State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 2, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index Friday, November 2, 2001 12:46 p.m.
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
DEPARTMENT 1-9 Designation of the 22 Foreign Terrorist Organizations under the Executive Order 13224
PAKISTAN 9-10,13 Smuggling of goods/fuel from Pakistan / Pakistani Commitment to Coalition
ISRAEL/PA 10-11 Arafat-Peres Meetings / David Satterfield Comments
DEPARTMENT 11-13 Anthrax Update / Health of Sick Employee / Peru, Greece, and Lithuania Cases
IRAN 13 Possibility of Secretary Powell meeting with Iranian Officials
VENEZUELA 14-15 U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela in Washington / President Chavez's Comments
NICARAGUA 15 Elections
DEPARTMENT 15-16 Visa Waivers / Evaluation team travel
CHINA 16-17 Chinese opposition of Javelin anti-tank missile sale to Taiwan
DEPARTMENT 17 Public Diplomacy Office in Islamabad
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB #156 FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2001, 12:40 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. As you know, the Secretary of State will be speaking this afternoon with the 40th Anniversary of the Agency for International Development.
Other than that, I would like to make an announcement to you about the designations he has made under the foreign terrorist organizations list. As you know, a couple of weeks ago, we designated foreign terrorist organizations. Today, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Treasury, and the Attorney General this morning designated 22 foreign terrorist organizations under Executive Order 13224, which as you all will remember, was the one the President signed September 23rd to stop the flow of money to terrorist groups.
So we are taking the foreign terrorist organization list, which had previously been issued, and all of those organizations that had previously been under various kinds of financial controls, either as foreign terrorist organizations or under other executive orders, and we are moving the remainder of the 22 groups on that list into the new executive order, so that everybody is covered by one set of financial steps.
Does that make sense?
QUESTION: No. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. There are 28 foreign terrorist organizations. Six of them were added to this executive order in the original annex on September 23rd. As you know, the original annex focused on al-Qaida and associated organizations. So that was six organizations at that time.
There are 22 others on the foreign terrorist organization list. Those are now being added to that group -- the President's list, yes. The White House list.
QUESTION: But what did you do, then, that wasn't --
MR. BOUCHER: I think, as we explained at the time, the previous financial regulations that applied to foreign terrorist groups were similar in many cases, sometimes exactly the same. Well, sometimes almost the same, but the new executive order gave us more authority to act against individuals, against organizations that are associated with these terrorist groups, and against banks that facilitate the flow of funds for them.
QUESTION: We understand the facts, but what do you mean "act against"? Act against the resources? Their assets?
MR. BOUCHER: To designate and block their assets and stop their transactions. So what it does is it brings all the foreign terrorist organizations into one uniform set of rules, basically. Now, we have done this. The President, I think, has made clear that al-Qaida is the first organization that we are going after, but it is not the only terrorist organization. And so we are bringing all 28 of the terrorist groups designated by the Secretary under this executive order, because they all maintain international networks, and they all use these networks to facilitate violence against innocent persons.
The campaign, as the President has said, will be a long one. It's steps such as these in the financial areas and the law enforcement areas that will prevent terrorists from operating, that will make it more difficult for them to operate, and that in the long run will help us get them, put them out of business.
QUESTION: So I'm still kind of confused.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stop with that and take your questions.
QUESTION: Yes. Can you -- this doesn't add any groups to the list of designated FTOs that the State Department does, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Right.
QUESTION: Okay, what it does is take those people that were FTOs and weren't on the September 23rd list, or the revision to it later, and puts all of the -- so that all of the FTOs that the State Department has designated are now on the other list; is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Exactly, yes.
QUESTION: So just for one example, on the 10th, you designated the AUC. So they are now, even though you don't have any links -- they don't have any links that you know about to al-Qaida -- they are now on the other list?
MR. BOUCHER: Right. I should have had him do the briefing instead of me. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can you please go a bit farther on the extra measures that are applied against these things? What can you do to banks that handle these accounts which you couldn't do under the previous designation procedure?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you would have to look at the exact text of the executive order that describes it. But, generally, it gives us more authority under these rules than we had under the other ones to act against organizations and individuals that are associated with the designated groups.
QUESTION: I want to split a hair with you, if I may. Individuals are not on either list, are they? Organizations are?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, they are. Under the new regulations, there are organizations, there are I think some financial intermediaries and there are various organizations, charities that might be misused by al- Qaida. And there are --
MR. BOUCHER: -- individuals as well.
QUESTION: But is that -- are you speaking of the list of six or the list of 22, or both?
MR. BOUCHER: The list of six, which now includes the other 22.
QUESTION: All right. Well, the list of 22 did not -- am I wrong -- have individuals on it?
MR. BOUCHER: And this, by putting them under this new executive order, we have more authority to list individuals, designate associated individuals and groups.
QUESTION: Well, please. I understand. But, you know, it's a literal thing. There weren't names before. Will you now have a list that will say, X, Y -- these six people who are in this previously listed group and now re-listed group are subject to blah, blah, blah? Will you come out with names --
MR. BOUCHER: This is an ongoing process. You have organizations --
QUESTION: I know.
MR. BOUCHER: And assets, financial transactions of those organizations are blocked under the executive order. So you have a separate list under the executive order that says, assets of these organizations are blocked.
In addition, the following individuals or other groups are associated with those organizations, and those are blocked too.
QUESTION: And now you do it for all 22?
MR. BOUCHER: In addition, Joe transfers money for al-Qaida all the time and his assets are blocked, too.
And so the Treasury list takes our list of organizations and expands it into practical account names and organization names that the banking system can block.
QUESTION: And now you will do that for the Real IRA and --
MR. BOUCHER: And now we will do that for other groups, although, remember, the focus of the whole campaign and the focus of the financial action that is being taken remains al-Qaida. And so there will be, you know, as we add to this Treasury list with names of individuals and associates, we really focus still on al-Qaida and people associated with al-Qaida.
QUESTION: Some countries knew that eventually there would be a focus inside their own countries with this wider campaign. Do you think this is going to shorten the time span they have to feel comfortable in? Or do you expect them to welcome that now there is more pressure on groups, on a wider selection of groups, even if al-Qaida is first? This clearly bumps them up a little bit, a little bit faster to the targeted list.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I can speak for other countries very well on this one. Certainly everybody is well aware that the campaign has to be against international terrorism as a whole, and that we all need to be taking steps against terrorism. They are required to do that under the United Nations resolutions. I think the earlier UN resolutions on al-Qaida and the Taliban required certain financial steps against the Taliban, but the UN Resolution 1373 the other day, two weeks ago, required action -- financial action -- against terrorist organizations, period.
In some ways, this is our way of taking financial action against terrorist organizations, period. Against all of them. And as I said, by putting them all under a single executive order, it means that all the terrorist organizations that we have designated are subject to the same set of regulations, and can be handled in the same manner by the banking systems.
QUESTION: Do you have confidence that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and some of these other Arab states will take the same kind of steps that they have said that they are willing to take with regard to al-Qaida with anti-Israeli Palestinian-based terror groups that are on the FTO list?
MR. BOUCHER: As we have discussed this many times before. Each country handles its banking system, its banking regulations in its own way. But we are confident that those governments are working with us on the financial steps against terrorism. We are confident that all governments in the world will try to implement the UN resolutions in their own way.
And as I said, the UN resolution requires countries to cut off financing for terrorism. So we will be working with each of these countries around the world to try to make sure that they implement that resolution.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up, what do you say to some of these countries that have accepted that al-Qaida and bin Laden are terrorists, but have not made that same sort of distinction with regard to what they see as a political conflict between Palestinians and Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: We say, if people say that to us, like you are, we say what we say to you every day, and we say what the President has said many times, there is a clear issue here with people who try to kill innocent people for some purported political purpose. That is what the United Nations asks countries to go against, the UN Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Financing has a definition like that in it that countries can use, and the UN resolution calls for people to cut off financing for terrorism. That is what we are looking for.
QUESTION: Is there a specific application process that could help stop the diamond funds that are supposedly going through this RUF --
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, we have been concerned about the issue of conflict diamonds for a long, long time. The Kimberley Process, as it is called, has the United States and 34 other concerned countries that participate, trying to design an international certification system for diamonds. They have had a number of meetings, and that process is moving forward.
The genesis of that process was in fact the tragedy in Sierra Leone that was fueled by the sale of diamonds by rebel groups. And certainly, the goal of that process, the effort that has been under way through the United Nations and the Kimberley Process, is to de-link terrorism, conflict, from the sale of diamonds, and make sure the diamonds come from known sources and not ones that involve fueling conflict.
UN Resolution 1373 of September 28th calls for a freeze on all financial assets, or economic resources, of persons who commit terrorist acts. That would include funds from the sale of diamonds by terrorists or terrorist organizations.
At this point, I don't have any specific information for you as to whether the al-Qaida organization has profited from the sale of diamonds from Sierra Leone. But certainly, we have been concerned about the sale of diamonds from Sierra Leone because it has fueled conflict and it has fueled organizations that engage in violence. So this is an effort that has long been under way to make sure that diamonds come from certified, clean sources and aren't involved with conflict or with terrorism.
QUESTION: Richard, can I go back to the list for a second? How many names of anything, entities or whatever, are now on the Treasury list, total?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to go back and check. I haven't counted.
QUESTION: You say you are adding 22. So how many --
MR. BOUCHER: One of the pieces of advice I got 10 years ago was never do math at the podium, so I am going to stick to that today.
QUESTION: Let me try this. Are there any other -- are there groups now added to the list that were not considered FTOs before that were in the other terrorism groups category?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: And were there any groups that were not on either before that are now named in the Treasury?
MR. BOUCHER: No. This is bringing all 28 foreign terrorist organizations and some of their associates -- their associated organization parties -- I mean, the al-Qaida lists that we have already done have the names of groups, charities, banks, individuals who are not on the foreign terrorist organization list. It is more than 28.
QUESTION: Yes, isn't it 30 that weren't 30 total --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it is more than that.
QUESTION: No, 30 total on the FTO list, not --
MR. BOUCHER: Twenty-eight after the recent re-designation.
QUESTION: Of --
MR. BOUCHER: We did that on October 5th. That piece of math we did on October 5th.
QUESTION: It doesn't make any other groups FTOs; it just puts FTOs on the same list?
MR. BOUCHER: It puts all the foreign terrorist organizations on the same list of financial sanctions.
QUESTION: Groups like the individuals -- they aren't -- I mean, it doesn't have anything to do with them being designated FTOs?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. We haven't designated any new people at this point.
QUESTION: Would you envision that any new organization that is named an FTO by this building would automatically be put on both lists? Is that a new policy?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose that would remain to be seen, but that would be the logic, yes. That would -- I suppose one would look at each particular case. But the logic is to have all the organizations under the same set of financial controls.
QUESTION: Is there any thought being given to changing the restrictions that are automatically applied to an FTO so you wouldn't have different lists, that this would just be the law of the United States regarding --
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to see about that. That could be more complicated than it is worth.
QUESTION: It actually sounds easier.
QUESTION: Does being listed have any bearing on whether the United States provides financial aid? Should I explain?
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is part of the PLO. And the US has provided abundant assistance to the Palestinian Authority. Does that mean someone has to do what might be an impossible task and make sure that no assistance gets to elements of the amorphous Palestinian operation that is or are listed as terrorists?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't think we give any assistance to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. And, second of all, you know --
QUESTION: I didn't say you did. You give assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
MR. BOUCHER: And, second of all, to do that, one would have to identify a particular responsibility of the Palestinian authority for the actions of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. I don't think we've done that.
QUESTION: Just the fact that it is sort of an amorphous arrangement there --
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if there are any particular sort of financial arrangements in that certification. But I am not -- I don't quite follow the train of logic, frankly.
QUESTION: Richard, is there any way to test how successful these efforts to block money have been? I mean, if somebody is on this list now, can't they just launder the money, use an assumed name, give the money to somebody else's account and skirt the whole thing?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, putting these groups, making these groups subject to the new regulations gives us more authority to identify those sort of associated accounts, associated names, associated groups that might be doing that on their behalf, and therefore it gives us more flexibility in tracking that sort of thing down and stopping it and seizing it.
As I said before, one of the virtues of blocking the accounts, blocking the transactions is that you can grab assets, and Treasury has regularly updated you on the amount of assets that have been found under this executive order, both in the United States and overseas. But the second virtue is you stop transactions, you take away the facilities of the banking system from these organizations and associated groups and individuals, so that you make it impossible for them to move money as easily and conveniently as the rest of the world does. At that point, you don't have a way of measuring money not moved.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) if I challenge you, "Look, I'm not a terrorist, this is my money." You suspect it, you try to block it. How do you --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how the legal challenge would proceed on one of these groups. I am not sure there has been any.
QUESTION: The focus, you say, is still on al-Qaida, yes?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And not some of these groups that you have added now that have no relation to -- that you don't think have any relation to al- Qaida. So why is this not a broadening of the war on financial terrorism -- financial aspects of terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say it does, to some extent, represent our determination to go after all terrorism, as the President has said, that we have for many years designated terrorist groups and had financial action against them, and we do think it is important that we have these tools, particularly if it is enhanced tools in the new executive order, so that we can go after all terrorism, because that is the goal of the campaign. The President is very well stating that is the goal of the overall campaign. He has also said, first and foremost, we are going to concentrate on al-Qaida.
So to the extent that it represents a commitment to the broader campaign, yes, it is a significant step in that regard. But it doesn't represent a diversion of attention from al-Qaida, and you will find that, in the coming weeks and months, as we focus on al-Qaida and the associated organizations, you will see more activity on that part, probably, than on some of these others.
QUESTION: Is there any thought being given to making more of the other terrorist organizations designated as FTOs? Because doesn't this mean that you end up with organizations which are still regarded as terrorist not having the same restrictions applied to them within the context of a particular conflict overseas?
MR. BOUCHER: We are always looking at other organizations and the ones that are specified as "other organizations." And, as you know, we can designate groups as foreign terrorist organizations at any time during the year.
QUESTION: Richard, I may have misheard, but I don't believe I have heard today the formulation used before this, global reach. Has that been dropped?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Clearly, that is the target of the campaign, terrorists of global reach.
QUESTION: Yesterday -- I think it was yesterday -- State Department officials were saying that there may be -- probably is -- smuggling across from Pakistan to Afghanistan, didn't think the Pakistani government was complicit, but the US was asking in Islamabad trying to find out. Are there any results from that inquiry that you can tell us about?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know I would describe it that way. That is certainly not something I said here. I would say that we are confident -- I said that yesterday -- we are confident that President Musharraf's government is fully committed to the global coalition against terrorism. We are confident that they are making every effort to ensure that there is no help going to the Taliban. I think Dr. Rice said yesterday that they are confident that they are taking steps to avoid any kind of smuggling or other private support.
Indeed, there are pockets of sympathy for the Taliban in Pakistan, and it is not possible to rule out the possibility. It is possible that private individuals may be trying to provide help. But as I said, Pakistan fully supports our objectives. It is ending the use of the territory of Afghanistan as a haven for terrorists. And bringing peace through the establishment of a broad-based and representative government is the goal of Pakistan as well, and we are confident that they will take steps to avoid any possible support for the Taliban coming out of Pakistan.
QUESTION: Well, no one was saying they were complicit that I had talked to, nor did you.
MR. BOUCHER: No, but you're asking, have they taken steps? Yes. We are confident they are taking steps to stop anything.
QUESTION: No, I asked you -- well, I thought the question was clear, but let me try it this way. It was not known in this building if indeed there is much traffic -- nighttime truck traffic -- of arms and fuel going from Pakistan to Afghanistan. There was a confidence that if so, it didn't have the authority of the Pakistani Government.
MR. BOUCHER: Right.
QUESTION: We will have to ask in Islamabad exactly what is going on. It is a very long border. So what I am asking is, if anything has come out of that, if there has been such discussion, anything for instance about better policing? Or authorities saying, we don't think it amounts to much, or it amounts to a lot? I'm just asking if there's any result to this consultation.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer is, today I don't have any news for you on what, if anything, might be crossing the border, and what new steps the Government of Pakistan might be taking to stop it. But I think we are confident that they will take such steps, that they are taking such steps, and they are trying to exercise as much vigilance as possible along their border.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? Under the intelligence cooperation or just the general cooperation and law enforcement that Pakistan has undertaken with the United States, has the Government of Pakistan shared any information on its interrogation of these nuclear scientists who were headed for -- who had Afghan contacts and Taliban contacts, on the question of whether they shared any information that might be detrimental to security in the region and US interests?
MR. BOUCHER: Fascinating question. As you know, we don't answer questions like that, because it is not for us to speak for other governments and what they are doing, what they are sharing, and what they are telling us. So you would have to direct that question to the Government of Pakistan.
QUESTION: -- Palestinians?
MR. BOUCHER: We can dance around it. It doesn't matter.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the lunch between Arafat and Peres? And Mubarak?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always encouraged direct discussions between the parties. We have always looked to the parties to work with each other. As you know, we continue to work actively in the region to work on an end to violence and a return to the process of the Mitchell recommendations and negotiation. So we basically consider that any direct discussions with the parties, between the parties, that can lead towards that goal is a good thing, so we welcome it.
I don't have any specifics. I don't have any specifics on the discussion.
QUESTION: What about the comments made by State Department employee, high-ranking State Department official this morning that sounded a little bit more pessimistic than the usual language coming out of here? I believe it was described as an ongoing process of calculated terror and escalation.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, is there a name attached to those comments?
QUESTION: Yes, David Satterfield.
MR. BOUCHER: I know he did an appearance this morning. I don't think I have any particular thing to add to what he might have said.
QUESTION: That is how it is being characterized by this building?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I would want to see the exact quote in the transcript before I started commenting on it.
QUESTION: Are you saying -- I know you encourage those things, but do you know at this point enough about it as to whether it will contribute?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular results out of it. We just think it is a good thing for them to sit down and talk directly --
QUESTION: Can't hurt?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: New subject. I presume you -- maybe you haven't gotten the results of the last samples that you had taken on anthrax and also what -- if your man in Sterling is still improving?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. He continues to improve. We think he will be leaving the intensive care unit later today. So that is a good sign.
QUESTION: He is still in the same hospital?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. As far as we know, we don't have any other staff members in the hospital at this point. As far as the results of the environmental sampling, only one sample is still pending from the initial round of tests, so all the results have been negative other than those from the two mail rooms in this building that we tested.
A second round of environmental sampling began at this building on the evening of November 1st, centering on two contaminated mail rooms and the major mail entry point in the basement. Working with the Center for Disease Control, we are developing a random sampling plan for our domestic facilities.
We have entered the Sterling mail facility and begun preliminary sampling out there. Thus far, we have taken 54 samples in the areas surrounding the infected worker's work area. Samples are being analyzed. There are no results yet.
And we have begun cleanup. At Columbia Plaza, the mail room over there has been cleaned on October 31st in the afternoon. The mail room at our International Center office was cleaned the evening of November 1st. Cleanup of mail rooms at the Truman Building begins this weekend, and on November 1st we sent guidance to our overseas posts on mail room clean-up procedures.
QUESTION: And I just -- the overseas, still just the two places where -- and the one that you haven't actually confirmed that the Lithuanians have? It's still just Peru?
MR. BOUCHER: Overseas, there are I think one or two places where we have got preliminary positives. We're looking at negative, negative, negative -- a number of places where we are awaiting results.
QUESTION: The preliminary positives are Peru and Lithuania?
QUESTION: Not the sites?
MR. BOUCHER: We have also got traces of bacteria that is not necessarily anthrax, but some kind of bacteria in a mail bag that we found that we had in Athens. So additional testing of that is under way as a preventative measure. Any embassy staff who handled the mail from that bag have been put on antibiotics.
QUESTION: Can you (inaudible) bacteria or anything more?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that is what they will have to test. Apparently, the preliminary test is to test the presence of bacteria. Once they find bacteria, they have to find out what kind of bacteria it is.
QUESTION: So Greece, Peru and Lithuania?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Are the suspect places?
MR. BOUCHER: Are the places where we found mail or mail bags with some traces of either bacteria, or in the other two cases (inaudible) have been tested for anthrax.
QUESTION: And mail bags at all of the embassies and missions have been tested?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we haven't necessarily tested at every location. We have told them to take any incoming pouches, put them away, don't open them. In a few places, they have gone to testing because of things that they found or suspicions about the bag.
In Peru they did the testing because they had an Naval medical facility, and people down there who were expert in this sort of testing. So they did the testing down there to find out.
But generally, what we have told them to do is take the pouches that could come in, put them away, seal them off, and don't open them, don't touch them. And make sure that people involved in the handling of such pouches get antibiotics.
QUESTION: Going back to Athens. Was there a procedure, or something that made the embassy think there might be anthrax?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they just found a mail bag that looked dirty, funny, stained, whatever, and they tested it, they had it tested.
QUESTION: So it's not a specific letter; it's a whole mail bag?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. It was the bag itself that they were somehow suspicious over.
QUESTION: New subject?
QUESTION: One more on anthrax. Can you say anything about the symptoms or anything more about the condition of the loading dock worker who is about to get out of intensive care?
MR. BOUCHER: No, just what I said. His condition is improving, and we expect him to get out of intensive care.
Did you have one more on some other subject from before?
QUESTION: I did. I've got one on Barry's question.
MR. BOUCHER: Before we change the subject.
QUESTION: Thank you. Just back to the smuggling, or potential for smuggling. Can you speak to just the question of the quantity or whether -- or even the impact? And is there any sense that the State Department has that individuals smuggling some supplies to the Taliban would have any impact in terms of our campaign against the Taliban?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have that sense, even from the press reports that I have been reading. But let me check. And it's kind of the response to Barry's question, do we have any -- at this point -- any indication of how much, if any, might be crossing the border from private individuals or something like that? And I'll see.
QUESTION: As I'm sure you've seen, Iran opened up the embassy, and I was wondering whether there was any more clarity about whether the Secretary might meet an Iranian official at the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: The question of the Six Plus Two meeting, as it's called, where both we and the Iranians participate, that is in the hands of the Secretary General. It would be for him to decide to call a meeting. If he did call a meeting, the Secretary would go. But at this point, I don't think I have seen anything definitive from the Secretary General's office.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Ambassador to Venezuela being recalled. I understand she will be in Washington for a couple of days, Monday and maybe Tuesday. But then she will go back to Caracas after a conference in Miami. Is that so, and is that a recall? It's just a consultation?
MR. BOUCHER: We asked our Ambassador to return to Washington for consultations, Ambassador Hrinak, to discuss the current state of our bilateral relationship with Venezuela. She arrived in Washington Thursday morning. She hasn't been recalled on any long-term basis. She will return to Venezuela once these consultations are completed.
QUESTION: Is that a routine sort of thing?
MR. BOUCHER: Ambassadors come to Washington to consult all the time, and particularly when there is something going on that we want to talk to them about.
QUESTION: What's going on?
MR. BOUCHER: As we know -- I walked into that one, didn't I? (Laughter.)
I think a lot of things are going on down there. We have seen comments by President Chavez that we, frankly, found surprising and very disappointing. And I think we want to look at the relationship, because we do believe this relationship is an important and longstanding one between the United States and Venezuela. And it is very important that in this situation we cooperate against terrorism, as we have with Venezuela and the other South American governments in the Rio Treaty discussions and the OAS discussions that we have had.
So we are sort of trying to figure out why Venezuela on the one hand signs up to the activity in the OAS in invoking the Rio Treaty, and then we hear such surprising comments from the President.
QUESTION: Is that the only reason you find it surprising, given President Chavez's previous actions that kind of --
QUESTION: -- yes, travels, speeches --
MR. BOUCHER: Travels, statements, activities. Again, we look for the policy of a government as a whole, and sometimes when there are contradictions such as this, it's good to talk to our ambassador and try to figure out what is going on.
QUESTION: This is the only thing going on? This is the reason that you wanted her to come back?
MR. BOUCHER: This is the more immediate and specific reason. It is obviously an important relationship when we discuss these things with our ambassadors periodically.
QUESTION: Is there a date set for her return?
MR. BOUCHER: Not yet, but she will return once the consultations are completed.
QUESTION: In the general region, could I ask about Nicaragua? Nicaragua is holding presidential elections, and it looks like neck- and-neck between former President Ortega and a more conservative opponent. And I just wondered, do you have any thoughts going into the election?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have provided you with thoughts in the past. We have issued statements on the upcoming Nicaraguan elections. We are following the situation down there quite closely. The Nicaraguans go to the polls on Sunday to elect the president, vice president to five- year terms, as well as 90 deputies for the National Assembly. As you know, we have provided support for several Nicaraguan elections, beginning with the 1990 elections. For these, on November 4th, we have been providing a total of over $6 million for voter registration activities, programs to encourage participation and help for election observers.
There will be US-funded observers down there from the Carter Center, the Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and the Organization of American States. So I think we think it is a very important election for Nicaragua and for the future of Nicaragua. We have expressed our concerns about the Sandanistas and their past, but we look forward to a free and open election and look forward to what decision the Nicaraguan people decide to make.
QUESTION: You may have said this yesterday but, if you did, I missed it. But the Slovenians are saying that they are expecting a team from State, Justice, INS to come there for the review of the visa waiver thing, the visa waiver program. Are other teams going to other countries?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I said it yesterday, but it's true. As you know, we are doing reviews of the visa waiver program with six countries for this year. This weekend, we will have teams made up of representatives from the State Department's visa office and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who will travel to Slovenia and to Portugal to begin our assessment of those countries' continuing eligibility for participation in the visa waiver program. Team members will meet with representatives of the concerned governments as well as with our own embassy personnel to discuss the situations in each country. Each team would plan to remain in the country it is assessing for about a week. Time lines for when the teams might make their recommendations is open-ended at this time, although we are of course hoping to do this on an expedited basis. We will be looking at these six countries first, but we eventually will look at all 29 countries over a period of five years.
QUESTION: Can you be more specific -- first of all, what about the other four countries? When do the teams go there?
MR. BOUCHER: Later. Later in the year, as we get to them.
QUESTION: But you think it will be this month or before -- definitely before the end of the year?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said yesterday, I think it is being done on a fiscal year basis, so sometime in the next year's time.
QUESTION: So they have until October?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, sometime in the next year's time.
QUESTION: And then the other thing is, can you be any more specific --
MR. BOUCHER: I will double check on that one, too, and see if I can get you anything more on when the teams will be going to the other places.
QUESTION: Okay. And can you be more specific about what the problems are or what the concerns are for each country?
MR. BOUCHER: No, as I said, we have to do -- you know, whether we do it this year or next year or the year after, we are going to do all 29 of these countries. So it is a routine matter to say that we are going to look at all 29 of these countries. We are doing these six this year, because there were some issues that we want to look at, issues that we need to look at both generically and in terms of specific countries, things having to do with security of documents, things having to do with the number of overstays we might get from any particular country.
And usually there are several of these issues involved in looking at these countries. And, as we look at them, we will look at them with the foreign governments involved. We will understand what they are doing and how their policies go on things like issuance of passports, so that we can make sure that this program is operated in a manner that meets convenience and the safety of the travelers as well as the desire that we have and that others share to protect ourselves from travel of terrorists or individuals who are ineligible.
QUESTION: Can you repeat what the countries are?
MR. BOUCHER: I said it yesterday. Do I have my list with me today? Italy, Uruguay, Argentina, Belgium, Portugal, Slovenia.
QUESTION: Recently, the Chinese have made formal representations against the proposed Javelin anti-tank missile sale to Taiwan. Are you at all concerned that the latest development in this sale would hamper the newfound cooperation on terrorism with Beijing?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made quite clear all along that we intend to meet our commitments to Taiwan to help them with their legitimate defensive needs. We remain committed to fulfilling the security and arms sales provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, and so we will continue to do that in a manner that meets our responsibilities and is consistent with the US-PRC communiqué.
QUESTION: Can you say how that might -- are you at all concerned that that might affect the cooperation on antiterrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think we have said all along, we intend to do things that are necessary and important to the United States. We are not going to drop everything in favor of just doing terrorism.
QUESTION: Now that we know that there are these new public diplomacy offices, one of which is going to be opening in Islamabad, do you have any more details about what this building's contribution will be, what kind of officials will be involved?
MR. BOUCHER: We will have people from the State Department. We do have people already working with other agencies. As you know, our embassies are very, very active overseas in providing information to foreign media, providing information to foreign individuals and groups that are interested. So we will be, I think, increasing their ability to do things, sometimes supplementing their staff, sometimes looking ourselves at what we can do here for foreign media on recommendations frequently of the embassies.
So I think it is just providing more information, better information, more speakers, more interviewers, more assistance to foreign journalists and things like that that we can do to help get the word out.
QUESTION: Will the office be separate from the embassy in Islamabad? Or will it just be a function of the --
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't actually set up a new office in Islamabad. But I think in all these places, it is safe to assume people operate under the authority of the chief of mission.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:22 p.m.)
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