Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
State Department Daily Briefing
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
QUESTION: And you think that that would help them (inaudible) that aren't --
MR. BOUCHER: It would help. Making it an international obligation helps.
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?
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
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
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
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.