State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
State Department Daily Briefing
State Department
Washington, D.C.
October 1, 2001

MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here on a Monday. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I will be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: How can you not have any statements or announcements to make, when you came out here on Friday to announce your grand drive to get everyone who signed up for the Foreign Service exam to take it? Does this mean that there is bad news on that front, that --

MR. BOUCHER: No, it means that I don't have the numbers yet. We will get you numbers on that as soon as we can. I didn't see any over the weekend yet. But I am sure there was a record turnout.

QUESTION: Could you bring us up to date on the status of relief for Afghan refugees, beyond what you said the other day?

MR. BOUCHER: There is a great deal of work going on inside the administration to make sure that we can deal with the needs of the people of Afghanistan, whether they are inside Afghanistan or forced to leave their country. As we know, there is great hardship that has already been suffered out there through drought, with the onset of winter, and through the actions of the government in cutting off the ability of relief agencies to supply food to the Afghan people.

We are looking at the totality of humanitarian assistance needs for Afghanistan and for the neighboring countries. The most urgent need appears to be to deliver food inside Afghanistan where millions of people are suffering. And so the United States will provide additional food aid.

We are pleased by the report that the World Food Program has begun an effort on Saturday to truck 200 tons of wheat from Pakistan to Kabul, so they are looking for ways, as I think I mentioned, of trying to get food in, managing in some cases to get food into Afghanistan, despite the difficulties that have been created by the Taliban shutting down the distribution system.

As you know, September 27, last Thursday, the United Nations launched an appeal for assistance for Afghanistan and neighboring countries that includes contingency plans for up to 1.5 million refugees. At this point, the number of new refugees arriving at the borders of Pakistan are estimated to be about 30,000 people.

We will respond to this appeal. We will respond to the higher number of refugees that are anticipated, and the other needs that we see inside Afghanistan, particularly with the onset of winter. We are pleased that other nations have also announced their intentions to contribute generously to the humanitarian response. We have had excellent meetings last week in Berlin with the other donors, and we look forward to getting together again in Geneva on Friday, I think, to go over the specific amounts and quantities that we can provide in more detail.

QUESTION: Is the money that the White House announced, is that part of this, or --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the White House actually announced any money. There are numbers bandied about. There are different programs that are being looked at. But I don't have any total figures for you yet.

QUESTION: Anything on the trial of the detainees?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me bring you up to date on what's going on with the detainees. The Pakistani lawyer that was selected by the Shelter Now International detainees met with all of them on Saturday, September 29th. He has told US officials that they are well and that they were glad to see him. He also delivered a package of food, personal items, medicine and money for the detainees. And then on Saturday he also met with Taliban officials, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Consular Chief, the supreme court justice and some of the judges who will participate in the trial.

On Sunday, he further reported the Taliban court has convened, and the chief justice read the charges against the detainees. The detainees on Sunday remained in good health and spirits. I don't have details for you at this point of the charges or the potential penalties involved.

The lawyer has told us he will keep family members and the US Embassy informed as to the progress of the case. The parents of the American detainees remain in Islamabad, and they are in close touch with our embassy.

QUESTION: Well, that would include the -- there's a British journalist now, isn't there? Is she included in this operation?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure. But I don't think so. I think this trial has to do with the people associated with that one organization.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea approximately how long this process might take?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't. We have very little information at this point on the trial and the procedures or the charges that are to be followed, given that the lawyer is in Kabul. We are in touch with him, but not in any great detail. So we don't have that kind of information. We'll see if he has it at some point when he is able to share with us what he understands of the situation.

QUESTION: Richard, just to follow up, it seems a little curious to me that you would be able to hear from the lawyer that they are okay and that he delivered packages, but that he didn't tell you what the charges were.

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, Charlie, there are difficulties in communications. He is not necessarily able to read the whole thing and report on it over the telephone when he talks to us. So I think we just have to leave it to him to handle the interests of his clients as best he can.

We have continued to make clear, as the President made clear the other day, that the Taliban need to release all the detainees, all the foreign nationals, including American citizens, that they hold.

QUESTION: Can I move on to a new subject? Would you care to respond to some of the critics who are -- those critics who are suggesting that the United States is ignoring human rights concerns, particularly in Uzbekistan, in its efforts to build this coalition?

MR. BOUCHER: I suppose the best way to say it is that it's not true. The United States has stood for human rights. The United States has found that this kind of terrorism is an assault on the human rights of everybody and needs to be fought. But, clearly, human rights is part of the solution to the problem of terrorism and, therefore, we have continued to work with governments and urged governments and will continue to work with governments based on our fundamental commitments to human rights. Our fundamental commitment is democracy, to the development of market economies, and the campaign against terrorism is consistent with those goals.

We have made the case in Central Asia and elsewhere that a recognition of a legitimate right of believers in Islam is an important part of separating the people who would use violence and use the religion as a pretext or pervert the religion into some kind of weird justification. You have to separate those people from the believers who go about their ordinary business in a peaceful manner, and that remains an important aspect of policy, as we see it.

QUESTION: In that context, then, would it be helpful if the Uzbek Government were to stop targeting for arrest and so on?

MR. BOUCHER: We think it would be helpful if all governments expressed a greater appreciation and support for human rights and we will continue to urge that on all governments.

QUESTION: Isn't what they are doing now and what they were doing before when the former Secretary of State, Mrs. Albright, went to Uzbekistan and complained about them jailing scores of Muslims, isn't that exactly what is happening in this country right now?


QUESTION: It's not?

MR. BOUCHER: No. That is the simplest answer. No.

QUESTION: So conditions in Uzbekistan have improved since then?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I would claim that. I don't know that I would claim that. But, Matt, your characterization of what is going on in the United States as being comparable to what is going on in Uzbekistan, I don't accept.

QUESTION: Well, there are 500 people who are now being -- more than 500 people now detained -- I mean, for ostensibly similar reasons that President Karimov was locking people up in Uzbekistan.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think you will find that to be the case.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify. In our diplomatic discussions with these governments in general -- and I know you haven't gone into it -- is there a human rights element and can you talk about that? Is that part of our negotiations or discussions regarding what they can do to cooperate in terms of cracking down on terrorism?

MR. BOUCHER: We have a great many conversations with a great many governments about cooperation against terrorism and about other issues that are important to us. I can't tell you that human rights is mentioned in every conversation with every person, whether they have anything to do with human rights or n -----MISSING REMAINDER OF TRANSCRIPT-----