State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 14, 200
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
September 14, 2005
U.S. Condemnation of Attacks in Baghdad
Determination of Iraqis and the Multinational Force to Fight Back
Six Party Talks / Second Day / Business-like Discussions
North Korea's Desire for a Light-Water Reactor
Meeting Details / Logistics
International Atomic Energy Agency Requirements for Referral
Iran's Broken Agreement with EU / Uranium Enrichment-Related Activity
Pursuit of Resumption of Negotiations & Suspension of Enrichment Activity
Reports that Bin Laden Was in Need of Medical Care
12:05 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Sorry for the delay, everybody. I want to get this done early, so let's go straight to your questions.
QUESTION: I don't have any.
MR. ERELI: Okay, setting the tone.
QUESTION: I have a quick one.
MR. ERELI: All right. Sure.
QUESTION: Al-Qaida apparently is now claiming credit for the bombings today in Baghdad.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: I'd like to hear some U.S. comment.
MR. ERELI: Well, the first point to make is that this is an horrific act of terror that hurts innocent civilians and needs to be condemned clearly and unequivocally. Another case of people with no more agenda other than kill, maim and destroy. And it's clearly something that the Iraqi people don't support and is horrific and that we're all just terribly saddened by and that I think the MNF-I and the Iraqi Government and, frankly, the Iraqi people are determined to fight and work against. And I think we've seen good progress in the sense of standing up Iraqi forces to take greater and greater responsibility for providing security. These attacks do continue. They need to be dealt with.
There are claims of responsibility. They're really quite, frankly, hard to verify. I wouldn't be able to tell you that we know who's responsible at this point. Sure there's a claim out there. The fact of the matter is that pinpointing blame with the insurgency is a tricky business, but clearly there is a determination by the Iraqis, by the MNF-I, to fight back. And these kinds of attacks I think just steel that resolve.
Over to you.
QUESTION: Can we go to North Korea for a second?
MR. ERELI: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Christopher Hill is basically saying that he's run into a brick wall with North Korea.
MR. ERELI: I didn't hear him say that.
QUESTION: Well, I'm kind of paraphrasing but --
MR. ERELI: Yes. Not paraphrasing, you're making up. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The North Koreans brought up the issue of the light-water reactor again on the first day. What is this, an uphill battle or is it just a little stumbling block?
MR. ERELI: It's a negotiation. Today was the sort of second day of talks in Beijing. It began yesterday, as you know, with a dinner hosted by the Chinese. It began in earnest today with bilaterals between the United States and all of the five other parties. We met this morning with the Japanese, the Russians. We had a lunch with the South Koreans. We had an afternoon meeting with the North Koreans and we had a working dinner with the Chinese. We'll have another heads of delegation meeting tomorrow, in addition to continuing contact with all the parties.
I would describe the discussions with everyone, including North Koreans as businesslike. They picked up where they left off and the point of substance that you mention is that North Korea came back with their desire for a light-water reactor. And it was clear in discussions with the other parties that nobody was prepared to make such an offer. So it's the first -- we're at the opening of resumed negotiations. We've got a good proposal on the table to meet North Korea's energy needs and that's important.
But it also is premised on North Korea making a strategic choice to get out of the nuclear business and give up its nuclear weapons. And so that's what's the basis of this statement of -- it's agreement on principles. And as, again, as Assistant Secretary Hill has said repeatedly, this is the kind of thing that isn't done until all points are agreed on. We're not there yet.
QUESTION: You said that nobody was prepared to make such an offer. Well, that's about the same as saying nobody was prepared to accept North Korea's claim to that right?
MR. ERELI: We're talking about North Korea saying that they want a light-water reactor. And I'm saying that that's not for the other five parties something that they're willing to provide or to respond positively to such a request.
QUESTION: Do they have a right to such a reactor?
MR. ERELI: That's, you know, again, that's -- that was not, as far as I'm aware, the issue today. I think we've been very clear on the whole issue of right versus practice, and I don't want really have more to elaborate on it today.
QUESTION: Given this situation here, and I think Ambassador Hill said he hopes this talk can wrap up in a few days. Do you think this issue can be solved --
MR. ERELI: Well, I think we'd all like it to wrap up as soon as possible, but Assistant Secretary Hill has also said that we will keep at this as long as we think it's useful and that we don't have any preset timetable in mind. Again, we're working from a fourth draft. That represents a considerable elaboration of ideas, so we've made a lot of progress. We have a good basis on which to bring this to conclusion and we hope we can get there.
QUESTION: I'm wondering, yesterday or today you had just a bilateral meeting.
MR. ERELI: We also had a heads of delegation meeting yesterday.
QUESTION: Yeah, yesterday's meeting. Well, you didn't --
MR. ERELI: Actually we a heads of delegation meeting yesterday and a dinner with all the parties.
QUESTION: Have you had a plenary session already?
MR. ERELI: You know, I'm not sure that we're not saying the same thing with different words. The meeting yesterday with the heads of delegation before the dinner was to talk about logistics and modalities of the talks. The dinner was sort of the kickoff for it. Whether that technically, either of those technically qualifies a plenary, I don't know. We're going to have another heads of delegation meeting tomorrow. I think the practical point here is that when you have these heads of delegation's meetings, it's the opportunity for everybody to get together and discuss issues as a group. But I'll refrain from getting too much into a technical definition of terms.
QUESTION: I don't know whether we could say it's a plenary session or just a meeting of heads of delegation.
MR. ERELI: I will endeavor to find out if there's a substantive difference.
QUESTION: Yeah. I'm wondering the session might be going on in this kind of fashion, in this kind of formula. Then I'm wondering, then behind the scene, if they reach the agreement, they might have like a plenary session as a big ceremony. I'm wondering.
MR. ERELI: Well, I'll put it this way. In any negotiation of this kind, i.e., multilateral that involves a variety of different interconnecting issues, in which all the parties are together for a period of time, you've got formal sessions and you've got informal sessions. You've got discussions that take place in sort of protocolary style and you've got discussions that take place bilaterally, trilaterally, with groups. It's a fluid dynamic. So what you're asking, I think, really is a process question.
And the answer would be that, I think, what's evolved certainly over the first 12 days of talks in this latest round is a process by which the parties have reached a sort of familiarity and comfort factor with each other that they can have these kinds of exchanges, together as a group, as well as bilaterally, under the auspices of the Chinese who are, through the drafting process, helping to move this forward in conjunction with all the different contacts that are going on and produce something that, hopefully, everybody can agree to. But I think the bottom line here is it's fluid, there are formal and informal aspects to it and the common element is a serious and ongoing engagement on the issues of substance.
QUESTION: I don't want to get too nit-picky, but you used the word "businesslike." I'm just trying to get an idea of how forward thinking the North Koreans were. Did they seem like they wanted to progress on the matter or are they still insisting on the light-water reactor?
MR. ERELI: You know, to answer that question, I'd really have to be there and I'm not there. Having talked with members of the party that were there, I think the sense is that "businesslike" means addressing the issues, serious and continuing where we left off. That's how I would describe it.
QUESTION: I have an Iran question.
MR. ERELI: Are we done with North Korea?
MR. ERELI: Comments from the peanut gallery.
QUESTION: I heard it raised yesterday the scholarly event that the U.S.-- that a two-thirds majority might be required at the IAEA board meeting for the U.S. to move something --
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- vis-à-vis, Iran. Is that your understanding or you think it's a simple majority or do you think you have a simple majority?
MR. ERELI: As a factual matter, I believe it's a simple majority. But I would -- you might want to check with the IAEA just to make sure, but I think it's a simple majority. And obviously this is an issue of intense diplomacy, as you are well aware, not just now, but it's been a matter of intense diplomacy for the -- really, the last couple of months and certainly the last couple of weeks, since Iran broke its agreement with the European Union by re-engaging in uranium enrichment-related activity and breaking off negotiations.
This is a real negative step. And it's a step that, I think, has earned Iran the opprobrium of the international community and it's something that we're all working to respond to with the EU-3 in the lead because they're the most directly and immediately aggrieved party. But it certainly is a matter of concern for all of us. The Secretary has been actively engaged on this. Our mission in Vienna has been actively engaged and Under Secretary Burns has been actively engaged in it -- spoke to it yesterday. And we've got a Board of Governors meeting next week.
I think where we are is that the EU-3 is (inaudible) supported by us and supported by the IAEA, and the members of the Board of Governors wants to see a resuspension and a resumption of negotiations. That's what Iran had committed to. That's certainly in the interest of all of us who are disturbed by Iran's repeated breaking of its commitments and refusal to cooperate with the IAEA, as noted in a number of reports by the Director General and resolutions of the Board of Governors. And so that's where we're really directing our efforts in support of the EU-3.
QUESTION: Someone asked me to ask you this question for the person. Since then --
MR. ERELI: A third-party question.
QUESTION: Mr. ElBaradei wants to give Iran a final chance with three or more weeks. Would you stand with him on this?
MR. ERELI: Again, I think what we want to see as in concert with the EU-3 is a resumption of negotiations and a resuspension of enrichment activity or enrichment-related activity.
There's a Board of Governors meeting next week. That's where the issues -- that's where I think the rubber is going to meet the road. Let's wait until next week and see where we are.
QUESTION: I'm sure it's another way of asking the same thing, but is the United States, at this point, pushing for Security Council referral at that meeting or would you be willing to go along with another period of --
MR. ERELI: Well, the United States --
QUESTION: -- negotiations for a lack of a better word.
MR. ERELI: The United States believes and has believed that the referral is appropriate and is called for, based on Iran's actions. And that's, I think, in concert with the EU-3. The EU-3 believes that Iran's actions justify that step as well. The focus is on getting resuspension, is on getting resumption of negotiations and failing that, then obviously referral would be called for.
QUESTION: But the question is referral when -- referral now or later?
MR. ERELI: That's where the diplomatic efforts are concentrated. I can't, you know, go beyond that.
QUESTION: On a different topic, on Usama bin Laden. There's a little report by the al-Hayat newspaper in London.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I think the Defense Department has been pretty categorical in putting down that report, saying that, you know, the Defense official was -- did not say what he was reported to have said. I'd refer you to the Defense Department, but they've been pretty clear about saying he never said what al-Hayat reported him to have said.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Have a nice day, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:22 p.m.)