|Sunday, 29 November 2015|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-10-09
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 9, 2001
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I would like to take a second at the top just to talk about the overall humanitarian effort that is under way. I think, as you all know, there have been three years of drought, civil conflict and famine that have left the people of Afghanistan in a very severe humanitarian crisis. The United States is continuing shipments of food, despite some interruptions, with two airdrops that have totaled nearly 75,000 humanitarian daily rations that have been dropped into various places in Afghanistan. These airdrops will continue as necessary.
Furthermore, though, I would point to substantial quantities of food that are still reaching Afghanistan by land. Three convoys of World Food Program trucks carrying 1,000 tons of wheat left from Pakistan and Turkmenistan on Sunday. Two of those convoys have arrived in the northwest and in Kabul; the third is expected to arrive in Herat by the end of the week. Today, trucks loaded with 100 tons of wheat left from Iran headed toward Herat. In addition, there are convoys that are loaded and ready to move throughout the region, and those convoys will resume trucking of food as soon as conditions allow.
The World Food Program currently has 9,000 tons of wheat in Afghanistan and 50,000 tons of wheat in the region. And, in addition, there is 165,000 tons of wheat from the United States that is currently on ships that are heading towards the region. So that broader humanitarian effort is continuing and will continue because it is important to us to continue to support the people of Afghanistan, even as we carry out military action against al- Qaida organization and the people that support them.
QUESTION: Richard, there were some reports this morning that some of this food aid had been stopped, they had stopped the convoys. You're saying that those are -- are those incorrect?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly what reports you are referring to. I think the convoys have left Iran on its way into Afghanistan, wherever they can bring them in. I am not sure there are any convoys leaving from Pakistan at this moment to get in.
QUESTION: Obviously, the military people involved in this have been told to avoid any damage to --
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure that will be part of the effort. But I would point back to what the President has said, these are very carefully targeted and carried out military actions, and I don't think we would expect any problems with the convoys.
QUESTION: So you are not expecting any targeting of roads or transportation infrastructure that these trucks might be using? I mean, they're already pretty bad --
MR. BOUCHER: I am afraid I would have nothing to say about targeting whatsoever.
QUESTION: How about the safety of these convoys, not just from attacks from above, but from, you know, horrible road conditions, which could get worse if they're hit?
MR. BOUCHER: The people that are involved in putting together these convoys on the ground and in the region are, I am sure, very aware of the difficult road conditions, the impassable passes, and all the other difficulties that are attendant to getting food into Afghanistan. It is a difficult job. But we are planning for it and trying to do it in many ways, and we are indeed having some success in getting food convoys in.
QUESTION: Richard, these air drops that you've being doing have been widely criticized by all the aid organizations, and they're dropping just a tiny fraction of the amount that's needed -- that's 30 tons a day -- out of the 1,500 tons that are needed in Afghanistan.
Do you intend to continue with these? And what do you say to reports that some of this food has in fact landed on mined areas, and endangering the lives of people who might go out and seek it?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure I can respond to the exact location where the food was dropped. You would have to get that from the Pentagon. But as far as the issue of continuation and the issue of the broader effort, that is why I came down and just explained to you that we are going to continue the airdrops as necessary. It is one way, among many ways, of trying to get some food in. Airdrops are done to sort of specifically focused places, it is a small but focused part of the overall effort. But the overall effort is important and it continues, and as I said, there are a thousand tons of wheat that have gone in over from Pakistan and Turkmenistan on Sunday. There's another 100 tons leaving from Iran today, and there's more -- much more food available in the region, and we will continue to look for every possible way of getting it in.
QUESTION: And the deminers who were killed in your bombing raid, have you spoken to the United Nations about this? Have you made an apology? And what are you doing to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, given the importance of avoiding civilian casualties?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure at this point that we actually know the facts of the matter, and I think the Pentagon is looking at that to see --
QUESTION: Is there any doubt about the fact that these people --
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want me to answer the first question, or do you want to go on to the second?
QUESTION: Carry on.
MR. BOUCHER: The Pentagon is still looking at the situation and is trying to ascertain exactly what happened. I don't have any way of doubting the UN. I don't have any way of confirming what the UN has said. Obviously, we work very carefully with these people. We believe in their mission, the humanitarian demining mission has been one that has been very important to us over the years. And so I don't have any particular reason to doubt their work. But at the same --
QUESTION: Is it your job to be in contact with them?
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want me to answer the first question now? At the same time, I would say that until we know what happened, we are not in too much of a position to have any detailed discussions with the United Nations. Certainly, our people are in touch with the UN. I would go back to what I said before, this is a very carefully targeted military campaign. Every possible effort is made to avoid civilian casualties. Certainly, any civilian casualties would be regrettable. But we don't know exactly what happened in this circumstance, and we will continue to make every possible effort to avoid civilian casualties.
Once again, this is not a campaign against Afghan people. It is not a campaign against Muslims or Arabs or anyone else, other than the groups that carry out terrorism and the people that harbor them.
QUESTION: Richard, you seem to be --
MR. BOUCHER: Jonathan, let's maybe go on to others.
QUESTION: You say you want to avoid civilian casualties. But we already have possibly 25 killed in one day. What's the level that you can tolerate? I mean, if this goes on for months and the casualty toll rises to thousands, and if you let loose the Northern Alliance on the Taliban and they go into villages, as they have done in the past, and massacre people, what will your position be then?
MR. BOUCHER: Jonathan, anything involving military action you have to ask at the Pentagon, including the facts of what happened here. And before you start making broad assertions about this, that or the other going on day after day after day, I would suggest you go over there and understand what the military operations are. They will answer the questions about the military operations at the Pentagon.
I do say that everything we do is carefully targeted, carefully organized to try to avoid civilian casualties whenever possible.
QUESTION: Perhaps I can put it this way. What are you saying to the world leaders who told you at the beginning that they didn't want to see any civilian casualties?
MR. BOUCHER: We are saying exactly what we have said to you, that these are carefully targeted military operations designed to get at the al-Qaida network and the people that harbor them. They take every possible precaution to avoid civilian casualties to the maximum extent that it is possible.
QUESTION: In Sudan, UN workers are also pulling out, I believe, because there is bombing going on by the government again. Is there any message that the US would like to send Sudan if it is going to be engaged in this coalition with the United States? You've asked them to stop the bombing many, many, many, times. What are you saying now?
MR. BOUCHER: We are saying very clearly what we said before. First of all, the Sudanese Government is responsible for the bombing attacks that occurred. There were three bombings that occurred on Friday, Saturday and Monday against World Food Program operations in southern Sudan. Our position on this has been well known. Part of our search for a just peace in Sudan includes the profound concern that we have expressed before over the senseless bombing of civilian targets, the practice of slavery, denial of humanitarian access, religious discrimination and the need for a just peace, as I said, to the civil war in Sudan.
So all these subjects remain important, remain on our agenda, and we continue to raise them with the Government of Sudan.
QUESTION: Doesn't this bear out some of the concerns of critics of allowing countries like Sudan into the coalition, that they are simply not suitable partners?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, if you had -- you would have to ask the question almost of the Sudanese, to say would you have bombed these people if we hadn't had a global coalition or a war against terrorism going on. We have seen them do that before; we have seen them carry out these kinds of attacks on defenseless civilian aid workers before. So I am not sure you can actually say that they did this because there is a global coalition going on.
At the same time, we do appreciate the efforts that people are making, and the fact that Sudan has taken steps against terrorism. The fact that there are fewer terrorists out on the street running around is a good thing. And if Sudan helps us do that, we're glad they do it. But it doesn't relieve them of their responsibility to do other things, to take care of some of these terrible problems we have had there.
QUESTION: Richard, can I follow up on Sudan? When you were negotiating, or maybe discussing, consulting with the Sudanese about their intelligence cooperation with the United States, did you ever at any point link the humanitarian concerns, particularly the bombing of these kinds of facilities in those kinds of discussions? If you're going to help us here militarily, intelligence-wise, we also really need to see something along these other lines.
MR. BOUCHER: I think what I would say is we have pursued all these things together when we talk to the Government of Sudan. We are not going to say we won't accept your information on terrorism unless you stop bombing civilians. We will accept their information on terrorism. We will accept their cooperation against terrorism, because that's an important aspect of our policy, and it is something we want to do.
At the same time, in our discussions with the Sudanese recently, we have talked about not only cooperation against terrorism, but also all the other things that need to be done. A week or 10 days ago, our Assistant Secretary for Africa had a meeting with the Sudanese Foreign Minister. He went through all these topics. Senator Danforth is coming into the --
QUESTION: Is that the one in England?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, in London. Senator Danforth, I think, will be in the Department this week consulting with the Department in advance of a trip that he expects to make in November to work on these many other issues and on the peace process, or on the need for peace in Sudan. I'm not sure I can talk about the peace process yet.
QUESTION: So just one last one on Sudan. There is nothing in your conversations about terrorism -- you believe that there's nothing in your conversations about terrorism and the Sudanese that would have given them some kind of indication that it is -- if you're with us on this, you can go ahead and do whatever you want?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right; in fact, quite the opposite. I think in all our discussions we have made quite clear that these other issues remain important to us.
QUESTION: Is the United States Government pleased with the response in the Arab and Muslim world to the bombing?
MR. BOUCHER: I think generally we would say we have found a very positive response in the Arab world, in the Muslim world, from governments. I think you have seen many of the statements that governments have made supporting the coalition against terrorism, supporting the need to go after terrorism. The Secretary made 20-some phone calls over the weekend, many of them to Arab and Muslim leaders. And in these phone calls, he found very strong support.
We do realize there are some demonstrations going on. This is not unexpected. But I would say that they have been somewhat limited in scope, and that we have felt that there is not only government support in most of these countries, but that we also have a degree of popular support as well.
QUESTION: One of the influential Pakistani Islamic clerics -- I'm not sure if it was this morning or yesterday -- declared that all Muslims should declare a jihad against the United States. Is this something that you'd like the Government of Pakistan to crack down on these kinds of statements? What do you -- do you have any reaction to this --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know who this was or what the circumstances were, and I would leave that one to the Pakistani Government for the moment.
QUESTION: Well, maybe you can go on about the demonstrations. It is clear that for some reason, in some quarters, your message that this is not a war against Islam or a war against Arab countries is not getting through. Are you going to -- well, first of all, are you going to try and change that at all, or do you consider these people basically to be a lost cause, and that no matter what you say, they're never going to understand what your position is?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose there are some entrenched mindsets, you might say, and some people who have taken positions over the years that tend to blame everything on the United States and consider the United States anti-Muslim. That was true when we were helping the Muslims of Kuwait defend themselves; that was true when we were helping the Bosnian Muslims defend themselves; that's been true in many other cases where the United States has intervened to help Muslims.
But that being said, I wouldn't write off anybody as a hopeless cause. I think it is very important to us that we do get the message out. We are trying to do that in a variety of ways, in terms of broadcasting, in terms of having more and more contacts with the media that broadcasts into that part of the world. And we certainly do want to make clear that this is not anti-Muslim, it's not anti-Arab, it is not against the Afghan people. The great humanitarian efforts that we have made over the years and that we are making now I think demonstrate quite clearly that we are trying to do everything we can to help and protect the Afghan people in this crisis.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate just a little bit about the broadcasts? And are you talking about the Secretary and then today -- or yesterday, Tony Blair on al Jazeera and VOA? Or what --
MR. BOUCHER: To some extent, things like that. The Secretary has done a dozen or so interviews with media outlets that reach the Arab world. He has done wire services, he has been on al Jazeera, he has had things on al Hayat. Various ones of us have gone on the Voice of America because we value the Voice of America, and its broadcasting into Afghanistan, and particularly the Pashtu and Dari Services. We have appeared on those shows over the last few days to try to make clear that we were continuing our effort and our assistance -- our humanitarian assistance.
QUESTION: So do you mean you?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I did VOA -- I can't remember when it was -- Sunday.
QUESTION: You spoke in Pashtu and Dari?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't. It was translated for me, thank you. (Laughter.) I didn't suddenly acquire a facility that I didn't have last week.
QUESTION: You say the Arab reaction has been very positive.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't quite characterize it that strongly. I said --
QUESTION: Well, you used the words "very positive."
MR. BOUCHER: I did? Okay, very positive for the governments, and I think supportive as well in the populations.
QUESTION: Can you cite some examples of the very positive reaction? Which governments have responded that way? It seems to me most of them have qualified their support.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have seen very strong solidarity with the objective. We have seen very strong statements that terrorism is not consistent with Islam. We have seen those various kinds of statements throughout the region. I think we do understand and share concerns about civilian casualties, and we have seen those elements in their statements as well. But that's not surprising. I think we ourselves have made quite clear we are taking every possible step to avoid civilian casualties, and therefore don't see any particular criticism in other people pointing out the need to do that.
QUESTION: Actually, can I follow on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: You have also said that you have seen not only government support, but a degree of public support. What examples do you have of that?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say our reading of the media in the region. There are some obviously that are opposed, and there are many that have supported.
QUESTION: But where has there been support?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't bring my press clips with me today. I will get something for you later. But I think that you yourselves can look at media reaction around the region. I think we do believe that these governments are making decisions very mindful of their political situations. Some have taken a leadership role, like President Musharraf in Pakistan, and others, and they have been quite forceful in their statements and they certainly believe they have a great degree of popular support in doing that.
QUESTION: Surely you are aware, Richard, that the largest newspaper in Egypt has been extremely critical of these --
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen critical and we have seen positive. I think generally we would say there is a degree of support out there for what we are doing and certainly a great degree of support for the governments who have aligned themselves with this coalition against terrorism.
QUESTION: On a similar topic, what do you make of al Jazeera's running of an unfiltered Usama bin Laden statement essentially after you have already expressed concerns to the Qatari Government about their coverage of the war on terrorism thus far?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't make anything of it. I am not going to comment on it.
QUESTION: What did the Secretary think of bin Laden's statement?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure he watched it, frankly.
QUESTION: Oh, come on. He must have watched it.
MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't have any particular reaction to the statement that we saw. We were asked about it on Sunday.
QUESTION: There were demonstrations in Gaza right after it was aired on al Jazeera. Clearly it had an impact in some ways on this question that we are talking about now, which is the reaction on the street. I mean, can you -- do you think that there was any kind of connection there?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to start using this podium to talk about press commentary and outlets that we don't have any role or control over.
QUESTION: This is an important point. Just last week, the US Embassy in Doha made representations to the Qatari Government about al Jazeera. Now the Secretary is using it as an outlet for his propaganda. What exactly is your position on this? I mean, are you -- are you -- will you give a commitment not to try to interfere in al Jazeera's operations again or what?
MR. BOUCHER: Just last week, as you know, the Secretary met with the Amir of Qatar and expressed some concern about some of the inflammatory rhetoric that was coming out on al Jazeera and pointed it out to the Amir, as the party who is most responsible for their operations. We would certainly like to see them tone down the rhetoric.
But that doesn't put us in a position of control in any way. We don't sit on their board. And it would be for others to discuss their programming and for others to discuss how they would like to see that programming go.
I think we do recognize the importance of al Jazeera in speaking to the Muslim world and we have tried to make American views available to them, because they are an important media outlet, and to the extent we can we like to make ourselves available to explain our views over their broadcasts.
QUESTION: -- about inflammatory rhetoric continue?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not going to try to give a daily commentary on the programming of al Jazeera. I am just going to leave it at that.
QUESTION: Without going into the actual contents of bin Laden's message, is this government concerned about reports that al Jazeera held this pre- taped recording of bin Laden until after US strikes against Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you are asking me to sort of give an ongoing commentary of their methods of operation and their broadcasts. All I can tell you, we have been concerned about the rhetoric that we have heard, but we have also tried to make ourselves available to make sure that they understood our views as well.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that al Jazeera is being used by al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden as a tool?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you are asking me the same question over and over and over. In a general sense, yes, we have expressed our concerns about some of the inflammatory rhetoric that has come up. But I am not going to do a daily commentary on the al Jazeera programming schedule.
QUESTION: Can you make a -- maybe you can't. Is there a distinction between what you would term "inflammatory rhetoric" and actual news reporting, as in, you know, having a principal player -- for better or for worse, that's what he is, you've accused him of being behind all this thing, he is the prime suspect. Is that different than, say, a talk show where some guy gets on and rails about how wonderful bin Laden is? I mean, is there a difference between actual reporting and the rhetoric that you are concerned about?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: There is. Okay, so, if it's reporting and reporting that is --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to take -- I don't set the programming guidelines for al Jazeera. I don't decide what they are going to air. They have a leadership, they have a board of directors, whatever. They can decide what to put on the air. If we have certain concerns about some of the things that appear, we're going to express those.
QUESTION: Right, okay. But do you know --
MR. BOUCHER: But we also work with them as any media outlet to try to make ourselves available.
QUESTION: I understand. I'm just asking you, did you express concern to them in the last two days about their airing the bin Laden tape?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I have heard of.
QUESTION: You didn't -- but you have expressed concern to them before about their talk shows or call-in shows, not about their reporting?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we have expressed our concerns about some of the kinds of things we have seen on their air, particularly inflammatory stories, totally untrue stories, things like that. This has been done frankly in the past in the last administration as well. This has been over the years.
I think the Amir also pointed out to us that he gets lots of complaints about al Jazeera from all quarters, that either reflects on their programming or it reflects on the sensitivities that exist in a lot of places in the world. I'm not able to give you a specific commentary on their programming, other than to say that we have seen things from time to time that we consider inflammatory, particularly things that are untrue and inflammatory, and that we have mentioned that concern to the Amir of Qatar, but that also we have made efforts in a positive direction with al Jazeera to try to make ourselves available. The Secretary of State himself did an interview with al Jazeera in order to make sure that we were offering them what we would like to offer any other major news outlet in this part of the world, and that's a chance to describe our views in our own words.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say if the Secretary has seen the Usama bin Laden -- the entirety of the statement?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know; I actually didn't ask him. I'll see if I can.
QUESTION: Have people -- I assume people in this building have seen it. Do you believe that he is indeed admitting that he was responsible for the - -
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have that detailed an analysis of it. I'm not sure if we did the analysis based on the original language and things like that. So I'd have to see on that.
QUESTION: Do you have any analysis of it?
MR. BOUCHER: As somebody pointed out, it was presumably taped beforehand. It was views that we've heard before, things that we've heard him say before, threats we've heard him make before, against not only us but against many others in the Muslim world. And therefore, I don't think there's anything particular to say about it.
QUESTION: There's a meeting in Doha of the Organization of Islamic Conference. What message would you have for those people at the meeting, where they're considering an appeal by the Taliban to condemn the bombings?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we have been in touch with many members of the Organization of Islamic Conference. We have certainly discussed with them the important role that they play in the Muslim world. We noted early on that they issued quite clear statements indicating that terrorism is against the Islamic religion, that they were quite outspoken on that point, and we appreciated that.
So I expect that they would meet and continue along these lines.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? What measures is the United States taking in the Muslim and Arab world to protect its missions, or to -- I mean, as a result of this. Are you -- you've canceled some conferences, you've canceled travel. Have personnel been withdrawn?
QUESTION: Can we go to that --
QUESTION: After you do that, can we stand to outside --
MR. BOUCHER: For the rest of the world?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's do the whole world at once, and then maybe I can get down to some of this.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the OIC thing once more?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. At one point. Let's do the whole world for a second. All our diplomatic posts are open. While the majority are providing full services, a number of posts are providing limited services only, and I will get to that list in a moment.
All posts around the world are operating in a state of very high alert. Everybody is being careful. There are continuous meetings of security committees and other things at our embassies and consulates to make sure that their security postures are continually reviewed and that they take any additional steps that are necessary. I am not going to be able to discuss specific steps taken at specific places, but I think generally there has been a lot done.
In addition, in those instances where the security measures affect private Americans in the country, posts have disseminated Warden messages to the local American community. US citizens with questions or concerns about their safety and security abroad should contact their local US embassy or their local consulate and we can give them information there.
I would say also, around the world, we have in many cases asked local governments to help us out to do a lot of things to assist us with our security. And we have found local governments in many cases -- in almost all cases or all cases to be outstanding.
The -- I will do Indonesia, too, but yes, including Indonesia. We found very good support there as well.
The posts that are providing only emergency services for American citizens today are Algiers, Baku, Dakar, Djibouti, Jakarta, Lahore, Oslo, Sanaa, San Paulo, and Windhoek. I thought that was supposed to be eight, but now it seems like more. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Okay.
Algiers in Algeria; Baku in Azerbaijan; Dakar in Senegal; Djibouti in Djibouti; Jakarta, Indonesia; Lahore, Pakistan; Oslo, Norway; Sanaa in Yemen; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Windhoek, Namibia.
The visa section in the US Embassy in Islamabad is closed through October 12th. In addition -- the visa section in Islamabad at the US Embassy is closed through October 12th. In addition, there is no public access for visas or the library in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
We have a number of posts that are under authorized departure. This is where we tell our non-emergency personnel and family members at a post that they can leave if they wish to, and a lot of people are taking advantage of that. There are four posts in Pakistan under that status. Turkmenistan is under authorized departure, Yemen, Kyrgyz Republic, Indonesia -- two posts. Macedonia has been on ordered departure since July of 2001. And in these cases where we have authorized or ordered departure, we also issue travel warnings, which tells other Americans that they should consider the possibility of departure.
If I can just add one more thing, we sent messages over the weekend, Sunday, to alert our posts as we began to take military action. And in those messages, we told chiefs of missions -- the Secretary told chiefs of missions that their highest priority at this stage should be the safety of Americans and the safety of their missions. So that is something that all our chiefs of mission are attending to.
Should I go right on to Indonesia? Okay.
The situation in Indonesia. There were demonstrations in front of both the embassy in Jakarta and our consulate in Surabaya on October 9th. Security around our missions has been excellent. The demonstrations were peaceful in Surabaya. In Jakarta, demonstrators attempted to push through the barricades but were controlled by the police. We clearly take very seriously any threats against American citizens and US facilities and personnel, and we are working very closely in Indonesia with Indonesian authorities to provide appropriate security.
And, of course, you all know that we put out a travel advisory for -- a travel warning for Indonesia at the end of September that still is in effect.
QUESTION: A couple of these authorized posts aren't new. They have been in existence for -- is it all of them?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, depending on how far you go back. Many of them since last week.
QUESTION: Okay. So it wasn't anything in result of --
MR. BOUCHER: No, it is not -- I don't believe there are any new ones since the bombing, except for some of the ones that may be closed today. Of course, most of our posts were closed yesterday -- all of our posts, I think -- for Columbus Day holiday.
QUESTION: A lot of these Warden messages on the web site and on the recordings are advising Americans to stay at home, not to send their children to school. Is there anything you can say to Americans overseas? Should all Americans everywhere be doing this? Is it a very dangerous time for Americans abroad everywhere?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at most of the Warden messages that our embassies have disseminated to their local American community, they have put out messages that basically take the Worldwide Caution that we have issued from the Department and put it in perhaps local terms. We had the Worldwide Caution that went out on October 7th, that is on Sunday, that told Americans that there were strong anti-American sentiment in some places, that there might be actions against US citizens in others. So the advice was to monitor the local news, maintain contact with the nearest American embassy or consulate, and limit their movement in their respective locations. It is basically advice to keep in touch and be careful. So that is the kind of advice we have generally given to people around the world.
Now, in specific places where we have authorized some of our people to leave, we have put out information that said you might want to consider leaving as well. In specific places like Indonesia, where we knew of certain practices, like the sweeps that had gone on, where some people were apparently looking for Americans, we have advised Americans in more detail.
QUESTION: Richard, on the embassies? Are all of the embassies and consulates where there's limited services going on, are they all related to what's going on now? I mean, in Afghanistan. Or are some of them -- I mean, Sao Paulo -- I mean, are there other things? I know you won't want to be specific, but I mean, is it all related to the operation that's now -- the military operation that's now under way in --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I can say it's all related to the military operation that's under way, because in some of these places we have had limited operations, like Lahore in Pakistan, or Jakarta, I think, Djibouti - - limited operations before the military activity started.
There are two, maybe three, factors that can lead to this situation. One is that we do indeed authorize departure, and enough -- so many of our personnel leave that we're not able to sustain a high level of services. And that would be where we have authorized non-emergency personnel to leave. Sometimes that impacts the operation of public services.
The second would be -- and this is more generally the case -- that when something happens, like the military action, we tell posts to review your security procedures and make sure you are doing everything possible. And so individual chiefs of missions may decide, I'm not so certain about the backyard fence, and I'm going to close my post to public services until we can fix it.
So there may be individual circumstances where somebody on the ground has looked at it and said I'm not as comfortable as I'd like to be; I'm going to close down for some public services until I can fix it. That has frequently been the case, and probably in many of these cases that is the situation.
The third would be if we had some kind of specific information. And if we did have specific information that not only affected us, but generally would affect the American traveling public as well, then we would also couple that with a Public Announcement.
QUESTION: Back on Indonesia then for one thing. I noticed the Secretary swearing in this afternoon a new ambassador there. Are you hoping that the new ambassador will have a less fractious relationship than the former ambassador, or the outgoing ambassador has had with the Indonesian authorities?
MR. BOUCHER: Our ambassadors, outgoing and incoming, represent US policy. They are expected to be energetic and forceful advocates of US policy, and I'm sure they all will be.
QUESTION: I have two questions. The first is, has this building undertaken any conversations with countries expressing concern? And following Ambassador Negroponte's letter to the Security Council yesterday in which he said the United States might have to take action against other countries?
MR. BOUCHER: I do believe that they have had conversations up at the UN. Certainly, there was a Security Council discussion yesterday afternoon, which would have been after our letter was received, where they were talking about the coalition against terrorism, and I think there was -- including the military action that we took. And I would say that there was generally -- there was a lot of support in the Security Council yesterday for the action we had taken and for the continuation of efforts against terrorism.
The letter that we sent to the UN on Sunday, October 7th, was a routine notification that takes place whenever we undertake action that's in exercising our right to self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter. That was the kind of notification -- it's an Article 51 report that we sent up that just says we have exercised our right to self-defense. The letter explains what we did and said that we reserve the right to do other things as necessary. But it did not in any way forecast particular future action.
QUESTION: Richard, can I follow up on that? I understand that it was a written letter, but surely it is not routine to inform the Security Council that the United States might attack other countries, especially when you've been bombing Afghanistan all day?
MR. BOUCHER: It is routine to notify the Security Council whenever we take action in self-defense. And I think the reference in the letter to the possibility of further actions is consistent with what we have been saying in public, that this was going to be a long-term global campaign against terrorism that would move in a variety of ways and a variety of places.
QUESTION: You said this is a routine letter. Does the Secretary usually approve such a letter and, in this case, did he approve the sentence that said that the United States reserves the right to future strikes?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Could you take that?
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if that is something we want to comment on. Usually, we try not to get into our internal procedures. It was a letter from our ambassador to the United Nations. He represents the view of the United States Government.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the embassy situation for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Has there been any directive from this building sent out to diplomatic posts about a threat of chemical weapon attack and how American diplomats should -- should they be doing something? Should they be preparing for that? Was there any wording to that effect that this possibility exists, perhaps, in certain parts of the world at this time?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I have heard of. I will double check.
QUESTION: Back to the OIC and also the Arab League, but are you looking for a similar kind of a commitment to actually have something more substantive than statements, similar to the EU and the OAS, from the OIC with regards to financial legislation, extradition procedures, and other kinds of counter-terrorist measures?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that each nation has its own area of expertise, its own ability to act in different areas. And to some extent, it will depend on each organization. We know that the Africans, for example, are moving within the Organization for African Unity on further steps that they can take together because, indeed, they have had conventions on terrorism and work in that area before.
As far as what the Organization of Islamic Conference might be able to do, I really don't know. It will depend on the organization or the Arab League as well.
Certainly the European Union, in that it does have extensive coordination of legal and financial and other steps, has been a place where we have seen a lot of action and a lot of very positive and substantive action in the financial area and in the legal area. The G-7, for example, this weekend, that's additionally, which has worked many times on terrorism in the past and on finances, the G-7 took the step this weekend at their meeting to extend the work of the Financial Action Task Force, which has previously worked on money laundering and drugs, into the area of terrorism as well.
So different organizations have different capabilities. Certainly, we have appreciated the steps that the EU has taken, appreciated the steps the G-7 has taken, appreciated the statement and the steps from the OIC and its members.
QUESTION: The Secretary's trip to India and Pakistan, any details about that, what a schedule would be?
MR. BOUCHER: Not much detail at this point. The President has asked the Secretary to go to India and Pakistan to talk about the overall effort, to talk about efforts that they are making, each of them individually in different areas, to support the coalition. And certainly we welcome the strong support we have seen from Pakistan and welcome the strong support and efforts that we have seen from India as well.
The trip will be -- I guess the best way to phrase it is, not before the end of the week. Not before the end of the workweek, let's put it that way. Exactly what day we are leaving, I can't tell you. I don't know at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, could you talk about whether the Secretary intends to use this trip to encourage the Indians and Pakistanis to cool it? There seems to have been deterioration in relations since September 11th.
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, we have an interest in making sure that this crisis doesn't become an object of dispute, conflict between India and Pakistan. I would say that, so far, we have seen very strong efforts on both their parts to carry forward the work of the coalition. We have seen obviously different things in different places and we would expect that.
But so far, we have been very pleased with the cooperation, and I would say the trip is more to thank them for what they have done and to work on the further cooperation that we all need to do in order to continue this process of fighting terrorism over the long haul.
QUESTION: Have you seen reports that Musharraf has invited the Indian Foreign Minister to come to Islamabad and the Prime Minister, I guess, one or the other?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we did see a report -- maybe I should have referred to it. I must have it around here somewhere. I think what we saw was a report that they had talked, I think. President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee have talked. That is certainly a welcome development and we appreciate any coordination that they have.
President Musharraf also made statements today reinforcing Pakistan's commitment in support of the global coalition. As I noted earlier, he said that in his view the vast majority of Pakistanis supported his government's decision. So we are confident that Pakistan will fulfill its commitments as a key member, and we also welcome the cooperation that we have had with India. And I think any cooperation between them is welcome as well.
QUESTION: Also on India, there have also been reports that the State Department has promised that the group Jaish-e-Mohammed would be -- would graduate from being an other terrorist organization to a full-blown foreign terrorist organization. Can you verify?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have agreed to take a very close look at them in relation to the criteria for listing groups on the Foreign Terrorist List. We have expressed our strong condemnation of this attack on the legislature in Srinagar. And they have claimed responsibility for it. So we have been concerned about the violent activities of this group, as has the Indian Government. So we will be taking a very close look at them for a variety of reasons.
QUESTION: You are not trying to save maybe the good news for the Indian Government for the trip?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll tell you -- you'll be the first to know. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: On the same thing, on Jaish-e-Mohammed, there are good reasons for believing the Pakistani Government sponsors this group. How does -- how would that fit into your view of Pakistan? Would it then become a state sponsor of terrorism? How would you handle that?
MR. BOUCHER: You are asking me a hypothetical question based on facts I can't confirm for you. I would note the Pakistani Government issued an immediate and a very, very strong condemnation of the attack that took place in Srinagar.
QUESTION: Of the attack. But, I mean, there's a whole --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you are making assertions here. I am not in a position to debate those assertions.
QUESTION: I think in your document it --
MR. BOUCHER: We will take a very close look at this group and, obviously, we will look at all aspects of the situation. But I am not going to confirm assertions that you are making.
QUESTION: In a different part of the world --
QUESTION: One more on Pakistan?
QUESTION: Sure, take two or three. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: There are a lot of countries helping the United States, according to the statements we've heard here. Is the Secretary going to be going around thanking everybody? Why a trip to say thank you to just these two countries when dozens of countries are providing all kinds of --
MR. BOUCHER: All right, I didn't say it was just a trip to say thank you. So let's -- there is serious work to do with both of these governments on the global coalition against terrorism. Each one is making an important contribution, each in their own way. We will discuss that support, we will discuss how we go forward in this long-term fight against terrorism with two of the countries that are close to the problem, and particularly Pakistan where they are directly bordering the problem and face a lot of difficulties because of the problems that have come out of Afghanistan.
We also have important relationships with Pakistan and an important relationship with India that we want to discuss and move forward. And so we will continue to do that.
QUESTION: Does the United States see itself as having a larger role, sort of as a mediator, a broker, whatever, between India and Pakistan than it has in the past?
MR. BOUCHER: I would not say that is what this trip is about. We have always made clear that we look for progress between the two. We have always made clear that we supported their efforts, such as the telephone conversation this morning between the President of Pakistan and Prime Minister Vajpayee, that we supported their efforts to try to resolve the root causes of tension in the region, to try to reduce the tensions between these two governments.
But I would have to say, this trip is about our relationships, our relationship with India, our relationship with Pakistan, our cooperation with India, our cooperation with Pakistan against terrorism, and the situation in Afghanistan. That's what we're going this time for.
QUESTION: Richard, it was only a couple months ago that President Musharraf visited India, and now -- and that was in what was widely seen as not a complete success. But now you are saying -- that one phone call between the two of them is an important step forward. Can we not assume from that that this is a -- that the situation has deteriorated between the two of them since the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember what the adjective was. I suspect that the visit was actually a very important step forward. What I do want to say, though, is that --
QUESTION: A very important step forward?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we -- I mean, back to reality here. We recognize there have been tensions between India and Pakistan in the past, particularly at a time like now when we are cooperating with each of them against the problem of terrorism, when each of them has suffered from terrorism, each of them has suffered from problems coming out of Afghanistan. We think it is important to work with each of these governments, that are key governments in terms of the overall effort, to be able to work with each of them in anything that they can do in turn that reduces the tension, that establishes contacts between them. That is most welcome as well.
So whether it is the visits back and forth or the phone call this morning, those are positive signs that we would like to welcome.
QUESTION: Well, is your concern -- how much is your concern increased by the fact that both of them have nuclear weapons?
MR. BOUCHER: That has been an ongoing part of the picture for a number of years now, and it is certainly something that we do keep taking into account, something we are quite aware of.
QUESTION: Richard, a couple of things. Surely you're not saying that Pakistan, the government that helped to create the Taliban and has harbored a number of extremist groups in its country, is equally the victim to terrorist acts that India has been. Is that what you're saying?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't think that is what I said.
QUESTION: You said that they have both suffered. I mean you were making it sort of on par.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that they were equally the victim of terrorist acts; I said they have both suffered from problems coming out of Afghanistan, they have both suffered from problems in the region. Certainly, the acts of terrorism against India are well known.
I'm not trying to say that the two are exactly the same. Obviously they are different in many, many ways. Our cooperation with each of them is different. It has different subjects, different scope. It's just different. The way they have been affected by the crisis has been different as well.
QUESTION: Well, would you say that the relationships are equally important to the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not using the word "equal." I'm saying different. They are actually --
QUESTION: No, no. But now I'm talking about the way that the Bush Administration views India and Pakistan. Are they equally important as far as our --
MR. BOUCHER: One of the things that we have done in this Administration overall is try to get away from the idea that there was some equation in our relationships between India and Pakistan. We have a good, strong, growing, broad relationship with India that is based on many factors, some of which exist in other relationships, some of which don't. We have a strong and growing and positive cooperation with Pakistan as well. It's just different.
QUESTION: Speaking of "different," can we go to Belize? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: That's different. We'll go back to Warren later.
QUESTION: Do you have some numbers -- apparently a number of Americans have been killed there due to the hurricane?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Unfortunately I do have some numbers on Americans that were hurt and killed in Belize in the hurricane.
_There are at least six Americans that we have been able to confirmed died after the hurricane hit Belize. There are 11 others who are missing. All 17 of these people were part of a larger group that was aboard a dive ship at the time that the hurricane hit. We are in touch with the company that owned the vessel and are getting in contact with the families of all the Americans. At this point, I'm not able to release any identities or personal information.
QUESTION: Is it too early -- I mean, have they asked for any assistance, disaster relief kind of thing, or is it too early yet for that to have happened?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's too early to get a complete rundown, but I will see if we've got anything yet.
QUESTION: Can I move on to Azerbaijan? Can you tell us what the Administration's position is on the sanctions against Azerbaijan? And can you also tell us anything about the Ambassador's visit to this building today?
MR. BOUCHER: On the Ambassador's visit, I will have to check. I didn't -- I wasn't aware of it. There exist certain restrictions on assistance to Azerbaijan that restrict that assistance to humanitarian aid only. We have always -- this is called Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act -- and it was adopted by Congress in 1992. We have frankly always supported lifting that section of law and the restrictions on Azerbaijan. We have felt that these restrictions were not helpful in our efforts to foster regional peace and build a coalition against terrorism.
At this point we are looking at the situation, but we have not begun our discussions with Congress.
QUESTION: In this in any way related to the current crisis?
MR. BOUCHER: I think in the current crisis, we want to have the maximum flexibility for the President in order to be able to carry out a policy against terrorism. Clearly, some of these things that we have looked at in the past, like the India and Pakistan sanctions that the President decided to waive, that these things have been subject of some scrutiny in the past, but are getting more scrutiny now to make sure the President has the flexibility he needs.
Whether we would go after -- whether we want to change this would depend on our internal deliberations, and then whatever discussions we would have with Congress.
QUESTION: Why were they imposed in the first place?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You have to ask Congress on that.
QUESTION: Well, you mean you don't know?
QUESTION: -- the same thing. Are you absolutely sure that the executive doesn't have a waiver power on these 907 sanctions? Because people in Congress seem to think that they might, and they thought they were pressing the President to waive them?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to double-check the law. I'm sure we are looking at the law and what it allows us to do and doesn't allow us to do. I'm told successively, three administrations have supported lifting these restrictions, so there must be something there that people found constraining.
QUESTION: Richard, through the weekend there have been some either detainees or arrests in Ireland and Dublin of some foreign nationals that typically don't travel there. Are you talking to the Irish Government, as well as the various governments where these particular either individuals or potential terrorists have come from?
And a second part of this question, through the weekend, in Gaza, the PA has clamped down and has arrested members of Hamas. Now, Prime Minister Sharon has said that if arrests aren't made, that the Israelis will make arrests. How do -- what is your policy concerning this?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let's do Ireland first. I just want to double check my --
QUESTION: Richard's starting with Ireland?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. It's the "I" country question. It's okay. It's a two- part question. I remember both parts, at least for the moment.
On the question of Ireland, without getting into any specifics of law enforcement coordination, I'd say that we have worked very closely with Ireland and we have kept in quite close touch with them throughout the crisis, and the Secretary just talked to the Foreign Minister again by phone on Sunday. So we have been in touch with Ireland, and I'm sure -- I'm not aware of the specifics you cite, but I'm sure that any specific matters between us would be fully discussed and coordinated.
As far as the situation in Gaza and the groups such as Hamas, I would say that these are groups that oppose the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority, they have opposed its efforts to build a lasting cease-fire and a political process. They are not acting in the interests of the Palestinian people. We think that violence and terror can only produce further suffering for Palestinians and will never achieve a better life for them or help them realize their aspirations. The Palestinian Authority does have a responsibility to maintain order and to confront those who are advocating and engaging in violence.
As far as our own view of the situation, we have continued to urge both sides to take steps to end the violence, to restore calm, and in this regard, I would say we are encouraged by the recent security steps that have been taken by the Palestinian Authority to honor its commitments to achieve a cease-fire and we believe those measures should continue.
In addition, we would like to see both sides continue the security cooperation. Those meetings represent an important step towards restoring calm, and both sides must engage in the fullest possible security coordination to help ensure a lasting halt to violence and terror.
On the Israeli side, we think it is important for the Israelis to continue to avoid provocative measures that make this kind of lasting calm more difficult to achieve, and the encroachment by the IDF into Palestinian- controlled areas, such as Hebron and northern Gaza, should cease.
We have been intensively engaged in efforts to restore calm and resume political dialogue. Secretary Powell has been on the phone repeatedly with the leaders in the region. Already today he has spoken to Foreign Minister Peres and Prime Minister Sharon. Over the weekend, he has also talked to Chairman Arafat, as well as those leaders.
QUESTION: Over the weekend or today?
MR. BOUCHER: Over the weekend, he talked to Chairman Arafat. He hasn't talked to him today.
QUESTION: The Secretary (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Peres and Sharon today --
QUESTION: Richard, you said you'd return --
MR. BOUCHER: Hang on a second. I'm going back -- actually it was late last week that he talked to Chairman Arafat. I'm not sure he has talked to him over the weekend.
Let me just finish. In addition to the efforts Secretary Powell has made personally, Ambassador Kurtzer in the region -- in Israel -- has been in close touch with the Israeli leaders and our Consul General, Consul General Ron Schlicher, has been in touch with the Palestinian leaders as well. So we have been working very intensely on this effort to try to get the parties to reduce the violence. We have seen some steps that the Palestinians have taken in the security area, and we would urge both sides to continue to avoid provocations and continue their cooperation.
QUESTION: Richard, you say you were encouraged by the recent security steps by the Palestinian Authority. What do you think of the fact that they had to -- or they shot two demonstrators yesterday demonstrating in favor of Mr. bin Laden?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that on the one hand, we think it is important to take security steps, while at the same time, it is important to exercise this responsibility with maximum restraint and with discipline. So any kind of violence and damage is regrettable, and we certainly expect the authorities not only to act against it, but also to avoid any kind of injury from their side.
QUESTION: So you're not calling on the Palestinians to show restraint now in their -- which is a bit of a switch from --
MR. BOUCHER: I think any time we have civil authority acting against violence, acting against riots, acting against demonstrations, there's always the risk of some of this stuff happening. But we have always around the world encouraged civil authorities to use maximum restraint and try to prevent it without any harm or injury.
QUESTION: Richard, do you support the right of Palestinians to demonstrate in Gaza again in favor of Mr. bin Laden?
MR. BOUCHER: We have no problem with the peaceful demonstrations; we have a lot of problem with violence. We have a lot of problem with people trying to overthrow the Palestinian Authority. We have a lot of problem with people who seem to go out in order to produce violence and suffering.
QUESTION: Richard, in connection with the Palestinian demonstration, and the issue of the bin Laden tape, does the United States see itself as being in something of a hearts-and-minds war, or an information war against its skillful propagandists, in addition to whatever else is -- I mean, terrorist or what-have-you? I mean, is this a PR battle in some degree?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would say that. Clearly, what we talked about before. There are people in the world that don't think -- that don't like us. There are people in the world that have blamed a lot of things on the United States. That, we take as a fact. I think our effort is to get the message out. Our effort is to make quite clear what we are doing and what we are not doing. We are acting against terrorists; we are not acting against Muslims. And that effort is under way, just so people understand clearly what it is we are doing.
I was asked before if that is going to have any impact. Certainly, we would hope people would listen.
QUESTION: Would you say that the information that -- kind of winning the war on public diplomacy is just as important if not as important as the military campaign, as you go forward in trying to sustain this coalition?
MR. BOUCHER: Everything is just as important as everything else, if you are going to start down that road. Certainly, the important thing now is for all countries to act in concert against terrorism, for us to disrupt the networks, cut off their finances, cut off the locations where they find safe harbor, cut off their ability to travel. And we are going to do that in a whole variety of ways.
Information sharing is part of that. Public information is part of that as well. But I don't want to denigrate the financial measures we take, the immigration measures we take, all of law enforcement steps that are being taken. This is a full-fledged, widespread effort that is going to have to continue for some time if we are ever going to get rid of these networks.
QUESTION: Richard, when you said in talking about the demonstrations in Gaza that Hizballah -- trying to overthrow the Palestinian Authority, why is it not critical of the United States to say nothing or to not lobby at all against Syria, a supporter of Hizballah, taking a seat on the UN Security Council, at the same time you recognize they are trying to overthrow what you consider to be a legitimate entity, the Palestinian Authority?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have explained as best we can the position on the seats in the Security Council. We issued a statement yesterday. I think we have made quite clear in public as well as private that we expect people who do go on the Security Council to respect the Security Council, to respect its judgments, and we feel that an additional responsibility rests on the shoulders of those who join the Security Council. So we have been quite clear about that in public as well as private.
We have encouraged anyone with influence over Hizballah or other groups to exercise their influence to try to get those groups to restrain, exercise restraint, and to avoid violence. And we will continue to do that. We think there is an even greater responsibility to do that that rests on the shoulders of members who join the Security Council.
QUESTION: Are you trying to say that you believe that the Syrians are going to take upon themselves this added responsibility now that they have been actually --
MR. BOUCHER: We have asked the Syrians to do this, we have urged the Syrians to do this and to act fully in accordance with the processes and the decisions that the Security Council is making, and the responsibility to uphold the international peace and security.
QUESTION: Has there been any contact between Washington and Damascus since the election to tell them, listen, now that you're on the Security Council, we expect you to adhere to a higher standard of behavior?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on when was the last time we had this conversation, but we have had it a number of times.
QUESTION: On a different issue, the human rights dialogue between United States and China began today. Could you tell us a little bit about it and whether, during the opening of the meeting, has the issue of Tibet been raised from the United States side?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an update on that. I can't remember if that is starting today or tomorrow. But I will get you an update when we have something. I think we have to let them meet first before we start talking about what they are discussing.
QUESTION: Back to this information war, I hear a lot of people around this town who are saying --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't used that phrase, by the way. You guys are suddenly picking up what your colleagues are saying, but --
QUESTION: Would you object to it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to start making that a topic.
QUESTION: All right, information campaign. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Touché. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I hear a lot of people around town saying that the leaders of countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should do a much better job of explaining to their people what's at stake here, essentially repeating the message which President Bush has been himself saying, about what true Islam is and so on. Is that something that you would endorse, that they also have a role to this?
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want to define "a lot of people around town" before I start endorsing their opinions?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I'm just --
MR. BOUCHER: If it's President Bush, the answer's yes. If it's colleagues in the press room, I don't know, I'll think about it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, no, he hasn't suggested that these Arab leaders should do it, he's done it himself. But others are suggesting that it is the duty of these people to carry out or to make the case more forcefully to their own people.
MR. BOUCHER: What I really want to say in response to this is that we have seen a lot of leaders speak out. We have welcomed the leaders who have spoken out. We welcome what they have said.
Clearly, we have left it all along to each leader, each nation, to say what they were doing, to express their views on this in their own way. They obviously each take into account their own particular political and other circumstances. But we have seen any number of statements from respected religious leaders, from the Organization of Islamic Conference, and respected leaders of Muslim governments that make quite clear that this kind of terrorism is against the tenets of their religion. And that has been made clear by Muslim leaders overseas as well as Muslim leaders in America.
QUESTION: If governments say nothing now, do you consider that satisfactory, given the fact that they may be afraid of the reaction in their own country? If there is absolute silence --
MR. BOUCHER: That sounds like a very simple question but, frankly, it is a very complicated one. What matters to us most is what countries are able to do against terrorism. We have, I think, moved beyond the stage of what people say. We have moved to the stage of active cooperation with any number of governments. Some of this cooperation is visible. Some of it in intelligence or law enforcement or other areas may never be visible.
So there is a lot of active cooperation with any number of governments on diplomatic steps, humanitarian steps, information sharing, law enforcement cooperation, efforts to disrupt networks in any number of ways. These efforts are ongoing.
To the extent that governments feel comfortable talking about them, we welcome that. To the extent that they don't, what really matters is what people do and how they cooperate, and we found a great deal of cooperation, practical, concrete, effective cooperation we've found to date.
QUESTION: But is it not true that silence or, in fact, anything less than an outright and total condemnation is, in this case, golden?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I follow that.
QUESTION: Well, Ben's question was kind of like, isn't silence golden here? Isn't what -- this constitutes something that you can accept and live with. Anything less than an Iraq or an Iran is actually -- you're doing pretty well, right?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we are doing very well, but not for the reasons you cite. I think once again -- the answer I gave to Ben was, to the extent people want to talk about what they're doing, that's great. To the extent they don't, that's fine too. What matters is that they cooperate and that they work with us, and we've found a great deal of practical, effective cooperation against terrorism.
QUESTION: I want to go back the Secretary's trip to India and Pakistan. You said that you don't want the current crisis to become an issue of increased friction and dispute between the two. And I was just wondering if the Secretary was going to bring any additional confidence-building measures --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not putting this trip in the context of their relationship with each other; I am putting it in the context of two governments with which we have important relationships, two governments with which we are cooperating against terrorism. Two stops on a trip which is based on the need to keep working with members -- key members of the coalition against terrorism. That is the context for this trip, not to make other suggestions at this point.
QUESTION: On Colombia, do you have any official reaction to the situation of President Pastrana to extend the (inaudible) to the FARC?
MR. BOUCHER: We support the peace process in Colombia. We have supported President Pastrana's leadership of the process, and therefore we support his decision to renew the zone until January 20th of 2002. We also welcome his decision to strengthen security in areas surrounding the zone and to tighten the control on materials and vehicles and people that are entering it and leaving it.
We hope that the October 5 agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will produce results. The FARC, however, has yet to respond in good faith to President Pastrana's previous efforts. The FARC continues to abuse the peace process by kidnapping and attacking civilians, and by its involvement in the illegal drug trade. We would remind the FARC and all illegal groups in Colombia that the international community has clearly demonstrated through its solidarity that there is no tolerance for terrorism.
The kidnapping and murder last week of the former Minister of Culture, the assassination of a congressman, the apparent murder of two NGO workers in Putumayo, and the violent effort to block entry into the zone by a political procession that was led by presidential candidate Horatio Serpa are all the latest examples of the FARC abuses.
QUESTION: In another country in Latin American, Nicaragua, there were some statements made public during the weekend. One statement by a spokesperson saying that the United States has serious concern about Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in the coming elections. And you guys were talking about the past, when the Sandinista Government had some contacts with Iran, Libya and the FARC.
These positions were characterizes in Latin America as another intent of the United States to intervene in free country, and they are going to have free elections. Why is that? Why are you trying to advise the people who is good, who is bad?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say, first of all, I think that is a statement by me that you are citing, so I support it. (Laughter.)
The second thing that I would like to say is we say in the statement, we make quite clear we would accept the results of any free and fair election that was held in Nicaragua. Certainly our cooperation with the current government of Nicaragua has been very good, and our knowledge of the history and the knowledge of the activities of the Sandinista Party in Nicaragua is very extensive as well.
So the fact that we would accept whatever comes out of a fair and free election doesn't mean that we have to change our views about some of the people and parties that are participating in it, nor do we have to change -- I think be silent on the fact that we know what these people have done in the past.
QUESTION: So you don't believe him that he's saying that he changed?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we are quite aware of the entire history of this party and these people. I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Why have you guys (inaudible) in the past having contacts with the Taliban itself, and now they are your enemies? Every country, every government has the right to change.
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't -- don't misconstrue our contacts with the Taliban. Our contacts with the Taliban for the last several years have been either devoted particularly to the point of telling them they have to abide by UN resolutions, and deliver Usama bin Laden and his henchmen, as well a close down the networks, or they have been contacts on the issue of the Americans that are detained.
QUESTION: Any new information on status of relief workers in Afghanistan who are on trial?
MR. BOUCHER: The detainees? We have a little bit of new information. The Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs tells us that they have sent one of their deputies to check on the detainees after the attacks began on Sunday. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has continued to assure us that the detainees are safe and well. The Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also assured us that there is strict security at the detention center for the safety of the detainees, and they also stated that the detainees are safe from air attack.
The family members of the detainees continue to exchange letters by fax with the detainees. The parents of the detainees and the US, Australian and German consults met with the lawyer that represents them on Sunday in Islamabad. That lawyer, Mr. Kahn, is preparing a response to the Taliban's charges and has been granted a visa to return to Kabul to continue his case. He is planning to travel to Kabul tomorrow in order to present his response to the Taliban supreme court on Thursday. He is also planning to deliver a large quantity of personal items, clothing and letters to the detainees.
The detainees' parents remain in Islamabad, and they are in very close touch with the embassy.
QUESTION: Richard, have they told you -- have the Taliban told you exactly where they are so that you don't hit them by mistake?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject to Iran?
QUESTION: One more on this. What was the level of that contact? Was that in Islamabad?
MR. BOUCHER: It was in Islamabad yesterday -- or the day before? Yesterday.
QUESTION: Well, what is the exact status?
MR. BOUCHER: They have generally kept in touch with us as -- with our Consul General there.
QUESTION: I don't understand what the exact status is. Are you guys basically -- you're basically at war with the Taliban, and yet there's no proscription on this kind of meeting? Or do you look at this as a kind of -- I don't know, not Geneva Convention, but some kind of -- but is it strictly a humanitarian thing that is not affected by the fact that you're bombing the targets that belong to the Taliban?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, our effort, military action and other action is designed to disrupt the al-Qaida network, is designed to get at those who harbor them and the harboring of terrorism. That doesn't lessen in any way our concern about these Americans, and if it is necessary to talk to somebody about the welfare of these Americans, we will do so.
QUESTION: Right. But the fact that they are willing to send a representative from their foreign ministry to see the detainees and find out that they're okay ostensibly means that they are still willing to have contact with you. Are they not? Is there not?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been willing to have contact with them on this subject since September 11th, as well as before.
QUESTION: Okay. The conversations are strictly about the --
MR. BOUCHER: The conversations are strictly about the detainees, and they -- we always reiterate what the President said. These people should be released; they should be released immediately.
QUESTION: You said that they were dispatching someone to check on them, but yet you also say that they are telling you they're safe from air raids and all this, or is that a report back from the guy, whomever was sent to check on them? And why would somebody have to trot over there anyway? Why can't they check? Do they have absolutely no phone access as far as you know?
MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea if they have telephones to where these people are being detained. Clearly, it was the Foreign Ministry that went to check on them. They -- to the extent that they were able to see these people and reassure us, we welcome that. But it's not -- I don't know how things work in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: So this report that they are okay was after this guy -- it was from the person who checked on them? Since the attack?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, this is all from the Taliban Foreign Ministry. We don't have independent verification of it. We haven't seen them ourselves, nor has the lawyer, since last week.
QUESTION: Well, I was saying that this is since the attack? Since Sunday we know they're okay?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. What they told us -- what the Taliban Foreign Ministry told us is that they had checked on the detainees since Sunday, that the detainees were okay, that they were safe and in a safe place. But that's all information from them.
QUESTION: Richard, but those contacts were through the Taliban rep in Islamabad, or did a Foreign Ministry person come to Islamabad to tell you? Was it on the phone?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We got it, I think, from the Taliban representatives in Islamabad. But at what level or what person it was, I just don't know.
QUESTION: But Richard, do you believe anything the Taliban says, given that Secretary Powell himself has said -- I think the exact words were, "I don't believe anything that the Taliban says" when they were talking about bin Laden or a whole lot of other things. So how reliable is this information?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'm not in a position to vouch for the information, nor to analyze it.
QUESTION: Do the people who are picking targets know the location of the detainees?
MR. BOUCHER: I was just asked that, and I'm not going to talk about targets, and frankly I don't know the answer anyway.
QUESTION: -- that the US is in no hurry to capture bin Laden, due to the fact that we have evidence, or so we've been told, that he is implicated in the bombings, or whatever they were in September -- the attacks, why is there going to be a delay in the search for him?
MR. BOUCHER: That's almost a question about military operations, to the extent that those exist. I would make clear what the President has made clear all along. This network of terrorists -- yes, there is a man at the head of it, and he is a wanted man; he has been indicted in New York for the World Trade Center bombings. And many other of his leadership have been indicted as well.
But I would have to say that the goal is to eliminate the network, is to eliminate the kind of terrorism that they perpetrate on the world, and that's a much broader effort and a much more difficult one. And the effort will proceed in phases and stages. And to the extent that we can get the Taliban to fulfill their requirement to deliver him and other leaders to justice, that would be good. But what we need to do is to continue this until we can dismantle the entire network.
QUESTION: But if he is the brains behind it and contributing his personal fortune to it, wouldn't he be a top priority?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, the President has made clear he is a wanted man, but there are many -- there are others involved as well, and it's not just about him. It's about dismantling this terrorist network that threatens us and threatens many others in the world as well.
QUESTION: Richard, the Somalis are very worried that they might be next in line, because the (inaudible) was on your list the other day. Can you reassure them at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm reassuring anybody. I think we have made clear, the President has made quite clear that it's time for nations to decide, it's time for groups to decide, it's time for individuals to decide that they should oppose terrorism; they should not harbor these groups, otherwise they'll be considered hostile.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) harbor anyone anyway, so it's kind of a free (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, if it's a nation, they need to decide; if it's an individual or group, they need to decide as well.
QUESTION: The military changes in Pakistan, do you care to comment on them?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: And have you had, in telephone conversations with Muslim and Arab leaders, reassurances beyond that which they have made in public, that they support these operations?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I would say the Secretary himself had a number of phone calls over the weekend. Our ambassadors in various places have been in touch with their local governments. The President has also had a number of phone conversations. And all of these conversations are not just with European leaders, friends, Russia, and others like that, but also with Muslim leaders -- people in Central Asia, people in the Gulf, people in the Arab world. And we have found in those conversations a lot of support for the efforts that we are making, certainly very strong effort for the efforts of the coalition, including support for the need to take military action as necessary.
QUESTION: Richard, would you say that that support goes far beyond that which these people are saying in public?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't had a chance to do that kind of analysis. I don't want to venture a guess on that.
QUESTION: Finally, there was a meeting -- I guess it started yesterday, in Iran, on relief coordination and humanitarian coordination with US, Pakistan and Iran. Could you just give us any updates on who is there, what we're trying to get out of it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about the specific meeting. I'll double check on it.
QUESTION: There's an upsurge of fighting in Abkhazia, in Georgia. The Georgians see the Russians' hands in this, and I wonder if you have any comment on that, given that Russia is a key ally in our fight against terrorism, and that Shevardnadze was just here?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on a particular upsurge in fighting in Georgia. The Secretary discussed the situation there with President Shevardnadze just on Friday, got an update on his efforts. And I talked about that, I think, a little bit on Friday.
Certainly, his efforts to resolve the situation are welcome and something that we would support, particularly his political -- his efforts to solve the political issues.
QUESTION: Richard, close by. You remember the plane that was shot down over the Black Sea the other day? Have you had any contact with the Ukrainians on providing them with that evidence which the Americans apparently have of what happened? Has anyone -- or perhaps providing the Russians or the Israelis, for that matter. And what's at the bottom of that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to double check. I didn't check on that. I'll see if we provided any information to the people that are involved.
QUESTION: Richard, speaking of planes, maybe I missed this. Have you ever located that missing crop duster?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so.
QUESTION: And are you working with any other federal agency right now on that, given the reason?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been working with a lot of federal agencies on this. Search and rescue was done with the Coast Guard. I don't know if there's any further investigation that can be done. But certainly a lot of search and rescue was done together with others.
QUESTION: Thank you. [End]
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