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Mr. Boucher: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The Secretary of State is here, and he will introduce for you the advertising campaign, and make a few remarks on that, and then take your questions for a little while on this or other topics. And then after that, we will have Under Secretary Beers and Assistant Secretary Carpenter to talk a little more about the advertising campaign.
So without further ado, the Secretary of State.
Secretary Powell: Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. Before I talk to the Rewards for Justice Program, I might say a word about the President's announcement this morning concerning the ABM Treaty.
As you know, we gave notification to the Russian Federation this morning, and we have now received a reply from President Putin, which I am sure you all will have already seen or will see in the next few minutes.
A couple of points I would like to draw your attention to in President Putin's reply. Obviously, they still believe that the Treaty is a centerpiece, and prefer that we would have stayed in it. But I note in his reply two points, one that our withdrawal -- this action that we are taking -- is no threat to the national security of the Russian Federation. From my conversations with President Putin earlier this week, essentially it means that they had anticipated that this might come at some point, and had made their own analysis, and believe that their national security is not affected because of the size and quality of their strategic nuclear offensive capability, and their understanding of the nature of the missile defense program that we will be pursuing.
And the second point I would make is that President Putin has now responded to President Bush's Washington-Crawford statement of reducing our strategic offensive inventory down to a range of 1,700 to 2,200 operationally deployed warheads. President Putin has now indicated that he would like to go to the range of 1,500 to 2,200. So we are in the same range, and this will be a subject of negotiation and discussion, beginning with Secretary Rumsfeld's meeting with Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov next week.
We will aggressively move forward to continue our strategic framework discussions with the Russians, for the purpose of bringing this into some legal form that the two presidents can consider for signature when President Bush visits Moscow sometime next year.
The key point here is that an arms race has not been set off by the United States' indicating its intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. Quite the contrary. The Russians have said they don't see this as a threat to their national security, and secondly, they are going to go ahead with very deep cuts in their strategic offensive forces. This is very encouraging, and we welcome President Putin's statement.
Let me now go on to the subject at hand, and then I will take your questions.
I am pleased to be here with all of you today to announce the rollout of the domestic Public Service Announcements for the Rewards for Justice Program. These Public Service Announcements make partners of the American Government and the American people in the fight against terrorism.
Since 1984, the Rewards for Justice Program, run by the Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, has been one of the most valuable United States Government assets in our fight against international terrorism. In the past years, or in past years, this program has allowed Secretaries of State to offer rewards of up to $5 million for information that prevents acts of international terrorism against the United States' persons or property, and brings to justice those who have committed such acts.
The United States of America Patriot Act of 2001, signed into law in October, authorizes the Secretary of State to now offer rewards greater than $5 million, if it is determined that a greater amount is necessary to combat terrorism or defend the United States against such acts.
Through this piece of congressional legislation, I have authorized up to a $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of Usama bin Laden and other key al-Qaida leaders. Congress acted swiftly and decisively to provide us with the funding for this program. Senators Hollings and Gregg and Representatives Wolf and Serrano led the initiative to pass this legislation, and it will be an invaluable tool in the fight against terrorism.
I would also like to thank the Rewards for Justice Fund, ordinary people who have donated their time and energy and substantial resources to assist in the fight against terrorism. This fund will allow every American to take part in the fight against terrorism, and every dollar donated to the Rewards for Justice Fund directly supports the Rewards for Justice Program.
Today, for the first time, we are rolling out an extensive domestic media campaign to support the Rewards for Justice Program. This campaign will distribute public service announcements to every major media market in the United States. And we have got some commitments from major radio stations and newspapers across the country that they will run these public service announcements.
I strongly encourage every newspaper and radio station to run the ads and join us in this fight. The Rewards for Justice Program works. It has helped root out terrorists in more than 20 cases around the world, including the case of Ramsey Yousef, who is now behind bars for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. People with information of any past or planned act for international terrorism against the United States anywhere in the world can contact the nearest FBI office or the Bureau of Diplomatic Security through the websites and 1-800 numbers that you see in front of you on various placards and you will hear more about in a moment.
Terrorism threatens the security of all people. We are more determined than ever to fight it. The United States has tracked terrorists aggressively and made them pay for their crimes. Through this program, thousands of innocent lives around the world have been saved through the prevention of terrorist attacks. Without question, the Rewards for Justice Program is an extremely effective weapon in the United States arsenal to combat terrorism and the threat of international terrorism.
I will be followed after I take some questions by Under Secretary Charlotte Beers and others, Dave Carpenter of our Office of Diplomatic Security, who will talk to you in greater detail about the program. But I will take your questions now before I have to head off to a meeting at the White House.
Question: Mr. Secretary, there were 60 Israeli citizens who have been picked up in the post-September 11th sweep, many of whom if not all of whom are connected to Israeli intelligence. There is no indication that they were connected to the September 11th bombing, but there are indications that they may have known about it ahead of time and the US was not informed by them.
Are you concerned about such intelligence operations on US soil? And have you taken up this issue with your counterpart in Israel?
Powell: I am aware that some Israeli citizens have been detained and I have been in touch with the Israeli Government as to the fact that they have been detained and making sure that they have rights of access to Israeli diplomatic personnel here in the United States. Other nationalities have also been detained.
With respect to why they are being detained and the other aspects of your question, whether it's because they are in intelligence services or what they were doing, I will defer to the Department of Justice and the FBI to answer that because, frankly, I deal with the consular parts of that problem, not the intelligence or law enforcement parts of that program.
Question: On Yasser Arafat, is the US trying to isolate him diplomatically? Is the US, as some reports have it, asking European countries not to allow him to visit? What is your campaign, apart from rhetoric? Apart from rhetoric, what else are you doing to put pressure on Mr. Arafat?
Powell: We have been putting pressure on Chairman Arafat to do everything in his power to bring these terrorist elements under control. I spoke to him again yesterday. I know he has also been in contact with European leaders who have made the same point to him. Hamas, for example, is killing innocent Israeli citizens, but it will not destroy Israel. It might destroy Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
So Mr. Arafat has a choice to make. He has got to go after these organizations who are ignoring the possibility of peace, who are ignoring the Mitchell peace plan, who are ignoring the efforts of the international community to help the two sides find a way to the Mitchell Plan, and they are a threat to everything we are trying to do. And I think Mr. Arafat has an obligation to do everything in his power to bring them under control with the forces that are available to him. And we are conveying to our European colleagues that they should deliver the same message to Mr. Arafat, and he should focus his attention at home. And a strong statement came out of Brussels, the European Community, the other day, which made that same point to Mr. Arafat.
Question: But are you suggesting that he be shunned?
Powell: I have not had any conversations about shunning him. Right now he has difficulty traveling, because he has difficulty getting --
Question: You say you are not -- that the United States is not triggering a new arms race. What are you -- how do you know that? And specifically, President Putin talked with the Chinese and the Indian leaders today. Has the United States done anything similar? Have you had any guarantees?
Powell: In my conversations with President Putin, and in many, many conversations with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his colleagues, it has become clear to me that they understand the nature of our missile defense program, that they have made an analysis of their own security requirements and needs, and do not believe that what we are doing is a threat to their national security. That is what they have said.
If it is not a threat to their national security, then why would they engage in an expensive arms race, if they do not feel threatened? And the best evidence that they do not feel threatened, and are not engaged or planning to engage in such an arms race, is the fact that President Putin matched and went even a little bit lower than President Bush's range of strategic offensive warheads, and in his statement today said let's move forward aggressively to put this into a legal framework so the two presidents can bind the two nations at this lower level. That is not the basis of an arms race; quite the contrary.
Now, I spoke to the Indian Foreign Minister this morning, and the purpose of my call, as well as President Bush's call to Prime Minister Vajpayee, was to express condolences for the tragedy in the parliament, and offer our assistance. I also spoke to the Chinese Foreign Minister last night, and I brought in and had a long conversation with the Chinese Ambassador yesterday afternoon to explain why we were taking the action we were taking with respect to the ABM Treaty. And they will now analyze that, and I hope they will come to the same conclusion that the Russians came to, that this action is not intended against them; it is not a threat against their strategic deterrence. It will be a system that goes after those irresponsible rogue states that might come up with a couple of missiles and threaten us, and we have to be in a position to deal with that.
So I don't see the basis for an arms race in anything that we have done. I see a basis for increased strategic stability, and I look forward to working with my Russian colleagues, as does Secretary Rumsfeld, in pursuing that.
We spent 11 months, the first 11 months of this Administration, working with the Russians, discussing this with them at length, building a strong relationship, a strong relationship that could take this kind of a disagreement. As President Putin said to me the other day, we have a good strategic relationship that will more than survive this disagreement.
Does he support or approve of what we have done? No, he has said he does not. But he has also said he doesn't view it as a threat to his nation, and it is not. And he is looking forward to codifying our mutual reductions.
Question: What is your reaction to the Usama bin Laden tape that was released today? And do you think the comments that he makes on this tape should pretty much put to rest any remaining --
Powell: How could there be a doubt -- how could there be a doubt in anyone's mind any longer about what we have said from the very, very beginning? That he was the mastermind, he is the head of an organization that participates in this kind of evil activity. It is frightening and shocking to sit there and listen to him invoke the name of an almighty to defend murder, to defend evil that goes against every faith on the face of the earth. And the tape speaks for itself, and everybody can make their judgment. But I don't know what other judgment one can make about it.
Question: Well, Mr. Secretary, do you feel vindicated at all now, because you were a few weeks --
Powell: I never felt --
Question: A week or so after the attacks, you, from this podium, were the first Cabinet official to say that bin Laden was the prime suspect.
Powell: I have never felt un-vindicated. (Laughter.)
Question: Mr. Secretary, can you say whether the US learned anything new about bin Laden from this tape?
Powell: I am not in a position to answer that. I have seen the tape, I have read the transcript rather thoroughly. But I will leave it to my colleagues in other Departments to determine whether they have learned something new.
Question: During your recent visit to Ankara, did you have the chance to discuss with the Greek and Turkish (inaudible) over the (inaudible) in Cyprus, and may we have your assessment of this effort?
Powell: Yes. In my meetings in Ankara with Foreign Minister Cem and other leaders, I took note of the new movement that has taken place between the two sides, welcomed this new initiative, and we look forward to working with both Cypriot leaders and with the United Nations as they move forward. They had, I think, two meetings in a period of two days, and they will be meeting again in January.
So I did take note of it, and congratulated them for this new movement.
Question: And the G initiative?
Powell: No, we didn't -- G initiative?
Question: Yes. Via G initiative.
Powell: No, we didn't get into any discussions of that.
Question: Mr. Secretary, back to the Middle East, sir. This is a yes or no question. Do you concur with Israel's decision to cut up ties with the Palestinian Authority? And two, could you kindly define for us what the US role is now?
Powell: Well, you can ask yes or no questions. I decide if it's a yes or no answer. (Laughter.)
It's a decision the Israeli Government made, and we are having discussions with them now. General Zinni and Ambassador Kurtzer should be in with the Prime Minister right now discussing the decision that the Prime Minister made, the implications of that decision, how the Prime Minister sees the way forward. And so that is as far as I would like to go on that, until I have had a chance to talk to General Zinni and to Ambassador Kurtzer.
The situation is getting worse, not better. And we really cannot give up hope, we can't walk away from this. The stakes are too high. And Prime Minister Sharon is desperate to bring peace and security. Chairman Arafat is desperate to get the process going that would lead to a Palestinian State.
We must find a way to bring these two somewhat complementary positions together so that we can get into a cease-fire. And the way to do that is to get rid of these terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, which do not want to achieve any of the two objectives of the two sides that I just laid out, and they are more likely to destroy the Palestinian cause than to destroy the State of Israel. And that is why Mr. Arafat, it seems to me, has the burden upon him right now to act very aggressively.
Question: Mr. Secretary, is the President's number of 1,700 to 2,200 set in stone, or could you match President Putin's offer?
Powell: It was a pretty firm number. But let the discussions begin. We want to hear why they feel that particular range is appropriate. Obviously, our range fits within their range. So there is a way to square this circle. I don't know that it is a problem and I don't know that the two numbers have to be identical.
The important point is that both sides have taken significant reductions, in our case something like 60 percent down or close to 70 percent down from where we are now. That's the detail. Or a little bit of a nuance that President Putin didn't put in his numbers. And we will just have to discuss with them how to go forward, two different ranges or can we normalize on a single range.
But it is clear that the range they came up with is so close to ours that both sides believe that we are in the same ballpark with respect to what we need to preserve our strategic deterrence capability.
Question: Do you have any reaction, sir, from the bombings in India? This time, the Indian Parliament was the target of the terrorist bombings and Indian authorities blame that this is the Taliban behind these bombings. Now bombings in India just like in Israel.
Now, what advice do you have for the Indian Government at this time and what they should do?
Powell: I talked to the Foreign Minister this morning and I am quite sure that the Indian Government will do everything in their power to find out who the perpetrators of this terrible act were, who these murders were, who these terrorists were, and take appropriate action. And we certainly understand their need to do that and their intent to do that. And we offered -- the President offered in his phone call with President Vajpayee -- FBI and other assets that could assist them in finding out who is responsible.
Question: Don't you think that US unilateral withdrawal from the ABM treaty would lead to disappearance of present mutual trust and understanding in US/Russia relations and would significantly worsen your dialogue on offensive nuclear arsenal reduction?
Powell: No, quite the contrary. The dialogue is strong. President Putin and President Bush have met four times at four different summit meetings. They have formed a strong relationship, not just a personal relationship, but a relationship based on mutual interests that relates to values, democracy building, economic development, regional cooperation, the campaign against terrorism, and developing a new strategic framework.
I have met many, many times with Foreign Minister Ivanov and my other colleagues, Secretary Rumsfeld and Dr. Rice, are in constant contact with their counterparts. So this will not fracture that. It is strong.
Because it is strong, we will accept this disagreement and move on. As President Putin said to me, this is one disagreement less and we wish you had not moved in this direction but you have indicated for months you might move in this direction, and let's continue to build the relationship.
So quite the contrary, it will not affect our ability to negotiate lower numbers, as reflected by President Putin's statement today committing to a negotiation to lower numbers. There will be no arms race.
Question: You said last spring that the Israelis shouldn't intrude into Gaza with their tanks and remain there. They are doing just that now. Has there been any limit placed on collective punishment in your discussions with Sharon both here in Washington and beyond?
Powell: We have -- Mr. Sharon is the Prime Minister democratically elected by the people of Israel. So we have talked to him, and I talked to him again yesterday, and he is aware of our concerns about going back into these territories and staying there for extended periods. Does it actually provide you security over time, or is it just another destabilizing element?
So, obviously, we are not in a position to put specific constraints on him. But we are in constant discussion about the implications of such actions.
Last one. I have to go.
Question: Mr. Secretary, could you speak more directly to the comments coming out of Israel right now that Yasser Arafat is irrelevant? Are you encouraging the Israelis to resume communications with him? And what are the plans for General Zinni --
Powell: We are in communication still with both sides. General Zinni and my other diplomats in the region are in communication with both sides. As I have said, General Zinni is meeting now with the Prime Minister, I believe, and so is Ambassador Kurtzer. I expect that General Zinni and Counsel General Schlicher will meet with Yasser Arafat again. I don't have any immediate plans for General Zinni until I get a report from him.
Yasser Arafat is the elected head of the Palestinian Authority and reflects the leadership that the Palestinians wish to have. So he still has that authority, that mantle of leadership given to him by the Palestinian people, and we will continue to work with him. The decision made by the Israeli Government yesterday is one that General Zinni will talk to Mr. Sharon about and I will get more on that later today.
Thank you very much. I've got to get to the meeting.
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