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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 27, 2005

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 27, 2005

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 27, 2005

INDEX:

TOGO
Legitimacy & Irregularities of Presidential Election
Call for the Formation of a National Reconciliation Government

DEPARTMENT
Release of Annual Country Report on Terrorism
Release of Global Terror Statistics by National Counter-terrorism
Secretary Rice's Support for John Bolton as U.S. Permanent
Representative to the United Nations

ISRAEL/ PALESTINIANS
Proposed Middle East Peace Conference in Russia
US & Quartet Focus in the Region

ITALY
Status of Report on Investigation into Shooting Incident in Baghdad

CYPRUS
U.S. Support of Annan Plan
U.S. Policy Toward Kosovo

BANGLADESH
Bilateral Relations and Engagement

SUDAN
Arrest of U.S. Journalist

MEXICO
Bilateral Relations & Cooperative Partnership with the United States
Renewal of U.S. Public Announcement on Mexico


TRANSCRIPT:

1:10 p.m. EDT


MR. ERELI: Let me begin with two announcements. First of all, on the elections in Togo. The legitimacy of Togo's presidential elections, in our view, falls short of the aspirations of both the Togolese people and the expectations of Togo's friends in the international community. In particular, we would note irregularities in voter registration and voter card distribution prior to the election and on Election Day flaws in voting procedures that raise serious questions about the accuracy of the provisional vote totals, which were announced yesterday.

The United States joins the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States in calling for the formation of a national reconciliation government in Togo in which all the principal political forces in the country participate. The goal of such a government or the purpose of such a government would be to heal the political divisions in Togo created by this election process and to focus on constitutional reform and an electoral code that would allow for fully credible, transparent and free elections in the future.

We also take this opportunity to remind everybody involved in the process that violence is not a solution, it's not the answer to this problem and all political leaders in Togo have a responsibility to ensure that their supporters remain calm and avoid violent confrontations.

Questions on this?

QUESTION: What -- Adam, does this mean that you're not going to recognize Gnassingbe? Or exactly how is it going to work?

MR. ERELI: It means that we will work with all the political forces in Togo to help bring about a government of national reconciliation and national unity, one that can heal the political divisions in Togo and one that can produce a consensus-based process that avoids violence, that avoids conflict, that looks to create a more fully functioning, a more effectively functioning political process that is really reflective of the will of the people.

You know, again, in answer to the question about recognition, we will work with the elements that are there to help improve the situation, to help build a better process.

QUESTION: Well, then, just to follow that up, I mean, why are you not simply just calling for new elections like was done in the Ukraine, for instance?

MR. ERELI: I think what we're calling for is again -- you know, the situation is not the same as the Ukraine. Togo is not the Ukraine. The institutions of Togo are different than the institutions of Ukraine. The history of Togo is different than the history of the Ukraine. So it would be ridiculously ignoring the reality in Togo to say that the people of Togo should do as the people of Ukraine.

Given the history of Togo, given their political experience, given their political reality, given what happened on election day and how it happened and all that sort of stuff, given the other regional organizations involved and the role of regional organizations and the influence of the regional organizations like the AU and ECOWAS, the approach we're following in coordination with the other friends of Togo is -- strikes us as the approach that's best suited to the particular circumstances in Togo and offers the best prospect for addressing the shortcomings that have been highlighted by this election.

QUESTION: One more. So, in essence, what you're saying is you will not contest the results of the election, you will not ask for a replacement procedure, just to work with the politics that emerges on the ground?

MR. ERELI: What we're asking for is that the political forces in Togo work with the African Union, with ECOWAS, and with us and others to help heal political divisions caused -- that result from the electoral process that has just finished and that are reflected in, frankly, the differences that we see playing out in Togo; that they work with us to help resolve these differences to help form a government of national reconciliation that brings in all the political actors in Togo so that the kind of experience we saw in the last couple of days is not repeated and that we can chart a new -- or that Togo can chart for Togolese a new and better course based on consensus, based on commonly accepted principles and rules of the game and that is in line with, frankly, what we see in other parts of the continent and around the rest of the world.

QUESTION: That you're calling for this, does that mean that you don't really trust the commitment he made in Nigeria?

MR. ERELI: That commitment has not yet been fulfilled. We think it's important that all sides continue to work in that direction in order to produce and implement the ideas expressed in Abuja.

Done? Okay. Let me make a second announcement, and that announcement is that we will be releasing today our Annual Country Report on Terrorism. At the same time, the National Counterterrorism Center will be releasing its statistical information on acts of terrorism. These two reports will put out later this afternoon and will be available for you on an embargoed basis at 2 o'clock today. And at 3 o'clock we'll have a briefing here in the press briefing room with the Counselor of the State Department Mr. Philip Zelikow, or Dr. Philip Zelikow, and the Acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center John Brennan, who will be able to talk about these reports and answer your questions.

The reason we're doing this is because, quite simply, fighting terror is our highest priority, both the State Department and the U.S. Government. Congress and the American public deserve to have the facts. We all benefit from an informed discussion of what the U.S. Government is doing to protect American citizens and how we're doing. This is something we've been committed to from the very beginning of this process. Ambassador Boucher has spoken to it quite clearly. Other Department officials have spoken to it quite clearly. And putting the reports out today, having the briefing, I think is a clear demonstration of that commitment.

Yes.

QUESTION: Will a full set of statistics be released today, as has been in the past?

MR. ERELI: I don't want to get ahead of the briefing. The National Counterterrorism Center will release the statistics that it has prepared to date. I'll let them speak to what possible future plans are.

QUESTION: But would you anticipate, without saying specifically what the statistics are, would you anticipate they will be the same category, same basic format, as they have done in the past?

MR. ERELI: I don't anticipate a radical departure.

Anything on that?

(No response.)

MR. ERELI: Okay, on to your questions. Yes. Well, let's go in the back.

QUESTION: Yesterday --

MR. ERELI: No, no, the lady. Ladies first. Sorry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you. President Putin has called for Middle East conference in Moscow this fall. How do you see that? Is this a positive step?

MR. ERELI: The United States greatly appreciates Russia's support for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Russia, as you know, is active and valued participant in the Quartet. And President Putin's personal involvement in this issue is obviously helpful.

For us, the first priority is Gaza disengagement and a return to the roadmap. That's where our focus is. That's what we're working with both parties on. What we want to see in the immediate term and near term is both sides seizing this opportunity, realizing a coordinated and successful disengagement that advances the goal of President Bush's vision of two states.

There's a lot to do between now and disengagement and we think it's important to focus on those immediate tasks. The idea of a peace conference has been out there for some time. It's obviously something the people are going to talk about, but right now, it's a little bit premature.

Yeah.

QUESTION: So you don't support this -- having a peace conference held in Moscow this fall?

MR. ERELI: I would say our focus is on disengagement. That's where we and the Quartet are -- that's what we and the Quartet are concentrating on and we think it's important to keep the focus on that issue, ensure the proper coordination between the parties, get back on the roadmap and that those are necessary -- those are the necessary steps at the moment.

QUESTION: But I mean, you're talking as if you already know that this conference might not include these two topics. And what if --

MR. ERELI: Before you have a conference, you've got to have -- you got to make some movement, you've got have some action. We're focusing on that movement and that action first and we'll deal with other ideas later.

Sir.

QUESTION: Is the Quartet going to have a meeting in Moscow next month?

MR. ERELI: Don't have anything to confirm for you on that.

QUESTION: Will you participate in such a conference if it could be held?

MR. ERELI: Right now, this is all in the realm of the theoretical. And again, what is real and immediate and tangible is Gaza withdrawal, getting back on the roadmap, the Palestinian Authority taking steps to consolidate its security forces to provide economic hope and opportunity for the Palestinian people. Those are real, tangible, immediate needs that require our attention and our diligence. And again, that's where we're focusing our efforts.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Sir.

QUESTION: Will the United States be more forthcoming if Israel was to accept the participation in such conference?

MR. ERELI: That's a big "if".

Did you have a question?

QUESTION: Yeah, on a different subject, though.

MR. ERELI: Different subject?

QUESTION: It's okay?

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: The inquiry into the death of Mr. Calipari has become more than just a question of just what's in the report, it's become a fairly big diplomatic issue between the United States and Italy now because of the leaks, whether or not they were true or not. What is the United States doing to try to smooth over the rifts or smooth over the tensions that have (inaudible)?

MR. ERELI: I don't know if I'd agree that there are tensions.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) tensions and they may not. But I mean, smooth over the situation?

MR. ERELI: From the very beginning of this incident, we have been sensitive to and appreciative of Italian concerns. Obviously, we are grieved by the death of Mr. Calipari and we've said we are committed to finding out what happened and how it happened and why it happened. And we've been also committed to working with the Italians in this investigation. That investigation is continuing and we've got good communication. We've got -- we're approaching it in the spirit of partners, in the spirit of allies, in the spirit of friends. And that's how we've been conducting the investigation. That's how we will deal with its findings as well. And that's why we were very emphatic yesterday that reports that the investigation is complete and that conclusions, definitive conclusions, have been arrived at are premature.

QUESTION: How long -- it's been a while since the investigation's been conducted. It's been a while since we were told it was nearly complete.

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What more do you need to do now?

MR. ERELI: I'm not involved in the investigation. I think given the importance and the sensitivity which both countries attached to this incident, we need to be as thorough and careful about how we conduct the investigation and as confident as possible about its conclusions before we announce them. There's going to be no rush to judgment or no rush to conclusions.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Cyprus. Mr. Ereli, today, after 29 years, Syria is leaving Lebanon at the request of the U.S. Government and --

MR. ERELI: No, at the request of the United Nations.

QUESTION: Yes. Implementing fully the UN resolution. I am wondering if it's possible to do exactly the same, the U.S. Government to put the pressure of the international community to Turkey to leave Cyprus, implementing the UN resolutions, to leave, to (inaudible) Cyprus after 31 years of Turkish invasions and occupation.

MR. ERELI: As you know, our policy with regard to Cyprus is that the best solution for Cyprus is the Annan plan. And that, the Annan plan, provided a way forward that we believed met the needs of both communities in both countries -- I'm sorry -- both communities.

That continues to be our view and we believe that those who are committed to a peaceful and equitable solution to this longstanding problem would do well to rededicate themselves to the Annan plan and to moving forward with the Annan plan and to finding a way to implement its recommendations.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Annan plan is (inaudible)?

MR. ERELI: That will be for the parties to determine.

QUESTION: And what about, besides whatever you are saying, and we understand that for Turkey to implement all those UN resolutions from 1974 up to the present, it's fair to saying that Turks should leave Cyprus. It's invasion and occupation.

MR. ERELI: Yeah. No change in our policy on any of those issues.

QUESTION: And also one question. The other day when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with International Crisis Group here at the State Department, it was reported yesterday she presented to them a paper saying that the U.S. policy is for full independence of Kosovo. And I am wondering if there is a page on that.

MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of that paper and there's no change in U.S. policy towards Kosovo. It is as we described it most recently in the briefing, I think, about two weeks ago.

Sir.

QUESTION: Thank you, Adam. This is a question that deals with Bangladesh and U.S. relations and a point of clarification. Recently, a senior State Department official visiting India -- and it has been widely reported in some influential newspapers in India -- quoting the official that, you know, that Washington and Delhi, New Delhi, is interested in deciding about the future course of relations in Bangladesh, that is, Dhaka. Has there been a departure from the bilateral relation between Washington and Dhaka and bringing a new paradigm in that relation? Is it a departure from the normal diplomatic nuances?

MR. ERELI: No departure. No new paradigm. To the contrary, we have strong and positive and friendly and constructive relations with Bangladesh, in our relations with Bangladesh, as with our relations with any country. The course and direction of those relations are determined bilaterally, between the two countries, and a full understanding and appreciation for the interests and desires and views of that country.

At the same time, that's not inconsistent with, when we're talking about regional -- when you're talking with regional actors about events in the region, obviously other countries may come up as a topic for discussion. But one should not mistake that for a substitute or alternative to direct engagement bilaterally.

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much. This is that clarification that I really wanted to be known and to be advised.

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: Adam, there are reports that an American citizen, a photographer, has been arrested in Sudan for taking pictures of a displaced persons camp. Do you have anything you can say about that?

MR. ERELI: We learned yesterday of the arrest of a U.S. citizen in Darfur, Mr. Bradley Clift. Mr. Clift was, according to our understanding, arrested while taking photos at an internally displaced persons camp in Nyala. Our Embassy in Khartoum has been in contact with Mr. Clift and is providing all possible assistance. We have also been in touch with his family members. He has confirmed to us that he is well and is being held under house arrest in Nyala. He was to appear in court today for arraignment. The Government of Sudan has not yet specified the charges against Mr. Clift. Obviously, our Embassy officials in Khartoum and the Department of State will continue to monitor this case and provide all possible assistance to him and his family.

QUESTION: Do you know if he had the right kind of visa and the right kind of documentation to work as a journalist in Sudan?

MR. ERELI: I don't know.

QUESTION: And have you -- has the U.S. Government, other than contacting him, have you made any representations to the Sudanese Government about his treatment or whether you believe he should be released --

MR. ERELI: I'll have to check and see what contacts we've had with the Sudanese Government.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: On the Bolton nomination. How involved directly has Secretary Rice been in the confirmation process? Is she doing things like calling senators, like other members of the administration --

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything to report to you on specific calls, specific actions, the Secretary has taken. I think the Secretary has made clear in her public statements her strong support for Mr. Bolton, her emphatic belief that this is a nomination that should be confirmed, that Mr. Bolton is the right man to carry out our agenda at the United Nations and to push forward an agenda of reform at the United Nations.

And I think that Dr., that Secretary Rice, in her words and her actions -- the rest of us in the Department take our, you know, take our cue from those very, very direct and clear words from Dr., from Secretary Rice in terms of working with Congress and to answer the questions and make sure that they have what they need to make an informed decision on this nomination, and that when they do have what they need we certainly hope and believe that they'll come to the same conclusion that we've come to that this is the right guy for the job.

QUESTION: There was one report out this morning that Secretary Rice had her Chief of Staff stay back in Washington when he would normally be traveling to sort of shepherd through the nomination.

MR. ERELI: That's not -- I don't know if that's quite true. The Chief of Staff has gone on one trip, I believe, out of several, so to say that he's not on this trip to deal with that is not necessarily the case.

QUESTION: Is this what he's dealing with this week primarily?

MR. ERELI: No, he's doing his job as Chief of Staff, which encompasses a lot of things. I think you'd be -- it would be grossly unfair to Mr. Gunderson to suggest that he's only doing one thing.

QUESTION: I didn't say only. I said primarily.

MR. ERELI: This is -- you know, obviously, the State Department is doing what we can to answer the questions of Congress, be responsive to the questions posed by the committee consistent with our obligations and our role in the process of advice and consent, and trying to move this process forward so that it can be brought to a timely conclusion and that we can get our -- get the nomination confirmed.

QUESTION: And are you dismayed that the committee appears to plan to have staff interview a fairly extensive list of people over the next couple of weeks about his nomination?

MR. ERELI: I would say that we -- it's not a question of dismayed or not dismayed. It's a question of being responsive and working with the committee to answer the questions so that they have the information they need to make a decision.

QUESTION: On Mexico?

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: Mexico is kind of criticizing the contents of your latest warning to U.S. citizens traveling to the northern part of Mexico about drug-related violence. They are saying in a statement that (inaudible) should be avoided because they (inaudible) cooperation. They're also saying that they have requested since February 9th the list of around 30 Americans who were either kidnapped or murdered in Mexico and apparently they have not received that. What's your response?

MR. ERELI: First of all, we -- it's important to point out that the United States and Mexico have excellent relations. And this is true at the level of law enforcement as well and that particularly in the area of border security and crime, we work closely and we work cooperatively with the Mexican authorities.

At the same time, one cannot ignore the fact that there are persistent incidents of drug-related -- or, I'm sorry, persistent incidents of violence among drug traffickers in towns on the Mexican side of the border and that these incidents of violence pose risks to American travelers. So it's our responsibility as a government to alert American travelers to these incidents of violence, to let them know that they are there and to provide them with the information they need to decide whether to expose themselves to those risks.

And that's the spirit in which in this Public Announcement was issued. It is a continuation of a situation that existed when we put out an initial announcement, I think, three months ago.

As far as the Americans abducted along the borders since 2004 go, as we said before, there were 32 American citizens that have been abducted: 2 of those citizens were killed; 13 remain missing; the other 17 were eventually released. My understanding is that we are working with the Mexican authorities on the 13 missing. I'm not aware that there is a absence of communication, so that's contrary to the information that I have.

I would also note that there are significant efforts to cooperate and coordinate with the Mexican counterparts. These include joint training courses we've had involving over 4,000 Mexican police officers and prosecutors. We're working together on criminal investigations, anti-corruption and integrity, safety, border techniques, forensic investigative procedures and kidnapping and hostage negotiation.

I'd also draw your attention to some very vigorous actions that President Fox's administration has taken, including deploying law enforcement officers and military troops to the border, to jailing an unprecedented number of Mexican crime leaders, to instituting reforms in the prison system to strengthen controls and to having a very welcoming posture in terms of cooperation with the United States.

So, in short, there's persistent violence due to drug-related activity, that this is a reality that we cannot ignore for the safety of our own citizens and that, as a government, we have a responsibility to alert them to this situation. At the same time, we continue to work with the Mexican Government to address this problem and we recognize that the Mexican Government has taken some important steps.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Thank you.

(This briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)

DPB # 72

Released on April 27, 2005

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