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MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Your reaction to the verdict by the appeals court on Pan Am 103, please?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States is pleased with the decision of the Scottish appellate court which upheld the conviction of Libyan agent al-Megrahi in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Once again we remember with deepest sympathies the families of the victims who have waited so long to see justice done in this case.
At this point, we remind everybody that Libya must comply with its obligations under the relevant UN Security Council requirements related to the Pan Am 103 bombing. Completion of the appeal does not end UN sanctions against Libya, but it should spur Libya to take quick action to fully comply with UN Security Council requirements.
QUESTION: What is your understanding -- are you finished?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: One of the requirements is a Libyan renunciation of terrorism. Where does Libya stand on that one?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I am going to get into evaluating where Libya stands in percentage terms or progress terms on each particular point. The fact is they need to comply fully with all the requirements: the renunciation of terrorism, the disclosure of information, the payment of compensation, the acceptance of responsibility. All these requirements need to be fulfilled.
QUESTION: New subject? Zimbabwe. Yesterday in your critical comments about Mr. Mugabe's, President Mugabe's, reelection, you talked about how you would like to talk with neighboring countries that might not have the same opinion of the vote as you do. And now by my count, which is probably not completely accurate, you've got Nigeria -- the governments or leaders of Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, and the OAU observer group all coming out and saying that they believe this election was legitimate.
What are you saying to these people?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if -- what, are we counting -- are we counting? -- the commonwealth as leaders in Nigeria? Are we counting the SADC countries, which are all neighbors? Let's face it. There is discussion that has to be held on this, and I don't have an instant result today of a process that will have to go on. But there are many voices about this election. We have made quite clear our views. Others who had observers there have made clear their views. As I said, the commonwealth as a group has made clear their view. SADC has made clear their views. So while there are other opinions, we continue to see the election in the same light.
QUESTION: Yesterday the President said that the United States didn't recognize the outcome of the election. Could you fill us in on the practical implications of this non-recognition of the results?
MR. BOUCHER: It is the same thing as we said where we said Mr. Mugabe can claim victory, but not legitimacy. We don't see him as a leader who can claim to have been elected by a legitimate election like a democratic leader in other parts of the world. We won't deal with him on that basis.
QUESTION: But you do see him as a leader?
MR. BOUCHER: We deal with governments -- sometimes, many times, we deal with governments that we don't like, but we do deal with governments who are not legitimately elected or democratically elected differently than we deal with governments who can lay claim to the mandate of their people.
QUESTION: Okay. But what practical effect does it have? In what sense would you treat him differently now than you've treated him before?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know I can start talking about that at this point. We already have started to treat him differently a month ago by banning travel by him and others in his leadership to the United States. We have also said yesterday that we are considering sanctions and putting economic -- blocking of accounts and other steps. That's differently than we would treat a leader who had been elected through a legitimate democratic election.
QUESTION: Does that mean that there's any chance that you're going to sort of de-recognize him, or that you will recognize him?
MR. BOUCHER: The issue is not de-recognizing, recognizing. Don't confuse yourselves by using a formal term of diplomatic recognition of states versus working with governments, versus sort of recognizing the validity of an election. This is a political decision on our part about how we deal with this, with this government. Certainly, if we recognize this to have been a democratic election and this to be a democratically elected leader, we would not be imposing sanctions and considering sanctions on the leadership.
QUESTION: Before the election, Mr. Kansteiner said that there was an examination of Zanu-PF's finances; it was not an investigation. When I said "investigation" he drew a distinction there. How is that process going? What is the status of it now?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said yesterday and again today, we are considering what else we should do, including in the financial area. I don't have anything new to announce today.
QUESTION: Given that you don't recognize the outcome of the elections, what is preventing you from putting these sanctions in place immediately -- the assets freeze? And surely there is -- is there any sense of urgency, given that they can presumably move these funds at any time, and probably have done already?
MR. BOUCHER: And? We said a month ago we're considering this. The issue is that you have to do this properly, legally, appropriately, because we are a nation of laws that respects the laws and follows appropriate legal procedures if we are going to block somebody's assets, even somebody who has stolen an election.
QUESTION: Have you gotten any response yet from them on the diplomats and the detainees?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been able -- on the diplomats? The diplomats, no, we don't have any response. On the detainees, one of them was released on bail. Our consuls have been able to visit both of them, one in jail, one out of jail. And at that point, I think I have to stop because we don't have Privacy Act waivers.
QUESTION: Can you just say when? Was this yesterday or today that they were able to get access?
MR. BOUCHER: The visits -- I think the release on bail was yesterday, maybe the day -- yesterday. So that would have been yesterday.
QUESTION: Was that the first person? Was that the person who was arrested on Friday, or the person who was arrested on Monday?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm able to go into that, just because of the Privacy Act situation. I can't start saying things that would identify the individuals.
QUESTION: Well, I'm not planning on identifying them. I don't know even know their names anyway. But why can't you say which one it was?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll check and see if I can.
QUESTION: Richard, I'd like to go back to Pan Am 103 just for a minute, please. Even if the Libyans comply with the UN, with the things that they have to do to get the UN sanctions lifted, there are still US sanctions and things that they must do, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. As you know, we and the United Kingdom together have met with the Libyans several times. We met twice in London, the last time being on January 10th. The focus of these meetings was Libya's compliance with UN Security Council requirements and our urging Libya to comply with those requirements as soon as possible.
We have also told the Libyans that we can't even have a serious discussion of the bilateral issues between the United States and Libya, including the United States -- our sanctions on Libya, until they have fully cleared this UN account, until they have fully complied with the UN requirements.
QUESTION: Yesterday Senator Biden invited Iranian members of parliament to visit the US in a kind of official visit to the Congress. Is it an initiative that you approved?
MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't aware of it. I have to check and see. We have always supported legislative exchanges, and certainly our interest in the democratic process in Iran has been stated before.
QUESTION: Ashcroft is going to announce at 1 o'clock the indictment of Omar Saeed Sheikh. What is the status of the talks between --
MR. BOUCHER: You mean you would like me to steal the news from him three minutes before he gets a chance?
QUESTION: Well, this afternoon he's going to do that. What is the status of the negotiations with the Pakistanis on that?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear that we want to see Omar Sheikh brought to justice, that we have made clear that we are willing to do that, prepared to do that, want to do that in the United States. We recognize, at the same time, the Pakistanis want to see justice done, the same way we do. They have charges against him. So we have been in discussions, as we usually do when this situation arises. We have been in discussions with the Pakistani Government about how to handle the trials, sequence the trials, whatever else needs to be done after that should there be conviction and sentencing.
So we have had these discussions with the Pakistanis. We haven't finished that yet. We haven't finalized those discussions yet. But these things will be worked out with the Government of Pakistan to figure out how to make sure that he is indeed brought to justice since that is our common goal, and then how to organize the process so that the justice systems of our two countries can deal with the situation.
QUESTION: Is it possible that after they have their trial that he'll be brought over here?
MR. BOUCHER: All those issues are under discussion. We'll see which way it works.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: The Israelis have announced that they are redeploying their forces within Ramallah. Is it your understanding that this is to be a full withdrawal, and is this satisfactory as far as the US is concerned?
MR. BOUCHER: I think some of their statements -- and I can't remember if it was the official statement or officials, anonymous officials, but they have talked about a full withdrawal. And that is what we want to see. That is the kind of step that we have been urging them to take is complete withdrawal. We have taken note of the statements that they have made so far regarding redeployment of Israeli Defense Forces in Ramallah. We do expect a complete withdrawal from Palestinian-controlled areas, including Ramallah and the other areas that the Israeli Defense Forces recently entered. Such a complete withdrawal would greatly facilitate the work of General Zinni.
Let me make clear again we also have expectations of Chairman Arafat. We want to see him do more to stop the groups that carry out violence, carry out the shootings, the bombings and the other attacks that we've been seeing recently. We remain very deeply concerned about the tragic loss of life and escalating violence in the last days. Both sides, we think, need to take immediate steps to create an environment in which progress is possible. And that is where I will stop for the moment.
QUESTION: What would the measure of success be of General Zinni's mission?
MR. BOUCHER: He is going out to try to get implementation of the Tenet security steps, to get the parties to take the steps necessary to establish a cease-fire and to make it work. So the proof of the pudding is in whether the parties start taking the steps that are needed to establish security.
QUESTION: Do you think he will stay out there until that happens?
MR. BOUCHER: As the Secretary said, he will stay out there as long as he can report progress.
QUESTION: I know we've had this conversation before on similar items, a similar topic, but when you say you expect to see a complete withdrawal, is that because the Israelis have told you that they're going to withdraw completely, or does that mean that you're telling them that that's what you want to see?
MR. BOUCHER: That means we want to see a full withdrawal.
QUESTION: There's no -- okay. So you haven't been told -- the US hasn't been told that they are going to, and so you're not saying expect as in I expect the sun to go down today at dusk?
MR. BOUCHER: We want it to go down too, but, no, it's not quite the same term. As I noted, I've seen some wire service reports that indicate the Israelis are talking about carrying out a full withdrawal. That is what we want to see them do. A complete withdrawal would facilitate the work of General Zinni, and we think it is important that they do that in order to create the environment for the Zinni mission to succeed.
QUESTION: In these contacts you've had with the Israelis and the Palestinian, for that matter, over the last couple of days, has there been any progress on the question of the observer mission?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we have made clear that we are prepared -- we have always felt third-party monitoring has a role in facilitating the implementation of Tenet and Mitchell. We have made clear that we are prepared to participate in such a mechanism if both sides agree. But I would have to say that they both accept receptivity to the idea, but at this point there has not been agreement on how to proceed. So General Zinni will be pursuing that with both sides.
MR. BOUCHER: As we work into implementation of the Tenet work plan, if both parties want us to produce the monitors, we will do that. Get final agreement.
QUESTION: Can you sort of talk generally about what sort of involvement you see the US possibly doing? Does this mean people at checkpoints monitoring crises, or more in providing communications, vehicles, that kind of backup?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't talk in any detail about that at this point because those are the kinds of things that need to be worked out with the parties. We have always made clear that third-party monitors can be useful in helping them implement the steps. First and foremost, the parties need to take these immediate steps to establish an environment in which General Zinni can succeed in his mission, then they need to start taking the steps in the Tenet security work plan. And as part of that process, we are willing to provide monitors, but the final agreement on the monitors and the functions of the monitors and how the system can best work is something that General Zinni will be discussing out there.
QUESTION: The Middle East. Will Zinni pressure Sharon to allow Arafat to attend the Arab League meeting in Beirut on the 27th?
MR. BOUCHER: As the Secretary said the other day, it is something we believe Prime Minister Sharon should consider carefully whether it is in his interest to allow Chairman Arafat to go there. That is where we stand right now. We continue to believe that to be the case.
QUESTION: In the region yesterday --
QUESTION: You said, "We continue to believe that to be the case"?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: That it is in his interest to --
MR. BOUCHER: That he should consider whether it's in his interest.
QUESTION: Not that it is in his interest?
MR. BOUCHER: I said it the way the Secretary said it, and that's where we are.
QUESTION: Yesterday your Embassy in Yemen issued a Warden message talking about a new threat, or a threat to US interests that would begin in the time frame of last weekend. I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit about that, if you can, and also if it was in any way -- if you think it was in any related to the visit there today, albeit extremely brief, of the Vice President?
MR. BOUCHER: On the first part, I actually haven't seen the Warden message so I would have to check on it and get you more details from it. On the second part of your question, no.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the peace process. Recognizing that you have said that Yasser Arafat has steps that he needs to take, would the US acknowledge that under the circumstances, so long as Israeli troops remain within the occupied territories, that it's unreasonable to expect the Palestinians to take certain steps?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear that the obligations of the parties to take whatever steps they can to make 100 percent effort is necessary, and that both sides need to take steps to try to create an environment where the Zinni mission can succeed. We have also said that some of the Israeli actions, particularly the attacks on security forces or administrative offices of the Palestinian Authority, make it more difficult for them to carry out those actions.
But at the same time, that doesn't absolve the parties from taking the actions that they can and should take. The efforts that need to be made to dismantle groups that carry out terrorism, to stop these patterns of suicide bombings and shootings, are efforts that could be made on the telephone, that can be made through instructions, that can be made through people. And we would expect to see those efforts made.
QUESTION: Israeli officials have said that the recent incursions are primarily directed against the militia wing of the Fatah party known as the Tanzim, and they believe that these are legitimate terrorist targets. Does the State Department share that view?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not criticized Israel's right to self-defense. We have not -- we have said we recognize that Israel has to take action against people that are armed and taking action against it. We have criticized -- we've criticized some of the Israeli actions, particularly things like attacks on humanitarian workers, ambulances, difficulties in allowing ambulances and sick people getting through checkpoints. We have criticized the civilian casualties that are caused by using heavy equipment, heavy military equipment in heavily populated areas.
So I think if you look at what the United States has said, that we have made quite clear Israel does have a right to protect itself against people that are trying to attack it.
QUESTION: If I could follow up, though, do you believe that this organization known as Tanzim are responsible for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and are therefore legitimate targets in Sharon's actions in self-defense, as you say?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to re-categorize an organization. There are individuals who have been described as Tanzim who have carried out attacks against Israel. And that is quite clear, and that's why I said we do recognize that Israel has a right to defend itself against those kinds of attacks.
QUESTION: Do you have any particular comment on the Palestinian attack on the tank in Gaza today, for example?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the point you made, this report about -- what was that report about?
QUESTION: The town?
QUESTION: No, the aid.
QUESTION: The aid, yes.
QUESTION: Of the Administration deciding not to increase aid to Israel.
QUESTION: The extra aid.
MR. BOUCHER: I would refer you to the Office of Management and Budget for any inquiries regarding specific elements of the budget.
QUESTION: We're going to be (inaudible).
QUESTION: Right. That's interesting because the White House has referred all questions about that to the State Department.
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe we're in between.
QUESTION: Is this a little -- you know, this has become increasingly the case in this Administration is to refer you to -- refer people to other agencies. Does the buck stop with the OMB on this?
QUESTION: The buck's not going anywhere right now.
QUESTION: I want to know when I call the OMB that they're not going to tell me that I have to call the State Department or I have to call the White House.
MR. BOUCHER: They might tell you that they are not ready to talk about the elements of future supplemental funding. The Administration, when we are ready to put forward any supplemental request to the Hill, will answer at that time any questions about whether these requests include or don't include money for any particular purpose or country. So at this point the general proposition is the OMB is the one that puts forward those requests to the Congress, and when they are ready to do that I am sure we will be in a position to explain to you what's in it.
QUESTION: Okay. The OMB -- they have a bureau that deals with Near East affairs and goes in and decides what is appropriate for the Israelis and the Palestinians to receive in the way of supplemental funding?
MR. BOUCHER: They have people that look at all our accounts. And we work with them and the White House works with them and everybody --
QUESTION: Because I was under the impression that OMB was mainly accountants and that kind of thing.
MR. BOUCHER: That's where the money comes from, Matt.
QUESTION: Right, but don't they --
MR. BOUCHER: It's the Willie Sutton rule. That's where the money is.
QUESTION: Right, but don't they act on the -- on instructions from the White House and the State Department in matters of the foreign -- of the 150 budget?
MR. BOUCHER: All these matters are discussed very carefully with us and, yes, certainly they always follow our lead -- sometimes.
QUESTION: I'm sure they'll be happy to hear that.
MR. BOUCHER: Sometimes. Don't forget the sometimes. But, as usual, it is a matter of we have these discussions between agencies. We make the decisions jointly. We decide what is in the best interest of the United States of America and we put forward our proposals to the Congress together. The OMB happens to be the final point along that process where these proposals are put together, analyzed, the money comes together, at least the requests for money come together, and then we send it up to the Congress. When we do that, we will be very happy to explain to you what is and is not in that proposal.
QUESTION: In the same vein, have you made a recommendation on how much extra money the Afghan government should get for security and military needs and for budgetary support?
MR. BOUCHER: The same kind of question. The Secretary has made clear that we do intend to go forward with a supplemental, but as far as what goes in there for any particular use or any particular country, we will tell you when we put forward the proposal.
QUESTION: The Secretary talked to Arafat yesterday afternoon. Did he also talk to Sharon, and has he talked to anyone in that part of the world today?
MR. BOUCHER: That part of the world? He didn't talk to Prime Minister Sharon yesterday. We have, as you know, been in very close touch with the Israelis and Palestinians also through Ambassador Kurtzer and Consul General Schlicher. So we have been communicating in a variety of ways with the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Let me double-check my notes on who he has been on the phone with. Yesterday he talked to the Norwegian Foreign Minister Petersen. They always talk about the Middle East. He talked to Jack Straw today. Petersen was yesterday. Kofi Annan was yesterday. Arafat was yesterday. And he talked to Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary of Britain, today. They always talk about the Middle East as well.
QUESTION: Did they talk about Zimbabwe at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I think so.
QUESTION: Did he talk to Kofi Annan about Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know every topic he talked to Kofi Annan about. I think it was principally the Middle East, but he may have talked about other things.
QUESTION: Richard, yesterday the President waded into the chicken war with Russia, and the Secretary last night pledged that he was going to fight this battle with the same intensity as he fought the Cold War in uniform 12 years ago. I don't know if it's direct cause and effect, but this morning the Moldovans announced that they were banning imports of US chicken. The Kyrgyzstan Government did the same thing. I'm sure you know that Ukraine has had a ban on US poultry imports since January.
What do you make of the new -- the expansion of the lack of access for US fowl to the former Soviet Union?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we need to make clear again and again -- and it's easy to make light of throwing chickens back and forth, but these are serious matters to many Americans, to many American poultry farmers. It is much better that we are arguing about chickens rather than throwing nuclear war at each other. Thank God the Cold War is over in that respect, so we can have these disputes over chickens.
But this is a very important industry to Americans, to Russian consumers and others, and we need to settle these on a scientific basis. We do have our teams out in Moscow now. They have been having meetings. We've been trying to discuss and reach some understandings with the Russians about the scientific basis about the prevalence of salmonella in Russia and elsewhere. And so all these issues are under very intense discussion out there.
As far as others taking these steps, once again we would remind people that under international trading rules and the rules of the WTO, to which many of these places aspire or may be members already, it is very important that any restrictions be made on purely scientific and phytosanitary grounds, and not be used as an instrument of restricting trade.
QUESTION: Are you yet ready to say whether you think this is related to the steel tariff?
MR. BOUCHER: That would have to be for others who have taken these actions to explain their actions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) meeting with of the Secretary, apparently just concluded, with the Russian Defense Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I've been down here with you.
QUESTION: Well, not for the first 45 minutes, anyway. New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: New subject.
QUESTION: This is unrelated to the US, but you might notice that about two dozen North Koreans escaped into the Spanish Embassy in Beijing, and they are desperate and say they'll be executed if they go back to -- are forced back to North Korea. Do you have any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you mentioned, the United States is not directly involved in this. We think it is a matter for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Spanish Government, the Chinese Government, to resolve, and indeed they are working together to try to resolve the case. We want to see it proceed according to established procedures that are practiced worldwide, and that also appears to be the situation with regard to these people.
QUESTION: Well, would the Spanish procedures call for their bring granted political asylum, as you see it?
MR. BOUCHER: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees will make that determination. We have always felt that North Koreans should not be returned to North Korea because they would face persecution there.
QUESTION: Richard, the EU seems to have -- or at least they're claiming victory in saving the Yugoslav Federation. I'm wondering if you see it the same way and what you make of the new name. Or perhaps you have another suggestion of what they might call themselves?
MR. BOUCHER: We, first of all, commend the leaders of Serbia and Montenegro in reaching a negotiated agreement on the future of the Yugoslav Federation. The agreement is in line with our longstanding view that there can be, should be, a democratic Montenegro within a democratic Yugoslavia.
We believe that the agreement signed today will help Serbia and Montenegro best achieve their aspirations to fully integrate with Europe, and will promote stability within Yugoslavia and the region. Much work remains to be done. We look to the political leaders in Serbia and Montenegro to work constructively to fully realize this agreement.
We commend also European efforts to resolve this issue and appreciate the instrumental role that European foreign policy chief Javier Solana has played in brokering this historic agreement. This was one of the subjects that he and the Secretary of State discussed ten days ago or so, last week, when they met. And the Secretary encouraged him in his efforts, and we're glad to see it come to fruition.
QUESTION: On this issue, I don't know if this has been already addressed, but will the US aid that used to be directly for Montenegro, that was sort of administered in (inaudible), will that now, now that his has been resolved, be done totally out of Belgrade?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, there is a process of ratification that has to be gone through. There is a new system being set up. It is a substantially decentralized system. So I don't think I can predict any particular changes at this moment.
QUESTION: What do you make of the name?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll adopt the name when they've gone through their procedures.
QUESTION: New subject? Do you have anything to say about the outbreak of violence in Madagascar?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been following that situation very closely. I think the first thing to note is that at this point it appears to have -- the capital appears to have returned to near normal in many ways. People are back at work. The demonstrations have been greatly reduced compared to those of a few weeks ago. Radio and television are back on the air, with limited programming schedules, however. Some schools have reopened. Traffic has increased despite an increase in the price of fuel and the fuel shortage as a result of the blockade.
The United States is supporting the efforts of the Organization of African Unity to bring about a peaceful solution to the crisis in Madagascar. We urge President Ratsiraka and Mayor Ravalomanana to accept the proposal of the Organization of African Unity. Unfortunately, there has been some violence today. Mr. Ravalomanana's supporters had built barricades in much of the town. The provincial governor and regional prefect ordered their destruction. Security forces did move in after midnight, tore down barricades. There has been some fighting at noon in which at least two people died.
As I said, in general terms, much of the life is back to normal.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:22 p.m.)
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