State Department Briefing, November 3, 2003
MR. ERELI: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to today's briefing. I don't have any announcements, so let's go to your questions.
QUESTION: Iran, nuclear. Khamenei is saying such things as, you know, we'll continue to pursue technology for peaceful purposes. He's speaking of fuel. It sounds like backtracking on uranium -- the uranium promise.
But, at any event, I know the report hasn't been evaluated. Would you, the State Department, care to say anything about this?
MR. ERELI: We anticipate that IAEA Director General ElBaradei will issue his report on the implementation of nuclear safeguards in Iran at the end of this week or early next week. We expect that report will provide extensive and objective detail on the question of whether Iran has fully met the requirements set by the September 12 IAEA Board of Governors resolution and whether the IAEA can now verify Iranian compliance with its safeguards obligations.
This report should provide the Board with any further evidence uncovered by ongoing IAEA inspections regarding Iran's clandestine nuclear activities and note any new Iranian admissions of previous violations.
I would also note that IAEA inspectors will be in Iran continuing their work in the coming weeks. The IAEA Board of Governors is scheduled to meet on November 20th and 21st. At that meeting, it will consider whether Iran has taken all the steps called for in the September 12th resolution of the Board of Governors and whether Iran is complying with its NPT safeguards obligations.
We will be consulting intensively in the coming weeks with other members of the Board to ensure that the Board takes decisive action aimed at ensuring full Iranian compliance with its safeguards obligations.
I would note, Barry, as you do, that Iran's leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has -- we have seen press reports of his remarks praising the agreement made with the European ministers, but at the same time warning that excessive demands from the international community could prompt Iran to end cooperation.
As a party to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty -- or the Nonproliferation Treaty -- Iran has an obligation to cooperate fully with the IAEA to ensure verification of compliance with Iran's safeguards agreement. And, in addition, the IAEA Board has issued further requirements in its September 12th resolution that Iran must also meet.
Threats from Iran to end such cooperation, rather than give the IAEA full access to and answers about its nuclear activities, would be gravely troubling and would further deepen the international community's concerns that Iran continues to have something to hide from the IAEA.
QUESTION: So, are you gravely troubled?
QUESTION: You don't -- you seem to be -- you're phrasing it as
MR. ERELI: I would note that we've seen the reports. They are just reports. Any serious threats to end such cooperation would be deeply -- would be gravely troubling.
QUESTION: Are his remarks a threat? Is what he has said so far a kind of a threat?
MR. ERELI: I'll leave it to you to characterize those remarks. Our view is that threats to end cooperation are gravely troubling.
Anything else on Iran?
QUESTION: Iran? No. Yes, has the Secretary signed the decision to restore normal trade relations with Serbia and Montenegro?
MR. ERELI: We'll be putting out a statement shortly on that this afternoon, on the issue of normal trade relations for Serbia and Montenegro. The Secretary of State has determined and certified that Serbia and Montenegro has met the criteria set forth in Public Law 102-420 for restoration of normal trade relations status. That decision will be conveyed to Congress shortly, and a notice published in the Federal Register.
QUESTION: What were the criteria?
MR. ERELI: To go back on the history of this, normal trade relations status was revoked in 1992, in response to support by the Milosevic regime for ethnic cleansing and other acts of aggression and human rights abuses in Bosnia, and by the army of Republika Srpska and Serb paramilitary forces. Since then, and in the context of both the 1995 Dayton Accords and particularly since the fall of Milosevic in 2000, Belgrade's relationship with Bosnia and Herzegovina has been fundamentally transformed.
Serbia and Montenegro has adopted a policy of cooperation and partnership with its neighbors and the international community, as well as beginning to implement tough measures necessary for economic reform after a decade of sanctions; therefore, restoring normal trade relations status underscores our support for these reforms and will help encourage economic growth, a key component to maintaining stability in the region.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea about the extent of normal trade in Serbia, because we haven't had trade with Serbia in 13 -- 11 -- years, but does this amount to anything significant, trade with Serbia? I mean, this is obviously a gesture, but what is the -- what might be the net result of normal trade with Serbia, do you know?
MR. ERELI: Not in terms of dollars and cents. What I would focus on is the support that normal trade relations status will have, in terms of support for and reinforcement of economic reform and growth in Serbia and Montenegro.
QUESTION: I m just curious. There were reports, I believe, yesterday and today about -- drawn from these seizures of information in Baghdad that Serbia was --
QUESTION: Can we just stay with Serbia?
QUESTION: -- that Serbia was actually perhaps the most active in supporting and providing experts to Saddam Hussein leading up to the war. Have you taken note of those reports? It's mentioned, I think, in a Wall Street Journal article today, but -- everyone's talking about it.
MR. ERELI: Right. I've seen those reports and don't have comments on those reports. As to how that relates to this issue, the suspension of normal trade relations had to do with Serbian -- the Yugoslav govern -- the Serbian Government's activities in Bosnia. So I wouldn't want to confuse the two issues.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) taking into account with -- this is simply limited to whether it has resumed normal trade relations in its own neighborhood and if this -- nothing like this.
MR. ERELI: Right. The public law which we are acting on, or according to which we were acting, specifies what the criteria are for restoring normal trade relations status, and those criteria do not include the issue that you raised.
QUESTION: And is the State Department looking into that issue, though?
MR. ERELI: I'll get something on that for you.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yes, Jonathan.
QUESTION: When does this come into effect, and what effect does it have on tariff rates for Serbian imports to the United States?
MR. ERELI: The statute provides for a 30-day waiting period following certification before restoration of normal trade relations. And as far as the specific impact on tariffs, I'll need to check with the experts.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. ERELI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: On North Korea, there's a meeting right now in being held in New York. It's a KEDOs meeting, and can you talk something about the meeting and is this going to have a discussion about the start of the KEDO project? Anything on that?
MR. ERELI: Let me check with our experts as to what meetings are actually taking place in New York and what theirs subject is before I -- and I'll get back to you on it. I don't have any information on a KEDO meeting for today's briefing. Let me check on it.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on the opinion poll made at the request of the European Commission? This opinion poll, the European opinion poll, is saying that Israel is perceived as the biggest threat to the world peace, followed by the U.S., and along with Iran and North Korea.
MR. ERELI: As far as perceptions of the United States being a threat to the world peace, if those are the perceptions, I would say they are very different from the reality.
QUESTION: Is there any observations on Khodorkovsky quitting and --
QUESTION: Let me just continue with this and --
QUESTION: Oh, sure.
QUESTION: Thank you. So what are you going to do about it? I mean, that's what people believe.
MR. ERELI: I think we have to -- this is an issue that has been addressed in a variety of fora. The best way to deal with perceptions is to put out the facts as you know them, and to state your policy and stick up for what you believe in, and let your actions speak for you. And I think if you look across the board, what the United States is doing is motivated by a desire to expand stability, expand peace and expand freedom throughout the world, in partnership with its friends and allies. That's where we're going, that's what we're doing and that's what we're talking about, and we'll let our actions speak for themselves.
QUESTION: So what facts are these Europeans not aware of that might change their minds about the U.S. policy?
MR. ERELI: Well, one example would be what's going on in Iraq. You see a lot written about or focused on about the security situation, which, obviously, is a concern and something that we are working with all diligence and energy to address. But, at the same time, if you go throughout the country, there are no shortage of good news stories, from health clinics that are open, universities that are open, Iraqis taking control of their own affairs, from the Governing Council to local councils to PTAs to elections taking place in small towns and villages, to the people in the north running their affairs, the people in the south running their affairs.
And so that when people actually go there and see what's happening, they come back and say, "Wow, it's not nearly as bad as it looks." So it's a question of presenting the facts, letting -- giving people access to the information, trying to get the information out, and, hopefully, you know, coming around to seeing things the way we see them from here.
QUESTION: Are you saying that these Europeans are misinformed or deluded, or what?
MR. ERELI: No, I'm not criticizing the Europeans. What I'm saying is that we are hopeful that, as the facts get out, as we present our case, that the power of our actions will persuade those who may be skeptical.
QUESTION: Developments in Russia? Any --
MR. ERELI: Developments in Russia.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iraq? You probably didn't have a chance to
see this, but there were reports just as we were coming in that there
were bomb blasts near the U.S. headquarters again. Was that too -- I
think it was literally just as you were coming in, if you were on time,
which I wasn't, so I just thought
MR. ERELI: Let me check on it.
I'm sorry. Barry, over to -- over to Russia.
QUESTION: Yeah, Khodorkovsky.
MR. ERELI: Right. I don't have much to add to what we said, really, on Friday. We continue to monitor the situation. We will be watching carefully this case. The markets and investors will speak through their actions. And, you know, the Russian Government and the people will -- will be the ones to decide how to proceed.
QUESTION: But what about what the U.S. is saying about it? Obviously, it's important to the United States. As Richard said on Friday, we've put a lot of money and time into ensuring that rule of law -- rule of law and free markets take hold in Russia, and this doesn't look -- look that way.
What is the U.S. going to say about that? You just think it's too early to be very critical towards Putin on this?
MR. ERELI: Our position is, let's see how the situation unfolds. We have made clear how we view the situation, that it is an important case, that the markets and investors will -- are watching it carefully, as are we. And let's let the process take its course.
QUESTION: Would you --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Still on this subject?
QUESTION: I'm still on this. Yeah. Do you think the Russians overreacted when they criticized your comments -- not your, your colleague's comments -- on this case?
MR. ERELI: I won't characterize the Russians' characterization of our characterization. I'll just leave it where I left it.
QUESTION: And have you come to any conclusions about whether this is politically motivated?
MR. ERELI: No conclusions have been arrived at.
QUESTION: Adam, have you been monitoring the Arab leaders' talks in Damascus this weekend, and also Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to Moscow, and further, the boycott of Egyptian journalists toward U.S. Ambassador Welch?
MR. ERELI: Those are three questions.
QUESTION: Three questions.
MR. ERELI: Okay. I'll try to remember them.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. ERELI: On the meeting in Damascus, over the weekend I believe, we welcome the commitment of the participants in the Syria meeting to establishing greater border controls and preventing terrorist action inside Iraq. This is a positive development, and we look forward to immediate steps by the participants to implement this commitment.
I would note that it is unfortunate that the Iraqi delegation could not attend the ministerial meeting in Syria. It is our hope that planning for the next ministerial meeting, in Kuwait, I believe, will include an Iraqi delegation.
QUESTION: So they boycotted it, didn't they?
QUESTION: The Iraqis did.
MR. ERELI: Well, they were -- they were, for various reasons, unable to come. We hope that they will be able to come in Kuwait, and if circumstances will allow them to do so.
QUESTION: Will you be instructing them not to boycott the next one?
MR. ERELI: We don't instruct the Iraqi Governing Council what to do.
QUESTION: Don't you have a vested interest?
MR. ERELI: It's their decision. We think it would have been great if they had been there, but, you know, I'll refer you to them as to the reasons that they didn't go.
QUESTION: They announced that they boycotted it. So, I mean, you say --
MR. ERELI: Well, but they also -- look at the reasons they announced they boycotted it.
QUESTION: No, I understand that they had their reasons, but you're saying that they were unable to attend. I mean, they chose not to.
MR. ERELI: Let me clarify then. I don't mean to imply any criticism of the Iraq Governing Council in my remarks. It would have been good if they could have gone to Damascus, and it was a meeting about security of Iraq that the Governing Council representative -- it would have been good that they were representative -- that they were represented, and we think it will be good if they can go to the next meeting in Kuwait. But I don't mean to imply any sort of criticism of the Governing Council for not going to Baghdad -- for not going to Damascus.
QUESTION: What were the reasons that they -- that they said they were not going to --
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to them for that.
QUESTION: Adam, also, section -- part two and three of my question?
MR. ERELI: Okay, part two was -- remind me?
QUESTION: Ariel Sharon's visit to Moscow.
MR. ERELI: Talk to Ariel Sharon.
QUESTION: Or his representative.
MR. ERELI: Or his representative. And the Egyptian press boycott of Ambassador Welch -- go ahead.
QUESTION: A follow-up on the second part of his question. While in Moscow, Ariel Sharon said that he would meet for the first time with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia. Do you see that as a --
MR. ERELI: We've see those reports of a possible meeting between the Palestinian Prime Minister and the Israeli Prime Minister. Nothing definitive at this point. Obviously, we're interested in seeing, you know, both sides stick to their commitments, and the Palestinians move forward on getting a government that's empowered to move against terror and dismantle terror, and Israel doing its part to meet the commitments that it's made.
But as far as where we stand on a meeting between the two prime ministers, I'd leave it to those parties to give you the latest.
QUESTION: Do you want them to meet? You think it's a good idea?
MR. ERELI: What we think is that, you know, to the extent that we can get the parties to work together, to stick to their commitments in the roadmap, then that's positive.
QUESTION: Would meeting help? Would meeting -- could a meeting help that?
MR. ERELI: I don't see that it could hurt.
QUESTION: Okay. So it couldn't hurt.
QUESTION: Is Wolf going back to the region also?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any information on Ambassador Wolf's travels.
QUESTION: Well, on that, well, it seems that there are some developments, in fact, on the Israeli-Palestinian front, of course, with the United States well behind. Are you planning to take advantage of these developments and reengage?
MR. ERELI: I dispute the premise of your question that we're not engaged now.
QUESTION: Well, okay, you're minimally engaged.
MR. ERELI: I think we're actively --
QUESTION: Do you think --
MR. ERELI: We are actively engaged, and we will continue to be actively engaged in helping both parties do what they can to take the steps needed to move forward in the roadmap.
QUESTION: Are you then planning any more steps?
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything specific to report today.
Anybody else on this subject?
QUESTION: Doesn't Qureia have only till tomorrow by his initial thirty days?
MR. ERELI: Right, yes.
QUESTION: Are you alarmed that things don't seem to be working out?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't say we're alarmed. I would say we're watching and we're looking forward to the Palestinian government being formed that is empowered to act on security.
QUESTION: And if -- well, we can address it again tomorrow if it doesn't happen.
MR. ERELI: I bet we will.
MR. ERELI: Yes, Joel.
QUESTION: Can I return to the third portion --
MR. ERELI: Oh, on Ambassador Welch and the press.
MR. ERELI: There's been a lot of back-and-forth on this issue, but the essential point I would make is that Ambassador Welch is a strong and articulate defender of a free and responsible press, and those are the points that any ambassador makes, and that Ambassador Welch has been particularly eloquent in making in Egypt in his dealings with his journalistic -- Egyptian journalists. And we support his comments and we believe that we were made in the spirit of friendship and mutual interest in press freedoms.
QUESTION: Totally new subject? The International Criminal Court. Under Secretary Bolton gave remarks at the AEI today, and there was some questioning about how the U.S. has withheld military aid, as we know, to countries who have not signed Article 98 agreements. Some countries were given waivers for U.S. national security waivers, but others, several Eastern European nations, were not given waivers. And some of these countries are actually committing troops to Iraq.
So is there any thought to giving waivers to any country that has not signed an Article 98 agreement who is -- which is contributing either to the war on terrorism or to Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Under the act, we are allowed to sign waivers for countries that have signed agreements. And we have -- currently my information is that we have waived the prohibition for such countries, as well as for those countries that we determine to be important to the national interest of the United States.
There are currently five countries, European countries, that you mentioned -- I'm sorry -- five countries, European and otherwise, that we have -- that are under a temporary waiver based on a determination that it is important to the national interest to waive prohibition. Those countries are Guinea, Macedonia, Romania, Bolivia and Panama.
All these countries have signed Article 98 agreements, but they have not yet entered into force. And these waivers will expire at different times.
Does that answer your question?
QUESTION: Well actually, not really, because there are some countries that you have not offered waivers to who -- you have offered several waivers to countries who have not signed agreements with the U.S., but that the President determined were -- you know, it was in the national security interest to offer waivers, as with other legislation.
But some of these countries that you have not provided waivers to are, in fact, you know, either key allies in the war on terrorism or, you know, in the case of some countries such as Bulgaria, Estonia, have -- are contributing to the war in Iraq.
MR. ERELI: Right. So your question is about those countries for whom we have not done waivers and why we have not done them, if they're important for other things?
QUESTION: Well, don't -- do you think that all countries that are offering troops to the effort in Iraq right now should be given waivers?
MR. ERELI: Right. I'm not real -- I'm not completely up to date on what is the status in Article 98 negotiations with those countries that are -- all those countries that are giving troops in Iraq.
Let me -- you know, if you want to get into a country-by-country analysis of that, I'd have to get back to you on it. I can tell you who we've issued waivers for, who's signed -- you know, there are 70 countries that have signed them.
Are all those 70 countries working with us in Iraq? Are all the countries working with us in Iraq signed -- signed 98 agreements? I don't know. But what I can do is, you know, look into it, and if your interest is on the countries that are with us in Iraq, see what the status is.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Well, on that, on that particular point, I think Mr. Bolton -- I wasn't there myself. I understand that he -- he was critical of European Union members for trying to persuade aspirant members not to sign these agreements. Do you -- have you been pressing the European Union to stop this practice? Is this something that you believe is continuing?
MR. ERELI: You know, I haven't seen Mr. Bolton's remarks. I think he was pretty explicit about where we stand on that issue. I'll let his remarks speak for themselves.
In the back.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: When Hwang Jeong-Yop was visiting last week, security seemed quite tight around him. I was wondering, in his private meetings with State Department officials, were South Korean security service agents present?
MR. ERELI: I don't believe so. I think that people providing security in this building were Diplomatic Security personnel, as is customary.
QUESTION: Without -- I mean, I'm sure you're not going to want to talk about exactly what he told you, but you said -- Richard said last week that you wanted to have an opportunity to hear from him, and then perhaps make a judgment.
But was there anything in his meetings in the Administration that caused you to feel differently about your current course with North Korea?
Was there anything that made you feel that the situation with North Korea was more urgent than you originally thought it was?
MR. ERELI: Yes, our meetings with this North Korean, as Ambassador Boucher said, helped inform our understanding of the North Korean regime, a regime of which there is very little known, and about which a former insider can provide very useful insights. That was the value of our meetings with him.
As a result of those meetings, we continue to believe that a multilateral diplomatic solution to the problem of a nuclear Korean Peninsula remains the best course and we are committed to moving forward through six-party talks to achieving the complete, verifiable and irreversible end to North Korea's nuclear program.
QUESTION: On North Korea. There is a German member of parliament who has just come out of North Korea and met some senior officials and said a few things about what their position is. Did you see those remarks, and did you see anything new in those remarks? Does it change anything? Perhaps you haven't had a chance to see them.
MR. ERELI: I have not seen those remarks, but I would just reiterate what I just said, which is that our policy and approach remains consistent.
Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, have you heard anything from Chinese side on the North Korea and China talk last week?
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything to report.
QUESTION: Also, can you tell us what's going to be of consultation with Chinese? Former Vice Prime Minister Chen is now in Texas and he's going to meet with some U.S. official on this issue?
MR. ERELI: Let me check and see what the State Department involvement in that is. If he's in Texas, I'd let the Chinese speak for his schedule there. But if there's any State Department involvement, I'll check.
QUESTION: Adam, do you have any reporting back from Georgia? I know they had parliamentary elections. There are suggestions that there were some significant irregularities in the election.
MR. ERELI: That sounds like an overstatement at this point. What I can tell you is that the Central Election Commission in Tbilisi is still counting the votes, so we'll withhold comment on the results of the election until that count is available.
We urge all Georgian leaders and voters to continue working to ensure that the final vote count is transparent and fair. We agree with the preliminary OSCE assessment that inaccuracies in the voter list lessened voter confidence in an election process that may have disenfranchised a large number of otherwise eligible voters.
On the positive side, we also note that the OSCE recognized that certain aspects of the election demonstrated significant progress, notably the passage of the Unified Election Code and the transparency of the new Central Election Commission.
The United States, in partnership with the OSCE, the UN, and other friends of Georgia, will maintain its support for democracy as Georgia prepares to install a new parliament and looks toward the presidential elections of 2005.
As results are tabulated in the parliamentary elections, we call on all parties and candidates to refrain from the threat or use of violence.
QUESTION: For democracy? Is there democracy in Georgia? Are you folks disappointed in Shevardnadze, who several Secretaries of State fell head-over-heels in love with?
MR. ERELI: What's the question?
QUESTION: Isn't there democracy in Georgia now? Has Shevardnadze improved prospects for democracy in Georgia? Has he been a disappointment?
MR. ERELI: I would leave it where I said on this. I will restrain my
I think if you look at the elections, they are a strong indicator of where things are in Georgia. There are, you know, as we said, positive developments. There are also issues that we're looking at and talking to the Georgians about. But this is something we work with our partners to help advance.
QUESTION: I'll let it go at that, but when you speak of your support for democracy, so the natural question is: Are you supporting democracy which exists or are you supporting movement toward democracy, which may not exist? When you --
MR. ERELI: The two -- the two, Barry, are not mutually exclusive.
QUESTION: Well, when you register support for democracy, it's cleverly evasive as to whether there is democracy now or not. Right?
MR. ERELI: The fact that there are basically elections that are strong is a positive sign and a good sign of the state of democracy in Georgia.
QUESTION: What's a strong election as against a sort of a free
election? What's the different -- what do you mean by "strong
elections?" Do you mean one where
MR. ERELI: I don't want to get ahead of the OSCE on characterizing the elections. So let's just say elections.
QUESTION: Richard Armitage is meeting with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka later this afternoon. Do you have any comments about this meeting?
MR. ERELI: Deputy Secretary Armitage will meet with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister this afternoon. They will discuss the counterproposals presented by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam to the Government of Sri Lanka this weekend, and how the United States can help to restart peace negotiations as soon as possible.
We will also be discussing our joint efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement of this long and violent conflict.
QUESTION: I assume the Sri Lankan Prime Minister will bring up the question of removing the Tamil Tigers from the list of FTOs. Is there any evolution in the U.S. position on that?
MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of, Jonathan, but if there is, I'll check and let you know.
QUESTION: Sorry, one more, regarding Taiwan issue. Taiwanese President stayed in New York and last Friday Mr. Boucher said he totally denies the possibility of some meetings with Chen, with senior U.S. official, but he didn't exclude the possibility of some phone contact, I mean.
Can you say anything on that?
MR. ERELI: No, I'm not aware of any phone contact. I'll check and get back to you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m.)
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