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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #122, 00-12-04

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


1376

U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing

INDEX Monday, December 4, 2000 Briefer: RICHARD BOUCHER, SPOKESMAN

STATEMENT

1 Secretary Albright Travel.

IRAQ

2 Iraqís reversal of decisions to halt oil export for the Oil for Food program.

COLOMBIA

3-4 Comments on USAID aid to Colombia, fight against narco-trafficers, and Plan Colombia.

MEXICO

5 Comments on Mexican Separatists.

BANGLADESH

6 Comments on the freedom of the press and recent judicial actions in Bangladesh.

PAKISTAN

6 Update of the Kashmir ceasefire / Comments on reports of military equipment purchases in Pakistan.

CHINA

6-7 Reports that an American citizen has been arrested for meeting with the Falun Gong Members

7 Comments on TIME Magazine article on corruption in China.

INDONESIA

7 Update of tensions in Irian Jaya and the status of conflicts between Indonesian military and civilians

ISRAEL

8,10,12 Updated travel warnings and comments on holiday travel in the region.

11-12 Comments on the Middle East Peace Process and update on Senator Mitchellís fact-finding committee.

RUSSIA

8-9 Situation update on Edmond Pope trial.

10-11 Comments on expert talks and the Aide Memoire.

AFGHANISTAN

13 Update of Masoud clashes with the Taliban and reports that Masoud is weakening.

14 Questions regarding Inderfurth travel to the region.


_

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE_

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB # 122

MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2000, 12:40 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Pleasure to be here. First let me tell you what I can about the Secretaryís travel. She will be leaving Washington on Wednesday, December 6th, to visit South Africa, Mauritius and Botswana, and points beyond. We havenít pinned down the European portion of the trip yet, but obviously sheís going to be at NATO meetings in Brussels on December 14th.

She will arrive in Cape Town, South Africa, on Thursday, December 7th, and have a program there on Friday before departing for Pretoria. On Friday in Pretoria --, Friday December 8th, that is -- sheíll have an official program. Then on Saturday, December 9th sheíll travel to Mauritius, where sheíll be for Sunday, December 10th and Monday, December 11th, then sheíll visit Botswana.

From Africa, Secretary Albright will travel to Europe for the NATO meetings in Brussels, and then additional details on the European schedule will be forthcoming when we have them. Not all the stops in Europe are pinned down yet.

QUESTION: But NATO is the last stop, yes?

MR. BOUCHER: Not necessarily. NATO is a fixed stop in Europe, and then there will be other stops in Europe sort of around that, whether they are before or after.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)?

MR. BOUCHER: The North Atlantic Council ministerial meeting is December 14th, and then there are additional meetings -- the Partners for Peace meetings and things like that -- on the 15th.

QUESTION: Is there a possibility she may be going to Ireland?

MR. BOUCHER: No. The President is going to Ireland.

QUESTION: Any chance of the Middle East?

MR. BOUCHER: No, there is no plan for travel to the Middle East.

QUESTION: Can we move ahead?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: All right, a couple of things come to mind. One is obviously looking for your -- the US -- reaction to Iraqís flip-flop on oil. And is there any wiggle room there? Do the people here see it as a straight reversal, or is there some -- given Iraqís track record you never can be sure -- are they back to where they were before they werenít there any more?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, given that it is Iraq and what weíve seen in the past, that we donít want to count our chickens before they hatch. We donít have the independent confirmation that Iraq has resumed its exports. The UN overseers report that Iraq is not allowing loadings into tankers.

We reiterate that Iraq is the one that has chosen to spend oil exports, even though the Security Council agreed to allow shipments to continue while the UN and Iraq concluded a pricing mechanism that reflects a fair market value for December exports; and, once again, make quite clear we continue our work with other governments and with the International Energy Agency, and we are ready to take action to add supply very quickly if the situation should warrant.

QUESTION: Just a quick flip. Kuwait seems to be making noises about a need to get together and decide on output. Is that basically the US position, that the US would like to see supplies of oil increased? Thatís really straightforward --

MR. BOUCHER: I think certainly that has been our position in general in terms of the last several months to say that we think that steps needed to be taken to stabilize the price of oil at a lower level.

QUESTION: Back on Iraq, do you feel confident that Saudi Arabia and some of our other oil-producing allies will have enough oil to make up the difference if, in fact, they go ahead with the embargo?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we made quite clear last week, both in our statements here as well as the Energy Department and elsewhere, the White House, that it was the combination of planning in terms of surges, surge capacity in various places, as well as the system of reserves and stocks that have been put together in various countries by the International Energy Agency, that would put us in a position to respond quickly, effectively and readily if we needed to. And that remains the situation.

QUESTION: I mean, have other countries been cooperative and they are on the same -- are you guys on the same page?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you have seen quite a bit of international cooperation on this and statements from various quarters.

QUESTION: On Colombia, we have some reports that the US is looking to expand Plan Colombia beyond the region. I know Under Secretary Pickering spoke a little bit about the need for it, but if you could talk about any US plans to expand the program?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I donít have anything additional to what Under Secretary Pickering said about a week ago in terms of numbers. But it is certainly quite clear that it has been our intention -- and we have stated it, I think, many times -- that we want to find ways to strengthen the capabilities of all the nations in the region so that they can repel the violent and corrosive effects of illicit narcotics trafficking.

We are already involved in extensive counter-narcotics cooperation with countries throughout the hemisphere. Narco-trafficking, itself, is a transnational business, and if we are going to fight it, it is not tied to boundaries or sovereignty, we have to have a program that addressed it as a regional issue. And that has been our policy all along.

Neighbors in the hemisphere are struggling with the political and economic difficulties that are created by narco-trafficking, so we have through bilateral assistance programs tried to help them and strengthen their abilities to deal with the spillover effects, as well as to deal with the problem in Colombia itself where it exists.

The budget this year -- the Plan Colombia supplemental package-- included about 180 million specifically for those other countries, in addition to other ongoing cooperation. Our efforts in the region in the past have been highly successful, particularly in Peru and Bolivia. They achieved 60 to 70 percent reductions in coca cultivation, but the issue of spillover again is real, and that is why it applies continuously to the region.

The elements that we do in the region, two varieties. First is consolidating the counter-narcotics gains that we have made in places such as Peru and Bolivia, and then trying to anticipate the next steps of the trafficking industry as we increase the pressure on Colombia itself.

This was a topic of discussion in many of the Secretaryís bilateral meetings with people from the region when she talked to them down in Mexico City on Friday. And, in fact, we found, I think, first of all, general support for Plan Colombia and a strong willingness and interest in addressing this issue on a regional basis, since thatís the way it has to be done

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- of Colombia, neighbors -- specifically, for example, Brazil -- and now they have been very critical of the approach that Plan Colombia has because of the military component of the Plan. Do you get new kind of reaction from those countries, specifically Brazil?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, thatís a misreading of their past reactions but, second of all, to say that the Secretary had quite a few discussions with people from the region. There was agreement and understanding that the problem needs to be addressed; there was support for President Pastranaís efforts to address these problems through Plan Colombia and our assistance; and there was also support for addressing the problem on a regional basis, including in neighbors. So I donít think the way you characterized it is what we actually heard from people.

QUESTION: Iím confused because a lot of the countries have been quite critical. So which countries did you hear support from, and did you hear support with reservations?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, once again, I mean, this came up during the Secretaryís trip to South America where people said, oh, my God, look how critical President Cardoso is, and then he said, no, Iím not. Flat out. I think he wrote a letter to the newspaper that had said he was quite critical of it. So maybe it was the foreign minister at the time.

She had meetings with a whole number of people, and her support for the efforts that President Pastrana is making and support for Plan Colombia. So I just think itís a red herring to go say that, oh, everybody is critical, because theyíre not.

QUESTION: If I could, Richard, youíve talked about this and you mentioned it briefly earlier that there may need to be some type of -- well, that there will need to be more aid to neighboring countries to help prevent the spillover. Do we have any kind of numbers yet, and has Congress been consulted? Are they prepared to provide the kind of aid that would be necessary?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I donít have new numbers beyond what we have in our supplemental, which is $180 million specifically for the other countries, in addition to the ongoing cooperation that weíve had before. We have ongoing counter-narcotics cooperation with these countries, but as part of the Plan Colombia supplemental weíre asking for that additional $180 million.

QUESTION: Could you address some of the criticisms that say that this is another Viet-nam and weíre getting embroiled in a regional conflict that we might not be able to get out of?

MR. BOUCHER: Weíve done it before; weíll do it again. This is not another Viet-nam. Clearly the issue of drugs where you have 70 percent of the cocaine coming into the United States is coming out of Colombia, the issue of drugs is something that needs to be addressed, and we are addressing the drug problem.

The fact is, given the information on the ties between narco-traffickers and military forces, and youíve seen the information -- we issued a statement last week about the ties between the FARC and the narco- traffickers that was based on information that the Mexican and Colombian Governments have recently exposed -- once again pointing to the strong links between narco-traffickers and guerilla forces.

The fact is that some of the narco-traffickers get military-type protection, either themselves or through others, and therefore the people who go after them have to be more than just police forces. These are Colombian groups that are going after them. They are carefully selected and trained, and they are there in support of police operations. And that is the way it will continue. Itís not Viet-nam; itís not like Viet-nam.

QUESTION: Mexico? The President seems to be reaching to the Zapatistas to try to negotiate an agreement with them. Is that something the US has an opinion on?

MR. BOUCHER: Itís something that really all along we have left to the Mexican Government, and I think we will continue to do that now.

QUESTION: Thank you, Richard. This is Arshad, with the Daily Inqilab. A very grim situation now prevailing in Bangladesh as far as judiciary and the press is concerned. As we speak, the life of the editor is being threatened with several of warrants being issued for high treason in the wake of writing a parody in that October 20th issue of the paper itself.

No less than the Prime Minister has launched a campaign of burning newspapers, The Daily Inqilab, and yesterdayís report -- this morningís report is that 24,000 newspapers have been burned in broad daylight as it was running out of the office premises. The journalists working in that paper are being threatened on a regular basis.

Reflecting on the CPJís report published recently, and also the Bangladesh Torture and Impunity Amnesty International Proposal, what is the State Departmentís view after this long sojourn about the Bangladesh scenario where the judiciary and press are being targeted and threatened on a continual basis?

MR. BOUCHER: I think our view is the one we have expressed before: Our belief is that the freedom of the press is a very vital component of a free society and strong democratic institutions in any country. On that basis, we have raised this issue. We have discussed this issue, as well as others, with the Government of Bangladesh. And our Embassy in Dhaka is responsible for following the situation very closely for us, and they do that.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, was there any move by the State Department to contact the Ministry of Home Affairs, who are now in charge of initiating all these warrants against the concerned editor?

MR. BOUCHER: I would have to double-check and see who exactly our Embassy has met with, but they have met with the Government of Bangladesh, they have discussed the situation with regard to freedom of the press, and stressed once again our strong belief that freedom of the press is a vital component of a free society.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Richard, when you say they met with the Government of Bangladesh, does that mean that you issued some sort of a -- what do they call it -- a note of displeasure? Or did you make any criticism? Did you just ask them whatís going on?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I described the meetings that they have had as stressing our belief in freedom of the press, emphasizing once again how important it is in raising these events in that context. There is no formal mechanism for characterizing a note or something like that. We meet with them, we tell them what we think about this, and we inquire into the circumstances of the situation. But certainly we have raised these events within that context.

QUESTION: Staying in South Asia, the Pakistani reportedly have made an offer in Kashmir to support that the Kashmiri -- all parties agree at conference should hold independent talks with India without Pakistan, and that they have dropped their demand, apparently, that they should be included; it should only be three-party talks, which appears to be kind of a major step.

MR. BOUCHER: I had not seen that actual step. That may be more recent than what we had. Clearly we have supported a dialogue, as you know, in the region. There have been positive developments. The Government of Pakistan has reiterated its intention to exercise maximum restraint along the line of control in Kashmir, and we certainly welcome that.

We have been calling for restraint and respect for the line of control for some time. Pakistanís affirmation of that principle is an important complement to the suspension of the offensive military operations that was announced by India last week. So that is certainly a welcome development in that regard.

We have strongly favored a resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan and our belief that India, Pakistan and all residents of the Kashmir region have to be part of the solution. So we do support dialogue in the region. But how, where and when to conduct this dialogue is really up to the participants to determine.

QUESTION: I donít know if somebody asked or not about Pakistan is buying military equipment, including fighter planes from China, and also they are saying that they do not really care about the new sanctions by Washington; they can live without them.

MR. BOUCHER: So?

QUESTION: Any comment on buying new --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I donít have any updates on Pakistani weapons acquisitions. I donít think there is anything new to say on that. The point of the agreement with China on missiles is that China would not export in any way to any country equipment that supported the development of advanced missiles.

QUESTION: On China, do you have some reports of an American woman from New York being arrested in Beijing for arranging some meetings with the Falun Gong and foreign reporters?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that Iíve hard of. I would have to check on it.

QUESTION: Could you check with the Embassy? I think that they are aware of it.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Weíll check and see if we have anything.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Richard, just to follow up -- sorry. Just another question. An advanced copy of the Time Magazine is calling that there is widespread corruption in China, and also mistreatment of women. Any comments?

MR. BOUCHER: No. Look at our Human Rights Report. Youíll find information about all those topics.

QUESTION: On Indonesia, do you have any comments about tensions going on in the province of Irian Jaya between the Indonesian army and authorities?

MR. BOUCHER: Weíve got reporting from the press and from our Embassy that indicate eight persons have been killed in a confrontation with security forces in the town of Merauke in Irian Jaya on December 2nd. Two others died in a separate incident on December 1st. We certainly regret the tragic loss of life, and we call on the Government of Indonesia and the people of Irian Jaya to exercise restraint and refrain from acts of violence.

Legitimate political differences, we believe, should be addressed in this area through peaceful dialogue, not by acts of violence or provocation. And we urge the Government of Indonesia to engage local leaders in such a dialogue without delay.

We obviously support the territorial integrity of Indonesia, but we are concerned by the continued detention of leaders of the Papuan Presidium Council. These detentions should have no place in todayís open and democratic Indonesia.

QUESTION: A couple things. One is a lot of tour groups have canceled their tour group annual trips to Jerusalem for the holidays because of travel concerns, and this plays to what the Israelis had voiced concerns to the State Department about the travel warnings was going to hurt tourism in the area. Do you have any comment on that, and what is the current status of concern about specifically holiday travel to the area?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, our current travel advisory stands, and that is the advisory -- the warning that we issued on October 24th. We do maintain this under review and the warning is under review and will remain under review.

As soon as there is information that indicates the situation is safer for Americans, we would be most happy to change it, but Iím afraid that the only consideration is the safety and welfare of American citizens.

We regret any economic effects or difficulties and inconvenience it causes to people, but we think itís incumbent upon us to provide our best advice based on the facts of the situation. So if the facts change, if itís safer for Americans, weíll change our warnings.

QUESTION: Can we skip to a completely different subject? Have you all had any involvement in this issue of to transition or not to transition? Is there any State Department angle to this story of whether or not there will be any transition currently?

MR. BOUCHER: No. We wait to hear from the General Services Administration on the overall transition process. Once that is established, then we are ready to go as soon as somebody comes over and becomes the transition team.

QUESTION: Are you involved in the national security briefings for the Bush team?

MR. BOUCHER: I think thatís being done elsewhere.

QUESTION: The Jerusalem Post last week had a story that said that talks between Israel and the United States on upgrading the strategic relationship have virtually been on hold as a result of the violence in the Middle East. I was wondering if you had any comment on this.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I didnít see the story. I donít have any particular comment. Obviously we have gone forward with the Congress with a major request for a supplemental appropriation that involved -- what was it -- six or seven hundred million, including four or four-fifty -- somewhere in there -- for Israel and other money for Jordan and Egypt to support the peace process to help them with the costs associated with withdrawal from Lebanon.

So that kind of security assistance in the form of a supplemental is certainly an important aspect of our bilateral security cooperation, so I think Iíll just cite that and say we continue to have these contacts and discussions with Israel about the bilateral relationship, and certainly the supplemental is a strong demonstration of our support.

QUESTION: Russia -- if you have anything updating the last week of Ed Popeís trial. And, also, does the State Department take a position on Russia saying itís going to use Interpol to track down Vladimir Gusinskiy?

MR. BOUCHER: I havenít seen that, and I doubt if we have any comment. Iíll check and see on Gusinskiy.

On the Pope case, both sides have now completed closing arguments in the trial. Mr. Pope is expected to present a statement to the court on Wednesday, December 6th. We would anticipate a verdict will follow some days afterwards.

Mrs. Pope has arrived in Moscow today. We expect sheíll be able to see her husband tomorrow. Our request for consular access has been approved again, and a visit is also planned for tomorrow by consular officials.

We continue to be concerned about his health, about the deterioration that has occurred while he has been in prison. It is past time for his release, so that he can receive proper treatment and be reunited with his family. That remains our clear position.

QUESTION: Russian officials have said that there is too much noise by the US about the Pope case and that this is counter-productive to resolving it in a timely manner. Can you respond to that?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have had a very clear and consistent view. And one has to say that Mr. Popeís detention is not the result of our noise; itís a result of actions by the Russian authorities, and we would hope that they would resolve this situation and see him released.

QUESTION: There has been no President-elect for several weeks now, and Iím just wondering, has that affected any US relations abroad? Is there a sense in any of the issues, whether it be the Middle East or any place, where -- has it affected US foreign policy?

MR. BOUCHER: No. We have a President, we have a Secretary of State. They remain active in pursuing our national agenda. You can see that from their conversations, their travels, their actions, their decisions that are being made every day. We will have another President in January, and that is time enough to get ready.

Having been in with the Secretary on a number of her meetings in Mexico -- and I think this has generally been true of our meetings in Brunei as well - - obviously people are following this situation. It is the subject of some discussion, but I wouldn't say itís an official matter of concern on the part of any of the people that weíve talked to. They do understand that we have a legal process under way, and they understand that we have a President and a Secretary of State who are going to continue to do the nationís business until January 20th.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, when Clinton was elected, one of the first things that he did was he made a statement saying that until Iím in office that Bush is the President and nobody should misjudge American intention. Do you think that a statement like that is lacking here in any ways?

MR. BOUCHER: Thatís a question you can go ahead and ask the White House if you want to, but Iíll just say weíve got a President, weíve got a Secretary of State, and they continue to pursue the nationís business. And I think thatís quite clear to everybody.

QUESTION: Back to the Pope case for just a minute. Over the weekend, The Washington Post wrote an editorial in which it said that the Administration had never said clearly -- or clearly enough -- that US- Russian relations would be harmed if Mr. Pope was not treated better. Do you take any umbrage of that? Do you feel that enough has been done, that it was made clear to the Russians that there would be a consequence?

And as a result of the consular information being changed, which came out of this building, have you heard or have you noticed that there has been any change? I mean, we donít see it from here, obviously.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, on the second part of the question itís very hard to track. On the one hand, we are being told that people are not traveling to Israel because of the warning there, but itís hard to say exactly how our advice to Americans on the Consular Information Sheet for Russia might have changed the approach -- or knowledge of this case might have changed the approach of some of the Americans who intended to do business there.

I do think itís quite clear that there is concern about this kind of business and the difficulties that that may cause in Russia, and I would consider it likely that people that are interested in high technology business with Russia have been given pause, if not canceled some of their intentions.

But the first half of your question, I think itís quite clear that this has already become an issue in our relationship. It is quite clear that this has been raised. The Pope situation has been raised at the highest levels repeatedly -- by the President, by the Secretary of State, by our Ambassador there -- in a variety of fora. It is an issue that is part of our relationship and an issue that has affected the relationships that we have. It is one that becomes a subject of continuous discussion and repeated discussion, and therefore I would submit that itís already part of the relationship and a problem that needs to be dealt with, and one that we are not forgetting about.

QUESTION: And included in those discussions, are there possibilities about doing more about what would be further options? Are we still discussing that? We knew before the consular information was changed that that was a possibility, but we havenít heard what other options might be.

MR. BOUCHER: I think we are at a moment where we are going to have to see what the next steps are on the Russian side and what comes out of the trial before we determine what we do next on our side. First and foremost, we want to see to the welfare of Mr. Pope, and seeing him tomorrow in a consular visit is important to us. And then we will look at how the trial turns out and decide what to do then.

QUESTION: Can you give us any update on negotiations, when the day will be for I guess for preparing the Gore-Chernomyrdin aide mťmoire ?

MR. BOUCHER: The discussions will take place in Moscow. I guess we said that already. Let me get the date. Wednesday, Iím pretty sure. Yes, Wednesday, December 6th. This is our dialogue with Russia on the threats coming from a region of the world that is marked by considerable instability. We have been very successful in the past on constraining arms sales to Iran that otherwise would have undermined regional stability, and we are going to continue our dialogue with Russia on those critical issues. In Moscow on Wednesday, December 6th, we will be sending out a small team that will work with our Embassy in discussions with the Russians at that time.

Let me make clear we remain committed to constraining arms sales that pose a threat to regional stability and to the national security interest of the United States, our friends, our allies in the region, and we hope the Russians would share those concerns and share this approach.

QUESTION: Have they not?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, they have in the past. The question is whether they will continue in the future.

QUESTION: Do we know who is heading the small team? Are you --

MR. BOUCHER: On our side itís John Barker, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Nonproliferation Affairs. And he will be working with our Embassy in discussions with the Russians.

QUESTION: Conventional weapons?

MR. BOUCHER: This is a whole issue of conventional arms contracts with Iran. We have been encouraging the Russians not to sign any new arms contracts with Iran of the kind that were constrained for five years under this aide mťmoire that we have had. We are not aware of any new Russian arms contracts with Iran. Thatís why we think it is critically important to have a frank and comprehensive discussion regarding Russiaís future intentions at this time.

QUESTION: I keep seeing Senator Mitchell on television talking about Florida, and it seems like a full-time job, just keeping track of all that. Whatís going on with the international commission that he is heading up to investigate violence in the Middle East? How much work have they done? How is progress going? When do we expect to see a report?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I think you know that they have had their initial organizational meetings on Sunday, November 26th. They met separately with the Israeli and the Palestinian representatives. We think that they are actively moving to implement their mission.

The parties, Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat, have approved the fact-finding commission as one of the commitments they made at Sharm el Sheikh. We fully expect that both parties will cooperate with the committee. We are confident that the committee will do a thorough, effective and objective job; at the same time, make clear that these are not US Government officials.

Senator Mitchell has repeatedly made clear that the committee will conduct its work objectively and independently. And therefore, for details on the travel and scope of the work, you should contact Senator Mitchellís office at 202-371-6012.

QUESTION: Will he be home?

MR. BOUCHER: Give them a call. Well, his office will be there, and they will be glad to fill you in on what they do next.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- their timeline in terms of when they expect a final report?

MR. BOUCHER: That, again, will be up to them to determine. I donít have that information for you. You will have to hear that from them.

I do want to say they are up and running; they are going ahead. We think they are moving actively to implement their mission. But for the details of how they are doing that, we have to leave it to them.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the travel to Israel situation? Is it all or nothing, if thereís a lull? I mean, there are gradations, we all know, of State Department cautions: Donít travel; travel carefully; donít travel along the same route; watch what youíre doing; stay away from crowds.

Is it a matter of the State Department weighing whether to totally eliminate the warning and, in the meantime, to keep a full-blast warning on? Isnít it possible to say that things have improved, and be careful, but you ought to -- you know, itís all right to go there?

MR. BOUCHER: We have had various kinds of warnings and advice and cautions at different times, and what we do is we provide our best advice to American travelers on how to maintain their safety while they are in a situation. Or times we have to tell them -- suggest as we do now -- that they defer travel. But itís not ďollie-ollie-in-come-freeĒ or donít go there. Thereís a lot of stuff in between where we provide our best advice. And thatís why I reiterate the concern and consideration on our side is the safety of Americans, and weíll give them our best advice on what they have to do to maintain their safety.

QUESTION: I just donít -- I guess Iím having trouble understanding why you donít ratchet back from October 24th to October 12th, when there was a more muted warning. Isnít the situation improved enough for that?

MR. BOUCHER: As I say, we have this under review; we continue to watch it. But I think we have to be very careful in terms of providing best advice to people and making sure that the situation holds.

QUESTION: In Afghanistan, Masoud, the leader of the group that is against the Taliban, appears to be really sort of on his last legs. He is besieged, and it looks like the Taliban might be able to go further and knock him out of the game. Does the United States have a position on this conflict?

MR. BOUCHER: We have not taken sides in this conflict; thatís not our interest there. Out interest is in seeing, first of all, the UN resolutions implemented by those who continue to harbor Usama bin Laden and to, second of all, continue to work with other governments in the region to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a source of instability for the region.

QUESTION: But who has the seat at the UN is not under review because of these advances? It remains the way it is?

MR. BOUCHER: It remains the way it is. I canít remember exactly what it is, but it remains that way.

QUESTION: No, itís anti-Taliban.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: And Masoud is saying that Pakistan sent regular army troops to fight on the side of the Taliban, and also that some of the people that are facing his forces are trained by Usama bin Laden. Do you have any information on that?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I donít have any information on that.

QUESTION: Do you have a position on concerns from some of the central -- some of Afghanistanís neighbors that the former Soviet Union may be arming Masoud and taking an interest in that? I mean, have you, in your conversations at the UN, asked them to remain as neutral?

MR. BOUCHER: This gets to a level of detail that I donít think we can really address in this fashion at this time. If youíre interested, Iíll get you somebody to do this in more detail.

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, we do.

QUESTION: According to India Globe News, Mr. Inderfurth, Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs, was in South Asia, and today he will meet in Switzerland with Afghanistan working group. Now, do you have any comment on --

MR. BOUCHER: Didnít I tell you last week when you were asking why isnít he going to Pakistan that he was in South Asia and that about today he would be meeting in Switzerland?

QUESTION: But today the -- the reason Iím asking this question again is that he will have today some kind of talks with the Afghanistan working group concerning Usama bin Laden, and also US-Afghanistan relations. Do you have any comments on that?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I have talked about those in the past, and I donít think I have anything to add at this moment. But weíll see.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 P.M.)

[end of document]

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