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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 20

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 20 -- Transcript

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 20, 2005

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Rewards for Justice Program / New Reward for Abderraouf Ben Habib
Jdey and Faker Ben Abdelaziz Boussora
Nomination of Under Secretary John Bolton as U.S. Permanent
Representative to the United Nations
Secretary Rice's Travel to Latin America/ Community of Democracies Meeting

TUNISIA
Public Announcement Renewed

LEBANON
UN Report on Syrian Withdrawal of Forces
Secretary Rice's Discussions With Secretary General Annan /
Secretary Rice Urges Timely Release of Report
Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559
Removal of Syrian Security, Military and Intelligence Forces, and
Disbanding of Militias / Verification Team

ECUADOR
Importance of Peaceful and Constructive Dialogue, Strengthening
Democratic Institutions and Respecting the Constitution and the Rule of Law

IRAN
Reaction to Comments by Hassan Rowhani
Satisfying the Concerns of the International Community

CHINA/TAIWAN
Recent Visits to China by Taiwanese Individuals
Resolving Cross-Straits Tensions Through Dialogue

NORTH KOREA
Restarting Six Party Talks
U.S. Views of Possibly Referring North Korea to the UN Security Council

BURMA/ASEAN
U.S. View of Burma Hosting ASEAN / Philippine Senate Resolution

RUSSIA
U.S. Views of Democratic Processes and Institutions in Russia
Working Cooperatively to Address Common Threats


TRANSCRIPT:

12:30 p.m. EDT

MR. ERELI: Well, let me begin with a statement, if I may. The State Department, under the Rewards for Justice Program, is offering two new rewards up to $5 million each, to encourage individuals to come forward with information regarding Mr. Abderraouf Ben Habib Jdey and Mr. Faker Ben Abdelaziz Boussora These two gentlemen have extensive histories of extremist affiliations and links with al-Qaida. They are being sought in connection to a -- with possible terrorist threats in the United States.

Mr. Jdey is believed to be a Canadian citizen and Mr. Abdelaziz Boussora is also believed to be a Canadian citizen. Mr. Boussora has declared his intention to become a martyr in a suicide attack and is believed -- they are believed to be traveling together.

We encourage anyone with information on the location of either of these individuals to contact the Rewards for Justice Program via e-mail at -- the address is: mail@rewardsforjustice.net. A telephone number to call if you have information you can share with us is 1-800-877-3927.

QUESTION: They are believed to be in the United States?

MR. ERELI: We don't know where they are, which is why we're putting -- one reason why we're putting in the Rewards for Justice Program and to encourage anybody with information to come forward and assist us in apprehending these dangerous terrorists.

Question on this?

QUESTION: Not on this exactly.

MR. ERELI: Okay, then let me defer to our senior wire correspondent, who is in the back.

Do you yield the deferring to the senior -- to the junior? Or do you have a question?

QUESTION: I just had an obvious question if you hadn't dealt with it already.

Mr. Bolton's situation -- do you have any observations?

MR. ERELI: My observations echo those already made today by the Secretary, by Mr. Bartlett at the White House, by Mr. McClellan at the White House and that observation is that John Bolton is the right man for the job of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The President believes in him, the Secretary has confidence in him. UN reform is an important issue and it is one that John Bolton is uniquely and eminently qualified to pursue and to advance America's interests there.

The Secretary made the point today that America needs an effective Ambassador at the UN soon and we think it is important that the confirmation process move along quickly. We have done everything within our power to answer the questions and we believe we have answered the questions and concerns about Mr. Bolton fully. We are disappointed, obviously, by yesterday's developments, but we will be responsive to the Senate's request for additional information. We are confident we can fully address those questions and we look forward to his eventual confirmation.

QUESTION: When you say developments, you mean the deferral?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. I think you're basically speaking about his having diplomatic qualifications. But the focus now seems to be on personal relations with other people. Do you think that's germane to a confirmation process?

MR. ERELI: Without getting into a debate on the subject, let me just say this, John Bolton is a great nominee. We believe he should be confirmed. We are respectful of the Committee's request for information, need for information, and respectful of the role for advice and consent. We will work with the Chairman and the members of the Committee to respond to their concerns so that they can vote with, you know, peace of mind in favor -- vote for peace of mind on the basis of everything that we've put forward and on the basis of us having addressed their concerns.

QUESTION: Can I follow-up?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Is the State Department concerned at all that the controversy associated with this nomination might raise questions about the screening or vetting process of nominees?

MR. ERELI: No.

QUESTION: Follow-up?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: You said that the State Department is doing everything it can to cooperate with the Committee, but yesterday the ranking member, Senator Biden, said that the Democrats weren't getting enough access and that the State Department is slow in putting forth documents. Is there any validity to that statement?

MR. ERELI: I don't know what access is being referred to. The fact is that every witness that they've asked for, we've provided -- number one. Number two, there have been requests for documents that we have endeavored to provide in a timely way. I would remind you that some of the stuff that's been asked for is classified information. And that there are procedures and laws governing how that information is handled, whether it's declassified, if it remains classified, you know, what procedures govern its transferal and dissemination and distribution.

So working within those constraints, we have answered their questions and responded to their requests. There certainly might have been delays in some cases, but they weren't as a result of the lack of will or a lack of cooperation -- or a lack of seriousness on our part.

QUESTION: Also, The Washington Post reported that Secretary Rice said she didn't want any information coming out of the Department that could adversely affect the nomination. Is there any truth to that?

MR. ERELI: That is a very inaccurate report and obviously I think you will understand that I'm not going to get into what is said in private staff meetings. But I will say this, that the Secretary has addressed the issue publicly. When she talked about the article in question, which was on Monday, which suggested that she had not been kept informed by Mr. Bolton on certain issues -- and she made the point, and I will make the point here, that the Secretary and Under Secretary Bolton talk all the time. And on the issue in question in the article, she was fully informed and as a general matter, the Secretary and Mr. Bolton have a regular and consistent exchange of information. So I think that is the substantive issue in question and that is what we have said about on the record.

QUESTION: But you're also saying that she didn't say that she didn't want any information coming up that could adversely affect the nomination.

MR. ERELI: That is just not an accurate reflection of the meeting.

QUESTION: She wants information out that could adversely affect his nomination?

MR. ERELI: I would say that the Secretary strongly supports this nomination, feels that John Bolton should be confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what she did say if it wasn't the way my colleague asked it? What did she say? That she didn't want people talk about

MR. ERELI: Like I said, I mean, the virtue of staff meetings is that they are conversations between the Secretary and her staff and I don't think it is appropriate to give you a read-out of those meetings. What I will tell you, with respect to this question and this issue, is that, you know, the article we are talking about suggested that -- or had information out there that Bolton did not keep the Secretary informed. That information is not true. And the Secretary spoke to it.

QUESTION: But that's a different issue and a different question than whether she has asked the people in the Department not to say anything that would adversely impact the --

MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that any such thing was ever said.

QUESTION: But what's going on, does that adversely, in her view -- I guess somebody ought to ask her directly -- but does this adversely affect the State Department operations? Would she rather this extended debate not be going on?

MR. ERELI: Well, I think, again, the Secretary, in her interviews today, has addressed this issue. And she has said that America needs an ambassador at the UN and this long delay does not help that. So, with all, you know, recognizing Congress' questions, recognizing Congress' role in this and being respectful and accommodating of that, let's remember that there's work that needs to be done in New York and we'd like to see that, we'd like to see Mr. Bolton in a position to undertake that work.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you had announced or issued a Public Announcement to alert Americans to the potential for terrorist action in Tunisia.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: And you said that the United States Government has strong indications that individuals may be planning imminent terrorist actions in Tunisia.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any new information or anything new about this story?

MR. ERELI: There is not much more I can share with you that is not already in the travel warning -- I'm sorry, in the Public Announcement. When we have the information that we believe is credible and that causes us to take security precautions, we have a legal obligation to share that information with the American public. It s called the "no double standard" rule.

So we received information regarding the possibility of -- the possible planning of terrorist activity in Tunisia. And on the basis of that information, we felt certain precautions were necessary -- we needed to take certain security precautions and we also have an obligation to tell the American public that we were taking action and to give them the same information.

QUESTION: There's report in The Washington Post today that Secretary Rice telephoned Secretary General Annan on Monday to urge against delayed publication of the UN report on Syrian withdrawal of forces from -- withdrawal of the Syrian force from Lebanon. Is that accurate? Did she make such a phone call?

MR. ERELI: The Secretary did speak with Secretary General Annan on Sunday. They did discuss the Secretary General's report. The Secretary made the point that we believe that a timely publication of the report was desirable, was important, that there be no doubt in anybody's mind that the international community was firm and united in its view that Syria needed to withdraw from Lebanon fully and immediately, that foreign forces or all foreign militias -- I'm sorry, all militias should disband and that elections should take place by the end of May.

There was a decision to postpone the report by a week. We are disappointed by this delay. We certainly look forward to an update from the Secretary General on 1559 implementation, but as I said earlier, the critical point and the point on which I think there is no disagreement, is that 1559 needs to be implemented, Syria needs to withdraw, there needs to be elections before the end of May.

QUESTION: Can you explain why there had to be a delay? Did he agree with the Secretary's view that this has to be implemented?

MR. ERELI: I will let the UN Secretariat and the Secretary General speak for itself about its decisions for the delay. As I said before, I think there are -- that decision notwithstanding, there is a commonly held view that there's no intention of letting Syria off the hook or of wavering in our common commitment and common sense of urgency in seeing Syria withdraw all of its forces, intelligence, as well as military, and in working toward elections in Lebanon by the end of May.

QUESTION: I appreciate that.

QUESTION: Sorry, is it fair to say that you wanted the report out on Tuesday as scheduled to keep the pressure up on Syria to pull out?

MR. ERELI: Well, I'll put it this way. I mean, what's the -- I guess it wasn't readily apparent to us what need there was to delay the report.

QUESTION: What justification did you get? I mean, do you have none?

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything to share with you.

QUESTION: Why didn't you tell us yesterday -- sorry, Barry, one last one on this from me. Why didn't you tell us yesterday that it was your view that it should have been published in a timely manner? I specifically asked you the question yesterday of whether you wanted a timely report or whether you saw some justification for delay. And you left the impression, whether it's, you know, that it didn't really matter to you guys, whether the report was issued one week or the next week; the important point is that -- why wasn't this told to us yesterday?

MR. ERELI: Well, as I said yesterday, again, and as I have said today, the key issue for us is implementation of 1559 and that is the point I was trying to stress yesterday. When you asked the question, quite simply -- you know, I'm unwilling to make a definitive pronouncement until I've run the trap lines through the building and I wasn't prepared to give you -- how shall I put it? -- a categorical answer to the question, so I answered as best I could by stressing the key point, which is yes, there is this report, but there's also the larger issue of where things are going in Lebanon. And that is what this report is related to and on that score, this is our position and this is where I think we all are and that is a position that was reflected in the Secretary's comments and it will be -- I think the position is reflected in how we deal with this issue as it moves forward.

QUESTION: Listen. Not surprisingly, you don't want to speak for the Secretary General, but the way to ask the question, perhaps better, is -- she had a reason to make the phone call?

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: She cared, she was concerned, she --

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: -- was anxious.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Whatever the words would be. How did she feel -- come away from the phone call? Feeling that -- well, you pick the --

MR. ERELI: Well, as I said -- made the phone call, made the case for not delaying the report. A decision was -- the Secretary General made the decision to delay it. You will have to speak to the Secretary General about the reasoning for that decision. We are disappointed by it. We don't see the need for delaying it. But we also want to keep the focus on what is important here and the focus -- and what is important is that we work together to achieve withdrawal of all Syrian forces and intelligence, assets and have elections in Lebanon. And I think that this decision, notwithstanding we are moving in that direction.

QUESTION: Is this still a week's postponement? Is that --

MR. ERELI: That is what they have announced, until the 26th.

QUESTION: All right. Now --

QUESTION: Can you say whether any of the report is complete?

MR. ERELI: I guess I would say this. It is the Secretary General's report, so it's not complete until he issues it.

QUESTION: You've chosen, you've spoken -- you used a lot of words, so I want to make sure that there isn't some nuance here.

MR. ERELI: Words are good.

QUESTION: Words are good, but you spoke with militia. Is the -- you used the word "militia" for the Syrians and you remember --

MR. ERELI: No.

QUESTION: We're talking about troops and we're also talking about security people. You still want them -- both categories removed?

MR. ERELI: Oh, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: Oh, yes. Security forces, military forces, intelligence -- and intelligence assets and, further to 1559, we want all militias disbanded.

QUESTION: All right. Only -- I asked this only because there was this phone conversation. By any chance, did she talk to -- that you know of, talk to Mr. Annan about his reform package? I bring this up because Kim Holmes, who is leaving in about a week, spoke yesterday and spoke -- said lots of things about the package. Didn't think the package is the approach, but I won't get into all of that.

Did she express any -- did they get into the reform -- the Annan reform package at all?

MR. ERELI: Not in this conversation.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Adam?

MR. ERELI: Yes? Same subject?

QUESTION: No, another one.

MR. ERELI: Same subject.

QUESTION: Are you having consultations about the verification team that was supposed to go to Lebanon to verify if the Syrians implemented completely the resolution?

MR. ERELI: That is an issue that is being discussed. We would certainly support a decision by the Secretary General to send a verification team to Lebanon. And we would encourage that to be done by the end of the month.

Yes.

QUESTION: About Latin America, Secretary Rice is going to Latin America next week.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: She's going -- in Chile she's taking part in a Community of Democracies meeting. Can you tell me what's she going to do in Brazil and in other countries?

MR. ERELI: Did we announce it? Okay I just wanted to make sure.

QUESTION: Yes. It's Brazil, Colombia, Chile and El Salvador.

MR. ERELI: Okay. And so asking what she's going to be doing in --

QUESTION: -- in Brazil and also in other countries -- especially Brazil.

MR. ERELI: She's got a very broad agenda on this trip. I think the first point to make is that, obviously, this is her first trip to Latin America and I think it is an important statement of the value we place on our relationship with our neighbors to the south and with our friends there.

She will be speaking at the Community of Democracies and I think underscoring, obviously, America's support for reform and change and not only in the region but around the world because the Community of Democracies obviously is bigger than Latin America. It is an international -- a global grouping.

In her other stops on the trip, she will be able to address both bilateral issues and regional issues. And I think importantly, examine ways that the United States can work together with countries of the region, not just on bilateral concerns, but on regional issues related to economic growth, political reform, social advancement and these were all, I think, ideas that we'll be fleshing out publicly in the days to come.

QUESTION: Which kinds of reforms in Latin America?

MR. ERELI: Again, let me just keep it general at this point and we will perhaps look to give you more on it soon.

QUESTION: Maybe a briefing -- a pre-trip briefing?

MR. ERELI: We'll look to give you a useful preview of what's coming up in the visit.

QUESTION: The U.S. Ambassador in Ecuador met the Ecuadorian President today following bloody demonstrations, calling for his resignation. Any idea what was discussed?

MR. ERELI: I don't have a particular readout on this meeting. What I can tell you is that the Embassy is obviously following developments in Ecuador closely. In all our dealings with Ecuadorian officials, we stress common themes: Number one, the importance of peaceful and constructive dialogue; number two, urging political parties, politicians and civil society to put aside partisan and regional differences and work to together to find solutions that strengthen Ecuador's democratic institutions; and finally, the cardinal importance of respecting the constitution and the rule of law.

QUESTION: Any moves to support calls for his resignation?

MR. ERELI: No.

QUESTION: Do you think that the Ecuadorian authorities are using excessive force? There have been a lot of tear gas fired recently against the demonstrators.

MR. ERELI: I don't have enough information to give you a judgment on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: One last one?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: On Iran. Hassan Rowhani, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council has threatened to end talks with the EU-3 unless Tehran's ideas for a compromise are accepted for the basis of negotiations. You said that if they felt the talks were making progress, they were willing to talk for another month or two, but they weren't going to do this for years. Any comment on that?

MR. ERELI: Iran faces a choice. They are being given an opportunity through the EU-3 to, I guess, satisfy the concerns of the international community, come clean about their program, and embark on a pathway toward international acceptance and integration in the international community. That's choice number one and we certainly think that there's -- it's in Iran's interest and it's certainly in all of our interest for them to choose that path.

The other path is walking away from dialogue, walking away from engagement, walking away from international commitments and honoring promises made and cutting off dialogue with the EU-3 and walking away from cooperation with international institutions that have legitimate questions that they haven't answered. That is a choice that leads to further international isolation, the exacerbation of suspicions and, frankly, we think is an unproductive direction to go in. But I can't speak for Iran. They are going to have to decide for themselves. We think we have laid out a clear -- in cooperation with our European partners -- a clear and compelling way forward that serves -- certainly serves our interest. It serves the international community in allaying concerns about a clandestine nuclear program that we think Iran is following.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on -- there's a report from the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which, as you know, released a lot of information a couple of years ago, much of which appears to have been borne out. They say that Iran is building a tunnel for a new underground enrichment facility at Parchin. Do you have any reason to believe that's accurate?

MR. ERELI: I don't have any information to share with you on that particular report. Obviously, we're interested in any information that is out there about Iran's program because it is so secretive and because it is so potentially destabilizing. These are issues and areas that we follow closely that we try to find out as much as we can about, but I don't have anything particular on this one.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Yes?

QUESTION: China announced yesterday it has invited the leader of Taiwan's main opposition party to visit China --

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- next week and meet with the Chinese president. I understand the U.S. policy is to encourage dialogue.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: But recently, some U.S. officials, actually from this building, have expressed concern that so far China only reaches out to the opposition parties, which may complicate the Cross-Strait relations. Can you give us an overall view how the U.S. sees the latest developments? Is it something to worry about or is it --

MR. ERELI: The United States, as a general matter, believes that dialogue is the way to resolve Cross-Strait tension. We, I think, look favorably on and welcome steps in that direction. Recent travels to China by Taiwanese individuals are positive steps. I wouldn't get into the politics of it, because the politics of it is not the issue for us. The issue for us is people on both sides of the straits taking steps to come to understandings that are acceptable to both sides and that work to reduce tensions.

QUESTION: Another question on North Korea. The foreign minister of South Korea said yesterday that since North Korea has shown no intention to come back to the six-party talks -- so now, South Korea is ready to talk with the United States -- the other option to refer the problems to UN Security Council. Is the U.S. ready to talk with South Korea on that option?

MR. ERELI: I don't know if I would characterize the remarks as categorically as you have. And again, I won't speak for the South Koreans, but from the point of view of the United States, our position really hasn't changed and that position is that we remain focused on getting six-party talks restarted. That is our immediate objective. We think we are engaged with our partners -- our other partners in the six-party process: China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan to bring that about.

I would note that Ambassador Hill will be traveling next week to Korea, Japan, and China for talks on this as well as other bilateral issues. So, we are very, very much engaged in trying to restart six-party talks and I think it's premature at this point to speculate about other approaches.

QUESTION: Do you have any more detail on (inaudible)?

MR. ERELI: Consult with counterparts on how to move the six-party process forward. How's that for flash?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: I think the report from Tokyo -- so-called the TCOG meeting is going to take place in May, so on. Is it true?

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything on that.

Elise.

QUESTION: Can you go back to your opening statement? These two gentlemen --

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- on Rewards for Justice, can you tell us specifically what it is that they're being sought for?

MR. ERELI: They're being sought for affiliation with extremist groups, ties to al-Qaida, and involvement in planning attacks on the United States.

QUESTION: Would these gentlemen be the same ones who were on the KLM flight from Amsterdam to Mexico two weeks ago that --

MR. ERELI: I don't think -- no. I mean, I don't have any of that information. I don't think so. I don't know, but no information that would substantiate such a report.

QUESTION: And the fact that you're putting him on the list now and that you're associating him with al Qaida is because you have become aware of a new plot or something?

MR. ERELI: No. We have been following these individuals for some time, gathering information for some time. The decision to put individuals on the Rewards for Justice Program is made on the basis of the danger they pose and our assessment on what we need to do and what's a useful step in order to track them down or get information about them. And the decision was made, given their activities, given what we know about them, given what we don't know about them, like where they are and how we might find them, that it was a useful and necessary thing to do, to put them on a Rewards for Justice Program.

QUESTION: The Philippine Senate passed a resolution unanimously today, basically calling on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to strip Myanmar of the group's chairmanship next year. What do you see on this?

MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen that information about that decision. Obviously, you know what our position on Myanmar is. Obviously, you know about our concerns regarding Myanmar potentially hosting the ASEAN Conference next year. And we will be watching developments closely to see what is appropriate for us to do, given the association between this group and Myanmar abysmal record of suppressing democracy in that country.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, one more question.

QUESTION: Adam, I had a question about Russia.

MR. ERELI: Russia, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to know, how much support could we expect from a government that's becoming extremely more centralized when we have issues that we need support for, dealing with North Korea and Sino-Japanese issues in Taiwan?

MR. ERELI: Well, I don't know if I would make that causal a link between domestic political developments in Russia and foreign policy concerns. The fact is that -- and the Secretary has spoken to it -- that we have our views on development of democratic institutions and processes in Russia. We also have common interests in dealing with common threats and common challenges to security and we can work cooperatively on both in ways that are, I think, mutually reinforcing and cordial.

QUESTION: According to reports, Secretary Rice is continuing to express concern about the repression of the media by the Russian government. But isn't it embarrassing that Judith Miller of the New York Times faces a jail sentence for a story she didn't even write? It sort of looks as though "Do as we say, not as we do."

MR. ERELI: It doesn't look that way to me, but I would say that the issue that you raise is an issue that is being handled according to U.S. law and U.S. judicial procedure. It is transparent. It is transparent and it is according to the law. And when there are disputes and when there are issues of the law being violated, this is the way they should be handled. And I guess I would just reject the comparison.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(This briefing ended at 1:35 p.m.)

DPB # 67

Released on April 20, 2005

ENDS

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