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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing -- September 10

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing -- September 10


Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC September 10, 2002

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT 1 Department Issues Worldwide Caution 2-3 US Embassy Closings Scheduled for Today and Tomorrow 3 Elevated Homeland Security Threat Level / Department Security 3 Secretary Powell's Schedule

IRAQ 4-5 Secretary Powell's Contacts with Foreign Ministers on Iraq 5 Saddam Hussein's Recent Comments

MIDDLE EAST 5 Protests in Gaza

LEBANON 5 Reported Comments by US Ambassador Regarding Hezbollah

TRANSCRIPT:

MR. BOUCHER: Let me start off by saying good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I just want to take a moment to reiterate the Worldwide Caution that we put out last night--yesterday evening. It supercedes our previous Worldwide Caution and remains in effect till October 31st. It's a reminder that we continue to receive credible indications that extremist groups and individuals are planning additional terrorist actions against US interests. These could take many forms. Some could be imminent, some could be suicide operations, some could be against US Government facilities or other identifiably American facilities, but even American citizens could be subject to kidnapping or other acts of violence because of this. In many cases, terrorists do not distinguish between official and nonofficial targets; and in many cases, if they are looking at official targets and find them too well protected, they go looking for less well protected targets.

So the point we're trying to make is that there is a real threat on a global basis that Americans need to be aware of, Americans need to be careful, they need to be vigilant, they need to pay attention to their surroundings, but they need to go forth and do their business, at home or abroad, carefully but safely. That's the point that we've tried to make.

Okay. Questions?

QUESTION: Embassy closings?

MR. BOUCHER: Embassy closings. I have a list of embassies closed for various reasons. The first caveat is this list is constantly changing as embassies make their own decisions about this based on their own security environments. Some of them may open up after they've taken care of what they think they need to do or gotten the kind of cooperation that they have come to expect from local governments. Some may decide to close if they decide there are things that they need to do before they're open to the public.

So we have several embassies and posts that are closed today. Our Embassy in Jakarta, our Consulate General in Surabaya temporarily suspended public operations until further notice. That means not open to the public. US Embassy in Manama in Bahrain has temporarily suspended public operations for the 10th and 11th in order to review their security posture.

I have a number of embassies that are closed tomorrow in order to look at their security postures. That's Hanoi Embassy, Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, Embassy in Islamabad, Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Consulates in Lahore and Peshawar. Embassy Phnom Penh will be closed through Friday the 13th. Embassy in Lilongwe, Malawi; Dushanbe, Tajikistan; and Abu Dhabi are all closed tomorrow.

These posts will reopen at an appropriate time and I'm not going to speculate in each case as to when that might be. I would note as well there are some embassies that are closed tomorrow, but to allow employees to attend commemorative events, so we have those at Abidjan in Cote d'Ivoire, and Praia, Cape Verde; Muscat, Oman; Cape Town, South Africa; Maputo; and Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei.

So that's one, two, three, four, five, six places closed tomorrow so that employees can attend commemorative events, and then we have four others that are closed for local holidays tomorrow in Addis Ababa, Asmara; Kolonia in Micronesia, and Port Louis in Mauritius.

So the summary is about two dozen places that are going to be closed for one reason or another tomorrow, about 15 of those closed because they want to look at their security postures.

Terri.

QUESTION: Isn't it a bit strange that none of the places in the Middle East have decided to close? I mean, I understand that they're under review and the list could change, but wouldn't those be perhaps some of the posts that would proactively decide they're not going to take any --

MR. BOUCHER: Manama is closed today and tomorrow.

QUESTION: Yeah, one of the NEA countries.

MR. BOUCHER: There is any number of factors involved here and embassies look at their overall security situation. It may be that embassies in the Middle East have already done so much over so many years to improve their security posture that they feel comfortable operating as they normally do. Embassies sometimes restrict public access anyway in high-security threat posts.

So these are not just decisions about the kind of information or threat that we may have, they're decisions about how well protected they feel they are and how well they feel they can protect the public who may come to visit them at the embassy.

Betsy.

QUESTION: There are a number that are closed in the Far East. Can you say whether this is related to a poor state of their security because of facilities that may be more vulnerable than others? Was there a specific threat against these? I mean, I was surprised to see Vietnam amongst those.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want my previous answer to be taken as saying we're slacking off in Asia or slacking off somewhere outside of the Middle East. The embassies around the world are on a very high state of alert. We have new and very secure embassies in some places in Asia, as we do in the Middle East and elsewhere.

I would say generally what we have at this moment is a confluence of information -- some of it involving specific and credible threats, some of it also indicating the threat may be broader. So while some of the information directly relates to the Far East, and while some of the information directly relates to the days in and around September 11th, we would not say it's limited to that and we consider this heightened period of alert to be necessary for some time, as well as to be necessary globally around the world, at home and abroad, so that we can make sure that we're safe everywhere we might be.

QUESTION: Richard?

MR. BOUCHER: George.

QUESTION: Somebody over at Homeland Security said the increase from yellow to orange was related to credible and specific threats at embassies. Have you heard that?

MR. BOUCHER: "Somebody"? No, "somebody" didn't call me and tell me that. What I would say is there are embassies closed, as our Embassy in Jakarta is, because of credible and specific threat information, and that in many of these cases, as I said, we have information that's a confluence of a variety of information, some of which is specific and credible.

QUESTION: All right, that's really -- code orange -- is there anything that the State Department must do in this building as a result of the elevated threat status?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I can talk about the specifics and I don't know them either, but generally when there's a domestic level of threat that's raised, there are steps that we and other government agencies do take to make sure that we're more careful, more secure. The specifics of that I will see if I can get for you.

But I would say that generally in any case this week, we have increased the security around this building, around our work area, other buildings where State Department employees work, and our Diplomatic Security folks are putting more guards on the street and making sure the checks are as careful as possible, et cetera, so that we can all be safe and secure and efficient.

Terri.

QUESTION: The Cabinet members I believe are also now -- Vice President Cheney is in his undisclosed location again. Has anything changed in terms of the Secretary's schedule or we'll still planning that he'll go to New York this afternoon?

MR. BOUCHER: No, nothing's changed as far as his schedule goes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: It's just you. We can all go have lunch if you want. Okay.

QUESTION: Is Secretary Powell in touch with other foreign ministers regarding the speech President Bush is going to deliver on first day to the UN on Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to start predicting that we're briefing anybody in particular on the speech the President might give; but I would say the Secretary is in touch with other foreign ministers. About the situation in Iraq, I think he talked to Foreign Minister Fischer this morning about it. He talked to Foreign Secretary Straw yesterday. So he's been keeping in regular touch and he will also expect to see many of them in New York over the next few days. He met with the Bulgarian President yesterday afternoon. They talked about Iraq a bit, as well.

Okay. Let's go work our way that way.

Betsy.

QUESTION: Can you say in general what the response has been from the people that he has talked to?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll leave it to others to make their own public statements. As you know there are many in the international community that agree that Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction is a serious danger for all of us; particularly when we've met with neighboring countries, they have made quite clear that if Iraq were to be able to us weapons of mass destruction it would be a serious threat to everybody in the neighborhood.

Second of all, I think UN Security Council members agree that Iraq has been consistently in violation of the resolutions that have been passed and which Iraq accepted. So there is appreciation of the fact that Iraq's confrontation is with the world; Iraq's defiance is of the world. And so on that basis, we're continuing our discussions about how the world should deal with it.

QUESTION: Can you say whether these people seem to generally agree that this should be a UN-solved situation?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't think I want to characterize their views so much as just describe the atmosphere that we're working in now. There are a lot of people who want to see the UN take various kinds of specific action and the President is considering a lot of the consultations that he has had and a lot of the views that we're getting and a lot of the need to deal with the issue. And we'll hear from the President in only a day or two, so let's not try to get ahead of that.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the French plan or the French outline that was given yesterday?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Didn't yesterday, don't today.

Joel.

QUESTION: Any reaction by the State Department to Saddam Hussein's statements and bellicose words concerning the United States and Israel? And also there were protests in Gaza where an American flag was trampled and it was a pro-Iraqi type of rally.

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't notice the protest in Gaza. I think we've seen things like that before. I think the only point I would make, and I don't want to get back into where we were in the Gulf War where the Iraqis would say something, an hour later we'd stand up to say something and, you know, we're sort of playing ping pong.

The fact is, the Iraqi regime is threatening Arabs, its own people, its neighbors; they've killed thousands of Muslims with gas; used gas on fellow Muslims in the Iran-Iraq War; murdered the Shi'ites. There is no question that the threat to the Muslim world, in part, emanates from the Iraqi regime. And the world needs to deal with this fact: with the oppression, with the threat that this represents, with the development of weapons of mass destruction that will threaten many, many more people in the Middle East, who I think need to realize that we'd all be better off, the whole world, but especially the Muslim world, would be better off without him. I'll leave it at that.

Terri.

QUESTION: I have another question on the Middle East. Last week Deputy Secretary Armitage called Hezbollah the A-team in terrorism and al-Qaida only the B-team. But I now hear that there's some discontent in Jerusalem because the US Ambassador to Lebanon said a recent Hezbollah attack was not a terrorist attack. The Jerusalem Post wrote an article about this. How can you say that they're the A-team in terrorism, but their attacks would not be terrorist attacks?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm not going to -- I can't assume that everything you say is true. Let us check the quotes on the US Ambassador to Lebanon before I start comparing and contrasting. Okay?

QUESTION: Okay. Would you take it as a taken question.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll take it as a taken question. Hezbollah is a very serious organization, a serious issue for us all, including our ambassadors overseas. And I know that the US Ambassador in Lebanon spends a lot of his time working on the dangers that Hezbollah represents to all of us and to the region, as well.

Thank you.

[End]

Released on September 10, 2002


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