|Tuesday, 8 September 2009|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-10-01
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 1, 2001
MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here on a Monday. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I will be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: How can you not have any statements or announcements to make, when you came out here on Friday to announce your grand drive to get everyone who signed up for the Foreign Service exam to take it? Does this mean that there is bad news on that front, that --
MR. BOUCHER: No, it means that I don't have the numbers yet. We will get you numbers on that as soon as we can. I didn't see any over the weekend yet. But I am sure there was a record turnout.
QUESTION: Could you bring us up to date on the status of relief for Afghan refugees, beyond what you said the other day?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a great deal of work going on inside the administration to make sure that we can deal with the needs of the people of Afghanistan, whether they are inside Afghanistan or forced to leave their country. As we know, there is great hardship that has already been suffered out there through drought, with the onset of winter, and through the actions of the government in cutting off the ability of relief agencies to supply food to the Afghan people.
We are looking at the totality of humanitarian assistance needs for Afghanistan and for the neighboring countries. The most urgent need appears to be to deliver food inside Afghanistan where millions of people are suffering. And so the United States will provide additional food aid.
We are pleased by the report that the World Food Program has begun an effort on Saturday to truck 200 tons of wheat from Pakistan to Kabul, so they are looking for ways, as I think I mentioned, of trying to get food in, managing in some cases to get food into Afghanistan, despite the difficulties that have been created by the Taliban shutting down the distribution system.
As you know, September 27, last Thursday, the United Nations launched an appeal for assistance for Afghanistan and neighboring countries that includes contingency plans for up to 1.5 million refugees. At this point, the number of new refugees arriving at the borders of Pakistan are estimated to be about 30,000 people.
We will respond to this appeal. We will respond to the higher number of refugees that are anticipated, and the other needs that we see inside Afghanistan, particularly with the onset of winter. We are pleased that other nations have also announced their intentions to contribute generously to the humanitarian response. We have had excellent meetings last week in Berlin with the other donors, and we look forward to getting together again in Geneva on Friday, I think, to go over the specific amounts and quantities that we can provide in more detail.
QUESTION: Is the money that the White House announced, is that part of this, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the White House actually announced any money. There are numbers bandied about. There are different programs that are being looked at. But I don't have any total figures for you yet.
QUESTION: Anything on the trial of the detainees?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me bring you up to date on what's going on with the detainees. The Pakistani lawyer that was selected by the Shelter Now International detainees met with all of them on Saturday, September 29th. He has told US officials that they are well and that they were glad to see him. He also delivered a package of food, personal items, medicine and money for the detainees. And then on Saturday he also met with Taliban officials, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Consular Chief, the supreme court justice and some of the judges who will participate in the trial.
On Sunday, he further reported the Taliban court has convened, and the chief justice read the charges against the detainees. The detainees on Sunday remained in good health and spirits. I don't have details for you at this point of the charges or the potential penalties involved.
The lawyer has told us he will keep family members and the US Embassy informed as to the progress of the case. The parents of the American detainees remain in Islamabad, and they are in close touch with our embassy.
QUESTION: Well, that would include the -- there's a British journalist now, isn't there? Is she included in this operation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure. But I don't think so. I think this trial has to do with the people associated with that one organization.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea approximately how long this process might take?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't. We have very little information at this point on the trial and the procedures or the charges that are to be followed, given that the lawyer is in Kabul. We are in touch with him, but not in any great detail. So we don't have that kind of information. We'll see if he has it at some point when he is able to share with us what he understands of the situation.
QUESTION: Richard, just to follow up, it seems a little curious to me that you would be able to hear from the lawyer that they are okay and that he delivered packages, but that he didn't tell you what the charges were.
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, Charlie, there are difficulties in communications. He is not necessarily able to read the whole thing and report on it over the telephone when he talks to us. So I think we just have to leave it to him to handle the interests of his clients as best he can.
We have continued to make clear, as the President made clear the other day, that the Taliban need to release all the detainees, all the foreign nationals, including American citizens, that they hold.
QUESTION: Can I move on to a new subject? Would you care to respond to some of the critics who are -- those critics who are suggesting that the United States is ignoring human rights concerns, particularly in Uzbekistan, in its efforts to build this coalition?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose the best way to say it is that it's not true. The United States has stood for human rights. The United States has found that this kind of terrorism is an assault on the human rights of everybody and needs to be fought. But, clearly, human rights is part of the solution to the problem of terrorism and, therefore, we have continued to work with governments and urged governments and will continue to work with governments based on our fundamental commitments to human rights. Our fundamental commitment is democracy, to the development of market economies, and the campaign against terrorism is consistent with those goals.
We have made the case in Central Asia and elsewhere that a recognition of a legitimate right of believers in Islam is an important part of separating the people who would use violence and use the religion as a pretext or pervert the religion into some kind of weird justification. You have to separate those people from the believers who go about their ordinary business in a peaceful manner, and that remains an important aspect of policy, as we see it.
QUESTION: In that context, then, would it be helpful if the Uzbek Government were to stop targeting for arrest and so on?
MR. BOUCHER: We think it would be helpful if all governments expressed a greater appreciation and support for human rights and we will continue to urge that on all governments.
QUESTION: Isn't what they are doing now and what they were doing before when the former Secretary of State, Mrs. Albright, went to Uzbekistan and complained about them jailing scores of Muslims, isn't that exactly what is happening in this country right now?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: It's not?
MR. BOUCHER: No. That is the simplest answer. No.
QUESTION: So conditions in Uzbekistan have improved since then?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I would claim that. I don't know that I would claim that. But, Matt, your characterization of what is going on in the United States as being comparable to what is going on in Uzbekistan, I don't accept.
QUESTION: Well, there are 500 people who are now being -- more than 500 people now detained -- I mean, for ostensibly similar reasons that President Karimov was locking people up in Uzbekistan.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think you will find that to be the case.
QUESTION: I just want to clarify. In our diplomatic discussions with these governments in general -- and I know you haven't gone into it -- is there a human rights element and can you talk about that? Is that part of our negotiations or discussions regarding what they can do to cooperate in terms of cracking down on terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: We have a great many conversations with a great many governments about cooperation against terrorism and about other issues that are important to us. I can't tell you that human rights is mentioned in every conversation with every person, whether they have anything to do with human rights or not. But I can tell you that we have been in close touch with the governments in Central Asia and elsewhere, and we have maintained a consistent stance vis-à-vis human rights, and we have not dropped it in any way from our agenda.
QUESTION: And have you asked the Yemeni Government to slow down a little?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we're in touch with various governments around the world. I'm not able to give a definition for each government of what we have asked them to do or not asked them to do.
QUESTION: Now that Mr. Bolton is back from his trip, what can you tell us about the Uzbeks and what they are willing to provide, or was the trip in any way successful or unsuccessful?
MR. BOUCHER: I can tell you that Mr. Bolton is back in Washington. I can tell you that we're in touch with all the governments of Central Asia and we have been very pleased with how forthcoming they have been, in terms of their support. But as far as region, including Uzbekistan and Russia.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: And Russia. He was in Russia as well.
QUESTION: In terms of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and a few other countries, you haven't detailed what they have given or promised to give, but you have said a particular country is cooperating with the coalition. Can you say the same about Uzbekistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say about any country in the region that we're pleased with the cooperation we've gotten.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on Bolton just for a second? Did he meet with Mr. Mamedov in Moscow, and did any of those conversations have anything to do with missile defense?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the US statements over the weekend by Saudi officials that military cooperation would be restricted?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, without trying to go into specific details of individual governments, it is clear to us that we have had a lot of cooperation with the Saudi Government, that we are pleased with the cooperation between the United States and the Saudis, that our cooperation with the Saudis and the Gulf States has been excellent. So we've welcomed the cooperation with the Saudi Government, and we expect to continue to cooperate with them.
QUESTION: Can you just confirm that it was only Uzbekistan and Russia that he went to?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I can do that, but I'll check.
QUESTION: That was my question.
MR. BOUCHER: Same question.
QUESTION: The State Department has released, or published a list about terror organizations, one of them being the Gama’a al-Islamiyya. Could you tell me, is there any indication that this group is operating from Austria, apart from other countries? And if there is, could you give me any details on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not able to go into much detail on the groups that were on the lists, and I frankly don't know which countries they operate in. I think the local authorities in these countries would be the ones to check and find out.
QUESTION: If I could just go back to Saudi Arabia, you say that the US is pleased and the cooperation has been excellent. Then how do you read what the defense minister said when he said point blank that the US would not be allowed to fly missions out of Prince Sultan?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to explain foreign government statements. I would say -- give you our characterization of the situation.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? I'm sorry, but are you concerned at all that you're getting mixed messages from different segments of the Saudi Royal Family?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have clear communications with the Saudi Government, and I'm just going to leave it at that.
QUESTION: They're not really speaking with one voice.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to characterize other governments' statements. I will leave other governments to do that.
QUESTION: Perhaps you will be able to answer this one, as it involves the US Government. Over the weekend in Rome, there was a meeting between people from the Hill and the former King of Afghanistan.
MR. BOUCHER: I could plead separation of powers --
QUESTION: Exactly. I was wondering, was there someone from this building there, Mr. Pope, perhaps? And what's the latest status of your conversations with the King and with the other Northern Alliance folks and others, the wide range of Afghans that you're talking to?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure. The meeting was principally the one of US congressmen. Frequently, our embassy might have somebody that goes along. But our Chargé met, as you know, last week on September 25th, with the King to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. There was a group of congressmen that met in Rome with former King Zahir Shah, and with Afghan opposition leaders from other groups as well.
As you know, we have had longstanding contacts with Afghan individuals and leaders of significant factions, including regular contacts with the former King and other groups. And we continue to work with all of them on the situation in Afghanistan, as well as with the UN Special Representative, Mr. Vendrell, who has been leading this effort for quite a while on how to help reach a political settlement in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Just to reiterate, do you support the King's idea of convening this -- I can't pronounce it, the Loya Girga? Do you think that's a good idea?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what we would say is we believe, and have always believed, that Afghanistan needs a broad-based government that is representative of the Afghan people. I just leave it at that.
QUESTION: But, I mean, so you don't think that the specific idea has merit?
MR. BOUCHER: It is not for us to come up with specific ideas or --
QUESTION: No, no, I didn't --
MR. BOUCHER: -- try to design a future government of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: I realize that. But it's not your idea; it was his idea. Do you think it's a good one?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it is up to the Afghan people to decide how they go about this.
QUESTION: This government since the attack has been working very hard to build this coalition, this worldwide coalition against terrorism. And you seem to have been successful in including most countries in the world. How would you describe the phase that this building is now entering in, in trying to manage this coalition and this crisis?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at the record of what we have done since September 11th, we spent a great deal of time working with other governments to get their commitment and to get their pledge and to get their decisions in international organizations for support. We have had statements by some 47 multilateral organizations. We have had UN resolutions and UN Security Council resolutions.
Over the last week or two, we have worked to make that more and more specific. We managed to see steps in a number of countries on the law enforcement side, on the intelligence side, on the terms of offering facilities or opportunities to cooperate in other areas as well.
Late last week, we had some success in getting a UN resolution that commits all governments, that makes it a requirement for all governments to institute financial controls. And so this week, we are going out more and more with other governments, looking to implement the commitments that we've seen, looking to follow up on those decisions in multilateral organizations, and particularly this one at the United Nations, so that governments do increasingly implement the decisions that we have made. And we will be talking through our embassies around the world with all the governments in the world.
We have seen much cooperation with many countries already. And, in fact, we have seen financial steps taken in the Persian Gulf, in Europe, in the Caribbean, in places all around the world to try to seize the assets and stop the financial flows associated with terrorist groups.
We continue to take the general pledges and commitments and turn them into specific actions that governments can take, whether they be in a whole variety of areas, diplomatic steps: we have seen the closing of the Taliban offices. Financial steps: we have seen the seizure of assets and the issuance of new regulations. Law enforcement steps: we have seen arrests in Europe and elsewhere. Intelligence sharing, information sharing with a great variety of governments. So we are moving to take those pledges and turn them into specific steps.
QUESTION: When you have all of these steps right now, are you focusing primarily on Usama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network, or all of the FTOs, all the organizations that are considered terrorist groups by the United States? And can you define what is a terrorist group, when you talk about this new war on terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we use the definition in Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d). (Laughter.) That is what it says in the excerpts to our Patterns of Global Terrorism Report. I think that is the best explanation we can give you of how we define international terrorism. On your -- that was just too good; I had to answer the second part first.
On the first part of your question, remind me what it was.
QUESTION: What are the measures that all these countries and all these international organizations are undertaking? Are they primarily Usama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network, or any terrorist group within their country?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess there are two things to say about that. The first is we have made clear to all the governments involved that when we sign up for the fight against terrorism, and we agree and make commitments to fight terrorism, we mean all terrorism. And the President has made quite clear that this is a commitment that we expect to pursue for a long time to come.
But the President has also made clear in his speech we begin with the al- Qaida organization, and most of these steps -- many of these steps -- that people are taking right now are specifically targeted on the al-Qaida. The financial measures that we announced, that the President announced last week, were designed to identify a certain number of groups that were supporting al-Qaida financially. Many of the steps that other governments have taken in terms of the seizure of assets have been specifically focused on that organization.
But clearly, the commitment that is sought, the commitment -- the obligation that is in the UN resolution last Friday, for example, applies to all terrorism, and that's where we intend to take this fight.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the appointment of the General Zinni, and what particular skills or views does he bring to this, which the Secretary finds useful and attractive?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't tell you very much at this point. He's on the books now as an unpaid, part-time consultant to Assistant Secretary Burns in the Near East Bureau, and we'll offer more on definition of duty and announcement when we can.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? Does the Secretary share his views on the Iraqi opposition?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I haven't defined his responsibilities, so it's not time to discuss his views on any particular aspect.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm a bit confused, and I think people in Central Asia and Afghanistan might be as well, because you consistently say that you will support a broad-based government in Afghanistan, and obviously the Taliban is not one. But at the same time you don't want to comment to even say whether you think it's a good idea -- the King's ideas are a good idea or not, or say if you think that anyone else's idea is a good idea.
So what is your message? What are you trying to tell the people of Afghanistan? That we think you should have a broad-based government, but we're not prepared to say whether we think how you're about to go -- how you're going to go about to do it is correct or good?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our message is the one that we've given you abundantly and numerous times, which I'm happy to offer again. And that is that it's not for us to design the future Afghan government. It's not for us to decide how it will be found. We have been talking to all the factions, we have been talking to all the parties. We certainly believe in an inclusive process. This Loya Girga is one way of doing that. But we're not picking the government or picking the process.
What we do know is that the Taliban is not a representative government, that the Taliban has betrayed the interests of the Afghan people in many different ways, including by allowing foreign terrorists to operate freely in Afghanistan, and that the Afghan people deserve a better government.
QUESTION: Well, by just telling them that they deserve a better government doesn't -- I mean, so you have no interest at all in helping them out here?
MR. BOUCHER: We obviously --
QUESTION: I mean, you're giving them food and you're telling them they should have a better government, but you're not prepared to go out any further --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, we've, I think, discussed this subject abundantly over the last week in the same manner. I'm not inclined to start again.
QUESTION: Okay. Are there any plans to spread that somewhat? Are there any plans for that message to be spread, other than from you on the podium?
MR. BOUCHER: We talk to all the Afghan factions. I believe I've mentioned --
QUESTION: Well, I'm talking about the people, the actual -- I mean, not the -- I mean, the actual Afghan people who are living there, not the opposition, not the -- I mean, the citizens of Afghanistan.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have a lot of different ways of -- a lot of different people we keep in touch with, and to the extent that we talk to factions and others outside and inside Afghanistan, I think the word gets around.
Are you asking me, are we doing radio broadcasts? I would assume that the broadcasters that broadcast US Government views into Afghanistan would reflect US Government views.
QUESTION: Well, actually, no, I wasn't talking about radio broadcasting. I was -- there have been some reports, some suggestions that there might be leaflets being dropped and things like that.
MR. BOUCHER: That's not something I'd be able to talk about here.
MR. BOUCHER: That's not something I have anything on here.
QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up, Richard? When you say that it's up to the Afghan people to determine their government, I mean, one of the big problems is that the Taliban have, you know, for quite a while been shooting non-Pashtun villagers, you know, indiscriminately. They have a lot of guns, obviously, and the people seem powerless in the face of the Taliban to do anything about this unrepresentative government. I mean, can you say, at this point, is the US Government prepared to do anything more to try to topple the Taliban?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been discussing this for a week here. Our policy has not changed. We have not changed policy goals over the weekend. We have not set toppling the Taliban as one of our goals.
At the same time, we recognize very clearly that the Taliban is not representative, that they have in many ways betrayed the interests of the Afghan people and that the Afghan people deserve better. That is why, for a long time, including now, we have kept in touch with all the factions, we have kept in touch with the United Nations, and they have worked to try to organize some kind of political process that could give Afghan people a better government.
QUESTION: I seem to recall that the United States was over the years, has been sympathetic to the idea of a Loya Girga, and you have actually put out statements saying that you think it is a good idea. Am I mistaken in this? Or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't know when the last time was. I am not endorsing a particular meeting method or otherwise at this point.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, General Musharraf -- or President Musharraf of Pakistan said that you can't call everybody -- you can't call just the ruling Taliban militia the Taliban because, in fact, there are a lot of people in the country, in the Foreign Ministry and also in Pakistan who consider themselves Taliban. And so, do you make -- and follow these extreme Islamic views.
Do you make a distinction between who's actually in the ruling Taliban militia, and other people who might follow the Taliban? And would you be amenable to see them in a representative government?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, that's sort of specifying who is in and who is out, and I am not about to do that.
QUESTION: But do you see moderate elements of the Taliban that you distinguish between the people that are harboring Usama bin Laden, perhaps in the Foreign Ministry, that might be a little more moderate?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not prepared to give you that kind of analysis of the Taliban. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: I just wanted to go back to the terrorism definition. What about the global reach? How do you define that? And, also -- a very key clause, I thought, in that speech. And also, at what point does a terrorism group move from the black list to the white list or back, for example, if they're engaged in a peace process but accusations are against them? Not just the IRA, but other groups as well.
MR. BOUCHER: Those are terribly theoretical questions that I don't know that it's possible to answer at any given moment. Clearly, people who engage in acts of terrorism are terrorists. People who engage in acts of terrorism involving more than one country are international terrorists. And people who engage in international terrorism on a broad scale and have global reach.
I think it is self-evident that people who would come to the United States and fly airplanes into the World Trade Center and kill citizens of some 80 countries are international terrorists of global reach. There are many other groups that operate. We have seen signs of contacts, for example, between the IRA and the FARC in Central America. I think, as we proceed in this manner, as we investigate, as we look into this further with other governments, we will be able to identify more and more the connections in the groups that do operate on that scale.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) just operates in one country but is linked with another group operating in another country, is that evidence of a global reach?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, that is a terribly theoretical discussion that I guess we will get to eventually, but at this point it is not really a question that I can answer in any specific sense.
QUESTION: Would a Lebanese group that bombs a cultural center in Buenos Aires count as a group with global reach?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not trying to play games here.
QUESTION: I'm not trying to play games either. I am asking.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we should -- you're talking about Hizballah.
MR. BOUCHER: You are asking me, is Hizballah a terrorist group with global reach?
QUESTION: Well, that seemed to fit the definition.
MR. BOUCHER: Read our terrorism report. You will find a description of Hizballah that tells you what they do and what they don't do.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) list terrorism groups with global reach eventually? Is that the plan?
MR. BOUCHER: We have already listed and we do renew the list periodically, including I think very soon, of what we call foreign terrorist organizations. I would say that most of those organizations have global reach.
QUESTION: Richard, where do we stand on the question of providing evidence, which many governments still expect and are asking for? Are you making progress in putting together some kind of document which you can give to us and to the world?
MR. BOUCHER: As we've said before, we are accumulating evidence, we are accumulating information; the pile of information is building. Certainly, there is no doubt at this point that al-Qaida was responsible for this act. And indeed we've seen in many foreign countries that other governments themselves are obtaining evidence and information through their efforts, whether it be intelligence or law enforcement. And you have statements such as that by Prime Minister Blair of Britain, where he said he had seen information that leads him to conclude as well that al-Qaida was responsible.
To what extent we can share that information will depend on a number of factors, and I don't think I can advance it beyond what the Secretary said a week or so ago, that as we have information that we can make available, we will attempt to do so.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the information that Prime Minister Blair seen come from the United States, or was this evidence that the Brits had collected on their own?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know specifically. I know the British have engaged in a number of law enforcement and other efforts, and I would assume that in addition to what we have shared, that he has information as well.
QUESTION: Who else would you have shared this information with?
MR. BOUCHER: We cooperate on information-sharing with a great number of countries, including most of our NATO allies.
QUESTION: Richard, this morning there has been a legislative attack in Kashmir, and there are now -- the Indians, as well as others, are saying that this may be rebels, or actually the Pakistani Government. Are we trying -- what are we doing, meaning the United States Government, to keep a lid on that situation between India and Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say, first of all, that we very strongly condemn the attack today in Kashmir, as we have previous attacks. We think that no cause can justify the deliberate targeting of civilians in this manner. We extend our sympathies to the victims of the attack. We extend our condolences to India, a country that has suffered many terrorist attacks over the years.
India is a key partner in the Global Coalition Against Terrorism, and we do believe that terrorism must be ended everywhere. So we're in touch with the Government of India, obviously, and we have continued to maintain a policy on Kashmir that looks to everybody with influence to reduce the violence and to try to see that the situation there is resolved peacefully.
QUESTION: Change of subject. King Abdullah is saying through the official Jordanian media today that while he was in Washington, President George Bush promised him there'd be no attacks on Iraq or any Arab country as part of this war on terrorism.
Do you have a response to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen those statements; I don't have a particular response. And since it involves the President, you might have to ask over there.
QUESTION: Well, when Secretary Powell met with King Abdullah, did he make any assurances to him that there would be no attack on Iraq or any other Arab country as part of the was on terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to answer that question at this point. I haven't seen the statements.
QUESTION: Speaking of Iraq, when Secretary Powell sees the Czech Foreign Minister this afternoon, will there be any discussion of possible contacts between any of the hijackers and Iraqi intelligence officers in Europe this year?
There are reports that Mohamed Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in the Czech Republic, which have been issued by Iraqi opposition groups. Does the Administration give any credence to that, and will it be discussed this afternoon?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm in a position at this point to go into much detail. They will obviously discuss the situation regarding terrorism. I think the Czech Government has put out information that they are conducting various investigations, and of course, they are cooperating with us as NATO ally in the activities and the coordination that we're doing within NATO.
So I have to leave it at that for the moment. If he has something like you have to say to us, let him say it to us before we discuss it with you.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any -- I have two questions. First, a reaction to the assassination of the former co-foreign minister of Colombia. And in that matter, the FARC are a terrorist group. What kind of cooperation are you giving to the government of Pastrana right now in this initiative, taking the fact that in the past, you mentioned that the FARC had some connections or links to another terrorist group outside Latin America? And my second question is, since the invocation of the Rio Treaty, what specific cooperation are you receiving from the Latin America countries? Or it was just a political statement?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, on the murder of the former Colombian Culture Minister, I would say we are deeply saddened, we are outraged, to learn of this cold-blooded murder by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC. Ms. Araujo had been kidnapped on September 24th. Her body was discovered by Colombian authorities late September 30th.
We extend our condolences to her family and to her husband, the attorney general, and, as I said, to their family.
On September 30th, the FARC forcibly denied entry to the demilitarized zone to several thousand peaceful marchers, that were led by the presidential candidate, Horacio Serpa. This action and the murder of Ms. Araujo highlight the FARC's brutality and the indifference to those courageous Colombians who seek a negotiated resolution to Colombia's longstanding internal conflict. We will have a statement to that effect to put out for you shortly after the briefing.
QUESTION: But you didn't answer my question --
MR. BOUCHER: I know; I'm bad at three-part questions. I generally choose the one I feel like answering and dispense with the others. Did you have some more?
QUESTION: Well, you don't have anything to say about the cooperation, the links, between that you mentioned before, months ago, about FARC and a terrorist group outside Latin America?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any new information on the reports that there were links between the IRA and the FARC. Clearly, there are investigations going on in Colombia and elsewhere and, if we have any information to share, I am sure we will be glad to share.
As far as our cooperation with the government, we cooperate with the government of President Pastrana many ways. And I think I would just have to leave it at that. We supported his efforts to try to bring peace to his country, and we will continue to support his efforts.
QUESTION: On the Latin America question?
MR. BOUCHER: Latin America, there are quite a few things that have been done around the world, including in Latin America. On the financial side, for example, in Argentina, in Bahamas, in Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay, Venezuela, in each of those places, you have seen financial steps being taken, circulars being issued, investigations being carried out of financial matters. We have also had a great deal of information sharing with countries in Latin America. So I think the cooperation in that part of the world has been excellent.
QUESTION: Your answer on Plan Colombia was kind of intriguing, especially if you compare it to the fact that you are so -- you are tip-toeing completely around the same kind of peace initiative in Afghanistan. Is there -- do you foresee a time when the United States is going to come down and --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think anybody has proposed a Loya Girga for Colombia. We support the President of Colombia, who was elected by the people of Colombia, democratically, and we support him in his efforts to bring peace to his country.
QUESTION: Do you foresee a time when the United States will decide that one way or another, to get a broad representative government in Afghanistan would be appropriate or more appropriate than another?
MR. BOUCHER: It may be that this is the appropriate way. I think our point is that we are not trying to choose the government, we're not trying to specify how it has to be done. If the different people involved in the situation decide to do something, I'm sure that would be something we would support.
QUESTION: President Pastrana has to decide this week if he renews the Zona Despeje or not. Would you have -- do you have something to say about that at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: What we have said before, we're leaving the decision up to him.
QUESTION: Okay. And the other one is, how do you consider the guerillas and the paramilitaries in Colombia in your global fight against terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: We have listed both the FARC -- well, three -- the FARC, the ELN and the AUC all as foreign terrorist organizations.
QUESTION: You say you support the peace efforts of Pastrana in Colombia. But at the same time, there's the message that no sanctuaries will be permitted for terrorism in the world, or I mean, that's the concept. Isn't the demilitarized zone being used as a sanctuary for terrorism to establish links with other terrorist groups in the world, and being handled by a terrorist group, according to the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I think those are all questions that President Pastrana will consider as he makes his decision.
QUESTION: Your Ambassador to Ireland attended a Sinn Fein meeting (inaudible). And I am not aware -- I don't remember the last time that happened. I'm wondering if this is an indication of a direct attempt by your government to influence the IRA disarmament process?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm told Ambassador Egan was following his predecessor's example by attending the annual Sinn Fein gathering. His presence was not meant to signify anything more than the fact that we view Sinn Fein as a key player in securing a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, and we continue to call on them to do their part in securing this peace.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up question on the DMZ zone. Isn't the United States underestimating the potential of the terror groups in Colombia, like the FARC, ELN, the AUC, with the connections that we just learned about with the IRA, and probably other groups that we still don't know? Isn't the US underestimating the potential damage that it can have in the United States, realizing that a group from the other side of the world came to our country here and attacked us in our own land? Being this in our own hemisphere.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the simple answer is, no. We are quite aware of the capability of these groups, we are quite aware of the danger of these groups, and that is why we have moved against them in any number of ways, including by designating them as foreign terrorist organizations.
QUESTION: Since the operative phrase in President Bush's speech was, "terrorist organizations of global reach," is the State Department considering redefining how it creates its lists, and in the next time it puts out a list, identifying those groups that do in fact have global reach -- not just foreign terrorist organizations, but those that fit the definition that the President himself made?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll take that suggestion on board. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I have a question back to all of the actions that other countries are taking on financial -- choking off financial links to terrorism. Is the US providing basically a clearinghouse of information, and other countries are taking its cue from that? And is there some mechanism the State Department has set up for judging eventually, as these new regulations and laws and efforts progress, whether they're passing the muster? I mean, some sort of standard formula?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say the United States has put itself in that position. There are -- first of all, there is an international convention on this, suppressing the financing of terrorism, that we have encouraged all governments to sign and to implement that, as you know, is up for ratification before our Senate. And essentially, many of those steps are embodied in the UN resolution. So the UN resolution last Friday becomes the standard that countries are obligated to meet, because it is a UN Security Council resolution under Chapter VII. As part of that resolution, there will be a committee established of the Security Council, where they can discuss the implementation, where they can look to how it's being done in various places. And I suppose, as you say, sort of become the clearinghouse for information on who has done what, and that will be the standard.
Now, clearly, we are as interested as anybody in seeing that resolution implemented. So we are going out to our embassies and have our embassies going to foreign governments around the world, to encourage people to take steps as soon as possible, take steps immediately to implement those requirements of the UN resolution.
QUESTION: The cease-fire in the Middle East doesn't look too good.
QUESTION: Could I go back to UN and terrorism?
Do you have any specific hopes for the UN General Assembly meeting on terrorism this week?
MR. BOUCHER: I can make a few general comments about it. The plenary meeting began today in the General Assembly. As I think you know, the debate is about measures to eliminate international terrorism. It's called a debate. I don't think there is actually too much disagreement over the need for such measures. The US is participating fully.
Our overriding objective is to see the unequivocal and unified condemnation of international terrorism. We think there is no middle ground between those who oppose terrorism and those who support it. So our objective is to see those who aid, harbor and support perpetrators and organizers of terrorist acts be held accountable. But we will urge member states to fulfill their obligation under Security Council Resolution 1373 to deny financing, support and safe harbor to terrorists. We will also urge UN member states to become party as soon as possible to the 12 UN conventions and protocols that are designed to combat terrorism. These 12 specialized conventions provide important legal steps for combating terrorism. Together with the many bilateral and regional treaties, they also provide the legal means to fight international terrorism.
The United States is party to 10 of the counter-terrorism conventions and the administration has requested rapid advice and consent from the Senate for the remaining two; that is, the terrorist bombing convention and suppression of terrorism financing convention. We are trying to see if we can work with the Senate and get ratification of those two this year.
QUESTION: You say you didn't think there is much debate, that everyone is pretty unified. But, in fact, that is not really the case, is it, because the Government of Nicaragua has taken this opportunity to try and bring Taiwan into this. Do you think other governments should be attaching somewhat unrelated items to this debate?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our view, and we have expressed that view around the world to foreign governments through our embassies as well, is that this meeting should concentrate on the issue of terrorism and the steps that people can take against terrorism, and that other issues not be introduced.
QUESTION: Okay, but do you --
MR. BOUCHER: But there will be -- I mean, there will be statements of various kinds. I'm sure people have a different take on the situation. You may hear slightly different voices, but I think the overall tenor of the debate and discussion will be on how we can effectively move against terrorism.
QUESTION: Well, what about Taiwanese participation in the coalition, and as it relates to the UN -- to what you're trying to do at the UN? Did they get any --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that.
QUESTION: But do you have -- really, you don't have anything new on it? How about something old? Should they be --
MR. BOUCHER: No, but I'll refer you back to everything we've always said before about Taiwan's status and participation.
QUESTION: Is this something that you think that they should be allowed to participate in?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I'll refer you back to everything we've said before.
QUESTION: But what you've said before, though, has been based on very limited things -- Red Cross, APEC-type stuff, as immunities.
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I'll refer you back to everything we've said before.
QUESTION: Yes, but you're referring me back to nothing, though.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm referring you back to everything we've said before.
QUESTION: No, but has it always been very --
MR. BOUCHER: Numerous times, we have a standard policy; the policy hasn't changed.
QUESTION: Richard, the UN is also working on a new convention, fourth convention against terrorism, a number 13, and they are saying it will encompass the most important steps from the first 12.
Is the US supporting that effort, and how much is it involved in it?
MR. BOUCHER: That's not something that will be decided this week. There have been proposals on the table for some time of a broader convention against terrorism. There are actually several other proposals that have been discussed at various times. I think a UN committee will take up some time this month that issue of the broader convention, and obviously we'll work with other governments to see if there's something that's useful that can be worked out.
QUESTION: The cease-fire in the Middle East doesn't look too good. Has the Secretary had any contact with the parties, either over the weekend or today?
And other than that, are you -- what are you doing to try to strengthen the cease-fire?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't see over the weekend that he had any phone calls directly with the parties, with the Israelis or the Palestinians, but clearly our representatives in the region have been in touch with the leadership on both sides.
As for the situation today, I'd say we're deeply troubled by the continued violence over the weekend. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the car bomb attack this morning in Jerusalem, for which the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility. The Palestinian Authority, we believe, must take sustained and effective steps to preempt violence and to arrest those responsible for planning and conducting such acts of violence and terror.
It is essential that both Palestinians and Israelis avoid actions that jeopardize the reestablishment of direct discussions and do everything possible to restore an atmosphere of calm. We are pleased that today's security meetings proceeded as planned. These meetings represent an important step towards restoring calm. Both sides must engage in the fullest possible coordination on security issues to help ensure a lasting halt to the terror and violence.
QUESTION: By linking your reference to the car bomb and then appealing to the PA to take steps to preempt violence, do you think that the Palestinian Authority could have done more in this particular case to preempt the operation?
MR. BOUCHER: Without being able to specify this particular case, I would say that we believe that both sides need to take every possible step to prevent violence, and that the Palestinian Authority has a responsibility to see that their steps are sustained, to see that their steps are effective in preventing this kind of violence.
QUESTION: Have you, in this, asked the Palestinian Authority to re-arrest the members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad who were in jails? And considering that they were let out of the jails, does that in any way make the Palestinian Authority a harborer of terrorists
And considering that they were let out of the jails, does that in any way make the Palestinian Authority a harborer of terrorists?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the status of particular individuals at this point. I'd have to check and see if there's anything we can say on that.
QUESTION: When talking to other countries, how much attention has been given to renditions? And have you received any promises of more cooperation in that regard?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, is this a theoretical question I'm getting here, or --
QUESTION: No, it's -- the latest Patterns of Global Terrorism talks about renditions, and I'm just wondering if that's been a subject of discussion with other countries.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that where the subject had occasion to arise, it would be raised. But, again, we have talked to a great many governments about specific kinds of steps of cooperation we can take in this situation, specific kinds of information-sharing, law enforcement efforts, diplomatic efforts, financial efforts. We're moving forward with any number of steps, with any number of governments. So I can't say that the subject of rendition hasn't come up, but we're not having theoretical legal discussions at this point; we're moving forward against terrorism.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) a distinction between the East political conflicts, such as Kashmir, or some might even say the Middle East situation, and groups that might commit acts of terrorism with what you call a war on terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: The difference is that political conflicts can have political solutions. And certainly in the Middle East we have done everything we can to try to help the parties reach a political solution that responds to the needs on both sides, to the aspirations on both sides.
We don't deny people that they have the right to have differences; we don't deny people the right to argue. But there's a clear distinction between people who want to achieve ends through a political process or negotiation and people who would blow up innocent people in the World Trade Center, for example.
QUESTION: Well, has the US ever thought knowing that -- this is a little ridiculous; I'll acknowledge this -- but knowing that al-Qaida has had problems with US soldiers being based in the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia in particular, has the US ever thought about discussing this with al- Qaida?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a little ridiculous.
QUESTION: But, Richard, can I follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: No, let's go to somebody else for a moment.
QUESTION: Different subject.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, do you want to continue here?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, on the political conflicts, I mean, some of these groups might commit what one would call a terrorist act but are still willing to have political discussions, such as Kashmir or Chechnya, or there are plenty of other conflicts around the world. I mean, do you see these groups as only committing terrorist acts and not willing to go to the table as terrorists, or anybody that commits any acts -- it goes back to the whole definition of what is a terrorist?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll refer you back to the whole definition of what is a terrorist. That's the best I can do for you.
It's clear that people who blow up other people with some political or religious pretext are not seeking to advance a political cause in a legitimate manner. You don't push for a political result by blowing people up who have nothing to do with it.
QUESTION: Terrorism is defined by the means?
MR. BOUCHER: Terrorism is defined by the Patterns of Global Terrorism Report and Title 22 of the US Code.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in Colombia -- I'm going back to Colombia. It has been demonstrated that the FARC and other groups are not willing to really commit to a peace process. And the people of Colombia are asking to do something major.
If the Government of Colombia listened to what the people of Colombia wants, which is peace, and asked the United States to do something similar of what he's -- or what the United States are doing in Afghanistan, to go in there and do something drastic -- I'm not suggesting military or any other -- but drastic in Colombia, what would be the United States' response to that, in this particular moment, when the FARC blow up people and kill people for no reason?
MR. BOUCHER: At this particular moment, what we're doing is what I explained to you before: we're working with the democratically-elected leader of Colombia and supporting him in his efforts to rebuild his country and to obtain peace.
QUESTION: It's Macedonia. There was an official call -- there was a call from Macedonian officials today for abducted Macedonian citizens to be returned, to be released, and they were abducted by ethnic Albanian rebel groups. Since the Ambassador Pardew is again in Macedonia, is he going to do anything about it? Because ethnic Albanian rebel groups don't exist anymore officially, and the people are still missing.
MR. BOUCHER: As far as the status of the groups, we have seen their announcements that they intend to disband, but I wouldn't try to explain their status at this point. We'll see if they actually carry out what they said they were going to do.
Ambassador Pardew is back in Macedonia. What he'll be doing is working with the parties, particularly with the politicians in Macedonia, to see if they can implement in full all their obligations. As far as the release of people who might have been abducted, I'm really not familiar enough with the agreements to see if they're covered, but I would assume that they would be, and that the ability of people to return to their families and their homes is a key part of this entire agreement.
QUESTION: They are not just displaced people.
MR. BOUCHER: I know. There are these other reports. I'm not -- again, I'm not -- I can't go into that much detail. I just don't know specifically how they're covered in the agreements. But clearly, the objective of having people safe and able to return to their homes is part of the overall agreement, and I'm sure that everyone in Macedonia will be interested in securing that result.
QUESTION: I know they haven't been designated a terrorist group, but Secretary Powell has called the NLA "terrorists" before. So now that they've been willing to be disarmed, and there is some kind of political process under way, would you still consider them terrorists?
MR. BOUCHER: That gets into the question of their status as well. Have they disbanded or not? We'll make our designations of foreign terrorist organizations at the appropriate time, and we'll tell you then.
QUESTION: I know you don't like to talk about specific countries, but we haven't heard too much from President Mubarak. How would you characterize his cooperation in this war against terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you've heard quite a bit from President Mubarak. The Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Maher just about a week ago -- I can't remember what day it was last week. We've kept in close touch with the Egyptian Government all along, and I think we've cooperated with them very, very well.
QUESTION: Going back to Afghanistan for a moment, over the weekend, the Taliban ambassador in Pakistan actually (inaudible) said that they have known exactly where bin Laden was for the last two years. And I wondered if you'd care to respond to this rather zig-zaggy representation of the Taliban's awareness of bin Laden's whereabouts.
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, that various Administration officials responded over the weekend in different ways. I think it's quite clear, to us at least, that the Taliban remain -- we remain unconvinced that they are serious about combating terrorism. It's very simple: they know what they have to do; that is, deliver bin Laden and his organization to justice and dismantle the terrorist networks that operate in their territory. As we have said before, it's up to them to take action to demonstrate whether they support terrorism or whether they are inclined to justice. And so far, everything we have seen would indicate that they are not yet serious.
QUESTION: Two things extremely briefly and just for the record. On the Middle East, those security talks that were had today, is it presumed that you guys have someone there who attended and facilitated, just like in the last one? I just wanted to make sure of that.
MR. BOUCHER: We had someone there, and the person indeed --
QUESTION: Facilitated it?
MR. BOUCHER: Attended and facilitated. That's what they were doing there.
QUESTION: And the second one, which is completely on a different subject, is do you have anything to say about the election in Bangladesh, or is it too early?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's too early. I'll check and see when we can.
QUESTION: You said that the Secretary did not talk to either the Palestinians or the Israelis this weekend; can you say who he did talk to?
MR. BOUCHER: He talked to the UN Secretary General. He talked to several other people. He talked to -- on Saturday, he talked to the President of Kyrgyzstan, President Akayev. He talked to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.
On Sunday, he talked to Foreign Minister Fischer, and he talked to Omani Sultan Qaboos, the Sultan of Oman.
QUESTION: What did he bring up with the Sultan about?
MR. BOUCHER: The fight against terrorism.
QUESTION: The use of bases --
MR. BOUCHER: The fight against terrorism.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.[End]
Released on October 1, 2001