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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 21, 2005

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 21, 2005

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 21, 2005

INDEX:

VIETNAM
Executive Agreement Between the U.S. and Vietnam Regarding
Cooperation on the Adoption of Children
1998 Moratorium on Adoptions
Recognition of the Ten-Year Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with the U.S.

IRAQ
Delay of the Interrogation of Saddam Hussein / Iraq's Authority
Over Trials of Iraqi Officials / U.S. Role
Endorsement of Vice President Cheney's Remarks that the Insurgency
is in its Last Throes / Success Strategy / Multi-Pronged Strategy
to Combat the Insurgency
U.S. Support for Creating an Inclusive Political Process / Sunni Presence

DEPARTMENT
Support for the Nomination of John Bolton / Need for an Up or Down
Congressional Vote / UN Reform / Information Requests
John Bolton's Current Role at the U.S. Department of State

SYRIA/BRUSSELS/SAUDI ARABIA
Syria's Efforts to Secure Border with Iraq and Deal with
Supporters of Iraqi Insurgency in Syria / Attempt by Foreign
Fighters to Thwart Political Progress in Iraq
Need for Syria to Match Actions With Rhetoric / Need for Effective
Action Against Insurgents / Importance of Brussels
Effective Alliance Between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to Support
Iraq / Fight Insurgency

PAKISTAN
Secretary Rice's Conversation with Foreign Minister Kasuri
Regarding Mukhtiar Mai / Public Commitments by Pakistani
Government to Allow Mai to Travel / Obstacles Erected to Prevent Mai's Travel
Expression of U.S. Government Concern for Mai / Need for an Escort to Travel

LEBANON/SYRIA
Condemnation of the Assassination of George Hawi / Need for a Full and Transparent Investigation
Quest for Freedom in Lebanon / Democracy / Good Governance
Implementation of 1559 / Presence of Intelligence Assets in
Lebanon / Syria's Hit List
International Observers in Elections / Credibility

HONG KONG
Expression of Congratulations for Newly Elected Chief Executive Donald Tsang

TRANSCRIPT:

1:05 p.m. EDT


MR. ERELI: Hello, everyone. Let me start the briefing off with some good news, with the announcement that an executive agreement between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was signed today on -- regarding cooperation on the adoption of children. It was signed on our part by Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty and on the Vietnamese side by Minister of Justice Uong Chu Luu.

The signing of this agreement represents a culmination of many months of effort in negotiations by both countries and highlights our mutual commitment to the welfare and well-being of children and parents, as well as to a transparent and effective adoption system between our two countries.

Further information on the agreement is available on our website. It's an important event for us and for families seeking to adopt children in Vietnam and we're very pleased that we were able to work with the Government of Vietnam on reaching this agreement.

QUESTION: Can you just say what this agreement does? I mean, does it restore adoptions, which I guess were frozen --

MR. ERELI: It provides -- yeah, exactly. It provides an agreement and modalities for adoptions to resume with Vietnam. And in the agreement, Vietnam expresses its intention to accede to The Hague Inter-Country Adoption Convention. And actually, I'm not sure if this clears the way to start adoptions now, but it's a necessary step to get to adoptions because the next step would be Vietnam's accession to The Hague Adoption Convention. But for more details, again, I'd refer you to the website.

QUESTION: Is this a precedent for similar agreements with other countries or is there something unique about it?

MR. ERELI: I think this is something unique with Vietnam. I mean, obviously, there are agreements with other countries, but the circumstances of this one are special.

QUESTION: Do you know when the last adoptions -- did they end at the end of the war?

MR. ERELI: I believe the last adoptions ended with the moratorium -- when a moratorium on adoptions was imposed in 1998.

QUESTION: Could I -- could we get into something else, or are we done with this?

QUESTION: I just have a very quick question I'd like to ask on this Vietnam thing. Now, could we say for sure that the Vietnam War is completely over and we're back to normalization with Vietnam? I mean, you know --

MR. ERELI: Well, we could have said that a long time ago. We've had diplomatic relations with -- full diplomatic relations with Vietnam for ten years and we put out a statement several months ago, I think, on recognizing that ten-year anniversary. So the answer to the question is a resounding yes.

QUESTION: Iraq's Justice Minister has told the Associated Press that the United States is trying to delay interrogation of Saddam Hussein. This is, you know, in line with previous allegations of delaying the trial.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: They don't like it. They want to get ahead with it. You've talked about the need for a well-prepared prosecution. Could you address the latest complaint?

MR. ERELI: I've seen the reports of remarks by Iraqi officials. Let us be clear that the United States views the trials of Iraqi officials as a process that is under the authority of the Iraqi Government and will proceed according to decisions that the Iraqi Government and Iraqi Special Tribunal make. That's what's going to determine the pace and timing of this process, not the United States Government.

We, obviously, as well as the rest of the international community, are working with the Iraqi Special Tribunal and the Iraqi Government to help them develop their capabilities, help -- be of assistance in preparing cases and assemble evidence. But the decision on case management and, again, timing and when to bring to trial are Iraqi decisions to make, not the United States.

QUESTION: But you have been looking over their shoulder. You've been offering expertise. Without casting aspersions, this is new to Iraq.

MR. ERELI: Yes and no.

QUESTION: Well, a trial --

MR. ERELI: They have a very, I mean, they -- Iraq has, I think, a very capable and able judiciary. They've got good people. They haven't conducted trials for crimes against humanity before so it's new in that respect, yes.

QUESTION: That doesn't -- you still let them make their own decisions?

MR. ERELI: Exactly. Yes.

QUESTION: Same subject? Just one quick one on this. Is the U.S. advising them to delay the interrogation? I mean, is there (inaudible)?

MR. ERELI: I wouldn't put it that way. I think the United States, again, is working with the Iraqis to help them as they prepare the cases for prosecution, working to try cases. And it is up to them to decide when they think they're ready to go ahead. It's not up to us to make those decisions. And that's the way the process works.

QUESTION: But it takes time, doesn't it? I mean --

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: That takes time?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: To counsel and advise?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Change of subject. The second attempt at a cloture vote on John Bolton has failed on the floor. Senator Frist says he doesn't -- he probably won't try again and this makes it look more likely that if Bolton's going, it would be in a recess appointment. Does that concern you? I mean, are you disappointed in this result? And do you feel that it would undermine his leverage to get reform and other U.S. goals at the United Nations if he were there on a recess appointment, which is short?

MR. ERELI: A lot of questions there. First of all, we are disappointed that the nomination of John Bolton did not come up for a yes-or-no vote before the Senate. We think that vote is long overdue. The President and Secretary have made clear that we've got critical business to do at the United Nations.

We are at a pivotal moment in American efforts and in worldwide efforts, frankly, to undertake meaningful reform of the United Nations. That makes it all the more important to have a strong and activist representative for the United States at the United Nations, one who can work energetically on behalf of the United States and in furtherance of the President's policies and the Secretary's policies. John Bolton is the guy to do that.

We continue to believe that the way forward on this is a up-or-down vote and we will continue to work with the Senate leadership to see that the President and Secretary's priorities and desires are met.

Looking back on this process, I would say that we have acted in good faith to meet the Senate's requests for information. We believe that those requests have been met and that everybody has the information they need to make a decision on this nomination and that therefore the next step should be an up-or-down vote.

QUESTION: That's already sort of -- Senator Frist said he's not going to try again. It has failed for a second time. So could you answer the second part of my question? If, as it looks likely, that Bolton would have to go on -- as a recess appointment --

MR. ERELI: Well, that is a supposition and a presumption that you're making that I'm not prepared to endorse.

QUESTION: Well, can I follow up?

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, it doesn't look as if it's going to get to an up-or-down vote and --

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to be that predictive.

QUESTION: Are you still working --

MR. ERELI: You can be that predictive. I'm not going to --

QUESTION: -- are you still working with the Congress to try and force an up-or-down vote?

MR. ERELI: It looks, frankly -- and I think the White House made this point -- that it looks like it's -- it looks more and more like a filibuster and that they are -- you know, that having met the requirements for information, there is an effort underway to prevent a vote. Without speaking to the latest statements on the issue, what we believe is that there's strong support for this nomination and that we need to find a way to move forward on a vote that expresses that support and gets John Bolton to New York so he can do the nation's business.

QUESTION: Okay. You've already said what you believe. We know that you believe that John Bolton is the best candidate. You're having trouble getting him through. So how are you going to do that? Are you still working with the Senate on a compromise? Are you hoping that -- are you working on getting some of those more documents so you can move to an up-or-down vote?

MR. ERELI: I'm just not --

QUESTION: Otherwise, you are forced with a with a recess appointment or to pull the nomination. Are those two things --

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to engage with you in speculation about where we go from here. I will tell you what our position is, and that position is that John Bolton is a good nominee, he's a nominee that the Secretary supports, the President wants to see in New York. And it will be -- we will continue to work with the Senate on a way to have those preferences by the President and the Secretary acted on in a way that gets John Bolton to New York.

QUESTION: Can I go back to part of my original question, Adam? I asked whether you think that his leverage will be, or has been, damaged by the fact that he has not yet gotten through. And any way that you get him up there, whether you do get another up-or-down vote, whether it's recess, don't you think that he's going to have to deal with some problems in people seeing that he wasn't able to pass so easily?

MR. ERELI: We think that John Bolton is not only eminently qualified for the post in New York, but that once he gets to New York, he will show everyone what a good choice he was and how effective he can be working on behalf of the United States.

QUESTION: Even if he is --

QUESTION: This is a process --

QUESTION: -- appointed during the 4th of July recess? Even if he's appointed --

MR. ERELI: Again, you know, let's not -- I said I'm not going to speculate on process. I've told you what our views are and what we want to see happen and I'll just leave it at that.

QUESTION: I was wondering, this process is going on and on for weeks and weeks, and I'm wondering about the man himself. He's been replaced, right?

MR. ERELI: He has --

QUESTION: He is a man with expertise that you say, you know, would be of great use at the UN. What is his function now? Are you making -- first of all, you foreclosed on keeping the job by putting in someone else in his job. Is he doing anything, contributing to, you know, to the issues of arms control, security, et cetera, proliferation?

MR. ERELI: Well, frankly --

QUESTION: He championed a program that was --

MR. ERELI: Frankly, three months ago, when this process started --

QUESTION: You didn't expect this.

MR. ERELI: -- we expected him to be in New York long ago and we think he should've been in New York long ago. So it's been delayed by repeated and ever-changing requests for information and now what appears to be a reluctance to vote on the case on its merits and therefore use repeated requests for information to prevent a vote.

So that's an unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in. We have a very able and dedicated public servant that is languishing in limbo because of this impasse. And that's why we feel it's all the more important and all the more critical to get moving on this. As you say, he's been left hanging in the wind for too long.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I pick up on something you said: "Repeated and ever changing requests for information." Haven't the changes actually been to narrow the requests to help enable the Administration to respond?

MR. ERELI: I would say they've been changing. I mean, look, again, I really don't want to get into the back and forth on this. We've been at it for several months now. We believe that every time there comes up a request for information, we've worked diligently and respectfully to be responsive. We've provided dozens of witnesses, including numerous members of the State Department. We've provided thousands of pages of documents. We've worked with other agencies of the U.S. Government to be responsive to information requests.

We think, frankly, that there's enough information out there to make a decision on whether John Bolton is qualified to be the representative to the United Nations, and that for that reason there should be a vote, and for that reasons that all the other additional requests for information are ways to avoid a vote.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Iraq for a moment? Senator Biden will be making a speech in about a half an hour at the Brookings Institution about Iraq. He's back from his visit and it's embargoed so I'm not going to get into what he might say. But I wonder, to help put the story together, whether the State Department agrees with the Vice President that the insurgency is in its last stages or the last throes, as Vice President Cheney quipped.

MR. ERELI: Yes, we endorse the remarks of the Vice President. I'm not sure what specific remarks you're referring to, but --

QUESTION: Well, "the last throes" remark.

MR. ERELI: -- I can confidently say we endorse them.

QUESTION: His "last throes" remark.

MR. ERELI: I think that, obviously, the insurgency -- and the Secretary has spoken to this frequently on her trip and she spoke to it also on the Sunday shows -- that we are going to see this thing through. Our strategy is -- it's not a question of exit strategy. It's a question of a success strategy and that strategy is based on dealing with the insurgency effectively in a multi-pronged way that involves both -- that involves training Iraqis, getting Iraqis capable to provide for their own security; but also, very importantly, and this is something that I think gets lost in a lot of the discussions about the insurgency, moving forward on the political and economic tracks.

Because the insurgents -- progress there helps suck the air out of the insurgency. When people see that -- when insurgents see that they can't stop the political process, when people see that the political process is moving forward and there's momentum and there's an alternative to violence, when the economic concerns are addressed in an effective way, all of that contributes to quelling, to limiting, to combating the insurgency. And frankly, as we move forward on those three interrelated areas, we believe that the insurgency can be effectively dealt with.

QUESTION: If I may, can I ask you for the -- and then I'll give it -- relent. For the first time this week, let me ask you because it's timely again, what is the current appraisal of the flow of fighters from Syria? Is it growing more intense? You have credited the Syrians on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays with doing a better job, and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays not as good a job as you'd like. I don't mean you. I mean the Administration.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Where are we now?

MR. ERELI: I don't agree with you that there's varying assessments by the Administration of Syria.

QUESTION: I didn't mean anything negative --

MR. ERELI: I think we're fairly -- our message on this is fairly consistent that Syria has done -- has taken some limited actions with respect to its border, that those actions are not sufficient, that there continue to be foreign fighters crossing into Iraq from Syria, that those foreign fighters are involved in killing innocent Iraqis and trying to thwart the will of the Iraqi people, that Syria as a neighbor of Iraq has a responsibility to do everything in its power to prevent that from happening, and that there also continue to be insurgent elements active in Syria supporting what's going on financially, logistically and in other ways the insurgency in Iraq. So that is a consistent message.

Now, if you ask me, you know, what's the latest number of foreign fighters going, I can't give you a specific number based on reports. I would say, as I just did, that it continues to be a problem, that they continue to play a role in the insurgency, and particularly -- and it's important to look at this now in the context of Brussels. And that as a neighbor of Syria, as a country that has said it is supportive of -- I'm sorry -- as a neighbor of Iraq and as a country that has said it is supportive of what the government is trying to do in Iraq, this kind of activity is inconsistent with what Syria has said. So it doesn't make any sense.

Therefore, and again, in the context of Brussels, it's time for Syria to match its actions with its rhetoric. If you say you're going to support Iraq, if you say you're going to be a good neighbor, then Brussels is the time to make it clear to the entire world where you stand on it and that you are going to take real, effective action against activity in your territory that is supportive of the insurgency.

QUESTION: Adam, Senator McCain, over the weekend, said that if Syrian -- if insurgents keep crossing the border from Syria, that perhaps the United States wouldn't have to respect that border and to go after insurgents in Syria. Is there any plans underway or, at some point, if Syria doesn't take enough steps, would the U.S. continue to -- I know that they've done it in the past, but could this be a more robust effort to go after insurgents in Syria?

MR. ERELI: I don't know.

QUESTION: There are information on news media from Syria today saying that the military or the defense attaché in the American Embassy in Damascus refused to attend a tour organized by the Syrian authority for diplomats along the border, the Syrian-Iraqi borders. Is this accurate?

MR. ERELI: Let me see if I can get you something on that. I had not heard that, but if I have information to share with you on it, I'll look into it and see what we have.

QUESTION: Just a --

MR. ERELI: On Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah, on that point, because they did take, you know, diplomats, military attachés, journalists on a, you know, tour of the border to show that they have stations every three kilometers and they're reinforced with 7,000 soldiers and so on. That's one.

And second, Adam, you know, all evidence shows, even American military commanders are saying that the overwhelming majority of foreign fighters, dead foreign fighters, are from Saudi Arabia. Why didn't the Secretary raise this issue? It seems that --

MR. ERELI: Two points, two points on that.

Number one, I didn't say that Syria has done nothing. I said they did do some things on the border. I said it wasn't enough.

I said, number two, that foreign fighters continue to come in to Syria -- or come into Iraq through Syria. That means foreign fighters from a variety of places.

Number three, certainly the Secretary raised the issue of supporting Iraq with the Saudis. And, frankly, the Saudis and we have been, I think, working together very closely and very effectively in support of Iraq, in support of what the government is trying to do there, and against the insurgency. And Saudi Arabia, I think, shares with us our concerns about what's going on in Iraq and is working and making its best efforts to contribute positively to a stable Iraq. And that's, frankly, in contrast to what Syria is doing.

Yes.

QUESTION: I'd like to return to the case of Mukhtiar Mai, the Pakistani woman who was gang-raped. New York Times columnist Nick Kristof today says that the Pakistani authorities have not given her back her passport. Have you looked into this? Do you know whether they took away her passport and haven't returned it? And have you raised this matter with the Pakistani authorities?

MR. ERELI: Secretary Rice spoke with Foreign Minister Kasuri on Thursday. Secretary Rice made it clear that Mrs. Mai was welcome to come the United States at any time and that we were looking to the Government of Pakistan to ensure that she was free to travel whenever she wanted to the United States and that no obstacles would be placed in her way. And we received those assurances.

And, in fact, the Spokesman of the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan said that Mrs. Mai is free to travel should she so desire. So we have -- so the Government of Pakistan has committed itself to that and therefore it is our expectation that should Ms. Mai want to travel, should Ms. Mai want to come to the United States, that there would be no obstacle presented to her doing so.

QUESTION: Do you know if her passport has been taken away by the authorities?

MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: You don't think --

MR. ERELI: I don't -- I can't --

QUESTION: Have you checked and you've been told no, or you just don't know?

MR. ERELI: I'll see.

QUESTION: Okay. And if it is, in fact, the case that her passport has been taken away from the -- I mean, this report may well be wrong. I just don't know. But if her passport has been taken away by the authorities and has not been returned, it would be interesting to know whether you plan to raise that because it would --

MR. ERELI: Well, let me put it this way. The issue, frankly, is not the passport. The issue is: Is she free to travel? Are there any obstacles being erected to her travel?

QUESTION: Right. If she --

MR. ERELI: Whether it be a passport, whether it be some other trick -- okay? Whatever you want to call it. And this is why I kind of think this passport issue is beside the point, because the Government of Pakistan has publicly said Mrs. Mai can travel to the United States anytime she wants and we're not going to stop her and she's free to do it and we're on record as saying that. So the point is, if Mrs. Mai wants to go, it is our -- we have raised the issue with the Pakistanis, we have made it clear what our views are about it, and they have publicly gone on record to say there's not a problem.

So I will answer your question this way. We have raised the issue. We have gotten public assurances from the Pakistanis. And in our view, at the present time, there's not a problem that Mrs. Mai, should she want to come here, is free to come here and we welcome her here at any time. And, obviously, should there be in the future complications or obstacles, obviously, it would be something that we raise and speak out about very clearly. So that is, frankly, how I want to answer the question and leave it, if I may.

QUESTION: Right, and I understand that and I appreciate that. The reason that I have raised the matter is that if, as is reported by a respected New York Times columnist who may or may not be right, but if he's right and they've taken away her passport and they won't give it back, then their assurances to you don't seem to be worth a whole lot. And so that's why it seems to me you guys, given that the Secretary took the time to call the Pakistan Foreign Minister about this, ought to be interested in finding out, well, are there obstacles like, have they taken away her passport or not. That ought to be your business if you really don't want there to be obstacles to her traveling to this country or anywhere else. That's why I've asked the question. So if you would take the question of whether her passport has been taken away or not, I would be grateful. Will you take it?

MR. ERELI: I will see -- I'll see if we've got anything more to say on it than I've already said. Yes.

QUESTION: So you won't take the question of whether or not --

MR. ERELI: I'll see if we've got anything more to say on it. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, and just one quick point, a follow-up on this. The Pakistanis are saying we will provide her with an escort for traveling throughout the United States. That is certainly not free to travel.

MR. ERELI: Yes, it is. And it's an escort -- it's an escort -- I don't want to go into the -- how should I put it? -- the arcane nuts and bolts of this. I think the key point, and what everybody should understand and have no doubt about, is that this is a person who has been horrifically treated and that her condition is something that we care very deeply about and her welfare and well-being is something that we care very deeply about, and that the United States Government at the highest levels has been working with the Pakistani Government to ensure that this woman is taken care of, is looked after, is treated the way she should be treated.

And that's what our actions are directed towards. That's what our policy is directed towards. That's where our engagement with the Pakistanis is directed towards. And frankly, that's what the Pakistani Government has said that they want to see as well.

So, you know, you're perfectly right to raise all these issues. And I'm going to tell you in response that this is how we're approaching the issue, this is what we're trying to accomplish in our diplomacy. And we'll continue to spare no effort to ensure that these standards are met, these rights are respected and that this suffering that this woman has had to endure never takes place again and, to the contrary, that some kind of -- maybe there's just -- that something right can come out of it.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment about the assassination of former Communist Party leader in Lebanon, which he turned to be anti-Syria, in a car bomb?

MR. ERELI: Yes. The United States condemns in the strongest terms the murder of Mr. George Hawi, who was killed by a bomb in his car this morning in Beirut. Mr. Hawi, as you said, was a forceful and vocal proponent for an end to Syrian influence in Lebanon and for the restoration of Lebanese freedom and sovereignty.

We offer our condolences to Mr. Hawi's family and his friends and colleagues. We join the Prime Minister of Lebanon in calling for a full and transparent investigation of these crimes. This is something that the Lebanese Government has called for and we will do everything we can to support. It's important that those responsible be identified and be held accountable. And we call on other states and organizations to help as well.

There have been a disturbing number of assassinations in recent months, I think four in the last five -- four assassinations in the last five months. It's tragic. It's disturbing. It's something we've all got to fight against. We are confident that despite the attempts of some, these attacks will not deter the people from Lebanon from their quest for freedom, democracy and good governance.

I'm sorry, Lou, you --

QUESTION: Yes, I had a follow-up on the Secretary's comments headed to Brussels. She lashed out at Syria by saying that she has no proof that, you know, Syria was responsible. She did say that they foster a climate now. Syria's pulled out its troops. They claim they've pulled out their intelligence units. I mean, how is Syria fostering a climate right now for these assassinations to be taking place?

MR. ERELI: Well, clearly, when you have four assassinations in five months, there is an atmosphere, a context of instability. We believe Syria's contributing to that instability, first and foremost, because it hasn't removed all its intelligence assets and it continues -- its intelligence network continues to be active in Syria -- I'm sorry, active in Lebanon.

Number one, it's not just the Secretary saying that. It's the UN Secretary General's Special Representative who, in his reports on implementation of 1559, said that there are persistent and continuing reports of Syrian intelligence presence, that the absence of that presence -- that they cannot verify the full withdrawal of Syrian intelligence assets, and for that reason it continues to be a matter that the Secretary General and therefore the Security Council are trying to resolve. That's number one.

Number two, we spoke to this several weeks ago when the Lebanese came to us and said, hey, there's a hit list out there of Lebanese politicians that the Syrians are going after. And we spoke to that very clearly and said this is a concern that needs to be taken seriously. And it underscores the need for what I would say is a clear and universally recognized absence of foreign interference in Lebanon, which we don't have today.

Yes.

QUESTION: There have been 28 seats for the Lebanese Parliament. All of them went to the Hariri faction. There have been some people who have already declared foul. My question is, we have asked for international observers in many, many elections, including a thousand international observers in the Palestinian elections last January. Did the Department ever seek to have any international observers in the Lebanese elections?

MR. ERELI: There were international observers in the Lebanese elections, both from the UN and the EU. And their reports were that the voting was free and fair by all accounts.

QUESTION: What I'm asking is, does the -- did the United States seek to send some of its international observers --

MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of, no, because we didn't -- it wasn't necessary.

QUESTION: But it was necessary in the case of the Palestinians?

MR. ERELI: I mean, first of all, each election is different. Second of all, in the Lebanese case, we felt that the credibility of the elections was able to be assured with the assets that were there and with what others were doing.

QUESTION: Could I ask a follow-up on the Iraq situation?

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: There are very few Sunnis on the constitutional committee; three were added the other day. But is the United States encouraging the Government of Iraq to try and get as many Sunnis on there as possible, at least up to the --

MR. ERELI: Well, the United States has been very clear about its support for as inclusive a political process as possible, including as it relates to the drafting of the constitution. We have been working with the Government of Iraq to support its efforts to make that committee more inclusive.

There was an agreement announced, I believe it was last week, for adding a number of Sunni members to that process. That was an important step forward. I believe they have yet to name the individuals. But that process is moving forward. It is something we are working to help the Iraqis accomplish and it's part of a broader emphasis on bringing as many people into the political process as possible.

QUESTION: But the number of Sunnis are still below --

MR. ERELI: That's up to -- really, the details of that are up to the Iraqis to work out.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on China's naming Donald Tsang as Chief Executive of Hong Kong?

MR. ERELI: We congratulate Donald Tsang on his being named Chief Executive of Hong Kong. We look forward to continuing our close and cooperative relationship with the people of Hong Kong and to working with the new Chief Executive. As you know, we strongly support continued democracy in Hong Kong through electoral reform and universal suffrage, as provided by the Basic Law.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Thank you.

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

DPB # 105

Released on June 21, 2005

ENDS


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Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

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