State Department Noon Briefing, September 16, 2003
September 16, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2003
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Good morning.
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
MR. ERELI: Is it afternoon? I stand corrected. A pleasure to be with you. No announcements. Any questions?
QUESTION: Does the "no announcements" mean there is no decision on whether the Secretary will go to Stockholm for the Foreign Minister's funeral?
MR. ERELI: That issue is still under consideration.
QUESTION: Should he go, would that have any impact on the timing of his -- the talks he has to have in New York with the General Assembly people?
MR. ERELI: The General Assembly begins on Monday.
QUESTION: I know, but he used to -- likes to get a little bit of a head start. There's a lot of ground to cover.
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you on the Secretary's schedule.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, shall we try -- shall we go over the -- I'm tempted to drop it. I just heard one TV network say the Administration has postponed a decision to reduce Israel's loan guarantees. I never thought there was a decision to do it. But could you bring us up to date where things stand at the moment, please?
MR. ERELI: Right. I will tell you that this week we expect to issue loan guarantees with respect to $1.6 billion worth of bonds that are to be issued by the Government of Israel. The Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2003 stipulates that these loan guarantees may only support activities in the geographic areas which were subject to the administration of the Government of Israel prior to June 5, 1967.
The Act also stipulates that the amount of guarantees shall be reduced by an amount equal to the amount extended or estimated to have been extended by the Government of Israel during the period from March 1, 2003 to the date of issue of the guarantee for activities which the President determines are inconsistent with the objectives and understandings reached between the United States and the Government of Israel.
A reduction will be made in accordance with this legislation. The precise amount is still being determined, but will be an estimate based on a range of Israeli Government expenses associated with the settlement activity.
QUESTION: Just a fine point, if I may. At the end you referred to settlement activity, but earlier on you spoke of spending -- spending -- on the West Bank and in Gaza, and I suppose you mean East Jerusalem too. Do you mean spending on settlements or do you mean spending across the board? If Israel borrows money to, you know, to buy more ambulances to pick up dead bodies from a terrorist attack, well, would the Administration then cut Israel's aid because Israel is spending money on the West Bank?
MR. ERELI: I'd go -- Barry, I'd return to the authorizing legislation for the Appropriations Act which says --
QUESTION: Well, I know you are governed by law.
MR. ERELI: Which says that the reductions will be made for activities which the President determines are inconsistent with objectives and understandings reached between the United States and the Government of Israel regarding the implementation of the loan guarantee.
QUESTION: Got you.
MR. ERELI: So this is a subject that we're talking about with the Government of Israel.
QUESTION: Got you.
MR. ERELI: And based on those discussions, we'll come up with an amount.
QUESTION: Got you.
QUESTION: Does that cover spending on the security fence or the wall?
MR. ERELI: It covers settlement activity. The issue of the fence is another issue that is also under discussion, whether to apply money spent on that to the loan. So that's also under discussion.
QUESTION: But you haven't made a decision on that yet?
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Technically, (a), you're not lending any money to Israel.
MR. ERELI: True.
QUESTION: You are guaranteeing loans on the international market.
MR. ERELI: True.
QUESTION: So the amount that you would be guaranteeing of those loans would be reduced, based on a figure that you are coming up with with the Israeli Government --
MR. ERELI: Right. That sounds --
QUESTION: -- that encompasses activities not consistent with the President's vision for peace negotiations?
MR. ERELI: The formula for how much we deduct for what activity, and its impact on precisely what -- how much we would be, therefore, not able to guarantee, is precisely what is being discussed.
QUESTION: But the decision has been made to do -- to deduct some?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Hold on a sec. The decision was made when Congress passed the law; isn't that correct?
MR. ERELI: Congress said that, "You shall reduce if there is activity that is inconsistent." So I think --
QUESTION: There is really not much of a decision to make.
MR. ERELI: There is a decision to make, what activity and how much does it cost.
QUESTION: Well, how much is the decision you --
MR. ERELI: Well, has there been activity inconsistent? That's decision number one.
MR. ERELI: And, number two, what activity?
QUESTION: Okay. So you have determined then that there has been activity inconsistent, you just haven't determined how much it's worth.
MR. ERELI: We have determined that under the guidance of this legislation, we are required to make a reduction.
QUESTION: Right. Can you explain where this $1.6 billion figure comes from? The loan guarantees that were approved were for $9 billion.
MR. ERELI: Yes. The --
QUESTION: What's the breakdown of the 1.6 that you're going to be talking about --
MR. ERELI: The Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act provides up to $9 billion over a three-year period.
MR. ERELI: I believe -- I am not sure, but I believe that if Israel can get up to $3 billion per year --
MR. ERELI: -- but if they're only issuing $1.6 billion worth of bonds, that's what we're going to guarantee. So this is --
QUESTION: Okay. This is the Israeli request.
MR. ERELI: This is what Israel is issuing, so that's what we're guaranteeing.
QUESTION: And when did they inform you that they were going to go for the 1.6 billion out of 3? Was that yesterday when this whole thing started out --
MR. ERELI: I don't have that --
QUESTION: -- after when AID made the announcement that these loans were now open and available?
MR. ERELI: I don't have that timing for you.
QUESTION: Do you know with the timing -- because we're coming to the end of the fiscal year, but I don't think that has anything to do with it -- do you know when that first installment, so to speak, would be due -- the first installment of guarantees by the U.S.?
MR. ERELI: I know that by September -- and if you look at the Federal Register you can -- it talks about it -- is that a report is due to Congress on, you know, these guarantees by September 30th.
MR. ERELI: When the money gets put in the bank I would --
QUESTION: Oh, yes --
MR. ERELI: -- is something -- that timing is at a level of detail I just don't have.
QUESTION: Sure. But it's now. It's now. We're talking now.
QUESTION: Can you take us into the room where you determine what activities are not consistent and how much they're worth? How does that process work? Have there been economists at the State Department working on that for the last couple of months or so?
MR. ERELI: It is a consultative interagency process that looks at -- and as I said, it is involved with -- the Israelis are involved, as well.
One of the, I think, agreements which governs this is the Loan Guarantee Commitment Agreement, which we have signed with the Government of Israel. So there are a number of criteria and guidelines for coming up with these figures in which we work together both in an interagency way and with the Government of Israel to come up with an agreed amount.
QUESTION: Not to belabor this and get too deep into the weeds here, but if Israel is only issuing 1.6 billion and they could issue up to 3 in the first year --
MR. ERELI: That is what we are --
QUESTION: -- where's the reduction -- where does the U.S. reduction come from? I mean, it seems to me that they've already reduced it themselves by 1.4 billion, right? So is your reduction going to come from the 1.6 that they've asked for?
MR. ERELI: You are asking a level of detail in terms of calculations that, frankly, I'm not prepared to --
QUESTION: I'm not sure it's a level of detail. It's actually where -- you know, what you're going to reduce --
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Is the total you're going to reduce from 3 billion, or is the total you're going to reduce from 1.6 billion?
MR. ERELI: My understanding is that what we are reducing from is -- is what Israel is asking us to guarantee, 1.6 billion.
QUESTION: You --
MR. ERELI: And then if they came up with --
QUESTION: Even though they could have asked for 3 billion --
MR. ERELI: Sure, yes.
QUESTION: -- and they've somewhat reduced already --
MR. ERELI: Right, right. That is my understanding.
QUESTION: To what extent in negotiations with Israel is the U.S. using as a lever its dislike of the fence which is being built, or not built, in terms of using it as a pressure point of the Israelis over how much money will be deducted?
MR. ERELI: I don't really have an answer for you on that.
QUESTION: Is it -- does it play a part in it?
MR. ERELI: As I said, the fence issue -- our concerns about the fence issue are well known to the Israeli Government. The relationship between the fence activity and the loan guarantees, is an issue under discussion. The substance of that discussion is something that I'm just not prepared to get into at this point.
QUESTION: Do you know whether, though, that we really are talking about this first $1.6 billion or whether it would be the next year's loan guarantees that Israel would request? Are you sure that it is about this $1.6 billion?
MR. ERELI: That is my understanding but I will check on it.
QUESTION: Can I take you back to the fence? I know we don't want to strain this thing, but is the Administration's position that any fence is wrong, or is its position that any fence that does et cetera, et cetera, interferes with Palestinian comings and goings or whatever, is wrong? I mean, do you object in theory to a country trying to protect itself by sealing itself off from people trying to attack it?
MR. ERELI: What we have said is that we have a problem if the fence is constructed in such a way that it starts to infringe and take over Palestinian land or prejudges what might be left for a Palestinian state -- prejudges what might be left for a Palestinian state.
QUESTION: Can you just say who the Israeli interlocutor is with the Americans? I mean, is there a specific person?
MR. ERELI: Let me get back to you on it.
QUESTION: Adam, at the UN there have been discussions concerning --
QUESTION: Can we stay on this?
MR. ERELI: Still on the fence, then.
QUESTION: Not on that specifically.
QUESTION: Just a quick one.
MR. ERELI: Tammy.
QUESTION: Do you know what the specific activity was that precipitated the decision to deduct?
MR. ERELI: Settlement activity.
QUESTION: But --
MR. ERELI: Which specific settlements, where? No, I don't know.
QUESTION: Well, again, you --
MR. ERELI: This is something that we are discussing with the Israelis.
QUESTION: Can you just attach West Bank in front of settlement activity, or do you just want to stand on settlement activity?
MR. ERELI: I want to stand on settlement activity.
QUESTION: That means Israel could be doing things in Jerusalem that you want to punish them for as well, correct? The U.S. was going to build an embassy in --
MR. ERELI: I would say that this is a subject of discussion with the Israelis, and leave it at that.
QUESTION: No, because most of us, I think, maybe all of us, write about construction on the West Bank. And maybe I'm taking it beyond your brief, but I wonder if the Administration doesn't think Israel ought to build houses in East Jerusalem as well.
MR. ERELI: Next question.
QUESTION: I just want to clarify that the decision to then calculate the amount of the loan guarantee, the loan that you were not going to guarantee, was precipitated by settlement activity. Is that what you're saying?
MR. ERELI: Well, it's -- I would refer you to the --
QUESTION: This is a routine process every time you guarantee an Israeli loan.
MR. ERELI: Exactly. I mean, we've done this before. There is really nothing new here. It's what -- we've done it before. So what we did before we are just continuing.
QUESTION: Just we're talking about it, you know, a few days after the Deputy Prime Minister talked about killing Arafat, so, you know.
MR. ERELI: New subject?
QUESTION: On the Middle East, you have at the United Nations discussions with bringing a resolution against expelling Yasser Arafat, and also Syria is entering into this. To what extent are they obstructionists in all this?
MR. ERELI: We believe that the Syrian text -- Syria presented an amended text this morning. The Security Council is meeting in closed session for further discussion.
We believe that the Syrian text is unbalanced and one-sided. We believe the focus should remain on working with both sides to encourage them to recommit themselves to a political process. And we do not believe a Security Council resolution would help further this purpose.
QUESTION: You do not believe it at all?
MR. ERELI: A Security Council resolution would help further this purpose.
QUESTION: Any Security Council resolution?
MR. ERELI: On the issue of Arafat's expulsion.
QUESTION: Well, wait a second. I thought that your Ambassador up there said that you would be able to support a resolution as long as it also -- such a resolution as long as it talked about Hamas and --
QUESTION: Condemned terrorism --
QUESTION: -- and the Islamic Jihad.
MR. ERELI: I think he pointed out that a -- it is a glaring --
QUESTION: -- omission --
MR. ERELI: -- omission, but did not, to my understanding, ever say that if it had that we'd still support it.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. So are you saying --
MR. ERELI: You're making a connection.
QUESTION: -- that you would veto such a resolution?
MR. ERELI: I'm saying that we've made our objections clear to other members of the Council on the issue.
QUESTION: Could you say the sentence one more time? "We do not believe ..." just --
MR. ERELI: We do not believe a Security Council resolution will help further this purpose, i.e. the purpose of moving forward the President's vision of two states living side by side in peace.
QUESTION: So you don't want to say that you would, that you would veto a resolution if it came -- if such a -- if the resolution came to a vote?
MR. ERELI: I would leave it where -- I'll stand with what --
QUESTION: Well, are you -- Adam, are you trying to prevent this resolution, the draft, from coming to a vote? Or are you prepared to let it go to a vote and then veto it?
MR. ERELI: We are not supporting this resolution.
QUESTION: Well, does that mean you'll veto it?
MR. ERELI: I don't --
QUESTION: I mean, you can't vote "no" on it unless --
MR. ERELI: Let's see what happens, Matt.
QUESTION: -- your "no" vote is a veto.
MR. ERELI: You're taking things one step beyond where they are.
QUESTION: You're hoping to thwart this, to stop it in its tracks before it gets to -- before there gets to be a vote.
MR. ERELI: We are working to focus attention where we believe attention should be focused, which is on a political dialogue between the parties --
QUESTION: Right, which is also that you're --
MR. ERELI: -- and this effort does not help that.
QUESTION: So you're -- you're actively working to stop this --
MR. ERELI: And that -- we are making that view clear to other members of the Security Council.
QUESTION: Can I change in subject?
QUESTION: Hear! Hear!
MR. ERELI: Still on Security Council?
QUESTION: Well, no. Not specifically that, but I do --
MR. ERELI: Well, let's go then, to Adi.
QUESTION: -- I wanted to ask a question concerning the Syrians because Colin Powell, in his visit to Iraq, has said that troops are coming over, or foreigners to the area there.
I asked earlier, how obstructionist are they being, the Syrians, both in Iraq and in the Middle East.
MR. ERELI: The issue of people going into Iraq through Syria is an issue of grave concern to us and to really all those who want to see a safe and secure future for Iraq.
We have made that concern crystal clear. We have -- and the Secretary spoke to this yesterday -- we have told the Iraqis that they need to do everything they can to make sure that these cross -- these people crossing their borders -- that these people do not cross their borders and do not go to Iraq, and do not commit acts of terror through Syria, whether deliberate or inadvertent, and we are still waiting to see that activity end.
QUESTION: Are you intentionally leaving out Under Secretary Bolton's somewhat lengthy comments about this very same issue today? I noticed you'd refer to the Secretary yesterday, but not --
MR. ERELI: Right. I would --
QUESTION: Are you trying to distance yourself from what Under Secretary Bolton said this morning on the Hill?
MR. ERELI: What Under Secretary Bolton said on the Hill today is fully consistent with U.S. position and the views of the Secretary.
QUESTION: Okay. So did he not, in fact, say exactly what you just said before?
MR. ERELI: We're all saying the same thing.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. But you didn't mention it.
QUESTION: Same subject.
QUESTION: The Secretary outranks him.
MR. ERELI: Same subject?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Concerning Secretary Bolton's meeting with the subcommittee this morning in Congress, many in the Middle East are describing his accusations of Syria as one-sided point of view, since Syria can't -- is not more capable; for example, they are talking about the inability of the might of the United States to stop or to control 100 percent the borders, the southern borders of the United States, and how the United States can expect Syria to 100 percent be able to stop every movement.
Also, on the other hand, concerning the mass destruction weapons, and they are talking about also the attempts, the serious attempts of Syria to get the United States to agree to its drafted resolutions in the United Nations to make the Middle East free of all mass destructions, including the Israeli mass destruction stockpiles.
So what's your comment n this?
MR. ERELI: What's the question?
QUESTION: The question is: How does the United States feel that this -- what is going on in the Congress, and these feelings about it in the Middle East -- that wouldn't this kind of policy, what they perceive to be one-sided policy, within that counter, all the efforts, most of the efforts of the United States that it is employing in the Arab world, in the public affairs arena to make the Arabs -- I mean, the Arabs are very --
MR. ERELI: Okay, I understand.
QUESTION: -- many Arabs are very angry about this one-sided policy.
MR. ERELI: I understand. We have -- and Under Secretary Bolton laid them out very eloquently -- we have a number of serious concerns with the Government of Syria related to developing weapons of mass destruction, support for terrorist organizations, and, in addition, people going through -- terrorists going into Iraq through Syria.
We have made these concerns known to Syria repeatedly and at a very senior level, and we have said to Syria that they have a strategic choice to end -- they need to make a strategic choice, and that choice should be to end association with the terrorist groups and expelling their leaderships and all those who engage in terror and violence from Syria, as well as to, as well as to foreswear and cease development of WMD programs.
This is something that we believe is in, you know, the interest of peace and stability for the region. And it would benefit not only Syria, but Syria's neighbors and all those who are committed to living in a region free from violence, free from terrorism, free from instability. And that's well known policy.
Let's go to Teri.
QUESTION: Are we still on Syria?
QUESTION: Yes, thank you.
Under Secretary Bolton also said that Secretary Powell had been engaged very recently in -- well, I mean, he does this on a day-to-day basis -- on very delicate negotiations. Could you update us on what conversations? Yeah, he said it more than once.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: And, I mean, I understand you are not going to tell us the most delicate. But has he been having conversations? Can you update us on his phone calls, on topics that would include the Syrian issue? And I guess you could do all of them.
MR. ERELI: I really don't have any updates. I saw -- I didn't see the transcript. I saw brief notes of what Under Secretary Bolton said on the Hill. And my understanding was -- I didn't see the transcript -- was that he made the point that Secretary Powell is actively engaged on a continuing basis on these issues in a variety of fora.
I am not aware of any conversations that have been held with the Syrians on this. But this is something that -- this is something that we raise in -- you know, when we have meetings with counterparts, in international fora, either at the Secretary level or Assistant Secretary Burns level.
I mean, this is high on our priority list. It's high on our agenda. It's a regular item of conversation and item of discussion. And that's my interpretation of his remarks.
QUESTION: Okay. Has he made any -- I understand that he just got back. But on the road, the last day or so or this morning, if he is awake yet, has he been making any phone calls?
MR. ERELI: Right. I haven't seen any. But I will check just to make sure.
Yes. Is it still on Syria?
QUESTION: Yeah, it's still on Syria.
Mr. Bolton also said the -- some cooperation, he said that, he used the word prominent in aiding Syria on the recent ballistic missile development by North Korea and Iran. Can you elaborate a little more on --
QUESTION: Not really. Not really. I will leave Secretary Bolton's comments on the record as they are. I don't really have a lot more to add. I think he was fairly expansive as to, you know, what we are able to say publicly on the issues under consideration. I think his testimony stands on its own.
QUESTION: Can we return to -- go to Iraq for a second? A general, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who apparently is in charge of all the detention centers in Iraq, had a press conference today, and this person said that there are six people in detention centers in Iraq who are claiming to be American citizens. Do you have anything on this, and what is the process now?
MR. ERELI: Let me look into that. Let us look into that and get back to you.
QUESTION: Also on Iraq. I understand -- I don't know, it's just a report -- that the French, the Germans and the British will be meeting on a resolution. I wondered if you could bring us up to date. You had hoped -- the Administration had hoped a resolution would be wrapped up by now. What's going on? Is the U.S. making headway? Do you want to try to handicap it? We've got the Assembly coming up next week. It's getting to be the time when you want decisions.
MR. ERELI: We really don't have much more to add from what we said yesterday. There are consultations ongoing both within the State Department and with the UN, informal along with other concerned countries, but nothing definitive at this point.
As you noted, we have seen reports that Prime Minister Blair will be traveling to Berlin to meet with Chirac -- President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder. That will be also be an opportunity to build on the points of convergence discussed in Geneva and work towards a consensus resolution on the issue, which is still our goal.
QUESTION: Have you guys decided yet, after the conversation we had yesterday in here about the Iraqi Foreign Minister and his delegation to the General Assembly, if you guys -- have you decided if you are going to lead a charge in the Credentials Committee to get them actually seated in the Iraqi seat?
MR. ERELI: What we have learned is the Iraqi Mission in New York has informed other missions that a delegation from the Iraqi Governing Council will be coming from Baghdad for the UN General Assembly. So there doesn't appear to be --
QUESTION: Well, I'm going to New York for the General Assembly. It doesn't mean I'm representing anyone. So what's your understanding of what their capacity is going to be? How will they -- are they representing Iraq by sitting in -- are they going to be recognized as --
MR. ERELI: I would refer you to the General Assembly on the status --
QUESTION: Well, would the United States like to see them occupying the seat?
MR. ERELI: I think we would welcome the members of the Iraq Governing Council participating and being received as participants at the UN General Assembly. And that's, I think, fairly clear.
QUESTION: Well, is that something you're prepared to push for at the -- when the Credentials Committee meets tomorrow?
MR. ERELI: You're presuming there's going -- a push is necessary.
QUESTION: Well, are you going to propose it? They can't propose it. They don't have a seat at the moment.
MR. ERELI: They have -- the Iraqi Mission has informed other missions --
QUESTION: Yeah, but, you know, someone has to suggest it in -- because that seat right now is empty.
MR. ERELI: Look at what happened in the Arab League. The Iraqis --
QUESTION: Yes, exactly.
MR. ERELI: The Iraqis suggested it, and the Arab League considered it and accepted it. We believe --
QUESTION: With a lot of pressure from you. And I'm just asking if --
MR. ERELI: There wasn't a lot of pressure.
QUESTION: What do you mean? Richard got up here every day and said we're looking for this, and he said the Secretary has been on the phone with --
MR. ERELI: We would welcome it, sure. That's --
QUESTION: -- with Amr Moussa, saying we would like you to recognize --
MR. ERELI: I think the Arab League does things because it is in the Arab League's interest to do things.
QUESTION: I'm sure, but they do it -- but they also do it after you guys say, you know, this is something we'd like to see. So I'm just wondering, is this something that you're prepared to take up the cause at the UN?
MR. ERELI: It is something we look forward to happening.
QUESTION: Did you see an article in Al-Hayat about the British cooperating with the Iranians on the Natanz project? It sounds crazy -- with the knowledge -- I mean, of the British Government, British companies helping the Iranian program.
MR. ERELI: I did not see it.
QUESTION: Speaking of Iran, in the Federal Register today --
QUESTION: Can you take it down later?
MR. ERELI: We'll take the question.
QUESTION: In the Federal Register today, and in The Washington Times as well today the Russian entity Tula KBP, why the acknowledgement of Iran as the buyer of such, I think the quote was "lethal military equipment"? I mean, usually you don't acknowledge the buyer of such equipment, only the seller, but in the Federal Register today Iran was notified. Economics thing.
MR. ERELI: Without getting into past patterns or practices, we would simply say that we made a determination that lethal military equipment had been transferred to a state sponsor of terrorism -- Iran -- and pursuant to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, we made that determination known in the Federal Register. So I'd say the determination was fully consistent with the relevant legislation.
QUESTION: The seller?
MR. ERELI: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: Oh, I thought Iran was the buyer. Okay.
MR. ERELI: Yes. Iran is -- the sanctions were -- we made two decisions: one, a determination to impose and waive mandatory assistance prohibitions against the Government of Russia for its role in the transfer of lethal military equipment; and, second, to impose sanctions against the Russian entity Tula Design Bureau for its involvement in the transfer.
QUESTION: Adam, on this, I understand that -- well, on Russia particularly, it was announced by someone on the Hill today that Under Secretary Bolton was going to Moscow immediately after his testimony. Is this something -- I would imagine this is now a case closed on this, that he will likely be talking about Iran and the nuclear cooperation that they have with Russia when he goes.
Who is he meeting? How long is he going to be there for? And what are the topics of these --
MR. ERELI: I believe I checked on this just before coming out. He's going for two days, the primary purpose of -- which is to discuss issues related to the Proliferation Security Initiative. For more details on his trip, we'll get back to you.
QUESTION: Don't call us, we'll call you.
QUESTION: Okay. Does the publishing of these sanctions -- I don't know if this is the first time -- but does that mean that the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement, I think of 1998, that said that the United States wouldn't impose sanctions on Russia for giving (inaudible) is now over?
MR. ERELI: No, we didn't impose sanctions on Russia. We waived --
QUESTION: Oh, you waived them?
MR. ERELI: We waived them for --
QUESTION: But you didn't even list them before for a while. There was no even, like, consideration in the Federal Register.
MR. ERELI: Again, without speaking to past --
QUESTION: -- prior administration's agreement with the Russians were --
MR. ERELI: So, Teri.
QUESTION: Can you explain the foreign policy purposes behind waiving sanctions on them?
MR. ERELI: Sure. Simply put, we believe that continuing to provide assistance to Russia is in the U.S. national interest. U.S. assistance to Russia is critical to achieving national security and foreign policy objectives in a number of areas where we have shared interests, including -- and active programs of cooperation including nonproliferation, WMD threat reduction, cooperation in the war on terror, economic and democratic reform. So there is a wide range of programs that is in our national interest to continue, and that justify a waiver of the sanctions.
QUESTION: So, and what kind of -- I mean, what kind of punishment is this, basically? It's embarrassing to be in the Federal Register?
MR. ERELI: Anyway.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on awareness, on Moscow's awareness of what was going on, the level of knowledge?
MR. ERELI: No, I do not. I do not.
QUESTION: So that may or may not be a factor in waiving?
MR. ERELI: Without getting into the -- I think the major factor was the national interest, the national interest and continuing assistance.
QUESTION: I got you. Okay.
MR. ERELI: Matt.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what you know, if anything, about this incident in Lebanon earlier today in which a U.S. Embassy convoy was fired on in the Bekaa Valley?
MR. ERELI: While traveling through the Bekaa Valley, a U.S. Embassy convoy heard what appeared to be gunshots in the immediate vicinity. There were no injuries or damage to the vehicles. It is unclear what or who the target of the gunfire was, and we are working with the Lebanese authorities and continuing to take all possible protections to protect our personnel in Lebanon.
QUESTION: But was it -- are you saying it was determined at least that it was gunfire?
MR. ERELI: Heard what appeared to be gunfire.
QUESTION: And that remains --
MR. ERELI: And the issue is still under investigation.
QUESTION: That uncertainty remains, okay.
QUESTION: Did you say something about it's unclear what the target was? Did you say something like that? Was there a target? I mean, if it -- you are not sure it was gunfire.
MR. ERELI: What or who, if there was a target.
QUESTION: Well, isn't it pretty obvious? Well, okay, so you don't know if the convoy was actually fired on or not.
MR. ERELI: Exactly. We heard what appeared to be gunshot --
QUESTION: Can you describe the convoy any better than just a convoy?
MR. ERELI: I'm afraid I can't.
QUESTION: How many cars were in it?
MR. ERELI: I'm afraid I don't have more details.
QUESTION: Senior officials in it?
MR. ERELI: Don't have more detail.
QUESTION: Is that normal that you guys operate in the Bekaa Valley?
MR. ERELI: Would you like us to get back to you on that, Matt?
QUESTION: No, actually, we have it out of Beirut already.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: I was just wondering what you'd say on that.
QUESTION: Is that it?
QUESTION: I'm sorry. The U.S. Embassy apparently said there was firing in the area.
MR. ERELI: This is the latest information I had before coming out to brief, so --
QUESTION: All right.
MR. ERELI: So, Matthew.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, in talking about what the events of the weekend in Guinea-Bissau, you: (1) did not say that it was a coup; and (2) you did not say that you wanted the President to be restored, the current President to be restored to power. I'm wondering if any of that has changed, if you are able now to say that.
And also, there doesn't appear to be a question that this was an extra-constitutional change of power. And given that, U.S. law requires suspension of this, particularly IMET assistance. And I noticed in going through the budget that, in fact, Guinea-Bissau received or is supposed to receive this year $75 million of IMET.
How much of that has been spent? How much of it is now being withheld because of the coup. And does this affect the proposal for 100 million -- I'm sorry -- it's $75,000. And how much of the 100,000 that you have proposed for next year is affected then?
MR. ERELI: All very good and speculative questions, Matthew.
What I can tell you about the events in Guinea-Bissau, different from what I told you yesterday, is as follows: The facts are not entirely clear; our people are not yet on the ground; if it is established that a democratically-elected government has been overthrown, we would strongly condemn that action.
QUESTION: And the aid?
MR. ERELI: Depending on -- there are a host of issues connected with, as you suggest, the way in which power is transferred, and that's why it's important that we assess the facts before coming to a conclusion.
QUESTION: Yeah. But, well you should be able to say, at least -- all right, then, can you find out, if someone hasn't looked into this already, how much of the 75,000 that was allocated for this year's IMET has not yet been spent? I image it's probably almost zero, so --
MR. ERELI: We can get back to you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Any update on the trilateral talks, the TCOG, informal TCOG, whatever?
MR. ERELI: I do have an update for you on that.
We expect that informal trilateral consultations with Japan and the Republic of Korea regarding North Korea will take place September 29 and 30 in Tokyo.
Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly will meet with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, Director-General Mitoji Yabunaka and Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-Hyuck.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary decided yet -- has he decided yet whether to travel to Sweden for the memorial service on Friday?
QUESTION: That was the very first question of the briefing.
QUESTION: Oh, forgive me. I missed it.
QUESTION: Has he decided since then?
QUESTION: Has he made the decision in the last half hour?
MR. ERELI: I haven't gotten any brainwaves.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)
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