U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #90, 00-09-20
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2000
Briefer: RICHARD BOUCHER, SPOKESMAN
1-2 Status of US-Iranian Relations / Albright's Participation in 6+2 /
Peace in Afghanistan / People-to-People Exchanges
2-4, 5 Foreign Minister Kharazi Travels in US
3-4 Update on Downed Plane
5-6 Oil Prices & Actions of Saddam Hussein / US Policy
6-7 Oil Prices / Use of Strategic Oil Reserves / US Communications with
7 France Calls for Meeting of OPEC Oil Producers and US
IRAQ / KUWAIT
6 US View of Saddam Hussein's Recent Actions / Compliance with
8-9 Strengthening Security Procedures for Ambassadorial Nominees /
Steps Taken by Secretary Albright, Senior Department Officials /
Department Working With Congress
9 Administration's View of Cox Report / Achievements of US Policy
9-10 Meeting of Heads of State from Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan,
Azerbaijan & Moldova (GUUAM) at the State Department
10 Status of Edmond Pope Case
10-12 Status of Palestinian Track / Ongoing Contacts Between the Israelis
and Palestinians / US Remains Engaged / Evaluation Period /
Possible Ross Travel to the Region / Timetable for Declaration of
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2000, 1:00 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to
be back here with you in Washington. I don't have any particular
statements or announcements today, so I'll be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Let me try one of these stock-taking, intermittent appraisals
from you on US-Iran. Last Friday, the Secretary and the Iranian Foreign
Minister were together. We didn't see them, of course. The press wasn't
there. We were outside. But they were working on the Afghanistan
situation with six other ministers.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, the press was about ten feet from the door.
QUESTION: No, no. I don't know what happened in the room. We only have
MR. BOUCHER: We told you what happened in the room. She told you what
happened in the room.
QUESTION: Well, we got a thin account. But the point is - not that,
what they did, which we did get an account of - but the state of US-Iranian
relations. In other words, this was an opportunity again to work with
Iran. The Secretary has expressed, several times, an interest in improving
relations. Could you please bring us up to date -- how this campaign is
going? Are they receptive? What do you see down the line, maybe?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there is a lot of things to be put together, to look
at at any given moment. As you know, we had a series of events in New York
where the Secretary attended the opening session of the Dialogue Among
Civilizations, where President Khatami spoke. She did that because she
wanted to demonstrate the US support for the Secretary General's initiative,
first of all, the Dialogue Between Civilizations; and, second of all, to
listen to the opening presentation of President Khatami. The President -
and I think people were listening to each other in New York. The President
listened to the speech by the Iranians. The Iranians listened to the
speech by the President.
The Secretary's meeting on Friday in the 6+2 is part of our ongoing efforts
to bring peace to Afghanistan, and we have worked at other levels with the
Iranians in the 6+2 process on the problems of drugs coming out of the
region and, more generally, some of the problems from Afghanistan.
There were no individual meetings or direct discussions between the
Secretary and the Iranian Foreign Minister that took place in New York. In
general, I would say that we have had, as you know, some easings of the
embargo on Iran to allow people-to-people exchanges and contacts, to the
benefit of Iranian people and Americans. We do think that we can continue
to expand this policy, but basically our fundamental policy towards Iran
has not changed. The sanctions regime remains in place. We continue to
view with grave concern Iran's ongoing support for terrorism, its pursuit
of weapons of mass destruction, its opposition to the Middle East peace
process, and its poor human rights record. That said, we have publicly
offered to have a dialogue with the Iranian Government about the issues of
concern to both sides, but the Iranian Government has not accepted. They
continue to refuse this offer.
So what we see from New York is that there is some interest in exchanges;
there is an interest in listening to each other. We have things to say
that may be of interest to each other, but US policy continues to look for
a chance to be able to address the issues of mutual concern, in an official
dialogue that will address some of the tough issues that we do look
QUESTION: A follow-up on Iran?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mr. Kharazi,
was allowed to travel inside the US territory, outside the UN perimeter in
New York, to attend a conference in L.A. today and in Boston a few days
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We have facilitated contacts by a number of Iranian
officials over the past few years in the United States, aimed at fostering
dialogue, allowing people-to-people discussions between the US and Iran.
The trip by the Foreign Minister is consistent with this policy, and my
understanding is he is going to Boston and around the US, mostly on college
QUESTION: And L.A.?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have L.A. listed here, but my understanding is L.A.,
and I'm not sure where else.
QUESTION: But, I mean, you facilitate it? I mean, can you elaborate a
little bit? I mean, you see no problem with the Foreign Minister of Iran
speaking on campuses - several campuses, evidently? There's no ban on that,
MR. BOUCHER: It's consistent with our people-to-people exchanges, with
our desire to foster a dialogue between the United States and Iranian
people, and so this is completely consistent with what we are doing.
Whether we have to annotate his visa to permit the travel or not, I would
have to check.
QUESTION: Another subject: Cuba. Can you just give us whatever we know
about the Cuban plane crash and --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I can't tell you what you know, but you will know
more after I tell you what I know.
QUESTION: Thank you, Richard. And, also, have we spoken - have we had
direct contacts here in Washington yet - any contacts with the Interests
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I am aware of. I don't see why there would be
such contacts. But you may be able to get more from the Coast Guard.
But let me tell you what we do know. Nine survivors have been picked up by
a Panamanian-registered freighter in international waters, along with one
casualty. One person, who was seriously injured, has been taken to a
hospital in Key West, Florida. The other survivors remain aboard the
At this time, the Coast Guard Cutter Nantucket has not been able to
rendezvous with the freighters due to the adverse sea condition, so the
interviews with the other survivors have not yet been conducted. Until
that happens, neither State nor the Coast Guard nor the Justice Department
have very much additional information to give you on whether they qualify
for landing in the United States.
MR. BOUCHER: That's all we know.
QUESTION: Is the casualty - is that person different from the one taken
to - or do you mean somebody died?
MR. BOUCHER: In the casualty, somebody died. One person died. You
know that. No, I think the only news in there is that the up-to-the-minute
that we had was that the sea conditions have prevented a rendezvous with
the Coast Guard cutter.
QUESTION: Have they requested asylum, or do we know whether or not, in
fact, there was a hijacker on board? Anything along those lines?
MR. BOUCHER: The Coast Guard may be able to give you more information on
that. The interviews with these people have not taken place, because they
haven't been able to get on board the Coast Guard cutter where we would do
the interviews to find out if they have a well-founded fear of persecution.
We will follow the standard procedures with these people, as we do in all
cases of Cubans that we pick up.
QUESTION: But have we determined whether or not it was a hijacking, as
the Cuban Government said?
MR. BOUCHER: That's something I think I have to leave to others to
explain. I'm not sure I have that information.
QUESTION: Two questions. First, on Iran again, is it unusual that such
a senior person in a government that you accuse of terrorism is allowed to
travel around the United States? Is he under surveillance, escort or
something, or is he free to go?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check what escorts or security might be
provided, but in this case I have to say we have facilitated various travel
by Iranian officials over the past two years. We have no problem with
people-to-people contacts between the United States and Iran. In fact, we
have facilitated those kind of contacts. So it's consistent with our
policy to allow him to travel when he is invited to go places.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) What was your question? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Well, it was on Iraq. Do you want me to --
QUESTION: Iran. Iranian terrorism, right? You keep saying - and we
have no reason not to believe you - if you ever have a real conversation
with him, that will be one of the things you'll make a point of. But you
also seem to detect some moderate trends in Iran at the same time. Has
this moderation, which not everybody perceives but the State Department
says it is the basis for, has that in any affected their support for
terrorism? Are they toning that down, as far as you know?
MR. BOUCHER: The positive signs that we have seen in Iran - the election,
the support for reform, the movement of changes, overall evolution of the
society - these we've seen as positive trends, which we want to try to
reciprocate in the people-to-people fashion. The serious issues that
divide us remain serious. I'm not sure I can give you sort of a barometer
of ups and downs in the support for terrorism, but they continue to support
groups that engage in terrorism, and we make that clear every year when we
do our terrorism report. That's the most recent sort of update on where
I'm not aware of any - I wouldn't characterize the situation as having
changed significantly since we did our last terrorism report.
QUESTION: All right. Because two years ago, before this process began,
American officials, Administration officials, called Iran the chief sponsor
of terrorism in the Middle East. Now, if they're now only the co-chief
sponsor, that would be an improvement.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I will refer you to this year's terrorism report and
tell you that I'm not aware that anything has changed since this year's
QUESTION: On the Iran meeting, do you know if he is the most senior
Iranian official who has been given the permission to -- (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Permission to travel in the US? I'll have to check on
that. I'll have to see.
QUESTION: Iraq: Are you worried that Saddam Hussein could do something
that would spike oil prices? He seems to - if he cut back his production,
would drive prices up and that could have reverberations here and
elsewhere. Is this something that you're worried about?
MR. BOUCHER: We have certainly looked at the situation with regard to
oil prices. It's something we care a lot about. We discuss it a lot in
our meetings, not necessarily with regard to Iraq. But the situation
regarding oil in the world today is one of concern to us.
We have looked at this situation with Iraq's exports because, as you all
know, Iraq is pumping as much as it ever did in the past. But the numbers
are as follows: Iraq exports about 2.4 million barrels a day. Saudi
Arabia and other oil-producing nations have excess production capacity that
could cover most of any shortfall if they cut off their exports.
In addition to that, we have obviously looked at all the options that we
would have in that event, and one option would be the strategic petroleum
reserve. That's our insurance policy against disruptions in oil supply.
There we have 570 million barrels in the strategic petroleum reserve, and
other countries have strategic reserves that total 650 million barrels. So
if you do the math, you see that in the highly unlikely event that Iraq
would try to cut off its oil, which would be detrimental to its position in
the world from a whole variety of points of view, but in the unlikely event
they decided to do that, and no other country was trying to step up to meet
the shortfall, we'd still be able to cover a year and a half of the cutoff
from the reserves that we've got.
So this is a situation we have looked at. But if you look at the numbers,
we can cover it, and we and others can provide for either surge or reserves
QUESTION: Well, not just a cutoff. I mean, he's making the same
statements now that he did ten years ago about oil fields straddling the
border. Do you find that worrisome, and do you think it's more significant
now that he's making these statements, as opposed to people in his
government? He's not leaving it to ministers. He's saying it himself.
MR. BOUCHER: We have made clear on numerous occasions that we have a
policy that is designed to - and does, we think, succeed in containing the
threat that is posed by the regime of Saddam Hussein, while we promote
change of regime in Baghdad. We also want accountability for Saddam's
crimes against humanity, and I think you all know our Ambassador, David
Scheffer, made a speech on that on Monday.
Unfortunately, he and his regime persist in aggressive policies. They are
willing to threaten other nations in the world, as well as repress Iraqis
at home. He blames other nations for his own situation, rather than
admitting his own responsibility. Our red lines are clear. If Iraq
reconstitutes its weapons of mass destruction programs, threatens its
neighbors or US forces or moves against the Kurds, we have a credible force
in the region and we are prepared to act in an appropriate time and place
of our choosing.
QUESTION: What I'm asking you is if you think it's more significant that
he is now making the statements about oil as opposed to lower-level
MR. BOUCHER: I think it doesn't matter who makes such statements. The
fact is Iraq shouldn't be trying to threaten its neighbors, whether it's
Saddam Hussein or one of his ministers. We have a policy in place that has
contained him successfully for these years. We have a credible force in
place if he tries to do anything against his neighbors. We have a credible
force, and we are able to respond at a time and place of our choosing.
`So I'm not trying to hype this; I'm just saying that the facts are the
facts. We have been there, we are there, and we can continue to contain in
the way we have in the past. And we will.
QUESTION: Is Saddam Hussein attempting, at present, to climb out of his
box? And is there a credible or increased threat - or a credible threat -
against Kuwait at the present time?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as how the military judges threats at any given
moment, I suppose the Pentagon can do that, if they have - what status they
are on. In terms of getting out of his box, he is in it. The sanctions
are there, the forces are there, the containment policy is there. We have
continued to work with other governments to make sure that sanctions stay
in place and are enforced.
We do know that Tariq Aziz was up in New York running around, trying to
convince people that the UN should somehow negotiate with him on Resolution
1284. We don't think they should; 1284 remains in place, and the only way
for them to get out of the box is to comply with the Resolution. As the
Secretary said, it's like Alice in Wonderland. The key is on the table.
If they want to get out of the room, pick up the key and open the door.
And that's Resolution 1284.
QUESTION: On the same subject. There are a number of countries that
have been pressing the US to ease the sanctions posture. Does the untapped
oil production capacity of Iraq lead to increased pressure on the US from
these countries, and give them sort of more of an argument, if you will, to
say, look, you know --
MR. BOUCHER: Our understanding is there is not much untapped oil
production from Iraq capacity, that they are pumping as much or more than
they ever did before the invasion of Kuwait.
QUESTION: Richard, you mentioned the strategic oil reserves. Is it fair
to say that the Administration is now looking anew at these reserves, or is
it something that has been ongoing?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure what you mean, "looking anew." You mean
sort of revising the size or the maintenance or the policy on them? That
is in some ways kind of a domestic question that the White House or the
Energy Department have to help you with.
In terms of their utility, they have been around for years, and they are
maintained just in case - they are an insurance policy in case we need to -
we have a sudden disruption in supply that we need to compensate for. So
that's the point of them. They are ready if such an unlikely thing should
occur. They are part of our being ready to deal with it.
QUESTION: Have you been in communication recently with the members of
OPEC, in particular some of the GCC, to ask them to pump more oil?
MR. BOUCHER: I think what I would say is that we're in constant contact
with oil-producing states. As you know, the President and the Secretary
had a number of meetings in New York. The Secretary met with the Gulf
Cooperation Council members, and she met with the Crown Prince of Saudi
Arabia. The President had meetings, I think, with the Crown Prince of
So there were a variety of meetings with oil producers in New York, and oil
production is something that comes out in every discussion. Many of us,
including producers, think the price of oil ought to come down. We'll talk
about what needs to be done to make that occur.
QUESTION: And did you hear what --
MR. BOUCHER: It is an ongoing discussion. Secretary Richardson is also
in touch with people.
QUESTION: During those meetings, did the US hear what it wanted to hear,
that this was going to be something that would be accommodated?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it is an ongoing discussion that we have with these
governments, and certainly we do hear from several of them that they agree
with us. I think it was while we were in New York OPEC made the decision
to increase production by 800,000 barrels, which we saw as a welcome step.
Price has subsequently gone up. But I think this is something that we and
others will keep working on, because we do think the price needs to come
QUESTION: Also on the oil, what is the US position on this call from
France for a meeting of OPEC producers with the US?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that was in relation to the Finance Minister's
meeting that is to be held, so I don't really have anything on that. We
will certainly look at it and see whether we think it is necessary. I am
sure the finance ministers will discuss the situation with regard to the
economies, and certainly oil prices are a part of that, so there will be
some kind of discussion of oil when they get together anyway.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout on the meeting with the Irish Foreign
Minister and Secretary Albright?
MR. BOUCHER: No. It hasn't happened yet.
QUESTION: It has not happened yet? Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, I could do it now. We could see how afterwards
whether I was right or not. But, no, I don't. We'll do that later.
QUESTION: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee says that the State
Department is changing its regulations on security violations, particularly
for ambassadorial nominees. Can you explain that? It says that it will be
put into the Foreign Affairs Manual starting October 1st and that the
Department was notified September 1st of these changes.
MR. BOUCHER: We have been working on this. I guess my only response
would be to say, we said it first; that the Secretary made quite clear,
earlier this summer, that she was committed to taking steps to improve
security at the State Department. And in her statement to the Foreign
Service, to the people who work - the foreign and civil service people who
work in this building, she made quite clear she wanted to see a higher
level of security; she wanted to see a very professional level of security;
and she said that people will be held accountable, and it will be made part
of their records.
So we have put together a series of steps. We have certainly been in
contact with people on the Hill, with the Senate committee, in order to
keep them informed, to discuss these steps with them. I think if you look
about a month ago, there was testimony from our Director General, Marc
Grossman, and Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Secretary Carpenter, up on
the Hill outlining some of the steps that we were thinking about, and those
are being put into the regulations. I'll have to see when the regulations
But this has been a process that the Secretary has pushed for, asked for,
supported. And people are being held accountable, for their security
lapses, in a much more strict and defined way than we have in the
QUESTION: But her problem was that she subsequently nominated people
with double-digit violations to ambassadorial posts, which were then held
up by the committee, and these new changes - the announcement of these new
changes has now let the committee decide to go ahead and approve these
people. So you would say that these were already the same changes that
were in place?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think the delays in those nominations were lifted
some time ago. I'll have to look back at the exact record on that
QUESTION: I understand the meeting is to take place on September 27th
only, now. That's what they say.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Well, this is something we have been working on,
something we have worked with the Congress on, with the Senate on. Senator
Grams, I think, is the one that is most concerned about this. We will
continue to work with him on that, and on the status of our nominees. It
follows the Secretary's commitment. It puts into very practical and
detailed steps the Secretary's commitment to hold people more accountable.
QUESTION: Do you guys have any reaction to this Republican report that
was, I guess, handed to Speaker Hastert today on the troika of Russian
policy, and knowingly ignoring warning signs of corruption?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to go through and try to respond to all the
various charges and the politics of this report. I just want to make sure
that people have the facts of what we have been doing with Russia. So let
me go through some of the facts.
In this Administration, we have helped deactivate and dismantle 5,000
former Soviet nuclear warheads, 600 missile launchers, 540 intercontinental
and sea-launch ballistic missiles, 64 heavy bombers, and 15 missile
submarines. We have started our first rule of law project in Russia, after
the summit in 1993 - I think that was the Boris and Bill Show, as you
remember it. And, subsequently, we assisted in drafting a new civil code,
a new criminal code, bankruptcy laws, and much of the legal and regulatory
framework for Russia's Federal Securities Commission.
Our law enforcement cooperation with Russia has helped prosecute crime
groups and combat financial crimes such as money laundering, and we have
continued to do that. Before 1989, Russia had no non-governmental
organizations; now there are 65,000, and growing. We have supported 45,000
educational and professional exchanges, and we have helped 250,000 Russian
entrepreneurs. Seventy percent of the economy is now privately controlled.
And we would like to think that our contributions to building civil society,
to helping entrepreneurs, to helping destroy nuclear weapons - that these
have been valuable not only to the development of Russia, but also to the
QUESTION: Richard, my question is on the heads of state of GUUAM -
Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova - in the framework of
the UN Millennium Summit held the meeting where the memorandum on
cooperation was signed. And on Monday, as far as I know, an informal lunch
hosted by the State Department officials with participation of ambassadors
of those countries to the US took place in New York. Can it be considered
as a sign of the US growing interest to this organization of former Soviet
republics? And, if yes, how do you see perspectives of cooperation of US
with this organization?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have seen that kind of regional cooperation as
being useful and important. It has been discussed several times. It was
discussed during the Secretary's visit to Ukraine, discussed this morning
in her meeting with the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Mr. Tarasyuk. It came
up in several of her meetings with these states in, I think, just about
every one when she had meetings in New York, when she met with President
Shevardnadze. They discussed it.
And generally we see this as a positive development of regional cooperation,
and certainly we will want to cooperate in any way we can. I don't have
any particular details of what we might do to support them, but we do see
it as positive.
QUESTION: Can we get an update on Pope while we're on Russia?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is anything new. We know about the
denial yesterday. Let me just double-check my piece of paper and make sure
there is nothing new on there.
No. Really, there is not. They denied the appeal that he be released on
medical grounds. We have made quite clear we think his health has
deteriorated while he has been in custody. So there is no news.
QUESTION: I've got one. Yes. Mr. Barak and his negotiating troop have
called time-out; they have backed away from the negotiations that were
being held in New York. What can you tell us - what can you tell me, who
was missing from New York - about the state of play in those negotiations?
Are the Palestinians hardening their position?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, just to review New York, there were a number of
meetings in New York between - I guess I would say between the American
side and the parties, the Israelis and Palestinians. The President and the
Secretary met with Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat. Subsequent to
that, the Secretary had further meetings with the Israeli Foreign Minister,
Shlomo Ben-Ami. And last Thursday and Friday, Dennis Ross - Ambassador
Ross and his team had meetings with teams of negotiators of Israelis and
Palestinians who came to town to have a couple days of meetings -- Thursday
and Friday. Those basically concluded by the end of the day on Friday, and
those negotiators - most of them - returned back to the region.
Subsequently, there have been some contacts in the region. Yesterday,
there was this whole business of meetings/ not meetings, time-out/ no time-
out -- whatever. I guess all I would say about that is no one should be
surprised that there are ups and downs in this process. As the President
said yesterday, both sides are dealing with the pressure of very difficult
issues. The Israelis and Palestinians have had ongoing contacts. Those
contacts and discussions are continuing, and we certainly remain in touch
with the parties as well.
QUESTION: The US does remain engaged and in touch with the parties?
MR. BOUCHER: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Like today, for instance.
MR. BOUCHER: What do you mean, "Like today?" I'm supposed to report on
QUESTION: Well, today is important because yesterday there was a time-
out that lasted about 15 minutes. But if the time-out is over, it would
best be demonstrated by continuing meetings between the two parties, which
apparently are going on, but also with the helpful US mediators. Meetings
or phone calls: anything today?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't report on every single phone call that goes back
and forth. We are in touch with the parties on an ongoing basis. We were
in touch with them yesterday. I expect we are in touch with them today and
probably tomorrow. These continue to be in close contact --
QUESTION: Was the Secretary in touch yesterday, personally with her
telephone diplomacy, to try to find out what they mean by time-out?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything. I will have to check to
QUESTION: Senior State Department officials have told us that there
would be an evaluation period, based on some of the meetings in New York.
And was there any kind of a formal evaluation made? And now that you're
obviously still engaged in the discussions, are you hopeful based on
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly there is an ongoing evaluation, where people have
meetings and discussions all the time, internally, of what's going on.
There was a meeting yesterday with the President where the peace team met
with the President yesterday afternoon, including the Secretary and
Ambassador Ross, and they use that as the opportunity to review the status
of negotiations. As I said, we are continuing to work with the parties.
We work with them now; we will continue to do so, and we will be looking,
obviously, for ways to help them make the tough decisions that lead to a
QUESTION: Did they find the status promising when they reviewed it? The
President said a few words, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, but we have tried not to characterize ups and downs.
We have just said they will happen. I'm not going to give you a "thermometer
reading" at this moment, as we haven't done it in the past.
QUESTION: When Dennis might be going back to the region?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing is scheduled at this point.
QUESTION: Do you feel that the pressure is now off with regard to the
declaration of statehood by the Palestinians; there is some breathing room
there? Or how would you characterize it?
MR. BOUCHER: I would just say that there is still a window of opportunity
to do this. It still remains very important. We still hear from the
parties that they are committed. They are trying to reach agreement. And
we remain involved and engaged and prepared to do whatever we can to help
them do that.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:36 P.M.)