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MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you for waiting until the early afternoon. I was upstairs with some newspaper editors from around the country, who the Secretary talked to as well today. I don't want to mean that editors come before reporters, but today they just happened to have been that way.
Anyway, I'm glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Yes. What do you think of Ambassador Niles (inaudible)? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I appreciate the question. I think former Ambassador Niles now speaks for himself, and so we will leave that to be personal commentary. I don't have anything to say about it.
QUESTION: Considering this meeting with the editors was closed press, I'm not sure exactly how that works --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it was open to all of them. We might call it invitees only.
QUESTION: Right. But closed to the State Department working press. Could you give us a general idea of what the Secretary was talking about with them?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary with them talked about America, democracy, our role in the world and how that effort leads to the coalition against terrorism. What we are doing around the world to promote freedom, to promote freedom of the press, promote economic freedom and opportunity for people. And it's what he talks about with a lot of people. And I would say he gave -- he explained how the overall framework of the Bush Administration's foreign policy dictates what we're doing in the fight against terrorism and helps us pursue that fight.
QUESTION: And they lapped it all up and there were -- I mean, was it a question-and-answer thing?
MR. BOUCHER: They are very thoughtful people. They asked insightful questions.
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: What happened in the meeting this morning between the Secretary and Mr. Shaath?
MR. BOUCHER: They, as you might expect, discussed the current situation in the Middle East. I think the first thing to point out is that he expressed once again the total support that we have from the Palestinian authority for the effort against terrorism, and their very profound understanding of the threat that terrorism points to us all. And said, I think, what they might have said before, that they don't want to be -- the Palestinians don't want to be used as the pretext for the bin Ladens of the world. He made quite clear that that, they felt, was not only a false claim by al-Qaida and groups like that, but also a betrayal of their own cause and counterproductive for their own cause.
They also, as you might expect, discussed to some extent the situation, the current situation and how we can move forward towards implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations.
The Secretary stressed the importance of reducing the violence, restoring trust and confidence, and moving towards the eventual resumption of negotiations based on 242 and 338. And that, after all, is the goal of this process and has been from the start of the Administration -- reduce the violence, ease the restrictions, get back into negotiations so you can start solving the real political problems that are there.
The Secretary did reiterate the call for Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to act immediately to carry out their responsibilities to find, arrest and bring to justice all those responsible for terrorist actions and violence. He noted the Israeli withdrawal from Ramallah, following on the withdrawal from Qalqiliyah, Bethlehem and Beit Jala. Withdrawal from Ramallah is a positive step and, as we have said publicly and in our private discussions with the Israelis, we want to see that step followed immediately by completion of the process. That's what the Cabinet declared earlier this week and we want to see that happen, completion of the process of withdrawal from Palestinian areas. And we have also made clear that incursions contribute to an escalation of the violence and should cease.
Finally, he made clear that positive actions, sustained and credible Palestinian actions to confront terror and violence, and Israeli steps to withdrawal and avoid provocation and build confidence facilitate this process of getting into Mitchell, implementing the Mitchell report, restoring the direct dialogue and returning to negotiation. And that's what we are looking for and looking for what we can do to continue working with the Palestinians and the Israelis to try to get to that point.
QUESTION: To follow up, after the meeting, Mr. Shaath said that he pushed for US observers to the conflict. Has the position of the State Department changed at all in that? Are you willing to push the Israelis potentially harder and maybe try to accept observers?
MR. BOUCHER: The position that the Secretary expressed to them in the meeting was the same one that we have expressed before, that you find in the G-8 communiqué from the ministers in Rome and elsewhere, that we have always felt that there was a role for third party monitoring accepted by the parties in the implementation of these steps and that we could help at that point. And that was what the Secretary expressed again today.
QUESTION: About two weeks ago, you were calling for immediate Israeli withdrawal. You have since stopped saying "immediate." And the Israelis pretty well have ignored your advice on this.
Are there no repercussions if people to whom you give $3 billion a year completely ignore your recommendations?
MR. BOUCHER: As we say frequently around here, that would be interesting if it were true. But the fact is the Israelis are withdrawing and we welcome the steps that they are taking. They have begun the withdrawal and the call now is for them to complete that withdrawal and we expect them to do so. We have made quite clear that we continue to expect them to complete the withdrawal -- immediately, in case you want the word.
MR. BOUCHER: Complete the withdrawal immediately. But they've begun it now and we want to see it finished.
QUESTION: Once again, reports have surfaced that the Secretary is going to make -- on or before the UN General Assembly deliver some speech that puts out the Bush Administration's view of the Middle East. And has the situation changed since yesterday when you said he does not speak at the UN General Assembly and has no plans to speak before this weekend?
MR. BOUCHER: He has no speeches at the General Assembly and he has no plans to give a speech before the General Assembly.
QUESTION: Where do we stand on a possible meeting between the Secretary and Mr. Arafat?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have firm travel plans for Mr. Arafat. And I think some others, as far as the travel to New York goes. Mr. Shaath this morning didn't give us any firm information on Mr. Arafat's -- Chairman Arafat's plans. But should he come to New York, the Secretary would look forward to seeing him.
QUESTION: Would you like Mr. Arafat to make the travel?
MR. BOUCHER: I will leave it to him to decide on his travel. Should he come to New York, the Secretary would look forward to seeing him. I think that's the best way to put it.
QUESTION: Do you know anything about a UN meeting coming within the next couple of weeks on the Palestinian territories that the US and Israel are saying they'll boycott?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: In Switzerland?
MR. BOUCHER: In Switzerland? I'll have to check. I hadn't heard about it, no.
QUESTION: I have two questions about China's accession to WTO. During this global economic slowdown, what kind of a role does the United States expect China to play economically?
And my second question is, economic experts predicted that after China's entry to the WTO, US trade deficits to China will increase. And what kind of impact would this have on US-China relations in the future?
MR. BOUCHER: I am just so pleased to get an economic question here, being an economic officer by career. And I'd hate to think that I wouldn't answer it, but I might not. (Laughter.)
China's accession to the WTO has been very important to the United States and many other countries. We worked on it for many years with the Chinese. We want to see the Chinese accede to the WTO and abide by and participate in the global trading rules. We think the kind of economy that the WTO can help China create is very important for Chinese throughout the country in opening up and giving them opportunity to trade, as well as opening up opportunities for foreign companies as well.
So at Doha, I think the succession will take place. As you know, at the APEC meeting in Shanghai, the APEC countries supported China's accession as well as Taiwan's accession, and we think that creates a lot of new opportunities for all of us, and especially for China and the Chinese people, as they emerge into the world trading system.
Exactly what economic effect it is going to have over deficits and, you know, with the United States, I think I have to leave that to real economists to talk about. I've seen predictions in both ways. Clearly, the opportunity for more American exports to China is one of the things we look for, as well as the transforming effect on the Chinese economy, the benefits of economic reform in China, which also have their benefits to China's ability to produce and export. So there may be different predictions on how these factors are judged, but I think overall, in terms of China's integration with the world and China's integration with world trading rules, we have always seen this as a very positive step.
QUESTION: Richard, surely you weren't intending to suggest that State Department economic officers aren't real economists, were you?
MR. BOUCHER: Many of them are; I don't claim to be.
QUESTION: Another conference. There is a three-day conference opening at the UN on Sunday on the CTBT, and the organizers, the UN, say it's not clear whether the United States is attending. Perhaps you can explain to us --
MR. BOUCHER: That's right. I don't think we have a final decision one way or the other. I will get you one as soon as we do.
QUESTION: Isn't it rather late, since it's starting on Sunday?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not starting until Sunday. So it depends on how you look at it.
QUESTION: So it will be like Durban?
MR. BOUCHER: The calendar is half full or the calendar is half empty. But --
QUESTION: What are the considerations here?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know; I'll have to check on it further. But I will give you an answer as soon as I can.
QUESTION: Can I have one more try on Ambassador Niles? Today, the New York Times reports that there is a tension between Greece and the United States, and at the same time your counterpart in Greece characterized Mr. Niles a liar and spoke about tales and fictional scenarios. And month by month, we have former high-level US officials claiming a list of suspects of 17 of November and we don't have a definite answer from the US Government if there is a list. So can you comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No. As I said before, former Ambassador Niles is speaking as a private citizen. His views don't represent the US Government at this point. We have excellent and very close cooperation with the Government of Greece on fighting terrorism and a lot of that we will continue to do with them privately.
QUESTION: To follow up, Mr. Niles was the Ambassador of the United States at the time. And he claims that during his tenure, as an American ambassador, he gave a list to the Greek Government. So we speak about the time that he had an official position with the US Government.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And we talk about a specific list. So there is no reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm afraid not.
QUESTION: Richard, another story in that same newspaper just mentioned, a rather breathless story about Iraq being a trainer of terrorists. What did this building make of that story? And can you remind us how long Iraq has been on your State Sponsors of Terrorism list? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: These invitations to jump on other stories. I would just point out that Iraq has long been on our State Supporters of Terrorism list. And I think year after year, our Patterns of Global Terrorism Report has described Iraq's relationship to terrorist organizations, specific ones, ones of various kinds, including training that went on in Iraq. So I would refer you to that mass of evidence, if you want to know what Iraq's relation to terrorism is.
Clearly, we all know that Iraq bears close scrutiny, deserves it and gets it at this moment, that whatever else we face in the world with al-Qaida and the Taliban and campaign against terrorism globally, we still have our eye on Iraq because one never knows what they might want to do.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) whether (inaudible) has made clear that they won't take steps against groups that were on the Bush Administration's latest list for freezing assets. What kind of weight does the US Government put on those comments?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we will have to see in the longer run. Clearly, the President and Secretary have made clear that this is a long-term battle against terrorism. Combating terrorist financing is an integral part of that campaign. We have long seen Hizballah and designated Hizballah as a foreign terrorist organization because of atrocities it has committed, and its ongoing support for acts of terrorism. It is among the 28 foreign terrorist organizations that are covered in our executive order.
It should come as no surprise that we are seeking international commitments and cooperation in freezing the assets of all the foreign terrorist organizations, all those now -- I think it's 150 entities that we have designated on the Treasury list, including Hizballah.
We do expect our friends and partners in the region to do their utmost to address this issue, and we have seen something like 112 countries around the world issue various kinds of blocking orders and restrictions on terrorist financing. And we will continue to encourage every country to do that. How exactly they do it depends on local regulation. But we will continue the effort to get people to block the assets of all terrorist organizations.
QUESTION: -- refuse to cooperate?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we will continue the effort to get people to block all the assets of all the terrorist organizations.
QUESTION: I mean, there have been some reports this month and last month that there have been contacts with the Syrians and that they have taken some steps on terrorism. And the broader question, can you say if you think that there might be a change in policy from Damascus with regard to not just funding Hizballah or not blocking their assets but actually allowing arms to travel over their territory to get to them?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I couldn't say that at this point. I would say that we have been interested in the statements of the Syrian Government. We have certainly talked to the Syrian Government about what they can do against terrorism and we will continue to explore that and to encourage them to do things. But I don't think I can point to any change like the one you cite at this point.
We do expect the Secretary will meet with Foreign Minister Shara over the weekend in New York. So that will, I'm sure, be a topic pursued there.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, bilateral meeting.
QUESTION: In that meeting, is he going to sort of make the point again?
MR. BOUCHER: The effort against terrorism, I'm sure, will be a prime --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Hizballah --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, every single time we have had talks with the Syrians about the situation in the Middle East or about terrorism, we have talked about Hizballah. So --
QUESTION: Richard, if a country refuses to block the assets of a group that you have designated in this executive order, are they with you or are they against you in this war on terrorism? And it seems to me that you are going down a slippery slope here again, because you are refusing to say what the consequences are if they don't do it, and yet the admission into the coalition, as it were, the requirements for that admission, you are refusing to say what they actually are.
It doesn't seem like there is any punitive action to be taken if a country simply refuses to go along.
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I will make clear that we do expect people to make the choice that the President has talked about, that the Secretary has talked about, and that you have to be prepared to make that choice against terrorism in the longer run. I think the President spoke aptly to it just the other day. When asked about future military targets, he said we don't have any future military targets, but we do have a broad campaign against terrorism, we expect countries to choose and they have a chance to choose. That's what we will continue to pursue.
QUESTION: But they seem to have chosen already.
MR. BOUCHER: The answer is, we'll keep after them. That's as simple an answer as I can give you.
QUESTION: I mean, I'm not trying to get you to say that, yes, okay, there could possibly at some point be military action against a country that refuses to do something. But there has got to be something short of military action that you would do. More sanctions or something like that?
MR. BOUCHER: There are certainly plenty of efforts by the international community to get at terrorism. There are certainly plenty of countries that agree with us. There are certainly plenty of countries that, like us, will judge a lot of their relationships depending on the kind of cooperation we get and whether people are with us or against us or helping or not helping, how much they're helping.
Countries will help in different ways, but there are going to be certain things we go to all governments with and say, you've got to stop the terrorist financing, it's required by a UN Security Council resolution, there are follow-up mechanisms in that UN Security Council resolution, and it is an important aspect of US policy that we will continue to pursue.
QUESTION: But when a country says no to apparently your only public request to them, where does that put them?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, don't conclude that that is our only request. You said our only public request, but the implication being that that might be the only request. I wouldn't make that conclusion.
Second of all, as I said, these are important things to us, to the President. The President made clear, countries have to choose. The Secretary has made clear, you have to be against not just one terrorist group but all terrorist groups, and that will remain our policy, and that will remain what we pursue in our daily meetings and in our high-level meetings, and in our broader diplomacy with various governments.
QUESTION: It's been a little over a week since you announced -- or under a week, rather, since you announced the addition of the foreign terrorist organizations to the financial list. Has that complicated US diplomacy in the Arab world, because a lot of the groups on that new tranche are not considered terrorists by many of these nations? They were happy to help on al-Qaida, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. We have made clear right from the start that we believe this had to be a campaign against terrorism. The President made that clear in his speeches right from the beginning. The Secretary made clear in his comments on governments like Syria and Iran that we welcome their statements. We are willing to explore with them what they might be willing to do. But that we expected them to make a fundamental choice against terrorism and all terrorism, not to cherry-pick groups that they liked or didn't like.
So whether it's the listing in the particular executive order or not, we have certainly known, and people have known all along, that we were against terrorism and expected others to adopt that attitude. And that is the course that we have been pursuing and will continue to pursue.
QUESTION: I consulted the definition in the UN Convention, which was referred to recently in this building, and I would be interested to see how you could make that definition apply to Hizballah, and could you explain how it does? And is it not possible that other people might be accusing you of cherry-picking your terrorists?
MR. BOUCHER: Not justifiably, if that's an accusation someone is making at this moment. And as far as the application of the definition to a particular group, you will see that the definition that we use under US law in the Patterns of Global Terrorism book, in the list of foreign terrorist organizations, is very similar to the one that applies in the UN resolution on the suppression of financing.
MR. BOUCHER: There -- it is very similar, I think is safe to say. I don't expect them to be exactly the same. And so we think it quite clearly applies to Hizballah.
QUESTION: You quoted the UN resolution in the case of Hizballah. And then -- now you are falling back on your own definition.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: But it's not really a very convincing answer.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm sorry, but let me give you a more convincing one.
QUESTION: So you're doing the cherry-picking, because you're saying this is our --
MR. BOUCHER: Jonathan, stop, please.
QUESTION: No, come on.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll answer your question if you have a question.
QUESTION: How does the UN definition, or how could you apply it -- in what sense has Hizballah violated the definition of the UN resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, Hizballah is on our list of foreign terrorist organizations because it meets the standards of US law that apply. I was asked the question the other day, is there an international standard; is there an international definition. And I cited for you the Convention on Suppression of Terrorist Financing. And that's what you looked up. Now you're asking me a further question today, how does that apply to Hizballah? You know, I'm happy to get the lawyers to work on it, but I don't think there should be much question in people's minds, since the definition in the US law is very similar, and after doing a sense of work, we found they do indeed meet the definitions of US law.
You know how carefully those things are reviewed and discussed and looked at, and information of all kinds is collected. And when it comes to the murder of innocent people for political ends, I don't think there is much question about what Hizballah has done.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Secretary (inaudible) the Saudi Foreign Minister canceled this morning?
MR. BOUCHER: There wasn't a meeting scheduled for this morning, as far as I know. I think the latest I have on travel and such of the Saudi Foreign Minister -- let me double check this one -- is the Secretary will be joining the President and meeting the Foreign Minister at the White House. So I guess they decided to defer to that meeting, instead of having a separate one here.
MR. BOUCHER: The White House hasn't announced a meeting with the President? I'll get back to you on that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: He's supposed to be here (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: I'll get back to you on that.
QUESTION: So I guess there's no change in the answer to the question, are the Saudis cooperating fully?
MR. BOUCHER: No, there is no change to the answer. Look, these -- you know, there's a lot of scheduling being done very quickly right now. Things appear -- if the President decides to see him instead of the Secretary, then by nature they have in most cases just had the meeting together at the White House. How exactly this one, whether it was on the Secretary and then on the President later, I don't know. But I don't attach great importance to changes in schedule. There have been a lot of them recently. We are in a very fluid period.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the definitions, not the same definition that Jonathan is talking about.
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: What is the status of Mr. Ashcroft's request for your -- to add the -- to create the new --
MR. BOUCHER: The terrorist organization (inaudible)?
QUESTION: -- to further muddy the already Byzantine waters of your terrorism --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think -- I think we are studying it, obviously. We are looking at those lists very carefully, but I don't think we have gotten back to him yet on that.
QUESTION: Is there any deadline as to when this has to be done?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I would have to check the law. I'll see.
QUESTION: Something completely different. Peru and interdiction flights.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes?
QUESTION: Yes, you don't know anything about that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, is there something new?
QUESTION: Yes, the Vice President said yesterday --
QUESTION: There was a decision on resuming them early next year. Is that new conditions? Do you know this?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven't. Let me double check for you. You may be ahead of me on that one.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry to embarrass you.
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's okay. People do it all the time.
QUESTION: Richard, same general area. Colombia's President Pastrana is here. He is working the Hill all day today. He is talking about the need for an extension of the Andean trade preferences. Do you have something you can tell us about the importance the Administration attaches to an extension of those preferences, or should I call up to the Bureau?
MR. BOUCHER: I would be glad to tell you. The Administration has attached very great importance to the extension of the Andean trade preferences. It has been a subject of discussion in many of the meetings the Secretary has had. It was, as you say, a subject of considerable importance to Peru and other governments in the region and I do remember on September 11th, it was one of the subjects that President Toledo raised with the Secretary at that time. And the Secretary told him that we would continue to work very hard on it and we have worked very hard on it since then. We think it's an important aspect of our policy in the region to combat drugs and give people an opportunity to make things, grow things and sell things in the region and have economic prosperity based on a non-narcotics related economy. So it remains quite important to us and we continue to work hard on it.
QUESTION: A different subject. Tomorrow, you and Charlotte Beers are going to be giving a little presentation at the Foreign Press Center. Since we are not allowed to ask questions there, I was hoping you might give us a preview today.
MR. BOUCHER: Or I could give you a post-view tomorrow. (Laughter.)
No, I don't want to steal the enlightenment.
QUESTION: Well, can you just update us on where the new campaign is right now?
MR. BOUCHER: Here is the way I would describe it. I think it is similar to what I described the other day that, since September 11th, we have been doing more and more with the resources that we have. We have been offering more people to key media in the region, for instance in Arabic language media in South Asia. We have been providing a lot of material that we have through our embassies so that ambassadors are out working very hard writing op ed pieces, giving transcripts, giving videos of significant briefings and things that were done. The Secretary himself has been doing two or three foreign media appearances a week of one kind or another.
We have also added some resources and added some products. We have added people like Ambassador Chris Ross who is able to do interviews and convey the US position in Arabic. We have added teams of people developing materials. We have added people consulting with Muslim friends, with the American Muslim community to make sure we understood clearly from them their feelings, their thoughts, their recommendations on how to proceed. And we have added -- we are adding material on our web sites which we will talk about tomorrow with the foreign press, since they are the people that we have developed materials for, but materials that show the coalition as a worldwide endeavor, as one that has a lot of support in the Muslim world and for Muslim Americans. And we will be doing more in the future, adding materials to this, adding campaigns, adding media products, trying to help people understand the United States, understand what we are about, and understand why this is important, not just to the United States but from people everywhere, particularly people in moderate Muslim countries, people who want to develop into the modern world.
QUESTION: Is there ever going to be a way to tell conclusively whether this is doing any good? There is a lot of skepticism about whether this kind of thing will actually be digested as you wish in the Arab world.
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose any time we're trying to get the message out, you can judge how many people you're reaching and we certainly know we are reaching a lot more people with our message. Anecdotally, I think, we see more understanding and we certainly feel that the message that we have is one that is echoed very often by Islamic leaders, Muslim leaders, the leaders of countries like Egypt and Jordan, Morocco. They have spoken out. Leaders in the Gulf states have spoken out. Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and elsewhere have spoken out. NATO allies like Turkey have spoken out. Democratic Muslim governments like Bangladesh have spoken out. Palestinians have spoken out and said, these people are not part of our cause, these people are not part of our religion, we need to fight them, too.
So that message is one that not only we are out there with, but others as well. And one would hope that the accumulated effect of all of these voices would have some effect on popular opinion. Do you ever get to measure it accurately? I suppose one can do polls and things like that. But a lot of this is to look down the road not just at the immediate coalition and the support that we have and expect to continue to have from governments around the world. But also to look at the overall endeavor of what the United States' role is and how we think we play a very positive role in these societies and a very positive role in this part of the world.
QUESTION: Have you been successful so far in getting foreign leaders themselves to talk to their constituencies with this message?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you have seen an awful lot of that, speaking out. As I said, earlier, when we were asked about the Palestinians, they see this as part of their cause. They see fighting terrorism as important to them. They see terrorism as a threat to them. And they don't want the bin Ladens of the world using them as a pretext to blow up buildings in New York.
QUESTION: That's what they tell us. But you are seeing it also with reports from the area? You are seeing it also in reports from the area that they are telling their own people that in their native languages, not just telling the United States that's what they think?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Yes, we are seeing people on Arabic language news services. We are seeing people speaking out in Urdu in Pakistan and things like that too.
QUESTION: Are you conducting any polls to track opinion on the Arab street?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't really had a chance to look. I am sure there are some around, but I haven't really looked at them.
QUESTION: Not on this campaign but what you just said, are you saying that you agree with the Palestinians' definition of terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we agree that anyone that wants to pursue a course of negotiation, a course of peaceful resolution of differences, is terribly -- that that cause is terribly undercut by violence and terrorism. And we have made clear in our statements day after day that that was one of the chief reasons why we think the Palestinian Authority needs to take decisive steps against the violence. I'm telling you they said that they agreed with that analysis.
We have called again on them today to take real steps and to continue taking real steps to limit the violence and stop the terrorism.
QUESTION: But the Palestinians equate many of the things that Israel is doing right now as terrorism. And do you --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that was the context of my discussion, nor frankly of the one we had with them this morning.
QUESTION: Can I ask a related -- what does this building make of the way that President Bush's remarks yesterday, that the war in Afghanistan could be won even without peace in the Middle East, those comments have been perceived by many in the region as the United States de-linking these two things. My question is, one, were they ever linked in your mind? And, two, if they were, are they not now?
MR. BOUCHER: I remember reading those remarks and didn't make much of them. I didn't realize there was some funny perception about them, because we have always said that both are important, fighting terrorism and achieving peace in the Middle East, and we will continue to pursue both. We recognize that there is -- they are seen by some people in the same optic, you might say, that they have -- they effect attitudes. But we think both are important causes, things for us to do, and we continue to do both. And that's -- I don't remember the exact words, but that's pretty much what the Secretary said and what the President said.
QUESTION: I have a question about Japanese Self-Defense Force sending its ships in few hours for the first time in a war situation. And it's of course for participation in the war to provide logistical support. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BOUCHER: We appreciate it, we will welcome it and we will cooperate closely with the Japanese as they do this. I don't think I have much more to say but I can try to get you something later.
QUESTION: Do you expect for Japan to play a greater role in the future perhaps in a combat situation in the future?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to speculate on that. But we do note with appreciation the Japanese Government and Parliament have decided to take this step and we welcome their participation.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, could you please clarify for us for the record that if a tension exists between Greece and the United States regarding November 17 terrorist organization, as it was reported by New York Times?
MR. BOUCHER: I will go back to what I said a few minutes ago in response to the same issue. We have close cooperation with the Government of Greece on the subject of terrorism and on fighting terrorism. And we appreciate that cooperation and we expect it to continue.
QUESTION: So there is no tension?
MR. BOUCHER: I will go back to exactly what I said before and I will say it again if you want me to.
QUESTION: Are there any plans to restructure the State Department? The Justice Department is going to go through a restructuring, it was announced today. And also there are agencies that are going over to the Pentagon side. Is there any future contingencies to do that, or are you waiting through the weekend at the UN session to announce a plan next week?
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to do a massive -- (laughter). No, we are not planning a massive restructuring today, tomorrow or next week. How we decide to do things in the future depends on our leadership. But, no, not in the next week-and-a-half, I think.
QUESTION: Have the Cubans requested any help?
MR. BOUCHER: No. No, we made clear that we are willing to provide assistance to governments in the region that were affected by Hurricane Michelle. No government has really asked for any assistance except for Honduras. I better double check that before I make the -- that's right? Good, thank you. And we haven't gotten a response yet from the Cuban Government but clearly we're willing to reach out and help the Cuban people if we can be of assistance in helping them recover from the hurricane. We would offer assistance through international and other intermediaries to ensure the Cuban people benefit and not the government.
QUESTION: On that, you said you had no response. Does that mean that you actually approached the Cuban authorities directly on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we have had any direct discussions. But certainly we made clear in our public statements that were reported in the region that we were willing to offer assistance to whoever might need it in this situation.
QUESTION: And another one. Guinea. They are going ahead with their referendum on Sunday on the third term -- I think it is the third term -- for President Conte. Have you made any more demarches or are you just happy with the last one?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to double check and see. I don't know if we have.
QUESTION: Any update on unidentified bodies/detainees in Kabul? Americans? Americans?
MR. BOUCHER: Please, two different things.
QUESTION: I said "slash". That was separate.
MR. BOUCHER: No update on those reports earlier this week that the Taliban claimed to have found an American and no further evidence provided by them, no further information provided by them, no further details provided by them or any other reason to believe that it's particularly true.
As far as the status of our detainees, the two people who are being held in Kabul, I guess the latest was during the last week we were able to organize the shipment of a care package and letters to the detainees by a local nongovernmental agency still operating in Afghanistan. We haven't had any further direct communications between the US embassy in Islamabad and the Taliban about the detainees. We have had no new update on their trial. So we continue to urge publicly that the Taliban release all the Americans and their colleagues that they hold.
The lawyer, Mr. Ali Khan, last met with the detainees on October 23rd before he left Kabul. Their parents are still in Islamabad and were, of course, in very close touch with them all along.
QUESTION: Will the closing of the Taliban office in Islamabad make this task much more difficult to keep in touch with them?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure there has been any decision on closing the Taliban office.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Do you have any reaction to Pakistan asking the Taliban to close their consulate in Karachi?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't know they have actually done that. We have -- obviously, the Pakistani Government makes decisions on this and on the activities of people at those establishments. We do remain in close touch with them. Frankly, we have seen the fact of a Taliban office in Islamabad as perhaps helpful, given the fact that Americans and other people are still being detained in Kabul. But it will be up to the Pakistani Government what they decide to do here.
QUESTION: Does David Donahue continue to hold talks with them there?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess he is -- sort of, he is available to be in touch, if there is anything to say. I think it has been a while since there has been any useful communication from them.
QUESTION: Did you approach the Pakistani Government and ask them to, hey, maybe it might be a good idea if the Taliban ambassador wasn't giving daily press briefings?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been in touch with the Pakistanis about any number of things. And it is one of the things that I suppose we compare notes on. But it is a decision for the Pakistanis, and any explanation of what they asked him to do and why will have to come from them.
QUESTION: I'm asking what you might have said to the Pakistanis about that, not what the Pakistanis did or why they did it. I'm just asking if you suggested to them --
MR. BOUCHER: In our mind, it's their decision. That's what matters and any explanations of why it happened or what discussions they had leading up to it would have to come from them.
QUESTION: Let me put it this way. Are you concerned that the Pakistanis might go too far in closing down Taliban offices and restricting their ability to speak that makes it more difficult for you to deal with the detainees?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the two things are necessarily related. We have -- as I've said to you, there is some value in their having some kind of office in Islamabad because of our concern about the detainees, should there be -- that's one of the possible ways to communicate about our concerns about the detainees. But the activities of that office, their public appearances and the threats that they're allowed to make in public in Pakistan, that's a matter for the Pakistani Government, that they should decide and apparently have decided.
QUESTION: You said that decision, that there was some value -- your conclusion, that there was some value in keeping the embassy open there, is that something, that conclusion, that you came to only recently? Because originally, you were asking the Pakistanis to cut off diplomatic relations, close down that embassy.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember saying that.
QUESTION: Did you change your mind on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't remember saying that.
QUESTION: So, in fact, you never asked the Pakistanis to sever relations with the Taliban?
MR. BOUCHER: I remember saying before, as I said today, it's a subject that we have discussed and keep in touch with the Pakistani Government on.
QUESTION: Well, there are countries that you did ask to sever the ties with --
MR. BOUCHER: There are countries that decided to sever ties and we have, as you know, generally felt that the isolation of the Taliban was a good thing. And the circumstances that might apply to the office in Kabul -- in Islamabad, excuse me, potential for communication on the detainees certainly don't apply to any other offices. So we have felt it's a very good thing, the decisions made in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to close down the Taliban's offices there.
QUESTION: Is it just for the sake of the detainees, or do you think that it might play a useful role somewhere down the road when you are trying to get out of Afghanistan or whatever? Whether you need to negotiate with them for some reason or another?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't engage in that kind of pessimistic and speculative thought. No. The detainees is the issue for us there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
Released on November 8, 2001
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