State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 16, 200
Daily Press Briefing
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Acting Spokesman
November 16, 2006
Prospects for Travel by Secretary Rice to Libya
Case of Libyan Dissident Fathi Al-Jahmi
Reported Proposal by Spain, France and Italy for Middle East Peace
Assistant Secretary Welch Travel and Meetings in Region
Prospects for Next Meeting of the Quartet Members
Iranian Court Ruling on Settlement Payment in Hossein Alikhami
Prospects for Talks with Iran on Iraq
Update on Status UNSC Resolution on Iran
Reported Administration Strategy Plan for Iraq
Andrew Natsios Attending UN-Hosted Meeting on Darfur in Addis
Reports of New Attacks in Darfur
Reported Request for Joint Sudanese-Chadian Force to Secure Border
Reported Iranian Supply of Weapons and Advisors to Somalia
Reported South Korean Proposal for UN Resolution on North Korean
Human Rights Situation
Six-Party Talks and Possible Date
12:55 p.m. EST
MR GALLEGOS: Good afternoon. Glad to be here. I don't have any statements this afternoon.
QUESTION: Can we go over some things that have been out there awhile? Preparations, if you can answer without using the word "plan," I'd appreciate it. Are preparations being made for Secretary Rice to go to Libya?
MR. GALLEGOS: We don't have any news on a trip to Libya for you. When we do have something, we'll announce it.
QUESTION: So that's not a denial of reports that she intends to go to Libya?
MR. GALLEGOS: We usually don't get into discussions of when or where she's going someplace. When we do have something to announce, we'll announce it.
QUESTION: I mean, I've asked you if she's going to Antarctica, you said she's not going.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, in terms of -- you asked about Libya. In terms of Libya, I don't have any information on whether or not she's going to be traveling or visiting Libya soon. When we do have something to announce, we'll make sure you're one of the first to know, Barry.
QUESTION: Could you exclude any such trip from her current travels?
MR. GALLEGOS: I've spoken to that. What we have is what I said there. And as soon as I know more, we'll be able to share it with you, Barry.
QUESTION: Yeah. To move to the Middle East.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah.
QUESTION: Spain, France and Italy said today that they're working on a joint plan to resolve the Middle East conflict which calls for a total ceasefire. And they're also suggesting they could send truce monitors. So I wondered whether you were aware of this plan, number one? Is this something that you would support and where does this lead the roadmap?
MR. GALLEGOS: You're talking about the three countries, right?
QUESTION: Yeah. Spain, France and Italy.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah. We've seen the reports. What we haven't seen is a new proposal from the EU. Assistant Secretary Welch, a number of senior officials from the European Union, Russia and United Nations in Cairo Wednesday, they discussed ways to move the roadmap forward. We will continue to work closely with our Quartet partners and our friends in the region to create an environment that will facilitate progress towards the realization of the President's two-state vision.
In particular, what I think I want to make clear is that our position is clear and remains unchanged. The U.S. looks forward to working a Palestinian government that governs responsibly and is interested in making progress towards peace. This means a Palestinian government that accepts the Quartet principles. We welcomed efforts by President Abbas to form a government that reflects these principals and our goal means the realization of President Bush's vision of two democratic states, Israeli and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
QUESTION: I mean, you said that your position isn't changed. But the roadmap isn't really going anywhere very fast and it hasn't been for quite a while. It's stalled. So if you're being offered, you know, the possibility of a new plan, are you not open -- are you open to discussing this plan and looking at it? Maybe it's better than your roadmap plan.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think the issue right now is U.S. policy. Number one is, as I said before, we haven't seen a new plan from the EU. Secondly, our policy does remain the same. The Quartet principles haven't changed: recognition of Israel, accepting previous agreements and denunciation of violence. That's our policy now. It will remain so. It has -- it is that.
QUESTION: Is there now a division between yourself and the Europeans on how to handle this, do you think?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think -- we go from a report on three countries discussing something to a revision of U.S. policy. And no, our policy remains the same. We're working with the Quartet. Ambassador Welch is there -- Assistant Secretary, excuse me, is there. He is working with them. We haven't heard anything more out of that in --
QUESTION: So there's no --
MR. GALLEGOS: -- terms of --
QUESTION: There's no division? There's no difference? You're not going to --
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, he's been working with them. He's been meeting with them. There has been no announcement that the policy has changed or that the Quartet principles have changed.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate any meetings between the foreign ministers of the Quartet anytime in the next coming weeks?
MR. GALLEGOS: I don't have any information on that in terms of when they would meet next, but I can take a look -- see if we have any information on it.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction yet to the Iranian court's recent ruling that U.S. has to pay half a billion dollars to an Iranian businessman who said he was kidnapped by American Customs agents?
MR. GALLEGOS: As a matter of fact, I do. The United States has no record of any attempted suit by the plaintiff named in these reports, Hossein Alikhami. Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, even where there are no diplomatic relations states have an obligation to respect and protect embassy premises from actions such as these. We expect the Government of Iran to honor its international commitments and assure that the reported threatened sale of mission premises do not -- does not take place.
QUESTION: On that -- while we're on Iran, can you bring us up to date on whether you see Iran as being willing to meet with the U.S. about Iraq? And, you know, you want everybody to cooperate on Iraq this apart from nuclear, and is the U.S. responding to this in its various ways it can respond? Are there any preconditions on that kind of meeting? Can you --
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, Barry, the Secretary said this morning in Hanoi --
MR. GALLEGOS: There's nothing new here.
QUESTION: Okay, I didn't know that.
MR. GALLEGOS: If the right conditions are present, the ambassador-to-ambassador channel for direct talks with Iran on Iraq would be an option for engagement. The Secretary also made clear that engagement is a tactic not an end and called on Iranian leaders to demonstrate that they have something else in mind other than supporting terrorism, undermining democratic forces in the region and pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The timing and conditions necessary for any such talks remain under review. Any ambassador-to-ambassador channel, talks with Iran will be limited in scope to Iraq and not include other issues such as Iran's nuclear program.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: Give us the status on what's happening in New York with the resolution. Have there been -- has Burns been in touch with his counterparts? Where's that going?
MR. GALLEGOS: Which resolution?
QUESTION: The sanctions resolution against Iran.
MR. GALLEGOS: Oh, against Iran. I think -- in terms of Iran, we are working with the parties. I don't have any information on any calls that Under Secretary Burns may have made on that one.
QUESTION: On Iraq. The London's Guardian newspaper today reported about a four-point victory strategy plan for Iraq, which included increasing troop levels by up to 20,000, focusing on regional cooperation, reviving reconciliation between Sunni, Shia and others and also increased resources from Congress to fund training of Iraqi security forces. Are you looking at a special four-point plan on Iraq and is this what part of your review is about?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think Sean's been pretty clear about, you know, number one, the fact is we are -- we're reviewing this. The Secretary is working with senior officials here in the Department, other members of the Department, to take a good look at what we have been doing, what we can do, what the resources are to do that with and see if there's any other way to do it differently than we've been doing it in the past.
In terms of speaking to specifics of that, I think it's too early to do that. We're going to take a look at finishing up this review, taking an opportunity to mull it over, decide what are the best actions to take in consultation with the other members of the Administration. So for right now, no. I'm not going to talk about that.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have a timeline for the review? You said you wanted to finish it as fast as possible.
MR. GALLEGOS: No, I don't have a specific date. I do know though, that is something that we're working diligently on and we hope to have as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Can we come back to Libya just for a second?
MR. GALLEGOS: Sure, Barry.
QUESTION: Even if her visit is hypothetical at this point, has Libya continued to move in a direction the U.S. approves of? You know, they took all sorts of steps like getting rid of their weapons, equipment, shipping them to Oak Ridge. Simply put, does Libya -- has Libya earned yet a high-level visit from the United States?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think Libya has obviously gone -- undergone many changes recently. It's a country that we are communicating with. I think that in terms of whether they've earned it or not, we'll have to wait and see whether we are able to announce something in the near future or not.
QUESTION: The same country, Gonzo. There is some reporting today that an imprisoned Libyan dissident, a man named Fathi al-Jahmi, in deteriorating health. This guy was jailed apparently for having dialogue with U.S. diplomats. I'm wondering if you have anything to say about his case?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think the clarification on the charges against Mr. al-Jahmi, we'd refer you to the Libyan Government specifically to discuss what he's been charged with. I can say he's a Libyan democracy activist who was imprisoned in October 2002 after calling for democratic reform in Libya. He was released in March 2004, however, the Libyan authorities detained him again two weeks after he repeated calls for reform in several international media interviews. The Libyan authorities continue to detain him.
We repeatedly raised his case at the highest levels and have called on the Libyan Government to release him. We continue to urge the Libyan Government to release him and we'll continue to do so.
QUESTION: Any update on Andrew Natsios' travel and what his agenda is going to be in Addis Ababa?
MR. GALLEGOS: Okay. Let's see. Andrew Natsios is representing the United States at the meeting hosted by UN Secretary General Annan today. He will be returning -- he'll be leaving tomorrow. The meeting right now is ongoing with working group sessions in Addis Ababa right now -- as of now. He has met with the P-5, the Egyptians, Russians and Chinese as well as the ministerial meeting -- partaking in the ministerial meeting itself.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss issues that are preventing the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force by the end of the year. And so far, the meeting's been constructive in terms of getting the issues laid out, and the focus has been to this point making the ceasefire commission more effective, reinvigorating the political process and peacekeeping actions there.
QUESTION: What are you hoping to come out of this?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think what we're looking here is to, you know, get to a point where we can engage on the comprehensive peace agreement in Sudan where we can end the violence, where we can secure the safety of the people there -- of the Sudanese wherever they may be right now. We believe and continue to hope that, you know, the UNSC Resolution 1706 and its mandate for an effective and capable peacekeeping force is the best means available to do that to protect the community in Darfur, and that's the direction we're maintaining.
QUESTION: Have we received any assurances from the Chinese they're willing to get a little stronger on this?
MR. GALLEGOS: I don't have anything on direct talks that have been going on within the context of the meeting but --
QUESTION: Gonzo, there's a sort of a new wrinkle here. There are some reports that Kofi Annan is pushing, in the absence of a Darfur force, some kind of a UN presence along -- in Chad along the border with Darfur. Is this something the United States will go for?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we've heard reports, but I don't have any confirmation of that. You know, the Chadian Government's desire for a joint Sudanese-Chadian border force isn't new. In August 2006, the governments announced that they'd create a joint military commission and deploy a joint force to patrol the common border.
You know, we welcome the Chadian Government's efforts to provide stability and security in eastern Chad, and we're discussing with the Government of Chad how best to ensure that.
QUESTION: But you don't see that as a --
QUESTION: That's not a good substitute, is it, by the U.S.?
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I think -- we continue to maintain --
QUESTION: That's an additional --
MR. GALLEGOS: We continue to maintain that in support of Resolution 1706 and development implementation of this more capable peacekeeping force is imperative to securing --
QUESTION: UN. UN peace- --
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you. UN peacekeeping force is imperative to securing the peace there.
QUESTION: Does Andrew Natsios plan to present any special plans at the Addis meeting? And secondly, there were some new attacks in Darfur with more than 50 people being killed. And Jan Egeland was unable to get access to some parts of Darfur because it's simply too dangerous, and his security couldn't be guaranteed.
MR. GALLEGOS: In terms of Andrew Natsios' participation, I don't really have any more information in terms of what he's actually doing there besides his participation, his continuing urgence that 1706 is the path here.
The second question was on --
QUESTION: Was on the intensified violence, the attacks by the --
MR. GALLEGOS: Oh, the intensified violence. Obviously, this is, you know, this is a tragedy that continues. And even -- it just shows the importance of getting a force in there that's capable and effective to provide for the security of the people there.
QUESTION: The UN report leaked to The Washington Post alleging, among other things, that Iran provided weapons and possibly advisors to Somalia. Is that an issue that you might bring up in the P-5 with Iran?
MR. GALLEGOS: I've seen those reports. I don't really have anything more on that. In terms of, you know, discussion of tactics, we really don't get into that publicly. We haven't in the past, and I'm not about to start to from here.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: One more?
MR. GALLEGOS: One more, yes.
QUESTION: On Somalia.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: There are some Ethiopian troops propping up the Somalia's weak interim government apparently were advanced towards Islamist forces today. I wonder whether you had any further comment on Ethiopia's role in this and also Eritrea too. It seems to be that it's sort of heating up and the two sides look as though they're getting closer and closer to direct clashes.
MR. GALLEGOS: But the most important thing right now is for the transitional government and the Islamic courts to have an opportunity to sit down and to begin talks to work out the situation there unimpeded by other countries.
QUESTION: But are you having any direct contact with Ethiopia?
MR. GALLEGOS: I don't have any information on direct contact -- our latest direct contact if we have.
QUESTION: South Korean Government said it will report for UN resolution condemning North Korean human rights situation this afternoon. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. GALLEGOS: No, I don't. Actually, I haven't seen anything on that. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: You don't happen to have the date on the resumption of the six party talks, do you?
MR. GALLEGOS: No. I think we've been speaking to the fact that we'd like to see it as soon as possible that we can have a meeting that will produce results and working with our partners to engage with them, and look forward to the next opportunity to do that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)
DPB # 185
Released on November 16, 2006