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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 25, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 25, 2006

INDEX:

IRAN
IAEA Director General's Report on Friday / Under Secretary Burns'
Upcoming P5+Germany Meetings / Concern Over Supreme Leader's
Comments on Sharing Nuclear Technology

SRI LANKA
Condemnation of Attack on Chief of Staff / Continued Work with
Norwegians and Others to Resolve Conflict Peacefully

EGYPT
Terrorist Bombings in Dahab / Information on American Citizens /
U.S. Continues to be Ready to Work with Egypt to Confront Terror /
Egyptian Authorities Investigating

ANDEAN REGION
U.S. Works to Promote Economic Development in Andean Region / U.S.
Free Trade Agenda

IRAQ
Formation of National Unity Government / Next Steps


TRANSCRIPT:

12:42 p.m. EDT


MR. ERELI: Welcome, everybody, to our briefing today. I don't have any statements so we can start with your questions.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: The Iranians said that their high-level delegation will be traveling to Vienna tomorrow for last-minute talks. Do you expect anything to come out of that?

MR. ERELI: Well, I haven't seen that. Don't know what there is to talk about. There's a presidential statement from the Security Council at which the Director General is going to report on at the end of this week, that calls on Iran to suspend enrichment activity and return to negotiations and their reply has been to unveil a 164-centrifuge cascade. I think -- again, I don't have details on this latest proposal. But everything they've done to date has been a decided step backward and that's what we expect to hear from the Director General in what -- in all likelihood will be a very negative report this Friday.

And as I said earlier, yesterday, Under Secretary Nicholas Burns will be joining his P-5 and German counterparts in Paris on May 2nd to consult about the way forward. I would also note that the other remark out of Tehran today that got our attention was the president of Iran, or the Supreme Leader of Iran, Mr. Khamenei, saying that Iran was prepared to share its nuclear technology with other countries. That's a very disturbing statement given the fact that you've got a country that has a clandestine nuclear program that is now talking openly about proliferating. So it just underscores all of our concerns, the international community's concerns about what Iran is doing, what Iran is concealing and how Iran has failed to respond to clear and consistent and persistent calls for action by the international community.

Yes.

QUESTION: Adam, in Sri Lanka, seemingly a reversion to the kind of violence that years ago -- a suicide bombing yesterday and now the military seems to have gone into action against Tamil Tiger, I just wonder does the United States have a reaction or do anything --

MR. ERELI: Well, this is clearly an act of terror which we condemn. It is an attack against the Sri Lankan Government authorities, wounding the chief of staff and killing five of his entourage. It is an unacceptable act of terror, a clear provocation and escalation of violence. We express our sympathies and condolences to the victims of this attack and we'll continue our efforts to work with the parties in Sri Lanka, the friends of Sri Lanka, including the Norwegians and all those who want to see a solution to this conflict through dialogue and through negotiation and not through violence.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I talk a little bit to liaison with the government? Have you had contacts here in Washington with any of the diplomats and what are the outcome of those conversations?

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything to report to you from here in Washington. I think we've been working with our European partners, particularly the Norwegians and others to see what we can do as a group to try to respond effectively to this provocation, as well as to further advance the peace process which we're all committed to.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Can we switch to the aftermath of the bombing in Sinai?

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I understand injury toll is up to four, right? Can you tell us anything --

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- is that -- do you have any outstanding reports?

MR. ERELI: I can confirm that four American citizens were injured in the terrorist bombings which Secretary Rice and President Bush condemned yesterday. Our embassy officials have been in contact with the injured and their families. We are offering every assistance we can to them at this time. I don't have a Privacy Act waiver so I can't give you further details about the individuals. We have a number of consular officials in Dahab who are working with Egyptian authorities making sure that all Americans are accounted for and provided the assistance that they need. Obviously, we share the government of -- the people of Egypt's grief at this attack and we are, as ever, ready to work with them to confront the threat to -- that we all face from international terror.

QUESTION: Do you have many outstanding Welfare and Whereabouts calls?

MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of. I think we've got a pretty good handle on where everybody is.

QUESTION: And so you expect this to be the end of the --

MR. ERELI: That is as full a picture as we have to date. I mean, I'm not ruling out new information. But basically, the information we have, four is the number of injured that we're aware of.

QUESTION: Any information on their conditions, is any -- life threatening or anything --

MR. ERELI: I don't think they're life threatening, no.

QUESTION: Are they from the same family?

MR. ERELI: Like I said, I don't have more personal information that I can share with you at this time.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Yes. About Venezuela, is there any statement related to the decision of President Chavez about leaving the Andean Community of Nations? I mean --

MR. ERELI: Well, that's -- it's up to every country to decide whether it wants to participate or belong to regional organizations. The United States isn't a member of that group. So we don't necessarily have a comment on it, beyond -- it's up to every country to decide what it wants to do. Our position, frankly, is that in our relations with the states of the region, particularly the Andean states, we want to help promote free trade. We want to help promote economic growth. We want to help harness economic development in ways that positively affect the lives of the people of these countries. And that's why we've been so committed in reaching free trade agreements with countries like Colombia, with countries like Peru, with the Central American countries. Because free trade works, free trade helps people of all classes and all backgrounds to improve their lives and improve the futures for their children. So we're very -- we have a very activist free trade agenda and we look forward to working with the countries of the Andean community in ways that benefit the peoples of both countries and that's really what guides our policy on the issue.

QUESTION: Adam, I have one final one on Dahab? Do you -- in your -- has Secretary Rice made any phone calls and do you have any information coming to you that would tell you anything about who is responsible for this? Are you -- that bear the markings of al-Qaida (inaudible)?

MR. ERELI: Yeah. I don't have any information to share with you on who might be responsible. The Egyptian Government is conducting an investigation. We certainly, as partners in the war on terror with Egypt, we'll lend every assistance we possibly can to help them find and apprehend these -- find out who's responsible and apprehend them. And Secretary Rice did put out a statement yesterday expressing her condolence. Our ambassador's been in touch with the Government of Egypt. That's the level of communication that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: And you don't have any information or any suspicions about who was responsible for this?

MR. ERELI: Not more than I've already indicated, no.

Yes.

QUESTION: Have you made any overtures to the Iranian Government for discussions on Iraq? I know publicly they said yesterday they didn't feel they had the need. But since yesterday, have you made any progress either through the embassy?

MR. ERELI: I don't have any information on that. I really don't. I think, you know, our focus is still on and remains on helping and working with our partners in Iraq to complete the process of forming a government of national unity. As you know, over the weekend, they agreed on a presidency council which was positive and approved by the parliament. The next step is obviously a cabinet. The Prime Minister is in the process of forming and they've got 30 days to do that. And we want to be of whatever assistance or support we can, as they put into place the final pieces of a permanent government.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: And I want to -- I'm sorry.

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: That's okay.

QUESTION: It's okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On a sort of unrelated issue, though, did you ever receive the outstanding balance owed to you by the Palestinian Authority? I think it was about 20 or $30 million?

MR. ERELI: Let me check on that. I think we did some, but I want --

QUESTION: I think you got most --

MR. ERELI: -- to make sure that the final pennies have been transferred.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iraq?

QUESTION: On the same subject -- Palestinian issue. British Prime Minister has said yesterday that he's ready to meet Hamas leaders to discuss with them the Quartet requirements and to be a mediator between them and Israel.

MR. ERELI: The British Prime Minister?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen those remarks. News to me.

QUESTION: And Hamas welcome today this --

MR. ERELI: Yeah. Let me check. I hadn't seen those remarks. You know what our policy is, but let me do some homework.

Yes.

QUESTION: Have you seen these reports, I guess they first came out in late March that U.S. contractors were among those who were taking passports from workers so that they couldn't leave in Iraq? The military has spoken about this, but there is also obviously a State Department dimension to this, since you are in charge of looking out for human rights around the world.

MR. ERELI: Yeah. Let me see. Again, I haven't -- I saw the reports awhile ago. Let me see what I can get for you on it.

QUESTION: Any reaction to it.

MR. ERELI: Okay. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:54 p.m.)

DPB # 68

Released on April 25, 2006

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