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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing

Friday, February 9, 2001

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

MIDDLE EAST/EUROPE
(pp. 1-2,4-5) Secretary Powell's Travel to the Middle East
(pp. 6) Secretary Powell's Travel to Brussels

MIDDLE EAST PEACE NEGOTATIONS
(pp. 1-3,5-6 ) Status of Middle East Peace Negotiations

NORWAY
(pp. 2,3-4,7) Secretary Powell's Meeting with Norwegian Foreign
Minister Jagland

IRAQ
(pp. 5)Reported Iraqi National Congress Proposal and Oil For Food
Program

ISRAEL
(pp. 5) Contacts with Prime Minister-Elect Sharon's Team

RUSSIA
(pp. 6) Reported Russian Criticism of Radio Free Europe Plan to
Broadcast in Chechen Language

AFGHANISTAN
(pp. 7-8,12) Possibility of Usama bin Laden Being Expelled to Third
Country
(pp. 8-11) US Contacts with Taliban/UN Security Council Resolutions

UK/LIBYA
(pp. 11) Prospects for Meeting by US and UK on Libya

TERRORISM
(pp.11) Foreign Terrorist Organization Designation and IRA

CUBA
(pp. 11) Reported Release of Dissident in Cuba


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB # 21

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2001 12:30 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. So I'll take a breath. The trip, as the Secretary
described it, with the stops that we have so far involves departure in
sort of the latter part of the day on the 23rd, and we are currently
scheduled to get back very late in the day on the 27th. But as I said,
that is the way it is with the pieces that the Secretary has announced
in tranche one. Those of us who are going hope that tranche two isn't
too long.

Q: Well, Richard, we had hard choices considering we just had a
limited amount of time, and he wasn't asked about the Middle East.

MR. BOUCHER: You can go ahead and ask me.

Q: Would you like to drive one more nail into the coffin of the last
administration's rejected proposition for a settlement between Israel
and the Palestinians? The peace -- no, I can't call it the peace
process. Is there a new reality? When the Secretary is out there, you
have a new Prime Minister, you have a rejected proposal by an
administration that is gone. In a sense at least, is there a new
beginning here?

MR. BOUCHER: I think there are a couple fairly obvious observations to
make about this. First, that former President Clinton offered his
ideas to assist the parties in their efforts, and the former President
himself made clear that the ideas would leave with him when they left
office.

The second observation is that the negotiations are up to the parties,
that they agree on a basis for the negotiation, or framework or
anything else. That's up to them. And that is, in a sense, what the
rest of us are trying to do is help them to reach those agreements.

And third of all, just to say that at this juncture, where we are with
the evolution of events and the new election in Israel, we will be
consulting with the parties, we will be consulting with regional
leaders, we will be consulting obviously with the Palestinians, about
how they see the period ahead, and that will help us determine how best
to proceed based on those consultations.

I think that is the only way you can really describe the current
situation.

Q: Could you give us a broader sense of how you see the Middle East
policy evolving? I think the Secretary himself and the President have
talked about embedding the peace process, or to say the effort to find
peace, in a broader regional policy. But it is not quite clear to me
what that broader regional policy would be.

MR. BOUCHER: Let me point you to a couple things. First of all, the
Secretary himself has talked many times about the interplay between
various issues in the region, the interplay between our bilateral
relationships, our search for peace, Iraq policy and other things, and
the need to address those with all the parties with whom we have good
bilateral relationships, but also all the parties who can help advance
those goals, and particularly who can help build the peace process.

And so you have seen in the President's phone calls, in the Secretary's
phone calls the last few days, that we are reaching out to a broad
group of people, a broad group of leaders in the region. You have seen
in the Secretary's several dozen meetings and several dozen phone calls
so far reaching out to a broad group of people who can be helpful, who
can help in the peace process, and with whom we have important
bilateral relationships.

So this message of restraint and moderation that we are conveying, not
only directly to the parties but to other people who have an interest
and take an interest in the situation. This morning he spoke with
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jagland, who has also been very involved in
the process. He talked on the phone with the Swedish Foreign Minister,
the head of the European Union at this moment. So there is a lot of
outreach going on, a lot of discussion of that.

And second of all, I would point you to look at his trip and the sites
that he is going to, the places that he is visiting in the Middle East,
places where we have important bilateral relationships, places where we
need to work with our friends and allies as we work through the issues,
as we work through the issues of Middle East peace, as we work through
the issues involving Iraq.

And so the way he has designed this trip is to go to a number of places
where he can do this. So that is the kind of approach that he
described in his testimony, and I think if you look at what he is
doing, that is the kind of approach he is carrying out.

Q: But there are broader questions also in the region -- the lack of
development, certainly democratic development, even economic
development, links between them, and the attitude of the publics toward
the United States. I mean, there are some things that might want to be
reviewed. I suppose this is --

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, those are obviously subjects of discussion in our
bilateral relationships and the kind of regional discussions we have
with parties. Certainly the economic situations in individual
countries, the economic situation right now for the Palestinians in the
territories, we all recognize that Israel does have certain security
concerns and needs to address its security concerns. The Palestinians
need to do everything they can to end the violence.

But at the same time, we've been very concerned about the economic
situation of the Palestinians. It's dire. Life is very difficult for
people. And this kind of economic pressure that causes hardship
disrupts the economic life of the territory. So we've been urging, for
example, the Israeli Government to transfer the tax revenues to the
Palestinian Authority to end some of the economic pressures because we
recognize the interplay between the economic and political
environments.

Q: Have any new ideas or proposals come out of the meeting with the
Norwegian Foreign Minister this morning, either on -- can you flesh out
anything on the Middle East or on NMD?

MR. BOUCHER: It's one of those questions where, if I say yes, you're
going to ask me for what, and if I say no I'm embarrassing myself. Let
me try to remember. I just gave away the notebook that had my notes in
it.

Q: Does the Norwegian Foreign Minister believe that Oslo is dead?

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: He seemed to think Oslo was still a wonderful place, and
we tend to agree with him.

If I can talk about this meeting a little bit, they met this morning
for 35 or 40 minutes, the Secretary and the Norwegian Foreign Minister
Jagland. They talked about a great number of regional and global
issues. I have to say at one point -- I forget who it was that said it
first -- do we have any bilateral problems or issues we need to
discuss? And the answer was no. So then they went back to their
discussion of sort of regional and global issues at this point.

There are obviously some things that we take up with the Norwegians in
different fora at different levels, so we do have issues with them, but
in terms of their level and this meeting, that was not the case. So
what they took up was a discussion of various regional issues.

Norway is playing a very active international role at this moment.
They are head of the UN Sanctions Committee; they're on the Security
Council; Foreign Minister Jagland is part of the Mitchell Commission
for the Middle East; I think they have a leading role in KFOR. So
there is quite a number of things they are doing.

So they began -- first of all, the Secretary said he appreciated very
much the role that Norway is playing at this moment, and then second of
all they began by discussing some of these issues. I think they
discussed the Iraq situation and how policy might evolve, how to make
effective in practical terms what the Secretary was talking about in
terms of the sanctions and making sure that Iraq was not in a position
to threaten its neighbors, threaten the people of its region.

They discussed the situation in the Middle East and the various
contacts that they had had. They discussed the Mitchell Commission.
They discussed some of the other regional issues for Europe. I think
European Security and Defense came up, a little bit on National Missile
Defense, a bit on the situation in Russia, obviously of interest to
Norway in the far north. So it was really a series of various regional
and global issues that they discussed.

Q: The whales didn't come up at all?

MR. BOUCHER: That didn't come up at this level today, no.

Q: But the United States is still concerned about Norwegian --

MR. BOUCHER: We are still concerned about Norwegian whaling, and we do
discuss it with the Norwegians, yes.

Q: Wouldn't you say that Mr. Clinton has offered his ideas and that it
is going to end with his administration?

MR. BOUCHER: It has ended.

Q: Yeah, and it ended. But does that mean that we have to reinvent
the wheel? Don't we know that there are some demands from the
Palestinians and the Arab streets for a just peace in the area? What
are the Administration aspirations for achieving that peace? I mean,
are you as aspirant to achieve peace, lasting peace in the Middle East,
as the Clinton Administration?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first and foremost, we all remember the goal is
peace. The goal is peace for people that -- I think the Secretary
described it as two peoples in one land. So the goal is for that
situation to be peaceful. Nobody ever forgets that.

In terms of a particular process or procedure at the moment, this is
the moment we are in where we have to talk to the parties. We know
that there will be aspirations and expectations and proposals on both
sides, and we'll want to talk to the parties and consult with them, and
then be able to determine with them what is the best way to proceed.

Q: Can I get back to Iraq for a second?

Q: Actually, can I ask one brief thing on the Middle East? This
proposal that the former Special Middle East Envoy, who has not been
replaced, made this morning in The New York Times for a limited
political settlement and a code of conduct, is that something that you
all might consider, that the Secretary might consider taking on that
suggestion and pushing -- when he's there, pushing both sides to look
at that kind of a deal?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to describe the Secretary's trip in
any other terms. There are obviously a variety of ideas and
suggestions from very worthy people out in the public domain at this
point, but what is going to matter in the end is when we see a
government formed in Israel and we are able to talk to the parties and
discuss with them and understand their expectations and concerns, that
we will at that point be much better able to determine with the parties
how we think we should proceed.

Q: But could this be something that you would be willing to look at as
part -- I mean, you're not closing off any options, are you?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I mean, again, there are many worthy ideas and
proposals out there. I think if I get into commenting on this one and
that one, at some point we might find some unworthy ones. But I think
what really matters, the way the Secretary has explained it to you
before and the way I'm explaining it today, is what we hear from the
parties when there is a government in Israel and people are ready to
get down to business.

Q: On Iraq, does this building have any position on the proposal from
the Iraq National Congress to gain access to this Paris account for the
Oil-for-Food program? They have been asking for this. It's unclear
whether or not the US would support them in the UN for this.

MR. BOUCHER: I frankly don't know. I haven't looked into that
particular proposal. Our relationship with the Iraqi National Congress
and the things that we want to do with them is defined by and large by
the statement that we issued in September that was based on our
agreement with them. At this point, that is where we are in terms of
implementing the various things in that understanding.

Q: Can I just follow up on just one other Iraq question? Is it fair
to say the division of labor with regard to Iraq in the government is
the State Department deals with sanctions and that the Pentagon will
for the most part be dealing with any insurgency efforts? Is that a
fair distinction to make?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

Q: Could you tell me if Powell is going to meet with any of the
Israeli transition team that will be here next week?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we don't have a schedule set so I don't
know. We've been in touch with the Sharon team. That's what we're
calling them.

We are in contact with Prime Minister-Elect Sharon's team to arrange
for discussions with Washington officials next week, but at this point
we don't have a schedule or details for you.

Q: Richard, does Secretary Powell plan on discussing with the Israeli
Government the current sort of blockade that's in place against the
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and discuss perhaps the
problems that the Palestinians are having, severe economic problems?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, this is an issue of concern to us. We
recognize the importance to Israel of taking steps to address its
security, but we also know that the economic situation for the
Palestinians is very dire and the economic pressure only adds to their
hardship. So we have discussed with the Israeli Government in the
past, and I am sure we will in the future, discuss these circumstances.
We have urged and continue to urge them to release the tax revenues,
for example, and to relieve some of the economic pressure for the
reasons that we were discussing before, that in fact the interplay of
economic and political forces is very strong, and we think that the
pressure should be relieved.

Q: On the Brussels part of the trip, could you at all discuss what
agenda items are likely to come up there? Is it going to be a forum
for a missile defense discussion, troop withdrawals from Bosnia? Any
other -- those or any other?

MR. BOUCHER: I am sure there will be an agenda, but since it is not
one of the regular six-month North Atlantic Council meetings that we
have at ministerial level, it won't be probably quite so formal a
discussion, maybe not at decision point. It is going to be a chance to
discuss many of these very important issues for the other NATO foreign
ministers, and Lord Robertson is getting people together to have a
discussion with the Secretary of State and the other ministers of the
issues that are before NATO now, and obviously that includes questions
of NATO's cooperation.

First of all, the Secretary has described NATO as the bedrock of our
security policy in Europe, and in fact in a much broader area, and
therefore there will be many things to discuss about NATO and how we
cooperate in NATO. There will be things to discuss about European
Security and Defense Identity. I am sure the issue of the Balkans will
come up. Missile defense may come up. So I am sure there will be a
variety of issues, but all related to the issue of how we consult, how
we coordinate, how we work with our allies on our common security
agenda which is based very firmly in NATO.

Q: On Russia, Russia's media minister has denounced plans,
congressional mandated plans by Radio Free Europe, to broadcast --
start broadcasting the Chechen language. He called it a great
political mistake. And I'm just wondering, what does this tell you
about Russian intentions on dealing with the free flow of information
and their commitment to democracy?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about this particular event, and I would
have to check about the statement that you cite, but I would point you
back to what the Secretary said during his testimony, what the
Secretary has said before about democracy, freedom, human rights being
very important foundations for our policies.

And we have expressed, I think repeatedly, our concerns about the
activities of the Russian Government vis-à-vis the free press. We
think the free press is an essential basis for a free society, for
modern society, and we have expressed our concerns about many of the
actions that have been taken recently by the Russian Government to put
pressure on the independent media.

Q: Richard, the Justice Department has evidently been told it has to
cut a billion dollars from its budget, and the Pentagon is being told
that it has to keep its budget where it is now. Powell, in his
testimony in the Senate, made it clear that he was going to be going up
there and that the State Department was in dire need of more money.

Do you have anything that you can tell us about the state of play on
that front, and whether the State Department is likely to get what it
wants?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I don't have anything new to say on that.
I think Secretary Powell made quite clear our intentions, but I don't
have an update on where we stand vis-à-vis the budget issues.

Q: Have you heard from OMB on that matter in terms of what is expected
--

MR. BOUCHER: These questions of the internal work within the
Administration on budgetary matters I think is something we like to
leave internally. So it's the kind of question I'm not going to
answer.

Q: Going back again to the Norwegian Foreign Minister, one of the key
concerns of the Europeans in the context of NMD has been maximum
consultation with Russia.

Did the Secretary tell him whether and when he would be seeing Foreign
Minister Ivanov, maybe meet him during his trip? And did he give him
any ideas of a framework for how that negotiation or consultation with
Russia might take place?

MR. BOUCHER: In the context of the discussion on missile defense, the
issue did come up. I think he asked, when are you going to have a
chance to talk with the Russians about this. The Secretary told him
what I have told you before; we hope to see him soon. Actually, it may
be possible to make some arrangements for that to happen during the
course of this trip that is coming up, but the arrangements are still
being made.

So the Secretary said yes, he does look forward to discussing it with
the Russian Foreign Minister soon, along with a lot of other subjects.

Q: Have you followed up at all on these ideas floated by the
Pakistanis that continue being reiterated about possibly handing bin
Laden over for a trial in a third country, an Islamic trial? I know we
didn't take it too seriously at first, but the Pakistanis keep talking
about it, so I wondered if we are giving it more credence.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think as long as it is within the scope of the UN
Resolutions 1267 and 1333, that any idea that leads to the expulsion of
Usama bin Laden to a country where he can be brought to justice
probably deserves attention.

But I would say that we haven't heard this directly from the
Pakistanis, and so the issue remains and will remain for us full
compliance with those UN resolutions. And that is the standard by
which we would judge any idea.

Q: Have we asked the Taliban about it in our limited communication
with them?

MR. BOUCHER: We had a meeting with them yesterday. The representative
of the Taliban Movement met February 8th with Acting Assistant
Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Alan Eastham. This is Mr.
Abdul Hakeem Mujahid. He has no official status in the United States.

But that was a chance for Mr. Eastham to remind him of the requirements
of the Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1233 (sic) and the steps
being taken by the United States to implement them.

Among these steps is the requirement to close any Taliban office in the
United States, and that means that the Taliban will no longer be able
to maintain their office in New York. So we are going to carry that
through.

Q: Richard, that meeting was here?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. He came down.

Q: But that meeting couldn't take place if they closed the office,
could it?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, once they close the office, it will be closed.

Q: So he has no official status?

MR. BOUCHER: He has no official status.

Q: So, what, he is not even going to be allowed to live in the States?
I mean, doesn't he live in Brooklyn with his family?

MR. BOUCHER: I do not know what his actual personal status is, but he
has no official status. But the point is that the Taliban, under the
UN resolutions, under the new UN resolutions, we have asked them to
close their office, to close the Taliban office here. We also went
through other steps they have to take to comply fully, like
surrendering bin Laden for prosecution, shutting down the training
camps.

Q: I wasn't aware that they actually had an office, other than this
guy's house.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the exact status, but if he has got one, he
has got to close it.

Q: What was the response on this?

MR. BOUCHER: The response on this idea -- everything I have on this
meeting doesn't show that this idea was discussed in particular.

Q: Does that office -- did that office have official UN status before
the resolution was passed?

MR. BOUCHER: No. As far as I know, that office did not have any
official status.

Q: Was he received, or was he summoned, you know, as in an expulsion?

MR. BOUCHER: I think he came to see us. He asked to come down and see
us, and in the course of this discussion, we reiterated, as we always
do, what was necessary to comply with UN resolutions, which now
includes the requirement that the office be closed.

Q: So it wasn't prompted by this new suggestion?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

Q: Does that mean (inaudible) himself?

MR. BOUCHER: That is something you would have to ask him.

Q: Does that mean that -- I'm sorry -- but does that mean that he can
no longer serve as a representative of the Taliban here, and you won't
have any interlocutor in New York at all? I mean, I don't understand,
what does closing the office mean?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me get back to you on --

Q: What does "closing the office" mean?

MR. BOUCHER: Closing the office means that if there is an office that
says "Taliban," you close it.

Q: Yeah, but I mean --

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: Kind of simple, isn't it?

Q: Richard, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Is this guy
going to have --

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, okay. Will we continue to talk to this gentleman
on issues involving the Taliban?

Q: Exactly. Will he be --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I will check on that. Will we be in a
position to continue to talk to this gentleman on issues involving the
Taliban? I don't know.

Q: I mean, considering (inaudible).

MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check.

Q: What can you tell us about a letter that the Foreign Minister of
the Taliban wrote to Secretary Powell recently?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I can't tell you anything about the letter. It is
up to him to describe any letters that he might have come to deliver
yesterday.

Q: So you are not confirming that he got a letter?

MR. BOUCHER: What?

Q: You're not confirming that the Foreign Minister of the Taliban sent
Secretary Powell a letter?

MR. BOUCHER: I understand he came to deliver a letter. I have not
seen it myself.

Q: Richard, why was that additional item added to the US list of
demands -- what was the thinking --

MR. BOUCHER: There is a new UN resolution. There are now two UN
resolutions governing the Taliban, 1267 and 1333.

Q: So you were simply conveying --

MR. BOUCHER: -- the requirements under the old and the new
resolutions, which include closing the office.

Q: Did the item get added to the UN resolution at US request, and if
so, why?

MR. BOUCHER: I think so, yes. I would have to go back into the
history of that particular resolution, but the reason there was a
second resolution is because it was quite clear to all the people of
the United Nations that the Taliban had not complied with the first
one, which asked them to surrender bin Laden and close all the
terrorist training camps, among other things.

And so therefore, we felt -- I think it was a year after the first
resolution -- that we needed another resolution that started to impose
some penalties for this against the Taliban authorities, against the
Taliban regime, and that includes closing their overseas offices.

Q: Does that -- I mean, did this office closure, about which -- is
that supposed to be immediate?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the resolution has passed already. I don't know
if there is any grace period, but yes, more or less immediately. Right
away, at least.

Q: Did anything positive come out of the meeting? I mean, did he
bring anything here?

MR. BOUCHER: Did anything positive come out of the meeting? Well, it
gave us the opportunity to convey quite clearly the need to comply with
all the UN resolutions. We consider that positive.

Q: New subject? Do you have anything on the meeting yesterday between
the US and British officials on setting up the meeting with the Libyans
for next week on Lockerbie?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't at this point. I don't think we are going to
want to say much at this stage. I will check. We may want to describe
the meeting with the Libyans once it is set up and once we have it.

Q: The British and Irish Governments have been asking that the real
IRA, and perhaps other groups, be designated by the Administration as
terrorist organizations. Didn't happen before the end of the last
administration.

What is the current thinking, and what is likely to come of their
requests?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't checked on the current thinking recently. That
issue has certainly been under consideration for some time. I will
check if there is any update on this. There is no particular moment or
deadline for most of these reviews, so at some point, if we decide it
needs to be done, we will do it.

Q: What, if anything, do you know about the release of this dissident
or counter-revolutionary in Cuba?

MR. BOUCHER: What do I know? Nothing. I will hope to find out
something and see who in this building knows.

Q: So you don't --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know anything about it. I will have to check on
it for you.

Q: But you know what I'm talking about, don't you?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't actually. But we will check on it for you
and see what we can get you.

Q: Can I go back just briefly to the new IRA designation? Am I
correct in understanding that the main reason for not designating these
groups before was because the British Government didn't want that to
happen?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

Q: You said that you didn't hear directly from Pakistan itself on this
Usama bin Laden issue. But you didn't say -- or maybe I missed it --
whether the Taliban offered anything on his possible extradition
yesterday.

MR. BOUCHER: I will check once again. I am not aware that the Taliban
has ever spoken to the issue of actually complying with the UN
resolutions in this fashion. So I will check and see if there was
anything new yesterday.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 P.M.)

ENDS


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