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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-03-27

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


Richard Boucher, Spokesman

Washington, DC

March 27, 2001


Israel/Middle East Peace

1-3, 6-8 US Reaction to Recent Violence/Steps for Direct Discussions/Security Cooperation

1-3 Secretary Powell's Conversation with Prime Minister Sharon/US Contacts with Foreign Officials re Situation

8 Mitchell Committee


3 Presentation of Credentials by New Ambassador/UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Visit to Region


3-4 Demonstrations on Revolutionary Leaders


4 Detention of Gao Zhan


4-6, 11 Meeting with Mr. Akhmadov re Chechnya Conflict/US Policy on Conflict

6 Recent Bomb Attacks in Southern Russia

8-9 US-Russia Relations

9-11 Diplomats Declared Persona non Grata

10 American Mr. Tobin Arrest


12 Administration's Policy

13 Democratization Support for Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ukraine


12-13 Read-out of Secretary Powell's Meeting with Foreign Minister Zlenko


13-14 Discussion with Mr. Rahmatullah re Usama bin Laden/UN Resolutions/US Aid to Afghans

14-15 UN Sanctions on Taliban


15 UN Sanctions on Iraq

15-17 US Policy on Sanctions/Cooperation with Regional Countries

16 Cooperation with Congress


16 King Abdullah's Upcoming Visit to US and Conversation with Secretary Powell


17 Reported Holocaust-Related Lawsuit Against US


17-18 Attack on Medical Compound

Human Rights

18 Resolutions for Human Rights for UN Convention on Human Rights


MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.

Mr. Schweid.

Q: I'm not going to write down your answer, but I wondered if you had anything to say about Israel being under terrorist attack. Has the Secretary been involved in some telephoning or whatever?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first and foremost, we want to say that we completely condemn these attacks of the past few days. We are certainly deeply troubled by the continuation of the violence. We offer our condolences to the families. We think there is absolutely no justification for the killing of innocent people, and especially children.

We have made quite clear we think violence needs to be reduced immediately so that normal economic activity can resume. We further made clear that we think both sides need to avoid unilateral actions. It is important to us that the parties begin discussing directly with each other the kinds of steps that are necessary to ease the climate of violence and to ease the economic pressure. We think resumption of the direct discussions, including bilateral security coordination, is indeed a realistic step towards restoring trust and confidence between the parties.

I would also say that we look to the Palestinian Authority to do all it can to fight terrorism. It can do such things like preempting attacks, arresting people who are responsible and bringing them to justice.

Q: And the Secretary --

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary's phone calls. The Secretary spoke yesterday with Prime Minister Sharon. It was just, I think, after this attack on the sniper killing of the baby. Obviously a very tragic situation. They talked about the steps that the Prime Minister was looking to take or had taken, indeed to try to ease some of the pressure, to ease some of the closures, and the difficulty that he felt in doing these things with killings like this continuing.

Q: And Arafat -- has he been in touch with Arafat?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think he has spoken to Arafat since last Thursday, was the last time, I think. He talked to King Abdullah of Jordan over the weekend.

Q: In that conversation, did Prime Minister Sharon discuss with Secretary Powell the policy of targeted killings and his understanding that many of these attacks are coming from Arafat's closest inner circle?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, but I don't know.

Q: While we're on that point, when you say that you look to the Palestinian Authority to do all it can to prevent attacks, including preempting these attacks, what exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean using their intelligence to discover if and when such an attack is planned, and then going and arresting these people, or do you mean not planning them themselves?

MR. BOUCHER: I think preempting means finding out if something is being planned by someone and stopping them from carrying it out.

Q: Not necessarily -- okay, so you're not yet prepared to make the direct relationship that --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we know, particularly in this very tragic case of a sniper killing a baby -- I don't think we know who did it to that extent.

Q: Does the escalating violence suggest that the President's strategy of not forcing the peace isn't working? I mean, wouldn't this be a good time for the United States to get more involved directly and mediate between the parties and try and get them back to the table?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first and foremost, the United States is involved with the parties. We have had a lot of meetings with the parties. The Secretary has had a number of phone calls. We have had meetings with Prime Minister Sharon here. We have been in touch through our Ambassadors and our representatives in the region, in very close touch. We have been in touch with regional leaders. We have President Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan coming to town next week, I believe it is.

So the United States is actively working with people in the region and with the parties. But you can't change the basic facts that it is what the parties themselves do, and it is what the parties are willing to do with each other, that is going to stop the violence. It is what the parties themselves do and what they are willing to do with each other that is going to create a peace. And that remains the focus of our efforts. And the requirement on their part to take out steps, to carry out steps that can stop the violence and lead to a peace is unchanged.

Q: Richard, has the State Department or anyone in the Administration considered inviting Yasser Arafat to Washington? And if not, why not? I mean, you've had a number of foreign ministers and leaders come into town.

MR. BOUCHER: Any invitation at that level would probably be handled out of the White House. I think they have spoken about it before. They have had many visits and meetings, particularly involving leaders from the Middle East. That's not one that's been scheduled yet. That's all I can say.

Q: Richard, you spoke about a resumption of direct discussions. I didn't quite catch what you said. Are you implying that direct discussions have begun and you're saying it's a good thing? And if so, are you drawing a distinction between discussions on security cooperation and discussions on the next stage in the peace process?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not drawing too much of a distinction there. It's for them to report what sort of contacts and channels they have. I think we've certainly seen reports in the past of meetings and intentions, but our view is that direct discussions between the parties is the only realistic way to reestablish the kind of trust and confidence that they're going to need to move forward, and is also an important, very important aspect of bilateral security coordination and that kind of bilateral security coordination is necessary to really get a hold of the violence, in addition to the parties themselves taking steps.

Q: And would the United States be willing to attend or be on the sidelines for such meetings at this stage?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, if we were there, it wouldn't be bilateral. So, we will make it by talking about bilateral security coordination as being the essential component.

Q: Richard, on Friday, the Indian new Ambassador Mr. Mansingh was in the building and he presented his letter of credentials to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Do you have any idea what they discussed, number one?

And number two, US chief and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was in the area in Kashmir, and he said that he stands with India on Kashmir. But at the same time, Pakistan have accused India on more oppressions and attacks on the Muslims in Kashmir.

MR. BOUCHER: On the presentation of credentials by the Ambassador, these are normally fairly short meetings and general discussions of relations. Obviously our relations with India have been very good, and we intend to further improve them. If there is anything more to say beyond that, I'll get something for you.

As far as the Secretary General's visit to Kashmir, we were informed of it and obviously watched it very closely. I don't think we have anything new to say on policy. Our policy has not changed.

Q: Just to follow, I'm sorry. Do you have anything -- I asked it last week also -- on the demonstrations and crackdown on the opposition leaders and opposition members in Pakistan? And also, military government have offered to sign CTBT in the United States if India have offered the same similar news. What does the State Department have to say?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see if we've got anything on that.

Q: As I understand it, the Chinese are saying that this American University professor has confessed to having engaged in wrongdoing. Do you have anything on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first and foremost, it is important to remember that this issue is one of great concern to the United States, the status of Gao Zhan and her situation, as well as the situation and experience that her family had to go through. We have raised this with the Chinese. We have raised her continued detention during the visit, the meetings that Vice Premier Qian Qichen had with the President and the Secretary.

We are looking for a more forthcoming response from the Chinese, but we still continue to urge the Chinese Government to release Ms. Gao immediately so that she can be reunited with her family in the United States.

Q: Richard, yesterday, Ilyas Akhmadov met with the Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Beyrle. This was, I think, the highest meeting that Mr. Akhmadov, who has been here several times over the last few years, has had with State Department representatives. Does this signify a shift in US policy, and what was discussed at the meetings?

MR. BOUCHER: As far as any shifts in US policy and the context for the meeting, I would refer you back to the last week or more of discussions we have had here that I think explain the purpose of the meeting.

Let me tell you what actually happened. Our Acting Special Advisor to the Secretary for Russia and the New Independent States, Mr. John Beyrle, met with Ilyas Akhmadov on Monday for about 45 minutes. They discussed the conflict in Chechnya. They discussed the prospects for a settlement there.

Mr. Beyrle told Mr. Akhmadov that the Chechen side must condemn terrorism, must account for its alleged participation in terrorist acts, and must take decisive action to prevent such acts in the future. Mr. Beyrle also stressed the need for dialogue to resolve the conflict. We believe that without accountability for both sides in this conflict for the abuses that were committed in it that the path to dialogue is complicated.

To reiterate, our policy has not changed. We recognize Chechnya as part of Russia. Mr. Beyrle met Mr. Akhmadov outside the State Department, met him as an individual, not as a representative of the Chechen separatists. This is one of a great number of contacts that we have with individuals, private or official, in our effort to promote a peaceful solution to the conflict.

We have consistently said there can be no military solution to the conflict. Both sides must take steps to begin dialogue leading to a political settlement. Human rights of course must be respected by both sides, and we believe that reports of humanitarian abuses must be fully investigated so that those responsible can be brought to justice.

Q: Richard, you say the same thing every time you meet them. This doesn't -- every time someone meets with Akhmadov. But that doesn't stop the Russians from complaining loudly, and especially in this case since they specifically said on Sunday after the bomb attacks that you condemned in the statement that it would be even more inappropriate for there to be a meeting with Mr. Akhmadov.

You know, what do you make of the Russian anger over this, and isn't it a sign that the relationship is on not very good ground?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you would have to do a little more analysis than that to draw that conclusion.

Q: Which conclusion?

MR. BOUCHER: The conclusion you just drew.


Q: That the -- well, I just want to make sure I'm right -- that what I'm saying, that relations are not that good?

MR. BOUCHER: That's what I would say.

Q: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: I would not draw that conclusion necessarily from this. I think, as you yourself pointed out, the Russians express themselves every time, and we explain ourselves every time. So until we have seen anything particularly different, I would say that this meeting fits in the context of the other meetings. It fits in the context of our policy. Our policy is the same for everyone involved, that there is no military solution; there needs to be a political solution and a political dialogue. Our policy is the same with everyone involved, that there needs to be accountability, that we condemn terrorism, and that people should refrain from terrorist acts, and that human rights abuses should be investigated.

So we are very public about our policy, and we have the same policy in public and in private with both parties.

Q: So you would deny, then, the Russian claim that with this meeting the US has aligned itself with a terrorist group?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we used this meeting -- as I have explained to you quite openly, as we have explained in the meetings -- that we condemn terrorism. We call on the Chechen side to condemn terrorism and to take steps to account for its alleged participation, and to take decisive action to prevent terrorism in the future.

Q: Why are you trying so hard to avoid commenting on the Russian response specifically?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's for me to comment on Russian responses. I'll be glad --

Q: Well, they accuse you of supporting terrorists.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll be glad to explain our policy all night long, and our policy is not to support terrorism. And we specifically used this meeting to call on the parties to condemn terrorism.

Q: Can I ask one more technical question? When did Mr. Beyrle's title change from Acting Assistant Secretary for --

MR. BOUCHER: It didn't. Anyone, including myself, who said Acting Assistant Secretary was probably in error because the actual title is Acting Special Advisor to the Secretary.

Q: Do you think it's unfortunate, though, that this meeting came so close to these bombings in southern Russia which the Russians are blaming on the Chechens?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have any particular information on the bombings. Clearly the bombings are a terrible tragedy and deserve the world's condemnation; receive the world's condemnation, including ours. I don't think that we're going to solve this by -- how can I say it -- just condemning the bombings, however. It's important that the sides stop terrorism, stop abuses, and seek a political dialogue. And that will continue to be the focus of our efforts with the parties.

Q: May I follow up very briefly? I know I've asked this before, but I must ask it again. Does the United States have a view of who the Russians should be talking to to negotiate a peace settlement?

MR. BOUCHER: No. We think that anyone involved in the context of the conflict, anyone involved with the issue, should be looking to form a political dialogue. And how that comes about, we don't have a formula at this point.

Q: To go back to what Jonathan was pursuing, your State Department's view of what Israel and the Palestinians ought to be doing now. Some of us heard the Jordanian Ambassador this morning who, you know, thinks negotiations should be resumed, and in fact using -- he uses the word "parameters" to pick up where they left off, with Israel offering about 95 percent of the West Bank, depending on whether there is a territorial tradeoff.

You're calling for -- is it still the US position -- and excuse me, but every now and then we've got to go through the checklist. Is it still the US position that there's no point in negotiating terms of a settlement until violence is significantly reduced?

MR. BOUCHER: In the words that the Secretary used, I believe it was last Friday -- he may have said it again yesterday -- we think that, first and foremost, we need to significantly reduce the violence in order to rebuild trust and confidence. We need to ease the economic pressure so that we can have successful talks. That remains the view.

Q: All right. But if the two -- fine. But if the two sides take your advice and talk about security, they're going into negotiations of some sort, aren't they? And if Israel does something on economic -- the economic front -- I don't know that they can do totally unilaterally; there has to be contact. So, in a sense, the US formula is talk to the other guys but don't talk about Jerusalem; in effect, don't talk about the fine terms of the final status issues?

MR. BOUCHER: First, Barry, you're blurring some lines that the parties themselves don't blur. The parties -- and I think we've seen this in statements of Prime Minister Sharon -- he makes a distinction between talking about security and having contacts on those kinds of things versus what he would call a formal negotiating session. So in terms of what you're saying, I don't think the United States is trying to do what you're trying to do.

We've made quite clear we think that success in negotiations will require a reduction to the violence, that, first and foremost, the most troubling aspect right now is not the lack of negotiations itself, but is the fact that people are still dying, people are still being killed. And the first and foremost things that people need to work on is stopping the violence, easing the economic pressure, reestablishing trust and confidence. That will lead, we think, to political negotiations. Where those start will depend on the parties. It's not for the United States again to put out a formula. That is something we've made quite clear.

Q: I wish -- what is holding up the kind of security discussion that you prefer?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's something you'll have to ask the parties.

Q: Well, you said Sharon is in favor of it. In the US view, is he the only --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not speaking for Sharon here. I think --

Q: No, no, you said -- no, I understand. In a different context, you made the point Sharon wants to -- is in favor of discussions on the security front.

MR. BOUCHER: We think -- we stress the importance of discussions, direct discussions, between the parties. We express the benefits for trust and confidence of direct talks, particularly on security issues. Where they actually stand in terms of approaching those discussions or having those discussions, you will have to check with the parties.

Q: Can I go back to Russia?

Q: Can I just follow up on that one --

Q: You are suggesting bilateral security cooperation discussions now? Immediately?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We suggested them many weeks ago when the Secretary traveled to the region, and we maintain a consistent view.

Q: There were some comments by Sharon over the weekend that he wasn't exactly -- he is cooperating reluctantly with the Mitchell Commission. Where does the US stand, the Administration stand on the Mitchell Commission, given that it was appointed under the Clinton Administration?

MR. BOUCHER: The Mitchell Commission is an independent body with an international status, with its own mandate, its own work. We look to the Mitchell Commission to work with the parties in carrying out its mandate. The Committee. Sorry, Mitchell Committee.

Q: Doesn't it report back to to the President, though, and to the UN with its --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, they have their own status in carrying out their work. And then there is agreement their reports come back here and -- I forget the exact language -- copies go to the UN as well.

Q: Richard, can we go back to Russia for a couple seconds? I'm sure there are some more questions on that. But I'm just curious. With the Russian response being as angry as it was to the meeting with the Chechen, that you did not make any effort to say that, well, we still have some kind of cooperation agreements with Moscow. And you didn't refer back to what the Secretary talked about on Friday as the cooperation with the Mir splashdown. You didn't even mention the statement that you yourself put out yesterday talking about this cooperation on the Internet child pornography.

I'd like to know why.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, now that you ask, if you ask me about Chechnya, I'll tell you about Chechnya. People sometimes complain that --

Q: No, I asked about the relationship on the rocks --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, you asked if this was an indicator of a relationship on the rocks. If I have failed to take the advantage of the opportunity to give you a five-minute lecture on this date of US relations with Russia, let me correct that now.

The US relationship with Russia is very broad and complex. It has positive elements; it has difficult elements. We have difficult problems with their activity in Chechnya, with some of their attitudes towards proliferation and some of their arms sales. We have difficult problems with a variety of things that go on in Russia, including expulsions of people, which we can talk about too, if you like.

Q: Yes, that's exactly where I want to --

MR. BOUCHER: Nonetheless, I would say there are many positive aspects of this relationship that we want to encourage and promote. We very much support Russia's building of democracy, of civil society, of a free market economy. We very much support their economic reform. We work together in many areas around the world, including on issues like proliferation or regional issues. We work together in the United Nations very often.

So in addition to the specific forms of cooperation we have described recently, like the Mir spacecraft coming down, busting the child porn ring and other things, we work together on a whole lot of issues around the world. And that is as important an aspect of our relationship as are the more difficult and troublesome issues that we deal with forthrightly.

Q: Thank you for that song and dance. But now can I go --

MR. BOUCHER: That will now be known as Number 43, and anytime anybody asks, there's Number 43 for --

Q: But you mentioned the expulsions, and the Russians today handed you the list of the -- I'm sorry?

Q: I was going to ask about the expulsions. There are names and faces and business cards floating around in the Russian press. And I'm just wondering if the State Department was concerned about this hearing of individual reputations and careers, being portrayed as spies, and what they are doing to protect these individuals?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know I can actually comment on that. I would say generally, in our history, it has been a badge of honor to get kicked out of somewhere in terms of the service and how we -- our fellow employees in the State Department. So I don't think I would let anything that happened at this point reflect badly on people's careers or lives.

Just to confirm the facts, the Russian Government today presented our DCM in Moscow with a list of foreign American diplomats who were declared persona non grata. The four diplomats have been asked to depart Moscow shortly; that is, within the same ten-day time limit that we gave to their people. The Russians also asked us to make additional reductions in embassy staff and gave us a list of people.

I would say we find this Russian action both unwarranted and unfortunate. The actions we took were a direct response to the Hanssen case and the longstanding problem of Russian intelligence presence in the United States. With our action, we considered the matter closed.

Q: Do you know if we have presented the Russians with a list of names of their diplomats that need to leave?

MR. BOUCHER: We did that last Friday.

Q: We did that -- of the four, the four who have to leave?

MR. BOUCHER: We did that last Friday.

Q: How about the student, Mr. Tobin?

MR. BOUCHER: Mr. Tobin. I don't think I have anything particularly new on his situation. We've seen some of the press reports about additional charges. We have not had a chance to speak to him directly since the reports appeared. We are not aware of any evidence that would support new charges, but he is represented by private legal counsel.

Our last consular visit with him was on March 6th, and we would anticipate another consular visit in the next couple of weeks, but we don't have one confirmed yet.

Q: You said last week that you would decide on subsequent retaliation based on the names that you received from the Russians. Is there anything in the list which makes you believe that you might have to take further steps on expulsion?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we are --

Q: Or is it really a closed matter?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we are still studying the list. Obviously we have an important national interest in maintaining cooperative and productive relations with Russia. We do intend to work to continue to advance those interests. There is much work we do together. We look forward to continuing our cooperation, but we are still looking at the Russian list.

Q: So even though you think that it's unwarranted and unfortunate -- the action -- you are still looking at the list and studying it to see whether it's a total -- if it's a proportional response? And if it is not, if you think that it's a more than proportional response or if it's harsher than what was imposed on them, the US is prepared to consider additional expulsions of Russians?

MR. BOUCHER: That is a brilliant analysis, but at this point I'll tell you we're studying the list, and I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals.

Q: What are you studying the list for?

Q: Are you studying the list for further expulsions?

MR. BOUCHER: We're studying the list to see who it is. As I said, we considered the matter closed and we'll leave it that way, but we're obviously looking at the list.

Q: So you'll leave it that way? What do you mean, you'll leave it that way?

MR. BOUCHER: For the moment.

Q: For the moment. So you're not ruling out further measures?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not -- I'm saying that we considered the matter closed. That's the status right now. Nonetheless, I think it is responsible of all of us to look at the list. And if the situation changes, we'll tell you.

Q: Mr. Akhmadov this morning indicated he would not say anything specifically about his discussions with the State Department people; however, he did indicate, and he said specifically, that any announcement will have to come from them, not from me -- they have a monopoly on the information -- indicating that he expected something would be forthcoming.

In addition, when queried a little further on this with regard to his other discussions, not with people in the State Department but on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, asking whether or not he felt that the new Administration did indeed have a different view of Chechnya, he said, "I think from my discussions that there is less romanticism and less illusions about Russia."

Now, what would give him that impression, in terms of the discussions that he had off-campus with --

MR. BOUCHER: I am never here going to try to account for other people's impressions as relayed through a third party. I'll tell you exactly what we saw in the meeting, what we said in the meeting, and our view of the relationship with Russia. So I think I have to leave it at what we know and what our policy is.

Q: Is the US considering, however -- you said that your message was that there should be a discussion between the two parties. Is there any consideration from the US side in taking a more active role in bringing together discussion between the parties?

MR. BOUCHER: We have consistently urged the parties to stop -- to begin discussions with each other to seek a political dialogue and a political solution. That has been our consistent position, and I will leave it at that.

Q: How about other people's impressions relayed through The New York Times?

MR. BOUCHER: No, that's even worse.

Q: Do you have any reaction to the piece that says the Pentagon and the State Department, and more specifically Rumsfeld and Powell, are in a policy clash?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I know you all have been writing these pieces, but we haven't deigned to react to any of them at this point. We tell you what policy is. We would be happy to explain policy any day of the week, if you want to play this game. We're not going to play.

Q: Richard, don't answer the question.

Q: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Elaine, do you have a question?

Q: I do have a question about the Ukrainian Foreign Minister. I wondered if you had anything to tell us about his meeting with Secretary Powell this morning and what they discussed, and whether we should read anything into the fact that the Secretary did not accompany him to the front door?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to put that standard of conduct on the Secretary. He likes to accompany foreign leaders and visitors to the front door. Some of them, if he has the time, he takes for a jaunt around the eighth floor to show them a little bit of our history up there. But it always depends on his schedule. And if he has the time, he does it; if he doesn't, he is not able to do it. So if he has back-to-back meetings, he just can't. And today he had a meeting that started immediately afterwards.

In terms of the meeting with Foreign Minister Zlenko, it was a very positive meeting. The Secretary expressed our firm support for Ukraine's independent destiny, I think was the phrase he used approximately. He expressed our support for democracy, for freedom of the press, for a free enterprise system in Ukraine, and said we would continue to work with them and encourage that course. He expressed our concerns about the case of the missing journalist, the need for a full, open and transparent investigation, and said that we were prepared to cooperate in helping with that.

He expressed our support for the reform programs in Ukraine, for continued economic and -- or, economic reform primarily. And then they discussed some other issues, like United Nations issues. Ukraine is on the Security Council. And they discussed relations with Russia and a few other things that came up in passing.

Q: On that, do you have a view of the fact that Itera, the Russian gas company, is now putting Ukraine under increased pressure to pay its debts by threatening to withhold supplies?

MR. BOUCHER: That specific situation didn't arise. The Secretary made quite clear that our support for the independence of Ukraine and of other neighbors of Russia led us to object and raise our concerns with Russia when there was perceived to be Russian pressure on neighboring countries, and certainly we don't think that's appropriate.

Q: Richard, Ukraine, Indonesia, Nigeria and Colombia were in the special category under the previous administration because they were big and they were important and trying to develop democratically. Do those countries still have that special category?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard the Secretary talk in particular about a special category or a special number of four. At the same time, when he has met with the leaders of these nations, when he has talked to the leaders of these nations, when he has talked about our relations with Nigeria or Ukraine or other -- Indonesia or Colombia, he stressed our very strong support for the path that they have chosen of democracy, our very strong support for them.

And I think in terms of the way we work with them, the way we support them, the way we work in budgetary support and other ways, that you will see a continued emphasis on supporting their choices for democracy, as well as the choices for democracy that other governments may make.

Q: On the Taliban, I know we addressed this a bit last week when Mr. Rahmatullah was here, and you said that they hadn't brought any new proposals or that you hadn't heard any new proposals yet. This guy insists that he has brought new proposals, that they are now willing to let a US- led force in to monitor bin Laden where he is, and that the main thing that they want from the US now is to just sit down and talk.

MR. BOUCHER: What we have said is that we have not seen any proposals that address the requirements of the United Nations resolutions. The facts are that the UN resolution, the international community, has asked that Mr. bin Laden be expelled and brought to justice and that terrorist camps be closed. Somehow monitoring of bin Laden doesn't meet that requirement. That is not a US requirement. It's not about the United States. It's not really about one individual. It is an issue between the international community and the Taliban over the fact that they continue to harbor international terrorists and they continue to support the activities of terrorist training and camps.

So this has been made very clear in two United Nations Security Council resolutions. We have provided all the information, the evidence from trials. We have provided other evidence from the trial, including confessions of one of the accused of his association with bin Laden. So there should be no question but that this is an international obligation that Taliban should meet, and other things -- any proposals that don't meet that -- just plain don't cut it.

Q: But how would it hurt to --

MR. BOUCHER: And second of all, there is another aspect to what is being said these days that I think deserves some response. The charge that somehow the United States is killing Afghans is absolutely outrageous. It only masks really the Taliban's own disregard for the welfare of the Afghan people.

The United States has provided massive amounts of food, medicine, shelter for Afghans. It was $113 million worth last year that we have provided, $50 million already this year. So we have continue to do everything we can to relieve the suffering of the Afghan people; and the Taliban, in contrast, has prosecuted a war, harbored terrorists and destroyed statues. So I think what is important here is the facts.

Q: Would it hurt to sit down and talk with them, though, if that is what they are asking -- anywhere, anytime, anyplace?

MR. BOUCHER: We just talked to this guy last week. What we are looking for is action on the requirements that the international community has, action on the requirements of the UN resolutions.

Q: Last week you said that there were no new proposals that were brought into -- I mean, has this been on the table before, this idea of allowing the US into Afghanistan to monitor bin Laden's activity?

MR. BOUCHER: I would look back at exactly what I said. I think the characterization is we see no new proposals that meet the requirements of the UN. I will see if this monitoring idea has been around before, but certainly what we are looking for in terms of real proposals are proposals that meet the requirements of the United Nations to expel him and allow Usama bin Laden to be brought to justice.

Q: But you are saying that he did make this proposal, though?

MR. BOUCHER: I will double-check and see if it's a new proposal.

Q: No, no -- but he did -- I mean, he did --

MR. BOUCHER: Did he talk about monitoring?

Q: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: I would have to double-check exactly that he did in that meeting or that letter.

Q: Richard, just one more on this. Do you think that as we go through sanctions review and different ways of formulating policy here, especially when more people are installed here, do you think that there is going to be any momentum towards a new look at these sanctions as well, although they are UN sanctions -- I mean, we have a large input in that obviously.

MR. BOUCHER: These are UN sanctions that target a certain group and regime in Afghanistan, the Taliban. These are not sanctions against the Afghan people. We support the Afghan people to the tune of 100 million or more dollars a year in terms of food supplies and support. There is a group of people in Afghanistan called the Taliban who are harboring terrorists who need to bring the terrorists to justice. And I think in terms of closing their offices, restricting their ability to operate as a group, that is entirely justified. I don't foresee any change, unless they wish to comply with the UN resolutions.

Q: But we say the same thing about Iraq, and we are looking at retooling those.

MR. BOUCHER: I think in Iraq you have had a much broader set of sanctions. You have had a set of sanctions that, as the President has said, are crumbling and need to be refocused in order to achieve their purpose.

I think there is quite a distinction between the kinds of measures against the Taliban itself versus the need to make the measures against Iraq more effective in achieving their own purpose, which is to stop Iraq from getting weapons of mass destruction.

Q: I'd like to continue on Iraq, if I could, please. Change of subject.

MR. BOUCHER: Fork in the road.

Q: Could you explain to us how the US thinks that these retooled sanctions will work, and why you think that they will be effective in cutting down on the smuggling that takes place routinely there among Iraq's neighbors?

MR. BOUCHER: At this stage, the important thing, I think, to say is that we know that we have general support from the nations involved, that we know that the direction is clear. We have broad international support on the need for strong controls to prevent Iraq from getting weapons of mass destruction or revitalizing its military capability. We have support for the idea of enabling civilian goods to reach the Iraqi people.

We will be looking at various aspects of the policy in order to determine how to implement it. We have to target and focus on weapons of mass destruction and the equipment to make them. We have to ensure that Iraq doesn't acquire money on the black market so it can acquire weapons on the black market. And we have to make sure that smuggling is indeed cut down, eliminated as much as possible.

This is a very intense process that is going on right now in terms of looking at the specific steps that we and others can take to achieve those goals. I would say it is not set in stone at this point. We are looking at all kinds of mechanisms and ways of working with other governments to achieve those goals, but we haven't finally come down to a set of measures.

Q: Is it necessary to have the cooperation of all of Iraq's neighbors in order for this to work?

MR. BOUCHER: It's important to have the cooperation of Iraq's neighbors where there are significant flows of trade or goods or money or whatever. It's important to have the cooperation of as many as possible of Iraq's neighbors. We do think that all of Iraq's neighbors have a very strong interest in eliminating or not allowing him to develop a capability that will threaten them. Let's go back to the basic premise that Iraq has been a threat to its own people and to all of its neighbors, and that all of its neighbors have an interest in making sure he doesn't rebuild that capability.

Q: Richard, were you somewhat dismayed, then, that King Abdullah came out today and called for lifting -- complete lifting of the sanctions?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to comment on any particular individual's statements and how they are being interpreted because I haven't had a chance to study them. I would go back to what I have said before, though. We have been in close touch with governments of the region. As you know, the Secretary has talked to King Abdullah over the weekend about various issues.

I think it is important -- we will see him in Washington in a week or so. We do have broad international support for the kind of strong controls on Iraq's ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction that we think are necessary to prevent him from becoming a threat.

Q: How much pull have you got in Congress on this, and do you really need congressional support for many of the reforms that you envisage, or is this something that the Administration can do on its own?

MR. BOUCHER: We always work with Congress. We always enjoy the support, when we can, of Congress. We consult very, very closely with Congress. I'm not sure that these specific steps, as they are being worked out, require any specific action of Congress. I would have to see in the end, when we develop the final package of measure and steps that we wish to take, if there are any which require that.

Q: Is there broad support for this direction, though -- I mean, as you say there is in the region and the countries involved? Is there the same support --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have any polling or views or opinions from Congress beyond what we heard during the series of hearings that the Secretary had over the last few weeks. I would say that there were quite a number of Members who expressed support for what he was doing.

Q: Richard, Iraq's neighbors are saying that while they understand your need for tighter financial controls and they want to ease the economic sanctions, in order to tighten the financial and military controls, they need to see an economic benefit and they need to see diplomatically their own situation improving.

Could you talk about the balance between helping you contain Iraq, but also helping Iraq's neighbors?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is any contradiction between an international effort to stop Iraq from posing a new threat to the region with weapons of mass destruction or rebuilding its old threat to the region and its own people, in terms of its own military capability. Everybody in the region has that interest, in addition to us. As the Secretary has pointed out many times, the weapons that Saddam Hussein has, that the Iraqi regime has, are a direct threat to the children of the region even more than they are to the United States.

So we don't see that anybody has a problem with that. In order to make that an effective policy, you need to have, as I said, control of money that he might use on the black market to acquire weapons and control of smuggling. We have talked to individual governments about the kinds of steps that might be necessary. I don't think there is anything incompatible between taking those steps and making sure that the Iraqi people can obtain the civilian goods that they need. And so the economic benefits of such sales of civilian goods would accrue to the countries involved. The economic benefits of a civilian relationship with the Iraqi people would accrue to the countries involved.

So I don't think there is any contradiction between focusing and targeting on weapons and effectively controlling the threat while maintaining economic relationships with the Iraqi people that may indeed benefit some of the countries involved.

Q: Do you have anything on a new Holocaust-related case being brought against the US Government through Florida (inaudible) lawyers?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of that. I'll have to check.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Richard, what can you tell us, if anything, about the situation right now in Mogadishu about these abducted aid workers, and particularly the American who is among them?

MR. BOUCHER: Here is what we know, first of all. At 9 o'clock local time in Mogadishu this morning, March 27th, militia loyal to a Mogadishu faction leader by the name of Musa Sude Yalahow attacked and overran the Médecins Sans Frontières Spain compound in Mogadishu.

Militia loyal to the Mogadishu-based transitional national government counter-attacked. Fighting within the city is reportedly escalated. There are nine international aid workers who were at the compound who have been taken hostage. They include six United Nations employees: one of them American, three British, an Algerian and a Belgian, and three employees of Médecins Sans Frontières Spain.

The American and four of the other hostages are reportedly uninjured and in the custody of a Mogadishu businessman affiliated with Musa Sude. Two other hostages, not Americans, are also reported in good condition. They are being held at a separate location. And the whereabouts of two others is currently unknown.

The United States, first of all, wants to make clear that the hostage- taking is unacceptable. The hostages should be released at once, and the hostage-takers in the meantime remain responsible for ensuring the safety of the people in their custody.

We are coordinating very closely with UN security officers in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where Musa Sude is currently located, in order to secure the release of the hostages.

Q: Is there a specific date that the US resolution on China will be introduced at the UN Convention on Human Rights? And in your kind of rallying the world community to sign onto this resolution, are you confident that it will pass?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I am in a position yet to express confidence about a particular resolution. The resolutions are still in the drafting stage. Both the Cuba and the China resolutions are still being drafted. The commission meeting continues until April 27th, and I don't think at this point I can give you a specific date. We are talking to other delegations at this point about the text, and we will continue to discuss co-sponsorship with other delegations as well.

Q: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, thank you.


Released on March 27, 2001

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