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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 > December
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 14, 2004



Iraqi Special Tribunal / Court Process of Investigative Judges
Assistance from International Community
Iraqi Process of Prosecution / Saddam Hussein
Query on Tariq Aziz and Other Detainees
Issue of Custody for Detainees
Status on Number of Troops in Iraq


Tariq Ramadan / Questions Pending in Visa Process


Signing of Qualified Industrial Zone Agreement


Hamas Claims of Contact with United States and EU


Human Trafficking / Suspension of General Un Sokunthea
U.S. Support of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department
Incident Involving Rescue of Women and Girls from Brothel


Impact of Elections


Official Election Results
Reports of Irregularities


Basic Framework of Arrangement for Palestinian Elections
Direct Money Going to Elections


Progress on Demarcation of Border
Status of Ministerial Level Delegations


Query on the Cooperation in War on Terror
Reports of Australia Mission Reduction in Hours of Operation


Deputy Secretary Armitage Meeting with Japanese Minister for Environment
Issue of Imposing Sanctions on North Korea


European Union Considers Lifting of Arms Ban


12:00 p.m. EST

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

QUESTION: Well, could you tell us what you think of the likely beginning of trials next week in Iraq of Baathists and other enemies of the government?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to explain exactly where we understand the core process is.


MR. BOUCHER: Always with the proviso that this process is in the hands of the Iraqis.

QUESTION: Absolutely.

MR. BOUCHER: The Iraqi Special Tribunal will proceed as it prepares cases and moves forward. I think I discussed this a bit yesterday and said that their effort so far in compiling data, databases, evidence and things like that had been, you might say, largely behind the scenes. They were moving into more and more visible areas.

There is a court process that involves investigative judges and a hearing for some of the former regime officials that is under preparation that we would expect to be held next week. At that point, the accused and their attorneys do go to court, although that's not the actual trial.

Each trial process takes time and consists of several stages. This is an Iraqi court, run by Iraqi judges, and they will move through those stages and set the timetable for the court proceedings. We do expect it to be an open process. It will be more and more visible to the general public. We'll see hearings, we'll see legal motions, and we'll see a prosecution conducted by the Iraqis.

They are supported, with some assistance from the international community, as they prepare for trials and develop the structures of the court. And we and other partners are continuing to help them in that regard.

QUESTION: Assistance meaning financial assistance?

MR. BOUCHER: Assistance -- We've done some training. We've done some legal advice. They've -- in their statute, as you know, they can use experts from around the world in order to prepare these things.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. providing them with any legal material, with anything to help make a case? And what about Saddam Hussein? Does he remain under --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think it applies to all the detainees. I don't know the exact status of Saddam Hussein, but they are being brought into an Iraqi process of prosecution. We have provided legal advice, financial support, but also things like the forensics on the mass graves that have been uncovered, the evidence that has been amassed over the really decades of collection of these information about the crimes of the former regime.

We've done some training, as I've said. So we have helped in a variety of ways. So they are now moving forward with their process for them to decide how to proceed and how to put on trial the people who put the -- who committed these crimes against the Iraqi people.


QUESTION: Just to follow up. Will people like Tariq Aziz and others be accused of genocide or crimes against humanity?

MR. BOUCHER: That will be something for the Iraqi courts and the Iraqi prosecutors to decide.

QUESTION: But you don't have any idea of what are the charges against these particular people?

MR. BOUCHER: That will be something for the Iraqis to decide.


QUESTION: Richard, when this was being set up, you said that you reserved the right after the Iraqis were through with their judicial process to try anybody that committed any crimes against the United States. Are there any plans for that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything new on that.

QUESTION: Richard, even though you call it an Iraqi process, and I know you're referring to the legal --

MR. BOUCHER: Proceedings, yeah.

QUESTION: -- that didn't happen, what about the custody of all of these people? Are they still under U.S. custody? Are some under -- ? Saddam?

MR. BOUCHER: I think your colleague asked me that about Saddam Hussein. I, frankly, don't know. That's a question you'll have to check with the Pentagon on, whether --

QUESTION: Could you take the question?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a question you can ask the Pentagon, as far as who has physical custody.

QUESTION: Tariq Ramadan, the would-be professor at Notre Dame University, earlier in Geneva today said he was giving up on the job and coming to the United States, and he called his inability to get here, "an attack on academic freedom." Does the State Department have any comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER: We've commented on this before. There are questions that need to be asked and answered in visa interviews, in the visa process. We have been willing to go through that process after Mr. Ramadan's initial exclusion. We would have to point out, though, that the resignation from the proffered teaching post at Notre Dame would nullify the basis for the pending visa application and, thus, that would end the review of his application for a visa.

The gentleman, Mr. Ramadan, had reapplied for a visa; the case was under review, but beyond that I cannot go.

Sir. Yes.

QUESTION: Egypt, Israel and the United States have signed today a partial free trade deal. Do you have anything on that?

MR. BOUCHER: This is related to something called the Qualified Industrial Zones. It's a very important development. It's something we've been working on for some time. Ambassador Zoellick is attending the signing ceremony today in Egypt. He said, "It is a concrete, practical result of President Bush's plan to promote U.S. trade ties with the Middle East so as to strengthen development, openness and peaceful economic links between Israel and its neighbors. We are pleased that agreement has been reached on these Qualified Industrial Zones. We expect the zones in greater Cairo, Alexandria, the Suez Canal to expand trade and promote investment while serving as a catalyst for stronger ties between Israel and Egypt. We hope, also, that Egypt will focus other economic reform efforts in order to boost its international competitiveness more generally."

This has been a regular subject of discussion with Egypt and with Israel for many months now. The Secretary has been discussing it with his Egyptian and Israeli counterparts over time and we're glad to see that between us and, especially the trade officials involved, that we've been able to bring this all to fruition. And we think it's a very positive thing and offers opportunities to Israelis and Egyptians, in terms of business, jobs, exports and modernization of their economy.

QUESTION: Richard, a leader of Hamas was on the BBC yest-- last night over in the U.K. on Newsnight, I think, and he said that Hamas has been in contact with the United States and the EU. Is that true?

MR. BOUCHER: No. We don't conduct business with designated terrorist organizations. Hamas is a designated terrorist organization, and we're not aware of anything at all that would substantiate such a reference.

QUESTION: Any contact at all?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Not from the State Department; we're not aware of anything that would be even remotely like that.

QUESTION: Not through a third party or --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything that could substantiate such a claim.

QUESTION: Poland today has announced an important reduction in the number of its troops in Iraq from 2,500 to 1,700 soldiers. Are you disappointed by this decrease?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. As you know, people are increasing their numbers, extending, decreasing numbers all the time. The Japanese just extended for a year the other day. We've had a lot of various different troops go in recently. I haven't -- I wasn't aware the polls that made any new announcements or what their timeframe is for this, but it's an ongoing process. Some are increasing, some are decreasing; and I don't have any particular, now, comment on one statement or another.


QUESTION: Do you have anything on the developments in Cambodia concerning human trafficking?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I think you all saw we put out a statement the other day expressing particular concern about some women and girls who had been rescued from a brothel in Phnom Penh. Now on December 13th, yesterday, the police commissioner in Cambodia suspended General Un Sokunthea, head of the Cambodian Police Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department. That department had been the ones who rescued the women and girls from this brothel and we're very deeply concerned to see that the head of that department has been suspended. Obviously, any punitive measures against her would call into question Cambodia's commitment to fight human trafficking.

We very much support the work of the Anti-Trafficking Department. We believe that General Un should be commended for the courageous efforts to investigate this brothel and other brothels.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that the government was responsible for the -- not responsible, but implicit, in the abduction of these women, that they looked the other way or -- ?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly how to describe it. Obviously, when the government finds out about something like this, the action that the Anti-Trafficking Department took to rescue these women and girls and give them a new opportunity on life is one that should be commended, and not something that should be subject to further potential punitive action by other people in the police department.

So we certainly believe that they should do the right thing and support these kinds of activities and not in any way denigrate them. But how much they might have been involved or if somebody might have been involved in the genesis of the whole situation, I don't know.

QUESTION: Are you investigating that?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it's a matter we'd certainly keep under advisement, but I'm not aware that there's any particular investigation. We're trying to deal right now with the situation of these women, how to make sure that they have this new opportunity and that the people that are trying to help them are able to help them.

QUESTION: You don't have anybody in Cambodia and --

MR. BOUCHER: We have a whole embassy in Cambodia.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, I'm sorry. What are you doing to -- I'm thinking of Burma. What are you trying to do to find the --

QUESTION: There's an embassy in Burma, too.

MR. BOUCHER: There's an embassy in Burma, too. Let's go back to the subject and not discuss --

QUESTION: Well, but no, I'm just saying, what are trying to do to find the girls?

MR. BOUCHER: This has been a matter that our Embassy has followed and something that we're working on through our Embassy in Cambodia, and I think I'll just leave it at that for the moment.

Yeah. Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: No, we've got a few more.


QUESTION: Yeah. I apologize if that came up yesterday, Richard. But on Taiwan, the election results, does that have any impact on the arms deal that you were --

MR. BOUCHER: It came up yesterday. I declined to speculate yesterday.

QUESTION: You did? Okay, sorry.

MR. BOUCHER: And I don't think I'll speculate today. I haven't changed my mind overnight.



QUESTION: The U.S. Embassy in Bucharest monitored the elections, presidential elections, the second tour. Do you have any comments on the outcome, as the official results have been brought to the public?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, we congratulate Mr. Basescu on his victory. We look forward to continuing in very close cooperation between the United States and Romania. Mr. Nastase, of course, has conceded, and we think that's the right thing to do.

Overall, we're very pleased to see a open, free and fair election and congratulate the Romanian people on the election. There were monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- 15 international experts who went to assess the elections. They noted some administrative problems that have persisted in these elections but they consider the overall conduct to be satisfactory.

We've heard some reports of irregularities, and of course, these irregularities all need to be investigated. But there is no evidence that these irregularities affected the outcome. We'll look forward to their final report in about a month.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Sir. Said.

QUESTION: Very quickly on the Palestinian election. I know the Israelis are saying they will pull out for three days, and the Palestinians are saying we need more. The Israelis are stopping candidates from moving from place to place. One candidate, Hassan Khreisheh, was forced to withdraw his name because he couldn't even leave his village.

So, one, are you going to press the Israelis to open up for a little more time? And second, did you request -- or are you going to request the Israelis to allow the candidates to move because Mr. Marwan Barghouti alleges that he was beaten up last week?

Then I have a quick follow-up on that.

MR. BOUCHER: We have seen those reports. I think our basic attitude has been that so far the parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians, seem to have been working very positively. They have worked out a number of these issues. They worked out the basic framework of arrangements for the Palestinian elections. We have certainly welcomed that. We've encouraged that. We think both sides have shown a positive attitude, and we hope that they continue to work these things out.

So I realize there is a few differences over different aspects of this, but I think the track record so far is good and we have just basically encouraged them to keep working that way.

QUESTION: Are you aware, or maybe you could share with us if there are any plans to send in, like, emergency aid for the election considering that the $20 million that was sent out apparently went to Israel utility companies?

MR. BOUCHER: It also serves to free up budget resources that the government, that the Palestinian Authority might need for the elections. I'd give you this statement that Ambassador Burns did at the Ad Hoc Liaison Group in Oslo. I think that details in some -- a bit more than I can from the top of my head, some of the direct money that's going to the elections and how the money contributes to helping the Palestinians have an election at this point.

Yeah. David.

QUESTION:   You may have to take these. I was looking for a readout from Mr. Armitage's meeting with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister yesterday and whether -- I understand that there is a ministerial-level Eritrean group in town and I'm wondering if there are plans to meet them. And c, Yamamoto was in Eritrea. I'm just wondering if there is any sort of U.S. move afoot to try to straighten out the problems there between Ethiopian and Eritrea.

MR. BOUCHER:   It's been -- the problems between Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as our individual relationships with each of these places have been important matters for our diplomacy over time. The U.S. has always encouraged progress on the demarcation of the border, but we've also looked to make opportunities to move forward in our relationships. And that's essentially, I think, what Deputy Assistant Secretary Yamamoto was doing when he was in Eritrea.

As far as ministerial-level delegations and some of those other questions, I will have to look at them and see what we can get you.

Yeah. Farrah?

QUESTION:   Have you ever talked about what Deputy Secretary Armitage discussed with the Chief of Staff of Yushchenko on Friday? I know they met for, like, ten minutes. Did you ever get a readout of their meeting?

MR. BOUCHER:   No. Did Adam talk about it? I have to check on it. I wasn't aware of that. We were on travel on Friday.

QUESTION:   I have one other question on Indonesia. Is it the U.S.'s position that Indonesia has been fully cooperative in the war on terror?

MR. BOUCHER:   I don't know that we've tried to sort of put gold stars on people and say "fully cooperative" or "partially cooperative" or "somewhat cooperative." We don't -- really haven't tried to do rankings.

What we've said is that everybody needs to give this their full effort. We've seen a lot of work by Indonesia in the war on terror. We are always looking for more areas where we can cooperate with other governments to try to stop terrorism. And I think it's in our interests and their interests, as well, to do that.

QUESTION: If I might follow up, from Canberra Tuesday, the Australian Foreign Ministry announced that their mission operating hours and scale of staff will be reduced during the year-end holiday period; and they cited the general risk of perhaps more terror. Is the United States doing similar or does it share this assessment?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that. I would suggest, however, that you check the general Travel Warning we have for Indonesia that relates to some of those things.

Let's go to the back.

QUESTION: Change of subject. Do you have the readout for -- I'm sorry, Mr. Armitage met with the Japanese officials yesterday afternoon. And also, if you can confirm some reports that saying that Mr. Armitage indicated that U.S. will support Japan on possible sanctions that Japan would put on North Korea?

MR. BOUCHER: Which Japanese officials are you asking me about, that the Secretary -- the Deputy Secretary met with?

He met with the Japanese Minister for Environment.


MR. BOUCHER: That was yesterday. I think I talked about that a little bit yesterday.

I know this question did come up about what he told -- what he said about sanctions, and he said, in fact, in private what he has said before in interviews, I think, with Japanese wire services, or maybe it was one of the newspapers, where he talked about, first of all, our support for Japanese efforts to resolve the abductee issue. He said that we do not take a position on whether or not Japan should impose sanctions on North Korea.

As he said previously, he said sanctions can be a powerful tool, and especially the threat of sanctions, and any imposition of sanctions should be carefully planned and deliberately implemented so as to maximize effectiveness and produce desired results. So it was just a general observation. He didn't recommend one way or the other whether Japan should take that step.

QUESTION: Could you get a readout of that meeting?


QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Sir.

QUESTION: There was a report that Deputy Secretary Armitage, during that meeting, urged Japan to avoid using sanctions.

MR. BOUCHER: That's what she just asked and that's what I just answered.


MR. BOUCHER: I told you what he did say.

Okay, Elise.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the Polish decision to withdraw a third of its troops by February?

QUESTION: He asked that.

QUESTION: My God, I'm totally out of it.

MR. BOUCHER: Do you have any reaction to the fact your colleague asked the question 20 minutes ago --


MR. BOUCHER: -- and I said I'll try to deal with it? I haven't learned anything since I've been here. (Laughter.) I haven't learned anything because I've been here with you. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: All right. If this question has been asked, I withdraw the question.


QUESTION: I heard a little blurb on the radio this morning about the Europeans lifting the arms ban on -- with respect to sales to China. Do you have anything on it?

MR. BOUCHER: This has been an issue the EU has been considering. The EU made some decisions last week. You'll see Foreign Minister Bot also addressed it at the press conference that we had in The Hague last Friday. That, as far as we know, is the latest statement by the European Union on the subject, and I'll just stick with what they said then. Our views are clear. They have not made any decisions to lift the ban at this point.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:20 p.m.)


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