Daily Press Briefing for May 6 –

Daily Press Briefing for May 6 — Transcript

   Daily Press BriefingRichard Boucher, SpokesmanWashington, DCMay 6, 2002INDEX:


1 Deputy Secretary Armitage Meets with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers / US Contributes $59 million to High Commission Annual Program

1-3 Foreign Service Written Exam


3-4 UN Security Council Resolution on Oil-for-Food Program

4 Iraqi Foreign Ministers Visit to UN


4-5 Prime Minister Sharons Visit / Alleged Terrorism Documents

5 Saudi Donations

5 International Ministerial Meeting

5-6 US Role for Monitors / Palestinian Leadership


6-7 Release of Aung San Suu Kyi


7-9 US Decision on International Criminal Court

8 Under Secretary Boltons Remarks on Arms Control Treaties


9-10 Under Secretary Bolton and Assistant Secretary Reichs Remarks on Cuba TRANSCRIPT:

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I’d like to go through a couple things up front. I’ll do them briefly and give you — well, I’ll do one of them briefly.

Today, the Deputy Secretary of State is meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Ruud Lubbers. The Deputy Secretary and the High Commissioner exchanged views on Afghanistan — sorry, this happened this morning — with particular focus on the agency’s operations for the return and sustainable reintegration of refugees in Afghanistan.

The Deputy Secretary also announced a new contribution of $59 million to the High Commissioner’s annual program, bringing the total US contribution for Fiscal Year 2002 to $184 million to date. This additional contribution will support operations in the Afghan region, in Africa, in the Balkans and other refugee situations around the world. So we have a little more information in the written statement that we’ll make available.

QUESTION: Is that part of the old money that was already been announced by the White House, which you guys keep announcing in stages as you release it?

MR. BOUCHER: You mean the 320 million?

QUESTION: Yeah, that you announced last year.

MR. BOUCHER: I don’t know if this was included or not. This is money that is our normal — you know, our regular contribution to their regular operations. Whether it was counted before in those things, I don’t remember if that was all last year’s money or if some of it was this year’s money.

QUESTION: Do you have a number of how many refugees have returned to Afghanistan?

MR. BOUCHER: We think over 400,000 have returned since March 1st of this year. I know that I’ve seen higher numbers that may be counted slightly differently, but that’s the number we’re using. Okay.

Second, I’d like to tell you about the Foreign Service Written Exam, since we’re now doing it twice a year. And we’re very pleased to see that a lot of people still want to take the Foreign Service Written Exam. We had 14,000 people who took the exam on April 13th, in addition to the 13,000 who took it in September of last year.

Four hundred and fifteen more minorities took the exam in April, compared to September. That’s a 10 percent increase on six months ago, up to 4,464 minorities who took the exam on April 13th. They now represent 32 percent of the total takers, the highest number ever.

In the last seven months since the exam was given, in total we’ve had 26,916 test-takers, including 8,513 minority. What this compares to is in earlier years when we used to give the exam once a year we had a low of 8,000 or so in the year 2000 and a high of 17,631 in 1984. So we’ve got a significantly larger number of people taking the test now than ever before.

And 90 percent of the test-takers registered online — www.careers.state.gov — for all people who might be interested. And we’ll do again in September, September 21st, 2002. So we always are looking for good people to join the Foreign Service, and this is how to do it.

QUESTION: Richard, I don’t want to put a damper on your achievement here, but how many of the people who took the exam in September actually passed it?

MR. BOUCHER: I don’t know if we have those figures yet, but I’ll get them for you when we can.

QUESTION: You mean it takes longer than six months for ETS to score these things?

MR. BOUCHER: “Pass” means, in most cases, passing the written and then the oral. I’ll have to see how many people we invited. There’s a breakdown. There’s a large number of people who take the exam. There’s a breakdown of some percentage of that that we invite to the oral exams, and then there’s a smaller percentage of that that actually passed the whole examination process, and then a slightly smaller number that we bring into the Foreign Service.

QUESTION: Right. Well, considering you’re just talking here about the written exam, can we find out if you do give these — how many people passed and how many of them were minority candidates?


QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: We’ll take in, I think, something like 400 or 500 out of this every year — out of the 26,000 that have taken it in the last seven months.

Can I tell you about one more thing before we go to questions? On this? Yes.

QUESTION: To what would you attribute the — would you attribute the large number of takers to the fact that for college graduates it’s a pretty tough world out there economically?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we’d attribute it to the strong desire to serve their nation and join the Foreign Service. I’m sure there are a lot of different factors, and it varies from case to case. And part of it is, I think, a resurgence of interest in working for government and doing what is seen as an important job in the fight against terrorism and the other things the United States is doing around the world. Part of it may be the job market. Part of it, I am sure, is due to our better advertising, making available the sign-ups online and things like that. We tried to make it easier for people to sign up and take the test. We tried to make it possible to do that twice a year instead of just once a year, so it’s easier for people to come in and join.

QUESTION: I think it’s PR from the podium.

MR. BOUCHER: It’s probably the statements that Phil Reeker made last fall and that I’m making right now that really have led to the surge, I’m sure.

One final piece of news. The Permanent Members of the Security Council have joined in supporting a resolution that would adopt a new UN export control system on Iraq as part of the Oil-for-Food humanitarian program. The resolution was tabled this morning in the Security Council in New York. We expect the full Security Council to consider this resolution this week.

We believe a strong consensus has emerged for charting a new system that would constitute a step forward. It would lift UN controls on purely civilian goods, while focusing UN controls on preventing Iraq from acquiring militarily useful items to rearm itself with.

This change should further improve the flow of humanitarian and civilian goods to the Iraqi people. Of course it will only work if the Iraqi regime begins to cooperate fully with the Oil-for-Food program, rather than working to undermine it, in particular by using its oil as a propaganda tool, such as turning the flow off, or now on again, for purely political reasons.

The goal is to provide the money necessary and to have it spent on the needs of the Iraqi people, and unfortunately the Iraqi Government has repeatedly failed to do that.

QUESTION: When you say tabled, do you mean it was just presented for debate at some future point?

MR. BOUCHER: At a future point this week.

QUESTION: Obviously this week.

MR. BOUCHER: This week.

QUESTION: But what I’m trying to get it, they’re not out talking about it right now?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don’t think there’s debate on it right now. It’s been put in the hopper, tabled as an official resolution, supported by all five Permanent Members, which of course has been a key element in all resolutions on this subject, where we have more strength and more influence over Iraq’s behavior if we’re all together. And we have brought that together now.

QUESTION: Do you have an evaluation of the visit of the Iraqi Foreign Minister last week to the UN?

MR. BOUCHER: I don’t really have an evaluation. We heard a briefing of the Security Council last Thursday or Friday afternoon from the Secretary General. I think it was Friday. And I guess I’d say once again he appears to have come and gone without saying yes, without saying, “Let the inspectors come in, we have nothing to hide,” because we have to suppose they do have something to hide.

All right. With those brief statements, I’d be glad to take your questions on these or other topics.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the documents that the Israelis are bringing at all?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don’t. The Secretary is meeting now with Prime Minister Sharon, and I expect they’ll be talking about these issues. But until we’ve had a time to examine them, I don’t think we’ll have a comment.

QUESTION: You are preparing yourselves, though?

QUESTION: But aren’t these documents like just basically that have been shown to the administration before and just packaged in a kind of — more in a comprehensive way? I mean, these Israelis have said all along —

MR. BOUCHER: I don’t know. I think you may have seen them before us, so I don’t have any comment at this point.

QUESTION: But my point was that the Israelis have said that over the last however many months they’ve been providing you with numerous, numerous, numerous documents that link Yasser Arafat to terrorism, that link the Saudis to supporting families of Palestinian suicide bombers and Hamas and Hezbollah, so that these documents — that you’ve seen these documents before.

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don’t know what “these documents” are until we get a chance to see them and examine them. Certainly our views on the Palestinian Authority — the linkages, the involvement of elements in the Palestinian Authority with terrorism and terrorists have been stated quite clearly. We do ourselves a semiannual report to Congress on the subject.

We’ve made quite clear — the President himself has made quite clear — that as we move forward, as we move to reassert the authority of the Palestinian Authority and reconstitute its institutions, that this needs to be done in an open, transparent, non-corrupt manner, in a manner that doesn’t have any involvement with terrorism. So certainly it’s been a topic on our minds, and one that we’ve tried to address and will try to address with all the other donors in the international community as we go forward.

In terms of the Saudi money, just last week we’ve been talking to the Saudis and they have said quite clearly that their intention is to make sure that their money, and even the telethon money, go only to the United Nations, to the Red Cross and other legitimate charitable activities. So that has been an issue in the past. We’ve talked about it and we’ve heard recently from the Saudis that they intend to have it only go to charitable activity.

QUESTION: What has the response been so far to the Quartet’s Middle East conference proposal, or meeting proposal as you prefer to call it?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you yourself had a chance to ask the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia. We have seen various statements around other places — a lot of them positive, some of them positive but saying we’ll have to talk more about this. As the Secretary said, we’re going to be talking more about this. In his first statement about a ministerial meeting, he said we’d have to work with others on the principles that would form the basis for such a meeting. So that’s something that we’ll be doing as we go forward.

QUESTION: In this meeting or this briefing that the Israelis have been giving today on these documents and other topics —

MR. BOUCHER: For the press.

QUESTION: Right. They have accused the Saudis of terrorist acts. Do you find this helpful at this time?

MR. BOUCHER: I’m not going to try to comment on accusations they may have made to you until we get a chance to examine the same evidence and have our direct discussions with the Israeli Government about it.

QUESTION: Can we move on to Aung San Suu Kyi?


QUESTION: Oh, wait. I’m sorry. Can I ask one more on the Middle East, please? I’m sorry. Can you say, Richard, whether the US is considering — this is just considering, not that we would, not that the decision has been made — are you considering the use of US troops in the context of a Palestinian-Israeli treaty or final status —

MR. BOUCHER: You mean like 50 steps down the road, or however many it is?


MR. BOUCHER: I don’t think I can get into that at this point. What we have talked about to date is the use of US monitors as we’d start to implement cease-fire arrangements and reestablish security cooperation. I don’t want to take it anywhere beyond that at this point.

QUESTION: But you still see the use of monitors in other areas possibly of agreement that could be reached as we go down this road?

MR. BOUCHER: I’m not going down the road with you right now. I’m going to take it one step at a time. We’re trying to get the process started. We’re trying to reestablish security cooperation. We’re trying to reestablish authority over security so that terrorism can be controlled by the Palestinian Authority. And we will broadly support them and work with them in a variety of ways, support and work with the parties in a variety of ways as we try to do that.

QUESTION: One more on this? As you work with the international community to rebuild the Palestinian Authority, do you — are you of the mindset that the security forces should be independent of the senior Palestinian leadership, or that there should be certain checks and balances along the lines of the American system of governance?

MR. BOUCHER: I’d go back to what the President has said. The President has made quite clear it needs to be — the whole Palestinian Authority needs to be more open, more transparent, have no ties to terrorism, avoid corruption. And I think the whole international community would look to the Palestinian Authority to take steps in that direction.

Aung San Suu Kyi?


MR. BOUCHER: I would have led off the top with telling you how we warmly welcome Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, but since the Secretary has already told you that we’re very pleased with it and the President has already called it a good development, I thought my voice wouldn’t add very much to it.

But since you give me the opportunity, it is important. We warmly welcome Aung San Suu Kyi’s release. It’s a very important first step towards real political dialogue. We hope it indicates that the Burmese regime is serious about moving forward with political reform and national reconciliation. We’ll be closely watching to see if Aung San Suu Kyi is afforded full freedom of movement and association, as has been promised.

We remain mindful that many political prisoners remain in jail inside Burma. We urge the regime to follow up on Aung San Suu Kyi’s release with the unconditional release of all political prisoners and to fulfill their commitment to allow all of Burma’s citizens to participate freely in the political life of the country.

We strongly support the mission of UN Special Envoy Razali. He played an important role in facilitating Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, and we applaud his efforts.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I just follow up on that?


QUESTION: The whole list of sanctions against Myanmar from the US side — does the release in itself have any effect on any of these sanctions? And if not, what would?

MR. BOUCHER: No, it doesn’t. We see this as a first step towards a political dialogue in this country. Much more remains to be done to achieve political reform and national reconciliation, and we’re looking to see concrete steps that do that.


MR. BOUCHER: Before considering what to do about sanctions.

QUESTION: On the list of things that other people have spoken about today, and that you may not want to, I would like to just ask you one brief question about the International Criminal Court decision sent to the UN today. And that is, when this treaty was signed under the previous administration, it was signed by the Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes. Why was the letter saying you are no longer legally bound by it signed by Under Secretary Bolton?

MR. BOUCHER: As a sign of the great importance that we attach to the issue. I don’t know if there’s that much difference. I’ll try to find out if there was a particular —

QUESTION: Well, presumably you would — I realize you don’t want to use the word “unsigned,” but if you’re getting —

MR. BOUCHER: I’m not going to, because that’s not what we did.

QUESTION: Right, I know. But the job is still — the job that deals, or would have dealt with this court, is still in the hands of the same — of the person with the same title as who signed it in the last administration. I’m just wondering why —

MR. BOUCHER: I’ll see if there’s any specific explanation. Obviously Under Secretary Bolton is a responsible authority of the State Department in this matter.

QUESTION: I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. I’m just asking —

MR. BOUCHER: He has, I think, some authority over this area, and therefore it would be entirely appropriate if he did. Who knows whether the question is why did Bolton sign this time or why didn’t his counterpart sign it last time? But I’ll see if there’s a rationale to this or if it was just done this way because that’s the way we decided to do it.

QUESTION: Speaking of Mr. Bolton, he gave a speech today in which, among many other things, he said that while the administration supports the NPT, the BWC and the CWC, he thinks that those treaties and other agreements are not an effective tool of preventing certain states from abiding by all those treaties and agreements. Is that an indication that the importance of those three and other agreements in the area of arms control has a lesson somehow —

MR. BOUCHER: No, quite the contrary, and I think you’ll see this if you look in Under Secretary Bolton’s speech. And if you remember, the remarks that he has made at various meetings on the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention have all been to the point to say these treaties need to be made effective tools; they have to be properly enforced. Countries should not be allowed to sign the treaty and then not abide by their terms.

So the point is these are important instruments to us, and we want to make them effective.

QUESTION: Any ideas how to do that? Any new ideas, because there have been some —

MR. BOUCHER: One of the ways was changing the leadership of the Chemical Weapons Organization in The Hague that we think is a step in that direction. So with each of them it’s a different thing. But there needs to be attention drawn to the fact that some countries are signing and not following these treaties and conventions, and we need to do that and we need to work with allies to make sure that they do in the future.

QUESTION: So they should be as honest as you are being with the International Criminal Court, and they should withdraw? Is that what you’re suggesting?

MR. BOUCHER: No, they should bring their behavior —

QUESTION: Pretend to be obligated to something if they’re not going to —

MR. BOUCHER: Matt, that’s an unfair analogy, because you know right from the start, when President Clinton made the statement on the signing of this International Criminal Court, he made quite clear from the start that he did not intend to send it to the Senate for ratification and therefore obligate the United States completely in that regard. The parties who have signed these other deals, these other treaties and conventions, pretended to obligate themselves in that regard, and the solution to it is not to have people withdraw, but to have people respect the treaties that they have signed and indicated they would implement.

QUESTION: Okay. But, I mean, the point of my question wasn’t to put any focus on you guys for coming out of the ICC, but rather you have these countries that are obligated, that have legal obligations under other treaties, these weapons treaties, and yet you’re saying that they shouldn’t withdraw from them; they should just simply respect what the treaty has to say. Correct?

MR. BOUCHER: Because they said they would.


MR. BOUCHER: When we signed the —

QUESTION: So you’re —

MR. BOUCHER: I’m not going to get into the history of it. Read the statement that President Clinton issued when we signed the International Criminal Court document. We never indicated that we intended to participate fully in its provisions.

QUESTION: Can we move on to about what Bolton said about Cuba today? (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: I should have brought a copy of his speech with me. I think I left it upstairs.

QUESTION: Can you add anything, though, to what he said? He said —

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can’t. He used quite carefully constructed and clear words, and I’ll leave it to him. I can’t go beyond that language.

QUESTION: Well, then on the chemical — on Bustani, have you heard of any candidate successors?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven’t. I haven’t delved into it recently. I’ll check if there are any. It may just be off the radar screen.

QUESTION: Without going beyond what he said about your fears about — I mean, is Cuba now on the “axis of evil”? Is there — do you consider — when you talk about potential action in the war against terrorism/weapons of mass destruction of other countries, is Cuba now on that list?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you’re mixing about a dozen things there, and the simple answer is what the President said about the axis of evil stands. He said it in his State of the Union. He listed the countries that are of greatest concern, and I’d leave it at that.

QUESTION: And again on Cuba, I don’t know what Mr. Bolton said about Cuba in his speech, but I do know that —

MR. BOUCHER: Good. Then I’ll refer you to —

QUESTION: — Assistant Secretary Reich did have some things to say about Cuba this morning before the Council of the Americas. And among his comments were that there is some indication that Cuba may have been involved in the fiasco in Venezuela, talking about gunmen and planes in Venezuela. Can you elaborate a little bit on what he was talking about?

MR. BOUCHER: I didn’t have those comments, so I’ll have to check on them and see.

QUESTION: You don’t have anything in — forget about Reich. In general, do you have any evidence that might lead you to think that Cuba was somehow involved in the Chavez debacle?

MR. BOUCHER: I don’t have any information like that, but it’s not something I’ve checked on. I’ll be glad to check for you.

You’re don’t have to think up questions. You can stop —

QUESTION: Can you give us anything on Cuba? We weren’t at the — with cameras at the other —

MR. BOUCHER: No, I’m not going to try. It was very carefully done, and I’m going leave it at what he said.



(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m. EDT.)