State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 26, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, November 26, 2001
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
ANNOUNCEMENTS 1-2 Secretary Powell's Travel / Meetings in Turkey, Belgium, and Russia
IRAQ 2-5 UN Resolution on Iraq / Weapons Inspection / Oil for Food Program 6 Intelligence Links with al-Qaida
RUSSIA 3 Closure of Independent Media Organization
SPAIN 5-6 Information Sharing / Extradition of al-Qaida Suspects
TURKEY 7 Secretary Powell's Travel / Role in Reconstruction of Afghanistan
GERMANY 7-10 Meeting in Bonn of Afghan Factions 8 Iranian Input in Future Government of Afghanistan 8-9 Role of Women in Discussions / Role of Former Taliban
AFGHANISTAN 11 Travel Advisory Warden Message / Passport Procedures
INDONESIA 11 Travel Advisory / Security Status of Embassy
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 12 Gen. Zinni and Assistant Secretary Burns Meetings in the Region 12 Missile Attack on HAMAS Leader 13 Make-Up of Israeli and Palestinian Authority Delegations 13 U.S. Position on Targeted Killings
NORTH KOREA 14-15 Reports of Secret Deal to Trade Missiles with Egypt
ZIMBABWE 16 Harassment of the Press
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2001 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:00 P.M. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't think I have any new announcements for you.
I call people's attention to the fact that we have announced the Secretary's trip, which begins on December 3rd and should finish about December 10th. He will be going to Romania for an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting. He will be stopping in Turkey, will be going to Brussels, Belgium for NATO meetings and NATO/EU meetings, going on to Moscow and then other stops which will be announced later. So those of you wishing to sign up, you have to do it during the course of today because we are going to have to get on with the preparations for the trip and the visas and things like that.
That is my only announcement for the moment. I'll be glad to take your questions on this or other topics.
QUESTION: Let me make sure I got that. You said other stops, plural?
MR. BOUCHER: Other stop and/or stops, if any, to be named later.
QUESTION: What? If any?
MR. BOUCHER: This is what we can announce at this moment. As we have other things to fall into place, we will be glad to tell you about them.
QUESTION: Can I take it, though, that the other stops will be in Eurasia, since your headline says "Eurasia" and then it only says "Russia"?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a big place, but, yes, that would be the conclusion I would draw.
QUESTION: The stop you have announced in Turkey, are you planning to discuss the potential for an all-Islamic peacekeeping force there?
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure there are a lot of questions about the future of Afghanistan and what role the outside world can play that will come up during the course of this trip. We will have to see where we are in terms of some of these issues to determine which ones might be most prominent when we get there.
QUESTION: Richard, on the -- in Brussels, do you expect Foreign Minister Ivanov to be there?
MR. BOUCHER: He usually is. There is the Permanent Joint Council. But I don't know specifically, frankly, whether he will be there or not.
QUESTION: And Foreign Minister Cem will also be there for the NAC meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: We would expect NATO foreign ministers to be there, yes.
QUESTION: Why no stop in Greece, then, if you are going to Russia and to -- to Moscow and to Ankara, where the foreign ministers of which you have already seen or you will see in Brussels and, you know, the Greeks get a little bit out of whack --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have to apologize. There are 19 countries in NATO, plus Russia, that makes 20. We're stopping in about three of these. So I don't think there is any reason to explain why we are not stopping in 17 others.
QUESTION: In the visit to Moscow, do you expect to bring up the issue of Russia's continuing arming of Iran and --
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure we will go through the whole panoply of US- Russia issues as follow-on to the discussions, the good, productive discussions that our presidents recently had in Washington and Crawford. I am not prepared at this point to try to give you a preview of the meetings. It will be seven to ten days from now when we get there.
QUESTION: Speaking of Foreign Minister Ivanov, can you confirm that the Secretary did speak to him this morning? Did they discuss Iraq and did he explain what the President meant when he said Iraq would find out what the United States had in store for it if it didn't let weapons inspectors back in?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a series of well-informed questions, I might say. Let me tell you the Secretary did speak with Foreign Minister Ivanov this morning. They discussed the situation vis-à-vis Iraq in the Security Council, as they have before. We have told you before that we are in close consultation with the Russians about the new UN Security Council resolution. We are still trying to work that, and to get agreement as soon as possible that would bring Russia into an alignment with the other members of the Perm 5, and indeed with the rest of the Security Council.
We are still working on trying to achieve a new resolution that precisely targets Iraq's acquisition of weapons and the material to make them, particularly weapons of mass destruction, and which can allow a smoother flow of goods, civilian goods, for the Iraqi people. We also continue to support strongly the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq, and that has been a subject that the President also discussed this morning.
So generally, I would say they talked this morning about the new resolution that we continue to work at with the Russians.
QUESTION: Do you know what time the call was? Do you know if it was before or after the President made that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know precisely when it took place. It was due to be sort of in the 11:30, 12:00 time frame. I'm not sure exactly when it took place.
QUESTION: Also on Iraq. Is there a possibility of a rollover of Oil- for-Food for another few months?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're working on a new resolution. We're working to get a new resolution, and that remains the goal, and that's why the Secretary spoke this morning with the Russian Foreign Minister about it.
QUESTION: While in Moscow, will the Secretary of State mention the problems with civil rights in Russia, like press freedom? As today, one of the independent networks was shut down by Moscow court of appeals.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not at this point prepared to go through an entire list of things the Secretary will or will not raise when he gets out there. But I think I can say that our support for press freedom in Russia, our support for the independence of the Russian media, has been steadfast and strong. The two presidents discussed it during their meetings. It has come up in every single meeting the Secretary has had -- almost every single meeting the Secretary has had with his Russian counterparts. And so it remains the strong position of the United States that a free media is essential to the kind of modern democratic society that Russia wants to build.
So I would expect that to keep coming up. As far as a particular situation with a particular -- what is it, court case?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can get that far into it right now.
QUESTION: On Iraq again. How is the new resolution that is being proposed different from the one that was proposed about six months ago and failed to pass?
MR. BOUCHER: The one that was proposed six months ago was envisaged by the Security Council, and this is the resolution the Security Council envisaged. This is the resolution that would in fact do what we have been trying to do for the last six months, and our goal is to bring Russia on board with the other permanent members of the Security Council, and indeed the rest of the Council.
QUESTION: So it's not really -- the proposal the United States is putting forward has not really changed over these past --
MR. BOUCHER: It's essentially the same proposal. We're always willing to take into account the different particular concerns that nations might have. But essentially, that same goal of having a resolution which targets and prevents the acquisition by Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and the material to acquire and make weapons so that they can't threaten their neighbors and threaten their people, that's the goal. And in the process, to be able to smooth out the process of the ability of the Iraqi people to acquire civilian goods for civilian use.
QUESTION: And it did not pass because Russia and China, or just Russia was reluctant --
MR. BOUCHER: Russia. There were four members of the Perm 5 that were in alignment in July on this.
QUESTION: And their objections were?
MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to ask them.
QUESTION: Do you have a Plan B, if you can't get the sanctions this time around?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't answer that question one way or the other. If I say, yes, you immediately want to know what it is, and if I say no, you think we're foolish and not planning ahead. So just be assured we know what we're doing. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What was the Secretary's impression after the phone call with Foreign Minister Ivanov? Did he get the sense that there was some room to maneuver here?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary's sense was the one that I just gave you, that we'll keep working on this.
QUESTION: In other words, the Russians aren't moving?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that. We'll keep working on this, on this idea, on this resolution. We will keep working with them on it.
QUESTION: You brought up the hopes of returning monitors to Iraq. Do you have some reason to hope for that now? Has something improved?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think Iraq has essentially changed its position. We all know what requirements Iraq is under and, as the President said today, Iraq needs to let weapons inspectors back in if they're going to try to show that they are not developing weapons of mass destruction. So it's quite clear what the international community expects of Iraq. It's quite clear what the President expects of Iraq. And we will keep that requirement in front of them. But I have not seen anything new from Iraq that would indicate that they are willing to try to reassure the international community in any way, or that they have changed their intentions of threatening their own people and threatening their neighbors.
QUESTION: Can you say we are beginning to build a case against Iraq for additional action? I mean, this is a longstanding -- they have kept inspectors out --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would say that. These have been longstanding concerns of the United States, longstanding concerns about weapons of mass destruction. As the President said, this has always been his position.
In fact, if you look at the redlines that we have stated not only in this administration but prior to that, one of the redlines for military action against Iraq was always development of weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: Is the deadline for smart sanctions Friday?
MR. BOUCHER: It's November 30th, if I can figure out when that is. Yes.
QUESTION: Is the apparent success of the action in Afghanistan affecting the way the United States sees the possibility of action in Iraq, either in terms of support in the Middle East for such action --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think anybody is prepared to make that leap at this point. The President said quite clearly this morning, first things first. And we have all made quite clear, he has made quite clear, that the goal of getting al-Qaida, preventing them from operating in Afghanistan, ripping up their networks around the world, that first and foremost is the task ahead. And he has made quite clear, the Secretary has made quite clear, that that -- everything won't continue to proceed -- you can't assume everything will continue to proceed at the fast pace that things have gone in recent weeks. There are going to be fast moments, there are going to be slowdowns. There are going to be moments when we have to prepare for another stage in terms of getting al-Qaida.
So there is a long-term effort under way here that involves not only military action, but diplomatic, law enforcement, the financial. And that task, first and foremost, as the President said, remains to get al-Qaida, prevent them from operating in Afghanistan and prevent them from operating around the world, and that's being done. That's being done by the arrests in Spain, by the military action in Afghanistan, by the arrests in other countries -- the President cited 300 people that have been picked up -- as well as the financial squeeze that is on as well.
QUESTION: Can you discuss the possible extradition of eight terrorists from Spain and where that stands? There are reports that they are reluctant --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. We have not made any requests for extradition of those people from Spain. So there is nothing to discuss at this point.
QUESTION: And have you discussed with them extradition?
MR. BOUCHER: We had a discussion -- some people from our embassy had a discussion with the Spanish authorities about -- I guess I'd say in the context of information-sharing, under the mutual legal assistance treaty that we have with Spain. So what we have done so far is had a meeting talking about information, requests for information under our treaty. We have not made a request for extradition.
QUESTION: So your various agreements for cooperation with all of these countries about extraditing and agreements and things like that, are you finding that the US death penalty policy is going to be a hindrance to extraditing some of these people? And do you see the Europeans giving you a hard time about this new statement by President Bush that some suspects should have military trials?
MR. BOUCHER: As I have said before, we haven't made a request for extradition, so I can't tell you if the death penalty entered into that or not. I would say that the death penalty has been an issue with various European governments. There is, in fact, a clause in our extradition treaty with Spain that says the Spanish Government can request assurances that the death penalty would not be sought or applied in a particular criminal matter, and I think that's also a feature of either our agreements or our practice with other European countries as well.
QUESTION: Have you (inaudible) tribunals --
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. As I said, we were requesting information under the treaty. That's where we go so far.
QUESTION: Can we just go back to Iraq for a second? Does the State Department know if there's any -- do you suspect that there is any linkage between the Iraqi intelligence services and the al-Qaida network?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that is such a broad question, I'm not sure I'm in a position to answer it. The President and the Secretary have both said that they see no direct link between the Iraqis and the terrorist acts of September 11th.
QUESTION: Not that -- but I'm asking about the network itself?
MR. BOUCHER: Do all the bad guys know each other? I don't think I can answer that. There is obviously the meeting in Czechoslovakia that indicates some acquaintance, shall we say.
QUESTION: Another subject? Secretary Powell is going to visit Turkey next week. What is the purpose of this trip?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's not another subject. We sort of discussed that earlier. I can't give you a full rundown on the exact topics that will be discussed. But generally, I'm sure that the cooperation in the coalition is going to be an important part of his discussions everywhere. Immediate and long-term questions involving Afghanistan obviously will be part of that. Assistance and support for reconstruction of Afghanistan will be an important part of it. And then there's a whole lot of NATO business to discuss with key allies like Turkey, as well as the allies that we meet in NATO.
QUESTION: Can we have a slight shift in emphasis? What do you think the prospects are for quick action on a post-Taliban government? The talks are about to begin. Could you ruminate on that a little bit? Any hopes, anticipation --
MR. BOUCHER: Am I allowed to do that from this podium?
QUESTION: To ruminate? I'm not sure.
QUESTION: Isn't that something that animals do?
QUESTION: You regurgitate.
MR. BOUCHER: I see. Okay. Let me ruminate, if I can, briefly. There is a meeting that people are gathering for in Bonn. Ambassador Jim Dobbins, our representative to the Afghan opposition, is in Bonn and he heads a US delegation that will be observing the discussions of the Afghan groups.
These discussions are sponsored by the United Nations. Ambassador Dobbins has begun meeting with the people who are arriving there, with the Afghan groups, with the other nations' representatives who are out in Bonn, and we will continue to work with them as this process goes forward.
The meeting begins tomorrow. We are not sure how long it will last. It will clearly -- the people in charge are the United Nations. It will be chaired by the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi. The goal is to seek progress toward establishment of an interim government and towards proceeding with a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. That remains a fundamental goal.
There was a statement issued today by the Group of Eight Foreign Ministers in support of this process, looking forward to the establishment of a new transitional administration in Afghanistan, and steps that will facilitate a longer-term political solution.
I would note in passing that we are also pleased to see that women are being included in these delegations. We know of at least three women so far who have been included, two who are joining the Rome delegation at the Bonn meeting, and I think there is one more from another delegation. The Northern Alliance, I think.
QUESTION: Initially, way back when the war was first beginning, the US position was that any postwar government has to be accessible -- I mean, has to be agreeable to the neighbors, to Pakistan -- Iran was mentioned. Has there been any effort made or will there be an attempt made to seek Iran's approval or at least acquiescence of a new government? And, secondly, does the US have any view as to whether the Northern Alliance should or will, by virtue of its military success, dominate this new government?
MR. BOUCHER: As we've said before, we look for a broad-based government that represents the people of Afghanistan and all their groups and factions and tribes. One would expect that to be broadly representative of the people of the country. So the groups in the Northern Alliance would obviously participate in that and have a role in that.
As for the Iranians, Iran does participate in various multilateral groups where these questions are discussed, the Six Plus Two which, as you know, had a meeting just in New York. The Afghan -- what's it called -- the Geneva Group, which keeps in touch with various leaders and factions in Europe. So there are a variety of international fora where groups meet to discuss the situation, and obviously the views of all are welcome there.
Whether they will have somebody at the Bonn meeting or not, I don't know. But let's remember the goal is for the Afghans to form a government, the goal is for the Afghans to make progress towards an interim arrangement, then a long-term political solution. And all the foreign representatives who are out there, including the United Nations, are there to try to help the Afghans reach agreement on their future, because their future lies with them.
QUESTION: Does Secretary Powell and others in the Administration still think it is essential that there be representatives of the Taliban that would be at tomorrow's meeting and --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think Secretary Powell ever said that.
QUESTION: Well, Secretary Powell had said that he thought it was important that there would be representatives --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the Secretary ever said that.
QUESTION: I can remember standing in Islamabad and hearing him --
MR. BOUCHER: I would advise you to check the record of the press conference in Islamabad. The Secretary did not say it's essential for the Taliban to be there.
QUESTION: He said it would be former Taliban people, if they made the change -- might be --
MR. BOUCHER: He was asked, is there a role for moderate Taliban in the future. And he said, there's a role for all Afghans, basically. Look at the exact record. He did not say that, he did not say that. Okay? So, where does that leave us?
He has said many times that there are people inside of Afghanistan. You are seeing many of them rise up right now. The Taliban has lost control in all but I think three provinces of Afghanistan. Many of these Pashtun leaders, many local leaders in other parts of the country have risen up, have taken back control of their provinces. They are traditional tribal leaders who had been involved underneath or subjugated by the Taliban who have reemerged. There are military leaders who may have changed sides.
So there are people on the Pashtun side who may have been inside Afghanistan and had some role or association or acquaintance with the Taliban but who have risen up, defected, changed sides or otherwise shown their total rejection of that course. And that's the kind of people that are going to be represented, we would expect, in future discussions, along with many others.
QUESTION: So is it not, as far as the US is concerned, not essential that there be a representative of the Taliban -- obviously not the political leadership -- but representatives of the movement?
MR. BOUCHER: We have said very clearly that the Taliban leadership has no role in the future of Afghanistan, as far as we're concerned. To the extent that there are tribal leaders or others who have rejected, or who have now changed sides, rejected the Taliban, I suppose those people would have some role. I'm not sure I can define it any more than that.
QUESTION: Richard, how concerned are you that the (inaudible) of the Northern Alliance, that they would not respect any kind of transitional authority, that they're not -- or transitional government that they're not happy with? And if they don't, how is this going to affect US cooperation with the Northern Alliance?
MR. BOUCHER: You're speculating on something which doesn't seem to have any reality at this point. The fact is, the Northern Alliance has pledged themselves to this process, they have agreed to cooperate. Even before they got to Kabul, they were working with the King's representatives in Rome on the establishment, pledge to a broad-based government. They are attending the Bonn meeting, so let's see what comes out of that before we start speculating on some other course.
QUESTION: Yes, but President Rabbani said that this meeting is largely symbolic, and that the real work would take place in Kabul, where the Northern Alliance has control.
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, they are attending the Bonn meeting. They are pledged to its purposes. We will see what it produces.
QUESTION: Richard, two very quick things. Is Ambassador Haass still planning on joining Ambassador Dobbins at some point during the course of the talks?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, he is. I think he expects to leave tomorrow.
QUESTION: He is? Okay. And the second thing is, as you said earlier, there are women included in at least two of the delegations. I'm wondering, are there any women in Ambassador Dobbins' delegation, in the US delegation going there? And if not, was there any thought given?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a list, but the answer is yes.
QUESTION: Yes? Okay. (Laughter.) Were they chosen for this delegation specifically to perhaps be kind of a role -- show a role model?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we had to do that, but we might have. I just -- I don't know exactly who is in it. There are people that work the issue that work for Assistant Secretary Christina Rocca on this issue. And so we always have women in our delegations, no matter what the topic.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Could you --
QUESTION: I have one more on Afghanistan.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Friday, Richard, you guys issued a Travel Warning for Afghanistan, which I don't think took too many people by surprise that it's unsafe. But the Embassy in Islamabad has today put a Warden Message -- or maybe yesterday -- repeating this. And I'm just curious, one would think that the last people who need to be told that Afghanistan is unsafe are Americans who live in Pakistan. So I'm just trying -- who are these warnings directed at? Are you really concerned that there are Americans who are thinking about touring Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: Do you mean journalists, maybe?
QUESTION: No. I presume that, you know, US soldiers and journalists and aid workers are probably not the people that this is aimed at.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we give our best advice to any Americans who might be interested in going there, and our embassies do that by getting the word out through their Warden networks. It's a matter of routine procedure. But I would think that we want to talk to everybody, and if somebody already understands the situation, so much the better. If they don't, then let's get the word to them on what our advice is. So I think it's a very natural thing.
QUESTION: Okay, so in this Warden Message, it says that Americans who are contemplating visiting Afghanistan right now are urged to go to see US embassies or consulates at the point of their departure. What are they going to -- if someone shows up and says, hi, I'm going to go to Afghanistan, what do you think, what are they going to be told? Don't go?
MR. BOUCHER: They'll be given our best advice, which is contained in the Travel Warning, which is essentially don't go. And they will also get a chance to tell us who their next of kin are, and what their route and itinerary might be.
QUESTION: But there's no -- there isn't any way -- like, for Libya, on Friday, the Secretary extended the passport travel -- there is no such ban on travel to Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: No, there's not. I don't think US passports are invalid for travel to Afghanistan. But I'm not sure there's any passport formalities involved in going into Afghanistan anyway. So the issue probably doesn't really arise.
QUESTION: Has there been a change in the security status of the US Embassy in Indonesia?
MR. BOUCHER: We rescinded the Authorized Departure and put out a new Travel Advisory on that on Friday, I think it was. We have lifted the Authorized Departure status that had begun on September 27th for all US embassy and consulate personnel and non-essential, non-emergency positions, and for our family members in Indonesia. So the employees and the family members can begin to return within days. Emergency personnel remain deposed to conduct diplomatic and consular business while our mission was under Authorized Departure.
The police response to threats and demonstrations against the embassy and consulate general in Surabaya has generally been excellent. Indonesian national police presence will remain. Anti-US demonstrations have all but ceased, and threats to sweep Americans out of the country have not materialized.
As prior to the Authorized Departure period, American citizens in Indonesia are reminded to consider their personal security situations and to take those measures which they deem appropriate to ensure their well-being.
QUESTION: And does the violence that is taking place in the Middle East just as General Zinni and Assistant Secretary Burns start their peace mission change in any way their priorities?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it just reminds us all of the urgency and the difficulty of stopping the violence. It's clear -- it's quite clear to all of us that this mission is just beginning. They just arrived in the region yesterday. They will be meeting with senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders today and then they will see Prime Minister Sharon on Tuesday, Chairman Arafat on Wednesday.
This process of getting started, on getting the parties to a ceasefire, helping the parties achieve a real cease-fire and getting started on implementation of the Tenet and Mitchell plans to provide for rebuilding of confidence and a return to negotiation, this has been a very difficult process, a difficult process to get started. And, once again, General Zinni and Ambassador Burns are out there to try to get it started with the parties.
So I would not expect instant results. I would not expect their arrival in the region to suddenly and magically be greeted by a total cessation of the violence. They are going to work on this and they are going to work very hard on it.
QUESTION: Does the missile attack over the weekend of the Hamas leader change the US position on the Arms Export Control Act and even starting review with regard to that, considering I think they used US weapons in that attack?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check. I haven't seen anything new on that today.
QUESTION: Former diplomat Martin Indyk has called for the United States -- he said the peace process is going to be a waste unless the United States calls upon its allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to reign in incitement against Israel and against the peace process. What is your view of that call by Mr. Indyk?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have always looked, first of all, for support for the efforts that we have been making and, in fact, in many places have found that support. We have welcomed the role the various governments have played in this, overtly or particularly people like Egypt and Jordan. I think other governments have been very important in dealing with the parties. But we also look to all nations, including especially Arab nations, to accept Israel and to stop incitement. I think the Secretary made that quite clear in his speech.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on -- do you have a follow-up?
QUESTION: One follow-up, yes. Do you believe or do you have any evidence that the apparent success of the US military operation in Afghanistan is making these countries in the Middle East, the Arab countries, more amenable to US requests, whether to stop incitement or whether to participate in peace process? Is it changing things for the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can say that at this point.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts about Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's decision not to have Foreign Minister Peres lead the negotiations but, rather, a general who is considered a little bit tougher on the Palestinians in security matters?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's remember, these are discussions primarily aimed at achieving a ceasefire, helping the parties get to a ceasefire. We look for them to establish and have people who can be responsible for that. Prime Minister Sharon has chosen a retired general for this task. He is head of a committee on the Israeli side that we look forward to working with. We have heard from Chairman Arafat that he intends to do something similar.
We have known this name for some time, as the Secretary I think indicated to you last week. And we look forward to working with him. What's important is not who does it but what they can achieve.
QUESTION: Richard, can I clarify something on scheduling? Did they arrive today or yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday. Did I say "today"?
QUESTION: No, you said "yesterday," but I was under the impression that they arrived this morning our time -- or, sorry, Monday morning Israel time.
MR. BOUCHER: I can double check that for you.
QUESTION: And the other thing is, are they in fact going on -- both of them going on to Egypt on Thursday, as the Egyptians seem to be saying?
MR. BOUCHER: No, the basic game plan is that General Zinni will stay in the region working with the Israelis and Palestinians, and --
QUESTION: Israel and the Palestinian territories?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, and then Ambassador Burns, after initial meetings, will make some other stops in the broader region in some other countries. But I don't think that's quite pinned down yet, so I can't give you the itinerary yet.
QUESTION: On Israel really quick, is the State Department still opposing Israeli targeted killings?
MR. BOUCHER: The position hasn't changed.
QUESTION: On Egypt, this is a story that has been brought up before, but it's coming up again due to a report published by a South Korean newspaper. Do you have any evidence, and have we checked into these reports again that Egypt is receiving medium-range missiles from North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen this press report on an alleged secret deal between North Korea and Egypt to transfer medium-range ballistic missiles. I'm afraid this is a subject that we have addressed in the past. The President made quite clear again this morning that we are very concerned about North Korea's proliferation activities, and that we look to North Korea to curb those activities, and that has been part of our diplomacy and one of the subjects that we want to raise if we can get serious discussions going with North Korea.
We do monitor and evaluate any reports of transfers of items or technology that might contribute to proliferation. We take appropriate action when there is evidence that activities of concern have taken place or might take place. I can't say anything more about the details.
I would say that we have a close strategic arrangement relationship with Egypt, and we regularly discuss a wide range of security issues, including nonproliferation.
QUESTION: But is this something that will be sanctionable under the same kind of deals like between China and Pakistan, or something like that? And since we do have an open relationship with the Egyptians, why don't we just check with them? If the North Koreans aren't forthcoming?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we talk about all kinds of things with the Egyptians. We have an important strategic relationship, and nonproliferation is one of the topics of discussion that we have discussed in the past, and I'm sure we'll continue to discuss with them. But I can't go into any specifics about a particular situation that we may or may not have information about.
As far as the implications that there are indeed legal issues involved, were there to be certain transfers, including receipt of certain transfers, but that depends on the exact nature and the information that one gets about it.
QUESTION: Can we conclude that since there are no sanctions that we have put on Egypt recently in this regard, that you have concluded these deals are not taking place?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't quite go that far.
QUESTION: If they can arrange it with the Foreign Minister this week?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to go any further into what we have and what we know and what we might raise.
Nonproliferation, I would say, is a frequent topic of discussion with the Egyptians, so I wouldn't be surprised for it to come up.
QUESTION: The TCOG meeting starts tomorrow in San Francisco, I think. Is this a routine meeting, or was it something convened because of some development?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. I think after the last one, they announced that they would be having another one. I don't remember if the date was specified.
QUESTION: There is a report from South Korea that has said North Korea has already expelled Red Army members. So can you confirm this report?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen the report. I'll check and see if we have anything about that.
QUESTION: Press reports that there is a conspiracy under way to overthrow President Chavez, Venezuela. And it names the group that is in charge of it. What is the information that you have regarding the situation down there, which endangers US oil supplies?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen the report, and I don't have any information like that.
QUESTION: There's a three-column story in The Post this morning.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, I didn't read it. But I don't have any information like that.
QUESTION: Richard, are there new plans by the United States to work through the United Nations to tighten the screws on Iraq with the coming expiration of the oil --
MR. BOUCHER: I think some time back, maybe 20 minutes ago, we did the new resolution on Iraq. Maybe 30 minutes ago. And that's really what we have. We have continued our efforts to get passage of that resolution, which would result in a clear agreement and strong controls on Iraq's ability to acquire weapons.
QUESTION: Have you noticed any change in the Russian position?
MR. BOUCHER: We did all that. I'm sorry. Look back at the transcript.
QUESTION: I just want to make sure I heard you right. Did you say that nonproliferation in general was going to come up with the Egyptians, or did you say that in general, including this report? The information --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't said anything about a particular piece of information at this point.
QUESTION: Well, I'm sorry, I thought you said --
MR. BOUCHER: I said nonproliferation is a topic that we discuss with the Egyptians, so I wouldn't be surprised if it came up. But I'm not able to confirm any particular report or to say that we would raise any particular report.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) due? Do you know when do you expect that to --
MR. BOUCHER: November 30th is the expiration of the old one.
QUESTION: I've got one more. On Friday, I believe it was, in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe and his people came out accusing several journalists of being terrorists. I'm wondering if you -- and while an EU delegation was there, and the EU delegation, while not maybe commenting on that directly, said that they were at a critical stage with the government. What's the US position now?
MR. BOUCHER: The statements reflect a continuing trend of harassment of the free press by the Government of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, the United States rejects any comparison between the international coalition's fight against terrorism and the deterioration of the rule of law and the state-sponsored violence that has emerged in Zimbabwe.
The United States has, and will, continue to call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to cease its harassment of the free press, to reestablish the rule of law, and to take steps to ensure that the will of the people is respected in the upcoming presidential election. We understand that two journalists, one from The Washington Post, and the other from the New York Times, have been denied visas by the Government of Zimbabwe, which says that it is not entertaining requests for visas from the media at this time, and this, too, appears to be another attempt on the part of the Government of Zimbabwe to limit scrutiny of its campaign of political violence and intimidation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m. EST.)
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