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MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Let me ask you, please, about the visit of the US delegation made to the Chinese on ABM. Very little has been said; in fact, they tried to disguise who led the delegation. But we all --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we answered that question last week, maybe not at the podium, but --
QUESTION: No, that's what I mean. Yes, that's the way we (inaudible) our name in it.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: But the point being, I don't think State would be shy about telling us if the Chinese reacted pretty much the way the Russians did -- don't like what the decision was, but it's no reason to go nuts.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'll leave it for the Chinese to react for themselves on their own. They have issued public statements, and I would say they're sort of similar to the Russian statements.
As you know, we have had a process of consultation under way with the Chinese for a long time on strategic issues, on defense issues. The Secretary discussed them extensively in his meeting with Chinese visitors in Washington and during his visit to Beijing last summer.
The latest in that series of consultations was a visit by Assistant Secretary of State Avis Bohlen. She met with Chinese officials today, Monday, December 17th, to discuss President Bush's decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and to talk about US-Russian work on a new strategic framework that would reduce the numbers of Russian and US strategic offensive weapons.
Assistant Secretary Bohlen reiterated that the limited US missile defense system is intended to defend against missile threats from rogue states, and that it is not directed against China. We felt the discussions were productive. Both sides indicated they are ready to continue their dialogue on these issues in order to enhance our mutual understanding.
Assistant Secretary Bohlen also made stops in Tokyo and Seoul on the way to Beijing, and she will be traveling to Australia to consult on these issues before she returns to Washington
QUESTION: And I assume those other stops were similarly --
MR. BOUCHER: Similar discussions, yes.
QUESTION: -- readout, yes.
QUESTION: So when does she go to Australia?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess she is on her way there now. I think she has finished in Beijing, so she is on her way to Australia now.
QUESTION: Do you know who was he going to meet in Japan?
MR. BOUCHER: Who she met with in Japan?
QUESTION: Who is he going to meet with in Japan?
MR. BOUCHER: She, Avis Bohlen.
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: And she has been in Tokyo, so let me check on who she met there. I have to look that up.
QUESTION: Richard, can you talk about Haiti and what your understanding of the situation is there?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's probably similar to your understanding of the situation there, because basically we have seen a lot of different reports, and we don't have much confirmation.
What we know is an unknown number of armed assailants attacked the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince early this morning. There are also unconfirmed reports of several casualties, as well as attacks on other government facilities. It appears that government security units have repelled the attacks, and that the police are actively searching for the assailants.
That is not a lot of definitive information. What I will say is the situation in Port-au-Prince is tense. There are reports of roadblocks, tire burnings, shootings, mobs attacking political opposition members and offices. We would ask all Haitians to remain calm, urge the Government of Haiti to take appropriate measures to restore and maintain calm. The US Embassy in Port-au-Prince is closed. They have closed all the offices today following reports about this morning's attack, and they have urged US citizens in Haiti to stay at home today and to monitor radio reports concerning the security situation.
QUESTION: Do you want to say a word in defense of democracy?
MR. BOUCHER: Defense of democracy. We have looked at the leadership in Haiti as being a legitimate, elected leadership, we recognize the results of the last election, and obviously we stand with people who are elected against those who would seek to overthrow them by force.
QUESTION: Richard, just maybe 10 days ago, the Foreign Minister and the Finance Minister of Haiti were here and they were told in no uncertain terms that unless they got their act together that the US would continue to oppose multilateral assistance and basically all non-humanitarian assistance to them.
That, I assume, is still the position. But now what you're saying and what you just said to George, are you saying that you want the Haitian Government, as it stands now, to go after these people?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had a lot of concerns about the election process in Haiti, particularly with regard to the Assembly elections, the legislative elections. We have looked to the Government of Haiti to carry out a series of steps to improve democracy. I don't have any update on that. But, indeed, we have been quite critical of some aspects of the Government of Haiti's performance.
On the other hand, there is a considerable difference between that and allowing the overthrow of the results of a legitimate election by armed force. So I don't think there is any contradiction in that today.
QUESTION: I want to go on to Kabul, and opening the liaison office. I mean, basically we have seen it's open, the flag is up.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: What is Ambassador Dobbins going to be doing from day to day? And do you have any update on how the international recognition of the interim government may or may not take place?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, Ambassador Dobbins is joined by a small number of other State Department and government employees, a marine security guard detachment, and then there were invited Afghan and foreign guests, and they formally reestablished the US diplomatic presence in Afghanistan at a flag raising ceremony at the Embassy Chancery building in Kabul. Ambassador Dobbins' official title is Director of the US Liaison Office in Kabul.
Our Afghan Foreign Service National employees were also part of the ceremony. These employees have endured severe hardship and danger for over a decade to remain at work, maintaining the US Embassy and the related properties around Kabul. Their behavior and their performance have been a credit to them personally, and to Foreign Service Nationals everywhere.
The same flag was used for the ceremony that last flew over the US Embassy in Kabul until US personnel lowered it in 1989. It has been kept in the Department in the expectation that someday it would be used again, when our diplomats returned. And so we are very pleased to see that that hope is fulfilled.
QUESTION: Are those Foreign Service National employees paid up now in their salaries?
MR. BOUCHER: I believe so. I will double check on that.
As far as the other half of your question about what happens now, what do they do, they began operations immediately following the ceremony. Their purpose there is to coordinate activities with Afghans, with foreign governments and organizations, with US agencies and American citizens and groups in Afghanistan.
We have continued to maintain diplomatic relations with the state of Afghanistan, even though for some time we have not recognized that the Taliban or anyone else is capable of speaking for Afghanistan internationally. Under the Bonn Agreement, the Afghans have agreed that the interim authority will represent Afghanistan in its external relations, and the Liaison Office therefore will begin to deal with the interim authority accordingly when it assumes power on December 22nd.
QUESTION: Well, what does that say about our recognition of them as the government?
MR. BOUCHER: We recognize that there is an Afghanistan; we always have. So it's a question of dealing with governments. It's the standard way that we operate, and we will work with the interim administration as soon as it is established on December 22nd. That constitutes what some people have called recognition, even though legally that's not the phrase that is used.
QUESTION: You also recognize that there is an Iraq and there is an Iran, but you don't have anyone over there.
MR. BOUCHER: And we don't have anybody dealing with those governments in those cases.
QUESTION: But you do have someone --
MR. BOUCHER: And we have people in Kabul who will work and deal with the interim administration.
QUESTION: All right. Okay. There is going to be a chargé there?
MR. BOUCHER: For the moment, Ambassador Dobbins is the Director of our Liaison Office in Kabul. And then, till formal accreditation or appointment of an Ambassador takes place, yes, there would be a chargé.
QUESTION: Okay, then I noticed that you put out a Travel Warning again for Afghanistan this morning, saying that even though Ambassador Dobbins and the small crew are back, it's still probably not a good idea to head over there for your vacation. But one of the things that it says in there is that there is no consular officer there. Does this mean that if you are an Afghan wanting to come to the US, don't bother trying to go to this -- you're not going to be issuing visas there?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, without a consular section, we can't be issuing visas in Kabul. I expect that Afghans who are qualified to travel to the United States would probably end up applying at some neighboring post, like Islamabad. And therefore, in that statement we issued, we give the addresses for our embassy in Islamabad and the US consulate in Peshawar.
QUESTION: At what stage does your Liaison Office become an embassy? Is that when the interim administration takes office?
MR. BOUCHER: That is one of those legal questions that I still don't have an answer to. So, not right now, is the answer.
QUESTION: I'm just a little bit confused. Why is that -- what possible reason could prevent you from calling it an embassy when the interim administration --
MR. BOUCHER: There is no question of status or -- the question of status is not a question of political recognition. It is not a question of desire to work with and support the interim arrangement. It is merely a technical question of international law, when does something become a government, when does an embassy become an embassy. And, frankly, I don't have that answer for you yet. I'll still try to get it for you, but it's not of any great political or diplomatic importance.
QUESTION: You are not quite sure whether the interim administration amounts to a government? Is that it?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not saying that, Jonathan. There are questions of international law that I will have researched for you and get you an answer on. This is not a -- there is absolutely no political or diplomatic significance to the issue of whether or not we want to work with these people, whether or not we support these people. And I wouldn't make conclusions otherwise.
QUESTION: Could you just say how the liaison office will be coordinating with, one, the military campaign in Afghanistan and, two, the future peacekeeping efforts there? Will there be any kind of coordinating function for the embassy or the liaison office in that respect?
MR. BOUCHER: A lot of their work, obviously, will be with the interim governing authority and, therefore, they will be working with the others who are in there, whether it's the international security force that will go in under a UN resolution that is still under discussion, or with the US military. How exactly they coordinate, I don't know. But I am sure they will have communications as well as meetings, and be working with everybody on the ground.
QUESTION: Also, will CIA officials be in this interim office?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that is an issue that I would address, thank you.
QUESTION: Richard, if this isn't a matter of recognition, why was the US urging other countries not to recognize the government in Kabul too soon? We were worried that the Russians were moving right into their embassy. So you have talked about this as a matter of recognition with this new government before.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven't. I mean, I may have, but I was not using the term properly. If we want to get legalistic about it, there is a difference between recognition of states and working with governments. This is a longstanding issue of international law that if we are being careful we make the distinction. Most of us in common parlance don't really bother with the distinction. Recognizing a government is not -- is really a non sequitur, if it comes down to the legalistic way. We use the phrase in terms of working with the government, in terms of accepting the government as the legitimate voice for that nation. That is what we are talking about here.
We are happy to work with the interim governing authority of Afghanistan. We look forward to doing that on all the matters -- to working with them on all the matters that face the nation of Afghanistan. But in formal diplomatic terms, the word "recognition" is just not used.
QUESTION: Different subject. Arafat. What is your assessment of whether he and the Palestinian Authority have put into action the words of yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary, I think, addressed these issues just a few moments ago. But in keeping with what he said, we have seen some actions there. We have seen the Palestinian Authority take some actions. We certainly look forward to seeing those sustained. We look forward to seeing the decisive actions taken.
As we have said in our statement, the speech that Chairman Arafat gave was constructive. He needs to turn those words into effective and sustained action. We have seen some positive actions by the Palestinian Authority. But those actions have to be broadend and they have to be intensified.
What we are looking for are things like dismantling of all the terrorist networks, including Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations. We think stopping the terror and violence is essential to implementing the Tenet security work plan and the Mitchell Report recommendations.
We do want to move ahead with these recommendations, and they create obligations for both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But those efforts cannot move forward unless the Palestinian Authority takes all steps it can to bring to justice those responsible for terrorist attacks and dismantle the organizations that would launch future attacks. This is a critical moment for the Palestinian Authority, and we look for the words -- the constructive words to be matched by decisive steps.
QUESTION: Are you asking Israel to sort of stay its hand in the meantime to see whether or not Arafat follows through?
MR. BOUCHER: We have made quite clear our view that Israel needs to focus on the repercussions of any actions that it takes. We have made clear that both sides need to make decisions, take actions that facilitate rather than complicate the process. And we have made that clear in our discussions with the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: When does the Secretary expect to see General Zinni?
MR. BOUCHER: I think there is nothing scheduled yet. I would expect them to meet in the next few days. The Secretary will be -- presumably sometime this week, yes -- the Secretary will be in touch with him on the phone, I'm sure. But there is no face-to-face meeting scheduled quite yet.
QUESTION: So has he been in touch with him on the phone since he was --
MR. BOUCHER: Not yet. I think Zinni just got in yesterday evening.
QUESTION: And when is it that you expect to either tell us or have him come up here and basically lay out everything that he is telling the President or the Secretary about what is going on?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll get back to you on that.
QUESTION: A few quick ones. Have you specifically asked the Israelis to renew ties with Arafat, or to recognize him as the leader of the Palestinian Authority? And second, has Aaron Miller returned with Zinni to the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't check on Aaron Miller. I will have to check. I assume so, but I'm not sure.
As far as what we're telling the Israelis, I would stick with what the Secretary has said. We have made clear to them we think they need to do their part, that they need to consider the repercussions of their actions. What we have said is that Israelis need to do their part to help create an environment in which Palestinians can sustain and expand their efforts. It is important for the Israelis to work to alleviate the pressures on the Palestinian people, especially restrictions that impose real hardships or make day-to-day living difficult.
So we have said that, along with saying that they need to consider the repercussions of their actions. That is about where we are right now.
QUESTION: Can you answer yes or no whether you have asked them to rescind their -- Ariel Sharon specifically to rescind his decree that he will not be dealing with Arafat directly at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't answer yes or no on that. I think the issue for us right now is to see that Chairman Arafat's constructive words are matched by decisive steps. That is where we keep the focus. And as far as the Israeli side, as I've said, it is to remind them they need to consider the repercussions of their actions, particularly some of the restrictions they impose on day-to-day life.
QUESTION: Richard, in light of the reopening of the US mission in Kabul, do you have any broader statement on the achievements to date of the campaign in Afghanistan and what remains to be done?
MR. BOUCHER: I would love to. But that is something we are working on -- broader statements on all our achievements to date. I think it is quite clear that the Taliban has no standing anymore in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida has no more safe haven in Afghanistan. They are on the run, as the President said they would be.
We have achieved enormous international solidarity in terms of taking action. You have seen arrests and law enforcement actions throughout the world. You have seen financial action throughout the world. You've seen action from organizations as widely different as NATO or the Rio treaty in South America or, as the Secretary mentioned outside, the Eastern European nations who have met and worked together and worked individually.
So I think there has been -- there is nowhere to hide for al-Qaida and the Taliban, and the overall campaign continues with a very strong momentum.
QUESTION: Do you have -- what do you have to say about the detention, albeit brief, of Sari Nusseibeh today?
MR. BOUCHER: We think that actions such as that by Israel of detaining Dr. Nusseibeh are provocative, they are counter-productive. We have expressed these concerns directly to the Prime Minister's office.
As we have said before, Israel needs to focus on the repercussions of the actions it takes, and both sides need to take decisions and actions that facilitate rather than complicate the process.
QUESTION: The Secretary implied this morning that you had gotten some kind of assurance from the Israelis that if Arafat was indeed able to follow through on his words, that they might -- they would respond. This kind of goes back to Eli's question, which I know you didn't want to answer. But can we assume from what he said, when he said "I am confident that the Israelis will respond positively" -- I think that's what he said -- can we infer from that they might be willing to make Arafat relevant again?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you will have to ask the Israelis exactly what they are prepared to do under different circumstances. We have in all our contacts with the Israelis made quite clear that we saw first and foremost the need for Chairman Arafat to take decisive steps but that, were he to do so, we would look to the Israelis to take -- to respond in a positive manner.
I have cited today the difficulty and the pain in ordinary life that are caused, for example, by the restrictions, by the closures. The Secretary has talked about some of those things as well. So what exactly the Israeli response would be, I don't think it is for me to say nor for me to say at this moment.
But we have always discussed it in that context with the Israelis and, as the Secretary said, if Mr. Arafat takes the actions that are outlined in his speech, we are quite confident the Israeli side would respond in a way that would be positive.
QUESTION: You started calling for those positive responses by the Israelis long -- you called for that long before --
MR. BOUCHER: All along, that has been our approach.
QUESTION: Well before the Israelis said, we're going to break all ties with the Palestinian Authority. So they seem to have kind of dropped the bar now. Is it your feeling that before -- that they need to recognize Arafat and the Palestinian Authority again before they take -- before they move on to other steps, or can they do other steps -- can they ease all these restrictions without recognizing?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not prepared to start specifying exactly what steps the Israelis have to take under hypothetical circumstances. The point we are at right now is where Chairman Arafat needs to follow up his speech with decisive action. We are confident, as the Secretary said, that if he were to do that, that we would get a positive response also from the Israeli side.
QUESTION: He said more than that. He also said what the US position is, and the US position hasn't changed since Louisville. Now, it is conditional on Arafat acting, and you again said they have to dismantle these terrorist groups. So the question is, if they don't do this, would it be the US's position that Israel isn't compelled to do anything? That it can just wait? And will the US just wait?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't try to make things up. Let's say exactly where we were. I have just spent 15 minutes explaining to you that we felt there were actions that the Israelis could take to create a better environment. I have just told you there were actions which we thought the Israelis should not take, because they are counter-productive. And I have made quite clear that we believe the Israelis should consider the repercussions of their actions. So that doesn't track with what you were just saying.
But let me make quite clear we do believe the moment we are at is one where Chairman Arafat needs to take decisive action. If he does that, we are confident the Israelis would respond in an appropriate manner.
QUESTION: This can get complex. The Israeli actions you are talking about are threshold actions. What the Secretary was talking about are war and peace actions: land for peace, settlement activity, establishment of a Palestinian state. That is more than just ease up on Palestinian workers. That's real stuff.
So the question is -- and he says we still want that. Now, he sort of -- I thought he was saying, that's our position. If Arafat follows up his words with action, that's where we are, and we will be there again. My question is, if Arafat doesn't follow up with his action, what do you do? Do you stop accusing Israel of strangling peace hopes with settlements? What do you do? Do you withdraw your Louisville speech if Arafat doesn't act?
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, we have not withdrawn the Louisville speech; we have not withdrawn the President's statement of his vision for the region; we have not withdrawn the Tenet work plan; we have not withdrawn the Mitchell Committee recommendations, all of which embody those broader things that we have been talking about. The Secretary spoke to you about them again just this morning, just an hour or so ago.
So it is quite clear that the United States wants to pursue this path. It is quite clear also that we see the steps necessary to be able to go down that path as an end to violence. And that means for Chairman Arafat to take the steps along the lines of what he has outlined in his speech.
This has been a very consistent view of the United States Government. It has been the vision that we have laid out since the first, earliest days of this Administration, that we needed to see an end to violence, an easing of the closures, rebuilding of the confidence, and a return to the negotiations. That has been the pattern that was laid out in further detail in the Mitchell Committee recommendations, the Tenet work plan, the President's vision, the Secretary's Louisville speech.
So it shouldn't surprise you at all that this Administration has maintained a certain consistency in its vision, and stands by that vision. The issues that we are dealing with right now, and these particular questions, happen to be what is the next little incremental move that could be made, and how that could happen.
But let there be no doubt: the goal is to get back into that overall process, where we believe ultimately the two sides have to find real security, and where the two sides have to find a better life for their people.
QUESTION: Richard, I'll drop it after this, but you described that -- when Jonathan asked his question about the Palestinian activist who was briefly detained, you described that as an action that was provocative and counter-productive by the Israelis. But you're not willing to say the same thing about them declaring Arafat irrelevant, and refusing to work with the Palestinian Authority. Is there a reason for that? Why is that not provocative and counter-productive in the same manner, basically sidelining Arafat and putting him under almost house arrest, compared to a brief detention of a lesser Palestinian official?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to be able to respond to every single thing that happens. This was something that happened today. We are trying to respond to it. But I would say we deal with the facts on the ground. We deal with events as they actually take place and try to make sure that we continue to move those forward in a positive direction. There should be no doubt about what I've said today in terms of where we see the need to move forward on Chairman Arafat's part, too.
QUESTION: But you have been absolutely silent on what they've done to Arafat. And yet you would say that you raised with the -- directly to the Israeli Prime Minister's office the idea that this detention today was provocative and counter-productive. Do you not regard their sidelining of Arafat as counter-productive and provocative?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we have given the United States' position on this.
QUESTION: No, you haven't. There is no position, as far as I can tell.
MR. BOUCHER: The United States' position has been that we recognize that Chairman Arafat was chosen by the Palestinians as their leader, that we continue to deal with both sides, we continue to work with him, we continue to look to him to take steps that befit his status as a leader and that show decisive action against terrorism.
QUESTION: You told that to the Israeli Prime Minister's office as well?
MR. BOUCHER: I've said that in public a dozen times and we've told that to the Israeli Prime Minister's office as well.
QUESTION: When you say "provocative action," are you making any judgment as to whether Israel had any basis for detaining this rather conciliatory figure, or do you just mean arresting prominent Palestinians, whatever the circumstances, is provocative?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've seen the explanations that were offered for why he may or may not have been detained. But I think it's the totality of the action and the explanation that we see as provocative and counter-productive.
QUESTION: Richard, during General Zinni's time in the region, was he able to see whether Israeli actions against Palestinian police stations and other entities of their government was facilitating rather than complicating the process, as you put it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have tried to express a judgment on that. We think that Chairman Arafat is still capable of taking actions against the terrorist groups and that is what we look for him to do.
QUESTION: My question is related. Has General Zinni made his report to the President and Secretary yet? And does he believe peace in the Middle East is now not possible?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't -- we haven't had a chance -- we haven't talked to General Zinni directly. The Secretary, as I said, looks forward to talking to him probably by telephone first and then there would be a chance to talk face to face. How his views are reported to the President, we'll have to see. I would expect first at least he will talk to the Secretary and everything that he has to say will be factored into all their discussions and the Secretary's discussions with the President as well.
As far as whether peace in the Middle East is possible? Absolutely. Absolutely, we continue to pursue the vision that we have of working with the parties to achieve a cease-fire and to achieve a return to peace discussions.
QUESTION: Do you know if he will return or is that something to be decided?
MR. BOUCHER: To be decided, depending on -- how did the Secretary frame it over the weekend? -- depending on the opportunity to work seriously on a cease-fire and to respond to events on the ground.
QUESTION: Did the US Government know of Arafat's plans to make yesterday's speech before it was decided that General Zinni should return to the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't know precisely, I'd have to check. Because -- again, you know, look at the reaction to Chairman Arafat's speech. We welcome the speech. We find the words constructive. But we are looking for action. And that is what we have been looking for all along. So, in fact, if we did or did not know precisely at the moment that General Zinni left the region, that Chairman Arafat was going to make the speech, nonetheless I would say our basic approach has been he has been looking for action, we have been looking for action by the parties. We have been looking for action particularly by Chairman Arafat. We welcome the speech. We think the words are constructive. We've seen some positive steps, but we are still looking for that kind of sustained and decisive action. And that is what will determine how we go forward in these matters.
QUESTION: Are you saying it's a prerequisite then for Chairman Arafat to take the various actions that you have outlined there in order for General Zinni to return to the region?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to put it quite that way. I want to put it exactly the way the Secretary did over the weekend, only I can't find the quote. The --
QUESTION: He said he will never go back --
MR. BOUCHER: No, he didn't say that. He didn't say that.
General Zinni will remain engaged. He will return to the region. He will return to the region when there is an opportunity to help advance the parties' efforts to secure a cease-fire and move forward towards negotiation. That's the only standard.
It basically boils down to, when there is something useful for him to do out there, he will go out and do it.
QUESTION: To follow up again on Mark's question, you would think that if Chairman Arafat had just delivered what has been viewed now as his strongest speech to date and the type of speech that the Israelis and the US have been asking him to make, that that would be such an opportunity for General Zinni to have seized upon.
MR. BOUCHER: What we are looking for is effective and sustained action. And that is what we will see as an opportunity.
QUESTION: Then that would seem as if it's a prerequisite, before General Zinni would return, in order for him to --
MR. BOUCHER: We are looking for action. But at what moment General Zinni returns in that process, I can't get any more specific than that.
QUESTION: Back to the provocative and counter-productive remark today, can you say what changed in the last 72 hours that the State Department is going back to criticizing specific Israeli actions? Is there something that changed in terms of meetings on the ground? Because before there were a number of incursions, as we pointed out. The Israelis -- Palestinian children were being killed, a lot of innocent civilians were being killed as a result of Israeli counter-strikes, and nary a peep from the podium.
So what changed in the last 72 hours that we are back to criticizing specific Israeli actions?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would take your characterization of what we have been saying as completely accurate. We, whenever asked, have made clear that our views on such things as incursions and other actions remained the same. We made clear that the deaths of innocent people are always regrettable and that we always are concerned about those and the way some of those actions are carried out.
But here we have a specific action that we see as counter-productive, and you've asked about it and I told you we do.
QUESTION: When we asked about specific actions before in this period, you would reiterate the need for Arafat to take action and then you would just simply say the Israelis would need to think about the consequences of their actions, which you are still saying. But this was a little bit stronger.
Was there something that happened in the diplomacy that led to Zinni's departure that changed the tune here at the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a particular action here and we are responding to questions about that particular action.
QUESTION: I have lost the train of the London talks on peacekeeping. But I see a report again that Turkey again is volunteering to be a prominent -- for a prominent peacekeeping role. Is there some -- I apologize if this has been announced. But there has been a lot of -- what should I say -- under consideration, under consideration, they keep coming back and saying, we want to do the job. Will Turkey mobilize the force? The Muslim force that they volunteered to do so long ago?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the events of the day are actually elsewhere, that Prime Minister Blair has spoken in front of Parliament. He has made clear that Britain would be prepared to lead such a force, that they were working with other countries and governments about participation in putting together such a force. He has said that they look forward to having some components in Afghanistan at the time of the entry into office of the interim administration. But the exact scope, the timing, the participation of such a force is still being discussed, as is the United Nations resolution that would authorize or mandate such a force.
So those matters are in the hands of the British at this point. They are trying to coordinate the arrangements for this, and I think we will leave any further announcements to them.
QUESTION: Richard, same subject. Has the State Department discussed with the Turkish Government the possibility of American financing for their contingent in the peace force?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Richard, can we move slightly into other areas of British interest? That would be your two stalwart allies in the anti-terror war in South Asia are at each other's throats again, and --
MR. BOUCHER: Two of our many stalwart allies.
MR. BOUCHER: Which ones?
QUESTION: Well, I'm sorry, the South Asian bit -- Bangladesh and Nepal, and there -- and the Maltese and Sri Lanka, too.
MR. BOUCHER: Do you want to ask about the bombing of the --
QUESTION: I'm asking about India and Pakistan, and the fact that they seem really ready to go to war this time, at least on the Indian side. What is -- I realize the Secretary had a few words to say about this yesterday on television, but the situation has moved on from there a little bit. What is the latest?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to deal with the situation, as opposed to the commentary.
QUESTION: There's no commentary.
MR. BOUCHER: I heard some. The situation, as we see it today, is that the Indian authorities are continuing their investigation. I realize there have been some comments by the Indian authorities about these attacks. But formally we understand they are continuing their investigation into these brutal attacks on the Indian Parliament. So you would have to get further details from them about that investigation.
Last Thursday, as you know, Secretary Powell spoke with the Indian Minister of External Affairs. The Secretary at that point encouraged the Indian Government to do everything in its power to find out who the perpetrators are, and then be ready to take appropriate action.
We are cooperating with the Indians. We continue to assist India as it deals with the problem of terrorism. Our global campaign against terrorism opposes terrorism everywhere, and we would urge all who support that effort to assist India as it deals with the problem.
We are close partners with India in the war on terrorism. The Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Francis Taylor, will travel to India soon for meetings under the joint US-India Counterterrorism Working Group. And at that point we will discuss further ways to enhance our cooperation and coordination against terrorism.
QUESTION: India told yesterday Ambassador Blackwill that India's patience is running thin and unless the US tells Pakistan to close down all the terrorist camps, because two groups which they changed their name yesterday. The groups used to be Jaysh-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Now, yesterday, they changed their names only when they learned that the US is getting tougher on them.
My question is that when India is saying their patience is running thin and close down these terrorist camps because they are the same terrorists and they attacked India's parliament in the same manner what the group did in New York and Washington. Now, they have camps in Pakistan. They have connections with Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
Now, what I am asking you is if US is asking or have already asked the Pakistan General Musharraf to shut down these training camps in Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, we're quite aware of the activities of these two groups. We have talked about Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaysh-e-Mohammed as organizations that have participated in terrorist activities. We are continuing to examine them and to look into these two organizations as well as other groups. They are not, at this point, formally labeled as foreign terrorist organizations. But we made quite clear our view that they have participated in terrorist activities.
We have conveyed our concerns about the situation to the government of Pakistan at the highest levels. We have talked to them about the activities of militant groups, several of which are based in Pakistan. We made clear that we believe that all countries are responsible for addressing terrorist activities within their borders, and we will continue our discussions with Pakistan in that context as well.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, in my admittedly long-winded question, I was trying to get at the fact that there was tension between these two nuclear rivals again, a fact that you totally ignored in your response to mine. So I have to ask, what is the United States telling both India and Pakistan with regard to maybe keeping this situation below a boiling point -- if anything? Maybe you're not.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't realize that was the question before. I apologize. I thought that was the commentary.
Let me -- I think I have made clear, though, that we are in close touch with India, we are in close touch with Pakistan. We are looking to India to finish its investigation. We will keep working with them in the fight against terrorism. We recognize the horrible nature of this act and the terrible losses that they have suffered from terrorism. In our contacts with Pakistan, we have also made clear that we think they need to address terrorist activities within their borders, especially the activities of militant groups. So we are trying to work with each of these governments to help end terrorism. That is the issue for both of them, and that's what we continue to pursue.
As far as tensions between them, obviously we are looking, as the Secretary said over the weekend, to work with them on the broader campaign against terrorism. That is the goal, to do that. And we would hope that nothing would occur that would make it more difficult to pursue that campaign.
QUESTION: Can I just -- it sounds as if -- and tell me if I'm right -- that you are encouraging the Indians not to go out and do anything precipitous until -- at least to get their investigation complete, get all the I's dotted and T's crossed before they take any kind of -- any step that might be provocative.
MR. BOUCHER: We would certainly look to them to finish their investigation and then consider what action might be appropriate. But with India, we truly see it as a matter of working with them in the fight against terrorism and, frankly, we see it with Pakistan as well. And Pakistan needs to be concerned about the activities of militant groups within its borders and needs to take appropriate action on its part.
QUESTION: Richard, just as you held Yasser Arafat responsible for closing down Hamas and PIJ in the Territories, are you also holding General Musharraf responsible for closing down these terrorist camps? And do you think that it is his responsibility to do so?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think the Secretary made clear over the weekend, you can't apply one scenario to another just simply back and forth. But we have, I think, made quite clear today as we have in our talks with the Government of Pakistan our concerns about the activities of these militant groups and the need for the government to take action against terrorism within its own borders.
QUESTION: Why can't you apply the same standard?
MR. BOUCHER: Because things are different, places are different.
QUESTION: How is it different in Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we can spend every day here comparing and contrasting in seven different ways every situation in the world. I just think it is fairly obvious that situations can be different from place to place.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) You said things are different. Why different? I mean, the question is, like Arafat --
MR. BOUCHER: That's what she just asked me. And I will stand by the answer I just gave her.
QUESTION: No, but let me ask you one more thing. Like Arafat, General Musharraf, he has a revolving door in Pakistan for terrorists. They enter from the front and then he lets them out from the back door. Now, and the question is, why India cannot attack Pakistan's occupied Kashmiri terrorist camps when Israel can attack and US gave green light for Israel to attack the Palestinian --
MR. BOUCHER: All right, can we stop there? If you put too many wrong things in your question, there is no way I can give you any answer.
We have not given any green light to Israeli action. We have not been asked to do so, we have not done so. So the whole premise of your question is wrong.
As far as whether there are differences in two different situations, I will leave you to the answer I gave before and any study you might want to make of history and regional affairs.
QUESTION: But Richard, (inaudible) Washington. And they want to destroy the US success and they want to destroy India's democracy.
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let's -- we've made quite clear our views on the attack against India. We have made quite clear our desire to work with India on the fight against terrorism. We have made quite clear that we think all countries have responsibilities --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) they want to succeed against terrorism.
MR. BOUCHER: We are fighting terrorism. We will continue to do so. I am going to stop right there and hope you will as well.
QUESTION: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has still not scheduled a confirmation hearing for Otto Reich. Do you have any observations on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary had some observations over the weekend, and I would refer you first and foremost to his remarks. We have made clear, as the Secretary made clear over the weekend, that we think the Senate should promptly schedule a nomination hearing. Ambassador Reich has had a distinguished career in the public and private sector. He enjoys the unqualified support of President Bush and Secretary Powell.
During his previous tenure as a US Government official, and in particular as ambassador to Venezuela, Ambassador Reich demonstrated the character, the skills, the commitment needed to lead our diplomatic efforts in the Western Hemisphere. The delay in his nomination process has gone on far too long. We think a confirmation hearing will bear out the confidence in his abilities that has been expressed by the President in making this nomination.
We think it is unfortunate that a nomination of this importance can be delayed. The Secretary has repeatedly voiced his concern about the delay and repeatedly voiced his confidence in Ambassador Reich and his desire for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold a hearing.
QUESTION: Has he talked to Senator Dodd about this?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check and see when the last time is that they've spoken. But I think he has made clear to the committee our desire to see a hearing in this matter.
QUESTION: Is there any possibility of a recess appointment?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that was asked of the Secretary over the weekend, and he kind of declined to give an answer, so I don't have one for you now. He said this is always an option but, at the moment, we have not made a decision on that. That remains the case today.
QUESTION: Same hemisphere --
MR. BOUCHER: Same hemisphere? That's pretty big.
QUESTION: Same planet? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Same planet? We'll go to you. Let's let the gentleman ask his question, since he started
QUESTION: Last weekend, at the European Summit in Brussels, Greece didn't accept US and British European Security and Defense Concept, which is also known as the European army with the mediation of the NATO. Do you have any reaction on this subject?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new to say on this subject. As you know, we have supported the discussions that have been held with non-EU NATO members, including Turkey. When the Secretary was in Turkey, it looked like a formula had been worked out. So it is now with the European Union, and we look forward to hearing from them on that issue.
QUESTION: I would like to ask you about recent developments in Haiti, in which some armed gunmen went into the national palace --
MR. BOUCHER: We just did that about 15 minutes ago.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm so sorry. I missed it.
MR. BOUCHER: Was it longer than that? I don't know where I was 15 minutes ago.
QUESTION: It was probably half an hour ago.
MR. BOUCHER: A half hour? Yes.
QUESTION: You don't want to -- you don't care to put on the record your comment earlier to certain reports in certain magazines about your possible career plans?
MR. BOUCHER: No. It was news to me that there was something about it in a magazine. It was also news to the Secretary of State, since I guess whoever wrote it hadn't bothered to call either one of us on the subject. But, no, it's total -- total blind speculation -- B.S. (Laughter).
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary had a fairly cryptic comment yesterday about Ambassador Crocker's recent visit to northern Iraq. And his comments seemed to suggest that --
MR. BOUCHER: Wake up, everybody. Cryptic comment to be explained.
QUESTION: -- that Crocker was there to advance the goal of regime change. Is that true? And did the visit advance that goal?
MR. BOUCHER: I would go back to what we have talked about. We have talked quite a bit about the visit that Ambassador Crocker had to northern Iraq. It was about a week ago. We talked about it several times while he was there.
The point that I think the Secretary has made, that we have all made, is that regime change is a policy of ours, that we keep in touch with the Iraqi opposition, that we keep in touch with the Kurds in the north who have been resisting the iron hand of Saddam Hussein, and that we will continue to do that as we move forward. I think I would explain it in that context of keeping in touch with people who matter and who have resisted the imposition of control from Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: When we asked about this last week, we were told that the main reason he was going over there was to mediate in political negotiations between the KDP --
MR. BOUCHER: We said that was one of the things he was doing. I don't think we said the main reason.
QUESTION: Right. And we were asking about the opposition stuff and we were sort of told it wasn't really going to be a big deal. And then on I think it was "Meet the Press," the Secretary was asked about regime change and brought this up independently. So, I mean, was there some change of plans while Mr. Crocker was over there?
MR. BOUCHER: I think -- go back and look at the transcript, but I think the Secretary was asked specifically about, you know, what are you doing with the north, with the folks in the north. But obviously, the fact that we keep in touch with the opposition and with the Kurds is not news. That is the context for Ambassador Crocker's visit, as well as to try to help them out with some difficulties they might be having with each other. But the reason we visit the north, the reason we keep in touch with those people, the reason we support those people is because they constitute a group that has resisted the imposition of the will of Baghdad.
QUESTION: With the likelihood of Taliban and al-Qaida leadership having fled Afghanistan, is there any need for a presidential directive to be fine-tuned at all to go after them?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you would have to ask the White House about presidential directives. But at this point, it would just be speculation.
QUESTION: The US Government invited the Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit in January 15 and 16 in Washington, D.C. Is that the main reason -- is the Iraqi subject, on this visit, the main purpose?
MR. BOUCHER: As we found during the Secretary's visit to Ankara, there are dozens and dozens of topics that we talk about that we need to take up with our Turkish ally. I would expect Afghanistan to remain a very prominent and important issue on our agenda with Turkey. The Middle East has also been something that we have been working on that the Turkish Government and, if I'm not mistaken, Prime Minister Ecevit has been personally responsible and involved with that. So there are many, many subjects to take up with Turkey, in addition to regional affairs. There are broader NATO issues and things. So that is the context of having a visit.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:45 p.m. EST.)
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