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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 > 2004 > Press Briefing Transcripts > August
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 3, 2004

INDEX:

UZBEKISTAN

Update On July 30 Bombing

DEPARTMENT

Passport Application Acceptance Suspended in Hudson County, New Jersey

IRAQ

Allegations that Prime Minister Allawi Executed Prisoners
Turkish Hostage Killed

SUDAN

Additional Security Forces
Obligations of Sudanese Government
Secretary Powells Consultations with Other Leaders

TERRORISM

Al-Qaeda Threats Against Britain, Bulgaria, Italy

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Hamas Threats Against Sderot / Shelling
Palestinian Authority Security Responsibility in Gaza
Consultations on Settlements
U.S. Policy on Illegal Outposts

SOUTH KOREA

Assistant Secretary Kellys Meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-Hyuck
Delegation Meetings

JAPAN

Bobby Fischer

AUSTRALIA

U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement Signed

IRAN

Diplomatic Efforts to Obtain Compliance with IAEA Requirements

TURKEY

Hostage Killed
Transit of U.S. Goods Into Iraq


TRANSCRIPT:

12:30 p.m. EDT

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, and welcome to everybody. It's good to see you all again. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Well, since Barry seems to have abdicated his position, I don't have anything big, but do you have any update at all on the Uzbek Embassy bombing? I understand that one of the security guards who was wounded has now died.

MR. BOUCHER: I think we got word today that the second wounded guard has now died. It's very sad and tragic and we offer our condolences -- condolences and sympathy to his family. As far as the investigation goes, I think there have been some statements by the government but I don't really have any details for you at this moment.

QUESTION: The embassy is still open, though, it's operating?

MR. BOUCHER: The embassy is still operating, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Other questions? Teri.

QUESTION: This also isnít huge. Can you confirm that there has been a discontinuation in passport application acceptance at the Hudson County Clerk's Office in New Jersey due to an investigation of fraudulent documents being accepted by this office?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We took a very unusual -- I'm told that -- I asked when was the last time we did something like this and they said, "well, it's highly unusual." So it's a highly unusual action but we took the action of discontinuing the acceptance of passport applications at the Hudson County Clerk's Office in New Jersey City, New Jersey, as a result of a joint Department of State and Department of Justice investigation. The Department of State closed this acceptance facility to maintain security of the passport application process.

We've also stopped accepting county records as evidence of U.S. citizenship until the investigation is concluded. The investigations develop facts indicating that we cannot rely on the accuracy of information on passport applications that were processed by the County Clerk's office. I'd note that we designate many post offices, clerks of court, public libraries, other state, county, township and municipal government offices to accept passport application on our behalf. There are some 6,000, I think, of these facilities around the United States, mostly located in courts and post offices.

I'd note as well that passport applicants who were born in Hudson County will be asked to present a birth -- official birth certificate issued by the New Jersey Bureau of Vital Statistics in Trenton. Convenience of service should not be affected, since there are several other facilities within a 10-mile radius that accept passport applications.

QUESTION: Can you talk at all about how you came to the conclusion that these, that the documents were not trustworthy?

MR. BOUCHER: I cannot at this point. There's an investigation that's still underway by the Department of State and the Department of Justice, and so they will have to come to conclusions and issue any facts that are pertinent. But after examining the kind of records we had, we felt we couldn't rely on the accuracy of the information that was in county documents.

QUESTION: Do you think passports have been issued fraudulently and --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that matter will be looked at in the course of the investigation. I don't have any conclusions on that at this point.

QUESTION: So you don't know if anyone currently holding a Jersey City, whatever, passport that was based on that will have their passport?

MR. BOUCHER: Don't know at this point.

Yeah. Sir.

QUESTION: I'd just like to ask, has the United States Government or the State Department made any attempt to ascertain the truth or otherwise of reports that Prime Minister Allawi, on or about the third weekend in June, while the Coalition Provisional Authority was still in charge in Iraq, executed six prisoners, shot seven in front of witnesses reported to include U.S. Security personnel? If not, will you do so, given the serious natures of the charge, claims by two independent witnesses to an Australian journalist and, as I said, the claim that American personnel were present?

MR. BOUCHER: I think this is something that has been dealt with and discussed in Baghdad and here. Prime Minister Allawi himself has said there is nothing to these reports. I think he's responded very directly when asked about them. We have said before we have no information to indicate such an event had taken place, and that's where I stand at this point.

QUESTION: But my question was whether you had done any investigation, in the sense there were Americans allegedly present.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know who those Americans might have been. I don't know if any of the Armed Forces or other units in Baghdad might have done some sort of investigation, but I'm told the U.S. Government has checked and that we don't have any information that would indicate those reports are true.

QUESTION: So you are satisfied there is absolutely no truth to those reports?

MR. BOUCHER: We have nothing to indicate those reports are true. I'm not going to rephrase it. I tell you the extent of our knowledge, but that's the extent of our knowledge

QUESTION: But you're not making any effort to extend the extent of your knowledge?

MR. BOUCHER: I'd say we have checked on what information we do have and we don't have any information that would indicate those reports are true.

QUESTION: And you're not looking to make any further investigations to --

MR. BOUCHER: We're always open to any further information or investigations that might be done.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: On Sudan, the Sudanese Government said it's going to double the security forces, according the UN's representative who was just there on talks. They said they're going to double their own security forces in the Darfur area. Is this a good -- are you confident enough that they're doing the right thing with these forces, that you want to see a doubling of Sudanese Government?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we believe and have believed the Sudanese Government has a responsibility to act and to act quickly to stop the depredations of the Jingaweit militias, that they have a responsibility to turn off what they originally turned on, and they have a responsibility to withdraw all forms of support for the militias, as has been reported in the past.

So there are actions that they can be taking and should be taking. The provision of these additional security forces may be a necessary step to provide security for the people of the area, but it's only one of many steps they should be taking.

QUESTION: It appears that's what they're doing though. There have also been so many reports about misdeeds by these forces. So have you seen a change in the behavior of the Sudanese Government forces so that you would trust them in the Darfur area?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that it's a matter of trust. I think it's a matter of observing their behavior. The Government certainly has within its power the ability to take action to stop these militias, to arrest senior people, to stop air support, to stop government troop support, as well as to withdraw any forms of support and stop them from their activities, and certainly government forces would be required to do that.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary been making any calls on Sudan, particularly with regard to the Nigerians saying they want more of an African solution, more African Union --

MR. BOUCHER: I think the first thing to note is, the Secretary discussed Sudan, I think, in just about every stop throughout his trip, so particularly in Egypt and with some of the Arab leaders who he met with, because they are concerned about the situation there. And I think you saw shortly after the Secretary discussed this with the Egyptian Government, that Foreign Minister Gheit traveled to Sudan and made some efforts there, I think, on behalf of having the government rein in the militias.

Second of all, he's kept in very close touch with the Secretary General of the United Nations on the subject. He talked to Secretary General Annan again yesterday about it, so he has very much kept on top of the issue.

QUESTION: Has he kept in contact much with the African Union?

MR. BOUCHER: Has he?

QUESTION: The Secretary.

MR. BOUCHER: He has talked in the past. Certainly, when we were in Darfur, we met with the African Union representatives. The Secretary has stayed in touch with the Nigerian President on the issue. I don't think they've talked in the last week or so, but he has kept in touch with them, and certainly our representatives are keeping in touch with the Nigerians, with African Union officials and with other Africans who are involved in the situation. They're trying to get the protection force in. I think the African Union Observer Mission is up to about 95 observers in Darfur and about 12 in Khartoum.

So they are building up, but they need the protection force as well, and then there are the questions of what they can do as far as peace talks. And so the peace talks, we have been very active in trying to get both sides to send serious delegations to the talks in Addis Ababa and try and get them to sit down and reach a political settlement.

Sir.

QUESTION: Nothing on Greece, except to honor the Olympic torch, but I have a question on al-Qaida. According to Associated Press, a group claiming to represent al-Qaida in Europe repeated today threats against Britain, Italy and Bulgaria. I'm wondering if you have anything on that.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. These are threats that we've heard before. We've seen a rather indiscriminate issuance of threats from groups like al-Qaida, who only seem to want to destroy others and they -- but their attack on civilization is quite clear, they keep after anybody who is trying to get organized, who is trying to bring peace and stability to any region that they're interested in. So I'm not surprised to see further threats from a group like this.

Joel.

QUESTION: Richard, within the last day, Hamas has issued a video threat, I guess, to Israel, a threat over *Sderot, which is just outside the northern Gaza border, and they're saying they are going to continue daily shelling attacks; obviously, Israel hopes to stop that. But they are apparently using the media again, Al-Arabiya, and, of course, in the last two weeks or so, you've also criticized Al-Jazeera. What effect is this media war having?

And secondly, how are you viewing this particular erupting civil war within Gaza between, I guess, ex-security chief Mohammed Dahlan? Apparently, they've gunned down some of the collaborators in their beds in the hospitals.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we've seen reports. I don't really have any comment on who was behind what action. All this just goes to remind us all how important it is for the Palestinian Authority to take security responsibility in Gaza. They need to have a unified security administration that needs to be under civilian authority and it needs to take real responsibility in Gaza. And groups like Hamas that are issuing threats, that are trying to shoot off rockets that are trying to entice the Israelis to attack or come back into Gaza need to be put out of business.

We've always made that clear, that the terrorists were the greatest harm to the Palestinian dream, and the terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are the greatest threat to the Palestinian desire to really get back control of territory in Gaza, and that for all this process to work out, we really think the Palestinians need to get organized to take real authority there.

Yeah, Teri.

QUESTION: Yesterday, after Adam's remarks on the -- concerning the reported expansion of settlements, the Israelis said they'd be talking to the U.S. Government about their plans to expand the settlement. Have you heard from the Israelis on this?

MR. BOUCHER: We had a meeting this morning with the Israeli Ambassador and Assistant Secretary Burns, and of course, we've also kept in touch with the Israelis through our embassy in Tel Aviv. We did discuss settlements this morning at the meeting. We also discussed the Secretary's trip, and Gaza opportunity and other issues involving the region.

QUESTION: Well, was the discussion specifically -- yesterday, you know, what you focused on here was that huge -- call it a settlement, if you like, but it's virtually a city, that's right next door to Jerusalem and you don't want them to construct new housing. Did the Secretary -- did Mr. Burns get directly into that particular --

MR. BOUCHER: They discussed that particular issue, the settlements issues, generally, outposts, things like that, but also these other issues. It was one of the many number of topics.

QUESTION: Was any of this done before yesterday?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know when it was scheduled.

QUESTION: Did he make any headway in persuading --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can describe it at this point. I think we're having discussions with the Israelis and we'll stay in close touch with them on their commitments to end settlement activity. They're, I think, aware of our concerns and we continue to press them to live up to the statements of the roadmap.

QUESTION: Does it matter at all, in a practical sense, that it's almost inconceivable that any deal that's struck -- and there have been various deals, of course, considered, negotiated -- that any deal that's struck would have Israel relinquish that particular "settlement," for talks even of exchange of territory? That adjusts -- that abuts Jerusalem and it's a major city now. Does the Administration consider any distinction between that and some outpost on a mountainside?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, the Administration has not taken a position on a particular settlement or particular piece of land or particular area or group of people. The -- those are final status issues that need to be negotiated. I think we've made that clear.

Second of all, we have taken a position on the subject of outposts, and I guess that's the exception to say we have taken positions on outposts and illegal settlements. Indeed, it's the same position the Israeli Government has taken, and that is the illegal outposts need to be torn down.

The third is that there is a commitment in the roadmap, the roadmap the Israelis adhere to, and that's to end settlement activity, freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth of settlements, and that's the commitment we want to see the Israeli Government work towards.

QUESTION: Last question. Was there any updating? You remember a few weeks ago, the Israelis said something about these outposts will be removed, these will be reviewed, you know, there were categories and there were numbers. I don't happen to have them handy, but they would dismantle so many, look at so many others. Did they advance that at all?

MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen anything. I have not seen the Israelis update their numbers or claim any particular progress in that regard.

QUESTION: Richard, I'm sorry, you just said the roadmap that the Israelis adhere to. Well, clearly, if they're doing this, they're not adhering to the roadmap. Isn't what you want to say that they say they adhere to?

MR. BOUCHER: That the Israelis say they adhere to, that the Israelis have endorsed and accepted.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Ma'am.

QUESTION: South Korea.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.

QUESTION: It is reported that many South Korean Congressmen of ruling party expressed their objection to the North Korean Freedom Act recently passed by the United States Congress. What is your comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment. It sounds like a legislator-to-legislator sort of thing, which is fine for them to do.

Sir.

QUESTION: Once again, about North Korea, yesterday the Korean Deputy Vice Foreign Minister, Mr. Lee Soo-Hyuck, met with Mr. Kelly. Did they make any progress in dealing with North Korean proposal or just stayed where they have been, like just studying?

MR. BOUCHER: There were a couple hours of discussions yesterday. Somewhere I'll get the rundown. Oh, well. Here we go.

Assistant Secretary Kelly met with the Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-Hyuck, yesterday for about two hours in the afternoon and then over dinner. They talked about the ongoing efforts to end North Korea's nuclear programs and preparations to -- for -- preparations for the next six-party working group and plenary sessions. They're also going to meet again this afternoon, so they'll just continue their discussions. I think I'd see it by way of preparation for the next round of six-party talks.

QUESTION: Do you have a sequence built up to bring, similarly with the Japanese, with the others that you can talk about?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have frequent consultations, as you know, with others, but I don't know what the schedule is at this point.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) again, that today South Korean delegation and Jim Kelly meeting with the working other groups.

MR. BOUCHER: I just talked about the meetings Kelly is having today. You're talking about other meetings?

QUESTION: Yeah. South Korean delegation also, too.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, this afternoon, they met yesterday, they're meeting again today.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I don't have much hope in getting an answer to this. I've --

MR. BOUCHER: Keep hoping.

QUESTION: -- more hope than I had yesterday. But can you, without referring me to the Justice Department or citing the Privacy Act, say anything about the Bobby Fischer case?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I cannot say anything without citing the Privacy Act and referring you to the Justice Department.

QUESTION: You're checkmated.

MR. BOUCHER: The law hasn't changed overnight, sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, what are the realistic changes, given the warm relations between Mr. Fischer and the Government, that you're going to get a Privacy Act waiver?

MR. BOUCHER: Depends on what he decides. If he wants to --

QUESTION: Do you not feel constrained, considering the fact that he and his -- well, at least his attorney, has been loudly talking about this and you're not able to?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure.

QUESTION: You do?

MR. BOUCHER: That's the nature of the law.

QUESTION: Can you talk about what you think of the merits of an asylum case, or if you've been in touch with the Japanese Government about what you think the merits of that case might be?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't be able to talk about that, no.

Sir.

QUESTION: The President signed this morning into law the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement. In Australia, the government supports it. The opposition is unclear whether it will support it. Without amendment, it says it won't. If it doesn't go through, given the extent of the support in the Congress, the amount of time spent by this Administration pushing this, do you see any potential fall off the relationship if it is scuttled at this late stage?

MR. BOUCHER: I frankly don't want to speculate. I think this Administration made it very clear how important free trade is. The U.S.-Australia agreement is really remarkable. For many of us who have watched this progress grow, it's a remarkable agreement. It serves the interest of both nations and the people of both nations and we hope the legislatures will take the appropriate steps.

Okay. Sir.

QUESTION: Dr. Condoleezza Rice yesterday, last night on Fox News Channel, was talking about the United States applying new pressure against Iran trying to extract the positions concerning their nuclear programs. And she seems to -- she seemed to threaten new -- certain sanctions against Iran.

I wonder why is it being, intensifying now, the -- I mean, after the call of previous U.S. officials and diplomats for a better relations or repairing the relations with Iran, we see that Congress issuing new law, you know, that -- or new bill that was condemning Iran. We see new efforts like trying to prove that the Administration is not going to repair this relationship.

On the other hand, there is an increased nervousness in the Middle East concerning the Israeli 200 nuclear bombs and its programs. Are you doing anything to assure the Middle Eastern countries along the way that you are working with different countries in order to reduce this threat of nuclear -- the nuclear threat in the Middle East, not only with Iran but other countries too?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I think, don't fall into the fallacy that things only happen in Washington. During all this time that you said there have been intensified calls from the United States on pressure on Iran and getting Iran to abide by IAEA standards and to get in line, Iran has been violating commitments it made, making promises and breaking them, making public statements that they were going to renew construction of centrifuge enrichment facilities, telling the IAEA they weren't going to abide by their commitments, telling the Europeans they weren't going to abide by their commitments.

So, the reason there is increasingly a reaction in Washington and other parts of the world -- you can see from the Europeans as well -- is because Iran has been, repeatedly now, saying, "Well, no, they've changed their mind. They're not going to carry out their commitments. They've changed their mind. They're not going to abide by their IAEA requirements." There's another board meeting coming up in September and the IAEA is going to have to look at that.

Sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, do you have anything on the Turkish hostage execution in Iran, specifically from the reaction from the Turkish truck association, not to allow any U.S. goods to cross the border?

MR. BOUCHER: Did you discuss that yesterday?

QUESTION: No, just the assassination, not the truckers.

MR. BOUCHER: Just the assassination, not the truckers. Certainly, you know, we're sad to see the assassination, but it's, you know, it's another one of these horrible acts that shouldn't keep us from rebuilding Iraq and everybody has a role in that. Certainly, individuals and companies have to make their own decisions about how much they want to expose themselves or what kind of dangers they're willing to run. But we do think that it's important for everybody to remember the big goal, which is to help the people of Iraq establish themselves as a safe and stable society and we want to keep doing that. We will certainly keep doing that.

QUESTION: And I heard the decision not to allow U.S. groups to cross the borders from Turkey to Iraq, which is very important for (inaudible) in the area?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: How is your reaction about Turkey's decision not to allow U.S. goods to cross right now, U.S. goods?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're going to keep supporting reconstruction in Iraq. We'll make sure we do that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing ended at 1:00 p.m.)

DPB#128


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