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

QUESTION: Richard, what about the (inaudible) ties to international terrorist (inaudible)?

MR. BOUCHER: As we said yesterday, as the White House has said I believe today, we think it is very important for the Chechens to dissolve, to end, to terminate any ties they have with terrorist groups, including the connections that we have reported in the past with Usama bin Laden and the al-Qaida organization.

QUESTION: In last year's terrorism report, there was no reference of links to al-Qaida in Chechnya, whereas there was in the previous years. Can you tell us why that was dropped?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it changed significantly. I think it was editorial; I don't think it was of major substantive importance.

QUESTION: Along those lines --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: That is what you tell me when something gets cut out of your stories. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That's true.

QUESTION: We don't have a year to write our stories. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: My question is, though, how much trouble are we finding it with Russia and with other countries who call certain groups terrorists that we don't agree are terrorists? When we're designating perhaps the Taliban as supporters of terrorism, that is the same thing that the Russians say about the Chechens. So isn't there some kind of understanding or at least a difficulty in meetings that we can designate certain groups as terrorists but we are not accepting the Russians' definition of one, yet we want them to support us and our definition of the Taliban and its supporters?

MR. BOUCHER: Clearly, the United States for many years has done a lot of careful study and work on this and we have designated groups as foreign terrorist organizations. We put out regular reports on this and we have established, I think, a clear definition of what constitutes terrorism.

The fact that terrorism occurs within other groups, you know some groups -- what we have said in the Chechen case is there are some on that side, on the Chechen side, who use terrorism. And that needs to be stopped and that needs to be -- immediately and unconditionally, those ties need to be broken.

But there are also legitimate political causes and legitimate political grievances on the Chechen side that need to be addressed through political negotiations. So in some cases there is something of a mix.

At the same time, when there's a political channel, anybody involved needs to take advantage of that channel and not associate themselves in any way with terrorism.

QUESTION: So are they asking us to use that channel with the Taliban? Would you say the same thing about the Taliban? There are some practices --

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say the same about the Taliban, because no one can find any particular aspiration on the part of the Taliban, except for killing people and killing Americans in particular.

QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary spoke to the Irish Foreign Minister today. Did they talk about the IRA, and does the IRA qualify as a group with "global reach," given its Latin American connections?

MR. BOUCHER: They talked about the peace process in Northern Ireland. They talked a bit about the issue of terrorism. I don't think they analyzed the Real IRA or Provisional IRA or the other groups that we have designated as terrorist organizations.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Real IRA -- I mean, is this phase one, phase two, phase three or phase four, as the Secretary --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've defined what the phases are. Clearly, we have been concerned about the reports that the IRA was having some contacts in Central America with the FARC -- with South America. And those reports, if they prove true, I think demonstrate quite clearly the need for the IRA in general to just totally disassociate itself from any terrorist activity.

QUESTION: Richard, along those lines, on the resolution that you're working on with the UN, are you trying to get the UN to accept the list that was put out by the Treasury? Is it getting -- are you trying to be that specific so that organizations and individuals so designated by Washington will not become --

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have said that that was not a definitive list at this point. That was the initial list. I don't have the draft of the resolution. I don't think I am prepared to describe the draft -- or it's not even in draft yet. It hasn't been circulated as a draft resolution. It is a discussion in New York about what we can do and what belongs in the resolution.

So at this point I am not prepared to describe it in any particular detail.

QUESTION: In the resolution, are you trying to aim for specific entities, individuals and groups?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say at this point I am not prepared to describe it in particular detail.

QUESTION: Talking about the list, Richard, have you examined the responses from, for example, the Rashid Trust in Karachi, which is disputing in quite some detail your description of the organization? Are you looking at those --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure we've examined their responses, but I would say that quite clearly we had more than sufficient grounds to list the organizations and entities that we did.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to provide evidence?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made clear that we are not in a position necessarily to do that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible), but the Rashid case --

MR. BOUCHER: There is a list of organizations that we know quite clearly are associated with al-Qaida and with the financing of al-Qaida. We are not in a position necessarily to give out the information that we have. But we make these determinations very, very carefully.

QUESTION: Well, Richard, that gives you so much -- you could put the March of Dimes on that list, then.

MR. BOUCHER: We wouldn't do that, unless it was an organization that we knew quite clearly and specifically was involved.

QUESTION: But when you go to the UN, if you are going to start stamping people on lists --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say we were going to do that at the UN, did I?

QUESTION: Okay, when you go to the UN, are you going to provide evidence against any organizations or groups or individuals that you want to --

MR. BOUCHER: I just told you, I think, that we were not in a position, necessarily, to do that.

QUESTION: Even at the UN?

MR. BOUCHER: I told you we were not necessarily in a position to do that anywhere.

QUESTION: Did you notice the brazen act of defiance by the VOA -- (laughter) -- in broadcasting the segments of the interview with the Taliban leader, and do you have a comment?

MR. BOUCHER: We did notice, and we maintain our view that that is not the right thing to do. We maintain our view as members of the board. We maintain our view as members of a board where, apparently, based on our discussions we would say the majority of the board agreed with us. We certainly regret that they decided to do this and we will be continuing our contact with other members of the board about the policy.

QUESTION: Would the United States like to be able to use VOA as a kind of propaganda tool in Afghanistan? I don't mean this facetiously; it's a straight question.

MR. BOUCHER: VOA's purpose and goals are quite clear and their structure is quite clear. They do have a charter, which defines very clearly their obligations and their responsibilities and their purpose. And we think that broadcasting interviews with the head of the Taliban is not consistent with that. The need to bring objective news to people and responsible discussion of US policy is something that we very strongly support and we would encourage them to do that. As you know, VOA also has clearly identified portions of its broadcast where it does broadcast views of the US Government, specifically identified as those. So that has been common practice in VOA for many years.

We just don't think that broadcasting an interview with this man is in any way consistent with the charter or the purpose or, frankly, the traditions of the Voice of America.

QUESTION: Even though the report had tape from four people, only one of which was the Taliban leader, and the other three were hostile to the Taliban? That's not a mitigating factor?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not writing their news stories for them. I am just, I think, considering the fact that US taxpayers pay for this, considering the fact that this is the Voice of America. We don't think that the head of the Taliban belongs on this radio station.

This radio station has quite significant reach. Statistics show something like 80 percent of Afghan males listen to the broadcast of the Voice of America. And, frankly, we don't want people walking around Afghanistan saying, I heard Mullah Omar on the Voice of America. The association does not sit very well, in our minds.

QUESTION: But Richard, at the same time, you apparently do want people going around Afghanistan saying, we heard the voice of the former King on VOA. Can you explain -- do you have an answer to the question I had yesterday, about whether or not the King's statement is being broadcast in portions of time on VOA that are identified as the views of the US Government?

MR. BOUCHER: The King's statement?

QUESTION: The King, for the last week and a half or so has been broadcasting over VOA and BBC a message to the Afghani people.

MR. BOUCHER: Again, their job to report the news, to report responsible discussion of policy, they decide how they do that. But we, I think, can have a very clear view on the broadcast of a particular leader of Taliban, which has given safe harbor to an organization that killed perhaps 6,000 or more Americans, without saying that we decide every broadcast, every editorial, every view, every voice that goes out over the radio.

I think one is entitled to have pretty strong views about the leader of the Taliban, without necessarily taking a view on every other piece -- snippet of tape -- that might appear on their air.

QUESTION: But Richard, you do understand, though, that it is fairly significant if the King -- former King -- is broadcasting his message over VOA in a portion that is identified or allotted as a --

MR. BOUCHER: As far as I know -- I mean, I've listened to the VOA, you've listened to the VOA. I admit to not understanding exactly what is being said on the Pashtu Service of the VOA. But at least in the English service, they say, "The following is an editorial representing the views of the US Government." They read a script that represents clearly the views of the US Government, and then they say, "The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the US Government." I would not expect anybody else's views to be put in that kind of box.

QUESTION: Okay. Though I am kind of surprised that you say that you're not familiar with it. I mean, someone in this building is pretty familiar with the Pashtu Service, because --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I personally have not listened to it, so I can't speak from experience.

QUESTION: Can you find out what exactly the --

MR. BOUCHER: The question rests, that we had yesterday, are we broadcasting the message from the King. But again, given your desire to support the editorial independence of the Voice of America, I'd suggest you also address the question to them.

QUESTION: It's not my desire to support the editorial independence of anyone but myself.

QUESTION: Richard, you said you thought you had a majority on the Board of Governors. Could you explain to us what -- how you're so sure, and why in that case --

MR. BOUCHER: We talk to a lot of people.

QUESTION: Well, why in that case were they not able to impose their will? Can you explain how the --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I suppose that is a question we will have to look into.

QUESTION: Would you recommend any kind of disciplinary measures, like --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on this. I'd say quite clearly, we maintain our views, and we will be talking to other members of the board.

QUESTION: About what?

MR. BOUCHER: About the situation and about what happened in this situation.

QUESTION: What happened or will happen? Because I think usually the ones they support -- something might happen -- there might be some repercussions or something.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm just going to say we'll talk to other members of the board. I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Richard, how is this different from the editorial that was, I believe, shelved a few months ago, where the State Department was able to quash the broadcast of this one editorial regarding --

MR. BOUCHER: Because that was specifically an editorial. Obviously the State Department has control over what goes out as, "The following is the view of the US Government."

QUESTION: So (inaudible).

MR. BOUCHER: Those segments -- it's clearly understood that those are our chance to put out the views of the US Government. That's coordinated between VOA and the State Department in very regular fashion, and if there's something in one of those editorials that we don't think represents the view of the US Government, we tell them.

QUESTION: So as long as it doesn't have to go to the board, that -- the State Department is able to unilaterally decide?

MR. BOUCHER: No, that's an established procedure where if something goes out as a clear statement, as a defined statement of US policy, it has to be a defined statement of US policy.

QUESTION: Have there been any discussions with Middle Eastern states about (inaudible), the Lebanese blamed for attacks in the 1980s against the United States?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Richard, before the September 11th bombing, there was a lot of talk about how the US didn't feel that they had timely and accurate information on terrorism or really events in the South Asia region.

Do you feel that since the bombing that the cooperation that you have received has greatly enhanced and increased that cooperation? I mean, that information?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that is a question I am in a position to answer. It gets to the kind of information we might be receiving from a defined set of countries, and it gets into issues of intelligence. I don't think I can quite go that far. I would say that we have a great deal of cooperation generally with the countries of South Asia, indeed with many countries in the world, but particularly with the countries surrounding Afghanistan. And as I think the Secretary noted in some of his comments recently, that that is an important factor in the isolation of the Taliban and also in our ability to act correctly in this situation.

QUESTION: And you feel that it has greatly increased in scope and depth since the bombings?

MR. BOUCHER: Clearly, the cooperation against terrorism since the bombing has been excellent and at a new level for all of us with the countries around the world.

QUESTION: Overnight, there were talks between Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. Do we -- are we satisfied hearing back concerning those talks? And also, did we give any checklist to them on either carrot or stick saying, if you do this and so forth and so forth?

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary spoke to this outside just a few moments ago and said how pleased we were that the meeting had taken place, how we hope this was a beginning of a process that would lead quickly to implementation of the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell Committee recommendations. He said it was a hopeful sign, one that helps us get on with confidence-building measures, with seeing the cease-fire put firmly in place and which can lead to improvements in the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis, as well as the return to negotiations.

So we expect to remain fully engaged with the parties. The Secretary, our representatives and ambassadors in the region, Assistant Secretary Burns who works on this here, will all be fully engaged with the parties to try to continue this process, to try to see that this initial meeting leads to implementations of the steps that were agreed and leads us down that road where people can lead better lives and they can start solving the political issues.

QUESTION: With respect to those talks, was that just between the PA and Israel, or were they taking part in either a videoconference or a teleconference between they and other governments?

MR. BOUCHER: These were discussions between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli representatives.

QUESTION: Richard, I guess it's safe to assume that a US representative would take part in any security cooperation talks when they resume on Friday?

MR. BOUCHER: There have been both kinds of security discussions in the past. There have been security discussions at different levels and we have been involved, I would say, at the higher levels, not necessarily at the lower ones. So we look forward to that kind of direct contact, that kind of direct work together being established, as well as participating as much as we can be helpful to the process in other meetings.

I think one of the noteworthy things is that since the Intifada began almost a year ago, we have not seen this kind of direct discussion, direct willingness of the two parties to deal with each other and try to resolve these issues directly with each other, and that's perhaps one of the most welcome signs from this meeting. We hope it is brought to fruition.

QUESTION: You didn't actually say whether there would be a US representative --

MR. BOUCHER: I said that we would expect there to be contacts at different levels and we will be in some of them and not in others. I don't know if we will be in everything that happens Friday, or if it is definitely going to happen Friday. But when things happen, some of it we'll be there and some of it we won't.

QUESTION: And is Mr. Burns thinking about going to the region?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we are considering what our next steps would be and how we can help move this process forward, both in terms of meetings and in terms of implementation of the steps they have already agreed upon. So I don't have an answer on that for you.

QUESTION: You said since the Intifada began, you have not seen a willingness of both sides to cooperate? What about the Taba Talks and what about the many times under the last months of the Clinton Administration, when people were brought here, it seemed that there was at least more substantive discussion --

MR. BOUCHER: You didn't listen to what I said. Since the beginning of the Intifada about a year ago, we haven't seen this kind of direct discussion between the parties without others involved where they dealt directly with each other, where they dealt seriously with each other's concerns. And we think that is a noteworthy and positive aspect of what they did overnight.

QUESTION: Can I move back to Afghanistan for a moment? Before September 11th, anyway, we had talked with the Taliban about crop substitution for the poppy cultivation, which they had stopped, and we validated that they had stopped. Do you have any idea what the status of that program would be? I know some of it is under the United Nations but some of it, I believe, is bilateral. And I just wanted to know if we could find out what the status of that program is right now. Obviously, they're not -- no one is going in and working on it right now.

MR. BOUCHER: We have looked at the situation and I think you are aware that since July of the year 2000, there has been a ban on the cultivation of opium poppy by the Taliban. And, indeed, our information is that there is virtually no poppy being grown in the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. And while we welcome that ban, we are concerned about other aspects of the drug trade, including heroin production, trading and trafficking.

We had been prepared to provide over $2 million in assistance to former poppy farmers that are now affected by the drought and who have been unable, therefore, to pursue alternate crops. Those projects are currently on hold.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) they have stopped (inaudible), you believe?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we had not -- as far as I know, we had not started it. We were preparing to provide that money for projects but we haven't gone forward with that.

QUESTION: Can you comment on press reports that there were direct contacts in Geneva between Iran and American representatives?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have direct contacts with Iran. We have meetings with Iran and other parties, sometimes, on the subject of Afghanistan. We had some meetings last week in Geneva with the United Nations. Those are meetings where a number of countries, including Iran, participated. And those are to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the views of various Afghan parties.

QUESTION: You are suggesting by saying that there is no -- virtually no opium -- there is no poppy cultivation in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, and yet at the same time there are still problems with heroin production, trade and trafficking. Are you still saying that they are getting raw poppy from somewhere else?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know where they get the raw opium. But there have been large seizures of opiates originating in Afghanistan that continue to be made in Pakistan. Drug traffickers are able to draw on stockpiles of opium produced in Afghanistan over the last several years. That appears to be the principal cause as far as I can see.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the US-China expert group, which is meeting in Washington?

MR. BOUCHER: Which met. They met yesterday. The consultations were at the State Department on September 25. As you know, that meeting was announced during Foreign Minister Tang's visit last week.

They had wide-ranging talks. They focused on the increasing counter-terrorism cooperation between China and the United States. We characterize these discussions as serious and productive. They successfully identified areas of common interest between the US and China and they laid the groundwork for further efforts. We agreed to hold further talks. I don't have anything for you at this point on the schedule.

QUESTION: What are the areas of common interest, other than the general fight against -- that terrorism is a bad thing? Or is that all they -- is that as far as they got?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I am not in a position to go through specific areas that we might have discussed with specific governments. So I can't do that for you on China.

QUESTION: If you have already discussed this I can find it. But there have been several mentions of the US aid to Afghanistan. What is the mechanism for that? And since we don't recognize the Taliban, who gets the money? And right now, is there any sort of new thought being given to some -- either not providing aid to Afghanistan or maybe increasing it because of the particular circumstances going on?

MR. BOUCHER: We work with various organizations, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees being the primary one, on assistance in Afghanistan and assistance to Afghan refugees.

The United States is, in fact, the largest foreign donor of assistance to the Afghan people generally. We have given something like $177 million this year to assist Afghans who are suffering from drought, suffering from the actions of the regime. And we have been a principal supporter of that.

Now, the systems of distribution inside Afghanistan that were run by non-governmental organizations or the United Nations working with them have broken down, because the Taliban has kicked the foreign workers out and shut down many of the offices. So it has become impossible -- virtually impossible -- to distribute food and provide that, the support we did provide inside Afghanistan.

We are still looking at what we can do. We are looking at what we can do in the future about Afghans who may be forced to leave their country because of drought or because of hardship or whatever. So we are looking at what we can do for Afghans who end up as refugees in neighboring countries.

QUESTION: Did any of that money in the past go to opposition groups, or is any of the money in the future being contemplated to being given to the opposition groups?

MR. BOUCHER: This is money that goes for humanitarian purposes through NGOs and the United Nations to assist the people of Afghanistan. It is not directed at opposition to the Taliban.

QUESTION: In the case of, for example, the crop substitution money to farmers, would that be distributed through the local authorities, who would be Taliban? Or would UN personnel --

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, that is a program that was contemplated that is not being pursued.

QUESTION: In similar types of programs --

MR. BOUCHER: The distribution of food goes through the United Nations and NGOs; it doesn't -- as far as I know, it is not given -- money is not given to the government, nor the state.

QUESTION: You've done anti-narcotics work before in Afghanistan -- I mean through the UN anti-narcotics bureau.

MR. BOUCHER: I would invite you to check with the UN Anti-Narcotics Bureau then on that.

QUESTION: Well, it's your money. All right.

MR. BOUCHER: It's our money. They run the programs. If you want a description of the programs, talk to them.

QUESTION: Can the State Department confirm the reports that the Chinese are sending troops to their Afghan border? Did that come up at all in the September 25th talks?

MR. BOUCHER: I think that is something to ask the Chinese. I don't have anything like that.

QUESTION: There is a report in one of the Israeli newspapers and repeated on NPR last night that yesterday or the day before the Israeli Cabinet decided to establish a 9-by-18-mile security zone on the West Bank, north of Tel Aviv. Would you comment? And, if you can't, could you take the question and confirm or deny, and give us an idea of what the impact on the peace --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as far as confirming or denying that that's the Israeli intention, you would have to ask the Israelis. I will see if we have any comment on the idea.

Thank you.