State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 22, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 22, 2005
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
April 22, 2005
Earth Day / United States Record of Accomplishment on the Environment
Bolton Nomination / Congressional Inquiries / Powell Statements
Secretary Rice's Conversations / Discussions Between Rice and Powell
Patterns of Global Terrorism Report / Congressman Waxman's Letter
Director of National Intelligence
Upcoming Presidential Elections / U.S. Observers
Conduct of Elections / Importance of Credibility of Results
Secretary's Trip to Latin America / Critical Allies and Vital Partners
Community of Democracies / Transferring Benefits of Democracy
U.S. Efforts to Alleviate Poverty
Free Trade Agreements / Negotiations
Potential UN Security Council Membership for Brazil / U.S. Postiion
Positive Vision for the Future of the Region / Venezuela
Arms Sales to Venezuela
Supporting the Rule of Law
Chinese Involvement in the Area
Gross Violations of Human Rights in Burma / Aung San Suu Kyi
Resignation of Security Chiefs
Secretary's Meeting with Adil Abd al-Mahdi
On-going Dialogue with the Government
Process of Forming a Government
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Greetings, everyone. A pleasure to have you here for the last briefing of the week.
I'll start off with two announcements. One, draw your attention to a media note which the Department put out, marking the 35th anniversary of Earth Day. And drawing, I think, drawing your attention to the activism of the United States and the United States Government in support of the environment, both within the United States and abroad. Pointing out that in terms of sustainable development, the United States provides $19 billion annually in official development assistance, that is almost doubled what we did since 2000. Purpose is to accelerate economic growth and social development and enhance environmental stewardship in developing nations in the area of climate change.
The State Department has initiated 14 bilateral climate partnerships with countries and regional organizations that, together with the United States, account for more than 70 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. I would also point out that the administration's 2005 budget includes $5.2 billion for climate-related activities in the area of biodiversity, we are working to secure protection of dozens of species throughout the world. Examples include the International Coral Reef Initiative and the historic effort with 25 western hemisphere nations to conserve that region's migratory wildlife and, in the area of forests, we are spearheading initiatives, such as the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, which is a $53 million initiative to establish networks of protected areas and improve forest management across Central Africa.
So if you look at our record of accomplishment, I think you will note that the United States, both in terms of working with other countries and devoting resources, is strongly committed to a clean and sustainable world.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) oil exploration in the arctic, do you?
MR. ERELI: And then I'll go on to the Togo presidential elections --
QUESTION: Which is an administration policy. Breaking with previous administrations --
MR. ERELI: I think the administration in all its activities gives due consideration and takes steps to protect the environment and to act in ways that secure resources, natural resources, for future generations.
On Togo. There will be Presidential elections in Togo this Sunday. The United States, along with the economic community of West African states, calls on the Togolese authorities to conduct these elections in a free and fair manner. We and our partners will be observing the conduct of validity and vote counting process to ensure that international standards are followed and respected. We call on all political parties and their leaders in Togo to insist on peaceful conduct by their supporters. It's important that all the political parties in Togo work together, both now and in the future, to promote the interests of their nation.
And do you have questions on that?
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any concerns about the way this campaign has been conducted thus far, to you know, warrant that kind of statement?
MR. ERELI: Our concerns stem really from a couple of things. One is, I think, previous practices in Togo. And two is persistent reports from within Togo about the prospect for violence and the prospect for irregularities in voting procedures and tabulations. So that it's important for us to put down this marker and say, "We're watching." And everybody in this process, government and opposition, has responsibility to act in ways that serve the interests of the Togolese people.
QUESTION: Can we go on or --
QUESTION: Just on Togo, if you don't mind?
QUESTION: Sure, please.
QUESTION: Have you been watching the case of the Interior Minister?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So do you think he was right in wanting to postpone the elections? It sounds like you've got concerns as well and maybe that was the more prudent thing to do.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm. He has very serious allegations, which we take seriously. I think which the international community takes seriously. And there has been the idea raised of postponing the elections. The fact of the matter is that all the parties in Togo, both government and opposition, say that they want move forward with elections this Sunday. We're not going to second-guess that. But at the same time, we would underscore the importance of -- if you're going to meet that date, that you do it in a way that gives credibility to the results.
QUESTION: One of the things that he the alleged is that the Government has been rigging voter lists? And you say that you take his allegations seriously. I mean, if he's right, you may end up with an election on Sunday that is in fact not free or fair or credible. So I wonder, why you stick with the view that they should definitely go ahead if you feel -- if you take seriously his allegations?
MR. ERELI: I would say that it's -- you can have it both ways. You can take the allegations seriously. You can do something -- you can take steps to prevent the kind of abuses that may take place, that are alleged to take place. And you can have the elections on time. The essential point is that this is a Togolese process, that the Togolese body politic has decided on a course of action. We're not going to second-guess that, but at the same time, we're going to speak about standards and expectations that the international community shares.
QUESTION: Just one last one on this, if I may. How many U.S. monitors or observers are there or is it just the embassy keeping tabs?
MR. ERELI: The embassy will be sending observers out on Election Day. I would also note that U.S. funded NGOs have participated or conducted training for diplomatic and local observers. I don't have specific numbers for you.
QUESTION: On another thing, how does the Secretary feel about her predecessor talking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about at their invitation -- about Mr. Bolton?
MR. ERELI: The Secretary and the State Department believe that questions of the committee should be answered and that's certainly what we're doing. And it's no surprise and, I think well it's no surprise that others are doing the same thing. So the point is that members of the committee want to know about Mr. Bolton's qualifications and Mr. Bolton's record. We think that those questions should be answered and we think that once those answers are given, that it will lead to an inescapable conclusion, and that conclusion is that Mr. Bolton would be an excellent ambassador for the United States at the United Nations.
QUESTION: And this represents the Secretary's view?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: So she has no problems with Secretary Powell's calls?
MR. ERELI: Secretary Powell is answering requests for information, the way that we do, the way that any American citizen would do.
QUESTION: Even if Powell -- even if Secretary -- former Secretary Powell doesn't come to the inescapable conclusion that but one Mr. Bolton would make a --
MR. ERELI: I don't know what conclusion Secretary Powell came to.
QUESTION: In the same vein, if some Ambassador, Hubbard for instance, has come forward, talked to the staff -- in fact I think he's back there again, today -- he has some complaints about Secretary Bolton. This -- you would respond the same way, that if the committee wants information, so be it, right?
MR. ERELI: That's a fundamental principle of democracy, yes.
QUESTION: I know. I was just wondering.
MR. ERELI: But as far as, again, I think the issues raised by Mr. Hubbard again has been very fully addressed. So when all the information is considered, you guys raise some examples of information and questions and answers, that I think is important to look at this process in its totality. And when all the information is out there and when you look at all the answers, again, we think the record will show that Mr. Bolton is a very qualified nominee.
QUESTION: You know, you said fully addressed, you know, we could take half an hour and go down the allegations that Mr. Hubbard made --
MR. ERELI: I thought that's what we've been doing?
QUESTION: No. Specifically. You said what Hubbard said has been fully addressed --
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- like Mr. Bolton didn't cancel a dinner with South Korean dignitaries, he didn't hang up the phone on Mr. Hubbard, he didn't, you know, there are a lot of I'm not an investigator here, but I don't know if you can just say it has been fully addressed. Mr. Hubbard --
MR. ERELI: I think they've been fully addressed to the committee.
QUESTION: I don't think Mr. Hubbard thinks so. Let me ask you something else and then I'll give up. But is this having, a far as you or others can determine, an impact on the morale at the State Department?
MR. ERELI: None at all. I think the State Department is very proud of the loyal and dedicated public servants that work on behalf of the American people, from top to bottom.
QUESTION: Oh no, I didn't mean -- I wasn't asking -- I mean the airing, the (inaudible), the back and forth over various incidents or alleged incidents -- it's sort of like the State Department's private life is being made public. Does that bother anybody?
MR. ERELI: We're public servants. We don't -- our performance and our service to the nation is a matter of public record.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Same subject?
MR. ERELI: Same subject?
QUESTION: Has Rice talked to Powell since --
MR. ERELI: Secretary Rice talks to former Secretary Powell all the time. They are in regular contact with each other on -- they're old friends and colleagues, they talk to each other all the time.
QUESTION: But have they spoken specifically about Bolton?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any for you on that.
QUESTION: When did he talked to her last?
MR. ERELI: Don't know.
QUESTION: When did she talk to him last?
MR. ERELI: Don't know. It's --
QUESTION: Because if they talk all the time, he hasn't talked to -- he doesn't talk to the committee all the time, just the last couple of days. So they haven't talked in two or three days, they could've been talking about this, right?
MR. ERELI: They talk regularly, is the way I put it.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary seek Colin Powell's input on, along with the President, on whether Mr. Bolton would make a good nominee?
MR. ERELI: I don't know.
QUESTION: Sort of change of subject?
QUESTION: Can I ask one more?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) whether Mr. Bolton will be called back for more testimony. Do you have anything further on that?
MR. ERELI: There's been no request that I'm aware of but as I said yesterday, we certainly, as we have in the past, we will continue to cooperate with the committee.
QUESTION: So the Secretary goes to Latin America next week?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: She, last Friday, set up the trip herself at the newspaper editors meeting. And she said, "We have a twin challenge in Latin America. We have to bolster democracy, but we also have to alleviate poverty." As she goes down there, we all know the statistics that poverty generally hasn't been alleviated growth, hasn't been great in the last decades in Latin America. And yet, there's this Washington consensus about free trade and privatization and all of that. That hasn't been working, according to many economists. Is there are there some new ideas that the Secretary can take down there, that can help alleviate poverty?
MR. ERELI: Well, I'll put it this way, let's start from the beginning. This is an important trip. We have critical allies and vital partners in Latin America. The Secretary -- follow up or follow through on activities already begun. She's already, as you know, been to Mexico in March, she's met with a number of foreign -- Latin American Foreign Ministers here, she's had extensive phone calls with Latin American Foreign Ministers since taking office and now there's an opportunity to go down and meet directly with important American partners throughout the hemisphere.
Obviously in Chile, she'll be addressing the community of democracies, which is an opportunity to focus on the development of democratic institutions and processes. Not only in Latin America but worldwide. More generally speaking, in an answer to your question, I would look at it in terms of the Monterey Consensus that President Bush outlined before. And what we have there is a framework for translating the benefits of democracy in ways that to benefit the people that live in those democracies.
Ideas like development of civil society, development of entrepreneurship, economic reform, free trade areas, good governance which is a key aspect of all of this, transparency, fighting corruption -- these are all aspects of building on democratic institutions and processes, which have been established in Latin America, which have taken root there and I think, which have proved their vitality and their strength. And then taking it one step further, or you know, in a further evolution, in ways that translate that system of government and those institutions and help create processes, create activities that give people -- that translate into real opportunity, real advancement of citizen empowerment and that will be, I think, an important aspect of her visit.
Then, you know, going into, obviously speaking of it in terms of specific stops, you've got Brazil, which is a major player in the region and in the world, quite frankly. They are playing a very important role in Haiti, in helping to bring stability and development to that country. It is a vibrant, multi-ethnic society that faces many of the same challenges that other large countries, including us, face. And it's an opportunity to discuss how we can work together in response to those challenges.
In El Salvador, this is a country that has come through a civil war, that has established, again, vibrant and dynamic democratic institutions, that has been a strong ally of the United States internationally, particularly in the conflict confronting Iraq and it's an important, I think, symbol of our support for El Salvador that she's going there.
Colombia, obviously the Andean free trade agreement is an important aspect of this overall approach. Counterterrorism, Plan Colombia, again, development of civil society -- so you see there are common things to all these separate stops, but then, at the same time, strong bilateral interests as well.
QUESTION: So hold on, hold on. So thanks for that because I'm following up on my question to you. That's an overview of the trip, that's fine. But I'm asking about alleviating poverty. I'm trying to work out from your answer what relevance there is -- may be it's this part when you said, we're looking to develop and evolve the democracy, the institutions, to translate that into helping, creating processes, real opportunities, citizen empowerment --
MR. ERELI: Right, right.
QUESTION: -- is that what -- what is it that the United States can do to help alleviate poverty? Now that you've done the overview, what's the specific?
MR. ERELI: Talk about things like economic reform, development of entrepreneurship, good governance, transparency, anti-corruption -- principles, not necessarily these countries qualify, but principles present in the Millennium Challenge Corporation idea -- programs that translate principles of political participation, principles of emancipation, principles of tolerance and opportunity into real tangible benefits.
MR. ERELI: And, you know, we've got experience in doing that. Other countries have experiences in doing that and, I think, that can be an important basis for discussion. If you're asking for specific initiatives, nothing that I have to share with you right now.
QUESTION: Yeah. The problem is that these programs -- that they got value but the statistics on growth show that it's not working, not working well enough, and you see the region all shifting to the Left, even shifting to figures that you consider a problem, such as Chavez, who demagogues about your idea for how to improve the region doesn't work. So would you at least acknowledge that all these programs, while you continue to work at them, haven't yet --
MR. ERELI: Oh, to the contrary, to the contrary. I think that, you know, if you look at negotiations currently under way on what -- look at Chile, you've got a free trade agreement in Chile and there have been real economic benefits derived from that free trade agreement. There are free trade agreements in different stages of negotiation with Central America, with the Andean countries. So I think there are valuable lessons to be learned from these experiences, that basically can translate integration, reform and principles of free trade into, as I said before, tangible benefits for people and the discussion of those kinds of experiences that can, as I said before, lead to reform, lead to change, lead to evolution and development in ways that meet the expectations of people who have benefited from liberalized political processes but are still waiting to see some economic impact of that.
QUESTION: The free trade agreements are actually going much more slowly than you would like and are increasingly resisted in Latin America. You're arguing--
MR. ERELI: I don't know if I'd accept that characterization.
QUESTION: Okay, are the free trade agreements going as quickly as you would like?
MR. ERELI: I mean, free trade agreements are not easy. They involve a lot of back and forth -- they're complex negotiations and complex -- and they require tough decisions. So I don't think one is under any illusion that you can just snap your fingers and have a free trade agreement. At the same time, there's a real, I think, political will to move forward. There's a recognition that free trade is a good thing. And that others have benefited from it and those benefits should be expanded to beyond -- those efforts or those benefits should be expanded. And that's how I'd put it.
QUESTION: On Brazil? You spoke in praise of Brazil in recognition of its importance. Would this be the occasion to support Brazil's aspirations for permanent membership on the Security Council?
MR. ERELI: I think the focus will probably be on the region and if the subject comes up, obviously, we'll make known our position that there are a number of important ideas in Secretary General's reform plan. We'll be studying them and we will look to the other members of the Security Council and the UN to come up with their positions.
QUESTION: But you don't expect (inaudible) the plan and announce that Brazil has the U.S. support for a permanent seat?
MR. ERELI: I don't expect us to be breaking any new ground on the subject.
QUESTION: I have one.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: How much of the theme of what's going on in Venezuela and U.S. concerns about President Chavez will be an issue in her discussions?
MR. ERELI: I think the focus will really be on looking forward and on a positive vision for the future of the region and the future of our cooperation. To the extent that regional issues are discussed, Venezuela or Ecuador, I think, you know, our approach will be to look at ways that we can work together so that the, again, consistent with the overall theme of translating political processes to the benefit of the people, was we can work together to meet the needs and the expectations of the people of the region.
QUESTION: Yes, but I understand, but when you talk about looking, focusing on looking forward in a positive view of the region, the Secretary has said numerous times since taking office, that she thought that Venezuela was, you know, a kind of negative factor in the region and with the rest of the region moving towards democracy that there were concerns about President Chavez and that perhaps actions by his government and their desire to acquire weapons, perhaps from Russia or other places, could have a destabilizing effect on the region. So how much, when you talk about a positive view for the region and trying to put this into a regional context, how much of a factor is Venezuela in that?
MR. ERELI: I don't expect it to be a big topic of discussion on this trip. Like I said, if it does come up, we will be discussing it and be looking at it in the broader framework of, you know, what do we want the future of the region to be? Do we want it to be a forward looking, reform minded trend? Or do we want it to be --
QUESTION: Like Venezuela?
MR. ERELI: To be problematic the way we see some of the developments in Venezuela.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary raise, when she's in Brazil, Brazil's plans or exploration of ideas of selling military planes to Venezuela?
MR. ERELI: Again, I don't -- that is not going to be the focus of our discussions.
QUESTION: Right, it didn't have to be the focus but --
MR. ERELI: I can't exclude the possibility that it might come up but it will not be, again, an important feature of the visit.
QUESTION: Adam, just one quick follow-up. That you expect -- you said that you expected Venezuela to only come up in sort of general terms. I wonder --
MR. ERELI: I don't have any expectations. I don't --
QUESTION: I thought that's what you said?
MR. ERELI: Maybe I said it --
QUESTION: Well, let me get to the question, I'm not trying to trap you on this, it's just --
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: There's been an issue about the possibility of Venezuelan arms transfers to paramilitaries in Colombia and I wondered --
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm, that has been an issue.
QUESTION: Do you expect that to come up on the trip in Colombia?
MR. ERELI: Again, if it does, we will make clear our position that this is an issue of concern for us, that it, I think, underscores why one needs to look carefully at the issue of arms sales to Venezuela. And, frankly, it brings up the broader issue that certainly will come up in Colombia as well as others, is our counterterrorism cooperation and our bilateral and regional cooperation and the global war on terror. And the importance of taking a clear stand against violence by -- the use of violence to achieve political objectives and the importance of working together to prevent that kind of activity. And that will be the broader context in which issues such as those that you raised will be discussed.
QUESTION: I asked you about one of the twin challenges that the Secretary laid out. The other one, democracy. There's a problem in Latin America that polls show, and the United Nations did a big survey last year and I don't think things have changed since then, that when it comes to choosing between democracy and alleviating poverty, then Latin Americans would generally choose an authoritarian government over a democratic one, if it could deliver on poverty. Is that the sort of move that concerns the United States?
MR. ERELI: Again, I think the message we'll be delivering is that it's a false choice. You can have both, there are countries that have succeeded in both, and having both is doubly good. So it's not as if you have to choose between one or the other, and in fact, Latin America is already off to a great start in this regard. They've got liberalized institutions and political processes, so let's build on that, let's take it to the next level, as opposed to, you know, having to abandon that course and choose another one. To the contrary, the way they're going is in the right direction and can lead to greater benefits and greater prospects for prosperity and well-being of the populations there.
QUESTION: But isn't it true that non-democratic forms have been found by the people to help them achieve a government that can attend to the poor, the needs of the poor -- Venezuela, the poor are constantly voting for a guy you say is anti-democratic. In Bolivia, we've had people in the streets to get rid of governments that you have supported. And we've just seen what's happened in Ecuador.
MR. ERELI: I think those are -- I wouldn't necessarily agree with you that those examples prove -- support your contention. I think that what they show is that people have expectations, people have desires and they look to government to satisfy those expectations and that they hold their elected governments accountable. They hold their elected governments accountable, not only the basis of -- not only in terms of respecting the rule of law and following the law and following established procedures and respecting established institutions, but they also hold their elected officials for delivering on promises and providing a better future. And that is a lesson to take home and that is all the more reason why ideas and programs like developing of entrepreneurship, strengthening the civil society, promoting government transparency, embarking on good governance, supporting the rule of law -- all the more evidence of why these kinds of activities, these kinds of -- trends in this kind of directions are beneficial and are in the interests of all of us.
QUESTION: Against the back drop of what you said earlier, how do you -- how does the U.S. view the competition forced by China, for instance, it seems to be making much inroads into the region. (Inaudible)
MR. ERELI: Free trade -- it's a competitive, I mean, it's an open market and competitive -- free and open competition so the freer and more open, the better.
QUESTION: Different region?
MR. ERELI: Same? Different? Ready to go somewhere else? Okay.
QUESTION: Southeast Asia. There have been reports by various human rights groups that in Burma, the military junta has recently used chemical weapons against the ethnic minority -- the Karenni minority group. And also, could you also bring us up to date on the (inaudible) with respect to Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi is not in office --
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: -- she's still under house arrest.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- and also, the government there, this military junta is starting to us force. Now mind you, they're not quite Pol Pot of Cambodia, but is there some thing that the United States or a resolution the United States --
MR. ERELI: Well, the United States has acted decisively and I think emphatically in response to the gross violations of human rights by the Government of Burma. Whether it be, with respect to its indigenous populations and the subjugation of the violence used against them, I don't have any information to corroborate reports of chemical weapons used against the Karen, but clearly this is a conflict that -- in which horrific violations of human rights have taken place.
With respect to Aung San Suu Kyi and the peaceful democratic opposition to the regime there, we've made it very clear that a legitimate process of national reconciliation has to include all the members of the opposition, they have to be let out of jail, they have to participate in dialogue and the government doesn't let that happen. And we have taken, I think, appropriate and important steps in response that -- to their consistent practice -- practices of suppressing democratic opposition. And those include sanctions, those include diplomatic isolation and, you know, we'll continue in that vein until there's some change.
QUESTION: On another thing, I doubt if you're aware of this -- if you aren't, we'll just drop it -- but Congressman Waxman, who you remember was on top of last year's (inaudible) terror report -- has written the IG, asking for an investigation -- Richard went through this at length on Monday, -- has there been any change --
MR. ERELI: And I on Tuesday.
QUESTION: But he says that, you didn't consult Congress, (inaudible) withholding information from the public and he blames Rice and he contrasts her, what he says is her approach, to Colin Powell, saying that Powell leveled, admitted there were mistakes, went out of his way to correct them, but here you go, changing the procedure, you don't tell Congress, you don't -- and you withhold data that's significant (inaudible) levels of attacks, from the public, also, because he's asking for an investigation. Is this something -- I just became aware of it a couple of hours ago and I don't know if you're aware of it -- can you deal with it?
MR. ERELI: I'm aware of it, I can deal with it in a limited fashion.
MR. ERELI: What I can tell you is that our acting Inspector General has received Congressman Waxman's letter. He is giving it or we are giving it serious consideration and I expect that we will respond in a few days. It is a matter under consideration by the Office of Inspector General, not something that I can speak to. I think in terms of the general issue about the annual report on Patterns of Global Terrorism, as we've made clear, we will fulfill our -- the requirements of Congress. We will report to Congress on what we are legislatively required to report. There should be no doubt about that and there should be no question that we will engage in a full and open public debate on our report. And so suggestions that we're being evasive or duplicitous are just wrong.
QUESTION: Do you is it your expectation that the intelligence community will release data on the -- will release the terrorism statistics?
MR. ERELI: Again, I don't want to speak for other agencies of government, but all of us in the U.S. Government are committed to being responsive to Congress and to contributing to an informed public debate and that's what we certainly look forward to.
QUESTION: Congress passed and is now -- former diplomat John Negroponte, also UN Ambassador, is now going to be heading up this intelligence, massive intelligence effort. To what degree will he have any interface here at the State Department with that?
MR. ERELI: Well, there's obviously consultation and coordination between intelligence agencies and foreign affairs agencies and I expect that that will be the case with the National Director of Intelligence in his new role and representing these new institutions. But again, this is new ground so I wouldn't want to predict for you how it's going to happen but I don't expect there to be a departure from previous practice.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, do we have one in the back?
QUESTION: Yes. Lebanon today, two heads of security resigned from their posts. Do you welcome this development or --
MR. ERELI: We've seen reports that Jamal al Sayyid is no longer head of the Lebanon General Security Department. I can't confirm that for you. I leave it to the Government of Lebanon to speak to what his exact status is. Frankly, our view is that the important thing is for Lebanon, for the Government of Lebanon to move quickly to organize elections and to cooperate fully with the international investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri and that's the prospective that we look at when considering these developments.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: One more?
QUESTION: One more here. I wonder if you already talked about Iraq, Mr. Adil Abd al-Mahdi, right now he's --
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: -- you know, starting his meeting with Madame Secretary. I wonder if you could brief us more about the object of his visit?
MR. ERELI: Well, the way to look at this visit is as part of our ongoing dialogue, ongoing engagement with the Government of Iraq. Deputy Secretary Zoellick, as you know, was in Iraq last week. Met with a number of Iraq's leaders, including the President and Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament and Mr. Alawi. The Vice President, Mahdi, is here in Washington, has met with officials at the White House and is meeting with the Secretary. Iraq is in the process of -- or has elected a new transitional assembly, has appointed a leadership, is in the process of forming a government. We have a lot to talk to Iraq about. Our security cooperation, our efforts to work both bilaterally and regionally to support Iraqi reconstruction and all of these will be, I think, things that the Secretary and the Vice President talk about, as part of the broader engagement and partnership, frankly, between the United States and Iraq.
QUESTION: Is Mrs. Rice going to push for, as quickly as possible, a government in Iraq? It seems --
MR. ERELI: Well, obviously, I think all of us want to see the process move forward, nobody more so than the Iraqi people.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
DPB # 69
Released on April 22, 2005