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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Daily Press Briefings > 2005 > August
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 8, 2005



Secretary Rices Condolences on the Death of Peter Jennings


Irans Decision to Reintroduce Nuclear Material into Conversion Facility
IAEA Board of Governors Meeting / EU-3
Violation of Paris Agreement / Possible Referral to UN Security Council
Status of Visa Request by Iranian President
Investigation Into Role of Iranian President in Hostage Crisis


Trilateral Meeting with Turkey, Iraq / Counterterrorism Talks / PKK


Congressional Travel to Northern Cyprus
U.S. Supports Efforts to Ease the Economic Isolation of Turkish Cypriots


Closure of Posts / Specific and Credible Threat Information


Suspension of Six Party Talks / Appreciation for Chinese Efforts
Progress Made / Draft Joint Declaration of Principles / Light Water Reactors
A/S Hill Travel
Three Week Recess


Threat of Nuclear Weapons / Shared International Approach
Differences Between Iranian and North Korean Nuclear Programs


Parliamentary Processes in Japan / Koizumi a Good Friend of U.S.


Accusations that DEA Involved in Espionage in Venezuela Baseless
U.S. Desire to Continue Counternarcotics Efforts
Steady Deterioration in Venezuelas Commitment on Counternarcotics


Investigation into the Crash of Garangs Helicopter / Full Investigation


Arrest of Ching Cheong / Freedom of Press Internationally Recognized Right


Progress on Gaza Withdrawal / Gen. Wards Travel / Cooperation


U.S. Belief that Constitutional Rule Be Returned to Mauritania / AU Mission


MR. ERELI: Good to see you all, including you, Saul. Let me begin by just drawing your attention to a statement put out by the Secretary today, noting that the Secretary is saddened by the death of her close personal friend Peter Jennings. The Secretary sends to Peter -- to Mr. Jennings’ wife and family on behalf of us, the State Department, our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences. And the Secretary notes that: Peter Jennings represented all that was best in journalism and public service. He was a man of conscience and integrity and his reporting was a guide to all of us who aspire to better the world around us.

And with that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Iranian decision to end the suspension on uranium enrichment?

MR. ERELI: The International Atomic Energy Agency this morning informed IAEA member states that Iran has reintroduced nuclear material into its Isfahan uranium conversion facility. Obviously, this would represent a breach of the November 2004 Paris agreement with the EU-3 in which Iran pledged to suspend its enrichment-related fuel cycle activities, including any uranium conversion tests or production. I would note that the British and the French have made public statements expressing their concern about this development. I would also note that there is an IAEA Board of Governors meeting tomorrow. We will be consulting closely with our EU-3 colleagues in advance of that meeting about how we should respond to this action and appropriate next steps.

The important thing to remember in all of this is that the EU-3 provided Iran with a very good proposal for dealing with this problem. We support that proposal. We were hopeful that they would be able to have talks in August. It appears that Iran has rejected that proposal and we will be working with -- we’ll continue to work with the EU-3 in support of efforts to get this process back on track.

QUESTION: You don’t want to characterize it?

MR. ERELI: Characterize what?

QUESTION: You don’t want to characterize the Iranian move?

MR. ERELI: It’s a violation of the Paris agreements. It’s something that we said we didn’t want to see. And it’s something that we and the international community will be responding to.

QUESTION: You said, "get the process back on track." Does that mean that the focus is still to get the negotiations with the EU-3 going, as opposed to taking them to the Security Council?

MR. ERELI: I think the focus is on addressing a program which is of concern to the international community because it is characterized by deception and obfuscation and what we need to do as a, again, as a collective is to prevent Iran from using its nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons.


QUESTION: Well, Adam, you say "deception" but apparently there was a Reuters reporter right on the scene who saw two workers feeding yellow cake right into a --

MR. ERELI: I was referring to 20 years of clandestine nuclear activity.


QUESTION: Adam, the United States has been very clear that once the seals were broken that the next move would be to the Security Council. Can you confirm that or do you see any other options at this point?

MR. ERELI: Well, I think our position on referral is well known. And what I would say in response to this latest development is that we will be conferring with our EU-3 and other Board of Governor colleagues about what, you know, what is the appropriate step to take in response to what's happened and how we can effectively address the concerns of the international community.

QUESTION: Do you expect end process of that was going to be referred to the UN, though?

MR. ERELI: I don't want to predict an outcome of what will happen and when, other than to stress, once again, that this is a -- this is basically, in rejecting the EU-3 offer and taking this step, this is Iran thumbing its nose at a productive approach by the EU-3 and we'll have to work together to take response.

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MR. ERELI: Changing the subject.

QUESTION: It's said that Iranian President wants to participate in the next UN General Assembly in New York. Are you willing to issue a visa for him, knowing the fact that he was a leader of the student Iranian movement, which organized hostages killing?

MR. ERELI: We’ve received a request for a visa. We’re reviewing that request, obviously bearing in mind our responsibilities under the Headquarters Agreement, also taking into consideration previous activities with respect to hostage-taking.

QUESTION: Well, so, can you say definitively then that your investigation into whether the president was a member of the -- or was one of the perpetrators of the actual hostage-taking will have an effect on whether you issue him a visa?

MR. ERELI: It's obviously something that is relevant to the decision being made.


QUESTION: Yeah, do you have anything on the --

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Anything more on this?


MR. ERELI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, in that vein there, the only reports that we've had is that so far no evidence has been turned up to support the claim of the five hostages. Have you turned up new evidence that would support the claim that the president was indeed involved in hostage-taking?

MR. ERELI: What's been said is the president was a student leader and involved in the events. What hasn't been determined is was he actually a hostage-taker and at the scene of the -- and at the scene, as some hostages have said. We certainly take those concerns seriously. We are looking into them. I'm not aware that there's been -- we've been able to determine what the factual basis is. We continue to look at that and we continue to -- we, as well as other parts of the U.S. Government, continue to look at that and continue to try to come to some factual closure on it.


QUESTION: What has the hostage-taking, or any concerns that you have about him, got to do with this visa? Because you have an obligation to allow him to go to a UN meeting. There's plenty of people who aren't your friends who go to those meetings -- Castro being one. Why is this an issue?

MR. ERELI: Well, this is -- again, I don't want to -- I want to have this -- how shall I put it? I don't want to talk about our consultations and our deliberations on this issue, make it a public discussion. I will say that we have -- we are mindful of Headquarters Agreements responsibilities. We also take very seriously information that someone has been involved in hostage-taking of American citizens, in contravention of international law and international practice, and that certainly is a relevant consideration in the matter at hand.


QUESTION: I have two questions. First of all, Mr. Ahmadinejad. So is there a possibility that you will deny a visa eventually?

MR. ERELI: We are reviewing the application.

QUESTION: Okay. Second question about Iran. Since July 9th, Iranian Kurdish area has been the scene of some violent demonstrations. People are demonstrating against the killing of a political activist. Iranian Government is said to have used helicopter gunships and all kinds of, you know, tools to crack down on the demonstrators. What is the --

MR. ERELI: This is in Iran?

QUESTION: Yes, this is still on Iran. And they have asked for the international community for help -- the Kurdish activists and organizations. What is the U.S. response for this call?

MR. ERELI: Honestly, I'm not informed enough about the activities that you ask about to give you a good answer. Let me see if I can find out: (a) what we know about the activity; and (b) what, if any, our response is to an appeal that -- from Iran that I haven't heard about. But, you know, just as a placeholder -- well, I'll just leave it at that.

QUESTION: Going back to the visa issue, is there a precedent? Or rather, to just get some background, has any other head of state been denied a visa going to a UN meeting in New York?

MR. ERELI: I'll check the record books and see what we can come up with.


MR. ERELI: In the back. Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Mr. Ereli, do you have anything on the trilateral meeting on "Kurdish extremists" here at the State Department under the chairmanship of Under Secretary Matthew Bryza last Saturday?

MR. ERELI: I don't know if I'd call it what you call it, but yes, we had a trilateral meeting between the United States, Turkey and Iraq over the weekend. Our delegation was led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza. In these meetings, delegations from the United States, Turkey and Iraq had trilateral counterterrorism talks. They were good discussions, very open, very productive. We discussed a range of mechanisms to fight terrorism and increase law enforcement. A particular focus of the discussions was the PKK and its affiliates and how we could all cooperate to eliminate the terrorist threat to Turkey from Northern Iraq.

As a result of these talks, the delegations agreed on a framework for future actions. They also agreed to reconvene and to set up working groups that would continue technical discussions between the formal meetings.

QUESTION: Do you know who represented Iraq?

MR. ERELI: I don't have that for you.

QUESTION: And on Cyprus, today a bunch of staffers from the U.S. Congress arrive in the illegal airport of Tymbou in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus at the suggestion and the approval of the Department of State. What prompted the Department of State to allow such an illegal action against domestic and international law?

MR. ERELI: Well, first of all, it's not illegal. There's nothing illegal about using the airport there. Second of all, it's -- the State Department does not allow or disallow travel by Congressional staffers. This is a private, unofficial staff delegation. They are responsible for their travel. They're responsible for their decisions. And I would refer you to them for elaboration on how they decided to go and what they did when they went there.

But we certainly are not going to either permit or prevent them from doing it. And moreover, our position is well known that we support efforts to ease the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and that we, as U.S. Government personnel, are certainly legally eligible to fly to Ercan airport.

QUESTION: And who is isolating the Turkish Cypriot, the Turkish army or the Greek Cypriots?

MR. ERELI: Let's move on. We've been over this ground many times before.

QUESTION: Okay. One -- do you consider the visit as a unilateral or a bilateral issue?

MR. ERELI: We consider the visit as a unofficial staff delegation wanting to go to Northern Cyprus and that it's perfectly appropriate for them to do so if they want to.

QUESTION: But it's an illegal area --

MR. ERELI: No, sir, it's not an illegal area.

QUESTION: Why is it not illegal?

MR. ERELI: There's nothing illegal -- there's nothing illegal about using Ercan airport to visit Northern Cyprus.

QUESTION: But it's under occupation.

MR. ERELI: Okay. Whatever -- whatever, it's not illegal to use it, there's nothing wrong about using the airport.

QUESTION: Can you explain this exactly?

MR. ERELI: Anyway, we've -- I think we've exhausted pretty much this topic.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: The Embassy and the consulates of Saudi Arabia are closed. Any idea when those are going to be opened again?

MR. ERELI: I can't give you a definite date. Obviously, we'll do it when we believe it's prudent -- we'll reopen them when we believe it's prudent to do so. We closed them because there was specific and credible information about an intention to attack our diplomatic facilities and in light of that information, this is what we felt was necessary to do to protect our people and our facilities.

We will continue to review the information available to us, the countermeasures -- the effective countermeasures that have been taken, and come to a decision about reopening on that basis.

QUESTION: Can you talk about any of the countermeasures that have been taken?

MR. ERELI: Generally, it's not something we talk about.

QUESTION: Okay. Any idea on what specific --

MR. ERELI: I would note, however, on that score, that we're getting very good cooperation from the Saudi Government. I think the Saudis understand and share our concern. And in fact it's, I think, important to remind you that it's not just Americans that -- American facilities that are targets. Saudis have suffered from terrorism as well and we have, I think, therefore a shared interest in fighting this -- or responding to this -- these reports specifically but also in working together broadly to confront and defeat terror in the Kingdom and elsewhere.

QUESTION: Do you have any specific information on what targets there might have been besides Western interests?

MR. ERELI: No, the information on targets was our diplomatic facilities.

QUESTION: Same subject.


QUESTION: Is there any link between these threats and the fact that yesterday it was the seventh anniversary of the East Africa bombings?

MR. ERELI: I don't know.

QUESTION: Yes. Do you have anything at all -- update on the six-party talks?

MR. ERELI: We believe that good progress was made during 13 days of talks in Beijing. We certainly commend and appreciate the Chinese Government for the really great work that they did in convening the talks, in moving the talks forward, in providing -- working up the draft joint statements that were the basis for so much of the negotiations in Beijing.

As you will note, in our Assistant Secretary's briefing in Beijing before leaving yesterday, he said, look, things had gotten to the point where a recess was needed, an opportunity for all sides to go back to capitals to consult, to get further guidance and instructions. We would expect to reconvene in about three weeks.

The reason we had to declare sort of -- or agree to a suspension of talks was because while everybody agreed that denuclearization was important, the North Koreans wanted to make specific mention of light water reactors. That was a nonstarter, couldn't bridge that gap. So we're hoping that in the interim we can, you know, bring North Korea into the consensus so that we can have an agreement on a joint declaration of principles.

QUESTION: Will the United States considering to take any -- another options, take it (inaudible)?

MR. ERELI: Well, again, you're sort of getting ahead of the game and talking about hypotheticals. We have before us a draft declaration of principles. We have before us a draft declaration of principles. We would expect and hope that we can come back in three weeks to conclude an agreement on that draft.


QUESTION: If I could follow up on the North Korean talks. It is very clear that the United States doesn't trust North Korea to even have civilian nuclear capacity, for fear that they will use that to produce nuclear weapons. At the same time, the United States just signed off on an offer to Iran that actually would allow them to retain a nuclear capacity, although the United States also suspects that they're not trustworthy and they're developing nuclear weapons.

My question is why are you willing to trust the Iranians and not the North Koreans?

MR. ERELI: I'll make a couple of points to this. One, I would encourage you, when writing about this, not to refer to it as the "U.S. versus North Korea" or "U.S. versus Iran". I think if you look at both the substance and the forum of how we're approaching both issues, they are multilateral. We've got five -- we've got six parties involved in the six-party talks. It's not two, it's six -- with North Korea.

With Iran, we've got -- we talked about the EU-3, so that's at least three, plus us, plus the Board of Governors, plus the IAEA. So when we're talking about responses to threats, it's important to note: (a) that there's a shared perception of threat by the region with respect to North Korean, by the international community with respect to Iran and that there is a common approach to dealing with that threat, through six-party talks, through the EU-3 and multilateral diplomacy there, and the IAEA Board of Governors and international institutions. So that's point one, all right.

Point number two, when talking about, you know, why are you doing this with North Korea and why are you doing this with Iran, and blah, blah, blah. I guess the short answer is, the two cases are different, therefore, the approaches are different. The substance of the programs, the substance of the policies are not the same, therefore, you're not going to have -- you're not going to deal with them in the same way.

There are, obviously, I think some common aspects but there are aspects of the issues that differentiate them. But clearly, in both, there's a -- you know, there’s a severe confidence deficit in the sense that, you know, as we've made clear with North Korea, they have taken civilian facilities and converted and used them for military purposes. That's a problem that certainly informs our approach to the issue today. Iran has, in our view, used a civilian nuclear program to clandestinely development nuclear weapons. That's a problem that informs our approach to the issue today. But, you know, within that broad sort of generalities, there are specific and important differences and distinctions that lead us to approach the problem differently.

QUESTION: What are -- what is the differentiating -- you said there's different -- there is a difference and therefore has a different approach. Why -- what's the difference that determines, in one case, you rule out civilian nuclear reactors and in another you allow it in principle?

MR. ERELI: Well, look, as far as the EU-3 proposal -- we've, you know, for us with respect to Iran, our view is that we are against any nuclear fuel cycle activity, period. And first things first, look, Iran has repeatedly hidden from and misinformed and provided wrong information, false information to the international community about its nuclear program. And until there's a level of clarity, a level of transparency, and a level of actually making commitments that they follow through on, you know, these other issues, I think are -- it's premature to talk about. I think I'd answer the question that way.

QUESTION: Well, how --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) say about (inaudible) --

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: So which is it? You're trying to have – it seems to me you're trying to have it both ways. There's a multilateral approach for both but they're different?

MR. ERELI: Yes. I don't see an inconsistency there.

QUESTION: Well, you said there was --

MR. ERELI: Look, you've got two different problems. Both of them the international community sees as -- both of them involve weaponization of nuclear materials. Both of them are a threat to the international community. Both of them are at different -- but each of them is at a different stage and each country has taken different actions.

At the same time, they're both a threat, the international community is both concerned about them, and the international community has decided that the best way to deal with them is collectively, through multilateral diplomacy, to make the point that: (a) these countries stand to lose more than they gain by pursuing these programs; and (b) offering a better alternative, an alternative that involves denuclearization, that involves transparency, verification and offers a way to integrate those countries productively into the international community, which is where they aren't now.

So maybe that helps to tie it all together for you.

QUESTION: Well, one thing you said is that each is a different stage. Is that the key, that North Korea has actually already developed weapons?

MR. ERELI: Well, that is a -- obviously, that's an important factor in how you deal with the problem.

QUESTION: But is it the explanation for why you're dealing with the problem in a different way?

MR. ERELI: That's one difference between the two, between the two programs. There are many others. I mean, North Korea is a different country than Iran. It has a different history. All that sort of stuff.

QUESTION: Did the North Koreans say flatly that they would be back at the end of August for resumption of the talks?

MR. ERELI: I think the expectation is that all will be back, yes. I can't give you a factual yes or no answer to that question.

QUESTION: Just a point on, again, on the nuclear capacity of North Korea. Can you say definitely that -- we know that South Korea and Japan are very much against North Korea having any nuclear capacity, but we cannot say the same thing about China and Russia. Can you say you are on the same page with China and Russia about this issue?

MR. ERELI: I think we’re on the same page as far as where we are on the declaration of principles and on the importance of North Korea making a strategic decision, which they haven't yet made and which we hope they will come back ready to sign onto.

QUESTION: Can you just give us an idea of the game plan now? The Assistant Secretary of State Hill -- is he already briefing Secretary Rice?

MR. ERELI: My understanding is that Assistant Secretary Hill came back either last night or early this morning. He is getting some much needed but brief rest before going at it again in terms of doing what we can from here to help bring about an agreement. I don't have his sort of agenda for the next couple days, but he's back at work, if not later today, certainly tomorrow.


QUESTION: Adam, just a follow-up on the three-week recess, please. I just want to clarify your response that you gave to George. You said you can't give a definite yes or a no. Were you talking about them coming back in three weeks?

MR. ERELI: No, the question was: Did they tell you they would be back? And my answer was our -- we expect them to be back, but I don't -- I don't know if they said to us, "We will be back." But we are leaving with the expectation that everybody is going to be back, so I don't really think it's an issue. There's not any doubt in our mind. But I just don't know who said what to whom, is my point.


QUESTION: Monday in Japan, Prime Minister Koizumi --

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Is this -- if this isn't on North Korea, let me --


MR. ERELI: Okay, we'll still stay on --

QUESTION: At the beginning, you said you think the last round had good progress. Can you try and quantify that for us?

MR. ERELI: Well, look, if you've been following things for the last 13 days, you will have noted that there was, I guess, sustained and substantive engagement on issues that had been not only in abeyance for 13 months but, even compared to previous rounds, had not been treated with the same kind of meaty way, so that's noteworthy.

Second of all, you went through four drafts of a declaration of principles. That's moving the ball forward. Couldn't get it over the goal line, but came darn close and have, I think -- have maybe a good basis to think we can get there in a couple more weeks.

QUESTION: To get over the goal line, is the U.S. prepared to move any further, or is it all up to the North Koreans?

MR. ERELI: Well, you know, I think we've got -- basically, you have a text that most everybody was in agreement with. There was one major issue that needed to be resolved and we think that the North Koreans can use this time fruitfully to think it over.

Still on North Korea, six-party talks? Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Before the next round of talks in three weeks, do you plan to meet with other allies, like Japan and South Korea, sometime?

MR. ERELI: I don't have specific plans to share with you about meetings with individual parties to the six-party talks. What I would tell you is that we’re going to continue to remain actively engaged diplomatically in the process. What form that takes, I can't really say. I just don't know. I don't know that it's been decided at this point.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: You're going to have a three-week recess. I'm wondering whose idea is this to have a recess. Is that the idea of China or other -- are you happy to have --

MR. ERELI: It was an idea that I don't know who it was raised by, but it had basically the -- it was agreed upon by all the six parties as a -- as something that they needed to do that they felt would usefully serve the process.

QUESTION: Did the United States want to continue the six-party talks without the recess?

MR. ERELI: What the United States wants to do is to get an agreement on a declaration of principles. We think good progress was made. But, you know, these are six-party -- there are six parties to these talks. It's not necessarily about what the United States wants. It's about what the six parties can agree to and what will work for six parties. So that's the way I'd look at it.

Still on this subject? I think we had a question over here first. Sir, did you want to ask about Japan?

QUESTION: No, that's another issue.

MR. ERELI: No? Okay, we'll go to -- yeah?

QUESTION: Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi (inaudible) and the "snap elections." Do you have any comment?


QUESTION: A follow-up, please?

MR. ERELI: Follow-up.

QUESTION: I mean, if he does lose the election, you're going to lose a pretty staunch ally. And it's an "if" question, I know, but are you --

MR. ERELI: It's an "if" question on a subject that I wasn't going to comment on before. So what's happening in Japan on the postal reform and on Prime Minister Koizumi's parliamentary decisions are internal matters that we don't have a comment on.

QUESTION: You're not concerned that it's going to affect any U.S. --

MR. ERELI: I don't have any comment. Prime Minister Koizumi is a staunch ally and a good friend of the United States. I'll leave it at that.

Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Another subject?

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: Latin America, on Venezuela. The Venezuelan President accused on the weekend the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of using its agents for espionage and announced the suspension of cooperation agreement. Do you have any response to this accusation? And I will like to know which incidents it's going to have.

MR. ERELI: Well, first of all, the accusations that somehow the Drug Enforcement Agency is involved in espionage are baseless. There's no substance or justification for them. And as for reports that Venezuela is going to end cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Agency on fighting drug trafficking, those are certainly regrettable.

First of all, cooperating in the fight against illicit drug trade is beneficial to both United States and to Venezuela and failure to cooperate only benefits narcotraffickers.

Second of all, we, for our part, want to continue counternarcotics cooperation but I would note that over the past several months, we've seen a steady deterioration in the Government of Venezuela's commitment on this front.

Looking ahead, I mean obviously, a decision -- if Venezuela did indeed go forward with severing this or ending cooperation, that would obviously have an impact on deliberations concerning our annual decision-making process regarding Venezuela's counternarcotics cooperation efforts under the International Narcotics Control Act.

QUESTION: Can you just elaborate when you mean you've seen a steady deterioration of the government's commitment? What do you mean by that? (Inaudible)?

MR. ERELI: I would say related to efforts to implement anti-money laundering provisions, targeting -- to target drug-related corruption, to share information on illicit aviation and maritime traffic, to interdict such trafficking and to enact anti-drug laws and treaties. These are all elements of a strong counternarcotics cooperation program that, I think, have been lacking.


QUESTION: The President of Uganda --

QUESTION: I have one on Venezuela.

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.


QUESTION: They had municipal elections in Venezuela yesterday and you have talked before about a process that is rigged in the government's favor with respect to elections. And I just wonder whether you have any observations on the freeness and the fairness of the elections held yesterday?

MR. ERELI: I don't. Let me see if I can get you something on it.

QUESTION: Back to the (inaudible) issue. Given that you're so clear that the accusation is baseless, are you doing anything to explain what the agents do in Venezuela or allay the host government's fears?

MR. ERELI: I think, you know, I don't -- you see, the fears are baseless. I think it's pretty clear to us that the motivation for this is not the accusation itself or not what they state is the problem, the motivation is an effort to detract from the government's increasingly deficient record of cooperation. To get to that point, I think, or to elaborate on that point in response to your question, Peter, beyond the general stuff that I just mentioned earlier, there's a couple of specifics.

Number one, they've effectively ended all bilateral military-to-military cooperation on counternarcotics.

And number two, they failed to respond to a March 2005 narcotics démarche that outlined areas where bilateral cooperation was deficient and suggesting concrete steps that could be taken with our assistance.

More on Venezuela? Let's go to Sophie.


MR. ERELI: Sylvie. (Laughter).

QUESTION: It's all right.

MR. ERELI: Pardon.

QUESTION: (Laughter). The President of Uganda said on Friday that the helicopter crash of John Garang may not have been an accident. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. ERELI: We certainly don't have any information to suggest that the crash was anything but accidental. We support a full investigation and full transparency concerning what happened to the aircraft. For that reason, we are responding to a request from Uganda and from Sudan and from the SPLA to assist with the investigation. We've got a five-member team of the National Transportation Safety Board that arrived in Nairobi today -- I'm sorry, they arrived in Nairobi on Friday and is today en route to the site of the crash where they'll begin their investigation. But again, as far as we are aware, the crash was accidental. We don't have any information to suggest otherwise.

Dave. You had a question.

QUESTION: It's sort of old business but at the end of last week, the Chinese authorities filed spy charges against the Hong Kong correspondent of the Straits Times -- of Singapore -- who was a Hong Kong resident. I'm wondering if you have any reaction to that or about the implications this has on freedoms in Hong Kong?

MR. ERELI: We are concerned about the arrest of Mr. Ching Cheong and following his case closely. As you suggest, freedom of the press is a fundamental and internationally recognized right. We view any attempt to restrict this right with great concern. We have spoken to the Chinese of our concerns about the treatment of journalists in general and the important roles they play in providing information to the public. We have also raised Mr. Ching's case and we intend to seek additional information from China.


QUESTION: Middle East?

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: We're now less than ten days before the scheduled Gaza withdrawal. There are still a lot of issues on the table that have not been resolved. Three quick questions:

Are you confident that they will be resolved in good time? Secondly, what -- can you give us an idea of what sort of U.S. diplomacy we'll be expecting in the next couple of days? And third, the resignation of Netanyahu, which saw the sudden poisoning of the political atmosphere that do you think it's going to have a big impact?

MR. ERELI: On Netanyahu, don't have a comment. It's internal Israeli politics. I'd leave it to the Israeli officials to talk about it.

As far as progress on Gaza withdrawal, I would note a couple of things. One, that Prime Minister Sharon affirmed and the cabinet approved disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank and the Prime Minister said that those -- that this disengagement will proceed as planned. That's a good thing and we welcome that.

In terms of American involvement, we continue to be actively engaged in helping settle the outstanding issues. Quartet Special Envoy Wolfensohn is meeting regularly with Israelis and Palestinians out there. General Ward continues his efforts. Deputy National Security Advisor Abrams is in the region. I would note that, in addition to that, General Ward visited Gaza today. He met with Palestinian Interior Minister Yusef.

So commitment is there, coordination and cooperation continue, and we will continue our efforts to support the parties as they make the final preparations to not only begin withdrawal but, also importantly, to take actions following withdrawal that address security concerns, address concerns of economic activity and strengthen the Palestinian Authority and promote cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli authorities.

QUESTION: If I can just quickly follow up on that. The Palestinians have consistently been expressing the fear there that the result of this is going to be a lack of access and internal movement that's basically going to turn Gaza into what they call a prison --

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Do you think that these concerns now are close to being addressed and will be addressed by the time? And also, can you tell us, is David Welch out in the region too?

MR. ERELI: David Welch -- my understanding -- is not in the region. As far as concerns of access and movement go, I mean, obviously that's a -- it's an important issue. It's one that is a matter of discussion between the Israelis and Palestinians. It's one that we weigh in on when it's appropriate. And look, the bottom line is that the Palestinians need to see that they've got a future in Gaza and in the West Bank and that that future involves economic and political opportunity and peaceful, neighborly relations with Israel. And that's what all our efforts are designed to support -- General Ward, Quartet Special Envoy Wolfensohn, Mr. Abrams, Ambassador Welch and the Secretary.


QUESTION: Adam, over the weekend, UN workers were both kidnapped and then freed.

MR. ERELI: In Somalia?

QUESTION: No, in Gaza. And is the --

MR. ERELI: I hadn't heard about that.

QUESTION: Yes. But is the work that General Ward and also that James Wolfensohn are doing, is that adequate to keep a lid on the Gaza portion? And even though Netanyahu -- you call this a Israeli internal problem -- yes, that's government -- but isn't that going to instigate the religious right on the Israeli side so that --

MR. ERELI: As far as, again, what happens politically in Israel, I'll leave it to political analysts and others in Israel to talk about. As far as the kidnapping of UN workers in Gaza goes --

QUESTION: They were just freed.

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I'm not aware of that. And as I said in answer to the earlier question, I think preparations and coordination for Gaza withdrawal are moving forward and certainly we're encouraging and supporting those efforts.

QUESTION: Are you aware that Israel is considering a deployment of foreign inspectors to monitor traffic to and from Gaza?

MR. ERELI: I’d seen those press reports, but I can't comment. I don't have information to really give you about where that stands, mostly because it's not something that we're dealing with.


QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Ereli. The recent issue of Vanity Fair magazine, in an extensive story -- ten pages -- is disclosing evidence based on which Turkish spies were operating in the Department of Defense and in the Department of State via the services of the well-known organization American Turkish Council and American Turkish Assembly Association based here in Washington, D.C. Additionally, the magazine is claiming that Turkish nationals bribed with thousands of dollars the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, and a bunch of Republican members of the U.S. Congress.

Two questions. Number one, how did these Turkish spies have succeed to penetrate into the Department of State and what damage they have done so far to the national interest of the United States?

Number two --

MR. ERELI: Let me just -- let's just stop. I haven't seen the article so I can't speak to it.

That was number one.

QUESTION: Okay, my next question. It's very important.

MR. ERELI: Okay. Quick, quick.

QUESTION: Excuse me?

MR. ERELI: Next question.

QUESTION: The next question. Those congressmen who have been bribed, did they participate in consultation with the Department of State for those illegal flights to Cyprus in order to end the isolation of Turkish Cypriots, as said earlier?

MR. ERELI: I haven't seen the article, so I'm not going to comment on it. Second of all, I'm not aware of any such issue being brought to our attention. Third, generally don't comment on such allegations. And finally, as far as the congressmen goes -- congressmen go, you'll have to speak to their offices about it.

QUESTION: So you cannot take the question as far as --

MR. ERELI: No, I'm not going to take the question.

QUESTION: Hooray. Thank you.

MR. ERELI: All right.

QUESTION: There's one right --

QUESTION: Can I have one more? Sorry. I've got one more subject. Sorry. I got a -- new subject. Sorry. It's a very quick one. Mauritania. It's now been five days since the coup. The junta seems fairly well installed there. We haven't heard a whole lot of international cries in the last couple of days. Does the United States still insist on the return of President Taya?

MR. ERELI: The United States believes that constitutional rule should be restored to Mauritania. The African Union has put out a statement on events there. We share their views. I would note that the AU mission is sending -- the AU is sending a senior mission to Mauritania to work with the government on restoring constitutional rule. That's something that we think should be done quickly. We support the AU mission. And we, I think, we'll be working together with the AU and our other partners in the international community to see that government in Mauritania is consistent with international standards and respects the will of the people and is responsive to the people.

QUESTION: But you haven't mentioned the name "President Taya." Are you still insisting that he come back?

MR. ERELI: I don't -- you know, we're not insisting on a given outcome other than it be a restoration of constitutional rule, of constitutional procedures and constitutional practices, consistent with international standards.


MR. ERELI: I'm sorry -- thank you.

(This briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

DPB # 136

Released on August 8, 2005

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