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Homeland Security

11 March 2005

U.S., Mexico Committed to Fighting Illicit Drug Trade, Terrorism

Remarks of Secretary of State Rice, Foreign Minister Derbez in Mexico City

The United States and Mexico are both "absolutely committed" to combating the illicit narcotics trade, says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In a March 10 joint press conference with Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez, Rice said that within the "context of Mexico's own laws," that country has been a "very good partner" on counternarcotics issues.

Rice said that individuals involved in illicit drugs should be punished and that the United States and Mexico have had good cooperation on extraditing drug criminals.

Another matter of joint concern, Rice said, involves stopping terrorists who might cross over the Mexican border into the United States -- while not disrupting legitimate cross-border trade.

The secretary of state said that "we are quite aware that terrorists will try very hard" to use the U.S. borders with both Mexico and Canada to enter the United States for nefarious purposes.

Though progress has been made on increasing security along the borders, Rice said that terrorists will continue trying to infiltrate the United States, and because of that "we need to make certain that we keep working on this issue."

Rice said her trip to Mexico was designed to help set the agenda for the March 23 trilateral meeting between President Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.  That meeting, to be held in Texas, will examine such issues as immigration, border security, and how to spread prosperity across all of North America.

During the press conference, Rice also answered questions relating to issues elsewhere in the world, including the Syrian presence in Lebanon and concern about whether Iran is pursuing a nuclear-weapons program.

Following is a transcript of the press conference:

(begin transcript)

Office of the Spokesman
March 10, 2005


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mexican Foreign Secretary Ernesto Derbez
March 10, 2005
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mexico City, Mexico

(12:45 p.m. Local)

FOREIGN SECRETARY DERBEZ:  (In Spanish) Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  First of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks for the visit of Secretary Rice.  This is after I invited her in the city of Washington to come, and I want to thank her for taking the time and the opportunity for being here with us so fast.  We have spoken about the organization of the meeting on the 23rd, the meeting between the two presidents, President Bush and President Fox.  We will discuss matters of the trilateral agenda, particularly on what has to do with North America.

This has been part of our conversation to turn the agenda that we shall be holding on the visit on the 23rd of March.  President Bush, Fox (Inaudible) and other matters that have to do with emissary activities and topics.  All this has been taken care of, everything in magnificent, well, atmosphere of friendship, a cordial atmosphere.  We're trying to find solutions to the problems of bilateral nations that have 2,000 kilometers borders and two nations that are concerned, and it has to do with democracy and hemispheric integration.  Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE:  Thank you very much.  I'm very pleased to (Inaudible) my good friend.  We've had (inaudible).  As a matter of fact, before I was Secretary of State I saw you also here as National Security Advisor and this is, in fact, my first visit as the Secretary of State to Latin America and we, of course, as full partners and friends and neighbors, have a wide variety of issues that we've had the chance to discuss.

We look very much forward to the meeting of the presidents, the meeting of presidents with President Fox, and also with Prime Minister Martin of Canada and we had a chance to work on that agenda.  And as the Secretary said (inaudible), we were pleased to reach mutual agreement and understanding on the transfer of the public water that will cover Mexico's debt to the United States under our 1944 water treaty, thus ensuring continued cooperation in the management of this precious natural resource (inaudible).  And I'm delighted that we have been able to reach this understanding.

We had a chance to talk about economic affairs, peace and prosperity in the hemisphere.  We have with Mexico a partnership for prosperity that is an important public-private sector alliance that (inaudible) very greatly as to both entrepreneurship and technology development and cooperation, and we look forward to furthering those efforts.  We, of course, talked about immigration.  The President is committed to immigration that is humane, that respects America's laws and that also recognizes the economic realities between Mexico and the United States. I recalled that President Fox and President Bush, when they first met on this issue, talked about the need to do something, but to also (inaudible) of this issue.

The United States looks forward to joining Mexico to spread the prosperity that we have enjoyed through our North Atlantic partnership...I'm sorry, our North American partnership to other parts of this hemisphere and of course we had full discussion of other issues in this hemisphere that we that we have together:  the importance of the democratic enterprise, the importance of free trade, the importance of making certain that economic growth does reach the population of these countries so that they can enjoy the benefits of liberty and democracy and prosperity all at once.

So, thank you very much for having me here.  It's been a great visit.  I look forward to seeing you in Texas.

QUESTION:  (In Spanish) (Inaudible) to ask Secretary Rice, the United States expressed in a recent report its concern and inconformity because Mexico seems to constantly have had authorized the extradition of drug dealers to the United States.  The recent information about extradition of Oziel Cardenas, is this a sign of commitment with the United States or is it a simple just sign of (inaudible) approach?  One question.

Second question.  What is the commitment of the United States before the actions that have been carrying out those that are working with migration?  From the 1st of April they will start activities in the borderline with Arizona.

And the third question.  For the United States, Mexico has become a passage, the way of terrorists.  In case it is, yes, if you can give concrete examples.  Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I'll try to assemble all three questions perhaps into one.

On the first point, we and the administration, the administration of President Bush, the administration of President Fox, has been absolutely committed to dealing with what is a very difficult and indeed a tragic situation for both our countries (inaudible) narcotics and the narcotics trade.  When you look at what the narcotics trade does to the young mind, what it does to our cities, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that we ought to have absolute cooperation, that those who carry out such activities ought to be prosecuted and punished and indeed we have had good cooperation on issues of extradition, as well.  I don't want to comment on any specific case but to say that we understand and appreciate that, within the context of Mexico's own laws, Mexico has been a very good partner on matters concerning the counternarcotics trade.

Similarly, we are all concerned about terrorists and how they might use our very long borders, borders that are difficult to police, borders where we want very much to have people who are trading and engaging in commerce to be able to go freely so that we don't have a disruption of commercial activity.  But we are quite aware that terrorists will try very hard to use both borders to enter our country for purposes to hurt us and it happened to us on September 11th, we've had terrorist attacks all over the world.  The one thing that I can report is that thanks to increasing and increased cooperation after September 11th between our Homeland Security Secretary, our efforts to have smart borders, to engage technology and better cooperation, I think we're making progress.  But the terrorists are going to keep trying.  They're going to keep trying in our southern border.  They're going to keep trying in our northern border.  And it's just the acknowledgement that we need to make certain that we keep working on this issue.

And then finally, I think it's well known that the United States has a federal system, but obviously the United States government would not condone any extralegal means to deal with immigration issues.  That should be dealt with by immigration officials and we work very closely with our Mexican counterparts.  We try and make sure that our borders are safe and secure as possible and that it is very important that the laws of the United States be respected.

QUESTION:  Secretary Rice, there are reports that a senior Pakistani government official has said that the A.Q. Khan network gave Iran centrifuges.  Do you know if those reports are correct?  Did Iran get centrifuge technology from A.Q. Khan?  And how close are you at all to making a decision on presenting incentives for Iran as a part of (inaudible) diplomacy?

SECRETARY RICE:  Thank you.  I haven't seen the exact report with which you're referring to, but I've heard that the Pakistani official is saying this.  A.Q. Khan was a very busy and nefarious figure who was transferring technologies in almost a turnkey way, the most dangerous technologies to countries that were prepared to engage in this trade in these very dangerous technologies.

I will say that we have been concerned about how the A.Q. Khan network related to such countries as Libya, North Korea, indeed Iran, and we have been, with the help of Pakistan and the IAEA and others, investigating exactly those kinds of allegations.  But that Iran has been a state that has been actively pursuing various technologies that are troubling, I mean, there's no secret about that.  It is why a number of countries, including the EU-3, the (inaudible) IAEA, the Board of Governors, even some of the nonproliferation safeguards that the Russians put into the agreement that they have been signing with the Iranians.  It's why people are doing that, because they are concerned about Iranian activities and concerned the Iranians might not live up to their international obligations, which is that they will not seek nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program.  And we are continuing to work with our European colleagues on how we might (inaudible) how we might gradually support their efforts.  And I think we are making a lot of progress (inaudible).

QUESTION:  (In Spanish) I have a question for Secretary Rice.  Recently your agency has given two reports in reference to the situation of Mexico -- security, drug trafficking and in that light in reference to the presidential elections in the year 2006.  These reports have brought about a certain disturbing situation claiming that Mexico wants a situation of equals, a commercial partner and neighbor and not a certifying state.  The decision of certifying Mexico in these situations, do you think that will continue or would you give an equal treatment to the Mexican government?

And from the international court there are 51 cases of Mexicans in the different courts, for example, the courts in Texas and California.  A couple of days ago the court said that they do not accept the recommendation of President Bush.  What will you do?

And for Dr. Derbez, yesterday you signed the extradition of Oziel Cardenas.  Is this a message for the capos of the drug trafficking groups that are in the Mexican jails and that a few weeks ago they established jail system, a message that if they're not right they will be sent, they will have extradition to the United States?

Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE:  Mexico is a democracy and it is not the position or the right of the United States to be involved in any way in Mexican presidential elections in 2006.  This is a democratic country.  We've been enormously impressed with how Mexico carries out its democratic enterprise, and how Mexican institutions function.  This is a country that is a country of laws, a country of democratic institutions and I'd (inaudible) great progress over the years.  And so, obviously, we will make our determination based on the facts at any given time.

I should say that on some the things that you mentioned -- human rights, the narcotics trade and so forth -- we have had very good relations with Mexico and see great progress in all of these areas.  And sometimes a report like the Human Rights Report, which we are by law required to file, is a very important to track these human rights issues when it gets reported because it also notes the trends which have been so very positive in terms of human rights and democracy and rule the law.

This is a remarkable story in this hemisphere, a remarkable story in the region, and I would hope that people would look at what Mexico has to say in its experiences for those countries that are still seeking to become countries that are based on the rule of law and democracy.

FOREIGN SECRETARY DERBEZ:  (In Spanish) I signed the request of extradition in the final decision.  The last thing that I had in my mind is that this would be something different to comply with the legal process that has taken several years.  And this should be the answer to your concern.  There are no messages, no definitions, last-minute definitions.  Extradition processes are taken into account in every single case, including Mr. Cardenas.  And this is done within a legal framework that enables (inaudible) to have access to the (inaudible) trial and have a legal institutional trial where it's at the end they draw up the conclusion that it is correct to carry out an extradition process, then the Minister of Foreign Affairs should sign.  This government has made it very clear that the government will comply with all that goes within institutional legal approaches and within a process such as this, the different matters, specific moments are not taken into consideration.

What we do take into consideration are the different process within the framework of law, specific designation of the crime, the request and the compliance of the different conditions of the international agreement of that given request.  And when we have this type of example when everything is brought about in a legal way to a final conclusion, then we sign extradition.  That should be executed, implemented in due time.  Mr. Cardenas has a crime, a trial here in Mexico and then he will have to comply with this extradition when he finishes complying with his trial here in Mexico.

SECRETARY RICE:  (Inaudible) and this is the question about (inaudible).  Let me just say that the President has directed the states to review the cases of the 51 people referenced in the Avena case in order to be in compliance with our International Court -- with the International Court of Justice ruling and we do not agree with the interpretation of that ruling, but nonetheless believe that we should live up to the obligation to comply.

The United States has belonged to the optional protocol, which is something that only 30 percent of the countries that are party to the Vienna Convention actually belong to, and while we are withdrawing from that protocol the United States remains fully and completely committed to the Vienna Convention, fully and completely committed to consular notification.  The ICJ's optional protocol is simply a jurisdictional issue and their interpretation there is a problem for our federal system.

MODERATOR:  One last question down here.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Madam Secretary, you made clear on the plane ride here that the American position, the American view toward Hezbollah has not changed, which presumably means that the United States still regards Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and one more with American blood on its hands, extending all the way to the 1983 incidents in Beirut.

Do you envision any circumstances under which the American position for Hezbollah could change? In other words, could Hezbollah meet certain conditions, do certain things, after which the U.S. would be prepared to recognize it and recognize the obviously broad support that it enjoys in Lebanon as we saw on Tuesday with that massive rally?

SECRETARY RICE:  Thank you, James.  The United States has not changed its view and it's extremely important to understand that.  It's also extremely important to understand that in a circumstance in which Syrian forces are operating in places they are in Lebanon, whether it is their security forces or their military forces, it is not possible for the Lebanese people to carry out a political process that is aimed at bringing together all the very different elements of Lebanese society and coming to a path for the Lebanese society that will create political institutions which ultimately would be recognized.

Now, what we are concentrating on is Resolution 1559, which has several elements.  What we are concentrating on is removing the artificial circumstances of Syrian forces there and then the Lebanese people can get on with free and fair elections.  The Lebanese people can determine their course based on those free and fair elections, and at this time that's what the United States is looking for.

QUESTION:  May I follow up?  My question, however, was whether or not there are certain things that Hezbollah can do to change the U.S. view of it.  Are there?

SECRETARY RICE:  I'm not going to get involved in hypotheticals.  You know that from asking these question many times.  (Laughter.)  One thing I will say is our view of Hezbollah has not changed.

QUESTION:  I didn't ask a hypothetical.

SECRETARY RICE:  That is a hypothetical. Our view of Hezbollah has not changed.  The Lebanese people deserve a chance now to have Syria out of their lives and then they can get on with their political processes, the Lebanese political processes.  It's not an issue of the United States; it's an issue of Lebanese hope.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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