State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 27, 2006
Daily Press Briefing (Corrected)
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
June 27, 2006
U.S. Acts According to Law to Protect Against Terrorism
Reports of Progress Made by Hamas Toward Renouncing Terror / U.S.
Benchmarks are the Quartet Principles
Reported Abduction of Israeli Settler
U.S. Efforts to Affect the Release of Israeli Soldier / Peaceful
Time for Iran to Respond Positively on Package / Timetable for
Response / Secretary Rice's Discussions in Moscow
Secretary Rice's Trip / Support for President Karzai / Broad and
Effective Engagement with Afghanistan
U.S. Remains Deeply Concerned About Possibility of Missile Launch
Compensation Agreement for Pan Am 103 Victims
Removal from State Sponsor of Terror List
12:42 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Well, thank you for coming. I'm here to answer your questions.
QUESTION: Is this the last time on?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: No, okay.
MR. ERELI: Unless you're -- unless there's a special request.
QUESTION: No. I don't want to be tough on you.
MR. ERELI: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: I've got two stories here I don't understand, so maybe you can explain it to me. The first has to do with a European official saying there have been transfers to American agents of suspects, I guess terrorist suspects. I don't even know if there's a complaint here that it is something that shouldn't be going on. Could you cast any light on this?
MR. ERELI: Those aren't issues that normally we speak to --
QUESTION: I know. I know.
MR. ERELI: And I don't have anything new to add to clarify, other than to repeat what's been said before, which is that the United States acts according to the law, according to its values and in, I think in concert with its allies to protect innocent Americans and innocent citizens around the world from terror. Specific actions related to those activities that don't deal with diplomacy, I don't -- I won't speak to.
QUESTION: So you won't speak to whether transfers have taken place?
MR. ERELI: Not a subject I'm prepared to speak to.
QUESTION: Okay. Maybe someone else has something on that, I don't know. Do you want to switch to the other thing I don't understand, what is the Hamas deal and is it good or bad? I can't figure --
MR. ERELI: Well, Barry, I'm really sorry to disappoint you, but on that, you really have to talk to the Palestinians because they're the ones that are --
QUESTION: Oh, good, they'll make it clear.
MR. ERELI: -- talking about the deal. We've seen press reports about it. We have not seen the deal; don't know the details of the deal. Obviously our view is that -- and we will look at whatever might have -- they might have come up. We will look at it in light of the Quartet principles laid out in the numerous Quartet statements that you're aware of. Those are the benchmarks by which we will evaluate commitment in a plan to renounce terror. We've seen reports that the Palestinians might have made some progress on that issue, not really in a position to evaluate the accuracy of those reports or what's behind them.
QUESTION: All right. Even though it's terribly vague, can you venture an opinion as to whether an agreement to limit your terror activities -- I guess people would call it your militancy -- to areas that Israel did not control until the 1967 war, is a step that the United States would welcome? In other words, that you just use your force in certain areas instead of all areas? Is that progress?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Frankly, I don't want to engage in a theoretical discussion of what might or might not be progress. I would say that, again, our benchmarks are the Quartet principles. That's what the United States and the EU and the UN and Russia want to see. That's what we've said is necessary and that's what we're looking for.
QUESTION: And before I give up on -- I mean, pass on to someone else, abduction now of a settler. Can you verify that they now have two captives?
MR. ERELI: I have not seen those reports. Don't have any confirmation for you on it, obviously. We -- I would reiterate that we look to the Palestinian Government to act effectively to stop acts of terror, stop acts against innocent civilians, and to get the security situation in the territory under its authority under control.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice said yesterday that diplomacy should be given a chance to try and secure the release of this Israeli soldier. Where are you at the moment in terms of diplomatic moves to try to --
MR. ERELI: Continuing.
QUESTION: Okay. And what are you doing?
MR. ERELI: We are working with -- we are in contact with senior levels of the Palestinian presidency, the Israeli Government, the Egyptians and others to affect the release of this individual.
QUESTION: Well, you've said previously that you don't want to have direct contact with Hamas in these circumstances --
MR. ERELI: And that continues.
QUESTION: Any help from Europeans, the French for instance?
MR. ERELI: I can't speak to the French, frankly.
QUESTION: Well, given the guy's background.
MR. ERELI: I'll let the French speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is there anything that the President's office can do other than the general try to get this under the control of its territory?
MR. ERELI: Well, the President is the President so it's important that he act to get the organs of the Palestinian Government to act responsibly.
QUESTION: But you're not trying to imply that he has any responsibility directly in the abduction, are you?
MR. ERELI: He is -- we are engaged with President Abbas to bring this incident to a peaceful resolution.
QUESTION: I'll switch to Iran if no one else wants to pick up. The White House doesn't take Khamenei's remarks, statement as an answer to the package. Is there anything that you want to add to that?
MR. ERELI: I agree with the White House.
QUESTION: Well, what is your --
MR. ERELI: Our view is, as expressed by White House Spokesman Snow and United States Department Spokesman McCormack and a whole host of others, is that there is a good and positive offer on the table. We think it is time that Iran responds positively to that offer and we look for that response to come from Larijani to Mr. Solana; that hasn't happened yet.
QUESTION: In fact, I was going to ask you if you've -- any indication from Mr. Solana that he expects a response.
MR. ERELI: Nothing new to share on that.
QUESTION: Are you encouraging a second meeting between Solana and the Iranians?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't -- I'm not prepared to really go into a discussion of diplomatic next steps, other than to say that we continue to consult closely with Mr. Solana, with our other P-5+1 partners. Secretary will be meeting on this subject -- will be discussing the subject with our partners when she's in Moscow. And I think we are -- we continue to be actively engaged in order to, frankly, on the one hand, bring about a positive response to our offer, but also to talk about if Iran doesn't respond in a timely way, what we need to do.
QUESTION: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has said that the negotiations with the United States are of no use for us and we have no use for such negotiations?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on that?
MR. ERELI: I think I've just responded to it as best I can. The fact of the matter is Iran's nuclear program is of concern to the international community broadly. There has been a positive way forward put forth to deal with this problem. That is the offer that was conveyed by Mr. Solana to Mr. Larijani. It was also made clear that refusal to or rejection of this offer would have negative consequences. There's a positive pathway and a negative pathway. And we -- and by "we" we mean -- I mean, the international community as represented by P-5+1 and numerous IAEA Board of Governors resolutions -- believe that the time has come for Iran to respond positively to this offer.
QUESTION: You've said it's weeks not months. When do the weeks start becoming months, because it's three weeks now, nearly three weeks since it was presented?
MR. ERELI: I don't really have any sort of new parsing of that timeframe for you.
QUESTION: Which is the U.S. word --
MR. ERELI: Which is, I think, a timeframe that has been echoed by others.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the meetings on Thursday in Moscow as far as Iran goes? What are they going to be looking to do as next steps?
MR. ERELI: Frankly, I just -- I don't want to get ahead of the party on that. I'll leave it to them to speak to.
QUESTION: But can you give a general sense of -- I mean, if Iran doesn't answer by then?
MR. ERELI: I think we'll have some meaningful stock-taking of where we are in the process, what our common assessment of the state of affairs is, and what our agreed upon approach is going to be.
QUESTION: Change of subject? Adam, I just want to know about, you know, we've talked about this August timeframe for responding. Is that, in your view, a timely --
MR. ERELI: I think the President said when we heard those reports that that's a little long. He doesn't see why it should take so long. We've said weeks not months. That remains our timeframe. The Secretary said there is a good offer on the table; the time to respond is now.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on Secretary Rice visit to Afghanistan?
MR. ERELI: Well, beyond what the party said, I really don't have much to add. I think that it's clear that our support for President Karzai is deep and strong and lasting. The Secretary will be going there to continue our broad and effective engagement with Afghanistan to help strengthen democracy, the rule of law, stability, security, and prosperity in that country. This is a vitally important undertaking, not only for the United States and the people of Afghanistan and for the region, and so it's a good opportunity for the Secretary to once again meet this very brave and effective and purposeful leader.
QUESTION: Change of subject. North Korea.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: North Korea still has not launched the missile that everyone was expecting it to launch. Do you think that the immediate threat has passed the further away we get from them claiming that they were about to launch a missile? Do you feel that the sort of pressure cooker is less, about to explode?
MR. ERELI: We remain deeply concerned by the possibility of a missile launch. We -- when I say "we," the United States and its partners in the region and, frankly, around the world -- remain deeply concerned about this. It continues to be something we watch very closely and we -- and a matter on which we continue to act in concert to prevent.
QUESTION: You don't have any new --
MR. ERELI: I don't.
QUESTION: -- intelligence to indicate one way or another?
MR. ERELI: I certainly don't want to handicap probabilities. It is a matter that we view with serious concern and continue to be engaged on.
QUESTION: Adam, there's a media report today that Libya will be basically stopping compensation payments to the families of the victims of Pan Am 104 [sic], just basically technically because the deadline that they had set were not met. And you know, Libya has now benefited from the resumption of diplomatic relations at the center of -- are they kind of -- what's your view on that?
MR. ERELI: A couple of things to say about that. First of all, the deal of compensation between the Libyan Government and the families of the victims of Pan Am 103 was negotiated between the families' lawyers and the Government of Libya, and the United States Government is not a party to that agreement. So for how that agreement is being implemented and where it stands, I'd refer you to one of those two parties.
The second point is, obviously we support justice for the Pan Am 103 families and we support their efforts to receive due compensation and we do all we can to assist communication between the families' lawyers and the Libyans and we are* actively involved in encouraging the Libyan Government to extend escrow arrangements made under the settlement so that the final payment can be effected.
In this matter specifically, we want to see it resolved fairly and we'll continue to press the Government of Libya to engage with the families and with the lawyers in good faith to bring about that outcome.
QUESTION: Are you in contact with the authorities in Libya then about the -- about negotiations with the Pan Am families?
MR. ERELI: It remains -- yeah, it is a matter, which we engage with the Government of Libya on, not as a party to the agreement, but in support of the families and to try to help them -- try to support their claims.
QUESTION: And 29th -- the 29th, Thursday, is the day when Libya's meant to come off the list of states who --
MR. ERELI: Well, technically --
QUESTION: -- support terrorism.
MR. ERELI: -- technically speaking, I think tomorrow is the end of the 45-day congressional notification period and then, once that period expires, there would be another act to actually formally remove them from the terrorism list.
QUESTION: So would that just be a matter of publishing it in the register and then --
MR. ERELI: I think it's a formality, yeah.
QUESTION: Is there anything that you can see that might prevent that review period from passing through?
MR. ERELI: Nothing that I -- if it happened, it would be something of a surprise.
QUESTION: Okay. Looks like that's it, no?
MR. ERELI: Are you calling an end? Okay. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)
* This sentence should have been in the past tense: "We were also actively involved in encouraging Libya to extend the escrow arrangements under the settlement for the final $2 million per family a number of times."