State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 8, 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Spokesman
November 8, 2005
Assassination of Defense Attorney: US Condemns Violence, Offers
US, Iraqi Efforts to Ensure Security at Saddam Trial
Iraqi Security Forces to Provide Security at Proceedings for All
Media Access to Secretary Rice
ALBANIA / KOSOVO
Under Secretary Nicholas Burns' Comments on Independent Kosovo
Secretary Rice's Trip to Bahrain for Forum for the Future
Forum Supports Initiatives for Political, Economic, and Social
Foundation and Fund for Future to Promote Small and Medium
Enterprises, Create Jobs, Promote Economic Growth
Middle East Partnership Initiative, (MEPI) is Vehicle for
ARABIA / IRAQ
Secretary Rice's Visit to Saudi Arabia
Secretary to Discuss Various Bilateral, Regional Issues, Including
US Contact with Deputy Prime Minister Chalabi Serves Interests
US Concerned with Events in Ethiopia, Electoral Process
US Encourages Ethiopian Government, Civil Society, to Investigate
Irregularities, Respond to Violence
US Calls for Release of Opposition Leaders
Secretary Rice's Meeting with IAEA Head El Baradei Regarding Iran
Iran Must Cooperate Fully with IAEA
Reaction to UN Vote Against US Policy in Cuba
US Policy is a Justified Reaction to Oppressive Regime
Failed Economic Policies Ruinous for Zimbabwe
US Will Continue to Call for Reform, Transparency
U.S. Supports Government's Investigation of Irregularities and
1:05 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: Greetings, everyone.
MR. ERELI: No statements to start off with today, so we can go straight to your questions.
QUESTION: All right. We didn't expect that quick an opening, but three gunmen -- Baghdad -- killed the lawyer for a co-defendant in Saddam Hussein's trial, wounded another, a member of the defense team and police said. Any reflections on that?
MR. ERELI: This is a horrific act of violence which we condemn. We will work with the Government of Iraq and security officials of Iraq to bring those responsible to justice. And we express our condolences to the family of the defense attorney killed today in Baghdad, Mr. Adel al-Zubeidi, and we offer our wishes for a speedy recovery to his colleague, Mr. Thamir Hamoud al-Khuzaie.
I think what we're seeing here is an attempt to subvert justice and an attempt to subvert the rule of law by those who are bent on attacking honorable citizens of Iraq who are trying to see that justice is done, whether it be on the prosecution side or on the defense side. And I think we obviously view this situation with concern, and for that reason we are working closely with the Government of Iraq to ensure that security is robust and effective for those involved with and the facilities of the trials of Saddam regime figures so that they can be held accountable before the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: On that last point, do you happen -- are you saying -- do you happen to know whether you're speaking in terms of improving security or -- in other words, are there lapses? Is there a need for more of X or Y? Or is this just a general statement?
MR. ERELI: Two points. One is in terms of protection of individuals, I think the Iraqi security forces have that mandate, that portfolio. In terms of protection of facilities which are in the Green Zone, the coalition forces are working with the Iraqi forces to provide for those.
I would say that in both cases measures are under constant review and there is a recognition that you can't relax, you can't let down your guard. And we need no more reminder of that than the incidents of today.
QUESTION: Given the difficulties of being able to provide security, what do you think about the possible solution of actually taking the trial out of Iraq and having it (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: I don't think I would put it this way. The Iraqi Government is responsible for the trials. The Iraqi Government is -- it's an Iraqi-led process and it's a process that will be determined by the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government. I haven't heard any such suggestion or idea floated by them.
QUESTION: Adam, earlier --
MR. ERELI: And I would add -- another point is, as I said earlier, we are working with the Iraqi Government on -- in supporting them in all aspects of the trial, including security, and those arrangements are premised on the trial being held in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Adam, when the trial began, and I think I'm correct in saying that the judges and the prosecution side had security provided by the government.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: But I don't believe the defense lawyers did. Do you know if that's changed or if there are any plans to change it?
MR. ERELI: No, my understanding is that the Iraqi security forces are providing and are undertaking to provide for the safety of all participants in the proceedings.
QUESTION: Can I ask you --
QUESTION: Well, wait. Can I -- just --
MR. ERELI: But for those -- for, you know, questions on those precautions and what the Iraqi Government is doing, I'd direct you to the Iraqi Government. But go ahead.
QUESTION: But I mean, if they're undertaking to provide security for all those involved and we see what happened today, does that indicate that perhaps they're not prepared -- they're not capable of doing that?
MR. ERELI: I think that as I said in my opening statement, there are those who are intent on subverting the rule of law and justice in Iraq, and those people are attacking both defenders and prosecutors. They succeeded in one attack today. I think we and the Iraqis are committed to preventing them from succeeding in subverting justice and derailing the process.
QUESTION: I hope I'm not asking the same question in a slightly different way, but accounts from there have said this incident and the one prior to it raises questions whether the Iraqi authorities can conduct a safe proceeding. And does the U.S. Government -- while you think, you know, security should be at an optimum --
MR. ERELI: The U.S. Government is supporting the Iraqi Government as it prepares to move forward in the trial of Saddam Hussein regime figures accused of crimes; and this incident notwithstanding, we continue in those preparations and that support.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Yesterday, I asked you about the Amnesty International's statements about a Yemeni man.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. I don't have anything for you on it, Saul, because my understanding is that we continue to talk about the same issue, which is -- same issue, which is secret detention centers, and I don't have any comment on those.
QUESTION: Okay. The question is, ignoring the part about secret detentions, they're in custody in Yemen. Are there any -- and people know they're in custody. The Yemeni Government acknowledges that. Are there any U.S. conditions attached to their imprisonment; i.e., have you got some kind of deal with the Yemeni Government?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Okay. Because that's one thing that Amnesty International asked that you clarify. And the other thing is, can you say where they were detained before they went to --
MR. ERELI: I don't have that -- I don't have that information for you.
QUESTION: Okay. But as you said, this is about secret prisons so why don't I ask you generally about secret prisons.
MR. ERELI: We're going to do that again?
QUESTION: Yes, please. Is it true that Secretary Rice, since the report in The Washington Post about the secret prisons, has not made herself available to ask -- answer any questions by the media?
MR. ERELI: What are you talking about?
QUESTION: I'm saying: Has the Secretary answered any questions by the media since that report?
MR. ERELI: Since which report?
QUESTION: Since the report in The Washington Post about the secret prisons.
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm -- she's done no public appearances before the media since then.
QUESTION: Is there a connection?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Are you -- she usually comes out, you know, once or twice a week. She's got several visitors today.
MR. ERELI: I think she's coming down today.
QUESTION: Oh, so will she take questions today?
MR. ERELI: The subject is of the International Religious Freedom Report.
QUESTION: Will she take questions from the media?
MR. ERELI: That's not the plan.
QUESTION: That's not the plan?
MR. ERELI: Uh-uh.
QUESTION: Okay. If I could just follow up on that, Adam. I mean, I think Saul is right. We've had, I think, five bilaterals today. All are closed press. It leads one to believe that for some reason the Secretary might be ducking us --
MR. ERELI: I think there's -- let's be clear.
MR. ERELI: I mean, this -- if you look at the -- especially when on foreign travel, if you look at the number events and the accessibility of this Secretary to the press, it is -- I'm willing to wager in the short time she's been in this position -- unprecedented in terms of the amount of time she spends with you and the amount of time she talks with you and the efforts that we take in Public Affairs to make the Secretary and senior officials of this Department available.
Now, if you look over the course of the last two days which we're talking about and say you've done nothing to put out senior officials on this issue, I don't think that's a fair point to make, number one.
Number two, what we do in the future, press events in the future, she will be obviously, as always, meeting with different members of the press. But whether we decide to do a big event or a small event, I don't think should be seen as any reflection on accessibility and availability because that -- on that I think the record is clear and compelling. And so I reject categorically any suggestion that we are anything less than available in an unprecedented way.
QUESTION: Could I follow up on that, please? Okay. Two remarks. One is that were you aware the last time that there was a walk-up news conference with the Secretary and a visiting dignitary --
MR. ERELI: I don't think that's the measure of -- that should not be the measure of availability.
QUESTION: It was July 5th, Adam. It was July 5th.
MR. ERELI: That should not be the measure of availability.
QUESTION: (inaudible) -- if I can ask the question. The question is: Will the Secretary respond to the words that were attributed to her in The Washington Post about --
MR. ERELI: I think the response was made by me yesterday and that's sufficient.
QUESTION: Adam, I think, you know, when you lay down that bet, you're probably right. The Secretary has been --
MR. ERELI: Good.
QUESTION: -- has been so accessible that therefore it becomes noteworthy when she suddenly --
MR. ERELI: When there are two days that go by that she doesn't give a public event?
QUESTION: Why are you saying only two days? Why are you saying only two days?
MR. ERELI: Because you're talking about since the report came out. Since the report came out, which was yesterday, and today, you're saying there hasn't been a public --
QUESTION: I think you're wrong there, Adam.
MR. ERELI: No. She said The Washington Post report.
QUESTION: I said The Washington Post.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Since The Washington Post report.
QUESTION: On the prisons.
QUESTION: On the secret prisons, yeah.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Yeah, which was yesterday.
QUESTION: No, no. It's --
QUESTION: One week ago.
MR. ERELI: No, no. This is the report that was in the --
QUESTION: You talked to --
QUESTION: There were two.
QUESTION: You briefed yesterday. We've had the go-around with Sean on this --
MR. ERELI: I thought we were talking about the one yesterday.
QUESTION: -- several times. We've been stonewalled on this about the CIA thing. I think we're talking about at least several days, if not a week. And it's an unusual period for the Secretary not to be available.
MR. ERELI: I think if you look at the schedule, she left -- when did she leave with the President? On Thursday, okay. That's Thursday, got back here Sunday morning -- Monday morning at one o'clock, after traveling with the President on Free Trade of Americas and doing a pretty grueling schedule on an issue of critical importance to the United States, which, as I indicted yesterday, we achieved some notable success on, and then got back at 1:30 in the morning on Monday and had a full schedule of meetings here yesterday and today.
And I don't think it's unreasonable that, given that full schedule and given the travel and given the upcoming travel, which -- where she will also be available, that it's unreasonable to look at that span of time and say that it is fully consistent with her established pattern of -- and the Department's established pattern of speaking to the issue of the day in a forthcoming and forthright way, and we'll continue to do that.
QUESTION: Mr. Ereli, on Kosovo. Earlier today I was at the Senate and Under Secretary Nicholas Burns stated inter alia, "If Kosovar Albanians aspire to independence, this is the greatest opportunity to make the case to the world. But should they become independent they will be able to govern effectively in a way that promotes stability in the region. I made clear to them that independence must be earned."
I would like to know what is -- if the U.S. position is for independence of Kosovo, as it was said clearly by Nicholas Burns, "I made clear to them that independence must be earned".
MR. ERELI: If -- I think there's not much I can do to elaborate on the statement of Mr. Burns. I think it's -- or Ambassador Burns. I think it's very clear. This is an issue that needs to be resolved by Kosovars with the help and support of the international community. That's what our diplomacy is geared to and there are steps forthcoming in terms of a UN-led process that the United States will be participating in, and I think which Under Secretary Burns outlined very clearly in his testimony today. But in terms of the conditions and prejudging what the outcome of that process is going to be, nobody can do that and we're not doing it.
QUESTION: I'm asking you may we assume that since --
MR. ERELI: You may assume that we are not prejudging the outcome of that process.
QUESTION: No, but here he said, "I made clear to --
MR. ERELI: I know what he said and I've responded to it as well as I can.
QUESTION: Okay. And also on to Cyprus. The State Department report that supported the White House Budget for Fiscal Year 2006 included the following reference to Cyprus: "Cyprus -- $20 million will support the peace process and eventually the reunification of the island by increasing bi-communal efforts to build support for a solution after the failure of the UN settlement plan referenda in April 2004."
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: My question is, since you are mentioning failure, Mr. Ereli, of the UN with this damaging language --
MR. ERELI: Since I'm --
QUESTION: How will you succeed the reunification? By U.S. arbitration replacing the UN?
MR. ERELI: No, that's not a -- there's no change in U.S. policy. We favor the resolution of this problem through the Annan plan on the basis of UN leadership.
QUESTION: But the (inaudible) has already been changed, even by the countries.
MR. ERELI: No, there's been no change.
QUESTION: Adam, with the Secretary's trip coming up, specifically to Bahrain, can you give us more detail what you hope to accomplish in Bahrain? And corollary to that, we have been getting echoes there that the MEPI program there is seen to be going into a lower profile. They don't see evidence of that. Can you please give us a progress report just on the MEPI program and how it's doing?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. ERELI: A couple of points to make. First of all, hope -- pursuant to your earlier remark, we look forward to making a senior official available to you to brief on the whole trip, including this. So we're going to endeavor to give you more information than you can possibly process.
QUESTION: We would hope.
MR. ERELI: Yes. So do I. On the -- but for now, speaking ahead of what I expect to do in a more fulsome briefing, let me just sort of outline for you what we look forward to in the Forum for the Future in Bahrain.
I think the first point to make is that this is an outgrowth of the Sea Island Summit of 2004 in which the G-8 identified the support for political, economic and social reform in the region as a critical goal for the G-8 and for the international community and established the principle of supporting homegrown efforts and local initiatives for change.
And we saw in the first -- as an outgrowth of that, the first Forum for the Future held in Rabat, Morocco on December 2004, in which foreign ministers from across the broader Middle East and North Africa and the G-8 and other partner countries got together in really an unprecedented gathering to hear people from the region talk about ideas for promoting and institutionalizing change in the economics sphere, in the sphere of commercial activity, in the sphere of empowerment of citizens' groups, in the spheres of education and in the spheres of citizen activism.
And there are a number of ideas and initiatives that came out of that meeting and what was -- what we're looking at in Bahrain is the next step in the process, a second Forum for the Future that is a little less than a year after Rabat and in which we will be looking with our partners in the region and in the G-8 on ways to take the Forum for the Future further.
Two initiatives which we'll be promoting as part of that effort, that broader effort, will be a Foundation for the Future, which is intended to promote freedom and democracy in the broader Middle East, and a Fund for the Future, which would provide money to invest in small and medium enterprises that are designed to create jobs and promote economic growth.
I think the -- again, there are a lot of details that we'll be talking about subsequent to it but those are two initiatives to look for, consistent with a process that was begun in Sea Island, continued in Rabat, and that focuses on citizen empowerment and opportunities for political, economic and social growth.
QUESTION: And on the MEPI angle of it?
MR. ERELI: Oh, on MEPI. Two things to say about MEPI. One, it's -- I guess the way to put it is related to but not directly a part of the Broader Middle East and North Africa. In other words, the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative Forum for the Future is multilateral, involving the G-8, involving other partners of other countries of the region. The MEPI, Middle East Partnership Initiative, number one, predates that but, number two, is primarily a vehicle for us, for the United States, to provide assistance bilaterally to countries as part of our national effort to also support reform, also support growth, also support social empowerment, but in bilateral dealings.
And so we, I think -- I don't have the exact figures for you, but MEPI has been funded over the last three years, I believe. We've made significant progress in funding projects throughout the region. I would note, however, that having made that distinction, one asterisk is that we will be using MEPI money to fund our contribution -- or to finance or to put into, contribute to -- our contributions to these two funds, the Foundation for the Future and the Fund for the Future.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) switching to APEC. What are the U.S. trade and security policy goals for the meeting?
MR. ERELI: I would make two points on that, none of which are going to answer your question directly. But I think both the President and the -- and will be speaking to it a little bit in some interviews today and National Security staff will be briefing on it later this week so I don't have anything for you right now, but I'd just say hold tight on that.
QUESTION: New topic?
QUESTION: Can I just go on the trip just for one other stop?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: When the Secretary goes to Saudi Arabia, is it safe to say that the question of Sunni participation in the Iraqi political process and the question of Syria will be on the agendas?
MR. ERELI: Well, you know, I sort of hesitate to predict what may or may not come up. The focus of the visit to Saudi Arabia is the first Strategic Dialogue, High-Level Strategic Dialogue between the United States and Saudi Arabia. This is an outgrowth of meetings with the Saudi leadership over the last couple of years in which it is -- of which I think -- from which both sides feel that our bilateral and regional interests would be well served by regular high-level consultations on issues that the two countries have interests in.
Obviously, from our end, you know what our issues are. Iraq, sure, is one of them. Regional stability, obviously, and reform is another. Bilateral issues such as human rights, political reform, the war against terror are all issues. So if you ask me are these specific points going to be raised, I'm not in a position to get into too much detail, but I would just encourage you to view the meetings in that broader context. And yeah, I would expect Iraq to come up. Sure.
QUESTION: And Syria, too?
MR. ERELI: Maybe, yeah.
QUESTION: This is about the meeting that the Secretary is going to have with Dr. Chalabi tomorrow. The FBI -- FBI officials are saying that Mr. Chalabi is still under investigation for possibly leaking U.S. intelligence to Iran. Why is the Secretary meeting with him, when he's under investigation by the FBI, when there are so many clouds as to -- under his activities?
MR. ERELI: Well, I can't speak to the investigation: (a) because I don't have the facts and (b) because it's a law enforcement matter.
QUESTION: But just, you know --
MR. ERELI: But second of all --
MR. ERELI: Second of all, I'd make the point that, number one Ahmed Chalabi is the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq. He is an official and a representative of the Government of Iraq; that in that capacity, U.S. Government officials regularly meet with Dr. Chalabi. They meet with him when they go to Iraq and they meet with him in -- outside of Iraq in international fora and they're going to meet with him when he comes here -- Secretary Rice and others.
And look, one of our key priorities with Iraq is to help support the economic recovery of the country. As Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Chalabi is responsible for the energy sector. So there is a key item on the agenda to engage with this gentleman and I think American interests are well served by doing so.
QUESTION: There was a period where no officials wanted to meet with him. He was kind of on the ins with Washington before the war and then there was a period where he was on the outs with Washington. Would you say that he's back in the good graces of the U.S.?
MR. ERELI: I would say that he is a member of the Government of Iraq, an official of the Government of Iraq, and there are things that are important for us to talk about with him.
Let's go to our friend from Ethiopia.
QUESTION: Thank you, Adam. My name is Andali, by the way.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you. Before we go to the questions, I just want to -- at least I'd like to ask your reaction. Of course, as we speak, there is a demonstration in front of your State Department from the Ethiopians, Egyptians and (inaudible).
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments on that before we go to --
MR. ERELI: Well, I would say that clearly we're concerned with events in -- political events in Ethiopia. We share the concerns of people inside Ethiopia and outside Ethiopia about what's been happening there. And I would note that we have been actively engaged with the government and political parties and civil society in Ethiopia to help them work their way through the process of elections and investigations into irregularities and the follow-through and all that. We've been actively engaged in helping them get through that process in a peaceful way and in a way that's based on dialogue and mutual respect.
Unfortunately, we've hit some pretty -- we've hit a couple of violent and unfortunate bumps in the road on that, in demonstrations and violence on June 8th after the elections and most recently demonstrations and violence on November 1st and 2nd, as a result of actions by the government. I think we've been very active and forthright in speaking out on these issues, both in terms of engaging directly with the Government of Ethiopia in the immediate aftermath of the elections to act quickly and effectively in investigating charges of abuse and wrongdoing and taking corrective action, some of which was done and which we spoke about publicly in the August-September timeframe.
And then in the most recent case, I think our Chargé in Addis Ababa, along with her European Union colleagues, issued a statement on Sunday speaking very clearly to where we stand on the recent violence and steps we are looking for the Government of Ethiopia to take in response to that violence or in response to those actions. And I think we will continue to press the government to take those actions and continue to press the political opposition to avoid actions that provoke violence or incite violence. And I think you will see that stated very clearly in the statement we issued yesterday.
QUESTION: I just -- still follow up. I mean, the government is still searching and detaining young men and also indiscriminate beating with law enforcement still continue and that's why they're demonstrating. I mean --
MR. ERELI: And I will tell you that we are -- our Chargé met with the -- is meeting again today with the Foreign Minister. This is an issue that we continue to press the Government of Ethiopia on. I would note that they have -- that in the last few days violence has been reduced and that I believe yesterday they announced that a commission of inquiry would be called, which was something that we called for. More needs to be done, clearly. But it is an issue that we were focused at a very high level and will continue to be engaged in, not just us but the international community.
QUESTION: But also the opposition leaders are in prison right now and they were denied from legal assistance.
MR. ERELI: And we have called -- look at our statement. I think we've addressed all of this in our statement.
QUESTION: Do you have any details on the Secretary's meeting with Mr. ElBaradei? Unfortunately --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Do we still want to stick on Ethiopia?
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Do we still want to stick on Ethiopia? Sorry.
QUESTION: You haven't commented on -- is there any response for the demonstrations at the moment?
MR. ERELI: I haven't said what?
QUESTION: From the Ethiopian desk.
MR. ERELI: I have said what the Administration responses is. I've said it in great detail and I would refer you further to the statement issued yesterday and the statement issued on Sunday.
QUESTION: You --
MR. ERELI: One more question.
QUESTION: I have one more question. I'm sorry. EU decided to get on sanction for Ethiopia. Has the U.S. also --
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: All the opposition members are -- opposition party members are in jail, so who are your contacts --
MR. ERELI: I would not -- I think that's not necessarily accurate to say that all opposition members are in jail. There are a large number --
MR. ERELI: There are a larger number of people in jail and we've called for their release clearly and unequivocally.
QUESTION: Yeah. The reason I ask you that, all the leaders are there, so when you ask to refrain from further violence who you are addressing, so are you addressing the people or?
MR. ERELI: We're calling on the government to refrain -- obviously to refrain from violence and those who are demonstrating to avoid actions that incite violence or lead to violence.
George. Oh, I'm sorry. Sue, let's go back to you on ElBaradei.
QUESTION: Yeah, ElBaradei. Do you have any details on that meeting? Unfortunately, we couldn't speak to ElBaradei because of the demonstrations.
MR. ERELI: The Secretary had a good meeting with Director General ElBaradei. They discussed a number of issues, obviously Iran and where we are in our diplomatic efforts to reassure the international community that Iran is respectful of its obligations and responsive to the need for answers that the Board of Governors has made very clear in its last resolution.
And the only other issue that they discussed was following up on a number of ideas that President Bush outlined in his speech at NDU on ways to -- we can all work together in the international community to address the problem of proliferation, steps that the IAEA could take that we could work with the IAEA, particularly in the area of safeguards and verification. I would note that a committee has been established and this is a good first step and there needs to be talked about follow-on and how we could further strengthen that committee as well as issues of -- the issue of fuel assurances, which has been a subject of discussion with us and our partners as well.
QUESTION: Is Mr. ElBaradei more optimistic that Iran is more determined to cooperate these days?
MR. ERELI: I don't want to characterize Dr. ElBaradei. I would say that there remain -- well, I would say two things. One is the Board of Governors resolutions was clear that Iran needs to cooperate fully, that there remain a large number of outstanding questions and outstanding steps that Iran has yet to take.
QUESTION: On Cuba.
MR. ERELI: Anything more on -- okay. Cuba.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the U.S. General Assembly vote opposing the U.S. embargo in Cuba? Apparently, it was 182 nations are opposed.
MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen that vote. I think our policy is a good one. We are -- a good one and an effective one. We are acting in response to a regime that represses its people and stands in the way of their progress and freedom, and I think we stand by our policy.
QUESTION: But if the majority -- in fact, all but four nations including you in the world, or UN members anyway -- don't think so, I mean, do you think that there's something to be said for the fact that the whole international community disagrees with your policy and thinks other things should --
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Adam, there's an ongoing spat between Robert Mugabe and U.S. Ambassador Dell and this is, I guess, getting out of hand. Today President Mugabe told Ambassador Dell he could "go to hell" and this was following a address that Ambassador Dell delivered in public. You can't really place economic sanctions on Zimbabwe unilaterally. I guess President Mugabe did that himself. What happens next? Do we break relations?
MR. ERELI: Well, look, let's be clear. This is not about a speech by our Ambassador in Zimbabwe. This is about failed economic policies of the Government of Zimbabwe and President Mugabe. These are policies that have led Zimbabwe's GDP to shrink by 40 percent since 2000, have brought inflation to in excess of 300 percent and led to unemployment of more than 80 percent. And what Ambassador Dell is pointing to is the ruinous effects of these policies on the people of Zimbabwe and the standing of Zimbabwe.
And what has happened is they've gone after him personally, which is wrong and should be condemned, instead of examining what the true problem is, which is, as I said, failed policies and a consistent and unrelenting attack on, I think, the freedoms and initiatives of the Zimbabwean people.
So, you know, we're going to continue to call it like we see it. That's the job of an American ambassador, whether he be in Zimbabwe or elsewhere. And we're not going to shy away from speaking out on behalf of the poor and downtrodden and disenfranchised and calling for reform and calling for the Government of Zimbabwe to adopt economic practices and accountability and transparency that the rest of the world has accepted as norms but somehow Zimbabwe seems curiously blind to.
QUESTION: Have they communicated, i.e., the Government of Zimbabwe communicated an intention to expel the Ambassador or a threat to --
MR. ERELI: The only think I have for you on that is our Ambassador has been requested to meet with the Zimbabwean Foreign Ministry tomorrow, but I don't have anything for you on what that will be.
MR. ERELI: Sorry, George.
QUESTION: I understand that votes in two areas of Azerbaijan have been nullified. Is this enough, not enough or what?
MR. ERELI: Well, I think it's certainly an indication that the Government of Azerbaijan is acting in response to reported irregularities and fraud. As I said yesterday, this is a process that will unfold according to Azerbaijani law and at the direction of Azerbaijani institutions. So I'm not going to predict how long it's going to take or where it's going to go.
I will note, however, that it is -- or that we are pleased that the Government of Azerbaijan, through its Central Election Commission, is actively investigating these cases of fraud. As you said, the government will re-run the election in at least two districts. I would also add that some cases of fraud, according to reports we've received, have already been referred to the Prosecutor General in Azerbaijan. And we expect more to be done and that the investigations, as they continue, be done impartially, thoroughly, transparently and, again, consistent with Azeri law and through Azeri institutions.
QUESTION: On Northern Ireland. Do you have any explanation for the restrictions on Gerry Adams' visa?
MR. ERELI: There's really nothing new there, in the sense that we've made clear that members of Sinn Fein can come here but they are not to fundraise, and there's been no change in that.
QUESTION: I thought they agreed to decommission.
MR. ERELI: The IRA.
QUESTION: Well, you know, they're friends.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Well, you asked about Sinn Fein coming here. IRA -- that agreement that understanding is still in place, as far as I'm aware.
I'm sorry. We've got to wrap it up.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:44 p.m.)
DPB # 191
Released on November 8, 2005