State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 5, 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
December 5, 2005
Query on Secretary Rice's Comments Concerning Terrorism and Europe
Allegations of Secret CIA Prisons
Reports that Abu Hamza Rabia has been Killed
U.S. Guidelines on Rendition
Actions Against November 17th
Agreement to Sell Missiles to Iran / U.S. Engagement with Russia
on Iranian Nuclear Issue
U.S. View of Democracy in Hong Kong
Query on Whether Secretary Rice Plans on Visiting Hong Kong Soon
Netanya Terrorist Attack / Need for Palestinian Authority to Take
Reaction to Legislative Elections
Reaction to City and County Elections
Query on U.S. View of Possible Split within Ruling Party
NORTH KOREA / SOUTH
Query on Counterfeit Issue and Possible Effect on Six Party Talks
South Korean Proposal to have Unofficial Meeting of Six Party
East Asian Summit / U.S. Not Participating / Query on Possible
Increase in Chinese Influence and U.S. Concern / U.S. Commitment
Council on Foreign Relations Report on U.S.-Africa Relations /
Query on Whether U.S. Concerned about Growing Chinese Influence in
U.S. Reaction to Elections / Democratic Performance / Query on
Consequences for Bilateral Relations
Reports of New Ambassador to U.S.
1:15 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: Greetings, everyone. Welcome to our briefing of the second week of December. No announcements, so we can go straight to your questions.
QUESTION: All right. The Secretary of State said this morning that cooperating on terrorism has saved European lives. She didn't elaborate. Could you tell us how many lives were saved, or how are lives saved or can you be a little more specific? This is a rather, you know, strong claim, and we just have nothing to back it up with.
MR. ERELI: Given the nature of -- given the nature of intelligence and given the kind of people, organizations, and planning that we're dealing with, I think you'll understand why it's difficult. As the Secretary also said in her statement, to go into a lot of detail about specific acts or specific instances in which we've taken actions against individuals and specific attacks. But I think what's clear is and what the Secretary was -- the point the Secretary was trying to make is that the cooperation we have with our European partners and with our partners throughout the world has resulted in are frustrating the planning and operations and attacks of terrorists, including in Europe, and that this why it is very important for us to understand, number one, what's at stake. Number two, the importance of cooperation and number three, how this is -- as she said, a two-way street. A process and an engagement that serves the interest of the American people and the people elsewhere who are the potential victims of terrorist actions.
QUESTION: Strike the word largely, if you choose, is it fair to say then that what she means is the sharing of information has resulted in largely averting a number of potential terror attacks, thereby saving lives. Is that fair?
MR. ERELI: I can't say it better than the Secretary said it herself in her (inaudible) statement.
QUESTION: She didn't say anything about it.
MR. ERELI: She said -- she said that, I refer you to the statement, but she made the point that cooperation has saved lives.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) point, yeah.
MR. ERELI: And that's really what -- I don't want to -- I think that says it as well as it can be said.
QUESTION: One other question, please. No place in the speech or the statement did she say whether the U.S. operates or does not operate secret prison -- prisons to detain terrorist suspects. Does the U.S. operate secret prisons to detain terrorist suspects?
MR. ERELI: Again, I'll just refer you back to what the Secretary said. I think I would underscore one point that she made, which is obviously when we're dealing with intelligence, law enforcement and other operations, there is information that we just don't discuss.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) European governments -- it's up to them whether they'd like to cooperate with the United States or not; it's their sovereign right. Has there been any indication that some countries will no longer cooperate?
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to speak for other countries. I'll speak for the United States and again reiterate what the Secretary said, which is that we fully respect -- we have and will fully respect the sovereignty of other countries. It is their choice whether they cooperate with us or not and we respect that choice.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say that the statement will reflect what she will say in private to these other leaders or will she be giving more information in private to the --
MR. ERELI: What you heard in public is largely what we'll be saying in private. It's a clear and consistent message and I think it's one that we -- you know, certainly the message of cooperation is one that is not new to our partners and the people with whom the Secretary will be meeting.
QUESTION: Does the State Department keep a log of all U.S. Government agency planes, which pass through --
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that we did.
QUESTION: Could you check and -- or double-check?
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to -- well, I'll see if there's anything I can say on it. I tend to doubt it.
QUESTION: Mr. Ereli, do you agree that all the members of the November 17 terrorist organization, including its leaders, have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed in Greece with the help, of course, of your former Ambassador to Greece, Tom Miller?
MR. ERELI: Let me ask if there's anything more on the first issue before we go to something else.
QUESTION: Well, just on a related topic. That's okay. That's related too, I guess.
Under the broad heading of terror, I'd like to ask you very simply can the State Department confirm that indeed Mr. Rabia has been detained -- killed, I guess?
MR. ERELI: No, I'm not in a position to confirm that.
On the actions against November 17th in Greece.
MR. ERELI: I can't speak to the specific question that you posed. I don't have the facts before me. What I can say is that we believe that November 17th is a terrorist organization. It has acted against our interests. We believe it is important to combat them systematically and thoroughly, and that we make every effort to support the Government of Greece as it does that.
QUESTION: I'm asking this, Mr. Ereli, because your Embassy in Athens in these days, as we are speaking, is looking again to find the leader of November 17 terrorist organization. I'm wondering why.
MR. ERELI: Because he's the leader of a terrorist organization.
QUESTION: But he's been already arrested. You know that very well.
MR. ERELI: Well, like I said, frankly, I don't want to speak to the specifics of the report because I'm not fully briefed on the facts. What I can tell you is that as a general matter we encourage and support the Government of Greece as it acts to move against terrorists who are operating on its soil against its interest and those of its allies.
QUESTION: One more question. In order to close once and for all this crucial issue, could you please take this question to have an answer from the above?
MR. ERELI: Well, if you could rephrase succinctly your question, I'll try to take it. But let's discuss it after the briefing since we've already been on it enough.
QUESTION: Do you agree, he has been arrested, yes or not? And --
MR. ERELI: Well, then ask the Greeks if he's been arrested. Why don't you ask the Greeks? I would ask the Greeks if he's been arrested or not. It's up to the Greeks to say whether this guy's been arrested or not, not the United States.
QUESTION: We know this, but in the past you've made a lot of statements during the Olympic Games that they have been arrested, they have been prosecuted, they have been jailed, and the matter is closed. But right now, it's coming again to the surface.
MR. ERELI: I've said everything that we have to say on the subject.
QUESTION: That's why I'm asking can you take this question because --
MR. ERELI: No. I've just given you the answer.
QUESTION: Do you have any guidance on Mr. Al-Masri, the German national?
MR. ERELI: No. What's the question?
QUESTION: Do we know if he was imprisoned under CIA auspices?
MR. ERELI: I think, again referring to the statement the Secretary made earlier today, speaking about renditions in general, this is a lawful practice under international law. It is a practice that we and other countries have engaged in for some time. It is necessary and appropriate in certain exceptional circumstances, and in those circumstances we act in -- according to international law to help prevent -- to help get information and prevent terrorist attacks. And those parameters, again, are fairly clearly spelled out in the statement.
I don't have any particular comment on individual cases, so I think that does it.
QUESTION: New subject.
QUESTION: Can we stay on this?
QUESTION: Go ahead, sure.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, but on this specific one, I guess the allegations in the papers was that the United States has admitted that there was a wrongful abduction there. I was wondering -- I know you don't generally --
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Again, I don't want -- I'm not from the Statement Department going to speak to specific cases. I will say that we follow certain guidelines. Those guidelines are not to render any suspect to a country where there are -- where we believe he may be tortured, and in cases where there are some questions to get assurances that the person being rendered will not be tortured. And number two, when we do render, we do so fully respecting the sovereignty of the countries involved.
But in terms -- but as far as specific cases and specific allegations, I'm not in a position to speak to them.
QUESTION: Did you --
QUESTION: Let's follow-up with one more.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. The Secretary said that the policy of the U.S. was to keep such people or people -- enemy combatants, until the end of hostilities.
MR. ERELI: Well, I think it was a little bit more nuanced than that.
QUESTION: Okay. If you'll please tell me how much more nuanced, because my question would be how do you know when hostilities are over?
MR. ERELI: The law of war allows -- the laws --allows one to detain enemy combatants for the duration of hostilities. In the statement you'll see that we detain -- we detain individuals only as long as necessary and that indeed we have released many of the people that have been detained. So there's the legal authority and then under that authority there are different actions you take depending on the circumstances.
QUESTION: Okay. No, because my question, just to follow up on this, is that if you are invoking a law based upon a concept called hostilities, well, no hostilities have ever been declared, and I think there's a good number of countries around the world who don't agree that there is a war going on. So I'm wondering how do you define that to work within that operation of that law?
MR. ERELI: Again, you're entering an area of legal interpretation that I, frankly, am not equipped to discuss. I think that, again, it's the policy of the United States to act in ways that respect and that are consistent with our domestic law and international law, and that I would argue that there is broad agreement of what law is applicable to the conflict in question.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the torture issue, which she did speak very clearly about? Do American interrogators have some guidelines, either written out or are they trained in advance, what constitutes torture? You know, much as a policeman having to observe the Miranda ruling has to read Fifth Amendment rights to suspects. I think they still do.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: Although the court is changing a little. Is there such a -- what should I say -- boilerplate?
MR. ERELI: Well, again, a couple of points to make. Number one, the Secretary very clearly said it is U.S. policy not to practice torture and that officials, or representatives, or those acting on behalf of the U.S. Government are not to practice torture. And that is made clear -- without giving you chapter and verse, that is made clear to all persons concerned.
Second of all, I think the Secretary also made the point in her statement that authorized interrogations will be consistent with U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture, and that in cases where there have been abuses, those individuals have been held responsible.
But simply put, I think there is a broad statement of policy that everybody working for the U.S. Government understands and that the responsible departments of the U.S. Government follow through on communicating that policy to their employees in different ways, according to the procedures of those departments.
QUESTION: A follow-up on this. If the purpose of rendition is not to bring suspects to countries where torture would be permitted or even encouraged, why do --
MR. ERELI: Well -- go ahead.
QUESTION: Or the U.S. does not condone it. What is the purpose of rendition to a third country? Why wouldn't you just bring them back to the United States then? How do you choose the country that you're rendering them to if it's not for reasons like this?
MR. ERELI: Again, there are legal considerations. It's not always appropriate or there are not always the legal mechanisms by which to bring suspects back to the United States. In other cases, it's not a case that -- where the United States may have jurisdiction; for instance, in the case of Carlos the Jackal which was referred to in the statement.
But depending on where the person is from, the country of origin and involvement in acts related to those countries, where he is rendered and where he should be rendered differs. So again, each case is unique, depending on where the person is from, what the circumstances of the arrest with the -- what they're suspected of. So you know, it's something that is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
QUESTION: Are the locals doing the questioning? People that discovered democratic principles about a week and a half ago, do they -- are they involved in the questioning?
MR. ERELI: Well, again, I'm not going to speak to any specific cases, but I would say that when we are involved in a rendering we receive -- and if we have any questions, we seek and receive before rendering assurances that the person won't be tortured.
QUESTION: Countries like --
QUESTION: But I'm asking about suspects left to be questioned by hosts, if that's the right word, governments that might not be as refined as --
MR. ERELI: The disposition of the person rendered, or what happens to a person rendered once they're rendered, is they're subject to the laws of the country to which they're rendered.
QUESTION: But doesn't the United States have a responsibility? You say that you ask and get assurances, but these are also countries that you, in many cases, continuously or annually cite for instances of torture.
MR. ERELI: Right, which is why it's important that if there are questions we get assurances.
QUESTION: Assurances from --
QUESTION: So she is saying the U.S. doesn't practice torture. She's not saying, is she -- or correct me if I'm wrong -- that the U.S. knows other countries to whom the U.S. has relegated suspects do not practice torture?
MR. ERELI: The Secretary was very clear. She said the United States has not transported anyone and will not transport anyone to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.
QUESTION: But what would make you think these countries aren't torturing when you annually say that they are?
MR. ERELI: Well, I'm not speaking to any one specific country, but I think that is why it's important, if there's any question, to get assurances. And that's something that we do.
QUESTION: Wouldn't it give you more assurance to take them to countries that you don't believe torture?
MR. ERELI: Again, there are a variety of considerations when deciding where to render somebody. I can't speak to all those considerations.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) members of the Bush Administration argued against McCain's proposal to outlaw torture or not to spend federal money on --
MR. ERELI: You know, this is something that, again, as the Secretary indicated in her statement, we are working with Congress to come up with good solutions on.
QUESTION: Well, why isn't McCain's solution a good solution, according to many senior members --
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to a long list of statements on the record about Administration policy on this issue. We recognize Senator McCain's concerns and we are working with him.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject?
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MR. ERELI: Same topic?
QUESTION: Will the United States Government do any initiatives about the definition of terror or necessary changes about international law (inaudible).
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: On Iran, Russia has announced that it has, as has been suspected, completed a deal with Iran to sell them some new missiles. Do you have any reaction to that and is this something that the United States will be talking to Russia about?
MR. ERELI: It's something the United States has been talking to Russia about. Under Secretary Burns was in Russia last week. He met with senior officials at the Russian Foreign Ministry on December 2nd. This issue was raised. Under Secretary Burns, I think, made clear to the Russians our broad concerns over Iranian behavior and this sale in particular, and I think that we will continue to pursue this issue with Russia.
QUESTION: Doesn't this undermine your attempts to completely cut off any capability by Iran to have yet more dangerous weapons than they already have?
MR. ERELI: Well, as I said, we certainly don't feel that this is a sale that would serve the interests of us, or the region. I think it's important to remember and underscore that Iran is a state sponsor of terror; they have engaged in actions that are hostile to -- that we think are hostile and unhelpful; and that we view this proposed sale in that context.
QUESTION: And do Russia's explanations for why they think it's the thing to do satisfy the U.S. Government?
MR. ERELI: I don't have a read out for you of the Russian response. I think that this is an issue that we will, you know, be continuing to discuss.
QUESTION: But haven't you sort of noticed that the Russians are in it for the buck? I mean, a Russian arms sale -- the U.S. is no slouch in selling weapons either, but it's a little more selective in who it sells weapons to. Are the Russians motivated by anything more than a cash sale?
MR. ERELI: I'll leave it to the Russians to speak to why they think this is a -- the sale is a good idea.
QUESTION: Well, do you suspect that the Russians are trying to promote illicit Iranian behavior or are they just --
MR. ERELI: No. In fact --
QUESTION: A deal's a deal?
MR. ERELI: I think it's important to underscore the productive engagement we've had with Russia on Iran on a number of -- on the nuclear issue specifically. You've got the fuel take-back provision of Bushehr. You've got discussions we've been having with the Russians along with the EU-3 in terms of coordinated efforts to bring Iran back into negotiations with the EU-3. So there is, I think, some good news with respect to Russia's being part of the international effort to bring Iran into compliance with the wishes of the international community. And that's why, you know, when these proposed sales come up, we can raise our concerns and talk to Russia as a friend and partner, and somebody -- two countries with serious stakes in the outcome of what happens in Iran.
QUESTION: Why you're at it, do you care to elaborate on Mr. Burns's talks because countering terrorism was his main -- supposed to be his main agenda --
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: -- item. I assumed from that it involved the concern about loose nukes and about making sure everything's under lock and key. Do you have anything to add?
MR. ERELI: I'll see if I can get you some read out of his visit.
MR. ERELI: They will be publishing the conclusions as they normally do, (inaudible).
QUESTION: Okay. Well, this year probably.
MR. ERELI: Well, I don't have a timeline.
QUESTION: Shortly, within the next few weekends.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: By New Year's probably.
QUESTION: Change of topic. There was a pretty sizeable demonstration this weekend in Hong Kong, pro-democracy.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: I know that Martin Lee visited with the Secretary last week, but so far we haven't heard any really ringing endorsement from the U.S. of the need for more democracy in Hong Kong. Can you explain where we are on that position?
MR. ERELI: Well, the United States I think has had a clear and consistent policy with regard to democracy in Hong Kong. We believe that it's important to achieve universal suffrage in Hong Kong as soon as possible, that the people of Hong Kong are ready for democracy and that the sooner that a timetable for achieving universal suffrage is established the better. And that is something that we discussed with Mr. Lee and it's certainly I think the spirit in which the demonstrations took place.
We also make clear that the pace, and scope and shape of democratic reform is for the people of Hong Kong to decide.
QUESTION: I have just a follow up on this. Have you made representations -- I mean, Mr. Lee and his supporters think that the Chinese are putting the foot on this process.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Have you made representations to the Chinese that they ought to take their foot off the pedal?
MR. ERELI: We have made it clear to all parties concerned that universal suffrage is important and that we look to, as I said before, the people of Hong Kong to determine how that universal suffrage comes about.
QUESTION: One last thing on it. Mr. Lee said that he invited the Secretary out to Hong Kong. Is there any notion that she might be going?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any -- I'm not aware of any plans at this point. I certainly don't have anything to announce.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the latest bomb attack in the coastal town of Israel today?
MR. ERELI: We certainly do. We condemn this vicious act of terror and we offer our condolences to the victims, to their families, and to the people of Israeli. The attack, once again reminds us of the importance of all sides to do everything possible to contain violence and to tackle terror. The Palestinian Authority must take immediate steps to prevent these attacks, to end the violence, and to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism.
I would also note that the organization that claims responsibility for this attack is Palestinian-Islamic Jihad, and they have their headquarters in Damascus. So if anybody needed a reminder, this is it, that the Syrian government should take immediate steps to crackdown on this group and to inhibit its activities by shutting down Islamic Jihad offices and expelling its personnel.
QUESTION: Different topic.
QUESTION: New subject.
MR. ERELI: We'll go to Peter and then you.
QUESTION: Okay. The elections in Venezuela, do you have a reaction to those, please? The overwhelming sweep by Mr. Chavez's party.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. I'd note that the Organization of American States and European Union both have observer missions that were there for these elections. They have yet to make their reports or make their statements, so I'd hold off on any sort of final assessment until conferring with them.
At this point, just to make a couple of remarks. First of all, the abstention rate was very high. Second of all, you know, given that rate of abstention, plus expressions of concerns by prominent Venezuelans, we see -- we would see that this reflects a broad lack of confidence in the impartiality and transparency of the electoral process, which is worth noting. And we would certainly look to Venezuela to address the issues of transparency and impartiality for the benefit of Venezuelan democracy.
QUESTION: Isn't that a bit of a reach? Fifty percent of the people in this country don't vote. You just don't like Venezuela very much.
MR. ERELI: I think the abstention -- there are about 25 percent participated in this.
QUESTION: Well, we don't have a terrific turn out here in this country. You're not going to congratulate the winners or anything like that?
MR. ERELI: Well, again as I said, let's wait to see what the observer missions have to say.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you think President Chavez is making any PR progress in this country with the announcement expected tomorrow that now some New York neighborhoods will be taking his discounted heating oil?
MR. ERELI: I'm not in the PR business.
QUESTION: I asked you --
QUESTION: Oh, yes, you are. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, right.
MR. ERELI: I'm in policy advocacy --
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the result of the municipal elections in Taiwan, particularly in terms of its impact on cross-strait stability, peace, and cross-strait relations in general?
MR. ERELI: As far as the elections go, obviously they're an internal matter for Taiwan. We certainly see in them a reflection of the strength and vitality of democracy in Taiwan. I think it's a little early to speak to what the implications of the elections are, but I would say that we certainly hope and are confident that the people of Taiwan will continue to hold their elected leaders from whatever party accountable for promoting peace and stability across the strait in keeping with Taiwan's interests.
QUESTION: A follow-up. Are you concerned about a possible split within the ruling DPP in the wake of the elections?
MR. ERELI: I would say that the progress and process of internal Taiwanese politics is something that we don't opine about. It's a matter for the Taiwanese people to decide.
QUESTION: The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, based in Istanbul, Turkey, stated in a Turkish newspaper that Turkey is not recognizing his ecumenical title and role as the Patriarch in charge for the Orthodox Church worldwide, as you know, and I'm wondering what is the U.S. Government position on this issue.
MR. ERELI: Let me see if I can get you something on that.
QUESTION: On North Korea, it was reported this weekend that the Sankei Shimbun -- by the Sankei Shimbun that the State Department received a contact from a North Korean official in New York in response to the canceling of the meeting on their counterfeit issue, that North Korea would not be returning to the table for six-party talks. Do you have any confirmation of that?
MR. ERELI: No, I certainly don't. Really, there hasn't been much -- there hasn't been anything new on that story since we spoke to it on Friday, when we said that we had offered a briefing for North Korean officials on the Patriot Act and actions taken in response to counterfeiting activities but that the North Koreans had chosen not to -- not to take up the offer of a briefing. But that's basically where things are. Nothing new on that score.
QUESTION: So no contact from a North Korean official to the State Department?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of, no.
QUESTION: Thank you. Next week on December 14th, the East Asian summit will be held in Malaysia, excluding the United States. Does the United States have any concerns about where the Asian countries are going without the United States, and do you think the Chinese Government will gain more influence in the region through this summit?
MR. ERELI: As is, frankly, evidenced by the President's attendance at APEC and by the Deputy Secretary's appearance at the ASEAN ministerial, and by the travels of both the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary to Asia, the United States partnership with the countries of Asia is strong and dynamic and, frankly, vital to the interests of both the United States and countries of the region; this in the economic area, in the security area, in the health area as well. And that is the context in which we view the meeting that you describe in the next week and certainly irrespective of who attends or who doesn't attend, our commitment and ties to Asia are -- will continue to be of critical importance to the United States.
Follow up, yeah.
QUESTION: But -- so are you saying someone might attend? I mean --
MR. ERELI: No. I didn't suggest that. As far as the specific modalities of this visit or this event, I can see what I can get for you. But I was responding to the suggestion that somehow this meeting, in any way, indicates a weakening of U.S. ties with Asia or diminution of our commitment to the region.
QUESTION: The meeting -- I mean, it's going to be -- a lot of people think it's going to replace ASEAN, eventually.
MR. ERELI: I don't know if I would subscribe to that all.
QUESTION: But do --
MR. ERELI: In fact, I would actively suggest to you that that's not the case.
QUESTION: Do you think, though, that -- I mean, Asian diplomats have said in recent weeks that they were waiting for the U.S. to express an interest before sending an invitation, and there seems to have been a kind of --
MR. ERELI: Again I don't want to engage in a sort of running commentary on this. I would -- if you have a specific question, I'll entertain the specific question. But if you're speaking in terms of the general notion that somehow U.S.-Asian ties are adversely affected or mitigated any way by this meeting, I'm suggesting to you very strenuously that that's not the case.
QUESTION: I think the question is, are you going to send somebody or not?
MR. ERELI: I'll see if I can get an answer for you.
QUESTION: The Council on Foreign Relations put out a report today on Africa and U.S.-Africa relations, looking at sort of the continent of Africa.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And one of the points that they made was that they think the U.S. should take more of a strategic approach towards Africa, especially when it comes to -- versus a -- responding to humanitarian concerns.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Especially when it comes to energy interests. And they -- the report said that China had a greater foothold in Africa -- was getting a greater foothold in Africa than the United States and that this may be a problem, you know, years down the line when you're begging for more and more oil. So I just wondered -- because you can say --
MR. ERELI: A lot of premises there.
QUESTION: Yeah. Are you concerned that China is getting a bigger foothold in Africa than the United States is, particularly when it concerns oil interests?
MR. ERELI: A couple of points to make: Number one, the U.S. is engaged in a strategic way with Africa in order to address the needs of that continent and the countries of that continent -economic, political, and humanitarian. And I wouldn't measure it with words like "foothold" or "periodic response." The fact of the matter is, since independence, since decolonialization, decolonization of Africa, the United States has been a firm and committed partner to the countries of that continent as they seek to develop the resources of their country, to improve the lives of their people, and to become responsible and contributing members of the international community.
And you can take any one of a broad range of issues as I think evidence of that commitment and that support. As far as what other countries are doing in the continent, particularly China, I think what we seek is a means for international cooperation in ways that support the needs of the countries of the region. Whether that be in terms of development of energy resources or whether that be in terms of responding to regional conflicts, or whether that be with respect to Africa's role in international organizations. So rise in competition? I would say the United States views its role and its work with other nations in Africa as a process of cooperation and coordination in pursuit of what the countries of the region are looking for.
QUESTION: Can I take you back to Rabia for a moment; I should have asked before. The Pakistani officials say they have DNA evidence and intercepted communications as evidence.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: You said, as Hadley said yesterday, you can't confirm that he's dead. Have the Pakistanis shared with the United States any of their evidence?
MR. ERELI: I can check and see if there's been anything with respect to the State Department, which is the only organization I can speak for. I'm not aware of what communications have taken place, but if we have anything to say about it, I'll let you know.
QUESTION: Any reaction to the Kazak elections that Mr. Nazerbayev and his people took to heart -- the suggestions by Secretary Rice?
MR. ERELI: A couple of points to make: Number one, on the positive side we would note that there were five candidates running for the presidency, two of which were leading opposition figures, that there was greater access for domestic observers and closer cooperation with the OSCE observer mission.
We would also note that the Central Election Commission displayed increased transparency by publicizing voter registration lists and most decisions on its website.
On the other hand, there were undue restrictions on campaigning, harassment of opposition and independent media, and media bias in favor of President Nazerbayev.
On balance, we share the view of the OSCE observer mission in its preliminary report that the election showed some significant improvements over previous ones, but that it did not meet a number of international standards to which Kazakhstan has committed itself. And we would urge the Government of Kazakhstan to respond promptly to complaints and appeals related to violations of the elections law.
QUESTION: And are there any consequences in U.S. relations or you think that they did well enough that -- let them slide?
MR. ERELI: As I said, they did some things well. There are other areas where they fell a little short. And I would note that this is a process, that you don't go from -- you don't go to perfect elections overnight, that we are seeing an improvement in performance and follow-through on some commitments but, frankly, an incomplete performance and one that, as in many places, can be improved upon. And that's what the Government of Kazakhstan has said it wants to do, so we would encourage it to do so.
QUESTION: So are you disappointed, as the Secretary has just been there and spoke about some of these very specifically --
MR. ERELI: And I think that our continuing effort to help support democracy is something that, first, the people and Government of Kazakhstan recognize as something that's in their interest and that they're committed to do; that, number two, the Secretary and the officials, senior officials of the United States, have played an important role in helping Kazakhstan to follow through on those commitments; that, as I said before, the system is not yet flawless but there aren't many systems that are and we can all aspire to do better. And that's what we call and that's what we will be working with Kazakhstan to achieve.
QUESTION: Six-party talks. South Koreans are proposing to have an unofficial meeting of the six-party talks in Cheju Island in South Korea sometime this month. Do you have any reaction or make a decision on it?
MR. ERELI: It's an idea that has been put forward by the South Koreans. It's something that I think they are discussing with us and the other parties to the six-party talks. And we will consider it. We are considering it.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Ereli. Rumors among diplomatic circles in Tirana, Albania, confirmed by the members for the Albanian parliament indicate the government of Suli Berisha has selected Edith Harxhi -- H-a-r-x-h-i -- a close associate of a fugitive from prosecution of the 1997 Pyramid scandals, as the next Albanian Ambassador to the United States of America.
Two questions: Is the State Department aware of her fundamentalist "credentials," traceable to the time when Usama bin Laden visited Albania; and second, has the Albanian Government formally requested the State Department's agreement?
MR. ERELI: On the second question -- on the first question, I'm not aware that we've been approached about any ambassador from Albania. And on the -- but regardless of what the answer to that question is, if -- should -- if and when we are approached, we would apply the same procedure as we would any other ambassador.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
DPB # 206
Released on December 5, 2005