State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 15, '05
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 15, 2005
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
September 15, 2005
Reports of Comments by Iranian President on Sharing Nuclear Technology
Issues of International Concern / Concerted Effort to Constrain Proliferation
International Community & Russia Working Together in Response to
Iran's Nuclear Program
U.S. Position on Separation Barrier
U.S. Reaction to Events in Gaza / Coordination Between Israelis,
Palestinians, & Egyptians / U.S. Discussions with Egypt / Need for
Good Communication, Planning & Continued Coordination
Six Party Talks / Update on Day's Events
North Korea's Desire for a Light-Water Reactor
Proposal on the Table to Meet North Korea's Energy Needs
U.S.-Russia Bilateral Relations
1:19 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Hello, everybody. Welcome. Is it cold in here? I don't have any announcements, so we can go straight to your questions.
The freezing lady in the front row. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I just want my teeth to stop chattering. The Iranian President's reported remarks that he would be willing to share nuclear technology with other Islamic nations, does the U.S. have any view on this and what do you think the purpose of any such sharing would be?
MR. ERELI: I've seen press reports of the remarks. I don't know exactly what the Iranian President said. Obviously the United States and the international community have serious concerns about proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the technology necessary to make them. This is the subject, obviously, of international treaties, the subject of concerted international effort to constrain and prevent this kind of proliferation.
Obviously Iran, as its record demonstrates, has a long history of trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, supporting terror, so obviously, we view with concern any suggestion that Iran would seek to contribute to very destabilizing and unhelpful international behavior. That really is why the United States and its partners in the international community I think have -- are acting so resolutely and with common cause to prevent Iran from developing the kind of capabilities that would prove so destabilizing for the region and for the world as a whole.
And, you know, remarks or reported remarks such as this, I think just serve to underscore the importance and the urgency of acting together to confront this threat.
QUESTION: Can I just follow on that?
MR. ERELI: Um-huh.
QUESTION: Why would he say such a thing? I mean, at the United Nations where -- which may be the next stop for international program coming down on Iran, is this a provocative move? I mean is this a defensive move? I mean can you --
MR. ERELI: As I said, I think we and our international partners view with concern efforts by Iran to develop nuclear weapons and the implications of those capabilities for international peace and security.
QUESTION: What does the State Department have to say about Russia's support for Iran's nuclear ambitions?
MR. ERELI: Oh, I think our position on that is very clear. In fact, the Secretary spoke to it quite directly yesterday in her meetings with members of the press, in which she said, frankly, the United States and the international community are working well with Russia in response to Iran's nuclear program. And really the best evidence of that is Russia's -- the provisions Russia has implemented in its work on the Bushehr nuclear reactor in ensuring that all fuel use in that reactor is returned to Russia and maintained under Russian control. So I think that's very clear evidence of the concern that Russia has about Iranian activities and the measures that they are prepared to take in response to those concerns.
QUESTION: Adam, within the last day the Israeli Supreme Court has just issued a ruling unanimously, which says that the barrier wall on the West Bank must be rerouted to help the Palestinians gain some control over their lives. But also in the Gaza strip there's been other anarchy and apparently Hamas has blown a hole in the wall -- the fence there. And have you spoken to President Mubarek as far Egyptian troops to gain control there?
MR. ERELI: A couple of questions rolled into one. On the fence, I don't have any comment on the Israeli Supreme Court decision. I think you know our position on the barrier, which is that obviously Israel has a right to defend itself and to take measures to protect its citizens. Our concerns are with the route of the fence and to ensure that it isn't built in a way that prejudges borders, confiscates Palestinian property or imposes further hardship on the Palestinian people. So I think that answers your first question.
On the second question about the situation in Gaza, obviously we believe it's important for the Palestinian Authority to establish control in Gaza where we've been viewing the events there and following them closely.
I think it's worthwhile to note that the Israelis and the Egyptians and Palestinians are all speaking to one another. They are working to coordinate security actions and to act, to establish order. We, for our part, continue our efforts to support them in that. General Ward is obviously very directly involved. The Secretary spoke with President Abbas today to further discuss this issue. So I think this is something that the parties are seized with. The parties recognize they need to work and act decisively and they've been moving in that direction.
QUESTION: Follow on that? I mean, she's spoken with Abbas, but how about Egypt? I mean, part of the question here is whether the Egyptian --
MR. ERELI: We've had discussions -- obviously, we've had discussions with the Egyptians, not necessarily at the Secretary level, but at senior levels and the Egyptians are taking steps to provide the security that was anticipated for the Rafah border crossing.
QUESTION: Has that security been provided from the start?
MR. ERELI: I think it's -- it was a question of coordination and that is what they are working on.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied at this point that --
MR. ERELI: The parties are taking the steps that they need to take. Obviously, it's not -- it's not something that begins and ends on one day. This is a process. This is a process that takes continual -- good communication, planning and continued coordination. That's what we're keen to see operate effectively. They are doing that. It's something that, obviously, has to be continued to be followed up on. And that's why -- that's the importance of General Ward's presence there, it's the importance of our continued engagement. But most importantly, it's something that, again, the Palestinians have begun talking to the Israelis and Egyptians to make sure that they are effectively exercising the kind of control that they need to.
QUESTION: How long is Ward expected to remain in the region?
MR. ERELI: Good question. I don't know that there is a --
QUESTION: He's got a new job, right?
MR. ERELI: -- set timeline.
QUESTION: Can you tell us whatever you hear from Beijing about the six-party talks?
MR. ERELI: Sure. I can tell you what I hear, which is that we had a number of bilateral meetings today with the Japanese, the North Koreans. We had a working lunch with the Russians and a heads of delegation meeting. There was really not much progress made today. I think the North Koreans continued to make clear their desire for a light-water reactor, not much more to add to that than what I said yesterday, which is that I don't think there's any offer from any of the parties to provide such a reactor. To the contrary, there is a very good proposal on the table that responds to North Korea's energy needs that will provide them the kind of electricity and transmission capability that meets North Korea's domestic needs, faster and more efficiently than the light-water reactor. And so in response to that need, that proposal is the way to go and what we are encouraging North Korea to respond positively to.
I would say that we've got more meetings tomorrow. I would expect to see meetings with the Chinese delegations, the South Korean and Japanese delegations and we're still at it.
QUESTION: And the North Koreans think that the U.S. vow unreasonably not to provide light-water reactor while the other participating countries express the understanding of this. Do you share --
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I don't -- I don't really think that's fair. I very sort of strenuously point out that contrary to some reporting, this is not an issue of the United States versus North Korea. This is an issue --the issues here are multilateral and there is, I think, a broad commonality of views among the delegations on this issue and that rather than try to point it -- paint the picture of, you know, it being North Korea versus the U.S., look at it as North Korea's neighbors trying to achieve a common goal, which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And looking and having discussed and presented creative ideas about how to achieve that goal and at the same time meet North Korea's needs for progress, security and integration in the international community. And there is -- that's what represented in the Chinese fourth draft. And that's a very -- that represents, I think, important progress, important ideas that should be engaged substantively as opposed to just try to make this one side versus another side.
QUESTION: Well, can you at least say that there is a growing sense of pessimism that this will actually work?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't say that.
QUESTION: North Korea had five weeks to review their position and then come back and instead of talking about giving up their nuclear program, they are saying, "Well, you have to give us the LWR first." Would you say that that's ground for pessimism?
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to editorialize and provide those kinds of -- put out those kinds of qualifications or conclusions for you. Look, this is a tough, complex issue that has a lot of different elements and that goes to the very heart of a country's sense of security and identity. And so that's why it's taken a long time and it's -- I don't think anybody has any illusions that this is going to be done in a day or two days. Obviously, this is an issue that we all have strong views and we're going to have to -- we're willing to keep at it as long as we think it's useful and we'll be back at it tomorrow.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) about the security and the defense posture in Japan that the high level discussion between U.S. and Japan will be held next month. Do you have any information or a schedule?
MR. ERELI: Defense posture review? Those are usually done with -- through the Defense Department, but let me see if I've got anything for you on that, either in terms of a schedule or substance. I don't have anything for you now.
MR. ERELI: Not really our bailiwick, but I'll see if I can get you something.
QUESTION: Anything on President Putin's visit tomorrow.
MR. ERELI: Well, it's a meeting between President Putin and the White House, so I'll leave it to the White House to talk about that. I mean, you're familiar with the general outlines of the issues and the relationship. Obviously, Russia is an important partner for the United States and a country with whom we have a good relationship and a number of important issues to work together on, both bilaterally as well as regionally. And, you know, it's something obviously the Secretary will be back here for, but I will leave it to the White House to sort of characterize it, since it's a presidential meeting.
QUESTION: Do you expect the subject of Iran and Security Council referral to be on the agenda?
MR. ERELI: Again, I'll kick that one over to the White House. I would say on the subject of Iran and Security Council referral, you know, we are talking with all the concerned parties on this. It is a matter of broad international concern and we're all trying to get the same thing, which is Iran to live up to its international obligations. I think Under Secretary Burns has spoken to that pretty extensively in New York as well.
QUESTION: Based on the statements coming allegedly from the President today saying they want to continue and set forth certain nuclear energy to -- nuclear fuel to other countries. How hopeful are you that it will not be referred to the UN?
MR. ERELI: Well, I guess I'd put it this way. The issue for us -- I mean not just us -- I mean the issue for the international community, the EU-3, the IAEA and others is Iran acting responsibly, Iran living up to its international obligations, Iran acting in ways that do not increase instability and the potential for proliferation. Its past actions have consistently gone in the wrong direction in terms of concealing an enrichment program, in terms of refusing to respond to IAEA questions about its program, in terms of unilaterally breaking -- making promises to -- engagements to the EU-3 and then unilaterally breaking them off.
So there is, I think, a concerted effort to confront that kind of behavior and to constrain it and to bring Iran in line with the expectations and norms that the rest of the international follows and that's what our diplomacy is geared toward, our discussions at the UN, our discussions in Vienna. And I think the Secretary is very clear on that. We're going to continue to keep up the pressure so that Iran lives up to its obligations and that's what we're going towards.
QUESTION: Well, statements such as these can't be very encouraging for any other outcome, can they? When the country is going ahead and saying we're going to sell technology to Islamic countries --
MR. ERELI: I think it -- again, as I said earlier, it underscores, once again, the importance of the international community acting to constrain that kind of behavior and to ensure that it doesn't happen.
QUESTION: Look, they've obviously heard that from these countries for quite some times. Is this almost like a nose-thumbing to the rest of the country, saying regardless of what you guys want, we're still going to go forward in the way we want to?
MR. ERELI: I'd simply repeat what I said before that, once again, we see that Iranian behavior and Iranian rhetoric is moving in the wrong direction.
QUESTION: Adam, Somali pirates have negotiated the release of a USAID food shipment. They have demanded $500,000. They didn't receive that and there were also passengers there.
MR. ERELI: When did this happen?
QUESTION: Today. Now, several weeks ago when this occurred the Somali new government in Mogadishu has been asking for help in setting up their new government. What has the United States done to assist them?
MR. ERELI: For the Somalis to set up their new government or to get the aid shipment released?
QUESTION: No, in both instances.
MR. ERELI: I'm confused. There was an aid shipment released today and there was a government set up a couple of weeks ago.
QUESTION: Well, no, they've been trying for months to set up a new government. They were in exile in Kenya.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, let me see if I can get something for you on what our efforts are with regard to the new Somali Government, although I'm not aware that there are -- there's much to report on that score.
QUESTION: Wasn't there a Somali Government official here yesterday?
MR. ERELI: I'll have to check.
Is that it? Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:37 p.m.)