State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for March 30
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for March 30 --Transcript
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
March 30, 2005
View of International Community on UN Security Council Resolution 1559
Travel of UN Special Representative Roed-Larsen to Lebanon / US Support
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Roed-Larsen/Full Implementation of Resolution 1559
Fitzgerald Report on Assassination of Former Prime Minister Hariri
Travel of Deputy Assistant Secretary Carpenter / Support for Democratization
Ambassador Satterfield Travel
US Concerns Regarding Venezuelan Policies
Common Aspirations of the US and Other Countries in the Region
Transparency in Nuclear Program / Reports of Staged Media Visit to Natanz
US-European Engagement of a Concerted, Coordinated Effort with
Common Objectives / Cessation of Iran's Enrichment Programs
Passage of UN Security Council of Resolution 1591
Advancement of Shared Objectives
Status of Accountability Resolutions / US Active Support of Accountability
US View of Campaign Practices
Update on Earthquake / Status of Assessment & Assistance Teams
US Efforts to Work with European Partners and International Community
Reports of Malnutrition Among Iraqi Children / US Actions to Meet Humanitarian Need
US "One China" Policy
Findings by the Independent Inquiry Committee on Oil for Food Program
US Support of the Work of UN Secretary General Annan
State Department Grant to Support Free Press
Democracy Assistance to Kyrgyz Republic
US Policy Regarding Cyprus
US View of Situation in Burma
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Foreign Minister Molyviatis
1:00 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: Good day, everybody. Pleasure to be with you.
QUESTION: On time.
MR. ERELI: As always. And to answer any questions you may have. We'll start with our friend in the front row.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the reports from the United Nations that the Syrians are saying they're going to be withdrawing their troops before the May elections?
MR. ERELI: I don't know what reports you're speaking about. I would say this. All of us that are seized with this issue, and that includes the United States, the Secretary General, members of the Security Council, members of the countries in the region, are of one view, and that view is that 1559, Resolution 1559, should be implemented in all its parts. I think the international community is very clear and straightforward about that. There are periodic reports about intentions and plans, et cetera. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Mr. Terje Roed-Larsen, is going out to Lebanon shortly. He will be meeting with Syrian and Lebanese officials to effect the full implementation of 1559.
The Secretary has talked with him about his trip. I think we're all on the same page. We all want to see a Syrian withdrawal of all its forces and intelligence assets before elections take place for a government of Lebanon where the Lebanese people choose, free of foreign interference, who they want to represent them. And that's the goal we're all working toward. That is what we want to see happen. It hasn't happened yet. And I think we are very supportive of Mr. Roed-Larsen's mission and what he will be trying to achieve in his visit.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that for a second?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: The reports I'm referring to is there's a letter from the Syrian Foreign Minister, unless I'm wrong, saying that they indicated their intention to pull out. Is the United States aware of that and what's the comment on that?
And the second thing about Mr. Larsen is he was here to see the Secretary today, we believe.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, Mr. Larsen did meet with the Secretary today and --
QUESTION: Can you describe that meeting, please?
MR. ERELI: I just did. (Laughter.)
MR. ERELI: They had a good discussion about what's going on in Lebanon, about his efforts to achieve implementation of 1559, how we can support that, how the international community is resolved that Syria should pull all of its troops and intelligence assets out of Lebanon before the elections so that elections can take place in an environment that is free of foreign intimidation and pressure.
As far as the letter from Foreign Minister Shara to the UN goes, I'll leave it to the UN to comment on it. That was a letter from them -- from him to them. Our view, as I just stated, is that there is a clear and straightforward consensus by the -- among the members of the international community, including within the Security Council, that this is an issue that needs to be resolved urgently so that the Lebanese can have real elections untainted by foreign interference.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, please.
QUESTION: In previous instances when there are these sort of ongoing situations, you or Richard, you've offered words of encouragement, not on this particular issue but on other issues. Why does the U.S. not feel it appropriate to praise the Syrians for taking one in a series of steps to move the troops, as sort of a carrot-and-stick approach?
MR. ERELI: Again, this is not -- this is not a game where you have play-by-play commentary. This is the international community looking for a result. The result is withdrawal. And the focus has to be on the full and complete implementation of 1559. That is the standard. That is why in all our public comments we keep referring to 1559. 1559 is clear, its benchmarks are clear, and that's how we will assess the results, not by statements of intent or partial moves or different -- where things are at different stages on different days. It is by full implementation of 1559 and that's the basis on which we are all acting and what Mr. Roed-Larsen is trying to achieve.
QUESTION: So then, basically, it's they've either done everything or they have done nothing? It's all or nothing?
MR. ERELI: It is full implementation of 1559. That's the standard by which we will assess the situation.
QUESTION: In her discussions with Representative Larsen, was there any mention of Hezbollah and efforts to at least make certain that they don't have any influence in a post --
MR. ERELI: The focus of the discussions was on implementation of 1559, on withdrawal of troops and intelligence and on having elections where the Lebanese people can decide their representatives without foreign intimidation and foreign pressure. That's really what the focus was on.
QUESTION: In his speech yesterday in Venezuela --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, I think we've got --
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the talks in the Security Council regarding the resolution to afford an international investigation in the killing of Hariri?
MR. ERELI: Nothing detailed for you. Obviously, as we've said previously, we commend Mr. Fitzgerald on his report. It is important and valuable work. Its findings are disturbing. We endorse his call for an international investigation. It is something, I think, that has the support of the Security Council and we will be -- we are discussing ways, looking at ways, to operationalize those recommendations. But clearly, clearly there is a need to find the facts and to hold those responsible accountable. And our sense is that the international community and the Security Council are committed to that.
QUESTION: Was this topic -- did they discuss it, Dr. Rice and Mr. Larsen today?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. That was -- it was discussed in those terms. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Why did the Secretary -- Assistant Secretary Mr. Carpenter replace Ambassador Satterfield in Beirut, after he was planning to stay there for two weeks?
MR. ERELI: No, no, no. There's no -- that's not accurate. Deputy Assistant Secretary Carpenter is on a trip to Lebanon to talk about ways the United States can support democratization and reform in Lebanon through the Middle East Partnership Initiative. But it's not a question of replacement. Ambassador Satterfield is also there working other issues.
QUESTION: He will stay there or leave? Because there are informations that he left Lebanon today.
MR. ERELI: I don't know Ambassador Satterfield's precise whereabouts at this very moment.
Still on Lebanon?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There were rumors up at the UN that there was talk about a peacekeeping force or -- I'm just wondering if there's --
MR. ERELI: I don't deal in rumors. I haven't heard that.
QUESTION: You haven't heard any talk of that?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: And does Larsen go back to the region with any new tools than he had before to --
MR. ERELI: He goes back with the same tools, which is a strong and united consensus among the international community that Syria needs to fulfill the terms of 1559 and that delay and evasion are not acceptable.
QUESTION: Can I change to Venezuela?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, you've been calling for Syria to get out but what's the -- what the "or else"? I mean, are you considering new measures at the UN Security Council or additional sanctions against --
MR. ERELI: The "or else" is increased international isolation and the consequences that come from that.
QUESTION: What are the consequences?
MR. ERELI: Right now, our focus is on fulfilling 1559 and on, I think, impressing upon Syria the urgent need to do that and the -- without being specific, the cost to it in terms of acceptance in the international community, in terms of engagement with the international community, that failure to abide by 1559 entails.
QUESTION: Can we change to Venezuela?
MR. ERELI: Yes, we can.
QUESTION: Okay. In his speech yesterday in Venezuela, President Lula openly criticized what he called the U.S. defamation and insinuation against President Chavez. He also said that, "Venezuela has the right to be a sovereign country." Do you have comments on this?
MR. ERELI: These are comments by President Lula?
MR. ERELI: Of Brazil?
MR. ERELI: I didn't see those comments or his speech so I really don't want to respond to the question in that way. What I would tell you is that the issue for the United States is actions that Venezuela takes, policies that Venezuela follows, that are contrary to the principles of democracy, human rights and freedom that I think are the -- they are the commonly held values most nations in the hemisphere, number one.
And number two, the importance of taking concrete actions and serious actions to fight narcoterrorism, to fight terrorists, to contribute positively to regional security -- those are areas in which Venezuelan actions cause us concern. Those are areas in which we would encourage action that can allay the concerns of us and other members of the region who look on practices in Venezuela and say these are contrary to norms and standards that we all -- the rest of us -- adhere to.
QUESTION: A follow-up on this?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Doesn't it concern the U.S. that Brazil, which is the biggest neighbor in the region, doesn't see Venezuela in the same way as the U.S. does?
MR. ERELI: I don't know if I would accept that characterization as accurate. I think that the United States and Brazil and the other countries in the region have common aspirations for the region in terms of political development, economic development and leadership in solving regional problems, and that that's what we are looking to -- it is those tendencies that we are looking to strengthen in our engagement with hemispheric partners.
QUESTION: Could you be more specific about Venezuelan shortcomings with respect to the counternarcotics issue?
MR. ERELI: Not really. I'll look and see what we've said on the past, but off the top of my head I can't give you a detailed answer.
QUESTION: Iran. President Khatami has, I guess, today defied both the EU and the United States-led initiative to rid Iran of its enrichment program and he's led 30 journalists to a underground nuclear facility, Natanz, and he says they won't give up enrichment. Do you have any comment?
MR. ERELI: We've seen reports about the staged media visit to Natanz. And, you know, our response is that if Iran were really serious about demonstrating transparency in its nuclear program, it should answer all of the International Atomic Energy Agency's outstanding questions. If Iran were really serious about allaying the concerns of the international community, they would stop denying IAEA full and unrestricted access to suspicious sites like the Parchin high-explosive facility, they would stop refusing IAEA requests to interview key officials associated with Iran's nuclear activities, they would tell the truth about the history of their P-2 -- their advanced P-2 centrifuge program, they would tell the truth about their Lavizan facility before they bulldozed it to the ground, they would talk openly about -- or answer openly questions about past plutonium separation experiments.
I mean, the point here is that if there was a commitment to transparency, there are ways -- there are real, effective, meaningful ways to demonstrate that commitment beyond a staged media event like is being reported.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? What was that you said they bulldozed?
MR. ERELI: Lavizan.
QUESTION: Lavizan? What was there?
MR. ERELI: We believe there was nuclear work being undertaken at that facility.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Adam, it's been more than a week now since the last talks between the European Union and Iran and we have these reports and your response now. Do we have time today just to see exactly where does the United States feel we are in these talks between the European Union and Iran? Is it on the track? Is it making any progress? Is it heading anywhere? What is your judgment?
MR. ERELI: I'll leave it to the Europeans to characterize where they are in their talks with the Iranians. From the U.S. perspective, there is a -- we are on the same page with the Europeans in terms of where we want these talks to lead and what we hope these talks will achieve, and that is a cessation of Iran's enrichment programs. And that is -- we want to achieve that because we all agree that Iran shouldn't have a nuclear weapon and we're concerned that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.
We have taken steps recently to help support the Europeans in their diplomacy through these talks. The Europeans are pressing the effort and what they have to show for it, I'd leave it to them to describe to you.
QUESTION: But just to follow up, I'm sorry, just to reduce it to its simplest terms: Does the United States see any sign of movement on this issue?
MR. ERELI: It's not a -- it's not the kind of process or the kind of issue that, frankly, lends itself to a snapshot picture. What I tell you on this day, it's just that's not the way the diplomacy is being conducted, that's not the way we look at the issue. It's going -- it's a process. It's engagement. It's back and forth. The Europeans are doing it. We're trying to achieve something. Have we achieved it today? No, we haven't. And don't ask me to assess the likelihood of achieving it tomorrow because I can't.
I can tell you that we are agreed on objectives, we are agreed on tactics and we are agreed -- and this is the most fundamental point -- we are agreed that it is up to Iran to take steps to satisfy the international community and that what we're doing and what the Europeans are doing are all focused on the same thing, which is to compel Iran to make the right decision. So again, you're asking me today, are they closer to making that decision than they were yesterday? I can't tell you that.
QUESTION: But you --
MR. ERELI: But they are -- but we are all engaged in a concerted, coordinated effort with common objectives to bring Iran to that decision.
QUESTION: But, I mean, if you're engaged in such intense diplomatic and coordinated efforts, I mean, surely there must be some progress in those efforts or not. I'm not asking to make a snapshot --
MR. ERELI: The progress is --
QUESTION: I'm not asking you to give it a grade, but you see it moving along in a positive direction or you don't see it moving along in --
MR. ERELI: The progress is that, as a result of the Secretary's trip to Europe, as a result of the President's trip to Europe, as a result of our -- as a result of our discussions with the Europeans, that we have a common approach and a coordinated diplomacy to put the choice before Iran very clearly: Either make decisions that are characteristic of a responsible member of the international community or find yourself further isolated and further ostracized. And those -- the Europeans are engaging with Iran systematically to bring them to the right conclusion. Have they made it yet? Obviously not. Will they make it in the future? We certainly hope so. If they don't, the good news is we, the Europeans and the international community are more on the same page than we've ever been.
QUESTION: Can I ask a question about Darfur? There was an expectation that the French were going to get a vote on their resolution for war crimes in Darfur to be referred to the ICC. Did the U.S., last night, just threaten to veto it? Is that why it's being pulled?
MR. ERELI: Let's take a step back and talk about that which has been accomplished so far. Yesterday, as you may know, the Security Council passed, by a vote of 12 in favor with 3 abstentions, Security Council Resolution 1591, which provides for expanded sanctions and other measures that put pressure on all parties to the Darfur conflict to end the violence and to abide by previous resolutions.
This, when combined with the previous resolution authorizing a peacekeeping operation, I think, is something that should be noted positively. The fact that in less than a week we have passed two important resolutions that advance our shared objectives of implementing the North-South agreement and addressing the violence in Darfur and promoting a political solution to that conflict. So those are important, positive steps, I think, that need to be recognized and that need to be welcomed and show a level of consensus and commitment by the international community to resolving these longstanding conflicts.
There is a third issue out there that remains under discussion. That is the issue of accountability. There are a number of proposals under discussion on how to realize that goal, the goal of accountability. There are a number of mechanisms that have been proposed. Those discussions continue. We are working with our other partners in the Security Council to fashion a resolution that we can support that meets both our goal of accountability and is consistent with our policy on the ICC.
QUESTION: But if I can follow up -- I mean, the British and the French were pushing for a vote yesterday. And I just want to know whether the U.S. threatened to veto.
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of -- I'm not aware of any threat to veto.
QUESTION: Okay. But don't you think this looks like -- because clearly, it's been delayed, the vote.
MR. ERELI: That's not unusual.
QUESTION: But it looks like justice delayed, doesn't it? I mean, it looks like the U.S. is delaying justice because of its opposition to the ICC.
MR. ERELI: Whoa. That's a goofy conclusion.
MR. ERELI: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let me just step back. Because you've -- first of all, it was not the United States that delayed the vote. It was the sponsor of the resolutions that delayed the vote. So ask the sponsor of the resolution why they delayed the vote, number one.
Number two, even if you delay the vote by a couple of days, I don't think you can conclude that you're delaying justice. To the contrary, the point is not to have a vote for the sake of having a vote. If you care about what's going on in Darfur, and you care about the crimes that have been committed, and you want to see those responsible brought to justice, then you're going to do everything you can to bring about an outcome to the discussions that contributes to that goal.
And far from saying, you know, further discussion or delaying votes delays justice, I would say that, you know, the fact that we're engaged in this, the fact that we've, first of all, put forward three resolutions ourselves on Darfur and have passed two in the space of a week, it really strikes me as farfetched and unfair to suggest that somehow the United States lacks commitment or a sense of urgency in addressing these issues.
To the contrary, what I would suggest to you is that the fact that we've been so proactive about introducing resolutions, the fact that we've been so energetic about working with all the members of the Security Council to promote support for those resolutions, would indicate to you that, before anything, the United States is taking the lead on these issues, is in the position of being the consensus builder and a driving force in the international community for both accountability and implementation of existing agreements.
QUESTION: Well, did you support the resolution that was put forward in its current form or not?
MR. ERELI: Which resolution?
QUESTION: The resolution that people -- the draft that that was being discussed on --
MR. ERELI: The draft that's being discussed -- we have shared our ideas with the sponsors and the other members of the Council and we would hope that we can find a resolution that provides for accountability and that we could support.
I would also note that we've put forward our own resolution on accountability. So again, the record is clear. The United States is for accountability. We've been among the most outspoken proponents for this from the very beginning. Before anybody else, we were out there with people on the ground, finding out what was going on. So I would tell you that we are in discussions; we hope to produce something that everybody can support and that takes into account everybody's equities.
QUESTION: But when do you hope to get that consensus? Because clearly, there isn't one at the moment and it's your objections to the ICC which seems --
MR. ERELI: No, I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say it's our objections to the ICC solely. I would say, look, number one, we have well known and longstanding objections to the -- well known objections to the ICC. I would say that there are a number of ideas out there. The ICC is not the only one. There are a number of other proposals out there. There's the African Union tribunal in Tanzania that's been proposed, the Nigerians have proposed accountability mechanisms and there are a number of ways you can deal with accountability in Darfur other than the ICC.
But the point is that I think one should not read this as the United States blocking accountability of* the ICC. One should read this as the United States being outspoken and active in support of accountability and trying to bring everybody together on something that meets everybody's needs and does not make positions for the sake of making positions.
QUESTION: In a few hours, the voters in Zimbabwe are going to vote. There's a story in the Post this morning that says that the Government is using food as a weapon and providing food to supporters and none to opponents. Do you have any observations on that or any other aspect of the balloting?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Our understanding is that ruling party candidates have given out government-owned food to draw voters to rallies. And that is, frankly, a despicable practice. We've said before that in looking at the campaign, we've seen it -- we've seen that it's tilted in favor of the government because the opposition has been subjected to threats of intimidation -- or, I'm sorry, has been subjected to threats and intimidation. The independent civil society election observers have not been invited from the region. There's been a media crackdown against independent media and foreign media. The ruling party has a near monopoly on the electronic media. Zimbabweans out of the country have been prevented from voting. So there are practices that I think we find troublesome and cause us concern.
I would note again, as I did yesterday, that this campaign has been relatively nonviolent compared to previous campaigns. That's a positive development. We call on the Government of Zimbabwe tomorrow to take every step necessary to ensure that elections are peaceful, transparent and free of intimidation and fraud. And we will base our assessment of the election results according to not only what has happened in the run-up to the election, but on the way the election is conducted tomorrow.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on aid to the earthquake victims in Indonesia?
MR. ERELI: I do. We are learning more about the damage caused by the earthquake every day and so it's -- obviously, it's a changing picture. The latest information from the United Nations is that 518 people have been confirmed dead and thousands have been injured. I would add that obviously the full extent of the devastation will not be known until assessment teams have been able to complete their work in the coming days.
Those assessment teams are coming from a number of areas. There's a joint Indonesian and UN advance assessment team that visited the islands of Nias and Simeulue yesterday. It's a seven-person advance team that will remain in the area for a couple of days. They'll be assessing runway conditions for aircraft, complete an aerial survey, set up a communications base and begin an initial humanitarian needs assessment. There are AID personnel in the area, also conducting humanitarian assessment.
Preliminary -- or reports that we have this stage are that in Nias, there are unconfirmed figures of over 400 dead and thousands injured, as well displaced people with major infrastructure damage. Reports are that -- from the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works, that 85 percent of the structures in the capital city of Nias have been damaged.
In Simeulue, there's a -- there are reports that 10 people have been killed and 40 others, the road network is in good condition, bridges have been weakened and the airport can only receive helicopters.
As far as the United States response is concerned, our Departments of State, Health and Human Services, USAID and Department of Defense continue to work together to coordinate disaster response and possible assistance. Yesterday, we announced the immediate contribution of 100,000. Today, the U.S. naval ships, the medical ships Niagara Falls and Mercy, are proceeding to the region, should their assistance be necessary.
Our Embassy in Jakarta is dispatching a six-member medical team. We at the State Department are working with the Health and Human Services Department to prepare other medical personnel should they be needed. And we are coordinating with nongovernmental organizations already in the field to provide additional assistance, should it be necessary.
QUESTION: Okay. I have another one.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Secretary -- Former Secretary of State Powell gave an interview to a German magazine, Stern, and he said while it was important to get Saddam Hussein out of power and that it's a good thing that he's gone, he said that the United States might have been too loud in terms of its kind of rhetoric before the war, which might -- calling some countries like "Old Europe" and "New Europe" might have alienated the Europeans. And he also said that Vice President Cheney didn't seem to want a diplomatic -- or didn't seem to think that there was a diplomatic solution to the Iraq problem. Do you have anything to say on the --
MR. ERELI: Not really. I mean, having seen the difference between what someone actually says and what is reported, I'm loathe to jump into that one. What I will say is that, again, from the point of the view of the State Department, we are looking forward and not looking back. Our focus is on working with our European partners and with the international community to support a democratic, stable and prosperous Iraq. We have, I think, made great strides in that, both in terms of helping Iraq and in terms of developing mechanisms of international cooperation that serve that goal.
QUESTION: Do you have any --
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Let's go to you and then you. Go ahead. Yeah.
QUESTION: Some former U.S. diplomat wrote a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding Mr. Bolton's nomination to the UN. I mean, we talk about it yesterday --
MR. ERELI: Oh yeah. No, for the last two days.
QUESTION: This is separate, a separate question. In the letter, the diplomats particularly noted that Mr. Bolton, after he was nominated, he stated in a Congress hearing that the recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign state or supporting Taiwan to join the UN is not inconsistent with U.S. "one China" policy.
MR. ERELI: I don't know what remarks you're referring to. I don't -- I'm not aware of that Mr. Bolton has made testimony since he's been nominated.
QUESTION: But can you clarify, just take this chance to clarify the U.S. policies on --
MR. ERELI: No change in U.S. policy.
QUESTION: -- on the -- Taiwan's the recognition and Taiwan's --
MR. ERELI: No, no change. Same as it's always been.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment today on the actual findings of the Volcker report now that there's been time to read it?
MR. ERELI: Sure. First, as I said yesterday, we appreciate the work of the Independent Inquiry Committee. The United States shares its goals of a full accounting and full accountability for the irregularities under the Oil-for-Food program. Some of the findings by the Independent Inquiry Committee are troubling, particularly the failure to recognize the appearance of a conflict of interest, or to convene an independent investigation into allegations about Cotecna.
We are pleased that the Secretary General has recognized the need to correct serious management deficiencies. We continue to support him in his work and we will endeavor, for our part, to ensure that management reform of the United Nations is a top priority, indeed a higher priority than it has ever been.
QUESTION: Which conflict of interest are you talking about?
MR. ERELI: The appearance of a conflict of interest on the issue that the Volcker committee talked about, which I believe was the issue of Cotecna. I'll have to check, I'll have to see. Let me see if I can clarify that for you.
QUESTION: And Kofi Annan's son, right?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
MR. ERELI: See if I have anything else. No. Okay. Yeah.
QUESTION: I'm sorry --
MR. ERELI: Same subject?
MR. ERELI: Same subject?
QUESTION: Same subject. Do you have any comments -- late yesterday by Kofi Annan saying that he won't resign and further, do you have any comment where Senator Coleman is adamant that he should resign?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't have any -- I mean, as I said, we support the Secretary General in his work. That was our position today -- yesterday -- it's our position today.
QUESTION: I had an Iran question I couldn't get in there (inaudible) --
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: One more --
QUESTION: Just one more on this same subject.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: When you say that you found the findings troubling about the -- that faulted Secretary General Kofi Annan for not being aware of the potential conflict of interest, does this at all have any impact on the U.S. confidence -- and the question that we raised the other day -- of his ability to effect the reforms that the United States has been pushing for?
MR. ERELI: I will say this. The Secretary General has recognized the need to correct management deficiencies. He has been very outspoken and forthright in stating the need for reform in the UN. We share this assessment, we share this commitment and we will be working with him and we look forward to continue working with him on this agenda.
QUESTION: But this report that was issued yesterday, does that do anything to diminish your confidence in his ability to carry through this task?
MR. ERELI: We continue to support the Secretary General in his work.
QUESTION: Also on Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: A UN Human Rights Commission official said today in Geneva that malnutrition among Iraqi children under five doubled last year to 7.7 percent -- or nearly doubled. And she blamed the war led by coalition forces for this development. Do you have any comment?
MR. ERELI: A couple of comments, actually. One is, obviously seen the reports. They're not new. They've been out there for a while. I think that these kinds of assessments are open to questions, open to doubts: (a) because many of them are based on pre-war statistics, pre-war data; (b) because we've had malnutrition rates that have varied widely over the past 15 years and so it is obviously an issue that we are concerned about. It is obviously something that we devote a lot of attention and a lot of resources to.
At the same time, I think you need to take any assessment with a grain of salt, based -- no pun intended -- based on questions about the data, questions about how those conclusions are arrived at.
The important point that I wanted to make is, whatever assessment you come to, the United States, I think, has been determined and active from the very beginning to meet the humanitarian and particularly the nutrition needs of the Iraqi people. For example, since March of 2003, we have vaccinated -- actually, maybe May, May of 2003 -- we have vaccinated over 3 million children under five and 700,000 pregnant women. We have provided supplementary doses of Vitamin A for more than 600,000 children under two and 1.5 million lactating mothers. We have provided iron folate supplements for over 1.6 million women of childbearing age. We have screened more than 1.3 million children under five for malnutrition. We have distributed high-protein biscuits to more than 450,000 children and 200,000 pregnant and nursing mothers. We have provided potable water for 400,000 persons each day in Basra and 170,000 persons in Kirkuk and Mosul. We have renovated 110 primary healthcare centers and we have developed a national plan for the fortification of wheat flour with iron and folic acid.
I mean, this is a lot of detail but the point is meeting the nutritional and health needs of the Iraqi people is something that we have been doing from day one. We have helped millions of people in Iraq and we have done far more in two years than I would suggest to you was done in many more years under the previous regime.
QUESTION: Back on the survey. Are you saying that because of security conditions, a scientific survey is impossible to carry out in a country like Iraq?
MR. ERELI: No, I'm just saying that I'm not aware of what the criteria for making these conclusions are and therefore that needs to be borne in mind when considering them.
QUESTION: In the New York Times today there was a report about a grant given to an independent newspaper in Kyrgyzstan from the U.S. Could you talk about this grant and what U.S. aid was to opposition groups in Kyrgyzstan in the last several months or year?
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: And was this grant specifically earmarked, when it was given to Freedom House, for this particular group or it was just a block grant that they were to distribute as they see fit?
MR. ERELI: You're referring to the printing press?
MR. ERELI: My understanding is that that was a grant administered through our Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. It was a grant to support free press. I'll have to check for you on the specifics of the grant and, you know, whether it was -- went for this specific project or whether it went to an organization that was active in that general area and decided to spend it that way.
Generally speaking, we have a very good idea where the money is going to go before we give it, but on this specific grant I'll try and get you the details on it.
More broadly speaking, last fiscal year, fiscal year 2004, the United States budgeted $13.2 million to the Kyrgyz Republic in democracy assistance. We would anticipate budgeting a comparable amount this fiscal year. Election-related assistance -- excuse me. This will include assistance to support elections, free and fair elections, both for the president and parliament. The election-related assistance supports election monitors, voter education, training for election commissions, exit pollings and other nonpartisan activities.
Actually, maybe I've got some more for you on that printing press story. In May 2002, Freedom House was awarded a grant by Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor to establish an independent printing press in Bishkek. The press began -- so it was specific for that thing. The press operation -- the press began operation in November of 2003. The press was operated by the Media Support Center, which was an independent umbrella foundation that, in addition to operating the press, sponsors training and technical support for journalists and newspaper staff. And what the press did is it gave access to independent media to be able to print their product without fear of being denied access to state-run printing presses.
QUESTION: And this was out of the Freedom (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: And I would say that -- I'm not -- I believe so. I'm not sure. I would also point out that DRL, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, has granted over $1.8 million to Freedom House to support the press from fiscal year 2001 to the present.
QUESTION: In Kyrgyzstan?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm. And by the end of 2004, the press was printing more than 70 independent and government-owned newspapers.
Iran. Sorry. Yes.
QUESTION: What I wanted to ask about -- we were talking -- it's on Iran. My Reuters colleague who covers the IAEA in Vienna reported that, you know, that the EU-3 were moving closer to accepting Iran's insistence on keeping some reprocessing, for example, I think it was 500 centrifuges, which some would argue is not enough to continue a weapons program.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. know anything about this movement and what would your stance be on that?
MR. ERELI: I asked about -- I asked about that before coming out here and was told that we do not believe there's any credible basis to that report, and that we and the EU-3 remain united in the view that only a full cessation and dismantlement Iran's sensitive fuel -- nuclear fuel cycle pursuits can provide the kind of confidence we're looking for that Iran has abandoned its nuclear weapons program.
In the back. Oh, I'm sorry, same subject?
QUESTION: Yes. You mentioned Parchin in your list of suspect facilities and I was -- this was like a week ago, the MEK, or former MEK, came out and talked about Parchin. Have you been in contact with them at all about their allegations of Parchin? Is this something you guys have --
MR. ERELI: I don't -- I'm not aware of any such contacts.
QUESTION: On to Cyprus. Your Ambassador to Cyprus, Michael Klosson, in a long speech yesterday at the Fulbright Center in the buffer zone of Nicosia stated inter alia, "We remain consistent to supporting the UN Secretary General vigorously to proceed in a settlement that will resolve all security concerns on the island and see the removal of all foreign forces. The U.S. has long opposed the militarization of the island."
Do you agree, since I note this is such a statement for your policy vis-à-vis to Cyprus for the first time since the Turkish invasion and occupation of the Republic of Cyprus, July 20th, 1974.
MR. ERELI: I have not seen Ambassador Klosson's remarks, but there's been no change in U.S. policy towards Cyprus, towards the resolution of the division of the island.
QUESTION: But in order to understand, do you want the Turkish invasion and occupation forces to leave the Republic of Cyprus? Yes or Not? Because that's --
MR. ERELI: We favor the reunification of the island on the basis of the Annan plan. That's our policy.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Iran for a second?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In a nutshell, what does it say that the Iranians are willing to allow the media to this facility and not the IAEA?
MR. ERELI: As I said before, I'm not going to second-guess Iranian motives or intentions. I will tell you that there are a large number of outstanding questions and concerns that the international community has long posed to Iran that Iran has not responded to fully. And that is the measure, I think, by which one should judge Iranian commitment to transparency and consistency with international obligations, not press tours to sites.
QUESTION: On Burma. Senator Coleman says the U.S. should boycott the ASEAN meeting set for 2006 if it is held in Burma. Do you have any comment?
MR. ERELI: I think we've made clear -- we've made clear that we expect Burma's leadership to take steps to promote genuine national reconciliation and democracy and engage in meaningful dialogue with members of the political opposition and ethnic groups and release all political prisoners and respect fundamental rights of its citizens. We've also made clear that the failure of Burma's government to do that and the prevailing situation in Burma complicates our dealings with ASEAN. And the Secretary of State will have to decide whether it's appropriate to participate at senior levels in meetings in Burma based on the situation that exists there at the time, in 2006 and 2007.
QUESTION: The other day, Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and the Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns had a meeting here at the State Department. May we have a readout of their talks if it's possible?
MR. ERELI: I don't have a readout of that meeting for you. Secretary Rice met earlier with Foreign Minister Molyviatis. They had a good opportunity to discuss, I think, the full range of bilateral relations as well as regional issues. And as they -- as both foreign ministers said in their availability to the press, our relationship is strong, our relationship is cordial, we have excellent, excellent cooperation and respect for one another as allies. And that was, obviously, the spirit in which Under Secretary Burns conducted his meeting as well.
QUESTION: Any answer to my pending question regarding the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: No? And the last one, any comment on the last Sunday's election in FYROM, since there were a bunch of reports about irregularities and violation, making upset the Albanian --
MR. ERELI: Let me see if I've got anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m.)
DPB # 53
Released on March 30, 2005