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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 28, 2006

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 28, 2006

INDEX:

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
US Committed to Meeting the Humanitarian Needs of Palestinians
Requirements of Quartet Approach
Ambassador Welch's Meetings in London

IRAN
Active Involvement by Secretary Rice in International Diplomacy
Building and Maintaining International Consensus on Iran's Nuclear
Program
Report by IAEA Director General / Iran's Failure to Implement
Required Steps
International Response to Iran's Continued Defiance / Next Steps
Further Isolation of Iran / Costs to Iranian People
Power and Influence of UN to Address Challenges to International
System
Hateful and Vile Rhetoric by Iranian President / Regime Not
Representative

SUDAN
Productive Talks in Abuja Underway / Dynamic Process / US Engaged
Food Supplies for March and April
Demonstrations Should Be a Powerful Message to Government of Sudan
Concerns of US Government / Importance of United Nations Role
Logistics of Re-hatting UNMIS & AMIS into a Broader UN Force

TRANSCRIPT:

DPB # 71

12:40 p.m. EDT

MR. ERELI: All right, enough with the levity, time to brief. You care to open with a joke, Barry?

QUESTION: No, I don't want to open with a joke. You didn't give me a chance to -- well, let me try. We're looking for reaction from the U.S. to French President Chirac's call for the creation of a World Bank Fund -- salaries of Palestinian Authority employees whose wages have been stopped by an international freeze. Abbas says he likes the idea. Any response or reaction?

MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen that call. I think you know that the United States is firmly committed to helping the Palestinian people meeting their humanitarian needs and ensuring that they do not suffer because of the misguided policies of their -- of the Palestinian Authority.

QUESTION: Not to split a hair, but I don't suppose the U.S. considers all the employees of the Palestinian Authority under the influence of Hamas. They're working people, a lot of them. So I'm not trying to advocate one way or another, I'm just asking, could a way be worked out -- this is one-third of the Palestinian society depends on these wages, they've slipped below the poverty level in Gaza, they're close to it on the West Bank. Is this idea something that can -- that it could be a springboard, provided it skirts contact or --

MR. ERELI: Well, we've got --

QUESTION: -- traveling through the Hamas --

MR. ERELI: You know, we clearly have our structures both political, as well as legal, in terms of providing funds to a foreign terrorist organization, particularly if that foreign terrorist organization is in charge of a government. So we're going to have to work within those constraints while at the same time, being mindful that the needs of the Palestinian -- the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people have to be met and we're going to look for -- we've already found and we'll continue to look for creative and workable solutions to that very difficult conundrum.

QUESTION: Is there anything in here that has the germ of creative solution?

MR. ERELI: I, frankly, haven't seen the proposal. I think what's clear is that the Quartet, as a group, of which France is a member through the EU, has a very firm and conservative approach to this problem, which is based on Hamas having to recognize Israel and accept agreements with the Palestinian Authority as entered into and renounce violence. And they haven't done that.

Yes.

QUESTION: New subject, Barry? Okay. On Iran --

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: No, same subject, Mr. --

QUESTION: I'm just wondering if you have any update on Ambassador Welch. Is he in London or --

MR. ERELI: Welch is in London. He's been having a series of meetings there with U.K. officials, with Libyan officials, and with representatives of other countries, Canada, members of the Quartet to discuss a variety of issues with the U.K., obviously a whole -- across the board our concerns. Libyan officials' ongoing dialogue with them about progress in our relationship and with the Canadian -- and others, looking at ways that we can continue to work together to help the Palestinian people, help meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people, while at the same time having an effective and coordinated approach toward Hamas and moving Hamas in the direction of accepting what the Quartet has called for them to accept.

QUESTION: Before Iran, I have another question. That was supposed to be the locale for a meeting that Welch and Elliott Abrams would have with Dov Weisglass and other Israelis. This is a precursor to the visit -- by then, he'll be the full-time prime minister. Were those meetings held?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, let me check. I don't have anything on that for you.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On Iran. Obviously, we've had the report and we had a response from the President. I don't know if there's anything that you want to add that, but what I was wondering if you could do for us is take us through, as precise as you can, what are the next steps, diplomatic meetings, and the next steps in this. And also, specifically, whether or not the Secretary is/has plans in the next couple of hours/days to be making contacts on this.

MR. ERELI: Well, the Secretary has been and will continue to be actively involved in leading the international diplomacy on this issue. Again, it's important to point out that we are where we are in the Iran -- in dealing with Iran because of the -- frankly, I think the Secretary and the President's leadership. We have been working assiduously for the last several years to develop an international -- to build and maintain and sustain an international consensus on Iran's nuclear program and every step along the process, that consensus is broader and stronger and more determined.

And today's report by the Director General of the IAEA, I think, is yet another demonstration of that. He says, quite clearly, that Iran has failed to implement any of the steps required of it by the Security Council and by the Board of Governors. This is yet another example of Iran's defiance of the international community and of it further isolating itself from that international community.

And what Secretary Rice and President Bush and their team has done is to fashion an effective international response to Iran's continued defiance by putting together an EU-3 negotiating process, bringing on Russia and India and the Board of Governors and China in support of that process, by getting us to all agree that Iran's program is outside the bounds of its commitments and its treaty obligations. And that absent its taking corrective action, we need to take successively more serious action in international fora.

Now, where we were before today was a presidential statement from the Security Council. That's pretty serious. Iran had, for many years, done everything they could to avoid being reported to the Security Council. Well, in February that happened, in March the Security Council met, they issued a presidential statement. Today, we have a report of the Director General saying that Iran has failed to respond to what was required of it in the presidential statement and so now, we've got to take it to the next step.

The Secretary has made it clear that the next step will be stronger than a presidential statement. She's made it clear that the Security Council, having pronounced on this issue, needs to demonstrate its credibility as an institution. And it is, I think, that task that Under Secretary Nick Burns will put his shoulder to when he goes to Paris on May 2nd to consult with the political directors of the P-5 and Germany, looking ahead to actions we would take at the Security Council.

And as we move into the Security Council and take the next steps on the diplomatic process there, you can be sure that the Secretary and all of us will be continuing the efforts that we've been waging over the last couple of years to continue to bring international pressure and isolation to bear on Iran.

QUESTION: Will there be a ministerial meeting June 9th or thereabouts in New York --

QUESTION: May 9th.

QUESTION: May 9th, I'm sorry -- the P-5+1.

MR. ERELI: Yeah. Like I said, Ambassador Burns will -- really, the next steps on this are Ambassador Burns going to Paris on May 2nd, talk about, with our colleagues on the Security Council in Germany, about next steps. Obviously, there will be action at the Security Council. I'm not prepared now to say when and at what level.

Yeah.

QUESTION: You said that this has been an effective response because everyone has come into the circle to agree, but isn't effectiveness judged by the end result and whether or not everybody agrees, Iran has accelerated its program during this time, not decelerated it.

MR. ERELI: Yeah, and Iran is paying and will continue to pay a heavy price for this. The fact is that today, Iran is more isolated than it has ever been and that -- you know, frankly, with every step it takes in furthering its nuclear program, it increases its isolation, it increases the costs to the Iranian people and it, I think, increases the difficulties for itself on a whole host of other issues that it has to deal with the international community on.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the nuclear program.

MR. ERELI: The nuclear program, as a result of the international -- I think, as a result of international cooperation, has been constrained more than it would be if Iran hadn't been so defiant, in the sense that Russia has made it clear that because of its concerns, it's not going to provide fuel to Bushehr unless it's under a take-back provision. You've got people looking at their dealings with Iran much more closely, scrutinizing them much more carefully now than they would if Iran hadn't acted -- had not been acting in such a provocative and confrontational way.

And finally, you know, our view is that Iran and the leadership in Iran has to make a fundamental calculation and that calculation is, what are we gaining versus what are we losing? And as the cost becomes increasingly high to Iran, it is our expectation and is the goal of our diplomacy that that calculation will cause them to accept the demands of the IAEA, to come into compliance with its NPT obligations, and to rejoin these organizations and the international community as a responsible member.

Yes.

QUESTION: Two questions, Adam. One is that -- my question from before was, has the Secretary had or is planning any specific consultations by phone with anybody on --

MR. ERELI: I just can't speak to that. As I said, I would expect her to be actively and personally engaged in the diplomacy as she has been all along, but I just can't give you specific calls or steps that are going to be taken.

QUESTION: Okay. The second question that I had was, you mentioned the word, credibility, of the UN. I think the Secretary also was mentioning the credibility of the UN.

MR. ERELI: No coincidence.

QUESTION: I did not expect there was going to be. It does also have some echoes of the pre-Iraq war when you're talking about whether or not the UN would become irrelevant. My question is that, if the UN cannot act on the Iranian issue there, is this going to affect the U.S. view of the UN as an institution and get us into the same situation?

MR. ERELI: The reason we're saying this is because, frankly, Iran is openly challenging the United Nations and it's important to us that that challenge be met with a firm response, because frankly, we believe in the United Nations. We think it is -- it can and should be an effective tool for international diplomacy and that's why it's so important for us to work within the United Nations and to bring to bear on this problem the power and force and influence of that body.

So I think that's why we so regularly speak to the issue of credibility. And we think it can be done and that's why, frankly, again, as I said, Under Secretary Burns is going to Paris, why we've been working within the framework of the P-5 and the Security Council and the IAEA, which is part of the UN system as well.

QUESTION: But without wanting to break up you two as a couple, the United States and the UN, you have two major issues in front of it right now, which is Iran and Sudan and in both of them, the UN has not moved forward as expeditiously as you would want to.

MR. ERELI: I think I might dispute that, but anyway --

QUESTION: Well, the thing is that you're using the word credibility; I didn't raise it. The Secretary did it. So is that a challenge for the UN, that if they do not act on this issue in a way that you want it to do, that that will have consequences for the way you view them in the future?

MR. ERELI: I would put it the way I put it, which is that we believe in the UN. We believe that the UN has a power and an influence to address challenges to the international system that programs like Iran's represent and actions like Iran's represent. And that it is our goal to use the UN to deal with this problem. Iran, by responding to a presidential statement through the announcement of 164-centrifuge cascade, has basically openly defied a presidential statement adopted by consensus.

In our view, that defiance, that challenge should have consequences in order to sustain and fully reinforce the credibility of the UN as an institution. So it is up to us as a group to act together, collectively, decisively in the face of this challenge.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Adam, over the weeks of this whole controversy with the Iranians, many people are, in a way, describing the President of Iran with utter disdain, another Hitler; but isn't he, in effect, merely the puppet head for a clerical group that is totally out of touch with the Iranian people, that actually do want to bring the Iranians, as well as other sections in the world, back to the stone age and they have total disdain for any civil and world order. How do you combat all this?

MR. ERELI: Let's stick to the facts. The facts are that the President of Iran has spewed forth hateful and vile rhetoric: denying the Holocaust, calling for the elimination of other states. And that really is repugnant to, I think, people of all faiths and all political views.

Fact number two is you have a regime in Iran that is not representative of the Iranian people. The Iranian people were not given a free and fair choice in the most recent elections. The clerical authorities removed hundreds of candidates who wanted to run for office, so that the choice given to the Iranian people was contrived and unrepresentative.

And finally, you have a regime that is making presumed policies that are to the detriment of the Iranian people, because they're leading to Iran's further isolation from the rest of the international community and from the kind of relationships and contacts and links that are essential to economic growth and to the development of Iranian society and the Iranian people, for whom the United States and I think all of us have a great deal of sympathy, a great deal of respect and a great deal of admiration. So, it frustrates us that the government not only is taking, obviously, actions that are threatening to us, but are also harmful to the people of Iran.

Yes.

QUESTION: How confident are you and for what is the timeframe you expect something from the Security Council? And the view of the -- views coming from China and Russia that they are opposed to any sanctions to be imposed on Iran in one instance and also, on the -- in view of the (inaudible) again, the U.S. and the (inaudible) here that you might pursue like-minded nations for action instead of the United Nations.

MR. ERELI: Well, obviously this is a discussion that we're going to be fully engaged in, we've already been fully engaged in, but we're going to continue to pursue in the coming days and weeks.

It is our objective to have a strong, meaningful response from the United Nations Security Council to Iran's failure to act on what the Security Council and the Board of Governors has called on them to do. And it is our objective that -- it is our goal to get a broad consensus on the way forward in terms of actions to be taken; and that's point one and that's what I would say in response to what other states in the Security Council have said.

We've also made it clear that should it not be possible to act in the Security Council, there are other ways to work with states and organizations to take measures that isolate Iran and that bring to it a cost for its unacceptable behavior.

Yes.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Sudan, Darfur. The rebels seem to not be in favor of the proposal, the proposed accord between them, and at the same time, the World Food Program says that it has received so little in donations that it's going to have to cut in half its food rations for people. Can you just react to those?

MR. ERELI: As far as the talks in Abuja go, there are actually intensive and productive discussions underway today and all sides are seriously engaged on the basis of the AU mediators' draft agreement, which was submitted April 25th. So I think the reports that we're getting out of Abuja are that this is a process that is very much alive, very dynamic, and we are, through our team, fully committed to trying to reach an agreement.

As far as the food supplies go, I hadn't seen those reports, Teri. I'm aware that most of the food supplies scheduled for Sudan for March got through. For April, the percentage of food supplies scheduled to get through was a little bit lower, hindered by logistical difficulties in south and west Darfur because of the security situation. There are stockpiles, but clearly, reports such as these underscore and remind us what should be at the forefront of our attention all the time, which is, there are large populations in very dire need across Darfur, that they are vulnerable populations to ongoing violence, and that donors, aid agencies, international organizations have a responsibility to be generous and to be committed to helping them and that's certainly the case of the United States.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Adam, this morning, five U.S. members of Congress were arrested in ongoing demonstrations in front of a Sudanese Embassy. Why should these demonstrations have to have -- go to those extremes to deal with the Sudanese Government? And what will Ambassador John Bolton be doing? Again, in a similar question of what Peter said, what are the next steps with the Sudanese at the UN?

MR. ERELI: As far as today's protests at the Sudanese embassy, I'd have to refer you to the members of Congress and the law enforcement officials. I think what -- the one comment I would have is, whether it be that event today or the event this Sunday in which you'll have large numbers of concerned citizens in Washington to demonstrate on Darfur, including a State Department official who will be participating there, as well as Deputy Secretary Zoellick, who will be meeting many of the organizers of this on Monday.

All of this underscores and should be a powerful message to the Government of Sudan and the international community that Americans of all faiths and backgrounds and political beliefs care very deeply about what's going on in Sudan and expect their leadership to do something about it. And that's why, frankly, I think -- well, that's not why; the President, the Secretary, and the leadership of the State Department share that concern and that's why, for so long, for so many years, we have been at the forefront of the international effort to (a) call attention to this problem, (b) marshal humanitarian assistance, (c) fashion an effective security response and, finally, to put in place a political framework that can address the underlying cause of this crisis.

So in short, I would just say that we share the concerns with those who are protesting today, as well as this weekend, and that is really what informs and energizes our diplomacy.

As far as what's going on at the UN, the UN continues to be -- continues to have an important role to play in helping resolve this crisis, both in terms of assisting in the humanitarian effort, they've been -- you know, Jan Pronk, Jan Egeland have been very outspoken and very active in marshalling international assistance. UN agencies have been very effective in doing this and so, they continue to have a very important role.

In terms of the security situation, as you know, the Security Council resolution calls for a re-hatting of the UNMIS and AMIS into a broader UN force. There's a lot of logistical planning that needs to go into that; that should move forward and there's every -- no reason why it shouldn't move forward. And the Secretary General has been very outspoken in the need to make progress on this front. So those are all ongoing efforts at the UN, which the United States is very much a part of.

QUESTION: Is Jendayi Frazer going to address the rally?

MR. ERELI: Yes. That's my understanding.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

DPB # 71

ENDS

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