State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 21, 200
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 21, 2005 - Transcript
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
April 21, 2005
Civilian Contractors Killed in Helicopter Crash North of Baghdad
Role of Civilian Security Contractors Working for U.S. Government
Status of Security Situation and the Insurgency
French Support for China's Anti-Secession Law
Nomination of Under Secretary John Bolton as U.S. Permanent
Representative to the United Nations
Senate Delay in Confirmation Vote on John Bolton's Nomination
Possible Timing on New Assistant Secretary for International
UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution on Darfur Region
International Community's Support of the Human Rights Resolution
Reform of United Nations Coordination and Timing of Reform Efforts
Role of Special Advisor for UN Reform
U.S. Position on Current Political Situation
U.S. Consultations with Ecuadorian Institutions and Authorities
International Monetary Fund Recommendations
Secretary of State's Request that Russia Withhold from Selling Arms to China
UN Security Council 1559 and Withdrawal of Syrian Troops /
Elections/ Shebaa Farms
Assistant Secretary Welch and Deputy National Security Advisor Abrams's Travel
1:10 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing today. I don't have any announcements and would be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: It's been very difficult to get information about the shooting down of a commercial helicopter in Baghdad? Can you tell us if it's a State Department-chartered helicopter? Were the victims Americans? Or was there a security flaw? How could they shoot this down? What's it all about? Everybody advises that the State Department is the source of the information. Couldn't prove it by me.
MR. ERELI: Our Embassy in Baghdad has confirmed that six American civilian contractors were among those killed in a helicopter crash today, north of Baghdad. We are deeply saddened by these deaths. The six Americans were employees of Blackwater Security Consulting --
QUESTION: Can you spell that?
MR. ERELI: Blackwater. B-L-A-C-K-W-A-T-E-R Consulting. They were involved in assisting the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in protecting American diplomats in Iraq. They played a critical role in our effort to bring a better way of life to the people of a country who have not experienced freedom and opportunity for many years. We mourn their loss, we offer our sympathy to the families, the next of kin are in the process of being notified.
There are reports of a total of 11 killed; I don't have details for you on who the other casualties were. As far as the cause of the crash goes, again, we've seen reports of it being brought down by hostile fire. I can't confirm those for you. The cause of the crash will be something that will be the subject of investigation. It was a civilian -- or civil aircraft, not connected to the United States so I don't -- I'm not aware that we'll be directly involved in the investigation. I think that's what -- that answers your questions.
QUESTION: Are these civilians -- are they non-government people?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Are they CIA people? Are they security people?
MR. ERELI: They're civilian contractors.
QUESTION: What -- can you be a little more explicit how -- you said, you know, they're service was appreciated and all, but what is it that they did? What is Blackwater?
MR. ERELI: I refer you to the company for information about the company. It provides protective services.
QUESTION: You mean, you hired civilian companies because -- why? Because the U.S. --
MR. ERELI: To provide protective --
QUESTION: -- isn't capable of providing its own security?
MR. ERELI: No. Because there's a need for security that goes beyond what employees of the U.S. Government can provide and we go to private companies to offer that. That's a common practice. It's not unique to Iraq. We do it around the world.
QUESTION: Could you be a little more explicit as what their assignment was? I mean --
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Were they training people? Were they --
MR. ERELI: I don't have that information.
QUESTION: -- bodyguards or --
MR. ERELI: I don't have that information. I'd rather not --
QUESTION: Were they new to this?
MR. ERELI: I don't know.
QUESTION: I'm a little confused by the fact that you said it's a civilian -- you're not sure if you'll be involved in the investigation.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: It's a civilian -- you said a civil aircraft?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And it was carrying American --
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: -- contractors and related to government work.
MR. ERELI: I guess I should say that whether we'll be conducting the investigation or what our precise involvement will be, obviously, we have an interest in what happened since Americans were involved and we will be following up in order to get the answers to very important questions that are out there.
QUESTION: Since people have, you know, Americans have been killed and even we here have no idea what these outside -- if they really are outside -- outfits do. Certainly, readers and viewers don't know. Why does the -- could you go on a bit why the government reaches out to private companies to provide security? I don't even know what "provide security" means, frankly.
MR. ERELI: Well --
QUESTION: Are they bodyguards, do they --
MR. ERELI: Around the world in dangerous situations, when there is a need for protection of diplomats or facilities or activities and people connected with the U.S. Government, we routinely hire contractors to provide that security. It's true, and as you recall, there were DynCorp deaths in Gaza. They were providing the same kind of security, where they are protecting American government activities in dangerous areas. And frankly, the U.S. Government does not have the resources to do that in all places at all times, so we contract private entities to help us out.
QUESTION: Well, maybe they supplement it, is the point, because --
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- in my way of thinking, that's what U.S. Marines do. They protect the embassy. They --
MR. ERELI: Well --
QUESTION: -- protect diplomats.
MR. ERELI: That is a -- the U.S. Marines have a specific function in protecting diplomatic facilities and that is a function that is a result of an agreement between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Department of State. But it extends to a specific function and a specific duty and a specific set of responsibilities. It does not cover what private contractors do.
QUESTION: And what is that private contractors do?
MR. ERELI: Protect diplomatic -- protect our personnel.
QUESTION: You mean like bodyguards?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Only bodyguards or do they have this skill to say, hey, you know, don't -- change the way to you go to work everyday. In other words, other mental things.
MR. ERELI: I don't have more detail for you --
QUESTION: What do they do?
MR. ERELI: -- than that.
QUESTION: And how many of them are floating around --
MR. ERELI: I couldn't tell you that
QUESTION: -- even in Baghdad?
MR. ERELI: I couldn't tell you.
QUESTION: It's very mysterious.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) private entities in Baghdad?
MR. ERELI: I don't have it with me. I can endeavor to see if we can provide you that information.
QUESTION: Do you know where Blackwater is? We can check the phone books? Is it in the area?
MR. ERELI: I think you can find it on the web. I think -- I would expect them to be putting out a statement on this incident from their part as well.
QUESTION: They're kind of like Dyna -- whatever that or same basic thing.
MR. ERELI: Well, they're different -- I think they're different companies that provide different range of services.
QUESTION: Seems to be a breakdown in security of late with a lot of violent attacks in Iraq.
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't say there's a breakdown in security. I would say that there is a -- there's a steady pattern of attacks. But actually, maybe steady is the wrong word. It's persistent and consistent, but it fluctuates. There are spikes and there are less active periods. I wouldn't -- from our perspective what we're seeing, frankly, is a couple of positive trends.
Number one, more and more Iraqis being trained and being fielded to provide security and to take over some of the responsibility or increasing part of the responsibility for providing for Iraq -- security in Iraq.
Number two, some very effective actions by Iraqi security forces. We saw it certainly in the operations in Fallujah in November and we've been seeing it in subsequent activities, subsequent operations, coordination, between our forces and them, initiatives that they've taken in Iraqi cities on their own.
So, those are positive developments and they certainly are part of a broader strategy to deal with the insurgency and to move Iraq from where it is now to a place where you've got, working together, stabilization, economic recovery and political development. I mean, these are all parts that work together in support of a broader objective, which is a free, prosperous and stable Iraq.
That said, the insurgency is still there. There continue to be attacks. They continue to, I think, have an impact on the population. And clearly, it's something that we recognize -- we and the Iraqis and the multinational force recognize as something that requires our full attention and our unwavering efforts to combat.
QUESTION: But the fact that you're reaching out and you're using, employing civilian security people, doesn't that say that the Iraqi security still hasn't progressed to the point where you can count on them? Or, as efficient as they may be, there's a need for complimentary roles by American civilians --
MR. ERELI: Well --
QUESTION: -- and by Iraqi security? I mean --
MR. ERELI: Barry, I think you're making way more of this than is necessary. The fact of the matter is that private security firms have been involved in Iraq from the very beginning, so this is nothing new.
Number two, I think it's a statement of the obvious to say that the conditions in Iraq are such that it's not completely safe to go throughout the country at all parts, at all times, so there continues to be the need for security -- for this kind of security protection.
And number three, that is not inconsistent with what I just said, that Iraqis are taking over more and more of the responsibility for security, that this is a process that will take time, but that we are committed to the proposition that the goal we should strive for and the goal that we think is achievable and that we are working toward is a situation where this kind of protection is less necessary and where Iraqis can provide it. We're not there yet, but we're getting there.
QUESTION: We're saying the same thing, because there's a constant self-congratulation that the Iraqi security is making great headway. Meanwhile, people keep getting killed.
MR. ERELI: Making great headway does not mean that there is no -- that the threat has disappeared.
QUESTION: Of course.
MR. ERELI: You can have both.
QUESTION: So, I was just -- you simply -- you said a different way exactly what I was asking you; as Iraqi security improves, you still need this type of help. And ultimately or optimally, you would like to have Iraqis take on this job.
MR. ERELI: Ultimately, we'd like -- and I think nobody would like it more than the Iraqis -- we would like a situation where people don't have to fear for their safety and that's --
QUESTION: Of course.
MR. ERELI: That's what we're all working toward, including the people who are there working on contract. Yes?
QUESTION: Adam, there's speculation that some of this insurgency has been done by foreigners and especially Chechen fighters. Do you have any word on that and did Secretary Rice, in any way, talk to Putin in Moscow concerning all this?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that that subject came up as far as the presence of foreign fighters in the insurgency. That is an element, obviously, but I think there's no -- that's an element but there clearly is an important and significant domestic character to the insurgency and recognizing a foreign element should not, I think, diminish for one's appreciation for the home grown nature of the terror.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I change the subject?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: What do you have to say about France throwing itself behind this anti-secession law in China?
MR. ERELI: I had not seen France throwing its support behind the anti-secession law. And it doesn't, certainly doesn't affect our position, which I think we stated quite clearly.
QUESTION: But the French Prime Minister was in Beijing and there was huge publicity about his backing for the anti-secession law which is --
MR. ERELI: I have not seen those reports and like I said, I don't have any comment on what the French position is on the anti-secession law. What I can talk about is our position and I think we've made our position clear.
QUESTION: Why I'm asking is because they are in -- I mean, they contradict with the U.S. position --
MR. ERELI: That's not -- that sometimes happens that people don't agree with everything that we've said. I'm not saying that that's the case here, because again, I don't know, I can't speak for the French Government, but --
QUESTION: On something else?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have a view on Iran's threat to walk out of the talks with the Europeans --
MR. ERELI: I think I spoke to that yesterday.
QUESTION: Did you?
MR. ERELI: I also saw today a statement that said that they looked forward to continuing discussions with the Europeans so --
QUESTION: That's not surprising.
MR. ERELI: -- take that for what it's worth.
QUESTION: I goes on like that.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: On Mr. Bolton.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Former Ambassador Thomas Hubbard apparently has contacted the Foreign Relations Committee about two alleged confrontations with Mr. Bolton. Do you have any comment about this pretty senior former diplomat saying that Mr. Bolton's behavior is less than desirable?
MR. ERELI: I've seen those press reports. I don't know how accurate they are. I don't what exactly Ambassador Hubbard did or did not do. What I can tell you is -- what I would do is echo what the Secretary said yesterday and that is that John Bolton has a, I think, long and laudable record of public service. Let's remember this is not the first government job that John Bolton has been nominated for. He has served since, I guess, the Reagan administration, in USAID, at the Justice Department, I believe, at senior positions in the State Department, both as Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs and as Under Secretary.
And in the course of that, I think, very successful career in government, he has worked with a lot of people and has, I think, inspired a lot of colleagues in government by his dedication, by his commitment and by his ability to get things done and to carry out the President's policies and the policies of the administration. And I think if you start asking, you'll find a lot of people in this government who have worked with John who can speak to his commitment and to his passion and to his collegiality.
QUESTION: Are you worried at all, though, that this delay in the vote will just give more time for people of the other persuasion to come out of the woodwork?
MR. ERELI: As I said yesterday, obviously, we think that circumstances warrant a rapid confirmation, both because we've provided full information, we've cooperated with requests for information, we think we've answered the questions, we think that America has pressing business at the UN that would be well-served by having an ambassador up there to do America's business. And we're disappointed by the decision to delay a vote.
That said, it's a reality. We're going to work with that reality. We're going to get -- as we have in the past, we're going to get the committee the information it needs. We are confident that its concerns can be addressed and we look forward to a confirmation.
QUESTION: There's a slight contradiction there, but we don't have to dwell on it. On the one hand, you say you've given the committee everything they need. If they have everything they need, they should just go ahead and vote.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: On the other hand, you say you're ready to provide additional information if more information is required. Aren't you --
MR. ERELI: Requested.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I meant requested. Doesn't that -- where do you come down, then? For instance, they're considering recalling Mr. Bolton for more testimony. If they did, that would certainly delay things at least a day, maybe two days, maybe longer. Does the State Department or the administration think -- even as they say he's well-qualified, does the State Department think it would be wise for him to appear again? Do you --
MR. ERELI: Like I said, we think that the issues have been addressed. We don't think there's -- we don't think that there's -- we think we've answered the questions. We've addressed the issues that -- we'd like things to move forward. If the committee, obviously, if the committee and the chairman request or call for additional testimony, we will work with the committee.
QUESTION: In a related matter with the UN, the UN Human Rights Commission did not condemn the Sudanese Government by name. Are you willing to do that here concerning the behavior of Jingaweit and the government over Darfur? And tonight, there is another meeting. There's been one, of course, you've heard recently, at Brookings. There's one tonight at Marvin Center at George Washington University with the Organization of African Students at 5:30. Another discussion about Darfur and these students are alarmed with that region also with what's gone on with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other locales in Africa.
MR. ERELI: The Commission on Human Rights today adopted a strong resolution on human rights situation in the Darfur region of Sudan. I would note that United States joined in a consensus with the other 52 members of the Commission in passing this resolution. It was introduced by the Africa Group. It was the subject of intense discussions and negotiations. We worked hard with our other partners on the Commission in the drafting this resolution and we commend all of those who cooperated and succeeded in passing a resolution that meets a couple of important standards.
One, it accurately reflects the facts regarding the egregious abuses that are occurring in Darfur. Two, it condemns those responsible for the atrocities, including the Government of Sudan and three, it provides for a strong mechanism for investigating ongoing human rights abuses and about bringing about their end. So in our view, it's a good resolution, it's a substantive resolution, and it's a resolution that reflects a consensus among the whole committee, which is significant.
QUESTION: That's the Commission?
MR. ERELI: Commission, yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah, but then the European Union withdrew the proposal of the Commission and referred it to the African nations. And I was going to ask you what you thought of that. The story is it's moved. The story has advanced. The account I have here from Geneva is the European Union withdrew a proposal at the UN Human Rights Commission to condemn abuses in Sudan, saying it reached agreement with Khartoum and other African countries on a statement for improving the situation in the embattled Darfur region.
MR. ERELI: Right. My information is that the UN Commission on Human Rights today adopted by consensus a resolution on the human rights situation in Sudan. That's what I'm talking about.
MR. ERELI: Yeah?
QUESTION: But, that's the Commission.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: The European Union, I think, supercedes the Commission, no?
MR. ERELI: Well, this is the UN Commission, not the European Commission.
QUESTION: Oh, all right. Well, then -- then maybe there are two things going on, but --
MR. ERELI: Maybe.
QUESTION: Do you have any view about the European Union not acting on this?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of that story. I can't speak for the European Union.
QUESTION: Because you want the Europeans in on this.
MR. ERELI: Well, the Europeans were in on this Commission, --
MR. ERELI: -- the UN Commission so, I think, that they've spoken -- they've spoken quite clearly about where they stand on human rights situation in Darfur and it's where we stand which is that it's wrong, it's got to stop and we look to the government to take action -- for the Government of Sudan to take action.
QUESTION: Not to beat it to death, but the withdrawn resolution would have condemned the Sudanese Government for indiscriminate attacks on civilians of Darfur region -- diplomat said.
MR. ERELI: I would tell you that in our view, the international community, including the Europeans, have sent a very clear signal in their support of the resolution at the UN Commission on Human Rights today.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Charlie.
QUESTION: I want to go back to the Bolton situation for a minute, because you said, looking at the positive aspects of it, that if we looked around, that we would find a lot of people who would speak to his commitment and his collegiality -- were some of the words you used.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I just want to ask you whether you would also agree that if we looked around, as the committee has, that there are people who disagree with that and who find his behavior and his dealings with his colleagues less than collegial.
MR. ERELI: Is there --
QUESTION: Do you have knowledge that there are some in that category?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. I mean, you're asking me to acknowledge a fact. I'm not going to deny a fact. What I will tell you is that I think a lot of what we're seeing is -- can be -- a lot of what we're seeing can be or has been ascribed to political motivations. And that's also, I think, something that needs to be taken into account and has been alluded to by others in this government.
QUESTION: Well, yes, that's true, but also, it's true that Carl Ford, who was one of the people who testified in public against him --
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- said he was a Republican and, you know, that it pained him to testify.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm. I don't want to get into a debate on the nomination here, because I don't think that necessarily serves a useful purpose. I will state for you what the position of the State Department unequivocally is, as expressed by the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of State, and the senior leadership of this department, which is that John Bolton is an outstanding nominee, he has the confidence of the President, we have endeavored to work with Congress to provide them the facts they need to make an informed decision on this nomination.
We believe that those facts point to one inescapable conclusion, that America's interests would be well-served by having John Bolton represent the United States at the United Nations and that John Bolton has an outstanding record of achievement as a public servant and on the basis of that record of achievement, both in terms of what he has produced and what he has -- and the kind of relationships he has developed, he should be confirmed.
QUESTION: The administration is saying, among its arguments in favor of quick confirmation, is that's a big job, work's got to be done, a vacancy that has to be filled as quickly as possible. The IO job is opening. Mr. Holmes is leaving --
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- he said the other day, either this Friday or next Friday. It's not clear to me which it is. Do you know if the -- in a sense, that's -- they're very connected to the UN post.
MR. ERELI: They work together, obviously, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: They work together and it might even be argued that the IO has some authority, at least, in instructing the UN representative about positions. Do you know if that job will be filled quickly with the same urgency that you're asking the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to act with?
MR. ERELI: That job is -- as in all the senior jobs, is being looked at and they're looking -- they're trying to find the qualified person. I don't know where they are in those deliberations, but I think we've moved with alacrity on all senior positions in the government, including Mr. Bolton.
QUESTION: With respect to this, aside from the person, what changes does the White House and the State Department, meaning the administration, want to see at the United Nations? We've seen the Oil-for-Food scandal and other typical problems with the United Nations. Some people say it's doing work that's lukewarm, it's a waste of money. Other people say that it should work more with NGOs and groups in it such as UNICEF and such. Jesse Helms, of course, has one idea and then there's the whole --
MR. ERELI: Right. Well, it's a big question and one that I'm not quite prepared to jump into all the way, but what I'll tell you is that we have the Secretary General's report on reform, or recommendations on reform, which provides a good basis for discussion, covering the full range of UN activities from the Commission on Human Rights, for example, the functional agencies -- the specialized agencies, excuse me, to the Security Council, to the administration of the secretariat, all of which are distinct but related issues.
The Secretary has appointed a Special Advisor for UN Reform, Dr. Shirin Tahir-Kheli, whose job it is to coordinate the U.S. administration's response to and position on these issues, in coordination, obviously, with the future U.S. UN Ambassador and the Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs. So, we've got a big agenda ahead of us and it is an agenda, I think, that we want to move forward on.
Because UN reform, as you suggest in your question, is something that is long overdue. I mean, this is an organization that was created in 1949. It hasn't changed very much since those days, while the world has. So, we've got to find a way to make the UN as relevant as possible to the realities of the 21st century. It's what Kofi Annan wants to do, it's what the membership of the UN wants to do, and it's certainly what this administration is committed to working on, all of which argues, as I said earlier, for a confirmation of Mr. Bolton to go to New York and help lead our effort in this area.
QUESTION: Mr. Holmes jumped into this with both feet the other day and he complimented, as you have, Kofi Annan with his proposals. But he had some proposals that I'm not sure -- I assume are State Department positions, but I don't know, okay? He also, among them -- the people that put the most money in the UN, meaning the U.S., should have the most to say about the UN budget, for instance. That's interesting.
But he also said -- and this is what I'm interested in determining if you're familiar with what he said -- that Annan wants this acted on by September.
MR. ERELI: Wants what acted on?
QUESTION: The proposal -- reform proposals. Well, if that's --
MR. ERELI: Okay. I don't know what that means.
QUESTION: If you're not up on that -- I mean, if that's --
MR. ERELI: I would not expect --
QUESTION: I just wondered if it's an administration position. Holmes said, "That's awful quick."
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: There shouldn't be a time limit and it shouldn't necessarily be addressed as a package, you ought to take these proposals one by one and -- you know, really work them. It may take longer than three months to decide, for instance, on the composition of the Security Council.
MR. ERELI: That's a good bet.
QUESTION: Well, I've got to assume that he's speaking for the State Department if you're not prepared to (inaudible).
MR. ERELI: I had not seen the remarks that you're attributing to Kofi Annan.
QUESTION: No, to Kim Holmes.
MR. ERELI: Or to Kim Holmes. Certainly, there is a lot to consider, a lot to reflect on in the Secretary General's report. As I said, it deals with all aspects of the United Nations and it's going to require, I think, a lot of deliberations with our security -- with our partners in the UN and with the secretariat. Obviously, we want to move forward in a timely way, but I'm not aware of any deadlines we're working under.
QUESTION: How about -- does your "special consultant" --
MR. ERELI: No, Special Advisor to the Secretary.
QUESTION: Special Advisor.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm. Senior Advisor, actually.
QUESTION: Senior Advisor. How does that relate to the Gingrich-Mitchell mission -- congressional appointment of two people to look into reform. Do these two forces meet and collaborate or do each come up with their own ideas?
MR. ERELI: Well, the, Dr. Tahir-Kheli, obviously, is advising the Secretary and reports directly to the Secretary -- and is working to coordinate what this building does. Obviously, that will be done, I think, in consultation and in partnership with other parts of the U.S. Government just because, you know, we all benefit from working together.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. Government recognized the new President of Ecuador?
MR. ERELI: Let's talk a little bit about events in Ecuador. Really, the first point to make here is that the situation is very fluid. We're following it closely. Our position is, number one, we're a good friend of Ecuador and we have a close relationship with Ecuador and we have, I think a -- we value that relationship and we want to work with our partners in the region to help Ecuador work its way through the political impasse that it finds itself in.
We think it's important that in doing so, a couple of principles be followed. Number one, that violence be rejected, number two, that the rule of law be respected and that the principles of Ecuador's constitution and the Inter-American Democratic Charter be followed. On that basis, our embassy in Quito and our bureau officials here in Washington are actively involved in working with officials in Ecuador and throughout the region to help provide for, I think, assistance, advice and other ideas and help about how, as Ecuadorians work their way through these political deliberations.
QUESTION: Can I say then that you are not prepared to recognize the new President yet?
MR. ERELI: I'd say it's not a question of recognition; it's a question of working with the authorities and the institutions of Ecuador as they chart a political course. That's what we're doing, that's what our ambassador is involved with in Quito and that's what our officials here are doing in consultation with Ecuador's friends in the region.
QUESTION: I'm asking this question because Secretary Rice said yesterday that, "We do have relations with the former Vice President, now President."
MR. ERELI: Right. Nothing I said should be seen as contradictory to that. When you're asking -- when you say recognize, it's -- again, you're asking for a legal determination. I'm not here to provide a legal determination. We are working with the institutions and authorities that are running Ecuador. That includes the legislature, it includes the courts, it includes the ministries and it includes the executive authority, as well. That's what we have to work with.
QUESTION: And it brings to question the sense that -- can I say that you are prepared to work with the new President of Ecuador?
MR. ERELI: We are working with Ecuadorians from all parts of the country -- the opposition, the legislature, the executive, to help them and to work with them as they determine their future course. And one of the things we're saying is as you do this, it's important to remember violence is not the way to solve the problems. There are Ecuadorian laws and a constitution to guide you and that those are principles that we think are important to bear in mind.
QUESTION: Violence sometimes has a cause.
MR. ERELI: Um-hmm.
QUESTION: The protests have a lot to do, by all accounts, with the government adopting IMF -- a tough IMF prescription.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Ecuador's economic problems. Do you think that the government should go ahead and follow the IMF's suggestions, even though it seems to be having a devastating effect on the huge poor population of Ecuador, the suffering population of Ecuador?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: It's a week's salary (inaudible) in Ecuador.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I'm not prepared to give you an opinion on that, Barry. Obviously, it's a sensitive issue for Ecuadorians. And I think that the government of Ecuador in consultation with the political forces in that country are going to have to determine the -- what course they want to take. The point we're making is that using violence as a means of pressure or as a means of influence is not constructive and does not really contribute to a solution that helps Ecuador.
QUESTION: Yesterday you mentioned about Taiwan's opposition leader just traveled to China and our -- I mean, Taiwan's former President Li made a suggestion that a better place for a cross-strait dialogue is not in China, but in the States. I wonder what--
MR. ERELI: In the States?
QUESTION: In the States.
MR. ERELI: Why is that?
QUESTION: You know, just -- you know, in China that will cause some problem of the internal political situation in Taiwan. That's not -- how to say -- a neutral place. So maybe United States will be an option. I wonder your position facilitating cross-strait dialogue and maybe host the dialogue in the future?
MR. ERELI: I had not -- I'm not aware that that's anything under active consideration. I think certainly the United States, by its public stance and by, you know, in its dealings with both Chinese, dealing with officials on both sides of the straits, has made it clear that, you know, we believe that direct dialogue between them is the best way to solve this -- best way to resolve the tensions and that, obviously, we'd welcome steps by both sides that contribute to that end. I don't think you need to look to the United States to solve these problems. I think it resides first and foremost in the willing commitment of the peoples directly concerned.
QUESTION: On China, we saw report Secretary Rice asked the Russians not to sell arms to China because it might jeopardize stability of the region. This is the new policy? Can you elaborate on that?
MR. ERELI: I think it's consistent with our position with respect to the EU arms embargo, as we've articulated before; we don't want to see a militarization that adversely affects the security balance currently in the region.
QUESTION: Is it new -- anything new or is --
MR. ERELI: No. No. Long-stated U.S. policy.
QUESTION: The Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said today to Al Hurra Television that his government will protect the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah, and its arms and adding that the Shebaa Farms are Lebanese. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. ERELI: Well, I hadn't seen those remarks. I can't speak to them directly. UN Security Council Resolution 1559 is clear, it calls for the disarming and the disbanding of private militia in the extension of Lebanese Government authority throughout the country, that's something we would certainly be looking forward to once there was a new Government of Lebanon elected. And clearly the focus now is on helping to create conditions for those elections to take place before the end of May.
I think on the subject of Shebaa Farms over the years, the UN has spoken to this issue. They said when verifying Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon that Shebaa Farms is not occupied Lebanese territory. That's a matter of public record. It was the UN who decided it and it was done, what, four or five years ago. So I think that's just, frankly, an old story that shouldn't be given new legs.
QUESTION: How much confrontation will there be with countries like Canada that will now face the obligation of producing their manifest -- their passenger manifest when flying over or through American airspace?
MR. ERELI: I refer you to Department of Homeland Security on that one. I don't know how far that idea has come along or what measures are being considered so I'm a little loathe to give you an answer.
QUESTION: Was there a recent threat or a report of intelligence to suggest that it's a necessary measure?
MR. ERELI: I refer you to DHS.
Way in the back, yeah.
QUESTION: Is there a new (inaudible) between Greece and Turkey.
MR. ERELI: A new what?
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Are you following them?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of it, frankly.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. Castro has asked the United States to extend what he calls "inaction" on this Cuban-born Chemist who is wanted in Cuba in connection with a string of bombings and also wanted in Venezuela for allegedly blowing up a Cuban passenger plane, killing 203 people.
MR. ERELI: Do you have a name?
QUESTION: Luis Posada Carriles.
MR. ERELI: Let me see if we can get you something on that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) research facility the Europeans protesting the closing of. Is that something you're -- you have something on?
MR. ERELI: I'll check.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new on Mr. Welch and Mr. Abrams meetings on Israel and Palestinian territories?
MR. ERELI: I don't have a readout for you. They're on their way back to the United States. They'll be briefing the Secretary and the President and I will endeavor to get something for you based on that.
QUESTION: They met with both sides?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Had they got any answer regarding the constructions of new --
MR. ERELI: I'll have to see what I can get for you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Thank you.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m.)
DPB # 68
Released on April 21, 2005