State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 29, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, October 29, 2001
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
JAPAN 1 Japanese Passage of Military Support Legislation
ANTHRAX 1,2 Shutting Down of all Mail Distribution/Anthrax Found in the State Department HQ 2,5 Embassy in Lima, Peru 2,3 Currently in the Process of Cleaning all Mail Rooms 2,5, 20, 21 Cipro Supply of 60 Days for all Employees Who Handled Mail 2,4,9 Not Know if the "Rewards for Justice" Program Received Anthrax Directly 5,7,8,9 All Employees Can Speak with a Medical Professional if They Have Concerns 8 Employee Remains Hospitalized
PAKISTAN 9, 10 Nuclear Operations and Military 10 Mushareef and the United Nationals General Assembly 10,11,21 Al Qaida and the Pakistani Government 11 Condemn Murder of Christian Worshipers 17, 18 Aid to Pakistan
AFGHANISTAN 11 Taliban Capture of Americans 12 Negotiations with Taliban for Usama bin Laden and Offers to Turn him Over 13, 16 Strikes During Ramadan 15 Military and Political Campaign Being out of Synch 15, 16 Detainee Update 18, 19 Aid for Afghanistan and Uzbekistan's Border Crossings 23 King Shah and Mr. Brahimi
MACEDONIA 13 Gangs Operating Kosovo and a possible al Qaida Connection
IRAQ 13, 14 Ties with al Qaida/Debate within the Administration to Expand "War on Terrorism"
SAUDI ARABIA 16 Saudi Arabia's Comments and Finding Fault with the Campaign
AFRICA 19, 20 Growth and Opportunity Act. Continue to work with Africa
RUSSIA 22 Foreign Minister Ivanov
BANGLADESH 22 Anti-American Demonstrations
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 23, 24 Withdrawals from Palestinian-Controlled Areas 25 Reports of Israeli Groups killing Palestinians
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2001, 1:38 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be here. I don't have any announcements or statements for you. I believe you have seen the statement this morning that we issued already on the Japanese passage of legislation that permits them to support our military efforts.
With that, I would be glad to take your questions, or I can just plunge into things, as you wish.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the details about the contamination that the White House announced was found here at the State Department. Could you tell us what you are able to about that situation? And one thing special, if I may, or obvious, though, if you have contamination, are you going to close down like the Supreme Court has?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to run through everything for you if I can. First of all, to review what we have done already, we have initiated testing in this building as well as our annexes. We have shut down mail distribution, including our pouch operations, our unclassified pouches to embassies and consulates overseas. We have closed all mail rooms that receive mail from the Sterling, Virginia facility -- that means all our domestic and overseas mail rooms that got mail from there. And we have placed all mail room personnel on antibiotics.
We expect final results from our testing later today or tomorrow. The testing has not yet been completed. However, we have taken about 155 samples from 15 or so locations inside this building and at annexes. We do have results on 71 of those locations. The first news is that the air filter sampling that was done, the ventilation system sampling that was done in this building has come out negative. So as far as we know, nothing has spread beyond mail rooms.
Three of the other samples tested positive for low levels of anthrax spores. Those three samples are from two different locations at the State Department, mail rooms in the State Department.
In addition, we found contamination in two other places. One is a pouch with mail that went across the street. I think Ari referred to this one, to Diplomatic Security mail rooms. This was a bundle of mail for the Rewards for Justice program that came from the Brentwood facility directly to that location. Preliminary results show positive signs for anthrax on a bundle that was picked up last week from the Brentwood Post Office box. Environmental testing of that facility is being done; results are still pending. Individuals who are considered at risk, including specifically those who handled this bundle, are on antibiotics, and mail handlers at that SA-3 -- State Annex 3 -- facility are on antibiotic prophylaxis.
In addition, there is one -- our embassy in Lima, Peru tested diplomatic pouches that it received on October 25th. The contents of one of six diplomatic pouch bags in that shipment was found to contain small numbers of anthrax spores. These test results were repeated and reconfirmed on Sunday, October 28th. No spores have been found on the outside of any of the bags, nor inside any of the other five bags. The contaminated bag has been isolated and contained. And the Department will issue instructions to the embassy concerning its safe disposal. And the embassy is coordinating with the Peruvian Government.
Given these findings of low levels of spores at various locations that got mail from our Sterling, Virginia facility, or from the Brentwood facility, we have decided to go ahead and clean up all the mail rooms that we operate, both here and overseas. We will be working with the environmental branch of the Center for Disease Control, and the Environmental Protection Agency. They are developing what is called a protocol for clean up, and we will be extending antibiotic treatment to 60 days for all our mail handlers, and also for all employees who pick up and distribute the mail.
That will involve mail rooms in this building, at all our annexes, and at more than 200 locations at our embassies and consulates overseas, where we have decided just to go ahead with the clean up, not wait for further testing or further results from the testing. But that process will take some time.
QUESTION: You've covered a lot of ground. Could you kindly spin back to the Rewards Program. I'm a little confused. Is that an office here in the building, or is it across the -- what is across the street?
MR. BOUCHER: It's across -- it's in Columbia Plaza, I think. It's a Diplomatic Security Office known as State Annex 3. Is it Columbia Plaza? No, it's across the other street. Sorry.
QUESTION: Where is it?
MR. BOUCHER: Next to the drug store, I'm told.
QUESTION: Oh, I see. The contamination was found in the mail that went there?
MR. BOUCHER: The contamination was found in a mail bundle that went there straight from the Brentwood Post Office. As you know, these other places receive mail from Brentwood to Sterling, Virginia, and then to the State Department. This one gets it straight from Brentwood, and there was some contamination found there.
QUESTION: Richard, do you know -- on the -- two things, you say it was found in the bundles. Does that mean it was found actually in an envelope, or it might have been on the outside of an envelope? Or do you not know yet?
And the second question is, you say that you had -- you tested 155 samples at 15 or so locations, and that three samples tested positive. What does that mean? Is that an actual place in the building that has tested positive, or is that a desk or --
MR. BOUCHER: There were three samples from two locations in the building -- two different mail rooms. In one of the mail rooms, two of the samples tested positive; in one of the mail rooms, one of the samples tested positive.
QUESTION: But when you -- what's a sample? Is that an envelope, or is that a piece of machinery?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it is a cotton swab or something on a desk or a piece of machinery or an air sample they test. We have not located a piece of mail. These are all contamination inside a bag, for example, in a diplomatic pouch or this other mail bag, or inside a room, without identifying any specific piece of mail or a letter that might contain anthrax.
QUESTION: Okay, so we should not be -- it would be incorrect to say that a letter that was mailed to the Rewards for Justice program had --
MR. BOUCHER: That would be incorrect. At least that is not known.
QUESTION: Okay. So the spores were just found in the bag generally, not necessarily attached to one specific --
MR. BOUCHER: We have not identified any particular piece of mail.
QUESTION: How many locations?
MR. BOUCHER: It will be a large number of locations, because we have six or -- well, no, there are going to be -- there are about 10 locations outside this building in various annexes. There are six, seven or eight in this building that are mail rooms. There may be more than that, as we get to anywhere where bulk mail is processed. And then we've got 240 embassies and consulates overseas and presumably we will be proceeding to clean the mail rooms up in those places as well.
All of our mail rooms have been closed off. Mail distribution has been shut down. So it is all locked off and it won't be opened up until it's cleaned up.
QUESTION: Can you say where in the building those mail rooms were that tested positive?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I can.
QUESTION: Was it related in any way to the incident where there was a suspicious substance found in a congressional correspondence, or any of the other "suspicious" --
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I am aware of, but I would have to double check on that, on the correspondence between the locations.
QUESTION: As far as this protocol is concerned, are you going to have regular testing of the air filtration or ventilation systems? I mean, it hasn't reached the ventilation system at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we have tested the ventilation system and found it was not spreading through the ventilation system. So there is no indication that it would have gotten beyond the mail rooms. And the mail rooms are now closed off; they will be cleaned up before they reopen again.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? Are you testing the offices surrounding -- even if they are not mail room offices -- surrounding the mail rooms?
MR. BOUCHER: Exactly, the rooms themselves are closed off. And we have not found it spreading to surrounding areas. Now, obviously, as we go through this with the Center for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency, they will develop a protocol, a procedure for cleanup, and they will decide how much, how deep, how wide you need to clean in order to be sure that it's safe.
QUESTION: Richard, has the fact that you have actually found mail in an office led you to put any more employees on Cipro that aren't mail personnel?
MR. BOUCHER: Hold it. The mail in an office is a pretty wide expression.
QUESTION: No, I'm sorry --
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't found any particular mail.
QUESTION: Was the mail for the Rewards Office? It didn't actually make it to their office, it was just addressed to them?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a bag of mail that was delivered to that facility.
QUESTION: Okay, but it was in their office?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know that it was in their office. It was at the mail room at the SA-3 facility as far as I know. I'll double check that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then I'll just make it a more general question. Have any other employees that aren't mail-related personnel been put on Cipro, and what's the next step regarding protection of personnel inside this building?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, there's several layers of this. First of all, all the employees at the Sterling facility have been put on Cipro. All the other employees that were handling bulk mail have been put on Cipro. Those other employees, their regimen is now being increased to 60 days to make absolutely sure they stay safe.
In addition, we are also now providing it not just to people who work in those mail rooms, but people who pick up mail, who distribute mail around the building, and anybody who works with bulk mail will get the antibiotics.
In addition to that, the medical facilities are available to all our employees, and anyone who walks in and has concerns can sit down and talk to a medical professional and decide whether a course of antibiotics is appropriate for them.
QUESTION: There is a report circulated by AFP and circulated by some other agencies that special US and Israeli forces are training jointly --
QUESTION: Can we stay on the same subject, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we'll finish with anthrax, then we'll come back to you.
QUESTION: I'm still a little confused. You said three samples tested positive in two locations. Now, can we just go over this again. One of them was in the bag that went to the SA-3 --
MR. BOUCHER: No, this is in addition. Three samples at two locations in this building, plus the bags tested positive at Diplomatic Security Office, plus a bag in Lima has tested positive.
QUESTION: Okay. Right. And those locations -- those were both mail rooms, those two places?
MR. BOUCHER: Lima was --
QUESTION: No, the --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the two places in this building, yes. Those were two mail rooms in this building.
QUESTION: So this is a pretty massive shutdown -- I mean, a total shutdown of the mail from what you're describing. Could you address whether the State Department feels there's a risk that somewhere in that mountain of mail there's something important that's not going to be dealt with, handled, addressed? Or is none of the mail that the State Department handles -- (laughter) -- of any --
MR. BOUCHER: There may be a letter from you.
MR. BOUCHER: We went through this somewhat on Friday, and tried to talk about it. We send maybe a million telegrams a year, half a million to and from this building and an additional quantity between our embassies overseas. We send many more e-mails than that. So one assumes that very important business gets handled -- daily business, urgent business gets handled that way.
In the pouch system, we have official correspondence, packages, magazines, newsletters, official correspondence that might be packages. There may be things like visa stamps, although no, those would travel in the classified pouches.
And then in addition to that, there's a lot of personal mail for our employees. So I'm sure a lot of people are not getting their MasterCard bill on time. They'll have to work that out.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the classified traffic -- paper traffic -- is that not also being affected?
MR. BOUCHER: No, the classified pouches continue to operate. That's a separate system. It's removed from this. It doesn't have any touching or links to the outside mail system.
QUESTION: Is the classified one that the diplomatic courier -- is that what the diplomatic couriers --
MR. BOUCHER: That's what the couriers carry, yes.
QUESTION: So none of those people -- have those people -- have the couriers been tested?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Okay, and can I ask a very self-interest -- has this room been --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me put it this way. Some of the -- some of the couriers may also work on the unclassified pouches as well, in which case they would have been given the antibiotics, like anybody else who handles bulk mail overseas.
QUESTION: Do you know if this room was tested, or our offices downstairs?
MR. BOUCHER: Are you handling bulk mail?
MR. BOUCHER: We've sampled locations where we're handling bulk mail.
QUESTION: You just said -- you said it was from 15 or so locations; all 15 of those were mail rooms?
MR. BOUCHER: Or associated with handling bulk mail.
QUESTION: Richard, would you describe -- when you talk about employees who handle mail, and employees who distribute mail within the building, just for clarification, you're not talking about US Postal Service employees; you're talking about State Department employees?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And that's true for all the people who are affected?
MR. BOUCHER: All the people we're talking about are State Department employees, because at the Sterling, Virginia site, those are State Department employees, or contractors -- State Department contractors -- who handle the mail. They receive mail from the US Postal Service, and specifically from the Brentwood facility, where anthrax spores have been found.
So all these locations that we're testing, that we're finding, things in pouches, things in mail bags mostly have some feeder relationship with Brentwood. All of them do, actually.
QUESTION: Richard, can you quantify, if you can, what -- how much anthrax is in one of these samples, as compared to, say, the actual letter to Daschle?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't, except to tell you it's a low level. It's such that when the sample is taken and grown in a culture, that it grows. Again, 150 or so samples, 71 that we've got results on, and of those, three have shown some positive growth of an anthrax culture. But there will be more than -- more than three taken in any given room. So, you know, it means that some places in the room there may be some sign of anthrax, whereas others there would not be.
QUESTION: Can you say at all whether the levels that are in these samples are enough to get someone sick?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't at this point. I don't know.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say whether the Secretary has been tested, and if any of the people who may have been handling mail have fallen ill?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think we started the practice or followed the White House practice last week about not commenting specifically on the Secretary. But there is no reason to believe that he might have been exposed.
As far as -- what was the second half of your question?
QUESTION: Whether any of these mail people might have fallen ill who came in contact?
MR. BOUCHER: We have the one State Department contractor from the Sterling, Virginia facility who remains in the hospital. He remains in stable condition, although he is seriously ill and he is an intensive care unit for monitoring. The second person who we said had symptoms last week, flu symptoms, continues to show negative results. There have been some other staff members from the Sterling, Virginia facility who have been evaluated for flu-like symptoms but none of them have tested positive for anthrax.
QUESTION: Nobody in this building that handles mail either?
MR. BOUCHER: The only person we know who has tested positive is the individual we have talked about.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- or do they just not know?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? If these rooms were tested and the traces are presumably from some mail that has already been distributed, are you planning on expanding your testing to include the offices of those served by the mail rooms where the anthrax was found?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think I have said just moments ago, we have expanded the use of antibiotics to those people who work in those other areas of delivery and distribution. The test -- the cleanup program will expand to -- once we do the immediate mail rooms -- it will expand to other sites where bulk mail is handled. All mail rooms have been closed down, large and small, closed down, closed off, and they will decide at what level they need to be cleaned up before people use them again.
QUESTION: But even if it is not a mail room, per se, I mean, eventually, that mail gets distributed to some recipient. So whether someone handled it and then gave it to that person, I mean, do you have any -- have you done any statistics on how many people could potentially be affected by this? And when you say that the only person that has been diagnosed is the one person at the Sterling facility --
MR. BOUCHER: Tested positive.
QUESTION: -- the CDC has also been saying that there are suspected cases. Are there any suspected cases in this building?
MR. BOUCHER: As I just said, there are other employees from the Sterling, Virginia facility who have had flu-like symptoms and who have been tested, and so far none of them have tested positive. But we will keep them under medical care to make sure that people take their antibiotics and get tested as appropriate.
In terms of your bigger question, let me say two things. One is that so far, I think, CDC has said that the indications are that the people that have actually gotten sick with the inhaled anthrax are people who work around equipment, bags and distribution facilities where things are sort of compressed and get sprayed into the air. So the farther, wider on the distribution chain this goes, the farther away from machinery and large stacks and big bags, the less likely that is.
Second of all, by putting all our mail handling employees and distribution employees on Cipro, we are taking a precaution that means that anybody, however slight their exposure might have been somewhere in that chain, can be protected and treated just in case.
QUESTION: New subject, please?
MR. BOUCHER: We have one more from Warren.
QUESTION: In the Rewards for Justice program, the fact that that's involved, do the investigators think that's just a coincidence? I mean, it seems rather less than coincidental.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything specific to suspect. As I said, we can't tell you if there is an actual piece of mail somewhere in our system or if it is all sub-contamination from the Brentwood facility. So until we have any more indication of that, then we won't be able to say. Perhaps some of the testing will indicate if there is a path that the spores seem to have followed.
Okay, new subject.
QUESTION: Yes, there is a report by FPN, I believe, by some other news agencies based on an article in the current issue of The New Yorker by Seymour Hirsh, which claims that special US and Israeli units are training together to take out Pakistan's nuclear weapons in case the present government is destabilized. Is there such a plan of action? Is there any truth to this report?
MR. BOUCHER: I am afraid there is a limit to how much I could go into anything that would involve intelligence or military planning. There are a couple things I can tell you, though.
First of all, we have good working relationships with the Musharraf Government. We expect those to continue in the weeks and months ahead. We believe Pakistan is well aware of the importance of securing any nuclear material, components and weapons that it has. We are confident that Pakistan is taking steps to assure the safety of these assets. And we would just say that the current situation requires that all states pay attention to such concern.
We have had general discussions with India and Pakistan on issues related to nuclear safety over the years and such discussions will remain part of our dialogue on security issues.
QUESTION: So it is not being denied or affirmed, this --
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I wouldn't -- I can't confirm or deny any military operation or plan. I am at the State Department, and we don't do that stuff on operational military issues. So any question you ask, however wild and speculative it might be, I am just not in a position to deny it from here. But I'd tell you that we do work with the Musharraf Government very well. We do discuss with them and with the Indians questions of nuclear safety and we expect to continue our cooperation with them in the future.
QUESTION: Richard, can you confirm a report that Pakistan General Musharraf is coming to address the United Nations and the Secretary is going to meet with him in New York? And also thousands of Pakistanis are crossing Pakistani border into Afghanistan and they have called jihad against the United States and they will fight to the end in Afghanistan.
MR. BOUCHER: I think Musharraf's trip to New York and the Pakistanis going to Afghanistan are separate questions, right?
QUESTION: Will Powell be holding those --
MR. BOUCHER: On the question of President Musharraf's travels, I have to leave that to the Pakistani Government. And as far as meetings in New York, I haven't announced a schedule of the Secretary's meetings, but you might want to check with the White House on whether President Musharraf is having any meetings with President Bush in New York.
Second of all, on the people going across the border to Afghanistan, I would say they are misguided.
QUESTION: The New York Times today quotes US officials as saying that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, has links with al-Qaida and that it also has direct links to Kashmiri militants. Is this indeed the US Government's position?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything for you on that. I think I would leave that to the Pakistani Government to comment on, if they want to.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the (inaudible) or the killing -- the Roman Catholic people in Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, that was awful. We strongly condemn the terrorist murders on Sunday of worshippers and of a police guard in a church in Bahawalpur, Pakistan. President Musharraf and other Pakistani officials have also condemned the attack. They have increased security at churches and they promised a thorough investigation. We hope that the perpetrators are brought rapidly to justice.
We also condemn an apparent terrorist bombing against a bus in Quetta, Pakistan, and hope that those responsible for that attack are also brought to justice quickly.
QUESTION: One more. Recently, if you can confirm or deny a report that Pakistan has handed over to the United States a terrorist in connection with the Cole bombing, and in connection with Usama bin Laden. My question is that, these people have been, before in the US, why they are handing over to the US one by one, starting from Ramzi, in connection with '93 World Trade Center? And how many more of these terrorists is Pakistan holding now so they will trade one by one?
MR. BOUCHER: I think all your assumptions are incorrect. I don't have anything particular to say on that story anyway.
QUESTION: On the alleged -- on the report of the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Afghanistan. Same subject in general. Do you have anything on the Taliban reports that they have captured some Americans? Have we been able to check that out?
MR. BOUCHER: No. We'll check it out and see if we can find any reality to it.
QUESTION: Well, wait a minute. You're checking with the -- the report is that the Taliban ambassador told authorities in Pakistan. Have you checked with Pakistani authorities whether they were so told?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect that would be one of the first places we would check.
QUESTION: But I wouldn't expect you to know about the arrests. But I would expect the State Department would know, if indeed he told that to Pakistan.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we will know, Barry. I just don't know right now.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Taliban. What can you tell us about the United States negotiating publicly and secretively with the Taliban to bring bin Laden to justice? And follow-up, was there ever a solid offer of the Taliban giving bin Laden up?
MR. BOUCHER: On your first question, do a word search of all my briefings for the last year or so, and you'll find plenty of instances where we've talked about our official contacts with the Taliban before September 11th. I think the last meeting we had with them was on August 2nd of this year, when the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs met with the Taliban representatives in Pakistan.
In those meetings, we consistently and repeatedly urged the Taliban to stop harboring terror networks, to comply fully with UN Security Council resolutions, including expelling bin Laden to a country where he can be brought to justice and shutting down the terrorist training camps. That's the requirement of the UN resolutions. And those are the terms that we put to the Taliban. We did not, at that time, say that he had to be turned over to the United States, because the UN resolution required that he be brought to a place where he can be brought to justice.
We also made it clear to the Taliban in those meetings before September 11th that they would be held responsible for any further terrorist attacks that were mounted by groups operating in Afghanistan. And, in fact, that is what is happening now.
Furthermore, in those meetings, we pressed the Taliban to abide by international human rights norms, to end the growth and production of narcotics in the areas that they occupied, and work sincerely with other Afghans to restore peace to their country through establishment of a broad-based government.
So those meetings were publicly acknowledged, spoken about, and they followed consistently with UN resolutions and US interests in curtailing the flow of narcotics, which were coming out of Afghanistan still.
QUESTION: Did you find anything in that story that was new?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't read the whole thing, but --
QUESTION: You didn't read the whole thing? I would have thought you had.
QUESTION: Have the Taliban leaders offered bin Laden up to the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: No. They did not. There are the same vague references to Islamic justice somewhere that were never specified, never carried out, and certainly did not meet the requirements of the UN resolutions. We said that many times at the time that it happened.
QUESTION: Can you just reiterate, Richard, how strong was the language used regarding Usama bin Laden in those discussions?
MR. BOUCHER: Very.
QUESTION: Richard, there have been numerous reports of Mr. Zeiman al Zawahiri and his gangs have been operating in Kosovo and in the northern Macedonia. Zawahiri is reputedly the brother of Mr. Zawahiri, who is the next-in-command to -- in the al-Qaida organization.
Does the United States have any information regarding Mr. Zawahiri's whereabouts? That is, the brother, Zeiman?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to check and see if there's anything I can get you on it.
QUESTION: If Mr. Zawahiri has been operating or is operating in the zone which officially is under UN control, would he be apprehended?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to speculate at this point. I don't know where the gentleman is.
QUESTION: Has State had a chance to look into reports that the Iraqi intelligence chief met with -- in Prague with al-Qaida operatives? I'm sorry --
QUESTION: The Czechs admitted it.
QUESTION: The Czechs said it, but what can you add to it? Is there an Iraqi connection here? There seems to -- the reports suggest that there is a debate within the Administration whether or not to hold Iraq accountable and extend your war on terrorism to Iraq. I don't expect you to answer that. But what do you make of -- (laughter) -- but what do you make of this meeting in Prague? Does it tell you something about Iraq's behavior?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what to make of a meeting in Prague. We have been asked about it before and haven't had anything particular to say about it. I think the President's comment is the most apt -- we wouldn't put it past them. But at this point, I don't believe there is any change.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on the Iraq question?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- with the presence of the Greek Minister of Defense that the US military forces will continue the strikes against Afghanistan during Ramadan. Since Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed different view in the last few days, I am wondering if the Department of State changed their position and instructed its ambassadors abroad to promote this new policy?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't know exactly what Ambassador Burns said. Ambassador Burns --
MR. BOUCHER: Miller? Oh, sorry.
QUESTION: Miller now.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, Ambassador Miller said. So I don't want to say that we are in step or out of step with him. The Secretary has been quite clear on the issue. There is no change in our policy.
QUESTION: As far as for the policy, the statement between the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, it's totally different.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I haven't seen the statement that Ambassador Miller made, so I am not going to try to speculate on that. There is not a difference between what the Administration has said back here, I'm sure.
QUESTION: Back to Mohammed Atta's meeting in Prague, is the State Department open or interested in the offer from the Iraqi National Congress to actually perform information collection missions on behalf of the United States, given our lack of human intelligence in Iraq right now, to sort of look into some of these allegations?
MR. BOUCHER: We have supported various programs that the Iraqi National Congress has had, including information programs. So I don't think there is anything particularly new there. I am not aware that there is any particularly new proposal or anything.
QUESTION: The reason I ask the question now is about a week ago the Iraqi National Congress met with State Department officials, asked to go ahead with this program. And they said, according to them at the time, that they were told to wait another two months.
MR. BOUCHER: I will double check and see if there is some new program they've asked for funding for. We have been funding them and supporting them, as you know.
QUESTION: I have a question on the APIS system, the system where foreign carriers give lists of passengers. And we talked about it before and have asked some countries to start giving lists. Egypt Air announced over the weekend that it will now provide those lists.
Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I am not sure that we are the people who get those lists and transmit them. I will have to double check.
QUESTION: No, I don't think we are. But we are the ones that talk to foreign governments about helping us out by giving those lists, as far as I understand.
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on it. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: There have been a number of folks talking about the military campaign and the political campaign in Afghanistan being out of sync, stories and commentary and so forth, to the effect that the military campaign needed to be put on a parallel track with efforts to make sure there was something political ready to come in once the military portion against the Taliban was over.
Can you comment on the state of the political half of that question, as to what's going on now, as to whether you feel like you're making any progress in that effort?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's recognized by many that we need to develop a certain momentum on the political side, and indeed we are developing a certain momentum on the political side. The Afghan parties have been meeting with each other. Several groups have gotten together with the King -- the former King in Rome -- to coalesce into planning for a broad-based government in the future. There have been other meetings at other locations, as you know.
We have appointed a special representative for the Secretary of State to pursue these issues, Ambassador Haass. The United Nations has a special representative for the Secretary General, Mr. Brahimi, who is out in the region right now having meetings. So I think there is developing a certain momentum on the issue of moving forward with a broad-based government in Afghanistan. Naturally, the Afghan parties need to do this themselves; it's going to be their country, their government, and we are not seeking to dictate how or who should do that.
But we have consistently encouraged all the parties to start getting together and start planning and that appears to be what they are doing. And to the extent we can help with that, we will.
QUESTION: I don't think we have had an update in several days on the status of the two American women and the other detainees. Do you have anything new? Any new orders, meetings, court hearings?
MR. BOUCHER: No. In fact, there is not a whole lot of new information. I think the best information we have is about a week old. Well, let's see. Mr. Ali Kahn, the lawyer representing the detainees, went to Kabul on October 21st. He met with all the detainees and was able to deliver a care package with letters, personal items, warm clothing, blankets. The care package was sent by the detainees' families.
According to Mr. Ali Kahn, all of the detainees have appeared well and in good spirits. He has been trying to meet with the Taliban supreme court to check on the status of the case. As of today, October 29th, he had no update on the status of the trial. The detainees' parents remain in Islamabad and are in close contact with our embassy. I do believe, though, that we are in touch with him, so that the information on their status is current.
QUESTION: I don't think you would disagree that the level of criticism of the campaign in Afghanistan seems to have intensified over the weekend, particularly with all the civilian casualties. And there are comments by Saudi ministers, saying that they disapprove of it, and President Musharraf himself has said that it can't go on much longer.
What are you telling your rather half-hearted allies? What are you telling them when they say that they can't go on supporting --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't know any people like that.
QUESTION: When people -- when they find fault with the conduct of the campaign, what are you telling them?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we realize there is going to be a certain amount of discussion about the campaign. As we have said all along, this is going to be a long haul. It is going to involve all kinds of different elements. We are getting excellent support on the intelligence side, getting excellent support on law enforcement activities. I think if you look at some of the information that our counter-terrorism chief, Frank Taylor, gave last Friday to the non-governmental conference, you will see that there is more and more effort being made on all fronts, financial, law enforcement, diplomatic, as well as military. We have 50-some countries that are supporting us one way or the other militarily, so I don't think the campaign is flagging in any sense.
But we made quite clear, it is a long-haul proposition, as Secretary Rumsfeld has said, it's a marathon, not a sprint, and one shouldn't try to declare success or failure on a week-by-week basis, frankly.
QUESTION: President Musharraf has said that he wants the war to end quicker rather than a longer period of time. What are you telling him?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what we said in Pakistan, we would all be happy if it were over quickly. But he has recognized and we have recognized that we must achieve our military objectives.
QUESTION: But he is saying that there could be dire consequences and warning of them if it doesn't end soon. He is not just saying, I want it to end soon. He is saying, look, there are going to be all these adverse consequences to Pakistan if you continue, especially during Ramadan.
MR. BOUCHER: As we have said, we are aware of the sensitivities in the region. But he has recognized and we have recognized that we need to attain our military objectives as well as continue the broader campaign.
QUESTION: On these objectives at the outset, the Secretary of State said basically there were two objectives, and that was to get to the head, cut off the head of this terrorism operation and, of course, uproot the organization. Do you have to achieve both objectives in order for this campaign to succeed?
MR. BOUCHER: The President has made clear that this is a long-term campaign to get at terrorism. It means that we're going to have to rip up the networks, we are going to have to continue to make ourselves safer, take steps to prevent the financial system from being used, for example; take steps to prevent terrorists from finding sanctuary; take steps to prevent terrorists from being able to travel.
Those steps are long-term steps, and we will continue as long as it's necessary, perhaps for many years to come.
QUESTION: Richard, on that adverse consequences to Pakistan. I don't see too many adverse consequences. They seem to be getting more and more money and aid and debt relief from everyone. It seems all pretty positive consequences. There were a couple of stories over the weekend, I believe, talking about the US preparing a huge new aid package for Pakistan. Is this new, or is this exactly what we were being told when we were in Pakistan? Is this the same things that the Secretary talked about when he talked about concrete steps in the future, and then another official saying that they would be around $500 million, or that was what you were looking at at the first?
MR. BOUCHER: There are additional things that are still in the pipeline, but in fact, there's an awful lot being done. Since you give me the opportunity, I'll go through it with you.
QUESTION: I just wanted the new stuff.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, we made clear all along we intend to strengthen Pakistan as a key member of the coalition against terrorism. Some of the final decisions of that support have not yet been made. But there's a lot of money in the pipeline. There's $100 million -- that's $50 million from last fiscal year, $50 million from this fiscal year -- that's economic assistance to Pakistan that will be available in the very near future. And we do hope to be able to increase that amount significantly.
On September 26th, we voted for the release of the final $135 million tranche of International Monetary Fund lending, and we intend to support negotiation of a new three-year, $2 billion program for the International Monetary Fund for Pakistan.
In addition, we will also support a range of important products and programs financed through the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank that could total $2 billion in the next year. With the signing of the new International Monetary Fund program, Pakistan becomes eligible for Paris Club debt rescheduling of part of its $12.2 billion debt to Paris Club countries. The US will support generous terms for this rescheduling to ease Pakistan's external debt burden. And, as you know, Under Secretary Larson went back to Pakistan after the meetings in Shanghai to continue our discussions with the Pakistani Government of how to do that.
On trade, the Administration will restore a Generalized System of Preferences benefits for those products for which the benefits were suspended in 1997. That will provide duty-free treatment for about $13.5 million in trade.
We are also working with Congress to extend the Generalized System of Preferences benefits for imports from Pakistan of other key products with trade now valued at $115 million. And we have further committed to remove the quota on combed cotton yarn imports from Pakistan. Trade there is already $10 million and is expected to grow.
We will look at other ways to stimulate Pakistan's major exports, including improving market access for textile and apparel products. And we are consulting with Congress to ensure that we develop the best possible package to assist Pakistan.
In direct assistance, there is another $95 million in ongoing programs in assistance for Pakistan in democracy, education, health, child labor elimination and counter-narcotics. We are providing $30 million in food assistance over the next year. We will provide $73 million for border security and law enforcement programs. In addition to that, there is EX-IM money, as much as $400 million, and OPIC money as well of $200 million.
So with all these programs totaled up, you get well over a billion dollars from the US Government. You can get several billion coming from the international aid organizations. And we are consulting and looking at more in terms of direct assistance, but also in terms of trade benefits, because one of our goals is to make sure that Pakistan can produce and trade.
QUESTION: On the economic aid, another aid question, this one without trying to open the floodgates for the standard recitation of how much aid you're giving the people of Afghanistan, on Friday you released another 18-point-some-teen million in the -- which is part of the President's 320 million that he announced. How is that being divided up in terms of release? Is it divided up by who it goes to or what the purpose of the money is? And when will it be finished? In other words, when will all the $320 million --
MR. BOUCHER: I think the $320 million was to be money disbursed over the course of the year. As the UN agencies need it in different places and different ways, then we allocate the actual funds to them. We write the checks. And that is the process that goes forward. And if you look back, that is the usual way we handle these things. There would be periodic announcements that draw on that amount. So that was $18 million on Friday.
QUESTION: We were briefed last week and unless I misunderstood the informed AID person who spoke with us, spoke of the refugees and spoke of expectations, hopes that a land bridge from Uzbekistan would open soon and that it would provide tremendous relief. I think he said something like 40 percent of the people could be reached.
There were reports over the weekend that Uzbekistan is not doing that. Do you happen to know if Uzbekistan has -- if you don't, I would understand -- but --
MR. BOUCHER: I thought that Uzbekistan at least opened the crossings on last Friday or so.
QUESTION: That was the expectation. But the report was that they were changing their mind.
MR. BOUCHER: I will double check on the exact status.
QUESTION: If you can. Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: There are supplies being brought overland from Uzbekistan. Obviously, some of the geography depends on the Northern Alliance and whether they occupy certain parts of the north which are contiguous and therefore make it easier to deliver food aid. That may have been the question that was being addressed.
QUESTION: Is the State Department, along with the Treasury Department, planning on sending a team of technical experts to Saudi Arabia soon?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check and see.
QUESTION: We have been spending the last hour talking about the war on terrorism and all of the things that follow from that. The Administration had several foreign policy objectives before September 11th that we don't talk that much about anymore. And some of the countries that are the beneficiaries of those programs have voiced concern that their issues are taking a back seat to the war against terrorism.
What can you say to countries such as Colombia, where we don't speak that much about Plan Colombia anymore. Or Mexico, where there was a guest worker program and a lot of immigration issues being discussed? That their issues are still important and aren't taking a back seat, because the Bush Administration has said already that this is the focus of the priority of their Administration.
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that just because the press doesn't have to be interested in something on a given day, doesn't mean that we have stopped caring about it. The United States Government and most of the governments that we work with know this. We have been very active in pursuing these other issues.
You have today, taking place in this building, a meeting with 35 African trade and finance ministers, to continue one of the most important endeavors that we started, that we have been working on in this Administration, started with the passage of legislation in the last administration. But the African Growth and Opportunity Act is a very clear sign and a very clear symbol that we are going to continue to work with sub-Saharan African countries on their economic development, that we are going to continue to offer many, many Muslims who live in sub-Saharan Africa, opportunities to develop along the lines of market-based economies, and that these economies continue to be important to us, even when the press isn't paying attention.
That applies to Colombia and elsewhere as well.
QUESTION: Can you make it -- perhaps differentiate between -- when you say "press," between wire services that cover everything all the time, and television, which doesn't?
MR. BOUCHER: We are working on these things even when some people are not paying attention. Let's put it that way.
QUESTION: Can I go back to anthrax, please, just with a question that's been on my mind for a couple of days? Preliminarily, I would ask you -- you say tests are being administered; have people begun taking Cipro, and the question really is, I've been reading -- we all have been reading -- that this is no trivial medication, like most pharmaceuticals. There's a potential downside. A heavy percentage of people -- six, eight, seven, depending on the side effect -- have side effects. It's not something you just swallow; even aspirin has side effects.
Has anybody said, thank you, but the exposure is probably so unlikely that I'll just go about my business? Or has everybody willingly submitted to being injected with the --
MR. BOUCHER: I frankly don't know. We --
QUESTION: Not injected, to --
MR. BOUCHER: We're providing the antibiotics to our employees in conjunction with our medical personnel, who are working with employees. People who have checked into hospitals with flu-like systems have been getting antibiotics in there. So people are on this program in a variety of ways.
Many, many employees -- anybody involved in mail handling and now in mail distribution will be getting the drugs, the antibiotics, to protect themselves. Everybody I've talked to who has gotten them is taking them, but I can't vouch for every single person.
QUESTION: I didn't mean people with the symptoms; I meant just widespread handing everybody a dosage or a prescription, and I just wondered if people are saying --
MR. BOUCHER: We're working with our medical personnel in the State Department to make sure that people get whatever advice, support and continuing discussion that they need to keep, to take care of themselves.
QUESTION: Richard, are you taking Cipro? Are you taking the antibiotic?
MR. BOUCHER: There is no reason to believe that I might -- I'm not -- (laughter) -- I'm not a bulk mail handler. I'm not sure I fall into the category of the Secretary and the President, but --
QUESTION: -- you're not taking it?
MR. BOUCHER: Why should I?
QUESTION: Is that a no?
MR. BOUCHER: Why should I? If I start saying, no, I'm not, then you're going to start asking every employee in -- I don't think it's appropriate for us to talk about every individual, frankly. I don't have anything to hide, but I don't think it's appropriate we talk about every individual in this building. And particularly when it comes to high-level personnel, I think it's better that we just not.
QUESTION: Richard, a few minutes ago, you read out a long list of things that the US is doing to support Pakistan, financially and other ways. But -- and I hate to go back to this -- but on the front page of one of the country's influential newspapers, US officials are accusing Pakistan's intelligence service of supporting -- having links, at least -- to al-Qaida. And certainly not the first we've heard of Pakistan having links to terrorist organizations, particularly in Kashmir.
Isn't the US concerned about this inherent contradiction?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's any contradiction. We have been quite up-front, on-the-record about our cooperation with Pakistan, and quite up-front, on-the-record about things that we're doing. As far as articles and stories from unnamed intelligence officials, I just don't feel I'm prepared to deal with every single comment that somebody might make anonymously. We have been quite clear on the record about our cooperation and support for Pakistan, and we will continue to be so.
QUESTION: May I just follow, please? One more. That was my question, but anyway, I have another question. Whatever US is giving billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan in return, is the US satisfied with Pakistan, what the US expected, is Pakistan delivering what they promised?
MR. BOUCHER: As the President and the Secretary have said, we have been very pleased with the cooperation that we have gotten from Pakistan. Pakistan is doing a lot to contribute to the effort against terrorism, and we welcome that contribution from Pakistan.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary expecting a visit (inaudible) by Igor Ivanov?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And if so, can we assume that the subject is the new strategic framework that you all are talking about?
MR. BOUCHER: Foreign Minister Ivanov will be here. I think he comes in on the 31st. We will have meetings with him on November 1st, later this week. They will be discussing the full range of US-Russian relations, especially with a view to preparing for the Washington and Crawford, Texas meetings between President Bush and President Putin.
QUESTION: Does that mean Mr. Armitage could not (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: No, Mr. Armitage will go to Moscow. Mr. Armitage will be in Moscow at I believe the same time. Yes, he will be in Moscow for meetings on November 1st, continuing an ongoing dialogue with First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Trubnikov, and other Russian officials in the framework of the US-Russia Working Group on Afghanistan.
QUESTION: What do you mean -- I'm sorry, "and," that's an "and," right? The Afghanistan working group? That's not his only --
MR. BOUCHER: No. He is going out to continue his discussions with Trubnikov, and other Russian officials, in the framework of -- he's going out to Moscow for a meeting of the US-Russian Working Group on Afghanistan. First Deputy Foreign Minister Trubnikov is his counterpart in those discussions. That is what he is going for.
QUESTION: So it's focused particularly on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Richard, on Friday, you all announced that you had suspended, or were suspending your the Peace Corps operations in Bangladesh because of anti-American demonstrations. And then, lo and behold, the next day there was a huge one. Do you know how many people and programs that suspension actually affects?
MR. BOUCHER: Did we announce this, or did Peace Corps announce this?
QUESTION: No, no, you did. It's in a public announcement on Bangladesh that was put out on Friday.
MR. BOUCHER: All right, no. I'll have to double check on that. I generally leave the details to Peace Corps, and I'll check and see that they've got them.
QUESTION: Okay, and then what was the last high-level contact that you know with your favorite king? Former king?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have favorite kings.
QUESTION: Right, I know, I'm sorry. So the former King of Afghanistan, was it with his -- with the Afghanistan desk (inaudible)? Or has there been something since then?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, Ambassador Haass was out there 10 days ago or so, and certainly our embassy in Rome keeps in very close touch with them. And finally, frankly, we talked to members -- I'm not sure if we talked to him, but people in that groups, as well as other Afghan exiled groups. We talk to them on the phone at the expert level all the time.
So I'd just assume that we're in pretty constant touch with a variety of Afghan leaders and factions.
QUESTION: I was going to ask -- can I follow on that, please? Haven't checked on his whereabouts in a few days, Mr. Haass, he went up to the UN, he saw the King; is there something more you can tell us about this post-Taliban --
MR. BOUCHER: He saw the King back when; he went to the UN last week. He met with Mr. Brahimi.
QUESTION: But he's the main -- I mean, what else is he doing?
MR. BOUCHER: He is keeping in touch with the parties. He has been in close touch with the United Nations. As I said, Mr. Brahimi is currently traveling out in the region and having meetings out there. So we have tried to keep in touch with his people, as well as with the various Afghan factions. So he's here, working.
QUESTION: You haven't done the Middle East yet. Middle East. Well, we have to do something. Are you -- how does the United States feel about the rather kind of patchy progress towards the objectives that you would like to see on withdrawals from Palestinian cities and terrible violence, and so on?
MR. BOUCHER: We would say that, first of all, the withdrawal from Bethlehem and Beit Jala is encouraging. We look to Israel to complete the process of withdrawal from all the other Palestinian-controlled areas. We would note that there is a trilateral security meeting scheduled for this evening, and we hope that that meeting will lead to a full withdrawal.
We condemn in the strongest terms the murder of four Israeli civilians in Hadera, and of an Israeli soldier near a Kibbutz Metzer. And we have called upon Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to carry out their responsibilities, to move immediately to find, arrest and bring to justice all those responsible for terrorist actions and violence against Israelis.
Once again, we would say that both sides need to do everything they can to reduce the violence, to restore calm and act in a manner that allows progress towards implementing the Mitchell Report and restoration of a direct dialogue between the parties. We have been working intensively on this, to try to restore calm and resume a political dialogue. Secretary Powell, as you know, has been in regular touch with regional leaders, as well as international leaders, people who might be traveling out there, like Foreign Minister Fischer, for example.
In addition, Ambassador Kurtzer and Consul General Schlicher have been in close contact on a daily basis with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
QUESTION: Do you happen to know where the meeting is?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Do you know -- last week you kept -- on and off you were saying "immediate withdrawal." You're no longer saying "immediate." Is that because there's some kind of process under way, and you don't --
MR. BOUCHER: We want to see this begin, continue on a day-to-day basis. We want to see it go through, yes, immediately, and keep urging them to continue that process and see it through all the way.
QUESTION: Do you have any response to the reports this weekend that the IDF gave a briefing to some reporters saying that the Tanzim, which is the militia wing of the Fatah party, was coordinating and had formed some sort of coordination with Islamic Jihad and HAMAS? I mean, is this crazy talk from the IDF?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Do you know about the three soldiers that were captured about a year ago, and they are now confirmed dead, and Israeli soldiers -- no?
MR. BOUCHER: Which -- there are so many Israeli soldiers -- the one (inaudible) Lebanon?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Israeli soldiers that are captured and (inaudible) yet. These are the ones in Lebanon.
MR. BOUCHER: The Lebanon ones? I didn't realize they had been confirmed dead. I'll have to look at it.
QUESTION: I think you answered the first one. I just wondered if State knew anything more about who killed them.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll double check, see if anybody around here knows anything more.
QUESTION: Richard, you mentioned the killing of the Israelis that had (inaudible). There have been persistent reports in the Israeli press that there's a group of Jewish terrorists in the West Bank who killed about 40 Palestinians, including a group a few days ago.
Do you -- are you following their activities, and are you calling on the Israeli authorities to arrest them? Because the Israeli press reports suggest that the IDF takes a rather lenient attitude towards their activities.
MR. BOUCHER: We have been quite clear in all our statements that both sides need to do everything they can to reduce the violence and the activities of violent groups, whichever side they are on are harming the overall process, and delaying the return to normal life that everybody there wants.
QUESTION: Any phone calls (inaudible)?
QUESTION: On Afghanistan. Can you confirm any public reports that the former Pakistani military chief said that (inaudible) the Taliban had handed over already Usama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia?
MR. BOUCHER: I've never seen any report like that, internally or externally.
QUESTION: The old telephone question. Arafat at last, check, had not responded to the President's letter. Has the Secretary of State spoken to Arafat, Sharon, Peres in the last few days?
MR. BOUCHER: The last few days he has talked to -- he talked to Foreign Minister Ivanov on Saturday. He talked to Foreign Minister Fischer about the Middle East. Usually when he talks to Foreign Minister Ivanov, in addition to other things, they talk about the Middle East.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't -- not in the last few days he hasn't had any direct phone calls with the leaders.
QUESTION: The Iranian parliamentary committee that recommended a dialogue with the United States on the future of Afghanistan, do you have any response to that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: You didn't know about that?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:37 p.m. EDT.)
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