State Department Noon Briefing, January 23, 2004
|Friday January 23,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
FRIDAY, JANUARY 23, 2004
That's the only announcement I have -- open to your questions.
QUESTION: Adam, can you tell us why the Secretary is going to Moscow? Can you address that?
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to the transcript from yesterday.
I think, you know, just to --
QUESTION: Well, it's in the neighborhood of Georgia.
MR. ERELI: Right. We did talk about this at length yesterday.
QUESTION: Oh, I guess -- I was out. I'm sorry.
MR. ERELI: I think the important point just to reiterate from yesterday would be that Russia is a strategic partner of great importance to us. We have a number of issues to discuss with Russia dealing -- you know, global issues such as proliferation; regional issues such as stability in the region and relations; and a number of bilateral issues.
This is a good opportunity for them -- for Secretary Powell and his Russian colleague, Foreign Minister Ivanov to have some, you know, quality time together not as a function of other meetings in other places, but just one-on-one U.S.-Russia across the table.
QUESTION: If this isn't -- one last thing. If this isn't too specific, on Sunday a three-day conference will open in Washington -- American and Russian scientists. It's sponsored by groups that are concerned about nuclear weapons, or concerned that nuclear weapons are not all that secure, particularly in Russia with aging systems and other problems, and they've lost satellites and such when the Soviet Union disintegrated.
Then the Arms Control Association, which cares about that, too, has a big conference coming up. This may not be the place, but I wondered if you could tell us if the Administration is comfortable that Russia has nuclear weapons under -- safely under wraps?
MR. ERELI: We have been working with our Russian partners for some time on the issue of nuclear safety, and I think we have a number of strong, successful bilateral programs in place that addresses this issue. It is an ongoing area of cooperation between us and I think we're very pleased with that cooperation.
QUESTION: Yesterday you weren't able to confirm, but you said it was a possibility. Do you know, is the meeting with the second Ivanov on -- Ivanov 2? The Defense Minister?
MR. ERELI: Oh, --
QUESTION: You said maybe yesterday, I'm just wondering if it's been firmed up now.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I'm not in a position to confirm it since it's -- I mean, it's being looked at, but I can't tell you definitely it's going to happen.
MR. ERELI: Adi.
QUESTION: On a different subject?
Mr. Brahimi of the UN was in Washington yesterday. Can you tell us what kind of discussions he had with Secretary Powell? Did the Secretary specifically ask him to take on a larger role than perhaps some in the UN want for Mr. Brahimi to take in Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Mr. Brahimi met yesterday at the White House with U.S. officials to discuss the way forward in Iraq. He met with Secretary Powell. He also met with National Security Advisor Rice, Senior Director of the National Security Council Robert Blackwell, Assistant Secretary Burns and others, who participated in the discussions.
I think the way I'd characterize it is part of a continuing dialogue that we've been having with the United Nations and Iraqi officials on the political process in Iraq and the constructive role that the UN can play.
When Mr. Brahimi was appointed as the Secretary General's special advisor a few weeks ago, we welcomed that appointment, and we look forward to working with him on the issues under his portfolio involving Iraq and the political transition. Yesterday's discussion was part of that effort.
I would caution you away, or steer you away from reports or conclusions that we're pushing Brahimi in one direction or another, or we're pushing the UN in one direction or another.
The Secretary General has appointed him in this position. We welcome that appointment, and we look forward to working with him in that capacity, or in any other capacity to help the Iraqis move forward in assuming sovereignty for their country and beyond, working to rebuild the country so that it can be a vibrant democracy.
QUESTION: We may quibble with using the word "push," but it is, in fact, not -- is it not, in fact, the U.S. position that the U.S. is eager to see the UN get back in, and to take -- and to assume a vital role in the transition?
MR. ERELI: I would say that that's a position consistent with, not just the UN -- U.S. position, but a position consistent with a number of UN Security Council resolutions that provide for a vital UN role in Iraq. I think that, you know, the attack against the UN headquarters and the death of Sergio de Mello was tragic and caused some retrenchment. But we're working closely with the UN, with the Secretary General, to see what we can do to help them get back and exercise the role that's called for in the Security Council resolutions.
QUESTION: But would you acknowledge that you are aware of some reluctance within the UN organization about going back for security reasons?
MR. ERELI: Oh, absolutely.
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
MR. ERELI: And it's something we talk about with them.
QUESTION: Okay. And this is something that you talked about yesterday?
MR. ERELI: Sure. Sure.
QUESTION: And your desire to see them get back in? MR. ERELI: I think there's a desire to -- as has been stated publicly -- have the UN go back as circumstances permit, and we are working with the UN and the Iraqis to do what we can to make the circumstances as welcoming and appropriate as possible.
QUESTION: And given the answers to the last two questions, you would still say that you are not pushing for the UN to go back in?
MR. ERELI: No, I think -- I was responding to the point that somehow we want Brahimi to be a special representative to as opposed to a special advisor. We're not pushing anything in that regard. We are saying we want to work with the UN to help -- to help it fulfill its role, its vital role in Iraq. I think we are in pretty constant communication with them. You know, the meetings on Monday at the UN, the meetings on Friday last week in the UN.
I would note that Secretary Powell spoke with Secretary General Annan today where they reviewed the results of the Brahimi visit here. So this is a continuing dialogue, a close dialogue, and a cooperative dialogue.
QUESTION: Can I, can you polish that security issue a little? A two-man team from the UN arrived -- now in Iraq.
One the one hand, Annan is talking about he wants the -- not really inconsistent, necessarily, but I wondered. He wants -- whatever -- if he sent a group there to look at the election problem, he wants to be sure it's independent; it's not pressured by anybody. On the other hand, he's -- they're wobbly on security. They're concerned and, you say, reasonably so. Will they -- will U.S. forces help -- provide the security if a UN team goes there?
MR. ERELI: I don't really have details I can share with you, Barry, on, you know, specific security arrangements. I think we've made clear in all our dealings with the UN that we are -- we are prepared to do everything we can to ensure that its people are safe in Iraq, and to protect its people in Iraq.
QUESTION: You had Ahmed Chalabi today --
QUESTION: Can we stay on this topic?
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. I mean, yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. Did Secretary Annan, Secretary General Annan, convey to the Secretary that he wasn't prepared to make a decision on this return until next week? And is that okay? I mean, does the U.S. feel that that's -- it's fine?
MR. ERELI: That was not part of the discussion. That was not part of the discussion that was conveyed to me, no.
QUESTION: Well, since this says the Secretary expected to hear back from him in the very near future, did they discuss it also when you're planning to make up your mind?
MR. ERELI: No, no.
QUESTION: Oh. Okay.
MR. ERELI: Elise.
QUESTION: Yeah. You had Ahmed Chalabi today, one of the members of the Governing Council, who originally agreed to this caucus plan for the handover now calling for direct elections, other members of the Governing Council saying that, you know, the U.S. should make a greater effort to see if direct elections are possible by July.
Are you reconsidering now your insistence on a caucus plan? I know you've said that you're working on refinements to that plan. But is a direct election a possibility at this point?
MR. ERELI: What we're seeing, as you suggested -- our pretty open discussion of how to pursue democracy and accelerated transfer of sovereignty in Iraq. And there are a lot of ideas out there. The current plan for achieving that is the November 15th Agreement. That November 15th Agreement remains the basis for moving forward. It is still the plan that everybody agrees to, and it's the plan on which we are basing our actions and assumptions.
What I can add to that is that at the same time, we continue to look for electoral mechanisms that adhere to the November 15th agreement, and that most effectively, facilitate an orderly transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people and pave the way for lasting democracy in Iraq.
To that end, we have asked the UN to send a team of experts to Iraq to assess the feasibility of national direct elections within the timetable laid out in the November 15th agreement, and should that not be possible, to advise on alternative methods for selecting members of a Transitional National Assembly within that timetable.
So I guess what I would say is we're looking forward to an early positive response from the Secretary General on that team, and so that we can basically investigate all the alternatives.
QUESTION: Well, not to be picky, but that carefully drafted sentence or two suggests that maybe it is feasible to have elections. If you think they're going there to find out if it's feasible, I thought the Administration, at least, concluded it wasn't feasible. And I thought, frankly, they're going there to confirm your view. Is the State Department now saying maybe it is feasible to have elections and still meet the July 1 deadline?
MR. ERELI: I think what we're saying is -- and this is what was discussed on January 19th at the UN with the Secretary General and the IGC and Ambassador Bremer is, you know, there are these calls for direct elections. Let's send a UN team out there to assess the feasibility of those calls within the timetable of the November 15th agreement, and you know, look at it and come to some considered conclusion.
QUESTION: And what about Mr. Burns? He was out there. He was at the meeting yesterday. And we know how rare it is to get some disclosure about what he or other people in the NEA may be up to, so I feel obliged to ask every chance I get, is he going to join? Is he going out there, too? Has he got some -- I mean, he obviously had been there, so there's material to add.
MR. ERELI: Right. He was there a few weeks ago.
QUESTION: He's not going to go out again? He's not going to --
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of any plans in that area, but you know, I'm not ruling anything in or anything out. I just don't have any details for you on it.
QUESTION: So -- excuse me, so -- I don't mean to interrupt, but Burns was at the meeting yesterday at the White House. Why, because of his office, and because of his recent visit, right?
MR. ERELI: Because it's appropriate for him to be there as Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: I'm kind of struck by your comment. We continue to look toward electoral mechanisms? Exactly when did you begin looking at electoral mechanisms? If you're continuing to look at them, then everyone from -- who's been speaking on-the-record for the last two weeks has just been being either lying or just being disingenuous that, no, no, no, we're not looking at elections and elections can't work.
MR. ERELI: Caucuses are an electoral mechanism.
QUESTION: Okay. So you would include the current --
MR. ERELI: Oh, yeah.
QUESTION: -- what's currently in the November 15th plan as an electoral mechanism?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. ERELI: Teri. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Another thing that Chalabi talked about was this order they've given for the MEK to be expelled from Iraq.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I just wondered if the -- if State has had anymore -- State or DOD have had anymore discussions with them about what you might do with those people? He said there are different things you can do with them, but they can't stay here.
MR. ERELI: I would say we continue to look at ways to fulfill the Governing Council directive, if you will, and at the same time, you know, do it in a way that meets international standards.
QUESTION: He said that he thought that they could be -- there could be an amnesty in Iran for them. What do you -- do you think that's likely or believable?
MR. ERELI: I guess that's way too speculative for me to talk about.
QUESTION: But is that one of the things you're looking at, is that Iran would grant them amnesty and you'd send them back?
MR. ERELI: I hadn't heard that.
QUESTION: Still on Chalabi, but back to the direct elections. You said everybody was on board about the transition plan, the caucuses. But today, Chalabi was very firm in saying that caucuses could lead to instability. He said it's a sure fire way to instability because it could produce weak leaders and people who don't represent the Iraqi people.
You're not worried that the perception is it's going to cause instability if you just stick to your plan, only make refinements on the caucuses, and don't follow the tide going to direct elections?
MR. ERELI: What we've said is that the November 15th agreement represents the consensus of the parties in Iraq, as represented on the Iraqi Governing Council, and to that extent, is the one working document that sort of has buy-in from those that are -- from the Iraqi authority that's in the country.
As to, sort of, what the prospects for stability or instability are, the important point to make, I think, to make here, is that, you know, the transfer of sovereignty is something that the Iraqis have, I think, pretty uniformly asked for and put a priority on. And we are trying to be responsive to that, and that's what was behind the November 15th agreement. And that's what we are focusing our efforts on trying to achieve in a way that meets the needs and desiderata, if you will, of the different parties in Iraq. And that's a complicated process that involves a lot of different stakeholders and produces a lot of different opinions. And it will continue to be, I think, rich in debate. But in the end, let's keep our eye on the goal, which is finding an orderly and inclusive way to transfer sovereignty to Iraq in an accelerated manner. And that's what we're working on.
QUESTION: Yeah, but it sounds like the only thing that all parties are still agreeing to on the plan is the July 1st date. It sounds like, you know, although they agreed at the caucus initially, that they've changed their tune on that, and that there seems to be a groundswell in the country for direct elections.
So are you looking at -- I mean, there's a plan out there for, by Adnan Pachachi for, you know, in a kind of handing over to an expanded council while the country prepares for direct elections. I mean, has the goal changed from, you know, some kind of caucus participation process to finding a way for not only the handover by July 1st, but the direct elections?
MR. ERELI: I'd put it this way -- and it's what I said earlier -- is that we continue to look at electoral mechanisms that adhere to the timetable of the November 15th agreement. And we have an open mind about how to most effectively facilitate an orderly transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people within that framework.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the UN for a second? Did you -- when you were talking about the UN before, did you give any -- did you have any reaction to the arrival in Baghdad of the -- or in Iraq, and I'm not sure if it's Baghdad, of this advance team that's gone in there now, the UN team, the two people?
MR. ERELI: I didn't have any reaction. I mean, this something that --
QUESTION: Or is it something that you see as a good thing?
MR. ERELI: -- the Secretary General spoke to earlier. You know, we certainly --as I said before -- we certainly welcome the UN's involvement in Iraq, and we are going to work with them and with the people on the ground to do what we can to facilitate it.
QUESTION: But nothing specific about these -- this team?
MR. ERELI: No. Tammy.
QUESTION: Can I switch to Iran?
QUESTION: I just want to touch on Chalabi.
QUESTION: One more question.
MR. ERELI: Chalabi, yeah.
QUESTION: In the press conference today, Chalabi said that census experts in Iraq have told the Grand Ayatollah Sistani that elections of some kind, of some sorts, are possible before the -- before sovereignty is handed over. You have that message from Chalabi. And then you have the message from the Administration saying elections are most probably not possible. So if you're Grand Ayatollah Sistani, you're hearing two messages from the Administration: one represented by the IGC through what Chalabi said today, another by Administration officials such as Secretary Powell.
Why this mixed strategy -- this mixed rhetoric towards Grand Ayatollah Sistani? He's hearing two different things.
MR. ERELI: I would take issue with the sense that there's a mixed message. The message is this: We have the November 15th agreement. We're moving forward on the basis of that agreement. We are working with the different parties in Iraq to accommodate their views of how best to form a Transitional National Authority, and that's where our focus is. That's as simple as I can make it.
QUESTION: You talk about consensus. Which parties, other than the United States, still want a caucus system in the transition?
MR. ERELI: I haven't done a poll. I don't --
QUESTION: We don't hear anybody wanting it.
MR. ERELI: Let me put it this way. Let me put it this way. I don't hear anybody repudiating the November 15th agreement.
QUESTION: But they repudiate a major part of it, the caucus system.
MR. ERELI: That -- I'll let it stand, what I said. I don't -- the November 15th agreement remains by, I think, admission of all the signatories to it, the operative document and the one that we're basing our way forward on. I would also point out that the November 15th agreement is more than just the next six months. It's the next two to three years, and they -- the general framework for moving Iraq from where it was on November 15th, if you will, to a fully empowered and fully functional constitutional democracy.
QUESTION: Adam, would this idea of expanding the Governing Council from 25 to 125 members in some representative way, would that be something that would fall within the parameters of something that you would think would be in line with the November 15th agreement?
MR. ERELI: As I said before, there are a lot of ideas out there. I -- I'm not going to handicap one versus another because, you know, it's an open discussion. People are voicing opinions. Let's let the UN team get there. Let's let the UN team, hopefully, make its assessment and go from there.
QUESTION: It's an old idea, I understand; and it's surfacing so prominently this morning, words and words and words in a major newspaper. Does that mean that idea has its advocates within the Administration?
MR. ERELI: Whoa, that's getting into -- that's getting into Machiavellianism at a much greater degree than I'm capable of.
QUESTION: Well, you've got a lot of anonymous officials whooping it up for this expanding the Council, and I know that it's one of many ideas you're weighing and that it's an old idea and not necessarily the leading idea. So is time for that, one of those famous newspapers to write about disarray in the Administration?
MR. ERELI: No, there's no disarray in the Administration. We're pretty clear about the way ahead. Any other questions on Iraq?
QUESTION: The Iranian Foreign Minister in Davos, today, said Iran is prepared to put, or planning to put about a dozen al-Qaida members on trial. Do you see this as, you know, potentially sufficient, or would they have to actually be extradited, as I know that the U.S. had called for?
MR. ERELI: We've heard these reports before. It's not new. Our position hasn't changed. We have long made it clear that we believe that Iran should turn over all suspected al-Qaida operatives to the United States, or to countries of origin, or third countries for further interrogation and trial.
In our view, it is essential that other countries have direct access to information these people may have about past and future al-Qaida plans.
QUESTION: So it would not be sufficient if they tried and convicted and locked these people up?
MR. ERELI: I think we believe they should be turned over to those -- to the U.S., to third countries or their countries of origin so that we can have direct access to them.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the Congress passed the budget, your budget --
QUESTION: It's not on Iran now?
MR. ERELI: Iran? Stay on Iran?
QUESTION: Yes. Have you heard any details through any channels directly from the Iranians about this plan? Or when you said we've only, we've heard these reports, is the only thing you've heard is also this speech from Kharrazi at Davos?
MR. ERELI: Right. And it's not the first time that the possibility of trials of these people in Iran has been raised by the Iranians. So it's not a new story.
QUESTION: Have you ever heard what they were planning to charge them with in Iran?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Because what you're looking to charge them with, obviously, crimes against Americans and others --
MR. ERELI: I think our first priority is to get information and then -- but I wouldn't go beyond that.
MR. ERELI: Matt.
QUESTION: Yeah. The budget that was approved yesterday, the Omnibus Bill, contains $34 million in it for the UN Population Fund. As you are no doubt well aware, this money has been suspended in the past. Would that suspension for the Kemp-Kasten objections with this money, or is that -- what's the status of this?
MR. ERELI: I don't know.
QUESTION: Can we find out?
MR. ERELI: I will ask and find out for you.
QUESTION: There are a lot of worried people out there.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, in Turkey, after a four-hour meeting of the National Security Council, Turkey backs the resumption of talks in Cyprus on the basis of Annan plan. But as we all know, both sides have different, but serious reservations or objections.
My question is: What would the U.S. would help, or is willing to help to bring in some flexibility, such as, you know -- as you know, the Secretary General requests for a commitment for a date for the referendum and both sides don't like the idea of committing themselves for a day.
MR. ERELI: Let me first say that the United States welcomes Turkey's support for the resumption of the UN Security* General's Good Offices Mission. We believe that all parties should meet the Secretary General's requirements as soon as possible and recommence negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan by agreeing to finalize the plan and put it to referenda by a date certain.
We continue to encourage all parties to take these steps. And in that respect, I would note that Ambassador Weston, at the request of the Turkish Government, traveled to Ankara and will continue his discussions on the way forward to a Cyprus settlement.
*...resumption of the UN Secretary General's Good Offices Mission
MR. ERELI: I don't know the exact date.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. From here to Ankara?
MR. ERELI: Yep.
QUESTION: Oh, that's interesting. You don't -- there is no way of getting an answer to the question.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: No, I mean it's not your fault. I'm saying, can't Turkey deliver the Turkish Cypriots? Is there any question about that?
MR. ERELI: I think that --
QUESTION: I mean, when Turkey speaks, doesn't it mean something?
MR. ERELI: -- what we believe, we believe that it's in -- you know, that this statement by Turkey is a welcome one, an important one, and we believe that it's in all the parties to sign up to the Annan plan and begin written negotiations as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Speaking of Turkey, do you know next week, when the Prime Minister is here, if the Secretary has got a separate meeting with him, or is it all at the White House?
MR. ERELI: I don't know. I can check. I can check.
QUESTION: On Libya, the IAEA says that it now has put designs for nuclear weapons under its seal, and that -- and I believe that U.S. -- that the U.S. and/or Britain is going to be taking these drawings out. Can you tell us anything about that?
MR. ERELI: I'm really not in a position to get into the technical details of what the IAEA has done. I'd leave it to the IAEA to talk about. What I can tell you is that, as you all know, there is a team in Libya. They are working with, closely with the IAEA on helping Libya to follow through on its commitments. I think they're, you know, visiting facilities and talking to Libyan officials and getting outstanding cooperation. There are a number of steps in this process that are really pretty extensive and complex and technical, which is why I hesitate to jump into a detailed discussion of them.
QUESTION: You don't think we'd understand them?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't understand them.
But what I would say is that, you know, visits, consultations are ongoing, and they will be and that we're pleased with the way things have been going.
QUESTION: Can I follow that up, please?
The Secretary, on one of his many radio interviews he gave lately, spoke of Qadhafi. He said we still consider a dictator and we're going to continue to treat him that way.
Is that -- is that a way of saying that there's nothing imminent so far as easing sanctions on Libya, or what, you know, I'm not his advocate, but what more does Qadhafi have to do to qualify, for instance, to get off the terror list?
If that's too specific a question, the general question is, are you indeed weighing, you know, I don't want to call it a gift, you know, a payback, but is there anything you are going to do to try and improve relations with Libya?
If the Secretary of State says the man's a dictator, it doesn't sound like you're about to do that tomorrow afternoon.
MR. ERELI: I would discourage anybody from concluding that there's any sort of imminent action at hand. We've made very clear on a number of occasions that, you know, as Libya moves forward in fulfilling its commitments, we would be responsive. We have made no promises for anything.
Libya has said that it is getting out of the terrorism game, that it is renouncing its -- that it's going to give up its WMD capabilities or in its programs, and let's -- as they follow through on those commitments, as they do what they say they're going to do, we'll look at appropriate responses. But you know I'm not in a position now to say, because they've done this, we're going to do this. It's just not at that point yet.
QUESTION: But his analysis is that they didn't do it because they're nice guys, because they --they did it because they want to break out of isolation, the weapons weren't doing them any good in the international community and they want trade.
If you put that thinking together with what's going on, you would assume that the Administration would do something to facilitate trade, to encourage him further down that line, and that some easing of sanctions might be entertained. But I just don't understand it. I -- you seem to be shutting -- not you, the Administration seems to be shutting the door on any easing of sanctions and at the same saying, we know what he's after and we want to move that along.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I really can't be -- I can't be more specific than we've already been, which is that Libya desires better relations with the United States. Better relations with the United States are premised on Libya taking certain actions in certain areas.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. ERELI: Let us see those actions being taken, and on that basis, we can consider better relations. But it is a -- you know, there is nothing conclusive on either score, either Libyan actions or U.S. response, at this point, that we're prepared to comment on.
QUESTION: I have to ask this question in code to see if you get it.
MR. ERELI: Uh-oh.
QUESTION: PNG --
MR. ERELI: I'm bad at puzzles.
QUESTION: -- PNG.
MR. ERELI: PNG and PNG?
MR. ERELI: I was briefed. Desiderata. That's a foreign word. It's a foreign word.
QUESTION: Desiderata, that's a great radio station, but --
QUESTION: Desiderata, I know that by heart in case you --
MR. ERELI: Is it a crossword puzzle thing?
QUESTION: No, I mean Desiderata.
MR. ERELI: There you go.
QUESTION: "Go placidly amid the noise and haste -- "
QUESTION: It's a good radio acronym.
QUESTION: And I have the answer, of course.
QUESTION: Me too.
MR. ERELI: There is a published report implicating a Papua, New Guinean diplomat in a domestic assault incident, I believe.
We have been in touch with the prosecutor regarding this matter. As with all cases that may involve immunity of an individual, we consulted the local prosecutor to determine whether he or she would normally prosecute an individual for the charges in question, absent immunity, and if so, we then request a waiver of the individual's immunity so that the matter can be adjudicated in accordance with the local law.
QUESTION: In this case --
MR. ERELI: In this case, we remain in touch with the prosecutor. We have not -- they have not asked -- not determined whether they would request a waiver of immunity.
QUESTION: You have not yet requested a waiver of immunity?
MR. ERELI: They have not decided whether to request a waiver of immunity.
MR. ERELI: The prosecutor.
QUESTION: Well, I didn't know that they could request it. I thought you had to request it.
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Whether they have -- whether they want to prosecute the individual, and thereby requiring the waiver.
QUESTION: Okay. So the report, in other words, is incorrect, that, in fact, you have -- that you have asked the Papua, New Guineans to waive the immunity?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Right, right.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. There are some more questions back here.
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: I want to return to Azerbaijan. There's a Human Rights Watch report out today basically accusing the Aliyev Government of attempting to crush the opposition in the aftermath of the elections last October. It also takes the United States to task for failing to take a strong stance on election abuses and basically giving lip service to the concept of democracy out in that area.
MR. ERELI: We took a pretty strong stance on it Wednesday, I believe. And we will continue to speak out forcefully on behalf of democracy and the rule of law, and the right of people to fully participate in the democratic processes around the world including Azerbaijan.
On the Human Rights Report -- I'm sorry -- on the Human Rights Watch report, I can tell you that we look forward to reading it. It was released this morning. As we've said, the facts, as we understand them are that, you know, after the October election, presidential election in Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani authorities conducted a waive of detentions and arrests of election officials who refused to sign falsified vote tallies, journalists and opposition members, and some detainees were reportedly tortured.
We have frequently raised our concerns about this to the government of Azerbaijan and members of the U.S. Embassy have visited some of the detainees. We continue to call on Azerbaijan to provide the defendants in these cases all appropriate legal protections and due process, in accordance with international standards.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on travel by your Northern Ireland point man?
MR. ERELI: Ambassador Mitchell Reiss.
MR. ERELI: No, I don't.
Yes, ma'am, on Venezuela.
QUESTION: Yes. They say U.S. Deputy (inaudible) is in Venezuela and I just want to know the purpose of the visit. Is it to promote the free trade agreement, considering that the Government of Venezuela is against it or it is to promote democracy, considering that Venezuela is expecting an electoral process?
MR. ERELI: Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Peter DeShazo is in Venezuela.
MR. ERELI: He was invited to give a speech on hemispheric economic issues at the annual meeting of the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce, and he went for that purpose.
While he is in Venezuela, he has met with Vice President Rangel, Foreign Minister Chaderton, as well as the head of the National Electoral Council, the head of the Supreme Court, members of the opposition, business community and civil society as well as representatives of the Carter Center.
QUESTION: And how long he will be at the -- in Venezuela?
MR. ERELI: His visit ends today.
QUESTION: Oh. Okay.
MR. ERELI: Yes. In the back.
QUESTION: Deputy Secretary of State Mr. Armitage yesterday pointed some criticism at Israel's violations and building of the wall of separation on Palestinian lands. Is that a promise that would be carried by the two U.S. officials during their visit to Israel next week?
MR. ERELI: Our -- the two officials that will be visiting Israel next week, if the fence is discussed, they will make clear our position on the fence, which is that we are opposed to construction of the fence in areas that prejudge, that take land that is subject to negotiation between the parties, and that's been our consistent position.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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