State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for November 2

Published: Thu 4 Nov 2004 11:53 AM
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 2, 2004
- Reports of American Citizen Kidnapped
- Attacks Against Journalists in Baghdad
- Death of Japanese Hostage Shosei Koda
- Warden Messages Issued on Weekend
- Elections Results / OSCE Assessment
- Elections / Relations with United States
- OSCE Observers in U.S. Presidential Election
- Query on Remarks by Former Vice Premiere Qian Qichen
- Status of Chairman Arafat's Hospitalization in Paris
- Status on Next Round of Six-Party Talks
- Additional Deployments in Iraq
- Bi-Communal Projects / Disbursement of Money
- Re-Election of IAEA Inspector ElBaradei / U.S. Perspective on Issue
1:00 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: Welcome, everybody. I don't have any announcements and would be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Adam, do you have anything on the American who was kidnapped in Iraq?
MR. ERELI: We have seen those reports. We are examining them. I'm not in a position to confirm that an American has been kidnapped. The embassy has confirmed the reports and says they're looking into them, but they have not confirmed, to my knowledge, that an American has in fact been kidnapped.
I'll check. As I walked out, it was not the case, to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Do you have anymore, or can you tell us what you know about the Warden Message issued for the Nordic and Baltic countries?
MR. ERELI: Our embassies in Estonia, Finland and Latvia issued Warden Messages over the weekend, and these messages were based on specific information concerning a possible terrorist threat in those countries. The information was of uncertain credibility, but because it mentioned a specific date the embassies felt it prudent to warn American citizens in those countries, given their first responsibility to -- for the protection of American citizens.
QUESTION: When you say it mentioned a specific date, was there any other specificity to it in terms of target?
MR. ERELI: My understanding was that the attention-getting information was the date, and given that degree of specificity they felt it was the responsible thing to do, to put out a Warden Message.
QUESTION: And one other thing. When you say that it was uncertain -- of uncertain credibility, have you been able to substantiate in any way, any of the (inaudible) threat?
MR. ERELI: No, no, we have not, which is why I think it continues to be of uncertain credibility.
QUESTION: And did you see any symbolism in the date that was specified?
QUESTION: Today, right? Or tomorrow?
MR. ERELI: I can't specify the date just because -- or I can't tell the date because it's based on intelligence information, so I wouldn't want to give you the specific date but there was a specific date in the threat information.
QUESTION: Has it passed? Can you say if it's passed? That at least gives people a sense of whether they still need to be worried or not.
MR. ERELI: I'll put it this way: We will continue to inform the public about the threats that we are aware of so that they can take the steps that they need to protect themselves.
QUESTION: Last thing. It only applies to those three countries, then?
MR. ERELI: Right.
MR. ERELI: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Were any of the embassies closed for the day, or any alteration of schedules, reduced?
MR. ERELI: No, some of the embassies are closed today for previously scheduled holidays, but no unforeseen inconveniences.
QUESTION: Another subject. What's your reaction to the election in Ukraine yesterday, at least the first round of the election?
MR. ERELI: We would first note that this presidential election certainly represents one of the most important events in Ukraine since independence and it is our desire to see Ukraine develop as a free, independent, democratic and prosperous member of the European community of nations.
We note that the OSCE observer mission has said the presidential campaign and October 31st election did not meet a considerable number of international standards for democratic elections. We are disappointed in this, and we share the OSCE's assessment that this election "constitutes a step backward" from Ukraine's 2002 elections.
In particular, we would note that the campaign was marked by serious violations, and that there were significant irregularities on election day, although high participation levels of the electorate and civil society were encouraging.
Looking ahead, we see the second round of the election on November 21st as an opportunity for Ukraine to affirm its commitments to democratic principles, and we urge the Ukrainian authorities to allow the people of Ukraine to choose freely and to adhere -- and for the government to adhere scrupulously to international accepted standards for tabulating and registering results.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject?
MR. ERELI: Not yet.
QUESTION: So before the election you put a bit of pressure on Ukraine, both with your public statements and the denial of visas. How do you assess the impact that had on the election? Did it help at all? And what more -- what greater pressure can you put on them in the leadup to the runoff?
MR. ERELI: Our diplomacy was geared to making clear what the position of the United States Government was, what the expectations of the international community were, and what was at stake for Ukraine. And frankly, it's -- this is something that the Ukrainian people want to see, which is open, free, fair and transparent elections. It's something the government has committed itself to. And it's a standard that we're all holding them to.
So what we want to see in the future is meeting the bar that the Ukrainians have set for themselves, and I don't know if pressure is the word I would use. I think that clarity and consistency in saying what this means, what this represents, and what its implications are, is important for people to know what's at stake.
QUESTION: Adam, (inaudible) what's at stake, obviously in the public statements beforehand, you said there would be the possibility of reassessing the U.S. relationship with certain individuals, with the government. Is all that on hold until after the runoff, or has it been so blatant the violation in this election that you're prepared to make those decisions now?
MR. ERELI: I think we're going to wait -- await the results of these elections to come to a full and considered assessment of not only how they were conducted, but, you know, what are the appropriate steps, given the circumstances in which they were held, and given what they portend for the future.
QUESTION: Adam, on Friday, Secretary Armitage was talking about disruptions of campaign rallies and stifling of dissent that was related to the campaign. Now, you made a very brief reference to what transpired on election day itself. Could you be more specific?
MR. ERELI: The specific irregularities that we saw on election day were flawed voter lists and arbitrary expulsion of electoral commissioners in violation of Ukrainian law less than 24 hours before the vote.
Yes, Joel.
QUESTION: What remarks do you have on the other election that was held in Uruguay with the election of a "leftist President Vazquez?"
MR. ERELI: Yesterday, Uruguay held elections for the fifth time since the restoration of civilian rule. We believe that this record demonstrates that peaceful -- the process of peaceful and fair elections has definitely taken root in Uruguay. We congratulate the people of Uruguay on their peaceful exercise of this democratic process, and we congratulate President-elect Dr. Vázquez Rosas on his victory, and we look forward to working closely with him.
QUESTION: Yeah, recently, you've had slight differences throughout the South American continent with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and other instances of earlier trouble with -- I guess papered over now -- with Brazil. Is this going to foretend (sic) trouble in the near future with Uruguay?
MR. ERELI: Every country is different. We have a long and positive relationship with Uruguay. We have many shared interests, including combating transnational threats to security, promoting good governance and human rights and extending economic opportunity. We have a good record of bilateral cooperation in these areas. And we have every expectation that it will continue.
QUESTION: While we're still on elections, the OSCE, they have about 90 observers in the country and tomorrow they're going to, you know, be monitoring, looking out for different problems that they've already been predicting. The report that they've made and the public statements they're making saying there could well be problems and a delay in the outcome. Does this worry you at all that it's contaminating the independence of the U.S. election?
MR. ERELI: That sounds like the same reports that you hear from American commentators saying. So frankly, the presence of OSCE election observers we don't find troubling at all. To the contrary, this is something that is called -- that all OSCE members routinely do, so this is no exception. This is part of our -- part of what we do as a member of OSCE and what all the members of OSCE do when they have elections.
We have had election monitors here from the OSCE -- or, I'm sorry -- election observers here from the OSCE before. So this is a regular practice consistent with the organization's decisions. And they're here. Our role as the State Department is to facilitate their contact with local election officials. And it's the local election officials who actually arrange for the activities of the observers in the states and localities where they are subject to the local laws of those states and localities. So it's proceeding apace and we'll see what happens tomorrow.
QUESTION: You say it's regular routine, but the number of observers is vastly greater than the previous elections they've observed here. Isn't that a reflection of the worries?
MR. ERELI: I don't think they've observed a general election before. They've been invited, but they actually -- they did not send observers to a general presidential election before. They've sent observers to gubernatorial elections and, I think, bi-elections in certain states but they've been invited consistently. But this is the first time, I think, there have been observers to general presidential election.
QUESTION: And this is unprecedented because of the worries they have about the election?
MR. ERELI: I don't know -- well, I can't speak for them or their worries, so I really don't have any comment on that.
It is not unprecedented in the sense that we've always issued invitations and we've had observers here before. It is new in the sense that this is the first time they've been at a presidential election and they've deployed -- or they've been here in these numbers. But the procedures for doing things, the coordination for doing things, the terms under which they are here, are all consistent with past practice.
QUESTION: Adam, why the distinction between calling them observers or monitors?
MR. ERELI: Oh, because there was some kafuffle at the beginning that monitors actually have some kind of, how should I put it, authority to declare something right or wrong based on agreements, or international agreements. They're here to observe, and they can report back to those entities that they report back to, but that was why I was making the distinction, because some people think that monitor has a force and an authority greater than observer.
QUESTION: So they can't overrule the outcome of the election?
MR. ERELI: That's a safe bet.
QUESTION: Just a procedural question.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Since the State Department technically invited them, will the OSCE observers provide their report first to the State Department before going public? Do you know if that is --
MR. ERELI: I'll check. My understanding is they'll report back to the OSCE.
MR. ERELI: And as a member of the OSCE, we'll get that report.
QUESTION: Adam, do you have any comments about the two assassinations today, one in Iraq of the Deputy Governor, and the other in Russia of an Air Force General?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any comment on the Russian assassination. I'm not familiar with that. On the Iraqi attacks, let me just say that we've seen a number of very troubling and disturbing attacks over the last few days. You mentioned the local Baghdad official. This is certainly horrific, and we are deeply disturbed by it.
We are also very deeply disturbed by increasing attacks against journalists in Baghdad: journalists working for the Al-Arabiya network were attacked, five killed; journalists working for Al-Sharkia network were attacked and killed; and I believe a Reuters cameraman was also attacked and killed.
This shows to us, demonstrates a new and disturbing pattern of targeting journalists who are there working for the public good, who are trying to bring the truth about what is coming -- what is going on in Iraq to the public at large both in Iraq and throughout the world. They are providing a valuable service. They are risking their life for the public good and they are being targeted.
We think that's wrong. We think that's despicable. Our condolences go out to the victims and we are -- we and, I think, rededicate ourselves now to providing an environment in which the free press can do its work.
QUESTION: Adam, a former senior Chinese official, former Foreign Minister Qian Qichen has written a rather blistering attack on the Bush Administration's foreign policy. While I'm aware he is not longer a foreign minister it is quite, I think, unusual for former Chinese officials to be so harshly critical in public of the U.S. Government and its policies. And I'm wondering if you have any reaction to it.
MR. ERELI: We have seen the remarks you mention. We would note first of all that former Vice Premier Qian is no longer an official of the Chinese Government. We would also note that his comments are certainly not consistent with what we heard and discussed with the Chinese Government during the Secretary's recent visit to China. And we will be discussing the remarks further with the Chinese Government for purposes of clarification.
QUESTION: Why do you need clarification given that he's not a Chinese official anymore?
MR. ERELI: I think just to -- I mean, he is a respected figure, he is an elder statesman, and just to, I think, make crystal clear that they do not reflect the views of the Chinese Government.
QUESTION: Did you have any idea why he hauled off and whacked you guys like this?
MR. ERELI: No. I think that would be something maybe for a future discussion.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments to -- with respect to Chairman Arafat's hospitalization in Paris and also, Secretary Powell offered some comments concerning that, and also a further clarification of his Newsweek interview that's in this issue?
MR. ERELI: Whose Newsweek interview?
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, some comments he made to Newsweek.
MR. ERELI: I don't -- I'm not aware of any comments that were made to Newsweek. What comments are you referring to?
QUESTION: Comments both concerning the Middle East and Iraq.
MR. ERELI: I'll have to check and see what specific articles you're referring to.
As far as Chairman Arafat goes, the place to talk about that or ask questions about that is the Palestinian Authority and his immediate entourage. We've made it clear that we view his condition and his treatment as a humanitarian issue, and that we -- it's not a political issue and he is in good hands, and for details you need to talk to the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Two questions about six-way talk. U.S. failed to keep six-way talk continuing under Mr. Bush's first or last presidency. Do you have any comment on that? And do you expect the next six-way talk to be held before next January's inauguration day?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't want to speculate on when the next round of six-party talks will be held. We've made it clear that there are five parties to the six-party talks that are ready to resume and that there is only one that's holding out -- that's North Korea. We've also made it clear that we're ready to resume as soon as possible. We do not see a good reason for not going back to talks.
It was agreed in the last round to have the next round before the end of September; obviously, that hasn't happened but we're ready. The other four parties are ready. And it's really up to North Korea to come back to the talks. When they'll decide to do that, I couldn't tell you.
QUESTION: Talking to some news agencies, the United States approved a new military training program for Georgia. What can you say about that? And also, your commentary about Georgia Government's decisions to raise its military quota in Iraq?
Thank you.
MR. ERELI: I know that the Georgian Government is looking at, I think, additional deployments in Iraq. I'm not aware that any final decisions have been made. We certainly welcome -- we certainly recognize, to date, Georgia's important and valued contributions to the coalition efforts in Iraq in support of the people of Iraq. And decisions on further deployments is obviously something that the Georgian Government will make but I haven't -- I'm not aware that those decisions have been made.
As far as the new military program in Georgia, I don't have anything on that. I'll have to check and see if there's something I have to report.
QUESTION: There are reports that the Japanese hostage killed in Baghdad, Mr. Koda, that the head of the victim was wrapped in American flag. Have you been able to confirm the reports? And are you aware of any other instances that the victim's head was wrapped in the U.S. flag? And what does this message tell you about the perpetrators?
MR. ERELI: About?
QUESTION: About the perpetrators, the kidnappers who beheaded Mr. Koda.
MR. ERELI: First of all, let's begin by condemning in the strongest possible terms this heinous crime. There is no justification for acts such as this, which, I think, violate the tenets of every faith, whether it be Christian, Muslim or other. And we think it shows that the perpetrators of this act are really outside the pale and betray the beliefs that they purport to act according to.
We send our heartfelt sympathies to Mr. Koda's family and friends, and we strongly support Japan's rejection of terrorist demands and deeply appreciate its steadfast commitment to assisting the Iraqi people in building a peaceful and prosperous society.
As far as the details of the events surrounding the death of Mr. Koda, I don't have anything to share with you. It was a -- however it happened, it was a tragic and senseless act and I think says more about the perpetrators and what they stand for than anything else.
QUESTION: Cyprus. Adam, any answer to my pending question since October 27, if the $6.4 million has been given by the Department of State for the bi-communal project in Cyprus are allocated from the Department of State annual budget or is a part from the annual $13.5 million of the United States Congress?
MR. ERELI: Well, all money comes from the U.S. Congress. It's all from --
QUESTION: I'm asking you because Mr. Boucher was not sure it was separate. That's why --
MR. ERELI: I didn't know that was something we undertook to look into. Let me see --
MR. CASEY: We have guidance on it --
MR. ERELI: We have something for you after the briefing.
QUESTION: Okay. Mr. Boucher the other day refused to release the list of the individuals who represented 70 Cypriot organization, according to the report in my possession here, appeared before the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia and received the money saying that is a private list.
I'm wondering why not since these individuals have provided help in those bi-communal projects and just simply would like to know their names.
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. I don't have anything more to add to what Assistant Secretary Boucher said on this subject last week.
QUESTION: One of those organizations which got the money, according to the report, was also called "Friends of Cyprus Donkeys." May we know at least how many from this specific organization got the money in order to feed or to protect the donkeys in Cyprus on a bi-communal level?
MR. ERELI: I don't know that that information is accurate, Mr. Lambros. I think the point is, it is our assessment that the money disbursed was well spent and effective and consistent with the letter and intent of U.S. law and U.S. policy, which is to foster bi-communal activities.
We do not have any cause to doubt the utility and value of this program. And we will continue to work with those elements in Cyprus who favor dialogue and partnership and cooperation.
QUESTION: Why the report was prepared by the private company, Development Associates, Incorporated, of Arlington Virginia, and not by the U.S. Agency For International Development itself under the auspices of Andrew Natsios?
MR. ERELI: I don't know.
QUESTION: And the last one on Cyprus. How do you respond to a number of the press stories from Cyprus that some of these organizations were fake and their representatives have been bribed for a big yes to the Annan Plan with exception of the British newspaper of Cyprus made in Nicosia, which extremely sensitive and protective for your bi-communal efforts and yesterday actually attacked with a baseless and slander editorial against the distinguished Greek Cypriot reporter Michael Ignatiou on this crucial matters of bribes?
MR. ERELI: This is a charge that has been knocking around for some time. We have clearly and unequivocally said that such charges are absurd and baseless, and they should not be made by responsible journalists. The United States does not bribe people with public money for political ends. And it's, I think -- I think it's shameful to suggest so.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: There's a report out that the United States is opposing the reelection of ElBaradei to the IAEA. Do you have anything on that?
MR. ERELI: That's not a new report, and what we've said consistently is that, as a general principle, we -- our position is that there should be two-term limits and the issue of a third term, should it present itself, is something we'd have to look at when it becomes an issue.
QUESTION: Well, can you say what you think of ElBaradei's tenure so far?
MR. ERELI: We've had a very, I think, a very good relationship with the Director General, a very -- you know, obviously, we've worked very closely and very productively on a number of issues of concern to the international community. He is certainly somebody we respect and admire for his dedication and for his integrity. And we continue to work -- we will continue to work with him throughout the end of his term.
QUESTION: So reports that there is an active U.S. campaign to get him out of the IAEA for any publicity of the explosive issue so close to the election are erroneous?
MR. ERELI: I think that -- you know, I've seen those reports. They, as far as I know, don't reflect the position of the U.S. Government.
Thank you.
(The briefing ended at 1:25 p.m.)
DPB 179
- [End]
Released on November 2, 2004

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