State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
Daily Briefing
State Department
Washington, D.C.
October 9, 2001

QUESTION: Of the attack. But, I mean, there's a whole --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, you are making assertions here. I am not in a position to debate those assertions.

QUESTION: I think in your document it --

MR. BOUCHER: We will take a very close look at this group and, obviously, we will look at all aspects of the situation. But I am not going to confirm assertions that you are making.

QUESTION: In a different part of the world --

QUESTION: One more on Pakistan?

QUESTION: Sure, take two or three. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: There are a lot of countries helping the United States, according to the statements we've heard here. Is the Secretary going to be going around thanking everybody? Why a trip to say thank you to just these two countries when dozens of countries are providing all kinds of --

MR. BOUCHER: All right, I didn't say it was just a trip to say thank you. So let's -- there is serious work to do with both of these governments on the global coalition against terrorism. Each one is making an important contribution, each in their own way. We will discuss that support, we will discuss how we go forward in this long-term fight against terrorism with two of the countries that are close to the problem, and particularly Pakistan where they are directly bordering the problem and face a lot of difficulties because of the problems that have come out of Afghanistan.

We also have important relationships with Pakistan and an important relationship with India that we want to discuss and move forward. And so we will continue to do that.

QUESTION: Does the United States see itself as having a larger role, sort of as a mediator, a broker, whatever, between India and Pakistan than it has in the past?

MR. BOUCHER: I would not say that is what this trip is about. We have always made clear that we look for progress between the two. We have always made clear that we supported their efforts, such as the telephone conversation this morning between the President of Pakistan and Prime Minister Vajpayee, that we supported their efforts to try to resolve the root causes of tension in the region, to try to reduce the tensions between these two governments.

But I would have to say, this trip is about our relationships, our relationship with India, our relationship with Pakistan, our cooperation with India, our cooperation with Pakistan against terrorism, and the situation in Afghanistan. That's what we're going this time for.

QUESTION: Richard, it was only a couple months ago that President Musharraf visited India, and now -- and that was in what was widely seen as not a complete success. But now you are saying -- that one phone call between the two of them is an important step forward. Can we not assume from that that this is a -- that the situation has deteriorated between the two of them since the --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember what the adjective was. I suspect that the visit was actually a very important step forward. What I do want to say, though, is that --

QUESTION: A very important step forward?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we -- I mean, back to reality here. We recognize there have been tensions between India and Pakistan in the past, particularly at a time like now when we are cooperating with each of them against the problem of terrorism, when each of them has suffered from terrorism, each of them has suffered from problems coming out of Afghanistan. We think it is important to work with each of these governments, that are key governments in terms of the overall effort, to be able to work with each of them in anything that they can do in turn that reduces the tension, that establishes contacts between them. That is most welcome as well.

So whether it is the visits back and forth or the phone call this morning, those are positive signs that we would like to welcome.

QUESTION: Well, is your concern -- how much is your concern increased by the fact that both of them have nuclear weapons?

MR. BOUCHER: That has been an ongoing part of the picture for a number of years now, and it is certainly something that we do keep taking into account, something we are quite aware of.

QUESTION: Richard, a couple of things. Surely you're not saying that Pakistan, the government that helped to create the Taliban and has harbored a number of extremist groups in its country, is equally the victim to terrorist acts that India has been. Is that what you're saying?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't think that is what I said.

QUESTION: You said that they have both suffered. I mean you were making it sort of on par.

MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that they were equally the victim of terrorist acts; I said they have both suffered from problems coming out of Afghanistan, they have both suffered from problems in the region. Certainly, the acts of terrorism against India are well known.

I'm not trying to say that the two are exactly the same. Obviously they are different in many, many ways. Our cooperation with each of them is different. It has different subjects, different scope. It's just different. The way they have been affected by the crisis has been different as well.

QUESTION: Well, would you say that the relationships are equally important to the United States?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not using the word "equal." I'm saying different. They are actually --

QUESTION: No, no. But now I'm talking about the way that the Bush Administration views India and Pakistan. Are they equally important as far as our --

MR. BOUCHER: One of the things that we have done in this Administration overall is try to get away from the idea that there was some equation in our relationships between India and Pakistan. We have a good, strong, growing, broad relationship with India that is based on many factors, some of which exist in other relationships, some of which don't. We have a strong and growing and positive cooperation with Pakistan as well. It's just different.

QUESTION: Speaking of "different," can we go to Belize? (Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: That's different. We'll go back to Warren later.

QUESTION: Do you have some numbers -- apparently a number of Americans have been killed there due to the hurricane?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Unfortunately I do have some numbers on Americans that were hurt and killed in Belize in the hurricane.

There are at least six Americans that we have been able to confirmed died after the hurricane hit Belize. There are 11 others who are missing. All 17 of these people were part of a larger group that was aboard a dive ship at the time that the hurricane hit. We are in touch with the company that owned the vessel and are getting in contact with the families of all the Americans. At this point, I'm not able to release any identities or personal information.

QUESTION: Is it too early -- I mean, have they asked for any assistance, disaster relief kind of thing, or is it too early yet for that to have happened?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it's too early to get a complete rundown, but I will see if we've got anything yet.

QUESTION: Can I move on to Azerbaijan? Can you tell us what the Administration's position is on the sanctions against Azerbaijan? And can you also tell us anything about the Ambassador's visit to this building today?

MR. BOUCHER: On the Ambassador's visit, I will have to check. I didn't -- I wasn't aware of it. There exist certain restrictions on assistance to Azerbaijan that restrict that assistance to humanitarian aid only. We have always -- this is called Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act -- and it was adopted by Congress in 1992. We have frankly always supported lifting that section of law and the restrictions on Azerbaijan. We have felt that these restrictions were not helpful in our efforts to foster regional peace and build a coalition against terrorism.

At this point we are looking at the situation, but we have not begun our discussions with Congress.

QUESTION: In this in any way related to the current crisis?

MR. BOUCHER: I think in the current crisis, we want to have the maximum flexibility for the President in order to be able to carry out a policy against terrorism. Clearly, some of these things that we have looked at in the past, like the India and Pakistan sanctions that the President decided to waive, that these things have been subject of some scrutiny in the past, but are getting more scrutiny now to make sure the President has the flexibility he needs.

Whether we would go after -- whether we want to change this would depend on our internal deliberations, and then whatever discussions we would have with Congress.

QUESTION: Why were they imposed in the first place?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You have to ask Congress on that.

QUESTION: Well, you mean you don't know?

QUESTION: -- the same thing. Are you absolutely sure that the executive doesn't have a waiver power on these 907 sanctions? Because people in Congress seem to think that they might, and they thought they were pressing the President to waive them?

MR. BOUCHER: I will have to double-check the law. I'm sure we are looking at the law and what it allows us to do and doesn't allow us to do. I'm told successively, three administrations have supported lifting these restrictions, so there must be something there that people found constraining.

QUESTION: Richard, through the weekend there have been some either detainees or arrests in Ireland and Dublin of some foreign nationals that typically don't travel there. Are you talking to the Irish Government, as well as the various governments where these particular either individuals or potential terrorists have come from?

And a second part of this question, through the weekend, in Gaza, the PA has clamped down and has arrested members of Hamas. Now, Prime Minister Sharon has said that if arrests aren't made, that the Israelis will make arrests. How do -- what is your policy concerning this?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, let's do Ireland first. I just want to double check my --

QUESTION: Richard's starting with Ireland?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. It's the "I" country question. It's okay. It's a two-part question. I remember both parts, at least for the moment.

On the question of Ireland, without getting into any specifics of law enforcement coordination, I'd say that we have worked very closely with Ireland and we have kept in quite close touch with them throughout the crisis, and the Secretary just talked to the Foreign Minister again by phone on Sunday. So we have been in touch with Ireland, and I'm sure -- I'm not aware of the specifics you cite, but I'm sure that any specific matters between us would be fully discussed and coordinated.

As far as the situation in Gaza and the groups such as Hamas, I would say that these are groups that oppose the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority, they have opposed its efforts to build a lasting cease-fire and a political process. They are not acting in the interests of the Palestinian people. We think that violence and terror can only produce further suffering for Palestinians and will never achieve a better life for them or help them realize their aspirations. The Palestinian Authority does have a responsibility to maintain order and to confront those who are advocating and engaging in violence.

As far as our own view of the situation, we have continued to urge both sides to take steps to end the violence, to restore calm, and in this regard, I would say we are encouraged by the recent security steps that have been taken by the Palestinian Authority to honor its commitments to achieve a cease-fire and we believe those measures should continue.

In addition, we would like to see both sides continue the security cooperation. Those meetings represent an important step towards restoring calm, and both sides must engage in the fullest possible security coordination to help ensure a lasting halt to violence and terror.

On the Israeli side, we think it is important for the Israelis to continue to avoid provocative measures that make this kind of lasting calm more difficult to achieve, and the encroachment by the IDF into Palestinian-controlled areas, such as Hebron and northern Gaza, should cease.

We have been intensively engaged in efforts to restore calm and resume political dialogue. Secretary Powell has been on the phone repeatedly with the leaders in the region. Already today he has spoken to Foreign Minister Peres and Prime Minister Sharon. Over the weekend, he has also talked to Chairman Arafat, as well as those leaders.

QUESTION: Over the weekend or today?

MR. BOUCHER: Over the weekend, he talked to Chairman Arafat. He hasn't talked to him today.

QUESTION: The Secretary (inaudible)?

MR. BOUCHER: Peres and Sharon today --

QUESTION: Richard, you said you'd return --

MR. BOUCHER: Hang on a second. I'm going back -- actually it was late last week that he talked to Chairman Arafat. I'm not sure he has talked to him over the weekend.

Let me just finish. In addition to the efforts Secretary Powell has made personally, Ambassador Kurtzer in the region -- in Israel -- has been in close touch with the Israeli leaders and our Consul General, Consul General Ron Schlicher, has been in touch with the Palestinian leaders as well. So we have been working very intensely on this effort to try to get the parties to reduce the violence. We have seen some steps that the Palestinians have taken in the security area, and we would urge both sides to continue to avoid provocations and continue their cooperation.

QUESTION: Richard, you say you were encouraged by the recent security steps by the Palestinian Authority. What do you think of the fact that they had to -- or they shot two demonstrators yesterday demonstrating in favor of Mr. bin Laden?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that on the one hand, we think it is important to take security steps, while at the same time, it is important to exercise this responsibility with maximum restraint and with discipline. So any kind of violence and damage is regrettable, and we certainly expect the authorities not only to act against it, but also to avoid any kind of injury from their side.

QUESTION: So you're not calling on the Palestinians to show restraint now in their -- which is a bit of a switch from --

MR. BOUCHER: I think any time we have civil authority acting against violence, acting against riots, acting against demonstrations, there's always the risk of some of this stuff happening. But we have always around the world encouraged civil authorities to use maximum restraint and try to prevent it without any harm or injury.

QUESTION: Richard, do you support the right of Palestinians to demonstrate in Gaza again in favor of Mr. bin Laden?

MR. BOUCHER: We have no problem with the peaceful demonstrations; we have a lot of problem with violence. We have a lot of problem with people trying to overthrow the Palestinian Authority. We have a lot of problem with people who seem to go out in order to produce violence and suffering.

QUESTION: Richard, in connection with the Palestinian demonstration, and the issue of the bin Laden tape, does the United States see itself as being in something of a hearts-and-minds war, or an information war against its skillful propagandists, in addition to whatever else is -- I mean, terrorist or what-have-you? I mean, is this a PR battle in some degree?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would say that. Clearly, what we talked about before. There are people in the world that don't think -- that don't like us. There are people in the world that have blamed a lot of things on the United States. That, we take as a fact. I think our effort is to get the message out. Our effort is to make quite clear what we are doing and what we are not doing. We are acting against terrorists; we are not acting against Muslims. And that effort is under way, just so people understand clearly what it is we are doing.

I was asked before if that is going to have any impact. Certainly, we would hope people would listen.

QUESTION: Would you say that the information that -- kind of winning the war on public diplomacy is just as important if not as important as the military campaign, as you go forward in trying to sustain this coalition?

MR. BOUCHER: Everything is just as important as everything else, if you are going to start down that road. Certainly, the important thing now is for all countries to act in concert against terrorism, for us to disrupt the networks, cut off their finances, cut off the locations where they find safe harbor, cut off their ability to travel. And we are going to do that in a whole variety of ways.

Information sharing is part of that. Public information is part of that as well. But I don't want to denigrate the financial measures we take, the immigration measures we take, all of law enforcement steps that are being taken. This is a full-fledged, widespread effort that is going to have to continue for some time if we are ever going to get rid of these networks.

QUESTION: Richard, when you said in talking about the demonstrations in Gaza that Hizballah -- trying to overthrow the Palestinian Authority, why is it not critical of the United States to say nothing or to not lobby at all against Syria, a supporter of Hizballah, taking a seat on the UN Security Council, at the same time you recognize they are trying to overthrow what you consider to be a legitimate entity, the Palestinian Authority?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have explained as best we can the position on the seats in the Security Council. We issued a statement yesterday. I think we have made quite clear in public as well as private that we expect people who do go on the Security Council to respect the Security Council, to respect its judgments, and we feel that an additional responsibility rests on the shoulders of those who join the Security Council. So we have been quite clear about that in public as well as private.

We have encouraged anyone with influence over Hizballah or other groups to exercise their influence to try to get those groups to restrain, exercise restraint, and to avoid violence. And we will continue to do that. We think there is an even greater responsibility to do that that rests on the shoulders of members who join the Security Council.

QUESTION: Are you trying to say that you believe that the Syrians are going to take upon themselves this added responsibility now that they have been actually --

MR. BOUCHER: We have asked the Syrians to do this, we have urged the Syrians to do this and to act fully in accordance with the processes and the decisions that the Security Council is making, and the responsibility to uphold the international peace and security.

QUESTION: Has there been any contact between Washington and Damascus since the election to tell them, listen, now that you're on the Security Council, we expect you to adhere to a higher standard of behavior?

MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check on when was the last time we had this conversation, but we have had it a number of times.

QUESTION: On a different issue, the human rights dialogue between United States and China began today. Could you tell us a little bit about it and whether, during the opening of the meeting, has the issue of Tibet been raised from the United States side?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an update on that. I can't remember if that is starting today or tomorrow. But I will get you an update when we have something. I think we have to let them meet first before we start talking about what they are discussing.

QUESTION: Back to this information war, I hear a lot of people around this town who are saying --

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't used that phrase, by the way. You guys are suddenly picking up what your colleagues are saying, but --

QUESTION: Would you object to it?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to start making that a topic.

QUESTION: All right, information campaign. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Coalition?

MR. BOUCHER: Touché. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I hear a lot of people around town saying that the leaders of countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should do a much better job of explaining to their people what's at stake here, essentially repeating the message which President Bush has been himself saying, about what true Islam is and so on. Is that something that you would endorse, that they also have a role to this?

MR. BOUCHER: Do you want to define "a lot of people around town" before I start endorsing their opinions?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I'm just --

MR. BOUCHER: If it's President Bush, the answer's yes. If it's colleagues in the press room, I don't know, I'll think about it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, no, he hasn't suggested that these Arab leaders should do it, he's done it himself. But others are suggesting that it is the duty of these people to carry out or to make the case more forcefully to their own people.

MR. BOUCHER: What I really want to say in response to this is that we have seen a lot of leaders speak out. We have welcomed the leaders who have spoken out. We welcome what they have said.

Clearly, we have left it all along to each leader, each nation, to say what they were doing, to express their views on this in their own way. They obviously each take into account their own particular political and other circumstances. But we have seen any number of statements from respected religious leaders, from the Organization of Islamic Conference, and respected leaders of Muslim governments that make quite clear that this kind of terrorism is against the tenets of their religion. And that has been made clear by Muslim leaders overseas as well as Muslim leaders in America.