State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for August 23
Daily Press Briefing Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman Washington, DC August 23, 2004
- Secretary of State to travel to Panama/Greece
- Statement on Political Violence in Bangladesh
- Secretary of State Powell s Schedule While in Greece
- U.S. Position on Settlement Activity/Progress Towards Settlement
- Freeze Under Roadmap
- Commitments of Parties to Road Map
- Condoleeza Rice s Comments at U.S. Institute of Peace/Goal of
- Palestinian State
- New York Times Article Regarding Settlements in West Bank
- Clandestine Nuclear Weapons Program a Threat/IAEA Board of
- Governors Meeting
- Russia s Involvement in Iran s Nuclear Programs/Bushehr Plant
- Danube Delta Canal Project/Environmental Impact/Concern of
- International Community
- Accusations of Missile Technology Proliferation to Iran
- Referendum Audit Results
- Call for National Reconciliation/Opposition Concerns of Fraud/
- Credibility of Process
- 9/11 Commission Report on Visa System/Border Security Program
- Security Procedures for Indian Members of Parliament
- Reports of Threats Against U.S. Facilities
- Comments by North Korean Foreign Ministry Official on President
- Six Party Talks/Working Group Meeting
- EU Initiative Regarding Turkish Goods/Easing the Isolation of
- Northern Cyprus
- Airborne Transmission of Radio and TV Marti
- Access of Cuban People/Effectiveness of Broadcasts
- Rejection of U.S. Relief Aid
- Situation in Najaf
- Deputy Secretary Armitage s Meeting with Ambassador Brahimi
- Political Talks in Abuja, Nigeria between Government of Sudan and
- Rebel Groups
- U.K. Foreign Minister Straw s visit to Khartoum/Engagement of
- International Community
- Maoist Insurgency/Security Assistance Program
1:20 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to our briefing today. If I may, let me begin with a couple of travel notes. The Secretary will be traveling to Panama on Wednesday, September 1st. He will be leading the presidential delegation to the inauguration of president-elect Martin Torrijos. And then -- actually, before that, on August 28th, Secretary Powell will represent the United States -- will leave for Athens, Greece, where he will represent the United States at the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games.
I would also draw your attention to a statement put out yesterday by the Secretary on the political violence in Bangladesh, in which we condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the horrific attacks that were directed against the Awami League on August 21st in Dhaka. We reiterated our support for Bangladesh's democracy, and called for those responsible to be brought for justice and urged restraint on all the parties.
QUESTION: Can I just interrupt your for a second? -- I'm sorry, on Bangladesh?
MR. ERELI: Those are my statements. Follow-up questions?
QUESTION: On Bangladesh, how seriously, really, are U.S.A. taking all these protests and -- because it had been going on for some time and both parties are blaming each other. How serious do you think the situation is, or U.S.A. taking it?
MR. ERELI: Well, protests are one thing. Throwing a hand grenade in a crowd of -- at a political rally is quite another. That is -- it is our view that it was the intent of those responsible for this to undermine democracy in Bangladesh. Democracy is about peaceful expression of views. Murdering people who do that is inconsistent with democracy and inconsistent with the practice of democracy. So it's something we condemn. It's something the people of Bangladesh, I think, condemn, and it's something that the government is committed to stopping.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) president (inaudible) is something to do with the Bangladesh help of support for the U.S.
MR. ERELI: I don't -- I wouldn't want to speculate. I don't see how Bangladesh's support for the United States would impact on domestic political campaigning, but I wouldn't make that linkage.
QUESTION: Do you have any more on the Secretary's visit to Greece?
MR. ERELI: The Secretary, he leaves the 28th. I think he'll be back the 30th. While in Greece, he will meet with Greek officials, certainly the Foreign Minister, as well as, perhaps, some others, maybe the Prime Minister.
Anything -- were there other things you were looking for?
QUESTION: Well, is it normal for a senior official to attend a closing ceremony of an Olympics?
MR. ERELI: Well, President Bush attended the opening ceremonies representing the United States Government.
QUESTION: The elder Bush.
MR. ERELI: The elder President Bush, representing the U.S. Government. Secretary Powell has been wanting to go to Greece for some time, so this is a good opportunity to both represent the United States and pay a visit to a country that's very important to us.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. ERELI: A follow-up? Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Mr. Ereli, are you going with Secretary of State to Greece, too? (Laughter.)
MR. ERELI: I don't have any comment on my travel plans. I don't think that's the point. The point is the Secretary is going.
QUESTION: And do you have any -- do you know if Secretary Powell is going to meet the Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos during his stay in Athens?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Do you know if he's going to see Mr. Karamanlis and the Foreign Minister?
MR. ERELI: I don't have details on his schedule for you at this time.
QUESTION: Can we go to the issue of settlement construction? There were reports today that Israel plans to build more than 530 new settler homes in the West Bank. There were, as you are well aware, there was a tender last week for the construction of an additional 1,000 housing units.
What is the U.S. position on this? Is this acceptable under the roadmap? Is it not acceptable under the roadmap?
MR. ERELI: I think the position was best articulated by the President when he made it clear in his speech on June 21st, 2002*, that, consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop.
Under the roadmap that was worked out with both parties, we are looking for practical steps from both sides to help us realize that vision -- the vision that the President expressed on June 24th.
Palestinian side, you have action that's needed to take in
the security area. On the Israeli side, what we're looking
for and what the parties
- - and what the Israelis committed to was a dismantling of outposts and progress towards a settlement freeze.
We are currently involved in technical talks with the Government of Israel in an effort to clarify their intentions with respect to the settlements, and we will continue to work with the Government of Israel towards a settlement freeze as is called for in the roadmap.
QUESTION: Okay, well, does your citing a two-year-old speech by the President, saying that settlement activity must stop, mean that you do not wish them to proceed with the additional 1000 housing units that were formally tendered for and the 530 that are reported this morning?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. I'm not going to speak to these specific cases that you raise. What I will speak to is the general proposition that we all have a goal of working towards, which is a two state solution, and that the roadmap, as the way to get there, has both sides undertaking commitments, and that on the Israeli part includes progress towards a settlement freeze.
We are working with the Israelis to provide meaning to that commitment, and to do that in a way that allows the Palestinians to follow through with their commitments, that allows the Israelis to follow through with their commitments, so that we can reach the end state, the goal of the end state, which is a Palestinian state living side by side in security with Israel and a state where settlement activity has stopped.
So I would say it is a process. It is something that, with respect to these specific incidents that you cite, we are discussing with the Israelis, but look at it in the larger context of an engagement on following through on commitments.
QUESTION: So, in your view, in the U.S. Government's view, then, progress toward a settlement freeze could include continued building of settlements, additions to existing settlements?
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to speculate on what it could include, what it couldn't include. What is has as its goal is an end to settlement activity.
QUESTION: Well, notwithstanding your quoting of the President's two-year-old speech, you are clearly not telling the Israelis don't build these settlements that they tendered for last week; correct?
MR. ERELI: I'm not in a position to tell you what we are telling the Israelis or what we are not telling the Israelis. What we are discussing with the Israelis is how we can practically follow through on those commitments to make progress towards a settlement freeze. That is the nature of our discussions, but I'm not in a position to go into saying what exactly we are telling them to do and what exactly we're not telling them to do. But the point is --
QUESTION: What --
QUESTION: Adam --
MR. ERELI: Sorry. The point is that both parties need to be mindful of the commitments they made and the fact that actions they take are reflective of those commitments.
QUESTION: Adam --
QUESTION: May I ask a -- can I ask you a follow-up, please?
QUESTION: Thank you. It is then, now, the U.S. Government's position that the cessation of settlement activity called for in the roadmap reflects simply a desire to make progress, progress toward a settlement freeze? That is your current interpretation of that?
MR. ERELI: Let's be clear. The vision, the end state, is an end to settlement activity, okay? The roadmap is the way to get there and how do you get from where we are now to the end state. So, by definition, it is a chart for progress. Same way with the Palestinians on security. You've got a situation now that is inadequate. You want to get to a situation where you have two states where the Palestinians are capable of providing for security and ensuring that their state is not a threat to Israel, and so their commitments under the roadmap chart their progress from where they are now to the end state. So, in both cases, we're talking about progress towards a goal and the way to get there.
QUESTION: And, Adam --
QUESTION: But you called for an end to Israeli settlement activity in the roadmap, and I want to know what that means.
MR. ERELI: It means -- well, I'm not in a position to define it further for you.
QUESTION: Adam, you said that nothing should -- that neither side should do anything that -- and the United States wouldn't do anything that should prejudge a final settlement, though. So if you're talking about an end two-state solution and kind of leaving it kind of nebulous as to what's going on right now, doesn't any growth, any further expansion of these settlements, prejudge a final settlement?
And Israel is saying that these are based on pre -- that some of the things that they're doing now with these new tenders are based on previous commitments that they've recently made with you. What do you say to that?
MR. ERELI: I didn't talk about expansion of settlements.
QUESTION: You don't think that these new tenders are expansion of settlements?
MR. ERELI: I didn't -- I said, I'm not going to talk about these specific tenders because that's not the specific issue we're -- that's not the big -- that's not the point. The point is that we want to work with the Israelis to make progress towards an end of settlement activity consistent with their obligations under the roadmap, that we are in discussions with the Israelis about a variety of activities on the ground that need to be taken in order to give meaning to that progress.
The tenders is one thing. There are other things as well. But it's -- I think -- you all, everybody wants to focus on the tenders. Our focus is on the facts on the ground with regard to outposts, with regard to yes, the tenders, with regard to other kind of settlement activity and working out as I said earlier: number one, clarifying the Israelis' intentions and number two, working out concrete ways that we can make progress towards a settlement freeze. That's, I think, the best way I can answer the question for you.
QUESTION: Has anyone, Adam -- I mean, this announcement comes from the Israeli side after Condoleezza Rice spoke about the need to stop settlement movements. And, I mean, don't you think there is something unclear here? I mean, the message might not be clear to the Israelis that they should stop those activities. I mean, she spoke about this last week and this announcement comes after her announcement.
MR. ERELI: Well, I could -- right. Yeah, I
would refer you to Secretary
- - to National Security Advisor Rice's comments at the U.S. Institute for Peace on Thursday, I believe. As far as what the Israelis are announcing, I'll leave it to the Israelis to make their own announcements.
I think we've been very clear about our view of the situation, and it is, as I said before, a subject of continuing discussions with the Israelis because we've got to keep in mind what we're working towards. We're working toward a situation whereby you can have a meaningful Palestinian state and an Israeli -- living in peace with an Israeli state that -- on common terms. And, obviously, settlements and an end to settlement activity is one of the things, one of those common terms.
MR. ERELI: Yes, Tammy.
QUESTION: You said that there were technical talks under way in part to clarify Israel's intentions. Well, there are bulldozers out there. Aren't the intentions fairly clear?
MR. ERELI: I don't really have -- I don't know what bulldozers you're referring to, but let me put it this way: I would put the emphasis on, we need to make progress toward settlement activity and --
QUESTION: Do you want to revise that? We --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in business.
MR. ERELI: We need to make progress towards, towards a freeze on settlement activity, and that is something we're working on.
Now, if you ask me does that mean that all bulldozers have to be removed tomorrow? I'm not going to specify it for you, but I will say we are committed to -- the Israelis have said they're committed to making progress toward a freeze on settlement activity as part of the roadmap in order to fulfill the President's two-state vision. That's the big picture. And you've got to move in stages, you've got to take it step by step, but it is an ongoing process.
QUESTION: But if you have a bunch of little pictures that negate the big picture like this, how are you ever going to get there?
QUESTION: The Israelis have (inaudible) the new realities on the ground are making your job at the United States Government very hard. Not only that, but the headlines in the Middle East, all over the Middle East today, they say that the United States has given a nod to the Israelis to go ahead and expand those settlements. This is creating a real damage to your image, to your politics and policies in the Arab world. I mean, can't you even say something that is, in principle, oppose the principles of making peace in the Middle East for the Israelis to stop building settlements, as much as you ask the Palestinian organizations to stop their actions, military actions?
MR. ERELI: I think I began -- I began this discussion with a reminder of what the President said in 2002, and that is -- and that remains the case. That --
QUESTION: But, Adam --
MR. ERELI: Excuse me.
MR. ERELI: That settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop. That is --
QUESTION: But the --
MR. ERELI: That is -- there should -- that is the position of the United States. That is what the parties signed up for. The roadmap provides a way forward toward a freeze on settlement activity. That is what we are working for. So I think it's wrong and inaccurate to write that somehow the United States is condoning or supporting or otherwise turning a blind eye to agreements made in the roadmap and at Aqaba. Those agreements remain.
QUESTION: Adam, I don't think anyone is saying --
QUESTION: But the President said this two years ago --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Adam --
QUESTION: -- and (inaudible) stop the violence two years later.
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. I will decide who asks the questions. Andrea.
QUESTION: I was just going to say, I don't think that anybody here is saying that the U.S. is turning a blind eye to it. I think, quite frankly, it's just the opposite, that the U.S. is standing side by side with Israel and allowing this to take place.
But what is the U.S. working definition of settlement activity? What is the definition that you go by?
MR. ERELI: I don't have one for you. Don't have one for you.
QUESTION: Can you get one?
QUESTION: Why? Why is there no definition?
MR. ERELI: I just haven't -- I have not seen it. I have not seen a definition of -- spelled out that way. I think this is -- I just don't have one for you.
QUESTION: Adam, I have different question on Israel, please.
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. You had a question.
QUESTION: Yeah. You said the -- you were referring us to the statement made by the President two years ago, and we're still talking about the same issue, and we're still discussing this issue of building new settlements, or settlement activities. That means there is somebody who is not listening.
MR. ERELI: You know, all I can tell you is that we are continuing to work with the Government of Israel to make progress towards a freeze on settlements. It is our objective, it is what we are committed to, it is what we believe the parties are committed to, a freeze on settlement activity. So that's what we're engaged in. That's what our embassy is engaged in, that's what the State Department is engaged in, that's what the U.S. Government is engaged in.
You can express dissatisfaction that it's not going as fast as you would like, but the fact is, it's something that we are dedicated to and we are working.
QUESTION: Adam, New York Times last --
MR. ERELI: Saturday.
QUESTION: -- Saturday, said American and Israeli officials have signaled approval of growth of settlements, of growth in at least some Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. You don't want to say whether that's true or false?
MR. ERELI: I noticed in that article that it said the Secretary gave a green light, and that certainly does not comport with my understanding.
QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, that's -- that leaves a rather wide loophole through which rather large trucks could drive.
MR. ERELI: I will tell you that we are working with the Israelis to clarify their intentions.
QUESTION: But you don't want to say yes or no as to whether this -- what I just read was correct.
MR. ERELI: You know, these are officials on background, so it's really hard to joust with shadows.
QUESTION: Is this a refinement or a new qualifier that you're adding to the President's speech of two years ago?
MR. ERELI: I'm not -- I, today, am not adding any qualifiers.
QUESTION: Can I ask a different question on Israel? How seriously the U.S. is taking the threat by Iran that they have the capacity and capability of destroying Israel's nuclear and other installations? This has been in many, many press, including India Globe. So, are you in touch with Israel, or they are in touch with you, that has Israel taking this threat from Iran, and Iranians are being --
MR. ERELI: No. No, no, no, this is not a -- as I said before, as I said last week when it was asked, and I said the week before that was asked, this is a issue that we, the United States, is committed to dealing with peacefully and through diplomatic channels. That's what our diplomacy and our policy is geared toward, and I don't think it's useful or productive to get into hyperactive speculation on rhetoric.
QUESTION: How about in the same connection,
I'm sorry, that -- are you concerned about that China is
behind missile technology to Iran as early as in the last
few months? And also, Pakistan is behind a nuclear --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Let's stick to -- let's stick -- we're still on Israel. We're still on Israel, right?
QUESTION: Oh, sorry.
MR. ERELI: Are we still on Israel?
QUESTION: Adam, as the gentleman suggested, there's a very widespread impression in the Middle East that in recent days there's been a change in U.S. policy with regard to settlements. Is that -- yes or no? I mean, has there been?
MR. ERELI: I guess -- I don't think anything I've said today would lead you to that conclusion. I've said -- I've reiterated what the President said in 2002. I've reiterated what was agreed to under the roadmap. I've said we are continuing to work with both parties to fulfill those commitments made under the roadmap, and that in the case of the Israelis, we are in ongoing discussions to clarify intentions and to work towards a freeze on settlement activity. So I don't know where the departure is.
QUESTION: I have a question that's outside the Middle East.
MR. ERELI: Well, we were back on -- to go to Iran. Sorry.
QUESTION: Two connections, actually. One is, as far as missile technology to Iran is concerned is Chinese hand, and second, as far as the nuclear technology is concerned, Pakistan hand to Iran. So how seriously are we taking, really, this Iran, as far as they are threatening the peace in the region and around the globe?
MR. ERELI: Well, this is an issue I think we've addressed exhaustively. I don't have much more to add to what we've made clear, which is that we view Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons program as a threat. We have been working diligently over the last several years to call the world's attention to this threat. We think important progress has been made in the last, in the last year as more and more members of the IAEA have come to recognize not only the scope of Iran's program, but also the scope of its deception, and that there has been a newfound, or newly won consensus, if you will, in the international community and in the IAEA that this program is of concern, that it needs to be fully declared and that Iran needs to abide by its treaty obligations. That is the focus of the IAEA. That is what the Board of Governors has passed in four successive, unanimous resolutions. So, you know, it is an issue that has the world's attention and that the world, I think, is moving resolutely to address.
QUESTION: Do you think attention from the Iranians, this time they're taking advantage of the U.S. elections or something with the elections?
MR. ERELI: I can't
speculate on Iranian motives, I could just tell you that
there will be a Board of -- another Board of Governors
meeting in September and there will be another meeting in
November, and there will continue to be meetings
regardless of whether there's an election or not, and that
- - I think our policy has been remarkably consistent over many, many years.
QUESTION: In late May, the State Department issued advice to Ukraine in concern with building a canal in the Danube Delta, which might upset the natural environment, and obviously the relations with neighboring states, especially Romania. So what is your view on the protest of the Ukrainian Government to go on with this project irrespective of advice and concerns from abroad?
MR. ERELI: Well, as you note, we did put out a statement on May 17th on the Ukraine Danube Delta Canal project. We noted at that time our deep concern about the negative environmental -- potential negative environmental impact of this project, and we urged the Government of Ukraine to conduct an impact assessment and select a route that would minimize the destructive impact on the environment.
Since the issuance of that statement, the construction has continued unabated on the canal. I would note that in addition to the United States, the governments of Germany, Romania and the European Union, as well as international organizations such as the World Conservation Union and the World Wildlife Fund have also expressed their deep concern over this project and over Ukraine's failure to meet its obligations under various international agreements. We remain deeply concerned about the environmental impact of this construction project and by the lack of action by the Government of Ukraine to be responsive to the -- to its treaty obligations and to the positions stated by other countries and the international organizations, and we urge it, continue to urge it, to ensure that this very important wetland area and ecologically sensitive resource be fully protected and preserved.
QUESTION: Adam, returning to Iran, there are reports today in the news that Iran and Russia are signing or are implementing further agreements to build more nuclear sites in Iran.
MR. ERELI: I can't really speak to those reports. What I can tell you is that Iran's nuclear program has obviously been a topic of discussion between us and the Government of Russia. I would note that Russia has not provided fuel for the Bushehr nuclear plant pending an agreement on the return of spent fuel already there as well as resolution of the outstanding questions and concerns that have been raised by the IAEA's investigation.
I would also note that Russia shares the concerns of the other IAEA Board members and has joined the IAEA Board of Governors in adopting four unanimous resolutions.
That's where things stand, as far as I'm aware, with Russia and the Bushehr plant.
QUESTION: May I go to Nepal, please?
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Let's go to somebody else. Sir.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
MR. ERELI: Related?
QUESTION: I'm sorry, there's a report in a newspaper this morning that the United States has noticed some Chinese technology exports to Iran for the first time in a certain amount of time.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I don't have any comment on specific reports. As you know, those address information that we generally don't comment on publicly. Obviously, we monitor and evaluate any reports of missile proliferation concern.
China has publicly said that it is firmly opposed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery and they have also undertaken to take forceful measures to ensure effective implementation of existing laws. Most recently, that was stated by the Vice Foreign Minister of China.
Nonproliferation issues are a regular feature of our bilateral dialogue with the People's Republic of China. We think that they have made progress in nonproliferation, but there are concerns that remain with regard to implementation and enforcement. I think we have very forthright and frank discussions on these issues. But, again, I don't have any comments on details of specific Chinese exports.
QUESTION: Yes. There still seems to be quite a bit of confusion over the final position of the United States regarding the referendum results. Are you still going to issue any kind of a written statement?
MR. ERELI: As I said on Thursday, I am not going to commit to what form a statement might take, whether it be written or otherwise. I think we have been very forthcoming in public statements on Venezuela. The latest is that the OAS and Carter Center have conducted an audit of the election results. In our view, the results of that audit are consistent with the results announced by the National Electoral Council on August 16th and we understand that the Electoral Council will certify the final results on August 25th.
We commend the important contribution of the OAS and Carter Center to the referendum process and we again congratulate the people of Venezuela for their peaceful civic participation in this process and their demonstrated commitment to democracy.
QUESTION: Adam, that statement seems to kind of leave it open. You say you result -- that you evaluate the views that were consistent with CNE. You don't say that you agree with those views entirely, do you?
MR. ERELI: I'll leave it where I -- I'll leave it where I -- with what I said. The results are consistent with the results announced by the National Electoral Council on August 16th. We understand there will be final results announced on August 25th.
QUESTION: Do you know that the -- you've stressed that you hope that the result is reconciliation and it should be the people of Venezuela accepting this thing, but they're not accepting it. There are big demonstrations and President Chavez announced over the radio yesterday that he would ignore in the future the opposition combination and it looks like there's going to be a long fight ahead.
Now, is that what the United States wants?
MR. ERELI: No, that would be unfortunate. The United States has been outspoken in calling for national reconciliation, in noting that Venezuela and the Venezuelan people have shown a commitment to the rule of law and to the peaceful expression of dissent and to the constitution in dealing with this political crisis. And now that it's over, it's important for people to come together and to move forward consistent with democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela.
For the opposition, we think it's important that if they -- if they have outstanding concerns that they present those concerns -- charges of fraud, whatever they may be -- to the OAS. Our -- we want to make sure that doubts are dispelled because doubts about the process only contribute to the continued polarization of Venezuela, which is in nobody's interest.
QUESTION: Well, they have a formal document specifying 1,826 complaints, which they tried to present to Mr. Gaviria in Caracas, but Mr. Gaviria came out and said that the poll was -- the referendum was okay. So where does that leave the --
MR. ERELI: I can't speak to what Mr. Gaviria said or didn't say. What I would --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the United States position?
MR. ERELI: What I would note is that our -- we urge the people of Venezuela and the democratic -- the Venezuelan Government and the democratic opposition to work toward reducing tensions and to engage in a constructive, democratic dialogue. And --
QUESTION: There's one big question that's being raised in Venezuela by the opposition, and that is if the United States pushed so hard and got a paper, a complete audit of the results in the Fujimora elections in Peru, why won't they do it in Venezuela?
MR. ERELI: Because the process agreed in Venezuela was for the international observers, as represented by the Carter Center and the OAS, to be the accredited, responsible observers for this election. That's what was -- that was what was worked out. Those are the groups that had the confidence of everybody. They continue to have our confidence. We think that they lived up to their mission and provided much-needed credibility to this process.
QUESTION: One last question, please. Does that mean that the OAS and the Carter Center are going to determine what the U.S. reaction to this mess is down there?
MR. ERELI: I think that the U.S. position is consistent now with what it's been throughout this process, that as part of the Friends of Venezuela Group we all worked together on behalf of the Venezuelan people to ensure that this process was transparent and observed credibly by international observers. That's what happened. This was a joint effort. It's something that we were in on from the beginning and we were at the table. We've been following closely. And I think we're very comfortable with the Friends of Venezuela statement and with what the OAS and Carter Center have come up with.
Yes. Yes, Teri.
QUESTION: The 9/11 Commission says -- has renewed some old debate over the hijackers --
QUESTION: Actually I have one on Venezuela.
MR. ERELI: Venezuela? Sure.
QUESTION: Yes, sorry.
QUESTION: No, that's all right.
QUESTION: You said right now that if
the opposition have some outstanding doubt they should
present to the OAS; but, at the same time, you're saying you
are agreeing with the OAS and a statement on Carter
Center. So they have been -- they did the audit, the audit
already, and they confirmed the audit, and the OAS, too.
So when you said the opposition have to go present it out,
do you mean they have to do another audit or they had to
do another, I mean,
MR. ERELI: No. What I'm saying is that there were charges of election fraud. In order to address those charges of election fraud, an audit was conducted. The audit found that -- did not find any basis to call into doubt the results of the elections.
There are still concerns that are being expressed by the opposition even after the audit. So our position is, reconciliation is important, and that if the opposition does have concerns, if they do have evidence, additional evidence that has not been considered, that has not been weighed or taken into account, then they need to present that. Otherwise, it's time to move on.
QUESTION: The 9/11 Commission.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Say that the passport applications had lies that should have been detectable and that they left data fields blank, which should not have been acceptable on their visa applications.
We've talked about some of this stuff before, I mean, ever since 9/11, since this stuff started coming out. But now that the 9/11 Commission is -- has documented it, what does the State Department have to say?
MR. ERELI: The report that you're referring to was released on the Commission website yesterday. It's rather long and detailed and we are reviewing it.
What I would note is that there has been a number of observations made about the visa system before 9/11. Nobody's claiming it was perfect or flawless. To the contrary, I think we all recognize that improvements could have been made, or improvements should be made. And it's in that spirit that, since 9/11, the Department of State has put into place a border security program that, really, we look upon as our forward-based defense to address potential vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks.
And I would just underscore a couple of things -- a lot of things we've done to be proactive and --proactive and effective. We've -- number one, enhanced information sharing with intelligence and law enforcement communities. This includes increased database sharing with the Department of Homeland Security. We've begun a massive project to collect and share finger scans of visa applicants. We've -- we now require interviews for most applicants for visas. We've increased training for consular officers in visa security, anti-fraud and interviewing techniques, and we've added additional security clearance procedures for certain categories of visa applicants. And we've also increased consular staffing by more than 350 new positions.
The point here is, a lot of, I think, effective action has been taken. Obviously, it's a continuing process. We don't -- we're not sitting back and resting on our laurels. We're working on new initiatives to further improve the process and secure our borders against those who seek to do us ill.
QUESTION: Would these 19 now be stopped by consular officials if they were to -- if these safeguards were in place now and they tried again, they wouldn't get in?
MR. ERELI: I think the shortcomings in the system, I think, have been addressed. I would not want to tell you, and I don't think there's any government official that will tell you that we are 100 percent secure.
It -- being vigilant -- undertaking -- looking at the system critically to identify weak points and taking actions to rectify those weak points is something that we do every day with the understanding that we are still at risk, we are still under threat and there are those who are actively plotting against us. And for that reason, we cannot assume that a dedicated, determined terrorist will not find a way to slip through the cracks, so I'm not going to tell you that nobody can get through.
What I will tell you is that in response to 9/11, the Department of State, and particularly, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, has moved decisively to address border security at our embassies abroad.
QUESTION: May I follow on the visa question, Adam, please?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you confirm a report that at the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, Indian members of Parliament had requested or asked the Embassy that when they visit the U.S. they should not be subject to fingerprinting and photographing and all that? Where is this issue?
MR. ERELI: I recall -- I don't know about the specific question, the specific incident you're talking about. I do recall a case in where an Indian member of Parliament was detained and treated in a way that he -- that was inappropriate at the airport and that we apologized for that.
QUESTION: No, this question I'm asking is a --
MR. ERELI: I don't have an answer to that.
QUESTION: -- a bunch of member of parliament for the future travels --
MR. ERELI: I don't have an answer to that. I do not have an answer to that.
QUESTION: On North Korea, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman is quoted as saying some rather unkind things about President Bush. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. ERELI: Not really. I don't think it really merits a comment. Personal attacks on the President are -- obviously we reject them and they're obviously inappropriate, but there's really not much more to say.
On the subject of the broader issue of the substance, which is the future of working group and six-party talks. Again, there's really not much new to say. North Korea, as well as the other parties to the six-party talks, agreed at the last round to meet again in a plenary in -- at the -- before the end of September. That agreement is still operative. We are still working with China and the other parties to schedule something, including a working group to precede the plenary. Those discussions are ongoing.
QUESTION: Did they agree to attend both a working group and plenary?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
QUESTION: On Nepal?
MR. ERELI: Let's go to the back.
QUESTION: Adam, can I --
MR. ERELI: Oh, sorry. Yes.
QUESTION: Sorry. Despite what the North Koreans said about President Bush, they also said what President Bush has said during his campaign prevents them to come to the six-party talk, I mean, on the working group level. But you just have said you are still looking to have this working level meeting --
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- to be held soon. Are you still --
MR. ERELI: Still working on it.
QUESTION: -- with the same -- same schedule?
MR. ERELI: Yep.
QUESTION: Including the working group level?
MR. ERELI: Right. Plenary before the end of September and working group before the plenary.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: As soon as possible.
QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to ask you about the Honduran terror alert to the U.S. Embassy and other embassies. I don't know if you have anything on that, and whether there's any information about a terror suspect thought to have previously been in Honduras -- his name is Adnan El Shukrijumah -- and whether you think he might be related to that terror alert.
MR. ERELI: I don't have any information on that. Let me see if I can get you something. You specifically want to know if there's a threat against the embassy and --
QUESTION: -- whether it's related to this.
MR. ERELI: Okay. Take the question.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots are starting today the implementation of the EU regulation for the transfer of Turkish goods to the international community, marked, actually, and already eight Turkish Cypriot companies were registered to participate, the problem something which would help the end of the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community for something you are very concerned.
Any comment on this new development and are you satisfied?
MR. ERELI: This, as you mentioned, is an EU initiative. As we've said before, we are supportive of steps taken to end the isolation or reduce the isolation of the -- of northern Cyprus, and this certainly seems to be a step in the right direction.
QUESTION: Another on FYROM. According to Reuters News Agency, opponents of the Ohrid agreement, given FYROM's Albanian minority local powers, said today that they had collected 170,000 signatures needed to force a referendum on the issue.
Any comment, since the U.S. is a signatory to this agreement?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Yes, on the subject of the broadcast from the C-130, the TV Marti into Cuba, first of all, if you have a statement on that. And, second, the Cuban Government has said that those broadcasts are dangerous and that they could signal an attack on Cuban territory by the U.S. Is that attack possible?
MR. ERELI: We will be putting out a statement later today announcing that on Saturday the United States successfully broadcast Radio and TV Marti to the Cuban people for several hours from an airborne broadcasting platform operated by the Air National Guard. I would note that the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba recommended in its report to the President that such broadcasts be carried out on a regular basis for the purpose of breaking the Castro regime's information blockade on the Cuban people.
While this was a broadcast from a new platform, I would note that Radio and TV Marti have transmitted their signals to Cuba for over a decade and they are routinely jammed by the authorities in Cuba who fear the truth being known by their own people.
Our view is that these broadcasts will give the Cuban people uncensored information about their country and will help serve to bring about a more rapid and peaceful transition to democracy. I think charges of other purposes are not founded, not well founded.
QUESTION: And do you have you had any feedback on the access of the Cuban people to the signal? Reports were saying that people were still coping with Hurricane Charley and the lack of electricity and that people were watching the Olympics, not TV Marti.
MR. ERELI: Well, like I said, this is -- this is an ongoing effort, I think, that, you know, the measure is not any one given day, the measure is over time, and that if experience in other closed societies is any indicator, people in such societies have a yearning for information that their government deliberately keeps from them. So I think that if they have access to it they will listen to it.
QUESTION: Cuba related. The Cuban Government has rather angrily rejected the $50,000 relief aid extended by the United States.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I just wondered if you had any reaction to that. They called it humiliating charity.
MR. ERELI: I mean, it was offered in the spirit of humanitarian concern and we would certainly hope that the Cuban Government would see it that way and would take action to help its people. That's what we're trying to do. We don't see why they wouldn't want to do that, too.
QUESTION: Just a small thing. Are the C-130 broadcasts, like, significantly harder to jam? Is that why you're doing it this way now?
MR. ERELI: They provide an added capability that I think does get to the people a little bit -- a little bit more effectively.
QUESTION: So a little bit? I mean --
MR. ERELI: More effectively. More effectively.
QUESTION: TV Marti, they've been blacked out 14 years, and oh, you re saying more effectively?
MR. ERELI: More effectively.
MR. ERELI: With the Commando Solo.
QUESTION: On Iraq, there were some earlier reports about the possibility of al-Sadr leaving Najaf, and that the U.S. military forces are getting -- are advancing towards the shrine. And the second thing -- do you have any comment on that? And the second thing, Secretary Armitage is meeting with Lakhdar Brahimi. I'm wondering if you have anything on that meeting.
MR. ERELI: As far as the situation in Najaf goes, as you all know, it's a fast-moving situation. There are a lot of conflicting reports. I'm not in a position to provide to you clarity on what the latest developments are. What I would say is that, obviously, we're closely monitoring the situation. The government of Iraq -- the government of Iraq and Prime Minister Allawi have said that the Mahdi militia should accept their terms for engaging in the political process and vacating the shrine. We are committed to supporting Prime Minister Allawi. I'd refer you to the government of Iraq for further details about what they're doing. I would also note that we stated very clearly that U.S. military forces will not be involved in a move against the holy sites.
QUESTION: And the meeting between Secretary Armitage and --
MR. ERELI: The meeting between Secretary Armitage and Ambassador Brahimi is, I think, an opportunity for us to hear the Ambassador's views on a variety of important issues, particularly what's going on in Iraq, not only ongoing events but also future political development, and also to express to Ambassador Brahimi the vital role that the United States believes the UN has in Iraq and how we can cooperate to help bring about the democracy and stability that everybody is trying to achieve for that country.
QUESTION: Yes, Adam. The 30-day period about the Darfur crisis is coming or has come to an end, and today in talks in Nigeria, the Khartoum government has rejected any African Union plans to deploy troops and also the U.K.'s Jack Straw is headed to Khartoum today. Any comments concerning that and what will the U.S. do?
MR. ERELI: I don't have a readout of the talks so far. As you note, the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups have begun political talks in Abuja, Nigeria today. We believe that these talks are a positive step towards resolving the conflict and ending the violence. We emphasized to both the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups that they needed to come to Abuja without preconditions and we received assurances they would.
As far as Foreign Minister Straw's visit goes, I would just note that it's important that, and I think what it shows is that the international community remains fully engaged with the situation in Darfur. In addition to Foreign Minister Straw, the Secretary General's Special Representative, Mr. Pronk, is in Khartoum. We are all working towards the same end, which is to bring a cessation of violence to the Darfur region so that people in camps can go back to their homes. That's what we're working toward. That's what the political talks are about. That's what the diplomacy is about.
QUESTION: Adam, before I go to my question on Nepal, can you clarify one thing, sir, as far as the U.S. threat to the U.S. embassies are concerned? U.S. Embassy was closed in New Delhi and now, of course, is open, but Indian authorities are at a higher alert at a number of U.S. installations. Are there still threats as far as the U.S. nationals or U.S. installations in India?
MR. ERELI: I don't have specific threat reporting to share with you. What I -- the point is that we -- when we receive threat information, we take the action that we think is appropriate, as a general -- as a general matter. If it's information concerning our embassy, then we take action with regard to the embassy; we put out Warden Messages; we put out, if warranted, Travel Warnings. I don't have -- I think for the latest in India, I would refer you to our Consular Affairs website and you can see what the most recent information we have concerning threat as well as the safety of Americans in U.S. facilities in India. But I don't have any update for you different from what's already on the website.
QUESTION: Finally, on Nepal. Nepal is really going through a lot of struggle and troubles and domestic terrorism in Nepal is on the rise. The Government and the King have failed, according to the people, to protect their security and their livelihood. Every day they live in fear.
Who is behind all these threats and what U.S. can do or have been asked to do to stop all these terrorists and the --
MR. ERELI: I think it's pretty clear who's behind these threats. It's the Maoist insurgency.
QUESTION: But who's supporting them?
MR. ERELI: Well, that's a different question. The important point for us is that we need to work with the Government of Nepal and its friends to help reestablish security and address the root causes of the insurgency. We've got a security assistance program that is designed to help the armed forces of Nepal counter the attacks by the Maoists. For our part, we're providing almost $21 million in military assistance since 2002 and our development assistance targets the immediate needs of the Nepali people.
We are working to restore multiparty democracy in Nepal through the electoral process and we've also taken steps to designate the Maoists as, under Executive Order, to block their assets and block dealings with them. So clearly we see them as insurgents that need to be defeated. We think it's important that other countries work with Nepal towards this end. And for our part, we're providing both the security and development assistance to help dry up support for them.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. Maoists wants Nepal to be a Communist country, so then who could be behind their -- some people in Nepal believe that China may be behind it.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I'm not -- I'm not going to speculate.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:16 p.m.)
DPB # 139
Released on August 23, 2004