|Tuesday, 18 February 2020|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-11-27
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
November 27, 2001
12:50 P.M. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can tell you about one thing that we are going to do here this afternoon at 3:00 p.m., Senator Danforth, our Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan, will come by and tell you about his recent trip to Sudan and other places in Africa. It will be held in this room, on the record, on camera, at 3:00 p.m.
And with that, I will be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Could you give us a rundown on the Secretary's meeting with the visitor from Yemen?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary had a very good meeting with the Yemeni President, President Saleh. They talked principally about the campaign against terrorism. They talked quite a bit as well about the Middle East and about the need to stop the violence. I would say overall there was very considerable agreement on the two points.
First, the Secretary made clear the President's determination to pursue the campaign against terrorism, first against al-Qaida and then against other terrorist groups. The President of Yemen agreed that this was a long-term struggle, that terrorism had hurt Yemen as well, and that they were determined, as determined as we are, to get at terrorism.
Second of all, they talked about the situation in the Middle East, and the Secretary made quite clear that we want to move forward, we want to try to help the parties stop the violence and get back to peace talks. The President of Yemen indicated that that was a goal that they firmly supported.
QUESTION: How about the Cole investigation?
MR. BOUCHER: There was no specific discussion of that. The President of Yemen is having a number of other meetings in Washington with different agencies and places. He is also -- I should say, these meetings are all preliminary to the meeting with the President this afternoon that he will have.
QUESTION: On a related matter, and at the risk of incurring your wrath, once again there is a report that the Saudis are not fully cooperating with the US in the financial aspects of the war on terrorism. Every time these reports have come up, you and others have denied it completely. And the first, you know, 15,000 times this happened, I was totally inclined to believe you and take everyone's word for it.
But these stories aren't coming out of nowhere. Is it true that -- that you guys have not yet gotten cooperation on some specifics from the Saudis, and that you're sending a team there to try and work out with them -- to try and work this out with them?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: There is no team going?
MR. BOUCHER: Ambassador Bill Burns, in the course of his trip to the region that he is on right now, will be stopping in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He will be discussing a number of topics, a broad range of issues, obviously regional and bilateral issues, issues having to do with the peace process, with the campaign against terrorism. I am sure that terrorist financing will be one of those issues. But I think there were reports that Deputy Assistant Secretary Ryan Crocker was going. He is not going to the region at this time.
And on the general proposition, I would say what we have said before. We have established very good -- excellent cooperation with Saudi Arabia in a whole host of areas involving the campaign against terrorism. You have seen, I think, the kinds of orders, instructions, decrees, decisions that they have imposed in terms of financial controls in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia -- as the Secretary has said -- Saudi Arabia has been prominent among the countries acting against the accounts of terrorist organizations. Like many countries, they are taking actions in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1333, which calls on all UN members to freeze accounts listed by the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee that are linked to the al-Qaida terrorist organization, or to the Taliban. Our understanding is that Saudi Central Bank has issued instructions to banks in Saudi Arabia to look for and to freeze the accounts that are listed by the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee.
This is an ongoing process. We have obtained, we have received strong support and cooperation from the Saudi Government so far, and we will continue to work with them on a whole variety of issues. But those are the facts as we know them.
QUESTION: Well, can I -- have the Saudis asked you to provide proof of links to terrorists for some of these accounts?
MR. BOUCHER: As I have said -- there is a list that the United Nations Security Council -- that follows the UN Security Council Resolution 1333 of al-Qaida, Taliban-associated organizations. Many of the entities the United States has identified are on that list, and Saudi Arabia has in fact issued instructions from its central bank to freeze those accounts, and to find them and to freeze those accounts.
QUESTION: But once again, bottom line, once again these reports are incorrect?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Richard, what about (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had a lot of teams back and forth. We have had Saudi financial people in Washington. We have had our experts out there. It is an ongoing process. It is an ongoing process of cooperation and we will continue that cooperation.
QUESTION: So what you're stating is also based on what these teams learned over there, that they think it's going smoothly and the system --
MR. BOUCHER: We have had a lot of people back and forth. The Saudis have issued various instructions. We are always consulting on an expert level. As the Secretary and the President made clear, it is not a static process. There is always more and more that people have to do. And so far, we get the cooperation, we are working together in the areas we need to work together.
QUESTION: Is Burns going to identify this issue of media criticism of the kingdom, or is he looking toward other political objectives during this trip?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know to what extent people will raise these issues. Clearly, we think it is in all our interest to make the facts known, and I am trying to do that with you today. I'm sure the Saudi Government will try to do that as well. But I think his goal out there is to work on this cooperation against terrorism, is to continue to work in support of peace in the Middle East, continue to work against terrorism and other issues in the region. So he is out there for the substantive issues, not to discuss the media commentary.
QUESTION: Richard, will the Secretary speak (inaudible) planning to discuss latest development in the Iraq issues?
MR. BOUCHER: He is planning to discuss any number of issues, and I don't want to start focusing on this one, that one or some other one. You can assume that issues related to the region, issues related to Afghanistan, issues related to NATO -- yes, probably Iraq. There may be others as well that will be discussed. Economic issues potentially come up.
But I don't think I can give you a specific list yet, until we get closer to the actual arrival to say that these are the issues we want to raise.
QUESTION: Moving on to Afghanistan and to follow on on the Turkey aspect of it, what is the current thinking in this building about the type of force that Afghanistan needs to restore security? An Afghan force, a coalition of the willing? What --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is anything new to say on that, frankly, at this point.
QUESTION: Well what's the last you have said on it? It is a long time since you actually took a position on what you thought was --
MR. BOUCHER: No, our position has not changed. I will look it up for you.
QUESTION: With respect to the end of the hostilities in the north of Afghanistan, there is the new conference in Germany. Is that going to be a problem with the Pashtun and Northern Alliance and other groups? And people are talking about the King coming back into some type of non-formal government arrangement.
Is there a time frame that you are developing for that, where you want an interim government to take hold almost instantaneously?
MR. BOUCHER: Those things are the subject of discussion in Bonn by the Afghan parties. The meetings have begun in Bonn, as you all know. The first session began today among representatives of a wide range of Afghan factions. There is the Northern Alliance there, former King Zahir Shah's "Rome Group", what's known as the "Peshawar Group" of Afghans living in Pakistan, and the "Cyprus Group" of other Afghan exiles.
We do have our team of observers there and Jim Dobbins, Ambassador Jim Dobbins, is out there leading a team. And he reports that the first day's meetings were quite positive. The issues that they are discussing are the ones you described, setting up an interim authority or interim authorities to administer Afghanistan and then to organize the process leading to a broad-based government, agreeing on something like a Loya Jirga, the Grand Council that could make such a government a reality. But the timetables and the mechanisms will be worked out by the Afghan parties as they meet with each other.
QUESTION: On the plane to Shanghai, the Secretary spoke about a UN interim administration, and I think he may have even mentioned peacekeepers. Correct me if I'm wrong. Are those still under consideration?
MR. BOUCHER: Those are all the possibilities that haven't changed. You know, once again, this is a subject of discussion by the Afghan parties. Obviously, events have evolved. The options are still the same but how they pan out will depend on what the Afghans agree to. Certainly the goal here, the discussion in Bonn, is for the Afghans themselves to be able to set up some sort of interim administration, for them to be able to map out the process of getting towards a stable and broad-based government. And we are all there, working with the UN, especially with Ambassador Brahimi, to try to help them do that.
QUESTION: What information do you have about the Russian Emergency Ministry mission to Kabul and have you had any contact with the Russians on what their intentions are?
MR. BOUCHER: These are the airplanes?
QUESTION: Yes, and they set up a kind of camp there, about which --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me tell you what we do know. To the best of our knowledge, Russian activity in Afghanistan is related to humanitarian assistance, not to military operations. This includes the airlifting of humanitarian equipment on military cargo planes. The Russians are engaged, as are many countries, in the provision of humanitarian assistance including medical supplies and facilities, and we welcome Russian humanitarian assistance.
QUESTION: Have you been in touch with them about this, because they have gone beyond planes. They have also set up some sort of installation in Kabul.
MR. BOUCHER: I do think we have been in touch with the Russians. I am not sure if it is through our embassy or through their embassy here. Obviously, the Secretary has also had discussions with Foreign Minister Ivanov about the situation in Afghanistan as well as other issues. So this is what we know. This is the best understanding we have.
QUESTION: This is just a logistical thing. I understood before that Ambassador Haass was actually going to be joining Ambassador Dobbins in Bonn. But I have just been told a few minutes ago by someone speaking with great authority, I think, that Ambassador Haass is not actually going to Bonn but is, in fact, going to other destinations.
Can you -- I realize that you may be the wrong person to be asking this, but can you tell us where he is going and what he is doing when he goes?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I had also previously thought that Ambassador Haass was headed out to Bonn, and I just learned from someone who spoke to someone in great authority on this subject that he is not going to go to Bonn. He is going to go to Berlin for policy planning talks with the German Government. These are talks that we have periodically with friends and allies and others. He is going to go on to Moscow for discussions with the Russians. He will then head down to -- I forget which is first, Pakistan first? India first -- India, and then on to Pakistan.
QUESTION: And are these general, or is it kind of focused on the situation?
MR. BOUCHER: It is focused on the situation in Afghanistan, I think. Obviously, to the extent that -- for example, in policy planning talks, formerly they might take on the whole world, but the main topics will be Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Okay, and --
MR. BOUCHER: So he doesn't -- because Ambassador Dobbins is in Bonn and working there quite successfully, I think he decided he didn't need to go there as well.
QUESTION: Ambassador Dobbins said today that everybody sees the ex-King as a rallying point, and hopes that he will play that role. What exactly would that be? If he's just a symbolic figure, and you're establishing interim government, how would he be the uniting figure in the government like that if he doesn't have any power, any real power?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a question that the Afghans will have to work out.
QUESTION: But Ambassador Dobbins is just promoting the idea on his own?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think he is reflecting what he is hearing in his discussions with the parties.
QUESTION: But you don't know what he --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it is for us to define it any further, of what exact role the King is going to play in a future arrangement.
QUESTION: I didn't want you to define it, but to explain what he meant when he said that.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I can't go any farther than he did.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on the Russians? What is your position on the Russians or anybody else supporting diplomatic recognition to the Northern Alliance?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view is that the process in Bonn is under way and we should let that process occur, and I presume that we and other governments can make decisions on recognition accordingly.
QUESTION: But that --
MR. BOUCHER: It's different for different people, because some people --
QUESTION: The UN has recognized --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes -- because of the history, people have recognized different governments at different times, and some have severed those ties, some haven't. So there is sort of -- different people have different associations, including the seat at the United Nations.
QUESTION: Well, okay, what exactly is the US relationship with Mr. Rabbani's -- is there none?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't -- I mean, we recognize him as one of the Afghan leaders that needs to be involved in the process.
QUESTION: No, but in the UN context.
MR. BOUCHER: But in the UN context -- we ourselves did not recognize that government or have a direct relationship with that government. So the fact that he is seated at the UN is obviously something that we recognize.
QUESTION: Okay. But then, in relation to what he is doing in Kabul right now, what do you see him -- I mean, he is styling himself as the acting president; do you see him as that, or is he just some other schmo who is living in Kabul?
MR. BOUCHER: None of the above.
QUESTION: So what is he?
MR. BOUCHER: He is one of the Afghan leaders that needs to be involved in the process of finding a political arrangement for the future of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Richard, you said that countries should let the processes occur, meaning the Bonn process, presumably. Does that mean we can't look forward to an American diplomat being stationed there until the process reaches a certain point?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can define it any more than that, because if I said, yes, then you would ask me what is that certain point. I don't think I can define that at this moment.
QUESTION: You always have to stay one or two steps ahead.
MR. BOUCHER: I try to.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, can you comment on the upcoming Cyprus talks in Nicosia December 4th between (inaudible) under the UN auspices?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on it today, but I will be glad to get you something.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Richard, can I get back to Kabul specifically? I mean, are there any plans? Have you started making any plans for someone to go in and check out what the embassy is like? I mean, not in terms of diplomatic relations or anything, but just to --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything I can announce for you today. Obviously, it is a subject that we are interested in.
QUESTION: Have there been any contacts that you know of between US diplomats in Pakistan with the Afghan staff who you lauded so magnificently in a statement a couple weeks ago for protecting the --
MR. BOUCHER: Through the years, I think, we have mentioned them on occasions.
QUESTION: But has anyone talked to them about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure they are in touch all the time with their people who are there. But I don't have any news for you on that.
QUESTION: Just as a follow-up, have you sent anybody in already?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of.
QUESTION: A missionary couple in the Philippines, name of Burnham, do you know what their status is? Have they been released? Are they --
MR. BOUCHER: Are there reports that they were released? They were on a videotape.
QUESTION: Well, there is some question as to whether that in making the tape, that they were released when the tape was made, or whether this was a plea to have the ransom paid, or --
MR. BOUCHER: Here is what we know about it. There were portions of a videotape with the couple, American hostages Martin and Gracia Burnham, that were broadcast in the Philippines and our embassy saw the broadcast portions of the tape.
As far as we know, they are still being held. We believe very strongly that they should be released immediately, safely and unconditionally, and we absolutely condemn the continued captivity of these people who are innocent. We are working very closely with the Philippine Government in their efforts to resolve the matter.
There was reportedly in the videotape -- and I don't think the whole thing has been broadcast -- some kind of plea for negotiations. But I think we have made clear we don't make concessions to terrorists, we don't pay ransom. And we consider statements made by hostages in captivity to have been made under duress.
So our view is that they should be released immediately and unconditionally and safely.
QUESTION: Is there anything that you can say about what the US military group that has been sent in to the Philippines will be doing? Will they be doing training for anti-terrorism --
MR. BOUCHER: I think you would have to check with the Pentagon about a specific team. We have had ongoing cooperation with the Philippines in terms of anti-terrorism assistance and training efforts, where we work with their military and their other security forces to help them prepare and deal with situations. We have had a group out there fairly recently to look at what we could do to expand that cooperation, to continue and expand that cooperation. I am not aware that there is any new group there, but you might check with the Pentagon on details.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on a Jordanian citizen, maybe a dual citizen, who was asking embassy officials there -- who has been detained, I believe in Amman, who was asking for embassy officials to testify on his behalf?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I will look into it and see if there is anything I can get you.
QUESTION: I think it happened yesterday.
QUESTION: One of your -- I think your DCM there has refused to testify in this case.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I am aware of that situation. But, frankly, I will get you something later because I don't remember exactly what it is.
QUESTION: Can I stay on that region for just a second? You mentioned that Assistant Secretary Burns was going to Riyadh. Is he, in fact, going to Cairo tomorrow? Is he going with Zinni? And what other stops do they have planned?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have a final itinerary. No, it is still sort of tentatively that he will visit other places in the region. But I don't have a final itinerary for him.
QUESTION: Is Zinni going with him? I thought the idea was Zinni would stay in the little region.
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard any reports that Zinni was going to Cairo. It is possible that they may have decided to do that to confer with the Egyptians. But Zinni's primary task is to stay in the area to keep meetings and discussions going with the Israelis and Palestinians, to try and achieve a durable cease-fire. And then Bill Burns was going to peel off after the initial meetings and have -- make some other stops in the region and I think return by early next week.
QUESTION: But you can say definitely then that -- definitively then that Zinni will not go with Burns to Riyadh? Or you can't even say that?
MR. BOUCHER: I can say that, but -- I can say that.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you give us an update on Zinni. He just met with Sharon.
MR. BOUCHER: You just took away my only line. (Laughter.) He met with Sharon.
Assistant Secretary Burns and General Zinni met today with Prime Minister Sharon. They will see Chairman Arafat on Wednesday. And, as I said, the immediate mission is to try and help the parties achieve a durable cease- fire and to move along the lines of the Tenet Security Work Plan and the Mitchell Committee Report to end the violence, rebuild confidence, and get back to negotiations.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Bonn and ask one quick question under the heading of "actions speak louder than words" and, just looking at what the Northern Alliance has done leading up to the Bonn talks in terms of, despite saying it wouldn't go into Kabul, despite saying that Rabbani wouldn't come back to Afghanistan, and you know the rest of the list, what makes you think that from here on out they are going in good faith, going to negotiate for this broad-based government?
MR. BOUCHER: They are there, they have been pledged to a broad-based government all along. They have maintained that commitment. They have shown up at the talks. They have participated, and we will see what the Afghan parties produce.
We have made quite clear that we intend to support the parties in forming a broad-based government, that we will be very active in encouraging that with all the different parties, and that we have made clear that our assistance is to help a broad-based and stable government in Kabul to rebuilt its country.
QUESTION: Earlier this month, you invited several Kurdish groups, Iraqi Kurdish group in Washington, D.C., and several State Department officials met them. Before the Thanksgiving, Iraqi Turkmen group also was talking to several State Department officials. And in New York, the former Iraqi King's son, he claimed that he has a contact with US officials. Are you planning the same kind of Afghani-style overthrow of Saddam Hussein?
MR. BOUCHER: The President has made quite clear that we are watching Iraq carefully. We believe Iraq has to comply with its international obligations, including the obligation to let inspectors back in. We believe that Iraq's attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction are a threat to its neighbors, as well as to the broader world. We are concerned about Iraq's support for terrorism.
So there are many things that lead us to keep a very close eye on Iraq. But the President also made clear, first things first. He is focused on getting al-Qaida, he is focused on getting rid of that, and not just that organization, and not just in Afghanistan, but throughout the world. So that's where we are for the moment.
QUESTION: Richard, can you fill us in on the latest in consultations on the Oil-for-Food Program and smart sanctions? And have you made any headway with the Russians, or are you pretty well resigned to this four-month extension now, with possibly a commitment to have another look at the list of goods?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. (Laughter.) Where is it? There it is.
We are continuing our work at the United Nations. As you know, the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Ivanov yesterday about the subject of Iraq, and instituting a new resolution for the Oil-for-Food Program. We are working intensively with the Russian Federation and other members of the Security Council in New York. There is not final agreement yet.
All Security Council members have agreed on the need to change the status quo by refocusing the controls on weapons and items used to produce weapons of mass destruction, while allowing a smoother flow of strictly civilian goods. So we continue to push for Council agreement on the mechanisms to do that. And that's where we are. We're working on it.
The Secretary and Foreign Minister Ivanov agreed we should continue to work closely on this, and the current resolution expires on Friday.
QUESTION: So the clock is ticking rather loudly right now? And you didn't answer the part of the question about whether you would accept, as an imperfect alternative to the British resolution, a rolling over for --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to sit here and try to negotiate in public. The discussions are going on at the United Nations about the kind of resolution, about how to implement the approach that we have all agreed upon, and once a resolution is there, we'll talk about it.
QUESTION: Well, can you say then that it's not true, that you're not looking at, as one of the options, not examining a four-month or --
MR. BOUCHER: We are continuing to work on what we have been working on, and that is to get the Russians to join with the rest of the Permanent 5 and the other Council members to implement this approach that we have agreed on previously, to come up with a new resolution that effectively will do that, and that is what we are continuing to do.
QUESTION: Can you use the word "progress" at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to count chickens before they hatch.
QUESTION: Richard, if the Russians don't get on board, as you say, does this -- what effects does this have on relations with the Russians, which have dramatically improved so much in recent months?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's what we call very hypothetical and speculative and so, if that doesn't happen, then we will address it then.
QUESTION: Do you have any plans to formalize what the President said about Iraq readmitting inspectors, perhaps in the form of a demarche to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: The requirements on Iraq are quite well known. The Iraq resolutions and requirements are there and they are quite clear from the Security Council. I think Iraq is fully aware of what it has to do.
QUESTION: Where does -- what exactly is the status of your demands for inspections in North Korea? What is the basis for these? And what do you --
MR. BOUCHER: Do you mean what the President talked about yesterday? As this process of building nuclear facilities in North Korea has gone forward, as they get closer to the point where -- I don't know what the formal term is -- but some of the equipment gets installed or gets commissioned, they need to start working with the international inspectors, with the International Atomic Energy Agency, to prepare for that eventuality and set up the programs. And those are the things that need to be done that we have said, I think, for some months now we thought it was time for those things to be happening.
QUESTION: Does that refer only to nuclear installations in that case, which is all you referred to? What about -- because I think the President's reference was wider, to all weapons of --
MR. BOUCHER: The President said -- I think he referred to nuclear inspections, and he also talked about we're against their proliferation, and we made that quite clear in any number of ways, too
QUESTION: So let me get this straight. Are you demanding inspection of other non-nuclear installations in North Korea, which could produce weapons of mass destruction?
MR. BOUCHER: There's nothing new to say today, Jonathan, on this. We have had, for many months now, if you look up the record, there are a variety of discussions that have taken place in the past with North Korea. We have said quite clearly -- the President has said that he wants to resume serious discussion with North Korea about all these issues. We have pointed out there need to be inspections of nuclear facilities as these facilities are built. We have pointed out that North Korea's missile proliferation programs are still a concern.
As you know, we have had some inspections in North Korea of -- what were they called? -- suspect sites, or certain facilities where we felt there might be other kinds of work going on. So all these things are still there, just as they have been before.
QUESTION: Along those lines, Richard, is it --
QUESTION: Sorry, can I just follow up, because you didn't quite answer the question. Is the United States demanding inspection of biological and possible biological and chemical warfare installations in North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new to point to in that regard, Jonathan.
QUESTION: Along those lines, maybe it's too early, but what's going on in San Francisco, TCOG?
MR. BOUCHER: They are having a meeting, and they will issue a statement when they finish.
QUESTION: And that would be today?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be expected to be today, yes.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: More on Korea. Do you have any comment on the exchange of fire across the DMZ today?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m. EST.)[End]
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