State Dept. Daily Briefing February 11, 2002
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
February 11, 2002
1 Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to Address Youth Worldwide on MTV
1-3 Anti-U.S. Sentiment/Concerns About
Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Contacts with
Terrorism/ Estimation about Nuclear Weapons/ Iranians
Criticizing Their Government’s Policies/ Karine A
3-4 Helping al-Qaida and Taliban Cross Border/ Forum for Discussing Supporting the Interim Authority in Afghanistan
5-7 Reports About Iran Closing Down Offices of Former Afghan Warlord/ Iran’s Relations with United States/ Reference to “Axis of Evil”
6 Assurances Given to Chancellor Schroeder About not Attacking Iraq
7-8, 10 European Peace Initiative/ Secretary Powell’s Calls to European Foreign Ministers/ French Proposals Supporting Palestinian State
5-6,8-10 Letter Sent by
Chairman Arafat to Secretary Powell/ Fatah Dismantling Two
10-12 Reports That Israelis Discovered Qassam-2 Rockets/ Possibility of Sending General Zinni Back to the Region/ Interview of Chairman Arafat by Mike Wallace/ Recent Upsurge of Violence in the Region
12-13,16 United States not Planning on Having Permanent Military Bases in the Region/ Russian and Chinese Concern
13-14 Start of Milosevic Trial/Bringing Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to Trial
14 Saddam Hussein’s Decisions to Allow UN Rapporteur for Human Rights into Country and the IAEA to do Inspections of Nuclear Power Plants
14 Latitude Between Elected Government and Military Government/Involvement of United Nations
14-15 Posture of President Chavez Towards Opposition and the Independent Media/ Alleged Support for FARC Rebels/ Supplies of Venezuelan Oil to Cuba
15-16 President Musharraf’s Visit/F-16 Issue/ Implications About Indian Involvement in Kidnapping of Daniel Pearl/ General Musharraf’s Beliefs Comments About Usama bin Laden/ United States Seeking Military Bases in Pakistan
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements. I just want to take the occasion to remind you of the taping of an MTV worldwide discussion with the Secretary on Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and there are a limited number of seats available in the studio. We'll put up a notice to tell you how to get one of those if you want to. Other than that, you can obviously watch it on TV. Thursday, 10:00 a.m. with the Secretary.
And with that, I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Iran. The president, who some folks in the government, like the previous government, thought might be a moderate, had a shot at the US today, among those anti-US --
MR. BOUCHER: Are you talking about our President? Are you talking about --
QUESTION: Khatami, Iran.
MR. BOUCHER: All right.
QUESTION: US insults and trumped-up charges against Iran. Just the other day, the Secretary again said the US would be willing to have a dialogue with Iran, and evidently there's still a view in this building that there are two Irans. They have a more reform-minded part of the government. Do you have any observations on this burst of anti-US sentiment?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I have any new observations about it. Obviously we're aware of all the various political aspects and political forces of what goes on in Iran right now. Our concerns about proliferation, our concerns about weapons of mass destruction, about contacts with terrorism that seem to be ongoing by some elements in Iran, these are real concerns. And we think it's important that Iran set a clear course. The need is to disavow these kinds of connections and get on with bringing Iran into the modern world, prepared to discuss that process and the other issues that are of concern to us.
QUESTION: It sounds like you're more concerned about what they might be doing than what they're saying. Is there a certain amount of anti-American rhetoric that has to fill the air in Iran --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't pretend to be able to give you an analysis of Iranian politics from here. We're just aware that there is a political element to everything that goes on. What does concern us is what happens. Are they supporting terrorist groups? Are they sending weapons to the Palestinian Authority? Are they trying to develop nuclear weapons? Is there are a continuing contact with various terrorist groups? These are the things that are of real concern to us, and we want to be able to deal with those one way or the other. And obviously the preferred method remains to be able to sit down with them for a serious discussion and talk about Iran and the course it might go on that could be different from these things.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) part of that? The Israeli Defense Minister the other day said Israel's estimate is they'll have a nuclear weapon by 2005. He said the US estimate -- I know you don't want to get into estimates -- the US estimate is 2006, 2007. They seem to be not too far away.
MR. BOUCHER: I just mentioned the nuclear program, but I don't have an estimate for you.
QUESTION: Back to Iran. Can you comment on the fact, though, that at the same time as you're getting a lot of anti-American rhetoric from the government, there have been a number of news reports, even CNN, where Iranians allow themselves to be videotaped on camera using their names, and have criticized the government's policies and have applauded US actions in Afghanistan. Does that in any way -- what is the State Department analysis at this point in terms of the ability of the hardliners to hold on?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't think it has ever been our practice to stand up here and do political analysis of internal developments in foreign countries, and I'm not about to start that today.
QUESTION: But the President clearly, I think, expressed in his State of the Union speech support for what he said was movement among the Iranian people. I mean, are there anything that the State Department is doing at this point? I'm not asking you to analyze it. I'm just saying what's your --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you did
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: But now you want to ask something different? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, yeah. In the lines with what the President said. He seemed to be sort of making a statement toward -- to the Iranian people, noting that there have been clearly developments on the ground in that country at this point. Are there things that the State Department is now doing that we don't know about with regards to trying to encourage that sort of thing, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll just leave it exactly where I just left it and say that if Iran wants to set a clear course towards the modern world, we're happy to talk to them, work with them in that. They need to disavow the activities of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: We deal with the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister. He said that there was absolutely no link whatsoever of any faction of the Iranian Government to the Karine A shipment and that the US has not clearly proven that case, and he says of course he would be happy to receive any evidence the United States has. I mean, can you refuse that or just repeat what your evidence shows about the Iranian connection?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm in a position to give you all the information and evidence we might have collected upon this. Obviously -- well, it was quite clear to us, as I think it was quite clear to the Israelis operating on their information, that these shipments were done with the support of Iran and Hezbollah, and that is of very serious concern to us. It has been and remains of serious concern to us.
QUESTION: Did you ever make the distinction between elements in Iran and with the knowledge of the Government of Iran, the same way we talk about the knowledge of Arafat and possibly people under him?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't try to do that analysis here at the podium, no.
QUESTION: Do we know -- do we say the Iranian Government was behind this shipment?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at what the Secretary said, he has talked about some elements in Iran being involved. I'm not prepared to say whether and how we can go beyond that at this point.
QUESTION: To belabor the point I guess, what about the Iranian denials that they have helped or that al-Qaida or Taliban have slipped across the border into Iran with Iranian help? Does the US still believe that is the case?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's see what we've got, if we've got anything new on that.
QUESTION: And did you take any particular note of the demonstrations there?
MR. BOUCHER: Barry just asked me about the demonstrations. We just spent five minutes talking about them.
QUESTION: I don't think that I heard you say anything particularly about them.
MR. BOUCHER: He was asking me what the import of it was, and I gave him an answer. So leave it at that.
As far as what's going on with Afghanistan, no, I don't have any particular update. I'll just say that, as before, it is our hope that Iran would be a positive force in this effort to destroy al-Qaida and bring its members to justice. We have been concerned about Iranian actions. We are ready to talk, but we won't ignore the reality of what's going on.
QUESTION: So you don't buy that they're not -- you don't accept their denial?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular confirmation of actions that they've taken, but we do think it's important that they work with the international community to support the interim government. I'll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: You, the State Department? Because, I mean, the Secretary of Defense has been pretty emphatic on this point saying that he has no doubts. So you're talking about you or the State Department, or are you talking about the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States Government wants Iran to support the interim government and not do anything else.
QUESTION: No, in terms of confirmation of -- I mean, the Secretary -- Secretary Powell himself said that Iran was meddling.
MR. BOUCHER: Iran was meddling. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Okay. So you don't believe the denial, then?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you asked me, I thought, were there reports today that they have closed down some offices and taken other actions, and I don't have any confirmation of those. You asked me for have they stopped meddling, and I can't confirm that they have stopped. But that they were meddling, sure, they were.
QUESTION: Are you planning to raise those in the Bonn grouping?
MR. BOUCHER: The Bonn grouping?
QUESTION: You made some references, I just want to make sure -- in the group that was established in Bonn, where the US Government and Iran as well talk about the interim government.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
MR. BOUCHER: No, there's no -- at this point there's nothing called the Bonn group. There's been something called the Six Plus Two. I'm not sure if the Six Plus Two is having any meetings. That's been normally the context that we have raised, that we have met with the Iranians on Afghanistan. But, as you know, we have ways of communicating with the Iranians, and obviously we'd make the point, whenever we could, that it's important to support the central authorities, the Interim Authority, and not to get involved in particular aspects of warlords or other groups within Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Well, can you say what forum you're going to be communicating with them?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Afghanistan?
QUESTION: There's a report that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has been -- had his office closed, and that he may be expelled from Iran. Would you consider that -- since he has been one of the leading people against the government of Karzai, would you consider that a positive move?
MR. BOUCHER: As again, Matt asked me for confirmation of reports like that; I don't have any particular confirmation of those reports, so I really don't have any particular commentary on those reports, either.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about reports that Arafat -- back to the Karine A, that Arafat sent a letter to Secretary Powell over the weekend?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're kind of heading into the Middle East now, so let's --
QUESTION: No, no, we're still on the Karine A and Iran.
MR. BOUCHER: We're still in Iran. We've walked from Iran to Afghanistan and now to the Red Sea. Let's finish with Iran and then Elaine will move us into the Red Sea.
QUESTION: In the last few years, Iranian and US relations were improving, and now again it seems like that there is not enough trust, and if there is -- I mean, do you think Iran could be the next target of the US, just like Afghanistan?
And finally, because the world is concerned about that the Iranian oil is -- oil is important for the global economy from the area, so where do we stand as far as US attack is concerned on Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: I think every premise in your question is wrong, so I don't quite know how to answer it. (Laughter.) There has been no significant improvement in US-Iran relations. The Secretary has often talked about the possibilities, about exploring the possibilities. But we have continued to have our concerns about a variety of things.
Second of all, I'm not about to start speculating on future attacks. I will never do that, even if I have any inkling of what they might be. But I don't have any idea anyway.
And third of all, as far as oil from the Persian Gulf being important, I agree with you, yes, that's one part that is right.
QUESTION: But Richard, just to follow -- just to follow, one more. You have made, Richard, several times so many positive statements from this podium towards Iran during the elections and the Iranian and US meetings and all-, but how come now there is no improvement?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd just go back to, I think, the way we've been handling this for months, if not years, has been to say, there are things going on in Iran, movement towards more openness and democracy, which are positive, which may portend eventually some kind of change in policy. There have been actions that Iran has taken that we have been able to appreciate, support, cooperate with, like the effort that they did make in Bonn to urge the Afghans to cooperate with each other.
At the same time, as I said again today, we're not going to ignore reality. Iran has maintained ties with terrorist groups, has had a dismal human rights record, has had continuing effort to develop weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, and has taken some actions in Afghanistan which we find meddlesome and troublesome.
So I think we have taken a pretty balanced view of saying what's good and what's bad and what needs to be changed. And that remains our posture today.
QUESTION: Talking about attacking somebody, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in remarks published Sunday that he has received assurances from the administration that the United States has no intention of attacking Iraq. I quote his exact words, "Bush told me that he harbors no attack plans. I'm relying on that." Maybe he has omitted the word "immediate plans," but anyway, this is the comment.
MR. BOUCHER: I'd leave any questions like that to the White House, if it's about Chancellor Schroeder's meeting.
QUESTION: What about Yasser Arafat's letter to Secretary Powell?
MR. BOUCHER: No, let's ask Elaine to change the subject first.
QUESTION: Could we stay on Iran?
QUESTION: Elaine, would you please change the subject to Yasser Arafat's letter to the Secretary?
MR. BOUCHER: Elise has one more question on Iran.
QUESTION: Well, it's on this whole "axis of evil." I mean, hasn't President Bush's kind of saying that these countries are an axis of evil even kind of preemptively limited the opportunities for positive developments for these countries by putting them on the defensive? I mean, Iraq is another story, but North Korea and Iran, there were steps tentatively working towards more diplomatic steps.
MR. BOUCHER: First, Elise, I think you have to be clear. The President's description was accurate. There is an axis of evil. There is a conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction that is a danger to us all and needs to be considered a danger that we have to deal with.
Second of all, there is no reason why countries that have ties to terrorists and develop weapons of mass destruction shouldn't be on the defensive. One would think that those actions people around the world would find abhorrent, would find dangerous, and would want to do something about. So I don't think we have any apologies for putting those countries on the defensive.
QUESTION: Okay, but you can't have your cake and eat it too, can you? I mean, on one hand, you say you want to work with Iran on Afghanistan and other things, and then in the next breath you're completely calling them, in front of the whole world, the axis of evil. I mean, which is it? Can it be both at the same time?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. They are up to evil activities by developing weapons of mass destruction, by maintaining ties to terrorism. As I just reviewed, we call things the way we see them and we tell the truth. And the objective reality is that there is an axis of evil, particularly when it comes to this conjunction of nuclear weapons and terrorist groups.
QUESTION: I'd like to ask you about the European peace initiative, whether you have any views on it and just generally how strongly you plan to support it, given that we all know it won't go anywhere unless you do.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I guess maybe let's start with the word "it." The Europeans, based on wire service reports now, and I guess some of our discussions, talked about various ideas over the weekend when they talked about the Middle East. I don't see any particular European proposal at this point. I know that there are some proposals from the French that have been spun that way, but I didn't see any particular statement out of the Europeans to that regard.
I would just say that the effort that we maintain to try to get an end to violence, to try to make clear that Chairman Arafat needs to take steps to end the violence, remains under way. The Secretary has spoken in the last day or two with German Foreign Minister Fischer, with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw today, both of whom are headed out to the Middle East to coordinate our effort. And we continue to work with them and others to try to make sure that we take every possible step to end the violence and to get back to the path that can lead us to peace negotiations.
QUESTION: Could you run that back just a little bit?
MR. BOUCHER: Probably not.
QUESTION: When you say "to coordinate," in other words, are you saying that Straw and Fischer are interested in coordinating, or are you saying he talked to them about coordinating?
MR. BOUCHER: All along we have coordinated with the Europeans on our efforts in this region. The Secretary has often talked to people who are traveling there, and as they have talked to him before we had visitors here. So we coordinate with the Europeans on Middle East policy all the time, including --
QUESTION: It doesn't (inaudible) all the time, does it?
MR. BOUCHER: Not necessarily all the time, but we do have a coordinated approach, I would say, to ending the violence and implementing the Mitchell Plan and getting back to peace.
QUESTION: So the deal is you don't mind multiple numbers of cooks; you just want them working on the same recipe? Is that the idea?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: What if they snarl (inaudible) while they're stirring the pot?
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to push this metaphor way too far.
QUESTION: I know, but this is -- wait a minute. There may not be no piece of paper out of this Foreign Minister's conclave, but I mean this is -- the US is sharply criticized here. And it coincides with another (inaudible) -- the Washington Post criticized --
MR. BOUCHER: I saw a series of reports on the meeting the Europeans had. I would say that, depending on which wire service you read -- I'm sure you read them all -- you can form a different impression of what happened over the weekend, and I have seen nothing particular from the Europeans themselves in terms of a statement or an announcement.
QUESTION: In the Secretary's phone calls to the European foreign ministers, as you mentioned, did he reiterate the stance that had been taken before about not asking Mr. Arafat to come to -- to continue to keep Arafat isolated?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that was a subject of any particular discussion at this moment, no.
QUESTION: It didn't come up?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware that it's an issue right now. I am sure if it were it would come up, but I don't think it did.
QUESTION: Can you tell me whether Yasser Arafat sent a letter to the Secretary over the weekend, again reiterating that he was completely innocent? And I believe he might have gone further and said that he doesn't think his Palestinian Authority was involved anymore. But maybe you could clarify.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- let's see. Can I tell you what the letter is not without telling you what it is? Okay. Over the weekend, our Consul General Ron Schlicher received a letter from Chairman Arafat for Secretary Powell. It's a letter that pertains largely to the Karine A affair. We see it as a positive letter. We are currently studying it. I would nonetheless point out that, as we've said many times, actions must follow words, and we hope now to see strong, resolute and irreversible action by Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority along the lines that he indicated in the letter.
QUESTION: The Secretary has actually gotten this letter now?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Yasser Arafat didn't say that -- I mean, he indicated that he was still taking action to find those responsible, but did he again state that he himself was not involved?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's for me to describe his letter, and therefore I am somewhat hesitant to go into it in any detail. But I would say that we did find it to be a positive letter and we now look for action along the lines that he indicated in his letter.
QUESTION: Anything else about what was positive, new? Were there new suggestions that he would take?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Maybe the way to go about this is to ask you what the US position is now that you have the letter. Is it still the US position now --
MR. BOUCHER: Our position is that we're studying the letter; in the meantime, we're looking for action along the lines that he indicated.
QUESTION: Oh, no, that I understand. I mean the US position on number one and two, three and four, being that Arafat has to accept, acknowledge responsibility for the illegal smuggling operation? Is that still something you need?
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, we're still studying the letter. I don't want to try to mislead you by saying that we have reached a conclusion about X, Y or Z, 1, 2, 3 or 4 at this point. But we do see it as a positive letter, and we look for action along the lines of the statements he made in the letter.
MR. BOUCHER: The Palestinian Authority. That's clearly been our view all along.
QUESTION: Yasser Arafat? Knowledge?
MR. BOUCHER: The Palestinian Authority people were definitely involved; that has been our view all along.
QUESTION: Do you have comments on the news today that the Fatah faction of the PLO has dismantled two military wings, one of them is the Bassam forces today?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see that, so I don't have any comment at this moment. We'll look into it for you.
QUESTION: You may have answered this question already, but I'm going to ask it anyway. France suggests forming a Palestine state immediately. Is that something the United States would consider?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view on the idea of two states living side by side has been repeatedly expressed. It was expressed at the White House by the President, with Prime Minister Sharon, who repeated his remarks as well. The proposals made by France in this regard, I think, have a lot of different aspects. At this point I haven't seen either Palestinians or Israelis support them. So I don't think I'm going to try to comment on every idea that's out there.
QUESTION: Did Chairman Arafat's letter concur with your belief that elements of the Palestinian Authority ordered the arms --
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I don't think I want to start explaining what Chairman Arafat writes. It's up to him. But as I said, we think it's a positive letter; it talks about the actions that he can take with regard to this affair, and we look forward to seeing him take those actions.
QUESTION: But do you believe that President Arafat has accepted responsibility for the ship?
MR. BOUCHER: That's the same question that was asked a minute ago over here. I'm not going to try to update you on A, B, C, D, 1, 2, 3, 4; I think that was number two.
QUESTION: The Palestinians reportedly used a new kind of missile in the last few hours, in the last day. I'm wondering, does that indicate -- do you believe that there may be other shipments en route to the Palestinians? And are you looking for such shipments? And can you (inaudible) this new missile?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I would make any particular conclusion about new shipments at this point. I think one of the things we have always looked to the Palestinians to do was not to import new weapons, and obviously that's the kind of action that we're looking for.
As far as a new missile, the Qassam-2 rocket, reports that these rockets have been used we find deeply troubling. Once again, we'd say that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority need to act now to halt this kind of dangerous and provocative escalation.
QUESTION: After this letter, is the Secretary considering to send Mr. Zinni back to the region?
MR. BOUCHER: No change on Mr. Zinni, General Zinni at this point.
QUESTION: Yesterday, on 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace, in a prerecorded interview, I would assume, Saturday our time, but perhaps late Friday, interviewed one-on-one Arafat in Ramallah at his headquarters. And it's just at the same time that there was this shooting in Beer Sheva, and of course then the retaliation in Gaza. Asked pointedly by Mike Wallace, it's about the terror and the incitement, he sort of discounted it. What is your view concerning this interview? You may have seen --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any view on particular interviews. As we have always said, actions need to follow words. Chairman Arafat has made the right statements in his speeches about ending the violence, and we need to see strong and resolute action to effectively end the violence. That's what we have been looking for; that's what we continue to look for.
QUESTION: Do you think he knew about the state of siege that Arafat lives now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that. I would remind you the President has spoken frequently, as he did last week, about the need to ease the hardships and the restrictions on the Palestinian community, and the importance of letting Palestinians return to a normal life.
QUESTION: Do you want to speak directly to the bombing yesterday of Arafat's headquarters?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's one of many things, I think, that are involved in the current situation, so let me give you the whole rundown. I would say that we are deeply troubled by the upsurge in violence in the region. We have made it very clear, as I just made it now, that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have responsibility right now to take strong, resolute and irreversible action to halt violence and terror and to take immediate steps to ensure that there are no further arms smuggling attempts. I mentioned our deep concerns about the use -- reports of the use of a new rocket and the need for action now to end that kind of dangerous escalation.
Though we understand the need for Israel to take steps to ensure its self-defense, we are seriously concerned about Israeli attacks over the past several days on Palestinian Authority facilities, particularly in areas that are heavily populated by civilians. We are especially concerned by attacks on or near Palestinian prison facilities, reported releases of prisoners detained in those areas, and reports a United Nations facility was struck, with possibly a UN official wounded.
Attacks such as these are counter-productive to efforts to reduce the violence and restore calm, and we think that both sides need to remain focused on the need for substantive ongoing security cooperation. As I mentioned in the meeting last week, the President noted that he is deeply concerned about the plight of average Palestinian mothers and fathers who are trying to raise and educate their children, and we do continue to underscore the importance of alleviating the economic pressures on the Palestinian people.
But as we have said before, we are not going to give up hope. We will continue to work with both sides in a balanced way as we can to get back to the process that can lead to a cease-fire and negotiations on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 to arrive at a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
QUESTION: I think that this is the first criticism of Israel that we have heard in a long time. Is there a reason that this has happened?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't think so. And second of all, long time -- I don't know what that is.
QUESTION: Several weeks.
MR. BOUCHER: But there are actions now that we have made clear in the past we didn't think were helpful, and once they're repeated now we think they're not helpful.
QUESTION: Twice now in the past two working days, US officials have come out and said that the US has no long-term interest in Central Asia. The first time was on Friday at the Working Group meeting with your statement saying that the US doesn't have any intention to have military bases.
MR. BOUCHER: No, they --
QUESTION: But I'm just talking about the last --
MR. BOUCHER: No bases, but we do have a long-term interest.
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, bases. And then Assistant Secretary Jones said something this morning, the same thing.
MR. BOUCHER: Remarkable how consistent we are.
QUESTION: Exactly. Was there any kind of renewed Russian concern that you were planning on establishing necessarily?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: I mean, did they specifically ask in Friday's meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to double-check on that. I'm not aware of any particularly new Russian concern. This has been something that we have said repeatedly, that we're looking for long-term relationships and access for however long it's necessary, but not permanent bases in this region. That is something we have said repeatedly. And I think any time we try to give an overview of the situation, that that's one of the pieces that we always put in.
QUESTION: But you're not aware of any reason that the Russians -- you're not aware of any specific Russian questions about --
MR. BOUCHER: No, not that I'm aware of. The Russians are quite -- I think quite -- how can I say? Quite aware of our position on this. This has been the position all along. It's the position the Secretary has discussed with Foreign Minister Ivanov, that's been discussed with President Putin as well. I think they understand why we're there and that what we do there in terms of helping these countries counter smuggling, terrorism, drugs, that all these things actually help the security of Russia.
QUESTION: In the statement of the US-Russia Working Group on Afghanistan, there was a special mention for the first -- I believe for the first time, that the US is not -- kind of promises that it's not trying to establish long-term or permanent military bases in Central Asia. So are you sure that this wasn't an issue of contention in the talks, that Russia wanted you to --
MR. BOUCHER: I will double-check and see if it came up in the discussions on Friday, but I would say that we have said this to the Russians for many months. I remember Secretary Powell saying it to the Russians when we were in Moscow in December, so I think the Russians are quite aware of what our views are of this and what our position has been and continues to be.
QUESTION: Can we go to Europe?
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll just jump around, if that's okay.
QUESTION: There is an important trial opening tomorrow in Europe, perhaps the first -- the most important trial they've had in over 50 years. And, you know, Milosevic -- the US has had a -- has been deeply involved in that region for years, and I thought you might want to have a comment on the eve of the trial.
MR. BOUCHER: Did you say "on the evil trial" or "the eve of the trial"?
QUESTION: Eve of the trial.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, okay. The opening of the trial of Slobodan Milosevic tomorrow is a momentous occasion for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. We strongly support the Tribunal in its efforts to achieve truth and justice for the victims of genocide and other atrocities and impunity for war crimes, and secure peace and stability for the region. All persons who are indicted for war crimes, including Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, must answer the charges against them. And for further details of the trial, I would refer you to the Tribunal since the Tribunal is independent. It was created under the Security Council resolutions but it operates independently to bring justice for many of the horrible crimes that have occurred in the Former Yugoslavia.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything that this building or others in the government are doing to try and bring Karadzic and Mladic to trial?
MR. BOUCHER: The US Government is always looking for opportunities to bring them to trial, either through their capture or their surrender or their rendition by other governments who we work with. And so that remains a priority item on our agenda.
QUESTION: Are you doing anything actively to bring about that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
MR. BOUCHER: No, this remains an issue of concern and we work on it in a variety of ways, diplomatically as well as with whatever military and law enforcement capabilities we might have.
QUESTION: Richard, your little bit on Milosevic in particular didn't give how you regard his position. You're not going to take a position on his innocence or guilt on these charges?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we think the final adjudication of the case needs to be left to the Tribunal. That's why I put in that little bit at the end about how they do operate independently to bring justice for the crimes that have been committed. But certainly given that we welcomed his surrender to the Tribunal, we welcomed his indictment, we do think that he is responsible for many of those crimes.
QUESTION: And what about in terms of anyone from this building going -- are you aware of anyone going to offer evidence or testify?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware of anybody. I better check on that and see.
QUESTION: Moving on to other war criminals, do you have any comment on Saddam Hussein's decisions in the last week to allow the UN Rapporteur for Human Rights into his country for the first time in ten years, and the IAEA to do, I guess, inspections of nuclear power plants?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we had some minor commentary on that when those announcements were made a couple weeks ago. I don't particularly want to let him sell it twice, so I'll decline this time and refer you back to that.
QUESTION: Any comments in Burma? There seems to be a -- not a rapprochement in talks, but a little bit of latitude between the elected government and the military government that has taken power about a year and a half ago, and many of the government officials are under house arrest or imprisonment.
MR. BOUCHER: This has been an ongoing process that we have strongly supported. The United Nations has been primarily involved in trying to work things out there and return the recognition that Aun Sung Suu Kyi and her party deserve. So I think I'll leave it to that. I don't think we have any new news on that one today.
QUESTION: In Venezuela there has been some instability, and I just wondered, what is the US view of Colonel Chavez and the situation down there, in particular Colonel Chavez? Would you like to see him --
MR. BOUCHER: You know, I had some comments last week. The Secretary had some comments in his testimony last week about our concerns about Chavez's posture towards the opposition and the independent media in Venezuela, and said further we're not happy with Chavez's comments regarding the campaign against terrorism, that we have made these concerns on both counts clear in recent months. We'll continue speaking on these matters which are of fundamental importance to the United States.
We have always also said here, repeatedly I think, that we share concerns about radicalization and polarization of the political process in Venezuela, that we supported the democratic process in Venezuela. It remains to be seen what direction that process might take in the coming year, but confrontation and rhetoric we think don't accomplish anything. It is important for all parties involved to engage in a dialogue and to respect the democratic institutions. That is what we've said here.
QUESTION: One of the issues there is alleged support of Chavez's government for the FARC rebels, indirect or in the border regions, sort of a quid pro quo.
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen various reports about that, but at this point we remain with what the Secretary said last week. We are still waiting for a more complete assessment before we try to comment on that.
QUESTION: And finally, the supplies of oil to Cuba. Do you have any information that Castro may be reselling some of the Venezuelan oil?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know.
QUESTION: May I ask one on Pakistan? Do you have anything to say about President Musharraf's visit? I understand there is an F-16 issue that might -- some people are thinking might get sold because he's coming. Do you have anything new on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think since it's a White House visit, I'll leave it to the White House to comment. Obviously we are very happy to see him in Washington. We are always happy to see him and talk to him and discuss any number of issues.
QUESTION: Always? You weren't always happy to see him about a year ago.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're always happy to see him now. So I'll leave any detailed commentary to the White House, if that's okay.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, Musharraf cited intelligence indicating that the Indians were somehow behind the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl. Did the State Department ever have any response?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything like that. And I don't think at this stage, with our concern about Mr. Pearl's welfare, that it's prudent for us to start speculating.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new on the investigation?
MR. BOUCHER: No, just that the investigation continues. As we said before, the Pakistani police are making progress, and our cooperation with them has been very, very good. But I don't want to try to speculate or characterize it from here every day.
QUESTION: Would it be helpful if the Pakistani police perhaps say the latest of the investigation --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to comment one way or the other.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Pakistan. Wait a minute, wait a minute. Two questions. One, General Musharraf has said in the past that Usama bin Laden was dead. The Secretary of Defense said that he is not sure and he doesn't believe the reports, and today Defense Department said that they do not believe General Musharraf's statements, and that's why CIA was there -- the missiles -- the missiles into Afghanistan. They still do not know whether he is dead or alive.
Now, what is the view of this building or Secretary of State that where and who do we believe?
MR. BOUCHER: The view of this building and the Secretary of State is what the Secretary said last week: We don't know.
QUESTION: And second is that as far as long US presence in Central Asia is concerned, not only Russia but China is also worried. And at the same time, according to the reports, US is seeking some military bases in Pakistan. Do you think this issue will come with General Musharraf when he comes here on Wednesday?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't imagine it would.
Released on February 11, 2002