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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 > July
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 14, 2003

INDEX:

BELGIUM

1 Universal Competency Law

BURMA

1 Legislation on Sanctions

NORTH KOREA

1-3 Reports of Reprocessing Spent Fuel Rods
2 US Policy on North Korean Nuclear Program
3-4 New York Channel Communications
4 Communication with Chinese Officials

INDIA

4-5,7 Decision Against Sending Troops Into Iraq
6 Status of Ambassador Blackwill

UNITED NATIONS

5 UN Mandate Requested by Countries For Iraq
5-6 Bilateral Agreements for Troop Deployment For Iraq
17 Secretary Powells Meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan

IRAQ

7-8 Use of Aluminum Tubes; Centrifuge Enrichment Program

TURKEY/IRAQ

9 Detention of Some Turkey Special Forces in Northern Iraq by US Forces

AFGHANISTAN

9 Visit of Foreign Minister Abdullah
9-10 International Donors Conference
10 Elections

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

11 Tripartite Commission to Support Border Security

AFRICA/IRAQ

12-13 Uranium Procurement Reference in Presidential Speeches
13-15 Department-Issued Fact Sheet on Alleged Uranium Procurement
15 Communication With British Officials on Intelligence

LIBERIA

15-16 Joint Verification Team; Update on Situation

BURUNDI

16-17 Violence; U.S. Diplomatic Activity

IRAN

18, 19-20 U.S. Support for Reform and Democracy; Evidence of a General Strike

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

18-19 Progress on Roadmap
20 Magen David Adom Participation in International Red Cross Activities
20-21 Terrorist Groups Refusal to Disarm

KOSOVO

21 Richard Holbrooke Comments on Independence; UN Resolution 1244


TRANSCRIPT:

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

Sir.

QUESTION: Have you guys come to any conclusions about the Belgian Government's decision to repeal the universal competency law?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we understand, as you do, that Belgium intends to submit legislation that would repeal the existing universal competence law. We appreciate their intentions in that regard. We'll reserve further comment until we thoroughly review the draft of the new legislation.

As we've said before, it's up to the Belgian Government to resolve this matter.

Okay. Sir.

QUESTION: What does the administration think about the Burma Sanctions Law which is going to a vote in the House this afternoon?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't had time to try to compare the different -- the versions that are working their way through Congress. We certainly have been working with members of Congress to try to produce legislation. As you know, the Secretary has expressed our support for such legislation. So at this point, I would just say that we continue to consult with Congress, work with Congress on legislation that can ban imports from Burma.

Teri.

QUESTION: Pentagon officials are saying that the U.S. has, in fact, detected traces of Krypton-85 in North Korea. Does this building have anything to say on that yet?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't have anything like that to say because anything like that would necessarily come from intelligence sources, and I would never comment on sources like that.

QUESTION: How about something not like that?

MR. BOUCHER: How about something not like that?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: I could say lots of things that are not like that, but what do you want me to say? What's the question?

QUESTION: I mean, have you been in touch with, you know, the diplomatic, with the diplomatic thing and --

MR. BOUCHER: Look. Let's try to put this into context, which is what we're best at over here.

North Korea has made a variety of claims of reprocessing in he past. I think you remember around the time of the Beijing talks, they made private statements as well as public statements about reprocessing -- the state of their reprocessing.

We've always said that we will look at all the available information, not just what they happen to claim or say at any given moment. One sometimes can't figure out why they are saying different things at different times.

We've said repeatedly that any attempt by them to reprocess, to recover plutonium, to make more progress on the way to nuclear weapons would be a matter of deep concern to us, and as well, I think concern to others in the region who have made that clear, as well. So we do follow these developments very carefully, but we also pursue a consistent policy of making clear to North Korea that they need to visibly and verifiably end the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

They need to visibly and irreversibly end their nuclear weapons programs, and that we and many others in the international community continue to press that point.

QUESTION: But you're not prepared to say whether the U.S. has reached any conclusions about these latest claims that reprocessing is --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to talk about what we can -- what we know about their program just because it comes from intelligence sources. What I would, again, point out they've made different claims at different times. They've made these claims before. The important thing is that we and the rest of the world have made consistently clear to them that they need to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

Yes. Elise.

QUESTION: But this goes beyond claims. I mean, like we have all been saying, there have been a lot of reports from government officials in South Korea and such saying that they believe that North Korea has reprocessed this. And you have said repeatedly that any attempt will be a matter of deep concern. Can you say that you're deeply concerned at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: We have always been concerned about North Korean nuclear developments. But I am not in a position to define for you precisely what we have seen and where we think they are because we get information like that from intelligence.

Yes, Nick.

QUESTION: Richard, can you say whether such a claim was made at that meeting on the 8th, I think, of this month with Jack Prichard in New York?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't get any particular exchanges of particular meetings. They often do use those -- the New York channel -- to convey things that they are saying in public, but I just have to say that we have had ongoing contacts with them through the New York channel. It remains open.

Yes.

QUESTION: -- whether that was ever told to the State Department? I mean, you have been able to confirm that in the past, that that is something they have passed along.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I have been able to confirm in the past that North Korea has said things like this, both in public and in private. That remains true today. But I am not going to get into a specific content or a specific exchange. We have to have some ability to conduct diplomacy without having to describe what everybody says in every meeting.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about that meeting except that it took place?

MR. BOUCHER: There have been continuing contacts with the North Koreans through the New York channel. It remains open and we communicate through that channel from time to time. That's about all I can say. That's what I have said in the past.

Sir.

QUESTION: What was your reaction to India's decision or its announcement that it will not send peacekeeping troops to Iraq absent the UN mandate?

QUESTION: North Korea, please.

MR. BOUCHER: We're going to finish off with North Korea.

Mei Jing, yes.

QUESTION: Well, one thing is Congressman Curt Weldon has said he invited the North Korean diplomat to the UN to come to D.C. this week. Have you got any -- any application for them to travel yet?

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

Yes.

QUESTION: Also --

MR. BOUCHER: You might check with them if they have made any application and I'll check for you on whether we have approved any.

QUESTION: Also the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister has just talked to Kim Jong-il about some 12 hours ago. Do you know he was going? Because the Chinese other Vice Minister --

MR. BOUCHER: Those are all good questions for the Chinese. You can ask them if they told us, but I'm not going to get into, "What did you hear from them," as a way of asking for questions that, really, they ought to be responsible for.

QUESTION: But are you going to get some briefing after this visit?

MR. BOUCHER: I think all I could say on that is we've remained in very close touch with the Chinese all along as they've worked the issue, as they've pressed forward towards the same goals that we have and that's a peaceful and diplomatic solution that results in the end to North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. And so we've worked very, very closely with the Chinese, and we've told them what we're doing and they've always told us what they are doing, so we'll see.

QUESTION: Minister Wang Yi told --

MR. BOUCHER: No. That's a question you can ask the Chinese if Minister Wang Yi told us about this trip or not.

Okay. All right. I can't remember what we were doing. We were going to India.

QUESTION: -- do peacekeeping in Iraq without --

MR. BOUCHER: I think as we've said previously for India and for other countries, it is a decision that each country needs to make on its own, depending on its interests and its concerns about the situation in Iraq.

Certainly there is ample grounds in Resolution 1483, which encourages countries to participate in stabilization. For many countries to participate, and I think you're aware that we're in discussions with a long list of countries about participation and the stabilization of Iraq, and we welcome those who have made those decisions to participate.

At the same time, we would have hoped that India would have made a different choice, that they would be there, but I think at the same time, need to reiterate that India remains an important strategic partner for the United States and that the continuation of the transformation of Indo-U.S. relations is something that 's important to us and that we expect to see.

Yes.

QUESTION: Those relations, you don't expect any problems because of this?

MR. BOUCHER: I would expect us to continue to work with India as a matter of strategic partnership. I'm not predicting any particular problems, but I would say that we would have hoped that they would be able to go do this in Iraq for, I think, our interests and what we perceive as their interests, as well.

QUESTION: Is that -- can I ask you a technical question about language? So where does, "We would have hoped that they would have made a different decision fit on the scale of disappointed, regret, come down that, you know, --

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's where those very subtle State Department reporters who understand our language will have to explain that to you.

QUESTION: Well, okay. Is that less strong than regret or disappointment?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to play games with words here.

QUESTION: Well, you do that everyday.

(Laughter)

QUESTION: Change in policy. (Laughter)

MR. BOUCHER: Here. I may do it elsewhere, but not here.

QUESTION: Kofi Annan said today that several countries have expressed a willingness to participate but only under a UN mandate.

MR. BOUCHER: I think you've seen some statements --

QUESTION: Is this something you --

MR. BOUCHER: -- by different countries. I've seen some discussion of that in France. I've seen now, some discussion of that in India. We'll have to see what the discussion among council members is, whether there is some desire among council members to look at the language, but I would reiterate that there are a substantial number of countries who have found that they can participate and wish to participate because of their own interests and because of the language and Resolution 1483 that says -- encourages all countries to participate in stabilization.

QUESTION: Can you tell us where they are, apart from Poland and --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, you've got Poland, you've got Spain. I can't give you the whole list. NATO has decided as a group to provide the support that Poland might need to deploy.

That's a formal decision of NATO; so depending on how you count it, there's many countries. Thatís about as much as I would be able to count for you right off the top of my head.

Nick.

QUESTION: Do you know off the top of your head, this is a follow-up, do you know off the top of your head where your request to Bangladesh and to Pakistan stand?

MR. BOUCHER: Not off the top of my head, no. Sorry.

QUESTION: On India, Richard, do you happen to know whether Bob Blackwill has left New Delhi and has there been a new ambassador announced to India?

MR. BOUCHER: I know he was there this morning because the Secretary spoke with him. And I don't know if the White House is making any -- has made any announcements yet. I just -- just have to check.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to them about this issue?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you want to elaborate a little bit on that?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: When you say --

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary keeps in touch with our ambassadors.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: It's just incidental that I mentioned it here.

QUESTION: Yes. But, I mean, what was he -- does he think that the outgoing ambassador did enough to try and convince the Indians to --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I would not -- don't start drawing any negative conclusions. The Secretary keeps in close touch with our ambassadors. When an event happens, or a foreign government makes an ambassador -- an announcement, often the first person the Secretary consults with is our ambassador on the ground, and we -- the Secretary talked to him this morning to find out where we were and what this means.

QUESTION: Do you think India's rejection sends a bad signal to other countries that may be considering participating?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that any other country is waiting on India's decision to make their own decision. Many other countries have already made their decisions in order to move forward and help stabilize Iraq. The UN Security Council has encouraged countries to do that, and many countries are responding.

Ma'am.

QUESTION: New topic.

MR. BOUCHER: Please.

QUESTION: Iraq.

MR. BOUCHER: Was that India or Iraq that we just had?

QUESTION: I don't know.

MR. BOUCHER: Let's just move on to the lady here and we'll get back to Iraq, I'm sure.

QUESTION: In addition to the controversy about the Niger allegation, the President in his State of the Union address talked about the metal tubes, the aluminum tubes, that he said in his State of the Union, "Saddam has attempted to purchase high strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production," and, yet, seven days later, a week later, Secretary Powell did mention it, but he talked about it in terms of, you know, there has been some disagreement about this, however, he still decided to include it.

Can you talk about why he decided to include that?

MR. BOUCHER: No, the President said they were suitable for nuclear weapons productions and I think if you look at the Secretary's statement, I don't -- I haven't memorized the exact text -- the Secretary said there was some disagreement about whether that's what they were intended for. I don't think anybody ever really argued about whether they were suitable or not.

And we -- the Secretary said our belief was that they were intended for centrifuge enrichment programs. And that's, I think, to some extent borne out by the rose bush file. Let's not forget that we found centrifuge enrichment program -- we found parts for centrifuge enrichment under the nuclear scientist's rose bush in Iraq already, so that's one element to the program that's been pretty much explained by the finding.

QUESTION: But given that Secretary Powell thought it important to say that there had been some disagreements about this, does he think that this is something that should have -- that met the test for being included in the State of the Union?

MR. BOUCHER: I have not heard anybody question whether it met the test for the State of the Union. I think that's a legitimate fact that the President put in the State of the Union. The Secretary put in his presentation, and explained further in his presentation. It's not cut and dry, as the Secretary explained, but it's an important piece where we had studied this carefully and believe that these items are indeed suitable for use in nuclear weapons production.

And I would say that the fact that Iraq went to some lengths to bury material in order to maintain a program for centrifuge enrichment should give people pause to think that maybe that is indeed what these tubes were intended for, but we'll have to see. I am not sure the matter has been entirely settled even now.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, Richard, you are not trying to draw links between rose bush stuff and centrifuges?

MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that the pieces under the rose bush were for centrifuge enrichment programs.

QUESTION: Yes, but they weren't the pieces, they weren't the tubes.

MR. BOUCHER: They weren't the tubes. No, there weren't tubes under the rose bush. There were other things.

QUESTION: And this was 11 years ago.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, yes, but the fact is the Secretary made the point that Iraq had not abandoned its intentions when it came to nuclear programs. And I think the findings -- the find in Iraq demonstrates that Iraq had not abandoned its intentions on nuclear programs.

QUESTION: Just buried them?

MR. BOUCHER: Just buried them -- maybe more, we'll see. We'll find the full extent of that as time goes on.

Eli.

QUESTION: Richard -- and this might be too technical, but in terms of the centrifuge program, was it the State Department, was it Secretary Powell's understanding that this was the kind of cascading centrifuges, that you had a lot of them all together, like you have in Natanz in Iran? Or were these numerous centrifuges that were sort of buried throughout the country?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember any particular discussion, one way or the other of that, as we prepared for the Secretary's presentation.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: All right. Same thing or?

QUESTION: No. Iraq then?

MR. BOUCHER: All right. Let's go back to --

QUESTION: Okay. The Northern Iraq events, you know, the taking the 11 Turkish soldiers as a prisoner of war, are you ready to make any announcement on this event?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: And are you planning to apologize from the Turkey on these events?

MR. BOUCHER: All I can tell you at this point is that Lieutenant General John Sylvester, who is heading the American element of the team, he was in Iraq on July 11th as part of the fact-finding team's activities. He spoke to both U.S. and Turkish forces involved in the July 4th incident. He returned to Ankara this past weekend and is continuing his discussions with leaders of the Turkish element of that fact-finding team.

QUESTION: Well Richard, according to Turkish officials today is -- that they are waiting for the approval from the Washington about the announcement. You don't --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any announcements for you, and I'm sure the appropriate people will make an announcement at the appropriate time. That's as far as I can go.

QUESTION: Will the appropriate people be the Pentagon?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Abdullah is in town; he's seeing the Secretary this afternoon. This morning he said that he would like to -- that Afghanistan would like to see another International Donor's Conference shortly to raise lots of money, $15 to $20 billion over five years. Have you heard this proposal, and do you have a position on it?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a comment at this point. The Secretary will indeed meet with Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah this afternoon. Foreign Minister Abdullah is in town for the meeting of the Afghan Women's Council. I'm sure the Secretary and the Foreign Minister will discuss a number of issues including the process -- the progress that's being made in Afghan reconstruction, the progress that's being made in terms of the political developments in Afghanistan, also the continuing security situation and continuing need for us to be there and support Afghanistan.

Our commitment has been strong and remains very strong to helping with the reconstruction of Afghanistan. I think over the last year the United States provided a billion dollars of support in reconstruction for Afghanistan. That's, I think, three times the amount that we had pledged at the original Donor's Conference.

So will continue to maintain our commitment and express that commitment in concrete ways. But as far as what they will discuss at the meeting, I think let's just leave it for the meeting.

QUESTION: Richard, have you heard any suggestions -- you talked about progress in the political side -- have you heard a suggestion that the schedule for elections in Afghanistan may be deferred?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if there has been any discussion of that. As far as I know, the schedule remains on track.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Same.

QUESTION: Same. Me first?

MR. BOUCHER: Did you have same?

QUESTION: I did not.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Same.

QUESTION: Since you mentioned this conference going on which is what, tomorrow and the next day?

MR. BOUCHER: Tomorrow, yes.

QUESTION: The announcement over there talks about how Secretary Powell, Under Secretary Dobriansky and other prominent Americans. Who are these other prominent people?

MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check and get you a list.

QUESTION: So they are not that prominent? That they don't spring to mind.

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: They are very prominent.

QUESTION: Prominent but not memorable.

MR. BOUCHER: I --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Matt, of all the things I've done today, I haven't had a chance to read the full list. Okay?

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: So I'm sure that if I had read it, they would be instantly recalled because of their prominence --

(Laughter)

-- but I have to admit, my personal failure not to review the prominent list of prominent Americans.

QUESTION: All right. Well, you're forgiven.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: What was I going to say? Oh yes, border incursions --

MR. BOUCHER: See? It wasn't a prominent question, I guess.

QUESTION: Yes. You threw me.

The Afghan Government today confirmed that Pakistani forces have, in fact, crossed the border and have taken part in some clashes. There's a tri-partite commission, which is looking this. I think the United States might be a part of that.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you taking a position on this? Are you telling the Pakistanis to stop this, or --

MR. BOUCHER: We take the position that we work with both sides to try to make sure that things along the border are -- that security along the border is maintained through the efforts of both sides and that the cooperation of both sides along the border is maintained.

There is a tripartite commission that's made up military officers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States. That group was formed to work on problems such as this one that might come up along the border area as both sides pursue their efforts against terrorism.

The first meeting of that group was a few weeks ago and we expect they'll meet again tomorrow in Kabul to take up the recent issues that have arisen along the border area there.

QUESTION: Allow me to just follow up. Do you accept the Afghan contention that Pakistani forces have, in fact, made incursions across the border?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I'm not in a position to clarify more exactly the situation out there. The parties will have to discuss this with each other and we'll help them through the trilateral commission.

Yes. Adi.

QUESTION: Did Secretary Powell have the opportunity to read about the Niger reference or read the Niger reference in the State of the Union address before this speech was given in late January?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary has been clear he did, yes.

QUESTION: And how come he didn't express his concerns?

MR. BOUCHER: Because we're not the intelligence agencies. When we read a speech like that, we want to make sure it is cleared by the intelligence agency. Director Tenet has made clear it was. They are responsible for sort of their areas of concern and we're responsible for the foreign policy areas.

We don't necessarily second-guess everybody else's discussion.

QUESTION: He did not make forth his concerns to the White House? He did not say, "I'm concerned?"

MR. BOUCHER: It's not a matter of, you know, when any given speech is read, if it talks about military matters, we don't necessarily second guess. We don't fiddle with the military sides of things. We look at the foreign policy aspects of it. That's what the State Department did and does.

QUESTION: Shouldn't one expect, perhaps, more of the very small number of very senior administration officials who are in on all of the key debates on foreign policy and intelligence and defense matters, that they should take a look at the speech in its entirety and in every particular and --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that if anything jumped out at people, they would. But remember, this has been the subject of a national intelligence estimate. This has been covered already in a national intelligence estimate that said Iraq was seeking to purchase materials. And that, you know, even today says Iraq was seeking to purchase nuclear materials. And they are confident in that judgment.

We have said we've had reports to that effect. There's, you know, it's not a matter of us to second-guess the quality of intelligence that had already appeared in a national intelligence estimate.

Yes.

QUESTION: But this, and he -- it just didn't jump out of him at the time?

Forgive me, Elise.

MR. BOUCHER: Again. It was part of a national intelligence estimate. It was not, as far as I know, a major subject of debate at the time.

QUESTION: Okay, without focusing on the actual text of the State of the Union in January, right before he gave it, at any point in time, did this State Department voice concerns about the legitimacy of the evidence that Iraq tried to purchase?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure. There had been a number of discussions of that and I think you know from our public discussion that the INR Bureau in the State Department had questions: the extent to which Iraq had been able to purchase or been seeking to purchase nuclear material in Niger.

Nonetheless, there was a consensus view among the intelligence agencies, or a predominant view among the intelligence agencies that had been written up in an official estimate that Iraq was trying to procure nuclear material. And I've said, even to this day, we note there have been reports to that effect. The British Government is confident that its information on that is solid enough. It maintains its judgment that Iraq was seeking to purchase nuclear material. And so, you know, while we may not have quite the same confidence level based on the information that we had, certainly at that time, it was a matter that had already been decided and written up in the intelligence estimate.

Now, when you come to a week or so later, did the Secretary want to lead with it in his -- you know, make a big deal of it in his February 5th presentation, no, we decided not to.

Yes.

QUESTION: But Richard, if you -- given the intense media interest in this Niger matter and the fact that it seems that it seems that everybody has been saying that there have been attempts to procure uranium separate from the Niger incident and that the British maintain this, is it possible for you or someone to provide the press with other African countries or other attempts, sort of just put this matter, why not put this matter to rest?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's a good question to ask over at the intelligence agencies. I'm not in a position to declassify intelligence information at my podium here.

Teri.

QUESTION: It's my recollection, and I think it's correct, that in fact, the State Department was the first of any governmental agency anywhere to identify Niger as the source of this.

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's probably right, yes.

QUESTION: The Brits had said that it was just Africa and then shortly after the Iraqis made their declaration, you put this -- a fact sheet which specifically mentioned Niger at the time. Who -- do you know which bureau was responsible for that?

MR. BOUCHER: The Public Affairs Bureau put together the sheet based on a variety of classified and unclassified information prepared in other bureaus of the State Department, including information that had been cleared and was consistent with the NIE.

QUESTION: But that came, but --

MR. BOUCHER: So it was based on the information available at the time is about as good as I can tell you at that point.

QUESTION: Right. But, but information within this building, not from the CIA or from another --

MR. BOUCHER: Information within this building that had been checked by the CIA. Now, I think there were -- and I haven't been -- I haven't gotten every piece back to see who cleared it where and when.

QUESTION: All right. Well, in retrospect --

MR. BOUCHER: In retrospect, I would have worded it differently, but let's remember the function of that document. That document was to say that there were questions out there that the Iraqis had to answer --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BOUCHER: And that weren't answered in their 12,200 pages. If we're getting reports and others are getting reports that Iraq is trying to procure uranium, it's really for the Iraqis to explain at that point in their declaration that they didn't explain anything with, rather than for us to have to explain at that stage. So I think that we probably would have put something in there about Iraq's attempts to acquire uranium.

I probably would not have mentioned Niger or might have even worded it differently.

QUESTION: So you're saying that the Iraqis necessarily had to defend themselves from a false -- or not defend, but explain an accusation that turned out to be based on fraudulent evidence? I mean --

MR. BOUCHER: No. The accusation -- no, let's stop. The accusation that turned out to be based on fraudulent evidence is that Niger sold uranium to Iraq. Okay? The idea that Iraq was seeking to purchase is not -- is one that's still out there. And that you have, I think, in Ambassador Wilson's report and I think Director Tenet made a reference to this, some information that, indeed, Iraqis had shown up in Niger interested in something that the Nigerians believed to be purchasing uranium.

So there were reports out there that Iraq was sending agents out to purchase uranium. Now, how solid those were, I think we've all said. It wasn't real solid stuff that rose to the level of putting it in the State of the Union, but the fact is that if Iraq had agents out here, there or somewhere else, it was really for Iraq to account for whether they did or not.

QUESTION: Richard, did the State Department at any time ask the British to take it out of their dossier because they didn't think that the intelligence was clear enough?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, frankly. I don't know.

Yes.

QUESTION: What's your understanding -- Foreign Secretary Straw this morning said that Britain was unable to give you guys more details about the source of the information because it had come from a third country -- an intelligence service of a third country and they were -- is that okay with this building?

MR. BOUCHER: That's normal practice between intelligence agencies.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: You think somebody else needs to see something, you go back to the original country of origin and say, "Why don't you share this with some other people?" Whether they do or not is, in the end, up to them.

MR. BOUCHER: In other words, they -- well, would you like to see the British go to whoever it -- whatever country it was and say, "Why don't you guys go straight to the --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into that. I think it's up to the country that has the information to decide whether to share it.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you -- are you aware of what country it is?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to talk about other countries' intelligence.

QUESTION: Well, you've just been talking about the British intelligence, so --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm talking about the British public statements about their intelligence.

Teri.

QUESTION: Could you update us on the talks on Liberia, please, after Secretary Annan was here and on whether the assessments team's report is in, what kind of timeline you're looking at now in decision-making?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let me give you sort of the overall state of play with regard to Liberia. Certainly the Secretary and the Secretary General discussed Liberia this morning and I'm sure the President and the Secretary General will discuss it further this afternoon.

We are actively considering how we can support international efforts to help Liberia to return to peace and the rule of law.

The Embassy in Monrovia -- our Embassy in Monrovia reports the situation is currently calm. The Joint Verification Team, unfortunately, it remains in Sierra Leone en route to Liberia to begin implementing the ceasefire.

Our first priority is obviously to bring peace and stop the bloodshed, and so we're looking at ways to do that. We have had a team in Ghana to talk with the ECOWAS, the West African States, with their authorities about their intentions, and I think you've seen over the weekend some statements by the ECOWAS countries about their intentions to deploy troops to Liberia.

We've also had an assessment team in Liberia, and I understand that they are nearing the end or wrapping up their work. I don't have a copy of any specific report or recommendations from them yet, but these things are coming together at this point in terms of the assessment team and the discussion that we've had in Ghana, and I'm sure we'll be reporting -- we'll be seeing reports from both sets of discussions fairly -- you know, in the near future. So that's kind of where we are today. I don't have any immediate decisions or announcements for you but I'm sure this will be a matter of considerable discussion in the days ahead.

QUESTION: Richard, last week the Secretary said that he expected a report from the team the next day or two. I think he said that on the BBC interview. Did that report come through and is there more that you're waiting for or did that not come through?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, there's sort of two sets of reports: one from the discussions from the discussions that were held in Ghana, one from the military assessment team in Liberia. I'm not sure if the military assessment team in Liberia has formally reported yet or not. It may be on its way.

Yes. Sir.

QUESTION: Another African country. Burundi. Apart from reducing the staff at the Embassy, is the United States engaged in any diplomatic activity related to the conflict there?

MR. BOUCHER: The United States has called on the rebel group, the one that's engaged in
fighting right now, the Forces for National Liberation, to halt the attacks immediately. We have repeated our appeal to them to engage in negotiations. The transitional government of Burundi believes that their concerns must be addressed through dialogue and not through violence.

I had noticed while their press reports indicate that the majority of the rebels who conducted the attack on Sunday were children aged 10 to 15; and that, while we haven't verified it yet, it would make these attacks all the more disturbing, and indeed reprehensible.

We have supported the peace efforts including the Arusha Process, the regional ceasefire negotiations, and the transitional government. And we'd repeat our call for all parties to renounce violence and negotiate without preconditions to resolve these conflicts.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Richard, do you have anything to say on the election of Zimbabwe as the Vice Chair of the African Union over the weekend?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

Sir.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has the Secretary mentioned on the possible Security Council action against North Korean nuclear program?

MR. BOUCHER: They didn't get to North Korea. I am sure there will be more discussions this afternoon with the President. I don't know if it will come up over there or on the margins over there. They spent this morning principally discussing Africa, discussing the fight against AIDS, discussing the opportunities that trade has brought to Africa, the President's trip; talked about the Middle East, talked about Liberia, talked a bit about Iraq. So there were already quite a few topics that they wanted to cover this morning.

Yes.

QUESTION: And that same North Korea, but different subject. But do you have anything on the last weekend talk with North Korean at Bangkok on recovery operation of the soldiers missing in action at the Korea War?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. You might check with the Pentagon on that one.

Sir.

QUESTION: Yes, do you have something to say about Under Secretary Bolton's trip to China, Korea, South Korea and Japan on the end of this month?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, but I'll be glad to get you something when we can. Okay?

Yes.

QUESTION: Back on North Korea. Do you guys have anything to say about the story that appeared today in the Wall Street Journal about a secret division, an Army division, which is in charge of raising money for Kim Jong-il?

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see that one, but I don't think we would have anything to say about a story like that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, Teri.

QUESTION: Did you see the reports over the weekend that Iranian leader Khatami said that he maybe -- or his -- and his government may step down if the nation says they do not like them? He made a statement.

MR. BOUCHER: Did I see the reports?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that he really may consider stepping down if these demos continue?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to give political commentary on Iran. I think we have made clear where I sentiments lie. They lie with those who support reform. They lie with those who support democracy. They lie with those who are out calling for more reform and democracy in Iran. But as far as what is likely to happen and who is likely to do what, I'd leave that to political commentators.

QUESTION: You don't wish to dissuade him?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, it's clear where our sentiments lie. You can do the political commentary.

Sir.

QUESTION: Richard --

MR. BOUCHER: We'll get back to it.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Sharon's trip to London has both received praise and condemnation. And what is a sensible approach, since these militant terrorist attacks are still continuing, and they have -- they are looking for an Irish bomb or a bomb maker?

And also, it appears that the PA want more concessions. Is this undermining --

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Let's try to do about 15 questions at once. If we can, limit it to that.

I think our basic view has been and remains that the parties need to work together to achieve security. The roadmap process is one where they can each start achieving gains as we move forward. And, indeed, I think you have seen from both Israelis and Palestinians alike that there have been positive effects on their lives; there have been positive gains from this kind of -- the last few weeks of activity, and particularly the security cooperation that's been established.

So we look to have that continue. There have continued to be meetings between security chiefs on the Israeli and Palestinian side. The United States is continuing to work actively on the implementation of a roadmap to try to make sure that process continues.

And, yes, there is more that each side wants the other to do, and there is more to be done in the roadmap, and we continue to work to move down that road.

Yes, Jonathan.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, I would like to go back to Iran a minute because we didn't get a chance to ask last week.

As you know, a lot of people on the fringes of the administration had attached a lot of hope to July the 9th, and hoped that the demonstrations then would -- would be a big affair. Do you share their disappointment at all that it didn't turn out that way?

MR. BOUCHER: We have seen a continuing process of ferment in Iran. We have made clear where our sentiments lie. We have made clear our support for those who -- support those who ask for reform, ask for more democracy.

But, again, I am not going to start getting disappointed our undisappointed at any given moment or doing political commentary on an ongoing basis. I think our position is clear and firm. And, you know, it's the way it is. There is nothing much more to say as events proceed.

Yes. Eli.

QUESTION: Following up on Jonathan's question. Has the State Department seen since July 9th, any evidence that there was a successful general strike which may not have necessarily been in the form of a protest?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I keep getting asked -- you know, you're asking me to assess the extent of the strike. You're asking me to assess the power of various people. What are they going to do, what are they not going to do?

I really think there is a whole lot of really smart people in the world that you could go interview about Iran, and that to have the State Department trying to become a political commentator on internal developments in Iran would strike me as kind of the height of folly.

QUESTION: But, I mean, I understand what you're saying. But it is the State Department's job at a certain level to determine the -- you know, how secure --

MR. BOUCHER: And we watch the situation there.

QUESTION: You watch, right.

MR. BOUCHER: And follow it carefully. Our embassies report on it, and we have assessments of it.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: But I don't think the State Department spokesman should be a political commentator on political developments in foreign countries. We haven't been for the last how many years I have been around, and I am not going to start today.

QUESTION: Richard, can you elaborate at all on the Secretary's decision that was announced on -- I think on Friday to -- his finding that the -- Israel's Red Cross, the Magen David is not being hindered in its participation in international Red Cross activities at all? As far as I understand, the ICRC and the Red Cross still refuse to allow the Magen David as full member --

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to double check on that specific certification. That's a periodic certification we do for the Congress. What I would say right now is that it is a subject of continuing discussion. It's one that's been important to the Secretary that he has raised I think frequently in his discussions with people at the United Nations. He has also raised it with the International Committee of the Red Cross Chairman, Mr. Kellenberger, in several meetings that they have had already this year. So it's an ongoing subject we continue to press.

QUESTION: Do you know -- maybe you don't offhand -- what the -- what the amount of money would have been -- the amount of money that would have been -- that you would have been forced to cut to the ICRC had he not made this decision?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, no.

Sir.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the refusal of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to disarm?

MR. BOUCHER: We have made very clear that it's time for these groups to abandon terrorism, to abandon violence. It's time for the Palestinian Authority to be able to establish this authority and to dismantle the apparatus of terror, so that remains important to us. It remains what we think is the agenda for us and for the parties to the roadmap to dismantle this apparatus of terror.

So let me just stop with that and say that that's the program, and we expect people to get on with it.

QUESTION: Expect, I mean, next step would be if they are refusing to disarm?

MR. BOUCHER: Our next step will be to continue to work with the parties to establish security for Israelis and Palestinians, work with the parties to make life better for ordinary Israelis and Palestinians, and support the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to establish a single authority and not have to contend with other armed groups, as it works to establish a Palestinian state.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that as North Korea representatives in New York told a U.S. representative, Mr. Jack --

MR. BOUCHER: Sorry, we just did that 25 minutes ago. I am not going to do it again now.

QUESTION: Richard, over the weekend, your former colleague, Ambassador Holbrooke, gave an interview to a newspaper somewhere in the Balkans, in which he said that he believed that independence, full independence for Kosovo was the way to go. Does the State Department share these views, or is this -- is he entirely speaking as a private individual and --

MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware that he has any continuing relationship of that nature with us. So he would be speaking as a private individual --

QUESTION: Right, okay.

MR. BOUCHER: -- one who is free to express his views --

QUESTION: All right, fair enough.

MR. BOUCHER: -- in this great country of ours.

QUESTION: Is the -- is the Department's position still the same as it was, which is that this is something that needs to be decided down the road?

MR. BOUCHER: 1244, isn't it?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we support the UN Resolution 1244, and the process that's envisioned therein.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, thank you.



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