State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 5, 2001

Published: Wed 7 Nov 2001 09:17 AM
Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, November 5, 2001 1:00 p.m.
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
DEPARTMENT 1-2.....Announcement of Ambassador James Dobbins as Special Representative to the Afghan .....Opposition 10-12.....Updates to Foreign Terrorist Organization list and Watch list 12-13.....Armitage meeting with Count Lambsdorf 13.....Update on Embassy Closure list
AFGHANISTAN 2-.....Opposition Efforts 9-10.....Taliban claims that AmCit died in custody
DEPARTMENT 3-4,5.....Anthrax Update / Health of Sick Employee / Cleanup Process
NICARAGUA 4-5.....Elections
SAUDI ARABIA 5.....Readout of meeting with Saudi Foreign Policy Advisor 5-7.....Support for Coalition Against Terrorism 8.....Plans for meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister
MIDDLE EAST 7-8.....Ambassador Ross response to Usama bin Laden statement 8.....Powell plans to meet with Chairman Arafat
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC 12.....Violence in Bangui and warning to Americans
CUBA 13.....Hurricane Michelle relief efforts
MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be here.
I have one brief announcement at the beginning, and that is to say the Secretary of State has decided to appoint Ambassador James Dobbins to be the US Representative to the Afghan opposition. In this capacity, Ambassador Dobbins will spend the bulk of his time in the region consulting with the Afghan opposition and with concerned governments. Ambassador Dobbins will work closely with Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Christina Rocca, and with Ambassador Richard Haass, who will continue to be the US Coordinator for Policy regarding the future of Afghanistan.
So Ambassador Dobbins will be working for us out in the field. As you know, we have always kept in touch with a variety of Afghan parties, factions, interests, leading figures, and Ambassador Dobbins would be doing that on a continuing basis, primarily overseas.
QUESTION: Is that going to be a (inaudible) assignment? I ask because --
MR. BOUCHER: It is an --
QUESTION: He has long been considered for all sorts of more permanent --
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, yes, he is one of our more prominent diplomats. He has done things like this in the past.
QUESTION: Exactly, yes.
MR. BOUCHER: And he will be doing this as long as it takes to complete the job, as he has done in past jobs.
QUESTION: But when you say he is going to be spending most of his -- spend the bulk of his time in the region, what region is that?
MR. BOUCHER: That is probably the region from Europe to South Asia, and a few places in between and around elsewhere. As we know, the Afghan parties are in a variety of places. There are some people in Europe, there's a lot of people in Pakistan, South Asia, and the region. So he will be in a number of regions, I suppose.
QUESTION: Where is he going to be based?
MR. BOUCHER: He will be based in Washington, but he will be traveling a lot.
QUESTION: If you could sum it up, Richard, what would be his mission in one line or two?
MR. BOUCHER: His mission is to continue our work with the Afghan opposition groups, the Afghan parties, to try to help them form a future government for Afghanistan. And that will include working with Haass -- Ambassador Haass here -- but also obviously working with the Afghan parties themselves, and then we will be working with the United Nations as well.
QUESTION: With the overreaching understanding that this is under the United Nations? That the new government that we're working toward is a UN-led --
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. The UN Secretary General Special Representative, Mr. Brahimi, as you know, has just been out in the region. And so we are working closely with him, we are working closely with all the Afghans so that they can form a broad-based government for their country. It's up to them, as we have always said, in the end to do this, but we can certainly encourage them and help them.
QUESTION: Would you remind us what Mr. Dobbins is doing at the moment? And when do you expect him to leave on his first --
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on both those things.
QUESTION: I mean, so you basically have now two special envoys to the Afghan --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've got one person -- given the fact that the opposition groups, the Afghan leaders, the Afghan opposition parties are spread out in a number of places, the time constraints, the need to work with them, requires a lot of travel. So Mr. Haass will be sort of coordinating on the policy side and working with the United Nations and coordinating from Washington with a little bit of travel, you might say, and then Mr. Dobbins will be coordinating with the Afghan parties with a lot of travel and a little bit in Washington.
QUESTION: Ambassador Haass didn't have too much on his plate with the Northern Ireland portfolio as well?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, he is our policy planning chief. He has Northern Ireland and he is doing this work on Afghanistan. I wouldn't say --
QUESTION: So this takes some of the load off him?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say "too much" on his plate, but it gives us somebody else who can travel and who can work directly with all the parties and who has got a lot of experience in doing that sort of thing.
Okay, moving on?
QUESTION: Another one on this? Can you yet confirm a Six-Plus-Two meeting in New York?
MR. BOUCHER: That's not on this, but the answer is, no, not yet.
QUESTION: Sure it is, future government of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Who is reporting to whom? Is Dobbins reporting to Haass?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure we specified that. I will have to check. He will work closely with Ambassador Haass.
QUESTION: Since we last met on Friday, anything to tell us about the anthrax situation? Any suspicious turn-ups, cleaning operations?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I think the only real news is good news. Our State mail handler, the person who had come down with anthrax, is out of intensive care and has been improving steadily. No new cases at State Department.
Random sampling continues in this building and elsewhere. No positive findings so far.
The cleaning of State's mail handling facilities, our mail rooms, began this weekend. That is being done by a contractor. We have sent information out to our posts overseas on decontamination procedures and how to do that. They are now saying that we may resume mail delivery next week, so that would be a good sign. We will update you on that as that happens.
QUESTION: You said that mail handler was --
MR. BOUCHER: That would be at the posts and within the building.
QUESTION: -- that mail handler Friday, you said the same thing. But he was then still in hospital. Is he out yet or --
MR. BOUCHER: No, he is out of intensive care; I think he is still in the hospital. But I think on Friday, we said he was still in intensive care but improving.
The tests we have done for white powder and suspicious substances -- anyway, for white powders and other things like that -- have all come back negative at our embassies in Athens. That was one that we got the results of over the weekend and I think put out a statement on Sunday that it was not anthrax. Montevideo, Abidjan, Islamabad have also tested substances. We are still doing tests in a half dozen or so other places.
In Lahore, Pakistan, there is a preliminary positive test at a local laboratory on something that we found on October 30th, so we will see what that turns out to be. And there are some places I said where the results are still pending. So that is kind of the update.
Now, questions?
QUESTION: You have a preliminary positive for anthrax in Lahore?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me go back and get the details on Lahore. Tested positive for anthrax bacteria in preliminary testing at a local laboratory. But the final results of those are still pending from United States testing. So I wouldn't go too far with that one; that's just a possible.
QUESTION: Was that at a US consulate?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, that would have been at our consulate there.
As we have said, at any given moment, we have had dozens of these suspicious powders, white substances, things that people have found and there are a lot of tests going on. So that is one where we have a preliminary positive. But we will check it out further at a US lab to make sure.
I think I remember the other day some of the reports in Pakistan, some of the tests that proved positive initially, turned out to be negative when they did the final testing.
QUESTION: Was that just in a mailbag like the others that we found, a mailbag that arrived from the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I actually don't have the details on that one. I will have to check.
QUESTION: And is the language that this is suspicious bacteria, just like the Athens situation? Because before --
MR. BOUCHER: No, that one they say tested positive for anthrax in preliminary testing. So that was a little more than what they found in Athens.
QUESTION: More than the Athens, okay.
QUESTION: Who's cleaning?
MR. BOUCHER: A contractor. I don't have the name.
QUESTION: The Nicaraguan elections?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We'll do Nicaraguan elections and come back.
As you know, the official results aren't in yet, but preliminary counts appear to favor the liberal party candidate, Enrique Bolanos by a comfortable margin. International and domestic observers have concurred that the electoral process was orderly, that voter turnout was higher than in previous elections. We certainly commend the dedication of the Nicaraguan people, in particular the knapsack messengers, who helped deliver 221,000 voter documents under very difficult circumstances.
We will wait for the official results, but I think the massive electoral turnout demonstrates that the Nicaraguan people have once again shown their unwavering commitment to democracy. And as we have said before, we will respect the results of a fair and free election.
QUESTION: Any comment on the fact that the Greek Government filed a protest with the US Embassy in Athens for Ambassador Miller's delay to notify promptly the Greek authorities for the substance he found?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that that is true, so I don't have any comment.
QUESTION: The Saudi foreign policy advisor is here meeting with Mr. Armitage today, could you discuss why he is here, and what they are going to talk about? And also, could you go further and discuss, is the United States generally satisfied with the help that it's getting from its Arab allies in the war on terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything specific on the Saudi foreign policy advisor. I will see if there's anything to say after the meetings. But I would say we found a variety of ways to coordinate with the Saudi Government. We talk with them frequently, both through expert channels and through diplomatic channels. And so we will continue to work very closely with them.
And on your broader question, yes, you ask every day, and we say yes every day. We are getting a lot of cooperation in the Arab world. We are getting a lot of cooperation from the Muslim world. We have seen countries that are carrying out arrests, we are seeing countries that are imposing financial restrictions and seizing assets. There are a variety of countries that are offering us various kinds of support for the military operation as well, over-flight clearances or what-not.
So I think we are very satisfied with the support and help that we have gotten in the Muslim world. And we will continue to work with the governments around the world to make sure that we pursue this.
Over the weekend, I think you saw some more comments by the Arab League, where Amre Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, made quite clear that Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida do not speak for Arabs and Muslims. They made quite clear that they view this as a battle between Usama bin Laden and the whole world.
So I think we see that the attempts to split the Muslim world in fact are not working, because none of them want to live like the Taliban, frankly. They don't want to have that kind of Taliban oppression imposed upon their societies. But I'll let them speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Well, what would be -- I mean, are you -- obviously your plea is that they said these things, yes?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I mean, we note them, we try to listen to our friends in the Muslim world. And we note what they are saying.
QUESTION: And? I'm just trying to get you to react specifically to --
MR. BOUCHER: And it reflects the kind of answer that we have been giving you day after day after day --
QUESTION: No, no, no. I'm talking about --
MR. BOUCHER: -- when people ask, is the Muslim world with us. And I think, just look at what they say. That's all I'm saying. That's the point I make, and that was the question that was answered.
QUESTION: No, his question was about cooperation. You added that stuff on about what they said.
MR. BOUCHER: All right, he said, are we satisfied with the cooperation.
QUESTION: Yes. Well, I'm just asking you what you make of their response to the latest bin Laden message?
MR. BOUCHER: I make that that's their view, and that that is consistent with the kind of views that we have noted as well.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) say they think that more than (inaudible) they say something about your Mid-East policy, that it's tilted in Israel's favor and they are looking for a correction. Is that why he is here?
MR. BOUCHER: You would have to ask the Saudis why he is here. I'll get you some kind of readout of --
QUESTION: I'm trying to ask the Saudis.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Well, we'll --
QUESTION: And the Ambassador is away until Wednesday.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. We will try to get you something at the end.
QUESTION: Yes, I wonder if it's a spin-off of the Arab League, or a particular Saudi complaint.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that -- we keep in touch with the Saudis as Saudis. I don't know that they have any particular role in the Arab League meeting right now.
QUESTION: Yesterday, on fairly short notice, I think, retired Ambassador Chris Ross went on Al Jazeera to counter the message that had been put out by bin Laden. Was that, in fact, something hastily arranged by you all? And what kind of feedback did you get back from that? Were you pleased with what happened on the broadcast?
MR. BOUCHER: As you know, I think we told you last week, week before last, when he was brought on board and that he would be doing various things for us, including advising us, including speaking in Arabic for people who needed to talk to somebody in Arabic about the American view of the situation. We did hear that this videotape was going to be broadcast, and so we offered to make him available and, indeed, Al Jazeera, I guess, was happy to have him.
So he went over and he appeared live on the air after Al Jazeera broadcast the latest message, the threats against Muslim countries and against Kofi Annan and the United Nations. So Ambassador Ross was able to give the US point of view right away in Arabic and we think that is useful. We thought that was useful for the listeners and the watchers of Al Jazeera TV, and we will continue to do that sort of thing whenever we can.
QUESTION: Were you pleased with how they handled it? In the past, you had been concerned about their spin on things.
MR. BOUCHER: We are always pleased when somebody lets us state our view directly.
QUESTION: I know this is part of the campaign to tell us about -- will he do something on a regular basis, or is he the -- you know, the ready guy to be tapped on such occasions to present in Arabic?
MR. BOUCHER: He will be doing all sorts of things. He won't be the only person who speaks in Arabic media. We have had people on one or the other of the Arabic media outlets I would say just about every day. The Secretary of State has done interviews with Al Jazeera, he has done an interview with Al Hayat newspaper, he is doing an interview today with Egyptian Television.
We have had other people, people who handle various aspects of our policy, the humanitarian side, the financial side or the military side, appear on Al Jazeera, Lebanese TV, Middle East Broadcasting. So there are quite a few things being done to make sure that this audience hears directly from us on what our views are.
QUESTION: When Ambassador Ross speaks, is he speaking in the name of the Administration, even though he doesn't have any formal position?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, he does have a position as -- I think we called him a special advisor. But, yes, he is speaking on our behalf.
QUESTION: You said that you heard the video was going to be broadcast. When did you hear that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We started hearing about it last week. I don't know exactly when we first heard.
QUESTION: So well before the tape was -- in other words, you had a couple of days?
MR. BOUCHER: We heard about it before Saturday morning, yes.
QUESTION: So how did you -- and did you know what the contents were? How did you shape a response to --
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen his previous shows. We had some idea of what might be in this. And, as you said, Ambassador Ross was there. He saw the tape, was able to react right away and give our view of the situation.
QUESTION: On the Middle East still, Chairman Arafat will be in New York the weekend. Does the Secretary plan to see him?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of anything scheduled. I will keep checking for you. I don't think I have announced any of the Secretary's meetings for next weekend, so I don't have anything now.
QUESTION: He went to Qatar for this purpose? Or Bahrain?
MR. BOUCHER: No, through the miracles of modern technology, he was able to do it from Washington.
QUESTION: On visitors, is the Saudi Foreign Minister coming this week?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing is scheduled at this point. Certainly, we talk to them all the time. I don't know if anything will be scheduled. We'll see.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Taliban reports of an American that had been captured and now died?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any information. Thus far, we have seen no evidence that would back up the various press reports and Taliban claims over the past couple weeks, in fact, of various Americans detained.
We are working with our embassy in Islamabad and with international agencies such as the Red Cross to determine if there is any truth at all to these or other reports. We would call upon the Taliban to provide any information on an individual to the Red Cross, and to release all Americans that they hold immediately.
But the only Americans that we are able to confirm as detained by the Taliban are the two aid workers with Shelter Now International.
QUESTION: Don't you usually hear about the Americans who came from their families, if they feel like their loved ones are in trouble? Has anyone with the last name "Bolton" --
MR. BOUCHER: Frequently we do, and that's why I say, we have no evidence of anybody like that being detained.
QUESTION: Richard, I've been away for a week. Can you tell me if there has been any update on the detainees?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been sort of updating the contact that we have had. Let me see if there is anything new today. No, we really don't have any new news. The last news the lawyer representing the two got from Kabul was on Wednesday, last Wednesday, October 31st, which indicated the detainees are safe. So we don't have any information from him, or directly from the Taliban.
QUESTION: But that was the time they weren't allowed to see them, right? Their lawyer wasn't allowed to see them?
MR. BOUCHER: That was where he sent an individual to go there and learn from detention center people that they were safe, but wasn't able to see them directly.
QUESTION: Has the trial ended?
MR. BOUCHER: Really, the status of the trial is somewhat nebulous. We're not sure -- last time we talked to the lawyer, we were not able to get any more information about when the trial might resume or be concluded, or whatever happens next.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the alleged American -- did the ICRC not give you any information on this case? I understand from our reports that they said that they gave you some --
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't think we have any particular evidence of that.
QUESTION: But they gave you a name and some --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have seen the name in the press reports, but we don't know what -- we have certainly talked to the ICRC, to the International Red Cross, and we will continue to talk to them. I'm sure they will share with us whatever information they have. But we would look to them to have some access, to have some information beyond simply a name, to have something that we could possibly trace, that they could trace. And anybody who is holding someone out of pure humanitarian motivation should give that information to the Red Cross.
QUESTION: Richard, along the lines of the Taliban in Afghanistan this morning, there was a rather lengthy story in a Washington newspaper, which thoroughly confused me, because it was basically the opposite to everything that I understand, and maybe they are right and I'm wrong, or maybe they're just wrong.
It was about Afghanistan and why Afghanistan had not ever been placed on the state sponsors of terrorism list. And it was my understanding that the reason it wasn't on that list had nothing to do with engaging or distancing yourself from them, but simply because you didn't regard it as -- the Taliban as a legitimate regime? And it was also my understanding that, you know, being on the terrorist list doesn't mean that you are disengaging with someone, because I remember flying into Pyongyang with Secretary Albright last year, and they're certainly on the terrorism list and there was certainly engagement there. What's the deal with this story?
MR. BOUCHER: "What's the deal with this story?" is a question you can ask the newspaper. Let me tell you the facts of the matter, which I think -- I can understand why somebody who read the article might be a bit confused. But, as you all know from having followed us and talked to us over the years, we have never accepted the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, we have never recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan because they have never legitimately represented the Afghan people.
But that has never hindered us in our efforts to get the Taliban to stop providing sanctuary to Usama bin Laden and his networks of terrorists. It has never hampered the UN in taking action as well.
The United States imposed unilateral sanctions against the Taliban in June of 1999 -- July of 1999. We blocked their assets through an executive order. We also strongly supported the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. We have had meetings with the Taliban in the past and in those meetings we have repeatedly pressed them to stop harboring terrorists and to comply fully with UN resolutions, including by expelling bin Laden to a country where he can be brought to justice and by shutting down the training camps.
So we have made it very clear to the Taliban all along that they are going to be subject to US sanctions, they were going to be subject to United Nations sanctions until they complied with those requirements and, furthermore, that they would be held responsible for any further terrorist attacks that were mounted by groups operating in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: What keeps the United States from recognizing the other group, the group that is in New York, particularly at this time when you're trying to, you know, rattle the Taliban folk and get them to break down?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always said we look forward to the creation of a broad-based government that can govern Afghanistan in the future. So that's what we're looking for, that's what we are trying to achieve. And if the parties achieve that, not only would we recognize them in Kabul but we would certainly support their efforts to rebuild their country.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the Secretary in New York? Will he be making some kind of formal speech while in New York that you know of?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I don't have the details of his schedule for you yet, and we will get those to you later this week. But I would say, normally, the President speaks on behalf of the United States and the President will do that. I am not aware of any other occasion where the Secretary would give that kind of speech.
QUESTION: I have another question about another story.
There was a wire story that appeared over the weekend saying that you guys had added to your -- or were about to add to the FTO list some businesses, including a honey factory in Yemen, et cetera, a bunch of other things. And I thought I had understood from Friday that there were no additions to the FTO list.
MR. BOUCHER: People may be confused by all the different lists. There is a list of foreign terrorist organizations, which we updated a month ago, right? That currently stands at 28 foreign terrorist organizations. There is the list of people who are subject to financial controls under Executive Order 132-something-something. And that was a lot of al-Qaida organizations, associated businesses. We added the foreign terrorist organizations to them on Friday.
And we will continue to update the list of companies, organizations, individuals associated with al-Qaida and these other terrorist groups. We will continue to update that list periodically.
And then there are the people and individuals that are on our Lookout list. And I think as Attorney General Ashcroft said last week, we are looking at adding -- he has asked us to look at a number of organizations for adding to that. So there are different lists in different ways.
The foreign terrorist organization list is the one that potentially we could add organizations to it, foreign terrorist organizations. But that we just reviewed recently. There are other things that we will keep looking at for that.
QUESTION: The Attorney General did not ask you to add these groups or any others to the FTO list; is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it was sort of the contrary. He gave us a list of -- he said, you should take the foreign terrorist organizations and some of their associated groups and add those to a visa lookout, I guess. But the one that is most frequently -- that will be probably most visibly and frequently updated is the list of entities subject to financial controls that is settled by the Treasury Department under the executive order. And that is one that will be added to and updated periodically.
QUESTION: You are saying that this letter that was sent from the Justice Department to here, to the Secretary, from Ashcroft to Powell on Wednesday or sometime last week did not ask the State Department to add anyone to the FTO list; it only asked for those -- the groups that he named to be put on the visa watch list?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, to be presumed ineligible for visas.
QUESTION: The Central African Republic, there has been some trouble there. I was just wondering whether you were warning Americans to stay away or go to the embassies --
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, here is what we know. Fighting began in Bangui on Saturday, November 3rd, between members of the Presidential Guard and followers of the recently dismissed army chief of staff, General Bozize. Our embassy reports there was some shooting around town overnight, but the city is quiet today, November 5th. The situation remained unsettled. The airport is open and the embassy continues to monitor events. Our embassy is open today.
To the best of our knowledge, American citizens are safe. There are fewer than 10 Americans assigned to the embassy and probably fewer than 300 Americans who live in the Central African Republic. And they will be working with the American community there.
I don't have any news of new advice, but there, certainly, everybody should keep in close touch with the embassy and our embassy will be keeping in close touch with the Americans who live there.
QUESTION: Do you know -- this is a different subject -- why Count Lambsdorff is here meeting with the Deputy Secretary? I thought all that stuff was finished --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't know Count Lambsdorff was here; I'll have to check.
QUESTION: Are there any embassies that are closed, besides the usual list?
MR. BOUCHER: The majority of our posts are providing full services. A number of posts are providing limited services. Obviously, all posts are still at a high state of alert. Posts providing only emergency services today include Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Sanaa in Yemen, and Montevideo in Uruguay. And then there are some posts that are under authorized departure. And Nassau because of the hurricane. And I suppose our Interest Section in Cuba. I better double check on that one.
QUESTION: And why (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Exactly. I can't remember either.
QUESTION: I don't suppose any issue of assistance to the Cuban people following the devastating hurricane has arisen in this building?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard it arise. If it does, I will be glad to tell you.
QUESTION: I have a question concerning Japan's Foreign Minister, Makiko Tanaka. I'm sorry, you've heard many questions about this. There are many negative reports about her not doing her job as foreign minister, and it seems she is fighting internal affairs when international cooperation is needed. Do you have any comment or response?
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:30 p.m.)
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