State Department Noon Briefing, November 21, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2003
MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everybody.
Let me begin by saying that we will be releasing today a statement on our assessment of the parliamentary elections in Georgia. That statement will say that we remain deeply disappointed in the conduct of Georgia's November 2 parliamentary elections, which failed to meet the commitments made by the Georgian leadership to the OSCE and to the United States. There was massive fraud and extensive manipulation of the vote count.
We continue to support Georgia's stability and security, and the aspirations of the Georgian people to be a democratic, prosperous and peaceful nation. All sides must now work together to find a way forward that enjoys credibility with Georgia's voters. The United States calls on the Government of Georgia to respect freedom of the media, peaceful expression and assembly, and on all parties to react to the results peacefully and in accordance with Georgia's constitution.
We also urge the Government of Georgia to conduct an independent and transparent investigation immediately, and to hold accountable those who violated the law.
QUESTION: Adam, the Georgian security chief has come out and said much the same thing, that he suspects and acknowledges fraud, and is even calling for a new vote. Do you think that would be in their best interest? And also, they are expecting protests this Saturday in Tbilisi.
MR. ERELI: We think that what is in the best interest of Georgia is for the government and opposition to work together to resolve the differences and errors that were committed during this election in a way that responds to the will of the people and reflects the will of the people, and to do so in a transparent and peaceful way.
QUESTION: Has anybody in the State Department been in touch with President Shevardnadze since your envoy was there a couple of days ago?
MR. ERELI: Yes, Ambassador -- Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lynn Pascoe was there, as you suggest, the day before yesterday. I believe our Ambassador is in regular contact with all levels of the Government of Georgia, including the President. I don't have any details on the most recent meetings, however.
QUESTION: Okay. Are there any consequences for Shevardnadze and his government if they -- if they don't resolve this in a way that you consider satisfactory? Will it affect relations?
MR. ERELI: I think, obviously, how Georgia deals with this situation and this crisis is something we are watching closely, and, you know, we will respond and act appropriately based on what they do.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Iran?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Can you add to what was said in Austria? And also, ElBaradei seems to think that the U.S. is accusing the IAEA of threatening the credibility of the agency. Is that -- did the U.S. intend to do that, or is that a misinterpretation by ElBaradei?
MR. ERELI: There is no intention to impugn the credibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the fine work that Director General ElBaradei has done in putting together what is an important report on Iran's nuclear program. The Board today did not take up the Director General's November 10th report on Iran's nuclear program. We expect that the Board will address -- will extend its session in order to address this program, to address Iran's nuclear program, and this report, and that will extend its program into next week.
Our diplomatic consultations with Board members are continuing. I'm not really in a position to comment in detail on those consultations, other than to say that our goal remains ensuring that the Board take firm action in response to Dr. ElBaradei's report on Iran's breaches of its safeguards obligations.
QUESTION: Okay, on that, Adam, yesterday you said that you wanted Iran to be declared in noncompliance and referred to the Security Council. Are you willing to say the same thing today?
MR. ERELI: What I will say today is that we continue to work with our friends to make sure that the IAEA Board of Governors takes fully into account what Dr. ElBaradei reported about Iran's nuclear program. We are continuing to do that, but I really don't want to get into a lot of detail.
QUESTION: May we -- can I assume that you've actually dropped your -- dropped your demand that it be referred to the Security Council? MR. ERELI: I don't think that -- I would not interpret my remarks as a demand. These are things that we have -- these have been longstanding positions of the United States, and we are continuing to work with our friends in Vienna to come up with the most appropriate and effective response to what is -- to what we consider to be a dangerous program by Iran, and that that's what the Director General has shown.
QUESTION: Okay, let me put it to you straight, then. Do you want the Board to refer Iran to the Security Council?
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to negotiate a Board of Governors' resolution from the podium. I'll let our diplomats do that in Vienna.
QUESTION: Adam, do you think that the Security Council is the appropriate place to deal with this problem?
MR. ERELI: I think the Board of Governors will determine -- it is our aim to work with the Board of Governors to determine what is the most appropriate response to the Director General's findings. What we have said before, we stand by, and, you know, let's just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Adam, what are your comments concerning the Iraqi donkey cart attacks to both hotels and to the oil ministry this morning?
MR. ERELI: If you are referring to rocket attacks in Baghdad, what I can tell you is that there were two American citizens injured in the rocket attacks that occurred in Baghdad today. One of the injured Americans was treated and released, and the other remains hospitalized. Our consular officer in Baghdad is providing all possible assistance to these citizens, but I don't have a Privacy Act waiver, so I can't give you much more detail than that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the meeting today between the Secretary and Colonel Garang today?
MR. ERELI: Yes. Secretary Powell met this morning with the leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, Dr. John Garang. They discussed the status of the peace process and the importance of coming to closure in the coming round. Dr. Garang committed to the Secretary to reaching a final comprehensive agreement by the end of December, as have -- he has reiterated that commitment that was made in December -- or, I'm sorry -- made in October, when the Secretary was in Kenya.
The Sudan peace talks are currently in recess through Ramadan, although both sides remain in contact. We are pleased by the progress that's been made, and still looking forward to an agreement by year's end.
QUESTION: It comes as rather a surprise because Dr. John told us something rather different outside. He said it was merely a hope that you would reach agreement by the end -- that they would reach agreement by the end of the year. But you are saying you gave a commitment to reach an agreement?
MR. ERELI: I think that --
QUESTION: -- and how do you square these two versions?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't see the same distance that you do. Let's go back to the meeting the Secretary had with both parties in October in Kenya and the declaration that they made. That still stands. That commitment still stands. They committed to working to reach an agreement by the end of the year. Dr. Garang reiterated that commitment.
Yes, sir, in the back.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. ERELI: Change the subject? Okay.
QUESTION: There's a warning from al-Qaida and it's to Japanese Government because, according to a spokesman from al-Qaida, that Japan's going to send self-defense troops to Iraq and al-Qaida is going to attack in, like, Tokyo.
What is your reaction? What is your comment on that?
MR. ERELI: My reaction that is much the same as it was yesterday, that the forces of freedom are in a war against the forces of terror, that that war is global in scope. There are terrorists active throughout the world planning attacks on anybody or anything that they feel does not share their point of view. So, to the extent that you don't buy into their message of hate and violence and extremism, you're a target; whether you provide forces to Iraq or whether you don't, whether you just go about your business and try to be neutral on things or not, you're a target.
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: There was a worldwide alert issued last night by the U.S. Government.
MR. ERELI: A --
QUESTION: Worldwide alert.
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: High concern for more attacks by the U.S. Government.
MR. ERELI: Worldwide alert? I'm sorry. I haven't seen it.
QUESTION: It was out of Justice, through Homeland Security.
QUESTION: Homeland Security. But -- attacks. But, you know, for entities abroad, you know, American interests, et cetera. Do you know about this at all?
MR. ERELI: It's news to me what you're telling me.
QUESTION: So the Department of State was not involved in the creation or the development of the announcement, implementing --
MR. ERELI: You asked if it was news to me. That is yes. Whether the Department of State was involved, I'm not going to speak for the entire Department. I had not heard about DHS issuing some kind of worldwide caution. I'll look into it.
QUESTION: This morning -- I guess it first aired here -- there have been Saudi Arabia radio ads saying that they're working against terrorism and such, and also reports from Riyadh that religious police have actually gone into shops, stopped shoppers, and are beckoning merchants to actually come to mosque prayer services. And it seems -- how do you characterize this, as one thing against the other?
MR. ERELI: I'm just not familiar with the report. I think what we have said and what I would reiterate is that Saudi Arabia has realized very painfully, very tragically, that it, like the rest of us, is a target of terrorism, and they are taking meaningful, important steps to protect themselves and to take the fight to the bad guys. And we're supporting them and we're pleased to see that they are fully engaged in what it is a global and sustained war on terror, and that they are addressing it not only in terms of law enforcement and counterterrorism, but in terms of educating their people and looking at ways that they can, you know, provide a brighter future to others, to people who might otherwise seek extremism.
QUESTION: But, Adam, is this religious police -- are these people part of a government crackdown or are they strictly secular, and is it counterproductive?
MR. ERELI: I don't really have much more for you -- I think our position is they are making efforts, they are doing the right thing. The path that Saudi Arabia takes is -- the Saudis are going to have to map for themselves.
QUESTION: But you don't consider them terrorists, at least? Terrorizing shopkeepers into saying their prayers or --
MR. ERELI: Anyway, on to the next subject.
QUESTION: On China, the U.S. Ambassador to China has been summoned twice in two days over the issue of import quotas for textile products. Are you -- is it your intention also to summon the Chinese Ambassador to Washington (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: What I would say on this is that we value a dialogue on trade matters, including this issue of textiles. We are aware of Chinese concerns regarding our decision to request consultations with China regarding the imports of knit fabric, dressing gowns and brassieres, per paragraph 242 of China's accession agreement to the World Trade Organization.
Once we formally request consultations, we will engage with a dialogue -- or in a dialogue with Chinese officials as to what the final level of the quota will be. This is part of a sustained dialogue with the Chinese that we think is important, that we think can resolve outstanding issues.
QUESTION: Do you think that summoning an ambassador two times in two days is a proper way to engage in such dialogue or negotiations?
MR. ERELI: I think it's a sign of Chinese concern, which we take seriously and which we are going to engage them on.
QUESTION: Thank you. Yesterday, two senators, Mr. Brownback and Mr. Bayh, they introduced new legislation, which is North Korean Freedom Act. They kind of -- they put a kind of restriction on the humanitarian and the non-humanitarian aid for United States Government to do for North Korea.
Can I get your response on that?
MR. ERELI: Sure. I haven't seen the measures from Capitol Hill that you've spoken of. What I would say is, basically, a reiteration of our policy and our position on Korean food aid, food aid to North Korea, which is that, you know, we have provided, up until now, 40,000 metric tons of aid, food aid, to North Korea; that we make our decisions to provide food aid to North Korea on a humanitarian basis on three criteria, which are demonstrated need, competing needs elsewhere, and the extent to which we can assure that that food aid reaches those for whom it was intended.
You know we are considering now additional food aid, but, frankly, we don't -- we haven't reached a final decision on whether and how much to give to North Korea, and that really depends on a further assessment of the three criteria that I told you, spoke to earlier.
QUESTION: Also they discuss about the economic sanction or kind of a WMD issue, and they said this Administration talked about a lot -- talked a lot about the kind of sequence which is supposed to be your most crucial topic until next six-party talk, if it is held. Do you have to say anything on any contradiction to your policy on that?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't see any contradiction. We are going to continue to pursue resolution of this issue through the multilateral diplomatic process, including the elements we've discussed before, and full steam ahead.
QUESTION: To follow up on the drought. This drought also guarantee the refugees from North Korea's position to enter the U.S., basically to support of new refugees from North Korea to maybe the third country or the U.S. Can you say something about this, I mean, because this initiative has been, you know, put out, like some time ago?
MR. ERELI: Yes. No, I really don't have anything for you on that. Sorry.
QUESTION: Do you have something on Jim Kelly's trip, now that it is over?
MR. ERELI: I think what you're looking for is, perhaps, a kind of substantive readout, which I don't have. I mean, I have a sort of, I guess, factual itinerary, which we've been following in detail for this week. He met today with National Assembly members in Korea and Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-Hyuck.
They, obviously, discussed North Korea and other issues. He's now on his way back to Washington. He's going to meet with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Losyukov on Monday. I think that, you know, following those meetings I will probably have a -- you know, obviously, a fuller idea of where everybody stands on the issues, and maybe we'll look at trying to get you something -- a fuller readout on background.
QUESTION: Where is that meeting with Losyukov, the Russian guy?
MR. ERELI: I would imagine it's here.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: But you don't have (inaudible) on six-party talks yet?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: No. Okay.
MR. ERELI: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on the confirmation of the new U.S. Ambassador to Syria in the Congress?
MR. ERELI: I'm not exactly sure where that is in the process, whether they voted on it or not.
QUESTION: The confirmation of the new ambassador.
MR. ERELI: I know that an ambassador has been nominated, the nomination sent to Congress, that testimony has taken place, but I'm not aware of where it is in the legislative process, whether the committee or the Congress has voted on that nomination. So I don't want to mislead you on that.
I think that, basically, once the nominee has -- if the nominee is confirmed, a swearing-in would be made public, so you will know.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)
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