State Department Briefing, December 5, 2003

 

Friday  December 5, 2003

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2003
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:55 p.m. EST
BRIEFER: J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

Index

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
Secretary Powell's Meeting with Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo
Status of Roadmap

INDIA/PAKISTAN
Talks with India and Pakistan

SYRIA/ISRAEL
Peace Talks

IRAQ
Appointment of Former Secretary James A. Baker, III as Special Envoy on Iraqi Debt
Proposals for War Crimes Tribunals
Crimes of Saddam Hussein

NIGERIA/LIBERIA
Worldwide Warrant on Charles Taylor

RUSSIA
Russian Elections
Terrorist Attack on Commuter Train

CUBA
Commission on Assistance to Free Cuba

KOREA
Six-Party Talks

VIETNAM
Visit by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan

TAIWAN
President Chen's Pledge in Inaugural Address
U.S. Views of Referendum


MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everybody. Sorry for the delay.

We'll be putting out a statement following the briefing on the Secretary's meeting with the drafters of the Geneva Initiative. It was a good, constructive meeting with this private group who has drafted a private plan. It provided a good opportunity for us to listen to their ideas.

The Secretary reaffirmed America's commitment to President Bush's vision articulated on June 24th, 2002, of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. He also explained that the Quartet roadmap provides the appropriate pathway for moving to the realization of that vision and that there are no shortcuts along the way.

He stated that the aspirations for peace and Palestinian statehood could be achieved only through committed efforts to end all terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations, and promote genuine reform, giving Palestinians new and democratic leadership. Similarly, we made the point that Israel must meet its responsibilities under the roadmap.

The drafters of the Initiative pointed out that this document is complementary to the roadmap. It is intended to help the roadmap to be implemented. It is designed to strengthen the credibility of the roadmap with the peoples of both countries and the region as a whole. And they also made the point that it contributed to a renewed discussion of the peace process in general.

So, in sum, I guess I would say it was a good and interesting discussion and we welcome it.

QUESTION: Is that what the statement -- is that the statement?

MR. ERELI: More or less.

QUESTION: It pretty much tracks what the President said yesterday.

You know, in a sense, you're talking past -- the State Department is talking past the main point here. They say, and you say, it complements the roadmap. So they keep saying that the -- you have a roadmap, and the roadmap's a good way to go. Their argument is, yeah, but there are a lot of holes. It doesn't spell out the solution to most of the key issues, and what they're proposing is a series of solutions to those issues.

So the roadmap -- they're not complaining about your roadmap, they're trying to add to it. Has the Secretary heard anything today about adding to the roadmap that is worthy of taking into consideration?

MR. ERELI: I think our point, and we come away from this meeting more convinced than ever that the roadmap is the way to go, that the President's vision is what responds to the needs and desires of both parties and both peoples, and that negotiating and moving forward in good faith with the roadmap is the way to get to that vision. The ideas discussed today we're not, in any way, contradictory or at cross purposes with the President's vision or with the roadmap.

QUESTION: Listen. Let me try. I hear you. Let me try to pursue it a little bit more. The fact that the roadmap doesn't go into details is not because there is some lack of thought among the people, the four groups that put it together. It's based on the proposition that you want to do a couple of important interim things, and then those things can be addressed. Correct?

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: These folks want now to say how that will come out. All right? Are you saying, when you say "more than ever," that the Administration still believes, having heard these guys, that the roadmap is the best way to go in the sense that you leave unsaid, you leave for later, dealing with, and you know, I can tick off all the issues, but I don't want to do that, leaving those issues for discussion and negotiation down the road, once you get these phases concluded? Is that fair?

MR. ERELI: The roadmap specifies in the third phase that the final issues will be negotiated, and that plan is in no way altered or compromised by today's meeting.

QUESTION: So I don't understand, then. If you're more convinced than ever that the roadmap is the way to go now, what is the value, or is there any value, to this alternative plan, in the U.S. view?

MR. ERELI: The discussion that we had today was an opportunity to exchange ideas.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. ERELI: The fact is that there are deep --

QUESTION: Let me ask -- I meant, instead of repeating that you've just said, which I know is probably what you're about to do, let me put it this way, perhaps. Does the United States see any value in this alternative peace plan?

MR. ERELI: I think we welcome the exchange of ideas, and that --

QUESTION: No, I'm sorry, let me ask you --

MR. ERELI: We welcome the exchange the ideas. We think that today's discussion and the ideas presented are good points of departure for discussion.

QUESTION: Good points of departure for discussion on the roadmap?

MR. ERELI: And I would say that --

QUESTION: Or on their own?

MR. ERELI: On -- of the ideas. Look, the people of the region have to resolve deep and abiding questions about their future.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. ERELI: That is a natural process.

QUESTION: Yes, and here you have --

MR. ERELI: People are talking -- can I finish? Can I finish?

QUESTION: Well --

MR. ERELI: People are talking about that. There's nothing wrong with people talking about that. There's nothing to run away from about people talking about it. These are ideas that are out there. These are people who are putting forward some suggestions, some ideas. There's nothing wrong and there's nothing inconsistent with our pursuing the roadmap to have discussions with those people.

QUESTION: All right. Adam, you consistently -- everyone says the people of the region are going to have to do this themselves, okay? All right. In the end, that's how peace is going to -- it's not going to be imposed by the United States or by anybody else. They're going to have to come to an agreement, right?

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Here you have real people from the region who have actually sat down and come up with something, okay, that is -- well, you say complementary to, or they say is complementary to, a proposal, an outside plan.

MR. ERELI: The roadmap is not an outside plan.

QUESTION: What do you mean it's not an outside plan? Of course it is. It's sponsored by the Quartet.

MR. ERELI: The roadmap is something that has been devised in close consultation and cooperation with both parties; otherwise, they wouldn't be signing up to it.

QUESTION: They have.

MR. ERELI: And they have.

QUESTION: They didn't draft it, though.

MR. ERELI: They were very much a part of the drafting of this -- the roadmap.

QUESTION: Listen, I appreciate, for one, your willingness to get into some of the nitty gritty, the nuances of this thing, so let me push you a little further. But it's not an unfair approach because these folks come down and, not only today but before today, speak in terms of people. In other words, they are trying to stimulate discussion among Israeli and Palestinian people. Their game plan -- and I don't think I'm misrepresenting it -- is to create support for this among the populaces. And they claim that they're doing well. And Matt's question also was put in terms of people.

So let me ask you this, and you know all the nuances involved. Is this agreement -- will peace be determined by governments, the Government of Israel, which thinks this plan is absurd and dangerous, or will they be determined by some groundswell of public opinion?

MR. ERELI: I think we've stated very clearly that a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians is going to be decided on by the governments, and there's no question or doubt about that -- the governments that represent constitutionally and legitimately the interests of the people.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: Adam.

MR. ERELI: Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: To put it in another way in this discussion, both sides have territorial, I guess, points, in which you want concessions which will lead to this roadmap --

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry --

QUESTION: And there also vested interests of both PR, public relations, and also the political interests. Now, counter to this, the terrorist groups, they don't want this either because they, in turn, want this crisis to continue in the territories and such.

Was this discussion today more practical than political? And another way of pointing to both Barry's question and Matt's question, does anything that was discussed today offer another manner to get to that finished roadmap without bumps in the road?

MR. ERELI: There wasn't discussion of another manner to get to the end of the roadmap. There was agreement that the roadmap is the way to the President's vision, number one. And number two, it was also agreed that for progress to be made on the roadmap, there has to be an end to terror, there has to be an end to violence. There was no question or debate about that issue.

QUESTION: Now a follow-up. This week, apparently, both the Indians and Pakistanis seem to be working together. As you know, there are now rail links and all these type of advancements to end this Kashmir dispute. And is it that the governments were doing this, or the people themselves? Is it similar, in other words?

MR. ERELI: I wouldn't draw parallels. I don't think that it's particularly useful, at this point.

QUESTION: One last technical -- or, at least, one technical, then you want to change the subject.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: They came down and said, several times, but sort of an indefinite way, that this discussion with the Administration will continue. In other words -- I don't know the precise words. They didn't say next Tuesday, or a week from Monday, but they wanted to leave the impression, clearly, that this is just the first in a series of contacts, or at least there will be at least a second contact with the Administration on this.

We didn't have any U.S. person down there. So you're the U.S. person. Is the Secretary or any other part of the Administration, that you know of, planning to meet with these folks again?

MR. ERELI: There are no plans, that I'm aware of, for another meeting with the Secretary. It wouldn't surprise me if, at some point, some officials at some level of the U.S. Government had some contact on some aspect of this Initiative with some of the drafters. I wouldn't rule that out.

Yes, Carol.

QUESTION: That actually had been my question, but I'd had another one. And that is -- and I apologize if I came in after you had already addressed this -- but how long exactly was the Secretary speaking with these people?

MR. ERELI: About between 20 and 30 minutes.

QUESTION: And how long was the overall meeting, do you know?

MR. ERELI: It was about, I think, over an hour.

QUESTION: Mr. Burns was in there, Mr. Abrams was in there?

MR. ERELI: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: And so the Secretary didn't -- we expected him to be in there about 30 minutes. And although they came out an hour later than we expected, it wasn't -- that wasn't meeting with the Secretary?

MR. ERELI: He wasn't there the whole time. He was not there the whole time. He was there at --

QUESTION: Just 30 minutes?

MR. ERELI: -- for about 20 or 30 minutes.

QUESTION: And then, he left and they continued discussions with Burns and Abrams and others?

MR. ERELI: Yes, mm-hmm.

Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: Adam, this spring, there was a report in an Israeli newspaper that said that Ambassador Blackwell was going to become a senior advisor to Dr. Rice at the NSC on Middle East issues. And in response to that report, a senior official described it to reporters as -- said that -- suggested that the Israeli reporter who wrote this was the victim of a practical joke. And an even more senior official said then, at the time -- the most senior official -- Bob -- quote -- "Bob is going back to Harvard." Now, we all know what happened there.

In July, The Washington Post purported that former Secretary Baker would take a position in terms of dealing with Iraq and its debt and trying to bring people on board. At the time, Ambassador Boucher described that from this podium as, "totally wrong, false, inaccurate, insubstantial, neither Baker nor the Secretary had ever heard about it, it's a dead parrot."

This morning, the White House announced that, in fact, former Secretary Baker is going to be this person and is going to take this job.

So my question is: What's going on here? Is the State Department just completely out of the loop? And how -- you know, what role is the Department playing right now in the formation of the foreign policy of the United States?

MR. ERELI: In July, when the question was asked -- or when the report surfaced, I should say -- we checked. And we checked with the individuals who were the subject of the reports. And those individuals said that that was the first they'd heard of such discussions, and that's what we reported from the podium. And that remains the case. That has not changed.

The appointment that was announced today was the subject of discussions with senior members of the Administration, including the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: When?

MR. ERELI: Over the last few months.

QUESTION: Do you not regard, though, that not coming out and perhaps saying that things had changed is somewhat puzzling?

MR. ERELI: I don't think there's any -- I don't think -- no. I think that if you had asked, if the question had been asked last month, the same question that had been asked July 28th, we would have checked and the answer would have been different. But when we were asked, we checked, and we gave you the answer that we had.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. In response to another Washington Post story that suggested that the Secretary and his Deputy, Mr. Armitage, wouldn't be staying around for a second Bush Administration -- if there was to be a second Administration -- the Deputy Secretary, in a radio interview, said -- dismissed this as "nonsense," and said, "Well, this same paper reported that former Secretary Baker is going to take a senior position with Iraq."

You know, what is this? Is there an apology owed here to someone?

MR. ERELI: I don't think so. I think the --

QUESTION: Or is the State Department intentionally misleading people on subjects like this?

MR. ERELI: Neither. No apology is owed, and we're not misleading people, simply because when the reports were written, we checked the facts, and we reported the facts as we knew them. And those facts haven't changed and haven't subsequently proven to be wrong.

QUESTION: Adam, I think this means that our way of doing things needs some revision. We're going to have to keep bringing up things that we think were put to rest --

MR. ERELI: Yeah, that's what we do every day.

QUESTION: Well, we do and we don't. You know, we'd have a four-hour briefing if we brought up or recycled everything ever asked -- more than four hours. So let me turn the page and let me begin a new chapter.

(Laughter.)

MR. ERELI: On an old subject?

QUESTION: Does it --

MR. ERELI: No, I'm just kidding -- just kidding.

QUESTION: No, and I know in this case -- and maybe in the other case, too -- I have no reason to believe you would particularly know, but I'd like to know. And if you don't know today, I'll ask Monday.

Is the Administration actively, either through a U.S. official or through a former official, pursuing the possibility of negotiations between Syria and Israel?

MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of. I will check. If there's any change in that that we can publicly talk about, I will let you know.

QUESTION: Excuse me. Fine. But if it turns out you decide -- you find out that it's going on but you shouldn't talk about it, how are you going to communicate this to us?

(Laughter.)

MR. ERELI: Let's --

QUESTION: Let's go to --

MR. ERELI: Let's deal with that bridge when we cross it.

QUESTION: Gotcha.

MR. ERELI: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Adam, can we return to Iraq, please? The Iraqis announced that they were going to create the war criminals tribunals --

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: -- possibly by Sunday. Who should appear before these war crimes tribunals, do you think? Should the deck of 55 or --

MR. ERELI: Right. Frankly, this is a report that we've just seen. It is -- it is something that the Iraqi Governing Council has raised as a possibility, according to the reports. I'd refer you to them and the Coalition Provisional Authority for more -- for fleshing out of their ideas. I think it's understandable that they would want to -- that Iraqis would want to -- hold responsible, or hold accountable, those responsible for the horrific crimes that were committed under the Hussein regime.

But their specific ideas about how to do that, I think, are probably pretty formative at this stage and something you should talk to them about. I don't have a lot more than that for you at this point.

QUESTION: Is Bremer being contacted on this?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, that's why I referred you to --

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. ERELI: That's why I would refer you to Bremer and to the Iraqi Governing Council, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Governing Council.

QUESTION: Is this just domestic or international?

MR. ERELI: Really, I think this is something that they're going to have to work out according to what their ideas are. Let them -- let them -- You know, as in all things with the Iraqis, we are there to support them, we are there to help them, we are there to help build a more stable and freer Iraq than was in the past. We will work with them as they go through that process.

Obviously, accounting for the past is part of that. How that is structured, what measures are taken, the scope of the effort are all very good questions, and all things that have yet to be determined. You know, obviously, I guess, as discussions move forward, and they request our views, we'll share them. We'll share those views with them. But I don't have anything for you right now to give, to answer your specific questions, which are good questions.

QUESTION: Are you surprised that they -- they're going to do this? Are you surprised that they've taken this step?

MR. ERELI: It's not a surprise to hear them thinking about this, no. It's not new. This has been a subject that's been out there for a while. So, you know, this is an indication that maybe they're moving in a new direction, or moving forward on this idea. But it's just a report. It's a report that I really haven't been able to get to the bottom of. So I don't want to sort of go into it because I just don't know what the facts are, frankly.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: I don't recall this, frankly. I know there is a working group in the -- a number of working groups on Iraq --

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: -- that the State Department headed up. I know there was one on justice and the judiciary. But I don't recall whether it was a separate one on war crimes, or whether war crimes came under this. Do you recall?

MR. ERELI: I don't.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: I don't.

QUESTION: Adam, a follow-up.

MR. ERELI: Yes, George.

QUESTION: The idea of holding Saddam Hussein accountable for his crimes has been dealt with by successive administrations here. Has that -- is that work still going on, or did the situation change when he was driven from power?

MR. ERELI: No, I think the fact is that new information is coming out every day about the depradations of the regime of Saddam Hussein, both him personally as leader and those who carried out his policies and his orders. And that information is being, I would say, carefully saved and collected for, you know, the eventual purpose that it might serve in holding these people to account. But beyond that, in terms of planning, I'm not aware of anything specific.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: Similarly, I believe Interpol now has a worldwide warrant for Charles Taylor. What can you tell us about that particular issue? And also, how is Liberia doing, in the last month or so, since he's left to Nigeria.

MR. ERELI: Yeah. I don't have much beyond what we said yesterday on this subject. As you note, there was an International Wanted Person Notice issued on December 4th for Charles Taylor. That Red Notice gives additional authorities to local law enforcement to take actions, should they so desire. We've made it clear that we want to see Charles Taylor brought to justice and we're working toward that end.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you guys have anything on the elections in Russia on Sunday?

MR. ERELI: I would say, in general, we are following the developments there closely. We believe that it is critical that the elections meet international standards for freedom and fairness. How they are conducted will demonstrate the commitment of the Russian Government and people to deepening democracy.

For our part, we will have about 70 officials from our embassy, and three consulates across Russia, as well as several from Washington, among the 400 OSCE election observers in the country.

QUESTION: Adam, the self-styled foreign minister of Chechnya is going to be in town next week. Is he coming here to meet with anyone?

MR. ERELI: Let me check on that, Matt. I'm not sure.

QUESTION: And, yeah, could you -- and also, especially in relation that your calls for that government, or that quasi-government, to end any contact with terrorists -- and in light of the attack today on the train, I'd be interested in knowing who, if the foreign minister is going to meet with anyone, and if this is a subject that's going to come up.

MR. ERELI: I'll get back to you on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: No comment on the train?

MR. ERELI: The train. We resolutely condemn this latest terrorist act that killed and injured people on a commuter train in the south of Russia. We extend our condolences to the victims and family members of today's attack. State Department officials have conveyed condolences to the Russian authorities this morning. We reiterate our condemnation of those who engaged in terrorism. No cause, no circumstances, justify such actions.

George.

QUESTION: The Secretary was involved in a Cuba-related meeting today at the White House. Are you handling that or is the White House?

MR. ERELI: What do you want to know?

QUESTION: What happened?

MR. ERELI: The Secretary of State and Secretary Martinez chaired the first meeting of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which President Bush directed be established on October 10th. This commission will involve a number of U.S. departments and agencies, including USAID, Health and -- Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Treasury, Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Council.

The commission has two principal goals: first, to identify additional ways the United States can hasten a democratic transition in Cuba; and, second, to consider requirements for assistance to a free Cuba. The commission is supposed to present an initial report to the President on May 1.

At this meeting today, Secretary Powell and Secretary Martinez discussed the commission's mission and were brought up to date on implementation of tougher enforcement activities announced by the President on October 10th.

The commission will canvass the views of interested individuals and organizations. Its primary focus will be to prepare the U.S. Government to hasten Cuba's transition, and support that transition once it's underway.

The report that it's going to prepare on May 1st will be the commission's organizing document. And so that's really what they were focusing on.

QUESTION: Can you -- is there anything you can share with us on tougher enforcement?

MR. ERELI: At this point, not really. I don't have a lot of details. It was the first meeting of the commission, so beyond what I just gave you, I don't have a lot more.

QUESTION: On that commission's mandate to look at hastening ways to -- for a democratic transition, does that -- is anything taken off the table there? Are they looking at military options, as well? Or is it all kind of peaceful or is it --

MR. ERELI: I'm not -- frankly, I couldn't tell you what the, sort of, scope of actions they're looking at is. Let me see if I can get you a more considered answer to the question.

Joel.

QUESTION: This coming Monday, there is a group that, or many groups, I suppose, are sponsoring a movie, a screening, with -- on Hugo Chavez on the role in Venezuela. I don't know whether the movie is centered or left-wing, but their guest speaker is Harry Bellefonte and he has criticized, in the recent past, the Secretary. Will you be monitoring that type of event?

MR. ERELI: I was not aware of the event, so I'd -- let me ask the people that would be monitoring it. But not to my knowledge.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: From yesterday's bilateral and trilateral meetings between the U.S., Japan, the South Koreans, do you have anything to say about the agreement in providing the security assurance to North Korea?

MR. ERELI: I think Assistant Secretary Kelly spoke to this a little bit last night on the way, on escorting his, or our guests, out of the building after their meeting. What I have to say on that is that Assistant Secretary Kelly, Deputy Foreign Minister Lee and Director General Yabunaka had a useful and productive consultation.

Yesterday, in preparation for the next round of six-party talks, they, as you probably know by now, set no firm date, but we came away from it reaffirming our readiness to convene a second round before the end of the year, and believe that is possible.

I think the -- it was understood that the timing of the talks is a decision on which all parties must agree, and that North Korea has not yet agreed to specific dates for the talks.

QUESTION: Adam, in addition to saying all that, the Secretary also likened the process of getting the six countries to agree on, you know, an agenda and dates and everything to herding cats. And I'm wondering if you can tell us which countries the Department thinks are most feline in this respect.

(Laughter.)

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to handicap the cat herding.

QUESTION: No, well -- you would seem to -- your comment just now that, and yesterday, that North Korea is the sticking point, which seemed to suggest that that's -- that they are one cat in this, and that -- but, there are also -- but he used plural, so I'm just wondering, are there problems with the Japanese and the South Koreans and the Russians and the Chinese as well?

MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: I wanted to know if there any further consultations like this going to -- to be scheduled at this point.

MR. ERELI: These kinds of meetings are ongoing. Sometimes they take place in person, sometimes they take place by phone. As we've said before, this is intensive diplomatic activity. I would expect there to be other meetings. But I really don't have anything specific to report to you today. Obviously, the Premier of China will be here next week. This will be an issue of discussion.

QUESTION: Do you know if there's further consultations between the U.S. and the Japan, since the Japanese delegate's still here?

MR. ERELI: Right. Don't have anything specific for you on that. This lady's had a question for a while.

QUESTION: On Taiwan. You know that there are 500,000 people in Taiwan practicing Falun Gong. And on November 17th, several individuals filed a genocide lawsuit against the former head of China, Jiang Zemin, who is now the sitting chair of this interim military committee in mainland China.

And then, the Taiwan Bar Association passed a resolution to show their support of this kind of national efforts to bring Jiang to justice. Do you think it has anything to do with the current Taiwan straits situation?

MR. ERELI: No, I don't have any comment on that issue at all.

George.

QUESTION: The Secretary, I believe, is meeting with a senior Vietnamese official this afternoon. Will any news come out of that, for example, relating to the establishment of air links between the U.S. and Vietnam?

MR. ERELI: I believe that something was signed earlier.

QUESTION: Yesterday.

MR. ERELI: Yesterday, yeah. So --

QUESTION: I was busy on other matters.

(Laughter.)

MR. ERELI: Sorry. So I would refer you -- and a statement was put out.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the Chinese Premier's visit?

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: And apropos of Taiwan, since Monday, there seems to be a big hew and cry in the neo-con, you know, the President's neo-conservative supporters, about U.S. policy on Taiwan, and some debate over whether a senior official was sent to Taipei to basically read the riot act to President Chen and tell him not to -- to stop talking about or stop -- well, to stop talking about independence.

Is the Administration considering a change in the language, in the very precise but yet vague language, that it uses in talking about Taiwan and independence?

MR. ERELI: No, not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Nothing at all? And what about State's role in warning President Chen about talk, independence talk?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I think we've made it consistently clear that , you know, that the way we see it, President Chen pledged in his inaugural address in 2000 not to declare independence, not to change the name of Taiwan's government, not to add the "state-to-state theory" into the constitution, and not to promote a referendum to change the status quo on independence reunification.

We appreciated that pledge in 2000 and his subsequent reaffirmations of it, and we take that pledge very seriously.

QUESTION: And you don't think that he should break it?

MR. ERELI: We have urged both sides and continue to urge both sides to refrain from actions or statements that increase tensions or make dialogue more difficult.

QUESTION: There hasn't been any meetings that -- of the kind that Matt was just talking about, in which there have been, you know, to make sure they got the message?

MR. ERELI: Yeah. I don't have anything to report on those -- on any meetings.

QUESTION: Are you increasingly worried, though, that Chen is going to either be pushed over or jump over the line himself in the run-up to this next election? How concerned are you that they're reaching some sort of a danger point?

MR. ERELI: I think the approach we take is to, you know, both publicly and privately, make it as clear as we can to both sides that the solution to this issue is to be achieved through cross-strait dialogue; that that is what is needed, and that's what's essential to peace and stability in this part of the world. And that's how we sort of seek to help reduce tensions.

QUESTION: Well, you won't probably characterize how you -- the trend line?

MR. ERELI: No, no.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on these Bangladeshis who were arrested and then released in Bolivia for allegedly plotting to attack a U.S. facility?

MR. ERELI: No, I don't.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: Would you like us to look into it?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MR. ERELI: We'll look into it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Middle East?

MR. ERELI: We can go back to the Middle East.

QUESTION: Thank you. A prestigious Israeli military report yesterday charged the Israeli Government of exaggerating the intelligence reports about Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs before the war, indicating what they called, "inherent flaws among Israeli decision makers."

Do you see those findings affecting the American Administration's judgment of other or future Israeli intelligence reports, especially when they relate to allegation against an Arab country?

MR. ERELI: You know, I'm not an Israeli, and I'm not an intelligence expert, and I'm not an Israeli intelligence expert, so I have no basis on which to answer your question.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 p.m.)

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