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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-03-19

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


2427

DAILY BRIEFING

_Richard Boucher, Spokesman

Washington, DC

March 19, 2001

INDEX:

MEXICO

1 US-Mexico Water Agreement

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

1-2 Continuing Violence by Ethnic Albanian Extremists

2-3 UN Mandate / NATO Patrols

3,4 Coordination / Contact with Macedonian Government

4-5 Criticism re NATO Response to Situation

16 Prospects for Powell-Rumsfeld Meeting on Situation

FORMER REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA

4 Possible US Visit by Serbian Prime Minister

ARGENTINA

6 Economic and Political Situation in Argentina

CHINA

6,13 US Visit of PRC Vice Premier Qian

6-7 US Adherence to One China Policy

AFGHANISTAN

7 Taliban Official's Meeting with Working-Level Department Officials

7-8 Taliban Destruction of Statues

8 Reported Proposal by Taliban re Usama bin Laden

ISRAEL

8-9 Continuing Violence / Israeli Response

9-10 Easing of Economic Pressure on Palestinians

9-10 Secretary's Meeting with Prime Minister Sharon Today

9-11 Secretary's Address to American Israel Public Affairs Committee

JAPAN

12 President Bush's Meeting with Prime Minister Mori

RUSSIA

12 Press Reports re Alleged Russian Spy

14 Russia-Iran Cooperation

NORTH KOREA

13 US Policy Review on North Korea

13 US-DPRK Dialogue

TURKEY

14 Turkey's Financial Situation

IRAQ

15-16 Assistance to Iraqi National Congress / Other Potential Grantees


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. Let me mention one or two statements that we have, and then get on to your questions.

First of all, after the briefing we'll issue a statement about the United States and Mexico agreeing on a framework for Mexico to deliver Rio Grande water to the United States, an issue that we have been working on under various treaties and the discussions that President Bush and President Vicente Fox had in Mexico on February 16th.

Second of all, I would like to say a few words about the extremist violence in Macedonia. First of all, the United States rejects and condemns the extremist violence from ethnic Albanian extremists in Macedonia. They have no legitimacy and do not represent, in our view, the vast majority of Albanian ethnic citizens of Macedonia. Their actions cause serious harm to the interests and image of those who claim to represent the ethnic Albanian community in Macedonia, Kosovo and the region.

We welcome the Macedonian parliament's unanimous statement on March 18th that condemned the violence. All the parties of the Macedonian parliament carried this resolution -- ethnic Albanian as well as ethnic Macedonian. We unequivocally support Macedonia's territorial integrity and the legitimate efforts of the Macedonian Government to protect the rule of law. Political grievances of the ethnic Albanian community should be addressed through the democratic structures of Macedonia's multiethnic civil society, and not through destabilizing violence. We think this is in the interest of all citizens of Macedonia.

So with that statement I would be glad to stop and take your questions on this or any other topic.

Q: Do the people here in the building see any substantive difference between these militant, I guess, ethnic Albanians and the militant ethnic Albanians who had the support of the Clinton Administration in Kosovo? Or is it a matter of provocation in Kosovo, but it's absent in Macedonia?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the situation now is completely different. I don't know as far as individuals who was where when. But when you had ethnic Albanians trying to protect their homes and families and their rights in Kosovo against a Serb army that was bent on ethnic cleansing, that's quite a between different from having people who live within a multiethnic democratic country trying to assert some sort of control with guns.

And so I think I would just say the situations are quite a bit -- in fact, totally different.

Q: What is the kind of thinking in the Administration on the Russian -- on the proposal, various proposals, to deploy NATO troops inside Macedonian territory?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure there are any particular proposals in that regard. We are operating within a UN mandate, and we intend to do as much as we can and look for other ways to provide support for the Macedonian Government, either within that -- well, within that mandate.

We are very concerned with the situation. We are looking at it in conjunction with our NATO allies. The Kosovo forces that NATO leads are taking resolute steps within the mandate under Security Council Resolution 1244 to control the Kosovo side of the Macedonian border. Lord Robertson, I think, has said today that more NATO troops would be sent to beef up the border area.

We have strongly condemned the continuing violence. We have supported Macedonia's territorial integrity, and I think made quite clear what our position is. We have been in touch with other governments on this matter, both through NATO and elsewhere. The Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Fischer of Germany over the weekend. They agreed that NATO forces in Kosovo should increase security along the border area and deny the extremists any sort of safe haven in Kosovo, and that's the kind of steps you see NATO taking.

NATO has stepped up its patrols, tightened its patrols along the border. They have detained insurgents that are trying to move across the Kosovo-Serbia boundary. They have interdicted arms shipments. They have seized weapons caches. And so we will continue to move within NATO and with our allies to tighten up on the Kosovo side of the border.

Q: When you talk about you are looking at other ways to help the Macedonian Government, could you be a bit more specific on that? In what kind of ways can you help them?

MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. I think there are conversations ongoing with NATO, and NATO has had people down there repeatedly. And clearly we think that, first and foremost, our job is to fulfill the task along the Kosovo side of the border. The denying safe haven to these armed groups is a very important part of the strategy. That is being done by NATO's stepped-up patrols on the Kosovo side; it's being done by the entry of Yugoslav forces into the Serb side of the border, and by the actions of the Macedonian army in the areas near the -- on the Macedonian side of that border.

Q: On exactly that same point, you say other ways, but you mean ways other than deploying NATO troops in Macedonia?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, the mandate -- within the mandate. And the mandate at this point is only within Kosovo.

Q: Right, but the question to which you responded -- we're looking at other ways -- was -- are you prepared -- what's the current thinking on troops, on NATO troops in Macedonia. And so what I'm trying to get at is --

MR. BOUCHER: We're not looking at ways to move the NATO troops across the border into Macedonia.

Q: And then secondly, with your long list there of KFOR accomplishments, can we safely assume that you would reject any and all criticism that KFOR is not doing enough on its own?

MR. BOUCHER: I am sure KFOR is always looking to do more, and more effectively, but I think KFOR has done a lot, and I have talked about it.

Q: Would the additional troops that Lord Robertson is talking about include possibly additional US troops?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of, but you will have to check with NATO and the Pentagon on that.

Q: Do you have any of the Albanian leadership to talk to, should you choose to? Is there any contact with these radical elements in Macedonia? You had identifiable people --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, there are identified people on the Presevo side that we have talked to, and obviously we keep in touch with the moderate Albanian leadership in Kosovo. We keep in touch with the Albanian ethnic political parties and political leadership in Macedonia. I don't know if there are any contacts with these extremist groups or not.

Q: What you were saying that you would guarantee that the territorial integrity of FYROM, you mean on a bilateral level as the US Government, or just in the framework of NATO or KFOR or international military process, whatever it is? When you are saying -- you said that you wanted to --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I see the distinction. Our support for the territorial integrity of Macedonia is matched by statements that NATO has made; that NATO as a whole has said that they support the territorial integrity of Macedonia as well.

Q: But this is US Government --

MR. BOUCHER: It is on both levels: it's the US Government policy; it's a NATO policy as well.

Q: And the other -- how do you respond to the Prime Minister's of FYROM, Mrs. Mrs. Georgievski's charges that the US is not doing enough to stop the Albanian terrorists from crossing the borderline in Kosovo?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think I was sort of asked that question a moment ago. What I would say is NATO is doing a lot. NATO is cooperating and working and in contact with the Macedonian Government. So NATO will continue to fulfill its mandate and continue to make its efforts on that side of the border. And I have outlined for you today a number of things that NATO is in fact doing in that area.

Q: Richard, and another charge against the USA saying the Prime Minister is you can not convince us that the chieftains of those Albanian gangsters are not unknown to your government. How do you respond to this?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that that's something to raise with the United States. I think the NATO forces in the area are operating with full knowledge of what's going on, but whether they're actually in a position to do something more once these people go across the border, Im not sure. And I think you have to say NATO is taking a responsibility on the Kosovo side of the border. We are coordinating with the Macedonian Government, and we hope all working together to bring this kind of violence to end.

Q: Richard, this maybe be a Pentagon question, but are there any activities, NATO activities, that US troops specifically don't get involved in among the activities you were describing?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Not that I'm aware of, but that would have to be a NATO and a Pentagon question.

Q: On Serbia, Prime Minister Djindjic says he is coming to Washington this week. Can you confirm that?

MR. BOUCHER: I just saw something on the wires. I'll have to check and see if we've had any requests for a meeting of some kind. The Secretary saw him about a month ago, I think.

Q: He says he's coming to ask for leniency regarding congressional stipulations on their loan. Do you have any update on where we stand on that?

MR. BOUCHER: No. We will evaluate the stipulations at the end of the month, when we need to.

Q: Some Yugoslav officials are saying that part of the reason that these Albanian extremists are so dangerous is because NATO was remiss in maybe getting the KLA to disarm rather than just demilitarize at the end of the war in Belgrade.

Do you see any linkage between the KLA and some of these ethnic Albanian extremist and some of the weapons that were used by the KLA?

MR. BOUCHER: I certainly don't think that's been established, and we would certainly keep looking at the situation to make sure that we are doing everything we can. But I have not heard that cited around here as some significant factor in where we are now.

Q: In the Secretary's discussion with his counterparts, is there any sort of reflection that we didn't respond fast enough in Croatia, we didn't respond fast enough in Bosnia? Some people would even say we didn't respond fast enough in Kosovo, and we don't want to make the same mistake again.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is that kind of discussion because I think we see these situations as essentially different. I mean, let's face it, that whole region has changed. We have a multiethnic democratic government in Macedonia, a government which welcomes and allows people to exercise their political and civil rights.

And our encouragement in this situation is for the Albanians who live in Macedonia, the ethnic Albanian community, to exercise their civil and political rights and to get the kind of respect that they deserve and need within that democratic system. In these previous situations with Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo situations, we were dealing with the predations of a government in Belgrade that was bent on wiping out ethnic groups.

So the fact that we have a democratic government in Belgrade these days, and we have governments that are showing some respect for and a willingness to welcome the participation of ethnic groups in the different political systems, makes the situation completely different, offers an opportunity for people with political grievances to pursue them. And fundamentally, you are not having a community defending itself against ethnic cleaning; you are having a community that is trying to pursue its political rights while a certain number of extremists are engaged in violence for whatever purpose.

Q: I would like to know if you have anything on Argentina, on the economic --

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let's finish with this, and then go on. Any more Macedonia questions?

Q: There are news reports on the activity of the Albanian community in the US, both financially and as far as volunteers are concerned going to Macedonia to fight on the Albanian side. Would you comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have any knowledge of that or any information on that. I will have to check on it for you.

Q: If you have any proof of that, will you apply the Anti-Terror Act to the Albanians getting money here and sending it there?

MR. BOUCHER: That depends on a whole lot of things, so let's deal with the facts first and then we'll deal with the interpretation afterwards.

Q: The economic and political crisis in Argentina, half of the government has resigned, and the alliance that supported Mr. De La Rua is broken. I was wondering if you have any comment.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I think the politics of the situation we will leave to the Argentines. It is an internal matter. We have always been very supportive of the Argentine Government efforts at economic reform and their cooperation with the international economic community, but I think I will just leave it at that. It is up to the Argentine people and government to decide what they do politically.

Q: Over the weekend there was a Japanese press report which said that the Bush Administration has effectively abandoned the Three No position on Taiwan, which was laid out by President Clinton in 1998. Do you have any comment?

MR. BOUCHER: We are going to have meetings this week with Vice Premier Qian Qichen. The Secretary will meet with him on Wednesday, I guess it is, for a meeting and dinner.

As far as these press reports, I think we have made quite clear what our policy is. We adhere to the One China policy. It is a policy that we have told the Chinese Government directly. We have said it in public. I think Beijing understands our point of view, that we stand for a peaceful resolution acceptable to the people on Taiwan. That remains our policy, and we'll stay there.

Q: In Tony Kornblum's article is that whether or not there has been a change of policy. The point is, the Bush Administration would not restate the Three No position. Do you expect any US officials to restate the position, either in private or --

MR. BOUCHER: We don't get around to predicting what we intend or don't intend to say. We will say things when we want to say them. But I think I have told you what our policy is, and that is what it remains.

Q: Well, wait a second, Richard. Why don't you give us a little bit more of a straightforward answer than that? Has the US abandoned this? Is it a formulation that you are no longer using?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We are using the formulation that describes the policy. Whether we decide to use a different formulation at some point, I don't know. But at this point, we closely adhere to the One China policy, and we will stay there.

Q: Well, what about do you adhere to the Three No policy?

MR. BOUCHER: If I were to go back into the entire history of the Three No policy, you would find it wasn't ever stated quite the same way, and I don't intend to state it that way today. We adhere to the One China policy, and I will stick with that. And if we decide to say more, I will get back to you.

Q: Can you comment on today's visit from Syed Rahmatullah Hashemi, the second foreign secretary from the Taliban?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I'll fill you in on that one. Mr. Rahmatullah met today with working level officials at the State Department. He met with the Director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Bangladesh desk, and the actual Afghanistan desk officer for the Office of Counter-Terrorism. He presented a letter addressed to President Bush calling for improved relations and continued dialogue, but it did not contain any specific proposals for addressing the international concerns about terrorism and other issues with Afghanistan -- with Taliban.

We meet with Taliban officials to discuss issues involving Afghanistan that are of great concern to the United States, including terrorism, narcotics, the peace process, humanitarian assistance and human rights. During these meetings, we inform the Taliban precisely where we stand and what they have to do to meet our concerns.

We have stressed in particular to Mr. Rahmatullah the importance of Taliban's compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1333 and to the international community's concerns, including handing over indicted terrorist Usama bin Laden to a country where he can be brought to justice, and closing the terrorist camps.

The meetings, I should add, don't imply any recognition of the Taliban. We don't recognize any government in Afghanistan.

Q: Richard, what do you make of Mr. Rahmatullah's explanation of the decision to blow up the Buddha statues, that it was done in a pique of anger after a UNESCO delegation had offered money to help preserve these things?

MR. BOUCHER: In our view, these are inaccurate and quite self-serving. The ongoing major assistance from Western donors has been provided to displaced and impoverished Afghans for years. In the current emergency, further help is being provided, including large food shipments, airlifts of shelter and medical supplies, and other support for emergency agencies working in Afghanistan.

I think the real question is what are the Taliban doing for the Afghan people, whom they claim to govern, and it seems that they are doing very little beyond subjecting them to repression.

Q: So you don't buy this explanation?

MR. BOUCHER: We definitely don't buy this explanation. We and others have provided significant assistance. I think the United States is still the largest single donor of assistance to the people of Afghanistan. The international community has been quite ready and quite willing and quite active in supporting the needs of the Afghan people.

Q: Did this come up in the meeting today?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure that this explanation came up.

Q: How about the issue in general of the statues?

MR. BOUCHER: Of the statues? Again, I'll have to check on that.

Q: The proposal is slightly different than some of the other iterations of a three-part Islamic panel in The Hague to try bin Laden come up, and can you just -- what is the State Department's position on that?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, it hadn't come up. It wasn't presented. There was no specific proposal, and therefore we don't have any specific response. We have not seen from the Taliban a proposal that would meet the requirements of the United Nations resolutions to hand over Usama bin Laden to a country where he can be brought to justice.

Q: Well, the Taliban's benefactor and good friend, Pakistan, they have proposed this. I mean, do you have a reaction to this proposal?

MR. BOUCHER: We didn't get any specific proposal today, so I don't really have any reaction to hypotheticals.

Q: Did he bring a gift for Secretary Powell or President Bush with him? He seemed to have this big bundle addressed to the US Administration.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I think you can check with him. I think he's making himself available at various junctures. You can ask him if he brought a gift.

Q: Richard, who is the letter from?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'd have to check.

Q: Can we find out?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

Q: More violence. Two or three Israelis are dead. I hope you heard the Secretary this morning calling again for an end to the violence. The Sharon group has put out a statement saying the Prime Minister is consulting with his defense and other top officials on a response.

As he formulates a response, does the Administration have any advice as to how Israel should respond, or not respond?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't always get into telling the Israelis how to plan their responses and how to protect their own people. Obviously the Secretary has made quite clear our view on violence. He talked about it again this morning, and he'll have an opportunity to talk this afternoon with Prime Minister Sharon.

Q: Maybe it was because of the audience this morning, but the Secretary did not say very clearly that he thought that the Israeli Government should ease the closure of various territories. Is that something you will be telling to Prime Minister Sharon? And also the tax money. Are these still very much on your agenda for steps that could be taken?

MR. BOUCHER: I guess that I would say that to some extent you're right in that the speech didn't go through every specific detail, but the Secretary talked to a number of reprises today about easing the economic pressure and talked about that as one of the issues that both parties have a stake in, and restoring normal economic life and building confidence. So I think it was quite clear from the text that that continues to be his view.

We will have a chance this afternoon to discuss things in more detail with Prime Minister-Elect Sharon, but our view continues to be that we have urged the Israelis to ease the economic restrictions, to transfer the tax revenues, and we'll continue to raise that in our contacts with the Israelis.

Q: Could I follow that up? The statement referred to a moment ago being issued through Sharon's spokesman, or by Sharon's spokesman, is -- this is what it says -- it says the easing, the recent easing by the Israeli Government, is the reason that this violence has recurred in a new and more alarming form. And there is an inference there that they may reverse what they've just done, which seems to be something you folks favored them doing.

Could it be that that judgment is askew, that they should ease the restrictions more and then somehow this would -- anger would subside and fewer people would get killed? That seems to be the US formula: frustration leads to rage; rage leads to violence.

MR. BOUCHER: Barry, the Secretary gave a 20-minute speech this morning on the US formula, so I would invite you to look at what he said and not a shorthand version of that.

Q: So it stands?

MR. BOUCHER: So what the Secretary said this morning four or five hours ago continues to be US policy.

Q: Well, the inference is that the Israelis then should not -- should go in the direction of further easing.

MR. BOUCHER: Again, the Secretary talked quite extensively this morning. I don't want you to draw conclusions or inferences about other statements from that, but he talked quite extensively about the US viewpoint.

Q: But Jonathan, I thought wisely, brought up that he didn't get into the siege, as he calls it, very deeply.

MR. BOUCHER: He talked quite often in the speech on several occasions about the need to restore normal economic life. Easing the economic restrictions and turning over the tax revenues and things like that are all part of restoring economic life and trust in the area.

Q: Richard, I have one slightly different than that. Or do you want to continue on the siege?

Q: No.

Q: I mean, it's on the speech. Okay.

Secretary Powell did say that he was looking for ways to strengthen and expand strategic cooperation with Israel and to maintain their qualitative military edge. Can you go into any more detail about this, or are you talking about similar to an alliance proposal that was brought up last year?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't give you any more detail at this point on funding or mechanisms for that. I mean, we are at sort of a funny moment of the day in that the Secretary has laid out extensively our Middle East policy. He'll have a chance to talk in more specifics with Prime Minister Sharon this afternoon, and I don't think it's for me to come out here and preview the proposals or discussions that he might have with Sharon. Let's let him have his talks, and if there is more to say afterwards, I'll try to convey that to you.

Q: Has he been on the phone at all?

MR. BOUCHER: Not with Middle Easterners. Over the weekend I think it was just Foreign Minister Fischer.

Q: Richard, before the Secretary spoke, he got a standing ovation from the crowd for a comment that he made before the testimony about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. What did he think about that, what did you think about it, and what did the building think about it? Or is this something that you all -- well, I'm not going to give you that out. Go ahead.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have anything new to say on it.

Q: What was his reaction to it?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think our policy is quite well known. We've made clear --

Q: No, no, no, I'm asking about his response to a standing ovation that he got for what was, in essence, a faux pas or slip of the tongue that he made in testimony.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything to say on that.

Q: He didn't --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything to say on when the audience applauded and when they didn't applaud throughout the speech, so I don't think I'm going to try to single out a particular occasion.

Q: Okay. So, in essence, you just basically think this whole incident would be left better -- the original incident which drew the standing ovation should be left forgotten about -- something which I'm not going to do?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll say what I want to say. You can interpret whatever you want. I'll tell you, we've explained our policy. I'm here to explain policy. There is no new policy to explain today.

Okay?

Q: Some Arab American groups are accusing the Administration of double standards for treating Ariel Sharon as a political leader and welcoming him to Washington instead of, as they put it, demanding his trial for alleged war crimes in the Sabra '82 massacre. I wondered if you had any response to that.

MR. BOUCHER: No.

Q: A piece of substance here. In the speech, he never said once in reference to what happens after the ending of the violence. We presume negotiations. He indicates negotiations. But he never places it on any basis of land-for-peace, 242, 338. But when it comes --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the page in front of me. It was somewhere around page seven -- 242, 338, land-for-peace.

Q: But my point is he referred to that only with regard to Lebanon and Syria.

MR. BOUCHER: No.

Q: You think 242 and 338 still applies?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't take it that way. On several occasions about direct negotiations he talked on several occasions -- well, at least one occasion -- about 242, 338, and land-for-peace as a basis.

Q: Is there going to be any special chance to question the Secretary after the Sharon visit is over?

MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. You'll have opportunities to talk to him, I am sure, during the course of the week, as you normally do.

Q: New subject. Could you give us any information out of the Mori meeting at the White House? I understand the White House takes the lead on this, but if you could give us some impression about whether these were truly substantive negotiations. There is some speculation --

MR. BOUCHER: Do you want to stop talking now so I can avoid answering your question?

Q: No, I don't want you to avoid answering it.

MR. BOUCHER: This meeting is going on right now. I don't even think the meeting is over. It was going on -- it was going on approximately as I was coming out, so I don't even know if it's over. But, no, I don't have anything on the Mori meetings at the White House. The White House will do that for you.

Q: There is nothing parallel going on --

MR. BOUCHER: There are no parallel meetings with Prime Minister Mori here.

Q: New subject? On Russia. Could you respond to press reports that one of the press attachés from the Russian Embassy could perhaps be one of the spies that tipped off -- that could be a Russian spy?

MR. BOUCHER: We have seen the press reports. We will refer you to the Russian Government for any comment they wish to make.

Q: I don't understand why the rather speculative story in one of the two local papers here about the defector from New York and the UN -- any comment on that story, how he --

MR. BOUCHER: No. A longstanding practice on this and other cases and allegations of this kind is that we don't comment.

Q: Well, how about this? Do you agree that it is an interesting coincidence that the FBI started to get on to Mr. Hanssen just after the disappearance?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I won't agree to that. I won't comment in any way, in any shape or form.

Q: Has Russia continued to ask for consular visits to try to meet Mr. (inaudible)?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

Q: Didn't they come here?

Q: New subject? I'm not going -- you seem to have really upset the North Koreans, and I wondered whether you wanted to say anything to reassure them that your intentions are good and you --

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made quite clear that we are reviewing our policy to determine our approach to North Korea. The Secretary has spoken about it, the President has spoken about it. No decision has yet been made on how we will proceed in that area, so I don't think there is a whole lot more to say now.

We do note that work on the light-water reactor is moving forward. The heavy fuel shipments to North Korea for 2001 have begun. And as we have said before, the United States will abide by its commitments under the Agreed Framework as long as North Korea does. That is where we are.

Q: The Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman --

Q: Can we stay on the Korean -- is this still North Korean?

Q: New subject. I didn't realize.

Q: I mean, up until at least a few weeks ago, we were still -- well, not negotiating -- still talking with the North Koreans through our channel in New York. And is that dialogue still going on?

MR. BOUCHER: I assume so. I don't follow every meeting, but we have had regular back-and-forths on issues of implementation of the Agreed Framework and other things like that.

Q: New here. I was going to ask you whether you have the time for Secretary Powell's meeting with Mr. Qian?

And secondly, the Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman will give a briefing each night after the talks. I'm wondering how we may get a readout from Secretary Powell's meetings or discussions with the --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we're going to try to compete with late-night briefings, but the Secretary's meeting with Vice Premier Qian is Wednesday, late in the day, I think at 6:00 or 6:30, and then they will have dinner afterwards. So it is a late meeting.

Q: This morning in the Secretary's speech, he also specially mentioned Russia and its cooperation with Iran, and said that he had brought that up with the Russian Government. Is there anything new on that, or is he just referring to the initial contacts that we have made regarding their new statements?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, he raised it, first of all, with Foreign Minister Ivanov in Cairo, and then he raised it again last week with National Security Advisor Ivanov in Washington. So it is a subject that he has raised and we would expect him to continue to raise with the Russians.

Q: But nothing new? No new phone calls, no discussions?

MR. BOUCHER: No, there is nothing since last week.

Q: I don't have the exact words, but he said something like, "We will not stand idly by." Does that imply some sort of retribution, some sort of cost to Russia, if it continues? And what would that cost be?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we made clear last week that this was an issue that could be a serious impediment to the development of our relationships, that we saw proliferation as one of the key issues around the world. It was one of the issues that the Secretary has spoken about in terms of the strategic framework of issues that need to be addressed. And addressing these issues with Russia remains particularly important to us because of the role that we expect Russia to play as a responsible power and live up to its international obligations.

Q: Does that include Russian aid? Our aid to Russia?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can necessarily put it in terms of dollars or aid to Russia, but it is clearly part of the fabric of our relationship. And concerns about Russians' arms transfers or potential proliferation activities would be a serious issue for us in our relationship.

Q: Yes. Last weekend the Prime Minister of Turkey, he made a statement, and the blamed the US Administration didn't act as much as fast to save the Turkey current economic crisis. Do you have any reaction on the subject?

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see the statement. I don't have a reaction.

Q: And also, last week again, the Ankara is that several Portugal leaders blamed US Ambassador in Ankara, he maked some contact with the Portugal leaders and had asked the assurance or security guarantee for the new economic program and maked negative implications. Do you have anything on this subject?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Negative implications by unnamed politicians about meetings that I don't know about, I think I will stay away from.

Q: The Prime Minister of Turkey.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, you said other politicians as well. So, no, I don't have anything more on that.

Q: The Los Angeles Times this morning reported that senior State Department officials are saying that they are seeking to meet with other Iraqi rebel groups besides the Iraqi National Congress. Can you say anything on this? Are you looking to meet with other groups at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: We have a program ongoing with the Iraqi National Congress. The money that Congress has allocated is for assistance to the Iraqi people; and therefore, as we look at not only continuing and expanding what we do with the Iraqi National Congress, but we would also be in touch with other potential grantees to see if there are other programs that we should be supporting.

Q: Specifically, are you concerned about -- just sort of going back to the article -- are you concerned about Ahmed Chalabi's trip to Iran, and working with him specifically?

MR. BOUCHER: We have been working with the Iraqi National Congress in a variety of ways, and I can, I think, detail some of those for you.

One of the areas in which the Iraqi National Congress has been effective is in fact in reporting to the world on the abuses and depredations of the Iraqi regime. Supporters of the Iraqi National Congress inside Iraq have regularly passed information to friends and relatives outside on an ad hoc basis, which has then been reported in opposition newspapers and broadcast media.

So we are funding a program whereby the INC trains and equips some of its supporters inside Iraq to gather information for the outside world about conditions inside Iraq. So there is a number of programs like this that we have been supporting and will continue to support for the Iraqi National Congress.

Q: Richard, you have in fact met some of these, what you called other potential grantees, have you not? And could you tell us, give us details of who they are, and --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't give you more details until we figure out if there are other grants that we want to issue. But the money allocated by Congress is for programs for benefiting the Iraqi people, and we take that seriously and literally. We have done a lot with the Iraqi National Congress. We are looking at other proposals that they have to enhance humanitarian, public information and other kinds of programs. So we will be looking at those proposals, as well as any proposals that other potential grantees might bring to us.

Q: Okay, but this strategy of contacting other potential grantees, is this something that only recently started?

MR. BOUCHER: The allocations of money for the congress go back to the legislation passed in 2000 with that language about benefiting the Iraqi people. So I don't know when we might have had talks with other grantees.

Obviously the Iraqi National Congress was more organized and able over a period of time to get in place the management and internal controls that allow us to give them the assistance, and they were the first out the gate in terms of being able to accept our grants and work with us. So if there are other potential grantees, we should talk to them as well.

Q: Going back to Macedonia for one second, there was a reference in a story today about some meeting that the Secretary is going to have with Secretary Rumsfeld and perhaps others about Macedonia specifically. It's supposed to happen -- according to this report, it's supposed to happen sometime this week. Do you know anything about when --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know anything in particular about a meeting like that. They certainly talk all the time, and in their conversations clearly the situation in Macedonia has been an important part of it. Whether there is some particular meeting scheduled or whether they will just discuss it in the course of their regular meetings, I don't know.

Q: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

[end]

Released on March 19, 2001


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