State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for August 10
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for August 10
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
August 10, 2004
- Statement on Extension of Requirement for Visa Waiver Program /
- Includes Biometrics in Passports
-Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
- Approved Observance of Elections of Member Nations in 1990 /
- Observed Florida Election in 2002 and in 2003 Orange County
- California Gubernatorial Election / Observation Teams Invited in
- 1998 and 2000 / In the Interest of Equity and Full Transparency
- Multinational Forces Not Conceding to Terrorists
- Defense Minister Claims that Iran is Supplying al-Sadr s Militia
- in Najaf / U.S. Position of Peaceful and Stable Iraq /
- International Community Working Toward Unity / Significant
- Progress in Iraq
- Exercising Control on the Border Between Iran and Syrian
- Prosecution of Ahmad and Salem Chalabi an Iraqi Matter / Rejection
- of U.S. Involvement in Charges
- Iraqi Regulations on Al-Jazeera / U.S. Support of Freedom of
- Speech / Standards in Operating
- Looking into Amnesty International Reports of Rounding up People
- in Darfur / U.S. Need for Information and Cooperation from
- No Recent U.S. Conversation with Sudanese Officials
- Embassy Colombo Received Envelope of White Power / Envelope Being
- Reports of Highly Enriched Uranium Particles / Director General to
- Present Report in Late August / Centrifuge Program / Failure to
- Cooperate with IAEA Inspectors / Plutonium Separation Experiments
- Agreement Between Libya and Germany Regarding Compensation of
- Disco Bombing / Resolving Claims of American Victims / Assistant
- Secretary Burns' Meetings
- U.S. List of State Sponsors of Terrorism
- Condemnation of Bombings in Istanbul / No Americans Known Injured
12:18 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everybody. We'll be putting out a statement after the briefing on the signing yesterday by President Bush of extending by one year the requirement for Visa Waiver Program countries to include biometrics in passports, so look for that after the briefing.
With that, I'll take your questions.
QUESTION: Any new statements from coalition partners you can tell us about since yesterday?
MR. ERELI: I think I'll leave it where we had it yesterday. Frankly, I didn't check, and the reason I didn't check is because I thought let's just leave it where it was yesterday, which is that the coalition -- the multinational forces have made it clear that they're not going to concede terror -- to make concessions to terrorism, and we believe the message has been received loud and clear by the audience to whom this was really directed, which is the terrorists.
QUESTION: Sudan. Amnesty International has issued a report saying that Sudan has rounded up scores of people who spoke to journalists and foreigners, including during Secretary Powell's trip there a little more than a month ago. Do you know if this true? Do you have any comment on it?
MR. ERELI: I can't confirm it. I can't confirm the reports for you. We have seen those reports. We are looking into those reports. The United States and its other partners from the international community have been clear about the need for information and cooperation from the Government of Sudan regarding the situation in Darfur.
So obviously, reports that individuals are being punished or harassed for speaking out about conditions in Darfur are of serious concern, and that's why we're going to follow up.
QUESTION: Has this been the topic of any conversations that Secretary Powell may have had with Sudanese officials?
MR. ERELI: No, not -- there haven't been any conversations recently with Sudanese officials. And this is a report that's just come out now.
QUESTION: Sri Lanka. The embassy, apparently -- pardon?
QUESTION: Well -- but go. Good, take it -- take it, Matt.
QUESTION: No, it's all yours.
MR. ERELI: I'd be happy to yield to the Sri Lankan expert.
QUESTION: It's all yours.
MR. ERELI: Clamoring for news about Sri Lanka, are we?
QUESTION: Well, that's where we are. It's August.
MR. ERELI: What's -- and the question is?
QUESTION: Have you got a sample of the white powder that the embassy, perhaps, received in an envelope?
MR. ERELI: Testing is under -- let's start from the beginning. Today, in Colombo, the embassy received mail that may have been contaminated. The embassy closed, as a precautionary measure. Professional testing of the material in the mail is currently underway and I don't have any results to report for you from that testing and no decision has been made on when the embassy will reopen.
QUESTION: Did anybody get sick?
MR. ERELI: Not that I've been informed about.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) right that it was the white powder that was in an envelope?
MR. ERELI: My understanding it is -- it is -- my understanding is that it was unidentified white powder.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about something else? Has U.S. confidence in its assertions that Iran is enriching uranium, a nuclear weapons program, been shaken at all by reports that enriched uranium is reaching the country from other places, like Pakistan, for black marketeers? That apparently, apparently, is what the UN agency in Vienna is determining. It may be ahead of the game here, but I wondered if you had a chance to look into those reports that people are hearing.
MR. ERELI: This is a question about reports of highly enriched uranium particles on Iranian --
QUESTION: Yeah, meaning that they themselves --
MR. ERELI: -- centrifuge workshops.
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) enrichment.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. This is, obviously, not a new report. It is something that is being investigated by the IAEA. It is a complex issue that I think will take some further investigative work and time to determine all the facts.
The Director General of the IAEA will present his next report to the Board of Governors by the end of this month, and certainly, this will be part of that report. I would note that this question of highly enriched uranium particles is but one of several troubling issues that the Board of Governors has been considering and that the IAEA is investigating. It's not just HEU, but it also involves their centrifuge program, it involves their overall enrichment program, it involves failure to cooperate with IAEA inspectors, it involves plutonium separation experiments, it involves experiments with polonium-210.
So this is a piece of a bigger picture. With regard to the specific facts of this case, it's under investigation. We look forward to the Board of -- to the Director General's report, which will include this issue, we expect, as well as a number of other outstanding issues where Iran's cooperation has not been what we think it should be.
QUESTION: So, troubling -- Iran having enriched uranium, whether it comes from Pakistan or the black market or was enriched at home, is troubling on any front because it's part of a weapons program.
MR. ERELI: I guess what -- obviously, we think Iran has a weapons program, we think the evidence points to that. What's troubling is that there are not clear, consistent answers that are provided in an open and transparent way, and that's what we're looking for.
QUESTION: As promised to the British, Germans and French.
MR. ERELI: As promised. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. And just a fine point, when you say this will be taken up, you mean the whole issue of enriched uranium.
MR. ERELI: The issue of Iran -- of Iran's failure to abide by agreements and cooperate with the IAEA.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the - the Libyan ambassador to Germany says that Libya has agreed to compensate the non-U.S. -- families of the non-U.S. victims of the 1986 La Belle disco bombing in West Berlin. Do you have anything on that? And in particular, do you know anything about efforts to compensate the U.S. victims?
MR. ERELI: We've seen reports about an agreement between the Libyans and German victims. I'd leave it to them to confirm the details. Obviously, we would view it as a welcome step, but we would also want to take the opportunity to reiterate our view that it is important that efforts are also made to resolve the claims of the American victims as well. That is -- there is, as you know, a matter pending before the U.S. courts, and it is currently a matter of discussion between the victims and the Libyans.
QUESTION: Thank you, Adam.
QUESTION: No State Department involvement?
MR. ERELI: This is between the victims and the Libyans, so it's not an issue to which we are party.
QUESTION: No, but when the U.S. has been working the Libyans to do --
MR. ERELI: I think we've made it clear to the Libyans --
QUESTION: -- some things, is this one of them?
MR. ERELI: We've made it clear to the Libyans in numerous meetings, including Assistant Secretary Burns' last meetings with the Libyans, that this is an issue of importance to us and we are following it closely and we think it needs to be resolved.
QUESTION: Is resolving past instances of terrorism part of getting the Libyans off the State sponsors list, or is its presence on the State sponsors list just related to whether it's been out of the terrorism business for the last six months?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't want to make any specific linkages. At the same time, as I said before, Libya's cleaning the slate from past involvement of terrorist activities is something that is important.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) two American soldiers were killed?
MR. ERELI: Let me check what the exact numbers are.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Iraq's Defense Minister is charging that Iran is supplying al-Sadr's militia in Najaf. Have you seen -- has the U.S. seen any evidence of this?
MR. ERELI: We've seen those claims and I -- we have expressed our, sort of, concern regarding this issue. And our position is that Iran has an interest in a stable and peaceful Iraq, as do the other states of the region, and as neighbors of Iraq. It is our view that Iran should use its influence toward that objective and not to take any actions that would be destabilizing or otherwise contribute to elements that are not working for unity in Iraq.
QUESTION: Why would Iran have an interest in a liberal, democratic state on its borders? Wouldn't it have more of an interest in having a neighbor that's patterned on its fundamentalist controls?
MR. ERELI: Well, again, I think that's a question --
QUESTION: I mean, you're assuming that they're goodwilled. Why do you assume they're goodwilled?
MR. ERELI: That's a question best asked to the Iranians. What we are all working for, what the international community, I think, is working for is an Iraq that is a departure from the past.
QUESTION: Sure, you are.
MR. ERELI: And we have made significant progress in that. Iraq is not a country that threatens its neighbors. It is not a country that is in a position, either because it wants to or is able, to wage war on its neighbors, as the former regime did. And as -- it would seem self-evident that Iraq's neighbors would welcome that state of affairs, where they can live in peace and prosperity with an Iraq that is committed to regional cooperation, trade and policies that help everybody.
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on something that you said, that you've expressed or the U.S. has expressed concern on this issue. Is it concern that this might be happening or concern that it is happening?
MR. ERELI: The United States has expressed concern with regard to suggestions that Iran is not doing everything it can to help promote national reconciliation and stability in Iraq, but not to these specific reports.
QUESTION: So when you say that Iran should use its influence toward these ends of a stable, peaceful Iraq, are you also implying they haven't?
MR. ERELI: I am expressing what the United States views as responsible actions by Iran's -- by Iraq's neighbors.
QUESTION: Have you seen those actions?
MR. ERELI: I think we have -- without passing judgment or giving Iran a grade, I think that we are watching activities closely and working with Iraq and the international community to try to bring about cooperation, both regionally and internationally, that helps Iraq, that supports the objectives of the government of Iraq, and that serves the interests of the people of Iraq. And that's our message to Iran and to any other country that is involved in the situation.
QUESTION: Adam, can I just clarify, when you said, "We have expressed our concern with regard to suggestions that Iran is not doing everything it can," et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But did you say after that, but not in regard -- but not in relation to these new -- these latest charges?
MR. ERELI: We haven't spoken specifically to these charges of guns to Sadr militia, and I'm not in a position to, frankly, give -- accord credibility to those reports.
QUESTION: All right. You know, as I remember, this guidance, this could have been written on, like, March 20th of last year, and I think actually was. (Laughter.) Have you --
MR. ERELI: As you will notice, I am not reading from anything.
QUESTION: And there's not -- you've been saying, you've been telling -- well, you've been --
QUESTION: Let the record show that the State Department --
QUESTION: Is there any -- has there been any change in your message to Iran since the war, that they should do everything that they can to promote a stable Iraq? I mean, isn't this exactly what you've been telling them the entire time?
MR. ERELI: Are you suggesting that somehow consistency is not a good thing?
QUESTION: No, I'm trying to --
QUESTION: No, I'm trying to possibly save myself some work later on.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) those stories.
MR. ERELI: Let me put it this way.
QUESTION: This message that you're giving -- that you're saying today, in response to the questions about this report, is -- this message is not at all different than what you've been saying for the past year. Is that correct?
MR. ERELI: Yes, I am reiterating our position that countries should act responsibly and use their influence for peace and stability and prosperity in Iraq, and that it's in all of our interests to do so.
QUESTION: Can I try to -- on Iraq?
QUESTION: Can I go back to -- on Iraq?
QUESTION: Yeah, not Iran, but Iraq.
QUESTION: Let me try it a slightly different way. Is Iran doing any better in this regard than it's doing in its cooperation with the IAEA?
MR. ERELI: We've also made it clear that, with regard to the borders between Iran and Syria. There are continuing concerns about the movement of people and goods that are not supportive of a peaceful Iraq. And we have made the point rather consistently that both countries need to do everything they can to exercise control over their borders, and to work cooperatively with the government of Iraq to ensure that this kind of activity doesn't take place. And I would also note that that's been a subject of discussion between the leaders of Iraq and those countries.
So this is a work in progress, and our view is that it's in the long-term interests of everybody to get the situation under control.
QUESTION: I wonder on Iraq if there's any reconsideration of the statement yesterday, your remarks yesterday about the attempts to prosecute Chalabi, and particularly Salem Chalabi. I heard two experts at length, and they are experts, on public radio yesterday evening, going on at length that the charges against him are questionable, and that he was described as a liberal who was trying to promote reform, and his anti-Saddam Hussein credentials are apparently well-established.
Is the State Department ready to assess whether there's a case against this guy, or is there political motivation here?
MR. ERELI: No, we're not in a position to make that assessment, nor do we feel that that's our role to do so. This is a matter that is before the bar of Iraqi justice. These are charges that were -- or this is an arrest warrant, let's be specific, these are arrest warrants that were brought, presented by Iraqi courts based on evidence obtained by Iraqis in Iraq. It's for them to comment on what's behind it and how it will proceed.
Iraq, under its current administration, is sovereign and ruled -- and governed by the rule of law, and we expect that that's the way the case would be handled.
QUESTION: Adam --
QUESTION: But if the justice system were being used for political purposes, wouldn't the State Department be prepared to say something about it, as it is about a perversion of justice around the world when it sees it?
QUESTION: Like Khodorkovskiy (inaudible).
MR. ERELI: Let's not --
QUESTION: I mean, is everything the Iraqi government doing from now on going to be just cloaked in this majesty of a process? Of course, it's a legal process. The question is, are they -- are they use -- is it a trumped-up case? But the State Department doesn't want to pass judgment, I guess.
MR. ERELI: We're not in a position to pass judgment. Let's let the process play itself out. It's at a very preliminary stage, and it's in the hands of the Iraqis.
QUESTION: But I mean, will you be keeping an eye on Iraqi political and justice system to make sure they follow the same rule of law and due process that you hold as a high standard to any other country?
MR. ERELI: I mean, obviously, the same standards that apply elsewhere apply to Iraq, and I think the Iraqis would be the first to say that.
QUESTION: Well, that's not really entirely true, Adam. Yesterday, you went to great lengths to say that the same standards didn't really apply, particularly because of the violence, when you were talking about the closure of Al-Jazeera.
MR. ERELI: No, I didn't say that. I said there's a difficult --
QUESTION: Yeah, you did. You said, given -- well, you said it was --
MR. ERELI: I said it was a difficult situation, and that you have to look at the context and you have to look at what's going on there.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. ERELI: But I didn't say the same standards applied.* In fact, I said to the contrary that in Iraq, as elsewhere, the United States supports freedom -- a free and open media, and that Iraq, by its actions, I think, has demonstrated that that's something it supports, too, by having a very dynamic and outspoken and pluralistic media that works there.
There are also regulations that are -- that exist for everybody. There's the decision by the Iraqis that Al-Jazeera knowingly and repeatedly violated those regulations, and they're taking temporary action in response of that.
QUESTION: So --
MR. ERELI: But as I said before, it's a difficult situation and there's nothing in what I said, I think, that would indicate that we are standing down from standards of principles that we apply all over the place.
QUESTION: So your argument would be that the standards don't -- your standards don't change, it's just the context of the situation in the country that changes. That seems to be --
MR. ERELI: My argument is that this was a difficult call, that there are -- that the decision has to be seen in light of some circumstances in Iraq.
QUESTION: Adam, can we -- going to Mr. Ahmad Chalabi for a moment, I believe he's been quoted as suggesting that the United States is behind these charges, and their in part an effort by the United States to prevent him from playing a role in Iraq's political future. Can you dispute that and can you --
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I reject those accusations.
QUESTION: And -- categorically?
MR. ERELI: We are -- categorically, we --
QUESTION: And there --
MR. ERELI: This is an Iraqi decision by Iraqi courts based on Iraqi authorities.
QUESTION: So the United States Government had no involvement whatsoever in this.
MR. ERELI: This is an Iraqi decision.
QUESTION: But you can't rule out -- can you say that, as far as you know, the U.S. Government had no involvement in this?
MR. ERELI: As far as I know, we were not involved in this.
QUESTION: Didn't you answer that question yesterday?
MR. ERELI: Thought so.
QUESTION: I want it today.
MR. ERELI: Yes, Mr. Lambrose.
QUESTION: Yes, on Cyprus. In the framework of your well-known policy to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot, how do you consider the status quo of the outposts in the occupied area of Cyprus, legals or illegals, if you have something?
MR. ERELI: Let me, I don't think I have anything for you on that. Let me see if I can't get something.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you know if Ambassador Tom Weston is still your coordinator in Cyprus or he left?
MR. ERELI: Is Tom there?
MR. CASEY: Leaving shortly. I'm not sure --
MR. ERELI: I'll check on his status for you.
QUESTION: And any response to my taken question since August 5th, about your position vis-à-vis to the so-called "Macedonian ethnicity and language" (inaudible) in FYROM?
MR. CASEY: We have no comment on an action plan.
MR. ERELI: We don't have any -- well, first of all, your August 5th question?
QUESTION: Yes, it was to Mr. Boucher. He said he is going to see into that and to give me an answer. He gave an answer on Kosovo but --
MR. ERELI: Let me get back to you on it.
QUESTION: And also, your background work in FYROM released last Friday, you are talking about, "Macedonia and Macedonians." What do you mean with that?
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to the Bureau, sir, who wrote the backgrounder for it.
QUESTION: Shall I to call direct to them?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: And also, in the same note, you are increasing in FYROM the Albanian minority to 25.17 percent, in comparison to the past, which was less. Why?
MR. ERELI: Let's discuss this elsewhere, really. This is a level of detail that I'm just not prepared to get into.
QUESTION: Mr. Adam, a question on Bangladesh. Human trafficking, Tier 3, and -- will the U.S. Government impose any -- or thinking of imposing any sanction on the basis of that?
I wish you could, kindly, take this question.
MR. ERELI: I'll take the question. I've got to check and see when the Trafficking in Persons report is coming out and -- it did? Let me see what we're doing about that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, thank you.
QUESTION: Can you give us anything on the OSCE stuff?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, on the OSCE, here is what I've been able to find out. Further to what we talked about yesterday, as you know, in 1990, the Organization of Security and Cooperation, all members approved the idea of sending election observers to their countries. From 1990 to 2002, those efforts focused on emerging democracies. In 2002, the OSCE, as a body, decided that it should also extend to established democracies.
So, since 2002, the OSCE has organized observer teams to observe French presidential elections in 2002, United Kingdom elections in 2003, Spanish parliamentary elections in 2004, and European Parliament elections in 2004. In the United States, they sent 10 monitors to observe the 2002 elections in Florida, and two observers that visited a California county during the gubernatorial recall election in 2003.
QUESTION: Were they monitors and observers in '02?
MR. ERELI: I would note that -- these are observers, because they are observer teams. I would also note that observers were invited to our elections in '98 and 2000. So invitations were issued in those years, although the first monitors came in 2002, that we've been able to document.
QUESTION: Adam, what prompted the decision by the OSCE to start working on -- to start on sending teams to establish democracies in 2002?
MR. ERELI: In 2002? It would be speculation on my part to tell you. My understanding is that it was, you know, an outgrowth of, if we're going to do it for emerging democracies, we also need to do it for ourselves, again, for the principle of equity and full transparency.
QUESTION: But did it have anything to do with the contested election in 2000, that the OSC -- in the United States, that the OSCE said we better focus our attention on --
MR. ERELI: No, I think it's unrelated.
QUESTION: Really? Because they actually mentioned it at the time, as one of several reasons, the OSCE did.
MR. ERELI: I would defer to the OSCE in explaining its reasons, but my understanding was that, you know, this is something that they decided as a group to do, for a variety of reasons.
QUESTION: Well, we're a member of the OSCE, though.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So we don't know exactly what prompted -- the U.S. doesn't know exactly what prompted this decision?
MR. ERELI: I don't think there is any one -- there is any one thing. I think it was a view, as I expressed before, that, in the interest of equity and full transparency, that the principle or the idea of sending observer teams should be extended to everybody.
QUESTION: New subject. I don't have much hope you'll have an answer to this. I know that you don't comment on political asylum cases normally, but there have been exceptions and I think one of the exceptions is when the person actually comes out and says that they have been granted asylum. Can you confirm -- there is this Ukrainian opposition radio station director.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: He is saying that he was granted asylum here on Friday. Is that correct?
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything on it, but we'll get something.
Yes, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Any comment on the three bombs attacked today in Istanbul, Turkey?
MR. ERELI: We strongly condemn the bombings in Istanbul this morning. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the victims of the bombings and their families. We have no information at this time about who may have been responsible. Turkish authorities are investigating the incident and I'd refer you to them for specifics about that investigation. No Americans are known to have been injured in the explosions.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:45 p.m.)