State Dept. Daily Press Briefing February 19, 2002
Daily Press Briefing Index Tuesday, February 19, 2002 1:05 p.m. EST
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
PUBLIC DIPLOMACY 1-2 Pentagon's Public Diplomacy Efforts
IRAN 2-3 Iranian Activities in Afghanistan
ZIMBABWE 3-5 Situation Update / Sanctions
PERU 5-7 Lori Berenson Case
VENEZUELA 6 Status of Venezuelan Democracy
NEPAL 7 Attacks by Maoists / Travel Warning
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 8 Saudi Peace Proposal 9 U.S. Approach to Peace
RUSSIA 8-9 U/S Bolton's Meeting in Moscow / Strategic Framework Talks
IRAQ/AUSTRIA 10-11 Haider Visit / UN Sanctions
MEXICO 10 Immigration Talks / Meetings w/ FM Castaneda
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 21
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2002 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:00 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Did you see The New York Times story about attempts by the Pentagon to reach out and to deliver the message about what the United States is trying to do vis-à-vis the terrorism policy, and do you have any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular comment. I'll leave it to the Pentagon to describe in any more detail that they want to the functions of the office that they have there. As you know, the US Government is trying to communicate our message in a whole variety of ways. The State Department has any number of programs that are designed to getting the word out into the world about what the United States is and what we are doing. We do that through our embassies, through many of our public relations activities. We hope we do that through our press briefing and other activities that we handle. And obviously other parts of the US Government are involved in this effort as well when they have things that they want to explain and want to make sure are understood overseas.
QUESTION: Two questions. Was anyone in the State Department informed of this new office? And second, has there been any concerns raised about prohibitions on US Government agencies providing propaganda to an American audience from the State Department on this?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, from the State Department there is the Smith-Mundt Act that deals with our funding, and we are very careful to make sure that money that's provided for information activities for foreign audiences is not used for materials or directed in any way at American audiences. I'm not sure whether other streams of funding have those same sorts of prohibitions on them, so I leave it to the lawyers or to the Defense Department to explain if there are any such things on their side.
But was the State Department aware of this office? Yes, we coordinate in all kinds of ways with other agencies on information activities, particularly when it comes to the war on terrorism. We have coalition information centers where we work with our friends in other agencies, and we work with, actually, some of the foreign governments involved to make sure that we all coordinate our information activities.
But as I said, this office, as I understand it, is not fully defined yet, and we would leave it to the Pentagon to describe it better than I can.
QUESTION: Just to check, you were aware of this office specifically before The New York Times article?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Just for the record, Richard, what is the State Department policy on providing misinformation?
MR. BOUCHER: We provide information. We provide accurate and truthful information.
QUESTION: You were expecting me to make some snide remark? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I thought you had your hand up to change the subject. I was obviously looking in the wrong place. Anybody want to change the subject, please? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: On Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: There is a report in the paper today that there is Iran intelligence and military personnel are working inside Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat and Bamiyan area. Do you have any information about that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information particularly on that. I think we have talked in the past about Iranian activities. As the Secretary mentioned over the weekend, we have praised them when they were helpful at Bonn and elsewhere in trying to get the parties together and support a broad-based future government, a future for Afghanistan; and we have also talked about troublesome aspects of their current activities, meddlesome activities in various areas.
So, no, I don't have anything specifically on that, but we have been concerned. It's a situation we follow quite closely.
QUESTION: To follow up, do you have any evidence that Iran is trying to destabilize the Afghan Government?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, I think we find some of their activities troublesome, some of their activities meddlesome, particularly as regards their activities with specific areas or commanders. But I would leave it to them to describe their overall policy.
QUESTION: To leave it to?
MR. BOUCHER: To the Iranians to explain whether they are trying to destabilize the overall government or not. They at least have maintained in their public statements that they are not intending to do that.
QUESTION: Well, what do you think the chances are, Richard, that the Iranian Government is going to come out and publicly say they are trying to destabilize the Afghan Government?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think people should be truthful about what their policies are.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject now?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Zimbabwe. Things have really deteriorated. The EU team left after their chief was thrown out. What are you guys doing, if anything?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've been coordinating very closely with the European governments, with the European Union and allies, on this crisis. They made decisions over the weekend to impose certain targeted sanctions, and those are decisions that we strongly support. They cited their decision, in announcing their decision, the continuing political violence, human rights abuses, media restrictions, and the Government of Zimbabwe's efforts to prevent a free and fair presidential election, particularly as regards the expulsion of the observers. And those have been the issues that we, too, have focused on, that we have spoken of.
Now, we've been working on targeted sanctions ourselves. As the Secretary noted in testimony the other day, we've been working through this process to implement targeted travel sanctions and focus on the individuals responsible for, or who benefit from, policies that undermine Zimbabwe's democratic institutions. We are moving rapidly towards the final implementation of that plan, but I don't have a formal announcement for you today.
QUESTION: Okay. But you are going to do it, then?
MR. BOUCHER: We are moving forward, as the Secretary said, to implement these restrictions, but they're not finally finished.
QUESTION: Is there any way -- is there anything that could happen that could make you not put them in place?
MR. BOUCHER: Can I imagine something? Yes. But in the current circumstances, it seems like the direction is clear. The Europeans have been brought to make their decision by continuous and specific actions of the government. We have noticed those as well, and we're moving to impose the restrictions.
QUESTION: What is the reason for the delay?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's a delay. I think it's just working through the process to make sure it's done properly and carefully.
QUESTION: You're not waiting (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: You mentioned travel restrictions, but I believe the EU also imposed a freeze on assets of Zimbabwe's Government, and some other measures as well. Are these also being considered?
MR. BOUCHER: We will look at the other kinds of steps that we might take. As you know, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act makes reference to both travel and economic sanctions. We have repeatedly stressed our concerns about all the developments in Zimbabwe.
Now, the question of whether we further extend what we might do initially -- as I said, we are moving forward on the travel sanctions - - that question will be decided as we move down the road, and obviously the presidential election would have a major bearing on whether we decide to impose additional sanctions.
QUESTION: Is this a presidential decision -- imposing sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is yes, it is.
QUESTION: Is there any difference to the travel sanctions -- they would be similar to those being considered -- already done by the EU?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, they would be targeted on individuals, and they would be similar to what the Europeans have done, yes.
QUESTION: And similar individuals?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Richard, in answer to Elaine's question, you indicated that some sanctions might be implemented before the elections, but now you just said that perhaps you will wait to see how the elections are conducted before doing anything.
MR. BOUCHER: I talked about targeted travel sanctions, targeted sanctions on the travel of individuals that have been associated with undermining democracy. That process is going forward. She asked if we were waiting for the elections; I said no. I was then asked about what about additional sanctions, for example in the financial area. And those would indeed depend to some extent on the conduct of the elections; at least the elections would have a major bearing on whether we decided to extend our sanctions beyond the travel sanctions that are already under way.
QUESTION: On this issue, can you describe the contacts that the US Government has had with the government in Harare?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been very active in discussing all these issues with them, especially through our Embassy on a constant and repeated basis. Our concern about state-sponsored or tolerated political violence and intimidation has been repeatedly expressed directly to the government in Harare, in addition to the statements that we have made in public.
We have also had recent visits by Walter Kansteiner, the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs. He was out there December 9 to 11. Lorne Craner, our Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, was out there January 15 to 18, and they have reinforced the US Government position on these issues.
QUESTION: Have we said that, depending on how these elections go, the US may impose financial sanctions? I mean, have we delivered that specifically to them?
MR. BOUCHER: I just said that the presidential election will have a major bearing on whether we move to impose additional sanctions. That's our position at this point.
QUESTION: But we have expressed that in private meetings as well to the Mugabe government?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's been the position that we have made clear, yes, in private as well as public.
QUESTION: What is your view about prospects for a free and fair election in Zimbabwe now?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have always expressed our concerns about the prospects for a free and fair election. We have been concerned about the political intimidation, the intimidation of the media, continuing political violence of a general nature; and now with these additional steps that they have taken to deny access to foreign observers, I think the processes continue to go down.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, do you have any comments on the situation, the legal situation, of Lori Berenson in Peru?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see where we are on that. The Peruvian Supreme Court, as you know, upheld the conviction and sentence of Lori Berenson for collaboration with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. This is the final step in the Peruvian appeals process. We understand, though, that she still has a case pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights here in Washington, and that body could decide to refer her case to the Inter-American Court in San Jose, Costa Rica.
We were interested all along in seeing that she got a fair and open hearing. The new trials corrected some of the most egregious flaws in the military trial and addressed some of the concerns that we have had about her military trial. We do think that the Peruvian Supreme Court has now looked at all the issues that were raised by Ms. Berenson's defense attorney in the appeal that the attorney filed on her behalf, and we believe that the attorney did ensure that his client received all the rights and protections that can be afforded under Peruvian law.
QUESTION: But you are satisfied?
MR. BOUCHER: We wanted a more open trial. We are satisfied the issues have been raised by her attorney and been looked at. But she still does have these legal rights and is pursuing them, apparently.
QUESTION: On Venezuela, Mr. Boucher, there is another call for the resignation of President Hugo Chavez by members of the armed forces. In the past, the United States Government has always said that it is the defender of democracy in the free world. My question to you is the United States will support any movement from the military of Venezuela against a democratic and elected president?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, as you remember from September 11th in Peru, the OAS has adopted a democracy charter, and we are all pledged to respect democracy in this hemisphere. That includes not only militaries, but also governments. And we have expressed a lot of concerns recently about some of the actions that President Chavez, or at least political supporters of President Chavez, have taken against journalists and democratic institutions.
So our view remains the same, whichever side is threatening democracy, and that is that democratic institutions in Venezuela and elsewhere need to be respected, and that any changes that occur need to be democratic and constitutional.
QUESTION: Going back to Lori Berenson, I just want to make sure that I understand. You have no problem with the Supreme Court appeal and the upholding of the conviction?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our point all along has been that she deserved a fair trial; she deserved due process. This process appears to have followed Peruvian law in that her defense attorney was able to represent her and able to raise issues that the court indeed looked at. And now that this -- while this brings to a close the Peruvian legal process, she still maintains certain rights under the Inter-American process, and that is apparently what she is pursuing.
QUESTION: Okay. So you're satisfied, then -- I just want to make sure this is absolutely clear -- that she got a fair hearing before the Supreme Court and that she received all of her rights and due processes?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view has always been that there needs to be due process, and this appears to be following due process.
QUESTION: Along the same case, on the Berenson case, will the US go as far as to ask a presidential pardon for Ms. Berenson, which seems to be the only option for her to be released?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. Simple answer.
QUESTION: Nepal? That's it. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Should I give you as concise an answer as the question?
MR. BOUCHER: Condemn. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Condemn the Maoists, not condemn Nepal. The attacks over the weekend killed almost 130 people, we understand. We condemn these attacks on government installations and officials. We do understand that Nepal's parliament is shortly expected to begin its deliberations on extension of the three-month-old state of emergency, and we have called on the Maoists, as ever before, to pursue their goals peacefully within the democratic framework established by Nepal's constitution.
QUESTION: After the Secretary -- while the Secretary was in Kathmandu, there was both the Nepalese -- he said the Nepalese had raised with him the issue of the Travel Warning that you guys had, and shortly after we came back from there, the Travel Warning was eased. In fact, it went from telling citizens that they should defer all travel to simply telling them to exercise caution.
Then on the 8th, I believe, last week, there was a supplementary Public Announcement talking about the possibility for renewed Maoist attacks. Is there any consideration being given to re-imposing the first -- what I said, the initial defer travel?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we'll do that when we think it's appropriate. I don't know if it's being looked at now. I'll have to check. But I would point out that the current advisory, the one from February 8th -- I'm trying to find the exact language -- basically warns people not to go outside of the -- to avoid travel outside of the Kathmandu Valley, and to stay in close touch with the embassy, which of course is the best advice, because they can give better up-to-date information on security conditions than we can through our announcements.
QUESTION: Right, but it doesn't try to have people defer all travel to the country, which is --
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's right.
QUESTION: And you don't know if it's being -- if you're considering --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that. If we have something new, we'll put it out.
QUESTION: Do you have a position on the -- I guess what's being called in The New York Times a "Saudi proposal" for Middle East, withdrawal to the 1967 borders with the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we saw the statements over the weekend by Crown Prince Abdullah. Certainly, if Saudi Arabia is willing to reach out to Israel to talk about peace and normalization of relations, then that is a significant and positive step. The reports highlight the importance of not giving up on Arab-Israeli peace, and the critical need to do everything we can to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We'll continue to talk to the Saudis and others about how to help the parties end the violence and resume the political process. As the President has made clear, and as the Secretary said in Louisville, that's the only way to realize the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
The crucial first step remains for Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to make every effort to arrest terrorists and to dismantle the terrorist organizations that continue to carry out attacks against Israel.
QUESTION: Do you have any more on the specifics of the proposal, though, that it would basically have the Israelis retreat to the 1967 borders? And there's been some concerns, I guess, about the holy sites, the Jewish holy sites, being out of Israeli sovereignty?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything more on specifics at this point. We have always supported the idea of negotiations within the framework of Resolutions 242, 338 and the concept of Land-for-Peace. That's the vision that the Secretary announced, discussed in his speech in Louisville. So our position on the question of any specifics would have to be that it's subject to negotiation by the parties.
QUESTION: I want to ask about John Bolton's comments in Moscow. He's saying you may not get a missile deal by the time of the summit. Can you elaborate?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. We've gotten only preliminary readouts of Mr. Bolton's meetings in Moscow. He himself has done, I think, a press conference. The meetings that Under Secretary Bolton and Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov had were their second meeting to work on a legally binding agreement on reductions in strategic offensive weapons and other associated documents that are being prepared for the two presidents at their summit in May.
This was a positive and constructive meeting. Under Secretary Bolton has reported on the meeting to Foreign Minister Ivanov at the end of the day. They did discuss next steps in the negotiation process, and they'll be meeting -- Under Secretary Bolton and Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov will be meeting in a few weeks time to continue their negotiations.
That's what we know.
MR. BOUCHER: Not set yet. Don't have that.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, you said you only got preliminary readouts of the meeting, and yet you can say that they were positive and constructive?
MR. BOUCHER: That's preliminary. We don't have all the details yet. But if our people assure us they were positive and constructive, we believe they were positive and constructive.
QUESTION: Okay, because it does appear -- Mr. Bolton himself appears to be saying that -- appears to be giving a less rosy picture of things. Is it still your intention to have a deal ready for the two presidents to sign?
MR. BOUCHER: The intention is to work on a deal and see if it can't be prepared for the two presidents to reach agreement on the strategic framework issues. That has always been the intention. They continue to work on that.
I'm not going to make any predictions at this point. We have had two meetings. We'll have more.
QUESTION: No, no. But by May? By the summit?
MR. BOUCHER: That's the intention. But whether we can actually achieve that will depend on the substance, obviously. And they will keep working on this.
MR. BOUCHER: Between the second and third meetings, all you can say about any of these things is we're working on it.
QUESTION: Things are spinning out of control in Israel, Palestine with hate deaths today, including a mother and her child by US-built tank fire. Is the Department still stuck on the Mitchell and Tenet approach, or with the 1,000 generals who have come out, is the situation -- and the Abdullah proposal -- is the situation so changed that you might be reconsidering some of your efforts at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: Without accepting the editorial commentary in the question, we remain firmly committed to the approach that was outlined by Senator Mitchell and his international committee, if you'll remember, as well as the security steps that were recommended by Director Tenet in his discussions, and accepted by the parties. I would point out both parties have accepted both the Tenet and the Mitchell recommendations. We continue to consider that implementation of those recommendations is the way for the sides to end the violence and to work their way back to negotiations.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the 1,000 generals and the peace parties in Israel emerging?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Today, the UN Sanctions Committee on Iraq meets again, in somewhat a regular meeting, but this is the first meeting after the Haider visit that was a big deal last week. Is there any plans for the US to raise the issue that there should be some -- that they should look into that at this point through that channel?
MR. BOUCHER: They have very regular meetings. I don't try to brief on every single one, and what we talk about there. As I think we said last week, and I think Mr. Reeker dealt with this even more with you on Friday, at this point it's for the Austrian Government to look at the situation and report, as appropriate.
QUESTION: On Mexico, Mr. Boucher, we understand there's going to be a preparation meeting between Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Foreign Minister of Mexico before the visit of President Bush, in terms of this priority on immigration by the United States. I don't want to hear the date --
MR. BOUCHER: I'd like to. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But this still will be the approach of the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: I actually hadn't focused on any upcoming meetings with Foreign Minister Castaneda since we meet with him so often, and they talk on the phone. I'd have to check the calendar and see. I don't think I have anything on it yet, but I wouldn't be surprised. We've got another month to go before the meetings in Mexico, and I am sure that the Secretary and the Foreign Minister will do everything they can to prepare for positive and constructive meetings.
QUESTION: As a priority, as the President said, who is working with Mexico right now in the so-called negotiations on immigration from the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had a series of working group meetings, headed on our -- in terms of State Department participation, it's Assistant Secretary Mary Ryan who has been working on the immigration issues. There are obviously a variety of experts in this building and in other places around town that meet periodically with their Mexican counterparts to try to work on these issues.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up to the question before about Austrian politician, Mr. Haider. He said today in a press conference in Corinthia that he accuses the US Government to exploit the sanctions situation because, as he said, you are exporting 80 percent of Iraq's oil cheap because of this situation. And he criticized the US Government for making pressure on the UN Sanctions Committee. Do you want to comment on this?
MR. BOUCHER: He's wrong.
QUESTION: That's all?
MR. BOUCHER: That's all. He's wrong on every count.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m. EST.) (###)