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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 > 2005 > February
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 18, 2005

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Agenda for 2+2 Ministerial
U.S.-Japan Bilateral Relationship


Emergence of China in the Region
Ambassador Hills Meeting with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and Other Chinese Officials in Beijing on Six-Party Process


Peaceful Resolution of Cross-Strait Differences


Concern by the United States and Others About Syrian Activities
Syrias Participation in the Investigation into the Death of Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri
Recall of U.S. Ambassador / Ambassadors Meetings Before Departing


President Bushs Upcoming Meeting with President Putin / Topics for Discussion


Ongoing Consultations with Six-Party Partners


Query Regarding Americans for Rice Political Action Group
Types of Journalists that normally Travel with Secretary


Visit of Business Delegation to North Cyprus / Policy of Recognition
Effort to Ease the Economic Isolation of Turkish Cypriots


Israeli Gaza Disengagement / Israeli Coordination with Palestinians
Query on Israeli Decision to Cease House Demolitions / U.S. View


Consultations with Ambassador Moriarty / U.S. Policy on Nepal
U.S. Assistance to Nepal


U.S.-Greece Bilateral Relationship


Brookings Institute Study "The Compact with Europe"


Travel of USAID Administrator Natsios


Query on U.S. View of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan


Proposed UN Security Council Resolution / Number of Peacekeepers


Query on Comments by CIA Director Peter Goss Regarding Possible Unrest in Next Mexican Elections


12:40 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, everybody. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements. I'd be glad to take your questions.

Mr. Schweid.

QUESTION: Where we left off upstairs, on Japan and Taiwan and China and all. The Secretary spoke, of course, to the strong relationship the U.S. has with Japan, allies – called an alliance. There are some reports though that the visit tomorrow, the talks tomorrow, will specifically update the security agreement between the two countries with Japan joining the United States in trying to restrain any efforts by China to reabsorb Taiwan.

Can you -- she didn't quite get to that point this morning. I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit on what you expect.

MR. BOUCHER: What I expect is that the Ministers, our Foreign and Defense Ministers, will have a full and complete discussion of security in the region, as well U.S.-Japan relations and the many other things that we're doing together around the world. It's going to encompass a lot of different topics. I'm not going to get ahead of them in terms of predicting what they'll say when it's over or what they might issue on pieces of paper, but they'll decide what they want to say.

I do expect that tensions in the region, including certainly North Korean issues, Taiwan Straits perhaps, will come up. But as she said upstairs, I mean, she made clear we're not changing our cross-straits policy. In fact, I think other countries in the region like us have a "one China" policy, as she explained, and believe that differences and difficulties should be solved through dialogues, not through unilateral moves.

Second of all, we're not extending the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty. We're having discussions within the scope of that treaty about areas in the region within the scope of that treaty and more generally in terms of our interests there.

So these are all topics that get discussed with the U.S. and Japan from time to time and I'm sure they'll be discussed again.

QUESTION: Not expanding, you said, the scope of the treaty?

MR. BOUCHER: Not expanding.

QUESTION: All right. Well, but Japan itself -- you know, all countries mature and Japan has slowly come out of World War II a long time ago. Is Japan, in the U.S. view, prepared to play a more supportive role so far as trying to maintain stability and peace, the phrases she used, in the Taiwan Straits? Do you see Japan as a more -- what should I say?

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, first of all, what Japan may or may not do, you have to ask Japan. As you know, they have humanitarian missions outside of Japan in some places. We and they have treaty commitments to each other. But as far as issues of what exact role they play, it depends on the Japanese Government and they'll have to answer those.

But I think that the fundamental thing to remember is that we and Japan are allies. We cooperate together, work together and talk together about all sorts of things. When there are tensions in some parts of Asia, whether that's North Korea, the Taiwan Straits or some other part of Asia, we talk to Japan about it, and over the years we've had any number of discussions of these and other subjects.

QUESTION: Well, this article which spurred all this questioning suggested that one of the reasons that you're working more closely with Japan on the Taiwan issue is because of China's emergence as a greater power in the region is seen somewhat as a security threat. I mean, are you concerned at all by various moves of China to increase its power in the region, and do you think that China is starting to pose a security threat?

MR. BOUCHER: As I think we've often said, as the Secretary has often said, we support the emergence of China in the region and on the world stage in many areas, as it's doing. We also expect China to play by the rules, to adopt the various standards of conduct that other responsible international players use. And they have, in fact, in many areas, shown that, whether it's joining the WTO or their activity, you know, in support of Security Council resolutions, things like that. So, but that's a process that we see as overall -- overall, we see that process as a positive one for China, the people of China and for the world.

QUESTION: If I may follow up, I mean, you have expressed concerns, particularly in the context of whether or not the European Union abandons the post-Tiananmen Square arms embargo about the possibility that that act, for example, could change -- could pose a strategic threat to U.S. forces if China is suddenly able to buy European arms. So, presumably, you -- I mean, you have expressed in the past, at least, concerns about the possibility of China gaining additional military strength and of that having a strategic effect.

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, yes --

QUESTION: It's not all rosy.

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say it was all rosy. Part of looking for China to adopt responsible behavior and responsible standards is not only in areas like the WTO, where they've done so, or the responsible role they've played at the Security Council in many cases, or other things, but also, for example, to get them to limit their exports of missile technology. That's been an ongoing effort. Or to look to resolve tensions peacefully. We have many times expressed our concerns about tensions on the Taiwan Straits and specifically Chinese military activity in that area.

I was asked if there was some new emergence of China that was disturbing us. I'm not pointing to anything new. What you and I are talking about are things that we have been concerned about and continue to follow closely.


QUESTION: Richard, China's military buildup is not only threat to Taiwan's independence but also to the regional countries in the region, also involve freedom. In the past, China had said that Taiwan belongs to China and they would take it by force or peacefully anyway. So where do we stand on this issue if China attacks Taiwan?

MR. BOUCHER: We stand exactly where the Secretary stood upstairs, and quite clearly, on saying we're against any unilateral moves to change the situation. We want to see this -- these differences resolved peacefully.

QUESTION: And just to follow up quickly, as you said in the past also that Chinese threat to -- is growing, so how seriously U.S. is taking it today?

MR. BOUCHER: Forty-two. (Laughter.) I mean, there is just no answer to a question like that. I'm sorry. We have, I think, been explaining the fact that we see overall China's emergence as positive. I think the Secretary has addressed this in -- it wasn't in the recent -- in earlier, I think, testimony. But there are areas where we need to work with China on the international standards that are expected of all nations, and we hope that China will adopt those standards.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject to Syria?

MR. BOUCHER: Please.

QUESTION: Upstairs the Secretary said that the U.S. is not seeking to isolate Syria. Early in the week, you seemed to indicate that if the Europeans could send a strong message that Syria's behavior was unacceptable, then that would help them understand their isolation. I'm not suggesting there is a contradiction, but can you just elucidate the two statements? Is there a toning down? And was it because she spoke to Europeans about the different messages to Syria?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think there was any toning down. There's a fairly clear position that we have taken to send, as she said in testimony, a strong signal to Syria; and as the President said, that's the goal, is for Syria to understand that it's isolating itself, it's out of step with the region, as the President said, it is creating difficulties for itself by pursuing these policies that lead to problems with its neighbors.

Certainly, the presence of people in Syria who are supporting the insurgency in Iraq is not only a problem for the United States, it's a problem for the Iraqis, and they have raised this many times as well. The activities that Syria undertakes in support of terrorist groups, the presence of terrorist groups there or the tolerance in support of Hezbollah and Hamas, is a problem not just for the United States but for the people of Lebanon, for the people of -- for the Palestinians as well. They are as concerned as anybody that there are people trying to bomb the peace process.

So as -- this kind of activity that we're critical of has -- is a problem not just for us but for others, and to that extent, to that -- in that way, it isolates Syria from others in its neighborhood and the international community. There are opportunities in this region -- opportunities for peace, opportunities for change, opportunities for prosperity -- and that is what the Secretary is going to be pursuing when she goes out on her next trip, some of the activities in London and other places.

So we think it's important for people to recognize that. But what's important right now is for Syria to understand this and to understand it clearly. The United States has taken an action, both in terms of words and pulling our Ambassador back, and some of the actions we've taken under Syrian Accountability Act to make that position, to make that point, very clear, we hope, to Syria.

We hope that others will make the point as well, in their own right, and we hope that more than anything Syria will take heed and start changing some of these activities.

QUESTION: Economic --

QUESTION: Just a follow up. Thanks. Just a quick follow-up on the other parts of what she said. The U.S. wants Syria to participate in an investigation about the death of Hariri. Have they -- has Syria so far been resisting that? Has the U.S. gone to Syria and said you need to do this, not received an answer?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it -- I can't remember if it was expressed or implied, but not just participate but participate in a full and open investigation so that the Lebanese investigators and the international community can get a clear picture of exactly how this happened and who was responsible. I can't find it right now, but I think that was certainly the import of the remarks.

QUESTION: And has Syria -- sorry. The question was: Has Syria --

MR. BOUCHER: I can't remember where I was.

QUESTION: The question was: Has Syria been resisting participating in such an investigation?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I don't know of anything specific I would cite, but I think it's important to all of us and it's an important point for us to remind people of.

QUESTION: Economic sanctions is a form of isolation and used often as a corrective device. When the Secretary says we're not trying to isolate Syria, is she saying we're not considering economic penalties on Syria for its misbehavior? And if we're not isolating Syria, when will the Ambassador be going back?

MR. BOUCHER: As the Secretary has said, the goal is to send a strong signal to Syria. We've done that in a variety of ways. We may have to do more things like that at some point. We'll see. So I'm not predicting anything particular but I'm not ruling anything out in terms of the various tools that we have available to send a strong diplomatic message to Syria.


QUESTION: Richard, a follow-up.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, Said. Go.

QUESTION: Okay. If there is no toning down, will there be toning up? For instance, give Syria and maybe two months and say, you know, if you don't behave or if you're not in step, as the President said yesterday, recall your Ambassador and then keep, you know, ratcheting up the pressure?

MR. BOUCHER: This is a very important issue to the United States. It's an important issue to the people of the region. It's an important issue, we think, and should be an important issue to Europeans and others. These various things that Syria is doing, as I just went through, create problems for a lot of people and create problems for Syria. How that will play in out in the future depends on Syria. It depends on what Syria decides to do.

So again, I'm not predicting anything particular at this moment but we'll have to see how this evolves. We'll see if Syria gets the message and takes action.

Okay, Peter.

QUESTION: Can I turn to North Korea?



MR. BOUCHER: No. Please don't. Okay, Michel.

QUESTION: Have you received any reaction from Syria regarding the recall of Ambassador Scobey?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if there's -- let me check and see if I have anything on that.

I'm not aware of any particular meetings since she left. She's now back in Washington. Before she left, she had, I think, two meetings with the Deputy Foreign Minister and then a final meeting with Foreign Minister Shaara that went on for an hour or so, I think. So we had a fairly complete and thorough discussion at that point. Again, she made the point quite clearly that Syria is out of step with the trends in the region, that there were some very specific problems and areas where Syrian activity was a danger to us, a danger to the Palestinians, a danger to people in the region, and that we would hope -- we wanted Syria to change those activities. That is -- the Syrian Foreign Minister then reacted. Leave it at that.

QUESTION: Have you started the consultations with Ambassador Scobey?

MR. BOUCHER: She's back. I don't think there have been any formal meetings yet. I don't really have any particular activities to describe at this point. She's in touch with people in the bureau.

Okay, sir.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Syria. I mean, what's your message to Russia, which is continuing to supply arms to Syria? Obviously, eyes are focused on the meeting between the President and Mr. Putin. So have there been any exchanges?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know to what extent we've had exchanges. I'm sure we brief the Russians through our embassy on what we've been doing, and I'm sure the subject of Syria will come up during the course of the President's European visit. But the Secretary just addressed the overall picture vis-à-vis Russia and Syria upstairs. I'll just leave it at that.

Okay, where were we?

QUESTION: Yeah, on Syria.


QUESTION: Richard, has the U.S. military, with all these marvelous things at its hand in terms of tracking intelligence and all these things, been able to quantify, determine how much traffic goes across the border, and in terms of insurgency and so on? I mean, we're always -- we always hear that, you know, Syria must stop, but we never hear anything in terms of numbers. Now, what's going on? I mean, the effect, the actual effect?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, you can ask the military if they've quantified it. I think they've certainly, in public -- the Iraqis, in public -- have described the kind of activities that they've seen over time over the border. We've made very clear that we think there are a number of specific individuals, former Baathists, former regime elements, who are in Syria who are still -- who are there and supporting the insurgency in Iraq. And we've been quite specific in many cases with the Syrians about the problems that we saw and what we thought they might do about them.


QUESTION: Can you (inaudible) on what you mean by supporting, whether it's financial or moral or, you know, manpower support? What is the support?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can provide any more particular detail on that at this point. I'll check and see, but I don't know if I can.

Okay. Was this Syria or something else?

QUESTION: Something else.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Then he gets North Korea first.

QUESTION: Okay. Yes, Richard, is there any word -- Christopher Hill has had initial discussions in Beijing. Obviously, it's going to come up tomorrow with the Japanese. Is there anything more evolving on a response to the North Koreans' latest statement on their nuclear program?

MR. BOUCHER: Ambassador Hill met yesterday in Beijing with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, with Vice Foreign Ministers Wu Dawei and Zhou Wenzhong, with the Ambassador for Korean Peninsula Affairs Ning Fukui, and with Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Member Wang Jiarui. They discussed how to move forward in the six-party process, how to get the six-party process back on track and moving forward.

He reiterated that six-party talks are the best way to resolve through peaceful diplomacy the concerns of the international community about North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and they're the best way to end North Korea's international isolation. The United States remains ready to resume six-party talks at an early date without preconditions. They discussed the constructive role that China has played throughout the six-party talks. They agreed to continue to work together to find ways to resume the talks as soon as possible.

Ambassador Hill encouraged China to use its position as chairman of the six-party talks to press the North Koreans to return to the table and to press North Korea to commit to the irreversible and verifiable elimination of its nuclear programs, including uranium enrichment.

As you know, China's leaders have stated frequently that they seek a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula. They reiterated that to Ambassador Hill and reiterated that they will continue to work towards this goal. Ambassador Hill returned to South Korea on Thursday evening.

QUESTION: Is there anything they'll be discussing with the Japanese, any specific things tomorrow?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll be going over the whole situation as well. I think last week when North Korea made this announcement and said they weren't prepared to return to the talks, or at least at this time, the Secretary talked about sort of the series of discussions and consultations she was going to have, some phone calls she made last weekend, including with the Chinese Foreign Minister. She saw the South Korea Foreign Minister on Monday. We've had Ambassador Hill go to Beijing now and talk to the Chinese in more detail, the Japanese tomorrow, so this is an ongoing process of consultation. I'm sure we'll be talking to the Russians, as well.

Okay, Joel.

QUESTION: Richard, Russia appears to be backing Iran, especially on their nuclear projects, and also at the same time Syria, which we've just mentioned, seems to be working into some type of working arrangement not to our liking. And will that be one of the high priorities when President Bush will meet with Vladimir Putin in talks?

MR. BOUCHER: Without adopting a precise formulation, I think if you look at the briefing done at the White House yesterday by the National Security Advisor, you'll see that the subject of Iran, certainly, he expects to come up and I would expect the issues of Syria to come up as well when the President meets with President Putin. We are all working together, remember, with the Russians in the Middle East through the Quartet, trying to help achieve peace in that region, and issues that might disrupt that process will certainly be discussed.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?


QUESTION: Okay. Hasn't President Putin's statement about his belief that Iran is not pursuing atomic weapons undercut your effort to get international consensus and pressure on Iran to give up what you have repeatedly said is a weapons program?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary was asked precisely that question upstairs, and I'll stick with her answer.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?


QUESTION: This is about a new political action group in Washington. It's called Americans for Rice, and they're dedicated to electing the Secretary as President in 2008. They've already started running radio ads in states like Iowa and they're moving on to New Hampshire now. Does the Secretary know about this group? Have they sent her any material or anything like that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I have never heard her mention it. As far as this sort of general topic, I'd just refer you back to the brief conversation when it was mentioned in the David Frost interview, I think it was, one of her interviews in Europe.

Wasn't it David Frost?

MR. CASEY: David Frost, yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: Let's keep going back. Yes.

QUESTION: Just a follow up on the U.S.-Japan security alliance treaty. I'm just curious if the U.S. has consulted with Japan or Taiwan or informed them that the treaty may be revised?

MR. BOUCHER: We're not revising the treaty. So why would we talk to anybody about revising the treaty?



QUESTION:   On Cyprus. Mr. Boucher, may we have a readout about yesterday's grand tour visit to the Turkish occupied territory of Cyprus by your commercial attaché in Ankara and his delegation?

MR. BOUCHER:   The business delegation that went, and our attaché went with them. I don't have a rundown yet of the activities. I'll see if we can get you anything here. There may be more available from the Embassy in Turkey, actually.

QUESTION: Do you consider this visit legal?

MR. BOUCHER: This is a normal business and economic visit. It doesn't have any legal implications or any implications for our policy of recognition.

QUESTION: How come you didn't do that in the last 30 years and you're doing now?

MR. BOUCHER: Because right now we're making an effort to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and we think economic exchanges and activity is one way to do that.

QUESTION: But how do you recognize the occupied territory of Cyprus as a "legal state"?

MR. BOUCHER: We have not changed our policy on recognition.

Okay. Said, yeah.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. BOUCHER: You can ask more about Cyprus if you want to. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Richard, do you know if Secretary Rice responded to what Mr. Sharon said on Tuesday to the journalists? He said that our agreement is with the Bush Administration, referring to the letter that the President gave him back on April 14th -- enough with the Palestinians. And he says we pull out from Gaza because we want to solidify our presence in the West Bank. Did she -- has she discussed this with him, or do you find --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any particular discussions that she's had on the subject. The United States -- I think U.S. policy has been clear that we do think it's important that Gaza disengagement is an opportunity because it offers the prospects for the Palestinians to actually establish control over territory. It also is linked to the roadmap and the further development of the process.

This is something that Israel decided to do on its own, but it's also something I think you've seen Prime Minister Sharon and other Israelis talk about coordinating with the Palestinians. They are working very well with the Palestinians on security issues, on economic issues, on crossings, on many things that involve improving the lives of Palestinians. And I think you now see them talking about doing the disengagement, about coordinating that with the Palestinians to make sure it's good -- that it improves the security situation and the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Let's start back at the front. Sorry, George. Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION:   On Nepal, we're reporting that six political activists were detained in Nepal and that phone connections have then been cut. Do you have any comment on those?

MR. BOUCHER:   I don't. I'll have to check and see. I don't have that particular information.


QUESTION:  Do you have anything on Libyan compensation for the families of the Pan Am 103 victims?

MR. BOUCHER:   Nothing new.

QUESTION:   I believe there was a deadline.

MR. BOUCHER:   Was there another deadline? The escrow deadline?

QUESTION: You guys typically -- and in Ambassador Burns' statement after he was in Libya explicitly asked them to extend the deadline and it would be in --

MR. BOUCHER: I'll look and see if I have any news on that. Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: On Nepal. Richard, before I go to my question, I just want to bring to the Secretary's attention that after extensive interviews in India and here, Secretary Rice is one of the three most powerful and influential women in the world. Indeed --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure she'll be interested to know that.

QUESTION: Question on Nepal. One, that the U.S. recalled U.S. Ambassador to Nepal for consultations, I believe still here. But yesterday in an interview, Nepal's Ambassador to the U.S. told me that his country needs more time and U.S. and international community should have patience and give them about three years before they come back to democracy and full-fledged freedom because of Maoist problems in his country. So what the U.S. think about --

MR. BOUCHER: Let me say two things. First Ambassador Moriarty has been here. He's completing today his consultations in Washington. And as we said, he would come back for about a week. He'll be returning to Nepal next week.

It's been very useful to have him here. We've had a chance to talk with him thoroughly about our serious concerns about the situation in Nepal. And he'll go back to Kathmandu again now and continue to work that situation for us.

Our policy has been quite clear, that this is a step backwards, that the King needs to restore and protect civil and human rights promptly. He needs to release those detained under the state of emergency and move quickly toward the restoration of civil liberties and multiparty ethnic democratic institutions under a constitutional monarchy. That's been a view that we have stated directly, that Ambassador Moriarty stated directly to the King on February 7th before he came back. It's a message that our chargé at the Embassy has continued to deliver to Nepali officials and a message that we will continue to deliver in a variety of ways.

QUESTION: Just to quickly follow up, also at the same time, Amnesty International is calling on the U.S. and the global community to put more pressure on Nepal, and also hold of the military and other aids. Any comments on that?

MR. BOUCHER: We will look at our options considering assistance to Nepal, depending on how the situation evolves and whether it does evolve promptly or not.

There is a lot of U.S. assistance to Nepal that goes into things like health programs. More than half of it goes into health programs for ordinary Nepalese, so we'd certainly take that into account as we look at the options. There's about $42 million in assistance for fiscal year 2005.


QUESTION: That includes military?

MR. BOUCHER: That's overall U.S. assistance, yeah. David.

QUESTION: Iraqi officials say they've acceded to the Treaty of Rome for the International Criminal Court. Do you know anything about that? And are you pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq in response? (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen that. I'll have to check and see if we have any information on that. Right now we've got a bunch of people left.

QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Boucher, it was reported by the Greek daily newspaper Vima, "V-i-m-a," that somehow the Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis is a kind of persona non grata in the United States, and the Greek desk here at Department of State almost does not exist. Any comment on that report?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, the Greek desk exists. I have friends who work there and I see them often and they definitely exist and still work hard on U.S.-Greek relations.

Greece is an important ally of ours, and I don't think anybody should ever denigrate that. We have been working with them. The Secretary had a brief conversation with Foreign Minister Molyviatis during her recent trip to Europe, and I'm sure they will continue to talk and see each other and work together on the many issues that we have in common.

QUESTION: At this stage, how do you assess the relation between the two countries?

MR. BOUCHER: I have no new assessment. We're good allies and friends and we work together on many, many things. The relationship's fine.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, do you know if accredited foreign correspondents are lecturing in your School of Foreign Service of the Department of State?

MR. BOUCHER: Accredited foreign correspondents?


MR. BOUCHER: I know that they have a variety of courses where they invite journalists to come and help our people understand journalists.

QUESTION: Do they receive a salary, honorarium, as a compensation, something --

MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check and see. Are you looking for a job? (Laughter.)

QUESTION:   No, I'm not interested. (Laughter.) But do you know if Greek correspondents lecture and are still lecturing to this school?

MR. BOUCHER:   I frankly don't. I'll have to check.


MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, okay. Joel, you had one?

QUESTION: Yes. Earlier the Brookings Institution just released a large study called "The Compact with Europe," both signed and endorsed by world leaders, some in retirement. Has the Secretary had time to review that study and what is your reaction?

MR. BOUCHER: There was -- I think it was released yesterday. There was also a Herald Tribune, the short executive summary version. She's certainly aware of it, looked at it. We'll, I'm sure, look at it and take it seriously. As you know, many of the issues that are discussed in there she's already been working during her trip to Europe. The President will work them further. But I'm sure the views of these -- what is it? -- 40-some people who signed it will be taken into account.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Two quick ones. One, do you have any comment on the Israeli decision to cease house demolitions, the Israeli military to cease house demolitions? And do you have clarity on whether that it is a permanent decision or whether that is simply a temporary decision to suspend them for now and that they reserve the right to continue them in the future should they wish to do so?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can give you any further information on the decision itself and whether they see it as permanent or not. They would have to explain that. But as you know, we have long called for an end to demolitions, to confiscation of Palestinian property as a matter of principle. We do support efforts like this to build confidence and we think they contribute to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security. So it's a good step and it's something that we've been concerned about for a long time.

QUESTION: But you'd obviously like it to be permanent, since you've had this position for a long time.

MR. BOUCHER: We have not changed our position. We expect it to maintain.

QUESTION: May I ask the other one? Is -- are Rush Limbaugh and Mary Matalin traveling to Afghanistan with USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios? And if they are, are they paying for their trip, as journalists normally do, or is the U.S. Government in any way paying for their transport or lodging?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll ask you to check with AID on specifically who might be going on this journey, but Andrew Natsios, the Administrator, is leaving for Afghanistan in the latter part of February. He is going to be visiting sites throughout the country to see the process of reconstruction. Details of the travel are still being worked out.

As you all know, the Secretary, other U.S. government officials, Administrator Natsios, do from time to time allow journalists to accompany them on their trip. We do think it's an important way of making the American people aware of what's going on. There's a lot of things to look at in terms of the reconstruction program in Afghanistan, building roads, water supplies, health care centers, all that sort of thing, and taking journalists along on this trip is certainly one way of letting the American people know about that.

As to specifically which journalists are going and the exact costs and how they're borne, of the trip, have to get AID to tell you that when it's at the time.

QUESTION: Do they not know -- I mean, I'm wondering why you can't answer that, only because -- I mean, AID, I thought, was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the State Department since the -- isn't that right -- since the

MR. BOUCHER: They're a wholly-owned partner. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But they're wholly owned, so if they're wholly owned then you're the spokesman for the --

MR. BOUCHER: They do have a separate press operation that gets into more detail on their things than I do, and I'll let them do that in this case.

QUESTION: And one other question. Isn't it generally the case that journalists who travel are not sort of a -- are not, as it were, commentators, but are sort of reporters; isn't that right? Or in the past, has the Secretary -- have secretaries taken along editorial writers or columnists, for example?

MR. BOUCHER: There have been some. I mean, frankly, it depends on demand, in some cases. We look at the people who want to go, try to take people who want to go. There's no hard and fast rule. We take all sorts of people who are interested.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, a question?

MR. BOUCHER: Got a couple more here.

QUESTION: Richard, just a quick clarification, going back to Nepal, please. You said that Ambassador's visit for the consultation here was useful. Could you just a little bit give more what are his views or how, in what sense, are useful?

MR. BOUCHER: Useful in terms of letting us and him examine all the policy options and all of the issues regarding Nepal from his particular on-the-ground detailed perspective and work together with him on how we can hopefully best influence things in the right direction, which is to see a prompt restoration of democracy.

Okay. We had one or two more in the back. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, seeing as you met recently in Ankara the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, do you share the yesterday's story by the Wall Street Journal characterizes him as an anti-American, anti-Semitic and as a sick man of Europe?

MR. BOUCHER: I would characterize our views the way the Secretary characterized them when she was in Turkey. You'll see there's quite a lot of things she said there and I invite you to read the transcripts. That's our official view.

QUESTION: Just to go back to the six-party talks with North Korea. I was just wondering the timing of this announcement for the mutual security concerns. Does the State Department have anything further on the announcement -- the announcement of this and China sort of being in the forefront of getting North Korea to the table?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as to when the North Koreans made their own statement about not coming back unless blah, blah, blah, we made clear we were going to engage in a process of consultations, that the first thing we were going to do is talk to our friends and partners in these conversations. So we've had a series of discussions, including using a previously scheduled 2+2 ministerial with Japan tomorrow as an opportunity to discuss that particular issue in some detail.

I'm sure the subject of North Korea was going to come up anyway, but there was a chance -- it is a chance tomorrow for the Secretary and Secretary Rumsfeld, together with their Japanese counterparts, to go into somewhat more detail about the current situation.

QUESTION: North Korea. Since North Korea made this public announcement about their possession of nuclear weapons and diplomatic efforts were launched to bring them back to the table, do you see any light at the end of the tunnel in terms of their indication of willingness to come back to the table?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to read lights in North Korea at the end of tunnels.


MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to make any predictions about North Korean behavior. We'll just see what they do.

QUESTION: Richard, with regard to the resolution you're putting the UN on Darfur, it appears that you would want roughly 10,000 troops, and it's suggested that -- to the AU -- this is very much behind schedule. Is there any plans to immediately send an envoy from the White House and/or the State Department to resolve these issues with Sudan?

MR. BOUCHER: The issues of the resolution have been long discussed and expected; 10,000 was the number that was planned on for peacekeepers for the north-south agreement. That process of discussion is underway. We've had experts meetings. There is active discussion up in New York of our proposed resolution to do that, along with some of the other things, including the possibility of targeted sanctions on Sudanese because of what's happening in Darfur. So that's an active discussion in New York now, and that's where we're pursuing it.

QUESTION: Richard, can I just go to Mexico, just one question?


QUESTION: The Mexican Government seems to be very angry because some comments of Mr. Porter Goss, Director of the CIA, in regards with possible unrest or problems in the next election. Can you comment something on that?


QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, have you received any note from the Mexican Government?

MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to ask the Mexicans about what they might be doing or asking us about, but I'm -- I don't have anything on the subject.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

DPB #28

Released on February 18, 2005

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