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26 September 2001

Transcript: State Department Noon Briefing, September 25, 2001

(Israel/Palestinian Authority, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia,
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India, Department, UN, Terrorism, Eqypt,
Turkey, Central Asia, Macedonia, Italy) (7950)
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed.
Following is the State Department transcript:
(begin transcript)
Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, September 25, 2001
BRIEFER:  Richard Boucher, Spokesman
-- Israeli Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat Announce
Agreement to Meet
-- Secretary Powell's Contacts with Foreign Minister Peres and
Chairman Arafat
-- Steps by Parties to Reduce Violence
-- Egyptian Foreign Minister's Comments on International Terrorism and
the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
-- U.S. Contact with Syria
-- UK Foreign Secretary Straw and Discussions with Iran
-- U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan/Refugee Situation
-- Status of Detained Aid Workers in Afghanistan
-- U.S. Contacts with Afghan Factions
-- Russian Cooperation on Fight Against Terrorism
-- President Putin's Comments on Chechnya
-- Cooperation on Fight Against Terrorism
-- Withdrawal of Diplomatic Staff From Afghanistan
-- Saudi Decision to Sever Relations with Afghanistan Taliban Regime
-- Saudi Cooperation on Fight Against Terrorism
-- Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with Indian Cabinet Secretary
-- Secretary Powell on Hill in Closed Session Today
-- General Assembly Plenary Session on Terrorism
-- Possible Resolutions on Terrorism
-- International Cooperation to Cut Off Funds to Terrorist
-- Visit of Foreign Minister Maher
-- Visit of Foreign Minister Cem
-- Cooperation on the Fight Against Terrorism
-- Disarmament and Political Situation
-- Visit of Foreign Minister Ruggiero
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm sorry I'm a
little bit late today, and I realize we all have other things we want
to be at, so let's make news quickly.
I don't have any announcements or statements. I would be glad to take
your questions.
QUESTION: Obviously, you will say something, I think, about the
Arafat-Peres meeting. But also, Arafat decided not to go to Syria and
to have the meeting. Was it suggested to him that his time would be
better spent going ahead with this meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any explanation. I think Mr. Arafat,
Chairman Arafat, would have to explain why he didn't make his trip to
Syria. I would like to say that we are very pleased that the Israelis
and Palestinians have announced agreement to meet at the level of
Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat. This is an important step,
which we hope will contribute significantly to reinforcing efforts to
halt the violence and build a substantive political dialogue.
As we made clear, we believe that the parties should seize this
opportunity in order to begin a direct and substantive dialogue, in
order to end the violence and move forward with implementing the
Mitchell Committee recommendations. The Secretary has expressed this
view in many, many phone calls to the region, including with the
leaders. Our chiefs of mission in the field have worked actively with
the leaders and with their staffs and people in Washington have been
in close touch with the parties as well.
The direct discussions between the two sides are the best way to
recreate the measure of trust and confidence that is necessary to
change the situation on the ground and to make life better for both
Israelis and Palestinians. We know -- I think you all know -- that we
put a lot of effort into making this meeting not only take place, but
making it productive and working with the parties so that they can
make the meeting productive. And we look forward to their using this
meeting to start a process that can really bring the violence down
even farther, solidify that and get on with the implementation of the
Mitchell Committee recommendations. And then where that leads, to
QUESTION: Yesterday at this time, he had -- the Secretary -- made a
call, his last call in that area was Peres. Any further calls since
MR. BOUCHER:  There haven't been any today that I am aware of.
QUESTION:  What about late yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday, he talked to Chairman Arafat twice. I think he
talked to Foreign Minister Peres again once. So he talked to Foreign
Minister Peres twice yesterday and to Chairman Arafat twice.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any indication whether this meeting is
actually going to go ahead. It seems to me that you have come up here
and said we're very pleased that they have agreed to meet several
times over the past few weeks, and then that meeting has fallen
MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven't. I said we are pleased that they announced
the meeting.
MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, it's important that the meeting actually take
place. I am not aware that they, in fact, in the past several days, as
they looked at the possibilities of meetings and we heard about the
possibility of meetings. I don't remember one that was actually
announced, so this is maybe one stage further than the others.
But obviously, it is very important to us that the meeting actually
take place and that it be productive. In the past, I think we have
made clear we thought it was good for them to meet, we thought it was
good for them to have direct contacts, but the most important thing
about those contacts, they need to lead somewhere. They need to lead
to a real process that improves the lives of Israelis and
Palestinians, improves the security of both, and gets us back on track
with the Mitchell Committee and the eventual negotiation.
QUESTION: Is this also a significant contribution to your efforts to
build an international coalition against terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that having progress in this area is
important for its own sake. And we have tried to talk before, as I
have again today, about the need to do this for the sake of the people
who live in this region who deserve better lives, normal lives.
Obviously we also know that many people in the world, particularly in
this part of the world, are following closely what happens and want to
know that there is a prospect of realizing some of the aspirations of
the people who live there as well, seeing the situation calm down,
seeing the kind of steps that can be taken, not only to stop the
violence in this area -- and we do look for the Palestinians to take
immediate, sustained and effective steps to stop the violence -- but
we also look for steps that the Israelis might take to improve the
situation of the Palestinians. And we know that there is a lot of
attention focused on those sorts of things.
So, yes, it does contribute, I think, towards solidifying the
coalition and to making the point that the United States is not
against Muslims, that this fight against terrorism is not a fight
against the Muslim world, it's not a fight against Arabs. It's a fight
against a particular group of terrorists that have used and abused the
hospitality of people in this part of the world, and especially have
benefited from the tolerance of the Taliban, to carry out acts which I
think again and again you've seen countries say are not Islamic and
not consistent with the Arabs' cause. And that was part of the Saudi
announcement where they announced that they were cutting the ties with
the Taliban.
QUESTION: Since September 11th, have you noticed an improvement on the
part of the Palestinian Authority in disciplining members of the
Tanzim and Force 17 that have conducted acts of aggression against
Israelis, as noted in your report on PLO compliance on September 12th?
Have you noticed any change in that? You didn't give them very good
marks then. Have things improved?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't necessarily mark these things on a daily basis.
I would say that we have seen steps by the Palestinian Authority to
reduce the violence. We've seen the clear statement that Chairman
Arafat made to call on all to implement a cease-fire, and we've seen
some steps on his part to try to make that effective, to try to make
that stick. But we're still looking for a continuation, for further
steps, for immediate, sustained and effectives steps to make this
QUESTION: Have you seen anything on the Israeli side that would
indicate that they're trying to make life better for the Palestinians?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll leave it to the Israelis and the
Palestinians to announce what particular steps they might be taking.
We have certainly talked to the Israelis about the kind of steps they
might take, but at this point, I think, let's see what the meeting
produces. Maybe that's a good question to look at tomorrow.
QUESTION: Have there been any talks with the Syrians to rein in
various terrorist groups in the so-called Bekaa Valley area?
MR. BOUCHER: We have consistently been in touch with all the countries
in the region, as well as around the world, to talk about the need to
take steps to rein in terrorism, to stop terrorism, to squeeze
terrorism, choke it off. As you know, we have said to many countries
that you can't pick and choose among terrorists. And you need to
continue to take steps that stop terrorism across the board, even as
we go after al-Qaida organization first and foremost.
So we have an ongoing dialogue with Syria on the subject of the
activities in the Bekaa Valley, and other activities that Hezbollah
has carried out. And we have asked them, as well as all others, to use
their influence to rein in these kind of activities.
QUESTION: Richard, has the Secretary yet heard back from Foreign
Minister Straw about his discussions in Tehran?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any particular phone calls or messages
at this point. I'll check and see if there has been any communication
out there.
QUESTION: Well, do you see anything right now, or do you -- maybe you
want to wait until after he's heard from him, but from what you've
seen thus far, is there any -- do you see any movement from the
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't make any observations at this stage. I think
we've said we'd be interested in the impressions and whatever
observations Secretary Straw has when he comes back. As you know, we
do have other ways of communicating with the Iranians, should that be
necessary. And we'll fit that -- his observations obviously -- into
the picture we're trying to build of what Iran is prepared to do
against terrorism.
QUESTION:  Different subject?
QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)
MR. BOUCHER:  I'm ready for anything; let's go.
QUESTION: Straw. What does the United States think of the
controversial remarks which Mr. Straw made, which upset the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment on other people's remarks about
other things.
QUESTION:  You often do.
MR. BOUCHER: No. We'll let other friendly foreign ministers speak for
QUESTION: If we can go back and look at -- I had another question
about the Palestinians. There have been a number of reports,
particularly from the Israelis, that terrorists like Hamas operating
in the Palestinian territories, have links to the al-Qaida network.
Does the State Department have any evidence that there is any kind of
connection there at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I would have to leave what we have said about
this subject to the Patterns of Global Terrorism Report that we put
out and I would invite you to look in there. I don't have anything
additional I am able to share with you today.
QUESTION: Aid to refugees. Do you have anything? There are reports
that there are now going to be many more Afghan refugees coming over
the borders into Pakistan. Is the U.S. going to up its funding to UN
organizations? MR. BOUCHER: I think first we need to remember the
United States has been a consistent and strong supporter -- in fact,
the largest foreign donor -- of assistance to the Afghan people, and
that includes the refugees who end up in neighboring countries. We
have contributed, I think, this year $177 million to the effort to
assist the Afghan people inside Afghanistan or elsewhere.
At this moment, we are looking at the potential of refugee flows in
the region. I think the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has talked
about tens of thousands of people, Afghans who fled from their homes.
We don't have exact confirmation of that.
At this point, there appear to be 5,000 to 10,000 refugees awaiting
entry into Pakistan at least one of the border crossing points. And
the reports are that 15,000 Afghans, mostly women and children, have
arrived in Pakistan since September 12.
With the withdrawal of aid workers from Afghanistan, we are
concentrating our efforts on working to ensure relief is available for
refugees in bordering countries, particularly Pakistan. And I don't
think at this point I have any new announcements. As I think we
mentioned the other day, we have recently given $2 million to them to
start planning work on getting a program up of emergency assistance.
We will continue to support that. But I don't have any new numbers for
you today.
QUESTION: My understanding is that there is an emergency budget
available at this time of year, amounting to $25 million, but it would
require presidential approval. Is that working its way through the
system, or is that not --
MR. BOUCHER: We have emergency funding available throughout the year
that can be allocated to refugee assistance because, by their nature,
we can't plan a year-and-half in advance for refugee flows. So we do
have money that can be applied to this sort of situation. I am not
exactly sure if there is an amount for this fiscal year that is still
left or if it happens on October 1st. But we are able to apply money
to these circumstances as necessary throughout the year.
QUESTION:  (Inaudible) of wheat?
MR. BOUCHER: No, the AID office can probably give you some. There have
been shipments that are headed into the region, there are shipments
that were on their way to Afghanistan that are available for
distribution elsewhere. So AID has been juggling some shipments and
ships and things like that to make sure that there is food available
at least.
QUESTION: This time yesterday, Russian President Putin was just giving
his speech and you didn't have anything to say. But I was wondering,
along with President Putin's comments, Sergey Ivanov has also said in
some interviews that they would be willing to assist the U.S. in other
ways and isn't going to object to the U.S. use of air bases in
Turkmenistan. Can you speak to the level of Russian cooperation thus
far, and is that surprising to you?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had continuing discussions and contacts with the
Russian Government. The President has had conversations himself. The
Secretary met with Foreign Minister Ivanov last week. And we do note
President Putin's speech yesterday.
We appreciate his offers of cooperation, of concrete cooperation in
our common fight against terrorism. We think that President Putin's
remarks demonstrate that Russia can make a major contribution to the
common struggle while, at the same time, respecting the sovereignty
and independence of its neighbors. As I said, we are and we plan to
continue to be in very close contact with the Russian Government.
QUESTION: In talks with Arab allies, has Iraq come up as part of those
discussions at all? And what kind of concerns have Arab countries like
Saudi Arabia expressed about U.S. policy toward Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not a spokesman here for other countries so I am not
in a position to describe what they think of Iraq these days. I would
say that we do continuously discuss Iraq with other governments and
countries and, obviously, Iraq's position in the region is important.
But at this point, Iraq is contained and really not able to threaten
its neighbors very much.
QUESTION: I heard this morning that the DOD team that's in Islamabad
has come up against somewhat of a brick wall with the Pakistanis and
that it finally has come to the direct question of whether U.S. troops
could use Pakistani ground space. Can you --
MR. BOUCHER: That's all very interesting, and every single word in
that sentence is one that I don't comment on. Defense, troops, ground
base, military -- those are all things that I don't comment on.
QUESTION:  The Pakistanis?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I do comment on Pakistani cooperation, which has been
QUESTION: Have you had further opportunity to clarify the President's
comments about giving the Chechen rebels 72 hours to come to talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we ourselves have been able to clarify
them. We would note a couple things on his statements about Chechnya,
though. We noted his call on Chechen insurgents to disassociate
immediately from any international terrorist networks and to meet for
discussions to resolve the crisis. The Chechen leadership, like all
responsible political leaders in the world, should immediately and
unconditionally cut all contacts with international terrorist groups.
That is certainly something we agree with.
At the same time, the United States has long said that only a
political process can resolve the terrible conflict in Chechnya, and
we would welcome steps by Russia to engage sincerely Chechen
We remain committed to working with the Russian Government directly
and within the OSCE to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict in
Chechnya. Once again, we would say that respect for human rights and
accountability for violations on all sides are crucial to a durable
And finally, we continue to urge the Russian Government to refrain
from military actions that endanger the well-being and legitimate
interests of the Chechen people.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up. Are you acknowledging, then, Moscow's
argument that it has made that the Chechen rebels have connections to
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to look into that a little more before I
could say that specifically, but I'll take it.
QUESTION: Isn't she saying the opposite, that there's an independence
movement and then there are terrorists; that there are Chechens who
are legitimate, independently minded, and then there are these awful
terrorists that they ought to not associate with? Or is it kind of a
mixed bag in that grouping?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what I'm saying, but that's neither the opposite
nor a mixed bag.
QUESTION:  Well, sure it is.
MR. BOUCHER: What we have said and what we continue to say is that
terrorism is a problem in this instance as well as other places around
the world, and terrorism needs to be fought, needs to be stopped. At
the same time, there are legitimate political interests by the people
in Chechnya that need to be addressed through a political process. And
in this whole process of addressing this, whether it's with military
action, the anti-terrorism action or the political action, one has to
be, the Russians need to be mindful of human rights and of
accountability, the need to maintain human rights and accountability,
so that we don't have problems on their side too.
QUESTION: President Mubarak, your friend and ally, whose foreign
minister will be here tomorrow, said today similarly that the key to
fighting international terrorism was to deal with the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What do you think about that?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, as I responded to your earlier question that
was more general on the topic, we recognize that people do want to see
that we are doing something to aid the resolution of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have contributed immense effort and
time to that over the years. It remains an important subject for us,
and one that we continue to work on.
QUESTION: You mentioned in passing earlier the decision by the Saudis
to sever ties with the Taliban, but you didn't say anything -- whether
you liked that step or not. So would you like to take a moment to
thank the Saudis?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have come right out on the top and thanked them
from here, but the President has already done so himself, and what I
can add would obviously pale by comparison. But since I'm offered the
chance, I do want to say that we truly welcome the Saudi decision to
sever relations with the Taliban regime, because of the continued
refusal to turn over Usama bin Laden. We think this announcement sends
a strong message to the Taliban.
The Saudi action today is fully consistent with UN Security Council
Resolutions 1267 and 1333. It constitutes further evidence that the
international community of nations speaks with one voice on this
issue. I'd note as well that the United Arab Emirates has taken a
similar step, which we welcomed in a statement just the other day, and
also note that Pakistan has withdrawn its diplomatic personnel from
Afghanistan. We think that's a useful step as well.
QUESTION: Well, do you think that the Pakistanis should actually go
the next step?
MR. BOUCHER: I think all we can say on that is we're coordinating
closely with Pakistan. We welcome the step that they've taken to pull
their people out of Kabul, and we are coordinating with them.
QUESTION: But would you prefer to see the Taliban -- you would prefer
to see the Taliban as isolated as humanly possible, yes?
MR. BOUCHER:  I'll stop with what I just said.
QUESTION: No? Forget about Pakistan. You would like to see, in
general, the Taliban isolated --
MR. BOUCHER: I can't forget about Pakistan when I suspect you're only
pretending to forget about Pakistan. (Laughter.) I mean, you ask it in
that context. As a general proposition, absolutely. The whole issue
here is to isolate the Taliban from their financial supporters, from
their operations, from their cells -- sorry, to isolate the al-Qaida
organization from their financial operation, from their cells, from
their ability to travel. It's the big squeeze, and we think that all
should be a party to that. The Taliban, in their tolerance, have found
that they are going to suffer the same kind of isolation.
QUESTION: Well, do you see any usefulness to having any kind of
diplomatic channel to the Taliban? I mean, have you given up all hope
that the Taliban would even consider handing over bin Laden, and at
this point, have you considered them a lost cause? Or would it help to
have some kind of --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's a matter of hope, expectation, lost
cause or any other sort of emotional phraseology. They've got to do
what they've got to do. The international community has made that
clear and the President has made that clear. That's all there is to
QUESTION:  Deputy Secretary Armitage --
QUESTION:  Can I follow up on (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Why don't we go to the folks in the back; they've been
QUESTION:  Their arms are numb.
MR. BOUCHER:  Their arms are numb.
QUESTION: Thanks. Deputy Secretary Armitage, as I understand it, is
meeting later with the Indian National Security Advisor, Mr. Mishra.
Can you tell me what's expected from that meeting, and what kind of
operation Mr. Armitage is expected to ask for from Mr. Mishra?
MR. BOUCHER: The meeting today is at 4:00 p.m. Deputy Secretary
Armitage will meet with Mr. Mishra and other senior officials. Mr.
Mishra met yesterday with Dr. Rice at the National Security Council,
congressional leaders, and he also saw Deputy Secretary of Defense
Paul Wolfowitz.
I think, in general, we want to talk to India about the situation,
particularly with regard to terrorism and the kind of excellent
cooperation and support we have had from India. We thank them for
their unprecedented support, and we look forward to hearing their
views and discussing this current situation.
India is a key player in South Asia, and the U.S. relationship with
India is among the most important ones that we have. New Delhi was one
of the first to offer full support for the global coalition against
terrorism. They themselves have experienced terrible acts of
terrorism, and Indian citizens were among the victims on September
11th. So there is a great deal to talk to India about because of the
role they play.
QUESTION: Can you tell me any specifics about what kind of
cooperation, what kind of participation India is going to have --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid that we have consistently declined to do that
with any country. We leave it to other governments to establish the
baseline themselves on what they are doing and want to do.
QUESTION: The Secretary and the Secretary of Defense are going to the
Congress this afternoon for a briefing, and the Secretary of Defense
said it's a rare occasion. And why is it? What are they going to talk
MR. BOUCHER: (Laughter.) They're going to talk about the current
situation, and they are going to talk in closed session. And
therefore, I'm not going to describe what they're going to say. I
assume the question of "rare" is that it's not very frequently that
both of them appear together in front of congressional committees or
Members, to have them both up there at the same time is important.
QUESTION:  (Inaudible) appreciate a few comments on Macedonia.
QUESTION:  No, on Afghanistan (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER:  Okay, we'll go back to Macedonia later.
QUESTION:  Sure, thank you.
QUESTION: Richard, when the Administration went before Congress and
asked it to support a decision to waive all sanctions against
Pakistan, it was due to the fact the U.S. was saying it was receiving
excellent cooperation. What evidence is there of this excellent
cooperation? We have seen the UAE and we have seen Saudi Arabia make
fairly significant moves in breaking off diplomatic relations, but
Pakistan has maintained diplomatic relations.
MR. BOUCHER: I am afraid this is going to be somewhat frustrating to
you, because in this whole campaign over however long it takes to put
the squeeze on terrorism and particularly on al-Qaida, there are going
to be many, many things that happen that people do with us that are
not going to be visible for whatever reasons.
And I have to maintain the position I have taken before and say
countries themselves are going to have to be left to talk, to the
extent they want to themselves, about the steps they have taken. There
are a great many steps a great many number of nations have taken. Some
of these are visible, some of these are new financial regulations that
you see in Switzerland or in Japan or other places that are starting
to issue them. Some of them are visible law enforcement efforts that
you see in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and other places. Some of
them will be tighter border controls, that we've seen in Pakistan on
its border with Afghanistan.
But many of the steps that people take with us are not going to be
visible. So I'm sure we'll be in a position to discuss in closed
session with the Congress this afternoon some of those steps that
we've seen and some of the cooperation that we're getting. But I'm
afraid that just by the nature of these steps we won't always be able
to talk about them publicly ourselves.
QUESTION: When the Saudi Foreign Minister was here last week, he said
that they were going to take financial steps to help halt and to check
on some banks, to halt other transactions. Have you seen evidence of
this? Have they told you that they are now doing this?
MR. BOUCHER: Can I give the same answer I just gave to Andrea? I have
to leave it to countries themselves to talk about the steps they're
taking, and I'm not --
QUESTION:  He did.
MR. BOUCHER: He talked about what he would be doing, and now you can
go ask him if they've done it and let him talk about the steps they've
taken. We greatly appreciate all the cooperation with the Saudis.
QUESTION:  They're not letting journalists into Saudi Arabia.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm afraid that various countries will go about
this in their own way. We are confident of the support we have. We
have excellent cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other governments.
But it's not for me to talk about what they are doing. They are going
to have to do it themselves.
QUESTION: Richard, a couple of questions. First of all, what are you
doing or what's going on at the United Nations? There were reports
yesterday that you were exploring the possibility of an Article 7
resolution, which would impose sanctions on countries that harbor
terrorists. Can you confirm that and give us any details of what
exactly you're aiming for here?
MR. BOUCHER: I cannot confirm that. Let me go through a couple things,
though, that we have seen at the United Nations.
First, it's important to remember that within 48 hours of this attack
we had both the Security Council and the General Assembly going on
record, noting the need for a vigorous response to terrorism, for a
sustained, comprehensive strategy to defeat it.
Secretary General Annan made a speech yesterday talking about the
complete solidarity of the United Nations with Americans.
The General Assembly will begin a plenary session on October 1st to
take up the issue of international terrorism, and the U.S. will
participate fully in that. In addition, we have been talking to other
members of the Security Council about possible resolutions focused on
this or that aspect of the problem. One of the things under discussion
-- and it's not yet into a proposal for a resolution -- but talking
about how to coordinate financial controls, for example.
So there are grounds for continued coordination and action up at the
United Nations on various aspects of the problem, but I think the
Secretary and Dr. Rice have both answered questions about self-defense
and the basis on which we might act without having a further UN
resolution on the overall thing.
QUESTION: Just to verify this, none of this -- are people talking
about Article 7 in these consultations?
MR. BOUCHER: It's Chapter 7, and I don't know if Chapter 7 would apply
to any of the particular resolutions that are being discussed or not.
Chapter 7 is not only the use of force; Chapter 7 is the obligation of
all members to carry out a resolution. So if we want all members of
the UN, for example, to carry out financial controls, that may be one
way of doing it. But those kind of topics are under general discussion
at the UN now, and I'm not sure that anything has been presented or
QUESTION: First, can you at least say that there has been a rapid
response by countries, without specifying who they are, to the
financial restrictions announced yesterday? Have countries come
forward to you and been positively inclined toward working on this?
And my second question is about the aid workers in Afghanistan. We
haven't had an update on them very recently --
MR. BOUCHER:  The detainees, the people who are detained?
MR. BOUCHER: On the reaction to the financial controls the President
announced yesterday, I would say that we are seeing an international
reaction that is positive, we are seeing parallel steps in many
countries. I think I have already noted for you that Japan has
instituted some financial regulations. Last week, the Swiss imposed a
set of financial regulations on certain companies associated with the
Taliban. So there is activity going on in those areas, and we hear
talk in various places of further steps that might be taken. But I am
not aware that all of those have yet come to the public announcement.
So I would say there is responsiveness on the issue of financial
controls and we will continue to work that issue with the
international community, looking both for what international action
can be taken through various groupings, but also then through
individual national action to impose their own regulations and
QUESTION:  And the aid workers, the detainees?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the aid workers. Sorry. Our embassy officials have
remained very engaged in gathering information on the status of the
detainees and their trial. We would underscore the President's message
of last Thursday to the Taliban. The President said that they need to
"release all foreign nationals, including American citizens whom you
have unjustly imprisoned, protect foreign journalists, diplomats and
aid workers in your country."
At this point, we have no new information, though, on the progress of
the trial or the welfare of the detainees. That's since last Friday.
The Pakistani lawyer that was chosen by the detainees has not reached
Kabul due to security problems inside Afghanistan. The parents of the
American detainees remain in Islamabad and are in close contact with
our embassy.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) those talks? I mean, have we had any more talks
in Islamabad?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have had further contact with the Taliban in
Islamabad on the subject of these people. The latest I remember was on
Sunday when there was some contact between our consular officials and
the Taliban on the subject of these detainees.
QUESTION: I believe the U.S. chargé in Rome has been speaking with
King Zahir Shah, his folks.
QUESTION:  Could we just stay on the detainees --
QUESTION: Richard, when they were first -- when the detainees were
first arrested, you wouldn't comment on the charges and I don't
remember you saying that they were unjustly imprisoned. Are you
prepared to say now that you think that these charges are false or --
MR. BOUCHER: I would say now that we have not been able to get much
information on the trial and the legal situation. We are in touch with
the families, we are in touch with their lawyer. But he, himself, has
not been able to get to Kabul. So I don't have any more to share on
the legal process than I ever did before.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) If there truly becomes an attack on
Afghanistan, if they kept these people and they couldn't protect them,
would this be similar to use other times, other places, of human
shields? I mean, do they -- has there been any fear that these people
would not be kept safe and that might deter the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: To answer a question like that would require excessive
speculation on my part. I am not going to get into that road. I go
back to what the President said the other day, that they need to
release all foreign nationals, including these Americans.
QUESTION:  The chargé and the King in Rome?
MR. BOUCHER: The chargé and the King. I think the context, first. We
have had longstanding contacts with Afghan factions and with all the
significant individuals involved in this situation, so U.S. officials
have had discussions with many Afghans. I think we have noted recently
we have had contact with Northern Alliance leaders. We have been in
touch with many Afghans since the terrorist attacks.
We do have regular contacts with the former King of Afghanistan, Zahir
Shah, and other Afghan expatriate groups, in coordination with the UN.
The King was deposed in a 1973 coup and now lives near Rome and has a
continuing interest in ending the bloodshed in his country. So today
the chargé of our Embassy in Rome met with the King to discuss the
situation in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Do you have regular contacts with an octogenarian former
head of -- King? When was the last time that you had a meeting?
MR. BOUCHER:  Today.  In Rome.
QUESTION:  No, before.  Before today.
MR. BOUCHER: Before that? I don't know precisely. I know we have seen
him from time to time.
QUESTION:  A year ago?  Within a year?
MR. BOUCHER:  Within a year.
QUESTION:  You're sure?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say it if I wasn't sure. But you lead me to
question why I'm so sure. (Laughter.) I will try to get you more
detailed information, Matt. Okay?
QUESTION: Can you also clarify exactly what this administration's
position is toward any kind of talks or assistance to the Northern
Alliance? What was said across town earlier today seemed to only
confuse the matter. I am sure that was unintentional. But what is the
status of the U.S. contact and possible support for the Northern
MR. BOUCHER: I would just say we are in regular contact with a whole
variety -- with a whole gamut of Afghan factions, including the
Northern Alliance. But I am really not in a position to go into detail
on those contacts or their contents.
QUESTION: Do you have any more details on the discussions between the
chargé and King Zahir Shah?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. We keep in touch with all sorts of factions
and people.
QUESTION:  What was the purpose?
MR. BOUCHER: The purpose was to discuss the current situation in
QUESTION: On a related matter, the Secretary yesterday, and I believe
the President this morning, both talked in rather general terms about
finding Afghans, possibly within the Taliban movement, who are willing
to cooperate with you against Usama bin Laden. Are you in contact with
such people and how -- could you give us any details of how you assess
the significance of this approach?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I'm afraid there is nothing in there that I would be
able to comment on. Sorry.
QUESTION: Richard, on the King again, last week and currently -- I
think it's still going on -- there is an announcement running -- the
King is speaking, has a recorded announcement that has been going out
over BBC and VOA, talking about the need to convene a Loya Girga for
reconciliation and end to the war. Is the State Department giving him
air time and decided that he is worthy of VOA air while Mullah Omar is
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You would have to check with VOA if he has
been on their broadcast or not.
QUESTION: He has. But apparently it's an announcement. And I would
imagine, since you guys take such an interest in their programming,
that you would have had something to do with the King's message.
MR. BOUCHER: We respect the editorial integrity and independence of
the Voice of America and those kind of decisions on broadcasting
newsworthy announcements would be up to them.
QUESTION: On the Saudis, 20 questions back, is it the State
Department's understanding that the end of diplomatic ties with the
Taliban, would that also cover the hard line Wahhabi clerics and their
financial links to the Taliban as well?
MR. BOUCHER: Without specifying exactly what steps Saudi Arabia might
take, I think we have seen statements from Saudi Arabia that they
intended to take steps to cut off any financial support that might
exist. I leave it to them to describe any detail they want.
QUESTION: And can I follow up? Have you asked specifically about the
links between these religious leaders?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we're not in a position to go into specific
requests we might have made of individual countries.
QUESTION: I'm wondering what kind of discussion the Secretary is
having with Egyptian officials and if there's been any special weight
to that relationship, given its experience of its own problem in the
MR. BOUCHER: It gives me an opportunity to tell you what we do know
about Foreign Minister Maher. He'll visit Washington tomorrow for
meetings with senior administration officials, including a meeting
with Secretary Powell. I don't have an exact time for that meeting,
but it may be tomorrow.
Meetings will cover a broad range of bilateral and regional issues
between the U.S. and Egypt, including the efforts to develop an
international campaign against terrorism and to bring justice to those
responsible for the horrific acts of September 11th; will also discuss
the current situation between the Israelis and Palestinians, how to
maintain the cease-fire, how to encourage the restoration of direct
discussions between the parties.
We have long valued Egypt's critical role with the parties. We welcome
this opportunity to consult with one of our close regional partners.
The Secretary has kept in touch with Egypt throughout this period. He
has talked on the phone with Foreign Minister Maher at least once -- I
can't remember if it's more than that -- in the last two weeks. And
clearly through our embassy there we've kept in very close touch with
the Egyptians.
QUESTION: Turkish Prime Minister Cem is coming to Washington tomorrow,
and I think he will meet Secretary on Thursday. Do you have anything
about that, what is about his visit -- just against terrorism or
Middle East process?
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect that we will discuss any number of issues
with Foreign Minister Cem, one of our NATO ally countries with which
we cooperate closely on many issues. But clearly the most important
issue to both of us right now is going to be the fight against
terrorism and building the international coalition. That will be the
prime subject.
QUESTION: And I know you can't go into details, but the Secretary
mentioned yesterday that there were outstanding requests, the Central
Asian states, which you were still awaiting answers to, and Sergey
Ivanov has now suggested quite strongly that Dushanbe in Tajikistan
may be offered as a military base.
Can you just tell us whether Central Asian states have given a more
solid or more concrete indication of what they might be willing to
offer in the last couple of days?
MR. BOUCHER: Even without going into details, it's hard for me to
formulate an answer. I would say that you have seen, from various
governments in that region, some strong expressions of support, and
some specific offers of cooperation. We are in continuing contact and
discussion with leaders in that region. The Secretary has talked to
several of them; the President has talked to some of them as well.
If I remember correctly on the phone calls, just yesterday the
Secretary talked to the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, for example,
and he has talked to the President of Turkmenistan last Saturday, and
obviously we have been in contact with the countries of the region
through our embassies and our ambassadors there.
So we will continue to work closely with the governments of that
region, who themselves have been affected by the terrorism coming out
of Afghanistan. We have cooperated with them against terrorism in the
past, and we want to continue that cooperation with them in the
QUESTION: Richard, on that -- speaking of the Central Asian states,
has the Ambassador flown back in to Tajikistan for talks -- who has
been doing the talks in Tajikistan?
MR. BOUCHER:  I don't know; I'll have to check.
MR. BOUCHER:  No, we've got Macedonia and other places back there.
QUESTION: One more on Afghanistan -- well, it's Afghan-related. I
think it would be remiss for you not to -- do you have anything to say
about the insinuation by William Kristol this morning that the
Secretary is somehow being disloyal to the President?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing could be further from the truth. I'll stop at
QUESTION: Yes. NATO Secretary General, George Robertson, is in
Macedonia today. And the Operation Essential Harvest is finished. And
also, NATO's mission officially will end tomorrow. However, President
Trajkovski, the Macedonian President, requested a new mission to
Macedonia to act as a security guard to OSCE monitors.
And I would appreciate your comment on that.
MR. BOUCHER: She's telling me all the things I was going to tell her.
Let me cut to the chase then, and not offer you the facts, and just
offer you the commentary. On the facts, the Essential Harvest -- the
Task Force Harvest, sorry -- is progressing well. It's not quite
finished; it comes to a close on tomorrow, September 26th, and we
think that it will be able to meet or surpass its target for weapons
collection by that date.
NATO has received the request for a NATO presence in Macedonia
following the conclusion of that operation. The allies are currently
discussing this issue and the possible options for what NATO might be
able to do. There are no final decisions at this point. We refer you
to NATO for details of that. I think we all look forward to hearing
from Lord Robertson after his visit.
NATO has had a presence in Macedonia since before the outbreak of
fighting that we saw, and we would expect to continue to have a
presence after the end of Operation Essential Harvest. That's pretty
much where we are.
I have also noted there has been progress in the political side in
Macedonia. The parliament approved procedural votes on the draft text
of the constitutional amendments that are called for. A final vote is
expected after a short found of public debate. So we continue to urge
the party leaders to implement fully the framework agreement according
to this agreed timeline. But those steps are welcome and that progress
is welcome.
QUESTION: The UN Security Council today holds closed session on the
situation in Macedonia. Do you have anything about that?
MR. BOUCHER:  No, I don't, I'm afraid.
QUESTION: Last week, the President indicated that Governor Ridge would
be setting up a homeland-type defense group. Is there any equivalent
with the State Department overseas for a special cabinet-type post,
and also to enlarge existing type departments to function as such?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard any talk of that. There are several
departments that are active on this overseas with foreign
counterparts. We help manage and coordinate that. I don't think
there's any change contemplated that I've heard of.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Secretary expects to hear today from the Italian
Foreign Minister in their meeting this afternoon, what he will be
asking and what he will be telling?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, can he have the meeting himself before we have to
kind of describe it all to you? I would say that clearly Italy, among
our NATO allies, has a key role to play. We have seen very strong
support from Italy. So clearly we are going to thank Foreign Minister
Ruggiero for that support. We have seen solidarity. The clear
commitment we have seen from Italy is deeply appreciated and makes an
excellent contribution to the broad and multilateral campaign that we
are mounting. I'm sure they will discuss first of all the campaign
against global terrorism -- the Global Campaign Against Terrorism --
as well as the situations that they have discussed in the past, like
the Middle East and the Balkans.
QUESTION: Richard, did you ever find out what the answer was to the
question about yesterday's sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: We have lawyers working on this, so I don't have a final
answer on everything.
QUESTION:  You still don't know?
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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