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State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
State Department Daily Briefing
Washington, D.C.
September 26, 2001

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be here, and I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Perhaps we've been asking about some reports that haven't been thoroughly discredited yet. One would be whether Sudan has made some detentions of their terrorist suspects. Another would be if the US -- not necessarily the State Department -- has had contact with the resistance operatives in Afghanistan.

MR. BOUCHER: I will ask you to define your second question a little further. Let me deal with the question of Sudan at this point.

For about a year, we have had a counterterrorism dialogue with Sudan, and had been making concrete progress in that regard. Since the bombings, we have seen statements from Sudan that are positive and offered sympathy and support. We have had some discussions with the Government of Sudan and feel that those discussions are good, probably a beginning of cooperation that we appreciate and that we would intend to try to pursue further.

But in keeping with the practice that we have established for all the countries in the world, we are not going to announce anything on their behalf. So we will leave it to other governments if they want to, to describe the kind of cooperation they are undertaking or are prepared to undertake. But I would characterize our discussions so far with Sudan as good.

QUESTION: The other thing that I was asking about was, there are resistance groups, and they are opposed to Taliban, which -- and the issue really is, has the US -- not necessarily American diplomats -- but has the US been in contact with those people?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say I think what we have said before about various groups, that we are in touch with a wide variety of Afghan groups and factions; we are in touch with the various factions that are involved in the situation inside Afghanistan, as well as exiled groups and other interested parties on the subject of Afghanistan. We have had some contact with the Northern Alliance. We have had contact with former King Zahir Shah in Rome. And we have had contact with others. We keep in touch with various factions inside Afghanistan, as well as people outside the country who care.

QUESTION: Richard, I assume that your aptly-named Chargé d'Affaires, Mr. Pope, in Rome has gotten back to you now with a readout of his meeting with the King. Can you shed any light on what they might have talked about, other than just the general situation in Afghanistan?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I offered you any particularly detailed readout.

QUESTION: But I presumed that that was because you hadn't yet gotten (inaudible).

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that might have been the case yesterday. Today it may be the case that I don't want to offer one. (Laughter.)

No, I don't think I am in a position to offer you any particular readout of an individual meeting like this. As I said, we keep in touch with a variety of people and factions to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, but I don't have any more detail for you on a particular group or meeting.

QUESTION: Do you know if they discussed at all the visit to Rome this week of members of the Northern Alliance who are going from, I believe, Russia to see the King?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't asked that question of anybody, but I think that is the kind of detail that we might not be able to get into. I'm not in a position, really, to describe specific discussions with specific people.

QUESTION: There was a report last night on CBS that members of this government have met with the Taliban in Pakistan.

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have told you before that State Department officials haven't had meetings with the Taliban for any reason other than to discuss the status of our detainees, who are still in Kabul. I think we got some information from them on the phone about that on Tuesday, if I remember correctly.

Yes, we were last in touch with them by phone on Tuesday. They told us the detainees are well and the trial is scheduled to resume on Saturday.

QUESTION: You haven't mentioned this, but I just wonder, since we are getting more interested in these things, have you had any contact with Ismail Kahn's people, who say they are fighting on the western front trying to take Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't have a list of specific groups. We have been in touch with a great variety of people and I can't rule it out. I just don't know for sure, one or the other.

QUESTION: This is probably futile, but can you just explain, why are you talking to these Afghan groups and why are you talking to the King? What is it about them that you think makes them worthy of talking to you?

MR. BOUCHER: They are Afghans.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: Afghanistan at this point doesn't have what we would consider a legitimate government. It certainly doesn't have a representative government. And therefore, we try to keep in touch with a great variety of people who have insights, who have information, who have interests in the future of Afghanistan.

As the President and I think the Secretary have said quite clearly, we are not interested in making up the future government of Afghanistan; we are interested in getting the Taliban to stop providing safe haven for terrorists and ending the use of Afghanistan by terrorists. If the Taliban doesn't want to do that, they will obviously suffer the consequences of that failure.

But, at the same time, we are keeping in touch. We think generally Afghanistan needs a broadly representative government. But we are not in the business of making up that government; we are just keeping in touch with a lot of people who have some insights into the situation.

QUESTION: Well, I'm not suggesting that you are trying to do what you just said you weren't doing, but are you looking for -- these talks are designed to focus on the future of Afghanistan, correct?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I would quite say that -- to talk about the current situation, as well as the future. Obviously they're going to have insights into what's going on now.

QUESTION: But the 86-year-old former King hasn't been in the country since 1987, hasn't been in the country since 1973; what specific insight do you think he has?

MR. BOUCHER: I would assume that all Afghans have either contacts or views on the situation. Granted, some people's views are going to be more relevant than others, but I don't see anything wrong with keeping in touch with all the parties who may have something to say on the subject.

QUESTION: Richard, does the US Government have any response then to the concerns raised by Pakistan about these contacts? The Pakistanis apparently have made some very clear public statements about some of these Afghan groups that we're having discussions with. And since relations with Pakistan are pretty critical at this point, I wondered what the US response to that concern is?

MR. BOUCHER: I think what I would say is that we have very continuous contacts with the Government of Pakistan about the situation in Afghanistan. They include talks about the internal situation in Afghanistan. The US and Pakistan agree that Afghanistan needs a broad-based and representative government, and we agree that that government can't be made up from the outside. So we share the goal with Pakistan of ending the use of Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorists, and that's what we discuss with them.

QUESTION: So Pakistan doesn't yet believe that Pakistan needs a broad-based representative government?

MR. BOUCHER: I have no further comment on the political situation in Pakistan.

QUESTION: So I just want to clarify -- I hate to ask a hypothetical -- but if the Taliban was to end terrorist training camps, hand over the terrorists and the networks, but they continued to summarily hang infidels and punish women and all these other terrible human rights things that they do, we wouldn't necessarily have a problem with their government?

MR. BOUCHER: We always have problems with people who violate fundamental human rights.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) broad-based government?

MR. BOUCHER: These are such "ifs". Let's face the facts. I mean we are at a point now where the President last Thursday laid out quite clearly what the Taliban had to do. They have shown no sign of a willingness to do that; they have shown every sign of unwillingness to do that.

So speculating on changes in any specific sense is not called for at this moment.

Clearly, our goal is to end their support, end their tolerance for terrorism and the protection they provide. If they are willing to do what the President said, to kick out Usama bin Laden and the leadership, to roll up the network, close down the camps immediately, all the other things the President said, that would change the situation. It has never been our view to make the government -- to decide on the government of Afghanistan. But, you know, I don't want to speculate any farther than that until we see some sign that they might be willing to do that.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the destruction of what used to be your embassy in Kabul today?

MR. BOUCHER: What is our embassy in Kabul; it's still ours. We own this embassy, or it is still our embassy, I have to say. I'm not sure exactly whether it is owned or leased. But our general comment would be that the Taliban continue to fail to live up to their international responsibilities. They have continued their defiant response to US and international demands, and we think they need to demonstrate whether they support terrorism or support justice.

The US Embassy compound in Kabul, according to press reports, was attacked by a mob today. One of the outbuildings was set on fire. Some vehicles were damaged. None of the Embassy's Afghan national employees were present on the compound but, according to our sources, the mob left the scene and the fire was put out after causing some damage to the building.

We hold the Taliban responsible for the safety of the US facilities in the areas that they control. They must assure that these facilities are protected. I would say once again, these incidents today demonstrate once again how out of step the Taliban is with its international obligations.

QUESTION: Richard, the fact that apparently, according to the accounts from the scene, the Taliban -- whatever the Taliban fire department is made up of -- actually tried to put this fire out, and the Taliban police department tried to rein in this crowd that was going out of control.

Do you appreciate their efforts, if they were such?

MR. BOUCHER: Not having people on the scene, I wouldn't give them too much credit, given that they arrived after the mob, that the mob apparently carried out much of its damage before the Taliban intervened, if they did at all. I don't think we think that coming after the fire has started is good enough.

QUESTION: Do you know how long it was after --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an exact timetable of all these events or what time they arrived or what they actually did. But we hold them responsible for the protection of our facilities and the safety of our personnel, which include Afghan employees who, luckily, were not there.

QUESTION: You seem to be suggesting by complaining that the fire department arrived after the fire started -- which is, I think, pretty normal operation for firefighters worldwide -- but you seem to be implying by that that the Taliban actually had something to do with this. Is that your belief?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I am quite able to say that at this point. But certainly, governments around the world protect diplomatic facilities before events happen, before mobs are allowed to go into them. And that is the responsibility that we ascribe to the Taliban. I don't know when the fire department arrived, but I would say that every other government in the world is responsible for keeping mobs out of embassies and takes that responsibility more seriously than apparently the Taliban does.

QUESTION: Two questions. Will you be sending the Taliban a bill, A? And, B, are there any Afghan assets in the United States that you would consider freezing as sort of collateral to this?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about UN resolutions? The Secretary seemed to be pretty clear this morning that you would be going to the UN for additional expressions of support. Your counterpart at the White House seemed to say this hadn't been decided.

MR. BOUCHER: My what?

QUESTION: Your counterpart at the White House seemed to say that this hadn't been decided a few minutes ago.

MR. BOUCHER: What the Secretary was referring to, I believe, are the resolutions that we are working on at the United Nations. I think I mentioned yesterday that we were talking to others about the possibility of UN resolutions that deal with various aspects of the situation and, indeed, we have begun consultations in New York on a resolution aimed principally at cutting off terrorist funding.

The resolution would impose an obligation on states to cooperate in the fight against terrorism on the financial side -- the side that we announced this week -- and that many countries themselves have gone forward with steps. So this would put it into the United Nations. That is what we are discussing right now at the UN.

QUESTION: What about resolutions on authorizing the use of force?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary has said several times recently that nothing is being done that inhibits the President's right to go forward and do what is necessary, nor is any further authorization required. If you look back at the briefings that the Secretary and Dr. Rice have done, they have talked quite clearly about Article 51 and self-defense.

QUESTION: Nevertheless, in the past, when that right has been asserted, it has still been the case that the US has sometimes gone to the UN. Is there any thought of doing that? For example, Article 51 was applicable in the invasion of Kuwait, but still passed a resolution, or the UN did.

MR. BOUCHER: I would say at this point what we are discussing at the UN is a financial resolution. And, as the Secretary said, President Bush retains the authority to take whatever actions he thinks are appropriate.

QUESTION: He also said this morning though that President Bush would make an assessment --

MR. BOUCHER: Make a judgment, yes.

QUESTION: -- on whether UN authority was required.

MR. BOUCHER: True. He will. At this point, there is no such assessment or decision and, for the moment, we would assert -- we believe, we know, that President Bush maintains the right to do what is appropriate. As our colleague pointed out, in some cases even when there was a right to self-defense, we have gone to the United Nations. I suppose the President would make that kind of judgment at the appropriate time. But at this point, I don't think we have any doubt that there is the right to self-defense.

QUESTION: Would there be any mind to seeking authorization not because you think it's needed but because you think it may be essential to getting the cooperation, because there are a number of nations that are saying that without that sort of thing they won't be going along?

MR. BOUCHER: That's essentially the same question I was asked there. That kind of decision or determination or judgment has not been made. Clearly the President's judgment will decide whether we would do that sort of thing.

What I am going to assert here now is what we have said before, that we have a right to self-defense. The President, as the Secretary said this morning, has the authority to do what is necessary and appropriate. We are working with the United Nations. We want to work with the United Nations. We are currently working with other governments up there on a Security Council resolution that would cover financing.

QUESTION: On that very quickly, is this something that was -- this resolution was specifically discussed this morning with the Secretary and the Irish Foreign Minister, do you know?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it was.

QUESTION: It was?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, because Ireland is taking over the presidency of the Security Council on October 1st, which would be Monday. So either Ireland would be involved in the passage or, if it is passed, would be involved in helping with the implementation. So they discussed that this morning.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that that is what the Irish Foreign Minister was referring to when he said that the Irish -- that they would be doing everything they can to help -- I can't remember his exact words -- but to help pass and implement --

MR. BOUCHER: Pass and implement. Yes, what is passed now would be implemented. What is not -- I am sure there will be a lot of discussion over the course of the month in the Security Council. There is a General Assembly discussion starting on October 1 on the topic of terrorism. I am sure there will be a lot of ideas raised during that. The Security Council may take some other things up after finance.

So we look forward to a very active and cooperative presidency with the Irish. And what we heard this morning from the Irish Foreign Minister, what you heard from him, was that he intends to make sure the Security Council takes its responsibilities against terrorism.

QUESTION: So he was -- it is your understanding he was referring, A, to this specific resolution you're talking about now, but also anything that might come up in the future?

MR. BOUCHER: That would be my -- that is what he said.

QUESTION: If we are getting as good cooperation as has been reported on the financial restrictions, why would a Security Council resolution be needed? In the restrictions announced this week, the penalty for not cooperating is that US banks will not do business with these countries or with these organizations. What do you need the UN for, if you are getting as good a cooperation as you said? And what would the penalty be in a UN resolution?

MR. BOUCHER: Many, many countries around the world are imposing financial steps. We have seen everything from the Caribbean to Europe to states in Africa and South America, and Poland; the European Union clearly taking steps; the Group of 7 announcing steps. So there are many, many examples that we have, countries that now taking these financial steps similar to ours. There is an international convention on the financing of terrorism that's out for approval and support that I think hasn't entered into effect yet because not everybody has ratified it. For our part, it's up on the Senate side.

What the UN can do through a financial resolution is to put in place as a matter of international obligation a lot of these financial obligations so that it wouldn't just be every country that wanted to, but it would be every country had to cooperate in this manner to help cut off the financing of terrorism.

And that, as an international obligation, is much stronger than the indirect effects of having the US deal with foreign banks.

QUESTION: What would be the incentive or penalty for not doing?

MR. BOUCHER: In the UN resolution, it's obligatory if it's done under Chapter 7. It doesn't necessarily contain penalties. It would depend on the resolution itself.

QUESTION: And you think that that would help them (inaudible) that aren't --

MR. BOUCHER: It would help. Making it an international obligation helps.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Well, it clearly defines who is abiding by the UN resolutions and who's not. Unfortunately, Saddam Hussein has not shown much mind to abiding by UN resolutions, so I would not predict that he would abide by it. But clearly, for the rest of the international community it makes a difference to be in line with the UN resolutions, to be in line with the international community. And for many countries, it is easier to carry out these obligations in their own national laws when they have a UN resolution to base their national action on.

So I think you will find a lot of people who find it easier to issue regulations and impose laws when they can say it is based on a UN Security Council resolution that obligates them.

QUESTION: Any comment on the cooperation of Greece against international terrorists? The Greek Government is providing full landing rights for the US military aircraft, and opened all its air corridors, as it was announced today by Greek spokesman.

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that Greece is one of our NATO allies. We move together in NATO on invoking Article V. As you know, we've had a great deal of cooperation with Greece against terrorism in the past, and we would look for that cooperation to continue in this instance. Once again, following the rule I established before, days ago, we are not going to announce on behalf of particular governments. But Greece is an ally that we cooperate very, very closely with bilaterally as well as through NATO.

QUESTION: To follow up, what was the purpose of the closed-door meeting which has been attended by the Secretary of State Colin Powell with the Senate members, including the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary explained to you -- or to whoever happened to be at the bottom of the elevator on the Hill yesterday -- he explained to the press who were assembled there that he was up there to brief members of Congress on the status of our efforts, status of our discussions, and how we are proceeding. He did that on the House side as well yesterday afternoon.

QUESTION: It was said -- I am told the Ayatollah spoke out, that only Iraq has not joined among -- with other countries in the world in condemning what happened to the US September 11th.

Do you have any observations on the Ayatollah, and what he said, and can you pretty much conclude that that channel isn't going to be very helpful to you? Iran?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any new conclusions on Iran at this point. I'm not exactly sure what you're referring to. I saw something that said that Iran had no intention of participating in military action, but I think we've made quite clear that we didn't expect everybody in the world to participate the same way.

QUESTION: So there's still a live possibility out there?

MR. BOUCHER: We still would be interested in what Iran is prepared to do against terrorism, against all forms of terrorism, to see whether they are prepared to make fundamental decisions like that. And, as the Secretary said frequently, including yesterday, it's worth exploring.

At this point, I don't think we have anything more directly on Iran's viewpoint. We have said that we look forward to hearing back from Foreign Secretary Straw after he visited to get his impressions and views on the situation with Iran. We haven't heard from him yet.

QUESTION: Could I do a follow-up on that?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) his announcement that it's going to provide intelligence cooperation on what it knows about Usama bin Laden with the United Nations. Do you have any comment?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment on specifics from any government in the world. I haven't followed exactly all the statements made by Iran. But, as I said, we remain interested in exploring the possibilities.

QUESTION: If I could follow up on Iran, the statements were quite strong, saying that the US lacked the credibility to go after Afghanistan, and also saying that they would not -- that they would oppose any action from the US or its allies.

Given that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and according to the report, the leading state sponsor of terrorism, are they in any kind of trouble right now if they take this position, which appears now to be in opposition to the United States in this war on terrorism?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to start commenting on every comment that foreign governments make.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) leader of this country.

MR. BOUCHER: Not of this country, that's for sure.

QUESTION: Not this country; Iran, sorry.

MR. BOUCHER: No. I am not going to start a public debate with the Iranian Ayatollahs here. Our policy on this -- the United States policy on this -- is quite clear. We are looking for a decision by all nations that they will oppose terrorism. We are looking for nations not to pick and choose the kind of terrorism that they might oppose, but to oppose all terrorism. We have seen some interesting statements from Iran. We have also seen other statements. But how to explore and reconcile these, we will just have to see. If they are interested in making the fundamental choice, then we are interested in exploring how they do that.

QUESTION: Following the comments by President Putin, which some Russian experts see as a major shift in his perspective, could you tell us whether the United States is considering any additional measures right now to help him, given that he has shown this solid degree of cooperation?

MR. BOUCHER: I think our view of this has been that countries cooperate because it is in all our interests to do this. The kind of relationship we want to have with Russia is one where we cooperate in many, many areas, where it is not seen as a competition or a conflict or an opposition, but rather where we recognize that we have common security interests, common economic interests, common interests in the development of democracy.

And this is an area where, quite clearly, the Russians have identified our common interest, said they want to work with us and cooperate with us. That can be -- have a beneficial effect, I suppose, throughout the relationship, in that it does demonstrate clearly that we have -- we and Russia work together for a common interest and not in opposition to each other.

QUESTION: There are fears that the Russian leadership may seek to use this opportunity to resume the kind of campaign in Chechnya that the United States has been criticizing for a long time. Is it your understanding that President Putin really does intend to seek a negotiated settlement with the Chechen rebels? Did you get any kind of message like that from him?

MR. BOUCHER: I will try to answer this carefully. We have been quite clear on the whole -- every aspect of our policy towards Chechnya. We have been quite clear in welcoming Russian recognition that there needed to be a dialogue or political settlement. We have been quite clear, also, in condemning the terrorism that exists.

But we have maintained quite clearly as well our concerns about human rights, our concerns about the need for accountability there. We have also seen a Chechen response at this point. So we have seen from the Chechen side, from Mr. Maskhadov, statements that he is dispatching an envoy to meet with President Putin's representative in the North Caucasus. And we welcome on his part his willingness to begin discussions with the Russians. In some ways, this is the first positive development in this conflict for many, many months.

We do believe that President Putin made a sincere proposal to the Chechen side. We hope that Mr. Maskhadov's quick response indicates his sincere commitment as well to work towards a lasting peace in this region.

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