State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 4, 2002
Daily Press Briefing Index Tuesday, June 4, 2002 1:03 p.m.
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
INDIA/PAKISTAN 1-4 Tension Between India and Pakistan 2 Departure of American Citizens 3 U.S. Discussions with Russia and Other Countries
IRAQ 4 Iraqi Opposition
EGYPT 4 President Mubarak's Visit to Washington 5-6 Exchange of Information on Terrorist Threats
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 4-5,6 U.S. Policy and Engagement
MADAGASCAR 6 Political Violence
IRAN 6-7 Financial Matters / U.S. Policy
ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES 7 Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 2002 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:03 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry I'm late folks. But good afternoon, and it's a pleasure to be here. And I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Well, I know the State Department likes to engage in temperature-taking, but I wonder what you make of the India-Pakistan situation. Indian defense officials are saying, hey, we're not pulling troops back. They don't seem to see a quo for the quid of getting the Pakistanis to restrain terrorists. They don't think they have to do anything to reciprocate.
But generally, is there any calming of the situation? Or is it getting worse?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say at this moment that the situation remains largely unchanged. It continues to be very, very tense in the region. And as you know, we've continued our contacts with senior Pakistani and Indian officials and other parties to try to head off any escalation further. We have been watching the situation very carefully. We do have some indications that Pakistani actions go beyond words, but I would say it's too early for us to say that there's been a cessation of infiltration.
You know that President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee are both in Almaty at the meeting, these next few days for meetings with their regional counterparts. We certainly welcome the efforts of President Putin and others there are making to foster discussions aimed at reducing tensions and lowering the risk of war.
Deputy Secretary Armitage travels today. He will have meetings Thursday in Islamabad and with Indian officials on Friday in New Delhi. And Secretary Rumsfeld will be there after that. So that's pretty much where we are.
QUESTION: You say his actions go beyond words; has something new developed in the last few days?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say we have watched this very carefully. I think we told you the other day there were indications of instructions being issued. And I would just generally characterize it in a sense that we have continued to watch this, we continue to follow it very closely, and we see that there is more than just statements. But at this point, we are not prepared to say that we have seen the cessation that we are all looking for and that President Musharraf has promised.
QUESTION: Can you talk about possible imminent new travel warnings coming out? I realize they're never a done deal until we get them, but --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't announce anything until we're ready to announce something. Really, people have to understand; the situation is very serious, and we keep this under very constant review, very careful review, both in terms of our own employees and in terms of private Americans. We already have advice to private Americans that they should defer travel to India and Pakistan, that they should consider departing or in some cases in India we are saying that we urge them to depart the country.
So we are always looking at that. We are always looking at how we express our advice to Americans, and that's something we are doing on a regular basis. But I don't have anything new for you today.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how well the American citizens have been heeding that advice? Have they been leaving in numbers that you're comfortable with?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have seen some of the reporting. I think it's still partial reporting at this point. And we don't really track individual Americans. So we're not in a position to say how many have departed at this point.
QUESTION: What about the diplomats? Have they been leaving --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, there have been some departures; there may be more, as people who last week got the advice made their plans, and as school finished, and things like that. So I don't have any assessments at this point. I think we're in the middle of departures at this point for most people.
QUESTION: Without getting into any specific travel warning or numbers or anything, do you think that Americans are taking your advice seriously enough? Do you think that Americans in India and Pakistan understand that there is a serious, real threat of the outbreak --
MR. BOUCHER: That's the same question I was just asked, about how many are departing. If they take our advice seriously, they leave.
QUESTION: Well, but based on conversations with embassy --
MR. BOUCHER: So without being able to assess how many are leaving --
QUESTION: -- but, I mean, certainly Americans must be calling it --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to make an assessment at this point. We know a lot of people have either left or are making plans. But it's too early to say what kind of impact our advice might have had. And in the end, people have to make their own decisions.
QUESTION: Did you know that President Putin was going to invite the two leaders to Moscow? And where, if any, would such a visit slot into the international diplomacy?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think those are questions you'll have to ask the Russians. We certainly have been in touch with the Russians. The Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Ivanov on Friday. We are coordinating with the Russians as we are coordinating with many others who have a strong interest in seeing the easing of tensions between India and Pakistan. So we have been talking to them about the meetings in Almaty. And as far as where the meeting, the invitation to go to Moscow might fit, you would have to ask the Russians. We know what the next few days or week or so of meetings is.
QUESTION: May I follow up briefly? Did the United States know that he was going to extend this invitation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about that specific one, whether we knew about that in advance. I would have to check. But in the end, it's up to the Russians to extend invitations. But what I said applies to this as well as to what they're doing currently, what they and others are doing in Almaty. We welcome the effort that Russia is making, along with other members of the international community. We have been in close touch, as you know, throughout this effort with the British, with various people in Europe, also with the Russians. The Secretary has spoken to Chinese Foreign Minister Tang about the situation between India and Pakistan. So there is a lot of coordination in the international community because everybody wants to see tensions ease and everybody wants to make sure the message is absolutely clear, that there should be no escalation and no war.
QUESTION: Could you flesh out what you mean by saying that there are some indications that Pakistan's actions go beyond words?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: I mean, you're talking about moving in a positive rather than a negative direction, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: It's not quite the same as fleshing it out, but that much I can do for you.
QUESTION: Maybe you could elaborate a little bit if asked -- you're not saying bodies are moving, I take it, but there is communication going on --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not -- Barry, you know we follow this in a whole variety of ways, but I'm not in a position to give you any more specifics than I had. I'm trying to give you a characterization, because I knew you would want one, and that's about as good as I can do for what we know to be the truth today.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Could you confirm that a conference of Iraqi opposition groups that was supposed to be held later this month or early next month has been canceled? And if so, why? The State Department was helping them in a way, as far as I know.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there was one actually scheduled, so how do you cancel something that's not scheduled? That's our eternal dilemma here. I don't think I have anything new on conferences. We continue to move forward with planning for a broad-based conference of Iraqis to discuss the future of Iraq after Saddam Hussein. The State Department is handling the overall management of this project, as you know. We anticipate receiving appropriate funding. We are continuing consultations with Congress and potential Iraqi participants on a number of issues such as timing, venue, participation and budget. We'll make those details public when we can. So the answer is planning continues, but you can't cancel something that wasn't scheduled.
QUESTION: Is the State Department planning on participating in the conference at American University this weekend that would have a number of those opposition figures that I'm assuming that you are also with for this other conference?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll check.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the visit of the Syrian Foreign Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: The visit by the Syrian Foreign Minister. It just has a lovely roll to it.
The answer at this point is no, but that's something else I'll have to check on for you. Okay?
QUESTION: President Mubarak said that he will press the United States for the declaration of a Palestinian state in 2003. Is United States ready to go along with that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, let us hear it from President Mubarak before we try to answer the question. Let us talk to President Mubarak. We are interested in hearing the views that he has. He has been one of our close partners in this effort, and we look forward to talking to him directly.
Since April 4th, when the President enunciated our view of how to proceed in the Middle East, we have had a whole series of consultations with friends on all parts of the spectrum. The Secretary has been out to the Middle East, as you know. The President himself has met with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. He has met with the King of Jordan. He has met with the King of Morocco. He has met with Prime Minister Sharon already once. He'll see President Mubarak this weekend and meet with Prime Minister Sharon again on Monday. So this process is going forward of gathering the views and different ideas that people have.
We also have Assistant Secretary Burns out in the region right now, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet out there. Once they're back and we've had these consultations, I think we'll be in a better position to describe how we might move forward.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Is the idea of a timeline or a timetable something that you are discussing at the moment?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm going to wait until we hear it from people, from the people we're talking to, and take all this together. Certainly it's something that various parties have talked about in their public remarks, but let us talk to the individual leaders involved and keep our consultations going, and then at that point we'll have a better picture of how we might move forward.
QUESTION: On President Mubarak, given that there are certain things that governments talk about with one another but they don't talk about in public, such as how we know incursions are or are not taking place in Kashmir would be one example, what do you make of his revelation to The New York Times that came out this morning that he had provided very specific evidence on the September 11th attacks?
MR. BOUCHER: What I would say is remember that we cooperate with any number of governments, and certainly we and the Egyptian Government did exchange various pieces of information during the course of last year that indicated the possibility of attacks. We, as you very well know from our public announcements during the course of last summer, we had a large number of reports from various sources that indicated the possibility of attacks. This was credible but not specific information that pointed to al-Qaida threats against United States interests and Egyptians interests, and others as well.
Those discussions, those information exchanges, never produced any particular information about a specific airline hijacking or specific attacks in the United States. So what President Mubarak is saying, if I read the article correctly -- and again, I haven't talked to him myself about it -- just reflects the very close intelligence exchanges and other -- as part of our very broad cooperation with Egypt on security and counterterrorism issues, and it reflects the kind of situation that we've described to you before and that we described in our public warnings last summer that said there's a lot of information that indicates al-Qaida may carry out attacks.
QUESTION: Did he indicate that he was going to go public with the information? And what do you think of heads of state sort of -- I mean, given the climate this is coming out in, with the revelations that the FBI had memos, and sort of is he piling on? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: I would read what he said. I don't think either of those conclusions is justified by what the man actually said.
QUESTION: -- a reflection on the upsurge of political violence in Madagascar?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I have any new reflections today. We've been following this one very closely, working it very closely with the participants involved. We supported the Dakar process, the efforts that are being made that stem from the Dakar meetings, but I'll see if we can get you something new today. I realize there may be some developments.
QUESTION: There are reports in the Arabic press that the Mideast conference would take place in July in Turkey. I was wondering if there was any progress in setting a date for that and whether or not Arab parties other than the Palestinians have been invited.
MR. BOUCHER: No date, timing, guest list, location -- anything like that -- has been decided.
MR. BOUCHER: Nor the agenda. Sorry. I forgot to mention that.
QUESTION: Well, can I -- actually, can I follow up? Have you decided at this point whether you would want the conference to -- the parties to work towards a common view or a common vision for the creation of a Palestinian state and a deal between Israel and the Palestinians? Or should such a vision be spelled out before you get to the conference and debate it there?
MR. BOUCHER: That sounds like an agenda to me, but if it's one of the things I didn't list as not decided, then consider it undecided.
As I said -- as I just said -- with the President's consultations directly with senior leaders from that part of the world, including Prime Minister Sharon and President Mubarak, coming up in the next few days, with the travel of Director of Central Intelligence to the region to work on one piece of the three-part strategy, the security side of things, with the travel of Assistant Secretary Burns to the region to work on the political and diplomatic side, as well as the rebuilding questions, we are in this process of hearing the views of people, getting the ideas, bringing together the ideas that various people have, trying to assess how we might move forward. And after our travelers return and the visitors come, we'll probably be in a better position to assess how some of these things might be done.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the decision announced yesterday by Moody to withdraw Iran from its ratings because of US concerns?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I have to refer you to Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, because they administer our sanctions on Iran and any financial questions with Iran would be affected by that.
QUESTION: So there was no pressure from the State Department on this company?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'll refer you to Treasury, because they're the ones who ultimately handle the financial matters.
QUESTION: On Iran, do you have any reaction to the rather hostile remarks lately? I guess you're not surprised when they come from Khamenei, but also the President Khatami has recently said that he doesn't think rapprochement for the United States is anywhere in sight, and the axis of evil just continues to draw the two countries further apart.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have any particular comments to make about that. We have been quite clear in our view of the problem. We have been quite clear in our view that support for terrorism and development, weapons of mass destruction are indeed particular problems with Iran, as well as other things. But we are also willing to address those, if they are willing to address them.
We have also followed very closely the gradual process of more openness and democratization within Iranian society. That ebbs and flows.
QUESTION: It could be ebbing.
QUESTION: I have a question about yesterday's conference in Bridgetown, Barbados. It seems that four countries, in putting together this anti-terrorism pact, were not immediately signing that, amongst them Canada, Tobago, Trinidad, and others. Why the delay? Is it a question of just paperwork?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, give us credit for having 30 out of 34 members sign. I think there was one member that was not present, and our understanding is that the other three are -- including Canada -- that it's a process question, and each of them has different parliamentary or legal procedures, where treaties might have to sit before parliament for a certain period of time before they can be signed. And so it's merely procedural questions that they have.
But we did have approval of the anti-terrorism convention by consensus by all the countries that were there. And we had 30 nations who were ready to sign it right away. And that's, I think, a fairly significant step forward in terms of very practical steps that can be taken to make this hemisphere totally inhospitable to terrorists. And that's the goal.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:22 p.m. EDT.)