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Spokesman Richard Boucher
State Department Daily Briefing
State Department
Washington, D.C.
September 28, 2001
Con't

QUESTION: Richard, harking back to the theme of what some countries have done for us, and whether or not you'd comment on it, can we go back to Sudan? You said you were checking on the letter. But has the Government of Sudan done anything else that you can tell us about publicly that has been favorable?

MR. BOUCHER: The Government of Sudan itself, I think, has talked a little bit in public about what it's done, and you've seen that in the United Nations this morning, the Security Council passed UN Security Council Resolution 1054, which lifts the UN sanctions that had been imposed upon Sudan because of the assassination attempt on President Mubarak.

We have given an explanation of vote up there, which describes that. I can go into that particular resolution if you want to. But in that context, I think we've noted that over the last year we've had a dialogue about terrorism with the Government of Sudan. We feel like we've made concrete progress in that dialogue. And in the last few weeks since the attacks in New York and Washington, we have had some serious discussions with the Government of Sudan about ways to combat terrorism in that context.

We have noted that they have recently apprehended extremists within that country, whose activities may have contributed to international terrorism. We have noted that they have taken other steps. We welcome the steps that they have taken. We would expect the Government of Sudan to demonstrate a full commitment to the fight against international terrorism by taking every possible step to expel terrorists and deny them safe haven. And we'll continue to work with Sudan and to pressure Sudan to take those kind of steps.

QUESTION: As a follow-up, have any other steps they've taken had to do with financial squeeze?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I can go into too much more detail on the steps until they do, but I'd say that they have worked with us to eliminate the presence of terrorist groups that could threaten American interests. They have provided information on the past doings of terrorist groups in Sudan. And as I said, they have recently apprehended extremists who might threaten people there.

QUESTION: Do some of those terrorists that they apprehended, were they involved in the bombing of UN humanitarian planes? And do you expect Sudan to be removed from the terrorism -- list of state sponsors of terrorism --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm able at this point to describe the people they might have apprehended, other than the way I've already described them.

As far as the US terrorism list, I would say that they really do need to meet all the requirements that we have set up for getting off the terrorism list. It is a different topic than the UN resolution, which dealt with some specific elements relating to the attempted assassination of President Mubarak in Addis Ababa. Both Egypt and Ethiopia had felt it was time to lift that particular resolution.

But on the US counter-terrorism sanctions, they still have additional and substantial steps that they need to take, and we will continue to urge them to do those things, before they would be lifted.

QUESTION: Are you saying that the Government of Sudan -- so if these terrorists were not the ones involved in bombing a UN humanitarian --

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say one way or the other what the people they've apprehended had been doing.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the government was involved in that bombing?

MR. BOUCHER: Which bombing are you talking about?

QUESTION: Well, several months ago, there was a bombing of a UN humanitarian plane, wasn't there?

MR. BOUCHER: We have frequently said that the government action in the south in particular has involved bombing of humanitarian efforts and relief efforts. That was a pattern in the past. And about the time the Secretary was in Africa, I think we noted that those bombings had stopped.

They haven't stopped. I think they have occurred since then again, on occasion. And certainly that has been one of the major issues that we continue to raise with the Government of Sudan. We have not, in any way, changed our view of the many things that need to be resolved in Sudan. The entire peace process, and many of the elements of human rights violations, of religious freedom, of slavery, of interference with aid efforts, these are still major problems. And the President has appointed Senator Danforth to try to deal with these and the other issues.

QUESTION: Very quickly, you said they have apprehended extremists. How do we know that these are, in fact, extremists and not just political opponents of the government?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have enough information ourselves to know that.

QUESTION: So we know who these individuals are?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We do. You don't.

QUESTION: You mentioned there were a variety of things that the Sudanese still needed to do to get off the terrorism list, and Elise was asking about the bombing of UN humanitarian sites. Not trying to be flip, but is bombing UN facilities an act of terrorism that is one of the activities we need them to stop on the terrorism list? Or is it a separate issue?

MR. BOUCHER: Bombing aid workers is a terrible thing and nobody should do it. But the criteria for getting off the terrorism list would be to completely distance itself from any activities of terrorist groups and remove all vestiges of cooperation, you might say, with terrorist groups. And until they have completely satisfied those requirements, we would not be in a position to remove them from the terrorism list.

QUESTION: On a larger issue, unless you have addressed it, the Egyptian Foreign Minister late Wednesday, and the Russian Foreign Minister a few days earlier, both had made a pitch -- they support the US, they say -- but they have both made a pitch, and maybe others have as well, for a larger setting, for some sort of an international conference, an international gathering, for a sustained campaign against terrorism. Of course, this reference you've made to the ongoing UN -- the interest in what the UN may be doing about financing.

Is this a thought the US is entertaining, that there be some major gathering of all the nations to try to sustain this drive?

MR. BOUCHER: It is a topic that has been discussed with the people who have talked about it. I believe the Egyptian Foreign Minister, when he was outside, clarified with you all, as he did in our discussions, that he didn't see it as a requirement for proceeding further, that they were in the coalition --

QUESTION: He said the culprits should be pursued anyhow. That's right.

MR. BOUCHER: They knew we needed to go after the people who did this. They knew we needed to go after terrorism. They saw this as one possible way, over the longer term, of enhancing the cooperation. So it is a topic that we will consider. We haven't made a judgment one way or the other at this point.

QUESTION: I'm going to try this time using the US. You said that the US has information that these individuals who were apprehended by the Sudanese were extremists; is that correct?

MR. BOUCHER: You asked me if the United States knew that the people they had apprehended were extremists or terrorists rather than some kind of political prisoner, and I said, yes.

QUESTION: So are you using "extremist" interchangeably with "terrorists"? The US knows for a fact that these individuals have committed acts of -- or are believed to have committed acts of terrorism?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't quite go that far. I think when you have the word "extremist" used, it indicates they have either committed acts, or they have been associated with people who might have, or associated with groups that might be associated with people who might have.

QUESTION: Is the US concerned, though, that there are going to be governments around the world who may, for their own domestic reasons, decide to use this as a pretext for just arresting people who perhaps they just don't like?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first and foremost, in terms of our cooperation, we would want to have a substantial basis for discussing any specific cases or individuals with other governments; second of all, that obviously we stand for the due process of law around the world, and we believe that in many places -- European countries, for example, where there's a great deal of law enforcement effort being undertaken -- that they do in fact follow all due process of law. So those protections are in place in countries around the world in many of the places where we do see an active law enforcement effort being made.

As far as other places might go, I suppose it would depend on the particular case. But we would want to have the opportunity to raise any problems like that that we would see.

QUESTION: But there are a lot of groups around the world that the countries call -- have been for a long time calling these people "terrorists." And so, how do you -- are you going to have standards for these countries to submit to you what in fact -- like what is your definition of a terrorist?

MR. BOUCHER: We're not -- how can I say it? We're not the only judge in the world. But clearly, we do have standards; we do have beliefs; we do have grounds for citing who's a terrorist and who's not, and that is something that we would advocate forcefully if we thought that people were using this as an excuse to pick up other people.

QUESTION: Richard, your implication is that by saying that you know that these people are in fact extremists is that you may have pointed the Sudanese in the general direction of like, hey, look at this guy; you might want to do something about --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm going to stop here. I've probably gone too far already.

QUESTION: Can you say if that's --

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't.

QUESTION: Can you say that -- you talked about how the Sudanese have been cooperative in intelligence-sharing; can you at least say that you, as well, have been sharing intelligence with the Sudanese?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't.

QUESTION: You can't?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't. I don't talk about intelligence. I don't talk about intelligence-sharing.

QUESTION: You just did.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't.

QUESTION: You just said the Sudanese have been cooperating on intelligence-sharing; can you say if that's reciprocal?

MR. BOUCHER: I said they have provided information on past doings of terrorist groups in Sudan.

QUESTION: Have you provided them any information --

MR. BOUCHER: We have had an active dialogue over the course of the year where we have discussed what we know about activities of terrorist groups, and what we would like them or expect them to do about those --

QUESTION: And the second part is, you have said that there are still some concerns about Sudan. Does that reflect the fact that your action in the UN today was an abstention rather than a ringing endorsement by voting "yes."

MR. BOUCHER: I think the resolution today had to do with the precise circumstances of the resolution today. So the abstention was based on the fact that the resolution had called on them to arrest and expel, I think it was, the suspects of this attempted assassination on President Mubarak. The suspects were not turned over to the appropriate authorities. That was not satisfactory. But we do understand, as do the governments of Egypt and Ethiopia, that they are no longer in Sudan.

So while we thought it was appropriate to allow the lifting of these sanctions because the suspects are no longer in Sudan and the situation no longer applies, we would have preferred that they carry out the resolution fully by arresting those people.

QUESTION: Okay, so you would have voted "yes" instead of just abstaining had they turned them over to --

MR. BOUCHER: If they had been able to arrest them and turn them over, that would have fulfilled the requirements of the resolution.

QUESTION: And you would have voted yes.

QUESTION: Richard, if they were arrested, and they weren't turned over, and they're not in Sudan anymore, where are they?

MR. BOUCHER: They're no longer in Sudan; that's about all the information I have at this point.

QUESTION: Well, aren't you afraid that these would-be terrorists are running around, planning another attack on somebody? Or can you --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on that.

QUESTION: Are they still in custody somewhere?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything more about the meeting with Mr. Iryani of Yemen yesterday and what the current state of your discussions with the Yemenis are? Have they also been arresting extremists, perhaps?

MR. BOUCHER: Who met with Mr. Iryani of Yemen yesterday?

QUESTION: Mr. Grossman and Mr. Crocker.

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, Ryan Crocker. No, but I'll be glad to check on it with Mr. Grossman and Mr. Crocker.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the pace of the Egyptian-Israeli talks? The Secretary --

QUESTION: Egyptians?

QUESTION: I'm sorry.

MR. BOUCHER: We knew what he meant --

QUESTION: I was about to say, when the Egyptian Foreign Minister came out Wednesday, the Secretary said that, as the meetings progress, he could see a more active role for the US. I wonder if you could flesh that out at all? And, indeed, they met today and they had talks, preliminary discussions. Are things moving along nicely?

MR. BOUCHER: We are, indeed, glad to see that they had the security meeting today. We think it is essential that these meetings continue, that they engage in the fullest possible coordination on security issues to help ensure a lasting halt to violence and terror. The United States attended and facilitated these discussions. We recognize much work remains to be done, particularly in the security areas.

We are encouraged that the sides have agreed to meet again soon to continue those discussions. We would say it's also essential that both the Palestinians and Israelis avoid actions that jeopardize this renewed dialogue that has been initiated on September 26 in Gaza, and that both sides need to do everything possible to restore an atmosphere of calm.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Any thoughts on the anniversary of the outbreak of the Intifada?

MR. BOUCHER: No. We think that what is going on right now offers an important opportunity to break with the violence, to break with the terror, and to let both Palestinians and Israelis get back to a situation where they can lead normal lives and where they can resolve their issues through political discussions.

QUESTION: Any phone calls on this subject?

MR. BOUCHER: On this subject?

QUESTION: Or on any other subject, for that matter.

MR. BOUCHER: They are always making phone calls. He talked to NATO Secretary General this morning. Yesterday, the Secretary talked to a number of people, including the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, the British Foreign Secretary, Chairman Arafat, Foreign Minister Peres, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates.

QUESTION: That was all yesterday?

MR. BOUCHER: That was all yesterday, with Lord Robertson being this morning.

QUESTION: It concerns Afghanistan.

MR. BOUCHER: Please.

QUESTION: Will the detainees be a factor in this government's planning for any other measures that may be in store for Afghanistan?

MR. BOUCHER: We consider the status of the detainees to be a completely separate matter from what's going on, and we believe that they need to be released right away, which is what the President said last week.

QUESTION: So they will not be a factor?

MR. BOUCHER: I just stated our position on it.

QUESTION: Any conclusions from the meeting yesterday in Berlin? I think when you spoke yesterday it was still going on.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we expected to have any particular conclusions. There was, as you know, an appeal from the United Nations to help the refugees and the people of Afghanistan. We have been working on that for a great, long period of time. We attended the meeting.

I think we, and many others, expressed our intention to work with the United Nations and to bring these preparations we have made into fruition, so that we can adequately take care of the people. There was no new pledge announced there, but we would expect to be able to describe an initial contribution probably next week when we talk again in Geneva.

QUESTION: Did you discuss a possible reconstruction of the country after the Taliban perhaps would leave?

MR. BOUCHER: We talked about the humanitarian situation with regard to refugees. That was the subject of the conference.

QUESTION: But reconstruction did not come up?

MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea if words like that came up or not. But the subject of the conference was to talk about humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: There are reports out of Saudi Arabia that that country has agreed to allow us to launch military strikes. How important is that in the cooperation between US and Saudi Arabia?

MR. BOUCHER: It is clearly one of those areas where I can't get into any particular detail on what governments may or may not have agreed to do unless they, themselves, decide to do it. I go back to say that we have welcomed the cooperation of the Saudi Arabian Government in working with us to confront terrorism, including their decision earlier this week to break relations with the Taliban. But I leave it to individual countries to announce what they might be doing.

QUESTION: Back to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Could you give us an idea of what kind of steps would be necessary at this point for the US to undertake the larger role that the Secretary said he could foresee?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that the United States has been involved at various levels. We do play a significant role. We will continue to work with the parties as they move forward and as our services or help or contribution is desired by the parties, we will play whatever role they think is appropriate, whatever role we think can usefully contribute.

QUESTION: But if he said he can foresee a larger role, what is holding that up now?

MR. BOUCHER: As things accelerate, if we get towards more and more steps of cooperation, as we get towards the political dialogue based on Resolutions 242 and 338 that we anticipate, I am sure the United States will play a very large role.

QUESTION: On that, isn't the attending and facilitating a security talk an enlarged role? I mean, there hadn't been any security talks, so obviously your role --

MR. BOUCHER: There hadn't been any security talks for several months.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BOUCHER: So we have played that role in the past; I am sure we will in the future. We take --

QUESTION: But that -- that attendance and facilitation --

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to argue with large, medium, small on this one. We played a very active role. We have been involved in what's going on. We have tried to move this process forward. One of the ways we have done that is through our direct contacts with the leaders, and also in our direct work with the sides on the security.

QUESTION: What I am trying to get at is, was the Secretary -- do you think the Secretary -- or was the Secretary referring to this when he was talking about the role, or was he referring to something else?

MR. BOUCHER: I think he was referring to the general proposition that whatever role we could play to help this process move forward, we would try to play. And that as it accelerated, as the cooperation between the two sides grew larger, after their initial direct contacts with the two sides, there may be a larger role for the United States to play in helping that process continue.

QUESTION: Richard, yesterday you made some specific requests from the Israelis. Do you consider them to have responded adequately to your requests?

MR. BOUCHER: I think 24 hours is probably too little time to judge. But we continue to believe that it is important for both sides to take specific and concrete steps to cement the peace, to make the quiet work better, and that they avoid actions that could escalate. We have talked about those kind of things before.

QUESTION: Richard, two quick things. Do you have any plans any time soon to review the terrorism list? And, second, there was a report this morning that -- you probably can't talk about this -- two Chinese companies have been helping the Afghans to build some telephone systems. Anything on that?

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't, first of all, be able to comment on any information that purportedly comes from telephones or intelligence systems. But I would say that we found Chinese cooperation in concrete ways to be very good. We are very pleased with the cooperation we have had from China.

As you know, we have had detailed counter-terrorism discussions with the Chinese. The Chinese were among the first -- I think President Jiang was among the first people to call President Bush. They have supported the UN Security Council resolution. So we have been working productively with the Chinese in a number of ways in this circumstance.

QUESTION: The list --

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the terrorism list. There is a sort of a re-issuance of the current list that takes place every year around this time. It should take place fairly soon. But we always look at organizations that may go on or come off the list.

If you're talking about countries, there are two lists, actually. There are foreign terrorist organizations, which is an annual re-issuance that we will be doing fairly soon. But we put organizations on from time to time in the interim periods. And then, of course, there is a list of state sponsors of terrorism. And, again, that is the sort of thing that gets updated as necessary, as appropriate. If countries should take steps to stop any form of cooperation with terrorism, we would be happy to take them off the list.

QUESTION: Can we go to Macedonia briefly? (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Macedonia.

QUESTION: Mr. James Pardew, one of the major negotiators in this process in Macedonia, will be there Monday, I believe, again. So can you confirm that?

MR. BOUCHER: I would have to say, I've stopped -- oh, I've got it. Yes, he will return to Skopje on Monday to support the peace process. He goes in and out so frequently and he is working very closely with the European Union representatives that I don't always track his travel.

QUESTION: One more. The leader of the so-called MLA in Macedonia said recently that this group no longer exists and what would you say about this? And there are also reports that this leader will form his own political party there?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't confirm any particular reports. We have seen the statements that they have disbanded. We know that they turned over 3,800 weapons and more than 400,000 explosives. But as far as disbandment, we would say we will continue to watch the situation and we would expect to hold them to their commitments.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the initiative for the referendum?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that for you. We think that the process that's under way in the Macedonian parliament to implement the agreements needs to continue and needs to be completed.

QUESTION: Thank you.

END 1:37 P.M. EDT