State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 9, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 9, 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
November 9, 2005
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad al-Chalabi
Trial of Saddam Hussein / Security Issues / Prospects for Change
Detention of Journalist Kemal Kadir by Iraqi Authorities
Allegations CIA Maintains Secret Prisons
Secretary Rice's Comments Yesterday
Administration's Policy on Use of Torture
Secretary Rice's Upcoming Travel to the Middle East
International Religious Freedom Report Regarding Saudi Arabia
Trafficking In Persons Report Regarding Saudi Arabia and Kuwait
US Embassy Warden Message on Chinese Police Advisory regarding
Possible Attacks on Hotels
US Position on Lifting EU Arms Embargo
Secretary Rice's meeting with the Dalai Lama
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Turkish Cypriot Community Leader
Mehmet Ali Talat
Macedonia's Aspirations to Join EU
Macedonia Name Issue
Food Aid to North Korea
Speech by US Ambassador Dell
Imprisonment of Five Bulgarian Medics
12:18 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: Afternoon, everyone. No statements to begin with so let's start with your questions.
QUESTION: How about the U.S. account of the Secretary's meeting with Ahmad Chalabi? And if you could touch on what U.S. interest is there in all this -- many meetings. He's seen Cheney, now you can't speak for the whole Administration. What is the U.S. interest in having these extensive talks with Chalabi?
MR. ERELI: The United States meets with a wide range of Iraqi Government officials on a regular basis, here in Washington, in Baghdad, and in international fora and conferences and other occasions. So the way to look at this visit, and the meetings with Chalabi, is in the context of a broad and sustained and intensive partnership between the United States and Iraq and consistent with our shared goals of promoting Iraq's political development, helping its economic reconstruction and assuring its security. And as I said yesterday, as Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of Iraq, Dr. Chalabi has a role to play in all that.
So we meet with Dr. Chalabi, we meet with Foreign Minister Zebari, we meet with Prime Minister Jafari, we meet with Deputy President Al-Mahdi, we meet with the oil minister, the finance minister. So I guess the simple answer would be this is a meeting with an Iraqi Government official as part of a sustained and broad set of engagements with the Iraqi Government as a whole. That's number one.
Number two, the meeting itself. It was a good meeting. They had a wide-ranging discussion over a full range of issues regarding Iraq -- economic, security, political. I think in view of the fact that Dr. Chalabi does have the portfolio for energy and finance issues, the bulk of the conversation focused on those sectors, taking note of really the devastating state which Saddam Hussein's regime left Iraq's energy infrastructure and finance sectors. They talked about some of the challenges that Iraq is working to overcome, particularly in the areas of refining capacity, oil production, encouraging private and foreign investment in Iraq, on the security front looking at progress made in developing Iraqi capabilities to provide for its own security, on the political front, looking forward to the December elections. And the Secretary making the point, as we regularly do, that inclusiveness and the broadest participation possible is in everybody's interest. Spending time on both the finance and agricultural sectors and focusing on, you know, how to build institutions that operate on the basis of technocratic principles as opposed to secrecy and privilege and corruption, as was the case under Saddam Hussein.
So that's basically how I'd characterize their discussion.
QUESTION: I don't expect you to speak for the whole Administration but did Secretary Rice solicit Chalabi's advice on such other issues as how to beat back the insurgency? He again is speaking in terms of Iraq should have a deeper relationship with Iran. Is he still someone you ask the advice of and do you find -- have you found him to be a reliable source of advice?
MR. ERELI: Obviously, the insurgency was discussed or came up as part of the discussion, but within the context of the other issues, as I described, particularly when you're talking about the infrastructure of -- the oil infrastructure, the energy infrastructure and the challenge that the insurgency poses to that and related to the security side of things how we and the Iraqis can work together to protect Iraqis and Iraqi assets from terrorists bent on attacking them. And I think it was noted that the cooperation with the MNFI and the Iraqi security forces in this regard is good and is a priority for both of us.
QUESTION: Well, the other part of question was do you consider him a reliable advisor, a consultant or whatever --
MR. ERELI: You know, he was a -- I would characterize it the way I did, which is he's a member of the Government of Iraq. He has responsibility for areas that are critical to Iraq's future recovery and that was the context in which the discussions took place.
QUESTION: I guess going back to the original question -- just trying to get you to elaborate on the reasons why you -- the Secretary would meet with Chalabi. The U.S. Government does veto meeting government officials, you know, you'll say that a Hezbollah member can get in the cabinet in Lebanon, but we won't speak to them. So I want to know about the criteria for Chalabi, not making it a comparison that he is in any way connected to a guerilla group, but he is accused of having passed U.S. intelligence information to Iran. So you would imagine, therefore, he'd be extremely unpopular despite all these things that you've said in the Bush Administration. So was that criterion ignored, the fact that he is accused of passing U.S. secrets to Iran?
MR. ERELI: Well, I don't really have much to add to that issue other than to say that as far as the accusations that are out there, that's a matter under investigation. I'd leave it to the competent authorities to talk about that. As far as Chalabi's meeting with U.S. Government officials goes, he is the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq and he's meeting with us in that context and it's appropriate and right and in everybody's interest to do so.
QUESTION: Well, is the issue of the investigation that -- with Iran came up?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Did the issue of faulty intelligence come up and --
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Any intelligence --
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of, nope.
QUESTION: He don't go for two years and a half. Why does he come today?
MR. ERELI: I don't think that's right. I think he's been since the last two and a half years.
QUESTION: At least eight months ago, at least eight months ago. Can we stay on Iraq?
QUESTION: You've said, obviously, that they talked about security, which is key. One problem with security is it's affecting the trial of Saddam, the defense lawyers for him and for his aides, that they've decided to cut off contact with the court because of the killings.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Now, yesterday we asked you is it possible to have this trial in Baghdad? Do you hold to the fact that it is if you can't even get the lawyers to be there because of their problems with safety?
MR. ERELI: I'd make the following points, similar to what we said yesterday. Number one, this is an Iraqi trial. This is an Iraqi process. It's taking place under Iraqi laws, through Iraqi institutions. And those laws, those institutions and those officials will determine the way ahead. We are committed to supporting them as they do so. We leave it to them to make the decisions about what's in the best interest of Iraq and Iraqis. We will support them when they make those decisions.
There's -- to my knowledge and at this point -- there's no change in the way forward. We also made the point yesterday that we are offering security support to the facilities that are designated for the trials. I would also note that the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi security forces have offered protection for all the defense lawyers and that it is their decision whether they accept that protection or not. But certainly there are steps being taken by both the coalition and the Iraqi Government to provide the kind of security and protection that people are looking for, for the trial and that's right and good and let's move forward.
QUESTION: Back to the thorny subject of secret prisons. The Secretary of State again was asked about this and she did her dance of the seven veils. Why can't we have just a straight answer whether these reports are true or false?
MR. ERELI: I guess it's not enough to look back at the daily transcripts of the last week to answer your question. You want it repeated?
QUESTION: They were not answered, is my point.
MR. ERELI: Pardon?
QUESTION: There's no straight answer.
MR. ERELI: The straight answer is I'm not going to comment on intelligence -- reports about intelligence.
QUESTION: Okay, then. What about the fact that she said the President doesn't support torture. Do we take it that the State Department supports John McCain's proposal not to exempt the CIA?
MR. ERELI: There's a statement of Administration policy on that issue that I would refer you to.
MR. ERELI: Yes. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On a new subject. Did the Secretary, when she was National Security Advisor, know of the existence of secret CIA prisons?
MR. ERELI: I don't have -- again, I told you I'm not going to comment on intelligence matters.
QUESTION: But -- but did she --
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to comment on intelligence matters.
QUESTION: Okay. Here's a follow-up to that then. The Secretary, when she's going abroad will no doubt, as she always does, try to further the President's freedom agenda.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: She will be doing that with a great doubt over her about whether or not she supported a policy --
MR. ERELI: I disagree.
QUESTION: That restricts freedom.
MR. ERELI: I disagree.
QUESTION: You have not done anything to clear up the doubt.
MR. ERELI: I will tell you -- and the Secretary, I think, spoke very eloquently and forcefully to this issue yesterday in talking about the principles, values, and image of the United States throughout the world. And that is one where we state clearly what we believe in. We represent an example for the rest of the world and that example has proved, I think, beneficial to the development of freedom and democracy throughout the world as evidenced, as the Secretary said yesterday, in the changes that swept the Soviet Union in the final years of that system.
I think in looking forward to her upcoming travels, I would expect that the United States and the Secretary will find a very positive and favorable reception in -- certainly in Bahrain, certainly in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to the United States freedom agenda, to the support that the United States has given reformers and democrats and people struggling for their rights and freedoms throughout the region and that what so consumes you here in this briefing will not adversely color our dealings on this trip.
QUESTION: You mentioned Saudi Arabia. The freedom agenda, presumably encompasses such essential freedoms as freedom of religion.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Freedom of speech.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Women's rights.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: The State Department had very critical things to say this week about what the Department calls a lack of freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia. Do you think she'll get a glowing reception on that issue as well? Yeah, and will she take up with the Saudis, because they're in a period of --
MR. ERELI: The issue of --
QUESTION: A 180-day trial period.
MR. ERELI: This is an issue that will certainly be raised as it always is when we have discussions with the Saudis. This is the value of having kind of a strategic dialogue that the Secretary will be inaugurating on her visit to the Kingdom in that it provides us an opportunity to raise the level of discussion of these issues to a senior level to do it in a sustained way and to work out ways to address these problems. I think that if you look at the policies and actions of King Abdallah -- and we have noted this -- they recognize that this is an issue, they recognize that the challenge is before them and they are looking to ways to respond to these challenges in order to -- not because it's something that we put before them, but first and foremost, because it's in their own interests to do so and it's the impulse for change is coming from within their own societies.
So when you combine that homegrown momentum, along with the role of the United States as a power for, supportive of and encouraging of change and reform, you get progress. Now each country does it in a different way, at a different pace and we are mindful of each country's unique circumstances. But we're going to, as I said in respect to other issues, call it like we see it and not hold back from putting down on the table the issues and challenges that we think are important for all of us to deal with in our collective self-interest.
QUESTION: Follow on that?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: To talk to you again about the message to the world and the principles and values and images to the world that the Secretary talked about yesterday: promotion of freedom and liberty. Saudi Arabia has now twice in the last six weeks been waived by the Administration on some very important findings along these lines.
I think about six weeks ago, they were placed on the top tier on the U.S. Human Trafficking Watch List. The President gave them a waiver allowing more than $4 billion in military sales to go forward uninhibited. They were given a waiver on religious freedom as well. They've been given more time. Kuwait got a waiver on human trafficking, also allowing more than, I think, $2 billion in military sales to go forward.
What's the message to the world then, that freedom and liberty are --
MR. ERELI: You've got to look at the details. I think details are important and you're glossing over them in a, I think, careless way. If you look at the case of Kuwait, if you -- on trafficking in persons, if you look at the case of Saudi Arabia on religious freedom, the way those are based on specific actions that those countries have taken and the waivers are limited in scope and duration. And there's a relationship between the actions they take and the waiver.
So, you know, you've got to be prepared to take -- I'm sorry, you have to be prepared to take yes for an answer. You can't just -- let me finish, just a second -- are you going to let me finish?
MR. ERELI: You can't just say, you've got to do all this right now or we're going to beat you over the head with a stick. You say, these are the goal posts, you need to work with us to find a way to get there and if you move incrementally, we're prepared to move incrementally. But the fact of the matter is the sanctions are still pending a real progress, the sanctions are still out there. They're still a possibility. But it's: (a) it's not black and white; (b) you've got to take an approach that matches incentives or disincentives in a realistic way. And you, most importantly, you've got to follow these things over time. I mean, it's not just like, okay, today you issue a waiver and the problem's gone and you're not -- you're letting them off the hook. Rather, there's an annual process of -- actually, in some cases, more frequent than annual -- process of review that you establish benchmarks, you establish standards, you hold them to standards and there are actions that you take or don't take based on their actions.
QUESTION: Waivers for both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to the President's statements, on both of those instances were based on -- the war on terrorism had nothing to do with the progress that they were making towards ending human trafficking, unlike UAE and, I think, Qatar, which the Secretary herself downgraded the two of them. So they were just given a waiver for a U.S. strategic interest in that case. Is the message to the world that if you're helping us with our strategic interests, we'll look askance on issues of freedom and liberty?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: You said that they've made -- they've taken action, but that it was because, you know, you do these waivers. Could you see them taking action? What action has Saudi Arabia taken?
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to our International Religious Freedom Report. I think it says --
QUESTION: Which says that there's --
QUESTION: There's no freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: -- an unqualified statement.
MR. ERELI: They have, as Ambassador Hanford pointed out in his briefing to all of you yesterday, I believe, they have taken action against certain religious preachers who incite violence and preach intolerance and hatred and they have worked with us to develop an action plan that shows a willingness to engage and to plan for action.
Now, as I said in response to the other question, that is a limited response and limited scope and therefore, the measures we're taking are limited. But again, you have to be able to take a yes for an answer. In this case, Saudi Arabia is showing -- even though as the report says, there is no freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia -- that they are willing to address this issue, that they're willing to discuss this issue with us, that they are willing to consider actions, as opposed to other countries which refuse to engage and just tell us to go take a hike. So if they're going to talk to you and they're going to be receptive to your entreaties, then you should respond accordingly. And we think the steps we've taken are an appropriate response.
QUESTION: With apologies to Elise because I know she was due a question. On this idea of the message that you're giving to the world, I think it is -- some people would say that it's confusing, that we have this cloud over the possibility of secret prisons and yet you're pushing your freedom agenda. And what you do is you say, well, we've got all these great values and that you won't address the issue. The Secretary always, when she's abroad, talks about freedoms that divide. She says some people are on the wrong side of that divide. Her argument is there are governments that restrict the freedoms of people and those unfortunate people are on the wrong side of freedom's divide.
Those people who are disappeared into secret prisons, are they on the wrong side of freedom's divide?
MR. ERELI: Without speaking to this issue specifically, let me make a couple of points that we've made repeatedly, but I guess it stands -- it could use reiteration.
Number one, we are in a war on terror that this is an issue, when dealing with terrorists, of people who have and will continue, unless stopped, try to kill Americans, innocent civilians, attack our infrastructure and -- in horrific ways, and that it is incumbent upon the leaders of this country, the President, the Secretary and those who are sworn to uphold our Constitution, to use every instrument of national power to defeat this enemy.
So we engage in the war and we will in conducting that war, be true to our values, be true to our principles, be true to our laws and constitutions, and be respectful and mindful of our international obligations. And I think that -- and following on that, the President, the National Security Advisor and the Secretary have all said very clearly, we do not torture and when dealing with the challenges posed by those who respect no rules, we will stay true to our laws and our values and our Constitution.
QUESTION: How does holding people in secret, though, keep America any more safe? You've got people in Guantanamo Bay that are being held because you believe it makes America more safe. Why not hold people out in the open and let the investigation -- sorry, let visitations take place by the ICRC? Why does holding --
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you on that (inaudible).
QUESTION: But, sir, when you say -- sorry -- you say, you know, no torture of prisoners but people know what happened in Abu Ghraib and I know that wasn't condoned by the Administration in any way.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But the fact that those things did happen, make people wonder what would happen if there were secret prisons. So you can't just say that, you've got to show it, too. And how are you going to show it when you're not even going to tell us whether there are secret prisons or not?
MR. ERELI: We -- I think have, as I said before, an unmatched record of accountability and transparency when it comes to conducting our war. Remember -- excuse me. Let me finish. Let me finish. Let me finish.
We are conducting a war. No country conducts a war completely -- no country conducts a war without holding things close to the vest, okay. So I challenge you to tell me any country that doesn't have any classified information. I'm not going to talk about classified information. That's against the law, all right. So let's be clear about that.
Number two, in conducting the war on terror there has been no country, I would submit to you, that has been more forthcoming and more mindful of the need to communicate what it's doing and to act in a way that is responsible and consistent with international norms and obligations.
And specific to the point of Abu Ghraib, sure, abuses happen. That's inevitable in any system. But the point that we made, at the very beginning, when the Abu Ghraib photos came out, was, number one, we were the ones -- it was American servicemen who alerted the authorities to the fact that there was abuse, that there was an intensive and exhaustive process of investigation by members of Congress calling before them the senior levels of the Administration. There was legal proceedings taken. There was recognition that this was abuse, that it was contrary to the laws, that the laws did mean something, that those responsible would be held accountable and they have been accountable. There have been prosecutions and convictions. And so, again, I think our record is strong and enviable.
QUESTION: It was only after the servicemen alerted the press, not the authorities, that the investigations took place. And if you have secret prisons where there isn't any way to get this information out, how can anybody be sure that you would be transparent, that you would launch investigations if abuse was taking place in secret facilities?
MR. ERELI: Again, I think that if you look at what happened after Abu Ghraib, if you look at all the measures that we've -- if you look at all the actions we've taken with Guantanamo, with access to ICRC, with access to the press, with access to delegations from foreign countries, I think our record is one that stands scrutiny and that should be recognized as positive and laudable.
QUESTION: Is this a fair evaluation of the U.S. policy on torture: we do not torture detainees but we want to have an exception for the CIA in case it's ever necessary --
MR. ERELI: No, I think there is a clear statement of policy -- is the Administration's statement of policy, which is available to you. I'll endeavor to get you the site. It should be on a website somewhere and you can read it for yourself. It's exhaustive.
QUESTION: Adam, just to follow up real quick on this, we've heard this now for several days running: On the one hand, we don't torture, we stay within the limits of our values and our laws; but on the other hand, these are really bad people and this is a different kind of war. Isn't there kind of -- no offense to my British friend -- an inherent nudge-nudge, wink-wink there in that message that you're sending out? No, we don't torture but these are really bad people? What's the message?
MR. ERELI: I'm not nudging or winking. I'm saying --
QUESTION: Then what are you saying?
MR. ERELI: I'm saying that --
QUESTION: What are you trying to say with that? We've heard that from the White House as well.
QUESTION: And from the Secretary.
QUESTION: Yes, give us an answer is basically what we're asking for.
MR. ERELI: On the nudge-nudge -- well, I guess the point is -- let me put it this way. We're in a -- what people want to do when they're looking at this is try to understand it in terms of past experience. Right? Geneva Conventions governing the laws of war, for example. Well, those were written in a world where you didn't have people flying planes into buildings or you didn't have armed groups trying to develop chemical weapons capabilities and you didn't have armies that weren't under the flag of a national power or that didn't wear uniforms or that didn't -- that crossed borders and lived within societies.
So all we're saying is you've got codes of conduct that are incumbent upon countries that respect the rule of law and believe in certain values and certain principles, and that's what guides us, while at the same time recognizing that a lot of the lessons of history are -- lessons of history are that this is an unprecedented conflict with an unprecedented challenge.
QUESTION: So that --
MR. ERELI: But that does not mitigate in any way the imperative of acting right and respecting our values and our norms and our laws.
QUESTION: Are you saying, then, that while you recognize the Geneva Conventions for certain detainees, and the President and others have said that there is a -- that the Geneva Conventions would apply to detainees at Guantanamo, then that all terror suspects are entitled to the same protections under the Geneva Conventions?
MR. ERELI: You know, I'm not going to give you a legal exegesis of treaties in the context of the war on terror. That has been done much, much better than I could ever do by our officials who have provided testimony on the subject as well as the statement of Administration policy. So I refer you to existing documents on that score.
QUESTION: But you're opening -- I'm sorry, you're opening up the door here, saying --
MR. ERELI: No, I'm not. I'm not opening up -- do not interpret my remarks to be the opening of any door. I'm just trying to explain to you -- in fact, I'm trying to shut the door, actually. (Laughter.) But anyway, I'm just trying to explain, you know, in response to Cam's philosophical question, give a philosophical answer, but not a legal interpretation.
QUESTION: So, philosophically, you're saying that --
MR. ERELI: Philosophically, I'm saying we are dealing with an unprecedented threat and we are trying to deal with it with norms and structures and processes from the past. And that's a challenge.
QUESTION: So, Adam, since you're dealing with structures from the past, would you support -- that the Administration support, then, a new convention, since you're dealing with a new enemy, as every Administration official has said, since you're dealing with new enemy combatants, are you looking for a new international structure then that would be able to deal with this new enemy?
MR. ERELI: No, we are -- again, I'd refer you to the statement of Administration policy, which lays out where we stand on this. And I think the President was very clear in his statement on Monday and that really gives it to you in a capsule form.
QUESTION: I just have to try one more, just following up on Cam. If the U.S. holds -- has these values and they're enduring values, why does it matter what kind of people you're dealing with, because the U.S. values would stand regardless of who they are?
MR. ERELI: Exactly. Good. I agree.
QUESTION: Okay. So why do you feel it necessary to keep saying that these are "really bad" people, we have these values but these are "really bad" people? The U.S. values stand no matter who you're dealing with.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: So why are some people in secret prisons and some people not? I'm serious. That was the question. Why are you holding some "really bad" people in secret prisons?
MR. ERELI: I didn't -- that -- the issue that you raised and that you raised and that you're all interested in, that you've been raising for like four days or five days, I'm not going to speak to. I'm going to speak to --
QUESTION: But this is not the values --
MR. ERELI: What I'm going to speak to is our -- are the -- is the policies which guide us and what informs our decisions and how -- why we do what we do. And that -- I'm sorry -- and that I think we've been over and over and over but without answering the one question you want answered, which I can't answer.
QUESTION: Real quick, just a quick follow. You said you can't talk about classified information or respond to the question of secret prisons. If there were no secret prisons, it wouldn't be classified and therefore you could talk about; is that correct?
MR. ERELI: That's too convoluted for me. I can't understand it.
QUESTION: It's pretty straightforward.
MR. ERELI: Yeah?
QUESTION: Can we change the subject?
MR. ERELI: We probably could -- well, go ahead. Yeah, sure, I'm happy to change the subject.
QUESTION: There was a warning put out by the U.S. Embassy in China. There's some information coming from the government that --
MR. ERELI: Actually, it was --
QUESTION: It was a Warden Message and --
MR. ERELI: Yeah. It was a -- it was an advisory put out by the Chinese that said that Islamic extremists could be planning to attack four- and five-star hotels in China sometime over the course of the next week. What we did was just disseminate that information through our Warden system.
QUESTION: Do you have more information?
MR. ERELI: We don't have more information that was included -- than what was included in the Chinese advisory. Our understanding is that they are continuing to -- the Chinese are continuing to, investigate the matter to determine the credibility of the information they have. We, ourselves, do not have any specific information concerning the timing, target or method of any possible attacks.
QUESTION: So what did you put out? You put out --
MR. ERELI: We put out a Warden Message --
QUESTION: -- a warning message by the Chinese. In other words, you attributed the --
MR. ERELI: If I could read to you the warning message -- the Warden Message, it says: "The Embassy has learned that Chinese police advised hotels that Islamic extremist elements could be planning to attack four- and five-star hotels in China sometime over the course of the next week. Chinese authorities have assured the Embassy that they are taking appropriate security measures and investigating the possible threat thoroughly."
QUESTION: And yet there is no -- I haven't seen this, but there is no follow-on U.S. advice to travelers?
MR. ERELI: No. Other than what's included -- well, in the Warden Message it says American citizens visiting Chinese four- and five-star hotels should review their plans carefully, remain vigilant with regard to their personal security, and exercise caution. And then I would also note that we have extensive travel information on China for the traveling public on our website.
QUESTION: Is that -- I mean, that information that you always provide out and it's been very rare that there's ever been any kind of hint of an extremist -- an Islamic extremist threat in China except for the Chinese talking about Uighur Muslims. Do you have any reason to believe that this is part of a Chinese crackdown on Uighur Muslims?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't have any reason to believe that.
QUESTION: Chinese President Hu is visiting Britain right now and Chinese Foreign Ministry source said that Britain may shift its stance on the EU arms embargo. Are you aware of the potential policy change?
MR. ERELI: I really can't speak to the British policy. I can make clear to you what our policy is and we don't think that the arms embargo should be lifted. And this is a matter that we have had discussions with our EU partners about and we haven't really changed our views on that.
QUESTION: Recently, British Defense Minister was in town and met with probably some of the officials here and Pentagon. And also I thought you have a strategic dialogue with EU partners regarding China's emergence. Do you have any update?
MR. ERELI: We have a -- obviously, a dialogue with the -- a strategic dialogue with the Chinese. We have regular engagement with the EU-3. But I don't know really where your question is going on this.
QUESTION: I mean, through your interaction or any recent meeting with your British or European partners, are you aware of any potential policy change?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't -- it hasn't been an issue lately that I think has come up in our discussions.
Mr. Lambros, in the back.
QUESTION: Another philosophical question, however on Cyprus. Senator Olympia Snowe, speaking extensively on the Cyprus issue on the Senate floor the other day, stated, inter alia, criticizing the State Department, "Mr. President, I wanted today to discuss the extremely unfortunate decision by the highest levels of the State Department to meet with Mehmet Ali Talat, the self-declared president of the so-called 'Turkish republic of northern Cyprus.' For more than 30 years, it's been a tenet of the United States' foreign policy not to extend de jure or de facto recognition to the self-declared government which exists only because of the forceful occupation of northern one-third of Cyprus by more than 40,000 Turkish troops."
Since the Senator is criticizing the October 28th meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash -- excuse me, Mehmet Ali Talat, how do you respond to her criticism against the Department of State?
MR. ERELI: There is no change in U.S. policy. There is no de jure or de facto recognition of anything. This meeting was consistent with past practice whereby the leadership of the State Department believes it is useful and productive to exchange views with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. We've done it in the past, we'll continue to do it in the future, and this is consistent and supportive of our efforts to help promote reconciliation on the island on the basis of the Annan plan.
QUESTION: One more question on Iraq. Any response to my pending question regarding the arrest of the Kurdish human activist Dr. Tirman Said Khadil I raised the other day. For your information, Mr. Ereli, Amnesty International get involved, too.
MR. ERELI: I don't know anything about --
QUESTION: Can you take this question?
MR. ERELI: I'll see if there's anything we have to say on it, but that doesn't mean that we will.
QUESTION: The British Parliament just rejected legislation proposed by Tony Blair to hold terrorists suspects for 90 days without charging them. Do you think that this is going to hurt joint operations that you have with the British regarding terrorists with respect to the war on terror?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't speculate on that.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the parliament rejecting it?
MR. ERELI: No, no.
Now, let's go -- ma'am. Sure.
QUESTION: May I change the subject? Yeah? On something that indirectly concerns U.S. interests. Macedonia today received from Brussels positive opinion on its application for joining the EU, but no date was set -- kind of odd. Where does Washington stand on this, I mean, on the pace Balkan countries join EU?
MR. ERELI: Well, the -- the process of accession of Macedonia to the EU is obviously a matter for the Macedonia and the EU to work out. We are supportive of Macedonia's aspirations to join the EU. And we, I think, encourage and support the kind of reforms and actions that Macedonia needs to take to fulfill EU membership requirements.
QUESTION: One more?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: On this issue, Mr. Ereli, would you support their efforts to join EU or NATO with their present name, because as you know, there is difference between Greece and FYROM on the name issue?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Our position on the name issue, as you won't be surprised to hear, has not changed and that is that again, there's a UN-led process to lead Macedonia and Greece to come to a common position on that.
QUESTION: But the question is do you support this process to EU or to NATO or the present name, "Macedonia?"
MR. ERELI: We support Macedonia and Greece settling it with the -- through the UN.
QUESTION: You didn't answer my question.
MR. ERELI: That's my answer.
QUESTION: USAID put out a statement about cutting off food aid to North Korea if North Korea continues on with its plan to boot out, I guess, the WFP. Can you talk about that and -- it's largely about the timing, given that it's the start of six-party talks today?
MR. ERELI: The decision is not influenced by politics, number one. The decision -- number one, the decision to provide food aid is not a political decision, it is a humanitarian decision and it is -- we take our actions based on a number of criteria, one of which is need; another one is the ability to monitor the situation so that we can be sure that the people who need the food are getting the food. And the decision that was announced by the AID today was taken based on those criteria, specifically, obstacles that are being erected to international aid workers and others, international organization members, to monitoring the delivery and provision of the aid. That's a critical component in making a decision to provide aid, it's also a component critical factor in the decision to take the steps that we have.
QUESTION: Do you see any potential impact on the talks, as a result of this?
MR. ERELI: There shouldn't be. There shouldn't be. As I said, they're completely distinct issues.
QUESTION: Adam, as you anticipated yesterday, the American Ambassador in Zimbabwe was called into the foreign ministry.
MR. ERELI: Are we done with North Korea?
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
MR. ERELI: Okay. Yeah. On Zimbabwe.
QUESTION: Could you tell me what happened? I understand there was a -- they gave him a protest note of some sort?
MR. ERELI: The Ambassador met with officials in the foreign ministry today. They took issue with his remarks of last week. We made the point that these remarks were fully consistent with the role of the ambassador and the policies of the United States and that we continue to call on Zimbabwe to change course and to take actions and adopt policies that serve the interests of their people and that are consistent with international norms and the direction that the rest of the world is taking but that seems to be different from where Zimbabwe is going.
QUESTION: Did the issue of expelling them come up because there have new --
MR. ERELI: No.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: The Secretary will meet with Dalai Lama this afternoon. Do you know what topic she may like to talk with him? And also, will the Secretary bring up the issue of Tibet when she meets with Chinese leaders on the 19th?
MR. ERELI: Let me see if I can get you something on that.
QUESTION: The last one on HIV. Mr. Ereli, according to Reuters yesterday, a senior Libyan official denied a published report that the nation would scrap capital punishment to facilitate the release of the five Bulgarian nurses. The five together with a Palestinian doctor was sentenced to death, following conviction on charges of deliberately infecting 426 children with HIV, using pills for the first time in history of this disease -- of this deadly disease. Any comment, since the execution of November 29th is approaching?
MR. ERELI: The only comment I would have is that the position of the United States, the EU -- and the EU is clear, that these people should -- the Bulgarians and Palestinian should be released. They've been convicted on faulty evidence and faulty procedure. They should not be in jail. They should be released. And we continue to work with the Bulgarians, with the EU-3 and with the Libyans to secure their release.
QUESTION: What about the charges that they used pills?
MR. ERELI: I think those charges are baseless.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)
DPB # 192
Released on November 9, 2005