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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing February 25, 2002

Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, February 25, 2002 1:05 p.m. EST

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

DEPARTMENT 1 Briefing on Narcotics Certification Process

CUBA 1-2 U.S. Policy on Cuba

TURKEY 2 Economic Partnership Committee Meeting

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 2-8 Saudi Proposal for Peace / Recent Violence / Need for Cooperation / EU Proposal

ITALY 8-9 Hole in Tunnel Near U.S. Embassy

IRAQ 9,16 UN Sanctions

ZIMBABWE 9-10 Intimidation Against Opposition

SPAIN 10,16 Secretary's Meeting with Foreign Minister / NATO Discussion

COLOMBIA/VENEZUELA 10-11 Security of Oil Pipelines / Kidnapping in Colombia

PAKISTAN 11-13 Extradition Issue of Omar Sheikh / Extradition Treaty

THAILAND 14 Journalist for Far East Economic Review

RUSSIA 14-15 Media Broadcasts in Caucusas Languages

NORTH KOREA 15 Periodic Meeting with U.S. Officials

TAIWAN 15 Possible U.S. Envoy

ANGOLA 15-16 Death of Mr. Savimbi / Angolan President's Visit

PERU 16 Lori Berenson Case


DPB # 24


1:05 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements. I would like to remind you of the 2:45 briefing this afternoon on the new and different narcotics certification process. And you've heard from the Secretary of State on other issues, so I'll take your questions on whatever is left.

QUESTION: Different news services and newspapers, and some of them are actually correct, like the Saudi proposal, but there's a piece in a newspaper that a couple of -- well, actually, the person who runs the Cuban affairs desk, and his deputy, are promoting or lobbying or trying to get the administration to practice reconciliation with Cuba, which is a thought that isn't unique to them. Is this in the offing? Is there something germinating here you want to tell us about?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that particular thought, while it might not be unique, should not be ascribed to them. I think it's important to make clear that the administration, the Bush Administration, the political appointees such as the Secretary and Assistant Secretary Reich, have full confidence in the competence and the professionalism of our career diplomats who are carrying out US policy towards Cuba.

The State Department's team of Foreign and Civil Service Officers in Washington and at our Interests Section in Havana has worked vigorously to support President Bush's efforts to bring about rapid, peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy in Cuba, using the full array of policy tools available. Assistant Secretary Reich has worked closely with these people since his appointment in January.

I think the overall message we would make on articles like this is it's important not to be distracted from where the locus of the problem with Cuba lies, and that is the Cuban Government's failure to respect the basic human rights of its own people. I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Well, if you want to leave it at that, that's that. But Cuban policy is an interesting subject, irrespective of what individuals may think is a good idea or not. Is there any movement? I guess we can wait for the Human Rights Report again, but is there any movement on the Cuba front that you can tell us about?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I've spoken to this repeatedly over the last year, particularly over the last several weeks, and made clear the issue is movement in Cuba on human rights and democracy. And unfortunately, very regrettably, we have not seen that kind of movement, and in fact I think you'll see in the Human Rights Report that the human rights situation in Cuba remains very bad.

QUESTION: Tomorrow, the Turkish-American Economic Partnership Committee meeting will be held in Ankara. What is the US side's agenda on this meeting? What is your expectation on this meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check for you. I don't have anything specifically on that meeting. But it is important. It is a process that has been discussed many times at senior levels. The Secretary supported it, discussed it during his trip to Ankara. And I don't have anything on the specific meeting, but we want it to be a full exchange on economic cooperation and on economic matters.

QUESTION: On the Middle East, the Secretary discussed it briefly downstairs, but I'm wondering if there is anything you can add to what he said about the US position -- or lack of position at the moment, if that's the case -- on the Saudi proposal, and also on the current -- if there's anything new to say about the current situation on the ground over there. And if you could also tell us if you plan on turning over any other diplomatic portfolios to Tom Friedman.

MR. BOUCHER: Which one of those were the serious questions?

QUESTION: The first two.

MR. BOUCHER: The first two, okay. I would note that the Saudi proposals, while reported in many of our newspapers, or one of our newspapers several times, were also made public by the Saudis and their own news agency in Arabic, and have been made in other fora by them, as well as having appeared in certain of our newspapers.

The position -- not the lack of position -- the position that we have taken on this is the one the Secretary just took and that we expressed to you last week. We think these proposals and the fact of their being made is a significant and positive step. It's important to discuss these issues, even as we work to get the whole process started by ending the violence.

The fact that we find these proposals useful, significant, interesting and positive, and all those various words we've used, is only a reminder of how important it is to pursue this process, not to let it down, and to remember that the process begins with confronting terror and violence, restoring calm, and creating an environment in which progress on implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations and the Tenet security work plan can proceed.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. BOUCHER: Everybody wants to follow up.

QUESTION: Well, I just wanted to get -- the other serious question in my three questions was about the current situation on the ground.

MR. BOUCHER: The current situation on the ground, I think the Secretary expressed a little bit to you about that. We are deeply troubled by the upsurge in violence that has occurred, including two shooting incidents in the last few hours, one at a bus stop north of Jerusalem, another on a road south of Jerusalem that left at least two dead and a dozen injured, including a pregnant woman and a four-year-old girl. We condemn those attacks. We call upon the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and decisive action to halt the terror and violence.

We are also very concerned about two incidents in which pregnant Palestinian women were shot and wounded over the weekend, and a Palestinian father and husband were shot and killed at an Israeli Defense Force checkpoint.

Israel's right to defend itself is clear. At the same time, it's very important that a way be found to allow safe and secure passage for humanitarian purposes through Israeli checkpoints and other barriers to Palestinian movement. So we urge the Israeli Defense Force to work on such procedures to help ensure that no further such tragedies occur in the future.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. You said you "urge" or "urged"? You have?

MR. BOUCHER: We urge, in present tense. I think we'll do it privately as well as publicly, but that's the position we've taken.

QUESTION: Forgive me for being pedantic, but it's partly my job. You, as far as I can recall, called the Saudi proposal a minor development, and now you're calling it an important step. What happened to raise it and its relevance in your eyes?

MR. BOUCHER: I would go back to the Secretary's language. I think he used other words as well. The important thing -- this idea is significant, it's positive. The fact that it was made is significant and positive. We've said that before, and I'm saying it again. Nonetheless, I would remind you, and I think this is reflected in the Secretary's comment that you cite, the important thing right now is to get an end to the violence, to get down that road, so that these kind of ideas about the long-term future can be developed and negotiated.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I'm not sure what it is that the US would like to see happen to it next. I mean, is there more that the Saudis might say about it? Would you like to see -- the Egyptians seem to like it. Would you like to measure reaction? I don't know where you go from here. There's so little going on, maybe this is a starter.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I would say there is not so little going on. There is a continuing attempt on the part of the United States to work with the parties, to work with the people in the region, to end the violence, get back on this track of reducing the violence, restoring some sort of calm, and getting back to a track where the Mitchell Committee recommendations can be implemented, the Tenet work plan steps can be carried out, and we can move towards a negotiation where all these other issues, all these ideas, including the vision the President laid out last fall, can be discussed and negotiated.

The activity over the weekend -- the Secretary made a whole series of phone calls with people in the Middle East. He talked to Prime Minister Sharon, Chairman Arafat, King Abdallah of Jordan, Foreign Minister Maher of Egypt, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. He kept in touch with Europeans, with EU High Representative Solana.

And so this Saudi idea has been part of his discussions with others, but the emphasis remains on the need for the Palestinians to confront the violence and stop the violence, because that's the only way we're going to start down this road. And you heard in our discussions with the Spanish Foreign Minister this morning, the Spaniards are in the Presidency of the EU, part of that discussion was about the maximum effort needed -- the 100 percent effort, as he said -- to confront the violence, to end the violence, so that we can start working on any other ideas and ways down the road.

QUESTION: But if you are considering this Saudi plan as some way to encourage stopping the violence, how does that jive with you holding Arafat responsible for what goes on in the Palestinian territories? I mean, how does the Saudi proposal to recognize Israel, or any Arab proposal to recognize Israel, have anything to do with what Yasser Arafat needs to do within his own territories? Do you think that the violence is suddenly going to stop once Israel returns to the '67 borders?

MR. BOUCHER: That's not the way we've been pursuing it. The way we've been pursuing it is to say it's useful to have these ideas out there; it's significant that they were proposed; but what really needs to happen now to get anywhere towards that discussion is now we need to stop the violence, now we need to move down through the Mitchell and Tenet steps, in order to get to the point where some of these things can be discussed.

QUESTION: On the Mitchell and Tenet steps, I don't know exactly how many months it has been since those plans were introduced, but obviously --

MR. BOUCHER: Eleven.

QUESTION: Okay. It's a lot. Do you think it's just that new ideas that reflect more of an understanding of the situation that's going on right now need to be introduced, rather than saying that we need to stop the violence in order to get back to the Mitchell and Tenet steps? I mean, are those even applicable in the current situation?

MR. BOUCHER: Those are indeed very applicable in the current situation. Even before the Mitchell Report came out last spring, the issue was stopping the violence. From the very beginning, if you look at the Secretary's earliest approaches to the issue and his discussions with the Israelis, the issue was stopping the violence, restoring some measure of trust, and getting on to negotiations. The Tenet security work plan, the Mitchell recommendations, were the path, or the elaboration of the steps along that path. It's the same basic idea.

And why have we stuck with that basic idea? Because that's really the only way to get back to some serious negotiation. It's useful, as we've said, to have these ideas proposed. But to really get there, we need to stop the violence and get on with the work of restoring some measure of trust.

QUESTION: How big a setback is it that the second security meeting, which seemed so promising after the one worked late last week, and was canceled yesterday? And is it your understanding that this is going to be rescheduled? The Secretary said so downstairs, but I didn't know --

MR. BOUCHER: Do I agree with what the Secretary just said downstairs?

QUESTION: Can you elaborate on it?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me think about that a little bit. Yes, I do.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate on that?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't really elaborate. It will be for the parties to schedule it and do it. We have always maintained security cooperation between the parties is very important. I think it's the best way to start achieving some reduction in the violence, as well as the steps that we've called for.

So that's important to us. We'll keep trying to see what we can do to help them to convene these meetings and make them useful. And as the Secretary said, we hope that one will be rescheduled in the coming days.

QUESTION: I was asking whether you could tell us whether it has been rescheduled.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can say that at this point.

QUESTION: Richard, maybe the Secretary spoke about this, but did he have any comment or do you have any comment about the Israelis' decision to let Chairman Arafat move around a little bit more within Ramallah, while keeping him in Ramallah? Is there any --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think he addressed it. Am I correct?

QUESTION: Well, but the Foreign Minister did. And in answer to a question a couple back, you said something about how they both had called for 100 percent effort from the Palestinians. In fact, as I recall, I think that the only time the phrase "100 percent" came up was when the Spanish Foreign Minister said that if we are going to ask Arafat to do 100 percent, he has to have 100 percent capacity to do that, meaning, I presume, that he was echoing what Javier Solana said earlier in Jerusalem, in which he said the EU wants Arafat to have total freedom of movement. Does the United States agree with the European position on this?

MR. BOUCHER: I will give you our position on this. That is, that in his conversations over the weekend with Prime Minister Sharon, Chairman Arafat and other regional leaders over the weekend the Secretary reiterated what we have said many times. The important thing here is for both sides to focus on ways to work together to restore the calm. That means maximum efforts by the Palestinian Authority to confront violence and terror and steps by the Israeli Government to both facilitate Palestinians' efforts on security and help promote a more positive environment on the ground. At this time, we're looking to the parties to take positive actions that will create that environment for moving forward. And that's where I will leave it on the question.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) specific reaction to the Israeli approach about Chairman Arafat's whereabouts, you're leaving that for the moment to the Israelis?

MR. BOUCHER: I will say that the issue right now is for the parties to take positive steps for the environment, to create an environment for moving forward, and leave it at that.

QUESTION: Would letting Chairman Arafat move around more, in exchange for crackdown of the violence, be a positive step?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to specify. I will just say that's where the issue lies right now.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) maximum effort. I read "maximum effort" to mean he can make a maximum effort without being able to go to the beach. He can make a maximum effort from where he is, provided he has a telephone.

MR. BOUCHER: I've given you our statement on this subject. We have talked about the need for the parties to focus, we've talked about the need for maximum effort, and we've talked about the need for both sides to create an environment where we can move forward. That's what we're looking for from both sides. That is, I'm afraid, as specific as I'm prepared to get on these actions and decisions and whatever ongoing discussion there is in the Israeli Government on this.

QUESTION: But I think you're saying it's doable under current conditions.

MR. BOUCHER: I have said what I've said. I'm not going to try to adopt anybody else's phrasing. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Is there any sense that the Israelis are moving the goalposts on Arafat and that he did detain people involved in the assassination of the Tourism Minister, which was one of the stated reasons why they imposed this restriction on him in the first place? So now that he's complied with that, why are you not asking the Israelis to come through on their part of the bargain?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have any judgment one way or the other on that. What I have to tell you is that we do think that both parties need to create the environment so we can move forward, and I'll leave it at that for the moment.

QUESTION: Just to try and follow up on that, and to pick a name that I haven't heard mentioned, I'm a little confused where General Zinni stands. You didn't mention --

MR. BOUCHER: You mean where he physically stands right now?

QUESTION: Well, that's part of it. You didn't mention that the Secretary had talked with him since he returned. I just wonder, has he consulted with him? And as part of your move --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. I'll have to double-check on that, but he didn't mention it this morning.

QUESTION: All right. And as part of your effort to get the parties to do it, are you considering sending General Zinni out there to help them?

MR. BOUCHER: There's nothing new on potential for travel by General Zinni. We have always said he would go when it was useful, but haven't made any decision like that at this point.

QUESTION: Has Mr. Haass returned?

MR. BOUCHER: Has Mr. Haass returned? He should have, but I haven't seen him yet.

QUESTION: He was in the cafeteria.

MR. BOUCHER: He was in the cafeteria. Confirmed sighting of Richard Haass. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Richard, does the United States disagree with the EU on this idea of Arafat being able to move? I'm not asking you to be specific about -- only just to be specific about whether you agree or not agree, not on what you're calling for.

MR. BOUCHER: You want me here to tell you again what our position is?

QUESTION: No, I don't want to hear that again.

MR. BOUCHER: I'd love to, if I had the chance. But since you're not giving it to me -- (laughter). I don't know how to characterize the European position on this. We heard something from the Foreign Minister out there. I think there is agreement on many points. The general approach that we have described, that they have described -- looking for 100 percent effort to stop the violence, implementing Mitchell and Tenet, getting back to negotiations -- I think the US and the EU positions are very, very close on that. There are some subjects and aspects that are still under discussion in the European Union, where I can't characterize their position.

On this one, I guess I would say I'm not in a position to compare and contrast the United States view and the European view, but I think on all the fundamentals we're basically aligned.

QUESTION: But wait, are you saying then that you're not sure that this is the EU position?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not able to characterize the EU position. I don't think I want to get into trying to compare and contrast our positions with theirs.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I'm not asking you to characterize it.

MR. BOUCHER: I've given you our position, and I'll leave it to you to do whatever analysis --

QUESTION: Well, but you do realize that your position leaves a lot to the imagination, yes?

MR. BOUCHER: I would hope one wouldn't imagine; one would just read the words and focus on that.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. BOUCHER: By popular demand? No, one more.

QUESTION: Reviewing the last 11 months, is the US really relevant to what's happening in the area? You've been saying cease the violence and so on, and Tenet and Mitchell, but really nothing has changed, and it's gotten only worse. Are you at all considering a change of policy on this?

And secondly, have the Saudis approached you diplomatically with their effort, their plan?

MR. BOUCHER: On the first question of, "Is the US relevant?" Yes. We think so; more important than that, the parties think so. And they continue to work with us, they continue to look to us, and they continue to work with us on ways to stop the violence, ways to get back and move forward in this process.

As far as -- yes, we've had diplomatic discussions with the Saudis on these ideas that they have talked about. The Secretary talked to the Crown Prince over the weekend.

Change of subject.

QUESTION: In light of the holes being found in tunnels related to the Embassy to Rome, are you taking any additional steps there and other embassies, since this sheds new dimension on security of embassies?

MR. BOUCHER: I would just reiterate what we have said before. We're at a very high state of alert. We are taking all possible precautions in our different embassies overseas, including at the Embassy in Rome. We rely and work with host governments to maintain security for our embassies, and we have appreciated the cooperation and support we've gotten from the Italian Government. And the fact that they are finding these things and investigating these things I would cite as an example where our cooperation can uncover stuff and lead, we hope, to a safer environment for our people and the people who visit us at the embassies.

The Italian authorities informed us of this hole in a tunnel near the Embassy over the weekend. We're working closely with them to investigate the matter. It's an ongoing investigation. I can't draw any conclusions at this point.

QUESTION: You said something about the fact that the Italians are going out and arresting -- finding these people and arresting them, and investigating this.

MR. BOUCHER: I think I said finding these things. I was referring to the hole, actually, at this point.

QUESTION: Right, right, and investigating these things. You spoke about that in terms of US-Italian cooperation. Was there some -- did you tip the -- did the US tip these Italians off to this whole thing? Or are you not suggesting that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not suggesting that. I'm suggesting that the Italians authorities informed us over the weekend of the existence of the hole.

QUESTION: Can you talk about -- on Iraq, would you like to comment on the announcement of talks between Iraq and the UN on the sanctions in March, and what you hope that could be achieved at this?

MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen the announcement, so I'll have to get something for you on that. I think we've commented on the general proposition in the past. I'll see if there's anything new in the announcement.

QUESTION: We heard that (inaudible) northern Iraq (inaudible) they are coming to Washington, D.C., to speak with the State Department officials. Have you scheduled any meeting with them?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to check.

QUESTION: On Zimbabwe, you may also not have anything on this yet, but do you have any response to the charges being --

MR. BOUCHER: To the what?

QUESTION: The charges that have been leveled against the opposition leader? He's been accused of treason fairly recently.

MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that Mr. Tsvangirai was charged with treason, not arrested. We have seen press reports that suggest the government is trying to link him to an alleged plot to assassinate the president, President Mugabe. This falls against a backdrop of a very well documented campaign of violence and intimidation against the opposition.

We are aware of no convincing evidence that there is any basis for these allegations. It just appears to be another tragic example of President Mugabe's increasingly authoritarian rule, his government's apparent determination to intimidate and repress the opposition, as we approach the March 9th and 10th presidential election.

QUESTION: In the meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister, there wasn't discussion on ESDP and the pending problem with the ratification of ESDP from the European Union?

MR. BOUCHER: There was some discussion of this, both in terms of the emphasis that we all put on NATO, as well as the European Union's developing capabilities, and a desire to resolve this issue as soon as possible. And that was pretty much it.

QUESTION: And the position of the US remains the same that the Istanbul paper is a good agreement?

MR. BOUCHER: The position remains the same for the United States, yes.

QUESTION: With the new developments of the war -- the conflict in Colombia, how concerned is the US Government regarding the security that the Venezuelan Government is providing to the oil pipes and other sources of oil, taking into account that Venezuela is a supposed reliable supplier of oil to the US?

MR. BOUCHER: Are you talking about Colombian oil pipelines or Venezuelan oil pipelines?

QUESTION: I'm talking about Venezuelan pipelines, because with the spread of the conflict up along the border, there is certain concern that the Venezuelan pipes could also be at risk.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to see if that's a situation that we've addressed. As you know, we have been concerned about the pipelines in Colombia because there is a history and a record of their being attacked repeatedly and shut down from time to time, depriving the government of oil revenue, as well as depriving the world or the region of Colombia's resources. So that is a proposal that we've made to our Congress we're looking for funding for. I really don't know exactly where we stand with the Venezuelan pipelines. I'll have to look at that and see.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) kidnapping presidential candidate (inaudible) put new light on the instability of the democratic process in Colombia. What are the concerns of the US, and will there be any effort to help out as they approach the May elections and assure security?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't think we would say that this is some example of the instability of the democratic process in Colombia. We would say it's another very tragic example of the pattern of behavior by the FARC, which the organization has committed over a hundred terrorist acts, including the murder of 20 civilians and last week's hijacking of the civilian airliner. Activities like these have led to the understandable decision of President Pastrana to suspend the peace talks.

We will continue to support the Colombian Government at this difficult time, and we strongly condemn this kidnapping and call for her immediate release.

QUESTION: Can you talk about reports that the US is going to provide military intelligence to Colombia, and in general about the expansion of US assistance to Colombia for counter-insurgency rather than counter-narcotics?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't talk any more about what we're providing in support for Colombia than I did on Friday when I talked about providing more information, spare parts, things like that. And if there's anything else to talk about, I'll get to you when we do.

QUESTION: I wanted to go to the Pearl case. Ambassador Chamberlain said that the US has been seeking the extradition of Saeed Sheikh for quite a while before the Pearl abduction. Can you talk about the State Department's role in this and the kind of talks that were going on, and perhaps what we're expecting from Pakistan now differently than before the killing took place?

MR. BOUCHER: As our Ambassador to Pakistan has said, this is an issue that she raised in January because the United States wants to, as Ari said, get our hands on Omar Sheikh. And it's an issue that we need to address, will address with the Government of Pakistan, we'll continue to address with the Government of Pakistan, even after the horrible kidnapping of Danny Pearl. I suppose it remains all the more important, but we had started to pursue this before the kidnapping.

Our Ambassador will meet again, I think with President Musharraf, in coming days -- I think as early as tomorrow, she said -- and this will be a topic of our continuing discussion with the Pakistanis to try work it out.

QUESTION: Why didn't the US get him extradited, although I understand it's not under a treaty?

MR. BOUCHER: There is an extradition treaty. It's old, but there is an extradition treaty. But this is a subject we'll have to work out with the Pakistani Government, and one that we continue to discuss. And she'll discuss it again tomorrow, I expect.

QUESTION: On the treaty, my understanding is that dates from 1942 and it's a treaty with Britain that was done pre-partition, pre-independence. How is that still in effect?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll get the legal analysis of it, but it continues, in our view. At least that's what I've been told. I'll get you the legalities of all that.

QUESTION: Is that only our view? The Pakistanis are disputing?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard it disputed. I haven't had a chance to look into all the legal aspects of this. I'm just told that there is an extradition treaty from that time that continues in effect.

QUESTION: Following up on Terri's question (inaudible) diplomatic contacts as long ago as November, either pursuant to a judicial action in the United States or not, about our trying to get our hands on this -- is there anything that you could just walk for the record through that chronology a little bit?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of how far back it goes. The ones I know of are in January, in early January, when our Ambassador raised this with a number of people in Pakistan. And then she has followed up subsequently. I'll have to double-check and see if there was anything prior to that.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? If this guy was so dangerous and you were seeking his extradition, were you -- did you know about his whereabouts before then. And why weren't -- why was he able to lure an American into this elaborate web when the US was seeking his extradition? And were there being tabs kept on him or anything?

MR. BOUCHER: Don't know.

QUESTION: Can you check?

MR. BOUCHER: Not sure. Really, when it boils down to it, you're asking whether we're keeping tabs on some foreign person in a foreign country, and that's not something we necessarily discuss that much.

QUESTION: Well, Richard, wait. I'm not sure she's asking that.

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's what she is asking.

QUESTION: Well, then let me then --

MR. BOUCHER: Do you know his whereabouts --

QUESTION: Let me rephrase it then. Do you think that if you had been -- if people had known that you thought this guy was a bad guy, I think --

MR. BOUCHER: We didn't know that we thought this was a bad guy, because we were trying to get a hold of him. Because before the kidnapping we had been pursuing the issue of whether we could get him to the United States.

QUESTION: Oh, I thought this was only coming out now. Maybe I'm wrong. You had publicized the fact that you think that -- that you were looking for this guy?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we had not publicized it, but we had pursued it with the Pakistani Government.

QUESTION: Well, given that -- if I could follow up. Given that this happened with a suspect that you thought was potentially dangerous, are you thinking about letting other Americans and foreign journalists know about potentially dangerous characters in countries where they are that the US is seeking their extradition?

MR. BOUCHER: Our security officers at our embassies and other people are always happy to meet with journalists. We do meet with journalists to discuss the situation in any given place. As you know, we have had meetings with journalists in Pakistan, both in Karachi and Islamabad, I think. And we're always happy to try to help people understand the security environment.

QUESTION: May I ask why it was in January that you started this process of trying to --

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say it was in January we started. I said I knew we did it in January, and I'd have to check and see if we had done it prior to that. That was Todd's question.

QUESTION: Do you know what that particular timing -- why you --

MR. BOUCHER: That's sort of predicated on when did you start, and I'll have to find out when we started to see if there was any particular aspect that led us to do it in January, if we had not done it before, or if we had done it in January as a follow-up to something we did before.

QUESTION: If this is Elaine's question, forgive me for this one final filler, but was whatever you did in January pursuant to any judicial action that had been taken in the United States with respect to this person; in other words, like an indictment, or a sealed indictment?

MR. BOUCHER: That's a question -- if it were a sealed indictment, obviously I would not be in a position to discuss it, would I?

QUESTION: Unless it had been unsealed subsequently.

MR. BOUCHER: Unless it had been unsealed subsequently. But that's sort of part and parcel of why did we pursue it in January, and whether it was a new action or a follow-up. I'll try to check on that.


QUESTION: Did Daniel Pearl meet with any US officials where he specifically mentioned this particular individual?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's something I can go into. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: With respect to journalists, what are we doing with Shawn Crispin, who also apparently works for a publication owned by Dow Jones? And they're saying in Thailand that he may be a threat to national security. Has he been working on anything with respect to al-Qaida?

MR. BOUCHER: You're asking about the Far East Economic Review journalist in Thailand?


MR. BOUCHER: As far as what he was working on, you'll have to check with his newspaper to see. But I would say we are concerned about the prospect that Thailand may bar certain journalists from working in or entering the country for publishing reports that were critical of the government. We would encourage Thailand to uphold its reputation as a strong supporter of freedom of the press, consistent with its constitution and its past practices.

Ambassador Johnson in Bangkok raised this issue with Prime Minister Thaksin in a meeting on February 25th, and he expressed our concern. And once again, I would say that free press is an essential element of any democracy.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Please.

QUESTION: Has this building told Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe not to start broadcasting in Chechen into Russia? I guess apparently the service was supposed to start on Thursday.

MR. BOUCHER: This is a matter that has been discussed and continues to be discussed with the White House and with the Congress. It's the issue whether Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty broadcasts should be done in North Caucusas languages. It is important to point out the North Caucusas already receives Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty's Russian language broadcasts; and second, to point out that our policy towards Chechnya is clear: there is no military solution there, and that we have continued to support a dialogue between both sides.

So with those statements of policy, I would say the discussion of broadcasts in Caucusas languages remains a subject of discussion.

QUESTION: Well, can you confirm that the contents of the letter that Deputy Secretary Armitage wrote to the Broadcasting Board of Governors that were reported in today's Post?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't confirm the contents of a letter, but I can confirm that as part of that ongoing discussion Deputy Secretary Armitage did send a letter.

QUESTION: And what's the status of this -- I mean, as I understand it, the Congress is -- this is a congressionally mandated program, is it not? What are you telling the Hill about your reluctance to follow the law?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I didn't express any reluctance to follow the law. I just said that we're in discussions with the White House and the Congress on the issue.

QUESTION: Okay, well, is it fair to say that this programming isn't going to begin on Thursday, as it was supposed to?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see.

QUESTION: So it still could?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. So you're saying that you are opposed to these broadcasts?

MR. BOUCHER: I said this is a matter of discussion with the White House and with the Congress, and while those discussions are ongoing, I'm not going to be able to report to you further.

QUESTION: Do you have any plans to meet with the North Koreans in New York City in the near future? South Korean mediators are reporting about that.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any specific plans, but we do meet periodically from time to time up there. I wouldn't be surprised if we did. I'll have to check and see if there's any specific meetings on the schedule. But it wouldn't be too surprising if we did because we do that all the time.

QUESTION: A question about Taiwan. Can you comment about the possible withdrawal of Douglas Hall's nomination as Washington's envoy to Taipei?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard any discussion of that.

QUESTION: And a protocol matter. Is it true that his appointment is being held up because of a delayed FBI background check?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't discuss anything like that anyway. I don't know.

QUESTION: Angola. Reaction to the death of Mr. Savimbi and the arrival of the president of Angola, expected in a couple hours?

MR. BOUCHER: We put out a statement over the weekend on Saturday about the death of Mr. Savimbi, so I'll just stick with that. And as far as the arrival of --

On the death of Jonas Savimbi, let me reiterate what we said on Saturday. Jonas Savimbi has been killed in an Angolan armed forces offensive in Moxico Province. The death of the UNITA leader is yet another casualty in a war that should have ended long ago. We call on both sides in conjunction with the peaceful opposition, civil sectors, and the international community to fulfill their obligation to bring peace to the Angolan people. The United States remains committed to achieving peace and equitable development in Angola.

President Bush is meeting on Tuesday, February 26th, with President dos Santos of Angola, President Chissano of Mozambique, and President Mogae of Botswana. Among the objectives of this summit is to discuss how the leaders, in conjunction with the United States, can help achieve peace in the region, including in Angola. And I would note in that context that the Secretary has a meeting this afternoon with President Chissano as well.

QUESTION: Isn't Savimbi's disappearance or removal -- isn't that a positive step? Not that you favor ambushes, but doesn't that move chances for peace a bit further when they've lost -- the insurgents have lost their key leader, albeit once the US's boy, but not for a long time.

MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll leave it to you to speculate on what it may mean. We would reiterate our view that the parties to this conflict need to put down their arms, need to reach an agreement.

QUESTION: No, that's not the point of my question. My point is, if the absence now, the removal -- whatever the right word would be, the polite word would be -- from the leader of the insurgent movement, isn't that something that will contribute to peacemaking?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see.

QUESTION: One more on Iraq? Did the Secretary talk about Iraq with the Spanish Minister today? As the EU position --

MR. BOUCHER: That's a stumper. I don't remember any particularly extensive discussion. I think it did come up. Yes, it did come up in a general sense, and that's the problems that are being posed by Iraq, their failure to admit inspectors, their failure to abide by UN resolutions, and that's an issue that all of us need to deal with. And I think that was the tenor of their discussion this morning.

QUESTION: On the Berenson case in Peru, you commented at some length the other day, and this morning The Washington Times has come out with an op-ed saying that essentially the Department of State should not take up the Berenson case the way they have, unless they're also willing to take up the Walker case, because the Walker and Berenson case are very similar. Do you have any comment on this?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm glad not to have seen that, and therefore I won't attempt a similar analysis.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:47 p.m. EST.)

# # #

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