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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 > June
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 27, 2003

INDEX:

UN

1-2 Findings of UN Terrorism Committee

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

2-6 Reports of a Possible Ceasefire
5-6 Dismantlement of Terrorist Groups/Progress of Roadmap

LIBERIA

7-8 Status of U.S. Embassy Personnel

SOUTH KOREA

8-9 Secretary Powells Meeting with Defense Minister Cho

EUROPE

9 U.S.  European Union Summit

AFRICA

10 Counterterrorism Initiative

NORTH KOREA

10 Consultations with Japanese and South Korean Officials
10-11 Light Water Reactor Construction

DEPARTMENT

11-12 Analysis of Authentic Evidence by Intelligence Agencies

TURKEY

12 US-Turkish Relations

MALAWI

13 Status of Arrested Individuals


TRANSCRIPT:

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.

Sir.

QUESTION: I'm wondering if there's any reaction here to the finding by the UN Terrorism Commission of no links between Iraq and al-Qaida?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that you got the story all wrong.

QUESTION: Well, I didn't write it.

MR. BOUCHER: I know. But, the description of the story is all wrong because -- let me get out the details for you and I will explain it. It's not a finding. They didn't say anything about it in their report.

QUESTION: That sort of mentions --

MR. BOUCHER: Why didn't they say anything about it? Because that's not their job. Their job is to monitor the implementation of sanctions under Resolution 1267. There are other committees that investigate terrorism. Member states investigate and determine who belongs on that list, put people on that list, and then this committee makes sure the sanctions on those entities are being carried out. So it's not the function of this committee to investigate who is involved in terrorism where. It's the function of this committee to make sure that people who get listed have sanctions imposed on them. And I can now give you the formal version of that, just to make sure we understand.

The Chandler Report was written by a team of experts chaired by Michael Chandler and appointed by the Secretary General which comprised a monitoring group established and tasked by UN Security Council resolutions. An examination of link between al-Qaida and Iraq is not part of the monitoring group's mandate. The monitoring group's limited mandate is to monitor implementation of UN sanctions imposed on al-Qaida, the Taliban and Usama bin Laden and their associates named on the list maintained by the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee, comprised of all UN Security Council members.

The monitoring group is mandated by Resolution 1455 to prepare reports on its work, and the group's first report is still circulating among the sanctions committee members. Links between Iraq and al-Qaida are not discussed in the committee's report because they are not part of them mandate of the committee's work. In fact, neither the monitoring group, nor the 1267 Sanctions Committee has the expertise or background to assess whether Iraq has links to al-Qaida.

We firmly stand by the Secretary's February 5th presentation to the UN Security Council. Secretary Powell provided clear and convincing evidence of the links between Iraq and al-Qaida in the statement.

QUESTION: When someone asked you about this yesterday, you said, "We don't care until the report comes out." But today you care.

QUESTION: The report's not out, is it?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, the draft is still circulating. I'm not really commenting on what's in the draft. I'm commenting on what's not in the draft. But I think this brings a little more clarity to the sit -- it just puts a little more clarity to the context of how we will look at the report when it comes out.

It's not supposed to have anything about Iraq and al-Qaida, because that's not the job of the report or the committee, so we wouldn't expect to see it there. And it's not in the draft.

Jonathan.

QUESTION: The -- there are reports that Hamas has agreed to a truce. Do you -- have your people in the Middle East heard that? Can you confirm it? What you make of it? What's going on?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we are following developments. I saw wire service reports this morning, I think, a particular wire service report that quoted Sheikh Yassin as saying that they'd decided to implement a ceasefire, but that it would be formally done in several days, or something of that sort.

We certainly would welcome that as a first step towards the end to violence and terror. It needs to be followed by other steps to dismantle the capabilities, but we certainly believe that that could be a useful step to see in the coming days.

I would point out that we are also working very actively to secure the transfer of security responsibilities in Gaza and Bethlehem. Ambassador Wolf has been meeting with the parties. The parties have been meeting with each other. And so I think we are trying to move forward with that kind of transfer, as well, which would mark a major improvement in the lives of Palestinians who live there, as well as a major assumption of responsibility by the Palestinian Authority.

QUESTION: Well, how are you doing on that? Because --

MR. BOUCHER: We're doing well.

QUESTION: Well, the Israelis seem to say that -- the Israelis don't seem to -- the Israelis say that until Abbas starts on the job of dismantling terror groups, that Israel will not withdraw from population centers in Gaza.

MR. BOUCHER: I think you have to wait for the parties to announce what they might agree to, but we have been working with the parties. Both have been serious in these discussions. They have been detailed discussions. As you know, the Secretary got into some detail in working with the parties when he was out there. Ambassador Wolf has been meeting with the parties every day. They, themselves, have had meetings. There have been trilateral meetings, as well. So these discussions are progressing. But leave it to parties to announce when they have concluded their arrangements.

QUESTION: How do you square your support for a truce with your stated commitment to the long-term objective of dismantling Hamas, and so on? Because, in practice if not in theory, the two are almost contradictory. Once a truce is in place, then Hamas would, in fact, be practically inviolate, and could lie low indefinitely. How do you see that working?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: No, what?

MR. BOUCHER: There is no contradiction. The assumption that once a truce is announced, Hamas can lie low and be inviolate is just wrong. The Palestinian Authority, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Abbas, Security Chief Dahlan, others, have made clear that their goal is to establish a Palestinian state.

That's the goal of this entire process. A state can have only a single armed authority and cannot have to compete with armed authority from other groups. And then, therefore, this process has to lead -- for them and for us -- down the road to the dismantling.

So we see a comprehensive cessation of violence and terror as a welcome development, but it's not an end in itself. It needs to be the first step towards fulfillment of that larger goal: a complete end to violence and terror, achieving rule of law over all Palestinian areas; and the dismantling of terrorist capacities of all groups engaged in violence, as Prime Minister Abbas has called for.

We have the commitment of the Arab States. You know from the statement at Sharm el-Sheikh that they intend and are taking practical steps to support that effort. We have made very clear in our discussions with the Europeans -- and you have seen some, I think, more forward-leaning statements from the European Union -- to make clear that they support that goal, as well.

And, certainly, the United States is actively working to make sure that any cessation of violence is merely a step that leads towards a dismantling of the ability of these groups that carry out terrorism.

QUESTION: Now, my understanding is that any truce by Hamas would be conditional on a cessation of Israeli assassination attempts against their people. Is that something that the United States would endorse?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have anything on that at this point. It will, obviously, be up to the parties how they want to act in the circumstances of the cessation to violence. But, at this point, I can't make any promises.

QUESTION: Is it beyond your -- try one quickie?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure.

QUESTION: Does it go beyond, frankly, your brief to ask you if the U.S. is concerned that -- and first of all, the reports of a truce that we're getting is that it isn't a done deal. Yasser said it's --

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, and then we've had these reports now for a couple of days, and people have to talk to people.

QUESTION: But it only speaks of two groups, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, in our account. And that leaves out the terror group that's directly under Yasser Arafat. So does the U.S. feel -- however you feel about a truce being a welcome step, but not the whole thing -- would you like it to be a little broader than it seems to be taking shape?

MR. BOUCHER: We would like every group to stop violence and to abandon violence. That's what the Palestinian leaders have called for, an end to the armed Intifadah. That's what the Arab leaders have called for. That is what is required to make any serious progress on peace. And groups that carry out violence and continue to try to maintain the ability to carry out violence are actually undercutting the Palestinian cause and making it more difficult for Palestinians to achieve the state that they desire. So we've called on all groups to stop the violence and to abandon violence as a means of achieving whatever goals they think they have.

Okay, can we, maybe ask somebody else?

QUESTION: Do you have anything else on the number 2 man to Bin Laden being captured in Iran?

QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. We haven't finished up Hamas and the (inaudible) explaining.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm sorry. I don't. I don't have any reports on that.

Jonathan, you have a question?

QUESTION: You talk about the dismantlement as being a more long-term process after the cessation of violence. How far can you go on the other aspects of the roadmap before the dismantlement again becomes an issue?

MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't stop being an issue. It's not like, "Oh, we have got a cessation of violence. We can forget about dismantling for one month, two month, three months, six months, a year." It's a continuing issue. The goal is a continuing goal. The need is a continuing need. And the process has to be a continuing process that once you get a cessation of violence and terror, there needs to be a -- that's a first step, but you don't pause for some definite or indefinite period of time.

QUESTION: Let me rephrase it. How far down the roadmap can you go without the Palestinian Authority actually physically carrying out this dismantlement which you want?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, you're prejudging how this has to happen. I have to say that the point of the roadmap is that the Palestinian Authority exercises more and more responsibility for security as time goes on. We and others will help build up their security capabilities through security cooperation with the Israelis in the area and through the support that we can provide, the Palestinian Authority will be able to take more and more responsibility. Part of that responsibility is ensuring an end to violence, ensuring that it doesn't -- an end to the capabilities of the armed groups. So it's an ongoing effort that we'll all be engaged in.

QUESTION: Okay, just one more. Assuming that the cessation of hostilities is in place and the roadmap is moving ahead, what incentive do you see the Palestinian Authority having to confront Hamas, and possibly at the cost of violence, just in order to carry out this dismantlement, even when other things seem to be peaceful?

MR. BOUCHER: Don't lose the forest from the trees here, that the fundamental goal of creating a Palestinian state, which is what the roadmap is about, which is what the Palestinian Authority is about, requires the Palestinian Authority, as a matter of logic, not just to roadmaps and law and whatever else, requires the Palestinian Authority to establish its authority, to create the institutions of a state. And the Palestinian leadership has made very clear that that is their goal, to create a Palestinian state, to create the institutions that can support a Palestinian state. And that means getting single authority and not having to compete in authority with other armed factions or groups.

So it's not -- I mean, they say, you know, yes, this is part of the roadmap, but we're not doing it for the roadmap. We're doing it in order to create a Palestinian state.

QUESTION: But Hamas has not moved to dismantle the terror groups, and it's written in one of our stories, as if it's a fact, that he won't do it because he knows there will be a civil war. Now, you know, the administration and previous ones have been generously telling Israel about risks it ought to take. Is that a risk that you think the Palestinian leadership ought to take?

MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I don't --

QUESTION: Is it risky to move against Hamas? Is that a risk, and it is a risk worth taking for the larger goal of a Palestinian state?

MR. BOUCHER: All I can tell you, Barry, is that they, in their own statements, say they are committed to taking this risk, they are committed to taking these actions, they are committed to creating a single authority in the Palestinian areas. That is something that we see as a necessary part of creating a Palestinian state and it's something they say they are going to do -- not necessarily civil war, but establishing a Palestinian state. We'll see.

Vicky.

QUESTION: Richard, has Abu Mazen given you any idea what conditions would have to exist before his security service apparatus would be strong enough to use force against Hamas and the other groups?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, whether that -- you're -- I don't know. I guess you're leaping somewhere down the road. I can't promise, I can't tell you what the situation may obtain. If there is a cessation of violence, the situation changed, if the Palestinian Authority takes over security in Gaza, the situation may change. So predicting, you know, at some point they have to declare war on Hamas may be true, may be not, but we'll just have to see how events evolve. I can't predict at this point how they will.

What I do know is the first steps are the ones we're trying to undertake now. Get a cessation of violence, keep moving on cessation of violence as a step towards dismantling their capabilities, and get the Palestinians to take security responsibility for Gaza. That creates a dynamic of more and more responsibility, authority and capability among the Palestinian security forces. And that's an important thing.

Adi.

QUESTION: The situation in Liberia.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up.

MR. BOUCHER: A follow-up over here.

QUESTION: Just that Abbas suggested that these groups, Hamas and other, will be -- would get involved politically in an election and so on, but apparently State Department against that.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, let's be clear about what Hamas is. And the Secretary was very clear. Hamas is an enemy of peace. We expect that any individual or organization that would participate in public life in the Palestinian leadership would be firmly committed to democracy, to the rule of law, and to eradicating terrorism. The organization of Hamas that we're dealing with does not demonstrate that it can be a partner for peace. So I don't think it's widely speculative to talk about anything else. This organization, as it exists, as we see it, is dedicated to the cause of disruption and violence.

QUESTION: So the Palestinian sees that there is no incentive for them to go along the political solution?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's certainly a lot of incentive for the Palestinians to go along with a political solution. Whether somebody who is only interested in bombing and blowing things up has got any incentive or not is, frankly, not our major concern. But for Palestinians as a whole, for ordinary Palestinians who want normal lives, who want jobs, who want a future for their children, then there is a lot of incentive because political track is the only way for them to achieve the Palestinian state that ultimately will deliver and guarantee those things.

Yeah. Adi.

QUESTION: The situation in Liberia. We know that there was an Ordered Departure, weeks ago now, for the embassy. Can you tell us, since the attack in the embassy diplomatic residence compound, how many more embassy personnel have left? Is that -- have any left? And also --

MR. BOUCHER: Some have left. We have not -- we don't get into specific numbers of people left in our embassies because, frankly, we don't want other people counting them and figuring out how to get them and how many more there are to get, and things like that. So I won't go -- there's a small number of people who remain at the U.S. Embassy.

The compound, the so-called "Greystone Compound," that was attacked with RPGs or mortars is not something that we have been actively using, actually. We do have a guard and a gardener, people who were there who were killed in this incident, but largely the compound was given over to the displaced persons who have been flocking to the city and went in for a place, you know, there's about a thousand people, we're told, in the compound. We don't have any residences, any people living there or operations there, and haven't for some time.

So, unfortunately, these people have been either rocketed or mortared, and it caused some deaths among the displaced people, and that's very sad. And I think there have been other such incidents subsequently.

As far as the U.S. presence there, we are obviously looking very carefully at our security posture. We have been looking at possibly beefing up our security posture there in various ways. We have a small number of people. They are very active diplomatically trying to work with the government and with the rebel groups, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy.

Press reports indicate that the rebels have declared a truce and the government has said it would hold its fire. At this point, the city is quiet but there was intense small arms fighting on Bushrod Island near the port area last night that appears now to have subsided. So we have been very active, as we can, given our small number of people and the difficulties of the situation, trying to get people to abide by their declarations, to abide by the ceasefire that they agreed to in Ghana on June 17th; and to try to move forward along the track that was agreed to there. That is, by creating the joint verification teams and the monitoring groups.

QUESTION: We talked about security presence; do you know what it's like now? Is it just a couple of Marine guards or is it something more substantial than that?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not in a position to describe the security provisions at various embassies. I couldn't do that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Again on --

QUESTION: Security? Is it Liberia?

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: Oh. Liberia. Yesterday, you said that all options were under consideration as far as when you asked about possible intervention. These intervention rumors continue to circulate. Is there anything more you can say about that?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Is there any -- has anybody proposed to you that there should be a more substantial intervention?

MR. BOUCHER: There are a number of things around. There's, first, the question of our own security posture. Second of all, there's the question of getting the joint monitoring committee or the joint verification team up and running. And then there is, you know, as you, yourself, have reported, there are these talks of further intervention, whether that's necessary or appropriate. I don't know at this point. So we are looking at these things, considering what we might do, but no answers today.

Yeah. Okay, ma'am.

QUESTION: Could you give us some details on talks the Secretary had with the Minister of National Defense of South Korea this morning?

MR. BOUCHER: South Korea? The Secretary met with the South Korean Defense Minister Cho today to discuss our alliance as well as the current situation regarding North Korea. They talked about half an hour. The Defense Minister will be in Washington until June 28th. He has also got meetings scheduled with the Vice President, with Secretary Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials.

In the meeting today, the Secretary made clear our commitment to the alliance with the Republic of Korea and to continuing to work with the Republic of Korea to strengthen that alliance. They discussed the realignment of U.S. Forces Korea, looking at how to do -- agreeing that this would strengthen deterrence on the peninsula, and therefore help enhance stability in the East Asia region as well as adjust our presence in light of new realities. They also discussed the situation with respect to North Korea. Both sides agree on the need for a verifiable and irreversible elimination of the North Korean nuclear programs, and both sides look to seek a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to the problem.

QUESTION: Do you have and specifics on what they talked about about the realignment and how many --

MR. BOUCHER: I think the specifics have come out of the U.S. and Korean forces on the peninsula, and so I would leave it to that, but it's, I think, something that both nations want to do. We want to make sure that our defense posture is updated. We think it can strengthen our capabilities, strengthen our abilities, as well as ease some of the difficulties that occur in the current footprint that we have.

We'll support it as appropriate and the Koreans will support it as appropriate, too, to carry it through.

Yeah. Okay. Back there.

QUESTION: Recently at the White House, U.S. and the European Union Summit held. At this summit -- after this summit, Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Simitis said that Aegean Continental Shelf problem, they were planning to take International Court of Justice. Do you supported this idea?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. I didn't notice that it was a White House meeting and I don't know if it was discussed over there or not.

QUESTION: And also, on this meeting, did you offer anything about the Cyprus problem and the Turkish desire to enter the European Union?

MR. BOUCHER: I think our positions on both those things are well know, but whether they were discussed at the summit or not, you'd have to ask at the White House.

Okay. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have two questions, one on Africa and the other one on Iraq. Iraq first. What does the special team being sent to Iraq hope to accomplish? What its mission? And is the State Department in favor of this effort?

MR. BOUCHER: What special team?

QUESTION: Special team that's been sent to Iraq. Oh, maybe you didn't know.

MR. BOUCHER: What team? Is this supposed to be a State Department team?

QUESTION: No, it's the -- well, that's what the --

MR. BOUCHER: Oh. I don't know. I think you'd probably have to check with the Pentagon or the provisional authority for it. I'm afraid I don't, I don't think it's something that we're responsible for here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: I will double-check and make sure --

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. I think it was the Defense Department. But I just want to know what the State Department --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure, if it's -- we're 100 percent in favor, I'm sure.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. Africa. The general nominated to be commander of the Central Command says, "The U.S. should increase its focus on Africa, including Kenya." Does the Secretary want an increased U.S. military presence in Africa?

MR. BOUCHER: We have military relationships with a lot places. In Africa we have security relationships in a lot of places in Africa. Just yesterday, the President announced a number of new initiatives for Africa, including $100 million that we will spend to help Africans with security, and that will be spent in Kenya among other places. The countries that will benefit from this counterterrorism initiative that we're undertaking are: Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Djibouti. It's to improve border controls for people and goods in East Africa, improve aviation security in the area, promote basic criminal justice skills, combat terrorist financing, strengthen capabilities of security forces. So, yes, we are increasing our security programs with African countries, particularly, through this new initiative that President Bush announced.

Yeah. Let's go over there then. Sir.

QUESTION: Back to North Korea. Have you set the next TCOG meeting possibly next week?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Not -- there is not a formal TCOG meeting set, at this point. We do have Japanese and South Korean officials coming next week for consultations, more informal consultations.

QUESTION: Okay, and one more. It's about light water reactor construction by KEDO. Does the Secretary share the view with Ambassador Baker in Tokyo, who said yesterday that it's unlikely that construction to be completed if the North Korean doesn't dismantle the nuclear programs?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't see anything wrong with that, that kind of makes sense. But there is no final decision. There is no formal decision at this point.

QUESTION: Is there some difference of opinion on this between Washington and Seoul and Tokyo?

MR. BOUCHER: This is an issue of discussion. It's an issue of consultation. We have worked this matter very closely with them in a very close alignment. But when we have a decision, we'll announce one.

Yeah?

QUESTION: Do you have anything new to report on the follow-up on the three-way talks in Beijing, do you? The U.S.-China-North Korea talks?

MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new to announce on that, no.

Jonathan

QUESTION: Yeah, yesterday, the Secretary gave a very strong endorsement of Mr. Westermann's conduct, basically, saying he did the right thing, and came very close to essentially admitting that he did come under, Mr. Westermann did come under pressure. Is the Secretary looking at the other side of this, in other words, trying to find out who put pressure on him? And does he plan to take any action against them and to reprimand them or anything?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think you should be making such assumptions. The Secretary made clear that he values the integrity of INR's analysis. I think the situation with regard to Cuba, and the remarks that we made in public, several of our officials made in public about Cuba, well known to you all from our explanation here -- but I don't think there is cause for anything further in that regard.

QUESTION: Well, can I just follow up? Does he accept that Mr. Westermann did come under political pressure, or does he think he is just fantasizing about it?

MR. BOUCHER: I think he accepts Mr. Westermann's statement in that regard.

QUESTION: But does that not concern him? Does he not think that --

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has made clear in his direct talks with INR and throughout the building that the integrity, the independence of judgment, the objectivity of judgment of INR is very important to him, and he would expect everybody to respect that. Let's put it that way. I think that's already been done.

QUESTION: So he sent that message out?

MR. BOUCHER: It's been conveyed in various ways through staff meetings and briefings and things like that, and through the Secretary's own statements out there.

QUESTION: But is there a follow-up, Richard, to find out who put pressure on him, and how that may have been manifested throughout the building?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware of anything being done in that regard at this point.

QUESTION: That's not a concern to the Secretary?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not aware of anything further that has to be done in that regard.

Sir.

QUESTION: Laos. Do you have anything on the case of two European journalists, a Belgian and a French, were arrested along with an American national in this country and about to face a trial in Laos next week on Monday?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look into it and see. I don't know anything about it right now.

Yeah Barry.

QUESTION: Do you have anything from the State Department on the projected huge increase in clerical positions in Turkey at the instigation of the Islamist party that rules Turkey?

MR. BOUCHER: What?

QUESTION: There is a report -- well, you know the party that is in charge in Turkey?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And you know its roots. And now there is a report -- it's -- t here is a long story in The Washington Post today, for instance, that there is a move afoot to have 11 times as many positions for clerics, for Muslim clerics, in the government. I wondered if that causes any concern so far as U.S.-Turkish relations -- or, you know, or NATO?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on it. If there is something to say about it, I'll find something.

QUESTION: Sure.

MR. BOUCHER: But I am not sure there is.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay.

David.

QUESTION: Have you seen anymore about the status of five people, apparently arrested in Malawi on Tuesday by U.S. security people? Do you know where they are, or whose custody they are now?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we've said anything yet, so it's hard to say anything more, but I'll check and see if there's something to say on the subject.

Okay? Thank you all.



Released on June 27, 2003

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