State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 17, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 17, 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
November 17, 2005
Open Skies Negotiations / Comprehensive First Step Air Services
Next IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
Iranian Resumption of Hexafluoride Conversion
Under Secretary Burns Travel to London for Meetings with EU-3,
Reports of Criminal Charges Involving Employees of the CPA
Reconstruction of Iraq / System of Oversight and Accountability
Oil-for-Food Program Abuse
Reports of Secret Prisons / Effect on Relations with Allies
Talks on the Future of Kosovo / Special Envoy on Kosovo
12:36 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: Greetings, all, and welcome. We don't have any statements to kick off, so we can go to your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have any news, any news to tell us about the Open Sky negotiations?
MR. ERELI: A big issue.
QUESTION: It's a big one.
MR. ERELI: A big issue. Yes, I do. Those negotiations are going on. They began earlier, resuming negotiations between the United States and the European Union on a comprehensive first-step Air Services Agreement. The aim of this agreement would be to liberalize the transatlantic aviation market and replace the Open Skies and other bilateral civil aviation agreements that the United States has concluded with most EU member-states, replace those agreements and be more comprehensive.
Our last meeting, as you might recall, with the EU delegations was on October -- was in October -- late October in Brussels. We made substantial progress there towards an agreement and the meetings here will continue through tomorrow. Leading them is Mr. Daniel Calleja who is Director of Air Transport for the European Commission and John Byerly, our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Affairs.
QUESTION: You don't expect anything -- anything concrete to be decided?
MR. ERELI: I'm sure we'll make some important progress. I don't know that we'll have a -- I don't expect us to have a full-blown agreement as a result of this latest round of negotiations.
QUESTION: If nobody asks, I'll ask a question.
QUESTION: Hi, nice to see you.
MR. ERELI: Hello. Nice to see you.
QUESTION: Let me ask a question about Iran.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Are we any closer to having a position for the next round of IAEA talks? What do you want the IAEA to do?
QUESTION: What we want, frankly, is for the international community to remain united, speak with one voice, work together to act on a common concern which is an Iran that seems bent on using a nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons. That is, frankly, what guides our diplomacy both at the IAEA as well as in other fora and on other occasions. I think, let's see where we are ahead of the IAEA Board of Governors meeting and perhaps frame the answer that way.
Now, we have reports, or the IAEA has confirmed, that Iran has resumed conversion of uranium into hexafluoride. This is an unwelcome move, one that we view with concern. It comes in -- it is the latest in a series of moves by Iran that, frankly, go against what they themselves have committed themselves to and what the international community has asked of them. You'll recall that they entered into negotiations with the EU-3, they unilaterally broke off those negotiations in August and walked away from an agreement they made with the EU, the November Paris Agreement. They have publicly committed themselves to having the right to enrich and reprocess. Now, they have moved to resume conversion of uranium into UF-6.
I would say that none of this inspires confidence in Iran. It contributes to the confidence gap and the trust deficit that we all have when looking at Iran's pattern of behavior over the last couple of years. And it certainly contravenes previous IAEA Board of Governors resolutions. The latest one in September, which specifically called on Iran to comply with IAEA inspections, to suspend the conversion of uranium ore and to restart negotiations.
So all of that, I think, will inform us and inform our discussions as we go into the next Board of Governors meeting. I would point to a process that is under way in dealing with Iran's nuclear program and in trying to achieve a goal that we all share, that Iran not be in a position to use technology or capabilities from a nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons. There is a process to achieve that objective. The EU-3 has undertaken a process of negotiations with Iran. As you know, we support that process. We're not a party to those negotiations but we think they can lead to an outcome that serves our interests.
The latest move in that regard is the travel by our Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, to London today where he will have the opportunity to meet with the EU-3, the Russians and others to -- and talk about these recent developments, but obviously, within the context of events over the past couple of months and weeks -- hear their views, hear what they think, what their assessments are, and consider, again, as I said earlier, how together we can all act to accomplish our common goal.
QUESTION: A couple follow-ups. There was no former offer that was ever presented to the Iranians by the EU-3 regarding enrichment in Russia.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, a lot of reports are suggesting that the Iranians have rejected this but was on* offered --
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm -- not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: And the other thing --
MR. ERELI: But again, I would -- since it's an EU -- were there to be an offer, it would be an EU offer --
QUESTION: Right. But we won't go into it.
MR. ERELI: Obviously, defer to the EU-3 to speak to what they have said or not said to the Iranians.
QUESTION: And the other thing is that, from your comments, I gather no decision has been made on trying to push for an immediate referral to the Security Council?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Adam, criminal charges have in the past day or so have been brought up against two American individuals involving the CPA in post-war Iraq. I don't know if you have any comment to that.
MR. ERELI: I don't.
QUESTION: And you know-- okay, you're not prepared to -- okay.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I'm not prepared -- since it deals with the CPA and the CPA preceded state's management of the issue, it's not a subject on which I would have the information to comment on.
QUESTION: Are you familiar with the story?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, vaguely.
MR. ERELI: Not in all the details --
QUESTION: I'm just wondering if --
MR. ERELI: -- address it in the kind of way you're looking for.
QUESTION: But just these charges in general, I mean, can that -- how will that effect reconstruction in Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Well, the CPA obviously is out of business and has been out of business for about a year. The point here is that we have a -- and we've had from the very beginning -- a very extensive program of assistance to Iraq to help rebuild that country economically, politically and in the area of security. And there's a lot of money at stake here and I think the American people want to know that that money is being well spent and consistent with our laws and our objectives and our responsibilities to the tax-paying public.
So there is a system of oversight and accountability and it's right and good that that system of oversight and accountability does what it's supposed to do. I think that's the broad comment I would have on this specific story or any other story that deals with how the money is spent and whether it's accomplishing its purpose. I mean, we all want the same thing, which is, frankly, the biggest bang for the buck. And it's a lot of money. It's a lot of people. It's a lot of different things going on. Frankly, it's accomplishing a heck of a lot if you look at what we've been able to do with our significant assistance to Iraq in terms of helping repairing infrastructure, building schools, building hospitals, meeting the needs of the Iraqi people.
But you know, in any kind of undertaking like this there are bound to be some kind of slip-ups. I'm not speaking to this particular incident, specific case, or not because I don't have the facts. But that's why you've got inspection and oversight procedures.
QUESTION: Adam, one of these guys is living overseas, though. Wouldn't the State Department have a role in this -- on that count?
MR. ERELI: I don't know the legalities of this -- involved here of how -- of authorities and jurisdictions, so I just can't speak to that.
QUESTION: You had a question?
QUESTION: On that subject, there's been so much brouhaha over Oil-for-Food and all the corruption and so on. This report and others that we've seen suggests that corruption is not exactly unfamiliar in that part of the world, and I'm just wondering whether you see any irony in the fact that we're seeing the same kinds of stories now that we saw before.
MR. ERELI: Really, I think we sometimes indulge ourselves in facile comparisons and I don't know that that comparison is as appropriate or substantiated by the facts of the case. I seriously doubt it, given the scope of the Oil-for-Food program abuse and the systematic subversion of a UN Security Council program and a UN Security Council resolution by Saddam Hussein and allegations of limited wrongdoing in a much more limited program. So again, let's just take a step back and be reasonable about this.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Secret prisons. Now there are more reports that some of these same countries have formally asked the U.S. for more information, for explanations. Can you now update us on whether you -- whether the State Department has heard from these countries? Spain is one. Norway is one.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: And it's not -- are they just talking to officials in another branch of government?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. It won't surprise you, I think, that I'm not prepared to provide a country-by-country accounting of every discussion we've had at every level on this issue. What I would tell you is this, that we have close relations with our European partners and allies and good cooperation on a whole range of issues -- political, economic, military, security. As a part of that broad engagement, as friends and allies, at various times this issue has come up. That should not be a surprise to anybody. And we have spoken to it. We have spoken to it when asked about it.
What the substance of those discussions are, you know, I can't -- I'm not in a position to get into. But what I would tell you is, and this, I think, is the important point to take away from all this, is that this issue is not jeopardizing our good relations and our cooperation with our European allies or other allies on the broad range of issues including the war on terror.
QUESTION: You're saying you won't provide a country-by-country, as if there were a huge number that you couldn't possibly do that.
MR. ERELI: Well, no, it's just that --
QUESTION: And then yesterday you told us nobody's been asking you about it.
MR. ERELI: No --
QUESTION: So how do those two things square*?
MR. ERELI: No, it's just that every day we're asked about a different country and I cannot provide for you every day answers to this country and that country and whatever the country of the day is. What I can tell you is that the issue does come up from time to time at different levels, and when it comes up we speak to it with our partners. At the same time, it should be -- that kind of conversation should be looked at, number one, within the broader context of our overall relationship with the specific country in question and, number two, bearing in mind that it's not jeopardizing our relationships or, I think, negatively impacting the broad range of our cooperation.
QUESTION: You say it's not jeopardizing your relationships. We understand that. But when their position will be affected, when the position of these governments will be affected by this cooperation, you will be --
MR. ERELI: I haven't seen that so far. I haven't seen that so far.
QUESTION: Well, they don't look very comfortable.
MR. ERELI: Well, again, you know, there's what you read about in the papers, which I'm not going to comment on because that's other people talking. There's what you hear from me, as the official spokesman of the State Department, which is this issue is not jeopardizing our relationships and not jeopardizing our cooperation, and when it's raised we speak to our partners in Europe and elsewhere as friends and allies who share a common commitment, who share common values and a common commitment to working together in the war on terror.
QUESTION: Adam, when you say that this issue comes up, I mean, if the United States does have agreements with various allies to have these secret prisons, I mean, isn't it implied that it would have come up? So could you please explain a little bit what you mean by that?
MR. ERELI: Oh, well, I think I might have misled you. In all those remarks, I thought we were talking about the issues of -- about planes and landings. The secret prisons issue, two points on the secret -- well, one point on the secret prisons issue and one point only, that that's an issue that I have and we've all sort of refrained from getting into and that I'll continue to refrain from getting into. We don't -- it's not an issue that I'm prepared to discuss because it is -- it deals with purported intelligence matters or activities that are outside my realm of knowledge or responsibility, so I'm not going to talk about secret prisons.
I will tell you with respect to earlier discussions from previous briefings about protests from governments, about flights and uses of airports, that that's the issue that comes up that I was referring to earlier, that that's the issue that's not jeopardizing relationships. And as far as the secret prisons issue goes, just to make things clear, that's an issue that I'm not prepared to speak to. We've been very clear about that from the very beginning of this issue and I don't have anything more to add to it.
QUESTION: I have a question on Kosovo. The talks on the future of Kosovo are going to start soon.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did the State Department decide who is going to be the Special Envoy on Kosovo?
MR. ERELI: I don't believe we've -- we're at the point where we're ready to make an announcement on that yet.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:54 p.m.)
DPB # 197
Released on November 17, 2005