Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
October 2, 2001
QUESTION: Following yesterday's attack in Kashmir, the Prime Minister sent a
letter -- of India -- sent a letter to President Bush, blaming Pakistan for
this, saying India is no longer going to be patient with Pakistan. And today,
a lot of Pakistani officials are saying that one of the things that India is
trying to do is to lump Pakistan together with the Taliban, Afghanistan, and
Usama bin Laden.
Now, obviously, with Pakistan, as you said, a key component of the US coalition
against terrorism, do you share that view?
MR. BOUCHER: That Pakistan is a key component of --
QUESTION: No, no. That India's assertion that --
MR. BOUCHER: I think that the US Government view has been stated many times,
and I'll state it again, that our cooperation with Pakistan in this matter is
very, very important to us. We have worked all along with Pakistan on issues
in the area and we have always encouraged all the countries in the region to
use their influence to reduce the violence in Kashmir. It has been very important
to us to try to see that situation solved peacefully, and we have been very
close to the parties in that regard. As far as any other views that the Indian
Government has, I guess I would leave it to them to explain.
QUESTION: Richard, can you explain or just talk about the public announcement
that you put out for Italy this morning? And, in particular, explain what you
mean by a symbol of American capitalism. And if, by using those words, are you
trying to imply that this is from some kind of a left-wing -- that the threat
emanates from left-wing anti-capitalists or anti-globalization people?
MR. BOUCHER: The short answer is, no, since you want to get the short answer
to your questions. I am not in a position to explain that phrase any more. That
reflects the nature of the information that we have, that so-called symbols
of American capitalism in Italy may be targeted for attack in the next month.
Our Embassy has released a warden message to the American community. And we
would provide information should it become available and able to reflect it.
But this is about as close as we can come to describing the threat. And I don't
think we have any more information on what that means.
QUESTION: I mean, I am sure there are a lot of Americans who are in Italy right
now wondering if they can -- does that mean it's not safe for them to go to
an American restaurant or an American store? Is that what you are trying to
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we are able to go into any more detail on what kind
of information this is. This is the best reflection we can give people of where
the threats might be. And, obviously, people should be careful wherever they
go, and that's what the travel advisory says, that people should exercise a
high level of vigilance and increase their security awareness.
QUESTION: So this isn't some kind of a "buy Italian" campaign?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: The Sudanese released a number of political prisoners today, and they
have taken other steps that have been helpful. Have US-Sudanese relations changed
in the last couple of weeks in any noticeable way?
MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't aware of any prisoner releases. I will have to double-check
on that. There have been some in the past. We have always said that there were
quite a few more who should be released. So I don't know how many or who these
people might have been.
Certainly, we have tried to work with Sudan over the past year on many of the
issues that are of concern to us there. We have seen some concrete progress
in our dialogue on terrorism. We have seen on-again/off-again ends to the bombing
of aid convoys. So we have tried to work on the many issues of concern.
As you know, the President has appointed Senator Danforth to guide this overall
process for us and to see if we can't help for the search for peace there. So
we welcome the cooperation where we have had it, but we still do have a number
of concerns in some areas.
QUESTION: As you know, last year, Sudan was listed as a particular country of
concern in the United States report on religious freedom out of this building.
And human rights groups would say that, again, the United States is ready to
perhaps criticize Sudan in its upcoming report, which is not -- which was scheduled
to be released last week, which is not -- can you --
MR. BOUCHER: It hasn't been scheduled for release at this point and it's not
ready -- not quite ready for release yet. But it should be soon.
QUESTION: Well, are you holding the report in order to not offend countries
that might or might not be criticized in the report, so as not to offend any
countries that you need for the coalition?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not yet scheduled the precise release date of that report
so that people at senior levels who have lots of other things to do right now
get a chance to review it before we put it out.
QUESTION: This is kind of a philosophical question coming up the back of Sudan.
But I wondered the extent to which the events in the last few weeks have produced
a kind of seismic change in relations with countries like Sudan, but other countries
-- has this changed the whole American perception of the world?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to go seismic here, or philosophical. I would go
back to what the President said, which is that nations who continue to harbor
terrorism will find themselves viewed as hostile. The corollary to that is that
nations have a chance to make a decision. They have to make a choice for change.
And if governments are willing to cooperate against terrorism, if governments
are willing to cooperate to solve the problems that we have in these areas,
then we welcome that cooperation, and that can result in a change in the level
of our ability to cooperate with them.
So it's really based on the facts. Where countries are cooperating in the fight
against terrorism, that obviously leads to a different relationship. If they
are not, then it's not going to lead anywhere.
QUESTION: Just returning to the Middle East for a second, do you think it's
possible that by reminding the Muslim world that the United States has at some
point voiced support for a Palestinian state under some circumstances, that
it might defuse some of the anti-Americanism in the Muslim world now?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the importance of this process of search for peace in the
Middle East, the importance of ending the violence so that people don't get
hurt and die, the importance of moving back to a more stable situation where
the parties can negotiate their differences, that's an overriding importance;
that's a virtue within itself. And so those are things that we have been pursuing.
We obviously know that many people in this region are concerned about the situation
with regard to peace, and that affects the atmosphere and some of the attitudes.
But as I think I have explained to you today, we were involved in this search
before September 11th, and we will continue to be involved afterwards. Because
it's important to pursue it for US policy and for the sake of the region.
QUESTION: The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, this morning in his rather incoherent
press conference in Islamabad, appeared to have said that -- or he did say that
-- the Taliban had actually been the first government, or Afghanistan had been
the first country in the world to condemn the attacks and to offer its condolences.
I'm just wondering, in your list of 197 whatevers, do you register -- maybe
this is a protocol question -- but do you accept --
MR. BOUCHER: The 198 countries and entities? I don't have the whole list with
QUESTION: Well, are they in there?
MR. BOUCHER: I tend to doubt it. We accept sincere expressions of condolence.
QUESTION: So if in fact they had, it was insincere?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember exactly what they said and how they said it, but
I don't think it changes the fundamental situation, which is that they are under
an international obligation that they have not carried out.
QUESTION: A State Department plane heading from the Caribbean to South Florida
is missing. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Let me give you the facts on this, as much as I can.
We probably have more, if you need them.
There's a State Department-owned single-engine aircraft that took off from Turks
and Caicos Islands at approximately 8:15 Eastern Time on October 1st. It was
en route to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida for scheduled maintenance, and
an American contractor piloted the plane, no passengers.
At about 9:15, Miami air traffic control received a position report. They got
another one at 9:45. They tried -- the next position report was due at 9:45.
They tried to contact the pilot at 9:23 a.m., but they were unable to make radio
contact. By early afternoon, a search and rescue operation began with planes
from US Coast Guard Miami and US Air Force at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.
Search and rescue operations continued through the night and into this morning.
The State Department's airplanes, the air wing at Patrick Air Force Base, also
joined the search this morning.
It is our understanding that the weather was bad and that weather conditions
have improved from last night.
QUESTION: Where was the plane originally located?
MR. BOUCHER: It was coming up from Colombia, being ferried up, making regular
stops along the way, and the pilot, I think, normally spends a night in several
places as he brings the airplane back up to Florida.
QUESTION: Just for the record, what was it doing in Colombia?
MR. BOUCHER: It was part of the anti-drug operations that we have down there.
QUESTION: So it was spraying cocaine?
MR. BOUCHER: It was an aerial spray program airplane. Its spray boom and spray
pump were pulled before the plane departed Colombia, and the spray tanks are
filled with fuel for up to 12 hours of flying time.
QUESTION: Richard, you said it was a State Department-owned plane?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: How many planes does the State Department own?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the number. We have an air force that we operate out
QUESTION: The State Department has its own air force?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we have an air wing.
QUESTION: Does the Pentagon know?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, they do. (Laughter.)
These airplanes that are used in counter-drug activities in Latin America belong
to the State Department.
QUESTION: "The Fighting Diplomats"? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I offered to fly, but they wouldn't let me.
QUESTION: Was it coming up for maintenance?
MR. BOUCHER: It was coming up for -- I think that's right -- yes, scheduled
QUESTION: Can I go back to the Mideast briefly? There were -- in the days after
the 11th, there was a brief period there where there were some positive signs
in the region, there were a couple of short pauses in the fighting and some
expressions of desire to have talks, et cetera. That all seems to have now kind
of turned back to the violent normal.
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't say that. I think the meetings that have been held,
the security discussions that have been held have resulted in a lessening of
the violence, and we obviously are working very hard to try to see that continue.
The parties have to take further steps. We've made that clear.
QUESTION: My question is, were those signs that were progress, however modest,
linked to the knowledge among leaders in the region of potential impending administration
initiatives, or were they linked to, you know, the reaction to the violence,
or none of the above?
MR. BOUCHER: The potential, pending, contemplated, thought-of, perhaps, maybe-
might-have-done-something, could-have-done-this, could-have-done-that kind of
things, I'm not going to get into what those might have been. If we say there
were no plans and nothing was scheduled, then you can assume that we had not
talked about it with the parties at that point.
What those relate to, I would say, is the fact that we were working hard and
have been working hard on the peace process, on trying to get the meetings together,
trying to get the concrete steps on the ground, trying to get the parties to
do what they have to do to end the violence.
And, immediately, if you look at the abundance of phone calls that I have talked
to you about, you will see that the day after the attacks on the World Trade
Center, the Secretary was again on the phone with the parties in the Middle
East. Our representatives in the region were talking to the parties to continue
the search for peace. And that is an effort that has been under way, and has
led in recent times to some progress that we were working very hard to try to
QUESTION: I have a political question. Was there -- would it be fair to characterize
there being somewhat of a full court press going on in the Administration behind
the scenes in order to bring about some modest improvement that would then set
the stage for whatever maybe, kind of, sort of announcements might have been
MR. BOUCHER: If you go back to what we said before, before September 11th, we
were working very hard to try to create a certain momentum in the process, to
try to make the violence and help the parties make the violence end and get
back to this path of negotiation and confidence-building measures, confidence
building and then negotiation. That was an effort that was under way, and after
the attacks on September 11th, obviously some of the specifics changed in terms
of scheduling and dates and the UN session and things like that. But we maintained
the sense of involvement that we had and continue to work very hard both through
the Secretary's calls, our representatives in the Middle East, the activities
of the President, et cetera. So we had been working hard on this, continue to
work hard on it, and will continue to work hard on it.
QUESTION: And one more follow-up. I realize you've basically been asked this,
but I want to take another crack at it. Obviously, you see the peace process
as important in its own right; you said that. Does the Administration see any
link between the peace process and the whole terrorism crisis?
MR. BOUCHER: As I have said before, we know that people in the region who are
working with us, who care about terrorism, who themselves have been subject
to terrorism and are working very hard with us on that, we know that they also
care about the status of efforts in the Middle East. They have welcomed the
fact that the US has been involved and engaged. They welcome the steps that
we have tried to take with the parties. And that does affect the atmosphere,
the attitudes involved. But I think, as we have said, the fight against terrorism
is very important for all of us, for its own reasons. And the search for peace
in the Middle East is also important.
QUESTION: Any indication that the Palestinians are arresting people on a list
of about 100 names the Israelis have given them?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I have anything on that, specifically. I think I
am not able to report to you on specifics. You would have to check in the region
for those. But I would just say that we have made very clear all along that
the Palestinian Authority needs to take sustained and effective steps to preempt
the violence and indeed to arrest those who are responsible for planning or
conducting acts of violence and terror. We think that is an obligation they
have and we have talked about that frequently.
QUESTION: What about the Israelis? Have you been pressuring the Israelis, stepped
up your pressure, to ease up on some of the closures on the Palestinians and
return to a normal life? Would you say that that pressure has increased a little
bit in the last few weeks?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have continued to work very hard with the parties.
I have been quite explicit this day and previous days that we think that there
are certain things we would look to the Israelis to do, there are certain things
we would look to the Palestinians to do, particularly when it comes to sustained
and effective steps to stop the violence.
We have been in close touch with the parties on those. We have looked for them
to -- we tried to help them work out how those steps could take place, so that
we can get into an end to the violence, the Mitchell Plan and return to talks.
QUESTION: There is a widespread view in much of the Arab and Muslim world that
the United States supports Israel and that therefore is somehow responsible
for the sufferings of Palestinian people in this conflict. What can you say
to the people of the Muslim world and the Arab world to convince them that this
is not a correct attitude?
MR. BOUCHER: I would point out the facts, as we always have. Obviously the United
States supports Israel. Israel is an ally, it is a fellow democracy, it is a
government with whom we work and cooperate in many ways. But, just as clearly,
the United States has worked very hard to see that conditions for the Palestinians
are eased, to see that they have a chance to achieve their legitimate aspirations
through political process, through negotiation. The United States has worked
very, very hard to try to see that they are able to achieve what they want to
achieve through negotiation.
So I think we would say that our longstanding support for Israel and our relationship
with that government does not in any way change the fact that we are working
very hard to see that all the people in the region have an opportunity to live
peacefully and securely, as we've said, within their state.
QUESTION: Any possibility of inviting Mr. Arafat to Washington now?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything like that to announce.
QUESTION: One of my distinguished colleagues wrote a superb article quoting
the Algerian President as saying that the Islamic extremist movement in Algeria
had been, in a sense, manipulated from abroad. And I was wondering whether there
is any involvement of Algeria in an attempt to defuse what's going on. I know
that Mr. Brahimi, the former foreign minister, was Kofi Annan's special expert
on Afghanistan. So could you comment on any of that?
MR. BOUCHER: I would leave to the United Nations what Mr. Brahimi's current
status is and whatever he is doing now. I'm not quite sure.
As far as Algeria goes, clearly it is one of the countries that people want
to cooperate with. I don't have a specific update on our cooperation with them.
But I think we have seen the European governments working with them, and I am
sure we are working with them as well.
QUESTION: Do they appear to be enthusiastic about mediating?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try -- first of all, "mediating" is not
the word that operates anywhere in the current circumstance. We are not open
to negotiation. The requirements laid down are quite clear.
I think if you look at our terrorism report, you will see a write-up of the
groups that do operate in Algeria, including some of the terrorist groups there,
and what links they might have to the outside.
QUESTION: One other Mid East question. Sorry. There was a Ha'aretz report about
the US considering a cutoff of economic aid to Israel, which I guess was planned
in a phase-out, but might be speeded up for a variety of reasons.
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen anything like that. I don't know anything about
QUESTION: On the information on bin Laden's network, was the information shared
with all the embassies that it will be shared with today? And were -- if not,
were Pakistan and NATO allies the first to receive that information?
MR. BOUCHER: The information that I discussed that went out to a number of posts
around the world is available for ambassadors and embassies to share with governments
today or tomorrow, whenever they get scheduled to do so. Clearly, the discussions
at NATO were very important to us and coordination with our allies is very important
to us, as well as other governments. But, yes, the people that we were able
to share information with in this fashion, that cable went out last night for
QUESTION: On that, Richard, are all the embassies getting exactly the same thing?
Or are they graded as -- you know, in terms of the amount of information in
them, as to what the country -- how much information you think that their specific
country should --
MR. BOUCHER: That is something I really can't go into. We have different kinds
of cooperation with different governments around the world. Some governments,
we have very close intelligence sharing and law enforcement cooperation. In
other places, we might be sharing only through diplomatic channels. So I am
not able to draw distinctions on that score.
QUESTION: But is it the same message to every embassy that got it?
MR. BOUCHER: I just said I am not able to draw distinctions on that score.
QUESTION: Can I ask then on a related note, I know that you heard the speech
of Prime Minister Blair this morning. Do you agree -- does the United States
agree with his assessment that the killing of Mr. Massoud was a payment in blood
from bin Laden, that bin Laden was behind it as a payment to the Taliban for
MR. BOUCHER: We, obviously, appreciate very much the efforts of the British
Government, Prime Minister Blair. The President has described him as a true
friend. I think that is reflected in the attitudes that they have taken and
that he expressed today in the speech.
I am not going to try to parse his every word or explain on his behalf things
that he said in his speech. I am not in a position to --
QUESTION: I am not asking you to explain it; I am asking if you agree.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think what he said needs any corroboration or further comment
from us, frankly.
QUESTION: Do you agree with him? Do you think -- forget about him. Forget about
what Blair said entirely. Do you think that Massoud was killed by bin Laden
as payment to the Taliban?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on that and see if I can say anything in that
QUESTION: (Inaudible) much more detail about the military objectives. Were you
happy about that?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, he is a true friend, great ally.
QUESTION: Does the US agree with the Prime Minister that either the Taliban
surrender bin Laden or they will surrender power, in effect be taken from power?
Is that the same message that --
MR. BOUCHER: The President's message in that regard was quite similar. I don't
have the exact words, but it was turn him over or suffer his fate, I think was
the way that he put it. So, it was quite clear.