State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 7, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, November 7, 2001 1:05 p.m.
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
DEPARTMENT 1-2 Anthrax / Contaminated Mail / Health of Sick Employee 5 Public Outreach
TERRORISM 2,5-8 International Support for Coalition Against Terrorism
SAUDI ARABIA 2 Support for Coalition Against Terrorism
QATAR 3 Shooting at US Air Base
MIDDLE EAST 3-4 US Policy / Mitchell Committee Recommendations
GERMANY 5-6 Support for Coalition Against Terrorism
UZBEKISTAN 6 Joint Support for Security Issues
UNITED NATIONS 6-7 US Participation
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #159
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2001, 1:05 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements. I would be glad to take your questions, and why don't we try to get out of here by the time the President speaks at 1:50.
Better than that. Okay. Mr. Gedda.
QUESTION: Anything new on the anthrax front on any continent?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. (Laughter.) Anything new on any continent, okay. The samples that we took from the letter that arrived at our Consulate General in Lahore have been tested by the US Army Laboratory, and they have proven negative. So speculation about foreign origins of anthrax spores is rather uncalled for, one might say, given this result that I think I might have predicted yesterday.
Second of all, the samples from Yekaterinburg -- we are trying to arrange for additional testing of those samples. Of all the samples the Army has tested for us from posts overseas -- of all the samples tested at this point -- the only ones that we know have some positive indication are the one in Lima in the pouch that was tested by a US Navy lab down there, and the samples from Vilnius and Yekaterinburg, which have tested positive locally and have not yet been confirmed by US testing.
As far as other news on this, closer to home, we are pleased to report that the hospital has advised us that our employee, our contractor, should be released this weekend. And we are happy to see his condition improved to that extent.
We have no new cases of infection. And we are proceeding with cleaning around the building. I think some of you may from time smell the smell of chlorine solution that is being used to do the cleaning of the mail rooms. But that is being done at different places. There's employees that are doing that -- a contractor that is doing that cleaning.
QUESTION: I was at something this morning and didn't get a chance to fully look into -- who is speculating that there was foreign origin to the anthrax?
MR. BOUCHER: I will leave that to you.
QUESTION: There was some report that the anthrax might have been linked to bin Laden, that he might have given a signal to release this in one of his broadcasts. Have you heard this report, and --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard that particular report, but certainly there is nothing in the pattern that we have observed that can lead one to that conclusion at this point. But obviously this will be investigated thoroughly.
QUESTION: But President Putin has said that he seriously doubts that the anthrax could have come from Russia, but there kind of leads that (inaudible). And would you care to draw any conclusions from --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I am not going to draw -- my whole point was let's not speculate, and particularly let's not take an isolated, unproven fact and speculate on that basis, which is what I am being invited to do. And I certainly wouldn't want to do that.
QUESTION: Today, again, Mr. Powell was asked his support for the Saudis, to explain whether or not the United States feels that they are doing everything, and he voiced strong support. Is there some evidence that you are getting that the casualties in Afghanistan are starting to erode support, not only in Saudi Arabia, but in the Muslim world?
SECRETARY POWELL: Let me say, first of all -- I feel a little feisty today; I don't know why -- but let me say first of all, you ask us the question every day, we give you the same answer every day, and we're kind of hoping one of these days you will believe us. Let me make clear that I think this idea that somehow support is eroding for the coalition -- let's take the broader question, not the Saudi question, because the Secretary answered the Saudi question again today, and he cited some very concrete examples of ratification of the convention on suppression of financing for terrorism that the Saudis have carried out in very recent days.
So there are very concrete examples of Saudi cooperation, not just our statements that we find that they are doing. They are answering all our requests positively, and we will keep making requests and keep working with them.
But more broadly than that, you have a moment at which we have new financial measures and countries around the world taking additional financial steps, and I'm sure that will come out in the various briefings later on today after the President's announcements.
You have countries offering military support for the coalition, four or five countries that have announced that within the last week. You have countries around the world continuing their law enforcement efforts. We have seen arrests in over 40 countries, and that law enforcement effort continues around the world.
So I don't think we can say anything but that the coalition continues to gather momentum, continues to work at these various actions, and frankly continues to grow stronger.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to contribute to the (inaudible) around the shooting in Qatar?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I don't think -- see, if you ask that particular question, the answer may be no. But let me check what I do have.
Anything contributes to the facts.
QUESTION: I mean --
QUESTION: What happened basically?
MR. BOUCHER: What happened? Okay, here is what I know, as far as the facts. Earlier today, an armed gunman opened fire on personnel at the Udeid Air Base in Qatar. Security personnel returned the fire, and they killed the gunman. We are not aware of any American citizens who were injured in this incident. The incident is still under investigation, and for more details, you would have to check with the Qatari Government.
QUESTION: But you can check with the Kuwaitis for good measure.
MR. BOUCHER: You can check with them, too, and ask the same question, do they have anything to add to the facts.
QUESTION: Are you aware of other citizens, maybe citizens of Qatar who might have been injured?
MR. BOUCHER: That's something you would have to check with the Qatari Government.
QUESTION: Richard, you referred to an armed gunman. Aren't most gunmen armed? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I was going to ask the same question, but can I change the subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, sorry.
QUESTION: Can you describe what is the nature of the US cooperation with Qatar at that air base?
MR. BOUCHER: No. The Pentagon would have to do any sort of military cooperation questions.
QUESTION: The Secretary, in his remarks down there with the Foreign -- Acting, whatever he is -- Acting Prime Minister of Kuwait, made an allusion to progress that he hoped might be made in the Middle East. Was he referring specifically to the weekend and to things that might happen during the UN General Assembly, or is he talking about something else?
MR. BOUCHER: I think he was talking about the possibilities that we can get back to, as he said, where we were a few or a couple weeks ago before the horrible assassination of the Israeli minister. He noted that the Israelis have pulled out of Ramallah. He said he hoped that we would see further withdrawals in coming days. As we have always said, we look to the Israelis to complete the withdrawal. And we have always said we look to the Palestinians, Mr. Chairman Arafat, to keep taking action to identify and find people that engage in violence and terrorism.
So I think, first and foremost, we are looking for that kind of progress. Second of all, we are looking for progress in reestablishing a positive direction for the discussions with the parties, in reestablishing progress towards implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations. So if he has meetings over the weekend, I am sure he will want to use those meetings to contribute to that goal.
QUESTION: Okay. So it was in general, not specifically related to --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was both, sort of. You know, they have to keep doing -- heading in that direction back to -- in the field, in the region. And second of all, to the extent that he has meetings, obviously he is having discussions almost every day with Israelis and Palestinians and others. Our people in the field are having those discussions as well. And we will continue to use our discussions, including any that he might have this weekend, to try to contribute to that progress.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on Sharon's decision not to come to the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's a decision for them to make.
QUESTION: Do you think that his presence in New York could have added to this progress that the Secretary said he would like to see?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't speculate on that. Obviously we always like to see him, we always like to talk to him, we always like to keep in touch, and we have ways of doing that whether he comes to New York in person or whether we talk to him -- the Secretary or President talks to him on the phone or whether our representatives in the region are talking to him. So we have ways of working with him no matter where he is, really.
QUESTION: There have been reports several weeks ago that prior to September 11th that Mr. Powell was considering making some sort of a Middle East peace proposal at the UN General Assembly. Is anything like that planned for this weekend or for this session now?
MR. BOUCHER: Actually, I think some of the elements of those reports were wrong in terms of what might have been thought about in terms of - - because the Secretary normally doesn't have a big speech at the General Assembly, and he's not planning on having one over this weekend either.
QUESTION: Can you talk a bit -- a brief change of subject. Can you talk a bit about what the US is going to do to try and involve more American Muslims in your public -- your effort to sell the US message overseas to other Muslims?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a little too close to the question I was asked yesterday that says that, you know, there are various ideas floating around about personalities, American Muslims and others, who are speaking out or may want to speak out, and how we might involve them, now we might use them.
And certainly those kind of ideas are around. But in terms of defining how we're going to do that, it's a little too early to do that at this point. We certainly welcome the fact that American Muslims -- frankly, Muslims around the world -- are speaking out. You have prominent clerics like the ones in Cairo at the Islamic Research Center who are speaking out. You have Muslim leaders, the leaders of Islamic countries like King Abdullah and King Mohammed and Prime Minister Ecevit speaking out. You have the Arab League speaking out again and Amre Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League making clear that al-Qaida is in a war with the world.
And I think those forces are most welcome because they're true and they're accurate and they convey very clearly the sentiment in the rest of the Muslim world. I think the Kuwaiti minister today in our discussions with Secretary Powell, he said, you know, that if you read what the al-Qaida organization puts out, what Usama bin Laden says, he considers all of us infidels. He has turned against fellow Muslims as well as the rest of the world.
QUESTION: And I apologize if you talked about this yesterday and I forgot, but the German Ambassador was talking this morning about how the German Government's decision to contribute forces to the effort in Afghanistan has as much of a military impact as -- sorry, a diplomatic impact as it does a military one in the sense that it provides political cohesion to the coalition. So could you talk a little bit about how that decision will affect the effort?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I did talk about that yesterday, and if I did, I forgot, too. I can't talk too much about the military details of it because, in the end, how the operation gets put together, how we use different contributions, different forces, is something the Pentagon sorts out and works with other governments on.
I do think it's important to remember that we have other governments supporting us militarily. There are at least 50 countries, probably more by now, that are either participating with us, supporting us, giving us overflight clearances, helping us with basing and things like that. We have our NATO allies taking important steps, whether it's flying an AWACS in the United States so that we can put our forces elsewhere or supporting us through redeployments and readjustments of the NATO structures. We have allies like Canada and Australia either flying with us domestically or taking action around the word, and there are a lot of other countries that are involved militarily one way or the other.
And I think it is important for us all to remember that as this operation proceeds, there are a lot of people involved, there are a lot of countries involved. And diplomatically, what we have seen is people want to be involved. They understand the threat to themselves and they want to be part of countering it. And I think the point is well proven by the offers of military forces from four or five countries that we've seen in the last week.
QUESTION: Can I follow up briefly? The German Government actually made clear its willingness to help a month ago. Why has the United States Government waited until this week to ask for that help?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the whole process of planning on how to use forces and different forces is one that proceeds according to the military needs of the situation, and those would be better explained by the Pentagon than me.
QUESTION: On the international support angle, shortly after the Uzbeks agreed to allow US troops to use some of their air bases, there was an agreement signed, not a mutual security pact but something that says -- something that's similar to that.
MR. BOUCHER: We issued statements that said --
QUESTION: Exactly. Is something now under way with the Tajiks as well, since they have now agreed to allow their bases to be used?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll check and see if there is any paper. Different countries obviously have different rules, regulations, attitudes, towards things. We wanted to work something out with the Uzbeks. They wanted a clear understanding that they could make public on what we would do. And that's what we did. We issued joint statements that describe what we were doing together and described that were there threats to Uzbek security we'd consult urgently on how to take appropriate action.
QUESTION: Was this something that you wouldn't talk about until it actually happens, if it were to happen? I mean, it's not something that you would say, yes, we're negotiating a deal on?
MR. BOUCHER: My guess is we probably wouldn't, but we might find different ways to answer it if we were not negotiating a deal than if we were and didn't want to talk about it. And I'll leave that subtlety to you when you see our answer, if we get you one.
QUESTION: Richard, this is a pretty broad question, but what are the goals of this building? What do you want to accomplish at the UN in the few days that you'll be up there?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can answer that question separately for you. I think the White House will be briefing on the United States' overall goals at the United Nations, and the President's participation in the United Nations is a very important event every year. The President's speech at the United Nations is a very important speech every year.
So, to a great extent, what we are doing at the State Department, what the Secretary does, is to support the President, to further his goals and to help through our own meetings, through the Secretary's own meetings to continue to carry out his goals.
So I think I will leave it to the White House to talk about those goals first.
QUESTION: Well, but they are meetings that he will have separate and apart from the President, and are they --
MR. BOUCHER: Pretty much after the President departs, yes.
QUESTION: Right. Are there things in those meetings that you all are zeroing in on? That you're trying to --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, how to support the President's goals through the meetings that we have on our own. I am sorry, I'm not going to -- today is not the day for me to jump out on those and get ahead of the White House. The White House is going to explain the United States' goals as a whole for this event, and certainly the Secretary's participation is a very important part of that.
QUESTION: But what about his bilaterals?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you a list of his bilaterals yet, no.
QUESTION: But you can say that the Secretary isn't going to try and undo any progress the President has made -- (laughter) --
MR. BOUCHER: I can certainly certify that, yes.
QUESTION: Could you list the four or five countries that have offered military force?
MR. BOUCHER: I have seen public announcements by Germany, Czechoslovakia -- Czech Republic, Turkey, Italy that I can think of right now. That's just reading the wires stories. We leave it to other governments to talk; I'm not sure I have seen anything the French have said, but --
QUESTION: And Canada?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, we know about Canada, Australia, the things before. He was talking about the ones in the last week, where there have been new announcements. I don't remember if the French have made any new announcements in the last week.
QUESTION: Are there countries that are offering military force in private, that are not being made public?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to assume there are, but I can't relate at this point. I don't have any for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m. EDT.)
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