State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 1
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 1
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
December 1, 2004
- U.S. view on UN Advisory Committee's report on preemptive actions
- Position on potential Kofi Annan resignation/Oil for Food
- Potential U.S. attendance at ASEAN conference in Burma
- Gunfire near the national palace
- Status of Secretary's meetings
- Persons responsible
- U.S. contact with EU Mediation Mission and Ukrainian government official
- Press Conference pledges of non-violence and territorial integrity
- Respecting the will of the people/determining a victor
- Reports of Rwandan soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Don Yamamoto's trip to Africa
- Palestinian Leadership / Marwan Barghouti's intentions for candidacy
- U.S. diplomatic policy toward Venezuela's planned purchase of Russian weaponry
- U.S. position on potential opposition referendum on leadership
- Status of Six-Party Talks
- Consideration of South Korea's nuclear program as a criterion for attendance
- Query on U.S. Sanctions on a North Korean entity due to serial
- proliferation of nuclear technology to Iran
- U.S. sanctions on four Chinese Entities for serial proliferation
- of nuclear technology to Iran
- Assassination attempt on the President of Serbia
- Forum of the Future/ Potentially related demonstrations
- Aung San Suu Kyi's continued detainment
1:31 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: I don't have any statements, so we'd be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Could you tell us what you know about the reports of the gunfire near the presidential palace in Haiti this morning?
MR. ERELI: Sure. My understanding is that the incident occurred about 10:30 this morning. It involved local criminal gangs firing off a couple of rounds in the vicinity of the national palace. Their fire was returned by UN forces at the palace. The Secretary was in a meeting, or in a holding room at the palace with his staff, waiting for a meeting with the President when the incident occurred.
Frankly, it did not -- they heard the gunfire, but it did not disrupt any of their business, nor were any of -- was the Secretary or staff in any danger. They changed the room location of the meeting, just as a security precaution, and the Secretary has been able to continue with his schedule basically uninterrupted and unaffected.
QUESTION: How did you determine -- how was it determined that this was a gang and not a political message of some sort?
MR. ERELI: Based on the reports we've gotten from local authorities, local security officials, I - that's the information that I had available.
QUESTION: No, no, just wondering.
QUESTION: Well, wait, you said it was in the vicinity of the palace. Do you know if the shots were fired at the palace?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't. I know shots were fired, but -- and that the shots were fired near the palace, but I couldn't tell you whether they were fired at the palace.
QUESTION: Do you know if anybody was hurt as a result?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any reports of injuries. I know there are some reports out there, but I can't confirm that.
QUESTION: When you say the Secretary has been able to continue his schedule, you would expect him to be able to do all the other things --
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- that he is to do.
QUESTION: Is it your belief that the shots were unrelated to his visit?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't want to come to that firm conclusion. What I would note is security in Port-au-Prince has and continues to be an issue that the Haitian authorities are trying to deal with. That's why -- and that we're supporting them in developing a capability to respond to, in terms of training police, in terms of providing assistance, in terms of supporting the UN mission there, and that there are incidents like this on a regular basis.
Whether this incident is specifically tied to the Secretary's presence or not, I think will -- I think have to be determined based on more facts, more investigation. You could postulate it, but I couldn't confirm it.
QUESTION: Could I -- did you get any indications before the Secretary's trip or before the gunfire erupted that there might be some people that might try to make trouble for the Secretary, or during his visit?
MR. ERELI: You know, every time the Secretary travels, there is a threat assessment done. I did not see the threat assessment from Haiti in advance of this trip. Obviously, as I stated earlier, security continues to be an issue in Port-au-Prince, but based on all the information we have had available, in terms of the threat that's out there and the countermeasures that we can take, it was judged prudent and safe and appropriate for the Secretary to travel to Haiti at this time.
QUESTION: And I know you stated that the gunmen themselves are unknown. But do you believe that these are Aristide supporters or supporters of Lavalas?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't want to, based on the information I have available to me at this time, speculate on it.
QUESTION: Well, when you say a criminal gang --
MR. ERELI: Did I say criminal or local gangs?
QUESTION: Local criminal gang.
MR. ERELI: Okay. I guess it's safe to say they're criminal if they're firing guns in an uncontrolled fashion. And that's (inaudible).
QUESTION: Yeah. But there is often a difference in Haiti between local -- what we Americans would describe as a criminal gang and gangs that have roamed the streets in Haiti for awhile, the Chimer, who were supporters of Aristide. You can't say for certain which one this was.
MR. ERELI: Right, I can't speak to political motivations, if there were any, in this incident. I'm not discounting it, but I'm not confirming it.
QUESTION: Was it like drive-by shooting and the UN security fired back and then the gang disappeared, or were they actually on the ground, they fired, and then nobody followed them?
MR. ERELI: My understanding was there was a brief release of gunfire by the perpetrators of the act and that that brief release of gunfire was followed by gunfire from the UN forces at the palace, and that that was the totality of the incident. One burst of gunfire from the perpetrators, and then another -- a response from the UN, and that was it.
QUESTION: Do you know (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: So how do you know they were criminal gangs? I mean, what indication --
MR. ERELI: As I said before, that's the information that we're getting from our people on the ground.
QUESTION: You said that the schedule, the rest of the schedule was unaffected. Does that mean that other venues have not changed as well?
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MR. ERELI: Yes, we can move on.
Barry, would you like to move it along?
QUESTION: Yes. Does the U.S. feel crimped by the UN Advisory Committee's report on preemptive actions? Would that dovetail with the Bush Administration foreign policy?
MR. ERELI: Let me speak first to the report as a whole, and then to the specific parts that you're interested in.
As a whole, we find this an ambitious report. I'd note that it has over 100 recommendations. We think it is a serious effort to help bring together diverse international points of view and identify ways that the UN can adapt itself to better meet today's challenges and the challenges of tomorrow. We'll be examining these recommendations carefully.
The goal that we're all working toward is a more effective and efficient UN that is able to meet the challenges I spoke to, in accordance with the UN Charter. Some important considerations for us in looking at the report are: number one, will the proposed change improve the effectiveness of the organization; and, two, can the proposed change achieve the broad consensus both within the organization as well as among regional groups that would be essential to implementing any proposed reform?
On the subject of right of self-defense, we would note that the panel says that the UN Charter's provisions on self-defense should not be rewritten, and we agree with that and would note that the panel recognize the right to anticipatory self-defense as a right of self-defense. We would agree with the panel that that right needs to be understood in today's terms in response to today's threats, which were very different than the threats that existed when the Charter was written.
So, in short, I think there's a lot -- we will be looking at the recommendations. There's a lot to consider and we expect good discussion both in the Security Council as well as the General Assembly.
QUESTION: Adam, also on the UN, the head of the congressional Oil-for-Food panel called for Kofi Annan to step down. What is the position of the Administration on this?
MR. ERELI: I think our views on this issue are pretty well known. We, like Senator Coleman and like the United Nations, are very concerned about the allegations of impropriety with the Oil-for-Food program. We agree with Senator Coleman that the U.S. Congress has a right to investigate.
We would note that an independent inquiry is being led by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker. We, for our part, have been cooperating with Mr. Volker's inquiry. We have urged the UN to make available the documents that Congress has requested, and it's important to us that the investigators have access to all the facts as they move forward. And I think Secretary General Annan has been very committed to and supportive of the investigation into this wrongdoing.
QUESTION: Wait a second, Adam. You just said that our views on this issue are pretty well known and then you didn't say what your view was at all, and I, for one, am not well -- I'm not aware of what your --
MR. ERELI: The question was about the Oil-for-Food program.
QUESTION: No, no, the question was about what you think -- it was about --
QUESTION: -- if Kofi Annan should step down.
MR. ERELI: Look, Secretary Annan, as I said, is a valued interlocutor and has been working, I think, positively and cooperatively in trying to get to the bottom of this Oil-for-Food program. That's the issue here. The issue is serious allegations of wrongdoing at the UN in a UN-administered program and the need to find out the facts and take appropriate action. That's where we are. We are in -- we are behind finding the facts, behind supporting the investigation, behind the institution doing everything it can to support the investigation, and that's where our focus is.
QUESTION: But not behind the Secretary stepping down.
MR. ERELI: That, again, is not -- that is not something that frankly is in front of us. What's in front of us is ensuring that if there is wrongdoing, that it be fully understood, and that appropriate actions be taken. And as I said before, in this regard, Secretary Annan has been playing and important and, I think, proper role.
QUESTION: So, in other words, you would rather wait for the investigation committee to come back with the results, and afterwards, if they recommend that Kofi Annan should step down, then you would (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: You know, I don't want to prejudge any investigation or speak to what it may find or what it might not find, nor particularly interested in responding to specific proposals about personnel or other individuals. What our view is that, as I said before, that this is an important, the way the Oil-for-Food program was administered, and that it needs to be understood in its totality. I don't want to suggest -- point the finger to any particular individual at this point. I just want to say our support is for a full and complete investigation, and addressing the problems that are uncovered as a result of that investigation.
QUESTION: But Kofi Annan is not just an individual. He is the chairman of the investigation committee. I mean, won't you take this recommendation into account?
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything more to add.
QUESTION: So, wait. Is it fair to say that you have not taken a position on what the Senator has to say?
MR. ERELI: No, it's fair to say that we support --
QUESTION: You have a taken a position?
MR. ERELI: No, it's fair to say that we support a full investigation by Congress and by the independent commission of inquiry that the Secretary General has set up. We will cooperate with that investigation, we urge others to cooperate with those investigations, and we look forward to all the facts being known and taking all -- and the appropriate action being taken.
QUESTION: Well, are you saying at this stage you have -- you're not in a position to take a position on Senator Coleman's position?
MR. ERELI: No, I'm saying that -- I'm saying at this time our focus is on the investigation and not -- and not other issues that might have been raised.
QUESTION: Well, I'm sure the Secretary General will thank you for your ringing endorsement. Why are you not -- why are you -- I don't understand why --
MR. ERELI: I said the --
QUESTION: Do you think that the Secretary General is doing a good job?
MR. ERELI: The issue is -- the issue is that someone has said that the Secretary General should resign because of the Oil-for-Food stuff. And what I'm saying is the Secretary General has been a valued -- I said the Secretary General has been a valued interlocutor in this, the Secretary General has supported investigation, has moved to address issues of -- charges of wrongdoing, and that we support everybody doing that and finding out the facts and taking the appropriate actions based on those facts. And that's our position.
QUESTION: So there is no yes or no answer to the question: Does the Administration support Senator Coleman's call for Kofi Annan to resign?
MR. ERELI: The answer is we support a full and complete investigation into this --
QUESTION: I'm sorry, that means -- that means that there is no yes or no answer.
MR. ERELI: That means that I've spoken to the issue.
QUESTION: But you believe -- you think there is a problem with the Oil-for-Food program. Do you think someone should be responsible for that problem?
MR. ERELI: As I said, there should be -- when the facts are determined, that is the time to decide what -- you know, what wrongdoing was done and what remedial steps need to be taken to ensure the integrity of the organization and the application of -- the application of rules and regulations that might have been broken.
QUESTION: Can an investigation take place while Kofi Annan is still in power, since you keep talking about the "integrity of the organization"?
MR. ERELI: In our view, the investigation is going -- in our view, the UN, under the leadership of Secretary General Annan, is supporting the investigation, understands what's at stake, and is doing the right thing.
QUESTION: What is at stake, the credibility of the UN?
MR. ERELI: As I said, when you've got charges, major charges of wrongdoing in a UN-administered program, that goes to the very -- that's a significant charge. That's a serious charge, and anybody who's concerned about the organization and its ability to administer programs that are important for the international community needs to act. That's what being done. We support that process, we support those investigations, we support putting all the information out there, and we -- you know, we, for our part, are doing everything we can to make that possible.
QUESTION: Can I move on to Ukraine and ask you what your feelings are about the latest developments there, and ask if there has been any contact between you guys and the Polish, or you guys and anyone in the -- and members of the EU Mediation Mission, or members of the Ukraine Government or the candidates again?
MR. ERELI: There are regular and ongoing contacts. I can't give you, frankly, the latest rundown because they're happening pretty quickly. I know the Secretary spoke with German Foreign Minister Fischer this morning. I know our people in the European Bureau have spoken to Polish diplomats in town. I'm not sure all the discussions that have been --
QUESTION: This town?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, in Washington. I'm not sure that all -- of all the discussions that have taken place with out ambassador in Kiev, but those are, as you know, pretty constant and ongoing. Let me just speak to a couple of developments that we think are significant. Shortly before coming out there, there was a press conference held by High Representative Solana, Polish President Kwasniewski, opposition candidate Yuschenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine, President Kuchma, Duma speaker Gryzlov, in which they announced the conclusion of their meetings today.
And it's important to note that they agreed to exclude the use of force. That's a very welcome statement. They agreed to unblock the state institutions and allow them to function. They agreed on another round of the working group. And they, very importantly, agreed that the territorial integrity of the Ukraine was something that needed to be respected.
So this is, I think, a sign that the parties are engaged in coming to a political -- peaceful, political, legal solution to the crisis that has been caused by -- over the -- caused by the elections.
Our goal remains the same as it has always been, which is to see the will of the Ukrainian people prevail. As they move forward in their discussions, they'll be talking about a number of proposals for new elections. We think an important point is to quickly get past this turmoil and our hope is that -- what we're encouraging is a prompt solution to the crisis.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government have any fixed idea of what the will of the people is in the election?
MR. ERELI: Clearly the will of the people has been frustrated; otherwise, you wouldn't have demonstrations on this level, you wouldn't have a no-confidence vote in the government by the parliament, you wouldn't have, you know, widespread claims of fraud and mismanagement.
I think the will of the people is a process that people regard as credible and reflective of their desires. It's hard to, I guess, give you a checklist, if you will, but a good start would be commitments to openness and transparency and international standards that the Government of Ukraine subscribed to based on the OSCE -- based on OSCE standards, based on discussions with the EU and the international community prior to the elections. If those commitments had been honored, I don't think we'd be in the situation we are today.
QUESTION: All right, I don't want to prolong it. But, I mean, you could have a dirty election, you could have fraud and all that, and still the results -- the winner could still have been the winner had there been no fraud. You know, I understand very well why for a week now you've been making -- you guys have been making the pitch, you know, the will of the people, you want to have a peaceful resolution. Do you think the winner was denied the -- don't you think that the winner was hustled out of his victory?
MR. ERELI: We think that there are such -- there are credible reports of fraud and abuse on such a broad, widespread scale that the outcome of the election, as it existed a week ago, has to be in doubt and has to be -- and that doubt has to be resolved to the satisfaction of the people of Ukraine, as embodied by their political representatives. And we're looking at that process unfold with the involvement of the Supreme Court, with the involvement of the government, with the involvement of the opposition parties, with the involvement of other state institutions.
So this is a -- you know, this is a process that involves all the actors, and in order for it to be, I think, credible and accepted by everybody, it has to be inclusive and it can't be exclusionary and it can't be based on extralegal actions. And a key element of all of this is -- is the rule of law being respected and being seen to be respected.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. When you say that clearly the will of the people has been frustrated, you're not, however, saying that it is your belief that Yushchenko won?
MR. ERELI: I don't think anybody said that.
QUESTION: No, I'm just making sure that you're not saying that.
MR. ERELI: I'm not saying that, no.
QUESTION: Adam, I'm a little curious as to why you put any hope in Kuchma and the Prime Minister, who would appear to be the ones who are guilty of perpetrating this massive and widespread fraud. Why do you place any hope in them coming out and opening up this -- making the process from now on transparent and open?
MR. ERELI: Well, important state institutions have spoken and have exercised their constitutional responsibilities. The Supreme Court, the Parliament, that --
QUESTION: Well, actually, the Supreme Court hasn't spoken.
MR. ERELI: I think the Supreme Court has ruled that they -- the election results cannot be declared as final. I'll have to check on exactly what that ruling is. But the Supreme Court issued a ruling yesterday.
But the point here is that developments in Ukraine, constitutional developments, have an influence on what the government and the leadership of that country decide and do, and as well as the, I think, the international community, and in response to, number one, a large number of Ukrainian citizens; number two, Ukrainian state institutions; number three, the international community -- it's clear that Government of Ukraine is -- and as well as, I should also add, active U.S. diplomacy -- it's clear that the Government of Ukraine is looking for a way to resolve this crisis peacefully and consistent with its own legal norms, as well as international standards of conflict resolution.
QUESTION: Adam, has anyone spoken to President Kuchma? There is a resolution passed in Parliament in Kiev which says that the government obviously is to be dissolved. What if he decides to drag out the crisis?
And as early as September 23rd, a visiting Ukrainian professor spoke at the International Center for Strategic and International Studies here in Washington, and he said, quote, on September 23rd, "Despite their assurances to the contrary, the authorities in Ukraine never intended to hold a free and fair presidential election this fall."
Now, there were four U.S. Congressmen that were part of that inspection group that toured the country. So, as early as early September, they knew this was not going to work.
MR. ERELI: Well, I don't think that you can prejudge the outcome of November elections in September. From our point of view, from the point of view of the Europeans, the Ukrainian Government has signed on to European and international standards for free and fair elections. We had contributed significant resources -- the United States as well as others -- to helping develop a capacity for those elections. It was something that we felt should happen. It didn't. The issue is: How do you deal with it, how do you respond to that crisis?
You suggested the idea of dragging things out. Obviously, as I said earlier, we believe that a prompt resolution to this crisis is important and we are urging that on the parties. And as far as individual decisions by specific Ukrainian institutions and what that implies for future actions, I just can't speculate on that.
QUESTION: So you don't have any particular comment on whether you think that Parliament's decision to dissolve the government is a good or bad or indifferent thing?
MR. ERELI: Well, I think, as I said, it's hard to speak to the legal implications of that because, frankly, it's unprecedented. It's never happened before. But what it does show is that, you know, in addition to the United States, in addition to the Europeans, the Ukrainians themselves, the people's elected representatives, have rejected the way the government has handled the election results and are, you know, taking action to see a fair and democratic outcome.
QUESTION: Even though it takes them like a step closer to sort of chaos?
MR. ERELI: At this point I think it's unclear just because -- since it's never happened before and how the constitutional process on how this decision is put into effect is uncharted territory.
QUESTION: Could I drastically change the subject?
QUESTION: I was going to do the same, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment or thoughts on the appearance of Rwandan troops in DR Congo?
MR. ERELI: We have seen reports of Rwandan soldiers being seen on or in the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I can't confirm for you that they're there. Obviously, we believe that both countries should solve their differences diplomatically and not militarily through the exchange of gunfire or the movement of troops in the area, and we've been working to that goal.
We've for the last several months been working to bring together officials at the ministerial level between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and as well as Uganda to resolve these differences and we've also been working closely with the UN to create a joint verification mechanism to control the border between Congo and Rwanda. In that vein, we urge both countries to take advantage of the joint verification mechanism to resolve the current crisis.
I would also note that Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Don Yamamoto, will be traveling to the region soon to help move forward the tripartite agreement signed between -- or signed among Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
QUESTION: Do you know when?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't know when.
QUESTION: This week or this month or?
MR. ERELI: I'll check.
QUESTION: Is he going to all -- the two countries or three?
MR. ERELI: I'll check.
QUESTION: And just the other thing is, when you say you've been working with officials from three countries, that's just you, just the U.S.?
MR. ERELI: No. I mean, obviously, the UN as well, but I'm speaking, for our part, we've been working with both -- actually, with all three -- Congo, Rwanda and Uganda -- at the ministerial level to resolve their differences; hence, Yamamoto's trip.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, when was the last time you were working with all three at the ministerial level?
MR. ERELI: For the past several months.
QUESTION: I mean --
MR. ERELI: You want specific examples of engagement?
QUESTION: Well, I mean -- I guess, the Secretary was involved in some kind of something --
MR. ERELI: No, we've been working --
QUESTION: -- in New York.
QUESTION: We've been working --
QUESTION: I don't remember anything, him doing anything --
MR. ERELI: We've been working to get them together at a ministerial level.
QUESTION: A ministerial level? Oh, trying to get them?
MR. ERELI: Yes, exactly.
QUESTION: Not -- okay.
QUESTION: Can we move along and change the subject? Mr. Barghouti, who's changed his mind, now he'd like to be the Palestinian president. I wonder what you thought of that, and considering his jail sentence, convicted in the killing of four Israelis and a Greek monk, it makes me wonder if you have any guidelines that you would offer as you promote what you hope will be a democratic evolution and a peaceful state living peace, blah, blah, blah. Do you have any reflections on Mr. Barghouti? Do you think he's just the guy for the job?
MR. ERELI: I don't know what -- I can't speak for Mr. Barghouti's intentions. I've seen conflicting reports over the last several weeks. I don't know that this last one is any more definitive than previous ones. Our position remains that we want to work with the Palestinian Authority and others to support elections that are as inclusive and transparent as possible and that lead to a Palestinian leadership that can help move forward in achieving peace with Israel. And again, the deliberation of who's a candidate and how they're going to be a candidate is a question for the Palestinians. The principles that are important to us are inclusiveness, transparency, and peace with Israel.
QUESTION: Well, you had a strong opinion of Yasser Arafat and you didn't think he was qualified to lead the Palestinians. But from here on in, you're going to let them sort it out is what I'm --
MR. ERELI: You're asking me to handicap a horse race without knowing -- handicap, I shouldn't say a horse race -- you're asking me to handicap a political race without knowing (a) who's in the field; (b) what their positions are; and (c) having had the Palestinians speak to it or having had them do anything about it. So that's all --
QUESTION: He says he's in the horse race, and even if you don't have an opinion of him, per se, with all the words that have come out of this capital, and as to your hopes and your aspirations for an evolution in the Palestinian movement, and with you already deciding the Palestinians should have a state on land that Israel now holds, the question is, does the U.S. Government have any guidelines for candidates? Does it have any feelings about who might or might not be fitting, without even going into names --
MR. ERELI: Well, I'm not --
QUESTION: -- to lead them, to lead the nascent Palestinian movement?
MR. ERELI: I'm not prepared to give you opinions about the Palestinian political movement and individuals therein.
QUESTION: Gotcha. Okay.
QUESTION: Well, but, I mean, he's in an Israeli jail. You don't have feelings about whether people in Israeli jails should perhaps should run for president?
MR. ERELI: I don't -- you know, on *Mustafa Barghouti, I don't have anything to tell you beyond what the Secretary has said before, beyond what we said before, which is that I'm not aware that he's a candidate and I'm not going to speculate about his possible candidacy or whether he's fit to run or not fit to run. It's just an issue that I don't think we need to get into or we're in a position to get into.
QUESTION: Well, Adam, all of that would be a lot easier to accept if you hadn't come out so strongly against Arafat himself. I mean, the President opened the --
QUESTION: He never asked the question.
QUESTION: The President of the United States opened up this can of worms when he decided that he was not going to -- that the United States would no longer deal with Arafat and that Arafat was unfit to lead and that the Palestinians needed new leadership.
MR. ERELI: And that was based on a --
QUESTION: And now you have a guy --
MR. ERELI: That was based on a --
QUESTION: -- who is in prison for killing, for murder -- God knows what else -- who says he wants to be a candidate. I don't understand why you're saying that it's impractical for you to have an opinion, and, frankly, I'm sure that people in this building do have opinions. Have you just not -- has the United States just not formulated a policy position about whether convicted criminals should run and lead -- and potentially lead the Palestinian Authority?
MR. ERELI: Two things to say. One, in the case of *Mustafa Barghouti, you're talking about a future hypothetical that, frankly, I don't think even at this point is solid enough for us to get involved with.
Second of all, in the case of Yasser Arafat, rather than of some sort of future hypothetical, you are talking about a demonstrated record of past obstruction and failure to fulfill commitments and, in fact, going back on commitments in condoning the use of terror and violence in -- contrary to the basic tenets of the agreement.
QUESTION: Well, Barghouti has a past as well.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Now, on -- but again, I'm not --
QUESTION: And let me just remind you, Adam, that you took a future hypothetical position on the -- in an election in Central America not too long ago when you came out and basically said that you were going to -- that the election of Mr. Rios Montt in -- where was that? -- Guatemala would be a bad thing for relations between the United States and Guatemala. So you did the same thing in Ivory Coast a while ago with the coup leader, Robert Guei. You know, it just, you know, it's not very consistent of you to now say that you don't -- that you're not -- you don't take any position on -- well, maybe you don't. Maybe you don't take any -- do you not have a position on whether *Mustafa Barghouti should be president of the Palestinians?
MR. ERELI: I do not have a position to share with you at this time because the issue of *Mustafa Barghouti's candidacy, in our view, hasn't been determined, and, you know, you're asking me to sort of say, well, if it were, and if he were, what would be the implications, blah, blah, blah. It's just a line of -- it's a line of hypothetical and a line of speculation that is not something we're particularly spending a lot of time losing sleep over.
QUESTION: The Secretary of State and other people, I'm sure there are people who think about these things upstairs, have had positive things to say about other potential Palestinian leaders, two prime ministers.
MR. ERELI: Who were --
QUESTION: And the finance minister.
MR. ERELI: Who had a record of accomplishment.
QUESTION: Who, by the U.S.'s judgment, not that we're running things, but by the U.S.'s judgment, were worthy Palestinian leaders, were worthy Palestinian reformers. You were pleased to see them emerge. You wished they had more of a chance than Arafat would give them.
Here comes a guy who's sitting in an Israeli jail, in the death of four Israelis and a Greek monk, and you guys don't have an opinion, at least now, because you're not sure he won't change his mind and decide not to run. That's what I can -- all I can figure out from what you've said.
MR. ERELI: As far as we're concerned, he's a Palestinian in an Israeli jail -- end of story.
QUESTION: Adam, this afternoon today, his -- Barghouti's wife has gone to register him as a candidate in Ramallah. So it's not necessarily a hypothetical; it's a fact.
MR. ERELI: That's news to me.
Are we done with Mr. Barghouti for today?
QUESTION: May I ask you something on (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: Yes, you've had a question.
QUESTION: -- Venezuela and Colombia.
MR. ERELI: Venezuela and Colombia.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. In Canada, a senior U.S. Administration official has been quoted saying that they shoot down MIGs --
MR. ERELI: Excuse me, excuse me.
QUESTION: The official said that they shoot --
MR. ERELI: In Canada?
QUESTION: In Canada.
MR. ERELI: Today?
QUESTION: Yesterday. They shoot down MIGs, referring of the Venezuelan planned purchase of weaponry from Russia. I'm wondering if you have any reaction about this phrase, shoot down MIGs. And if you don't have a reaction, can you explain me, or can you explain us, what is the U.S. policy toward Venezuela plans on purchase?
MR. ERELI: Venezuela's plans --
QUESTION: Venezuelans -- I'm sorry for my English -- Venezuela's plan on purchase.
MR. ERELI: Oh. Frankly, I am not in a position to talk about a planned arms purchase, because I just don't enough about it to give you an opinion. I'll see if I can get something for you.
As far as the White House comment yesterday on the issue, I'd refer you to the White House for clarification. That was done in the context of the President's trip up there, so I think they're the ones that in the best position to follow up.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) of diplomacy, do you have anything about --
MR. ERELI: On the arms -- in terms of the diplomacy, the arms purchase, let me see if I can get you something on our position regarding these arms purchases.
QUESTION: I have another question about Colombia. It was approved by law chamber in Senate the reelection of President Uribe. I'm wondering if you have any reason about that, too.
MR. ERELI: Let me check. I hadn't seen that.
QUESTION: Can I try, briefly something -- maybe a little far for you. Opposition people in Iran would like a referendum on the government, and Mr. Blair seemed to be supporting such a notion, I think, while he was here, visiting here. If this isn't too esoteric at the moment -- I know there are a lot of other things going on -- is there a U.S. position on specifically whether you think people in Iran should have an opportunity to conduct a referendum on their leadership?
MR. ERELI: I haven't seen these particular proposals, and I'm not sure what group you're speaking about. As a general proposition, the United States has been, I think, very consistent in supporting democratic rights for all Iranians, and that includes freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom for political -- for participation in the political process.
When there are cases of shutting down newspapers or prosecuting journalists or prosecuting other activists, we speak out against that. As -- I think as a general proposition, people hold their governments accountable and we think that's the basis of democracy and should be respected, or should be encouraged and respected, wherever it takes place, in Iran as in the United States.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: I have a question on North Korea. Do you have any news on when the next six-party talks is going to be held? And North Koreans said they think the South Korea nuclear program should be discussed during the six-party talks; and secondly, they said they're watching U.S. policy in the new administration towards North Korea to decide when they come back to the table. Do you have anything?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, well, our view is that there's really no -- there's no good excuse for not having six-party talks as soon as possible. The fact of the matter is it was agreed by all sides at the last round to convene another round before the end of September. That hasn't happened. We put forward a very good proposal that we thought was a strong basis for discussion and we're looking forward to meeting with all countries involved in the process in the six-party talks to discuss that proposal as well as other proposals that are out there.
You know, since then we keep hearing about, you know, different ideas or different suggestions. The place to discuss all that is in the six-party talks. So, you know, if you've got an idea or you've got something you want to put forward, come back to talks. That's where, frankly, our diplomacy is directed, at working with the other parties to reconvene a fourth round.
I would note that in that regard Chinese Vice Foreign -- or Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo will be meeting this afternoon with Deputy Secretary Armitage. They'll be talking about, in addition to six-party talks, a number of other bilateral relation -- a number of other issues related to the bilateral relationship. But, you know, the diplomacy continues.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a (inaudible) question?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: This morning, or today, rather, you guys imposed sanctions on five -- four Chinese and one North Korean entity for sales of stuff to Iran. And I know this comes up every single time this happens, but some of these entities, as you refer to them, are serial proliferators, at least in your eyes, especially this guy, Q.C. Chen, who has been -- I mean, he must hold some kind of world record for the number of U.S. sanctions he's got on him, and this North Korean firm, both of which have been -- you know, have been hit for the last at least five years multiple times.
And so, I just have to ask it again, what do you hope that these sanctions do? They obviously haven't stopped doing, you know, their -- making these nefarious sales -- yes, exactly. Do you have hope that sanctions like this are going to have any affect on these -- on their activity?
MR. ERELI: In some cases, they do; in some cases, they don't. I think the issue is this is something that is required by U.S. law, and, you know, we're not going to stand -- we're certainly not going to stand by idly while weapons proliferation programs are assisted. We take the actions we think are appropriate, based on U.S. law and based on national interest. We work diplomatically to try to interrupt and halt the flows of these kinds of technologies.
It's an uphill battle. But I think the Administration has, you know, rightfully pointed to proliferation as a major concern, has taken a number of important initiatives, particularly the Proliferation Security Initiative. But, you know, let's be clear-eyed about this. There are -- how should I put it -- there are unrepentant proliferators out there and it's going to require a concerted, sustained effort to fight them.
QUESTION: But you assumed from my question that I was suggesting that perhaps you should stand idly by, your words, but, in fact, that wasn't really what I was assuming. Why don't you do something more than just put these sanctions on, since it doesn't seem to be having an effect, and obviously you don't --
MR. ERELI: Well, I don't think these sanctions are the whole story. There is also a lot of -- particularly, with respect to China, there is very, I think, sustained and high-level engagement with the Government of China on, number one, developing the kind of export control regulations that would address this kind of problem, and number two, enforcing them in a robust and systematic way so that we can get to the heart of it. It's a work in progress.
QUESTION: Right. But this latest round of sanctions would seem to imply that, despite their announcements that you have greeted with great fanfare, that the Chinese are not cracking down and aren't implementing their pledges to halt proliferation from companies that are operating on their soil.
MR. ERELI: There's definitely a ways to go.
QUESTION: Adam, if you have any guidance on the particular entities cited today in clear English, could you read it to us?
MR. ERELI: What specific thing do you not understand?
QUESTION: Why they were sanctioned.
MR. ERELI: They were sanctioned, in clear English, because they were selling items on the Export Control List to Iran.
MR. ERELI: Yes, I'm sorry. Dave.
QUESTION: Adam, there was an attempt on the life of the President of Serbia, it appears, today. I just wondered if you had any reaction to that.
MR. ERELI: I don't have any specific reaction to it. Obviously, we're very pleased that the attempt was unsuccessful. We certainly would expect to see a vigorous investigation and prosecution of those responsible. And, you know, for our part, you know, we're working closely with the Government of Serbia to help them develop the kind of rule of law and justice programs that attack -- that get to the heart of these kinds of criminal attacks.
QUESTION: I was told that you might have something to say in response to my question of yesterday about the demonstrations in Morocco against the Forum of the Future meeting that the Secretary will be attending.
MR. ERELI: Right. My understanding is that those demonstrations were not specifically against Forum -- or not specifically directed towards the Forum of the Future. Rather, they were long planned demonstrations that the opposition had organized to protest U.S. policies vis-à-vis Iraq and the Palestinian issue.
So, one shouldn't read it as hundreds of thousands of Moroccans flowing into the streets to protest Morocco's hosting the Forum of the Future; rather, what it was was between 25,000 to 40,000 Moroccans out protesting U.S. policies and, in fact, Forum of the Future was only one of the things that was tangentially mentioned.
QUESTION: On that, don't you find -- regardless, I mean, it wasn't hundreds -- 25,000 to 40,000 people in one of your good allied, you know, a country that's closely allied with the United States, and whether they were all saying Forum of the Future shouldn't happen here or whether only 10,000, a quarter of the 40,000 that you just mentioned, were saying that, doesn't that give you pause at all?
MR. ERELI: Not really. I mean, I think, in fact, if you were going to come to some conclusion about this, it would be that the fact that you can have a large, peaceful demonstration against policies either of the government or of countries that the government has good relations with is a healthy sign and -- a health sign of democracy, a healthy sign of freedom of expression. And I think points to the very -- you know, points to what the Forum for the Future is all about, which is giving people an opportunity to be politically active while at the same time respecting the rules of the game and contributing in a positive direction to change.
QUESTION: But it's not a healthy sign of your public diplomacy efforts in the region.
MR. ERELI: That there are 25- to 40,000 people protesting U.S. policies? There are more people in the United States protesting U.S. policies at times. So, I mean, I don't -- the fact that --
QUESTION: You don't think that's a significant number, then?
MR. ERELI: I'll put it this way. We are under no illusion that our policies have unanimous and unqualified support among the publics in the region, nor do they have unanimous and unqualified support within our own country. The fact is there are always going to be people who would want to see things done differently and we support their right to freely and peacefully express those views. And, in fact, that's, I think the -- that's the best endorsement of our policies that you can have.
QUESTION: I've got one more. Yesterday the taken question in response to my question about ASEAN and Burma -- yeah, when the taken -- the taken question --
MR. ERELI: I saw the exchange. I don't know if I saw the answer that was given.
QUESTION: Well, you basically said that -- you hinted that there might be a problem with a Secretary of State traveling to Burma for the ASEAN meetings unless there were some radical changes in the way they were -- political changes in Burma. But what it didn't say was whether you guys have actually spoken to ASEAN about this and --
MR. ERELI: About --
QUESTION: -- and told them that in two years' time when Burma is the -- is hosting the meetings, whether they're aware, whether ASEAN as a group is aware of this threat that's out there, or this --
MR. ERELI: That the United States may not come?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that we have had those discussions.
QUESTION: Well, could you just --
MR. ERELI: I'll check.
MR. ERELI: Yes, Joel.
QUESTION: With respect to an announcement coming out of Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi is still under detainment and the military junta there says that they expect to keep her an additional year. And also, it's intimidating for those that have been released in her political party that can't get anything done or are intimidated from doing anything. Do you have any comments?
MR. ERELI: Our comment is that Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners should be released immediately.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:30 p.m.)
* Marwan Barghouti