Secretary of State Colin Powell
Kenyan Foreign Minister Christopher Obure
Media Availability
State Department
Washington, D.C.
October 31, 2001
2:30 P.M. EST

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon. It was my very great pleasure to host this afternoon Foreign Minister Chris Obure of Kenya, my colleague who is here for the AGOA forum earlier this week, and we had a chance to go over items of mutual interest. I was very pleased that the Minister once again extended to the United States from President Moi and the people of Kenya their condolences on the loss of life that took place here in the United States on the 11th of September.

It is important to remember, as the Minister reminded me, although I had not forgotten, that in 1998 Usama bin Laden attacked the United States Embassy in Nairobi and 12 Americans were killed, but 246 Kenyans lost their lives that day and hundreds more were wounded. So we shall have no illusions. We never will have illusions about the nature of this man Usama bin Laden and the al-Qaida organization, and never have any illusions about the nature of that organization as being an evil nature, where in order to get an American facility they were willing to kill so many innocent people of another nation.

And that is why we are so pleased that Kenya has joined with us in this campaign as part of our coalition, and we deeply appreciate the support of President Moi, of the Minister, and of their government and of the people of Kenya.

We went over regional issues -- Somalia, the Sudan, our efforts to help move the peace process forward in the Sudan -- and I thanked the Minister for all the hard work that his government is doing in the Sudan and in Somalia. And we also had an opportunity to talk about economic and trade maters, as well.

So, Mr. Minister, it is a great pleasure to have you here, and I thank you again for your support.

MINISTER OBURE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Ladies and gentlemen of the press, good afternoon. I am delighted to be here with the Secretary of State Colin Powell. We have had fruitful discussions on matters of mutual interest to our two countries, including the ongoing war against terrorism.

Today, I again join my president, His Excellency President Daniel arap Moi, in expressing our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the government and people of the United States of America following the tragic terrorist attacks here in Washington, as well as in New York, on September 11.

Having been a victim of a terrorist attack in Nairobi in August 1998, when 12 Americans and over 200 Kenyans lost their lives to terrorism, Kenya shares and fully understands the pain and anguish inflicted upon the people of this great nation. We in Kenya have a strong conviction that acts of terror will not be the basis for resolving conflicts anywhere in the world and can never be justified under any circumstances.

Kenya strongly condemns these barbaric acts of terrorism and calls upon the international community to join forces in combating this menace. At this trying time, we would like again to assure our friends in the US that Kenya will cooperate fully with the United States Government and the international fraternity in the ongoing war against terrorism.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the United States Government for organizing the US Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum. We were indeed gratified that President George Bush found time to address the forum, despite his busy schedule. Africa was also very touched by your presence, Mr. Secretary, that of your cabinet colleagues and senior government officials who actively participated in this important forum. This reaffirms the Bush Administration's strong commitment to Africa.

As you are all aware, the African Growth and Opportunity Act opens a window of opportunity for increased trade and investment between sub-Saharan Africa and the United States. I have had cordial and very fruitful discussions with the Secretary of State and exchanged views on important bilateral issues. We have found with satisfaction the existing warm and cordial relations between our two countries.

I also had the occasion to discuss with Secretary Powell matters of peace and security concerning our region. We believe that the United States has a crucial role to play in helping to bring about peace and stability in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. We look forward to working closely with the United States Special Envoy on Sudan, Senator Danforth, who will be visiting Nairobi soon.

Kenya affirms our willingness to work very closely with the United States and the international community in rooting out terrorism and taking the necessary measures towards this end. Thank you once again, Mr. Secretary, and I look forward to working closely with you in the future. Please be assured that the United States has a true and dependable ally, my country, Kenya.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Chris. We have time for one or two questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there was a report -- recommendations a few years ago on how to improve embassy security. Tanzania was hit, Kenya was hit. What is the situation now? Are the people, nationals as well as Americans, secure now in these embassies in Africa?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we have done quite a bit over the last several years. Congress has been very generous in giving us hundreds of millions of dollars a year to improve our embassy facilities, and we have been improving them. There is a lot more work to be done. I am pleased that we have got a very dynamic leader of our Overseas Buildings Office and General Williams, Chuck Williams, is doing a great job in making sure we get the costs down but the security up. And so we are working as hard as we can to make sure that our embassy people overseas have safe and secure facilities in which to work.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, today the Treasury Department announced that Saudi Arabia has issued an order blocking the assets of those on the US watch list. Could you speak to this? Could you say what it means for US-Saudi cooperation and why you think there are persisting rumors that Saudi Arabia is not cooperating with the US, like the Administration says? Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we continue to say they are cooperating. They respond to the requests we put to them. And I read the same stories that you read, but everything we have asked them to do they have done. And the introduction to your comment made that point. They have now come forward and taken additional action that we had hoped that they would take, and I am pleased that they have taken that action.

As we see other things that our Saudi friends and allies could do and other nations could do, we will put the request to them and hope they will be responsive. But to this point, the Saudis have been responsive on all of the things that we have asked them to do.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, apparently a couple of the scientists on the nuclear program in Pakistan have been questioned and detained because they are pro-Taliban. Do you -- does the United States Government have worries about the safety of nuclear weapons in Pakistan, maybe perhaps being used against our own troops?

SECRETARY POWELL: I discussed this issue with President Musharraf when I was in Islamabad, and I am confident that he understands the importance of ensuring that all elements of his nuclear program are safe and secure. And he knows that if he needs any technical assistance in how to improve that security level, we would be more than willing to help in any way that we can.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, sir, are visas too loose? It seems to me a real problem. Is the visa -- the whole idea of visas too loose?

SECRETARY POWELL: Let me escort my guest, and then I'll take your question.

QUESTION: Could you answer the last question at the mike? Do you have one more minute?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are always reviewing our visa policy to make sure that we remain an open society, but a society that knows how to protect itself. The big challenge with our visa program right now is the database. We have to make sure that all derogatory information we have on individuals who might be trying to get into the country are in that database, so that when our consular officers around the world receive a request for a visa and they put it into the database, we check every single name against our databases, we want to make sure that every derogatory piece of information, every person who should not be allowed into the country or who we have some information on that would suggest we ought to take a harder look at allowing that person into the country, when the name is entered, it pops up in the database and gives the warning to our consular officers.

Our consular offices in consulates around the world are our first line of defense. That's the first contact that somebody has in their effort to come the United States. They do a great job, but that job can only be done if we have the most complete database. And we are now working with all the intelligence agencies in the country and law enforcement agencies in the country to make sure that we have broken down any green doors that might exist, so to speak, so that we have a common database that will allow our consular officers to do their job.

We are always reviewing the manner in which people are allowed to come into this country with two goals in mind: one, make sure we remain an open society and let people know they are welcome to come to the United States, but; two, do it in a way that protects us from people who do not wish us well when they come to the United States.

Thank you.