State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 26, 2006
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 26, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
April 26, 2006
Progress in Darfur Peace Talks in Abuja, Nigeria
Adoption of UN Security Council Resolution
UN Sanctions Against Sudanese Individuals
Humanitarian Situation in Darfur
Upcoming Rally on "Save Darfur" / State Department Participation
Iran's Offer to Share Nuclear Technology with Sudan / Other
European Parliament Report on Alleged Secret Flights / Renditions
Iran Threatens to Strike US Targets if Attacked
Iranian Delegation Meeting with IAEA in Vienna
12:38 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Hello, everyone. I don't have any statements to start off with, but I did want to draw your attention to an important and noteworthy development from Abuja, where the African Union mediator has tabled a comprehensive draft of an agreement between the rebels and the government in Darfur. This is an important and welcome step in our collective efforts to bring peace to that conflict.
For the first time, they're in one document. There is a proposed solution to all the issues: wealth sharing, power sharing, and security. We have all the parties at Darfur negotiating seriously: representatives of all the rebel groups, a representative of the government led by Vice President Taha, and we have a Syria-U.S. team led by our ambassador, our chief of mission, our Chargé in Sudan, Cameron Hume, who have been there for 10 weeks working this deal. So we are pleased that we've made this progress, we welcome it, and we are going to try to push this through to meet the goal of a comprehensive agreement on the conflict in Darfur between the parties as soon as possible.
Any questions on that or other issues?
QUESTION: Other issues.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Can we stay on that?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: How disappointed are you in Russia and China and Qatar, though, abstaining? Is it understandable to you that countries wouldn't support trying to bring justice?
MR. ERELI: Well, obviously, we think -- obviously, we felt that the recommendation of the experts should be accepted by everybody. The fact that there is a resolution that has passed, we think, indicates the Security Council's commitment to accountability in Sudan. I'll leave it to the other countries to explain their votes.
We think it sends an important signal, as we indicated yesterday in our statement, that those responsible for crimes against the people of Darfur will eventually be held accountable. These were four names that were sanctioned yesterday, but as we made clear, that's not the end of it. There are other names being looked at by the experts, by the sanctions committee, and we will be working with them and with our partners in the Security Council to ensure that everybody who is responsible for crimes in Darfur is eventually held accountable.
QUESTION: But that didn't answer my question. That just repeated your pleasure at it being passed.
MR. ERELI: The answer to your question is, for explanations of why the countries voted the way they did, you should ask the other countries.
QUESTION: No, I didn't ask why they voted. I asked how the United States views the fact that they abstained.
MR. ERELI: The United States is pleased that the resolution passed and that a signal has been sent to all who have participated in or who would contemplate violent actions against innocent civilians, that they will be, one day, held to account.
QUESTION: Adam, can you respond to two specific questions, I think, that critics of this move and some of the human rights groups say a), that the four people you have are fairly low-level people and the idea of freezing their assets is not really going to stop what's happening in Darfur and b), that there was also four other people there that the U.S. actually did not want to see come up for sanctions because they were involved as possible allies in the war on terror? So in a way, you're being a bit two-faced here.
MR. ERELI: I would say a couple of things. One is, this is a down payment on justice. This is the beginning of the process. It's not the end of the process. You've got four people listed. They are important. They -- we have evidence against them and so we moved on it. You've got the leader of the Janjaweed, our Janjaweed leader, which is significant. That sends an important message. You have the commander of Sudanese forces in the region. That's important. And you have representatives of other rebel groups.
It sends a signal to everybody that officials in positions of responsibility will be held accountable. That's point one. Point two regarding future designations, we will act upon the evidence that is available. We will follow the evidence where it leads and when it is found inconclusive, we will take action. And so it does not rule out future sanctions.
As I mentioned earlier and as we said in our statement yesterday, there are additional individuals being looked at. So if there is evidence and there are indications of officials who have committed crimes against the people of Darfur, who have violated international standards, then they will be held accountable, without prejudice to or without -- or irrespective of the positions that they hold. We want to see accountability and we're committed to it.
QUESTION: Can I just follow-up on that?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I'll see your two questions and ask you two more, if I may, on that. Can you confirm what is reported from the UN there, that there was an additional group of four people, including some intelligence people there involved in the war on terror, who the U.S. did not want to see on that list?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I think that's, frankly, a canard. The fact of the matter is that we worked aggressively to make sure that as many people as we had evidence on were included on the list. The information that I had is that we did not take people off the list or put people on the -- did not take people off the list. Rather, there were names put forward, the committee looked at it, we tried -- we did everything we could to make sure that the evidence that we had could be supported when challenged in court and that we, based on the information we had, put as many people on the list as we possibly could.
QUESTION: So you didn't take anybody off the list?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that we did.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: But when can you put forward a longer list?
QUESTION: Yeah. There's a list of new people there and it got reduced to four and the reports that we had is that the United States was opposed to putting those four people on because they were needed as allies in the war on terror.
MR. ERELI: I think that's a gross simplification.
QUESTION: A gross --
QUESTION: But what is the --
QUESTION: But not an inaccuracy.
MR. ERELI: The criteria for being on the list is: Do you have evidence that can hold up in court, when challenged in court, that implicates these people in crimes? And these four individuals that are on the list -- the evidence was that good, the information was that firm, so we could say without fear of being contradicted and having that contradiction hold up in court that these guys should be designated. That's point one.
Point two, and this is what I said earlier, it is not to say that there aren't other individuals of concern that we need to look carefully at and try to build a case against them as tight as the case of these other four. And that's why, as I said earlier, there are additional names being looked at, that we are committed to following the evidence where it leads, that if we got information that is firm and reliable and capable of being successfully upheld in a court of law; then we'll move forward.
QUESTION: One last question on this from me. These measures were taken, I suspect, about 13 months after the United Nations Security Council first passed a resolution authorizing it. The list was finally agreed on after several weeks, if not months, of wrangling. What make -- gives you any confidence at all that anybody can agree on any future names?
MR. ERELI: I think the fact that you've got a Security Council resolution, even though it might have taken some time, and that the actors behind -- the authors of that resolution, all of us on the Security Council, have been so persistent and consistent in our efforts to find the facts and verify the facts and to coordinate international action based on those facts, is a good indicator of our continued and continuing commitment to seeing justice done.
It's taken a long time, but frankly, that is, in itself, an indicator of how committed we are to this process, how committed we are to seeing justice. And having devoted this level of effort and diplomatic muscle, we're not about to let up.
QUESTION: Can you address Peter's previous question about how -- why do you think an asset freeze is making those guys suffer?
MR. ERELI: I think it labels them as, first of all, pariahs. Second of all, it sends a signal to others. Third of all, I would just note that the degree to which some resisted this step is an indicator of how objectionable it is to some and, therefore, an indicator of the force and the impact that it does have.
QUESTION: But in that -- can I follow up? They resisted the step, but it didn't stop them from doing anything, and -- I mean, do you realistically think that this is going to make a difference on the ground in Darfur?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Could you explain -- could you amplify that? Reports out today say, you know, that there's a higher -- there's increasing malnutrition in the camps. 13 months that it took to come up with this is an awfully long time.
MR. ERELI: Okay. Let's take a step back. Let's just take a step back. Solving the problem in Darfur, as we have discussed over many, many months now, requires action on a number of fronts. It requires action on the security front. It requires action on the humanitarian front. It requires action on the political front. It is related to not only things that are going on, on the ground in Darfur, but to coordinating action by a variety of international actors: the AU, the EU, NATO, the UN, the United States, et cetera, et cetera.
The step you see in sanction of these individuals is one important part of that overall effort. Is it, in and of itself, going to (a) stop the violence, (b) the feed the hungry, (c) achieve a political solution, (d) change the behavior of some bad actors? In and of itself, no, it's not. But is it an important and powerful symbol of the international community's continued and ongoing commitment to see that justice is done, to uphold international standards of justice, to provide a measure of accountability? Yes.
And I think that that signal is heard loud and clear by those who would do harm. And for that reason, it's an effective measure, although, you know, by -- I think everybody will recognize it is but one part of a much broader interconnected campaign on behalf of the people of Darfur, but it shouldn't be minimized. It shouldn't be, I think, underestimated how important this is.
QUESTION: Adam, late last evening on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS, Senator Barack Obama and Jan Egeland were questioned, as well as Kevin Bacon. And Jan Egeland says it's roughly about another month because of a situation. The food is not getting to the people that need it currently and there's drought and they have a timeframe of about a month, or more thousands will die. Also, this coming Sunday, April 30th, there's going to be a huge Darfur rally in front of the U.S. Capitol Sunday afternoon. Will you be monitoring that particular situation?
And finally, the Iranians say that they are now going to take that nuclear technology and possibly place that into the Sudan. What are your thoughts concerning this?
MR. ERELI: On the humanitarian issue, it is a problem that is -- in which disaster is really always looming around the corner, given the number of people that are affected, in the millions that are displaced in the refugee camps, given their needs, given the incredible -- logistical challenges of just the amounts of food that are needed, the transportation requirements, the difficulties posed by weather and the complexity of coordinating international efforts.
So comments like those of Mr. Egeland or from Mr. Pronk, I think, are important and helpful in continuing to remind the international community of the dire and pressing need that we have to deal with every day in responding to the plight of these vulnerable populations.
And so I would say we recognize what they're saying. We agree with the importance of maintaining, frankly, a full-court press across the board in terms of getting food donations, maintaining the pressure to keep the logistical and supply pipeline open and, frankly, working the other aspects of this issue, the security, the spread of the AU mission and the political side of it to hopefully bring some long-term relief to the humanitarian pressures.
I would note that in recognition of the need, 86 percent of the food aid going into Darfur is from the United States, so we are on the same page as the UN officials. And frankly, we recognize that this is -- that you've got to solve the immediate humanitarian need. But there's also an important political and security dimension to this, which is why we're also pushing hard in Abuja, as I began by saying, and pushing hard to help further reinforce the AU mission and eventually move to a re-hatted UN mission.
On the upcoming demonstrations this Sunday by the Save the Darfur Coalition, I expect that State Department officials will be -- senior State Department officials will be meeting with many of the NGO representatives to hear their concerns, to share with them our deep, deep concern for what's going on in Darfur, to brief them on -- you know, all the things we've been doing to marshal international support to both help the people of Darfur, the vulnerable populations, as well as to pressure the government and the rebels to come to an agreement. So this is a good opportunity to have a dialogue and to communicate with concerned American citizens about what their government is doing to be responsive not only to what Americans care deeply about, but to be responsive to the needs of a large and victimized population.
And then the final question was on Iran and Sudan. I think we spoke to that yesterday. It's really just -- of deep concern to the United States and I think to the international community when you hear the president of -- or the supreme leader of a country that's trying to develop a nuclear weapon, talk about sharing its nuclear technology with other states. That's why we and our partners in the international community I think have such a determination to make sure that Iran not be in a position to do this.
QUESTION: On the rally, the organizer of the rally have asked for a senior Administration official to speak to the group to the thousands of people.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. And we're planning to do that.
QUESTION: Do you know who's going to be represented?
MR. ERELI: Let me see if I can get something for you on that.
Did you have something?
QUESTION: Not on Darfur.
MR. ERELI: Okay. Next subject.
QUESTION: Okay. The European Parliament has come out with a report on the CIA clandestine flights, maybe on a thousand of them in the renditions. I wonder if you had anything to say about that.
MR. ERELI: I really don't have much more to add to what we've said previously on the subject. The Secretary spoke to it, I think, fairly comprehensively and I'll just let that public comment stand.
QUESTION: One on Iran. The Ayatollah in Iran today said that if the U.S. were to attack Iran, that U.S. interests around the world would be harmed and they have no problem harming U.S. interests around the world. Do you have any response?
MR. ERELI: First of all, as we've made very clear, our focus is on solving this problem diplomatically. That's why we've been working so diligently with the IAEA and with the Security Council and with the EU and Russia and China, India and others to promote negotiations and to try to develop a framework to get Iran to provide objective guarantees that its program is peaceful. I think that the onus, frankly, is on Iran to respond and to match our commitment to diplomacy with the actions of a responsible state.
So far, every step they've taken has been in the opposite direction, has been one of hostility and confrontation, and that's certainly unwelcome. And I think it's certainly what's going to inform the discussions of the P-5+1 political directors in Paris in May and then eventually the Security Council.
QUESTION: Do you make anything of their last-ditch trip to Vienna yesterday?
MR. ERELI: No. I think it's too little and too late.
QUESTION: Have you heard anything about whether there was -- is there anything to --
MR. ERELI: No. I haven't heard that it means -- that's it's amounted to anything.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)