State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for March 22
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for March 22 -- Transcript
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
March 22, 2005
Shooting of USAID Officer in Darfur / Security Situation
Investigation and Responsibility for Attack
U.S. and Sudan Coordination on Humanitarian Officials' Travel in Country
Status of Disaster Assistance Response Teams
Status of Wounded Official and Her Family /State Contact with Family
U.S. Position on Conflict / Involvement in Ending Conflict
Secretary Rice's Meeting with King Abdallah II /
U.S. Position on Israeli Engagement and Relations with Other Countries
U.S. Reaction to Israeli Settlement Activities / U.S. Officials'
Travel to Israel
U.S. Hopes for Arab Summit
European Union's Possible Action on Arms Embargo to China / U.S.
View/Communication with European Union
Chinese and Regional Response to Secretary Rice's Request for
Cooperation in Resuming Six-Party Talks
U.S. Position on Resuming Six-Party Talks
Official Charges Against Ayman Nour for Forgery and Knowingly
Using Forged Documents / U.S. Contact with Egyptians
U.S. Assessment of Parliamentary Election Results & Reaction to Violence
Query on Kosovo Liberation Army Members' Purchase and Sale of U.S.
weapons during 1989 Rebellion
Government's Decision to Grant Bobby Fischer Icelandic Citizenship
Secretary General Annan's Report on UN Reform
1:15 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Good morning, everybody.
QUESTION: Good morning.
MR. ERELI: If I may, I'd like to begin with a statement in the name of Secretary of State Rice. And this is on the shooting of a USAID officer in Darfur today.
Secretary Rice was deeply saddened today to learn that a member of the United States Agency for International Development's Disaster Assistance Response Team was shot and wounded early this morning in Darfur. The thoughts and prayers of all of us at the Department of State and USAID are with her and her family at this time.
This is the first time in the history of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Program that one of our officials has been shot. The injured official was traveling in a clearly marked humanitarian vehicle between Nyala and Kass in west Darfur, when she was shot in an apparent ambush by unknown persons. The convoy was traveling on a road that was considered open by the Office of the UN Security Coordinator. The wounded official is receiving medical treatment in Sudan and our mission in Khartoum is coordinating with the African Union and others to arrange medical evacuation as soon as possible.
We have been in touch with the Government of Sudan and the African Union and asked that an investigation, immediate investigation, be launched into this very serious incident. That investigation is underway. We condemn violence on all sides and we'll continue working with our partners in African Union and the international community to bring this terrible conflict to an end.
QUESTION: Do you know enough about the incident to know whether the fact that this person was a U.S. employee made her a target?
MR. ERELI: That is certainly one of the issues we will be looking at and we will be encouraging the investigation to focus on. At this point, I think it's too early to say whether the person was targeted because she was a U.S. official. But, obviously, that possibility is on our minds and we are, I think, looking to the investigation to examine that possibility and to find out whether that was the case.
QUESTION: Was there any warning, specific or general, in the recent past to American officials in that area?
MR. ERELI: No, look, Darfur is a dangerous place, obviously, but as I said, this road, this specific road that they were traveling on, had been reconnoitered and considered open by the Office of the UN Security Coordinator, so we thought we were on safe ground.
QUESTION: A couple of questions. First of all, when you say that you don't know if she was a target because she was an official, is this -- are you saying that this convoy was deliberately shot at, or you don't know, it's possible that it was stray bullets, you're just not sure?
MR. ERELI: This was a four-vehicle convoy. The vehicle that the official was traveling in was a clearly marked humanitarian vehicle on a road that had been previously declared by the UN Security Office to be safe at the time. So every, I think, reasonable precaution and safety measure had been taken; therefore, it is disturbing that anybody was shot, but particularly that a U.S. official was shot in these circumstances.
And that is why, I think, we'll be paying very close attention to the investigation so that it answers these obvious questions of why someone on a previously cleared road, in a clearly marked vehicle, carrying out a humanitarian mission would be the object of a -- who would be the target of gunfire. It just doesn't make sense.
QUESTION: I have one more. When these convoys are traveling on these roads or any previously cleared roads, do you let the Sudanese Government know that you're traveling? Is there some kind of coordination to let people know that this convoy will be traveling such as in other areas?
MR. ERELI: Our movements are coordinated with local officials.
QUESTION: When you say "marked," I mean, is there a particular insignia or --
MR. ERELI: I don't know what the specific markings were. My information is that it was clear to anybody looking at the vehicle that it was humanitarian.
QUESTION: Was this rebel-held or militia-held territory, do you know?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't know.
QUESTION: Were there other American officials in the convoy?
MR. ERELI: I'll have to check.
QUESTION: And was only this individual's car hit?
MR. ERELI: I believe so, but I'll have to check on that as well.
QUESTION: Do you have any other monitoring team on the ground in Darfur or have you suspended all activities because of the incident?
MR. ERELI: Well, we have twenty Disaster Assistance Response Team specialists in Sudan; we have six in Darfur and they are still in Darfur and they will remain in Darfur to continue their work. Obviously, this attack raises concerns to us and to everybody, really, about the safety with which we can operate and with which we can carry out our humanitarian mission in Darfur.
And that's why it's important that this investigation be carried out quickly and thoroughly and we find out what the circumstances were for this attack so that we can make considered judgments on next steps, but right now, our officials are still in Darfur, are still committed to doing the work. Obviously, they are taking precautions in light of this latest incident, but we are committed to fulfilling our humanitarian mission there.
QUESTION: You began by saying this was being issued in the Secretary's name?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Has anyone in the building tried to get in touch with the injured person or her family to convey concern, et cetera, comfort?
MR. ERELI: I believe that the senior officials at USAID have been in contact with the individual, with the family. I know the Secretary was looking to communicate, but I don't know what's been done as we speak.
QUESTION: Can you characterize her condition beyond wounded and being treated? Is it serious, critical?
MR. ERELI: I believe she was shot in the face. She's not -- the injuries are not life-threatening and we are hoping for a full recovery but I don't have forensic details. As I said, we'll be looking to evacuate her to facilities outside of Sudan soon.
QUESTION: You said that movements are coordinated with local officials. Are you saying that local officials knew that this specific convoy was going to pass through this road at this -- at a specific time?
MR. ERELI: I don't know that for a fact. As a general matter, our movements are coordinated with local officials.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
QUESTION: Was there anyone else in the vehicle that was injured or just her?
MR. ERELI: I was asked that question. I'll look and see what I can find out for you.
QUESTION: And is there any reason you can't identify her?
MR. ERELI: At this moment, as her, I think, family is dealing with the incident and as they just work through the immediate fallout of it, we'd like to give them some privacy so we're just not ready to put out the name right now.
QUESTION: Adam, can I ask a Darfur-related question?
MR. ERELI: Are we done with this specific incident?
On to Darfur, yes.
QUESTION: Vice President Taha has a published interview this morning in one of the major papers and he makes a number of statements: one, that the Sudan Government is being -- is bearing an unshared -- unfair share of the blame for the war, that the rebels started the war and also that, for instance, that the casualties in Darfur have nothing to do with ethnic cleansing or genocide. I wondered if you had any response to some of those comments.
MR. ERELI: Let me say this. Our views on these subjects, I think, are a matter of record. We've been over it many times in many different ways. To put it simply, the conflict in Darfur is horrific. The atrocities are outrageous. The time has long passed when this conflict should have been resolved. The Government of Sudan bears a large share of the responsibility for this conflict. We have done our own investigation of the atrocities there and determined that they do constitute genocide. I think we've made our reasons for that clear.
The rebels, too, bear a share of the responsibility. We have also been very clear that the only long-term solution to this conflict is political dialogue and a political settlement and that is where our diplomacy has focused. At the same time, in recognition of the dire humanitarian crisis, the United States, I think, has been at the forefront of mobilizing an international response and contributing in a real, material way to help alleviate the suffering. In the last two years we've contributed more than $590 million and this year alone we've contributed over $300 million.
But let's be clear. It is incumbent on the Government of Sudan and the rebels to take action to stop the violence. Neither one has done nearly enough. And for that reason, the international community is engaged in Darfur, is engaged in trying to create the conditions so that the abused people of Darfur can return to their homes and leave camps and be free from fear of the depredations of Jingaweit militia.
We have mobilized -- the international community has mobilized an African Union force of over 2300 troops that are now in Darfur to monitor the ceasefire, to ensure that new atrocities don't take place. We're looking to beef up that force. There are, I think, important discussions going on at the Security Council on next steps in Darfur. It is critically important and urgently important that we move forward on a peacekeeping force to implement the North-South Agreement, which will have a salutary -- we believe will have a salutary effect on the conflict in Darfur.
It's important that we move forward on sanctions to keep the pressure on both sides. And I think we all agree that accountability for crimes committed is a must and we want to see that accountability provided for. So these are all areas that we're looking to address, that we're moving forward in discussions, both in New York and in capitals and that, I think, we'll form the substance of much of our diplomacy in the days and weeks to come.
QUESTION: Can we go to a new subject?
MR. ERELI: Another subject.
QUESTION: King of Jordan was here, was just here just a few days ago. Early spring in Washington, it's a nice time of year. Is there anything of substance that brought him back to see Secretary Rice, and if there was could you give us some idea what their 30-minute meeting covered?
MR. ERELI: Secretary Rice and King Abdullah had a good meeting. They were -- they talked about a number of issues: Israel-Palestinian peace process; support for Iraq; future of Lebanon; and they spent a good deal of time talking about bilateral relations, including the reform process underway in Jordan and some of the very farsighted measures that Jordan is taking in the area of reform and in support of change both within Jordan and in the region as a whole.
QUESTION: As we all know, the King had a proposal for negotiations between --
MR. ERELI: Who?
QUESTION: The King had a proposal that the Arab League evidently shot down for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. I don't know if it's a dead letter -- did they talk about. It coincides with the President's remarks last year that there were facts on the ground since 1967 and maybe Israel isn't obliged to abandon what are really cities now alongside the border of Jerusalem. Is that -- did they talk about that proposal and is there some U.S. support for what Jordan tried to do?
MR. ERELI: I don't think that subject came up. Obviously, the United States, as a matter of policy, supports recognition and engagement with Israel as a means of creating a safer, more stable, more peaceful region.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: The Arab states are basically saying that they reinitiate the proposal that was done a few years back, which is the Arab peace initiative, which calls for normalization with Israel and, in return, Israel withdraw to '67 border. Do you -- I mean, first of all, what's your reaction to that, does U.S. endorse this, and whether it was raised with the King again specifically?
MR. ERELI: Like I said, this subject did not come up in the meeting. And without speaking to various proposals and discussions of where were on proposals, since it's not our proposal, I would say that the position of the United States Government is to support and encourage engagement, recognition, interaction with Israel, as broadly as possible.
QUESTION: Well, but Israeli Government described it as a nonstarter. How do you describe it?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any comment beyond what I've already given you.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, Secretary Powell and numerous officials since the Saudis initially proposed that Arab initiative and then it became part an Arab League initiative, you've spoke very supportive about it in the past and you've called it a very --
MR. ERELI: I'm not speaking non-supportively of it. I'm just saying that this is -- I'm not aware that this proposal right now is going anywhere and as a matter of policy we would like to see -- we would like to see as broad a recognition of Israel as possible, but I'm not going to engage in with you a debate about the tit-for-tat or the specific merits or demerits of one idea or another. It's just not what I'm here to do.
QUESTION: Well, but let's pick up on the recognition issue, okay? Does it, in the U.S. view, have to be part of a tradeoff? I mean, Israel apparently is shopping for recognition or relations with Morocco, some other Arab countries. Does the U.S. believe that's a good idea irrespective of how -- you know, the roadmap, negotiations, et cetera, proceed? Should simply other countries in the region have relations with a country that apparently is there to stay?
MR. ERELI: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: If it can help it?
MR. ERELI: Again, I think our policy on this issue is very clear. We support engagement. We support dialogue. We support outreach and peaceful, normal relations between Israel and all of its Arab neighbors. And I just can't be any more explicit or specific than that.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
QUESTION: No, we'll stay on this subject, please?
MR. ERELI: Please.
QUESTION: I'm just going to follow again on the Israeli-Palestinian thing since you said they raised it in the meeting.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did they talk about the settlement activities? Yesterday you were asked about the same question and you said you didn't have information. Today the source is the Israeli Prime Minister office, saying they have approved 3,500 new homes for Israeli settlers in the largest Jewish settlement, which is Maale Adumim. Isn't that a clear violation of the roadmap and the President vision for the future peace process?
MR. ERELI: We are seeking clarifications from the Israeli Government on what its intentions are, what its plans are. We have seen the statements from the different offices of the Israeli Government and we want to know what, factually speaking, is going on. Ambassador Kurtzer has met with -- met yesterday with Government of Israel officials. There are two other officials going to Israel on a previously scheduled trip. I think they'll be there today. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch and Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams will be there today and through Thursday.
As I said, they are there on previously scheduled travel but they will certainly have the opportunity or certainly use the opportunity to raise this issue with the Israeli Government to seek clarifications and to, I think, make the point that U.S. policy on this issue is very clear: There needs to be an end to settlement activity. This is a vital, essential component of the roadmap, along with commitments on the Palestinian side. We are committed to making progress toward that goal. We are opposed to unilateral acts by either side that create facts on the ground and that have the result of prejudging issues that are to be settled through negotiations between the parties.
So those points will be made and I think that's how we are -- that is our response to these latest reports.
QUESTION: But if the Prime Minister office is saying clearly they are building 3,500 new homes, what exactly do you want them to clarify about that?
MR. ERELI: What exactly that means.
QUESTION: It means they are building --
MR. ERELI: You're telling me what it means. I want -- we want to hear it from the Israeli Government what it means, where these -- what this decision represents, where it comes from, what are its implications, all the facts.
Let me put it this way. There are -- there is information, there are facts, there are confirmations, there are affirmations that we need to hear directly from the Israeli Government. Not through press reports, not through what other people say, but through what they tell us directly and within the context of a discussion of what our -- and when I say our I mean the parties in the region -- overall interests and objectives are. And this is an important discussion that we need to have with the Israelis before I offer more broad-ranging reaction.
QUESTION: But if it happened to be true, are you willing to take any actions against Israel?
MR. ERELI: I think that we will make our policy priorities clear.
QUESTION: But you had no advance word from the Israeli Government?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, you would be aware of that.
QUESTION: Because, I mean, the Defense Ministry said that the Defense Minister approved these plans two months ago.
MR. ERELI: As I said, there are lots of statements out there. This goes to the point of why we need to have this -- why we need to hear it, not filtered through press reports, not filtered through journalists, not in public discussion why we need to have a discussion directly between our officials and Israeli officials to determine what are the facts, what is going on, how does it relate to previous commitments made, what -- and what it means in terms of the overall process that we have committed ourselves to.
QUESTION: What do you expect from the Arab summit, or do you expect anything from the Arab leaders in the summit?
MR. ERELI: I think we would certainly encourage Arab leaders to reaffirm support for greater democratization in the region, support for pursuit of Middle East peace and the new Iraqi Government, and we would look to leaders of the Arab League to join with the international community in supporting U.S. Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for all foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon.
I would note that numerous members of the Arab League have publicly endorsed 1559 in that call, including Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: Different subject. It looks like the Europeans may be delaying, at least, the arms -- lifting the arms embargo on China. And I wondered whether you would -- you've been told this directly by the Europeans and how you read that whole (inaudible).
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of any confirmation from the Europeans directly about these reports. Certainly, if they were true, that would be good, that would be welcome, but I would leave it to the Europeans to confirm for you what their intentions are. Our policy is clear. The Secretary -- Secretary Rice has made it -- I think, made it unequivocal that we do not think it's -- that the time is right for lifting the arms embargo on China. It would not send the right signal. It is not justified in view of present circumstances and this is an issue that we will continue to be engaged with the Europeans on, discussing with them our assessment of what circumstances are and why there remains the need for maintaining the embargo.
QUESTION: Do you have any details yet from the Europeans on when you're going to be starting this strategic dialogue on the Far East?
MR. ERELI: It's something we look forward to starting. I think it's -- as a result of the recent discussions, it's something we both agree would serve -- would be in our interests. I don't have a timetable for you on when these discussions will begin, but in due course, I would expect.
QUESTION: Can I clarify what it is -- maybe -- I think your answer would cover all variations of the question. I just wanted to be sure. The U.S. has not been informed by the Europeans, you're saying, that they're reconsidering, that they're delaying, that they're taking a fresh look at, let alone that they're throwing overboard the lifting of the Tiananmen Square embargo. You haven't been informed of anything along those lines?
MR. ERELI: Not officially on behalf of the European Union, no, that I'm aware of. But we've seen individual statements, but --
QUESTION: Well, individual -- yeah, but I meant government to government.
MR. ERELI: -- but no sort of --
QUESTION: I don't mean (inaudible) with the press, I mean --
MR. ERELI: -- no sort of government to government confirmation of changes or decisions that have been made.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but, no, I mean -- you know, I mean --
MR. ERELI: I mean, let me put it this way.
QUESTION: I know you're not being evasive but I still want to get a complete picture of this. The two leaders of this are the French and the Germans. They have a lot of guns to sell.
MR. ERELI: I don't know if I would agree with that assessment.
QUESTION: Have any individual countries advised the United States that you got a point we're going to take another look at this, we're not going to rush into this, or we're going to reconsider it, we're going to delay it, we're going to reverse it, anything like that?
MR. ERELI: Nothing that I can share with you right now, no.
QUESTION: Can we switch to Egypt?
MR. ERELI: We're done with this? Okay. Do you have this -- is this --
QUESTION: I'm trying to relate it.
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Wait, wait. Is this on this subject?
QUESTION: On China and the arms embargo.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. The New York Times reported that the U.S. had put pressure on the Europeans. What kind of pressure are we talking about?
MR. ERELI: Hmm. Pressure -- the pressure we put was saying you should not do this, it's not the right time. The reasons for the -- that led to the embargo haven't changed and it would have security implications that we're concerned about and it would send the wrong signal. That's been our message, publicly and privately.
And I don't think it's a question of -- I wouldn't use the word "pressure" because we're dealing with -- we're dealing with partners and allies. It's a question of presenting our assessment, presenting our views, laying out the case as best we can and, I think, making the point that this is all -- this is something we all stand to lose by if it goes forward.
QUESTION: Well, in your discussions with the Europeans since China passed the law --
MR. ERELI: Anti-secession law?
QUESTION: Yeah, anti-secession law. Have they expressed a new alarm or a new caution about moving forward with the arms embargo?
MR. ERELI: I don't want to speak for the Europeans. I think this is an issue that we feel is important for a whole variety of reasons but I can't speak to European considerations or calculations.
QUESTION: Now, this is related, sort of related. The Secretary asked the Chinese to weigh-in, to use pressure, to get North Korea -- try to get North Korea back to the table. That's a fact. What isn't clear is China's response. According to some accounts -- all those journalistic phrases that you never hear real people use -- they've been balking at the idea that they're, you know, refusing to cooperate. What is China's answer to that appeal?
MR. ERELI: The Secretary went to -- went on a trip to Asia -- well, among the important reasons and key objectives for the Secretary going to Asia was to consult with our allies and partners about getting North Korea back to the six-party talks and ways we could all work together to accomplish that objective. She had very, I would say, serious and good discussions with all of her interlocutors on this subject. Everybody was in full agreement on the need for a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula. Everybody was in agreement that possession of nuclear weapons by the North is destabilizing and needs to be addressed.
And very importantly, each party that we met with agreed to do all that they could to bring about a resumption of the six-party talks. So suggestions that some were more on board with others, I think, are misleading. Everybody agreed on the danger posed by the weapons, everybody agreed on the objectives of the six-party talks and everybody agreed that they would each do everything they could to bring about a resumption of those talks.
QUESTION: And that includes China?
MR. ERELI: Including China.
QUESTION: So then it's wrong -- then the accounts, you would say, are wrong?
MR. ERELI: I would ask you to read whatever reports of the trip are bearing in mind what I just said.
QUESTION: Adam, the list that you just gave of what everybody agrees on sounds a lot like the list that we gave before the Iraq war. Everybody agrees there shouldn't be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Everybody agrees that, you know, diplomacy is a good idea, on and on and on. But as you know, there were significant disagreements about how to go about those objectives and I think that's what we're trying to get to here a little bit.
Did the Secretary leave her discussions with Chinese officials feeling like she had a clear view of what they intended to do and what they would do to support our goals?
MR. ERELI: I didn't mean to exclude areas of agreement by not mentioning them, but since you bring it up I will mention, I will say that there is also agreement by all parties concerned that this is an issue that should be resolved diplomatically through the multilateral process that is the six-party talks. That remains our preferred outcome, our preferred means of achieving this outcome.
No one, I think, has either lost faith or diminished their support for the six-party process; to the contrary, the focus of all the discussions was on how to move forward in that process and how to resume what we, I think, very successfully began and that has been put on hold by the refusal of one party to come back. So there is not a movement away from the six-party process; rather, the focus was on making that process work.
QUESTION: But did she leave her discussions with the Chinese with a clear idea of what they would do?
MR. ERELI: I don't know how far out in the future or how specific the discussions got. I wasn't there so I really couldn't say. What she did leave her discussion -- what she did leave with was a satisfaction that the Chinese are committed to doing everything they can to bring North Korea back to the six-party talks and that China and Japan and South Korea have a common appreciation for the process and for the goals that the process is trying to achieve.
QUESTION: Thank you. North Korean high-level official visiting China expressed that North Korea has not given up on the six-party talks and he even said North Korea hopes to participate the talks in the days coming if conditions were right. I wonder if you have any reaction and if there is any communication between China and the U.S. on this topic.
MR. ERELI: We believe that North Korea should come back to the talks immediately, that conditions are ideal, that there is no reason to stay away from the talks. And we, as I said before, all of us in this process, I think, are working toward getting North Korea back to the talks. We've made it clear that this is something we want to see, that there are advantages to North Korea to coming back to the talks and that not coming back to the talks only furthers its international isolation.
QUESTION: Is there any contact with -- from China after Secretary Rice came back from her Asia trip?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to charges that today were brought against Ayman Nour for forging signatures?
MR. ERELI: Yes, we understand that the Government of Egypt has formally charged Ghad Party leader Ayman Nour with forgery and knowingly using forged documents. We will be following up through our Embassy in Egypt with the Government of Egypt on these developments.
President Mubarak recently announced electoral reforms that we spoke of at the time as a positive step. I think we all have an interest in the advancement of transparency, political pluralism and the rule of law in Egypt and throughout the region, and including as it applies to the Ayman Nour case. So, obviously, bearing that in mind, we will be monitoring developments in this case in that context.
QUESTION: Can you say that the U.S. is concerned that these charges may be politically motivated?
MR. ERELI: I would say that the United States believes that the rule of law should be respected; that political pluralism, freedom of speech, transparency, are goals that we all share; and that we would hope that actions aren't taken that are either arbitrary or that, I think, send the wrong message about our commitment to those principles.
QUESTION: Oh, and can I follow up on --
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: When she specifically canceled her visit to Egypt, it was interpreted as a protest against the detention of Ayman Nour. Would -- has she been in contact with Egyptian officials this morning to find out what happened?
MR. ERELI: No, no, uh-uh.
QUESTION: There was no official contact?
MR. ERELI: I didn't say -- you asked if the Secretary was in contact. As I said, as far as I'm aware, this is an issue that our Embassy will be following up on. I don't know if there are officials here in Washington that have taken action. I'm not sure.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, you had a question? Same subject?
QUESTION: No, different subject.
MR. ERELI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: What is the United States reaction to the protest in Kyrgyzstan charging fraud in the recent parliamentary elections?
MR. ERELI: Our reaction to the recent demonstrations in Kyrgyzstan is, first and foremost, to call on all parties to refrain from violence and to engage in dialogue to resolve their differences. That was the substance of a statement that the State Department released on Sunday. It is a message that we have been delivering clearly and consistently to both the government and the opposition in Kyrgyzstan. It is a message that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has been delivering as well.
We unequivocally condemn the violence. I think our Ambassador and senior officials in Washington are pressing the Kyrgyz Government and opposition leaders to meet as soon as possible to resolve their differences concerning the parliamentary election and the development of democracy and resolve those differences in the framework of the Kyrgyz constitution.
We believe that it is critical that the government address election irregularities in ways that are transparent and legal and we have called upon and reiterated our call upon the government to take steps to remedy these shortcomings. I would note that President Akayev directed the central election commission and supreme court to investigate contested election results.
This is an important step and we look forward to them acting to the institutions of Kyrgyzstan to acting on this -- on these instructions. And meanwhile it's very important that both sides, government and opposition, refrain from further violence and find ways to engage in peaceful dialogue and compromise.
QUESTION: What about the people of Kyrgyzstan's right to express their freedoms and calls for democracy, just like you've talked about the people in Lebanon and --
MR. ERELI: Nothing that I said should be read as a -- should be read as reservations on people's right to express their opinion and assemble and demonstrate. The point here is that that's not a license to take over government buildings and destroy government buildings and engage in violent clashes. You can make your point of view known without resorting to violence and that's what needs to happen in Kyrgyzstan.
QUESTION: You said the other day that the elections were, I don't know, they had -- there were serious shortcomings or words to that effect --
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: -- to the elections, is that right?
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: You thought holding new elections was a great idea for Ukraine, wouldn't that be one way out of this dilemma?
MR. ERELI: I think before offering that kind of assessment, it's important to know the scope of the irregularities, to have an investigation, to work together with both the Kyrgyz authorities and the OSCE to determine, you know, what's the -- again, what's the scope of the irregularities, how serious this is, and what are the standards and international measures that are called for. Meanwhile, you've got to do that in an environment that is not tainted by pressure, coercion, violence, which is why as a first step and a critical first step, it's important that everybody refrain from the kind of clashes and the kind of violence that we've been seeing.
QUESTION: Change of subject. The Yemeni appeals court upheld the one-year jail term against the journalist Abdelkarim al-Khaiwani convicted of supporting Al-Hothi, as a rebel cleric, who was killed last year and of slandering Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salih. You have any comments on that?
MR. ERELI: This is a Yemeni court decision?
MR. ERELI: No. No comment.
QUESTION: Yemeni appeals court.
MR. ERELI: No comment.
QUESTION: On the Balkans. Do you have anything on the upcoming meeting, this coming Friday between Secretary Condoleezza Rice and the Bulgarian Foreign Minister, Mr. Passy?
MR. ERELI: Give me a couple of days, maybe I'll have something for you a little closer to the visit.
QUESTION: And also on Kosovo, on the recent CBS 60 Minutes dispatch, it was disclosed that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army were buying and transferring illegally from America to the Albanian rebels in Kosovo, all types of U.S. weapons during the rebellion in 1989. I'm wondering if the State Department was aware of this illegal transaction and if you would comment on and that. Otherwise, do you condemn that action?
MR. ERELI: Let me take the question and see if we have anything on it for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yes, David.
QUESTION: One more. The Iceland Parliament has offered, basically to -- that country, to accept Bobby Fischer and I was wondering if that's an arrangement that's okay with the United States.
MR. ERELI: It's an arrangement that we're disappointed by. Mr. Fischer is a fugitive from justice. There is a federal warrant for his arrest. He's being detained in Japan, awaiting deportation and that's the step that we're looking forward to.
QUESTION: So you want the Japanese, basically, to hand him over to the United States?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, that's what we've asked for.
QUESTION: This is a question about Kofi Annan called President Bush last night, discussing the UN reforms. What more do you have to say about the UN reforms and also is the Administration working with Kofi Annan on the changes?
MR. ERELI: I spoke to that in the briefing yesterday. We welcomed the Secretary General's report. We appreciated the effort that he put into it. We think there is a lot of positive elements to the report. We will be looking at it, I think, carefully and plan on working closely with the Secretary General and the member states in the UN to move forward on an issue that, frankly, the United States has been speaking out about and acting forcefully on for some time, which is UN reform, which the President feels strongly about, which -- and for which reason he's appointed a very activist and qualified nominee to be representative of -- to be our Ambassador to the UN, Under Secretary John Bolton.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
DPB # 47
Released on March 22, 2005