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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-03-28

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>


DAILY BRIEFING

Richard Boucher, Spokesman

Washington, DC

March 28, 2001

INDEX:

MIDDLE EAST

pp.1, 5

Remarks Attributed to President Assad

pp.1-4

Arab League Summit/ Arab Boycott of Israel/UN Sanctions Regime

pp.1, 4

Controls on Iraq's Ability to Acquire Weapons of Mass Destruction

pp.2, 8, 11

US Relationship With Israel/ Israel Shelling Gaza & Ramallah/ Reciprocal Violence

pp.12

Palestinian Authority's Responsibility to Preempt Attacks

RUSSIA

pp. 5-7

Expulsions/ Secretary Powell's Telephone Call With Foreign Minister Ivanov

pp. 6-7

Missile Talks/ Cabinet Changes/Meeting Between John Beyrle & Mr. Ilyas Akhmadov

CYPRUS/GREECE/TURKEY

pp.7-8

Visit of Foreign Ministers From Cyprus, Turkey & Greece

FRY(SERBIA)

pp.8-10

Obligations to War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague/ Certification

CANADA

pp.10-11

Summit of the Americas/Cuban Participation/ Free Trade for the Americas

ENVIRONMENT

pp.12-13,18

Opposition to Kyoto Protocol/ Issue of Global Climate Change/ Meeting in Bonn

pp.14-15

Not Working on Issue of Un-signing Treaty/ Reactions From Other Countries

pp.17-18

Implementing Kyoto Protocol

REPUBLIC OF KOREA/JAPAN

pp.15-16

Monday's Meeting in Seoul Regarding North Korea/ European Union Initiative/Imprisoned American

ARMENIA/AZERBAIJAN

pp.16

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict/ Conference in Key West

CHINA

pp.16-17

American University Researcher/ Urging Chinese Government to Release Ms. Gao

JAPAN

pp.17

American Ex-POWs Forced into Slave Labor Camps by Japanese Companies During WWII

pp.17

Potential Lawsuits Against These Companies

GHANA

pp.18-19

Cuban Doctor Seeking Refugee Status

SLOVENIA

pp.19-20

Secretary Powell's Meeting with Foreign Minister of Slovenia/ Desire to Join NATO

GERMANY

pp. 20

Secretary Powell's Meeting With Mayor of Berlin

SOMALIA

pp.20-21

American Hostage in Somalia Released


TRANSCRIPT_:

MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.

Mr. Schweid.

Q: You won't be surprised if I ask a bit about the Arab League meeting, at least two things, but you can take them one at a time of course. You know the sort of semi-action on sanctions -- I wonder if the US is pleased that whatever they did they did informally instead of formally.

And secondly, the enormous vitriol against Israel. The Syrian President, who I think the Department held out hopes for -- apparently the King of Jordan, although I don't have the quotes, sort of seconded the remarks. Could you address in either order, in any order, those two situations?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, let's take them in reverse order because we don't have all the quotes either. We don't have everything. The remarks that we've seen attributed to President Assad, I want to say flat out we find totally unacceptable and inappropriate. So I think we have a very clear view on statements like that.

On the Arab League summit as a whole, they have issued their final declaration today. We have started to see the press reports on the summit, but we really haven't had a chance to review the text. There are some elements in there that I think we have clear and well-known positions on. We are against -- strongly against -- any renewal of the Arab boycott of Israel. We think that would exacerbate the situation.

On the UN sanctions regime with regard to Iraq, I think the governments are familiar with the approach that we're taking and are working with us on the approach that we're taking to have a set of targeted and focused controls on Iraq's ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction and to threaten its neighbors and to threaten its own people. Carrying out that will require implementation steps that we are working on with all the various parties involved, including the United Nations and the frontline states.

We would make clear once again that we have not prohibited food and medicine from going into Iraq, that we supported the establishment and the expansion of the Oil-for-Food program to provide civilian goods for the Iraqi people, and that what we're looking at now is to continue to expand that flow and smooth out that flow of civilian goods for civilians inside Iraq. So these are issues, I think a direction I would say, that we've said we think enjoys broad support. Nobody wants the Iraqi Government to be able to threaten the region again, and we will work with other governments to make sure that we can do that in a focused and targeted way.

Q: A bunch of questions, if I could, if you feel like being suddenly philosophic. Considering also the UN action, with the US supported Israel and blocked the appointment of observers, is the UN -- you know, there's an alignment, quite a clear alignment on many fronts with Israel, but with everybody else apparently, even some of your best friends, on the other side.

Is the US paying some -- do you think, some diplomatic price for identifying closely with Israel against what seems to be a preponderant view that Israel is bad?

MR. BOUCHER: We have no apology for our relationship with Israel. We have no regrets about our relationship with Israel. But I would say even more than that. What we stood up for in the United Nations was what we think are necessary and effective steps to support the peace process. And what we've stood against were what we think are unbalanced, unwise and unworkable steps that don't support the peace process.

So we were quite clear, I think, in our explanation of the vote yesterday that if the United Nations is going to be effective, including the Security Council, they are going to have to come up with solutions, including things like the discussion of the protection mechanism for civilians, that build on agreements between the parties and that support agreements between the parties and that encourage agreements between the parties.

So I think we were quite clear there that we are standing up for peace; we are standing up for making peace and the UN support for peace more effective. We were quite prepared to work a resolution that would do that. We were quite prepared to agree to a resolution that would do that. Unfortunately, the sponsors of this resolution pushed it in a way and at a time where it didn't have that kind of possibility, and therefore we could not support it.

Q: Are you concerned, though, that this move right now is going to make it more difficult for you to build consensus on Iraqi sanctions?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we do know that people look at things together, talk about things together. The Secretary has talked about the perceptions in the region about how things are related. I do believe that standing up for the right things, standing up for a peace process, is ultimately to the credit of the United States, and that we will continue to try to do the right thing in both these areas.

Q: Which is -- so the answer to Elaine's question is?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll see.

Q: Yes, okay. Can I ask about the Iraqi sanctions? I don't understand -- I can't seem to grasp how you are still able to stand up there and say that your ideas for modifying the sanctions, i.e. easing some of the commercial restrictions and tightening the other ones, still enjoy broad support in the region when the entire Arab League puts out a communiqué saying that they want all sanctions lifted against Iraq. I mean, why is that not a fantasy?

MR. BOUCHER: Because we are in touch with these governments in great detail every day. We are talking to people about concrete steps. We are not merely reading what they say in public but, rather, we are in touch with them on the specific steps that need to be carried out.

And I would say also that if you are going to go back and start asking these people, do you want Iraq to get weapons of mass destruction, I would hazard a guess that they would find a way of saying no, they don't.

Q: Okay. So your position still is that these Arab leaders say one thing in public for the benefit of their domestic political -- the street, the Arab street -- and are telling you another thing in private?

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that.

Q: Well, that's exactly what you just said, I thought.

MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not exactly what I said. It's exactly what you just said.

Q: No, no. You said that you read --

MR. BOUCHER: So let's get quite clear on this.

Q: You don't just read what they say in public and that you are in touch with these governments still.

MR. BOUCHER: That is true. That is what I said.

Q: So you're saying that they're telling you that they're just coming out and telling untruths or half-truths to the public.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not. You're saying that, and I am not saying that. What I am saying is we see the total picture, we ask all the detailed questions, we work on them in some detail on these things. We understand perhaps a little more what they might mean in some of these public statements.

I don't want to try to interpret for them their remarks. But when push comes to shove, none of these people want Iraq to get weapons of mass destruction. And it's on that basis that we're going forward with a targeted approach.

Q: They are rejecting with dismay your veto in the United Nations Security Council. They are calling for a new boycott to Israel. There are a lot of things I am sure you are not happy about.

Can you tell us what do you see as positive coming out from this summit in Jordan?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have completed our analysis yet.

Q: Richard, can you say at least whether or not the Secretary is disappointed that he didn't get support in public from the Arab League, which he expressed on the trip a month ago that he would like to see?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it is a question of that. I think it is a question of continuing to be able to work with these people as we move forward. What we want to do is put in place, with the help of the frontline states, an effective system to keep Iraq from getting weapons, from getting money to buy weapons on the black market, and from engaging in smuggling to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the material to make them. If we can do that, we will be satisfied. If we don't do that, it doesn't matter what communiqués say.

Q: Richard, in your conversations with various Arab leaders, are they expressing support for the second part of the sanctions, the keeping the weapons -- the sanctions against reconstituting weapons of mass destruction? Are they supporting that in your conversations?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

Q: They are?

MR. BOUCHER: That's what we've been saying. That's what I continue to say today. There is broad support for the principle of preventing the Iraqi regime from acquiring the ability to develop weapons of mass destruction and to rearm its military. There is obviously also concern that the Iraqi people not have to bear an unfair burden as we constrain the regime's attempts to develop those weapons. That is what we find in the region. That is what we find is consistent with the direction that we are going.

Q: And so would you say that the statement today at the Arab League summit calling for the lifting of all sanctions really only applies to the civilian sanctions?

MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to ask them how to interpret it.

Q: Do you interpret that, the communiqué, though, as consistent with what you just said, the broad support --

MR. BOUCHER: We have not finished our analysis of the communiqué. I don't want to try to give you a line-by-line or word-by-word analysis of it, but I would say that this is what we find in the region. We think we know the true picture because we talk to these people in great detail all the time.

Q: Can we go on to a new subject?

Q: I have one more on this. Does the Secretary have any thoughts that you can share with us on President Assad's remarks vis-à-vis Israel versus what, again, he told us about how he found President Assad on the trip, eager to get back or possibly eager to get back to tracks on negotiating peace?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have any thoughts or remarks on that. We don't think it's for us to reconcile remarks that other leaders make. It's for the other leaders, if necessary, to reconcile remarks that they make if you have any indication that you think they contradict.

I would say that our view of remarks about Zionism and Nazism and racism, we find those things absolutely wrong and, as I said, totally unacceptable and inappropriate.

Now, another topic?

Q: Yes, I'd like to ask about Russia. Having had more time to look at this list, can you now say that the expulsion bout is over? And can you tell us anything -- can you tell us what you can -- anything you can tell us about Mr. Hollingsworth through -- according to reports in Moscow had some kind of CIA role?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid that as far as any individual, I can't tell you anything. There's nothing I can do on that.

Let me address your first question in this way, to tell you that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Ivanov spoke yesterday. They talked about developments in the Middle East, developments in the Balkans, and a few other things. The expulsions was the main subject of the phone call. The Secretary expressed his hope that we can move beyond the events of the last few days in view of our interest in maintaining a cooperative and productive relationship with Moscow.

Q: That doesn't end ? You now have looked at the list. You now have presumably determined whether or not the Russians exceeded -- went overboard in their response-- or whether it was a proportionate response.

MR. BOUCHER: I think we made quite clear we felt the Russian action was unfortunate and unwarranted. The Secretary made that clear in the conversation as well. But I would say that, having done those things, we are now prepared to say we hope we can move beyond the events of the last few days.

Q: Am I being really thick here? Are you saying that the case is now closed?

MR. BOUCHER: We said, I think last week, the case was closed. I'm not reopening the case. I'm saying we're ready to move beyond.

Q: In terms of moving beyond it, can you tell us where you're at in your assessment of how you should move forward on missile talks with Russia?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's anything new at this stage. Am I supposed to have something new, or is that just kind of a subject at random? No, you remember there was the understanding with Foreign Minister Ivanov when we talked -- when the Secretary talked to him in Cairo, and then subsequently in our discussions with the Russians, that we would get the experts together on the whole issue of strategic offense/strategic defense when we had the people in place and were ready to do that. We don't have anything new on that track at this point.

Q: What do you make of the cabinet shuffle that went on this morning?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the simplest way to put it is we look forward to working with a lot of the familiar faces and people in the new cabinet. We know many of these people from issues that we've dealt with in the past. Sergei Ivanov was just here meeting with the Secretary and with National Security Advisor Rice. His replacement in the security council secretary slot, Mr. Rushaylo, is the man that we've been working with on this child porn investigation, Operation Orchid. It was just successful. So we've worked with a variety of these people in different ways and we look forward to continuing to work with them.

Q: But you can't interpret anything about why Putin would maybe bring someone closer to him nearer in the cabinet?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't do that.

Q: Just to get back to Russia very briefly --

Q: We're still on Russia.

Q: Well, I mean on the spot, on the retaliatory action. But when they were just getting ready to act, the State Department's position was that this is disproportional and also that the US did nothing similar to what the Russians did in trying to infiltrate the counter-intelligence service.

MR. BOUCHER: I think you're --

Q: Now that the facts are out --

MR. BOUCHER: I think you're mischaracterizing our position. What we have said is we felt our actions were justified and we felt their actions were unwarranted.

Q: But also you seem to imply that not only was it unwarranted, but even the numbers didn't make sense.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I ever talked about numbers here.

Q: Okay, sorry. I thought you did.

Q: When the Secretary and Foreign Minister Ivanov spoke yesterday, was it after the review of the Russian list had been completed? And did the Secretary specifically tell Ivanov that there was not going to be any US response for the Russian retaliation, or did he just say in this incredibly -- what I consider to be incredibly vague -- we're ready to move on?

MR. BOUCHER: Matt, I'm sorry that the Secretary didn't say what you wanted him to say. But that is what he said.

Q: So am I.

MR. BOUCHER: Next time, tell us in advance what you want him to say; I'll get it up to him. But it seems to me that by saying quite clearly the Secretary said he wanted to move forward now in the relationship after the events of the last few days that we can put this matter behind us and move back into the kind of productive and constructive relationship that we would hope to have.

Our views are quite clear on our actions and the Russian actions, and we haven't changed those views. But the Secretary also made clear that it is time to move on and deal with these other issues, and they discussed many of the other issues.

Q: Including -- did Ivanov talk about -- bring up the complaints about -- first of all, it was after the review of the Russian list that they had the conversations? And second of all, did Ivanov bring up his anger at the meeting between Beyrle and the Chechen?

MR. BOUCHER: That I can deal with. As far as whether it was after review of the list, it's after we had the list for a certain period of time, and I think that's about all I can say at this point.

They did discuss the meeting between the Acting Special Advisor John Beyrle and Mr. Ilyas Akhmadov. In the discussion with Foreign Minister Ivanov, the Secretary emphasized that what Mr. Beyrle had done in the meeting was to call very clearly for an end to terrorist acts, for respect for humanitarian norms, and accountability for alleged abuses.

Q: On Cyprus, do you have anything on an upcoming meeting between the Cyprus Foreign Minister and the Secretary?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Foreign Minister Kasoulides is coming in April. April 9th, I think it is. Let me just find that. Yes, April 9th they will have a meeting here.

Q: And another question. Do you have anything on the agenda of the meeting? And also, the Secretary will meet on Friday with the Turkish Foreign Minister, then with Mr. Kasoulides, and later in May with the Greek Foreign Minister.

Can we assume that the Secretary will get involved in the Cyprus issue with these three counterparts?

MR. BOUCHER: Cyprus has always been a subject of discussion with the Greek Foreign Minister, the Turkish Foreign Minister and the Cypriot Foreign Minister. Obviously the agenda is the Cyprus issue, as well as whatever other subjects each one wants to deal with. But clearly the Cyprus issue and the UN process will be the chief agenda items.

I wouldn't characterize it quite the way you would. This is an ongoing subject of discussion where we support the efforts of the United Nations. And to the extent that we can use our discussions with the parties to support those efforts, we always do. When the Secretary met with the Greek Foreign Minister and the Turkish Foreign Minister in Brussels -- what was that, about a month ago now -- that is the context in which he discussed it with both of them.

Q: The US had set a deadline for the end of the month for the Yugoslav Government to fulfill its various demands to do with its obligations to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The deadline is looming. Can you say whether to this point the Yugoslav Government has done enough to ensure that aid from the United States is allowed to continued?

MR. BOUCHER: No. We don't make these certifications before it's time, and I'm not going to try to preview or prejudice the decision at this stage.

We are obviously going to look very closely as the deadline approaches on Saturday and make the decision depending on how much has been done. We have the criteria in the law, the date in the law, and we'll look at the activity in regard to whether we can certify to our Congress what they wanted to know from us.

Q: Richard, can I go back to something? Israel is shelling Gaza and Ramallah right now. I don't know if you had a chance -- if it happened even before you came out here. Is it anything you're aware of?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I don't have the luxury of walking out and coming back, so I don't --

Q: We'll let you go back, if you find it.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, let's continue with the topics we're engaged in.

Q: Do you anticipate an announcement on Saturday or next week, given that Saturday is the deadline?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we will say something when we decide. It shouldn't - - there is every intention to look at this before March 31st and to decide on the certification one way or the other. "Deadline" is maybe the wrong word because what happens at that point is that we can't obligate new aid. But if at some point in the future we should decide to do the certification, then we could obligate aid at that time.

So we do intend to look at this before March 31st and decide one way or the other whether we can certify at this point.

Q: So you know roughly how much aid is involved?

MR. BOUCHER: We had numbers about a week or two ago about how much had been spent, how much had been obligated in various categories. So you get into bureaucratics, as well as law, and it's kind of hard to explain in easy terms.

Q: The Summit of American chiefs of state in Quebec is coming up --

Q: Can we stay with --

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, same subject. Yugoslavia.

Q: Are you in touch with Members of Congress on this? Do you have any wiggle room? Is there flexibility written into the law that would give you, you know, certain, you know, flexibility with respect to congressional intent?

MR. BOUCHER: We are in touch with Members of Congress on the subject. Obviously they're the ones that wrote the law and have the main concerns on this issue. We will look at the law and decide according to law. The criteria are there. I don't think there's wiggle room. There's just criteria that we will decide against: satisfactory cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal, I think is the way it's worded, or something close to that. And we'll look at that.

Q: Are you encouraging Belgrade to do something before the 31st?

MR. BOUCHER: Obviously we've been encouraging Belgrade all along and we've made quite clear that we have to look at this and take a snapshot before March 31st and determine whether it's there. So we've made quite clear to them the kind of steps that they could be taking, that they should be taking anyway, and the kind of things that we'd like to see.

Q: Richard, last night the White House shifted or delegated the responsibility for the certification decision back to the Secretary. And I'm just wondering, since now it's in this building, if you can tell us whether you're going to wait until Saturday or if you might decide on certification before Saturday. Basically, I want to know if we're going to work on Saturday.

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: And the answer is, I don't know.

Q: Not during the Maryland game, please.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, that's a good suggestion but I don't know any precise time for the decision except that we note the deadline is Saturday. We will look at it before then. So whether it happens Thursday or Friday or Saturday, I can't tell you.

Q: Can I just follow up on that, please? Just so we understand this quite completely, how does this feed into decisions about IMF and World Bank money? Does it just follow on logically that you're not supporting Serbia and you can't back them for IMF lending? How does it work?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think one has to look very carefully at the law. Yes, there is that general premise that we would not be supporting World Bank and IMF loans. I'm not sure how it ties in with other laws on humanitarian needs and such things, but generally the premise is that we would not obligate new funds from the US AID program if we can't certify and that we would not support World Bank and IMF loans.

Q: In order to be certified, Richard, does Belgrade have to turn over Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague?

MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear to them the kinds of steps that they should be taking in general. We have made clear to them the kind of steps they should be taking now. But we haven't held out any single step as a certification or not-certification criteria. We've given them a list of the kind of things that we would expect them to do. And we'll see how much they do.

Q: The Quebec summit is coming up very soon, and we hear very little about it. The new Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS said this morning that the time has come to end the exclusion of the Castro regime of Cuba from the OAS. And the President of Venezuela has said that he will serve as a mouthpiece for Cuba at the OAS, at the Quebec summit.

So are you prepared to discuss Cuban return at Quebec?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me say a couple things because you did it with such an interesting intro. We have tried to talk about the upcoming summit in Quebec, and by the time we get there I am sure you will hear from us many, many times, perhaps more than you want to, on the upcoming summit in Quebec. This is a very important meeting for the hemisphere. It's a very important meeting for our approach to the hemisphere.

On the issue of Cuban participation, Cuba has not participated in the past in these meetings. And this meeting in our terms and the terms that we've been discussing it with the other members of the OAS is to support democracy in the hemisphere, is to support education, is to support free trade in the hemisphere. Cuba, I don't think, is a participant in those things so I don't think we see any particular reason why they should want to be there or why we should want them to be there.

Q: Speaking of free trade, the Brazilian President is coming here, I think this week, and his Foreign Minister has said they don't want to go ahead with the FTAA until 2005, which is contrary to your position, I believe.

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say that at this point. We're trying to work with them and trying to discuss these things with them, and we look forward to seeing him in Washington.

Q: You're not stuck on 2003?

MR. BOUCHER: I believe the date now is 2005, but how to achieve the goal of Free Trade for the Americas is a topic of discussion with other nations before we get there and will be a topic of discussion at Quebec. So that's why we look forward to seeing him in Washington and having that discussion.

Q: In the light of the reciprocal violence in today's suicidal bombing in Israel, are you asking the Israeli Government for self-restraint and to measure the response to these acts?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we are. But I think we have to make clear that these are some very horrible attacks, and we absolutely condemn the bombing and offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims. There has been a pattern of repeated actions, which is an outrage. We don't see any excuse or justification for these kind of cowardly acts of terrorism.

The attacks are intended by their perpetrators, we believe, to destroy any hope of a negotiated settlement. We think that everybody needs to do everything they can to reduce the violence. We have called on the Palestinian Authority, and we call on them again, to do all it can to fight terrorism by preempting the attacks, to arrest those responsible and bring them to justice.

There was an American citizen who was critically injured in this attack. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv is in touch with his family and is offering assistance. But I would say quite clearly that this kind of violence, this kind of bombing, is not what people in the region should have to live with. There were two Israeli teenagers killed in that bombing. There was also a Palestinian boy shot and killed near Hebron yesterday.

Once again, from the beginning of this, we saw many innocent people -- from the 14-year-old boy who was shot at the beginning to the baby and the kids killed today -- there's a lot of innocent people dying. We don't think either Israelis or Palestinians should have to live this way and should have to live with the fear. So we are looking for everybody to take action to end the violence, to stop the cycle of action and reaction that works in violent ways, to get back to bilateral security coordination and direct talks.

The Secretary did talk with Prime Minister Sharon yesterday. They talked about the situation, they talked about the violence, they talked about the steps that Prime Minister Sharon was trying to take, and they talked about the difficulty of taking those steps in this climate of violence.

Q: Would that make for more understanding for a bombing campaign for Ramallah and by the Israeli Government? Would you be understanding to that, or would you be asking the Israeli Government to practice more self- restraint?

MR. BOUCHER: We have asked everybody in the region to exercise restraint, to try to break the cycle of action and reaction. We have said that to the Israeli Government. We have also said quite clearly today, as I have said previously, that the Palestinian Authority has actions it should be taking.

We said in our statement last night at the United Nations that we felt the Palestinian Authority should carry out the commitment in Sharm el Sheikh to make clear calls against violence in Arabic. We have made clear today we think they have responsibility of preempting attack, to arresting people responsible.

So you ask questions about what one party should be doing; we agree. But we think that there are also other steps, and very important steps, that the Palestinian Authority can and should be taking right now.

Q: Richard, I thought that this Administration wasn't supporting and didn't feel that agreements that had been signed in the latter part of the Clinton Administration were to be followed, that as far as the US were concerned, things -- or was it just for the peace process?

MR. BOUCHER: The Administration has never taken a position on specific agreements. My understanding of the Israeli Government position is that things were agreed to, that were formally and actually agreed to, they would intend to do.

The Sharm el Sheikh commitment that was made by the Palestinian Authority, I think …. I'm not trying to say that we are now going to start specifying this piece of that or that agreement or this agreement. Ultimately, it is up to the parties to where they start again in the peace process.

But we have made quite clear, and the Secretary made quite clear in his meetings with Chairman Arafat when they met in Ramallah, that it was important to condemn violence and to call on people to stop the violence in every language, in every medium, in every way. That is a policy position that we have taken, and the statement last night is consistent with that.

Q: Is the State Department moving to take the US signature off the Kyoto agreement, or has it been asked to do that?

MR. BOUCHER: There is, I think, a certain amount of confusion in the air. Let me try to clarify for you. I think we need to stick with the basic facts and not do too much interpretation at this stage because we are looking at the issue of climate change. We are looking at how to go forward with this. And the White House, I think, has made that quite clear in their discussions.

The first thing is well-known. The President, the Administration, clearly opposed the protocol. We have given our reasons for that: it exempts developing countries; we think it might seriously harm the US economy.

At the same time, we are looking at the issue of climate change and how we deal with it. We are not looking at a question of un-signing Kyoto. That is not one of the questions that we are working on in this building.

What we are doing is what the President has said. We are looking with proper focus and working with our friends and allies. We are looking to develop technologies, market incentives and other creative ways to address global climate change. That's what we are doing.

Q: Do you ever get the two-month delay in that meeting, by the way? It's just --

MR. BOUCHER: The meeting, I think, is scheduled at this point for Bonn in the last two weeks of July.

Q: Has there been progress on the Administration's part as far as getting its position for that?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, we are looking at the policy, we are looking at the issues of climate change, we are doing what the President said. We are looking at technologies, market incentives and other creative ways to address the issue of global climate change. And as we do that, as we elaborate that policy, we will work with our friends and allies and others. Our current plan is to attend that Bonn meeting, so I would expect that we will be working on it before then.

Q: But are you saying that this building was never asked by the White House to look at how basically to go in and erase whoever signed -- whoever's signature is on it?

MR. BOUCHER: What we are working on, what we are doing in this review is ….

Q: No, I'm not asking what you are working on now. I'm asking about -- were you approached, was this building approached and asked to come up with a legal justification as to how or why the US could un-sign the treaty?

MR. BOUCHER: That's not a component of the review. That's not something we have worked on.

Q: No, I know that.

MR. BOUCHER: What I'm trying to say, Matt, is lawyers might have talked about what would be involved, but it's not a focus, it's not a tasking, it's not an issue that is raised in the review that we are working on, that we have been working on. The review is ongoing. We and other agencies are looking at the issue of climate change in the way the President said we were.

Q: Just so -- I just want you to know, the reason I'm asking it that way is because there now seems to be this new way of saying yes. It's a new way of speaking in which you say no, we're not working on it now, but you may have been working on it before and tossed the idea for some reason. So it's --

MR. BOUCHER: No, we have not been working on it before; we're not working on it now.

Q: Okay, thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: And we don't plan on working on it this afternoon.

Q: What about tomorrow?

MR. BOUCHER: Nor tomorrow.

Q: Richard, has there been any reaction as far as you know from other countries hoping to get this ratified, and do you expect that this will hinder the United States in environmental discussions with countries that are in favor of the protocol?

MR. BOUCHER: Obviously we are hearing from a variety of other countries as we have the meetings with European countries, with Japanese and others to discuss these issues. We continue to discuss them with other governments. We are looking, as I said, at the issue of how to address the issue of global climate change. We may not have all the answers yet, but we look forward to working with other governments as we go through this.

On the issue of ratification, I think we have made quite clear we don't look for ratification. I don't think we are at that point yet with this process.

Q: But on what was announced this morning, is it too early to be hearing back, that they hope that the US will change its mind --

MR. BOUCHER: Nothing was announced this morning. Somebody wrote a newspaper story which says we're working on something that we're not working on. That's all that happened. Let's not get too excited. I'm trying to go back to the basic things that are true: that we are opposed to the Kyoto Protocol for reasons that have been well said; we are not working on the issue of un-signing; we are working on the issue of market-driven, technological and creative ways of addressing the issue of global climate change.

Q: Richard, the US, South Korea and Japan met on Monday in Seoul to talk about North Korea. Do you have a readout on that?

MR. BOUCHER: There was a full statement put out at the meeting, which I can get for you.

Q: You don't have any background music to add to it?

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't bring my violin.

Q: I mean, I assume there was no mention of the European Union initiative in the statement, unless I'm mistaken.

MR. BOUCHER: No, you're right on that.

On this issue of the European Union, we have always welcomed North Korea's involvement with other countries in the world. We have welcomed the European role in this process of getting involved with North Korea and bringing North Korea closer to the rest of the world. We have discussed this with the Europeans. North Korea was one of the subjects discussed with Foreign Minister Lindh when she was here.

We have gotten a readout from the Swedes at this point of the visitors from North Korea that they had in Stockholm earlier this week. Let me double- check on the facts on that part of it. They briefed us yesterday on the North Korean delegation that was in Stockholm last week. So we will continue to work with the Europeans to promote the common goals of reducing tensions on the Peninsula.

Q: There was no -- it wasn't an encroachment on US turf on this?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we have always encouraged others, including the Europeans, to be involved in the process of North Korea's opening up.

Q: But the consultation process has involved the US, Japan and South Korea, and not the Europeans.

MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at what different countries and different groups of countries are doing, you will find they are essentially doing different things. Some of the issues, particularly the military and security ones, we coordinate very closely with our Asian allies because, first and foremost, those alliances deal with security matters in the region.

Q: Richard, on a related subject, what do you have on this American who is being -- who is in prison in South Korea charged -- or accused, not formally charged -- with assisting to publish a book that allegedly violates South Korean law on the North? He has been in jail since February. What is the Department --

MR. BOUCHER: Let me double-check and see if there is anything new on that. I am aware of the situation, but I haven't looked at it for a while. I would have to get you something on it.

Q: Can I ask on Nagorno-Karabakh -- I know we're going to have a briefing on that later, but just more broadly, can you tell us why Nagorno-Karabakh now? Why would you focus on this issue so early on when there are so many other big problems out there?

MR. BOUCHER: Why Nagorno-Karabakh now? It's an important problem. It is an issue and a difficulty that has beset this region for a long, long time. We didn't discover it last week. We have been working on this for years, and we have been working very intensely on this for years, together with the Russians and the French in the Minsk Group process.

Why is this conference being held now in Key West? Because that's the point at which we have been able to bring the process. They have had meetings with President Chirac in Paris. We have been working with the Russians very closely, we have been working with the French very closely, to bring the process forward. And at this point the next step is to get the presidents face to face and talk about how to reach a settlement, and we are going to do that in Key West.

Q: Thank you.

Q: On a different subject, have you heard anything from the Chinese on the American University researcher? Any word back from them?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. Let me double-check.

On the American -- sorry, Mrs. Gao -- I don't think we have any further explanation or understanding of the situation that she faces. Clearly we have made very clear that we know of no basis for the Chinese accusations that have been leveled in recent days.

On her son, on March 28th, which was today in China, our Embassy met again with the Chinese officials regarding Chinese violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and of the US-China Bilateral Consular Agreement. The Chinese Government officials affirmed their commitment to abide by the Vienna Convention and the bilateral agreement with regard to notifying foreign governments in cases of detention and when guardianship of a minor is involved. So we will continue to discuss with the Chinese Government ways to prevent that kind of treatment to American citizens in the future.

Q: So they said nothing about --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Did I omit that paragraph? We continue to urge the Chinese Government to release Ms. Gao immediately to be reunited with her family in the United States.

Q: Last year, Congress enacted a joint resolution urging the State Department to help facilitate thousands of American ex-POWs who were forced into slave labor camps by Japanese companies during World War II. Last week in a news conference, several members of this group who have been trying to sue several Japanese companies said the State Department has been their biggest obstacle in suing these companies and says that you won't allow them to file suit against these companies.

Could you explain that, please?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look into it and get it for you. It's a legal matter. I'm not familiar with it right now.

Q: Is that based on any previous peace treaty that we have or something?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into the law without understanding it, so let me look at it and get back to you.

Q: Okay.

Q: If I could just return very quickly to the Kyoto Protocol and change one word. You say that you are not trying to un-sign it, but is the Administration prepared to implement it?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the President's statement made quite clear our view on that, and let me see if I have the quote right here. Probably not, but let me just check. No, it was probably on page one. The simple answer is no.

Q: You're not --

MR. BOUCHER: We're not looking for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. What we are looking for is to deal with the issue of climate change. I think it probably requires a certain level of understanding beyond mine, but at this point I don't think there is a document to be ratified, that the process of implementation is ongoing. I probably already messed things up.

The process of discussion on how to do this, of how to go forward on the issue of climate change, is ongoing. We will continue to work with other governments once we have reviewed the situation and, as I said, looked for approaches to climate change that we feel can effectively deal with the problem.

Q: So would you concede that it is a bit of a technical difference between un-signing and just not implementing it?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

Q: Is there a difference, technically speaking?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

Q: There is?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

Q: Which is what?

MR. BOUCHER: Which is a difference. They are not the same thing. I don't know how to explain.

Q: But is the result different, the end result?

MR. BOUCHER: The end result -- I don't -- you're getting caught up on a technicality, if it is even a technicality. There is a difference between "un-signing", as it's come to be used, and not ratifying, not implementing, whatever.

But the point is, what we are doing now is looking for ways to work with our allies, with our friends, to address the issue of global climate change. That has been quite clearly stated. One shouldn't get caught up in exact status or signatures or documents, frankly. What we are looking for is how to work with other governments and to move forward on it.

Q: Then what's the use of the document?

Q: Then why ever sign?

Q: (Inaudible) to keep your signature on it? You have no -- never mind, I'm not getting into it.

MR. BOUCHER: This question exists in international law. It is a very precise question in international law. It has a very precise legal interpretation to it, and that's why there is a difference between that and what we are doing.

Q: A very brief consular question, which you may not be able to answer. Do you know anything about a Cuban dissident hold-up in the US Embassy in Ghana?

MR. BOUCHER: I know something about a Cuban doctor in Ghana.

Q: What can you tell us about it?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me see. Is he under Cuba or Ghana? He is in Ghana. The US Ambassador in Ghana received a letter on March 15th from Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida, appealing for assistance for a Cuban doctor and his family who are currently in Ghana and seeking refugee status.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Accra, Ghana, has talked to the asylum-seeker and is evaluating his case. As we all know, throughout the world the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has the responsibility for refugee status determinations, for protection of refugees, for referral to third countries, for resettlement if deemed necessary. So we are working closely with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in its efforts there to protect and resettle refugees.

Q: So basically this is almost similar -- it's a very similar case to the one last year involving the Cubans in Zimbabwe? The same process is being followed?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, the same process is followed all over the world, and the same process that was to be followed in Zimbabwe, hopefully without the airplane ride or almost-airplane ride.

Q: Were these doctors part of the team of Cuban doctors supposedly helping out in Ghana?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know too much about the individual, I'm sorry.

Q: The Secretary met this morning with the Bulgarian Defense Minister. Do you have any readout of this meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: No, he didn't.

Q: He didn't?

Q: No, but he did meet with the Foreign Minister of Slovenia.

MR. BOUCHER: He met with the Foreign Minister of Slovenia this morning. That's right.

Q: And?

MR. BOUCHER: And it was three hours ago. Let me remember.

This morning, with the Foreign Minister of Slovenia, they discussed first of all the excellent state of US-Slovene relations. They discussed a number of the issues on the agenda. Clearly Slovenia's European orientation and desire to join NATO were an important part of the discussion. They discussed in general terms the process of NATO enlargement. As you know, we have not specified decisions for NATO or our views on any particular country yet. But they talked about the process of NATO enlargement and how it would be considered.

They discussed the situation in the region, particularly as regards to Macedonia, and the situation there today.

Q: I've got one last one. And that is, is the Secretary planning on meeting with the mayors of all Western European capitals, or is it simply he is meeting with the mayor of Berlin to talk about -- because of the special circumstances involving the Embassy there?

MR. BOUCHER: He is meeting with the mayor of Berlin. If he meets with other mayors, we'll tell you about it at the time.

Q: Well, is he --

Q: Is there any update on the --

Q: Hold on, hold on. I need to know if they are going to be talking about -- are they going to be talking about the US Embassy?

MR. BOUCHER: I would assume they will talk about the US Embassy there, but I would have to check.

Q: Okay.

Q: The American hostage in Somalia?

MR. BOUCHER: In Somalia, the gentleman and several of his colleagues have fortunately and happily been released. A gentleman by the name of Abdirahman Shifti -- he is a businessman associated with the faction leader of Musa Sude -- handed over six of the hostages, including the one American, to transitional national government representatives at 2:00 a.m. on March 28th in Somalia.

The five expatriates in that group, who also included Spanish, British and French nationals, are scheduled to arrive in Nairobi about two hours ago, about 11:30 Eastern Standard Time. It's not clear if the sixth hostage, who was released, a Somali UNICEF employee, will be traveling to Nairobi.

Four other expatriate UN staff who were held separately from the first group have not yet been released. Those hostages include two British, one French and one Belgian national. They are associated with the UN Secretariat at UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Those four are reportedly in good condition, but I think we need to continue to make clear that the holding of hostages is unacceptable, and they should be released immediately.

Q: Do you have a name on the American?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, and I'm not sure at this point if we have a Privacy Act waiver. I'll have to check.

Q: Thanks.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

[end]

Released on March 28, 2001


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