February 28th, 2006 06:41 EST
State Department Briefing
Iraq, China/Taiwan, Israel/Palestinians, Sudan, Uganda, Iran, United Arab Emirates, United Nations, Serbia, China
State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli briefed the press February 27.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Monday, February 27, 2006
1:17 p.m. EST
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
-- Formation of National Unity Government
-- Status of Journalist Jill Carroll
-- "One China" Policy/President Chen Reaffirms Commitments to Status Quo/National Unification Council Not Abolished
-- Quartet's Commitment to the Palestinian People/Contribution by the EU/US Will Not Neglect Humanitarian Needs of Palestinian People/US Assistance Is Being Reviewed, Working With Others to Provide Assistance to Palestinian Authority
-- Assistant Secretary Welch's Meetings in the Region
-- Security Council Resolutions Passed Regarding Sanctions Against Individuals/Awaiting Report From Experts Committee
-- Query Regarding Janjaweed Leaders Against Whom the US Should Impose Targeted Sanctions
-- Planning and Assessment of a Future UN Force/NATO's Role
-- Electoral Commission Announced Results of Presidential Election
-- IAEA Board of Governors Meeting Scheduled for March 6/Report on Iran's Nuclear Activities
-- Talks on Russia's Uranium Enrichment Proposal/US Support for Proposal and EU-3 Diplomacy
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
-- Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) and State Department Participation in Process
-- Proposed New Human Rights Council Falls Short/US Seeks Renegotiated Proposal/ Remarks by Ambassador Bolton/Secretary Rice's Conversations with Secretary General Annan, Expects to Talk to General Assembly President Eliasson
-- Status of Mladic
-- Query Regarding Hunger Strike in China By Activists Protesting Recent Beating of Dr. Yuan Li
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FEBRUARY 27, 2006
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:17 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: ...Who would like to have the first question?
QUESTION: I don't know where to go first. You've got Iraq. You've got the Europeans helping the Palestinians. You've got Uganda. Let's try Iraq. Do you see hooker in the Sunni position that it is ready to go back to the talks if -- you know, it's a --
MR. ERELI: What's a hooker? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The hooker would be to have a condition.
MR. ERELI: Pardon?
QUESTION: A hooker, among other things -- there are various synonyms for hooker -- but in this case, I'm referring to conditions they've put on the returning to the talks. Is that all right with the U.S., conditioning the talks and getting their property back?
MR. ERELI: The Iraqi political groups that have been working together to form a national unity government, I think as I said before -- as we've said before, are making important progress. The latest, I think, indicator of that was on Saturday night after the President talked to them, all of the gatherings got together and, once again, I think rededicated themselves to the proposition of national unity and putting aside sectarian differences, which is important.
As far as the ins and outs of the negotiations to form a government go, the tawafog part or the tawafog grouping has been in discussions with Prime Minister Jafari about coming back to the talks. Actually, they've been involved -- they've been in discussions with different groups all along. They did suspend their talks with the United Iraqi Alliance. And they've been discussing with Prime Minister Jafari conditions or a plan to come back to talks with all of the political groupings. That's important. That's significant. And we see it as yet another step in the direction that things are really returning to normal. Prime Minister Jafari, the government of Iraq, has made a real effort to meet the concerns of the Sunni community. That should be recognized. And I think the Sunni community, as represented by their political leaders, is looking to get back into their game full strength and that's to be welcomed.
QUESTION: So I guess you will not evaluate the conditions: the fact that they've shown some interest in going back to the table is good news.
MR. ERELI: Their conditions are less important than the fact that there is good faith discussions going on about resuming full-bore talks on a national unity government with the important footnote that discussions never completely ended. They were just, I'd say, partially affected.
Anything on Iraq? Let's got to --
QUESTION: On Iraq.
MR. ERELI: Still Iraq?
QUESTION: Yeah. Can you tell us anything about Jill Carroll?
MR. ERELI: I don't have really much more to add to what Ambassador Khalilzad already said today. We are working closely with the Government of Iraq. We are hopeful that she can be released. This is a difficult time, obviously, but we are in no way flagging in our efforts.
QUESTION: Why are you optimistic, though, that she's still okay?
MR. ERELI: I didn't say -- use the word "optimistic." I said we're hopeful.
QUESTION: Why are you hopeful?
MR. ERELI: Not the same thing.
QUESTION: Okay. No, it's true. But the Ambassador spoke a little more optimistically, I think, didn't he?
MR. ERELI: The Ambassador reflects the views of all the U.S. Government on this score, which is that this is a case that we care very, very deeply about. This is a case in which no effort is being spared to locate her and effect her secure -- her safe return. And I don't -- not having all the working details of what's going on, I wouldn't want to, sort of, elaborate on the Ambassador's comments. I think he expressed the state of play as it currently is, as best we can.
Yes, you've been very patient. Go ahead.
QUESTION: My question is Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian announced in Taipei a decision to stop the operation of the National Unification Council and the application of National Unification guidelines. What's your response to his decision?
MR. ERELI: Well, it won't surprise you to learn that our policy on Cross-Strait relations has not changed. Our one China policy is based on the three communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. We are, of course, opposed to any unilateral change to the status quo by either side and we do not support Taiwan independence.
I would note today that President Chen reaffirmed his continuing commitment to the pledges he made in his 2000 inaugural address not to change the status of the status quo across the Straits and we continue to stress the need for Beijing to open a dialogue with the elected leadership in Taiwan.
On the question of the National Unification Council, it's our understanding that President Chen did not abolish it and he reaffirmed Taiwan's commitment to the status quo. We attach great importance to that commitment and we'll be following his follow-through carefully.
QUESTION: Do you think (inaudible) either change to the status quo? Is it -- and what's the U.S. definition of the changes to the status quo?
MR. ERELI: I think President Chen has said that he is committed to the status quo and that he is committed to his -- the pledges in his inaugural speech. We believe that the -- we attach great importance to those commitments and we will be following events closely.
QUESTION: Okay. What steps U.S. is following closely and what steps will the U.S. take to curb -- to (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: Well, we continue to stress the importance, as I did in my comments earlier, of dialogue between Beijing and Taiwan on Cross-Strait issues. It is important, we believe, that resolution of this issue avoid unilateral steps and focus on dialogue and that's the tact that we encourage both sides to take.
QUESTION: I just want to get this right. So, you don't consider this as a change of status quo?
MR. ERELI: You know, I'm not going to define it further than I already have. It has not been abolished; it's been frozen. He himself has said that he is committed to the status quo and that he is committed to his inaugural pledges and that is an important statement of policy.
QUESTION: And you are committed to the status quo, too, aren't you?
MR. ERELI: And we are committed to a one China policy.
QUESTION: Well, but that's pretty status --
QUESTION: Based on the three --
MR. ERELI: Based on the three communiqués -and -- class?
MR. ERELI: The Taiwan Relations Act.
QUESTION: What do you think they're going to be talking about?
MR. ERELI: Resolving their differences.
QUESTION: But you believe there's only one China. Is there any other major difference?
MR. ERELI: Come on, Barry. Let's --
QUESTION: Okay, but I mean -- it's gotten to be sort of boilerplate.
MR. ERELI: Yes. Exactly. That's why --
QUESTION: And this is a big event, so I thought maybe there's something a little more that the State Department could --
MR. ERELI: I think --
QUESTION: When it comes to China, State Department gets very quiet.
MR. ERELI: Sir.
QUESTION: Yes. President Chen, of course, in his announcement, used the expression that the Unification Council ceases to function and also the guideline ceases to apply. You're saying, by using the phrase, you know, "cease to function," he's not actually abolishing the Council.
MR. ERELI: Our understanding --
QUESTION: I'm not sure I would agree with you because, you know, linguistically and semantically, "cease" is the same thing as abolishing.
MR. ERELI: Sir, all I can say is that President Chen has said he is committed to the status quo, he is not changing the status quo and he is committed to his inaugural pledges. The NUC -- he also -- the NUC exists and so we're going to hold him to those pledges.
QUESTION: Well, he has said this countless times in the past and do you still have confidence in him when he says something that he had said before, though?
MR. ERELI: I think our views -- I've stated them as clearly as I can.
QUESTION: Adam, did the United States encourage him not to take the step?
MR. ERELI: I think the United States has made it clear to the Taiwanese leadership on any number of occasions that we are opposed to unilateral moves and we urge strongly that he remain consistent with his commitments in the inaugural pledge of 2000 and that he not take any unilateral moves. I would note that he has said that this action is not a unilateral move.
QUESTION: Would you agree a cessation is a unilateral move?
MR. ERELI: Pardon?
QUESTION: Is his action, from the U.S. view, a unilateral move?
MR. ERELI: I think that I would just leave it at what President Chen said and hold him at that, which is it is not a unilateral move.
QUESTION: And in spite of all the communication between the U.S. and Taiwan, Chen stick to his decision. So is there any actions the U.S. side is going to take?
MR. ERELI: I think we will continue to -- as I said earlier, we will continue to hold President Chen by his commitments not to take unilateral moves and to remain committed to his inaugural pledges of 2000.
QUESTION: Can I ask you something else?
QUESTION: Do you consider this episode closed for now?
MR. ERELI: For us, the episode is closed or the issue is closed when Taiwan -- when parties on both sides of the Straits resolve their differences. And that's what we continue to urge both sides to do: engage in a dialogue so that issues and discussions like we're having today are a thing of the past.
QUESTION: Adam, at first the United States actually has tried to persuade President Chen to give up his plan to abolish the Council and the guidelines. What made you soften your stand, you know, moving from urging him not to do it to actually working out the specific wording? In Chinese, it is actually "terminate." It's not even "cease to apply." You know "zhongzhi" is terminate. I don't understand the difference between termination and abolishment.
MR. ERELI: Not being a Chinese speaker, I don't know either. What I can tell you is our understanding is that the NUC has not been abolished; it has been frozen, number one. Number two, that President Chen has stated that this does not alter the status quo and; number two, he has said he is committed to not take unilateral actions which would alter the status quo, all of which are positions that we have very strongly advocated and which have been reaffirmed.
QUESTION: Adam, we didn't hear him actually reaffirm his pledges or assurance to adhere to his inaugural address commitment. Did you hear it somewhere else? Because we didn't really hear it.
One other question, Adam. Do you really think the U.S. policy is working? I mean, you know, when you say to abolish or to terminate the Council and the guidelines may seem, you know, to be steps to change -- unilaterally change the status quo, and then a week later, you know, you're saying, hey, President Chen actually is not changing the status quo. I don't understand that. You know, is your policy working?
And also, you are calling for China to talk to President Chen. What was the incentive that you think China would get out of this? If China did not agree to talk to him yesterday, what is the incentive that will make China talk to him today?
MR. ERELI: I can't speak for China. What I can speak for is the United States and the fact that we've got, I think, a very clear and consistent policy that is focused on preventing either side from taking unilateral actions that affect the status quo. In this case, in this latest case, there were pledges made in 2000 that we thought were important to respect. President Chen has reaffirmed today, our understanding, the fact that the steps that he has taken do not constitute a change in the status quo and he reaffirmed his commitment to those 2000 pledges.
That is important, because what -- you can't -- as you suggested in your question, you can't promote dialogue if there isn't the confidence between both sides that the other one isn't taking unilateral steps. So, it's very important, the public statements that we've heard from Chen today, and it's very important that based on those public statements and based on what the leadership of Taiwan has said is a commitment not to change the status quo, that you move beyond the news of the day and talk about the real issues that are causing problems.
QUESTION: One more?
MR. ERELI: One more.
QUESTION: We understand the U.S. policy remains the same and remains firm, very firm, but are there any policy implications because of this - for U.S. policy? You know, obviously, when the decision-makers in this building come to the building today, it's a different day. It's different from yesterday.
MR. ERELI: Yes, I will agree with that. (Laughter.) And that I think the focus of our policy, even though one day is different than the next, is continuity and that's why I began this long discussion by reminding you that our policy remains consistent based on --
QUESTION: "One China." (Laughter).
MR. ERELI: Based on the three communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act.
QUESTION: Has it changed?
MR. ERELI: Okay, I guess --
QUESTION: Can I make one more try?
MR. ERELI: One more try.
QUESTION: One more try, okay. I would like to know if there's some kind of understanding that the U.S. side has been given permission to construe President Chen's decision to let the council to cease to function as not abolishing -- your word. Is there some kind of -- and Taiwan will not challenge whatever you say at this podium about, particularly, your language, not abolishing -- actually, you know, my colleague back there just pointed out the word -- the expression -- in Chinese "zhongzhi" simply means terminating, which is like abolishing. So, that's why I want to know, is there some kind of an understanding, agreement between the two sides that the U.S. can interpret this in the way as abolishing -- not abolishing?
MR. ERELI: I would -- sir, I just --
QUESTION: Whereas Taiwan is saying, you know, it's abolishing --
MR. ERELI: Let me just -- I'd refer you to President Chen's public comments and his reaffirmation that this is not a unilateral step to change the status quo and that's a statement of Taiwanese policy and that's an important reaffirmation of Taiwanese policy and we certainly look forward to them fulfilling those commitments.
QUESTION: Will he pay a price for this?
MR. ERELI: I don't -- you know, I don't know what that means.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) pay a price for this?
MR. ERELI: The United States is working to promote resolution of Cross-Strait differences and that's the objective that we're going to continue to focus on.
QUESTION: Could I turn to something else?
QUESTION: What is the PRC's reaction so far? We know Mr. Yang Jiechi's visit here, he raised Taiwan questions. So far, did you get other --
MR. ERELI: I've got nothing new to report for you on that.
QUESTION: I have something far easier, I'm sure. The European Union has decided to make a $143 million contribution to the Palestinians. This is before, as far as this report -- this AP report from Brussels -- this is before Hamas-dominated government takes over.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Nothing being said about what they would do in that -- when that happens. Is this okay? Is this part of --
MR. ERELI: This is good.
QUESTION: -- the united front that you --
MR. ERELI: This is good, this is good. This is a welcome step. It's one that the EU spoke -- that the Secretary spoke to the EU about yesterday in conversations with EU Commissioner Ferrero-Weldner and High Representative Solana.
As you recall in the Quartet statement of January 31st, I think, the members of the Quartet, including the EU, obviously, expressed their commitment to helping the Palestinian people and to supporting the interim government as it functioned in the period between the election and the formation of the new government. So, this contribution of $144 million comes in the context of that agreement -- of the Quartet statement, and it is positive and welcome and I think it is a sign that we're all working together to prevent a collapse of the interim PA government and to support the Palestinian people.
Now, obviously, when there's a new government, we will need to reassess our positions based on the formation of that government, the composition of the government. And as the Quartet statement says, we will review future assistance against the new government's commitment to the principles we talked about. Having said all that, regardless of what the government is, the members of the Quartet also made clear, and the Secretary has made very clear subsequent to that, that we will not neglect the needs -- the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: Oh, now, wait a minute. When the Secretary -- let me -- lots of follow-ups to this. When the Secretary had her conversation, did she say, "That's a good move; I approve of that?"
MR. ERELI: Well, it's not a question of approval, it's a question of --
QUESTION: Well, I know it's their move --
MR. ERELI: -- being supportive and it's consistent with -- it's really consistent with the approach that we've all agreed on from the beginning.
QUESTION: Are you -- two more things. Is the U.S. contemplating doing something similar? And I'm wondering, how do you get the $143 million spent so there isn't anything left in the till when Hamas moves in?
MR. ERELI: Well, I think there's -- based -- I can't speak to the modalities of the --
QUESTION: Would it end up in Hamas's hands?
MR. ERELI: I can't speak to the modalities of the disbursement of the $143 million.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you mentioned that -
MR. ERELI: I would just note a couple things.
MR. ERELI: One is, the EU has injunctions against funding terrorist organizations, so they are under the same --
QUESTION: -- strictures --
MR. ERELI: They have the same concerns about that that as we do. Second of all, I think that there are -- that the needs are great and there are ways to do this to, I think, ensure that those needs are met.
QUESTION: And is the U.S. planning to do anything to help this -- I suppose you consider it to be humanitarian?
MR. ERELI: Yes, obviously -- obviously, we've got -- we're looking at our assistance, as you well know. We've got assistance programs underway. We continue to see what we can evaluate, what works given the constraints that we all face, but we will continue to do what we can to help the Palestinians.
QUESTION: I thought that was supposed to come down about now. The phrase at the rostrum was --
MR. ERELI: A couple --
QUESTION: -- two weeks -- a week or two.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, a week or two, so we're getting --
QUESTION: We're getting there?
MR. ERELI: We're getting there. Obviously, again, we've got an interim situation where we've got -- you know, assistance is continuing, but assistance is also being reviewed with an eye to not letting any money go to a foreign terrorist organization. So, that I think -- how should I put it?
-- it is going to be both on-going, as well as based on future eventualities, which haven't happened yet.
QUESTION: If you welcome this step and you think it's so important to support President Abbas in his interim period, why did the United States ask for some of its money to be returned? Is that because it was going directly to the PA?
MR. ERELI: Well, it's because it wasn't being spent. And as -- further to the question that Barry asked -- it wasn't being spent and it didn't seem likely that it would be spent in time to help the interim government.
QUESTION: You say that everybody's working together to prevent a collapse of the Palestinian Authority, okay, but Wolfensohn said today that the Palestinian Authority could collapse in two weeks. This money that the EU is releasing, only something like 17 million euros or $20 million is going to go to the PA directly, which means - PA almost spends something like 60 million on salaries per month. So, Wolfensohn is saying today, hey guys, this thing is about to collapse. The Europeans have said, yes, we're giving this money, but it's not going to avert a collapse. We are desperate -- we are the only people out here helping -- and we desperately need other donors to step up and how -- and keep this thing.
So I'm wondering how you can say that we're working together to avert a collapse when we're really not?
MR. ERELI: Well, we are. I can say we are because we are.
QUESTION: What are we doing to help the Palestinians pay the salaries this month which it needs to pay?
MR. ERELI: We are working with the Europeans and I think this $144 million is an indication of that. We are also working with other states in the region and elsewhere to provide money to help the PA, the interim government, meet its fiscal obligations. And obviously Mr. Wolfensohn has a point; they are under a lot of pressure fiscally and it's important that the international community step up and help them out. That's what we're working with the EU to do. It's what other countries -- we're looking to other countries to help do. And it's an ongoing effort.
QUESTION: Adam, when you say we're working with these other countries, does it mean we're encouraging other countries to fund the PA even though we are not ourselves doing it?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. And then my -- so that's -- I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Elise. The other question is: The whole point of this agreement was so that the PA doesn't collapse before the Israeli elections. That was the entire point. And Israel at one time had agreed not to withhold the revenue and so that the PA could stay intact at least until the Israeli elections. Did the United States give Israel the green light to withhold the revenue? Because that's what's causing this crunch right now.
MR. ERELI: Israel makes its decisions based on what it believes are its interests, and we respect those decisions.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. Government give the green light?
MR. ERELI: As I said, Israel makes its own decisions based on its national interests, and they don't -- it's not a question of a green light. It's a question of Israel doing what Israel needs to do to protect Israel's interests.
QUESTION: Because Israel has said this publicly --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) encouraging other governments to give money to the PA consistent with congressional prohibitions?
MR. ERELI: Congressional prohibitions? We're not giving --
QUESTION: You need a waiver --
MR. ERELI: We're not giving them --
QUESTION: You need a waiver, which you got three times, or you waived it. So this is the PA directly. Right? You're not supposed to assist the PA.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Unless you get a waiver.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: But it's all right to tell other people to step in for you --
MR. ERELI: To support the current government --
QUESTION: Just one more. When you say you're working to prevent a collapse of the Palestinian Authority, you mean in this interim period before Hamas takes over?
MR. ERELI: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: You don't care if the government collapses once Hamas takes over?
MR. ERELI: Well, the question before us once Hamas takes over, presuming Hamas -- and this is all -- Hamas making a choice. And as I said, for us the question is, number one, how do you help the Palestinian people? How do you make sure that the Palestinian people don't suffer from a humanitarian perspective and because of decisions by a government to practice terror? So we're going to continue to do that. However, if -- should there be a Hamas government, our policy is clear. We can't support that government. We can't provide support to an organization that practices terror. So if and when there is a Palestinian government that is run by Hamas, we've got a different set of circumstances that we need to address.
QUESTION: So just two points here: (a) are you judging them on -- you're judging them on their past actions, not on the future actions of how they're going to run the government, whether they're going to engage in terror and things like that; and (b) this weekend in the Middle East when Secretary Rice took her trip, the Saudi Minister made his point that where does humanitarian aid end and infrastructure projects begin. For instance, is sanitation, clean water, things like that, is that a humanitarian concern or is that, you know, supporting the new government?
MR. ERELI: The first one, the first question, I think you're making a distinction that we don't make. Hamas -- and we've always said you can't have one foot in politics and one foot in terrorism. If Hamas as an organization is running institutions of government, then it's got to do that with both feet, and not one in politics and one in terrorism. So make the choice, Hamas, if you come to power and make it clear and make it explicit. That's number one.
Number two, on the humanitarian issue, you know, we will be looking at our assistance programs based on our law and our appreciation and our policy -- of the situation -- and our policy considerations. I think that -- I can't speak for other governments and I'm not going to speak for other governments. As I said, I think the EU has their own restrictions regarding funding of activities.
But I think that broadly speaking, particularly with respect to the last trip, broadly speaking there is agreement that, yes, we want to help the people; yes, we want to use our leverage to have Hamas make the right choice, and that that framework will be guiding all of our decisions. But how one country is going to define assistance versus another country, I can't tell you.
QUESTION: Have you received the $50 million back yet?
MR. ERELI: Not yet.
QUESTION: And is it possible that you may ask for a waiver to help support Abbas in the meantime before the new government comes?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that that's under consideration.
QUESTION: Adam, on the 50 million, you say that it wasn't being spent, but we're hearing about these hundreds of millions of dollars of shortfall in their budget for this interim government. Are there limitations on what they can do with it?
MR. ERELI: The 50 million -- I should add, the 50 million was for infrastructure projects. It wasn't for budget assistance and paying salaries and that sort of stuff. So --
QUESTION: You think they'd convert it to that now.
MR. ERELI: So that's what -- that's what Sue just asked. So the 50 million -- the 50 million in direct assistance, as I said, was not set up to be spent in a way that this other money is being given to them. And if we're -- I'm not aware that we're considering reprogramming it for that purpose.
QUESTION: There are a lot of members of the Quartet who are upset that Israel is withholding the tax money and because the whole Quartet position was to stabilize the interim government and to basically delay any decision, and there are people who are saying that -- and in fact, the Israelis have said it publicly -- that the U.S. was going to support them in cutting off this revenue, which has now caused a major financial crisis in the short term, in the next two weeks before the Israeli election. So, I guess I -- you know, I'm asking once again, you know, when the Israelis say the Americans are supporting this decision, are they not telling the truth or are you meaning to tell us that there was no communication beforehand, that the Israelis simply informed the U.S.?
MR. ERELI: You asked me if there's a green light and I said that the United States doesn't give Israel green lights. Israel doesn't need green lights. Israel's going to do like any country. It's a sovereign country. It's going to make its sovereign choices. They have made that choice. The international community is responding to help make up the shortfall and that's what --
MR. ERELI: -- excuse me, and that was what the Quartet met about and that was the -- what's clearly stated in their last communiqué and it's what I think is reflected in this latest contribution.
And again, this is something that we're all committed to doing, which is helping ensure that humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people are met.
QUESTION: Was it the right choice and will we -- notwithstanding the humanitarian needs, will the international community make up this budget shortfall of the salaries of the PA? I mean, what we're talking about is salaries; we're not talking about UNWRA and all of those other things. That's not going to collapse. UNWRA is never going to collapse. We're talking about the PA and the salaries of the PA. Do you -- are you confident that that shortfall is going to be made up?
MR. ERELI: That's our goal.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout on Assistant Secretary Welch's discussions in the Palestinian territories and Israel?
MR. ERELI: Nothing specific. He went to Israel and the West Bank following the Secretary's return here. He's had meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials. I think, obviously, we're looking at all the issues we've been discussing for the last couple minutes about how we can work together to both support the Palestinian people and make sure that a future Palestinian government makes the right choices and can be a reliable partner for peace, which unfortunately, with -- given Hamas's current policies, it wouldn't be.
QUESTION: Adam, is there any difference in approach between Israel and the U.S. regarding the cooperation of Abu Mazen? Because Israel radio reported that Assistant Secretary Welch put forward a policy in which the U.S. would work with Abbas instead of the Hamas-led government, but Israel rejected that.
MR. ERELI: I haven't seen that report. It doesn't sound right to me, but -- you know, I just -- I think the way I would put it is that -- look, we all have a shared objective and that objective is -- and this is the fundamental issue, which is quickly lost sight of in a lot of the tortured discussions we're having. The fundamental issue is, will Hamas choose the path of peace and what can we do to get them to make that choice? And that is what we all want, because unless they do that, our common goal of a Palestinian state where the Palestinians can live as free, sovereign people is not going to happen.
QUESTION: I have a couple of questions on Sudan sanctions.
MR. ERELI: I don't know if we're finished with this yet.
QUESTION: Which part doesn't sound right to you? That Welch would have made this statement or that the Israelis would have rejected it?
MR. ERELI: All of it. All of it.
QUESTION: That it happened at all?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. It just sounds convoluted.
QUESTION: But she's quoted as saying -- Livni is quoted as saying that Abbas is not relevant.
MR. ERELI: Well, that's a different issue. That's not part of that report.
QUESTION: It's a part of it, yeah.
QUESTION: It's the same comments, yeah.
MR. ERELI: Well, I'm not going to -- what's been said has been said, but this was like Welch offered this deal and the Israelis rejected, da-da-da. I think that, as I said, we and the Israelis and the Palestinians are -- and this was the purpose of Welch's visit and the subject of his discussions -- are focusing on the fundamental issue, which is: How do we get Hamas to make the right choice? How does the leadership of the PA do that? How can we work with the Israelis and the neighbors and the international community to confront a situation and deal with a situation which appears likely to come about where a government is in the hands of or has a significant presence of representatives of a terrorist organization and keep the focus on the goal we're working towards, which is an independent Palestinian state, and influencing and using leverage to affect the policies of terrorist organizations so we can create a reliable partner? That's what's at play here and that's what Welch was talking about with his Palestinian and Israeli interlocutors.
QUESTION: Adam, you didn't answer the question about whether the U.S. supported Israel's sovereign decision to cut off revenues, which is now causing the rest of the world to have to make up a shortfall.
MR. ERELI: As I said, that's a decision that Israel felt it was appropriate and necessary to take, and we respect that decision.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, Mr. Ereli, the European Union has decided to give to the Turkish Cypriots $165 million to ease their economic isolation. What is the position of your government since you are very concerned on this issue? Do you agree?
MR. ERELI: I'm not familiar with the proposal, number one. Number two, I think you asked my colleague in the European Bureau before the briefing. I don't have anything more to add to what she told you.
MR. ERELI: I just don't know that.
QUESTION: And the Cyprus government said it's a good idea.
QUESTION: And another question. The American Hellenic Council of California in a released statement on Cyprus, inter alia, is questioning the following basis of your statements last Friday, February 24th: "How then does Mr. Ereli state that the trade and commercial transaction with the illegally occupied area are perfectly legal? Does the U.S. consider trade with the Taliban-occupied areas of Afghanistan legal? Does the U.S. consider trade with the Tamil-occupied area of Sri Lanka legal when the U.S. does not recognize the local Tamil authorities?"
How do you respond?
MR. ERELI: I don't think there's any -- there's no legal prohibition against the trade we're conducting with the northern part of Cyprus. If you can find one, let me know.
QUESTION: There's a Sudan question hanging and then I have a Uganda question.
MR. ERELI: Thanks for moderating this. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Mr. Ereli, just follow-up, a follow-up. Is the attitude expressed by Mr. Ereli (inaudible) an arbitrary and capricious change of policy or does it represent any official change of our government's policy? If so, when was the U.S. Congress and the American public notified of this change?
MR. ERELI: No change in policy.
QUESTION: But how do you respond to this?
MR. ERELI: There's no change in policy.
QUESTION: You notified the Congress?
MR. ERELI: Notify no change in policy to the Congress?
QUESTION: But as far as because you consider legal the illegal seaports and airports and the --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, Lambros, there's no legal prohibition -- there's no law against sending goods to the northern part of Cyprus.
QUESTION: Okay. John Bolton up at the Security Council today said that the Security Council should mean what it says and impose these sanctions that were announced last year in a resolution, targeted sanctions. I wonder if the U.S. supports the idea of sanctioning Salah Abdallah Gosh, who is the intelligence chief who has provided a lot of information on al-Qaida. And I have a follow-up question after that.
MR. ERELI: There have been Security Council resolutions passed regarding sanctions against individuals implicated in the genocide and the crimes that have taken place in Darfur. We are currently awaiting a report from the experts committee that was tasked by the Security Council to look into these -- look into which individuals might be sanctionable and to report back to the Security Council. We have not yet received that report. We certainly look forward to it. And obviously Ambassador Bolton is 100 percent right; when you pass resolutions calling for actions and providing for actions, if it's found that there are individuals or countries that have violated resolutions and where sanctions are applicable, then action should be taken.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. trying to block action against Abdallah Gosh -- Salah Abdallah Gosh?
MR. ERELI: As I said, the experts have not yet presented their findings so let's first see what they come up with and then we will I think work have to take the appropriate action. As a principle, those who -- as I said -- those who are found to be in violation of Security Council resolutions should suffer the consequences.
QUESTION: One other thing. Two years ago, Pierre Prosper went up to the Hill with a list of seven Janjaweed leaders that he said the U.S. should take -- impose targeted sanctions on, according to legislation that the Hill had passed. And I wonder, has the U.S. followed up on any of its promises?
MR. ERELI: Let me see what I can get for you on that.
QUESTION: On Uganda?
MR. ERELI: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: President had 20 years and now reelected for another term, says his opponents have no right to challenge his election, his reelection. Does the State Department have any view whether the process has been - whatever your terminology -- free and fair, all of the above?
MR. ERELI: The Electoral Commission of Uganda over the weekend announced the final results of the presidential election, which showed that President Museveni had won 59 percent of the vote and the main opponent, Mr. Besigye, won 37 percent. There were some irregularities that were observed in isolated incidents. These irregularities include slow lines and problems with voter registration, but there certainly did not appear to be any systematic effort that undermines the credibility of the results.
Having said that, there is a process for addressing complaints and it is important that that process, I think, be respected for there to be credibility. That's what we said on Friday. That remains our position today.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Can we get back to Sudan?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: President Bush is urging NATO to take the (inaudible) -- I mean, wonder -- you know, is there any progress being made and any talk between U.S. and NATO regarding this?
MR. ERELI: Discussions continue. Obviously, as you know, as we discussed last week, we're working the issue on a variety of fronts, including the planning and assessment of a future UN force. NATO -- we look to NATO to play a role in that. It's something that we've discussed, the President has discussed with the NATO leadership and we continue to discuss with NATO at a staffing level.
Also, as part of that effort, the UN is working on an assessment report. All these elements we'll work together, along with the political and diplomatic track, as we continue to try to stand up a UN force to succeed the AU force.
QUESTION: Will there be any U.S. troops on the ground?
MR. ERELI: I think it's premature to speculate about that.
QUESTION: Changing the subject?
MR. ERELI: No, I think -- still on Sudan behind you.
QUESTION: No, on Iran.
MR. ERELI: Oh, still on Sudan? Elise, Sudan -- Sudan in the back? Okay, I think you've been waiting.
MR. ERELI: If you want to talk, I'm -- that's what I'm here for.
QUESTION: Today's report has been submitted to the IAEA regarding the Iranian regime nuclear activities, including some important information by CIA about the subject.
Do you have of any of the specific --
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that -- well, as you know, the Director General is going to report to the IAEA Board of Governors -- give a comprehensive report about Iran's nuclear activities. Obviously, that report will be ahead of the meeting, which is scheduled for March 6th. I'd seen press reports that that report was being presented today. I had also seen press reports that it had been pushed back.
I'm not aware that we've seen any such report. We've seen reports about the report. I would simply say this; that Iran has a long, I think, and well-documented history of deception and concealment of its nuclear activities from the international community and the IAEA, in particular. As a result of those actions, the Board of Governors declared in its last meeting that Iran was in violation of its NPT obligations and decided to -- voted to refer it to the Security Council.
So, ahead of that referral, we will be looking forward to the Director General's report to give a comprehensive accounting of what Iran has done not only in the run-up to the last Board of Governors meeting, but since the last Board of Governors meeting in order to inform our discussion of this very important issue, both at the Board of Governors, as well as in the Security Council.
QUESTION: What about this potential deal, in theory, with the Russians about a possible --
MR. ERELI: There you go. You've answered your own question -- potential, possible --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, have they been briefed by the Russians about this? I mean, what are the holdups and -- I mean, the deal, in principle as it stands is that something that you think can be flushed out?
MR. ERELI: We've talked a little bit to the Russians, don't have a real readout of things. There's no deal that -- frankly, that I'm aware of. This is -- frankly, I would characterize as more chafe being thrown up by the Iranians ahead of the Board of Governors meeting. It's certainly consistent with past actions designed to divert the world's attention from the fundamental issue, which is that contrary to its commitments -- contrary to commitments made to the Europeans and others and contrary to its treaty obligations, Iran is engaged in enrichment activity on its territory and that that is of serious concern to all of us and frankly, that's why Iran finds itself in the mess that it's in. And there's really nothing -- there's nothing that we've seen to date that indicates that they're moving away from that.
QUESTION: Right. But you -- if I could just follow up. But you and Sean from this podium and the Secretary herself have said that you wish that Iran would, you know, accept a deal of this nature.
MR. ERELI: We've supported --
QUESTION: Are you prepared to take yes for an answer, I mean, if these talks continue and a deal does emerge?
MR. ERELI: Yes, we've always said we have supported the Russian proposal within the broader context of the EU-3 diplomacy. But what does that involve? That involves suspending enrichment-related activity and it involves -- it involves objective guarantees that Iran isn't conducting activities on its soil to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon. So far, everything that Iran is doing is moving in the opposite direction.
So yeah, we support the Russian initiative and we support the EU-3 diplomacy. Unfortunately, Iran, to date, has proven itself unwilling to seriously engage on those.
QUESTION: But you say Iran is throwing chaff before the IAEA meeting, that it's not really an agreement. What about the Russian effort? Is it -- are they party to this little play-acting or are the Russians making a good faith effort and being horsed around by Iran?
MR. ERELI: Making a good faith effort and being horsed around, is the way I'd put it.
QUESTION: In terms of the Russian proposal, have you ever seen a hard copy, a paper copy of what this Russian proposal is? Because it seems to be a kind of wifty-wafty as to exactly --
MR. ERELI: No, I think it's pretty explicit. It's --
QUESTION: But have you been given a hard copy as to what this proposal is --
MR. ERELI: I don't know that -- the basic outline, the basic principles, have been discussed with the EU-3 and the Russians and it's an approach that we all endorse and subscribe to as being consistent with the EU-3 diplomacy. I don't, frankly, know how detailed it's gotten simply because Iran, to date, hasn't engaged seriously.
QUESTION: Are you familiar with the claim that Iran has already been testing the cascade of 20-centrifuges?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: At Natanz?
MR. ERELI: Right. And I don't have any sort of information to help you clarify that. I think it's obviously a direction that we're concerned about, that it's an activity that violates the previous commitments made and has all of us concerned. And I think it helps explain why we're all sort of very much looking forward to the Director General's report to shed light on what Iran has been up to.
QUESTION: Can I ask you something else? This review of the Dubai deal, the State Department was part of the process in the first place, a rather low-level official. Do you know if there's going to be a more senior U.S. State Department official and do you know if the State Department will produce or introduce more material than it has in the past?
MR. ERELI: This will take place, obviously, under the leadership of the Treasury Department. I'll have to check. It's normally, again, our Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. Let me see if I can get for you who is and at what level it's going to be -- we're going to be participating. But for details of how this 45-day process plays out and who does what, I'll defer you to Treasury since they've got the sort of lead on the procedural questions.
QUESTION: Of course, I meant no -- you know, nothing about the official. I just wondered if it's become a bigger deal.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. No.
QUESTION: And if you can find out if there's -- the State Department is going to make some presentation it hasn't before, and you can tell us that.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Some human rights groups have written a letter to Secretary Rice asking the U.S. to accept this new version of the Human Rights Council, but Ambassador Bolton's comments this morning remain that you will vote no if it's brought to a vote. What are your problems with the General Assembly president's proposal?
MR. ERELI: Well, we share the concerns, frankly, of the human rights community and others that the UN be the leading international institution for the protection and defense of human rights. And in order to do that, the UN needs a strong human rights body. To date, it hasn't had that. I mean, when you have a human rights -- a Commission on Human Rights, which we've had until now, that has countries like -- serial human rights proliferators -- sorry, serial human rights violators like Sudan, like Zimbabwe, then there's obviously something wrong with that mechanism.
So the challenge before us was to come up with a new human rights body that could ensure that human rights treaties and covenants on human rights were respected and implemented around the world. And what we've come up with, or what the system has come up with, we think falls short of that because it doesn't prevent countries like Sudan or others who violate human rights from being on the council. Basically, all you need is a majority from the General Assembly to get on it, and even if you're under UN sanctions for human rights you can still qualify. Well, that doesn't make any sense.
So unfortunately, what's happened is an outcome, I think, that fell short of what's needed and what we're all looking for to have a really strong and effective UN human rights mechanism. What are we doing about it? What we'd like to see, frankly, is a renegotiated proposal for a Human Rights Council and a proposal on the basis of ensuring that the people on the council are -- and the countries on the council -- are serious about defending and protecting human rights. And that's what Ambassador Bolton was calling for today and that's what we're going to try to bring about.
QUESTION: Even NGOs are saying they think this is the best deal that's possible to get.
MR. ERELI: I guess a flawed deal -- this deal is not that, frankly, different than the status quo, aside from there being fewer members. So, it really doesn't meet -- in our view, it doesn't meet the goals that we should all be working toward, which is an effective and credible human rights body. And I think we'd like a good deal, but we're not willing to accept just any deal.
QUESTION: Do you know if Secretary Rice has seen this letter, being that she hasn't been in town very long and if she's going to meet with them?
MR. ERELI: Well, I know she's spoken with Ambassador Bolton numerous times over the weekend. She also spoke with Under Secretary -- I'm sorry, Secretary General Annan over the weekend. I expect she will be talking to the UN's General Assembly President Eliasson later to talk about our concerns. I don't know if she's seen the letter, but obviously, the NGO community is a community that we -- whose views we value and who we stay in close touch with.
QUESTION: Do you have any sense that renegotiations will take place?
MR. ERELI: That's what we're working for, frankly.
QUESTION: Do you have any sense of how it's leaning?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: I don't know if you can answer this question, but can you comment on the report today about German intelligence providing Iraqi defense plans to the U.S. prior to the invasion?
MR. ERELI: No, no comment.
QUESTION: One more? What is your guidance in terms of the impending capture of Mr. Mladic?
MR. ERELI: My what? My what?
MR. ERELI: What was the first part of the question?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, there's rumors that he's about to be captured --
MR. ERELI: Oh, really? Are those the same rumors that were from last week or new ones?
QUESTION: No. I mean, obviously, the European Union is hitting them pretty hard to hand him over --
MR. ERELI: Well, he should have been handed over a long time ago and we'd like him -- we'd like to see him in the custody of the court tomorrow. Do I have any information that he's about to be captured? No. Have I even seen reports that he's about to be captured? Yes. But I've also seen the denials by the Serbs and others, so there's really nothing new for me to add to what's already been reported or said about that. Don't have any information, but his arrest is long overdue.
QUESTION: Have you talked to the Serbian government in recent days to push them to --
MR. ERELI: I think this an issue that we engage very regularly with the Serbian government on.
QUESTION: Yeah, I'm just wondering if you have seen the report in (inaudible) and a number of other media that at least eight prominent human rights activist in China were arrested recently because they joined the hunger strike relay -- nationwide hunger strike relay in protest of all the human rights situation in China recently.
MR. ERELI: I have not seen those reports. Isn't that a number of individuals, did you say, or --
QUESTION: The hunger strike was started by a famous human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng.
And Amnesty International activists sent out and urgent action notice back in January and there are eight prominent human rights activists that were arrested.
MR. ERELI: Yes. Well, I don't have anything specific on that report. I'll see if I can get something for you. As you know, we strongly support the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of information and the rule of law and the rights of the accused in China. The case of Mr. Gao is a case that we have raised with the Chinese. We will continue to be very active in ensuring that -- and in working with the Chinese to ensure that the rights of its citizens are respected and that due process is followed.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)
Surce: U.S. Department of State