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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-06-01

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 PRESS BRIEFING

Richard Boucher, Spokesman

Washington, DC

June 1, 2001

INDEX:

IRAQ

1 Statement on UN Security Council Resolution

2 U.S. Policy on Iraqi Sanctions

3,4 U.N. Sanctions/Controlled Goods List

4 U.N. Sanctions/Russians

5 U.N. Sanctions/Oil-for-Food Program

ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

5 Secretary Powell Engaged in the Middle East Talks

5 Calls on Prime Minister Sharon, Chairman Arafat

5 Secretary in touch with Ambassador Burns, Ron Schlicher, Martin Indyk on Middle East

6,7 Funeral of Faisal Husseini, U.S. Pays Tribute to Faisal Husseini

7 Upcoming meeting between Secretary Powell and Shimon Peres in Costa Rica

10,11 Meetings of Ambassador Burns, Ambassador Indyk, Consul General Schlicher

in Middle East

11 Mitchell Report/Israeli Settlements

COSTA RICA

7,8 Secretary Powell to attend OAS General Assembly Meetings

8 Possible Demonstrations at the OAS Meetings

PERU

8 Reports of Increased Drug Smuggling

LATIN AMERICA

12 Possible New Diplomatic Appointments for the Region

12,13 Senate Foreign Relations Committee/ Possible Meetings on Diplomatic Appointments

CHINA

8,9 China/ Military Exercises

9 China /National Trade Relations/Washington Post Article

MISCELLANEOUS

9,10 Secretary Powell’s Meeting with Kofi Annan

10 Kofi Annan Speech at Chamber of Commerce/Middle East

13,14 INS/Expedited Visa Processing

JAPAN

11,12 Japanese Foreign Minister Tanaka/Reports of Concern about U.S. Missile Defense


TRANSCRIPT_:

MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, if I can, let's start off talking about the resolution that was passed in New York and a few other things relating to Iraq policy, and then we can go on to your questions about that or anything else you might be interested in.

This resolution that was passed this morning in the United Nations, Resolution 1352 of the Security Council, it really represents a substantial coming together of the international community and the Council on the right policy, a good policy and an agreed policy, towards Iraq. It is a substantial achievement for the Council and points in the direction of further work that needs to be done. It means the international community once again is united in its view of Iraq and what we need to do.

Fundamentally, it points the way to the implementation of steps that will lead to a smoother flow of goods for the Iraqi people and improved controls on the Iraqi regime's ability to acquire weapons and threaten its neighbors.

Thirty days have been given. The Council gave itself 30 days to work out the details. There is a lot of detail work that needs to be done, but the direction is set clearly by this resolution that was passed this morning.

The resolution maintains and supports the existing procedures of the Oil- for-Food program, but it will result in a controlled goods list that produces a smoother flow. It also continues to support Resolution 1284, which is the fundamental framework of requiring Iraqi compliance in inspections so that the international community can be assured through those mechanisms that Iraq, at some point if it decides to allow inspections, at some point Iraq would have to use that mechanism to show that it's no longer posing a threat.

Consistent with this resolution we will be lifting holds on a number of articles that were being reviewed under the previous system that shows that we can implement this new system.

I've got a written statement that reviews the passage of the resolution that will be out right after this, but let me go through a little more on the issue of the holds. The new framework in this resolution means there will be a real change in the way the US evaluates contracts under the Oil- for-Food program. A broader range of civilian goods will be approved, and restrictions will focus more tightly on items that the Iraqi regime might find necessary to develop its military capabilities.

We have begun to apply this kind of revised approach to the contracts that were previously placed on hold by the United States. In recent weeks, we have found ourselves able to approve close to $400 million worth of contracts based on our examination of those specific contracts and our discussions with other Council members.

Today, I can announce that we have also decided to release more than 800 million in holds, bringing the total to about $1.2 billion worth of contracts that have been released since the beginning of May.

The releases conform to the basic tenets of the revised policy that we know already enjoys the support of the Security Council, and it is demonstrated in the unanimous vote of the Security Council this morning. The release of these contracts will provide civilian goods for civilians in Iraq. It assists the Iraqi public in their endeavors, without assisting the Iraqi regime in developing weapons.

I think these releases are evidence that the new system can work, and we do anticipate that more contracts will be released. In fact, once the Council has adopted the details of the new arrangements, we will work through the remaining backlog of contracts on hold and decide which ones should be released on the basis of the new approach. The resulting situation should be quite different from that which we have seen in recent years.

The new arrangement envisages an end to the system of placing holds on contracts. Revised procedures would accelerate the review process, and the result will be to expand and to expedite the flow of civilian goods in and out of Iraq.

I think I can stop with that. That is the basic news, and I would be glad to take your questions.

Q: Did you get everything you wanted? Is this essentially what the Secretary has been proposing for months?

MR. BOUCHER: This is the policy that we have been discussing for months, that the Secretary talked about during his first trip to the region, that has been discussed several times within the Administration. The President, as you know, gave him instructions to go on that trip and to explore, and then confirmed the policy direction when we got back and had heard from some of our friends in the region. It is a policy that we have been discussing in the Security Council. It is the direction for policy that we have been discussing broadly with nations around the world.

And I would add, it is a policy that the international community can adopt, when we believe that we have the right framework, and that doesn't depend on Iraqi acquiescence one way or the other.

Q: Can you talk about what more you need to do in terms of the details? I mean, you mentioned that you -- you are talking about the holds now, but what about a system for compensating states that will be foregoing smuggling, border controls, these sorts of things? Where do you need to reach more agreement?

MR. BOUCHER: There are a number of issues that will be worked out in the course of the next 30 days. The primary one is going to be the lists, what is called in the resolution the Controlled Goods List, coming together, and the international community go through the items.

Now, those will principally be based on existing international control mechanisms, the military lists, the nuclear lists, the missile lists that are already accepted in the international community. But I am sure that there will be various views about how to apply them and items to be included, and those will need to be worked out over the month.

Second of all, I think there will be issues of smuggling and accounting -- this question of how we make sure that countries are not harmed by implementing a good policy, a right policy. So we will look to ways to protect economies from possible Iraqi retaliation and we will look for ways to support people in things like checking and preventing smuggling in and out of Iraq.

Q: Weren't we supposed to hear by now what Syria planned to do with regard to its pipeline? Bashar expressed to the Secretary that he intended to take care of this problem, and we haven't heard anything about it since.

MR. BOUCHER: The actual mechanism for putting each of those arrangements under the UN auspices is also one of those elements that have to be worked out as we go forward.

Q: Has there been any progress since we were there?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have anything new to announce at this point. Let's put it that way.

Q: How will the system of placing contracts on hold be replaced if you still have items which are potentially dual-use, for example? How will you deal with those rather than simply putting them on hold while you evaluate them?

MR. BOUCHER: The exact mechanisms will be worked our over the course of this month, along with the list. The basic approach would be, though, to have clearly marked large numbers of items that are okay to go that are civilian goods for civilian use; to clearly know what are the prohibited items, the items that could endanger things through military use; and just to have procedures that will work smoothly to look at everything that needs to be looked at.

Q: Sort of a quicker decision about contracts and --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I think it's a combination of a smaller number of reviews and quicker decisions.

Q: Can you tell us something about the contract that you've lifted the hold on? What exactly does it involve?

MR. BOUCHER: I will, later.

Q: Same question. I mean, because you've just said you lifted $1.4 billion, or 1.2, and I'd like to know if you can tell us -- give us a laundry list, as it were.

MR. BOUCHER: Basically items that, after review, we determined were essentially civilian goods for civilian uses, but I'd have to get some lists to cite you some examples.

Q: At this point, is it fair to say that you have reached an agreement among the P-5 on the approach to streamlining the review of the goods and the accounting, and then you haven't reached an agreement on these other issues such as smuggling and ideas about compensation or protecting economies from retaliation and that sort of thing?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I'd put it that way. I think we have reached agreement in the Council -- unanimous agreement, 15-0 -- on a resolution that provides the direction and the approach for policy towards Iraq, an idea of what we need to control, what needs to flow, how we can provide the goods that the Iraqi people need without providing the weaponry or the materials to make it that the Iraqi regime might want.

Having done that, we have given ourselves 30 days to work out the details of lists and procedures and assistance to frontline states, should that be necessary, support for the inspections and anti-smuggling activities and things like that.

Q: I just want to follow up. You sort of make it sound like those sort of details are not as important as the general direction, but I mean isn't that a lot of the substance of the plan that the US put forward at the UN?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, there is a lot of that work to do, but I think when you set out on a trip knowing where you're going it is perhaps the first and most important thing.

Q: You made a lot of the fact that there was a unanimous vote today, but is it your feeling now that you'll actually be able to get the Russians to come on board with you on sanctions, or do you still think you best you can do is get an extension?

MR. BOUCHER: I believe this resolution was first submitted by the Russians. This particular text was submitted by the Russians. As you know, over the last few days there has been a British resolution, a French resolution, a Russian resolution. Now that we've come together after the Secretary's meetings with foreign ministers in Budapest and the work that was done by our mission in New York, the Russians, I think, actually submitted this.

So having all the members of the Council together on this is an important factor, and I think bodes well for the prospects of working out some of these difficult details.

Q: Iraq has rejected the resolution and also rejected the extension of the Oil-for-Food program. This release of the hold on goods, how effective is it going to be if Iraq doesn't actually use these new holds? I mean, could it become largely symbolic if they're not going to do anything?

MR. BOUCHER: As you know, the holds are on goods that are already contracted, and therefore submitted for approval, so these goods will be delivered to the Iraqi population or whatever civilian use is necessary in Iraq.

Q: I guess when asked the question -- you can ask the question that's been asked before. Given the amount of money in the escrow accounts and the fact that in the past Iraq has not spent the money on the needs of its own people, and in the past Iraq has not even spent the amounts it projected to spend on things like health and welfare for its own people, how do the Iraqi people get what they need? How do they spend that money?

And that is, I guess, a continuing and difficult question, but overall there won't be any impediment from our side -- let's put it that way -- for Iraqi people to get what they need. And any impediments that will come will come from the Iraqi Government.

Q: Richard, this, by all appearances, is a nice diplomatic coup for the Secretary; it stems a lot from his direct personal involvement and the trip in February and in the talks in Budapest this week. Any thought now that this is under wraps that he might apply his diplomatic charm to Israel and Palestine or other issues?

MR. BOUCHER: You want to change the subject? Let's just change the subject. First of all, I don't think it's a matter of charm. I think it's a matter of a lot of effort by a lot of people, including the Secretary of State.

As we told you at the time, and as I mentioned again, this is something the Administration decided right off they had to do. The Secretary went out on that initial exploratory trip with the President's instructions. He came back with the review and got the President's decisions on how to move forward, and since then we've been working very carefully throughout the Administration to try to put in place both this diplomatic vote and then the details that are going to be needed over the next month.

So we're not finished yet, and it is something the Administration has carried forward together, along with a number of other countries and governments, other people who realized that the sanctions, as they existed, were fraying, falling apart; that they needed to be revised; that we needed a policy that really achieved the overall primary objective, the original objective of the sanctions, which was to keep the regime from rebuilding its weapons. And I think now you see that the international community can come together on that and can vow, pledge, to work out a detailed set of policies that will achieve that.

Now, as far as the Middle East goes, we have obviously been active; we have obviously been engaged in the Middle East. The Secretary works on this every day in one way or the other. As we came back from Budapest, the Secretary talked to Prime Minister Sharon, Chairman Arafat. He has been in close touch with Ambassador Burns and our Ambassador in Israel and Consul General in Jerusalem, Ron Schlicher -- Martin Indyk and Ron Schlicher.

So the Secretary has been very active on this. During the course of today already he has talked to Secretary General Kofi Annan about the situation in the Middle East. Yesterday he talked to the Egyptian Foreign Minister, European High Representative Solana. The Middle East is always a part of those conversations. So I would just say that the Secretary's efforts on the Middle East, the Administration's efforts on the Middle East, continue.

Q: Today Israel called for more active US involvement in the crisis. Did they ask you for this directly, or are they just --

MR. BOUCHER: I guess I am not aware of whatever exactly you are talking about. I think we have been active. We continue to be active. And you would have to be a little more specific than that for me to react to any particular activity.

Q: There were a couple of Israeli officials today that specifically called --

MR. BOUCHER: A couple of Israeli officials?

Q: I've got you nervous.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay.

Q: Today is the funeral for Faisal Husseini, and there was a large demonstration obviously, a march I think, in Jerusalem up to the Temple Mount, which was one of the most sensitive topics in the entire clash.

Can you say, from the perspective of the State Department, what impact you think that this has on the decision that inevitably you will be having to make soon regarding the Jerusalem embassy and the waiver for that? I understand this decision has to be made in about two weeks, on June 15th.

MR. BOUCHER: I would have to double-check on that particular decision. I think the --

Q: I mean, I'm just saying that there was a public outcry today, and it was very -- it is obviously, again, a very emotional issue. The numbers are there.

MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware of that specific decision. I have to double- check on that and how it's done and what the factors are that need to be considered.

I think overall, though, that so far the peaceful nature of the events of the funeral for Mr. Husseini shows that, when they are willing, the two sides can cooperate in maintaining calm.

As you know, yesterday we paid tribute to Mr. Husseini, talked about how he had worked for peace. He had worked peacefully to achieve his goals, and provided the calm as maintained. We think that today's events show that the sides can do that, that they can manage to cooperate for the benefit of the people on both sides, and that they can maintain calm by cooperating. And so that has been, as you know, the principal goal of our diplomacy, is to get that kind of security cooperation going, to see it made effective, as it is apparently so far, effective today.

Q: There is a scheduled meeting between Secretary Powell and Shimon Peres on Monday. What do you expect from this meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: My guess is they will talk about the situation in the Middle East.

Q: Something --

MR. BOUCHER: Just a wild guess on my part.

Q: I'm sure they will.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I can go into too much detail. Obviously, they are going to be reviewing the situation. The Secretary will be talking about the steps to implement the Mitchell recommendations in all its aspects, including, first and foremost, how to achieve that unconditional ceasefire. Obviously, we have things to talk about with both sides in that regard and we have been in close touch with them, and this is part of maintaining that contact and continuing those discussions that we have with, in this case, the Israeli Government.

Q: Can we switch to Costa Rica? I just wondered who else the Secretary might be having individual meetings with, and -- I've got a follow-up, too.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a full schedule. A lot of the time -- most of the time, I think -- is spent in Organization of American States activities. He will, I think, have bilateral meetings with some of his hosts, the Costa Ricans. He does have a meeting with Foreign Minister Peres. But I'm not sure how much more than that he will be able to do while he is down there. I don't have a full schedule at this point for you.

Q: Just to follow up on that, the sort of central part of the discussions, I think, concern the charter on democracy. Can you give us your take on that and why you think that implementation of that charger will be good for the region?

MR. BOUCHER: Because I think fundamentally we think that democracy and free enterprise are good for the region, and not only us but the rest of the region believes the same thing. We came together in Quebec at the Summit of the Americas with the chief of states levels with President Bush and his colleagues agreeing that free trade and democracy were the future direction of the hemisphere. They came together with a number of decisions and the action plan on steps that can be implemented to achieve those goals. And this OAS General Assembly meeting is, I think, in that context. One of the places where we can get together with the other countries where we can effectively implement those kinds of decisions and those kinds of goals.

Q: Does this represent something sort of landmark in the history of the OAS to take this step?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll say that on the way back if we get what we want.

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: The important thing is that they are looking at the implementation of the democracy commitment; they're looking at really this hemisphere coming together and not only pledging to do these things but to do these things. And that's what we'll do, and that's what we're looking for in our discussions in Costa Rica.

Q: There have been reports that there may be some street demonstrations, violence a la Quebec, in San Jose.

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, really?

Q: You're not aware of that?

MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't personally aware of that. I'm sure people who need to know know. But it doesn't phase us too much.

Q: South of Costa Rica is Peru. Yesterday I asked if you had an update for us on the reports of increased drug smuggling by air since we had shut down our surveillance operations. Do you?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the quick answer -- actually the whole answer -- is we're looking at the impact but we're not in a position to issue a definitive judgment. We're watching what is going on, but I don't really think I can draw a conclusion that it is or is not because we have stopped the interdiction operations.

Q: What about reports that China has sent thousands of troops to the border and is going to conduct war exercises practicing taking one of the Taiwanese islands, attacking an aircraft carrier, and so on?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the most interesting thing about the reports is that the reports are out. Really, the only aspect of these reports that is noticeably different from what we have seen in the past in previous years is, in fact, the publications in China's state-controlled press of the details of the exercises, including location and the objectives and the equipment to be used.

We do follow the situation in this area very, very closely. We monitor closely at present the situation in the Straits. Chinese military exercises along its coast opposite Taiwan at this time of year are not unusual, and we will continue to follow this situation very closely. But as I pointed out, I think the only thing noteworthy at this point is apparently the effort on the part of the government to publicize some of the details.

Q: Do you draw an inference here?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we'll let you guys do that.

Q: Also on China. An article in The Washington Post by the Secretary himself on the China NTR thing, I think that shows a little certain importance to that issue. Could you comment on that?

MR. BOUCHER: The article published today in The Washington Post by the Secretary shows the importance we attach to the issue. As you know, the President, because the WTO agreement with China has not yet gone into effect, the President, by our law, needed to renew Most Favored Nation status, the Normal Trade Relations, on an annual basis at this time. And the President made that decision, and as we understand, he plans to submit the renewal to the Congress.

If it's not done already, it will be done shortly, and the Secretary thought it best at this stage to really explain the reasons why this is important and why this is part of the overall policy of working with China, of trying to get China to adopt and implement world standards, whether it's on trade or human rights or proliferation or whatever else. So I think the Secretary felt it important on this occasion as we were taking this individual step to talk about the context that it fits in in the overall policy direction that we would like to go in with China, if they're willing.

Q: You mentioned in passing the Secretary's meeting with Kofi Annan. Do you have any more on the meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: Not a whole lot. They covered a number of subjects. It was maybe a half hour or so. They spent most of the time -- all the time, actually -- just one-on-one and left the rest of us standing out in the other room.

But I talked to him afterwards. They went over the Iraq situation. We had just got the news of the vote, I think, while they were in the meeting. They talked about the Middle East situation; talked about some UN business, upcoming conferences like the UN meeting on AIDS, the General Assembly on AIDS that will be later this month, and then a little farther in the future the World Conference Against Racism that the Secretary discussed while he was in Africa; and then obviously the other subjects that came up during his Africa trip -- AIDS, things like that.

So it was a review of a number of issues, I think, because the Secretary General was in Washington at this point. I think you saw him. He gave a major speech. So it was a chance to get together and talk about all these things.

Q: How about the UN Human Rights Commission?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that that came up. It wasn't mentioned by the Secretary.

Q: When Mr. Annan spoke earlier this morning at the Chamber of Commerce, he said that it appeared that the US meetings in the Middle East had not accomplished much, but that the international community was behind the Mitchell Report.

Do you feel that the time is coming quickly when being behind the Mitchell Report is irrelevant, because there is nothing to it? Do you sense that since the parties aren't paying any attention to it that the international community won't be so supportive?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would look at it this way. I think the way we look at it is the Mitchell Report, done by an international group of individuals, eminent persons, is a solid report that has in it the elements that are necessary to achieve a better life for both Israelis and Palestinians.

We have talked all along, since the beginning of the Administration, about the need to restore calm, to establish economic life, return to normal life, and to get back on the path of negotiations. The Mitchell Report provides the steps that are necessary to do that.

So the substance of the Mitchell Report, we think, is very, very solid. The question is, if that is the path we have all talked about all along, how do you achieve that, and how do you achieve especially the unconditional ceasefire that it needs to start with.

So I believe having the international community behind it, having the US efforts behind it, having the UN efforts behind it and others, is important. I don't think that the steps that are necessary to achieve that will change that much. It is quite clear what the parties have to do, and it is in all our interests to encourage them to do it.

Q: But when even he says that these meetings aren't accomplishing much, how much longer do we consider it an intensified effort when there is nothing coming of it?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have always said that our interests in the Middle East are such that we will continue our efforts. It is in our interests to see peace restored, to see calm in the Middle East, and we will continue our efforts one way or the other. Even this week, Ambassador Burns has his meetings. The Secretary has been in touch with the parties. Ambassador Indyk and Consul General Schlicher are continuing their meetings.

So the United States has been active and will remain to be active. We find this very much in US interests.

Q: I don't think anyone is disputing that it is a solid document and a fine report, but it basically brings together a lot of ideas that we have heard before and a lot of things that the United States and the rest of the international community have urged the parties to do since the violence began.

So what is it about this particular report? Is it the fact that it was an independent commission that said exactly what the rest of the international community was doing all along? And what is it about bringing it all together that is supposed to make the parties all of a sudden decide that they should follow this? We have been -- everyone has been pushing the parties to do this for a really long time.

MR. BOUCHER: I suppose if you reduce it to its essentials, it does embody the simple idea that if you want to make peace you have got to stop shooting each other. But it goes beyond that, and it does -- as I said, it was an international group of people that put it together, distinguished individuals. It puts together a series of steps, a way of implementing this plan and all its aspects. It calls for -- it talks about sequencing of those steps.

Obviously it doesn't answer everything in terms of timelines and other things that need to be discussed, but it puts together a series of proposals on how this can be done, starting with the unconditional ceasefire and then moving on the other elements that need to be accomplished.

So at this point, it is certainly the best exposition of those ideas, the best explanation of how this can be accomplished, and comes with a lot of thought from an eminent group of people.

Q: Will Ambassador Burns be attending the meeting on Monday with Foreign Minister Peres?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. He gets back to Washington over this weekend, and I haven't heard that he is going to be back soon enough to go to Costa Rica with us.

Q: Just on the Mitchell Report, why has the State Department, though, not gone as far as the Report in terms of the settlements, and call for simply the just unconditional sort of just ceasing of the building or expanding of settlements, whereas it appears that the US position -- though it is sometimes hard to figure out -- is that it is something that could be brought up once violence was reduced in security talks, once we started the cooperation, that this issue of settlements would be kind of pushed aside until there was a solid commitment from both sides to begin security cooperation?

MR. BOUCHER: I would stay with the characterizations of our view on settlements that we have given in the past. I think we have expressed ourselves clearly. And with regard to the Mitchell Report, we have always -- and we have said consistently -- we want to see it implemented in all its aspects.

Q: I have a question on Japan. It is reported that the Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka expressed a concern about US missile defense in talks with foreign ministers of several countries, like Italy, Austria -- Australia, sorry.

What is your reaction to that?

MR. BOUCHER: I know it has been reported, but at this point there are sort of reports of unconfirmed private remarks, and so there is nothing very solid that I could respond to or try to comment on.

I would say that we have been in close consultations with the Japanese Government about missile defense and strategic stability issues, and we found those to be very useful consultations. We will continue talking to the Japanese about these issues, as we talk with other friends and allies.

Q: There are reports around that there is going to be a major shakeup of diplomatic appointments in Latin America, and this is the second major conference that Mr. Powell is going to without a man in place as head of the -- well, in this case, the OAS; in the other case it was the Western Hemisphere relations.

Can you tell us anything about anything that is afoot? Is there going to be any change soon?

MR. BOUCHER: Can I tell you anything about anything that might produce any change? That's a tough one, but I think the answer is no. But I am tempted.

As you know, the White House makes personnel announcements. They have made a few for the area of Latin America. I am sure they will make others. But at this point, I can't try to specify any particular individuals or timing or what is likely to come in the near future. So I really just have to leave it to them.

Q: But that can be women, too?

MR. BOUCHER: Men and women. I didn't say both?

Q: You said only men.

MR. BOUCHER: I said qualified individuals. Well qualified individuals.

Q: You said that Ambassador Lauredo is not going to Costa Rica some time ago. Is that still the case? As far as I know, he is still on the job.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I will have to double-check. I haven't seen the exact list yet.

Q: Well, can I follow up on that, on the question about that?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Follow up on that question about that.

Q: I'll just -- I will follow up on this question. Has the State Department been in communication at all with Senator Biden's office, or the Democratic staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, regarding any of these appointments, particularly Otto Reich?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what comments or communication we might have had on particular appointments. I would say that we have been in touch with Senator Biden's office all along. We have always tried to work with members on both sides of the aisle, and key members of the committees that we deal with.

So I am sure that we have been in continuing contact with Senator Biden and other Senators up there. We are not going to stop working with one and start working with the other. We have always been working with both sides, and we will continue to do that.

Q: Different subject. Can you explain, please, why the State Department, or maybe it's the INS, feels it necessary to charge $1,000 for a visa in order to expedite some of these work visas? You all have been getting a lot of bad press lately about that.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, you all have been writing a lot of bad press lately, too, I think, but let's be precise about what's going on. This is a matter, actually, for the Immigration Service, but I am happy to explain it to you, since they are our comrades and colleagues.

The Immigration and Naturalization Services have instituted new procedures that would be relating to the petitions that need to be approved for then the subsequent issuance of visas by the State Department or at our posts overseas. The direct detailed procedures kind of questions you can ask of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, but we would note a couple of things about them.

First, they are voluntary. You can do this or not do this if you want to. It doesn't impact the processing time of the visa application at our embassies and consulates abroad. So it is a procedure to get expedited review of the petition, which was the longest part of any of these applications, because it involves a lot of study and work in the United States.

But once that is approved, our embassies get notified and we will take care of people in the same amount of time, whether the petition was done on an expedited basis or not. And it doesn't change the countries and the categories of visas and visa fees that are charged overseas, which depend on reciprocity and processing and things like that.

So it is really an Immigration Service question about the petitions. It doesn't affect the speed with which we try to handle the actual visa application.

Q: But you are offering to allow businesses and individuals, I presume, to pay $1,000 fee to expedite temporary work visas, is my understanding. I mean, that then puts them in a whole different category because other people seeking visas can't expedite in the same way.

MR. BOUCHER: I guess there is a difference between the petition and the visas -- this is a two-part process, with a petition. The person who wants to get an employee from abroad files a petition with the Immigration Service and says, I need to hire this person, because I can't get the skills or the kind of person, or whatever, in the United States. And then there is a certain investigation and look at the US labor market, at the situation, that needs to be done domestically by the Immigration Service.

Once they have said, yes, we agree, you can hire this person, then that gets sent out to our embassy, then the person comes into our embassy. That whole process at the embassy is just as fast.

Now, if an employer needs somebody in six weeks, they might go through this procedure. If they need somebody in a year or however many months it normally takes, they might just follow the regular track. It gives them the option of how they want to do this.

Once it gets to the embassy, and we know that Immigration has approved the petition, we can go ahead and do the visa in a fairly quick and normal time, without any additional expediting. So, however the petition is approved, everybody who comes in for their visa will get the same fair and quick and, we hope, courteous treatment.

Q: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. [End]

Released on June 1, 2001


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