State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 7

Published: Thu 8 Apr 2004 11:49 AM
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 7 -- Transcript
Daily Press Briefing Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman Washington, DC April 7, 2004
GERMANY 1-2 German Court Release of Motassadeq / September 11 Linkage
RUSSIA 2-3 Sentencing of Igor Sutyagin 2 Khodorkovsky Case 3 Russian Defense Minister Comments / NATO Expansion / Foreign Minister Lavrov
IRAQ 4-5 Denouncing Violence of Muqtada al Sadr / Al-Mahdi Army 5 Transitional Government / Embassy in Iraq 5-6 Mercenary Army / Blackwater 6 Foreign Service Applicants for Embassy 7 Kazakhstan Troops / Coalition Allies 8 Transfer of Sovereignty / Senator Biden Comments / Congress 8-9 Brahimi Meetings 9 U.S. Ambassador to Iraq / State Department Officials in Iraq 13-14 al-Zarqawi Tape
NEW ZEALAND 10 Foreign Minister Goff Meeting with Secretary Powell / A/S Burns / A/S Kelly
UK 11 Visit of PM Tony Blair
SUDAN 11 Secretary General Annan Comments on Troops in Darfur 11 Talks in N Djamena / Acting A/S Charlie Synder / DAS McKinley 11-13 U.S. Diplomatic Efforts / Humanitarian Relief / International Attention
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 14 Finance Minister Fayyad
VENEZUELA 14 Supporting Constitutional Expression / Venezuelan Ambassador Comments
CHINA/TAIWAN 15-16 Shaheen Letter of Resignation
HONG KONG/CHINA 16 Support of Autonomy / Basic Law
CYPRUS/TURKEY 17 Denktash, Papadopoulos Comments / Secretary General Annan Plan
TURKEY 18 EU Accession Talks
NORTH KOREA 18 Informal Meetings in San Francisco
1:10 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: I apologize for the delay, everybody, just wanted to make sure everything was as good as it could be for you.
Who would like to have the first question?
QUESTION: Well, the wait was worth it. Any comment on the release by the German court of Mr. Motassadeq?
MR. ERELI: We are disappointed in the release of Mr. Motassadeq. I would note that he -- the court, in application of German law, has ordered a review of Mr. Mossadeq's -- or Mr. Motassadeq 's conviction, based on questions the court had about evidence linking him to 9/11, and pending a retrial -- pending a review of the evidence in a retrial, he has been released, but will remain under house arrest and report to the police twice weekly.
Cooperation with Germany, obviously, continues. We are committed to working with them in bringing all terrorists to justice. And as a, I think, general matter, it's important to note that we do appreciate Germany's strong support in our joint efforts to combat terror.
QUESTION: Do you regard the man in question as a threat?
MR. ERELI: I'm not able to speak to the evidence here. I think that what's important is that there are serious charges; that there is a judicial process underway; and that all reasonable measures be taken to ensure that justice is done and justice is served.
QUESTION: And one other. Have you asked the German authorities to -- I realize you say he's under house arrest, and has to report to the police twice a week, but have you asked them to take additional steps to monitor him during this period when he's free?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: So Adam, I'm not exactly sure why you're disappointed.
MR. ERELI: I think we're disappointed because we believe the evidence against him is strong, and we believe, we believe he is a dangerous guy.
QUESTION: And this isn't good enough?
MR. ERELI: And -- well, the court applying German law is going to review it. But I think given the seriousness of the charges, it would have been preferable to keep him -- to keep him under detention.
QUESTION: Could we go to the Russian scientist who was sentenced to 15 years in prison today, who you spoke about yesterday? Are you disappointed at his sentencing?
MR. ERELI: Hard to comment, really, on the sentencing itself, and that for the simple reason that, as you know, the trial was closed. We were unable to see the evidence. We weren't in a position to evaluate the strength of the charges and the evidence on which it was based, so given that, it's really difficult to offer an informed commentary on the merits of the case.
What we do have -- what we can offer an opinion about, an informed opinion, is on the process that -- the process in which this case was handled, specifically using a closed trial where the evidence is not readily available to the public, and a general lack of transparency and questions about due process.
So those are concerns we've noted. They're concerns we've raised with the Russians, and I think, as a general matter, are issues that we discuss with them pretty regularly.
QUESTION: So would it be fair to say that you don't think somebody should get a 15-year sentence after a trial with so many questions?
MR. ERELI: What's fair to say is that it would be easier to assess or to -- it would be easier to comment on the sentence if the process had been conducted in a way that provided people access to the evidence and access to the proceedings so that they could have an informed opinion about whether and how justice was served. And we don't have that informed opinion, which itself is a matter of concern.
Yes, Teri.
QUESTION: On this general subject, do you have anything to say about the developments in the Khodorkovsky case, and is the U.S. still raising this with the Russians? We heard early on that there were concerns that this was just a political pursuit and not -- didn't have --
MR. ERELI: I don't have any new updates for you on the Khodorkovsky case. Obviously, this was an issue that we raised at the time. And as I said in regard to the Sutyagin case, the overall issue of rule of law, transparency, and equity in the judicial system is a topic of discussion with the Russians on a regular basis.
QUESTION: But we understood at the time that you were specifically concerned about this case and would be raising it to try to satisfy yourself that there was really good reason for him to be in prison. And that's many months ago.
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you on it, Teri.
MR. ERELI: In the back. Russia.
QUESTION: The Russian Defense Minister today had published an article in the New York Times expressing new agitation toward the NATO expansion and legitimizing the same action by Russia in the future to protect its interests by interfering, you know, in certain areas, if it found that it would serve its interests. Any comment on his, what seems to be new and strong language?
MR. ERELI: This is a debate, I think, that's been going on for some time. And it's something that came up during the Secretary's visit to Russia in his discussion with intellectuals. It's something that came up in the discussion with the Secretary and the Russian Foreign Minister yesterday. And it's an issue, I think, that we have been fairly clear and outspoken about; that the Cold War is over; that we are not, the United States and its NATO allies are not looking to surround or threaten Russia.
To the contrary, our approach is one of cooperation, not competition, and the enlargement of NATO is done in that spirit. There are -- there is a mechanism, the NATO-Russia Council, whose specific purpose is to explore ways of cooperation and coordination between NATO and Russia.
So our framework -- the framework that we're coming from is clearly a post-Cold War framework, in which we do not see Russia as a threat and in which NATO's enlargement is to be seen, I think, as a means for promoting European growth, stability and security, and not in -- as something that threatens or confronts or otherwise presents a danger to Russia.
A follow-up?
QUESTION: Is the Russian-NATO Council doing the job that it was supposed to do? Is there any gaps in there that he seems to be complaining about in his article?
MR. ERELI: I would underscore the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov was in Brussels at the NATO meeting last week, that the Russia-NATO Council -- or that there were meetings with Lavrov in which cooperation between NATO and Russia was discussed so that this is an agenda item that is being pursued. It is active, it is dynamic, and I think it shows the way to a more peaceful and more secure and a more collegial future on the continent.
Yes, Nadia.
QUESTION: The last few days can't be good for either the Americans or the Iraqi civilians in terms of casualties, but General Kimmit still says that he will pursue a military option and he wants to destroy the Mahdi army and to arrest Muqtada al Sadr .
Now there is some criticism from Iraqis themselves that the military solution is not the right one. Do you consider -- in fact, they suggested a political way of getting out of it. Do you think that's a viable option right now, considering the circumstances?
MR. ERELI: Our position is that, I guess, two points here. One, that Mr. Muqtada al Sadr -- an Iraqi court has issued a warrant for his arrest for his involvement in a brutal and senseless and violent murder of one of Iraq's most revered Shiite clerics, and this is a question of the rule of law. If a citizen engages in violence, then that citizen should be held to account, especially in these circumstances when the cleric in question, al Khoi, had just returned to Iraq from years of exile, was preaching a message of tolerance and peace, and was brutally murdered in a holy city.
So let's keep that fact, I think, at the forefront of our consideration of this issue. Here's a guy who's implicated in a brutal murder. An Iraqi court has issued a warrant for his arrest so that he can -- so the evidence can be weighed and he can be judged by his -- by the citizens of his country, and that's what we're trying to help effect.
As far as the confrontation that is happening, again, let's bear in mind what's going on. Muqtada al Sadr has created a private militia, Al-Mahdi army. This is a militia that he has armed, that is dedicated to protecting him and his cause and not the cause of the Iraqi people, and to that extent, it is working across purposes with what the Iraqi people are trying to achieve.
The third point I would make in terms of the issue of compromise is, I would refer you to a statement issued by the Iraqi Governing Council two days ago, in which they were condemning the acts of violence that are being committed by these private militias and calling on all Iraqis to work together toward democracy.
So that's a perspective and a context that is important to keep in mind when looking at the events that are ongoing against al Sadr. And the message needs to be that nobody is above the law, especially when they are preaching violence as a solution to political issues.
QUESTION: Adam, just to continue.
MR. ERELI: One follow-up.
QUESTION: I don't believe there is disagreement with that. The point is that some critics think it's politically motivated now, to decide to charge him now. The crime was committed on April 10th, and that's a year ago.
And basically, what you are saying, considering the political climate in Iraq now, isn't it better to avoid a military confrontation with the Shias and concentrate on other ways of trying to solve the problem?
MR. ERELI: Two points to that: One, this process has been underway for some time. It's not something that they just all of a sudden decided to do, but gathering the evidence, having the judicial process work its way through, and then acting on the decisions are, you know, again, something that's been (inaudible) for a while.
The second question, remind me, was? The first was timing.
QUESTION: Isn't it better to avoid the military confrontation and just to --
MR. ERELI: Oh. The answer to that is, or what I'd suggest to you is that -- and it's what I said yesterday, that as we get closer to June 30th, and as we get closer to basically hard choices having to be made about the transitional government, who represents Iraqis, how Iraqis are represented, there are going to be people and parties and factions that want to arrogate authority for themselves by violent means if they can't do it through peaceful means. And I think that's what we're seeing here.
So there's a, I guess an understandable evolution, in the sense that, as we get towards a transfer of sovereignty, we're going to see perhaps efforts by some factions to enhance their position by violent means if they can't do it by peaceful means.
QUESTION: Adam, considering that come July 1, the State Department will assume responsibility for American presence in Iraq, now there is a private army or a mercenary army of anywhere between 10 to 15,000 people, according to reports. Are you structuring some sort of regulations where these guys have to abide by them?
I have a follow-up on that.
MR. ERELI: When we take over, when it goes to an embassy, the embassy will be accredited to the government of Iraq and it will be the job of the government of Iraq to determine how its country is policed and the terms under which citizens exercise their civic rights -- civil rights. So the issue of private militias is something, I think, that after July 30th is a --
QUESTION: No, I'm not talking about private -- I'm not talking about private militia. I'm talking about a mercenary army, an American mercenary army that is drawn from former Rangers, former Navy Seals, former Green Berets and so on, Blackwater. I mean, last night it was on Nightline. They spoke to the guy that runs the operation. He says he has anywhere between 10 to 15,000 people providing security.
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't call that a mercenary army. I would call --
QUESTION: Well, but they're saying that they're not abiding by any laws.
MR. ERELI: Who's they?
QUESTION: Well, these fellows. They're --
MR. ERELI: Which fellows?
QUESTION: The guys that belong to Blackwater and --
MR. ERELI: Are saying they don't abide by any laws?
QUESTION: Well, apparently, they don't. They don't abide because the U.S. forces--
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, I can't get into a back and forth over something I haven't seen. I don't
QUESTION: Have you -- have you looked into that?
MR. ERELI: Here's the point. Here's the point. After July 30th --
QUESTION: June 30th.
MR. ERELI: June 30th, excuse me. After June 30th, there will be -- the American forces look forward to, I think, remaining in Iraq in cooperation with the Iraqi government to help the Iraqi government and people provide security and stability in that country.
They will be operating in conjunction and cooperation and with the approval of the Iraqi authorities. And that's the kind of arrangement that's going to govern everybody operating in Iraq. And I kind of reject the suggestion that there are mercenary armies running around unchecked and out of control, at least that are Americans, in Iraq.
QUESTION: They call them security contractors --
MR. ERELI: I reject it. Thank you.
QUESTION: Adam, is it true that there's a surplus of Foreign Service applicants for the new embassy in Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, there are more -- for some positions, there are more applicants than there are -- there are more applications than there are positions. For other positions, I think we're still looking for people. I think it's safe to say that there is enthusiasm and excitement among the Foreign Service at the opportunity of serving in Iraq, based on the response to the positions that have been advertised.
Yes, Tammy.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to Kazakhstan's announcement today that they are --
QUESTION: Same topic. Iraq.
QUESTION: It is Iraq.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: That they are not going to -- when the deployment of their engineers ends in May, they are not going to send additional troops to Iraq?
MR. ERELI: I have not seen that. I have not seen that specific report. Obviously, I think there's a major rotation of people coming up in September. We are in, I think, regular discussions, as are all the coalition allies, on how we -- sort of -- our views on transition of forces and how the members of the coalition can continue to contribute.
I would just say that there are a variety of ways that that can happen. Some units might go and different kinds of units might come, different kinds of support might be offered. But as far as the specific Kazakhstan, I don't have anything for you.
QUESTION: Similar question?
MR. ERELI: Do you have a follow-up?
QUESTION: Well, I was just going to follow-up though.
Are you concerned, more broadly though that, you know, particularly given the worsening violence in Iraq, that people aren't going to want to serve -- I mean, coalition allies aren't going to want to send troops?
MR. ERELI: Obviously, what's going on in Iraq now is noteworthy. But if you take the long-term view, you look -- and this is the way we look at it, and I think the way we try to describe it to others who are looking at it, is that you've got a process going on that is a process of democratization and stabilization and that there are going to be bumps in the road.
But the fundamental goal remains the same. It remains quite achievable. And moreover, we all have a very vital stake in its positive outcome because a dynamic, vibrant, integrated Iraq is something that will benefit us all. Similarly, an Iraq that is beset by factionalism and violence is something that we all have an interest in trying -- in working to prevent.
QUESTION: Yes. Lawmakers have doubts about the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis by the June 30th deadline. They have doubts that they will not be ready to receive the sovereignty, and they're also raising questions about whether the Administration has a plan for that. And if it has a plan, they are saying that they have not been consulted. So what's your response to what they're saying?
MR. ERELI: I think that we are mindful of the need to keep Congress informed of what we're doing, what we're thinking, what we're planning; that this is a regular and ongoing effort. There are regular trips by Members of Congress to Iraq. I think Ambassador Bremer works hard to remain in close contact with Members of Congress and the Administration. I know that with the Administration there's very close coordination.
My understanding was that he was planning to be here this week, but -- to meet Members of Congress, but has been unable to get away due to circumstances in Iraq; that there is a plan. It's a plan we talk about quite openly and quite regularly in a variety of fora, and that plan is basically the November 15th agreement. It is premised on a transfer of sovereignty on June 30th, the creation of an embassy.
I know that Frank Ricciardone is regularly briefing, Marc Grossman is regularly briefing members of the Hill on plans for that embassy, and that, as I said yesterday, Special Representative Brahimi is in Iraq working on the transition part of it, trying to fill out the details of what a transitional government would look like and steps to go from a transitional government to a permanent sovereign entity.
So these are all pieces at play that we endeavor to maintain -- on which we endeavor to maintain our congressional overseers, at least for the Department of State, aware of and informed of, and this is an ongoing effort and we take it seriously.
QUESTION: But regarding what you just said, Senator Biden does not think so. He just -- they just had -- the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just had a hearing with Ambassador Negroponte, and they've raised a lot of questions.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And they still think that there is no plan, and they did not see a practical plan for the transfer of sovereignty.
MR. ERELI: I'll let Senator Biden speak for himself. I've just told you what our view is.
QUESTION: Do you want to make him feel comfortable?
QUESTION: On the same subject. Do you have any evaluation of how Brahimi is doing?
MR. ERELI: He's been having meetings. I haven't gotten a lot of detail on how those have been going. I'd let him speak for himself. But I think it's safe to say that he's in Iraq, he's actively engaged and he's fulfilling the purposes for which he went to Iraq.
Yes, Jonathan.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new on when we might hear about the ambassador, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Timing? I mean, is this -- I mean on the subject of consultation with Congress, I mean this is something that obviously that has to go through a confirmation process.
MR. ERELI: Right, that's an announcement that would come out of the White House. So it's not something I'm in a position to comment on.
QUESTION: The phrase, "seamless transition" has been used a lot by State Department officials in terms of what happens on June 30th. The thinking is -- or the goal is to have a lot of the people in place well before that -- the deadline. So when is the first wave of State Department officials going over to sort of -- to accomplish that goal?
MR. ERELI: There are -- I mean, there are, at present, over a hundred State Department officials in Iraq now. I don't know the precise number. I think it's -- some there will continue to -- will stay on as part of an embassy. So the way to look at it is there are people there now, some will stay, some will go back, new ones will be moving in, I think, over the next -- we've only got, I think, less than 12 weeks, 10 weeks.
So the flow will start moving soon so that I think before July 30th, we'll have in place an embassy team that when the sovereignty is transferred will be capable of -- well, we will be on the ground running.
QUESTION: What are the functions where you're sort of oversubscribed in terms of applicants and what are the ones -- did he say that? I'm sorry. Did you address which ones?
MR. ERELI: No, I didn't, and I'm really not in a position to do that. It gets to a level of human resources detail that I just don't have.
Yes, you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Sorry, I don't know your name.
QUESTION: New Zealand's Phil Goff is here for discussions, a couple of meetings. As things stand, New Zealand doesn't have any immediate intention to replace its military construction team in Iraq come September/October. Are you going to be talking about that? And more generally, what's on the agenda from your side?
MR. ERELI: Iraq will be a topic of discussion. We clearly appreciate New Zealand's contribution to post-war reconstruction efforts in Iraq and we'll be looking at ways that we can work together to continue that endeavor. We'll also talk about Afghanistan, the war on terror, specific issues such as North Korea. I would also note that the Foreign Minister will be meeting with Assistant Secretary Burns, Assistant Secretary Kelly -- and Assistant Secretary Kelly in the building.
QUESTION: Well, why is he meeting with Burns?
MR. ERELI: On Iraq.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So you said Burns, Kelly and Kelly?
MR. ERELI: Burns and Kelly.
QUESTION: And what about free trade?
QUESTION: Well, wait. Is that going to be before or after (inaudible) the Secretary?
MR. ERELI: Couldn't tell you. Probably before since the meeting with the Secretary is later in the day.
QUESTION: Free trade?
QUESTION: The upcoming meeting --
MR. ERELI: I don't know. I haven't been informed if free trade is on the agenda, but I wouldn't exclude it.
QUESTION: It's certainly on his agenda. We talked about it all morning.
QUESTION: Upcoming meeting with Tony Blair. Is that a crisis-driven meeting or was that set in advance?
MR. ERELI: I don't --
QUESTION: And will it focus on Iraq?
MR. ERELI: I don't -- that announcement -- the announcement of a Tony Blair meeting would come out of the White House. If they -- if they've announced it -- if they haven't announced it, I'd refer you to them.
QUESTION: On Sudan. I'm sure you've seen the remarks by Secretary General Annan saying that it might be necessary to have an outside military force intervening in Darfur. What does the United States think about that idea? Had you given any serious consideration to the possibility of an external military force to try to stop what's going on there?
MR. ERELI: We've seen the comments by the Secretary General on the situation in Darfur. I would note that we share -- we understand and share the Secretary General's concern about what's going on there.
Our focus is on diplomatic efforts to bring about a ceasefire and to stop the bloodshed. We believe that those efforts can succeed and will succeed.
Specifically, what we're doing is participating in talks in N'Djamena between the opposition in Darfur and the government. The focus of those talks are to bring about a humanitarian ceasefire, along with outside monitoring.
These talks began last night. They are continuing. I would also note that Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Charlie Snyder, who is in Naivasha today, raised with Sudanese Vice President Taha, the importance that we attach to a settlement in Darfur, and made clear to Mr. Taha that our expectation that the Government of Sudan should take immediate steps to stop the attacks and atrocities being perpetrated by government-supported militia in Darfur.
QUESTION: What was the name of the (inaudible) for the U.S.?
MR. ERELI: Mr. Mike McKinley, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration.
QUESTION: So are you giving any serious consideration to the -- you said you share the Secretary General's concerns -- are you giving any serious consideration to his possible prescription of military intervention, or that's not something you've really given a lot of thought to yet?
MR. ERELI: I would say that at this point, we are -- our focus is on diplomatic efforts. The Secretary General said there are a continuum of steps. Those steps start where we are now with diplomatic action. And he also said that maybe in the future, there might be military action. So for now, what we're focusing on, what we're giving our attention to, are those diplomatic actions, and we think that they're going to succeed. And we're, I would say, not really actively considering alternatives at this point because the focus is on diplomatic.
QUESTION: Well, did you get a readout from McKinley on how things went last night?
MR. ERELI: I don't have much to tell you, George, other than that they had been sort of -- the parties had been, I think, reluctant to meet together. But last night they did -- the parties did get together. That was an important step. And I don't have a readout from today on the talks in N'Djamena. They did continue, but I wouldn't be in a position to characterize them one way or the other.
QUESTION: Adam, one question on the White House's -- on the President's statement about Sudan. It says, "The United States will move toward normal relations with the Government of Sudan only when there is a just and comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the SPLM." Does that mean that they, Sudan, will not be dropped from the list of state sponsors of terrorism until and unless there is such an agreement?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't really want to go beyond what the statement said and get into the sort of specifics of what that implies. I think the point that we want to make here is that fully normal relations between us and Sudan are predicated on a settlement of the civil war and a resolution of the Darfur issue. But beyond that, I really wouldn't want to go.
QUESTION: Adam, can I just follow-up on that?
QUESTION: Middle East?
QUESTION: There's a million persons being displaced internally in Darfur, 100,000 across the border to Chad, and what you are saying that the U.S. position is to send an envoy to N'Djamena to attend the talks between the rebels. I mean, don't you think it's an under-reaction to a disaster with huge humanitarian proportions, and you could use more diplomatic pressure on the Khartoum Government?
MR. ERELI: I don't think you're being -- I don't think your question recognizes the intensive diplomacy and wide-ranging action that the United States has been -- has brought to bear on this issue for several months.
QUESTION: Can you just please check it for me?
MR. ERELI: I will.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: We have, at various times, opened humanitarian corridors in Darfur and organized the provision of humanitarian assistance to the populations there. These efforts have, I think, seen some limited success, but have been undermined by continued government-supported militia activity that have closed humanitarian corridors and prevented us from getting our aid through to the people in need.
In light of the most recent outbreak of -- breakdown, we have, I think, marshaled international attention to this issue. We have brought it -- we have made sure that it's reported to the Security Council. We are raising in the Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva. We are -- we have brought -- we are working with the EU to -- in N'Djamena to bring pressure to bear for a settlement.
So I think that your characterizing it as just these talks in N'Djamena by one American diplomat is under -- underreporting the significant and longstanding effort that we've brought to bear on this, and I think we'll continue to accelerate that.
QUESTION: Yeah, and I'm saying as the situation is getting worse. At one point, when you talk about the humanitarian aid, is it sep -- I mean, is it within the UN operation in Sudan or is it separately directed within the USAID or other American institutions?
MR. ERELI: Let me get you the facts on what aid we've provided and how it's been done.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: Well, let's go to -- you had a question.
QUESTION: I've got one for the al-Zarqawi tapes. The CIA thinks it's probably authentic and within the tapes, it's says something that al-Zarqawi is in Iraq right now. Does the State Department have any comment on that or?
MR. ERELI: I don't know what tapes you're referring to.
Oh, Zawahiri or Zarqawi?
QUESTION: Zarqawi.
MR. ERELI: Zarqawi. I haven't seen it. I don't -- I'm not in a position to --
QUESTION: No, it's not a tape. It's from the Internet, (inaudible) --
QUESTION: Yeah, it was on a website somewhere in --
MR. ERELI: Okay, well, since I don't -- since you guys don't know what's going on, I certainly don't.
QUESTION: No, I think we do.
MR. ERELI: Okay. I don't have -- I do not -- I'm not in a position to comment on the authenticity or the impact of a reported Zarqawi tape because I haven't seen it and, as far as his location goes, I wouldn't have that information.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On the Middle East. Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Finance Minister, was in town yesterday and the day before. Did he meet with anyone at the State Department or anyone at the Administration? I know he's well liked.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Let me check. Let me check.
In the back.
QUESTION: A question on Venezuela. The Foreign Minister has announced that they are lodging a strong protest of the American Government for its alleged intervention in Venezuelan politics, financing of subversive groups, et cetera. Will that protest be answered? And if so, how?
MR. ERELI: Well, first let's see what it is. Second of all, I think we've spoken to this pretty clearly, pretty publicly, pretty consistently over time, in which we've rejected accusations of interference and we have restated our policy of supporting peaceful, transparent, constitutional expression of political views and political rights in Venezuela, and that we around the world support NGOs and other groups regardless of -- irrespective of party or affiliation that are committed to those principles.
That's not interference. That's supporting democracy. We do it around the world, including in Venezuela. We're open about it and we're proud of it.
QUESTION: Another question on that subject, please. There was a strong session in the OAS last week in which the Venezuelan Ambassador used quite vitriolic language, the kind of thing that's probably going to be in the protest. And according to the -- I read The Washington Post report this morning, and it sounded like he got some support from other Latin American states.
In any case, whether that's right or wrong, it's being booted around in diplomatic circles that the U.S. is not invoking the Charter of the Americas because it doesn't have support in Latin America. Can you comment on that?
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Wait, I've got a couple more.
QUESTION: Is the -- The Washington Times reports today that the State Department plans to move Therese Shaheen from leading the American Institute in Taiwan after complaints from Beijing about her. Is it true that the State Department plans to move her; and (b) is that in response to Chinese complaints about her?
MR. ERELI: Let me start by saying that the Secretary today received a letter of resignation from Ms. Shaheen. In it, she said that with the conclusion of elections in Taiwan it was an appropriate time for her to step aside and said that she wanted to spend more time with her daughter and thanked the Secretary for the opportunity to serve.
I think the letter speaks for itself. We thank Ms. Shaheen for her services and wish her the best.
As far as press reports go that the Chinese raised this issue with us, I would note that those reports are false. China never asked that the Managing Director Shaheen be removed, nor would the United States, in any way, be responsive to such requests if they were made.
QUESTION: And then one last one --
QUESTION: Oh, wait. On this?
QUESTION: Adam, I'm sorry -- the reports are false that the Chinese asked her to leave, or the reports are false that the Chinese had raised her comments as an issue?
MR. ERELI: The reports that --
QUESTION: Are you saying that the Chinese never discussed --
MR. ERELI: The reports that the Chinese were pressing for her removal are false. As far as --
QUESTION: Isn't that the case, though, that the Chinese did bring up this issue?
MR. ERELI: They might have at some -- in some forum, but not at the level of the Secretary.
QUESTION: Adam, on that same point, would you say you're dissatisfied with her performance in that role, and did she step out of line?
MR. ERELI: No, I wouldn't -- I'm not in a position to comment on performance. I would simply say that I think she resigned for -- she resigned, as she said in her letter, for personal reasons. We thank her for her service and wish her well.
QUESTION: May I follow up? I mean, there are plenty of ambassadors that you talk of their exemplary service. So why aren't you in a position to talk about her performance?
MR. ERELI: It's just something I don't have a comment on.
QUESTION: Adam, are you saying that she was not asked to submit that resignation letter?
MR. ERELI: I'm saying that she submitted the resignation letter, she provided the reasons for her resigning and her resignation, and that that's the basis on which we're proceeding.
QUESTION: Was she asked to submit the letter though?
MR. ERELI: I would say that she submitted the letter and she gave her reasons for resigning, and that that is all I have to say on it.
QUESTION: Middle East again?
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, we have -- still on Asia?
QUESTION: Yeah, Hong Kong. Your 1992 U.S. -- United States-Hong Kong Policy Act said that United States should treat Hong Kong as a territory which is fully autonomous from the People's Republic of China, with respect to economic and trade matters.
Well, with the announcement from Beijing, which is their interpretation of Hong Kong's Basic Law, do you think -- do you still treat -- I mean, regard Hong Kong as a territory which is fully autonomous?
And the second question, if the answer is not yes, then would that have any impact on your relation with Hong Kong with respect to economic and trade matters?
MR. ERELI: I would refer you to our transcript from yesterday where this issue is dealt with at length. The United States' policy hasn't changed. We support the autonomy of Hong Kong as envisioned in the Basic Law and in the "One Country, Two Systems" framework. And we believe that it is important for the Government of Hong Kong and people of Hong Kong to have a dialogue that responds to the desires of the people of Hong Kong for democracy, suffrage and electoral reform.
QUESTION: Can you tell us why the -- why you believe there's a "real possibility" of new terrorist attacks in and around Karachi?
MR. ERELI: Let me take the question. I don't have anything on it.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, Denktash again made some very negative comments about the referendum and said he had started a campaign, a "no" campaign. And the main coalition partner in Greek-Cypriot President's Papadopoulos' coalition has said that Papadopoulos is sure to urge voters to vote no. Are you dismayed that neither side directly involved -- the leadership of neither side -- appears interested in endorsing this carefully worked out settlement?
MR. ERELI: I don't have a reaction to those specific comments or those specific questions. What I would say is that the Secretary is actively engaged in trying to generate support for the Secretary General's plan. We believe it's the only plan out there. It's a good plan. It's a plan that should be supported. The Secretary spoke to the Greek and Turkish foreign ministers today. And we will, I think, work in support of the Secretary General's plan and remain committed to trying to help the people of Cyprus join the EU as one country on May 1st.
QUESTION: Is he calling Cypriot leaders, too?
MR. ERELI: He has not called them yet.
QUESTION: In his conversations with the Greek -- with his counterparts in Greece and Turkey, is he saying that -- is he asking them to use whatever influence they have on their respective communities on the island to urge a "yes" vote?
MR. ERELI: I think he's reiterating the view that I just expressed to you, that the Secretary General's plan is fair, is balanced, provides a good framework, and is something that's in the interest of the people of Cyprus.
QUESTION: Well, that's fine, Adam, except that, as far as I'm aware, both the Greeks and the Turks pretty much agree with that, right? It's the Cypriots that actually need to be convinced of this. Why is he preaching to the choir and not going, you know, right to the -- not to Denktash and not to Papadopoulos?
MR. ERELI: I think we're working together to see how we can help facilitate a unified Cyprus. That was the purpose of his call. I wouldn't want to predict other calls. But I would say that we'll continue to be actively engaged on this.
QUESTION: All right, just one more.
QUESTION: If he makes further calls, will you let us know?
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just on Turkey, do you have any comment on the French Government's saying that it will not support EU accession talks with Turkey?
MR. ERELI: I haven't seen that comment. Our position is that we support Turkish accession.
QUESTION: I know. I know.
QUESTION: On informal TCOG meetings in San Francisco, have you heard anything from your delegation? And if you have decided to issue a statement.
MR. ERELI: I would not expect a statement to be issued from that meeting. As far as the meetings themselves go, the discussions will begin late this afternoon. Assistant Secretary Kelly will meet with the South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister and the Japanese and South Korean delegations will meet. Tomorrow morning, Assistant Secretary Kelly will have a bilateral meeting with the Japanese Director General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau; and later, the three delegations will have an informal trilateral consultation.
QUESTION: Adam, if Assistant Secretary Kelly is in San Francisco, I presume you have worked up some kind of Star Trek transporter to bring him back to meet with the New Zealand Foreign Minister here in this building this afternoon?
MR. ERELI: Perhaps he's already met; the meetings start late this afternoon.
QUESTION: Wasn't Assistant Secretary Kelly in San Francisco yesterday for dinner with the --
MR. ERELI: I'll have to check.
Yes, I'm sorry, we have one question. Nadia.
QUESTION: I can ask you there if you want, everybody was in a hurry. But there was -- does the U.S. has an international plan, as it was reported a few days back that wants the EU, the UN, Egypt and Jordan to buy the settlements that Sharon's going to vacate in Gaza and resettle Palestinians inside it, and they want to pay for it?
MR. ERELI: That sounds like a Star Trek question. No, not any plan that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: You haven't heard it anywhere?
MR. ERELI: Let me check on that.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m.)
DPB # 54

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