State Department Daily Press Briefing 31/10

Published: Wed 1 Nov 2000 05:47 PM
Announcements – Middle East Peace Process – North Korea – Middle East – Saudi Arabia – Kuwait – Indonesia – Egypt –Terrorism – Yemen – Russia – Iran – Mexico – Cuba - Iraq
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Tuesday, October 31, 2000
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
1-2 Secretary Albright To Speak About North Korea at National Press Club on November 2 / Groundbreaking for United States Diplomacy Center To Take Place at Harry S Truman Building on November 1 / Overseas Security Advisory Council Meeting in Dean Acheson Auditorium on November 1
3-4,8,9 Acting Israeli Foreign Minister's Visit on November 1 / Palestinian Visitors Later in the Week
4-5 Implementing Sharm El Sheikh Agenda/ Chairman Arafat's Written Statements
3-4 Possible Presidential Visit to North Korea / Update of Missile Talks
5-7 Abdulrahman Alamoudi & Department of State Speaker Program
13 Helicopter Attack on Fatah Buildings
7,9-11 Warnings to American Citizens/ Upgrade to Threat Con Delta
11-12 Warning American Citizens / Threat to Embassy Compound
12-13 U.S. Embassy in Egypt Warning
14 Whether U.S. is Conducting Campaign to Coordinate Information About Terrorism / Possibility of Reward Program
15 Access to Witnesses / Revisiting Relationship with Yemen
16-17 Documents Relating to Confidential Understandings Concerning Proliferation & Arms Sales / Weapons Acquired by Iran
17-18 Edmond Pope Trial Suspended / Decline of Mr. Pope's Health / Skurkovich Case / Foreign Minister Ivanov's Replies to Secretary Albright's Questions About Mr. Pope / Possibility of Punitive Measures Against Russia / Secretary Albright's Phone Call With Foreign Minister Ivanov
18-19 Secretary Albright's Contacts with German Government
19-20 Land Dispute Between Two Groups of Mexicans / Contacting Mexican Authorities / Diplomatic Note Regarding Execution of Miguel Angel Flores Rangel
19 Castro's Visit to Venezuela / Oil Deal
20-21 Accident in Taipei
q21-23 Russian Flights to Baghdad / Schedule of Flights to Baghdad
Update on Ambassador Gelbard / Dialogue Between the Embassy and Indonesian Authorities
MR. BOUCHER: Happy Halloween. Trick or Treat. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
A couple of upcoming press events we wanted you to know about. The Secretary will be giving a speech on Thursday, November 2nd, at the National Press Club at 10 o'clock. The subject is North Korea, and she'll take questions afterwards from members of the press who are at the National Press Club. 10 o'clock speech, pre-set for cameras 8:30 to 9:00, final access for people 9:30 to 9:40. The day, once again, is Thursday, November 2nd; the time, once again, is 10 o'clock; the pre-set for cameras, once again, is 8:30; final access for press 9:30 to 9:40.
QUESTION: Do you have a contact?
MR. BOUCHER: And we have a contact. We have a piece of paper that has all the information on it for you available after the briefing.
Second thing, tomorrow, Wednesday, November 1st at 2:00 p.m., groundbreaking for the United States Diplomacy Center will take place at the Harry S Truman Building, 21st Street Entrance. Again, we have an announcement for you. Set time for cameras is 1 o'clock, final access 1:45. So that's an event to start --
QUESTION: That's the Diplomacy Center or --
MR. BOUCHER: That's the groundbreaking of a center which eventually will showcase the achievements of American diplomacy through the ages.
QUESTION: How about the setbacks?
QUESTION: Wasn't there another --
MR. BOUCHER: How about what?
QUESTION: How about the setbacks?
QUESTION: There are no setbacks.
QUESTION: If you're showcasing achievements, will there be any --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure I think we call them challenges. (Laughter.) But I think the challenges as well as the achievements will be showcased.
QUESTION: You had something else on her schedule for tomorrow in the morning. Has that been canceled?
MR. BOUCHER: All right, can I have a sec?
QUESTION: Yeah, sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, another event for -- I'm going chronologically backwards. I started Thursday. I've moved to tomorrow afternoon. Now I'm going to go to tomorrow morning. I don't know why, but I am.
Overseas Security Advisory Council meeting tomorrow at 10:10 a.m. in Dean Acheson Auditorium. This is an annual briefing that we do. Overseas Security Advisory Council is a joint venture between the State Department and the US private sector since 1985. We have been able to use this to exchange information with people in the private sector on issues of overseas security that are of concern to both of us from the official side and from the corporate side.
The goal of the meeting of the organization is to support US corporations by giving them efficient and cost-effective ways of having security information, communications networks that provide the US business community with the tools they need to cope with security-related issues in foreign environments.
So the Secretary will be speaking to them tomorrow morning. Again, we have a piece of paper for you. Pre-set time for cameras and still photographers 7:00 to 7:45 a.m.
QUESTION: You said public event. The whole thing, or just the Secretary's session?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think the whole thing.
QUESTION: The whole thing is supposed to be --
MR. BOUCHER: The morning session of this year's briefing is open for media coverage.
QUESTION: What, a pool?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that means we'll probably -- the rest of the sessions will probably not be. But then you'll be over covering the United States Diplomacy Center anyway, so --
QUESTION: Richard, when is she going to fit in her Israeli counterpart in all this?
MR. BOUCHER: She'll fit him in. She'll be talking to the Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami tomorrow. I don't have a final time for you, but I would expect it in the morning.
QUESTION: On the North Korea speech, is it possible that she might have something to say on a presidential visit to North Korea by that stage, or would that be too early?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really need to be here.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Why don't you answer the question?
QUESTION: Stay tuned.
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing to predict at this point. I am not in the position for business 24 hours in advance of a speech, 48 hours even. I'm sure she'll address our policy, but whether she has anything to say on the subject of the President, I don't know.
QUESTION: It is possible, though?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't -- I'm not predicting it.
QUESTION: Also -- I don't want to get too far away from it, but doesn't -- is she going to be able to provide an update of the KL talks, because they're not going to be over by then, are they?
MR. BOUCHER: It'll be two-thirds of the way into it. Yeah.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
MR. BOUCHER: Three-day meeting. Two days will have expired by the time she speaks.
QUESTION: Okay. She's not going to -- (inaudible) --
MR. BOUCHER: She will be in a position to say what she has to say, and I'm sure it will be interesting.
QUESTION: I hope so.
MR. BOUCHER: We'll just see if she's in a position to make any statements or announcement at that moment. I'm not predicting any. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I'm not predicting anything.
QUESTION: While people are coming, will you have a Palestinian coming by sometime soon?
MR. BOUCHER: We have, as you know, Acting Israeli Foreign Minister on Wednesday. We will see -- have the Palestinian visitors later in the week, towards the end of the week. I think the lead on that is going to be Mr. Saeb Erakat.
QUESTION: While we're at it --
QUESTION: Towards the end of the week, then?
QUESTION: He's kind of signed up for that? I mean, he's told you he's coming?
MR. BOUCHER: We expect a Palestinian representative to come to Washington later this week, yes.
QUESTION: While we're at it, they're fairly high level. The original notion at Sharm of having sort of lower level officials come here to talk about maybe restarting talks, and then of course you have that fact-finding -- not to be naive about it -- I mean, should I ask you if those two things are still on the scope someplace?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. The agenda, I think, is basically the Sharm el Sheikh agenda is continuing discussions on how to implement that agenda. As you know, we have said the most crucial thing at this moment is for the parties to implement the commitments of Sharm el Sheikh and to try to get back on track by implementing those commitments and carrying out the agreements. So it's an opportunity for us to discuss with them the current situation, explore ways that the parties can act to meet their commitments of Sharm el Sheikh, and to discuss all the items that were on that agenda, including steps to calm the violence, the fact-finding commission, and ways to look for a path back to the peace process.
QUESTION: But, Richard, this isn't exactly what was envisioned at Sharm; this is something different.
MR. BOUCHER: No, not exactly.
QUESTION: I mean, what had been envisioned there was they would actually only be -- there would be no violence now and that they would be simply discussing how to restart the peace process, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we still have the other items on our agenda as well because the calm has not been restored, the cycle of violence has continued. And we think, as we have said repeatedly, the crucial thing is for the parties to take steps that will end the cycle of violence, and the best way to do that is to implement the commitments they made at Sharm.
QUESTION: Following the Sharm meeting -- this is a couple weeks ago -- Arafat issued two written statements regarding the violence. Does that satisfy at this point -- it seems to be a still live issue, at least from the Israeli side -- the commitment to condemn the violence?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not scorecard day today, either. We have made quite clear we think that there is a lot that both of the parties need to do to implement the commitments from Sharm el Sheikh. I'm not going to start with a checklist of saying he's done this, he hasn't done that, he's done this, he hasn't done that. Both Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat agreed at that time to take concrete steps to end the violence, ease restrictions on movement of people and goods, and take steps to disengage in terms of the security situation. We still think it's critical that the parties take those steps. We think that's the right framework; those are the right steps; and it's really critical that both of the parties move to implement those commitments seriously and immediately.
QUESTION: The Secretary seemed to find more fault in one of her TV appearances, last night I guess, with the Palestinian side than with the Israeli side. And, you know, there have been so many hours since then. Has she or you noted, or anybody in the building noted, any difference in -- if you look at some of the things Arafat has said now? Do you see him as being receptive to her appeals?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: You know, once again, she was asked to comment. The President commented the other day quite clearly on some statements that have been made and some things that we felt ought to be done. Once again, the important point is that both sides have things that they should do. The Secretary and the President have been quite clear when they thought that Chairman Arafat's statements in particular were not being helpful. But there's the best way to reduce the tensions, the most expeditious means of achieving this end to the violence is for all the parties, both the parties, to implement all their commitments.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about what has become a big issue in the New York political race, and probably beyond that, about Mr. Alamoudi. You are probably aware of the New York Times article that quotes him as saying all sorts of things supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. And, of course, he is described as somebody who is employed by the State Department -- not a full-timer, but gets government pay -- to spread what is, I guess, called goodwill around the world.
Can you address whether the US Government has at least partially paid this fellow who says these kind of things?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have used him in our speaker program. Since 1997, he has done six tours as a US speaker. He travels to Moslem countries. He talks about the topic of Islamic life in the United States, including the rights of Muslims, the guarantees of the US Constitution and the status of the US-Islamic community.
He did receive positive evaluation from the US missions where he was programmed because he was able to promote sympathetic understanding of Moslem life and culture in the US. It was a message of religious tolerance that he carried; it was well received by the audiences; and that's pretty much his history with us.
He is also contributing to a publication that is under way called "Islam in America" that would be distributed for audiences abroad. But that will be reviewed by US Government offices to make sure that the volume is consistent with our policy.
QUESTION: So is this arrangement affected at all by the things he is supposed to have said here, in the streets?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly what he said. I am starting to see the press reports. He has been used as a speaker to talk about this particular aspect of things, about Islamic life in America and the guarantees of our Constitution. Whether his other comments affect that or not, I don't -- I think that remains to be seen.
QUESTION: So nobody here has tried to find out if he has said such things? I mean, you know, we all believe in free speech but I wonder if --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we will. I don't know that he is under active consideration at this moment for any particular tour. I think if somebody is looking at him for another speakers program, then they will probably think -- look into what he might have said and whether that affects the kind of things that he has been saying for us, the kind of speeches he has been giving for us.
QUESTION: What kind of salary, or what kind of money are we talking that this gentleman has been paid?
MR. BOUCHER: As usual, I don't have that kind of detailed information, but let me see if I can get it for you, what kind of payment he got.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) $100, $200 a day, plus expenses.
MR. BOUCHER: That may be true. I'll have to check.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- of honorarium, right?
QUESTION: Newspapers?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, well, we know honoraria. We don't accept them, but we know about them.
QUESTION: Do you have anything -- there were reports out of the Pentagon that both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- subject?
QUESTION: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Sorry. If he was saying things that are reported from just this past weekend, like we're all supporters of Hamas and I'm a supporter of Hezbollah, would that in general make someone unfit to continue as a speaker in this program, if on his own time he made these kind of comments? Do you know what the qualifications are of the people involved in this program?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'll have to check. I think generally, we expect speakers to not have views that would contrast with US policy, so I'm sure that would be something that would be looked at if he would be under consideration for further speeches. But, at this point, I'm not sure he is.
QUESTION: Do we know when his last speech was given, his last tour for the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, he returned October 21st from a speaker tour in Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia. Again, the subject was Islam in America, so that's what he was talking about.
QUESTION: He never talks about US policy in the Middle East, you're saying?
MR. BOUCHER: We certainly don't send him out to convey US policy towards the Middle East.
QUESTION: In the course of him talking about Muslim life in America, he doesn't get into --
MR. BOUCHER: He would not be expected to do so. I don't have a full set of reports of what he once said at different places, but I told you what he does talk about. That's the purpose for which we send him out. He is not sent out in any way to represent the United States Government and views he might have on the peace process and things like that. He's not speaking for us.
QUESTION: These talks would take place at US cultural centers or whatever they're called?
MR. BOUCHER: Sometimes. Sometimes they go to universities. They go to a variety of places.
QUESTION: And somebody from the USIS would be present?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, usually somebody from the embassy will be present, and then we'll get a speakers report afterwards.
QUESTION: In Arabic or in English?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: And more on the Middle East. Did Ms. Ashrawi have any meetings in this building either today or yesterday? And will Mr. Erakat bring Mr. Dahlan with him when he comes?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a full list of the Palestinians who might be coming. I think that, again, the representative is Saeb Erakat, and we'll see who may or may not be coming with him.
I am not aware of any meetings that Hanan Ashrawi might have had, but I'll check on that.
QUESTION: You said might be coming. You're sure that Erakat is coming but not sure about who else might be coming?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what I said.
QUESTION: Did you say -- and can you say whether those are Thursday or Friday?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't say yet when the meetings will be.
QUESTION: She said a couple of things that she has said before --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry --
QUESTION: I'm sorry, I'm interrupting --
MR. BOUCHER: Is she here in an official capacity? Is she here as a representative?
QUESTION: Indeed, that's a good question. It's been -- she has been the spokeswoman, she hasn't been the spokeswoman, and as far as my organization is concerned she is the sometimes spokeswoman. She is a legislator, but she is here all the time on TV, and others are glad to put her on. And she has appeared twice already this week.
And I was about to say she said two things she has said before when things are not doing too well, or when the process isn't doing too well. One is that the US is one-sided. She obviously means tilted toward Israel. And a refrain you're hearing more of these days that others ought to be brought in besides the United States, as was France and Russia and other even-handed European countries.
Does the US need any help, or would it welcome the French and the Russians and the Chinese and I don't know who else?
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, look, we've dealt with this question a dozen times. There is 1001 commentators on the Middle East from all sides that have lots of things to say. They provide grist for the newspaper business, for the television business, and even for the wire services.
But I have to say in terms of official US policy, we have explained US policy. We believe we have a central role. We believe we have many partners. We talked about it a lot when we went to Sharm el Sheikh. We have talked about it subsequently. So I really don't have anything new on that subject to say, and I'm really not going to get in the business of commenting on everything that any commentator might say.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Saudi Arabia and Kuwait? There were reports that if you call the Embassy in Saudi Arabia, you get warnings to American citizens, which apparently in the past were used when there were specific threats. And the Pentagon -- there are reports out of the Pentagon that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have now been upgraded to Threat Con Delta.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, you have to check with the Pentagon on their particular status.
QUESTION: I'm not asking about status. I'm just asking about how you all view it.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm trying to check and see what I've got in terms of the latest announcements for that area. It's the October 18th version Gulf one, right?
Okay, the US mission put out a -- okay, we have a general warning to Americans from October 18th that applies to the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey, indications that individuals may be planning terrorist actions against the United States citizens and interests in those areas, counseling people to exercise caution in considering travel to those areas, and telling people who are there to take precautions.
Our Embassy in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia put out a Public Announcement on October 31st which, in part, repeats that message of October 18th but also advises people that -- that's today, yeah -- but also advises people that CENTCOM has raised its level of security alert in Saudi Arabia to Threat Con Delta. This level of security alert places US forces in Saudi Arabia at the same level as the US military in Bahrain and Qatar. No specific information that indicates a threat of imminent terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia. US military has taken this step as a precautionary measure. So it basically -- the substance of this is the same as the Announcement that we put out October 18th, and they're repeating it to the local community because the Defense Department has taken basically the same substance and put it out and raised their threat level.
QUESTION: Do you know about these phone recordings? Is that something that the United States --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Embassies use a whole variety of ways to get out information to their Warden network. Warden networks are the way we spread information throughout the American community. So it will be faxes -- this particular one went out by fax. It's likely that they will put this on a phone recording or some other means so that it can be available to as many Americans as possible.
QUESTION: And if I could just finish up with that, you say there is nothing specific, but why Saudi Arabia and why Kuwait? I mean, what is -- let me think how I can word this. Are there credible threats for those specific countries?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, once again, we have the October 18th warning that applies to the Persian Gulf, Arabia and Turkey.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- new?
MR. BOUCHER: The military upgraded its level of security alert in Saudi Arabia, so our Embassy is telling other Americans in Saudi Arabia so that they know what the military is doing. But the substance of the warning is the same.
QUESTION: Why Saudi Arabia?
MR. BOUCHER: We said that this brings US forces to the same level of security alert as Bahrain and Qatar. So it is the same level as -- we're just -- I mean, we feel like when you -- first of all, we've warned Americans generally in the region, okay? We have told people that there is the possibility of attack in those specific places. But, second of all, when we then take steps with our own people to change our security status, whether it's embassy people in terms of authorized or ordered departure or whether it's the military, we also feel the obligation to keep Americans informed, and that's what they're doing.
QUESTION: Richard, Threat Con Delta sounds really cool and all, but is there any --
MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea what it means.
QUESTION: Exactly. (Laughter.) What's the civilian or the State Department equivalent of this? Is it authorized departure, ordered departure? Is there one, or is it just some other -- it's one of these Pentagon words that is meant to strike fear into the hearts of would-be terrorists or something? It sounds ridiculous.
MR. BOUCHER: You can ask the Pentagon that one. In terms of the embassies, we don't have, you know, Threat Con this, that and the other for our embassies. We have what we consider a fairly high state of vigilance. We do tell you when we, for example, convene emergency action committees in our embassies, when we've asked them to review their security procedures, when we've asked them to close. We report more in terms of specific steps that we might be taking, rather than some generalized level of vigilance.
When we do take a specific step like authorized or ordered departure, that too has a lot to do with the threat, but it also has a lot to do with the circumstances regarding our ability to protect people, the kind of housing that they live in, the availability of commercial flights. So it's not necessarily just a reflection of the threat.
QUESTION: Well, that's why I asked about Saudi Arabia because, as I understand it, the difference between Threat Con Charlie and Threat Con Delta is that with Threat Con Charlie there are known threats but no specific threats, and with Delta there are specific threats. I'm just wondering if maybe you could find out and update us later about whether there are specific threats now for Saudi Arabia.
MR. BOUCHER: I will find out if there are any but, really, the differences between different threat levels for the military, you'll have to ask them.
QUESTION: In that area, in Indonesia, you have a new statement out -- slipped under out door in the middle of the night -- be careful in Java particularly. I've lost track. Wasn't this the point where you were going to take another look at the Embassy there?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it was the middle of the night, was it?
QUESTION: Well, it was after everybody went home.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's not necessarily the middle of the night.
QUESTION: No. It could have been 11:00.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, anyway, it was morning in Indonesia when we got it out.
QUESTION: Oh, good.
MR. BOUCHER: So that's where it really matters, right?
QUESTION: Well, thanks for the --
MR. BOUCHER: Those are the people most likely to go to Java.
QUESTION: Can we just go back to the Middle East real quick?
QUESTION: All right. Go ahead if you want, but --
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Should I do Indonesia first?
QUESTION: It's a simple thing. Is the Embassy reopening or not?
MR. BOUCHER: No. There is, again, credible information that -- about a threat to the Embassy compound. They decided October 24 to (inaudible) public services. They reviewed that on October 31st. They reviewed the threat information that was available, and they have decided to remain closed for public services through November 2nd, which is Thursday.
They have released a Warden Message to the American community October 31st to advise the American community that public services will remain closed. But, as before, they can make arrangements to see American citizens who need American citizen services. They have also continued to urge Americans to exercise caution in regard to personal safety and to avoid areas of instability and potentially dangerous situations.
We did put out a revised Public Announcement on travel to Indonesia and East Timor that contained a new paragraph on Java, and particularly relating to the incidents in hotels in Java, in Solo, on Sunday, October 29th.
QUESTION: It doesn't say, but I don't know that it's yours -- you know, your job to tell us, but did the people who run these hotels comply with the demands and provide names of American travelers to them? Islamic groups who sent reps to the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we quite know that yet. We are certainly very concerned about the status of Americans in Indonesia, including the latest incidents in Solo and threats to the Embassy in Jakarta. We are working very closely with Indonesian officials to try to obtain more information about the events in Solo and the organizations that might have been involved. We do look to the Indonesian police to give us that kind of information, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and above all to safeguard US citizens from those kind of threats.
Protecting the lives, safety and security of American citizens in Indonesia and around the world is one of our greatest responsibilities. We take that very seriously, so our Embassy there is following up. But I don't have that kind of detailed information at this point.
QUESTION: Do you have more information on the warning released on Sunday from the US Embassy in Egypt?
MR. BOUCHER: In where?
MR. BOUCHER: In Egypt? These things are --
QUESTION: Actually, it was released on Friday, and only now is word of its existence starting to kind of -- people, I guess, have looked on the web site and saw it. But the notice is dated on Friday, but it never went out. For Egypt and the region, actually.
MR. BOUCHER: For Egypt and the region. All right, I don't think I've seen that one. Until I do, I can't quite place it.
But, Chuck, are you aware of Egypt's specific one on Friday?
What you may be getting is the fact that when we have these general announcements out, when we issue from here something worldwide, embassies then take it and make sure it gets to their local community. They put it on their local web sites, put it on phone recordings, they fax it out to their Warden network, they share it with American groups, who then pass it on in newsletters and things like that, because the goal is to get this information out to the people who might be most affected, which in many cases are the Americans who live in a particular country.
QUESTION: Can I tell you the quote that I have? It says the possibility exists that extremist groups may be planning terrorist acts in Egypt and other areas in the region. The newly released warning advises tourists to exercise caution in considering travel to Egypt.
MR. BOUCHER: That's the same thing as the October 18th one.
QUESTION: This was a new one released on Sunday, according to --
MR. BOUCHER: All right. It sounds -- the language sounds very similar to what we put out worldwide on October 18th -- or not worldwide, but Persian Gulf, Arabian Peninsula, and Turkey. Does that cover Egypt? I don't know. But I'll check on the statement that the Embassy put out. I assume it's a repeat of what we put out globally.
QUESTION: Can we go back to some substance for a moment?
MR. BOUCHER: God forbid.
QUESTION: Are we finished with the warnings, everyone? Warnings, global warnings?
QUESTION: Those are substantive.
QUESTION: Do you have any specific comment on the latest helicopter attack on Fatah buildings, and whether you consider this to be proportionate response?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the only thing that I can do in that regard is to repeat that it is very important that the sides take steps to stop the violence. The Secretary has made quite clear we're deeply troubled by the violence. We have called on both sides to disengage and lessen the violence. She has also said this is a huge tragedy.
The President and the Secretary are indeed doing everything they can to get the parties to reengage and return to discussions on the peace process. In the end, it's up to the leaders on both sides to make the hard decisions and take the necessary steps that will make the peace process possible in the end. We remain very committed to doing this, but they are the ones that need to act to end the violence, make possible the return to negotiations. So we continue to encourage them to do so for the sake of their communities and for the sake of their citizens.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the general subject of terrorism? Some of us heard Ambassador Sheehan this morning, and he made -- he didn't have a lot of time, and there were a lot of people asking questions, so there was not much of a chance for a follow-up. He made some reference to the Under Secretary of State Pickering, while in Moscow, talking to them about terrorism, and he also referred to Jordan and Egypt -- Jordan and I think Egypt, you know, actively trying to do new things.
I don't know if this is the forum, and I don't know if you're prepared for this kind of question, but is there some new campaign the US is conducting in various capitals to try to shore up or to try to coordinate information about terrorism? Or do you suppose it just naturally enough came up in the course of talks in Moscow?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have very active programs in working with other governments, whether it's Ambassador Sheehan in consultations with various governments around the world or the kind of talks that the Secretary has. Remember, when she went to Central Asia, she talked about terrorism in each of those places. We then had a conference of Central Asians here.
Ambassador Pickering has been to Moscow several times, and we have announced it. I can't remember if his most recent trip was one of these, but to consult on Afghanistan and the problems that emanate from Afghanistan, including obviously the problem of terrorism. So it's something that has been an ongoing discussion.
We had the talks in New York in September, where the Iranians were present. So there is a whole number of consultations with other governments on the subject of terrorism that get conducted very regularly. I'm sure we have those with Jordan and Egypt.
And in addition, frankly, this is one of the subjects that our embassies work on every day in terms of their own security, but also in terms of the broader attempt to marshal the international community against terrorism, to use law, to use police forces, to use coordination, to get at what is a truly international problem.
QUESTION: Richard, are you planning to issue any sort of new reward or a reward program, perhaps, to apprehend those involved in Cole or any other outstanding terrorist fugitives?
MR. BOUCHER: If that's appropriate at some point in the investigation, I'm sure we'd be glad to do it. I haven't been told that they have reached that stage at this point.
QUESTION: Well, I have Middle East and Cole. So which do you want? Do you want to stay with Cole, or go back to --
MR. BOUCHER: Ask me both, and I'll pick which one I want to answer.
QUESTION: Okay. When the Secretary did her interview last night on The News Hour, she said that Yemen had to cooperate more. It's a little tougher than they have been so far because they say they have to enter into the new phase of cooperation by giving access to witnesses.
Is the Secretary frustrated with the access to witnesses, or how would you describe her --
MR. BOUCHER: I think the word "more" has been used previously by other speakers on the subject. The President had also addressed it yesterday. And I think both the President and the Secretary have made clear that these are important matters to us, that we do need further cooperation and more cooperation, different kinds of cooperation in the new phase. In the new phase, we'll need access to suspects, to evidence, to further information that they may have.
And the President and the Secretary both noted that we have worked very closely with local law enforcement officials. We are working out the modalities, as we say, of this kind of cooperation in the next phase. We made very clear to them the importance that we attach to a thorough investigation, and we do think we're making progress in working out those modalities. But we don't have anything final at this point.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary or the President or anyone conveyed to President Salih or any representative from the Yemen Government that if we don't get the kind of -- if the US doesn't get the kind of access that it's looking for, that they may revisit their relationship with Yemen and future use of the port, and all kinds of things like that? Has any representative conveyed --
MR. BOUCHER: I guess the way I would put it is that the President, in his phone calls and his letters, the Secretary in her public statements and the times in the past that she has talked with President Salih, have made very, very clear the importance of this investigation to us, the importance that we attach to reaching a successful conclusion and, frankly, the fact that we appreciate the assistance and cooperation that we have had so far.
So we do have a solid bilateral relationship that is based on common goals in the Gulf region, looking for peace, stability and economic development. We're engaged with the Yemeni Government on a whole host of bilateral issues -- these -- where we cooperate, things, issues of democratization, women in society, regional security, creation of a Yemeni Coast Guard. So there's a lot of aspects to this relationship, but certainly one of the most important ones and one of the ones that the Secretary and the President have stressed repeatedly is the importance of successfully conducting the investigation.
QUESTION: New subject. New country, anyway? Russia. I've got a couple of things. Senate Foreign Relations Committee not happy with the State Department's decision on what access to give and to whom on the Gore documents, and then I'd also like to ask about Ed Pope collapsing in his trial this morning.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. All right. Let me tell you about the documents. We have had a number of requests to turn over documents relating to confidential understandings with Russia that concern proliferation and arms sales. We offered, as I think I told you yesterday, to provide Senate leadership with access to the key documents at their convenience. Unfortunately, this offer was refused.
We have received letters from -- a letter from Majority Leader Lott and Speaker Hastert. We're reviewing that letter very carefully. Without getting into a specific blow-by-blow of the letter from the leadership, I think it is important that I disagree here with the fundamental assertion that this policy has somehow harmed our national security. We think, once again, it is quite the opposite; that we have safeguarded our national security by ensuring that Iran receive much less weaponry and much less technology than it had been seeking and that it was planning on buying.
So in terms of being able to ensure that Iran got a lower quality and a lower quantity of weapons, this policy has been successful and continues to be successful. So it's important to us in terms of continuing from here on forward that we can sustain this policy because it has improved our national security. It's a policy that does involve sensitive diplomatic negotiations. So we will continue to discuss this with the Congress, but we want to keep in mind, first of all, the success of restraint in terms of the kind of weapons that Iran has been able to acquire and the sensitive nature of these discussions and the need to preserve them.
QUESTION: Wouldn't giving them the documents to say, "See for yourself," help your case in showing that it was an effective tool that didn't circumvent laws?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the balance has to be, you know, to sort of defending our case and making the policy work, and the important thing is to make the policy work.
QUESTION: You said that you offered to let them see documents. So they would have to come over here and they could see them?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no, we were quite prepared to provide them access at their convenience and to make sure that they had an adequate chance to examine the documents. We were prepared to make arrangements to have officials bring the documents up to them at their convenience for their personal review, but the documents would remain at all times in the custody of the Department.
QUESTION: Is that the sticking point, as you understand it?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to go through their letter --
QUESTION: So they wouldn't copy them and give them to the New York Times?
QUESTION: So they couldn't copy them and give them to the New York Times?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not accusing anybody of wanting to do that.
QUESTION: Were all the documents they asked for offered under these circumstances?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I believe all the key documents were offered to them. I'm not sure exactly what they asked for, frankly.
QUESTION: Well, they said only a fraction of the documents had been offered to them, and their complaint too -- well, they had many: a fraction of the documents; that only four Members of Congress total, two leaders on each side, would be allowed access to them; no notes. And they just said every part of it was unacceptable.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, again, I'm not going to try to go through a point-by-point rebuttal of the procedural aspects here. What I do want to say is the policy has worked well. The policy has worked well, in part, because it is confidential and because it has sensitive aspects. We have briefed the Hill in the past. We will try to continue to keep the Congress informed in appropriate ways. We offered to provide this access to key documents for the leadership. We offered to facilitate that access at their convenience. They refused the offer, but we'll keep talking to them about how that can be achieved in a way that protects the success of the policy.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, Ed Pope. Sorry. Disturbing news on Ed Pope. I think you all have seen it. The trial is suspended till November 2nd due to his complaints of back pain. His attorneys have asked for an MRI exam to be conducted. We do believe it is imperative that tests be performed, and also that the results be made available to Mr. Pope, to his family, his attorneys and to the US Embassy. Our Embassy and others have been actively pursuing this with the Russian authorities today.
We have stated repeatedly our very deep concern about the decline of Mr. Pope's health since he was first incarcerated seven months ago. Today's developments only serve to amplify our concerns. The Secretary, in fact, has been on the phone with Foreign Minister Ivanov. Just at midday today, she has discussed a number of issues, including Mr. Pope's situation.
Our consular officers, once again, have had no access to him since the trial began, nor have we had access to the trial. The President and others have stated very clearly we think the case has gone on far too long. We think it's time for him to be released and returned home, particularly in light of this medical condition.
QUESTION: Richard, is the case of Yefim Skurkovich being raised now with Ed's health taking obviously yet another downward turn? We don't -- we haven't really talked about it since then. Is it -- did you get any answers on that? Are you guys saying this can't happen again?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm certainly not -- I don't have anything new on Mr. Skurkovich I'll see if we have any additional information on that, but I don't particularly think we need to link these things. Ed Pope deserves to be released on the basis of his own condition, his own status, and we have made that quite clear all along.
QUESTION: What was Foreign Minister Ivanov's replies to the Secretary's questions about Mr. Pope? And also, do you have indications that you will -- that he will receive the MRI?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't know at this point on the MRI, and I don't know on the question of Mr. Ivanov's replies. I think you really have to ask the Russian Government to convey their position on this.
QUESTION: At what point is the State Department prepared to take some kind of punitive measures against Russia if Mr. Pope's health continues to deteriorate and he's not at least afforded consular access and medical care, if not released?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think the important point is that we continue to insist on these things; we continue to press for these things; we continue to work with the family to try to achieve them. And this has been something that we have steadfastly and persistently pursued on their behalf, and so we'll continue to do that.
QUESTION: Was the Pope situation the primary cause for her to pick up the phone and call him, or did he call her? And can you tell us what else they talked about today? Did they talk about the Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure who placed the call. They talked about the Middle East. They talked about -- the third thing, the Balkans, yeah. Kosovo elections. That's right. And the Pope situation.
QUESTION: Did she ask for his assistance on the Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they were basically comparing notes on the status of discussions and contacts that they have had.
QUESTION: Can I just stay on that for a second because I sort of wanted to ask earlier, has she talked to Schroeder since he got there? And is his intent -- has the US asked him -- he says he wants to get Barak and Arafat talking again. Has the US asked him to weigh in on them coming here?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think she has talked to Schroeder. I'm not sure how we've been in touch with the German Government. I'll have to check.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments to the decision of the Supreme Court to seize lands, the properties of Americans, in the -- (inaudible) -- of Ensenada?
MR. BOUCHER: In Ensenada, right? Do I have the right place?
Well, we were hopeful earlier this morning that US citizen homeowners and the new landowners might be able to reach a negotiated settlement allowing these people to return to their homes. We have learned since 11:30 a.m. our time, though, that the landowners have begun to evict the US citizen residents. There is no violence reported. Police are on the scene, however, just in case. There are moving vans outside many of the homes. American families have begun packing. We do have consular officers on site to assist the Americans wherever possible.
We think that the Americans here are unfortunate victims of a land dispute between two groups of Mexicans. They were not direct parties in this lawsuit, so the ruling is not technically against them. We had hoped the US citizens and the Mexican citizens involved -- the Mexican citizens to whom the Supreme Court awarded the land -- would in fact be able to negotiate a settlement. Unfortunately, this morning's events make it clear that that will not be possible. We do stand ready to assist the Americans involved in any way we can appropriately.
QUESTION: Are you contacting Mexican authorities here at the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, I'm sure we're in touch with the Mexican authorities. I'm not sure if they're the local ones or the national ones, but certainly that's something our Embassy would do -- or our consulate.
QUESTION: There is another one on Mexico.
QUESTION: Do you have any more than you had yesterday on Castro's visit to Venezuela? Any comment on the oil deal between them?
QUESTION: Can I go back to Mexico?
QUESTION: Another one on Mexico?
MR. BOUCHER: Mexico.
QUESTION: Go ahead. I just wanted to know, is there -- and I may just not be clear on it. Is there anything that the US Government can do, since it is a completely Mexican issue? Is our responsibility -- your State Department responsibility -- just to make sure that the Americans are protected and not --
MR. BOUCHER: I think, you know, the things we can do are to take care of the Americans as best we can, to try to see that people -- try to encourage people to reach a negotiated settlement with them. But, in the end, it's a matter before the Mexican courts and the judicial authorities in Mexico.
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister sent a diplomatic note to the State Department regarding the execution of Mr. Miguel Angel Flores Rangel. Have you received any response from the Texas authorities on this matter?
MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. We have contacted the appropriate authorities in Texas, but -- and asked for a report on consular notification. That was the issue that was raised. But I don't have any answer yet.
QUESTION: But are you going to report to the Mexican authorities, I suppose, before the date for the execution of Mr. Rangel -- or Flores, rather?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we'll reply to them as appropriate, if we can.
QUESTION: Have you heard anything out of -- from the AIT people in Taiwan about the --
MR. BOUCHER: Just the initial reports. Let me tell you what they knew as they were heading towards the airport.
It's very early after the accident in Taipei. The 747 was en route for Taipei to Los Angeles. We have no information yet on the manifest or the passenger nationality. We do have personnel from the American Institute in Taiwan that are en route to the airport. It's the middle of night in Taipei. There's poor weather conditions. Rescue recovery efforts, it appears, will be difficult. It's very much a developing story. We expect information over the next few hours. We're hopeful about the reports that are coming out of Taiwan that there have been very few fatalities but, again, these reports are preliminary about what we know.
QUESTION: Well, you say "few" and they were saying "none."
MR. BOUCHER: Well, "few" or "none." I think I've seen reports of both kinds.
QUESTION: You don't know if they've actually gotten there and have set up to do -- to do what they're -- what they --
MR. BOUCHER: No. They should be there by now, but I'm not sure they have been able to report back. I think they first go out and try to collect information.
QUESTION: Is this operation or their work in any way complicated because they are not an official -- they are not official State Department employees, and they're --
QUESTION: So there's nothing --
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, I did this work 20 years ago. Luckily, we didn't have any plane crashes then. But, no, it's not complicated in any way.
QUESTION: But it's not because they don't actually represent the US Government.
MR. BOUCHER: They represent the people of the United States unofficially, but they're able to do whatever they need to do to take care of Americans.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- deal with Venezuela and Cuba will affect in any way the relations of the United States and the Chavez government?
MR. BOUCHER: I was asked that yesterday, and followed up today, and I'm afraid I just don't have anything for you on it.
QUESTION: Richard, a new Russian -- another Russian plane landed in Baghdad today with 250-odd people on board. Do you know whether --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to comment on what kind of people they were.
QUESTION: Do you know whether this one had approval by the Sanctions Committee, and do you have anything new to say about flights to Baghdad by -- (inaudible)? If you're going to repeat what you said yesterday, don't bother.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, please, allow me. (Laughter.) Let's see. The flights presently before the UN Sanctions Committee include flights from Russia that were pending for November 3rd and November 10. Recent flights from blah, blah, blah, blah, blah were all approved.
I see Russia on that list. So specifically one that went in today? I have to assume that because -- here we go. Flights approved by the Committee in the last two weeks: 10/29 to 11/3, Russia; 10/30 to 11/6, Russia. So those are two flights that were approved.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. So it was approved.
QUESTION: So it's not a big deal then.
MR. BOUCHER: And then there is a number pending, including three or four from Russia that have been applied for.
QUESTION: Are they giving you a sort of daily schedule of flights to Baghdad?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- regularly scheduled operation.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's -- I mean --
QUESTION: It didn't used to be this way.
MR. BOUCHER: Look, let's not lose sight. I mean, in this, and as well as with the question of internal flights, let's not lose sight of what we're dealing with here. The issue of sanctions and no-fly zones are put in place so that Iraq can't threaten its neighbors, can't threaten its own people, can't threaten its neighbors. Activities that don't do that -- domestic flights -- are not subject to the no-fly zones. Those are imposed for military flights because of the way military aircraft are used.
Activities of a few flights with a couple hundred people on board, you know, who want to go in and be humanitarian, those don't alter the essential character of the embargoes on Iraq, which are designed to prevent Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction, from threatening the US forces, from threatening its own people, from threatening their neighbors, as they have done in the past and as they show every indication of wanting to do again.
So we're not here -- we're not trying to squeeze Iraq. We're trying to prevent Iraq from developing certain capabilities and from carrying out certain intentions. So the fact that there are these flights doesn't detract from the fact that we have an effective set of sanctions, a set of sanctions that serve the purpose of keeping Iraq from becoming a threat again.
QUESTION: But, Richard, you said "a few." I mean, it's much more than a few. In fact, it's getting to the point where they might as well be offering shuttle service between capitals -- some capitals and Baghdad. Do you not see that -- I mean, why wasn't this going on three, four, or five months ago, the number of --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think you'd have to ask the people who are flying, and sort of for what purpose. There are people that are indeed carrying in food, clothing and medicine. Food, clothing and medicine have never been under embargo. I'm sure there's probably much more efficient ways of delivering food, clothing and medicine to the Iraqi people than taking it on airplanes, but some people seem to want to do that. So we've had -- there's a lot of flights, and if I look back over the last three weeks, the Sanctions Committee has approved three, six, nine, 12, 14 flights over three weeks -- you know, one every day or two. That's not the way to sustain the Iraqi people. The way to sustain the Iraqi people is what goes on in greater volume every day with the Oil for Food program that we're also trying to make succeed.
QUESTION: Well, Richard, how is the United States going to prevent one of these flights carrying the components for a nuclear reactor or --
MR. BOUCHER: There is a very strict, a very formal, regime of inspections, of flights before they leave and when they come back. There are debriefings, and there are obviously other ways of finding out what people might have carried.
QUESTION: This particular Russian flight that left today, or yesterday, was supposed to be for some kind of Iraqi business or trade fair. Is this violating, if not the actual law, but the spirit of the sanctions, and are you worried that this kind of more business-to-business contact might actually enhance Iraq's capability to threaten its neighbors?
MR. BOUCHER: What violates the sanctions -- again, look at the purpose of the sanctions. The purpose of the sanctions is not to prevent people from talking to each other; it's not to prevent Iraqis from eating, or eating together with other people. The purpose is to keep them from acquiring military goods, dual-use goods, things that contribute to their capabilities to threaten their neighbors and their own people. So when the Sanctions Committee gets involved, when people need to get approval for sales, it's because they're selling something that's not food, that's not medicine, that's not benign, that has potential military uses, and that's where we get involved.
QUESTION: On the question of the internal flights, how do you -- or maybe you can't answer this type of thing, but how do you tell the difference between a commercial flight and a military flight for the purposes of the no-fly zone? Is there a process?
MR. BOUCHER: You look at the airplane. I think people who do these things can tell the difference between military and commercial flights. Certainly we would monitor carefully any Iraqi aviation activity. We would try to determine whether it posed a threat to our forces, toward Iraq's neighbors or the Iraqi people.
For reasons of flight safety, the Iraqis have to notify the UN of any civilian flights, schedules and routes no less than 48 hours in advance of each flight. But we do know that Iraqi air defenses will fire indiscriminately at aircraft in the northern and southern no-fly zone, so notification of civilian flights should allow sufficient time to inform operations, Northern and Southern watch -- that's our forces -- and the time to notify -- for the Iraqis to notify their own forces. But even with such notification, we have no way of preventing Iraqi forces from firing on flights that might be operating in the no-fly zones.
QUESTION: Can I ask one very brief question on Indonesia again? Is Ambassador Gelbard still staying put, and is he -- how are his -- you know, you mentioned earlier that you were in touch with the Indonesian police and you wanted the Indonesian police, especially in the case of the Muslim groups seeking out Americans to talk with them. Is there a decent conversation going on, a dialogue between the Embassy and Indonesian authorities?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, yes and yes.
QUESTION: So there's absolutely no problem with --
MR. BOUCHER: We have been -- I mean, you have some of the disagreements over steps that they've taken play themselves out in public. Our Embassy is on this and works with people there to assure security. We do look to the host government to help us ensure security for ourselves, for our Embassy compound, as well as to local Americans, and we have good working relationships there.
These are very important things to us, and our Ambassador pursues them. But he is on the scene. I talked to him just thing morning, as a matter of fact.
QUESTION: And he had no plans to come back or to go anywhere else?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing at this stage.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: I guess we have two more in the back.
QUESTION: On Indonesian -- is it correct that the Ambassador is under guard, having been subjected to death threats? And is part of the threat to the Embassy compound emanating from the fact that protests have been taking place outside it?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get you more information, if I can, on the nature of the threat. I'm not sure we would, in fact, talk about security arrangements for the Ambassador.
QUESTION: One more quick one. Do you have anything on a French military attache being asked to leave this country?
MR. BOUCHER: This country?
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 P.M.)

Next in World

Recognizing LGBTIQ+ Equality Champions: UNDP And ILGA World Launch The International Pride Awards
By: Being LBGTI in Asia
UN Teams Dispatch Aid As Deadly Flash Floods Hit Northern Afghanistan
By: UN News
It’s Not Safe And It’s Not Clean, But People Believe They Are Leaving Something Worse Behind
By: Save The Children
APEC Commits To Empowering People With Disabilities
Israeli Forces Bringing War To The West Bank, Warns UN Rights Office
By: UN News
10,000 People Feared Buried Under The Rubble In Gaza
By: UN News
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media