State Department Noon Briefing, October 16, 2003


Thursday  October 16, 2003

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Washington DC
October 16, 2003

BRIEFER: J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

-- UN Security Council Approves Resolution 1511 Unanimously
-- UN Role
-- Multinational Force
-- Syria's Vote For the Resolution

-- Presidential Elections

-- Update on American Personnel Killed and Wounded in Gaza
-- Travel Warning for Gaza
-- Palestinian Authority Arrests Suspects

-- Reaction to Prime Minister Mahathir's Remarks

-- Additional Protocol to the Nonproliferation Treaty

-- Secretary Powell's Travel to Bangkok and Madrid

-- Nuclear Weapons Programs



MR. ERELI: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. I don't have any announcements, so let's proceed to your questions.

QUESTION: On the resolution, the amendments would give Secretary General Kofi Annan greater scope to participate in the drafting of the new Iraqi constitution and affect the transition. And as I understand it, it would also state, for the first time, that the mandate of the U.S.-led troops would expire when an Iraqi government is elected.

Can you elaborate on that?

MR. ERELI: I don't really want to go into a sort of textual analysis or legal interpretation at this point of the resolution. I think it's pretty clear, pretty clear what it says. I would refer you also to Ambassador Negroponte's remarks that he made last night after the discussions at the UN for a sort of explanation of the changes that were agreed to and what they'd do and why.

We've always said from the beginning that the United Nations had, and should have, and will continue to have, an important role in the political process in Iraq, the political process of transitioning from the authority of the Coalition Provisional Authority to putting the constitutional -- constitution in place and the institutions in place that allow the Iraqi people to fully govern themselves. And that, I think, is more explicitly laid out in this resolution.

As far as the Multinational Force goes, again, it's pretty self-explanatory. I believe it's paragraph 15 that says that the mandate of the Force shall expire upon the completion of the political process. It also says that the Security Council expresses readiness to consider, on that occasion, any future need for the continuation of the Multinational Force taking into account the views of an internationally recognized representative government of Iraq. That is, again, pretty self-explanatory.

The focus, the important point here, is that what the resolution represents is a unanimous view of the international community, as represented by the UN Security Council, to help the people of Iraq rebuild their country and take over responsibility for their country as soon as possible. And we all have a role to play in this: the United States, the United Nations, the Secretary General, the Secretary General's representative, and all those other -- and all the many countries that have already and will in the future contribute to this process. And this resolution provides a good framework for managing that participation and that support for the people of Iraq.

In the back.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MR. ERELI: I don't think so. Same subject? Same subject? Okay. That was -- that was -- go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on Azerbaijan elections?

MR. ERELI: Sure. The United States concurs with the preliminary assessment of the Organization of Security and Cooperation for Europe that notes that the voting in Azerbaijan was generally orderly, but the election process still fell short of international standards. U.S. observers noted, specifically, problems with voter lists, cases of coercion and other irregularities. We are also concerned by reports of violent clashes after the election, and we urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

As in the past, we call on Azerbaijan's Government to follow through on its OSCE commitments, and to fulfill its duties for the safety of its citizens and the safeguarding of their rights. We also call upon the opposition parties to act peacefully and within the law.

We urge all parties to take all steps to restore public order and avoid further violence.

New subject? Mr. Wolfson.

QUESTION: Adam, do you have any update on the situation in Gaza? Do you have any update on the Americans who might have left, taking the advice of the Embassy, and the condition of the person who was wounded?

MR. ERELI: I really don't have too much more for you on that. On the situation of the person who was wounded, we'll look into it and get back to you. On the situation on the ground, the FBI is now there. They are conducting an investigation. They are working with the relevant authorities. I really don't have too much for you on the details or status or progress of that investigation. It's in its beginning stages, and it will certainly be intensive and ongoing.

We have, I think, the Travel Warning that was issued for West Bank and Gaza from, I believe it was April, the Warden message that was put out yesterday urged all Americans to leave Gaza, which I'll check and see if we've got any sort of figures on how many people have left or what the response to that has been.

I would also note that, you know, we said that people should consider traveling to the region, to Israel, West Bank and Gaza in general, and that those there should review their security situation carefully.

So, these are -- I would also add, we are, you know, the Embassy is in touch with Americans there through the Warden system, through the consulate, keeping them apprised of the information we have and working with them to ensure their safety and security.

QUESTION: As a follow-up, two things. Do you have any comment on the arrests made by the Palestinian Authority? And also, you said they're conducting -- the FBI's conducting an investigation, working with the relevant authorities. Does that include the Israelis, or is that just the Palestinian Authority?

MR. ERELI: Both.


MR. ERELI: Both. As far as the reports of Palestinians arrested, they are just that -- reports. Little hard evidence as to how many, and as to by whom and with what degree of evidence or culpability. These are all questions that, as I said, the FBI and our consular and embassy officials will be working on, but we're not able to really substantiate or comment on at the present time.


QUESTION: New topic? Do you have anything to say -- and I have some follow-ups, too -- about the Malaysian Prime Minister's remarks at the Organization of the Islamic Conference, saying that the Jews run the world by proxy, and other such things?

MR. ERELI: Right. I would say a couple of things. One is, we've seen the statements. Two is, it's not the first time we've seen comments like this from that official. The third thing is that, let's be clear, the remarks are offensive, they are inflammatory, and we view them with the contempt and derision they deserve.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? At the actual meeting: (a) did the Ambassador, did our representation there condemn the remarks, you know, publicly; and (b) has the State Department or does the State Department intend to ask the OIC to state something like, "This is totally crazy, it shouldn't be in an international forum like this," these crazy ideas shouldn't be crazily stated?

MR. ERELI: Well, we will certainly make our views known. As far as actions at the OIC summit, it is not customary for American diplomatic personnel to be at OIC summits since we're not --

QUESTION: I think there was there.

MR. ERELI: Pardon?

QUESTION: I think there was diplomatic representation. And I'm sorry, I don't have the name of the person who was there. It was a woman, I think it was.

MR. ERELI: As I said, it is customary for us not to be. Now, whether we were there or not in this one, let me check on that for you. But, so I'll have to check to see whether we were there or not.

And as far as making our views known, we do that customarily. I'm doing it from here, speaking on behalf of the U.S. State Department very clearly. And as to what we'll do at the embassy level, let me get you an answer for that.

QUESTION: Okay, and just finally, any comment on if this would have any kind of effect, or what effect it would have, on U.S.-Malaysian relations.

MR. ERELI: I'll take that. I'll take the question.


QUESTION: The question about Azerbaijan reminded me that -- has the State Department ever decided whether it will or will not accept as valid the results in Chechnya's election? There were questions about it.

MR. ERELI: Right. Let me see if we have anything new on that for you.

QUESTION: And at that point, there were discussions that it may or may not be valid. I didn't know if it had been assessed -- a final assessment.

MR. ERELI: Let me get something for you on that.


QUESTION: Another issue. The Iranian Government today has expressed its readiness to sign the additional protocol to the Nonproliferation Treaty. Do you see that as a good sign from -- coming from Tehran?

MR. ERELI: What we've seen is reports from Dr. ElBaradei that Iran has said this. So on the specific point, I refer you to Dr. ElBaradei for exactly what Iran said and on what terms.

From our point of view, we've made it clear that we expect Iran to sign the additional protocol without delay. I would also point out that the IAEA Board of Governors made it clear in a resolution adopted on September 12th that there are a series of things that Iran needs to do by October 31st beyond -- not connected to signing an additional protocol, and that they are looking for Iran to cooperate in meeting this deadline.

So that really is an important area for us to focus on, and that is what we're looking for, that the resolution of the Board of Governors be complied with in its entirety, not one issue or another issue, but in its entirety, and that it be complied with by October 31st.

QUESTION: If Iran does not comply, do you envisage any sanctions or --

MR. ERELI: If you look at it, if you look at what the Board of Governors decided on September 12th, it was, that they would meet shortly -- they would meet shortly after October 31st to review Iraqi compliance, and on that basis decide next steps.

Let's go to you, sir.

QUESTION: New subject?

QUESTION: Following up.

MR. ERELI: Follow-up.

QUESTION: Can you just, in any way, comment on the fact that the statements from ElBaradei and the IAEA would seem to contradict the public statements from Iranian officials in the last two weeks? I mean, does ElBaradei maybe need a new translator or something? I mean, Khatami, the Prime Minister, has said publicly that they're not going to cooperate. I can't make heads or tails of it. What do you say?

MR. ERELI: Right. Right. I think the easiest way to understand this is, look at what they do and not what they say.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. ERELI: Please.

QUESTION: Okay. Interim stops for the Secretary?

MR. ERELI: We -- as of today, the stops that are set on the agenda, or on the itinerary, are Bangkok and Madrid.

QUESTION: So you don't have anything else --

MR. ERELI: I have nothing more, nothing new for you on possible other stops.

QUESTION: Are you likely to anytime --

MR. ERELI: I don't have any indication of -- any sense of how soon we will have a decision on other possible stops.

QUESTION: Had to ask.

MR. ERELI: Sure.

You, sir.

QUESTION: On North Korea? North Korea said that they would display nuclear deterrent at appropriate time now.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on this, and what is its implication to the next round of six-party talks?

MR. ERELI: I don't really have much to add beyond what the Secretary said in his briefing, in his encounter with journalists a short while ago. We've seen these kinds of statements before; there's not a lot new there. What it does underscore is the concern that we all have about North Korea's nuclear program, and the need to work together in a multilateral way, through the six-party talks, to bring about the complete, irreversible and verifiable end to that program. And that's where we're focusing our efforts.

QUESTION: On that, is it still feasible that there might still be six-party talks in Beijing next month, as they were talking about before?

MR. ERELI: I think that's definitely feasible; that's what we're working towards. That's what the Chinese are very, very ably and seriously trying to bring about. So that's where we're going.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Different subject? Syria's vote in the National Security -- in the Security Council of the United Nations -- obviously the U.S. position in there was very accommodating to the point where Syria voted for the resolution, and that counters the Syria critics here in the United States. What's your reading of Syria's vote today, yes for the resolution?

MR. ERELI: I would leave it to the Government of Syria to characterize for you its thinking behind its decision to vote for the resolution. As the Secretary said earlier, we view this as a welcome decision, signaling unanimous Security Council support for the people of Iraq and, and pledging their commitment to work on behalf of the people of Iraq. This is good for the people of Iraq, it's good for the UN, it's good for the international community.

But as to -- as to why, or what led Syria to make such a decision, that's something for the Syrian Government to comment on.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)


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