State Department Noon Briefing, September 12, 2003
September 12, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
SEPTEMBER 12, 2003
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the State Department briefing for this Friday. I don't have any announcements, so - be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Iran's decision to walk out of the IAEA Board Meeting and its statement that it was going to have a "deeper view" of its cooperation with the cooperation with the IAEA.
MR. ERELI: I don't really want, at this point, to respond to those statements. I would note, as you say, that -- well, let's start from the beginning.
The resolution today at the IAEA was -- the resolution that we cosponsored and supported -- was adopted by the Board of Governors and by all 34 members of the Board of Governors, (35 members - including the United States) with the exception of Iran, who opposed by walking out before the resolution was adopted.
We certainly welcome the Board's adoption today of this resolution, which expresses grave concerns about Iran's nuclear activities. It also gives Iran an October 31st deadline to take urgent and essential steps, and to answer fully all unresolved, International Atomic Energy Agency questions about its nuclear activities.
If Iran fails to take those steps by the deadline, that would constitute further evidence of its ongoing efforts to conceal its clandestine activities and its clandestine nuclear weapons program.
It also requests that the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General ElBaradei submit a report in November or earlier to allow the Board to reach definitive conclusions about Iran's weapons program.
With respect to Iran's statements today, I would simply refer to statements we've made before that we believe that the two reports from Dr. ElBaradei in June and August already provide compelling evidence of Iran's safeguards violations and failures, its ongoing efforts to hide and deny nuclear activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its continuing failure to cooperate fully with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
For our part, we will continue to work closely with other members of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board to ensure that at its next meeting, the Board is prepared to draw definitive conclusions and unless Iran immediately reverses course, to report Iran's non-compliance to the UN Security Council.
QUESTION: Do you regard Iran's statement that it has to engage in a deep review of its cooperation with the IAEA as a possible threat to leave the IAEA?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't necessarily read that into it. It could be a deeper view to cooperate with the IAEA. That's certainly what we would urge.
QUESTION: In a newspaper article this morning, the French Foreign Minister said that they wanted to see a provisional government established within a month and a constitution written by the end of the year.
Whatever happens in Geneva tomorrow, don't you think that that's a kind of ambitious timescale?
MR. ERELI: I think the question of the time scale is a question, first and foremost, for the Iraqis to answer. It's their country. We want to see them take sovereignty over that country as quickly as possible. And the ideas that we put forward included requesting a time -- requesting the Governing Council to provide the Security Council its timetable for moving forward.
And that's -- you know, that seems reasonable to us that since -- that we get from the Iraqi Governing Council, who are going to be responsible for taking the steps, their best views, their ideas, about what the appropriate timetable for that is.
So I think that really is -- that really is the issue. This is for the Iraqis to take control of this process. It's something that we all agree on that the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq, to Iraqis, as quickly as possible, is a common goal, and involving the Iraqis in that timetable and to find that timetable is eminently logical.
QUESTION: So if the Iraqis say, "A month," that's fine with you guys?
MR. ERELI: I think -- let's not get into, at this point, you know, what they may say or they may not say. I think the important thing here is that we place responsibility where it really belongs, which is with the Iraqi people, and in consultation, of course, with the Coalition Authority, with the UN.
Obviously, the UN has an important role to play in this and it is a consultative process where we're working together on a common goal, which is turning Iraq over to the Iraqis as quickly as possible and us getting out.
QUESTION: Speaking of the consultations, can you give us any more on what the Secretary hopes to get out of these meetings in Geneva? Does he hope to actually forge a consensus among the Perm-5, or is that too ambitious? And is it just sort of to exchange views at this point?
MR. ERELI: That issue has been addressed pretty fully over the past couple of days. This meeting in Geneva, called by the Secretary General, Secretary Kofi Annan, is first and foremost, is really a big-picture meeting. Where are we going on Iraq? How can get there together? How can the P-5 work together to ensure that Iraq is -- that the future of Iraq is a future that is good for the people of Iraq, good for the region, good for the international community.
Now obviously, issues related, I think, to the Security Council resolution will be discussed. But it's a much broader discussion than that. It's a much broader consultation than that. This is an opportunity for all of us to get together under the chairmanship of the Secretary General to share ideas and come up with a common approach to the issue relating to the resolution as well as to the longer term.
I'm sorry. You haven't had a question for a long time.
QUESTION: Recently, within the past week or so, especially, it appears as if the Administration has been totally shifting away from focus, public statements on weapons of mass destruction, but saying how evil and bad a guy Saddam Hussein is.
Where is the focus, and is there still a concern about weapons of mass destruction being in Iraq?
MR. ERELI: That concern has not gone away. There are hundreds of people in Iraq working very hard every day on precisely that issue -- the issue of weapons of mass destruction. The head of that effort, David Kay, former UN weapons inspector, is preparing a fairly detailed report. And I think that it should clearly demonstrate that that issue has not been forgotten about or walked away from.
QUESTION: Is it still dominant though?
MR. ERELI: I would say it's a -- it's very much at the forefront of our efforts.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to India announcing --
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iraq?
QUESTION: This is about Iraq.
QUESTION: -- India announcing that it would not be willing to contribute troops to the efforts in Iraq?
MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen that announcement. I would simply say that, you know, over the last couple of weeks, there have been lots of announcements about who might contribute troops, who might not contribute troops, under what circumstances would they contribute troops.
So the question it would seem to be is, first, let's work on the resolution. Let's get a framework, an international framework within the context of the UN for expanding international involvement in Iraq, and then once that's done, work with those parties interested in contributing to the stabilization and democratization of, and reconstruction of Iraq.
There are no shortages of countries that are already committed to that. They are already, as we have said before, 30 on the ground doing it right now, and we expect that there will be many, many others joining the effort. It's an ongoing process. And there are many, many ways to work out contributions for those willing to do so.
QUESTION: Follow-up on that?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Would the United States ask China to contribute peacekeeping troops in Iraq?
MR. ERELI: I think what we have said is that we are -- that the future stability and security of Iraq is an issue of concern and interest and importance to the international community as a whole, and that we're in Geneva discussing it with the P -5 members. And I think that is recognition, implicit and explicit, that we agree on that proposition and that we will be working together to advance it.
QUESTION: Will Secretary mention that to the Chinese Foreign Minister?
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything more specific than that, no.
QUESTION: On Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Lambros.
QUESTION: Yes. Do you have anything on the -- it was a report today by Reuters that the British are sending more troops to Iraq via the island of Cyprus, and I'm wondering do you have anything on that?
MR. ERELI: That is something, I think, for the British to comment on.
QUESTION: Before the war, there were various consultative groups that met here on Iraq. And was there one that might have dealt with, sort of, preparing the ground for writing a constitution? And could that work be farther along than some think?
MR. ERELI: You say farther along than some think?
QUESTION: Well, than is known. Than is known.
MR. ERELI: Than is -- the answer will come from the people of Iraq, the Governing Council, when they put forward their timetable for political transfer -- political evolution of the country.
QUESTION: But the U.S. was working -- or the State Department, pretty much, was working with these Future of Iraq groups that did extensive kind of work, papers. What happened to all that work? I mean, there were some reports that said that the Pentagon didn't like those work, that it was never going to be submitted for consideration. Are those -- are the work that those groups being done -- being used as a factor at all?
MR. ERELI: Not being in Iraq, it's sort of difficult to say. But I think what, you know, this is -- you know, it's a very exciting time. You have a country, which is embarking on a new path: a path of democracy, a path of pluralism, a path of new ideas and opportunity. It seems perfectly natural and reasonable that, you know, as part of that process you're getting contributions and ideas from all kinds of -- from all different directions, including those who were both outside of Iraq before the liberation of Iraq, as well as those who were inside of Iraq.
So it is a -- you know, like -- just like, you know, any consultative, deliberative process, it involves ideas and contributions by a whole variety and wide diversity of individuals and parties. So I'm fairly confident that without speaking to one report or another report, there are -- there is a real mixture of ideas being put into the mix.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Middle East. Can you talk about what's going on with Yasser Arafat, what discussions have been held with the Israeli Government since the cabinet decision yesterday? Will he be expelled?
MR. ERELI: For what's going on with Yasser Arafat, I'd say, "Ask Yasser Arafat." but, as far as discussions going, I would note that there have been a number of phone calls. The Secretary has spoken today with the Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher, Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom and the EU High Representative Solana.
There are -- as there are always -- extensive contacts between officials, embassy and consulate officials on the ground and their counterparts in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
We, I think, have made clear our view that expelling Arafat is neither helpful nor constructive, and that the important thing for all parties to focus on is their commitments to the roadmap, working to put together a Palestinian Authority government that is -- whose members are free from association of terror, consolidating all authority over security services and financial services in the hands of a prime minister who is empowered to act and seeing actions taken to dismantle terrorist organizations and break the cycle of violence, which we're --
QUESTION: I thought said what has happened with Arafat now getting this new push of publicity has been a distraction for the roadmap?
MR. ERELI: We're still -- the roadmap is still there. We're still working on it. And I think the -- there is still every indication that there is a commitment to move forward on that.
QUESTION: On both sides.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary (inaudible) the view that expelling Arafat would be neither helpful nor to Foreign Minister Shalom this morning?
MR. ERELI: That was the -- I think, our views on that have been made clear to the Israeli Government without going into any details of conversations.
QUESTION: Can you say whether the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Kurtzer, met with the Israeli Defense Minister to convey that?
MR. ERELI: I believe that was the case today.
QUESTION: Even though that you're still working on the roadmap that you want this process to move forward, in all of this there have been calls around the world today from a variety of world leaders urging Israel not to expel Arafat. It's all about Arafat, not even talking -- I mean, you are today -- but most of the attention today, as Teri noted, is not about the new Prime Minister or the reforms that need to get done, but it's all about how central Arafat is to this process.
So is the concern that if he were to be expelled, that that would continue, that he would be a hero? Are there some concerns that this would cause more violence in the region? I mean, could you flesh out a little bit what -- why the U.S. doesn't want this to happen?
MR. ERELI: I think it -- the U.S. doesn't want it to happen because, as the Secretary said, it would serve no purpose. It would, as you say, distract us from the task at hand, distract the parties from the task at hand which is, as we mentioned earlier, having a cabinet that is empowered to -- having a cabinet free of association from terror, having a Prime Minister that's empowered to act, and having those actions taken. That's what needs to be done. And that's where the focus needs to be.
QUESTION: Have you had any meetings with Qureia since 24 hours ago?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of. I'll check into it though for you. Please.
QUESTION: Expelling Arafat is neither helpful nor constructive now. Could it be helpful and constructive after the formation of a Palestinian cabinet?
MR. ERELI: Not even going to speculate on that. I think that our view on the expulsion of Arafat is fairly clear, is fairly firm, and I certainly wouldn't want to go -- go off into endless scenarios of what might or might not be happening. We're dealing with the present reality, the present reality. This is the case.
QUESTION: If I read it right, and I may not have read it right, and it didn't happen here, but Nabil Shaath said after he spoke to the Secretary that the U.S. had stopped Israel -- I don't mean opposed, but stopped Israel -- from exiling Arafat. Is the U.S. -- I don't know if the word is credit. Is the U.S. taking responsibility or credit for Arafat sitting where he is, or is it -- was it really an Israeli decision to take no immediate action?
MR. ERELI: You should ask the Israelis that.
QUESTION: Well, how about the U.S. end of it?
MR. ERELI: We have made our views clear that we don't think it's helpful or constructive. That's what we did.
QUESTION: Adam, can you at least say whether these phone calls the Secretary made today were about Arafat and about the situation with Arafat?
MR. ERELI: As I said, the Secretary reiterated, restated our views, our views, and made known how we see the situation.
QUESTION: But even these conversations weren't, then, focused on further things like Qureia the cabinet or --
MR. ERELI: Well, I mean, they covered -- they covered, I think, not only the issue of Arafat, but the future, the future of the roadmap, the future of moving forward, and how we see things. So I wouldn't say it's just Arafat. But, again, I really don't want to get into the exactly who said what to who. Broadly speaking, we shared our views on current events and the way forward.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. I had to come in late. Is it still true that there will not be a Quartet meeting in Geneva; that it's going to be done at the UN?
MR. ERELI: I think it's accurate to say that nothing has -- nothing at this time is scheduled for Geneva, but I wouldn't want to absolutely rule anything in or rule anything out.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: On Greece, do you have anything on the upcoming meeting between the Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Secretary of State Colin Powell here at the State Department, and if you can say anything on the agenda?
MR. ERELI: I do have something. Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister George Papandreou will be meeting in mid-September. Foreign Minister Papandreou will be in Washington to accept the Defender of Democracy Award from the Parliamentarians for Global Action, a global association of lawmakers, including members of the U.S. Congress. In addition to meeting with the Secretary, he intends to meet with other U.S. officials.
We will discuss a range of mutual interests. This continues the close relationship established between the Secretary and the Foreign Minister during Greece's EU presidency.
QUESTION: I just wanted to take note -- do you have anything particular to say about the fact that the UN Security Council finally, this morning, voted to permanently end the UN sanctions against Libya over the Lockerbie bombing?
MR. ERELI: Let us first acknowledge and express appreciation to the more than 40 members -- 40 family members of Pan Am 103 victims from several countries that traveled to New York today for the Security Council vote. We recognize the loss of their loved ones and wish to convey our deepest sympathy for their suffering.
Today, the United States abstained in the UN Security Council vote to lift sanctions on Libya. Today's Council vote to lift sanctions reflects the fact that Libya has now addressed the remaining UN requirements related to the Pan Am 103 bombing. We are pleased that the vote has gone forward and the Council was able to address this important issue so the families could finally have some degree of closure.
Libya has formally accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials and made arrangements to pay compensation to the families of the victims in accordance with an agreement worked out directly between them.
We have stuck to our demands for 12 years. We have enlisted the support of the international community. We have made clear to Libya that there are no shortcuts in getting out of the terrorism business.
Although nothing can bring back those whose lives were tragically cut short by a heinous act of terrorism, the hundreds of family members who have suffered for the past 15 years can now take some measure of solace from these long-awaited steps.
In recognition of these steps, and to allow the families' settlement to go forward, we did not oppose the formal lifting of sanctions on Libya. As stated in the joint letter from the United States and the United Kingdom to the president of the Council on August 15th, we expect Libya to adhere scrupulously to the commitments it has now made to the Council, to cooperate in the international fight against terrorism, and with any further requests for information in connection with the Pan Am 103 investigation.
QUESTION: Can you explain why you abstained rather -- just very briefly, why you abstained rather than voting no for?
MR. ERELI: Two reasons. One, we continue to have concern about other aspects of Libya's behavior, including its poor human rights record, its rejection of democratic norms and standards, its irresponsible behavior in Africa, and its history of involvement in terrorism, and, most importantly, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. And second, because we did not want our vote on the resolution lifting sanctions to be misconstrued as a decision to modify U.S. bilateral measures regardless of future Libyan behavior.
QUESTION: Following on that, now that the UN sanctions have been permanently ended, has a process been set up within the U.S. Government to assess the questions of whether any -- and, if so, which -- bilateral sanctions should perhaps be lifted yet.
MR. ERELI: That process already exists under, I believe, the Iraq-Libya -- Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, the process of review and recertification. So that process exists independent --
QUESTION: There were lots of sanctions. That's not the only one. They have various different ways why they are lifted, not just Congressional action. And so my understanding was that there was supposed to be some kind of a process set up to look at the whole panoply of sanctions --
MR. ERELI: Right, right.
QUESTION: -- and make a determination. As you're aware, you have got eight months from Libya paying the money, the $2.7 billion, to -- or part of those disbursements, as you know, are contingent on the possibility of the United States lifting sanctions. And so, I am wondering if any formal policy process had been set up to make an assessment on whether or not you are going to do that?
MR. ERELI: Let me get back to you.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MR. ERELI: Elise -- oh, I'm sorry -- Teri.
QUESTION: The EU representative to Afghanistan says that an expansion of ISAF is necessary, that a few thousand more troops are needed if they don't want the situation there to deteriorate. And I am just wondering if the U.S. has a view on that, at this point?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any comment on it. I haven't seen the statement. I'd want to really see it before commenting on it.
In the back.
QUESTION: Yes, does the United States have any plan to call the three-party talks, including Japan and South Korea, to make a preparation for next six-party talks?
MR. ERELI: Right. I think Ambassador Boucher addressed that earlier. This is something that we are in discussions with, but don't have anything concrete or definite to announce at this stage.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Wait. One more (inaudible). I saw a story in the (inaudible) papers about a State Department program to train Arab-Germans jointly with Seed of Peace organization. Do you know anything about that? Does it exist?
MR. ERELI: I am not aware specifically of that. I am not aware of that specific program. There are a number of programs run by the U.S. Government or funded by the U.S. Government with NGOs to provide training for journalists from the Arab world, as well as from other parts of the world, so it's certainly consistent with ongoing activity that we do, and is part of -- would be part of our overall effort to help develop capabilities in that regard in the Arab world.
QUESTION: Do we have reason to be skeptical of what the government's saying?
MR. ERELI: Absolutely, not listen to government spokesmen.
QUESTION: Don't you think this blurs the government-press relationship to teach journalists what you'd like them to do?
MR. ERELI: Is that a serious question?
QUESTION: No, I don't expect a serious answer. But I'll tell you what, if the State Department tried to teach American journalists how to behave, I think there would be a problem.
MR. ERELI: Well, I wouldn't say -- I don't know if it's really the State Department doing the teaching. It's NGOs doing the teaching. We're funding. I mean, it's like American aid around the world. It's the U.S. Government funding the NGO community to provide --
QUESTION: The government financed price is what you get, if even indirectly.
QUESTION: Can you regard that as one of the strategies that's they were offered by the State Department, other U.S. Governments, as a result of September 11 attacks?
MR. ERELI: We have been doing this for decades -- the journalists training programs. It's a longstanding part of our cultural diplomacy.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. ever taken a position on who it would like to be the next NATO Secretary General?
MR. ERELI: Nothing that I am prepared to comment on at this point.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Thank you.
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