State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 21 2005

Published: Fri 23 Sep 2005 10:53 AM
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 21, 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 21, 2005
Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program
IAEA Board of Governors' Meeting / Discussion on Iran
EU-3 Activities / Next Steps
Prospects for Referral to UN Security Council
Iran's Commitments to International Agreements
2007 Diversity Visa Lottery
North Korea Statements on Agreement
Implementation of Principles /Agreement by All Parties on Joint Statement
Iran's Influence in Iraq
Situation in Darfur
Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Meeting with Executive
Committee of
the Save Darfur Coalition
12:42 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Welcome back, everybody. We missed you, except for Barry. We missed him, too, but he wasn't gone, so last week. Anyway, everybody's back in their respective saddles, so let's begin.
QUESTION: Hold on, we got a mystery here. The U.S. wants Iran's nuclear -- did the Iran nuclear issue taken the Security Council and yet it would seem you don't have the votes to do anything there. What is it exactly you want the Council to do or do you simply want it referred and on the docket and available for possible future action? What are you talking about?
MR. ERELI: No mystery here, Barry.
MR. ERELI: The international community wants Iran to be clear about what it's doing, to be transparent, to stop pursuing a nuclear weapons program under the guise of a civilian nuclear program and wants Iran to take actions that respond to the concerns of the IAEA Board of Governors, as expressed in his last Board of Governors resolution in August 11th where it notes that Iran has undertaken a number of activities inconsistent with its NPT obligations, asks for answers to those questions and has not yet received them. And there is no mystery in what the EU-3 wants Iran to do and what the rest of the international community supports the EU-3 in looking to Iran for which is a suspension of its enrichment-related activity and a resumption of negotiations with the EU-3.
Look, the way forward for Iran is clear and I think the consensus of the international community is clear. Stop deceiving the international community, come clean, be transparent, address the concerns or face referral. And that's what our diplomacy is geared to accomplishing in cooperation with the EU-3 who are the most directly and immediately aggrieved party as a result of Iran's unilaterally breaking its agreement and its cooperation in negotiating with them. And that's what's being discussed at the IAEA Board of Governors. And I think what we can expect is building a broad consensus on the way forward on seeing Iran behave like a responsible state and respond to the concerns of the international community or face referral.
QUESTION: There's nothing new in what you've said about how the U.S. says the world looks at Iran. What is new if it is, indeed, what is going on. The stories from Vienna say the U.S. wants this issue referred to the Security Council.
MR. ERELI: That's not --
QUESTION: You're speaking as if the U.S. wants either Iran to change its ways or face referral. Do you want referral or don't you now and, if you do, what do you want the Council to do?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Look, the United States' position on the issue of referral as a matter of principle is clear, that when there are violations of the NPT they should be referred. So that's a position of principle that there's no change on. On the question of timing, I would say that's an issue of tactics rather than strategy. The strategy, the goal, the objective that we are all seeking is an Iran that does not continue to use a nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons. And an element of that is referral to the Security Council. Our diplomacy, that is something that is being discussed, that is something that is being considered, that is definitely something that is on the table, out there as a means to accomplish an end. And I would simply -- I would look at it that way.
And I think -- the other point to make here is you're frankly rehashing points and I'm repeating ideas that have been much more articulately on a fair (inaudible) to be put forward by the Secretary in her many -- and Under Secretary Burns -- in their many interventions in New York over the past couple of days. So that's why I would sort of just take you away from the new --
QUESTION: We understand. We heard everything they said. We understand the U.S. position. It is very clear.
MR. ERELI: Good.
QUESTION: Iran is bad. Everybody agrees they're bad. The question, which maybe you've answered, apart from the rhetoric about how bad they are and all of the above and what you'd like them to do to correct their ways, the question is are you taking Iran to the Security Council now or is that a tactic that's under consideration?
MR. ERELI: Well, let's look at what's happening in Vienna today. Iran is being discussed at the IAEA Board of Governors. It has been an agenda item that was dealt with today. The EU-3 is circulating a draft resolution to deal with this issue. As I said, they are the most immediately and directly aggrieved party, although I think the international system recognizes that Iran's activities pose an unacceptable challenge to the integrity of international treaties and our common interests. But the EU-3, as the most directly and immediately aggrieved party, is putting forward its resolution.
There are discussion among the members of the board on that resolution and it's being considered. We are supportive of the EU-3 position and we are working with them to build a broad consensus on achieving our common objectives, which may well include a referral, if not now, perhaps later. But which in the end is going to accomplish what we all want to see, which is an Iran that is not thumbing its nose at the international community and engaging in the kind of confrontation and deception which is of growing concern to all of us. So that's the way I'd put it.
QUESTION: Can I squeeze in one more? I'm overdoing this maybe, but on Friday's new conference a week before last, the Secretary of State openly appealed to Russia, China, India -- and she said other nations -- to join in sending an international message, a unified message to Iran. Subsequently Russia said we don't want to go to the Council now. President Bush didn't get a commitment from the Chinese President in New York to go to the Council now. India seemed to be not inclined to act now either. Do you have the votes in the UN to avoid a veto and to impose your policies, yours and the European Union's, on Iran?
MR. ERELI: It's not -- I'd really urge you to look at the question differently. This is not an issue of the United States imposing its view about Iran on everybody else. This is a question of, I think, a growing international consensus that what Iran is doing is dangerous, is troublesome and has very negative implications for the integrity of international regimes in the international system. And that what we're seeing is a growing consensus around that. Why? Because more and more countries are recognizing that Iran has engaged in systematic deception over a long period of time.
Two, because Iran has been consistently stiffing international organizations in their requests for information about their program. And three, the rhetoric of the Iranian regime is very confrontational and does not come anywhere near addressing what are the concerns of the international community. So when you take all that together, it's not a question of the United States saying Iran is bad and getting everybody to buy into that. It's a question of recognizing an existing reality, which is a country that is bent on flouting international regimes, flouting international norms and pursuing dangerous technology that is contrary to everybody's interest.
QUESTION: When you say the international community is one voice in sense that Iran should come clean and saying it should be referred quickly to the UN Security Council, does this include Russia and China?
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to speak for other countries. I would say that --
QUESTION: When you say international community.
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to speak for the specific positions of specific countries on specific questions. What I would say is that in our discussions with our Security Council partners, in our discussion with our allies, in our discussions with members of the IAEA Board of Governors, what's clear to us is that there is a growing sense of concern about Iran's nuclear activities and about its failure to be responsive to the reports of and the findings of the IAEA Board of Governors. That -- there is a clear, I think, trend line.
I would also note that, you know, as evidence of that concern, you have different countries taking different actions on their own. I mean you speak about Russia, let's be clear -- the fact that Russia as a closed fuel deal with Iran with respect to Bushehr, is a clear indication that they've got concerns, that they buy into the notion that Iran is up to no good and for that reason they're controlling how that fuel is processed and handled. If that wasn't a problem for them, they wouldn't be doing that. So, you know, you have to look at it in its totality and not with respect to any specific point in time.
I think that as we go forward, obviously, you know, as part of the diplomatic process you're going to have different countries with different positions on different aspects of the issue. But I think looking at it as a whole, looking at it in the broad sense, Iran is finding itself more and more isolated as a result of its own actions.
QUESTION: Adam, what is your understanding of what the -- in a strict procedural sense is necessary for there to be a referral to the United Nations Security Council out of the Board of Governors?
MR. ERELI: You know, frankly, I just -- the best place to look for that is the regulations in the NPT. But in many respects, it's a technical issue that when you have -- in any agreements when there are violations, they are to be reported. So in our view, it's a question of basically not if, but when.
QUESTION: So if the NPT holds its violators as a matter of procedure are to be reported, then is this exercise with the Board of Governors in the American view extraneous somehow or?
MR. ERELI: No, not at all. I mean, the American view, and I've tried to explain it, is that what's important.
QUESTION: Procedure only.
MR. ERELI: Rather than -- you're focusing on the tree rather than the forest. I can't speak to the procedure. I don't have that sort of the rules of parliamentary procedure Robert Rules of Order. I will tell you that as a matter of principle, the provisions of the treaty should be applied. I can't get -- I don't know the details, procedural details to speak to your question. But again, I would bring it around to the larger question and the larger question is you've got a country that is violating its commitments under international agreements that is not being responsive to the concerns of the international community and that there's a growing consensus that action should be taken in response to that behavior. How that plays out is a function of our diplomacy. Our goal is to build the broadest possible consensus. And one or the other, this I think will be dealt with by a community of like-minded states.
QUESTION: The only reason I ask is because you've continually talked about building a consensus and I wondered if that is what your understanding is of what is necessary for you to achieve or is it your understanding that at the Board of Governors you need to achieve a strict majority or unanimity to trigger the --
MR. ERELI: Oh, procedurally it could go -- you don't have to have consensus. Procedurally you could do it by a vote.
QUESTION: A vote of?
MR. ERELI: Majority.
QUESTION: Of the Board of Governors?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: All right. And could not, as a Security Council member of the United States, simply bring up the issue su esponte of its own, without going through the Board of Governors at all?
MR. ERELI: I'll put it this way. There are a variety of ways to deal with this issue. Our approach and our decisions on how we deal with it are based on a couple of principles and those are principles which I've tried to lay out for you. Principle number one, is that this is an issue that concerns the international community and, therefore, the best way to deal with this is as a community of nations, adversely affected by Iranian behavior and actions. And so in moving forward, we're going to try to stick to that principle.
Right now that principle or the way we're applying that principle is working together with the EU-3. I mean, they're the ones that entered in negotiations with the Iranians to try to deal with this. We will -- it was important that they did that to send a clear message to the international community that this wasn't just about the United States, but it was about others as well. So they were doing the negotiations. They will help try to bring Iran around to acting responsibly and giving Iran an opportunity to make good and change course. And Iran basically slammed the door in their face.
So in responding to the matter at hand, which is Iran's enrichment-related activity, as well as a host of unanswered IAEA questions, you've got, I think a concerted multilateral process, an initiative underway, which is the EU-3 process. In which a large number of states -- (inaudible) of which a large number of states are coalescing. That's a good thing. That shows that this is a matter between Iran and the rest of the international community and not just between Iran and the United States or whatever.
So as we move forward, I think that's the approach that we're following.
QUESTION: From the length of that answer, I'll presume that time is not an urgent factor in these negotiations? I mean do you assert time to be a factor in this? Do you assert urgency in this or you're just working to build a consensus with an open-ended timetable?
MR. ERELI: Again, there is -- how to put it -- I mean, nobody wants Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. And I think our sense of timing is we've got to act in a responsible way that doesn't allow that to happen and sometimes it takes time to build a consensus. You can't -- your approach is more effective if it's a multilateral approach that has the broadest possible buy-in, but at the same time I think that our persistence and sense of importance is guided by the seriousness of the issue at hand, which is nuclear proliferation.
QUESTION: So it is not going to the Security Council now -- now, now?
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to make predictions.
QUESTION: You can't --
MR. ERELI: Today? I don't have anything to announce to you today.
QUESTION: For months -- this is, you know, getting a little strange -- for months, months and months, you folks up there have been saying that the meeting of the IAEA Board of Directors would trigger action to force, to censure or to impose sanctions on Iran. The Board of Governors has met and, in fact --
MR. ERELI: Is meeting.
QUESTION: Is meeting and stories are coming out of there that the U.S. is asking for this to be referred to the Security Council.
MR. ERELI: Well, I can't speak to the stories. I can -- I told you what is happening, which is that there is a draft resolution put forward --
QUESTION: Right . . .
MR. ERELI: -- that that draft resolution is being discussed. I can't speak to what's in the draft resolution. And that as the Secretary has said, one way or the other, this issue is going to be dealt with. One way or the other Iran's going to come to its senses and if not now then later.
QUESTION: Adam, throughout all this, in news reports we're talking about a paralysis in Europe with the EU constitution perhaps being on hold from two to three years and, of course, the outcome of the German election maybe that leaves a void temporarily. And you've consistently looked at Iran separately from what's gone on with the six-party talks with Korea. Ambassador Hill, for instance --
MR. ERELI: Okay, what's the point?
QUESTION: The point is if the IAEA is (inaudible), as Barry has pointed out, has the final say, shouldn't it be just left to them as to what should come next or a UN body?
MR. ERELI: Well, the Board of Governors is going to be the one who decides the immediate next step. The EU-3, as members of that board, are putting forward their suggestions for those next steps. So it's entirely consistent that the international community, through the IAEA Board of Governors, is going to act in response to Iranian practices which they view of concern. So I don't see where the confusion is.
QUESTION: But what Iran is perhaps doing is not necessarily through governments; it might be through a black market and obviously it could be with the help of AQ Khan and his network.
MR. ERELI: Well, obviously the IAEA is not the sole entity to combat proliferation. They have a role in the nonproliferation regime, but it's not exclusive and there are other efforts and other institutions and other means of cooperation to prevent proliferation. I would simply cite the Proliferation Security Initiative as one example. But, you know, clearly the fact that the IAEA is moving in this direction, shows that Iran's actions are something that a growing number of nations view as problematic and I think are acting increasingly resolutely to deal with.
QUESTION: Iranian officials are saying that they are deaf to language of threat. Do you think if the IAEA or the EU and U.S. become more conciliatory will Iran they might change their views and go back to the negotiating table?
MR. ERELI: You know, I would just say look at the facts. And the facts are that there was an initiative taken by the EU-3, that there were commitments made by Iran, that Iran broke those commitments and walked away from the path of negotiation and discussion. So if you look at the record and you look at who did what, it seems to us pretty clear where the different parties stand in terms of working in good faith to solve this problem.
Yes, ma'am. You had a question. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. On the Russians, you said just earlier that they do obviously buy into the notion that Iran is trouble.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: But they're not in favor of this draft resolution that's circulating, so I'm just wondering how the U.S. and the EU are approaching the Russians on this and whether, you know, how crucial they are in referral.
MR. ERELI: Like I said earlier, we want to -- we, the EU-3 and the United States, want to build a broad consensus on Iran. And we're starting from a common foundation or we're starting from a common position that, look, this is a problem. This is something we need to deal with. Iran needs to come clean. And how -- what actions we take to accomplish that objective is, again, something that's a matter of discussion. I wouldn't, you know, on any given day there are different statements on the issue by different countries. I would just say that our perspective on this is a little bit broader, a little bit more long-term than sort of the daily exchange of statements.
QUESTION: Is that the U.S. strategy in approaching the Russians at all?
MR. ERELI: I think there is a -- we have met with the Russians. We have met with others. We have, I think, been working very consistently to, as I said, build a consensus. I think we've made -- you've seen a significant evolution in the international community's understanding of and appreciation for the problems posed by Iran's program and Iran's activities. And I think that that kind of consensus will grow. That kind of consensus will be built upon and that you will see increasingly concerted international action in response in the future. Now, what one country does on any given day, I can't speak to. But that's our broad approach, that's our broad objective.
Yeah. Anything else on this subject? Anything else to talk about? Yes.
QUESTION: Adam, you've just released what's called the 2007 Diversity Visa Lottery Registration -- it's a large packet. And there were a lot of concerns especially you've listed a diversity of countries that once people are here, have gone through a university are perhaps working in engineering and scientific pursuits, that the green card which typically was a period of about five years, is going to suddenly be switched to maybe 10 or 15 years. A lot of people are going to be forced to pack up and return to the countries they've come from. What --
MR. ERELI: No. That's not -- that's not the way it works.
QUESTION: So there are no changes? That's the fear.
MR. ERELI: I'll check and see, but I don't think there's anything different this year than in past years. And the university visa program is an opportunity to bring countries -- to make coming to America open to countries that are not as advantaged as other countries in terms of immigration statistics and it's a lottery. So the procedures and criteria and rules governing the program, I don't believe have changed in any way.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just on North Korea and the tentative deal, have we heard anything more from the North Koreans as to the state of play as to what there -- or the exchanges that occurred yesterday are basically all we know about?
MR. ERELI: You know, we've seen -- there have been a couple of statements but, frankly, in terms of substance and next steps, nothing has changed. I think what you see in the Joint Statement and what you see in the statements by individual parties to the talks is still very much the basis for moving forward, which is another round in November and that's what we're working toward.
QUESTION: Can you address the criticism of even from conservatives, who suggest that even merely to contemplate future discussion of a light-water reactor or a civilian nuclear program of any kind for the North Koreans, is to send the wrong signal to other violators of nuclear accords?
MR. ERELI: I haven't seen those comments. I think the virtues of this approach, the virtues of our approach and the virtues of this agreement speak for itself. Number one, you've got a multilateral effort to deal with a common threat, that is North Korea's nuclear program. That our diplomacy has succeeded in fashioning a forum and a mechanism for cooperation, which has important implications not only for dealing with this immediate issue at hand but for dealing with, you know, what comes next and how to cooperate in ways that are beneficial for the region as a whole.
And the third point I would make is, look, this is very -- this is pretty hard-nosed. I mean there's no -- I don't think there's any sort of sense that there's been any reason to believe that anybody's gone soft in this. I mean, first of all, it's the '94 agreement; it's not a freeze, it's a dismantlement. Second of all, it's very clear what an appropriate time is -- it's after everything's been dismantled and verified and the situation is -- and North Korea is part of the NPT and you've got safeguards.
And third of all, again, to go back to this point that you've got -- it's not just between the United States and North Korea. You've got four other countries on board that make it a fundamentally different paradigm than what we've had in the past. So I think it's important to recognize this agreement for what it is and how it's different from the past.
And to anybody, you know, to other proliferators I think the message is also very clear: The international community can work together to confront a common threat and produce concrete results that enforce respect of international norms and obligations.
QUESTION: I'll email you the comments.
MR. ERELI: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. About Iran-Iraq situation. Secretary Rumsfeld commented yesterday about Iranian influence peddling in southern Iraq. Is the U.S. concerned about Iranian actions in --
MR. ERELI: I think our position on that is well known, that Iran needs to act as a good neighbor and we look to Iran to not engage in activity that is destabilizing or that interferes in what is an Iraqi-led political process.
QUESTION: Question about Darfur. Rebels have overtaken a village -- (inaudible). And the whole situation seems -- it's getting out of hand and the army, meaning the Sudanese Government army from Khartoum is going to then start a small war at that village. What is the United States and your allies doing to settle that situation now?
MR. ERELI: A couple of points to make on this. First of all, a Government of National Unity has finally been formed in Khartoum. This is a government that represents -- or that includes representatives from the south as well as the north and is a direct outgrowth of the Comprehensive Peace Accord. It is an important step and a significant milestone in that, for the first time in Sudan's history, you have a government that is broadly representative of the people of that country and is not marred by the scars of the North-South conflict, so that's important.
It's important in its own right. It's important as a measure of progress in implementing the North-South agreement and it's important for dealing with Darfur because clearly now what you have in the capital is a more broad-based, more empowered central government that is being looked to by the international community as having lived up to -- implemented its commitments and has increased authority to deal with unrest in Darfur which you speak to. So that's point one.
Point two, building on that experience between North-South there is political talks going on in Abuja between the government and the rebels -- Darfur rebels. This is a session that follows onto the political -- agreement on principles that the parties arrived at in June and we are looking to them to make progress in -- coming to an agreement on territory and on power sharing in those talks in Abuja.
Clearly, and the Secretary has made this -- I think made this clear and the Deputy Secretary has made this clear -- there is no long-term solution to the conflict in Darfur other than a political settlement between the government and the parties. And that's why what's going on in Abuja is so important and that's why we are there. We are supporting the parties. We are supporting the African Union and there is, I think, a continent-wide consensus that a political solution is indispensable to settling the conflict in Darfur. And that's why we're all pushing for something in Abuja and it's important that the government and the rebels negotiate in good faith and seriously in order to deal with this problem.
So the Government of National Unity -- important that it address quickly and decisively and with authority the issue in Darfur. Political negotiations going on between the government and the rebels in Abuja, the only long-term solution to this problem.
Third element is the recent events on the ground that you talk about. There has been an uptick in violence, both rebel and government militia associated. This is of concern to us. I would note that the Deputy Secretary Special Representative, Mr. Roger Winter, is in Khartoum today. He is going out to deal -- to the region shortly to deal with this and see if we can help to contain the violence and get the parties to act responsibly.
The AU continues to be there in force and to be exercising a very important monitoring role. Those forces are growing, both in terms of number as well as capabilities. And their mission, I think, is critical of this process. So at the both micro level and the macro level, we're doing something, while at the same time making clear to all the parties that the ultimate solution of this is going to require a political role and commitment consistent with principles embodied in the North-South accord and with the very active concern and involvement of the African Union and the other African states and the United States.
QUESTION: Adam, today the Save Darfur Coalition, a group based here in Washington, has met with the Secretary.
MR. ERELI: Deputy Secretary.
QUESTION: Deputy Secretariat -- has anything come out of those talks?
MR. ERELI: Well, they were -- it was a good session with a variety of groups concerned about what's going on in Darfur, concerned about the violence there. I think it was an opportunity for the Deputy Secretary to lay out in a very comprehensive way how we see the situation, how we've acted, I think, decisively and generously and in a leadership role to control the violence, provide humanitarian assistance, lead an international diplomatic effort to help the effected populations, but also to promote, as I said in my answer to your previous question, to promote a political -- a long-term political solution. And hopefully they came away, I think, with an appreciation for -- a better appreciation, a better understanding for, you know, our commitment to this problem and everything that we're doing to address it.
And I think, you know, the facts speak for themselves -- that we're the largest donor, that we've contributed billions of dollars to this problem and, you know, look at what the Deputy Secretary himself has done; he's been out there three times. He's been, I think, to more refugee camps than most people who follow this issue. So it's a clear signal that we understand the situation. We appreciate the situation. We're working with all the parties to help effected populations, but more importantly to get them back to where they need to be, which is on their land. And you can only do that with peace and you can only do that with a political agreement. So just tying up all the elements together in a way that gives people comfort that this is not an issue that is being neglected.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)

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