State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 14, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 14, 2005
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
November 14, 2005
US Embassy in Beijing Issues Warden Message Regarding Terrorist
Uzbekistan Court Hands Down Sentences for Andijan Unrest
U.S., EU Sanctions on Uzbekistan
Reported Pact Signed Between Russia and Uzbekistan
Agenda for World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
Status of Iraqi Security Forces
Prospect for Timetable for Withdrawal of US and Multinational
Election Results / Complaints and Investigation of Irregularities
Protests / Possible Violence
Syrian Conditions on Mehlis Investigation / Next Steps for Mehlis
Secretary Rice's Travel to Region
Diplomatic Dispute Between Mexico and Venezuela
Open Skies Negotiations
2:06 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: Greetings, everyone. Welcome to our new week, so let's get started.
QUESTION: The consulate in Hong Kong is -- says it has received a terrorist threat. I wonder if you had anything to elaborate, like the source of the threat and whether there's any reason to suppose the President might be endangered when he visits China?
MR. ERELI: I think the Warden Message that our embassy issued today in Beijing is pretty -- covers it pretty well. It basically -- and I'll reiterate what it said. Don't have too much new to add to it. We received credible information, the U.S. Government received credible information that a terrorist threat may exist against official U.S. Government facilities in Gwangzhou and that the same threat may also exist for places in Gwangzhou where Americans are known to congregate. And based on this information, that the source of which I don't have and we generally don't discuss when we're dealing this kind of information, but based on that information we felt it our duty, our obligation and consistent with law, to advise the American citizen community about the information we have. So what we know is in the Warden Message and we think we've taken the appropriate steps by: (a) advising Americans and (b) responding in coordination with the Chinese to the information we have.
QUESTION: On the President -- because evidently he's going to Beijing alone and not to other cities. But is there any -- do you have any -- was there any mention of his visit that you can tell us about in this threat? Is there any involvement, apparently --
MR. ERELI: No, not that I'm aware of. Obviously, I'd defer to the White House for any questions regarding the President and his travels and his itinerary. We have, based on the information we received, put out the warning and notice that is appropriate.
QUESTION: Change to Uzbekistan?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: What's your reaction to the Uzbekistan's court ruling finding 15 men guilty of a terrorist plot in Andijan?
MR. ERELI: Well, we believe that these convictions are based on evidence that isn't credible and a trial that isn't fair. And so we've expressed those concerns about this case from the very beginning and I think I would just reiterate the fact that, you know, there's never been an independent investigation into the Andijan incidents. We and the Europeans through the OSCE and others, have been very outspoken in calling for an independent investigation.
And the fact that you've got convictions based on a less than transparent process and less than credible evidence, I think calls into question those convictions and what we could call for obviously is -- continue to call for an investigation and continue to have doubts about the convictions, doubts about the evidence, doubts about the process and concerns about the overall way this issue has been handled by the Uzbek Government and I think we will continue to call upon them to act consistent with international standards and to act in ways that allow the international community to believe that what's going on there is consistent with the norms that we all respect and are familiar with.
QUESTION: The EU has reacted to what happened in Andijan, the massacre, by today formalizing sanctions. They do two things, they impose travel bans on senior officials, such as the Defense and the Interior Minister and there's also an arms sales embargo. Is the U.S. considering doing likewise?
MR. ERELI: Well, I would point out to you that, you know, our assistance -- much of our assistance to Uzbekistan has been frozen for some time, due to concerns about its human rights performance and particularly in the wake of the Andijan massacre. So I'm not familiar with what measures the EU has announced, but I would tell you that we've been ahead of this curve for some time. What additional measures might or might not be taken, I think, is something that I'm not prepared to speak to. But obviously, we follow very closely what's going on in Uzbekistan. I think Assistant Secretary Fried delivered a very clear message when he was in Uzbekistan, I think last month, or recently and frankly it's a situation that we have under careful scrutiny regularly.
QUESTION: When you say "ahead of the curve," do you mean ahead of the EU on this?
MR. ERELI: Well, I think we have been at the forefront of calling attention to the dismal human rights record in Uzbekistan and in taking, I think, meaningful action in response to it.
QUESTION: But so far, the meaningful action isn't as far as to do anything like stopping selling arms to them or imposing --
MR. ERELI: Well, that's -- we've had -- I'll have to check, but we've had a large portion of our security assistance program to Uzbekistan frozen for the last year and half and I'll get you the specific provisions, but I think that it certainly covers the kind of assistance that goes to anything other than humanitarian and democracy-building activities.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) a year and a half. Does that predate Andijan?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. So then, I guess, you know, the question is what punishment do they get for Andijan? They haven't responded to your calls for an independent inquiry.
MR. ERELI: Like I said, we have -- we're following events carefully, we have this under consideration, I don't have anything in particular than that for you today.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: What about Tunisia? Who is going to represent U.S. at the summit on the --
MR. ERELI: Did we put that up?
MR. CASEY: We've posted a response to that question on Thursday afternoon.
MR. ERELI: Sure. Yeah, Friday, I think. Thursday. Yeah.
QUESTION: Does that give me a chance to go to Uzbekistan?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Another development is that Karimov went to Putin and they've signed this pact and it's kind of like mutual support, one imagines Russia helping Uzbekistan more. What do you think of the fact that they've signed a pact whereby, I guess, it's internal unrest in Uzbekistan could be put down by Russia?
MR. ERELI: I haven't seen the pact. I don't know that that's an accurate presentation of the facts. Two things: One is, Uzbekistan's relations with other states, the business of Uzbekistan and those other states. Number one.
Number two, as I said in response to the earlier question, we're actively interested in and follow closely the actions and policies of the Government of Uzbekistan, vis-à-vis human rights, civil rights and protection of the rights of its citizens and whether that deals with demonstrations or freedom of speech or freedom of assembly and the rule of law. So anything dealing with those sorts of fundamental freedoms is something that we take very seriously.
QUESTION: May I follow up on Tunisia? (Laughter.)
MR. ERELI: Back to Tunisia.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you what is the agenda you plan to pursue at the summit on the information.
MR. ERELI: Let me see if I can get you a full readout of what we're taking into the summit. I don't have anything for you right now, but I'll give you something comprehensive.
MR. ERELI: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Concerning Iraq and the controversy over the intelligence that led to the war in Iraq, how this controversy will affect the presence of the American troops there? And could this hasten the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq?
MR. ERELI: You've just had a UN Security Council resolution passed that extends the mandate of the multinational force for another 12 months. I think that gives the answer to your question, frankly. If you look at that resolution, it lays out what the mission of the MNF-I is, what the terms that it operates under in Iraq are and, frankly, the way forward. But the basic principles are they're in Iraq because the Iraqis have asked for them to be there. And number two, they are -- their goal is to help develop Iraqi capability to provide for Iraqi security so that eventually there won't be the need for foreign troops to do that and that's the trajectory we're all on. But as our senior officials have repeatedly made clear, we're not prepared to talk about a timetable -- specific timetable for that because it depends on how the Iraqis are doing and it depends on what the Iraqis feel is necessary and appropriate at a given time and all that hasn't been determined yet.
QUESTION: But the controversy that is going on here, it will not have an effect --
MR. ERELI: I don't think so, no.
QUESTION: And to follow up on that and the comment of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair saying that it's entirely reasonable to speak about the withdrawal in 2006. Do you think it's --
MR. ERELI: You know, I think that -- the United States and the British and I believe the rest of the members of Multinational Force are all on the same page on this, that we are there at the invitation to the Iraqis. We are there to help support the Iraqis secure their country and defeat the insurgency. That as part of that effort, we are working diligently to train and equip and stand up -- help stand up an effective Iraqi security force, police and army. And that as they do that, as they get stood up, we will, in turn stand down. Again, we are not speaking of a specific timetable and I wouldn't want to preview dates with you because, frankly, I'm not in a position to do that.
QUESTION: So you're not on the same page as Tony Blair?
MR. ERELI: No, I didn't say that. I think that the British and us both are operating on the same principles. Both are operating in concert with one another along the lines that I've just described.
QUESTION: He's talking about possible withdrawal.
MR. ERELI: You know, again, I think -- I haven't seen his specific remarks. I don't know if I'd characterize him that way. Irrespective of how those remarks are reported, the point you should take away from this briefing is that the British and Americans are on the same page, the same goals, and the same way of getting there.
QUESTION: Liberia. How concerned are you that the protests against what Weah's supporters think is a fraudulent election? How concerned are you that the protests will turn violent?
MR. ERELI: Well, I think what we've seen so far is encouraging. We've seen a large voter turnout -- 60 percent. We've seen 99 percent of the vote counted. We've seen a preliminary results announced by the National Electoral Council. We've seen reports of irregularities and those irregularities are being investigated. They're being investigated in an expeditious way and in, I think, a transparent way. So -- and we haven't seen violence. We've seen protests, we've seen statements. But all in all, a very peaceful, a very orderly and a very open process which is encouraging. As I said, the National Electoral Commission is investigating the complaints of irregularities. Our embassy is observing these complaint proceedings. Our embassy officials met with both candidates over the weekend and are urging each to ensure that their supporters remain calm and we think that, frankly, that the Liberian institutions are handling the process well.
QUESTION: You may not have guidance on this today but Liberia has been subject to political upheavals, violence since 1980 almost nonstop. Do you have anything in mind that might break this cycle; that might enable them to achieve political stability for the first time?
MR. ERELI: I think a lot has been established -- a lot has been accomplished toward that goal already in the sense that you have had a peaceful, successful election in which a large majority of the Liberian people participated and which met international standards of fairness and transparency.
So you've got a strong base on which to build the future development of political institutions and processes. Obviously, George, as you suggest, there is a long legacy of violence to overcome. But there's been a strong and important stride in that direction with the election and hopefully with -- and soon we would expect with the installation of a new government that can build on the progress we've seen and set Liberia firmly on the path toward stability, democracy and integration into the African and international community.
QUESTION: Obviously, history suggests that they can't do it by themselves and I just wondered whether you had something in mind.
MR. ERELI: Well, the United States has been, I think, one of the biggest backers along with the AU and ECOWAS of the elections and of the compact that led to these elections. And that you can continue to see all of us very much involved as Liberia takes the next steps on its path to development and democracy.
QUESTION: Concerning Syria and the international investigation, Syria is insisting that Detlev Mehlis speaks to the Syrians in a third territory and that the Syrians don't want to send -- and he insist on, I mean, talking to them in Lebanon. So what if we reach a deadlock, what will happen to the investigation?
MR. ERELI: The Secretary has spoken to this and has made quite clear that what Mehlis wants, Mehlis should get and Syria is in no position to impose conditions or obstacles. And that resolution -- the UN Security Council's resolutions on this score are quite clear and unambiguous, that they need to provide full cooperation and provide to Mehlis without conditions those individuals who he wants to talk to at a place and a time of Mehlis's choosing.
So we would look to Syria to adhere to those resolutions and if Mr. Mehlis has concerns that they are not -- that it isn't -- then Mr. Mehlis is in a position to report that to the Security Council.
QUESTION: Change of subject? On the Middle East? So Secretary Rice is now headed back to Jerusalem --
MR. ERELI: She's on her way back.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything more since we don't have the benefit of being on the ground there about her saying that an agreement on the border is in sight and -- what are they working on --
MR. ERELI: I don't have much more to add to that. I think, as has been reported, the Secretary, with the parties, is working to fashion an agreement that would allow for the movement of goods and people. In the region, it's something in connection with the Special Quartet Envoy Wolfensohn that we've been heavily engaged with in for some time.
As far as the latest blow-by-blow diplomacy goes, however, since I'm not there and I'm not with the party, there's not a lot of extra detail I can provide for you. I just urge you to be patient and wait to hear from the latest developments -- wait to hear about the latest developments on the ground from those who are on the ground.
QUESTION: Well, do you know what it is that she brings to the negotiations that convince her that if she goes back that it will definitely --
MR. ERELI: Not being there, I frankly, can't give you an informed answer.
QUESTION: Change of subject? I'm sure you know about the diplomatic incident today between Mexico and Venezuela?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: The two countries withdrawn their ambassador -- President Chavez called President Fox the "lapdog of the U.S." Do you have any comment on that?
MR. ERELI: I don't. I think that this is an issue between the governments of Mexico and Venezuela and I'd leave it to their respective spokespersons to characterize -- speak to the actions they've taken.
QUESTION: But it's -- the U.S. is just in the middle of the --
MR. ERELI: Not really. This is between Mexico and Venezuela.
QUESTION: But Mexico was trying to defend the U.S. position or at least the U.S. agenda at the Argentina summit.
MR. ERELI: No -- the summit in Argentina was a case of a great many nations agreeing on a common approach. So I wouldn't paint Mar del Plata as some country siding with the U.S. or not siding with the U.S. The approach and the character of Mar del Plata was a hemispheric movement in the direction of lowering trade barriers and promoting growth and promoting development. And that's what, I think, there was a big consensus on.
And I would not -- and that's why I think, you know, this issue is something between Mexico and Venezuela. It's not something that you need to drag the United States in.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) criticizing directly the U.S. agenda because basically Mr. Fox was supporting FTAA -- Mr. Chavez, as you know, doesn't want any FTAA --
MR. ERELI: Well, that's between Mr. Fox and Mr. Chavez.
QUESTION: Yeah, but we need a quote.
MR. ERELI: I hate to disappoint you, George -- (laughter) -- but on this one I'm just -- going to stick where I am.
QUESTION: Do you have any details on the Open Sky negotiations, which are going on right now in the State Department between the UN and U.S.?
MR. ERELI: Let me see if I can get you something on that --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: So Sylvie, that's number two.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:28 p.m.)
DPB # 194
Released on November 14, 2005