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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #98, 00-10-10

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State

Press Briefing



1	Welcome to German Radio and TV Journalists Visiting the United
	 States Under the Sponsorship of the Berlin Commission, and the
	 Radio and Television News Directors Foundation 
1-9	Visit of North Korean Special Envoy Jo
9-17	Secretary of State Albright in Contact with World Leaders and
	 Foreign Ministers in the Middle East / Travel Advisory Issued on
	 the Volatility and Violent Demonstrations in the Region; Travel
	 Advisory for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza on the Continuing
	 Tensions and Violent Demonstration / U.S. Citizens are Encouraged
	 to Avoid Areas U.S. Continues Meetings with Palestinian and
	 Israeli Security Officials  
16	Egypt has Continuing and Long-Standing Role in the Peace Process
17	Deportation of Cuban Diplomat to Havana
18-19	Sentencing of Two Americans to Prison
19	Food and Medicine Bill Remains Under Review
20-23	President and Secretary of State's Special Adviser on Balkans
	 Democratization James O'Brien to Travel to Region / U.S. Embassy
	 to Open Soon in Belgrade / U.S. Consulting with European Partners
	 on Lifting of Sanctions / No Change in U.S. Policy on Kosovo /
	 U.S. Assistance to the New Government 
24	New Member on UN Security Council
25	Lifting of Sanctions
26	U.S. Sees Relations with Turkey Important in All Aspects
26	U.S. Urges Burmese Authorities to Lift Restrictions on Aung San Suu
	 Kyi and the National League for Democracy 
27	U.S. Has Requested Access to the Trial of Edmond Pope October 18th
	 in Moscow City Court 


DPB #98

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2000, 1:15 P.M.


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for waiting for me. Sorry I'm late. You didn't have much choice, I know. (Laughter.) But, anyway, all the better to brief you with, my dears.

Just at the top I would like to welcome a group of German radio and TV journalists who are visiting the United States for five weeks under the sponsorship of RIAS, the Berlin Commission, and the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. So welcome to you all.

I don't have any other statements. I'll be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Secretary's meeting with the North Korean visitor?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I would describe it in the same terms that Counselor Sherman, Ambassador Sherman, used over at the White House. It was a courtesy call. It was the beginning of our discussions with the high-level North Korean envoy, and that they, in the meeting, first of all, discussed the desire to improve the relationship and, second of all, to deal with the issues of mutual concern, laid out some of those and then looked forward to the meeting with the President.

QUESTION: Does the State Department normally make available changing rooms for its high-level guests?

MR. BOUCHER: We try to help our visitors out when necessary.

QUESTION: Where -- was this a surprise to you guys? Did he say, oh, and by the way, before we go to the White House I've got to get dressed up in a military --

MR. BOUCHER: It wasn't mentioned in the meeting and, frankly, I don't know exactly whether he changed here or somewhere along the way.

QUESTION: It was here.

MR. BOUCHER: He changed here, when he walked out? Okay.

QUESTION: Well, before he walked out.

MR. BOUCHER: Before he walked out.

QUESTION: Did you come to any conclusions about what kind of man you're dealing with?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it is appropriate at this stage of the visit to try to describe that. What I would say is that it is very clear that he is a, first of all, a high-level envoy, one who holds very senior positions on his own, but also that, in particular, he has been asked to come by Chairman Kim Jong Il, and that he was carrying a letter, and very much carrying a message, a personal message from the Chairman of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

QUESTION: The letter I wanted to ask you about, Richard, and maybe this has already been answered, but I haven't seen it.

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't either.

QUESTION: Can anyone give us a sense of the contents of the letter? Was it issue-oriented, or was it just a personal greeting?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I can't , any more than the description at the White House. I don't have anything over here on it.

QUESTION: Richard, the North Koreans are most irked by being on the terrorist list, and the reason they are on the terrorist list is because they have got -- aside from the fact that they were involved in terrorism 15 years ago -- is that they are still harboring some Japanese Red Army people that are accused of terrorism. Is there any way that they could get off that terrorist list without physically handing these guys over to Japan or the United States or someplace else for prosecution?

MR. BOUCHER: These issues have been discussed quite extensively in recent weeks with the North Koreans. We had meetings in New York; Ambassador Mike Sheehan conducted discussions. We issued a joint statement last Friday which indicated that both sides would work together to take the steps that are necessary to get North Korea off the terrorist list.

I think you all are quite aware of our concerns as stated in our terrorism report, including the ones you mentioned. We think that North Korea is quite aware of what they need to do to get off the list. But at this point, I don't think I want to go into any more detail than that. Certainly we haven't gotten into those detailed discussions yet with the North Koreans. We do expect to have some working level discussions later today, and then we will continue our discussions at the Secretary's level tomorrow, and at dinner tonight.

QUESTION: Could we be alerted in a timely manner to whatever briefing you may have on the talks. That briefing this morning was -- we were given no warning whatsoever, and he is going to meet with the Secretary tomorrow, and if there is a briefing, could we know about it in advance?

MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, we will be able to tell you in advance if anything goes on in this building. Some of these things were arranged at the White House -- I don't want to say on the fly -- but they were not settled when the party left for the White House, but people were caught in the corridors, and obviously agreed to do a briefing over there. I'm sorry we couldn't tell you much in advance on that one. This morning when they left, it was a possibility, and not a scheduled thing.

QUESTION: Does the State Department have a sense that General Jo is in a position to actually make concessions and because of his position and closeness in the military, as opposed to other folks that we have met with throughout these negotiations?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can describe things in quite those terms. I think we do think that he represents, first of all, a significant segment of North Korean leadership in his own right, given his positions. But more important than that, he comes as a personal envoy of Chairman Kim Jong Il and that represents, I think, a difference in the kind of discussion and the kind of visit that we can have with this envoy.

QUESTION: On the terrorism announcement last week, or I should say counter-terrorism, the North Koreans agreed that members of the international community should not provide safe haven, but it doesn't say anything about the fact that they are -- that they are renouncing their actions.

Do you think that this statement was meant to convey from this day forward, from the day of that announcement forward, or how does that reconcile?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the statement, first of all, put us in a common position of working from a certain common basis of understanding -- of condemnation of terrorism, of understanding of the kinds of things that one should not do in order to avoid any kind of support for terrorism, and in order to be active against terrorism. So I would say it gave us a basis for working together on the kinds of steps that will be needed to take North Korea off the list. In and of itself, it didn't record any particular progress or change at that stage, but it gave us a common understanding to go forward.

QUESTION: In these talks is there any discussion at all of any new food aid to North Korea?

MR. BOUCHER: In the discussion this morning certainly that didn't come up. I'm not aware that it came up at the White House. I don't think -- at least in the briefing that was done at the White House that wasn't mentioned. We, as you know, have given significant amounts of food aid on a humanitarian basis, and I would assume that we would continue to do so; that this year's drought and late summer storms in fact have increased the need for food aid in North Korea. We have contributed generously to international efforts to provide assistance to North Korea in the past. It is beneficial that other countries are responding to this need as well.

Within the last year, we have given 550,000 tons of humanitarian assistance to North Korea through the United Nations World Food Program and a consortium of US volunteer organizations. So we have been there to help when it was needed. Our policy is to provide assistance in response to international appeals, and we are aware of the difficulties that this year's crop is facing. Once there is an assessment, we will be working with UN agencies. We are consulting with them now on the future needs.

QUESTION: So, Richard, is it still the US position that this is apart from -- it's not a bargaining chip; it's apart from the issues?

MR. BOUCHER: We've said this is done on a humanitarian basis.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any outstanding WFP appeals right now, or should we magically expect to see one on Thursday right after he leaves and the US immediately responds?

MR. BOUCHER: You will have to ask the UN agencies what the timetable is. We are waiting for their assessment of this year's crop. It is being completed by UN agencies. We are consulting with the World Food Program on current and future needs as we consider our next steps.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to the uniform for one second? Ambassador Sherman at the White House seemed to put a positive spin on it about how this meant that it was both the civilians -- the foreign ministry side and the military side of -- symbolic of both sides of the Korean -- North Korean leadership equation, wanting improved ties.

But others might see it in another way. I mean, this uniform is also symbolic of an army that invaded the South, is responsible for thousands and -- the deaths of thousands of American troops and others as well. I'm wondering if you see anything less positive than what her interpretation was. I probably put that a bad way because now I know you're going to say no. (Laughter.) But, I mean, isn't there another way to look at the, you know very -- it was a pretty profound change from the -- that occurred in the 45 -- or an hour that he was in this building from when he went in to when he came out.

MR. BOUCHER: We can keep talking and you can give all of my answers. (Laughter.) I do agree with the way Ambassador Sherman characterized it. I think the points you raised about the history is -- is a valid point, and needs to be kept in mind, that we are all quite aware of the history of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, of the war, and everything that has come afterwards. We are all quite aware of the concerns that we have.

So the fact of this visit is to put us in a position to try to deal with those concerns, and I would -- in some ways, you can then argue the next step beyond what you were saying -- that if there are concerns that the uniform represents the history of conflict, it is all the more important to remember that he is coming here in this uniform now to try to establish a new relationship, to try to reduce tensions on the Peninsula, and that that segment of North Korean society, as well as the civilian segment, is indeed pledged to that goal.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the food aid again? Should we expect any announcement to come out from this trip, and can you give us even a ballpark figure for the kind of volume of food aid you would be considering at this stage?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I am in a position to do that yet. We really do need the assessments of the UN agencies. We are consulting with them, but I don't have any indication yet on the when or how much we would be -- the international community would be asked to provide, and how much of that we might be able to provide.

QUESTION: Missile proliferation, some progress has been made in your talking about and having discussions. Can you characterize anything, and in particular, there was the report over the weekend about Libya having taken possession of some Nodong missiles?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have anything on that specific report that I am able to share. The question of missiles is certainly high on our agenda; it is one of the important issues that we want to deal with, that we have dealt with in our previous discussions. It was an issue that was mentioned specifically this morning by the Secretary as one of the issues that we needed to discuss in order to make progress in our relationship -- the same thing at the White House -- but at this point, I am not claiming progress. We have really just had our introductory, our initial discussions lay out the direction that we want to proceed in, which is better relationship and a reduction of tensions, and then some of the issues that we are going to need to discuss and deal with as we go in that direction.

QUESTION: Do you mean development and proliferation, both?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you are quite familiar with what the various concerns are --

QUESTION: -- talking about today --

MR. BOUCHER: -- related to nuclear issues, related to missiles, including domestic developments as well as exports, related to terrorism, related to a number of other concerns that need to be discussed and dealt with as we move forward.

QUESTION: They are being said today?

MR. BOUCHER: And we are quite clear that we are willing to listen to their concerns as well about things they want to raise.

QUESTION: Can we stay on this for a second --

QUESTION: Richard --

QUESTION: Are we on missiles still?

QUESTION: Missiles, yes. Vice Marshall Jo, judging by his activities the last 10 years, has been in the forefront of North Korea's proliferation effort, visiting all the countries and meeting military delegations from the countries of concern. Do you see the fact that he is here now, with his background, is that a positive thing? Or do you see it as kind of a (inaudible), here is our chief proliferator, talk to him? (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: We have had a number of discussions with the North Koreans about missile issues. As you know, there has been a moratorium in place on the flight testing of further missiles. They are quite aware of the concerns that we want to discuss, so I would say the fact that they are sending somebody that is in a position to deal with these issues, that is knowledgeable, is to their credit. But I go back once again to the fundamental issue, which is that this is the Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission in North Korea. He is the Vice Chairman to the Chairman, who is Kim Jong Il, and he is a special envoy of Chairman Kim Jong Il, and therefore in a position to bring us a message and deal with us with the endorsement of the highest levels of the North Korean leadership. It is on that basis that we are discussing and dealing with him.

QUESTION: This is staying on that, Richard, why did the President choose not to get too far into the specifics, given that that is something that Putin has been discussing and the US has been trying to further clarify what it is exactly that the Russians and the North Koreans have been discussing? Why was that put off?

MR. BOUCHER: That specific idea, I don't know. I haven't seen the entire briefing yet. But I don't know if that specific idea arose at the White House when the President was talking --

QUESTION: -- the missile launches?

MR. BOUCHER: The missile launch capability question, the idea that was apparently raised with President Putin. That is an idea that we take seriously, that we want to pursue, and that we expect to continue discussions of during the course of this visit. I think by its very nature this is a two-day visit. This morning we have the introductory or the beginning calls, lay out the general course, look at the issues that need to be discussed, and we will have further meetings at the working level, at the Secretary's level, and with others such as Secretary Cohen during the course of the next day and a half. That is where we will get down and to see what can be done on these specific issues.

QUESTION: Is it Secretary Cohen that will primarily deal with the missile issue, or will Secretary Albright have as much involvement in that as --

MR. BOUCHER: I think the bulk of the discussions, the bulk of the time, is going to be spent with Secretary Albright. There will be working level discussions as well. I would expect several of these issues -- the main items on our agenda -- to be discussed in all these fora.

QUESTION: The visit being historic in many regards -- do you know if it is unprecedented that a representative of a country that is on the terrorism list with whom we don't have diplomatic relations comes, and before any liaison offices are set up at all? I mean, is this quite unprecedented as well, to be met by the Secretary of State in the United States --

MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary of State has had meetings with others - - with representatives of other countries that are on the terrorism list.

QUESTION: Right. But come here in Washington and meeting the President?

MR. BOUCHER: And so has the President.

QUESTION: Yes, that's true. So it's not unprecedented.

MR. BOUCHER: Syria springs to mind.

QUESTION: Syria. That's true.

QUESTION: Do we have an Embassy and an Ambassador in Syria, though? We don't have that in North Korea, which is what she said. She said --

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, you can cut this very fine, you know. This is the only North Asian country on a peninsula for which there is a high-level envoy coming, which we're having high-level meetings despite the fact we don't have an embassy there. The fact is I think you have all followed the development of our relationship with North Korea. You have all known that the high-level visit was one of the factors that we look forward to in terms of moving forward in the relationship. This has been on the books for a long time. It is now occurring. It is historic. It is important because it is a high-level and personal envoy from the Chairman, Chairman Kim Jong Il in North Korea. It is a way that we have always envisaged of dealing with the concerns, looking how to work forward in the bilateral relationship.

The fact that this channel, that this mechanism, was chosen in this particular relationship has to do with this relationship and doesn't really offer comparisons with others who may or may not be on the same list. This is just he way we decided the best way to proceed on this one. It has been the way we have envisaged for some time.

QUESTION: Given that this is only a two-day series of meetings and all of the issues of concern that you have are not likely to be settled in these two days, is there talk of Secretary Albright going to Pyongyang? She had said a couple of weeks ago that she would be willing to go if the circumstances allow. Are you attempting to make the circumstances such that she might make a trip?

MR. BOUCHER: This is one of the issues that keeps coming up. We are still in the sort of stay-tuned situation. The possibility exists that that might be one of the ways we move forward with our relationship, but really at this point there is no decision, nothing scheduled, nothing planned. We will just see how things develop, and that may be one of the things that happens in the course of further developments.

QUESTION: On the question of the satellite deal, just some point of reference, do we know that the North Koreans have satellites to launch if we were to pursue this track, or that they have the capability to even build satellites?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we do remember that there was one launched a while back. I can't remember exactly when that was, but there was some evidence.

QUESTION: Satellites?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, satellite --

QUESTION: Can we move to a different subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we have one or two more Korean back there.

QUESTION: The US Government is prepared to respond later to Kim Jong Il, and if you do and which style of letter do you think possibly? And number two is, can you say anything about this afternoon? You said working level meeting, on what level, and what is the issue of this?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I'm sure we will respond in an appropriate manner to the letter from Kim Jong Il. What exactly will be the appropriate manner, I think I'll leave to the White House once the President has read and looked at the letter and decided.

In terms of activities, as you know, Vice Marshall Jo met with Secretary Albright for a half-hour courtesy call this morning, then there was a meeting at the White House with the President. The Secretary was obviously also at the White House meeting. This afternoon, we may have some working- level talks at the State Department. Tonight, the Secretary is hosting a dinner on the occasion of the visit of Vice Marshall Jo at the State Department up here on the Eighth Floor. Prior to the dinner, Vice Marshall Jo is scheduled to meet at the State Department with several members of our Congress. If time permits, the North Korean delegation may have the opportunity this afternoon to visit some historical sites around Washington. That's the schedule as --

QUESTION: Which members of Congress?

QUESTION: Will South Korean officials be at the dinner? Will there be a South Korean representation at the dinner?

MR. BOUCHER: That's something I'm going to have to check on. And which members of Congress question is also something that I have to check on.

Tomorrow morning --

QUESTION: Will there at least be two sides of Congress in terms of critics?

QUESTION: No. Sites.

QUESTION: Oh, sites?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have sites and I don't have sides. (Laughter.) I don't have the sites that they might visit. I'm not sure. We don't know for sure they will do that. I said it may be possible for them to do that. And then, second of all, in terms of the members of Congress, I don't know yet. I will check on that for you as well.

Tomorrow, Vice Marshall Jo will have another meeting with Secretary Albright and then we will have plenary sessions and working lunches with the delegation, a meeting at the Pentagon, and then they host a dinner tomorrow evening as well before leaving on Thursday.

Now, off to somewhere else?

QUESTION: Right. Amid all these meetings, has she found time for some Mideast diplomacy? And is there a chance at least that she would host a meeting -- it wouldn't be a summit, of course, but a high-level meeting with the Arabs and Israelis?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it is fair to say the Secretary has been virtually in the Middle East all weekend by telephone. I think those of you that checked in with us over the weekend know that she has talked to a number of leaders, foreign ministers in the Middle East. The President himself has talked to Prime Minister Barak, Chairman Arafat, President Mubarak and others repeatedly over the last few days.

Yesterday, the Secretary was in touch with the Norwegian Foreign Minister, with Foreign Minister Moussa, with the EU High Representative Solana, with King Abdullah yesterday evening and with Chairman Arafat yesterday evening. This morning, she talked to Foreign Minister Shara of Syria; she talked to Foreign Minister Cook of the UK; she talked to Foreign Minister Ben-Ami of Israel; and as I came down, she was just beginning a phone call with Foreign Minister Ivanov of Russia.

In addition, with Foreign Minister Ivanov and others, she has also been partially in Yugoslavia, in the Balkans for the last few days. Yesterday she talked to Prime Minister Racan of Croatia. She has talked to the Bulgarian Foreign Minister over the weekend; she talked to several others as well, and I am sure she will be talking to Foreign Minister Ivanov about the situation in the Balkans as well as the Middle East.

QUESTION: Anything from Kofi Annan on the -- has she been on the phone with him?

MR. BOUCHER: She has talked to Kofi Annan several times over the weekend. I think yesterday would have been the last time. I think it is fair to say there is very active diplomacy going on at the highest levels, as well as with the Secretary and with other officials in Washington. Our missions throughout the Middle East -- we have been in very active communication with regional leaders and officials. We are continuing to work on the ground with the Israelis and the Palestinians to end the violence.

The first goal for everyone must be to find an end to the violence, to break the cycle of violence and try to restore calm on an ongoing basis. We do note from some of your press reports that we are watching on the situation -- your reporters appear to be reporting that things are a little bit calmer day by day, but what is most important to us is to make that sort of a lasting condition, that we get away from this cycle that could erupt at any moment. That remains our efforts -- remember the Secretary saying there have been too many funerals, too many tears -- it remains our view that breaking the cycle of violence is the most important thing. We have been looking for all these parties to take whatever steps they can, and particularly for the parties in the region to take immediate steps to try to calm the situation and get back to the kind of effort that we talked about in Paris, some of which is being implemented to calm the situation on a more lasting basis.

QUESTION: Might she go out there for a -- in lieu of a summit meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, there is really nothing planned in terms of travel for her or others. We have said that one of the ideas is a summit meeting, or some other kinds of meetings in the region. There have been no decisions on that at this point. Certainly, anything that can be done to calm the situation we are willing to do, but at this point, no decisions on that specific idea.

QUESTION: Let me monopolize the conversation just for a bit. You made some reference to the Paris agreement being carried out, being implemented. The Palestinians are saying that the Israelis haven't withdrawn their armor or their troops, which was sort of given to us as one of the accomplishments, the promise to withdraw from flash points on both sides. They say they haven't. And except for the meeting of security officials, what is it that happened in Paris that is being carried out?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't want to lay claim to sort of full implementation and peace, because it is obvious that is not the situation. They did issue some instructions in Paris when they were there; there was a basic commitment to try to work together with us in terms of security people on the ground working to reduce tensions. That process is ongoing, but I will be the first to say and the first to agree with anybody who says that as long as the violence continues, there is more that needs to be done, and we do look forward to the implementation of all the commitments that were made in Paris.

QUESTION: Given that she had been exploring -- the White House had been exploring the possibility of Egypt, and since that time President Mubarak has said that the only meeting apparently he is interested in hosting in the near future might be an Arab League meeting on this topic, has the White House, has Secretary Albright ruled out Egypt as the possible mediation point? Or is that something -- are they hosting -- does she plan to speak to Mubarak again and try and convince him to change his mind?

MR. BOUCHER: We will have to see. We have kept in close touch with the Egyptians throughout this period. I am sure we will remain in close touch with the Egyptians. There have just been no decisions on this idea; this is one of a variety of ideas out there about steps or meetings or things that can be done to calm the situation. This one -- there is just no decision on this one way or the other, including the location.

QUESTION: Did you take it as a no from Mubarak, or did you all take it as a maybe, or did you take it as a "Don't call us, we'll call you"?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can characterize it that way, that there are a lot of factors at play here. Clearly, the Egyptian government's views on a particular meeting is important. But there are different ideas floating out there; this is one of them. We will see which one develops into a reality.

QUESTION: Are all the embassies that have been closed over -- since Thursday -- have they all reopened now, or have any of them decided to extend their closures? They were supposed to either reopen yesterday or today, depending on when they celebrated Columbus Day.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. The final decision on that was left to the discretion of the ambassador. My understanding is that almost all of them have reopened. I'm not quite sure if I can say all. I will have to check on that.

QUESTION: Richard, one of the things that came up over the weekend was this ultimatum -- this Israeli ultimatum, saying that if you don't do what we want, then we will consider the peace process over. What does the United States think of unilateral actions and statements of this kind? Does this fall into the declaration of statehood category?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary addressed that several times over the weekend. I really don't have anything to add at this point.

QUESTION: You mentioned a few minutes ago about the parties, especially in the region, the parties taking the steps that need to be taken. Would you include among those steps a public call for calm by Chairman Arafat?

MR. BOUCHER: We certainly look for anything the parties can do that can help calm the situation. We would welcome any steps that are taken that help calm the situation, and we think it is important for all the parties to take those steps. But I am not here to start specifying individual actions. I think it is important that everybody do whatever they can to calm the situation.

QUESTION: The Palestinians say that the Israelis have reacted with too much violence, that the Israelis should stop shooting, that that is the most important thing to be done right now? Do you agree with that assessment?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I am not here to try to pin the blame or start pointing fingers at one side or the other. We have said, I think, quite clearly all along that both sides needed to take steps, that there were certain points of friction and confrontation that needed to be reduced. I think we pointed out that on the Israeli side there is this feeling that they are frequently put under siege at various locations; on the Palestinians' side, the feeling that live fire was being used too readily. So those are the kinds of things that we have been trying to deal with in our discussions with the parties, both in Paris and in our discussions on the ground.

QUESTION: You talk about contacts -- I mean, isn't there a flat ban on travel by US government officials on the West Bank? Is that hampering --I know that it is your interest in security and protecting official Americans as well as civilians. Has that impacted, has that hampered your discourses with the Palestinians?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me use that as the opportunity to go back a little bit and give you the summary. I think those of you that followed this over the weekend know that we put out two new travel advisories, one relating to the Middle East as a whole that talks about the volatility and the violent demonstrations in the region, that recommends that US citizens in the region minimize non-essential activities, and says that employees of our embassies and consulates in the region have been told to do the same.

Second of all, there is a more specific advisory for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, that talks about the continuing tensions and the violent demonstrations there. US citizens in these areas are encouraged to avoid these areas. US Government employees have been prohibited from traveling to the West Bank, Gaza, and have been urged to avoid East Jerusalem, including the Old City.

QUESTION: That's what I'm asking.

MR. BOUCHER: I guess what I have to say in the end is that I'm not sure exactly where they manage to meet, but we do continue to have our meetings with Palestinian and Israeli security officials. It is obviously of overriding importance to us that people are able to work with them to try to reduce the tensions and restore calm.

QUESTION: But how can --

MR. BOUCHER: Whether they are able to meet somewhere else or whether there are very, very limited exceptions to this ban, I don't know. But I think it is important. I think everybody would recognize the need to continue this work.

QUESTION: I mean, not to quibble, but how could there be adequate reporting if US officials don't go to these places? And CNN may not do it all, or Fox.

MR. BOUCHER: We need the wires, Barry.

QUESTION: No, I mean -- you need -- don't you need on-site reporting?

MR. BOUCHER: There is a lot of reporting on what is going on. We obviously have a lot of contacts with people who are on-site. We are in very close touch with security officials on both sides. I think we are able to get adequate information on what is going on.

QUESTION: Two questions. Question number one: Is the United States approving or supportive -- I should say supportive -- of the deadline that Israel has set and then let slide by a few days? They still have a deadline for some kind of major military action. Do we approve of that?

And the second question is: Does the United States agree with or approve the fact that Arafat said that the PLO would only resume peace negotiations after Israel agrees to the creation of an international commission to study the events of these last 12 days or 13 days now? Where do we stand on those major matters?

MR. BOUCHER: I think there are three things in there. One is the deadline, or so-called ultimatum. I think I was asked about that a few minutes ago, and I just referred you back to what the Secretary said several times over the weekend on that subject.

Two is the decision last night to sort of let it slide. Obviously, we appreciate anything the parties can do to reduce the tensions and to help restore calm in the region.

And third was the one that I just forgot.

QUESTION: Arafat says he won't return to any kind of peace negotiations.

MR. BOUCHER: I think you are all quite aware that one of the issues that is under discussion with the parties is fact-finding. We do think that can be useful. That was the subject of some discussion in Paris. We think it can be useful if it is done in a way that contributes to an understanding of the causes of violence and understanding of how to reduce or eliminate those causes of violence, and if it is done in a way that is acceptable to the parties so that we can have genuine cooperation. So we continue to work on that idea. It hasn't been brought to fruition yet, but certainly fact- finding is one of the issues under discussion.

QUESTION: The Secretary was asked about it over the weekend and she would not say -- fair enough -- that the US supports the call for an international commission. But since then, there has been word from Israel, Israel would be satisfied if the US -- remember, the original idea from Israel was that Israelis and Palestinians look into this. Now they're saying US, Israelis and Palestinians. Does that satisfy the US so far as a legitimate fact- finding operation?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, this is an idea that has been under discussion, that we have discussed with the parties. It remains under discussion, and I don't think my characterization just now was any different than what the Secretary did over the weekend.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, I'm told that the Palestinian news agency reported that at the Palestinian cabinet meeting members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were invited to attend that meeting. (A) do you have any information about that and (b) do you see that as a positive development?

MR. BOUCHER: It is not something I have anything for you on. I will have to check on it and see.

QUESTION: Has there been, in a sense, a damage assessment of the overall peace process, and is there any thinking developing yet on whether a summit, if it were to happen in the next couple of weeks, would get back involved in the core issues? Or does the government feel that there is really a long way to go before -- to get back to square one, as it were? Or is there some sense that you could actually have a summit in the middle of this crisis and get back to some of those core issues that were being dealt with at Camp David?

MR. BOUCHER: These issues are all in play. Clearly, we want to get back to the peace process. We believe the parties too want to get back to the peace process. I think the Secretary has said over the last few days that we are at key moments for the peace process, that we have been continuing to work on a lot of the ideas in play and continuing to try to move them forward. So we do very much want to get back to the peace process and think that there is still an opportunity there in terms of the negotiations.

At the same time, we recognize that it is pretty hard to negotiate peace when you are in the middle of a violent confrontation, and therefore the overriding importance right now is to get the parties and others that can help to take immediate steps to calm the violence. And then as we move forward we would certainly like to move into a situation where we can take up the peace process issues again.

I know that doesn't answer the question completely in terms of what will be done at a particular summit, but since there is no decision made on a particular summit it is hard to describe what it will discuss.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on his question? If Yasser Arafat, as some people claim, is able to turn this violence on and turn it off as he wishes, what does that say about his commitment to peace? And if it is out of his hands, and if he has no hand in this, what does it say about the people on the Palestinian side, whether they're going to look at a peace agreement as anything more than a piece of paper?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, there was two questions starting with "if," neither of which I can --

QUESTION: Well, one or the other is most likely the case.


QUESTION: Well, what would be the other option?

MR. BOUCHER: Something in between.

QUESTION: Which is?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer --

QUESTION: How do you see it?

MR. BOUCHER: The answer that I have to give you is that as long as the violence continues it is the responsibility of leaders on both sides to take whatever steps they can to try to calm the situation, and to continue taking steps until we can restore some sort of lasting calm. So one can do any kind of analysis, but the fact is anyone in a leadership position should be doing everything they can in order to keep working on restoring calm, and that is what we want people to do.

QUESTION: Secretary Albright said on television that he could and should stop the Palestinian confrontation. Now, you're speaking in generic, general terms, which might include Norwegians, but she said that Arafat has made hard decisions before, and he could and should stop the violence. And if the violence is continuing, Robert Satloff, writing in the Paris Tribune and in The Washington Post yesterday, says he has sprung prisoners, that he has formed a new union with the Hamas. Has he tried to stop the violence? It's been going on more than a week now -- at his end, apart from what Israel is doing?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I will go back to what I said before, and certainly with what the Secretary said, that he has made some hard decisions over these years and he has taken some steps. We saw some steps taken in Paris. Certainly, we do expect those steps to continue. He can and he should do more to end the violence. I think that is incumbent on both sides. As long as the violence continues, people need to keep doing things to try to end it.

QUESTION: I want to change the subject.

QUESTION: Can I just --

MR. BOUCHER: A lot of people don't want to change the subject.

QUESTION: The Palestinians have all week questioned whether the US could continue to play the role that the President Clinton decides as being an honest broker, and following the UN Security Council vote, there were further questions about whether the US can be an honest broker. And then today's Washington Post front page questions US neutrality when a lot of people never felt that there was neutrality, that the US was always the Israeli ally in this.

How do you respond to all these questions about whether, even if the two sides are willing to go back to the peace process, whether Arafat feels he can trust the White House to represent both sides fairly?

MR. BOUCHER: I would suppose in the end that is a question you are going to have to ask him. I think we do believe we have a continuing role in this process. We have been at the center of it all along, both in terms of trying to advance the peace process, as you well know, but also in terms of trying to end the violence. We have been very active with people on both sides. We have been in close touch with people on both sides, and we continue to work on the ground and diplomatically with both Israelis and Palestinians. So, I think the central role of the United States, both in the peace process and in trying to bring an end to the violence, hasn't changed and, in fact, continues. And you can see that from the facts of what is going on.

QUESTION: One more.

MR. BOUCHER: One, two, three, four more.

QUESTION: Subset to this question, the US role has changed a great deal in the last two months, it seems to me. The President's statement concerning Arafat and his failure at the summit; he blamed him rather than blaming Clinton or Israel. And every time there is a serious problem in the peace process, we seem to turn up at Sharm el Sheikh, which is another way of saying that we seem to turn to Egypt. Is it now time for Egypt to join these negotiations as a formal -- and make it a quadripartide summit, rather than a tripartide. And I don't really expect an answer, but I thought I'd like to get it on.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we will take your suggestion on board. I think Egypt has had a very important and continuing role on the peace process, on the issues of violence. They have relations with all the parties, and certainly we look to them as well as any others who are in a position to do so to try to play a helpful role in calming the situation and getting back to a peace process.

QUESTION: But what I am saying is, isn't there a big change in the Egyptian role now at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: I would describe the Egyptian role as long-standing and continuing.


QUESTION: Given that it looks like -- that we are hearing that the next Arab summit, scheduled for the end of the month, is one forum that some of our allies in the region would like to discuss this issue, what is the US reaction to the fact that this year, an Iraqi -- for this meeting, an Iraqi delegation has been invited, and in the last week, Saddam Hussein has been pretty vocal in his position on this, he is making some pretty charged statements about the situation.

MR. BOUCHER: Is that new?

QUESTION: Well, it's not new, but I'm saying, do you invite them to invite the Iraqis to an Arab League summit --

MR. BOUCHER: It may be new to invite them, and I will be glad to look for something on that. I don't have an immediate reaction to it. I do think that Iraq's opposition to the peace process has been very vocal and very consistent, and hasn't seemed to garner a whole lot of support.

QUESTION: I mean, do you think that they could be signaling a change in the perspective, in the region at this point, the fact that they would be invited?

MR. BOUCHER: I do think that if you looked at the activity of people in the region, that you do see an attempt by many to try to help calm the situation. We have certainly looked to the people to play that role. As far as Iraq's irrelevance to the process, I think that is self-evident.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MR. BOUCHER: Can we move on? Not quite yet.

QUESTION: In the last week, there has been a lot of outpourings in the street, in places like Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Iran -- well, we expect that in Iran, but some of these countries are countries that have backed the peace process in the past, and have relations with Israel in public. Were you surprised by this dichotomy between the public willingness to negotiate with Israel, and suddenly the streets sort of erupting in support of the Palestinians?

And secondly, do you think the leaders of these countries have -- I mean they appear to have basically taken the Palestinian side in all of these issues, claiming that Israel has used too much force, and supporting the Palestinians. Are you disappointed in that?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I would just have to go back to what we have said before. Clearly, we are quite aware of the emotion of these issues; we are quite aware of the volatility of these issues, not only on the ground in Israel, West Bank and Gaza, but also in terms of the region. We have embassies in many places. We are quite careful about their status and their security. We are aware of how emotional these issues are, and how strongly people feel.

But in the end, I think you have to ask yourself, what are the alternatives? We don't think there is any alternative to the United States playing a key role in the process, and we don't think there is any alternative to trying as hard as we can, and expecting others to try as well to restore the calm and get back on a path of peace.

QUESTION: Mexico and Cuba. Last week --

MR. BOUCHER: At least it's changing - okay, change of subject.

QUESTION: Last week, the Mexican authorities --

MR. BOUCHER: You have one more on the Middle East? Okay, sorry.

QUESTION: No, not Middle East. It's a different subject.


QUESTION: Last week, the Mexican authorities deported a Cuban diplomat to Havana, and the US Government criticized this action, telling the Mexicans that you were worried about his personal security. If you were worried about his personal security, why didn't the United States offer him political asylum?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, he was in Mexico, and that is the country of jurisdiction --

QUESTION: But would the American officials --

MR. BOUCHER: -- I think I am hampered in this regard, because, as you know, we never talk about political asylum offers, requests, or consideration, so I am afraid it is not really a question I can answer or an assumption that I can confirm.

QUESTION: But he was, according to the report, he was in very close contact with people in your embassy, or you were simply surprised by the actions of the Mexican authorities to deport him, when it was a deal, and --

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, we have expressed our concern about the actions to the Mexican Government. We expressed our concern about the human rights implications of what they did; we have expressed our desire to see a full explanation of what they did. And we believe the Mexican Government has a continuing responsibility to ensure his safety in Cuba. So that is an issue that we have expressed our concerns about; we have raised it at a high level.

QUESTION: And you are not worried or anything about the contacts (inaudible) to be forced to speak about the contacts with the American officials?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to talk about those contacts.

QUESTION: Same area. Do you have any comment on the sentencing of these two Cuban-Americans to 15 years in jail?

MR. BOUCHER: We have just seen the press reports. We don't have anything official on this yet. We would note that Mr. Abreu in his late 70s; he has served two years already, and he is in frail health. If these reports of 15- year sentences are true, we think these are outrageous sentences in light of the advanced age and failing health of the defendants.

QUESTION: One more on Cuba.

MR. BOUCHER: One more on Cuba.

QUESTION: The Congress is ready to vote the resolution that the President has said he is not very happy with. What is the State Department assessment of the future about legislation? If it is approved --

MR. BOUCHER: Are you talking about the food and medicine bill?

QUESTION: Yes, that is what I am talking about.

MR. BOUCHER: We have always favored steps which can hold the promise of helping the Cuban people without bolstering the Castro regime. This proposed legislation remains under review, and so we can't really provide you a final determination on it at this point.

QUESTION: So now that you have someone back on the ground in Belgrade after more than a year --


QUESTION: Yes. Holbrooke was wrong yesterday when he said that Montgomery was going to Belgrade?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, "going" and "on the ground" are different things.

QUESTION: Well, is he there yet?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think he is there yet. First --

QUESTION: Perhaps you should talk to your UN Ambassador who is on television that says things like that. Anyway --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, "going to" -- I will look at the exact verb that was used, Matt, okay, before we talk to him.

QUESTION: He arrives then today, I think, is what he said.

MR. BOUCHER: Let me describe where we are, if I can, okay? The current plans are for Jim O'Brien, James O'Brien, to travel to the region this evening. He is going to be going to Kosovo, to Sarajevo, and to Belgrade. We haven't set the final order, so I can't tell you exactly when he will arrive there. Jim O'Brien is the President and the Secretary of State's Special Advisor on Balkans Democratization. As such, he is the most senior figure in the Administration dealing exclusively with Balkans issues, and it is appropriate that he meet with Dr. Kostunica. So we expect that to be taking place in coming days.

As far as Ambassador Montgomery's travel, I don't have any update for you on that. As you might expect, it is expected that he will go to Belgrade, but I don't have his precise timing on that yet.

QUESTION: Can I ask the question that I wanted to ask, please?

MR. BOUCHER: Please.

QUESTION: What is the timetable, then, for reopening Embassy Belgrade?

MR. BOUCHER: The answer is soon, but I can't give you a precise timetable.

QUESTION: The answer is soon. And on the sanctions, the White House is saying sometime this week?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, you might even say very soon on the sanctions. We --

QUESTION: But you are not connected, is that correct?

MR. BOUCHER: No. We are consulting closely with our European partners, and look to harmonize the lifting of sanctions with them. We support the European Union's October 9th decision to lift all sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia since 1998, with the exceptions of the provisions affecting Milosevic and his associates. Any announcement of the changes on the US side will come out of the White House, because of the mechanism by which our sanctions are structured. We would expect to be able to announce details soon, but I can't tell you today, tomorrow, or the exact time frame.

As far as reestablishing formal diplomatic relations, this is still being discussed with the new government. We would hope to do this soon as well, and then look to a rapid expansion of our assistance and other kinds of steps that we can take to help the regime consolidate itself and get on with the task of rebuilding.

QUESTION: Who is discussing that on the US side?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have had telephone contacts. I think you know the President talked to President Kostunica over the weekend.


MR. BOUCHER: And I think we remain in touch with people on their side telephonically. We don't have anybody there yet.

QUESTION: Could you do a little --

QUESTION: Could you do an update --

QUESTION: It's obvious why he is going, I mean, it's symbolism, but it also has some substance, I imagine. Can you get into, even if it is an obvious list, what it is he is going to take up with the president for one thing?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, to look at the general situation, the new government is in the process of consolidating its control. We would say they are well on their way towards consolidating control, and you keep seeing examples of this. For example, the latest, they have reached agreement with opposition leaders to hold elections in mid-December for a new Serbian parliament. That is a process that we certainly encourage, that we hope will continue, and in any way we can contribute to that, obviously we would like to do so.

In terms of the visit of Jim O'Brien, a great many issues to discuss. I am sure we will want to bring the new government up to date on the process of lifting sanctions, discuss with them how to handle the targeted financial and visa sanctions, which are targeted on Milosevic and his cronies, and to make sure that we don't do anything in that process that allows them to loot assets or somehow misuse their assets in that regard -- or state assets in that regard.

Second of all, we will want to discuss how we can assist with the process of rebuilding, and more generally with the process of integrating the new government in Serbia into international institutions. There is what is this so-called "outer wall" of sanctions that has to do with membership in international institutions, and US law has quite a few things that need to be taken up in that regard as well.

QUESTION: And it is still policy -- could you repeat that we are in favor of Kosovo in self-rule, which was said someplace right after the installation?

MR. BOUCHER: Our policy on Kosovo has not changed at all.

QUESTION: Oh, excuse me, if I could jump ahead to the war crimes issue again. Here we go again. You know, we have all heard it discussed over the weekend. You no longer are saying take him to The Hague right away. Apparently, you feel there should be some consolidation first. Kostunica doesn't want his predecessor tried in The Hague, as I understand. Will he be told he is wrong, or would you sort of talk about other things?

MR. BOUCHER: My answer on this is the same one that the Secretary has given all weekend. We have not changed our policy in this regard. We continue to support the tribunal. We continue to believe in the rule of law, and that the rule of law needs to be implemented and taken up in all its aspects, and that Serbia needs to be integrated into the rule of law that applies in Europe. So these issues need to be taken up in that context.

QUESTION: So on that note, will Jim O'Brien press President Kostunica to hand Milosevic over to The Hague, though?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think we know our policy is clear. We know that this is an issue that involves the rule of law. And we will discuss it in those terms.

QUESTION: Kosovo. Now that Yugoslavia is democratic again, how do you rate the chances of being able to persuade the Kosovo-Albanians to accept some kind of reintegration back into Serbia, and what do you doing to persuade them that this is their best option for the future?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have ever stood up here and tried to give odds on any particular eventuality. I think I need to say, though, clearly that our policy on Kosovo is the same. We were looking at self-government within Yugoslavia; that remains our position. I think everybody in the region is quite aware of that. How that issue gets taken up and discussed in the coming days or weeks, we will just have to see.

QUESTION: I know, but does it -- just a quick follow-up. Is it now easier to envisage closer links between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia? Serbia proper, or whatever you like to call it?

MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, the end of a government in Belgrade that was involved in ethnic cleansing, the installation of a government in Belgrade that believes in democracy and the rule of law, makes everything in the region easier, removes a source of great instability, but how exactly that issue gets taken up and worked out, we will just have to see.

QUESTION: I want to ask a couple of questions about a possible aid package, because the US didn't place any conditions on the lifting of sanctions, because it said that the US had made a promise to the people, that if they turned out and got a democratically-elected government, that the sanctions would be lifted. But it is possible to place conditions on an aid package, and (inaudible) has called on the EU to condition any aid on Kostunica's cooperation in getting Kosovo-Albanians released from Serbian prisons. Is that something that the US might link an aid package to, and are there any other things, such as Milosevic in The Hague, that we might put as conditions on aid?

MR. BOUCHER: I think first and foremost, what the Secretary said over the weekend remains true. It is important the people in Serbia who stood up, who fought for this, and who gained this victory for democracy, that they see the democracy dividend, and that all of us who have been looking to remove the instability and reintegrate Serbia into Europe, into a peaceful Balkans that is based on democracy, need to support that process. I think that applies not only to the lifting of sanctions, but also to looking at a rapid expansion of our assistance to the new government, obviously in cooperation with our European allies. Exact amounts are still being discussed, and we would work with the European Union; they have invited the European Commission and the World Bank to lead in the evaluation of needs and coordination of economic and financial assistance. So that process is under way, and we do think it is important that it continues.

The kinds of conditions that you are talking about, the issues that you have raised, are indeed part of US legislation when it comes to the international financial institutions. So those are issues that will certainly need to be addressed in that context.

QUESTION: Well, in bringing Congress into this, you had said earlier -- and that is the other thing I wanted to ask, about the size of this aid package -- you had said earlier that the State Department was looking at aid that might already be in your budget, that might be available, and then the possibility of asking Congress for a supplemental.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember saying that.

QUESTION: Are you definitely going to ask Congress for money, and how much?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- we don't have an exact amount yet. We will have to see.

QUESTION: Richard, on Meet the Press on Sunday, the Secretary was asked about Milosevic in The Hague, and although she said that the policy remains the same, her emphasis was on accountability, and the war crimes issue, and the importance of having individual accountability. It seemed to be leaving the door open for possible accountability in Belgrade. Would the US entertain any --

MR. BOUCHER: I think she said quite clearly, I have said quite clearly, consistently, our policy on this has not changed.

Q: Different subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Different subject?

QUESTION: I don't know if the second round vote -- I don't know if it has taken place yet, but you have lost your bid to install Mauritius on the Security Council. I am just wondering -- I don't know if this has happened yet, but Tanzania is expected to put itself forward, and I asked this question last week, is the US -- no, they didn't get 2/3. Mauritius beat Sudan, but they didn't get 2/3 of the vote.

QUESTION: Ten short.

MR. BOUCHER: Now, hold on. I want to give him the news. I'm better wire service here.

QUESTION: This is what had happened.

MR. BOUCHER: All right. Do you want to know what has happened?


MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Mauritius got 113 votes; they needed 112. That makes Mauritius a member of the Security Council in the Africa seat. We certainly welcome that. As you know, we thought that they were well qualified, in view of their democratic elections and their status in the region, that they can be an able representative of Africa. We have worked very hard on this, and the Secretary in particular worked very hard on this, as well as Ambassador Holbrooke and our people at the mission in New York.

QUESTION: Can you tell us the difference between the first vote and the second vote?

QUESTION: Who did you speak to?

MR. BOUCHER: We worked very hard on it.

QUESTION: This wasn't the second round?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it was the second or third, but apparently that is what has happened.

QUESTION: How much aid did it cost the US?

MR. BOUCHER: Look, we have worked this intensively, diplomatically, both at the Secretary's level and through our mission in New York. Our mission was working very hard today on this, and has all the way in the lead-up to this. Ambassador Holbrooke had made this a key issue. We felt that Sudan was uniquely unqualified for the seat, and that Mauritius, on the other hand, would be an excellent representative for Africa, and we look forward to working with them on the Council.

QUESTION: Richard, there has been some talk that if Sudan were to lose the bid for the Security Council, that the Council would then consider the lifting the sanctions against Sudan. Is the US prepared to consider lifting the sanctions?

MR. BOUCHER: We have always said that in order to arrive at the lifting of sanctions on Sudan, they need to fulfill the quite specific conditions that are in the resolution, and our view is that they haven't done that at this point.

QUESTION: On the Armenian genocide bill pending on the House floor right now. While it is pending here, the European Parliament discussed the Turkey report today, and they condemned all the efforts by some who want to include the Armenian genocide in the Turkey report. The person who actually writes the Turkey report (inaudible) said that, "We are not supposed to follow our American colleagues when they do a stupid mistake." What is your lead on that?

And second, it is -- I mean, this issue is raising a serious amount of sensitivity among the Turkish people, and the Administration and the House seem to be completely in disagreement on this issue. You're -- not basically you, but including Madame Secretary and all the high-level Administration people, spoke to the House members and said that the passage of this bill is going to have negative effects on American national interests. Why do you think that the House still insists to do whatever they want to do?

MR. BOUCHER: There are a number of questions in there, and none of which I can really adequately answer for you. As far as what the European legislators think of the American legislators, I think that is an issue that I best not get in the middle of. I do think it is quite true the Administration has expressed its opposition to this bill. We have expressed the importance of our relationship with Turkey and the importance of the things that we do together with Turkey in pursuit of our common interests with Turkey. We have been opposed to this legislation, but at the same time, we have pointed out, I believe it is the sense of the House resolution, and therefore that needs to be considered as well. But our position on this is very well-known; it hasn't changed; we have been active on this subject, and I don't think there is really anything new to say today.

Is there a follow-up?

QUESTION: The Turkish Energy Minister and also the Turkish Agricultural Minister, they urged Ambassador Pearson in Ankara -- they said if the resolution passed from the House, we will cancel $11 billion in the energy project with the US companies, and also the agricultural project. What do you say about this subject?

MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen those specific reports, so I don't think I have any specific comment, but I will go back to what we said last week. We do think our relationship with Turkey is important in all its aspects. We think that our relationship and our work with Turkey serves mutual interests, that is interests of Turkey as well as the United States, and we think it is very important to continue that kind of cooperation and to keep in mind the Administration's position, but also the nature of this resolution, and not do anything that harms this very important relationship to us both.

QUESTION: One on Belarus and Russia. The Russians say that Belarus has met the conditions for (inaudible) vote and they are accusing you of interfering in Belarusan affairs by your criticisms of the way the elections are being run. Would you like to answer the Russians on this?

MR. BOUCHER: We call them the way we see them. I don't think I have anything more to say on the subject at this point.

QUESTION: Richard, on elections in general, is the US providing any -- was the US or is the US providing any assistance for the elections of Ivory Coast in terms of observers or other such funding, and if you were, are you going to follow the EU, which said today that it was not going to give any more aid --

MR. BOUCHER: We have issued statements about the elections in the Ivory Coast, in particular our very strong concern about the exclusion of political party candidates from the process. I don't think I have seen anything that indicated we were intending to provide assistance, but certainly we are very, very concerned about the turn that this has taken.

We suspended it? We did have something that was on its way?

QUESTION: We never found out -- we never heard what there was going to be.

MR. BOUCHER: All right. I'll get back to you and tell you exactly what has been suspended, but certainly, our concern about the process has been well known. We issued a statement again on Saturday on the subject.

QUESTION: One more on Aung San Suu Kyi. She apparently was trying or supposed to see the UN mediator there. Do you know if she has been prevented by the military from doing that, or willfully chose not to?

MR. BOUCHER: We really cannot confirm reports; there are some reports saying that she declined to meet with the UN special envoy because of restrictions that have been placed on her by the Burmese Government. We can't confirm that. We do know that she has been confined to her home since September 21st, when she attempted to leave Rangoon by train. She has really had no contact with anyone outside her home; the Burmese authorities have denied diplomatic access to her, and other national leaders are under de facto house arrest.

These continuing actions by the Burmese authorities are an egregious violation of her fundamental right to freedom of movement and association as recognized in numerous international conventions and human rights instruments, and we would urge the Burmese authorities once again to lift their restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.

QUESTION: A quick one.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. The last one.

QUESTION: The House today apparently is considering legislation that would deny further aid and debt relief to Russia until they release Ed Pope. Any reaction?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me first of all say where we are in this thing. We know a trial date has been set for October 18th in Moscow City Court. We have of course requested access to the trial of Mr. Pope. A judge has only just been appointed to the case, however, and we have not yet received an answer. We are also awaiting another consular visit with Mr. Pope; we would like that to take place this week. Our request for a visit appears to have been delayed pending appointment of the judge.

As the Secretary has said in front of the House International Relations Committee, we consider what has happened to Mr. Pope to be outrageous. We have raised this case repeatedly at the highest levels, and we have not yet had any satisfaction from the Russian Government, including on the issue of Mr. Pope's health. We do believe the Russian Government should release Mr. Pope and allow him to return home.

There is a resolution in the House of Representatives. I think, first of all, we need to say the Department appreciates the efforts of Congressman John Peterson, who has authored the measure, and so many others in the House and the Senate, in order to try to get Ed Pope home. The US assistance to Russia, however, we think, is based on our national interest, and the first priority in our relationship with Russia is the security of the United States.

There is no question that we agree with the spirit of the legislation. We share the frustration of Congressman Peterson and the legislation's co- sponsors that the Russians need to resolve the case. However, we don't believe that cutting assistance to Russia in the ways that were suggested would advance Mr. Pope's case or our efforts on his behalf.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 p.m.)

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