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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 27

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 27, 2004

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Query on Increasing Demand for U.S. Food Aid

ASIA
Query on Whether Earthquake Disaster will Stretch U.S. Resources
Number of USAID Disaster Response Team Personnel / Query on
Whether They Have Deployed
Query on U.S. Relations with Governments Affected by Earthquake
Where People Can Call to Make Cash Donations

TERRORISM
Query on Reports of New Usama bin Laden Tape

NORTH KOREA
Query on When Six Party Talks will Resume


TRANSCRIPT:

1:33 p.m. EST

MR. ERELI: Well, I don't know if there are any questions left unanswered by the Secretary, but if there are I'd be happy to help you out. So who would -- does anybody have any questions left that were not answered?

Yes, Mark.

QUESTION: Private aid organizations have been saying over the past couple of weeks that the demands on American food aid have been increasing and the United States is now at a point where it's stretched and probably going to be unable to maintain its historical proportion of aid. With this new crisis in Asia, are there any plans to increase the amount of money that's going to international aid?

MR. ERELI: Assistant Secretary Boucher addressed this issue last week. There were a number of reports out there last week about U.S. cutting food aid or holding it back. I think the point we made there is that food aid is an important part of our foreign policy. It is something the United States, I think, prides itself on, as being the world's leading donator of food aid.

I wouldn't -- I'm not in a position to predict what kind of funding is coming in the years ahead, so I wouldn't want to say it's going to go up or it's going to go down. What I can tell you is that the United States is committed to maintaining its position as a leading provider of food aid to those in need around the world.

Even before the crisis in the Asia Pacific region, in the Indian Ocean, the demands for food aid were stretching capacity -- demands in Sudan, demands in West Africa, demands in other areas hit by drought and fighting. So even though we're giving a lot, the demand is very high and we're going to have to look at, you know, as we move forward, what we can do to meet that demand.

But I think the commitment is very clear that the U.S. Government is prepared to do everything it can to be responsive to international needs. But I can't tell you now what those aid levels are going to be.

QUESTION: Does this new crisis, though, stretch American resources even thinner?

MR. ERELI: Well, let's see what the needs are. Again, you know, as the Secretary said, and as Mr. Fox said, we are in the early stages of doing needs assessments. We're sending 21 people out to the region to look at the situation and see what the short-term needs and the long-term needs are.

Also, as the Secretary said, you know, you've got a short-term crisis but the effect is going to be felt for years and years. I think, you know, looking out ahead, you should take your cue from what we're seeing now, which is a quick reaction and a -- I think, a significant commitment of personnel and resources and attention to the problem, and I have every expectation that that kind of response will continue to characterize how we handle this situation in the months and years ahead.

QUESTION: Adam, are those 32 people all USAID?

MR. ERELI: Twenty-one.

QUESTION: I mean, sorry, 21 people, all USAID, or are there also extra State Department people are going?

MR. ERELI: My understanding is they're USAID Disaster Assistance Response personnel.

QUESTION: The DART teams?

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Are they en route already? Have they already left?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: They are.

MR. ERELI: Some are already there. I think two are already there and 19 additional are on their way.

QUESTION: They're people, not teams? Twenty-one people or 21 groups?

MR. ERELI: No, 21 individuals, and how they divide into teams, I think is -- they decide on the ground.

QUESTION: There will be some in every country by the time these people arrive [inaudible]?

MR. ERELI: They're being based in Thailand.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: There is one person on the ground in Sri Lanka. He's deployed from New Delhi. And another one is going to Thailand now, and then 19 are on their way. And most of them will be based in -- most of those 19, not all of those 19, will be based in Thailand, where they'll sort of have their hub and then serve the other countries from there.

Actually, let me correct the record for you on this. We have one senior regional advisor already in Bangkok, a second regional advisor is -- will arrive in New Delhi today and will travel to Colombo tomorrow, and then the additional ones are leaving the -- the initial 19 are leaving the U.S. today.

QUESTION: So they have not yet left?

MR. ERELI: They're in the process of -- in the process of being en route.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: Adam, about a year ago, when they had the earthquake in Bam, over in Iran, many people thought it was an opportune time to have some type of rapprochement with that government. Now you've just issued within the last day or two a Travel Warning concerning Indonesia, and the height of much of that underground earthquake and the tidal wave that swept the beaches affected more of the various citizens, especially in an area where the terrorists were thought to be headquartered.

Any plans to, with all of your medical supplies and shelter type supplies, to work with the people to iron out some of these differences? Do you see that as an opportunity there?

MR. ERELI: The focus for now, obviously, is meeting the immediate assistance and relief needs of the affected populations. As you can imagine, the needs -- the damage is enormous, and the needs are enormous and the capacities are very limited. So what we're doing now, frankly, is to try to be of help immediately in the areas that are most pressing. The issues that you raise are something that, if they were ever to be a factor, are far, far, far down the road.

QUESTION: Adam, have you had time to check on whether the State Department has any reaction to a purported new bin Laden tape?

MR. ERELI: Between the time you asked and between the time I came out, I did see the reports that there is a new tape out there. Obviously, as is the case with the previous tapes, we'll be looking at it to assess its authenticity. But if -- whether or not it's bin Laden and it's a message of -- it's a message from terrorists, and obviously we, you know, we don't think those messages hold much sway for us and that they should be seen for what they are, which is attempts by murderers to propagate their evil trade.

Yes.

QUESTION: Did U.S. have any meeting or dialogue with the North Korea after the Mr. DeTrani and [inaudible] meeting? And when do you expect six-way talk to resume, if possible?

MR. ERELI: There have not been any messages exchanged or meetings that I'm aware of since the two meetings in New York earlier this month. I think it was this month. I'll have to check.

And as far as six-party talks, nothing new to report to you on that. We continue to -- I think it continues to be an issue of engagement between us and our other partners in the six-party process. We remain eager to see talks resume at the soonest possible time. North Korea -- we're all ready to go back except for North Korea. We think it's time to go back. We're ready to do it. We're waiting for North Korea to sign up.

QUESTION: Adam, have you had a chance to check on reports of statements by or a statement by UN envoy Brahimi --

MR. ERELI: I'm not aware --

QUESTION: -- concerning the U.S. and Sharon --

MR. ERELI: I'm not familiar with the statements. What statement are you referring to?

QUESTION: Well, we haven't got it verified yet, but there's a report that -- and he's done this before, caused once before -- called Israel the source of all his problems. And now he's condemning the United States for not criticizing Sharon for uprooting orchards or something.

Nothing you're aware of?

MR. ERELI: Haven't seen -- haven't seen that statement.

QUESTION: When we get it, I'll ask you for confirmation.

MR. ERELI: Let me just -- there was a question that came up in the earlier briefing. I want to give you -- give all of you the information. It was asked, if you wanted to make donations, where should you call. The list of humanitarian organizations that are accepting cash donations can be found on the USAID website, which is www.usaid.gov in the "How Can I Help" section, or people can call the Center for International Disaster Information, CIDI, at 703-276-1914. And we encourage cash donations because that's the form in which assistance can be most readily used to help the people in the most immediate need.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)

DPB #211 [End]


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