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Interim State Dept. Briefing by Richard Boucher

Interim State Dept. Briefing by Spokesman Richard Bo ucher

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release September 12, 2001 2001/696



September 12, 2001 Washington, D.C.

MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to disappoint you. The Secretary is not going to make it at this time. He is over at a meeting at the White House that ran longer than anyone expected, and now he has got another meeting at the White House so he is going to stay over there. So we are going to have to wait. The Secretary will talk to you today. We are going to have to find a time, probably early to mid- afternoon, when it will work. And we'll get back to you more precisely with that.

What he has been doing today since early in the morning is, first of all, meeting with his team over here and talking to the staff here. Second of all, he has been making a variety of international phone calls. He has talked to Lord Robertson, the Secretary General of NATO. He has talked to Javier Solana, the European High Representative. He has talked to Foreign Minister Peres twice. He has talked to Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary of Great Britain. And he has talked to Kofi Annan. And he will continue to make phone calls with foreign leaders throughout the day.

QUESTION: Could you just describe for us --

MR. BOUCHER: And third of all, he has been obviously meeting with the White House and national security team over there.

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QUESTION: Could you explain what the Secretary was saying this morning about 25 percent of the embassies. Did he mean closed or reducing their services? Is he talking about both embassies and missions?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, he's talking about missions -- embassies and consulates. There are 40 -- no, there are 50-some. We don't have an exact count for you, but 50-some of our embassies or consulates overseas that have felt it necessary to close.

As you know, we told embassies, told ambassadors, to make these decisions based on their own local security requirements. There is no particular threats, specific threats or warnings that we have for individual embassies or embassies as a whole, but in this heightened security environment we wanted everybody to look at their own procedures, decide if they were safe, and take appropriate precautions.

So there have been closings in various places. We are sure that everybody will reopen as soon as they think it's safe. And all these people maintain a way of doing emergency services for Americans, even when they're closed.

QUESTION: You said he spoke to Lord Robertson. In that conversation or otherwise, did he encourage the movement toward Article V adoption by the ambassadors as a way of solidarity -- not necessarily committing force -- but showing solidarity, with the US in this terrible time?

MR. BOUCHER: Has NATO issued a statement?

QUESTION: Not yet. There are some people who have to know, some reporters have --

MR. BOUCHER: Some reporters have reported about it?

QUESTION: That it's under consideration.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave it for NATO to do this. We have been in touch with our mission at NATO and the Secretary has been in touch with Lord Robertson indeed about the question of working together with our NATO allies and coordinating with our NATO allies on these matters.

QUESTION: The notion that the United States will hold countries that harbor those involved or that have harbored those involved in this act will now be held responsible has been described in media as a major policy shift for the United States, a major sort of upping of the ante, if you will.

How do you see it?

MR. BOUCHER: I see it the way the Secretary of State will see it when he meets with you. I really just came down here to disappoint you all. I didn't mean to try to take broad and expansive and extended questioning. I think that's a good question to ask the Secretary when he comes down. Clearly the fight against terrorism is one that is going to have to be carried on in a very serious manner.

QUESTION: There is talk about a G-8 meeting, which Prime Minister Blair is pushing hard for, and within Russia, and to build a consensus if the United States should decide to take action. And is that correct, and do you have a view of that?

MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen the talk about the G-8 meeting. That's something we can check on before we come back again. We have indeed been in touch with the Russians, and I think we received a message from President Putin that was quite strong in terms of support and sympathy.

QUESTION: Can you give us a list of some of the embassies that you know are closed today, even if it's a partial list.

MR. BOUCHER: We have tried to avoid highlighting the security circumstances in particular places, so I think what I'd like to do is, give me a chance to go back and check which are closed and which have made public announcements. Because obviously those are things we can collect and get to you. But I'll try to do that for you and get you some kind of list.

QUESTION: You said that the Secretary spoke twice with Foreign Minister Peres. What did they talk about?

MR. BOUCHER: I would leave that to him, I think later.

QUESTION: Is there still a potential for an Arafat-Peres meeting? Is that something the Secretary is pushing for right now?

MR. BOUCHER: We are obviously still .... There is one dominant subject of all our conversations these days, but clearly we are still doing the nation's diplomatic business as well. And I think that's a good question you can ask the Secretary later if you wish.

QUESTION: There are reports out of Islamabad that US officials contacted the Musharraf government last night, and they now are sending a military delegation to Kabul. Can you confirm any of this?

MR. BOUCHER: I can confirm that we have been in contact with the Pakistani Government at various levels, but I don't think I can go into anything more specific than that. I hadn't heard about this report that we were sending a delegation. I'll have to check on that.

QUESTION: Not we, but I'm saying that the Pakistanis are sending a delegation at the US request.

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, that the Pakistanis -- I don't know about that. But I'll tell you that we have indeed been in touch with the Pakistani Government and we will stay in touch with them.

QUESTION: Any communication by anybody in the US Government with the Taliban leadership?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'll have to check on that. Again, I have to apologize a little bit. I just came down to give you the news that the Secretary couldn't do this and so I'm not prepared on every single question at this moment.

QUESTION: What was your interpretation of Saddam Hussein's comments yesterday?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have one for you at this point.

QUESTION: Has there been any particular communication with the government at the United Arab Emirates?

MR. BOUCHER: We have been in touch with governments around the world. I don't know what particularly we might have said to the United Arab Emirates, but I'm sure we have been in touch.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the embassies that have been closed are in Islamic countries?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't say that. There are posts throughout the world. And it's not because of a particular sense of threat in a particular place. We still do know that there is good cause for vigilance, and our Worldwide Warnings still apply. But as each mission looks at its security situation, where does it feel safe, where does it feel its vulnerabilities are, are there vulnerabilities that we can correct by local action and things like that.

And I would say the other thing is that around the world our missions have been asking host governments for support and assistance in all kinds of things: closing down streets, adding more guards, adding more patrols, having visible police presence, things like that. And in every single case, we have gotten the support that we have asked for.

QUESTION: Some countries have offered assistance to this country, and teams of people to help in the rubble at the World Trade Center and things like that.

Has the US responded to this? Have we accepted or rejected any offers of help?

MR. BOUCHER: We have been passing on all that information to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make sure they know what is available from overseas sources. There has indeed been an outpouring of offers of specialized teams, bloods, just a whole lot of different things -- equipment -- that people around the world have. I think we leave it to the federal authorities to sort of sort it out, figure out if there is stuff that we would find useful.

There has, also, as you know, been an outpouring of support and assistance in the United States, among our own people, in terms of giving blood or teams from the country coming up to help with the search. So I'm not sure that will be necessary. But let the appropriate federal authorities sort it out. I'm not aware that we have asked for anything at this point.

QUESTION: This morning, the Secretary said that there is an accumulating mound of evidence and that very soon the Government will make a decision on what they should do.

Are you steering us away from the general assumption that this is bin Laden-related? When he talks about the evidence, is that pointing in any other direction that you can share with us?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not steering you in any direction whatsoever. I am not steering you in circles, either. I am just not into this. We are not pointing fingers, we are not saying whodunit. We are going to do this carefully. We are going to maintain the ability to collect information and not reveal the sources of it. And we are going to, I'm sure, make the decisions in a careful manner at the right time. And I am not intending to steer you towards, away, or in any direction whatsoever. I am not driving that car.

QUESTION: Prior to this return to Washington, did the Secretary have telephone contact with the President yesterday?

MR. BOUCHER: No, they didn't actually talk until he got back to Washington. Rich Armitage, of course, the Deputy Secretary, was here, was working with the entire national security team, and the Secretary talked to Mr. Armitage numerous times throughout the day.

They can talk when they need to, and it works out for both of them. It just didn't happen to be the case yesterday.

QUESTION: You said there were no warnings that led to the closing of the 50 embassies and missions. But have there been --

MR. BOUCHER: No particular warnings. There's obviously worldwide threats.

QUESTION: Well, that's what I wanted to know. Had there been any new warnings that lead to new concern about subsequent actions?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the warnings that we have issued before, in terms of the June 22nd warning, the update that we did last week, those all still apply. I don't have any new information on that, though.

QUESTION: Richard, the King of Morocco canceled the trip to Mauritania and returned home, and the King of Jordan was also on his way here and also returned home. Is there any possible relationship between that and this event in the sense that there is a dichotomy between -- these governments have all condemned the attacks and the people in the streets are all supporting it?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I am really down here to tell you that the Secretary can't brief right now. I wasn't coming to deal with all the dichotomies in the world. So I really don't feel I can do that right now.

QUESTION: When is he briefing?

MR. BOUCHER: The two windows look like early afternoon or later in the afternoon.

QUESTION: Probably between when and when?

MR. BOUCHER: Between now and the end of the day. I'm sorry. I don't want to get us all out....

QUESTION: Some of us have to go back to offices and come back, so --

MR. BOUCHER: I know. I do not want to get us all back here at some time because I speculate at this point. I've got to talk --

QUESTION: Like not before 1:00, not before 2:00?

QUESTION: Can you give us a half hour warning?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we will give you as much warning as possible. And a half hour seems more than reasonable.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

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