State Department Briefing, December 29, 2003

 

Monday December 29, 2003

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2003
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:30 p.m. EST
BRIEFER: J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

Index:

GUATEMALA
Presidential Elections

TERRORISM
Emergency Aviation Amendments/Air Marshals

IRAN
Earthquake in Bam/Humanitarian Relief

NORTH KOREA
Six-Party Talks
Food Assistance

IRAQ
Saddam Hussein / Restoration of Assets
Special Presidential Envoy James Baker / Debt Relief
UN Role / IGC Meetings
Authority to Waive Conditions for Iraqis Visiting the U.S.

PAKISTAN
Attempted Assassination of President Musharraf
Cooperation in Combating Terrorism

SYRIA
Restoration of Iraqi Assets
Draft UN Resolution on Weapons of Mass Destruction

PHILIPPINES
Detention of Michael Ray Stubbs and Jamil Daoud Mujahid

VENEZUELA
Referendum

SERBIA
Elections / Slobodan Milosevic

MEXICO
Summit of the Americas

SUDAN
Progress of Peace Talks

LIBYA
IAEA Director ElBaradei Visit / Dismantling WMD Programs

CHINA
Death of Liu Chengjun

MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everyone. I hope you guys had a restful and pleasant holiday. We're happy to be back to answer your questions. Who would like to start?

QUESTION: Can I start you with Guatemala? You have a mayor, who is pro-business, and happy to have investments. I imagine the Administration is pleased with the results.

MR. ERELI: We congratulate Mr. Oscar Berger on winning Guatemala's presidency, and we look forward to working with his new government. I would add that we also congratulate the people of Guatemala on an election that meets international standards. Media and observer reports suggest that few irregularities and little or no violence occurred during this election which was held on December 28th.

Yes.

QUESTION: In regards to Mexico City, what will State Department do regarding the Department of Homeland Security announcement that it will require armed guards on foreign flights coming into the United States? Will you contact foreign governments? Have you already done that, or what will this Department do on that?

MR. ERELI: For the details of this issue, I'd refer you to the Department of Homeland Security. I would note that they put out today a statement outlining what the emergency amendments -- sorry -- aviation emergency amendments that went into effect today, that deal with the issue that you discussed.

I would add from the State Department point of things, what we're doing is we have sent out a cable to all of our posts around the world informing them of what the emergency amendments are, what conditions they -- to what conditions they apply, and how they are to be operationalized.

The point here is that our embassy officials are free to go to government officials in host countries at the appropriate levels to convey that information. But this is something that is being worked out, frankly, with the airlines directly and doesn't require a lot of, I would say, diplomatic involvement.

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: But have you, nonetheless, heard back from any governments that they are dissatisfied with it, or that they're pleased with it?

MR. ERELI: No, no.

QUESTION: Either way?

MR. ERELI: No. I think there is a recognition worldwide that we live in dangerous times. There are serious threats out there, and that it is incumbent upon all of us to do what we can to protect our citizens and our way of life from these threats.

QUESTION: And when you said we've sent out a cable, it's not then the State Department's job to inform governments, only if there are questions that perhaps they could answer after hearing from DHS, is that what you're saying?

MR. ERELI: Well, it is -- I mean, it is our job to inform governments, and that's what we're doing. But this is largely an issue that's being worked with -- directly with airlines.

QUESTION: And what U.S. agency are they speaking about?

MR. ERELI: The Transportation Security Agency.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the aid to Iran regarding the earthquake? Has the first shipment of aid actually landed? Is there going to be more?

MR. ERELI: Let me just ask. Are we finished with airline issue?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. ERELI: Okay, finished. On Iran. There have been a number of flights from the United States to Iran bringing humanitarian relief supplies and personnel. From the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development dispatched a seven-member disaster assistance response team to Bam, along with 77 technical and medical specialists.

Those specialists included: 11 members of the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team, and 66 medical experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This team is to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the victims of the Bam earthquake. They arrived this morning at Kerman, which is approximately 200 kilometers northwest of Bam.

QUESTION: Can you put any -- is that the full total of U.S. aid?

MR. ERELI: No, there's also aid being provided through CENTCOM -- CENTCOM is Central Command -- is providing humanitarian rations, blood and miscellaneous medical support. I'd refer you to the Defense Department for the logistics of the transportation and arrival of those supplies.

QUESTION: Do you have a total -- a total dollar figure for the amount of U.S. aid?

MR. ERELI: I don't. I don't. You know, it's sort of -- it's hard to come to since it involves people as well as services, supplies -- so I just -- I guess what I would say is, it's significant and meaningful.

QUESTION: When was the last time there was some direct contact between U.S. officials and Iranian officials over this? When was the last time there was such direct contact between U.S. and Iranian diplomats?

MR. ERELI: As you suggest, Deputy Secretary Armitage did speak with the Iranian Permanent Representative to the UN on early Saturday morning* . He spoke to him in Tehran. He noted that this was a humanitarian tragedy that transcended political considerations and called for the support of the United States, and we were offering that support to deal with the tragedy of the earthquake. They spoke for a short period of time and the Iranian Permanent Representative called back to accept the offer of assistance.

As to previous conversations with -- between U.S. and Iranian officials, what I would say is simply this, that, as you know, we don't have diplomatic relations. We don't have regular, regular and ongoing contacts, but we do talk to one another from time to time when circumstances require and when it's necessary to address specific issues and that's the most efficient way of doing it. But I wouldn't want to get into a, you know, who talked to who, when. Some of our contacts, you know, some of these contacts are well known and publicized.

QUESTION: Will there be --

QUESTION: Will this team -- will this American team work under the supervision of the Iranian Government or will it work on its own?

MR. ERELI: The team is coordinating with the representatives of the International Federation of the Red Cross and the United Nations Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance.

QUESTION: Will there be any further aid -- deliveries, shipments?

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything to report to you now. I would say that we stand ready to continue our assistance and to respond to the needs of the victims of this tragedy as appropriate and as requested.

QUESTION: Can we move on to Korea, where, over the weekend --

MR. ERELI: Okay to move on?

QUESTION: There was a little note, a small item, that North Korea is now ready to have those talks. Are you moving to the point now where you can see, foresee the second round beginning?

MR. ERELI: I'm just pausing to think what "foresee" means.

QUESTION: Well, you would not have the hour and the place -- yeah, well, I know the place is Beijing. You may not have the hour of day. But, I mean, is it falling into place now in January to have another round of talks?

MR. ERELI: Let me put it this way. We would like to see an early resumption of talks and we continue to seek to schedule a second round as soon as possible in the new year.

QUESTION: Is there anything new, then, in what they've said? Is there anything that the U.S. is going to jump on?

MR. ERELI: I think we're going to continue to work with the Chinese, who are engaged in diplomatic efforts, to bring a second party, second round to the table. Rather than use the phrase "jump on," I would say we're going to continue to work with our friends in this process to move the ball forward and get everybody together around the table without preconditions so we can, so we can talk about the goal that we all share, which is a dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program.

QUESTION: Well, if we pick up on that, North Korea was asking for things that the U.S. called preconditions, although when Mr. Armitage is asked in an interview, "What about security assistance, security guarantees," he says, "Yeah, sure. I don't know. Words aren't important. You know, it's something the President has made clear we're ready to provide." So have they, if I accept your notion that they want preconditions, has that position eased in any way, in any positive way?

MR. ERELI: We've been informed from, by the Chinese that North Korea has agreed in principle to a resumption of the talks. As far as what their position is, the North Korean position is on, on the terms for that resumption, I'd refer you to them. Our position hasn't changed.

QUESTION: All right, one last thing. The food -- the huge food shipment that was announced last week, there was some -- you know, some work had to be done on which items, preparing the shipments. Do you have anything to report on how close actual delivery is now?

MR. ERELI: Yeah. I don't have anything new. Let me check. Obviously, we're coordinating that through the World Food Program, but let me look into it and see if I can't get you something more.

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: When you say that you've been informed by the Chinese that North Korea has agreed in principle, is that something that you're saying has been reiterated to you this past weekend? Because they've said before they agreed in principle, and then things just weren't getting arranged. Have there been any high-level conversations like, between the Deputy Secretary, between Secretary Powell and Chinese officials since North Korea?

MR. ERELI: Right. No, no discussions at that level. There have been discussions with the Chinese through our Embassy in Beijing.

QUESTION: Since this North Korea announcement on Saturday, I believe it was?

MR. ERELI: Informing us of this North --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. ERELI: -- informing us of what the Chinese-North Korean talks produced.

QUESTION: So this, in principle, came over the weekend?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: I'll check, but I think -- yeah.

QUESTION: Or, anyway, in the last couple of days.

MR. ERELI: In the last couple days, right.

QUESTION: And that, then, would be a little bit more -- would seem like progress since we knew that they said that they were ready to go into a second round, but wouldn't, wouldn't agree to terms of the arrangements. Would you say that this is a step forward that they've made this new announcement?

MR. ERELI: I would say that we, we would like to get talks started as soon as possible without preconditions. We are pleased with the Chinese efforts to make that happen and we will continue to work with them to bring these talks about. But, you know, it's -- characterizing things as "progress" or "jump on," I'd prefer to just be a little bit more low key and say it's going to take, it's going to take hard work. These are things that involve six parties, so there's still a lot of details to be worked out.

QUESTION: Are we closer this week than we were last week?

MR. ERELI: I don't think we're close until we're there.

QUESTION: Is this the result of experience dealing with North Koreans, that you don't to kind of go out too far and, you know, say one thing they're going to contradict or is it just, you know?

MR. ERELI: I would say it's a complex diplomatic effort that requires patience and does not lend itself to, to sort of flights of exuberance.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: Change of subject. Question. Saddam Hussein, in questioning, has said he siphoned upwards of $40 billion out of Iraq. It's in foreign bank accounts. Is that one of the portions of discussion that James Baker had on his trip to both Europe and now, to Asia? And secondly, if some of that money is found, does it get returned to the Coalition, does it go for troops, for the deployment? Where does that money go?

MR. ERELI: Three questions. On the first question about Saddam Hussein talking about $40 billion siphoned off, I've seen the reports, but I don't -- I'm in no position to give them -- to comment on their veracity.

On the question of Baker's discussions with the Japanese, his -- he is discussing with the Japanese what he discussed with the French, Russians and British, which is debt relief for Iraq. He had good -- a good and constructive meeting today with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi. They have talked about reducing Iraq's debt burden. I would say that we are pleased with the Government of Japan's announcement that it is prepared to forgive the majority of its Iraqi debt if other Paris Club creditors are also prepared to do so in the context of a Paris Club agreement.

And I would say just generally that we are very pleased that all the countries which Special Presidential Envoy Baker has visited have so far agreed to work with us on this issue that is so important to the future of the Iraqi people. There is still a lot more work to be done, and Special Envoy Baker will be continuing his efforts and visits to other capitals in the coming weeks.

I would also add that Baker met with leaders in Beijing today as well, but I don't have anything for you on those meetings.

QUESTION: Anything on Saudi Arabia and Baker?

MR. ERELI: Don't have any details for you on next travel plans.

On the final part of your question, Joel, the money that belongs -- that was stolen from the Iraqi people by the former regime will be returned to the Iraqi people.

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: Back on the Saddam money. When you were initially looking for money in Syrian banks, I believe the State Department was part of the team that was looking into those reports, weren't they?

MR. ERELI: There was an interagency team that was in Syria, had questions about certain bank accounts. The Syrians have been cooperative in that effort, have identified funds that are Iraqi -- that are of the Iraqi regime, that are in Syrian bank accounts. We are working with the Syrians -- or the Iraqis are working, along with us, with the Syrians, as well as with other governments, to ensure that those funds are returned to the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: So would the State Department also have people looking in the -- as you get reports that there may be money in other banks, is the State Department going to continue to be part of the effort to find the money?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, absolutely.

QUESTION: It's just too early to have any reports back on these latest possibilities?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, if they're true. I mean, there are a lot of reports about money spirited away into other bank accounts, and I would expect those reports to continue. And as they -- and as we determine their veracity and credibility, we, along with the Iraqis -- but I would put the emphasis on the Iraqis -- will spare no effort to ensure that the funds are returned to the people to whom they rightfully belong.

QUESTION: And one more question.

QUESTION: And the Syrians say some of that. First of all, the figure is inflated, they say. They're not holding 2 billion; they're holding a quarter of a billion. Secondly, that a lot of it is owed to Syrian contractors. That's not -- it's not in the U.S. interest to plow that field, and you're going to leave it to the Iraqis to work it out with the Syrians?

MR. ERELI: No, I think it's in all of our interests to make -- to ensure that what belongs to the Iraqi people is returned to the Iraqi people, and we will continue to work with the Iraqi Governing Council and the representatives of Iraq to see that that happens in Syria, as well as elsewhere.

QUESTION: So you think Syria is being cooperative on that. So you don't have an issue with this -- these reports that they want to keep some of the money?

MR. ERELI: No, what I said was we had -- when we first went there, we had questions about certain funds and certain accounts that we asked for information on. They were cooperative and provided that information, thereby allowing the parties involved to get a clear picture of what amounts we were talking about.

The second issue is, okay, what to do with those amounts in getting them back to Iraq, and who they're owed to, and that is a -- that's a discussion that I'm not in a position to get into here.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to say whether Syria has been cooperative on it?

MR. ERELI: I think that, as I said, this is something that the Iraqis are discussing with a number of countries including Syria, and that it's -- we believe it's important that, in the final analysis, the money goes to the people who have the rightful claim to it.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Korea just for a minute? Maybe I made an assumption I shouldn't make. So let me ask you. Has a date been set for the next round?

MR. ERELI: No.

I'm sorry. You had a question in the back for a long time.

QUESTION: Yes. There was an unfortunate assassination attempt on President Musharraf on Christmas Day, but we did not have an opportunity to seek a detailed reaction from the State Department. So now I think you have probably been able to get more information or gather your thoughts.

First, the gravity of the situation, that he has had two attempts on his life within two, less than two weeks. Second, does this pose any concerns to U.S. in terms of the overall security situation in Pakistan and the fight against terrorism? Did anybody call him from here? Are there any official calls?

MR. ERELI: Yeah. I would say, first of all, that let's not forget what is a -- what is, I think, the cardinal point, which is that the United States and Pakistan are allies in the war on terror, and we continue to work closely and productively in fighting this threat, which endangers us all equally.

As far as the latest attacks on President Musharraf go, we, the United States, strongly condemns these attacks against the President of Pakistan. We extend our condolences to the families of the bystanders who were killed in these cowardly acts of terror. These attacks further demonstrate that Pakistan faces serious problems with extremists and terrorists and we -- we stand ready, as always, to assist the Pakistanis in confronting this threat. Anything that we can provide to help them, we will.

I would also add that Secretary Powell spoke to President Musharraf on Friday, expressed our great relief that he -- at his safety and well being, expressed our condolences for the loss of life and again, reiterated our strong support for Pakistan's efforts in the war on terror.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up. How deep do you suppose Pakistan's resolve to counterterrorism goes?

I mean, when Musharraf took a stand that you approved of, it was presented as, you know, quite an accomplishment considering the sentiment in the country was not -- he was ahead of his people.

Is he still ahead of his people? If something should happen to him, hypothetically, are you convinced that Pakistan will stand with the U.S. in countering terrorism? And I'm talking about Kashmir, too, of course.

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I -- you know it's -- Barry, it's such a hypothetical situation. I think that we, we believe that President Musharraf -- or we don't believe -- we know that President Musharraf is serious about his commitment to fight terror, that his government is resolutely behind him. Our cooperation with Pakistan is excellent, continues to be excellent. I think Pakistan has made a strategic decision, if you will, that fighting terror is in its vital interests, and it will continue, will continue to act on that with that in mind.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that attacks against Musharraf and what some people might see as a rising opposition to him will make it more difficult for him to do the things that the United States wants him to do in the anti-terror campaign?

And secondly, given the vital role he's playing, has there been any thought among the U.S. officials in this as to, perhaps, helping to provide him with some protection, training his bodyguards in a similar way to, perhaps, that the U.S. did for Karzai at the start?

MR. ERELI: As far as sort of getting into an analysis of the Pakistani domestic political situation, that gets into the realm of political commentary that, that isn't -- I don't feel comfortable doing -- isn't really what I'm here for.

I would note simply that if you're looking for signs of -- I mean, if you're looking for signs, the important sign for us is cooperation in the war on terror, exchange of information, law enforcement cooperation, working against the financial networks of terrorists, border security -- all of those indicators are in the plus column with Pakistan. So that is something to, I think, weigh heavily in your thinking about things.

As far as security cooperation, law enforcement cooperation, as I said, we have longstanding programs in that field with Pakistan, and we stand ready to provide whatever assistance that they might require.

Mr. Goyal.

QUESTION: As far as India and Pakistan relations are concerned, in recent days, General Musharraf made several positive statements as far as solving the Kashmir issue. His stand, as far as toughest issue was, he dropped recently, and he said he's willing to settle the issue without those demands that he was tough on in the past.

Now, I understand that as far as these attempts to assassinate him are concerned, that means the enemies of peace and enemies of democracy in Pakistan are after him to eliminate him. So my question is: As far as this -- solving the Kashmir problem or India and Pakistan and the peace in the region, what steps you think U.S. is taking now to make sure that no further attacks or such a thing happen, or he will not be in -- they will not be able to make such an attempt on him?

MR. ERELI: I think we've pretty much gone over that issue, what steps we're taking to protect Musharraf, but the --

QUESTION: Adam, is the Department of State sending any kind of really security, taking caring of the Musharraf's security arrangements or --

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything to share with you, Mr. Goyal, at this time on that issue. I think what we've made clear is that, that Pakistan is committed to fight against terrorism. The United States is committed to fight against terrorism. We're doing that cooperatively, together. We will continue to do that. We are ready to provide whatever assistance Pakistan needs to help its efforts.

We have noted, as you mentioned earlier, a number of positive statements and positive developments in terms of engagement between India and Pakistan in recent weeks. We continue to encourage a forward movement on that issue. We look forward to the regional meeting in Islamabad in January to discuss South Asian Regional Cooperation, and we'll be working with all our partners in the region to settle some of these longstanding disputes, which fester the kind of extremism that I think threatens us all.

QUESTION: About this South Asian leaders meeting this week, is the U.S. sending any observer or anybody there at the meeting, or is U.S. working on this summit? How important it is for, not only for the region, but especially between India and Pakistan? This is the first time that all the leaders agreed, including the Indian Prime Minister is going there. So --

MR. ERELI: It is an important meeting. Let me get back to you as to whether and at what level we might be present there. I don't have an answer for you on that.

QUESTION: Finally, one more. I might see you next month. But, first of all, I wish a Happy New Year to all my colleagues here at the State Department and a quick recovery for the Secretary. And I'm really thankful to all of you in the Press Office for your all help and cooperation last year, especially 2003, and all the best.

MR. ERELI: Noted for the record. Thank you.

(Laughter.)

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: Not to change the subject from something so nice, but ditto on that, and at the United Nations, Syria is using its final days on the Security Council to try to push through a resolution banning all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in the Middle East, and the U.S. has been opposed, and as I understand it, remains opposed to this. But what do you, what do you expect to happen with this proposal in the next couple of days?

MR. ERELI: I would note that at the request of the Arab nations, the Security Council today held informal consultations on a Syrian draft measure to ban weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The item has not yet been formally placed on the Security Council agenda, and I would say it remains to be seen whether it will be discussed further on the Council.

As a general proposition, you know, our position is pretty clear. We certainly favor or certainly support, as an overall objective, a region free of weapons of mass destruction, but I would note that, well, specific initiatives with political -- that might be put forward for political purposes are a different issue -- a different matter.

QUESTION: But what is present in this proposal? Is it just because it's presented by Syria or what are your concerns that would prevent you from supporting a new --

MR. ERELI: Well, usually these sort of things that presented by -- there's a history that, you know, when these things are presented by one party to a conflict they are generally one-sided and do not address issues in a comprehensive or balanced way. But as for the specifics of this proposal, I haven't seen it, so I'm really not in a position to comment in detail.

Yes.

QUESTION: If I can change the subject, but regarding President Bush's --

MR. ERELI: Oh, I'm sorry. Same subject.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

QUESTION: When you said it's -- we agree with the objective, but we have a different point of view regarding the political intentions, I mean, what do you mean?

MR. ERELI: Well, I don't want to say I agree with the objective. Don't put words in my mouth. I said that it is -- as an overall objective -- the United States has consistently said that we would like to see a region free of weapons of mass destruction. So, but that is not to be interpreted as any kind of commentary for or against on this specific proposal.

QUESTION: I want to check something else with you. There are some news reports that Syria, the Foreign Minister of Syria ask different, the permanent members and Syria to come into a meeting and they were report -- and it was reported that both the British and the American Ambassadors in Syria, they didn't attend this meeting. Is it true?

MR. ERELI: I'll have to check. I'm not aware that there was such a meeting called, or that -- under what circumstances we may or may not have attended but let me -- let me look into it for you.

QUESTION: I have another question.

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, it was reported that the Ambassador, American Ambassador to Syria, already arrived there. Is it true or it's --

MR. ERELI: I know that the American Ambassador to Syria, Ms. Margaret Scobey, was sworn in last Monday, I believe, by Deputy Secretary Armitage, and that she was expected to arrive in Syria after Christmas. I don't know if she is there yet, but she should be there any day now. I'd ask you just to -- you can check the embassy.

QUESTION: Clarification about what is the next for this, regarding this resolution? Are you still waiting to be (inaudible) officially?

MR. ERELI: There will be discussions in the Security Council on whether to bring this resolution, to put it before the Security Council for consideration.

QUESTION: And you are principally against it?

MR. ERELI: I don't -- I am not going to characterize our position beyond what I've already said.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Joel.

QUESTION: I have a question over the week concerning BSE or mad cow disease, and also reports about SARS making a comeback, as well as a row last year with the EU concerning genetic modified-type foods. Is there any particular discussions underway to alleviate some of these problems before they erupt into a worldwide calamity? I know the Canadians seem to be outspoken. And any particular units of the World Health Organization involved that you're trying to gear up for?

MR. ERELI: I've got painfully little for you on this, Joel. I would say simply on the BCE epidemic, what we did last week was we informed -- we gave information to all of our diplomatic posts overseas about what was being done in the United States to investigate, analyze, take protective measures against -- in response to this discovery, in order that our host governments could have all the facts in front of them and directly from the source, which was us, so that's number one.

On SARS, I'd refer you to health organizations. I don't have anything for you on that.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Do you have anything about Jamil Daoud Mujahid? He's an American, who is detained in the Philippines.

MR. ERELI: Yes, he and another individual. The Philippine authorities on December 13th arrested two American citizens, Michael Ray Stubbs, and Jamil Daoud Mujahid. The Embassy in Manila was notified of their detention on December 15th. Consular officials from the embassy met with both individuals on December 17th. I can tell you that Mr. Stubbs and Mr. Mujahid are currently being detained on immigration violations, and I'd refer you to the Philippine authorities for further information on their detention.

Yes, Sonia.

QUESTION: Go back to Venezuela, to Latin America?

MR. ERELI: Finished with the Philippines?

QUESTION: No, another one?

MR. ERELI: Venezuela.

QUESTION: Okay. My first question is on, there are some members of the Venezuelan opposition here in Washington, to have some meetings with high senior officials. Is this because the U.S. Administration is concerned that the recall referendum is not going to take place in Venezuela?

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything new for you on the referendum other than what I mentioned just last week, or it might have been the week before, that the signatures have been collected and are being analyzed. As far as we can tell, the system is going according to plan and peacefully and transparently and legally. So that's a good thing.

As far as the meeting of the opposition figures in Washington goes, I'll have to look into it and get something for you. I was not aware of it.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up. My second is on the Special Summit of the Americas in Monterey next year. Can we expect that it will be maybe any rapprochement between Venezuelan Government and the U.S. Government at this summit? Do you have anything on that?

MR. ERELI: No, I don't have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on --?

MR. ERELI: Do you have one more?

QUESTION: Well, this is on Bolivia. There was some comments made by President Chavez repeatedly that he would like to take a bath or maybe to swim in a Bolivian beach. Did the U.S. Department of State has already taken a position on that -- on the Bolivian issue?

MR. ERELI: I know that there is this issue, but I don't have anything for you on it.

Yes, Barry.

QUESTION: No, I have a question on it.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any -- anything on the Serbian election, the strong showing of Milosevic allies, in fact, he seems to have been elected to Parliament?

MR. ERELI: I would not, as a general matter -- and we'll be putting out a statement on this later today -- as a general matter, we welcome the orderly elections in Serbia that took place on Sunday, and we commend the Serbian people for their participation in the democratic process. The elections were conducted freely and fairly with no major incidents reported. We urge the parties which will enter the new Parliament to reach a consensus and form a new government quickly to continue the reform processes begun in October 2000.

We certainly expect those parties representing democratic ideals and standards to continue the process of economic, judicial and military reform, as well as support the full implementation of the Dayton Agreement, full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, including the arrest and transfer of Ratko Mladic to the International Criminal Tribunal for trial, and good relations with neighboring countries, which will allow Serbia and Montenegro to attain full membership in the Euro-Atlantic institutions.

On the specific results of the elections, I would note that parties that represent the democratic transition process were chosen by over 60 percent of the Serbian electorates, and that parties that espouse nationalist agendas garnered only one-third of the vote. I think that it is likely that any future government will come from the majority of democratic transition parties.

QUESTION: And there was a question on Milosevic's personal success.

MR. ERELI: Milosevic is otherwise engaged in The Hague. So I think that pretty much answers that.

Yes, Tomas.

QUESTION: Regarding the UN and Iraq, I mean, it was reported that there is a need for a clear mandate for UN mission to get back to Iraq. Are there any talks going on in that regard? Is there any position regarding this conference that's supposed to be the second or third week of January, or still too early to ask?

MR. ERELI: Yeah. Yeah. We, obviously, continue to believe that the UN has a vital and important role to play in Iraq, and we are hopeful that they can return to Iraq to play that role, as soon as -- as soon as circumstances permit. We are working with the Secretary General, with the Iraqi Governing Council, with the Coalition Provisional Authority to address some of the concerns that the UN has.

I would note that, as you suggest, I believe it's January 19th, representatives of the Iraq Governing Council will be meeting with the Secretary General to talk about this issue, and we will certainly continue to encourage a timely and important -- or timely return of the UN to Iraq to play the important role that they have in helping rebuild Iraq and return Iraq to the sovereignty of Iraqis.

Yes.

QUESTION: Regarding President Bush's visit to Monterey for the Summit of the Americas in a couple of weeks, has the agenda been laid out for his meeting with President Fox?

MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to the White House to talk about the travel and agenda of the President.

Teri.

QUESTION: Africa question. Do you have any reaction to the Papal Ambassador to Burundi being shot and killed? We're not really involved, but I wondered if you had any condolences.

MR. ERELI: I had not seen those reports. Let me --

QUESTION: Yeah, he's been shot and killed.

MR. ERELI: That's disturbing news. Let me look into it.

QUESTION: And, hopefully, better news. How do Sudan talks look for wrapping up by the end of the year?

MR. ERELI: We continue to urge both sides to come to an agreement before the end of the year. They are hard at work. The Government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army resumed peace talks in Naivasha, Kenya, on Friday. After a one-day break for Christmas, they are continuing their discussions, and our embassy in Nairobi is in regular contact with the parties. We are urging them to close this deal before the end of the year.

QUESTION: Any calls from the Secretary to either party?

MR. ERELI: No.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Yeah, back on Iraq for a second. I was just wondering if you could amplify on, I guess, Mr. Richard Jones -- I'm not sure if he is still the Ambassador to Kuwait -- had a mission there, ordered last month, had some kind of powers of exemption for people from Iraq wanting to visit the United States. I was wondering -- there was something on the register today. I was wondering if you had any edification on that.

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I can get you something on that. This, I think, is basically a consular issue, that there are certain -- I'll have to check on it and get you more. It's basically giving him the power to waive certain requirements for travel. Ambassador Jones was our ambassador in Kuwait. He is now working in Iraq as -- for the Coalition Provisional Authority and the senior State Department representative there. But let me look into it and get something for you on what exactly those powers are.

QUESTION: The position there, that was like an ongoing process, he goes --

MR. ERELI: Right. He is there to lead the State Department's effort in Iraq for the present time without a specific -- that I'm aware of -- date put on that mandate.

Yes, Sonia.

QUESTION: Going back to the Special Summit of the -- of Mexico, do you have the list of names of the U.S. Department officials who are going to participate with President Bush in the summit next year?

MR. ERELI: I don't have that. I don't know if it's been drawn up. If it has, I'll look into it and see if we can't get it for you.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: On Libya. And ElBaradei, apparently, met with Qadhafi for half an hour and Qadhafi's reiterated his commitment to being inspected for nuclear weapons. Do you have any reaction to those developments?

MR. ERELI: I have seen those reports. I think to talk about ElBaradei's meeting with Mr. Qadhafi, I'd refer you to Baradei or Mr. Qadhafi. What we -- our position is that we think it's certainly important and critical that the IAEA's -- or that Libya's safeguards commitments are -- to the IAEA are implemented rigorously. I think that Secretary -- the Director-General Baradei will be returning to Vienna, and we look forward to hearing from him what he has to say about his visit to Libya and his assessment of their situation there.

Yes, ma'am.

Libya. I'm sorry. One more.

QUESTION: Is there any kind of -- any steps are taken from State Department side regarding the normalization of relations with Libya? Are we still -- everything is clear?

MR. ERELI: As we've made clear, we're looking to Libya to get out of the terrorism game, and get out of the WMD game. They have made some very important and noteworthy statements regarding their intention to do so, and we have, as we said last week, gone to Libya to -- as a first step in verifying the dismantlement of their WMD program. It is a long process. We need to make sure that it -- that there is follow through on these commitments. And as there is follow through, we are willing to discuss with them the issue of improved bilateral relations, but we're not there yet.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: On December 26th, Mr. Liu Chengjun, a Falun Gong practitioner from Changchun area in China, was known to be tortured to death, and his name is actually mentioned by Amnesty International in an urgent call to action last year following the first successful TV taping, in which they successfully broadcast the video to expose the human rights atrocity in China; and this is the number six death case we have known following the mass arrest and heavy sentence. Actually, we heard several nongovernmental organizations are helping to put together a name list of the Chinese government officials who are involved in the torture and trying to submit to the governments around the world. Does the U.S. Government has anything, any comment on this?

MR. ERELI: Well, I think our position on human rights and the treatment of -- the fair treatment of people regardless of what their belief is well known. Ambassador Hanson spoke to it -- or Hanford -- spoke to it last, two weeks ago when we released our International Religious Freedom Report. It is a subject that is raised consistently with Chinese officials whenever we meet them, so I think that on both these counts: ability to -- freedom to express beliefs, freedom to express oneself, freedom of assembly and the humane treatment of prisoners and respect for the rule of law is something that we make, we make -- we treat as the highest priority and we raise consistently in our bilateral relations.

As far as the details of this specific case, I don't have them so I -- it's not something I could really go into, but if you're asking us to -- what, if we've done anything on this specific case, I guess I could look into it.

QUESTION: Okay. According to the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, there is a article saying that those foreign government officials who are engaged in particularly severe torture and in violation of religious freedom, they are inadmiss-- denied entry into the United States, so do you think the U.S. Government has any -- do you have any position on this?

MR. ERELI: I just don't have the facts -- I don't have the facts before me on this issue, so I'm not in a position to comment.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)

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