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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for February 7

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for February 7 -- Transcript

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 7, 2005

INDEX:

POLAND
Reported Legislation on Visa Requirements for Polish Citizens / Discussions

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
General Ward's Brief
U.S. Promotion of Security Programs with Palestinians
Potential Meeting of the President with Abbas and Sharon

RUSSIA
Reported Russian Fuel Cycle Agreement with Iran

IRAN
EU-3 Deal with Iran
Potential UN Sanctions on Iran / IAEA Board of Governors Meeting

TOGO
U.S. Condolences on the Death of President Eyadema
Monitoring Situation / Consultation with EU, AU, ECOWAS

TRANSCRIPT:

1:00 p.m. EDT

MR. ERELI: Welcome, everybody. No announcements to start our briefing off today, so we can begin with your questions.

QUESTION: Adam, as you may or may not be aware, there are reports in Polish local media of efforts in the United States to introduce legislation that would ease the visa requirements on Poles seeking to visit the United States. I don't know if this has gotten to you yet or not, but if it has, my question would be: Does the Bush Administration support any legislative efforts there may be to ease visa requirements for the Poles, and if so, what is it supporting?

MR. ERELI: I can't get into the details at this point. I don't think we're really far enough along in our discussions to respond to your question with specific answers.

As the Secretary made clear in her recent trip to Poland, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Maura Harty has been in Poland meeting with Polish officials to discuss their concerns, to lay out what American policy and regulations are in this regard, and to see if we can't find some way to both be responsive to Poland's concerns and, at the same time, consistent with American restrictions, legislation, procedures in this area.

But I'm not aware that the discussions are as far along as your question suggests and I certainly know that we're not ready to make any announcements at this point. But I think the important point to make is that this is a -- we recognize that this is a subject of high-level concern in Poland, and it is a subject with which we are engaged, a subject on which we are engaged with them. And we understand their concern and we are working to find a way to work things out such that -- so that the needs of both countries are met.

QUESTION: Is what you're talking about a way under which they might qualify to -- Poland might qualify to become a Visa Waiver country --

MR. ERELI: I just don't -- I don't have that level of detail on the discussions. I can see what I can find out for you.

QUESTION: That would be great.

QUESTION: Can I try to clear up a couple of things out there? General Ward. General Ward has been appointed to assist with security problems in the Arab-Israeli --

MR. ERELI: Yes, the Secretary announced General Ward's naming today.

QUESTION: I'm trying to get a handle how this might differ, if it does, from previous envoys. It sounds like his brief is not as extensive -- and bearing in mind that she said she didn't see a reason for a high-level Middle East envoy. This is a military guy to concentrate entirely on security, or is it sort of like what Zinni did, what George Mitchell did, what George Tenet did? I don't understand how far-reaching his responsibility may be.

MR. ERELI: I would refer you to the transcript of the Secretary's press availability at Ben Gurion airport today where she answered those questions, and I think went into very extensive comments on what, at this point in time, we see General Ward's brief as being and what we see General Ward's brief as not being. And she made it clear that it was not a special envoy, as people talk about, or political, but the focus would be on helping develop a security program with the Palestinians, helping them develop their capabilities, as well as working with others in ways that can coordinate all of our efforts to address what is a very critical and high-priority item, which is the reform of Palestinian security institutions and development of capabilities of Palestinian services so that we can -- they can fulfill their commitment to move against and end terror and violence against Israelis.

QUESTION: The other thing that's not clear, is the President seeing Abbas and Sharon? Of course, you could say, "Ask the White House." That's been tried.

MR. ERELI: I could. I would.

QUESTION: That's been tried. Is this some sort of a summit meeting?

MR. ERELI: I've just seen -- I've seen what's announced, but I don't have any more light I can shed on it for you.

QUESTION: But did she talk to the two leaders about this?

MR. ERELI: Again, this is something, since there's press traveling with the Secretary and a whole entourage prepared to --

QUESTION: Oh, believe me, it's not --

MR. ERELI: -- answer those questions, I don't want to do it from here.

QUESTION: It's still a question that's not been answered.

MR. ERELI: Well, I'm not going to be the one to answer it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Richard -- sorry, Adam. (Laughter.)

MR. ERELI: That's okay. I'm happy to be confused with Mr. Boucher.

QUESTION: Russia is signing an agreement with Tehran, and they value the deal, especially with their nuclear plan -- it's over a billion dollars -- and it's to send fuel to Iran. It's obviously what we don't want. Are we making any headway or are the Europeans making any headway in the talks with the Iranians? And what do we need to do to counter that particular project from going forward?

MR. ERELI: I'm not sure what deal you're referring to. I know that the Russians and Iranians were talking about a closed fuel cycle agreement, and that was an agreement, frankly, that I think was very indicative of the concerns that Russia has about Iran's failure to adequately account for and provide transparency on its nuclear activity. As a result, the deal was structured so that whatever assistance Russia provided Iran would be accounted for and would be guaranteed could not support a nuclear program. So that's the only deal that I'm aware of. And it's a deal that we think is -- reflects Russia's -- the concern that Russia shows with the rest of the international community about Iran's nuclear program.

As far as the EU-3 goes, this is -- and their discussions with Iran, there's really nothing new to add. Those discussions, I believe, are continuing. We are in close and regular contact with the Europeans about the kind of progress or lack thereof that they may be making. But, frankly, this is an effort that, while we are appreciative of, it's they're the ones that are running it, and so I'd refer you to them for comment on its present status.

QUESTION: Can I jump in on that?

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Where does that today leave you on the sanctions issue? Is there enough --

MR. ERELI: Which sanctions?

QUESTION: Going to the UN on Iran. In other words, the Europeans are still pushing this program. By their account, they're doing pretty well. You're not making a judgment --

MR. ERELI: I don't know if I'd --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you willing to keep waiting before you take your complaint to the UN and see how this initiative pans out or not, or what? Where do you stand on -- we haven't heard the U.S. stand on sanctions in quite some time.

MR. ERELI: The U.S. stand on sanctions has not changed. We think that this is a question that deserves to be heard by the UN. At the same time, we have said that the EU-3 is engaged in ways that can lead to -- lead to Iran taking steps on its enrichment program that meet its international commitments and meet the concerns of the international community. And we are going to be supportive of that effort while, at the same time, bearing in mind that we've been down this road before.

Let's see where this process leads. We have another IAEA Board of Governors meeting coming up. There are going to be questions that the Board is going to want answered, and depending on what those answers are and how this process has played itself out, the question will be revisited.

QUESTION: Adam.

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, yes.

QUESTION: Yes, can I just ask you some more questions about Lieutenant General Ward? Where will he be based when he goes to the Middle East? Will he be actually based in Gaza or --

MR. ERELI: I'm really not in a position to give you a lot of details about how this is going to play out for a couple of reasons: one, I think most of the information is with the party; second of all, because we really are at a beginning stage of all this and a lot of the modalities are going to need to be worked out. I think what Secretary Rice did for us today was to lay out the intent and scope of General Ward's brief, but -- and she also pointed out that he will be going to the region to make an initial visit and meet with the parties and will come back and report to her.

So this is -- how this situation evolves, how it's administered, I think is going to be determined in consultation with the parties and in consultation among ourselves.

QUESTION: Well, on a practical level, I mean, is he in Europe at the moment or -- and is he --

MR. ERELI: I don't know his exact whereabouts today.

QUESTION: And what about interviews? Is he going to do any before he goes?

MR. ERELI: I think the first priority for the General is to begin his job, and then the second priority would be to -- or a later priority would be what to say about it.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any words about the supposed coup with the help of the assembly in Togo? And, apparently, they've installed the ex-president's son in renunciation of their constitution till 2008.

MR. ERELI: I'll begin first by extending the condolences of the United States Government to the people of Togo on the death February 5th of President Gnassingbe Eyadema. Secondly, with regard to the events following the president's death, we are watching the situation in Togo closely. We are currently in close consultation with the European Union, the African Union and the Economic Commission of West African states to consider our reaction to events in Togo over the weekend. Obviously, we are carefully considering what are the implications of the national assembly's amendment of the constitution to allow the speaker to serve the remainder of the deceased president's term and its election of -- for Gnassingbe as the speaker.

I would point out that the Economic Commission of West African States is convening a meeting in Niamey tomorrow to consider their position on the national assembly's actions over the weekend and that in the coming days we will be working with our partners in the EU and in the African Union and in ECOWAS to arrive at a, I think, a coordinated response to the events in Togo.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: I think we set a record.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

DPB#21


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