Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More

World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for September 9

Daily Press Briefing Richard Boucher, Spokesman Washington, DC September 9, 2002


ANNOUNCEMENTS 1-2 Colombia Human Rights Certification

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 2, 13-4 Chairman Arafat s Speech/Call to End Suicide Bombings 2-3 Security Needed for Effective Reform 3 Quartet Meeting/Other Middle East Meetings

IRAQ 3-4, 5-6 Evidence of Iraqi Chemical and Biological Weapons 7-8 Iraqi Opposition Meetings

AFGHANISTAN 3-4 Quartet Meetings at the UN General Assembly

RUSSIA 3-4 Under Secretary Bolton s Trip to Moscow

GERMANY 5 Position on Ira

q MIDDLE EAST 6 Death of KCBS Camera Man in the Northern Gulf

PAKISTAN 6, 14 Position on Iraq/ Relations Between India & Pakistan / Benazir Bhutto

DEPARTMENT 6-7 Secretary Powell s Telephone Calls

ANTIAMERICANISM 7, 14 Conference Series

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY 8 Meetings and Coalition against Terrorism

CHINA/TAIWAN 8 Visit of Chinese Diplomat/Taiwanese Official s Visit to the Pentagon 9-10, 13 Visit of Dalai Lama s Special Envoy to Beijing and Lhasa

WORLDWIDE 9, 10 Remind Citizens of Current Travel Warnings

INDONESIA 9 Temporary Closure of Jakarta and Consulate General in Surabaya

CONSULAR 11-12 Meeting of Rousch Sisters with Consular Official in London

INDIA Visit of External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

AUSTRIA 14 Chancellor Scheussel Dissolving Parmliment


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I'd like to start off to tell you about the certification decision that was made for Colombia, something, as you all know, that we have to do under US law periodically. And on September 9th, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage determined and certified to Congress that the Colombian Armed Forces are meeting the statutory criteria related to human rights and ties to paramilitary groups. These conditions include suspending military officers alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights, cooperating with civilian prosecutors and judicial authorities and severing links with paramilitary groups.

This certification allows the remaining 40 percent of funds appropriated by the Act, by the Foreign Operations Authorization Act, to be obligated to the Colombian Armed Forces. The certification is based on a careful and thorough examination of the criteria and the conditions in Section 567 of the Act and the relevant actions and policies of the Colombian military.

I want to reiterate that human rights are a central part of our policy towards Colombia. We recognize the real progress that has taken place in being able to certify here, but we also recognize much more needs to be done to improve the human rights performance of the Armed Forces, including ending military and paramilitary collaboration.

President Uribe we know shares our concerns and is committed to working with us on concrete measures that the Government of Colombia can take to achieve those results. We'll have a slightly more complete statement for you after the briefing.

And with that statement, I'd be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Why was this done at Armitage's level instead of Secretary Powell's?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, the Deputy Secretary has the full authority to be able to do this. But it requires an extensive review of the record, I think, and we want to do this carefully and prudently, and when that work was being done the Secretary was still traveling in Africa so he took the time to go through it carefully and make the certification.

QUESTION: Is your statement also going to give us some outline of what you told Colombia they still need to work on, what the US is not satisfied with?

MR. BOUCHER: I think what I would say generally is that we have seen the Colombian Armed Forces taking effective action in some of these areas, particularly in severing links between military personnel and paramilitary units. We think more needs to be done in that regard. We would note that arrest combat operations and intelligence activities by the Colombian Armed Forces against paramilitaries have increased in 2002.

The newly elected President Uribe and Defense Minister have stated repeatedly that they won't tolerate any kind of cooperation in that regard. So, for example, those areas I think, and really in all of these areas -- cooperation with civilian prosecutors, severing the links -- they've taken some steps in the right direction but there is more that they can do.

QUESTION: May I ask what the State Department makes of Arafat's statement, what it includes and what it doesn't include? One thing it didn't include is condemnation of suicide bombing.

And if I can just go a little further, the Secretary's plans perhaps to meet with any Palestinian officials, at what level? Of course I mean here, I mean in New York, I even mean on the phone.

Your turn.

MR. BOUCHER: As far as the speech by Chairman Arafat, as the Secretary says, we haven't gone through it in detail to describe every word that's there and every one that's not there. We've heard the words about condemning violence and terror. We always welcome remarks like that, but obviously we've seen remarks like that before. So our view remains that we need to work towards Palestinian civil and security reform so that Palestinian people can have leaders in positions of authority who can take responsibility for transformation of Palestinian institutions. And it's that kind of work on the ground, that kind of transformation, that the President talked about in June and that we've been working on ever since that can really represent the kind of implementation of an end to violence that everybody is seeking.

QUESTION: So Chairman Arafat hasn't won himself a new life, as it were, from the United States in giving this speech?

MR. BOUCHER: We're still looking for the kind of new leadership in the Palestinian Authority that can take responsibility for the actions that are necessary to create the institutions, to create the security apparatus and to create the Palestinian state.

QUESTION: Well, that clears things up for some of us. I don't want to digress, but we met with a senior Israeli military official this morning. But going back to the point, he -- and I ask the question of you can there be reform without Arafat taking firm hold of security. Does the security have to precede effective reform?

MR. BOUCHER: The security is an essential element of progress down the road that we've all looked at. The Secretary has made that clear in his remarks, the Secretary has made that clear in his meetings, that without establishing security for Palestinians and Israelis alike, we are never going to be able to move down the road that we all want to do in terms of civil reform and establishing institutions and cooperation.

Now, there are steps being taken, as you know, to try to help work on the reforms of the security apparatus. We are also pleased to see that the parties themselves are meeting and discussing security issues and that that has continued. So there are a variety of things that can be done and will be done in order to try to establish leadership in the security area, as in other areas, on the Palestinian side of people who can take responsibility and actually deliver on their commitments.

QUESTION: And the Secretary's --

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the Secretary's plans.


MR. BOUCHER: Nothing particularly planned during this week. As you know, next Tuesday we'll have a Quartet meeting on the margins of the UN General Assembly activities and the Secretary has spoken generally of there being a variety of other Middle East type meetings around that event. But I don't have a full schedule of those for you yet.


QUESTION: Some Arab leaders are saying they want to be invited to this Quartet meeting, as they were the last time we had a Quartet meeting in New York. Do you know if there are any plans to include Jordanians, Saudis and Egyptians?

MR. BOUCHER: As you know, we have had meetings like that in the past and we will have various configurations of meetings around the -- you know, connected with the Quartet getting together in New York. We also expect to see the Secretary to meet himself with various Arab leaders but the final schedule of all these meetings I don't have for you yet.

QUESTION: What do you make, if anything, of Scott Ritter running around on the anti-attack-Iraq bandwagon? And on that, I notice that the Russians have announced that Bolton is going to go there next week. Is this part of -- for consultations on Iraq and other things? But is this part of what the President was setting up with the UN Perm 5 members?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say that. Let me describe to you Bolton's travel as a separate matter and then we can move on to the questions of Iraq and former inspectors, if I can find it.

Under Secretary Bolton is going to Moscow later this week to discuss a range of security and nonproliferation issues with senior Russian officials. He'll be in Moscow from Wednesday to Friday. This meeting is an advance meeting in preparation for the first meeting of the US-Russia Consultative Group for Strategic Security which will meet on September 20th. It will be chaired jointly by Secretary Powell and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. We expect Under Secretary Bolton to have meetings with Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov, Minister of Atomic Energy Rumyantsev, Director of Russian Aviation Space Agency Koktev and other senior Russian officials.

QUESTION: They're going to meet the 20th?

MR. BOUCHER: The 20th is here -- right? I just realized the sentence didn't include a place, but I'm 99 percent sure it's here.

QUESTION: Okay. And what --

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Now, what do we make of former inspectors? I guess I really don't think I can try to parse every single statement that may have been made out there. What I would point to is the evidence. The evidence that the inspectors themselves found and the evidence that we've seen since then of Iraq's continuing its efforts to develop these programs. In London, the Institute for Strategic Studies has a report today that, again, their conclusions are very similar to those that we have had and others. A great deal of this information has been made public in the past. The UN inspectors did an extensive report in 1999 that outlined Iraqi efforts to maintain capability in the area of weapons of mass destruction through 1998 when the inspectors were forced out. We've heard since 1995 Iraqi defectors made clear that Iraq not only possessed weapons of mass destruction but also had an elaborate scheme to conceal them from UN inspectors. All these various reports, including the ones out today, indicate that Iraq produced thousands of tons of chemical and biological agents, including anthrax, VX nerve gas, mustard gas, ricin and others. Iraq has retained the expertise and rebuilt much of the physical infrastructure needed to produce these chemical and biological weapons on short notice.

We continue to monitor Iraq's programs closely but since 1998 there have not been inspectors on the ground and we continue to believe that any inspections need to be unrestricted, unconditional and unfettered. We are concerned by activity that we have seen at certain Iraqi sites that are capable of producing weapons of mass destruction and long-range ballistic missiles.

So we've had four without inspections. We knew that as of 1998 we had certainly not been able to destroy their biological growth media, their biological toxins and much of their chemical stock. We have certainly not been able to find every bit of their nuclear programs and we know with evidence of procurement activities and other reports since then that they have continued to develop those programs and develop those areas.

So without a clear indication to the contrary, which Iraq is obliged to give under the UN resolutions that it accepted, without a clear indication to the contrary that Iraq accepted many times in accepting inspections, I think we have every bit of evidence to conclude that Iraq had programs, they were partially destroyed, and they tried to maintain and expand them since the inspectors were gone. There has been, as I think we said over the weekend, a decade of deceit and deception, and that's the problem that we're faced with as those programs continue. It may not be possible to predict exactly when they might reach fruition, but one has to deal with the problem sooner rather than later.

QUESTION: Also on Iraq tangentially, I wondered if you have any remarks to make regarding Chancellor Schroeder's comment that Germany won't be clicking its heels for America. From your perspective, it could be seen as an attempt to get reelected by bashing America. Is that how you see it?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any particular comments on particular individuals and particular statements that they might have made. What I would make clear is what the Secretary and the President have made clear all along, that the problems of Iraq, the problems of Iraq continuing its attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction, is a problem for the region, it's a problem for the world, it's a problem for the UN Security Council members. It's a problem for all of us and all of us need to be prepared to deal with it.

QUESTION: Well, are you prepared to say, then, that Germany's position on Iraq hasn't damaged your relationship at all?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't make any sweeping statements. We obviously have a lot of important cooperation with Germany and it's a very important ally of ours. This is an issue I am sure we will continue to discuss.


QUESTION: Richard, on Iraq, I think there are a lot of questions out there about whether, as you have laid out, the US has concerns that they have continued to develop biological, chemical, that they, you believe, are beginning to reconstitute the nuclear program which the inspectors had in '98 felt was pretty well decimated by their inspections.

So the question is: Why is there an urgency now? Do you think in six months that they could do this? Is there evidence that there are plans to attack their neighbors? I mean, I think that what seems to be missing here for many people is absolute evidence that even though they're going down this road, are they, say, three months away from being able to attack neighbors, the US, people in the region?

MR. BOUCHER: I think first of all, you're asking almost for the impossible. Tell me the day before they finish their work so that if it's not taken care of by then, we can take care of on that day and not have to worry about the day after. That's an impossibility. It may be six months, it may be one year, it may be two years. We know they retained growth media and biological stocks. We know they've got chemical agents of various kinds and we know that in the past the Iraqi Government has been willing to use those chemical agents. So you could say why predict when -- I mean, you already know that they have it.

But second of all, in terms of we also know there are continued procurement activities. We know the example cited over the weekend, that they've tried to buy the specialized aluminum tubing that's needed for centrifuges. They're trying to separate out nuclear material. When are they going to succeed? And how long do you wait to find out if they have or have not?

The issue for us is that they're continuing these programs. If they succeed, when they succeed, it will be a grave danger to us all. And should we wait for that to happen before we think about taking action? We think that we need to deal with the problem.

QUESTION: Richard?

MR. BOUCHER: George.

QUESTION: You say they're continuing their procurement activities. Do you know who is cooperating?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have any -- I'm trying to think if there's already a public source for that kind of information. I would say that you know that we have brought various sanctions under Iran-Iraq Sanctions Act and things like that that you would be able to find probably from the Treasury Department list of entities that have been sanctioned under those acts.

QUESTION: What are the plans to bring back the American body of KCBS cameraman Larry Green who died over the weekend in the Northern Gulf while the US military was trailing a Syrian vessel?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. It's a very sad incident of a journalist out doing obviously dangerous work in pretty interesting and extraordinary circumstances with the US military. But it was with the US military. I'm sure they have done what they can. I'll leave it to the Pentagon to tell you on that.

QUESTION: One more on Iraq? General Musharraf of Pakistan, he said that he doesn't want to see US to attack another Muslim country and he will not go along with the United States this time.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm waiting for a question.

QUESTION: Any comment?

MR. BOUCHER: I think he said a variety of other things as well. No, I'm not going to start parsing each leader's statements on this. The President, as you know, will speak to the United Nations about this. He will speak to the international community about this. He has made a whole series of phone calls himself today and over the last few days, including his discussions with Prime Minister Chretien today and with Prime Minister Blair over the weekend. So we're actively discussing this with any number of international leaders. The President will talk to many more international leaders in New York. The Secretary will talk to more international leaders in New York. And as I said, the President will speak about this on Thursday.

QUESTION: And the Secretary will meet with him at the UN to discuss this matter?

MR. BOUCHER: Has the White House put out the list of the President's meetings yet? I'm not sure. I don't have any list of -- the President will meet with him? Has the White House announced that?


MR. BOUCHER: I would expect if the President meets with President Musharraf that the Secretary would participate in that. I'm not aware of any separate meeting at this point.


QUESTION: Richard, has the Secretary made any parallel or follow-up calls to those calls that the President has made in the last 72 hours to the allies or others, or just a separate list of phone calls he's been making on Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: He has talked to Jack Straw, as he does from time to time. He hasn't really done a round of foreign ministers phone calls since about a week or so ago.

QUESTION: And he'll be seeing --

MR. BOUCHER: But he'll see any number of foreign ministers, either with the President in the meetings or separately during the course of his discussions in New York. And of course he talked today with the Indian Foreign Minister here and will talk with the Bulgarian Foreign Minister this afternoon.


QUESTION: I realize these are private meetings, but is there anything you can tell us about what you learned from the anti-Americanism meetings last week?



MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if they can give us any kind of appreciation of that. These meetings are run by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. They are off the record for the participants but they lead to analysis by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research -- how should I say? -- a considered and insightful analysis that's not done over a weekend and that doesn't pop up the next Monday morning. So I'll see if they can give us any general thoughts at this moment, but the final product would probably be for internal circulation.

QUESTION: Anything from the Iraqi opposition meeting that we were, I believe, also involved in?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. Let me check on that one, too.


QUESTION: Richard, can you preview the Secretary's visit to the General Assembly? Are there any themes? Is he going to be curlish and bulling concerning Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, you'll hear the themes from the US Government from the President, so a lot of what the Secretary is doing in New York is to continue working the issues that the President will raise. I'm sure the President will talk about the US role in the world and particularly vis-à-vis Iraq, as he said he would.

The coalition against terrorism, the cooperation we have against terrorism, comes up in almost every meeting he has these days, certainly looking in each particular case with each particular either group that he's meeting with, like the European foreign ministers or the Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers, looking for ways that we can increase our cooperation against terrorism.

We regularly discuss the Middle East. We regularly discuss Iraq and what the international community is going to do about this problem with the Europeans and others. The question of Article 98 agreements and the International Criminal Court remains high on the agenda. And we'll also, I'm sure, be doing some South Asia work up there since we'll see a variety of leaders and others who are interested.

Okay, let's do some of the patient people in the back.

QUESTION: A Chinese diplomat was here last week to protest about the Taiwanese defense official's visit to the Pentagon. Do you know what they talked about what the reaction from --

MR. BOUCHER: No, you're telling me this. I know they make calls like that from time to time, but I don't have anything particular on that.

QUESTION: Okay. On the Taiwanese visit to the Pentagon, the Pentagon said -- confirmed a Taiwanese military -- I mean defense official and they're meeting with Pentagon officials. What does this say to the unofficial contact nature of the US-Taiwan relations?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about that particular meeting. You'll have to ask the Pentagon for comment on it. Sorry.

QUESTION: One more?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, one more.

QUESTION: Not Taiwan, Tibet. The Dalai Lama has two envoys in Beijing today. Do you have any comment, anything on that?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we do. Okay. Just to say that we're pleased to learn that the Dalai Lama's special envoy, Mr. Lodi Gyari, was received in Beijing on September 9th, and he'll also visit Lhasa. President Bush and Secretary Powell have discussed with President Jiang and other Chinese leaders the need for a dialogue with the Dalai Lama or with his representatives. We believe that a process of dialogue can resolve longstanding differences and result in greater freedom, including religious freedom for the Tibetan people.

At the outset of the administration, Secretary Powell pointed Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky to serve concurrently as Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, primarily to promote such a dialogue. She is encouraged by Mr. Gyari's visit and views it as an opportunity to foster mutual understanding and an important first step. The administration will follow the visit with great interest.

QUESTION: Thank you. There are reports today that the al-Qaida planned or plans to target the Israeli and US embassies in the Philippines. Do you have any information on this?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I think there was some discussions of an arms cache that was, I think, reported on sometime back, but I don't have anything new on the situation there. I would remind people at this juncture that, you know, we have worldwide travel advisories, travel warnings and others around the world that indicates there's still at threat out there. We may close embassies from time to time. US Embassy Jakarta and the Consulate General in Subaya are closed today. And we'll continue to analyze all the information we have. But Americans should be careful and realize that there is still a threat out there.

QUESTION: On that subject --

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, on that subject. Terri, and then Matt.

QUESTION: The announcement from the Embassy in Jakarta also warned Americans not to come around any facilities linked to the Embassy, so it sounded like the threat was maybe more specifically targeted at the Embassy buildings than we sometimes hear about. Can you tell us anything more about that?

MR. BOUCHER: Just really what the Embassy has already said, that they have received credible and specific threat information that the American Embassy in Jakarta and Consulate General in Surabaya are at risk of terrorist attacks. So that means that they've closed their facilities to public activity till further notice and they're reviewing their security postures.

QUESTION: Linked to 9/11? Can you tell us anything? Al-Qaida links?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can go into any more detail, but we're all aware of the date.

QUESTION: On the embassy question, are you aware of any of the -- any embassies that are closing on the actual -- on Wednesday, other than the consular sections in Pakistan?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have a full list here. Let's see. We told -- no, I don't at this point know of any particular embassies that are closing on that date. As I said, Jakarta and Surabaya are closed today.

(Beeping noise.)

MR. BOUCHER: Those kind of things drive the television people wild when it happens during the briefing.

But I'd point out first of all, we've sent a cable to all our embassies and all our diplomatic posts to advise them to maintain a higher state of alert and implement appropriate security precautions. As I noted, the Worldwide Caution of July 1st remains in effect and we do continue to receive credible indications of a threat from individuals planning terrorist actions. So Americans need to remain vigilant, and if we have any more specific information we'll try to provide it.

QUESTION: And on a similar vein, I understand the Deputy Secretary is going to be officiating at a memorial ceremony here on Wednesday. Are there any plans for -- what are embassies abroad doing, if any -- is that all up to them?

MR. BOUCHER: Embassies abroad are undertaking a whole variety of activities but yeah, largely organized by them, by the embassies. We've asked them all to lower flags to half-staff on September 11th. We're going to have a ceremony Wednesday morning from 8:30 to 8:50 that will be web-streamed and broadcast throughout the building to make it accessible to people who can't attend. We'll also make that available, the Department ceremony, available through the American Embassy Television Network so that our posts overseas can use it in conjunction with their own events.

We understand that just about every mission plans some sort of commemorative event.

QUESTION: Will it be open to press?

MR. BOUCHER: It will be in the lobby.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: Richard, when you said you sent a cable to all the embassies to maintain caution, is that something you sent in connection to 9/11 or is this just the ongoing security?

MR. BOUCHER: August 30th we sent a reminder to the embassies.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. More on this?

Sir. New topic?

QUESTION: Pat Rousch and the Pat Rousch case. On or around Saturday, August 31st, a US consular officer in London took a statement from Pat Rousch's two daughters. Now this is Alia and Aisha's first trip out of Saudi Arabia since being abducted there 16 years ago and it happened the very same weekend a congressional delegation arrived there in order to negotiate a release or to move further in that case, among others.

And given the fact that neither -- that given those facts and the fact that neither Congressman Burton nor Pat Rausch wanted the State Department to take a statement from Ali and Aisha, why did the State Department do that?

MR. BOUCHER: We met in London with two American citizens. That's a normal thing for us to do -- a meeting with these two sisters and a consular officer in London. The only other attendee was the infant daughter of Alia. We had no prior knowledge of the sisters' intention to travel out of Saudi Arabia. We are very aware of Mrs. Rousch's desire to see her daughters, and we, as a matter of fact, did inform her that they had -- that we found out that they were in London and that we were going to be able to meet with them.

I have to say these two young ladies are now adults. Determination as to whom to contact and assistance from consular officials, if they desire it, rests with them. And so they were able to request a meeting and we, of course, met with them.

My understanding is that Representative Burton had not had anything scheduled or did not intend to meet with the sisters while he was in Saudi Arabia.

QUESTION: Well, he was actually trying to negotiate a meeting here in America where they would not be under the same duress as they would be in a mini Saudi Arabia where they were surrounded by other Saudis. But, you know, you can't say that this was a normal situation or normal circumstances. It happened -- this is the first time they've managed to leave the country. It happened the very same weekend Congressman Burton arrived there, so you cannot say this was --

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't --

QUESTION: Okay, well, for example, why did the State Department then in press guidance say that the girls were on vacation when clearly they were not? Do you at least now --

MR. BOUCHER: Because that's what they told us and they are American citizens and we believe them. That's what they told us: they were on vacation in London. Why they were on vacation in London that particular weekend, I don't know. I'm not trying to speak for them.

QUESTION: The State Department didn't want to --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to explain their --

QUESTION: -- that common sense that it probably doesn't add up?

MR. BOUCHER: You want to stop a sec? We can think about what we like. I'm not spokesman for the family. I'm not spokesman for the girls. Okay? But they came to London. They told us they were on vacation there. It is indeed the first time they've traveled outside of Saudi Arabia. They said they wanted to meet with a consular officer and we were very happy to have a consular officer meet with them. That's our part of the story. If you want to ask why they were in London that weekend, you have to ask them or the family.

QUESTION: Well, given the high-profile nature of the case and the fact that it does go back over 16 years and you guys were well aware of it, and you knew Congressman Burton was going over to Saudi Arabia, why did the State Department not at least take some time to talk to Congressman Burton and ask him, you know, and consult with them about the status of their trip or with the negotiations involving Pat Rausch, and just for the record Pat --

MR. BOUCHER: We've talked to Mrs. Rousch constantly on and off ever since this situation developed. This is a very difficult situation for her, one that we have tried to be of assistance time and time again and where we continue to try to be of assistance to her and to her daughters and to try to see if this can't be worked out. We had no prior knowledge that the sisters were going to travel to London, therefore we were only able to tell her at the last minute when they contacted us for the meeting. But we have certainly been in constant touch with her.

As you point out, Representative Burton was in Saudi Arabia talking to people in our embassy, our ambassador and the other officials who've been involved in these cases. And we had quite extensive discussions with him about these kinds of cases and what we can and cannot do for people.

QUESTION: Just one final question. Given the precedent of Dria Davis, who was 11 when she was kidnapped to Saudi Arabia by her father and a consular officer in a similar circumstance took a statement from her and said she was happy and the same sort of things that were in the current statement, and it came out later after she had managed to escape Saudi Arabia that in fact, her father had threatened to kill her, given that kind of precedent, didn't the State Department want to maybe put a caveat there about not knowing what kind of possible duress the girls might have been under when they gave that statement?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, all we're able to do is relay what they say to us directly. They were in a meeting where it was only the two sisters and one of their infant children. They told us that they were on vacation. They told us they did not want to go to the United States. They did not make or sign any formal statement renouncing their mother, renouncing the United States or anything like that. All they signed was a Privacy Act waiver so that we could talk to you about this. But other than that, no, there was no particular statement that they made.

Okay. We had Iraq and then we'll head back to the back a little more.

QUESTION: Richard, before that, if I can go back over Tibet one question. The Dalai Lama is calling on the United States to help him to get released thousands of Tibetan political and religious leaders in Chinese jails being held or in Tibet under Chinese rule. Any comments what role the --

MR. BOUCHER: We got to the question, didn't we? Here's what I would say. We're quite aware of Tibetan political prisoners. We talk about it frequently, including in our human rights reports. Our goal on Tibet has been to see an improvement in the situation, respect for the culture and unique nature of Tibetan society. We've also encouraged the Chinese Government and representatives of the Dalai Lama or the Dalai Lama himself to enter into a dialogue and that, in recent years, has been encouraging the Chinese Government to enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives who have been willing. So we do see the trip of Lodi Gyari to Beijing and then to Lhasa as a positive development, and we would hope that it would lead to progress on dialogue as well as on some of these other issues, as well.

QUESTION: On India, can you give any readout about the meeting between Secretary of State and Indian ministers?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't really think I can do much more than what they did outside at the entrance themselves. It was a good and thorough discussion of all aspects of our relationship, including a lot of areas of cooperation which the leaders can talk about in their meetings in New York, and where we can go forward in a variety of ways: in cooperation on strategic issues, economic issues and regional issues and many other areas with science and technology and many others areas with the Indian Government.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the statement yesterday by President Musharraf in that relations between India and Pakistan are at their lowest ebb -- I believe those were his words -- in years. I don't know if this squares with what you folks have been saying.

MR. BOUCHER: We haven't tried to characterize relationships between two other governments. Our point is that we look to both those governments to continue to try to make progress in reducing tensions and we continue to have very active discussions with them about how to do that. We also have very important and active relationships with each of those countries.

Okay. We'll jump back to you later.

QUESTION: Yasser Arafat is now calling for an end to suicide bombing and for peace with Israel. Does the Department consider this as sincere or just more words?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we just talked about that about ten minutes ago, so we'll go back to the -- longer? Twenty minutes ago. A half hour ago.

Okay. The gentleman behind you.

QUESTION: I have one more question about a conference about anti-Americanism. Some of the scholars actually came from other countries. Could you tell us exactly where they came from?

MR. BOUCHER: No. We -- this was, I think, the fourth in a series of six conferences. We have conferences like these, from time to time people meet with the US Government. We listen to their views. We like to hear their views. We like to hear what they have to say and we like to hear it fully, frankly and off the record. So off the record means we don't give a list of who was there, nor do we start talking about what they said. But we do find it useful to hear from scholars, and if they want to identify themselves, tell you what they said, it's fine with us. But generally, we keep these things off the record.

Okay. Sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, anything on the Cyprus issue after the Paris meeting on September 6th between President Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader, Raul Denktash?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything right now. I'll have to find you something. Thank you.


QUESTION: Any comments on the Australian Chancellor Wolfgang Schueussel dissolving parliament and kicking out or completely throwing out the Freedom Party after the resignation of their party chief Suzanne Riess-Passer and also their finance minister?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Internal political developments, we don't get into that.

QUESTION: Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto from Dubai, she is accusing the United States for helping General Musharraf, and she said that with the US help, General Musharraf will be getting away with everything, anti-democratic moves. She's also now banned not to run for the elections in Pakistan.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any particular comment. Our record on support for democracy and a return to democracy is very strong and we'll continue to advocate those positions.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:40 p.m.)


Released on September 9, 2002

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.