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MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the conversations that have been going on in Brussels and in Islamabad and elsewhere around the world between your diplomats and foreign leaders, as it relates to whatever kind of evidence you're providing them?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me, I think, start with the general, and then we'll go to the more specific places.
First of all, as the President and the Secretary and others have told you, we are building a very strong case against al-Qaida. This is a process of amassing information. There is a great body of evidence that indicates clearly to us and to others that al-Qaida was responsible. We've noted the statements by Prime Minister Blair; we've noted the statement by the NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, and others as well, who have seen this information, who have developed their own information. Let's not forget, there are investigations going on around the world. And I think people in this Government and elsewhere have an increasing body of evidence that indicates quite clearly that al-Qaida was responsible.
We have said all along we will be sharing that information with foreign governments as we can. And so we have instructed our ambassadors to likeminded nations to brief their host governments on the kind of information, on what we have and on what we're learning, about the al-Qaida network and about this operation.
As part of those discussions, our Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Frank Taylor, is in Brussels. He has briefed the North Atlantic Council and the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. He will also be having other meetings in NATO in Brussels with other partners of NATO and with, I think, members of the European Union as well.
I want to stress a couple of things about this. This is a back-and-forth process of sharing information with other governments. As I said, there are many other governments that themselves are developing information. This will be an ongoing process of sharing information.
Second of all, that the fact that we're sharing this information with other governments at this point does not indicate any particular decisions about our response options. It's not a prelude to something else, other than the continuing process of sharing information.
The global coalition, as you know, is multifaceted. There are many aspects to this: the diplomacy of it, the financial controls that we put in place, the legal cooperation that we have with many governments, the intelligence-sharing that we have with many governments, as well as possible military steps. And this kind of diplomatic coordination with other governments is very normal.
One of the places where we have shared information is in Pakistan, and our ambassador, Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, has been in to see President Musharraf today, and she shared with him some of the information that we have been developing. Again, this is going to be an ongoing process of sharing information and discussion with the Government of Pakistan, and we are continuing our consultations with Pakistan on how best to wage the Campaign Against Terrorism, and how we can move forward together.
I'll stop with that.
QUESTION: Well, where else? Can you say what the other like-minded countries are that have so far been the recipients of this information?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you the list of countries because this information is being shared on a classified basis and I am afraid I am not in a position to indicate where we are able to do that and where we are not. I would say that, generally, there are quite a number of nations in Europe. Obviously, we talked to all of our NATO allies at NATO. There are countries in the Far East, there are countries in the Middle East, there are countries in South Asia where we have been talking to people and sharing the information that we can and to any extent we can. Central Asia as well.
So to the extent we can with all governments, we share information and go back and forth with them in various channels on the information that we know and that we have.
QUESTION: Without saying any country, were these packets or whatever they are -- cables, information to be shared -- sent to every embassy? Or were there embassies that were not --
MR. BOUCHER: No, they were not sent to every embassy.
QUESTION: Can you characterize roughly what you are telling? Is it information that leads directly to Usama bin Laden? Is it intelligence information? Is it evidence that will stand up in a court of law? Can you in any way lead us any more --
MR. BOUCHER: I have tended to use the word "information" because we are not in a court of law. And it is being shared on a classified basis and, obviously, most of the time, when you go into a court of law, you have to have it available for the jury and for the defense, et cetera. So this is not, we are not, proceeding to trial. What we are doing is sharing information with like-minded governments, telling them what we know, hearing from them what they know. And it is a considerable body of information that comes from a whole variety of sources.
Clearly, when one looks at the pattern of activity of al-Qaida in past attacks, and the kind of attack that this was, there is a similarity. There are also elements that tie al-Qaida to this specific act, and those are the kinds of things that we are sharing and discussing with other governments.
QUESTION: There is one other thing, and I know they're not exactly friends, but the Taliban were also saying this morning -- their representative was saying -- look, why don't you give us information because you are asking us to extradite this person. What is your response to that?
MR. BOUCHER: My response, first of all, is that strikes me as a request for delay and prevarication rather than any serious request. And second of all, they're already overdue. They are already required by the United Nations resolutions that relate to the bombings in East Africa to turn over al-Qaida, to turn over their leadership, and to shut down the network of operations in their country. There should be no further delay. There is no cause to ask for anything else. They are already under this international obligation, and they have to meet it.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary said maybe 10 days ago that some information will be shared with the public. Any closer to that?
MR. BOUCHER: Not today. What we have been able to share so far has been information that we have been able to share with foreign governments. I don't have anything that I can give you at this point. But as the Secretary has said, we look forward to doing that when we can.
QUESTION: Richard, I wanted to make sure I'm clear on this. So the information that you all are providing to people is information that relates not only to the World Trade Center and Pentagon incidents, but also to embassy bombing and other past incidents to show past practice and linkages?
MR. BOUCHER: I know that you would like to be quite clear on this, but I'm afraid I'm not in a position to go through the information in any more detail than I have.
QUESTION: Richard, just on another detail. If you were able to share the information with us, would it be a notebook full, would it be a page? I mean, is there a way to quantify the evidence you're sharing with others?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it would be a --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) breadbox?
MR. BOUCHER: (Laughter.) Yes, I'm trying to figure what the metaphor is. It would be a significant amount of information, but obviously it's only a portion of all the information that we and others have been able to amass, because a lot of the things we know we're not able to share.
QUESTION: Richard, given the importance of building support in the Muslim world and the Muslim allies, why aren't you providing enough information so that they can sort of have cover from their own people, where all of them are being inundated with sort of pro-bin Laden views? Why aren't you opening the books enough to show them what you've got?
MR. BOUCHER: Who says we're not?
QUESTION: Richard, when you just responded to the question about the Taliban asking for information, you said, "It strikes me as a request for delay and prevarication." What exactly do you think the Taliban is lying about?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry?
MR. BOUCHER: I think they know enough to know that they have this obligation. I don't think they can avoid it anymore. Maybe you're questioning my choice of the word "prevarication." I'll go look it up afterwards.
QUESTION: I just want to know why you --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll go look it up, Matt. Sorry if I used the wrong word.
QUESTION: No, no. I just -- I thought maybe you meant something by it.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm happy to have my grammar corrected. I'll check it myself.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the report that Secretary Powell was going to give a speech recognizing the Palestinian state and laying out some other US ideas at the UN. Is that, indeed, a correct account, and can you give us some idea whether that speech might still be delivered in the near future?
MR. BOUCHER: There was no speech scheduled, as you know. At the same time, I would say that we are always considering options at how best to end the violence between Israelis and Palestinians. No decisions like this were made before September 11th on how best to proceed. But I'd point out, at the same time, that we've been working very long and very hard on trying to move this process forward, trying to create a momentum, trying to get the parties to end the violence and get into the Mitchell Plan, and eventually that leads to negotiations.
So we were looking at how to get that process moving, and we still are.
QUESTION: So the story was incorrect, then?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to comment on specific details of a particular story.
QUESTION: You said no speech was planned and the story said explicitly a speech was planned.
MR. BOUCHER: I am not a commentator on press here. I am not going to tell you -- if I start going through a story and saying, this piece was wrong and that piece was right, then obviously I get myself into being a press commentator instead of a spokesman for the US Government. So I am not about to do that.
QUESTION: Well, you said there was no speech scheduled. That's a little different from saying, no speech planned.
MR. BOUCHER: Are we going to argue over the words "planned" and "scheduled"? I tell you that we are always looking at various ways of how to proceed. We have always been pushing hard on the substance of the policy and we continue to do that.
QUESTION: What has been the US position vis-à-vis a Palestinian state?
MR. BOUCHER: As the President said this morning, the idea of a Palestinian state has always been part of a vision, so long as Israel's right to exist is respected as well. As the President also said this morning, first things first. We've got to get into the Mitchell Plan, we've got to get into the process of ending the violence, rebuilding confidence and returning to negotiations based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338.
So our objective now needs to be to end the violence between the Israelis and Palestinians. The administration has been engaged since it came into office in an effort to do that. The recent cease-fire that was announced by Chairman Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres is a step in that direction. We support it and we will continue to support their effort. So our focus right now remains on taking all possible steps to end the violence.
I would note, though, that the parties themselves have identified the creation of a Palestinian state as the likely outcome of the negotiating process. And Prime Minister Sharon, as recently as September 24th said, "Israel wants to give the Palestinians what no one else has given them, the possibility of establishing a state."
So in the context of a negotiated settlement between the parties, the United States believes that the Palestinian people should live peacefully and securely in their own state, just as the Israelis should live peacefully and safely in their own state. Obviously, the nature of that state is something to be decided through negotiations.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say whether the people who deal with the Middle East issues have discussed with the parties the possibility of a Palestinian state during this administration?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that the parties themselves have discussed it-- you have seen the remarks by Prime Minister Sharon -- so it has obviously been something in the air. I don't know if I can go any farther than that, in saying this is obviously a subject that is part of the discussions. It is one of the issues that we have always defined as a final status issue and therefore has always been envisaged to be dealt with at that point in the process. And this is a process that leads back, we hope, through an end to violence and a rebuilding of confidence, a process that leads back to the resumption of negotiations, as the Secretary and others have pointed out, where they will deal with these issues.
QUESTION: If you could just refresh our memory though, hasn't Secretary of State Powell mentioned -- used the phrase "Palestinian state" in public discourse before? I believe he has.
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't have a chance to do the word search on the Internet, but -- I don't know.
QUESTION: Any plans for a new envoy?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing. Nothing that we have to announce at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, long before the story came out this morning, and as recently as the four days before the 11th, on the 7th, there were people in this building, senior officials and then I think Secretary Powell himself, talking about how you wanted the UN General Assembly session to be a kind of -- I don't want to use the word "target" -- that that as a focal point.
MR. BOUCHER: It was a moment in time that we were looking at that could either be trouble or be positive. And the Secretary himself had talked about how to build some momentum by that time.
QUESTION: Is there now something coming up in the future that would be equivalent of that? Or is it just every single day is that moment in time?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the UN General Assembly will be scheduled as well. The point was, looking at it in August, as we were looking at it, looking forward to the UN General Assembly, it was quite clear that could either be a moment of great complication and noise, or it could be a moment where the world realized that there was something positive going on in the Middle East. And we wanted to make sure it was a moment when there was something positive going on.
And so, during that time, we worked very hard on focusing people's minds again on stopping the violence, helping them prepare for these meetings between Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat. I think the Secretary at one point talked about the possibility that there would be a series of meetings leading up to the United Nations. So the focus has been, at that time, before September 11th, on moving that process forward to create the momentum before the UN General Assembly meeting.
Now, clearly, September 11th changed a lot of things in terms of time tables and specifics. But we have worked just as hard on the Middle East. We have worked just as hard to try to make these meetings productive. And that is why we are pleased that Chairman Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres had their meeting, that it was a meeting that resulted in a lessening of violence and a cease-fire. Not completely, and there is still work to be done. And that it was a meeting that produced some specifics for both sides to move forward with.
And so we will continue to work with them in that process, perhaps without the same sense of deadline but with a sense now that they have begun something that absolutely needs to be continued. And every day, the importance of that is -- we are reminded of the importance of that.
QUESTION: But the short answer to my question then was, no, right? That there isn't --
MR. BOUCHER: There is going to be a UN meeting coming up.
MR. BOUCHER: But we are moving beyond the point of saying we've got to be somewhere by then, to say there's something getting started now, it's good, let's make sure it continues. We don't want to lose this opportunity that we have now, and we don't want the parties to lose the opportunity that they themselves have created.
QUESTION: Has Mr. Burns or someone from his department, are they going to the region soon?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't have anything new to say on that at this point. They do go from time to time, but I don't have anything new to say today.
QUESTION: He's here, then?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, he's upstairs. Or maybe in the cafeteria. I don't know.
QUESTION: Is there a danger that with this out-and-out terrorism by bin Laden and al-Qaida, that they're doing this purposely? And also there's been trouble, as we've mentioned, within the last day or two in Colombia and elsewhere that this is -- to try and focus specifically on one location and maybe not another? And what -- throughout the world, in talking to various governments and various entities, what in the word "no" don't people understand? How are you conveying --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I follow the line of questioning here. What is "this" that's going on that you're concerned about?
QUESTION: Okay. How are you getting into some of the problematic areas with various entities that what a terrorist is, as you mentioned a day ago, and to make clearly known what you expect in those particular entities and/or governments? I'm saying this in a general manner, not specifically.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I know. I don't know how to quite answer the question. We've been in to talk to governments around the world about the need to combat terrorism, about the things we can do to prevent terrorism, the things we can do to stop the financing, to stop the transits, to stop the training, to stop the ability of these groups to operate. Those apply throughout the world. Those apply in the United Nations resolution to all terrorist groups, to all activities of terrorists.
QUESTION: But, as a group -- okay, and to go further, if these groups don't adhere to particular governments, and let's say are fighting them, is there any broad consensus, for instance, in a worldwide meeting on terrorism, or whatever, that would work --
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, there's no consensus to do that sort of thing, but there is, I think, a strong commitment of the international community to fight terrorism and for governments to help each other in that regard.
These groups don't operate in a vacuum. They operate in places where there's lawlessness, they operate in places where there is tolerance. And we need to remove that sort of opportunity for these groups to operate.
QUESTION: Is there anything you can say about Mr. Powell's meeting with Jaswant Singh, and what we expect?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, in a very short time, I expect the Secretary himself will say, not only what he expects, but what he did with the Indian Foreign Minister. The Indian Foreign Minister is in town today meeting with Secretary Powell, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld. Yesterday, at the White House, he met with the President, with Dr. Rice. He is also Defense Minister, so we're talking to him about not only the coalition against terrorism, but also issues involving defense cooperation.
India is obviously a key partner in the global coalition against terrorism, and the United States' relationship with India is one of the most important ones we have. The US and India already cooperate extensively against terrorism, and our cooperation is growing. We established a counter-terrorism joint working group in January of the year 2000, for example.
New Delhi was also one of the first to offer full support for the global coalition against terrorism. They have experienced terrible acts of terrorism themselves, including yesterday's bombing in Srinagar, Kashmir. They've lost close to 250 people in the attack on the World Trade Center.
So I think we are very much in this together with the Indians, and I just saw the Indian Foreign Minister on TV. And he expressed the same sentiment, that they are very much together with us.
QUESTION: Following yesterday's attack in Kashmir, the Prime Minister sent a letter -- of India -- sent a letter to President Bush, blaming Pakistan for this, saying India is no longer going to be patient with Pakistan. And today, a lot of Pakistani officials are saying that one of the things that India is trying to do is to lump Pakistan together with the Taliban, Afghanistan, and Usama bin Laden.
Now, obviously, with Pakistan, as you said, a key component of the US coalition against terrorism, do you share that view?
MR. BOUCHER: That Pakistan is a key component of --
QUESTION: No, no. That India's assertion that --
MR. BOUCHER: I think that the US Government view has been stated many times, and I'll state it again, that our cooperation with Pakistan in this matter is very, very important to us. We have worked all along with Pakistan on issues in the area and we have always encouraged all the countries in the region to use their influence to reduce the violence in Kashmir. It has been very important to us to try to see that situation solved peacefully, and we have been very close to the parties in that regard. As far as any other views that the Indian Government has, I guess I would leave it to them to explain.
QUESTION: Richard, can you explain or just talk about the public announcement that you put out for Italy this morning? And, in particular, explain what you mean by a symbol of American capitalism. And if, by using those words, are you trying to imply that this is from some kind of a left-wing -- that the threat emanates from left-wing anti-capitalists or anti-globalization people?
MR. BOUCHER: The short answer is, no, since you want to get the short answer to your questions. I am not in a position to explain that phrase any more. That reflects the nature of the information that we have, that so-called symbols of American capitalism in Italy may be targeted for attack in the next month. Our Embassy has released a warden message to the American community. And we would provide information should it become available and able to reflect it. But this is about as close as we can come to describing the threat. And I don't think we have any more information on what that means.
QUESTION: I mean, I am sure there are a lot of Americans who are in Italy right now wondering if they can -- does that mean it's not safe for them to go to an American restaurant or an American store? Is that what you are trying to say?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we are able to go into any more detail on what kind of information this is. This is the best reflection we can give people of where the threats might be. And, obviously, people should be careful wherever they go, and that's what the travel advisory says, that people should exercise a high level of vigilance and increase their security awareness.
QUESTION: So this isn't some kind of a "buy Italian" campaign?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: The Sudanese released a number of political prisoners today, and they have taken other steps that have been helpful. Have US-Sudanese relations changed in the last couple of weeks in any noticeable way?
MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't aware of any prisoner releases. I will have to double-check on that. There have been some in the past. We have always said that there were quite a few more who should be released. So I don't know how many or who these people might have been.
Certainly, we have tried to work with Sudan over the past year on many of the issues that are of concern to us there. We have seen some concrete progress in our dialogue on terrorism. We have seen on-again/off-again ends to the bombing of aid convoys. So we have tried to work on the many issues of concern.
As you know, the President has appointed Senator Danforth to guide this overall process for us and to see if we can't help for the search for peace there. So we welcome the cooperation where we have had it, but we still do have a number of concerns in some areas.
QUESTION: As you know, last year, Sudan was listed as a particular country of concern in the United States report on religious freedom out of this building. And human rights groups would say that, again, the United States is ready to perhaps criticize Sudan in its upcoming report, which is not -- which was scheduled to be released last week, which is not -- can you --
MR. BOUCHER: It hasn't been scheduled for release at this point and it's not ready -- not quite ready for release yet. But it should be soon.
QUESTION: Well, are you holding the report in order to not offend countries that might or might not be criticized in the report, so as not to offend any countries that you need for the coalition?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not yet scheduled the precise release date of that report so that people at senior levels who have lots of other things to do right now get a chance to review it before we put it out.
QUESTION: This is kind of a philosophical question coming up the back of Sudan. But I wondered the extent to which the events in the last few weeks have produced a kind of seismic change in relations with countries like Sudan, but other countries -- has this changed the whole American perception of the world?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to go seismic here, or philosophical. I would go back to what the President said, which is that nations who continue to harbor terrorism will find themselves viewed as hostile. The corollary to that is that nations have a chance to make a decision. They have to make a choice for change. And if governments are willing to cooperate against terrorism, if governments are willing to cooperate to solve the problems that we have in these areas, then we welcome that cooperation, and that can result in a change in the level of our ability to cooperate with them.
So it's really based on the facts. Where countries are cooperating in the fight against terrorism, that obviously leads to a different relationship. If they are not, then it's not going to lead anywhere.
QUESTION: Just returning to the Middle East for a second, do you think it's possible that by reminding the Muslim world that the United States has at some point voiced support for a Palestinian state under some circumstances, that it might defuse some of the anti-Americanism in the Muslim world now?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the importance of this process of search for peace in the Middle East, the importance of ending the violence so that people don't get hurt and die, the importance of moving back to a more stable situation where the parties can negotiate their differences, that's an overriding importance; that's a virtue within itself. And so those are things that we have been pursuing.
We obviously know that many people in this region are concerned about the situation with regard to peace, and that affects the atmosphere and some of the attitudes. But as I think I have explained to you today, we were involved in this search before September 11th, and we will continue to be involved afterwards. Because it's important to pursue it for US policy and for the sake of the region.
QUESTION: The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, this morning in his rather incoherent press conference in Islamabad, appeared to have said that -- or he did say that -- the Taliban had actually been the first government, or Afghanistan had been the first country in the world to condemn the attacks and to offer its condolences.
I'm just wondering, in your list of 197 whatevers, do you register -- maybe this is a protocol question -- but do you accept --
MR. BOUCHER: The 198 countries and entities? I don't have the whole list with me today.
QUESTION: Well, are they in there?
MR. BOUCHER: I tend to doubt it. We accept sincere expressions of condolence.
QUESTION: So if in fact they had, it was insincere?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember exactly what they said and how they said it, but I don't think it changes the fundamental situation, which is that they are under an international obligation that they have not carried out.
QUESTION: A State Department plane heading from the Caribbean to South Florida is missing. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Let me give you the facts on this, as much as I can. We probably have more, if you need them.
There's a State Department-owned single-engine aircraft that took off from Turks and Caicos Islands at approximately 8:15 Eastern Time on October 1st. It was en route to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida for scheduled maintenance, and an American contractor piloted the plane, no passengers.
At about 9:15, Miami air traffic control received a position report. They got another one at 9:45. They tried -- the next position report was due at 9:45. They tried to contact the pilot at 9:23 a.m., but they were unable to make radio contact. By early afternoon, a search and rescue operation began with planes from US Coast Guard Miami and US Air Force at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. Search and rescue operations continued through the night and into this morning. The State Department's airplanes, the air wing at Patrick Air Force Base, also joined the search this morning.
It is our understanding that the weather was bad and that weather conditions have improved from last night.
QUESTION: Where was the plane originally located?
MR. BOUCHER: It was coming up from Colombia, being ferried up, making regular stops along the way, and the pilot, I think, normally spends a night in several places as he brings the airplane back up to Florida.
QUESTION: Just for the record, what was it doing in Colombia?
MR. BOUCHER: It was part of the anti-drug operations that we have down there.
QUESTION: So it was spraying cocaine?
MR. BOUCHER: It was an aerial spray program airplane. Its spray boom and spray pump were pulled before the plane departed Colombia, and the spray tanks are filled with fuel for up to 12 hours of flying time.
QUESTION: Richard, you said it was a State Department-owned plane?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: How many planes does the State Department own?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the number. We have an air force that we operate out of --
QUESTION: The State Department has its own air force?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we have an air wing.
QUESTION: Does the Pentagon know?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, they do. (Laughter.)
These airplanes that are used in counter-drug activities in Latin America belong to the State Department.
QUESTION: "The Fighting Diplomats"? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I offered to fly, but they wouldn't let me.
QUESTION: Was it coming up for maintenance?
MR. BOUCHER: It was coming up for -- I think that's right -- yes, scheduled maintenance.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the Mideast briefly? There were -- in the days after the 11th, there was a brief period there where there were some positive signs in the region, there were a couple of short pauses in the fighting and some expressions of desire to have talks, et cetera. That all seems to have now kind of turned back to the violent normal.
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say that. I think the meetings that have been held, the security discussions that have been held have resulted in a lessening of the violence, and we obviously are working very hard to try to see that continue. The parties have to take further steps. We've made that clear.
QUESTION: My question is, were those signs that were progress, however modest, linked to the knowledge among leaders in the region of potential impending administration initiatives, or were they linked to, you know, the reaction to the violence, or none of the above?
MR. BOUCHER: The potential, pending, contemplated, thought-of, perhaps, maybe- might-have-done-something, could-have-done-this, could-have-done-that kind of things, I'm not going to get into what those might have been. If we say there were no plans and nothing was scheduled, then you can assume that we had not talked about it with the parties at that point.
What those relate to, I would say, is the fact that we were working hard and have been working hard on the peace process, on trying to get the meetings together, trying to get the concrete steps on the ground, trying to get the parties to do what they have to do to end the violence.
And, immediately, if you look at the abundance of phone calls that I have talked to you about, you will see that the day after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Secretary was again on the phone with the parties in the Middle East. Our representatives in the region were talking to the parties to continue the search for peace. And that is an effort that has been under way, and has led in recent times to some progress that we were working very hard to try to sustain.
QUESTION: I have a political question. Was there -- would it be fair to characterize there being somewhat of a full court press going on in the Administration behind the scenes in order to bring about some modest improvement that would then set the stage for whatever maybe, kind of, sort of announcements might have been contemplated?
MR. BOUCHER: If you go back to what we said before, before September 11th, we were working very hard to try to create a certain momentum in the process, to try to make the violence and help the parties make the violence end and get back to this path of negotiation and confidence-building measures, confidence building and then negotiation. That was an effort that was under way, and after the attacks on September 11th, obviously some of the specifics changed in terms of scheduling and dates and the UN session and things like that. But we maintained the sense of involvement that we had and continue to work very hard both through the Secretary's calls, our representatives in the Middle East, the activities of the President, et cetera. So we had been working hard on this, continue to work hard on it, and will continue to work hard on it.
QUESTION: And one more follow-up. I realize you've basically been asked this, but I want to take another crack at it. Obviously, you see the peace process as important in its own right; you said that. Does the Administration see any link between the peace process and the whole terrorism crisis?
MR. BOUCHER: As I have said before, we know that people in the region who are working with us, who care about terrorism, who themselves have been subject to terrorism and are working very hard with us on that, we know that they also care about the status of efforts in the Middle East. They have welcomed the fact that the US has been involved and engaged. They welcome the steps that we have tried to take with the parties. And that does affect the atmosphere, the attitudes involved. But I think, as we have said, the fight against terrorism is very important for all of us, for its own reasons. And the search for peace in the Middle East is also important.
QUESTION: Any indication that the Palestinians are arresting people on a list of about 100 names the Israelis have given them?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I have anything on that, specifically. I think I am not able to report to you on specifics. You would have to check in the region for those. But I would just say that we have made very clear all along that the Palestinian Authority needs to take sustained and effective steps to preempt the violence and indeed to arrest those who are responsible for planning or conducting acts of violence and terror. We think that is an obligation they have and we have talked about that frequently.
QUESTION: What about the Israelis? Have you been pressuring the Israelis, stepped up your pressure, to ease up on some of the closures on the Palestinians and return to a normal life? Would you say that that pressure has increased a little bit in the last few weeks?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have continued to work very hard with the parties. I have been quite explicit this day and previous days that we think that there are certain things we would look to the Israelis to do, there are certain things we would look to the Palestinians to do, particularly when it comes to sustained and effective steps to stop the violence.
We have been in close touch with the parties on those. We have looked for them to -- we tried to help them work out how those steps could take place, so that we can get into an end to the violence, the Mitchell Plan and return to talks.
QUESTION: There is a widespread view in much of the Arab and Muslim world that the United States supports Israel and that therefore is somehow responsible for the sufferings of Palestinian people in this conflict. What can you say to the people of the Muslim world and the Arab world to convince them that this is not a correct attitude?
MR. BOUCHER: I would point out the facts, as we always have. Obviously the United States supports Israel. Israel is an ally, it is a fellow democracy, it is a government with whom we work and cooperate in many ways. But, just as clearly, the United States has worked very hard to see that conditions for the Palestinians are eased, to see that they have a chance to achieve their legitimate aspirations through political process, through negotiation. The United States has worked very, very hard to try to see that they are able to achieve what they want to achieve through negotiation.
So I think we would say that our longstanding support for Israel and our relationship with that government does not in any way change the fact that we are working very hard to see that all the people in the region have an opportunity to live peacefully and securely, as we've said, within their state.
QUESTION: Any possibility of inviting Mr. Arafat to Washington now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything like that to announce.
QUESTION: One of my distinguished colleagues wrote a superb article quoting the Algerian President as saying that the Islamic extremist movement in Algeria had been, in a sense, manipulated from abroad. And I was wondering whether there is any involvement of Algeria in an attempt to defuse what's going on. I know that Mr. Brahimi, the former foreign minister, was Kofi Annan's special expert on Afghanistan. So could you comment on any of that?
MR. BOUCHER: I would leave to the United Nations what Mr. Brahimi's current status is and whatever he is doing now. I'm not quite sure.
As far as Algeria goes, clearly it is one of the countries that people want to cooperate with. I don't have a specific update on our cooperation with them. But I think we have seen the European governments working with them, and I am sure we are working with them as well.
QUESTION: Do they appear to be enthusiastic about mediating?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try -- first of all, "mediating" is not the word that operates anywhere in the current circumstance. We are not open to negotiation. The requirements laid down are quite clear.
I think if you look at our terrorism report, you will see a write-up of the groups that do operate in Algeria, including some of the terrorist groups there, and what links they might have to the outside.
QUESTION: One other Mid East question. Sorry. There was a Ha'aretz report about the US considering a cutoff of economic aid to Israel, which I guess was planned in a phase-out, but might be speeded up for a variety of reasons.
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen anything like that. I don't know anything about that.
QUESTION: On the information on bin Laden's network, was the information shared with all the embassies that it will be shared with today? And were -- if not, were Pakistan and NATO allies the first to receive that information?
MR. BOUCHER: The information that I discussed that went out to a number of posts around the world is available for ambassadors and embassies to share with governments today or tomorrow, whenever they get scheduled to do so. Clearly, the discussions at NATO were very important to us and coordination with our allies is very important to us, as well as other governments. But, yes, the people that we were able to share information with in this fashion, that cable went out last night for sharing today.
QUESTION: On that, Richard, are all the embassies getting exactly the same thing? Or are they graded as -- you know, in terms of the amount of information in them, as to what the country -- how much information you think that their specific country should --
MR. BOUCHER: That is something I really can't go into. We have different kinds of cooperation with different governments around the world. Some governments, we have very close intelligence sharing and law enforcement cooperation. In other places, we might be sharing only through diplomatic channels. So I am not able to draw distinctions on that score.
QUESTION: But is it the same message to every embassy that got it?
MR. BOUCHER: I just said I am not able to draw distinctions on that score.
QUESTION: Can I ask then on a related note, I know that you heard the speech of Prime Minister Blair this morning. Do you agree -- does the United States agree with his assessment that the killing of Mr. Massoud was a payment in blood from bin Laden, that bin Laden was behind it as a payment to the Taliban for safe harbor?
MR. BOUCHER: We, obviously, appreciate very much the efforts of the British Government, Prime Minister Blair. The President has described him as a true friend. I think that is reflected in the attitudes that they have taken and that he expressed today in the speech.
I am not going to try to parse his every word or explain on his behalf things that he said in his speech. I am not in a position to --
QUESTION: I am not asking you to explain it; I am asking if you agree.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think what he said needs any corroboration or further comment from us, frankly.
QUESTION: Do you agree with him? Do you think -- forget about him. Forget about what Blair said entirely. Do you think that Massoud was killed by bin Laden as payment to the Taliban?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on that and see if I can say anything in that regard.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) much more detail about the military objectives. Were you happy about that?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, he is a true friend, great ally.
QUESTION: Does the US agree with the Prime Minister that either the Taliban surrender bin Laden or they will surrender power, in effect be taken from power? Is that the same message that --
MR. BOUCHER: The President's message in that regard was quite similar. I don't have the exact words, but it was turn him over or suffer his fate, I think was the way that he put it. So, it was quite clear.
Released on October 2, 2001
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