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4 mars 2004

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QUESTION : A different subject. On Haiti, the Deputy Secretary —

QUESTION : I have another question, just follow up. There is also arrest in Yemen today. A few al-Qaida people being arrested. If you have more details about that and if you — if this part of the cooperation between the U.S. and the Yemeni authority, considering the Yemeni Foreign Minister was here recently.

MR. BOUCHER : I think all I can say is in a general sense about these sorts of reports. First of all, we leave it to the country concerned to identify, report on and announce any statements about people they might have arrested.

Second, Egypt and Yemen are both good partners in the fight against terrorism. We work very closely with them, cooperate in terrorism. We train together, we work together, we share information together. So it’s always good to see when they do make progress, in terms of fighting terrorism.

But as far as the confirmation of specific individuals or more details on specific individuals, who may have been arrested or may not have been arrested, I really can’t do that from here.

All right. Where were we ? Sir. Haiti.

QUESTION : A couple of questions, yeah, on Haiti. The Deputy Secretary met with a couple of South African ministers this morning. Can you tell us whether that was about Haiti, and specifically, about Mr. Aristide’s status ? And, if so, what was said ?

MR. BOUCHER : First, the meetings were about South Africa. After the Deputy Secretary’s meeting, they were having meetings in the Africa Bureau, and those meetings were still going on as I came out here. So I don’t have a readout yet. We’ll see if there is anything to say later about whether the subject of Mr. Aristide came up or not. But those kind of questions are for the South African Government to decide.

QUESTION : Just as an addition to that, does the U.S. share the South African Government’s view that there should be some kind of UN-overseen investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Aristide’s departure from the country ?

MR. BOUCHER : I don’t think I remember seeing the South African Government state that, but —

QUESTION : Just before, just before the briefing.

MR. BOUCHER : Just before, so —

QUESTION : They’re backing the call.

MR. BOUCHER : You guys are reading the wires right up to the last minute. All right, well.

QUESTION : In general terms, is it something —

MR. BOUCHER : All right. Let’s deal with the proposition, because the proposition was also stated yesterday, I think, by the CARICOM leaders in their statement. And as you know, it’s come up in Congress in some of the lively discussions that we’ve had up there in recent days.

I think, simply put, the U.S. view is that it’s time to look forward. It’s time to focus on what we can all do for the people of Haiti. I think there are many who understand the record of — the unfortunate record of the period when Haiti was in — well, when Haiti — when Mr. Aristide was President of Haiti. I think we’ve all seen the deterioration of the climate in Haiti over the years. We’ve seen the increase in violence over the years, seen the increased polarization of Haitian society.

So I think we have to recognize that how we came to this point had a lot to do with the way Haiti was governed over the years. There was no kidnapping, there was no coup, there were no threats. We sat down carefully with Mr. Aristide and analyzed the situation with him. We kept in close touch with him. We tried repeatedly, not just with the CARICOM plan, but in many attempts over the years, to try to get him to accept ways forward that would help unify the country and give it fair and stable rule. Sometimes he accepted, but we never saw the implementation.

There was, as I think we know, an 11th hour appeal by Mr. Aristide for some international intervention, but I think we made clear from the start that we weren’t prepared to do that, that the idea of putting American life and limb again on the line for Mr. Aristide in these circumstances was not going to happen, and we had to make that clear to him.

So, as this whole thing materialized, from a whole variety of factors, I have to say I think the U.S. role was clear. There’s nothing to investigate and we certainly don’t encourage, believe there’s any need for any investigation ; and that now that we are where we are, the focus needs to be on moving forward, the focus needs to be on what, in fact, the CARICOM leaders got to in their statement yesterday, and that’s bringing democratic structure to Haiti, to its institutions.

That’s moving forward in a constitutional manner in Haiti with the help of the international community give the Haitian people a democratic government and to give them stability and security in their country, and to help with rebuilding the economy and civil society. That’s what the CARICOM leaders ended up focusing on in their statement at the end, and that’s what we think the international community needs to focus on at well.

QUESTION : Richard, there are — obviously, there are some Congressmen that, you know, believe that he was kidnapped or whatever —

QUESTION : Congresspeople.

QUESTION : Congresspeople. But there are others that say while, you know, even if the U.S. kind of, you know, it wasn’t a kidnapping or anything like that, that the implications for democracy are grave because if the U.S. — even if a democratically elected leader — even if the U.S. doesn’t like a democratically elected leader, feels as if they’re not, you know, governing well, that they’re still, you know, kind of advocating that person stepping down.

So, you know, can you answer the charges that the U.S., kind of, if they don’t like a leader, even if they’re democratically elected, is still going to maintain that that leader should be able to stay in office ?

MR. BOUCHER : Well, let’s — first of all, let’s examine some of the premise, the premise being that the United States advocated his stepping down. We did not advocate his stepping down. We made clear we were not going to intervene to prevent him from stepping down. But we did not go to him and say, you know, political failure to govern or other sins, crimes, activities, you need to leave. It’s time.

We said, here is the security situation. We discussed the security situation with him and made clear we’re not in a position to intervene to save him. We ended up rescuing him by taking him out of the country in the face of almost certain violence. So that’s one thing that needs to be remembered.

The second thing that needs to be remembered is the — I guess it’s the opposite, the other side of the coin, the other side of the proposition. If every time the United States believed in democracy, believed in democratic leaders, recognized that a leader had been elected, we were then required to intervene militarily with American treasure and blood to save a leader at any point in his tenure, who might have misgoverned, who might have created more violence, who might have mismanaged his entire mandate, I don’t think that’s something the American Government, the American people would want, nor do I think it’s ultimately good for democracy in the hemisphere.

People who are elected have a responsibility to their voters. Granted, none of us like to see violence. It has a humanitarian cost ; it has a political cost as well. But I think we were steadfast in opposing the violence and saying that we would act against the violence when we could, but that we can’t be called upon, expected or required to intervene every time there’s violence against a failed leader, because we can’t spend our time running around the world or the hemisphere saving people who had botched their chance at leadership.

QUESTION : (Inaudible) time that Secretary Powell reached the conclusion that Aristide had to go ?

MR. BOUCHER : I mean, it became obvious to us at some point, but we were very careful in how we talked about this with him and with the public to make sure that we were not calling for his ouster, that we were not trying to —

QUESTION : (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER : — that we were not calling for his ouster, we were not calling for his departure, we were not calling for the violent to — violence elements to win. We kept pushing very hard for acceptance by both sides of a plan that could save the situation in a democratic and peaceful manner.

QUESTION : A spokesman from Steele security, the security service that provided security for Aristide, I guess composed of former U.S. special forces and so on, said that actual — that American forces hindered their effort to protect Aristide. And another spokesman says no*, we were working very closely with the American forces.

Could you shed some light on the connection between Steele Security and U.S. forces ?

MR. BOUCHER : As with any protection service detail, whether it’s hired or local, the United States often cooperates very, very closely in circumstances of violence and danger. We share information. We talk security people-to-security people. That’s what we did with the Steele folks. I think they, too, have come out and said that there was no coercion, there was no pressure, that they were with Aristide not only all the way from the house to the airport but all the way to Africa as his protective detail.

There are also these stories somehow running around that we had turned down an augmentation in the size of his protective detail. Those stories are not true. We never got any such request that we would have to approve, and, in fact, we probably would have approved it if such a request had come.

So, you know, that’s where we are on this. I know there are a lot of stories floating around, but let’s not forget the basic circumstance. We had a situation that developed because of years of polarization and division and support for militias who then turned against Mr. Aristide. And in all this fighting, a lot of the violence was perpetrated by people who had been formerly supported by Mr. Aristide or who were currently supported by Mr. Aristide.

So you ended up with clashes of — that I think one has to recognize he was, to a great extent, responsible for. And in those circumstances, we did make clear we’re not going to intervene to save him, but if he wanted to depart for reasons of his own personal safety, the safety of his family, and, as he said it to us that night itself, for the purpose of preventing further violence, that we would help him depart. And that’s what we did.

Okay.

QUESTION : Can I just follow up on that ?

MR. BOUCHER : Yeah.

QUESTION : There were some reports, denied reports, that basically the U.S. has made a phone call to Aristide, whatever level it was, saying that if you don’t leave, it’s going to be a bloodbath in Port-au-Prince. And he asked how many and you give him a number, et cetera. So, implicitly, you’re putting pressure on him to leave. I mean, do you think that that didn’t happen at all ?

MR. BOUCHER : I don’t know of a phone call like that. Maybe that was — well, that was part of the conversation. He came to us Saturday evening and said — asked a couple questions about property for himself, property for ministers, and whether he could choose his destination. But he also discussed with us, with our embassy people over the course of the evening, what was the best thing to do. What was the best thing to do for the sake, as he put it, of ending further bloodshed ? And that was the context for all our discussions.

And so I think our people were quite clear that the violence was getting out of control, that it was certain that if he remained in Port-au-Prince that there would be more and more violence, there would be further loss of life, and that we were not in a position to come in and protect him personally or to intervene on his behalf, on his side in the violence.

So at that point, you know, he had a decision to make. But he always put it to us in terms of, at least that evening, in, « What can I do ? What’s the best thing for me to do in terms of stopping the violence ? » And we gave him our best analysis of the situation. Ultimately, we answered the few questions that he had. He kept in touch with us. He said he wanted to talk to his family, and he came back to us and said, « Okay, I’ve decided I’m going to go. » It was his decision. It was a voluntary decision on his part.

QUESTION : If memory serves, though, the United States has generally, especially in this hemisphere, had a policy of opposing the violent overthrow of democracies, and it’s certainly had a history of that in Central America over many decades.

Is this a new factor in what has been a doctrine that a decision has to be made about whether or not the democratically elected government that’s being overthrown had misruled, in the judgment of Washington ?

MR. BOUCHER : No, I don’t think I was pronouncing a new doctrine. I was trying to describe the specific circumstances that occurred in Haiti.

As far as new doctrines or academic treatises on democracy in the hemisphere, I think I’ll leave that to others. But we — we are very strong supporters, have been very strong supporters, of the Democratic Charter.

I think we all remember that we signed that, the nations of the hemisphere signed the Democratic Charter, on September 11, 2001. It was the day of the Twin Towers. It was very important for us to do that that day, even without knowing what happened ; what was — you know, without knowing who was responsible for what happened, because we felt it was important for the nations of the hemisphere to pull together and to support each other’s democratic values and support each other’s democracies.

So we have, I think, acted in many ways throughout the hemisphere to support democracy, to further the cause of democracy. We’ve stood up for threats to democracy in Venezuela, whatever side they might be coming from.

We have supported OAS efforts around the hemisphere in Haiti, in Peru and in other places to try to work on the furtherance and stability of democracy. So there’s no kind of new doctrine here. But to do the opposite — to say that we had to intervene to save every government in every country in the hemisphere — that would be a new doctrine, and I’m not prepared to do that today.

Okay.

QUESTION : Yeah, on China.

QUESTION : Oh, still — I have (inaudible).

MR. BOUCHER : Nicholas.

QUESTION : Yeah, Richard, obviously there are still some concerns among the CARICOM leaders about what happened over the weekend, and you actually want these people to be able to work with them in the future as you go through the democratic process.

How are you going to overcome some of these suspicions that those leaders still have about what actually happened ?

MR. BOUCHER : I think the answer is we will work with them. We’ll keep working with them, with the other countries, the Friends of Haiti. I think there are even meetings going on today with the various people who’ve been involved in trying to help Haiti over some period of time, including the CARICOM governments.

They said in their statement that they agreed to participate in a follow-on stabilization force, in efforts to provide humanitarian assistance, the rebuilding of the economy and civil society, and the reconstitution of democratic structures, processes and institutions of the country.

So while they’re not looking to participate right now, those are all things that we would hope to work with them on. I think they’re going to have further meetings themselves. And as I said, they are talking and working with the international community, as we look forward in Haiti to how we can all help the Haitians reestablish, maintain and build on their democracy in the current circumstance.

QUESTION : Can I ask —

QUESTION : Well, do you have anything on the Secretary and the Prime Minister ?

MR. BOUCHER : The political process is moving forward. I’d say, overall, let’s remember, the security situations continue to improve ; things have calmed down. The United States, France, Canada have troops — had troops already there. I understand Chileans are starting to arrive today.

Commercial air carriers, we understand, will return to Haiti this week. So, you know, things are calming down a bit, and we hope will calm down completely, as our presence and our effort, along with these other nations, as well as a resolution of the political situation, helps to stabilize the situation.

Politically, the Tripartite Council has been named : Leslie Voltaire is there for the Haitian Government ; Paul Denis is there for the opposition and the civil society ; and as I mentioned yesterday, the UN Development Program representative, Adamo Guindo, is there for the international community.

So they have begun the work of naming a council of eminent persons, who will then nominate a new Prime Minister and name the members of the new government. So that process that was outlined in the CARICOM plan is proceeding and we’ll keep it — look to them to keep it moving on a smooth basis, as quickly as possible.

Okay. Nicholas.

QUESTION : Just one quick one. As far as I remember, on Saturday, Guy Philippe said that he’s going to hold on to attacking the capital for another couple of days because he saw Ambassador Foley’s statement on the website. Was there any contact with any of his rebels or him on Saturday, at any point ?

MR. BOUCHER : There was contact with him, I think, starting on Friday, midday, or later in the day. I don’t know if there was direct contact on Saturday or not. But, principally, the message that we have conveying was that he needed to stop the violence, certainly needed to hold off on trying to move people into Port-au-Prince, and it was important for all people to spare Haiti from any further loss of life.

As you know, I think he announced yesterday that his group would be laying down their arms and returning to their homes. So we — that’s certainly the right thing to do, and something that we have worked to bring about as well.

QUESTION : So he didn’t know what was in the works until Mr. Aristide was out of the country ?

MR. BOUCHER : I don’t know —

QUESTION : As far as you know ?

MR. BOUCHER : No reason why he should have. I don’t think anybody knew what was in the works until Mr. Aristide made his decision late Saturday night.

QUESTION : Are you prepared to work with him despite — I mean, his past, notwithstanding ?

MR. BOUCHER : We have said these people have no political role, said that yesterday and the day before. The gangs that were the (inaudible) of this violence need to lay down their arms and go home. I think the only thing good that can be said is that, apparently, yesterday they accepted the need to do that.

Okay. Are we still on Haiti anywhere ?

QUESTION : Still.

MR. BOUCHER : Still Haiti.

QUESTION : Just could you elaborate on this meeting of the — on the Haiti international meeting on Haiti that you have just mentioned ? Where is this taking place ?

MR. BOUCHER : I don’t have more details for you, so I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it. But I’ll see if I can get some after it happens.

Okay. Sir.

QUESTION : Is it your understanding that a formal request for former President Aristide to go to South Africa has been made ? Because that’s been Pretoria’s position, that they have not yet received a formal request. Is that your understanding ?

MR. BOUCHER : That would have to come from him. I’m not his spokesman, so you’ll have to find out some other way. Sorry.

Ma’am.

QUESTION : Hong Kong —

MR. BOUCHER : Can we finish with Haiti first ? Are we done with Haiti ?

Okay. In that case, the lady’s going to go —

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