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Military

State Department Briefing, May 24

24 May 2005

Syria/Lebanon, United Nations, Bangladesh/human rights, Israel/Palestinian Authority, Uzbekistan, Iran/elections, Pakistan, Iraq/International Committee of the Red Cross, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Middle East/peace process, Indonesia, China/Six-Party Talks

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed the press May 24.

Following is the official transcript

(begin transcript)

Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
12:15 p.m. EDT
Briefer:  Richard Boucher, Spokesman

SYRIA/LEBANON
U.S. Diplomatic Relations with Syria / Resolution 1559
Syrian Ambassador’s Comments / Use of Syrian Territory by Terrorists and Insurgents
UN Report on Syrian Withdrawal from Lebanon / Syrian Intelligence Apparatus in Lebanon / Lebanese Elections

BANGLADESH
Status of Democracy

MIDDLE EAST
First Lady’s Visit

ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Road Map / Obligations and Progress / End to Violence / Withdrawal from Gaza

UZBEKISTAN
International Coordination / Arrests of Activists / Access to Andijan

IRAN
Elections / Candidate Disqualifications

DEPARTMENT
Secretary’s Meeting with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Kellenberger / U.S.-ICRC Relations
Hawala Financial Transactions / Terrorist Financing
Secretary’s Meeting with American Task Force on Palestine President Asali

INDONESIA
Richard Ness and William Long Detention Case / U.S. Involvement

NORTH KOREA

Resumption of Six Party Talks /Security on the Peninsula / New York Channel


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

12:15 p.m. EDT

MR. BOUCHER:  All right.  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  It's a pleasure to be here.  I don't have any announcements and I'll be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION:  There is great interest and considerable lack of facts as to the U.S. relationship with Syria -- a question of any diplomatic relationship just now.  I know you're not going to speak for Syria, but could you speak for the U.S.?  What is your impression of what kind of relationship, if there is one, exists currently?

MR. BOUCHER:  What kind of relationship?

QUESTION:  Do we have diplomatic -- does the U.S. have diplomatic --

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.  The United States has diplomatic relations with Syria.  We have representation in each other's capitals.  Our ambassador, as you know, has not been in Syria for many months now because of our concerns about Syrian behavior and that's what it really comes down to.  I think we've seen, all too often, that when we try to address serious issues, important issues for the regions with the Syrian government, that Syria has expended minimal effort, at best, and halfhearted efforts on things like the use of Syrian territory by groups that are opposed to -- by -- you know, terrorists and others who are fighting us in Iraq, the use of Syrian territory by groups that are opposed to the Palestinian -- to the peace process and to the attempt by the Palestinians to create a state.

We have certainly pressed hard on compliance with Resolution 1559 and you know that there is now a UN report that says that they have complied in many respects, but they still can't verify the complete withdrawal of Syrian intelligence.  But we will continue to raise these issues.  We're going to continue to raise these issues of not allowing Syrian territory being used -- to be used by -- for the provision of money or arms or resources for the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq.  We'll continue to press the issue if Syrian support for terrorist groups that are opposed to the peace process continue to press the issue of Syrian influence in Lebanon and the need to end all foreign influence in Lebanon.  Those are the substance of any exchanges that we have with Syria, in public and in private.

QUESTION:  But (inaudible) they're actively –  are actively going on now in Damascus.

MR. BOUCHER:  I wouldn't describe it that way.  We have diplomatic contact in Damascus and have some diplomatic contacts in other places.  You know, here and there, we see them, but I think the important thing is Syrian behavior.  And it's not just us; the international community passed Resolution 1559 and asked them not only to get out of Lebanon, but to end all foreign interference.  It's not just us that want them to stop supporting groups that are violently opposed to the peace process.  It's not just us that want them to stop allowing their territory to be used by those who are violently against the attempt by the Iraqi people to form their new government.  You've heard the Iraqi leadership talk about this as well.

Tammy.

QUESTION:  Has Syria severed any of the limited cooperation that it was involved in, engaged in, with the United States along the border?

MR. BOUCHER:  We have seen these statements by -- I guess it was the Syrian Ambassador.  I guess one would have to say that given the minimal extent of the cooperation and the somewhat sporadic efforts at cooperation, it's really kind of hard to say.  Making comments like this is probably a step -- is certainly a step in the wrong direction.

What's going to be important for us is:  What does Syria do?  What do they do about the use of their territory by insurgents and rejectionists?  What do they do in terms of eliminating any interference in Lebanon?  Things like that.

QUESTION:  Would it be fair to say that you're disappointed in the statement by -- or the interview by --

MR. BOUCHER:  I'm not going to attach any tremendous importance to the statement, frankly, given the minimal and sporadic nature of the kind of -- of the cooperation we had.

We did, I think, talk, you know, over the years.  There were moments when they were cooperating on al-Qaida.  There were a few things they did with regard to the border.  But it's -- I wouldn't say that they've cut off any particular regular and ongoing cooperation because there just hasn't been regular and ongoing cooperation.

QUESTION:  On --

MR. BOUCHER:  Teri.

QUESTION:  Okay, so just to be clear, the Ambassador can say this has happened but they haven't, through diplomatic channels, given any such --

MR. BOUCHER:  We're not aware of any particular communication from them on that subject.  But as I said, we look for them to take real action.  We look for them to cooperate in practical terms with us and especially with neighbors like Iraq.  And that's how we'll judge it.

Yeah.  Sorry, Said had another one.  Sorry.

QUESTION:  I have a couple of follow-ups on this.

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Now, Kofi Annan suggested that the Syrians have completely complied with 1559, but you're saying that they have not?

MR. BOUCHER:  I am just telling you --

QUESTION:  Could you quantify pulling out all of the Syrian intelligence and influence out of Lebanon? 

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, I'm just trying to tell you what's in the -- what's in the UN report, which I think is available publicly --

QUESTION:  Right. 

MR. BOUCHER:  -- in paragraphs 22 and 24, in particular, of the UN report where they describe that to the best of their ability, they were able to determine that Syrian troops and military assets have been fully and completely withdrawn from Lebanese territory, that Syrian military intelligence -- that no Syrian military intelligence personnel remain in known locations or in military uniform.  But the team has been unable to conclude with certainty that all the intelligence apparatus has been withdrawn, so that remains -- that piece of it remains an open question. 

And once again, it's important to remember that withdrawal of acknowledged assets is an important step in fulfilling 1559.  But 1559 is really about letting the Lebanese take control of their territory, letting the Lebanese have free and fair elections.  And this could be very important for us and many others to see that Lebanon -- Lebanese people are allowed to conduct a free and fair election, free of all foreign influence. 

QUESTION:  Just a quick follow-up, Richard.  Now, is there any mechanism in 1559 to quantify or to determine that all intelligence has been withdrawn?  How would you --

MR. BOUCHER:  I think, you know, again, read Paragraph 26.  The UN says the same thing -- that it is obviously difficult to determine whether clandestine intelligence apparatus has been completely withdrawn.  But I'm sure we'll look at all available information, including what people in Lebanon themselves say about this. 

Elise.

QUESTION:  Do you have anything to indicate that Syrian military intelligence are still in the country?  Are you just -- are you assuming that they're not at this point?  I mean --

MR. BOUCHER:  I'm not -- given the extent -- let's put it this way, given the extent of Syrian presence and influence over Lebanon in the past, one would want to look for concrete signs that personnel and influence have been withdrawn.  And the UN is able to say that military personnel and known military intelligence assets have been withdrawn.  But they're not able to say that the entire intelligence presence has been withdrawn.  As I said, it will be also important to watch whether the influence that Syria has exercised is going to be withdrawn, as well as whether the Lebanese people are allowed to have the fully free and fair election.

Yeah.  Michel.

QUESTION:  The Syrian authorities have arrested yesterday all the board members of Syria's only active political forum.  What's your view regarding the situation?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't have a lot of detail at this point.  We've certainly seen these reports and we're very concerned about them.  At a time when Syria should be moving more in step with the rest of the region, moving more towards a more open society and making the kind of changes that its citizens want, we think it's certainly a negative development to see that they're arresting people who are advocating for change.  But I don't really have anything more on that for the moment.  We'll have to look into the specific situation a little more.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.  Saul.

QUESTION:  In the past, you've talked about meetings between Syrian officials and U.S. officials regarding the border.  When was the last time there was such a meeting?

MR. BOUCHER:  I frankly would have to check.  I don't remember.

QUESTION:  As far as I know, when we were discussing that here was probably some -- a few months ago.  I mean --

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  -- around that time, certainly at the beginning of those meetings, there were statements from the State Department saying that there had been some progress, that it wasn't good enough cooperation.

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  How do you assess the trend looking at, sort of, that medium term?  At the moment, it's minimal, but it was getting better for a while.  What happened?  Did it suddenly get worse?  Has it been getting worse and worse?

MR. BOUCHER:  I think in all these areas, where -- we have talked, I think, from time to time about steps that were taken, meetings that were held, things that were done at some points.  But we've always said they needed to do more, they needed to complete actions that they've started.  And generally, I think on each of these particular areas, where they -- even where they started something, we didn't see the follow-through, we didn't see a consistency, and that's why I think it's better to characterize it as, sort of, minimal cooperation.  What is the minimum they could do in some of these areas?

So, for example, there were meetings on the finance question.  There were meetings on the border.  There have been some steps and deployments near the border.  But they didn't carry through in any consistent way.  We had meetings on the people who were in Syria, so -- sort of, former Baathists and supporters of the insurgency and the terrorists who we thought were in Syria, and discussions of that and even occasional statements by the Syrian Government that they were going to find some of these people and, you know, either arrest them or stop them.  And, unfortunately, we didn't see a lot of follow-through on that either, so -- not much follow-through on any of these areas when it came down to it.

Tammy.

QUESTION:  Different topic? 

QUESTION:  Can we stay on Syria?

MR. BOUCHER:  Sure.  Peter.

QUESTION:  You were talking about the elections, Richard.  How do you see the preparations for the elections?  Are they going along satisfactorily?  Do you see undue influence?  Is it a fair process? 

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know if I could characterize it at this point, frankly.  There is certainly a lot of debate and discussion within Lebanon about how things are going and how they should go.  We're coming up in -- pretty soon, about a week, even less than a week, five days until they've started the election, and our hope is that these will be clearly open elections, free elections.  And we'll watch carefully to see what sort of choices the Lebanese people make and watch carefully to see that they're allowed to make these choices without undue interference.

QUESTION:  If I can refer -- do you see any sign of undue Syrian influence at this point? 

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't want to try to characterize it at this point. 

QUESTION:  Okay.

MR. BOUCHER:  Okay, let's move here. 

QUESTION:  Regarding the intelligence personnel in Lebanon, maybe I didn't hear you right, but I think you were saying we're looking -- we would look for concrete signs that intelligence personnel have left.  Is that right?  And if so, what -- can you specify what a concrete sign that the personnel have left --

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't think that's exactly how I phrased it.  We will certainly be looking at all available evidence as to whether there are, you know, continuing intelligence presence and continuing attempts to exercise influence.

QUESTION:  Can you just explain that?  The nature of intelligence work is secret, so how do you know -- (laughter) -- it's trying to prove a negative, isn't it?

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah, it is.  But as I said before, given the extent of their involvement in Lebanon in all these different ways, one would want to know and one would want to see some indications and evidence that they were out and one would want to follow very closely any residual signs of presence or influence. 

QUESTION:  But isn't it the case, as the Secretary said yesterday, they must get their intelligence personnel out?  And I'm not sure if the United States is asserting that you know that intelligence personnel are still in Lebanon. 

MR. BOUCHER:  I didn't say that.  I quoted the UN report that they're unable to verify that all the intelligence apparatus has been withdrawn and said we would watch for all available signs to see --

QUESTION:  But didn't Said ask you, what's your position on -- are intelligence personnel in Lebanon?

MR. BOUCHER:  And I said, given the extent of their previous presence, one would want to look for some -- first of all, follow carefully any indications they were still there and look and see if there are any signs that they weren't. 

QUESTION:  Well --

MR. BOUCHER:  But yes, it's hard to find signs that they're not.  But there's -- you know, first of all, there's a lively and free press in Lebanon.  There's a lot of people who talk about what's going on there and we'll follow any available information to see whether there are indications the Syrians are still trying to exercise influence or still maintaining some intelligence presence. 

QUESTION:  The thing is, I'm asking, at the moment, what's the U.S. assessment and you're saying, we will, in the future, look to and we will follow through --

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't have an independent U.S. assessment.  I have the assessment the United Nations gave.  That seems to be the best and most current assessment of the status of the Syrians in Lebanon. 

Said.

QUESTION:  Richard, is it the judgment that the strained relations with Syria are at a point of no return? 

MR. BOUCHER:  I'm not making judgments.  It depends on Syria's behavior.  It's not a -- you know, we're not making declarations here.  We're just stating the facts.  And the facts are that there's a lot of areas where Syria is out of step with the region, where Syria is trying to undermine the progress the Iraqi people are trying to make, they're trying to undermine the progress the Palestinian people are trying to make, and we hope they stop -- that they're no longer undermining the progress that the Lebanese people are trying to make. 

So, these are all areas where it's quite obvious that Syria is not in step with the region and not supporting the positive trends that are emerging in the region.  And if they change that, if they start doing different things, then everybody will have a different relationship with them. 

QUESTION:  Change to al-Zarqawi?  Does the U.S. have any information to substantiate reports that Zarqawi has been wounded? 

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know.  Frankly, I've just seen those reports.  I haven't had a chance to check around.  And not all that information will be located in this building, so I'm not even sure I can get you something, but I'll check on it later. 

Yeah. 

QUESTION:  Another subject?  Richard, according to the human rights activists and also the Bangladeshi activists, the situation in Bangladesh is so bad that Congress today was forced to hold a hearing on the human rights situation in Bangladesh.  Question is that what new information do you have regarding this hearing today and who's going from the State Department to testify? 

MR. BOUCHER:  Don't know.  Tom, do you know anything about a hearing today on Bangladesh?  Did we get a notice?

MR. CASEY:  No.  No, I don't.

MR. BOUCHER:  I'll have to check for you and see. 

QUESTION:  2200 Rayburn before the international human rights?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, I'll have to check.  I'm sorry.  I'm not --

QUESTION:  But in general, what do you think today as far as Bangladesh human rights situation is concerned?

MR. BOUCHER:  Again, I don't really have anything new on that.  We've certainly spoken in the past about the status of democracy in Bangladesh.  They do have a vibrant act of democracy, but we've raised some issues that have been involved there.

QUESTION:  Another question -- I'm sorry.  Another question; as far as the First Lady's visit to the Middle East and overseas is concerned, do you think this will help to repair the damage of our public -- standard public diplomacy that she's on a mission that will help to boost the relations between the United States and the Middle East?

MR. BOUCHER:  She's on a diplomatic and public mission and we certainly hope it does help boost relations. That's why we send her and that's the job that she's doing out there. 

QUESTION:  Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, in an address to AIPAC today, said he believed that the parties were still in the pre-roadmap phase.  What does this mean in terms of -- I mean, what's your understanding in terms of where the parties are supposed to be in the roadmap?  You always call on them to implement the roadmap.  I mean, shouldn't they well be into -- if not towards the end, but certainly somewhere in the middle? 

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, get out your copy of the roadmap and, I guess, try to figure it out yourself is one of the things I'd tell you.  It's the -- that's been Sharon's position, that's been the Israeli position for some time now.  I think we understand that all the parties have obligations under the roadmap, all parties need to carry out their obligations under the roadmap, and that we expect to see the Palestinians take steps to end the violence and terror.  We're supporting them in that, we're working with them in that, and we look forward to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as a chance to accelerate progress, accelerate progress between the Israelis and Palestinians, a chance for the Palestinians to accelerate progress in building the institutions of a Palestinian state, and generally as a chance to accelerate progress on the roadmap.  That's what the Secretary said in her speech yesterday and that's really the most up to date statement of our position.

Teri.

QUESTION:  On Uzbekistan.  A human rights activist who was disagreeing with government estimates of the dead has been arrested, according to Human Rights Watch.  Do you have any reaction to that and any other update you might have on your contacts?

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.  We are continuing to make our views on the situation in Uzbekistan known both publicly and privately, and especially to coordinate very closely with other nations and organizations.  There are concerns, so we've been having discussions with NATO, with the United Nations, with the European Union, as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  Our view and that of many others in the international community remains that Uzbekistan should make a credible and transparent assessment of events in Andijan, in cooperation with the international community and in tandem, Uzbekistan needs to take some fundamental reforms.

We've seen these reports of arrests in Andijan and we view them with great concern.  Some of those arrests may include prominent human rights activists who have been reporting on government abuses.  We're concerned that the government is trying to silence activists through arbitrary arrests and intimidation.  Once again, we point out freedom of speech is essential for a credible accounting of these events and we've called on these areas to be opened up to journalists, humanitarian workers, UN agencies, and others so that they can go in and find out what happened and take care of people who need their assistance.

Furthermore, I'd say that those arrested must be given due process in accordance with international standards, including credible evidence of criminal behavior for them to be, continued to be imprisoned.  If such evidence is not forthcoming, those detained should be released.  The international community, the Red Cross as well, should be allowed full and unfettered access to hospitals, prisons and detention centers in this area. 

QUESTION:  Do you have -- since the Ambassador took the, sort of, pseudo tour of the area, have any other American officials been in Andijan and looking to get an assessment?

MR. BOUCHER:  We've had American officials in that area before the Ambassador went and I think afterwards, so I'll have to see if there's anybody there now.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Is it true?  Are you aware of anything?  Are they allowed to talk to people and so forth?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't think that, true in itself, illuminated a whole lot.  We did say it was a step forward in terms of allowing some international access to the area, but I think in order to really get the understanding of what happened there, not only does there need to be more access, but there needs to be a credible investigation.  A bus tour was, by no means, a substitute or even a partial substitute for that. 

QUESTION:  Change of subject?

MR. BOUCHER:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  On Iran.  The Ayatollah Khamenei has now opened up the process to include at least two more candidates.  Your reaction?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, that means that we now have eight candidates participating in the election, 1008 that have been thrown out and all 93 women are still out of the election.  So, it really doesn't change our essential view that this is a process that has been shaped and distorted by the decisions of some unelected leaders and that the Iranian people, unfortunately, will not get the kind of choice that they deserve to choose their own government.

Sir.

QUESTION:  Richard, I need a clarification that several of -- present Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, she made comments as Secretary and also as NSC Advisor that General Musharraf (inaudible) doing a great job to -- cooperation also against terrorism and that he saved Pakistan.  What she meant, really saved from what?  I mean, she agrees that Pakistan was supporting terrorism or harboring terrorism?  From what he saved Pakistan?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't quite remember her saying that.  I'm sure if she has, we'd have to look at the context, so I don't have any instant explanation of two words. 


Teri.

QUESTION:  Could you preview Dr. Kellenberger's visit here and who asked for the meeting?  Is it something that arose in reaction to the GITMO reports or the Iraqi photos or (inaudible) testimony?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't think it -- it did not arise in relation to a particular event or report.  I understand that President Kellenberger had a previously scheduled trip to the United States and, of course, the Secretary was happy to see him while he was in this country.  It's part of a regular ongoing dialogue that we have with the International Committee of the Red Cross.  The Secretary last met with Dr. Kellenberger in February of this year, in Washington, so this is part of a continuing dialogue that we have with the Red Cross. 

QUESTION:  Well, wouldn't you expect those issues to rank pretty high on the agenda?

MR. BOUCHER:  I would expect any number of issues to rank high on the agenda, that we have had regular discussions with the Red Cross of the situation in Guantanamo, the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and also the important work the Red Cross does around the world.  And we have been, I think, very supportive of the Red Cross in many ways, in dollar terms as well as in terms of the kind of effort and support we give to them around the world. 

QUESTION:  Well, do you know if he requested the meeting or she did? 

MR. BOUCHER:  I, frankly, don't know.  I know -- we knew he was going to be in the United States.  Whether he asked for the meeting or we said why don't you drop by, I don't know.  But it was -- I think it was sort of on both sides that they just wanted to get together.

Yeah, George.

QUESTION:  Same subject.  There was an article, I believe, in National Interest Magazine recently that accused the ICRC of systematic bias against U.S. interests over the years.  Are you familiar with that or are you familiar with such allegations?  And is there any validity to such allegations?

MR. BOUCHER:  The United States has objected, at some moments, to specific things the Red Cross was saying or doing.  But overall, we're very supportive of their work.  We think that they have done important work around the world and made valuable humanitarian contributions in Iraq and in other regions.  We have an ongoing dialogue with the Red Cross about conditions at detention facilities that we operate.  We think that's been positive in terms of meeting proper standards of humane treatment that we are pledged to meet.  And so, we value their work in that regard. 

I think, you know, that having been said, the role of the Red Cross sometimes is to be critical and to raise issues.  Many -- some -- often, we will agree, where there are oversights or infractions or problems; sometimes, we don't.  And we've been quite clear when we don't agree with some of the positions they've taken. 

QUESTION:  I have a question on the immigration and customs.  They have arrested a number of people on money laundering and millions of dollars has been going illegally from the United States to different countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.  

My question is that -- and they are saying that money is still flowing in an illegal way to terrorists in many countries.  Question is that when the Secretary meets with the Foreign Minister of these and many other countries, does this issue call itself money laundering in order to stop -- are they doing anything to stop all this?

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, the specific question, I think, is related to the hawala type arrangements --

QUESTION:  Yes, sir.

MR. BOUCHER:  -- that the government-wide, including the State Department, has an effort under way, including working with many of the countries, overseas, to stop that form of financial transaction which is remarkably hard to follow and hard to make sure it's not going to terrorists.  And therefore, there's been a major worldwide effort that the United States has led over the past several years to cut off that form of financing. 

The Secretary does raise terrorist financing issues when she meets with other governments.  These are important to us all.  Part of the fight against terrorism is to make sure that terrorists can't travel, can't get money, can't acquire equipment and material, can't find safe places to hide and cutting off their finances is certainly an important part of that.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER:  Said.

QUESTION:  Roadmap in the Middle East peace process.  Could you tell us the nature of the meeting of Dr. Zaid Asali today with Dr. Rice?  I mean, I understand he's a Palestinian-American.  Would that help -- how does that fit into the visit of Mr. Abbas?

MR. BOUCHER:  I guess what I'd say is it was a good discussion and an interesting meeting with the American Committee on Palestine and that they discussed, certainly, the upcoming visit and the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.  And we -- the Secretary discussed with them -- sort of, not just a visit, but the whole series of upcoming events and how we were working to support the Palestinians in terms of helping them organize the fight against terror and violence, helping them organize the institutions of a future Palestinian state -- the work that General Ward is doing, the work that Jim Wolfenson is doing, also to help the Palestinian economy.  So, it was a discussion that went beyond the immediate visit into upcoming events.  We maintain a lot of contact with different people that are involved and interested in the Middle East and this is a meeting that we felt -- she felt was useful at this time.

QUESTION:  And are we likely to see a letter of understanding on the administration -- on the Bush administration to Mahmoud Abbas, (inaudible) what we have seen given to Mrs. Sharon last year?

MR. BOUCHER:  That's a question you can ask at the end of the visit.  I'm not going to get out ahead of the visit.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER:  No, no, no, no, no.  George.

QUESTION:  You probably don't have an answer to this, but I have to ask it anyway.

MR. BOUCHER:  Well, let me try.

QUESTION:  The Nicaraguan National Police say they believe that two suspected al-Qaida members are in Central America; one of them is a 36-year-old Kenyan wanted for involvement in the 1998 bombing of the American Embassy in East Africa.  Of course, you've heard of that?

MR. BOUCHER:  You're right again.  I don't have anything on that and that's the first I've heard of it.

QUESTION:  And also, there are -- the sons of two Americans detained in Indonesia are calling attention to this plight on the eve of the President's meeting with the Indonesian President.  Anything?

MR. BOUCHER:  This is a situation with which we are very familiar and a case that has, I think, had a lot of high-profile attention and involvement from the U.S. Government.  It involves Mr. Richard Ness and Mr. William Long, who have been in Indonesia -- detained in Indonesia in connection with activities of a mining company.  This has been a major case for us.  We've raised it many times with the Indonesian Government.  We have had consular officers visit them many times. 

Our ambassador went to visit once, but was not allowed in.  But our Ambassador in Indonesia has been very involved as well in trying to give progress and look after the welfare of these gentlemen. 

QUESTION:  Do you think that these detentions were unwarranted?  I mean --

MR. BOUCHER:  I'd just say we're trying to look after their welfare and try to get progress in the situation here. 

QUESTION:  When you say progress in the situation, their release, or more consular access? 

MR. BOUCHER:  Once again, trying to get progress for them, so that they can rejoin their families.  Let me put it that way. 

QUESTION:  China's President, who we're told -- visiting South Koreans, that it's not possible to resume the six-party talks in the near future.  And the Vice Foreign Minister even told media that the coming six weeks will decide whether the six-party talks will remain.  Have you -- I mean, has the U.S. been informed by the Chinese that (inaudible) many latest development or whether --

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't have any new -- anything new from Chinese or elsewhere, as far as North Korean willingness to come back to talks.  But the fact remains, that's the place for them to resolve the issues.  They need to resolve.  That's the place for them to change the relationship they have with the international community and they're doing themselves no good by staying away. 

QUESTION:  And any response to -- on North Koreans' -- I mean, their statement that they refuse to rule out the (inaudible)?

MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know why --  they make statements.  I've never tried to explain their statements.  I think you know U.S. policy.  We have no intention to attack or invade North Korea.  As the Secretary and others have said, we have a -- we and our allies maintain a sufficient deterrent to make sure that the people of the Peninsula remain safe.  I mean, once again, the way to resolve issues on the Korean Peninsula is through diplomacy, is through the six-party talks, is through the opportunity that's provided there.  And it's important for North Korea to come back and to come back serious, ready to resolve the issues. 

QUESTION:  Thank you. 

MR. BOUCHER:  We have one more in the back.  Sorry.

QUESTION:   Yes.  On North Korea, lately, Richard, did you have any response from the New York channel on North Korea?

MR. BOUCHER:  We haven't had any other meetings in New York, no. 

(The briefing was concluded at 12:58 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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