State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for October 28
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 28, 2004
- Arrival of Nigerian Troops in Darfur on U.S. Military Aircraft
- Contributions from Other Countries / Expanded Deployment / African Union
- Troop Contributions / Mandate
- Reports of Continuing Attacks / AU Ceasefire Monitoring
- Humanitarian Situation
- Uighur Detainees in Guantanamo Bay / Resettlement
- Secretary's Meeting with General Liang Guanglie
- Secretary's Meetings in China
- Chairman Arafat's Health / Access to Proper Medical Care
- Castro's Health
- Sale of F-16s to Pakistan
- Permanent Seat on the UN Security Council
- India's Hosting of Than Shwe of Burma
- U.S. / India Relations
- Rumors of WMD Movement from Iraq Into Syria
- Kidnapping of Polish Woman in Iraq
- EU-3 Conversations with Iranians on Nuclear Programs
- Proliferation Security Initiative Exercise / North Korean
- Six Party Talks Timetable
- Warden Messages, Public Announcements and Travel Warnings
- Threat Information
12:50 p.m. EDT
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I'd like to talk about one thing at the top, and that's the arrival of Nigerian troops in Darfur aboard U.S. military aircraft.
The United States transported a 47-man Nigerian unit to Darfur today to commence the accelerated deployment of an expanded African Union mission. The U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft carried these troops from Abuja to Al Fasher, Sudan. The United States will continue to furnish two U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft to provide transport for additional African troops, other personnel and equipment to Darfur over the next two weeks.
The deployment, as you know, has come after months, I think, of concerted efforts by the United States and others to secure an increase in the number of African Union monitors and protection forces in Darfur. We think this is essential to providing security for the people there, and we hope that the airlift provided by the United States can contribute to that end as the Africans deploy and as they provide better monitoring and supervision on the ground.
Secretary Powell has been talking about this with the Secretary General for a number of months now. As you know, the United Nations Security Council, in September, passed Resolution 1546 calling for an expanded deployment. The Secretary met with President Obasanjo of Nigeria in September in New York and has kept in touch with the Secretary General throughout. We've been working with the various African nations to try to coordinate these deployments with them. We've had people at the African Union Headquarters in Addas Ababa and our diplomats have been working on this in various African capitals, including Abuja, Nigeria and Kigali, Rwanda.
The final thing I would note is that a number of countries have come forward with money to help support the African Union deployment. The United States has identified another 19 million or so, so we now have $40.3 million to support this deployment. We certainly welcome the European Union's announcement of $100 million to support the deployment, as well as contributions from Canada, Netherlands, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Australia and others to ensure that the African Union has the support it needs. And that's something, again, that the Secretary has been discussing with other nations in his bilateral meetings and in meetings such as the European Union meeting in New York. I think you'll remember when we were up there, we described to many of you that the Secretary had put Sudan at the top of the agenda at various G-8 and EU meetings, and that subject of supporting this deployment was there.
So today is the beginning of that deployment that we think is very important to help stabilize the security situation and bring some safety to the people of Darfur. Our support for this mission, I think, reflects our continuing commitment to restore peace and security in the region and to alleviate suffering.
We continue to urge all parties to cooperate with the African Union and to work with each other to conclude negotiations that can end the violence and the atrocities and inaugurate a new peace in Sudan.
QUESTION: Do you know how many AU troops are supposed to be deployed in all?
MR. BOUCHER: The -- I'm not sure the -- how many will go when?
QUESTION: In all.
MR. BOUCHER: In all.
QUESTION: What's the goal?
MR. BOUCHER: The goal is around --
MR. CASEY: 3,500.
MR. BOUCHER: -- 3,500, yeah, total. So this is just the first bit. But we are transporting this contingent and then we'll continue, I think, now with troops from Rwanda as well, and then we'll be moving troops for about two weeks. And then we understand that others, including Australia, are prepared to step in right behind us and continue the airlift.
We have also prepared the ground. The contract that we've had already with several contractors, PA&E Government Services and DynCorp, have made the necessary preparations in Darfur for accommodations and reception for these troops as they come in.
QUESTION: I've just got two things about this. One, you talked about the importance of this deployment in terms of providing security. Their mandate, if I -- and want to check this -- but if I understand it correctly, their mandate is to protect the existing monitors, correct? It is not to actually protect camps or people.
MR. BOUCHER: This involves both additional monitors and additional protection forces for the monitors. And yes, their primary mandate is to monitor the situation, observe the situation and make sure that those who do observe are protected.
But I think if you look at the mandate, you will also see that they're empowered to intervene when there s imminent danger, that they are going to be deploying through a wide area in Darfur. The presence of observers, the presence of troops under the existing mandate, we think, can be a major stabilizing force. It can help inhibit those who might perpetrate violence and stop them, and if necessary, stop them if they're in the process of committing such acts.
QUESTION: Okay. And then, technically, the -- I know that you talked about the additional $19 million the United States has identified, bringing to 40.3 your contribution.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Does that include -- to what extent, if at all, does that include funding for the C-130s and the associated U.S. military personnel? In other words, is that mostly to pay for our airlift, or is that for something else?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think that counts the airlift costs at all.
QUESTION: Okay. So what is it for?
MR. BOUCHER: The costs of the C-130 and the -- that's for the contracting, the services to support the African Union there, the logistical support that's provided by these contractors, that sort of thing.
QUESTION: Do you have a -- you mentioned Rwanda as being one of the countries that will be providing troops.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have a complete list of African nations that'll be providing troops for this effort?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a complete list yet. The African Union has been working this out and I think they are still talking to some people about contributions. So at least in this initial phase, it looks like we'll be moving the Nigerians and then Rwandans.
QUESTION: Richard, it's been four months, almost to the day -- just a couple of days off -- since the Secretary was in Darfur. And we all know -- I think everybody in this room knows -- the timeline of what's happened at the UN, and all of this. My question really is: What does it say that it takes so long, it seems to me, four months, to get this work in place when --
MR. BOUCHER: Hold on. That's not a fair characterization.
QUESTION: Well, no, I'm not saying --
MR. BOUCHER: It's not like nothing has happened in four months and suddenly it's happening today.
QUESTION: Wait a minute. I'm not saying that people -- I am not saying people haven't been working for the four months.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not saying that either. I'm not arguing people have been working on it. I'm arguing things have happened on the ground. It's not fair to say nothing happened on the ground for four months and now suddenly something is happening.
African Union got in there very quickly, and we supported that and we paid for it and we helped them. And when the Secretary visited, you remember, the African Union was already there with their initial troops, and since then we have helped and supported their deployments to expand to their original numbers which were -- what, 350, something like that? -- and then -- and now we're doing a further expansion which was decided by the UN, not even a month ago I think, if you look back. I don't remember the exact date of Resolution 1546.
Second of all, a lot of the initial effort when the Secretary was there was to make sure that the aid could flow. Up until that point, we had had enormous problems getting the assistance in, had enormous problems getting the trucks in, enormous problems getting the humanitarian workers in, enormous problems getting the airplanes in. And after the Secretary and the Secretary General visited, at that point, we were able to get the government to drop its obstacles, open up the routes, open up the other route through Libya, and actually start taking care of the people in the camps.
So what's really happened over the last four months is we've been able to take care of people who can get to the camps, and we've done, I think, a lot better job on that. And we've been able to feed people and give them shelter and take care of them if they can get to the camps. We've been able to expand the camp system and sort of bring many of the camps that were substandard up to a higher standard. We've been able to increase the number of humanitarian workers who could get in there.
But nonetheless, the overall situation in Darfur has remained very difficult for people because they could stay in the camps and get fed but they couldn't go back and grow their crops during the rainy season, they couldn't go back to their homes. They, in many cases, you've seen the reports, can't go out and get firewood outside the camps without facing the risk of banditry or rape or other things like that.
So the effort was to expand the African Union forces beyond the small number that they had that was investigating and reporting on violations of the ceasefire to the point where there was a sufficient deployment of African Union forces now, which may help stabilize the situation a little more broadly.
Now it remains vital that the parties themselves reach agreement. And so we have been -- parties are back in Abuja at the peace talks, the Darfur talks, and we have senior diplomatic representation there. We're working with them on that, and the parties are still in contact in Nairobi on the broader question of final conclusion of the north-south agreement. That remains very important to us and we continue to work on that.
I think there is a recess for Ramadan, but we're still -- at the leaders level, but we're still working with them at senior committees to discuss ceasefire details. And they'll be continuing, we think, those discussions there, at least until the end of October, and then they'll have to return shortly after that.
QUESTION: Richard, it always intrigues me when you answer a question in an incredibly defensive way, when the question itself was not accusatory in any nature at all, by any standards, I think. Is it not a fact that you would have liked to have seen this expanded --
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, I differ with you on that, but go ahead and ask your accusatory question.
QUESTION: No, no, no. I said it always intrigues me. So if you can differ with that, that's fine, but it's my intrigue that --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, go ahead anyway.
QUESTION: I'm just curious. Charlie's question didn't say that the U.S. hadn't done anything.
MR. BOUCHER: What Charlie said is how come it took us so long to do this, and implying that we hadn't done anything.
QUESTION: In fact, he didn't. He said, "What does it say that it took so long to& " Is it not a fact that you guys would have liked to have seen these people, this expanded African Union --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not -- I don't want anybody to write this story without remembering the story of what happened. That's all.
QUESTION: Is it not a fact that the United States would have preferred, would have liked it, if these troops, this expanded troop -- these expanded African Union forces, had been on the ground earlier?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a fact that we wish that everything possible to stop the violence could be done right away, as soon as it was decided. That's what we've been doing, and we've done it through a series of steps and a series of buildups to take care of problems like people who are in imminent danger of dying because of lack of food and medical care, and to take care of some of the broader questions as well.
QUESTION: So the answer to Charlie's question could have been, "Well, it takes a lot of time and we spend a lot of time trying to get -- trying to work out the logistics for these people to get their -- "
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to argue with you. I've said my piece. You know the history of this now. I don't want anybody to think that "it takes a lot of time" means we haven't done anything yet, and I hope the broader audience beyond the first two rows will understand that as well.
Do you have a question?
QUESTION: That was my question. Would you not have --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, okay. Arshad.
QUESTION: Would you not have preferred it --
MR. BOUCHER: Arshad.
QUESTION: -- had these additional forces been there sooner?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll move on to Arshad.
QUESTION: You've talked about how people in the camps are still being prevented from going out for firewood and things like that, and I was wondering if you could give a characterization of to what extent the kind of broad-scale Jingaweit attacks that one saw earlier this year are still continuing.
MR. BOUCHER: We are still getting reports. There continue to be allegations of attacks in Darfur by both the rebels and the Government of Sudan. We have encouraged both sides to abide by the ceasefire agreement and to sign the humanitarian security protocols at the peace talks in Abuja.
The African Union has been alerted to these allegations and they, we think, are commencing investigations, or at least will soon. The African Union has continued to monitor the ceasefire. We know from their previous reports that both rebels and government have instigated and supported such attacks in the past, including the recent past, and that the Government of Sudan has played a particularly egregious role by supporting the Jingaweit militia. And because these allegations continue to come in, even if they haven't been investigated yet, it has to be our presumption that such attacks have continued.
QUESTION: Is it safe to say, given what you just said, that very few, if any, of the displaced have been able to return to their homes?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's generally the situation. I don't know if there might be some slight local variation in that, but I have not seen any reports of significant numbers of people being able to leave the camps and go back to their homes with any safety.
QUESTION: Earlier this year, we heard from a lot of people, including the AID Director, about the fears of disease spreading rapidly, with devastating effect. Have those fears essentially abated now because you feel like you've been able to get aid workers in and secure the camps better, or not?
MR. BOUCHER: We'd have to ask the experts to get a better read on it. I think you can never say it's abated, that some of the biggest dangers of disease and disease spreading occur in the rainy season. We have had situations like with outbreaks of measles and other diseases where there was that particular fear and it was, I think, dealt with in the camps. But it remains a constant fear and a constant danger that either disease will spread in the camps or that people who are malnourished and, you know, wandering outside the camps will succumb to other diseases. So I think it is quite a serious concern and remains that, a concern.
QUESTION: Can we have a new topic?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: The Financial Times is reporting today that Germany and other European countries have rejected U.S. requests to accept Chinese Uighur prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay as refugees. It goes on to quote a State Department official, saying that U.S. -- the U.S. would have to consider sending these Uighurs back to China, but would require an ironclad guarantee that they wouldn't be persecuted.
Why doesn't the U.S. take these people themselves? And does this consideration of sending them back to China represent any sort of change in policy?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's not what we're considering.
There are a number of Uighur detainees at Guantanamo that have been determined not to pose a threat any longer to the United States or its allies, and we've -- the Pentagon's approved of their release. These people do not wish to return to China and we're certainly not in a position to say that it's -- that they wouldn't be tortured or persecuted.
And so we're looking -- we're still looking into resettlement of the Uighurs outside of China. We have talked to several countries and we're continuing our efforts to find a country or countries that would be willing and interested in accepting them.
QUESTION: Are they not allowed to seek asylum here?
MR. BOUCHER: That's, frankly, not a question I'd asked. I'll have to find out if there's any --
QUESTION: Wouldn't that be, like, the first thing that one would ask? I mean, if they were on Guantanamo Bay, U.S. soil, right now -- I mean, maybe they, that they would ask.
MR. BOUCHER: Guantanamo Bay is not U.S. soil.
QUESTION: Oh, I thought that that was the entire argument that --
QUESTION: No. It's the -- it's because we rent it from the Cubans.
MR. BOUCHER: It's the -- yeah.
QUESTION: So it's not U.S. soil.
QUESTION: Well, they're under U.S. jurisdiction. I would have thought that if I -- that if someone was a Uighur and you're -- U.S. -- or anyone under U.S. jurisdiction, the first place you might look -- and you have been given a clean bill of health -- do you know if they have asked?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if they have asked. As you know, we don't comment on asylum, but maybe I can answer the general question of whether these people would in some way be eligible if they wanted -- if they were to apply. I don't know what the answer is, frankly.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Has anybody in the U.S. Government been in contact with representatives of Chairman Arafat regarding his condition? And if so, what's your understanding of, you know, what his condition is? And what is the situation politically with the Palestinian Authority?
MR. BOUCHER: The answer to the first question is -- have we been in touch with the Palestinians -- the answer is yes. We've been in touch with the Palestinians at senior levels through our Consulate General in Jerusalem as well as directly in phone calls to and from Washington. We've also stayed in close touch with the Israelis as the situation has developed.
As far as our understanding of his health, I really don't pretend to be able to give you a medical report. We're watching the reports ourselves as they come out, and I think there's quite a bit of information available out there, so I really have to refer you to the Palestinian Authority to get any updates on that sort of thing.
We do understand that arrangements regarding his travel and medical care are being worked out in a constructive manner between Israelis and Palestinians, and so that's -- we are staying in touch with them on that to see how that evolves. And I note that the Israeli Government has said that they will facilitate access to proper medical care for Mr. Arafat.
I think that pretty much deals with the questions you raised.
QUESTION: The Israeli Government has also said, the Prime Minister's spokesman, Mr. Gissin, has said that if Arafat leaves and his doctors say he needs to come back that they will allow him to come back. Are you pleased by that? And did you at all raise that matter with the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: This is something that they appear to have worked out between Israelis and Palestinians. Certainly it's something we've asked about and we've gotten similar answers. But you know, in our view, it's not a political situation, it's a matter of someone being able to get appropriate medical care, and that's the way it should be handled.
QUESTION: And you said you'd been in touch with Palestinians at senior levels. No U.S. official, however, has sort of broken the recent U.S. policy of not dealing directly with Arafat. Nobody's actually tried to --
MR. BOUCHER: No, we haven't talked to him.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think he's in a position to talk to anybody in any case. We're talking to senior people around him.
QUESTION: Richard, last week, when another septuagenarian leader that the United States has problems with -- you didn't have too many kind words to wish him in his recovery from medical problems. I'm wondering if that's still -- if that's the position with this, with this one.
MR. BOUCHER: These are not political matters. The gentleman is very ill. We hope that he gets the medical care that he needs to return to health.
QUESTION: So he isn't on the same -- he is not -- your antagonism toward him is not the same as it is toward Castro? He's been a thorn in our side for--
MR. BOUCHER: I am not making a comparison and that's not the question I was asked last week, so it's not the answer I gave.
QUESTION: Okay. Would you wish Chairman Arafat a speedy recovery? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: This is not a political matter for us. It's a matter of seeing that an ill person gets the medical care they need for health. That's our wish and our hope in this circumstance.
QUESTION: Are you worried that his departure from the scene may usher in a period of internecine bloodletting among Palestinians as they try to find a leader?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's appropriate for us to speculate at this point, first of all. And second of all, I think if you do follow what's going out there, and we have been, that the Palestinians seem to be working out their own arrangements for governance and for responsible leadership. They have a prime minister. They have a government. And so we're following that -- those discussions among them at this point. But that's where it should be. This is going to be something they're going to have to work on whether it's during a period of illness or something else.
QUESTION: They still don't seem, however, to have done what you've been asking them to do for years, which is to say, to get control of the multiple security services. And that's really where my question was going.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think one can predict things, one way or the other, at this point. Certainly, our overall view of what needs to be done remains the same, that in order to -- well, it remains the same. It's not a political moment, in any case.
QUESTION: New subject?
Richard, there were several demonstrations New York, one by the United Nations against India by the Kashmiris, who were saying that human rights abuses and the resolution of Kashmir. And another was, Indian Americans against the sale of F-16s to Pakistan. But they were saying that most of the weapons sold by the U.S. to Pakistan were used against India. And if U.S. is serious about Pakistan and India and their negotiations and peaceful resolution of Kashmir and a problem with them, why U.S. is selling weapons to India and Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: No decisions have been made on the sale of F-16s to Pakistan. I think that's the premise that all this question is based on and it's the truth. The facts are no decisions have been made.
QUESTION: Another question, if I may, on -- China has declared in India that they support the Permanent Security Council seat for India. And what do you think what the U.S. has to say on China's or what U.S. -- does U.S. support?
MR. BOUCHER: The U.S. is waiting to see the report from the imminent persons group that's been appointed and we will react when that comes out.
QUESTION: On the same area, may I have one more, please?
This issue has been going on for the last -- since January of this year, and now today's Washington Times report by Mr. Bill Gertz has said that WMDs or weapons were moved from Iraq to Syria by the Russians. We did a story in India back on February 17, investigative story by Dr. Bujama (ph), who is a scientist. He picked up the story in February that weapons were moved from Syria -- from Iraq to Syria, but from Syria they went all the way to Pakistan.
What I'm asking is if anybody looked at this, especially today's Washington --
MR. BOUCHER: These sort of rumors have been around for a long time. As far as I know, they have never been corroborated. The experts on this are over at the Pentagon, and I think I'd have to leave you to ask over at the Pentagon if there is any corroboration or facts that would lead to that conclusion.
QUESTION: Richard, on India.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, sure.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Senator McConnell unleashed a torrent of criticism against the Indians for hosting Than Shwe. I'm wondering if the -- you know, he would be the head of junta in Burma.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, in Burma.
QUESTION: You looked a little confused. I am just wondering if you share Senator McConnell's opinion that the world's oldest democracy hosting the leader of a military junta is a good thing.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me check on it and see if we have something to say. Certainly, our views of the regime, the junta in Burma, have not changed, and in fact, have been -- reinforced our concerns recently by the changes that occurred there. So, certainly, our view about Burma and the government there have not changed at all, but whether we've -- whether we have any comment on other people hosting them, let me just check.
QUESTION: Let me just say, I meant to say largest democracy not oldest.
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. We're the oldest, right?
QUESTION: May I follow -- just a quick follow-up, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: Senator Lugar, he requested a CRS report, in which he said that, according to the report, that India, according to the State Department or CRS report, India is still on the -- India is a rogue state from the U.S.
MR. BOUCHER: I have never said that.
QUESTION: Why do you think that it has been printed?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what you're talking about, but I have never said it nor have I ever seen it. I don't read every Indian newspaper, nor do I trust every Indian newspaper. So I'd just come back and --
QUESTION: I don t trust them all either. That s why I came to you.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I have never said anything like that, nor do I know of anybody in the State Department that has ever said anything like that.
QUESTION: Well, let me ask you quickly, how do you feel today as far as India-U.S. relations?
MR. BOUCHER: I feel fine, thank you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: About Iran. Has Secretary Powell talked to any of the EU-3, and have they shared with him that the talks are going to resume on November 5th?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary hasn't gotten any direct phone calls from his counterparts, but we've certainly been in touch at other levels, both through our mission in Vienna and directly with some of the people back in Washington who work with the EU-3. And so we're starting to get reports from them about their conversations with the Iranians yesterday. We do understand they'll be meeting again soon. And we'll just leave it at that for the moment. I don't think there is anything new to report from our side.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell had just met Chinese PLA Chief, General Liang. Do you have anything on that, especially, did they discuss Taiwan?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary did meet today with General Liang Guanglie, Chairman of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army. General Liang is in Washington at the invitation of Chairman of the Joint Staff, General Myers. The Secretary and General Liang reviewed issues raised during the Secretary's recent visit to Beijing, including our mutual commitment to the six-party process. They also discussed U.S.-China military-to-military exchanges.
Yes, the issue of Taiwan did come up. The Secretary reiterated our policy on the cross-strait question. He noted that our position remains unchanged, is based on a "one China" policy, commitments to the three joint communiqués and upholding our responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act.
QUESTION: Is anyone going to send out a notice to senior officials reminding them of the delicacy with which both the Chinese and Taiwanese regard statements from U.S. officials about this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we all understand that and we have all maintained a consistent policy on this.
QUESTION: Just on this one. Did the Uighurs come up in this? And if they didn't, or even if --
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Okay. Was that an element of the Secretary's conversations when in Beijing? I remember that someone told us there were about 29 or 30 issues on the table.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, 30, I think, we agreed on at the end. Yeah, the Uighur -- the question of the Uighurs at Guantanamo did come up from the Chinese side and the Secretary explained our view.
QUESTION: Okay. And I know you don't want to characterize their position, but their interest -- would you say that their interest is in having them returned?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: One question. I don't know if you will have seen this because I think it came out shortly before the briefing. North Korea has harshly criticized U.S.-led naval exercises in the region. I was wondering if you had any comment on this.
MR. BOUCHER: Are you talking about the Proliferation Security Initiative exercise?
QUESTION: Yeah, (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I think they have been criticizing that for a little while now, but I think we've explained it pretty adequately. Under Secretary Bolton was out there, delivered a speech and explained, I think, the exercise to the media and said nobody who's not -- I'm about to introduce a triple negative -- that any country -- no country should be concerned if they are not trafficking in illegal -- weapons of mass destruction. That was a double negative, too.
I was trying -- anyway, you get the drift, right? No country should be concerned if they are not trafficking in illegal weapons or weapons of mass destruction
QUESTION: Richard, can I ask a semi-frivolous question about this exercise?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Since the State Department has so much to do with negotiating PSI and -- well, not its members or -- but who -- do you -- can you -- do you know or can you find out who came up with the name for this operation, which is being called "Operation Samurai," I believe?
MR. BOUCHER: I, frankly, don't know.
QUESTION: Which would seem -- which, the name of which would seem to be less than non-antagonistic towards people in the -- towards countries in the region.
QUESTION: Certainly less than diplomatic, anyway.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, what can I say? You know, what I know about Samurais is based on Japanese movies and they're always the defenders of the people.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
Do you have any information about kidnapping or -- in Iraq of Polish woman in Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: A Polish woman?
QUESTION: Yes, Polish.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I'll have to check on that. Of course, we follow these situations closely. We keep in touch with countries whose nationals might have been kidnapped, but I don't have anything particular on that situation, no.
QUESTION: There is a report from Polish Government that women -- civilian women in Iraq should leave Iraq. Do you think it is necessary for civilian in Iraq of alliance country to leave Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it -- we've -- as we've said before, each nation will have to decide what advice it gives its own nationals based on how it sees the situation, what sort of circumstances they might be in and what kind of protection that might be available to them, so we have left it to each nation to decide what the appropriate advice is for its nationals because we recognize that peoples' circumstances differ.
MR. BOUCHER: Ma'am.
QUESTION: Back to the --
QUESTION: Well --
MR. BOUCHER: You want to talk about kidnappers and -- kidnappers in Iraq?
QUESTION: Well, I was going to talk about just advice in general, but if she's -- let her go first.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you.
One Chinese official is reported to say that six-party talks to be resumed to be held in -- maybe in China at the end of November. I'm wondering if that was -- the timetable was something that he talked about in Beijing and where -- are you talk -- are you discussing this with Chinese on this topic?
MR. BOUCHER: When we were in Beijing, there was no timetable given to us. And I don't know if this is speculative or if they have some new information, but at the point that -- where the Secretary was holding his meetings in Beijing, as well as meetings in Japan and Korea, everyone agreed that we should try to get back to talks as soon as possible, that five of us in the talks had been ready to go in September, were ready to go in October and are still ready to go as soon as the North Koreans come around and say that they're prepared to come back to talks.
So we certainly hope that they do come forward, but as far as I know, we have not received any new information that the North Koreans have, in fact, stopped their stalling and agreed to come back to the table.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Sir.
QUESTION: And just going back to the subject of travel advice: By my count, which may be inaccurate or not completely inclusive, in the past week, since the 21st, the State Department, either itself or through embassies, in at least eight countries, and I think it may be as many as ten well, the State Department or embassies have put out Warden Notices or Travel Warnings or Public Announcements for at least eight countries, maybe as many as ten -- the latest ones from Indonesia, Afghanistan --
QUESTION: Well, that -- yeah, yesterday. But there was one from Afghanistan today. The Indonesia Warden Message was yesterday. The Saudi, Russia, Nepal. Obviously some of them -- Laos and Nepal -- are for domestic reasons. But others, particularly Israel, Jordan, Saudi, have mentioned al-Qaida and Zarkawi. And I'm wondering if the -- if you're noticing -- if the reason for this is, one reason for this is that you're noticing an uptick in information, in threat information and chatter, about potential threats to U.S. citizens and interests in these countries.
MR. BOUCHER: That's an interesting question. I think I would have to say the Travel Warnings and the number of Travel Warnings, even ones that mention al-Qaida, are not a very direct indicator of what al-Qaida activity we may be seeing because you have particular situations, like in Indonesia where the trial of Mr. Bashir has started.
You have things that have occurred where, you know, we're sort of recording them in terms of advice for the traveling public, or you have some kind of ongoing information that may be more detail on something, some threat that you're already aware of, where you can be a little more precise in your advice. So there are a variety of reasons that we do travel advice, and it doesn't necessarily indicate or reflect the greater or lower level of activity by al-Qaida.
So let me ask the question of my people differently: Are we seeing an upsurge in the kind of threat that al-Qaida might present in the world these days?
QUESTION: Okay, because the reason it jumped out at me is because the -- it seems that the last time there was such a concentration of warnings issued for foreign locations was in the months, one or two months ahead of 9/11. And so that's what leads me to the question, if there has been some, some reason for you, for you all, or your posts abroad are getting information that potentially there's --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it is a good indicator of what the level of threat or chatter might be. Let me ask that question separately.
QUESTION: Could I ask you to follow up on --
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Specifically on Saudi Arabia, a State Department official on background said that you had not received any new, specific threat information, but that you continue to receive general threat information against Western and American interests in Saudi Arabia.
Why did you -- but the advice in the Travel Warning is basically almost identical to the previous one and I'm therefore wondering why you felt it necessary to reissue, basically, the same warning, which wasn't set to expire or anything. Is it just that the volume of general information is such? Because you guys get that stuff all the time, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. I don't even know if it's -- it's not exactly volume. If it was volume, we'd try to reflect that. I think it's the fact that we continue to get the kind of information that we have been getting that there is a threat to Western interests, Western-associated kind of locations in Saudi Arabia, and that we periodically renew our Travel Warning even when it hasn't come due if we feel that we can be maybe a little more analytical or precise in our advice. So there's a few things here and there in this warning that might not have appeared in earlier ones based on our understanding or our current description of the threat.
And I guess a lot of that is based on the fact that when we do give advice to our own people or change the way that, you know, places we tell our own people to go or not go, or stay or not stay, then we've -- there's no double standard. We put kind of information out to the public.
QUESTION: So just one more on this thing.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Several of these specifically that I can remember, the Warden Message from Israel and the Warden Message from Jordan, talk about threats worldwide, including in those two specific countries. Do you know if there's any talk or if there's any discussion of issuing a new Worldwide Caution in the next day or so?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me check with my colleagues. They usually hear about it before I do.
Nobody has heard about it, but that's not a promise that it won't happen. But no, not that we've heard about at this end of it, which is at the end of the stream, not the beginning.
Okay, thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)
DPB # 177