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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 27, 2006

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 27, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 27, 2006

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Statement on Death of Ambassador Mary Ryan
Status of Terrorism Report

SUDAN
Planning Stages of UN Mission / Comprehensive Peace Agreement
Important Developments in Abuja / Foreign Troops in Sudan /
Re-hatted Mission / Cooperation of Government of Sudan
Issue of Sunday's Deadline

ISRAEL
Query on Secretary Welch's Travel

CHINA
Repatriation of Uighur Detainees in Guantanomo

NORTH KOREA
Issue of North Koreans at US Embassy in China
US Policy for Processing Refugees on Asylum and Resettlement /
Legal Process
US Measures Taken Against Banco Delta Asia

BELARUS
Sentencing of Opposition Leaders / US Reaction
Empowerment of Civil Society and Political Parties
US and Europe Union Engaged in Promoting Democratic Change /
Consultations with Europeans

EGYPT
Investigation of Terrorist Attacks in Sinai

IRAN
Discussions in Paris at P-5 +Germany Meeting
Director General's Report / Focus on Next Steps
Common Shared Goal / Firm Reaction Expected to Director General's
Report
International Community United

IRAQ
Query on James Wilkinson


TRANSCRIPT:

12:52 p.m. EDT


MR. ERELI: If I may, I'll begin with a statement on the death of Ambassador Mary Ryan. We are deeply saddened by the death of Ambassador Mary Ryan, who died in her home Tuesday in Washington. As you may remember, Ambassador Ryan retired as the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs in 2002, after over 36 years of service and having attained the Department's highest rank for a career diplomat.

Throughout her career, Ambassador Ryan pioneered the role of women in diplomacy. She was a mentor to younger officers and Foreign Service Nationals throughout the world. Her legacy endures through the work and dedication of the many State Department colleagues whose lives she touched. We will all miss her profoundly and will remember her warmly.

And that's it for statements. Happy to take your questions.

Peter.

QUESTION: On the Sudan, the UN representative reported yesterday that Khartoum still remained pretty staunchly opposed to an international force for Darfur, and I was wondering if you can just give a reaction to that.

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I think we believe that planning for a re-hatted UN mission should continue. It can move forward. It should move forward. The Security Council has authorized it in 1663, Resolution 1663. The Peace and Security Committee of the African Union has endorsed it and the Secretary General of the UN has called for it. So both the Security Council, the Secretary General and the AU are firmly on board with this idea. We're in the planning stages of it. We think the planning stages can move forward. The UN Peacekeeping Office can work with the AU, who's already there in Darfur, on the logistical arrangements for this and looking at the requirements and how we can meet those requirements.

So, in sum, this mission is eminently doable. We remain committed to it. I would note there is already a UN force in southern Sudan within the context of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Extending this force or bringing the AU force into the UN -- under the UN umbrella in Darfur makes sense, especially in the context of a broad agreement between the parties to the conflict in Darfur, as I think everybody has recognized.

On the subject of a comprehensive agreement to the parties in Darfur, as we talked about yesterday, there has been some important developments in Abuja.. On the 25th, the AU mediator tabled a comprehensive proposal that for the first time included concrete text on all three areas of discussion: wealth sharing, power sharing and security. And now we've got all the key players in Abuja sitting around a table talking about the details of an agreement covering all aspects of the conflict.

So if you put all these things together, there is some important momentum underway here in terms of bringing it all together towards a comprehensive solution and having the UN and the international community support it. And we're going to continue to push that momentum forward. We believe that as these pieces come together, all sides, including the Government of Sudan, will see how it's in our collective interest to have a re-hatted UN mission in Darfur and southern Sudan.

QUESTION: If I can just follow up on that. I mean, as we all know that the U.S. has declared what's happening in Darfur genocide, I guess the question then becomes: Does the Khartoum government have an indefinite veto over whether or not that you put foreign troops in there?

MR. ERELI: Well, I would say we're already -- and this is the point, I think, that doesn't get talked about very much but is important. There already are foreign troops in Sudan. There are foreign troops as part of the UN mission in southern Sudan that's implementing and that's helping to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended 20 years of civil war between the north and the south. So you have that precedent that is working and you have 7,000 African Union troops in Darfur. So the notion of somehow that re-hatting a UN mission or re-hatting these two as a UN mission is a radical departure from past is just erroneous.

QUESTION: I know, I understand that. But at the same time, Khartoum (a) has stopped the UN assessment team from going on with visa issues; at the same time, they have basically opposed an expanded re-hatted mission, which the U.S. is pressing very aggressively for. How long can they do that? Can they have a veto on it?

MR. ERELI: Well, as I said, we think this re-hatted mission makes sense. We think it's doable. Their bureaucratic obstacles should not stand in the way of moving forward on the planning. You can do that. The Peacekeeping Office can do that with the AU forces that are already there. So I would characterize these obstacles as momentary speed bumps that should not slow down in any meaningful way what the international community has been very clear and unanimous about.

QUESTION: One last try. To be very specific about it, does Khartoum have a veto over the size and composition of an eventual force for Darfur?

MR. ERELI: I would say that we believe, obviously, the Government of Sudan should and needs to cooperate with the international community on helping the people of Darfur. They've already done that in many respects with the AU mission there. There's every reason for them to do that for a UN mission that has been authorized by the Security Council.

We think, as a result of progress being made in Abuja, the experience of the CPA and UN there, as well as our ongoing and concerted diplomacy, that we will be able to bring around all parties to see the wisdom and accept a re-hatted UN mission in Sudan.

QUESTION: Can I ask you, on another subject --

QUESTION: Sudan?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: So do we expect a peace agreement by Sunday, the deadline?

MR. ERELI: There certainly is an opportunity that all parties need to seize to make that a reality. I'm not going to predict a date certain by which this will be done. But we've got all the key players to the conflict there -- the rebels, the government, the AU, the Chargé of our mission in Sudan -- who are all engaged intensively in discussing the draft agreement proposed by the -- or presented by the AU mediator two days ago. This is a key moment in the process and I think all sides should seize it. We're going to do everything we can to bring this to a successful conclusion as soon as possible.

QUESTION: So is David Welch -- on another subject -- holding talks or going to hold talks with Israeli officials, Weisglass, for instance, in London?

MR. ERELI: Let me check for you. I think the last I heard, Assistant Secretary Welch was going to London to participate in a donors conference, but let me get the details on it.

QUESTION: Donors conference for what, by the way?

MR. ERELI: I'll have to check. I think if my memory serves, it was for the Palestinians, but I'll have to check.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, let's get some logistics settled. The Humans Rights Report, do you know when it might be distributed?

MR. ERELI: What Human Rights Report?

QUESTION: Oh, excuse me. Terrorist Report. There's so many annual reports, it's hard to remember.

MR. ERELI: We'll be putting out a media note on that later today. I expect we'll probably have a briefing on it tomorrow.

QUESTION: Switching gears real quick regarding the Uighur detainees in Guantanamo?

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: China has been urging the U.S. to repatriate the leaders to China.. Why isn't the U.S. transferring these Uighurs who have been designated as not being terrorists? Why are* they being sent back to China?

MR. ERELI: Well, the criteria for repatriating any Guantanamo detainee is to be sure that they will be safe, not persecuted in the country that they go back to, and also that concerns about their return to acts of terrorism are taken into account. And when looking at where to return -- where the Uighurs can go back to, there is a concern that they might be subject to harassment or mistreatment if they go back to China.

QUESTION: As sort of a follow-up, is the U.S. trying to find any other countries where they could be settled?

MR. ERELI: That is something we're working on, yeah.

QUESTION: All right. And if something happens that they can't be resettled in other countries, is the U.S. an option?

MR. ERELI: I'd say we're looking at third country resettlement very seriously.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any detailed information about many of North Korean defectors at U.S. Embassy in China?

MR. ERELI: No, I don't really --

QUESTION: They want to come to the United States.

MR. ERELI: Well, we've got a policy for processing refugees who are looking for asylum and resettlement and that policy applies equally to our embassies around the world, irrespective of nationality. So in a situation in -- whether it be with North Koreans in China or other nationalities in China or other nationalities in other embassies around the world, we have the same set of procedures that we follow.

QUESTION: Do you have -- what kind of legal process?

MR. ERELI: The legal process is consistent with our international obligations and with agreements with the UN High Commissioner of Refugees.

QUESTION: An opposition leader, maybe the opposition leader in Minsk, has been sentenced. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. ERELI: I certainly do. There are a number of actions in Belarus over the last 24 hours that we find deeply disturbing. Opposition presidential candidate Mr. Milinkevich; the leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, Mr. Vyachorka; and leader of the Party of Labor, Mr. Bukhvostov were all apprehended and sentenced to 15 days in jail. The leader of the pro-democracy Belarusian party, Mr. Kalyakin, was sentenced to 14 days in jail. And earlier, the Belarusian KGB detained, interrogated and beat the leader of the United Civic Party, Mr. Lebedko.

These actions are outrageous and reprehensible and, unfortunately, they're only the latest in an ongoing series of acts which -- against the citizens of Belarussia who are only attempting to exercise their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. We condemn these actions and we call on the authorities to immediately release those detained and drop the charges against them.

I would note that both we and the European Union have already announced measures to hold accountable officials responsible for these abuses. And we will continue working with our European partners to, I think, maintain a united front in the face of this gross assault on values that we all share.

QUESTION: I can't remember, I don't know if you have it handy, but are there sanctions the U.S. and the Europeans --

MR. ERELI: Yes, there have been -- there are travel bans.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up to that. Since the travel bans and the asset freezes don't seem to have that much of an effect on discouraging outrageous and reprehensible behavior, are there any plans for any other activities that might be more effective?

MR. ERELI: I think we have a common cause with our partners in Europe and the OSCE to confront and try to change the situation in Belarus. The best way to do that is to help empower the Belarusian people and the leaders of civil society and political parties so that they can succeed in having a representative government that respects their rights. So we are very, very much engaged in that process and I think that, on the other hand, we continue to look at ways that we can pressure and isolate the leaders of Belarus who are responsible for these outrages.

QUESTION: So there's no immediate plans to ramp up sanctions, then?

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything new to announce for you.

Yes.

QUESTION: Have you checked the premise of the question, that the U.S. and the Europeans have not been very successful in their pressure attempts? You figure more people would be beat up in the streets if you weren't speaking up?

MR. ERELI: You know, it's a hard question to answer. I think that, obviously, when we see acts like this, we're disgusted and it moves us to action. But promoting democratic change in the face of an authoritarian regime that is committed to repression is a hard and long-term effort. And it requires brave citizens and committed partners and that's the formula that we're following and will continue to push. And history -- I guess I would say history has proven that those on the side of right ultimately triumph.

Yes.

QUESTION: When you say move into action, is the action these words from the podium or do you plan a statement or --

MR. ERELI: Well, no, no. Look, we've taken actions against the Belarusian leaders and officials who are linked to these abuses. We continue to look at further things that we can do. We continue to consult and coordinate our efforts with the Europeans. And we continue, very importantly, to work to support civil society and civic leaders in Belarus through programs, through aid programs, through training programs, through concrete forms of assistance that I think that we are hopeful and, based on previous experiences with closed societies, will ultimately prove effective in realizing the kind of democratic change that we're all striving for.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, Adam. I just was wondering if you have any updates about the situation in Egypt concerning the series of terror attacks that took place in Sinai and whether you have any reports on who might be responsible for these attacks, whether it's related to al-Qaida or is it local.

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything new to share with you. I've seen comments by the Egyptian Government linking these attacks to the previous attacks in the Sinai. But I would defer to the Government of Egypt to speak to that since they're conducting the investigation. As we said earlier, these attacks -- whoever is responsible -- are outrageous, are horrific and have caused the deaths of too many innocents whose loss we mourn, and we are supportive of the Government of Egypt as they work to find out who's responsible and hold them accountable.

Yes.

QUESTION: Adam, Under Secretary Burns last week made it a point of stressing U.S. support for some constitutional reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina. They have been voted down this week. I wonder if you have a response and what is the United States going to do?

MR. ERELI: I don't have a response. Let me see if I can get you one.

QUESTION: A Chinese diplomat at the UN, speaking of the report on Iran's nuclear programs and the result of that report, says that there will be a meeting of foreign ministers -- I guess that's the six, 5+1 -- at UN headquarters in New York, coincident with a planned Quartet meeting there, and this is apart from the Paris meeting. That's the 2nd. This would be the 9th.. Can you verify from the U.S. standpoint if that's the scenario?

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything to confirm for you, other than what we've already announced, which is obviously the May 2nd meeting in Paris at the political director level with the P-5 + Germany. We're expecting the Director General's report tomorrow. We obviously look forward to studying that report and it will inform, obviously, our discussions in Paris. The focus of those discussions will, obviously, be on next steps. I don't want to go beyond that in predicting what those next steps will be. Obviously, a meeting of the Security Council is expected, but dates and level of representation is something that we'll need to coordinate and firm up with our Security Council partners.

QUESTION: It's increasingly apparent that the U.S. is not going to jump on this report and to take the immediate strong steps that Secretary Rice said have to be taken just a few days ago and hasn't said again since. That you have to deliberate -- you evidently don't have the votes, you have a meeting in Paris, maybe you have a meeting in New York. There's even a persistent rumor you go back to the Board of Governors.

Is it fair to say that even before the report comes out, because you know what it's going to say, that the Administration is delaying -- or deferring, if that's a more tactful word -- action in the Security Council because it doesn't have the votes or because it has to -- Burns says you have no joint strategy yet.

MR. ERELI: I didn't hear him say that.

QUESTION: Yes, he did. He said that at the -- where did we see him?

QUESTION: In the briefing room when he briefed us --

MR. ERELI: Let me say this --

QUESTION: Excuse me, I don't want to misquote the guy, that you don't have a plan of action agreed to.

MR. ERELI: Well, we -- that's the purpose of meeting in Paris. I think there is clearly a commonly held view that Iran's program is of concern and a commonly shared goal of achieving a suspension of Iran's enrichment program and returning to negotiation. That is a broad, joint approach. Obviously, as the -- in response to Iranian inaction and confrontation, we're going to need to maintain close consultation and closed ranks on how we move forward step by step, and that's in the realm of tactics. But in the realm of strategic objectives, we are, I would say, all one. That's the first point.

The second point is I would expect a very strong and firm reaction in response to the Director General's report. Why? Because it's quite evident to us that Iran has failed to take the steps called for in the March 29th UN Security Council presidential statement and that in response we need to go beyond a presidential statement. We need to take meaningful action in the Security Council and that is our intention and that will be what we're working with our partners on doing.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that. I think the Russians have already said that the report or the presentation of the report will not necessarily be an action point to get what Barry was saying and the Secretary was saying about the strong steps.

MR. ERELI: Yeah, let's -- I think let's see what's in the report, and I would expect in the May 2nd meetings and afterwards you'll see a strong response.

QUESTION: You don't suppose that message is vitiated by the need to constantly regroup and consider what to do and overcome differences. I mean, it's clear what the U.S. would like to do and even the Europeans, but I'm not so sure about all the (inaudible).

MR. ERELI: Well, frankly, I would argue the contrary. I would argue that the constant consultations and coordination and meetings among a steadily more cohesive and unified group of international actors demonstrates and proves what we've been saying for some time; that Iran is increasingly isolated, the pressure is steadily rising, and the conviction and determination of the international community is growing stronger and stronger with every misstep and provocation that Iran presents.

Yes, sir. Still on Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah. Did the U.S. request a meeting for the Security Council on Wednesday?

MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of. On Iran? Not that I'm -- on Wednesday?

QUESTION: On Dr. ElBaradei's report, yeah.

MR. ERELI: I don't know what -- I haven't seen that. I'll have to check and see what's on the docket. It's possible, but I just don't know.

Yeah.

QUESTION: There was a report that Banco Delta Asia, a Hong Kong bank, found some North Korean accounts totaling $50 million and they reported it to U.S.. Government. Do you have any information on that?

MR. ERELI: I don't. As you know, we've taken measures against Banco Delta Asia for violations of U.S. law under the Patriot Act. And this is with regard to currency transactions with North Korea. This is something that is -- the information and the evidence is compiled by the Treasury Department, so for comment on details about what we know and the actions we've taken, I'd refer you to them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just one more.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: There's a report that I haven't seen anywhere else on NPR this morning that Mr. James Wilkinson has been named as an advisor to the new Iraqi Prime Minister. Can you confirm that?

MR. ERELI: I can't. As far as I know, our friend Mr. Wilkinson remains in his position as Senior Advisor to the Secretary and --

QUESTION: But that supposedly the Secretary named him to this --

MR. ERELI: I have not heard that.

QUESTION: Is he traveling with the Secretary?

MR. ERELI: He is.

QUESTION: Maybe he can be asked off the record whether it's true. He likes to speak off the record.

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything to share with you on it.

QUESTION: We'll miss him.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:19 p.m.)

DPB # 70

Released on April 27, 2006

ENDS


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