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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing March 17, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 17, 2006

INDEX:

IRAN
Possible Discussion with Iran on Iranian Activities in Iraq
UN Security Council Discussions on Iranian Nuclear Program /
Positive Discussion
Possible Presidential Statement / P-5 Plus Germany Discussions
IAEA Board of Governors Resolutions
U.S. Working to Respond Collectively with International Community

LIBERIA
Reports that Liberia Has Requested that Nigeria Return Charles
Taylor
Nigeria's Positive Role in Liberia

BELARUS
Comments by Head of Belarusian KGB Comparing Street Protests to
Terrorism
Any Use of Violence on Peaceful Demonstrators to be Met With
Strong Response

NORTH KOREA
Illicit Financial Activity and Six Party Talks


TRANSCRIPT:

12:35 p.m. EST


MR. ERELI: Hello, everybody. We'll offer you your last briefing of the week today and start straight with your questions.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on possible U.S.-Iranian contacts?

MR. ERELI: Nothing new to say, really, beyond what the Secretary has already said in Australia. Nothing really new to report, either. We're pretty much where we were yesterday. They've made the offer. You know where we've got concerns that Zal* is authorized to raise with them, but no new movement to report.

QUESTION: And just a follow-up on that as background there, this has been floating for about, well, several months now, because I think the Secretary mentioned that in congressional testimony last year. Have there been any direct contacts at all since that time in Baghdad?

MR. ERELI: No.

QUESTION: Nothing? Nowhere? At no time?

MR. ERELI: No, no. Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Do you see the offer as genuine or do you see it as chaff being thrown up?

MR. ERELI: I think it's just too early to say. I mean, we've got statements by Larijani, period, so we'll have to -- we'll just have to see what develops.

QUESTION: Mr. Nick Burns said yesterday that we've heard these kind of comments from him before and nothing's happened, or indicated that --

MR. ERELI: Well, I think he was speaking more generally about, you know, Iranian declarations of intent and then contrasting it with actual follow-up. So, you know, I think the simple way to look at this is you've got a statement by a senior Iranian official, you know what the position of the U.S. Government is, and we'll see what developments bring.

QUESTION: Can we segue to what's going on at the UN with Iran?

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: And can you bring us up to date on how much progress has been made and what you expect to happen in coming days?

MR. ERELI: Well, we had good meetings yesterday, informal discussions among all Security Council members, to review a draft presidential statement. As you've seen, Ambassador Bolton has described that meeting as a positive discussion. We'll continue to have informal consultations with all Security Council members today.

The political directors of the P-5 countries plus Germany will be meeting in New York also on Monday to look at the broader diplomacy regarding Iran and regarding how we coordinate to respond to its continued rejection of dialogue and negotiation. And we remain as a group, I think, united with a strong consensus that Iran's behavior is not something that we accept and that we are committed to addressing, and hopefully reversing.

QUESTION: What is the goal on Monday? Is it to work towards a presidential statement and try to get that wrapped up? I mean, how --

MR. ERELI: Well, the presidential -- the two activities are obviously related but they're also different. I mean, they're related in the sense that they're both elements of the same overall approach, which is to get Iran to suspend its enrichment activity and to return to negotiations, and arrive at an arrangement with the international community that provides objective guarantees that its nuclear program is not being used for military purposes or being used to develop a nuclear weapon. The permanent representatives at the Security Council will continue their discussions on a presidential statement. The work of the P-5 plus 1 political directors obviously will be considering that as part of, I think, a broader approach to the overall efforts of coordinating action both now and in the future in response to Iranian behavior.

QUESTION: Do you have any timeline of when all this to-ing and fro-ing will actually result in a presidential statement or a lack thereof?

MR. ERELI: Obviously, we're hoping to work this out expeditiously and soon, but multilateral diplomacy is a time-consuming business.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, the meeting of the political directors, that isn't actually --

MR. ERELI: Plus 1.

QUESTION: Plus 1. Is not happening at the UN itself?

MR. ERELI: It's in New York. I don't know the exact location.

QUESTION: Okay. But it should be seen as linked to what's going on in the UN?

MR. ERELI: Obviously. Obviously. It should be seen as slightly separate or --

MR. ERELI: That's the way I -- I forget the exact words I just used, but linked but separate, linked but distinct, is probably the best way to look at it because you've got to see it in the context of a broad coordinated effort among concerned nations, but within the Security Council and others to address Iran's nuclear program which the Director General and the Board of Governors of the IAEA has determined is not in compliance with its NPT obligations.

QUESTION: Can you be more specific about what coordinating action means? I mean, what is --

MR. ERELI: Well, sure. Look, we are where we are because we've worked together to draw the world's attention to a gathering danger in Iran. We're at the Security Council because we've had a whole slew of Board of Governors resolutions that draw attention to Iran's activity which is in contravention to its NPT obligations, which is unresponsive to the international community's questions and requests for information. That is a result of concerted and sustained diplomacy on our part and on the part of our friends. We had achieved some measure of progress in getting Iran to -- in November, 2004 -- to agree to a voluntary suspension on enrichment activity and to come into negotiations. Unfortunately, they walked away from those commitments and broke seals and began enrichment activity. So the way we're dealing with Iran's, I think determined and defiant movement on its nuclear program, is to work together with the EU-3, with Russia and with Germany, as well as China and India and others, to respond collectively and diplomatically to a program and activity by Iran that clearly we all see as threatening.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) we return to the other talks. On the talks in Iraq, the authorization has been given to Zal, is that strictly for talks on Iraq within Iraq or is there a possibility of holding talks in another venue or --

MR. ERELI: Well --

QUESTION: What is the understanding?

MR. ERELI: Well, it's to discuss, as ambassador to Iraq, Iranian activities in Iraq.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. ERELI: So I don't have more detail to you on the sort of modalities and venues, but the mandate is, I think, clear and limited.

QUESTION: Right. Are there any discussions through any channel underway in terms of setting up the modalities?

MR. ERELI: No. As I said at the outset, no new developments or contacts to report for you.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go to Charles Taylor?

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the latest developments?

MR. ERELI: Well, we've seen obviously the reports that Liberia has asked Nigeria to bring Taylor to justice. That's a goal that we all share. We've made it clear that we believe that Charles Taylor should answer for his crimes. There's a special court in Sierra Leone. We look to Liberia and Nigeria to work together to resolve this issue. We have been and will continue to be supportive of their efforts.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been here. I just wondered while she's been here, have you been putting pressure on her to make this demand?

MR. ERELI: This isn't a question of pressure. I think this is a question of the victims of Taylor's crimes, which include first and foremost the people of Liberia, wanting to see justice done. That imperative comes first and foremost from the people of Liberia who President Sirleaf represents.

QUESTION: President Obasanjo says he wants to consult with other African leaders before making a decision. Is this not dragging it out even farther?

MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen those comments. I think that Nigeria and President Obasanjo have played a very positive and helpful role in this issue to date and we look forward to that continuing.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Can I ask you to confirm, please, that President Hu Jintao will be meeting in Washington on April 20th?

MR. ERELI: Well, that's a -- President Hu Jintao will be coming here to visit the President of the United States, so I'll let the White House speak to details of that visit.

QUESTION: But do you have any inclination of what the main topic of discussion will be?

MR. ERELI: I'll again defer to the White House.

QUESTION: Adam, this is your last shot at Lukashenko before the --

MR. ERELI: Lukashenko.

QUESTION: Before the elections.

MR. ERELI: Well, since you provide the opportunity, I can't resist. I think it's important to point out today that the head of the Belarusian KGB, Mr. Sukhorenko, has accorded street protests to terrorism, and we find these comments outrageous and they suggest to us that the Belarusian authorities are intent on the unjustified use of force and violence against their own people. We reiterate our call on the Government of Belarus to fulfill its commitments, to protect the rights of its citizens, including the right to assemble and peacefully express their views. Any use of force or violence against peaceful demonstrators will be met with a strong response from the international community.

QUESTION: How about the warning against European Union activities in Belarus?

MR. ERELI: Yet another sign that the Government of Belarus is failing to fulfill its commitments to the OSCE and to its own people to have transparent and open elections.

QUESTION: You said OSCE. This was specifically directed at the EU.

MR. ERELI: Yes, well, but the commitments and standards are OSCE commitments. Their actions against the EU are in violation of those commitments.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate what you mean by "strong response from the international community"?

MR. ERELI: At this point I don't want to be more detailed or proscriptive than that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Thank you.

QUESTION: One more.

MR. ERELI: Oh, sorry. Mr. Gedda.

QUESTION: This is from Seoul. The U.S. is ready to have more discussions with North Korea on the dispute over the latter's alleged illegal activities in the context of the six-party talks. And this was something that was attributed to Ambassador Vershbow. (Inaudible.)

MR. ERELI: Well, I think there's not a lot new here in the sense that you all know we had talks on March 7th, or a meeting on March 7th, with the North Koreans to discuss their illicit financial activity. At those talks -- or at that meeting, as was made public, the North Koreans put forward a number of proposals. Obviously this wasn't a negotiating session. We took onboard those proposals and it didn't convey a formal response and that's where we're on, on that score. I think it's also clear that as the statement of principles at the fourth round of the six-party talks said, in the context of denuclearization, discussions on a broad range of issues, including trade and investment and cooperation, could be contemplated. So that's how I would square the circle of those reports.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:48 p.m.)

DPB # 45

* Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq

Released on March 17, 2006

ENDS


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