|Tuesday, 18 February 2020|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-11-30
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
November 30, 2001
12:50 P.M. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I'd like to talk a little bit about Uzbekistan at the beginning.
We have a joint statement for you issued by the United States and Uzbekistan on the consultations that we have had over the last few days with a high-level delegation from the Republic of Uzbekistan that was chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov. These were broad and intensive consultations with the Government of the United States and the Government of Uzbekistan. They focused primarily on financial and economic issues.
We expressed our deep appreciation for the historic decision that Uzbekistan has made to broadly support the international coalition against terrorism. We think this signals the opportunity for a qualitatively new long-term relationship, based on common objectives to combat terrorism, eradicate social, economic, and financial sources of extremism, maintain peace and stability and strengthen security in Central Asia.
Uzbekistan pledged to accelerate its program of reforms to achieve economic liberalization and a market economy, including current account convertibility. Recognizing the impact of the downturn in global economy, the United States committed to expand our broad cooperation and assistance to support those goals.
The First Deputy Prime Minister and his delegation this morning had a meeting with Secretary of State Powell. Secretary Powell expressed strong support for a program of reform, expanding economic opportunity and democracy, respect for the rule of law, giving added dimension to US- Uzbekistan relations in thanks for the excellent support and cooperation we have had with Uzbekistan in the current fight against terrorism, but also, it the Secretary's words, "adding new dimensions to our relationship that we wanted to expand in a number of other areas as well."
So I'll stop with that, and lead you on to whatever you want to talk about.
QUESTION: Do you have an aid figure, and do you have anything on the prospective opening of the Friendship Bridge?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific numbers for you at this point on what amounts our support might come to. But I would expect a fairly broad program that supports efforts in a number of areas, especially finding ways that we can bolster economic reform and rule of law and things like that that are very important to us.
As far as the bridge, again, I don't have a specific date that the bridge might be able to open. We are looking forward to this, and the First Deputy Prime Minister told the Secretary that they would look at it, that they were working on it as quickly as possible, to open when the security situation allowed that. There is a US Army Corps of Engineers team in Uzbekistan today that is looking at the bridge's structural integrity. So we are all, I think, looking to open this very important bridge as soon as we can.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on political reform? Freedom House regards Uzbekistan as being among the least free countries in the world. You made a passing reference there to democratic reform. Can you flesh that out at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I would just say that first of all, our view of the situation in Uzbekistan is quite clearly stated in our human rights report, so we have, I think, described the situation there in some detail.
I would say that, as the Secretary has often said to people from all over the world, that the process of economic reform, the process of rule of law, the process of anti-corruption efforts, these are all essential to development. And those are the things we intend to support.
QUESTION: Was that said during the visit? You had a broad-based -- I mean, you had a broad delegation?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, that was certainly -- those kinds of things were certainly said during the visit.
QUESTION: Two things. Currency convertibility is something that you guys have been talking about with the Uzbeks for years, and I remember it was a big part of what Secretary Albright was talking about when she was there 18 months ago. What do you mean, that they're speeding it up? I mean, speeding it up faster than they weren't doing it last year, or what's --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how you want to phrase it, but yes, we have been talking about it for some time. It remains an important thing to do. Having the economic reform program, meeting the criteria that the international financial institutions need to support things there, and getting currency convertibility remain very important agenda items, and we are pledging in our support to help the Uzbek Government achieve those goals.
QUESTION: Another thing that this building has been after the Uzbeks, especially -- has been after the Uzbeks on for a while is this kind of arbitrary locking up of Islamists and Islamic scholars. Did the Uzbek delegation -- did you talk about this with them? And if you did, did they express any surprise that they were getting lectured about this, when this country is doing exactly the same thing?
MR. BOUCHER: You will have to ask the Uzbek delegation for their views on these issues. Certainly, this delegation was primarily about financial and economic issues, and how we can support this process of reform that the Uzbekistan Government has very clearly pledged to.
But as I said earlier, we are looking for a qualitatively new long-term relationship that is based on common objectives, and that includes eradicating social, economic, and financial sources of extremism. So many of these issues are necessary to do that, and these are issues that are on our agenda that we will continue to discuss and work with them.
QUESTION: Back to the aid effort, could you just outline whether or not or how the aid would be tied to specific reforms? Oftentimes, the State Department will place certain conditions on receipt of aid and assistance.
In this case, what precisely are you going to be looking for in terms of the reforms? And are there these kinds of conditions? Or is it a blank check?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, there are a number of issues that we intend to support. We intend to support the reform process, support getting to the point of currency convertibility, support their efforts to meet criteria required by international financial institutions, for example. So certainly we are looking at how we can support a number of specific reforms.
I don't at this point have a stronger description of the programs for you, nor do I have conditionality of the programs. But the goal of the programs is to support reform in a whole variety of areas.
QUESTION: Can you just answer, will there will be conditionality?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't at this point. Certainly --
QUESTION: So there might not be conditionality --
MR. BOUCHER: The purpose of all of this is to support reform. The programs will be designed to do that. The programs will do that. And the funding will come as those goals are achieved.
QUESTION: Richard, I know you can't talk about numbers for this aid package, but will you be able to find money in 2002 for this? Are you going to slip it into some kind of supplemental, or are you going to divert money from somewhere else?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the specifics on funding like that yet at this point.
QUESTION: And also, was there any discussion of any permanent US military presence there? Or I mean, short -- or extended US military presence in Uzbekistan?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, our goal is not to maintain troops in this region. We have had cooperation with countries in this region through the Partnership for Peace and other areas, but we are not intending to -- well, let me just stop at that. And I don't have anything new beyond that.
QUESTION: The Secretary's trip -- a question on a couple of stops. Let me try the first one first. The first stop is Romania. Does the US have a position on whether the OSCE still has a role to play in Chechnya?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always felt they did, and we still do.
QUESTION: In Turkey, will he make some effort to, with Turkish officials, to move -- get off the stalemate on Cyprus?
MR. BOUCHER: As we have said before, there will be a whole number of issues talked about in Turkey, many of the big questions of Afghanistan, the situation in the region, NATO issues and others. Cyprus is always an issue that we discuss with the Turkish Government, and we have supported the UN process. We support the talks that are coming up between the communities in Cyprus, hosted by the UN. And we certainly look for efforts that can accelerate the momentum in those discussions.
QUESTION: Also on Turkey, is there anything the State Department can do or say to assuage Turkey's concerns about their citizens who are detained in this country under terrorism laws?
MR. BOUCHER: We have heard from various countries, as I think you did yesterday when the Egyptian Foreign Minister was here with the Secretary, about some concerns about nationals that are held in the United States. The Secretary has made quite clear in his discussions with people about these issues that we do intend to meet our international obligations in that regard. We have also made clear that we intend to do what we think is necessary within our law to maintain security and to keep our people safe.
The issue of consular notification is a complicated one. It's not always possible for us to notify governments of who is being held, since it's actually a right of the individual being held to contact his government, as also his right not to contact his government if he doesn't want to be flagged to them.
So it is a bit complicated. But we are trying to make sure that we do, in this process, meet our obligations.
QUESTION: Well, wait, it's like -- I want to follow it up as well, Barry. That's an amazing statement you just made, because this has always been cut and dried. When you've had Americans detained in places like China, you have always said that this is an inviolable right to consular access.
MR. BOUCHER: No, no, no. Hold on. The individual's right to see a consular officer is what is there.
QUESTION: Yes, but some people may choose not to see a consular officer?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. And we have -- actually, I know we have had those situations overseas, because I have been in some of them, where we happen to know from press reports an individual was detained, and we go to the government and say, doesn't he want to see us, and they'd say no.
QUESTION: All right, so are you suggesting -- or maybe the Justice Department is the right place to -- are you suggesting that some of these people who are detained who are foreign nationals have said they do not want consular access?
MR. BOUCHER: That may be the case, but it also makes it more difficult for us to, for example, present a list to a government of all those nationals who we know to be detained.
QUESTION: So okay, now --
MR. BOUCHER: So what we want to do is make sure we fulfill our international obligations. That's the bottom line.
QUESTION: And in those international obligations, is it required by those obligations that if they do meet with a consular official from their country that their conversations be private?
MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, I don't know.
QUESTION: Can you check on that?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be --
QUESTION: The Egyptian Foreign Minister at a news conference later said that he doesn't know how many Egyptians, if any, are detained. He is pretty sure that lots of folks don't know they have the right to consular access. And he said, you know, that the Secretary told him that he, Secretary Powell, would do everything he could to make sure that this legitimate right to consular officials is enforced, is supplied.
MR. BOUCHER: That is actually something that the Secretary has said, that he did say to various visitors, that we would try to make sure we did everything possible to make sure that anybody incarcerated knew of their right to see a consular officer from their embassy.
Actually, for several years now, the State Department has had very active programs, working with various jurisdictions at various levels, in federal, state, county and other police forces and law enforcement entities around the country to make sure that everybody is aware of this fact, that if they arrested a foreigner, that the foreigner had a right to contact his embassy or consulate.
QUESTION: Richard, from my reading of the Vienna Convention, it seems that the most important right, the obligation, is that the law enforcement authorities must inform the detainees that they do have the right to consular access.
Can you tell us to what extent has this obligation been fulfilled in these cases? This is really the crucial one.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I can say that in these particular cases. I did just answer the question about the obligation and said that we have had quite an extensive program for a number of years to make sure that law enforcement authorities are aware that the individuals have these rights.
QUESTION: It does seem kind of belated, though, doesn't it, that this is only an issue now. Many of these people have been detained for more than two months. Why is it only now --
MR. BOUCHER: We have been working on this for years. And our authorities at various levels know about -- most of them through our work and just their normal training -- know that foreigners have this ability, this right, this obligation to -- we have an obligation to allow them to contact their embassies. So I have to assume that many of them have already done that. But I can't give you a count at this point; that was Jonathan's question.
QUESTION: I've learned that Turkey's concern is that the statistics, assuming the New York Times article yesterday was correct, would make it seem that Turkey is kind of country number three for suspect terrorism experts. Is this something that the Secretary can try to smooth over while he is in Ankara? Is this something that he can work on?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know to what extent it will be discussed in Ankara. But really the questions about these people who are detained belong at the Justice Department. They have spoken about it. They have described to you in as much detail as we can the circumstances. And I don't have anything particular to add about the numbers, the individuals or the circumstances.
QUESTION: Moving from the detainees that we are talking about here to guidance that I think your office has on possible military hearings for people involved in the course of illegal actions, I think you have issued guidance that says they might be similar to those found at The Hague. Can you tell us how so?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't really. I mean, the military commissions have been discussed as many times as, you know, the White House has said this is an option that the President has put in place, that he may decide to use, consistent with the existing US statutes, with international law and with quite a bit of precedent. But the commissions have not yet been established, so we really don't have the rules and regulations that would govern any particular activity. But there are such rules in examples, including, for example, the rights that are found in the ad hoc international tribunals regarding former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The kind of thing that is being talked about, I would say, would involve rights similar to those.
That is about as far as we could go at this moment, until the President decides, one, to use the option and, two, until sort of the rules and regulations of the proceedings are established.
QUESTION: Can we move on to a new topic?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about discussions with the Yemenis about training special -- about US training for special operations forces in Yemen to combat terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Can you say in a broader sense that post-September 11th, that a lot of countries now are coming to you for more assistance in combating their own terrorism problem? And that, as the US expands its focus on terrorism past Afghanistan, that we are working with different countries on special projects?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the way I would describe it, first of all, is to say that we haven't talked in any particular case about the kind of assistance or cooperation we have. So I don't think I'm able to do that. I will check and see if there is anything to say about cooperation with Yemen, again specifically training against terrorism. And you might check at the Pentagon as well to see if they have anything to say.
I don't know if the premise of your question is true, first. Second of all, in the general sense, we indeed for some time, but certainly more and more since September 11th, have talked to other governments about cooperation against terrorism, and that involves not just the short-term efforts that we are all making together but longer-term efforts. But it takes different forms in different places.
Some places, it's consultations and information sharing both ways. Some places, it may end up being training. Some places it may be economic and other support that they need in order to sustain their activities. Some places, you have things like border security, which has been an issue in the Central Asian region for a long time.
QUESTION: On China? The nonproliferation talks, do you have anything? I know it's not -- it's still ongoing, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, that's kind of what I have. They are still talking. They are having meetings throughout the day principally with Under Secretary John Bolton. Vice Minister Wang will also meet with Under Secretary Grossman, with other Department officials to discuss various other aspects of our counterterrorism cooperation, the situation in Afghanistan and things like that.
Vice Minister Wang did meet yesterday afternoon with Secretary Powell. The Secretary emphasized once again the importance or our nonproliferation objectives, and he welcomed the opportunity to discuss broader arms control issues with China as well.
QUESTION: Any plans to lift the sanction that is imposed on --
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to speculate at this point. We'll see what happens in these discussions.
QUESTION: Can you link the issue of getting a missile control regime up and running in China, and ending some of their exports to countries that we still have problems with, to their -- our view of their cooperation on terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess the question -- the simple answer would be no.
MR. BOUCHER: In terms of linkage. The parameters of what we want to do on nonproliferation are quite clear. The parameters of our cooperation on terrorism are also quite clear. At the same time, I'd have to say that the overall effort, nonproliferation is certainly an important part of the fight against terrorism, and that's why it's even more important that we are able to fully implement the agreement that we had in November of 2000 with the Chinese, which involves these various aspects of export control regimes, and curbing any sales that might be occurring.
QUESTION: Is that the main issue in the nonproliferation talks? November 2000 agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, November 2000 agreement, and how we can get to the full implementation of that agreement.
QUESTION: Is this just one day?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, they were here yesterday, had some meetings, and then a lot of meetings today, and today will probably be the end of it, yes.
QUESTION: Richard, can we expect some kind of statement or readout on these talks?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll try to get you some kind of readout, if they end at a decent hour today.
QUESTION: At a decent hour?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, sometime this afternoon they are expected to end. Provided that happens, we'll try to get you something afterwards.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't expect it that late.
QUESTION: What form will that be in?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to see. We haven't decided yet.
QUESTION: Are you also going to -- will the US Government brief the Chinese about their consultation with Russians about the missile defense?
MR. BOUCHER: We do regularly. I would expect we would, but I can't tell you for sure we're doing it today. I'll double check on that.
QUESTION: On missile defense, did you see the remarks by the Russian general on --
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: On the Middle East, the US envoy, General Zinni, has announced, we understand, that the violence will not deter him from carrying out his peace efforts. However, it is no secret now that Prime Minister Sharon plans to carry out retaliatory strikes, which he has informed the Administration of, we understand.
What are your views on these retaliatory strikes? Do you find them constructive or productive in this atmosphere?
MR. BOUCHER: I think first and foremost you have to remember that it rests on the parties to get the violence down. And as General Zinni has said, we condemn the attacks in the strongest possible terms. We extended our deepest sympathies to the victims of terrorism and to their families. It is imperative that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority immediately undertake all possible measures to pursue and to apprehend those responsible for the horrific attacks in Hadera and Afula this week, and the other terrorist operations. We have made absolutely clear we expect to see a 100 percent effort and we expect to see results that indicate those efforts are, in fact, effective.
It is essential that acts of terrorism and violence end now. We think, at the same time, both sides have to act in a manner that restores calm, reinforces efforts to confront terror and violence. We think positive actions, together with sustained Palestinian actions to end terror and Israeli steps that avoid provocation can facilitate progress towards implementing the Mitchell report and restoring direct dialogue.
So it is important for both sides to keep in mind this overall goal. But we don't have any particular comment. I am not aware that we have been asked to --
QUESTION: In simple English, are you asking for self-restraint?
MR. BOUCHER: We have asked both parties to take steps to end the violence and to restore calm. We expect both parties to act in that manner. But we don't -- we're not involved in approving retaliation or anything like that; we never are.
QUESTION: But the question touches on another sensitive point, which is whether this Administration, which has reverted to previous administrations on lots of Mid-East issues, will now revert to the notion that even while violence is going on -- and, you know, they used to be called "enemies of peace" and maybe we'll hear that again -- but even while violence is going on, you've got to push ahead for the greater good of getting an agreement. It's the only way to end the violence.
So is it the Administration's position, as it has been for nine or 10 months, that there has to be a period of calm before you can get into the Mitchell moves? Or are we back into the notion that you can act simultaneously and try to get the violence down, but also try to move the process? Because I think that's what the question implies, and that would be one more policy shift. I could tick off six or seven, if you have time.
MR. BOUCHER: I have time. You have any more?
QUESTION: By the way, the Egyptian Foreign Minister says he's delighted that the Administration policy is changing from a pro-Israel bias to a more even-handed approach. Anyhow -- and he gave lots of examples. He gave lots of examples. But this would be significant, if that's the approach now. Sorry for the long question.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you for your briefing.
I have made clear, the Secretary has made clear, I have said again today it is essential that acts of terrorism, violence, cease now. That has been the policy that we have pursued. That is the purpose of General Zinni and Ambassador Burns' visit to the region. The goal that we have is to stop the violence and, only by stopping the violence, can we expect to get back to that process from the beginning of the Administration and, in more detail, on the Mitchell and the Tenet plans. The process that leads us from an end to violence to restoring confidence and a return to negotiations, that is what the Secretary of State's speech was about in Louisville. That is our policy. It was our policy at the beginning of the Administration; it's our policy throughout the Administration. It was the policy in the Secretary's speech and it is the policy today.
QUESTION: I'm just curious. Do you think that the current problem -- because a lot of these calls are obviously not working -- has more to do with just sort of the indigenous cycle of violence of the situation, or is it the leadership? Are Arafat and Sharon just not really interested in peace? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that that kind of analysis benefits anybody, frankly. They both say they are interested in peace, they both say they are interested in stopping the violence, and we expect people to act on their words. Chairman Arafat has said many times that he wants to make every possible effort to stop the violence, and that is all we're asking him to do.
QUESTION: Do you think that the State Department's job in this would be easier if different leaders were in place that were maybe more willing to back up what their words are, with facts on the ground, to use the Dennis Ross phrase?
MR. BOUCHER: We're not in the business of choosing other people's leaders. We're in the business of working with the people who are there, who claim to be -- who say they are committed to this process, who indeed in many cases have taken serious and difficult steps already, and to make clear, as we have again and again, that there are more serious and difficult steps that they have to take.
QUESTION: Richard, I noticed that you used the expression -- and you oscillate between the two -- but today it was 100 percent effort by Chairman Arafat. What is your assessment at the moment of how hard he is trying? I mean, Zinni has been there for, what, four days now; he should have a pretty good idea of whether -- of what he's doing, and whether he has -- whether he can in fact restrain the people who are carrying out these attacks.
MR. BOUCHER: We have never been in the business of handicapping leaders or trying to give percentages to efforts or score cards, for that matter. What we have said is what is required, and what we said is that they have done some things, and we appreciate those. But there is always more that needs to be done.
MR. BOUCHER: There is more that needs to be done at the moment to restrain violence. There is still violence occurring; there is more that needs to be done to restrain it.
QUESTION: With Sharon coming here over the weekend, meetings in the early part of the week, are you worried that the recent attacks and the current climate is going to eliminate any kind of flexibility that you might have had with him to talk about any solutions going forward?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on that. I think we'll have to see what he says. I've seen some remarks he has made already about his desire to go forward, so we'll talk to him when he gets here.
QUESTION: Can we move on to Afghanistan? Talks in Bonn -- actually Germany, not Afghanistan.
What do you make of the walkout by the sole Pashtun member of the Northern Alliance delegation? Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that is exactly an accurate description. One of the Pashtun representatives has apparently decided to leave the conference. I think that is a reflection of the fact that these are very difficult issues. We certainly regret that decision. We had urged him not to leave; we hope he will return. But nonetheless, we don't see this as a serious impediment to the work of the conference.
The parties are still in Bonn. They are continuing to seek agreement on the structure and the composition of an interim supreme council and an interim administrative authority, and then details of the process to establish broad-based government through a loya jirga.
We want them to press ahead. We hope that they will keep working until they have agreement on a broad-based government. And that remains our view, and that remains our effort out there with them to try to keep that process going so that they can put into practice the decisions of principle that they have already made.
QUESTION: Okay, one more, just related. Is there any movement yet on the embassy -- your Embassy in Kabul? I see the Turks have now reopened their embassy; are you worried that you are going to be kind of left out if you don't get in there quickly enough?
MR. BOUCHER: It is an issue that remains under active consideration, about how to reestablish an American presence at our Embassy in Kabul. But I don't have any news for you on it.
QUESTION: So there is no concern that you might be -- you know, as the Russians are moving in, the Turks now, the Iranians have already reopened their embassy, so --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have demonstrated that we do have a certain presence in Afghanistan that we are able to talk to --
QUESTION: Yes, I'm sorry (inaudible) are real diplomats.
MR. BOUCHER: -- leaders and parties --
QUESTION: Do you have any -- what's your diplomatic presence there? You asked for that one; what's your diplomatic presence in Afghanistan right now?
MR. BOUCHER: We have an embassy, we have Foreign Service nationals at our embassy. But we do our diplomatic work with the Afghan leaders in various ways. We look forward to the results from Bonn. We look forward to an opportunity to establish a working relationship with the interim administration, or whatever new government they decide to establish.
But the physical movement of people, I don't have anything new to report to you at this point.
QUESTION: Is there some protocol? Are you waiting until they establish this provisional government for protocol reasons, because you don't want to send people there if you don't --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't put it that way, either. There are a number of factors involved. Of course, that's one of them. But there are a variety of factors related to this, and we will go forward -- there's security issues, availability of personnel, just a variety of things you have to do to reestablish an American presence there. We are looking at them. All this is under active consideration. But I don't have any timetable or news to announce.
QUESTION: I just want to make sure, it is not American policy that you don't establish the embassy until the interim government is in place? There is no kind of policy along those lines?
MR. BOUCHER: I would just say, that is obviously one of the factors we have to consider. But it is not a condition.
QUESTION: What do you think of Mr. Rabbani's comments on limiting any multinational security presence, peacekeeping presence to 200 --
MR. BOUCHER: There have been a lot of discussions in public and in private in recent days of security issues, security presence, what kind of force. Really, there is nothing new on that because we are looking for the Afghan parties to carry out these decisions on interim arrangements, for them to put into practice what they have agreed to in principle on the political arrangements. And that provides a further option for maybe defining in better terms some of these security options.
At that point, we will continue our discussions with people about security and, at that point, we and they will have a better idea about what's needed to maintain effective security inside Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Do you suspect that Mr. Rabbani, for example, among others, is actually trying to obstruct a change in the status quo? In other words, to hang on to the advantageous position which he now holds?
MR. BOUCHER: You can do the suspicions; I'll do the facts. The facts are, we are still talking to all the parties about the appropriate security arrangements. They are all pledged to an effective security arrangement inside Afghanistan. There are a variety of options, and we will keep talking with the parties about them.
QUESTION: I've got one question that deals with two countries about press restrictions. On Monday, or you have been all week saying how you support the Nepalese government in its war against -- attempts to stop the Maoists from their rampage. Does that include backing the restrictions they placed on the press there?
And the same question, similar question about Zimbabwe, the government is apparently moving to prevent any foreigner from working as a journalist there, which is more than what they were doing before. In other words, international -- foreigners cannot work for international news agencies based in -- if they are going to be based --
MR. BOUCHER: I think I talked before about the visa restrictions, that they were apparently not letting people in to do that. I didn't know they had turned it into some kind of rule. I will look into that and get you what I can on that.
As far as the situation in Nepal, this is something we are following closely and we are watching. Obviously, we reiterate our support for the government and its effort to fight these Maoist extremists that have attacked them.
We understand the government has restricted publication of materials that support the Maoist cause. There are some two dozen journalists and printers that have been detained as a result of the restriction. And several Maoist- affiliated media outlets which have been previously tolerated have been shut down since last weekend. On the other hand, we hear from most mainstream journalists in Nepal that they are confident that they and their work will not be affected by the restrictions, and Nepal's Secretary of Information has reaffirmed his basic commitment to providing freedom of expression.
So at this point, I think I would just say we are watching all these factors and following the situation closely.
QUESTION: So you don't really mind, is that what you're saying?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I would say we are watching all this and following it closely.
QUESTION: The meeting this afternoon with the ICRC president, is that just a courtesy call, or are they actually going to be discussing --
MR. BOUCHER: I would say it is an opportunity to discuss the work that the International Committee of the Red Cross is doing in Afghanistan, to discuss the current Afghan humanitarian situation. Mr. Kellenberger was recently in Pakistan and Afghanistan November 23rd and 24th, just about a week ago, and he did meet with the Pakistani Government, with Northern Alliance officials, and he looked at Red Cross activities in the region. So it is an opportunity to talk to him about those issues.
QUESTION: Do you envision more money coming out of the US coffers for the ICRC?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that is the purpose of this meeting.
QUESTION: Richard, is it true that the Sudanese authorities offered security -- anti-terrorism cooperation and specific information about al- Qaida members as far back as the summer of 1998, before the attacks on the embassies in Africa, and that it was rejected by the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard those stories. But, in any case, we haven't been talking about offers made by various governments. You would have to ask them.
QUESTION: Two quick things. Anything on the North Korean negative response to the President's call for inspections? And second, then, an update on the Geneva Review Conference on the Biological Weapons Convention?
MR. BOUCHER: The Geneva Review Conference continues into next week, I think. As we have made clear, as we made clear in Under Secretary Bolton's opening statement, that we do think there are better ways to achieve the goals of the convention, to eliminate the spread of biological weapons. And we have had proposals, alternative proposals that we have proposed that we are working out there. So that work continues.
As far as the North Korean statement, I don't intend to respond to every statement that they might make. But we have discussed here the need for inspections, the need under the US/DPRK agreed framework of 1994 for North Korea to come into full compliance with the safeguards agreement that it concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1992. In order for them to implement that safeguards agreement, they have to undertake a number of verification activities in North Korea, and we have continued to urge the North Koreans to start their cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency now.
They have said it could take more than three years, based on experiences in other countries. So this has to happen in a manner that allows for the schedule of a nuclear power plant to be met.
QUESTION: Have they committed a violation of the joint framework?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always said that we intend to abide by the agreed framework; we expect them to as well. And we have never said that they were in violation of it. But we have always emphasized the importance of abiding by it.
QUESTION: Did you ever get any confirmation on them signing this anti- terrorist -- or ratifying these anti-terrorist UN conventions?
MR. BOUCHER: What we know of is the intention to ratify two more. The first is on the taking of hostages, the second is on financing.
They have signed and ratified five of the 12 international conventions, and I think we have a list of that. Did we put that out or not? Yes, that we put out in taken question. We are a party to 10 of them.
The two that they announced they would ratify are the taking of hostages and the suppression of financing of terrorism. We are, I think, a party to the taking of hostages one. The suppression of financing is in front of our Senate.
QUESTION: But you don't know, then, that they have or -- just still --
MR. BOUCHER: What we know is they have signed and ratified five and they have indicated an intention to ratify two more.
QUESTION: Can I just get back to the joint framework, because I am -- it has always been a little confusing what the time line is when the North Koreans have to allow the IAEA inspectors. When the President said that he wanted the inspectors in the country, was that a new US policy that we interpret that agreement that they have to be in there now? Or is it the State Department's view that they still have some time until the deadline when they have to allow them in?
MR. BOUCHER: It is not that simple, okay? They have to have the safeguards in place at certain stages in the construction, okay? In order to keep the construction on schedule, they have to have those verification procedures in place. In order to have those verification procedures in place, we've been telling them, the IAEA has been telling them, you have to start early. It is not a matter of showing up the day before the containment vessel arrives; it is a matter of working over a period of something like three years. And that is one of the points that we have always made, that you have to have that kind of inspection regime put in place, and that should be starting now. That's what we've been saying.
QUESTION: You said it should start now, but is that in fact holding up the construction schedule at this stage? When will it start holding up the construction schedule anyway?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I can't quite do that. I don't know at what point one can say it's impossible or at what point you have to start delaying delivery of components and construction.
QUESTION: Can I put it this way --
QUESTION: Forget having it actually in place. Have they made any steps to put them closer to having them in place by the time the construction starts?
MR. BOUCHER: They have made this commitment. We think there is more that they should be doing to implement it.
QUESTION: Will the construction begin, even if --
MR. BOUCHER: The construction has begun.
QUESTION: The construction has begun? Oh, okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it is a question of certain components, commissioning, and things like that.
QUESTION: Is it conceivable that it might -- the construction might be suspended if they don't meet the first stage in this inspection timetable that you have?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not here to have suspicions or to conceive of things. I am here to tell you the facts. The facts are, this has to be done before they get to a certain stage in construction, otherwise it can't proceed. In order to do that on time, the schedule means that they have to start now.
QUESTION: In theory, there must be a fixed date when that happens.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll do the facts, you can do the theory.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m. EST.) [End]
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