State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 18, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index December 18, 2001 12:50 P.M. EST
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 1-4 General Zinni Consultations/Secretary Powell Communications With Both Parties 20 DFLP Group's Reaction to Chairman Arafat's Speech
EUROPE 4,6-7 EU Delegation Meeting in Washington/ EU-NATO Issues/Satellite Communication
NATO 7-10 Aircraft Purchases by NATO Allies and Military Reforms
DEPARTMENT 4-6 White Powder Substance in Envelope
INDIA/PAKISTAN 10-14,18 Attack on Parliament/Kashmir Dispute 19 Pakistani Border Security
WAR ON TERROR 10-12, 14-17 Fight Against Terrorism and Al-Qaida/Yemeni Efforts/Saudi Arabia Efforts 18 Rewards for Justice Program
IRAQ 14 Threat to Region
AFGHANISTAN 14,17 Amb Dobbins in Kabul/US Presence
SAUDI ARABIA 16-17 Detention of Saudi Princess
HAITI 19-20 Mob Violence and Need for Dialogue
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2001 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:50 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements. I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Is General Zinni coming to town today, seeing the Secretary?
MR. BOUCHER: No, he is not coming to town today. The Secretary has been in touch with him on the telephone and they have talked about the situation, and I'm sure they will see each other in the next few days. General Zinni will report to the Secretary and to the President about his mission.
As you know, he remains engaged. His mission continues. We will continue to work with the parties to see how to move forward.
QUESTION: Richard, I understand the Secretary spoke to Chairman Arafat this morning?
MR. BOUCHER: He spoke to both Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat this morning.
QUESTION: Well, according to the Palestinian side -- and I'm sure you'll have some comment on this -- the Secretary congratulated the Chairman on his fine speech and said basically, okay, now you don't have to do anything else. Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what characterization the Palestinian side has given to the phone call. I don't think it corresponds with what I just heard from you.
The conversations the Secretary had today with Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat were to look at how to move forward, how to continue efforts to end the violence. The Secretary stressed clearly to Chairman Arafat that he needs to take firm and decisive steps to end the violence. He noted that we have seen a number of steps. Chairman Arafat laid out for him a number of the things he was doing.
The Secretary noted that we have seen some positive actions from the Palestinian side, but also said those actions need to be completed, they need to be made effective, there need to be more actions to make an effective end to the violence and that was the tenor of their discussion.
The Secretary also said, as we have before, that direct Israeli- Palestinian contacts, particularly on security issues, are important to end the violence, and in his conversations with both sides encouraged them to continue those kind of contacts.
MR. BOUCHER: And the other call?
QUESTION: To Sharon.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, Sharon. It was similar.
QUESTION: The same thing?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the comment about direct contacts applies to both. The Secretary encouraged both parties to continue their contacts, to work together to end the violence. We do think that Israel needs to be prepared to do its part to create an environment in which Palestinians can sustain and expand their efforts.
It is important that Israelis work to alleviate the pressures on the Palestinian people, especially restrictions that impose real hardships and make day-to-day living difficult. But we continue to put the primary emphasis today on the efforts by Chairman Arafat to effectively, decisively and in a sustained manner deal with the causes of violence.
QUESTION: Did the conversations include a direct suggestion of a resumption in security talks? Are we asking them to start those back up even though --
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we have encouraged them to continue contacts to work together to stop the violence. We have certainly encouraged Chairman Arafat to take very specific steps and to continue the steps that he started.
QUESTION: But what about specifically resuming the talks that we were facilitating?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always felt that direct security talks were important, and so that is a subject we continue to discuss with them.
QUESTION: When you said you encouraged Prime Minister Sharon to hold direct contacts, do you mean with Chairman Arafat himself, or was that not mentioned in the conversation?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that specific issue was mentioned. The issue before us now is how to stop the violence. We have always felt that concerted action, decisive action by Chairman Arafat and security contacts especially, direct contacts between the two sides, are what is most important to stopping the violence. And that is what we talked about with them today.
QUESTION: Richard, when he was speaking to Arafat, you said that Arafat had laid out to him a number of steps he was taking. And then you said the Secretary said the action needed to be completed. Is that -- is he still asking for Chairman Arafat to do more than what Arafat told him he was doing on the phone?
And, secondly, when he was talking to Sharon about taking these steps to ease the Palestinian suffering, was he talking about doing that only after Arafat takes these steps and completes them, or doing them now?
MR. BOUCHER: The discussion -- he didn't go through that in any detail with Prime Minister Sharon. The discussion was primarily devoted to what do we need to do right now to stop the violence. But we have also made clear in general terms, and sometimes in specific terms, that Israel needs to be prepared to do its part.
QUESTION: Right, but that's different --
MR. BOUCHER: As for the conversation with Chairman Arafat, yes, he heard from Chairman Arafat on a number of steps they were taking. He said those steps are welcome, they need to be completed, they need to be made effective and they need to be added to, in order to ensure the effectiveness of efforts to stop the violence.
QUESTION: The language seems to change a little bit. You are saying Israel needs to be prepared to do its part. But before, you have been saying Israel needs to respond to or should respond to steps that Arafat was taking. Why the change?
MR. BOUCHER: To make it more interesting for you.
QUESTION: Oh --
QUESTION: Can we put this in another way, because --
MR. BOUCHER: I think that the view is the general context that, as we see the Palestinians start to take steps and as we push the Palestinians very hard to continue to take steps to make -- to end the -- to dismantle the groups, to end the violence, to stop the violence, we think that it's important to remember that Israel also needs to be prepared to do their part.
I wouldn't ask, you know, of any specific steps at this moment. But they are -- it's necessary for them to be ready to do things and to work to alleviate the pressures on the Palestinian people. That has always been something we have made clear.
QUESTION: You did say, "I wouldn't ask for any specific steps at this moment." But the Palestinians have started to take some steps, I think.
MR. BOUCHER: That's what I said.
QUESTION: Yes, that's what you said -- no, you didn't quite say that, but now you have.
So can you give us a clear idea of how you envisage the phasing of these two -- of these two things?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I am not out here to lay out you do this, you do that, you know, how it all fits together. That work does need to be done and it needs to be done by the parties in direct context. It is done when there is an opportunity by General Zinni or other representatives that the United States has out there.
The important thing is that as we see the Palestinians starting to take steps, we first and foremost want to see these steps completed, made effective. And, second of all, we need to remind the Israelis that they need to be prepared to do their part. That is exactly where we are today.
QUESTION: But not to do anything, just to be prepared to do them?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to take it any farther today.
QUESTION: With regards to the situation in the Middle East, what kind of message are you going to be giving to the EU leaders as they come to town tomorrow, as I understand it?
MR. BOUCHER: We will be seeing, I think, the Belgian Prime Minister and EU High Representative Solana tomorrow. They will come in and they will visit with the Secretary. I am sure -- they are coming to brief the Secretary on the results of the European Council Summit in Laeken this past weekend. They will also, I'm sure, discuss the situation in the Middle East, counter-terrorism cooperation and Afghanistan.
As for the Middle East, the message will be the basic one that we have been delivering throughout, and that is the international community needs to be united in supporting an end to violence, we need to make the message quite clear, especially to Chairman Arafat, that he needs to take steps to stop the violence.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? Will there be any mention of Arafat's travel to Europe in this conversation, do you think?
MR. BOUCHER: We will have to see. If there is any such travel, it might be mentioned. If there's not, it might not.
QUESTION: New subject? Can you update us on the status of the suspicious powder found in Armitage's office yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday, about 4:00 p.m., the Office of the Deputy Secretary received an envelope that contained about one quarter of a teaspoon of white powder. The letter was opened there. It had arrived through the regular Postal Service mail. It was postmarked on October 29th. US Postal Service officials have told us that the delay in delivery, plus a brownish tinge on the envelope, indicate that the envelope was irradiated. The air system to the office in which the letter had been opened was shut down, the FBI was notified, the FBI collected the suspicious substance, and they will tell us when the results are available. We are working closely with the FBI. There was also a hazardous materials team that came to the building.
Preliminary results indicate that the substance does not contain anthrax. But we won't have a final result for 24 to 48 hours.
QUESTION: Did the person that opened the envelope get a dosage of --
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to double check if the person was already on antibiotics or not. But that has been standard practice for us.
QUESTION: Do the preliminary results indicate what this substance might be?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything to report at this moment.
QUESTION: Can you tell us any more about the envelope? It came from Texas, did you say?
MR. BOUCHER: It was -- it had a return address that was in Texas. It had a postmark that was in Texas. As I said, postmarked October 29th.
QUESTION: You're not giving us the return address?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Do you have a city in Texas?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was someplace called Kennedy. Kennedy, Texas.
QUESTION: And no note?
QUESTION: It used to be called Dallas.
QUESTION: No note?
MR. BOUCHER: The -- no. The envelope contained a powder only. There was no letter inside.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm sorry, who explained the delay in the delivery? The Postal Service?
MR. BOUCHER: The Postal Service said that something postmarked the 29th that arrives in December, whatever it is --
QUESTION: So it took them a month, a month-and-a-half to deliver a letter from Texas to here?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I don't want to blame it all on them. We are also processing mail at a temporary facility without our usual sorting equipment.
QUESTION: Was there a First Class stamp on it?
MR. BOUCHER: No. As you know, the Postal Service, once this material arrives at the Main Post Offices for Federal Government, it gets trucked out to Ohio, it gets irradiated and comes back. And that delay, plus the brownish tinge on the envelope, indicates that it was - -
QUESTION: You don't know --
MR. BOUCHER: -- probably irradiated, and therefore, we believe that there was no immediate health hazard. We would rather get our mail late and safe than early and potentially dangerous.
QUESTION: Or lethal.
MR. BOUCHER: So we are happy to have it irradiated. If it takes that time, we are happy to wait.
QUESTION: -- meeting with the EU leaders tomorrow. In the recent European Council, there was a discussion about the ESDP and the relationship with non-EU NATO members. Under the initiative of Great Britain and with the help of the US, an agreement was brokered with Turkey, the so-called Istanbul Paper, and Greece rejected that. So there is still a problem with this issue.
What is the US position on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I gave the US position yesterday on this. The matter is now with the EU and I guess we will look forward to hearing from them tomorrow about where it stands.
QUESTION: Do you still support the agreement of Istanbul with Turkey?
MR. BOUCHER: We thought that the arrangements worked out were fine with us, and as I said, the matter stands with the European Union and we look forward to hearing from them.
QUESTION: Richard, on the EU, what do you guys make of what the EU had to say about the ABM withdrawal at Laeken?
MR. BOUCHER: Didn't really notice. Should we have paid more attention? I will look and see.
QUESTION: I don't believe they said anything.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there you have it.
QUESTION: A related question, Richard. What is the US position on the Galileo satellite system? Have you been --
MR. BOUCHER: Is this a trick question?
Here I am asked not to comment on something that they didn't say. I won't say anything about what they didn't say, and as far as the Galileo satellite system, I'll check on it.
Any other obscure EU issues that I haven't dealt with.
QUESTION: Actually, I have one that is kind of EU-NATO related, which is when the Secretary was in Brussels -- well, you can't speak to Secretary Rumsfeld who was there just yesterday or this morning.
MR. BOUCHER: Today.
QUESTION: Yes, right. But Secretary Powell, when he was there, did he bring up with your staunch new NATO allies their decision to not buy US fighter jets? I'm talking about the Czechs and the Hungarians. But also the Poles apparently are about to decide on this, and they are also leaning away from the American-made product.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has been a staunch supporter of American aircraft sales, and in his meetings from the very beginning of the Administration, he has raised the fortunes of American companies and the fact that we make the best airplanes in the world. He has pressed that in a variety of meetings.
So we are disappointed that the Czech Republic and Hungary recently took steps forward in procuring advanced supersonic fighter aircraft. We recognize these big decisions also have implications for their military reform programs, their abilities to meet force goal obligations to NATO.
As the Czech Republic and Hungary determine their future military requirements, we urge them to avoid major defense procurements that could jeopardize other urgently needed military reforms. The Secretary has raised these issues about the cost, the spending, the implication for other programs. But in the end, he has always said if you're going to buy airplanes, you ought to buy American ones.
And as far as the Polish matter goes, yes, the Secretary met yesterday with the Polish Foreign Minister and again said if they were going to procure advanced fighter aircraft, we felt that we made the best ones and are strongly supportive of our American companies.
QUESTION: So do you think that their purchase of these jets and using them could affect badly -- adversely affect NATO in some way?
MR. BOUCHER: We have -- I think we have tried to make clear all along that, as nations address these force requirements and these purchases, they needed to consider the overall impact on military reform programs and abilities to meet their broader global force obligations to NATO. And those are important questions that we think need to be considered.
QUESTION: What is the military reform program?
MR. BOUCHER: All the NATO members -- first of all, all the NATO members have various force planning goals and other requirements that we discuss consistently. And then some of the newer NATO members are still in the process of transforming their militaries and meeting interoperability standards and things like that within NATO.
QUESTION: So that should take precedence, you are saying?
MR. BOUCHER: We think it is important to make sure that we can meet those other goals, even as they look at purchases.
QUESTION: And your caveat on that to the two others applies also to Poland?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. If you're going to buy, buy American. But consider carefully how you can meet your overall obligations.
QUESTION: Richard, you seem to be saying -- let me get this straight. Do you think it was unwise of these two governments to decide to buy planes instead of doing something else with the money?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would use your language. I think I will stick to my language, thanks.
QUESTION: What was your language -- you think it was what, then? You think --
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we think that they should avoid major defense procurements, which could jeopardize other urgently needed military reforms.
QUESTION: But if they are going to make them, they should buy from the States and not from --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Well, okay, now I've got a question.
MR. BOUCHER: Is that fair?
QUESTION: I don't understand the interoperability thing that you just brought up with Barry. Because, I mean, are you saying that, say, French aircraft or British aircraft are not interoperable within the NATO scheme of things? I mean, these countries fly their own planes. Why can't -- why do the Czechs have to buy your planes, and why can't they buy from someone -- I mean, I can understand if they were buying from China, or from -- (laughter) -- what's the deal?
MR. BOUCHER: My turn?
MR. BOUCHER: Nobody said they can't buy some other airplane. We haven't argued that these other airplanes cannot be interoperable with NATO -- with American airplanes or NATO airplanes or other airplanes that NATO maintains in its inventory. Our view has been that when it comes to airplanes, first of all, we make the best ones. And second of all, we make airplanes that have been deployed throughout the world, that have been proven in combat, that have been proven in lots of different situations. And they have a demonstrated record of interoperability, as well as performance. And we think we make the best.
So we make that clear to other countries when we talk to them.
QUESTION: But can't you let, you know, Boeing and Lockheed Martin make their own sales pitch for them?
MR. BOUCHER: We like to support American workers, American companies.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Sort of related to that. Can you just expand on how the Secretary has raised the fortunes of American aircraft companies? I'm just -- that was what you said originally --
MR. BOUCHER: Perhaps it's not the best phrase. He has raised the interests of American aircraft companies in selling airplanes.
QUESTION: But he didn't -- I just want to --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say he -- that he -- I didn't mean to say that he brought more money their way. No.
QUESTION: Okay. I just --
MR. BOUCHER: That was a bad -- perhaps a bad choice of words. But that was not the implication. He has raised the interest of American companies in selling airplanes.
QUESTION: Switching gears. Can you talk about the diplomatic situation between India, Pakistan and what the US is doing at the moment to try and keep them from starting something?
MR. BOUCHER: For the moment, we are keeping in very close touch with both India and Pakistan. The Secretary spoke yesterday evening with the Indian Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh. And our Ambassadors in Islamabad and New Delhi are keeping in close touch with the governments there.
Our basic view has not changed. The basic view is the one that we stated yesterday. The Indians need to conduct their investigation, need to consider what the appropriate action might be to help protect their people against terrorism, to help protect their democracy against terrorism. But we think it is incumbent upon all to make sure that we pursue the overall effort against terrorism, and we have made quite clear in our discussions with the Pakistani Government that as we pursue terrorism next door, that all countries have an obligation to work against terrorism within their own borders, and that we look to the Pakistani Government to work against extremist groups that operate out of Pakistan.
QUESTION: I think I got your message. Can I ask --
QUESTION: Can I follow up? In terms of the Administration's involvement in Afghanistan, and needing Pakistan's support for that, how much of an added burden is this for the Administration to try and keep these two adversaries apart?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer to that is really that we recognize that the fight against terrorism has many aspects and many facets. It is important for all of us to go after terrorism, period. The fight against al-Qaida and the people who have harbored them in Afghanistan still has a ways to go to make sure that al-Qaida can't operate in Afghanistan. But it is only part of this broader effort that the President has decided on. The President has made clear that we intend to go after terrorism wherever it exists. We intend to go after groups that are associated with al-Qaida. And we look to all the countries involved, all the countries who have made this basic commitment against terrorism to fight terrorism, to carry out steps to make sure that terrorism doesn't flourish within their borders. And so you see actions around the world in a whole variety of places against groups that might be supporting terrorism.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? And you see action now in Yemen. Is it (a) part of the al-Qaida mop-up; (b), terrorism generally; or, (c), (a) and (b) combined?
MR. BOUCHER: Or, (d); (a), (b) and (c) combined, possibly.
QUESTION: If you wish.
MR. BOUCHER: Possibly. I'm not quite sure what the choices are there. I don't have --
QUESTION: Well, there is a general campaign against terrorism and there is a campaign against al-Qaida specifically.
MR. BOUCHER: I think exactly what is -- what the Government of Yemen is doing and who the targets are of these efforts that they're making, I think that is a question you have to ask the Government of Yemen. I don't have the answer for that for you.
What I would say is that we just about two weeks ago we had a very, we think, important and useful visit from the President of Yemen. It is clear that he intends to go after terrorism, that he is committed to the fight against terrorism. We welcomed that. We offered our support, we offered our cooperation, and we will continue to work with them in the overall fight.
But as far as what specifically they are doing and who they are going after now and what their connections are, I think you have to get that from the Yemenis.
QUESTION: And on Charlie's question, may I just ask one follow-up? India charged today, and I don't hear you dismissing the allegation, which is a message in itself, that the attack on the parliament was Pakistan's attempt to attack the leadership of the Indian Government.
Your statement is very strong on terrorism. Do you have any -- does the State Department have any basis for sharing India's suspicions?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we understand the Indian investigation is still under way. So I know there have been a variety of statements and charges and other statements made by people, but I think we look to the Indians to complete their investigation and get -- see what information they come up with.
QUESTION: Richard, if I can follow on with that, you avoided part of my question.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't mean to.
QUESTION: Perhaps you intended it, perhaps not.
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe I did.
QUESTION: But you didn't address the strain, if any, on US diplomats in the region to try and tamp this down while we're looking for help from both of them in the war --
MR. BOUCHER: I guess what I tried to say is we don't really see it that way. We are not measuring strains in pound per square inch or anything like that on this issue. We are looking for cooperation from all nations against terrorism. We see actions against these groups that have been known to carry out terrorist acts to be part of that overall campaign against terrorism. We look for action by all governments to take action against groups like that within their borders.
And so, as we work with India, as we talk to India about their investigation and how they -- what they can do to protect themselves against terrorism, we also look to Pakistan to take action, not only with us against terrorism generally, but also against extremist groups that might be operating in their country.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, you may not be measuring the strain in pounds per square inch, but you certainly are measuring it on some scale. I mean, yesterday, Ari Fleischer at the White House talked about how the President didn't want this to "spin out of control." Those were his exact words. Last night, on television, the Secretary said -- not the same thing, but kind of a similar thing -- we are concerned; we don't want to see these two countries go after each other, which I think is what he said.
So obviously there is some concern. In light of that, the evident concern that has been expressed already, General Taylor is going out to India. Are there any plans for him to go to Pakistan as well? And also, is there any thought being given to re-advertising your interest in assisting some kind of mediation over Kashmir if both sides would agree to it?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, did we -- I think somebody asked me yesterday if General Taylor was going to go to Pakistan, and I didn't get the answer for you. Did I? No. Okay. We will double check on that one. I don't think we have timing, either. I wouldn't expect it to happen until the beginning of the year, when he goes to India.
On the issue of Kashmir, I think our views are well known. Our willingness to help out if they want us to is well known. At this point, clearly, we don't want to see -- as I think I did mention, and the Secretary has mentioned before, we don't want to see other actions which can make more difficult the pursuit of terrorism, which can make more difficult the fight against terrorism in the region.
As the Secretary I think said, we don't want to see them start fighting in Kashmir. That has always been our view.
QUESTION: When you say, "We don't want to see actions that can take away," does that include statements, words, accusations that are made before all investigations are completed?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to make sweeping statements of that general nature that you would probably apply to something specific that may or may not be pertinent.
QUESTION: Well, I'm just noticing that the Secretary called his friend Mr. Singh, but he didn't call the Pakistani foreign minister.
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has talked to President Musharraf, I think right after the attacks, at least once. I can't remember; it might have been more than that. The President has been in touch with them. We have been in touch with the Pakistani Government in a whole variety of ways and at a variety of levels.
QUESTION: I'm talking about the Parliament.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, the attack on Parliament.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: Can (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you tell us any more today about what specifically you have asked in general of the Pakistanis to deal with the terrorism that has emanated from their country before against India?
MR. BOUCHER: I will leave it with what I said before. We are looking for them to take action against extremist groups that might be operating from there, within Pakistan.
QUESTION: Does that mean, like -- you can't say closing down offices, ending them -- I mean, the stuff that we have been getting on other areas?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a whole host of obligations which are incumbent upon every country because of the UN resolutions. We think that all governments should take those actions.
QUESTION: Maybe not a necessary question, but I want to be clear. This advice, "Go after extremist groups," is irrespective of whether those groups have targeted Americans or American property? It's terrorism, per se? Or is it? I have a reason for asking. But, you know, you've been told by --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, tell me your reason before I give you an answer.
QUESTION: Here's the reason.
MR. BOUCHER: Full disclosure.
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of Egypt was here recently, and the Foreign Minister of Egypt spoke very strongly about the culprits in the September 11th bombing and how they should be pursued, and how awful they were, and how much Egypt supports that. And with the same breath, he cautioned the United States not to take action -- and Iraq was on the table at the moment -- not to take action against an Arab government, that the Arab governments would not appreciate that. Okay?
So the question arises whether you need to satisfy Egypt and maybe other Arab governments, whether you have to have an attack against Americans as a rationale for counterterrorism efforts in Arab countries, or is terrorism itself -- against whoever -- reason enough to make this appeal, whatever these Arab governments may say?
It's pretty clear.
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not. First of all, the President has defined the problem as terrorism of global reach.
MR. BOUCHER: That is the issue. You know that there are groups on the US terrorism list that have contacts in Iraq. And I think if you read our Patterns of Global Terrorism Report, you will see why Iraq has been listed and continues to be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. So there is no question of those links.
Iraq is its own -- Iraq is not only a problem from that standpoint. Iraq is a problem because of developing weapons of mass destruction. Now, they may not be a conventional weapons threat anymore to their neighbors. But we are very concerned about the possibility of what they might be doing in the areas of weapons of mass destruction. We have made that abundantly clear. And we have also made clear that they need to let the inspectors back in. So there is a lot more to Iraq than your question would imply.
QUESTION: Ambassador Dobbins is in Islamabad as well. Is that so?
MR. BOUCHER: He was recently, in the last 12 hours or so.
QUESTION: Is he on his way back to the States already, after --
MR. BOUCHER: No, he will be in Kabul for the -- when the interim authority assumes power on the 22nd, so we expect him to be there.
QUESTION: And then he comes back?
MR. BOUCHER: And then I think he comes back, yes.
QUESTION: Is he an official representative -- will he be the person who represents the US at that?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to see if there is anybody else. But I know he will be there representing the United States there.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Yemen for a moment? Can you tell us whether it is your understanding that the action taken by the Yemeni forces was related in any way to an American request of some kind or information provided by the American side about individuals?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information on that.
QUESTION: Are you pleased that they made the attack --
MR. BOUCHER: I said, I don't have enough information at this point to comment one way or the other, frankly.
QUESTION: But you spoke of -- who was here, a couple of weeks ago, the President?
MR. BOUCHER: The President, yes.
QUESTION: How the US supported him in his efforts to deal with terrorism.
MR. BOUCHER: He made a strong commitment against terrorism and we welcome that and we look forward to working with him. But as far as a specific action by the Yemeni Government, I will leave it for the moment for them to explain what it is.
QUESTION: Are these the kinds of actions you are looking for Chairman Arafat to take in --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know enough about it to start applying the Yemeni model to every other country in the world -- before you ask me whether this applies in some other region as well.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the legal status of the Saudi princess arrested and held on felony battery charges in Orlando? And how will the debate over whether she has diplomatic immunity -- do you think it will impact what many say are already strained US-Saudi relations, in light of the number of Saudis involved in the --
MR. BOUCHER: All right. First of all, there are many, many Saudis in the United States, and many Saudis studying here, and we certainly welcome them, and that is, I think, an important part of our relationship. So I don't think you should take one case and make that into some enormous strain.
The issue of diplomatic status is not merely what passport a person holds, but what -- whether the person is accepted by the host government as having diplomatic status. So we either have to issue a diplomatic visa, or we have to somehow receive notification and acknowledge that the person has diplomatic status.
I am not aware that that had occurred in this particular case. So that may not be an issue here.
QUESTION: The Princess may not have diplomatic status, is what you're saying?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. She would have to have been notified or otherwise accepted by us for diplomatic status.
QUESTION: That's it exactly. I mean, you say she may not, but can you say that she doesn't?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a definitive answer from my people at this point. But we are not aware that that has happened, is the way I have to put it for the moment.
QUESTION: That what has happened, that she --
MR. BOUCHER: That she was granted diplomatic status by the United States.
QUESTION: How would you characterize at this point the type of cooperation today the US is getting with Saudi Arabia on issues like freezing funds to terrorist groups and tracking down people connected to al-Qaida?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid your colleagues are amused, because they ask the question every day, and I give the same answer, because it's true.
QUESTION: Are you going to talk about the basis again? We're talking about --
QUESTION: Wait, wait. She asked a question.
QUESTION: I'm just asking for a characterization.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I know. And it's a good question, because I think it's one that is widely misunderstood amongst some people in this room. (Laughter.) And I am always happy to give the truth to somebody.
QUESTION: It is people who aren't in this room that keep writing it.
MR. BOUCHER: I know. I have convinced you all.
Levity aside, we have worked very closely with the Saudi Government in a whole variety of areas. We have law enforcement cooperation, financial cooperation, and various other forms of security and other cooperation with the Saudi Government. They have agreed to everything we have put before them in terms of what we needed to conduct this campaign against terrorism, and our cooperation has been very good, it has been very useful, it has been a very important part of the campaign.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate the Princess' case is going to put an added strain?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would say that at this point. As I said, there are many, many Saudis in the United States, there are many students here, there are many who travel. And I don't think we can take one case and believe that it really disrupts that whole relationship.
QUESTION: There are many Saudis, and even there are many princesses, but this isn't an ordinary Saudi. Has there been a request for consular access that you know of?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: On a related topic. Can you say, along the same line, in terms of the impact on the US-Saudi relationship, how I guess a lawsuit against the Pentagon from this woman regarding dress codes is going to affect that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I couldn't. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Another one on the Princess.
QUESTION: It's not the Princess. It's a different thing. There are US military personnel in Saudi Arabia. They have to dress a certain way, and there is now going to be this lawsuit.
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard about it, and I will leave the Pentagon to comment on it.
QUESTION: I have another legal-type question. Have you ever gotten an answer -- have you gotten an answer yet back from the lawyers on the status of the liaison mission in Kabul, or are you just hoping that question will quietly fade away?
MR. BOUCHER: I was hoping to have something to say to you before you asked it again.
The designation of a post as an embassy is something that requires a certain bureaucratic procedure to be carried out, and I'm sure we will do it at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I ask a related question then? What plans or what talk has there been from the interim government about establishing a similar office here in Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You would have to ask them.
QUESTION: Okay. And can you clarify something the Pentagon seems to be -- people at the Pentagon seem to be going around saying that there is a $10 million reward for the capture, conviction, whatever of Mullah Omar. And I don't know if this is -- is this in some way related to the DS thing? Or is this something that they are doing completely on their own?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You would have to ask over there. Certainly, our general reward program applies to --
QUESTION: To him?
MR. BOUCHER: No, applies to people who have carried out terrorist acts or might be planning terrorist acts or involved in terrorist acts against Americans, and I don't exactly know what evidence there might be against Mullah Omar in that connection, frankly.
QUESTION: Okay, so can you look into that, though, and just find out if there is something --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I would suggest that if that's coming out of the Pentagon, then you ask over at the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Well, then they said that it was part of your program. So that's why I'm asking you.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have anything on that, frankly.
QUESTION: Back on the subject of embassies. There are reports that the US Embassy in Burma has stopped issuing visas, and I'm wondering, is that embassy closing to the public? Or has there been a threat? What's going on?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't checked on the Embassy in Burma. I will double check for you and find out what the status is.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, you said that the Pakistani Government has been asked to take action against terrorists or militant groups, but there have also been reports that India might take action against groups based in Pakistan. So that would add a new dimension to the entire thing. Would you have a comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to speculate at this point. I have described our position before. I think I will just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about this morning's meeting between the Secretary of State and the Japanese Ambassador?
MR. BOUCHER: And the Japanese Ambassador? No, I can't. I will see if there is anything to say.
QUESTION: Getting back to Pakistan. Is there a concern that bin Laden or some other al-Qaida leaders that may have slipped over the border are in Pakistan, could somehow destabilize the government? Is that something that you have had conversations with --
MR. BOUCHER: No. The Pakistani Government, as you know, has deployed a lot of troops. They have increased the level of their vigilance in the areas that abut Afghanistan, particularly those regions where there has been fighting, where the al-Qaida people have been reported.
I think they are making a lot of efforts along the border. It is a mountainous and inhospitable region, but they have made a lot of additional efforts to try to make sure that that sort of thing doesn't happen, and we are fairly confident that if it's possible to find people trying to slip across the border, that they are making every effort to do so.
QUESTION: Richard, yesterday, when you were asked about Haiti, you came down quite strongly on the side of the elected government of President Aristide. There are a lot of charges today from the opposition that this entire incident was cooked up by Aristide's people in order to further crack down on the opposition there. Have you -- one, have you sorted out what basically -- do you know what actually happened there?
And two, if you have -- well, I'll let you answer that.
MR. BOUCHER: I think yesterday I condemned the violence and said that we were always in favor of elected governments when it came to being against the violence. But we didn't have a lot of information on who exactly perpetrated this attack, and what was involved. And frankly, we don't have much more today. Port-au-Prince is calm today, one day after this attack on the presidential palace. And the ensuing mob violence, which I don't think had started, or had gotten to the proportions that it finally did, about the time that we were talking.
Our Embassy in Port-au-Prince is open to the public for business. The airlines have resumed their flights. But we make clear that we condemn the violent attack on the palace, as well as the mob violence that followed. The armed assault on the palace and the response of pro- government supporters, which included violent attacks on political opposition offices and homes, is extremely troubling.
Yesterday's violence underscores the need for dialogue and reconciliation among all elements of Haitian society. The Organization of American States has actively pursued efforts to broker a resolution to Haiti's electoral crisis, and we have strongly supported the OAS Secretary General in these efforts.
We urge the Government political party, Lavalas, and the opposition coalition, the Democratic Convergence, to participate in mediation efforts led by the OAS and to reach a national agreement resolving election issues. And we call on the Government of Haiti to protect the rights of all Haitians, to take appropriate measures to discourage vigilante actions, to respect the rule of law and to maintain order.
So you do have a situation that evolved there, and particularly the mob violence that occurred after the attacks was something of great concern to us.
QUESTION: So is it fair to say that in general you are always going to side with the elected government over any kind of attack that is going on? But if that attack is provoked, or started by that government, you're not going to like that? In general.
MR. BOUCHER: You are trying to get me to make an obvious comment. In general, yes. Does that apply to this particular situation? I don't know. We don't have a lot of information about how these attacks started. We certainly believe that the mob violence that ensued is something that the government should take responsibility for stopping, and they need to make more efforts to ensure the rule of law and that calm can prevail.
QUESTION: Okay. Last one. This week, the head of the political wing of a done-good former terrorist group, Gerry Adams, is in Cuba meeting with the head of a country that is a state sponsor of terrorism, according to your list. What do you make of that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment at this point. I will see if we want to.
QUESTION: I have a related one. The DFLP, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, rejected Arafat's appeal for an end to military operations. The DFLP, of course, was removed from the FTO list about two years ago. Do you have any comment on its attitude in this case? And is it a candidate for reconsideration?
MR. BOUCHER: I will double check on their status. I don't have any particular comment at this moment.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m. EST.)
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