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30 April 2003

Terrorism in 2002 at Lowest Level in 33 Years, State Says

(Counterterrorism coordinator briefs on annual terrorism report) (4280)

The 199 terrorist acts perpetrated worldwide in 2002 are the fewest in
any year since 1969, says State Department Coordinator for
Counterterrorism Cofer Black.

Black, speaking at the State Department's release of the annual report
"Patterns of Global Terrorism," called this "a remarkable
achievement." He attributed the decline to several factors:

-- A sharp drop in oil pipeline bombings in Colombia, from 178 in 2001
to 41 in 2002;
-- Increased security measures in place, especially at airports and
border crossings in "virtually every nation";
-- Imprisonment of a large number of terrorist suspects, including
more than 3,000 al-Qaida members; and
-- An improved overall worldwide security environment since the
attacks of September 11, 2001.

"Nations are on guard against terrorism," Black said, adding that
"they are sharing intelligence and law enforcement information, they
are arresting suspects, they are thwarting attacks. Governments and
financial institutions are drying up the terrorists' sources of
revenue. Regional security organizations are steadily improving their
counterterrorism capabilities."

Nevertheless, Black said, counterterrorism efforts have not yet
"turned the corner." "Additional attacks are likely," he said. "We
cannot lower our guard." The nations involved in the counterterrorism
effort must maintain the political will to continue, he said, adding
that the United States stands ready to assist those who seek to
improve their counterterrorism capability.

Black was asked why Sudan remains on the list of state sponsors of
terrorism, since the report showed it isn't doing "anything
unhelpful." He replied that though the United States is pleased with
Sudan's counterterrorism cooperation, "There is a ways to go yet. We
remain concerned about the presence of Hamas and the Palestinian
Islamic Jihad in Sudan. We encourage the government of Sudan to
continue cooperation and for us to move forward positively."

Syria's "mixed bag on terrorism" was the subject of another question.
Black said that despite "some cooperation" on al-Qaida, "Syria
continues to host and support terrorist groups, including Hezbollah,
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad." ... He added that the Syrians
have been facilitators for a long period of time, assisting with
movements of equipment and personnel. He cited as an example Syria's
support for a movement of explosives from Iran to Lebanon for use
against Israel.

"[W]e want to make absolutely clear to Syria that nothing short of
full cooperation against all terrorist groups is acceptable," Black
said.

Iraq, with the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, now will be treated
differently, Black said, noting that the State Department has
recommended that President Bush determine that "the laws that apply to
countries that support terrorism no longer apply to Iraq." He added
that this would "provide greater flexibility in permitting certain
types of trade with and assistance to Iraq" during this critical
rebuilding period.

The fall of Saddam Hussein's regime has also affected the
circumstances of the designated foreign terrorist organization
Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), Black said. Asked about the group's recent
cease-fire agreement with U.S. forces in Iraq, Black said MEK was
allied with the Iraqi regime and received most of its support from it.
The MEK "assisted the Hussein regime in suppressing opposition within
Iraq, and performed internal security for the Iraqi regime. ... We
understand the agreement on the ground in the field is a prelude to
the group's surrender," Black said.

Black was also asked how the report could state that North Korea is
not known to have committed a terrorist act since 1987, in light of
that government's public admission of having kidnapped a Japanese
citizen. He answered that, as Deputy Secretary of State Armitage had
said recently, the kidnapping "is a terrorist-like act."

Black added, "I would like to make absolutely sure that the Japanese
people are made certain of the sympathy we have for ... the
individuals associated with this situation."

The transcript of Black's press briefing follows:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman

Coordinator for Counterterrorism Cofer Black
2002 Annual Report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism"
April 30, 2003
Washington, D.C.

AMBASSADOR BLACK:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

There were 199 international terrorist attacks during 2002. That
represents a significant drop from the previous year -- 44 percent
fewer attacks. In fact, it is the lowest level of terrorism in more
than 30 years. The last time the annual total fell below 200 attacks
was in 1969, shortly after the advent of modern terrorism. This is a
remarkable achievement.

There are several reasons for the decrease. First, there was a sharp
drop in the number of oil pipeline bombings in Colombia. There were 41
such attacks last year, down from 178 the year before.

Second, there are increased security measures in place in virtually
every nation. They are most noticeable at airports and at border
crossings.

Third, a large number of terrorist suspects were not able to launch an
attack last year because they are in prison. More than 3,000 of them
are al-Qaida terrorists and they were arrested in over 100 countries.

Lastly, I would credit the overall post-9/11 worldwide security
environment. Nations are on guard against terrorism. They are sharing
intelligence and law enforcement information, they are arresting
suspects, they are thwarting attacks. Governments and financial
institutions are drying up the terrorist sources of revenue. Regional
security organizations are steadily improving their counterterrorism
capabilities.

Coalition military action in Afghanistan and Iraq has chased
terrorists out of those countries and removed the safe haven that
terrorists had once enjoyed and upon which they had relied. Nations
worldwide are fighting terrorism energetically, and they should take
some measure of pride in the historically low number of attacks
recorded that year.

It is not to say that we have turned the corner. Horrific attacks did
occur in 2002, such as the bombings in Bali and Mombassa, and the
hostage-taking in Moscow. Additional attacks are likely. We cannot
lower our guard. Indeed, the worldwide counterterrorism coalition must
maintain the political will to keep up the fight. The United States
remains ready to assist nations to improve their capacity to fight
terrorism on various fronts. The State Department and many other
departments and agencies of the U.S. Government are deeply committed
to helping those willing to fight terrorism.

During the past year, we have enhanced old programs and developed new
ones aimed at helping interested countries develop or update needed
counterterrorism legislation. We have helped countries strengthen
information-sharing procedures and tighten border security and
immigration controls.

We have assessed countries antiterrorist finance requirements and
helped them develop tools to ensure greater financial transparency and
accountability in the modern banking sector, and greater regulation of
nontraditional remittance systems, such as halawas.

We have encouraged other countries to develop sound inter-ministerial
crisis management and consequence management plans and practices.

The year 2002 underscored the importance of international commitment
and international cooperation. As we move forward, and international
activity becomes better organized, coordination, especially among the
donor states, will be our next challenge.

The threat of international terrorism knows no boundaries. Thus, the
fight against the threat must be global. We have made real progress,
but we cannot rest until terrorism is defeated.

I'm open to questions.

QUESTION: Sir, could you comment on the arrests in Pakistan announced
just a few minutes ago of Khalid bin Attash, a prominent al-Qaida
figure?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Right. I have no information on this at this time.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: There are -- I'm sure you've seen the statements by the
Libyan Foreign Minister on liability for the Pan Am bombing. Does this
constitute progress in a resolution of this, your dispute with the
Libyans?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Is this the media reporting of alleged Libyan
acceptance of civil responsibility; is that right?

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I believe they've -- I think the Libyan
Government actually put out a statement, official.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well, Libyan officials have made a variety of
statements over the years to the press. Frankly, we're not sure what
any individual statement might be intended to say. What is important
is whether Libya meets the U.N. requirements, and not what their
officials might say to the press. Libya knows what it needs to do and
there are no shortcuts.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? Does that mean you haven't had
any official communication with the Libyan authorities on this matter?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: What that says is that is not officially definitive
of what people say to the press.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: What does Sudan have to do now to become a -- to get off the
state sponsors list? It doesn't appear that -- it doesn't appear that
they're doing anything unhelpful in --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Sudan does remain on the state sponsors list;
however, I would like to underscore that we are pleased with their
counterterrorism cooperation, certainly over the last couple of years.
The Sudanese have granted us some access in the field of
counterterrorism and to individuals of interest. They have offered
access to financial institutions and records. They have ratified all
relevant international counterterrorism conventions, 12 out of 12.
They have publicly foresworn support for terrorism.

We leave sensitive aspects to the Sudanese Government to provide
details. That is in their preserve, not ours. They have made very good
progress. We're very pleased. There is a ways to go yet. We remain
concerned about the presence of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic
Jihad in Sudan. We encourage the Government of Sudan to continue
cooperation and for us to move forward positively.

QUESTION: Does that mean that if they expelled whoever these people
are, that you say are there, then --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: That means that would be a step in the right
direction of our cooperation.

Yes, ma'am, in the back.

QUESTION: Could you also speak about Syria's kind of mixed bag on
terrorism? You've said that you have cooperation on some aspects of
al-Qaida, but are still displeased with the --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Sure, okay. We designate Syria as a state sponsor of
terrorism despite some cooperation on al-Qaida. Syria continues to
host and support terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and
Palestinian Islamic Jihad. We continue to be concerned about Syria's
behavior in support of terrorism.

Syria provides support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas,
claiming that they host only political offices in Damascus. We reject
this distinction. Syria permits resupply flights of Hezbollah through
its territory. Syria rejected a U.S. request to close the Palestinian
Islamic Jihad office in Damascus.

There are some good things. Syria quickly condemned the attacks of
September 11th, and has provided valuable information on al-Qaida that
has helped save American lives.

Nonetheless, we want to make absolutely clear to Syria that nothing
short of full cooperation against all terrorist groups is acceptable.

Yes.

QUESTION: What does the State Department think about the ceasefire
that was signed between the MEK and the U.S., U.S. CENTCOM, in Iraq?

Since this group is still on the terrorist list, as I understand it,
Americans are not supposed to deal with them at all. And that's always
been kind of a -- there is a problem in Washington, D.C., because they
keep an office open here.

So can you tell me how this squares with the MEK's terrorist status?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Sure, I'll be happy to, happy to try. The Secretary
has recommended that the President determine that the laws that apply
to countries that support terrorism no longer apply to Iraq. The
President's determination to provide greater flexibility in permitting
certain types of trade with and assistance to Iraq; thus, we can treat
Iraq like any other country not on the terrorist list.

I think it's important to underscore some facts here. MEK is
designated by the U.S. Government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
This organization mixes Islam and Marxism in their battle to establish
what they claim would be a secular state in Iran.

Until the recent war in Iraq, they were allied with the government of
Saddam Hussein and received most of their support from this regime.
They have assisted the Hussein regime in suppressing opposition within
Iraq, and performed internal security for the Iraqi regime. MEK, or as
some recently referred to as the People's Mujahedin, has also attacked
and killed Americans.

The MEK and its many aliases, including the political NCRI, are
designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The United States
Government does not negotiate with terrorists. MEK's opposition to the
Iranian Government does not change the fact that they are a terrorist
organization. We understand the agreement on the ground in the field
is a prelude to the group's surrender. Commanders make tactical
decisions to end conflict with enemy combatants successfully.

There's a lot of activity in various areas underway in Iraq -- of
which this is one -- I would refer you to CENTCOM and their briefers
to get better insight to the decision-making and the actions of our
commanders, coalition commanders on the ground.

This is a pretty special group. They are a Foreign Terrorist
Organization. They are not well liked in Iraq; they could not be put
with the general prisoner population. They are following the orders of
the coalition commanders, and their situation will be addressed in the
coming days and weeks.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  Mr. Ambassador --

AMBASSADOR BLACK:  Yes, sir.

QUESTION: With respect to the bombing that just occurred, the suicide
bombing in Israel yesterday, you are about to release the roadmap. Is
there anything that you want to tell these terrorist groups
specifically, that they have to disband, military will be sent in
after them, whatever?

And the financing appears to be now also coming from religious
entities. Is there any warnings or any types of counterterrorism
tactics that you can pursue against those religious entities?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I am not going to address the roadmap for the future
in this briefing. In terms, there are 36 Foreign Terrorist
Organizations who we are intimately interested in. We seek to have
them halt and desist from acts of terrorism. The United States uses
all aspects of statecraft in that -- focused military activity,
intelligence, law enforcement, as well as cutting financial links and
ties.

We cooperate with a great majority of the countries of the world,
specifically those that have proven financial links from their
countries to terrorists. We have been able to freeze more than $134
million last year. Working with our partners overseas, we froze over
$20 million. So all aspects of the global war on terrorism, as defined
by the President of the United States, is moving forward.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: On your report regarding Greece, in the second paragraph you
said that the Greek Government's record against transnational
terrorist groups is mixed. And after that, you don't elaborate. What
do you mean by a mixed record on this issue? Could you elaborate more
on that?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I would like to -- I would like to make a specific
statement in terms of the Greek contribution. In the global war on
terrorism, the practitioners of counterterrorism, I think, around the
world that do this can take great satisfaction in the tremendous
progress made by the Greek Government against terrorism in 2002 and
the present. They have made, by counterterrorism standards, a
historical progress, certainly against 17 November. They've taken an
organization that has been the subject of decades of law enforcement
activity and investigation, made tremendous progress there. People
have been arrested, trials are underway, and we expect justice to be
done.

So I would say that the progress that has been made by Athens is
significant and it is on the sort of leadership level in the world.
There are some terrorist groups that have offices in Athens, and it's
the position of the United States that, you know, we would like these,
these offices closed. But comparatively, I want to underscore in terms
of the Greek contribution, a true effectiveness as well as their
forceful preparation for the 2004 Olympics.

QUESTION:  Can you be more specific?

Yes, sir.  In the back.

QUESTION: Since you reject Syrian claims about involvement in
terrorism, Syria been on the terrorist list for decades, what kind of
measures do you think will make Syria change its policy except maybe
change of regime? I mean --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I'm in the counterterrorism business. I can describe
to you what we wish them to do. We wish them to stop the facilitation
and support for terrorist groups that are carried on our Foreign
Terrorist Organization list; as an example, Hamas, Hezbollah and the
like. They have been facilitators for a long period of time, movement
of equipment and personnel, and they have actively supported the
movement of explosives, as an example, from Iran to Lebanon for use
against Israel.

This list is pretty -- you know, we don't have a lot of time here, so
I can't go into all the aspects of it, but it is pretty comprehensive.
Their involvement has been longstanding. And we seek to work with the
government in Damascus to stop their support and facilitation of these
terrorist groups. It is their choice. It is their decision. We can
encourage it and we can point it out to them.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: In the report, you say the Saudi Government has expanded its
cooperation in some areas. In what areas haven't they expanded their
cooperation and what do you still need from them? What do you still
need them to do, especially in regards to al-Qaida?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: The Saudi Government has made significant strides,
certainly in the last year. They are a strong partner in the war on
terrorism. In the past several months, we have made significant
strides in our counterterrorism cooperation. The Saudi Government
continues to work with us in identifying and working to counter
al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.

In recent months, I've made two separate trips to Saudi Arabia to work
with senior officials. This is, in part, what we believe to be a
long-term pattern of close coordination on terrorism issues. We think
that we have -- that we're really heading in the right direction here.

We are pleased with the steps the Saudis are taking to ensure that all
charitable donations by Saudis reach their intended good works and
that no funds from Saudi Arabia are diverted by those who would use
them for evil purposes.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the Secretary's recommendation? It
appeared from, I think, because I was a bit surprised that you said
it, but it seemed from what you said that the Secretary has
recommended to the President something that's -- that falls short of
removing it from the list of state sponsors but changes in status?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Right. What we are talking about here -- let me go
into this a little bit, a little bit more so we can clarify some
points here. Let me see if I can encapsulate this for you.

The Secretary has recommended that the President exercise special
authority provided in the war supplemental to suspend the Iraq
Sanctions Act and make inapplicable, with respect to Iraq, Section
620A of the Foreign Assistance Act and any other provisions of law
that applies to countries that have supported terrorism.

Essentially, what we're talking about here is that the designations
can only be rescinded, in other words, the state sponsors of terrorism
-- these are the seven countries that we're dealing about here. It is
Congress that has passed laws, under which states are designated state
sponsors of terrorism, that provide that the designation can only be
rescinded when the country's fundamentally changed government no
longer supports international terrorism.

Obviously, it is no longer the Saddam Hussein regime in power.
Essentially, what we are seeking to do, recommend to the President,
that essentially, all the negative rules that would apply to that
would be immediately overturned and moved forward, and we will be
working, proposing to the Congress that they -- that they remove Iraq
from the state sponsors of terrorism.

So you see my point. It's -- there is a time issue involved with the
removal, but we are taking all practical steps to effectively negate
any negative aspects of being on the state sponsors of terrorism list.

QUESTION: Okay. So they're still on the list, but no sanctions apply?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: They're still on the list. That's exactly right,
essentially. That's exactly right.

QUESTION: You say the Secretary has recommended this. But has the
President taken a decision on it? I don't recall you saying that any
decision has been made.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: It has been recommended and the President will have
to -- we'll be looking at it -- and making his decision, and that's
where we stand on that.

QUESTION:  Okay, and just a quick follow-up.

AMBASSADOR BLACK:  Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION:  Can I just have a quick follow-up on that?

AMBASSADOR BLACK:  Yes, ma'am.

Sir, I answered your question.  Let me get this lady here.

QUESTION: The Secretary in his remarks at the UN said that there was
an al-Qaida cell in Baghdad, and that there was a training camp. Can
you tell us what you all have found since the U.S. military has been
there, evidence of the al-Qaida cell and the training camp?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Right. I am sort of unprepared to talk about that
because the intelligence community has collected information, is
looking at it, assessing it, and when it is -- when they are finished,
it will be made available. I can only refer to the Secretary's remarks
in front of the UN Security Council when he was talking about the
Zarqawi net. It was in Baghdad with individuals there, as well as the
setup of their facility that was -- security of which was provided by
Asbat al-Ansar. And I also recall the Director of Central Intelligence
in open hearing stating that he fully expected to find weapons of mass
destruction.

Let's see, someone who has not -- you, sir, in the blue shirt with the
white.

QUESTION: Quick follow on that. There were reports yesterday that an
associate of Mr. Zarqawi was apprehended by coalition forces in
Baghdad,

AMBASSADOR BLACK:  Yes, right.

QUESTION: Can you at least confirm that and say whether that's a
significant development?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yeah. Unfortunately, I cannot because that has not
reached me yet. Obviously, the military forces in the field, as well
as American intelligence and coalition armed forces and coalition
intelligence, are collecting tremendous amounts of information. They
are in the process of processing it and collating it, and it will be
moved back to Washington, as appropriately.

Okay.  Who has not -- sir, in the back, perhaps?

QUESTION: Can you say what has the Reward for Justice Program
accomplished? How much have you paid out? How many arrests have
resulted as a result of --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I'll have to take that for the record. I don't know
that right off the top of my head, but we will get back to you, sir.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Yes, on al-Qaida's recent recruiting efforts -- I mean,
recruiting efforts by al-Qaida and other related groups -- has the war
in Iraq helped or hurt that effort? And what's your anticipation for
the future, in terms of recruiting for --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I, essentially, would refer you to the intelligence
community that does that. But, certainly, the President's global war
on terrorism is motivated by that very fact -- terrorism and weapons
of mass destruction. And I think evidence of the United States and its
coalition doing the right thing, in terms of removing oppression from
the people of Iraq, I think, potential future recruits see it now and
will see it in the future as we facilitate the process of having --
allowing them to have an equitable representative government, access
to education and health.

And I think actions like this are certain to reduce the number of
potential terrorists in the future that would find a radical brand of
Islam that puts terrorism as a cornerstone. People will find that far
less attractive, and over time this will greatly facilitate the global
war on terrorism and ease or facilitate our ability to identify the
terrorists, and to stop them before they launch attacks.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Sir, you wrote North Korea is not known to have sponsored
any terrorist act since 1987. But last year, they explicitly admit
kidnapped a Japanese citizen in the past, and that they are still
selling drugs to Australians.

AMBASSADOR BLACK:  Sure, yeah.

QUESTION:  And is it terror, Mr. Ambassador?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: In this case, I certainly recalled very quickly when
you asked this question the statement of our Deputy Secretary, Mr.
Richard Armitage. He said this is like a terrorist-like act. I
recently traveled to Tokyo and met with Japanese officials, and I
would like to make absolutely sure that the Japanese people are made
certain of the sympathy that we have for this -- for the individuals
associated with this situation.

The United States has raised this issue repeatedly with North Korean
officials. This issue was discussed in our most recent Human Rights
Report. The UN Human Rights Commission has also just passed a
resolution expressing concern. We certainly stand by our designation
of North Korea as a sponsor of terrorism, and our hearts go out to
those that were abducted and their family members, as well as their
family members that were forced to be left behind in North Korea. It
is a heartbreaking situation.

Thank you very much.

(end transcript)

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Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)