State Dept. Daily Press Briefing - December 6

Published: Sat 7 Dec 2002 12:54 AM
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 6, 2002
1-2 Public Announcement
2 Proposed European Union Membership
10 Justice and Development Party Leader Visit to US
3-6 Inspections Process / Interviews with Iraqi Scientists
4-5 Evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction
5-6 Iraqi Report of its Weapons of Mass Destruction
8-9 Potential Strike on Iraq / Use of Foreign Bases
6 Macedonian Consulate Bombing
6-7 General Strike
7 Possible Organization of American States (OAS) Meeting
8 Effect on Oil Industry
9 Deputy Secretary Armitage Travel
9-10 Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization Board Meeting
9 Heavy Fuel Oil Shipment
11-12 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)
10 Potential Harm of Israeli Policies on American Security
11 Attack in Gaza
11 Chinese General Visit to US
12 Alleged Rape by US Marine Officer
12-13 Probe of American Activities
13 Mass Grave Discovered
13 Fingerprinting of Visiting US Journalists
MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm glad to be here and I'd be happy to take your questions. Mr. Schweid.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate at all on that -- call it an alert -- it really wasn't -- the statement on Turkey, the possibility of an attack, a terrorist attack, in southern Turkey? It was obviously a sketchy announcement.
MR. BOUCHER: And it talked specifically about one airport.
QUESTION: And it talked about an airport, which is intriguing, and didn't talk about Incirlik, which is in the neighborhood.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't, really. No, I can't elaborate on that. I'm afraid that we have provided the best information we can, but to go any farther would get into the sources and methods of how we acquire information.
QUESTION: Can you say, if you can, whether it has any relationship to the situation with Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. No, I don't think I can.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
QUESTION: Do you think any relationship with the Assistant Secretary Wolfowitz and the Grossman visit to Turkey?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think so.
QUESTION: Is the thing that kept it from being a full-out travel warning just that it was limited to a certain area and you don't feel that any other areas in Turkey are vulnerable?
MR. BOUCHER: We do public announcements of various kinds. Travel warnings are a little more thorough and complete. This is a particular announcement about a particular situation where we can provide some information, as I think we said it was uncorroborated or unconfirmed, as best we can. But it's not a full-out warning.
QUESTION: Because it's limited to just this area?
MR. BOUCHER: It's more particular and specific, yeah.
QUESTION: Is it the coincidence where the Assistant Secretary Wolfowitz when he talk with the US journalists he mentioned about the two airport, which one of them is this airport?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see the quotes from Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I'm not surprised that he knew about the information and that he might have said something. But no, we didn't issue this because of his trip or anything like that.
QUESTION: Yes, same country but a completely different issue.
MR. BOUCHER: You guys are getting good at this.
QUESTION: The Franco-German proposal to set a date for talks on EU membership in two years for Turkey.
MR. BOUCHER: I guess I have to be honest and say, first of all, we are not members of the European Union, but we have always been very strong supporters of Turkey's aspirations to join the European Union and of Turkey's wish to begin accession talks as soon as possible. This process would draw Turkey, a democracy and a strong NATO ally, even closer to the Western community and would help meet the desires of the Turkish people. We feel strongly that Turkey should be offered an early confirmed date to begin accession negotiations and we are in contact with various other governments about that point of view.
QUESTION: Need those negotiations be prolonged? Is it a complicated process?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the actual conduct of the negotiation is really a matter for the European Union to conduct. They have, as you know, standards and requirements of every applicant, and that would include Turkey, were they to set a date for negotiation.
But we have noted Turkey has made a lot of internal reforms already. They have proposed further very significant reforms, and we think that it's possible to advance this process as well as to advance the process of a settlement in Cyprus by carrying out this action at this time, by giving them a date at this time.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Can you -- I'm sorry, did you point to me or someone else?
MR. BOUCHER: I pointed to you.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you. I'd like to talk about Iraq for a moment, please. There are reports that the US is pressuring the inspectors to either submit a list of scientists that should be interviewed, to do that quickly. Can you tell us what you know about what the US is doing in trying to arrange for interviews with Iraqi scientists, either in or out of the country?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, this is one of the powers that were given to the inspectors under the resolution. We think it is important for the inspectors to exercise the full range of their capabilities, as defined in Resolution 1441, and that includes immediate, unrestricted and private access to all officials and other persons that the teams choose to interview. The resolution states specifically in paragraph five that they can conduct interviews inside or outside Iraq; they can facilitate the travel of those interviewed, and family members, outside of Iraq.
So we do believe that conducting interviews is a critical tool for the inspectors to carry out their mandate and determine if Iraq has decided to take the final opportunity to comply with its international obligations to disarm.
Go back to the Secretary's remarks the other day -- I think it was in Colombia -- when he reminded people inspections are not just inspections; the inspection process as a whole is a process of discussion, of interviews, of information, of inspections, of monitoring -- a lot of different aspects to it, and all these aspects need to be used and all of them need to be directed at the goal of making sure that Iraq disarms.
QUESTION: And has the US found the UN reluctant to do this as vigorously as the US seems to be pushing it?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to characterize the UN inspections at this point. We have tried to make sure that we and other nations offer every possible support for the UN inspectors that is required by the resolutions and we have been doing that. We have been supporting them as they have gotten geared up to do the inspections. They have started their work but they are by no means doing everything yet, and we'll continue to support them as they move forward.
QUESTION: One more, please.
MR. BOUCHER: You've got one more? Okay.
QUESTION: There are various scenarios being floated for what could happen if scientists were, in fact, brought out of the country and interviewed outside of the country. One of them is that asylum could be offered to these people or a choice to remain out of the country.
Can you say what planning the US is doing to, you know, link, you know, to go into a witness protection program? Would they be given -- come to the US, go to another country?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. That would really depend on the circumstances. What I think we have made clear to the inspectors, we've also made clear in our public statements, is we think the capability should be exercised; that we will offer whatever support we can to people who want to talk to the United Nations and need to be able to talk to the United Nations freely; that we would be concerned about the safety and welfare of these individuals, as well as their family members who might remain in a repressive situation inside Iraq.
So we have had discussions with the inspection organizations about how to ensure the security of the people who are interviewed and of their family members. But again, we have always said that all governments should be supporting the United Nations inspections, as called for under the resolution.
QUESTION: Some Members of Congress, world leaders and others say that if United States has hard evidence that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, why you not release that evidence for all to see? Is the Secretary in favor of such a release?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you've got the question wrong. The UN Security Council Resolution 1441 requires Iraq to actively cooperate and requires Iraq to present a full and complete declaration. The burden is on Iraq. The burden is on Iraq to tell the world what it has, to tell the world what these programs are, where its weapons are, where its facilities are, who the people are, and to tell the world in such a way that the inspectors can verify and then destroy the equipment, the weapons and the holdings.
We know a lot about what Iraq has. It's all been stated in previous inspection reports. It's been stated publicly by the President and others that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. We know that from our own information, and other governments do, as well. And we know what they have been buying, and we've talked about that. We've shared a lot of information with the inspectors already.
But the burden is on Iraq to say what they've got and to comply with the resolution. And this upcoming declaration needs to be tested against those things that we know, needs to be tested against the previous inspections, against what governments know, against what Iraq has been buying.
And against that very fundamental and basic standard, is it the full and complete disclosure required in the UN resolution? And that is what is going to be tested when we see the Iraqi disclosure. That is what we'll be analyzing as we go forward and that's what we'll be discussing with other Security Council members: how to ensure the compliance by Iraq and the disarmament of Iraq.
QUESTION: Can you say whether, once this report is released, if the report is released this weekend, as the Iraqis have said, will the US get a report right -- will get a copy of it? Will it just go to the UN? Do you know what is being planned for this?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect members of the Security Council to get copies of it. First, I think it goes to the UN and then they'll have to get it back to New York or somewhere, UN offices in Vienna, and then I would expect members of the Security Council to get copies.
So we'll get a copy, the guess is, sometime on Sunday, frankly, not necessarily immediately, depending on how voluminous it is. And then we'll analyze it. The inspectors will analyze it, as well. So don't expect snap judgments on this.
Jonathan. I'm sorry, I was looking beyond the front row.
QUESTION: Well, I was going to ask pretty much the same thing. But when you say don't expect snap judgments, the Iraqis are talking about several thousand pages of documents. When do you think you will have any kind of judgment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. But the questions to ask are: Are they going to deal with all these issues, not just the number of pages or the weight of the tome? I don't think any of us in school got good grades just because we produced voluminous papers. Some of us didn't get good grades, anyway.
But the point is not how heavy is it; the point is does it disclose their programs, does it name the people, does it identify the facilities, does it identify the holdings that previous inspectors found and were not able to destroy? Those are the questions to ask, not how many pages is it.
QUESTION: With these inspections that are coming to an end, I believe it's the night of the 8th --
MR. BOUCHER: Just beginning in a real, solid way.
QUESTION: Okay. Do they have -- do the inspectors have the provisions from the United Nations to specifically order personnel away from a particular building or facility? In other words, it could be a gray area and maybe the Iraqis aren't --
MR. BOUCHER: They have all the authorities that are specified in the resolution, including the ability to freeze a site, or even a broader area, as they need to. And I think at least the press reporting I've seen from Iraq indicates they have used that authority.
QUESTION: Do you have any confirmation that yesterday's attack on Macedonian consulate in Karachi was a terrorist act, like Mr. Kristian said today in Skopje? Do you have any details from the investigation in this case?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have any real information on the perpetrators or on the motives for the attack. We are certainly aware of the reports. Apparently, murders and a bomb attack on the office of the Honorary Consul of Macedonia in Karachi. There is an investigation Pakistani police are conducting right now.
Obviously, we strongly condemn the attack and extend our sympathies to the families of the victims, as well as the people of Macedonia and of Pakistan.
QUESTION: Could I swing us to Venezuela and ask you --
QUESTION: Can I ask a question on Iraq first?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let's finish with Iraq, then.
QUESTION: Right. Translation. Where is it going to be done for the official -- is it going to be done at the UN or here at the Department?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I haven't seen it yet. I'm sure it will be a combination of things, that when the UN gets a copy, I assume they would do what they normally do with documents like this. I'm sure that we will, once we get a copy, we'll have people look at it. Many of the people looking at it probably would speak Arabic or other languages that might be contained in it. Whether we do a translation ourselves or not, I don't know. I'll leave that to the experts.
But I guess if I were you, if you're looking to find the answer to how it goes to other Security Council members and what languages the UN might turn it into, you'd have to ask the UN.
QUESTION: The Pentagon won't be involved in the translation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'm sure Pentagon has experts who will help us analyze the document. Whether they translate it or not, I don't know.
QUESTION: What's going on in Venezuela, do you have any hints? All sorts of issues there. You had a statement a few days ago calling for restraint, but things are taking a worse turn, I guess.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the general strike is entering its fifth day today. There appears to be some deepening of the general strike in terms that the oil company in Venezuela, the state oil company, was declared force majeure, saying that "unforeseen circumstances" were preventing it from fulfilling oil contracts.
We have been pleased with the efforts of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Secretary General Gaviria. He has been down there trying to restart dialogue between the government and the opposition and he has gotten agreement from members of both the government's and the opposition's teams to resume talks this morning. And we obviously look forward to a more complete, a full dialogue to resume as soon as possible.
We think, in the end, that resolving these underlying political issues is necessary in a peaceful, democratic, constitutional manner, building upon electoral proposals that have been made by both sides.
QUESTION: Does the US approve the way the president is proceeding?
MR. BOUCHER: Which president are you talking about?
QUESTION: The Venezuelan.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: We have said that the important thing is not to heighten the conflict or the tension, but rather to enter into a dialogue. So we've been looking for both sides to be willing to do that, to use the efforts of Secretary General Gaviria.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject?
QUESTION: I have another one on Venezuela.
QUESTION: There are reports that the OAS may hold a ministerial meeting on Venezuela. Is that something the United States is encouraging and what would you see as the --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard about that. I don't know.
QUESTION: One more on Venezuela, if I may. Are you concerned by the fact that the state oil company has declared force majeure and that this has reduced its exports? Do you see any danger to the United States from lessened supplies?
MR. BOUCHER: We monitor potential disruptions to US and global energy markets, so we're following these developments closely. At this point, I don't think I can speculate on what the effect in the markets may or may not be. Obviously, we think that we need to keep working hard on the underlying political difficulties and look for a peaceful resolution that corresponds to the electoral requirements there.
QUESTION: Well, it's a cold winter. Is it too early to ask if you asked others to take up the -- any gap?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it is too early to say that and would have to monitor the effects on the markets and see how the markets themselves might compensate.
QUESTION: My question goes back to Iraq a bit. Yesterday, a Pentagon official said that the Saudis have changed their mind about letting the United States use Saudi air space in case of a possible attack. Can you confirm that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. I didn't see any official statement from the Pentagon. You're talking about a statement by a Pentagon official and I'm looking for an official statement from the Pentagon.
QUESTION: I wouldn't say you should go looking for an official statement on a website, but -
MR. BOUCHER: There's a difference.
QUESTION: There are. But it's not --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick with the official statement from the Pentagon. But no, I don't have any specifics. I don't think we have been trying to put out specifics on any country in terms of what we might have talked about or what we might expect or what they might have agreed to or what we may be working on in terms of specific cooperation in the event that it should come to military force. Obviously, we're working with all these countries and trying to secure a peaceful resolution, trying to get Iraqi full and complete compliance with the UN requirements.
QUESTION: Would it save time if I asked if that answer applies to Iran's zig-zag statements?
MR. BOUCHER: Even more so.
QUESTION: Even ruling out, and yet not ruling out and depending on whether the UN approves or whether they don't approve, or under no circumstances would they help the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: It's too early to start interpreting what everybody might do were it to come to that. We're all trying to work very hard, and certainly the United States is trying to work very, very hard to ensure that Iraq complies, that Iraq disarms peacefully, and that we don't need to resort to military force. But we know quite clearly that the willingness of the world community to use military force is a key element in securing Iraq's peaceful compliance.
QUESTION: Do you give us more further details about Mr. Armitage's visit to Asia? I think he's going to leave tomorrow. And the second question is do you expect the KEDO executive board next week? That is the second part of my question.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have anything more on Mr. Armitage's visit. I think we put out the basics and then we'll let his visit proceed and he'll pass on what he wants to as he goes.
On the KEDO Board -- it's around here somewhere -- the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization had anticipated holding a board meeting in December. Due to end-of-the-year scheduling conflicts, board members decided to postpone their meeting until early next year. They will continue to stay in touch with each other and consult with each other on the next steps.
Remember, the board stated in their November statement that they're reviewing all their activities with North Korea, and so they'll continue to be in touch on that and will meet with each other in January -- sorry, early next year.
QUESTION: No reconsideration of the fuel shipments in the meantime?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no. The statement was clear.
QUESTION: It sounds like a rather feeble excuse for a political decision, but, so, can you expand on those scheduling difficulties, scheduling difficulties that you refer to?
MR. BOUCHER: It sounds like rather an over-exaggerated sense of political reasons behind what is simply an end-of-the-year scheduling decision.
QUESTION: Does this mean -- this meeting was going to examine the future of the light water reactor project, was it not?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, end-of-the-year scheduling questions led them to decide to postpone their meeting until early next year.
MR. BOUCHER: That's all there is to say on the subject.
QUESTION: What was this meeting going to do if it were to take -- if it were still to take place next week?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure they'll discuss next steps with regard to North Korea, but at this point I don't have any more specifics on that.
QUESTION: Yes. Turkish Justice and Development Party leader, Mr. Erdogan, is coming to Washington, D.C., next week, and I believe he will meet with President Bush about the Iraq subject. And do you think the Secretary has a separate meeting with him or he will join the President?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to talk about that at the appropriate time. I don't have anything on meetings quite yet.
Okay. Gene.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Ha’aretz has just come out with a poll saying that American people are 75 percent against the Israeli policies are contributing to anti-Americanism. The Zogby poll has come out also with a very similar parallel, saying that 49 percent say that Sharon's policies are actually endangering American security around the world.
In that context, you issued a report yesterday blaming the Palestinians for almost all the problems and you have not brought any consequences, US Government consequences, to Israeli actions using American weaponry. Are there going to be any consequences?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made our policy quite clear. We have made quite clear the violence has to stop. There's no way to get to peace, there's no way to get to a Palestinian state, if the violence and terrorism continue. And we've repeatedly called upon the Palestinians to do everything they can to stop the violence, and yet, despite this, we've seen bombings and terrorism continue.
We have also made clear that as a friend and an ally and a democracy, we'll support Israel. We'll support Israel's right to defend themselves. But we have also made quite clear during this process that the Israelis need to be aware of the consequences of their actions. We have, indeed, been quite open about our concerns about the Israeli activities, particularly the civilian casualties that have resulted from many of the Israeli actions, including those in the last few days. We have seen a number of people hurt and killed, old people, young people, as well. We have made our concerns clear about demolition of houses, for example, and other things, including some of those that have happened recently.
So I think the United States has been quite clear in this situation, made our view known that while Israel had its right to defend itself, they really needed to consider the consequences, and that we had our views about some of their actions including those that resulted in civilian casualties.
QUESTION: Was that political report --
MR. BOUCHER: I think he's referring to the political report, yeah, which is slightly different because the law changed. So its got some different stuff in it this time.
QUESTION: You've expressed your concerns that these things continue, like demolitions continue daily, just about. Are there any consequences for this defiance of your opinion?
MR. BOUCHER: Are you going to continue the sentence and say we've expressed our concern about the violence and the need for the Palestinians to stop it, and yet this has continued as well? We are dealing with a very difficult --
QUESTION: You don't see consequences on that side. There's no consequences for the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if that -- I would have to say, Jonathan, we're dealing with a very complicated situation. The United States continues to push forward in this situation. We continue to work to implement the President's vision of June 24th and to make clear to both sides that they have obligations and responsibilities, and we've continued to try to move from the current situation of violence into one where people on both sides can live better and live safer and live easier and solve these problems peacefully.
QUESTION: Richard, can you address specifically the incident in Gaza today in which ten Palestinians were killed, including possibly seven civilians, including a janitor at the UN-run school and a UN teacher?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have enough details on that to try to talk about it in specific terms. I think my remarks earlier covered it.
QUESTION: The Chinese General Xiong Quang Khai will be in town next Monday and will be meeting with Pentagon officials. Will there any meeting here at the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check. I don't know.
QUESTION: My question is SOFA issue in Korea, South Korea and Japan. Yesterday, Korean Defense Minister met Rumsfeld and regarding the SOFA issue, the US, the United States, seems to be unwilling to advise what amend actual SOFA. But some in Korea express their disappointment. So without revising SOFA is it possible to improve station or relation between US forces in Korea and the Korean people? And another question is -- Japan. Is that okay?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me answer your first question first --
MR. BOUCHER: -- and to say, look, the issue of the SOFA and the status of our forces in Korea, including our desire to work cooperatively with the Korean Government and the Korean people while we're there, supporting our joint interests in defending Korea, those are issues we've discussed many times. I think our views are quite well known. The Secretary has talked about it during his visits to Korea and has had discussions with the Korean Government about some of the specifics and just our general desire to want to do this together with the South Koreans and in the best possible manner.
As far as any specifics of SOFAs and other steps that might have been discussed at the meeting at the Pentagon, I would really have to leave you to the Pentagon to ask over there about that.
So, Japan.
QUESTION: Okay, a US Marine officer is alleged to have attempted to rape a woman and Japanese police have requested he should be handed over to Japanese authority, which I believe the US rejected. So why the US rejected? For what particular reason?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that specific situation. I'll have to look into it for you and get you an answer.
Okay. Jonathan.
QUESTION: I'm sure you've seen the reports of the war tribunal's interrogation of a Croatian intelligence chief which touched on US assistance to Croatia in the mid-90s. Are you kind of -- are you happy with the way this was done by the tribunal? Do you have any concerns about the direction in which the interrogation was moving?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me say first that we have no reason to believe that US officials are or will be under any kind of investigation by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. We were not involved in the planning or the conduct of Operation Storm. We had some knowledge of the preparations underway, but we did not endorse them.
We made clear all along that we believe that the problem of reintegrating Serb majority areas into Croatia should be resolved through political dialogue. So we have called on all sides to exercise restraint and to respect the safety and the rights of civilians, prisoners of war and peacekeepers; conveying that view to the Croatian Government, to the leaders of the so-called Krajina Serbs, and to the Government of Serbia.
So as far as the conduct of the tribunal, I think this relates to the situation with Mr. Ante Gotovina who must face trial in The Hague. We would encourage Mr. Gotovina to surrender himself to the tribunal, as others have done.
QUESTION: Have you asked the -- have you contacted the tribunal about this matter to ask about their intentions?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd just say we are frequently in touch with the tribunal on a variety of matters, but I think these are fairly clear views from the United States.
QUESTION: Do you have any information regarding the mass grave which was discovered in Ivory Coast?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so.
QUESTION: Which side would be responsible for this massacre?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we do. Do we? No, I'd have to look into that and see. I wasn't aware of that report.
QUESTION: The Iranian Culture Minister said they're going to -- well, it's not quite clear whether this will actually begin, but they certainly recommended that they begin fingerprinting visiting US journalists. Do you have any views on the --
MR. BOUCHER: I had not heard about that and I don't think we have any particular views to state at this time.
Okay, thank you.

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