State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
State Department Daily Briefing
State Department
Washington, D.C.
September 25, 2001

QUESTION: Sure, thank you.

QUESTION: Richard, when the Administration went before Congress and asked it to support a decision to waive all sanctions against Pakistan, it was due to the fact the US was saying it was receiving excellent cooperation. What evidence is there of this excellent cooperation? We have seen the UAE and we have seen Saudi Arabia make fairly significant moves in breaking off diplomatic relations, but Pakistan has maintained diplomatic relations.

MR. BOUCHER: I am afraid this is going to be somewhat frustrating to you, because in this whole campaign over however long it takes to put the squeeze on terrorism and particularly on al-Qaida, there are going to be many, many things that happen that people do with us that are not going to be visible for whatever reasons.

And I have to maintain the position I have taken before and say countries themselves are going to have to be left to talk, to the extent they want to themselves, about the steps they have taken. There are a great many steps a great many number of nations have taken. Some of these are visible, some of these are new financial regulations that you see in Switzerland or in Japan or other places that are starting to issue them. Some of them are visible law enforcement efforts that you see in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and other places. Some of them will be tighter border controls, that we've seen in Pakistan on its border with Afghanistan.

But many of the steps that people take with us are not going to be visible. So I'm sure we'll be in a position to discuss in closed session with the Congress this afternoon some of those steps that we've seen and some of the cooperation that we're getting. But I'm afraid that just by the nature of these steps we won't always be able to talk about them publicly ourselves.

QUESTION: When the Saudi Foreign Minister was here last week, he said that they were going to take financial steps to help halt and to check on some banks, to halt other transactions. Have you seen evidence of this? Have they told you that they are now doing this?

MR. BOUCHER: Can I give the same answer I just gave to Andrea? I have to leave it to countries themselves to talk about the steps they're taking, and I'm not --


MR. BOUCHER: He talked about what he would be doing, and now you can go ask him if they've done it and let him talk about the steps they've taken. We greatly appreciate all the cooperation with the Saudis.

QUESTION: They're not letting journalists into Saudi Arabia.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm afraid that various countries will go about this in their own way. We are confident of the support we have. We have excellent cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other governments. But it's not for me to talk about what they are doing. They are going to have to do it themselves.

QUESTION: Richard, a couple of questions. First of all, what are you doing or what's going on at the United Nations? There were reports yesterday that you were exploring the possibility of an Article 7 resolution, which would impose sanctions on countries that harbor terrorists. Can you confirm that and give us any details of what exactly you're aiming for here?

MR. BOUCHER: I cannot confirm that. Let me go through a couple things, though, that we have seen at the United Nations.

First, it's important to remember that within 48 hours of this attack we had both the Security Council and the General Assembly going on record, noting the need for a vigorous response to terrorism, for a sustained, comprehensive strategy to defeat it.

Secretary General Annan made a speech yesterday talking about the complete solidarity of the United Nations with Americans.

The General Assembly will begin a plenary session on October 1st to take up the issue of international terrorism, and the US will participate fully in that. In addition, we have been talking to other members of the Security Council about possible resolutions focused on this or that aspect of the problem. One of the things under discussion -- and it's not yet into a proposal for a resolution -- but talking about how to coordinate financial controls, for example.

So there are grounds for continued coordination and action up at the United Nations on various aspects of the problem, but I think the Secretary and Dr. Rice have both answered questions about self-defense and the basis on which we might act without having a further UN resolution on the overall thing.

QUESTION: Just to verify this, none of this -- are people talking about Article 7 in these consultations?

MR. BOUCHER: It's Chapter 7, and I don't know if Chapter 7 would apply to any of the particular resolutions that are being discussed or not. Chapter 7 is not only the use of force; Chapter 7 is the obligation of all members to carry out a resolution. So if we want all members of the UN, for example, to carry out financial controls, that may be one way of doing it. But those kind of topics are under general discussion at the UN now, and I'm not sure that anything has been presented or decided.

QUESTION: First, can you at least say that there has been a rapid response by countries, without specifying who they are, to the financial restrictions announced yesterday? Have countries come forward to you and been positively inclined toward working on this? And my second question is about the aid workers in Afghanistan. We haven't had an update on them very recently --

MR. BOUCHER: The detainees, the people who are detained?


MR. BOUCHER: On the reaction to the financial controls the President announced yesterday, I would say that we are seeing an international reaction that is positive, we are seeing parallel steps in many countries. I think I have already noted for you that Japan has instituted some financial regulations. Last week, the Swiss imposed a set of financial regulations on certain companies associated with the Taliban. So there is activity going on in those areas, and we hear talk in various places of further steps that might be taken. But I am not aware that all of those have yet come to the public announcement.

So I would say there is responsiveness on the issue of financial controls and we will continue to work that issue with the international community, looking both for what international action can be taken through various groupings, but also then through individual national action to impose their own regulations and controls.

QUESTION: And the aid workers, the detainees?

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the aid workers. Sorry. Our embassy officials have remained very engaged in gathering information on the status of the detainees and their trial. We would underscore the President's message of last Thursday to the Taliban. The President said that they need to “release all foreign nationals, including American citizens whom you have unjustly imprisoned, protect foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers in your country."

At this point, we have no new information, though, on the progress of the trial or the welfare of the detainees. That's since last Friday. The Pakistani lawyer that was chosen by the detainees has not reached Kabul due to security problems inside Afghanistan. The parents of the American detainees remain in Islamabad and are in close contact with our embassy.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) those talks? I mean, have we had any more talks in Islamabad?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have had further contact with the Taliban in Islamabad on the subject of these people. The latest I remember was on Sunday when there was some contact between our consular officials and the Taliban on the subject of these detainees.

QUESTION: I believe the US chargé in Rome has been speaking with King Zahir Shah, his folks.

QUESTION: Could we just stay on the detainees --


QUESTION: Richard, when they were first -- when the detainees were first arrested, you wouldn't comment on the charges and I don't remember you saying that they were unjustly imprisoned. Are you prepared to say now that you think that these charges are false or --

MR. BOUCHER: I would say now that we have not been able to get much information on the trial and the legal situation. We are in touch with the families, we are in touch with their lawyer. But he, himself, has not been able to get to Kabul. So I don't have any more to share on the legal process than I ever did before.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) If there truly becomes an attack on Afghanistan, if they kept these people and they couldn't protect them, would this be similar to use other times, other places, of human shields? I mean, do they -- has there been any fear that these people would not be kept safe and that might deter the United States?

MR. BOUCHER: To answer a question like that would require excessive speculation on my part. I am not going to get into that road. I go back to what the President said the other day, that they need to release all foreign nationals, including these Americans.

QUESTION: The chargé and the King in Rome?

MR. BOUCHER: The chargé and the King. I think the context, first. We have had longstanding contacts with Afghan factions and with all the significant individuals involved in this situation, so US officials have had discussions with many Afghans. I think we have noted recently we have had contact with Northern Alliance leaders. We have been in touch with many Afghans since the terrorist attacks.

We do have regular contacts with the former King of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, and other Afghan expatriate groups, in coordination with the UN. The King was deposed in a 1973 coup and now lives near Rome and has a continuing interest in ending the bloodshed in his country. So today the chargé of our Embassy in Rome met with the King to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Do you have regular contacts with an octogenarian former head of -- King? When was the last time that you had a meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: Today. In Rome.

QUESTION: No, before. Before today.

MR. BOUCHER: Before that? I don't know precisely. I know we have seen him from time to time.

QUESTION: A year ago? Within a year?

MR. BOUCHER: Within a year.

QUESTION: You're sure?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say it if I wasn't sure. But you lead me to question why I'm so sure. (Laughter.) I will try to get you more detailed information, Matt. Okay?

QUESTION: Can you also clarify exactly what this administration's position is toward any kind of talks or assistance to the Northern Alliance? What was said across town earlier today seemed to only confuse the matter. I am sure that was unintentional. But what is the status of the US contact and possible support for the Northern Alliance?

MR. BOUCHER: I would just say we are in regular contact with a whole variety -- with a whole gamut of Afghan factions, including the Northern Alliance. But I am really not in a position to go into detail on those contacts or their contents.

QUESTION: Do you have any more details on the discussions between the chargé and King Zahir Shah?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. We keep in touch with all sorts of factions and people.

QUESTION: What was the purpose?

MR. BOUCHER: The purpose was to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: On a related matter, the Secretary yesterday, and I believe the President this morning, both talked in rather general terms about finding Afghans, possibly within the Taliban movement, who are willing to cooperate with you against Usama bin Laden. Are you in contact with such people and how -- could you give us any details of how you assess the significance of this approach?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I'm afraid there is nothing in there that I would be able to comment on. Sorry.

QUESTION: Richard, on the King again, last week and currently -- I think it's still going on -- there is an announcement running -- the King is speaking, has a recorded announcement that has been going out over BBC and VOA, talking about the need to convene a Loya Girga for reconciliation and end to the war. Is the State Department giving him air time and decided that he is worthy of VOA air while Mullah Omar is not?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You would have to check with VOA if he has been on their broadcast or not.

QUESTION: He has. But apparently it's an announcement. And I would imagine, since you guys take such an interest in their programming, that you would have had something to do with the King's message.

MR. BOUCHER: We respect the editorial integrity and independence of the Voice of America and those kind of decisions on broadcasting newsworthy announcements would be up to them.

QUESTION: On the Saudis, 20 questions back, is it the State Department's understanding that the end of diplomatic ties with the Taliban, would that also cover the hard line Wahhabi clerics and their financial links to the Taliban as well?

MR. BOUCHER: Without specifying exactly what steps Saudi Arabia might take, I think we have seen statements from Saudi Arabia that they intended to take steps to cut off any financial support that might exist. I leave it to them to describe any detail they want.

QUESTION: And can I follow up? Have you asked specifically about the links between these religious leaders?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we're not in a position to go into specific requests we might have made of individual countries.

QUESTION: I'm wondering what kind of discussion the Secretary is having with Egyptian officials and if there's been any special weight to that relationship, given its experience of its own problem in the '90s?

MR. BOUCHER: It gives me an opportunity to tell you what we do know about Foreign Minister Maher. He'll visit Washington tomorrow for meetings with senior administration officials, including a meeting with Secretary Powell. I don't have an exact time for that meeting, but it may be tomorrow.

Meetings will cover a broad range of bilateral and regional issues between the US and Egypt, including the efforts to develop an international campaign against terrorism and to bring justice to those responsible for the horrific acts of September 11th; will also discuss the current situation between the Israelis and Palestinians, how to maintain the cease-fire, how to encourage the restoration of direct discussions between the parties.

We have long valued Egypt's critical role with the parties. We welcome this opportunity to consult with one of our close regional partners. The Secretary has kept in touch with Egypt throughout this period. He has talked on the phone with Foreign Minister Maher at least once -- I can't remember if it's more than that -- in the last two weeks. And clearly through our embassy there we've kept in very close touch with the Egyptians.

QUESTION: Turkish Prime Minister Cem is coming to Washington tomorrow, and I think he will meet Secretary on Thursday. Do you have anything about that, what is about his visit -- just against terrorism or Middle East process?

MR. BOUCHER: I would expect that we will discuss any number of issues with Foreign Minister Cem, one of our NATO ally countries with which we cooperate closely on many issues. But clearly the most important issue to both of us right now is going to be the fight against terrorism and building the international coalition. That will be the prime subject.

QUESTION: And I know you can't go into details, but the Secretary mentioned yesterday that there were outstanding requests, the Central Asian states, which you were still awaiting answers to, and Sergey Ivanov has now suggested quite strongly that Dushanbe in Tajikistan may be offered as a military base.

Can you just tell us whether Central Asian states have given a more solid or more concrete indication of what they might be willing to offer in the last couple of days?

MR. BOUCHER: Even without going into details, it's hard for me to formulate an answer. I would say that you have seen, from various governments in that region, some strong expressions of support, and some specific offers of cooperation. We are in continuing contact and discussion with leaders in that region. The Secretary has talked to several of them; the President has talked to some of them as well.

If I remember correctly on the phone calls, just yesterday the Secretary talked to the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, for example, and he has talked to the President of Turkmenistan last Saturday, and obviously we have been in contact with the countries of the region through our embassies and our ambassadors there.

So we will continue to work closely with the governments of that region, who themselves have been affected by the terrorism coming out of Afghanistan. We have cooperated with them against terrorism in the past, and we want to continue that cooperation with them in the future.

QUESTION: Richard, on that -- speaking of the Central Asian states, has the Ambassador flown back in to Tajikistan for talks -- who has been doing the talks in Tajikistan?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know; I'll have to check.


MR. BOUCHER: No, we've got Macedonia and other places back there.

QUESTION: One more on Afghanistan -- well, it's Afghan-related. I think it would be remiss for you not to -- do you have anything to say about the insinuation by William Kristol this morning that the Secretary is somehow being disloyal to the President?

MR. BOUCHER: Nothing could be further from the truth. I'll stop at that. Macedonia?

QUESTION: Yes. NATO Secretary General, George Robertson, is in Macedonia today. And the Operation Essential Harvest is finished. And also, NATO's mission officially will end tomorrow. However, President Trajkovski, the Macedonian President, requested a new mission to Macedonia to act as a security guard to OSCE monitors.

And I would appreciate your comment on that.

MR. BOUCHER: She's telling me all the things I was going to tell her. (Laughter.)

Let me cut to the chase then, and not offer you the facts, and just offer you the commentary. On the facts, the Essential Harvest -- the Task Force Harvest, sorry -- is progressing well. It's not quite finished; it comes to a close on tomorrow, September 26th, and we think that it will be able to meet or surpass its target for weapons collection by that date.

NATO has received the request for a NATO presence in Macedonia following the conclusion of that operation. The allies are currently discussing this issue and the possible options for what NATO might be able to do. There are no final decisions at this point. We refer you to NATO for details of that. I think we all look forward to hearing from Lord Robertson after his visit.

NATO has had a presence in Macedonia since before the outbreak of fighting that we saw, and we would expect to continue to have a presence after the end of Operation Essential Harvest. That's pretty much where we are.

I have also noted there has been progress in the political side in Macedonia. The parliament approved procedural votes on the draft text of the constitutional amendments that are called for. A final vote is expected after a short found of public debate. So we continue to urge the party leaders to implement fully the framework agreement according to this agreed timeline. But those steps are welcome and that progress is welcome.

QUESTION: The UN Security Council today holds closed session on the situation in Macedonia. Do you have anything about that?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, I'm afraid.

QUESTION: Last week, the President indicated that Governor Ridge would be setting up a homeland-type defense group. Is there any equivalent with the State Department overseas for a special cabinet-type post, and also to enlarge existing type departments to function as such?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard any talk of that. There are several departments that are active on this overseas with foreign counterparts. We help manage and coordinate that. I don't think there's any change contemplated that I've heard of

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Secretary expects to hear today from the Italian Foreign Minister in their meeting this afternoon, what he will be asking and what he will be telling?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, can he have the meeting himself before we have to kind of describe it all to you? I would say that clearly Italy, among our NATO allies, has a key role to play. We have seen very strong support from Italy. So clearly we are going to thank Foreign Minister Ruggiero for that support. We have seen solidarity. The clear commitment we have seen from Italy is deeply appreciated and makes an excellent contribution to the broad and multilateral campaign that we are mounting. I'm sure they will discuss first of all the campaign against global terrorism -- the Global Campaign Against Terrorism -- as well as the situations that they have discussed in the past, like the Middle East and the Balkans.

QUESTION: Richard, did you ever find out what the answer was to the question about yesterday's sanctions?

MR. BOUCHER: We have lawyers working on this, so I don't have a final answer on everything.

QUESTION: You still don't know?