State Department Noon Briefing, November 4, 2003

 

Tuesday  November 4, 2003

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Washington DC
November 4, 2003

BRIEFER: J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

RUSSIA
-- Change of Personnel at Yukos
-- Deputy Secretary Armitage to meet Council Chairman Mironov

SRI LANKA
-- President Dismisses Ministers, Suspends Parliament

IRAQ

-- U.S. Support for Political Development
-- Turkish Troops in Iraq
-- Consultations with Iraqi Governing Council
-- U.S. Policy Toward PKK and KADEK
-- Iraqi Armaments/Depleted Uranium
-- Under Secretary Marc Grossman/NATO Consultations
-- Mortar Attacks In Baghdad
-- Police Training Programs

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
-- Palestinian Cabinet
-- Palestinian Authority Responsibilities
-- Israeli Security Fence
-- Loan Guarantees

NORTH KOREA
-- KEDO
-- Light Water Reactor Project
-- Six-Party Talks
-- Informal Discussions in College Station/Former Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen/Representative Curt Weldon
-- Fuel Oil
-- U.S.-Russia Consultations

SYRIA
-- Deportation of Maher Arar

CHINA
-- Secretary Powell's Phone Call with Foreign Minister Li

GEORGIA
-- Elections

INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY
-- Reaction to Director General ElBaradei's Comments

NICARAGUA
-- Destruction of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2003
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. ERELI: Good morning, everyone. A pleasure to see you. I don't have any announcements; so let's begin with your questions.

Barry.

QUESTION: Does State have any opinion, any comments on the reshuffling of the oil company in Russia -- the naming of several Americans or at least American citizens?

MR. ERELI: No. We don't have an opinion on decisions by the company on its, by a private Russian company on its personnel.

QUESTION: Okay. And I don't know that the Deputy Secretary has met with the Russian visitor yet, of the parliament, a fellow by the name of Mironov, has he?

MR. ERELI: No. Deputy Secretary Armitage will meet with Sergey Mironov, chairman of the Russian Parliament's Federation Council later today.

I expect they'll discuss the full range of bilateral issues, counterterrorism, HIV/AIDS, and democratization.

QUESTION: How about Iran -- nuclear?

MR. ERELI: That is also one of the issues on the, in the bilateral relationship. I don't know if that'll come up. QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Gotcha.

MR. ERELI: But it would not be strange if it did.

QUESTION: Is Mr. Armitage liable to get involved in, or engage in with the Russians on a course to pinch the rule of law? Is that something that --

MR. ERELI: I wouldn't want to predict what's going to happen there. I mean, obviously, this is an issue that may come up. If it did, I would expect that we would reiterate the points that we've made publicly, which is that this is an important case, that we, as well as investors and markets are watching, and that it's important that the rule of law be respected.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: Arshad.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment to make about the Sri Lankan President's decision to sack three ministers, suspend parliament and deploy troops to various key installations?

MR. ERELI: We are following developments in Sri Lanka closely. We urge the President and Prime Minister to work together to bolster the peace process and to protect Sri Lanka's democratic institutions. We are concerned that these events could have a negative effect on the peace process and talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, and we stand firmly behind the Government of Sri Lanka in its search for peace after 20 years of bloody conflict.

QUESTION: I think, as you are well aware, Secretary Armitage met with Mr. Vickremesinghe yesterday. Do you know if he had any -- Vickremesinghe had any sense that this might be in the offing, and if it came up in that conversation?

And, secondly, do you know if the Prime Minister is going to continue his Washington schedule and meet with the President tomorrow?

MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that the actions of the President, which took place subsequent to the meeting with Deputy Secretary Armitage, came up in the meeting with Deputy Secretary Armitage. I'm not aware that they did. I'm not aware that there was any foreknowledge that the events would take place.

As far as the rest of the schedule for the Sri Lanka's Prime Minister, he has said that he intends to continue with his official schedule in Washington, and we welcome that news.

QUESTION: Yes, just one follow-up. How do you think they're going to be able to work together, given that they are longstanding rivals and that the President appears to have taken these rather dramatic actions without consulting his Prime Minister?

MR. ERELI: I would note that, you know, Sri Lanka is a democratic country that -- multiparty democracy involves, as the name implies, public officials of different parties working together for the common interest, and we would certainly hope that that spirit informs the decisions and actions of the country's officials.

Jonathan.

QUESTION: I wondered if you'd had a chance to look at the comments made by the Turkish Ambassador this morning, who said that the United States was showing favoritism in Iraq towards the Kurdish community and that this was bad for the country and could lead to trouble somewhere down the road?

MR. ERELI: I am afraid I have not seen the remarks.

QUESTION: No, you haven't?

QUESTION: But you are showing favoritism to the Kurds?

MR. ERELI: I think what we're trying to do in Iraq is very clear and should be well understood, which is to help the Iraqis develop a system, write a constitution, and to come up with a process for creating a sovereign government that has the mandate of the people and public support, credibility and legitimacy, and that that government be put in power by elections.

QUESTION: But he was --

QUESTION: One of the, you know, one of the points that he made this morning was that five of the original 25 members of the Iraqi Governing Coalition were Kurds, and the Kurds represent, I think, something like 16 percent of the Iraqi population. This is one example of what would be cited as, you know, favoritism. You don't want to reject the accusation or suggestion that you're playing favorites and giving the Kurds an undue role in Iraq?

MR. ERELI: I will state what our policy is, which is to help the Iraqis develop a political system that represents the views and interests of all Iraqis, and that is capable of having the legitimacy and credibility in taking over that country, and the responsibilities of the country.

QUESTION: Adam, can I follow up on a couple of things on Turkey? I wasn't at the Washington Institute yesterday, but I hear reliably, that Ambassador Holbrook criticized the U.S. Government and said you should have, and didn't, clear the troops issue with the Iraqis before you, you know, launched that project. I wonder if there is any response to that.

And I wondered, maybe even more importantly, where U.S. aid to Turkey now stands? I think there was additional aid promised Turkey for the troops, and the troops aren't getting there, it seems.

MR. ERELI: On the subject of Turkish troops to Iraq, this is a question we've been over pretty exhaustively in the past. I don't really have anything new to add beyond saying that, as we've consistently made clear, we believe that Turkish troops can play a constructive role in improving the security situation in Iraq. We are in discussions and working with other parties to find a mutually agreeable way to do that.

As far as the money goes, the assistance package to Turkey, I'll have to check and see what the latest on it is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Yes, Christophe?

QUESTION: On the same issue? The Turkish Foreign Minister today said that Turkey reserves the right to send more troops to northern Iraq in order to fight against Turkish rebels. Do you have anything to say on that, and would you agree on such a project?

MR. ERELI: We have made clear that the PKK and KADEK are terrorist organizations and that we are undertaking every step to ensure that their activities are constrained, or are not allowed, and that appropriate steps to move against them are taken. And we continue to consult and work with, closely with the Government of Turkey towards that goal.

In the back. Andrea.

QUESTION: Adam, do you agree with the Turkish position that it's appropriate for the Iraqi Governing Council to issue an invitation to the Turkish military in order for them, then, to feel that it's okay to come into Iraq?

MR. ERELI: I'm just a little confused to -- your suggestion of what the steps are. I think what we've talked about with both the Turks and the Governing Council is how the Turkish troops can best be brought into Iraq to help support the security and stability in the country. That is an ongoing process of consultation. And, you know, that process continues, and, I mean, I don't know what much more there is to say about it than that.

You're asking about, you know, was an invitation issued, or does someone have the right to issue an invitation? This is an issue that Ambassador Bremer, that our Ambassador in Ankara, that our military colleagues are talking about on a fairly continual basis. So it's a process that's underway.

QUESTION: I think the reason that I raise is that the Turkish Ambassador, again, repeated what their position has been until now, what is making them reluctant to send troops, is the fact that they feel it's important and necessary to have the IGC issue an invitation. And so my question was: Does the U.S. think that that's appropriate, or even necessary?

MR. ERELI: Let me say this. We think the Turkish troops have a valuable contribution to play for the security of Iraq. We are looking at ways to operationalize that contribution. That is a, as we've said before, a complex task, one to which we are contributing or working towards, and that's an ongoing process. But more details than that, I just don't have for you.

QUESTION: The questions concern the case of Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen --

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Do we have anything more on Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes, we do.

MR. ERELI: On Iraq?

QUESTION: Yeah. My name is (inaudible). I represent the Daily Jang in Pakistan. In the context of the missile hit, you know, hitting the helicopter and the 16 casualties day before yesterday, was there a search or has the U.S. taken possession of all the missiles in the Iraqi inventory, or this is something outside, underground?

MR. ERELI: That's a big job to take possession of all the missiles in the Iraqi inventory.

QUESTION: Well, missiles of the Iraqi army inventory.

MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to the Defense Department on the status of our collection of Iraqi armaments. I just don't have those kinds of details for you.

Still on Iraq?

QUESTION: Has the State Department done any studies or take any position on Pentagon use of depleted uranium as to humanitarian, long-term consequences against Iraqi civilians?

MR. ERELI: That's an issue we have covered exhaustively in the past, and I would refer you to the Defense Department on studies of the use of depleted uranium, the effects of depleted uranium. And there's a lot of information on it, but the bottom line is that charges of depleted uranium affecting civilians are generally unfounded.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: When Under Secretary Marc Grossman, when he goes to NATO, is he going to ask for NATO troops to go into Iraq? And also, do you have anything to say about Spanish pullout today at the Iraqi Mission?

MR. ERELI: I'm not familiar with the Spanish announcement of a pullout from Iraq. Number one, I'll have to check on that for you.

QUESTION: That's strange.

MR. ERELI: As far as Secretary Grossman's request for troops from NATO, obviously we've made it clear from the very beginning that we would welcome those who want to contribute troops or contribute other ways to Iraqi reconstruction and security. As to whether Secretary Grossman will be bringing a new message on that to his meetings, I'll have to check and ask him. QUESTION: Any reaction to the attacks, once again, very close to the U.S. headquarters?

MR. ERELI: The latest that I was able to get just before going out here was that there were a number of mortars, I believe it was two mortars, that landed in the Green Zone, and a limited number of U.S. military casualties. That's just the preliminary information I had before coming out here. It's regrettable. Every casualty is painful for us, but we remain committed to seeing this task through, and to making Iraq safe for Iraqis.

QUESTION: You said no new message, but is he going to bring up the old message and talk to --

MR. ERELI: I'll check with you. I'll check with you on that.

QUESTION: You said some military casualties, but you sure about that? Because I think at the Pentagon, they weren't quite sure. You --

MR. ERELI: No. What I got before coming out here were preliminary reports, so I made that caution. I'm sorry.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, just more generally, do you have any numbers on troop commitments to the Iraqi issue since the passage of the UN resolution that was supposed to encourage other countries to contribute?

MR. ERELI: No, not really. Nothing new to report on that.

Joel.

QUESTION: I have a question concerning the possible new government for Palestinians. Mr. Qureia --

MR. ERELI: Anything more on Iraq? Okay.

QUESTION: Mr. Qureia and Chairman Arafat seem, still, to be at odds over security issues and responsibilities. And what effect will a proposed Israeli-UN resolution have to either block or delay the formation of that new Palestinian Government? It's a resolution also on what they want in language, the suicide bombings and so forth as related to Israeli children that have died -- they're bringing that to the UN now.

MR. ERELI: I do not see a link between a proposed Israeli resolution at the UN and the formation of a Palestinian cabinet. As far as the latest on the formation of a Palestinian cabinet, what we can say is really to state the obvious -- that the situation is fluid, we're receiving a variety of reports. We are obviously monitoring what's going on, but we have nothing to confirm at this point. Our view continues to be that the Palestinian Prime Minister must have control of all the security forces and that any new cabinet must make clear its opposition to all forms of terrorism and take tangible steps to see that terrorists and military organizations not under the control of the Palestinian Authority are disarmed and dismantled.

Yes.

QUESTION: On, again, on Israel, can you give us an update on the status of the U.S. position on the fence, in particular the eastern fence that Prime Minister Sharon is going to be making a decision on soon, he says? Is the U.S. exerting any kind of pressure, either publicly other otherwise, to influence this Israeli decision on the eastern fence in particular?

MR. ERELI: We've made clear, and we've frankly reiterated publicly, consistently, as National Security Advisor Rice did on Friday in New York with the press, that we've made it known to the Israelis privately that, number one, the President doesn't really believe there needs to be a fence, and number two, if they want to talk about a fence, they should do it in a way that does not infringe upon the lives of the Palestinian people or try in some way to prejudge the outcome of a final status agreement.

QUESTION: Do you have anything new to say about the loan guarantee issue in this context?

MR. ERELI: No, other than we have made the decision to deduct money for guaranteeing loans based on Israeli settlement activity, but the precise amount of that deduction has not been determined yet.

QUESTION: That position on the security barrier is weeks, maybe months old. Have you seen anything that suggests that Israel is taking your reservations about how the barrier, the fence, the wiring, all the components, meander through the West Bank?

MR. ERELI: I don't have any facts or actions to point to that allow me to answer that question.

Teri.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: Carl, do you want to change it first? Okay. On North Korea. Do you have an update on the lack of information yesterday on this informal KEDO meeting? It now appears that the U.S. will formally propose to halt all KEDO, instead of just suspend, possibly end the program?

MR. ERELI: What I could tell you about the KEDO meeting that I couldn't tell you yesterday is that the KEDO Executive Board, consisting of the United States, South Korea, Japan, and the EU began its meeting yesterday afternoon in New York and will conclude later today. The Executive Board is considering the future of the light water reactor project in North Korea. The United States is being represented by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Donald Keyser. I don't have anything specific to report to you on the outcome of procedures of the, sort of, deliberations of the meeting.

Obviously, we've made it clear that it is our position that the KEDO Executive Board should agree to formally stop work on the Light Water Reactor Project. But suspension of that project is a matter for the KEDO Executive Board to decide.

QUESTION: What would you -- was I just thinking that they have not kept their half, their part of the bargain or what?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: But what's the alternative? The whole premise of the light water reactor was that it was a substitute for something far more ominous. You don't want to push them back down the road that you don't want them to go, do you?

MR. ERELI: No, our focus is on getting verifiable, irreversible complete end to Korea's nuclear program, and that the context in which the Light Water Reactor Project was decided, no longer obtains, given subsequent developments.

QUESTION: Adam, did you say --

QUESTION: Can you clarify that, clarify the stop? "Stop" is a word that doesn't necessarily mean abandon for all time. It could just mean halt, temporarily suspend. What is your -- do you want them to suspend it? Do you want them to stop it?

MR. ERELI: I'll stick to what I said: to formally stop work on the Light Water Reactor Project.

QUESTION: Do you happen to know how far along it is?

MR. ERELI: I asked, actually, and I think there's some laying of concrete infrastructure has begun, but I can't get into more. I don't have more detail than that.

QUESTION: Adam, could you just clarify? Did you say you don't know whether that's a decision that will be taken at this meeting or you just don't know what the U.S. was going to present at the meeting?

MR. ERELI: No, I don't know what decision will be taken at the meeting.

QUESTION: But there will be a decision on this taken at the end of -- by the end of the meeting?

MR. ERELI: I don't know that either. All I know is that our position is that we think work should formally stop on the project, but that it's the Board's decision, that is a Board decision to make. Whether they will make it today, and if they do, on what terms, it's too early to say.

QUESTION: Adam, could you clarify --

QUESTION: Could you, could you go a little further on that and say that, that you are asking the Board, or that they formally endorsed an end to the -- to work on the project? Is that what you're arguing in New York, yesterday and today?

MR. ERELI: I will restate our position, which is that the KEDO Executive Board should agree to formally stop work on the Light Water Reactor Project.

QUESTION: But would it be safe to assume that's what you're telling the Board, as well as telling us, yeah? Would that be reasonable?

MR. ERELI: It would be reasonable to assume that what I am telling you, that we are telling the Board, as well.

QUESTION: Listen. I hate to go over old ground, but this makes it all relevant again. What is the up to the minute analysis at the State Department of the likelihood of talks being resumed?

MR. ERELI: Six-party talks?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. ERELI: The up to the minute analysis at the State Department is that we are hopeful that talks could resume soon, and this is something that we are engaged in with all parties to the talks to facilitate.

QUESTION: Adam, could you just clarify what the U.S. interpretation of "stop" versus "suspend" is? The distinction between the two?

MR. ERELI: Yes. That's awfully legalese. I'll take the question.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: The distinction between stop and suspend, if there is one.

QUESTION: Oh, there is one. I mean in English.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Not necessarily in State -- not necessarily in State Department language, but in English.

MR. ERELI: I'll take the question, and our lawyers beget back to you in a jiffy.

QUESTION: Oh, the lawyers are going to be back to us in a jiffy?

MR. ERELI: In a jiffy.

QUESTION: Yeah, right.

MR. ERELI: Sonni.

QUESTION: On North Korea. When Secretary Powell, I believe tomorrow. meets with the Chinese counterpart, do you expect -- if he does --

MR. ERELI: Chinese counterpart?

QUESTION: Chinese. I'm sorry. I can't pronounce his name in the taken question yesterday.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Qian Qichen.

MR. ERELI: Qian Qichen.

QUESTION: Do you expect the North Korea issue and the six-party talk issue to be discussed at that time?

MR. ERELI: Secretary Powell and the former Chinese Foreign Minister are in College Station to participate in a conference on China. So they will probably have a chance to talk. But I wouldn't characterize it as a meeting to advance foreign policy goals. And if the subject comes up, it would be in the context of their being at a conference.

Yes.

QUESTION: Is the, then, U.S. providing any alternative to North Korea's fuel need if you suspend the KEDO project -- like fuel, oil for winter, or things like that?

MR. ERELI: Let me look into that and get back to you. I don't have a -ready answer for that.

QUESTION: That's not the U.S. obligation.

MR. ERELI: It's true.

QUESTION: It's South Korea and Japan.

MR. ERELI: Well, let me get back to you.

QUESTION: But it's --

QUESTION: Oh, yeah. We get it shipped, but we don't provide it.

QUESTION: Is Mr. Kartman will visit to North Korea next week?

MR. ERELI: Is Mr. Kartman going to North Korea next week?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. ERELI: North Korea?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. ERELI: No, I don't think so.

QUESTION: You don't think so. As far as I know the information.

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything on that for you.

QUESTION: You don't have anything confirm he's going to visit North Korea?

MR. ERELI: Yes, but not as a U.S. official.

QUESTION: He is --

MR. ERELI: As a private official.

QUESTION: He's in charge of the KEDO subject. He talking about KEDO issues in North Korean offices.

MR. ERELI: Yes. He's not a U.S. official at this point. So he's a private official, private citizen.

QUESTION: Some weeks ago, Representative Weldon from Congress was expecting to go to North Korea and you were saying that would be on his own agenda. Is he going to take part in some of the meetings in Texas tomorrow?

MR. ERELI: I'm not familiar with Congressman Weldon's schedule. He canceled his trip to North Korea. But I don't know if he's going to A&M or not.

Jonathan.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to add on how you see the Georgian elections?

QUESTION: North Korea?

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

MR. ERELI: Let's stick to North Korea.

QUESTION: Okay. But we've gotten pretty much done.

QUESTION: Do you have a date on the U.S.-Russia consultation on North Korea this month, or in Washington?

MR. ERELI: No, I don't. I don't have a date for you on that.

More on North Korea?

Well, you've had a question in the back for a while on Arar.

QUESTION: Yeah. On the case of Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was deported by the U.S. to Syria, why was he sent to Syria when he specifically requested to be returned to Canada? Mr. Arar says he was tortured by the Syrians and he warned American officials that would happen.

MR. ERELI: We put out what information we have on Mr. Arar on October 6th from the Press Office. I really don't have too much more to add to that. At the point that he was detained in the United States by the law enforcement agencies, it became a law enforcement matter that is handled by the Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security. So decisions on how that case was handled, I'd really refer you to them for comment on.

QUESTION: Was the decision to send him to Syria made specifically on the advice of Canadian security officials?

MR. ERELI: I don't know. I don't know. Honestly, I don't have the answer to that. I would refer you to the Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney General on what basis those decisions were made.

QUESTION: We're seeking answers there, but have been unable to obtain them. I'm just wondering, when Mr. Arar says that when he warned American officials that he would be tortured if sent to Syria, the INS told him specifically that they were not constrained by the Geneva Conventions on Torture.

What's your reaction to that?

MR. ERELI: My reaction is to get the INS or get the officials responsible for making that comment to explain it to you. I can't.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, a question I called about earlier about the program being run to train police officers in Iraq using domestic officers. I believe it's being run by the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau.

Can you give us an update on the progress of that program, the participation you've gotten to date?

MR. ERELI: It's quite a lot of information, actually. The State Department, in coordination with the Department of Justice, deployed experts as part of an international assessment team to Iraq to conduct a comprehensive review of the condition and needs of the police in that country. This obviously is further to our goal of helping the Iraqis enhance security in the country and take responsibility for running their country.

Since the team went to Iraq, they came up with an assessment that concluded that to effectively maintain law and order nationwide in Iraq, they need approximately 70,000 police, trained police officers.

They have developed a three-week transitional integration program, which has so far been delivered to over 4,000 Iraqi police. This training program focuses on human rights and principles of democratic policing.

We have also just deployed an additional 24 U.S. police who will join the Coalition Provisional Authority and work on establishing a standardized, Iraq-wide police recruitment and selection process that will be needed to identify approximately an additional 35,000 new police recruits. That's to bring the total number up to 70,000.

Of note to announce in this is that the Kingdom of Jordan has offered a training site in Al Muwaqqar that would be able to accommodate up to 3,000 Iraqi police cadets at any given time. I think the first class of 500 cadets will begin training there in December, and will be working up to, in the next few months, maximizing the number of Iraqi police cadets there at any given time as 3,000.

On a rotating basis, groups of 1,500 cadets will receive eight weeks basic skills course, then return home to Iraq for further field training and mentoring by international police. We expect that the program will train nearly 17,000 recruits, new recruits per year, and it will take 18 months to two years to train the total number of police needed, which is 35,000.

QUESTION: And are you getting the kind of involvement from domestic police agencies as you want?

MR. ERELI: Oh, yes.

QUESTION: Are you looking for more? You said, what, you have 23 so far?

MR. ERELI: Twenty-four.

QUESTION: Twenty-four.

MR. ERELI: Twenty-four, and the cooperation is excellent.

QUESTION: Are you're looking for more, or is this about what you need?

MR. ERELI: I think we're on track.

Yes, Tammy.

QUESTION: You said -- did you mean 70,000 or -- I thought you just said 35,000.

MR. ERELI: The total number of Iraqi police we think that are needed to do the job in Iraq are 70,000. That will require recruiting and training 35,000 new Iraqi police officers. So this training program is for those 35,000 new police.

QUESTION: On China?

MR. ERELI: China.

QUESTION: Yes. During the phone call between Secretary Powell and the Chinese Foreign Minister, who called whom, and what the Secretary said about Taiwan policy?

MR. ERELI: Foreign Minister Li requested the call. The subject of Taiwan came up briefly. Not really very much was said about that other than a sort of exchange of pleasantries in Panama yesterday. And the other issue discussed was North Korea.

QUESTION: What do you mean they discussed Taiwan? Did he object to that?

MR. ERELI: No.

QUESTION: He wasn't mad? I mean, he called because he kind of wanted to chat about Taiwan?

MR. ERELI: The --

QUESTION: Did he say, "Call me about the issue of Taiwan, I want to make sure it's still there"?

MR. ERELI: The major subject of the call was North Korea.

QUESTION: And what, exactly, transpired on the -- on the fact of the handshake and the exchange of pleasantries yesterday?

MR. ERELI: That's exactly what transpired.

QUESTION: What -- I just asked a question, what? So you say, what?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: So the Chinese Minister said, "What happened yesterday? Is that what happened?

MR. ERELI: No, I'm --

QUESTION: I just asked you a question, and you said that's what transpired. Did he ask? Is that what he did?

MR. ERELI: Are you asking me what the Chinese Minister, the Chinese Foreign Minister, said?

QUESTION: I'm asking you what transpired. You said that's what transpired.

MR. ERELI: As we said yesterday in our posted question, that the two met and exchanged pleasantries. The two exchanged pleasantries. There was no meeting or discussions.

QUESTION: Was there -- was that the step toward that leads to something in any way?

MR. ERELI: No, I wouldn't read more into it than exactly what happened, which is --

QUESTION: Well, I promise I won't read into it, but I don't think these things happen accidentally. I think there's probably a purpose.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) he would back down.

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: And I just wondered what the Secretary's purpose is in exchanging pleasantries with Taiwan. MR. ERELI: I would say that it is what it is: that the two individuals were at ceremonies commemorating the anniversary of the Panama Canal Treaty. They were in the same place at the same time. They exchanged greetings. There were no official meetings and none took place between the two.

QUESTION: Forgive me. Perhaps, may I rephrase? What was -- what transpired between the Secretary and the Chinese Foreign Minister on this? Did he ask for an explanation or something, or did he just say, "We met and we talked," or what?

MR. ERELI: I don't really want to characterize or speak for the Chinese Foreign Minister --

QUESTION: Well, what did the Secretary say, then? He just said --

MR. ERELI: What I've just said.

QUESTION: Okay, fine. Fine, then.

QUESTION: Was that today, this conversation?

MR. ERELI: Yes, this morning.

QUESTION: And you, you -- my question earlier. Have you come to any conclusions about the validity of the Georgian elections?

MR. ERELI: On the Georgian -- I'm sorry.

QUESTION: On China still. The Taiwanese media said the Taiwanese leader told the Secretary that he would -- willing to join the war on terror and all that --

QUESTION: That's a pleasantry.

QUESTION: -- do you characterize that as pleasantry?

MR. ERELI: I don't have really anything more to say on that encounter than I already said. Our policy on China has not changed. We remain committed to a One China policy and this encounter in no way calls that into question.

QUESTION: Just two more. One is the Taiwanese media has hailed this as a diplomatic breakthrough for their history and all that. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. ERELI: I think my characterization of the encounter speaks for itself.

QUESTION: But could you do a little checking and see if they talked about Taiwan being part of the war on terrorism? That might be a pleasantry, but it also might be a matter of some substance.

MR. ERELI: If we have anything more to say, I'll let you know.

QUESTION: Well, lastly, the AIT had here in Washington Therese Shaheen reportedly -- reported in the Taipei Times that when she attended the banquet in New York, she told the Taiwanese leader that President Bush is a "secret angel for Taiwan." Can you check on that please? Do you know about it? Can you check on that?

MR. ERELI: I will check on it, but I'm not sure I'll have anything for you on it.

QUESTION: Why? But she is supposedly report -- to report to the State Department, right?

QUESTION: China.

MR. ERELI: What she might say at a private, non-official event is one thing. And what we say at official diplomatic statements is another thing.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yes. On China, you have said time and again that the U.S. is committed to one China policy. I need a clarification. One China could mean anything. Is Taiwan part of China, or China part of Taiwan?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Oh this is where it came in.

(Laughter.)

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to even go there. Just look back at our most recent statements. They're very consistent. They haven't changed and they're not going to change.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. Can I --

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, Georgia, Georgia.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I --

QUESTION: Georgia is a follow -up.

QUESTION: Oh, you do have a follow-up. You do have more information on that, a bit more than you said yesterday.

MR. ERELI: A little bit. On Georgia, yesterday we noted that there were inaccuracies in the voter lists that lessened voter confidence in the election process. Overnight, the vote count was stopped in Georgia. This was something of great concern to us. Our Ambassador in Tbilisi raised it with Georgian officials. Early today, the vote counting resumed. Our goal remains a free and fair election, and we are focusing our efforts on ensuring an honest count in a timely way.

QUESTION: Okay. I do have a follow-up on this. Yesterday, you cited the OSCE for your assessment. But many people noted that there was a marked difference of emphasis between your account and that of the OSCE, which was, I would say, 90 percent negative, whereas yours was about 50 percent negative. Do you, in fact, you were wiling to endorse their 90 percent negative assessment of the conduct of the elections?

MR. ERELI: I would say we've seen the OSCE statements. We have some of the same concerns as the OSCE. This election is, and its aftermath, are still, you know, being worked out. Let's let the process work its way through and make a considered judgment based on what actually happens, both in the last few days, and in the next few days.

QUESTION: Do you have anything additional on the secession of the vote -- the suspension of the vote count? Did the U.S. weigh in?

MR. ERELI: Yes, we did. As I said, our Ambassador contacted Tbilisi officials to say this is irregular and vote counting should resume.

QUESTION: Did they give an explanation?

MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of. I can check if you'd like.

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Mohamed ElBaradei, in speaking to the United Nations, said that he would like to see all plutonium and uranium reprocessing brought under a multinational program, more oversight. As I understand it, this is something that's come up before, but he's really been pushing it in the last few weeks. What's the U.S. position on that suggestion?

MR. ERELI: I would say our position is that we are working hard to strengthen the existing nuclear nonproliferation regime, and measures that address the threat of enrichment and reprocessing in nuclear and nonproliferation states of proliferation concern are high on our agenda.

The Director General has suggested multinational control of enrichment and reprocessing facilities as one possibility and he has provided some ideas. We welcome his contribution to the public debate, and concern that enrichment and reprocessing have potential military as well as civilian purposes is a long standing issue, and, for example, we and other supplier countries have export policies in place that limit or deny assistance to other countries in these areas of the nuclear fuel cycle.

QUESTION: So does that mean that you think there are already enough safeguards in the system, and if that's true --

MR. ERELI: No, we are consistently looking for ways to strengthen the regime. This is one idea. We welcome that idea and we welcome his contribution to the public debate on this issue. And we'll work with all NPT signatories, as well as the international community, to strengthen controls, so that nuclear energy is used peacefully.

QUESTION: Well, does that mean the U.S. Government is considering this? (Inaudible).

MR. ERELI: It's an ongoing process. I mean, it's a debate, and to the extent that it contributes to that debate, which it does, we welcome it. That sounds pretty self-explanatory.

QUESTION: You say the United States --

QUESTION: It doesn't, actually. It's not.

QUESTION: Are you saying that the United States -- I haven't seen the details of this proposal, but are you saying the United States is willing to consider submitting its own plutonium reprocessing to this multinational regime?

MR. ERELI: What I'm saying is, we welcome the idea of special controls on enrichment and reprocessing facilities, as has been suggested by Dr. ElBaradei, and we will work with Dr. ElBaradei and others to look at ways that that can be effectively implemented.

QUESTION: So, yes.

QUESTION: Including your own processing -- reprocessing -- I don't know, I'm asking you.

MR. ERELI: That gets to a level of expertise, Jonathan that I just don't have.

QUESTION: Well, not really, it's a matter of principle rather than expertise.

MR. ERELI: Joel.

QUESTION: Yesterday, when the Secretary met in Nicaragua, they spoke about containment or -- of shoulder-fired missiles. Can that particular agreement that's underway see any type formulation into a -- more of a worldwide ban or sponsorship by various countries, much like what you've just spoken about, nuclear weaponry, against proliferation of those type weapons?

MR. ERELI: Well, I think I'd refer you to the APEC ministerial declaration that dealt with this issue fairly directly. As to the discussion of manned portable air-defense systems that the Secretary had in Nicaragua, what I can tell you is that we heard a strong commitment from the President and the defense minister and Chief of Army of Nicaragua to begin destroying their MANPADS. The Nicaraguan Government is working on a plan for that destruction. We expect to hear from them in a month or so on that plan, and the Secretary urged them to carry out the destruction as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: One more?

QUESTION: One more.

QUESTION: Two more.

QUESTION: On the ElBaradei -- will you accept a different subject? I read that he had requested classified U.S. data on WMD in Iraq. How do you feel about that? To be turned over to them so that they could go back in and so forth, and that at this point it would be very helpful, or possibly it might be helpful, maybe I should say.

MR. ERELI: Right. I've seen reports of ElBaradei's remarks and we're looking into the matter. I would note that under Security Council Resolution 1483, the coalition has responsibility for disarming Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. Resolution 1483 also encourages the United Kingdom and the United States to keep the Council informed of their activities in this regard. We are doing that. We have been providing information to the Security Council on the situation in Iraq on a regular basis. And U.S. officials have met with IAEA officials to discuss nuclear issues related to Iraq, including a meeting earlier this month in Vienna. In addition, we have shared the results of the Iraq Survey Group's interim report.

QUESTION: So how do you feel about his request?

MR. ERELI: I said we're looking into it.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: I was thinking of Venezuela.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any more information on the power given to Secretary Powell by the U.S. Senate to stop or suspend, for fiscal year '04, all the military, counterterrorism and criminal aid to Venezuela if it is confirmed that that government is giving protection or aid to members of the FARC from Colombia?

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything on that to share with you today. Let me look and see if there's something I can get for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:08 p.m.)

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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