State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 7

Published: Thu 9 Dec 2004 02:02 PM
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 7, 2004
- Comments by President Putin on Iraqi Elections Timetable
- Climate of Bilateral Relations and Position on Ukraine Elections
- Status of USAID Reconstruction Fund Distribution
- Developing Secure Environment for Elections
- U.S. Position of Election Candidates
- Update on Jeddah Consulate Attack
- Status of Investigation, Security, and Terrorist Activities
- Allegations of U.S Funding for Pinochet Regime
- Reports of Plans for International Peace Conference
- Special Envoy Detrani's Efforts to Resume Negotiations
- Application for Admission to World Trade Organization
- Reports of Renewed Military Action
12:45 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: Okay. Now that we have a quorum, I guess we're ready to begin. I don't have any announcements to start of with, so let's go to your questions.
QUESTION: Well, more skepticism about the wisdom of holding elections in Iraq on the 30th of January, this time from the Russian president. Any alteration in your confidence it's the way to go?
MR. ERELI: Not since the President spoke to this issue yesterday, and with -- pardon?
QUESTION: Or is speaking right now.
MR. ERELI: Or is speaking -- exactly. Or is speaking right now. And I would note, simply reiterate his remarks from yesterday that this is something that the Government of Iraq is committed to. It's something the people of Iraq want to happen. It's something that we support. This is an important milestone event in the democratic development of Iraq. It's something that, I think, responds to the desires of the people, the policy of the government, the consensus of the international community, so let's go forward.
QUESTION: Well, if you wanted to have the best turnout, would anything be lost by -- or would our prospects for a good turnout be improved by delaying a month or two? Are you afraid that that might show some lagging in democratic advances?
MR. ERELI: Barry, I'm not here to speculate on what would -- on the best way to organize an election in Iraq. I think the Security Council -- there's a timeline that's called for in Security Council resolutions. There's a process that the Government of Iraq believes serves the interest of democracy and the desires of the Iraqi people. And that process has elections taking place on January 30th. There is a very, I think, robust and efficient plan in place to deal with the security issues as they affect the election so that between now and then the Iraqi -- the environment can be created so that the Iraqi people can express their political choices freely and openly.
So there's -- that's the program in place. That's what the Iraqi Government wants. That's what the Iraqi people are looking forward to. That's what we support.
QUESTION: President Putin is one of the people expressing skepticism.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I thought I just spoke to that.
QUESTION: No, no. So on the Russian issue, I didn't realize that Barry actually mentioned Putin, but in the Russian-U.S. issue, it looks like there are irritants in the relationship at the moment. You are not seeing eye to eye on Ukraine, and that's manifest the OSCE today. And this kind of public comment -- his strongest comment yet -- what is it saying about the relationship?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't go from the specific, and -- I wouldn't make generalizations about a broad, complex, intricate relationship that covers the full range of bilateral and international issues on the basis of one comment in response to one question on one very particular issue. Just don't make a mountain out of a molehill, put simply. The United States and Russia have an outstanding relationship. It's a relationship where President Bush and President Putin, Secretary Powell and his counterparts, can meet, can talk about the issues across the board that concern our two countries, can find common understanding and cooperation on a whole host of matters, whether it be arms reduction, whether it be counterproliferation, whether it be the global war on terror, whether it be other regional issues.
So there are a lot of very important, very significant positives. There are also, as in any relationship, issues where we see things differently. But it is the mark of a mature, nuanced, sophisticated relationship that you can engage in international for a, such as the OSCE, or engage bilaterally, as Secretary Powell did when he -- in the last two times he has been to Russia, on issues where you don't see eye to eye. And so, I just think that -- I just caution you against pointing to one exchange, or one event, or one issue, and drawing broader characterizations about the relationship. It's just not the way things work.
QUESTION: Well, if I can follow up. I mean, last week in India, he also -- Putin also had some very strong comments, not necessarily naming the United States, but making clear who he was talking to. And it seems to be a pattern in recent weeks of him speaking out against areas of U.S. policy that he disagrees with. And now, a lot of times, you know, you speak out, but I mean, it's definitely not as harsh as we've heard from him in the last several weeks.
MR. ERELI: Again, I don't see -- we don't see anything in public comments that call into question the breadth, depth and positive character of our relationship.
QUESTION: Ambassador Tefft, on the Hill, has just said that the United States, in looking at this policy towards Ukraine, needs to calibrate the balance between what's good for Ukraine and the democracy there, and, how it might upset Russia. So you're saying that these public comments, they don't call into question the broad relationship. But are the public comments in any way a reflection that you've pushed Russia too far on the Ukraine issue, and this is him pushing back, he's upset?
MR. ERELI: Well, again, I didn't -- I have not -- Ambassador Tefft is testifying as I am briefing so we can't -- we're not so hooked up that I can comment on --
QUESTION: Well, that's fair. But just this context that there were complaints --
MR. ERELI: In answer to your question, I would refer you to something the Secretary said earlier today, where, in answer to a question about, you know, whether, you know, it's the United States -- Ukraine being a U.S. sphere of influence; and the question is not the United States -- Ukraine doing something because the United States says it has to do something or because Russia says it has to do something. The question is Ukraine -- the question is Ukraine doing what the Ukrainian people want.
And the issue we're talking about is empowering the people, helping nurture and support an environment -- political, social, economic, otherwise -- where the will of the people can be freely expressed and can be -- and that expression can be translated into political action that is -- again, that is responsive to what the people have said they want, as they've said it in elections or in the exercise of participatory democracy. That's what we're talking about.
So I think when you report on this issue, you know, from our perspective, it's not as if we're trying to tell the Ukrainian people what to do. We're trying to, along with the Europeans, along with the OSCE, along with others, what we're trying to do is to create an environment in which, and processes in which this dynamic of people expressing their will and having policy and institutions reflect those opinions bring that about.
QUESTION: Since we're sort of on Russia and Iraq tangentially, can I ask a question on Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Are we done with Russia?
QUESTION: Adam, could you kindly expand on the Secretary's statement earlier today? Apparently hit the Russian Government with charges as well with their complete interference with the Ukraine. Also, he wants troop withdrawals. And isn't the Russian fleet based somewhere near Odessa, which is -- would be a -- really meddlesome toward the Russians?
MR. ERELI: Well, I think what the Secretary, and again, I'd refer you to his comments, but what the Secretary and the State Department have been saying in this regard is simply what the rest of the OSCE is saying, which is that we look to Russia to fulfill its Istanbul commitments.
Sorry. Yes.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Iraq and the $18.4 billion? Do you have an update for us on how much of that money has been disbursed and sort of to what projects it's gone?
MR. ERELI: I believe that our Administrator for USAID, Andrew Natsios, addressed that last Friday, and I'd refer you to the transcripts. But the figures, as I recall them is, 13 billion has been obligated and upwards of 3 billion has actually been disbursed, but you know, I would want to check the transcript. Those are the numbers as I recall them, but I think the important point is that, you know, consistent with what the commitments that Deputy Secretary Armitage has made and Secretary Powell have made, is that we have moved very quickly in the last several months to accelerate the rate of disbursement.
QUESTION: On Iraq, I think it was the Deputy Prime Minister speaking -- a little disheartened by the crossing the borders of fighters. Can you update on how well the borders are being -- not protected so much from the Iraq side, but from the other sides. Are countries still supporting insurrection and insurgency by letting people get through?
MR. ERELI: The situation is far from ideal on both sides of Iraq's borders, east and west. There have been some achievements made, particularly with regard to coordination between Iraqi and Syrian border and security forces. But frankly, I think there's more that can be done -- not just in terms of the border, but also in terms of elements connected with the insurgency operating in, either in Syria, or actions taken by elements in Iran that are contrary to Iraqi stability. So look, this is not something that's going to be solved overnight. It is something that we, I think, are very determined and resolute in pushing with the Syrians and making clear to Iran that it has an interest in acting responsibly in Iraq.
More on Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: So the CIA head says it has issued an assessment of the situation in Iran. I presume, whether it's in document form or talking, he shared that with Ambassador Negroponte. Does the State Department share what's a rather bleak view of Iraq?
MR. ERELI: I have not seen the assessment that you speak of. And frankly, I'm not -- as far as other diplomatic communications go, those are privileged and I'm not going to speak about them publicly.
What I would tell you is simply this: That I think we've always clear-eyed and realistic about the challenges before us in Iraq. Nobody is trying to sugar coat anything. We recognize that we've got a tenacious and difficult insurgency to deal with. I think we have a good understanding of what we're confronting. We have, together with the Iraqi Interim Government, a plan for dealing with it. You see that plan in action in places like Najaf and Fallujah, where, through a combination, I think, of political pressure and military force we are taking the fight to the enemy. You see it in a very ambitious program headed by General Petraeus for developing Iraqi security capabilities. And one sign of that was the 2,000 forces -- Iraqi forces -- that participated in the Fallujah operations. So on the security front there's no -- I think there's no lack of -- no lack of clarity about what we're dealing with.
But it's also important to point out that, you know, when you look at Iraq and when you do your assessments of, you know, what's the situation, you've got to look at the whole picture. Security is one very important part of the picture, but it's not the totality of things. You've got a very robust, as we talked about earlier, assistance program designed to, I think, improve people's lives, and attenuates any sympathy that -- public sympathy -- that insurgents, or those opposed to the government, might have. As I said earlier, we're increasing spending; we're increasing employment. As Administrator Natsios said, we're making real differences in people's lives in the health sector, in the education sector and in the infrastructure sector.
And in addition to the reconstruction, which is significant and important, there's the whole political side of the equation: Helping develop Iraqi political institutions, the Independent Election Commission, for example, and other parts of a democracy. And most importantly, the elections and what that represents for the future aspirations of the Iraqi people. We're moving forward with the Iraqi Government, with the UN, with the international community, in all of these areas.
So you know, periodically you read about very negative assessments. I think those are important to having a full and complete understanding of what's going on in Iraq. At the same time, it's important to look at those assessments in the full context, in the full picture. That is a very nuanced picture, it's a complicated picture, and it's one, I think, that we are constantly evaluating and constantly comparing against what we know now.
QUESTION: Adam, is there any thought prior to the election the end of January to be working with some of the cleric leaders?
This morning there was an attack on an Armenian church, a Chaldeon church in Mosul, and this is getting far worse. And also, recently, there's been an arrest of a Sunni cleric who's been one of the instigators of this. You're always talking government and those policies, what about bringing together a group of cleric leaders of all sides to have them discuss and come to an agreement?
MR. ERELI: I would really defer to the government of Iraq on this. It's their country. They have, I think, a full and good understanding of the social dynamic there and how to deal with what is a, you know, or what has been documented to be an issue. I would also point to the provision in the Transitional Administrative Law that guarantees minority rights. That is a principle that the Government of Iraq has endorsed and is committed to.
But frankly, when we talk about some of the social challenges facing Iraq; that is something that the government, I think, is working on. But I'd defer to them for what they think the best course of action is.
Yes, Tammy?
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. ERELI: Actually, let's go to Luis. Is that right?
MR. ERELI: Jesus. Sorry.
QUESTION: Yeah, new topic is Mexico.
The President of Mexico has just announced the candidacy of the foreign minister to be Secretary General of the Organization of American States. So we wonder what is the U.S. position on that.
MR. ERELI: I had not seen that announcement. Obviously, the views of Mexico are important to us; and we will give them every consideration that they deserve. But I'm not aware of the candidacy. I'd have to give it some thought and reflection before answering.
QUESTION: Even though you haven't seen the announcement, President of Mexico says he's going to call the American Government to ask for the support of -- to the candidacy of Mr. Derbez. Taking the fact that President Fox and Bush, every time they see each other says, we are very close friends, I suppose the United States is going to say, yes, to President Fox, or you will say to a very close friend, no?
MR. ERELI: I think we will respond -- it's very dangerous to predict what we are going to do before we do it, but I think I'm safe in saying that we will discuss this issue with Mexico in the spirit of partnership -- in the same spirit of partnership and friendship that characterizes our dialogue on the full range of issues in the bilateral relationship.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up with that?
MR. ERELI: I'm sticking my neck out there.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? Had the U.S. settled on the candidacy of Salvadorian President Francisco Flores, or were you guys still shopping for a candidate out there?
MR. ERELI: Let me get back to both of you on what we have to say about this process.
QUESTION: The attack on the consulate in Jeddah yesterday, do you have any more information on the casualties, the nationalities, if not the identities of the Foreign Service Nationals killed?
MR. ERELI: The casualty figures -- I'll give you the update. The number of dead has not changed. It remains five: Four Foreign Service Nationals and one local guard contractor. Their nationalities were Yemeni, Sudanese, Filipino, Pakistani and Sri Lankan. There are -- the number of wounded -- I think yesterday we reported four FSNs wounded. That number has been increased to ten.
QUESTION: Still minor wounds?
MR. ERELI: No. Some of them, a number of them, I believe six, but I'm not exactly sure -- I believe six are hospitalized, so more than minor wounds.
QUESTION: So who are we talking about, Americans?
MR. ERELI: No, we're talking about Foreign Service Nationals.
QUESTION: Oh. Well, do you remember the Americans, there being, having been one or two that have minor injuries?
MR. ERELI: Two Americans sustained minor injuries not requiring medical treatment.
QUESTION: I'm a little -- it took a while for this to sink in. But if the Americans safely got out of harm's way and got to their secure locations, how could they have been injured? Did they get hurt racing to the safety zone, or -- is that it?
MR. ERELI: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: They didn't have contact with the attackers?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of. But let me preface again, as I did yesterday, but even more so today, there is an investigation going on into this incident, how it happened, and then once it began, exactly what happened. As you can well appreciate, there are a number of moving parts: What the attackers were doing; what the Saudis were doing; what our people were doing; what the local guard force was doing; and all these moving parts happening very quickly and simultaneously.
So it would be misleading of me to suggest to you that there is a clear picture right now about what happened. Some things we know. Some things we're certain about. Others we just have to complete the investigation.
That investigation means talking to everybody -- Foreign Service National, Saudi, American personnel, contractors, local guards and others -- to hear from them what happened, and then to put it all together in a coherent picture. We're not there yet.
So when you ask, you know, where was the American injured? How were they injured? What time were they injured, in what process? It's a level of detail, frankly, that I think will come out as part of this investigation.
I can give you a tentative, preliminary answer to part of your question, but I don't think that's quite fair. My understanding is that in one case, one of the people was injured as they were seeking refuge and protection from the attack.
QUESTION: The Marines -- is there still a question whether the Marines actually played a role, an active role, in repulsing the attack?
MR. ERELI: I don't -- the way you phrased the question, I would say the Marines played a critical role in repulsing the attack. If you ask me what exactly the Marines did, did they shoot somebody or did they not shoot somebody, that's the level of detail I don't, wouldn't get into, but to the extent that the Marines secured the building quickly and prevented the attackers from getting access to the building or being able to cause more damage than they did, that is critical to repulsing the attack.
QUESTION: What about the hostage issue -- whether there were or not hostages?
MR. ERELI: I think that's unclear, frankly. We have -- embassy personnel have interviewed all the Foreign Service Nationals who were wounded in the attack, who were involved in the attack. Some have said that they were taken hostage and used as human shields. The Ambassador and Consulate General will be meeting, or perhaps they've already met today, with the wounded staff members as well as family members of those who died.
I think what I can tell you is that the investigation is in the process of gathering the information on what each individual experienced. And until that process is more advanced, I think we're just going to have to, you know, leave it at that.
QUESTION: Wait a minute. But those are foreign nationals.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: A foreign national -- is there still a question, which I thought there wasn't, whether Americans were held hostage?
MR. ERELI: I don't think that was ever a question.
QUESTION: No, it was never a question. (Inaudible.)
MR. ERELI: It is not -- no, and I'm not. We're referring just to the FSNs.
Yes, ma'am?
QUESTION: You had said yesterday that, or even though you didn't have any information about this particular attack, you knew that there was something in the air that indicated that people were planning something --
MR. ERELI: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: -- against Western targets or whatever.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you get the sense that this is not over, and that this group is still planning attacks against American or Western targets? Or do you think that this wave of attacks has passed?
MR. ERELI: Our operating assumption is that -- and we'll be putting out -- I expect we'll be putting out a Travel Warning to this effect in the near future. Our operating assumption is that there are still terrorist elements active in the kingdom, targeting U.S. citizens and facilities, as well as other, you know, commercial and civilian establishments; and that therefore, maximum alertness and caution and prudence is called for.
I would not want to suggest to anybody that somehow, we see any cause for letting one's guard down or thinking that the danger is diminished.
QUESTION: If you say terrorist elements, I wonder, is that based on knowledge of who these people who may be planning future attacks are?
MR. ERELI: No, we don't --
QUESTION: Is it based on their track record? Is it based on the fact that anybody who does something like this is, by common definition, a terrorist?
MR. ERELI: It's based on a assessment of the threat environment out there, based on knowledge that we and the Saudis have about organizations, individuals still active in the Kingdom, and different kind of threat reporting and other information that we have available that we have a responsibility to share with the public.
QUESTION: You know, there's at least one story from there -- a horror story from there -- it has the Saudis now a little bit antsy, expecting recurrences now that there's been this attack. Does the U.S. share that anxiety? It sounds almost like you do, but --
MR. ERELI: Again, we were concerned before this attack about the possibility of attacks. We had warned about it repeatedly. And that concern remains.
QUESTION: Adam, given the --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, same topic?
QUESTION: Can I finish up or, finish this?
QUESTION: I assume Ambassador Oberwetter is leading the investigation.
MR. ERELI: No, the FBI is actually leading it. Our Ambassador Oberwetter is very, very involved in follow-up actions. As I said, he and the Consul General will be meeting the families of the wounded and the killed. They are assisting in the investigation. They are working with the State Department and other agencies of the U.S. Government, as well as the Saudis, in providing whatever assets and assistance is needed to get back -- to help those who have been harmed and to get back in business.
I should note that Riyadh and Dhahran will be open tomorrow, December 8th; and that we're hopeful that the Consulate in Jeddah will be able to open soon and our efforts are, I think, directed at making that happen.
I should also say that in terms of the investigation, it would be a Saudi lead of the investigation with active U.S. participation.
QUESTION: One more on this. Can you talk a little bit more about the -- without being specific -- I'm sure you're not going to want to be -- but the additional security enhancements? Apparently, the Pentagon said they're sending more Marines.
MR. ERELI: I don't know. I don't know the specific enhancements.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say regarding the article in The New York Times that the U.S. Government gave some money to the Pinochet's government?
MR. ERELI: Unfortunately, I don't have any specific information on that allegation. I would note that the Riggs matter is under investigation. And as you know, we don't comment on ongoing investigations, so I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you.
Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: A report in The Washington Times is talking about a senior State Department official saying that the United States is backing the British Prime Minister in trying to hold a peace conference in London next month or in February. Could you clarify the United States' position on that? How much are you backing the British in this attempt?
MR. ERELI: I would point to the remarks by President Bush when he was here with Tony Blair, Prime Minister Blair, a couple of weeks ago. What the President said at that time remains our position, that if and when a peace conference, or if and when a conference can be helpful, we're prepared to look at it. But -- and that was our position as the President stated back then; it remains our position now.
QUESTION: Silvan Shalom, Mr. Sharon's Assistant for Foreign Affairs, in Washington Times, also he's saying that international conferences are never good for Israel. How much is the United States prepared to overcome such obstacles?
MR. ERELI: As I said, it really depends on what the circumstances are. So again, ask me when circumstances have changed and maybe I'll have something new to say.
Yes. Christophe.
QUESTION: On the same issue, there are reports out of Cairo today quoting official Egyptian sources as saying that the Palestinians and the Israelis have reached a kind of understanding to resume peace talks soon. Have you heard anything about that?
MR. ERELI: I've seen the reports, but I don't have anything to corroborate them.
QUESTION: Another topic?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: North Korea. Can you talk about a trip by Mr. DeTrani to the region to meet with --
MR. ERELI: Not to North Korea.
QUESTION: Not to North Korea? So --
MR. ERELI: Yeah, just kidding, just kidding. No. But he's not going to North Korea.
QUESTION: No, no. But, well, did --
MR. ERELI: I know. I'm just kidding. Sorry. Forgive the humor.
Today, Special Envoy DeTrani met with Vice Foreign Minister Zeng Qinghong and Ambassador Ning Fukai and others in Beijing. He was there to discuss ways to move the six-party process forward. Mr. DeTrani reiterated that we are -- the United States is ready to resume the talks at an early date without preconditions. And he also reiterated our call on North Korea to follow through on its commitment to return to six-party talks.
Mr. DeTrani will be leaving Beijing tomorrow to go to Seoul, where he will have talks with counterparts there on the 8th and the 9th, and then will be in Tokyo on December 10th and 11th. The purpose of those meetings are also to look at ways to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: Last weekend the North Koreans said that they didn't want to hold talks until the new Administration was up and running and there are new people in their positions. Do you think that's a reasonable position? I mean, obviously, there is going to be a very significant transition in terms of the top leadership of the State Department.
MR. ERELI: We think the time to going back to talks is now. We think it's actually -- the time to go back to talks is overdue, that all parties agreed to come back to talks in June, before the end of September. That's what they should have done, and that there is no good reason for delaying them.
QUESTION: Right. But if you're senior interlocutor on the North Korean side, for instance, I mean, just like Kim Jong-Il is the one who makes the ultimate position, but if you're senior interlocutor, for instance, on the North Korean side was going to be changing in a few months, don't you think it's reasonable to wait until that new interlocutor is in place?
MR. ERELI: No. I think if we said we were going to go to talks at a certain -- before a certain date, we'd go to talks before a certain date.
QUESTION: Mr. Armitage said that the United States was waiting for a response from the North Koreans from the meetings in the New York channel. Did Mr. DeTrani receive any word from -- through the Chinese from the North Koreans?
MR. ERELI: I don't really have any comment on the substance of their discussions other than to say that our mutual goal is to reconvene, as soon as possible, the six-party talks. The Chinese support that; we support that; the Russians, South Koreans and Japanese support that. So the question is how to bring North Korea back to the table.
QUESTION: But without going into any substantive part of the talks, did the Chinese present a message from the North Koreans?
MR. ERELI: No, not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. ERELI: Sorry.
Same subject or different subject?
QUESTION: Same subject.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: I'm wondering if the State Department is in touch with Russian -- the government on this topic.
MR. ERELI: If who?
QUESTION: The State Department talked with the Russians.
MR. ERELI: Oh, we're in regular contact with all of the parties on this issue. I'm not -- I don't have anything particular to report to you about contacts with the Russians, just -- other than to say it is a regular -- an issue in which we're in regular contact with them on, but nothing -- I don't have anything special or unique to report.
QUESTION: I guess I was trying to see if there is not such a meeting, do you keep the Russians informed about all this?
MR. ERELI: Absolutely, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Christophe.
QUESTION: Yes, a question on Iran.
QUESTION: The WTO, the World Trade Organization, is meeting next week to examine a demand by Tehran to join the organization.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the U.S. position is on this demand?
MR. ERELI: The General Counsel of the World Trade Organization will be meeting on December 13th and 14th to consider requests by three countries to accede to the organization: Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. I would note that the General Counsel makes decisions on these applications for membership by consensus so that everybody has to sign on. The United States supports the applications of Afghanistan and Iraq for membership in the World Trade Organization, and we believe that there is broad support within the organization for these applications.
We would note that there is not the same consensus in the organization on the question of Iran's accession. And so, we'll see what comes out of the meeting.
QUESTION: Do you think that they will oppose the Iranian candidature?
MR. ERELI: I think it's -- I would put it this way: There has historically been a lack of consensus for -- on Iran's application for membership. That application cannot proceed unless there is consensus. So we would -- we'll have to wait and see what comes out of the meeting.
QUESTION: Where is this lack of consensus coming from?
MR. ERELI: Among the members of the organization. I wouldn't say there is one -- there's, you know, I wouldn't point the finger at one or another. I'd say there is a general lack of consensus.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Change of subject. According to a British Broadcasting Corporation video report and interviews, a government helicopter from Khartoum or its military basically disrupted and attacked another village in southwestern Darfur. So clearly, what the African Union, as well as EU and maybe British as well as U.S. are doing clearly isn't being heard it Khartoum; and what next would clarify the situation in those attacks?
MR. ERELI: Let me go to New York -- answer your question about going to New York first, where this morning, the Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, briefed the Security Council on the Secretary General's latest report on the situation in Darfur. That report was released on December 3rd. The report raises concerns such as the -- about incidents such as the one that you mentioned.
On the security front, these are concerns that we share. The report notes that there are continued ceasefire violations by both the Sudan Liberation Movement Army and other rebel groups, as well as by the Sudanese Government. It also notes the Sudanese Government's lack of progress in disarming and bringing to justice the Jingaweit militias.
Finally, it makes the point that continued insecurity undermines the humanitarian relief efforts. The United States, I think, has been very forceful not only in calling for both sides to respect the ceasefire, but also in working with the AU to augment the force there, to provide support for the force there, and to push for a political agreement between the government and the rebels.
In that respect, the north-south agreement, which the Security Council met in Nairobi on last month, is a key ingredient in the sense that it would facilitate, in our view, addressing the issues that are currently bedeviling Darfur.
But the long and the short of it is, in answer to your question: Yes, we are aware of these continued violations; yes, they are the subject of discussion with the Security Council; yes, we are continuing to maintain the pressure on the Government of Sudan, as well as the rebels both in Khartoum and in Nairobi to make the kind of progress in dialogue and in engagement that can, I think, bring a lessening of the conflict.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)
DPB # 200
Released on December 7, 2004

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