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State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
Daily Briefing
State Department
Washington, D.C.
October 9, 2001
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QUESTION: If governments say nothing now, do you consider that satisfactory, given the fact that they may be afraid of the reaction in their own country? If there is absolute silence --

MR. BOUCHER: That sounds like a very simple question but, frankly, it is a very complicated one. What matters to us most is what countries are able to do against terrorism. We have, I think, moved beyond the stage of what people say. We have moved to the stage of active cooperation with any number of governments. Some of this cooperation is visible. Some of it in intelligence or law enforcement or other areas may never be visible.

So there is a lot of active cooperation with any number of governments on diplomatic steps, humanitarian steps, information sharing, law enforcement cooperation, efforts to disrupt networks in any number of ways. These efforts are ongoing.

To the extent that governments feel comfortable talking about them, we welcome that. To the extent that they don't, what really matters is what people do and how they cooperate, and we found a great deal of cooperation, practical, concrete, effective cooperation we've found to date.

QUESTION: But is it not true that silence or, in fact, anything less than an outright and total condemnation is, in this case, golden?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I follow that.

QUESTION: Well, Ben's question was kind of like, isn't silence golden here? Isn't what -- this constitutes something that you can accept and live with. Anything less than an Iraq or an Iran is actually -- you're doing pretty well, right?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we are doing very well, but not for the reasons you cite. I think once again -- the answer I gave to Ben was, to the extent people want to talk about what they're doing, that's great. To the extent they don't, that's fine too. What matters is that they cooperate and that they work with us, and we've found a great deal of practical, effective cooperation against terrorism.

QUESTION: I want to go back the Secretary's trip to India and Pakistan. You said that you don't want the current crisis to become an issue of increased friction and dispute between the two. And I was just wondering if the Secretary was going to bring any additional confidence-building measures --

MR. BOUCHER: Again, I am not putting this trip in the context of their relationship with each other; I am putting it in the context of two governments with which we have important relationships, two governments with which we are cooperating against terrorism. Two stops on a trip which is based on the need to keep working with members -- key members of the coalition against terrorism. That is the context for this trip, not to make other suggestions at this point.

QUESTION: On Colombia, do you have any official reaction to the situation of President Pastrana to extend the (inaudible) to the FARC?

MR. BOUCHER: We support the peace process in Colombia. We have supported President Pastrana's leadership of the process, and therefore we support his decision to renew the zone until January 20th of 2002. We also welcome his decision to strengthen security in areas surrounding the zone and to tighten the control on materials and vehicles and people that are entering it and leaving it.

We hope that the October 5 agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will produce results. The FARC, however, has yet to respond in good faith to President Pastrana's previous efforts. The FARC continues to abuse the peace process by kidnapping and attacking civilians, and by its involvement in the illegal drug trade. We would remind the FARC and all illegal groups in Colombia that the international community has clearly demonstrated through its solidarity that there is no tolerance for terrorism.

The kidnapping and murder last week of the former Minister of Culture, the assassination of a congressman, the apparent murder of two NGO workers in Putumayo, and the violent effort to block entry into the zone by a political procession that was led by presidential candidate Horatio Serpa are all the latest examples of the FARC abuses.

QUESTION: In another country in Latin American, Nicaragua, there were some statements made public during the weekend. One statement by a spokesperson saying that the United States has serious concern about Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in the coming elections. And you guys were talking about the past, when the Sandinista Government had some contacts with Iran, Libya and the FARC.

These positions were characterizes in Latin America as another intent of the United States to intervene in free country, and they are going to have free elections. Why is that? Why are you trying to advise the people who is good, who is bad?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say, first of all, I think that is a statement by me that you are citing, so I support it. (Laughter.)

The second thing that I would like to say is we say in the statement, we make quite clear we would accept the results of any free and fair election that was held in Nicaragua. Certainly our cooperation with the current government of Nicaragua has been very good, and our knowledge of the history and the knowledge of the activities of the Sandinista Party in Nicaragua is very extensive as well.

So the fact that we would accept whatever comes out of a fair and free election doesn't mean that we have to change our views about some of the people and parties that are participating in it, nor do we have to change -- I think be silent on the fact that we know what these people have done in the past.

QUESTION: So you don't believe him that he's saying that he changed?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we are quite aware of the entire history of this party and these people. I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Why have you guys (inaudible) in the past having contacts with the Taliban itself, and now they are your enemies? Every country, every government has the right to change.

MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't -- don't misconstrue our contacts with the Taliban. Our contacts with the Taliban for the last several years have been either devoted particularly to the point of telling them they have to abide by UN resolutions, and deliver Usama bin Laden and his henchmen, as well a close down the networks, or they have been contacts on the issue of the Americans that are detained.

QUESTION: Any new information on status of relief workers in Afghanistan who are on trial?

MR. BOUCHER: The detainees? We have a little bit of new information. The Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs tells us that they have sent one of their deputies to check on the detainees after the attacks began on Sunday. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has continued to assure us that the detainees are safe and well. The Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also assured us that there is strict security at the detention center for the safety of the detainees, and they also stated that the detainees are safe from air attack.

The family members of the detainees continue to exchange letters by fax with the detainees. The parents of the detainees and the US, Australian and German consults met with the lawyer that represents them on Sunday in Islamabad. That lawyer, Mr. Kahn, is preparing a response to the Taliban's charges and has been granted a visa to return to Kabul to continue his case. He is planning to travel to Kabul tomorrow in order to present his response to the Taliban supreme court on Thursday. He is also planning to deliver a large quantity of personal items, clothing and letters to the detainees.

The detainees' parents remain in Islamabad, and they are in very close touch with the embassy.

QUESTION: Richard, have they told you -- have the Taliban told you exactly where they are so that you don't hit them by mistake?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject to Iran?

QUESTION: One more on this. What was the level of that contact? Was that in Islamabad?

MR. BOUCHER: It was in Islamabad yesterday -- or the day before? Yesterday.

QUESTION: Well, what is the exact status?

MR. BOUCHER: They have generally kept in touch with us as -- with our Consul General there.

QUESTION: I don't understand what the exact status is. Are you guys basically -- you're basically at war with the Taliban, and yet there's no proscription on this kind of meeting? Or do you look at this as a kind of -- I don't know, not Geneva Convention, but some kind of -- but is it strictly a humanitarian thing that is not affected by the fact that you're bombing the targets that belong to the Taliban?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, our effort, military action and other action is designed to disrupt the al-Qaida network, is designed to get at those who harbor them and the harboring of terrorism. That doesn't lessen in any way our concern about these Americans, and if it is necessary to talk to somebody about the welfare of these Americans, we will do so.

QUESTION: Right. But the fact that they are willing to send a representative from their foreign ministry to see the detainees and find out that they're okay ostensibly means that they are still willing to have contact with you. Are they not? Is there not?

MR. BOUCHER: We have been willing to have contact with them on this subject since September 11th, as well as before.

QUESTION: Okay. The conversations are strictly about the --

MR. BOUCHER: The conversations are strictly about the detainees, and they -- we always reiterate what the President said. These people should be released; they should be released immediately.

QUESTION: You said that they were dispatching someone to check on them, but yet you also say that they are telling you they're safe from air raids and all this, or is that a report back from the guy, whomever was sent to check on them? And why would somebody have to trot over there anyway? Why can't they check? Do they have absolutely no phone access as far as you know?

MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea if they have telephones to where these people are being detained. Clearly, it was the Foreign Ministry that went to check on them. They -- to the extent that they were able to see these people and reassure us, we welcome that. But it's not -- I don't know how things work in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: So this report that they are okay was after this guy -- it was from the person who checked on them? Since the attack?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, this is all from the Taliban Foreign Ministry. We don't have independent verification of it. We haven't seen them ourselves, nor has the lawyer, since last week.

QUESTION: Well, I was saying that this is since the attack? Since Sunday we know they're okay?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. What they told us -- what the Taliban Foreign Ministry told us is that they had checked on the detainees since Sunday, that the detainees were okay, that they were safe and in a safe place. But that's all information from them.

QUESTION: Richard, but those contacts were through the Taliban rep in Islamabad, or did a Foreign Ministry person come to Islamabad to tell you? Was it on the phone?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We got it, I think, from the Taliban representatives in Islamabad. But at what level or what person it was, I just don't know.

QUESTION: But Richard, do you believe anything the Taliban says, given that Secretary Powell himself has said -- I think the exact words were, "I don't believe anything that the Taliban says" when they were talking about bin Laden or a whole lot of other things. So how reliable is this information?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'm not in a position to vouch for the information, nor to analyze it.

QUESTION: Do the people who are picking targets know the location of the detainees?

MR. BOUCHER: I was just asked that, and I'm not going to talk about targets, and frankly I don't know the answer anyway.

QUESTION: -- that the US is in no hurry to capture bin Laden, due to the fact that we have evidence, or so we've been told, that he is implicated in the bombings, or whatever they were in September -- the attacks, why is there going to be a delay in the search for him?

MR. BOUCHER: That's almost a question about military operations, to the extent that those exist. I would make clear what the President has made clear all along. This network of terrorists -- yes, there is a man at the head of it, and he is a wanted man; he has been indicted in New York for the World Trade Center bombings. And many other of his leadership have been indicted as well.

But I would have to say that the goal is to eliminate the network, is to eliminate the kind of terrorism that they perpetrate on the world, and that's a much broader effort and a much more difficult one. And the effort will proceed in phases and stages. And to the extent that we can get the Taliban to fulfill their requirement to deliver him and other leaders to justice, that would be good. But what we need to do is to continue this until we can dismantle the entire network.

QUESTION: But if he is the brains behind it and contributing his personal fortune to it, wouldn't he be a top priority?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, the President has made clear he is a wanted man, but there are many -- there are others involved as well, and it's not just about him. It's about dismantling this terrorist network that threatens us and threatens many others in the world as well.

QUESTION: Richard, the Somalis are very worried that they might be next in line, because the (inaudible) was on your list the other day. Can you reassure them at all?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm reassuring anybody. I think we have made clear, the President has made quite clear that it's time for nations to decide, it's time for groups to decide, it's time for individuals to decide that they should oppose terrorism; they should not harbor these groups, otherwise they'll be considered hostile.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) harbor anyone anyway, so it's kind of a free (inaudible).

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, if it's a nation, they need to decide; if it's an individual or group, they need to decide as well.

QUESTION: The military changes in Pakistan, do you care to comment on them?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: And have you had, in telephone conversations with Muslim and Arab leaders, reassurances beyond that which they have made in public, that they support these operations?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I would say the Secretary himself had a number of phone calls over the weekend. Our ambassadors in various places have been in touch with their local governments. The President has also had a number of phone conversations. And all of these conversations are not just with European leaders, friends, Russia, and others like that, but also with Muslim leaders -- people in Central Asia, people in the Gulf, people in the Arab world. And we have found in those conversations a lot of support for the efforts that we are making, certainly very strong effort for the efforts of the coalition, including support for the need to take military action as necessary.

QUESTION: Richard, would you say that that support goes far beyond that which these people are saying in public?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't had a chance to do that kind of analysis. I don't want to venture a guess on that.

QUESTION: Finally, there was a meeting -- I guess it started yesterday, in Iran, on relief coordination and humanitarian coordination with US, Pakistan and Iran. Could you just give us any updates on who is there, what we're trying to get out of it?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about the specific meeting. I'll double check on it.

QUESTION: There's an upsurge of fighting in Abkhazia, in Georgia. The Georgians see the Russians' hands in this, and I wonder if you have any comment on that, given that Russia is a key ally in our fight against terrorism, and that Shevardnadze was just here?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on a particular upsurge in fighting in Georgia. The Secretary discussed the situation there with President Shevardnadze just on Friday, got an update on his efforts. And I talked about that, I think, a little bit on Friday.

Certainly, his efforts to resolve the situation are welcome and something that we would support, particularly his political -- his efforts to solve the political issues.

QUESTION: Richard, close by. You remember the plane that was shot down over the Black Sea the other day? Have you had any contact with the Ukrainians on providing them with that evidence which the Americans apparently have of what happened? Has anyone -- or perhaps providing the Russians or the Israelis, for that matter. And what's at the bottom of that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to double check. I didn't check on that. I'll see if we provided any information to the people that are involved.

QUESTION: Richard, speaking of planes, maybe I missed this. Have you ever located that missing crop duster?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so.

QUESTION: And are you working with any other federal agency right now on that, given the reason?

MR. BOUCHER: We have been working with a lot of federal agencies on this. Search and rescue was done with the Coast Guard. I don't know if there's any further investigation that can be done. But certainly a lot of search and rescue was done together with others.

QUESTION: Thank you.

END