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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 8

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 8

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 8, 2004

INDEX:

UKRAINE
- Rada Passage of Laws / Will of Ukrainian People / Law to Reduce
- Fraud / Shifting of Electoral Law / U.S. Urging to Implement Decisions
- $3 Million in U.S. Assistance to OSCE for Observers
- Lessons Learned from First Two Rounds / December 26th Elections

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
- No Plans for U.S. Election Observers
- $20 Million Dollars in U.S. Aid in Budget Support / Presidential
- Waiver / Assistant Secretary Burns' Comments in Oslo / U.S.
- Support for Palestinian Aspirations
- Possible Conference on Settlement of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
- / U.S. Actively Involved in Promoting Settlement

IRAQ
- Timetable for Iraqi Election / Will of the Iraqi People / U.S. Assistance with Election Security
- Iran Influence on Elections / Support of Sovereignty

SYRIA
- Insurgents in Iraq / Border Security

JAPAN/NORTH KOREA
- Return of Abductees from North Korea / U.S. Support for Return Efforts
- Japan Important and Valued Partner in Six-Party Talks

CHINA
- Armitage Meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo /
- Discussion of Bilateral Issues
- Discussion of Various Taiwan Issues

DEPARTMENT
- 56th Anniversary of Signing of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Secretary in Morocco for Forum for the Future

TRANSCRIPT:

1:00 p.m. EST

MR. ERELI: Greetings, all. No statements to begin with today, so we'll start with your questions.

Reuters.

QUESTION: On Ukraine, they've reached a comprise deal, but does the compromise -- does it compromise democracy given that the prime minister's role, that the president's role will be sort of reduced in its power?

MR. ERELI: Let's be clear. This is a -- what happened in Ukraine today was an example of the exercise of democracy. The people's elected representatives, the Rada, passed a number of laws, which the president, Mr. Kuchma, immediately signed. I think the way the United States views this is a victory for the people of Ukraine. They, through their institutions, according to their laws, helped resolve an electoral crisis and put the country on a path towards responding to the will of the people as it's expressed and freely conducted in what we hope and expect will be freely-conducted elections. So let's give credit where credit is due: To the people of Ukraine, to their elected representatives for arriving at a compromise and a consensus based on dialogue and based on law. That's an achievement, which I think we should all recognize and praise.

The specifics of the Rada's actions are that: Number one, they revised the electoral law to reduce fraud, and there were a number of measures taken there. Number two; they shift some power from the presidency to the Rada. And those powers will be shifted according to a timetable included in the law, and third, they approved changes to the new Central Electoral Commission.

We believe that these are important steps that move Ukraine toward a resolution of the electoral crisis. We thank Presidents Kwasniewski and Adamkus, as well as EU Commissioner Javier Solana and other European mediators for their efforts. And now that Ukraine has taken these steps, we urge all the parties to move quickly to implement today's decision and to ensure that the vote that is scheduled for December 26th be democratic, fair and just, and produces results that accurately reflect the will of the Ukrainian people.

For our part, I'll tell you that in preparation for that vote, we will be spending an additional $3 million to help fund OSCE, U.S. and nongovernmental monitoring and other election-related activities. The $3 million will support 100 U.S. observers as part of a 960-observer OSCE mission to the Ukraine.

Yes.

QUESTION: Are you concerned at all about outside interference by the Russians to adversely affect the upcoming election?

MR. ERELI: I wouldn't point to any one country or any one group. I think what is important to note is that hopefully, there were a lot of lessons learned from the first two rounds. And I think that's one of the things that informed the Rada's deliberations and helped produce the legislation we're seeing today.

Number two, I would note that there will be intense interest and intense scrutiny on December 26th, on the elections on that date, and that, really, the eyes of the world, both Russia's, as well as everybody else, is going to be on Ukraine and events there. So we, for our part, are going to -- starting now, work with the Ukrainians to help them put in place the procedures and mechanisms to ensure that what happens on December 26th is a marked improvement from what happened in the earlier rounds.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Can you be more specific about what the 100 U.S. observers will do? And also, does the U.S. plan to also send observers to the Palestinian presidential elections?

MR. ERELI: I can't be more specific about what the observers will do. I mean, I think -- suffice it to say, that they will be part of an OS -- a broader OSCE observer mission, whose objective will be to see that abuses don't take place, and if abuses do take place to have eyes on what happens.

QUESTION: Is this a parliamentarian initiative?

MR. ERELI: I don't know. I'll see if I can get something for you on that.

QUESTION: Palestinian elections?

MR. ERELI: Palestinian elections, nothing new to say on that. The question perennially comes up and the answer today is the same as it was before, which is that at this point there are no plans for U.S. observers. The Palestinians are preparing for their -- preparing the logistics for the elections, discussing arrangements with the Israelis. I think those discussions and preparations are moving forward. If, at some point in these preparations, there is a request for, or a utility to observers, either from the U.S. or elsewhere, we'd, obviously, consider it.

QUESTION: Adam, Assistant Secretary Burns today at the Palestinian Ad Hoc Liaison Committee said that the U.S. was giving additional funding for elections, including monitors. So I mean, are you willing to just fund it, but you don't -- but you're waiting on a specific request for U.S. monitors? And if you could talk, after -- expand on his announcement that the U.S. would give $20 million in Palestinian aid directly to the PA?

MR. ERELI: I'm just looking at Assistant Secretary Burns' comments to see where he mentions monitors. I don't see that myself. Let me take a closer look at this and get back to you on it.

As far as the $20 million, as you mentioned, Assistant Secretary Burns -- well, there are two things that happened. One is, the President waived the prohibition on giving aid directly to the Palestinians today. So with that waiver, there is a green light for giving $20 million directly to the Palestinian Authority to -- in budget support. Assistant Secretary Burns announced that in Oslo at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee. That money is going to help the Palestinian Authority meet its budget obligations.

It will be subject to, I think, very stringent and proven transparency and accountability provisions. And it's a sign of, I think, America's and the United States' support for the efforts of the Palestinian Authority on behalf of the Palestinian people to move forward in developing an accountable and an effective leadership that can respond to the needs of the Palestinians and help move -- help make progress towards moving their aspirations.

QUESTION: Adam, this is just the second time, is that correct --

MR. ERELI: It is.

QUESTION: -- direct aid has been used?

MR. ERELI: It is.

QUESTION: Is this is a signal of how the U.S. will deliver more -- will continue to deliver more assistance directly to the PA in the future? Or is this, like, a trial to see how it goes or are you going to move to --

MR. ERELI: I wouldn't characterize it as either one of those. I would say that this is a decision that was made based on a particular set of circumstances, those circumstances being, number one, a need from the Palestinians; number two, assurances that the money will be spent as it's intended; and number three, given this unique juncture in Palestinian events, it is an important and, I think, meaningful signal of United States' support for the Palestinian Authority, United States' support for the Palestinian people, United States' commitment to trying to help them meet the challenges before them and move forward in helping the Palestinian people achieve their aspirations.

So take it as a one off, but obviously, an important, I think, gesture -- a meaningful gesture -- of support for the Palestinians.

Yes.

QUESTION: Adam, with respect to the other election in Iraq --

QUESTION: Can we stay on the subject?

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: You didn't have anything yesterday on these reports out of Egypt of some sort of a framework.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: And I was -- I mean, the widely publicized, and the United States is implicated as being a party to this, and possibly even hosting some sort of a conference, I just wonder if you'd take another look at that.

MR. ERELI: Right. I know what the reports say. For the record, we're not party to any reported grant initiative, nor am I aware of any plans to host a conference or some other kind of multilateral ceremony, with respect to a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian question. That's with respect to the specific report that you mentioned.

However, I think the United States -- it's very clear that we are actively engaged in trying to promote a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that we are working at the present time closely with the Palestinians, with the Israelis, with the Egyptians and with others on a variety of fronts, in a variety of ways, to make progress towards realizing the President's vision of two states living side by side. Those efforts include working with the Palestinians to do what we can to help prepare for elections, supporting the Palestinian Authority, as demonstrated by today's meeting in an announcement in Oslo; working with the Israelis and Egyptians to prepare the way -- and Palestinians, for that matter -- to prepare the way for the Gaza withdrawal, which we believe represents an important opportunity to move forward on the roadmap. There are meetings and cooperation between the Egyptians and the Israelis on that front and to help the Palestinians, so there's a lot going on.

I don't mean to suggest by denying these specific reports that we're not involved, or that we're not working with the parties, or that we're not working with the parties, or that we're not actively engaged. But I do want to throw cold water on suggestions that there's something beyond what I just described.

QUESTION: Well, can I follow up?

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When you say that there is a consensus on the steps that are -- on what needs to be done to move forward, whether it be on Palestinian elections --

MR. ERELI: Consensus among whom?

QUESTION: Consensus among Israelis, Palestinians with your -- you know, in all of these discussions facilitated by you and Egypt? I mean, obviously, there has been a series of announcements over the last week or so about things that the Israelis agreed to, that the Palestinians said they were going to do, so --

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I really wouldn't want to speak for the Israelis or the Palestinians to say what either one has agreed to. I think they're very capable for doing that themselves. I think what there is general consensus on is that we are at a historic moment of opportunity in the peace process for a number of reasons. And there is an opening for all of us to take advantage of for the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership, for the reengagement between Israelis and Palestinians on the roadmap, for decisive action on the security front, and so that -- and finally, as President Bush said, with a new term and a new administration, the American government, the Administration of President Bush, is going to -- will continue to make this a priority and will be very much involved in working with the parties to take advantage of the opportunities that presents itself.

So that's as far as I would go in talking about consensus. But in terms of specific agreements or specific understandings that the Israelis have reached or might have reached with the Palestinians or others, I'd leave it for them to talk about themselves.

QUESTION: Well, you wouldn't say that you're all on the same page about what needs to be done?

MR. ERELI: I would say to the extent that our common commitment is to the roadmap, yeah, we're all on the same page. But there's a lot of work that has to be done.

Yes.

QUESTION: I don't know whether Mr. Brahimi is now considered a private citizen, but he's just come out within the last few days saying that he viewed what's gone on in Iraq as partly a mess and recommended, as far as the elections were to goat the end of January, that they have a voting staggered system.

Now obviously, in Afghanistan everything worked very nicely. Would you like to see that similar type of endeavor work in Iraq as well as, perhaps, the Palestinian territories for the election come January 9th?

MR. ERELI: The United States would like to see in Iraq what the Government of Iraq wants to see in Iraq, which is the fullest possible election and a result that the people of Iraq feel that they have ownership in and see as legitimate. And there's a -- the Iraq Government, as represented by the IIG and the Independent Election Commission of Iraq, has a plan for that happening. We have a role to play in that, both working with the Iraqis to create the security conditions for the fullest possible election, as well as helping with the -- the UN helping to prepare for those elections, and that's what we're working towards.

I would not be too quick to draw parallels between Iraq and Afghanistan and Iraq and the Palestinians. Each is a unique set of circumstances. Each country, each group of citizens is going to find their own way to express their political preferences. Iraq, I think, has -- the way forward in Iraq is very clear. It's been articulated quite well by President Yawar and Prime Minister Allawi, and we think they're on track.

QUESTION: A follow-up, Adam. With this insurgency, it's mostly been in the last month or so in Sunni areas. It's theirs to lose. In other words, if they don't have some type of understanding that the election is important to them, they'll lose out. And have you spoken to any of their particular clergy or leaders specific to getting them and the current interim government in Iraq to work together?

MR. ERELI: You asked the -- that same question the other day, and I'll answer it the same way, which is that dealing with internal Iraqi politics is the purview of Iraqis. We are working with the Government of Iraq to promote elections, which are inclusive, and credible, and fair, and open and to create the conditions that everybody can participate. That's what our goal is. That's what the Iraqi Government's goal is. I think if you look at polls in Iraq, they indicate overwhelming numbers of Iraqis want elections to happen and want to participate in elections. And those numbers are high wherever you go -- Shia, Sunni, other areas.

So it's not a question of us convincing people to participate or to vote or not to vote. The Iraqis themselves have expressed a desire for this and, I think, what we can do is help create the conditions that allow them to act on their desires.

Yes, Saul.

QUESTION: Back to this issue of the logistics of the elections. Since Brahimi made the suggestion, it's gained some traction within the Iraqi Government. The Interior Ministry spoke today, the Electoral Commission. Security depends on what the U.S. forces can help with. So has there been any consideration of coordinating to see how feasible it would be to have the elections spread out over a few days, even a few weeks? Have you got into any of those decisions?

MR. ERELI: No, no, no. Absolutely not. Not that I'm aware of.

Again, you know, the modalities of the election are for the Iraqis to decide. Where we are today is where we were yesterday, various suggestions notwithstanding, January 30th-elections across the country, that's what we're -- that's our operating assumption.

Dave.

QUESTION: Yeah, just on the same subject. The King of Jordan is suggesting that Iran is taking a rather avid interest in the election to the point where he suggests send hundreds of thousands of people across the border as possible voters. Is that something the United States has observed or has any observation about?

MR. ERELI: It's fairly clear to us that Iran is attempting to exercise influence in Iraq on a number of fronts in a number of ways, without getting into specific numbers and activities, et cetera, et cetera. That's, I guess, a level of specificity I just can't confirm. But clearly, there is a concern on our part about Iran's intentions and Iran's activities as they relate to Iraq's internal affairs, and those include interference in the electoral process.

We have -- you know, whether it be with elections, whether it be with insurgency, whether it be in terms of political, other political events in Iraq, we have been very outspoken in urging the Government of Iran to live up and honor its publicly-stated policy of supporting the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Iraq.

I would also point out that on November 23rd, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Iran signed on to the final communiqué, which committed those states to supporting democracy, to supporting stability and supporting territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Iraq. So you can't have it both ways.

QUESTION: Well, can I follow up? I mean, you're intensely involved in helping the Iraqis prepare for elections. So, I mean --

MR. ERELI: Right, in coordination with, and in support of, the desires and objectives of the Government of Iraq. I think the point that Sheikh Ghazi yesterday was making was quite clearly that it was his feeling that what Iran is doing was not consistent with the desires and policy, and at the request of the Government of Iraq.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, this government in Iraq is a transitional government, and so I'm --

MR. ERELI: This is the sovereign Government of Iraq.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

QUESTION: Can we stay -- can we stay on Iraq?

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you talk about reports that Syria is -- I don't know if it's complicit, but not doing enough to stop insurgents from getting into Iraq?

MR. ERELI: The whole issue of, again, without speaking to a specific report, the whole issue of the relationship between insurgency and instability in Iraq and Syria continues to be a concern of ours and a focus of our diplomacy.

As you probably remember, Secretary of State Powell raised this issue again with Foreign Minister Shara in Sharm, making note of our -- making note of a number of issues related first, to the border and activity there; noting that while some progress had been made, action needs to continue and we need to continue to see concrete steps taken; and number two, making the point that there were political elements contributing to the insurgency present and active in Syria, that this was inconsistent with Syrian statements, public statements, and public commitments of support for Iraqi stability and territorial integrity; and that we look to Syria to act responsibly in this manner -- in this matter; and to see to it that people cannot point the finger at Syria and say that activity contributing to the instability and insurgency in Iraq was emanating or being conducted on Syrian territory. That's an important benchmark for us.

Yes.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that the Syrian Government is complicit in the activity that's taking place?

MR. ERELI: I haven't seen such information.

Done with Syria and Iraq and Iran and all things Oriental? Yes.

QUESTION: The Japanese Government will decide whether to extend its Self Defense Forces deployment in Iraq by an extra year. And the decision will be made midnight or early tomorrow morning. So could you comment on this issue prior to the decision? (Laughter.)

MR. ERELI: I think I'll refrain. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sorry, one more question. The Japanese Government announced that the bones North Korea claimed to be the remains of a Japanese abductee were not hers. So does the United States have any comment on that?

MR. ERELI: Our only comment would be that we support Japan's efforts to account for and return all abductees to Japan. It's a matter of great humanitarian concern, one that we -- one whose power and emotionalism we understand and sympathize with and therefore, take every opportunity and act in every way we can to help Japan realize its interests in this area.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Until the North Koreans "properly" address that abductee issue, there's a voice in Japan saying, you know, they're not going to put their full efforts into the negotiating table at the six-party talks. Do you have any concerns that until North Korea addresses this abductee issue properly, Japan isn't really going to help out as much?

MR. ERELI: Japan is, I think, a full and enthusiastic and important and valued partner and party to the six-party talks. I don't see any reason to question their sincerity, and their commitment, and their energy and their drive. To the contrary, they understand, as well as anybody, the threat that North Korea's nuclear program poses to the region, and for that reason, I think they are -- we find them to be very active and committed partners in the process. So commentary in Japan notwithstanding, we certainly don't see it in the diplomacy.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: More on Japan?

QUESTION: No, different.

MR. ERELI: Japan?

QUESTION: China?

MR. ERELI: On Japan -- okay, we'll go to you.

QUESTION: Okay. Did Mr. Armitage met the Chinese Envoy this morning?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. My question is, what is the topic of their meeting? And number two; Mr. Armitage met him on December 1st, if I'm correct.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Then why they need to meet again so soon?

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: And do you have any readout?

MR. ERELI: I will try to deal with all of those. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister and Special Envoy Dai Bingguo met with Mr. Armitage on December 1st. He then, I think, the next day or shortly thereafter, left Washington for other points in the United States. He is on his way back to China. He asked for another meeting today. It was an opportunity to follow up on issues discussed earlier, all of which deal with bilateral subjects, so it was a follow-up to December 1st conversations on bilateral issues.

QUESTION: Were there specific things that Mr. Armitage asked of the Vice Foreign Minister in the first meeting that he needed to give him an answer, or he just wanted to continue the discussions?

MR. ERELI: I think continue the discussions is a better way to describe it.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: There is no talk -- there is no discussion about six-party talks?

MR. ERELI: That was not a topic of discussion in today's meeting.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Did they talk about, of course, Taiwan?

MR. ERELI: Taiwan did come up, and both sides restated their longstanding views.

QUESTION: Does this have anything to do with the Taiwan election coming up, a local election of some sort?

MR. ERELI: As you know, there are a number of issues related to Taiwan. I don't know the specifics, but I can tell you that there was no -- no new ground broken.

QUESTION: And they don't disagree. They agreed on things they talked about, or --

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to characterize it beyond what I've said.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Did they talk about the Taiwan's decision to change their name overseas as well?

MR. ERELI: I'm not sure. But I think it's safe to assume that if they did, they would have reiterated the points in private that I made publicly the other day.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Adam, change of subject. It's Human Rights Week, and Secretary Powell, in Brussels, issued a statement in support of this. And December 10th is Human Rights Day. And Kofi Annan at the UN has just mentioned this is his speech.

What -- Forum of the Future is coming up in Morocco, where the Secretary is next going. Is there any plans to talk to the Government in Zimbabwe, with Mgabe and food type of problems that they've had? And what about the call of the UN to cut in half the problems of food distribution to the year 2015?

MR. ERELI: That just covers about everything.

QUESTION: Right. Yeah.

MR. ERELI: But I'll start with the statement issued by the Secretary today in Brussels, or from Brussels. As you note, it's an opportunity for us to commemorate the 56th Anniversary of the Signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to draw attention once again to its very valuable principles, very important principles, enshrined in that document.

Those start with the sanctity of the individual and respect for citizens, all citizens equally, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and to commit oneself to providing them equal opportunities and peace.

Speaking of Forum for the Future, speaking of these other issues, I think we'd like to make the point, and we think it's important to stress, that -- as the Secretary does in his statement, that on every continent we make important and immediate -- important, immediate and long-term investments in democracy and human rights. As you can see, whether it be in Ukraine or Iraq or elsewhere that we are working with other countries to establish governments that are chosen by their own people through democratic processes.

And we are -- this week the Secretary will be in Morocco for Forum for the Future, which is an extraordinary gathering of nations that offers us the opportunity to promote freedom and democracy in the broader Middle East and North Africa; and very importantly in this regard, not to do it as an outsider bringing something to the region, but rather to do it in a way that is responding to a dynamic already present in that part of the world. I refer you to the statement.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Thank you.

(The briefing ended at 1:38 p.m.)

DPB#201

[End]


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