World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


State Dept. Daily Press Briefing February 22, 2002

Daily Press Briefing Index Friday, February 22, 2002 12:50 p.m. EST

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

PAKISTAN 1-2,18 Murder of Daniel Pearl / Welcoming President Musharraf's Statement / Issue of Extraditing Individuals

TERRORISM 3-5 U.S. Government Policy on American Hostages

NORTH KOREA/SOUTH KOREA 5-6 Efforts for North Korea to Reopen Negotiations on Security Issues

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 6-8,10-11 Prime Minister Sharon's Speech 8-9 Trilateral Security Discussions / Chairman Arafat's Actions Regarding Karine-A 9-12,17-18 Saudi Initiative / Dennis Ross' Suggestion/ General Zinni's Plans

DEPARTMENT 9 Ambassador Burns' Meeting with Security Advisor of Saudi Arabia 10 Spanish Foreign Minister's Upcoming Visit

MIDDLE EAST 8-9 Ambassador Haass' Meetings

COLOMBIA 12-14 President Pastrana's Decision on Peace Talks / U.S. Reaction / Human Rights

MEXICO 16 Assassination of Authorities in Charge of Narcotics Trafficking Units

MADAGASCAR 16-17 Presidential Election Dispute / Public Announcement

ARMS CONTROL 15 Under Secretary Bolton's Remarks

CHINA 16 Secretary Powell's Visit

ZIMBABWE 18 Presidential Elections

FRANCE 18 Trial in France Concerning Banning Church of Scientology


DPB #23


12:50 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. If I can at the top, I'd like to reiterate some of the points we made yesterday about the death of Daniel Pearl, and then add a little information to that.

The murder of Daniel Pearl is an absolute outrage, and we condemn it unequivocally. Both the United States and Pakistan are committed to identifying the perpetrators of the crime and bringing them to justice, and we'll continue to work closely with Pakistani authorities, who have provided excellent cooperation in this investigation all along.

We also welcome President Musharraf's statement directing Pakistani authorities to redouble their efforts to apprehend all those involved in Mr. Pearl's abduction and murder. The President, the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary, the entire U.S. Government are committed to the goal of bringing the people to justice who did this horrible crime.

Deputy Secretary Armitage talked to Mrs. Pearl this morning on the telephone. On behalf of the Secretary, of himself and all of us here at the State Department, he expressed our condolences and our deepest sympathy for her loss. He expressed the sympathy and condolences both to her and to the child that they are expecting. He said we would provide any and every possible assistance to her, and he stated very clearly to her, as I have to you, the commitment to bring to justice the people who are responsible for this horrible action.

So with that, on the major issue of the day, I think, I would be glad to take your questions on this or other matters.

QUESTION: Well, was any assistance requested?

MR. BOUCHER: I think they discussed some of the areas with her where we might be helpful, obviously from a consular point of view and just anything we can do for the family. But I don't have any details for you at this point.

QUESTION: Richard, are you in a position where you can go anywhere beyond what you said, the very little you said yesterday, about the evidence that you have?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not. And I'm not on the telephone. If anybody wants to call me later and ask the same question in private, I'm not going to do it there either. We have evidence that Mr. Pearl is dead. It's clear to us, but the nature of that evidence, how we acquired it, things like that I'm afraid we're not in a position to say.

QUESTION: Will the United States seek the extradition of this Saeed person on the grounds of a terrorist act against an American citizen?

MR. BOUCHER: That remains a matter related to the investigation, and I'm afraid I'm just not prepared to -- I'm not in a position to talk about it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) kind of technical aspect of the investigation, are there more or less or the same number of FBI people over there or State Department people in Karachi, or in Pakistan in general? Has this -- the confirmation of his death in any way changed -- well, it's obviously changed some of the nature of the investigation, but has it changed the U.S. component?

MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't know. I can't answer that one for you.

QUESTION: Richard, just in a more general way, when President Musharraf was in Washington recently, he spoke at least I would say somewhat confidently that this might end up obviously much better. Has any thought been given to what's happened or what might have happened, what people did or didn't do in that timeframe, that it's turned out this way?

MR. BOUCHER: The question that you're asking, I guess, is one to reflect on over a longer period of time. It's not the question of when Mr. -- when we have evidence that people have committed a horrible crime against Danny Pearl. The issue for us is getting the people who did it. And that is the commitment of the administration. That's what we're all working on now.

I don't think that there is any particular issue to reflect upon at this moment, frankly. I think that we have felt that the U.S. Government has done everything possible. The Pakistani Government mobilized a very intense and aggressive investigation of the matter. Until all the facts are known, I would say it's not time to start claiming that something that somebody said, or did or didn't do, resulted in Mr. Pearl's death, frankly.

QUESTION: Richard, can you say whether possible extradition is on a list of possible actions that you might take?


QUESTION: Are you all --

MR. BOUCHER: I can't say whether it's possibly possible. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Are you all creating a list? I mean, there must be someone who is thinking about what your options are to bring these people to justice.

MR. BOUCHER: There's a lot of work going on to make sure that it happens, and there's a lot of determination to make sure that we bring these people to justice. And it starts at the highest levels of the administration. But there is also a lot of caution about what we say in public to make sure that we're not inadvertently divulging information or tipping our hand or otherwise making life more difficult for those many people in law enforcement agencies and in the Pakistani Government, Pakistani law enforcement agencies as well, who are going to work on this.

QUESTION: Kind of on that subject, after our discussion on Wednesday about the new hostage policy, we had time to look at the old policy and the new policy. And we haven't had a briefing with you since then, but there appears to be some confusion about this language on paying ransom and paying ransom versus getting the benefit of ransom.

Can you say, just for clarification, whether the government in any way has changed its policy on paying ransom, and whether the U.S. Government itself might pay ransom in some cases?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I can say it any better than we did in the statement and than we did on Wednesday when we discussed this already. The U.S. Government policy is to ensure that no hostage taker gets a benefit; that they don't get a financial benefit, a political benefit, or any other benefit from taking of hostages.

We also made clear in the new policy, quite categorically, that should a private concern or some other individual decide to follow that course, they would not have our support. But, second of all, we would not forego every possible opportunity to investigate and bring to justice the people to whom the ransom might have been paid.

So I think it's pretty clear that we're not going to get in the business of paying off hostage takers.

QUESTION: And "we" means the U.S. Government, and do you also wish to advise others against it? I mean, there's --

MR. BOUCHER: It's quite clear. I think our feeling, our view that ransom payments, letting the hostage takers get any benefit from taking hostages, is not advisable. It's based on experience, as we say in the statement, as well as policy.

QUESTION: Can I just press one more point on it? If you're saying that you could give ransom as long as you are sure you could catch the guys after that and get the money back, is this a case in which the U.S. Government would pay money if they were sure that that would lead them to the killers? And I'm separating whether the U.S. Government would pay this money, and whether the family or company or whatever would be -- those are two different decision --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate on hypothetical circumstances. I think the policy is as clear as we can make it based on the experience and the past practice that we have had. But I don't think I want to speculate on possible circumstances.

QUESTION: But you can't rule out that the government would pay a ransom?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate in that direction, frankly, because the policy is against the payment of ransom, and very much against letting anybody get any benefit out of hostage taking, and categorical on that matter.

QUESTION: I'd like to return to the Pearl case, if I could. I recognize that you said that the State Department believes that General Musharraf has done everything he can, and that you're very pleased with the cooperation you've gotten, but is the State Department confident that members of the intelligence services, the ISI, or other perhaps members of the government, not necessarily in General Musharraf's cabinet, might have been involved in this case, or might have been in some way or another helping the kidnappers?

MR. BOUCHER: The investigation that was conducted in Pakistan was a joint investigation with all the different agencies, all the different capabilities that they could bring to bear on the situation. It involved their law enforcement -- it involves their law enforcement people, their intelligence services, a whole variety of people, and is motivated by the strong commitment and backing of the president himself. We have seen a full-fledged, full-bore investigation. We would expect to continue to see that. That's what President Musharraf has promised again, and we would expect that to continue.

QUESTION: But that wasn't my question. Are you confident that the ISI, or any members of the intelligence services --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm confident that they are an important part of the investigation and that they have been an active and positive player in the whole matter.

QUESTION: But would you rule out the fact that members of the ISI might have been involved in this in some way, shape or form?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't rule out that Martians were involved. I mean, I have to -- I don't want to be facetious on this, but you're asking me to speak for every member of a foreign government organization. I don't do that, whatever the question is. And I can tell you on the positive side, on the factual side -- not to speculate on this, that or the other -- but on the factual side that every possible agency the Pakistani Government has been involved, and we felt the cooperation was excellent.

QUESTION: For the past two days, you were put in a kind of an odd position. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on it, maybe on a personal level, or as a spokesman, on one day, on Wednesday, having to -- coming out and announcing the new guidelines for your policy on abductions, and then 24 hours later having to confirm this death. Anything you care to say about that?

MR. BOUCHER: I guess the simple answer is no. The connection between the two -- I mean, first of all, there's no direct --

QUESTION: I'm not suggesting --

MR. BOUCHER: I know, I know. There's no direct connection between the announcement of the policy and the fact that we now have evidence that Mr. Pearl was killed. The connection between the two, if any, the logical connection between the two is that the circumstances in which Mr. Pearl found himself and his subsequent death make absolutely clear why this new policy, why the policy of the United States has to be to look into every hostage taking situation, to deal seriously with every hostage situation, and to mobilize every appropriate means to resolve these situations, and to make sure that there's no benefit from taking of hostages, so that there's no encouragement to others to take hostages in the future. It's absolutely tragic Mr. Pearl was killed, and I don't want to use him to sort of justify a policy, but the connection between the two is that it's absolutely essential that we do everything we can to deal with the hostage taking that goes on, and in every appropriate manner.

QUESTION: Richard, don't you think everybody, at least in this building, was doing everything they could?

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, yes. When we talked about the policy on Wednesday, I said it was a restatement of a long-standing policy with some minor adjustments. It may have been the right policy for a long time, and one that we've been acting on for a long time.

QUESTION: Richard, (inaudible) before President Musharraf came here, he was quoted as saying that -- he was quoted as speculating that perhaps the Indian Government was involved in the Pearl kidnapping. Did that kind of -- does that kind of speculation give you any pause in terms of your confidence that he and his government are going to be aggressive in resolving this case?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we are in a position to speculate on the effect of the speculation. I'll tell you the facts as we have known them, and that is that the Pakistani Government has run a full-bore investigation, that we have had excellent cooperation with them, that we expect that to continue, and that we know that they are committed, as we are, from the highest levels on down, to bringing the perpetrators to justice.

QUESTION: So you're not concerned of the potential that this case gets politicized within domestic Pakistani politics?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick with the facts as we know them, and that's what I'm telling you.

QUESTION: New subject? The Secretary on Air Force One this morning was talking about a new attempt to persuade the North Koreans to reopen the negotiations on security issues, and he talked about the UN being the point of contact. Can you elaborate on that at all?

MR. BOUCHER: I stand by everything the Secretary said, but I don't know what he said. (Laughter.) I'm afraid that I don't have a full transcript of the Secretary's remarks. I have seen the wire stories. But I'm not in a position to elaborate. I think you have always known we maintain a certain contact through the North Korean mission to the United Nations. But, no, I don't have anything additional to what he might have said.

QUESTION: Have the people at the UN been doing this, or have people been sent up from Washington to do this?

MR. BOUCHER: It's largely been a contact from Washington to the North Korean mission at the UN. The people down here who are responsible for North Korea policy are in touch with the folks from North Korea at the UN, either by fax, phone, or the occasional trip up to New York.

QUESTION: Richard, leaving aside what the Secretary may or may not have said on the plane, what is the U.S. reaction to the rather strong North Korean reaction to President Bush's offer to resume talks?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the President's offer is quite clear: the willingness of the United States to sit down any time, any place, to discuss whatever issues are on the agenda. And the importance we attach to dealing with those issues are quite clear, and we'll continue to restate them.

As the President I think made clear during his visit to South Korea, the issue here is not the willingness of the United States to sit down and talk; the issue is not the willingness of the South Korean Government to try to pursue more openness in their relations with the North; the issue is a very regrettable fact that the North Koreans have not reciprocated either of these offers.

QUESTION: Well, does that mean that your offer still stands?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. It's been restated about four times in the last four days by the Secretary and the President and everybody else. I'm happy to restate it as well.

QUESTION: Yes, but that was before the North Koreans came out and said a lot of, you know, kind of insulting things about the President.

MR. BOUCHER: The right policy for the United States is the right policy for the United States. It's the one that the President decided last spring, and that stands as our policy because it's the right thing for us to do.

QUESTION: And regardless of what the North Koreans say in response, your offer still stands?


QUESTION: Change of subject? Middle East? Have you had time to have a look at Prime Minister Sharon's proposals for a buffer zone, and have you managed to extract any more details from the Israeli Government on what they intend to do?

MR. BOUCHER: I think if there are any more details to be provided, those should be provided by the Israeli Government. We are in touch with the Israeli Government discussing the speech and a number of other things that are going on. We remain committed to working with them, remain committed to the process. But, no, I don't have any further comment on the speech.

QUESTION: Well, how about any comment at all? You said you don't have any further comment. It sounds to me like you don't have any comment.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any particular comment on the speech.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. position on the idea in general of creating buffer zones and putting up obstacles between the --

MR. BOUCHER: I think until one -- the idea in general is hard to comment on because it's in general. And we'll be discussing these kinds of matters with Israelis and others, and if there's something to say that's more specific, we'll say it. But at this point, no, there's nothing --

QUESTION: All right. Well, does that mean in principle you're not necessarily opposed to it?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that. I can't say one way or the other on such a general concept until more is known.

QUESTION: Are physical demarcations on disputed territory a violation of the Oslo Agreement? He said security buffer zones. This is disputed territory and --

MR. BOUCHER: You're putting a detail to it that I don't think Prime Minister Sharon put to it yesterday. You're saying what he really meant to say was security demarcations on disputed territory. I can't do that. I don't think he did that, and I'm not about to do it on his behalf. We have always felt --

QUESTION: He used the word "separation" and he is referring to, clearly, setting up physical barriers --

MR. BOUCHER: Did he use the phrase "security demarcations on disputed territory"?

QUESTION: He didn't use security demarcation, but he used the terms "separation" and "security buffer zones." I'm just saying, considering that the territory that he's talking about is disputed, is that any violation of the agreements that were established --

MR. BOUCHER: Our positions on specific things, on particular events and aspects that might occur, our positions against unilateral actions that prejudge the outcome of negotiations is well known. Our positions on demolitions are well known. Our positions on things like reoccupation of land are well known. So those positions of the United States have not changed. But whether and how they apply to this speech, or to what you believe may have been intended by the speech, I can't do that here because I can't -- it's not for me to provide further definition to these ideas.

QUESTION: Well, can you still say, outside of the speech, do you believe that putting down physical demarcations on disputed territory in this situation would be a violation of the Oslo Agreement?

MR. BOUCHER: Are we then going to go through every possible action or interpretation that you want to make, and are you going to do that for both sides, or just one side?

QUESTION: I don't think it's -- I think he said security -- I don't think it's (inaudible) crazy.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to get in an argument here, but for things that have actually occurred and for which have a factual basis, I think we have been quite clear. I don't want to speculate on every possible action and give you an opinion of what that may or may not involve or entail, when it's not for me to define the possible actions.

QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary said on the plane -- I know you don't have a transcript, but he did say he's going to spend part of his weekend on the phone.

MR. BOUCHER: He also told that to Mr. Armitage, so that much at least I know. The Secretary did, I think, make clear that he was going to come back, he was going to talk to the experts back here again about the situation, because there have been developments. There has been, in fact, a trilateral security meeting last night, which we consider to be a very positive development. It's extremely important and significant, we think, that the parties have committed to that kind of cooperation in the dates ahead. So that's a very positive step as regard to getting a hold of the violence and terror, and taking the steps necessary to stop the violence. Clearly, we continue to believe the burden of performance in the security area rests with Mr. Arafat, and we continue to reiterate that both sides, in cooperating on security, are able to achieve more.

And so we're very pleased to see that that meeting, the trilateral security discussions, took place last night with those kinds of developments. The Secretary will come back and check with his experts, talk to the people here who work on those issues, and he did say that he intended to be on the phone, or at least in contact with the parties, too.

QUESTION: Do you know whether it was just the Israelis or the Palestinians, or would there be Saudis and Egyptians?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know yet. I haven't seen sort of a list of phone calls yet.

QUESTION: Richard, has the Israeli Ambassador been --

QUESTION: Richard, can you bring us up to date on Mr. Haass' meetings, and can you tell us what Palestinians he met with, if any, so far?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can do that in any detail. We haven't been trying to do sort of ongoing reporting on his meetings. I would just go back to, he's going to Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. He is Director of our Policy Planning staff, and it's in that capacity that he travels. He will be discussing issues all the way from general foreign policy and regional security issues to the current and future efforts we need to make against terrorism, the prospects for peace negotiations in the Middle East.

So general talks on all these important subjects, hearing from people, talking to people about the general approaches and outcomes. But this is not the sort of daily negotiating grind being mounted in another forum. There is daily contact on the issues of importance on things like the security meetings and other things that our embassies carry out on our behalf.

QUESTION: Do you know if Zinni will be one of the people that the Secretary will talk to when he gets back?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know yet.

QUESTION: Were you able to check since yesterday on whether we know more about how much Arafat has actually done what he said he was going to do in the letter to the Secretary regarding the Karine A?

MR. BOUCHER: I apologize once again.

QUESTION: That's okay. Can we check? That was -- it's been a while ago now. We were looking for action within days, if I recall.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there's anything more to say at this point.

QUESTION: Has Ambassador Burns met with the security advisor of Saudi Arabia Abel Jubair today, or --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure if it's taken place -- I'm trying to check and see if I have it. He will be meeting this afternoon with Abel Jubair. He is a representative of Crown Prince Abdullah from Saudi Arabia. They are going to discuss the recent remarks by Crown Prince Abdullah and other developments in the region.

QUESTION: Is there any more characterization you can give to the Saudi proposal, or in reference to Mitchell or the Tenet ceasefires?

MR. BOUCHER: What we have seen and what we have said has been to welcome the comments that we have seen from Saudi Arabia, underscoring their willingness to reach out to Israel to talk about peace, to talk about normalization of relations. We think these are significant and positive steps that have been endorsed now publicly by other governments in the region, including Egypt. They do highlight the importance of not giving up the goal of a just and lasting peace, and the need to do all we can to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Our commitment to Tenet and Mitchell, to the process of getting to those negotiations remains. And I'll reiterate today, as I have before, that the first step to get there is to end the violence, and that we have made absolutely clear that we think the burden at this point is on Chairman Arafat to take concrete steps to dismantle the groups that perpetrate violence and to end the violence so that we can start down that road that leads to a rebuilding of confidence and a restart of negotiations.

QUESTION: Dennis Ross is suggesting a 10-day ceasefire and cooling-off period in the Middle East, calling it one last chance. Does the Secretary endorse this suggestion, and, if so, how could he make it happen?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I haven't had a chance to check with the Secretary and see if that idea has surfaced in any of his discussions. So I can't give you a response to that now.

QUESTION: Can I follow up? I believe maybe it was -- should Tony Zinni be sent back to try again?

MR. BOUCHER: No decision on that at this point. We have always said that he will go back when it's useful, but there's no decision of that right now.

QUESTION: Going back to the Saudi proposal, do you think it would be useful if the Israelis responded to this proposal?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I tried to make it as clear as possible, it's a significant, it's a positive statement. It is a subject that's being discussed with, as I said, the Saudis, as well as many others in the region. Whether the Israelis want to respond or say more in public than they have already is up to them. But I do want to also make clear that the issue remains where it is, in terms of practical steps to start down that road, and that's to end the violence, and the performance of Chairman Arafat in that regard is a critical issue still.

QUESTION: The Spanish say that the Spanish Foreign Minister is going to be here on Monday to talk to the Secretary about this; is that correct?

MR. BOUCHER: The Spanish Foreign Minister will be here on Monday to talk about this and other subjects with the Secretary.

QUESTION: Okay. And one thing, just to go back to the Prime Minister --

MR. BOUCHER: They've kept in touch, as you know, and talked on the phone fairly frequently in recent weeks about the situation in the Middle East, but also Spain is now in the -- also and because Spain is in the presidency of the European Union. So there are other subjects to discuss as well.

QUESTION: Right. And just back to the Sharon speech for one second. I apologize if maybe you said this in your opening spiel, but are you actively seeking out details of his proposal from the Israelis, or are you hoping that it just kind of -- this just kind of fades away, this idea?

MR. BOUCHER: We're talking about all the issues, all the subjects at hand with the Israelis, including whatever more they might wish to say about this idea, this speech. But, as I said, in terms of the operational issues right now, furthering the trilateral security coordination process, getting Chairman Arafat to stop the violence, that remains the primary subject of discussion.

QUESTION: Yes, but just (inaudible) speech, are you aware of anyone going -- well, not anyone, but of U.S. officials asking Sharon or Sharon's office specifically for details of what he meant?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly who we may have called and talked to, but yes, I know that we -- our embassy is in touch with the Israelis, with the Israeli Government generally to discuss this and other issues. I don't want to -- I know you're talking about the speech, but I don't want to be quoted as saying that we're out there pursuing the speech as the primary matter of concern right now. What we're out there pursuing as the primary matter of concern are the facts of ending the violence and getting the cooperation going. In the context of discussing those things and the situation, yes, we also discussed the speech; yes, we also discussed the Saudi comments.

But what we're doing, what we're really talking about as the major issue is not to ask questions about a speech, but it's rather to focus on ending the violence.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you don't -- that you see the speech as kind of a sideshow, and not -- I mean, you know, this is --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to characterize the speech. I haven't done that for the last 20 minutes. I'm not going to do it now, no matter what words you use.

QUESTION: And also, the Israeli Ambassador I understand was going to be here today. Did he come in, and if he came in, did he provide any details at all?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. But you can ask him, if you want. I'm sure he's available to you.

QUESTION: It's not specifically on the speech, but it is on the situation. Have you specifically put any conditions on Arafat for Zinni's return? I just want to clarify. Have you said you have to do this, this, and this, and then we'll send Zinni back?

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has made clear several weeks ago that steps to end the violence and accounting for the arms smuggling situation would be necessary before we felt it was useful to keep pursuing the process.

QUESTION: And that's still the deal?

MR. BOUCHER: That's still operative.

QUESTION: Has the United States sought from the Saudis any explanation of what their plan is about what the details would be of -- you know, they announced in The New York Times whether or not the Old City of Jerusalem, the Wall, the Jewish quarter, would be involved, in other words, to be turned over?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, it is significant that these statements were made. They are significant statements. The underlying issues of Jerusalem, refugees -- you know, the big issues -- in the end have to be negotiated by the parties. But you don't even get to that point until you stop the violence, rebuild the confidence, and gotten back to the political negotiations.

So as we discuss the statement that the Saudi officials have made, not only to the newspapers here, but also to their own public and press service, as we discuss this with them, we are also discussing how to stop the violence and start going down that path so that the parties can settle those issues.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, I just wondered if you can give out comments or reaction to the story today in one of the papers in the city saying that in a matter of days the United States will be giving intelligence information to the Colombian military personnel to combat the guerrillas.

MR. BOUCHER: I will -- I can say something about it, but not much, because of the nature of the subject matter. I think you've seen the statement that we put out last night that made quite clear we understand, we fully support President Pastrana's decision to break off peace talks with the FARC and end the demilitarized zone.

We have pointed out that he has repeatedly tried to enter into discussions and resolve the issues in Colombia peacefully. Regrettably, the FARC has never reciprocated in good faith. In fact, they have carried out over a hundred terrorist attacks since January 20th, when the international community, President Pastrana, worked to find a way to continue the possibility of talks.

With that in mind, I think, we have been consulting with the Government of Colombia to determine how we can be helpful, where we can be helpful. And, in fact, the Secretary of State did speak to President Pastrana this morning -- I assume from the airplane, based on the timing of it. And we will look to do whatever we can within our law to support the Government of Colombia.

Two of the more immediate things we're looking at is to share more information, including intelligence information, with the Government of Colombia. The second one is that the Government of Colombia has ordered, purchased, various spare parts for their equipment that we'll look to see if we can't expedite the delivery of those things to make sure they have those things that they have purchased on hand. And we'll continue to talk to them about ways we can support them -- again, within the parameters of our law.

QUESTION: There is some response from Bogota saying that members of the armed forces of Colombia are trying to use some helicopters in the fight against the guerrillas. If they do that, they are going to violate the rules for the aid of the United States. Are this government ready to support any action like that from the --

MR. BOUCHER: We're not prepared to support a violation of U.S. law. I'm not going to speculate. I haven't seen any particular reports of that kind. The point that I have made is that there are ways that we can support the Government of Colombia in this matter very specifically within the current law. As you know, we continue our anti-narcotics cooperation with the Colombians. We continue to move forward on the proposals that we have made to Congress to get funding to support protection of the pipeline. And we'll continue to talk to the Government of Colombia about how we might support them.

QUESTION: Do you think it's going to be a good idea to have peace talks in a third country, as the government of Pastrana has suggested?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate on something like that. The moment that we have come to is because all of President Pastrana's attempts to get peace talks have been met not only with a lack of good faith, but by, I think he said to the Secretary, 117 terrorist attacks since January 20th, when he announced the most recent iteration of the policy.

QUESTION: You're saying that you will look to do whatever you can to help the Colombians. I think whatever you come up with would go down a lot easier on the Hill if the administration takes a strong stand against the paramilitary fighters. Do you have any guidance on --

MR. BOUCHER: Absolutely. We have taken a strong stand against the paramilitary fighters, against the AUC, which is on our terrorism list. And we remain concerned about any extremism, any violence, and have -- in our discussions with the Government of Colombia have said, have heard back, that they too want to make sure that extremists are not allowed to somehow take advantage of this from whatever quarter they might come.

QUESTION: Richard, how long would it take for the administration to take a decision quick on Colombia, since the war is in full force, one? And the other one --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, one, we have taken some decisions quick on Colombia. President Pastrana made his announcement yesterday, and we yesterday and today have announced a certain number of steps that we are able to take to support him.

QUESTION: Now, just to clarify, because I've heard reports and also in Colombia there is a sense that the U.S. -- what the administration is going to ask is just lift all the restrictions so Colombia can use the funding from the Plan Colombia. And there is a confusion there. They don't really understand what is the administration trying to do. They're thinking that -- there are some reports that I heard that they just want to lift all the restrictions so they can use the funding from the Plan Colombia.

MR. BOUCHER: I can't deal with every possible speculation that's out there, every possible report. What I'm trying to stick to is the fact that we are doing some things within the parameters of our law. Our continued support for counter-narcotics and our proposal to help with this protection of the pipeline -- we remain committed to those.

We are also in discussion with the Government of Colombia about what we can do to help them. The kinds of things we're talking about -- intelligence-sharing, for example -- something that's important to the Government of Colombia to help them. So rather than speculating on everything under the sun, let's say let's concentrate on the fact that we need to work out with the Colombians what we can do to support them and what we, for our part, tend to stay within -- will stay within the parameters of our law. And I think the Colombians understand that as well.

QUESTION: How long would it take for the administration to officially say what steps are going to take?

MR. BOUCHER: We said it just five minutes ago.

QUESTION: In the conversation with the Secretary of State and President Pastrana has been a new request from the president of Colombia different than the aid that has been already?

MR. BOUCHER: I think as far as what the Colombian Government may want or need, you'll have to ask the Colombian Government. What the purpose of the phone call was to get an update on the situation; for the Secretary to express our support for President Pastrana and the difficult decision, but nonetheless necessary one, that he has made; and to talk about the kinds of support that he might need that we might be able to provide within the parameters of our law, if I haven't said that enough times already. And that was the discussion today.

QUESTION: Like you said repeatedly, the parameter of the law. Is there a conclusion that you need to change the parameters of the law or ask Congress to do that or issue another executive order?

MR. BOUCHER: No such conclusion at this point, no.

QUESTION: Just -- I don't know if this would be connected to the spare parts, but you're going to have to be making a specific decision in the next couple days regarding human rights certification for the Colombian military. Given these steps that have been taken, is it fair to say that you've made that decision already and that you are either going to provide a waiver or say that they have passed?

MR. BOUCHER: No, not fair.

QUESTION: That's not? Can you elaborate on that? I mean, that's --

MR. BOUCHER: I'll elaborate on that on Tuesday when we give you 20 pages on the human rights situation in Colombia, or whatever the report turns out to be this year.

QUESTION: I think you've made several references to taking decisions, and then earlier you said you were looking at sharing more information and expediting delivery. Could you be a bit more precise about the status of those two steps?

MR. BOUCHER: We have decided to share more information. We have decided to expedite the delivery. And we're looking at exactly how that process is going to work.

QUESTION: Move on?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, please. No? Yes? One more on Colombia?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Let's go somewhere else for a while first.

QUESTION: Well, this is in the ether. It's not any place. It revolves around wherever Under Secretary Bolton is right now.

MR. BOUCHER: Upstairs.

QUESTION: Can you explain what exactly he was talking about in this interview with the Washington Times? Are you now prepared to nuke un- nuked countries?


MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, this is a very serious matter, but what a way to phrase it.

What Under Secretary Bolton was reiterating was a policy that the United States Government has had since the 1970s. There was a specific statement in 1978. It was also reaffirmed. The formulation I have is the formulation we have been using since 1995, and that is that the United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon state parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a state toward which it has a security commitment carried out, or sustained by such a non-nuclear weapon state in association or alliance with a nuclear weapon state.

Furthermore, the policy says that we will do whatever is necessary to deter the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, its allies and its interests. If a weapon of mass destruction is used against the United States or its allies, we will not rule out any specific type of military response.

Those kind of statements have been made repeatedly since the 1970s. Similar statements, as you remember, were made in the Gulf War in 1991 by U.S. officials. Secretary of Defense William Perry made them in April 1996. He said if the United States was attacked by chemical weapons -- he said that if the United States was attacked by chemical weapons, "We could have a devastating response without the use of nuclear weapons, but we would not foreswear that possibility."

This has been a very consistent policy of 20 or 30 years. That is what Secretary Bolton was talking about, and there is no change.

QUESTION: Okay, okay. So you seem to be saying that the entire -- the headline and the lead of that story are completely incorrect. Is that -- I mean, I guess what I'm getting at, you read off a long list of things, of conditions. You haven't added "or whenever we feel like it" to that list.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember if the story said "or whenever we feel like it." I didn't read the story enough to criticize it. I'll tell you what the policy is. This is what is has been and what it is today.

QUESTION: Okay. So there's no change at all?

MR. BOUCHER: No change in U.S. policy.

QUESTION: So they're not -- there are those limits? Those conditions still stand?

MR. BOUCHER: Everything I said has been said consistently for 20 or 30 years, and that remains the situation.

QUESTION: Beyond, though, unless those conditions are met, the United States would not use nuclear weapons --

MR. BOUCHER: That's exactly the policy, the whole policy, and nothing but the policy.


QUESTION: Okay. Unless all those conditions are met, the United States would not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state?

MR. BOUCHER: That's exactly the way I said it.

QUESTION: On the China trip -- I mean, where does the (inaudible) issue stand now? Is it still being worked out?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll wait till the party gets back and decide what happens next. I think they have briefed on what happened in Beijing.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary said anything about the overall U.S. (inaudible)? Was he happy with it or --

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't talked to him. Don't know.

QUESTION: I'm just wondering if you have any comments on the recent assassination in Mexico of authorities in charge of narco-trafficking units in Mexico.

MR. BOUCHER: Don't have anything with me now. Let me look into it and see.

QUESTION: Richard, the situation in Madagascar has gotten a little dicey. Your Embassy down there has put out a Warden Message telling Americans that the situation is extremely fluid, and they should be careful. Beyond that, I'm wondering if you have any actual comment on the situation and the self-proclamation of the guy whose name I can't pronounce.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, I'll pronounce it. I think I can pronounce it. Just on the subject you raised on the status of Americans, yes, we did issue a Public Announcement. The Embassy is reporting that all Americans are safe; there is no indication of unusual military activity. But we continue to use the Warden system to stay in touch with Americans who are there.

As far as the issues there, the presidential election in Madagascar continues to be contested. The United States objects to the action taken by opposition presidential candidate Marc Ravolomanana to declare himself president. We urge Mr. Ravolomanana and all parties to consider carefully the repercussions that extra-legal or violent actions could have on Madagascar's future and its relationship with the international community.

We urge the parties in the current political dispute to resume discussions to allow a free and fair presidential election to go forward, and we commend the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations for their efforts to find a solution to this crisis and support a continuation of those efforts.

QUESTION: Richard, on the grand scheme of the diplomatic scale, where does "object" come with, I guess, "condemn" or something being at the top, and "noting" something being at the bottom?

MR. BOUCHER: I would leave that for the astute diplomatic reporters to figure out. We just use the words; We don't explain them.


QUESTION: Going back to the Middle East, you said that you thought that the Saudi statement was a positive statement and you thought it was positive that other countries in the region have accepted it. I would like to ask the position on do you think it should be presented to the Arab League? Would you like to see all of the nations of the Arab League accept it? And do you think that Arafat should be at that summit, and that Israel should lift the siege on him to enable him to go to that summit?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's about four questions. I have one answer, and that's --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: I think all those four questions essentially have one answer, and that is that we are not participants in the Arab League meetings, and I don't know that we have any ability or need to say what they will and they won't take up.

We have, for a long time, made clear that we felt it was important that all the countries in the region accept Israel. The President has made clear that part of his vision for the region is two states living side by side, and Israel living in secure borders, and a state called Palestine with it. So that has always been the policy of the United States. We have always urged other governments to accept Israel peacefully in the region. That remains our policy. But I don't know if it will be taken up at the -- whether that issue will be taken up by the Saudis with the others there.

QUESTION: That would happen if all of the territories, all of the borders, went back to June 6th, 1967. And the Saudi statement was --

MR. BOUCHER: That was the Saudi statement, yes.

QUESTION: And you agree with that, too?

MR. BOUCHER: We agree with our policy that we've always said, and that's 242, 338, Land-for-Peace, negotiations; 242, 338, that's what we negotiate.


QUESTION: Other subject, also on the presidential elections or elections in Zimbabwe. Apparently there was an attack with the opposition truck and automobile convoy this morning. Is there any likelihood of mediating that problem in Zimbabwe?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any news from Zimbabwe or on Zimbabwe at this point. As you know, we're moving towards targeted travel sanctions on Zimbabwe. We're looking at what other measures we might have to take now or after the election. But at this point, no, I don't have any new announcements.

QUESTION: The opposition leader's convoy was attacked.

MR. BOUCHER: That kind of political violence we have always condemned.

QUESTION: Going back to Pearl for a second, the last comments of Mr. Pearl apparently before he was killed was he was forced to say that he was a Jew and had gone to Israel, and that appeared to be one of the reasons that the kidnappers killed him. Do you have any comment on this?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't have any comment on anything that is purported to be in the details of these matters, I'm afraid.

QUESTION: Very briefly, is this building or the United States taking a position on this trial in France that could see the Church of Scientology banned?

MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. I'll check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m. EST.)

# # #

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Rohingya Muslims Massacred: Restrictions On Aid Put 1000s At Risk

Amnesty: The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign. More>>


Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>


Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC