MR. BOUCHER:  As I said, these meetings are ways to convey a message, to convey a message on what our policy is to make sure they understand it clearly.  It's not a -- it's not really a back and forth or a negotiation.  It's not a time that -- or a place that we normally would get any particular indication on what they are going to do because the people in New York are -- they report back to Pyongyang and that's ultimately where the decisions are made or new indications might come from.

So at this point, as I said, we use this to convey our views in a way that makes sure they understand it, but it's not -- doesn't really indicate anything one way or the other as to whether North Korea is likely to do what they need to do and that's to come back to the six-party talks and deal seriously with the issues.

QUESTION:  And such -- and so it was Friday?

MR. BOUCHER:  And so it was.

QUESTION:  Not a meeting to get an indication?

MR. BOUCHER:  And so it was Friday.  Yeah.

QUESTION:  And you have not received any word since Friday?

MR. BOUCHER:  No.  Haven't heard anything back since then.

QUESTION:  When did Mr. DeTrani decide to make plans to go up to New York?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know exactly, sometime late last week.

QUESTION:  But when we asked on Tuesday and we were told that he had no plans at the present time and I'm just -- want to establish that it was indeed after Tuesday.

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, then it must have been Wednesday or Thursday that he decided to go to New York.

QUESTION:  Richard.  The U.S. has been saying every other day, every other week that North Korea must return to the talks.  What is so special in conveying this message directly to North Korea?  It has been conveyed to China, it has been conveyed to all the other five parties and they are committed to North Korea at various meetings.  What is so special about this meeting?

MR. BOUCHER:  First of all, I'm not saying there was anything so special about this meeting.

QUESTION:  The fact that it --

MR. BOUCHER:  I'll answer the rest of your question, but I'm not saying there's anything so special about this meeting.  It was a normal kind of meeting that we've had from time to time.  No offense to you, but as we make statements, they get written up in various ways in different news media.  People read different things about what our policy is or is not.  The North Koreans probably read different things about what our policy is or is not.  And so every now and then when we think it's useful, we find it useful, we sit down with them directly and tell them the story directly of what our policy is.  But you know, we're telling them things that are -- you all are very familiar with.  Our policy is we say it in private and in public.

QUESTION:  It's a follow-up.  If there is a message that is conveyed to the meeting, the message is only for them to return to the talks?

MR. BOUCHER:  The message is what our positions are and urging them to return to the talks.  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Can we -- I mean, is there any change in the positions that you had conveyed to them in the last meeting?

MR. BOUCHER:  These are all positions that you're very familiar with, frankly.


QUESTION:  Was there a particular thing that you were seeking to clarify, for example, to point to the statements that North Korea is sovereign?

MR. BOUCHER:  We try to make sure they understand our whole position.  That's certainly part of it.  But we try to make sure they understand our whole policy position and including various aspects and particularly the need for North Korea to return to the talks and be ready to discuss the substantive issues there.

QUESTION:  Richard, did you -- did Mr. DeTrani reiterate that these are six-party talks but that the U.S. would be willing to sit down with them and on the sidelines?

MR. BOUCHER:  Again, I'm not going to write out the script and every element into it.  I'll give you the same answer your colleague -- I gave your colleague about another element that may or may not have been there.  But yes, all these things are parts of our position and we tell them our whole position.

QUESTION:  But -- okay.  If everything was so consistent and you haven't changed your message at all, what is the purpose of calling the New York channel into action?

MR. BOUCHER:  To make sure they understand, without a -- without a filter.

QUESTION:  But you've told -- you said there's nothing that's changed in what you've told them, probably at the last round of six-party talks and in between then and now, right?  Is that -- that's what you're saying?  There's been no new talks that's changed?

MR. BOUCHER:  No, I didn't.  I didn't -- I didn't say that.

QUESTION:  Okay.  What --

MR. BOUCHER:  I said these are -- we're telling him what our policy position is in ways that you all are very familiar with because we do say the same thing in public as we say in private.

QUESTION:  So then the purpose --

MR. BOUCHER:  It's been almost a year since the six-party talks.  There have been a lot of things said.  And we have had from time to time discussions or meetings in this channel to make clear what our positions are.  As I said, we had a meeting in December.  We had another meeting a week or so ago and we may again.

QUESTION:  Did the North Koreans request the meeting?

MR. BOUCHER:  No.  We asked for this meeting.

QUESTION:  Can I ask you from -- this would make it special.  If there were any discussion of possibly having a U.S. official -- senior maybe -- go there and talk to them to try to break the --

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, that was a wrong story --

QUESTION:  I know.

MR. BOUCHER:  -- where it appeared in one way.  It's the wrong story, as it -- no.  The answer is simple.  The answer is no.



QUESTION:  Richard --

MR. BOUCHER:  Hang on.  We got more on this one.  Sir.

QUESTION:  What made the U.S. Government ask North Korea to have this meeting?

MR. BOUCHER:  We felt it was useful.

QUESTION:  South Korea had agreed to ship 200,000 tons of fertilizer next month at the South and North Korean meeting yesterday, without any addressing about nuclear issue in the six-party talks.  What is your comment on it?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, our comment, I think, has been that first of all, on the question of fertilizer, that we see that as, you know, we've always seen that as a humanitarian issue and have not opposed it.  We looked at the joint statement today. We've talked to -- during the course of these discussions with our South Korean friends and allies.  I'm sure we'll talk to them more about how the final stages of the meeting went.  They agreed, as you say, to provide 200,000 tons of fertilizer in humanitarian aid and agreed to hold further ministerial-level talks.

I'd reiterate what we said before:  we've welcomed the North-South talks.  We have welcomed the fact that South Korea uses the occasion to press the North to return to six-party talks, disappointed that North Korea did not use the occasion to indicate that they would do so, that they're willing to return to the table and deal seriously with the issues.  We do think it's important South Korea use this opportunity to press the North on returning to the talks.

QUESTION:  North Korea always insisted they would talk nuclear issues only with the United States directly.  Is it possible?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, first of all, I don't think your premise is true.  They've said a lot of different things.  But we have made very clear the way to solve these issues or with all the people involved and that's the six-party talks.

QUESTION:  Secretary Rice is going to meet the Admiral Fallon this afternoon.  Are they going to talk about North Korea?

MR. BOUCHER:  I'm sure they'll talk about the whole Asia-Pacific region.

QUESTION:  Could you give us a read-out maybe?

MR. BOUCHER:  No.  It's an internal meeting.  It's a chance for her to talk with our senior commander in the Pacific about everything in the Pacific.  We'll leave that to them what they want to talk about.

QUESTION:  It is possible to know what the response was from North Korea at the meeting?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, it might be, if you went and asked the North Koreans and see if they have any response.  At this point, I don't have anything for you on what their position might be.

QUESTION:  A small matter, but could you check when Mr. DeTrani made the decision to go off?

MR. BOUCHER:  I'll try to, yeah.

QUESTION:  Thank you.


QUESTION:  Can I try something else?

MR. BOUCHER:  No.  This -- no, he gets first chance here.


QUESTION:  Thank you.  Mr. Shyam Saran the Foreign Secretary of India is in town and I understand there's some meetings in the State Department.  While he's here and with the Secretary Rice's visit to India, so what's going on?  Is this something to do with the presidential visit or ongoing U.S.-India bilaterals?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, I think why he's here you should probably ask the Indian side, but I'll see if I can get you anything on the meetings he's having.

QUESTION:  And on another subject also, recently India was blamed with the anti-minorities or anti-- non-Hindus -- of religious freedom in India.  But now in the last -- within two months, it was changed by the Commission on Human -- Commission on Religious Freedom of the U.S.  What happened within two, three months during this (inaudible) story because ever since these allegations of this story came out that India is against the other religions, government did not change -- same government because, there is at the top -- the President is a Muslim and Prime Minister is a Sikh and a Christian is at the top of the party line and Hindus are nowhere playing any role in the government.

So what happened really to change within two, three months?  And also calling -- the Commission's calling that now, not India, but that Pakistan and Bangladesh should be on the list of -- against minorities or religious freedom.

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, first of all, you know, we have an office of International Religious Freedom here.  It's not the same as the Commission.  The commission is a more independent public body.  So I don't want to try to explain their positions.  They'll have to do that.  As far as our own position on religious freedom, we do work with countries all over the world to try to improve religious freedom.  And we work with governments based on the policies and the practices of those governments and not necessarily on the religious affiliations of leaderships.

So the fact that leaders may have certain religions, you know, might be interesting, but it doesn't really -- the judgments that we have to make and the issues that we work on are based on the actual facts on the ground, the real situation for the people of that country.

QUESTION:  Can we ask you about the following flare-up in Afghanistan?  Two incidents, several contractors killed.  Anything you might have on it from your viewpoint. But is it Taliban?  Do we know that?  Among other things, what can you --

MR. BOUCHER:  We've had another, I think, very sad and tragic incident involving people working to help the Afghan people.  Six Afghans, two employees of Chemonics International, two family members of the Chemonics employees and two drivers were killed in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, May 19th, is the same contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development whose people were attacked yesterday and Helmand Province did a project that provides training for Afghan foreigners on alternatives to poppy growing.  I want to extend our deepest condolences to the families, the friends and the colleagues of the victims of both incidents.

Chemonics has advised the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that it's withdrawing personnel from Southern Afghanistan and taking a careful look at the security situation.  We will be helping the Afghan authorities with their investigation of this incident, as well as yesterday.  Of course, the security of everybody involved in Afghanistan's programs to end narcotics trafficking is of vital importance to us, but that investigation is underway and at this point, no, I don't have any identification of who the perpetrators might have been.

QUESTION:  Any connection with the new (inaudible) controversies?

MR. BOUCHER:  Not that I've heard of, no.


QUESTION:  I have a different question about the joint committee between U.S., Denmark, Greenland these days and what do you think about the joint committee taking place here today?

MR. BOUCHER:  We think it's great.


MR. BOUCHER:  You want to know more than that?


MR. BOUCHER:  We signed an agreement between the United States and Denmark including the agreement -- Home Ruled Government last August to enhance cooperative, scientific, economic, commercial, environmental, and educational programs.  Our Commerce Department hosted today the first ever trade promotion event by Greenland within the United States.

Assistant Secretary Dan Fried opened discussions with the delegations this morning.  They're looking especially at energy issues with possible collaboration on oil and gas exploration and hydrogen energy.  And our experts are sharing expertise with partners in Greenland about national park management, low energy, housing, construction, and mapping in telemedicine.  The Smithsonian is also hosting this weekend the biggest cultural exhibition from Greenland ever to be held in the United States.

QUESTION:  This week's meetings are an important step for Greenland.  How does it matter for the U.S.?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, this is a very interesting part of a relationship that we think can benefit both sides and understanding on both sides.  And we're happy to promote opportunities, including in economic areas, but also educational exchanges.  That will be talked about a lot.  Science education, English education, and also scientific research and climate change.  So these exchanges back and forth have benefits for both sides.

QUESTION:  But do you think -- would you think -- expect Greenland to gain more influence after the joint committee process?

MR. BOUCHER:  To gain more influence?  I think they have our attention and we're happy to meet with them and see what we can do together.


QUESTION:  With the Deputy in Baghdad, can you say any more about this Syrian meeting and whether you believe that it was, in fact, arrangements or encouragement made at this meeting that has led to an upsurge in violence?

MR. BOUCHER:  No, I can't.  I don't really have any information on the reported meeting.

QUESTION:  Can you talk more about his meeting, about the Deputy's meeting?

MR. BOUCHER:  About his meetings?


MR. BOUCHER:  Well, he himself has just finished giving a press conference, I think, in Baghdad, so he's talked about it out there himself.  He's, again, the Deputy Secretary of State is in Baghdad today.  He's working on the same -- the big three areas.  The Secretary cited political process, including the question of inclusiveness and going forward on the timeline to a constitution and an election by the end of the year; on the questions of infrastructure and rebuilding the economy and how to make economic growth sustainable there; and third, on the question of security; training, especially, for the Iraqi security forces.  We all recognize how closely intertwined these issues are and, as the new Iraqi government goes forward on all of them, how closely related they are to what we can do and how we can support them.

So I think you'll see a lot of back and forth between the United States and the new Iraqi government at very high levels, as well as the day to day work that's done by our Embassy.  And we'll be working very closely with them to move forward on all these fronts.

QUESTION:  Just to clarify, you said you don't have any information on the Syrian meeting or you don't have --

MR. BOUCHER:  Didn't say --

QUESTION:  -- anything you can give us?

MR. BOUCHER:  Neither.

QUESTION:  This is the third time in, I guess, the last month that --


QUESTION:  -- the Secretary or the Deputy Secretary has been there.

MR. BOUCHER:  A little more than a month.  I think the Deputy's first trip was about five weeks ago.

QUESTION:  Okay. It's obviously a very intense, high-level engagement that we didn't see around the time of the election or around any of the other big kind of milestones that the Iraqis were going through.  Does this speak to a real delicate time in the process for Iraqis?  Why do you see the need for such intense, high-level engagement?

MR. BOUCHER:  It speaks to an important time for the Iraqis.  We were engaged in great -- with great intensity in the election, but obviously in different ways.  Our job is to work with the Iraqi Government to achieve the goals that the Iraqi people have, to achieve the goals that they have for a democratic political system, for a safe security environment, for a healthy economy for their nation.  And there is an Iraqi Government now.  It has been now for a few weeks.  And we're in a position to really work directly with that government in terms of how we can support them in achieving their goals.  So I think part of the acceleration of these high-level discussions is the fact that there is an Iraqi Government that is committed and determined to meet those goals and an American Government that's committed and determined to helping.


QUESTION:  Can I change the subject?  Have you made any contact with the Israeli or Palestinian officials to stop the escalations in the Palestinian territories?

MR. BOUCHER:  We have been in touch with officials both in Washington and in the region.  We have urged the parties to focus on how they can calm the situation and not take any escalatory actions.  We have, in particular, I think, focused on measures to bring an end to violence and terror.  And I would note that the Palestinians have a particular responsibility at this time to end the mortar attacks from Gaza, as we proceed to make Israeli withdrawal from Gaza a positive development for both sides.  So we're working with them and urging the parties to avoid actions that can escalate tensions.

QUESTION:  And when Israel leaves Gaza, do you suppose they'll be no mortar attacks anymore?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, the goal is to make sure that the Palestinians are in a position to control this area to ensure it's not used to inflame the situation, to make sure that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and portions of the West Bank contributes to the accelerated progress on the roadmap and contributes to a better life for both Israelis and Palestinians.   To do that, we need to end the violence.  And ending the violence is a chief focus of our effort right now, both through the Quartet and with General Ward on the ground.

QUESTION:  Maybe I should ask tomorrow or Monday, it would be closer to the arrival in Washington of Prime Minister Sharon.  But I understand from the Israeli side that there are no meetings planned.  He's coming to make a speech.  You're not -- State isn't going to take advantage of his presence to --

MR. BOUCHER:  Barry, I just don't know about the visit.  He was just down in Texas in Crawford and just had pretty extensive discussions with Prime Minister Sharon.

QUESTION:  Just check.  Just checking.

MR. BOUCHER:  Charlie.

QUESTION:  Richard, on the previous issue and General Ward, has he been in Washington recently for consultations or has he been out there since he went out there?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know if he's been back in Washington.  We -- he was in Moscow for the Quartet meeting and briefed the Quartet at that time, as did James Wolfensohn.  And at that point, he's been in the region for quite a number of weeks, working on the ground and had a lot to report on the efforts that he was making.  So other than the fact that he was in Moscow when the President and Secretary were there for the Quartet meeting, I haven't actually followed his travel since then.

QUESTION:  As a follow-up to his meetings and his reports, has he been able to meet yet with both sides together or is he still meeting with them only separately?

MR. BOUCHER:  The goal is not to meet with both sides together.

QUESTION:  I didn't say that was the goal.

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, has he been able to --


MR. BOUCHER:  -- I'm sure he could, if that was what he was trying to do, but that's not what he's out there to try to do.  We've always said the most important thing is the two sides work together and to the extent that they are able to work together and work constructively to deal with the security situation, to deal and plan with a future withdrawal, that's good.  And so it's not much of a focus for us.

What is a focus for General Ward is to help the Palestinians build their -- organize and build their security forces so that they can dominate the security situation and end the violence, end the kind of violence that we have seen and the kind of mortar attacks that have occurred just the other day and that's where General Ward is focusing his efforts.


QUESTION:  He had a meeting today with Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in Tehran who said that he wants to repair relations with the United States, but that he wants the United States to take the first steps.  One step that he explicitly referred to was unblocking the $8 billion in Iranian assets that are frozen in the United States.  Do you have -- one, do you think it's positive at all that he would say that he would like to repair relations with the United States and two, do you feel like it falls in the United States Court or rather in the Iranian's?

MR. BOUCHER:  I think at this juncture, I would just say that our Under Secretary testified for an hour and half up on the Hill quite extensively on Iran today and I'll just leave it at that.

QUESTION:  He wasn't asked about this bill or never even gave a response?

MR. BOUCHER:  I'm happy to leave it with what he said today as far as Iran policy goes.  I don't think we have to respond to every statement that everyone in Iran makes, particularly when there's an election going on.

QUESTION:  Richard, (inaudible) a big book (inaudible).

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't understand the politics of Iran.  You may understand them better than I do.  But again, I don't have anything new from our side on those topics.  There's things that we have discussed in the past, but I don't -- not aware of anything new from the U.S. side.

QUESTION:  This is a just-in-case question.  As you know, Chancellor Schroeder sent a senior German legislator here to look into UN reform, to look into permanent seats on the Security Council, the chairman and five others.  He's had talks here.  Is there anything you can say and can you clarify whether an administration decision on permanent seating will be part of a package of proposals or does the Administration intend to deal with it separately and do you have an idea of when?

MR. BOUCHER:  I think, to the extent we can answer those questions, I dealt with them fairly extensively yesterday and --

QUESTION:  I know.  I just --

MR. BOUCHER:  I'll refer you back to that.

QUESTION:  But he's had his talk since?

MR. BOUCHER:  There's nothing new since yesterday.


MR. BOUCHER:  I'm sure about that.


QUESTION:  Can you speak to a report, specifically in The Chicago Tribune, but there have been a couple of others -- the ICRC, Red Cross found credible allegations of desecrations of the Koran and shared them with the U.S. and this was one of the reasons that the U.S. kind of put out these new guidelines that you've been speaking about?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, first of all, that's not exactly the way the phrasing was, but I'll leave it to the ICRC for how they want to describe what they did.  I think, second of all, both the ICRC and the Pentagon have spoken to this, so I really don't have anything to add to what they've said.

We have said -- I said the other day that we work with the Red Cross, we hear from them about things that they might hear or see when they're visiting.  They had heard some concerns about the handling of Korans and yes, we have very extensive guidelines about how Korans are to be handled, who they are to be handled by, the wearing of gloves, how that it be moved and transported in order to ensure that no such concerns will arise.  That very extensive written instruction has been out since January of 2003 and I'm told by Defense that even before then, there was training for their personnel on how to do this.

So we do listen when people raise questions about the handling of the Koran and we have made very clear what our policies are.


QUESTION:  A change?


QUESTION:  (Off mike.)


QUESTION:  The human rights --

QUESTION:  One more and I'm done.  I'm sorry.

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, he's got it.


QUESTION:  The Human Rights Watch has said today that the religious disrespect of the prisoners is spreading in Guantanamo and other prisons.  She added that she has (inaudible) by phone the prisoners who said the American interrogators discredited the Koran.  Do you have any comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER:  That the religious what of prisoners?

QUESTION:  Disrespect.

MR. BOUCHER:  Disrespect.  Again, we've talked about these things again and again and again.  The policy and practice that we follow at Guantanamo is to respect the religious rights of the prisoners.  Call to prayer is heard in Guantanamo Bay.  How our meals are served at Guantanamo.  The cells have directions on how to -- on which way is Mecca.  People receive copies of the Koran and are entitled and allowed to study the Koran in Guantanamo Bay.  There are very extensive briefings, training, and written rules on how to handle the Koran with respect in all the operations down there in Guantanamo Bay.

That is the policy.  That is the practice.  If there are lapses in that practice, if there are instances that are credible instances that are called to our attention of where those rules were not followed or the policy is not carried out thoroughly, then we investigate.  We look into them.  We make sure that practices are corrected and improved.  But I think we do take this seriously and I think we have an established record of policy and practice of respect for the religious beliefs of the prisoners.

QUESTION:  How do you compare the damage done at the Abu Ghraib prison incident with the Newsweek story damage and how is the U.S. going to repair now, because -- repairing the damage done at the prison?

MR. BOUCHER:  How do I compare them?  I don't think we compare damage.  Obviously, Abu Ghraib -- terrible things happened and we've admitted that.  We've released information to the public; we were the ones who put forward a lot of information on what happened there and we're now -- our military procedures are now moving to identify and punish those responsible.

The Newsweek story, unfortunately, is unsubstantiated.  It didn't happen.  They don't have any -- they've retracted their story and we've said -- you know, we've looked into this.  We're still looking into it, but at this point, we have nothing to indicate it happened.  So one thing happened and one didn't happen.  That's how I would compare them.  Will they both have an affect on the reputation of the United States?  Yes.  Unfortunately, they do; things that are true and things that are not true can both affect attitudes towards the United States and how the United States is seen.

QUESTION:  I have one more on Nepal, please?


QUESTION:  Indian government has decided to send arms to Nepal, number one.  Number two, if Nepal can ever ask the U.S. to send arms or (inaudible) and number three, over the weekend, five, six hundred or more Nepalese from around the U.S. gathered and demonstrated in front of the White House against the kingdom policy and the same group which were gathering in Washington, 15 years ago, against the first king and his policies.

So, where do we stand since the human rights situations and arrests and all these demonstrations in Nepal?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, as far as demonstrations go, people are free to express their views.  That's something that we let them do --

QUESTION:  Whatever asking U.S. --

MR. BOUCHER:  Doesn't elicit comment from the United States Government every time somebody exercises their right to express their views, so I don't think we need to jump into that one.

As far as the Indian government's decision, I'll leave that to them.  As far as the question in the middle, sort of, what's the U.S. attitude towards sales to the Nepali Government and towards the human rights situation there, I'll be glad to look at it.  We've seen, I think, some improvement, some changes in the human rights situation, particularly as regards the opposition leaders who were put in jail.  But we do want a full return to democracy and we'll keep pushing for that.

QUESTION:  But Richard, just to follow-up.  As far as demonstrations are concerned, what they were asking the U.S. Government that it should intervene, the way they did have Nepal to bring democracy 15 years ago and what the U.S. Government can and should do now as far as democracy back in Nepal?

MR. BOUCHER:  I think that's such a big question that we've answered a thousand times in different ways.  Look at our human rights reports.  Look at our country reports.  Look at what we've said, okay?


QUESTION:  Mr. Boucher, on Greece?  The Greek Prime Minister, Konsta Karamanlis is arriving today in Washington D.C. for a working visit and tomorrow he's going to meet President Bush in the White House.  Do you know if Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is planning to attend the meeting?  And with this opportunity, how do you define the relation between Greece and the United States?

MR. BOUCHER:  First of all, as far as the Secretary's attendance, I haven't seen her confirmed schedule for tomorrow yet, but she would normally attend these meetings.  I'm sure she looks forward to talking with the Greek Government in those meetings.

Second of all, as far as our relationship with Greece, we are partners, we are allies, we work together in many, many important areas and we look forward to having the chance to discuss those with Greek leaders tomorrow.  QUESTION:  On Albania.  I have a question -- excuse me -- the Under Secretary Nicholas Burns testified in Congress yesterday for Kosovo stated (inaudible) "all the local structure must be (inaudible) to Pristina not to Belgrade.  Belgrade-founded institution (inaudible) must be dismembered or integrated into Kosovo's structure."  I'm wondering if that means, behind the scenes, yes U.S. policy is moving towards free independence of Kosovo.

MR. BOUCHER:  U.S. policy is exactly where Under Secretary Burns put it yesterday and that is the way I put it, I think, the day before.  There's a review this summer and then we look forward after that to addressing the final status issues if that turns out to be the appropriate next step.

QUESTION:  One more question.  Since in the case of Kosovo independence, according to another political observers, will be a (inaudible) if Albanians (inaudible) towards Western Balkans.  Do you have contingency plans to prevent such developments due to the plans that Under Secretary Nicholas Burns stated yesterday that 18,000 American soldiers would remain in Kosovo for an undetermined period of time?

MR. BOUCHER:  You're way out there on that one.  You're just projecting things into some future that may or may not happen.  You're predicting disaster from the step -- from the process that we're taking and predicting the outcome of the process we're taking.  That's a hypothetical and a hypothetical and a hypothetical and a worst-case scenario so I'm not going to bother with it, I'm sorry.


QUESTION:  Democrats have put a new minority report rehashing some of the notes about John Bolton, again, bringing up this case of him possibly getting a suggestion to have a CIA employee reassigned.  Do you have anything -- any comments on this?  This report came out last night.

MR. BOUCHER:  I note the report came out -- there was also a Republican report put out on the nomination of John Bolton.  This minority report put out by some members of the committee, I guess, talked about some of the issues that had been talked about extensively.  We don't agree with the interpretation that they made of some of these facts but we do note that between Under Secretary Bolton's testimony and all the information we've provided and all the other witnesses that we provided, these are not new issues and have been discussed extensively with the committee.  The President and the Secretary continue to stand firmly for their nominee for Ambassador to the UN and hope that the Senate will deal with the matter expeditiously so that we can have good representation up at the UN.

QUESTION:  Do you have any opinion on the fact that some of these hold ups might actually stop committee meetings, for example, the one on Iran this morning could have been canceled by the fact that the debate on these nominations on the floor -- these nominations and others --

MR. BOUCHER:  That's the past perfect hypothetical.  It could have been canceled that it actually took place.


QUESTION:  Am I way out there?  Am I way out there?

MR. BOUCHER:  Not quite as far as some of the others but I don't think I want to speculate on Senate procedures and on meetings that could have been canceled but in fact were held.

QUESTION:  All right.

MR. BOUCHER:  All right.  Tammy.

QUESTION:  I'm guessing you don't have anything on this but I'm going to ask.  Do you know if the State Department has been contacted by Maryland authorities about a Czech diplomat who alleged left a baby in a car in Maryland today?

MR. BOUCHER:  You guessed correctly, I don't have anything on this.  I'll have to check on that.



MR. BOUCHER:  I'll have to look into it then.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER:  One or two more, I'm sorry.

QUESTION:  The Special Envoy, DeTrani, restate that United States has no intention to attack or invade North Korea.

MR. BOUCHER:  Same answer I gave to the two of them.  We described our whole policy.  You all know what our policy is as we've stated all of it, here, there.  The Secretary discussed it extensively during her trip.  We just want to make sure they heard it all directly from us.


QUESTION:  Mr. Boucher, I have a question on Cyprus.  The President of Cyprus sent an envoy to New York.  Right now, he's discussing the problem with high official of the UN.  Since your government is a partner for all their efforts to start again the negotiations, what do you expect from these talks?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know, I'll have to check and see if there's anything we want to say about it.

Thank you.

(This briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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