|Tuesday, 18 February 2020|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-11-06
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
November 6, 2001
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any announcements or statements. I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: -- something on the anthrax testing done in Lahore.
MR. BOUCHER: In Lahore?
QUESTION: And elsewhere.
QUESTION: There was some in Russia. I think they gave us an update --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I believe our consulate general in Yekaterinburg has put out a statement. So let me do a double check on Lahore.
Samples from the tainted letter have arrived in the United States for testing on Sunday. We are coordinating with the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases that will be doing the testing.
I was asked yesterday where the item came from. It came in the public local mail.
QUESTION: This is the Lahore, right?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. It came in the local mail. They had an off- site mailroom facility and it was checked, bagged, isolated there and then sent on to us for further testing.
As far as Yekaterinburg goes, I think they put out a statement that we can share with you. Basically, there were six unclassified diplomatic bags that arrived there on October 19th. On October 25th, they opened them to test and one of these bags, one of the six bags, has tested positive for anthrax spores. The remaining five bags have tested negative. The source of the anthrax is not established.
The medical laboratory in Yekaterinburg, that has done the testing, performed initial tests on October 26 after the Department had notified the post to do the checks. Initially, the tests were negative and then after 10 days of culturing they found some spores. So what the laboratory is telling the consulate is that, since it took two tests to find the anthrax, its concentration is very, very small and the amount in the bag was negligible. That is the way they've described it. So the health implications are very, very slight. We do have one employee at the post who has decided to take antibiotics, will take the medication for 60 days. He is not ill, shows no sign of illness, and we don't have any other employees who have any sign of illness there.
QUESTION: Do you mind just telling us what you know so far about the contamination in Lahore, because there seems to be some confusion there, I think. You said it was generated locally? Does that mean that a letter has been identified, or is it just a mailbag that is suspicious?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't realize there was confusion so I think I only brought the bare facts with me today. I will certainly get you more. It was an item received in the public mail, a sample from a letter that was received via local mail. It has arrived in the United States for testing and we will see what that produces.
QUESTION: Richard, I am a little confused as to why -- when was it exactly that you told all the embassies abroad to watch out for these diplomatic pouches, because as far as I remember, it was after the 19th and it may not have been until the 25th. In which case, I am wondering why those diplomatic bags were sitting around in Yekaterinburg for six days without anyone opening them. It doesn't sound like it is a very efficient way to get a letter from here to there, if they normally sit around for six days without anyone looking at them.
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to double check on the exact dates that we did that. Let me double check if I know when the pouches left.
QUESTION: And is there --
MR. BOUCHER: I have three different pieces of information and they don't quite match up.
All right. We'll get you better chronology.
QUESTION: Can I also ask, how about anywhere else? The other tests, you said there were some pending in various places?
MR. BOUCHER: I think all the other tests continue to be negative, that the environmental sampling, the random sampling being done in this building continues to be negative. We have done tests on the facility of Sterling, Virginia. A lot of those results are pending. So far nothing has come back definitive. And the rest of the places keep coming up negative.
Our employee continues to improve. The hospital --
QUESTION: But still in a hospital?
MR. BOUCHER: He is still in the hospital, but they are making plans for possible release in the next few days.
QUESTION: Thank you, Richard. Obviously, the question is on Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Foreign Minister is in town. Who is he meeting, and how would you term his visit? Was there any overture of reinforcing Bangladesh support for its fight against terrorism, and its offering of its airstrips and bases?
MR. BOUCHER: The full schedule of the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister you will have to get from him, or from their embassy. He is meeting today at 4:30 with Secretary Powell. We expect they will discuss a whole range of bilateral, regional and international issues, including, as you say, strengthening our cooperation on counterterrorism, on peacekeeping, as well as issues like strengthening democracy in Bangladesh, investment and trade.
US relations with Bangladesh are historically strong, based on shared democratic systems, and Bangladesh's moderating role in the region, and within Islamic organizations. And now Bangladesh is indeed playing a very helpful role in its strong support for the global coalition against terrorism. We expect that will certainly continue with the new government that was elected last month, and I just note that Bangladesh continues to be a very strong supporter of the global coalition against terrorism.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: So far, Lebanon at least has come out and said -- the Lebanese Finance Minister said it is not going to freeze the assets of Hezbollah after the lists -- after the new names were added to the financial targets list. Do you have any reaction to that and are there any other countries that have come out and said they are not going to help this expanded list?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have anything more to say on particular countries than we have in the past. As we all know, there is a UN resolution that requires all countries to control the assets and the financing for terrorism. The United States has taken action in terms of our own regulations. We have seen something like 150 countries around the world take action under various regulations in various forms. But for exactly what each country does, that is going to be determined based on local regulations.
QUESTION: I have a follow up. Can you at least say whether Lebanon was willing to help crack down on al-Qaida money but is now drawing the line at cracking down on Hizballah?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check and see what we have on Lebanon. But in the end they are going to have to account for their actions and there will be a UN committee that will review people's actions and keep this under scrutiny. We have people here that are watching this closely. They will be working with United Nations as well.
QUESTION: Will you expand that check, please, to include Syria and Iran? Because if you --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not trying to do a daily check --
QUESTION: No, no, but let me explain. Let me please try to explain. Talking about Hizballah, checking on Lebanon's intentions, you know, would like be checking on the Mayor of Des Moines, so far as what US plans are for this or that action. It is under control of Syria and Hizballah has provided -- Iran provides arms to Hizballah.
So if you are going to do any poking, and if it's possible, I think it's got to go to all three.
MR. BOUCHER: This is not particularly a road that I think we need to go down. I think other countries need to account for their actions. We will deal with these issues in the United Nations as we address with other governments how to implement the UN resolution.
QUESTION: Ambassador Chamberlin was on television this morning talking about President Musharraf and how he didn't push hard for a halt to the Ramadan bombing. But she also said that he was doing as best he could or taking major steps toward sealing the border, his border, from trafficking in -- well, I guess, from Pakistani tribesmen going over to help the Taliban, and weapons. Is there anything that the United States is doing to help out in that area?
MR. BOUCHER: We have worked a lot with Pakistan on various elements in the past involving border security, involving counter-narcotics. And indeed I think there is $73 million that was allocated this calendar year to work even more with the Pakistanis on border security issues, counter-narcotics trafficking, counter-smuggling issues.
So, yes, we have worked with the Pakistani Government in the past to help them strengthen their border control, and we would expect to continue to do that in the future.
QUESTION: But what -- is there anything post-September 11th that is new?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on the date of the $73 million, but certainly it's an effort that we have had under way and that we would expect to continue to support.
QUESTION: Okay. And that $73 million, what does it go for? Is it training, or is it actual people on the ground?
MR. BOUCHER: It goes for a lot of different things. But I will have to see if we can get you more detail.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about Hamad Karzai and any discrepancies on whether -- I know the Secretary of Defense has said that the US has rescued him, but people in Pakistan are saying something different, and --
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's a purely Defense kind of question.
QUESTION: Well, can you give us an update on what is going on with whether you think that this mission is the right mission, and what about -- there are a lot of critics that say that the US is supporting too much Northern Alliance without supporting enough some of the Pashtuns and the other groups that really make up the majority? That you can't support one without the other.
MR. BOUCHER: We have made quite clear all along that we are talking to a whole variety of groups and factions and different leaders for Afghanistan. That is our intention, and the appointment of Ambassador Dobbins will help us to keep in very close touch with all the different leaders as we can, and to encourage them all to form the kind of broad-based government that we are looking for.
Hamad Karzai is a traditional Pashtun tribal leader. We understand he is inside Afghanistan trying to mobilize opposition to the Taliban and to support this idea of a broad-based government. That is the kind of activity that is necessary for Afghans to bring peace to their country, and regain control of their destiny.
As you have said, the Taliban saw his activities as a threat. They sent troops to try to stop him. Our most recent information after the clash yesterday was that he was safe and continuing his activities with the protection of local supporters. But how exactly that event occurred, I would leave to the Pentagon, and just say that we continue to support all the activities. We continue to talk to a whole variety of factions and leaders to try to encourage them to form a broad-based government that can bring a stable Afghanistan for the future.
QUESTION: A lot of people in the academic community are saying that the appointment of Ambassador Dobbins is premature, because what is really needed -- that Ambassador Dobbins should be appointed as a reward to these groups to show that they can get themselves together, rather than --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. That notion strikes me as a little fanciful.
QUESTION: Well, I guess they don't think it's fanciful, and I think that - - I mean, some of the criticism is that the United States can't encourage these people to get their act together, but what you can do is offer them incentives to do so, such as a development package or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we disagree with that part. But Ambassador Dobbins' role is indeed to be out there, to try to help them, try to encourage them and to make clear that there are incentives. We have made quite clear all along that traditionally the largest supporter of assistance for Afghanistan for the people of Afghanistan as the country that is working very had with the United Nations and others to get food and assistance into Afghanistan despite the problems caused by the Taliban, and as a country that has a continuing interest in the future of Afghanistan, we would intend to make reconstruction, redevelopment aid available, and that is a strong incentive, I think, for the formation of a broad-based government.
But I think we see the need to be active in that regard. Ambassador Haass will be working in Washington primarily to do that. Ambassador Dobbins will be working out in the field to do that. Under the guidance and leadership of Christine Rocca, our Assistant Secretary for the region. So this is an effort by the United States to encourage people to do just that, to form a broad-based government, and to make clear that we are prepared to help reconstruct and rebuild Afghanistan if such a government were to be put in place.
QUESTION: Richard, along those lines, has Ambassador Dobbins bought his first plane ticket, or is it a shuttle, basically, to New York for a Six- Plus-Two meeting, if and when such a meeting is --
MR. BOUCHER: I am told that he will be traveling soon, but I don't have a date or a destination at this point.
MR. BOUCHER: To the region.
QUESTION: Oh, not just to the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: He will be traveling soon; I don't have any travel plans for him.
QUESTION: Am I making an incorrect assumption that he will be in New York for
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it is a correct assumption, but I don't know if it is incorrect either. I don't know if he will be up there or not.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? I heard what you said yesterday about the appointment of Ambassador Dobbins. But when you say he is going to be a representative to these groups, I mean, what does that mean? What exactly is he trying to accomplish? Is he going to go to each one of these groups and try and negotiate with them and get them to follow any certain Afghan leader? I mean, isn't that what the Afghans are supposed to be doing themselves? Or is he along the lines of Richard Haass in terms of working with the partners in the region and the neighbors?
MR. BOUCHER: His job is to work with the Afghan opposition, the Afghan groups. Naturally, a lot of people have an interest in this. The UN does. That is why they appointed Mr. Brahimi who was out talking to a lot of people in the region, both groups and governments. I would expect that, during Ambassador Dobbins' travels, he will meet with governments, as well as groups and prominent individuals on the Afghan side.
But his job is to implement a US policy. US policy, which is to encourage all the Afghan parties and factions to try to form a broad-based government, try to come together in some fashion and work out how to govern Afghanistan in the future. That role involves primarily the Afghan parties, but we all know that there are a variety of neighbors and other governments who have an interest in this. So we will talk to others about it as well.
QUESTION: Does he have any plans to go into Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular travel to announce for him. I don't know of any particular plans like that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) policy has been an ongoing effort for the Administration and increasing. Could you give us an update on what new components you are using?
MR. BOUCHER: We expect to do that for the foreign press sometime later this week. We were hoping to do it today, but decided to postpone it until Friday to do a little more preparation on that. But just to kind of give you a summary of where we stand, we have been very active in terms of getting the US point of view out through our embassies; our ambassadors are very active in various locations, are writing articles, doing interviews, helping distribute transcripts, videos of things that are said and go on in Washington, or out there themselves, talking on behalf of the United States.
Second of all, we have had a greater effort, I think, to make American officials, American spokesmen available to various medias, including especially Middle Eastern media, television stations, newspapers that broadcast in the Middle East. The Secretary of State himself has done this several times. He has appeared in Al Jazeera. Yesterday he appeared on Egyptian TV.
Third of all, we have provided a lot of updated material, either in video format through our embassies or in written format through our website. Daily, on the front page of the State Department website, there is a quote of the day and sound clips that radio stations can pick off, if they want to, as well as providing full transcripts of everything that we have said.
So there is a lot of effort, I think, to use all of this media, to use our people as much as we can. We are also looking at sort of how to broaden this, how to prepare new materials that are focused directly on the campaign, and we are doing some of those now. And we will be looking at the long-term, I think, not just at the issue of countering terrorism, but the overall issue of how the United States is seen in the region, especially in the Muslim world, to try to do what we can to enlist more long-term support for US goals in the region.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say where your work with the Ad Council stands in all this?
MR. BOUCHER: It's at a preliminary stage right now. We are doing several different things with advertising agencies of the Ad Council. The White House is doing some things as well. I would say most of this is preliminary.
We are working, as we do every year, on the Rewards for Justice campaign for information, and that may be a little closer than some of the other things.
QUESTION: On the same line, the House, if it hasn't done so already, is poised to approve $27.5 million for a Radio Free Afghanistan. Is it correct that the Administration would prefer that this money -- that this not -- that this money not be used for the creation of a new radio station, but rather be used, if it's to be appropriated at all, for existing programs?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to double check on that, see what final position we might have taken on a specific piece of legislation. What we have said before about the idea is it may have some value if it doesn't detract from the resources that are available to the broadcasters who already reach Afghanistan, who already have listenership in Afghanistan. I will have to check on the specific piece of legislation to understand what position we have taken and whether it does that or not.
QUESTION: Okay. And then on the propaganda war, as it's being called -- I know you don't want to call it that, but that's what everyone else calls it --
MR. BOUCHER: I call it the truth. We believe in the truth, and I'd like to see others take the same standard, and allow reporters and journalists to question them about things that are going on.
QUESTION: In your battle to present the truth to the liars of the world, there is some speculation that the projects that you are going to undertake with the Ad Council and others and what you may decide to share with people on Friday is going to involve celebrities and sports stars and things like that. Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: There are ideas like that that are floating around. I would say, we have gone from the immediate response to September 11th, which was to use the resources we have and the materials we had and the people we had, to what you might call an interim stage, where we are adding resources like people, like Ambassador Chris Ross to speak in Arabic, as spokesmen. We are adding resources, say, to our embassy in London to coordinate with allies to our embassy in Pakistan, to be able to do a little more out there. So we are incrementally adding to the resources and the availability of materials on the web and things like that.
And I suppose down the road there is a third stage where we get into longer term things about initiating new programs of TV production or exchanges or other sorts of things, advertising. But that stage is less defined at this point.
QUESTION: But is that -- is that seen as long term, as in lasting longer than perhaps the war against terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose there will be a variety of new activities initiated down the road, but we will talk about them when we do.
QUESTION: But certainly there is a sense -- I think there is a sense -- it appears that there is a sense of urgency in getting this done right now, specifically before Ramadan begins. But also during the course of the first phase of the military operation of the greater war on terrorism. Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think ideas such as you are talking about that are floating around would come to fruition in the next two weeks before Ramadan. Certainly, there is more we are doing; there is more we will be doing before Ramadan, through Ramadan. I think the things that the President is doing, that the Secretary is doing, the statements that we are hearing now particularly in the Muslim world, we see a lot of Muslim leaders speaking out. I think President Mubarak has had a few things to say. The Islamic Research Center in Cairo has made some statements about Islam. So we are looking at those and trying to point people's attention to what is being said in the rest of the world as well. There are a lot of activities like that that we can do between now and through Ramadan.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Robertson, made some comment about the war against terrorism is getting wider and wider and might even include Iraq and Somalia. And especially the Iraqi part is a very big concern for the Turkish Government.
Do you have any plan to expand this war against Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: I did not see anything like that from Lord Robertson. I would want to check the transcript before I tried to comment on it.
QUESTION: Are you planning to expand or making a wider war against terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the President has made quite clear what our policy is on that. I think Secretary Rumsfeld just answered it again today, too. So I am not going to go into that again.
QUESTION: Richard, I think the embassy in Pakistan, in Islamabad, has confirmed that the body that the Taliban was claiming was American is not American. Is that so? Do you have that kind of information?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have that kind of information. And certainly I don't think our embassy has said that. But there are always things that are surprising to me.
We are still, as far as I know, in discussions with the International Committee of the Red Cross. We have been talking to them to try to determine if there is any truth behind these press reports and the latest Taliban claims. The US embassy in Islamabad is still investigating the matter and we cannot comment any further at this time. We are still looking into this case.
I believe the situation is we have not made an identification of the individual. We have not seen any remains. We have not been provided with any evidence that leads to a conclusive understanding of who the person is, much less as to whether it is or is not an American citizen.
So to the best of our knowledge at this point, the only two US citizens who have been detained are the two aid workers for Shelter Now International. Once again, the Taliban needs to provide information; second of all, they need to release any Americans they do have in custody.
QUESTION: And in the spirit of seeking the truth --
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: -- could you perhaps tell us what you can about what information the United States Government actually has backing up the President's claim this morning that we are at risk of nuclear attack from Usama bin Laden?
MR. BOUCHER: That is something the President was asked subsequently, and I think he gave as much information as we are able to give in an answer to that.
QUESTION: I don't think he told us really very much. And I wondered if he --
MR. BOUCHER: I think he gave as much information as we are able to give on that sort of thing.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: There is a limit to intelligence reporting and what we can say about it.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Afghanistan. As far as Taliban, Afghanistan is concerned, the Indian Prime Minister, who is in Moscow, and coming tomorrow to the United States. He seeks India's role in that future government in Afghanistan. And two, if the Secretary is meeting with him, the Secretary and -- I understand that there are some talks going on that the two, the Prime Minister of India and General Musharraf must or should meet in New York. Is this Department playing any role, or the Secretary?
MR. BOUCHER: That sort of thing would be up to them to decide. The question of the Secretary, I don't believe the Secretary has a separate meeting with Mr. Vajpayee scheduled. Of course, the Secretary saw him two weeks ago when we were in India -- three weeks ago, is that now? And certainly, I'm sure the President looks forward to seeing him, and that will be an important meeting in itself.
Did I take care of everything? Oh, and does India have a role or a view? I'm sure India has a view about the future of Afghanistan. When we were there, we discussed it with Mr. Vajpayee and various other high-level Indian officials, and I think what the Secretary said is that clearly the future government of Afghanistan has to be acceptable to people in the neighborhood. It has to be able to live in harmony with the people in its neighborhood. That is certainly what we are all seeking, and we have discussed that quite extensively with Prime Minister Vajpayee, as well as other high-level Indian officials.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? The Indians are very upset about what they are calling Pakistani troop advances near the Kashmir border. Does the United States Government have a view on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particularly new on the details of what is going on in Kashmir, but certainly our policy has remained, that we want to see all sides exercise restraint, take steps to reduce the violence, and we also think it is useful for them to renew their dialogue.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. [End]
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