State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 19, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, June 19, 2001
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
PAKISTAN 1-4 Meeting with Foreign Minister Sattar/Taliban/CTBT/Missile Defense/Usama bin Laden/Terrorism/Flow of Arms/India-Pakistan Summit/Possible U.S. Mediation Offer/Sanctions/Proliferation Concerns/Democracy and Corruption
MIDDLE EAST 4-5 U.S. Assessment of Ceasefire/Status of Arafat Visit/Status of Meeting with Prime Minister Sharon
SYRIA 7 Troop Redeployments
YEMEN 6-8 Authorized Departures/Potential Threat/Status of FBI in Country
BELARUS 8-9 Contact with Former Prosecutors Regarding Disappearances/Status of Political Asylum
IRAQ 9 Military Aid/Policy Change
MACEDONIA 9,10 National Albanian / American Council Meeting / Russian Involvement in Balkans / Secretary's Response to Concerns
NORTH KOREA 10 U.S. Response to Statement / Agenda Development
FRY 10 Status on Donors Conference
PHILLIPINES 10 Situation Update
UNITED NATIONS 11-13 Meeting with Mary Robinson / Status of U.S. Participation in U.N. World Conference Against Racism / Conference Issues / Level of U.S. Participation
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 86
TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2001 1:50 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
Q: Concerning the meeting between Secretary Powell and the Pakistani Foreign Minister, there was no reference in the brief stakeout just now to whatever they might have talked about concerning Afghanistan and the Taliban.
Could you update us?
MR. BOUCHER: I thought there was some reference to it. They discussed to a great extent the situation in the region, Pakistan's relations with its neighbors, including especially Afghanistan and the situation in Afghanistan, trying to understand perhaps a little more the way the Pakistanis see it.
It was an interesting discussion. I'm not sure it had any -- it didn't have any particular outcome in terms of action items or other sorts of things like that.
Q: Did Secretary Powell, in the Taliban aspect of the discussion, say at any point the US would like you to stop funding, arming and training the Taliban; these guys are under UN sanctions, you know?
MR. BOUCHER: Secretary Powell made clear on a number of issues the sensitivity and importance of these issues for the United States, among them being democracy, the moratorium on nuclear weapons, and relations with the Taliban. So without trying to put words in his mouth, I would say the Secretary made quite clear that the relationship with the Taliban was a matter of great importance to the United States.
Q: Two very quick things on this. The Pakistanis have in the past offered to mediate or be a bridge between the US and the Taliban. Is that offer still open?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing particular like that came up during this discussion.
Q: Okay. And the one thing that did not -- was not mentioned at all and that has been mentioned in previous administrations in conversations with the Pakistanis is whether the United States is wanting Pakistan to sign the CTBT. Considering that this administration doesn't think the CTBT is a good idea, is there a position on this now in relation to Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: The Pakistani Foreign Minister indicated, as he did to you outside, that they intended to maintain their moratorium on testing indefinitely. And the Secretary praised that and said that was very important to us. That was the thrust of our policy discussion.
Q: So those letters never came up?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't remember those letters coming up, at least not together.
Q: In a row. So then this is no longer a priority for the United States in South -- in dealing with particularly India and Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: The important thing to the United States is that nuclear developments not be carried any farther, and to that extent, the emphasis that we place on this in this Administration has been that there not be any further testing.
Q: Okay. So you're happy with his -- you were happy with his statement?
MR. BOUCHER: That is what we have asked them to stick with.
Q: Did the question of the fact that Pakistan was not visited by US officials on the missile defense consultations come up, considering that Pakistan is one of a handful of acknowledged nuclear powers?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
Q: It didn't come up?
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't come up.
Q: Was there any reference to Usama bin Laden; secondly, was there any reference to the fact that terrorists are claimed in Pakistan and Afghanistan and they keep coming across the border? Was there any discussion of that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think either of those things came up in precisely those terms. As I said, there was considerable discussion about the situation in Afghanistan. The Secretary made quite clear our concern about Afghanistan becoming a source for terrorism instability in the region, and as I said, continuing discussion of the issue of the Taliban and the way they had failed to heed, in many different ways, the standards and the policies of the outside world.
Q: Would you say that the Pakistani Government has thus far made a good faith effort in trying to stop the flow of arms and various supplies across its border into Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any kind of appraisal for you at this point.
Q: Did the Secretary give any indication of what he wanted to happen at the upcoming Vajpayee-Musharraf summit? And did the Minister give any indication of what he was going to go to the summit looking for?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess, as the Secretary did when they were outside, the Secretary said we very much look forward to that summit; we look forward to progress in terms of resolving some of the very complicated disputes between these two countries, particularly with regard to Kashmir. I think we generally just expressed our desire to see progress in the relationship, and particularly with regard to Kashmir.
Q: Former President Clinton several times in his administration said that he would be willing to try and mediate something between the Indians and the Pakistanis if both sides agreed to it, which has always been a problem -- one side wants it, one side doesn't. Is that offer still outstanding?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't hear his name come up, no.
Q: No, with --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, would the United States --
Q: This Administration.
MR. BOUCHER: This Administration? Again, we didn't make any particular offer. I think we look forward to progress between the two sides, and obviously if there is a role for the United States to play, we'd be happy to play that.
Q: And on the sanctions issue, Secretary Powell said downstairs that he had explained to the Foreign Minister what they needed to do to have these sanctions removed. Presumably, though, the Pakistanis have known for some time exactly what they need to do to have these restrictions lifted.
Was there anything new in what he said regarding the sanctions or a new kind of road map to lay out for them?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess I would say that since the sanctions themselves stem from a number of laws which are quite public and quite well analyzed in various quarters that, no, there is no new formula for doing it. What the Secretary stressed was the importance on moving forward in the relationship -- as he said, to build and rebuild the relationship, particularly with regard to the areas of great importance to us that are part of our sanctions regulations. So he stressed, emphasized, the importance to us of the elections next year and heard from the Pakistani Foreign Minister about those. He emphasized the importance of the moratorium on nuclear testing and heard from the Pakistani Foreign Minister on that as well.
Q: Again on the sanctions, there has been reports that the sanctions are going to be lifted on India, presumably a good bit sooner than they are going to be lifted on Pakistan. Did that come up? Did the Minister raise that at all?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there is different -- some of the sanctions are the same, some of the sanctions are different, so there was a little bit of comparison but not much. I think we take each of these on its merits. We look at the progress and where things are going in the individual relationships and decide what we can do in those terms.
Q: Did the issue of Pakistani weapons sales, particularly missile technology sales or transfers, come up in general -- proliferation concerns? e
MR. BOUCHER: In general, yes, the Secretary -- they talked about developments, regional developments and the importance -- in general terms, the importance of safeguards on weapons capabilities, weapons production capabilities.
Q: I mean, but did the Secretary at any point press, you know, sort of saying we'd appreciate it if you didn't sell to these particular countries?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing got that specific. But as I said, he stressed the importance of safeguards on weapons sales or potential weapons sales.
Q: On the democracy issue, the Foreign Minister said that he had talked about the steps that General Musharaff was making to rehabilitate -- I think he said rehabilitate -- democracy in the country. What is the United States' take on the steps that he has -- that Musharraf has taken towards democracy, if he has in fact? And also on the corruption issue, which the Foreign Minster said that they had made a lot of progress on.
MR. BOUCHER: Our take on this is that it is very, very important to reestablish democracy; it is very, very important to continue moving towards open elections, clean elections next year. The Secretary made that quite clear. The Foreign Minister described the process, described the progress that they intended to make. And the Secretary, again, appreciated that and stressed the importance of carrying it out.
And on corruption, I think generally, as we have in many, many places, the Secretary has stressed the importance of tackling corruption as one of the chief issues that prevents not only democracy, but investment and economic growth as well.
Q: Richard, can you talk about the Middle East and tell us what your current assessment is of the two sides and the cease-fire that Mr. Tenet theoretically got?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, let me try to give you just such an assessment. Over the past few days, as we know, we have seen an upsurge in violence and in shootings. We certainly regret the loss of life on both sides over the past few days, and we call on both sides to redouble their efforts to bring down the violence.
We are encouraged by the efforts made by both sides, including the joint assessment at the Netzarim Junction area that was conducted yesterday. But continued success requires good faith and sustained efforts from both sides to fully implement the work plan.
We think both sides need to focus on sustaining their efforts to fully implement the work plan. As the Secretary General said on Sunday, our focus right now is getting the violence down so that we can get the Mitchell Committee road map moving forward into the areas of, as you know, of the cooling-off period, confidence-building measures, and eventually the return to negotiations based on resolutions 242, 338 and Land-for-Peace.
Q: Israeli press reports say that, in a private meeting, President Bush told the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations that Arafat would still not be invited to the White House so long as the violence remains.
I realize you are not going to comment on an off-the-record conversation, so I am not going to ask that, but what is the policy of the State Department regarding an Arafat visit, considering that Sharon has already said that he is coming over here again?
MR. BOUCHER: The policy of the State Department regarding an Arafat visit to the White House is not to comment on things said in private conversations, is not to comment on visitors to the White House, and not to comment on visits that have not been set.
Q: How about the -- will the Secretary be seeing Prime Minister Sharon when he comes next week?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing particularly to announce at this point. We do know that Prime Minister Sharon is coming next week, and I just would say we have always taken advantage of the opportunity in the past to meet with him. But we have nothing scheduled, nothing to announce at this point.
Q: Okay, but does that mean that you envision a separate meeting, other than just -- other than one --
MR. BOUCHER: We will have to see. We will have to see.
Q: Can we stay in the region? On Yemen --
Q: Very quickly, just you said yesterday you were looking at the Syrian redeployments. I'm wondering if you have anything more. Are you still -- is that still the --
MR. BOUCHER: In Lebanon? I don't think we have anything --
Q: Okay, then let's go to Yemen. Lebanon.
MR. BOUCHER: Any new news on the subject. No, yesterday we were watching closely. We're continuing to watch these closely. Haven't changed our position on the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon, either. I'm sure you'll be glad to know that.
Q: Can I just follow up on the Damascus -- I just want to make sure I understand. Are you watching just to see that the deployments or the redeployments stick, that they don't just move the troops and then move them back in? Is that pretty much what you're watching for? If someone says they're going to move the troops out, I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: We obviously want to know what's going on. At this point, we have seen what we would say were incomplete redeployments. We want to understand these more fully, so we pay attention to see what is going on. I think it is premature to try to draw any assessments about redeployments until we actually see the fulfillment and see where they stick.
Q: On Yemen, do you want to update on that overnight and tell us whether US diplomats are still working at the Embassy, even if FBI agents may have been withdrawn?
MR. BOUCHER: That's basically where we are. Our Embassy people are still there. The Embassy remains closed because, as you know, there is a potential threat out there for increased terrorist activities. Our Embassy people continue to work. We had an authorized departure, not an ordered one, so that the non-emergency personnel and some family members have been able to leave. But we continue to work out there with the Yemeni Government on trying to maintain a secure situation.
The cooperation of the Yemeni Government has been good. I know there have been press reports about particular things they may have done in terms of arrests and networks, but I am not in a position really to speak on their behalf, so you would have to get that information from them.
Q: Could I ask something about the authorized departures? Do these people -- when they leave on an authorized departure, are they required to come back to Washington, or can they go to someplace else?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll double-check the exact regulations. I think there are -- in various forms there are alternatives. Sometimes people go to other places, sometimes as a general -- the whole group will go to some other place for a temporary period if it's thought to be a short time. Sometimes individuals with particular circumstances -- kids in school in Europe or something like that -- might end up in some other location.
Q: Did the Yemeni Government at any time approach the Embassy, or for that matter the US personnel there, saying that there might be a danger, there might be a threat?
MR. BOUCHER: I think both we and the Yemeni Government know there is a threat. We knew there were threats in the region. Certainly the bombing of the USS Cole indicates quite clearly that there is a threat.
Q: Sure. Specifically for this --
MR. BOUCHER: And we have been working with them ever since in, I think, very close cooperation on the potential threats that are out there, on the potential for attacks on the Embassy or elsewhere. And so I'm not sure that there was a moment -- well, there probably was a moment when they came and said we are aware of a particular threat. But in general, we have been cooperating with them all along on identifying threats and, as far as possible, taking measures to prevent them. And we've had very good cooperation, we think, with the Yemeni Government in doing that.
Q: Was this a threat that American personnel there or at the Embassy or what? Can you say?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we described it in the travel advisory as an increased threat of terrorist activity against the Embassy and American interests in Yemen. That's the way I would describe it now, at least if we didn't say that before.
Q: Richard, the FBI says that some of their agents who were working out of the US Embassy had wanted to arm themselves in a particular way and the US Ambassador, Ms. Bodine, wouldn't allow them to, and that's the reason that they have come back.
Was there any kind of disagreement about this? Is this an accurate characterization?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can get into any particular security measures. What I would say is that our Ambassador is responsible for the security of the entire mission, of all US personnel who are in country under her authority; that she has worked very hard, very closely, with the FBI throughout this investigation and worked very seriously with all the US officials in Yemen to make sure that their security is maintained. This was a decision by the FBI based on its own assessment of the situation, but our Ambassador is charged and is fully carrying out a responsibility to maintain the security for all official Americans in country.
Q: Richard, are you guys still working with the FBI to try to get them back, or have you kind of like given up and decided that these guys don't want to be there and there's nothing you can do?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we haven't severed our relationship. (Laughter.) We are still working with the FBI. We obviously look forward to a moment when they feel that the situation is such that they can return. We think the investigation is important. We have worked closely with them all along. We look forward to continuing our work with them, whether it is in Yemen or here.
Q: Right. But, you know, yesterday out of this building there was -- you know, there appeared to be a little friction about this FBI decision, which apparently has not yet been resolved. They're not back yet.
MR. BOUCHER: No, but as we said, it was their decision based on their assessment to leave, and I suppose it will be their decision and their assessment to come back. What I do know is that our Ambassador is out there providing security, that our Diplomatic Security Service is providing security, that we have increased the security for Americans there, that we have worked with the Yemeni Government to provide better security for all Americans there, and that the rest of us remain there and continue working.
Q: All right. So if it is safe enough for the State Department, it should be safe enough for officials from other cabinet agencies?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to take cheap shots.
Q: Has the United States had any contact with two former prosecutors from Belarus who have given media information indicating the presence of a death squad in the interior ministry? I have their names, but I can't pronounce them.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I can answer the precise question about whether we have had any contact. We do know of Mr. Petrushkevich and Mr. Sluchak's revelations. We think that these statements give further urgency to the need to clear up the fate of the disappeared and to bring those responsible to justice.
We have long called for a thorough investigation of the disappearance of former Belarusian Minister of Internal Affairs Zakharenko, the 13th Supreme Soviet Deputy Chairman Gonchar and his associate Anatoly Krasovsky, and the Russian television cameraman as well.
The Belarusian authorities need to account for these people in order to dispel the current climate of fear and to create an atmosphere conducive to free and fair presidential elections on September 9th.
Without commenting on the individuals, we are quite aware of the situation. We think these revelations are important. They give an urgency to clearing up this entire matter, and we have long called for clearing up the entire matter.
Q: I realize this is a version of the question that you don't like to answer, but had they applied for asylum?
MR. BOUCHER: That is precisely the question I can't answer.
Q: Let's just try -- let's just get it out there. Have they been given -- have they been granted political asylum?
MR. BOUCHER: That is the other question I can't answer.
Q: Richard, the Iraqis start rebuilding their military. They already bought 200 armored vehicles, transportation car is the names Ural from the Russia, and they ordered 1,300 more of the same vehicle. And also, we heard that the United States reduced the flight over the Iraqi -- northern part of the Iraq.
Are you planning to change your policy against Iraq or strategy against Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you are talking about two different things. As far as the flights over Iraq and how we maintain the no-fly zones, I think that is a question the Pentagon has been looking at, and so you would have to ask the Pentagon how they conduct those operations at this point.
I wasn't aware of any particular purchases of military equipment by Iraq, but I would say that overall it is expected that under the old sanctions policy and the new sanctions policy, people would not be selling weaponry to Iraq. It is in the common interest of all of us to prevent Iraq from rebuilding its armies and its capabilities in terms of weapons of mass destruction.
Q: This morning, the Secretary met with some Albanian-Americans, talking about the situation in the Balkans, particularly in Macedonia. And they, when they came out, said that they had expressed their concern about Russia being involved in any kind of effort to bring peace, and the insurgency, the rebellion.
I'm just wondering, given the fact that President Bush and President Putin have spoken about this -- and yesterday, President Bush said that he thought the US and the Russians could work together on this -- does the Secretary -- does this building share the concerns of these people? And what did they -- and if it does or if it doesn't, what was the Secretary's response to their expression of these concerns?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, if we have a choice here, I will take the President. We certainly join with the President in saying that there are areas where the US and Russia can cooperate on in terms of the Balkans. We were both present in Kosovo and the Kosovo forces, and we do cooperate in many ways in the Balkans.
The Secretary's meeting this morning was with Congressman Engel, Congresswoman Kelly, and some representatives of the National Albanian- American Council. They talked about the situation in the Balkans. I don't think I have any particular detailed readout of that meeting.
We do -- the Secretary did express our continued concerns regarding the extremists in Macedonia and the needs for everybody to get behind the political process, and that political process is continuing in Macedonia, and we are strongly supporting the efforts of all the parties in Macedonia to find political solutions to their problems.
Q: Well, except for the NLA. Not all the parties.
MR. BOUCHER: All the political parties in Macedonia who are in the coalition.
Q: Could you kindly comment on the North Korean statement on Sunday? Basically, they rejected the idea to talk on the conventional forces. Is the United States going to step back from the proposal or --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made quite clear what we intend to discuss. I had a brief lack of comment on the statement yesterday, so I will stick with that today.
We have made quite clear the subjects that we intend to raise, that we want to raise in this dialogue with the North Koreans, and we have also said that we look forward to proceeding with that dialogue. So I think our position is quite well-known on those issues.
Q: (Inaudible) ready to rearrange the agendas?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we are going to arrange the agenda through a series of public statements. We are going to -- we have made quite clear what we do want to raise, and then we will set the agenda at the appropriate time when they are ready to talk.
Q: Has the meeting been set?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is anything particularly scheduled at this point. We have said we look forward to another meeting soon.
Q: Richard, back to the Balkans. This donors conference is coming up very fast, or the donors conference that was supposed to be being held. Have you guys decided whether you are going to attend yet?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no decision yet.
Q: Okay. Wait, wait, I'm not done yet. Do you have anything new on the Philippines, on the situation there?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is anything new. Let me just check and see -- see in the media reports. Unable to independently confirm, and that is where we were yesterday.
Q: My last question is, the Secretary met yesterday with Mary Robinson, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
Q: Did that meeting go -- do anything to assuage your fear or your opposition to -- not opposition -- your fears about the upcoming racism conference, or are you still of the mind that, the way it stands now, the US would not be interested in participating at a high level?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think what we have said is we have not decided at what level we would participate, and certainly our desire to see a forward-looking and positive conference, our desire not to see issues of Israel and Zionism raised in such a conference, that those would certainly be important in our decisions on how we attend and who goes.
So that was the subject, the principal subject of discussion with Mary Robinson yesterday. She met with the Under Secretary for Global Affairs, Paula Dobriansky, and then Secretary Powell joined the meeting. Our new Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Lorne Craner was there, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations, Michael Southwick.
So they discussed that conference. They discussed our views, as I said. And we emphasize the importance to us of a forward-looking conference.
Q: But that -- you were not -- that hasn't been resolved yet, yes? Is it still a problem --
MR. BOUCHER: No, we have not resolved those questions that we have, nor have we made our final decisions on participation. That will be made closer to the event, which is not until the end of August, September.
Q: Richard, do you know what issues will be covered in the conference? I mean, is it --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that is the whole discussion that is going on now in the preparatory work. And we have made quite clear, I think in our public statements, made it quite clear during our discussions with various visitors to Washington. The Secretary had a previous meeting with Ms. Robinson and discussed this during the course of his trip in Africa as well, that our chief concern was that we have a conference that was forward-looking, that it look to how to alleviate the problems in discrimination in the world, how to improve the lives of people, and that it not be a backward-looking conference, and that it not take up or that it not get bogged down in extraneous issues, like the status of Israel or antiquated notions of Zionism.
Q: Well, did he bring -- add in reparations for slavery?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, that is the difference between forward-looking and backward-looking in our mind.
Q: Exactly. But I'm wondering if you could say that, so that we don't have to say it. Is that another issue, the Israel/Zionism and also reparations for slavery?
MR. BOUCHER: Demands for financial reparations and a formal apology would do nothing to address racism and discrimination today. The conference should address current problems.
Q: And did the Secretary or Ms. Dobriansky or any of the other people tell High Commissioner Robinson who would be -- if the issues were not resolved to your satisfaction, that you would send a lower-level person there?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't decided who we would send.
Q: Well, I know, but I mean, did you say, look, our participation and the level of our participation is dependent on --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made clear in all these discussions that the level and the strength of our representation depends on whether we think the conference is going to be productive or not, and how some of these issues figure or don't figure on the agenda. So the final decision will be made on who closer to the conference, but certainly we have made clear all along that the level of our participation depends on how some of these issues turn out.
Q: Is there a possibility of a boycott?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to raise that at this point.
Q: You've said what you don't want to talk about. Could you say what you do want to talk about?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think we did. We want a conference that looks forward to how to alleviate the problems of discrimination and the consequences of the problems of discrimination in the world.
Q: And you don't want to do it by countries or regions and that sort of thing?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I think it is a little early to start specifying specific countries, but there's certainly a lot of countries of interest in that regard, and not just Africa.
Q: On financial reparations, is that a position in general on financial reparations? Or is it a position in just regarding -- I mean, I just want to make sure I understand. The State Department would not like this --
MR. BOUCHER: I think you are trying to tie me into something that I am not particularly aware of. So I am not -- that is not an answer I can give you at this moment.
Q: I'm not trying to tie you into anything. I just want to know if it would -- I mean, I just -- is that a general position on financial reparations?
MR. BOUCHER: There's a variety of circumstances where they are appropriate, and there's a lot of circumstances where they are inappropriate. This is one where it is not.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:30 p.m.)