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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for March 18

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for March 18 -- Transcript

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 18, 2005

INDEX:

CHINA/HUMAN RIGHTS
Criticism of US for Not Introducing Human Rights Resolution on
China at UN Commission on Human Rights Meeting in Geneva

INDIA
Denial of Diplomatic Visa for Chief Minister Narendra Modi /
Revocation of US Tourist/Business Visa

UKRAINE
Ukraine Investigation into Reported Missile Exports to Iran and China

TURKEY
US Ambassador Edelman's Resignation / Retirement
US-Turkish Bilateral Relations

MOLDOVA
Reported Intention by Russia to Impose Sanctions on Moldova

SYRIA/LEBANON
Syrian Troop Pullout from Lebanon / US Calls for Full Compliance
with UN Resolution 1559

IRAN
US Support for EU-3 Regarding Iranian Nuclear Issue

MISCELLANEOUS
Death of George Kennan
Nowruz Celebration Message

ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Announcement of Ceasefire Pledge Among Palestinian Militants
General Ward's Meetings / Efforts

NEPAL
Situation in Nepal

COLOMBIA
US Ambassador's Statement Regarding US Commitment to Extradition Requirements

TRANSCRIPT:

12:55 p.m. EST

MR. ERELI: No announcements. Over to our wire services.

QUESTION: Just one on China. I want to give you an opportunity to speak about this on the record. A number of human rights groups, notably, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have said that, essentially, they said that you are being -- that the U.S. Government is being too soft on China for having not put forth a resolution at the UN Commission. How do you respond to that suggestion?

MR. ERELI: The issue is not putting forward a resolution or not putting forward a resolution. The issue is achieving progress on China's human rights record and China's human rights practices and putting forward a resolution as a tool and a means towards that end. If we can achieve that end without a resolution, so much the better. And I think the steps that I outlined yesterday that China took are an indication that we have accomplished that objective, and with the caveat that there's a lot more that needs to be done.

This is not final or comprehensive -- and that the matter of human rights performance and human rights standards will be an integral part of our bilateral dialogue in the coming year and that this will be a perennial issue that we have to address and that we want to see forward movement on.

But I would suggest to you that the measure of the matter is not whether we introduce a resolution -- whether we introduce a resolution or not, the measure of the matter is what concrete actions China takes to respond to the concerns of the United States and the international community and we've seen some and that should be noted and welcomed.

QUESTION: Just one follow up on this -- and I really want to give you a chance to answer it -- I mean so, one, you would reject then the argument that you are being soft on them on human rights, correct?

MR. ERELI: I would reject that categorically. We are being very determined and consistent in -- and seeking -- actively seeking improvement and change and positive movement. And the steps that China took yesterday are indications, I think, that our policy and our engagement is producing results.

Yes.

QUESTION: Adam, with respect to Mr. Modi, you've denied him a visa and you say that he's taken -- behind the riots in Gujarat back in 2002, why specifically have you denied a visa to the States and have you investigated fully?

MR. ERELI: Well, let me correct something that I think is inaccurate in your question when you said that we have determined that he was behind the riots in Gujarat in 2002. The fact of the matter is that it was the Indians who investigated the riots and it was the Indian Government who determined that state institutions failed to act in a way that would prevent violence and would prevent religious persecution.

So this isn't a matter of the United States saying something happened or something didn't happen. It's a matter of the United States responding to a finding by the Indian National Human Rights Commission pointing to comprehensive failure on the part of the state government of Gujarat to control persistent violations of rights.

On the basis of those facts, we determined a couple things. Number one, we determined that an application for a diplomatic visa to come to the United States that the terms for issuing that visa under U.S. law had not been met, and so we decided not to issue the visa, based on U.S. law and based on findings of fact by the Indian National Commission; that's number one.

And number two, we determined that an existing visa that Mr. Modi had -- an existing tourist business visa -- should be revoked under Section 212(a)(2)(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which says that any foreign government official who is responsible for or directly carried out at any time particularly severe violations of religious freedom should not be eligible for a visa. So that's the background to those decisions.

QUESTION: May I follow up?

MR. ERELI: Wait a minute.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: I have to check on that for you. Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. ERELI: When was the decision taken?

QUESTION: Follow up?

MR. ERELI: Hmm-mm.

QUESTION: Why would -- why did you give him a visa in the first place if you had --

MR. ERELI: The visa was given before the events of 2002 is my understanding.

QUESTION: Before the -- okay.

MR. ERELI: Yeah. Anything on this subject?

Sure, David.

QUESTION: Sure. New subject?

MR. ERELI: New subject?

QUESTION: New subject. There seems to be -- there is a report on the news of what would seem to be an extraordinary case of weapons proliferation and that is Ukraine selling cruise missiles to Iran and China. I was wondering if you are looking into that or what's your reaction to it?

MR. ERELI: Oh, yes. There are a couple of things that are going on. Number one, Ukraine has launched an internal investigation into the incident. That's certainly something that we welcome. Number two, U.S. and Ukrainian authorities have discussed this case, both here and in Ukraine, as part of our ongoing dialogue on non-proliferation issues. I think it's fair to say that both the United States Government and the Ukrainian Government share a common concern and a dedication to acting to prevent -- or to find out and prevent cases of proliferation. That's certainly true in this instance.

I don't have a lot of details for you about this specific case in terms of what technology was involved and where it went and how it can be used. I just don't have that available to me. But I can tell you that we've been cooperating -- we've been working with the Ukrainian Government to clamp down on proliferation, and the Ukrainian Government since these reports have come out has said it's launching an internal investigation.

So we certainly look forward to the results of that investigation and we'll work with them on steps and measures and joint actions we can take to prevent this kind of proliferation in the future.

QUESTION: You don't even have the level of detail to confirm that the -- that they went to China and Iran?

MR. ERELI: I don't, no.

QUESTION: Do you know when the Ukrainian Government -- was it the Kuchma Government -- I presume not -- that are just checking the -- you know, that launched the investigation or has that been --

MR. ERELI: I think the investigation has been launched. I don't know when the exact investigation was launched. This has been launched in the last couple of -- since the election of Yushchenko or before the election of Yuschenko. I do know that even under Kuchma there were joint U.S.-Ukrainian efforts to, I think, detect and move against proliferation.

QUESTION: But not this -- but you don't know whether --

MR. ERELI: I don't know if -- I don't know in this particular case.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. There is a report, a news report. I think it's one of the news reports, a statement here that the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Eric Edelman, has decided to leave his post.

MR. ERELI: There are press reports. I don't know if there's a statement out.

QUESTION: Yeah. And he's also planning to quit his job at the State Department. Do you have anything on that?

MR. ERELI: Yes. Our Ambassador in Turkey, Mr. -- Ambassador Edelman has submitted a letter of resignation. He'll be leaving Turkey -- or it's his intention to leave Turkey this summer to pursue personal interests. Our relations with Turkey are excellent. Ambassador Edelman's tour of duty as Ambassador to Turkey has been distinguished. He, I think, has, on behalf of the United States and on behalf of the Department of State, has shepherded our relations with Turkey in a great way. He will be leaving Turkey with, I think, fond memories and a firm conviction that what we've been able to accomplish together has served the interests of both the American and the Turkish people. This is a decision that he made for personal reasons.

QUESTION: Does it have anything to do with the -- with his statement regarding the (inaudible) Syria?

MR. ERELI: No, that's -- you know, that supposition is wrong on so many different levels. Number one, because he never made any comments suggesting that the President of Turkey should or shouldn't visit Syria. What we said at the time was that it's up to Turkey -- the Turkish President to decide where he goes and when he goes there. As far as the United States views concerning Syria are concerned, we would hope that whoever goes to Syria takes the message that the international community is united in their view that Syria should leave Lebanon.

So the supposition is wrong on that score. The supposition is also wrong on the score because, as I said before -- is wrong because, as I said before, Ambassador Edelman is leaving Turkey on positive, friendly, cooperative terms. The relationship between him and the Government of Turkey and between the United States and the Government of Turkey couldn't be better. And the third reason is because frankly this is -- this decision was under consideration, being thought about well before the erroneous reports came out about our discussions or our comments on the visit of the President of Turkey to Syria. So I just wanted to dispel, in as categorical a way possible, any suggestions that there is anything to this move other than a personal decision and that the relationship between the United States and Turkey are anything other than cordial and positive and cooperative.

QUESTION: Would you say whether he was leaving government work?

MR. ERELI: Yes, he is retiring.

QUESTION: He is retiring.

QUESTION: Just one more.

MR. ERELI: One more.

QUESTION: From the Foreign Service or from U.S. Government?

MR. ERELI: It's both.

QUESTION: There are some reports that he's moving to the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. ERELI: He has announced his intention to retire, to pursue other personal interests. If there are other appointments to be announced, it wouldn't be for me to announce them and I don't know if there is other stuff in the works.

QUESTION: Thanks, sir.

MR. ERELI: That's it?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MR. ERELI: Let's go to --

QUESTION: A quick one on Moldova. Russia is -- Russian Deputy Foreign Minister is quoted today as saying that the Russian Government is considering imposing economic sanctions against Moldova for what it calls Moldova's unfriendly actions. It's not entirely clear what those actions are, but some of it may have to do with the blockade of the Dniester region, if I'm pronouncing that correctly, and so it may be with suggestions that the Moldovan Government wants closer ties to the west. Do you have any comments on this?

MR. ERELI: I don't. It is not a subject I'm familiar with and I wouldn't feel comfortable commenting on Russian-Moldovan relations at this point.

QUESTION: Well, if you could look into it and see if you have something to say. I think it was -- I tried to draw it to people's attention.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: And I just wondered if you guys saw this as another example of Russia bullying of its neighbors.

MR. ERELI: I will look and see if we have any comment to make.

Yes.

QUESTION: Syria?

MR. ERELI: Syria.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the level of withdrawal of Syrian troops -- you know, they -- yesterday they tore down the intelligence headquarters at the (inaudible). Apparently, I'm told that intelligence officers are out. There seems to be a less than 9,000 now in the Bekaa Valley. So some have crossed into Syria. Could you give us an assessment on that? They said they will withdraw by May, so.

MR. ERELI: We'll be satisfied when the terms of Resolution 1559 are fulfilled.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. ERELI: That means when all of Syrian forces and intelligence operatives are out of Lebanon. That hasn't happened yet. And that's what, we the United States, we the Security Council, I think, we the international community, expect to see. That's what the Secretary General said he expects to see yesterday and we fully endorse those statements from yesterday. I will reiterate them today. Syria needs to get out of Lebanon, needs to get all of its forces out of Lebanon immediately, consistent to 1559. That hasn't happened yet. That needs to happen.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow up. So is this what we should expect in terms of statements and language that they should withdraw until it is complete and then perhaps you can issue whatever?

MR. ERELI: Well, let's -- first things first. Let's see Syria get out of Lebanon as called for in 1559, completely and immediately.

QUESTION: Just so we're clear, you're using the word "expect"?

MR. ERELI: I'm using the word "expect."

QUESTION: Or in the sense of this will really happen?

MR. ERELI: It needs to happen, it should happen, we expect it to happen.

QUESTION: You believe that it will happen?

MR. ERELI: It needs to happen. It needs to happen.

QUESTION: But wait. Could we -- I know we talked about this yesterday. But when you say that you expect something, are you demanding that it happens, meaning we expect them to do that or do --

MR. ERELI: Yes, yes, we're --

QUESTION: -- or do you have a relative confidence that this is going to happen?

MR. ERELI: This is an exegesis that we I really -- (laughter) -- feel ill-equipped to do, but I don't know how to -- how I can make it any clearer.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

(Laughter.)

MR. ERELI: I don't know --

QUESTION: It is expected to happen. It is to happen.

MR. ERELI: Syria needs to withdraw. They need to withdraw now. Are they going to withdraw? I can't tell you whether Syria is going to withdraw or not.

QUESTION: But what's expected to withdraw?

MR. ERELI: It is the --

QUESTION: You want them to withdraw.

MR. ERELI: Well -- the -- (laughter) -- Syria should withdraw. They haven't withdrawn. We expect them to withdraw.

QUESTION: Good.

(Laughter.)

MR. ERELI: What is not clear? You're asking me are they going to withdraw? I don't know.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that --

MR. ERELI: They should withdraw.

QUESTION: -- that they're going to? That's what -- you say you expect something, it means that you have an understanding that this is to happen.

MR. ERELI: There are two definitions of expect. It means you --

QUESTION: Exactly. So which one are you using?

MR. ERELI: -- you want them to do it, and you think they're going to do it.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: We're using the former?

MR. ERELI: I can't tell you -- (laughter) -- I'm using the former.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: We want them to do it.

QUESTION: Okay, okay, great.

MR. ERELI: We call on them to do it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: We believe they must do it to be consistent with international Security Council -- or with the UN Security Council resolutions. We have made it clear that there cannot be elections in May that are free of foreign intimidation if their troops are there.

What's going to happen in the next weeks or so? I can't tell you. I can tell you that we and our partners in the international community will not relent until Syria is out of Lebanon.

QUESTION: Let me try this a different way, Adam. Have you determined whether they have already withdrawn 6 or 5,000 across to the Syrian --

MR. ERELI: That's really -- that's not the issue.

QUESTION: I know.

MR. ERELI: The issue is -- are the terms of 1559 fulfilled? The answer is, no, they need to be.

QUESTION: I perfectly understand that. But your information, sir, do you have intelligence on the withdrawal of Syrians actually?

MR. ERELI: I'm not here to give you a progress report on where all of the 15,000 troops that are with Syria and several thousand more intelligence operatives that Syria has in Lebanon are. There are lots of reports and lots of bulletins. I can tell you where they are not, and they are not all in Syria. And that's where they need to be.

QUESTION: Adam.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday, a large conference with Lebanese took place at the National Press Club, talking about human rights violations, speared on by the Syrians over the last decade. U.S. Congress people were there, Amnesty International, (inaudible), Jubilee. Are they coming here today to talk to anyone in the State Department with their concerns?

MR. ERELI: I will have to check. Obviously, we have an ongoing dialogue with NGOs and other groups in the region about human rights issues. I don't know if they're coming here today, but I can tell you that it is a subject with which we engage our citizen's groups and others regularly.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes. Iranians say that they have prepared some attractive proposal to be submitted to EU-3 on Wednesday in Paris. They are hoping that these proposals will satisfy the European concerns and also will secure their rights. How hopeful is the U.S. that the matter will be resolved next Wednesday in Paris?

MR. ERELI: I wouldn't characterize it as hopeful or not hopeful. The United States believes -- well, the United States supports what the EU-3 is doing. We, in the past weeks, have taken some concrete steps to help them in their diplomacy and these steps are designed to achieve a common objective, which is the cessation of Iran's enrichment program. That's what, together, we all want to see and we will continue to work together with our European partners to achieve that objective.

QUESTION: But they are saying that they want to keep this enrichment program, no matter what, they want to use the peaceful -- for peaceful purposes.

MR. ERELI: We are not of the view that this program serves peaceful -- is being used for peaceful purposes.

QUESTION: But there is a -- let's pursue that. But you acknowledge there's a way of enriching uranium that is not for weapons, that is for peaceful purposes?

MR. ERELI: I guess this not a theoretical discussion. This is a discussion about the Iranian program and everything that we've seen about the Iranian program leads us to the conclusion that it is a cover for a nuclear weapons program, number one.

Number two, there's a consensus in the international community that Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon is not a good idea.

Number three, it is the goal of this process and the goal of our diplomacy with the Europeans to achieve a cessation of the enrichment program. Because of the two earlier points I made, their intention -- or attempts to acquire nuclear weapons and their past failure to meet the concerns and answer the questions of the international community.

QUESTION: They say they will not drop the uranium enrichment program. What is the U.S. reaction to that? Must they drop it, or must they drop the program so far as it is related to nuclear weapons production?

MR. ERELI: I'll put it this way. They have to answer the concerns of the international community and to date they have not done that.

QUESTION: Well, that doesn't sound like a flat rejection of their proposition.

MR. ERELI: That's what I have to say on the subject.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Adam, do you have anything to say on the death of George Kennan?

MR. ERELI: Mr. Kennan. I expect we'll be putting out a statement later today from the Secretary's party. Because of time delays, it probably come out later this afternoon our time. The Secretary -- Secretary Rice knew George Kennan. She worked with him and like all of us at the State Department admired his singular contribution to the success of freedom in our era. We'll be saying more on his passing later today, I expect.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what she worked with him? He was over 100 years old and he's basically in a retirement mode except he was, you know, happy to give his advice for probably her entire mature years. So when did he -- she sit at his knee and work with him?

MR. ERELI: Mr. Kennan has been a colleague and a mentor to many of us in international affairs and the Foreign Service and Soviet studies.

QUESTION: Sure.

MR. ERELI: For much of -- for almost all his life. Secretary Rice has been involved in those fields for many decades. And I'm sure it's -- I don't know exactly at which point, but at several points during that period, she has had the opportunity to benefit from his advice, from his wisdom and from his contributions.

QUESTION: Did she read about him or did she actually ever talk to him and meet with him?

MR. ERELI: It was personal.

QUESTION: Do you know if he wrote to her as he wrote to Secretary -- former Secretary Powell when he took office as U.S. Secretary of State?

MR. ERELI: I don't know. I don't know.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MR. ERELI: Oh, sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: Could you tell us your reaction to the -- and conclusion of the truce -- and probably today, a group calling themselves the Popular Committees, they are remnants who are composed of all the different Palestinian factions -- I mean, it leaves me confused. But they're saying we (inaudible) that it's over tomorrow, the ceasefire will be over tomorrow because Abbas did not consult with us. Are you asking for a clarification, or do you have a statement on that?

MR. ERELI: I don't really have a statement on it other than to -- other than to say that -- as I said yesterday, what we're looking for and what is needed is an end to violence and that's the goal we should be striving for. Ceasefires are not -- or pauses or whatever you want to call them -- are not ends in themselves and we should not I think, be unduly comforted by them because they can be broken, because there are capabilities and intentions that remain and that represent a danger to the peace process.

And that's why the focus has to be on moving to achieve a renunciation of the use of terror and violence as a means of resolving this long-running dispute and to empower the Palestinian Authority to take action against those who, frankly, act against the interests of the Palestinian people, act against the interests of peace, act against the interest of dialogue and engagement.

And that's why our security cooperation continues full-bore, why General Ward continues to work and is there working with the Palestinian Authority and why we're engaged with the Palestinians, the Israelis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians to take advantage of the opportunity represented by the Gaza withdrawal to help the Palestinian people get territory and administer territory effectively.

QUESTION: Do the terror groups have to be dismantled?

QUESTION: Arafat denounced terrorism, too, with persistent coaching of the Reagan Administration and you know where that all wound up. I didn't hear you talking --

MR. ERELI: That's why --

QUESTION: -- I don't hear you lately talking -- I don't hear the Administration officials lately talking about uprooting and dismantling terror groups. Is that still part of your demands?

MR. ERELI: There has been no change in that terrorist groups need to be dismantled. Terrorist infrastructure needs to be dismantled. It is a threat to the peace process and it's unacceptable to those who believe in peace.

QUESTION: Would you clarify when you say terror infrastructure, I mean, Hamas is labeled as a terrorist organization but it has also a social infrastructure. Are you also suggesting that the clinics and the schools and the, you know, daycare centers and so on be part of the dismantlement?

MR. ERELI: I'm saying that the capacity, the capability, the resources that are used to commit acts of violence against innocence need to be removed, eliminated, taken care of, not made part of the scene. I don't know how much -- again, how clear I can be.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you be any more specific about General Ward's activities? Can you bring us an update on who he has met with and whether or not he's getting ready and on the general situation?

MR. ERELI: He's in the region. He's meeting with Palestinian security officials. He's met with Israeli security officials. He's focusing on developing a work plan and an agenda and a program, frankly, for helping the Palestinians security forces develop the kind of capabilities, procedures, structures, organizational reforms that will enable them to effectively carry out their responsibilities in an environment where Israel has withdrawn from Gaza, withdrawn from certain settlements in the West Bank and where the Palestinian Authority is responsible for preventing attacks against Israel.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Sunday is the beginning of the Iranian New Year; of course, Afghans also celebrate it. Does the Department of State have any message for the Iranians, Afghans and people who celebrate the New Year?

MR. ERELI: Our message is one of hope for peace, prosperity and the realization of hopes and aspirations for freedom.

Yes.

QUESTION: Adam, do you have any comments with King of -- or for the King of Nepal? Some have said that it's now gone to full repression, and of course, they've been fighting malice for better than a decade.

MR. ERELI: Our message to the government and leadership of Nepal is the same today as it was yesterday and in previous weeks when our Ambassador met with the King, which is that civil liberties need to be restored, people in prison unjustly need to be set free and the only way to deal with unrest and insurgency is through political dialogue and respecting the rights of citizens.

Yes.

QUESTION: I think last night the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia had to issue a statement. Can you provide some guidance on that, and the reasons behind what he had to?

MR. ERELI: Well, our Ambassador to Colombia, William Wood, spoke to the press there, in which he told them that the United States -- in which he said, and I think pointed out in unequivocal terms, that the United States would fulfill its commitments to the Colombian Government regarding extradition.

There was a need to do that because there were some comments made by other officials that caused some to question whether we were revisiting previous commitments on extradition and what our Ambassador did was simply reiterate that frankly there was no change in U.S. policy, there is no change in U.S. view of this issue, that we have existing extradition agreements with Colombia and the terms of those extradition agreements will be respected and we will not seek -- we are not seeking to change them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:30 p.m.)

DPB # 45

Released on March 18, 2005


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