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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Daily Press Briefings > 2003 > Press Briefing Transcripts > March
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 3, 2003

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT

1 Departure of Under Secretary Charlotte Beers
2 Contribution by Under Secretary Beers to Public Diplomacy Efforts

TURKEY

3,8-9 Turkish Parliaments Vote on Troop Deployment
3-4 US-Turkey Relations
4 Status of US Economic Package
4-5,9 Turkish Troops and Northern Iraq
5-6 UN Security Council Demands for Disarmament of Iraq
7-8 Secretary Powells Conversation with Prime Minister Gul

IRAQ

6,7,12 Discussion at UN Security Council on Resolution
6,7 Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei Scheduled to Report Back to Council 3/7
7 Department Officials Travel / Consultations
7 Secretary Powells Contacts / Phone Calls
10-11 Prospects for Iraqi Disarmament / Prospects for War
11-12,13 United Arab Emirates Initiative for Saddam to Leave Country

UNITED NATIONS

10,19-20 Allegations of Reported US Surveillance of UN Security Council Members

PAKISTAN

14 Capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed / Security at Overseas Posts
14 Secretary Powells Call to President Musharraf
14-15 Status of Reward for Capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

GREECE

15 Beginning of November 17 Terrorist Trial in Greece

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

15-16 Gaza Violence / Civilians Killed
16 Israeli Demolitions and Civilian Deaths

VENEZUELA

17 Situation Update / Upcoming Meeting of the Group of Friends

NORTH KOREA

18 Reports North Korea Reprocessing Spent Fuel

UZBEKISTAN

18-19 Harassment of Journalists

HOMELAND SECURITY

19 Immigration Issues


TRANSCRIPT:

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. If I can, I would like to read you one statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell on the departure of Charlotte Beers, our Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

The Secretary says: "Charlotte Beers, a key and vital member of my team, is leaving us shortly for health reasons. Since she arrived in October of 2001, she has brought new energy, new ideas and new enthusiasm to our interaction with the public in America and throughout the world.

"Charlotte brought incredible expertise from Madison Avenue to Foggy Bottom. At a critical and stressful time for our nation, she and her team sharpened our policy advocacy and took our values and our ideas to mass audiences in countries which hadn't heard from us in a concerted way for many years.

"She helped us find new ways of making our case to policymakers while expanding our outreach efforts to make connections with ordinary people, particularly in Moslem nations. Her goal of reaching younger, broader and deeper audiences will remain with us as she departs.

"I thank her for revitalizing our programs and wish her good health and success in her future endeavors."

So I'd be happy to take your questions about this or any other topics you want to.

QUESTION: Who will be the new acting --

MR. BOUCHER: Patricia Harrison, our Assistant Secretary for Education and Cultural Affairs, will take over as Acting Assistant Secretary -- Acting Under Secretary for the interim, and then I suppose the White House will make the appropriate announcement at the appropriate time of a successor.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay?

QUESTION: You don't have anything you want to say about this, do you, considering she was your boss?

MR. BOUCHER: She was my boss and I -- first of all, I fully agree with all the sentiments in the Secretary's statement, obviously. I think she really expanded our horizons. She brought us to a new level in terms of trying to address people, not only in terms of policy arguments but also in terms of creating a connection and establishing a basis for further discussion.

And so I hope we keep that as one of our goals after her -- after she's left, is not just to talk to people in terms of policy and the arguments that go back and forth, but to try to make the connections with people, to try to identify the United States with people, and in this country, try to convey a sense of what we're about on behalf of the people of America.

QUESTION: And on this day, how would you rate the success of the initiatives that she --

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I think many of them have already proven themselves to be successful and necessary and important, but we have to remember she's been with us for about a year and a half and obviously many of these things are just getting off the ground. We have a number of projects underway that we'll continue.

But I think we've shown, we've demonstrated so far, that we can make the connections with people around the world, that we can have an influence on a more fundamental level than just the policy argument with the elites, and that we're going to do that in more and different ways as we proceed into the future.

QUESTION: Can you outline some of the continuing projects?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I can. You're all familiar, I think, with the Shared Values campaign, and that we'll be continuing in slightly different forms as we go forward to try to build on that basis and move into the area of how the United States provides opportunity for people around the world. We're already doing that in some ways by supporting TV productions, trips by journalists, things like that. We have expanded a lot of our exchange programs, particularly focused on the Muslim world, and you'll see more of that along with some follow-ons and some additional projects in the future.

QUESTION: Richard, one on Turkey?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we had one in the back. Let's see.

QUESTION: Anything from the Turkish Foreign Minister after the vote in the Grand Turkish General Assembly?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let's let Mr. Gedda start out with Turkey, then.

QUESTION: Would you bring us up to date on Turkey and what you're hearing about the possibility of a second parliamentary vote, what the U.S. is doing with respect to that?

QUESTION: Well, they asked the same question.

MR. BOUCHER: We're keeping in close touch with the Turkish Government as they decide how they wish to proceed, how they will proceed.

In terms of the parliamentary vote over the weekend, obviously we're a bit disappointed that parliament didn't approve it over the weekend.

But we'll continue to discuss this with the Turkish Government in the spirit of strong friendship and the strategic partnership between our two countries. We appreciate the efforts that the Turkish Government has made in this regard. We appreciate the cooperation and always remember that Turkey remains a very important NATO ally and we have all kinds of cooperation with them in a variety of fields.

We also note in particular the statements that Prime Minister Gul made today about his government's intention to implement strong economic policies, and that's always been an important aspect of our relationship. We applaud him for that.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you don't have any assurance from the Turkish Government that they will put it to a second vote?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have always said in our work with the Turkish Government, in our work with the Turkish Prime Minister, for example, when the Secretary met him in Davos about a month ago, or when the Secretary talked with Prime Minister Gul on the phone over the weekend, we've always made clear that the parliamentary handling of this, the internal politics of Turkey, is a matter for the Turkish Government to decide, what they could do and how they would seek the appropriate approval in their system.

So we've stayed in touch with them. Obviously, we're interested in how they can proceed and intend to proceed. But at this point, we'll see what they decide.

QUESTION: And does this, assuming that there is no change in the position, does this have any long-term effect on relations between the United States and Turkey? Will you, for example, continue to press European countries to take Turkey into the European Union and so on?

MR. BOUCHER: Our fundamental view of Turkey as an ally, as an important nation, as an important part of Europe, is unchanged and we'll continue to work with Turkey in a variety of ways -- economic, military, political -- as befits our cooperation with an important ally.

QUESTION: On that point, so what is the status of the aid, the assistance program that you guys had been considering? Is that tied at all to their -- to a parliamentary vote the other way?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll continue to work with Turkey on economic matters, as we have in the past. We do have a strong interest in Turkey's economic stability. We'll continue to support the Turkish economic program and Turkey's cooperation with international financial institutions.

As far as this particular package, most of it was predicated on helping Turkey meet the costs of involvement, the direct costs or the consequences, and therefore I guess I'd have to say much of that would not occur if there's not direct involvement by Turkey.

QUESTION: You said earlier that time is of the essence with this situation. How -- can you comment on that with the latest development? How has it hurt the United States situation and what sort of time frame, will the aid package still be viable?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can give you a precise time frame. As I said, it's -- the aid package was predicated on the costs of involvement, the economic consequences, the direct costs of deployments and support. If that involvement, if that kind of effort, doesn't occur, then the costs don't -- won't be incurred.

I think as the Turks consider what their alternatives are in terms of the handling of the situation, the cooperation and the political situation, we, including our military, will have to consider our alternatives as well. And I'm sure people -- well, people are looking at those things now.

Whatever happens, I think we have full confidence in the American military's ability to prosecute a successful military operation if that's what the President decides needs to be done.

QUESTION: Are the negotiations over this particular package finished, done with, or is there a possibility that the pot could be further sweetened?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't speculate at this point. The negotiations over this package were concluded. As I said, they were predicated on a certain kind of involvement, certain costs that would be incurred for involvement, and the package was done.

Teri.

QUESTION: A follow-up, if I could. What is the American policy now in light of the Turkish parliament's vote on allowing Turkish troops into Northern Iraq in the event of a war?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that.

Teri.

QUESTION: Well, that's my question. I hope that's not my answer, though.

(Laughter.)

Prime Minister Gul of Turkey has said that it was important for the United States to tell the Iraqi opposition leaders that they -- that it would not be advisable to view incoming Turkish troops as enemies and that they were asking the U.S. to reinforce that with the Iraqi opposition.

Are there talks like that going on?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'd have to check and see.

QUESTION: But it's important -- that was part of the deal with Turkey was that Turkish troops would enter Northern Iraq and --

MR. BOUCHER: There was an economic portion of it; there was a political portion of it that talked about how our countries both wanted to see the situation in Iraq should it come to military conflict, and third, there was a military cooperation package. But as I said, as they consider their alternatives, we have to consider ours as well. How some of that stuff may end up in the end, I don't know.

Elise.

QUESTION: There was a report today out of Turkey that suggested that it wasn't necessarily that the Turks didn't want to support the U.S. request, that it was the style and manner and timing in which the administration went about asking Turkey for its request, that they felt that it was a little bit insensitive, the timing. And there have been similar reports about -- from other Security Council countries, out of their capitals, that suggest that they just don't want to be bullied by the U.S., that they don't like the style in which the United States has gone about asking for support.

Can you talk to that, and do you think that perhaps using a little bit more humility, as President Bush promised to in his campaign, might have worked a little bit better?

MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to say let's look at the facts, look at the facts of how long it's been since Iraq was first given a 45-day deadline to comply with the UN Security Council demands for disarmament. That was back in 1991, 4,200 days ago.

People thought somehow last summer that we were rushing off to war. Instead, the President laid it before the Security Council on September 12th.

People thought we were going to give up on the Security Council after a couple weeks of negotiation. Instead, we pursued seven and a half weeks of negotiation to arrive at a resolution that the Council could agree upon, as 15.

People thought we were going to rush off to war when the Iraqis presented a bad declaration, which everybody agreed and still agrees was an awful product and no attempt to clarify. But that didn't happen, either.

And then some networks were even running little things on the bottom of their screens in January as we approached January 27th, with "Countdown to War" and such things.

And yet, in the end, here we are, four to six weeks later, which is what many people were asking for at the time.

We have heard from the inspectors not once, not twice, but half a dozen times, including the latest report by Dr. Blix that came over the weekend. And he asked the question: Has Iraq made the fundamental choices of cooperation? And his answer was, cooperation has been very, very limited.

And so I think the United States has worked with other governments. We have worked this patiently. It's the facts of the matter. It's the facts that are becoming clearer and clearer every day, that Iraq's cooperation has been token at best, that when faced with the prospect of military conflict they dribble out small pieces of cooperation, but that there are thousands of munitions, thousands of liters of biological and chemical weapons, hundreds of munitions filled with biological and chemical weapons that remain in Iraq's arsenal that have never been properly accounted for. And that's a danger that we need to face up to.

So I think we've been led to where we are by the facts. We've been led to where we are by the repeated reports of the inspectors, by the repeated observations that we and others have made of Iraq's actual behavior, by the facts that the Secretary laid out February 5th, a month ago now, to the Security Council. And that's why we're here where we are today, and we've called on others, invited others and talked to others about facing those facts and being willing to make the tough decisions that ensue.

QUESTION: Richard, but it looks like the cynical dribs and drabs policy is working quite well, from Iraq's point of view. What is your strategy for winning over the people in the middle ground?

And what's your current feeling about the second resolution? I think it was meant to be, what, within a week or ten days or so that you originally scheduled this vote on this. Is that still your timetable for this?

MR. BOUCHER: It's still the basic framework that we're operating in. We look forward to hearing from Dr. Blix one more time on Friday about Iraq's cooperation or more likely lack thereof, given the facts as we know them. We'll be in touch with other members of the Council and we'll consider ourselves in the period after that how to proceed in the Council, whether to proceed with a vote at that point, but that's the moment at which I would expect us to decide.

The strategy as I said is for people to be engaged with countries around the world, particularly Security Council members. We've had travelers out last week, I think you know. Over the weekend or late last week, Assistant Secretary Rocco was in Pakistan as well as Bangladesh. Special Envoy Otto Reich was down in Chile. We've kept in touch with all the members of the Security Council. John Negroponte, our ambassador in New York, has been very active in consulting with other representatives up there. The Secretary's, at his level, been on the phone over the weekend. He's talked to Jack Straw, he's talked to President Musharraf, and when President Musharraf obviously, his main purpose was to congratulate President Musharraf on the tremendous success of getting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed into custody. The Secretary also talked to Foreign Minister Ivanov, Foreign Minister Palacio of Spain, Prime Minister Gul of Turkey, and Secretary General Kofi Annan.

So we continue at all these levels to work on the diplomacy, to work towards a second resolution. I mean, let's face it, the second resolution that we presented has one new sentence. And that new sentence is an obvious fact: that Iraq has failed to cooperate in the full, immediate, and active manner that was required. That's what we're focusing people's minds on, the facts of the matter and the need for a resolution that says so.

QUESTION: Richard, you said you look forward to hearing from Blix one more time. Do you mean again, or do you mean one more final time and this is the last time you expect the inspectors to give these kind of monthly reports? And have you decided that inspections should end?

MR. BOUCHER: The question of inspections will obviously be related to the question of what the Council decides to do and what Council members decide to do, and so until those decisions are made, I don't think I would say anything particular about inspections.

George.

QUESTION: Well, in that same connection, you said, I believe this is a quote, "that's the moment at which I expect we'll decide." Decide what?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll decide how we wish to proceed based on our consultations and our own considerations.

Teri.

QUESTION: On Turkey, I don't know if you were asked this completely directly. Since Secretary Powell spoke with Prime Minister Gul, was it his understanding after that phone call that there will certainly be a new resolution in Turkey, and whether that will be dependent on whether the UN passes one in the near future?

MR. BOUCHER: As -- the timing of this -- when the Secretary talked to Prime Minister Gul it was while the Turkish party, I think, was still meeting, and was still discussing.

QUESTION: It was not after the decision was announced and revoked?

MR. BOUCHER: It was after the parliament was announced and revoked --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BOUCHER: -- but then the party leaders themselves were meeting and having discussions, as I suppose they still are, in terms of how they want to proceed. So it wasn't a moment for any final news.

QUESTION: Was that the message he was giving then, by --

MR. BOUCHER: He was just comparing notes at that point.

QUESTION: He wasn't, was he pressing then that this --

MR. BOUCHER: No, as I said, we've always left the politics of this in the hands of the Turkish Government from the very -- from the moment the Secretary met with Prime Minister Gul and Party Leader Erdogan in Davos, a month or so ago, through our discussions and including the discussion yesterday, we've always said to the Turkish Government, you have to decide on the cooperation you can provide, and you have to decide on the politics of that.

QUESTION: Two things on that. One, did Prime Minister Gul give the Secretary any indication that there was some nervousness about the election this coming Sunday, (inaudible) election in which the party leader is running and may get into parliament, may become prime minister. Is that --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to put myself in the position of reporting on what a foreign leader said in a conversation about his own political attitudes, so --

QUESTION: Is that something that you guys would --

MR. BOUCHER: We're aware of that coming up, but I'm not going to offer any political commentary.

QUESTION: And the initial, I think the initial reaction from the embassy in Ankara to the rejection was that this is a democratic vote, we respect it. Does the United States consider closed parliamentary votes to be, you know, ones that are not taken in public, to be democratic, part of the democratic process?

MR. BOUCHER: Each country has a different sort of democratic process. I don't think we are in the position of quibbling with Turkish democracy at this point.

QUESTION: Let me go back to that (inaudible). You said it was widely known that there was a plan for Turkish troops to enter northern Iraq. You said nothing has -- we have nothing new on that. Does that mean that such a plan still exists and could go ahead?

MR. BOUCHER: Are you asking about Turkish military matters? One, I don't talk about military matters, and two, I don't talk about foreign governments' military matters.

QUESTION: No, you said that your understanding was the Turkish Government on --

MR. BOUCHER: It amounts to the same thing.

QUESTION: Well, no.

MR. BOUCHER: Elise.

QUESTION: There was, or do you want to finish Jonathan?

QUESTION: Well, yeah, you know --

MR. BOUCHER: This is another one of what-have-they-told-you questions, isn't it?

QUESTION: No, because you'll be running Iraq as far as we understand it, so it's up to you to decide whether Turkish troops go into northern Iraq. Are you now in favor of Turkish troops, are you still in favor of Turkish troops going into northern Iraq or not?

MR. BOUCHER: I will check and see if we have any views on the prospects.

QUESTION: Zalmay Khalilzad said today, he was quoted saying, that if any troops, any Turkish troops will enter northern Iraq, it will be part of the American forces. That's, can you confirm that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, who said that?

QUESTION: Zalmay Khalilzad.

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, Zal. I'll check and see.

Elise.

QUESTION: Back to the Security Council, there's a report from the New York Observer that the United States is in the process of an aggressive surveillance operation of Security Council member countries involving the interception of home and office telephones and emails of the UN by the National Security Agency.

MR. BOUCHER: I think it was the London Observer, but --

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't matter what the paper is or whether it's true or not. I wouldn't have any sort of comment on that kind of allegation.

QUESTION: Can you say whether or not you've had complaints from foreign governments?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't have any comment whatsoever on that kind of allegation.

QUESTION: So you can't deny that you're spying on Security Council member countries?

MR. BOUCHER: I would not have any comment whatsoever on that kind of question or allegation.

QUESTION: Why not?

MR. BOUCHER: Because we never comment on intelligence matters and I'm not going to do it now.

QUESTION: You don't want to say never, do you?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't comment on sources and methods.

Mark.

QUESTION: Richard, setting aside the chances that this might happen, if Iraq were to disarm, would the United States not launch military action?

MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear all along that the goal was disarmament. The goal of the United States, the goal of United States forces, if necessary, and the goal of the UN Security Council resolution is to achieve disarmament by Iraq. That's been what we've been pushing for.

We all recognize that the only reason there has been any modicum of cooperation by Iraq in the last six months is because the United States and others have been willing to mobilize a credible threat of force. That remains the case today, until the President should decide otherwise.

But the goal is to get Iraq to disarm so that Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction that it can use again against its people, that it can use again against its neighbors, and that it might eventually fall into the hands of terrorists or others who would use them against any and all of us. That remains the goal. That has been the goal.

QUESTION: Excuse me, Richard. You came close, but not quite there. If Iraq were to disarm --

MR. BOUCHER: I thought I answered it fully and completely -- and accurately.

QUESTION: If Iraq were to disarm, would there be no U.S. military action?

MR. BOUCHER: We have said before, the goal is disarmament by whatever means it needs to be achieved. If it's achieved peacefully, then that would be that.

Elise.

QUESTION: Can you speak to this UAE initiative that Saddam Hussein and his top leaders should leave within the next two weeks, leaving the country over to the United Nations and Arab League and be afforded amnesty?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what more I can say about it than we've already said before. I think I've seen a couple others -- Kuwait and Bahrain -- speak out in support of the idea. Certainly, we've always made clear that we felt that it was an option that Saddam Hussein would be wise to take and it certainly would be a peaceful solution to the problem.

QUESTION: Would you afford him and his top lieutenants amnesty? And also, did the UAE talk to you about this proposal before floating it to some of these other countries?

MR. BOUCHER: These ideas have been floating around that part of the world for a number of months now. I don't know if they -- if we, during the course of those months, had some conversation with the UAE or not. But they, as you note, were the ones who decided to put forth such a proposal to the others in the Arab League, and I note that a few others did speak out in support of it.

As I said before, it's something that we would have to -- the basic idea is one we would support. The issue of, you know, war crimes or other things for Saddam Hussein and his top leadership is a pretty complicated one that involves not only us but international law and Iraqis themselves, and so that is something that would have to be sorted out.

QUESTION: One of the hopes is that by a leader of an Arab state making this proposal formally, it will encourage other Arab and Muslim states to kind of -- you know, this bandwagon effect and, in effect, really bully Saddam Hussein to step down.

Are you encouraging other Arab states to endorse the proposal?

MR. BOUCHER: They decide themselves what they want to do. I think we've made clear all along this is something that was a good idea. The Secretary, on his recent trip at one point, said it's time for Saddam Hussein to disarm or depart. Those are, I think, the two basic scenarios for how this can be resolved without military conflict.

Since he does not appear to do the first in any sincere and complete manner, then the second has to be an option as well, and we support any solution that produced that, that would produce an Iraq where the Iraqi Government was one that wanted to live in peace with its neighbors, wanted to destroy its chemical weapons, would live in peace with its people as well.

Jonathan.

QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary and the President have both said that the UN Security Council runs the risk of being irrelevant if it doesn't enforce resolutions against Iraq. I just wondered what exactly you're thinking of if it does, in fact, prove itself irrelevant. How would the United States treat the United Nations if this came about? Would you withdraw? Would you ignore it? Would you pay your dues? What would happen?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you're speculating about 20 miles down the road. Let's get through the upcoming period and see what the United Nations does, what United Nations members do, and what relevancy the United Nations can show in the upcoming period.

QUESTION: Back on the UAE exile plan, you said the basic idea is one we would support. Does that support extend to the second part of the proposal, which is the UN and Arab League administration of Iraq in a post -- you know, like temporarily after Saddam goes?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's their proposal. I'm not endorsing particular aspects of it, but the basic approach is one that we've always said we would welcome and we'd consider any particular aspects if it was a serious effort in that direction.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but, I mean, this is -- this goes a bit -- their proposal, you know, takes it down the line one step after Saddam leaves, if he does leave, to that. Do you have any ideas for a non-conflict scenario that would -- for ruling, for how Iraq should be run if Saddam were to leave?

MR. BOUCHER: I am sure there are a variety of ways of handling that situation, but this is one of -- excuse me. I mean, this is one of a number of ideas that are out there, and if there were active efforts underway in one direction or the other, I think we'd be happy to discuss those things with people.

QUESTION: Well, there are active efforts underway, apparently. You know, you just talked about three countries coming out publicly and saying this.

So as you guys go ahead with your planning --

MR. BOUCHER: As you so often point out to me when I'm up here saying things, that saying things and actually making them happen is -- becomes different things.

QUESTION: Oh, right, I understand. But are you --

MR. BOUCHER: So we're at the stage of saying things now, and that's about all we have to say.

QUESTION: But you're not aware, then, of any planning that might be going on in this government for such a scenario with a non-war?

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I don't know that I could rule it out. I'm sure these possibilities have been considered, but which might be the most likely or how it might be organized and administered is really very hypothetical at this point since we're still dealing, let's face it, we're still dealing with a dictator in Iraq who has shown no inclination to do what's good for the people of Iraq or the people of the region.

QUESTION: Richard, you said the goal is disarmament. So if getting Saddam Hussein to step away and being able to disarm the country, even if it meant giving him a pass on war crimes, if your goal is disarmament, why isn't it a no-brainer?

MR. BOUCHER: Didn't I just say ten minutes ago that the Secretary himself had said it's time for Saddam Hussein to disarm or depart? How exactly that might be organized is something one would consider as one saw what might happen. But the basic premise, as I've said for now the last ten minutes, is one that we would support.

Okay, Joel.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, the Arab League met in Sharm-el-Sheikh and the one-man rule, I guess, of Muammar Qadhafi basically cut ties and in a blowup with Saudi Arabia. How do you view all that?

MR. BOUCHER: We, obviously, followed the situation over the weekend. I don't think I have too much more to say. I think I've seen some commentary out there which seems to be, more or less, right on.

Charlie.

QUESTION: What commentary was that?

MR. BOUCHER: Nothing in particular.

QUESTION: Richard, on a different subject, do you have anything on the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? And insofar as it might have impacted embassies abroad, any cables go out from Washington, any Warden messages that you can relate to that?

MR. BOUCHER: There were -- there is no new travel warning or caution out of Washington at this point. Embassies may have put the news out to their local communities. We usually let embassies do that at their discretion if they think it's appropriate, but the same advice is offered around the world for people to take appropriate precautions and be careful at this time.

As far as the arrest itself, as I mentioned before, the Secretary called President Musharraf yesterday to congratulate him and his team on the arrest Saturday of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. This is the most significant arrest yet of an al-Qaida leader and a very important victory against terrorism.

Since the fall of 2001, Pakistan has apprehended nearly 500 suspected al-Qaida operatives and affiliates. It's moved against terrorists and extremists through its own legal system, and has committed its own security forces, including some who took -- who were wounded and harmed in this process, committed its own security forces to pursue al-Qaida in the border regions.

Pakistan is a key ally in the war against terrorism, continues its active measures against extremists and terrorists, and we appreciate all the efforts by the Government of Pakistan.

QUESTION: Well, are you giving the $25 million to Mr. Musharraf, or to who?

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: The possible rewards for information leading to the arrest and capture are not to -- are not for government officials who are doing this as a matter of national policy in performance of their duties and national interests, but I don't know. It would be -- whether there was some private individual who might qualify or not, I don't know.

QUESTION: You don't know if anyone has applied for the --

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be able to talk about it at this stage anyway, unless we actually entertained an application and decided on it.

QUESTION: Oh, really? You can't say that -- it has to be decided --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. That's normally been what it is, yeah.

QUESTION: How much -- you know, but a case -- a big fish like this, how much is he worth, if someone were to apply?

MR. BOUCHER: It's not a bounty for an individual. It's a --

QUESTION: Well --

MR. BOUCHER: Can I finish?

QUESTION: Sorry.

MR. BOUCHER: It's not a bounty for an individual. It's an appreciation for the quality of evidence and information that's provided so --

QUESTION: Pretty good, wasn't it?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that any individual provided this information. Perhaps it was just diligent work by law enforcement authorities and a good result produced by conscientious government officials, which does happen from time to time, I have to point out.

Sir.

QUESTION: Greetings, Mr. Boucher. Today, in Athens, a criminal trial started against arrested members of November 17 terrorist organization. Any comments? The U.S. Government is very concerned, too, on this issue.

MR. BOUCHER: This is an issue that we've been concerned about, an issue we've followed closely. We believe that terrorists should be brought to justice for their crimes. The United States fully supports the Government of Greece in bringing those charged with multiple crimes to trial.

The Government of Greece deserves credit for its successes against this notorious terrorist group and for bringing the rule of law to bear in this case.

As four victims of the November 17 terrorist group who are American citizens and a fifth was a Greek employee of the U.S. Embassy, we'll be following the trial very closely.

QUESTION: Richard, do you have any comment on the Israeli incursion into Gaza in which quite a large number of civilians seem to have been killed?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me make clear once again that we do understand the need for Israel to defend itself against ongoing violence and terror. We continue to press the Palestinians to do all they can to end immediately all such targeting of Israelis.

As the President said in his speech last week at the American Enterprise Institute, terror and violence have gravely undermined the hopes of the Palestinian people for a better future.

We've seen reports of Palestinian civilian deaths from Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza this week, including the death of a 14-year-old boy and of a pregnant woman.

We continue to be seriously concerned about civilian casualties and we have urged the Israeli Government to take all appropriate precautions to prevent the death or injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure. We remain in close communication with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to calm the situation and to prevent further bloodshed.

We are also deeply concerned about the increasing Israeli use over the past few months of demolitions and the civilian deaths that have resulted from this practice, including the pregnant woman that I referred to earlier. We have been very clear about our policy regarding the practice of demolitions. Demolition of civilian structures deprives Palestinians of shelter and the ability to peacefully earn a livelihood. It exacerbates the humanitarian situation inside the Palestinian areas and makes more difficult the critical challenge of bringing about an end to violence and the restoration of calm.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up? But, okay, apart from the question of civilian casualties and the demolitions, do you think that this incursion -- do you accept that this incursion was necessary for self-defense, as you put it?

MR. BOUCHER: We do believe that Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorism, that the Palestinians have a responsibility to end the violence. We do not try to comment on each particular operation the Israelis have carried out, except for the particulars of those operations that might result in civilian casualties.

There is a better solution for all this than the military one, and that is for the Palestinians to be able to end the violence and for all of the parties to be able to cooperate in establishing security for the people of the area. And that is something we continue to work towards.

QUESTION: A policy to stop the -- are you asking the Israelis to stop demolition of houses?

MR. BOUCHER: We're against demolition of houses. We think it's a wrong thing to do.

QUESTION: But did you put a motion to the Israelis to stop doing that?

MR. BOUCHER: We've talked to the Israelis about this. They're quite clear on our views.

QUESTION: What's their reaction? Apparently, they didn't care about --

MR. BOUCHER: I'll let them speak for themselves.

Ma'am.

QUESTION: On Venezuela.

MR. BOUCHER: We'll come back to you, Joel.

QUESTION: Last Wednesday, after the Venezuelan Ambassador was coming from the oil industry, presented his credential, it was a meeting between higher official of the State Department and the Venezuelan Energy Minister and the president of the oil company of Venezuela. And in this meeting, the U.S. Government made clear that Venezuela cannot be considered as a reliable partner, oil supplier to the United States.

Mr. Curt Struble, the Acting Assistant Secretary, the day after, goes more forward and he said at the hearing at the Congress that Venezuela, considering the political crisis, can be considered as a threat to the region, political and economical threat to the region.

I just want to know, there is a meeting on -- of the Group of Friends of Gaviria in Brazil. There will be any change in the strategy?

And the second question is, did President Chavez' inflammatory rhetoric cause some damage to the relationship between the United States and Venezuela?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, you are better informed than I am on current events. I believe there was a statement by the Group of Friends late last week or over the weekend. There is an upcoming meeting of the Group of Friends, I think next Monday. Acting Assistant Secretary Struble will go down to that, confer with other people in the hemisphere.

We do follow the situation in Venezuela very closely and we have been concerned about the situation down there, but I don't think I have any further update for you at this moment.

QUESTION: Well, could you check to see whether that's an accurate description of what he said -- political and economic threat to the region?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. I assume that's somewhere in the public record if it was at a Congressional hearing.

Sir.

QUESTION: Richard, returning to the earlier question, Israeli troops evidently going into Gaza, nabbed the co-founder of Hamas, obviously blowing up buildings and such, and nabbed all the leaders that were working with that co-founder. Do you think, under the circumstances, it's warranted, seeing that Hamas is now on an FTO?

MR. BOUCHER: We consider Hamas to be a terrorist group and they, like all others, should stop the violence.

Sir.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary share the view with the experts that North Korea may begin the reprocessing of spent fuel in a few weeks? And anything new on this? How do you characterize that potential action by them?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position, really, to characterize what we know of the situation. I would say, as we have before, that we are looking for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the international community's concerns about North Korea's steps. Any moves by North Korea to either reprocess spent fuel or conduct a nuclear test would be a matter of serious concern to the entire international community.

We are continuing to work very closely with South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, the European Union, Australia, and other friends and allies, as well as with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

All of North Korea's neighbors have made clear that this kind of development would be unwelcome and have serious consequences for them. So at this point we're following the situation, but I'm not in a position to share any information with you. I'm sorry.

Jonathan.

QUESTION: There have been some repressive measures by the Uzbek Government, I believe -- do you have any comment on that -- against journalists?

MR. BOUCHER: Uzbekistan --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, there have been reports that Uzbek authorities have arrested and detained several local journalists on various charges over the past few weeks. We have reminded the Government of Uzbekistan that harassment of journalists is a serious violation of basic democratic principles. In particular, we have expressed our concern about the detention of Ergash Babajanov, a journalist and a member of the Birlik pro-democracy movement, arrested on charges stemming from articles he published in the press.

Babajanov has been released from detention, although the charges against him have not been dropped.

We continue to press the Government of Uzbekistan on freedom of the press issues, including this particular case. The Government of Uzbekistan has made a commitment in the U.S.-Uzbekistan Declaration on the Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Framework to intensify the democratic transformation of Uzbekistan, including independence of the media, and we expect to hold them to this commitment.

Elise.

QUESTION: Have there been any more letters of protest or resignation from the diplomatic Foreign Service officers in the wake of Mr. Kiesling's resignation?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any.

QUESTION: As of Saturday, the INS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, goes into a group, you know, headed by Secretary Tom Ridge, Homeland Defense, and over the weekend, BBC reported on immigrants that -- from some countries, notably Pakistan,
have been trying to flee up toward New York state, New Hampshire and Vermont, attempting to go to Canada and are being at least sheltered by the Salvation Army. Do you have any comment? And how will you be -- any differences in working with Homeland Security as opposed to the INS?

MR. BOUCHER: The law that created Homeland Security changes a little bit, clarifies a bit, the legal responsibilities with regard to admission of aliens, issuance of visas and things like that. It gives us a common set of rules that we can all work under. So that's something that we've talked about before and look forward to. Gives us a centralized point also, for sharing information on visas and aliens and people who come to the United States. As far as the situation of people in the United States, Pakistanis and others, I think you've seen from the immigration service some flexibility in the way they apply their rules, and some clarification on how those rules would be applied. This has been a matter of discussion with a number of foreign governments, including with the Pakistani foreign minister when he came a few weeks ago. And so we've relayed those concerns and been in touch with the immigration service, but in the end, it's they that will describe the rules and the application of those rules to you.

QUESTION: On that, immigration, and this may be an INS question. Do you know anything about Stalin's great-grandson applying for political asylum here?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know anything, and since we don't comment on individual asylum cases, I wouldn't be able to say if I did.

QUESTION: I'm aware of that, I just had to ask the question. Also, back to the UN Security Council. Are you in a position to say that the State Department in its diplomatic efforts would reject any kind of information coming from national technical means, sources, in its efforts to win votes on the Security Council for a second resolution on Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure what you think you're talking about, but the answer is, I probably can't talk about it anyway. I mean, we have made clear --

QUESTION: The question is this. The State Department --

MR. BOUCHER: -- national technical means in U.S.-Soviet arms control agreements referred to overhead observations. And the Secretary of State himself put out a lot of that information, gave it to the Security Council, in, I should say, a fairly straightforward and detailed manner.

QUESTION: I was just trying to give you a way to deny the Observer report, but if you don't want to take --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not interested in commenting one way or the other on the Observer's report.

QUESTION: Do you have anything -- has the State Department yet gotten involved in what appears to be under discussion at the Pentagon about the redeployment of troops in Europe? Have you -- has this department gotten into that yet on the diplomatic level with the Germans, or the Poles, or -- ?

MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check.

###



Released on March 3, 2003

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