State Department Noon Briefing, November 5, 2003


Wednesday  November 5, 2003

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Washington, DC
November 5, 2003

BRIEFER: J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

-- Status of Light Water Reactor Project
-- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's Visit to Washington to Brief Officials on his Visit to North Korea
-- Discussions on Six-Party Talks
-- KEDO Discussions

-- Policy Toward a Free and Stable Iraq
-- Role of Turkish Troops in Stabilizing Iraq
-- Working Toward Fair Representation of Diverse Ethic Makeup of Iraq

-- Mohamed ElBaradei's Call for IAEA Inspections
-- David Kay's Weapons Report and the Iraq Survey Group
-- Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with Chairman of the Russian Parliament's Federation Council

-- No Confirmed Travel Plans for Deputy Secretary Armitage
-- Ambassador Burns' Visit to the Region
-- Push for Empowerment of a Palestinian Prime Minister/Opposition to Terrorism in the Region

-- Senator McCain's Statements on the State Department

-- Report of Troop Deployment to Greece to Protect Athletes During Olympics

-- Recent Trip by Ambassador Weston to Address Settlement Issues

-- Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister to Discuss Situation in Iraq

-- Commitment to Peace Process and Democratic Institutions in Sri Lanka

-- Withdrawal of Spanish Diplomatic Personnel/Remain Part of the Coalition to Preserve Iraqi Security



MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. I don't have any announcements for you today.

QUESTION: So it's a done deal is it, that the U.S., South Korea and Japan will scrap the plans for a light water reactor in North Korea? Yesterday, you told us the U.S. position.

MR. ERELI: And that's what I'll tell you today.

QUESTION: The other two, strangely enough, have signed on and followed the U.S.'s advice.

MR. ERELI: Right. The question -- the question is about the future of the light water reactor in North Korea?


MR. ERELI: Our position, as we said yesterday, is that there is no future for the reactor project, and the -- KEDO put out a statement yesterday afternoon saying that the executive board had discussed the future of the Light Water Reactor Project and had agreed to announce its decision no later than November 21st, 2003. I don't have really much more for you on that --


MR. ERELI: -- you know, other than to restate, you know, our view that there is no future for the project; that we could agree to a one-year suspension, after which resumption of the project would require a unanimous executive board decision.

QUESTION: So reports that the U.S. persuaded its partners to suspend the project are premature are they, or the language of the agreement hasn't been -- hasn't been fine-tuned yet?

MR. ERELI: I would wait for the KEDO board to make its announcement of its decision.


MR. ERELI: Yes, Jonathan.

QUESTION: I understand your position about resumptions only with unanimous consent of the executive board. Would the United States be prepared to consider an agreement to resume in one year unless the board took a unanimous decision to extend the suspension, which is a slightly different formulation, and this may be part of the problem why you can't actually announce anything at this stage?

MR. ERELI: The reason we can't announce anything at this stage is because that it was the decision of the executive board not to announce anything at this stage, and to announce something at a later stage. And as far as, you know, what is the -- what is the future of the project, our view is that the -- that the project should, in the future, should have not -- should not have a future, and that the project should -- should end.

QUESTION: Yeah. I understand your position, but I'm just trying to get you to say whether -- how you would react to a proposal that you agree now to a resumption in one year's time, which is apparently what some of the other -- your partners suggested.

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm. Too speculative, Jonathan, sorry.


QUESTION: I was just about to say thank you.

QUESTION: Spellbound?

QUESTION: I was spellbound.

MR. ERELI: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Adam, you probably don't want to respond to polls, so but there are -- there is a poll that shows increasing -- increasing --

QUESTION: He does.

QUESTION: Oh, he does? Okay. Sorry. Good, I look forward to this, then.

The increasing skepticism about the Administration's argument that the -- that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, and a lot of intelligent minds are saying that's not logical. Could you explain to us, once again, why that is, in fact, true?

MR. ERELI: What?

QUESTION: Could you restate the case for that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, why that is true, and people are becoming increasingly skeptical of that?

MR. ERELI: I will state what our policy is, and our policy is that the -- a couple of things. One is the world is a better place now that Saddam Hussein is gone; that the task ahead of us is to ensure an Iraq that is stable, free, prosperous and run by Iraqis in a democratic way; and also to help the Iraqis -- help the Iraqis establish security and stability in their country, and that includes fighting terrorism. That's where we are. That's what we're committed to. That's what we are working on in cooperation with 30 other -- more than 30 other countries around the world. It will be a long-term task and it is a task to which we are committed to seeing through.

QUESTION: Did you see the Syria blast at the U.S. through their Foreign Ministry spokesman, saying that the U.S. presence in Iraq has fostered terrorism that didn't exist until the U.S. went into Iraq?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I saw that, saw that comment.

QUESTION: What do you think of the analysis, pretty airtight?

MR. ERELI: I think the analysis is faulty, to say the least.

QUESTION: Does the United States consider people attacking U.S. troops in Iraq to be so-called terrorists? It doesn't seem to fit with the State Department definition which is carried in your annual report, by any means.

MR. ERELI: Our view is that -- I think the evidence suggests as well -- that there are numerous elements within Iraq that do not want to see Iraqis free and do not want to see progress made towards a democratic and peaceful Iraq, and that those elements are working to undermine the efforts not only of the United States, not only of the international community, but of the millions of Iraqis themselves who yearn for a better future for their country; and that it is in all of our interests to work together to ensure that these terrorists don't succeed.

QUESTION: So they are terrorists, is that what you're saying?

MR. ERELI: Those -- those who oppose and use violence to kill innocent people -- aid workers, UN workers, foreign diplomats, people working at foreign diplomatic missions -- I don't see how you can call them anything but terrorists.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, you didn't include U.S. troops in that, so they're fair game; is that correct?

MR. ERELI: I'll stick with what I said.


QUESTION: Russia says -- Russia is saying that it supports Mohamed ElBaradei's call to be let back into Iraq. Has that been communicated directly to the United States and is that -- do you expect that they'll start trying to round up support for actually trying to convince the United States to do that, to let the inspectors back in?

MR. ERELI: I haven't seen that statement that you cite. On the subject of IAEA inspectors going back into Iraq, I think we dealt with that yesterday so.

QUESTION: Good. I have another question, then.

QUESTION: I don't think we did, but not -- at least not in the briefing itself.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Could you say it on the record?

MR. ERELI: On the record, our view is that, you know, the issue of inspectors going back into -- going back into Iraq is a subject for the Security Council. We don't think it's -- you know, to be considered at an appropriate time -- we don't think that at this present time, it's an appropriate issue to consider.

QUESTION: They should consider it, but not now, is that what you mean?

MR. ERELI: No, I didn't say they should. I said it is a subject for the Security Council to -- it would be, if it were to be considered, a subject for the Security Council to consider at an appropriate time, but the present is not that appropriate time.

QUESTION: Can you explain why? I mean, is there --

MR. ERELI: Well, the UN inspectors were there to implement UN -- were there to ensure the -- ensure the compliance or inspect for compliance with UN resolutions concerning Iraqi disarmament; events have overtaken those resolutions.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay. But you have 1,200 people looking for weapons of mass destruction, or at least you did have, and some of those allegedly -- or reportedly, should I say, being diverted to other missions which are more urgent. Why would you turn down an offer of extra personnel to continue that mission when you don't have the personnel to do it yourself?

MR. ERELI: I think you're getting -- you're getting ahead of yourself in the question. It's not -- it's not certain that an offer has been made, and I don't -- don't accept the suggestion that there's a shortage of people to do the job. And further, I would contend that David Kay and the Iraq Survey Group is doing -- is very important, they're making progress. They will have a final report based on exhaustive searching and analysis, and that that report will give us a fair and accurate picture of what the state of Iraq's WMD program is and was.


QUESTION: Adam, you've probably answered this in recent days, forgive me, but what is the U.S. position on David -- David Kay -- on Mohamed ElBaradei's request for the classified version of David Kay's weapons report?

MR. ERELI: We've seen reports of that request. We are looking into it.

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: Can you announce travel for Deputy Secretary Armitage?

MR. ERELI: Not at this time. What I can say is that, as you know, Deputy Secretary Armitage was planning to -- had plans to go to the Middle East earlier this fall. For a variety of, really, circumstantial reasons, those plans were postponed. We're looking at, you know, rescheduling, rescheduling the travel, and I would hope to have something for you soon.

QUESTION: But it's possible he's leaving tomorrow -- very soon?

MR. ERELI: I would say we are -- as I said, we are looking to reschedule the trip, but I don't have any dates to announce for you today.

QUESTION: Who will announce it for you?

QUESTION: Don't make any promises, Adam.

QUESTION: And, of course, he'll probably have scads of stuff now about his meeting with the Russian legislature yesterday, late yesterday.

MR. ERELI: Scads may be an overstatement, but I do have stuff.


QUESTION: You let him off the subject too easily.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, the subject --

MR. ERELI: As you know, Deputy Secretary Armitage met with Sergey Mironov, Chairman of the Russian Parliament's Federation Council yesterday afternoon. They discussed a number of issues, including the war on terrorism and Russia's struggle against HIV/AIDS. The Deputy Secretary did note that the Yukos case has raised, including among some Russian officials, concerns, and stressed that the case needs to be judged fairly and via due process of the law applied non-selectively.

QUESTION: Adam, I'm sorry. Can we flip back for a second to Teri's question? I don't know when he's leaving, but I have a sense that it isn't weeks from now. Is there a Palestinian for him to meet with at this point? Because there's some -- you know, there's some formation of a cabinet, the influx -- I didn't check today, but I didn't think there was a cabinet yet.

MR. ERELI: Right. On the subject of the Palestinian cabinet, nothing new to report today.

QUESTION: But is he going there?

QUESTION: No, but I mean if -- you go to the Middle East --

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: -- presumably to work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I guess.

MR. ERELI: Like I said, on the Palestinian cabinet -- nothing new to report. On Secretary Armitage's travel, when we have something confirmed, firm to announce, we'll do that.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

QUESTION: Another travel question?


QUESTION: Are you expecting a visit by a Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang in the near future? This -- did this come up in the Secretary's conversation with Minister Li on, I guess it would be yesterday morning -- or Monday morning? When was it? Yesterday morning.

QUESTION: Yesterday.

QUESTION: Yesterday morning.

MR. ERELI: Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Washington November 6 to 8 to brief U.S. officials on his recent visit to North Korea -- on his recent visit to North Korea with National People's Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo, and to discuss diplomatic efforts to achieve a peaceful end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Vice Minister Wang will meet tomorrow with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly. Details on other possible meetings at the State Department and elsewhere are still being worked out.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that he brings you news on the prospects for six-party talks?

MR. ERELI: I think that will be an issue for discussion, and he will, as I said, he will be briefing us on his and National People's Congress Chairman's, Wu Bangguo's visit to Pyongyang.

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: Back on Yukos.

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Did we finish with China?

QUESTION: North Korea?

MR. ERELI: North Korea.

QUESTION: Do you have anything new on the security assurance to North Korea?


QUESTION: And is any proposal from U.S. part going to be discussed with Chinese Foreign -- Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi this time?

MR. ERELI: I -- we will discuss views on six-party talks and how to move forward in that -- in convening another round.

QUESTION: And do you have any, like, other, like, peaceful proposal, like a peace treaty or something?

MR. ERELI: Not to speak about today.

I'm sorry. Christophe, did you have a question?

QUESTION: Yes, about Cambodia.

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. China, still on China? North Korea?



MR. ERELI: China.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary of State Mr. Powell met with Chinese leader Qian Qichen today, and did they talked about North Korea? If they did --

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you on the Secretary's meetings in A&M -- in College Station today. I'm sorry.

Back to Yukos. I'm sorry, Teri.

QUESTION: Yukos for $200, please.


The Russian ambassador today released a statement criticizing some remarks by John McCain, who I know, of course, is not a State Department official, but he says that he hopes that the Administration will give Senator McCain's statements the assessment it deserves, meaning, in his view, obviously, a negative one. And I'm wondering if, if besides this public statement if the ambassador -- if the embassy has also made a protest to the State Department.

MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of any communication between the Ambassador and the State Department on this issue.

QUESTION: On Yukos at all -- I mean, on U.S. official comments?

MR. ERELI: Right. Right. I'm not aware of it. Obviously, you know, Senator McCain is a member of Congress and he has -- he has every right to make what statements he wants on this, and they reflect his personal concerns about Russia, and I don't think it's appropriate for us to comment on his views.

QUESTION: But you -- his analysis is rather dreary. It's rather pessimistic that we're practically back in the Stalinist-era. Have things gone that badly? Have you been criticized?

MR. ERELI: I'd tell you what our position is, which is, as the Deputy Secretary said yesterday, as I said yesterday, which is this is an issue that all of us, all of us, you know, in the government, in the private sector and in Russia, for that matter, are watching closely with concern.

QUESTION: You had nothing to say, by the way, on the appointments of, you know, U.S. citizens or American born or whatever -- giving an American face to Yukos. Have you -- has the State Department thought about that and had -- have anything to say now? MR. ERELI: If they have, I don't have anything to share with you.


MR. ERELI: Samir.

QUESTION: Do you have any -- do you know of any plans for Ambassador Burns to visit the Middle East before this weekend?

MR. ERELI: Again, nothing that I'm -- nothing that I'm -- we're ready to announce yet.

QUESTION: Well, if the Deputy Secretary goes to the area and the Assistant Secretary goes to the area, do you think they'll go separately? Or is it a tandem?

MR. ERELI: It could be one of either or neither.

QUESTION: Hmm. Very intriguing.

MR. ERELI: Which is why we're not announcing anything.

Yes, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Another issue. The Olympic games. Adam, last Monday, the UN General Assembly, with 189 votes of the member-states, passed the resolution about the Olympic truce introduced by the Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. ERELI: Could you repeat the question?

QUESTION: The question is that the UN General Assembly, last Monday, passed the resolution about the Olympic truce.

MR. ERELI: Truce?

QUESTION: Yes, truce. Introduced by the Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Any comment on that?

MR. ERELI: I'd have to look into that, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Okay. The other question is, according to Reuters News Agency, your government is going to deploy some kind of U.S. military personnel in order to protect your athletes during the Olympic Games in Athens. I ask your colleague in the FBI about that, and he told me that since it's a political decision I should address this question to the State Department.

Could you please clarify what is going on?

MR. ERELI: We looked into that report before coming out here, and there's no basis for it. There's no basis in fact for a report that we'll be deploying troops to Greece to protect athletes during the Olympics.

QUESTION: But I'm saying U.S. personnel.

MR. ERELI: I thought you said troops.

QUESTION: Yes, the dispatch is mentioning U.S. military personnel, unless it's something else. I don't know.

MR. ERELI: Yeah. Those -- to my knowledge, there are no plans to deploy U.S. military personnel to Greece to protect American athletes during the Olympics.

QUESTION: I've heard reports, too, that there are something like a hundred personnel being dispatched by the State Department to guard the U.S. delegation of athletes. Is that not correct?

MR. ERELI: I'll have to look into it. I mean, we normally have -- there are a variety of security measures that we take for, you know, for international events. What are the precise details of planning for the Olympics, I can check into you -- check into it and get back to you.

I would just reiterate our view that, you know, in answer to these questions that basically we believe that Greece has both the will and the resources to hold a secure and successful Olympics. We have every confidence they will and we are working closely with them to do whatever we can to be of assistance.

One more follow-up?

QUESTION: Yes. The Reuters News Agency, for the first time, characterizes the November 17 organization as a guerrilla group, giving a political dimension to -- on this crucial matter. I am wondering, do you consider November 17 a guerrilla group or a terrorist group?

MR. ERELI: A Foreign Terrorist Organization, I think, is how we describe it. Foreign Terrorist Organization.

QUESTION: Is it still in business? The Greeks say they wiped it out.

MR. ERELI: We've been over that ground pretty recently. Nothing's changed.

QUESTION: Are there any --

MR. ERELI: Nothing's changed since we've last pronounced on it.

I'm sorry, you had a question.

QUESTION: You said yesterday you didn't see the Turkish Ambassador's remarks and today the Kurdish chief and current president of the Iraqi Governing Council, I quote, said, "The question of sending Turkish troops soldiers is closed." It's kind of contradictory to what you've been saying.

MR. ERELI: It's also contradictory to what the Turkish Ambassador said yesterday, isn't it?

QUESTION: Well, I'm asking your point of view.

MR. ERELI: I'd say there are lots of contradictions, and our understanding or our view is that Turkish troops could play a useful and valuable role in helping the security situation in Iraq, and we continue to look to ways to facilitate that.

QUESTION: So it's not closed, in your opinion?

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. ERELI: It's not closed.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. ERELI: Do you have a follow-up? I'm sorry, does the question --

QUESTION: Another. You know, did you see the EU report on Turkey?

MR. ERELI: Yes, we did.

QUESTION: Any comment on that?

MR. ERELI: The U.S. is not a member of the EU. We do strongly support Turkey's European aspirations, and specifically Turkey's bid to receive a date to open EU accession negotiations at the December 2004 European Council. We welcome the report released by the European Commission today that describes Turkey's progress to date toward fulfilling the criteria for opening EU accession talks. We believe the report is a positive and objective assessment of Turkey's progress and we congratulate Turkey and encourage them to continue to implement the reforms needed to meet the criteria.

QUESTION: There is also a warning to Turkish Government on Cyprus, and the Turkish Foreign Minister rejects your warning that it should not be a precondition for the bids for EU membership? Do you have any comment on that?

MR. ERELI: We -- our view is that we agree with the language in the commission report that says a Cyprus settlement on the basis of UN Secretary General Annan's peace plan should be found by May 1 of next year. That has been our position for a long time. Beyond that, I don't really have anything to say.

QUESTION: Do you know how long to take troops there?

MR. ERELI: Wait, you want to do on the EU report?


MR. ERELI: And then we'll go to --

QUESTION: Maybe we should have an overall assessment about the recent trip to the area by Ambassador Tom Weston on the Cyprus issue, upon the completion of his mission.

MR. ERELI: Yes, Ambassador Weston's trip -- I think it ended at the beginning of last week. It went well. And based on his meetings with all the parties to the Cyprus question, he returned optimistic about prospects for a renewed movement toward a Cyprus settlement, following the December 14th Turkish Cypriot elections. He will return to the region in the coming weeks to continue to press U.S. views on the way ahead to a Cyprus settlement and to discuss this with all the parties.

Jonathan, on the Turkish --

QUESTION: Several other things the Turkish ambassador said. First of all, he said --

MR. ERELI: This is yesterday?

QUESTION: This is yesterday, yes. He said -- well you didn't have anything yesterday on it. He said the United States should press the Governing Council harder to accept Turkish troops. Is that something you intend to -- advice you intend to follow?

MR. ERELI: The United States, as I said, is working with all the parties to come to a mutually agreeable way to bring Turkish troops into Iraq so that they can help support the security needs of the country.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.

QUESTION: Okay. I have a follow-up, too.

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Continue.

QUESTION: Yeah, and the other aspect of this is, he disputes your view that the Turkish Government should deal directly with the IGC on this matter and says it should all be done by you. Is that -- what's your position on this at the moment?

MR. ERELI: You know, I really don't want to get into a back and forth from here about, you know, what the Turkish ambassador said, what we said, et cetera, et cetera. But what I would reiterate is that we are working with all parties to do what we can to help the Iraqi people and help move Iraq forward in a way that enhances security, enhances freedom, and enhances prosperity. And to the extent that we can work together to do that, it would be great.

QUESTION: Follow-up?

MR. ERELI: Follow-up.

QUESTION: Still, you know, it's not clear to me -- then you say you're working with all the parties, but by saying -- to the question of sending Turkish soldiers is closed, Talibani is closing the door for any talks with you on this matter?

MR. ERELI: You'll have to ask Talibani.

QUESTION: And on the same subject. His comments on favoritism. His criticisms of --

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I would reject any notion of favoritism. We stand by -- we believe in the territorial integrity of Iraq. We believe in developing a political system that represents all Iraqis equally, and ensures their access to and participation in the political affairs of their country.

QUESTION: So do you think that the representation of various Iraqi ethnic and religious groups in the Governing Council and in the Cabinet is balanced?

MR. ERELI: I would say it's a goal that we're working towards. And that's what -- that's what the future of Iraq as a political entity should look like -- fair representation of the broad ethnic diversity that is that country.


QUESTION: Another country. Cambodia. Do you have any comments on the decision by three political parties to form a coalition government with Hun Sen as Chief of Government?

MR. ERELI: Right. I hadn't seen those reports. I know that we had -- we were -- supportive of a coalition, one that represents, you know, all the elected -- all the elected parties in Cambodia. But as far as the latest developments in the negotiations for that coalition, I'll have to check and get back to you.

QUESTION: Anything about the meeting between Deputy Secretary Armitage and South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister this afternoon?

MR. ERELI: The Deputy Secretary and South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-Hyuck will meet this afternoon to discuss the situation in Iraq, including matters related to South Korea's further contribution of forces, as well as the subject of North Korea and other issues. He will also meet later today, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Korea, with Assistant Secretary Kelly to discuss North Korea and other concerns, as well as with Under Secretary of Management, Grant Green to discuss embassy facility issues.

QUESTION: Embassy facility issues, what does that mean in this context?

MR. ERELI: I don't have details for you, Jonathan. I guess there are probably some questions that are between our two governments that need to be resolved.

QUESTION: Meeting in Washington or in Baghdad?

MR. ERELI: Baghdad? No, I think in -- in maybe Seoul.

QUESTION: Oh, Seoul.

MR. ERELI: Yeah.


MR. ERELI: You've had a question in the back. Yes.

QUESTION: Your reaction on the Sri Lankan President's declaration of emergencies?

MR. ERELI: Nothing more than what we said yesterday.

QUESTION: Well, didn't she escalate, though, with today?

MR. ERELI: Our view remains that it's important that Sri Lanka remain committed to the peace process and democratic institutions, and that's what we're looking for.

Yes, Andrea.

QUESTION: I didn't see anything. I don't know if it was sent out and I just missed it -- on the -- just kind of going back to the KEDO discussion you had yesterday, what the legalistic difference between stop and suspend.

MR. ERELI: Yeah, there wasn't -- it wasn't sent out because there -- I guess, contrary to what, the assumption yesterday, there isn't really a fine legal distinction. We want to see the program end.

QUESTION: Is there any update on -- because the last time we spoke, at the briefing, the talks hadn't wrapped up. Do you have any kind of statement now that they have?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, yeah. I gave it earlier.

QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.

MR. ERELI: That's okay.

QUESTION: I missed the top.

MR. ERELI: Well, basically, the talk are over. They issued a statement. They'll announce their decision November 21st.


MR. ERELI: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: It seems that the situation in Georgia of the parliamentary elections are becoming pretty tense. As far as I understand, U.S. Ambassador to Tbilisi demanding meeting with President Shevardnadze earlier today, and I wonder if you can tell us whether this meeting took place and what the Ambassador told the President.

MR. ERELI: Our Ambassador to Georgia, Ambassador Miles, met with President Shevardnadze today to review the latest developments in the Georgian elections. He made just the following points: that timely, transparent and accurate tabulation and reporting of the vote count is essential to restoring voter confidence; and that the Georgian Central Election Commission's delay in providing a full and accurate vote count raises serious concerns in this regard.

We have already expressed our concern about the problems with the voter list and we made it clear that the Central Election Commission should do everything possible to correct election day errors now, during tabulation of votes, by throwing out egregious cases of fraud. We urge President Shevardnadze to ensure the integrity of the election and thereby bolster the partnership between our two nations.

QUESTION: Were you satisfied with his response?

MR. ERELI: I think that President Shevardnadze understands the seriousness of our concerns and will undertake to be responsive.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. One question?

QUESTION: Yes. Is the U.S. engaged with any Palestinians to have input on the reported tussle between Arafat and Qureia over the security chief? And is this a matter that you're awaiting the resolution of, and in order to go ahead and dispatch the folks from here?

MR. ERELI: We are making clear to -- we regularly make it known to the Palestinians and make clear our view that a Palestinian Prime Minister has to be empowered, given the authority to -- over all Palestinian security forces, and the capability of moving against them. That's been our longstanding position, and we reiterate it at every opportunity.

QUESTION: Do you have any individuals in mind that you would prefer to see in that position, other than --

MR. ERELI: No, as we always say, this isn't about personalities; it's about -- it's about performance. So it's a question of institutions, and the institutions having the -- having the powers to act, and the officials acting.

QUESTION: So you're -- so the U.S. is not trying to get involved in that? Is that --

MR. ERELI: We are making our view known, which is that the Palestinian Prime Minister needs to have the authority and needs to be empowered, and the Palestinian cabinet needs to make clear its opposition to terror and take tangible steps against terror organizations operating in territories that it's responsible for.


QUESTION: I apologize. But, if I could, you hadn't known about the Spanish Embassy pullout yesterday. Do you have any comment on the Spanish Embassy decision and on the decision of several of the embassies of coalition allies to reduce their diplomatic forces in Baghdad?

MR. ERELI: Right. Not really, other than to note that, you know, that the Spanish are withdrawing some of their diplomatic personnel. They remain very much a part of the coalition. They have a large number of personnel in Iraq helping the coalition to preserve security. I think the number is over a thousand, so that the Spanish commitment, as far as we're concerned, remains strong and supportive and effective.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)


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