|Tuesday, 20 March 2018|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-10-03
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 3, 2001
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, and I will be glad to take your questions, but with a reminder that the Secretary of State will be coming out with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at about 1:30, so anybody that wants to be there can go, and I'll go with them, because I want to be there.
QUESTION: The briefings that were -- that are being done yesterday and today, I am interested in specifically if the briefing that was given to the Russians was in any way less comprehensive than the one given to your NATO allies?
MR. BOUCHER: It was the same briefing. And General Taylor, as you know -- not only did the Russians receive the briefing that we did in capitals, but General Taylor, when he was at NATO, briefed the North Atlantic Council but also briefed the US-Russia Permanent Joint Council, so that Russia was a part of that and heard directly from our counter-terrorism expert on the situation.
QUESTION: In your vast experience in working in this building, has that ever happened before, that the Russians have been allowed to join in, in the full --
MR. BOUCHER: In my vast experience and my short memory, I don't know. I wouldn't be able to say that. But the briefing that Ambassador Taylor did was an excellent briefing. As you know, the NATO members said they found it clear, concise and compelling. And the Russians received the same personal briefing from him.
QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Armitage has gotten into a little bit more detail about the nature of these briefings, saying it's going to be focusing on financial issues as well. Can you fill us in about the kind of information and, if you could, talk about is there any kind of information that you just wouldn't share at this point, because it would sacrifice the ongoing investigation?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't go into any more detail than we have on the kind of information that we are sharing. It does remain classified and it is important to protect the information, the specifics of the information so that we don't lose our ability to acquire that information.
In terms of what is being shared, obviously there is a huge mountain of information that has been collected by us, a great deal of information has been collected by other governments, and we do share information with each other. With some, it's very, very extensive because we have intelligence cooperation. With others, it's less, so it varies from country to country.
QUESTION: US officials, including yourself and others, have pointedly avoided using the word "evidence," saying you are not in a court of law. Is that because the evidence is not at a stage where it could stand up in a court of law? I mean, are we talking about specific individuals who you have said, these people were involved in this attack and they were involved in previous attacks, therefore we know they have links to al-Qaida because of the previous indictment? Does it go that far?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not in a position to go into any more detail about the information. But I would say the reason we say we are not in a court of law is because it is true. We are not in a court of law. And the preparation of a legal case is a very meticulous and extensive process that will go forward.
You look at the enormous amount of evidence that was presented in the New York trials for the bombings in East Africa, and you see that there is a very persuasive and detailed legal case that can be made after the collection of such information. At this stage, we are collecting information, we are sharing it with friends and partners around the world, and we will take what action is necessary. Should this become a legal case, then legal evidence will be presented.
QUESTION: Given that NATO, Britain and your other very close allies have said they are also convinced that bin Laden is guilty, the fact that the Pakistanis have now turned around and said, well, we haven't seen any evidence yet, can we conclude from that that they didn't get the same briefing as NATO?
MR. BOUCHER: I have seen various statements by various unnamed and named Pakistani officials, so I'd leave it to them to offer their opinion. Clearly, all the governments involved that have been collecting information and sharing it with others have reached conclusions -- many of the governments involved have already reached conclusions on who is responsible for this action.
We are glad to see our NATO allies have found this evidence quite compelling. NATO has removed the question mark from the decision on invoking Article V and has made quite clear that this is an attack from abroad on the United States.
We would share similar information with other governments and, again, I'm not going to go into specifics about what kind of information shared with different governments. But -- except I just did on Russia. So I'll say the Pakistanis got essentially the same briefing as many other governments did.
MR. BOUCHER: I have to leave it at that.
MR. BOUCHER: Did I give her a better answer than I'm about to give you? No. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Richard, are we asking the Pakistanis to share any of this information with the Taliban?
MR. BOUCHER: As we have said, we are not interested in negotiating with the Taliban or entering into any kind of negotiation with the Taliban.
QUESTION: But that doesn't mean we couldn't share information with them?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I've made our point clear. We don't see that these demands for information or evidence from the Taliban are serious.
QUESTION: Richard, does that mean that we believe that the Taliban are actively collaborating with bin Laden, in spite of the fact -- I mean, that they ignore the facts that you have presented to the rest of the world? That they are actively conspiring with bin Laden?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we need any particularly new words to describe this situation. The links between al-Qaida and the Taliban are well known, quite evident, and they are already required by a UN resolution to turn over Usama bin Laden, his leadership and to close down his networks. That's been the case ever since the resolutions of a year or more ago.
QUESTION: I don't know if this has come up, but the Secretary is seeing members of the Foreign Relations Committee. So far as these --
MR. BOUCHER: I mentioned that at the top.
QUESTION: Yes, I know, but the question I'm about to ask. What is the administration's position on how much authorization, if any, it needs from the Senate, or from Congress, to take military action?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that would be a White House question, but if I remember correctly, they have answered that a couple weeks ago. Or at least 10 days or so ago.
QUESTION: Can you characterize it?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't, because I don't remember exactly what was said. It's a very --
QUESTION: No, I meant -- all right.
MR. BOUCHER: It is a legal issue that the White House has to deal with.
QUESTION: But the Secretary is not seeking any sort of endorsement or approval for military actions today?
MR. BOUCHER: No. This is a discussion with the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We have kept in close touch. We have done a variety of different kinds of briefings and meetings with people on the Hill. As you know, he himself was up there last week to talk to members of the Senate and the House in closed session, and we continue to meet with them and keep in touch.
QUESTION: Today, NATO said that you guys had actually given them a list of steps that you would like them to do under Article V. And I know you are not going to get into what they are. But who delivered that? Was it someone from -- was it Ambassador Taylor, or was it someone from the Pentagon, or was it --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was our ambassador to NATO, who is Nicholas Burns, a former -- our Nicholas Burns. That's right.
QUESTION: Former spokesman.
MR. BOUCHER: Former spokesman.
QUESTION: Well, would you like to say anything more about that?
MR. BOUCHER: He is an excellent spokesman.
QUESTION: No, not about him --
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry. (Laughter.)
What there is to say is pretty much what you noted and I noted before, that the North Atlantic Council was briefed by our counter-terrorism experts. They welcomed the information. As the Secretary General said, they found that it was compelling. They immediately took action, as NATO does, to say that this was an attack from abroad, and that Article V of the NATO treaty did apply, and therefore we would help each other in any way we could. And then we moved into discussing what NATO can do and what we can do for each other in this situation. And there are specifics that we put forward where NATO governments can help each other and get -- help each other to make sure that we can deal with the situation properly. When those are decided, if NATO can issue some sort of information on that, I'm sure they will put it out.
QUESTION: Do they have the option of not going along with some of them, because generally NATO operates -- well, it always operates on consensus, right? And the consensus here seems to be that they have invoked Article V - - the "if" is gone. So the other 18 members don't really have a choice, if you say this is what we want, do they?
MR. BOUCHER: They have a choice about the specific steps. I mean, we do operate by consensus. We are obligated to help each other in our defense, but we can certainly discuss, if it's necessary, the kind of specific steps we would take together. I think there is frankly considerable consensus already on the kinds of steps that we could take.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) is it fair to assume that the various steps that the United States has asked for are military?
MR. BOUCHER: If I say, "yes," don't read too much into it. By definition, NATO is a military, defensive alliance. That does not mean that we have asked people to contribute troops to a particular operation or that we have decided that if we carry out military action, it has to be NATO military action.
There is a great deal that NATO does, that we do with each other, to make sure that the basis is there, should our President decide to take action on behalf of the United States, a few allies, whatever configuration he might desire to take action, if he should make such a decision.
QUESTION: Are you talking about joint military planning?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not talking about any specifics. And I am trying to lead you away from leaping to conclusions about the specifics.
QUESTION: But without getting into what the specifics are, when you gave specific steps, did you detail each specific step in terms of how you wanted each step carried out, or was this just a list of steps that you want taken?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to describe the list of steps in any more detail than I have. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld has just left to go to the Gulf. Does State foresee sending anyone over as a special envoy in the near future?
MR. BOUCHER: We think that Secretary Rumsfeld's trip is important and he will work a great many issues. And, no, we don't have any particular plans. We have embassies in all those places. We have worked closely with the representatives of those governments. And, as you know, the Secretary of State himself has seen any number of representatives from that region, including today the Qatari Amir and Foreign Minister and we have kept in close touch with them all along.
QUESTION: Recent newspapers have quoted State Department sources as saying that the al-Qaida terrorist network has bases in Tunisia. Can you comment on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know -- I don't think -- we've certainly not said anything officially. Our information is that there are no particular bases of al-Qaida in Tunisia. Obviously, we would want to hear from the Tunisian Government if they were to find anything. But we don't think there is any particular base operating there at this point.
QUESTION: Can you talk about contacts last week between the US Embassy in Doha and the Qatar Foreign Minister regarding al-Jazeerah and their broadcasts since September 11th?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Amir of Qatar just talked about it. I don't think I have anything to add to what they said.
QUESTION: Can you talk about what the concerns from this building have been? I mean, has there been a concern about the balance of guests that they have had on, or their airing of the bin Laden interviews?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to do any commentary on particular news media from here.
QUESTION: Did you demarche the al-Jazeerah station?
MR. BOUCHER: We --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not going to get into the commentary on any particular station at this point.
QUESTION: Well, word is that your favorite octogenarian former King is about to get a visitor from here.
MR. BOUCHER: Richard Haas is going to be seeing him. I don't know -- I'm not sure
-- do I have the date? Anyway, I will check and see if I can get you the date that Richard Haas will be seeing the King. We, as you know, have met with him before. We keep in touch with all the various factions, and he is making the trip in that area, and will go to see him.
QUESTION: Richard, does this mean that you're considering giving him another portfolio, other than the one that he has in the Northern Ireland one? Or is he just going to say hello?
MR. BOUCHER: He is head of our policy planning, and he has contacts with various other foreign ministries and people in that capacity, and obviously that's an important function right now as this becomes a major element of our foreign policy.
So I wouldn't describe the trip as primarily directed at seeing the King. But he is seeing the King when he is in Rome.
QUESTION: So where else is he going?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if I can get you that.
QUESTION: Well, can I ask you another question then? Just based on the seniority of people who are going to see the King, the last three visits, I believe, that US officials have had with the King, other than the congressional delegation on Saturday, have been at the level of chargé and ambassador, as far as I know. Maybe correct me if I'm wrong. There hasn't been someone -- a Washington-based diplomat to see the King in over -- in two years, at least.
So can you --
MR. BOUCHER: So what are we to conclude from this? It's in the --
QUESTION: To conclude that --
MR. BOUCHER: That we have kept in regular touch with all members of the Afghan factions in exile and elsewhere, but that clearly since September 11th, the issues involving Afghanistan have become even more important and even more pressing to the United States. If you can make a headline like that, we'd appreciate it.
But, yes, indeed, the issues involving Afghanistan have become more important and more pressing to us since September 11th.
QUESTION: Well, would you like to outline what Mr. Haas might be saying to the King?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd just put it in the context of our previous discussions, that we've kept in touch with various factions inside Afghanistan, various leaders and others outside Afghanistan, that we certainly support the idea of a broad-based government in Afghanistan. We certainly believe that the Taliban has, in many ways, betrayed the interests of the Afghan people. But that the future of Afghanistan, the decision on what kind of government they want to have, is for the Afghan people to decide, and we have worked with the United Nations, with other governments, with other groups to try to understand that and try to work together with people to allow Afghanistan to eventually have a broad-based government.
QUESTION: Well, can you -- is it fair to say that you're sounding the King out on ideas for a broad-based government, not necessarily suggesting or endorsing any one single --
MR. BOUCHER: We'll certainly be interested in his ideas, as we are interested in the ideas of others.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Richard, there's been a UN envoy that has been meeting with the King, as well as with others inside Afghanistan. If the US is --
MR. BOUCHER: And we work very closely with him. We have met with him a week ago.
QUESTION: So why is it necessary for the head of policy planning to go all the way to Italy to meet with the King?
MR. BOUCHER: I just said he wasn't going all the way to Italy just to meet with the King. He was in Europe on other discussions. He is going to meet with the King when he is in Italy; that's part of our continuing process of consultations. We have worked very, very closely with the UN envoy. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have our own contacts as well.
QUESTION: Richard, the discussions of the King puts him in the context of somebody who could provide some information, being part of the broad-based view. Does the Administration think he has legitimacy to be the ruler of Afghanistan again?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm going to answer this question the same way I have for the last week. And that is, we believe that Afghanistan needs, the Afghan people deserve, a broad-based government. We believe they deserve peace and stability. We have been the leading donor of assistance to the Afghan people. We have done a lot to see that they get that.
But it is not for us to decide the future government of Afghanistan. And Afghans themselves will have to make that decision, and we work with the UN and others to try and help that process along.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) asking you whether you would bless him with the --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you were. Is he going to be the future leader of Afghanistan is a fairly straightforward question.
QUESTION: Kings are different. They either have legitimacy to a throne or they don't. I wondered if a legal judgment has been made in the administration --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not here to anoint anyone, sorry. I really do think that is the question you are asking me. I am not about to do that.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say on the King, very briefly, if the embassy or the State Department has been asked by the first President Bush -- former President Bush -- to facilitate or arrange a visit with the King while he is in Rome? I believe he is in Italy now.
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard about that. I will try to check and see if we have anything.
QUESTION: Just the statement that it is not for the United States to determine the government of Afghanistan, is that a general principle that would apply to any other government?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
MR. BOUCHER: Pretty much. You are about to think of an exception -- (laughter).
QUESTION: Well, I am just saying, we fund the rebels in Iraq, or at least Congress has.
MR. BOUCHER: We have supported Iraqi opposition groups, that is true. I don't know if that's an exception or if that's actually -- I would tend to argue that is consistent with the proposition that I just said. But as you know, the President has stated very strongly we don't believe in nation building, we don't think it is our job to choose other people's leaders, no. To the extent that we can help support people who have a better cause in mind and are more concerned about their people than some governments do, I am sure we will continue to do that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) ask somebody to come from the United States, or did the State Department ask to visit him?
MR. BOUCHER: I frankly don't know.
QUESTION: Can you take the question?
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if I can find out for you.
QUESTION: Speaking of Afghan groups with other causes in mind, a spokesman for the United Front laid out a fairly clear battle plan against the Taliban at a press conference yesterday and basically said, with United States help, they could easily overcome their forces in the north of Afghanistan. I know you are not going to talk about that, but could you at least tell us something about the nature of this administration's contacts with the United Front's representatives here in Washington? Who instigates them? Do you seek their advice? Do you listen to them? Do you take their view of the situation there very seriously?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on that and see. Again, we have had contacts with many groups; I am not familiar with each one, how it works. I will see if I could find you something on the United Front.
QUESTION: You were talking about the Gulf countries. Turkey, strategically, is usually in that same category generally when it comes --
MR. BOUCHER: Turkey is a NATO ally, which is a different category, but anyway --
QUESTION: It's also a NATO ally. I realize. But it is important strategically because of bases, et cetera.
MR. BOUCHER: Very true.
QUESTION: Can you say something about whether the US is satisfied, as the Secretary said about the Saudis, with Turkish cooperation?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary praised Turkish cooperation just a few days ago when he met with the Turkish Foreign Minister and they came out to talk to you. So I will leave it at that. Everything applies. We work closely with Turkey in many ways, including through NATO.
QUESTION: On a different topic. On the President's conditional nod to a Palestinian state yesterday, can you give us an idea of how influential the Secretary was in influencing that, prompting that statement at this time, and why that statement might have been made at this time?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I can go into whatever discussions they might have had. I would say we all recognize the President leads, the President decides, and the President spoke yesterday. That is US policy.
QUESTION: Yesterday, there had been a series of other attacks near Gaza Strip. And Prime Minister Sharon is demanding now that both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, if not the Lebanese Hizbollah be added to the US list of terrorists. Are they on the lists, or are you about to put them there?
MR. BOUCHER: All three of those organizations have been on the list for some time, and I believe all three of those organizations have been subject to specific and particular financial controls for some time as well.
QUESTION: Richard, what can you say about State Department involvement in the report today about the 1999 effort to capture bin Laden?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't say anything. As I read the report, it was supposedly all about intelligence matters, and I don't talk about those. I didn't even --
QUESTION: The State Department must have facilitated in some way and --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't talk about how we facilitate intelligence matters, either.
QUESTION: Middle East News Line reported this week that there were efforts under way right now with Syria to possibly get them off the terrorism list. Is this totally untrue?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see the particular report. As we have often stated in the past, the goal on the terrorism list is not to put people on, but to take people off. The goal is to get countries to stop supporting terrorism.
The President has made quite clear that countries have a choice. Nations that continue to support terrorism, continue to harbor terrorist groups will be considered hostile. So we do consider it very important that nations make this choice and fundamentally make the decision not to support terrorism of any kind.
QUESTION: Are there any negotiations though specifically going on right now about what Damascus can do, such as getting rid of some of the Palestinian --
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't get into any specific governments. But I think pretty much all the governments on our terrorism list know what they have to do. What they have to do in order to stop their cooperation, support or harbor or get rid of the remnants or vestiges of terrorism that may still exist.
QUESTION: Has anything changed in the last three weeks or three-and-a- half weeks on this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: The --
QUESTION: In terms of getting certain countries off the lists?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what you have seen around the world in terms of support for the effort against terrorism, the commitment for the effort against terrorism, and the President's quite clear statement of the decision that they have to make, that those things do in fact change the situation. So we hope that governments would make the right choices.
QUESTION: Have you managed to locate your missing crop duster?
MR. BOUCHER: Not yet. The search and rescue operation continues.
QUESTION: And you are still operating under the assumption that this was just an accident?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it appears to be. We are doing a search and rescue along the track. The presumption is that the pilot had to put down because of bad weather and, frankly, we are still hoping that he is safe on an island somewhere.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that there may be elements of the Saudi Arabian Government that support bin Laden?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would speculate in that direction. I have not seen anything that would lead to that conclusion.
QUESTION: Is there a meeting coming up along with the British about Libya that you can tell us about?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, there is a tripartite meeting. We have had several of those before, and we are having another one -- it is either today or tomorrow. I think it is today.
It is today. Ambassador Burns, our assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs, went out to London. They are having, with the British -- the United States, the British and the Libyans are having a trilateral meeting as part of a series of trilateral discussions that have occurred following the verdict in the Pan Am 103 trial.
We used these meetings to lay out and discuss the remaining steps that Libya must take to satisfy its UN Security Council resolution requirements. We are continuing that process which we believe may continue for some time and possibly in different venues. We think that following the September 11 attacks, it is more important than ever for Libya to comply with UN Security Council obligations.
QUESTION: You haven't gone into specifics with countries, but you have talked about the level of pleasure that you have at certain countries' cooperation or offers of assistance. Have there been any offers of assistance in cooperating from Libya and, if so, are you satisfied with that?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that it still remains very important to us that Libya comply with its existing obligations under UN Security Council resolutions. And, frankly, that is the focus of our attention to Libya these days.
QUESTION: How are things on that front?
MR. BOUCHER: They are having a meeting today. As we know, the Libyans have not yet complied with all the requirements. We think it is even more important that they do so.
QUESTION: How do the families of the victims' interests or needs or desires or whatever fit into this meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have worked very closely with the families all along. We have alerted them this week. We phoned leaders of the family groups in order to alert them to the trilateral talks that are taking place today -- got it, for sure -- between US, British and Libyan officials. We have tried to work very closely with the families.
The goal, as we all know, is to get Libya to satisfy the UN requirements, which include paying compensation and admitting its responsibility for these actions.
QUESTION: When is the last time this committee met?
MR. BOUCHER: Several months ago. I would have to double check. We did talk about it at the time, but I would have to look back and check for you.
QUESTION: Was Mr. Burns at that meeting as well?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, he wasn't Assistant Secretary back then, if I remember correctly. I can't remember when, at the moment.
QUESTION: Is he going on from London to other destinations?
MR. BOUCHER: I think he is coming back here.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) although in principle the subject is terrorism, they are actually unrelated, though, to your efforts to build a coalition against terrorism? Or will discussions about how Libya can play a role in that and be included in these talks, given Qadafi's offer to -- or expressions of support?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen the various statements that have been made. I think all I can really say is that the focus of this meeting, the reason we are doing this meeting, the reason we are going out there to talk to them is in this trilateral context. It is about compliance with the UN resolutions. That is the first issue on the agenda.
QUESTION: Did you get any cooperation from the Greek side of Cyprus about Usama bin Laden's off-shore bank account?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to leave it to the Cyprus Government to talk about how they have handled the issue of bank accounts. Certainly, we have tried to work very closely with them. I may be able to get something more for you later. Let me check on that one.
Thank you. [End]
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