|Tuesday, 31 May 2016|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-10-04
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 4, 2001
MR. BOUCHER: I think we're on time. I realize you've been given an abundance of material today, and I won't try to impose upon you too much here. But I did want to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about the decisions made at NATO today. These decisions at NATO are truly historic. We are very gratified that our NATO allies rallied quickly and unanimously along with us in agreeing to these political and military measures in our fight against global terrorism. It was a collective decision by the alliance to respond to the threat of terrorism that faces us all in very specific ways, and we appreciate that.
Lord Robertson announced the specific steps that are being taken at NATO, and we appreciate all the effort that he has put into it, and we think these are important steps that put us in a position to move forward in the fight against terrorism.
On the other side of the world, I'd note as well that our Australian allies -- Prime Minister Howard has made a detailed public statement on October 4th about Australia's commitment of military forces to the Global Campaign Against Terrorism. Australia has pledged air, ground, naval forces to freedom's common cause. It reflects Australia's deep commitment to the cause of liberty and democracy and our longstanding alliance. Remember, we just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty September 10th in Washington with Prime Minister Howard. The United States has no more steadfast ally than Australia.
So those are two important developments in that area of collective support and collective action within our alliances.
With that statement at the beginning, I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: I see London has published what appears to be most of the briefing that you guys gave your NATO allies without names, and as far as I can see. Is that taking the police of this document, or whatever the Secretary was talking about, that would be published?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't characterize it that way. Of course, since I can't show you our paper that we've used to brief allies to compare with the British paper that they put out for the public, I can't give you a comparison in any sense of detail.
Our understanding is that the British paper, based on the information the British Government has collected, and it offers their conclusions about this situation. And, naturally, because we both think we have seen clearly into the facts of this incident, we agree with their conclusions. They put out the paper. I'm sure if there is any more explanation to be given, they will give it to you.
QUESTION: But does it include stuff that you shared with them?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we cooperate with the British in a whole number of ways. But this is a British paper with British conclusions and essentially British information. Obviously, we coordinate with them through various channels. We saw it in advance; we looked at it enough to confirm the facts for them, that we agreed with the facts as asserted in the British paper. But it's their paper and their conclusions.
QUESTION: So you signed off on this before they put it out?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't quite put it that way. We coordinated with them, they coordinated with us as we do on so many things. We saw it in advance; they put it out; it's their paper, their conclusions.
QUESTION: Are you in a position to confirm, then, that three of the known hijackers on September the 11th were also known members of al-Qaida?
MR. BOUCHER: I can confirm that that's what it says in the British paper that's publicly available. I leave it to them to explain in any more detail the things that they have put out in public.
QUESTION: Do you agree with it, though?
MR. BOUCHER: We agree with their conclusions, yes.
QUESTION: All their conclusions, without any reservations?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any reservations about the British paper, but I'm not able to offer US information or endorsement to specific facts.
QUESTION: Well, are you thinking about releasing your own?
MR. BOUCHER: As we have said before, we will -- first of all, we have compiled a great deal of information; second of all, we have been able to share some of that with other governments; and third of all, we will continue to look for opportunities to make information available in an unclassified form for the general public.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) for right now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything for you today.
QUESTION: So, once again, the American public will be left to conjecture or left to trust the conclusions of a foreign government?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, the American public has heard from its own government that we have amassed a considerable body of information, that we have reached a firm conclusion that al-Qaida was responsible for this, as the President said a week ago, and that we are being careful about the sources and methods of acquisition of information, because we are in this fight for the long haul, and we are going to need to continue to get information, and we are not going to do anything that would jeopardize our ability to find out about these networks so that they can't harm the American people.
QUESTION: Just to press the point one more time --
MR. BOUCHER: Go ahead. I'll press back.
QUESTION: But you do not believe that the British paper -- that what the British put out does that, jeopardizes any sources and methods?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: NATO agreed to a series of measures in support of the anti- terrorism effort. Do you have any reaction to that, and was there anything - -
MR. BOUCHER: That's what I was saying at the beginning.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: That might have been the few moments when you weren't in the room.
QUESTION: Did you get everything you wanted?
MR. BOUCHER: This was a collective decision by NATO to do a number of things based on a US request, and yes, these were the things that we suggested at this point, and obviously -- I'm not sure if there were other things added by other governments, but we had a decision within NATO that these were the right things to do at this point.
QUESTION: What is your current understanding of the circumstances surrounding the Russian plane which crashed?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a lot of detail or information. Our Embassy in Moscow has been in touch with the Russian Government and has tried to keep abreast of their information on this. They have obviously told us about the crash, and what little information they had earlier today.
But at this point, we really don't have any details -- we don't have that many details.
QUESTION: How about our Embassy in Kiev?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure they are getting in touch with the Government in the Ukraine as well. We have seen a number of statements there. I don't have any new information from them, though.
QUESTION: You don't have any information from the embassy yet, or anything new beyond -- I mean, they haven't issued anything?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't checked to see. I'm sure our Embassy in Kiev has probably reported in what they know. But we have also -- we are also watching the press statements and the other things. We just don't have any independent information on this at this point.
QUESTION: A group of -- a Chinese official told some reporters this morning -- and I know you don't like these kinds of questions -- but he said that they were not entirely convinced yet that bin Laden and al-Qaida were responsible for the events of September 11, noting that you had in fact shared some information with Beijing in Beijing.
Could you -- are there any plans -- is that the same sort of briefing that the Chinese got that our allies in Europe got, and do you have any plans to sort of give them more formal information or anything like that?
MR. BOUCHER: I decline to go into specific detail about who got the information that we sent out by cable on -- was it Monday or Tuesday? -- a few days ago.
QUESTION: Well, except for NATO, Pakistan and Russia.
MR. BOUCHER: If I might? I decline to go into detail on the specifics of all the countries that got the cable that we sent out on Monday. I did note that we did particular briefings by sending our person in charge of counter- terrorism out to NATO to brief the allies in person, and then to brief the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. And then our Ambassador in Pakistan did a special briefing for the Pakistani Government.
So there were a number of locations where we did have special expertise involved in the briefings. But I would say that generally we shared information with a number of governments, including the Chinese. And we find that information conclusive, as have many others.
QUESTION: Have they communicated to you regarding the quality or the evidence yet? Have they communicated --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: -- they are not convinced yet?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. But for any statements to that effect, you'd have to ask the Chinese Government what their opinion is, and I'm sure you have asked unnamed officials. But I'm sure that Beijing will say officially at the appropriate time if they feel like it.
QUESTION: Pakistan apparently said today that they were convinced by the information that al-Qaida or bin Laden is responsible for the September 11th events. Do you have a reaction to that? And is that the only Muslim government -- the only government of a predominantly Muslim nation that has in fact endorsed the conclusions?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have a full list of every government in the world that I could check again on who said what about the conclusions. As we have pointed out before, we want you to see that it's not solely as a basis of US information, but a great many governments around the world are working against networks, are working against front organizations, are working against operatives and organizations associated with al-Qaida, and we think that there are other governments, such as the British, who have concluded that al-Qaida was definitely responsible for this. Some of them also get information from us, in terms of the kind of sharing of information that we want to do.
We certainly welcome the announcement by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry Spokesman that Pakistan believes that there is sufficient evidence to indict Usama bin Laden's organization for the September 11th terror attacks. Pakistan has stated its intention to work for a broad-based and representative government in Afghanistan, and we share that goal as well.
We are confident that Pakistan will fulfill its commitments as a key member of the Global Coalition Against Terrorism. We are continuing our consultations on how best to wage the Campaign Against Terrorism, as we are doing with many other countries involved in the international coalition.
QUESTION: It's looking increasingly like the United States, which at first saw Pakistan as sort of the jumping-off point for an attack on bin Laden, is steering away from that. Is that accurate?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: You said that you cited Pakistan as thinking there is sufficient evidence to indict bin Laden, but the US and Secretary Powell, yourself and others have not been talking in terms of indicting him, and not talking about legal proof and making distinctions, even though you think he's responsible, he and al-Qaida. Are you ready to go as far as saying you think you have enough evidence to indict him?
MR. BOUCHER: I think each of us probably puts this in our own way. I would just say that, first of all, he has been indicted in the United States in the New York courts for the bombings in East Africa, and we think there is sufficient information to hold him responsible and accountable for the attacks on September 11th. We had made the point that the information we have is not the kind of information you'd present in a court of law at this point, so I won't take it any farther than that.
But I'd just attribute this to the way that different people phrase things.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the defections of the Taliban? Stories about defecting Taliban --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have any particular information on that. I'll see if we have anything, but I tend to doubt that we would have anything we'd be able to share.
QUESTION: You're right about that. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I'm right about that. Confirmed by Mr. Gedda. What better confirmation can I get?
QUESTION: Richard, on the Pakistani reaction again. Has anyone ever cleared up whether it is -- the United States wants Usama bin Laden here, or to a country where he can stand trial?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, sir. The President of the United States.
QUESTION: Said here. So -- yes, but then other people have said different things. So I just --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't listen to any other voices when the President has spoken. The President of the United States.
QUESTION: Okay, so it is -- so he has to come here. So the inference, or one inference that one could make from what the Pakistanis are saying, is that maybe -- that if there's enough to indict him there, then perhaps he could stand trial in a Pakistani court.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the exact words that the Pakistanis used. They did use the word "indict."
QUESTION: Well, you used the word "indict."
MR. BOUCHER: But I'm not sure they said "there." They may have -- you know, I'm not sure they said where. And I'm not sure if they used indict in a legal sense, or just to accuse him of having done it. But I appreciate the statement. They have obviously reached the same kind of conclusion as we have.
QUESTION: Sorry to go back to our morning briefing with the Chinese, but they also said that there were no more expert --
MR. BOUCHER: Can I go to these briefings from now on, just so we could both have the same base of information? Suggest that the next time you're invited.
QUESTION: We were told that there were no more expert level talks so long as sanctions were against this Chinese company back from August that was apparently selling missile technology to Pakistan, and that there would be no expert-level consultations on this nonproliferation matter. And I was just hoping if you could clear this up. Are there going to be --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of anything scheduled. When Foreign Minister Tang was here, certainly he and the Secretary agreed that we would -- you're talking about nonproliferation specifically? We did have terrorism experts getting together, so it's not experts in general; it's nonproliferation we're talking about.
MR. BOUCHER: I would just say when Foreign Minister Tang was here, he and the Secretary agreed that the two governments would need to keep in touch on these issues, especially in advance of the President's trip to China. And I don't have any formal consultations scheduled, but I am sure we have been talking to the Chinese.
QUESTION: I just want to clarify, the information that we had was that the formal mechanism -- I suppose that that was established or sort of strengthened in the Secretary's trip to Beijing in July -- was no longer now that these sanctions were applied. And I just -- I mean, can you confirm that or take it as a question?
MR. BOUCHER: I would go back to what we said at the time Foreign Minister Tang was here, that the two governments would stay in touch on the issue and have discussions. But we never said there was another formal meeting scheduled.
QUESTION: On a related matter? We also learned that Mr. Taylor -- Frank Taylor -- will go back -- will go to Beijing soon for another round of counter-terrorism expert meetings.
MR. BOUCHER: Fascinating. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you know -- have you heard of that?
MR. BOUCHER: I am playing catch-up on that one. That is one I will have to check on.
QUESTION: Nothing is scheduled --
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check and see if we have agreed on that one.
QUESTION: How about the human rights --
MR. BOUCHER: I think when they did meet on -- yes, on the 25th, a week ago, they did agree to keep having these counter-terrorism discussions. I wasn't aware that something had been scheduled.
QUESTION: When Foreign Minister Tang was here, wasn't there an expectation that the human rights talks with China were going to resume right around now?
MR. BOUCHER: Right around now. You're right. Let me double check. Oh, no, I remember. Right around now was envisaged, but the Chinese said they were going to celebrate their National Day, as I think somebody in the press corps pointed out to me at the time we announced those dates. So the expectation was that we do it probably next week, to have the human rights talks with the Chinese. Let me double check that the dates are pinned down. But I know we did decide that, in fact, these dates were not convenient for both of us.
QUESTION: Are they still here, though?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to double check time and place on those. But the presumption is next week.
QUESTION: This is another subject. Can we move from China?
MR. BOUCHER: Somebody else was going to the meetings with the former King, so I will do that.
As you all know, the State Department Director for Policy Planning, Ambassador Haass, met with former King Zahir Shah today in Rome. Ambassador Haass is in Europe for other meetings, in Paris and Brussels with French and European Union policy planning interlocutors. The visits arose out of our ongoing consultations with Afghan exiles, including the Rome Group. The Rome Group is a gathering of Afghan exiles that is associated with the former King, who are seeking a political resolution of the Afghan conflict.
As you know, the United States has longstanding contacts with the Afghan factions, including the Northern Alliance or, as it is sometimes referred to, the United Front, as well as significant individuals, including regular contacts with the former King and other Afghan expatriates. As you know, the King was deposed in a coup in 1973 and has a continuing interest in ending the bloodshed in his country.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what came out of the meeting, apart from --
MR. BOUCHER: Continuing discussions with all the Afghan factions.
QUESTION: Is he meeting with -- was Haass meeting with other Afghan opposition people in Rome or anywhere on his trip?
MR. BOUCHER: On anywhere on his trip, I will have to check if there are others. The meetings in Paris and Brussels are French and European Union people. Clearly, in Italy, meeting with the Italians on policy planning issues, and he would meet with the King there as well, take the occasion.
The other group that is commonly referred to of Afghan exiles, I think there is a Cyprus Group and there is a Berlin Group. So I don't think he is going to either of those places.
QUESTION: So the King is the only one? And he didn't meet with any of the Northern Alliance people that were down in Rome last week?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. I will double check on that. The only meeting with Afghan exiles I am aware of is with the King.
QUESTION: This is on Syria. What is the United States' position about Syria seeking a seat on the Security Council? There are some reports that you are looking to abstain from any vote rather than veto Syria's seat?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I have to stick on that one to our general proposition that we don't announce those votes, because there are many people seeking our support.
QUESTION: But, I mean, last --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, in the case of Sudan, we made quite clear -- we violated -- we made an exception to our rule. We were quite vocal about Sudan. But in general terms, we don't announce who we support for Security Council seats. I will see if there is an opportunity to do so in this case.
QUESTION: Is there a possibility in this new era of the war on terrorism for the United States in any way to support a state sponsor of terrorism for the UN Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I have to see if I am allowed to make an exception to our policy and tell you how we might vote.
QUESTION: A question on the Russian crash. Do we know if there were any American citizens on board yet? I know that they were checking.
MR. BOUCHER: I am pretty sure that we know there were no American citizens on board. Let me see how firm that is.
We are not aware of any US citizens on board. So we -- there were, indeed, Russian, Israeli citizens. We don't have any more information for you. But certainly, we would like to express our condolences to the people who lost their lives and loved ones in this crash.
QUESTION: The Secretary's lunch yesterday with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, some of the senators took note afterwards, at least with their staff members, that the Secretary raised early in the lunch and at the end of the lunch and even on the elevator the question of Otto Reich's nomination, and he put it in the context of the war on terrorism, and that we need to confirm the assistant secretary to help out in the region as well. Do you have any information on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really. It was a very good meeting with the senators yesterday at lunch. It was attended by 18 of the 19 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I think Senator Hagel had urgent Senate business on the floor that he wasn't able to come for. He was working to support the bilateral trade agreement with Vietnam which, of course, the Administration fully supports.
But generally, the discussion we think was a great show of unity of the effort to fight the campaign against terrorism. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee members said on several occasions that they were behind the President's efforts and would provide the legislative changes that we need to carry out assistance. And today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is marking up a stand-alone bill which would waive restrictions on Pakistan and India. So we appreciate that effort as well.
It was a very good discussion, a very good show of unity and strength, I think, for the United States in terms of how we pursue this overseas, in cooperation with our legislature. But I don't have any more specifics for you on the discussion.
QUESTION: Middle East? It looks like the Israeli Government has resumed what they call initiated actions, which basically means assassinating Palestinian leaders, and there may actually have been such an attempt today. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position on the issue of targeted killings has not changed. And we have asked -- urged -- both sides to avoid any actions that could jeopardize the reestablishment of direct discussions and do everything possible to restore an atmosphere of calm. In that context, I would say very clearly we think the Palestinian Authority must take immediate, sustained and effective steps to preempt violence, to end shooting attacks and arrest those who are responsible for planning and conducting acts of violence and terror. Prevention of attacks, such as those that occurred yesterday and today, is essential to maintaining calm and restoring trust and confidence between the parties. We have urged both sides to continue their security cooperation in a productive manner and to work constructively to end the violence.
The security meetings offer an important step towards restoring calm, and both sides must engage in the fullest possible coordination on security issues if we are to ensure a longstanding halt to violence and terror.
QUESTION: Have you actually been in touch with the parties about this change in policy today?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure we have discussed the specifics of this at this stage. Obviously, they are very clear on what our policy is, and have been all along.
QUESTION: Have there been any contacts, high-level contacts, with either party in the last 24 hours? Because it looks like the situation is again spinning out of control, which is going to make it difficult for you to get your coalition together.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary spoke yesterday with Prime Minister Sharon about the situation there, and representatives in the region have continued to be in touch with the parties.
QUESTION: On a related matter, is Assistant Secretary Burns going to the Gulf in the near future? There were reports like this week --
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. I will double check and see if and when we have something to say. But at this point, I think he is headed back to Washington.
QUESTION: Richard, I understand representatives of the two main Iraqi Kurdish groups are in town. Do you have information on their activities?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't. I will check and see if we are seeing them.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Turkish Parliament, they changed (inaudible) articles in the Turkish Constitution. Do you have any reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I do. These are very important and we believe significant reform efforts, and we applaud the passage of this package of reforms by Turkey's Parliament. They involve 34 constitutional amendments that significantly expand freedom of expression and association, that ensure gender equality in the family and guarantee privacy rights. They also limit the use of the death penalty and increase civilian membership on the National Security Council.
These 34 amendments now go to President Sezer for his approval. Passage of this package represents a major milestone in Turkey's reform efforts and parliament must now pass further laws to implement most of those changes.
Needless to say, Turkey is a very close friend and ally of the United States, and a key member of our international coalition to fight terrorism. This package of constitutional changes embodies the values that the international coalition is defending.
QUESTION: Including the death penalty?
MR. BOUCHER: Including the rule of law and due process.
QUESTION: This may have come out of Florida already. Is there anything new on your search for the plane?
MR. BOUCHER: There was not as of this morning when I checked. I haven't really checked in the last couple hours. If you know of something new, I can double check.
QUESTION: No, no, I don't.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Not that I am aware of.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about how the talks with the Libyan Ambassador went yesterday? Did they come any closer to accepting responsibility for this agent who was found guilty?
MR. BOUCHER: As usual, I will leave it to the Libyans to sort of comment on whether they are prepared to accept the requirements of the UN resolutions. I would say that that was the goal. We found the meeting constructive and we have called on Libya to comply fully with all the UN Security Council requirements stemming from the Lockerbie Pan Am 103 bombings. This, as you know, was a continuation of previous talks. I think we got the information you asked about yesterday, that it was March 19th that we had the last such discussions in New York.
QUESTION: Do you have a date for another round?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of at this point. But we do think it is very important, particularly in light of the September 11th bombing, that Libya take all these steps that are required by the UN Security Council.
QUESTION: Did the conversation ever stray off the Pan Am subject and on to --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to go into the details of the conversation, so I don't think I can try to answer that kind of question.
QUESTION: So they could have?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to answer that kind of question about details, what may or may not have been in there. But the purpose of the meeting, the point of the meeting, is to have Libya take these steps, these steps that are required by Security Council resolutions and that are necessary in order to eliminate any connection between Libya and the issue of terrorism.
QUESTION: Well, then what is the US read on where Libya stands with the coalition?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular read.
QUESTION: Are they in it?
MR. BOUCHER: The Libyans have made statements about it. I leave them to speak for themselves. As I have said several times today, as well as yesterday, if they are to oppose terrorism, they need to take these steps that fulfill the requirements of the UN Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: I was just wondering, do you have any feedback from the Ambassador Pardew in Macedonia that you can share? Apparently, there is something going on there that could seriously jeopardize the peace process.
MR. BOUCHER: I agree, there is something going on in Macedonia. Let me explain what we hear and what we know and what we think really needs to happen.
Yesterday, we know the Macedonian National Security Council reportedly approved a plan for redeployment of security forces into areas affected by the crisis and recommended that this happen within a few days. Today, we have seen some reports of movements of these forces.
In a joint statement yesterday, Ambassador Pardew, European Representative Léotard and OSCE Special Envoy van der Stoel and NATO Ambassador Spechard have all urged the Government of Macedonia not to implement this decision.
We do support the re-entry of Macedonian security forces to all areas of the country on an appropriate time line and in an appropriate manner. Re- entry of the security forces should only happen, though, after a fully transparent planning process that involves the international community representatives and the democratically elected political representatives of the Albanian community. There also must be adequate security provisions in place and the government has to offer its amnesty.
Ambassador Pardew continues to meet with Macedonian Government officials in Skopje on the entire range of issues related to the implementation of the Framework Agreement. We think the Government of Macedonia needs to uphold its commitment under the Framework Agreement and we would urge the Macedonian Parliament to resume debate on the constitutional amendments and urge the members to come to a rapid and positive conclusion.
QUESTION: Is what you just said there at the top of it, was that the statement? Or is that something different from what the three or four people put out?
MR. BOUCHER: Do I have a copy of the joint statement? I don't have a copy of the joint statement. Certainly it will parallel what I just said. It should be essentially the same material.
Thank you very much. [End]
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