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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 21

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 21, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index December 21, 2001 1:00 P.M. EST

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

AFGHANISTAN 1,2,3 Afghan Interim Government 2 Donors Conference 3,4 Security Force / Leadership

INDIA/PAKISTAN 5 Terrorist Attacks / Links to Pakistani Government 6 Recall of Ambassador 7 Kashmir / Tensions

ARGENTINA 8,9 New Government / U.S. Response to Crisis

SOMALIA 9,10,11 Next Target for Coalition? 10,11 Somali Actions against Terrorism

GREECE 12,16,17 New Aegean Maps

AFGHANISTAN 13,14 Found bin Laden Tapes / New Translations

IRAQ 14 Iraqi National Congress

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 15 Hamas Statement

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #180

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2001 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

1:10 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here, and I will start off by wishing a merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone.

Since we won't be briefing for a while, I wanted to make some comments today on the events that will take place tomorrow in Afghanistan, and that is the installation of the interim administration, the governing authority for Afghanistan. This has been the product of a lot of effort by Afghans and by the international community, and it is a very welcome event in terms of bringing stability and peace to a region that has long been troubled.

The UN Security Council has now given a mandate to an interim security assistance force. That is in Resolution 1386 that was passed yesterday. The British have offered to lead such a force, and have already got some elements of that force on the ground. The international community has also pledged to supporting the interim administration financially, and we have, as you know, had several conferences of potential donors. There is a meeting of the Afghan Donor Steering Group that has gone on yesterday and today in Brussels, and they continue to plan for our support for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and then that will lead to another conference in January in Japan to work even more and plan even more specifically how the international community can continue to support the interim authority in this whole process, leading back to a representative and broadly based government for Afghanistan.

So this government starts off with strong international support. For the United States, we look forward to working with the interim administration as the government of Afghanistan, and we have our diplomatic representation there. Ambassador Dobbins will attend the ceremonies for us tomorrow, and we have a team in Kabul that will be there to work with the government as it goes forward.

Even more than that, I think, for the Afghan people, the installation of this interim authority, with the full support of the international community, it offers them a chance to pursue their lives, to pursue normal lives in an atmosphere of peace and stability for the first time after many, many years of trouble, and that perhaps is the most welcome of all the effects of this event.

So I will stop with that and take your questions on this or other things.

QUESTION: Well, a tedious question. I apologize in advance, because you know what I'm going to ask you, but this recognition has cropped up again. I understand what you have said in the past, but is there a new wrinkle on this? Is this, indeed, what Mr. Dobbins has been saying out there? Is this recognition in a traditional sense?

MR. BOUCHER: Without trying to make a legalistic declaration which, if it's appropriate, we'll make at the appropriate time, I said we look forward to working with this new government as the government of Afghanistan. In normal terms, we recognize that this is the government of Afghanistan and we look forward to working with them.

QUESTION: Another subject? On the same thing but another --

MR. BOUCHER: Same thing, another wrinkle. Yes.

QUESTION: Money. Can you give us a clue about what portion of the funding in January will come from this country?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't at this point. I am sure there will be a lot of supportive and generous offers for the new government. I am sure the United States will want to do its part. As the Secretary has noted before, we know that there are many international donors who will be prepared to support the reconstruction of Afghanistan. So I can't at this point estimate any particular amounts. But the international community has been working hard to prepare. We have been trying to identify the things that need to be done through these donors group conferences and meetings that we have been having. And I am sure when the time comes to fund them that there will be no lack of support.

QUESTION: I have two questions. Can we call the conference in Japan a donors conference?

MR. BOUCHER: I would have to look it up and see exactly what it's called.

QUESTION: But you expect countries, including the United States, to make formal pledges at that point?

MR. BOUCHER: That would be a pledging conference. That's another wrinkle.

QUESTION: Pledging? I'm sorry --

MR. BOUCHER: You can call it a donors conference because the Donors Support Steering Group is planning it. So we are steering towards a donors conference in Japan.

QUESTION: And another question regarding the international security force led by the UK, what is your understanding of how the time frame will work, particularly for the British? They have said 60 to 90 days. Do you expect that they will be re-upped after that period? How do you think that is going to work?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that is a question you are going to have to ask the British, since they are in the lead on this force. They are there to support the interim authority in Afghanistan. How exactly it is worked out in terms of their presence of turning over the lead to somebody else, that will be questions for the British and the international community to work out.

QUESTION: If I can follow up with one more on that one, is it the US view that there will probably be a need for this force after that 60 to 90 days of some sort, without getting into who leads it or who is in it?

MR. BOUCHER: I would go back to the mandate of the Security Council resolution that provides an initial mandate for six months. So that is certainly longer. How long it stays beyond that will be a question for the Security Council and other people involved to address.

QUESTION: Can I go back to recognition of Afghanistan? Ambassador Dobbins' comments this morning seem to have inspired some people to think that they were news. And was there every any question -- was there ever a question that the US was going to not recognize this government?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we have always fully supported the arrangements that were reached in Bonn. We have already fully supported the installation of this government that will take place tomorrow. I suppose there is some importance to be attached to the fact that when the government is installed, we and others will recognize them as the Government of Afghanistan and work with them in that capacity. So that is another sign of the international support that we are offering to this government.

But there was never any question of that support.

QUESTION: Okay. So in other words, what he said this morning is really nothing new?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen what he said this morning. I am not going to try to tell you what news is and what news isn't, frankly, today.

QUESTION: But other days, yes? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Would the United States support an idea which seems to be growing in currency, that Turkey will lead the force once Britain's leadership expires?

MR. BOUCHER: It's not for us to choose at this point. These are going to be matters that we will discuss with the international community. We have always welcomed Turkey's willingness to participate in this arrangement, and we will have to see after consultations with all the others that are involved in the force or involved in Afghanistan. We will have to see how these arrangements are going to be worked out over time.

QUESTION: Has Turkey proposed taking the leadership role --

MR. BOUCHER: That is a question you will have to ask Turkey, wouldn't it be?

QUESTION: Well, you talk to them about these things?

MR. BOUCHER: We talk to them quite a lot. Yes.

QUESTION: If I could just follow up on that. Can you just comment generally what the US view is? I mean, are you at all in any way concerned that because the leadership of this force may turn over, it looks like there could be people coming in, stepping in, that there could be problems in terms of the continuity of -- and the importance of having a stable presence?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: No concern at all?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Let me ask the concern question --

MR. BOUCHER: It has all been worked out for the moment. We are on the way, and we are confident that it will work well in the future. Everybody is very committed to supporting the new government, and we are very committed to making sure that stability and peace can be brought back to the lives of the Afghan people.

QUESTION: So still, in spite all the good wishes, not to be a spoiler, but this has been a troubled country --

MR. BOUCHER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: What -- is there anything people in this building are keeping their fingers crossed about? And secondly, if it isn't India- Pakistan, could the stress in India-Pakistan spill over into poor old Afghanistan, which seems to be vulnerable to everything in the region?

MR. BOUCHER: You are asking me to speculate on a lot of different hypotheticals. We do more than keep our fingers crossed. We work very hard to make sure that things turn out the way we'd like to see them turn out. So we are actively supporting the new government in Afghanistan. We worked very closely with the parties on the agreement that they reached in Bonn. We will be working -- we and other members of the international community will be supporting the new interim authority financially, with the security presence that is provided. Of course, the United States military is still actively working to pursue al-Qaida members and Taliban members, who -- and that may still take some time.

So that effort continues. That is always dangerous. I'm sure there are many, many dangers in Afghanistan, but whether it's financial support, security support, humanitarian support, diplomatic support, political support, we are prepared to offer them every possible support, and we are sure other members of the international community are as well.

QUESTION: And India-Pakistan?

MR. BOUCHER: India-Pakistan is an area of continuing concern. We continue to stay in very close touch with India and Pakistan. We are going to maintain our interests there, as we have made quite clear. We look forward to working with each of these governments in terms of the fight against terrorism. We are confident that President Musharraf is going to take steps against extremism. And I think the White House had a bit more to say about that today.

The Indian Government has released certain evidence linking two militant groups, the Lashkar-e Tayyba and the Jaysh-e-Mohammed, both of which have bases in Pakistan, to the terrorist attacks on the Indian parliament. As you know, we have listed both those organizations on the executive order that freezes assets of terrorist organizations. We do know that those groups have committed terrorist acts and they intend to sabotage efforts at Indo-Pakistani reconciliation and to undermine President Musharraf.

So we see each of these governments as important allies in our fight against terrorism. We will be working with each of them to address terrorism. And as I think Ari Fleischer just said, we look forward to seeing President Musharraf take steps against these groups.

QUESTION: Let me ask you a quick question on that. I don't know if the view -- the policy here is to describe them almost as if they're autonomous groups. But the terrorism report, which I must have memorized by now, said Pakistan hosts training for terrorism groups that operate in Kashmir. So is there any -- at this stage, at least, any link between the Pakistani Government and what happened in the Indian parliament? Because India, of course, thinks there is a strong, clear link.

MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear in our statements that we have not seen anything that would indicate the Pakistani Government was somehow behind these attacks. We know these groups have bases in Pakistan. We know how they operate. President Musharraf has made clear his commitment to address extremism within Pakistan. He has made clear -- he has begun to take steps to address extremism in Pakistan. He has proved to be a capable and reliable partner in the fight against terrorism. And we are confident that he will continue to take steps in the fight against terrorism and, in that context, we have urged Pakistan to take action against these groups.

QUESTION: Richard, just as you did yesterday, though, you have given a great -- the great kind of gloss-over in the glass-half-full department. Isn't it a fact that, just like Mother Nature ignored your call yesterday for more snow, the Indians are completely ignoring your calls for cooperation? You just neglected to mention completely that they have recalled their ambassador to Pakistan, that they're severing all their bus and train links with the Pakistanis.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I would say that your colleagues, first of all, neglected to ask. And if they want to ask about it, I'm happy to answer it. So let's start with a question.

QUESTION: I asked about the terrorism end of it.

MR. BOUCHER: He asked about the terrorism end, and I answered the terrorism end.

QUESTION: Well, I'm sorry. I thought that if you were talking about India and Pakistan in general, that you might want to mention the fact that -- so what do you make of the recall of the Ambassador --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't make the questions. What do we make of the recall?

QUESTION: I'm asking you now. And the decision to cut off the transportation links.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We have -- we are certainly quite aware of these reports. We are quite aware of the decisions that India has decided to recall its high commissioner to Islamabad and to halt rail and bus links to Pakistan. We see these as internal matters for the Indian Government. They are responsible for deciding what is in the best interest of the Indian people.

At the same time, I would make clear that we have urged to both sides, to both India and Pakistan, to try to avoid any further escalation of tensions, and to stress to them again the need to remain focused on fighting the war on terrorism.

QUESTION: But you (inaudible)? So you don't think it would be a good idea for their cooperation in the war on terrorism, which they are both allies in the coalition, fighting against? Right? You don't think they should keep their ambassador there? You don't think --

MR. BOUCHER: We have always made clear that we think it's important for them to resolves issues between them through dialogue. We have made quite clear in recent days the importance of each of them taking appropriate steps to fight terrorism, and to remain focused on that fight.

So as I have said here, we have urged them to avoid any further escalation of tensions. But the specific decisions on what the Government of India has to do, we have always said, the Government of India has to investigate and has to decide what to do in terms of appropriate action. And we will leave those decisions to India.

QUESTION: Okay, well, is dialogue helped or hindered by recall of ambassadors?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, those specifics are decisions for the governments to make. I'm not going to go beyond what I have said.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary made any calls to the region since his chat with President Musharraf on Wednesday?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Armitage?

MR. BOUCHER: What?

QUESTION: Has Armitage made any phone calls?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't checked, actually, to see. Our ambassadors in each capital are very, very active right now. I'm sure.

QUESTION: You mentioned that President Musharraf is taking steps against the organizations, but President Musharraf has said that the struggle in Kashmir is a freedom struggle. Today there is an article in the Washington Times calling to strike for calm, the United States does not regard the separatist moments in Chechnya, (inaudible) and Kashmir as terrorism struggles, as terrorism, and that you regard them as freedom struggle. Can you clarify that? Do you regard -- the specific question is --

MR. BOUCHER: I would invite you to look at what the United States has done, as opposed to just reading the newspapers. We have listed these two particular groups under the financial -- the executive order that mandates the freezing of assets of terrorist organizations. We have noted in our Global Patterns of Terrorism Report that these two groups have carried out terrorist acts. We have noted that the Indian Government has now released information and evidence that links these two groups to the terrorist attacks on the Indian parliament, which we have condemned, which President Musharraf has condemned. And we think the fact that these two groups carry out terrorism is quite clear at this point.

QUESTION: And just a follow-up? Specifically, do you regard the separatist movement in Kashmir, either to join Pakistan or to get independence or whatever, as a terrorist struggle or as a freedom struggle, as Musharraf says?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think you can answer a question like that in a very broad and generic sense. I think you have to look at the groups involved. And we have made quite clear that these two groups, specifically, have carried out terrorist acts and we see them as such.

QUESTION: There has been some substantial troop movement or accusations of substantial troop movements in the area in the last 24 hours. What is your take on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you a take on that. I can't confirm any particulars of military movements, just because we are not in a position to provide that kind of information to you. So I would just go back to what I said before. We would urge both sides -- we are urging both sides to avoid any further escalation of tensions.

QUESTION: Do you think there has been anything beyond a diplomatic escalation of tensions, though?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, that is sort of asking for what kind of information we have and, given the fact that we have a variety of kinds of information, I'm not going to try to do briefings on the military situation.

QUESTION: Richard, yesterday a senior official in this building said that despite the heated rhetoric, the United States was pleased that there hadn't actually been any action taken. Well, now there has been action taken. I mean, they may be diplomatic and transportation steps, but they are actions. Has it escalated in the last 24 hours, in your opinion?

MR. BOUCHER: As we have always said, we think it is important for India and Pakistan to avoid fighting each other. At this point, they have avoided fighting each other.

QUESTION: So you can't answer the question about whether you think the situation has worsened since yesterday with these two steps?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to characterize it every day. You are asking me to say -- to go back; I have discussed before what we think of these two steps. I will leave it at what I said before and not adopt any other characterization.

QUESTION: I am trying to get an idea of whether you are more concerned today than you were yesterday.

MR. BOUCHER: We remain heavily engaged in this process, trying to work with each of them, and we will stay that way.

QUESTION: Can we hopscotch the world and go to Argentina, please? And can you tell us what you think of the moves down there and the moves announced by the government and what you are doing?

MR. BOUCHER: We understand that the Argentine legislative assembly has just accepted President De La Rúa's resignation and sworn in Senate President Pro Tem Ramón Puerta as the acting president. This is what Argentine law provides.

The assembly will meet again on late December 22nd to vote on who will succeed President de la Rúa, either until elections are held or for the remainder of de la Rúa's term. President Puerta has confirmed the current Cabinet on an interim basis.

We are pleased with the orderly transition to date. We have confidence in the strength of Argentine institutions, which is a reflection of Argentina's standing as one of the Western Hemisphere's leading democracies.

We want to see Argentina working with the international financial institutions to be able to work through this difficult situation in ways that lead toward sustainable economic growth. We and the Treasury Department have worked closely together throughout the crisis in Argentina and we will continue to work with other Departments of the US Government, the international financial institutions, and the other members of the international community to try to support a solution that can lead the country back to sustainable growth and prosperity.

QUESTION: But no cash?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we will work with other people in the international community to support a solution that can lead the country back to sustainable growth and prosperity.

QUESTION: Do you have anybody going down there?

MR. BOUCHER: We have diplomatic representatives down there.

QUESTION: Thank you. But no one from this building, which is clearly what I meant, I think.

QUESTION: Has the Ambassador been in to see the new president?

MR. BOUCHER: I will check on the status of the Ambassador and see what there is to say. I am not aware of any other envoys going down, no.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about Somalia? And, frankly, we thought the State Department might have something to say about the level of terrorism, and the concern there. The Pentagon has had things to say, at least General Meyers did. I mean, so far it seems you're combating it with financial measures, but is -- well, I guess the hard question, although it's easy not to answer it, is whether Somalia is the next on the list?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that would be speculative, because there have been no recommendations, no decisions about who -- about a list or who might be next on a list that hasn't been in existence.

QUESTION: Yes. But I guess the situation hasn't been (inaudible).

MR. BOUCHER: We have talked repeatedly about Somalia. We have talked repeatedly about the need to make sure that Somalia doesn't become a safe haven for terrorists, an area where terrorists can operate with impunity. As you know, we have had contacts with various people inside Somalia, including the transitional government, there. We have had an officer that goes there periodically.

And so we will continue to maintain contact with various groups inside Somalia to try to -- as well as take whatever other steps are necessary to ensure that it doesn't become a safe haven for terrorists.

QUESTION: Is your man in Mogadishu still there?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have a man in Mogadishu; we have a man in Nairobi who covers Somalia --

QUESTION: Who was in Mogadishu yesterday.

MR. BOUCHER: -- who was there --

QUESTION: Yesterday.

MR. BOUCHER: I thought the trip was over.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MR. BOUCHER: I mean, let me double check. That's the question.

QUESTION: Well, then what do you make of the -- certainly you have got the Somali transitional government running scared, because this morning they announced that they had arrested eight foreigners on -- as to doing their part in the anti-terrorism war, and there are indications that these eight people are actually just kind of hapless Iraqi refugees who were dumped there out of -- deported there out of the UAE, and may not have anything to do at all with terrorism. What do you make of these arrests?

MR. BOUCHER: We have seen the reports of them. We frankly don't have any further information on that. But we would expect the circumstances of these individuals to be investigated, but I suppose --

QUESTION: But are you asking --

MR. BOUCHER: -- we'll get more information.

QUESTION: Have you asked the Somali transitional government to take steps similar to what you have asked other countries, other --

MR. BOUCHER: We have encouraged all governments and all governing authorities around the world to take steps against terrorism, to make sure that terrorists can't operate in the areas that they control. The transitional national government prime minister has offered to cooperate in this worldwide anti-terrorism effort.

QUESTION: But was that what this guy -- your guy from Nairobi was doing? Was he basically reinforcing that message, saying we'd like to see you take --

MR. BOUCHER: We have had -- maintained contacts on a regular basis with a variety of people, and yes, part of what we do in our contacts is to encourage the transitional national government, or any other groups, to take international action against terrorism. So, yes, that's all part of it.

QUESTION: Richard, when you say that we will remain in contact, as well as take any other steps necessary to make sure it's not a haven for terrorism, could you tell us about what those steps might include?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: When you say that you are trying to prevent terrorists from being able to operate there, is that saying that you don't believe that they do now, or that they can now? And if you do believe that, why isn't Somalia -- and if they are operating there, why isn't Somalia on the state sponsors of terrorism list?

MR. BOUCHER: For the same reason that Afghanistan wasn't. But I don't think I'm in a position --

QUESTION: Just no recognizable government?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me -- we have always put this in terms of making sure Somalia does not become a location where the terrorists could operate, or a safe haven for terrorists. That is the way I would describe our policy at this point. I don't really have a judgment as far as what may be going on there now.

QUESTION: But if you know al-Qaida is there -- or we believe al-Qaida is there, right?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I could say that to you.

QUESTION: Because you -- the United States doesn't recognize the government in Somalia, and many other countries don't recognize the government in Somalia, does it make it easier diplomatically to, in the future, take more aggressive military action against Somalia, than to say a country like Iraq, which does have a recognized government that other countries recognize?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: It doesn't?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: There's no -- because there's no --

MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear that the President is able to do what he has to do, and I don't think those factors affect that terribly much.

QUESTION: Do you have anyone that watches out for diplomatic interests when your man in Nairobi isn't there?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. Let me double check on that. You mean, do we have an old embassy with Foreign Service Nationals? I seem to remember announcing several times that our embassy had been dismantled by local people in Somalia. Over the course of the years it has happened repeatedly. So I don't believe we have anything there on an interim basis.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, any response to my yesterday's pending question regarding Greek-Turkish borders in the Aegean Sea?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we put up an answer yesterday afternoon.

QUESTION: There isn't anything outside.

MR. BOUCHER: We'll double check and make sure you get it. I know something was prepared. I'm sorry if you didn't get it.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about it since there is no (inaudible)?

MR. BOUCHER: No, because I don't remember. Sorry.

QUESTION: You don't remember?

MR. BOUCHER: I remember there was an answer. I don't remember what was in it, I have to admit.

QUESTION: There have been reports by, I believe, one of the news networks, ABC News, that they've gone and translated last week's videotape that was found, I believe, in a safe house in Afghanistan -- the tape that bin Laden had left behind. And they say that there are excerpts that were left out in the translation that was released by the Pentagon and the US Government. And that perhaps also Saudi religious groups had actually smuggled some clerics into Afghanistan. Anything to those reports?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know anything about smuggled clerics. I think actually initial reports were that the other man in the videotape might have been a Saudi cleric, and subsequently it was learned that he was not.

As far as translations, the Defense Department had outside experts prepare a translation. They did that and got it out to you all as soon as they could, I'm sure. And, you know, subsequently, experts have listened to the tapes. Some people have heard more, found more, after more listening to it and have translated those portions. So I think that the people who did the Pentagon translation were very careful not to leap to conclusions or make assumptions about what they were hearing, to be very careful. They made that quite clear in their announcement, that it was not -- they did not get everything and get every single word.

So as others listen to it, I'm sure others will, after repeated hearings, understand better some of the other things that were said and translate them. And our view is that everybody should, you know, listen to the whole thing, as much as they can make out.

QUESTION: Isn't it true that the State Department did its own translation and the Pentagon did its own? And, are State Department analysts or Pentagon analysts going to go back over the tape again and give it another translation or continue to analyze the information?

MR. BOUCHER: As I think Secretary Rumsfeld said an hour or two ago, obviously our analysts -- intelligence analysts and others -- will try to make out everything they can from the tape. And that means, you know, whatever people can figure out about it will probably be useful.

We did do an Arabic transcription of the tape and we had a little longer than the Pentagon did and we finally got ours out a day or two later. So we did do an Arabic transcription of the tape, which we provided to the foreign press at the Foreign Press Center on the 17th, I think it was. And there is the Arabic transcript of that that I think is available on the Foreign Press Center or the websites.

QUESTION: Were these portions included?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I think ours was a bit more complete because we had an extra day or two to finish it.

QUESTION: But you don't know if any specific names were included?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if the specific names are there. I didn't get on the website and listen or read the Arabic this morning. Not that it would have done me much good.

QUESTION: Is one interpretation of this that the Arabic transcript contained phrases that might have been extremely difficult to translate into English but in Arabic they had some kind of -- made some kind of sense? Is that what people in this building are --

MR. BOUCHER: I've heard a lot of different explanations. Some things are hard to hear, some things might be colloquial. Many of the things are -- I think all of us know that when you hear something in the original language, there is often meanings and sense that are conveyed. And yes, I've seen Arabic speakers say that some of these passages are quite powerful in the original language. But I think that is one of the difficulties of translation to begin with.

Our effort all along has been to make -- to let people see this. Frankly, in terms of what we know and what we think, we've always known that al-Qaida and bin Laden were responsible for this. So in terms of basic information, there is nothing in this videotape that changes our understanding that al-Qaida was responsible for this. But we thought it was an important piece of information people should have. And our goal has been just to make it available to folks who can watch it and draw appropriate conclusions.

QUESTION: Is there, as far as you're aware, anything in the State Department's Arabic translation which refers to my colleague's question about the Iranian angle on it?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know. I don't really know. And, again, our effort has been to give it out and let people see things, let people from the Pentagon see versions, see as much of the English as they could produce on that time line that they had, let people in the Arabic-speaking world see the tape in Arabic that we've tried to make available. Anybody that wants to analyze it can do so without our assistance, I think.

QUESTION: New topic? Is that okay? Can you -- and this is, I think, going to be a taken question. But if you could take this question?

MR. BOUCHER: Maybe I'll surprise you.

QUESTION: Could you just update us on the status of the financial relationship between the US Government and the Iraqi National Congress? I understand there has been a lot of difficulty over the past six weeks on reaching a resolution on the budget. There have been some interim steps taken. And are -- at this point, is there any money going to be flowing now to the Iraqi National Congress?

MR. BOUCHER: We have continued on a very periodic basis to provide them with the money that they need and they can use to support their activities. We have continued to make that available as various deadlines have arisen in this process. But you're right, I'd have to check sort of exactly where we are today. I think the answer will be one of continuing support, though, because that has been the case throughout the past months.

QUESTION: Another -- a second part of the taken question, my understanding is that you guys have been providing very small amounts in between this period of no budget that you haven't agreed on, so -- just to get them by. Can you just make sure to confirm that?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we have been continuing to provide support for their activities, continuing to provide support for the administrations of their office and their continuing activities. It has been maintenance support, you might say. I don't -- even while we discuss what other activities they might be interested or able to undertake.

QUESTION: I don't know if your answer is going to be any different than it was yesterday, but Hamas this morning has come out and officially announced that they are going to stop their suicide bombings, which is a bit more than what -- it was kind of sketchy the other day. But given that they denied this, denied that they had made this move two days ago and now said that they have in fact made it, what do you make of that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't make a whole lot. I'm not really interested in parsing the statements of a terrorist group like Hamas. I'll restate what we said before: terror and violence throughout the region must halt immediately. It is Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority's responsibility and obligation to their own people to halt this terrorist violence. I realize they've said they won't conduct suicide bombings. That has to lead to the conclusion that maybe some day they'll say they will. The point is that the Palestinian Authority needs to make sure that they can't.

QUESTION: Okay, well, do you think that this announcement is an indication that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority do, in fact, have some sway over groups like Hamas? You've always --

MR. BOUCHER: We've always felt that they had authority that they should exercise over the areas that they are in charge of.

QUESTION: Is this an indication of that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Again, I can't really parse a statement by a terrorist group.

QUESTION: But, I mean, your people out there, have they --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to draw conclusions from a statement like that.

QUESTION: Can you say as specifically as possible exactly what the Palestinians have to do to make sure that Hamas can no longer conduct suicide bombings?

MR. BOUCHER: We have, I think, made clear over the course of recent days that we saw the Palestinian Authority taking positive steps. We welcome the statements that Chairman Arafat made we felt were constructive. Indeed, that is part of this process of making sure that terrorists can't carry out their deeds. We have welcomed positive steps that we have seen in terms of the arrests that have been undertaken and some of the other activities that they have carried out. And we look for them to further that process, to make it effective and decisive in terms of dismantling the ability of the terrorists to operate and carry out terrorist acts.

QUESTION: You mean things like destroying bomb-making operations, collecting weapons. Anything else?

MR. BOUCHER: Getting rid of places where mortars are made, arresting people that are responsible for violence or planning violence. Many of these steps they have already started, and we look forward to making them effective and concluding them.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) copy of the press guidance says that we understand that the National Imaging and Mapping Agency, NIMA, has recently digitized its medium-scale topographic maps of the Aegean region in a joint co-production arrangement with its mapping counterparts in Greece and Turkey. That means you negotiated with Greece and Turkey to this effect?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think "negotiated" is the right word. I will stick to the words that are used in the statement, frankly.

QUESTION: But it says a "joint co-production arrangement."

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We did it together.

QUESTION: Okay, together. The agency (inaudible) says before the paper (inaudible) Aegean digital data set, and has been -- made them available to our NATO partners. That means it's final? That means it's final?

MR. BOUCHER: I would stick to the words in the statement. I am not going to try to paraphrase it for you. And if you are going to read it, read the whole thing.

QUESTION: Do you know if the Secretary of State --

MR. BOUCHER: No, don't. No, don't.

QUESTION: I have some questions --

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you know if Secretary Powell is personally aware of this issue, or is it a matter of technocrats only?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think Secretary Powell did the mapping or digitized the maps, no.

QUESTION: But did you have the chance to discuss with Secretary Powell this issue that (inaudible) does not recognize the present Greek/Turkish borders in the Aegean Sea?

MR. BOUCHER: No, you've got that wrong. Read the guidance. Read the answer that we gave you. It says we don't put maritime boundaries on those maps. All we did was digitize maps that we had.

QUESTION: What about your maritime border in Alaska between Russia and the United States, or in Canada in the Atlantic Sea?

MR. BOUCHER: The border and the donut hole and all those things, the maritime boundaries between Russia -- between at that time the Soviet Union and the United States were the subject of extensive discussions and negotiation between the two parties involved.

QUESTION: But do you recognize those borders in this area that I mentioned, in Canada and in Russia?

MR. BOUCHER: You are asking me a question that, yes, there are maritime boundaries in the world. We don't always put them on all of our maps.

QUESTION: But the (inaudible) --

MR. BOUCHER: So you are drawing conclusions from something for which there is no conclusion to be drawn.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I am not drawing conclusions. I am trying to clarify what prompted you to -- excuse me, Mr. Boucher, one more question. Let me know, as far as for the issue of the Aegean Sea, as you know, the United States Government signed those treaties of (inaudible) in 1923, and the Treaty of Paris in 1947 defined the maritime borders between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean. Why this policy has been changed with this paper, and you are telling to me right now you must refer to the Department of Defense for further information?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say, first and foremost, you need to read the answer that we gave you and understand very clearly that you are drawing conclusions from something for which no conclusion should be drawn.

QUESTION: No, I do not make conclusion. Just I read what your answer -- this is your answer.

MR. BOUCHER: Well then, you can read it again carefully.

QUESTION: I just want to get you -- you offered your best wishes to the new Afghan Government. I am wondering if you have any holiday/New Year's wishes for anyone else, maybe perhaps Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, people like that?

MR. BOUCHER: No. We have another question down there.

QUESTION: The Arab League Foreign Ministers in their meeting yesterday basically they suggested that the US has been biased negotiating in the Mid East. Do you have any response to their meeting or anything they said?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, really. I think what we are doing for peace in the Middle East is quite clear.

(The briefing concluded at 1:52 p.m.)

###

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